Friday, June 29, 2012

How Sweet It Is {Part 6} “Through My Mistakes II"

7,300 {close enough} days of being married makes me feel like I should have this thing licked. Sometimes, for just a few minutes, Jeff and I sit and regret all time we’ve wasted in conflict, especially when it’s been “conflicted” over and over again.  We pull out of the nose dive before we crash and move on to the things God has done in our marriage.  I will never be able to express my gratitude to the Father or even to Jeff who has championed so many of these “battles”, fighting the good fight, for the dream, the vision of what we both have longed for.  Where I didn’t have a clue of how to pursue the dream, he did and he has.  Settling would have been much easier on him.  On me too, but I praise the Lord he hasn’t given up.  We have what we have now because he’s navigated us through “minefields” as Andrew Peterson sings about so insightfully.  There will be more and I’m so glad I am walking with Jeff.

Back in the day..... no thoughts of minefields!!!
And Botox didn’t exist in 1991! Needing me some of that good healthy collagen now!   

We have much to learn, but I want to say a huge thank you to you, Jeff, for all you’ve taught me and how you have loved me strong these years.  You’ve added value to this union in ways I cannot express, in ways I would never have imagined, and with GREAT sacrifice.  Thank you for following the Lord Jesus so completely and encouraging me to come along.  I am honing my following skills moment to moment.  Thank you for your grace.  Now and for all the years He gives us.  I love you.

If you missed my first five things I’ve learned the hard way in marriage, here you go.  Here are the last four, in no particular order.

Be friends.  There is much work ahead.  In this most intimate relationship of your life, you need a friend.  A good one.  It is supposed to be your spouse.  We have benefited so much from the transparency of Tim and Kathy Keller-- their discussions at Focus on the Family and with the release of their new book, The Meaning of Marriage.  Just a few weeks ago during an exhausting bout of tail chasing, an Amazon order arrived on my doorstep ~ early.   I thumbed through the book wondering if I should have ordered it, thinking, can another marriage book really enhance our marriage?  I thumbed to here-- the quote in the margin of my blog.

“What if, however, you began your marriage understanding its purpose as spiritual friendship for the journey to the new creation?  What if you expected marriage to be about helping each other grow OUT of your sins and flaws into the new self God is creating?  Then you will be actually expecting the “stranger” seasons, and when you come to one you will roll up your sleeves and get to work.”  
That paragraph is spilling over.  Read it again.  Friendship, a journey, new creation, expectations {huge}, helping each other, sins and flaws, work.  And that’s just in the introduction.  Our friend, our spouse, is to be that person who can lovingly speak Truth into our lives, causing us to see our failures from which we need to repent.  Our friend should then ~gently~ nudge us to fall on the grace of God who has already forgiven us and done the work on the cross for our sins.  ALL IN LOVE.  Love from God and love from our spouse, our friend.

The Kellers also say, “What are the “tools” for this work?  How can we engage in spiritual friendship to help us on our journey toward our future selves?  How do we love each other so that our marriage goes on from strength to strength rather than stalling out in repetitive arguments that end in fruitless silence?  The basic answer is that you must speak the truth in love with the power of God’s grace.” 

In other words, don’t speak unless you are doing so in love “with the power of God’s grace”.  Don’t do it.  Zip it.  It doesn’t work. Another good guess of mine. It “end[s] in fruitless silence”.    We’ve all heard it said, you must be a friend to have a friend.  I won’t belabor that point.  I know you get it.

Learn to say, “Can I have a do-over?”. It might be the 5 most glorious words ever.  Especially if the answer is “yes”.  Is it easy to say?  No, and repetition doesn’t help either.  It’s humbling every time.  Just the other day, Jeff and Brighton came home with a purchase I was less than thrilled about and with just a few words, I was able to suck all the fun out of their find. {something I do easily with my words}  Sometimes you know you need a do-over without anyone telling you and sometimes you have to find out the hard way..... by your spouse bringing it to your attention.  Ugh.  I repented and asked them for a do-over.  I had them come back in with their purchase and we just did the whole thing over. “Do-overs”, if I am humble enough to ask for them, are my new best friend.

Check in with each other regarding weaknesses.  I don’t mean ask him about all his weaknesses.  Ask him about yours and how you are doing.  And do this when tension is low or non-existent.  It’s easy for me to get through conflict and hope it never comes up again.  Ever.  It goes against everything in me to ASK him how I am doing in an area that I know has caused hurt and frustration.  But it’s necessary.  It shows humility.  It shows him I am working FOR our relationship.  It reminds him that I haven’t forgotten and that it is current business that I am doing with  God.

