Monday, September 29, 2014

Why Does It Matter?

I noticed the odor, but couldn't tell where it was coming from. It wasn't strong, but it was clearly a person who hadn't bothered to put on their deodorant that morning before church.

Heaven help me, I remember thinking, I pray it is not me, because I'll just say it right now. My underarms act on their own accord, despite the fact that I use men's deodorant. That's right. Men's deodorant, because dainty Secret doesn't do anything for me. I actually went to the doctor to see about getting my underarms botoxed ( did you know you can do that?). Insurance would pay for the $350 per arm procedure, but not the $1200 per arm vial of Botox, and since this isn't a permanent thing (every six months!), I decided that Arrid Dry was looking like a much better deal. Lots of Arrid Dry.

I couldn't do the underarm smell-check without being incredibly obvious, so I put it on the back burner (which usually means I'll forget about it) of my mind until we got in the car, and I had actually forgotten about it until my daughter leaned forward and half-whispered in my ear, you need to tell JJ to remember to put on deodorant in the morning. 

So it wasn't me.

I waited until we got home so that my husband could have a man-to-man talk with him, because my man-to-man talks have historically gone badly.

A few days ago, JJ came down with wet hair after taking a "shower".

Me (giving him a kiss on the head but noticing his hair did not smell like shampoo): Did you wash your hair?

JJ (nodding emphatically): Yep

Me: Are you sure?

JJ: Yep

Me: Then why doesn't your hair smell like shampoo?

JJ (offended): I washed my hair!

Me: With what?

JJ: Water!

Me: You need to wash your hair with shampoo. NOT just water. SHAMPOO. Go get in the bed. Goodnight. I love you!

JJ: (no response)

Me: I love you!!

JJ: (no response, but offers a small grunt of acknowledgement)

It took him awhile to get over this wrongdoing (obviously the wrongdoing was on my account, not his, because water is a perfectly acceptable medium to wash one's hair with, and anyway, it takes less time), so I told my husband the next chat over personal hygiene needed to come from him.

Enter deodorant conversation, which included discussion over "being stinky" and "scrubbing your underarms with soap".

To which my son looked at him, in all seriousness, and asked a perfectly legitimate and logical question.

Why. Does. It. Matter?

Delivered with a sigh of why-do-we-keep-having-this-conversation.

We were both a little caught off-guard by his question. Why does it matter?

My kids ask the same question when I talk to them about faith and God and the importance of going to church.

They want to know why it matters so much.

Sometimes I can't come up with words to explain why it does matter so much, and all I have to offer is me. A changed life. A different attitude. A freedom paid for with suffering on a cross.

For twas on that cross
Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sancify me.
{old rugged cross, george bennard}

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nothing--Not Even a Broken Heart


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?...
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 
For I am sure than neither death nor life, 
nor angels nor rulers, 
nor things present nor things to come, 
nor powers, 
nor height nor depth, 
nor anything else in all creation, 
will be able to separate us from the love of God 
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
{romans 8:35-39}

"Gabe will like getting this package," my husband commented. "It's got lots of good stuff!"

My nephew, Gabe, is in his first year of college, and my kids and I wanted to send him a package to let him know that we are thinking about him. (Actually, once my kids saw what was in the package, they wanted to keep the goods and just send Gabe a card.)

It made me think of the time my dad sent me a package when I was a freshman, which is what prompted a Saturday night blog post. 

You have to understand my dad. He's a pretty understated kind of guy. Very quiet, not incredibly outgoing. Not one for heart-to-hearts or long conversations. I found it hard to really get to know him. Our relationship has always been easy but unemotional--maybe even a little distant, given his tendency to be uninvolved as my sister and I were growing up. I knew what to expect, although I always secretly wished for a doting and involved dad, the kind who would ask you about your first kiss but at the same time warn you against "those kind of boys", if only because he once was "that kind of boy". But sometimes one has to accept that the dad she secretly wishes for and the dad she has are two different guys, and that the dad she has might be giving all he knows how to give.

You can imagine my excitement when I got my very own package from none other than the dad I so desperately wanted to closer to.

My heart soared. He had thought to send me a package! Wait...he had thought to send me a package? Who cares! He had thought to send me a package!

I studied his perfectly squared-off, neat handwriting before I ripped it open, thinking through the endless possibilities of what would be inside. 

A note. Definitely a note.

My favorite snack. And some peanut butter. 

I ripped that sucker open.

And I pulled out a plastic computer cover.

No snack. No peanut butter.

And definitely no note.

He had thought to send me a package, ensuring that the computer I was using at school would be well taken care of, and of course, dust-free.

How do you put a voice to the words that are swarming and swirling around, frantic to be known, daring to be heard, while you close your eyes to hold back the tears you are sure are silly?

