Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stretching Me

Our family of seven (SEVEN!) still fits in our mini-van. Barely.

Every seat is taken. When we go on a road trip we're packed like sardines in there. (Sample dialog: "No, that case goes under her feet, the pillows go by her.")

I'm sure you can imagine it. Tigger, being neither the oldest nor the youngest, and no longer requiring a car-seat or booster, well, she gets the middle of the back seat. This is probably the worst seat in the van. No window to herself, no cupholder, nowhere to lean her head.

Plus she has a younger sister on either side and at times they both want her attention. On our last trip to Tennessee for Thanksgiving, each sister was pulling the arm closest to her. Tigger tolerated it for a bit but she finally wailed, "They're stretching me!"

We made her sisters leave her alone and all was peaceful in the backseat again, at least momentarily.

But I, as I am wont to do, thought about what she said.

"They're stretching me."

And I realized that sometimes, that's what God is allowing to happen to me too.

Take my children, for instance. They need me. A Lot. There are meals and messes and library books and concerts and laundry and squabbles and diapers and hugges and kisses and band-aids and baths and...the list could go on for a while.

Here I am, at 32 years old. When I was younger I had ideas of Being Someone or at least Doing Something Big. Those ideas didn't usually involve people wiping their noses on my skirt or washing bowls caked with oatmeal at ten o'clock at night. Again.

But, as tired as I am and as long as the days are, I see how God gives me grace to stretch for those needs.

Then there are the realities of our life. I see a smaller than average income (for the U.S. standard of living) and a larger than average family. The numbers don't seem to work on paper.

And yet, every month, the miracle of all our needs, loads of our wants and even some things we hadn't imagined, are covered. The budget isn't the only thing that stretches when that happens.

Then there's our marriage. We've been married 14 1/2 years. We've been a couple for two and half years longer than that and we've known each other since 1985 (I was four, he was eight. Love at first sight? Probably not. But who's to say, since I can't remember that far back?). We know each other incredibly well.

And yet, there are times when we look at each other and think (or even say out loud): I can't believe you just did that. Do you love me / respect me / care about me / know me at all? Marriage is a stretching business.

Being a family is a stretching business. The to-do list grows longer. Nerves fray. Tempers flare. Tears fall.

Then we have to apologize (yes, we all do, even the parents. Especially the parents.). Sometimes we need to get more rest. We say "no" to outside things and settle down together to get through another tough season. We hug. We make-up. We put on happy music or quiet music or Miss Lili's favorite music so she can fall asleep. We try to say loving things, do loving things, think loving things, even if we don't feel them at the moment.

And I am stretched to be so much more than I had imagined. See, the good news about the stretching God does in my life is that I am not a rubber band that will eventually snap. I'm not even one of those creepy stretching toys where the arms eventually become hideous and deformed.

I am made to stretch. I am made to grow and change and mature. When I am allowing God to work that way in my life, I'm actually following His plan to become more like His Son and less like whatever limited vision I had of myself.

One of the great singer-songwriters of my parents' generation wrote a bittersweet song about grown-up life called Coming Around Again. I like the whole song but my favorite is the chorus where she sings, "Don't mind if I fall apart. There's more room in a broken heart."

OK, maybe it's cheesy. But that's really what it's like. Marriage and Motherhood will break your heart. They'll stretch you more than you thought possible. Then you find out there is more room in a heart broken by love for these people God has entrusted to you. You find out that you can stretch, yes, one more time, one more runny nose, one more sick child at two a.m., one more dropped bag of groceries, one more hurt feelings episode, one more dentist visit, one more temper tantrum.

Being stretched is God's way of making more of me than I would choose to be. God's refining process for His children is not always some Big Grand Thing That Must Be Done. Sometimes, many times, it's just getting up in the morning and doing what we're supposed to do, when we're supposed to do it, in the way He wants it done.

Are you being stretched too? Let's encourage each other.

This post is linked to Titus 2sday hosted by The Time-Warp Wife.


Lisa said...

I needed this today! Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

You are so incredibly smart! Your favorite Aunt

Rebekah Harris said...

Great post! I can relate! I just brought home my 5th baby! I am learning about being stretched also to do what I never thought I could do but rely on Jesus t o give me the strength uhh need to do what he calls me to, he is so faithful!

Sandy Hardin said...

I'm thankful to have found this on a day when I feel stretched thin.

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