The Gratitude Attitude

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The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers.

I wish I could take credit for it, but that nugget of profound divine wisdom came from the brain (and no doubt the heart) of Ann Voskamp. She, along with Lysa Teurkeurst and Mother Theresa are my heroes. Women who have known great heartache and yet continue to dig deeper into their faith and over and over cling to God’s promises like a life raft. Truth be told, I want to have a sleepover with them in which we braid each other’s hair and eat Bluebell Bride’s Cake ice cream (maybe drink wine?) and if I’m being totally honest… Max Lucado and David Jeremiah will deliver chips and guacamole. Yes, I am aware that Mother Theresa is no longer with us. It’s my fantasy. And maybe it involves time travel. But I digress….

The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers. 

My girl Ann (I feel like we’re at the point in my obsession that I can call her Ann) wrote a book in 2011 called One Thousand Gifts. Her first book. I read it circa November 2013ish. At the time she was a mother of six children that she homeschooled on their family farm. In a season of humdrum day in and day out laundry, long division, supper and chaos she wrote about being grateful for everything, in everything. It was a game changer for me in my humdrum season of diapers, dancing routes and dishes. I don’t think my gratitude journal got quite to 1000 but it did flip the script on me. I saw everything as something for which to be grateful. Okay, checked the box. Learned about gratitude. I’m all fixed, right? Until the next thing.

Through her gratitude journey she had an epiphany. She discovered and rediscovered throughout the Bible that the miracle, any miracle, was always preceded by thanks. She wrote about “eucharisteo” relentlessly. Which I learned is a Greek word meaning to be thankful. Psalm 50:23 tells us that if we offer thankful offerings, He will show us salvation. Thanks then the miracle. In Daniel 6:10 he prayed and gave thanks three times a day then when thrown into the lion’s den God sent an angel who shut the mouth of the lions. Thanks then the miracle. In Luke 17 Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one came back and thanked Him. What did Jesus respond? “Your faith has saved you.” Thanks then the miracle. Jesus realized in Matthew 11 that cities where He had performed miracles and healings did not repent. In the face of apparent failure, He still gave thanks to the Father. In John and Matthew, we hear of the feeding of the multitudes. Jesus took five loaves and two fish, gave thanks and fed 5000 people and ended up with leftovers. There was not enough–then thanks was given–then there was more than enough. Thanks then the miracle. In John 11 Lazarus was dead and stinking for 4 days. Jesus thanked God for hearing him AND THEN told Lazarus to get up. Thanks then the miracle. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, on the night before He died (a death He knew was coming), Jesus gave thanks, broke bread and gave it to his friends. Hours later He willingly suffered things beyond our human comprehension and yet before He did, He gave thanks. And we all know how that story ends. Thanks then the miracle of miracles.

Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “…pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…” Not sometimes. Not in good times. In all times. Across Christian churches, we all break bread. We all, in some fashion, remember the sacrifice of the Last Supper. The priest, deacon, pastor, brother, minister, padre, man of the cloth, preacher, reverend, or old Parson Brown repeats the words of the gospels “…. he took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them…” Sunday after Sunday we as Christians start our weeks off in this way. Ann says, “Doesn’t the continual repetition of beginning our week at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our lives into the context of thanksgiving?” Mic drop.

So here we are in November again and even though Hallmark and Target want us to believe it’s time to shop and falala, God expects us to slow our roll. Which is why He placed Thanksgiving right before Christmas. Yes, I am aware that Thanksgiving is an American holiday brought about by the Indians and Pilgrims…sorry, Native Americans and Persons Who Journey. But somebody had to light the spark of peace for them to break bread (sorry, maize) and God chose the fourth Thursday of November to do so…. roughly four weeks before the birth of His son. Hence, God placed Thanksgiving right before Christmas. Duh. Is there a greater miracle than Christmas? A baby born to a virgin; an event prophesied for thousands of years in great detail. And so, before that miracle, we are to give thanks.

