Thursday, April 10, 2014

Feeling like a fraud.

Maybe it's just me, but have you ever felt like a total fraud?  And then once you become aware that you've been a living life as a fraud you can't fake it anymore.  The blinders have been removed & no longer can you be oblivious or ignore the fact.  That is how I started to feel a few months ago when I considered how I "loved" others.  Sure I loved my family & friends.  Those were the easy people to love, but how did I do with the less-desirable peeps?  The ones you see on the corners?  The ones you hear about going to cold-weather shelters on a winter's night because you know THEY. LIVE. OUTSIDE.  The people who look a little different, smell a little different, make a little less,
sound a little differnt & have made some differnt choices than me.  I started to wonder if how Jesus talked in the Bible about loving others, taking care of others, feeding & clothing those who didn't have it & how everyone was made in the image of God (therefor deserving of the dignity & respect I showed my loved ones) what if all those weren't just feel-good words to take into consideration?  What if we were actually supposed to take them ,like,  literally?  What if we were supposed to live like we believed them?  Would I then need to become a radical & sell all I own & move to another country? Would we need to start a mobile soup kitchen out of the back of our minivan? How would that even work?  Do people at T-ball games even need soup? Seriously what would people think?  Would they think we've let a whole lot of crazy out or would they recognize the desire on their own hearts to do something?

Our family started to think that maybe for us it meant a little more than just sending a monthly check to World Vision for our sponserd girl in Myanmar.  Maybe it also meant we sashay a little into some uncomfortable situations so that others might benefit or at least so we could try to figure out what it meant for us to love others.  Maybe it meant we give our sleeping bags away so that on that very night someone may be a little warmer regardless of what we would do come summer time & our annual camping trip.  Maybe it meant that instead of getting upset with our boys & fretting about their sense of entitlement when it came to goldfish crackers or fruit strips at snack time that we take a pizza to some homeless people so that our kiddos might gain a bit of a different perspective.

Being a mom of two young boys I know a bit about imperfections.  How the ever present crumbs on the table & the floor can be enough to drive you cuckoo-bananas or it could be just enough to remind you that life is being lived right in front of you.  So can the needs you see & hear about in your community.  They can appear so huge that you are immobilized into doing nothing just frozen by their sheer greatness.  Or you can choose to see each one bit by bit as a tangible need you & others can meet.  The homeless drop-in center for teens wants board games?  Great, haven't ever played that cribbage game stuck in the back of the closet, like ever.  Some working poor people need some sensible shoes?  Great, I have a pair that would work.  Wait.  Am I crying about getting rid of them because they are a pair I like & are pretty cute?  Give yourself some grace.  Just because you are shedding a few tears doesn't mean that you are a selfish or self-absorbent person (at least that is what I told myself). It may mean you just came face-to-face with the realization that you have a choice.  Each time  you reach out, you love others, you see others you are choosing to put yourself a little lesser. There are some growing pains in that as it doesn't come naturally to us.  It is the opposite of everything we see & hear.  But, although it may hurt a little or be a bit messy there is beauty in it. I am starting to learn that putting yourself a little lesser is how we find some of the freedom we all long for.  When you start seeing others first you can almost hear the chinks as the wall you've built around yourself begins to crumble.  The light filters through & you wonder how long you've been in this solitary confinement you built up around yourself.  You breath in the fresh air you see the blue sky & you step out taking one messy, beautiful step after another.  Choice-by-choice.  Encounter-by-encounter.  One smile or kind word or action by another.    Probably won't get it right every time but then just try again. Slowly I hope to feel like a little less of a fraud & more like one who takes those words to heart & learns to live by them.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Imperfections-My Messy Beautiful.

Sitting in my kitchen.  Early morning drinking my first cup of creamer coffee for the day I look around in disgust.  The sink is full of dirty dishes.  The kitchen table has crumbs galore scattered all over it.  Are those from yesterday's lunch or dinner I wonder?  Did I really not wipe them off?  There are milk splatters, evidences of marker gone off the paper, scratches, indents & the table is just looking warn.down.  I am sure the table always looks like this, but this morning as the sunlight filters in just so it seems to highlight all of these "imperfections".

