Mommydom Is…(Part 2)

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More about Mommydom…

26. Repeating yourself over and over and over and over and over and over and…..

27. Hearing the word “Mommy” till your ears bleed.

28. Realizing you have become a professional mediator.

29. Indoor play-yards, bounce houses, playgrounds, or anything colorful to climb on.

30. Adopting chocolate as an official food group (for you…not the kids!  That would be so WRONG!)

31. Questioning every single word you speak:  Did I lead him in the right direction?  Am I enabling her?  Am I shaming him?  Was that too harsh?  How much will I have to pay her therapist to erase this one?

32.  Feeling like everyone in the world knows how to do this parenting thing better than you.

33. Crying at every milestone, performance, and game no matter how old they get.

34. Ice cream victory parties for riding a bike, tying shoes, or learning to pee-pee in the potty.

35. Not remembering what a full-night’s sleep feels like.  And sometimes not caring…

36. Taking those wide-awake, mid-of-the-night moments and sneaking into tot-filled rooms to watch them sleep.

37. Not being able to resist caressing a rounded cheek or kissing a button nose.

38. Realizing that you had no idea how many times you used the words “stupid” and “idiot” until you weren’t supposed to use them anymore.

39. Rejoicing over the utterance of words like “please”, “thank you”, “may I?”, and “I’m sorry.”

40. Feeling your heart flutter when you hear the school bell ring or the familiar whirring of the school bus coming down the street.  And then being thrilled every time they walk through the door, no matter how bad it was when they left.

41. Having your body become a tent, a restaurant, and then a playground.

42. Trading haute cuisine for mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, and peanut butter sandwiches.

43. Finding out that tying your shoe for the first time is a far greater achievement than winning Olympic gold.

44. Patting yourself on the back when you watch your kids offer to share.

45. Crying when it is you they pick to share with.

46. Plotting and planning to be the first in line when the “Disney On Ice” ticket window opens.

47. Making a deliberate effort to teach the virtues of love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…and then realizing that you lack all of these virtues.

48. Having compassion for the woman in the grocery store whose child is throwing tomatoes across the room.

49. Breathing a sigh of relief when someone else reprimands your children…because you just ran out of ideas.

50. Learning the secrets behind removing marker off walls, the bedspread, the carpet, the kitchen table, and the dog.


Mommydom Is…(Part One)

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Welcome to a four-part series on Mommydom.  I hope you can relate.  Feel free to add at will:

Mommydom is:

1. Walking to and fro anywhere but on an actual sidewalk.

2.Finding yourself saying sentences that would be absurd out of context: “Son, stop eating the furniture!”, “The dog’s tail is not a microphone!”, “Get your finger out of your brother’s nose!”

3. Saying goodbye to using the potty alone.  Ever.

4. Having your college-level English skills abandoned for the likes of such vernacular as “potty”, “boo-boo”, “sleepy”, “calapitter”, and “ouchie”.

5. Checking every plate at every meal to ensure the presence of all food groups and each color of the rainbow.

6. Investing in a personal, transportable IV of coffee.

7. Butterfly kisses, Eskimo kisses, fish kisses, and sucking on puffy cheeks till they pink with color.

8. Daily dance parties.

9. Jumping in puddles.

10. Seeing life anew through virgin eyes:  every sight a wonder.

11. Stopping to smell the flowers…literally.

12. The warmth of tiny fingers curled into mine.

13. Sticky faces, sticky hands, sticky tables, and sticky kisses.

14. Getting over “sticky”.

15. Watching your heart walk around outside of your body.

16. Fearing for the well-being of that walking heart every minute of every day.

17. Lessons learned:  some by kids, most by parents.

18. Sleeping as a communal activity.

19. Prayers over boo-boos, bad dreams, separation anxiety, broken hearts, and hurt feelings.

20. Being willing to play dress up, defend your…well, your anything, slay giants, and drink gallons of “tea”.

21. Bubbles: not just the soapy kind.  Bubbles from noses, mouths, bottoms, and bubblegum.

22. Becoming numb to bodily fluids.

23. Developing the ability to carry four coats, three water bottles, two soccer balls, a purse, a book, a box of crayons, Goldfish, a blanket, and an open cup of coffee all in one armload.

24. Rejoicing in the quiet moments…then wondering why they are so quiet.

25. Willingly surrendering time to yourself in exchange for snuggles.


A True, True Friend

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I’m not sure if it is my complete lack of ingenuity or my recognition of brilliance, but I glean vast amounts of knowledge and wisdom from the musings of others.  Nary an original thought traverses the landscapes of my mind.  I love quotes.  Quotes from long ago.  Quotes from modern-day.  Quotes from the Bible.  Quotes from “Tommy Boy”.  Whatever strikes a chord with me.

