The Week My Compassion Broke

You know those blog posts that start with a problem and end with a cute little moral, a “you-can-do-it” pep talk, or at least an inspirational quote with a gorgeous panoramic picture?

I know you’re starting to feel a little warm and fuzzy at the thought, so I’m going to go ahead and snap you out of it and dump ice water on that thought.  Yeah, this isn’t that post.

This is the post where I tell you how the stomach bug attacked my six year old, while he was at a birthday party by the way, and then proceeded to take the rest of us out one by one like an invisible, icky sniper.  You know how this goes…the cleaning of things you haven’t cleaned since…well…the last stomach bug, come to think of it.  The indefinite holding of the breath hoping no one else will get sick. The way you simultaneously feel deeply sad for your pitiful child, but also think, “How could you do this to me??!!”

The sick feeling you get when you’re not actually sick but your mind thinks you are.

And then the actual being sick when you start bartering with God, asking yourself where you went wrong in life and why you never appreciated normal digestion.

So we finally got past all that in just under a week and had a deceptively blissful couple days of reprieve.  Then Monday two out of 3 kids woke up with ear pain that ended in infections for both.  (Side note: Minute clinic offices are really not big enough for two upset sick kids and a three year old that rivals the energizer bunny.)

So here I am today…and I told my husband my compassion is broken.  They broke it.  Not their fault.  No.  But sickness is like a megaphone that takes alllllll the whining and the tantrums and the baseline drama and amplifies it a gazillion times.  (That is a highly accurate statistic.)  If my sympathy is like a tube of toothpaste, we are down to that last little bit that you can only access through complicated origami folds.

My son asked to play a game today and I flat out told him that I simply didn’t want to.  Sorry.  Not happening today on broken compassion day.  And when those sweet sick little kids tried to get out of bed last night or complain about one more malady, I walked them briskly back to bed while attempting to defend my right to personal free time.

Not only is my compassion broken, between kids out of school and sheer delirium, I can barely remember what day it is.  I keep drawing confusing lines on my calendar where I put the right event in the wrong square.   My son’s birthday is today and I forgot to buy the poor kid a gift.  And based on the straggling few forks in my silverware drawer, I’d say I’m massively overdue to clean dishes.

So how do you play into all this?  Well….  I think you know exactly how I feel because I believe at least 72% of you have just gone through the same thing.  So I promise…I won’t try to cheer you up….I won’t try to pat you on the back and tell you it will get better…I’ve lost my compassion, remember?  But go ahead and share your worst sick stories with the rest of us…maybe we’ll all feel a little better after all.

 

 

Dear Anarchist Sons

Dear Anarchist Sons of Mine (age 3 and 6 respectively),

Where to start?  Your attention spans are short, so I’ll begin by saying the important: I’ll love you in and out, through and through till the day I die.  This, however, is because my love isn’t a book or a toy or a paper…that you can shred and destroy like a pack of vindictive lions.

I don’t actually love things being destroyed.  (Surprise!)  So let’s just cover a few examples of situations I don’t like, shall we?

Do you remember when we made that “fruits of the Spirit” tree for our wall?  You know…the one with fruits of “love”, “joy”, “peace”.  I suspect you remember because you stripped that tree, probably while I was in the bathroom.  And I don’t really take it personally, but I do find it more than coincidental that the fruits you unceremoniously ripped off were “joy” and “gentleness”. Could we not rip all things paper…including books and cards?  Ahem.  Moving on.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk broken toys and Christmas presents.  I’m not even so surprised that you break them…but don’t have the decency in your little hearts to wait till the New Year at least?  By the way, you don’t need to turn your whoopie cushion into a “frisbee”…if you want a frisbee we can get you something made surprisingly exactly for that purpose.

Then there’s the messes and so many smells.  You know who you are.  I mean, it should be enough for you that the bathroom is perpetually vaguely scented of urine and the massive amounts of soap you use.  (One squirt, really…it’s quite effective.)  But on top of that, I’m finding gifts of partially processed foods:

…writing on the wall and table (as though we don’t buy you reams of paper):

 

…and whatever paint/glitter love child this is:

Also…I’m not sure if this is a boundary line or security measure, but in either case there’s a more effective and less gluey method here…I’m 98% positive.

