On Forgetting

I can’t remember anything. At least, the events I’d like to keep stored away in my mind. My mom will ask, “Jennifer, do you remember the time we went to ___ and you did ___” and I will answer, “No, mom; you know I have a horrible memory.”

What’s funny are the things that I do remember. I remember the time the boy in 7th grade made fun of my hairy arms (which incidentally, I never notice anymore but looked at in horror almost every day in my youth); I remember every argument my husband and I had while planning our wedding–conflicts over the guest list and comments that were made–yet we had never argued before.

And I wonder, if I could remove these negative memories, would I have more room for precious times like this…

and this…

 

Mom tried to buy us coats for Christmas and bought us the exact OPPOSITE of what we'd like

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama today for her 5-Minute Friday where we each have 5 minutes to write on the assigned topic. (And now we all have proof that I’m one of the slowest writers in the world)

 

I’ll Never Trade

As my children take another step toward independence, I breathe a sigh of relief. I look back at pictures from just a year ago, and they each were noticeably chubbier, indelibly cute in their baby-like appearances, yet I can’t help but admit that I’d easily trade the cuteness for less craziness every day. I’d trade washing diapers for princess panties in a heartbeat, and I’d trade drawer and cabinet child-proof locks (which only seem to attract children) for the peace of mind that my new make-up will remain in its case or on my face.

But there are some things that I just can’t let go that easily….

His laugh. His most perfect laugh that starts in his belly and tickles him all the way up until he makes a sound of pure delight. I’ve never heard such a joyous noise, a sound that produces a smile on my own lips every time I hear it.

And their carefree spirits. Spirits that have them abandon their clothes before I have time to realize they’ve been summoned by the sprinkler watering the garden. Spirits that allow them to run through freezing water, screaming and laughing, compelling even me to run through a time or two fully-clothed.

And as I watch their play, I’m beginning to learn. I see my little girl, my child who wants to be in control, my child who causes me to pull out my hair every time she cuts her own, and I see that this spirit who compels her to cut hair and draw on walls and paint on carpet is the same spirit that allows her to run through fountains for hours without care for the coldness of water. A spirit that allows her to leap with abandon as screams and a never-ending smile come to her lips and water soaks her small body. A spirit that allows her to embrace life fully.

And, oh, how I hope she never trades that quality for anything.

I won’t miss tantrums and disobedience and time-outs and the knot in my stomach as the four of us venture out alone in public. But I know as they grow life will change; these times of craziness will become few and far between. But his laugh. Her spirit. Oh, how I pray I’ll never have to miss them.

What characteristics of your loved ones are the most charming? Have you ever had a moment of clarity when you realized the quality of your child or spouse that drives you crazy is the same one that makes him wonderful?

What They See

Sitting on the bleachers during a hot Saturday afternoon as the sun beams straight down on my head, or watching a group of five year olds from that same spot on a Wednesday evening as the sun hides her rays and permits a light breeze to tip-toe an appearance every now and again, I feel a dormant part of me wake up. I’m surprised at the butterflies dancing in the pit of my stomach, and I look down at the ragged nails giving up my secret to anyone who would happen to see.

I watch.

And I listen.

I watch the life-lessons that play out before me as little boys chase after a ball that’s rolled into the fence. Fair and unfair, good calls and bad; the ways games play out mirrors the ups and downs of life.

I listen to the cheers from parents celebrating a good hit, cries to Run! as growing feet round the bases. And I hear the shouts of disbelief exclaiming What are you doing?! to the six-year-old who sincerely does not know what he’s doing because, after all, he is only six.

I watch a coach who lets his frustration get the best of him, huffing and puffing, stamping his feet, yelling at a kid for a much longer time than it took to make the mistake. And I look as another coach brings one of his players aside at the end of the inning, teaching him what he did wrong and should do differently the next time.

I watch the faces who see the tantrums thrown by grown men when their little boys miss a play versus the self-control of their own father as he encourages number 21 with Good cut! even though number 21 plays for the other team. And I hope that even in their young age they notice the difference in character.

Because they do watch, and they do listen. I hope they see that hard work and discipline matter and that, more often than not, these qualities are rewarded, but they’re not always rewarded. I hope they hear how to model good sportsmanship with their words and see that how they play the game really is more important than who won the game. And I hope that they learn that now is the time to act like a child and not when they have one of their own. Because their children may learn more by what they see during Little League than by all the words their parents uttered at home.

 

Watching T-ball from the perspective of a parent, I was surprised to learn that I am not immune to the crazy feelings that can start to stir within during the course of a competitive game. However, I find it so important to quell those feelings and provide my children with a better example. How do you model good sportsmanship for the children around you? What other life-lessons have you learned from a sport?

