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Category Archives: Children

Why I Still Want to Carpe Diem

So, the other night, this beautiful, fun friend of mine shares a link with me. Says it reminded her of my recent reposting of some old words of mine. About how, apparently, I am not the only mother in the world who receives all kinds of comments from older women . . . in the check-outs, in the bathrooms, in the elevators. Those heart-felt, nostalgic words about “enjoying every minute” of our child-rearing years. Not being on Facebook anymore, I somehow missed the frenzy, as moms shared the link with other friends, giving each other, and themselves bits of comfort. I read the article “Don’t Carpe Diem” this morning. I want to preface this post of mine by saying, I LOVED this post from The Momastery. It made me laugh out loud. It made me quickly blink back tears before I ruined my fresh, just-applied, morning mascara. After reading, I immediately copied and pasted the link and sent it to a friend. I *loved* this writer’s honesty. I could relate to every single word and I loved her message.

 

I’ve been thinking about a dear friend of mine who just became a mother for the first time. She. is. exhausted. She’s running into all sorts of issues that I’m sure she never expected to run into and I honestly don’t know how she’s surviving! But her situation made me think back to my not-so-very-long-ago, first few months as a mom and I realized that there is one tool in my Motherhood arsenal that I wasn’t given. None of us are. And I still don’t have it with my firstborn.

 

Perspective.

 

You know what I mean? Your new bundle of joy is in your arms and everything is fresh and new and unknown. You have no real idea what you’re doing or where you’re going and you’re so scared of screwing something up and you haven’t slept a full night in weeks and it feels like this is the rest of your life, surely. And then your sweet, little second born arrives and you’ve done it all before and you know that they’ll eventually start sleeping and you know that each phase is oh, so short and it makes you realize just how fast you made your oldest “grow up.”

 

And at least for me, with my second, I actually treasured the midnight feedings and the newborn-sized diapers. Because with my second, I had a tiny bit of perspective.

 

So even though, when that little, old lady in the Wal-Mart milk aisle exhorted me by saying “this is the best time of your life” I stuffed feelings of the incredulity of it all, I slowly realized that that grey-haired woman had something that I didn’t and still don’t. Perspective. Maybe she’s a little nostalgic, and maybe she has selective memory regarding the late nights and the trying to find just one second to go pee and all the less than glorifying moments of motherhood. BUT she has also nearly lived the full spectrum of life and surely she must feel some sense of urgency to come up to a complete stranger to say, “Honey, treasure every moment. This is the very best time in your life.”  Even if I had a very outspoken personality, I don’t think I would ever approach a complete stranger with such confidence or say that to anyone unless I felt like it was completely true for myself and that I’d somehow missed it and wished that someone, anyone, had warned me:

 

“You know those nights your longing for? The ones with the full night’s sleep and the days when you can sit and read a book in peace and quiet and do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and actually live that life you’ve been given? I know that life sounds like it’s 18 years off and you’re not sure just how you’re going to live those 6,570 days until your child reaches adulthood without losing your sanity, but that day will come. I promise. And it won’t be all you think it’s going to be and you’ll have wasted those 18 years longing for something that isn’t what you think it is. Enjoy what you’re living. Right this very moment. It’s more beautiful than you even know.”

 

There must be an awful lot of great-grandmothers out there who feel this way if each of us young moms is stopped several times a month with this same exact message.

 

Maybe we do need to listen.

 

So now, when those Wal-Mart trips take a bit longer than they used to because a frail, 80-year-old woman wants to tell me about her babies of long ago and encourages me to stop and just enjoy, I really do try to stop my mind from racing into a frustrated frenzy and try to hear her life-lived perspective.

 

Can I seize every moment like I ought to? No, and that’s why I simply love Glennon’s idea of “seizing a couple Kairoses today.” But I also think that we need to listen to the mothers who have gone before us and are almost done with their life’s races. Why should we assume that we will make it to 80? One month ago, I was truly afraid that my daughters would wake up that Wednesday morning without a mother to dress them or kiss their boo-boos or read them Goodnight Moon. I know it sounds cheesy and I know it sounds cliché, but what if those well-worn storybooks I read with my girls that Tuesday night had been our last storybook cuddle? What if?? None of us are promised tomorrow and none of our children are either. I’m not trying to be all fear-factor here, but really. God knows that I needed a little perspective shaken into me that one, scary night. And yes, this thing called motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I survived nursing school -grin-), and it’s so easy to lose my sanity in the midst of kids going crazy in the Wal-Mart aisles and in the mere day-in and day-out caretaking and gardening of our children’s blooming hearts. I lose my sanity and perspective all too often. Daily, in fact. So for me, I welcome the wrinkled, time-worn, urgent perspective.

