1

An Apology Letter to My Husband

 

 letter

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)

 

Advertisements
2

Parenting with Grace

 

 

parenting

“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.”

grace

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)

 

 

0

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.

0

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

danger

 

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…

Image

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)

Image

Image

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

0

Valentine’s Day L-O-V-E

Image

 

 

(you can order this print for your special Valentine)

Don’t you just love Valentine’s Day? Being a huge romantic at heart, I love to find the romance in every day. I admit I do have this pretty incredible husband (and incredible is kind of a huge understatement), but even if I didn’t, romance is painted all around us, we just have to look. I found it in my cup of coconut, mango oolong tea this morning that warmed me from top to bottom on a snot-freezing morning. I found a bit of romance in the warm slippers and cozy sweater I put on this morning. I found it in the sloppy kisses and bear hugs I got from two squirmy little girls this morning. I found it in the stillness of my home once everyone left and I had two faithful dogs laying at my feet and one orange cat sprawled on the bed beside me. And, if you are anything like me, I found it in the ideas just bursting out of my head for little projects I can do this week; quilts to be made, valentine’s day boxes to be fashioned, treats to be baked, and love to be spread through creative process! Here are a few projects I am thinking of working on this week:

1.Doggie in Tutu Valentine’s Day box

Image

2. Heart Tarts

Image

 

3.Heart quilt

Image

 

What projects do you plan to do for Valentine’s day? Do tell!! 

 

Video
0

True Romance, True Love

It was one of those mornings. I crunched my way through the snow back to the house in frustration, knowing that my husband and girls were watching me as they drove away. I blew a cursory kiss at them and mumbled under my breath, “Yes please, please, all just go away.” I sighed as guilt washed over me. I was still harboring bitterness from the night before when I pulled a snowman ornament out of my daughter’s backpack that had been her show-and-tell object for the day. I had picked it out for her the previous Christmas and carefully wrote her name on it. That morning when she plucked it from the tree, I helped her wrap it delicately in a towel and warned her (in as nonchalant a tone as possible to sound like I was giving friendly advice more than a lecture) that the arms would break off easily. I almost knew it the moment the words came out of my mouth. I knew that the little guy wouldn’t make it home in one piece. For some reason, when I pulled it out of her backpack with one arm missing, this only made me angrier. Because I know my daughter, and I knew it hadn’t happened on accident. When confronted she confessed that she had to prove how NOT delicate his arms were and twisted one off, hours after I had mentioned it. I had yelled and sent her to bed without fixing things between us which laid heavily on me the whole night as I debated whether to wake her or wait until morning to work things out. In the end, I did neither. Instead in a very mature and nurturing way, I gave her the cold shoulder all morning. Good parenting 101. Fail.

My other daughter had climbed into the van for school and looked at me with all the pathetic puppy dog face she could muster and told me she had lost her gloves. Again. I told her to go in and look for them, which I also knew was a lost cause. Her idea of looking for things is to scan the walls and turn in a circle before pronouncing that she “just can’t find them”. So while my husband and I went on a hunt for her gloves, she turned circles and played with the cat. They never did show up and when I told her (admittedly thinking, This will show her), “Well, I guess you are just going to be cold today,” she responded with an apathetic, “Okay,” and a good old fashioned shrug of the shoulders. I wanted to scream, but instead, as my husband went to kiss me goodbye, I grazed his cheek with my lips and I could feel it bubbling up inside of me. Though that little voice cautioned me not to, the urge was just too great and I succumbed to temptation. The words tumbled out of my mouth in a hot, boiling stream of lava and I spewed, “Gosh, I am so sick of this. She twirls, Sam. TWIRLS! That’s how she looks for gloves, and the other one-well…she’s just her. Why does she have to defy me just for the sake of it? Why does she have to tear the arms off just because I told her to be careful? What is it that drives her to be so vindictive just because I told her to be careful?! I don’t want this. I don’t want to be this wife…this mom…I just nag and-” I was cut short by the look on his face; the one that said, “Yep. Heard it yesterday. Twice. And the day before that, and the day before that….”

So as the van drove away, I grumbled the whole way to the house with a “good riddance” in my heart for the people I love most in my life.

So many days I think,”How did this happen? When did I become this…..this…wife and mother?” When I dreamed of being a mom and wife, I pictured baked cookies and home-cooked meals, playing games and kissing boo-boos and being a lifelong friend to my husband. I didn’t picture explosions over broken Christmas ornaments and lost gloves. I didn’t picture my days being filled with “please find your socks”, “don’t put that in your mouth”, “didn’t I just ask you not to throw the cat?”, “work it out with your sister”, “if you say please”, “seriously? I just bought you those shoes! How do they have holes in the already,”, “I already answered that question six times! No, it is not time to go yet”, “no, this is my chocolate. I just gave you a cookie! Can’t anything in this house be just mine?! You broke three things of mine today. Can’t I just eat this chocolate in peace?”. I certainly didn’t picture my husband giving me that look. The one that says you have officially moved from being one love, his friend, his companion, his comfort to his wife.

