There's nothing like having to do without a modern convenience to get you thinking of "way back when" and how in the world people possibly existed without DVR's, frozen pizzas and Netflix. We're having a smoldering week in Indiana (as are other areas, I realize) and on Saturday our air conditioner's fan motor died. It was a little warm in our three bedroom house and I may or may not have whined. Just a bit.
Last week on our way home from vacation, we visited the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln and snapped pictures of the teeny tiny one room cabin, wondering how a family of four lived within its walls. But they did. Somehow. And even without modern conveniences they somehow loved, learned of God and one of them became a very notable, honorable man of integrity who briefly led this country. You don't have to have much to become more.
Aaron mentioned this to me as I fanned myself and packed a bag to escape to the cool environment of my parent's house. It's one thing to sit under a ceiling fan in an 80 degree house. It's another to chase a small person around all its walls for an entire day. So as I quickly packed an overnight bag for me and the boy, my husband mentioned (as he ate a Freezie Pop, shirtless), "Man, how did they do it?"
I've been turning this thought in my head for a few days, even before air left our home and the heat seeped in. I heard the old classic, "Coal Miner's Daughter" on the radio and the lyrics regarding a mother who washed clothes every day on a wash board and read the Bible by candlelight and who had bloody fingers but never complained... how can we, in our age of Facebook and Walmart understand? I have laundry going right now and I don't have a darn thing to do with it other than switching it out and putting it away.
This all led me to think about my Grandma Mary who is an incredible, incredible woman. You want to talk about backbreaking hard work and painful heartache? Try losing your mother in a horrific house fire when you're only six years old. Try having six children with the handsome man of your dreams, only to have cancer take him away in his early 40's. Try carrying on and continuing the family farm, life, raising, loving, rearing children. How about not becoming bitter by it all but continuing on in faith and grace and finding love yet again with a tremendous man who becomes father and grandfather to a passel of more human beings, generations who love him, can't wait to go fishing with him, who laugh at the quick thumb that tells you to get out of his favorite chair.
I adore my Grandmother.
She is simple and she's strong and you know, back when she was a stay at home mom, there weren't blogs or Facebook. There weren't playdates and girls night outs. There was work and cooking and laundry. There was church to go to and children who needed baths. And the thing that I marvel at... that I am a little jealous over... is that there was no shame in that. There was no shame in being in that white house with the fields all around. There was absolutely nothing for her to feel guilty about. She served, she loved, she mothered. That was her calling. It was her job. And there was no glossy magazines to tell her otherwise.
I think of this when I begin to fight the overwhelming urge to do more than home and husband and baby. There's so much to get caught up by. As mothers we're supposed to do so much more than "just" stay at home. Like seriously, I nearly feel guilty because I don't have a home business. That seems to be the thing right now. Or if I have a blog, it should at least be making a profit. It shouldn't just be for a handful of friends who read and comment and share life together. I mean, goodness. What a waste.
I'm not bitter or upset by these things, but I do feel their weight as I buck the pull and obnoxiousness from my shoulders on sometimes a daily basis. That pressure to do more. Be more. No longer does it seem okay to stay home, cook, raise babies, go to church. Now you need to be out and about. If you're home the majority of the time, then you're not doing it right. If you're not super tan and super fit, then you're doing it wrong.
"We have too many
high sounding words
and too few actions to
correspond with them."
~ A b i g a i l A d a m s
And I think of my Grandma who was too busy working and living to worry about such silly things as what was fashionable or "in". She was too occupied with what God had filled her hands with to complain or to fuss with what someone else thought she should do. I am envious of that spirit because I can so quickly get sucked down into feeling that I'm just not cutting it. It would be so freeing if I didn't have to think about pre-baby jeans the second I walk out of the hospital with my new baby. I wish everyone could be free of all these man-made, popular "standards". I don't see the health in them for your spiritual, mental or emotional health. Because if we're focused on all that.... well... then what is happening at home?
Maybe my views are old fashioned. I was raised by a mother who sewed our best and favorite dresses, encouraged excitement when Daddy came home and even went so far as to educate my sister and I at home. Later she involved herself in the ares of activism that God had placed on her heart, but her outward activities never trumped what went on in that little house I grew up in. She learned well from her mother what mattered most. And it wasn't what happened outside the walls of home.
I'm a third generation mother, now. And as I sit here with my pearly white MacBook and my fancy schmancy iced coffee, I smile. I smile and my eyes fill up a little because you know, I get to choose where I look for examples of what is true. I get to admire and absorb the traditions of times gone by. My Mom lived it. My Grandma taught it. And now I have the opportunity to be that kind of mother. I have the space to make our home that kind of home.
In our fast paced, Google-everything-you-never-needed-to-know age, it can still be done. Simplicity can still be had. You choose what fills your calendar. You have a say in who takes up space in your heart, who you make time for, what controls the majority of your thoughts. I think sometimes we think we don't have a say anymore. That we just have to obey what is placed before us. But you know what, you don't.
I want to be less concerned with what "they" say and be more of what God says. I want to find comfort and strength in my calling and my place in life right now. I don't want my energy to be zapped away because I'm trying so hard to meet some unattainable goal set by people who have personal chefs, trainers and nannies. It's foolishness.
I want to be more like my Grandma as I grow up. I want to be more concerned with actions that matter versus just life fillers. Life is short. None of us know how short. This could be my last blog post. My last day. And if it was, would I even think about the home business that never got off the ground or the book I never completed? Will I care that I couldn't get back into the jeans I wore when I was in my 20's? Will I fuss because I didn't eat enough spinach or content because I always ordered tiramisu when given the chance?
And will I look back and regret that I stopped to read a book and make animal sounds in the middle of blogging like I did just now? You always, always have a choice. Your time really is your own. I hear all the time, "I never have enough time! We're so busy!" Sometimes those words come out of my mouth and I feel so stressed out that I just want to pass out on the couch and have Aaron bring me home a Rolo McFlurry because it's been that kind of day. But the truth is, we write things on our calendar. It's our hands. Our Sharpie.
My Grandma didn't have to worry if she should do more because she was. She didn't have to stress that she should do this or that because she was doing the best she could with what she had and with what was before her. I wonder what things my mind would be set on if I was living and mothering that way. If I was just focused on being at home because I am at home and not getting caught in the net of silly mandates that seem to change all the time.
What doesn't ever change - whether nowadays or back then - is that words and actions matter. What we choose to say can't contradict what we do. What we do can't take over what we say counts the most. Simple or busy, full calendars or weeks that are wide open, what continues to matter through the ages is the influence we have on one another. The words we give, the love we have. What we do still matters. We just have more to weed through, now.
But I'm thinking that what matters most is most likely what has always mattered most.
"We must take care to know our place,
take it and keep to it.
We must minister as the Spirit
has given us ability..."
~ C h a r l e s S p u r g e o n