Loving Real In Our Mess

It was slimy. Shallow water mixed with humid air. Tadpoles and minnows filled the tiny almost-creek that was more muck and yuck than clear water. Perfect for a four year old boy. For me too.

The Court Jester and I laughed and explored the small stream, stepping over rocks and picking up big sticks. Really, it was so narrow in most parts we could just leap across.

In no time at all, my Caleb-boy was ankle deep in water smiling big in my direction.

Soaked sneakers. Sopping socks. These were my first two thoughts. The car ride home was my third. But I realized—damage done. And nothing died. The water was gross, but he was unafraid of the mess.

That’s the thing about children. They unabashedly share their messy lives with the world. The littles of humanity smile at us with food-lined faces and mud-caked hands. They rush to our sides with paint-stained fingers, wiping rainbow colors on our sleeves.

Children share their mess with the world—fully allowing us to be in their world.

We were all children once. Sharing our mud pies and drippy-glue pictures with anyone who would look at them.

But then we grew up.

We grew up and someone told us our mess wasn’t good enough. We’re told don’t get dirty. Wipe your face. Fix your hair. Suck in your stomach. Cover those blemishes. Show only your beauty marks. Don’t share those sins.

Hide your mess.

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Be perfect. And love perfect. That is the message we hear.

With those voices shouting loudest, we’re left striving toward perfection. Pushing.  Struggling. Attempting to attain an ideal as a wife, a mother, a human. An ideal that only ever becomes whitewashed walls. Walls that can’t cover oily fingerprints and greasy smudges forever.

When we only allow others to see our cleanest, most kept-up parts, we alienate ourselves.  We close our hearts off. The mirror we hold up to the world is a reflection that bares no likeness to the truth.

We walk around looking into the perfect reflections of a world that doesn’t exist.

When we present perfection, humanity will believe Jesus can only love the perfect. But my Jesus came because we each are imperfect. We each have stains on our dusty souls.

When we keep the world from seeing our own mud-flung lives, we are distant reflections of Christ, failing to allow the dirt of the world touch the hems of our garments—failing to love the world He loves.

But it’s so hard to be real.

So I hide. Refusing to allow others into my mess. My dust and dirt. I close the door of my home and keep you out because you might see my failings, my flaws—my mess. Afraid to let my real life seep into the life I want you to see. Afraid trust you. Afraid you won’t love me.

We are made for more. More than fear.

The truth really can set us free.

We want to be loved for who we are. For people to love our true selves—our messy, dirt-ridden selves—we must be willing to share our mess. No one can love our mess if they don’t know our mess.

I spent the afternoon with two beautiful women who have embraced my mess. I sat across the table, warm coffee in my hands, sharing my struggles, my haunting thoughts. I revealed the most diseased parts of my life right now.

These two treasures didn’t try to clean me up.  While wisdom was shared, I felt the warm embrace of two friends who love me—dirt and all.  With them I am safe.

I want others to know they are safe with me. When I step forward, exposing my ugliness, others may discover their grime can be safe with me.

We must meet each other in the middle of our slimy, gross streams. We can’t fix the brokenness—only our Jesus can mend and heal and wash our dirt-stained lives.  But we can love. And what really matters in this life? That we love one another.

And I want to love you—the real you. Because you are beautiful. Your mess is part of the thread sewn into your beautiful life. To love me, to love you, is to love the messiness of our lives. Please don’t hide from me. I won’t hide from you.

Can we go play in the mud together?

Posted in Beautiful Life, Friendship, Relationship with God | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Grace for the Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed.

This word. I know it well.

Staring at the blank canvas of a computer screen, day after day. No words.

Dust bunnies dance under tables and in corners—taunting me.

Relationships I’m failing to invest in the way I should.

Wanting to do so much for others and doing nothing instead.

Insignificance trying to root into my soul.

A new school in August requiring work all summer to prepare.

Wondering if I’m enough for my children. Ever. I know the answer, yet I keep asking.