I was heartbroken over a plastic computer cover, and I knew it was a silly, childish thing to be upset over, so I picked up the pieces of my heart and shoved them, dislocated and tangled, back in my chest. Covered those pieces with a fake smile and vowed I would never expect anything from my dad ever again.

I knew it wasn't my first heartbreak, and it wouldn't be my last. I dealt with it the only way I knew how--burying my disappointment and trying to forget about it. 

Uncovering those memories as an adult brings a different perspective than the one I had as a college freshman (aka a baby), and I have a better understanding of where my dad may have been coming from. He was stuck in a job he hated. He didn't know how he was going to pay for his daughter's private college tuition. He had an eleven year old at home, wanting the same attention her sister was begging for. And he had just found out his wife of 30+ years was sick with cancer.

You know, I really do wish my dad had included a note in his package that day, and to this day I wish we were closer than we are. And sometimes the frailty of my own parenting becomes painfully obvious, when I ignore a request because the email I'm typing takes precedence, or I snap at them because I'm irritable, and I understand that just like me, my dad made some mistakes. 

A broken heart left to its own devices becomes walled-off, protective, and defensive, safeguarding against hurts and disappointment. But in the same way it safeguards against hurt, it also becomes guarded against love, and eventually joy and happiness. 

I truly believe that no matter how long a heart has been broken, no matter how long disappointment and regret have been taking root, no matter how long it has been walled-off, that the love of Christ is the healing balm that will uncover the brokenness and put it back together again. Whole. Complete.
 
...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 
may have the power, together with all the Lord's holy people, 
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep 
is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
{ephesians 3:17-19}

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

For Beautiful

"Do you want to see a pretty picture of me?"

I turned slightly in my chair to see if I could glimpse the owner of the sweet little voice that asked the question. There she was, sitting on her grandma's lap, honey-streaked hair in a blunt bob, sweet heart-shaped face looking at pictures on her mother's phone.

"Of course!" grandma said.

It struck me how innocent the question was. Do you want to see a pretty picture of me? It's wasn't boastful or prideful, or self-deprecating and sarcastic, but wrapped in the sweetness of a little girl's purity and sincerity.

It made me wonder when adults lose the innocence and pick up on the fact that as a general rule, asking others if they want to see a pretty picture of themselves isn't kosher. But we do offer ourselves up in other ways, like posting a selfie on FaceBook, Instagram, and other social media outlets. We ask do you want to see a pretty picture of me? without saying a word. But oftentimes, we don't feel like we can accept the praise or the criticism that may come with the responses, and we turn a simple question of affirmation into much more.

I don't think there is anything wrong with acknowledging a pretty picture--even when it is of yourself. It's when we let our hearts get filled with pride, or with hate, that we tend to get a little sideways. Because when the heart gets filled with pride, or with self-hate, we tend to focus a little more on self and little less on anything else. And self can be a dangerous thing to focus on for too long.

I've been there--am currently there, will probably come back to this spot, too--and I know how narrow my focus became when all I could focus on was myself. I know from experience that an intense self-focus can make your heart sick with pride and expectation and comparing and vanity. That doesn't always mean you think you are great all the time. It just means that you think about yourself all the time, and may not even realize it.

So God created man in his own image...
{genesis 1:27}

We were all created in God's perfect image. Which means we are all created in our own unique and beautiful way. My mom used to tell me that God never makes mistakes, and he doesn't make junk, but I never believed her. I thought he should have used a little more thought and care when he made me, because I didn't look like the images I was comparing myself to. And now I realize what a waste of time all that fretting over Seventeen magazine was, because there is nothing I can do or should do to change me. That doesn't mean I don't still do it, but it's still, 20 years later, a big waste of time.

Embrace your own special kind of beauty, flaws and imperfections and great features and all. (And then move on.)


Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Don't

The question stared me down from the page. I glared at it, shrouded in all it's innocence and purity.

When do you most feel God's pleasure?

The past couple of weeks have been tough for me. I feel like I've gotten very good at doing things wrong, and have little sense or wisdom for doing things right. Other people sometimes have a way of crushing one's spirit, even when they don't really mean to. And right now, unbeknowst to her, Jennie Allen is totally crushing my spirit. How could she possibly know that the bible study she wrote would send me into such a tailspin on a bright and sunny Sunday morning? She writes and teaches thousands of women, guiding them in their walk with Christ, urging them through tough homework assignments to look deeper into their souls, figure out who they are and what they stand for.

I stared at that miserable question again. Glared at it again. Challenged it in my mind. Hows this for an answer, Jennie Allen?