I think we all try. We thank Him for our health, our job, our family, our freedom. Okay we checked the right boxes so can we eat turkey now? Can we shop yet? Where’s the damn elf? But when we sit in the aggravation of our schedules, the tedium of our chores and the debilitating noise of our donkeys (sorry, our children) can we still give thanks?

The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers.

Many years ago, one Black Friday evening I sat at a table in a sushi restaurant with dear friends. Through tears, I told them all I wanted was a “wrapping paper hanging from the ceiling fan kind of Christmas morning.” They all had those kinds of Christmas mornings. At the time it was still just Jacob, Abby and me. Lane had gone on home to Jesus and the two littles hadn’t come along yet. We had several years of calm and quiet mornings of very orderly gift opening. Then I would dress my one child in her smocked best and we’d set out to do Christmas. The first year that there was another child to tuck in on Christmas Eve, I remember hitting my knees that night so utterly grateful for childREN to tuck in. And now there are three. And I can tell you that the wrapping paper doesn’t just hang from the ceiling fan on Christmas morning. I find scraps of it well into June. God answered that Black Friday evening sushi prayer in abundance. And every Christmas Eve night I hit my knees in gut wrenching gratitude that there are childREN tucked in under my roof. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is recognizing that the wrapping paper doesn’t just hit the ceiling fan on December 25 by chance. Those kids train for that ALL—YEAR—LONG. The hard part is being grateful for the other 364 mornings. And afternoons. And evenings.

Like the cinnamon toast war. They got punished from cinnamon toast for two weeks. Apparently my complete worth is wrapped up in my ability to make two equally “juicy” cinnamon toasts each morning. I have tried. I have stood over the toaster. I have tested the settings. I have kept the butter both covered and uncovered on the counter. I have tried spreading it with both spoon and a knife, both plastic and metal. They are never both equally juicy. And each morning I am reminded of my failure and I promise them I’ll try harder tomorrow. But the morning that Middle Donkey snatched the juicier toast from her sister’s plate, I knew that mornings in our house would never be the same. I watched Middle Donkey cower on her barstool scarfing it down while Baby Donkey beat her over the head with her dirty and torn Bunny Bear. The ante had been upped and I had to intervene. I declared a two week moratorium on cinnamon toast until cooler heads could prevail.

Or the night of four grilled cheeses. Baby Donkey finally settled on grilled cheese for supper. Attempt #1 had too much cheese. The horror. Attempt #2 had some crusted cheese on the outside of the bread which had re-melted from Attempt #1. How could I be so careless? Attempt #3 I knew would be THE ONE. I was going to eliminate the cheese all together. In the words of my dearly missed Maw-Maw, I’d fix her little tee-nah nah. Until halfway through my effort, my almost an engineer husband said, “Hey smartass, how are you going to get the bread to stick together without the cheese?” Attempt #4 she ate. I can’t duplicate it though because I had already thrown the spatula across the house and the pan in the sink and my almost an engineer husband, the hero that he is, *eye roll*, made an apparently perfect grilled cheese.

Hard to imagine battles fought over Evangeline Maid bread are miraculous answers to any prayer I’ve ever prayed. But to give thanks in all things, means all the things. So Lord, I thank you for ornery, grouchy, finicky eaters. I think???

The easiest thanksgiving prayer ever prayed is the Thanksgiving Day prayer. Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Box checked. But can we pray thanksgiving prayers every other day? Can we thank Him for today’s ordinary?

The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers.

 

 

 

Still?….Still.

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I just don’t think I’m cut out for this whole parenting thing. Motherhood…I don’t think it’s for me. I tried. But now I wanna be a bartender in the Florida Keys. With tattoos. And dreadlocks. Yes, definitely dreadlocks. There are more of them than me. And if you count my adorable 42 year old husband who is still not quite raised and the furry oreo I also tend to, that’s five people (yes the dog thinks he is a person). And somehow in the middle of this chaos God wants me to be still. Me? Still?

