Getting an Alarm Clock

Six a.m. comes way too soon every morning.  As much as I want to convert to a morning person, my mind will never be alert while it’s still dark outside.  Unfortunately, that rule is also becoming true for when it turns dark outside at night,  and if I want any time to pray or write or just to enjoy an hour while the kids are sleeping, I have realized that my best bet is to embrace that early morning hour.

No longer having infants keeping me from a full night’s sleep, I decided to enlist the help of my husband with my morning goal. “Please set your alarm for six,” I would politely request most evenings.  Matt has the alarm clock on his side of the bed and, therefore, all the alarm clock responsibilities.  When I asked this request, I hadn’t anticipated not getting woken up at six.

Apparently, Matt doesn’t always set the alarm.  Other times, his hand immediately slaps it off upon hearing the buzzing noise while the rest of his body lies motionless in bed, not giving my mind the chance to register that an alarm has gone off.  Sometimes Matt does set the alarm, pushing the button that illuminates our wake-up time, but our alarm chooses to act like our children on a bad day, refusing to obey and perform its job.  And my absolute favorite is when Matt gets ambitious and sets his alarm for five and proceeds to hit snooze until seven, during which time my mind ignores the alarm because I have no intention of getting up at five.  And when Matt finally rolls out of bed at seven, he walks straight to the shower, letting me sleep soundly under the covers until our children bounce in the room.

On days when the alarm clock (or my husband) malfunctioned, I would get furious! That was my time that was stolen from me!  Don’t they understand that I will not get this alone time again until six tomorrow morning!!!  I need time to PRAY if I have any chance of succeeding at NOT LOSING MY TEMPER TODAY!!!   I need to WRITE BEFORE I LOSE MY MIND!!!!  AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Ahem.

It hadn’t occurred to me until a couple of days ago that perhaps I wasn’t getting my time because it hadn’t become important enough to me.  “That’s crazy,” I told myself until the part of my brain that controls my minimal amount of logical thought chimed in and inquired, “Why haven’t you purchased your own alarm clock?”

Crickets chirping

Well…to be honest…I don’t want to use my spending money on an alarm clock!!! And, well, if the alarm goes off at six, and I happen to hit snooze, I can’t blame Matt anymore.

Sometimes it’s easier for me to blame everyone else in the world than to take action and fix the problem myself. It’s easier to lament that we would have more family time if we lived closer to Matt’s work and  better dates if we had more money instead of taking the time to think up something creative.  It’s easier to complain that my children are out-of-control instead of getting on the floor, rolling around and helping to control their energy through a wrestling match. It’s easier to get angry at my misfortune of sleeping past six instead of buying my own stupid alarm clock.

It wasn’t until my time became important enough to me to warrant my action that things began to change.  The day I decided to alleviate Matt’s burden of setting the alarm and actually waking up is the day six a.m became my time again.

Thankfully, I joined the 21st century and realized that my cell phone has an alarm clock feature before I went out and bought one.  Who knew?  And I’m now excited to face the dark mornings before my family opens their eyes (unless of course my husband does hop out of bed at five) and take some much-needed me time.

Now if only I could remember to charge my phone by my bed instead of downstairs.

The Pen to the Paper

Sometimes I don’t write for a couple of days, and I really want to.  Children waking up an hour earlier than normal, an alarm clock malfunctioning, someone coming to the door as I sit down–life is full of distractions.  Other times, though, I want to write about an idea, but the post won’t gel in my mind.  I have this instinctive feeling that I shouldn’t write yet, even though I want to get my ideas down.

Some ideas are better recorded in my own personal journal, but sometimes I even feel a pull from recording my ideas there.  The last couple of days I have felt this tension.

For two nights I have gone to bed under a fog of depression and feelings of inadequacy.  Those previous days I was having difficulty parenting, not with issues like keeping my kids from peeing on the floor or from sticking their hands in the sugar jar, but with issues that were a little bigger.  I was comparing myself to people that I don’t even know.  Yes, I did compare myself to Almanzo’s parents in Farmer Boy. Don’t tell me that you’ve never done that!

