Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eggs in the Wrong Basket

Even the best laid plans go awry.... I like plans. And lists. And predictability.  And I live in a house with people. Big people, little people, LOTS of people who rarely conform to my plans, lists, and expectations.  For the last couple of weeks, I have planned Easter menus, Easter schedules, Easter baskets, Easter clothes, Easter shoes, even Easter hair.  After all, this is the south, and we make a big fuss about these trivial things and we do it with big hair and big smiles ( Don't tell me you didn't paste on some beauty walk smiles for those cameras today.  You know you did!)  This is the story of my Easter plans gone awry.

I stayed up late to finish the Pineapple Lush Cake, iron the Easter clothes and play Easter Bunny.  I fell into bed exhausted but excited because I had the morning all planned out.  I was going to wake up early, before anyone else stirred, make a pot of coffee, get the Paula Deen Mac & Cheese going in the crock pot, set the baskets out to be found.  Well... I did wake up early, with the sun, actually... BUT it was not to the sound of my alarm.  My wake up call was a child standing beside the bed telling me that his brother needed us because he was sick. I enter his room and find him burning up with fever and complaining with his throat, head, and tummy.  Not an uncommon occurence, but definitely a curve ball I had not expected on this Easter morning.  Distracted but still calm, we tend to sick child, daddy goes back to bed and I go downstairs to conquer The List.  As soon as I get the first saucepan out I hear a little one calling "Mommeeeee!" Gracie is up and wants to join me in the kitchen, where she finds her basket of goodies. Ok, to be perfectly honest, I had really been looking forward to cooking without toddlers underfoot, but she was up, excited, and no biggie, I can still get this thing done, right?  A little more distracted, but still checking off my list.

Now at this point I realize I have somehow inadvertently entered a time warp and it is now 7:30, and I still have not showered.  Don't panic, I'll just skip the hot rollers and shave really fast and the clothes are all ready so I'm still feeling ok. Then I remember that I haven't gotten anyone else up or dressed or ready.  This is where things start to unravel.  I start to sweat, literally, figuratively, profusely, you get the picture. And I'm all of a sudden ticked off. At everyone, myself included, but mostly everyone.  I wake Daddy up and begin to bark orders and he doesn't comply (somehow I have not learned that he doesn't take orders barked in his sleeping ear very well) and I am shooing Gracie out of my bathroom because she is holding the Lysol and I'm thinking "Why isn't he up and helping?" And I'm hot, and the a/c isn't working and that makes me mad too. Because the oscillating fan makes my hair tangled and stick to my lipgloss.

The oldest child emerges from his bathroom fully dressed and ready to go (lucky for him).  Daddy is starting to get ready but I forgot to iron his clothes last night, so I take a few minutes to do that. Sick child comes upstairs to inform me that the twins have made a big mess with their goodies (no surprise there) But I know that I only put a few M&M's or jelly beans in each of their eggs SO THAT they couldn't make much mess with them.  (See, I planned so well!)  Nothing could have prepared me for what I found downstairs. They obviously took great pleasure in the opening of the plastic eggs, for they had opened all of them.  M&M's and jellybeans and plastic egg halves EVERYWHERE.  I couldn't take a step without something crunching underneath.  Keep in mind that I am already sort of simmering from all the rushing and distractions, and this mess is really turning the heat up.  Not to mention the chocolate faces and hands and I don't have TIME to clean this mess up and them too.  I'm yelling for Daddy, he's still not really hearing (amazing male ability to tune out anything that resembles drama) and both big boys have also disappeared.  So it's just me. Gotta get it done, get them clean and in these clothes so carefully laid out the night before. I'm close to tears, but mad is easier...

I clean hands and faces, brush out tangles and get them looking like they didn't just emerge from a war zone. But the war is still raging.  Everybody is tense (except maybe sick child, because he knows he will spend the day with his mom, not the crazy-step-monster) but we get in the van and head to church.  I'm fighting tears, still, but don't really want to mess up the Easter make-up, so I choke them back.  I realize how distracted I have been all morning and I feel bad, because all weekend I have truly tried to stay focused on Christ and what He did for me and what it means. And I KNOW that I have blown it this morning, but my pride is still telling me "If only he had gotten up early with me and helped I wouldn't feel this way." Or "If only anyone EVER said thank you or asked if they could help, I wouldn't feel this way."  I just can't let those pride walls down long enough to see that I made a choice to rely on MY plans this morning.  I got distracted, stayed distracted, didn't pray, didn't take time to remember what all my planning was for. To celebrate a Savior who gave His very life for me when I was still an ungrateful unrepentant sinner.  I'm close to tears, but blame is easier...

