the lies i tell myself, part 4


Full disclosure, I didn’t have a great picture for today, so here’s one of Jonah that makes me smile.

OK, it took longer than I anticipated to get these four lies out. I suppose the timeline I had in mind was just another to a long list of lies… but if you need to catch the first three, you can find them here: part 1, part 2, and part 3. Which brings us to the final lie (for now, anyway):

I am the only one who feels this way.

Now, I know we are quick to blame social media for constantly showing us glimpses of other “picture perfect” lives. And yes, to an extent, the general public *may* tend to post highs rather than lows, but here’s what I have found. When I’m feeling bad about myself and I’m scrolling through my timeline, I barely give a second glance to the posts that say “today is hard, I need a hug!” I zero in on anything that looks shiny and glittery, anything that makes someone else’s life look perfect compared to my own. But this isn’t even the trickiest thing my brain does: let’s say someone posts a picture of a a family fun day. All of the kids are smiling, everyone looks like they’re getting along, and I manifest this whole story about how this family is better at family time than I am. I read so much into one tiny image that I have suddenly put this picture on a pedestal that I can’t reach. And it doesn’t matter if this family’s very next post is about a baby who never, ever sleeps or a stress overload. I don’t see those. I only see the good.

When people tell you to see the good in other people, this isn’t what they mean.

Or it shouldn’t be.

What do we say 75% of the time when someone asks, “hey, how are you?” “Fine!” “Good!” “Great!” “Can’t Complain!” So when I ask someone how they are, if I only ever hear “good!” I think: I’m the only one who isn’t good. I’m the only one who doesn’t have a cute family picture online right now. I’m the only one who hasn’t showered in four days and has really stretched the power of dry shampoo to the max. Look. I know it isn’t easy to say “actually, everything sucks and I’m really stressed, how are you?” And, you know what? I also know that sometimes things are just good. And you should be able to tell that to people without having some sort of survivor’s guilt for being in a good place.

And so, here’s my radical proposal to stop this lie: just stop. I know. It’s easier said than done. But still —

Stop the comparison. Your life is your life, and you’re doing it better than anyone else can do your life.

Stop the fantasies. Other people don’t have the picture-perfect life you assign them in your mind. Remember everyone else is as real and raw and fragile as you are, when it comes down to it.

Stop setting impossible standards. Treat yourself kindly. Treat yourself like your own child if you have to; make goals that make sense for the person you are in the stage you’re in.

Stop trying. OK, hear me out. This one sounds like basically the opposite of most self-help advice, but here’s what I mean: stop trying to be something new all the time. Stop thinking “if I can do THIS (eat paleo, run a marathon, learn a new language, etc), THEN I’ll be good.” You’re good now. Stop trying to be “better” and start being who you are meant to be.

I’ve talked to lots of human beings, and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s this: absolutely no one has everything figured out. You may admire certain people, and this isn’t bad on its own, but when you forget that you’re admiring qualities — portions — not a whole — that’s when you run into trouble.

This isn’t a lie that can be overturned by changing how we use social media. It isn’t a problem that can be solved by giving every simple greeting a thirty-minute therapy session on our deepest life issues. Rather, it involves looking at yourself with clear, unbiased eyes (as unbiased as possible anyway, because they’re your eyes so… just roll with me, here). Don’t let someone else’s victory equate to your own failure. Acknowledge the fact that you’re on different journeys, with different milestones, and it isn’t a competition.

But all of this isn’t even the very best way to stop this lie. All you need to do is accept the fact that it is one. Think of the most “perfect” person you know — the person you wish you could be. GUESS WHAT? They get overwhelmed. They feel inadequate. They make mistakes. EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY — EVERY SINGLE WAY — SOMETIMES. When we compare similarities instead of differences, we find our degrees of separation are much closer than we think.

So, hey. Whatever lies you’re telling yourself? Recognize that’s what they are. If you can’t see the truth alone, talk to other people. Don’t be so afraid to show some of your mess, because other people have mess, too. They do. It doesn’t have to be the same as yours to be real.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:32

the lies i tell myself, part 2

the lies i tell myself, part 2

“Hey mama, do you think if you won a national handwriting contest you’d be on the news?”