 

Yes, tell me again. Carpe Diem. Right here. Right now. There is a beautiful, grace-filled underlying theme in all this exhausting, sometimes temper-filled, sometimes hectic, sometimes less-than-I-want craziness. Help me take hold of it.

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Red Bucket

I always walked right past them, usually with eyes averted or a sheepish smile and a murmured “Merry Christmas.”

 

Until last year.

 

Firefly was only two and I held her little hand tightly as I absentmindedly rushed her past the red bucket and the bell-jingler. We stepped through the doors and I breathed a quick sigh of relief as the warmth of the drug store hummed over us. But she was old enough to start asking questions and her two-year-old queries halted me.

 

“Mama, what is the red bucket? Why do people put money in it?”

 

Before, my excuse for my hard-to-come-by generosity had been that I never carry cash and I pass by so many of those Red Kettles throughout the Christmas season – how could I possibly give to all of them? Oh, and my wallet’s change pocket? Well, my meager amount of pennies just seemed too  . . . meager.

 

But now she was asking if she could drop money in the bucket.

 

We walked out of the store, she with pennies in hand, and with a plink, plink, plink, her little heart gave too. And she changed me.

 

She asked about that bucket all year. Her little two -, then three-year-old brain, remembered right where it was. We drove past the drug store, the summer sun warming our skin through the car windows.

 

“Mama, why is the red bucket only there at Christmas?” She had asked inquisitively.

 

Her questions churned within me. And again, from the mouth of a child, my heart learns to lean a little closer toward the One who whispers. He’s the One whose Red Covering washes us clean and whose joy can fill us to overflowing….

 

Christmas season arrives again and she squeals excitement at the first glimpse of a red bucket. We walk out of the automatic doors of Wal-Mart, and she stands, hands cupped, as I dig through my wallet, trying to find as many silver coins as I can. The bell-jingler sits and waits patiently. She wears an oversized black and white parka and a dark toboggan, trying to keep warm. Her eyes smile as her cocoa-colored hands tilt the red bucket toward Firefly. I watch as my child steps on her tippytoes, dropping her coins, one by one, into the cross-shaped slot.

 

My heart slows.

 

The bell-jingler’s eyes meet mine and I wish her a Merry Christmas as she simultaneously bids us a blessed one.

 

We take a short step out from under the store’s towering shadow. Our eyes have to squint in the December sunlight.

 

 

Repost from Christmas 2010

Outstretched for Tomorrow

I slip in the darkness quietly, neither of you knowing. I grope along the wall for the switch and let the closet light peer through the louvered doors. The light cascades to the carpet like stair steps – my path to where you’re sleeping. I tiptoe, not really knowing whether or not you’ve actually finally fallen asleep. I see nothing stirring, no flurry of sleeper pajamas popping up in the darkness to greet me. I creep closer. Ah, the arms outstretched, all sprawled out, no consciousness of where you are in space. My eyes follow to your little feet and I wonder if your toes are still warm in those footies since your blankets are somehow more under than over you. Your little bellies rise and fall and I wonder whether a mama ever outgrows that held breath, that catch in her throat that clings until she sees for herself that her children’s lungs still continue to empty and fill in the night.

 

My own arm outstretches, my hands reaching just to touch your faces in your stillness. My fingertips barely brush your sleep-rosy cheeks, and like magic, all of the moments of fits and tantrums, pretending like you didn’t hear me, and the sometimes outright disrespect . . . all those moments melt away like snow on the pavement. And all I can see are the moments one of  you said you wanted a hug or surprised me with your “I just need some Mama kisses!” All of a sudden, all I remember is you swinging as high as the treetops and that moment you shared with your friend (when I know you wanted that dress-up dress for yourself) and how hard we laughed when I tickled you. And how can I forget – those just-before-bed moments and how you had to hug each other just one more time and how sister-kisses on both sides of your cheeks still weren’t enough. As you let the day slip its way on out and you welcomed your night of dreams, I finally embraced the day for what it was.

 

I think on embracing tomorrow . . . now.

What They’re Teaching Me

I listen to my girls, in the other room, unwinding from a busy day of play and readying for another night of dreams. I sit in the room next to theirs. Sit in awe and thankfulness, wondering how two such little people teach me so much about life. About myself. About God.

 

They teach me just how human I am. And how this girl who always thought she was so laid-back, so forgiving, so patient, is really just one wrong word or wrong move away from a few more-than-snappy words. They also teach me just how vulnerable my heart is in love and just how easily something happening to those I love would completely shatter my heart. Yes, they stretch my patience limits, but they also enlarge my love with their every growth spurt, new word, or new display of personality.

