Heaven Not Harvard started with my acknowledging that all the world’s pressure on my parenting was creating unnecessary stress, weighing on me, pushing me to be cranky and insistent with an incorrect perspective, trying be a perfect mom based on imperfect standards.
Inside my head, I yelled, ‘stop!’ And I shifted my parenting away from a generic “Harvard” goal and prioritized my focus on a “Heaven” goal. Over time, that mantra has shifted my focus in a myriad of ways, including my goals for myself, including my perspective on my marriage, and including events like Thanksgiving.
Immediately I felt His voice, telling me to lay down the burdens of expectations, to rest in shouting for joy, worshiping Him in gladness.
So I did. My daughter and I sang Psalm 100 over and over, working to commit it to memory.
The rest of the day, I couldn’t help but look around and see the abundant blessings we have. Our lovely home is warm and cozy. Even now, the tantalizing aroma of a fresh turkey roasted to golden brown perfection still hovers in the air, hours after the dishes have been done, and slices of pie have been devoured.
We sat around our table, just the three of us, holding hands to pray, grateful to be together. I didn’t get out the fine china. I didn’t even pull out the table-cloth. We lit a candle in our centerpiece and used our everyday dishes.
A couple of years ago, I would have cleaned and stressed and let anxiety rob me of my joy. I would have invited the world to our house, but then worried about impressing them. I would have spent every spare second for days ahead of time focused on presenting my house and family in just the right way.
I am tearfully grateful that God has renewed my heart and given me a thankful perspective this year, to focus on making memories instead of ironing the good napkins. This morning, we watched the parade on television; my daughter thrilled over her favorite characters and balloons. I held her on my lap, smelling the baby shampoo in her hair, feeling her sink into me. She kept begging me to hold her, wanting to sit with me just a bit longer. And I was able to just be still, knowing that too soon, she won’t be little enough to sit on my lap, not too long until she won’t want to.
We called family and used technology to see the faces of so many so far away. We ate our fill, found room for delicious pumpkin pie and rich eggnog richly dosed with liberal amounts of nutmeg. At one point, we surveyed the overwhelming richness of our lives and said a prayer of gratitude, knowing many around the world don’t have an ounce of the things we take for granted so often.
The day was even more poignant when I found this old writing of mine.
Lil Bit and I have traveled to my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving. I haven’t felt like crying for weeks, but as soon as I sit here for a few minutes surrounded by the house where we fell in love, a house literally filled with pictures of him, I start getting teary-eyed.
For the first time in months, I am not so busy that I can barely survive the day, giving me time to think. Maybe the holiday season without him again is making me emotional. Maybe just being surrounded by his family, his children, and his pictures reminds me more of what I am missing. Especially with Lil Bit doing her best to learn to crawl and “talking” up a storm, we realize how much he is missing. This house with its warmth and charm brings so much of his spirit to my heart. I pray everyday for his safe return because this life is not the same without him no matter where or what day it is.
Four years ago, I didn’t know if he would ever come home again. This year, I don’t know if he will ever have to deploy again. The world is an uncertain place. While we can rest assured God has a plan, He doesn’t let us in on it. We have to make the most of the season and the moment we are in. This year, this quiet day of enjoying sweet peace together was more than all the riches in the world.
Toys litter the corners, not quite tucked away. A few sticky places on the counter await renewed energy in the morning. Some dirty dishes are “soaking” (ahem, not really) in the sink. I’ve waved the white flag of surrender at the dog hair, and yet, my house never looked so beautiful as it does today.
All it took was a change of perspective, realizing we have no guarantees, that every season has its reasons to celebrate and to mourn, that God’s goodness is all the time, and when our perspective is His, He never fails to lead us home.