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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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Living It

(I wrote this several months back. It’s funny how a few months can change you. Refine you. Teach you. Today, my girls don’t nap and I still wipe up crumbs and fold underwear. I rush out the back door several times throughout this day and coax our car’s engine to ignore the cold, while still trying to find a time to bare the Christmas tree…. But they smile over silly, little things, their daddy-given dimples lighting me up. And I feel it. Yes. This is it.)

 

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?

Apron Ingenuity

Remember all those Jane Austen movies you’ve seen? You know the scenes. The ones where Eleanor, or Emma, or Elizabeth, or maybe even Fanny, happen to see some dashing young man, at a neck-breaking pace, flying up the dirt road, dust billowing behind his gallant post? The ones where all the women scurry to hide their embroidery, shimmy out of their aprons, take deep breaths to calm their beating hearts and stand serenely, waiting for the gentlemen to be ushered into their sitting rooms. I’ve never understood that. Why this hurrying need to look like they’ve nothing better to do than stand at graceful attention?

 

Regardless of the seeming unnecessary hypocrisy of those Austen-esque moments, I’m a bit sold on those aprons. And maybe a bit on the hypocrisy! Because motherhood has opened my eyes. Am I the only stay-at-home mother out there who is constantly walking around with yogurt hand-smears down the side of her skirt, or who looks in the mirror after talking to drop-in company and notices a blob of snot down the back of her shoulder? In a Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Katie was able to protect her daughter from a child molester by hiding a gun under her working apron. She didn’t even have to reveal the gun! She just shot a hole, right through that apron. On Little House on the Prairie, Caroline was able to carry eggs from the barn to the homestead in her calico apron’s pockets. They just seem so practically ingenious! You wear the apron, take care of all your child-rearing, housecleaning, cooking tasks and then when company drops in? Wa-la! Untie your apron and you’re good as new!

 

In fact, while we’re at it, could we make our children wear them too? Because yesterday, when we were outside playing with the neighbor children and I had a chat with my wonderful neighbor, I noticed that Little Dove had watermelon drippings all down her shirt and Firefly had ink stains from another one of her drawings all over the front of hers. Wait, maybe that’s what bibs are for.

 

So, if you happen to drop by and I’m in a gracefully attentive sort of stance, don’t move any sofa pillows when you sit down to chat. You just might happen to find a yogurt-stained apron hiding in amongst the cushions. Don’t worry about sitting on any needles though. I don’t have time to embroider.

 

 

 

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

Pressing In

Today was not a good day at our house. Nothing hugely catastrophic by most people’s standards (or really even my own if I really think about it!) I haven’t felt very thankful, nor have I had much time today to post anything. But I’m determined to say thanks. Even if my teeth are a little gritted. I don’t want to be hypocritical. But I also think that sometimes, when feeling the most ungrateful, the only way to feel the way out of the ungratefulness, is to call out the gratefulness.

Not hypocrisy.

Choosing.

Today was just a blip in what a day can sometimes be like in a household of three females (ranging in age of 16 months, to 28 years) and one, over-worked daddy. One female is currently a little hormonal, one is three years old (enough said) and one is teething. It was a day of crying, whining, fussing, griping, lamenting, pining, losing control, crying, and wiping away tears and racoon-looking, mascara smudges (Yes, I’m describing me here. Not who you thought, huh?).

You see. I had more than enough reason to be upset. But you know what? I’m the mama. And I didn’t look one bit like a Jesus-filled, loving mama today. Nope. I looked like one of those crazy-eyed mamas you see on reality TV. I don’t want to see her again. She needs to go. Far, far away. I’m slowly starting to realize that this reality TV version of myself seems to appear after eating one too many chocolate chip cookies. Whole wheat or not, they’re wreaking havoc and I think that reality TV woman needs to take her plate of cookies and go on home. Yep. She’s not welcome here in this house anymore. I don’t like her. And neither do my kids.

