I am so excited for today's Show Your Real...I know I say that every time, but I mean it every time!
I found Jackie on instagram (@samandjackiephotography...go follow her right now. She'll hate that I'm promoting her so hard, but I'm not sorry and you won't be either!) and I just adore seeing her photos. She's an extremely talented photographer (and iphone-agrapher!) but beyond that I just love the perspective she has. She uses that to capture some amazing moments of her family, and now she's sharing her outlook here with us. I love love love what she wrote, and I know it will bless you as much as it did me.
Not a whole lot makes me wince more than (very) occasional, well-meaning comments along these lines: "How do you do it? You must have so much patience!" "Wow. You're super mom!" "But your kids are so happy all the time! You're such a fun mom!" I'm not kidding. I wince.
There are two reasons for my reaction. The first reason is, if someone is making these kinds of comments, I know they're at least partly believing the lie. The lie The Internets tell. They look at a handful of selected square photos with selected editing, portraying selected parts of my day... and they believe that's exactly how every moment (or at least the majority) in our home looks. We always watercolor at breakfast time. We always smile lovingly at each other and run out for Sonic slushes after nap. We always have clean kitchen counters. Always, always, always. None of these things are true, of course... not always and not even usually. But, too many sweet women out there take a look at an Instagram feed and make sweeping generalizations in the favor of others and then... in harsh criticism of themselves. I wince because the flip side of "You're super mom" is, by default, "I'm not super mom. I can't get my act together. I never have fun with my kids. I never manage to get the counters clean. I never do crafty things. I stink." Wince.
The other reason I really don't like to hear well-intentioned compliments like these is it means I've not been careful enough. I haven't been careful enough to show my real. To really let people in... even on my IG feed... to let people in to my very imperfect, tension-filled, stressful, messy (in a bad way) moments. I haven't shown love to others by showing them the truth. I've let the lie live, and I hate that. Comparison is nasty enough when we're dealing with true estimations of ourselves and others. But, it's really, really nasty when the comparison is based on carefully edited, picture perfect half-truths.
I love Courtney's series here. I love reading the comments and seeing lightbulbs go off. I love when women begin to realize the lies they've been buying into and begin to see things for what they really are. Man, how we all need to hear posts like these!
So, here's the deal about me. My husband and I have been married for a little over 13 years. We have five children (who really are wonderful, but I'm biased) and we homeschool. I don't do anything special to get the kinds of compliments I mentioned at the beginning of this post. They aren't based on anyone's actual experience with my family (usually). They come up in small talk. Someone at the pool asks how many children we have, and I answer. "You must be super mom." In the course of further conversation it comes up that we homeschool. "Wow. You must be so patient." Because I'm not convinced my kids are going to shrivel up and die on the spot if they eat something that isn't organic (and because I haven't been to the grocery to buy healthier snacks) I give my older kids each a buck for the pool snack bar and they come back with a hot dog or a Klondike bar. "You're such a fun mom!" No, I'm not. Really. I'm not super mom just because we have five kids. I'm not naturally patient. And letting my kids suck down junk food isn't really a valid reason for praising me, either. Now, I'm not going to lie. I hestitate to write this next part. It may be a little too much, really. And some of my fellow homeschoolers are going to roll their eyes and say, "Oh, great! Way to go! Make us all look like huge slackers! Nice job." (Ha ha ha - sorry, guys!). So, as a disclaimer of sorts, you should know that many of my homeschooling friends do things very differently in their own homes. I'm only representing my family here... not all of homeschooldom. I don't really like the way the next paragraph makes me sound. I want to jump in and give explanations. I want to save face. But, I'm not going to. I'm going to show you my real. Okay... let's just spill all the beans at once.
I sleep late. Like, really late. I wake up at around 9:30am on most school days. My older kids have started school already by the time I stumble downstairs. They do a lot of work independently. We have a very, very loose schedule. I used to be a listmaker, but then I discovered that the more children I had, the more lists took me to Crazytown. Just trying to make one little checkmark was so stressful. So, I only keep super general lists now, and I get even less done. I've kind of evolved into a glorified gypsy of sorts. I may, without much notice, decide it's a field trip day and take everyone away for hours on end. And I may leave a ton of dishes in the sink without a second thought, just to go "gallivanting". Sometimes my family runs out of clean underwear. I really stink at grocery shopping. We eat out way too much. My husband calls me and asks what's for dinner, and I say, "I was going to ask you the same thing!" I go long periods being "fine" with little piles, little bits of clutter, and then one day, out of the blue, I SNAP. I feel like my head is going to explode if I see another wadded up piece of used Kleenex shoved into some nook or cranny of our home. I sass my husband. I'm spoiled. I never exercise and I'm a size 16, but I still ate three cookies at the church cookout tonight. I go days... days... without reading my Bible or meeting with the Lord in earnest. Sometimes I don't want to go to church. My son whines. My older girls pout and backtalk. My baby has been yelling "nooooooooooo!" at us all. week. long.