Feeling I’m never the wife my husband needs. He wouldn’t agree. But still…

And while this glimpse into my struggles is nothing compared to trials faced by other dear friends, I still feel overwhelmed.

But.

I’ve also been overwhelmed by grace. Not because life has been easy in these last months. No. But because life has been hard. Because life has overwhelmed.

And yet? Grace and blessings have been uncovered in unexpected places. Gifts given in poignant moments. Positions offered just as insignificance surfaces. My sweet, too-big baby boy falling asleep in my arms.

We only witness God’s grace when we thank, when we stop to breathe in the swirling and fragrant goodness of our days. There is always good—somewhere. We may have to scratch and dig and claw to find the beauty hidden deep, but it’s there.

Even if the only good is the good that comes from being in the hands of God. Tucked into His wide-enough grasp with His fingers touching our hurting places.

His grace is sufficient.

I know this is true. And I find this truth in the hands of the Potter.

I used to teach pottery wheel classes—connecting deep to the ideas of the molding and shaping of earth, mixed with water, mixed with stretching and pulling, mixed with the fire hardening. Ultimately creating art.

A dear friend reminded me today of the most important step in pottery. This friend who has known more pain than I dare to imagine. This friend who understands grace. This friend who reminded me of the kneading.DSC_0244DSC_0267DSC_0264DSC_1342DSC_1323DSC_1321

Before a lump of clay can be thrown on the potter’s wheel, the clay must be kneaded. The kneading requires strength and determination to work it again and again, pressing, pushing, forcing every little pocket of air out.

All other steps in pottery are useless if the kneading isn’t done with the proper care because when the vessel is put through the heat of the kiln, air pockets left will expand and destroy the piece—useless shards worth nothing.

I am grateful for the grace of kneading. While kneading, the lump of clay never leaves the potter’s hands. Ever.

In the kneading of my life, in the times I’m overwhelmed, in the struggles, I’m safe in the Potter’s hands. Drinking in the grace and knowledge that the destructive air pockets don’t stand a chance.

I never leave His hands. Ever. And that is enough. Enough to bring rest, to bring peace and comfort. Because knowing I am tucked securely into the strong hands of God leaves me needing nothing else.

In His hands I breathe.

God’s goodnesses and His graces are everywhere. In the small grateful moments of tenderness or in the deep kneading. In all the places we are overwhelmed.

I’m overwhelmed by grace because I’m overwhelmed.

Posted in Joy, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

The Importance of Meandering

Last summer I had a list. It was hand-written on scrap paper. Prince Charming and I took stock of the need-to’s and want-to’s around our home and then posted the list on that illustrious place of honor relegated to family masterpieces—the refrigerator.

It nagged me. All. Summer. Long.

By August I was guilt-ridden. Little had been done to complete the tasks I deemed must-do’s. I ended the summer feeling unaccomplished.

So these hot months? This year? I refuse to list. Period. Instead?

I choose to meander. To stroll through the summer and breathe in the moments, holding them tight in my chest. To ramble. To roam. To wander. To close my eyes and listen to crickets in the dark. To let go and run through the puddles after the rain.

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I don’t want to waste my summer.

Friends, I have files in piles around my house that have needed organization for over ten years. If our family has managed without that organization for this long? Well. I’m not wasting days of summer with my children to do it now. Nope.

Sure my grout in my tile hasn’t been cleaned since Ella was two. But in the last eight years the new color has kinda grown on me. So this summer? Using the latest Pinterest hack to accomplish grout cleaning? Not a chance. Instead?

I choose to meander.

Don’t worry. I haven’t left all responsibility behind. Clothes will be washed and meals, which may include a frozen pizza or two, will be prepared. Floors will be mopped and shelves dusted. But I want to live this summer feeling free to determine there are more important things in life than clean baseboards.