So, I’m announcing to the world (because I think that may be about what it takes for accountability for me on this one) that sugar is leaving my vocabulary and my diet for a bit. Not completely . . . you know, it’s going to be in certain recipes and things (and *definitely* still in my coffee creamer), but sweets and treats? I think they need to go for a while and maybe we’ll see if a nicer mama appears at our door with a plate of carrots and dip. Because I know I definitely have some heart issues to work on. And believe me, the Lord’s getting an earful on those. But I’m beginning to wonder if too much sugar is part of the issue. I’ll let ya know.

Yeah, so I know this doesn’t have much to do with a Multitude Monday. But this was a bad enough day that I’m desperate. If you know me at all, you know that if I’m willing to give up my chocolate chip cookies for a while? Even for just an experiment? That must be one, mean mama that was here in this house today.

And right now? I’m having to press hard into being thankful….  Thank you, dear readers. You bring accountability.

#422 that her emotions are so keenly felt . . . God can redeem . . . someday, into deep-felt compassion and all-out passion for Him

#423 driving, driving, driving me to my knees . . . nowhere to turn, but Him

#424 the beautiful, heart-melting moments when they laugh and play and love on each other

#425 Firefly, trying to teach Dove to share

#426 the super powers of a protein snack and an early bed-time

#427 the “just checking-in” call from a friend

#428 that he didn’t mind picking up the forgotten sour cream

#429 Dove trying to get the beloved neighbor’s dog to play fetch with her

#430 the way Dove says, “Ouch”

#431 that Dove’s head is hard enough to withstand all the falls onto hardwood floors and running full-speed-ahead into door frames

#432 that Princess band-aids finally won over Firefly’s confidence

#433 waving palm fronds in the car, little white teeth gleaming in the spring sunlight

#434 that my man is such a hard, meticulous worker and provider

#435 that coffee night with girlfriends came on just the right day

#436 little girl excitement over a new toothbrush

#437 the wonders of a tent made with a rose-covered sheet

#438 a recently-turned picky eater, gobbling down poppyseed chicken

#439 that He knows my weariness

#440 that He covers my sin

#441 that my children show me my need for Him

#442 and entrench the comfort of knowing that He is in control

#443 their daddy-given dimples

#444 their soft skin

#445 that love is spilling over in tears . . . this moment

#446 the way she recites John 3:16 . . . “loved the woooorrrrlld”

#447 how Firefly tells me she loves me out of the blue

#448 that Dove just has to come tell me she’s watching Veggie Tales (“Mama, Mama!” Deh Dee Deh!”) and then runs back to the couch

#449 truly spill-proof sippy cups (they’re rarer than I thought)

#450 how Dove leans into my kisses

#451 that I have been given such two, amazingly created, intricately made gifts

#452 that He knows my weaknesses

#453 and maybe He’s given strengths?

#454 and He made us for each other

#455 that He can strengthen bonds

#456 and has

#457 that He asked for our cares and burdens

#458 He knows my fears

#459 that His love casts them out

#460 that He can use, even me

The Accountability

Completion

For it is He who has made us (and our children) and not we ourselves.

Psalm 100:3

 

By 9:30 this morning, I am *done*. Early this morning, I waken the girls so that we can go meet my out-of-town grandparents for breakfast as they travel through our city. And my little ones aren’t bad per say, but they are into everything in the Cracker Barrel gift shop. Everything imaginable is right within grasp and they run circles around me. The oldest needs way too much coaxing to give a simple thank you to her great-grandmother for a sweet gift. Dovey fusses and whines and tries to wriggle out of my arms and I can’t gulp the coffee down fast enough to keep up with them.

 

How do these types of mornings always and so quickly leave me with my head hanging and my heart heavy with feelings of failure as a mother? This role of motherhood is not easily evaluated, is it? In my nursing days, a job well-done was much more easily gauged. Pneumonia cured? I must have done a good job administering antibiotics, forcing fluids, etc. Child pitches a fit in the middle of Wal-Mart? I feel like a failure and walk out of the store with my tail between my legs. But maybe (maybe), I did everything just right. Child wins an award for being the most well-behaved child at school? I may leave the building with my head held high and chest puffed up. But maybe I did everything wrong and it was all grace. Children have a sometimes aggravating, sometimes healing, certain kind of something called free will.

