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A Trip To Paris At Home

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Alright. I’m not gonna lie to you.  When we got the call yesterday morning at 6:30, I groaned. I did.  I’m pretty sure I whined shamelessly.  It went a little something like this: “Seriously?! Again?! AH! That is the fourth time in seven days. You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Yeeeeeeeeep.  Here in the snowman capital of the world we had ANOTHER snow day. Sheesh!  With subzero temperatures verging on fifteen below, I guess I can see why they thought it necessary to cancel again. But, really, could they have asked me first? I have orders I am behind on, not to mention dishes, housework and Downton Abbey!

Alas, though, I gave in and accepted that all of that would have to wait. Again.

A very sweet friend sent me some tea in the mail and I caught a glimpse of it sitting on the side table while aforementioned tantrum was transpiring. It was so charmingly called “Breakfast in Paris” tea. Ah! Breakfast in Paris, I thought to my little ol’ self. If only……

The best part of being a parent, in my opinion, is that I really don’t have to act like an adult all the time and I have a great excuse for it: I’m just being a good mom!! If I want to take the whole day and pretend that I am strolling the streets of Paris, shopping and visiting the Louvre and sitting in cafes admiring the Eiffel Tower, then by golly I will! You know….for the sake of the kids….

Here is the schedule for our day.  We started by listening to the “French Traditional” station on Pandora to set the mood. Then, I taught the girls the three French words I actually know: Bonjour, Au revoir, and Merci. Of course I used a very obnoxious and completely off accent all day and called the girls Mademoiselles.

We put the kettle on and used our finest china, pretending that we were taking our tea and breakfast in a street café.  We imagined it was sunny and warm and there were birds chirping (or at least I did. The girls kept contradicting me saying, “Nu-uh, Mom. There are no birds. It’s cold!”).

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Then we made crepes using this yummy recipe. I did add a little canned pumpkin for nutritional benefit as well. We filled them with jam and fresh fruit. We sipped tea and talked in accents and dreamed of a warm morning in Paris gazing at the Eiffel Tower.

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After breakfast we took a stroll down a street lined with blooming flowers (or really took a walk up to our second story bathroom) to the “salon” where we had French manicures and did our hair in French braids.

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Then, alas, because the house and messy kitchen sadly won’t clean itself we pretended to be French maids. The kids weren’t really buying it, but we had to stay in theme, right? 😉

Then we went “shopping” at the Le Petit Closet (again, insert me in French accent, “Oh yes! Dis is da finest Fraunch boutique in all of Par-ie.” And the girls groaning, “Mooooom. It’s our closet!!”) We put on our finest duds and put on a fashion show.  I draped a tablecloth over the door as a backdrop. Verrry hip this year on the Paris runway. Then we struck some serious and very chic poses. Do you see the pure diva sass I’m dealing with here, people?!

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Before lunch, we took virtual tours of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. They both have A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sites with 360degree views. On the Louvre’s site you can click on paintings and statues and such and get a larger view of them and information about them. You can see the museum room by room. I was IN LOVE! Je T’aime, Louvre! They also have a whole wing dedicated to Egyptian history which was a great opportunity to tell the girls about the ancient Egyptians and what they believed and how it differs from what we believe as Christians.  It turned into a little theological/Bible lesson. Bonus.

After all of that, we took a tour of local attractions via our very own, personal tour guide, Pinterest. Do you know there is a trampoline bridge over the Seine?!!! WHAT?!! That alone makes me want to visit the city of love for real!!! Did I say yet that I like to act like a kid sometimes?

 Then for lunch we had veeeeeeeeery authentic French cuisine: French (garbage) fries. Hey! I did crepes, alright?

Then we strolled to what I would like to pretend was an outdoor theater in the park and watched the movie “Madeline” (on Netflix).  It’s a story about a little French girl in Paris who is trying to save the girls’ home where she lives. Cute.

After the “theater” we had pumpkin lattes (DECAF!) with chocolate on a veranda overlooking the Seine river.

Then I about collapsed from exhaustion. Who knew touring Paris could be so tiring?

So I made the girls rest for a few minutes while I prepped for our next item on the venture.  I told them we would paint pictures of the Eiffel Tower (because, honestly, you can’t go to Paris and NOT do something artistic, right?). So I googled a silhouette of the Tower and then traced it onto a piece of watercolor paper. Then I used some handy dandy rubber cement and painted over the silhouette.

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You can also use art masking fluid but it is WAAAAAAAAY expensive and a bottle of rubber cement is only a couple of dollars and change and does the job nicely.  I told the girls to paint all over the paper in any colors they so desired.

While they worked I serenaded them because that’s what they would do in France, right? Artists need mood music to get the creative juices flowing. In this case, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor because that’s pretty much all I know at this point.

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Then when it was done and all dried and the masterpieces were created, I took an artist’s eraser and rubbed off the rubber cement revealing the tower beneath it and voila (as the French would say).

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We ended the day with French onion soup for dinner (which I would not recommend. I don’t believe it’s really French or a favorite with kids). Lesson learned.

All in all, it was a pretty romantic day….for me at least! A couple of times Ev said, “This is the best day EVER!” So I think they enjoyed it as well.

Disclaimer: I do always like to have a reality check though, for those of you who might think this was all kittens and unicorns and kittens riding on unicorns and are tempted to be discouraged. It wasn’t all sunny. I did plenty of scolding in my French accent, the girls didn’t dig all of my ideas, and at one point I just threw my hands up and really scolded…in clear English….and SUPER loudly. It was fun, but not perfect, even in Paris!

Here is a FREE printable in case you feel inspired to do your own stay-cay vacay to Paris!

Revoir, mes amours!

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An Apology Letter to My Husband

 

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My dearest husband,

I want to apologize for so many things, I’m not even sure where to start.

I want to apologize for the many days you come home and I give you less than a backwards glance and grudging kiss, barely acknowledging the quickly diminishing smile on your face.  I want to apologize for the days you walk in the door after a grueling day of caring for other people’s needs and I unload on you all that has gone wrong during the day, forgetting to even ask about your own.  I’m sorry for sharing every burden of my heart, real and conjured up and somehow expect you to fix them all with the right look, the proper words I rehearsed for you in my head, the perfectly timed solutions that I have prepared in my own heart for you to do. I want to apologize to you for the expectations that I tie around your back on any given day that no man should be expected to bear.

I’m sorry for agonizing about what you think of me.  You have never even hinted that you weren’t content in who I am, despite my flaws in person and appearance.  I’m sorry for filling the blanks in in my own head assuming you think things you don’t. I’m sorry for all of the times I took offense so easily because love, true love, doesn’t do that.

Please forgive me, my sweet husband.

Because do you remember, my love? Do you remember how thirteen years ago I panicked? I could barely get out of bed let alone walk down an aisle where you would be waiting for me. Fear gripped me and wrapped around my heart, debilitating and cruel. I didn’t want to go through with it. Do you remember how I worried that I wasn’t and never would be good enough for you? Of course you do, because I still worry. The fear still clings to me and refuses to let go. Because you see, perfect love casts out fear. If I loved you more; true, honest, sacrificial love that seeks not it’s own, love that has no room for selfish ambition or vain conceit,  and worshipped you less, then maybe the fear would dispel.

And that is my greatest regret: I worship you. I love you as I didn’t know I could love another person.  You are better than my greatest dream of who you would be. I admire and respect you more greatly than anyone I have ever known. When I see you worship our God, when I hear you speak words of wisdom, grace and compassion, and when I think of your faithfulness to me and to God, I am in wonder again as to how God put us together. As your wife, I am ridiculously proud of you and to be the one who stands beside you until death parts us. I am so very blessed in you.

