Ten Signs the End of the World is Near

10. When doing laundry, I won’t have to distinguish between four different piles of my husband’s clothes on the floor (Are these pants to wear again?  Was this shirt ever put away? Is this just the spot where he got undressed?).

9. My son will eat a vegetable.

8. We will add to our emergency savings fund two months in a row instead of depleting it.

7. We will go longer than a month and a half without bringing one of the kids to the doctor.

6.  I will go away from the kids for more than four hours and not have a baby and/or appendix removed.

5. We will attempt to sell a house, and it will sell in a reasonable amount of time.

4. I will get my hair trimmed while it still resembles the previous haircut.

3. We will have a child who does not try to climb out of her crib prior to 18-months of age, thus resulting in no need for a toddler bed before she is emotionally ready for a toddler bed, nor giving up naps and bedtime due to the freedom no child that small should have.

2. Our son will not give his sister her yearly haircut, always on the right side of her head, thus sparing her from the half-mullet look she has sported for the majority of her almost three years of life.

1. A trumpet will sound, and Jesus will descend from heaven on the clouds.

This list is what my mind does while putting away laundry!  For more top ten fun, visit ohamanda.com .

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Finding a Moment of Thanks

As I woke up this morning, I immediately was thankful for a new day.  To say that almost all of the 24 hours of yesterday was horrible would not be that much of an exaggeration.  Even after the day should’ve been over, Hannah Grace repeatedly came downstairs while Matt and I tried our best to unwind; she didn’t go to bed until 11.  Chloe cried on and off all night until Matt gave up and brought her in bed with us.  She became our first child to roll out of our bed and onto the floor, giving me a mild heart attack in the middle of the night.

As I struggle through exhaustion this morning, I look back on yesterday and still do not know what I should’ve done differently.  The two oldest were blatantly defiant all day. They didn’t merely find trouble numerous times; they repeatedly sought it out, doing the same wrong things over and over.

By 6:00, I was done.  I was hot, and after hearing ‘no’ and that my children no longer loved me numerous times during the course of the day, I was physically and emotionally tired. It was 86 degrees in our house, thanks to the energy-saving plan I chose to participate in during what will surely go down as the hottest summer on record, and Caleb was sitting on the step, refusing to go up to his room as I had asked.  I had no more energy and no more ideas–I had already taken away every privilege I could remember–and Matt wasn’t going to get home for another hour-and-a-half.  I felt like I was going to lose control in any moment, and I didn’t want to.

In the middle of the floor where I was sitting on my knees, I grabbed my face and squeezed my eyes shuts.  I started to pray a desperate prayer: God help me. Show me what to do!  I don’t know what to do! I sat silent with eyes still closed waiting to hear an answer.  I heard nothing.

And when I looked up and saw my son still sitting on that step, laughing with his sisters, the rage boiled within me. “Go upstairs NOW!” I yelled louder and longer than even I knew I was capable.

Chloe cried, Caleb looked at me in shock, but Hannah Grace’s reaction I will never forget.

She smiled, not a mocking smile, but a genuine smile.  And in the softest voice, she spoke the kindest words I have ever heard:

“Mama, I like you.  I like you, Mama.”

Somehow, this little girl no longer seemed like a little girl, almost three.  She sounded like a wise teacher, a teacher who knew exactly what her student needed to hear.

She walked over to where I was sitting and put one hand in mine, the most gentle touch I have ever felt. “I love you, Mama,” she said, emphasizing her choice of word, and then she kissed me on my lips while wrapping her arms around my neck.

The other children noticed and began to follow her lead.  Chloe toddled over and opened her mouth.  She kissed me, leaving a trail of wet all over my mouth, totally disgusting and totally wonderful.  She wrapped her baby arms around me, surprising me by the actual hug she was giving.  Then Caleb got off the stairs.  He came, adding his embrace to that of his two sisters.  I could hardly balance, three children hanging on me at the same time.  As Caleb pulled away, he, too, kissed me on the lips.

Chloe toddled back to the steps, Caleb following behind her, but Hannah Grace remained. Taking her soft hands, she gently slid them down my cheeks and said, “I love you, Mama.  I really love you.”  She continued to repeat her words, cupping my face, as if trying to ensure I believed her.

