For Theresa

Theresa had been part of our family for so long that I can’t remember the first time I met her. She was always a perfectly natural addition to our family, present most days of the week, holidays, vacations at the beach. I remember her at my wedding and meeting my newborn son for the first time. Watching my sister grow up, I also got to watch Theresa.

Lisa and Theresa made quite the pair. I’m not sure another person on earth would agree to watch Billy Madison as many times in a row as the two of them did together or change song lyrics and sing these new lyrics throughout the house until no one was laughing anymore. Or dress up (and they did this was when they were adults!)

Truth be told, I was always a little jealous of their friendship. To have a friend that one could call any hour of the night; a friend who would travel across state lines to lend a hand; a friend to laugh, cry, and get in trouble with; a friend with whom there were no secrets–Lisa and Theresa had a beautiful relationship.

My family and I never saw Theresa without a smile, and she genuinely loved people. My sister and I each had other friends growing up, and, I guess, as is natural, we didn’t always like those other friends. However, that was not the case with Theresa. I don’t know how another person could not like her. Her silliness, her smile, the attention she gave to everyone–Theresa’s personality was endearing.

Knowing her as such a beautiful person only makes her death harder. Why did God allow a person to die who had so much life left? Why take a young wife and mother, one who meant so much to so many people? I don’t know the answer but can only trust the mystery with Him.

A few weeks ago, I walked through my neighborhood. The air was cooler, and the trees were beginning to reflect hues of gold and burnt orange. I couldn’t stop looking up, studying the leaves that blew in the wind above my head.

Fall has always been my favorite season. Finally!–a reprieve from the terrible hot of Georgia, a glimpse of life at its most radiant before the dead of winter comes. But every year my complaint is the same–fall is too darned short.

Maybe that’s what makes fall so special to me. I know I have to get outside, walk in that cool air as soon as it hits, because in a week, I could be staring at gray, drizzly skies while wearing a winter coat.

Fall to me is God’s gift before winter. The leaves on the tree could slowly dry up and fall to the ground in a crunchy mess, but no–God let’s those leaves go out in a bang! Their final breaths are spent, not using energy for photosynthesis, but acknowledging the shorter days and resting, letting the green fade from their leaves revealing brilliant yellows and oranges and reds.

The maple tree in my front has a few red leaves left, and I wish I could pack that color into a crayon. Of course, I can’t; I have to enjoy it while it’s here.

When I think back to Theresa’s last months here, I see brilliance as her life was fading. I watched as my sister left her own family for days at a time to care for her friend, to watch Theresa’s child. I don’t get to witness love like that very often, and I’m so proud of the woman my sister is, the friend she was to Theresa.

At the wake and the funeral, I saw pain in the eyes of so many that loved her, and I could feel the intensity of that love. I listened as friends laughed recounting memories, and I cried when Theresa’s father spoke bravely of his daughter and her precious life. I know there is anger over her death and confusion and a whole other range of emotions that we can’t even explain–and in a way, these emotions are beautiful. The fact that a person could cause us to feel, really feel–it’s amazing.

No, we’d rather not have the winter and the gray that looms over us now. We don’t want to feel the chill in our bones or the wind on our cheek. Yet, we will all face our own winters; Theresa’s just came sooner than we’d like. However, in the midst of our tears, we can look at the love and passion and loyalty that remained when the Theresa we knew faded away. And it was magnificent.

 

I Have No Mercy for Kids With Mono and Other Tales

I found out last Saturday that my five-year-old daughter has mononucleosis. Of course like any good parent, I felt sympathy for my poor little girl who didn’t feel well. Then I felt relief. And guilt.

For the month prior, my daughter’s behavior was beyond horrible. Even asking her to put on her clothes was a battle. She would throw uncharacteristic temper tantrums, screaming that she was so tired and couldn’t do it. Her room remained a condemned area, as she refused for two weeks to clean it. She was grounded from a birthday party, the playground, dinner with the family–anything else I could think of–and yet she still refused to put even one dirty shirt in the hamper.

Hannah Grace has always been stubborn; refusing to do chores or taking forever to get ready in the morning was not beyond her capabilities, but she had reached such an impressive level of defiance that my visions of her future all involved jail time.

