I am so very thankful for the five people pictured with me. What joy is mine to spend this Christmas with not one, but three new children! I remember last Christmas well and the longings for our boys to be home and be able to celebrate with us. As we sat down to Christmas Eve dinner, I looked at Mikias and told him how happy I was to have him home this Christmas. Grinning ear to ear, he said he was so excited for his first Christmas in our family and the first time he’s getting gifts for Christmas, of course!! May joy be yours as well as we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us, His Son Jesus Christ.
Little “Mad Man” (Madden Manley) turned six months old this past Saturday! His half birthday was spent in Oxford with all my family and he even got to open some early Christmas gifts! I can’t believe how quickly time is passing with this little one and I remain so very thankful for his precious life. This month was huge in terms of sleeping and eating for our little man. He finally began sleeping through the night and I have been able to add all foods back to my diet with the exception of onions (something I can definitely live without for a bit longer!). I love the 6-12 month stage with babies so I’m especially looking forward to all the changes that will come in the next few months and the joy of simply being with my sweet boy!
I’ve been walking through some pretty dark and weary days lately. Is it because winter is upon us, when we rarely see the sunshine and the cold forces us indoors for weeks on end? Maybe. Is it my hormones that seem to be jumping up and down and all around postpartum and now with nursing? Perhaps. Am I just frustrated because I’ve been sick with two horrible colds/sinus infections in the last four weeks, the kind where just after finishing breakfast you’re ready to take another two-hour nap because your body is just zapped? Sure, that probably has something to do with it. Or am I just lonely and seeing my best friend over Thanksgiving made me realize how little I actually get to sit and talk with other women about real life issues and how we trust God through it all? Yeah, I think that’s part of it.
But what’s bigger right now is this constant feeling of failure. I am a perfectionist by nature. I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA…not because I wanted to, but I just started making A’s in the beginning and then felt like I had to finish it perfectly. I set completely unreasonable goals for myself…I always have and apart from God’s grace, I always will. And when I don’t meet those goals or expectations, I become completely consumed with utter defeat. When God gave us Molly Kate, I had a pretty good idea of the kind of way I felt God wanted me to parent her and I began to read and understand even more of the way God has called me to manage our home. And I enjoy both of these things immensely…but I also enjoy doing them well. When God gave us Mikias, Madden and Miles within months of each other, both the way I want to parent and the way I want to run our home just flew out the window for a while. We hit what most would call survival mode and we are now remembering how differently life has to operate when one has a newborn. But what this means for me, personally, is that I continually feel as though I am not being faithful with what God has given me. I have this vision of how our day-to-day life should operate and we aren’t even coming close right now. In fact, some days, when I’m especially tired or sick, we seem like we’re sliding out-of-control in the opposite direction.
By God’s grace alone, my children still think I’m a good mommy (Molly Kate took time to tell me that this weekend) and they are still ever learning about who God is and what the Bible teaches us about Jesus. But oh, we are a far cry from where I desire us to be. And for me, the eternal perfectionist and mega-over-achiever, it becomes a horrible battle that lends itself to daily discouragement, frustration and despair. But this is where I’m starting to see the root of all my sin…I want to be faithful apart from Jesus. I’m trying with all my might to do it great all by myself. Of course I’m failing! My pride is bigger than I could have ever imagined it to be.
Yes, God has called me to be faithful. Yet, He expects I will do that as I am rooted in Christ, as I am trusting in His strength and His promises. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect…He expects and requires me to trust in the pure and holy perfection of His Son. Practically, for me, that means letting go of a whole lot of expectations for this season of life. In fact, that is almost the exact word my wise friend Erin spoke to me over Thanksgiving…”Laura, you have got to stop evaluating your life right now.” We gained three children in four months, one a complicated newborn, another an older child with all sorts of emotional and physical scars from the first six years that he well remembers and yet another a toddler who spent the first two years of his life mostly in one room and is very slowly coming up to speed. Geez Laura…let it go! And oh yeah, as I often forget and my friend Ashley reminded me, I also started homeschooling for the first time during all of the above. Why in the world am I still holding on to this picture of what I think our life should look like right now? Because I think too highly of myself and my capabilities and not highly enough of the life God has planned and is working out for me.