My husband & I bought this table when we were living in Minneapolis getting ready to host our first Friends Thanksgiving.  We realized that as our guest list grew our options of seating were dwindling.  So one day,while I was working, my husband & a friend of ours scoured The Cities for a table that would suit us.  They ended up finding a brand new table which I have to say at that time in our lives was a novelty as we were still in the mismatched, used, hand-me-down furniture phase. The table was less than $300 & the great thing was that it had a leaf that folded in to the table & when fully raised it could accommodate up 8-10 people comfortably. We were set for our feast! The not-so-great thing was that it didn't come with any chairs & our budget was used up at that point.

Thus our first of many Thanksgiving dinners with friends began with everyone bringing their own chair to sit in.  It was a mismatched & imperfect gathering of chairs, but it was a full & joyous gathering. That is the thing I seem to need perspective about so often in this season of mothering young kiddos.  Without it I can easily get amnesia.  On the mornings that I look around my kitchen in disgust I typically either shift into guilt mode: "Can't believe I let it get like this.  What a slacker mom I am that I can't stay on top of it.  I hope no one stops by."  Or I shift into To-Do list mode where I can't stop to play with the boys much less slow down long enough to answer a question they may have.  I get obsessed with the items on my list & crossing them off.  I also write things down I have already done & then cross them off to make myself feel even more efficient. Anyone else?  Seriously try it if you don't already do it.  Makes you feel a ton more productive.  There is no shame.   Don't get me wrong about the lists & accomplishing things & even cleaning  those are not bad things at all.  We are grown-ups and have grown-up things that need to get done at times.  Just for me those "things" can sometimes get in the way of living life.

Will my kids remember that we had a jacked-up table or will they remember making the messes & the memories that came along with it? Will they remember always having a full cupboard of clean dishes or will they remember me saying "Can't right now I have to do the dishes"?  Even though I am no domestic diva I can at times let the to-do's prioritize me rather than me prioritizing them.  Sometimes I see the crumbs & dirty dishes as my failings rather than as evidence of lives being lived in my home.  I see the "imperfections" as a negative & not as the obvious in-my-face reminders of how amazingly full my life is.  I am hopeful that when my boys grow up & reflect back on their childhood that the memories they hold closest to them will not be the cleanliness of our house, but that it was just dirty enough to be a happy home.  And I am hopeful that I will not get amnesia about the "imperfections" as often & will instead look around & be thankful for the beautiful mess that is my life.





Tuesday, March 25, 2014

tricky.

It is a tricky thing to be a mama & have your heart live outside of your body.  You want what is best for your little ones.  You don't want them to have their feelings hurt or to feel disappointment or loss.  You want to protect them from all of it.  Yet, the tricky part is it would be a disservice to them if we did that.  If we shielded them from all of the emotional threats that may come their way & insisted they live under our bubble of protection how would they grow into effective & healthy adults?  How would they be able to function with all of the hurt, disappointments & struggles that come along with all of the adult stuff?  How would they know to turn to a savior to find their comfort & to place their burdens?

That being said it is no fun at all to have your little one come home & say "So & So doesn't want to be my friend anymore."  When I heard that it was literally like someone sucker punched me.  Why wouldn't anyone NOT want to be friends with my kiddo I asked myself?  This amazing, fun, creative kid?!  Then I reeled myself in & started wondering what my kid did to the other kid in order to garner this response.  Then I started thinking about how much more awful things kids could & do say to one another.  Then I wondered if my kid took it out of context or if the other kid even really knew what he was saying.  I didn't want to go all mama bear like I did when this same kid would get pushed down as a toddler at the local park I just hurt for his hurt.  I could feel his sadness & disappointment & I wanted to make it all better with hugs & words & maybe some ice cream?  Okay not ice cream, but wouldn't that be awesome (maybe not for our waistlines) if a scoop of cookies & cream really did make everything better?  I would have a freezer full of the stuff if it actually worked.

