Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big picture vs. little picture

Lately I've felt stuck.  In a parenting rut.  Overwhelmed by the mundane, everyday-ish mothering tasks like coercing kids to pick up after themselves, enforcing rules like no hitting or whining, and attempting to teach good table manners.  I've found myself frustrated more often than not at the kids, and at myself, feeling like nothing seems to work the way I want it to.  My energies all seem tied up in the small stuff which, while small, when it's all smooshed together, feels HUGE.

Then it occurred to me yesterday afternoon (sometime between cleaning my fridge and making dinner) that I've utterly lost sight of what I shall call the big parenting picture.  Somewhere along the way I've sacrificed the impartation of virtues and Godly direction for nitpicking and nagging about the little things.  I'm missing the forest for the trees.  In paying so much attention to the small stuff, I've crowded out the more important big things that probably contribute in a good way to the little things.  Hmmm.

I'm still in the midst of processing all of this, but I definitely want to make a more concerted effort to, say, teach my children about contentment, or kindness, vs. making sure I'm giving a strong enough consequence for disrespecting a sibling.  Both are necessary, but I've really been neglecting the former, and spending way too much time on the latter.

Life around here has, as a result, come to feel a bit unbalanced for me.  And it starts with MY heart, and MY relationship with God, and MY control issues.  Not the kids.  They're good kids, with good hearts.  They need guidance and direction and training and definitely consequences, but I feel a little like I've been running on empty with them.  Trying to do it all by myself, leaving little room for God or His work in our lives.  Ugh.  Why do I end up doing this to myself?

As you may know, we're in an adoption process right now--definitely a "big picture" thing.  We have not talked to our kids very much about what is going on--at least, not since things fell through with the children we'd originally hoped to adopt.  Our kids were really bummed out, and we told them that we would still be adopting, we just didn't know who.  And our kids, being kids, have mostly forgotten about the adoption in general.  (Until we drag them to the notary or the downtown police station as we scramble to get our paperwork in order.)  We're now at a place where we're getting a clearer picture of what we'll be doing, but we won't say anything to the kids until we've signed a placement agreement.  There are some "big picture" things involved, and an amazing story of God's hand in all of this, and I can't wait to share it with our kids and with all of you too. 

All of this to say that this process has unfolded to become such a bittersweet yet powerful testimony to me of God working all things together, and of Him using far-from-perfect me to do things I would never have imagined.  I find myself wanting my children to marvel at God's hand in this, and God's providence, to rejoice in the Lord's goodness and to treasure the things that God treasures.  To love those who God loves.  But they need to be taught these things, both in word and in deed, and to see their mom and their dad believing these things and faithfully living them out.

When I see my life through this big picture lens, I feel encouraged and like things have so much more meaning and significance than I have previously attributed them.  I feel a sense of relief, that I DON'T have to control every little thing in our family's life, that if I focus on the important stuff, the smaller things can fall into place.  And as I reflect on how I possibly fell into the smaller picture worldview, I can only guess that I fell for the lie that it's somehow easier.  But of course, it's really not.

Last night I finished up a book that I loved, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  SUCH an incredibly timely read for me, as we press forward with our adoption and make decisions and consider how our lives will be altered by the addition of new children to our family.  I'm sure it's all related, but I have found myself over the past several weeks feeling fearful of the unknowns that come with adoption, worrying about how family life will look a year from now, concerned for my current children and how THEY will be affected.  And yet I know in my heart that I am seeing things through a broken lens, a faulty paradigm where I've somehow internalized a few of the world's really stupid ideas.  Donald Miller, in his book, talks about living a good story, and what ultimately makes for a good story.  A safe life with 1.2 kids, a picket fence, a green lawn (now that I wouldn't mind!), and a dog isn't the story I'm wanting to live.  (Even if it were, it's way too late for that!  Ha!)  Instead, I'm living out a story that God has given me to steward and I want to do it well.  He gave me my story for a reason and it will be different from yours, but it's mine, and it is not at all what I expected it to be.  It's so much crazier and much, much better.

But it doesn't work so well when I'm hung up on trivial things or buying into the world's ideas of success or of what parenting should be.  It's ever so subtle, but it's a different way of looking at life.  It feels good to be getting back to the big picture, and really exciting too, because that's where I think about God and His goodness and where I get to see Him in action.

I love these words from Donald's book (apparently we're on a first name basis now):

There is a force resisting the beautiful things in the world, and too many of us are giving in.  The world needs for us to have courage...the world needs for us to write something better.

So.true.  I'm moving towards the big picture, the larger narrative, so I can write something better.  And I'm so, so glad.


Mr and Mrs Lorentzon said...

Oh, I loved this! Thanks for sharing your heart.

And I really want to check out that book! Sounds great.

this is us said...

beautiful, beautiful post! :)

And you know I love that book too - I went through underlining and realized I could probably just underline the whole book. :)

Angela said...

Bravo! Bravo! I love that book, too, and just gave away another copy a couple of days ago.
It was so good for me to read your post this morning in the midst of math and phonics and frustrations. Big picture. BIIIIIIIG picture. I need to tatoo that on the inside of my arm. What is hard for me is trying to practice the Big Picture in the SMALLest actions of my life.

Ginger said...

Thank you for your timely & honest post! I too struggle with being too nitpicky about many of the same things...its a good reminder to focus on the bigger picture and continually remind myself to focus on the wonderful little people God has made my children to be rather than getting distracted by whatever little thing they are doing/not doing at any given moment that happens to be irritating me.
I cannot wait to hear more about your adoption!!!

Rachel said...

I had been trapped under a small picture lens for too long. It was so freeing for me to embrace my daughter with her "flaws" and parent around them. I'm finding a lot more contentment and joy in loving her for who she is and not trying to slam her into someone else's mold. I slip from time to time, but I find that I am living longer stretches in the big picture zone.

I can't wait to hear what is happening with the adoption too. I'm sure that things will be moving quickly now that all that paperwork is taken care of.

lowly said...

I totally needed this right now. Thank you.

I am going to check out that book.

Owlhaven said...

Hi Brianna,
Thanks for sharing your heart-- I could really relate. So hard to figure out what to work on, what to let go. But it does come down to big picture stuff-- what important things are we trying to teach our kids? Because getting those things right may just motivate kids' hearts towards change in the little nitpicky areas too...

r. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
r. said...

Your post reminded me of an old Jewish story. Basically, the gist of it goes like this: When it is time to enter the World To Come, the question God asks won't be, Why weren't you a great prophet like Moses? or Why weren't you a great warrior like Joshua; if anything, the question will be, Why weren't you a better Brianna?.

(Yes, I know, not very consistent with your own theology, but the moral is worth considering nonetheless.)

PS-Here are two retellings of the story I found online:



darci said...

I've missed reading! This is So where I've been lately..scurrying around, trying to get a. my house organized b. school organized c. packed for holidays...ahhh!! my poor children. Thanks for the great reminder to parent with the end goal in sight, not just survival. darci :)


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