If our kids make a face, will it stick that way?!? What about if we’re the ones who are making the face? That honestly depends. I used to think this was just a silly wife’s tail but I’ve since changed my mind. If we make a face often enough, it really will stick that way.
Now that my sons are older, I’m starting to rediscover who I am a bit. I’m finding that I have more quiet time to think and to pursue hobbies I used to enjoy before I became a mom. And one of my favorite hobbies is genealogy. I love discovering new ancestors, especially if I’m able to find a picture or hear an interesting story about their lives. It’s fascinating!
I have ancestors who were jailed for their faith and who were excommunicated from the Puritan church because they became Baptists.
I have an ancestor who was accused of being a witch and who was later exonerated.
I have lots and lots of ancestors who brought their family on boats and who ventured across the ocean to try to make a better life for their children.
Not long ago, I was sorting through some more recent family photos and I came across several which weren’t labeled. I started showing them to family members to see if anyone knew who they were. One of the photos especially struck me because the woman in it was movie-star-quality beautiful.
I was amazed when someone finally identified the photo and told me who that person actually was. It was someone I had only ever known as a cranky older lady who always seems upset and who points out the negative in everything.
When I expressed my surprise to my husband he wisely said, “That’s what a lifetime of frowning will do to you.”
A Lifetime of Frowning
As moms, frowning comes fairly naturally. At certain ages, our kids seem to revel in making us frown. The terrible twos (actually it was age 3 that was terrible around here) and the tween years can be especially difficult. But amidst all of the hard stuff, there is plenty of good as well.
For many of us, it’s natural to focus on the bad stuff. The car needs repairs again. The kids are clamoring for food. The dishes are stacking up and there are five loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded. The work is never-ending.
When we find ourselves stuck in a negative way of thinking, we need to be intentional about noticing our kids smiling at us or mispronouncing words in an adorable way. We need to appreciate the times when they are playing together without squabbling. When they have a good attitude about helping out around the house. Or when they climb up next to us on the couch and give us a hug.
Being a mom is hard work! And sometimes when we’re tired, it can be easy to frown and to focus on what’s going wrong rather than focusing on the joy.
What Will Your 10 Stories Be?
I think God’s trying to teach me something because around the same time that I discovered that memorable picture, my sister and I spent the day traveling several hours north to visit our grandma who lives in a nursing home.
We checked her out of the home and took her for a lovely drive along Lake Michigan, enjoying the fresh air and her company. Unfortunately, her memory has suffered terribly in the past year and we noticed that in the 5 hours that we were with her, she seemed to rotate through about 10 stories. She rehearsed these stories over and over with passion and intense feelings. And the vast majority of these stories were about traumatic events she had gone through as a child.
My sister and I tried to remind our grandma about better times. About the cute things that her kids did when they were little. And as we discussed these events, she would laugh and her eyes would light up.
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My sister and I visited our grandma up in Ludington, yesterday. We busted her out of the nursing home and took her on a drive along Lake Michigan and through the State Park. She loves it when we do that. There's nothing better than spending time with family! #grandparentsrock #ludingtonmichigan #sisterdayout #homeschoolfamilylife
But it wouldn’t be long and she would look shocked and tell us another story about something difficult that had happened to her in the past.
As we were driving home, I asked myself what I would remember when I was my grandma’s age. If I start to forget things, what 10 stories will I have rehearsed so often that they stick with me longer than the rest?
Please don’t think I’m saying we shouldn’t ever talk about the difficult things we’re experiencing. Taking our burdens to God and talking to close friends is important. It’s therapeutic!
Or, that I’m trying to throw stones at my grandma. Not at all! I love her to the moon and back. But if there’s a lesson that God’s trying to teach me, I want to be sure I catch it. And for me, that lesson is that we need to be careful not to rehearse the hard stuff so often that we snuff out our memories of the good.
In the Bible, God tells the Israelites to put up standing stones as a way to remind themselves and to tell future generations about the good things He has done for them. In Deuteronomy 11:19, he also tells them to rehearse his commands and to tell them to their children.
When we are knee-deep in dirty diapers and sleepless nights, it can be difficult to think about the sweet memories we are making with our children. For some of us, it’s much easier to swap war stories with other moms and to compete for who is struggling the most. And while we’re in the trenches, we need to give ourselves grace and just do the best we can.
But once we’ve gained a bit of distance from the harder days, we need to be intentional about remembering the good as well. The times God has come through for us in a mighty way. The blessings God has given to us. The things we’re thankful for.
The fun, happy, non-traumatic events in life that weren’t easy to go through but which make us smile when we look back on them.
And it’s not just the faces we make or the stories we tell ourselves. It’s our attitudes. Our tendency to nitpick others. Our sarcastic wit. Anything we do often will form a habit, whether for good or for ill.
So, I’m learning that if we make a face often enough, it will eventually stick that way. And if we ponder a thought often enough, it will stick with us as well. I’m trying to remember to rehearse the good and to appreciate the life that God has given to me. Are you learning this lesson as well?
When you come to the end of your life, what do you want your 10 stories to be? Has God tried to teach you a similar lesson? Please leave a comment below!