I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed, today. It happens sometimes. OK...It happens a lot. I live constantly striving for the "amazing" life that I know I should have.
I browse through photos of people I know. People living the dream. They are surfing or traveling or working in the mission field. They are loving life because life is perfect for them.
I follow my favorite blogs and find mothers who put their children's needs above their own with the greatest of ease. They make clothes and deliciously healthy home cooked meals. The keep a perfectly tidy home and spend their spare time breathing in the joy of their perfect families. They are loving life because life is perfect for them.
And then I let my eyes wander from my computer screen. I see my to do list that never ends. I see the clutter crowding my desk and the dishes piling in the sink. I see the material items that are supposed to make us happier, and they just make me feel claustrophobic. I look at my finances and sink into a slight depression.
I make a mental list for what I need to do that day. It doesn't give room for mistakes. It doesn't give time to enjoy my family. The baby wakes up before I expect him to, and I stuff my frustration down inside so that I can greet him with a smile. My husband comes home late from a hard day at work, and I raise my voice at him for leaving his shoes in the middle of the floor.
And instead of stopping...instead of putting an end to the journey to perfect...I keep going. I add more to my plate and I buy more things. I add more good intentions to my well-intentioned life. But it doesn't work. This isn't how I achieve the "amazing" life that I know I should have. I need to stop. I need to say no. I need to put down the credit card. I need to turn off the computer and make time to surf and cook and breathe in the joy of my family. I need to just be. I need to realize that I should love life. Not because life is perfect, but because life is good.
God tells me to be still in him. To let him take care of it and stop worrying about perfection. He's got this.
Be still and know that I am God-Psalm 46:10
My sweet boy is suffering through double ear infections and a cold. Aside from sleep (which is not achieved easily), I must hold him or he clings to my leg crying and bouncing. We used up our acetaminophen, and I had to send Daddy to the store twice because he accidentally bought "Children's" instead of "Infant." Baby screams at the top of his lungs for seemingly no reason. Our house is a disaster. We are miserable, and we are exhausted. But, this is motherhood and it can't be scheduled.
But there are other things that can't be scheduled.
The precious kisses he gives me without prompting or warning.
The sweet cuddles I get because he just needs his Mommy.
The grin he gives me when he's done something that he thinks is just spectacular.
The milestones he reaches when only he is ready.
The adorable dancing.
The un-explainable joy I get from looking at his precious face, pudgy hands, or cute little gap in his teeth.
Motherhood, scheduled or not, is amazing.
In my opinion, empathy is the first step to developing a giving heart. If I care about you, I am more likely to help you.
Unfortunately for me, this isn't always why I give. Sometimes I just give. I give to the random charity at the checkout. I know nothing about it. I barely even listen to the clerk to hear the name of what I am giving to. "Would you like to give a dollar to the Teach a Tree to Read Foundation?" Sure.
Sometimes it's guilt. Sometimes it's just because I SHOULD give to others and help out. Sometimes it's simply because I don't want to be the jerk that says "no," and keeps my dollar for myself.
But, the first step to developing a true, genuine, giving heart....is empathy.
I'm not extremely empathetic. I spent a lot of my youth with extreme guilt about how other people felt (whether I caused those feelings or not). I've spent many hours obsessing over the good things I didn't do that could have "saved the world". Eventually, I got tired, and I lost my empathy. But, I also lost my balance. I can't do it all. But I can do some.
Now, as a mother, I wonder how to develop a healthy sense of empathy in my son. He bites me, and I tell him, "That hurts me when you bite me. I don't like that" (something I learned in my days of teaching). But that's not enough. I have to show him what empathy looks like. I have to show him that sometimes we cry for the pain of others. I have to show him that we can be happy when something good happens to another person. I have to show him that I empathize with HIM (something that can be very challenging after waking up for the 4th time at night).
I have this rule for myself. After waking up from a seemingly random dream about someone that doesn't usually enter my dream world, I make a point to pray for them that day. Maybe God put them in my dream to tell me something. Maybe he didn't. But it certainly never hurt to pray for anyone. And it certainly teaches me to be empathic with them. I remove my thoughts from myself and try to think about what they might be going through. Prayer is an easy way to increase my empathy and develop a stronger relationship with my God.
How do you learn empathy?