Tuesday, April 8, 2014

toothpaste

Yall. It’s everywhere. I feel guilty every time I take the big boys to the dentist, knowing that the toothpaste rarely got on their teeth as evidenced on the walls of our house. There isn’t a light switch that isn’t streaked blue. There isn’t a cabinet that isn’t sticky to the touch. And there isn’t a room in our house that doesn’t have a lost tooth brush floating around.

After a full day. You know the ones……my morning “plan” was bombarded by stubborn little boys just wanting to be at a park. So I pray towards lunch time because in the working world the lunch break used to pull me through…..open my head a little. But lunch is more like watching a slow train wreck on this particular kind of day. I relent to just suck slowly on chocolate chips. One, it keeps my mouth shut and any harsh words in the moment to slip out, and, two, it keeps my mind off the mess of the day. I work like a mad woman towards a refreshing nap period, to no avail. And all of that above just makes those witching hours, the b*%6ing hours, if I were to curse. Sorry.

We had one of those kind of days last week. Usually on these days all the boys are in the bathtub at 4:20pm because bed time is not long after. As I sat on the floor, the bottom of my jeans wet and clinging to my thighs, and my eyes burning seemingly just to remind me that it had been hard, I noticed the sticky blue in even more places than I had thought possible. Inside the empty bath room counter. In between the white tiles of the floor. Awesome. And then sliding down the trash can as if painted there on purpose. Maybe I should have been thinking, “these kids need a mamma who can actually show them how to brush their teeth and use tooth paste,” but as the Lord always does He gave me a moment that will stick to my soul endlessly.

I had this picture of me in maybe 20 years. I was in the same bathroom. I noticed the aging around my eyes in the mirror and the tone in my arms from carrying sandbags for children for so many years was barely noticeable. This 20 year older self was looking for the toothpaste to wipe up yet again. And then the me-forgotten-in-the-floor and the me-2-decades-later began to sob. There was so much in this picture that I was given. The desire to even make it to that day with even the slightest satisfaction that I did a job decently done. That I had made the most of the days in the bathroom where no one else sees us and hears our conversations. There was tiredness and heaviness thinking about all of the teeth brushing sessions that would need to occur to even make it to that lonely day. But mostly this was a picture of revolution. God has put a revolution in my heart over the last year to slow. it. down. And to literally not sweat the toothpaste that is everywhere. Or the fact that the toothpaste is on a 1950’s countertop, certainly not granite. This revolution in a culture of parenting that induces stress in my own experience, is freeing like nothing you have ever known.

Posts like these can seem ethereal. I read many like this one all the time….a pretty candid writer uses a seemingly small illustration to get on the same page with the reader and then ties it all up in a bow leaving me thinking, “Well, that’s nice.” That writer must have some weird gene that I just didn’t get having to do with patience and joy. She must have had a sweeter childhood or something. But I am here to tell you the genuine magic secret behind that authors apparent peace or aloofness, rather. I believe it’s three fold for our generation.

First, it is going against the grain of society. Many of yall are much smarter than me so thankfully you got this a long time ago but up until I became a mom I was a consumer of everything. I just did what everyone else seemed to do. I’m not talking about drinking in high school or those type of things but in the real world…..I was driven to achieve the next thing just like we all are. When we had a family we raced out and spent oodles of silly money on a nursery. There is nothing wrong with that but it really isnt me. And then before that baby could even stand in his crib I had him enrolled in preschool because that is what people do. Somewhere in the middle of it all I finally, like 3o years finally, realized I could be an active part in the outcome of my life. Crazy! Last night somehow my husband and I were watching a documentary about our food supply in the country and how it has changed so much from decades past. The documentary was totally disturbing and has me looking at the grass in my back yard as a great dinner for tonight but I heard something that will stick with me more. The author was talking about how as Americans we have become consumers of everything. We don’t realize that we can make choices for ourselves and that we have a voice.

