Sunday, September 22, 2013

Crazy Love

Sometimes I think I have more conversations with myself than I do with other people throughout the day. (Does that make me crazy?!!) On the more frustrating days, I have a constant diatribe of arguments in my own mind on what I should have done better.

Here are some random samplings from my own brain housing unit:

You can't seem to get your preschoolers to school on time? Really? How hard can that be? Other moms seem to do it just fine, and they have more kids than you do. What's your excuse? 

You lost your cell phone again? Seriously? Just put it in the same place everyday, depending upon the room you are in, and this won't be a problem. It's that easy. 

Ok, lady, who forgets that it's their kids' show and tell day? Oh, you? That's ridiculous. That's more than ridiculous. It's sad. Quite sad. Are you sure you even love your son? By your forgetfulness, apparently not. Do better. P.S.- Running selected object into class ten minutes after the presentations are over, does not cut it.

Can't you get your act together enough to make a crockpot meal so dinner can be ready on time? That can't be too difficult, can it?  Having your children eat dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets with a GoGurt does not count as a balanced meal. You must have been misinformed. 

Excuse me, my dear. How long does it take to make a dental appointment? Less than five minutes, you say? Piece of cake. But don't allow your kids to eat that cake, for their teeth will surely rot and they will have a mouth full of cavities. Or wooden teeth, because you won't be able to afford that much silver. 

Slow down there, Bessy. That's how many cups of coffee, and how many glasses of water? Something is not adding up, and you are going to pay for it. One way or another.

Ugh!! How hard is it to get a stinkin' birthday card in the mail on time? You knew it was coming up for the last month, so why did you just now realize it's too late? The post office is really not that intimidating, is it? 

Please tell me, oh wise one, why does it take you so long to do the dishes? Everybody has to do this daily task. Should it really absorb this amount of time? You must be doing something wrong. 

Reality check. Your other friends get up early to exercise before their kids are awake. Why is that so hard for you to not hit the snooze icon <ha> three times? Get up sleepy head. Rise and shine, and don't sleep your life away. 

Hmmm, you really couldn't find a matching hair bow OR matching socks? I'm pretty sure that you are making your kids look like they are homeless. People will start throwing quarters at their heads if you don't change this pattern of disorganization.  

Oh, and one more thing. You must have an anger management problem because you scream at your kids WAY too much. And it's not really working. Can't you get more creative in your discipline approach? Go read one of those parenting books by your bedside that is collecting dust. Or maybe there's an app for anger management. 

… I think you get the picture. Unfortunately this can easily be my inner monologue. Terrible, I know. I have a feeling I'm not alone with this negative self-talk. What a depressing place to be inside of your head! We become our own punching bags whenever such thoughts cross our minds. No one would ever say that many cruel things to us, or at least they shouldn't! So, why do we allow ourselves to think such evil thoughts about the woman that God created? We often set up for ourselves such high standards that we cannot give ourselves a break. 

We all have areas in which we need to improve our habits. I know I do for sure. (See above.) However, it does not help when our minds become kamikaze planes in the meantime. It does not become productive. It is just defeating and demoralizing. 

As women of God, we must learn to replace the negative self-talk with the truth that God lays out in His word. We are loved, we are called His children, and He made no mistakes with us. 

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Even in the midst of our constant errors, he is rejoicing over us, and loving us unconditionally. 

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Think of the love you have for your children. (Even if you also forgot to send your child's show and tell toy with him.) Our heavenly Father has heaps more love for us, than we could ever love our own children. We are called the children of God! 

If ever there was a chapter that gives us reassurance of how we are designed by God, wonderfully, it is Psalm 139. It's a keeper.Psalm 139

A strong friendship is a lifeline to so many of us, especially during motherhood.

I am floored by the fact that Jesus calls us His friends. Not only this, but He gave his life for His friends. No greater love than that! (John 15) And we are in His circle of friends? It's more of an honor than we often recognize. 

Each day, there are so many things that go awry, that can make us think the worst of ourselves. Be inspired to see yourself through the lens of Christ. See yourself as His child, whom He loved, even to the point of death on a cross. 

You are fearfully, and wonderfully made. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Even in your faults, he is singing over you, and delights in you. I love the sweet moments where I can honestly delight in my kids. To think that our heavenly Father has the same (ok, more!) love and delight for YOU, should give you exactly the come back you need to silence the inner foe! Once she is quiet, you might not feel so crazy anymore. I hope. ;) 

Psalm 139

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Make Me a Bird

Let's be honest here. There are many days as a parent where you just want to cry. What type of tears, do you ask? Is it the happy tears of watching your daughter at her first ballet recital? Aww... But,nope. Is it the tears of joy when you see your son walk across the stage for his highschool graduation? Again, nope. How about the tears that well up in your eyes when your brood of children are playing quietly together and giggling? That is quite the precious moment which I adore, however, that is not the type of tears I am referring to at this time. Is it the kind of tears where it seems that nothing has gone right all day and you feel like you must be the worst mom ever? Well folks, I think we have a winner! Well, you happen to have caught me on one of those days. Surprise, surprise. ;-) 

Here are some clips from my highlight reel that you may relate to:

1) I let my preschool son skip his morning of higher education today only to realize later in the afternoon that it was class picture day. Oh, yes. I wish I could say that this is the first time that happened. Class historians may notice that his older brother is missing from his preschool class pictures two years ago. Awesome.

