Happy New Year, my friends!
Welcome to the eighth installment of my favorite posts to write this year! My list of Top 10 2019!
Wow, I’ve immersed my whole self into these Top 10 posts, and I’m now feeling a little sad that there are only three more to go.
It’s been an action-packed, adventure-filled year here at Texas Over Fifty. I promise to write a post soon about all the things I did for the first time in 2019!
If you’ve spent much time at all here at Texas Over Fifty, you know it’s all about staying intentionally adventurous. Thinking about ourselves a little and thinking about every other good thing in life a lot.
So, the fact that 2019 was filled with intentional comings and goings around the terrific state of Texas comes as no surprise.
But … what you’ll find in my list of Top 10 2019 is not so much what I saw as what I saw in someone. These ten experiences are the ones that made me do some deep thinking, or caused me to grow in a more meaningful way. These are the ten occasions that will go down in the annals of my life as the true, blue memory-makers of the past 365 days.
I have enjoyed sharing these stories with you so much, and I’m extremely grateful that you’ve enjoyed reading them.
Number 10 on the list was a story of what I saw in myself when starting over at Job #14 (or 15). While that experience was pretty monumental, Number 9 gave me even more to think about. Number 8 is the story of relaxing at a birthday sleepover with my granddaughter and remembering many sleeping-bag occasions of my own. Number 7 had me marveling at an old boyfriend from the past (how’s that for a teaser?). Number 6 is where you can read about my crushing a big fat reading goal, and the reasons why I thought it deserved a spot in the Top 10 2019. And Number 5 was really special, because it involved three of my favorite things: mountains, musings and my man.
Call me a touch slow, but by the time I started writing about Number 4, the thread that appeared to have woven itself through my last year of adventurous life was as thick as that yarn craftsters wrap around their elbows to knit fluffy blankets.
But here we are at the next on the list. #3 of Top 10 2019. Only two more left in the list after this one.
And I’m just gonna warn you in advance. You might need to keep tissues handy for these last three Top 10 2019 blog posts, my friends. This one won’t be all that bad, but the next two? Number Two and Number One?
Eeeeek. You’re liable to relate. In fact, I’m on the high side of certain that you have experienced something totally akin to what I’ll be sharing.
But, don’t worry. If you cry, it’ll be cleansing. If you smile, it’ll be satisfying.
And if you do both, I feel as though I just might have fulfilled my calling.
Here’s #3 of Top 10 2019.
Life is Better With My Girls
Maybe it was junior year of high school, or it could have been even a year earlier than that. I don’t remember who gave me the book, perhaps because there’s a possibility I could have checked it off one of the wonderfully musty wooden shelves in our well-stocked church library.
But it made an impression. In fact, the memory of that book imprinted itself so deeply into the plaster of my brain that I hadn’t recalled a single thing about it until now.
The book was called Papa’s Wife, and it was about the family of a Swedish minister whose wife started bearing his chubby little cherub-faced children very soon after they were married until she stopped. At number eight.
With the birth of every infant, Maria extolls the joys of being a mother. What she sees in their faces are the delights of yet another child to love and nurture. While lots of real life happens in their home and in their life as a family, this wife and mother approaches every day with joy, expectation, and of course, something freshly baked in her oven.
That’s What I Expected
Quite a few of those familial images lodged themselves in my pre-marital imagination, and I believed with all my heart that Maria’s life was a prophetic precursor to my very own.
To Some Degree It Was True
Alas, all three of my wee little babes looked like they had been deposited directly onto Planet Earth from Heaven’s Door. Those soft cheeks! Could their knobby little knees have been more precious? I could easily get past even the smelliest of diapers for the opportunity to gaze at those adorable knees. And oh, my gracious, how I adored kissing all 30 of my babies’ teensy weensy toes.
I also baked stuff.
My status as a stay-at-home mom demanded that if we were going to eat, I was going to cook, but that’s a little beside the point. What I’m saying is this. To some degree, I had much in common with Papa’s Wife.
And I was darn proud of it, too.
Until it Wasn’t
Somewhere between the end of child-bearing and the beginning of preschool, or maybe it was after the first munchkin turned a year old and the third one weaned off the teat?