Their children never questioned them, wouldn’t dare think of it.  Of course, they also didn’t allow their children to speak unless spoken to, and Almanzo knew that if he defied his parents he would get a beating out in the barn.  Matt and I have not created the same environment as the Wilder family, so I don’t know that it was fair to compare myself to them.

Yet I did because if there is one job at which I do not want to fail, it is parenting.  As a teacher, I saw the results of failed parenting.  I want to raise children who love God, who are productive members of society, who are respectful to others, who write thank-you notes…

…and I felt God say that I will fail because I’m not perfect.  And they will fail because they will never achieve perfection, no matter how excellent I parent.  Those words should have felt freeing to my spirit, but they didn’t.

I was too caught up in my feelings of fear, and I wanted to write down everything that I feared, but I couldn’t even make sense of my own feelings.

So last night as I was trying to form the words in my mind, I felt God whisper again.  Two days after my initial feelings of depression, the situation looked a little different, not quite as bleak.  And two days later, because I didn’t have those feelings recorded down, they had no permanence; they were fleeting.

Because sometimes parenting takes faith–faith that the effort I put in now will not be in vein.  Sometimes marriage takes faith–faith that feelings that come and go will never take the place of the foundation of love that is there. Sometimes facing every new day takes faith–faith that the strength needed to overcome any obstacle or challenge will not fail. The prayers I utter every night do not fall on deaf ears, and I will see those good desires come to fruition, for “he who began a good work in [me, my children, my husband, and] you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

I am prone to worry, but sometimes, I have to let my worries go.  Sometimes I have to trust that God loves my family more than I do, and if I want the best for them, He does all the more. Sometimes I have to wait a couple of days before taking my pen to the paper, giving truth and permanence to feelings that will fade with the next sunrise.

And sometimes so do you.  Give your children two more days.  Give your marriage two more days.  Give your circumstances two more days, for we should never write our future before God is finished with the present.

*words in bracket and emphasis added to Scripture reference are my own.

If I Were to Write BabyLand General

A little over a week ago, my mother, sister, our four children, and I made the trip to BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia, home of the Cabbage Patch Kids.  We had quite the experience.  Below is the letter I would send to the staff of BabyLand General if I were to write them…but I probably won’t.

To the Doctors and Nurses of BabyLand General:

My family and I recently visited your hospital, and I want to thank you for the educational experience.  It had been a long time since I saw a baby birthed from a cabbage, and the experience never disappoints.

After my trip, however, I did have a few concerns.  Given the fact that your hospital is filled with precious Cabbage Patch children, all eagerly waiting to be adopted and easily victims of being snatched away, I do think you should have a warning on the entrance to your building: Parents, If you are outnumbered in ratio from children to adults, especially children four years of age and under, Do NOT come in these doors!  Your children won’t be able to resist the number of Cabbage Patch Kids at their grasp, and you won’t be able to stop them! I realize that warning is a little lengthy and rather specific, but I would’ve appreciated it.

Taking my daughter to BabyLand General was like giving her a drug, spinning her in circles, and then releasing her in a room full of presents on Christmas morning; she did not know where to run, yes run, and I didn’t realize I should’ve worn my athletic shorts.  Some of your Cabbage Patch Kids (which of course are all beautiful even though they came from a vegetable) were the exact same size as my toddler, yet my three-year-old had convinced herself that she could carry two at a time.

I apologize if any of your dolls, I mean children, are missing any hair.  Sometimes, their hair was the easiest way for my daughter to grab them.

I also apologize if any of your children were missing shoes or other accessories or just missing all together.  To be honest, I didn’t appreciate having to supervise your children along with my own.  I mean, if I wanted to clean all morning or put on and take off shoes, I could’ve stayed home.  And I don’t know if you realize this fact or not, but Cabbage Patch Kids’ feet are not the same size as human children’s feet–your kids’ feet don’t stay in shoes because, well, they’re more like big, round nubs than anything.  Please excuse me if I offended you in any way.