In recent weeks I have found myself attached to an excerpt from Tolken’s Lord of the Rings, “Not all those who wander are lost.” I’m allowing it to resonate. Simmer. While journeys across Middle Earth are not what I have in mind for my summer, walks with my children are.

To become the wanderer who lives in my soul, I’ve had to make choices. Hard choices. Like the one where I removed several apps from my phone that monopolize my time. Not because they’re evil. But because I have often chosen the apps over meandering, over my family, over my responsibilities.

Strangely, I don’t miss them.

I realized this summer I wanted to read. Not newsfeeds but books. Books which would challenge me—change me. I want to stop long enough to look into my husband’s eyes—deep and knowing.

With my children? I want to create random art projects. Play outside until after bedtime in the evenings. Eat Fro-yo dinners. Stay in our PJs all day. Watch movies late into the night.

I’m attempting to live unplanned and in-the-moment. I’ll be honest. It’s anything but easy. Guilt creeps in, pointing out all the things in my house that need care. When that happens? I’m learning to look past the things and see the humans in my home.

Prince Charming. My Princess and Court Jester. Me. We’re more important than spit-shined windows and never-ending lists.

To-do lists will never end. Summers with my children will.

Meandering restores something deep within my spirit. When I take the time to notice the small beauties of life, the significant nuances in a petal’s color, I am witnessing the very breath of God. Communing with Him.

In Him I find restoration.
In Him creativity is renewed.
In Him joy is profound.

I realize many people do not have the luxury of summers off, or any time off for that matter. But I’m learning there is always space in our lives for the meandering. Sometimes it simply happens. Other times we have to carve it into our days and the carving is always a removing of something.

I am learning to intentionally wander. If I’m not purposeful, I won’t stroll. If I don’t choose it, I’ll rush.  If I never try, I’ll miss beautiful opportunities this summer to make memories.

And the best memories are found in the slow meandering.

So this summer? I choose to meander.

Dear friends, I simply must tell you the super-fun, nature canvas art was inspired by the blogger Flower Patch Farmgirl. She’s amazing and if you haven’t ever, you should check her out! I. just. love. her.

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

Why We Need Restoration

Summer clouds are black and heavy with rain. Waiting. Waiting to release torrents onto parched ground. I feel like the ground sometimes. Waiting to fill my soul with the cool waters of renewal and the restoration they bring.

As a little girl, I watched as my father, with his strong, muscled hands, gently stripped ancient varnish and cracked paint from furniture others had tossed aside. Daddy taught my young heart the wisdom of looking beneath the weathered surface.

Because when you look hard enough you see humanity for what it can be—not what it is.

So I learned to refinish furniture. I have a few pieces I restored in college when cheap and practicality ruled. But it’s been years since I’ve made the old new. Until last summer.

I had been searching stores for a bookshelf that could serve as a bedside table. Because I’m a hoarder. Of books.

Instead of something new, I found this rag-tag and rickety shelf at a yard sale for less than $10. Score! What we won’t talk about is how much I have spent since in supplies…

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As I brought my little shelf out into the light of home, I saw the damaging marks and grooves of a novice. Someone had attempted to remove the layers of paint and stain with cheap materials and quick fixes.

It occurred to me—this bookshelf is going to take work. It’s going to take strong hands and sore muscles and an aching back.

Because restoration is always difficult.

My little bookshelf proved no easy task. The scrapping deep and sanding again and again brought beads of sweat to my brow. And so I quit. I gave up on my little shelf. It would taunt me from the garage corner all scratched and beaten.

I saw myself. The times when I felt beyond repair—in need of restoration. Bruised and dented. Cast out and forgotten in a corner somewhere. Waiting.

Waiting for the hand of the One who restores my weary soul.

But restoration isn’t gentle. The grit of sandpaper can rub against our open wounds, causing us to cry out. Yet, sometimes we need to be burnished—to be scraped. We need the layers of grim removed and the remnants of abuse scoured away.

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There are pieces of our lives that need to be restored but we hide. We hide because we know the restoration will hurt. We know it will bleed us and tear into our hearts. We know it will open wounds and rip through scar tissue.

