Sunday, September 4, 2016

10 years in the making

I went away for the first time ever this week.  Oh, how many times I longed for a getaway and I can't believe it finally happened.  One of my good friends in Michigan had her 4th baby and Ben flew me there to meet this precious baby!

As I drove to Phoenix to catch my flight, all I could think was, "Oh my goodness, I AM NEVER ALONE."  It just kept running over and over in my head and the realization freaked me out.  

I thought I would use the time alone to listen to podcasts and catch up on reading, but only a tiny bit of that happened.  Instead, I just let my brain take a break.  It felt so good to not think about anything for a few days.  I didn't worry about ordering curriculum or scheduling activities or grocery lists and meal plans.  I just enjoyed spending time with sweet friends and holding this beautiful baby. 

I wish I had more eloquent words to describe how nice it was to laugh and talk with these friends.  Maybe it was exponentially refreshing being in a season of trying to make new friends.  It was nice to be with people who just knew me and loved me for me and nothing was forced.

That being said, we were talking one night and I realized how easy it is for us to talk about others.  "Oh Lucy.  She's so uptight and just needs to..." (I really don't know a Lucy, it's just an example).
So I asked these friends, who I know love me but would be brutally honest with me, what it is that others would say about me, that I don't know about myself.  Lucy probably has no idea that she's uptight and needs to...,but perhaps her life would blessed if someone graciously told her.  Andrea said that she would say that I need to take more time for myself.  Yes, it's true that I am terrible at this.  It is extremely rare for me to hire a babysitter and my kids go everywhere with me.  But the kicker for me is, I don't necessarily enjoy doing things alone and even if I am alone, I'm still doing something for our family like grocery shopping or my brain is filled with things I should get done while I have free time.  Feeling so mentally free on this trip showed me that I need to find a way to have that same kind of mental break more frequently in my life.  Andrea challenged me to find a way, and I know she's praying with me about an answer, to get that mental break.  Maybe it's a cooking class or running with a friend or...I don't know, but I'm taking on the challenge.

 Julie jokingly said one day, "I bet you never thought Michigan would be refreshing, did you?"  She was right.  Normally if you would ask me about our life in Michigan, I would say it was rough.  Ben and I moved there the day after we finished college for his first "real" job.  He had a career and I couldn't find a job and it felt like my hard earned degree was wasted.  I was away from everything I had ever known and felt very, very lost.  On top of that, I didn't handle the overabundant cold, overcast days very well.  I met Andrea and Julie at church and they were with me through this rough time of life.  We all went from working (someone from church eventually got me a job no where near my degree, but it was a job) to stay at home mommies and ventured through first pregnancies together.

me and Andrea at my baby shower, both pregnant with #1

Andrea holding Alison and Jesse at one of our first-of-many playdates
Alison and Luke hanging out...apparently it was nap time for both

We have all asked, "How is it that we're friends?" because we are all so very different, yet there is a unique bond between us.  Andrea would even say that she didn't want to be friends at first because I was a skinny blonde and she didn't want to put the work into building a friendship.  Then we went shopping together and she laughed her head off watching me try on pants and realized that I'm no where near perfect and finally let me be her friend.  Julie was the one who invited me to meet her at the trail with my baby and taught me to run.  She encouraged me with each step as I mourned the loss of that previous skinny girl.  She was even there when I peed my pants after running my first 5K post Alison.

Then we moved.

 And throughout the last 7 years of being away from Michigan, these 2 girls have called me every week.  We've even had occasional meetings; we met for a few hours when our flight got stuck in Detroit going from Kansas to Virginia and we were all pregnant with #2:


We planned a trip to meet up when we were all pregnant with #3, but then I had early contractions and the wasn't able to make the trip.  After those babies,  Julie drove all the way to Virginia to run our first half marathon together.

And all of our kids were able to meet!

Then last summer, the kids and I drove up for a week when Ben was deployed and I got to meet Andrea's #4.

Then we moved again and Julie and her family came all the way to Arizona with #4 in her belly.

Being alone this year, made me realize how different I am now.  The Jen they met 10 years ago was just a baby, but somehow they've stayed my friend through all these years of growing and changing.  They're even still my friend when I stopped at 3 kids and they both had 4...thank goodness for that one!

As I talked all this through with Ben, telling him how thankful I am for Andrea and Julie's friendship, he reminded me that we're friends because we put work into it.  This fantastic, refreshing, trip was 10 years in the making; 10 years of making the effort to pick up the phone and to get in the car and drive and to send a quick text of encouragement and even to send little gifts in the mail.  He's right.  For how much I often don't want to put the effort into making new friends, he's reminded me that it does take work, years of work, and it's worth it. 

Also 10 years in the making was a little momma break.  I never doubted Ben could handle the kids and running the house.  I didn't even leave him with a meal plan or reminders for the kids...okay, maybe just one, but Colin just started a program at the library that he really couldn't miss.  My motivation wasn't even so he could see how hard my life is, because I know he knows what my day entails.  I was just excited for the 4 of them to have time for just them, especially before they have a long time apart.  When I got home, Ben said he had a few revelations while I was gone.  He said that he realized that a mother isn't just someone who does the household chores, because really anyone can pick up that job, but a mother fills this capacity in the house that no one else can.  They bring a warmth and energy that can't be replaced.  More than that, he realized how much one parent can't be both mom and dad and that kids need both.  He saw on a very small scale what I go through when he's deployed.  Sure, I can handle the house and the kids by myself and I could even play sports and music with them, but I can't be their dad.

my little boys, ready to go to work like daddy

I wonder if in 10 years I'll be looking back at this thinking, "I was just a baby."  Yikes!  In 10 years I'll have a 19 year old!!!  I wish that 44 year old could tell this 34 year old what hobby to pick up for a break...any suggestions???


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  2. Jen is a pretty amazing person. I'm glad you got to spend some time with her and hopefully you'll get to spend even more.