A few, short minutes later, I was still waiting for God to tell me what to do, as the disobedience continued.  The night ahead was long, and I didn’t get the rest I needed. However, in that brief moment on the floor, God answered my prayer, differently than I had hoped, but in the way He knew I needed.  My spirit was lifted as I had never experienced before, and for that, I am thankful.

Starting today, I’d like to use Fridays as a way to reflect on the week and find at least one specific thing for which I can be thankful.  I’d love for you to join me, as well! You can list your thanks in the comment section or provide a link for your own post.  We’ve all had different kinds of weeks, some wonderful, some stressful, but let’s all choose to end them the same–thankful.

Sweating and Swimming

As a mother of three kids very close together in age, I’m constantly facing the internal struggle of whether or not to leave the house with my children.  I want them to enjoy their childhood and experience story time at the library, free summer movies, and play dates, but I also don’t want to kill them.

So as I left the house today with lunches made, towels and sunscreen packed, three children dressed in swimsuits, I also left with a mild sense of dread, for based on past experience, this day at my friend’s pool would be anything but relaxing.  For me, that is.

Getting there is half the battle, and boy that battle was a tough one today!  For children who were excited about swimming, they sure didn’t get ready with much enthusiasm.  And Chloe–does her body have a little sensor that indicates when her mommy has just put a new (cloth) diaper on her, allowing her to release the effects of her iron medicine plus prune juice?  The bathing suit that took ten minutes to get on the wiggly baby now had to come off.  Ten more minutes to wipe a squirmy heinie and put a bathing suit back on, and we were on our way (again).

Once we arrived, the other half of the battle could begin.  Before I had even finished setting out the kids’ lunch on their towels, Caleb and Hannah Grace had each taken a turn pulling the valve from the lemonade pitcher, releasing a wonderful mess all over the table and floor of the screened-in porch. I was so happy I got to clean up those messes twice, and apparently, so was Chloe.  While I was cleaning, she was eating everyone else’s lunch.  Peanut butter sandwiches, whole grapes–everything this mommy had restricted from this one-year-old she put in her mouth.  Of course the cut grapes and cracker pieces I set out for her remained untouched.

The pool is a wonderful, refreshing idea for combatting this horrid Georgia heat, yet the pool only works if one gets in it. Hannah Grace won’t get in the pool, Caleb won’t get out of it, and Chloe won’t stay put.  She wants in the pool, and less than 30 seconds later she wants out.  I felt like a jack-in-the-box climbing in and out and in and out, chasing after the baby one minute, and yelling at Hannah Grace the next to leave the lemonade alone.  It’s near impossible to watch three children when they’re all in different places. And when it’s 96 degrees outside and probably that percentage humidity, if I’m not soaking in a pool, I want to be inside–not chasing after children!

And so, I’d like to apologize to the group of mothers who sat beneath the umbrella, enjoying their lunch and adult conversation, jumping in the pool to cool themselves, and then resuming social time: I would’ve loved to socialize, as well.  In fact, I am a pretty pleasant person, but seeing as my baby won’t stay in a float for two minutes before climbing out, my middle child wants to be pushed on the swing–the only child, by the way, who wants to swing instead of swim–and my oldest child insists on spraying every kid in the face with the water gun but then cries when anyone sprays him back (sorry about that, too), I think embracing my role as antisocial, crazy mother is best.

And while I’m apologizing, I’d also like to apologize to any mothers of only girls.  My son doesn’t understand the concept of dropping his pants out-of-view before peeing behind the shed.  We are working on modesty in my home, but that lesson hasn’t stuck, yet.  I am pleased that at least Hannah Grace did not take her bathing suit off this time as she did at a previous swimming engagement.

And to the woman who brought the 100-calorie snack bag–no, you didn’t finish your snack, but my children did.  While I was putting Hannah Grace in time-out for taking your food, Caleb came out of the pool and ate the rest. Think of it this way–now you only had a 50-calorie snack.