I spent nights crying in bed. All of my prayers started with her. In fact, I spent many nights after the kids had gone to bed walking up and down the hallway, prayer walking, casting out the demons that surrounded her room in Jesus’ name.

In fact, one night the urge to pray was so intense that I went to her room and laid hands on her sleeping body, assuming God wanted me to perform a mini exorcism. That night, Hannah Grace climbed into bed between Matt and me, and we could feel the heat emanating off her limbs as she snuggled next to us. She clearly had a fever. I figured God was giving me a sign that He was burning up the demons.

A few hours later, the fever was gone, and Hannah Grace was back to her defiant self. She said she didn’t want to go to school with venom in her voice, and I knew it was just another of her evil ploys. After all, I had already picked her up from school previously when she said she didn’t feel well, and she bounced around the house all day. We had gone to the doctor another time when she said her throat and stomach hurt, but her strep test came back negative. Clearly, I lived with a manipulative little faker.

So when the nurse called on Saturday and said, “Hannah Grace has mono,” I felt immediate relief that my daughter was not possessed by Satan. And then I felt guilt that I had thought my daughter was possessed by Satan. And guilt that I didn’t renew her gymnastics classes due to her defiant behavior and refusal to do chores.

Yep, that’s motherhood–doing my best to raise my kids well, seeking the Lord, only to realize that I wasn’t reading the signs He was giving me correctly; having to kneel before my child humbly, asking her forgiveness for not understanding.

And, yet, motherhood, is experiencing the biggest smile in my soul, the kind that runs from my stretched cheeks to my toes, as I watch my son round home plate and jog towards his dad who scoops him up in celebration. An in-the-park home run caused this little boy to run to his dad, his coach with tears streaming down his face because, as he explained, “I was just so happy.” These days are what make motherhood, life, amazing; the constant swinging of the pendulum through guilt and relief and compassion to joy and feelings that I don’t even know how to describe.

But I want to try.

I’ve know for some time what I’ve wanted to do, but, honestly, I’ve been afraid. A few weeks ago, God stirred in me that desire again. I attended Hutchmoot with my best friend Wendy, and I fell in love with the story, God’s story. His amazing Creation. His love story told through the pages of the Bible, a story that doesn’t end with Revelation but is just beginning.

I want to tell part of His story; I don’t know what part or where I’m starting, but I want to tap into the creative spirit that He’s given me, that’s He’s shown all of us by every beat of our heart, each breath that we take.

In order to write, though, to capture these moments of life that point toward God’s bigger story of hope and redemption, I have to give myself permission to let go of my blog. I already haven’t written as much as I would like, and that fact hovers over me and actually causes me guilt and disappointment.

The fact is that I want to write without the need to hit publish. I want to write and continue to write and see where my story takes me, but I can’t unless I release this need to write in this space.

These words are hard for me to type because this place has been such a significant part of my life for the last three years. I have shared my joys, my struggles–most of my heart–right here. And while I don’t have a large following, I am very aware that I have a great following of some of the most loyal and faithful readers out in this strange and wonderful world of the blogosphere. I call many of you my friends even though I’ve never seen you face to face!

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and, perhaps, one day I’ll have a more substantial work to share with you again. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll visit this space from time to time as my kids always provide the best material–after all, if I don’t write about it, I”ll forget it. And since I don’t scrapbook, my writing really is the best record of my kids’ childhood that I can provide. And now that I’m freeing myself from this space, perhaps I’ll be better at visiting each of yours.

Please pray for me that I would have the discipline to keep writing. And please continue to pray for my family–especially now that I have two kids with mono (Caleb was diagnosed yesterday…I’m hoping my tiredness and headache are just allergies)!

Three years ago when my husband bought me this laptop, I was angry that he spent this money. However, now I can only thank him. He gave me a gift that I never would have expected by renewing my passion (But please, please, Matt, do not buy me another one…even if parts of  this laptop are cracking).

May God bless each of you as you continue on in His story….