At church, I do get a reprieve, thankfully.  Little ones safe and happy in their classrooms, beautiful worship service (in which I do manage to stop thinking about me, remarkably) and a great Sunday School hour with friends and encouragement.  Everybody else is smiling here, so it is easier to smile along and put aside the stress of the morning for a while.  But then we go home.  Back to the mess. And I still have to garnish the cake and gather clothes and baskets for the afternoon festivities, and I know once those 6 kids get out of the van what it will take to get them back in it and we only have a few minutes, and once again, no one seems to be in a hurry but me.  It takes us an hour to leave and we really only had 30 minutes. In between trying to make the cake (which is now rather lopsided) look pretty, stir the macaroni, keep the children clean and load the van, I notice all those tears I had been choking back are beginning to leak out. Oh no. I do not cry pretty and we are on our way to my sister-in-law's family gathering, and they don't know I'm not (always) a basket case and I cannot pull myself together for 5 minutes.  I cry all the way there, can't stop, and no sympathy from anyone in the van because I've been such a meanie all morning and I don't even blame them, but oh how nice it would be to receive some grace right now.

Here is Grace... We all had the most wonderful afternoon.  The weather was perfect, I get some much needed sympathy from my mom and sis-in-law when they see tears (because they are moms and they KNOW) and I feel the stress start to fall away as I see the kids happy and playing and I realize that God loves me so much to give me this perfect afternoon on HIS day, when I least deserve it. And how if I had only asked for grace this morning before I started on The List, the morning would not have knocked me down so easily.  All my hopes for a glorious Easter celebration had been pinned on The List.  Not on Grace. How could I make such an arrogant mistake?  I didn't mean too, really... I just got distracted and busy. Like Martha. She is a pretty relatable character, isn't she?  I came home, started cleaning up a little, and saw this little card stuck with a push pin above my kitchen sink.  It reads "Prayer first: Prayer before anything else or there isn't anything else."  I had placed it there only days before and probably read it hundreds of times already.  But it isn't in the reading, though that is important... It is in the DOING. So tonight, with a humble heart (for now, anyway) I pray, asking for forgiveness for countless sins of pride with hope that maybe this is a lesson learned well for tomorrow. We'll soon enough find out! Tomorrow isn't Easter, and I can't get today back, and that makes me sad.  But I can start my day with prayer and celebrate a risen Savior and ask for Grace and Help and Love to splash on to others.

My precious family is really probably wondering if I have developed a personality disorder, with all the highs and lows and starts and stops on my faith journey. But the truest truth about me is that I am a work in constant progress, and will be until I die.  I wish I believed it would one day be easy.  I do believe it will one day be worth it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

One Hour: The List Goes On (and on, and on, and on....)

I have more gifts to list... Ones that I had to fight through some hormonal moodiness and kid-related stress to feel thankful for. But choosing to "fight feeling with feeling" to replace stress, hurt, anxiety, and even weariness with Thanksgiving and praise truly transformed my outlook! It works! It works! I want to shout it from the rooftops!

17.  Quiet moments in front of a sink full of dirty dishes
18.  Empty, clean, shining sink
19.  Real coffee
20.  Imaginary coffee in tiny plastic teacups
21.  Signs of progress
22.  Clean, sweet-smelling babies
23.  Changes of heart
24.  Signs (everywhere) of life
25.  Kind strangers
26.  Lists of Easter planning
27.  Chipmunk chirps
28.  Daddy home early!
29.  Young heartaches that call for hair smoothing and back-rubbing
30.  Calm after a storm
31.  The subtle "lifting" of sadness
32.  Sometimes seeing the "why" behind the "no"
33.  Friends who help
34.  The Power to CHOOSE
35.  Bright green grass with tiny purple flowers
36.  Giggles and hiccups
37.  A simple task, completed
38.  lost baseball jersey, found!
39.  A husband to iron clothes for
40.  Clothes to iron
41.  Being available to iron clothes for husband
42.  Hot, clean, running water
43.  Smell of fresh towels
44.  Feel of hot sunshine and gentle breeze
45.  Quiet of naptime

Each one, a gift from God, a thing of beauty, a kiss from a loving Father.  All of them frozen like a snap shot in my mind, simply because I took time to say "Thank You".  In all things, but especially in the hard things, like a child's heartbreak, or the tedious things, like ironing and dishes, the conscious choice to be verbally thankful restores JOY.  Oh, how I wish I had learned this secret years ago... But it isn't really a secret, is it?

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious- the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.  Put into practice what you learned from me (Paul), what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, Who makes EVERYTHING work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies." Philippians 4:8-9, The Message paraphrase

Monday, April 18, 2011

Notes by Chandler

This is a poem written by my son, Chandler, age 15. His poem took first place in the Huntsville Literary Association Young Writers Contest. He will present it at UAH on May 2.  I'm more than a little proud!