 So instead of passing on my emotional eating issues to my 6-year-old I did the only thing I could do.  I asked him how it made him feel, we chatted & I prayed.  Prayed about not letting my relationship "junk" become his issues, prayed about the friends to come, prayed about how thankful I was that God will never leave my little guy & how He is the best friend my kiddo will ever encounter & I am so thankful.  I gave my son  & his relationships over to God & I have a sneaky feeling this will be something I will have to do over & over & over throughout his life.  Amazing how resilient little ones are as he was over it in a second & just wanted to know if he could go play.  I imagine eye rolling & sighing will be interjected into future like conversations, but for now I am just thankful he trusted his little heart to me & thankful I didn't get an ice cream headache from stuffing my face with some cookies & cream.


Friday, March 7, 2014

sick days.

Mama said there be days like this.  Where one sick day turns into many.  When you are sequestered in your home with sick kiddos.  When plans are cancelled, birthday parties are missed & weekend overnights & no longer a reality.  Sick days might just be the mortar that holds the family together.  Yes, there are other things that bond: game nights, great conversations, cheering from the sidelines, but at night when all is quiet & the meds have been given, the prayers said & still their feverish selves racking with coughs can't find relief there is none other than their mama who brings comfort.  It is our mere presence that makes them feel better, it is our comfort they cry out for.  Would we climb out of bed over & over in a single night for anyone other than our kiddos? Seems like a constant learning process to me.  It is churning us over & over working the selfishness out.  Teaching us to put others before ourselves.  Wiping their nose before our own.  Make sure they get the last of the OJ.  Watching hours of Jake the Neverland Pirate (will I ever be rid of that song in my head?!) because it acts as a distraction to their discomfort.

As I sat here this morning thinking how this whole sick week has had it's benefits & that surely I must be growing from it, because who would want it to all be for naught, the next thing you know I was pretending to be asleep on the couch so no.one.would.bother.me.  Gah!  Imperfect progress.  I don't think I will ever have this motherhood thing figured out.  But I guess that is one of the benefits of this vocation.  You are constantly learning & those under your care don't look down on you if you don't have it all together.  Rather they cheer & take delight in the unexpected.  They find you "asleep" on the couch & tell you it's okay if you want to go to bed.  They are on your team & you are on theirs.  Even when said team is covered in snot & coughing in your face.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

memories.

Many a times in the last few days I have sat down at this computer & started to write.  Nothing has come to completion, but it has all had the same subject matter. My dad.  He has been on my mind so much lately.  I have had so many memories come to mind that at random moments I will laugh out loud.  Just today that happened as we were in the car & my youngest asked what was so funny.  How do I explain to a 3-year-old that I was laughing about a man he'd never met.  One whom helps to make up who he is, but that he'll never have the chance to know?

My dad passed away five years ago.  On Valentines day.  Seriously?  Worst holiday ever to loose someone on.  Everywhere there are candies and hearts and balloons and flowers.  Meanwhile there are a few of us who reflect on the man who was.  Not that we wear black or don't celebrate the day.  Maybe at first it felt a little off to be doing so, but if you knew my dad you would know he would guffaw at the thought.  He never cared to be the center of attention.  He felt most comfortable behind the video camera not on the stage in front.  It is strange to think of how much has changed in the time he has been gone.  At times it seems he's been gone for decades due to so many new memories that have been made that he is not a part of .  Other times it seems only yesterday that he would be leaning on his & my mom's kitchen counter cracking himself up with his own corny jokes.

When I think of my dad I mostly recall the last few years of his life, the last week specifically, sure there are countless memories of road trips, arguments (he & I were a little too similar), fishing, guitar playing, golfing, card games & football watching, not to mention the times he busted me for coming in after curfew or the looks he would give me when he saw a new tattoo or hair color,  but what left the biggest impression on me was how he suffered so the last few years & yet never once did I hear him complain.  He lost the ability to do so much he loved & so much that we all take for granted.  He was no longer able to go hit a few balls, go out to lunch with his retired work friends much less go down stairs or walk from one end of the room to the other without totally loosing his breath.  He couldn't go into the bottom level of his house.  His skin bled & tore easily.  He HAD to have his oxygen to do any little movement.  I am sure there were many more ailments he had that I wasn't even aware of.  Maybe that was just between he & my mom who cared for him so tenderly.  Yet, he was on this earth two years longer than the doctors predicted.  He got to meet all of his grandchildren, but one, he saw all of his children mature into capable adults.  He knew when the day came for him to leave this place that he would be welcomed into Heaven by those who'd gone before him.

