About this time last year, I started a little project to write a blog in French. I didn’t know where that was going to lead (still don’t, to be honest!) but it did give me a few pivotal moments.
The blog was a written history of how my husband and I ended up back in France when we did. My indulgent husband helped me re-read and correct my French, since, no matter how long I will live here, I will still make silly mistakes in my written French. It was a fun little project we did together.
As I was writing it, I was remembering just how amazing that time before our move to France was. How big and grandiose (perhaps in the clinical sense?) our faith was as we believed we were moving to pursue some sort of divine calling to return to France.
You may remember this at the time, but I shared with you that I started having the recurring thought that I wanted to live that kind of blind, deep, unwavering faith again, and somehow, for my children to be swept up in it, too. Like, I wanted my children to see us live out that kind of daily miraculous answer to prayer.
I prayed about this, and I really expected to hear an answer from God. I was expecting to hear something huge and firework-y, like “Go back to school and become a psychologist.” or “Drop everything and move to Tokyo.”
Like, that was how huge and random our return to France had felt at the time that we heard it, so I was expecting to hear something in that register at the time.
But the only answer I was getting was, “You need to serve your family with joy.”
And I was disappointed by that answer. I was frankly rather disgusted by that answer, because it certainly did not respond to my desire for adventure.
You know, once you hear something like that, and you can, with the faith you have, attribute it to the God you believe in and want to serve, you have two choices: obey or pretend you didn’t hear it.
I have spent a good part of my adult life pretending not to hear, and I have come to discover that this is usually not the best course of action. I can pinpoint dozens of times when if I had just heeded that little inkling, I could have been in the right place at the right time to do good.
I struggled though, as any self-respecting overthinker does, with all kinds of existential questions: What does it mean to serve? and Is joy a feeling? Can I fake joy? and Won’t God know that I am faking joy?
My first realization on the subject is that, like love, joy is a choice. It is a choice to not dwell on the little irritations. It is a choice to not mutter things under my breath. These are the low-hanging fruit of joy. And by the time I stopped dwelling on being irritated, joy really wasn’t that far under the surface.
And secondly, I learned that serving is likewise a choice. It is a choice to do for them what I would want done for me, and not just doing the things that need to get done because they need done. This might mean that the things that need done take a backseat to the things that create connection.
Serving does not mean becoming a maid. Serving means being a trampoline. Serving means teaching my boys how to fold a pair of socks, not simply folding the socks and putting them away like a magic fairy.
Serving means being attentive to what they want to learn and the motivation that they have to learn it. It means, for example, that I have three entire garlic heads that are completely peeled because my youngest loves loves loves to peel garlic. It means figuring out how to preserve these three heads of garlic so they don’t go to waste.
Serving means that I, who hate cooking asked for a recipe of something my eldest scalawag ate over at someone’s house, so that I could make him something he loved. Incidentally, this recipe required garlic, which made it a win-win.
It was a whole year of this…choosing to serve. Choosing joy. Choosing, choosing, choosing.
As I mentioned in my last post, my littlest fella is finally sleeping now, like a normal kid, and I can point to the day on the calendar when a new season of my life started.
But what is this new season?
After a year of choosing to serve them, and choosing joy, and a family life that, while complicated by a few personality traits which will probably haunt us for a long time to come, has started to resemble something rather…normal, I find that…hold your breath for the shock you are going to experience when your read the next sentence:
I actually like being their parent.
That amazing miraculous life of faith I was praying about this time last year could only start once I did the heavy lifting of serving my own family with joy. I’m actually at a point in our family life where I can imagine doing amazing, miraculous things with these boys. Like, I can see that the relationship we have is the kind of thing that could sustain a crisis, a famine, a miracle, or maybe even an overabundance (I’m not counting on that one, though.)
I really never could imagine myself as a parent. I did not want to be a parent. Four years of ante-natal and post-partum depression did not help me project myself into becoming someone who would like being a parent.
But here I am, seven and a half years after my first scalawag graced us with his presence, finally able to choose them and realize that I like being theirs’. And after all these years of telling myself (and my Cinderellas) that love is first and foremost a choice, not a feeling, (which is a hill I am willing to die on) I am starting to feel that warm fuzzy, oozy, charmed goodness that would make someone want to be a parent in the first place.
It shouldn’t have had to take this long, but it did. Now, I feel like the sky’s the limit. We could go anywhere, take on anything. Like, this is faith rocket with joy and love as boosters.
Whatever this next season has in store for us, I think we’re ready.