We live in the age of perfectly posed and edited family snapshots.
We live in the age of illusions.
As a homeschooling Mom, I've lived the closed-off life, the all-too-often-isolated life. The no-one-can-see-my-mess life. I've walked through years, trying to maintain the illusion that I had everything under control, when truly, I never did and never have. Control isn't in my hands at all - it's in the hands of the One whose same hands created the whole of this earth.
I've come to realize most Moms are in a constant battle with the illusion of perfect. Either we fight to look perfect ourselves or we fight to ignore all the Moms around us who seem impossibly perfect. Or maybe a bit of both. We run frantic to straighten and clean and throw things under beds - we hide our real feelings and real struggles for fear of what others will think or say.
Goodness, what if she saw my sticky dinner dishes, my massive laundry piles, dirty toilets, unfinished school work, or the way I yelled at my son this afternoon? What would she think?
You know what I've learned about what she would think?
She'd be relieved. Yes, if she saw the messy parts of your life she'd be relieved to know this Mom before her has the same struggles and the same reality as she does.
I've had long chats with other Mamas who have confessed their deep stresses about measuring up. Or not measuring up. We've talked long about how every other Mom seems to have it together but us. And how when we step foot in a messy, comfortably toy-scattered house - we breathe deep and revel in the glorious imperfection. We are not judgemental of imperfection, we are relieved.
For a good few years I hid, yes, literally hid, from other Moms because my child was beyond challenging, my house was an explosion, and I barely got meals on the table, let alone fresh flowers in mason jars.
I just didn't understand why it seemed every other Mom could do it when I couldn't. But I had to realize, so much of what I thought I saw was an illusion.
Not a single one of us even comes close to perfect, friends. I often wonder, why do we try so hard? Why do we stress over things like dirty houses, disagreeable eight-year-olds, fussy babies and whether we co-sleep, bottle feed, homeschool, or work outside the home?
Why do we quietly compare and compete? Or if we aren't competing or comparing, we are fearing others are doing it to us. Oh, I've walked that fear. The, 'they're judging me' fear... yes, I know that one very well.
Why do we toil to build the illusion that all is rosy and we never need help or prayer or a shoulder? Or a whole lot of chocolate covered almonds.
What we need is transparency, friends. Real, honest, this is who I am. Because once we are open and honest about how Motherhood really is, we can begin to build each other up in empathy and love instead of smiling wide while screaming inside. Because the fake smiles and 'yea, everything is fine' thing doesn't help any of us. I desperately long to hold my sisters' hands instead of shoving them away.
If there is anyone who is far from perfect, you're looking at her right here. So, so, so flawed in every way. The World's Most Imperfect Mom - right here. The World's Most Blessed Mom too.
But hey, let's be real:
I'm spastic. I dance in the kitchen. To old Natalie McMaster and Leahy. I chase chickens home from the neighbour's yard while he laughs from his back porch - humoured by my ridiculous life in PJ pants. I sometimes let the kids eat candy in the morning. I drink too much coffee. I take cream in that coffee when I'm out, even though I speak out against the dairy industry and claim to be 'mostly Vegan'. I'm grouchy with my husband too often. Even though he's seriously awesome.
Oh, and I don't fold sheets - I just shove them in the cupboard and slam the door quickly. Folding fitted sheets is one of those tasks I just don't feel is necessary in life.
I throw things in the closets if I have to tidy up in a hurry. We rarely make beds. I use new Lego as bribery for getting the kids to the dentist and doctors office. Oh, and also when I have to force them to let me cut their hair. Like this week when about a pound of locks fell off each shaggy boy while they watched the Lego Movie and flinched at every buzz.
Our back room smells like a combination of dirty Crocs, musty rain boots and the wet dog we gave away two years ago.
I've been judgmental and lofty and arrogant. I've thought I knew all there was to know about most things. I've had opinions so strong they broke relationships. I've put ideals above love. And I've come crashing down and been taught the hard lessons of acceptance and grace. I've had to look long and hard in the mirror and realize who Christ was calling me to be and how very far was the gap between me and God and how beautiful was the bridge Jesus made with His outstretched arms.
I've been shaken and spun and I've done crazy 360s by God's mercy alone. I've tried to do the illusion of 'perfect' and woken up to realize I was hurting myself and everyone around me. Because what really truly mattered was who I was in Christ and what I reflected in love. And love, is open. Love, is authentic. Love? Love is honest-to-goodness 'take me as I am and I will love you as you are' friendship.
Love is opening the door any time, any day, and shrugging your shoulders to the mounds of whatever scattered on the floor. Love is allowing others to see you just as you are. And if that means a mess, that means a mess. Because when we shove toys to the side to make room for a friend's tea cup, there is something so beautiful and authentic that happens and we need more of that kind of fellowship.
I am a girl in need of heaps of grace, and slowly, I've found it. Come to think of it - when we have been poured upon so powerfully - it becomes a fountain overflowing. The more grace you've needed, maybe the more grace you have to give. At least, I pray it to be so.
I am hopelessly in love with Jesus, and I am hopeless without Him. My crazy weaknesses are just the places I need to give up and give over and watch Him transform. And my weaknesses? They make me human. And yours make you human too. And we're all these flawed people who need each other and can be a great big bundle of joy and mess together. Our messes can draw us closer to one another in the most powerful way.
Our authenticity is magnetic because it's common ground.
It's real. And we need more of real. Because real is authenticity and authenticity is love. We sang it loud and proud all Summer in home church, kids' voices overpowering the parents:
Love is patient, love is kind;
It does not envy, it does not boast.
It is not proud, it is not rude -
It is not self-seeking...
It is not easily angered, keeps no records of wrong…
Love does not delight in evil,
but rejoices in the truth…
Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Let's reject the illusion of perfection and humble ourselves to reach out to one another with open hands and open hearts. To be truth for one another. Loving truth. To not seek our own interests but the interests of the Mamas around us.
Authentic love is welcoming you into my reality, my mess, my imperfection. It's saying, here I am and here you are, let's be honest with each other and connect in love. Let's toss the impossible ideals we place on ourselves and others and embrace each other with a grace-based love that knows no boundaries and sees no messes.
A love that is far deeper than anything that can be seen or measured in the physical world - a love that reflects the purity of the heart of Jesus. Because wasn't that just who He was? He entered the messes with an unimaginable grace and love and dwelled right there in the middle of the chaos of those who needed Him.