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Friday, August 19, 2016

Building Castles in the...Mulch

It’s hard to read articles from start to finish. I know. I tried to make this short!

The kids occasionally get nostalgic about life during their ripe old ages of six and four, so they will pull out old home videos of the last six years and watch the past for hours and hours. We all love seeing the girls as chubby babies crawling across the playroom floor, or Jude tentatively picking at his one year old birthday cake. But what I find myself constantly doing as I watch these precious times, is comparing then to now. I look at the baseboards that the babies are crawling by and think ‘oh wow, they were so clean’ , or I look at my body and the clothes I was wearing and think ‘oh my gosh I was so thin, my clothes fit so well’. I look at the uncluttered home, the clean countertops, the smooth hands, the unwrinkled face, and I think ‘it’s all gone downhill, hasn’t it’. Currently my house is a HUGE mess, there are things and boxes and dishes on every surface. My girls are in the front yard making “castle mountains” out of mud and mulch, and occasionally tracking it inside to fill up buckets of water. They are covered in dirt. Jude is yelling a song in the ear-blasting way that he does and bringing toys outside to climb the mulch castles. Charlie is on the porch ripping up plants (and hopefully not eating them). I am sitting here in my pajamas with my muffin top (unfortunately not the edible kind) and my crazy hair thinking ‘when did I completely lose control…of everything’?

A happy, anarchy-filled summer.
What’s the saying? Comparison is the thief of joy? Sometimes comparing ourselves against our own selves is the harshest comparison there is, because we actually had attained what we wish we could be now. I will never look like a model so why would I compare myself to one? A cat can’t be a dog, but it can be a better cat. I can always be a better version of me. Because, I actually had a clean house. I weighed 130 pounds. I had control over the clutter in my home. By our society’s standards I was doing better than I am now. So sometimes, all I can see is failure.

I also see the old kitchen rug in the video that needed replacing. We should have just bought a new one, but we really didn’t have much money then. We would have never gone out and bought a brand new rug, not with babies to take care of. So I actually found comfort in the fact that Chad now has a much better job, and we can do things like go out to eat or buy a birthday cake instead of making one. ‘Doing good, doing much better’, I think to myself. Moving in the right direction, upward mobility, bigger and better and more cushion and more stability, right? Isn’t that the major goal of life? Why we get up and go to work every day? Some of us love our low-paying jobs and would do them regardless, but what we are told by everyone and every commercial and every store is “you can be better, richer, more beautiful, and more successful. We can help”. Lowe’s has a slogan that just gets under my skin: “Never Stop Improving”. Geez. What pressure! No resting for you!

You may look back at various times in your life and think:
I have a better job now, progress.
We have a bigger house now, progress.  
We can go on vacations, progress.
I have a better job title, progress.
I have more friends, progress.

Now here’s the thing. In many ways it is progress. There is nothing wrong with professional and financial stability and success. But do we look at that check box and think, ‘great, we are doing great, I am doing great!’ and let our review stop there? Do we just look at the old unflattering picture and think ‘I’m in better shape, doing great!’ but not think about who we were at the time?

Are we examining any of the things that actually matter?

Our bodies, our jobs, our bank accounts, our families: all of it can change in a day. We certainly don’t like to think about it, but you could lose your job in which you find great pride and stability. Like, tomorrow. Your body could fail you. Your house could burn up. Evil exists, sickness exists, bad economies exist, tragedy exists. Wah-wah. Debbie Downer here, reporting for duty.

BUT. And it’s a big, all caps BUT: God’s kingdom is here, now, and we are part of it. Your house may bring you joy, but true joy is only found in Christ. Your thin and capable body may bring you pride and freedom, but true freedom is only found in Christ. Your job may bring you fulfillment, but true fulfillment is only found in Christ. Joy, contentment, and freedom that are based in earthly things are conditional. They only lasts as long as what they are founded in lasts. We hope that means for our whole lives, but we aren’t promised that. In Christ we have a taste of the eternal joy and complete fulfillment that He gives that we will have forever. That joy, that freedom, that fulfillment can weather absolutely any change in our earthly situation. I want to live and breathe in that!