“Uh, what?”

(Sigh) “MAMA. Let’s say you enter a handwriting contest and you win. Would your picture be on the news? I’m doing a handwriting contest at school, and I’m worried if I win, my picture will be on the news. If a bad guy with a gun saw my picture, he could try and shoot me for my prize money!”

I wish I could write here that I just made this little exchange up. But I didn’t. This was what Boone asked me before going to bed one night, and it caught me totally and completely off guard. I stumbled through platitudes like “we live in a really safe place,” and “no one at school wants to put you in any danger.” He was tired, thankfully, and decided it was OK to participate in the handwriting contest after all.

(I didn’t point out that the winner of a national handwriting contest probably has more thoughtful penmanship than my son, who occasionally forgets the”e” at the end of his name.)

(In his defense, this is some pretty solid cursive.)

Now is where I sadly point out that this conversation about school and guns happened prior to the recent school shooting in Florida.

And so, knowing that my sensitive, anxious child would possibly hear about this tragedy within his own school, it got me thinking. I had just told him no one at school wants to put him in danger. We just said we live in a safe place. How many parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had had similar conversations? I had no idea what I’d say to Boone. I had no idea what we would talk about. I didn’t know how to alleviate fears while answering questions, to simultaneously prepare him for and shield him from the world. And it led me to the the next lie I tell myself:

As a parent, I need to have all of the answers.

Growing up, I was privileged to have not only great parents, but also a rich community of caring, invested, intelligent adults. As far as I was concerned, these people did have all of the answers. Logic would only follow that when I was an adult, I’d have all of the answers too. Even as a child, I loved answers. I craved knowledge. I couldn’t wait to have everything figured out.

Hi, I’m Jennie, I’m 33, and I have very little figured out.

So when I sat down with Boone to talk to him about the shooting in Parkland, I glossed a bit over the gory details and reminded him about what to do if he ever sees a gun (go away from it and find a grown up you trust) and if he ever encounters a stranger acting suspicious (again, grown up you trust). I also winced a bit as I talked about what he’d do if he were ever in a scary situation like that at school: listen to your teacher. Don’t tell jokes. Stay quiet and do exactly what the grownups say. He accepted all of this much easier than I thought he would. I felt pretty great about all of my answers. And then…

“Mom, what if I die?”

Oh, blow to my chest.

I said, “Everyone dies sometime. You’ll probably be very, very old. You’ll have lived a full and awesome life. You’ll be ready. And then you’ll go to Heaven! Which is the best place ever!”

“OK, cool. Well, what’s Heaven like?”

Guys, I don’t know what Heaven is like. I’ve never been there. And I could have quoted some scripture about pearly gates and streets of gold, but this is not what Boone was after. I know this because of his follow-up questions:

“And what will I do there? Will I ever come back to earth? Do you think once everybody dies, God will just start the earth over again? Will there be dinosaurs again? Can I see them from Heaven, do you think?”

I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know

A small part of me wanted to give him something concrete. I wanted to give an answer for every question, but I didn’t have an answer for every question. So I used an old teacher trick to buy some time: “what do YOU think?” Then I realized I needed to teach my son something. Something that isn’t related to the violence or the afterlife or dinosaurs.

“Hey bud… there are some things we can know the answers to. 2+2 is always 4. Our dog is a mammal. These are facts we know. And then there are other things… things nobody really knows. You can think about those things as you grow up. I don’t know what Heaven is like, exactly. But I do know that I will go there when I die, and it will be better than anything I could ever imagine. And I do know that I will always do everything in my power to keep you safe.”

And we hugged, and we moved on, and I felt halfway decent until I realized tomorrow will likely bring another crisis I don’t have answers for. And when he’s a teen, getting his heart broken? Forget about it. I don’t know anything.

And I think that’s OK. I never want to communicate to my children that we can’t know everything so we shouldn’t try. I want them to know they can be 33 and still asking questions without answers. Learning doesn’t stop when we graduate from school. And I need them to know that not knowing something? It’s never a flaw. It’s an opportunity.

