Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

613

613. Number of ancient Jewish laws.

613. Almost the number of rules in our home when the kids were little.

61. Probably the number of different “Family Laws” based on said rules along with kids’ ages and stages.

All of this an effort to keep track of what really mattered and didn’t, what should be disciplined and what should be praised.

But mostly just a desperate attempt to manage the chaos that seemed to be a natural part of raising a family.

One not-so-glorious day, having reached the end of my mom rope, I screamed these words in exasperation:

“JUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR STUFF!!!”

“PUH-LEEZE!”

If the not-so-glorious scene had been made into a comic strip for the Sunday paper, a glowing “light bulb” would have hovered just over my red face and red head.

“AHA! MAGIC!!!”

Boxes in my brain were immediately checked for compliance:

  • Brush teeth (SELF)
  • Put gas in the car (STUFF)
  • Do NOT eat 17 cookies (SELF)
  • Do homework (STUFF)
  • No wet towels on the floor (STUFF)
  • Go to bed (SELF)
  • Get a job (BOTH). – YES. Get a job!

A new “Family Law” was imposed, one that didn’t take hours of preparation, spreadsheets and doctorates. The old charts were wadded up and saved as fire starters!

“AHH. RELIEF!”

“TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR STUFF!”

****************************

Everything in our OUTER lives is managed by this sweet, simple phrase, no matter how old we are, whether we are a male or female, who we live with, what dreams we have, or what our personalities are like.

(You could play a little game and see if you can find any that don’t if you really want to. Comment if you come up with one.)

It’s the same for me and for you, our child or our parents, our spouse or our friend, our pastor or our barista at the local coffee shop.

But what about our INNER lives? What about cooperation, kindness, generosity, respect, compassion, thankfulness, forgiveness, patience, etc., the deeper issues of the heart?

Do they land in those two columns of “self” and “stuff”?

The wisest human (not me) who ever lived emphatically says, “yes.”

In fact, he reminds us that “taking care of our self and our stuff” begins with our INNER life.

Cultivating the matters of our hearts is the best care we can take of our “selves.”

Tending to our souls is the best care we can take of our “stuff.”

His words, not mine:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

P.S. I need a new toothbrush!

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Y-E-S

When your big kid texts, “Can I come home for the weekend?” you jump at the chance and say a resounding “Y-E-S.”

When your big kid pulls in the driveway, you run outside, wave frantically and give her a hug like you haven’t seen her in five years (even though it’s only been five weeks).
 
When your big kid dumps her stuff all over your kitchen counter, you hold your tongue and remember that it’s only for a couple of days, knowing secretly you miss the “mess.”
 
When your big kid asks, “Mom, do you have ___________,” you search your house until ___________ is found underneath the sink in the back corner.
 
When your big kid shows you the tomatoes and peppers she brought you from her garden, you say, “WOW! That’s amazing!” and you figure out how to use them over the next week so you can post a picture on social media and tag her.
 
When your big kid wants to take an online who-you-should-vote-for test, you spend five hours talking through all the issues, learning and listening to her perspective while speaking your own truth, both feeling more connected afterwards.
 
When your big kid rakes the leaves into a pile on your driveway, plops herself right in the middle, throwing them into the air because fall is her favorite season ever, you take a video and post it everywhere.
 
When your big kid holds her dad’s hand during your lazy, long leaf-peeping walk, you watch from behind and your heart almost bursts because you love her more today than you ever have.
 
When your big kid snuggles with you on the couch, watching football and eating popcorn, the official family snack, memories flood your mind of a little girl spinning in a circle humming while she eats the fluffy white goodness. A lump forms in your throat.
 
When your big kid gets ready to leave, you help pack her car, make sure she has air in that tire with the flashing light on, make a bag of goodies for her two-hour ride, and give her another hug like you won’t see her again for another five years (even though it will only be five weeks).
 
When your big kid pulls out of your driveway, you shout “I love you,” hands flailing in the air, as tears well in your eyes and you allow them to flow. Your heart is sad and thankful all at the same time.
 
When your big kid texts you, “I’m home,” you breathe a long, mom sigh of relief, anticipating the next time you will be given another chance to jump and say a resounding “Y-E-S!”
.
Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Marriage, Motherhood

The Ta-Da List

17,000,000. The number of apps to manage to-do lists.

