Growing older, it becomes more obvious that my life is exactly how I perceive it to be. If I view it as troubling and difficult, then that is what it is. If I view it as exciting and interesting, then that is what it is. If I view it as filled with abundance and blessings, than that is what it is.
Every single one of the above noted descriptions could be used to describe my life, and our life together as a family.
So which one is "real"? If we are talking about the same family with the same circumstances and the same challenges...which description is the most honest?
The one which best fits the desires of my heart.
You see, it matters not one whit what others think, what matters most is how you view your circumstances, and that perspective often gives birth to the very life you seek.
The other night I had a lovely phone conversation with a long time adoption Facebook friend who I have never had the pleasure of meeting. There was a sharing of information, some reassurances that were hopefully helpful, and a little laughter over similarly experienced quirks that are only found in families like ours. As the conversation drew to a close, there was a sweet moment where I was offered some beautiful compliments about our family and a word or two about how our blog makes it all look so perfect. I laughed at that, recognizing how often I have felt the same thing as I have read blogs written about other families through the years. Between Pinterest worthy photos of gatherings and Facebook posts about accomplishments and awards, it is hard to ever get a sense how authentically a family is being portrayed. For some, it is a desire to have only the best and brightest image reflected to the world. For others, it is something entirely different, and perhaps even less believable.
I think we fall in that latter category.
Sharing as much as I do on the blog, and having as many people read it who know us in "real life" it would be impossible to fake it. It really would. We'd be called out in a minute flat. I have revealed more intimate moments our family has experienced here than most ever would, and with our children's blessing I might add. Do I reveal all? Of course not, that would be impossible and intrusive into our life, but I have shared some of the very hardest nights of darkness, the painful past, and the hard won battles. I hide little, and share openly the summaries so that others can perhaps learn from our mistakes, and catch a glimpse into a family life that is lived just a little differently.
We are far from perfect, but you know what? You can be very, very intentional about how you live your life together, about how you move through the world, and about what you value. We actually do view our life together as the single greatest blessing any of us has ever received, and we cherish it...each and every one of us. We actually do cry openly with one another, revealing our vulnerabilities so that we are not alone in our fear. We actually do laugh at those things that are difficult and embarrassing so that we don't take ourselves too seriously. We actually do offer as much love as we possibly can to those around us, knowing that doing small things with great love makes a difference in the world. We actually do respect one another, sibling to sibling, parent to child (Yes, not child to parent...respect starts with modeling it, and our kids deserve the same respect we desire.).
Dealing with so many hardships could sour our family life, it could alter our outlook on the world, it could color others and ourselves in great depressing swaths of darkest purples and muddy browns. We don't let it happen, we have simply decided to let God lead, to let Light in, to see abundance rather than lack. We have permanent disabilities, we have financial challenges, we have pain, we have fuller than full plates, we have great grief, and we have pasts that are hard to acknowledge.
There is no attempt to sugar coat it, in fact most of you long time readers could easily recite how much we have been through and how hard it is. However, there is one difference, and one difference only...we choose how we view it all. And our family life is ALL of the things described in the first paragraph! It is abundant and difficult and exciting and sometimes troubling, a plethora of adjectives could be aptly applied and all would be true. But it is the descriptors I elect to cling to that define us and end up influencing behaviors.
We are not Pollyanna-ish, but we are positive, we are motivated, and we are very hopefully Light Bringers into dark places even if only in little ways. We are also realistic and honest about limitations, we allow the real to show through and we don't run from it or pretend the outlook is better than it really is.
Allowing vulnerability to show is, for some, the single hardest thing to do. Man, does it require a level of courage that is hard to summon! But that very vulnerability, that ability to show others your emotional boo boos is the single greatest tool for healing and for healthy interactions.
So, lest I leave you thinking mistakenly that the LaJoy family lives in Shangri-La, let me assure you that we have the same "discussions" about how there could possibly be 45 empty glasses sitting around not put in the dishwasher, and we have frustrating moments when kids are not getting it with school work and I have tried every which way to explain some concept and want to pull my already thinning hair out. We have musty smelling towels because someone left them in the washer too long, and we have disagreements over what to do on a sunny afternoon. We have messes and procrastination and tired cranky people who live here, too.
But we don't yell at one another, we don't disrespect one another, and we don't stop loving one another. Ever. And we all view our lives together as beautiful, precious and finite. I guess you could say we have the life that fits the desires of our hearts, in all its chaos and clutter. It's not that we don't see the bitter hard pills on the Table of Life, we just elect not to swallow them. After all, we all really do have a choice.