I. Don't.

In the preceding pages--"projects", she calls them--we were asked to write down five highlights from  certain stages of life when we felt pleasure in what we were doing. This was the beginning of the end for me, since I couldn't think of any highlights from the ages of 13-24, meaning there was nothing specific that I did for fun that I felt good about. And the earlier years of my life I could only come up with "horseback riding" as a highlight, because I love horses. So when it came to answering the questions in Project 3, I gathered my family around.

"What do you think I do well?" I asked them.

Cleaning! my sweet child exclaimed.

And it became obvious to me that they have no idea what I do well, either.

Maybe "doing well" has more than one definition.

And when Project 4 rolled around, asking me to look back at my five highlights, which I don't have, and then choose one word about why each moment was satisfying to me and chart it on a line, and then reflect and try to narrow down five strengths most evident in my life (you will have a bunch, no doubt, she writes, but try to narrow down to your top five), well, I just got angry and defiant and disappointed. Five strengths? I finally wrote "creating beauty in my home" because I like to decorate, but even that seems kind of lame. It's not like I'm super-intuitive at interior design, I just know what I like and I enjoy it.

God's pleasure. In my life. That's a very difficult thing to define, isn't it?

Or maybe it's just me.

But despite the not knowing and the angst that this causes, I feel a tug at my heart, a desire for more. Not the kind of "more" that we get when we go to TJ Maxx and buy eight things we never needed or really wanted to begin with, but a restless feeling. A sense that the life of "more" actually means a life entirely focused on God, not myself and my lack of superlatives.(I always wanted to win a superlative in high school, but alas, my "best smile" and "funniest personality" and "best looking" never got noticed by the others.)

If you feel like I do--meaning, you feel like you, too, are turning out a less-than-shiny and seemingly lackluster resume--I have some words of encouragement for you:

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
{1 corinthians 10:31}

Glory in the picking up of scattering of shoes, and being thankful for the life that fills them.

Glory in the baking of a healthy zucchini lasagna that no one will eat, and being thankful that there is food on the table.

Glory in going to work and then to Kroger, and doing it all over again the next day.

Glory in the taxi service to ballet and baseball and soccer and violin, to friend's houses and back again, to tournaments and costume fittings and drama club meeting and youth group and art class, and being thankful for the voices that fill the silence.  And then being thankful for the silence. ;)

Glory in the simple and the mundane, the boring, the day-to-day. the unromantic.

We were all made to do one thing, from the beginning of time: to glorify God.

Persevere, friends. Sometimes the most worthwhile things come out of the hardest places in life.

...to grant to those who mourn in Zion--
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, 
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
 that they may be called oaks of righteousness, 
the planting of the Lord, 
that he may be glorified.
{isaiah 61:3}

Friday, September 19, 2014

fireworks

My husband pressed his lips to mine softly this morning before he left. It's our morning ritual, but it made me think of a time seventeen years ago when he did the same thing.

Intimacy makes me uncomfortable. So does silence. I even have a difficult time looking someone straight in the eyes, so when we first started dating, I made sure that I was always chattering. About something, about nothing, about everything.

When I think back on that time, I have to give myself a little grace. I was only 20 years old--still a baby, really, although no twenty-year-old wants to hear that they are a baby (but they are). I didn't. But  I remember that cool summer night, standing under the stars by my car, as I chattered on about this, that and the other. He finally interrupted me with pressing his lips softly to mine. A gentle kiss to tell me everything he couldn't find the words to say.

Fireworks.




A successful marriage requires falling in love many times,
always with the same person.
{mignon mclaughlin}

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I AM

God.

What does that word bring to mind?

Sometimes love, mercy, grace. Sometimes wrath, punishment, anger.

Sometimes are you for real?

Sometimes I forget who God really is. The concept of God has become so familiar to me that I don't often stop and contemplate things like holiness and majesty.

My daughter is a strong-willed child. She doesn't often stop and consider how her actions and words will affect others; she is the cruise directer, and everyone else is just a passenger. She often directs and informs instead of asking, and then attempts to form her own mini-coup when she doesn't exactly get her way. It is at those times that I have to remind her that I am her mother, and I am her BOSS.

People like her don't like having a boss.

I am people like her.

I try to fit God into a (rather small) box--tiny, really--because his greatness is something that I forget on a regular basis. The conversations in my head swirl around ideas about his actual existence, his perseverance, his mercy, his grace, and--the biggest of them all--his right to tell me what to do. I think I have life pretty much figured out, and I know what's good for me. Except I don't, and we all know that, but that's what I pretend, anyway.

