Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We Can Work it Out

There seems to be a common theme in my home lately.  

The Husband or I will find ourselves saying to one of the boys (because the princess is too little yet), "Whatever it is, we can work it out."  The "whatever" is different based on ages and stages but they all need to hear this from us.  

Children need to know that we are in their corner and always will be.  They do not have to walk alone.  Sometimes they might choose to walk alone for a while, to be independent and make their own choices.  But, when they are done flying solo, or when they get into a tight spot or even feel a little bit (or a lot) overwhelmed or afraid, we will be hold their hand, hug them, listen or sit silently beside them.  

Here's the thing: it is my job as a mom to do this.  I know it in every fiber of my being, BUT it can be so very hard.  We can't always control their choices, we can't always convince them it will be okay, we can't always fix the problem.    Sometimes no matter how much they need us there, they really would rather we not be there at all.  It is difficult and painful and sometimes just plain overwhelming.  

Sometimes the issues are huge to them and to me, not so much.  For instance, my 7 yo *E* had some overdue books at the school library.  I reminded him daily to return them and this morning I emailed his teacher to ask her to remind him.  Well, apparently he was dragging his feet because the books had an unfortunate relationship with a nasty black banana at the bottom of his backpack (I knew about said incident, cleaned off the books (I tried, at least) and admonished him loudly and sternly to "Never, never EVER" bring home a school lunch banana).  

So today he will be bringing home a "Damaged Book" form and I will tell him we will take care of it (and this is why we should never ever put bananas in our backpacks) but more importantly I will tell him that no matter what he is worried about, he can talk to us and between daddy and I, "We can work it out."  We can't turn back time, the book is damaged and there is the consequence of us paying for the book.  

There are often consequences to our choices and actions, some will be more painful than others and some we can "fix" and others where we can only be present to support through the resulting troubles. Just like the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32...we will welcome them home no matter what and rejoice that they have returned, even if they have lost their inheritance and made poor choices.  (My kids aren't looking at any inheritance, no worries there. ;) )

This story also reminds me that God, The Father, the ultimate parent, always welcomes me home, no matter what I have messed up, squandered or failed to do.  No matter what the situation, God tells me, just as I tell my kids, "We can work it out." 


Friday, November 25, 2011

The Outskirts of Town

The gray sky and biting wind are typical late November.  That's why I told him to bring his gloves.  He wasn't sure he wanted to come with me especially when all I said, was, "Get your shoes on we're going out."  The only answer I would give him about our destination was, "The outskirts of town."  

He wasn't keen on getting out of the car when we arrived at the park but he did and as we started walking his attitude became less grumpy and more talkative. 

10 year-old *N*  has a strong sense of justice, or better stated, his perceived experience of injustice.  He always wants to speak his case, even when he's been told to, "Just stop."

Things were quickly spinning out of control with his mouth and his desire to be right and the disrespect was increasing in direct proportion to my blood pressure.  His refusal to accept responsibility, to see another's point of view and respect our authority was spiralling out of control.  Something needed to change.

Which is when I decided to take him to the outskirts of town.

 "The outskirts of town," is part of a line Binky Barnes says in an Arthur cartoon that the Husband and I joke about.  Binky thinks that they will get dropped off at the outskirts of town for losing a game.  (He is then disappointed because, "I'll never get to see the outskirts of town." which must, in his imagination be a scary place. ;) )

*N* needed to be out of the situation and since he refuses to go to, or stay in, his room, he wasn't getting that reset, change of scenery, time to cool down, in the traditional way.  Our words were falling on deaf ears and since our volume was getting louder, he was very, very listening impaired.

When we started walking the path at the park, I talked about the scenery, the changes and small talk.  After a few minutes, I talked  to him about what was going on at home.  The first time I brought it up, in typical *N* fashion he just kept talking about his own thing but the boy gets a little of that tenacity from me and I rolled the conversation back around and I think I got my point across.

I emphasized our love for him.  I told him we wanted to listen to him and hear his side, but that hearing his side didn't mean we would agree with him.  I also told him he needed to respect our authority.  I think he heard me.

I don't think I could have gotten that far had I tried to keep going around in circles on the stairway landing.  He needed to come with me to the outskirts of town, to have a change of scenery and to see that I was willing to listen and walk alongside him even when I wasn't feeling warm and fuzzy.