What is it?
It is time.
It is perfect time.
And key.
It is perfect key.
It is relief 
To the aching hearts 
That desire it.
It brings peace,
Piece by piece,
To ones
Who need it.
It is drive,
However, calm.
It is Legato,
Pulsing Rhythm.
It is something 
That can not 
Be taken away.
It is the replacement
Of silence with 
Melody and Harmony
In beautiful
What is it?
It is the 
Extravagant art
Of tone.
It is music.

One Hour

I have one hour. Between babies laying down to nap and big kids getting off the big yellow bus, I have this one singular hour that is mine. One might think it wise if I got up from my chair, folded and put away some laundry, began supper preparations, cleaned up the lunch dishes, but here I sit! Determined to journal some of the memories of this day and the weekend past.  I spent much of my time over the weekend with Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts in hand.  On the beach, in the car, at the table, in the bed, etc. I could not put it down! If the secret to JOY is truly in Thanksgiving for everyday graces and gifts, then isn't this, the journaling of it all, the very pathway to joy?  So here is this, my beginning of a list of 1000 gifts and more. Graces undeserved from a God who is Good.

1.  Moonlight walks on beach with husband
2.  Sound of ocean waves meeting shore
3.  Sound and smell of coffee brewing
3.  Long car rides and comfortable silences
4.  Strong shoulder to lay my head on
5.  Little ones in Sunday best
6.  Big smiles and even tears when Mommy and Daddy get home
7.  "I missed you Daddy" in sweet toddler-speak
8.  Wonderful parents who are even more wonderful grandparents
9.  Grown-up son in tuxedo performing God-given talents
10. Big hugs from not-so-small children
11.  Grinning blonde boy with sun-kissed cheeks
12.  Tall-girl who didn't seem quite so tall a week ago
13.  Salty breeze
14.  Kind neighbors to come home to
15.  Sheets that smell like home
16.  Return to comforting routine

And on that note, it's back to the dishes and dinner and laundry for me! I just don't want to forget these small and not so small details that give the days beauty.  I will look for more and list them, just to hold the moments still in my mind and heart.  Grace, thanksgiving, joy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Becoming Me

I am not the woman I once was, but I am more myself than I ever have been before.... This thought keeps rolling around in my head lately as I contemplate where God has brought me from, what He has brought me through, and the changes He has made in me in the process.  I just finished up the Beth Moore study on Revelation this morning, and she said something that really helped me make sense of this seeming contradiction.  I am paraphrasing loosely, because it was not written in the book, just something she said on the dvd.  She said that in His redemptive purposes, God makes all things new, but leaves enough of the "old" identity that we can SEE  what He has done for us--  See what we have been delivered from, what we have overcome, and just how different we are as a result.

In the book Captivating, by Jon and Stasi Eldredge, she says this, "God wants to live this life together with you, to share in your days and decisions, your desires and disappointments.  He wants intimacy with you in the midst of the madness and mundane, the meetings and memos, the laundry and lists, the carpools and conversations and projects and pain.  He wants to pour His love into your heart, and He longs to have you pour yours into His. He wants your deep heart, that center place within that is the truest you.  He is not interested in intimacy with the woman you think you are supposed to be.  He wants intimacy with the real you."

So how do we come to this place of being our truest selves before God and in our relationships? Through our suffering.  Our trials, our battles, our failures, all the things that drive us to our God for help and comfort.  It has been a gradual and painful process for me, and I have a feeling that I have only just begun.  But I KNOW the changes He has made in my heart, in my thoughts, in the way I live and love, and I am most certainly not the same person I once was.  Different, and yet more comfortable with myself than ever before.  I am painfully aware of the flaws and imperfections that remain... the selfishness, the pride, the envy, the apathy that sets in when life gets to be too much... But I have learned to trust His love for me even when I am at my worst.  To know and to believe that God loves me just as much when I fail as He does when I succeed takes the pressure off of me to pretend to be something I am not.  I couldn't fool Him anyway, could I?

There is such a freedom, too wonderful for words, in being confident that NOTHING will separate me from the love of the One who rescued me from myself.  And it is this freedom that allows me to open my heart fully to others, without fear, and without first counting the cost.  Because it will cost... authentic love always does.  I can love fully only when I am convinced I am fully loved.  No human relationship on this earth can ever serve to meet that need.  What a painful lesson to learn!  How many tears have we shed over not feeling loved as we are?  And how hard have we worked to make ourselves more loveable, and in so doing, have lost the truest part of ourselves?  I may be only speaking for myself, but I have a suspicion that this where many women find themselves.

This post may read like a collection of random thoughts... I never really know because I can't read my own words objectively.  But my desire is simply to share what God is doing in my life.  Because it is real, and it is good, and because writing it helps me to process it all.  And if He works in the heart of an ordinary woman like me, maybe it will give someone else hope that He will do it for them, too!