TOP priority. Get ‘er done.

The feeling of accomplishment.

Promised peace at the end of the day when it’s all crossed off.

I was trained from a bitty girl to spend time at the day’s end confessing my sins out loud and asking God for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I lied.” “I’m sorry I said mean things to my friend.”

No matter how much good I had given to the world, my final thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had MESSED UP and what I had NOT done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes). NO peace for sure.

Fast-forward to my adult years. Same. Same. Same. Just different stuff. “I’m sorry I screamed at my kids.” “I’m sorry I took a too-long lunch at work.”

One night, my little rebellious self changed it up. “What did you do right today?” I quizzed my husband as we collapsed into bed after wrangling four kids into their beds.

Crickets………………….

More crickets……………………

“I smiled at the store clerk,” he mumbled at long last.

I shook my head. I knew he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, treated everyone with dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his “to-do” list.

Lightbulb moment!

Realizing how much of our day (and night) was taken up with negative thinking, we decided to make this a best practice in the moments before we fell into slumber. “What did you do right today?”

We still began our days with a “to-do” list, but we ended them with a “ta-da” list.

It was STILL NOT the peace we were looking for, but at least a step in the right direction.

Help came in the form of what usually happened right before we crawled into bed, wiped out from the day.

Most nights, the last thing on my never-ending “to-do” list was to slip into each of my kids’ rooms and just watch them sleep (something I still do from time-to-time, even though they are giants at this point).

No matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more. I would just stand there, gazing at their cute little heads barely visible above their comforters, completely and utterly in love with them, happy.

Yes. Yes. This must be how God feels about us.

While the “to-do” lists and “ta-da” lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him.

At BOTH the beginning and end of each day (regardless of either of those lists), he gently reminds us, “I will quiet you with my love. I will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah)

TRUE, UNADULTERATED PEACE.

Posted in Childhood, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

‘Twas the end of the summer, it just wasn’t right…

Twas the end of the summer,
It just wasn’t right.
Every beach chair was packed up,
And so were the kites.

Last grains of sand,
Shaken out of the flip flops.
With dim hopes that fall shoes
could be found in mall shops.

The children were crying
all mad in their beds,
With visions of homework
crammed in their heads.

And papa in his lounge pants,
And I in my shorts,
Were ready for anything,
Definitely done making “forts.”

When checking our phones,
To see what’s on our plate,
We couldn’t believe it,
It was already past 8.

Away to the kitchen,
I made a mad dash.
To see if we had snacks.
“Oh no, forgot the trash!”

The moon was all shiny,
Its man poking fun.
“Summer is over,
caput, gone, YUP, done!”

When thoughts to my wandering
mind did come clear,
The fall is upon us,
There are things we can cheer.

Like football, Like pumpkins,
Like lattes, Like scarecrows,
Like apples, Like sweatshirts,
Like cider, Like warm clothes.

To the ice cream truck songs!
To the fireworks all night!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away! That’s right!

Make room for the soup
The outdoor fireside chats.
Make room for the leaves,
Thank God, no more gnats!

As I came to my senses,
And was settling down,
A smile snuck to my lips,
No longer a frown.

I’ll be dressed in all manner of
sweatpants and hoodies,
I’ll feel so so cozy,
All ready for some goodies.

That Halloween will bring,
Thanksgiving too.
It won’t be just eats,
It’ll be lots of hugs, true.

I spoke no more words,
But went straight to my bed,
Said a prayer filled with thanks,
For what lies ahead.

And laying my head,
And closing my eyes,
My heart felt more settled,
“My goodness! Time flies!”

I rose one last time,
To check on my crew,
“Happy Fall, my sweet ones,
I’m thankful for you!”