Still, I’m so sorry. I have put a weight on you that was never intended to be yours to bear.  We have said it often in our home and remind each other of it frequently, still I somehow missed it all this time in relation to you and me: we worship our way into sin and we have to worship our way out of it.

I have made you an idol. I have asked too much of you, forgetting where my true worship needs to be directed. In you, I too often worship the creation more than the Creator.

The other night, under a glorious sky sprinkled with stars standing on a blanket of fresh snow, I missed it.  I missed the glory of God all around me.  I missed an opportunity to take a breath, fall to my knees and worship my Creator and author of salvation because I was looking to you.  You were innocently doing your own thing and I was sinfully cursing you for forgetting me. And I missed it. I missed an opportunity to bask in the glory of God displayed in all of His creation, including you and the girls.  All of His creation should inspire worship of God and Him alone. It was never intended to be an object of worship.

So, my love, please forgive me. Forgive me for putting you in a position you never asked for or desired.  Forgive me for looking to you to meet all of my needs because that’s not what God ever intended in marriage.  Our marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His perfect love; love that casts out all fear: fear of punishment, wrath, of death. We are to help each other, encourage each other and constantly be pointing each other to Christ, not replacing Him with each other. I have done that and regret it greatly.

I ask your forgiveness.  All the times I’ve manipulated or thrown a pity party or just a tantrum, protected myself and pushed you away, it was all because I’ve been worshipping you.  So I’m asking you to forgive me and that in this life God has sewn together for us, this wonderful, chaotic, beautiful life, that in our home, in our marriage, we would be committed together to worshipping God and God alone.

I love you.

Me

“…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15)

 

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Parenting with Grace

 

 

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“Sorry, Mom. I’m sorry,” Nora must have said it for the umpteenth time just since she got home from school.  This time I caught her in bed combing her hair with a Barbie brush long after she should have been asleep. I didn’t yell at her or even act upset because I wasn’t, I just took it calmly, kissed her forehead, told her I loved her and said goodnight again. Earlier in the day she came to me with that solemn expression on her face and uttered the same words. When I asked her what exactly she was sorry for, she shrugged and said, “I can’t remember,” quite pitifully.

This has become quite an issue in our house. The words “I’m sorry” are slung about so flippantly that it’s as common as saying “hello”. It’s just something that we say.  Some of you might be asking why this is an issue.  Just a couple of years ago I was lamenting about how Nora especially never apologized for anything even when threatened with no ice cream and other such “wise” parenting strategies  until she made things right with the offended party.  She would forego many, many things before her ego would let her admit to any wrongdoing. Now, two years later, I’m wondering how we have gotten here, to the point where the words have become meaningless.

This past year of school both girls have been caught numerous times stealing. They have taken things out of desks, classrooms, and most notoriously out of lunch bags. Their teacher is constantly sending me texts and notes about their deviant behavior. Being that they are in the same class, they give her a run for her money.  Today, when some items from the classroom went missing, suspicion immediately fell upon our girls. Short of shining a light in their faces and poking them with pins, we interrogated them thoroughly, but no one was copping to it. Their teacher texted me well into the evening to find out if I had gotten anywhere with them. Sadly, still, I have not.

Ask me how our day went.

Well, even if you aren’t asking, I’m telling.  They were sent to bed for afternoon naps without books or a movie to watch (yeah-I know-harsh) because they had both talked back to the teacher during the day. When they got up, I got the note about the stolen items. I interrogated and got blank stares and denials, each one throwing the other under the bus. I was calm. I was collected. I was seething internally. Then apology letters needed to be written for talking back. Then came the abundance of tears. For an hour. Letters were done, more texts were sent. I searched backpacks, lunchboxes, jackets, pockets, under the bed, even the booster seats and came up with nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. More texts. All the time, the frustration and suspicion are building. I can’t prove it, but even as I write I am sure that one of my girls took the said items and stashed them at the school.

When I tucked the girls into bed tonight, reassuring their teacher again (an incredibly patient woman!) that I would try to get to the bottom of things, I wanted to cry myself as another, “I’m sorry, Mom” was flung my way. The poor child didn’t know what she was sorry for, she just knew I was disappointed and she wanted to make it right.

I have a hard time trusting anyone, not just my girls, who have a reputation for getting into trouble and stealing. I fear I too often live by this creed: “Accuse first, ask questions later.” See, if I just don’t trust them now, then I won’t be disappointed later. Makes sense, right?  So it begs the question-if I don’t trust anyone, will anyone ever be trustworthy? If I always expect my kids are going to be the ones who steal something, will they always be the ones who steal?

These are the questions that keep me up late at night. These are the questions that spill onto my cheeks as I’m hiding in the bathroom with a bar of chocolate. These are the questions that torture me as I look into their faces searching long and hard for some truth.

Recently a very wise friend made this very profound statement: “I have never regretted showing grace, but I have often regretted not showing it.”

Then I remember. It is a taste of sweet freedom, a drink of water in a desert: Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13).

Showing mercy and grace is always better than condemning. With parenting, especially, it’s a difficult balance, because they need to be disciplined in love. My children need to learn that they can’t steal because not only does it harm the ones they are stealing from, but eventually their sins will catch up to them and they will live with the harsh consequences of them. I MUST discipline them because I love them. I must teach them that they can’t choose to harm someone else for their own selfish gain, which will, in the end, end up harming them as well. Still, I can still discipline with grace not judgment, right?

Judgment says, “How dare you?!” where grace says, “I’ve been there.”

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Isn’t it true, though? Isn’t that what, as humans, we are saying when we extend grace? We are releasing them and saying” I’ve been there. I understand. I know the temptations you wrestle with. I get it. I’m here to help.” And in that, we offer them freedom; freedom from guilt, freedom from condemnation, freedom from wrath. Because, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when we don’t offer grace aren’t we forgetting the grace we are given each and every day? Aren’t we forgetting the freedom that is so willingly and abundantly given us each moment of each day with each breath that we take? And when we cling to the Truth of grace, the Truth we find in our salvation in Christ, it will truly set us free. (John 8:32)

And if you don’t know Christ as your Savior, if you have never tasted that freedom found in the grace of God alone I encourage you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the (FREE!) gift of God is eternal life through in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

 

 

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DIY Bleach Shirt

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I’ve gotta be honest with ya-this is going to be a lazy post. This is a “I-have-been-on-the-stinkin’-computer-and-I’m-ready-for-some-tea-and-chocolate” post. But that’s good for you, because this is the EASIEST PEASIEST tutorial!

For Christmas, the girls usually make Sam something. It’s difficult coming up with something that is cheap, useful and easy to make with a couple of kiddos who have a three minute attention span. I saw bleach shirts on Pinterest. Very cute, but most of them were a little on the girlie side. Sooooooooo, this is what we came up with.

If your husband is anything like mine, I have had to agonizingly sit through Rocky 1-56 a million and one times! Adriaaaaaaaan!! Ah, the crosses we bear!! Needless to say, Sam loves “the Italian Stallion”.

Here are the supplies you will need:

*Clear contact paper

*Spray bottle with bleach (use gloves if you are worried about it getting on your skin)

*Dark plain T

*Hair Dryer

To start, I just Googled images of a stallion and then picked a font I wanted. Then I literally peeled the contact paper and stuck it to the computer screen and traced it onto the paper that way.

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I cut them out and stuck them on the shirt where I wanted them.