Parenting was harder for me a few seasons ago. You wouldn't have known it on the outside but on the inside there was nasty inner turmoil over how well I was or was not doing especially in light of what the other moms around me were doing. I actually didn't worry so much as to how I was doing - I just wanted them to tell me what to do. Do you know what I mean? Would you please tell me when my child should be in school 2 days? 4 days? All day? Oh, hey. Will you tell me if my 3 year old son is going to lack confidence his whole life if he hasn't already started an organized sport? Will they ever swim if I don't pay a small mortgage to put them through swim lessons? Should we only be clean eating? Just tell me, someone. Oh, and when I am home alone and actually with my kids….could you tell me how to discipline them, love them, and enjoy them because I don't think I know how unless you tell me. Thank you very much. This is real, yall, and if most of us are honest, we spend so much of our precious awake time wondering about how everyone else is doing it and wanting someone to tell us what they did. Our mothers didn't have that. I often ask my mom if she knew what the other moms in our huge neighborhood were cooking for dinner. Did she know how many school choices they considered? And of course, she laughs. We have information being pushed to us and available at all hours. A month ago I felt quite stupid when it came to the situation in the Ukraine so I put the Foxnews App on my iphone. Well, goodness, I get up to potty between 2 and 3 every night and then I can’t go back to sleep from the images in my head after viewing the quick little push notification on my phone. We have so many choices and so much information that it has literally stifled our generation and caused what I think is harmful self-doubt. Where is the best answer for any of my questions anyway???

So the Lord and a dear student of the bible and precious teacher taught me how to sit before the Lord and ask Him for these answers from the only source. She says to sit in my chair and to not move until I have seen what the Lord wants to show me for that day. It could be a small thing. Recently we have been under the weight of a decision for our oldest son. One day last month, words jumped off the pages of the Psalms and I knew that is what she meant. There are no answers in even those around us that we adore. Only the Maker of our children, and my Creator, truly know me and my children and what He has in store for our family. Have yall experienced those moments too? The ones people talk about and we inherently think, “Oh, you don’t know me. The Lord doesn’t speak to me….” Those moments when something you are asking for about your children becomes so clear. And usually the answer is not as obvious as it looks. I have found that the answer is usually pretty counter cultural. As in…if everyone else is doing it or wearing it or getting one - usually the answer is the opposite. Don’t go on that trip. Don’t think that this seemingly small thing about my child is just that….small. Don’t buy the movie everyone else is singing to. Don't let this one pass. It’ll change us when we do just as He said, “ask…seek….knock.”

And number two. Turn off instagram. Just for two days to begin. I was a slave to social media all the while saying I never got on it. Its the same thing for me when I say that I am not a snacker but I just don't consider eating peanut butter cups while doing the dishes as snacking. So if social media hurts your heart even in the slightest. Turn it off. It doesn’t own you. You can decide what goes in your head. The first time I did this - I remember thinking how light my head felt. It felt so good to start to think the thoughts I used to think in the white space of the day. I wasn’t thinking about what so-and-so had for lunch or if that family was back from their cruise. And I wasn't bombarded with blogs just like this one telling me just one more thing to do or to consider. I was just doing those things and I was putting those things in to practice. But lets say "all or nothing" scares you - designate a time. For instance, from 1:30 - 2pm is my internet time. Today I used it writing. Tomorrow I may read something someone sent me. But it feels much more intentional if it isn't something just done all day, while in the car or on the toilet. It’s like my snacking….it doesn't seem real if I don't actually sit down with a plate and eat something. I’m working on this one…..as I just spit out my cashew!

And lastly, don't give in to the system. Don’t be a consumer. Baseball doesn't have to be 3 practices a week. Homework doesn’t have to consume YOUR day. Goldfish aren’t the only “healthy” snack. Most people (not in over privileged Atlanta) don't go on vacation every Spring Break. Once upon a time a child didn't have an ipad to entertain them every time they ate dinner. I can only write this because this is me. I am you. And many of the seemingly innocent choices we have made have held alot more at stake than just making the baseball team or enjoying a quiet dinner at a restaurant. The toothpaste doesn't just represent a hassle for me to clean. It represents a soul gifted to me to help shape, and ultimately, if you believe the bible, a soul entrusted tome to grow to be a light for God in a heavy world where most people don’t even know that light and freedom exist. Especially in parenting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Been wanting to write, that's all...