Fearless Faith

I can’t turn away from the Olympics. The clock may flash warning numbers as the midnight hour approaches, but if there is still a gymnastics rotation left in the schedule or a lap for Michael Phelps in the pool, I’ll continue to sip my caffeine until I reach the finish. We’ve made a party on our couch of celebrating the world’s greatest athletes by eating cookies and staying up so far past our bedtimes that we’re useless the next day.

Yes, I see the irony in our situation.

As I watch these men and women, young girls and boys, an excitement turns in my stomach. The former gymnast in me is driven by competition, and every four years I live vicariously through the USA’s athletes. While I remember the numerous sacrifices I made during my gymnastics career, I also realize that these athletes take sacrifice to a whole other level.

I look at my daughter as I hear the story of Gabby Douglas leaving her family in Virginia Beach to train in Iowa. Would I be able to let my daughter go, knowing that there are never any guarantees of success?

But, of course, there are no guarantees in life, no guarantee except ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ I look at the smiles and tears of those who stand atop the Olympic podium, and I know that they are only standing there because they pushed aside fear. They decided the hours of training for a chance at the dream were worth the risk that that dream could remain unreached. They ignored the fear that keeps some from even starting and pushed themselves to the finish.

photo via nbcolympics.com

Watching the Olympics these last few days jostled that something that lives inside me that wants to do more. Then a sermon at church this past weekend shook it wide awake.

After reading from Matthew 8, the pastor brought our attention to Jesus’ question. The disciples are panicked as their boat begins to sink in the midst of a ferocious storm. They are terrified for their lives as the waves crash around them, yet Jesus asks, “You of little faith,(A) why are you so afraid?”

Isn’t it obvious why they are afraid? They are going to die as a result of drowning in the storm–they had a good reason to be afraid, yet Jesus admonishes them for their lack of faith. The disciples had forgotten the most important detail: the God-man in the boat with them was greater than the storm that surrounds them.

Our pastor went on to say that Jesus requires fearless faith. We often brush aside fear as something normal, when, in fact, for the Christian, fear is sin.

Every person who made any significant gains in spreading the word of Christ had to push aside fear–the Apostles, Martin Luther, Jim Elliot, Corrie ten Boom–they each had to worship Him who is, was, and will always be greater than that which they feared,to remember why they could have fearless faith.

And that requirement for fearless faith is for me, too.

I sat in my chair at church, and my insides were a mess. I wanted to jump up and do something, but I wasn’t sure what.

Given the start of the Olympics, I thought, perhaps, the Lord wanted me to start training. After some consideration, I decided a sport where I use a gun or the coxswain in rowing are my best bets.

Over the last few days, I haven’t felt confirmation of this Olympic goal, but this uneasy, excited feeling has continued. I don’t know where God is going to take me, my family, but I know I want to be fearless. I don’t want to miss out on the life I could have because of fear or complacency. I don’t want to use my kids as an excuse or my lack of ability to do something that God is asking. I want to do His will, whether His will takes me around the globe or just down the street.

And in the meantime, I’m going to start target shooting just in case….

Have you ever equated ‘fear’ with ‘sin’? This idea was new to me. Are you living completely fearless, or do the comforts of your everyday routine keep you from questioning if there is more for you to do?

Boycotts Leave Me Hungry

I typically avoid writing posts political in nature. While I do my best to stay informed and vote every election, I find myself a little disillusioned by the whole political process as of late, and I don’t like any one candidate enough to fill others’ Facebook streams with my opinions. That, and I really don’t like appearing condescending and mean.

Nonetheless, I find that I can’t look away when, yet, another Chick-Fil-A article rolls down my newsfeed. Let’s be honest–Chick-Fil-A serves food, so they have my attention. And given the fact that their chicken actually looks like the chicken that I buy at the grocery store, they’ve had my business for many years. Since serving those squeezy applesauce pouches in the kids meal, the decision to indulge at this fast-food restaurant became a no-brainer.

So I’m frightened.

If anti-Chick-Fil-A advocates are successful with their boycotts, what other restaurants will be ruined for me? Last night, I prayed that Taco Bell didn’t give their money to any organizations–I can’t risk not having the Cheesy Gordita Crunch to run to on cheat days.