A peek inside my head:
Am I supposed to read this book and believe the words on the pages? Did Moses really part the Red Sea? Didn't Isaac have, like, issues after it became obvious his own father was going to sacrifice him? Are you really hearing my prayers? What if I don't want to pray? Do I have to obey you? Do you have a will for me? Do I have to obey you if I don't know what your will actually is? Do you really care how I spend my day, or if I decide to go to Kroger or not? How am I supposed to reconcile--well, the entire Bible--in my head? Do you really exist?

Oh, and could you heal my leg for me? I'd so appreciate that. Thanks, XOXO :)

And before I know it, I've formed my own mini-coup, because I don't think I need a boss to tell me what to do, but I sure do need a genie to make all my wishes come true.

I think we all know by now that God is no magic genie, and his truths aren't debatable.

When I am forming my own personal revolution against God, he will often bring Scripture to me that reminds me that my life is but a breath, and he is the creator of the universe.

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined it's measurements--surely you know!
{job 38:1-5}

This morning I sat and stared at those words, because in all my presumption and brashness, I have no answer.

My daughter doesn't back down easily, and neither do I. We will have another go round about who's the boss soon, and I will have to remind her that I AM. The boss. Her boss.

Just like he gently reminds me.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, 
says the Lord God, 
who is and who was and who is to come, 
the Almighty.
{revelation 1:8}

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Did--I Called My Daughter A Butthole

I called my daughter a butthole last night.

A fool gives full vent to her spirit, 
but a wise woman quietly holds it back.
{proverbs 29:11}*

What mother calls her own flesh and blood a butthole?

Apparently, you're looking at her. Or you're reading about her, anyway. And if I see you at Kroger today, please. Look away.

I'm hideous.

I also asked her if she needed an enema. (I got that one from a friend. You know who you are.)

To help clear things out, I explained.

When someone resorts to name-calling, the victim usually either cries really hard or walks off in a huff. I think I may have intended the former. My child chose the latter.

Do you see a woman who is hasty is her words?
There is no more hope for a fool than for her.
{proverbs 29:20}*

I mumbled something else under my breath that I won't repeat, because it was just crass. Not that calling someone a butthole isn't crass, but two crass things in one night is just below the belt. Besides, I pride myself on not being a crude person.

A woman of wrath stirs up strife,
and one given to anger causes much transgression.
{proverbs 29:22}*

Lately some things have been bothering me.

Numero uno: our schedule. It's just busy right now. I know many, many other parents who would be waving from this sinking ship right along with me, but they are too busy to take the time to wave, so we all just hope that the ship won't sink before we've gotten everyone where they need to be.

It starts to take a toll on a family.

Dinners are hurried, homework is quick, and time together is nil. Unless you count time in the car, which sometimes you just have to.

Yesterday, my sweet baby boy threw a fit because I said I'd play any game with him--any game!--EXCEPT Monopoly, because I hate that game. No Monopoly, because no game should last for 8 years, which is exactly how long Monopoly would last if you let it. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat. Plus I hate all those houses and hotels and properties and monopolies and then deciding if you will mortgage a property, and eventually I hate the banker, too, and I just want roll three doubles so I can stay in jail.

I think things are getting to him, too.


I heard a talk from Pricilla Shirer recently about pruning your vine. She had seen a guy with a prize-winning tomato on TV, and apparently his secret to growing such a beauty was pruning. And he meant major pruning, like cutting back other healthy tomatoes in order to win the prize for that one. So she turned it into a life lesson: sometimes we have to prune even the things that look like good things in our lives in order to win the prize for the important stuff.

Like family.

Sometimes things stress me out and instead of asking for wisdom in the middle of a crisis, I blow up and yell at people and call them buttholes. It's not something I intend to do, it's just something that happens. So I may need to prune, to say no to some things that seem like really great things in our lives right now, but that are taking a toll on family time.

Lysa TerKeurst

Lysa TerKeurst has a new book out called The Best Yes, and through some of the devotions I've read on the Proverbs 31 website, I've learned a very valuable thing: that sometimes the word no is actually my best yes. 

I told my daughter I was sorry, by the way, for calling her...well, you know what I called her. And she forgave me. And then I forgave myself for calling her a name, because no one is perfect all of the time, no matter how hard we try. (Besides, when the shoe fits, one should wear it.)

People, organizations, schools, churches, work, friends, family--the asking for more will never stop.

We just have to choose our very own Best Yes.

*Did you notice that all three of these verses were from Proverbs 29? That's because all three of them were in my daily Scripture reading--TODAY--which I took as a reprimand, like God was saying "Hey--I've given you what you need to successfully deal. Just ask. Don't loose your cool."

Noted, God.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Monday!

I have successfully started but not completed three chores this morning--well, four, if you count blogging as a chore, which, when you are struggling to find the right words to describe your very soul, could be accurate.

