Friday, January 21, 2011

When "Me" Before "We" is Necessary

Months ago, I read this entry on one of the blogs I stalk. In particular, this quote really stuck out to me, and it has been on my mind:
... it becomes much more necessary to do like the stewardess says
and "put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping the people around you."
In those situations, it can be essential to
thoughtfully evaluate and meet your own needs
in order that you might better care for the people entrusted to your care.

Oh, right ... my needs.  Over the last four and a half years and counting, I have entirely forgotten that I have needs.  I don't say that jokingly nor do I mean to paint myself as a saint, I just want to be honest.

Long before I held Aubrey for the first time, I knew becoming a mother would change me indefinitely, or at least I had a strong hunch. It started the moment I bought that first pregnancy test: I was no longer living for myself.  I was responsible for this little life now.

Then my water broke at 5:10pm on June 25, 2006; interrupting a late afternoon nap, instantly sending my stomach into my chest; and eight and half hours of back-labor later, I was handed a beautiful little girl and forgot entirely about the pain it took to get her into my arms.  I would have endured it all again, too, and then I knew that for the rest of my life, I was going to put her ahead of myself.

Three more children later, I am learning that I cannot always do that for lots of reasons.  The biggest one is that if I'm not taking care of myself spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically and wearing my own oxygen mask, then I am undermining my ability to care for them spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.  I never wanted to be one of those parents who said, "Do as I say, not as I do" but I find myself living that way.

I feel like I live in a glass house because I am a "pastor's wife."  I was hesitant to start blogging at all because I do not always feel like I can be as forthright as other bloggers.  I cannot reveal intimate details of my marriage.  I cannot openly write about my struggles as a parent.  I cannot be less than a shining example of a Proverbs 31 or Titus 2 woman.

After much thought, though, I decided that I want to honest, so let's try that again: I am too proud to reveal intimate details of my marriage.  I am to proud to openly write about my struggles as a parent.  I am too proud to be less than a shining example of a Proverbs 31 or Titus 2 woman.

I am too proud to admit that because of my need to be a perfect mother, I have probably failed my children more times than I can count because I have lost my temper and taught them more about self-gratification than self-control.  I have been a shining example of idolatry as I shush their questions so that I can focus on my computer.

I am tired of being that kind of mother, and Jenn's words just kept swimming through my head.  While I am not typically the type of person to set resolutions with each new year, I have been taking the weeks following our long trip home for Christmas with the not-so-simple task of refocusing myself.  That is why I haven't blogged because I've been busy just reflecting.

First, I am a disciple of Christ.  Disciple being the key word.  Recently I've felt more like a pharisee with God's law etched in my mind but not alive in my heart.  Do you know how difficult it is to teach your children about God when you're no longer learning about God?  I mean, I am "learning" about Him.  I go to church and small group and I read books about Christian living and theology; but I haven't been immersed in my Bible in ages, and that is where God reveals Himself to us.

Second, I am was exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically.  I rarely slept enough which meant that all of my systems were definitely not operating well.  Ryan and I made the decision to make a few lifestyle changes.  We started exercising.  We started being very intentional about eating better.  Not dieting, folks, I am talking a whole new way of eating.  Since January 1st, we've both already lost 10 pounds and shed a jean size.

Third, I am a wife before I am a mother.  Ryan should come before the kids, and I had shoved him to last place and then resented him for not always making me feel like I was at the top of his priority list.  I also get caught up in the same error of thinking regarding him.  Yes, he is a pastor, but he isn't any more perfect than I am because I'm a pastor's wife.  He is still a man which when combined with me, an imperfect yet OCD hormonal woman ... well, you can just guess the fun that it leads to on a typical day.

So, I've spent the last three weeks trying to figure things out.  This morning I finally got to the part of my resolve that included intentionally walking through the Scriptures.  A dear friend reminded me this week that if I don't begin the day with God, chances are good I'm not going to live the day or end the day with God.  Also a mother of four young children, she knows that once your first little one wakes up, you no longer have the capacity to sit quietly before the Lord, meditate on His Word and give Him your pride so that you can faithfully live out Deuteronomy 6.

That is where I have been hiding all these weeks.  I have not planned a single menu nor have I tried any new recipes.  I have not thought about the deep questions of my faith or this world.  This afternoon, I did find a little jewel in My Utmost for His Highest, and I am going to leave you to think on it:
There is no joy in the soul that has forgotten what God prizes. ...

[In Jeremiah 2:2,] God is saying to His people --
You are not in love with Me now, but I remember the time when you were,
"I remember ... the devotion/kindness/loyalty of your youth."
Am I as full of extravagance of love to Jesus Christ as I was in the beginning,
when I went out of my way to prove my devotion to Him? ...
Am I there now, or have I become wise in loving Him?

The New Living Translation captures Jeremiah 2:2 best for me: I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.


Stacie said...

This is excellent, Ashley. Thanks for being so open and honest. There are lots of challenges when you have little ones -- and finding balance can feel overwhelming! Thanks for the great reminder to seek the Lord first -- all of this other stuff will be burned away.

But also -- don't forget about grace! God has never expected perfection from you (I struggle deeply with this myself). I trust that His Word is true -- and His mercies are new every morning. Be encouraged!

Thanks again for being willing to share.

Dari said...

Good to see you back!!! I was a little worried. You write so well. I really enjoy your posts; always something to think about.