That's all we all really want, isn't it?  To know that we will still have someone walking alongside us when we're on the outskirts of town, when we're not our most lovable.  

Thank You God, for walking with me and Thank You, for modeling that for me, for giving me the patience and wisdom to know that is what *N* needed on that cold, gray day.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Not a Magazine Shoot..Thanksgiving

That's right.  Our Thanksgiving meal will not resemble that on the glossy pages of a magazine.  There will be a tablecloth on the table and the requisite cloth napkins on the table, but since I always use cloth napkins, that's not a big deal.  There will be matching plates on the table. There will be a beautifully sliced turkey, the Husband has a gift with that.  We will have a bountiful feast, but I guarantee you that several of the children will turn up their noses at all but the dinner rolls and the cranberry jelly.

Our outfits will not match or even coordinate.  There was a time when my kids had outfits for Thanksgiving, that has flown out the window to scratch in the dirt with the pardoned turkeys. 

I grew up, I think I have mentioned, in a home where holidays were supposed to resemble glossy magazine pages.  Inevitably, it was a time of stress and rigidity not a time of togetherness and fun.

Maybe one of the reasons I wanted a bunch of kids is so that I could have one of those crazy, hectic joy-filled holidays full of laughter and creativity and LOVE.  I don't want magazine pictures but I guess I envisioned the Walton's or those holiday movies of my youth where the family gathered to play football in the yard and laughed together in the kitchen.

My vision was no more achievable than my mom's.  As much as I would like to, I do not have the gentle, calm presence of Olivia Walton.  My boys have yet to play a game of football in the backyard.

We have to find our own way to celebrate and enjoy each other and to be.  It cannot be found in the pages of magazines or on our television screens.  We cannot model our perfect life on things man-made.

Our life stretches out before us, our choices are our own.  Our experiences are woven together into a beautiful tapestry.  God created a plan and no matter which choices we make or what threads go next to each other, it can all be made into something beautiful.

So, if the house is still messy and the outfits don't match, if the kids bicker and we don't have a centerpiece on the table...we still have much to be thankful for. I am thankful for this crazy, stressful, imperfect life.  It all works together for good.  I am thankful for living and breathing and feeling, for loving and crying and laughing and just being.

Wishing you peace and contentment on this day where we remember that life on this land was fraught with struggles and adventures and that is why we celebrate thanksgiving...because those first givers of thanks recognized that life is hard and unpredictable and we should at all times and in all thankful.

-In love

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemon Drops

I discovered a new band this weekend.  If you are offended by cussing, references to alcohol, smoking or sugar daddies, this is not the music for you.  However, I think Pistol Annies is a fun band and there are some great lyrics on the album.

So what does that have to do with Lemon drops you might be wondering? of their songs is titled "Lemon Drop" and I love the refrain, My life is like a lemon drop. I'm sucking on the bitter to get to the sweet part.  I know there are better days ahead. 

There was a time when lemon drops were my very best friend.  They were, you see, the only thing that kept the morning all day sickness at bay when I was pregnant with *E* in 2004.  I kept an ample supply in front of me as I sat through classes trying not to make a mad dash for the closest restroom.  (I found out we were expecting 1 week after I began seminary, God has an amazing sense of humor...and timing.)

Those lemon drops were a bitter and sweet that helped me get through the rough parts and now *E* is a 7 year old.  I sucked on the bitter to get to the sweet parts..and we still have bitter and sweet parts.

And life is like that.  We have bitter and sweet and sometimes it feels like the bitter lasts longer than the sweet.  Sometimes it looks like someone else got a sweeter lemon drop.  Sometimes we might even feel like our lemon drop was sweeter that we deserved. 

Sometimes our bitter is just too much to bear; the pain too deep and raw.  Sometimes we cannot imagine there ever being a sweet part, cannot fathom the end of the bitterness. 

I confess to you right now, that I could find all sorts of little things to get all bitter about and that bitterness could grow; whether from worry or envy, frustration or hurt. The thing is, I would have to nurture that bitterness for it to grow.  I would have to give energy, time and focus to the envy or worry, frustration or hurt in order for them to grow and then it would be like sucking on the never-ending-bitter lemon drop. 