I started out cleaning the kitchen (why must this be a three-or-four-times-a-day thing?), but then decided that make-up was a must this morning. Most days I just don't bother with it, so why this morning was so important...no wait, I know why. I had a coupon yesterday for Revlon. Buy one eyeliner, get a mascara FREE! Who doesn't want a free mascara? I'm a big fan of Sephora, and have in the past attributed much joy to that place, but CVS is a nice stand-in when you have a coupon for free mascara. Anyways, I was excited to try my new stuff.  Yes. These are the things that excite me. (In fact, I have been known to get lost for undisclosed amounts of time watching make-up technique videos on Sephora.com. Don't judge.)

After my make-up session, I passed through my bedroom that a) needs to be dusted (it's time when people start writing their names on your bedside table) and b) needs it's sheets on the bed to be changed, but then I remembered that I was going to clean the kitchen, so I went back in there, but decided that I needed to write an email instead, which I started but didn't complete because when I got up to go get the list of email addresses, I noticed that I hadn't written out my week on my chalk board in the mudroom, which is a MUST, otherwise I am lost and wouldn't show up anywhere. Which sometimes wouldn't be bad. So I erased last weeks schedule, but didn't write anything just yet because I looked at the chalkboard and thought hey! It's empty! I don't have anything to do! Hahahahahahaha....

I also wanted to put some pictures in the frames that have been patiently waiting on my bookshelves.

Which reminds me.

I want to show ya'll something. It's still a work in progress (projects that I am associated with typically are), but it's well on it's way to being completed! Seriously. It's been like a year in the making. {insert clapping and cheering}

Introducing: Gallery Wall

With a little help from Young House Love, I started here:



And then got here:



And finally, hours and measurements and nail holes later, got here:



I'm still waiting for two 6x6 frames to come in the mail.

Patience.

Now these frames are ready to fill! And then we decided that we never really loved these green office walls, and that they really should be another color.

I'll share the results of that project with you when I get done. Probably somewhere around 2015/16, I'd say.

Have a fab Monday!

Friday, September 12, 2014

FMF: Ready

I haven't done a Five Minute Friday in, like, forever, and while I don't want to do one every Friday, I do miss it occasionally. So! Today it is!

FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY!

{insert horns blowing and cheering and applause}

You can participate in FMF, too, even if you don't have a blog. Just write your thoughts in the comments section. Or write them on a piece of paper and fold it up and keep it somewhere safe, where you can discover it after you've forgotten that you ever wrote a FMF post, only to reread your thoughts and feelings and think to yourself, Hey. I'm not too bad at this writing thing!

READY

"Can I wear make-up to school today?"

"Can I wear one of your dresses?"

"Can I wear high heels?"

"Can I go to the game tonight with some friends?"

"Mom? Mom!"

She used to call me mommy, sometimes mama. Mom is like a curse word, a fracas in my ear. I want to reject the word mom. I want her to call me mommy. I want to tell her to go back upstairs to her room and take off her lipgloss and get out her My Little Ponys (which we still haven't given away) and play. I want to grab her and wrap my arms around her so tight, to squeeze her so she can't get away, so she can't grow up.

She's my baby, caught between becoming a teenager and staying a little girl, ready to trade that toothless little girl grin in for a more mature, polished, sophisticated version.

I'm not ready for this.

I'm caught with her, stuck in the wanting and push and the pull of life, of growing up. Of leaving.

Because I know. One day it's lipgloss and mascara, the next it's college and a house of her own.

One day she'll leave my house, and my house will be missing the messes and the My Little Ponys and the American Girl Dolls and the Littlest Pet Shops, the things that say a little girl must live here. That's what she's supposed to do. Right?

But what if it breaks my heart into a million little pieces, scattered across the floor, mixed in with my tears and my ache and my reflections of yesterday.

That's not a question. More introspection than anything.

She's standing here, almost as tall as me, ready to take on the world, as only a pre-teen can.

She's ready.



Spread your wings, my little butterfly...
Cause wings were made to fly.
{wings, little mix}



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Faith

I didn't set out to get lost.

I guess most people don't.

But somewhere along the way, I became unsure of myself, of who I am and what I stand for. I started looking to other people to tell me my worth. I started agreeing just to agree so we could keep the peace instead of voicing my opinions, because I wasn't really sure what my opinion was. I started listening to other people's plan for my life. The decisions I did make for myself tended to be impulsive and hasty, leaving the people who knew me best wondering if I was capable of handling the real world.

And then there's the whole "will of God" thing, as in, am I even close to it, and what is it, anyway?