So to my dear friend, I always appreciate your invitations to come swim, but I don’t think I can bring my children when there is a large group. That, and the fact that I don’t think you’re going to invite us again since my daughter peed on your carpet.

Faith Like a Child

I can’t get anything by Caleb; he is too bright.  Always asking questions, he stores away the answers in his computer of a mind, a mind that does not forget.  I have to make sure I answer Caleb truthfully and carefully because, chances are, we will come back to our conversation again someday.

When Caleb asked me how his baby sister got in my tummy, I was happy to give him just enough information that he needed without the extra details that his three-year-old mind at the time didn’t need to explore.

“Mommy and Daddy wanted and prayed for a baby, so God put her there.”

That answer seemed to suffice.  However, Caleb did not find that answer sufficient for how his sister came out of my tummy.

“God got her out.”

“But HOW?”

“Umm…I’m not exactly sure how; the doctor did something…”

“But you were THERE!!!”

“Yes, but I had my eyes closed.  Why don’t you ask your father when he gets home?  He was there, too.  Maybe his eyes were open.”

And we moved on from that conversation, Caleb satisfied for the moment knowing that he could ask his daddy again, later. I felt a little guilty because I never wanted to lie to my son (yes, my eyes were closed for part of the process, but I have a pretty good idea of how each of my children emerged!) or pass all the responsibility for educating him onto my husband.  The truth is I just wasn’t prepared for that question, yet, so I didn’t know how to answer.

There have been other times that I haven’t been prepared for how to answer Caleb, but I knew the question was too important to find a benign answer or wait until Daddy came home.

“How did Jesus make people when he was here?”

We had just finished reading a story about Jesus in Hannah Grace’s children’s Bible when Caleb asked this question.

“I’m really not sure how Jesus makes people. He’s God and can do anything.”

I started to answer, fumbling along, wondering again how much detail Caleb would need to be happy.  I really didn’t want to give a sex talk, yet, but Caleb started to shake his head, furrowed his brow, indicating I was heading down the wrong path.

“No.  When he was here, how did he make people?”

I looked at him for a minute, and then it hit me what he was really asking.

“You mean, because Jesus wasn’t in heaven, he was on Earth, how was he able to make people?”

Yes.”

Oh, brother.  Caleb was essentially asking me about the Trinity.  I was beginning to think the sex talk would have been a little more straightforward, and nervousness began to grip me.  I didn’t even understand the Trinity–it’s one of the mysteries of the Christian faith–so how would I explain something so complex in language that a three-year-old could digest?

What if I actually said something heretical when trying to explain this concept to Caleb?  What if I influenced Caleb to believe something incorrect? Or worse, what if Caleb thought everything I was trying to explain just sounded crazy, and he didn’t want to believe?

I had this same fear when Caleb asked me about the crucifixion earlier in the year.  Jesus dying, Jesus rising from the dead, an angel appearing to the women–how could I expect Caleb to believe the things that I believed when they sounded so outlandish?

And I remembered two verses: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate'” (I Corinthians 1: 18-19).  Yes, the message can sound foolish, far-fetched to our human minds, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

And then God comforted me: “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it'” (Luke 18: 16-17). Caleb had everything he needed to believe; he had the innocence and faith that we adults sometimes lose.

Having faith like a child doesn’t mean becoming unintelligent; God created the little mind that is always working in Caleb and wants it to grow. Instead, having this faith means learning how to trust.  Caleb could believe what I was trying to teach him because he trusts me, that I love him and will teach him what is right.  Likewise, I can have faith in God because of what I trust about His character–He is good, He is love, He is holy.  As Caleb grows and learns about the character of God, he will no longer need to rely on his faith in me to believe; he will develop his own faith in God.

More important than the doctrine I try to teach is the life I actually live.  And while our conversations are important, Caleb will learn more from my example. Am I loving as God commanded,  serving others before myself, trying to model the life of Jesus and follow His will?  These questions are the ones that I need to know how to answer. My hope is that if I can answer them in the affirmative, Caleb won’t find having faith like a child quite as difficult when he’s an adult.