Last thing, decide on a “quitting time” for the day and spend time together. You wouldn’t think this would be so hard.  Or so necessary!  I’ve already dedicated an entire post to this because it is so critical to marriage.  If we aren’t connecting with our spouses regularly, self centeredness, complacency and discontentment walk right through the front door..... with far too many pieces of luggage.  Satan’s intention is for an extended stay.  I spin in my own little world without much thought of anyone else’s.  I think I am doing fine and wonder why everyone else has a problem with me.  I figure if I can just complete my list~working on into the night~, everything and everybody else will just fall into place.  And some time later, I feel this disconnect in my spirit, a need to reach out and I can either fight it or look for connection in the right place.  The world’s way is to keep spinning and allow the cavern to remain and even widen between you and your spouse.  This is Satan’s ultimate playground.   When I make the decision to reach out/ re-connect, Christ always points me to Jeff first, my most important human relationship. It takes humility to reach out.  Easy?  No.

All three things above come into play here-- I need to be a friend and plunge into the work of reconnecting.  I need ask for a do-over and check in as to where the disconnect got started which will most likely be traced back to a weak area.  For me, this brings the peace home.

 To live here is just good.

His grace is sufficient.  He is able.  Ask Him for help.

We do everyday.

{gifts 1289- 1320}

giggles in the dark

memories the sound of a box fan conjures up

baseball games at the pool

that B asks good questions on the phone

My Utmost for His Highest, everyday

Julia and her ability to express important things in her life

Scotty Smith’s prayers

words of faith and news of God’s good care from Finland

Pastors and the FWISD partnering around literacy!!

25 years of Adventures in Odyssey! {Big Birthday Bash}

husbands encouraging one another, empathizing

that Cantina Laredo still makes mole sauce (moe-lay: not road kill.  I am Southern, just not that Southern.}

this church on the Northside, looking to plant on the Westside

Father’s Day cards

Daddy Daughter Dinner Dance

borrowed dresses {sewn by Annalisa Cheek}

Kid’s Kamp {only if for a couple of days!  Thank you, Christ Chapel!}

remembering Scott Walker

that a road trip forces you to be still

family reunions

babies in monogram and ruffles

sleeping in and brunch with Jeff at the Flying Biscuit

cousin sleepovers

seeing ALL of Jeff’s family except Kevin and Michael {We missed you!}

this little honey, our youngest niece, asking me one morning, “Has Uncle Jeff seen me yet??”

getting to be a daughter in this family

that the alternator went out the day BEFORE we left Atlanta

2 mornings of going nowhere

the joy that just the sight of my book stack can bring~whether it all gets read or not!

personal retreats {What a gift. Thank you, Jeff.}

borrowed condos, borrowed BEAUTIFUL condos {Thank you, You Know Who.}


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Welcome to the Passenger Side {For everyone who has ever taken a Road Trip}


Since 1993, our second Christmas together and our first one in Texas, Jeff and I have been taking road trips yearly. From newlyweds with no kids to married 17 years with a 5 and a 7 year old--- nothing even faintly reminds me of our trips from the decade of the 90’s be- bopping down the road listening to Steven Curtis Chapman’s CD Signs of Life, sleeping whenever we wanted and having not a clue how badly we needed a Starbucks.

We make this 12-15 hour trip {depending on our southeastern destination} twice, sometimes three times a year, so, with kids, we have driven it about twenty times. We’ve driven all night, we’ve driven all day, and on a few occasions we’ve taken two days to do it. Ideas have shifted from not having to come up with any ideas, to calculating how many diapers, changes of clothes, toys, formula and bottles we’d need on the road and presently, to deciding if I have enough tiny, gender/age appropriate, car friendly activities stuffed into their Steralite road trip totes.

