I remember late-night talks on the couch, practically falling asleep in front of one another but not wanting to say ‘goodnight.’ Our fingertips danced in each others’ hands, and my cheeks ached from the genuine smile stretched across my face.
I remember the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach before he arrived and the passionate kisses that marked his departure. I look back at those early days and wish that, almost twelve years later, we could recapture a little bit of that newness, whatever made each encounter exciting.
But I wouldn’t want to recapture everything.
I remember one Saturday afternoon when we strategically planned our attendance at three different movie theaters. Yes, these ‘poor college students’ somehow found the money to see three movies in one day but not to eat something besides Ramen noodles. But we had our priorities straight–the next day was the Oscars, and we hadn’t seen every movie up for ‘Best Picture.’
Off to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and then to see Chocolate (pr0nounced however French people say the word) and then we’d end the night with Traffic. Six-plus hours of movies together so that we could feel qualified to predict the winner.
I don’t remember if I picked the winner, nor do I remember watching those Oscars.
But I do remember the 83rd Academy Awards. The year we hadn’t seen at least half of the nominated movies. The year when the butterflies were dead for the moment as the drool collected in the corners of my mouth. The year when I opened my eyes and said, “Let me know the winner in the morning. I’m going to bed.”
Yeah, I guess you could say I’m over it.
Post inspired by Mama Kat’s prompt to write about something you did with your spouse when you dated but now you’re ‘over.’ What is something you’re over?
I slept through my alarm every day last week. A couple of times, I didn’t even hear my alarm until it had been going off for at least a half an hour. I was immediately frightened by the realization–I had become my husband.
In the midst of the exhaustion and frazzled days of the last two weeks, I look fondly on the kindness God showed me. I had already had the conversation with my husband–I’ve taken on too much; I need to figure out what I’m going to let go–when I saw a trend I didn’t like. Each night I hit the sack a little later trying to finish that ‘just one more’ task, and each morning I woke with the need for an IV drip of coffee–and I’m not even a coffee drinker. I hadn’t spent any time in serious prayer or reading my Bible because I kept waking up late, and I was yearning for that time to focus my mind on the spiritual and not just the earthly tasks.
It all started innocently, with the best of intentions. I so looked forward to Chloe starting preschool, giving me two days a week with a few hours child-free. I made plans to volunteer in the kids’ schools, something that proved difficult previously with a baby in tow; to work out more consistently, to improve my writing with regular practice; to keep a cleaner house. As I looked at my cluttered countertops, a blog with the last entry almost a week ago, and a gym bag that hasn’t left it’s spot in a few days, I found out that by pursuing one of those items on the list, the rest quickly deteriorated.
I was so excited to co-chair the missions committee at Caleb’s school, but as 10:00 rolled around each night, it was just one more thing I hadn’t finished. I remember telling Matt, “The other chair seems to have taken over, but, honestly, that’s okay with me right now.” He laughed, and I laughed at the words coming out of my mouth. My had I changed if I was okay relinquishing control!
And that is how God showed His kindness. As I was coming to my own realization as to what I could handle, the co-chair of the missions organization called me: I don’t want you to think I’ve taken over; I just remember how hard it was for me when I had little kids. Mine are older now, and it’s really not a problem to get some of these things done.
The timing of her phone call, not even 12 hours after Matt and I spoke, was confirmation for me. I unburdened my heart, telling this lady how much I want to help, but, at the same time, I appreciate her understanding. I do need to watch to what I commit and maybe let her take a greater amount of the tasks for now. She laughed a knowing laugh and reminded me that my ministry right now, especially during this season of life, is my family. And she went on to warn that, in her own life, she saw Satan use busyness, busyness in good things, to distract her from better things.
I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this topic before. I want my family to be my priority, my ministry, yet I find that line can get fuzzy. After all, I volunteer in the kids’ schools for them, I volunteer at church for God and as an example to my children. I’m the secretary of our homeowner’s association for…well…that’s not a good example. And writing is for me, and working out is for me, and quiet time in the morning is for me–and I find it easier to push aside those ‘me’ activities instead of those for others. However, I’m also learning that if I don’t find those moments for me, most importantly those moments between God and me, I won’t have anything to give to them.
I’m not complaining about being busy. I’m blessed to feel busy doing things I love. But I also know that just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s good for me now, especially if I’ve used up all my margin to do those good things.
One of the hardest struggles for me as a wife and a mother has been to figure out this whole margin thing, to figure out my priorities and how those priorities translate. I want my children to know I love them and the Lord and that I want to serve the Lord with my life. And it’s going to take me a while, but I think God may be showing me that one of the best ways to start serving Him is to play a game of ‘Toy Story Connect 4″ with the kids, get in bed early, read a book, and then wake up rested.
