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On This Eve

To My Little Sister

On Your Wedding Eve:

The house is still. I sit in the sunroom weaving flower crown headpieces for your nieces . . . my daughters . . . your flower girls. And after a week like this one, my heart and mind find respite at the steady weave and flow of sheer ribbon. The crickets sing me a song. I’m thankful and unbelieving at the time to sit and process.

Memories of us in our childhood wash over me as I pray for your future. Tomorrow, you will be a true grown up woman, with a husband of your own. I think of your three-year-old wispy curls and I hear Mee Maw call you Goldilocks again. Your curls will hang tomorrow too, wispy no more, but full and long and beautiful. I can’t believe you are here and ready for this day! You made it!

All the waiting and planning and preparing and decision-making . . . DONE. And now you’ll step forward, into a new day, full of new hopes and dreams. And I’ll be standing on the sidelines, cheering you on. Today. Tomorrow. And every day hereafter. Because I love you.

Sisters forever. No matter what.

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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

The Hard Thanks

Joining others in the hard thanks

 

It happened again last night. A group of people getting to know one another and the typical “couples” questions came up.

 

“Tell about yourself. Let’s get to know one another. How did all of you husbands and wives meet?”

 

We, my husband and I, don’t like telling our story. It’s gritty. It’s ugly, really. And our hearts still feel raw at times. I skim just the top off the story, and I’m still reeling a few hours later. It’s not that we mind the question. It’s hard to answer, but in order for anyone to truly know us as a couple, or even as individuals, the chapter must be told.

 

It’s not the question we mind.

 

It’s our story itself.

 

It started out all well and good. I was seventeen and I had all the butterflies and hopes and dreams over a certain brown-eyed, brown-haired, brilliant young man. We were best friends. And then . . .

 

we fell in love.

 

We planned on marrying from the start.

 

It felt like a fairy tale. Our families loved each other. Our families spent lots of time together.

 

And then.

 

It all fell apart. Our parents’ marriages disintegrated right before our eyes. Within two weeks of one another, both sets of parents were separated. Accusations flew. So did denials. But, relationships between parents became too close. It can no longer be denied.

 

We surveyed the devastation and thought it was all our fault. If it hadn’t been for the two of us, falling in love, our families would still be intact, we thought. We broke up. Again and again. Wondering how we could ever navigate a marriage in the midst of two families that were now feuding.

 

But we loved each other.

 

We couldn’t stay away.

 

God sent us counsel.

 

And in September, after Hurricane Ivan left our hometown flooded and our honeymoon destination shutdown, we woke up to a beautiful, blue-sky kind of wedding day. The kind of wedding day every girl dreams about. Ivan means, “God is Gracious.”

 

Yes.

 

We stood on the rocks of a Mountain church and pledged our vows to one another. Looking back, I realize we kept the vows before we ever even said them. I hope to live them for the rest of my life, by God’s grace and only His.

 

 

When the seemingly normal questions come, my hearts shrinks back in the wanting to hide. In the wanting for the simple beauty of just a regular love story. In simple family ties.

 

But God gave us something different. And I’m learning to accept that a little grit, a little lightning, make the most beautiful vessel-like glass.

 

Ah, yes. I must find the eucharisteo of the past  . . .

 

that I might live it in the present.

 

#327 the necklace with nine and twelve . . . my comfort in the not understanding

#328 that we had two years before each blow

#329 Jonathan’s roommate’s encouragement, when we thought we were crazy

#330 that we can understand each other’s wounds

#331 that our siblings have never blamed us

#332 for truth-speakers when we didn’t know what to believe

#333 that He helped us to hold onto one another through it all

#334 that we actually went through with it, we said the vows

#335 that we can be honest about the wishing our story was different

#336 that we recognize that it made us stronger

#337 that our story is not finished

#338 that God builds on chapters

#339 that I love him more than ever

#340 two beautiful baby girls

#341 that if I knew this would still be the result, I’d marry him all over again

Maybe Now

I remember how tired I was. Newborn baby in the sling, resting against my chest, and the two-year-old running wild in the milk aisle. I can still feel my tight hand-grip on the grocery cart and how I wrestled, trying to keep both it and my out-of-reach daughter in line, while trying not to wake the babe. It was dreary cold out. I was worn thin.

 

My eyes met those of an elderly woman who seemed to be surveying us in that milk aisle. I was too frazzled to make small talk.

 

But do you know what she had the gall to come up and say to me?

“Honey, enjoy every minute. This is the best time of your life.”