Of the thousands of miles spent rolling down I-20, there are a few trips that stand out in particular—the summer I was armed with antibacterial wipes in my back pocket when Julia was newly potty trained, the one when we lost a Croc at the Chevron, the humbling trip I arrived at the beach barely able to sit because I had contorted my back in ways never meant for a human being, the pre-kids ride involving a box cutter and lots of blood, the time we sneaked out of the beach house at 3 a.m. and headed home because Jeff had a bad case of insomnia, the trip to Soperton for Christmas when Brighton wasn’t even 2 months old and my Mom and my Grandmother, Julia, welcoming him into my childhood home, the glorious year we saw the familiar round green and black sign for the first time off I-20, the Christmas we figured out the big Steralite totes were the best thing ever for packing, the year we strapped an Atlanta garage sale treadmill to the top of our car, the time we had a Blizzard before 10 am, the beach trip we had a blow out on the I-10 bridge, the trek to the family reunion when I learned that diapers don’t soak up infinite amounts of you know what, and the most useful fact finding trip was the summer I found out what a handy little thing a Coke bottle is for little boys.

There are many pieces to making a successful road trip with kids and I am still learning them. However, I have found one critical piece that you may as well not get in the car without and that would be the person who rides in the passenger seat. This position next to the driver takes quite a remarkable person, just short of genius actually, gifted in a myriad of awe inspiring ways. First of all, the front seat passenger needs to be ambidextrous, double jointed and able to stretch like Elastigirl. This person must also be a tenacious trash gatherer, a creative nutritionist {when it comes to “exit food” as Brighton call it}, an activities coordinator and a great listener since the driver seems to be so focused on the road he doesn’t hear anything else that is going on. And if that is not enough, this individual must have the ability to judge how badly someone “has to go”, not be prone to car sickness, know how to position pillows just so under sleepy heads in hopes of preventing their heads from snapping off, or worse, waking up, be alert at all times making sure the driver does not get sleepy or distracted, understand how to tame the digital deluge in order to keep the backseat passenger’s brains from becoming mash potatoes, and possess the amazing skill of traveling with absolutely no foot room whatsoever. Even under these strenuous demands and circumstances, there ARE the blissful moments of a road trip when you have the “brain blender” going for the back seat dwellers, an extra hot latte in the cup holder {with whip} and a Southern Living in your lap. It is then and only then, you feel that maybe mashed potato brains aren’t so tragic after all.

We just finished the first half of Road Trip #2 for the summer of 2009 and I spent most of it in the formidable passenger seat. {Pat my back.} On our way, there were two brief spells that Jeff took the spot with high hopes of a little snoozer. After playing waiter out of a Quiznos bag and then retrieving leftovers, he was trying to put in a DVD only to find Brighton’s screen not responding. Driving peacefully down the road, I watched, out of the corner of my eye, of course, my ex-defensive tackle husband turn into a contortionist attempting to make the blue screen come to life with “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”. When his electronic skills failed him, which they RARELY do, he had to rearrange the back seat in order to make room for Brighton in the middle. No easy task, I assure you! Boosters, pillows, Quizno drinks, American Girl Samantha {our 3rd passenger who has her own suitcase}, a box of books, one bag that at one time was under my feet, pretzels that ended up dumped out in the front seat where Jeff’s bottom was SUPPOSED to be! After he had B's headphones synced with Julia’s screen, he unfolded himself, sat down with a crunch and looked at me. I smiled and said, “Welcome to the passenger seat.”

{And before you begin picturing me hanging out the window taking pictures of road signs, there is a woman who takes a picture of EVERY road sign she passes.}

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Home Full of Stories {Picture Books for Summer!}

{Scroll down for book titles.}

In the summer, I am a little bit book crazy.  I typically don’t read much during the school year.  I limit myself to non-fiction in those months because I wouldn’t be a very effective teacher stowed away in my room with my nose in some historical fiction or Charles Martin’s latest story.  I have been asked what I was reading this summer and I am a little embarrassed to answer because it’s mostly fiction.  I am saving Charles Martin’s new book Thunder and Rain for our family’s beach trip.  I. Can’t. Wait.  That’s the most exciting thing I have to share.  I would recommend ANY of his other books, though I have not read Where the River Ends because I haven’t been in the mood for “sad” for like, 20 years.  Other than my beach read, I am reading Newberry books that I should have read in middle and high school.  I wanted to see what I missed and figure out which ones I think Julia and Brighton would enjoy the most and benefit from the most when it comes time for them to read them.  Of the ones I have read so far, I would highly recommend Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.  It’s a Civil War tale that follows a family, particularly the 8 year old boy, Jethro, and their neighbors through the war.  The author uses family letters, stories told by her grandfather and historical records to weave the story.  Both my children will eventually read it.  
I posted READ!  just a week or so ago to encourage you to have your children read this summer.  I basically have three things I want my kids to do each day and if I add them all up it takes them maybe 1 hour and 15 minutes.  That’s a SMALL chunk out of their entire day.  If you are like me, you are taking them places they have chosen, doing things with them they have asked to do etc.  1 hour and 15 minutes isn’t much to ask.  If you had a plan in May to do x ,y and z with your children and now, mid-June you haven’t done a thing, don’t give up!  It’s not even July yet.  You can do it.  

