Monday, January 09, 2012

The big picture and the microscope

Just putting down some thoughts I've been having lately, thoughts on the apparent discrepancy between my vision for my family and the actual way that plays out.

Being a homeschooling mom to seven is all kinds of awesome, and I love our big crazy noisy family.  And I really kind of love the idea of having a big crazy noisy family. 

That's big picture stuff. 

But Saturday night, when our big crazy noisy family had dinner out, Tigist had a rough time and I had to work hard to keep her happy, and while the food was amazing my nerves were pretty much shot.

So that's the up-close, under-the-microscope, just another day with the Heldts perspective.  :)

Interestingly, what's happening under the microscope involves big picture things--the fact that my dear daughter has only been home a few months, is regularly frustrated because her cognitive abilities currently surpass her physical abilities, and the girl has a hard time with food, period.  All formerly-an-orphan-living-in-an-institution behaviors that are really not surprising in the least.  (Not that her throwing injera at the back of her sister's head or knocking over a cup of water doesn't, you know, catch us off guard  from time to time.)

I guess I find it to be a balancing act, living that tension between the big picture and the everyday up-close.  Because there's nothing too sweeping or grand about most of the microscopic stuff in my life...whether it's me making oatmeal for the 200th morning in a row or my kid yelling at one of their siblings or my two year olds being noisy at Mass.  The days go slowly and while I love the adage "it's the little things in life", I think it's also the big things, too.

Like remembering that my kids love each other even when they're mean, that my simple meals are providing nourishment for growing bodies and brains and souls, and that there is eternal value for me and my children in going to worship Jesus at Mass--even if I'm hissing at babbling toddlers.

Because without all that?  Without direction and meaning and purpose and the unseen-mattering-oh-so-much-more-than-the-seen?  Life suddenly becomes empty and overwhelming.  Needy children, loading the dishwasher, hauling crying two year olds out of church,  Day-to-day repeating itself 365 times a year.  No wonder it's incredibly tempting to seek my identity in something outside of my home or to wistfully wonder if so-and-so has it so much better than me.

See without the big picture, it's easy to believe that motherhood is merely an inconvenient stop on my journey, a diaper-filled diversion tactic that life has thrown my way.  If I can just endure, better times are up ahead at five-star restaurants and on romantic getaways to Europe.  Don't you know that real life is lurking just beyond this 18-year-bend?

And oh how I fall into believing this from time to time.

And oh how I want to do better at looking towards the big picture while still living in the now.  Internalizing the idea that there is eternal significance to shepherding the seven small and oh-so-precious souls in my home.  Embracing the truth that there is infinitely deep meaning to our family routines and simple chores and even the most basic of meals on the table.  Because ultimately it's doing God's work.  And hopefully growing in virtue all the while, because God seems to think that the mundane is a far better crucible for virtuousness and holiness than the date-night five star restaurants and excursions to Europe.

So even though injera was thrown and water spilled by an angry baby on Saturday night, that's not the whole story.  If I back up a few steps, if I grab a lense wide enough to actually see the whole table, I see that:

Our family was able to share a meal with a dear friend and his son--who were available to meet us for Ethiopian food and conversation on five-minutes-notice. 

I see Mary Lu hand-feeding her two new sisters.  Not because they need her to, but because she loves them. 

I see Mekdes doing a silly dance, growing happier and more confident by the day, her balance improving and no evidence at all that she had open heart surgery a month for the large scar hidden underneath her pretty, new, houndstooth shirt. 

I see Tigist surrounded by six children who never, ever get angry with her for occasionally disrupting their mealtimes with cries-of-frustration-because-she's-had-a hard-life.  They love her.  Without condition. 

I see my husband who provides for us and loves us so well and takes seriously his role as husband and father and who scoops me ice cream at night.

It should come as no surprise then that I am madly in love with the big picture, with God's overarching story that He's writing with our lives.  But that part's easy to love, and the truth is that I can't love that picture without also loving the little things.  At the same time, I can't appreciate those little things and the beauty and virtue they produce unless I have the big picture in mind.

It's a tension.  And it's a good one.  May I more fully come to embrace the role my everyday plays in the big picture.


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