I sent this picture out as our Christmas card last year. My husband thought I was crazy. He still thinks I am. We’ve certainly taken better family pictures, so why I chose this one he didn’t understand.
But this is my family. This is our house. And this is one of my all-time favorite pictures of us. Why? Because it’s real life. It’s crying and pouting kids and a big ‘ol messy house. Yes, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this one describes us.
I’m ever grateful our house doesn’t look like this anymore, but it still isn’t perfect and neither are we. And what this picture reminds me, and hopefully others, is that even when things look a little better on the outside, life still isn’t perfect and it never will be. And I’m beginning to think God’s more concerned with the process of redemption, than the result of perfection.
There are a lot of “Instagram stars” out there these days. People with lots of followers who post pretty pictures with perfecting filters, and whether they mean to or not, they make life appear better than it really is. To be fair, it’s hard to be real, it’s hard to see real on social media.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of social media. It’s easy to want people to see us as pretty, happy, stylish, women. Women who discipline their kids perfectly, decorate like Joanna Gaines, and age like Jennifer Anniston. Women who have it all together.
I know people can look through my Instagram account and see a different story than the one I know, even if I didn’t intend them too. And that is why I love this picture. It’s my chance to be real and vulnerable with you. To open the door to my house, (or front yard) and show you the reality of my messy wonderful life.
Because in the end, I’d rather you walk away from time with me feeling relieved and encouraged, than impressed. I want you to know you aren’t the only one with piles of papers on your desk, or piles of rotten wood in your front dirt. You aren’t the only one whose children pee in the grass and run through the aisles at Target.
Instead of leaving you fascinated, I’d rather leave you encouraged. I’d rather be real.
So I’d rather not impress you with our house, our children, or my sense of style. Instead, I want you impressed with the fact that we are all in this together. Impressed with our collective desperate need for a God who gives us infinitely more grace than we give ourselves (and each other).
I’d rather a friend or a stranger leave my presence– in person or online–grateful for her own gloriously hard mom life than envious of mine. So I’ll post this picture all day long, if it encourages us all to live life a little less filtered, a little more vulnerable, a little more real.
Last week, I took the pictures off my walls and I cried. The red-eyed ugly cry.
I took the curtains down that my neighbor, Judy, hemmed for me and I cried some more. I sat on the bench behind home plate and watched one of the last neighborhood baseball games in our backyard and I sobbed. I tried to hide it from the kids, but as I went around snapping pictures with my phone I couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks.
We are moving in two days, and these are the things that get me.
Moving is such a strange phenomenon. Your home is your home. It’s where you come back to at the end of every day. Until one day you don’t, because all of the sudden it isn’t yours anymore. The door slams behind you, and you hand somebody else the keys to open it.
This house has been home to us for the past three years. It may sound silly to be so attached in such a short amount of time, but I don’t think it’s the home I am missing. It’s the memories that have been made here. And they’re some good ones, folks.
When we bought this house, we had no idea what the neighbors were like. In fact, it never even crossed our minds to be concerned about it. We knew it was a nice neighborhood, and as people are generally good, what did it matter to us who those neighbors were?
Well, they happened to be some of the best people in the world. It’s like God knew, (which of course He did), that we would need these wonderful people in our lives when just ten months later we found out we were adding twins to our three boys.
I feel, in many ways, that God had us here for “such a time as this.” It was short and it was sweet, and it was exactly what we needed in this stage of our lives.
Our yard was just the right size, and always full of kids (mostly ours). Our basically-three-bedroom home worked fairly well for our five little kids. Our children enjoyed hours of entertainment sitting on the fence between our house and our neighbor’s, trading Pokemon cards, throwing a baseball, selling rocks, or playing with stuffed animals.
There have been meals given and meals shared, carpool rides and all-day play dates, swimming and baseball, sewing lessons, babysitting, borrowing toys, and a lot of “popping in.” It’s been so good it almost feels like an act of betrayal to be leaving them so soon.
But all good things come to an end. Nothing stays the same forever, I know. And I guess, if it wasn’t us it would be them. In a year… or two… or maybe three. It’s the way of things.
Tomorrow night will be the last night in our home. I just cried writing that.
The next day, we will scrub the toilets one last time, and put the keys in an envelope. It won’t be in our possession anymore, but it will always be in our memories.
I’m thankful for that.
I call it “distracted mothering” and I’m really good at it. Too good.
It might be a text, or an e-mail, another child, or a floor that needs sweeping. It might be laundry or lunches or washing my hands. It could be a conversation I’m trying to have with a friend or a table covered in syrup. The circumstances change but the outcome is the same. I am distracted from mothering. I suppose in some ways, these things are a part of being a mother. But in most ways, they are drawing me away from the very thing that makes me a mom: my kids.
It’s summer now and all the kids are home. Messes are a plenty and spirits are high. The very sort of thing that causes me to go into “crazy mom mode,” the mode where I yell and nitpick and become Captain Party Pooper.
I’m too smart to think this is an acceptable way to spend summer vacation. Nobody (including me) has any fun when all I do is nag about wet feet, spilled Cheez-Its, and basic hygiene. This, I know, is part of the whole parenting deal. I get that. But the wiser side of me knows that these days are far too few and will be gone too soon, as everyone is so quick to tell me.
So I am going to have to rewire my brain this summer. Rewire it for craziness. Rewire it for crunchy Cheez-It crumbs ground into the living room rug. All. Day. Long. Rewire it for science experiments, homemade play dough, and cheerfully schlepping all five kids (and their soggy beach towels) to the pool in a van that’s a thousand degrees.
I will try to listen with my eyes, when my kids are telling me about the latest Magic Tree House book they are reading, the rock that they found, or the bird on the fence.
These moments seem so ordinary, so dime-a-dozen, that it doesn’t come naturally to me to pause and remember. But the wiser side of me knows I need to store up these memories for the grey days when I’m older than I want to be and my house is way too quiet.
They are my children–and they won’t be children forever. And they call me mom, not the janitor or the chef. The mess certainly doesn’t bother them, and they could live pretty well on pretzels, so I’m not going to worry so much about what they will eat, or what they will wear. Because isn’t life more than food or clothes?
I know Jesus was talking about much more than that when He said those famous words in Matthew chapter 6. He wasn’t speaking to mothers about their children. But He was speaking to worriers; to those who labor and spin and miss the point of it all. I can absolutely relate to that. Days are replete with so many tasks, so many necessities, that it’s hard to see the lawn for the toys.
So I am going to set down my phone, hang up the dishtowel and hide the broom (for an hour at least). I am going to smile, and cheer, and watch them play baseball in the backyard. Because before I know it, summer will be over and my house won’t be quite so messy or quite so full. And I’d choose full over empty any day.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Hi! I'm Brooke
Brooke lives with her husband and their five energetic children outside of Sacramento, California. She loves Jesus and pizza, and has a thing for throw pillows. Her dreams are big, her God is bigger, and yes, her laundry room is a mess.