Thanks for checking out this week’s lie, and aren’t you pleased to know I tell myself so many there’s another new lie for you next week?! If this resonated with you, please feel free to like, comment, or share.

what we give to God

what we give to God

Friends! It feels truly wonderful to once again be writing for you. It’s possible I’ll throw you a what-I’ve-been-up-to post in a bit here, but know this: life has been rich, full, hard, easy, stressful, fun, and lovely since I posted last. And now it’s a brand new year, and I’d like to back into some regularly scheduled Premeditated Mama. So here we go!

I’m starting today with a confession, and I’ll close with a story from this past summer. I hope it brings some value to you.

I love Christmas. This should come as no surprise to anyone who, you know, is nearby. I’m seriously considering making tattoo #3 Christmas-themed. YES, it’d be permanent all year long. YES, that’s what I want. Anyway, Christmas and me are like peas and carrots. I start listening to Christmas music in – OK I don’t ever really stop, but I really ramp it up around September. I own no less than three Advent Calendars (or four? Five?) and don’t even get me started on my Christmas Board on Pinterest. It’s a doozy.

Also this is a sweater I willingly and gleefully purchased for myself:

But I have depression. I do. And anxiety. And after weeks (months) of Christmas excitement, I get bogged down. My brain fills up, my heart runs out a little, and I falter. The wrapping paper is too much. The cookies are too much. The laundry, which so rudely doesn’t think to at least take a rest during this busy season, is way too much. And before I know it, I’m fighting every voice in my head that says to cancel every plan. To binge-watch every show. To just, kind of… stop. And this year? Things seemed especially hard. Every day the news carries some horrible story. Every day the government seems to fall apart a little bit more. Every day the world hurts.

That was my confession. Now for a story.

This past summer was the first one that Boone could really ride a bike on his own. Near the end of the summer, he was feeling so confident (and I so optimistic, I guess) that I suggested we ride our bikes to the local ice cream place, Captain Sundae. It was a little over two miles from our house, but Boone knew there was a giant ice cream cone to be had at the end of the journey, so he agreed. We started out with stars in our eyes (that’s actually a quote from Dear Evan Hansen, which if you haven’t listened to, DO IT), and everything was great. Until we came upon a decent sized hill right outside our neighborhood, and as Boone took on speed, he lost his balance and tumbled forward. We’re a helmet-loving family, so thankfully there was no real harm done. He got a scraped up knee, but it wasn’t too bad. I asked him if he wanted to go home. “No,” he said, through tears, “I want to get ice cream.”

And so we carried on. I was, of course, asking too many questions as we rode. “Are you OK?” “How’s your knee?” “What are you thinking about?” And finally, Boone said, “Mom, can you not talk right now?” I was taken slightly aback, sure, but I figured he was concentrating on balance; then he continued, “I’m just praying a lot.” I did have one more question: “what are you praying about?” “Mom, I’m just praying that God will keep me safe on big hills.”

Because that’s all he was worried about. He wasn’t worried about bees or other cyclists or sprinklers or stop lights. He was worried about hills. He needed to give his hills to God. (And yes, Boone got his ice cream and made it back home, completely owning every hill he encountered.)

I remembered this story as I felt the heaviness of the Christmas season weigh down on me. And please remember that I find medications and therapy to be life-changing and vitally necessary to those who suffer from depression and anxiety. But I learned something about letting go from my seven year old son on that summer night, and it’s to know when to say God, I just don’t have this. And I didn’t have it as I drove to a Christmas party this past December. I felt down, though I had been taking my Prozac and crying to a therapist. So as I drove, I prayed, God, please help me to feel lighter.

And. I. Did.

I know my meds are important, and I feel like God gave them an extra boost when I asked for it. Prayer is hard for me, and it’s something I wrestle with, but this prayer was immediately felt and answered.