I could go on. I could write pretty much everything that (nearly) all the other contributors here have written... word for word. Depression in the past? Check. Struggles with adjusting to a new baby? Check. Harder than I could have imagined marriage pain? Check. In many cases, their struggles are my struggles, too. I do not have it all together. Not. even. close. NO ONE DOES. Please tell me you know that by now. NO ONE DOES.
But, here's the Glorious Real that transcends all the (kind of embarrassing) real I just shared:
I am not perfect. Everyday I act in selfish, undisciplined, hedonistic ways. Too often, I live to please myself first and foremost. I am not perfect, but there is One who is. Jesus Christ came to our world, fully God and fully man, to live an absolutely perfect life - the life I could never live - and to keep the Law of God perfectly. My own sin and rebellion against God (selfishness, pride, self-seeking, stubbornness) deserved God's eternal judgment, but Jesus - sinless and perfect - died to cover the debt of my sin, cleanse me, make me whole, and bring me into the kingdom of God as His beloved, adopted child! Now, because of what Christ Jesus has done, God the Father sees me as forgiven. Jesus has taken my sin away. But, just as amazingly - because of Christ - God the Father sees me as perfect. Perfect! Because the righteous perfection of Jesus has been given to me. In church talk, this is what we call justification. God sees me "just as if" I were perfect. And I love Him for it. I love Him for loving me with a mid-boggling love like that. His love is not dependent on my actions. It is not based on my performance. It is not given to me because I've been compared to others and have come out on top. I have been compared to the perfect Law of God and been found wanting. Sorely, desperately wanting. Jesus has freely given His love, His life, totally independent of my own behavior. He has done it ALL. All of it. My salvation is not one tiny bit from what I do. Now, because of this great love, I love Him back. And what does that look like? It looks like fighting. With the power of His Spirit at work within me, I fight against the sinful tendencies that remain. Because of His great love, I do seek to obey Him and follow His ways. Not to gain approval, but because the approval has already been given through Christ! I am serious about being His disciple... and that is going to mean that slowly, gloriously, my life will look more and more like His. My motivation for obedience is love, not performance. My power for obedience is through Christ by the Holy Spirit, not my own. My life is radically turned around at the cross. He rules me. He is my Master, my King, and my Father. He is my perfection. Because He has shone His light in my heart, there really is a lot in my life to be thankful for. Generally speaking, there is far more positive than negative. But, I don't deserve the credit for that. Hear me, y'all. If I speak kindly to my children, that's not me being patient on my own. That's Him conquering my sin and working in me. If it's my doing, it'll be me yelling at them a few short hours later for leaving Saltine crumbs all over the kitchen and living room and hallway floors. If I am diligent in teaching my children, that's not me being super mom. That's Him at work! Changing me! If it's my doing, I'll put an "educational video" on for them and zone out. If I choose to play Monopoly with my son while the baby naps instead of taking a nap myself, that's not me naturally being a "fun mom". That's the power of Jesus... crucifying my selfishness and giving me a sacrificial love for my kids. (Although, sometimes the nap IS more loving in the long run). If it were my doing, I'd never play another board game ever. again. ever. You've probably heard this in Blogland before: "I'm only a sinner saved by grace." That sums up all of what I've written here. The truth is that I am far from perfect. I am a sinner. (I'm also a disorganized gypsy). The even more glorious truth is that Jesus Christ has saved me from my sin, I don't have to and cannot earn His favor - it's a gift He freely gives to those that come to Him! And He is at work in me to constantly make me more like Him. I am not compelled by comparison or performance. I am compelled by my Savior, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
That's my real. All praise to God.
Show Your Real is a bi-weekly series of guest posts centered around the concept of authenticity. The goal is to encourage each other to expose the reality of our lives- good and bad- and to foster a sense of community that goes beyond the often suface-cy interactions of social media. We invite all of you to participate! Please comment, link, and hashtag to spread the showyourreal love. If you would like to contribute a guest post in this series, please email me!