So look back at the pictures and the videos. Compare.
Am I closer to God’s heart?
Am I a better listener?
Am I more kind?
Am I holding my beauty, my money, and my accomplishments more loosely, or am I still clinging to them for worth?
Am I slower to take offense?
Am I better at looking for opportunities to help, serve, and encourage?
Am I allowing my heart to break for those around me who are suffering?

True progress in the things of God brings a satisfaction that calms our hearts and helps us spread his love and joy with a deep humility. Christianity is not running the same earthly race to the same finish line, just with “less” sin. Instead, we are the tent alongside of the race, welcoming weary racers. We are the ones saying Come here, with us, and find rest. Let us show you the balm for your tired soul.

So our lives may look different. Let them. Our success may look different. Let it. I am not as thin as before but I am more kind. My house is far dirtier than before but I am far more patient. I am not as beautiful as before but my heart is closer to the beauty of my Father. I am more distracted than ever, but my eyes have been opened to the suffering around me. I realize how incapable I am, but I am working on letting Christ be more capable in me.

Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Summer Wearies

The second before I started typing, with my fingers poised to begin a little brilliance, my children brought to me a clock that my three year old broke. Just now.

A fitting intro to a post for weary mamas. I am sitting at our makeshift computer desk in my living room, coffee cup round two next to me, and my four little ones are in the adjacent playroom doing what they do best: being louder than literal hurricanes. I can hear my girls excitedly instructing one another in a make believe game, my three year old son growling like a "bad lion" and knocking things over (I'm trying hard not to decipher exactly what, ignorance is bliss), and the baby enthusiastically learning how to be as ear-piercing as his siblings. He's catching on well.

The decibels that their small bodies can produce is astounding. People comment. We've thought about contacting the Guinness World Records people but we're too tired.

I should send them outside. Shouldn't I? We have a big backyard with plenty of fun diversions. There are even chickens out there! They could sit and watch those dumb birds for literal minutes before getting bored. MINUTES I tell you! But a few quiet minutes for a summertime mama with all of her baby birds in the nest all the dang time is like gasoline for my husband's '97 suburban: critical, but gone in a flash.

Plus, outside in the fires of Mordor called "summer in the south", my melted offspring don't last too long. 

My three year old little boy, a curious mix of cuddler and battering ram, greeted me this morning with a bright "Good morning Mama!" And like many a failed pull-up, I just couldn't rise up to match his enthusiasm. It's true that I had yet to consume my caffeinated manna from heaven (plain old drip coffee) and I'm dealing with an annoying case of mastitis, but why couldn't I smile at him like he smiled at me?

I am just...weary.

This job of caring for little ones is so intense. It's intensely awesome and joyful, it's intensely taxing and tiring. When the hot, hot sun starts on it's course in the morning until it crosses the sky and lands somewhere in the west, my name, "Mama", is uttered, demanded, wailed, whispered, and laughed hundreds of times. Sometimes it feels like an embrace. Sometimes I can feel my shoulders dip under the weight of it.

Every day is a marathon, and most I greet with enthusiasm. Let's do this! Let's have an awesome day! I mean, I took all four to the beach by myself for five days (though my sister was there with her daughter and that was helpful). I am not afraid of getting out with them, going on adventures, and making memories. But that doesn't mean that I don't get depleted. That the energy stores don't dry out. That I don't need, require, rest from the noise and the demands. The packing and unpacking, thinking ahead and planning, arranging playdates and fun outings, the feeding feeding feeding cooking preparing feeding cleaning up feeding grocery shopping cooking meal planning FEEDING.

Why don't children ever take a day off from eating? God should have programmed that in.

If you are weary, like I am, just know that you are not alone. There isn't a cure for this. Well, there is and it's called SCHOOL but apparently teachers need breaks too, so, we must have patience. In the mean time we must request help and breaks, take mental health days, rest when we can, relax about screen time, lower all of those damn expectations that we place on ourselves and just lay on the couch.

Mama, you can do this. I just screamed at my kids to "STOP MAKING ALL OF THE NOISE!!!!" so, I'm with you. Down in those sweaty, humid trenches. Let's help each other.

Summer is beautiful and hard.
Be kind to yourself today.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dear Momma dealing with infertility: I think of you

This has been on my heart lately and though I am terrified of sticking my foot in my mouth, I wanted to write this. 