When ‘I’m Sorry’ Doesn’t Cut It

Before I had even joined the Air Force, I had memorized its core values: Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do.  As a candidate in Officer Training School, I saw these values played out many times in different scenarios meant to teach us what these values look like in practice.  What I learned was not new to me; I was raised to believe I should do what’s right, even when no one is looking, and always work hard, yet I appreciated having these succinct phrases to name what I believed.

After this past week, I’m starting to think that more organizations should adopt them, too.

This year has been the year for public apologies.  From politicians expressing remorse for their inappropriate relationships to sports figures apologizing for their reckless behavior on and off the field to a CEO lamenting the worst oil spill ever decimating the Gulf Coast, I’ve watched countless individuals offer their confessions over the air waves.  Yet I have to wonder, for whose benefit are these apologies?

In this day and age of attorney-crafted public statements, we all realize that for many of these people, they are simply doing what a public figure is supposed to do after messing up.  As far as true acts of contrition, there are none.  Can one truly have remorse for an action if one’s public statement is crafted in such a way as to admit no guilt?

Instead of spending energy crafting the perfect apology, I have a better idea: Do what’s right the first time.  Don’t cheat on your wife, don’t berate a line judge with profanities, and don’t cut corners in your business.  Integrity first. Service before Self. Excellence in all we do.

I believe in forgiveness as I have been forgiven much by my God, yet I also believe that actions have consequences.  True repentance brings with it the acceptance of these consequences.  True repentance isn’t something that happens merely because one gets caught, and true repentance isn’t found in the pen of the lawyer.

As I watch the live feeds of oil gushing into the once clear Gulf waters, volunteers caring for pelicans covered in the thick sludge, I’m not concerned with anyone’s public statement. The fact is this tragedy never should have happened.

Living life by a strict code of conduct isn’t always easy.  Controlling one’s emotions isn’t always easy.  Staying faithful isn’t always easy.  But I’d imagine, neither is the clean-up when one doesn’t.

Father’s Day 2010

We all know the stereotype for moms–a Wonder Woman who rushes to put a healthy meal on the table for her family while ensuring little Billy’s soccer uniform is washed for practice before assuming the role of chauffeur for the next couple hours of her day.  Moms make sure the house runs smoothly, and they manage to remember things like teacher gifts at Christmas and the end of the year.

However,  for as important a mom is to the family, the dad carries the largest burden for the overall health and success of his children.  We’ve all heard the statistics–the majority of teenagers who end up serving time in juvenile detention centers, entering lives of crime, or the unthinkable, taking their own lives, do not have a father present.  There are even statistics within the Christian faith for the likelihood of a child choosing to attend church as an adult; the largest determining factor is whether or not the father attends, regardless of the attendance of the mother.

The role of a dad is crucial, and it’s only right to say ‘thank you’ to all those fathers who take their role seriously.  I remember my own father had a wooden plaque in his office with a painting of fathers with their children, and the inscription read, “Anybody can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.”

I have been blessed by three daddies in my own life.  First there is the daddy who came to every one of his daughter’s gymnastics meets; the daddy who reserved time for father-daughter dinner dates and listened to this worrier panic at the thought of a low ‘A’ in biology; the daddy who sat next to his daughter on her bed, his arm around her, during one of her last days as a ‘Vignola’ when she was overcome with emotion. ‘Thank you’ to my daddy.

Then there is the daddy who has forgone the luxuries of things for the richness of family, the daddy who works long hours and comes home tired yet finds the energy for bath time and stories, the daddy who spends his day of rest making pancakes for his kids and visiting the library looking for books about dinosaurs and stuffed rabbits.  ‘Thank you’ to my children’s daddy.

And finally, there is the daddy who taught his son about the importance of faith, the daddy who used vacation time for family trips or days to get ready for Santa’s coming, the daddy whose example helped make my kids’ daddy the amazing father that he is.  ‘Thank you’ to my husband’s daddy.

Happy Father’s Day to all the men who are not just someone’s father but a child’s daddy.

Rediscovering Me

Life has a funny way of working out.

