In 2020, one of our family goals for the year was to become a bilingual family. Many of you know, Lukas speaks fluent Spanish after living in Chile, South America as a campus minister. Few of you know it’s always been my dream to speak Spanish as well and actually “needs to speak Spanish” was one of the items on my 114 point “dream husband” list I made six years before meeting Lukas.
Side note: four years after I wrote “the list”, I ripped it up and threw it out. Obviously there’s a lot more story to tell regarding said list, a post for another day!
Speaking Spanish has been a dream for over a decade. While working as a server in college, I befriended a host of Guatemalan men working in our kitchen and ever since I’ve longed to speak their language. It was always a hindrance to deeper friendship. We communicated pretty well with our broken second languages, hand signs and hilarious YouTube watching, but I always longed to speak their language to get to know them better.
The dream still remains today. It feels like there’s an entire population of people living in the United States I can’t communicate with, can’t get to know, because I don’t know their language. Okay, okay, there are 7,000+ languages spoken all over the world and it would be fantastic to know them all but I need to set my goals realistically. Spanish is a first step and a pretty good one since over 13% of the American population speak Spanish as a first language!
Despite my Spanish goals, COVID and life have gotten in the way of me achieving the dream, yet again. Recently, I was reminded that it’s only me imposing this obligatory 2020 deadline on the dream of being a bilingual family. What’s going to happen when the clock strikes midnight? That 10 year dream just dies? Lord willing, it will happen one day.
Until then, I’m working on another type of language. The language of speaking kinder to myself and to those who I love… like these cuties!
God’s giving me ears to hear the language I speak sometimes is harsh critique. And am learning how dangerous it is to my overall mental and physical health.
I walk around my house seeing ALL the things that need to get done. The exhaustive amount of toys that find their way back on the floor once on the shelf, the dishes to wash AGAIN, the laundry to fold, AGAIN, the dusty baseboards and disorganized closets and expired food in the pantry. I walk around and every thing I see leads. me to say myself “how could you not get that done?” How could you not get that laundry folded yet? How could you waste food like that? How could you leave the laundry in the washing machine to smell moldy?
This stuff is typically unconscious and yet, overtime, it cripples me. Two trips through my house and I’m drowning under a mountain of critique.
And the most dangerous part — this translates into my thinking similar things about those I live with. Those who I love adoringly.
How could Lukas leave the kitchen light on again? How could he not pick up his shoes? How could Tabby leave her snacks everywhere so flies have infiltrated our home?
Thankfully, I have an AMAZING therapist who has helped me not only identify this in me (and helped lovingly reveal it to me!), she’s also given me tips on how to handle it.
Because that’s the thing…this critique garbage — it doesn’t make me BETTER. It doesn’t make me work harder to clean my house or get more accomplished or help me be more productive or nicer to my husband. Oh no, the exact opposite happens. The critique garbage shuts me down. If left unchecked, those gremlins in my brain get so loud and so intense I can’t handle it anymore and I seek out a coping mechanism. Oh, chores need to be done? Screw it, I’ll just watch Netflix for two hours and growl at anyone who tries to interrupt me.
So in the process, I’m learning some new language. Not the language I thought I’d learn in being fluent with Spanish but the language of being kind to myself and others. Here are a few examples:
“How could you not get the laundry folded?”
That has switched to:
“I chose to spend time with my daughter rather than fold laundry.”
By highlighting where I spent time elsewhere it takes my brain away from the task I haven’t accomplished and to the thing I DID accomplish instead. Although laundry has to get done, sometimes I consciously (or unconsciously!) sacrifice it to spend time with Tabby or Lukas and if that means it sits on the living room couch four days, so be it. At the end of my life, the moments I’ve spent with them will be what I cherish, not the laundry-free living room couch. Choosing them over accomplishment is EXACTLY what I want to do, however training my brain to believe this has required active work.
“UGH, why can’t Lukas remember to turn off the lights?”
Instead of the above, I’ve changed it to the following:
“This is why he needs me”.
This one is a funny one that keeps me from wanting to hurt my husband sometimes. Lukas and I have different strengths and different weaknesses and in our marriage and family, these compliment each other. He’s not going to be perfect at everything (and Lord knows, I’m not either!!) and that’s why he needs me as a teammate. When I get annoyed that Lukas didn’t do something or critical of the way he did it, I shift my critique on him into a highlight on me — “this is why he needs me.” It’s not in an “I’m better than you” or bitter way, it’s been the opposite. It’s revealed an area where I am a teammate and compliment, an area where I add value to our family rather than something worth criticizing in him.
You know what’s interesting? I wrote most of this post months again, probably six plus months at this point, and never finished it. That happens — I get the urge to write and do so but then life (or a two year old) gets in the way and the post sits in my drafts folder for weeks, months, sometimes even years on end. I go in that “drafts” folder from time to time and revisit ones I think I want to work on, sometimes polishing them off and getting them posted, other times closing them for another length of time, but never deleting them. My writing coach has taught me to never waste content so if it’s written, it will stay written. I never know when the words I write might come in handy to add to something later down the road. Or when God may speak to me through my own words in ways I never imagined.
Most of what I write speaks more to me than to anyone else. It’s one of the ways me and God communicate. His words through my words right straight to my heart. This post is just that. As I read these words, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come in this area. Six months ago, okay, this was probably more like eight months at this point, I was deep in the mental trenches of speaking ugly to myself. Deep, deep trenches I thought I’d never get out of, discouraged by how much work I was putting in and how little fruit I was seeing.
And yet here I sit, not even a year later and this is no longer the giant, scary monster of a battle I’m facing, the one that then felt like a Mount Everest I’d never make over the top of, now feels like a smaller hill in the background. Sure, I’m not perfect and this is still an issue occasionally but the battle is less like a big, scary monster and more like a nagging bug that I have to swat away from time to time. Reading these words and seeing how far I’ve come with this monster battle gives me strength and endurance to keep waging war with my present battles.
I only have to look at my favorite book of the Bible to be reminded God is all about the process, about the small steps that add up over time.
…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Sure, He’s a God that does BIG, miraculous things, but I’ve found Him most real and sustaining and grace-filled in the small ones. The small ones like suffering producing endurance which then produces character which them produces hope. This produces that, which produces that, and that, one small step over another small step, over time. My Dad loves the process and He’s working it all out for my good and His glory. May He continue to give me the grace and the endurance to get through my sufferings of today!