In fact, I am so thoroughly enamored but the complexity of a simple quote that the Book of Proverbs sends my poor bring spinning into the great beyond.  I can only digest it a line or two at a time.

“You want me to read Proverbs 3, verses 5 AND 6?  You must be off your rocker!  I can’t HANDLE all that new information!”

Maybe it is that I’m too rushed.  I don’t give myself the time to listen to the drawn-out, picturesque, or deeply poetic descriptions of lengthy prose (I say as a writer…not so smart…).  Or maybe my ADD kicks in before I reach sentence #3, and by word 24, I’m remembering that I need to buy cucumbers the next time I hit Fresh Market.  Which I can do before 5, but only after 3.  But what about traffic?  No, that won’t work.  What was it you were saying again? Perhaps I am just not “deep enough”, preferring postcard conversations over actual human-length dialogue.

Or maybe, quotes are just awesome!  (You can quote me on that.)

Whatever the reason, one-lined knowledge hits me, and hard.  The thought marinating in my brain today hails from the highly acclaimed writers of the deeply poetic…My Little Pony.  Ah yes, the Bonhoeffer of mommyhood.

It must have been the wise Twilight Sparkle, or perhaps the delicate Fluttershy who burrows into my brain today with these captivating words:

“A true, true friend helps a friend in need.”Image 2

Thank you, pony girls.

Those little fillies sure know what they are talking about!  Put by another, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).  It is hard for me to think of asking my friends to help me through times of adversity, yet the Bible is replete with examples of such companionship:  The friends who helped their paralyzed buddy reach Jesus, Job’s friends mourning with him in his time of deepest loss, Jesus’ loved ones at His feet as He died a brutal death.  In each scenario, the one in need is flanked by friends.  Just being there, just being PRESENT made all the difference in the world.  They came as a team to the face of adversity; to look it dead-on and say, “We stand together before this.”  What comfort that must have brought the sufferers.  What peace (inasmuch as there can be peace in trial) must have become them to know they were not alone.

Though it is easy to think of friends as being there only to add joy and light to life, to do so solely would be to ignore the most magnificent and mind-blowing part of friendship:  adversity.  Far more than once in my life have I been in an ugly place, and I fear I’d have been stuck there indefinitely had it not been for the loving care of my dear friends.

I pause in writing here to take a deep breath.  Even composing those last few sentences leaves a swelling in my chest.  (Thank You, Jesus, for the people You brought into my life to walk alongside me.)

The last six months have been a time of infestuous turmoil for me.  My day-to-day walk had been darkened to what felt like a tunnel that would never need.  More than once did I wish my days away, praying that God would find reason to take me home.  Surely He could relieve my suffering.

And in so many way, He did.  But not in the ways I had prayed for:  He did not take me home.  He did not change my circumstances.  He did not speed up the trials; in fact, He lengthened them.  He did speak into the great unknown to make everything just “go away”.

IMG_1649But He did come alongside me.  God knows that His children cannot make it in this world alone, though some of us (ahem!) would like to think we can.  My dear Father, in His favorite, “Jess, I think you need to learn something” mode chose to flank me as I walked through my trials via the hands and feet of His other children; my “true, true friends”, who were indeed there for adversity.  God brought many dear and loving hearts to sit with me, pray with and for me, teach and correct me, direct me, text me, call me, write me, and even lay in a puddle of tears on my bed with me.  I was not in any way alone, and I don’t know what I would have done without them.  The very real presence of my fellow sufferers gave me life and light in a time of death and darkness.

And most importantly, their light did not fade as my darkness continued.  Each heart proved faithful to stand beside me as long as it took.  My own motor shorts out on me after a while, so the long-suffering of those supporting me was exceedingly humbling and taught me a valuable lesson:

“A true, true friend helps a friend in need.”

Thank You, again, Precious Jesus, for providing little pieces of You with skin on.

And thank YOU, my dearest, sweetest companions for being faithful, for being strong, for being loving.

For being PRESENT!

I love you!!

 


Talents Hidden

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As I’ve been writing this blog over the last couple of months, I have been amazed at what it has done for me. The changes I have seen and felt in myself have been profound.  It has been a mystery why that could be so.  Why is putting random thoughts on a computer screen cathartic for me?  Why does it make me feel free; alive?

I’ve thought about these questions quite a bit (Are you surprised?  Brain doesn’t stop, remember?). And this is what I’ve come up with…

Let me take you on a journey.