I’ve never been more terrified of something. Writing used to be therapy for me. It used to come easily. I didn’t even edit or reread what I wrote because that would have messed up the gig. But between the 8763rd diaper change (that’s actually an accurate calculation) and humming to myself for the whatever-eth time in the car to try to outdo the gut turning whining that had taken over - I lost it. I lost my wit. I lost my flavor and I certainly lost any relevancy to the real world. Oh and complete thoughts. I lost those about 2000 diapers ago. Im not just being humorous…it is a real thing this lack of anything of substance in my head. So now everyday I think “just go write this stuff down” because I know in a wink and a blink I will not remember any of the delicious or equally vile things that happen throughout these days of the little years and I know know that I know that I know there will be a mom like me – outnumbered and in over her head with too many little people to be legal and I will want to be able to recall the day my 3 year old dropped apple sauce on my toddlers penis while having a diaper changed in the middle of the park after my moms bible study.

Or the most memorable stage to date that my middle child went through that mostly reflects a child with an oepdipus complex (sp?). It started a month ago as I walked away from his classroom at my weekly bible study with moms. I was 4 steps to freedom and I hear a child wailing. I mean “whose child is that anyway” kinda wailing and I turn around to see my toe headed, vibrantly clad glasses boy bolting towards me with 4 nursery workers on his heels trying to catch him. I had never seen him exude such passion and determination before. It was a sweet and scary moment in front of every possible onlooker. He knocked me over and while sobbing over me exclaimed “You FORGOT TO KISS ME!” Rip heart out, stab it, spit on it, and throw it in the toilet. Why, of course I forgot to kiss you and until now I didn’t know it mattered but I am so glad it did. He was fine after that kiss but now even if I am leaving him with his daddy at night he looks me in the eye and kisses me smack on the lips with great fervor. Whew. He could eat me with a spoon while he is at it because this kind of affection and dependence feels so good. So so good. It makes me dig deep in my memory banks to remember what it felt like to be that dependent. That unsure but then sure all with the strength of a daddy's arm around my neck. On a funnier note he ran after Brad and I with the same exact zeal two weeks ago as we were pulling out of the drive way for a date night (IN OUR MINIVAN….a whole different story!). We were 6 feet from Van Morrison tunes and hand holding and talk about anything but the offspring this time when our little escape artist comes roaring up the driveway in hysterics. The babysitter was new that night (poor thing) and we had told her she could share my stash of secret chocolate with the boys if they ate everything that was on their plate (another post coming soon on when bribery is okay). The boys took note of this instruction and started to analyze it the moment it came out of my mouth. “How much chocolate, what kind? Who get’s more? What colors” Anyway….we are pulling our swagger wagon over the hump of the driveway, see the middle child, I open the door and he explodes “SHE CANT FIND THE CHOCOLATE!” And he had the alligator tears of all alligator tears. I thought she had dropped his baby brother in the trash or something or taken off her dress in the kitchen. It was mortifying and quite hysterical altogether. Don’t get in the way of our boy and his after dinner treats or his mommy kisses!

