|image via longingforparis.com website|
I don't remember why I wanted to read "Longing for Paris" by Sarah Mae. I don't remember feeling a particular longing the way Sarah Mae longs for Paris (I still don't have one big dream like that). However, I've been a long-time fan of hers through her blog and book "Desperate." Sometimes I just like to read a familiar author's work.
It took me quite awhile to get into the book. I just wasn't feeling what she was feeling about the longing, the desire for "joy, beauty, and adventure." Sure, I'd love an adventure, but really who has the time or money for such extravagances? We don't even have those things for a monthly date night! As for joy and beauty, I'm just slugging through these early baby months so it's hard to see past my tired eyes.
About halfway through, I started to dog-ear pages, a sure sign that it's getting good. Sarah Mae never proposes to have all the answers and I love how she incorporates others' works into her books. She included this excerpt from "Raising Kids with Character That Lasts" by John and Susan Alexander Yates: "We will never 'arrive' in family life. When I was surrounded with small children, I thought, If I can just hang on until they are older, I can relax. It was as if I viewed life as a ladder rather than a garden...Life is not a ladder to climb but a garden to enjoy. The gardener's joy is in his work, a job that is never finished...there is joy in the process if we relax, knowing that the blessing is in the journey rather than in the completion of the job. When we relax, the atmosphere of our homes will becomes less tense and more joyful and we will rely more on the power of the Master Gardener."
Well, if that didn't speak to this tired mama's heart, I don't know what would at this point. Princess does not sleep through the night yet and it's hard for me. I've enjoyed about 5 years of sleeping through the night at this point and it's tough going back to not. But I'm also studying contentment and I realize I just need to enjoy things as I go. Enjoy her smile in the middle of the night. Be ok with getting up and rocking her or changing a diaper and being with her. I will never have such consolidated time with her as I do now.
Sarah Mae says, "We can choose how we think and how we would like to live. We can't always change our circumstances, but we can choose our perspective. We can have a positive attitude and have faith and keep on in hope. And we can make physical changes to our lives. Does it come easy? Nope. But does a skilled pianist get to be excellent by just living? No! We become excellent by practicing and working hard, and we can become self-disciplined with some practice and hard work."
This reminds me very much of talking to Moose about Fast Math (in my day it was called Mad Minute and was on paper; his on computer). He's struggling. He knows the facts but he's struggling to complete it perfectly in a quick manner. But we've talked about how instead of getting frustrated and needing to take a break, he needs to look at it as practice. He's practicing doing Fast Math, mastering those times tables. And for myself, I need to look at the late night feedings and interrupted, chaotic schedule as opportunities for patient endurance. A time to practice being content in our budget and season of life is how I'm trying to look upon our date night scenario or my lack of clothes scenario. I don't say this to brag on how awesome I am because, I am not. I struggle in this terribly, but I'm trying with God's help. Sarah Mae also says, "We are clay...We cannot mold ourselves...We strive and strive when we go on our own. We think, I'm just going to try harder; I'm going to do better, I'll be better. And then when we fail, we fall really hard, and we teeter on this line of grace and shame , and it's easy to fall on the shame side...But if we remember that we are clay and God is the Potter then we know we cannot make this clay into whatever we want; we cannot mold ourselves no matter how hard we try. He is the only one who can mold us." So true and so dear to my heart. I'm learning (after much failure) how I rely on myself and need to rely on Him.
The last way this book is important to me is when she talks about doing good for Christ's sake. "Sometimes I wonder if good works have been relegated to physically meeting needs outside our homes. There seems to be an unspoken consensus that if our good works are only done in the home - at least for a time - that we aren't doing good enough. That we need to do something bigger for God. What if my good works are being faithful to my family - loving and supporting my husband, teach my children about God and the world they live in, taking care of my home and being hospitable? What if the daily things such as feeding my children, bathing them, showing them how to properly brush their teeth, helping them learn to read and how to speak kindly to a friend who has hurt them - what if those are my good works? Is that enough for God? ... What if I never serve in a soup kitchen or go on a mission trip to another country? Will God still be pleased with me? ... Maybe I'm not as selfish as I think. I mean, maybe being faithful where I am is enough, and I shouldn't feel guilty. ... The only thing we're not allowed to do is nothing. God commands us to lvoe and serve and do something. That "something" looks different for everyone, but jesus is clear: Go."
I cannot tell you the weight off my shoulders. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday. There is a pressure from Christians today to do big things. Perhaps they don't even mean to put that pressure on and perhaps much of it comes from within. Regardless, I and many close to me, feel this need to do something HUGE for Christ. Be a missionary in a dangerous region (preferably in the 10/40 area). Be the next Billy Graham. Write a book that is empowering to women and leads them to leadership in Christ. Start a non-profit that sells expensive jewelry to feed hungry children. Whatever! I just feel like sitting here watching my daughter play on the floor and keeping her alive these 6 months isn't good enough. And I know in my head that's not true, that God loves children and gave me mine to care for, but it's almost like I needed permission to accept that. Sarah Mae has given that to me (however willingly). Thank you, Sarah.
So while this book took me awhile to get into, I did end up loving it. I do not share her desire to go to Paris (maybe a little after reading Pamela Druckerman's book), but I want to figure out my own dreams. They are there and they may have to wait while I'm raising my babies and that's ok, but I want to explore what God has for me, in the now and in the future.
Read the first chapter of the book here.
Disclaimer: I received this book in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.