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Then I put a piece of cardboard in between the layers of fabric, then we went to work just spraying it with bleach. Be sure your corners are stuck down very well, but other than that, it’s really that simple. To speed the drying process along we used a hair dryer (note the cute little legs of my helper).

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I would recommend doing this is a well ventilated area as well because the fumes from the bleach can get strong.

That’s really all there is to it! And this is the final product. I only wish I had my handsome model to show it off for you!

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As a side note, I’m currently selling this printable in my shop if you have a Rocky fan in your life.  And if you do, I feel for ya!

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Identity Theft: Being a Wife and Mom

identitytheft I stood beside my husband trying hard to maintain eye contact with the speaker with two little hands wriggling for freedom in mine. I had given them the speech before we went in: though I understood the temptation, they were not to ask for candy and needed to understand we were not there for them. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and ready to cry but knew it was important that I be there. So as I waited in one of those rooms, filled with mourners and smelling almost nauseatingly of chrysanthemums, we stood in line with others who came to pay their respects to the family of the man from our church who had recently passed away. I had never even actually met him because we haven’t been at our church all that long and for a lot of our time there he has been sick and unable to come. Still, I had spoken with his daughters and wanted them to feel loved and supported. I scanned the room and smiled, but as I saw the people approaching I inwardly groaned, because by now, I was well acquainted with this routine. People walked up to our girls and gushed over how beautiful they were and, “oh my, look at those dimples.” While I tried my very best to concentrate on what people were saying, the girls whined about when we were going to leave. My husband was introduced over and over to family from out of town as the associate pastor and father of these two charming and delightful children. I waited patiently.  Anytime now, surely someone would acknowledge me. But as I stood them, smiling politely, I was no more than a footnote on a page. When I was acknowledged at all, it was to be told what a wonderful husband I had and how blessed I was to be his wife. If introduced at all, I was nameless. Just an accessory, really, on my husband’s arm. I felt as important as the tie he was wearing. “This is his wife and his lovely yellow tie.” His wife. Pastor Sam’s wife and Evie and Nora’s mom. Nameless. Faceless.

The girls began to really get antsy, as little girls do in a funeral parlor filled with nothing to do but to try to wriggle free from their mother’s iron fist grip. After twenty minutes of “your husband is the best thing since cherry pie” and “oh. You are so lucky to have been blessed with such a husband and children. Count your lucky stars the heavens were smiling down on such a person (I’m sorry. What’s your name again? Yes. Yes. That’s right. Sam’s wife)” I gave up and let go of their hands. Before I knew it, they were trying to race each other down the hallway all the while I was trying to keep my attention on the funeral director who was shooting jokes at my husband left and right. I told them they needed to sit, which to them translated into jumping violently on the couch. The elder of the two smirked at me, knowing full well that my blood pressure was rising, which meant her fun was just starting. Through gritted teeth and a plaster smile I told them to sit quietly in chairs within arms reach of me. Once they had done so, the older one began to bounce in the chair, again to try to see if she could crack me. I really think this girl has a future in interrogation some day.  At this point, my head was throbbing, my feet were screaming, and my heart was drumming in my ears. I shot the girls that look that only mothers can give that says something like, “I love you but if you choose to cross me again I will sell you to the circus and make sure they give you a terrible job like cleaning up elephant poop and scraping gum off of bleachers and brushing the lion’s teeth…” A man from our church chose that moment to mosey on over to us and tell my girls how good they were and how sweet and charming and pretty they looked. Again, I was acknowledged only by a conspiratorial smile as if I would readily agree how well behaved they had been. The elder of the two flashed me her dimpled, smug grin that I know translates to her, “I win”. At that point I think my smile must have looked akin to one someone must have when they are sent to an insane asylum because her smile faded quickly. The gentleman from our church must have seen it, too, because he chose that moment, the first time I had been acknowledged as an individual the whole evening to say chidingly as he walked away over his shoulder to,” enjoy the journey. ”

Then I screamed. I did. I yelled that I, too, was trying to be thoughtful and considerate by being there and that it had been by my choice, not obligation. I shrieked that I did, in fact, have a name. When I was born to my two, lovely parents they did not put on the birth certificate “Sam’s wife”. I stomped my feet a little, threw some really poetic insults at the condescending comment, and stormed out of there, wives and moms around the world applauding me, my oldest daughter gawking at me and my husband giving a great speech to everyone about how I was the love of his life and what he, in fact, would be without me

…… In my head. That whole, lovely scene only played out in my head. What actually happened was I smiled again, politely, not really dignifying the comment with a response, then grabbed the girls by their hands, ushered them outside, put them in the van and lamented to my husband about how I have lost all identity as a mom and wife, how no one seemed to even see or acknowledge that I was even there, other than to scold me for not ” enjoying the journey “. I may as well have a name tag that says ” Hi. My name is wife and mom. ”

This idea of identity theft is sort of a recurring theme in my tales of woe, actually. Just yesterday I was crying to him about it again. I have people tell me all the time how incredible my husband is and how lucky I am to have him. Though I usually respond with a very sincere and hearty word of concurrence, it can also be discouraging, because though he has earned every single word of praise, I can’t even be introduced by my name if I’m introduced at all. When I begin my lamenting it usually sounds a little something like this: I feel like a job. I am the packer of lunches, the finder of socks, the kisser of boo boos, the maker of meals, the comforter, the cheerleader, the team mascot, the folder of laundry, the discipliner, the cleaner….. You get the idea. I’m rarely even called by my name. I’m, “Moooooooooooooom!!!!” most of the time. There are so many days when I sit back and wonder how it came to this. How did I lose all sense of who I am as a person and become a job? When did I become so faceless and nameless? When did I become nothing more than arm candy for my husband and a convenience to my children? If I’m honest, some days I can be downright resentful of my family, because, in the spirit of being totally candid, so much time spent being a mom you are undervalued. You are taken for granted and abused. In fact, there can be an attitude that you should be cleaning up after them, cooking for them, and taking them where they need to go. And my husband, who truly is this amazing man and great spouse, can’t meet all of my needs all the time and can get wrapped up in work or coaching soccer, because, despite popular belief, he really is only human and the poor guy can only do so much. So he can’t always see that I am drowning sometimes in loneliness and frustration. I heard once that when people were polled, what they wanted most was to be appreciated. I also read this somewhere: you know you don’t appreciate someone when you think it’s their job to do anything for you.

A pet peeve of mine is to go to a restaurant and see people treat the service there like their own personal slaves. My mom used to be a waitress and I only know a fraction of how hard that really was on her to be on her feet all night, dashing to fill orders, to be hit on by drunken men, to have people yell at her because their steak wasn’t prepared to their liking though it was no fault of her own, to work for crummy tips, all with a smile plastered on her face. But I have been out with friends and witnessed some of them treat our servers in this way, making snarky comments, ignoring them when they check on our table, and not offering any word of gratitude and say something like, “They’re getting paid for it.” As if passing them a lousy tip gives you the right to treat them any way you want.

OK. I digressed a bit. But here is my point: Just because someone has a job it doesn’t give anyone the right to treat them as less than human. As a means to an end. A job. Hence my point. As a wife and especially as a mom it so often feels like I have lost all sense of self and feel underappreciated. My children, as I did to my own parents, don’t get how much I sacrifice for them on a daily basis, and honestly, I don’t expect them to until they have kids of their own.