We’re scared.

So we need to know it’s worth it. Because the painful process is easier to bear than leaving ourselves layered with the filth of time and our wounding choices.

The beauty revealed by God’s restoration is worth the salty tears.

Restoration reveals the real, the authentic. It reveals the you. Restoration takes the world’s lies and abuses, strips them away. It leaves us raw. Beautiful and ready.

Ready for the color Jesus brings into our lives. For His love to sink into our pores, to burrow deep into our lives, the Savior must first remove our layers of grime. When we allow the Restorer of our souls to soak into the depths? Our true beauty is revealed to the world because He has seeped into every facet of our lives.

He wants to restore us. He wants to make us knew. Why? Because. Because He sees us for all we can be. Not just what we are.

A few weeks ago, I dragged my little bookshelf out into the heat-filled edges of our Florida summer. I could see underneath the layers. I could envision its possibilities. I knew it was worth the work. So I finished.

That’s the thing about my Jesus—He always finishes what He starts.

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in
you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
.
Philippians 1:6

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Posted in Beautiful Life, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What You Need to Know About Labels

Say what you want about zoos. I have my own reservations about many. But while visiting my dear friends Bree and Lynn this past week in Dallas, my kids and I finally sank into the bliss of summer at a magical place of animal habitats.

The zoo. A one-stop party of animals from across the wild world. We wandered through the continents and gazed at creation. From the giraffes my daughter adores, to the tigers my boy couldn’t wait to see, we allowed our shoulders to unfurl and our heads to tip back with laughter.

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Sticky hot with the Texas sun, we meandered and strolled as much as we could while chasing children. But then I stumbled upon words. Words which stole my breath. There was a sign. A description of a caged bird.

The Lesser Bird of Paradise.

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Allow that to swirl in your heart for a moment. Lesser. Can you imagine such a label? To be caged and chained by such a name? To be forever be called…less?

Maybe you can.

We live in a world of labels. Names from which we either must live up to or come out from under. Names given to us by others—parents, teachers, friends, enemies. Names we give ourselves.

Labels fly through the air. Ready to hit their mark, tearing through the fabric of our souls. Ugly. Skinny. Fat. Addict. Controlling. Bossy. Freak. Annoying. Gorgeous. Gifted. Learning disabled. ADHD. Nerd. ASD. Mentally unstable. Crazy. Bitch. Slut. Loser. Bastard. Talented. Useless. Mistake. Smart. Waste of space.

Harsh words. Cutting words. Destructive words. Killing words.

Do you know the darkness of any of those words? Those labels? I do. The pain of a label can haunt us the whole of our lives. We allow them to define us. They fuel our mistakes. They weigh us down. They shackle us to an existence from which some only dream of breaking free.

I remember the afternoon I read a note passed from a boy to a friend about me. Ugly. That was his label. For me. I think sometimes the scar has never fully healed. And I know you bear scars too.

But.

I love that word. But.

But God.

God is the rescuer of the outcast, the discouraged, the hurting. He is the redeemer of the broken labels we’ve been given by broken people.

Because the Bird of Paradise mankind has named Lesser is still a bird handcrafted by the Creator. Every feather, every bone, every color—chosen by the same God who created you and me. He did not name the bird Lesser. Humans did.

Humans are the creators of labels. In the face of this reality, I must wonder: Who lives with a label I have bestowed? Oh, how I must guard my words.

Because God does not label. Instead He sees into our hearts. He sees the true essence of who were are. He sees all the beauty we are capable of bringing to the world. He sees His children.

I am known by the Creator of the heavens and earth as only daughter—the daughter of a King. And when the enemy comes to my door, whispering labels of venom, of poison, I need only remind him of his outcome—defeat.

While I don’t always remember that my labels mean nothing, and there are days I fall victim to the toxic words of the one who steals my joy, I find comfort in knowing through Christ, I have no label to live up to. No title to achieve. No name to be ashamed of.