But today was good and I always want to write on the really good days because tomorrow will probably be a notch the other way and that’s okay, too, but it's nice to be able to read about the sweet times when all the strings are coming loose. My expectations have finally sunk back a little bit to a more realistic level and I am content with 3 out of 7 really good days and I have learned the really good ones give you hope on the “I can’t believe this is really happening” days. Today we were confronted earnestly by what I should just call an angel. We had made it out to the river, one of our favorite spots in the city for a pseudo jog and bike ride slash let's see how many bikes and scooters mom can hold-fun-run while pacifying the baby with food and coaching the newest bike rider not to ride in between two walkers of age 80! Side note – this is my next story. I NEVER want to forget what it feels like to watch your child triumph. My oldest picked up bike riding with no training wheels like he learned to eat chocolate…..without even a teency fall or look back. And the joy and pride and he has shown in the last month will make you want to go throw every challenge his way. This was truly a beautiful parent realization and a beautiful step in our oldest (and most easily over disciplined and over scrutinized childs life). I digress…Again, my expectations are really really low for this kind of spontaneous outing to a public venue. But today we were looking quite stellar if I am honest. The baby who isn’t a baby anymore was gnawing on an apple and not my usual sucker-pacifier. Organic at that. My blue rimmed blonde boy was singing in the double stroller as I held his bike and every other object we just had to have with us while my nearly 5 year old was perfecting his newest skill of bike riding. The boys had on their matching shirts as usual which many folks probably attribute to my awesome mom, she-has-it-together and probably sews, too, look but really it is so that I can keep tabs on three boys in public places. And that little tip is free of charge but let me tell you ….you NEVER want to be the mom of the three boys in green shirts that just knocked over the ENTIRE grocery cart in the checkout line of your local Publix with the baby in tow! NEVER! That is when you take your broken eggs and bruised pride and go home and change their shirts and turn on TLC! But on this day the vitamin D was working in our favor. My speech was seemingly beautiful and carefree to my little darlings…we talked about butterflies and the dogs that passed us by and why God made so many different kinds of trees. Are yall with me? This was just one of those hours – the kind that you once thought only made up motherhood? All the while a frazzled newer mom of one had crossed our paths on her bike pulling a bike trailer and an obviously demanding toddler. I really didn’t notice the woman much more than thinking – wow, good for her, she even has the bike rack and she looks like she does this a lot. Well, half way through the trek her toddler wanted to throw all her snacks out of her chariot. This was right where we were refreshing with our cucumber/mint water and reflecting on the blessings of the day…not quite but still, yall, we were looking magazine-ish without even trying. SO RARE. The sweet lady drags her daughter over to me and with more sincerity than ever and says quite desperately, ”Ma’am, I just have to ask you a question? You obviously have a lot of young children and I only have this one (who of course had her pants down and was hanging on her poor mamas leg) and it looks so easy? Do you have any tips you can give me?” And then she waited. Like she really wanted me to give her some answers.

Moms, don’t you agree? We have been waiting for this moment since we hiccupped and a baby came out. We are all just wanting someone to think we have done an okay job. We want someone to affirm us that the 1 or 2 hours of tv a day is just fine and that all of our countless, seemingly fruitless hours actually... bear fruit! My old, less experienced yet more weathered self may have had some typical remark like “oh, It just looks good but they drove me bonkers this morning” or the other take of “oh, me, this is nothing. Have you read the book on parenting by John Rosemond?” But thankfully, Ive been “her” a lot of times. Most of the time really. I’ve felt like my one child was going to break me while watching other women homeschool their 5 children all while ousting the internet and any tv in order to teach their kids how to be genuine volunteers or and make dinner for the family.” My heart deeply feels for her, for me, and for the moms I talk to everyday who are Just. Trying. To. Figure. It. Out. We are all trying to figure out this pretend game called house that used to be so dreamy and so....well, fun. Come on yall, we know the answer. Our story is only beautiful when it's our story. My story isn't so pretty when I try to wrap it and serve it and dress it and color it like you do yours. That's not how it works.

But how in the world as women do we even begin to be true to ourselves if we are so stinking dependent on how everyone else is doing it? Namely, we think, how can the internet tell me who I am and how to be the best mom? That’s a big part of it yall. You aren’t’ who your instagram image says you are. I'm not. I lose my temper. I say things that would make you cry to my little people. There is jelly on my kitchen island that has been there atleast since Christmas. Heck…there are still Christmas lights on our trees! And I may pin the best way to get little arms in five minutes but I promise you I am eating Cadbury mini eggs while doing so. We are all the same and if there has been something recently that has kept me up at night thinking it’s this…. and Ill go ahead and say it – I don’t think our instagram followers really know who we really are. It’s not the real thing, yall. It’s a cheap filler. It’s like the buttery bread before dinner. It's soooo good but it’s just not the real thing and it isn’t really helping anyone feel like they are “okay” just the way they really are behind the camera and the keyboard and the bright screen. End soapbox.