When I am sitting in the doctor’s office with my obvious pregnant belly, and someone is sitting beside me without one, I think of you.

When I think about posting online about how the baby is moving so much today or other updates on my pregnancy, I think of you.

Before I say things like, “It was an accident!” or “No matter what we do it keeps happening!” I think of you.
I have no idea how many tests you had, how much money you spent, how much pain and disappointment you have been through. You don’t talk about it with me. And maybe that is wise, because I cannot relate. But I have tried to learn how to be better.

I don’t ask you anymore “Are you and your spouse hoping to have children one day?” because you may already be trying. You may be in the throes of disappointment. I realize now that this whole thing is not something I can take for granted.

I don’t ask if you are going to have more, because I don’t know what you went through to have the child or children that you have. For you it might have been a bit like climbing Mt Everest, and once you reach the top you have to think seriously about doing that all over again.

I don’t like the divide that I feel exists between us. I want to be your friend and to walk beside you through your journey. But I know that just seeing me with one life inside and three on the outside might be too much. And that’s okay. That is really, really okay. So I think of you.

In my heart I feel that whether you have been able to have children, have had miscarriages, or are still waiting to see two lines on those pregnancy tests, we share something. We share motherhood. Does it look different? Maybe. Did it come about in different ways? Probably, but there is a spirit in me and a spirit in you that is kindred.

You are a Mother. Whether you have conceived or not, whether you have lost, whether you have had your own or adopted or fostered. You are a Mother. Your spirit, the way you are working so hard for what you want, the way you serve and love the people around you, that deep longing in your heart that you cannot wish away, that makes you a Mother. And that piece of you and that piece of me is the same.

20131216-192629.jpgI have not walked in your shoes, but I think of you. I think of you so much.

And I am sorry for any hurt that I caused you. I didn't know then, but now I am trying so hard to be better. 


Friday, March 20, 2015

Tearing Up the List

I haven’t written anything in a long time. Part of it was because I was surviving my first trimester of pregnancy, which was awful, and surviving the winter which is always hard for me. The other reason is because I guess I felt that the blogging world was so flooded with ideas and opinions that nothing felt fresh, and what could I contribute?

But every season has an end, and here is my meager contribution to this world of ideas.

    I have noticed a disturbing trend in our culture but particularly in the world of blogging and internet comments (why, why, why does every website need a comments section?). It is a propensity to be easily offended, and to write about it. Ever since people of my generation were young we have been hearing about this, just in different ways: people are offended by a cross on the wall in a courtroom, or by a sign saying “Merry Christmas” in a grocery store, or by language that some are using to describe their race or group. And though this “PC” generation has learned a lot about how to treat each other, what words to use and not to use, it seems like we may have taken this chance to educate and turned it into an opportunity to be offended.

Take this for example: how many articles have you seen that are called something like this- “Ten Things To Never Say To A Pregnant Lady” or “What NOT To Say To A Mom of Twins”. The article then lists the things that people have said to the author that they categorized as offensive. Then, if you dare to read the comments, people add more and more things that offended them to this list. Or simply say, “Yes! I HATE that!” These articles exist now in regards to many races of people, every type of sexuality, every unique family situation (“What not to say to parents with one child” “What not to say to parents with two children”), and every person who is seen as “not the norm”: a person with curly hair, a redhead, a person with a missing limb, an otherwise handicapped person, a parent of a handicapped person, etc. Now, here is what is not wrong with this idea: education. The internet is a valuable tool in that we can reach people that we would not ordinarily be able to reach in order to teach them how to better communicate and respect others. Some of these articles are very thoughtful with the goal being something like: I know that my situation is unique and unusual, and I know that when you are talking to me/helping me/etc. you are trying to be kind, but you are unintentionally hurting my situation instead of helping. Here are some easy tools for you to be a better helper, if that is your goal. Knowledge is power, and if I can learn about someone better so that I can help or love them more effectively, then bring it on.

Others of these articles seem to be simply a re-hash of all of the things that have been said to someone that for one reason or another they just didn’t like. They are giving you a list of their opinions, their interpretations, and their judgements of things that were said or done to them by people who they mostly don’t know anything about. Maybe that person rubbed your pregnant belly because in their community that simple act is an acknowledgement of something beautiful that is happening inside of you. What they saw as kindness and encouragement, you choose to see as someone blatantly ignoring your silent rules. And so, you see it as a threat. But it isn’t, it’s simply a lack of understanding.