My friends? Today, I ache for you to know the value and the worth you hold. You’re a masterpiece simply because you exist. You’re a precious jewel—priceless. God has created you with a purpose to be like no other on this earth.

You need never live under the burdens of human labels. Instead, cling tight to the One who designed you. He loves you just the way you are.

He stretched himself across splintered wood to prove His love knows no bounds. Just the way you are.

Just the way you are. No label can ever take that away.

When you refuse to be defined by a label? When you determine to know you are loved? When you embrace the purpose God has for you?

You will find your voice. You will sing.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Joy, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Two Things That Really Matter in Education

It’s that time of year. School awards. Graduations. Promotions. Recognizing the achievements and intelligence of our nation’s children. Proud parents beam coaxing smiles from their children for pictures and social media posts.

I’ve been one of them.

My girl’s fourth grade awards were this week. I sat with my camera poised, ready to immortalize her various certificates. Because sometimes I get caught up in the scores. You know the ones.

High-stakes testing and college entrance competition gets the best of all of us. As parents we want our children to succeed. Our country’s definition of success for the school-aged child? Perfect scores and honor rolls.

No matter how hard I try not to, I get sucked into thinking a number sets the tone for my daughter’s future.

If she fails the state test, she won’t get the right middle and high school classes. If she doesn’t maintain honor roll, I can kiss scholarships good-bye. If she gets the wrong teachers, she’ll never be prepared.

I worry so much. I worry because I forget what really matters.

The more I teach, the more I parent, the more I realize there is more to education than the honor roll.

Make no mistake. I’m a teacher. For me to say education isn’t important would be laughable. I want my students to learn. I want my children to learn. But the process is different for each child.

The time it takes for my son to learn his ABCs is different than my daughter’s.

From the moment my girl received her first report card, she has known this momma only cares that she’s given it her best. If a C, even a D, is her best, we’re her biggest cheerleaders. If she struggles to learn a concept, we’re her biggest supporters.

If she fails a high-stakes test? We take it with a grain of salt. Because as teachers, her daddy and I both know those tests are never an indication of what has been learned. Trust me.

I don’t want to raise straight A children. I want to raise life-long learners. Children who want to understand the world around them and recognize the beauty within its people. If a student only learns in order to achieve a score, the learning ends when the last test is given.

Am I proud of my sweet Ella when she does well? When she makes honor roll? Absolutely. But there’s more to her education than her test scores. The question should never be what grade did you get. Rather, what did you learn?

I want my children to learn more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.

During her ceremony this week, Ella was presented with a character award that did this momma’s heart proud. Prouder than any achievement she could have received for grades. And it hit me. All at once.

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The character of my children is far more important than their grades.

My job is not to raise honor roll students. My job is to help my children know God and love Him with all they’ve got. My job is to raise children with values, morals, and strong character.

Their character matters. If my children don’t understand why they should pursue excellence, excellent grades won’t matter. Perfect grades mean nothing if my children cheated to get them.

An education without character is the education that produces potential dictators and criminal CEOs. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of education”

Although morality does not promise a student will make straight A’s, it can determine a human’s potential for joy. And joy brings beauty to the soul.

While education is vital, the ability for my children to love their classmates means more. I am most successful as a momma if my children learn kindness, generosity, and love.  If I had the choice between children capable of straight As or children who lavish love on the world, I will always choose love.

I know what you’re thinking. Kids can’t go to college on kindness. You’re right. But I’m okay with that.

Because what if my son and daughter never go to college? Is it crazy to believe God might have something different in store for them? The future of my children will never be dictated by a score. Their future is mapped-out by God.

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Do I want my children to do well in school? Of course. Do I want them to pursue excellence? Absolutely. Yet, the pressure of perfection is never something I want them to strive toward.

Instead, when I think of education and the education of my children, there are two questions that matter most. Are they learning? Are they children of character?