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s a few simple…let’s call them “etiquette” matters.  For one, your diaper isn’t an appropriate holster for your toy gun.

Two, thought I appreciate your budding artistic skills, please save your anatomically awkward “naked sunburnt man” pictures for home and not for your teacher at school. Please. For the love.

Third: Sweet boy, I know that you are just showing me the two fingers that are particularly messy, but the world simply won’t understand.  Let’s work on getting non-middle fingers messy next time.

Finally, I love your building and creativity.  You guys amaze me with those brains.  But you and I both know that behind those brilliant designs and charming smiles are two boys with no intentions of cleaning up anything.  Except for those random moments when you do clean and I’m tempted to take you to the ER for brain scans.

So…I hope this letter has been informative and convincing.  Next time remind me to talk to you about 101 ways to NOT torture your sister.

With Greatest Love,

You Worn-out Mom

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Reality Redo)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, And all through the house,

Of course there was “stirring”, but it wasn’t the mouse,

(On a side note, we think there’s a mouse in the basement,

Because of the droppings in obvious placement).

The children won’t “nestle”, they don’t know that word,

They’re poking and squabbling like two angry birds,

The sir watching football and I with my wine glass,

Had just settled down to wrap gifts and relax…

When up in my head there arose such a clatter,

Of failed mother moments and Christmas disaster:

Like the time that my son squirted windex of blue,

On the floor and his brother and then sister too.

The moon shining bright on the trees bare and brown,

Remind me of Christmas tree needles knocked down,

And that sad small fir tree that I bought as a gift,

That promptly flopped over, it’s branches won’t lift.

The sound from the screen brought my mind to the games,

Where the players from each of the teams would be named,

Now Bengals!  Now Texans! Then Broncos and Chiefs

Would be playing for all of our late Christmas feasts.

For a moment I breathed an unusual calm,

But then dash away, dash away, dash away all!

For then in a twinkling I heard on the “roof”,

The prancing and pawing of each little “hoof”.

Before I could act, as my head turned around,

Down the stairs came the kids with their least quiet sounds,

All dressed cute in their pjs, from heads to their feet,

They needed to pee or more drink or more heat.

They didn’t find Momma kissing “Santa Clause”,

Instead with arms crossed I laid down the house laws,

Their droll little mouths swiftly turned to a pout,

With no more excuses they turned and went out,

And I wondered if Santa, with his round little belly,

Could make my kids eat more than pb and jelly?

If perhaps he’d leave Rudolph with the kids just to play,

So they’d sleep from exhaustion at the end of the day.

But my husband he winked and then nodded his head,

At the sounds of the giggling up in their beds.

He spoke not a word, but I realized with joy,

That despite all the chaos, my girl and my boys

Are a gift, yes a blessing, an endless new wonder,

To hold and to love both in growing and blunder,

Then, snap! Went the football, the ref blew a whistle,

And we sat there in awe, our mirth now official.

And so I exclaim as we savor this night,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all…better sleep in the future.”

 

 

Warning: High Maintenance Areas

I’m not high maintenance.  Pff.  Absolutely not.  Yes, I’ve been buying more clothes from for-real stores and from fair trade/wages organizations like Imagine Goods and Amani Ya Juu20161110_212757

but I’m still a thrift shop girl at heart.  My long hair means I don’t have a “salon” so much as some friends with haircutting abilities that I occasionally pay to keep me within the realm of acceptable split-ends.  I don’t require expensive jewelry; I admire fancy nails, but I can’t seem to maintain them myself; it doesn’t cripple me to have an imperfect house.

So I’m not high maintenance. Nope.  Not a smidge.  Um.  Except for when I am.

This holiday season I’ve been mulling over the idea of “joy”, mostly because I’m supposed to teach on joy this month.  Drat.  It’s more fun teaching something than learning it myself.