What I have to relearn over and over again (because I am a cup half-empty girl) is that we have to have faith and hope in the sweet part.  It will come.  It is going to come.  But if we're too busy focusing on the bitterness...we might not be open to experiencing the sweet. 

Sometimes I feel like living in the expectation of sweet parts is naive.  My half-empty cup mocks my hope.  My reality-driven mind makes me question whether there will ever be sweet parts again or if we got the defective lemon drops without sweet parts. 

But then into my mind pops my "go to" verse, Jer 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  I take the plans to prosper, to give hope and a future as the sweet parts.  I hold on to those words of God, He who has a plan for me,  even when others think my faith is blissful ignorance, because that faith allows me to live in expectation of sweet parts. 

Thank you Pistol Annies  for reminding me of my love for lemon drops, how they got me through some rough months and that there are some very sweet parts, too.  They got me to thinking about the bitter and the sweet in every day, how we can nurture the bitter or expect the sweet and either way we'll get what we nurture and expect.  Either way, we'll taste what we expect to taste. 

My life is like a lemon drop. I'm sucking on the bitter to get to the sweet part. I know there are better days ahead.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Special

This morning I was sitting at the counter trying to write a paper for school (and grousing about it. ;) ) and I started craving a little something...or a big something. 

I thought about the bacon in the refrigerator and the potatoes in the pantry.  Then I thought about making bacon, eggs and home fries.  Not exactly a heart-friendly meal.  Not exactly a quick fix but comfort food.

As I abandoned the schoolwork to tie on my apron (all that grease splatters, you know), I thought that maybe I was missing my dad and his signature breakfast, one an old boyfriend used to call "The George Special":  crispy bacon, eggs over easy and home fries soft on the inside and crispy, peppered goodness on the outside, with golden brown toast on the side.  All I am missing is some orange marmalade...and my dad.

My father was never one to say, "I love you."  The first time he did say it was when I was a freshman in college, the day my mom had a triple bypass and I had food poisoning.  It was December 2nd.  I don't hold it against him.  I knew he was always there for me and he was forever driving me and my friends, tolerating the obscenely loud music and waiting for ridiculous amounts of time for me to be ready.  He just didn't express love with words or hugs.  He was far more comfortable with acts of service.

Today as I assemble the greasy goodness in my own kitchen, counters covered with papers and books and stuff, I am far removed from the uber-tidy kitchen of my youth.  It's not just the clutter though, but a feeling of warmth and love and care that I felt sitting at that round table waiting for my plate to arrive; a sense of security.

I wonder, am I creating the same sense of home and love and care here as I felt there, even when the "care" was suffocating and sometimes confidence-stealing it was always there.  I think when I wrote about going home this is the feeling I was seeking.  I didn't find it when I went home, but I pray that my own children feel that safety and security and love (but not the suffocation) at our home. 

That is my goal, for them to feel loved and secure.  And for them to know they are loved by One who is far greater than our wildest imaginations, One who can love more unconditionally and completely than human comprehension.  I rest in that love when I miss my earthly parents, knowing they did the best they could in the ways they could and that I am abundantly blessed to have eaten those "George Specials" for so many years.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hope is..

In college I had a professor who taught me a great deal about finding my voice in my writing and about having confidence in the value of what I wrote.  I'm not sure whether that was her intent as she set out to instruct her journalism students, but in reflection, that is precisely what she did. 

She had won a Pulitzer, so to me it was akin to sitting at the feet of a rock star.  She gave me A's which meant validation and freedom from the high school English teacher who told me I would never be an "A" writer.  (I try not to hold a grudge about that. lol) Maybe I am not an "A" writer, but in Maddie's class I was, and that made all the difference.  She gave me...hope.

It was my first J. class.  I remember reading aloud from what I wrote and feeling naked right down to my soul and here I sit at my counter writing naked from my soul for strangers; something that made me physically ill all those years ago, hands shaking, mouth dry, wishing to be invisible I do willingly though faceless now....and back then I got positive feedback, constructive criticism...and an "A" that gave me...hope that someday I maybe would really be a writer. 

A dream and a hope I still hold tightly in a cautious,closed fist, lest I open it up, toss it in the air..and instead of flying, it falls to the ground like lead.  And then I will again hear those words repeat in my head, "You will never be an "A" writer."