 

Now I’m not usually the type of girl who gets riled very easily. But just then, I really wanted to screech, “How can you be so cruel to say that me right now? Don’t you know I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks? That my body is literally worn out? That my husband and I have barely had time to look each other in the eyes?! That I’m here in the milk aisle just trying survive this grocery trip and you say these are the best moments of my life?!?!” I don’t even remember what I actually said to the woman, but I was too tired to scream, so instead, I muffled my soul’s unbelief and gave the typical Southern smile and probably said something about how, yeah, I was trying to savor the moments.

 

To be honest, the woman’s words stuck like unwanted syrup on the outside of a glass syrup bottle, and until recently, still conjured up a twinge of panic whenever they surfaced to mind.

 

What if she’s right? This??? This could be the best time of my life?

 

Because my days are merely filled with wiping bottoms and folding underwear, sweeping floors and serving PB and J’s on Winnie the Pooh plates.

 

But recently, I picked up Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken from the Heart. Whether or not you side with her husband in his politics, it is hard for anyone to deny that the former first lady has lived an intriguing life . . . doing things, visiting places, meeting world leaders and attending spectacular events that few of us will ever have the opportunity to experience.

 

And do you know what she wrote? After serving as the First Lady of the United States of America for two terms and having lived probably the most exciting time of her life, she reminisces on the first few months of parenting their twin girls:

 

Every morning before dawn, George would get up to make the coffee, as he had done from the start of our marriage; then he would go get the girls and carry them into our bed. We’d each hold a baby and drink our coffee while they drank their bottles, with the morning news droning quietly in the background. The start of the day was reserved for just the four of us. Those early mornings were some of the sweetest times in our lives.

 

My breath catches as I read her words.

 

That’s what I am living. Feeding hungry little tummies. Sipping coffee. Living side-by-side with the man I love. The words of the Wal-Mart lady wash over me and I realize her words just may be true.

 

And I wonder.

 

What if I lived every moment like it just might be the ______-est moment of my life?

 

Maybe every moment in our lives is *THE* something. The sweetest time. The busiest time. The most exciting time. The most difficult time. The craziest vacation. The most intimate Christmas. The stupidest recipe mistake. The wisest parenting moment. The tastiest dinner. The most hilarious date. The funniest Monday.

 

How will I embrace it?

 

Taking the time to count those little moments that make up all of *my* time, my story, my one, all-or-nothing chance at life on this earth….

 

#207 a room of sharing mamas and learning mamas-to-be, an honor to sit, listen, watch and pray

#208 that He is Sovereign – even when I don’t understand His plan in the giving and taking

#209 grace in the seeing, the seeking help, the beginning of healing

#210 a small affirmation

#211 sisters-in-law and sisters-in-law-to-be . . . little pieces of hearts known

#212 a brother’s love, brimming beneath the calm surface

#213 drawings, drawings, drawings

#214 the little one’s grasp of a crayon

#215 baby friendships blossoming from their mamas’ years’ worth of shared phone calls, get-togethers, funerals, weddings and pregnancies

#216 spontaneous sister-dates

#217 that we were made to cleave

#218 flexibility and her learning

#219 the missing of the one I love on a Monday

#220 that he misses me too

#221 hearing him play with her and watching her love tank fill

#222 that heart-stopping moment that she grabbed my face just to kiss me

#223 a shared journey

#224 that every moment is full of possibility

#225 that maybe, just maybe, I could right now be living the very best time of my life

 

 

Let me embrace. Let me anticipate. Let me find.

He is here.

In this moment.

And the next.

 

 

Joining the gift-thankers

Big Picture Truths

Some days, I desperately feel like I just need my fellow mama friends around me in a huddle. You know, a pep talk. Arms on shoulders, heads bent into our circle’s center.

 

I guess some days, I need to feel that cloud of witnesses cheering me on (Heb 12:1) – albeit my personal race is small and everyday compared to others’. Because I’m just a stay-at-home mom. And sometimes the gloomy thought raises its ugly head and I wonder if we stay-at-home-mamas try to glorify our vocation a bit much. Maybe we merely seek to make ourselves feel better in our daily humdrum. Believing that shrewd lie, even for a minute, causes my soul to crumple in weariness. But, He lifts my heart to dwell on truth. Because whether you are a stay-at-home mama, a working mama, or a single mama, we truly do have a high calling.

 

So if you’re having a day that’s got you down and dog-tired, come join me in the huddle.

 

 

C’mon girls,

 

 

We are driving the future.

 

We are bringing up the next generation of doctors and preachers,

teachers and researchers,

or maybe even more stay-at-home mamas.

 

The atmosphere of our homes is set by us.

 

We are memory-makers.