I've listened to other people for a long, long time. I've believed Cosmo when they gave me their definition of pretty, and I didn't fit the mold. I've believed bible studies who have said that a submissive woman is one who bites her tongue and doesn't give her opinion. I've believed music that said that guys only like girls who are sexy and assertive. I've been scared of disappointing my family, afraid of making someone angry, afraid of pushing someone away, making them not like me anymore. 

It's all left me feeling a little bit restless

Sometimes I don't think there's much worse than not really knowing who you are. Than not being comfortable in your own skin because you don't really know what your own skin feels like. Than putting on someone else's opinion and having it weigh heavy on your shoulders and scratchy on your skin. I've forgotten how to dream my own dreams.

Lost. 

It's not what I intended, but it's where I've ended up.



In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will keep your paths straight.
{proverbs 3:6}

I have always wondered what God's will for me is. How am I supposed to figure that out when I don't have a plan written out for me? It's been a concern of mine for a long time that I haven't been in His will, because I don't exactly know what His will is. 

Sometimes this confuses me and then I stop thinking about it entirely.

That's when I feel lost.

I have always heard that all of us are broken people. But I've always held onto just a little bit of pride, thinking, of course I have some issues (doesn't everybody?) but I'm not completely broken. Because completely broken would mean I needed someone to fix me, and that I can't do it myself, and I don't really like that so much. 

It occurred to me on Sunday evening, after meeting with some friends for a bible study, that I am completely broken. That most of the time, I don't know what I'm doing when I'm parenting or when I'm leading a bible study or when I'm being a wife or a good neighbor or a friend. Sometimes I think I know what other people expect from me, but living up to spoken or unspoken expectations is unrealistic. 

Our hearts must be completely His before we can start to dream.
{jennie allen, restless}

God asks one thing of me, and it's one of the hardest things for me to do. 

Faith.

Believing in what we cannot see, living for what we cannot fully comprehend. 

Faith.

That as the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus will do just that. Perfect my faith. Or lack thereof.

We have the benefit of already knowing the story when we read about Moses parting the Red Sea or Daniel going down into the lions den, but those people had their own set of doubts and issues, just like me, and they had to live by faith that God was going to do what He promised. 

We were made to do great things, but we cannot live with motives unchecked. 
If our motives are the glory of God, 
we have tremendous freedom to dream with hearts that are completely his.
{jennie allen, restless}

I have lived a long time for me and focused on me. It's a lonely place to be. It can't afford to let anyone else in, including God, because everyone else is a threat to my sole focus--me. 

I started out in life feeling lost, trying and failing to discover myself, and I've exhausted myself trying make my own path when one has been laid out for me, if I would just have the faith to step out.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
{hebrews 11:1}

Monday, September 8, 2014

Who Am I?

There are days that go by that I don't think about my mom much. She's more of the background of my life on those days, part of the tapestry that, woven together, makes me. Some days, though, I miss her in an acute sort of way, the way an amputee might miss their leg. There is a deep ache there, a longing for something I used to have that has been taken away from me. I can still feel her, still breathe her, she is in every pore of my body on those days. And I miss the little things. Her handwritten notes. Her tennis-shoe clad feet. Her hazel eyes.

I miss my mom, but sometimes, the missing her gives way to an even greater ache in my soul. I miss my family. I miss the familiarity of stories told about me. "When you were 4, you used to..." I miss the ease with which family communicates, the unspoken signals, the inside jokes, the intimate knowledge that comes from living together for so many years.

I adored the photos, every one of them, and the mismatched frames--the history of quiet honest moments that they represented, the history of a real family...Sometimes people do want to inherit your junk, even psychically, and some people don't have enough family.
{bridget asher, the pretend wife}

I'd like to know how much like, or how different, I am from my mom. I'd like someone to say to me, "At your age, your mom was a real beauty," or "At your age, your mom was a fighter," or "At your age, your mom could be so stubborn." I'd like something--anything--that could link me back to the family I used to have, before death marched in. Before it was all snatched out of my hands before I had the chance to argue. To plead. To beg. To fight.

Questions like these remain unanswered, though, as I muddle through life, making my own traditions, my own mistakes, my own familiarity.

My mom and my grandfather were sick at the same time. In their own way, they were trying to protect the younger generations from facing such a tragedy--after all, they were both dying, two skeletons dancing the same death dance. They had both lost their hair. They had both lost their weight and their muscle and their tone. It just happened faster, more aggressively for her father than for her, but the toll on all of us was the same. A member taken. A family slowly imploding.

Life experiences have a way of shaping us, of molding us, of teaching us who we are and what we are made of. We know to avoid crossing busy streets without caution and to not have sex before we get married. We know that what we want is 2.5 kids and a picket fence and a medium-sized dog named Scamp or Rosie. But instead of letting my life experiences shape me, I allowed my reaction to those experiences to keep me numb and distant, and it has left me staring into the mirror, into the face of a person I sometimes don't recognize, wondering who I really am.