2) I always know that I have reached the "bribery gone wrong" phase in the candy isle of the commissary when my vocal toddler is now miraculously quiet. A few minutes later, I pay for this blunder, for she now has two sticky hands and a hot pink face from the colorful lollipop that I opened in a moment of weakness. Since I committed to buy one thing I don't really need, I quickly realized that I now  appear to be stealing, (now I'm a repeat offender) in order to open some baby wipes for the sticky emergency. A lollipop will only buy so much tantrum-free time, that I had no choice but to  move on to the Chex mix that I had no intention of purchasing before five minutes ago. At least I found a coupon, so that's a bonus. Fantastic.

3) After a distracted child of mine ignores the sound of his mother's voice when asked a question repeatedly with no response, he proceeded to have the meltdown of the century when a privilege had been taken away. I've never met a human that loves gum so much.

4)It is only fitting that the Gatorade cap was not secured properly and therefore spilled all over my double stroller, soon after arriving 15 minutes late to soccer practice. Three kids, two wet and stained seats, and one frazzled mom. I love it. 

We all have these kinds of days that make you want to just cry, and you pray to God to be made into a bird so you can fly far. Far, far away from here... or from anyone that needs your assistance for survival. Often, mothers are so quick to verbally minimize the marathon of parenting. We all should have positive outlooks, but I think it's ok for us to say, "This is hard. Very hard. And I want to cry." It's so easy to have negative self talk, and we fight with the voice in our head that tells us we are weak, or abnormal, or defeated, or the "worstest mom ever." 

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my poweris made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I don't know about you, but I am thankful that God's grace is sufficient for me. For, as you can see, my weaknesses abound. So many days, I cry out to God for strength to keep running, to take another step in this hard, yet joyful road. As daughters of Christ, His Spirit is strong in us, and so that truly does make us a truly unique and chosen SuperMom. (You can even choose your own superhero mom name. I'm still working on mine.) 

What a comfort knowing that He sees your tears, His grace covers you, and by His grace, you can tap into the same power- that power of God is in you. My prayer, is that even in the midst of these terrible, no good, very bad days, we can see God's love for us. And in turn, we can share that love with our children, our families, and those around us. 

Check this out for a positive word of encouragement to feed your soul! 

Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship

I need You to soften my heart,
To break me apart.
I need You to open my eyes,
To see that You're shaping my life.
All I am,
I surrender.
Give me faith to trust what You say
That You're good, and Your love is great.
I'm broken inside, I give You my life.
Verse 2:
I need You to soften my heart,
To break me apart.
I need You to pierce through the dark
And cleanse every part of me.
I may be weak, but
Your Spirit's strong in me.
My flesh may fail, but
My God You never will. (repeat)
Chorus 2x

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Just another Saturday afternoon at the local children's museum today. You know, the kind where you have a panic attack about three times throughout the funtivities. You start thinking that your child must be abducted, because you can't seem to find the child you claim as your own, amongst sea of colors, flashing before your eyes. (I always try to put my kids in brightly colored clothing to spot them easily, but it seems like other parents must be stealing my memos from iCloud.) It's always a relief when you finally hear a squeal that you recognize in another room, and finally lay eyes on them. Your chest, rises and falls, in a sigh of relief. 

Am I the only one who experiences this? We have "only" three. I can't imagine having a greater head count at this stage, but I suppose that the older they get, the more sets of eyes you have to help look out for the little people who like to chase shiny objects in another room. It's difficult to not feel rather claustrophobic in places where children are the focus, because it is surely filled with children experiencing an array of emotions including elation (loud), surprise (also loud), or exhaustion (very, very loud).  

Today, while experiencing the aforementioned chaos, my husband and I ran into our former neighbors from the last place we called home. In case you haven't heard, military families have to move. A lot. And so, we chat it up for a few minutes with our old neighbors. The conversation was cordial and went something like this. "Hey, how are y'all doing? What a coincidence, seeing your family here!", I exclaim while recognizing them. "Yes, how are y'all doing lately?", they reply.  "Oh, we live here now." ..."Oh wow, really? How long have you been here?" ... "We moved about five months ago."