My joy seems to be wrapped up in my expectations.  I can sit here and look at all the other people with their “high-maintenance” whatevers who seem to require more of this or more of that than I need to be happy.  Or their personality is wired so that they really can’t function without a fully cleaned house…or they find an honest-to-goodness happiness in a really great manicure and monthly hair-styling.  And it’s easy for me to think that those things are a wee bit unnecessary- definitely not something to set your joy on.

Yet I set my joy on some high-maintenance expectations of my own.

Let’s start with coffee.  A friend recently told me she only buys coffee out a couple times a year.  Excuse me?  In a YEAR?  That might cover your birthday and anniversary, but what about Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day?  What about the Starbucks monthly double-stars day?  What about days when the kids are going crazy or you feel hormonal?  What about the “I-happen-to-be-driving-within-10-miles-of-my-favorite-coffee-place” days?  What about RAINY days for heaven’s sake??!!

And then let’s get down to the actual coffee.  I, thrift shopper that I am, have somehow convinced myself that it’s OK to drop 5 dollars a pop on coffee. I’m quite a smooth talker to myself.

” Why, yes self, you DO have diabetes…you DO have a two year old who punched you in the face today…you DO feel a bit tired and YES if you miss this two minute window to buy coffee you’ll probably go into a catatonic state of lethargy from which there’s no return.  What kind of mother would you be if you DIDN’T buy coffee?”

And my joy is suddenly based on the latte-ness of the day, or whether the store has my favorite sugar free syrups, or how often I’m able to escape in java bliss.

Then Christmas tree shopping revealed more high maintenance areas.  We got a wonderful tree but we didn’t get our usual wagon ride and hot chocolate amenities.  A bit of joy deflated.  And even though I “let” my kids pick out a tree, I’m a master of getting them to ultimately pick one I approve of.  Because Christmas just might fall apart (for me) if I let the kids pick out the tree.

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So my gracious husband dragged in our fresh-over-priced tree, patiently stood it up and screwed it into the stand only for me to look at it with an overwhelming sense of discontent. (loss of joy).  The trunk was too tall…the lowest branches were dismally far away from the floor.  Dismally.  Yes I said it. I awkwardly asked if he could re-do it.  If he could possibly take the whole thing down, cut a bit of trunk here, a branch or two there.  Only because my joy hinged on it.

And then I almost started crying, because once he had trimmed the darn thing, the tree was closer to the ground but the branches he was forced to cut off left gaps all around the base of the tree.  Not one sad little gap that you can turn towards the wall so no one sees it.  Gaps everywhere!  And I panicked because we had already bought this tree and there was no going back and now Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless I could JAM some extra tree branches into the tree stand to fill out the bottom.  Seriously, I sat there like a mad-woman trying to wedge tree branches until my husband gently asked if I’d like him to tie the branch onto the tree instead.  Yes…we twist tied branches onto my tree this year like the equivalent of tree hair transplant.

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So our tree is complete now and it fills me with joy and it should.  That’s OK.  But it’s also symbolic this year of my expectations for joy.  Maybe I do have some areas of high maintenance that can threaten to steal my joy if I’m not careful, if I don’t own them and tame them through a little letting go.  Maybe we all have those places in our lives…maybe the things or people that give us the greatest joy, when lost or broken, are also the places where we have the potential to lose the greatest joy.

Is there a deeper anchor for my joy than my own high-maintenance places?  Is there a well of joy that runs deeper than my broken expectations?  Is there a source of joy that outlasts my temporary fixes?

I’m finding that a joy bigger than my circumstances must come from outside of myself.  For me, Jesus is more and more becoming that source of joy for me.  He’s becoming more than just a plastic figure or a pat answer and is soaking into the very fiber of who I am.  I’m not fully there yet…but my soul reminds me whenever I’m disappointed in this life that there’s a far deeper joy in the One I can’t see than in the things that I can.

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Where are you tempted to lose joy this year?  How do you refocus yourself when joy seems far away?

 

Community is a Pain

Guys- I’m going to make an honest confession here:  I’m not sure I like community.  Do I need it?  Yes.  Does it sound wonderful in theory?  Uh-huh.  Community looks cute on TV- like on that show “Extreme Home Makeover”.   All the neighbors and friends rally around a struggling family and show up to support them- the construction people come and give them a home that meets all their needs- and then that bus rolls away and there are tears of joy, and smiles all around, and sometimes even a cute puppy in the background for good measure.  Ahhh…community.  And then…click…I turn it off, and I get to pretend that community ends that way- that it’s always happy, feel good, tears of joy, a bus of blessing.