And I’m sorry if the four-year-old boy running around, throwing the balls you had for sale, and tackling his cousin was distracting to the staff or the babies.  As I mentioned before, I hadn’t realized I was going to be sprinting after my daughter all day long.  I tried to get him interested in the dolls, I mean children, but he said they were for girls.  I’ve never planted those ideas in his head, I promise.  I know children need positive male role models in their life, and I will work on turning my son into one of those role models.  He was, however, very pleased with the basketball game, flying helicopter, and stuffed panda bear that you had for sale.

And while I’m apologizing, I also apologize for any ice cream that you may have found on the floor of your clean hospital.  However, if I do say so myself, why in the world do you think it is a good idea to have an easily opened ice cream chest right next to where parents and grandparents pay for these newly adopted babies?  When my daughter pulled her ice cream bar out of the freezer, I saw a good opportunity to teach her a lesson about stealing by making her pay for the ice cream from her piggy bank and promptly throwing the dessert away.  Grammy, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to treat four children to ice cream.

I would’ve made her eat her treat outside, but you see, we were in the middle of the very important adoption procedures.  She had to take her oath, which she said with full enthusiasm, by the way, and she had all of the paperwork to fill out.  I hope you realize that that paperwork is a tad intimidating for three-year-olds, but I guess so is raising a child.

And one more thing before I close–is there any way to slow down Mother Cabbage’s deliveries?  I saw three Cabbage Patch Kids born that day, and my children helped name two.  And while all of these births were magical and beautiful and such, they got a little excessive and gave a little too much information.  Every time you announced that Mother Cabbage was eight leaves dilated, I hurt.  And I’m so happy that she had an ‘easy-otomy’ because I’ll tell you what–there was nothing easy about my episiotomy.

Maybe we were just there forever waiting for a certain three-year-old to decide which child she really loved.  Maybe that three-year-old took a really long time because she made her decision based on the shoes that your children were wearing, but I digress.  In any event, please give Mother Cabbage my warmest regards for a speedy recovery.  I thought having three children in three years was tough; I can’t imagine have three children in three hours.  On a side note, if the ‘Imagicillin’ that you are giving her starts to wear off, tell her Percocet should do the trick.

In closing, thank you for opening your hospital to us, even though we definitely disturbed your serene environment.  I promise that if we come back many, many years down the road  I will have at least one adult, if not two, per child.  And while the experience was anything but fun for me, I know it was about making four little children very happy.  And one Grammy, too.

Sincerely,

Jennifer V. Davis

The Changing Seasons

We went outside to play at 4:30 in the afternoon, the air considerably cooler than a few weeks before, and I was immediately grateful for the coming fall. As much as I look forward to the warm days of summer spent at the pool, the children splashing in the water, I tire of the sunscreen and swim diapers, the intense heat and suffocating humidity.  I am part of the fickle human race who loses interest in the present and am thankful for the divine plan of the changing seasons.

I am thankful for the changing hues and the sweet smells that travel on the crisp air of the fall, the few weeks reprieve from the scorching heat that preceded it and a last glimpse of color before the bleak winter months that follow.  And yet a part of me looks forward to the chill of the winter, the chance to sip hot chocolate beside a crackling fire and let my nostrils fill with the smell of Christmas trees and cookies baking.  But as the drab and gray days of winter carry on, I long for the new life and blooms of spring, hoping this season will never end.

Each season carries with it a beauty of its own that cannot be found in the surrounding ones.  Each season gives just enough change so that one may endure whatever long stretch of weather may follow and fully appreciate those that don’t seem quite long enough.

I am thankful for the season of sword fighting with sticks, while little pirates who previously played beside each other but not with each other engage in a complete battle, full of giggles and smiles. My heart grows during the moment when the smaller of the two pirates knocks down the other’s sword, yet the larger offers a heartfelt congratulations (And prize–his Iron Man Transformer until Christmas to be exact).

And I am thankful for the season of apple-thievery, as the little baby  who cannot yet take part in their battle chooses one of her own.

Some seasons I wish would stretch longer, watching as they fade as quickly as the golden leaves upon the autumn trees, so I learn to savor them while they are here.  Others drain me as does the heat of summer, taking every bit of strength and energy out of my bones, yet I know this time, too, is just a season; the new life of spring is around the corner.