I admire people who are willing to take a stand, forego the most tasty chicken fillet with two pickles between buns, because they don’t want to send their money to organizations who then in turn use that money to support causes with which they don’t agree. However, I’m just not that disciplined. The fact that I have allowed my children any fast food is proof.

Out of curiosity, I looked up a list of companies who support causes with which I don’t agree. The conclusion: I’d have to buy a farm because I couldn’t eat at some of my favorite restaurants or shop at the grocery store. Thank goodness I didn’t see any pizza chains on the list….

Frankly, there are too many views in this world to choose the ‘anti’ stance any time anyone disagrees with me, not to mention that sometimes I find myself disagreeing with myself. I’m a flip-flopper. Over the course of my life, I have found myself vacillating between stances on different issues. I’d like to attribute this truth not to a lack of conviction, but, instead, a desire to thoroughly investigate and learn more.

As a result, my worldview has some black and white on the shores filled with a sea of gray. The more I try to investigate, think for myself, and empathize, the more my ‘convictions’ become ‘best options at the time.’ When I look at the issues dividing our country and seek the example of Christ to guide me, I am more uncertain. Christian denominations full of devout individuals who love Jesus can’t even agree on ‘what would Jesus do,’ so why would I loudly proclaim my opinion?

Jesus didn’t seem to be as concerned with politics as with saving our souls, so I quietly choose His model. I don’t recall reading about boycotts in the New Testament; instead, I see Jesus shocking the religious establishment by spending His time with tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus didn’t yell His message of equality for women in the face of others; instead, He quietly asked the woman at the well for water. He knelt down on the ground of the accused adulteress and forgave her sins.

I find eating dinner with those whose actions disturb me harder than refusing the meal they made. It’s much easier to boycott companies who support Planned Parenthood than to forgive, much easier to picket outside an abortion clinic than to adopt an unwanted child.

It’s much easier to shout what I’m against than to actually live what I’m for.

Perhaps, that’s one reason that I don’t boycott much of anything. The few convictions that I do have require much more than my money. Sure, withholding my money from those organizations whose beliefs go against my core convictions can be seen as action, but I find it a trap to complacency.

Especially as a Christian, I can use my money as a powerful tool to bully the world into feeling as I do, to feel like I am standing up for God and my convictions. But truly standing up, truly making a difference is so much harder.

That kind of a difference sent Jesus to the cross. Jesus seemed more repulsed by those who kept the rules than those who broke them. Perhaps, Jesus saw those who broke the rules as broken people and felt His time was better served by investing in them.

I want to follow His example. I want to be more like Him. I want to invest in people, not by whether or not I buy a chicken sandwich, but by actually learning people’s names and their stories.

And, well, I really like food. I think Jesus’ model of having dinner with sinners (since I am one, after all) works better for me.

I don’t want to know your opinion on gay marriage or Chick-Fil-A. Instead, I want to hear stories of people and convictions and how they made a difference. Do you know anyone who has adopted an unwanted child? Do you know anyone who sold all they had to care for the poor? Share your stories and inspire us!

 

Content

I don’t typically write without knowing where I’m going or having a point neatly wrapped up in the midst of one of my stories about marker-stained carpet or stolen peaches. However, today I felt the need to just write. I’m not sure where this post will end, but I wanted to begin, nonetheless.

The last few weeks, I’ve felt this overwhelming surge of happiness. I’ve tried to attribute the source–a vacation with Matt that worked, prayer that had been answered, the right dosage of medicine, visits with the chiropractor to get my body working properly–but I’m not sure what/who is to thank; maybe all of the above.

All I know is that I feel wonderful. I still wake up feeling like I could go right back to sleep, but I’m able to shake that cloudiness once I get going. I’m not sure that happiness and feeling wonderful are even the right words to describe where I am. Perhaps, content is a better description.

Most of the factors in my life that caused me grief before are still here–Matt’s long hours at work, a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by the kids and house–but I have a sense of ‘okay’ with all of them–not that I’m okay with those factors but that I am okay, we will be okay.

