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Just Watching

The squirrels play tag through the leaves, rustling up such a commotion that I think it must be a deer running alongside the house. No, just two gray squirrels hopping around the trees, bushy tails standing at attention behind them. They run off, taking their commotion with them and the cooper’s hawk comes into my view. 

 

He perches 20 feet from me. So close, I can see just how large those hunter’s eyes really are and just how pointy that black beak of his really is. He’s still like a statue, and I know he is waiting for something. Every now and then, he hunches over, like a cat about to pounce on its prey. Then he stops himself short to wait quietly a few moments more. He notices me from my corner window, my camera probably giving me away.  His eyes glare at me, and I hold my breath, not wanting to spoil the sport, and thankfully, he turns his eyes slowly back to his alert watching.  And when the time is just right, he dives into the woods’ brown leaves, wings spread out, protecting his kill from any other predator’s view. And then he flies off, tasty reward firm in his grip, going to enjoy his dinner, I suppose.

 

He lands on a nearby branch and the limb totters beneath him, proving itself to be a limb simply caught among the branches. The hawk’s wings spread as the bird of prey tries to steady himself, ever before this moment, seeming so haughty and sure. His talons balance along the loose limb, his wings steadying him. The limb teeters, and I wonder if he’ll fall (as much as a bird can fall). The predator does save himself, but hops to a nearby, more secure branch anyway.

 

I do think he ate his lunch before this humorous balancing act, but I can’t be sure. In a moment more, I hear his mate calling for him and he flies off to greet her screeches. They pass one another through the branches and I wonder if he’ll tell her about his tasty treat or if he was supposed to share? Anyway, I very much doubt he’ll share the little tidbit of landing on an unsteady limb. Because it didn’t look very manly. I can say that for sure.

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Today, I found an old book of mine on the subject of motherhood. My eyes fell upon this description of girls and I just want to hold onto it….

Little girls are the nicest things that can happen to people. They are born with a bit of angel-shine about them, and though it wears thin sometimes, there is always enough left to lasso your heart—even when they are sitting in the mud, or crying temperamental tears, or parading up the street in Mother’s best clothes.

A little girl can be sweeter (and badder) oftener than anyone else in the world. She can jitter around, and stomp, and make funny noises that frazzle your nerves, yet just when you open your mouth, she stands there demure with that special look in her eyes. A girl is Innocence playing in the mud, Beauty standing on its head, and Motherhood dragging a doll by the foot.

God borrows from many creatures to make a little girl. He uses the song of a bird, the squeal of a pig, the stubbornness of a mule, the antics of a monkey, the spryness of a grasshopper, the curiosity of a cat, the speed of a gazelle, the slyness of a fox, the softness of a kitten, and to top it all off He adds the mysterious mind of a woman.

A little girl likes new shoes, party dresses, small animals, first grade, noisemakers, the girl next door, dolls, make-believe, dancing lessons, ice cream, kitchens, coloring books, make-up, cans of water, going visiting, tea parties, and one boy. She doesn’t care so much for visitors, boys in general, large dogs, hand-me-downs, straight chairs, vegetables, snowsuits, or staying in the front yard.

She is loudest when you are thinking, the prettiest when she has provoked you, the busiest at bedtime, the quietest when you want to show her off, and the most flirtatious when she absolutely must not get the best of you again. Who else can cause you more grief, joy, irritation, satisfaction, embarrassment, and genuine delight than this combination of Eve, Salome, and Florence Nightingale.

She can muss up your home, your hair, and your dignity—spend your money, your time, and your patience—and just when your temper is ready to crack, her sunshine peeks through and you’ve lost again. Yes, she is a nerve-wracking nuisance, just a noisy bundle of mischief. But when your dreams tumble down and the world is a mess—when it seems you are pretty much of a fool after all—she can make you a king when she climbs on your knee and whispers, “I love you best of all!”

~Allan Beck

It’s true. When they wrap their arms around you and say something about you being the greatest mama in the whole wide world, your heart cracks just a bit. You know it isn’t true, that it won’t ever be true, and there will come a day when they realize for themselves that it isn’t true. But in that split first second, they whisper something to the depths of your Mother-soul, and for a moment, however nano of a second it is, you might just believe it. And then in the next nano, reality checks and you know they are speaking from their blissful ignorance. However, the gift has already been given; in that beautiful, suspended moment, you saw yourself how they see you.