So I graciously thanked this woman and agreed that we looked pretty good…. this hour. I told her I was impressed with her too and when she pulled up in her Acura with her bike rack on the back I had some seriously generous thoughts about her as well. Fit mom, I thought. Fit mom with little arms and no Easter candy in sight. Working mom, too, with a glamorous travel budget. Must have a husband with a substantial income as well and a pool in her back yard. I thought about how sweet her ride with her one daughter must be and how much better of a mom she probably is because she gets to actually have a relationship with one child and real meaningful conversations. Meanwhile, my 3 are often clumped together and called eachothers names and never have me to themselves for even a bottom-wipe! (How are there always atleast two kids in the bathroom at one time?!?!?) Heck they are always dressed alike and referred to as “the boys!” They are certainly doomed and in need of therapy.....these thoughts definitely went through my head in those few brief seconds. But I still knew I was very much like her.

So then I told her not to be so hard on herself because she was out getting some vitamin D, enjoying some exercise and allowing her daughter to see God’s creation. In my book she was winning and the only tip I had for her was to love herself more. She went on her way and my middle one kept singing loudly, “Oh, how He loves us. Oh how He loves us…” because yall, He does. And the God of the whole universe sees me even when it all isn’t so rosy. He sees me in my mess and He sees me when I may be on the right track (for even just an hour) with my mothering or wifely roles and, ultimately, He has assured me that the matching outfits/singing praise music while on a jog and the applesauce on the penis days are ALL for His glory. He can use even me and even a messy me. Actually, a messy me is much more usable me than the Friend or Follower I am on the internet. And even at the river with my 3 barely grown babies during one of our few fine hours….. He can encourage me and He uses my story.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Week of (too many) Firsts

There is so much meat to this post but in lieu of winding up a puddle of sweet tears during my one smoke break during the day - I may just lean towards a picture and blurb type post. After all, as I have come to realize - I dont care how often a little old lady stops me to remind me to enjoy this....I WILL FORGET IT...in less than 2 weeks. Moms, can I get an AMEN? For example, Bradford has been semi-walking not even a week and now today my brain can't even drum up what that pitter-patter on all fours looked like. A WEEK AGO! And by the way, I don't really smoke. Yet.

To start, the oldest son started real live school. No more glorified babysitting here with an occassional Christmas program attached. Our boy wore an equally adorable and hideous outfit and walked himself into his classroom by himself. It's the big leagues now, kid! He came home that first night and this is what we got.....I just love him!


Later that evening he started to tell us about an old old old man who was about to die but made "booooootiful" music for God. His name was "CHE-KO-SKI". Let's just say in one week he knows more about the classics than I've ever known. I am excited to learn again through his eyes.

Certainly, the other boys were missing their ring leader. On our first day alone (sans the Big Brother) I thought I would be super mom and make up for all the turmoil I caused over the summer. We dropped off our boy and headed to a local toy store. Ahh, isn't that just precious. Well, friends, it was. And it is but not when your sweet middle boy exclaims to the store "MOMMY!!! After you buy me toys will you change my poopy diaper!!!!" Oh buddy, you haven't worn a diaper in 2 months! Needelss to say, I was quickly reminded that 2 little people in tow still requires a diaper bag and mom essentials. Having one boy in Pre-kindergarten doesnt quite let me off the hook yet!

That precious, pooping little child celebrated his 3rd birthday last week! I can see how we have a 4 year old and a 1 year old but it just doesn't register that my once "baby" isn't a baby and is in fact 3. We had an impropmptu celebration with the best kinds of friends - the ones that will come celebrate your boy with a few hour notice. He picked out a scooter (thanks Grandma!), a guitar (oh boy!), and a trip to the zoo (thanks Nise!) for his 3rd birthday and all he wanted was "panilla" cake with icing. This boys could eat his way through a birthday and not think twice about a gift or a candle or the happy birthday song. We had all his favorites on his special day - chocolate chip pancakes, quesadillas, and pizza all topped with a little cake and icing! It is fun to celebrate this wee one...he makes it easy for sure!

Then, not to be left out, the baby took his first steps. You would think we hadn't witnessed this before with the commotion around our house as our proud nearly 15 month old stomped around the kitchen with his hands high in the air. Everything this one seems to partake in is lively and full of laughter. His expressions are as delicious as his thighs and I can honestly say we are finally enjoying the littleness about little people. I think for a few years we were just trying to survive and keep humans alive and now we finally aren't alarmed by anything and we can see that this thing called parenting....flies! I have enjoyed even the little moments with this baby and I am grateful that he has redeemed my feelings about toddlers. (Pardon the obnoxious mom in this video)


As you can imagine this week (as all the fuss happened last week) we have done a whole bunch of nothing. It's crazy how the emotional stress at times is enough to wipe a woman out. My heart is so full and I am grateful to be the mom of these three little men. What an honor!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What do you have for me today, Lord?