But real community is kind of…messy, unsettling, annoying, hard work.  Community is like what happens when you try to bake anything with children- it’s going to take longer, there’s going to be arguing, and you’re going to get a whole bunch of flour all over the place.015

Turns out I don’t want the flour all over the place.  I’m a bit of a control freak.  I like to plan my things on my time.  I don’t like waiting.  I’m not particularly good at knowing how to let people help me.  I prefer to be in the driver’s seat, literally, which is why I didn’t let my older brother drive at all on a 16 hour drive to see my parents.  (I didn’t say I was proud of it.)

And why should I ever be vulnerable ever?  Whose bright idea was it to make that a prerequisite for healthy community?  And depending on how honest I’m being, I’d tell you I’m between 68-100% positive that my heart is massively selfish and I struggle to really love anyone and everyone.  Case in point- I maaaaay have told my husband the other day that I was trying to “not seem selfish” but also “do what I want”.  (Like swinging alone for instance.)newport 3

I don’t usually say it out loud, but I think that’s an ongoing undercurrent in my heart, an undertow that threatens to suck me in and drown me in the self-absorption I thought was in my best interest.

Turns out community is really great till it’s inconvenient to me.  Community is fantastic until it means someone has to see my messy side- my needy side- the yelling, irritable, keeping-record-of-wrongs me.  Guys, I can win a complaining contest without breaking a sweat, and as an avid talker I find it easier to gab than listen, easier to use my mouth to complain about something than my hands to work towards fixing it.  Community requires that I use my hands and feet for more than just myself.  Community asks me to let someone else help me up when my pride would rather hide and nurse my struggles by myself.

Community is beautiful till I realize that everyone else is a mess too and it’s not like we’re all getting more and more perfect at a steady rate.  Oh no.  The deeper in we get, the more likely we are to step on an emotional landmine of some kind, more likely to find hurt and more depths of our selfishness and yet…and yet I marvel at how my heart aches for community all the same.  I marvel at how even the sandpaper of community is actually refining me, sanding me a bit smoother.  At least, I’d like to think I’m a bit less likely to give you a sliver today than I was five years ago.

I was made for being with people.  My church family might be the best example of that for me…It offers me hope and love, the faintest picture of what I believe heaven must be like.  I’m surrounded by friends who I know will laugh and cry with me, keep me in check when I’m being a word I can’t use in polite company, and challenge me to grow and love more deeply through their own love.

Yeah.  Community is such a pain.  But it’s the kind of pain that keeps me alive, keeps me from being numb, keeps me from dying in a selfish stupor.

What about you?  Do you struggle with community?  How have you kept your heart vulnerable towards others?  How have you learned to give up your own selfishness?  I’d love to hear because I so struggle with this myself!

 

 

 

You Homeschool Too

Today I started my second year of homeschooling my kids.  I’m not a saint- really homeschooling is just trading some problems for others.  When my daughter went to public kindergarten, mornings were essentially a drill to see how late we could get up without missing the bus.  It required a lot of determination- last minute bed-waking, yelling to get her dressed in the morning, setting the kitchen timer like a drill sergeant so she finished breakfast in time and barely making the bus.  And with two kiddos still at home, when she returned, my parenting juice was already squeezed out; I felt like I was missing her most days, putting the TV on so she could unwind from a long day while I invented last-minute dinner.

Homeschool is a different crazy- more prep work to do for lessons, more pressure in one more area of their lives to potentially screw up.  On the plus side, I can tweak our schedule and let the kids sleep in if they need.  We can take a two week vacation or a casual sick day without informing any school office.  I don’t drown in  piles of papers from school about homework, fundraisers, events, and fairs.  I love watching my kids giggle and play so much as siblings; to see their personalities as they interact with friends; to teach them some really fun stuff. It’s a trade-off.20160906_105654

Still, sometimes I wonder whether my quantity of time outweighs the quality.  My one-on-one time spreads thin across three kids.  Today for instance, I had to take a break from schooling to rinse a generous blob of shampoo that my 2 year old squeezed in his hair.  Each season requires being willing to flex and do what’s best for our family right now.20160906_105711  So next year may be a new adventure back to public school.