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Roots and Wings

“I miss you, Mom.” If I see this, or hear this, I am a puddle.
I know. I know. It might mean, “I miss your meals. I miss you folding my clothes.”
What I secretly hope is that it means they miss my good mom love for them. There’s nothing like a mom’s love, right?
But what does that even mean?
Protecting them? Feeding them (way too many meals a day in my opinion)? Keeping them safe?
Granting them freedom? Freaking out inside when they hop behind the wheel of a car? Letting them make mistakes?
This mom gig is hard.
It’s a very tricky tight rope to walk. It’s more nuanced than some quick A+B=C equation. Beyond COMPLICATED!
If I protect them at all costs, I might suffocate and smother them, not allowing them to become themselves. NOT GOOD.
If I grant them unlimited freedom, they might feel uncared for and unsafe, and very unloved. ALSO NOT GOOD.
So what’s a mom to do? How do I best love them?
Maybe I don’t have to choose either or. Total SAFETY or total FREEDOM.
And maybe it’s A LOT about how I make them feel inside.
Maybe it’s about them knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt they belong to me, no matter what they do. They are grounded, or rooted, in that place, whether they are 10 feet from me in their childhood bedroom or they are 1,000 miles away in their new apartment.
AND maybe, just maybe, it’s about them also knowing they’ve got what it takes to sprout internal wings, and I’ve given them complete freedom to become all that they were designed to be (as messy as that process is).
It doesn’t seem to matter if they are 2 or 22.
It takes lots of mom time and energy (and a lot of asking God) to make all these decisions with wisdom, not to smother, but to give proper roots, AND to know when and how and why to lovingly “kick them out of the nest” to soar to heights way beyond my mom imagination.
Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Thanks

Painted KINDNESS

It happened again.

Children brought hope to my discouraged heart.

Hope in the form of painted rocks.

Painted rocks outside our local elementary school.

Messages of goodness, encouragement and kindness splattered all over simple gray stones.

In “pre-crazy times,” I would have thought, “how cute” and moved on quickly.

Not now. I stopped, savoring each one, breathing a prayer of thanks.

Thanks for each child. Thanks for the purest and simplest of words, designed to breathe life into my disheartened soul.

I needed these rocks. I needed these deliberate acts of kindness from children who decided to take a moment to paint rocks.

I want to be like them when I grow up.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grandparenthood, Motherhood

KINDNESS shows up in a firetruck

KINDNESS shows up in a firetruck.
.
Lights flash. Roto-Ray spins.
.
KINDNESS squeezes red engine into cozy firehouse space.
.
Obsessed toddler waits, wonders.
.
KINDNESS steps out of large hook and ladder.
.
Puddle-jumping little boy watches his every move.
.
“Where you been lately, my little friend?” KINDNESS asks.
.
Normally chatty two-year-old falls reverently silent..
.
KINDNESS speaks words that change the world. “Want to take a ride?”
.
Blue eyes sparkle, pint-size feet race, Mommy scoops, seatbelts clasp.
.
KINDNESS turns key and motor roars to life.
.
Lights flash again. Sirens scream. Tot revels. Mema savors.
.
Driven by KINDNESS, “Big Red” circles block, little tyke stunned.
.
Papa waves, beholding rescue vehicle-infatuated grandson’s enraptured face.
.
KINDNESS does what KINDNESS does best: makes a little someone’s world better by ONE simple act.
.
Loose-lipped toddler scampers home to tell Daddy all about it.
.
KINDNESS shows up in a firetruck.
.
Posted in Childhood, Family, Guest, Motherhood

Cognitive Dissonance and the Upcoming School Year

I was off to the races yesterday morning.
My teacher/daughter and I were chatting about the upcoming school year and ALL. THE. THINGS. surrounding it.
I had a million ideas and shared them a little too eagerly.
Here’s what you should do!
Look at this idea I found on Pinterest!
Ya-da ya-da ya-da.
“Whoa, Mom,” she gracefully, yet boldly stopped me. “I can’t do this right now. I have to take one step at a time. I need to WAIT for my district before I dive in.”
You know what I did?!?
Not my normal, “but I think you should…”
I stopped. Just like she asked me to.
Yes, often I am the teacher, the wise one, the mom giving counsel.
But motherhood is a two-way street. I am ALSO often the learner, the ignorant one, the mom receiving guidance.
We got off the phone, me feeling beyond grateful that I have a daughter who is really coming into HER OWN VOICE and here is what she wrote only an hour later.
WISDOM beyond WISDOM.
Yup. It was good for me to zip my lip and open my ears.