Below is a story I wrote about 3 years ago using titles of books when we were living and breathing picture books.  I would dream about them, repeat lines in conversations, and sit down and read them without my kids!  I do love great picture books.  As the titles would flow through my thoughts,  a story starting coming together so I wrote it down.  I send it to you today as a resource as you head to the library or as you reserve books online or build your own personal library.  If you have been reading often to your kids over the years, read this story aloud and see how many titles they can identify. 

A Home Full of Stories
{A story full of book titles}

Many Moons ago When I Was Young in the Mountains, I lived in The Cabin That Faced West, as my Daddy liked to call it. I loved The Little House in which my brother, Simeon, and I grew up. It reminded me of a little Bunny Bungalow Mama used to describe to us from a book When We Were Very Young. For a "cabin", it was Just Plain Fancy with a stone chimney that I always thought looked Too Big for the house. In and around that home, my childhood was a Time of Wonder so here’s The Memory String that winds it way around my heart.
One year, Nine Days to Christmas, The Big Snow came. It covered the mountains like The Keeping Quilt that covers Simeon’s big bed. It was The Quiltmaker’s Gift to Mom when he was born. Officer Buckle and Gloria, who used to be The Dog That Belonged to No one, had braved their way up the mountain to check on Miss Hitty, The Old Woman who Named Things. Everything. She even named her rocking chair Emily. The officer and his faithful canine companion became our house guests for the evening when The Snowy Day turned into One Wintry Night with hidden danger underneath the massive quilt of white.

That was the same Christmas in the Country Daddy made A Chair for My Mother. On Christmas Eve, he carried it in as proud as the Drummer Hoff. The carvings were exquisite and the cushion just had to be as soft as The Velveteen Rabbit. It was fit for A Little Princess which is precisely what my Mama was. On the bottom, Daddy had carefully carved the words, You are Special and You Are Mine. Through tears she said, like I'd heard her say many times, "You know how to make My Heart Glow." For the rest of the evening, My Mama Had a Dancing Heart. That night I fell asleep to the sounds of Verdi and pictures of my Mama in her Dancing Shoes being twirled around the tree by Daddy.

I had a friend, Leah, who lived a mile or so east of The Bee Tree right behind The Animal Hedge, as we liked to call it. To my delight, she would come to visit Around the Year. Once On a Summer Day, we took a ride on Leah’s Pony. We passed Two Cars on a dirt road and then rode right by our teacher from the Skippack School, Miss Rumphius, who was planting lupines on the shallow mountainside by her home. She looked like the Queen of May in one of The Hundred Dresses that must have hung in her wardrobe. On that particular day she invited us in for a piece of her famous Thundercake. Simply Delicious!

Simeon and I never dreaded the words, “Time for Bed”! Before Daddy prayed with us, he read us stories from God’s Word that made it hard to become a Sleepyhead. He read from other books as well, but Daddy was always quick to tell us that only one book, the Bible, had the power to truly change our lives and change us, it did. My brother and I lay awake thinking of the incredible stories from the Bible and the God who wrote them. We would close our eyes rehashing the bravery of David, the shepherd boy, Esther, the Queen of Persia, the details of Christ’s birth or the adventure of sailing on Noah’s arc.  Some nights we imagined The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the unfathomable trip in Henry’s Freedom Box, the mysteries of The Secret Garden, the ingenuity of Robinson Crusoe, the drama of The Little Women, the antics of Anne of Green Gables and the bravery of The Heroine on the Titanic. When sleep finally did come, Dreams took over finding ourselves helping The Boy Who Held Back the Sea, or riding in Grandma Essie’s Covered Wagon, or watching Degas and the Little Dancer create a masterpiece, or walking with Mirette on the High Wire, or getting to see for ourselves that Julia Morgan Built a Castle, or helping with The Escape of Oney Judge. Books invaded our lives and took our imaginations to thrilling far away places, but the stories we knew to be true were the ones that impacted us the most.

