Friday, August 14, 2015

I blame everything on the Pottery Barn art table

Well, it's been a long time since I've blogged. I won't attempt to cover the past, or make any predictions about the future of my blogging, but today I have a moment to write. And I want to write. The climate of things in my life is calming, which allows me to remember I have a voice, not just a life preserver. I'm not sure that made sense. Moving on.

When I was a new mom, I spent a lot of time learning to run my home and family. And stores sent me all manner of catalogs, presumably trying to help. I assumed it was part of my job to look at them. I was the primary mail collector and reader, after all (remember when that was kind of a big deal?).

Pottery Barn in particular kept trying to tell me that soon, as soon as my children were just a tad bigger, I needed their super-special art table: the one that had storage cubbies underneath and the attachment for a roll of butcher paper at the end. It would provide an infinite number of art opportunities (from the unending roll of paper) to children who were likely going to be deprived of them by the government and the public school system. The art table was basically a housewife-coup against the Man, and also something told me my children might seriously suffer without butcher paper.

I'm assuming this entire line of reasoning unfolded in your brain too. That's what happens. We get ideas of the way things should go, the way our lives should look. Sometimes those ideas get very specific. I'm going to just keep calling them ideas, not the awful E-word ( know, the one we all know is waiting to disappoint us). They're just ideas, right? Really good ones that involve amazing, cultural priorities like art. Let's also ignore the fact that my children weren't exactly Picassos and could be just as happy with a random crayon and paper they pulled out of the base of my printer as they would be with the overpriced and under-quality PB art table. But logic was never in the equation, much less experience in either art or children.  

Since the days of the PB art table, it turns out that I've learned I don't get all the things I want, nor do I get many things I'm pretty certain I need. It turns out that I had to let the dream of the art table die a slow and painful death. I wasn't going to have that ridiculously massive playroom with canvas kid chairs with their names embroidered on them next to the art table with infinity paper. I had to accept that it would not happen for my kids that year, or the next year, or ever.  

The thing is, you know I've had to let go of more than an art table. Really, much more valuable plans than having butcher paper. Much more painful deaths in my agenda. Too many to count. It's rough learning what we all have to learn: I am not the boss. I don't get to point at things and order them up for my life like in a glossy catalog.

Learning that I don't get to choose many things about my life is both perplexing and freeing. I'm never swinging too far into the freeing side either. It doesn't get less perplexing, really, when I still love my own ideas. For instance, I love the idea of having an "easy" child. I don't love when he changes and presses all my ugliness out and is no longer what I consider easy. I like the plan that healing in my marriage always moves forward and always feels positive. But it doesn't. Its staggered and unpredictable and God's idea of "progress" is nothing like mine. God's ideas for what I truly need are continually surprising and mostly uncomfortable. And half the time, I'm suspicious that they have VERY LITTLE to do with my circumstances and everything to do with abstract things I can't even put my finger on, like my perseverance. I think I need an art table, and He thinks I need perseverance. We're not even looking at the same catalog.

It's uncomfortable at the least and gut-wrenching at the worst when our reality doesn't match up with what we imagined. And if I didn't trust that God knows better than I do, I honestly don't know what I'd do with that pain. I'd maybe carry it around like a self-pity badge or allow bitterness to harden my heart. Or maybe I'd just fill my life with distractions and call it something else so I wouldn't feel the hurt.

But I do trust Him, at the end of the day. He has such good plans for us. When He says No, of course it hurts, but we have to stay on the path of faith. There's so much comfort available there, so much patience, so much grace. That's what helps me walk away from the art tables and other wants I'll never have.

That's what keeps me squinting my eyes, looking for the meaning of what Jesus called "the abundant life" that can only be found as we walk hand in hand with Him. Because obviously it doesn't involve an art table.

And obviously, it is infinitely better.