Dear Momma on the First Day of School,

I see you.

You’re clutching your second cup of coffee as you yawn sleep away.

You meant to make cute signs and put together Pinterest gifts for the teachers. You meant to get all those clothes organized and laid out before this morning. You promised yourself you wouldn’t hit snooze.

But life.

And instead, you’re shoulders deep in the dryer looking for a matching sock and yelling “brush your teeth” for the tenth time. Your eyes roll so far back you see your brain smoking as you remember you don’t have enough time for those pictures everyone else will post before the day’s end.

Maybe you do have enough time for that picture, but the moment you pull out of your driveway, your second grader remembers her lunch. On the kitchen counter.

Maybe you mourn the end of summer. Or maybe you’re celebrating the end of constant sibling bickering.

I see you.

You watch as the baby you held in your arms just a few years ago holds your hand as she walks into kindergarten with her head held high and bows in her hair. She squeezes tight with one last hug before you walk out the door wondering how you got here.

Or maybe your seventh grader, with his cool hair and anxious eyes, asked you to drop him off just a little bit farther back in the line, and your heart breaks just a bit because this is normal. But you weren’t ready for adolescent distance. Not yet.

Or maybe your head is spinning as you watch your senior get in his car for his last first day of school. And you’re just trying to breathe, gulping air but you can’t because your heart is in your throat.

I see you.

Questions swirl in your heart, regardless of their ages. Will she make friends? Will kids be kind this year? Will his teacher show grace? Will she learn?

As mothers, we’re constant in our wondering. Wondering if our children will be safe, loved, and supported. Wondering how long we should wait before we rescue. Wondering if we’ve done all we can.

I see you.

Your hand reaches out to brush his hair from his eyes but he ducks his head. You beg for one decent photo, knowing they hate this part, but you want to clutch this memory forever.

You think all day about them. Did they like their lunch? Were the supplies you bought the right ones? Did they think about you? Did teachers take the time to see your kid? Really see him?

You ask a bazillion questions when you see them at the end of their day. The answers you get? Not ever enough. Ever. Because you want to know ALL THE THINGS.

But I see you.

Because the real struggle we share on this day each year is the passing of time. We find ourselves in the knowing. We feel just how fleeting each moment is, but we also find ourselves wishing some days away because they can be so dang hard.

And we’re caught in this paradox. We want to hold tight to times that were always meant to disappear. Our children were never mean to stay little. We yearn to fix the shirt or tie the shoe of the very humans that are, one day, no longer supposed to need us.

We worry. We fret. We celebrate. We cheer.

This first day of school crashes with waves of doubt and excitement. What will their future be? Who will our children become? What if I screw up?

I see you, Momma.

And here’s the thing you need to remember. No one on this planet will champion your babies quite like you. So if today is a crazy-mixed up mess of happy-sad emotions? You need to know.

It’s okay.

Because being Mom means there is not a right way to feel. You’re allowed to cheer your babies on as they walk into another school year, while quietly mourning the loss of one more summer.

You’re allowed to not shed a tear or feel one single bit of sadness. You’re also allowed to show up to the school parking lot with a box of tissues, puffy eyes, and a red nose.

There is no right way for moms to do the First Day of School.

So as you muddle through with a tender heart, know I see you. You’re not alone. Don’t compare how you feel, how you think, or how you act to a single soul. No.

Be you, Momma.

Be the warrior-mom I see standing as she sends her babies to the classroom. Because she’s beautiful. She’s amazing. She’s a mom who survived this day.

And Momma? You’re doing a fantastic job.

With all the love of a fellow Momma,

Heather

Posted in Beautiful Life, Motherhood, Teaching | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Dear First Day of School

Dear First Day of School,

We need to talk.

I don’t want to hate you. I really don’t. Shall we maybe work together to package the day in a way we all come home with smiles?

I have a few requests. Just a few. If you could find it in your heart to accommodate my small, itty-bitty expectations, I think I could love you.

If not? Well, I already said I don’t want to hate you. Really, it’s your choice.