And you’re given strength to aspire.

How to Help a Friend During and After a Move

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about all the ways people helped my husband and me during and after our move. So, if you’ve had a girlfriend move recently, or you know she’s about to move, here are some ways to be a friend she’ll never forget:

 

1) Watch her kids.

Surprise! This is so helpful, however obvious it may seem, and its helpfulness cannot be downplayed. This not only gives your friend the uninterrupted time she needs to pack up that kitchen, it *really* helps the kiddos too. I had a couple of friends and family members who did this for me during our packing days and it saved my sanity (as well as my kids’).

2) Fix a meal for her family.

This is especially helpful that last night or two before the big day when she’s probably busy packing up all of her remaining kitchen items. One of my dear friends invited us to dinner the night before our move. This was absolutely heavenly. To be able to pack up all day, show up for dinner and get some sweet fellowship before heading home to  do more packing was a wonderful gift.

 

3) Collect your boxes for her and throw in a roll of tape or bubble wrap.

This one speaks for itself. And there’s never enough tape or bubble wrap. It seems boring, but she will love you forever, I promise.

 

4) Help her clean.

Odds are, your friend will want to spruce up the new place, no matter how clean her new home or apartment may be. Bring your iPod, a Sonic Cranberry-Limeade and go help her out. Not only will you get to help your friend, you’ll get one of the first tours of the new house! 🙂 Or better yet, help clean the old house after she’s already moved out. There’s nothing more tedious than going back and cleaning a place you’ve already had to emotionally leave behind. 

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5) Help them lift those boxes.

Or, be willing to stay home with your kids, and send your muscle-man to lift the boxes.

Or, hire a babysitter so that you can help too (yes, my sister-in-law actually did this, to my amazement!).

Moving day is one of the most exhausting of days! Come with open arms and maybe a cup of coffee. Again, she’ll love you forever.

 

6) Think of the things her family will need for their first night and morning.

We had one friend who offered to find the right washers for our new-to-us bed. We had no idea upon beginning to put it together that we didn’t have all the nuts and bolts we needed. Our friend literally went all over town, never could find the right washers and wound up buying some regular ones and literally pounding them into the correct shape for us (we were oblivious to all of this as we were still unloading boxes, or we would have never allowed him to go to so much trouble!). All because he knew we would want to crash that night. He will forever be a saint in my mind!

 

Bring muffins for the next morning’s breakfast and bring a gallon of milk and O.J. Odds are, your friend hasn’t thought much past getting into the house.

 

7) Leave something at the door to welcome them into their new home.

Or, if your friends are moving too far away, mail something to them ahead of time. There’s nothing like getting something from a friend in your new mailbox!

When we arrived at our new house in the U-haul, I quickly noticed a balloon and card waiting for us at the front door. I was pleasantly surprised, thinking it was the neighborhood Welcome Wagon’s doing. I soon discovered that one of my good friends had driven by our home the night before to leave us a “Welcome Home” card. If that’s not thoughtful, I don’t know what is.

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8) Help them with the yardwork.

If you *really* want to show your friends or family you love them, come bless the new place with its first mowing. I will never forget receiving a text from some loved ones the next morning, asking if they could bring their mower and come mow the already tall grass for us. Knowing we hadn’t bought a mower yet and that it would be a few days before we could do so, they saw a need and sacrificially came and prettied our yard for us. All I can say is, WOW. This still brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it.

 

8) Help her unpack.

The next time you visit, you may find that she’s moved things around as she’s learned her new house, but just getting things out of boxes (and breaking down the boxes) is so helpful and positively mind-clearing.

 

9) Send her a note a few weeks later.

Let her know you’re still thinking of her and that she hasn’t vanished from your heart and mind. Odds are, there are probably times she’ll feel you’ve moved on. Let her know you still love her.

 

10) Plan get-togethers (if you’re still in the same town).

Same as above. Your friend will need to know that friends are friends, no matter how far. Make the extra effort to still get together and encourage her to do the same. It will take a little extra work, but it will be worth it!

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If you have any ideas to add to the list, please feel free to add them to the comments! I’d love to have ideas tucked away for friends in the future!

And thanks to all of our amazing friends and family members who helped us during our move this summer. You guys humble me. And you ROCK my world.