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 10.23.27 PM
Education is under fire right now. It’s the next big thing under scrutiny during this pandemic. School districts, administration, and educators are under a microscope as the world cries out, “What do we do next?”
As a teacher wrestling with this very question, here’s the truth: No one knows! There is no right answer.
At the same time, there are lots of other true things:
Kids are falling academically behind
Parents need to go back to work
COVID cases are rising in many states
There are high risk teachers, students and family members
Children’s mental and emotional health is important
All of these truths exist in exactly the same space.
The questions we must ask ourselves are:
Can we sit there with them?
Can we sit there as one truth butts up against another, rubs it the wrong way or opposes it completely?
Can we sit there with truths swirling around without letting go of others?”
That is HARD.
And when things get hard we want answers.
We want certainty.
We want someone to blame when things go wrong.
Instead, can we acknowledge that when things are hard, mistakes are most likely going to get made not because we are bad but because we are HUMAN?
Brene Brown (my famous life coach and secret BFF) speaks to this phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. In her words, cognitive dissonance is “the psychologically painful process of trying to hold two competing truths in a mind that was engineered to constantly reduce conflict and minimize dissension.”
In a nutshell, holding opposing truths is real soul work. It is hard but worth it.
In the sacred space of my classroom, I teach my students that mistakes make them HUMAN, not bad. Together we engage in the truly and completely vulnerable act of learning. I want them to extend grace to themselves and to others as we find that perfection does not exist, but love does.
As teachers, as parents and just simply as people, may we have the wisdom and willingness to get uncomfortable sitting with multiple truths at the same time. May we model for our students and our children, not how to make perfect decisions but how to make them in love.
So what are you, your family, your school, your district going to do this fall? Let’s aim for love, not perfection.
Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Saved?!?!

Wait!!! What?!?!

Me? Not my kids’ savior?

But I’m a mom and I want to be. So very much.

I like saving them.

From pain.
From loss.
From danger.
From rejection.
From struggle.
From failure.
From judgment.
From conflict.
From bad choices.
From all that’s wrong with the world.

It feels really good.

For the moment.

But I know it’s not good.

For their hearts.

Because when I am their savior,

I am also “saving” them…

From growing.
From confidence.
From adventure.
From learning.
From independence.
From success.
From connection.
From responsibility.
From good choices.
From all that’s right with the world.

Doesn’t sound like much saving in the end.

Then what’s the point of this motherhood gig?
If it’s not for saving?

Hang on a minute.

Wait for it.
Wait for it.

What’s that still small voice whispering inside?
What’s that “aha moment” I can’t deny?

Has motherhood saved me?
Has it?

By…

bringing me JOY that I’ve never known before
revealing PATIENCE as I stumble along in the unknown
breathing HOPE when I need it the most
reminding me of BEAUTY in the ordinary moments
granting KINDNESS when I can’t find any in myself
allowing me to experience unconditional LOVE
opening my heart to see the tenderness of good good GOD

The question persists, but the answer comes.

PERHAPS IT HAS.
PERHAPS IT REALLY HAS.

Note to self_ Motherhood is not a religion and I am not the savior of at the center.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Guest

The Top 10 Things I Learned As a Dad (from three of the best)

(I asked three of my favorite dads…including my awesome husband…what they learned from being a dad.  Here are their responses.  They are brilliant.)

  1. Not to judge other parents.  I haven’t walked in their shoes.  We all need grace.  It’s the hardest job there is.
  2. To admit my mistakes and to be the first to apologize to my kids when we conflict.
  3. To make the relationship and not the rules the priority.  To focus on their heart and not their behavior.
  4. To listen more and lecture less.
  5. That how I live counts much more than what I say.
  6. That boundaries are key and that knowing how to manage boundaries (set, maintain, relax, alter, scrap, reinforce) is ridiculously complicated and confusing.
  7. That I lack patience and am not long-suffering.
  8. That it’s really hard to keep loving your kids when they are obnoxious.
  9. The mistakes I made as a dad can be redeemed as I grow and change.
  10. What it’s like to love unconditionally.  Period.  End of story.  No matter what they did, I would love them.  It helped me understand God’s unfailing love for me.

(Credit to Glenn Murphy, Allen Goetz and Frank Ellerbusch…Happy Father’s Day to you!)