I asked this question first thing this morning. In my heart, silently, but on this morning I really did ask it before I even checked the time or put my feet on the floor. And then like it was His perfect answer I heard the whimper of our newest boy through our shared wall. On any other day, apart from this light but loaded question in my heart, I would have felt violated by the baby's early morning cries. Don't I have a right as an overworked mom to just a few minutes of quiet before the saturated day begins? Isn't there just one morning I can get up before the crazy begins? I used to be a morning person. The kind that bother non-morning people. I loved the world that existed well before 6am and I was completely comfortable with a little less sleep but a whole lot of stillness before the sun was up.

Thankfully, the Lord has been doing something deep in me about my rights and for once I didn't hear his cry as a personal assault against me as if the babe-child was staking his win over me once more. I heard it differently this morning. And it changed everything about the rest of the day. This must be the season for this weighty lesson. There's been a shift in my thinking and it has began to free me from so much disappointment and hurt and wounds and bitterness. If I'm honest with myself much of my day can be spent disappointed. By myself and by those closest to me who seem to run rampant on my so called "rights." The right to move quickly through the day. My right for a break from mothering each day. It's my right to be understood, right? The first time. The right to exercise. Daily. My right to have children and husbands and parents and siblings and friends who respect me and listen to me. The right to be thought of, delighted in, made to feel special. Whew. It's exhausting just writing these things that I so cling to. These things that if adhered to will bring peace to my day and my heart right? Right?

I've been going through a study called Stuck by Jennie Allen with some dynamic women this summer. I could write a series of posts over several weeks regarding this study but this has been the biggest thing for me so far - the loss of my personal rights. This truth couldn't be any more of an antithesis for our culture today where every segment of society seems to be fighting for their own little freedoms. But If I believe I am in Christ and He is also in me than ultimately I have lost my own rights and I take on His. Does this work for you? Does that make sense way way down in there to you like it has for me lately? In Galatians Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Jennie Allen said it this way. Wow. But let's start with your life, your expectations, your money, your family's approval, your right to a family, your right to move quickly, your right to be successful. I {God} know I am asking alot. But if you die to all of this....I will do things greater than you ever hoped, dreamed, or imagined. But you have to let go. You have to lay down the very things that are most valuable to you, if you love me. Do you trust me?

Do I? Do I trust you Lord with my time during the day if I really give up striving to make the day go my way? Can you fill me in those holes in the same way (or more?) that I think a quiet, early morning alone, a long run, or a break during the bath-routine can fill me? If I stop defending myself and stop fighting for my rights will you protect me?

***
I gathered the Mustela smelling child and immediately his right cheek fell on the top of my chest. We crept back in the roomy, inviting bed. Isn't the bed so perfectly comfortable first thing in the morning? For 20 minutes he let me hear the increase and decrease in his lungs while my hands were serenaded by the softest hairs ever made on his little head. I didn't want to stop stroking him back to sleep. He would look up at me occasionally as if to stroke my soul just a little bit by affirming me that this was good. I remember that feeling. My grandmother used to occasionally rub the top of my back with her fingernails in the rarest of moments. It was always a little uncomfortable. Maybe that's just my personality. I loved the attention and I never knew that touch could feel so deep down good but I also didn't want it to stop so I couldn't fully relax without thinking about how the tender scratching would have to end at some point. Certainly, this theme hasn't left me in this season of mothering. It's all so sweet, so good but I know it will end and how do I live with that tension?