As I have been sitting here writing, I wanted to tie this up with a nice little bow; a word of encouragement and enlightenment to those who are struggling like me, most days just trying to keep my head above water and sanity in tact. So here it is, my incredible words of wisdom: you’re not alone. When I talk to my friends, most of ’em feel the exact same way. Being a mom is tough. Sometimes being a wife, even if you’re married to a really great guy like I am, can be really tough, because all of a sudden you wake up one day and realize that you have lost so much of who you used to be. I think I used to be fun (I think??). I used to be spontaneous and go out swing dancing. I used to hang out with my friends on weekends and NOT talk about kids. I used to be the interesting girl across the room that you wanted to get to know better. I used to have a name.

My mom recently handed me a folder full of all these papers, mementos of things I created as I grew up: report cards, pictures, essays. I came across one essay I had written as an introductory paper for a creative writing class. It was titled “Mirror of my Life.” As I read it,I was reminded of the girl who wrote it. She talked about her dreams and ambitions, her frivolous activities. She talked about making up skits when she was all alone, talking in different accents and dreaming of a life on stage, perhaps.  She talked about her fears and hopes and the world that was wide open before her. At seventeen, anything seemed possible. As I read those words, I missed that girl.  I missed the girl who was carefree and laid back, who spent her free time writing poetry and daydreaming and reading books.  Then as I read further, I caught a truer glimpse of her, reading between the lines: a girl who dreamed of being married and having kids.  She was a girl who prayed for and laid awake at night dreaming of and writing letters to the husband she couldn’t wait to meet.  She was a girl who was at times lonely with the ambition to have her own family someday, lonely in the waiting. Then I was reminded of the girl who just a few years later married a man beyond her dreams when she was so young, but who cried herself to sleep so many nights and sat in lonely corners during the day aching to hold a baby of her own. For years, she sat and prayed and waited, empty in heart and womb. Then I am reminded of the person I am now, living out those very dreams written down on the paper in my hands. After that, I come to pity the girl on the paper because though she may have had much less responsibility, she had much less to be thankful for.

So here it is: my secret to sanity when I feel like I’m fading into absolute oblivion, because, as with all things in life, it usually comes down to perspective. I will take a few thoughtless comments from people who can’t see what I do, though I know I do them. I will take not being introduced properly to so-and-so’s second cousin twice removed who I will never see or remember again in my life.  I will take the forgetfulness, being taken for granted, and yes-being walked on at times, because even on the most exhausting of days I wouldn’t trade this life or what this girl has for anything in the world.

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Confessions of a Christ Addict

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“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

“Come Thou Fount” was penned in the 1700’s by a young convert to Christ. It is said that Robert Robinson walked away from his faith as the last stanza of this song suggests he feared he would. It is rumored that many years later, while riding on a stagecoach,a traveler with him began singing this song. When asked if he liked her song, he replied, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” It is debated about whether he ever returned to his faith before his death in 1790.

This hymn is one of my absolute favorites. I have the words written on the wall in our dining room. “O to grace, how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be, let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee…” It is one of my favorites because it is often the cry of my own heart.

I stumbled out of bed at 3:30 this morning, careful not to disturb my peacefully sleeping husband or the cat curled at my waist. I woke up in a panic, knowing I needed my “fix”.

Hi. My name is Courtney. I’m a Christ addict. It’s been… Three days since I last read my Bible, gave more than a cursory prayer or applied Scripture to my life.

If this really were some therapy group, I would tell you that I wasn’t a full blown junkie. I’m more of a social Christian, really. I just really go to God when I need a quick fix; a temporary high. Nothing serious.

See, I just need my quick fix every once in awhile. I need it when I’m frustrated with the kids. I throw a prayer toward the ceiling, a brief plea for wisdom, just something to get me through the next hour. I read my bible when I know I have a half hour here or there, but only if my day allows, and even then my mind is wandering about my to-do list. A temporary high, so I can feel good about myself and my “dedication” and have something else to check off my list for the day. I hurl a verse at my girls when convenient, when it helps me make my point to them. A quick fix.

This time of year can be especially distracting for me. Every year, I feel like I’m chasing the white whale of Christmas, the stuff Bing Crosby songs are made of; the charmingly decorated house, filled with Nat King Cole carols, pine scented candles, homemade, personal gifts, a tree sagging with tacky ornaments, gingerbread houses and freshly baked cookies. I am longing for the feeling I had when I was a child, the feeling you only got at Christmas time. I lost it somewhere around age thirteen, when I thought I was obviously too old for such childish behavior and have tried to find it ever since. In my search, I have lost the true joy of Christmas, of everyday, 365 days of the year living, that comes from a true relationship with Christ that satisfies like nothing else in the world. In my search for it, it’s only robbed me if my joy, thankfulness and contentment. It’s made me cranky and discontent, always searching for something better: more Christmas spirit, more Christmas movies, more parties and traditions, more presents to make or buy, more CDs to listen to. I’m always on the hunt, but in my search I’ve only found that Joy is not something that can be bought at Target.

I woke up with the sweat of this verse on my brow: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?”

In my own way, I’ve gained the world. I have this house that may not be a mansion in the Hamptons, but it’s prefect for me, with it’s ornate fireplace, wrap around porch, claw foot tub. I have a cozy, warm bed to crawl into every night next to a faithful, loving, adoring husband that I don’t come close to deserving. I’m the mom of two wild, rambunctious, strong-willed, sweet girls. My husband has a job where I get to work beside him and both do what we love. I have friends and family who love me, somehow. I eat everyday, often more than I should. In worldly possessions, I really lack nothing. Still, what does it profit me, even as a daughter of the one true God, if my life is dedicated to these things rather than to Him?

See, I don’t want to just be a social Christ addict, I want to be a full-blown, all or nothing, go big or go home junkie. I want to be like this pastor we met in NYC who holds bible studies in homeless shelters in the Bronx and hands out care packages to people in AIDS facilities. I want to be bold enough to stand the ridicule he faces when he sings on the subways and ferries in Manhattan, when at times he has been openly mocked, kicked and been threatened bodily harm. He still peaches with boldness, with love and with joy. You see, the thing about pastor Jeff is that he is always smiling. Always. The joy of Christ oozes out of him; it runs through his veins. It is his life blood. I want to be so addicted to Christ that I can be called, as he does himself, “cross-eyed and crazy” for our Savior. I want to be crazy out of my mind, totally hooked and overflowing with a love for God that can never be satisfied, a thirst that can never be quenched; an addiction that always has me on my knees crying out for more. I want to be that kind of Christian. I want to be able to say I am living out I Thessalonians 5:16-18 that says, “Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, or Lord.” I want to be able to say:

“Hi. My name is Courtney. It’s been…. Well, I haven’t stopped praying, giving thanks or worshipping Christ…”

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You’re in Danger of Becoming You’re Mother (and that ain’t bad)

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I tripped over the dog for the hundredth time as my youngest daughter, ever curious, asking me when dinner was, what we were having and making her opinion on the subject no secret.  She stomped a foot.  She grunted. She whined.  She did NOT want chili for dinner.  She wanted macaroni and cheese.

In our home we have a strict, “I’m-not-running-a-restaurant” rule.  If you don’t like it, then you go hungry.  I don’t know if this rule has ever really been enforced because my kids would rather swallow raw asparagus than miss a meal.  I had a headache, so noise, especially loud, high-pitched noises explode inside my head.  I have told the girls many times that it feels like someone is taking a frying pan to the back of my head each time someone is loud. Depending on the day, even normal talking can make my head feel like someone is drilling it with a jackhammer to it.  This was one of those days.  As I tripped over the dog again in my attempt to retrieve something from the refrigerator, it happened. I did what every mom vows never to do. I yelled, but worse than that, I yelled a little something like this, “You’re driving me crazy! You can eat what everyone else is eating! If you don’t like it, you don’t eat! I have listened to you complain all day…..” and it only went downhill from there.