Here we go:

  1. Can you begin just one hour later? You know—so I can have time to take pictures of my own kids, make last minute copies, and attempt to put on make-up.
  2. Just prior to the ring of the alarm clock, I need to be wide awake—like Saturday-morning-slept-over-12-hours awake. This may be difficult because I will have only had 4-5 hours of sleep. But remember, I want to love you.
  3. I need my coffee to be strong. STRONG. This is a non-negotiable.
  4. All clothing must look perfect, so multiple wardrobe changes are unnecessary.
  5. Children should wake up with a miraculous love for one another bringing a harmonious calm to the household. This may be your most difficult task, but I believe in you.
  6. The magical lunch-making unicorn should appear at some point overnight. Healthy choices are negotiable.
  7. All bags and kid backpacks have everything necessary already packed and beside the front door.
  8. Nothing can be forgotten. Nothing.
  9. The camera should be set outside prior to the kid photo shoot. Because you need to remember this is FLORIDA, and the moment I take my camera from the air-conditioned inside to the heat-blanketed outside condensation commences. You may view this as an opportunity for a science lesson for my kids. But one, my kids have science in school. And two, I’m an English teacher with zero time for science lessons.
  10. Traffic needs to be light. This isn’t asking for much. You must also make sure any one driving at or below the speed limit is behind me. Okay?
  11. The car must arrive in the school parking lot at least five minutes early. Yes. You heard me. Early. Stop laughing.
  12. My school bag should be reminiscent of the one carried by Mary Poppins. I need to pull magic out of that bag. Magic that captivates even the most cynical student doubting my powers.
  13. Students need to believe my words are gold, like the shiny, valuable metal, like the 24-carat kind. This way they will gather my treasure and hold it close and remember where they put it.
  14. I should be able to whisper yet my voice should carry to the furthest corners of my room, allowing for a well-rested throat at day’s end.
  15. All student questions must be easy to answer.
  16. The last bell should ring, and I must be fully prepared for day two.
  17. Take a deep breath. This one’s tricky. Ready? I need to leave campus on time. Yep. On time. I promise this is no jest.
  18. Finally? My own two darlings need to declare the First Day of School as the BEST. DAY. EVERRRR! (If their arms are stretched wide and they’re spinning circles, I’m happy to award bonus points. I may even allow you to miss one request. Except for numbers 1-10, 11, and 12-18.)

So you see, this list of requests is fairly simple and straightforward. Nothing too difficult, and I’m sure you can manage.  Because I want to love you, I really do.

I understand my expectations are high. And well, the expectations of all mankind are high on this day. It’s a lot to live up to—you know—one day setting the tone for the entire year thing is a mite stressful. But I am confident you will rise to the challenge.

Sincerely Hopeful,

Heather—Loving Teacher, Mom, and Wife

P.S. Honestly? If you could help me remember no day is perfect, and my joy is not based on circumstances, that would actually be enough.

P.P.S. I really do love my job.

Happy First Day of School, Friends!
May we know we’re not alone, and
hard days have the power to strengthen our resolve
and teach us to persevere.

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On Weeding and Invitations of Grace

As a little girl, when given the choice, I was quick to volunteer for yard work chores over housework. If Mom and Dad both needed help, sure as shootin’ I’d be knee deep in mud and weeds before Mom could pull out the dust cloth.

My plan was brilliant. My baby sister hated yard work. I despised housework. Win-Win. It wasn’t that I loved weeding, I just preferred the task to toilets.

When learning to weed the flowerbeds of home, I would look for shortcuts—pulling the unwanted plant growth from their tip-tops. My dad could no longer see the weeds, and my work appeared done.

I had made everything look lovely and fresh on the surface.

But the deceit always caught up.

My cheating became obvious within days. Daddy would shake his head. The roots, Heather. You have to get to the roots, or the weeds will just come back. Let me show you. And we’d head back out to weed again. My Father always helping, always by my side.

Not much has changed.

I’d still rather work in the yard than wring a mop.

But yanking weeds from the dark earth is exhausting. Roots take hold, refusing to yield to my pulls and tugs. On my knees, humbled by the stubborn intruders, my fingers plunge deep into soil. I grasp to get rid of what chokes and crowds our beautiful plants and shrubs.

With back bent, stooped and low, I work. The sun’s rays beat down as I refuse to let the weeds beat me. And if I don’t keep up? If I don’t go back and pull those stubborn stragglers? They still come back.

They return in full force to choke and crowd.

And I sigh. Because though I may ask if I’m ever done, in reality I know I’m not—there will always be weeds.

In my yard. And in my soul.