 

They teach me that one moment of fun and togetherness, and just loving one another’s company, is more important than all the tasks and to-do lists I could write and check off in a lifetime.

They teach me that it doesn’t matter how small you are or how big or vast your journey or surroundings are. Just explore and enjoy and know that all is well in God’s hands. Fear has no place  in the adventuring seeker. Just trust in Him and everything He’s given, opened wide before you.

 

 

They teach me that you never know what you might have inadvertently left behind you, just might become someone’s greatest heart treasure.

 

 

And searching for long-lost provisions, with hands full of questions, underneath what might be considered traditional boundaries is more than okay in the presence of the Father of all surety.

 

 

And running.

 

Just running – headlong into what you once feared because it was unknown. You might just find that it is above your fears, above all you thought scary in its unfamiliarity, might just be what draws your full spectrum of life together. And there, hanging in the balance of the unknown, under the Light Constant, what was invisible becomes visible.

 

So, I try. Just to be a little child.

Looking to Morning

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I am not what I should be.

I have not been what I want to be.

I murmur and complain.

I tear down and I berate.

I try to muster up energy.

Try to get through the day.

Just try to make it ’til bedtime.

But this is not how I’ve been called to live.

This is not how I give life.

I plead with Him.

For Him to speak love through my lips.

Lift UP in my correction.

Bring sweetness in our togetherness.

Bring joy in our daily living of life.

For me to capture all the moments I feel slipping.

Slipping through these hands . . . these memories.

The little one singing “Jesus Loves Me” and

“The Rain in Spain.”

My firstborn, so excited about her approaching birthday that she skips through the produce aisle, much to my frustration.

The sand in the bottom of the tub and all over the kitchen floor.

All the pink and the love of cold bedsheets and stuffed animals.

The way they want to show me EVERYTHING.

What a gift that they would run to show me?

And how often I don’t even look, but still murmur,

“Mmhmm . . . that’s great.”

Sometimes, the hardest, most tiring of days, are the days I just wish I could go and live all over.

Because it’s usually on those days

that I’ve missed it.

Focused on what doesn’t matter,

or what interests

ME,

or simply just focused on

all

that constantly

needs

done.

And I just wish I could press “rewind.”

This day.

And yes, my muscles are sore.

But I wish I’d pushed a few more swings.

And yes, my brain is tired,

but I wish I’d read more than one book.

And yes, the room is clean,

 but I soiled her sweet heart in between all my griping and hurrying.

Renew my heart.

Pour the oil of gladness in this ungrateful mama’s heart.

That I may fill up the hearts of these little ones.

Firefly turns four this weekend.

I’m not ready for this.

I want to live this day over.

His mercies are new every morning.

The Seeing Grace

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Is it really Monday again? The weekend was heavenly. The busyness, and the unexpected quiet of my husband’s presence beside me. Not just him, physically by my side . . . but mentally. Emotionally. Busyness and soul-quietness, all at once.

But the afterglow of the weekend fades and Monday morning startlingly jars us into gritty family life. The little one shuts a door, not knowing that her big sister has her hand in between the door and the door frame. And the pressure on Firefly’s fingers blows her top and she screams and wails and I run to the door to move the little one’s body away from the door in order to release Firefly’s fingers from between the hinge. I cringe. I thought I’d heard a crack. Her knuckles are indented and already swollen.

We go ahead and try to ice it. She screams louder. She’s never liked ice. She never seems to realize that we’re trying to help her when the ice pack makes its appearance. Its presence always seems to add insult to injury and her cries make our ears ring and our patience wears thin as she fights and screams against us.

None of us handle it well. We all sit on the couch, Firefly on my lap, squirming and combative, and the fault lines in each one of us quake and flinch and there’s no taking it back. Family fault lines tremble in the stressful moments and make themselves more than evident.

She moves her fingers. The swelling goes down and she begins her lighted smiles again.

Jonathan leaves for work through the back door. I don’t say goodbye. I make the fault lines deeper.

But He comes in those moments. I begin to believe that when the family ruts arise to the surface, that their very existence made evident is simply pure grace. Sometimes a smaller, stressful moment shines light on deeper rifts . . . deeper things that need addressed. And He comes in the Monday morning earthquakes, shifting familial, underlying tectonic-like plates, and healing is brought to the light of everyday life. This is when we have a choice.

When plates are shifted, we can try to smooth over the cracks and fissures with resentment and bitterness . . . a sort of stagnant form of “moving on” with life . . . or we can leave the cracks and fissures exposed, a hands-held-open sort of giving up, and ask Him to bring His healing.

Jonathan calls a bit later to check on her. We talk. We apologize. And we realize that we have some work to do and some prayers to pray. And there is grace in the seeing. In the not being blind to our faults. By His grace, the deeper ruts will heal and a Monday morning quake will bring a life’s worth of healing.

