Stretch


Caleb and I were practicing his spelling words this morning, and he tripped up on ‘fast.’

“F-a-t-”

“No,” I interrupted. “Remember, stretch your words. Say every sound.”

I had heard Caleb’s teacher tell all the students to stretch their words when sounding them out, to say every syllable, every little sound by making the word as long as possible. I enjoyed watching their little mouths as they contorted in every direction try to speak every sound.

“Faaaaaassssssttt,” we stretched together.

“F-a-s-t,” Caleb spelled after hearing the ‘s’ clearly.

As I got in the car that morning, I thought about stretching. We stretch our muscles so they won’t tense up after a tough workout, and we stretch our words to hear clearly those extra sounds; and I thought, perhaps, I needed to stretch my mind that morning.

Since school started, the spaces on my calendar were already disappearing, and I hadn’t even added in my own obligations yet. School, sports, appointments, on and on and on. The muscles in my neck felt tense, and I had that jittery feeling inside. And at that moment in the car, I started to stretch. I said my tasks slowly, focusing on each one, one at time. When I tried to list them too quickly, I got nervous, feeling like I would miss something, but when I stretched, I could take each moment slowly.

I could breathe, I could see, and I could cross one off that list as I took the dog to the vet.

Five Minute Friday

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for “Five Minute Friday.”┬áHave you stretched this morning?


Perspective

I sat on the edge of the bottom bunk listening to Chloe pray. I love the sound of her little munchkin voice talking to God, the sweet innocence of a three-year-old. She rattled off family and friends, not leaving out one member of each family unit. I kept my head bowed and smiled.

But then she ruined it.

“And I thank you for Ella and Ellie. Thank you for their cat and the dog. I pray for their daddy…”

I’ve never had a problem with imaginary friends, but now they had entered her prayer life, and I had a moment of panic.

“…and their mommy and the baby in her tummy…”

“Yes, her mommy has a baby in her tummy,” Hannah Grace chimed in.

Great, I thought. Two crazies. Should I stop them? How far should I let this imaginary world go? We were supposed to be praying to God, not continuing our play from the day.

But I let the little voice continue as she learned to lay that which was most important to her at the feet of her Lord.

“…and I pray, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

The infamous girls pretending to be fierce warriors.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. When is a time that you had to change your perspective?

 

 

Looking Forward to ‘Goodbye’

photo courtesy of Erich Ferdinand

The last time Matt left for one of his trips, the kids listened as the garage door closed and then cried. They gathered around me in a circle, and the hysterics began. ‘Goodbyes’ are painful, and I’m not looking forward to the next time Matt leaves with a packed suitcase.

The last few months, I’ve had to deal with my own ‘goodbyes.’ They were also painful, but I’ve decided they are for the best. A few months ago, someone pointed out to me that perfectionism is not a good thing. I had always thought that my strong points were that I’m a perfectionist and have high expectations–I work hard until the job is done, and I never turn in sub-par work. People can depend on me. However, this person revealed to me that I’m setting myself and others up for unrealistic expectations.

I’ve really had to process through this idea, something I can’t do in five minutes, yet the moment I owned this fact, I felt like I could breathe a little deeper. I can never be perfect, and neither can those in my life. I can’t change the way others are or our relationships in some cases, but I can acknowledge and work within our reality.

I’ve packed my own bags and have headed out the garage door. I don’t know that anyone is crying (except for me a little), and unlike when Matt leaves, I’m looking forward to this ‘goodbye.’

When I saw the topic for this week’s ‘Five Minute Friday,’ I almost immediately had this idea. However, because I’ve lowered my expectations, I decided I’d write on Sunday, instead. For those new to ‘Five Minute Friday,’ the Gypsy Mama encourages us to write for five minutes without changing our thoughts or editing–we just get the words down. What ‘goodbyes’ have been good for you?

 

Tender

As we drove back from the hair salon, my neighbor Joann thanked me again for driving her.

“You’re very calm, and I like that. Some people aren’t when they drive.”

I smiled a little because ‘calm’ and ‘patient’ are words that many have used to describe me, but, in the last three years, they are words that to me seem the furthest away. I’ve wanted to reclaim them so that my kids would see what others have seen. I’ve gotten a little help along the way, but I’ve also learned a new trick.

I study them, and I savor their uniqueness. Last night, I watched as Chloe ate her ice cream cone. She took a napkin and delicately wrapped it around the cone to keep the melted mess from running down her hands. And I watched her little tongue. She stuck out that little tongue just over the top of the napkin that came up a little too high, and she found the soft cream below. Oh, how she enjoyed that ice cream!