We had a tree house that Daddy let us paint Yellow and Pink and every Saturday The Lemonade Club met at 2:00 sharp. We served Stone Soup and creek water to all sorts of dolls and stuffed animals with names like Betsy-Tacy, Little Toot, Knuffle Bunny, and Ginger Pye. We always served the leftovers to the citizens of our imaginary town, Roxaboxen which was full of families like The Rumpoles and The Barleys and places like Rabbit Inn, The Snail House, the office of Dr. DeSoto, and The Treasure Tree.

While Daddy tended to business in town, Mama, The Gardener, worked from Dawn till Dusk filling the land around us with beauty. She would always tell us, A Seed is Sleepy but When Spring Comes, it wakes up in a glorious mood. She was always right. Mama never saw a Petunia or a Chrysanthemum that she didn’t think was “the most lovely flower ever”. For Mama, when it came to flowers, there was Always Room for One More.

Speaking of room for more, when The Relatives Came, life only got better. My Great Aunt Arizona reminded me of the character Sarah, Plain and Tall except there wasn’t anything “plain” about her. She was known as The Lady Who Put Salt in her Coffee but always made Tea with Milk and Sugar. She had hair like Rapunzel , her laugh was more like a Giggle, Giggle, Quack, and one of her favorite expressions was “Fancy That”! Secretly, she was by far my most adored aunt and only to myself did I call her Pollyanna. Just sitting with her and listening to her stories made for a perfect Night in the Country.

Her children, Rachel and Obadiah, were our only cousins. They were twins and Rachel had always been content to let Obadiah do all the talking. However, I remember one visit as soon as they jumped out of the car Rachel announced, “Now We are Six”! After only an hour into the visit, it was official. She had A Voice of Her Own asking me questions like, “Does God Know How to Tie His Shoes?” and “Why is it that An Egg is Quiet?”. Obadiah seemed the most proud of “finally” being six even though The Teddy Bear was still clinched under his arm.

That was the same summer that Rachel took The Best Loved Doll from my collection for a picnic By the Shores of Silver Lake. She was special for it had been Simeon’s Gift to me on my fourth birthday. On The Way Home, she dropped my doll without knowing. That afternoon, looking for Dahlia was like trying to find The Cricket in Times Square. As the day wore on, I felt like the last Shrinking Violet in the April sunshine. Once I found her, darkness seemed to come quickly and I found myself feeling like I was Where the Wild Things Are. I quickly began wishing for The Courage of Sarah Noble or the steel nerves of Brave Irene. With each step I would tell myself, “Now One Foot, Now the Other”. Every shadow I saw looked like The Biggest Bear I had ever imagined. It never occurred to me that one of those shadows could have been a bear that was kind like The Bear Who Heard Crying. How relieved I was when I saw a familiar sight just beyond The Blue Hill Meadows. When I could see A Light in the Attic window I knew I was almost home.

When my cousins visited, I remember waking up with the chickens lying there Wishing Dawn at Summer. How it seemed to tarry! On our way out in the mornings, we would always stop on the porch to see the intricate work The Very Busy Spider had woven Under the Quilt of Night. As we crossed the path to the pond, many mornings we had to Make Way for Ducklings headed to get their breakfast or go for their morning swim. Once At the Smiling Pool, as my brother had named it, we loved to watch the Otters Under Water. Before lunchtime, we would lay in the grass to listen to The Wind in the Willows and to watch clouds roll over forming curious shapes like a Duck on a Bike, a Fox in Socks, an Umbrella or a Turtle in the Sea of blue.

On Indian Summer nights, we would put on a Shadow Play by the Long Night Moon for our parents. Afterwards we would try to show our cousins When Lightening Comes in a Jar because they didn’t have flashing bugs like we did. However, the highlight of our long Summer Story was to hear The Nightingale sing. Her sound was more beautiful than all The Musicians of Bremen.

After one of my Grandfather’s Journey’s, he brought Simeon and me a gift-- our very first puppy. We gave him the distinct name of Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge but called him “Willie” for short. Originally, the puppy had been "The Wednesday Surprise" for my Nana (and that's a whole other story), but Grandfather said all Willie did was chase Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs! Once settled in with us, he strutted around these parts like The King of Capri. We had A Whistle for Willie so however far he chose to roam in the mountains, all we had to do was blow the whistle and home he came. His ferocious bark made us feel quite comfortable at night and we felt like he was A Lion to Guard Us.