If their answer is yes? This momma heart is full.

Posted in Motherhood, Teaching | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

When We Fail Our Own Expectations

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a student. As I read her words, moving and real, I felt the still, small Voice. I knew that day, reading her heart splayed across the screen, they would resonate with you too. So tonight, I have invited my student, Maddie K., to join me amongst the Petals. With strong convictions and wisdom beyond her years, she has a message you may need. I know I did. 

I’ve always lived with expectations. Expectations of those around me. Expectations of decisions. Expectations of myself. I’ve felt burdened with my standards to the point where I break. I place an overwhelming amount of trust in expectations. It’s a risky business, though, you see. More often than not, my expectations fail me.

I am left unsatisfied.

Empty.

Thirsty.

Yearning for something more than what I’ve found. Building up walls around my soul instead of breaking them down. I could never pinpoint the source for my constant yearning. My constant need for expectations to be met.

Then it hit me several years ago at Luther Springs, a Christian camp. I sat there in my cabin, my head resting heavily against my balled-up fist, my soul resting heavily against my heart. All around me were worn out posters and photos of past camps and past campers whose lives had undoubtedly been filled—yet, there I sat, as soulfully dry as the Sahara. I was lost in all sense of the word.

I was a confused thirteen year-old girl who had just experienced the turmoil of a divorce and the destruction of a content life. My expectations were ripped into a million pieces and thrown into a waste bin.

Then I saw it.

It peeked out of the corner of my duffel—sadly crisp and seldom touched. A Bible. It seemed to be calling out to me in the quiet of that cabin, “Read me, reach for me, revel in my words.”

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So I did. I picked up the unassuming book. All at once, I felt as if I was holding a spiritual elephant in my hands, weighed down by its words. I set the Bible down, unsure of where to even start. The only thing I knew: it would relieve my yearning.

Then I was reminded of a phrase often repeated in my childhood years: Let the children come to me. This pushed me to randomly flip to a page in the Bible. I landed on Matthew 11. To this day, one verse from that chapter still speaks to me:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and
humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11: 29-30

Through that verse I discovered the key in solving my spiritual unrest was simple. I needed to give control to Jesus.

That one night at camp forever affected me. I gave my expectations over to The Lord. I let Him take my burden, and was instantly changed.

Since that pivotal moment in my spiritual life, I have lived knowing that in Jesus there is solace. His expectations are far easier than mine. I have a ten-page, single-spaced, bullet-point list of expectations.

Jesus has two words: Love Me.

I expect things from earthly creation. Jesus expects things from the spirit.

I realize that every time I create expectations of earthly things I am disappointed. Yet, if I instead aim to meet God’s expectations I experience joy.

Blissful ease.

Confidence.

I will never be let down when I am led by God’s hand. He will never let go. He will never back down. He is my Father, my Abba. And He has great things planned when we live for Him. Trust me.

 

MaddieMeet Maddie! As a talented, almost-senior with a passion for track and field, she shines her light for the rest of the world to see. Her deep desire to know God more, inspires me and reminds me our teenagers have the potential to offer our world a brighter future.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Relinquishing My Inner Control Freak One Small Step at a Time

I really, really, really want to write a blog-rant against high-stakes testing. That’s what I want to do. But I won’t. Not tonight. Even if you might want me too…

Instead of an anger-filled outburst, I have to tell you what God whispered in my ear. I can’t say it’s more uplifting, but, at least for my family, it’s way more important.

Y’all. I’m a control freak.

Now. Those of you who know me, well, let’s just say you’re probably not surprise. But I was. The reality crashed over me this evening like the heat wave our Sunshine state faced this weekend.

I stood over the stove boiling water for edamame and couscous. A very tall, 10 year-old Ella peered over my shoulder. Interested. Wanting to know what I was doing.

In that moment I realized that with my watchful eye she could have prepared most of dinner tonight. It was simple. Not as simple as my staple frozen pizza, but what is?