“They” say that with little kids come little problems. With big kids come big problems. Well whoever “they” are, they lied. They’re all big problems. And the worry that comes with them is even bigger. “They” don’t tell you any of this in the parenting books. Not that I’ve read any of the parenting books.

Maybe it’s the annual psychotic, Game of Thrones episode every day on repeat, exhausting, when will it end, stop adding stuff to my calendar, I dare someone to plan one more meeting in the month of May that causes me to reflect. When you’re a mom your year goes from August to May. Not January to December. Kids get a year older in May. Despite when their birthday is, they age in May. So that’s when you look back and see all the boxes you’ve checked.

This year, among many other things, we checked brain tumor off the list. Well, let me rephrase. We checked lack of brain tumor off the list. Spoiler alert: Molly is fine. She has asthma. But for a few very difficult weeks, we didn’t know. So I’m sitting in the chair at the hair salon and she had just applied the first brush stroke of color when school called and said she had passed out and was very lethargic. I have the unusual gift of being calm in a storm. I can process chaos like nobody’s business so I was able to very rationally give orders to my husband to go pick her up and bring her to me and we would go to the ER. I was able to calculate that it would take the same amount of time for him to go get her as it would take me since I would have to rinse this color out. And if he went at least I’d have taken care of my gray roots in the process. I mean it was really a win-win situation. We discovered she’d actually had a seizure and what followed were weeks of tests and waiting and then two more trips to the hospital and a lot of fancy expensive doctors. Along with an insurance change smack dab in the middle of it. Little kid little problem? Not quite. We started off looking for a mass and ended up with asthma. Sounds easy enough but it was brutal. And when she looked up at me from the hospital bed with electrodes coming out of her gauze wrapped head and said, “This is the worst day of my life,” I could only think how much worse it could get. And the sight of that helpless child in that bed nearly broke me. I told God you know what I am capable of and this is not it. I am not capable of watching my own child suffer. The next day was the MRI and I laid in bed that morning asking where was this strength going to come from? The pediatrician said “We need to rule out a brain tumor” and that’s what today was. And alllllll of the You’ve got this’s and Just trust God’s plan’s were utter crap to me at that time. Because I know better than anyone that sometimes God’s plan is hard. Sometimes kids aren’t okay. Sometimes there really is a problem with their brain. So I laid there asking how am I going to get out of this bed and do this today? Ultimately she was given the all clear by radiologists, a cardiologist, a neurologist and two hospital stays later we had put the pieces together and we had asthma. I’ll take it. With open arms, Lord, I will take asthma.

In the middle of that my husband’s company sold. When oil pays the bills it’s not a question of if but a question of when the company gets sold. We white-knuckled our way through a few very difficult, confusing and intense months. Many, many porch mornings and afternoons with Lauren Daigle’s “Trust in You” on repeat. Begging Him to move the mountain, part the water and give the answers. And for a long time He didn’t. I would have to just keep repeating “There’s not a day ahead you have not seen”. Some days over and over. And all of the It’s all going to work out’s and Trust God’s plan’s were utter crap to me. Sometimes husbands do get laid off. Sometimes families do have to move out of state. Sometimes there’s not enough money in savings to ride it out. Information and news changed daily. Sometimes hourly. What we needed and what we wanted were two different things and what to pray for was confusing. And for a minute it looked like He had settled it with only what we needed. And it was hard to be grateful for it. So hard that He took it away for a few days. Until I was grateful. It was such a confusing time—waiting for test results, waiting for employment updates, waiting, waiting, waiting. And I wasn’t very quiet in the waiting. I was anything but still. Until he forced me to be. When He dragged me home on Black Friday, in the middle of the afternoon, when I had plenty of shopping left to do…I knew He wasn’t playing around. My husband had to fly out that day to an emergency in the Gulf—a place he hadn’t been in probably a decade—and then He had my new sofa delivered an hour later and pretty much took me by the ear and sat me down in that nook of the corner. Now known as “Momma’s Spot.” We still had no answers on Molly or the work situation but He had had enough of the busyness I was surrounding myself with. So I sat. And I sat there until Monday morning. He drew me to the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. And to the verse that says “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” And then I got it. In a figurative sense (and some days quite literally) I would duck down and cover my head in my arms and sit still. Your battle Lord, not mine.