There are too many beautiful moments, fleeting moments, and I don’t want to need caffeine in order to enjoy them.
Do you struggle with busyness and saying ‘no’ to good things? How do you achieve the proper balance in your life?
I was disappointed. I had looked forward to going on this field trip with him, and he acted like he wished I hadn’t come. Of course, I knew that wasn’t true. Caleb was excited any time I came to his school, but one would have never known it from the distance he put between us at the museum.
The museum atmosphere was a little crazy–a whole town complete with a police car and fire truck, a hair salon and bank, the essential grocery store and hospital, every exhibit ‘hands-on’ and ready for sixty-four kindergarteners to blow through like a tornado. Caleb’s teacher asked if I would let Brandon join our group of two, and, of course, I said ‘yes.’ Brandon was sweet and listened when I asked the boys to stay together; Caleb, however, had other plans.
My anxiety level began to rise as Caleb would run to exhibit after exhibit without his friend or me by his side. I spent the majority of my time, not enjoying the exhibits, but trying to figure out if I, in fact, had Caleb and Brandon with me, a challenging feat when all thirty boys are dressed with the same uniform and short hairdo.
I was aggravated. I knew Caleb wanted to play with his best friend, but his teacher asked me to watch Brandon, too. I didn’t understand what was so hard about us all staying together, and I was getting tired of trying to force the cohesion.
And then I hit my limit for the day. Like a group of ducklings with their mama duck, the kids formed a line behind their teacher in preparation for going to lunch. Caleb had thought he started the line, but apparently so did another kid. As the front of the line moved ahead of Caleb, tears welled up in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks.
I sighed loudly while giving an obligatory side-hug. I could not believe he was going to start crying because he wasn’t the line leader. Caleb was going to need to toughen up–it doesn’t get much better than kindergarten.
But then I heard the words clearly in my mind:
He’s exactly like you.
And I immediately understood. Not only is Caleb only five, an important fact that I kept forgetting, but he’s got a sensitive heart just like his mama. He’s loyal to his friends, and that day he just wanted to find his buddy. His feelings bruise easily, and to a kindergartener, losing the title of ‘line leader’ is devastating.
I get that. I remember countless times of feeling wounded for this or that, a careless word or thoughtless inaction. I remember trying to blink back tears when I was embarrassed or hurt. And if I’m to be truthful, it’s easy to remember–I don’t have to look farther than last week.
In fact, I was over-sensitive the same day as Caleb. Yes, he should’ve listened better and stayed close to Brandon and me, but, honestly, I was upset because I was hurt. I was hurt that my son didn’t want me close like some of the other kids wanted their parents; I was hurt because my son didn’t obey. And I was critical of Caleb’s reaction in line because, often, we are most critical of those flaws we see in ourselves.
But, Caleb, having a sensitive spirit is also your asset. Your genuine concern and love for others makes my heart smile. So if once in a while the tears spill and our feelings hurt, it’s worth it.
Yesterday, Caleb made handwritten cards with original drawings for each of his classmates just because he wanted to. I picked up one card that read, ‘You are my best friend.’
“Riley, really?” I responded, a little surprised since Caleb hadn’t really mentioned Riley before.
And without missing a beat, he cleared up my confusion.
“Well, I think he wouldn’t like it if I wrote ‘You’re not my best friend.’
I often wondered when my children would first recognize differences in race and prayed that it wouldn’t look like the time my son asked loudly,”Why is she so wide?” as an overweight woman walked by. I silently willed that that poor woman developed sudden and temporary deafness, as there was no recovering gracefully from that blunder.
My freshman year in college, Bertice Berry came to my school and gave a wonderfully inspiring speech and made me want to change the world with a positive attitude that I’ve since had trouble keeping. I don’t remember many details of her lecture, but my mind often goes back to one of her stories as a guide for my parenting journey. One time in the grocery store, her nephew pointed to a woman clothed in traditional Indian dress and asked, “Why does she look like that?” Rather than hush him and push his finger down, walking away embarrassed, she used the opportunity to teach.”Isn’t she beautiful? Look at all the colors in her dress,” and she continued to teach this child how lovely this woman’s differences were.
The other night, I got the chance to instill those beliefs in my daughter Hannah Grace. She was lying in bed, and we had just finished prayers when she looked at me and said, “Grammy is different. And Papa Joe is different.”
I looked at her with that blank look I can give when I have no idea what someone is talking about.
“And I’m different, and Caleb is different, and Chloe is different, and you’re different, and Daddy is different.”
Once I realized that she wasn’t commenting on my parents’ personalities, I agreed with her. “Yes, God made us all different. He made us each unique.”
Hannah Grace continued: “Carmen at church has brown skin, and Brandon’s skin is black. They are different, too.”