Well, anyway, there came about a decisive point in my mothering journey when I started carrying a wooden spoon in my purse everywhere I went. Even to church. In addition, I found myself behaving a lot more like General Douglas MacArthur than Papa’s Wife Maria. I could bark orders with the best of ’em.
But I did still bake stuff.
However, not only did my status as a stay-at-home mom demand that I cook for the troops, it also required that I spank my little angels’ bohineys before their Papa came home from work. Because, Lord knows, he wasn’t going to do it. No, sirree.
He mostly got to be the one to rock them (because they loved it) and make them laugh (because he was so funny) and offer to run them down to the DQ for a dipped cone so they could “get out of Mama’s hair” (just because).
And Then, It Really Got Hard
No one prepared us for the teen years. I felt like we were on an island in the middle of a big ocean with sharks all around. At no time, day or night, did I rest easy.
My theme song was: Not my father, not my mother, but it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.
But no matter how much we prayed, there was no way out but to go through it. And I’m really not kidding here. No fun and no games. These were double-down, cry in your buttermilk, nobody can do it for you, years of pure-dee heartache.
The Perfect Family
My parents were divorced when my brother and I were eight and five years old. We didn’t see our dad much after that until we were pretty much grown. We lived with my grandparents for a few months until they got a divorce, too.
Mike, the sweet man who married me, also lived the life of a kid with dysfunction in the home. But his situation makes mine look like a fairy tale. His mom was married three times, and the only reason she married his dad was so “this one would have a daddy.” He endured things that make me want to cry thinking about it. My big strong man was once a lonely little boy.
When Mike and I met, had a whirlwind romance and couldn’t wait to get married, we both knew what we really wanted. We just never said it out loud.
We wanted a perfect family.
We Got Something Different
In all our efforts to have a perfect family, it seemed like Mike and I couldn’t get anything parentally right.
The harder we tried, the less confident we felt. The more we asked for advice, the lonelier our little island became. No one we knew knew what to tell us to do. Furthermore, deep down, we felt like this was such a reasonable request. We weren’t trying to keep up with the Joneses. A picture perfect family wasn’t something we wanted all the world to see. We just wanted it – for him and for me.
In her book, The Longing in Me, Sheila Walsh explains it like this.
“What I’m learning is that if I don’t understand why I respond a certain way in a particular set of circumstances, I’ll do it again and again. The human heart longs for closure and understanding. In many ways it longs to right the wrongs of our childhood so we feel more in control of situations over which we had no control as children. We try to change the ending of something that scarred us badly.”
It took a lot of work, a lot of prayer, a lot of God’s grace, and finally, our willingness to see what was right before our eyes. God, in his perfect wisdom, didn’t give us a perfect family.
What he gave us was the perfect family.
They All “Growed” Up
I no longer want a perfect family. Good thing, because there really isn’t any way to get one. Papa’s Wife was a sweet book filled with tender sentiment, but it wasn’t meant to be a manual for motherhood.
What I really want, and what God gave me is the perfect family for me to be in. Whatever I have learned and continue to “perfect” are the exact things that God wants to use to make me more like him. When I stopped trying to right the wrongs of my own childhood, I gave God a chance to work in the lives of my children.
Today, what I want is exactly what I have – three “growed up” kids who love Jesus, their parents and each other.
A Momentous Occasion
#3 of Top 10 2019 was a momentous occasion. My two daughters planned a girls weekend for the three of us and my cutie pie granddaughter. They made shirts printed with the theme and organized a photo session. We listened to Christmas music and painted holiday scenes on white canvas. We giggled, hugged, talked and cried.
Well, mostly it was just me who cried. I couldn’t help it. They were very happy tears.
Because life really is better with my girls.
But I do wish I would have baked something.
Encouraging a life filled with everyday intentional adventure, happy tears and hot cookies … or banana bread … or pound cake,
PS: Here are a few other posts you might like:
A Mother’s Day Picnic
A Late Fall Picnic at Krause Springs
20 Compassionate Ways to Bless a Single Parent