When Boone was on that bike on that summer evening, not falling was the most important thing. When I felt weighed down on the way to that party, feeling lighter was the most important thing. Yes, the world is so broken and sad. Yes, the news is exhausting and terrifying. But I realized that these things aren’t more important to God. They are important, yes – but there isn’t a hierarchy with your little problems on the bottom. This has been the realization that has carried me through Christmas and into the new year. I know it isn’t groundbreaking or revolutionary. But the fact that my problems – minuscule in the grand scheme – are so important and so known? It’s what I needed to learn. And maybe you needed the reminder too.

Happy to journey through 2018 with you all. Thanks for reading!

all the things i do not know

I like knowing stuff.

And based on how many questions my kids ask me each day, I mean, it’s a good thing. Like any modern day mom, I answer what I can and google what I can’t. And this little arrangement has made me the smartest person in our family — according to our kids, anyway. On most days. Unless daddy bought donuts – or took the boys to a park – or, generally, is home.

Either way, if the kids have questions, I have answers. It’s a good arrangement that only makes me want to lock myself in a closet with headphones to get a break from the constant “hey mom?”s some of the time. And that’s pretty good!

And then I was putting Boone to bed one night…

“Hey mom?”

Here we go…

“Where do people go when they die?”

“Oh, um, Heaven, if they believe in Jesus.”

“What if they don’t?”
“Um, Hell, I think.”
“OK well do they go straight to Hell? Because I have heard people say that. Do they meet Jesus first and then Jesus sends them there? What if Jesus forgets I believe in Jesus and accidentally sends me there? Will you be in Heaven when I get there?”

We have now reached the point in the conversation where I basically look like this:

I am a believer. I believe that Jesus died so I could spend eternity in Heaven. I believe John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have eternal life.” But I don’t have answers for like… any of Boone’s questions there. I haven’t died. I haven’t personally met someone who took a death vacation and gave me the slide show presentation of afterlife pics. But Boone looked at me so expectantly. So hungry for knowledge. And these are good questions! I didn’t want to dismiss them. So I sent up a quick help me prayer, and I responded.

“Buddy, I don’t know.”

“Um… what? You always know things.”

I told him no one has all of the answers. But that I believe in Jesus and I believe I will go to Heaven when I die. I don’t know what Heaven looks like, I don’t know if you and I will be the same people we are now. I believe you will go to Heaven too, if you believe in Jesus, and do not worry, God won’t get your beliefs mixed up. Then I let out the big breath I had been holding in and I asked, “hey Boone, what do you think about all of this?”

Jonah has questions also.

He basically echoed a lot of my sentiments and said his fair share of “I don’t know”s. He ended with, “but you know what? I think I’ll see you there, and we’ll be the same, you and me.”

I grew up with a very black and white view of salvation. Believe in Jesus = Heaven. Don’t believe in Jesus = Hell. End of story. Any lingering questions about Heaven of Hell were answered with “it’s perfect!” or “it’s terrible!” and that was that. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to really own the questions I had about my faith. Until I wrestled with these thoughts, I don’t think I really had the same understanding about my faith. It wasn’t personal.

I want my children to believe everything I believe. It’s true. They’re my little human copies, right? I want us to be on the same page about everything. But I know that won’t happen. If my father’s deep love of olives on pizza (double olives on pizza – WHAT) is any indication, kids just don’t always follow in their parents footsteps. And if kids did just blindly follow, would my dad like that I ate his terrible olive pizza even if I hated it? Maybe, I mean, because he’d probably have been able to order it more, but I think he’d be happier if I ate it because I truly enjoyed the nuance of the rubbery seawater taste of those awful little black and green fruits? Nuts? Fungi? What the heck are olives, anyway?

Back to my point. I want Boone and Jonah to share in my beliefs, but I want them to make it personal. They need to think and hear and choose for themselves. And in order to help this along… I have to say “I don’t know.” I will tell them what I think. But I will be honest about what I know — and what I don’t.

For someone who lives with answers at her fingertips, it’s hard to admit what I don’t know. Especially to the little people I’m raising. But I truly believe to help our children find the answers, we’ll have to admit that we don’t have them.

how my prayers have changed (some thoughts on depression)

I remember when I was in elementary school, I remarked to my friend’s mom that I could make myself laugh. I was an awkward adolescent, and I have no real recollection the context of this admission, but I do remember her response: “Well good, then you’ll never be depressed.”

And well, the joke’s on her.

I want to take a little break from mom-specific things things this week. Yes, this topic is important for moms, but it’s important for dads and kids and everyone else too. If you or someone you know has depression, I hope you know that “depression” doesn’t mean “super Eeyore-sad all the time.” It doesn’t make you start dressing all in black and going in hard on the black eyeliner. It doesn’t make you an invalid… until it does.

I didn’t officially latch on to the clinical depression diagnosis until my second son, Jonah, was born. I realized then that the fog all mothers experience postpartum wasn’t lifting. The bond with my newborn wasn’t forming. But most of all, I think I realized that I was finally in a space safe and easy enough to just call the doctor and request medicine. No one can fault the weary new mom for asking for help when she needed it, right? And about ten days later, once the medicine had time to get in my system and start working, the fog lifted. This call was absolutely the right one for me. My only problem?

That I hadn’t called sooner.

Before I continue, please know that I serve a God of miracles, of compassion, of love. The God of renewal and transformation. The Creator of heaven, earth, and me. I heard, at churches and retreats, over and over again how God answers prayers. How he can save us from the depths. How He is all we need.

The first time I really felt doubt about this was in college. I put on a mask that I had worn for a long time – the “funny one” – and didn’t let people really see me when life got overwhelming. I hid in bathroom stalls and pretended to be asleep to just be “off.” And while off, I prayed. To be happy. Just be happy. Please God, I’m not asking for much — I just want to be happy.

Keep in mind, I had a lot of great things going for me. I had great friends. I went to a great school. I won awards and scholarships for singing – my major – and my future was bright. By my junior year, I was engaged to the only man I’ve ever loved. If you’re waiting for the shoe-dropping moment, there isn’t one. My life was good. My life was good. But I wasn’t happy. Because this is what depression does.

Years passed, college ended, married life and real jobs began, and I still prayed for happiness. My first teaching job brought with it much praise and success, but I still doubted myself so strongly. There were never enough compliments to drown out my own voices of insufficiency.

Please, God, let me be happy. I just want to be happy. I know You can just make me be happy. I know You can. Please.

I believe God had been answering all of those prayers, but I didn’t really listen until I was driving with a preschool-aged Boone and a infant Jonah in the backseat. I was listening to the Barenaked Ladies album, Born on a Pirate Ship (because most of my music comes out of the 90s), and when I heard the words “I have faith in medications/I believe in the Prozac nation,” I knew God was declaring the answer to my prayers for happiness. I pulled into a parking spot and cried. I called the doctor with the strongest voice I could muster (which was still pretty shaky) and the rest is history.

That’s when my ears started hearing pastors urge congregants to pray for miracles. To trust God can fix everything. As I said earlier, I truly believe He can – but I think we need to be careful about how we present this to brothers and sisters in a time of struggle. A previous pastor of mine used to end prayers filled with requests with the line, “we know that You can, God, and we pray that You will.” I’ve adopted this into my own prayers, but I’ve added an extra step. I still pray for the miracle – but I ask God to show me how He wants me to fix the problem. Sometimes He’s quiet and I learn patience. But more often than not, I find that He helps my ears and eyes to remain open to see the answers He’s placing in front of me. I cannot tell you how many times I heard people talk about the power of anti-depressants while I was praying for God to simply take away my unhappiness. Do I believe God could have said “You’re happy now,” and I would have been? Of course. But He created us to live in community, and I think He needed me to find happiness by reaching out to others, by trusting scientists and doctors, and by sharing the journey with those who might need to hear it.

Don’t get me wrong, “I had a problem and God immediately fixed it,” is a decent story too. But what does it say to those who pray and pray and pray without feeling like they are getting a response? “Why did God fix them and not me?” No, I believe that God can and does perform miracles. Sometimes He works alone – He will make a tumor disappear in such a way that medical professionals are baffled. But sometimes, sometimes He’ll take an ordinary human and use them to revive an infant born without a heartbeat. Through medical training and expertise, that baby will live where he otherwise would have died. Surely God could have said “baby, breathe now,” but He wants to use His people.

If you know someone who struggles with depression, share this story if you don’t have one of your own. Pray for them. Pray with them. But ask that God uses His people to heal instead of only requestly He directly do all the work Himself.

in defense of the facebook 

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a website was created. It was called http://www.thefacebook.com. 

(Please note its debut came at a time when “www” was still used at the start of websites and, at the inception, “Facebook” started with “the.”)

From The Facebook’s beginnings at Harvard (see Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake tell you all about it in the film The Social Network), this new, exclusive social site was only open to students at select colleges. Eventually it opened its cyber-doors to students at small, private, liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, and my “hope.edu” email address was the only credential I needed to join. 

My early (the)Facebook life was basically an extension of my AOL Instant Messenger. My status updates were “Jennie is studying for music theory.” “Jennie is having a great day!” “Jennie is wondering why this status format only ever allows her to write sentences that begin with ‘Jennie is.'”

My first ever facebook profile picture. Nice sunglasses, past me.

The Facebook was not life changing. I remember thinking I’d probably delete my account when I got married. Surely married people are far too mature for such technological distractions. I grossly underestimated my future relationship with my Roku. Anyway, I didn’t delete it. I used it to stay in touch with college friends who had moved across the country. I used it to comment on the TV Shows I found desperately important at the time (Survivor, mostly). And when the Facebook dropped the “the” and opened itself up to the rest of the world, I used it to keep my family updated on Jason’s and my newlywed life in our new home state of Oklahoma.

And now, ten-something years later, I use it for things like: this blog, my podcast, friends, watching mesmerizing videos of recipes turning into food, ridiculous things Boone says, weather updates, cute pictures of Jonah, I-RAN-SO-MANY-MILES statuses, general questions, prayer requests, memes. 

Here is something you should know about real-life me. You know, the one who exists beyond the words on this screen. She’s an Introvert. She is NOT shy, don’t make that mistake. She just has no interest in superficial, forgettable conversation. She craves meaningful connection, and isn’t upset if someone disagrees with her as long as all opinions are respected.

This is not how the world has taught her to be.

At times, it seems, and Facebook highlights this well, differences of opinion are offensive. They’re wrong. They require teaching, correcting. 

I don’t mind differing opinions. In fact, I dare say they make the world go ’round. But, as the saying goes, “if you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” (And if you aren’t addicted to Hamilton, as I am, you may be slightly more familiar with the wording “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”)

It’s important for me to have my beliefs, and these beliefs have not come easily. Through prayer, conversation, devotional study, and observation, I have fairly solid opinions on a variety of topics. For a long time, you might not really know what they were, however. I watched the world beat people down for disagreeing. I watched people mock people who thought outside the box. I realized the way to survive was to be agreeable.

I was wrong.

In light of recent tragedies in the news, I did something that would once have been out of character for me: I changed my Facebook profile picture from something silly (I believe it was Jason’s and my new Mickey and Minnie tattoos) to a photo of white text on a black background. The text said “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” I shared posts from Glennon Doyle Melton and Lin-Manuel Miranda that shared this sentiment. And every time I clicked the “share” button, I hesitated for a moment and thought, what if people think less of me because of this?

Quietly, but firmly, I heard God answer my question: 

Been there.

God didn’t call me to a burning bush to say, “JENNIE, TAKE OFF YOUR TOMS AND HEAR THIS: YOUR IDEAS ARE THE ONLY RIGHT ONES.” He didn’t even give me a hint that my thoughts are close to being on the mark. But He did push me toward sharing, toward discussing, toward compassionately engaging with others who think differently than I do. 

I’m happy to report as a result of my sharing I haven’t lost a single friend. I may or may not have provoked any new thoughts or ideas, but I feel good about staying true to myself and respecting my friends. 

My real life self would have a much harder time with this. She still dislikes small talk. She still worries she won’t say exactly what she means, or she’ll start agreeing out of habit. Facebook allows us to sit, reflect on what we’d like to say, and write it out clearly. We don’t always do this, of course, either because we’re rushed or writing isn’t our forte. Whatever the reason, can we all add some grace to Facebook? Try not to read into someone else’s punctuation. Try to remember that our opinions shouldn’t divide us into camps, enemies at opposite sides of the battleground. Keep sharing your opinions, because I want to know you. I want to learn about you and in turn, learn about me. 

The real world has its fair share of hate and anger. Let’s flood the Facebook with love. 

drowning in summer

I wrote a “What I’m Into” post and had fully intended to share it, but honestly? The thing I’m into the most right now… Is survival.

jonah crying
Jonah, dude, I feel you.

I know people love summer. There are so many reasons to love summer. But I find myself more overwhelmed than I ever am making school lunches or setting early alarms or remembering to get backpacks ready to go. I know some of this (or all of it, if we’re getting technical) is my fault. I planned a full, busy summer. I’m the one who decided we need to go spend long days at splash pads and beaches, we need to stay up late and wake up slowly, we need to suck the marrow out of summer while we can.

boone strawberries
Strawberry picking while sweating down to our bones? Check.

And in a Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook world, it’s hard for me not to want this. Not because I see other moms posting fun summer activities and I feel inadequate — it’s because I see other moms posting fun summer activities and I want in! But as much as I love to plan, I’m careful to save precious moments of down time so my kids have the opportunity to be bored. Great things have come out of this boredom. Boone and Jonah are playing together like they never have before. Boone’s writing stories and creating recipes. Jonah’s singing familiar songs and making up new ones.

It is beautiful, and I’m tired.

To wish for fall and winter is to wish away the summer when my kids were 5 and 2, and I don’t want to fast forward through any moments of their lives.

And yet, I struggle. Summer is hard. Free time is hard. Knowing that I’ll give Boone up for the majority of his day once September hits is hard. Knowing that Boone desperately misses the unique schedule and structure of school and takes it out on me by being crazy is hard.

I don’t write any of this to be negative. I write it to be real. Please remember that behind every smiling Instagram picture is a mom barely keeping herself together. Or a five year old who really needs a solid night’s sleep. Or that there are huge heaps of sand-filled laundry just outside of the frame. I know that my kids are happy and thriving. I know they are smart and as protected as can be. I know that deeply, strongly, and intensely, they are so loved. When I think of this, I know that I am not failing as a parent. I know, even on the hard days — the days where everyone screams and fights back and refuses to sleep — even on those days, I’m raising little men who will do great things. And while I appreciate the truth of this, it doesn’t make the long, hot, crazy days of summer always run smoothly.

Sometimes I pray for easy, good days. Sometimes I recite Psalm 23 when my patience runs especially thin.

He restoreth my soul… Lord, restore my soul…

And He does listen, He restores, but do you know what verse I am reminded of the most?

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

The first time I heard this response to a frantic “LORD, JUST HELP ME THROUGH THIS” prayer, I almost laughed. It seemed like a joke. I know you’ve overcome the world, Lord. I’m just asking now that you help me overcome potty training.

In this world you will have trouble… In this world, you will have a toddler who consistently removes his shorts and pees on the floor. In this world, you will have a five year old who wants to be fifteen and do things on his own. In this world, you will have messy floors, and piles of laundry, and breakdowns that result in your purchasing specialty syrupy latte drinks despite “not eating sugar.” You’ll have awesome, memory-making days where everyone laughs and gets along, and terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, Alexander-type days. You’ll have summer. Or winter, if that’s less your thing. Or Spring. (I refuse to believe Fall is anyone’s least-favorite season; at least not anyone in Michigan.)

I have overcome the world. Whatever your world is at the moment. God doesn’t promise ease. He promises He’s been there first. He’s seen my summer; He can count the good days and the bad days. It isn’t always easy, but it never needs to be lonely.

For this, I am grateful.