The hardest prayer for a mom to pray is Your Will Be Done, Lord. We are Momma. We know best. Trusting Him with my children is not a comfortable concept to me. Fourteen years ago almost to the day He broke my trust. He showed me that sometimes it is really not okay. Sometimes He takes children back. Sometimes some things don’t work out this side of Heaven. So as for trusting Him…..He’s having to prove Himself.

Like trusting Him with that 17 year old girl of mine’s wings. She’s so good and smart and beautiful. And obedient and pure and faith filled. And with that, sometimes hidden. We see her gifts and talents and strengths. We know that in His time it will be her time. But can she wait? Will she get impatient and lower her standards, lose focus and toss her goals aside? Can she keep doing the work, making the grades, volunteering the time and doing the good even when she goes unnoticed? So what’s the plan here God? Will college be her day in the sun? Are we storing treasures away and gaining perspective on what’s really important? Because what I see, what I’m afraid of, is a young lady saying what’s the point? Everybody else is or isn’t. Why do I have to do this and not do that? But then….she wins an election and gets chosen for the class. She stands up for herself and gets the A. Okay God I see what you’re doing. So I cover my head and sit still. Your battle Lord.

Like when the 8 year old won’t wear shorts. She doesn’t like the hair on her legs. The blonde hair on her legs. She has noticed that other girls don’t have as much hair on their legs as she does. So she doesn’t want to wear shorts unless she can wear knee high socks too. She’s begging to shave. In the 2nd grade. You find her outside on the porch with a pair of scissors. She is cutting the hair off of her legs. For hours. And all you can think is she will try and swim in leggings this summer. And what will she do in the not so distant future when her legs aren’t the only places she has hair. And it won’t be blonde then! Jesus take the wheel. And she doesn’t like her teeth. Her two front teeth. She asked the Easter Bunny for whitening strips. She has mastered the art of the soft smile because she won’t show her teeth in a picture. So what’s the plan God? Are we building character? Strength and tenacity? Because all I see is a very timid socially awkward young girl who’s going to hide in the bathroom at sleepovers and sit in the car at school dances. But then…she reads at her First Communion mass, in front of a church full of people, standing at a podium with a microphone. Two years ago she ran off stage from her Kindergarten awards ceremony, wailing and sobbing the whole way. Okay God, I see what You did there. So I cover my head and sit still. Your battle Lord.

The 5 year old wants to be a waitress when she grows up. Good thing pumpkin because there won’t be any money left for your college by then. We’re spending it all on Momma’s therapy, eczema cream and Symbicort. The same 5 year old who wants to drive a black jeep with glitter wheels when she’s a teenager. Who asked for “smokey eyes” for her dancing pictures and keeps calling her Nanny to wax her eyebrows. Who has crushes of equal value on an 11 year old, a 45 year old father of two and our parish priest. Who says, “Heyyyyy Handsome” when her daddy walks out in a suit. So what’s the plan here God? Are we crossing our fingers and hoping for the best? That as long as the restaurant where she potentially waits tables doesn’t have a pole we will consider her a success? Or are we fostering confidence and independence? Because all I see is THAT kid other moms talk about who corrupts their little angels. The one who will be hanging out of the window of her boyfriend’s four wheel drive. But then….she receives a Responsible Discipleship award and remarks how “pray-ful” nuns are and she wants to be just as “pray-ful”. And she has a 25 minute discussion on President’s Day about her struggle with whom to love more…God or Abraham Lincoln. Okay God….I see….yeah I got nothing. I have no idea what You’re doing with that one. But I will cover my head and sit still. Your battle Lord.