“Isn’t God amazing?” I asked. “He made us all different, and He even made our skin different. Aren’t all the different colors beautiful?”
Hannah Grace nodded her head and smiled her sweet little smile and went to bed after a goodnight kiss.
The next day we had a chance to continue our conversation.
I came in the kitchen and stopped in my tracks: “Hannah Grace! What in the world?!” I had never witnessed such a display before.
Hannah Grace casually turned around and stuck out one leg completely colored with brown magic marker. She then showed me her other very-Caucasian-looking white leg. “See? God gave me one of each,” she stated matter-of-factly.
As is the case many times in my life as a mom, I had no idea how to respond. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what I did or what I said, but I think it was something to the effect of “Hannah Grace, your skin is beautiful just the way it is” and “don’t color on your body with marker.” But I do know I let a smile peek through as I looked at my multi-colored daughter.
Hannah Grace, you have always had this amazing ability to find beauty in things that I wouldn’t normally give a second glance. I’ve saved some of your preschool coloring sheets because I was amazed at how you combined colors. Where I would’ve colored the giraffe orange, you added pink and blues in an incredible way. And Hannah Grace, you have shown me that you also see this beauty in people. Don’t ever lose that quality–that quality is what makes you truly gorgeous.
Last night, I ran the brush through her hair. Gently, I endeavored to get out the knots–without tears– that gather so easily at the end of her long strands. I stopped suddenly, mid-stroke, and stared at Chloe’s hair. The back of her head looked a little less blonde than those baby days when white hair rested atop her head. And I had one of those feelings common in parenthood, or during those visits with relatives far away, when I know the moment will end soon.
Honestly, I couldn’t care less if any of my children have blonde hair. I’m a brunette who has always been happy with her color. I’ve shied away from highlights for fear of turning platinum, and, if anything, my quests to cover gray have ended with hair darker than my natural color.
But standing there, looking at Chloe’s blonde streaks, I knew I had to take that moment to stare because, before my eyes, she was changing. I don’t worry about Chloe’s hair color–I worry about forgetting.
I have a horrible memory. I frustrate my parents when I can’t remember special trips we took as a family or that Christmas when so-and-so did such-and-such. I’ve thought that perhaps Matt had a girlfriend on the side with whom he was confusing me when he swears I saw a movie with him in the theater that I’ve never heard of before. I thank God that I didn’t do drugs in school–I might not remember my name if I did.
So when I look at Chloe’s hair, still blonde but not as blonde, I am reminded that she is changing before my eyes. I am reminded that I can’t quite remember Caleb’s cheerful voice or giggle as a rambunctious two-year-old. I am reminded that I can’t remember much at all of Hannah Grace as a baby; her baby years were during a very stressful time in our life. I am reminded that I need to take note, hold tight in my memory, those precious moments that seem insignificant but make each child unique.
I want to remember Chloe’s white hair.
I want to remember the death stare she gives relatives when she’s not amused.
I want to remember how she jumped from beds and chairs and stairs and anything that she could use to give her a few more inches off the ground.
I want to remember how Chloe talks better than any two-year-old I’ve ever met and uses complete sentences to answer most questions. And I even want to remember when her voice got a little squeaky and could give me a headache by the end of the day.
I want to remember, “Supergirl to the rescue!” and black Sharpie marker all over her forehead and hair and bottom and far too many other places.
And I want to remember when she would wrap her arms around my neck, her legs around my waist, and lay her head on my shoulder while saying, “I love you so much.”
There are so many things I want to remember, and I fear my memory won’t do her justice.
So, baby girl, when I brush your hair for a few minutes longer than I have to, I’m not trying to annoy you--I just don’t want to forget.
I hope you’ll indulge me this week as I devote one post to each child. I looked over my last few posts, and very few were about them. However, I have some events that I need to record because I will forget–but they are worth remembering.
Sometimes it’s just too much–my heart feels like it could explode. I wake up and decide to be thankful because, yes, some days it is a decision. But once I make that decision, it becomes easier and easier to fulfill.
The little girl who answers everything in complete sentences…Yes, Rebecca is my friend in preschool,
the little girl who has a fashion sense all her own, reminiscent of Punky Brewster,
the little boy who looks so darned cute in his policeman uniform that cost 50 cents,
the husband who made a Thursday night a true date night at home, perfect in every way,
the quick-witted sister who kept me laughing all morning,
and the father and mother who gave me life and have shown me how to live it.
They make up all of the little blessings in my day. And when I add them up, I see there’s nothing little about it.
I’m doing my own version of the Gypsy Mama’s ‘Five Minute Friday.’ To be exact, today was a ‘four minute and twenty three second’ Friday. I hope you all have a great weekend counting your own blessings! Feel free to encourage us with some of them below.
