I hate when I am told to practice something.

When I was growing up, my mom and dad made my sister, brother and I take piano lessons. We had to get our grade 8 piano and grade 2 theory.  The worst part of it was the practicing.

Our piano was in the living room and my mom would sit in another room or work in the kitchen and listen to us.  We were expected to practice each song 3 times, and do each of our scales and arpeggios 3 times. AGONY. I would try to play them as fast as I could to get it over with. When mistakes would happen – and they do when you play at lightning speed – I would get frustrated and slam the keys with my fists or my head as loud as I could. 

My mom would calmly say “Nance…” from the kitchen.  That meant ‘calm down and do it properly.’ 

I LOVE playing piano today. In fact, in the past years it has been a huge place of comfort when I am in a depression low. All three of us complained through every single one of our piano years but I am so thankful they forced me through it.

But the life lesson here is that practicing sucks.  I should end this here. Period. End of point. Unfortunately, there is a need to practice. It has value.

practice

In my devotional, my eyes were opened to a verse in Phillipians 4:11-12. “I have LEARNED how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have LEARNED the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” 

I’ve never noticed that. He learned these things.

“A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” Erasmus said.  AKA Practice.

My devotional quoted that too. The whole point of my devotional is to learn to be thankful…to open my eyes and see the things I miss all of the time.  And for over a year I have been desperately trying to write a list of things I’m thankful for. It’s just not natural for me to see life that way.

My mom once said to me that the life of a mom is a life of guilt.  She knows me well. As a single mom, I was very hard on Summer. Very strict.  I didn’t want those flippant statements that people throw around to be true. Statements like “Oh, you know, she comes from a broken home.”, or “well, she IS a single child…” I was determined to not be that stereotype.

It kills me when people say those things. As a stepmom, I am riddled with guilt for not loving my stepkids in the same way that I love Summer.  Blake is a year older than Summer.

When Ted and I were first together I felt bad for how cuddly I was with Summer and not as much with Blake. I made an inner decision to not be as cuddly with Summer so that Blake wouldn’t feel bad. (I didn’t think of the other option to be more cuddly with Blake!) After some time, this led me to resent Blake. I had thoughts like “Because of you, I can’t be cuddly with Summer the way I want to.”

I’m ashamed to admit that but it’s true.  I didn’t/don’t (?) want to cuddle summer as much only to hear Blake say “Do that to me!” This is terrible. I didn’t see that I had the opportunity to love, cuddle and tickle TWO little ones instead of just one. I just let resentment and irritation build. 

Our first 2 years I struggled with suddenly having two kids who stayed up later. I was used to Summer going to bed at 7 and having an evening of peace and quiet where I could do what I wanted…but now Jaden and Avery were there….taking away my ‘me-time’. My goodness I got so bitter.  I am crazy ashamed. My heart has had a lot of lessons to learn.  

So this year I have been trying. And failing. And trying again. I even set my devotional on the counter or by my shoes so that I remember to take it so I can keep adding to my list of things I’m thankful for. Then I deliberately choose to not bring that book with me because I don’t want to bother…and twelve hours go by where I haven’t looked for one thing to be thankful for.

I remember a few months ago, I was grumpy…the kids were getting on my nerves, Ted was getting on my nerves…Blake was getting the harshest treatment. I remember sitting on the couch and having the very clear thought: “Go upstairs. Take a 10 minute break. Try to stop and see what you can be thankful for here in this very situation. Let’s go. Reset your mind.”

I knew what I needed to do and I chose to stay on the couch…to roll my eyes, snap at Blake, give Ted the silent treatment and hardly acknowledge Jaden or Avery….that’s right, Summer received no bad treatment. Completely biased. I chose to stay in that place.  I CHOSE not to practice.  

Day after day I drive nails into my head that tell me I am lacking…as a person, a mother, a wife…that I don’t have the dream house I want, or all the clothes I want…I tell myself where my life is screwed up and all that is wrong with it. Boom! Discontent. Boom! Self-berating. Boom! Jealous. Nail after nail. And there is only one way to change it. 

I’ve got to start using different nails. I’ve got to change my habits. I’ve got to PRACTICE. I need this list of thanks more than I know. This will save my life. This will give me joy. And when I CHOOSE to practice and write it down, I do feel joy.

I see that yeah, Avery and Jaden are up…but they would rather hang out with us than hide in their room. AND WE LAUGH together when I allow it. And Blake…she will talk your ear off and ask you more questions than an online dating profile…but she is FUNNY and the way she thinks is so cute and funny. I can’t see she is cute and funny when I’m hard as a rock. 

And Ted…this guy LOVES me. He really does. In a way I’ve never known. So maybe instead of dwelling on the easiness of being on my own and not having to consult anyone when I made decisions, I should focus on the millions of little ways he loves me and cares for me. He filled my flat tire today without me asking, so that I could get to the mechanic.  

If I think back on today, here are some things I noticed because I was DELIBERATE and CHOSE it today.

A little boy with donut icing remnants on his face but having no idea.

My Summer loving her school book so much that she tells me every exciting detail.

The way the early sunrise was dancing off of one very specific cloud…man, God is like Bob Ross when it comes to sunrises.

Summer laying beside me as I worked out.

Watching my workout team send little messages to support each other – people they have never met.

The way Summer’s hair curls…steam swirling and dancing from hot chocolate…a 2000 piece puzzle and a friend willing to take it on with you.

Small. Really nothing crazy about any of these things. Very common…and 99% of the time, they fly by my window and I don’t even notice them on my journey. I’m focused on getting from Point A to Point B.

But life is a road trip. Not one destination…just enjoy the drive and the scenery wherever it takes you. 

So though I wish to slam my head or fists on the keyboard of my life, I hope I can always hear God saying “Nance…” so that I calm down and do life properly.

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