We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it.  We’ve all sworn that we won’t do things like our parents do them. When we have kids, we make a solemn oath that we won’t follow in their steps or make the same mistakes they did.

Ah, children are so naïve, aren’t they?

And then it happens.  It creeps up on you.  It sneaks into your home like a nasty little varmint that you keep trying to get rid of, but it keeps coming back. You try to stop it, but it keeps coming anyway.  It finds a way in. You think you can be that one person to not experience it.  You read books on how to prevent it or how to protect against it.  You try to safeguard your home, your husband, your children, yourself but it can’t be helped! Just when you think you are safe is the time you are most vulnerable to it.  Out of nowhere it comes: you say something that sounds just like your mother!

Dun…dun…dunnnnn (that was my best impression of dramatic music).

Yeah. I do it. I’m not gonna lie to ya’ll and say that I never yell (ha!). I won’t try to tell you that I don’t lecture and my kids have totally learned to tune me out (what a joke!).  I won’t even pretend that I don’t sometimes act a little more childish than my own children (please girl!). I do all of the above and much more that we won’t discuss at this moment so I can still keep some dignity and possibly a few friends.

I mean, why fight it, right?  We are going to sound and act like our parents at some point, and I know when/if my children have children of their own someday they are going to pray they don’t make the same mistakes we do, and vow they won’t, then they will probably end up giving a similar speech to their children like the aforementioned sad performance.

Here’s the thing, though, that I am failing to mention: I had (have) this great mom.  Did she yell? Yep.  Did we deserve it sometimes? Yep. Did she lose her temper? Uh-huh. Was she often surrounded by whiny, complaining, ungrateful kids as kids can be? You betcha. Did that poor woman give us so much and get little in return? Absolutely.

So I’m hear to tell you the good news! It is time to cut yourself and your mom some serious slack! Everyone knows the curse of every mom is to be frazzled, exhausted, and seriously underappreciated. Do you love your kids? Uh-YEAH! Do they drive you a bit nutty sometimes? Um-YEAH!

I think one thing I do that is really like my mom is that I beat the tar out of myself every, single day for the mistakes I make.  I am wracked by this paralyzing guilt and fear that my kids are going to resent the heck out of me.  I worry endlessly that someday they will do exactly what I am talking about: pray they look nothing like me as an adult. Parenting is nothing if not humbling. But, here’s the thing: everyone makes mistakes. Everyone messes up. Everyone says things they shouldn’t say and everyone takes the ones they love the very most in the world for granted. Everyday.

But if as Christians we are dragging that guilt around with us, we are cheapening the grace of God and what Christ did for us.  We are preaching to ourselves and our children that His grace isn’t sufficient, when the Bible makes it abundantly clear that it is. .

As a child of God, I am under the grace of God every day. I don’t need to beat myself or my mom up for the mistakes I make. We are all sinful by nature and fight that everyday, whether we are believers in Christ for salvation or not.  We all have regrets. We all have things we wish we could take back. So let’s rectify our mistakes, beg for forgiveness, do whatever we can to make things right with those we love and move on.  Don’t drag those mistakes with you.

So, what is the point of this little monologue, you say? By jove, I’m so glad you asked!

I want to list some of the ways I am and strive to be like my mom.

1. I dance with my kids. When we were kids, and even in high school, my mom would put on Eric Clapton for us and we would “floor dance”. Yep. My family is pretty special. We make up our own dances. We would lie on our backs and flail our arms and legs and sing loudly to “Layla” and “Malted Milk” and laugh until our stomachs hurt.  I have made dancing a serious part of our daily routine. We dance. Always. When I am ready to scream, I put some music on. Sometimes it’s Clapton. My recent drug of choice is Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and the Rat Pack. That’s some good stuff! When the girls get to choose, it’s something Disney. 🙂 But, either way, we twirl, we jump, we make fools of ourselves and best of all, we laugh. My kids haven’t been able to appreciate the true art of floor dancing with me yet, but I’m working on ’em.

2. We make memories and traditions together. To this day my mom says she dreads the impending holidays because they are such a stressful time for her, but growing up, I was clueless! She always made them so special and homey. At Christmas, especially, we baked cookies, made ornaments, went out to look at Christmas lights. We strung popcorn for the tree and watched Christmas movies. We would leave cookies and milk for Santa and in the morning there would be a nice thank you note from him. We would go black Friday shopping at 5 in the morning! I still love that! She taught me young to fall in love with Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (now I am a diehard fan! Has anyone else seen “Harvey”, which I also watched with my mom). I light evergreen candles at Christmas because it reminds me of being at home with my family. She would even let us stay home sometimes to just make memories together. At Easter time, she and my dad would hide baskets for us with clues hidden all over the house.  I could go on and on and on, but I love the traditions she passed on or started with us that I now do with my kids. Sometimes, when trying to pull these things together, I want to scream! I understand the stressful part of it for sure, but I keep thinking that I am making memories for them that I know they will look back on fondly as I do.

3. I kiss boo-boos. Some of you are probably thinking, “Uh-huh. Yay for you. What mom doesn’t do that?”. Still, I want to highlight this special gift mom’s have to make things right. Even now, when my world is falling apart around me, I really just want my mom to make it all better for me. My girls both have an amazing flair for the dramatic. Sometimes I think because I try to downplay things, it only exaggerates this trait of theirs more.  When Evie gets hurt she will scream (top of her lungs, bursting dogs’ eardrums scream) at me to, “Come over here right now!! Now, Mommy!!” If I know it is minor, even if I see blood, I will try to walk to her calmly and try to access the damage before I panic (outwardly, at least) to balance her out. But, my other child tends to show off every “boo-boo” she has at least twenty times a day.  She is by nature an attention seeker, so if someone else is sick or hurt, she feels the need to top it. She, too, has a headache or a scratch or feels queasy. I have come to appreciate and find the humor in this at times, but other times I find myself wedged into the back of the closet trying to hide when I hear her coming with a fake cry and an imaginary boo-boo that needs attention. Nora is stubborn and proud and in her language, when she comes to me, with an exaggerated limp because she brushed against the wall, I know it means that she needs love and attention. I sometimes am not incredibly sympathetic, and wish I truly was much more like my own mom in this way and have found myself trying to practice what she would do.  In times like that she would look at me and say, “Oh, honey. I’m sorry. Rub it.” It was so wise and magical! She didn’t give me fanfare or over exaggerate a minor bump, but she gave me the attention and sympathy I needed. As I got older, she listened when I had trouble with friends or kids who were mean at school.  She talked me through some really low points in my life and offered encouragement.

4. I surprise them sometimes. My mom was so great at every once in awhile having something special for us when we came home from school. I will never forget a special, Velcro watch she surprised me with one day with interchangeable faces. She would load us and our boxer dog, Maxie, in the car, and we would all get ice cream at Dairy Queen. I loved the days I would come home from school and she would have fresh baked cookies waiting on the table for us. Sometimes, we would order Chinese food and get a movie and watch it as a family. We wouldn’t do these things very often, so when we did, they were super special.