Sometimes, people are ignorant of “the rules”. They didn’t read that blog post, maybe they don’t have the internet, and maybe they don’t encounter people like you or families like yours very often and they just say whatever they think. My brother and sister-in-law have ten kids, and I asked her once what is the most annoying thing people have said to her. She had to think really hard, and then she basically said that nothing really bothered her all that much even though the examples she listed could have easily made a “What NOT to Say to Big Families” list. It wasn’t because the comments couldn’t be seen as offensive, it was because she was simply not offended by them. She was able to quickly and without reservation extend grace to people who made comments about her family without much thought at all.

In our country and world right now there are race issues, sexuality issues, gender issues…lots of issues actually that don’t seem to be getting better. In our quest for equality we are doing a lot of teaching, rule-making, and educating. We keep thinking “if they could only understand better, think more like me, see my side, they would be able to see how we can fix it”. So we talk, and write, and comment. But do you know what most of us are not doing? Actually embracing each other.

Let’s say you go out on a date with someone, and before you sit down to talk they hand you a list of rules of things you can and cannot say to them. Some of them seem obvious, but others you sort of don’t understand and you may have said to other people before. What if you forget? What will they do? You really like them but now you are afraid, afraid to offend, afraid to seem like an idiot. Did that person build a bridge between you or create a boundary of fear and expectations?

The first step to understanding ANYONE is to accept their perceived weirdness and their uniqueness and start a relationship. About a year and a half ago I joined a church with a large Korean-American population. At first it was hard for me to form relationships with people because I walked around censoring my every word. I was terrified to offend people by asking them where they were from (what if they were born in the US and they think I’m asking if they were born in Korea?? What if that is offensive and I don’t know it? Should I bow back or what?), or what languages they speak, or what kind of food they liked. So I mostly kept my distance and asked super safe questions, until I began to work at the church and knew that I needed to step outside of my comfort zone. By that point our church had become even more multi-ethnic, full of diversity of race, income, upbringing, and culture. If you think it’s easy to throw a bunch of people together who on the surface have nothing in common, well, it isn’t. But we have worked hard as a community to get messy, talk about the hard stuff, acknowledge our differences, and form real and lasting relationships. I hope I never come across an article called “What NOT to Say to Korean-Americans” because I am positive that I would have said everything on the list in the past year. But do you know what we have in our little community that makes it safe? That makes our blunders and missteps ok? We have relationships. We have true, real love from God that helps us to not see so much with our own judging eyes, with our lists of expectations that come from each of our cultures and backgrounds (how could we EVER meet all of those different expectations?), but with God’s vision that sees everyone as precious. Love, Jesus’ deep and agape love that lives in our hearts, is just not easily offended.  It just isn’t. It can’t be.

Sometimes people are so crazy and rude that it is really hard to see them other than really crazy and rude. But if we let ourselves be the manners police of our culture, censoring and correcting and creating lists and rules and expectations, then what we are doing is molding others to our own likeness. What we are saying is: my feelings are more important than our potential relationship. My culture and my background tells me that what you are doing is insensitive, regardless of what your culture and your background tells you. How can we ever create relationships and start bridging these deep, painful chasms in our culture if we are holding people to the standards of our opinions? Understanding does not come from saying the right things in a conversation, it comes from feeling freedom and acceptance and grace. We are never going to reconcile with each other if we are a culture where we are afraid to help people, afraid to start a conversation, afraid to say something because of a fear to offend. We can turn it around, we can change the way we are, but it can only come from completely dropping our expectations, ripping up our lists, and accepting people as who they are: parts and pieces of a family we don’t know, a background we don’t know, a list of hurts we don’t know, influences we don’t know, experiences we don’t know, a whole life that we just don’t know. But we CAN know them. That person who offended you can become your friend. All it takes is intentional grace and real, accepting love.

Tear up the list. Be bold. Get messy. Love courageously. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ugly Crying at Michael's, or How God Made Me Listen

I haven't written in ages, so grab a cup of coffee because this is a long one!

