As you are all well aware, the Christmas season has just passed, and our days have been so packed full of events and entertaining and “must do’s” on top of our already busy lives. I recently gave a talk at a wonderful ministry we have at our local church geared towards moms and was told I should talk about how to keep Christ the center of our lives even during the busyness of the holidays. I had to laugh because this has always been such a struggle for me in the past and now it seemed, more than ever. Maybe it was because I was no longer occupied by working, but for whatever the reason, during the holidays my brain trail starts going something like this; “we HAVE to take a family photo because we NEED a Christmas card and it SHOULD be taken in the appropriate lighting, preferably by some trees and the boys both need haircuts and maybe I should get Willow a bow and oh wouldn’t it be cute to get them sitting together in matching outfits like that one picture I saw on FILL IN THE BLANK; pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, etc.”
You can see how fast the thought process snowballs.
In the past at my ministry group thoughtful ladies have come up with practical ways to keep the focus of the season on Christ. Some of these have included traditions like reading our children Christ-centered Christmas books, having a happy birthday Jesus party, going to Bethlehem Street, showing our children how to focus on giving gifts rather than receiving by having them take cookies to the neighbors, and one of my favorite ideas; keeping a jar of blessing and prayers big and small that the Lord has answered to take out and recap at your New Year’s Eve celebration. All of these are fun ideas that can help keep us centered on the true meaning of Christmas which is of course so important. I’m not discounting that.
However, as moms we are always busy and I am just speaking for myself when I say that at times although these are all good things, done with good intentions and can be wonderful traditions, sometimes I fall into the trap of tacking these things up to my pinterest board of “To-do’s” and if I don’t do them all or if they don’t go as planned, I feel like in some way I’ve failed.
So in the interest of encouraging others, I thought I would share about my own struggles with wanting to create this imaginary perfection by doing all the things I think I should do, not only during the holidays but all the time and how that image I create in my head can become a real idol. My image is fueled by a lot of things but one thing in particular is social media.
I was talking to a good friend about this and she said something which I love (it should be a hallmark card) which is that “we compare the worst version of ourselves with the best version of everybody else”.
Take a minute to think about that.
“we compare the worst version of ourselves with the best version of everybody else”
We know our innermost sin struggles and inadequacies like no one but the Lord does. We hear our own sinful thoughts, we keep record of how often we’ve failed in different ways and how different we are from what we wish we were…. Then we contrast that with what we can only see from the outside, by what is presented, when we look at other women. Now thanks to social media it may feel like we have this unique birds-eye view into people’s lives and that can make it even harder to know what the truth actually is. We see the “best version” which is presented to us because in social media we can pick and choose what we present, and it can definitely add to a sense of pressure and as I said before unrealistic expectations which adds to our already busy lives as wives and mothers.
Now, I might be at the grocery store eating a Twinkie but if I take a selfie standing in front of the veggie aisle and hide my Twinkie and I happen to be wearing my workout pants you might see the photo and think “wow! So that’s how she lost all her baby weight!” Actually no sisters that’s not true! God decided for whatever reason that when I nurse I can hardly keep up with my kids’ caloric intake and I’ve been feeding a very hungry little person who has been exclusively breastfeeding for the last 9 and a half months.
To take us a little farther down the journey to explore this idea more, I want to give you a little glimpse into my own life by reading two Christmas letters. It’s funny because I wasn’t actually planning on sending out a Christmas letter but after writing out this first one I thought “man that sounds really good; I should send it!” Please keep in mind while I’m reading this first letter that I’m making a point so just bear with me.
Dear beloved friends and family,
How blessed we are to be celebrating the birth of our Savior yet another year. As we look back on the happenings of 2018, we really have had so much to be thankful for. Most notably, we introduced our newest addition to the Robinson clan miss Willow Grace on February 22. At 6 pounds 13 ounces, mama was grateful that she was smaller than her 8 pound brother and even though she took her time coming she was definitely worth the extra 5 days of waiting. Jacob was thrilled to welcome the new baby and often refers to her as “our little cutie”.
With such an easy and speedy delivery, Megan was grateful to be able to jump right back in to being a full time mom. She has continued to maintain her Physician Assistant certification requirements by completing the required Continuing Medical Education units in her spare time, but really she finds the most joy in just spending time with her sweet little ones. This year she’s enjoyed attending an amazing bible study over the summer and is on leadership at a wonderful organization at our church. In addition, she has really been able to dive in and discover her love of baking and over the year has experimented with homemade sourdough starter, homemade challah, honey wheat bread, dinner rolls, bagels, soft pretzels and more. She hopes to launch her blog soon.
Brian has continued to excel at his position of mountain bike design engineer. He is working towards Senior Engineer next year and is currently designing a bike which will be ridden by Loic Bruni who was the 2015 UCI World Championship winner. Brian continues to wow us with his amazing talent, his ability to literally build or fix anything, and his skills as a kind, loving and compassionate Dad. In his spare time he has really enjoyed tweaking our converted 12 passenger van to make it the perfect space for our adventures. It now boasts a convertible bench to bed setup, has a fridge, a toilet, a swivel passenger seat and has solar capabilities.