The other night when I was getting ready for bed, I began to think how I loved writing and questioned why I hadn’t been writing all along. This past year of my life has felt that much more full since recording all of my ideas; I needed this outlet.  However, this love of writing is not a new discovery–I just allowed it to get a little dusty, tucked away in the corner of a shelf.

When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be an author when I grew up.  I loved reading and  creating my own stories, and I knew an author was what I was meant to be.

A few years later I learned a fancier term: journalist.  Then I told everyone that I was going to be a journalist.  I constantly had to explain myself when people would respond to my desire by whipping out a pretend microphone and the stock sentence, “This is Jennifer Vignola, reporting live from the scene,” –that that wasn’t what I wanted to do.  I wanted to write.

So with the passion for writing that I developed as a child, I entered college without a clue as to my major and eventually became an English teacher.  Instead of writing myself, I attempted to teach those who hated the written word to write and then wondered why I didn’t look forward to my job in the morning.

Truth be told, I went years without writing, except for the required essays that I wrote as a student.  Somewhere along the way in high school, feeling the pressure of AP classes and competitive gymnastics, I pushed aside my love.

My incessant need to plan every moment of my life got in the way, too.  I always knew I wanted to be a mother and that I wanted to stay home when I had children, so I spent hours in the career counselor’s office trying to figure out what career would fit the best with motherhood.

I had so many interests, and there were a plethora of careers that sounded appealing: journalist, lawyer, psychologist, actress–too many to decide.  So when I went to college and agonized over my decision that first year, I decided to pick a career that used my passion for literature, forgetting about my passion for writing because I had stopped doing it.

I wanted a career that made a difference in the world, so teaching seemed the best choice.  If I decided to continue to work after my children (who didn’t yet exist) were grown, my teaching schedule would coincide easier with their own schedules than another career.  The only problem with this plan was that teaching wasn’t my passion--teaching others about one’s passion isn’t the same as doing one’s passion. I had chosen my career based on external factors that hadn’t yet come into play rather than my heart’s desire.

Luckily, I discovered I was in the wrong place before investing too much time in that career.  I left teaching and joined the Air Force.  For the first time, I looked forward to going to work in the morning.  I loved the discipline, the ritual, and the challenge of leading others. But shortly after joining, my husband and I found out we were going to have a baby a little sooner than we had planned, and I knew I was no longer in the right career.

So after three years and three children, my husband bought me a laptop.  He knew I had a passion sitting tucked away on a shelf that needed to come down and get a good dusting. And for the last year, I have written, and writing has changed me.

My children are my number one priority right now, but I can still challenge my mind and do what I love while giving them my full attention.  Writing is not a career, yet, but I now have a purpose in line with my passion.

I’m not sure why it took 11 years after I graduated from college to figure out what I knew when I was eight. Maybe God had a particular student I was supposed to reach or an airman I needed to lead.  Or perhaps God was shaking His head as I meandered along different paths while He gently nudged me back on the one He knew was best.

I’ll never know for sure, but I know now that, for the first time, this course feels right.

What did you want to do when you grew up?  Are you doing it now?  Share in the comments!

The Master’s Course

Last night I missed my husband and began thinking about our marriage.  In two weeks we will be married eight years.  Eight years.  I tried to think how long eight years really is, and my mind wandered to my college days.  I will have been married long enough to get two college degrees.

I remember how I felt when I started college.  I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up because too many occupations were appealing.  I was overwhelmed at the idea of picking a major, and then in four years, acquiring enough knowledge to put into practice what I had learned.  I was excited at the possibility of leaving school as a mini-expert in my field (even though I didn’t know what that field was at the time) ready to dive into the career I had chosen and show the world what I had to offer.

Except it didn’t happen that way.  When I graduated with my degree in Education, I quickly realized I didn’t know nearly what I thought I would upon graduation.  Yes, I left school with a fire, a passion for changing the world one student at a time, a healthy idealism that all new teachers should have, but I only had the beginning of knowledge in my field.

As a literature teacher, I had many classics still unread, grammar lessons unpolished, and classroom management techniques and organizational skills still to be discovered.  I had just enough knowledge to get a job and enough drive to prove that, after a year, I was worthy to keep it.