I know that some of you will nod your heads in agreement while others might curse me for acting like “wife” is a four letter word (though technically, in my defense, it is) :). But I think you still know what I mean. The old ball and chain. The old hatchet. The old lady. I hate that look more than anything and I am married to the most patient man in the world and he can still give me that look, often accompanied by a sigh. It kills me a little every time. Literally every day of my life I ponder, I pray about, I worry about how I can be a better wife to my husband, a better mother to my children. Still, I come up short, which only frustrates me more and makes me have a shorter fuse and the cycle continues! As my family drove away, though I was grumbling, my heart was sinking. No matter how many times my poor husband had heard it, it didn’t make it any less true: I didn’t want this. I want them, but I don’t want this version of me.

By the time I had climbed the stairs to my bedroom to get ready for the day, I was no longer frustrated but defeated. I sat down to Facebook (of all things) and saw two separate articles posted by friends; one about marriage, the other about parenting-both cautionary tales to not take for granted your spouse or children no matter the conflicts that might arise. One had a happy ending, the other did not. I cried heartily reading both.

I am a deep romantic at heart. Someone told me not too long ago that romantics can truly enjoy life sometimes and feel things deeply, but they can also be disappointed easily by unmet expectations. It is my romantic side that measures the roundness of Evie’s face and how she has changed and studies her ears because they have changed the least since she was a baby. My romantic side caresses Nora’s cheek and recounts to her stories of when she was a baby and how I used to hold her closely and stay up with her at night. My romantic side leaves notes in my husband’s office with little doodles or puts surprises in his truck to find on a hard day. But sometimes, when I am caught up in those moments, the girls don’t want to be bothered with my stories and Sam might be too busy to thank me for the notes.There is nothing more crushing sometimes than being on a plateau and being ripped down by carelessness, thoughtlessness. I am disappointed and I pull away. I might try again, but find myself disappointed again. I am forgotten, I am taken for granted, I am ignored. I think this is a curse of a lot of moms and I don’t think I’m alone.

But today, as I was reminded again, romance can be found in the lonlieness, in the disappointment. Love and relationships are never easy. Isn’t there something romantic about a difficult relationship? Isn’t there something sweet about muddling through a difficult time in life together and coming out the other side stronger, more committed? Who wants to watch a movie where a couple gets together in the first five minutes? Isn’t that boring? Even when my children push me away, I know there is something in them that just needs me to pull them back; to love on them a little harder.

When I first started dating my husband, I fell hard and fast. I fell in love with him through snail mail!! Being in love was easy. Love, true love, takes work. Love is choosing to kiss a scraped knee, even after I have been ignored, given attitude, harassed. Love is choosing to make a home-cooked meal after I was forgotten. True romance is still leaving little notes in the girls’ lunchboxes with little pictures and notes so they know I love them after they have broken ornaments and lost gloves. Love is getting up in the middle of the night to soothe away nightmares and clean up vomit. Love is cooling a warm forehead with a wet rag. Romance is forcing yourself to wrap your arms tightly around someone who has said hurtful things and choosing to forgive them. Romance is running someone else a bath when you want nothing more than to soak in it yourself and soothe away the aches and exhaustion of the day. Love is staying up into the wee hours of the morning to work through painful words or misunderstandings and grasping for reconciliation in the dark. True romance is a hot cup of tea for a sore throat or a look of encouragement across the room when you feel all eyes on you. Love is cleaning up a mess so someone else doesn’t have to.

Love is messy. Love is dirty. Love is painful; and there is something so romantic about the melancholy, lonely, day to day struggles to keep your family and marriage together.

True love is taking a beating when you did nothing wrong for those you love as your own; true love is teaching, mentoring, comforting and loving those you know will soon abandon you in your greatest moment of need when you have never asked anything of them; true love is crying out for a different plan but still choosing sacrifice for the deep, grueling love and salvation of others; true love is nailing my sins to a cross, cold, splintered and bloody and finishing it all on the darkest day in history just so that I might have life everlasting.

I love, because God first loved me, and I know better than anybody that that ain’t easy. So I will love and find the true romance in paying off a debt that can never fully be repaid. Love is grueling, painful, sacrificial-love is tough. And I think that is pretty darn romantic.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 8:13