 

Our children are people –

little, yes, but someday, they will be all grown up with real thoughts and ideas, dreams and solutions –

we lay their foundations.

 

Others will come alongside us to help raise up our children

– teachers, peers, family, pastors, etc. –

but we are the underpinning.

 

We shape future mommies’ and daddies’ views on home.

 

To our boys, we lay the groundwork for their views on women.

 

To our girls, we teach what it is to be woman.

 

We are often given the honor of hearing a soul’s first prayers.

 

We see ambitions light in their eyes and we can either stamp them out, or fan the flames.

 

We can teach boys to be gentlemen.

 

We can teach girls to wait for one.

 

Every day, we can either fill their love tanks, or let them empty.

 

It may feel like our little mama-lives are hidden in the looming shadows of the world’s great humanitarians, missionaries, politicians, and blog and movie celebrities . . . but He brings power to the small, life to the dying, strength for the weary.

 

We plant a multitude of seeds.

 

Let’s water and illuminate.

 

Go get ’em, girls.

 

 

Deliverance

I shook my head again and again. “I can’t do this,” I kept saying – only internally, because the pain wouldn’t let the words leave my lips. Wave after wave of uterine contractions. One hand gripped the bedrail, the other clutched onto my husband’s poor hand. I searched his eyes, begging for help. He encouraged and said all the right things, but I just wanted to run away from myself. The baby was coming, nonetheless, and I could only be delivered from the pain by embracing more of it. I had a job to do . . . liberate a baby from my body-cocoon, but I was in the dreaded “transition” and I had run out of resolve. I had done this one time before, so I knew where I was, what was coming, and that the memories of the pain would fade. Regardless, I was in that frantic, feverish state, just wanting someone to deliver me.


Any woman who has ever delivered a baby knows that you have no choice in the giving up. You have no power to stop that baby from coming. And you don’t really want to. But you do. Because childbearing is one of the most taxing things you will ever do for the good of another life.

 

But the urgency for deliverance doesn’t end in the delivery room, does it?

 

The last couple of days, I feel like I have been in emotional transition in this childbearing phase of life. Delivering those babies of mine was only the beginning. If you are raising children, you know, you are giving up your body, mind and spirit every. single. day.

 

Because when that sippy cup is dropped on the hardwood floor for the twentieth time and the sound reverberates and the very vertebrae of my spine rile, I need to swallow that “contraction”, pick up that dropped cup, maybe say, “No, no” and let it go.

 

Every time the contraction of arguing with Firefly about whether or not to wear leggings under that dress, or wearing her brown sneakers instead of her adorable black boots, wears upon my soul, I need to take a deep breath, be the parent, not react, maybe let her decide, but definitely direct her heart.

 

Every time the contraction of seeing those toys on the floor that I just picked up (not three minutes ago) comes around, I need to stifle my murmuring and hold tight to the One whose grip will not let me go.

 

These are just the little contractions of motherhood. But they are constant. The seemingly little things can wear a mother thin, dissipate any semblance of confidence in her abilities, and make her want to run away and hide from the very things that she treasures with all her heart.

 

Whining.

 

Load after load of laundry.

 

Crumbs continually on the kitchen counter.

 

Toothpaste in the bathroom sink again.

 

That afore-mentioned sippy cup battle.

 

Battles of the will.

 

Another dirty diaper?

 

Knocks on the bathroom door when you’ve only been missing for 30 seconds.

 

“But I wanted such and such for dinner!”

 

Forgetting to stash the diaper bag.

 

And the wave after wave of giving yourself up for these simple tasks, directing a child’s heart, or the overwhelming desire for just a little break, is enough to make a girl wonder if she was cut out for a 24/7 job like this.

 

But I keep thinking on this passage:

“And women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 1 Timothy  2:15

 

What on earth does that mean?????

 

I wonder if it means more than just physical labor and delivery . . . do you think it means childrearing? Because I certainly feel like motherhood helps me see more and more of my need for His cleansing sanctification than anything else.

 

I desperately need to have faith that he has given me enough strength and will give me enough wisdom to raise these two beautiful, little lives.

 

I desperately need true love for these two girls of mine. Love that guides, disciplines when needed and helps me lay my own wants and desires down at the foot of the cross.

 

And I desperately need a holy propriety in daily living with my children. All too often, I’ve been known to yell, become frustrated too easily, react and give in to plain, old grumpiness.

 

Oh, dear Father. Rescue me from running away from true deliverance. Because the more I fight to have more “me time”, or quiet, or a spotless home that bears no resemblance to one housing a busy, living family, the more the contractions of motherhood take the breath of your Spirit from me.

 

Please, yet again, bring life to my limits.