Last night I was getting frustrated with my washing machine. A few months back it started acting up and wouldn't add water into the tank. I experimented and found that if I ran it on the delicate cycle it worked just fine. Then I tried the bedding cycle—worked perfectly. So I tried, on the third load, to go back to the normal setting and run it again. Nothing. Dry as a bone.
So for the last few months—instead of calling a repairman like a "normal" person—I have just run the machine on all the settings, except normal. Yesterday my frustrations were reignited when I forgot and tried to run the machine on the normal setting. Figuring out at the end of the cycle that the machine hadn’t even begun to do its job. The clothes had gone through the cycle, but since no water had been added to the machine they were still dry . . . and dirty.
What is normal? A destination we want to reach? What we think others are—and we should want to become? Is the ideal of “normal” something that inspires us to set goals, or just a word that makes us believe we aren’t good enough the way we are?
Normal. It is just a setting on my washing machine, but as of right now, even on my washing machine “normal” is pretty useless.
What is normal in an individual? And in a family? I think we all have an idea of what a family should look like—an ideal setting in which we want to strive to live. As individuals we set goals to become something we are not currently living as, and hopes for what we want others to become. Only in families, when we have our heart set on “normal” we almost always fail, because the truth is: “normal” isn’t real.
NONE of us are normal. And just like my washer, no matter how many times I try to force it into that “setting”—or we try to live in the belief of becoming “normal”—or mistakenly forget that it doesn’t work for us—but accidently try to start using it again—something is going to go wrong. We stop living life as us, and begin aspiring to an unachievable goal. And we go through the motions—of the “normal” life . . . but in the end we are still just a pile of dirty clothes. Sometimes wondering if we are in the wrong place because our path doesn’t look like we thought that it should. Our families feel anything but normal and we start to wonder if our need to feel “normal” would better be achieved somewhere else.
So where do we reach that goal? Can it ever be achieved in the un“normal” settings we have all been placed in? We want to be happy, but our belief that we first have to be normal . . . is making us miserable.
Look at your family. They are everything but “normal” right? Ya. Me too. But they are right where we belong.
Every family looks different. Some have only one parent. Some have no children. Some families are two families blended together into one. Some kids have to go back and forth between two houses—other kids wished they had a house to live. Some children have a birth mom and live with parents who look nothing like them. In some households everyone looks almost exactly the same. Some couples wished they could have a baby—others don’t know what to do with the news that a baby is on the way.
Humans. Not one of us is the same. We each have a story—a unique journey that has made us who we are. Some of us were planned—some of us were surprises. Some of us have dark skin— others have light. Some of us have brown eyes, and others got their blue eyes from a father they have never met. But not one of us is normal. And we were never supposed to be. Unique and different from one person to another—and one family to the next.
So many nights I have cried with a prayerful plea that I could just be “normal” again. Some of these moments have been a cry for the pain to be taken from me; others a hope that my past could be erased. Some days have been a wish that one of our daughters didn’t have to flip flop between two houses, and the others didn’t have to know firsthand what murder was. “Normal” began to be a destination I thought I could fight to reach—but every day I see that it is a mystical place that no one was ever supposed to be.
Satan uses it as a goal we are supposed to strive for, so we always wonder what is wrong with us. Never fully living in our own truths—always having a thought at the back of our mind that our differences keep us from that goal.
So in light of our very un“normal” blended family’s anniversary I petition that we ban the normal setting in our minds—just like my washing machine—and start seeing the good that comes from looking at our families, and ourselves, with the delicate setting as our goal.
God believes in you. He believes in families. He believes in love. He believes in making right our wrongs. He believes in us . . . as broken, blended, delicate, fractured, and imperfect as we are.
So to all my un“normal” friends. Thanks for loving the broken me, that has shared my heart with all of you. Thanks for believing in this far from “normal” blended family that I get to call mine every single day. Thanks for living your stories, as hard and emotional as they have been. For sharing your struggles and triumphs with me and helping me understand how special each journey can be.
Normal really is just a setting on a washing machine—and if you ask me it is over rated. You are delicate, and your life is beautiful. With all the bumps and bruises, and smiles in between.
Five years ago Shawn and I made the biggest decision of our lives. We became a blended family.
Has it been easy? Nope. Were we prepared for it? No. Has it been perfect? Not at all. Have there been days when one or the other of us has thought we made a mistake and wished we could just be "normal"? Absolutely.
But I would do it all again . . .
The crazy part of life is that we never know what it has in store. We can try to map it out, and create plans but the truth is, the only thing we can plan is that our map will have some twists and turns.
Be prepared to take some leaps. Be willing to jump. Have faith that God's plan will be greater than the one you always thought you would live. And then live it. Own it. And make the most of every moment. Like it was all on purpose.
Happy Anniversary to the man who has stood by my side through the hardest of days—but also the sweetest of memories. I don’t know how we made it through, but I am so thankful I am here with you. There has been nothing normal about our life, but I love that we fight every day to live it.
Love you Shawn.
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