These days weeding isn’t just an escape from dust bunnies and dirt-thick floors, it’s a strange invitation into grace.

I have a confession. Words I’ve carried far to long, alone.

I struggle daily, hour-by-hour, with an addiction to food.

These words lay my soul bare—scratched and raw from pulling at the weeds in my life. I haven’t wanted to share this struggle with you, so I’ve hidden them. I’ve hidden them because my food addiction causes me to feel ashamed.

You may role your eyes. You may wonder what’s the big deal?

Friends, food addiction has been a weed choking my life for as long as I can remember. And the heaviness and weight this addiction leaves on my body brings me shame. Not because I’m ashamed of how I look, but rather I’m ashamed of what my skin reveals. It reveals my very real choice of running to food, instead of my Jesus, for comfort.

Sin.

Not a word that’s very acceptable in this world of relative truth. But for me, my turn to food in times of stress, sadness, and anger in order to cope isn’t healthy for my body—or for my soul. For me, it’s sin.

So why tell you?

Because.

Because though every battle is different, our hidden shame can feel the same.

Because I want you to know I struggle. My addiction may seem benign. I mean, it’s just food, right? But the point isn’t to make a comparison. Rather the point is—everyone struggles.

Everyone has life-choking weeds. Everyone has shame stuffed into our closets so no one finds out we’re infested, our soul tangled by our individual battles.

We love to hide our darkness. Putting on masks of our inauthentic selves, the selves we think the world wants to see.

But we’re cheating.

The shame kept in the black of night will only crowd out our beauty, our joy, our light.

So now what? What is the way to weed out shame and sin? The way to pull through addiction and wrong choices? Oh, how I am desperate for healing, desperate to pull these weeds out by their roots—each and every one.

It’s hard—this weeding and pruning of our lives. But I have a Creator God, who leans down and whispers these words: Confess your sins to each other, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Did you hear it?

Simple. Beautiful.

Healing comes when we refuse to hide our dark places from each other.

Confession heals the soul.

Confession rips out shame by its roots.

Confession brings accountability.

Confession makes room for grace.

Our confessions don’t require internet diatribes or gushing revelations. No tabloid headlines for sympathy are needed. Rather, we will know who and when we are to share our struggles with. It is simply that we share.

Because when we look at our own weaknesses, our own weeds and reveal them to the Light, we realize our mistakes cannot be held up to the shadows of comparison. Because I’m better than no one—not one.

We must tread gently in this healing vulnerability. And we mustn’t begin to wave our darkness around as if it’s brighter than another’s. No. A night absent of light is a night absent of light.

When humans attempt to rate morality, everyone suffers and hypocrisy reigns. When our choices are weeds—they will always choke out life. Always. The type of weed? It does not matter.

In our confessions that refuse comparison, we find Grace for ourselves. We find Grace abundant enough for humanity.

Because Grace rips weeds out by their roots.

Grace drowns out shame.

Grace leaves room for rest.

So no. My struggles may not be yours. But we’re no different. We struggle, both you and I.

I’m desperate for you to know you’re not alone in the life-drowning weeds.

Shall we pull weeds together? We can stoop side-by-side in the hot sun, with its rays pounding our backs while sweat stings our eyes.

For as long as it takes.

Because when we share? Our darkness is drowned by Light. When we weed out our wrongs together, we become meadows of rest beckoning others to find healing in our space. Spaces that offer hope and love—without judgment.

When we weed, we become lush gardens of grace.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Hope, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When I Need to Step Off the Porch

A few weeks ago, during the last half of my spring break, I was at a teacher training. The nerd in me can’t get enough learning. Prince Charming Jokes I could be a professional student. He’s right.

The days filled my brain and my heart.

The training was intense, but meaningful—filled with affirmations of what I already do and equipping me to be even better. Good stuff.

So many nuggets of truth float in my brain from those few days.

But one Truth struck deep.

A fellow teacher spoke words of encouragement to another at the training. The teacher called the woman across the table a porch light.

A porch light.

Maybe you’ve heard the term or are familiar with the connotation.

It was new to me.

The teacher went on to explain how porch lights are those people who shine bright for others living in the dark shadows of their own personal nights. The porch light illuminates the path so the hurting and suffering can see their way to hope.

I’m reminded of my first days spent in the dark. Days when I really didn’t know who I was or why the shadows closed so tight. Lost and confused, I retreated deep into myself.