2018 has seen lots of adventures and travels. The whole family enjoyed a trip to Kauai in April. We started our time off in Honolulu and spent the remainder of the trip at a beautiful home just one block from the beach. With some stormy weather while we were there, it was not only beautiful but also awe-inspiring, and Jacob still talks about the thunder and lightning that we witnessed. In May we ventured down to San Luis Obispo. In July we had a visit from our Georgia family and had such a fun week showing them around California. We can’t spend too much time away from San Luis so in August, we headed back and enjoyed the beach and ended our time with a day trip through Cambria and Moonstone Beach. As October ushered in the fall season, we drove the van up to Yosemite National Park and spent much of our time biking and enjoying the amazing scenery and colors. In November we spent several nights at Mount Hermon Family Camp getting to know our church family better in the beautiful setting of the redwood forest.
Megan, Jacob and Willow all enjoyed frequenting the San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum and agree it was the best Christmas present because it provided days and days of fun and learning over the last year.
Jacob has really blossomed this year. He’s grown an inch and a half since June according to our charts in the garage, and has started preschool two mornings a week. Following in his papa’s footsteps, he’s graduated from his strider bike and now tools along quite competently on his two wheeler bike (no training wheels of course). He continues to be fun and energetic, creative and amazingly verbal. He’s always surprising us with the things he says.
Willow is our sweet, quiet, smiley doll who prefers to be with mama most of the time. She is already talking and says many words including “mama, dada, hot, hat, dog, and hey!”. She crawls like a speedster and we’ve caught her standing unassisted but no steps yet.
As we’ve entered into this holiday season, we’ve really embraced it here at the Robinson household. We have enjoyed listening to our favorite classic Christmas tunes, sitting and enjoying the fire by our newly upgraded fireplace whilst eating homemade cookies handmade by Megan and the kids. We enjoyed time sampling goods at Andy’s Orchard, picking out our Christmas tree, going to the downtown Christmas parade and delivering some of our hand-baked goods to nearby neighbors to help spread Christmas cheer.
We wish you all the best this holiday season, and above all we thank God our Savior for our blessings in life, most of which is YOU.
The Robinson Family
Brian, Megan, Jacob and Willow
Ok, let’s be honest. Did any of that start to get on your nerves? Just a little bit? How about add to your list of things you didn’t accomplish this year that you just realized maybe you should have? Add to a sense of inadequacy? Did it flare envy? How about anxiety? Disappointment in your own circumstance, husband, kids, holiday seasons or traditions?
Now I’m not saying that all the things I said were not true. On the contrary, all of it is true. I have a very blessed life..And it’s not to say that the wonderful things in life shouldn’t be celebrated. The bible tells us to enjoy what we have, to be content, free from anxiety and full of joy. Phillipians 4 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which supasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” In Colossians 1:10 we are commanded to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience WITH JOY, giving thanks to the Father”. (emphasis added is my own)
However what I want you to see is that when you start to rob yourself of a joy that is pure and full because you are playing the comparison game you are not keeping the full picture of what is real in mind. It’s about perspective. So my sweet mothers, in the interest of full disclosure I’m going to read my other Christmas letter. The one that I would never send but that I live with daily. Then we will talk some more.
Dear Beloved Friends and Family,
I do feel so blessed to be celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ another year, and what a year it has been! Over the course of 2018, as an answer to much prayer, we celebrated the birth of our baby girl Willow Grace in February. She was 5 days overdue and I was so impatient for her to come. I was excited to see her and hold her but honestly was struggling so much with Jacob that I already felt wary and she hadn’t even come yet! I felt like I was just figuring out (and often failing) parenting Jacob; what on earth was I going to do with another? And even though he often drove me crazy, he had become the center of my world. How could I love another child as much as I loved him?
The mom guilt had started.
I thought I was prepared as I could be when suddenly as we lay in bed to go to sleep at 9 o’clock on February 22 I heard a pop, sat up to realize my water had broken I was literally was in the most excruciating pain I’d ever experienced. I crawled to the front door and spent the drive to Los Gatos (a solid half hour away) facing backwards on the passenger seat screaming in pain and pleading with God. We pulled up to the hospital lobby doors to find that they were locked due to some construction. Poor Brian was literally trying to pry the sliding doors open with his bare hands when I yelled at him to pull the car around the the ER. I was the crazy lady yelling and screaming getting wheeled in (still on my knees and backwards) on a wheelchair. And without further ado, at 10:25 after less than 15 minutes or so at the hospital Willow was born! I was shell shocked. Suddenly I was a mother of two. I felt oddly numb and the situation felt surreal. Two days later we were home and Jacob and Willow met and our new life began. It was technically an easier delivery so I felt like I should just be able to jump right back in to mom life.