I think that was His soft answer to my innocent question this morning. Be in the moment, Betsy. In this moment your perfectly rounded baby, the last of them thus far, is fully content laying on your chest feeling the touch of your fingers and everything else really can wait. But I left the washed clothes in the washer overnight. And we start school this week, albeit two half days of school. And I want to be the kind of person that gets up early again to take on the day. But you have a baby, and you wont always have a baby at home. What about the empty fridge warranting no breakfast selections for the Crazies who will soon be scattering about the halls, too? But the baby is asleep on your chest. He knows nothing else right now but the comfort of this moment. Can't you be like that, too? I'm giving you moments, Betsy, lots of them. They may seem inconsequential but I promise they'll go farther than checking the laundry off the list. Rest. You're gonna miss this. You're hidden in me and I will take care of even your deepest desires.


Then earlier this morning I saw this quote and I have no clue who wrote it but a friend reposted it just for me I think. Thank you, sweet friend.


As I grow in my understanding of the way Jesus lived his life, I find great rest in knowing I have more to "unlearn" about the way I think I need to live and lead my life. Help me "unlearn" quickly , Lord......I don't want to miss it all while I was too busy protecting my rights.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cleansing

Oh, sweet, salty tears. My heart moves a little faster and my gut literally feels like it empties a little more with each one that hits my neck. These aren't the shallow, steady kind that are usually easy to come by but those thick, weighted ones that are pretty sparse but carry so much.

Since having children I don't recall crying too often with the exception of those wacky months of pregnancy and the beginning of a nursing season where I would cry if the mailman came late or something. I'm not sure if it's lack of time to allow myself to feel enough to even cry or if it's truly just lack of feeling. I think it's the former though. As this last year has now been the longest stint in between pregnancies in the last 4 years (yet the busiest for sure) and it feels like it has been a rather dry year with very few opportunities to just indulge and let the healing flow.

Then this morning the Lord spoke personally to my heart. There's this icky thing. It isn't huge. But it isn't small either. It's huge to me though and I believe that my Creator, the one who made me just this way, knows that this small yet large thing is there. Occupying space. He sees it and I believe He wants to come alive through the cracks and creases in my brokenness.

So while watching my oldest son slurp the milk from his cereal bowl, and while in the background a rather corny Children's song about God's limitless love on a devotional cd played, I cried. And I felt the tears down to my knees and all over.

There's something about water. Whether salty held in tears, or the depths of the Gulf of Mexico (my personal favorite). It cleanses. And I always feel a little lighter, whether immersed in it, or covered by tiny drops streaming down my cheek.

And that's the definition of hope to me. The tears bring it. The water washes me and I know that things matter and that life isn't stagnant and that growth happens. Hope emerges. New beginnings can happen and my story is always in motion. It doesn't have to always weigh on me. The space in my mind can be taken over by truth, purity, and loveliness. This isn't groundbreaking but as a mom of three little guys it is eerily scary how life can only seem about the day to day. Survival from 7A to 7P splashed with moments of intense richness but a whole lot of doing the tasks, keeping everyone going and moving, just like the day before and the day before.

I welcome these seldom moments like this morning when Someone who knows me deeply, sees me intimately, and wants things to work for my good only for His glory nudges me out of the monotony of a waffle toasting morning to remind me of that very thing. His real, living love that is on the move for me which means all of me, even this small yet loaded thing that ironically feels a little less burdensome already.

I'm reminded that salt changes things and God's mercies are new every single morning we get to call "today."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

grace in the back yard

I think God is showing off like a rockstar in our yard this month. Before owning a home I never knew I could feel such pride over the landscape we see everyday. When you live in Atlanta most of your life and get to experience the most brilliant seasons it becomes second nature to drive by dogwoods bursting of white in March, and Azaleas and their many colors painting the streets in April so I am ashamed to say that the Spring season has never impacted me the way it has this year...from the yard of our own little abode. I asked our oldest child to pinch me this morning to make sure I was breathing as we walked around the periphery of our yard looking for bugs. It baffles me that the flowers in our yards and the trees that are budding actually do just that - bud and grow. I don't do anything to them throughout the year and then all of a sudden we are bombarded with the most delicious colors and the perfect little shaped bushes all around us. There isn't a direction you could turn in our yard right now without a burst of color in your vision. It really is breathtaking! I feel very undeserving and it makes me uncomfortable. Like I should have taken more responsibility throughout the year in order to be able to enjoy something so much. I should have atleast put in a little hard work to have such a perfect product to adore every single day. Ive always been like this, you see. I can recall more conversations than I would like to admit where my husband (and dear friends at times) are trying to convince me of this kind of grace. God's grace. The kind that even shows up in the colors of Spring. Can it be true that I don't have to always struggle or sacrifice or work in order to enjoy the benefits of something? In our society today this just doesn't seem so.