I said you can have whatever you like.
You want it, I got it
Go get it, I'll buy it.
{T.I., Whatever You Like}

It's interesting, isn't it, that we so often see how money can corrupt honest people, how power can taint the innocent, and yet I am still so drawn to it, enamored by it's pull, it's glamour, it's prestige. I desire more. Sometimes I desire more, and I think it's all about living room furniture, and I get upset because I don't have or can't get exactly what I'm looking for. But this restlessness in my spirit, this desire for more, this ache--this goes beyond what money can buy. A sofa and a coffee table will always leave me gasping for breath, pleading for more, because they didn't have any life-breath in them in the first place. They don't tell me who I am, or the path of life I should take, or where I should go. They are a pair. A sofa and a coffee table, silent but steady, made to be used and sat on and perhaps even admired as pretty. But I have mistakenly put so much more on the things in my life, from patio furniture to paint colors, asking these lifeless things to give me life, to identify me, to give me joy and peace.

You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay.
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it
"You did not make me"?
Can the pot say to the potter
"You know nothing"?
{isaiah 29:16}

But I can only receive my identity from the One who made me.

I miss my mom and I miss my family. I miss me.

Identity is a strange thing. When you're searching for it, it is a foggy thing, it's edges blurred and barely discernible. I have found myself asking over and over again, "I'm lost. Do you know who I am?"

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit lives in you?
{1 corinthians 6:19}

I am:
chosen (isaiah 43:10)
redeemed (isaiah 43:1)
loved (isaiah 43:4)
remembered (isaiah 49:16)
secure (deuteronomy 33:12)
able (habbakuk 3:19)
called (1 peter 2.9)

I am a child of God. I am His.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Your Day Was...?

"Sooo...how was your day?" Fine.

"What did you learn?" Nothing.

"Who did you sit with at lunch?" No one.

"If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?"

My son looked at me with doubt and a little concern in his eyes. I could tell he was suspicious of my question, like if he told me, I'd actually try to beam said child up into outer space.

I am an over-protective mother.

JJ: Why do you want to know?

Me: I'm just curious.

JJ: Why are you curious?

Me: I was just wondering if an alien spaceship came to your class, who you'd want it to take.

JJ: No one. I don't know why you're asking.

I read a blog post recently about different ways to ask your kids how school was without asking "How was school today?", but my guy wasn't taking the bait. He was skeptical of this departure from our normal after school conversation, and he wasn't about to tell me who was his least favorite kid in the class.

The next day, I tried a different tact.

Me: So, who did you sit with at lunch today?

JJ: No one.

Me: You mean you sat with no one? Like no one sat next to you?

JJ: No.

Me: No one sat beside you? Diagonal from you? NEAR YOU AT ALL?

JJ: Well...Logan sat two seats away from me.

He seemed okay with it. In fact, he wasn't bothered at all by the fact that this Logan seemed to be the only ally at an otherwise empty lunch table. I tried imagining my baby--my baby--happily sitting at lunch with absolutely no one to talk to you or sit by, but all I could see was a picture in my head of him slumped over, dejected, while his classmates sat somewhere else. My imagination hurt my heart. I wanted more info. So I peppered him with questions about who he's friends with, where they sit, who they sit with, and why wasn't he sitting with them and hey, by the way, you need to make more friends. I gave him suggestions. Say hi to people. Sit with people. Play football at recess. Engage. Play. Have fun. (FYI, this is not the way to get information from your child. They tend to get very irritated with the spray of questions.)




He finally cut me off, glaring at me from behind his black-framed glasses, blue eyes angry. "I have five friends at school, mom, I just don't need anymore friends!!"

Um. Okay. But I disagree. I think you'll be happier with more friends and also some extra people at your lunch table, mister, I'll have you know this right now.

He's an introvert. He doesn't engage other people very often, but waits for them to ask him to play. And sometimes, even then, he would rather spend his time alone than with someone. While I am borderline introvert, this is something I don't understand. Doesn't every kid want someone to play with? I've read that it takes a lot of energy for an introvert to be around people, and the way that they recharge is to have some alone time. He fits the bill. So he's an introvert who doesn't want to sit with people at lunch so he can recharge his battery. He's okay with that.

What if I'm not?

I'm not okay with him sitting by himself at lunch, even if he is. I'm not okay with him not being friends with more people, even if he is. I'm not okay with him playing something different at recess when everyone else is playing football, even if he is.

Crap. Does this mean I'm not okay with who my child is?