5. I strive to be an encourager. My mom wasn’t perfect. She could be critical sometimes, I think as all women it is super easy to do, but more often she was encouraging. She would point out the things that she was proud of me for or encourage me to pursue.  She would sing my praises in front of me to other people. It made me want to be who she made me sound like I was.  I have been trying with my girls (if I wasn’t such a slow learner!!) to “correct” them instead of criticize and be an encouragement and not a negative voice in their head. Lately, I have been trying to make a point to sit down and say something to Nora like, “Hey, God made you a leader. I know you want to lead this situation, and someday maybe you will have authority to lead people, but right now you have to learn to submit before you can be a good leader. Right now you need to learn how to be someone that people will want to follow,” rather than, “You are so bossy! You never listen and are so controlling!” I have seen a huge difference in her attitude when it’s constructive and encouraging rather than just critical. I still make mistakes, but by the grace of God hopefully the encouraging will outweigh the discouraging!

6. We pray with our kids. My mom is the one who led me to Christ and taught me about my need for salvation. She answered my questions and taught me how to pray. We are trying so hard to make prayer a priority in our home, to make it like breathing. Again, TRYING is the operative word, here. There have been times where I will grab one of the girls angrily in a hug and say, “I am so mad at all you, all I can do is pray with you,” and by the end of the prayer, I’m usually pretty humbled. I want to teach them that prayer truly is the answer pretty much all the time. We made a ” I Thessalonians” chair in our home that is designated as a place for any of us to go and cool off. I will post more on it later. But I want to encourage them, as my mom did, to pray, to seek forgiveness and guidance, moment by moment.

This is the short list!! I wish I was like my mom in so many other ways. How are you like your mom?

So maybe I’m in danger of sounding like my mother. Thank you. I will take that as a compliment. ❤

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Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks

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It happens every single year.  After the chaos of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and everything in between, we usually hit a nice little lull in January and February and sometimes, if we’re lucky, the beginning of March. But by St. Patrick’s Day our calender is marked up with appointments, parties, school programs, Doctor’s appointments and the like. Every single year from March until New Year’s it begins.  It always amazes me how the less we are home the greater the mess we seem to create. How is that possible? It is one of the great mysteries of life like the Bermuda triangle and missing socks.

And every day my poor husband gets to hear my redundant lamenting over how messy the house is. I try to keep some kind of order in my house, but let’s be real for a moment, shall we? There are times when three days worth of dishes are piled on the counter, the laundry is so backed up that we are turning our underwear inside out, and the carpets are so piled with pet dander that they look like shag. Who’s with me?

Just sitting here writing about it is exhausting me. Sometimes, especially when we are busy, it feels insurmountable. But I am here my friends to tell you there is hope! As someone who is easily overwhelmed, here are a few tricks I do to try to keep my brain from exploding in attempting to not only get the house clean but to keep it clean (well, or at least in some kind of order).

1. Keep your cleaning clutter to a minimum by using fewer cleaners (and do some good for the environment while you’re at it). I don’t know about you, but under my sinks can collect some serious clutter, too. I have read so many articles about how household cleaners are not only harmful to the environment but harmful more importantly to you and your kids. So, I keep it simple with three basic cleaners that do the job quite well:

*  bleach water. I use this for the really nasty stuff like the bathroom. You can use vinegar water for those jobs as well because it disinfects well, I just prefer the smell of a bleached clean bathroom.

*  white vinegar water: White vinegar is my cleaning BFF. It can clean windows and mirrors, your hardwood floors, and great to clean walls and baseboard and to dust with among other things. I use it to spray mattresses  and furniture to give it a fresh smell and eliminate odor. I even spray it in the air as an air freshner. It is a disinfectant without being harmful to breath in. It does the job without being harmful to you or your stuff. Some people say that they hate the way it smells, but honestly, I feel like the smell doesn’t linger long.

 *  baking soda. I love baking soda. It is a great abrasive for stubborn things stuck on your counter on tub, and it is a great deodorizer. I sprinkle it on carpets before I vacuum and in toilets before I scrub the bowl. When our pup has a little accident on the carpet, the first thing I do is sprinkle the spot with soda and it will absorb it before it can permeate your carpet. It’s great to put in a load of laundry to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

2. Make a (realistic) chart. When I look at my house as a whole and see what every room needs (i.e. my kitchen needs cupboards scrubbed, fridge cleaned off in and out, decluttered, cleaned in general, etc.) it can be a bit overwhelming. Cleaning (especially Spring cleaning) is sort of like going on a diet. If you try to do too much at once, you get overwhelmed and end up giving up altogether. Make a list of what is realistic for your week/day.  For instance, take Monday to tackle the kitchen, but leave the living room till the next day. When it’s broken up, it’s much less intimidating.

3. Make it fun.  I don’t know if anyone is like me, but cleaning is NOT fun to me. My maternal grandmother loves to clean and could make it an Olympic sport. I, sadly, did not inherit those genes. But something that helps me is to give myself little “rewards”. For example, when I need to sort things out like that pile of paperwork that has gathered on the dining room hutch or fold laundry, I take the opportunity to make myself a cup of tea and sit down to watch that new BBC program that just came out on Netflix and do my work then while I watch. In fact, I will look forward to three loads of laundry that need folded just so I have an excuse to get caught up on Downton Abbey. It inspires me to put in those three loads of laundry throughout my morning so that when the girls are down for rest time I can do just that. Also, I have been known to have a chocolate bar on hand and once one thing is checked off my list it is time for me to have a piece of my candy bar. Chocolate is always inspiring!

4.) Set a timer. Okay. Now I know this one sounds cheesey because we aren’t all six. BUT, it really does help me! Just this morning I looked at the kitchen with crumbs everywhere, dishes in the sink, and garbage strewn about from breakfast and wanted to walk away. But, in my head I tried to ask myself how long it would realistically take me if I did everything that needed done. I set a timer for that amount of time (which was only ten minutes, by the way) and it made me work more swiftly because I wanted to be done by the time it went off. In the end, I actually had time to spare.

5). Make lists. Again, with someone who is easily overwhelmed, this helps a ton!! When I look at the house as a whole, I give up before I begin. But, if I sit down and make a list of what needs done in each room it helps me to see what my priorities need to be (the fridge can be cleaned out another day) and I get a huge sense of accomplishment when I can check one off. Am I the only one who likes to put something on the list after I have already accomplished it just so I can check it off?

6). Fill a laundry basket as you go from room to room.  This is another trick that has helped me immensely. We often get clutter at our house because there are things that I have no idea what to do with. So, I have started putting things in a laundry basket and just go from room to room filling it with things that are out of place and when I enter rooms, some things get put in the basket and some things get put back where they belong. If it is my goal to empty the basket, then I find that I really can find a place for everything and sometimes that place is the trash can or box to give away, which brings me to……

7). Keep a giveaway box. Just recently I put a box in the basement for things to give away. We are planning to have a yard sale this summer to raise money to go to our missions trip to Romania. Knowing the box is there and knowing what is going in it is for a good cause helps me to part with things a little easier than I normally would (being the pack rat that I am by nature). Keep a box to donate clothes to your local city mission or items to go to the Salvation Army or outgrown toys to go to needy kids. Having a good cause to donate to is great incentive for decluttering.

8). Involve the kids. Last summer when the kids were home all day, I nearly panicked. I didn’t know what to do with them all day without tearing my hair out! I would plan fun days (girl days or days at the park or days with friends) but I honestly found our very best days were spent…..cleaning!!! I don’t know what it was, but when we started cleaning together it was this bonding time for us. My girls are still young, but I think it was a sense of accomplishment for them. We would make a list, then I would ask who wanted to do what and they have always been eager to volunteer. Then we would put on music while we cleaned and had spontaneous dance parties or make a game of seeing if we could check something simple off our list (like putting away all the books or cleaning off a dresser) by the time a song had ended. It gives them responsibility and if you make it fun and make sure they know how appreciative you are for their efforts, it really is a great time to connect with your kids.