Withdrawn, I didn’t know where to begin looking for light.

A phone call came. A crack in my shield.

We’re worried about you. You’ve withdrawn. You’re not yourself.

We’re here.

Suddenly, with those words, I began to see flickers of light. Light in the distance waiting to warm my heart.

My friends were porch lights.

With them, I could be honest, transparent—myself. I could struggle in a place I wasn’t alone.

But here’s the thing about porch lights. If I had to walk down darkened street to glowing homes with their lights on, I’m not sure I would have made it.

I’m not one to reach out for help. I’m not one to beg for a life raft. I’m not one to walk to the porch with the brilliant glow. When you’ve been in the dark for too long, the light hurts. It hurt to get close and reaching out wasn’t something I could conceptualize.

So my friends stepped off.

They stepped off the porch and into the dark—bringing their torches with them. Then they held my hands, step-by-step, walking me their way. Their bright, radiant way.

In this world, we are called to be light for this great, big, scary world.

The Message version of the Scriptures brings this truth: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

We are God’s light in the darkness.

But sometimes we have to step off our porches.

Is that not the mission of Christ on the cross? Did He not leave the Light of heaven? Did He not step down into our darkness, carrying His torch to the broken, the hurting, the shadow-dwellers?

We must welcome others with our porch lights. We must keep open our homes.

But.

I know in my depths I need to do more stepping off and reaching into the darkness with my torch. Because some people won’t come toward the bright—it hurts too much. No. Some are waiting. Waiting for us to remind them they are worthy of God’s great love.

It’s impossible for me to bear my torch into the dark places of every shadowed corner. Yet I can bring candles. Candles of hope in gestures of compassion.

A card. A meal. A phone call. A message. An errand. A balloon. A kind word. A hug.

I know this—Light shows up. It shows up and darkness cannot stay.

Friends, we don’t have to blaze an inferno. We can just show up with our candles. And sometimes we can show up with torches. The point is, we show up and we bring light.

The porch is a beautiful place, warm and inviting. A place for community and communing, rocking chairs and lemonade. A place of brilliant light.

But porches were never created as a space to stay forever. We can’t live on our porch.

Sometimes we need grab courage and step into the dark.

There is a world desperate for our lights—lights illuminating the path to Hope.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Easter, Hope, Joy, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

For Our Daughters…A Celebration of Womanhood

Daughters of Ours,

Spring green has touched the tips of the trees, edging its way to leaf centers. Plum and pink Azaleas have yawned into March’s morning light.

Because Florida.

And before we can sneeze the oak pollen from our lungs, the temperatures will soar into the 90s. So relish these moments of newness. These moments of life awakening from winter’s sleep.

Because daughters, you are spring.

And I wonder if you know how to savor this beautiful time, if you know what a splendid bloom you are.

I wonder if you know you can show the world your stunning spring hues and your intelligence and your gifts, if you know you don’t have to hide who you really are.

I wonder if you know the glory of being born a woman?

Do you really?

Because sometimes we forget the distinct splendor of the feminine. We often hide from the beauty of being created woman.

We may all bemoan those days each month when our bodies seem to rebel and quake under the pressure of our design. But really? Our bodies are life bringers. Our turmoil and pain yields humankind.

Womanhood is not something to shrink from or deny. It is to be celebrated.

Celebrate the feminine. Celebrate the strong, the tender, the fierce. Celebrate them all because they all are the woman.

Don’t shrink, dear daughters.

I watch as you make apologizes for your intelligence and attempt to hid your strength. My heart beats sad when you play dumb for the boy in the next chair.

Listen close, Tender Flower ready to bloom.

A man who doesn’t want his woman strong and smart and brave is not a man I want for you. You are worthy of being loved as you are. The authentic self needs no glittery wrapping paper and jeweled bows to be loved.

Your worthy of so.much.more.

The man who loves the truest you? The one willing to pursue your truest heart? The one fighting your battles beside you?

That is the man you cling to—hold tight. Because he is the one it’s okay to need. Because he needs you, too.

I watch through the halls, and I see myself so many years ago. Wondering. What is it to be woman?

Maybe you love glamour and heels and shiny lips and dresses – all things girl. Maybe you would rather live in your flip-flops and jeans and t-shirts and ponytails. That’s okay, because on you? They’re all things girl, too.