I’ve been looking at my children a lot lately–obviously, I see them every day–but looking at that little spark that makes them them. I can’t help but smile when I see it.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to write a post about all that I had forgotten. We had found some home videos of the kids when they were babies and toddlers. Caleb on his second birthday–I had forgotten his little voice, the way he sounded when he said ‘hanga-burger’ for  ‘hamburger;’ Hannah Grace, how beautifully sweet and how deep her voice was, even as a little baby as she said ‘Bye-i;’ Chloe and the first time she ate the carrots that I hadn’t quite pureed enough, Caleb laughing a weird, throaty laugh in the background. That night, my heart and insides literally ached for those days, not because I wanted them back, but because I couldn’t remember. I grieved for those little babies and wanted one more time to squeeze them and suck in every detail, memorize the sounds and smells so that I would never forget.

I guess that’s the consequence of having baby after baby after baby–one loses brain cell after brain cell after brain cell, and I just couldn’t take in all those details that I now miss. I think that feeling of loss is why I’m drinking in their uniqueness now.

I look at Hannah Grace, and I marvel. This child has captured a part of my heart. Boy, she is stubborn, but that sweetness inside of her–I’ve never met another with it. I took her to a trial gymnastics class the other day, and I prepared a water bottle for her. When I told Hannah Grace that this bottle was hers if she was thirsty after class, she just looked at me for a moment, paused and smiled. She slightly cocked her head to one side and quietly said, “thank you.” Looking at her face, one would’ve thought I told her that we deeded her the house when she turns 30. It was as if in her little heart she thought, How am I so special? and Now it’s my turn after a year and a half of watching her brother’s baseball games. The gratitude quietly shone through her.

It was a small moment, quick and quiet, but my heart warmed all the same. I love this little girl.

We watched Annie the other night with the girls, and I realized, if Hannah Grace is my Punky Brewster,’ Chloe is my ‘Annie.’ I never understood why the babies of families tend to be spoiled; I’m starting to get a sense of it now. The other day, Hannah Grace called her little sister ‘stupid’ from the top bunk of her bed. Well, if that little three-year-old didn’t get to her feet and start climbing the ladder ready to pound her sister. I pulled Chloe off the ladder, chuckling inside at my little tiger. If Caleb had reacted that way, I would’ve been horrified. When I pray at night, I pray my feisty little girl will turn that confidence and fighting spirit away from people’s noses and toward her Lord and convictions.

Last night, Caleb helped me put away the dishes. He told me that I could sit down; he would do them for me. I told him we could make the chore go quickly if we did it together. And that’s my boy–emotional and sensitive and ever the people-pleaser. Too much like me. Sometimes, I look at him and want to yell, “No! You don’t want to be like me!” but then I remember how he wanted to go to the pool when it was busy so that he could make new friends. Yeah, he’s not totally his mommy, after all.

Sometimes I look ahead and wonder what scar I will have left on their skin. I picture my kids in therapy relating, “My mom just couldn’t ___”, or “My mom always ____.” I’m far from perfect, but I hope these three know how my heart swells when I look at them, how I think they are the most beautifully unique people I have ever met.

And then there’s Matt. He brought me flowers last week…and a few weeks before that. I’ve been trying to show more attention to his work shirts. We kiss a little longer in the mornings and smile a little more often when we look at each other. It’s the little things, and the sense that we’re both working together, for each other, that makes the work worth it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t hold back from sharing the ugly in my life. But writing authentically means I share the beautiful, too, and I’m finding the beauty in just living contentedly. I’m not complacent–I know God shakes things up often–but for the first time in a while, I feel different.

I spent some time with a good friend a week or so ago, and, after our visit, she said, “You sound good. You sound light.” I feel light. I want to see those little glimmers in the everyday, those ordinary moments, and like Hannah Grace taking her water bottle, I want to smile and say, ‘thank you.’

Linking up with Michelle and Jen. I’d love to read your glimmers of content in the comments below.


 

I’ll Never Judge


As I was pushing around the heavy steam cleaner, God brought to mind a thought that entered my mind seven or so years ago. Yes, God has a sense of humor, and His timing is perfect. The day when I couldn’t stand to look at the dark spots on the den carpet any longer, the day when I decided that this was the day to try to remove the evidence of little girls sneaking Mommy’s make-up and magic markers, God reminded me of an ignorant thought that I will never again think:

I’ll never let my carpet get this bad.

