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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

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

Posted on

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.

Buckled

Posted on

We had just arrived home. I unbuckled Firefly, who immediately hopped from her car seat and began crawling over the still-buckled-in Dove. The little one’s feet kicked back and forth, patiently waiting for me to come rescue her as Firefly squeezed and squirmed, trying to escape the car and her little sister’s in-the-way feet so that she could go play next door.

Dove: “AAAAAACHOOO!”

Yes, all the sneeze and drool of a cute, teething toddler, right onto Firefly’s arm.

Firefly, disgusted: “DOOOOOVE! You *blessed* my arm!!!!”

Suddenly, I was buckled too.

Buckled over, laughing. 🙂

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.

Still a Wallflower

For you sweet readers, I am sorry for the long in-betweens. We’re here battling sickness again this week (it’s a tough winter, no?) . As the three of us girls stay close to home and to each other, and as I watch my two little girls interact, my mind settles here again.

A post from not so very long ago.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

I watch her eyes follow her big sister. The Dove observes the Firefly and everything comes earlier because she’s been watching. The talking, the crawling, the climbing, the walking all come before I’m ready and I’m unprepared for the surprise. At about 10 months, she begins playing dress up. She’s watched her big sister clothe herself in the costume gowns and necklaces, and Dove begins that early too. She brings a hat to her Daddy one evening, and indulging her, he places it on her head. She gives us a look of excited curiosity and crawls, quick as lightning, to the over-sized mirror in our hallway. She looks at her reflection and smiles, satisfied. My Man and I look at each other in nervous disbelief. 10 months old and she’s already doing this?! She’s been watching someone . . . and Firefly cannot possibly fathom her effect.

You can learn a lot about a man by studying his beloved, can’t you? She is his reflection and sometimes his mirror, but you learn what he values and how he loves and things he won’t necessarily tell you himself.

 

And I wonder.

 

His bride is far from perfect and she is cleansed, but still being sanctified, so for this analogy, you have to ignore her dust-propensities . . . but what of her beauty? What does the earthly Bride tell us of the Heavenly Groom?

 

I watch as Dove watches her sister. She tries to keep up with her and she tries to mimic her and she tries to learn of life from her . . . maybe she learns more from her big sister than she does from her parents?

Like Dove, I watch and learn. I learn from you, dear sisters.

 

I watch a young woman as she and her husband anguish in their infertility. They cling to the Life-Bringer and hope shimmers. They cling to each other and love is sown. I learn from my little sister.

 

I watch a friend struggle for unity with her husband as they seek God’s plan for their family. She waits. They find unity where least expected. I study this.

 

I watch a daughter of the King wrestle lies of being unlovable, abandoned and alone. She wields the sword of truth and she is a warrior. She teaches me.

 

I watch a woman of faith contend with her husband’s unfaithfulness. Within herself, she daily fights for her marriage, forgiving again and again the bleeding wounds to her soul. She illuminates. I watch her.

 

I learn from you, my sisters. I am just one in the cloud of witnesses, watching you run your race.

 

I toddle, arms outstretched.


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

Baby Lessons

I hear Love Dove’s voice as she awakens from her nap. I meander down our long hallway, pausing at the door to make sure she’s really awake before I turn the knob.

 

Her ears perk at the sound of her mama coming to “rescue” her from the bed. She gasps and scrambles to sit up fast.

 

First, she grabs onto her security – a small, blue, mouse blankie, we affectionately call Henry. She peeks over the top of her pack n’ play, just waiting for me to come closer.

 

I pick up her small, toddler’s body and smother her warm, just-been-snuggling-in-the-blanket face in kisses.

 

She pats her tummy, proudly saying, “Baby? Baby?”

 

Yes, sweet girl,” I smile and hold her tight. “You’re my baby….”

 

More kisses.

Little baby smiles and patiently waits for the end of the Mama Kiss Fest.

This is becoming a daily exchange.

And I’m struck.

 

At the very moment dreams fade, eyes flutter open, and reality hits, do I hold tight to our only Sure Security?

In Him – in Him alone – we find our true identity and the only confidence for our days.

 

His? His?

Yes, Child. Mine.