In Matthew 20, Jesus shares the parable of the talents.  Biblically-speaking, a talent was a sum of money equal to a bit more than $1000.  In the parable, a business man leaves for an extended period of time and entrusts his wealth to three of his servants, giving each of them a different amount of money:  five, two, and one talent each.  The servants handle their boss’ funds each in his own way while their employer is abroad.  The servant with five talents “put his money to work” (v. 6), earning five more.  Same with the servant with two talents.  But the servant with one talent, knowing how hard, shrewd, and money-hungry his boss was, buries the one talent entrusted to him to be assured of its safety and to return it in time to its proper owner.

When the boss-man returns, he is overjoyed by the earnings of the first two men and infuriated by the protective actions of servant #3.  He even takes the well-protected and safely-kept talent away from servant #3 and gives it to servant #1.

Now, stop right here.  My brain yells at me, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Now this guy right here, servant #3, was the only SMART one in the group!  The other two took something that did not belong to them and “played poker” with it!  They could have lost EVERY CENT. What then?  What would boss-man say then, huh?  Would he be so very proud of them THEN?!  Servant #3 should be PRAISED for protecting a gift given to him by someone else and ensuring its safe return.  Boss-man totally missed it!  Jerk!”

I feel so badly for servant #3!  “I get it, buddy.  I see what you were doing.  I’d have done the same thing.  Play it safe, that’s right.  Bring it in for a hug; I got your back.”

This is how I live my life.  Safe and sound.  Small.  No sudden movements.  No big changes. Keep it close, keep it near, keep it sanitized.

And yet somehow, I have a feeling God is telling me that maybe my view is not quite right.  Maybe God is Boss-man and the “talents” are the talents you and I know in contemporary language.  Maybe they are the gifts of life given to be lived out.  Maybe burying those gifts is the same as slapping handcuffs on them, putting them in a chokehold, or not letting them fly.  And maybe–just maybe–if we put them out there, He will let them multiply.

I am not very good at naming or claiming the talents I feel God has given me.  To do so feels haughty, prideful, or even delusional, as if I decided the nature of my own talents, when really I was living in a dream.  However, were I to try to name my God-gifts, I feel they would fall into the arena of communications:  speaking and writing.  Both have come naturally to me (whether this means I am a Chatty Kathy is another topic altogether).  But somewhere in time, I watched those talents succumb to the pieces of my life-story, getting buried further and further underground.

Before I met Hubby, I did my fair share of public speaking; on behalf of work, to represent my graduating class, to share my testimony, etc.  Additionally, it had always been a dream of mine to write:  to write a book, devotionals, articles, whatever.  But, as the Lord would direct, He brought me to a man whose talents happen to fall into the same category as mine, and happens to be exceedingly good at them.  I figured that my job, as his wife, was to take the skills I had and just put them to the side.  Plus, who would want me when they could have him?  I fell into the shadows, both by society’s pull and my own self-deprecation.

For 15 years, I have sat in that place, with talents buried.  But in that time, I have turned my inward decision–to bury my talents–into an outward expression of resentment toward Hubby.  I have taken out on him something I did to myself (sounds like an entry for my “Stupid Things” page).  Even writing those words shows me how unfair that was to him.  (Sorry, babe…)  And yet, I felt I was the one wronged all this time.  Like the one using his talent (Exhibit A:  Servant #1) was being rewarded while the one burying hers (Exhibit B:  Servant #3) was being punished, having the talents entrusted to her given to servant #1.

I think it may be time to unearth what the Good Lord entrusted to me, which is why I have devised this blog.  As it was with servants #1 and #2, putting the talents “to work” involves a great deal of risk, even to the point of loss.  I am left to wonder:  Am I brave enough to risk it?  To risk losing something I’ve kept buried, hidden, protected for so long?  What if the talent is no longer any good?  What if I put it “to work” and come back empty-handed?

That leaves me with a choice.  I can either keep my talent hidden away, possibly stifling something God meant to live free and hoarding along with it a cavalcade of resentment and bitterness, or I can unearth a hidden treasure and see if God lets it soar.  Am I strong enough to risk it?

Heck yeah.

Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to breathe free.  Now let’s see if I can fly!

 

Thought to ponder:  What talents have you kept buried or hidden that you are willing to set free?  Let me know.

 

 


Afternoon Showers

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I’m a Florida girl.

“But, you’re from Ohio, Jess!”

Yeah, well, my parents never got the memo.  (Sorry, guys.)  I spent my Ohio days huddled on top of the heater with a blanket wrapped around me, complaining an endless rant about not being able to feel my body parts.  “Mom, my fingers are white with red splotches!  Is that bad?”  Even as a toddler, I tried to relay the message to my parents’ Ohio-planted ears by taking my first steps on a Great Lakes beach.  Even then I knew.  I knew the sand was my earth, the waves my soul, the water my body, and the salty air my breath.  I feel alive with the shore; as if being with  the water gives me my only chance to really breathe.  To take it in.  To breathe its life.  And to be one with the One who created it all.