Seven or so years ago, I was sitting in the den of a husband and wife who had volunteered to coach other small group leaders. They were as nice as nice could be, and their two blonde girls throwing cartwheels here and there completed the picture of the happy family. But their carpet…

…I was momentarily distracted by it. The fibers were worn–there was no ‘fluff’ or softness left–and the once pale, beige color was spotted with dark circles throughout. And in that moment, I remembered thinking that if I were them, I would get new carpet.

Of course, I had that thought when I was only married a few years. I had never had to re-carpet my house, so I had no idea of the expense. And the most important fact to explain my ignorance–I didn’t have any kids.

I had no idea the futility of getting new carpet when little kids were bouncing around, intent on destroying everything of value in one’s home. I had no idea the time wasted in cleaning anything because Murphy’s Law said less than 24 hours later that same area would be covered in filth.

Therefore, God reminded me of all that I had learned in the last six years while I worked the stains that penetrated my own worn carpet. I felt a twinge of guilt as I remembered my stupid thought. I only had a steam cleaner because my mom passed her old one on to me, and I didn’t whip it out every time a stain hit the rug because steam cleaning was a time-consuming, cumbersome chore.

As I finished the last row in the den, I started to feel what could be described as satisfaction. However, before my body would even let me acknowledge that fulfilling feeling, my mind woke me up: You know everything you just did was pointless, right?

And I did, but I drug the heavy machine up the stairs, anyway, determined to make less of the bright colors that dotted the landing, decorated my daughter’s room. Less than one hour later, after I had drug the machine back down the stairs and emptied the dirty water, my children drove home the lesson of which God had reminded me earlier that day.

Apparently, construction paper when wet will stain carpet. My son’s anger over his sister boiling the panda food in her little play pot that he had created earlier in the day ended in black splotches all over the other sister’s floor.

At this point in the story, I did what any mother would do and gave up.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve given up most expectations. No longer do I expect clean carpet, and if I go to your house, I won’t expect it there, either. In fact, if I come to your home, you can count on the fact that I won’t judge anything.

If there are dust bunnies in the corner or blatantly blowing like a tumbleweed through your family area, I won’t judge. If your clean laundry is tossed on a chair in a wrinkled mess, I won’t give it a second glance, unless I decide to help you out and fold a pair of pants or two. If your walls have the renderings of Picasso wanna-be’s or the letter ‘d’ 17 times because your child just figured out how to write, I won’t even notice. And if your counters are covered with enough papers to convince me that you are in charge of simplifying the tax code, I’ll nod with empathy. I’m that important, too.

I don’t judge anything, anymore. Even you, well-dressed 20-something rushing through the aisles with a frown at the grocery store–I know you’ve just yet to be enlightened about the workings of a four-year-old and a mini shopping cart. Don’t worry; I don’t judge you, either. I just suggest that  you move to the other end of the store. Your thoughts might come back to bite you later.

What is a judgment that you used to make that you will no longer?

Rest

Sunday night, Matt and I drove back up our driveway to reality. For the past four days, we had lived as newlyweds, except on this ‘honeymoon’ we were content to sit next to each other with a book in hand.

I read two books this week. I have to admit, I was relieved to know that I could still read considering I had taken six months to read my last book. I guess all I needed was a beach chair and umbrella and a couple of hours to myself.

And for four days, that was our existence. We woke up late and went to bed late after spending hours at the beach doing nothing. It was glorious. I’ve never been one for doing nothing, but now I see what I’ve been missing.

We started our vacation by getting our rings polished. Those first few years of marriage, we kept our rings sparkly and clean, but neglect from the last few years had taken its mark. They had become dull, merely a symbol that encircled our fingers but didn’t catch our eye. However, when the attendant walked out with our rings, I actually giggled. I found myself staring at my ring the way I had when it newly graced my finger.

Matt and I took long walks on the beach talking, not ‘how was work?’ talking, but really talking. We talked about our future and remembered our past. We didn’t talk about our kids much, either. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t really miss them.