 

This morning, I feel the enemy’s daggers searing into my heart and mind, trying to instill lies of despair. Trying to convince me that I really am in control and simply failing. How can I do this differently? How can I take more control over everyday situations? Why do I feel out of control??? I’m not cut out for this.

 

We  stop by the library and pick up story books before coming home. As soon as we walk through our door, books are plopped in the doorway and Dovey steps on Firefly’s book, just to get a reaction. She gets it. Firefly lights into her with her words and I take a deep breath and say something about how yelling doesn’t help the situation. But haven’t I been known to do the same thing all too often the last few days? My words sound feeble and hypocritical. I let out a long exhale. Because I realize that Firefly’s learned the yelling from none other than her mother.

 

A few minutes later, I’m busy attending to something, but my breath catches as, completely of her own initiative, Firefly cuddles up to her little sister on the couch, gives her a kiss and says, “I’m sorry for yelling at you, Dove.”

 

I had almost missed it.

 

Isn’t this what I’ve been doing all week too? Asking forgiveness from Firefly for this very same thing?

 

And I know it’s true but how quickly I forget: kids’ hearts are welded to what is caught, not taught.

 

I will preach sometimes, I will disciple others. Sometimes I will bend low and others I will be in my own world. Some days I may remember to spend time on the floor in the middle of blocks and baby dolls, and others, I will forget. I will sometimes fail in disciplining, I may succeed in others. I may have a clean house or a dirty. I may be a gourmet cook in a gourmet kitchen or a gourmet PB&J maker over stained counters. I may hold fast to philosophies of attachment parenting or its counterpart. I may decide to homeschool, or I may send my children to public school. None of it matters. Well, it does matter. But it really doesn’t.

 

Because, as a parent, all that really matters is our loving Jesus. Trying to instill in them a love for Jesus. Trying to be an example. Praying hard. Letting go.

 

Of course, we as mothers and fathers will guide and direct and teach as much as we are possibly able, will we not? But there will be more failures than we care to count. But our children are His. And we must remember that we His.

 

May He be theirs.

 

And our God?

Anything He puts His hand to?

It’s made perfect. It’s completed. He never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Me Be Little

Typical Mommy days here lately. Playdates and baths. Preparing food and pushing little bodies on swings. Spring is here in full force and we are loving it. The sandals are being worn, the sandbox is being played in. Winter is fun in its own right and I love the scarves and the warm sweaters, but give me flip-flops and a tank top any day!

 

But just the typical mommy days are being lived here. Probably the same ones many of you live. The cooking meals. The cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. The “Oh, I’m so sorry, I meant to wash that shirt for you yesterday!” The reading books, the brushing teeth, the changing diapers, the planning meals, the fitting in naps, the tending to little hearts, the continual setting aside of good conversation, waiting for a quiet moment to run to the restroom, the putting the computer to sleep to turn your face to a child asking for help.

 

It’s not easy work, is it?

 

Some days it’s mundane.

 

Sometimes, it feels impossible.

 

Some days, it feels like my role doesn’t even matter.

 

Some mornings, I don’t even want to get out of bed.

 

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Because I also have the privilege of tucking little souls to sleep each night. And sitting on the couch in the middle of the day just to read a book with little ones tucked in my lap. I get to hear their funny little sayings and watch their sibling relationship develop. I get to match clean, little baby socks and wrestle little arms into sleeper pajamas. I get to play games and be silly to my heart’s content and am loved more for it. I get to sing songs at the top of my lungs and little children giggle and join right in. I get to pour cups of water again and again and again and fill little bellies and teach new words. I get to sit on the floor and color whenever I want and play hide and seek and wiggle my toes in the sandbox and quote little kid movies.

 

Something tells me, that this is the best job in the world.

 

But they’re only little once.

 

Let me be little with them.