I think it is totally okay to take a few days & sift through the memories of someone who has passed away.  Something I've learned is that when you loose a parent no matter how near or far of a relationship you have with them you loose a tiny bit of yourself as well.  I remember confiding in a friend a few months after he had passed that I missed him.  Her reply saddened me & made me probably swear in my head at her (just being real) she said "Really?  You didn't even seem that close."  Now I know that typically people just don't know what to say when they come face-to-face with someone else's grief.  Grief is something we will all experience, but it is something we all deal with a little differently.  And unless you've gone through it yourself there is a chance you may say some insensitive things to those who are in it.  Don't feel bad though we have grace on you in the moment & then when the time comes & you go through it yourself we will be there for you.

All this to say I miss him. I wish my boys would grow up with knowing him as one of their grandpas.  I wish they could play hours of catch with him.  I wish he was still here laughing & clapping his hands together when he was trying to convince you that a shot of whiskey out in the garage is what would cure that sore throat.  But I think that it has taken him being gone for me to learn to appreciate the father he was & the wisdom he held. I wish I could say that we had an amazing father-daughter relationship & that when I think back over our lives together that they were conflict free &  that he was always loving & that I was always respectful.   But we people are messy & so are the lives we lead.  Although it was far from perfect it was ours.  And I am going to take it.  I am going to embrace our story & keep adding to it.  So that one day when my boys are talking to their children they will be able to share stories about Grandpa Wil & how he lived the life he'd been given.

Monday, December 30, 2013

picture perfect?

" Draw that yell out a little longer & keep your fist clenched like you want to hit me.  I'm just going to go grab my camera."  Said no mom ever.  I was feeling a little fake tonight about posting only adorable pictures of my adorable boys on instagram & facebook.  Any look at a pic and one would think they frolic through snow & are always near one another with loving & sweet smiles.  They could surmise that we spend time outdoors enjoying the beauty that abounds or that we whittle the days away at our local coffee shops.

But, of course we all know that social media only allows for a glimpse of real life.  It is almost impossible to share your life it it's entirety the good, the bad & the ugly.  There literally has never been one time during a tantrum or throw-down, by either of my boys, that I have paused & thought that I should document the moment.  Typically I would be A. ignoring them seeing if they could realize it is a "small" problem to be called a baby by your brother & that they could work it out amongst themselves.  B. Sending up a quick prayer & counting to 10 so that I don't also throw a tantrum or C. Referring, negotiating and/or playing the part of a judge.  (Also known as parenting.)

The moments that I do long to capture are when they are being sweet or having a lot of fun or enjoying a new experience.  Those moments are not always the norm.  They are fleeting & precious & I want to cherish them & have them be in our memories.  The other moments are not so sweet & happen fairly regularly so remembering them is not the problem.  The problem for me is that sometimes they cloud my memory causing me to have amnesia abut the great times.  Maybe it's just me, but do you ever have an awesome day with your kids & then the last few hours are less than awesome & then said less-than-awesome tries to take off with your earlier awesomeness & you are left feeling like the entire day was a total fail & you are full to the brim (or is it rim) with & coulda, woulda, shouldas? The tears & the tones of the end of the day try to tarnish the triumphs of earlier?

Hence why I think that often, we as moms, do take & share the tender & cute pics of our kids.  Not because we are trying to outdo someone else, not because we are superficial & only want to put our best faces out in cyberspace, but because we want to freeze that moment in time.  To treasure the look & surroundings of the moment so that we remember it isn't always hard or loud or whiny or messy.  Sometimes it is actually really great & enjoyable & we see the character of our kiddos & see that their hearts are growing & learning & we want to hold on to that.  We know the discouragement will creep in either prancing or pouncing on us eager to take away the glimpses of goodness we see in our kiddos.  We know that it is a tug-of-war to remember the good midst the not-so-good at the days end.  It can be a struggle to hold on to the awesome moments of our days, but those moments are ours for keeps.  We get to choose whether we give them up or hold them tight.  It is a good reminder for me the next time I wonder why someone always post's picture "perfect" shots of their family.  I get it.  They are holding on to the what is rightfully theirs & I am going to try to be thankful they are choosing to share a bit of their awesomeness with the rest of us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

being known.