One day you may want to be a stay-at-home mom. Or maybe you may want to have a career and be a CEO.

One day you may want to be both.

One day you may marry. Or maybe you won’t. And that’s okay, too.

One day you may decide you want ten children. Or maybe you may decide to have none.

Whatever you decide, don’t allow the world to shame your choices—your higher calling.

There are evils that use physical power to trap and chain women. Evils that lurk to strip the female of her security, her safety. Evils that pounce shouting shame into your thoughts. Evils that pound a hammer of fear to shatter your femininity—your identity.

Don’t be afraid to fight back. Know those evils are not your shame to bear. Those broken pieces you didn’t break? They can be part of your glorious stained-glass story.

Held up to the Light? You will always glimmer color and shimmer sun.

May we clutch to each other, welding metal, piecing together our stained stories. Because we’ve all been broken. Our cracks reveal our light. Our strength. Our dignity.

Many will shout into echo chambers that we’re less than. Less than because we have hips and curves and breasts. Less than because our emotions are a mystery. Less than because we nurture the broken and our minds never stop.

Don’t believe the lies.

Those lies are wrong.

Wrong, because God the Father created both male and female in His image. Both. In His image. Oh, daughters. The fingerprint of God is stamped into our very being. We are His created beauty.

You need to know we are His painted sunset—His final touch on all of creation. We have purpose. The Master Artist makes it so…

Be proud of your womanhood. Take hold of your feminine self.

Don’t be afraid to smile back at the mirror every morning.

You. Beautiful you.

You are God’s creation, too.

We Love You,

Your Sisters

Posted in Beautiful Life, Beauty | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

On Your Way to Work: The Teaching Paradigm

I hate the sound of my own voice. Anytime I hear myself on a recording or a video, I cringe. Do I really sound like that?

According to a friend, Christian, there’s for real scientific evidence about why our voices sound so strange to us when we hear them outside our own heads. It’s something about jaw vibrations and our inner ear and the way sound travels. My friend is super smart, so I’m taking him at his researched-word.

Not that it matters because I still shudder when I overhear my recorded voice.

Even so, I took part in my very first podcast this weekend. My friend, author and respected career mentor, Rick Whitted, is passionate about people. He is committed to helping others grow in their professional and personal lives. He has been a source of great encouragement for my own writing and teaching career.

I’m honored Rick invited me to join him in his podcast, On Your Way to Work. Today we discuss teaching and some of the current paradigms taking place in the culture of education. I’d love for you to listen into the discussion!

Please click one of the following options to join our conversation on “The Teaching Paradigm:”
iTunes, Stitcher, Live stream from website

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Because Valentine’s? It’s Just a Day…

Valentine’s Day.

A day I’ve loved to hate.

A day I’ve loved to love.

But really?

It’s just a day.

There were the tortured years. Years I weighed my value on the scale of this Love-Day. This day that loved to remind me I was unlovable.

Very few places can rub your nose in the single-with-no-significant-other mud like the dirty, gray hallways of high school.

Every. where. you. look. Balloons and stuffed bears. Candy hearts and pink roses. Declarations of love at every other locker.

I hated every moment.

Right or wrong, as a teen, Valentine’s Day only served to remind me I was insignificant, invisible, and alone. And while none of those were actually true of me—I felt they were.

Even now, after decades of having my own Valentine, the 14th of February always comes with emotions that conflict and feelings that confuse.

There are so many lovely parts of this day for hearts. It’s a day that reminds us to cherish one another. There are also candlelit dinners and whispered words of passion. Not to mention love notes and chocolate and exquisite bouquets.

What’s not to love?

A lot.

Forgotten women. Teenagers with lonesome eyes. Overlooked children. Broken hearts. Unmet expectations. Feelings of worthlessness.

See what I mean?

Here’s the thing. Boycotting this day isn’t the answer. We should celebrate each other—our romances and our friendships.

I could be cliché and mention that the celebration should be all year long, but then I will also mention we’re human and apt to have days of grouchiness and lamentation.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. I just hate the way it plays with our emotions—especially as women. We have a deep desire to feel beautiful, to be noticed.

But a day can’t define our worth, whether we have a lover or not.

That’s the lie I often allow my heart to hear.

When the truth is, only the Love borne through arms stretched across splintered wood can make me know, really know, I am worth more than rubies.

A day can’t tell me my soul was purchased by a heavenly King.