One of Maddie's books is about a girls' high school basketball team.  I thought of the title today, though I've never read it, In these Girls, Hope is a Muscle.  I love the title.  I love what that means.

In me and you and everyone, hope is a muscle.  It is the hope we hold that pushes us forward.  It is the hope which motivates and energizes and stirs us to action.  We can be builders of hope.  We can give false hope.  We can dampen or even destroy hope. 

One of my "go to" verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  (NIV)

Remembering this verse reminds me that my hope does not rest in another person's subjective judgement of me or my abilities.  My hope rests in God who can use all things for good. My hope rests in knowing that I am resting securely in the arms of God, even when things feel uncertain. I can bring the gifts I have to God, and he can use them.

My hope rests in knowing that if it is God's will, I can loosen my grip on my dreams, set them free to fly and I will be okay whether they sink like lead..or fly like eagles.  My hope is a muscle and God is my strength and comfort. 

My prayer is that you have hope in God and in your life; that you may find comfort and peace in using your gifts to reach your dreams, whatever they may be.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Terrific Toddler Tuesday

T is for Tuesday,
and Terrific,
and Toddler.

And while Toddlers can be adorable they can also Test (another T-word) the Tolerance of the mother (no T-word for that) taking care of said Toddler.

The current (and last) toddler in our home is as cute as can be; dancing to the music, clapping, waving....taking off her shirt and waving it over her head, throwing anything she can get her hands on in the garbage can. (Is it any wonder when my keys went MIA that I was certain they were in the local landfill?  They were not, instead they were just keeping warm under the toaster oven.)

Miss M is terrific with a capital T.  She really is.  Terrific Toddlers require a particular amount of supervision, both for their own protection and that of all items in your home not nailed down or light enough for a toddler to drag to a garbage receptacle.  That being said, it is my unscientific opinion that Terrific Toddlers are much like ants and can drag items multiple times their weight to garbage receptacles where they are then able to deposit them when slacking mothers, doing silly things like dishes, are not paying attention.

So on this Terrific Toddler Tuesday...I'd like to tell you that Miss M is Magnificently Marvelous just as she is..even if that means I rescue things from garbage cans and "keep your shirt on" is a literal admonition and not a figure of speech.

Each day I am Thankful for the Totally Terrific Toddler who Terrorizes  Thrills our Tribe with each smile and laugh.

Wishing you a Totally Terrific Tuesday, whether you live with offspring or not.  May each day be seen as a gift.


Monday, November 7, 2011

"Today I Am..."

"Today I am thankful for..."

Each morning this month (except the one I already forgot and had to add in .... and it's only the 7th!)  I have made a status update on fb that began with the words..."Today I am thankful for ___." 

In Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, she makes a practice of noting the little and mundane things that she is thankful for. 

How much in my life do I take for granted?

I know I do it and I am ashamed.  I see the greener grass, the shinier car, the tidier home, the thinner, the more chic, and it is so very easy to forget all my blessings.

Funny thing, I never (or rarely, one should never say never ;) ) take for granted the washer and dryer in my basement. 

We had been a family of five for a couple of years before we had our own washer and dryer.  Before that I was schlepping to laundromats once or twice a week.  Now, with eight of us, I do at least two loads of laundry a day and I am grateful each time I do a load that I can do it in my own home.  I have not forgotten what a gift doing laundry is. 

This weekend at the Women of Faith event, Lisa Harper, shared her analogy of God's love being like a pile of warm laundry which we can relax into.  This morning as I was pulling the soft, warm clothes out of the dryer I thought of that analogy, of how grateful I am to be able to do laundry for my family of eight, how God's love shines through that small task of clean clothes and how great it is to be able to do it. 

Sometimes I take my family for granted.  When the bickering gets out of control, when I step on pointy Legos in bare feet, when all I want is a few minutes to think in peace...I forget that it is a miracle that brought them to me.  You can talk about the science of eggs and fertilization, but let's not forget that you can have all the elements and still not have a baby.  I have friends experiencing infertility and my heart aches for them...and yet, I forget how blessed I am. 

Today, though as I pulled my son's shirt from the dryer and thought of Lisa Harper's analogy, I remembered....

Today I am thankful for warm and cozy, clean and miraculous.  Today I am thankful for reminders to be thankful and grateful and live life in the warmth of God's love. 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Small Things.