I’m 32 years old, but sometimes I share the thoughts of that 15 year old girl that I once was. Even though I’ve gained years and wisdom and maturity, there are times when my logic engages in tough battle with my insecurities. There are days when I look in the mirror and scrutinize the reflection, days when I study my legs and my stomach and offer a harsh critique. There are days when I forget from where my worth comes.
This weekend I listened to our pastor deliver a convincing sermon arguing that we’ve let culture shape our views in regard to fashion instead of our Christian values helping to shape culture. None of the ideas were new to me–our culture screams loud and clear that the perfect woman’s body screams ‘sex,’ and no woman can actually reach the ideal that they’ve set; no matter how a woman dresses, men have to take hold of their thoughts and are responsible for where their mind goes; and we parents have to communicate to our daughters that they carry far more beauty than what the world would try to tell them and that their worth comes from their Creator, not the label on their clothing.
I have heard these teachings before, but at the end of the sermon, I had tears in my eyes. Near the beginning of the sermon, our pastor played a clip of a 15 year old girl who looked closer to 25 explaining why she dressed as she did. She wanted boys to look at her, to desire her, because it was then that she felt she was worth something. She flaunted her body because she tied her value as a person to her physical appeal, and the reaction from boys validated these feelings.
Fifteen was a long time ago for me, but I remember. I never flaunted my body or dressed seductively–I knew in mind that acting that way was wrong and that any boy who wanted me solely for the way I looked was not a boy that I wanted for a boyfriend–but I still wanted that validation. I wanted to turn boys’ heads when I walked by; I wanted them to want me. And when that didn’t happen, I doubted that I had any beauty.
And, unfortunately, sometimes I still do.
More often than not, I feel good about myself. I have a husband whom I love and loves me, children who bring a smile to my face, and I don’t desire anything more. Yet, there are those days that sneak up on me, days when I hate my reflection, days when I doubt that anyone other than my husband could find me attractive.
A few months ago, my son asked me why I didn’t wear a shirt that showed my stomach when I worked out at the gym. Initially, I was taken aback that my five year old noticed the trend of skimpy work-out clothes. However, I explained to him that I wanted to dress modestly, so I wasn’t going to wear shirts that showed my stomach (and I really didn’t want to show my stomach, either).
And I meant what I said–I do want to dress modestly–but sometimes when I’m working out I wonder if I could cause a head or two to turn. It’s not that I’m interested in anyone other than my husband, but I have moments like that 15 year old girl. I have moments when I’ve measured my worth by the heads that I’ve turned instead of by the One who gave me my worth.
I am in control of my thoughts, and I can’t blame anyone for them but me, yet the culture of which I am a part doesn’t do much to chase away these lies, either.
The other day my daughter tried on a superhero costume. After many days of my girls dressing up with their brother and their cousin in his costumes, my sister decided to buy some female superhero costumes to join the mix. The girls’ hero was Diana, also known as Wonder Woman, so my sister excitedly presented this costume to Hannah Grace. After putting on boots that were a little too high and a skirt that was a little too short, Hannah Grace looked at her appearance and exclaimed, “My daddy would freak out!” My sister agreed and returned the costume for a more modest Captain-America’s-daughter-costume.
When my sister told me this story, I had to wonder how is it that my four year old has more sense of what is appropriate for a child than those who manufactured the costume? And why do we as parents perpetuate the idea that our daughters’ value lies in the sexiness of their bodies by the clothes that we buy for them?
I know some might think that Matt and I are too strict when it comes to our daughters. We’re not fans of dressing our little girls in two-piece bathing suits nor painting their fingernails painted bright pink. Some of the outfits or accessories that we say ‘no’ to aren’t bad–they’re just not for little girls. We want our daughters to hold on to their innocence. We want them to look like little girls, not teenagers, because some day they will be teenagers. And when that day comes, we want them to be content with how they are, not striving to look ten years older. We want them to feel beautiful because God made them beautiful, and His beauty does not come in a box of hair dye or a tight shirt.
Last Sunday I had tears in my eyes at the end of the sermon because my pastor was talking to me. I know the feeling of that teenage girl wanting to look older, wanting to attract young men by looks alone. I’ve know the feeling of that 32 year old woman who wonders if she could attract anyone. I’ve known the feeling of tying up my worth in the latest fashion trends and the firmness of my muscles.
And I know that I don’t want my daughters to know that feeling. I want them to believe the words we speak into them, that they are beautiful and kind and truly a gift. And I know that if they are to believe they are worth something, their mother needs to believe that she is worth something, too.
Linking up late with Michelle for ‘Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.” These personal posts can take me awhile….
Have you ever fallen into the trap of tying your worth to your physical appearance alone? When you do find yourself placing more emphasis on the physical, how do you speak truth into yourself?