This exposes something deep down in me doesn't it? Something in the way I was wired and shaped as a young lady I guess - that I have to work for everything and that there are no free gifts. I am the best Pharisee I know. Today during our unplanned nature stroll (which deserves a whole different post)this reality wouldn't leave my mind. Its like the lights turned on and I saw themes in my life and in my thinking that weren't ever so clear before. All in a sweet hike around the house.

Most of life seems that it's all about working endlessly, knowing the right people, putting in the hours and the sweat in order to experience the joy that comes from achievement. Sure, we all see little graces all around us but rarely in the big places in life. Most things need to be earned or attained and it rarely comes without a high cost. Isn't the saying - what you get out is what you put in? I am so wired like this and it is rather annoying. The other day I was telling my darling husband who endures these rants more often that he should that sometimes if I'm all alone during the day with the boys at home I start to feel like the work I am doing isn't valuable. And not because it really isn't valuable but because there is nobody to tell me that it is valuable. This whole idea came to mind after a beautiful saying was passed around my mom's bible study this spring. The leader who is so dear to me and is the picture of the genuine, intentional, graceful mother I will die trying to be, said that she would tell her children that "they have an audience of one." This motto came to play so often in her parenting - whether when her kids were young and their hearts were coming around what it felt like to share or to encourage a sibling or later in life when her teenagers were faced with those sneaky decisions that we all face when it comes to doing the right thing - the thing that we know deep down is right. So just like our leader said, I have repeated this phrase to myself often when I'm on my 5th day and 7th hour of mothering in one week and the only conversation over a 3 year old level that I've had is with the mail man. I do what I do for an audience of one. For me and my Maker. Yes, I want to do it for my husband to see and think how selfless I am. And I sort of want those people in the grocery store whom are often not so kind to a mother of 3 young ones to see my patience and careful instruction with my boys at home. I want my mom to think I am as good a mother as she was and probably somewhere in there I'd like a friend to think highly of the way I have chosen to discipline my kids. Or even to be thought of as the "expert." Who doesn't want their children to be known as the most well-mannered boys in the neighborhood? We are all searching for these little accolades. If you are like me, you like to see the fruits of your efforts.

But the reality is that my only audience is the Lord. And the other reality is that the world isn't really walking around wanting to put a medal around my neck for being a mom. Even without the accolades how can I know deep down that my efforts are worthwhile and that the work I am doing is a noble work? My beautiful bushes give me that answer in this very moment. The fruit will come. The buds will open and the color will burst. All winter did I look at those mute little plants and compliment them on the way they were preparing for the growing season? I actually never did. I didn't give them one ounce of a thought until they displayed their splendor and now I am just obsessed with them. I stare at them, I have taken umpteen pictures, and I have placed beautiful vases of their handy-work all over my house but they were pretty much dead to me a month ago. That's harsh. But it helps me to be a mother. The harvest will come. No, I may not raise a president or a navy seal (but I hope I do) but I can't imagine the quiet pride I will have one day as I watch my boys show respect to a lady or show honor to a senior citizen. These are the things I am teaching them in these four walls in these short years (but long days). We may not be the fastest toddler paper cutters in the Metro area and I am pretty sure we are still confused about green and blue but I know that even if no one else sees it or better yet - notes it - I am giving them all I have and I can be confident that they will be beautiful, full grown plants one day with a story to tell through their exquisite colors.

The bigger theme in this message though is that authentic grace that only comes from God. The most freeing thing I can ever know and teach my kids is that there is absolutely nothing I can do to earn God's love. He has already shown me that love and I couldn't have done a thing to make him do it. He just did because He loves me. Because he chose me first. Not because I deserve it. Because I don't. And not because I earned it. Because I can't. He just did it. He showed me his colors, He gave me real life and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Whew. That changes everything, doesn't it?