In the meantime, homeschool has taught me a lot about myself and how I view my kids’ education.  And I don’t just mean academics.  Stepping back from the “normal” way of schooling gave me an opportunity to see the system more for what it is: a positive tool my kids can use to learn- a place to build friendships and independence- an experience that helps shape them…but not the end-all teacher.

School, along with church and organized sports and pediatricians and _________ (add your own), all have certain priorities, goals, and methods that sometimes clash with my own.  With your own.  And we need to occasionally take stock of the places where we don’t totally line up with whatever system it is, because those are precisely the places we have to teach our kids at home.  You too.  Me too.20160906_092642

Yes, academics  are important to me- I want my kids to read well, to be able to understand the world around them, to be savvy and comfortable with math and science, and ultimately to be able to use those abilities to impact the world around them in a positive way.

But I also want my kids to know that learning doesn’t just happen when you get an A+ on a paper.  I want them to see, whether at school or church, that knowing the right answer is empty unless you can use it- experience it.  I want my kids to know that family is important, rest is important, and we will take days off of school shamelessly for both reasons.I want my kids to find that love is always a better motivator than competition, success, or pride.  Because love is always focused on how everyone wins, how people are more important than tasks or even grades.  20160906_124318

So I want my kids to love.  I want my kids to dance and be silly and never trade in who they are for anything.  I want them to ask questions and see what I sometimes didn’t see as a young kid- that being the best in school does not define them, does not make them a more valuable human, does not dictate whether they can impact the world.  20160906_090231

Maybe you want the same things for your kids- there’s probably some places we would disagree. But the point is this:  Whether we see our kids 2 hours a day or 5 or 12- you teach your kids, in some ways far more than the schools ever can.  What you teach your kids sets them up for how to use the rest of the tools in their lives- what you teach your kids gives them permission to honor the system while maintaining personal priorities- what you teach your kids goes far beyond academics into soul and character shaping.  You might just be homeschooling more than you think.

So be brave and be strong- we are bound to get it wrong sometimes- but your kids have no more precious teacher.

 

 

When Your Role-Shifter is Stuck

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                   friends.wikia.com

I’m a wife- a mom- a sister- a writer- a coffee drinker- a fan of Tom Selleck. (But that’s probably for another post.)  I’m lots of things simultaneously, because…well, aren’t we all?  Some of who I am overlaps neatly: coffee, for instance, can work quite nicely as a date with my husband, fuel for motherhood, an excuse to get with friends, a place to squeeze in distraction free-writing, and can even be enjoyed while watching an episode of Friends where Monica dates Richard.  (I promise that’s the last Tom Selleck reference.)

Some parts of who I am and the roles I play mix well- others don’t.  Writing, for instance, is not something best tried in the middle of watching three children.  You’re going to end up with either bizarre blogging or a bizarre household, and neither is pretty.

So while I love to write ABOUT my kids, I have to separate my role of mother and writer for everyone’s well-being.

But I’m realizing the trickiest roles for me to properly sort are those of mother and wife.  To be honest, I function most often in mother-mode.  My cue to get out of bed in the morning is usually when my husband comes in to tell me bye as he heads out for work.  When he comes home, we have an hour or more of dinner and bedtime routines with the kids, at which point my kids promptly take as long as possible to fall asleep.  Sometimes my husband and I look at each other with a sigh at 9pm wondering why the kids are still chatting upstairs, or shuffling through our peripheral to get to the bathroom while we’re trying to watch a movie.  So mom-mode is almost always on.

Wife mode, on the other hand, easily slips into secondary function.  In fact, wife-mode sometimes devolves into sorting and delegating the other roles in my life.  I coordinate kid stuff with my husband, divvy up household responsibilities like which one of us will pick up the milk and peanut butter, and discuss which of us gets a night OUT of the house.