I decided I wanted more.  I wanted to hone the skills I had and learn more techniques to improve as a teacher.  I wanted to fill my head with more theories and concepts and decide for myself which were actually garbage and which would work in the classroom.  I was satisfied no longer with having just enough knowledge to get the job–now I wanted to have knowledge at the Master level.  So I re-enrolled in school and began the coursework.

After a semester, I evaluated what I was doing.  I was spending time and money on something that wasn’t my passion.  I didn’t continue in the Master’s program, and I left teaching.

I entered marriage with the same zeal and earnestness I entered teaching, and I couldn’t wait to begin the program. I originally thought that after four years of marriage, I would’ve known all I needed to know. In four years, I’d earn a degree stating I was a mini-expert on Matt and knew how to live as a good wife, how to handle any problems that came our way.  Instead, I found that we were just getting started.

The first four years were years of exploration.  We struggled to find out who we were as individuals, had a couple of career changes between the two of us, and tried to bring those two confused halves together to make a solid whole.  We stuck those two pieces together, like two pieces of a wood that didn’t quite fit, and did our best to smooth over the rough patches.  Our marriage was a little messy, but we wanted more.  We had just enough knowledge to keep the marriage going but even more drive proving we were worthy of each other’s love.

We stuck with the program and immediately signed up for four more years of coursework.  We took classes in parenting and finance and found out quickly just how much we didn’t know.  We were still discovering ourselves as individuals but settled into the roles that fit, that seemed to make sense, as we worked together as a whole. We sanded away at the rough patches in the wood, working to make a smooth whole. It was now harder to see where one piece ended and the other began. And no longer were our decisions solely about the good of our marriage but, instead, the good of our family. At the end of another four years, we have just begun to settle into a routine.

We are a couple of weeks shy of earning our Master’s. Except I know now that I haven’t mastered anything.  I’m ready to continue my coursework because I know there is more to be learned.   And after eight years, the one thing I have learned for sure is that I am not worthy of my husband’s love and can never prove that I am, but I am continually thankful for the daily grace he gives me.

Marriage is a course that I will never master, but I will stick with it because Matt is my passion.  We have come together as one, and while that one piece gets more nicks and scratches over time, we continue to sand and make it smooth.  It can never go back to the two it was before.

And so we will re-enroll again and find, in the midst of the program, that there are more classes we need to add.  And we will look to the true Master for the guidance and grace needed to continue the program with the same zeal and earnestness with which we began.

Fruit from the Garden

I open the back door and turn down our little path covered by the shade of trees toward the hose.  I pull on the hose that was wound tightly around the wheel, the wheel that should make unraveling and winding up that hose easy. It doesn’t.  As I turn on the water, I get sprayed all over my arm, water leaking out where the hose and the spigot join; the spigot needs to be replaced.

And then I turn, ready to water the garden. Just like a little kid, I excitedly made my way to that garden every day, eager to see what new green growth has sprouted.  But this particular day I stop short.

Where there used to be cute green sprouts contained in their designated area in front of the tomato cages, there are now these crazy, wild leaves creeping their way onto the neighboring plants.  I cannot take my eye off the three mounds sprouting squash, cucumber, and zucchini.

They look reckless and not at all what I imagined.  I had imagined these green plants would develop their leaves and vines and work their way down the mounds, filling out the space in between.  Instead, these plants have swelled in one night thanks to a little rain and are blocking the view of my tomato plants.  They have not grown merely side-to-side like I think they should; instead, they are taking over every inch of space anywhere near the vicinity of their mounds, sprawling into the herb garden and the growth behind them.

Their huge elephant ear-looking leaves are overshadowing the pepper plants. There are so many of these leaves I actually have to bend down and peer in their cover to find the fruit that is growing within.

And I don’t like it.  My garden no longer looks neat.  It doesn’t look contained.  It’s wild and out of control. I no longer trust that my garden will produce the harvest for which I had hoped.

My faith so easily wavers; I am distracted by the largeness of the plants, their wildness, that I can’t see the promise of fruit.  I don’t like the process He has determined is required for growth. I have decided that I know better than the Maker.