Helping Children’s Hearts During and After a Move

As some of you know, we moved across town this summer. Some of you might think, “No big deal, right?” Well, you have to understand that we live in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Our topography causes very distinct communities, simply because of, well, the mountains and ridges. We only moved 35 minutes away, but because of our area, there are times this feels like it might as well be 2 hours. It’s sort of frustrating actually. No one meant any harm when we told people where we were moving, but there were several times when we told friends and neighbors where our new home would be and we received several exclamations of “Where is that????” Ummm . . . same little town, same city limits. Just a hop, skip, and a jump. 🙂

 

I’ve lived in 11 houses in my lifetime. That’s a small number compared to my Army Brat friends, but I’d say that’s a fair amount of moving in a 29-year-old’s life. Most of the moves were pretty exciting to be honest (the ones I remember), except for the one when I was 8. I survived. I made new friends. But for awhile there, I was devastated. I missed my best friend like nobody’s business. Looking back on some of the things I struggled with during that phase of my life, I’ve wondered how many of those struggles were my way of trying to cope. 

 

Needless to say, as excited as I was about buying our first home earlier this year, I was very nervous for my children. We lived on a Mayberry-type of street where the neighborhood kids had sleepovers and stayed up late catching fireflies together. It was so hard to leave.

 

But looking back over the summer, I feel the Lord helped me help my kids in little ways . . . ways I wasn’t even aware. And there were other things I’ve learned by trial and error. 

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about kids and moves, it’s this:

Moves are HARD. But kids are wonderfully adaptive. 

 

Even so, there are ways that we can help them adapt. If you’ve just moved, you’re about to move, or you know someone in either of those situations, here may be a few helpful tips. 🙂

 

1) Allow your children to say goodbye to their old house. Or maybe not.

I had grand plans of a “last night in the old place” when we moved. This completely went out the window. The kids wound up staying at their grandparents’ in order for my husband and I to keep our sanity and start moving early the next morning. However, the kids did say goodbye to the old place a little at time as we came back to clean the old house, etc. I really think God stepped in and chucked my plans for my children’s benefit. They had fun with their step-grandma and there were no sentimental sobs from me  them the night before.

 

2) Allow them to come home to something new.

When our kids got to our new place, the littlest one’s crib had magically transformed into a TODDLER BED! This was a last minute decision on my part, but again, I truly believe it was the Lord’s leading. Let me tell you, when she got to the new place, she knew she was big. stuff. I was afraid it might be too much change all at once, but it wasn’t! It seems to have been the perfect transition for her.

 

3) Begin new traditions.

Some of you are going to gasp and shake your heads at me on this one. But after our move, we were within about 7 minutes to a Dunkin Donuts. I quickly declared a Sunday-morning-Dunkin-Donuts tradition. So for a few weeks, off and on, on Saturday nights, I would come home with a box full of donuts to be saved until the next morning’s breakfast. I think we all dreamed of donuts those Saturday nights. 🙂 No they’re not healthy, and yes, I’ve cut back drastically on this tradition, but it was a good way to help all of us enjoy our new area and some of it’s “perks”. 🙂

 

4) Explore. 

This one’s obvious and I wish we’d done more of this over the summer. Just explore your area. Learn the new parks, figure out your new library storytimes, or whatever your routines were before. Things and places will be different, but different is not always bad. You’ll either appreciate what you had in a whole new light, or you’ll love what you have now. 

 

5) A change of pace.

I found that after our move, I was much more laid back about our “schedule.” This may have been because it was summer, it may have been because we didn’t know anyone close by, but suddenly, we were up late reading bedtime stories and playing longer outside before rest times. Some might argue that structure would better help children during such a transition, but I beg to differ on this one. I was more relaxed with our already-made structure, therefore, they were more relaxed and we were having fun. It almost felt like we were on a vacation there for a while.

 

6) Surround your children with steady relationships.

I knew that our move would change my children’s relationships (as well as my own). Thankfully, we are just across town and we can still see our friends, but then again, we’re across town. I had no idea how much friendships would change, if at all. Thankfully, we have a few cousins and more than enough aunts and uncles to go around, so we’ve tried to make sure our kids have gotten some extra family time. Family’s family and you’re stuck for life, so if you’re blessed to have family around, surround yourselves with relationships you know you’ll always have, no matter what. 🙂 There is a sense of security in family (for the most part -winky face-).

 

7) If you are moving “only” across town, plan playdates.