It's really been bothering me for a while. Every year that goes by in school, he becomes more reserved, less engaged, more apt to spend time alone than to go outside and find someone. I feel like I'm responsible for his social standing, and the plans I made for him in my head aren't necessarily panning out. I'm anxious for him. I know how kids are, especially as they get older. I know the people who get made fun of, the kids who are singled out, the ones who are bullied and harassed, and I don't want my baby--my baby--to be one of those kids.

I hear the chorus line now: Just let him be himself. He has friends. He'll make new ones. He'll be fine. What are you so worried about?

I'm worried about all the bad things that I hear about actually happening to me. I worry about his happiness. I worry about his decisions, his well-being. As shallow as it may sound, I worry about his social graces. I worry about failing as a parent, not teaching him how to be an introvert who is outgoing in a very gregarious, social society. I just want what is best for him, even when it seems shallow and petty and relatively minor.

I watched an episode of Modern Family the other day. Claire took Luke to see a psychiatrist, because she wasn't sure he was normal. (Sometimes I wonder about him, too, but I don't admit that to just anybody because it might be weird to wonder about a fictional character's character.) Anyway, at the end of the show, she admitted that sometimes she gets an idea in her head and can't let it go, and then she focuses on it until that all she thinks about.

She sounds a little like me. Or maybe I sound like her.

But it made me stop and think for a minute. Am I so focused on JJ's social awkwardness (he is sometimes totally awkward) that I am blowing it out of proportion?

Maybe.

Sometimes kids just have to make their own way. I can't do it for him. He gets to decide who he is and what he's about, and even though I've already decided in my head, it's not a decision that I get to make. He is his own person.

Give me some advice. Tell me what you did or currently do, to encourage and nurture your child rather than chastise them for being someone different from who you think they should be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TWOTS (The World of Travel Sports)

The World of Travel Sports is not what I expected.

Of course, I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting.

Entering into this world brings on an assortment of insecurities that you may not even realize you had. How did I not know before today that my son runs weird? And do I look funny if I am not wearing the team tee shirt to the games?

I suppose one enters The World of TS for one of two reasons: a) because the child playing the sport is so in love with said sport that they simply cannot get enough of it during the regular season, or b) because the parents of the child playing said sport know that in order to even be considered for team sports at the middle school and high school level, you need to play travel. Liking the sport is helpful.
google images

I have learned of the latter of these two reasons only because I know parents who have older children who have tried to play sports for their schools, and these parents have found out that playing travel is not only advantageous due to extra playing time, it is essential to making a team, and they have passed this knowledge down to me. I guess what I choose to do with it is up to me.

I feel like I may have just sold my soul to TS. (Travel Sports.)

And given them a small portion of our life savings.

And we haven't even had to do an overnight travel. Yet.

My son is not aggressively competitive, unless he is being directly challenged to a game of rummy by his sister (or a game of imaginary baseball by his mother, which I will never, ever, ever win. Ever. If there was an imaginary travel baseball team, I would  not be welcome.), but he does like to win and wants to do his best. So he stands in the 90 degree heat with no shade and no breeze and plays second base even though it's not his favorite, and he does this for three games in a row even though he's tired because he's been convinced, just like we have, that TWOTS (The World of Travel Sports) holds the key to his success in high school baseball. At nine years old, he is juggling more cones in the air than a circus clown.

Only because he's also playing rec soccer, which is wreaking havoc on our baseball practice schedule.

Those TWOTS people. Who put them in charge, anyway?

Wait a second...did we? The people who put their faith in TWOTS, hoping that one day, their son or daughter will be good enough to make the all-star team, the middle school team, the high school team, and then get a scholarship to a college and play for them, too, so they can graduate from college with a degree in marketing and get a job and play baseball on the weekends. The occasional weekend. And in the mean time, we eye the coaches who are eyeing our kids, hoping that with enough private lessons and practice and experience, ours will be the chosen ones who get to play.



I'm not trying to be all down on TS; actually, I don't mind TWOTS, at least not where I am right now. The team isn't aggressive, they learn from losing (which they do on a frequent basis), the coaches are patient and agreeable, and it's a good fit for my son, who does actually love baseball enough to want to play year-round. But I don't know if what it takes to get to the next level, the politics and the rear-kissing involved--I don't know if I have it in me.

The main thing I want to do is support my son, hence my foray into TWOTS in the first place. I won't say I've never considered his future baseball career, have never hoped for him that he could play for his school, or have never once considered pushing him harder for the payoff later. I am his parent, after all, and want the absolute best for him. But I am trying to remind myself that at nine, he should be having fun and learning the game, not planning his entire high school career right now.

Hello, Travel Sports. It looks like we're gonna be partners for awhile.