Living in the mountains far away from the sea always left my imagination to wonder what One Morning in Maine would be like. I always wished for a day on The Little Sailboat our friends from the east described to us in their letters. What was it like to See the Ocean to or to watch a Seabird fly over the water and secure its breakfast? On the other hand, my brother had secret wishes of being The Paperboy in a suburb somewhere wondering what it would feel like being the Boy on the Brink of morning delivering the news that no one had heard quite yet and actually riding his bike to Where the Sidewalk Ends.

The Seasons Sewn by our family in and around our Little House in the Big Woods were purely magical. One wall of our home saw more sweet moments than some people see in a lifetime. We loved each other and for this I will forever be grateful. Every so often, we took short trips away from home, but No Matter What we did or where we traveled, the sweetest words I ever heard were, “Let’s Go Home.”!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Last Word

So, He always get the last He should.  I write TOO many words for whatever reason and communicate struggles about what I perceive as “chaos” in my life.  Far from it, I assure you, if evaluated by most of the world.  Not even close.  My perception.  I brought my books with me this morning and read this while Julia and Brighton are in their morning activities. And of course, I wonder why do I say SO much when God’s Word says it all.

All that needs to be said about “inner chaos” is in John 15.  “Abide with Me”.  God spoke to Mr. Chambers sometime between 1911- 1915 regarding this and gave him straight to the point counsel regarding all circumstances.  100 years ago.  Abide in Him.  Simple.

I am just reminding myself ~and anyone else~ that He is all we need.  Our first resource.  Our first coping strategy.  Our only One.  He will always provide just what we need.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fun : Mom {Antonym or Synonym?}

I promise not to whine all summer.  I have rebelled and broken all my summer rules. It started with Julia’s desire for pointe shoes and my thoughts of how great her freestyle and breast strokes have been since she was 5.  She found out that if she took the “ballet intensive” in June {5 mornings a week for 3 hours for 3 weeks} that she would go “en pointe” ~ you know, learn to dance on her tippy toes.  And you did read that right.  5 mornings, 3 hours, 3 weeks.  She would also get to try out flamenco dancing which, to her, it’s all about loud “cloppy shoes”, as she used to call them, and swishing a long skirt  around with a certain Spanish attitude.  And then I said yes to B regarding swim team, mostly because of his enthusiasm for “ribbons and medals and trophies, Mom!!”  but I knew if he did it, she would and I think the girl has potential.  I also said yes to Music Theory Camp as requested by B and you guessed it.  He heard rumors of ribbons and medals.  And what mom can say no to Theory Camp?  The deal was sealed.

When I made these decisions, I must have been sitting on the couch in a clean home with a delicious hot cup of coffee overflowing with whipped cream, flipping through a Southern Living, feeling the breeze from the ceiling fan just slightly through the light blanket over my legs and feet which were curled up under me while I smelled dinner simmering in the crock pot.  And my kids were in the next room voraciously reading classic literature just because they wanted to.  And Gabe had miraculously stopped shedding despite the June heat.  In that moment, I might would have said yes to playing putt putt everyday.

I told a friend on the eve of the flurry of activities that I thought I had lost my mind.  Up until this summer, we basically swam {for leisure} and attended VBSs.  So Monday, after burning a tank of gas between the swim clinic on I-20 and the ballet studio off I-30, multiple times within a hour and again on Wednesday, adding my stuff for work in the passenger seat, their lunches, piano books, house key and directions for the sitter to the bottom of the pool bag, but forgetting a change of shorts for B realizing the drama ahead when he realized he’d have to go to piano practice in his Speedo, I heard a familiar question ringing in my ears {but only after my car was empty} Jeff asked me several months ago,

“Are you having fun being a Mom?”

By the second day of the first week of summer, I had decided I had bitten off more than I could chew............well, more than I could chew in a Southern ladylike manner.  Oh, I could chew it but Emily Post wouldn’t have approved and I was NOT having fun.  

When he asked me then, I didn’t have a quick answer and, at the moment, it certainly could not be answered with a yes or a no. Can my answer depend on the day?  Is that okay? Or should fun be my “overflow” everyday?  I think some of us moms on a LOT of days forget the word fun altogether and the days string together and then we get faced with the question, “Are you having fun?”  What’s fun about performing one task after another, checking off that perpetual, ever-changing mental to do list?  I displace the potential for fun with rush, with meeting a goal, with taking their behavior personally, with my own selfishness. My unwillingness.  Just because “fun” doesn’t fit into my day or, more likely, into my mood.

That’s a problem.

This isn’t the first time I have struggled through these thoughts but it is the first time I’ve written them down.  And I find it embarrassing.  I think about this year ‘round but here, at the beginning of summer, typically, a free-er time for all of us, I look at the kaleidoscopic  color-coded calendar wondering, did I make a mistake?  Have I left wiggle room for fun?  Not only on my calendar, but in my thoughts?  Will I let it be an option in the moments that make up the day?   Or will I just plow through, getting everyone to where they need to be with what they need with no thought of “fun”?  Is that so hard?  I struggle on the inside.  I plow on the outside.

Don’t you just love it when someone puts words to your life when you didn’t even know words could wrap around the way you were feeling?  I have a “reading list” on the side bar of my computer that is SCREENS long that I can scroll down for days.  My intentions are good because I love to read and I love to learn.  However, time is an issue.  I prefer to sleep at night.  Every now and then, someone’s words appear in front of me and I MUST read them.  Here is the post by Gloria Furman that put words to the battle I fought last week in my head.  And here are parts of it.

“SAHMs [stay at home moms] are resourceful, creative problem-solvers. We have the capacity to dominate over even the most harrowing multitasking nightmare. When a SAHM’s hope is in the God who raises the dead then she smiles at the future. She knows her Redeemer lives and she is working joyfully for his glory even in the midst of outer chaos.

The harrowing, inner chaos in the soul of a SAHM can drive a woman to do things she never wanted to do. A woman driven by inner chaos will do things like give her children the silent treatment, manipulate her friends, get an ulcer over the budget, or belittle her husband’s hard work.  
The manageable outer chaos is aggravated by the inner chaos in our soul. Outer chaos all of a sudden becomes unmanageable. Competent, confident homemakers lose their nerves of steel. Even though it’s “just” a hiccup in the schedule, or a setback with a child’s discipline, or a burned piece of garlic bread, it becomes so much bigger in our hearts.

Then the elusive “peace like a river” is more like a category five hurricane of anxiety, bitterness, discouragement, or discontent.”

Outer chaos.  Inner chaos.  They feed off each other squeezing out any room for fun.  Obviously, what’s going on in my spirit is the most important part of me.  If I am healthy, settled, at peace in my inner being {for me ~ a result of being in His Word, enjoying and obeying Him, having time for reflection}, I am empowered by His Spirit to walk through what’s going on around me~ sometimes outer chaos.   If those critical puzzle pieces are missing, I’m toast.  I can fake it for a time but eventually the wheels come off and blindside my family first.  Big sigh.  Hello, outer chaos plus inner chaos.  You are not welcome here.  You are no fun.  You make me think and do crazy things.  You make me think there is enough Golden Retriever hair around to stuff all the pillows in my house when really it would only fill up my dustpan.  You make B’s 5th question seem like the 5000th.  You make Julia’s tendency to leave shoes in every room in the house seem like a character issue.  You make me think when Jeff asks, “You okay?” that he thinks I need to be admitted somewhere or something.  Sirens begin to go off in my head that remind me that I need to take action however I must and take care of the inner chaos I am feeling.  Nothing is more important because it is affecting the most valuable part of my life ~ my family and how I am expressing God’s character to them.  “Chaotic” is not part of Him.  Enjoying my family is.

So, practically, what do I do?  First, I tell Jeff.  He knows my personality, my tendencies, my need for pockets of solitude.  He’s kind and he helps me.  I can’t expect him to pitch in if he has no idea how I am feeling or what is pressing on me.  Second, I make arrangements to take care of how I am feeling.  If I can’t have extended time, I set my alarm to get up earlier than usual so I can have the peace of a quiet house a little longer.  I have even stayed up later for that very reason.  In the afternoon, I have put in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical for the kids-- because they are classic but mostly because each one is longer than a typical movie.  Ha!  As Moms, we can get very creative on getting a little time.  We find time for SO much in our schedule.  Getting what we need to feed our spirit should be every bit as important as that haircut or that doctor’s appointment.  Of course, right?  But why is it a no-brainer to get a sitter for a doctor’s appointment but embarrassing to get a sitter in order to re-energize ourselves for this role God’s entrusted to us?

The practical makes way for the spiritual. It makes a way to be a better mom. One with some room for fun.  Mrs. Furman reminds us to, “Glory in the love that covers a multitude of sins and redeems all of our inner chaos.”  Sitting in the grace of His Presence has a beautiful way of taming the inner chaos and when He’s done, the outer chaos looks like a simple math fact and not an algorithm.   A 5th question and not a 5000th.  A 10 year old tendency and not a character issue.  A dustpan of dog hair and not a mattress full.  Because of that,  I can have a lot of fun.

Postscript--- see this link here and the perspective it brings to this.  It’s really all that needs to be said.

{gifts 1265-1288}

notes like this after work on Wednesday nights

safe travel for Jeff’s family

Corrine-- you got to the car too fast!  I miss you in this picture!!

Waiting for Uncle Phil to take off


history to share

trailer food in Fort Worth! {this one- -between the Northside and Sundance Square}

a perfect June day

pointe shoes

that she has a daddy that says the money is worth seeing her in her pointe shoes

a sitter who plays tag outside {Addie, you are awesome!}

B’s attitude about my terrible pitching-- kisses and thanks {wiffle balls don’t fly right!}

playing in the rain

seeing this outside

the pool!

B’s summer freckles

a flamenco dancer in my kitchen

a rainy day just when I needed it

friends around my table

the cheap produce of summer!!!

that he asked to do Theory Camp {even though it was all about the ribbons}

yum from home

the lake!

first swim meet

his little shape

her determination

that He is in control of ALL of the chaos

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


The official summer start gun went off Monday morning and the kids are in their first week of trying out some new things.  I have not figured out my days yet ~and I don’t think I will ~ so that means, I really don’t know when writing time will come.  For the sweet few of you who check in on Tuesdays, I have thought of you as my posts have been late.... or short, like this one, or non-existent!  I just feel a need to say, my desire is to have pockets of time to write because it helps me so, but with summer, there is no built-in time to do it like there is during our school year. So after getting up early this morning and sputtering through my thoughts on my weakness of being a “fun” mom, I gave up ~depressing~ and will leave you with this link~ one that makes me very happy.

Some of you may have noticed it, but if you haven’t, it’s a list of books that we have read over the years.  I’d love to update it soon~ the look, the list, everything...~ but there is plenty here to keep your kids reading great books all summer.  You will also see a short list of chapter books in the margin of my blog.  {There is some overlap.}  You can sign on the your library’s web page with your library card and the last four digits of your number is your pin.  Request the books you want and then they will notify you when you can pick them up.  It’s usually only a few days, depending if it’s available or not.  You can only reserve ten books per card but it’s so much easier than searching the shelves for that wonderful book!  If when you get there, the book is “too old” for your child, just leave it with the librarian.  No harm, no foul.

Choose books that have amazing art.  The pictures are important because this is what your children are drawn to first.  Think of beauty, interest and adventure when you open up a book.  Could the pictures tell their own stories?  How do they make you feel?  Do the the pictures pull you in or can you see the same type of pictures in the funny papers?  Does it make you as a mom curious?  It will most likely do the same for your kids.

If it has great art, make sure it has an even better story supporting the pictures.  Choose books that model characters and families of which you can be proud.  If your children are younger, when there is a nemesis involved, be sure there is a clear change in the character or that he or she doesn’t come out on top.  You want to choose books that enhance what you are teaching at home, books that paint a vision of a life well lived, a hero worthy of cheers, a family worth having and friends worth pursuing.  Go by Barnes & Nobles, Half Price Books and the Library and get your kids signed up for the summer reading programs or make your own reward system to motivate your kids to read this summer- earning a stop at Sonic, a snow cone, money, a medal {B is ALL about the medal}, screen time, or a date with you.  Whatever your kid’s currency is, use it to motivate him or her.  Have a grand prize for the child who reads the most minutes or books.

Set aside time in the afternoon for EVERYONE {even you} to read and work toward the goals.  Let your kids “wake up” in pj’s while you read a lapful of books to them on the couch.  Make muffins for breakfast and read books and eat breakfast on the couch, or on a blanket on the floor.  Choose one special chapter book to read as a family after dinner that only dad can read aloud.  I have heard of families who act out the chapters after they have read one.  {We’re not that creative.}  Have your children give a recap in dramatic form of what has been read.  {We’re not that motivated.} With your own family “brand", make it memorable.

If you don’t do any other activities this summer, READ!!!!  Books are treasures that tremendously enhance even the best childhood.