Let me tell you about this morning…

So, I woke up to Jude fussing at 5:55am. Toddlers, right? No respect for my late night Netflix watching. It was dark outside, I hadn’t been able to fall asleep until around midnight, and after a few fitful hours of sleep I was being awoken by an upset two year old. My head started pounding. I was already thinking, “I can get through this day” and it had only just started.

A few hours later, I started my daily struggle with Hazel over obedience and lying. It wasn’t even 9am and I was absolutely at my breaking point. In fact, I broke. Something snapped, the building caved in, I yelled, I cried, I BEGGED them to just be good, just stop lying, just obey our rules, please please please. Stop making things so hard for me, stop making every single thing in my life a struggle.

Because that is how I have been feeling lately. That Every Single Thing, everything, is hard. Making a meal, doing laundry, getting people dressed, doing art, writing an email, making a phone call, preparing for church, taking care of animals, getting out the door, saving money, fixing things, having patience with my kids, getting anything accomplished…HARD. I feel like every day I am walking up a mountain and my kids are on top of me and pulling at me and crying at me, and it’s raining and the ground is slippery, and I’m dragging a house and jobs and responsibilities up the muddy slope and the only one with me is…me. I’m doing it all alone. Chad is on the other side of the mountain dragging his own responsibilities, his own jobs, and house repairs, and ideas for church that he doesn’t have time to finish, a car that only barely works, school loans…you get the idea.

But you know the hard part? God gave us all of this. Chad’s regular job, his job at our church, our home, our children, my art, my job at the church (I'm the children's director)…it’s all good. It’s all SO good, and I love every piece. But each piece piled on top of us is starting to crush us, and I am feeling the effects physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Can the weight of so many wonderful gifts make them burdens?

And so this morning, I broke under it all. Just the simple, everyday act of a 4-year-old's defiance brought me to a scarily low place. Satan expertly used every good thing to crush me, and I let him because I was just too tired to fight.

As soon as I dropped the kids off at preschool, I got onto Facebook to ask someone advice for what to do for stress, and I saw a post on my wall from a girl I barely know. She’s is an old acquaintance from church when I was a kid, and just read what she had to say to me:
“I know your day faces challenges, but even through your posts, you overcome them. Be encouraged today God is opening up some amazing doors for you and Chad. Your faithfulness even through the tight places has been a witness even to your family and incredible breakthrough is right around the corner!”

I had told no one about my tough day, or what I’ve been going through lately. I didn’t tell her how everything in my spiritual and emotional cup was gone and how I was starting to feel like a marathoner runner whose been running for way too long and can’t find the finish line. I haven’t even been talking to her at all, but her heart is so close to God’s that He used her to speak to me.

This was minutes, MINUTES after I felt totally, utterly crushed and abandoned.

So I drove away to start my errands, crying, feeling…I don’t even know what. Noticed by God? That she had somehow opened a door between me and God to start a serious conversation about what’s been going on, and how He gave me too many responsibilities, but that I know He appointed them for me, and how I need serious help and encouragement and…hope.

And I said to Him, “It’s TOO MUCH. I know that it is all good, but I need help! I shouldn’t be doing this all on my own! Why did you trust me with this? DIDN’T YOU KNOW I WOULD FAIL?”

And He didn’t really say anything. I didn’t give Him much of a chance really, I was just sort of spewing out my feelings and by the time I was done I was parked in front of Michael's and instead of sitting in the car like I should have and listening to Him, or being still for a minute, I just got out of the car and pretended like I hadn’t just been crying for 15 minutes straight and walked in to Michael’s to forget about everything for a while.

Ha! God probably laughed at that.

About twenty minutes into my attempt to numb my mind, I passed by a group of three people (my age, two guys and a girl) and one of them smiled at me. No big deal. A few minutes later I passed by them again. They came up to me, and the girl started a conversation. It went sort of like this:
Her: Hi! We’re on a sort of scavenger hunt for God this morning, and we feel like God wants us to pray for you.
Me: (instant awkward ugly crying face) (can’t talk, too emotional) “….Um, Hi.”

So right there in the middle of Michael’s, these amazing people prayed for me. I told them about how Chad and I are involved in a church plant, and how much work we’re doing all of the time, and how we need God to sustain us because we’re doing a terrible job of that on our own, and how I’ve started to feel like my life is just going to be this long series of hard days of scraping together, of struggling all of the time. A tough tough tough life forever and ever with only tiny bits of rest and peace and hope.