On the nights that my husband goes out for a much deserved social or sport outing, I take my mom-role up another level, just enough to score a bedtime win, and then I’m done.  And by done, I mean I’m ready for tea and a movie or book, or some really focused time with God. Heaven forbid my children should interrupt this moment.

And heaven forbid my husband should come home when I’m still shifting out of mom-role and haven’t had my me-time yet.  Because then, poor guy, I act like this home has been my territory for the last 12 hours, and if he can’t be home for bedtime he has a lot of gall showing up before the kids have been in bed at least an hour.  The nerve of him for coming home at a reasonable time.  Geesh.

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   My “interrupted-me-time” face, obviously.

This whole blog post started because I misread a quote from an interview with Indra K Nooyi.  Nooyi said, “every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions.”  And while she meant that you have to choose between your professional role and being a wife AND mother, I initially read it as a woman having to choose between being a wife OR mother.

But that got me thinking- maybe for me, I do need to choose sometimes.  Maybe I need to get better at just being a wife.  Maybe I get so caught up in trying to be a good mom, or at least an improving mom, who teaches my kids and takes them fun places and cleans up most at least 20% of their messes, that I forget to really invest in my role as wife.  I forget to invest in my husband.  I make all kinds of excuses for my wife-role because I simply have so many other roles to fill.

But then something doesn’t feel quite right- almost like I’m coexisting with my husband in parallel worlds that are connected but somehow not quite overlapping like they should.  I don’t think it has to be that way.

My husband is a wonderful man, and he loves me more than I’ll ever comprehend.  And because I love him back I need to better learn how to fully embrace my wife-role, even if I get stuck mid-gear sometimes.

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I can post ways I’ve tried to work on this in the future, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear what YOU have tried.  Please share ways you’ve invested in your spouse and how you’ve honored that role over the years.  Thanks!

 

 

Advice to Grandparents Visiting from the South

Dear Nana and Papa,

We can’t wait for you to visit!  The kids are beyond excited and the Mr. can barely contain himself- he’s practically jumping up and down, I’m sure you can picture it.  I’m so elated myself that I thought I’d plan ahead and let you know what you can expect upon your arrival.

First of all, you’ll find we’ve added some artwork to your guest room, courtesy of our own “van Gogh” “Picasso” or “Rembrandt” (we’re not actually sure which one is responsible laudable for such creativity).  We’re calling it “abstract”.  Please do not add to it.

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Second, we’ve instated a new policy concerning electronics since your last stay due to our youngest.  Please do not offer the children your phone, kindle, or laptop devices without express parental consent, especially the youngest.  He will quite sweetly ask to watch “Frozen” videos on all your devices, and he may even sing with charming flair, something like this:

But you must refuse.  Just consider a sign that reads, “Do not feed the bear.”  The bear is adorable, just a cub.  He merely wants a nibble of your ham and cheese slider.  So you feed him once and he does a little happy-dance.  But then you run out of slider and he’s angry, and starts tearing into your belongings to find more slider.  And suddenly the cute bear is quite vocal and nothing else will satisfy him. This is what will happen with the two year old.  You’ve been warned.

Third, while our electronic policy has changed, my Starbucks addiction has not.  I’m not proud of this.  Maybe you can stage an intervention when you come.  But don’t be surprised if we go out to run an errand- say to the post office or the gas station- and we end up at Starbucks “on the way.”  I’ve mapped them all out, and they’re all “on the way.”

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Fourth, I’m sure you’ve had some warm sunny days since March.  So have we.  We’ve also had sleet and snow in April, however.  So my best guess is that you should bring your bathing suits as well as a snowsuit lined with whale blubber.  Maybe some loafers too…I don’t know.  Just a thought.

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Fifth, you should know that your room is one of the designated “blanket fort zones”.  I apologize in advance if you awake to find that your head is being used as corner weight for a mismatched linen architectural feat.  Your room is also our traditional “time-out” room, so if you value your personal space we ask that you enforce our rules for appropriate behavior in our children. (Instead of laughing or undermining our authority…you know who you are.)

Finally, please remember our one bathroom and kindly shower before arrival.