But the True Gardener interrupts my thoughts.  He takes my eyes off the mounds in front of me and allows me to see the bigger picture.

He reminds me that His ways are not my ways; He has created order, but order doesn’t always look neat. He reminds me of His Son, and the jagged path that He walked, a path that was messy, full of betrayal and heartache.

A path that brought redemption. A path that brought beauty. A path that brought eternal life.

He reminds me that there is beauty in the messy process, and to grow, the leaves must stretch outside the boundaries I have created.  And He promises that if I allow Him to grow the plants as He intended, they will bear much fruit.

And the fruit. Oh, the fruit! When we allow the Maker to grow the garden as He designed, He will never disappoint.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)

Mama’s Boy

I know exactly where he gets it from.

When I was six years old, my dad got a job transfer from New Jersey to Georgia.  We left behind all of our extended family and our tiny dollhouse in Woodbridge to venture to this land called “the South.” As part of the preparation for our move, my parents informed me that I would need to learn to talk Southern.  I was six.  How would I learn a foreign language that quickly?!

I have heard the story many times (and if you hang around my family, you’ve probably heard the story many times, too.  Sorry.), how Mom and Dad were interrupted by this meek, little girl coming out of her room late at night.

“Jennifer, what’s wrong?” one of them asked.

Huge tears began to run down my face.

“I don’t know how to talk Southern,” I cried.

As a child, I carried worry around with me like my daughter carries around her baby doll, always tucked under my arm, accompanying me wherever I went.  To this day, I worry; although, I am getting better.  As I’ve grown in my relationship with the Lord, I’ve learned that worrying is pointless; however, it’s hard to get rid of those innate parts of me.

And, unfortunately, those innate parts of me didn’t stay with just me.

So I wasn’t surprised the other day when my son and I had an unusual conversation at the breakfast table.

“I don’t want to leave this house when I get married,” my four-year-old stated completely out of the blue.

Since our house is up for sale, I didn’t really catch the last part of Caleb’s statement.  I assumed he was just telling me he didn’t want to move.  As he had told me before, if we moved closer to Daddy’s work, the cute eight-year-old girl in our neighborhood wouldn’t know where to find us.

“Well, it doesn’t look like we’re going to move–wait, you don’t want to move when you get married?” I suddenly realized what my son had said.

Caleb shook his head.

“Well, I guess you’ll have to check with your new wife first,” I informed Caleb.  “She might want her own house for the two of you to live in.  When you grow up, you’ll probably want to get your own house so you can have a place for your own family and kids to play.”

Wrong answer.  Sometimes I’m so stupid.

I continued eating my breakfast, feeding the baby, when I looked over at Caleb’s spot.  His face was red, shoulders slumped forward, head hanging down.  Tears were welling up in his eyes.

“Caleb?” I started. “Oh, come here, baby!”

And the tears flowed. “I don’t want to leave!” he sobbed uncontrollably.

And in that moment, I was faced with a dilemma.  If I told Caleb that he never had to leave, would I end up like Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show?  Would I forever have little children running amuck in my home while I yearned for a quiet retirement with my husband?  Would Caleb remember this promise someday and really not leave, content with his mother, not needing a wife? Or worse yet–would Caleb become a professional student?!!

So I chose my words carefully.

“Caleb, it’s a long time before you’ll ever get married.”

“I don’t want to get married,” chimed in my two-year-old.

“Okay, you don’t have to get married, Hannah Grace.”

“I’m going to get big, and I’ll have my own cups made of glass, and my own big sporks, and my own plates.”

“Umm…okay,” I agreed with my daughter.

Caleb was still crying and looked more concerned.  I should’ve known my little Romeo would not be content staying single.  He wanted to get married; he just didn’t want to leave home.

As I rubbed Caleb’s back, I let go of my Cliff Huxtable fears.

“Caleb,” I started, “You don’t have to leave sweetheart.” The crying continued, so I went further. “You don’t ever have to move.  I don’t want you to leave, either.”

Those were the magic words he needed to hear, that his mommy forever wanted him close.  And truth be told, I don’t want the little guy to ever leave–as long as he learns to do his own laundry.