I am still reeling from the outpouring of love our family received the other day.  It brought me to my knees quite literally.  Weeping with snot all over my face.  I don't know who coined the term "ugly cry" but I am pretty sure that was what they were referring too.  It is like when you are so overcome with emotion you are crying & your nose is running all while you are maintaining something that resembles a smile. Not.Pretty.  But a real & raw response to the love that knocks you over.  The kind that can only be the hand of God working through others.  If you've ever experienced it for yourself you know what I am referring to & if not you can hope that one day you do.

My family has been living in lean financial times for what seems like forever.  Although I have vague memories of buying clothes I never wore & eating out all of the time so I know it couldn't have actually been for.ev.er.  But 2009 was a long time ago & so much has transpired since then.  Jobs have been lost.  Houses have been lost.  Babies have been born. Bills have been juggled.  Moves have been made.  And that is just in our little family of four so you can imagine why it feels like it has been a lifetime ago.

As weary as it has been & although some days it may feel like it will always be as this we have experienced things that I can only imagine few do.  We have been provided for in such ways that certainly it comes from heaven above because no earthly math works that way.   We have had so many anonymous gifts that it is stunning to me to know that so many people act out of the prompts on their hearts to do something for others.  It is so encouraging & inspiring to hold everything we have with an open palm, because I, who always thought I was a fairly generous person, never knew generosity until this season.  I almost think it must take being on the humbling end of receiving to know what it truly means to give.

A tiny part of the above mentioned outpouring of love I believe is due to the fact that I  gave myself permission to admit that it was hard that it was always hard.  That the hours were short, the clothes were spent, the shoes were warn & the hearts were heavy.  Maybe it is just me, but although I love being real just as much as the next person, sometimes I find myself hesitating sharing what is going on because I fear that I will come across as a "complainer" or because of my pride.  I want to hide behind my "grateful heart is a happy heart" t-shirt & keep on keeping on, because I am living the hard I certainly don't want to hear myself talking about it or think about it anymore than necessary.  But can we just get over ourselves for a minute & realize that part of sharing about what is going on with us actually has nothing to do with us?  It is about the others. The people in our lives who love us & care for us & want to know us.  Don't we want to be known?  Don't people crave that acceptance to be known & valued by their people so much that they do all kind of crazy things to accomplish it when all that it really may take is by opening up & letting others see who we are & what we are going through?  The good, the bad & the ugly.  We weren't meant to live such individualistic lives behind locked doors & closed blinds.  We were meant to live in the open, on the porches, in community.  When we are behind the closed blinds who knows when we have a need & who is there to rejoice & celebrate with us when that time comes?  Is there anything better than sharing some fantastic news with someone & having them be as equally as excited about it for you as you are about it?  If we don't allow ourselves to share what could be a possibility then when that possibility  becomes a reality who is rejoicing along side you?!

I think sharing about what is truly going on with us good or bad is something we all get amnesia about (or maybe it's just me & this whole thing just got really awkward).  It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life & give the rote answer that everything is "good" when someone asks.  We go through life coasting from one event or errand to the next without considering what the person in the car over is going through.  We forget that everyone has a story whether in their family, marriage, job or otherwise.  I find myself doing this with my own boys at times.  I know they are right there in front of me, but I don't always actually see them.  What a difference it would make if we were all to slow down just enough to start seeing those around us.  To consider the question before firing off the answer. To pause long enough to hear the answer after we have posed the question.  I think it does take courage to let others in.  It does take some bravery to remove the mask & share an honest truth.  But the thing it we aren't alone.  Everyone is going through something.  Everyone is having a struggle no matter what it may appear on their instagram or facebook accounts.  We can choose what we put out for people to see or hear.  But if we hold back not only are they missing out, but most likely we are too.  This time of year as so many search for something significant might one of the greatest gifts you give be a bit of yourself?

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