9). Every day, pick up as you go about your day. There is nothing more aggravating than feeling the huge sense of accomplishment of cleaning your house top to bottom only to have it messed up again in a half hour. Again, with busy schedules and little kids, it’s hard to stay on top of things, but I have found it’s easy to do a little every day, even if it’s a crazy day. Some days I find myself taking a potty break and taking 30 seconds to spray and wipe down the sink after I have washed my hands to remove toothpaste and foundation stains and stray hairs. When I am going to fetch my coat from upstairs, I pick things up that need to go upstairs and put them away as I go. I honestly feel like if I didn’t do things like that every day I would end up on one of those shows about people with the disgustingly horrible houses. If I do a little as I am going about my normal routine, it helps to keep the clutter and mess to a minimum.

 

And to help keep things in perspective, I try to remember this

 

thank heaven

 

So, those are some things I do. What tricks do you have for keeping things tidy?

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I have a Confession…

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Hi. My name is Courtney, and I have a confession to make.

I am married to this really great guy. No, really…

For the last twelve years I have had the privilege of waking up next to him, and so many of those mornings I have laid there, listening to his breathing and thanked God again for giving me such a great, patient husband.

When he wants to watch a basketball game and I want to watch a chick flick, the romantic comedies always win out. When the puppy whimpers in the middle of the night ( MY puppy that he got me for a Christmas present) he stumbles out of bed to let him out. When I have had another throbbing headache, he ushers me to the bathroom and runs me a bath. He does homework with the kids, gets take-out so I don’t have to cook, pays our bills, surprises me with chocolates, sets time aside in his schedule every week for our Thursday morning coffee date, schedules sitters so we can go out sometimes, listens to me babble endlessly about a rough day, picks up dog poop in the backyard, works around the house, puts up with my projects, takes care of me when I’m sick, calls me to see how I am doing, takes the kids home from school so I don’t have to, comes home every day so we can have lunch together, works hard for us everyday….yeah. He does all that, and that’s really just the short list.

You know the most amazing thing about him? He never complains about me. He never says mean things to me.  He comes home to me every day. He is totally devoted to me.

Here’s the real confession: sometimes, I am a horrible wife.  No-scratch that. OFTEN, I am a horrible wife.  When our girls have whined about how they can’t find their shoes or don’t want to make their beds, or when they have complained for what feels like the umpteeth time about what I have made them for breakfast, lunch OR dinner, or when I have gotten a bad report from school because one of them was talking back to the teacher, stealing, lying or hitting (among other things), or when the dog has peed on the floor or chewed up one of my favorite things or made muddy prints on a freshly washed floor or thrown up cat poop, my poor husband gets the brunt of it of my wrath.  He gets the cold shoulder, the rolled eyes, the gritted teeth, the brush off just for asking what is the matter. He has been known to stay and be late to work or come home in the middle of the day just to work things out with me.

Just today, after I reared my ugly, neck-contorting in attitude head at him after lots of the above kicked off our day, he dropped kids off (they go to school at the church he works at) and instead of staying, he went and bought me replacements to the things our puppy, Burton, had chewed up in the middle of the night (after which when discovered, I slammed doors and angrily hopped into bed throwing blankets and all those other mature things just so Sam knew how mad I was).

I know. I don’t get it either.

But here is one thing that I do know: my husband, Sam, loves God wholeheartedly. Sometimes I stand back and just marvel at his love and devotion, not just to me and our girls, but to God.  He radiates humility and kindness. He is a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy, and people flock to him in droves.  He is amazing, and so many days I ask God why He chose Sam for me. For me.  How is that possible?

I want so much to begin to deserve the love and devotion t hhes for me. It goes so far beyond my comprehension that some days (okay, again, MOST days) I find myself pushing him away and rejecting him in some twisted attempt to let him see that he deserves better than me; so much, much better than me. And sometimes, sadly, in my pride, it’s to show that I don’t need him to rescue me from ornery kids or mischievous pups because I (clearly-ha!) can handle it on my own.

Then I remember something. We are to be a picture of Christ to those around us.  I am so thankful that Sam doesn’t seem to forget that very often.  He is a picture of Christ to me every single day.

We love because He first loved us. (I John 4:19). I’m not capable of loving anyone else apart from Christ. I love, because He first loved me. If this is true for me, I know it must be true of everyone, even nonbelievers. Christ loves us all, despite how abusive we are or how we reject him. Don’t we all do this, believers and nonbelievers alike? Don’t we try to push God away in some attempt to show that we don’t need Him or don’t deserve His love?  One of those things is very true, while the other is very much not.

Though I need God, I have done nothing to deserve His love and devotion to me. I have done nothing to deserve Him to promise He will never leave me or forsake me (do you know that in the original language it translates to say, “no never” something like six times?). Why in the world would God, the one who set all of creation into motion with a single command, think of me; love me; be devoted to me?! It baffles and greatly humbles me to even consider and drops me to my knees.

I am so proud to be Sam’s wife. I am so thankful to be married to a man who loves God so much. I know, though I can try, I don’t deserve this wonderful man God has chosen for me, and I certainly don’t begin to deserve the love of God.  As much as I love Sam and as much as he miraculously loves me, in our humanity, we can’t begin to fathom or express the kind of love God has for us.

So I have one more confession to make. I am deeply in love, twice over.

After twelve years of marriage, I am still hopelessly in love with my husband, and after 29 years of knowing Christ as my Savior, I am desperately in love with Him. And each day, I fall more in love with both of them, not because of who I am or because of anything I have done to deserve this love, but because of selfless love shown to me every day.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17b-19)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

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I made this card in my shop with the Song of Solomon quote. It says on the inside , “It’s you” 🙂

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Mama Drama

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I placed my fingers to my temples and rubbed, trying to ease away the rhythmic throbbing in my head as my oldest daughter bounded from the sink (where she splashed water all over the counter and mirror while making faces at herself) to the hand dryer.  The fact that she was skipping only intensified my annoyance. “Let’s go!” I didn’t, but nearly shouted at her. Undaunted, she did a little dance while she dried her hands off.  I ignored the stares from the woman washing her hands and almost groaned as I saw her approach. Here it comes, I thought grudgingly to myself.

She nearly stooped over, as though I was an unruly child who needed a good talking to from a much older and wiser adult, and said, with that ever-so-subtle condescending pitch, “You need to appreciate this now. They grow up so fast.” At this point, I would normally plaster a smile on my face and say something like, “Oh yes, you are so right. Thank you for the reminder,” and go about my merry way, clenching my jaw the whole time. Instead, I ignored her. Yep. I looked at her, grabbed my daughter’s hand and stalked away very rudely, all the while thinking, “Which part of this am I supposed to enjoy, you know-nothing busy body?” (Which, I’m really not proud of).

Maybe she meant the part about my daughter whining the entire time we were in the store, bouncing between trying to pull things off the shelf and tormenting her sister.  Maybe she was talking about the part where my daughter sung at the top of her lungs just so my husband and I couldn’t carry on a conversation and she wanted to control us because that’s what she does. Maybe she meant I was supposed to appreciate the part where my child asked for everything, not because she truly wanted it, but simply because I had told her not to ask for anything.  Maybe she meant I was supposed to enjoy the fact that I was on a time crunch, but my daughter whined so loudly and fiercely that she “needed to go potty” that I spent fifteen extra minutes I didn’t have searching the store I wasn’t familiar with for a bathroom while she complained the whole time that she wasn’t going to make it. Maybe she meant I was supposed to love the fact that once I raced her into the bathroom, she took her sweet time getting settled on the toilet only to produce nothing more than three drops.  Perhaps she was suggesting that I appreciate the fact that I know my daughter was skipping, singing and dancing in victory, knowing she had won the battle over me since we both knew she didn’t need to go to the bathroom at all.  Was that what she meant?  When she stooped over me, practically wagging a condescending finger at me, and told me that I “needed to appreciate this now”, was this possibly what she meant?