If you don’t plan them, they don’t happen as spontaneously as they once did. I feel like I was fairly good about this during the first few weeks of our move and then other things got really busy and I dropped the ball. All of a sudden, I was seeing a lot of moodiness in my oldest and one day it suddenly hit me, “Oh, she misses her friends.” This is a hard thing for a mom to realize. 😦 I hope to be better about planning fun times with friends in the coming weeks.

 

8) Be proactive about finding nearby friends.

When you feel like you’ve already got a good friend “network” on the other side of town, sometimes it’s hard not to just go back to that safe, wonderful place for everything!!! But I also know that my kids desperately need friends just down the street too. Before you leave that park, or that playplace, take a big, nervous gulp and ask that new momma friend for her number. Your kids might be really glad you did. And maybe even you will be too.

 

9) Let your children find their own way in making friends.

Thankfully, my kids are young and it’s easier to make friends when we’re younger, right? I think their minds literally think,  “Ooh, she’s wearing a purple shirt and sparkly shoes, she’s my new BFF!!!!” Then, after watching them play with the sparkly-shoed girl for half an hour, you ask your child what their new friend’s name is. They answer, “Huh? Oh, I don’t know, but she lost a tooth when she was four and she knows how to do a handstand with her tongue sticking out!” =D

 

The Sunday morning after we moved into our new place, my oldest woke up at 7 a.m. and immediately asked if she could knock on every door in the neighborhood and ask each house whether they had a little girl she could play with. {Sigh} This made me laugh and broke my heart all at the same time. Well, I didn’t let her go through with this plan at that very moment (it being 7 o’ clock on a Sunday morning and all), but a few days later, we were outside and she begged and begged for me to allow her to go to our neighbor’s house and ask if there was a little girl who lived there. I knew there wasn’t. But, by God’s grace, I said yes anyway. So off she went. She resolutely knocked on that door and repeated her question several times to our apparently hard-of-hearing neighbor. No, there wasn’t a little girl there, but my brave girl took a sure step in, I’m sure, finding a good girlfriend eventually.

 

10) Last, but not least, PRAY.

I think that whether we’ve just moved or whether we’ve been in the same neighborhood for 10 years, we all want our children surrounded by good, loving, level-headed friends. This is not something we can control. Only God can cross paths and bring the right people into our lives and into our children’s lives and then fuse hearts together. I truly believe that if our children are surrounded by friends who love the Lord, half of our teenage battles are already won. So, I know I want to be more diligent in praying for my children’s friendships. I want to be friends with their friends (not in the weird way that some parents are, but in the “I’m-interested-in-you-and-in-your-life” sort of way). Where healthy relationships are, healthy lives usually follow.

 

So, that’s it for now! This is a subject near and dear to my heart, so happy moving to you and yours!

 

 

 

 

Raising Best Friends

I didn’t know that when God gave me four sisters, He was probably preparing to raise some sisters. I mean, I guess it crossed my mind, but not in a real sort of way. 

 

Now, you are the ones playing in the family room. I don’t know what, but it sounds quite riveting. Something about Princes and puppies, I think. There are times that I hear the two of you girls playing and I almost get a little pang of jealousy — wishing I could just step into the play for a moment . . . maybe as a 4 year-old version of me — right in the middle of the two of you. I truly don’t think any sound on earth gives me greater joy than hearing your imaginations adventuring, feeding off one another’s. I pray so hard for your relationship. That God would always strengthen it and that you’d always love each other and invest in one another and give each other lots of grace. 

 

Because a sister has the potential to be your greatest friend and ally, or your biggest rival. Right now, yes, you fight and are sometimes selfish, but you love each other so much and you miss each other when the other is away from your side. And I know that I will fail you and I will annoy you and I will frustrate you and you will talk about me behind my back and maybe even giggle at your silly, ol’ mom. But I also know that when I am gone from this world, Lord willing, you will have each other and that will give me great comfort. 

 

I love your relationship. And I love that I get to “grow” you and help you “raise” your own best friend. Don’t ever underestimate each other. You can get through just about anything in life with a friend by your side. God gave you each other.

 

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Oh, and I have to go now, because you’ve actually just invited me to join the fun and come be your Aunt Suzie for a sleepover. 

 

I wouldn’t miss it.

 

Always have fun, little girlies.

Battle-Fighting and Being Real (so beware!)

I wring my hands a lot.