 

Rest

For anyone who reads my blog, figuring out those areas of my life with which I struggle probably isn’t too difficult. The longer I have been a Christian, the more I realize how far I am from perfect, and the longer I’ve been a wife, the more I wonder how Matt still wants (or at least commits) to being married to me.

And while I try to work on these many areas of my life that need improving, there is one area in which the guilt I feel for not already doing better gnaws away at me daily. I don’t even have to write it–you know. I want my children to have a better mother.

I pray daily, multiple times a day, for wisdom, patience, and whatever other attribute is needed to successfully raise these precious lives. And I’ll be honest–the last few weeks I confronted God with my frustration: Why don’t I feel like you’re answering my prayers? Why is parenting so hard for me? Why do I actually have to work to enjoy it instead of just enjoying it?!

I’ve already written about the first epiphany I had; I dumped my cleaning schedule. I feel the answer to my prayers is much in the same light as this first epiphany–I need to dump some more. And I need to rest.

There is no reason that I should walk around daily carrying a ball of stress within me. I’m not the CEO of a company, nor do I have major deadlines to meet. I’m a wife and mom, and I like to blog. I enjoy exercising. I try to cook from scratch, and I do my best to provide a healthy environment in which my family lives. All of these passions take time and energy, but they shouldn’t cause stress (or, at least, daily stress).

I had contemplated a few more things that I could do to achieve this rest, but I had to sort through my thoughts. I wanted to make sure fatigue wasn’t causing me to become lazy or apathetic. But I’m sure now.

The next thing I’m dumping, at least for now, is ‘Journeys.’ Let’s be honest; I didn’t have a line of bloggers waiting to link up with me, and that was never the reason I started ‘Journeys’ in the first place. I know if nothing else, God taught me, and I grew through the experience of deliberately writing on what He was showing me every week. And for months, I didn’t have trouble thinking of a topic.

As of late, however, this writing has felt burdensome, and not in a good way. Previously, I dreaded Thursday nights because, typically, the writing was painful for me. Now, however, I just dread having one more thing to do.

I never want my blog to feel that way, especially over a self-imposed goal. I still plan to write regularly, but I want to write with less of an agenda. I want to write because I enjoy writing, not because I have to write.

I may still place the ‘Journeys’ button at the bottom of a piece if I feel God has taken me along a certain path, but I am not going to sponsor a regular Friday link up right now. I may come back to it later, but for now, I want to rest.

I want to rest with my children over this summer break, and I’m going to continue dumping those tasks that are distracting me from focusing on them. I need to simplify, and as much as I hate to confront the facts, simplifying might mean taking a look at my blog habits, as well. I’d love to write as a career someday, and I’ll still work to hone my skill, but today writing is not my career.

I left a career I loved because I felt there is no job more important than that of a parent. My title now is ‘Mommy,’ and these crazy kids need to be my focus. And you guys know they are crazy.

Thank you for walking along with me on my all my journeys. I hope you will continue to do so. Just know that during the summer I have no intention of waking up at five a.m. so that I can tell you about them.

Journeys

A big ‘thank you’ to Michelle and Kendal for consistently linking up on Fridays for ‘Journeys.’ I hope my readers will continue to stop by their sites, as well!

The Haunting Spirit

There once was a dog who was a bit weird. He would sit in corners and shake for no apparent reason. He refused to go outside to pee, spreading his legs as wide as he could muster in an attempt to not fit through the back door when being thrown out, and he would jump at said door until the pads of his feet bled. However, despite his apparent disdain for the outside world, if the front door were opened, he would make a mad-dash to escape.

His frustrated owner would often tell him If you hate it here so much, why don’t you keep running?

But, alas, the dog would always return, or, at least, he was always returned.

A certain husband was in love with this dog. In fact, he was so in love with this dog that he would never feed the dog in the morning or put this dog on a leash to take him outside to do his business (since the leash was the only way to drag him out the door and keep him out).

This certain husband would not entertain the thought of giving this crazy dog away.

And a certain wife loved this dog because he was hers, but she didn’t like this dog. However, her love for this dog compelled her to take him to obedience training while she was nine months pregnant.

The training didn’t stick, and after the baby was born, the dog still refused to go out when the door was opened for him; however, he made his case known that he was not happy with his life-situation by peeing on the carpet every time a certain wife with a 17-month-old and a new baby nursed her new baby upstairs. Every time.

As a last-ditch effort, this wife called a very expensive dog-whisperer, even though she really couldn’t part with that kind of money. It didn’t matter–the dog-whisperer never called her back.

Finally this wife had had enough. Despite her husband’s love for the dog for whom he did not feed or walk, this wife called a rescue agency. After all, she was in desperate need of being rescued. After crying and having her therapy session on the phone with a woman from this agency, the arrangements were made, and this dog is now in a good home.