I share all of this for two reasons: One, it just helps me to write…blogging is like a form of journaling and when I have to put all the thoughts in my head down on paper (or a computer screen), I can finally sort through what I’m really thinking and hopefully the Lord will use it as I battle my sin and seek His glory. Two, I hope you’ll pray for me. My fear with this blog is that people see only the good parts of our lives and think “Oh, what an amazing family…look how great they are doing!” Yes, God has blessed me with an amazing family but trust me, there are lots of days that are not so great and most of them are such because of me. Pray that God will help me to fight my pride and rest my soul in Christ’s perfection. Pray that I’ll let go of this “perfect” family life I’ve envisioned in order to faithfully live the life He has called me to with the exact husband and children He has given me. Pray I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. For I know if I devote myself to such love, our family life will be far better than anything I could ever envision, plan or read about in some book!
Should I really even have a blog anymore? That question enters my mind every other week or so and at best I’m averaging two posts a month! But I guess somebody out there still enjoys catching up on our lives and I realized this past weekend how much blogs really do make you feel like you are still sharing life with your dear friends, even if they are thousands of miles away or live across the pond! We traveled to Washington D.C. for Thanksgiving this year (more in a few minutes on this) and some friends we had known in Louisville who now live in England dropped by to see us on Sunday afternoon. It was so fun to see my sweet friend Vanessa and I couldn’t believe how much I felt like I had just seen her last week even though the last time we saw each other was over three years ago! Then it dawned on me that her blog was the reason I felt so in tune with her life and that even though we only had about 45 minutes to chat and catch up, it was as if no time had passed at all! I love you V and am so glad you made the effort to come see us!
Okay…back to Thanksgiving. You may remember my post about our best friends, The Wheelers, who moved to D.C. in August. Literally as they were pulling away, I mentioned to Kevin that we should go visit them to for Thanksgiving, knowing full well that I would be able to handle their departure much better if I knew when I would see them again! Before I knew it, our plans were set and our kids were counting down the days until they could visit the Wheeler bunch and see their new world. And I was happy to spend one more holiday with our dear friends…we have now spent three of the last four Thanksgivings with them and I think all four Christmases! And I just realized that now all four of our children have spent their 1st Thanksgiving with the Wheelers. Like I said…they are just as family to us!
So on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I fed Madden around 3:40 am (yes, he still has one middle of the night feeding) while Kevin carried our other three kiddos to the van, pajamas and all, and we headed east. Everyone (including me) fell asleep until around 7 and it worked out great! We were in DC by 3 pm, with plenty of time for the kids to play before bedtime. Our time with Brad and Erin was simply wonderful…I could go on and on about it, but I’ll just summarize it by saying that times like these make me long for heaven, when everyone that I love will surround the throne of Christ together and there will be no more leaving. It was so refreshing to just be near Erin again, to pick her brain about the hard stuff in my life and then to also just have fun girl time, taking a long run to the Washington Monument, shopping in Georgetown, and a date night with our men. Most of all, Kevin and I were just happy to see their world and to have a reference point for their daily lives. We loved visiting Capitol Hill Baptist Church and meeting many staff members and their families. I’m so thankful the Lord provided for our trip and allowed us to enjoy unhurried fellowship. I’m also grateful the Lord has blessed us with four awesome little travelers (and a van with DVD player!). Our kids hardly complained about the 11 hour trip and Madden only fussed the last hour or so of each drive. Way to go Cuthbertson Crew!
This week was a little crazy, just getting back into a rhythm and trying to be content with the small space God has given us (the Wheelers now live in a huge house that the church provides for them and we all got a glimpse of how nice it is for a big family to have a wee bit more space than 1400 square feet!). But we survived and now we are all seeking to point our minds and hearts toward celebrating the birth of our Savior. I love the Christmas season, but I’ve found it to be all the more wonderful as a mother because it provides me ample opportunities to talk to my children about Jesus. And on that note, I’ll leave you with a quick and funny conversation I had with Molly Kate last night:
Me (as she’s getting out of the bathtub and putting on pjs): Are you excited about Christmas?
Molly Kate (eyes lighting up): Yes and I’m excited about presents!
Me: But aren’t you also excited that we get to celebrate Jesus’ birthday?
Molly Kate (eyes still wild with excitement): Oooo….yes! I can get Him a motorcycle for His birthday!
Merry Christmas season dear friends…may you also be seeking to focus your mind on the Incarnate Word who took on flesh in order to take on the cross and redeem us from the slavery of sin!