We kept the small talk going, of course, but it really made me start thinking about neighbors. Having lived in six homes, in the last 9 years, we have had our fair share of new neighbors. And, by default, I suppose, I have been, "Like a good neighbor," and a rather poor one. As a good neighbor early in our married life, we assisted one elderly widow to one side of us do some chores around her house. Unfortunately, to the other side of our duplex, we had another elderly neighbor whom we did not seem to see very often. There is a rather peculiar, I mean, sad, sad story about this mysterious cat lady. I will not do that story justice, and so I will just say that we didn't see her in her living state again. Nor did anyone else. Neighbor FAIL. <Public service announcement- Please check on your neighbors if they happen to live alone. Do not assume that they must be very sleepy. Thank you.> 

And so, as you can imagine, we have had a variety of neighborly situations. We took the good. We took the bad. We took them both. And now we have... The facts of life. The facts of life. 

In my pondering, I thought about how Jesus told his disciples that the greatest commandments were to 1) Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. 

As a kid, I am pretty sure I heard that a time or two. Or fifty seven. Every time, I thought that Jesus was just using "neighbor" as an analogy. He must really mean to love your family, your friends, and the kids in Ethiopia, that I am sending my vegetables to. It doesn't really mean your actual neighbor, so I am all good. 

Not until the last year or so, has that passage made more sense to me. In Mark 12:32, the man that asked Jesus the question, went on to say, "And to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” It boggled my mind how this neighborly love could be that number "two" of the commandments. What about, "Do not murder," or "Do not steal," or the other whoppers that I don't really need to worry about as much. Why are they not up there? 

It's our human nature to care for ourselves. We tend to fight to survive. With so many conveniences in our own survival techniques, we don't exactly have to hunt for food, or find wild berries. But, we do a rather stellar job at looking out for numero uno. For the most part, of course. So, to love your neighbor as yourself- dang. That's ridonkulous. I'm pretty sure that's German for ridiculous.

But the other kicker, was truly reexamining who "your neighbor" is. This may not be in a theology book, but this is my take on it: A neighbor truly does start at your door step. Who are the people that are close in proximity to you? Obviously, your physical neighbors, count as neighbors. Duh?! But so very many of us don't even start there. We just jump right back to our childhood vision of Ethiopa, and determine that the plane ride may be a little too expensive, so we just go right back to the first commandment. And we send a shoe box on that plane once a year. Done and done. (Note- please continue shoe box tradition. Excellent.) The first commandment about loving God is a lot safer and it's just between me and God. I can do that in my sleep. (Not really, but I know we think it's a no-brainer.)

Why not start loving your neighbor, with your actual neighbor? If you can't reach the family that you can literally throw a stick at from your bedroom window, then who are you going to reach in your community? 

P.S- I am no Mother Teresa here. This is for me, as much as it is for you. But if you read any other post, you may know that by now. 

Right now, even as I type, while other families sleep, there may be a mother who is crying after losing her baby months ago, but the pain still remains. A young boy is missing his mother, who is a world away in the Middle East, and he only sees her through moving pictures on a screen. A mom is worrying how she will juggle another new baby in her family, while working on the side to make some extra money to save for their future. These aren't just scenarios. I know they are in my neighborhood, and I am sure that heartache, and every day struggles are in yours too. 

The easiest place to start, is only a few blocks down and we have no idea, most of the time. You know what they say about what happens when we assume. I need not go on, but it's true! Why do I keep doing this over and over? I assume that all is well, and in reality it's not "ok." 

One of my blunders from our last home was to assume a neighbor right across the street, had friends and was plugged into a working community. I had welcomed her into the neighborhood with the southern tradition of a sweet note and cookies. But since she didn't return the baton to me during the next few months, I assumed that that I had done my part, and it's all on her if she needs anything else. About 9 months later or so, a week before we moved, I found out that she still had not found a Bible study, and had been staying at home all summer with her two kids, just as I had sat with mine. We were a slab of asphalt apart, but I let my pride determine that the ball was in her court, and so I was free of all "duty." Even some of you are now agreeing with my old self, but hello ladies! Just because you threw it out there once, doesn't mean you are done. I know you can't ask forever, but it's the reality that some people are more hesitant to ask for help, or share their heart. You may have to follow up with them to give them a second chance at true communal living, for the benefit of you both! 

I can get off my soapbox, but this is a matter that's pretty strongly connected to who I am, and what I have struggled with, on both ends: As the woman in need of a neighbor to reach out to me, and the woman who has the opportunity to give that cup of cold water in His name. And thankfully, I eventually obeyed God in connecting strongly to a neighborhood family. And a lifelong friendship began.  

We all have ideas of what we can do to be that neighbor that Jesus commands us to be. God may be calling us to make a meal for the new mom, or to watch the kids of someone who has a deployed husband so she can go to the dentist, or even the grocery store, alone! He may lay on your heart the family who may look like they have it all together, but who is really in the same boat as you, struggling to keep your heads above water. But, now you just have to be bold enough to take the first step in forming a friendship. Never assume. Ever! I am shocked by my own assumptions, and humbled by my own actions of ignoring that still small voice that tells me to make an effort. We are all busy, but it truly is the small things, that make an enormous difference in being a true neighbor. Don't let a neighbor move away, and realize a few months later that you never even missed them. 

Mark 12: 28-35

The Greatest Commandment

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.