I’m not just a control freak. I’m a control freak about efficiency. If it takes too much time, I want no part of it. Crazy messes in the kitchen? Not a problem. An extra 30 minutes teaching my daughter how to prepare a simple meal? Big problem.

I’m embarrassed to admit it

Perhaps it’s the long day at work. Or the exhaustion I feel once I cross my home’s threshold. Maybe it’s the screaming little brother in the background who just wants to eat dinner. Or that it’s just easier to do it myself.

(I think I should have stuck with my testing tirade. It would have been far less revealing.)

Despite the rationale behind my reasons for not teaching my daughter certain lessons, it misses the big picture. It misses the scope of my role as a parent.

If I am to raise children who will, one day, responsibly lead their corners of the world, I must do a better job of preparing them to live their lives without me. Because one day, they will.

This teaching of independence requires I relinquish control. Bit-by-bit. My heart aches just thinking about what my letting go will one day mean…

Dinner and independence aside, all adults need to know how to clean a toilet at some point. And as my porcelain privies seem to have a perpetual ring of mildew, I could use the child labor, I mean, help.

That’s just it. I need to be better at preparing my children to be part of the family unit. And that takes time; time I cannot control. It takes teaching them how to do chores and how to fix simple meals.

Because if they’re not expected to lift a finger, I’m raising members of the entitled generation. Lifting a finger begins in my home. Teaching those expectations? Well, that begins with me—the parent.

Oh, how I need to do a better job. But I’m not going to beat myself up tonight. Nope. I’m going to have a plan. It’s t-minus eight days before school lets out for my little bundles of chore readiness.

I can do this. You can too. Or maybe you already do. If so? You’re my hero. No, really. You are.

One simple meal a week. Aside from travel, that means my Princess will have six meals under her belt by summer’s end.

One chore a week. (May I take a moment to say, my children do have some chores already part of their repertoires.) I’m talking the bigger tasks—the ones that might allow me to have a clean house in less than two hours by August.

It may not be perfect. But I guess that’s part of what I will have to let go of too.

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Who knows? You may say I’m a dreamer.

But I’m not the only one…

Will you join me? Let’s raise a generation of kids defined by their ability to do things for themselves and not by their test scores. (Sorry…it slipped.)

I promise to lay aside my control-freak-self at least twice a week this summer. And by fall I hope to reap the harvest teamwork can bring as I labor alongside my children and my Prince.

We can do this momma!

Oh. And I’m open to ideas…

Posted in Motherhood | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Beauty of the Constant

I’ve always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. To witness the beauty, the majesty God created with just a river’s flow. Steady. Relentless. Constant.

While the unpredictable, hurried, forces like hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis, break havoc, masterpieces of nature are found in the steady.

A quiet, drenching rain soaking rich soil.
The appearance of pinpoint lights in the dark sky every night.
The magnificent display of green tones as winter slips away.
Pinks and purples and whites of wildflowers each spring.
Smooth stones with rough edges rubbed away by the tumble of ocean waves.
An early morning sunrise with its soft hues and gentle waking of the earth.

Because the sun never ceases to rise, hope never ceases to be found. Hope lies in the constant. In its beauty.

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Yet, the thing about constants is we often don’t understand their power until they’re gone. During my college years in a large city of lights, I never knew how much I missed the stars until I came home, where, in my rural community, they lit the night sky.

In recent days, a constant in my life has slipped away. My church family and I are grieving the loss of one of our pastors. And throughout my life, while many pastors have come and gone, he has been the steady, unmovable, constant force.

Pastor Skip has been my pastor for 30 years.

As a young girl during a Christmas cantata rehearsal, I remember sitting at his feet under the vivid lights of the evergreen as he placed white ornaments all around, explaining the significance of each one. The history of an ichthus is embedded in my mind because he told it to me.

When in college and the world challenged my faith with powerful, hurried forces, I called Pastor Skip. Because I knew logical answers that required faith would be given—answers that mattered in the real world.