But his spirit lives on.

Someone else has taken his place. Yes, the child who was in the womb of a certain wife during the obedience training felt the spirit of this dog and has decided that she must vindicate him.

This child was trained in the way of the potty at 21 months old. Nevertheless, the child with the spirit of the crazy dog has taken on his ways.

Every time a certain mother mops the floor, this child with the dog spirit pees on it. Every time. Sometimes twice.

And a certain mother has a certain warning for this certain child:

You don’t remember Baxter, but I do. I gave him away, and I will give you away, too. Your grandmother’s house is waiting….

Delusions of Grandeur

I have a little problem. I know this characteristic is not the most admirable quality about me, but I will own it. The truth is that when I see a business, class, volunteer organization–it really doesn’t matter what–I visualize how I would bring success to that organization as its leader.

I mentally plan the spreadsheets and memos that I would need to create, and I rehearse the speeches that I would give to my employees at our monthly meetings. I wrack my brain for ideas to get more volunteers, and I brainstorm creative fundraising solutions. I watch myself teaching expectant mothers how to breathe through their contractions and encourage them that they can do childbirth without drugs, if they so choose. I hear myself telling a joint session of Congress not to waste my time with a budget that doesn’t contain serious cuts from both parties, and I smile when I scan the history books in my brain that record my presidency as one of real change and progress due to my tough attitude and fearless use of the ‘veto.’

Yes, I have serious delusions of grandeur. I don’t know from where they come–maybe all those years that my grandparents told me I could be anything that I wanted to be, even the president.

My delusions also contribute to another problem. I tend to create more work for myself in this quest to lead and improve in those areas where I actually have a sphere of influence. It’s for this reason that I actually planned activities for our monthly ‘Wingman’ meetings in the Air Force rather than just reading off the prepared slides. It’s for this reason that I spent hours upon hours grading portfolio projects instead of minutes running multiple-choice answer sheets through the Scantron machine. And it’s for this reason that I have once again taken on more work than I probably should.

So, today, fellow blog readers, I’d like to announce my candidacy in the 2012 presidential election!

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

Oh, wait. I’m not old enough to run for president, yet. I’ll try this one again later.

So, today, fellow blog readers, I’d like to introduce you to the new secretary of her homeowner’s association. Yep, that’s me, and tonight’s my first meeting.

Seriously, why do I do this to myself?!

Do you ever take on more than you should because you feel you are needed or can do the job better?

The Bride

I woke up that morning and couldn’t really eat, my body full of excitement rather than food, and I carried that emotion with me the whole day through–as the last pin was placed in my hair and veil secured to the top of my head, as I completed my make-up with the shiny lipstick and a smile, and as I stepped into the full, white dress that transformed me from an ordinary young woman to a glowing princess.

I wasn’t nervous, but I was eager. The day was full of newness. We would see each other for the first time that day as I walked down the aisle, and we would leave together for the first time that night as we drove away, never again to return to separate homes.

The waiting was beautiful and fun and, parts, reminiscent of elementary school as we passed notes and messages through the hands of our best friends. The waiting, which started months before and, at times, seemed to pass too slowly, was now at its end, as I stood alone with my father outside the doors to the sanctuary.

What would he think as I walked down the aisle? Would I take his breath away?

And then the moment came as the piano played, and the crowd rose, and we walked through the open doors.

And the day was beautiful, the one day in my life that was truly full of joy and nothing else, not tainted by the pain brought into a fallen world, a day when my smile stretched from ear to ear as I took the hand of the man I would love forever.

Almost nine  years later, that day can seem so far away sometimes.

But I remembered as I sang the lyrics that flashed across the screen, and, for a moment, my body tingled with joyous expectation.  I remembered feeling beautiful in white; I remembered longing to meet my groom. And for the first time in my entire journey of faith, I understood for a moment what it means to be the bride of Christ:

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing… You’re Beautiful*

The excitement, the twinge of nerves. Facing the one who knows my past yet sees me radiant, clothed in white. And finally taking His hand as we begin our new life together, no longer going home to separate places but instead stepping into eternity together, an eternity with joy, an eternity with the absence of pain or tears from a fallen world, an eternity begun with redemption.

It’s beautiful.

* “You’re Beautiful” Music and lyrics by Phil Wickham

 

What emotions did you feel as you waited for your wedding to begin? Has a song ever brought to a life for you a truth found in Scripture? Linking up with Michelle and Jen this week.

