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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!

paristicket

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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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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. ❤

2

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” 🙂

2

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?