 

Not really outwardly so much. But inwardly, I’ve been a girl given to anxiety and fear. The Lord opened my eyes to this about a year ago . . . suddenly I saw how fear chains me, shoves me down and straddles me there. It’s not pretty. But I am thankful for the eye-opener because now I know my enemy.

 

The fear isn’t of the Boogey Man…. Spiders? YES.

 

No, this fear is a lot of wondering. A lot of analyzing. A lot of debating. A lot of comparing. Always worried that I’ve made the wrong choice about something, or how maybe I’m missing the boat somewhere, or how I just know we’re pushing ourselves toward the brink of disaster. 

 

These are strong chains, however self-imposed.

 

I’ll think I’ve shaken them off and something out of the blue pops into life and that one fear/worry twitches those chains off in that dark corner, and like a boa-constrictor, they climb their way up over my heart and head until I am one anxious, bent-over girl.

 

Tonight, it hits me that of all the current worries and fears swirling around in my head, there is not *one* thing I’ve actually been convicted about. It boils down to basically my fear of messing up . . . or even messing up relationship. 

 

Suddenly, I realize that the guy-with-the-name-that-begins-with-S is having a hay-day. Hay. Day. Or is it Hey-Day? You know what I mean. 🙂

 

So.

 

I tell him to shut up.

 

And I pray that if there’s something I really need to change, or an area where I truly am bringing disaster upon myself, or my family (yes, I’m saying this a tad tongue-in-cheek – just a tad) that He will open up my eyes and rescue us from that. But otherwise, I just need to stop listening to all the what-if’s and you-should-have’s. Suddenly, I realize that what I want Jesus to say when I reach His presence, is “Well done, Good and Faithful Servant.” Nothing else.

 

He doesn’t ask me to make all the perfect, right decisions or to make sure that nothing, ever in my life ever fails. He just wants me to be faithful.

 

Am I being faithful?

Are you?

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I open my Bible to I don’t care where. I just know I need a nugget of truth. And what do you know but I land on Deuteronomy 10:12 -15?

“Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.”

 

 

He wants me to fear Him, to walk in Him and love Him and to serve Him. To keep His commandments. I so want to do all of these things. And I know that when I fail, Jesus covers me.

I am His.

 

And so are you.

Thoughts from a Girl in the Woods

We pull into the driveway after a busy day right in the middle of a hectic few weeks. Our yard looks like a jungle. I sigh, somewhat despairingly, somewhat longingly,

“I have got to spend some time in our yard,” I say.

Firefly pipes right up.

“So you can get a breath, Mama?”

I smile, a bit startled at her astuteness, realizing that yes, subconsciously, that is what I wanted. Just to catch a breath.

Yes,” I reply. “A very, deep breath.”

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The wildlife in my backyard does not encroach upon my habitat, but we sit right in the middle of theirs. An intimidating, Tennessee version of a rainforest, lives just off our deck. We stand at the windows and watch the deer graze. Their ears perk at our murmuring and we are the ones behind the glass and they observe us like we are the tourist attraction. Today, the butterflies, flutter and float, sipping from the second butterfly bush blooms of the summer. The birds finally discover that their long-deserted birdhouse is once again filled with seed and they eat and flit, excited, I think, to tell their friends. I can hear the birds’ grapevine for myself, the trees full of extra chirping and whistling. I linger outside, just wanting to soak in all the life.

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And the sweet hustle and bustle of life being given more life.Image

I realize that my daughter is right: life does beg for more life in one form or another. When God created each living thing on this earth by His spoken word, it was good. When He actually breathed His life into the nose of Adam, His very breath was inhaled by human lungs, forever to be breathed in and out, in and out. And when we are most exhaled, the most drained, the most fatigued, whether by responsibility or relationship, what we are most craving is more life. Fresh breath to inhale. And then to exhale.

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When my children are most driving me crazy and when I most want my own space and most want them just to please be quiet, what I’m really wanting is perfect, tidy relationship. What they are usually wanting, is simply more of me.

More life.

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Perhaps it is the same in most relationships. When relationship seems most dead and most impeded by whatever, and we most want to walk away, maybe what we’re most desiring is just the strength for someone to enter in. To breathe life or to have life breathed into us.

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Maybe it’s never too late. Maybe God gives us second summer blooms, or seed in our deserted birdhouses. Maybe where we thought no life was, there’s still a space for possibility. Maybe we just need to revisit.

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Maybe we’ll find something there….