And so I learn to find joy in every season, for in every season there is beauty, an opportunity for growth and learning, a reason to give thanks.

For what can you be thankful during this season of your life? Come share your thoughts for this ‘Focus on it Friday.’

Unblurring the Line

Jennifer Vignola Davis and Jennifer Escoe Holt--Feb. 24, 2000

It all started on February 24, 2000.  A silly girl and her friend, donning black leather and leopard print pants and sparkly shirts, performed moves of which no one thought they were capable while lip-syncing to the band Heart.  A silly boy, packing up his guitar and Power Point slides after a night of leading Worship, drove an extra hour back to college in the hopes of seeing this silly girl in her moment of glory.  He missed the performance, but he saw her face light up after winning first prize.

And thus began their first date, a night when they went out with friends but only noticed each other in the room…

if you’d like to read more about that blurry line between friendship and romance, commitment and existence, click here and visit me as I share my first guest post at the sweet SomeGirl’sWebsite.

Little Feet

As I was standing in front of the sock rack in Target, my eyes scanned back and forth between the boys small socks and medium socks.  I whipped out my phone.  My mom and sister treated Caleb to a new pair of shoes a few weeks ago; maybe one of them would remember what size he was.  I dialed Lisa’s number, and the call went straight to voicemail. “This is stupid,” I thought.  “I know he’s in a medium now.”

But I didn’t want his little feet to have grown that big; I wanted to call my sister and have her tell me, “No, he’s a size eight.  Get him the small socks.”  I was upset that my ‘baby’ no longer fit in the toddler category of life, even by clothing standards.  He was now just a little kid.

I’m sure the socks episode was just a byproduct of the kids starting preschool this week, another summer behind us, another year of growth beginning.  As hard as I try to grab hold of the time, I watch as it slips from my grasp, forever pushing forward.

So I have no choice but to be thankful…

Thankful for the little feet that keep getting bigger, that run through the house and jump on the beds (even though Mommy forbids it)…

Thankful for the camera mishap that wouldn’t capture the perfectly posed picture of a brother and sister embarking on a first day of preschool but, instead, the uncertainty and silliness they brought to their first day, captured on a camera phone…

Thankful for the huge smiles that greeted the mommy who was ready for the break but even more ready for her kids to return…

Thankful for every precious day…and determined not to waste them.

For what are you thankful this week?

The Cost of $20

When I got strep throat, I began to fear my $25 copay multiplying if the kids got sick, too.  And that was the extent of my worry.  Last Friday I wanted to post another “Focus on it Friday” saying how thankful I was for the quality healthcare that my family can receive, but really my thanks goes beyond that.

When someone in my family gets sick, my mind rarely goes past getting a doctor’s appointment and the necessary medicine, but for moms around the world, sickness carries more terrifying consequences.  According to a UNICEF press release, 24,000 children under the age of five die every single day from mostly preventable causes. I can’t even wrap my mind around that number.

Frankly, the number is too big, and sometimes big numbers have little effect on me.  Then I read a post the other day  by Billy Coffey with a smaller number: 20.  For $20, I could give one person clean water for 20 years through the organization charitywater.org.  Until recently, I had not really understood that there were people who lived in areas where clean water simply was not available and, as a result, were dying.  My church began a project to build wells in Mozambique, and for the first time, my mind allowed this need around the world to enter in.  But when I read this post, again, I was floored.

I don’t throw money around.  I take my family’s budget seriously, and I rarely buy anything on a whim.  Matt and I are trying to act responsibly, so $20 is not an amount of money that I would take for granted.  Yet, even on a tight budget, I know that $20 is not a lot of money, especially when someone’s life is at stake.

I wrote in a previous post that my mind was in overdrive, that I felt God really working on my heart, and truthfully, I feel a little confused right now.  So many ideas are rolling around in my head, and I don’t know where to start, and on some things, I don’t even know what to think.  But I do know that God has taken my heart and is showing me the tragedies that break His.

This week a group of bloggers traveled to Guatemala with one of my favorite organizations, Compassion International.  They will visit the child development programs set up by Compassion and share about the children whom they meet, children who live in poverty that we cannot imagine.  Yet through the good works of Compassion and sponsorship, these children will receive medical care, basic needs, an education–things I take for granted.   One of these precious children can be sponsored for $38 a month.