I could feel it building inside of me; that pressure that felt like a two ton elephant was sitting on my chest.  My head was pounding, I was white-knuckle gripping the steering wheel, I was working my jaw and clenching my teeth, I was answering incessant questions from the backseat with brisk responses. I knew it was coming; the hurricane, and I couldn’t stop it.  Yes, there was that little voice lying to me that said, “Just ignore your feelings, ignore your child and everyone will come out of this alive.” I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my child’s smug face. It sounds paranoid, but if you knew her, you would know exactly what I am saying. She gets delight out of sowing discord in our home, and is absolutely giddy when she knows she has gotten to me. So I gritted my teeth, grabbed bags furiously from the trunk, slammed it, and stomped to the house, not even caring if the girls were following or not. The whole time that lady’s voice was in the back of my head like bullets being fired into my heart, as if what she really said was, “Failure! What kind of mother are you that you can’t see how precious this delightful, clearly happy and pleasant gift from above this child is?” Her words didn’t spur on reflection to which I said, “Whoa! You just blew my mind! Yes! Thank you for that clarity of thought. Now I can go on with my day and rejoice when my child manipulates me and makes it feel like a locomotive is careening through my head.Now I will do a little jig and say a prayer of thanks when she tries to make the day miserable just because she can.”  It just made things worse.

I can’t even tell you what happened next, because I know it doesn’t really matter. I was a bull seeing red and all I needed was a small flash of color, something minute so I almost had an excuse to charge. I can’t tell you what it was because I’m sure it wasn’t significant, but it was enough to send me over the edge. It was the straw that broke an exhausted, guilt-ridden, angry mama camel’s back. I let loose. The demons were unleashed. I was a mass of white heat and rage.

Yeah-I said it. Rage.

That nasty, taboo word that isn’t supposed to be part of a mother’s vocabulary, let alone her persona. But let’s call a spade a spade. I was raging mad. I was out of control of my emotions and nothing was going to stop me, especially not this stubborn child who stood in front of me, and didn’t cower at my anger, but starred it down with challenging defiance. I lost it; I screamed. Let me clarify this so we’re all on the same page. I didn’t yell or raise my voice. I screamed. It was shrill, it was loud, it was ear-piercing. My throat was sore and scratchy afterwards. I didn’t even recognize it. I lost all control. I could feel my heart racing so fast that it squeezed and pulsed like someone was gripping it with an iron fist. I was shaking violently. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was scary, not only to my children, but to me.

I would like to say this was an isolated incident. It wasn’t. It doesn’t happen every day or even all the often, but it happens and it never ceases to surprise or frighten me, because sometimes I feel the build-up like this particular day, but other times I’m blindsided by it. We can actually have a pretty good day, but a long fit (this same child can throw a fit lasting 1-2 hours, crying so hard that she makes her nose bleed and will pound on the floor so violently the dishes rattle in the cupboards) can send me into a blind rage.

How do I feel afterwards? Well, let’s just say I’m not feeling too good about myself (um, yeah-huge understatement). I beat myself up for days and find myself trying to talk to friends and family, someone who can give me a good answer on how to handle not only my child but myself.  Often, I am met with a blank, sometimes horrified stare, as though I have just grown an arm out of the side of my face.

I’m a “deep thinker” which mostly means I analyze every minute detail of my life to death, mostly my relationships. I want to know why things happen and how to fix them and why my life isn’t one big Hallmark commercial. How can I have dreamed for so long about having kids and loving them to death every moment of every day and still go from zero to fifty in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds? I’m also trying to figure out if I’m the only one who ever experiences this because no one wants to talk about it. I’m writing this actually piggy-backing off an article I saw recently discussing this subject. I was actually shocked to hear another mother talk candidly about how she has struggled with rage because no one seems to want to talk about it. People seem to want to give “the right answer” and try to put a band-aid over a gaping wound and say things like, “You need to just appreciate this”. Does that help anyone?

I’m using this poor woman as a scapegoat when I know she really did in some way mean to be helpful, even if it was poorly timed. My point in writing this is not to even point out what she said, but to emphasize how we get to this point as parents where we just explode. Am I truly alone in this? Do other mothers ever cross that line from losing their tempters to losing total control? Is the problem me, or is it just that my kids are so difficult? I honestly had never experienced true rage before six years ago when we brought our daughters home. I was pretty much the same as the woman in the bathroom, shaking my head and pointing my finger at those frazzled moms who lost it on their children. I didn’t get it. Does it make it right? No. Heck no. But, I still think it would help if we could talk about it, if we could all admit that we aren’t alone.  When I have tried to talk to people for help and they are become tight-lipped, or when I meet someone in the store who has a “word of wisdom” for me, it doesn’t help, but seems to compound the problem. Can we stop pointing fingers and learn how to support each other as struggling parents? I think as moms we are all equipped with built-in guilt thermometers, and as the guilt rises, the build up of pressure rises until we explode.

My husband and I talked about this just today after I sat in the car with him and cried, pouring out to him all my motherly woes. As we talked we both reminded each other of this profound truth so easily forgotten: if we aren’t willing to accept grace for ourselves, we are inept to give it to each other.  In my life, this seems no more real in my life than when it comes to being a parent. When I spend the whole day beating myself up for things I forgot, things I should’ve said (or more likely things I shouldn’t have said), ways I failed, and obsessing about the girls’ behavioral issues, by the time they come home from school, I’m almost resentful of them. I’m already prepared to do battle with them. The grace of God says, “Erased, forgiven. It’s over.” We even have taught the kids that. They sometimes in their little hearts feel the need to do penance for something long after we have talked about it and moved on. They will still apologize two or three more times until I give them to reassurance that, “It’s over. It’s done. I forgave you. We don’t need to talk about it anymore.” I have seen a very visible weight lifted off their shoulders when I free them from the guilt of what they have done.  They are lighter on their feet, they are more affectionate, reconciliation has been restored and it is so freeing. So why, when we are trying so desperately to teach our kids the grace of God, do we not accept it for ourselves?  We do penance, and through that everyone else pays.

I heard Matt Chandler, a pastor in Texas, use the illustration of his daughter learning to walk as an example of God’s grace to us. When his daughter was learning to walk, they got the video camera ready and helped her to her feet, encouraged and applauded her.  When she would stumble, like they expected her to, no one said, “Stupid kid.” They only applauded the progress she had made. They expected her to fall, but when she did, they just helped her back up.  That is how God’s grace is with us. He doesn’t knock us back down.  He expects us to stumble and He knows every sin we will commit and knew it long before we were even created, but still put His plan of salvation into effect. If we can’t accept this gift of grace, how in the world can we extend it or be examples of it to our children?

I heard this quote by C.S. Lewis, too, that was a good reminder to me. We like to beat ourselves up because in some backwards way we feel like it makes us better parents, sometimes better Christians. If we feel the heavy blows of guilt on our backs every day, it somehow makes us holier. Lewis said this, “True humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” If we could grasp that as parents, if we could let go of the guilt which still ties us up and keeps the focus on ourselves, how much more free would we be to love and show grace to those in our home, especially our children?