 

 

Why I Celebrate: Chloe’s Second Birthday

As a child, I never understood birthdays. Sure, I loved getting presents and a chance to choose my favorite meal for dinner, so I didn’t question the tradition too much–but why a day to celebrate that I was born? I didn’t do anything to make the day happen, so why a day for me?

But after having children, I understood the answer.

Chloe, I look at you, and I realize that birthdays are just as much for those throwing the party as the one throwing the wrapping paper.

They are a chance to thank God for the precious gift of you while you enjoy all of yours.

They give a reason to spend one more day together as a family, laughing and loving; one more day to remember how the family changed for the better two years before.

And they are a day to remember the beautiful colors this life contains and how you made each of them a little brighter.

Happy Birthday, sweet Chloe. You truly are God’s gift.

Journeys

How does your family celebrate birthdays? What do birthdays mean to you?

While She Lay Asleep

I washed my face and splashed the water over my eyes, hoping to rinse away the sleep that still lingered. Matt was gone, and the rest of the week on my own began. I stared in the mirror wondering what would await me this time, and I searched in my eyes for the determination to face it. And in my moment of apprehension and negativity, I heard footsteps in the hall. I sighed to myself as those footsteps traveled to my own room, a small body rustling the sheets on my bed.

But then I opened the bathroom door and looked.

I remembered the words of another mother. I always look at them while they’re sleeping.

And so I did. I stared at the round face and porcelain skin. I took in the long eyelashes and pouty lips. And my eyes ran over each disheveled strand of hair atop her head.

While she lay asleep next to me, I went through my prayers, prayers for strength, prayers for wisdom, prayers of gratitude, and prayers of urgency. I want to enjoy them.

I looked over at the sweet face next to me, and I stared. She’s just a little girl. They’re just little children. And I reminded myself of their innocence with pictures of full hugs and kisses while another part of me thought of what they are capable. They have a sense of right and wrong. They know when they are defiant, and they know how to obey. I thought of the responsibility that I have and must teach. And my mind wrestled to reconcile the conflicting thoughts running through my mind.

But for a moment I just stared.

There was still time before she would awake, time before I needed to know the answers.

If I Had a Therapist, I’d Drive Her Crazy

I don’t have a therapist, but I’ve contemplated getting one many times. If it weren’t already obvious, I use my blog as a way to process through my feelings, and many times it works (and it’s free). But sometimes I have to wonder if I might not need professional help….

I can’t read status updates on Facebook. Specifically, I can’t read status updates about mothers enjoying being mothers–they make me feel guilty. Whenever I read, “I just love being a momma!” or “Making cookies with my sweet babies!” my stomach balls up in a series of knots.

It’s not that I don’t love my children or thank God for them every day–it’s just that my status updates would read a little differently:

Tried to make cookies with my babies. Broke up one fight over whose turn it was to pour in the sugar, moved little hands three times that kept trying to crack extra eggs in the bowl, and realized I was short a 3/4 cup of chocolate chips because my kids apparently snuck them during the week.”

“Why don’t my kids take naps!!!”

“Had to grab Chloe off the top of the refrigerator again.”

Our days tend to feel a little chaotic, no matter my best attempts to structure them. Somehow the simplest plans to read a book or go outside and play can derail into a drama that has me on my knees shaking my fists heavenwards crying, “Why, God, why?!”

So when I read status updates that remind me that school is almost over for the year, status updates that exclaim “I’m so excited to have my three kiddos home with me  24/7 for the next 3 months!” I feel guilty. Guilty and terrified.

It’s not that I’m not used to having my kids home with me–preschool only keeps two of them for three hours a few times a week–but that little break with just one child is well…a little more manageable.

I think about our Georgia summers with the blazing sun and 100% humidity, that miserable heat that keeps everyone indoors, and I get nervous. Sure, I will take the kids to the pool, but I also remember our pool time last year that had me sweating more than swimming while I did my best to keep three kids in the pool at the same time . We will visit the library, but I have flashbacks to the time my son thought playing hide and seek through the aisles was fun while I was trying to get everyone out the door. And I think of a couple weeks ago when the hair massacre occurred leaving my daughter with beautiful strawberry-blonde locks looking like Hayley Mills in “The Parent Trap.

 

Site of Hair Massacre

 

Blue streak in hair not permanent--just some finger paint

I think about my budget that includes ‘art cabinet with a lock and key’ since putting things up high doesn’t work. I look at the dutch door that has swung from each child’s room in an attempt to keep them in

while they keep trying to get out.

I think about our every days, and I get nervous. And when I get nervous, I feel guilty. And so I write a blog post while biting my nails in the hope that I’ll laugh and feel a little better.

And if not, I might give that therapist a call (or at least stay off Facebook).

Does the impending summer vacation have you nervous or excited? What cheap activities do have planned to keep your little ones out of trouble?