Thanks for helping us plan ahead…see you in a couple weeks!

Love,

Your Grateful-For-Live-in-Babysitting Daughter

Beauty in the Season

We were running late. I should know by now that running late to anywhere with three kids spells trouble. We were halfway to our destination when I heard a pitiful whine from my six year old daughter in the back seat:
“We forgot my tambourine! And my ballet shoes!”
She recently joined an informal worship dance class. Half the kids just wear socks, and they always have an extra tambourine on hand. I told my daughter these things reassuringly…she wouldn’t be reassured.
Her drama escalated so that by the time we arrived, she didn’t even want to participate in dance at all. Oh and, conveniently, her loose tooth started bothering her for the first time all day.
“What if I jump and it hurts more? This isn’t the kind of dance I want to be in,” she complained, though she normally loves her class.
But I had lugged my three kids out of the car, and her friends were relying on her to do her part in the upcoming performance, so I encouraged her to stay. I even told her I’d wait to leave until she felt comfortable.
But my two year old had other plans. As soon as I put him down he ran to the water dispenser, happily helping himself to a drink. He just kept refilling, water dripping everywhere, so I sat on the floor ready to block him whenever he made another lunge for the water. At this point we were making a scene in the middle of practice.
Just when I was getting to my breaking point, he dashed in the opposite direction, accidentally colliding with the dance instructor as she twirled towards him with her tambourine. Yes, my son was clocked by a worship instrument.
I scooped up my wailing toddler, gave the other moms a helpless look, and walked back out of dance class with two out of three kids bawling.
Sound familiar?
Some moments in life are so exasperatingly out of our control: The mortifying fifteen minutes at the library when your kid won’t stop screaming; the days when your medical condition flairs up and it’s all you can do to survive the day; the times when you feel rejected by your spouse or friends.
How do we keep these things in perspective?
I had this zany idea this past leap day to make a time capsule to open with the kids next leap year. How on earth am I going to keep track of a blessed time capsule for four years when I lose something daily?

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Still, the kids enjoyed drawing about what they were like now and what they’d be doing in four years as 10, 9, and 6 year olds. I joined in the fun by including a postcard to my future self. I listed exciting things like my daughter starting t-ball and my goal of publishing a book. But I also wrote about some challenges, like my youngest son’s speech delay, and my husband’s stressful work deadline.
I realized that each thing on my card is part of a season. And I wondered how each of these joys and obstacles would seem after four years of hindsight and change.  How would my perspective on the challenges of today change through the lens of the future?  Would I see today for what it really is…a unique season with a unique purpose?
Ecclesastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (NIV)
If you’re like me, sometimes seasons feel suffocating or empty. Maybe you’re in the throes of raising young kids, watching work deadlines pile up, or struggling through relationships. Or maybe you’re just tired from winter and you’re so ready for the steady warmth of spring.
We may want to skip this season and go straight to the next, but we’d be missing out. Because a few verses later, in Ecclesiastes 3:11, we read: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Rest assured God is working in your present moment, no matter what it feels like. There’s something beautiful God is unfolding, whether we see it in four years or in the Kingdom to come. Don’t give up. Please hold on to see the beauty, and remember you’re not alone.

My Elusive Easter

Easter morning, 8:00am:  I was still lying down, savoring a bed to myself, trying to catch up on missed sleep from previous nights.  One of the first things that occurred to me as I rolled out of bed was that I forgot about our church’s early pre-service Easter breakfast.  Um, yeah we weren’t going to make it to that.  I came downstairs to kids in various stages of morning routine, and a husband who had been worn down already by an hour and a half of general morning mayhem.  The baby was dressed, and I was eager to dress the other two in the adorable outfits I had picked out for them weeks before.  I was taking too long getting ready- the poison ivy on my arms was kind of a downer for Easter outfitting- should I wear make-up or not? Forget it let’s go.  The whole car ride to church I felt like I had thrown away the opportunity to really prepare myself or my kids for the meaning of Easter, because I knew that would have meant being intentional about it over a week ago.  Plus I felt distant from God myself- and I knew closeness was not something I could manufacture the day of.  Drat.

