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?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spotted in the last week

A red bird or a family of red birds all about our yard

yellow snow all around Atlanta
brothers helping brothers (and making someone else crazy over the wasted toilet paper!)

perfect temps in Augusta for our most favorite sporting week
quinoa burgers, smoothies, and cakes....anything quinoa

pantless boys

baby Toms (and evidence of little boys playing in my bed. Stinkers! Atleast they took their shoes off.)

vibrant spring colors
lots of sneezing and coughing between our 5 noses and mouths
a baby rocking all 4's...just thinking about a crawl soon!

our first vegetable garden. And after 2 days it is still alive!

A 3ft+ snake. No lie. On the trails at the river. It was awesome for little boys eyes.
Big boys climbing

Precious baby curls

RED X's everywhere....Why?

Cars, cars in every corner.

A baby trying big people food. Yes, sir! We loooove a finger feeding, messy baby around here!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's April. Some thoughts...

On being a SAHM.
Whew. Maybe I should subcategorize this one. I wrote SAHM (which I hate the acronym anyway) and 6 thoughts literally flooded my head at once. Here is the first one. It's hard not earning an income or being on someone's payroll. Luckily my husband is truly amazing and doesn't ever make me feel like it's his income and not mine, actually quite the opposite. He talks about "our" earnings and inside I feel a little silly taking any credit. I've read those studies that say that a stay at home mother is worth upwards of 200k a year and all, and sure, that is encouraging. About as encouraging as being the stand-in-bride at someone's wedding rehearsal. So all day long I feel like I try to save a dollar here by drinking water instead of my beloved half and half tea and I feel giddy if I have even two coupons at the grocery check out. But no matter what it seems all day long we are spending, spending, spending. And it makes my stomach turn because at night when the house is quiet and lights are dim I sometimes actually go on the internet just to look for more ways to spend the money . (That's the problem in the first place is seeing OUr money as "ours." More on that another day.) Don't turn me into a reality tv show, people. I'm not confessing a serious problem, yet, it's just how our society operates. What else can we buy? As a SAHM who doesn't love an amazon box at their door every other day even if the contents inside are baby food pouches? So, I spend spend spend...swim lessons, we need new sheets, deposit for private schools, let's eat out - it's easier and no clean up (I'll pay alot for that!) and all the while I am also trying to feel like I am being a good steward of the money but it's just all too much. The two combat each other too much and leave me feeling silly and hypocritical. This morning I was on pinterest for not even 30 seconds and a friend had pinned "15 ways to earn money as a SAHM." I usually would think I would never ever click on such garbage, knowing that right now in our world of 3 boys under 4 years old I don't even have 2 minutes to use the potty alone so how can I find time to "earn money from home"? Anyway, 30 minutes later and 2 stinky, ignored diapers and a whole bunch of other messes and I am 24% into a survey about BIRTH CONTROL!!! Seriously, maybe they thought they found the right audience, a crazy mom of 3 little ones in 3 years but clearly - birth control isn't my thing. As the 2 year old was pulling out the tweezers and nail polish from my make up bag I realized this earning from home thing is ridiculous. So maybe I took a whole hour one morning to answer a bajillion questions about things I dont even care about (and really the whole time I was just bitter that they were advertising the PLANB birth control so lightly. As if the chance of being pregnant should be thought about so lightly as swallowing a pill? I just opened a whole different can of worms. oops)Only to earn maybe $2! Not even a latte.

I'll continue to wrestle with this I am sure until one day when I see a little check with my worth for the week on it. Maybe it's better this way. I know now my work is constant and it never ends and I know there are very little accolades for many many years to come but I also know there is nothing on this planet more satisfying than giving yourself up for your children. I know the grass isn't always greener and I am sure there isnt a paycheck out there right now that could make me feel as exhausted and as valuable as I do, at home, being a mom.

On Easter and The Bible Series.
I love how perfectly planned those media people are to have aired the final bible series on the night of Easter Sunday. I felt quite childish having to cover my eyes as Jesus was beat and mocked and the blood ran down his innocent body. How silly of me to not be able to stomach the agony? But I loved that on my television for two hours every Sunday these last 5 weeks the stories of the bible were unfolded. Our oldest was in the room one morning as I was re-watching one of the episodes and I could have frozen those moments as I saw his mind trying to come around this Jesus he was seeing and the one we talk about. These 10 hours of television have certainly brought a perspective to our home and a reality to the cross. Easter was something more for us this year and something much more real. We travelled to our favorite SouthWest Georgia town of Plains and attended Easter service with Brad's family. It was a sweet morning but how could it not be when seer sucker is the go-to attire. The chorus of 5 sang "Crown him many crowns, the lamb that was slain." It was perfect. I knew our home church, PCC, was probably singing the same thing at the Verizon Amphitheater, with 10,000+ seats. But thats just it. It doesnt matter where we worship or how or when, we should be all singing the same message. That Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, died a gruesome death, and it was all for God's glory. Yes, I reap a ton of benefits but the point is that God gets the glory for what He did to come to us when we couldn't come to Him. Ahhh....I love the freshness of this message in my heart lately. It doesn't matter when you first heard this it is still a life changing message everyday.
(The sweet sound a quiet car ride home. Not one peep for the 2hour, 43 minute ride. Beautiful.)
Not my most brilliant idea ever.

On sick boys.
We are going on our 11th day of someone's nose running. We've been told by schooled doctors that this annoyance is just allergies and it was, so we sent our kids to school and went on a whirlwind trip for 24 whole hours for Easter. But then came the fevers late Monday and the whining and the tears and the night time wakings. Oh, and now the rain. Bah humbug, right? Yes, I am feeling deserving of a vacation and a newspot on the evening news about being caregiver of the year but really I know this is our world. As moms, this is just what happens and though I feel like we aren't sick very often when it does happen it happens to the whole house and it knocks us out for what seems like a month. BUT...each of my boys have literally fallen asleep on my shoulder atleast once in the last 10 days and it is so delicious. That they could be so safe and comforted in my arms to just nod off is so so deeply satisfying to me. Yes, there is no paycheck that can replicate that. While I hope (pray, beg, plead, bargain) that they feel well enough to get back to our routine tomorrow, I have enjoyed being in the infirmary and I never thought I would say that as one who hasn't always been the most sympathetic one (sorry, husband, I admit.)

On my baby. Who.Is.Huge.
In some ways he won't grow on me. He can't crawl, loves pureed food, despite how much I offer him a plethora of finger held goodness. Cookies, chicken, carrots..he won't touch it if it isn't almost in liquid form. .And I have I ever told yall how much I don't like baby food. I just try to close my eyes and wake up when this stage is over not knowing what nutrients ever ended up in their bodies. Atleast this time around I am still nursing the HUGE baby so I think that counteracts anything damaging? Right, right? Oh, but one lucky day he did try some bites of chick-fil-a and maybe he was in the right mood or just wanted to trick me but I was a believer in his new favorite! Look how big he looks here....
He does clap his hands now and wave by-by to himself which is maybe the most adorable thing on the planet! But he likes to reside on my right hip in my right (bulging and gross arm. ALL DAY. EVERYDAY. I don't mind it a bit until you know, I need to potty, cook dinner, eat something, make a bed, wipe another nose, etc. I'm sure this is a phase and soon enough he will move on from me and be everywhere but right now, along with the above sicknesses, I am feeling just an ounce claustrophobic. And lopsided.

And a few more pics on Easter, sick boys, and stay-at-home craziness.