Sure, I enjoyed talking to them every day, but I didn’t want to go home. I entertained the thought of hiring a nurse like the one in Romeo and Juliet. I would play with my kids and then hand them over to her when they started fighting or peed their pants. I decided that that plan wouldn’t work, though, because I actually do want to raise my children–just not during those days on the beach.

On the second full day, I surprised myself. I didn’t feel tired, anymore; sure, I felt lazy, and some of my plans for the day included a nap under the umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t go on. And that feeling was one of the best of the trip.

We drove up our driveway last Sunday, and as the garage door rolled up, three little munchkins in pajamas ran out. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we received applause from our children. I wanted to scoop them all up–there is just something about newly bathed children in clean pajamas.

And then the reality of what we’d been missing hit us quickly. Matt went right back to work, and I spent a morning at the chiropractor’s yelling at children who were fighting over toys. But I noticed, even while having pain in my back that wouldn’t let me turn to see what was actually happening in the rear of the van, I had patience. I disciplined better. And I loved greater.

I spent more time playing with my kids’ hair, and Matt and my kisses ‘goodbye’ lasted a little longer. I longed for him, and I desperately wanted, want, to keep up our walks at the beach where we talked about everything and nothing, together without distraction. I don’t want to fall into the rut of TV and Twitter; I want to keep our rings polished.

Rest was exactly what we needed to see each other with fresh eyes, and I don’t want to wait another ten years to rest again. I love Matt and my kids too much to run on empty. So the next time Mommy says” I need a vacation!” everyone better start packing their bags.

Have you taken the time to get the rest you need? Realistically, we can’t take vacation all the time–and in this economy, sometimes we can’t take a vacation at all. What are your suggestions for getting the rest we all need?

I’m linking up with Michelle for her ‘Graceful Summer.’

Risk

The rain began to tap the windshield as it had ten years prior, when we first drove away as husband and wife. I remembered the nervousness I felt as we sat in traffic (traffic at 11:00 at night, amazingly), quietly waiting to enter the rest of our lives. At the young age of 22, I really didn’t understand the risk I was taking, only that I was in love with a man whom I wanted to love forever. But, now, as we left our car and ran to take cover from the rain that came down cold on our backs, I realized how brave we were.

Ten years ago, we had decided to enter a union knowing that the odds said we had a 50 percent chance of losing. We risked making the vows anyway, deciding that divorce wasn’t an option for us. We knew that rough patches would come along, and we were committed to loving and working together through those times.

Of course, we didn’t know exactly what those rough times would be or the endurance we would need to keep going. We didn’t know the disappointments along the way or the helplessness we would feel when we didn’t know how to help one another. We didn’t know the strain that three kids would bring to our journey nor the darkness of depression. We didn’t know how tired and empty we could feel.

But we had heard ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ and we risked the ‘I do’s’ anyway. And every day since then, we’ve risked giving a little more than we think we have left, losing a little bit of ourselves as we try to serve each other, forgetting comfort as we do what is right instead of what is easy.

I looked across the table that night at him as we ate risotto and laughed at not being cool enough for our waiter and wondered if it was still raining outside. We let our tired selves relax in our chairs as we pushed aside everything but each other.

I watched him smile across the table at me, and I missed our kids–but not really–and I thought of his braveness, our braveness, and strength. We were tired, but we were enjoying each other too much to leave. And ten years later, knowing the risks but experiencing the gain, I quietly said, ‘I do.’

This post was inspired by Lisa-Jo’s ‘Five Minute Friday’ on risk and, of course, my husband of ten years, Matt. I wanted more than five minutes to think about my words, so I mulled over them this weekend. I love you, Matt, and I look forward to risking the rest of our lives together.

 

A Bag of Peaches

When the kids are out of control, and the house is a mess, I like to look ahead 30 years. I imagine my 60-something-year-old self with my children and their spouses gathered around the kitchen table, laughing while we reminisce.

Hannah Grace, do you remember the time Chloe and you made a ‘cake’ with dirt and eggs all over the kitchen floor?” Caleb would ask.

Yes, Mom made us scrub that whole floor on our hands and knees. We never made that mistake again!