By the time I sat down in the service, I was in one of my weird funks.  I was listening to songs asking, “death, where is your sting?” and “Hell, where is your victory?” and instead of feeling this amazing sense of God’s power, I was feeling this overwhelming sense that death is very much alive in all the forms of brokenness around us- in child trafficking and hatred and drug addiction and arguments and pride.  I guess I didn’t really doubt God’s power, but in the moment those words felt somehow premature- at the very least I felt very acutely the wide gap between the reality of this world and the Hope of the world that could be.  I hadn’t been truly drawing close to God lately, so I felt like a hypocrite anyway and everything about Easter seemed to mirror how I felt- plastic and hollow like the eggs we would later send the kids to find.  I knew that there was power in the message of Christ that churches everywhere would share that day, but it seemed I had heard the story so many times that I was too numb to feel the weight of its truth.   And the more I was reminded of what emotions Easter was SUPPOSED to evoke in me, the less able I was to actually access those feelings.  I can’t describe it exactly, but something had snapped; everything felt wrong and I just wanted Easter to be over.  (And that was long before my kids were acting ungrateful and fighting over the contents of their Easter eggs.)  
Ah- I don’t mean to be depressing.  The day got better.  I did enjoy a quiet afternoon with family and, after putting him through one of my particularly perplexing venting sessions, I assured my husband that I wasn’t giving up on faith or God.  Or even Easter eggs.

But for me I think there were a lot of takeaways from this past Easter.  Maybe you can relate.

  • The major holidays we celebrate in the church like Christmas and Easter are certainly ideal times for remembering the story of Christ, but they inherently bring distractions and extra expectations that actually make it harder to focus on Christ.  Whether it is decorating a tree or an egg, getting presents or chocolate, wearing pastels or red and green, there are a million ways I can “celebrate” each respective holiday without thinking about God at all.  I don’t really know how to combat this exactly- especially with kids- but I think it requires being freshly intentional each time.
  • I’m not responsible for making my family experience God because that can’t be forced or manufactured.  But I am responsible for seeking God for myself…not just to model it for the kids but because I know the peace I feel in His presence and that overflows to my family in the atmosphere it creates.  And that has to be a daily thing.
  • Just because I “missed” Easter doesn’t mean I can’t find Easter after it is over.  Easter is not the only magical time to focus on the cross and resurrection, just like Christmas isn’t the only time to marvel at Christ’s birth.  Perhaps, for a person like me, it is actually easier to find myself pondering the cross outside of a holiday.
  • There IS brokenness all around and feeling overwhelmed by the weight of that does not diminish the power of the cross.  Acknowledging the sadness and hurt and destruction that exists as the result of sin in the world is not only OK, I think it is a prerequisite to feeling the fullness of what the Hope of Easter really is offering.  Also, I believe its OK to question God and be honest about our feelings of doubt or disappointment.  The Psalms are full of such raw, honest emotions.  And I really believe that wrestling through our concerns and doubts will make us grow- while putting them aside and pretending they aren’t there just makes us feel fake. 
  • While it is completely fine to dress up in our nice clothes and put on our special services and wish everyone Happy Easters with a smile (all things I’ve done), I think we should realize that all our external preparation for Easter does not change how people are feeling inside.  I think I’m just saying that in a sea full of smiling, well dressed people we can feel like there must be something really wrong with us if we don’t feel the way everyone else looks.  But, like us, not everyone else feels the way they look.  And perhaps it is another potential pitfall of Easter or even going to church in general- we all talk about universal brokenness but we don’t really want anyone to know that WE are broken.  (Well, at least now you know that if you have ever felt distant from God in a church service you are not alone.) I’m not suggesting we stop wearing nice clothes or start Easter greetings by growling at people- just that we don’t start subtly believing that we are alone when we struggle…or that someone else is.   
A good friend shared this link with me this week after I shared my “less-than-appropriate” Easter feelings.  I felt like it completely summed up the feelings that I was having and the beauty and victory that is being offered out of the mess that we are and the broken world we live in.  If you don’t remember a single thing I’ve written I hope this message sticks out to you.

Death: His Sting and Defeat (by David Bowden for Church Online)