However this year has been a struggle to adjust, to adapt, to grapple with the apathy and flatness I felt and to work into falling in love with this sweet quiet baby. And of course I’ve been dealing with guilt ever since that I didn’t just immediately feel connected to her. We of course took smiling pictures in the hospital, filmed the cute meeting of brother and sister and prayed (and posted) our grateful prayers.
This year has been a year of sanctification. I realized that God has given me Jacob to grow my kindness, my patience, and to sanctify my selfish and naturally irritable nature. The sweet child never stops talking (or moving!) and wakes up at 6 AM or earlier and does not sleep until 8 or 9 some nights. I praise the Lord that he still naps. He fills me with feelings of worry and inadequacy about my parenting and constantly fills me with dread with his adrenaline junky antics. I worry that I spank him too much, that I’m too harsh, and that I will ruin him with my sharpness and impatience. I struggle with resentment towards him that he is so demanding of me and I fear I have little left for Brian and Willow and then of course feel guilty for feeling that way.
In caring for the kids and adjusting to full time mom life, I’ve had to realize that my career was a major source of pride for me and that being a mom is a constant dying to self. I’m always busy instructing, admonishing, cleaning, cooking but at the same time have struggled with feelings of boredom and a sense of living the same day over and over again and resentment that my husband’s job is cool and fun and exciting.
Through all this I posted the smiling selfies you saw on Facebook throughout 2018. Me with baby. Me with both kids at the museum. Pictures of the beautiful, perfect bread I’ve baked to help keep me from going crazy on those long afternoons. Us on our “adventures”. We have had amazing adventures but I am a homebody. I long for quiet, consistency, books, and routine. Each time we left for a trip, I wanted to be home. Our Kauai trip happened to land on a literally record breaking storm. Here’s a little excerpt of a news article about our time there; “Since the 1940s, the Hawaiian island of Kauai has endured two tsunamis and two hurricanes, but locals say they have never experienced anything like the thunderstorm that drenched the island this month.”
“The rain gauge in Hanalei broke at 28 inches within 24 hours,” said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura of the North Shore community. “In a neighboring valley, their rain gauge showed 44 inches within 24 hours. It’s off the charts. Actually, it was even worse. This week the National Weather Service said nearly 50 inches of rain fell in 24 hours.” Let’s just say it was an exciting trip.
Our Yosemite trip was during a time that Brian and were really struggling in our marriage and I spent a good deal of the drive there struggling with irritation with him and cleaning up Willow’s throw up.
After each trip there were the loads of laundry and the crying tired kids that I didn’t take pictures of and post.
And finally, though I love this holiday season (as I really do love Christmas) I see the days rushing by filled with checklists of what we should do, places we need to go, experiences the kids have to have, presents that need to be purchased and of course every moment should be recorded and I feel myself in such a dry spell, grappling with doubts, frustrations; even more so because it’s Christmas for goodness sakes and I want to be happy and joyful. But, dear friends and family I must admit, I feel inadequate, often overwhelmed by my sins and at times mothering can feel like such a lonely, burdensome task.
Sincerely your sister in Christ,
So, how do we keep perspective? My first letter was actually a great exercise to write because even though I initially sat down to write it to simply make a point and generally be obnoxious, I ended up seeing the blessings and joy that came out of a difficult year. In writing the second letter whose purpose was to show the unseen reality behind the smiling perfect facebook posts, I was reminded of how much room I have for growth, and how the Lord uses hard things to shape us to be more like Him.
How do we curb the temptation to plan our lives in such a way that it is full and yet empty at the same time so we have an Instagram of good pictures but no true treasures to take with us where it really counts?
I think the first thing is to step back and try and remember where our worth really lies.
John 1:12 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
“The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16: 7
So in this holiday season, and in the midst of the busyness, lets try and take time to just stop and think about what our great Creator is doing in our hearts. How has he been shaping us this year?
When you feel bogged down by all the to-do’s, whether it’s July or December, ask yourself if you are creating busyness through unrealistic expectations of what your life should look like? So much of our busyness as moms is unavoidable. It’s pat of our calling. But in those moments of crazy, ask yourself if you’re trying at all to create moments to get that perfect picture or are you just embracing the moments you’ve been given as they are? I would hope that sisters and daughters in Christ, we could stop spending our time trying to create a false perfection, and boasting of our accomplishments and instead use our various strengths to build each other up as we push towards the goal together.
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord” Jeremiah 9:23
As you go through your day, ask yourself what your motivation for doing what you do is.
Galatians 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Colossians 3:1 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Finally, embrace the joy in those sweet crazy moments we are given. “Rejoice in the Lord always;again I will say rejoice” Philippians 4:4 “ Jesus tells us “These things I have spoken to you,that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” John 15:11. The Lord wants us to be joyful. He wishes joy for his children and it’s repeated over and over in the bible. Even the Proverbs 31 woman lets go and laughs at the times to come. So don’t let the quest for perfect moments rob you of the fullness of joy.