But the self-doubt struggle still exists. And February 14th only seems to point out my cracks with pin-point accuracy.

I remember my first V-day with Prince Charming. He, no-joke, earned extra cash by helping deliver arrangements for a florist during the peak season.

I lived in a sorority house where I watched bouquets of roses arrive all day, my sisters ooo’ing and ahh’ing over each one. Every time the doorbell rang, my heart skipped a beat. I hoped beyond hope my favorite delivery boy would arrive.

I waited all day.

And I may or may not have gotten a bit angry.

Where were my flowers?

When they finally arrived? I wasn’t disappointed. It was like a scene from a movie. I soaked in the squeals and giggles as I walked those gorgeous pale pink roses up the stairs.

Sweet Lord, I was in heaven.

I felt loved. I felt cherished. I felt valued. I felt important. I. I. I.

And there it is. The struggle of this day has always been because, well, I make it about…wait for it…

Me.

What if this day torments and frustrates because I tend to focus on what I get out of it? What if, instead, I use Valentine’s Day to focus on loving well?

Tomorrow is just another day. A day I can practice loving those inside my circle and out.

A note or two for colleagues. Candy for my students. Gifts for my Prince with no expectations in return. Coffee for a stranger. Words of encouragement.

Acts of kindness.

Changing how I see Valentine’s Day requires I pour my heart into others.

It doesn’t mean moments of loneliness won’t lurk and sadness won’t creep. It does mean, dear sisters, that we can fight back against the dark. We fight with the way we love.

So love deeply—not just tomorrow, but every day.

Because you are worthy. You are valuable. You are cherished. You are a treasure. And you have buckets of love to pour out and over a world humans desperate to know they’re worth loving, too.

Because real joy? The joy that wells from deep within? It doesn’t bubble and overflow from what I get.

But from what I give.

Posted in Joy, Love, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dear Mom. I Get it Now…

In honor of my Momma’s birthday and her steadfast love.

I get it now.

I understand why you never had new clothes or pretty jewels. It makes sense that you didn’t have a fancy car or a passport full of stamps. I know why romantic trips with Dad rarely happened.

The homecoming dresses and sports lessons and youth trips and birthday parties and school clothes and winter jackets.

There wasn’t a nickel left to call your own.

I know why I may not have all the nice things. And I’m okay with that because you always were.

I learned sacrifice is easier when it means your kid looks for you when he shoots a basket. Did you see that, mom? I want you to see what I did.

When I wipe down the top of my refrigerator or remove table-top knick knacks to dust, I may still bemoan my existence. I may still hate cleaning above all other things. But now I know why you taught me to bleach a toilet and mop a floor early in my years.

Taking pride and care in my home comes with cleaning the messy and scrubbing the dirt. The drudgery has purpose and the effort has meaning—this care and keeping of the place our babies sleep.

Comet will always be my friend.

I get why you didn’t share your fears. You didn’t want them to be mine.

When Ella was just three and inhaled the scent of a well-loved book, I knew. When Caleb chose the library for our afternoon date, I knew.

I knew the reason you said that while there might be days I’m alone, I will never be lonely if I love to read. I understand why you carried bags of exhaustion and stories out from the library.

The love of knowledge is now my constant companion and teaching my own Ella and Caleb is my lofty goal.

I would get so angry. So mad for every.single.thing you made me rework or revise. My temper welled, as I removed a stitch or rewrote essays filled with mistakes.

Even now when I want to avoid striking a word or phrase from the thoughts I write and just hit submit. When revision is tiresome and tedious. When I just don’t want to give any more effort. Your words stand firm.

Any thing worth doing is worth doing right.

I use your words with my own two babes. Because excellence is worth the work and correction is a gift.

All the no’s despite my tantrums, my rants, my raves. All the firm boundaries I pressed against with sheer force of will. All the ways you kept the reigns tight. They protected me from myself—from the parts of me I didn’t yet know were there.

Those boundaries taught me I don’t always know what’s best, and I’m never entitled to my own way. Because life isn’t fair and the world doesn’t revolve around me.

There were battles I wanted you to fight in my stead. Wars I wanted you to win. Hard steps I wanted you to take for me. But instead?

You watched as I struggled and clashed. Why couldn’t you have just done the hard for me? Why couldn’t you save me from the bruising and scars?

I get it now.