I looked at the kitchen floor, I saw spots. 

I looked at the pantry and realized I was out of pasta, the refrigerator had only a small cube of mozzarella.

The bathroom, well, there are 5 boy-children living here.

Little chores.  Little things.  They add up and can make me feel overwhelmed and a little "put upon". I sigh.  I grumble.  I grind my teeth.  I resent the little chores I need to do and I joke about the Cleaning fairy never showing up. 

This afternoon, I had a shift of perspective.  I realized I was not being faithful in the small things in my life and yet, in doing the small things I am serving a much greater purpose. 


That can be seen as a dirty word.  How many times have I thought (or said), "I am not your servant." to one of my kids?  I'm not their servant, really.  But sometimes, I get wrapped up in myself enough to forget that it is in doing these tasks and chores that I am being faithful in the small things, and that even the smallest tasks done with a joyful, loving heart are pleasing to God and that big, fancy tasks done with a bitter spirit are unpleasing to Him too.

Small things aren't just household tasks.  It could be the spirit in which we hold open a door or let someone merge into traffic in front of us.  If we do it grudgingly instead of joyfully, I think we miss out on something.  Let me make that clear.  We. Miss. Out. On. Something. 

In Luke 16:10, Jesus says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little, can also be trusted with much."  This does not mean that we should do things to receive more stuff, more blessings.  Instead perhaps we can look at it like this, when we are faithful in the small things we are open and responsible to handle the bigger things.  I also find that when my heart is right about the small things in life, I can better respond to the bigger things in life, good and bad.  The converse is true as well.  When my heart is bitter about the small things, I cannot see the bigger, better picture.  My bitterness over the little things can blur the beautiful and bountiful things all around me. 

I don't think we should sweat the small stuff.  I do believe we need to see the value in the small stuff.  Babies are little and they are the future.  Diamonds are little (mostly ;) ) and they're a girl's best friend.  Punctuation marks are little and just think about how much they can change meaning of a sentence.  With faith as small as a mustard seed, (Luke 17:6), you could order a tree to uproot itself and it would. 

I am going to re-up my efforts to be more faithful in the small things and to appreciate the small things more too.  I'm also working to grow in my faith.  I think that's an area that can always be nurtured to grow.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Am a Woman


I spent two days at a Women of Faith  event hearing the stories of amazing speakers, sharing the Love of God.  Getting take away words of wisdom from Luci Swindoll, " Don't miss life by waiting for it to change", This is your gift, it's called your life."  From Lisa Harper, " Lean into God like a pile of warm laundry."  Angie Smith, "In the storm, focus on the man who says he is the son of God."  Natalie Grant quoted Max Lucado, " You are not and accident."  She said, "You are a princess."  Nicole Johnson,"God will take our tragedies and if we give him the pieces He will make them something more beautiful than we ca imagine." and Sheila Walsh,"The shepherd knows where to find you.  It's his job to get you all the way home."

I laughed so hard that tears streamed down my face and my stomach ached.  It was good.  I heard stories of such pain and injustice that I bit my lip and one of my friends passed tissues down the aisle.  There was singing and dancing and a little bit of coveting (Please forgive us)...there were some sweet boots on that platform and there was one dress that I am thinking would be very cute in my closet. ;) 

We were ladies together.  8,000+ women; lots of ages and stages and denominations and phases of faith life and of chronological age.  We shared the common experience of being women and there is something about that club, about the expectations and understanding and experiences of being a  woman in this world, that gave us a bond. 

Which is why...

I adore my girlfriends.  I love what we can share and how we can support and nurture one another.  I love that they can challenge me and encourage me and yes, even give me a firm shove when I cannot get out of my own way.  (I might screech, but sometimes I need a little push to jump off the diving board instead of gazing longingly at the water.)  I love the women I was privileged to share this experience with; to chat and process and grow with. 

As I frequently say, "I love my ladies."  I mean all of my girlfriends, all the ladies I share those XX chromosomes with.  You are all amazing, unique women and I think you're awesome.  We don't have to agree on everything or much of anything, as long as we can agree to just accept each other where we are, it's all good in my eyes. 

I love my ladies.  I love that in a room of 8,000 strangers we all were women united in laughter and tears.  I love that I have opportunities to learn and grow and be.  I love....that I am woman.  Did you hear that?  I roared.