He is good.

#562 that it was just the door frame’s crack I heard

#563 grace in the seeing, a humbling in the knowing

#564 quick apologies

#565 that when we ask for wisdom, He will give it (James 1:5)

#566 that parenting keeps us on our toes . . . and our knees

#567 unexpected unity

#568 answers to a prayer I’m not even sure I prayed

#569 our small group’s wonderful potlucks

#570 a fun stretching

#571 painting with a friend

#572 swinging from a tall tree and long, pink ropes

#573 three nights in a row, eating with friends!

#574 sand in the sandbox

#575 sweeping the back porch

#576 weeding the flowerbed

#577 that there is delight in our work

#578 baby smiles

#579 married love

#580 warm summer sun

#581 her dancing on stage for first time

#582 sweet, pink flowers in a vase

#583 sore shins from a long, mountainous walk 🙂

#584 Cherry-Limeades

#585 His undeserved Presence

Joining the gift-thankers

Making Time To Be

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So, I’ve really been mulling some things over lately. And let me just say from the start that this post is just me thinking out loud, not some prescriptive mandate for myself, or anyone else for that matter. If you have any thoughts of your own, I’d love to hear them!

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks. Graduations and ballet recitals. Company and *being* company (I could get used to that one!). Baking and teaching. Shopping and cleaning (this is never-ending, right?). Basically, we have something on the calendar every single night for 9 days, save one. This is unusual for our young family! I watch my younger siblings, and my friends and neighbors, with their kids’ ages spanning all over and all their coming and going and carpooling and rushing and running. They truly need a flight scheduler or something. It amazes to think that these mothers do all they do and stay sane. Those mothers are SUPERMOMS and I am learning so much from them! Because I know, as my children get older, that my day is coming. And to be honest, I’m dreading it a little.

I tend to fall on the other side of the spectrum though. I tend to guard our calendar from getting too full, which is funny for me, because I thrive on being around people. I’m beginning to think that maybe I guard our family calendar to a fault. But when you have a husband who likes to be home and two young children, I know that there are only so many commitments that our little family can take and still be nice to each other. 😉 But I wonder if I’m too protective of our time . . . if we’re not giving enough of ourselves to our community and church. This is a fine line to walk and I want to learn to balance it with grace.

Do any of you mothers out there have any advice or thoughts?

But I do think that on the whole, our culture is waaaaaaaay too busy. Obviously, this is a very personal matter, and I’m not judging families that are exceptionally busy (I’m AMAZED by them, really!). But, in our culture, it seems sometimes like family time usually comes last. There are music lessons and school and work and mom’s activities and sports and church activities and all those things we think are necessary for our children to be well-rounded. We want to give them every opportunity . . . to live their childhoods to the fullest. And I want this too.

But how do you know when all the scheduled opportunities are stealing away from all the child-created possibilities?

What about the quiet family time? The Saturdays when families simply hum through family life – maybe dad cutting the grass and mom fixing lunch and the kids frolicking about, playing house in the sheet-draped tent in the living room? Does this happen much in America anymore? When I was a kid, my sisters and I played the *craziest* things. Yes, Barbies and hopscotch, jump rope and kickball. But we also stretched our imaginations and became The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, incarnate. And somehow, George Washington would come along and we’d all fight in the Revolutionary War together. See? CRAZY. And I cannot *believe* I’m publishing that on the internet for all time. 🙂

But isn’t this childhood? The taking of what you know, what you love, what you’re learning (we’d recently watched a mini-series on George Washington when this imaginative play was taking place), what you’re dreaming, and weaving it all together? Somehow creating your own little worlds, where your young little lives can direct your larger-than-life, imaginative lives, in a way that gives you the excitement and maybe even courage to enter adulthood with all its possibilities. I’m sure there have been studies on this. But my theory is that creative play is central to a child’s learning how to meander and cope and tackle and invest in their own lives.

So, even though my children are a bit young, THAT is why I guard my calendar. Because I want our family to sometimes just be family. To let our children just be. To create. To play. To explore their little minds and imaginations, even in the confines of their own little domain of a bedroom. I think on those times with my little sisters and I’m beginning to believe that they were the most fun and explorative times of my childhood. So while I should probably learn to say “yes” to a few more opportunities that come our way, I hope that as my children grow older and are involved with schooling and learning and music and sports, that I’ll still remember to say “no” to the obscene busyness of rushing, rushing, rushing, and “yes” to the simply being every now and then.

Because I’m beginning to believe that if you don’t purposefully keep some blank spaces on your calendar, there is always going to be something begging to be written in.

Someone please remind me of this in five years. =D