To me, God is no more real, no more present, than He is on the shoreline.  He tickles my feet with every wave that washes ashore.  He laughs with me as I hear His voice in the call of the seagulls.  He plays in the water as a dolphin puts on a majestic performance.  He touches my cheek as the breeze blows past.  God is everywhere on the beach to me.

And sometimes He shows Himself in power.  As comforting and soothing as the gentle lapping of green-flagged waves can be, double-red flagged crashers show a terrifying (yet captivating) display of ferocity.  Another sign of God’s presence to me.  What a tangible reminder that God Himself has many faces, many moods, and myriad ways of expressing Himself.  It’s often easy to welcome the sun-filled days of playful waves, and yet so very difficult to welcome the gray-clouded, lightning-infused days of thunderous turmoil.  And yet, both are open signs of God expressing Himself to us.  I know I certainly have both kinds of days in my relationships with family members. If I hope to be accepted and welcomed in both sun and stormy weather, then I must be willing to accept both sun and stormy weather.  (True; easier said than done.)

One of Florida’s fancy little secrets is its almost ritualistic afternoon showers.  Though they can be a pain in the patooty, those little rain drops can be a very welcome visitor.  You see, it rains a lot in Florida.  But never for long.  That’s the secret (Darn!  I spilled the beans).  Once the sky gets all gloomy and scary-looking, opportunity awaits!  Why?  Because those who don’t know the secret, leave!  They pack up all their beach toys, sunscreen, floaties, and umbrellas and say, “Well, it was a nice day at the beach/park/Magic Kingdom today, but we should probably wrap it up now.”

Then, TA-DA!!!  Those of us who know “the secret” suddenly have the beach/park/Magic Kingdom to ourselves!  Hot diggidy dog!  Oh, yeah, and since it rained, it’s a lot cooler now. (Ok, and the humidity has reached rainforest levels, but you win some and you lose some.)  You see, if you just wait out the storm, it passes much quicker than you expected, and the end result is much, much sweeter.

Case in point:  Saturday, I had the blessed opportunity to take my kids to Disney World for the day.  You see, it wasn’t just any day, it was my birthday, which is the next national holiday…be on the lookout.  My most selfish day of the year.  Anyway, March 29 being the last weekend of Orlando’s spring break, they were expecting record-breaking crowds.  Multiple hour waits for every ride.  Parking lots closed because they reached peak capacity.  But they were also expecting rain.  An opportunity!!

So off we went, ponchos in tow, to enjoy a very uncertain day at the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  Three hours in, the rain began.  Then the lightning came.  Then the tornado watches.  And finally, the tornado warnings.  Undaunted (because we knew the secret), we found our way to a cement-walled bathroom and waited.  Other joyful wait-ers entertained me with a boisterous round of “Happy Birthday”.  We ran from one solid spot to another in between lightning strikes.  And then, as expected, it ended.

Out came the sun, and away went the crowds.  Oh, happy day!!

We never waited more than 40 minutes after that.  Bless You, Jesus, for the rain!!

Bless You, Jesus, for the rain.

Huh.  How many times in life do I actually say that?

How often do I actually THANK God for the storms?  For the rain?  For the trials?  For the gray clouds of life?  Not very often.  I mean, why would I ever THANK God for the tough times?  What good would there be in stopping my day, changing my plans, and dealing with soggy, wet shoes?  

Perhaps maybe, just maybe, the crowds dissipate after the storm passes.  Maybe the thoughts stop swirling.  Maybe the fears take a trip to Alaska.  Maybe the hurts and sorrows call it a day.

And then maybe…just maybe…the sun will come out. 

Florida’s storms rarely last long.  In hurricane season, such is not the case, and certainly life bears multiple hurricanes.  But how many more of our stormy moments come and go in a seeming flash?  When the wind is howling and the rain is pummeling us, it is easy to give in to the darkness.  In those moments, the hope of sunny skies seems a distant and unattainable dream.  We are being beaten down, leaving very little energy for optimism.  Goodness knows, I have resorted to optimism only in emergency situations.  

But what if I didn’t?  What if I grabbed hold of optimism at the first sign of cloudy skies?  Storms a-comin’ means glory ahead.  The chance to grow, learn, reach, and hold on with each thundercloud.  The chance to rely on God until the skies clear.  And then to face the rainbow.  What better promise is there?

I just have to hold on.

Because sooner or later, and usually sooner, that Florida shower will pass away.  Then it’s clear skies ahead; calm and serene…until the next shower, and the next chance to “hang on”.

I have to admit; even though I am writing about the joys of hanging on during those thunderous moments, I’m only now beginning to learn how to do so.  Would you like to try this out with me?  Let me know of your most recent personal thundercloud and what God shared with you during your storm.