Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Never Ending Group Project: Establish a House

These pictures are kind of deceiving. This looks like a family that has everything figured out. Look, their clothes match and they are all smiling! They've figured out how to make a family work, right?

Well, it turns out I'm not supposed to establish a house by myself.

Why do I keep fighting this real and obvious truth? It's not like my family is telling me, "You do it, Mom!" (Well, except for my three-year-old, but I'm hoping that's just a phase.)

It is because I'm the Little Red Hen, that's why! I like to do it myself. I always have.

Flashback to elementary school, junior high, high school, and college. I hated  group projects. They made me want to gouge out my eyes. It wasn't that I was afraid that I'd have to do all the work and the others would just slack. It wasn't the fact that I didn't like being with other people. It is just so much easier to do whatever was assigned alone. If I procrastinated, it only affected me. If I wanted to take a certain angle or run with a topic, or come up with a catchy title or theme, there was no resistance. Then, if I got a good grade, which I typically did, I would get the credit

Does this sound familiar?

But, there were some projects that had to be done as a group. I remember one class where part of our group project grade as to send the professor a picture of us all meeting somewhere to prove that we had actually met to discuss Jane Austen or whatever it was, outside of the classroom. And even though it was painful, and it took more time and energy, I survived. In fact, I think I actually liked having a group of people to share my thoughts, impressions- who ultimately had the same goal I had. We wanted an A on the project, and in the class.

So here I am in February of 2016. My focus for the month is to "establish a house." I had commendable goals for the month. Smile more. Get dressed. Focus on getting to a sacred place. Fill my home with the Spirit so that my home feels more like a sacred place. I have have to say, that in many ways I have kind of failed. Hard. 

But that's because I keep setting up these goals about my home, family, and spirituality alone. Funny thing is, I don't live alone! And while all these goals will surely benefit the people with whom I reside, they also involve them. If I start a new cleaning regimen, my kids have to know about it and I've got to be willing to help them adapt. If I want to set up an early morning study time, they have to be willing to wake up. In particular though, in trying to "establish a house," I've figured out my plans for improvement have to involve my husband. 

This sounds so obvious, but it has been a hard realization. I've always known I should probably involve my husband in my decision making, but remember how I feel about group projects? Establishing a house and raising a family is the ultimate group project! I've been living like I could compartmentalize and just do my part of the "project" without checking in with my group co-chair. Why ask the husband to help plan a project when I can just do it myself? Why involve him in deciding when to hold scripture study with the kids, or in meal planning, or in dreaming about how to redo the basement, or in planning out when the kids need new clothes when I can just do it myself? I always think avoiding the conversation will simplify things. Sometimes that works, but often it doesn't. I make plans like Tuesday is Temple Night! And then I get offended when I discover he's got some scheduling concerns. Or I get hurt when he shoots down insane building project because he is logical, thorough, and can easily identify the clear problems with my design. So I shut down, dig in my heels, and resolve to do more "all by myself." I am stubborn and creative like that.

Now, I recognize I am meant to have individual wants, needs, and ideas. I know it is healthy to have autonomy, and that there are certain things, especially mundane, functional decisions, that I can just make on my own. He doesn't care what we eat, as long as it isn't stroganoff and I stay in a budget. He doesn't really care what I hang on the walls. Heck, he even tells me to take a nap and go to the gym sometimes, (especially when I am being ornery), because he knows those things make me happier. My husband appreciates my initiative and the fact that I keep everyone clean, fed, and relatively happy while he is at work. That's my job while he is at his. And we are great at our jobs! 

But there is more to this "house" thing than parallel occupations. We're both in the process of becoming something eternal, together and as individuals. This month I've realized more fully the weight of choosing to be so intimately involved in another person's life. How amazing it is that we get to take part in each other's journey! Here he is, living his life, a son of God, gaining experience and being refined, becoming who God designed him to be, and he chose me to be a part of that process! What a beautiful and amazing responsibility. And I covenanted with him and God, that I would. Here am I, a daughter of God, striving to remember my own divine nature, and become the person I've covenanted to be, struggling through setbacks and successes, and my husband is here to help and bless me too. Obviously we each are accountable for our own actions, but how have I been thinking I could "establish a house" all by myself?   

What's more,  we've got these little people running around our house, calling us Mom and Dad! As we we work together to help them remember their purpose and divinity, I often wonder at how this happened! I know how it happened, but frequently I'm struck with how human I am. I'm just me. My husband is just him. And God trusts us with these precious, individual souls? But I know though the quiet moments and the tantrums, the tears and the giggles, the sleepless nights and those mid-afternoon naps with babies snuggled on my chest, I'm being shaped and refined. So is my husband. And, hopefully for the better, so are these important, priceless children.

So of course we've got to communicate! He's got to know my goals. I've got to know his. We've got to talk about things that are significant, meaningful, and at times, uncomfortable. And we've got to do the same thing with our kids. I've got so much room to improve. 

I know there are many who, for a myriad of reasons, don't experience the companionship of a spouse and children. For whatever reason though, I have that experience. And my family is experiencing that with me. So how am I going to treat that experience? Sure, like a group assignment I could just work on what I perceive to be my part and then wait self-righteously for the rest of my family to catch-up to where I think they should be. Or I could swoop in and take over, trying to over-compensate when I determine someone's efforts to be less than celestial. But I'm, no, we're establishing a house. And since we are together, we should do that together. 

The Little Red Hen may have eaten that first loaf of bread all by herself. But I hope that when the next planting season comes around she works with the rest of the coop to sow, reap, and harvest infinitely more than what she did the first time around.

Establish a house.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

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