Watching that sweet face, my heart couldn’t help but turn tender. So I watch my children now, and I send up a note of thanks for every ‘Punky Brewster’ style outfit, every nonchalant attitude toward another 100% on a spelling test, and every silly expression that comes out of her mouth. And this heart turns to mush every time I do.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her Five Minute Friday where we write what comes to our minds whether or not it’s exactly right. We spend five minutes getting down those thoughts and don’t change once they’re here. Click below to play along. What makes your heart tender?

 

Growing

I’m participating in the Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday, where we write freely for five minutes, not editing our thoughts, but, instead, seeing where they take us.

GO:

I remember when I was pregnant, I thought there was nothing more amazing and miraculous than the development of a baby. I’d watch every pregnancy show, and I loved the scientific ones showing the growth from embryo to fetus to a newborn baby being held for the first time by his mama.

I wanted to do everything right. I read every handout my doctor gave me, every article from the online magazines, attended every birthing class and paid attention as if I were earning a grade. I wanted my baby to develop correctly in the womb, and I wanted to ensure I gave him the best start as he entered the world.

And then when that little bundle of joy entered the world, I read every parenting article, memorized the milestones for each age, knew how much he weighed at three months and then six and then nine…

…but as my baby boy grew into a little boy, and as we added a girl and then another–very quickly, I might add–I started to notice something else miraculous. These little people were growing, and while I have helped guide them and protect them and nurture them, I also have to admit that a lot of their growing has nothing to do with me. And it’s amazing.

It’s amazing to watch my daughter combine colors on a piece of paper in the most imaginative* and beautiful ways. It’s amazing to watch my son create a letter for his teacher and sound out words on his own, without enlisting my help, and it’s amazing to watch my two-year-old girl categorize her Memory cards just because she wanted to.

Their growth is beautiful, and it is their own. But even more amazing is my growth because, while I thought I would be their teacher and guide their way, I’ve realized that I’ve had my own learning to do, as well. I thank them, for I’m the one who needed to do some growing.

STOP

*marks where I actually was at five minutes. I took an extra minute to finish, and I reworded my final sentence because it sounded awful. I’m really not trying to be a cheater….

 

Joy

I’m participating in The Gypsy Mama’s 5 Minute Friday where we paint pictures with words for 5 minutes without editing–just let the words flow.

Go:

When I saw the topic this morning I felt stumped. I’m not sure why–I have plenty in my life which produces joy–but I wasn’t sure how to write about the joy I feel at certain moments. Perhaps, because if I’m writing honestly, I don’t always feel that joy that I should have. So I pondered the meaning of joy this morning as I got ready for the day. I looked up definitions, hoping that I would see a big difference between ‘joy’ and ‘happiness,’ but our English dictionaries all produce similar definitions.

However, as I brushed my teeth and straightened my hair, I pictured my friends. Friends who had lost babies. Friends who had lost husbands. Friends who had lost jobs. And I pictured my son in the backseat of the van when he told me we should turn off the news–we didn’t need to listen to three different reports of people getting shot.

And in that moment of picturing, I knew that this world was too hard–it could crush the spirit–apart from God. Finding joy isn’t about finding happiness in every moment of this fallen world. Finding joy is experiencing contentment and remembering the grace that God freely gives.

Because apart from that grace, I would see too many bleak days outside my window, but instead, I can throw my hands up in surrender to Him. I can yell, “Okay! This is the lot you gave me in life!” and know that He will hold my hand as I walk it. And while holding His hand and experiencing His grace, I can whisper it is well with my soul, even when the circumstances around my life are not.

Stop:



Okay, I can’t lie, especially when writing about God. I, again, took more than five minutes. I swear, I must have the slowest thinking brain of all you bloggers out there. Oh, well. Forgive me. And to be honest–I’ll probably break the rules again (but I still didn’t edit). How would you define ‘joy’?

 

In Real Life

When I pictured myself all grown up, I imagined a beautiful wife (somehow age would completely transform my looks) who was loving and kind. My husband and I would have passionate sex all the time, the excuse of tiredness never creeping in our bed, and when we had a disagreement, we would fight fair.

I saw a mother who laughed and played and performed puppet shows and dress-up frequently. My children displayed evidence of their mother’s discipline, all having exceptional manners and self-control. And when they went astray, my temper did not, and I never yelled or spanked out of anger.

And one day I woke up in real life.