In my mid-twenties, I sat across his desk, looking at his bright smile, asking if seminary was the right choice. He knew me. He knew my call. He knew my passions. But he didn’t tell me what decision to make.

He said, “When God is asking you to do something, He doesn’t leave it alone. It’s not a fleeting thought. Rather, it keeps coming back.”

Because God is constant.

I went to seminary.

His words of wisdom still whisper in my soul.

And so yesterday, as I drove from work, with the tears of my soul filling my eyes, only one word floated through my heart, and the power of that word began to resonate. One word that describes my beloved pastor.

Constant.

Our lives are impacted most powerfully by the steady. It’s not the flashy, loud, thunderous moments that mold us beautiful. And while roaring may set us in motion, it is the constant that smoothes our rough edges and blooms the fragrant flowers of our soul.

I want to be a constant. To be the person who is always there, in the background, creating space for lives to be made beautiful. To flow steady, offering the safe place for questions and doubt to softly land. To step away, allowing room for others to realize their significance.

The constant is the beauty of our world. Whether it be a river flowing through rock or the life of one who forms magnificent canyons in our souls—canyons which deepen our understanding and widen our compassion, it is the constant that changes our world and brightens our tomorrows.

Because the Son always rises, bringing with Him relentless hope.

This is the legacy Pastor Skip leaves me.

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Learning to Have Fun With My Kids

It’s been a long week. Friday afternoon and I’m toast. Drained by the voices of more than 160 students, all I want is a hot bath, a good book, and some soft jazz in the background.

But motherhood interrupted my dreams of blissful bubbles.

The kids wanted to go full-on redneck with the sprinkler in the front yard. Someone had to supervise. The hot sun, a good lawn chair, and soft breezes in the background became my Friday afternoon.

A mom could do worse, I guess. Or at least I thought, until little voices beckoned.

“Mom! Are you going to come play in the sprinklers with us?”

“Come on, mommy!”

I answered with a resounding, “No way. Not a chance. Um, yeah, no.”

As they dodged drops of water, I fiddled in the garage listening to the song of laughter ring from the yard. My mind drifted back to all the times I played in sprinklers during hot summers.

There was even a time my cousin and I may or may not have played in a john boat filled with water under the Florida sun. (I may know a little something about redneck, too…)

I remembered the time as a teenager at summer camp when my girlfriends and I ran in the rain, stomping in puddles, drenched to the bone. Laughing and smiling and creating memories.

Memories of rolling down hills, grass stains blooming on my knees, dirt and weeds filling my hair. And jumping in raked piles of leaves. And riding bikes with playing cards attached to the spokes so the wheels clicked down the street. And digging deep in dirt, hunting precious jewels.

And having fun.

As I hear my children giggle from the splashes of water, I wondered—When last did I have that kind of fun?

I can’t remember. With that, I did what any responsible parent would do. I took my phone out of my pocket.

And then? I joined my children. Clothes and all.

With mascara running down my face and grass sticking to my feet, I laughed and giggled. Exhaustion evaporated as I played and ran and chased and allowed my kids to soak me with the sprinkler and beat me with pool noodles. I had a blast.

More importantly? So did my children.

While cleaning up, Ella kept asking, “Wasn’t that the most fun you’ve ever had, mommy?” Though it may not have been the most fun, it was pretty incredible. She recognized our time running around the yard like hooligans as precious. I did too.

I realized this afternoon I may enjoy time with my children, but seldom do we have crazy fun together like we did today. I have to ask myself why.

Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe as parents we struggle because we have so little time to call our own. Maybe it’s exhaustion. Or busyness. Or stress. Maybe it’s just easier to say no. Maybe it’s a bit of everything.

Whatever it is, I can do better.

I do know this—I regret all the times I say no. I will never regret the moments I say yes. Moments like today.

So this weekend? I’ll be looking for more moments of crazy-fun. And I’ll be breathing in the crazy-joy they bring.

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