And I’m grateful.

For while you didn’t fight my battles, you never left my side. You dressed me in armor even if you didn’t raise the sword. There are battles that we must fight on our own so we can be our most courageous selves—to be our best selves.

You knew that when I didn’t.

Now, I stand by my own two treasures handing them helmets and Truth. I never want to cripple them because they don’t know how to fight.

I get it now. The standing by? It yanks your heart out and beats it bloody on the muddy ground.

And sometimes the strongest, bravest step you can take is to just stand by.

Because strength is what we want to raise.

I get it now.

Strong is the only way to mother.

Strong is rising in the tender hours just before dawn to kneel down before the One who loves your children more than you ever could. It is praying the promises of scripture over the heads of the babes you bore. Strong is trusting in the plans Jesus has for your children and not in your own.

Strong is knowing you can’t mother alone. Strong is knowing we are weak.

Strong is acts of selflessness. Standing firm and standing by. Teaching and preaching even as exhaustion drips into your veins. Never giving up on the lives you birthed—even when they may bite with words that chew on pieces of your soul.

Strong is grace. It’s tenderness and compassion when the whining never ends. Knowing when to let go because your child refuses to learn from your mistakes. Unconditional love when it isn’t returned.

And never having a new pair of shoes.

Strong is the only way to mother.

I get it now.

Because strength mothered me, and I learned to mother from her.

My mom is a definition of strong.

I will learn from her the rest of my days.

Her children arise and call her blessed.
Proverbs 31:28

Posted in Beautiful Life, Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gratitude is a Game-Changer

My Court Jester, my Caleb, loves his shoes. He is seven and spends his birthday and Christmas money on new kicks. The boy is particular—like over the top—about what shoes he wears with what socks and what outfit.

On the flip side, I missed the female shoe-love gene. I’m happy in my Birks or a pair of flip-flops. The last thing I want to shop for is a pair of shoes. But not my Caleb.

Shoes are his serious business.

So when my little man needs a consequence for behavior, he looses the privilege of picking out his shoes the next day. Strange, I know, but it’s effective.

A few nights ago he got in trouble and had to endure the consequence. I told him I was picking his kicks the next day.

Oh the horror! Oh the cataclysmic travesty! His life was over.

The alligator tears and sobs lasted for, well, let’s just say longer than they should. They lasted through the bed-time routine and halfway through the reading of Horton Hears a Who, where “a person’s a person no matter how small.” The irony was lost on my sobbing second grader.

Finally. He curled up next to me, took a deep breath, and shared his newest revelation.

Looking up at me from the corner of his eyes, he mumbled, “I have a terrible life. My parents make my life terrible.” With a half grin and a shaky breath, he pressed into my side, and I smothered him with hugs and kisses.

Yes. His life is just awful.

It didn’t matter he had a momma reading a book to him in a soft bed. It didn’t matter he was cozy and warm. It didn’t matter he had a fully belly or that he was surrounded by toys to play with and clothes to choose from.

My sweet boy only focused on what he lacked. And this focus dictated his perspective. And his perspective ruled his emotions.

Caleb is not alone.

I often join him in my grumpy, dramatic tantrums. I only got six hours of sleep. Ugh! I don’t have time to finish reading that book. There are too many essays to grade. How can we not have ice cream in this house? Is there ever a month when I can stop worrying about bills? Sick—again!? But I just bought pointe shoes three weeks ago. How can they be dead? Is there a night this week that I can just be home?

My list of complaints and whines and moaning can go on. And on. And on.

I’ve written about it here and here and here. Ann Voskamp symbolizes the very word. Scientists confirm it.

Gratitude changes our perspective.

An attitude of thanksgiving brings joy. When we focus on our gifts and our blessings, we are able to see our lives in a new way. We realize that maybe our lives aren’t so “terrible” after all.

There’s a miracle recorded four times in the Bible. In this miracle, Jesus uses five small barley loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of over 5,000. Tucked away in this story is a truth I have only just seen thanks to this podcast by Steven Furtick.

John 6:11 states, “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”

Do you see it? Jesus gave thanks over the scarcity.

Facing a crowd of thousands, Jesus and the disciples only had the small portion of bread and fish.

Yet.

Jesus was grateful for even that tiny offering.

He gave thanks over the scarcity—the miracle occurred in the scarcity. Had there been no need, a miracle would not have been necessary.