I woke up without makeup many days. Sometimes sleep really did sound better than sex. I didn’t always fight fair and carried more grudges than grace. I yelled at my children, my children who were far crazier than the children in my vision, and I found that I carried many of those traits that in others I hate.

Luckily, God never had to wake up. He knows what real life looks like and was prepared a little better than I.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. What surprised you most about your real life?

 

Bending the Rules

Last night my daughter slept on my head. I knew I was uncomfortable all night, as I had scrunched into the smallest ball possible trying not to roll off the side of our king-sized bed, yet it wasn’t until I opened my eyes and looked up that I realized exactly where my daughter had landed.

Matt and I have had a rule for sleeping since our oldest was old enough to start testing our beliefs on sleep: each child is to start off in his or her bed, but if they end up in our bed in the middle of the night, so be it. This rule has worked fairly well, as our oldest sleeps in his bed most nights, except for those rare nights when a bad dream disturbs his sleep.

However, our middle child ends up in our bed every night. Again, it’s not ideal, but we’re okay with our rule.

Well, last night, we brought two little girls into our bed–at the beginning of the night. Three hours of screaming and crying persuaded me to wave the white flag of surrender. I just wanted to lie down and read my book. I was tired of fighting.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m not so sure I’ve gotten wiser. However, I’ve grown more realistic. Convictions are good–they are essential–but some convictions are meant to guide along the path of life. Hold to them too tightly, and one might break.

So as I walk this journey of parenting, marriage, friendships–life–I realize, I need to walk the path with a little more curves. Because sometimes, life is about surviving, surviving with with a smile on my face, and if that means breaking my bedtime rule for one night, so be it.

 

image courtesy of photobucket

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. This week’s topic is ‘Older’ in honor of Lisa-Jo’s birthday!

 

New

Sometimes I look at my minivan, the crumb-covered floor, crayon-marked leather, and I think to myself this van is beyond hope. We’d have better luck starting new.

When I clean my bathroom, I instantly notice the mildew stain along the caulking near the floor, that same stain that’s been a part of my showering experience since we first moved into this house. I walk into any room in the house and see closets busting forth with clothes and other junk that I had forgotten existed. And I think it would be so much easier to just move into a new house, start fresh, than to deal with all this junk.

And sometimes, I crave the touch of a newborn curled into my chest. I crave the innocence of a new baby not yet showing the marks of our depraved nature. I remember the days of kids who were too small to sneak cookies or utter words of defiance. I miss new.

But today I said a different prayer. I thought that, perhaps, I don’t need new things or to start over with new babies (God, help me). Instead, I need new eyes. Eyes to see that under van seats with hidden toys and scary surprises is the potential to look brand-new with a little elbow grease (okay, that’s hyperbole. it could look better, though). Eyes to see that some new caulking and lots of deep breaths over many days of cleaning out a little at a time is the potential of a home that is de-cluttered but full of character. And eyes to see into those little souls and know exactly how to touch those sweet spots that crave cookies.

Linking up with The Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday (or in my case, 8 Minute Friday…I’ve decided that I have a slight disability that doesn’t allow me to think quickly. The time to get ideas from my brain to the keyboard is long, so I’ve allowed myself to bend the rules…but I still didn’t edit).

 

Beauty

I’m constantly amazed at the work of God’s hands to take the ugly, jagged pieces of our broken lives and make a beautiful mosaic. Where we once saw pain and death, we see a new masterpiece where God has used all those experiences to shape us into something stronger, better.

Over the last few months I’ve witnessed some of these pieces. I saw God’s hands hold the sharp piece holding death, and He painted soft colors through the middle where friends brought comfort. I saw pieces containing disappointment over lost jobs and an end to one phase of life only for God to draw a new picture for the future in its place.

And I saw the small, insignificant pieces become part of the masterpiece, the pieces of messes on the kitchen floor when a little girl wants to feel like a woman. The pieces where banana pudding recipes contain thyme and honey and pepper and are joined to a new piece, one with the opportunity for a mother to help clean up the mess and make something beautiful. I saw the beauty of the new piece, a memory of creating something new and good out of the misguided intentions of an almost four-year-old.

Just the way God does with our messes when He comes alongside to gently clean away the spills and create a work of art in its place.

Joining up with the Gypsy Mama for her ‘5 Minute Friday’ on ‘Beauty.’ In an attempt at full disclosure, today was more like a 10 minute Friday for me due to a brain freeze in the middle of writing, but I did not edit my work per the rules. Where do you find beauty?