Except they did make that mistake again two days later. Clearly, my punishment didn’t carry the desired effect.

My dad’s dad, however, taught my father a lesson with one simple action, and my dad has never forgotten it.

When my father was a child, fruit didn’t sit out on the counter or in a forgotten refrigerator bin waiting to spoil. Fruit was a luxury, and my father remembers fighting over who would get the last banana.

His mother didn’t walk to the local grocery store but instead to the street corner where the vendor set up his cart. One side displayed fresh vegetables, the other the fruit that was in season.

My dad remembers one summer afternoon when he was spending his time with a neighbor boy who Dad since describes as ‘no good.’ I guess, much like nowadays, adolescents get bored easily and find ways to get into trouble. This boy found trouble in the fruit stand. He told my father that when the vendor walked to the other side to help the customer pick out her vegetables, they would each grab a peach.

Dad wasn’t excited about the plan, but he didn’t protest. As the vendor walked around the other side, each boy snagged a piece of forbidden fruit–unbeknownst to them, right under the watchful eye of my grandfather.

Get inside.

I’ve never met my grandfather, but I’m told he was calm and even-tempered. I can almost feel the dread my father must have felt enter his stomach when he heard his own father utter those stern words.

Dad ran inside, peach in hand, and waited in his room.

A few minutes later, my grandfather entered with a bag of peaches and set them down by my father.

The next time you need something so badly that you have to steal, you tell me, and I’ll get it for you.

There was no screaming, no beating that followed, just those words. Sixty years later, those words cause my dad’s eyes to water as he remembers his father and this story.

That story always stuck with my father and shaped him in ways that a beating probably couldn’t. My dad describes how he could never steal after that moment, how that moment even affected the way he carried out business as an adult.

And that moment affected me, as well. I wish I had gotten the chance to meet my grandfather–all I know of him are the stories that my father shares–but they have helped me form a picture. In my mind’s eye, I see a wise man. I see a man who didn’t have the money to spend on a whole bag of peaches, but he knew that honesty and integrity are worth far more than all the riches in the world.

My grandfather didn’t know at the time the effect of his actions. He didn’t know that that one action would reach out to later generations as I try to raise my own children in a way pleasing to God.

I wish I could’ve met him, and I pray for his wisdom. While no parent wants their children to do wrong, we know they will. And on that day, I hope for my own bag of peaches to pass on to my children, to teach them and remind them as they carry the weight in their hands.

What is a punishment that you will never forget?

 

Strength and Courage

If I’m honest, I yearn for the days of ‘easy.’ I look forward to each milestone of independence with my kids, and I hope for the days when my husband’s job will take away less time from the family. Sometimes, my eyes focus on a reality that isn’t here, imagining my life the way I want to live it if I could just tweak a few details about the present.

Last night, I wanted to read a book. I’ve been reading the same book for months as the end-of-the-school year madness left me too tired to think most nights. Unfortunately, that tiredness left me too tired to wake up many mornings, and I felt the nudge to read my neglected Bible first.

I decide to read Joshua chapter 1 after hearing a sermon on Joshua 6 that afternoon. In the first nine verses, God tells Joshua three times to “Be strong and courageous.” I couldn’t help but think that God was speaking those words to me, too.

Now, I realize I’m not leading an entire nation across the Jordan river, but I am leading three little ones every day. Many nights, I close my eyes in fear as I pray, as I beg God to hold my children close, as I yearn for Him to make me a better mother–but the words He spoke to Joshua are the same for me:

“Be strong and courageous…”

Why?

“…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9)

God is with me, no matter where Matt works, no matter the ages of my kids, no matter my successes and failures in parenting, and all He asks of me is that I am strong and courageous. I can find that strength and courage if I remember that He is the one who gives it to me.

Last night, sleep came easily, as it does most nights, but before I closed my eyes, I thought and prayed about what I had read. While I would still love to tweak a few details here and there for the future, I’m going to work harder at being strong in the present.

For God is with me.

Photo by NeilsPhotography

*in verse 9, emphasis added is mine

Where is God telling you to be strong and courageous?

Linking up with Michelle and Jen today.