When last did I show gratitude over our family’s financial struggles because those struggles give me an opportunity to trust God more?

When last did I thank God for such a little time left in my day because my hours were filled with the care and keeping of my family and my students—an honor and a privilege?

When last did I thank God for stacks of laundry waiting to be folded because I had laundry to fold?

My perspective changes when I view my life in terms of what I do have instead of what I don’t. On the days my anxiety rises and I stomp angrily through the hours, I need to ask myself where my focus has been. Those moments when my frustration reaches the pinnacle, what peak am I viewing my life from?

Having a perspective of giving my God gratitude changes everything.

Thanksgiving is a day-changer, a game-changer, a life-changer.

And today? This week? I was desperate for the reminder.

Because I have so much to be thankful for…

Posted in Beautiful Life, Gratitude, Joy, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Tis the Season for Crazy

Last night my husband and I sent the Court Jester to Family Reading Night at school.

Without his family.

Prince Charming was helping with our church Christmas program, and Princess Ella rushed through two different rehearsals. Where was I? Starbucks. At a meeting. What was I doing while I was meeting? Sewing pointe shoes.

At least I was surrounded by women I love, and there was coffee.

Did I mention my son went to a family night without his family?

Yeah. The mom guilt was thicker than my grandmother’s fruitcake. Even though my meeting was for my daughter’s ballet school and I was sewing her ballet shoes, the Court Jester still got lost in last night’s seasonal shuffle.

‘Tis the Season for Crazy.

We all know it. We all experience it. We all attempt to stop it.

This week, I’ve lived through four late nights, three long meetings, two stacks of essays, and a partridge in a pear tree. My crazy is normal.

After leaving my meeting last night, I walked to the car, pulled the handle, and opened the door. It wasn’t until I was half-way in that I realized the car wasn’t mine. Yeah. I’m that woman this time of year.

Or maybe I’m that woman all year.

Ella will turn 14 in less than a month. This morning? That sweet child of mine continued to give me grief for not having an Elf on the Shelf when she was younger. The Court Jester continues to talk about Snowflake, his classroom Elf.

Caleb – Why can’t we have one, mom? Because he freaks me out. Who wants a creepy Elf staring at them all day?

Ella – Well, when I have kids, I’m doing Elf on the Shelf for them. That’s fantastic darling. You’ll do an amazing job, and your children will be the luckiest in the world. (unlike you, apparently…)

I told Ella I was just making sure she would get her money’s worth as an adult when she has to seek counseling for all the ways we screwed up her childhood.

(Side-note: I’m not anti-Shelf-Elf for any other house—just mine. Only because I couldn’t possibly keep up with moving an elf every night when it’s evident I can’t recognize my own car.)

Every Christmas I race into the madness and promise myself I won’t do it again.

Then I break my promise.

Year. After year.

I want the slow and the nights of hot cocoa while drinking in the lights adorning our tree. But slow is not the reality in this season of my life. I have a teenager and a seven year old. I’m a teacher with mountains of papers to grade. I’m in love with a man whose responsibilities equal my own. Slow isn’t really an option.

Sure, there is the busy of my life I can control—and I do. I have learned to say no. (Halleluiah. Amen.)

Still, there is the busy of my life I can’t control.

The slowing and breathing in of Christmas is beautiful. I’ve written about it every year. I crave the quiet moments of the season when I draw my children near, and we whisper of the newborn King.

But this year? I’ve realized that just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I can’t embrace this magical time.

Because Christmas is woven into the very fabric of my life.

And my life? It’s messy. It’s crazy. It’s chaotic.

It’s also beautiful.

Christmas exists with or without my crazy. One might even say Christ was born because of my crazy, because of my broken. The more hectic my life gets, the more I need my Savior—my Emmanuel—my God with me.

The meaning of Christ’s birth is threaded into my soul—knitted together with all I do and all I am.

Christmas resonates in the middle of my frenzy. There will be scattered moments of stillness, but mostly I will be keeping pace with the hustle and bustle. In the midst, Christmas will be there. It’s always there. Because the Joy of this season is the Gift lying in a manger sent because my Creator loved this world with all He had.

My Christmas may be a bit crazy, but the true beauty of this season isn’t lost.

Rather, I need it more.

So I choose to see, even when life won’t slow.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Christmas, Joy | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment