The Struggle

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One and a half months.
This is how long we have been becoming blended. This is how long we have been learning how to become parents of 7. This is how long we have been learning how to become siblings. This is how long we have all been learning how to invite more people fully into our hearts. This is how long we have been learning how to share one bathroom. This is how long we have been figuring it all out. I’d like to report that we have not figured it all out. We probably never will. The goal is not to figure it all out; the goal is simply to become blended into a new kind of hot mess, a new kind of beautiful chaos. The goal is to show love and be loved-both in these walls and out.
Hello choir! This is your under-qualified preacher speaking.
Many times so far, David has come home from work, walked into the house and straight over to me to greet me, taken one look at me and said “Whoa…you ok, hun?” I keep telling him I have RSF: Resting Stressed Face. When I am in mom mode -PAUSE-
We need a definition. Mom mode: Those moments when you have to kick into high gear. There is homework to be done, dinner to be made, someone can’t find their shoes, a “little” has gone downstairs before being released to play outside, someone is doing the pee pee dance in the hall but the one bathroom is occupied, someone else stands next to the other little and announces that they smell poop, someone is calling for help with homework, dinner is burning, someone has a boo boo, and now someone has suffered injustice at the hand of their brother……you know, mom mode.
As I was saying, when I am in mom mode, I am powering through. My RSF takes its rightful place and I attempt to do all the things. Sometimes I get so into mom mode that it is hard to exit it and return to it easily, so I just stay there until the need for the mom mode has subdued a little. I can almost guarantee that every afternoon about the time David gets home from work, this is where I am. The result is that I come across as overwhelmed. Because of where he has been in life, to him overwhelmed=eventual unhappiness. Cue superman! He offers to hire someone to help me. He offers escape. Anything to help me stay happy. I have assured him that’s not it. We spent some time talking about it the other night and something became clear: my biggest struggle is not the kids, it’s not the chaos, it’s not the endless list of demands life offers, it’s not that I am over committed, it’s not that it is all too much. It is myself.
You see, I am not a perfectionist in all things, but when it comes to momming, I am a big one! My girl, Ann (Ann Voskamp) calls it the perfectionist terrorist. I find that term oh so fitting. Perfectionism in the form of expectations is a terrorist on your life. I won’t talk much here about my life before, but I did live in a world full of expectations. Unrealistic expectations. Like a leech, it latched on to me and I began to hold myself to unrealistic expectations. I didn’t realize it because it is a sneaky little leech. I do not wake up in the morning and make a list of expectations for myself for the day (wait. I’m a lister. I make to do lists not to finish. Ok, so maybe I kind of do this. Anyway…), but I still see failures throughout the day when my expectations are not met; when the days are not as I envisioned. The further I get from my expectations, the more pronounced the RSF gets.
What are the expectations? Well I don’t operate off of a list, but I am sure many of us can relate to some of these:
-Finished to do lists
-Feeling like the day was productive
-Some kind of visual representation that the day was productive
-Progress in my business
-Connection with the outside world
-No yelling (please tell me I’m not alone!)
-Happy kids
-Kids that get a long
-True connection with kids
-That I can help the kids understand their homework
-That the kids will remember the simple routines we know will make everyone’s lives easier
-That dinner will be homemade and everyone will eat it
-A clean house
-Toys put away-where. they. belong.
-Time in the Word
-A shower
-Be in a good mood when David get’s home
-Make money and feel more like a contributor
-Fit in my clothes better than yesterday and feel pretty
-So much etc any given day
Ok, so now I have a list. And there are sub-lists to the items on the list. Every time one isn’t done to par (my own self inflicted par) I allow myself to feel like a failure. The perfectionist terrorist’s job is completed.
A spiral of declining self-worth. I have something to say. Get ready choir, I’m about to preach. Are you listening?
Are you still listening?
The struggle is self-perfectionism. The struggle is holding ourselves to unrealistic expectations. The struggle leads to discontent. Discontent leads to trouble. There is also an enemy here, and it is not you! I just spent this whole post telling you that this is self-inflicted, but I also say that I am not the enemy and you are not the enemy. The enemy is Satan. He knows our struggles and hits us where it hurts and he knows my struggle. He whispers my expectations to me and rejoices when feelings of failure set it. He rejoices even more when discontent starts to settle on my heart. I have something else to say: HE WILL NOT WIN! I am on to him and his games, and he will not win.
Let’s make another list. Truths for this:
-Satan is the enemy (1 Peter 5:8)
-I am equipped to do battle against my enemy and against the perfectionist terrorist (Psalm 18:39)
-I have the necessary weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18)
-I will overcome (Revelation 12:11)
-I have the answer (James 4:7)
-He will strengthen me (Isaiah 41:10)
-He is for me (Romans 8:31)
-I am not a failure and He is not done with me yet (Philippians 1:6)
And this list can also go on. Much much farther than my list of expectations.
This list is true for you too. It’s time to face the fact that perfection is unattainable in this life. We will never live up to our own pictures of the perfect mom, the perfect dad, the perfect husband, the perfect *insert profession*, the perfect person. We have to free ourselves from our own expectations. Send perfectionism on a hike. Embrace your own beautiful chaos and smile at all its imperfections. Hold tight to the one who is your source of strength, worth, happiness, contentment. He sees you. Not as a failure, but as His child-loved, accepted, just as you are. And He is not done with you yet.
So like I said, we haven’t figured it all out yet. We are a work in progress, because I am a work in progress, because we are all works in progress. And for the record: we are enjoying the journey!
Now that I have spent so long writing that that I have fallen way behind, I will remind myself I am not a failure and get back to the beautiful chaos!
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Ashley Karaffa

Ashley is mother to a blended family of 10 and appreciating the beautiful chaos of it all. She enjoys creating systems - because how can you survive a family with 8 kids without systems - and spending time celebrating her family.

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