Compassion Bloggers: Guatemala 2010

I went to Target today, and I spent a little over $20 on socks for the kids and a file box in an attempt at organizing the influx of artwork that comes in now that preschool has started.  My kids genuinely needed new socks as their little feet have grown bigger, yet as I handed over the $20, I thought about a child without water, a much greater need.  And as I took a shower tonight and felt the warm water roll off my body, I watched as the drops I wasted ran down the drain.  As much as I want to, I can’t fathom a need this great.

My goal is not to cause myself massive guilt every time I make a purchase; however, I think feeling a little uncomfortable now and then is probably a good thing.  It’s a good thing to evaluate how I’m spending my 20’s–how many children could I sponsor or individuals could I give clean water for the cost of the cable TV, iphone, or restaurant meals I purchase?  After all, when I die I can’t take any of my earthly treasures with me to heaven for eternity, so shouldn’t I want to relieve a child who is living a hell on earth now?

While I don’t believe that God has called Christians to live a life of poverty for the sake of others, I know He would have us think about the money that we have and how we are using it.  If you are like me, you might feel overwhelmed with the different problems in this world and not know where to begin.  Perhaps, you are already giving to an organization that you love.  Maybe you’d love to give but can only give to one cause at a time and need to wait until next month.  I’m not asking you to give.  I’m asking you to think.

I’m sharing my journey as I think about these issues and opportunities, deciding where to act in the hopes that some of you will take this journey with me.  We can’t all give to everything, but some of us can give to some things.  Perhaps some of us can find $20 to provide clean water for one person.  Maybe others will want to sponsor and build a relationship with a child living in poverty.  We all have different journeys, and we can’t change the whole world alone.  But we can all think.  And maybe today some of us will decide to change the life of one.

Please visit my sidebar, and visit the different links for my favorite posts on the web.  Each of the links featured show a different way you can help change the life of an individual in need.

Ten Things I Don’t Understand About College Football

10. I’ll never understand why some girls show up in high heels and tight, little dresses, while sitting on hard bleachers, packed in like sardines to watch men knock the snot out of each other under the blazing hot sun.  I’m pretty sure I sweated off the minimal amount of make-up I was wearing, so I can’t imagine actually taking the time to look beautiful.  It’s a football game! Then again, I was never popular in school or know anything about fashion now.

9. I don’t understand why some insist on screaming at the referee after every bad call.  If you’re sitting near where I’m sitting, I’m pretty sure he can’t hear you.

8. I just don’t understand why some get offended so easily and end up in fights with fans from the other team.  I mean, did I miss something?  Were you in the last play?

7. I do not understand tailgating, anymore.  If you’re heading to the football game, why do you need to haul and set up a gigantic TV and dish before hand?  It seems to me like an unnecessary amount of work and planning….

6. I do not understand how it is possible for someone to show minimal emotion during significant events in his life, yet be brought to absolute fury, elation, or tears during a football game.  Read this short story for more on this topic.

5. I do not understand why grown adults will drink enough during the game to forget what happened tomorrow.  Tickets are expensive–getting wasted doesn’t make economic sense.

4. I’ll never understand why everyone holds up four fingers at the start of the fourth quarter.  Did you think I lost count?  There is a giant scoreboard that can help me out if I did….

3. I know I’ll never understand how the BCS polls determine the top teams.  I think I’d need a master’s degree first.

2.  I’ve yet to understand why our fans always insist that the other teams’ fans are so obnoxious.  At every game I can spot someone with a giant bulldog painted on his head, and our fans bark.

1. I’ll never understand how I can be surrounded by so many things that make me cringe yet look forward to going to Georgia football games so much!

I’ve linked this post over at ohamanda’s today.  Click on the link below to read more fun top ten lists!

Top Ten {Tuesday}

So You Won’t Have to Call

I came back from the kids’ 3 year and 15 month well-visit thinking that perhaps I wasn’t.

“I really don’t feel well,” I told my sister who had watched my son while the girls and I were gone.