And friend, just read what they spoke over me:

“There are so many blessings in small beginnings, and every big thing starts small. I pray that Andrea would not be discouraged but excited by the amazing things that You are going to do because of her obedience.”

“I pray that her children would feel such love, such security, even though mom and dad are busy. That they would know how much they are loved, how special they are.”

“Andrea, you are His treasure. He sees you, He delights in you, He loves you so much.”

“God, I pray for hope for her, that she would be able to feel Your hope and your sustaining love, every day.”

“I pray that you would reveal part of the painting of her life to her, so that she could see just enough and rest.”

I hadn't told them I felt hopeless, or like I’m a bad mother, or that I’m so fearful that all of my work is going to amount to nothing. Here are three people I don’t know, four including the facebook friend who sent me a message this morning, praying through each one of my fears and doubts. And this was twenty minutes after I cried out to Him, “I feel so alone!” And God was like, "Nope. And I'm going to prove it."

He keeps pursuing me. Sometimes I want to turn around and say, “Why ME? Can’t you find someone else to do your work, to do all of this, someone who is more competent and more spiritual and more everything good and wonderful that I’m not?”

And then He sends me encouragement from a stranger, because He knew it would make me listen.

If all of that wasn’t enough, this Steven Curtis Chapman song was on the radio when I got in the car:
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding

Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

What I needed to hear was the hope part: that there is more to come. Where I am now isn't where I'll be forever. It isn't so much knowing that I can only see one part of the tapestry, the painting of my life and that someday I'll see it all. It's knowing that the painting is beautiful, in spite of me. 

But this message isn’t just for me. He knows that I’m a talker and a sharer and that I couldn’t possibly keep this in. I started writing this blog post as soon as I got home, because this is what we all need to hear from time to time.

You are not alone. God’s family, which is your family, is so big that there are people praying for you that you haven’t even met. There is a web of love and support and power and prayer all around you.
He sees you. He loves you. He is pursuing you. He won't stop.
You are His Treasure. 
It’s not over. It’s still unfolding. Hang on to His promises.
God has called you to something. It might be hard, an uphill battle. He doesn’t make things easy, He just sustains us through the tough stuff. He supplies our every need, and that includes hope, endurance, encouragement, and rest. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Must. Stop. Buying. Presents. Formykids.

Graph of Christmas excitement
A few years before I started my parenting journey, my sister had a sweet little girl named Lucy (who is now 5). At Christmas my sister would send out a really long, detailed Christmas list for Lucy to the family, with online links to specific toys. My sister has always been more into the traditions of Christmas than the gifts, so I was always a little surprised by the lists that came out every year. During this same time I was seeing parents on black Friday getting to stores at 5am (these were the days before that madness creeped into Thanksgiving) to buy the hottest toys for their kids, waiting in lines a mile long with a dedication that I just didn’t understand. I saw parents, parents that I knew, spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on their kids for Christmas.
At the time I didn’t really know what the deal was, but maybe that these people were getting caught up in what they saw around them and assumed was normal. But I was so wrong. Because, do you know what I think the root of it is?


Seriously, I believe that.

I will admit that as humans sometimes our efforts at showing love are a little misguided. And sometimes love makes people crazy and do weird things. Well folks, this is one of those things. My sister’s Christmas list for Lucy wasn’t about anything but seeing Lucy’s face light up on Christmas morning, because a parent gets so much joy in delighting their children. It was about having just the right thing under the tree, the thing that Lucy would hold and play with and know, without any doubt, that the person who gave it to her loves her very much. Most of the parents who go a little crazy buying toys for their kids are doing it because they love the heck out of those little people. Love them so much that they want to get them the best gift they can, the very very best.

You know, sometimes parents feel like we are failing our kids. A lot of the time we don’t know what we’re doing and sometimes we worry that our kids are suffering because of it. But a gift can say “I know you and I love you, and I may mess up a lot…but I NAILED it for Christmas, am I right?!” For some of us, it’s a chance to show our kids in a tangible way that they are the most important things in our lives and that we love them more than our words or our hugs can say. How much do I love you? I love you (NEW BIKE) much! I love you (RAPUNZEL DRESS) much! I love you (TRAMPOLINE) much!

It’s not necessary. And we know it. We could give our kids nothing for Christmas and we could still show them in a million other ways that we love them. Love does not equal stuff, but don’t you feel special when a friend gives you just the right little gift? Doesn’t it make you feel known and loved? That is the best feeling. That you are known, known so well, and even though that person knows your faults and failings they still love you so much. A gift can say, hey I accept you. Totally. And it makes me happy to make you happy.

Chad lost his job right before Jude was born, and I was in the middle of gathering things for the new baby. Pretty much every single baby item I owned was pink and covered in flowers, so we wanted to buy a few things for the boy that was headed our way. I felt so helpless, in the midst of the loss of a job and an income and about to have a baby. Babies cost money, people. So I was trying my best to find things either cheaply or for free, meanwhile the nesting instincts were flowing strong in my veins. I was stressing out.

Not much later I got an email from an old friend, offering me a few of her cloth diapers. Not only were they the exact brand I wanted, but they were in the right sizes and colors. God was saying to me: I love you (NEW DIAPERS) much! A few weeks earlier we had found a practically brand new infant car seat and base by a dumpster. A great, safe brand that seemed like it had been in a babysitter’s car and had been used maybe once. God again: I love you (NEW CAR SEAT) much! He did this again and again for me: a rocking chair, a baby sling, a crib, a crib bumper, buckets of clothes, and so much more. I did not ask for any of it, it just came to me. The blessings continued after Jude was born, and for all of this past year (which was a tough one). I felt known and loved. So loved. He was telling me that even though my life was crumbling apart around me, I care about you. I, the God of the Universe, love you (FREE TRIP) much! I love you (NEW COAT) much! I love you (SHOES FOR YOUR KIDS) much!

Those gifts, even though they were just small things, were huge to me. They were a way that I could see with my eyes that my God loves me and that the people around me love me. I could feel it with my hands. My heart was so hurt that I was having trouble feeling God’s love there, so He made it so that I could feel it in other ways. Simple ways that said I care. They care. We all care.  

I know that God gets GREAT joy from blessing us, providing for us, and giving us gifts. Just like parents get so excited about Christmas, because they get to shower their children with presents. Is it any wonder that we delight in the giving? That sometimes we go a little crazy about it? That we have a harder time falling asleep on Christmas Eve than our kids do? The excitement that we feel, the deep joy that we get from giving gifts to our kids is a hint, a taste of the joy that God gets from giving to us. I think that one of the greatest lessons from being a parent is that God loves us more than we love our kids. That idea blows my mind.

So, yes, sometimes parents go overboard on Christmas. We might spend too much money or get lost in the madness of Christmas shopping. We might seem like we just want, want, want. And maybe sometimes we do need a reality check, and to be reminded that presents aren’t the only part of what makes Christmas so special. I know plenty of parents who buy their kids very little for Christmas, and I am so impressed by them. I honestly wish I could be more like that. But for people like me who have to reign themselves in all day every day or they would buy every single Tangled-related item for their two three year old girls? Well, I hope you can see my craziness and not judge it. Because truly, it’s all in an effort to make a deep, beautiful love a little more visible.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Reflection on Breakfast

The clock strikes mid-morning

The beast rises within your bowels

A beast of old coffee and digestion

Screaming its demands and wrenching your gut

The beast, named Hunger, has suddenly, surprisingly

Taken control of your body

And so you hunt, to quiet it


Turning corners, reaching the kitchen

You pause lightly, eyes scanning for sustenance

Coming to rest on the remains of the a.m. feast

Waffles, carefully cut

Sitting forgotten in haphazard piles on tiny plates

Floating in stagnant pools of maple syrup

(Grade B)


You take the plates, intent only on cleaning up

Drawing your will power to the surface, to abstain

To wait for a healthier meal

Perhaps I’ll make a salad, your brain thinks

A decoy thought, a distraction

As your fingers have already begun to bring the food

(Sweet, cold, dense morsels) to your lips

“Leggo the eggo” you think, with half a heart

Since you are almost done


Thirteen seconds, three plates cleared

The beast is fulfilled

And you, you are

A parent.