Patience with US

Sundays are a bit odd for me.  As a child, it was a day we ate every meal together and was one of the only days we had almost everything in common.  It meant yummy breakfasts with fresh baked biscuits or blueberry muffins and a big lunch meal that might have been put into the oven or slow cooker before heading out the door in a hurry to arrive mostly on time for Sunday school and church.  It often ended in company coming over to share our dinner spread, or joining another church family for coffee and dessert.  I always had to wear a dress or skirt, my brother wore his suit pants or slacks, my dad wore a suit and mum, who normally wore a skirted suit for daily work, would switch up the color for Sunday, choosing softer hues instead of the ‘power colors’ she wore to run an office…and maybe a hat.  A proper British-style hat, like the queen might wear to go out for the morning.  We spent the whole day together.  That was the 70’s & 80’s Sunday ‘mixdown’.

Flash forward to Sunday morning 2015:  We are a blended family with different religious views, the boys choosing to be home doing chores and watching TSN over getting some Jesus in ’em.  Us girls head off to church in ‘non-holey’ jeans to sing and visit with other folks that burn for Jesus, and breakfast, well….if hubby and I get back in time from our weekly Sunday morning grocery date, we settle on some jointly created concoction of whatever has to get used up in the fridge. Everyone does their own thing Sunday afternoon, then we wrap it up with a nice supper, sometimes inviting my in-laws and have a very good visit.  It is a day that displays our family differences and seems to show when we have the least in common.  I don’t know if I am comfortable with how different 2015 is compared to 1985.

What does this have to do with my task this week of looking for opportunities to find patience within our family?  I have uncovered a very startling truth. I am a family snob!

It is so easy to look around at other people, hear their stories about their family lives, see the struggle they endure with rebellious teens, over-bearing parents, a diversity of rejections or abandonment issues and complexities to the moon and back…..then say to myself….“so glad that is not our world.  My family is better than that!”  And, when I say that, what I really mean is, we actually are a GOOD family, those other people are doing it wrong.”  Trust me, I know how that sounds, so I have 4 weeks in the plan to deal with Graciousness (Humility), but here we are still in Patience, so this is what I have discovered.

In my old story, one of rigidity, manipulation, twisted authority, and loveless obedience, it was drilled into me that we were the BEST family, ever.  We were more righteous, more healthy, more clean living, more enlightened, more hard-working, more resourceful, more responsible, more, more MORE….and it was a lie.  Not just a teeny, white, half lie….it was gigantically untrue.  But I lived it, believed it, proclaimed it, spun it, so that anyone who might challenge our warped reality, would get hit with my barrage of data to support the claim and enable the lie to continue.  When I left that relationship, I purposefully did most things to the exact opposite extreme, to avoid anything that reminded me of those lies, which meant we were a rotten family for a while.  Really rotten. No rules, no worries, no deadlines, no expectations, no stability….WOW!  The kids still reveal stories that I have not heard, from those wild couple of years.  I remember thinking, as we were surviving that chaotic state of raw living, “at least we don’t act like we are better than anyone else”.  I was so sick of proving to people how healthy/wise/spiritual/good/structured our family was, that no matter what madness we found ourselves swallowed up in after the divorce, at least it was real. Raw and real…..until it needed to be different.

Yes, the pendulum did swing back and forth for awhile, trying to gain a grip on becoming a family with balance.  It was not easy taking back the freedoms liberally offered to the children who felt superhuman after living under extreme control, but we slowly came to a firmer hold on ourselves and each other.  I decided I would never be in that place of judgment over anyone’s life again, that I would walk humbly in own my shoes, knowing we are all doing our best and no one is perfect….until things started to get pretty perfect.

I fell in love with a wonderful man, the kids were getting along great, we took a leap of faith, bought a house together and jumped into blending our families by decided to get married.  I felt like the luckiest person on earth.  Sure we had some bumps, but this was an exhilarating, new shot at a life I did not know could exist.  Hubby and I had stable jobs, we travelled with the kids to Disneyland, went camping in the summer, all was very good.  “WE are really good, not like those other people who don’t know how this family thing works.  We could be called Superfamily!”  I surmised when things go well, it is somehow due to the genius parents at the helm, or so I was starting to feel….and I liked feeling that way!  I felt our family was better than a lot of other people’s families looked.  My work involves dealing with the public on some of their very worst days, so my sense of  superiority continued to grow…..and then it all came crashing down.

One teen ran away.  A dark depression began to consume me.  I was not able to function at work.  My kids and hubby were on edge.  I had a wedding to plan and felt miserable.  Where is that Superfamily?  Where is that parent doing everything right?  I grinded out another few years, battling humility, establishing norms, to climb back out of that pit.  So, I felt like this week should be an easy sail, as I wondered what could possibly be revealed for my patience lesson this week, when thinking about my family. “We are pretty awesome.”   Even after years of evidence to the contrary, I see (or want to see) US as perfect.   PERFECT IS A LOT A PRESSURE!

This week, one of our kids finished a court sentence at a secure facility.  This week, one of our kids was caught in some very dangerous lies.  This week, one of our kids came home high.  This week, one of our kids travelled close to home but did not plan a visit to see us.  This week, one of our kids gave me so much sass, I thought I was being gagged in a Youtube video.

Patience with US, is knowing, WE are normal.  It is accepting our strengths and flaws and not caring who else has something better going on.  It is seeing our darkest bits and loving them anyway.  It is not pressuring US to be perfect so I can brag about it on Facebook or at coffee break the next day, but instead, relaxing and know WE are not done growing.  Not yet.  Patience is knowing our family is good….good and lousy, but there is much love to be shared.  I need to stop competing with other people for the top award of who can look like the best parent or have the best family.  I compete with my friends, my colleagues, my extended family, even my husband.  Especially him!  I can’t let him be a better parent than me….NO WAY!  Well….. actually yes.  He does need to be a better parent than me, at times when I want to scream and fight.  My friends need to be better parents than me, when I need love modelled through fresh eyes.  My colleagues need to be better parents than me, so I can appreciate and celebrate healthy pride.  My extended family need to be better parents than me, so when I go out of town, somebody great can watch my kids.  🙂

Accepting US is a big deal.  Letting US be okay right where we are, is a bigger deal.  Loving US in the 2015 messy midst, is the best deal.

My mantra from this week?:  NO snobbing on the fam.




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2 replies to “Patience with US”

  1. Barbara White says:

    Here’s a 1980’s memory this blog triggered for me: I was teaching a boy in Sunday School one of those years. (He was maybe in Grade 5 or 6). We got to the end of the year, and attendance awards were to be calculated and handed out. But he had, in fact, missed several Sundays because of playing in Sunday morning hockey games. And therefore, since he’d been absent, he didn’t qualify for an attendance award (at least in my mind). But someone – not sure who- overruled me, and he got an award. They said he WANTED to be there, and WOULD have been there if he COULD have been there (if he hadn’t been playing hockey). I was young, new to evangelicalism, and what did I know? Appearance was everything, and it was our collective job to shore up the desired illusions in whatever way we could.
    I am sending lots of love your way, AJ. It’s hard to be patient as we uncover layer after layer of illusion. But… love is patient, love is kind. Extending all around- to me, to you, to us, to others. Love is patient, love is kind. Love to you.

    1. ajstrand says:Author

      Thank you, Barbara! As the illusions are uncovered, I feel it is easier for me to be patient. REAL doesn’t take as much work. xo

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