“You do feel warm,” she said surprised, as if she initially thought I was being dramatic (Now why would I do that?). “Go upstairs and rest.  When Chloe goes down for her nap, I’ll take the kids to the pool so you can sleep.”

And that was that.  My sister stayed at the house the rest of the day as I felt worse and worse.  Based on the number of times I heard my children reprimanded and the fact that my sister gave up an entire day so that I could rest, I had already decided that I would brave taking all three kids with me to the doctor’s office the next day if I didn’t feel better.

The next morning the phone rang.

“Do you feel better?”

“No, I’m going to the doctor.”

“What time?”

“Noon–but Lisa, I’ll take the kids with me.  I wasn’t going to call you–“

“–I know.  That’s why I called.”

And Lisa showed up again.  She took the girls with her for the whole afternoon while Caleb and I watched movies in bed.  Lisa said she knew what it was like to be sick and alone and have to take care of a kid–it was miserable–so if she could help, she wanted to.

The next day my fever was down, but my throat still felt like a piece of bark was stuck in it. I was thankful to no longer feel achy, though.  The phone rang again; this time my friend Dee was calling.

“Can I bring you dinner?”

“Um, yes,” I replied, relief washing over me as the chore of cooking was no longer upon me.

“What can you eat?”

At this point, I had only managed to eat chicken broth and popsicles, wincing all the while.  My mind wouldn’t even let me think about food.

Dee brainstormed and determined that I might be able to wiggle down some lo mein, Matt could eat Mongolian Beef, and the kids could feast on a pizza.  Less than an hour later, Dee showed up at my door with dinner for my entire family.

It was in that moment that I realized what made Lisa and Dee different from so many people.  In this world there are those people who say, “Call me if you need anything!”  They mean it and are full of good intentions.

But then there are those who don’t wait for the call–they’ll call so you don’t have to.

Lisa and Dee are part of that rare breed that anticipate others’ needs and act, putting aside their own schedules and agendas.  I wish I could say that I am part of that breed.  I have my moments.  I have baked my share of bread and put together meals for neighbors that I didn’t know when I heard about a death in the family or a sickness, but I don’t know if acting as Lisa and Dee do is part of my DNA.

I have learned more by example, and I am still in the process of training myself to anticipate others’ needs.  For some reason, I seem to do those good deeds more for those I don’t know, those possibly far away, than those with whom I share life.  And while I don’t think I should stop caring about those outside of my circle of friendship, I do think that I should try to ease the burden of those within the circle, as well.

The problem with telling someone, “Call me if you need anything,” is that they probably won’t.  I know I don’t.  I don’t want to bother anyone; everyone’s so busy.  Yet at the same time, I sincerely want people to call me, but I know all the reasons why they won’t.  “She has three kids.”  “She probably has a hard enough time getting dinner on her own table.”  Sure, those reasons are true, but I don’t want my life to solely focus on my life.

Everyone is busy.  I don’t know anyone who spends his or her day flipping through the channels while lounging on the couch.  My days are full now–I can’t imagine what they will be like as my children get older!  Between preschool, housework, church activities, attempts at exercise, I could easily fill my days with good activities. Perhaps I’d feel more refreshed, though, if I spent some of that time easing another’s burden, focusing on those connections that truly matter.  What if we all acted like that, anticipating the needs of those around us, not waiting for a phone call but just showing up?

What Lisa and Dee did touched me.  People might say, “That’s what family is supposed to do.”True friends act that way.”  Maybe so.  But many don’t.

I don’t, but I want to, so I’ve started examining myself.  What hinders me from acting on kindness?  Money?  Sometimes.  What if I reserved $15 in my wallet each month for the sole purpose of carrying out an act of kindness?  Time?  Of course.  But how can I ever use that excuse when I see the time that others have sacrificed for me…and for something as little as strep throat.  Fear of the kids getting sick?  Sure, and that’s a good reason, but I can fear the possibility of something happening while the actuality of a friend needing a break from her children is happening down the street.

I have so much improving to do, but I’m going to try because, while I want you to call me if you need anything, I don’t want you to have to.