Yeahhhhh I don’t know if I’m cut out for this motherhood thing. But in the midst of battle, if we’re lucky, He sends us Sista Wives. Not to be confused with Sister Wives. I will share just about anything but I ain’t sharing “that” so let’s be clear. Sista Wives. They’re the friends that make our kids their kids and their kids become our kids. They’re the ones we call to bring this one here and we drop theirs off there. We feed their kids in our car and they listen to sight words in theirs. When it happens to one of our kids it happens to all of us. Because let’s face it, whatever our kids do, we do. In the past year we’ve made cheerleader, won Vice President, been chosen for Campus Ministry class, won the coveted Religion award, played middle school football, high school football, tennis, volleyball, basketball, tumbled, danced, cheered, pep squadded, broken a track record, taken singing lessons, learned to read despite the odds, been on dates, lost four teeth, thrown 13 touchdown passes, made 20 AR goals, made A’s on two Chemistry finals, graduated high school with honors, made our First Communion and NOT had a brain tumor.

Hashtag winning.

We’ve also suffered an avulsion fracture which resulted in two surgeries, dislocated our shoulder twice, bombed a Chemistry test, confessed to cheating, thrown interceptions, had way too much girl drama, quit karate, gotten in two fender benders, had strep throat six times and flu four times, locked our keys in our car twice, stayed out til dawn once, we’re repeating Kindergarten and apparently now we have asthma.

Hashtag still winning. Still. There’s that word again.

I Saw God Today

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I really wanted to title this post “I can’t make this $h!t up” or “Are you freaking kidding me?” but I went the more inspirational route.  When I last left my 63 faithful blog followers, my other half was to have surgery two weeks into summer.  A procedure that would alter the plans of our entire summer….the 10 week block of time that my very soul longs for the other 42 weeks out of the year.  And true to form, I threw a hissy fit, cried a bit, shook my fist at the Big Man and then put on my big girl panties and faced it like a Momma.  Three days before we walked into battle he developed a complication that delayed us…indefinitely.  But I got on board with this God.  I made this work in my plans God.  And He said…sorry Queenie, My plans not yours.  It was weeks of delays, other doctor appointments, changed vacations, changed deadlines and shuffled workloads-both his and mine– before we had another surgery date.  The longer it went on and the more summer that slipped away I started to understand the plan a bit. And when I realized how much easier it would be on his recovery with the kids in school, I saw God that day.  Although we’d had a summer of complete limbo, we didn’t get the vacation we’d planned, we still got one and nobody had to miss to a single swim day or a single popsicle.  I saw God that day.

So he comes home from an appointment and he has a surgery date.  And I had given him a choice of dates that worked best for me.  Here, give the doctor these dates and you and he figure out what works best for each of you based on this list.  K?  Thanks.  He comes back with a date….a week before school starts.  Are you kidding me? You cannot have surgery a week before school starts?  You’ve waited this long, you can wait another two weeks.  I know you can do it.  He didn’t agree.  So then, on the porch, God and I had THIS convo:

Dude.  You’re not serious?  The week before school starts?  I’m not even finished uniform shopping.  We have no school shoes.  We’ve got to get haircuts.  Order bows.  Monogram bows.  Kindergarten orientation is the night of the surgery.  We still have 7 days to cram in last minute summer fun and memories.  What are you thinking?  You could NOT have possibly picked a worse day for surgery, after all this time, than the week before school starts.  

To which God very clearly responded….Hold my beer.

Thirty six hours before surgery, while taking out the trash, my beloved got bitten by an ant.  One lone ant.  Not on the toe, or ankle or even the hand from touching the trash can.  One supersonic, tiny ant clearly possessed with the spirit of Lucifer himself went rogue and bit him on his hip one half inch from his future incision site.  Which just to be clear, was covered by clothing.  Two layers of clothing assuming he was wearing underwear that day.  An hour or so after the attack he shows me the bite and I just started laughing.  So I did what any sane wife would do.  I put apple cider vinegar on it, followed by alcohol, followed by holy water.  Duh.  Then at 5:30 the next morning went to a friend’s house and got her miracle cream and put more alcohol and holy water.  And then with our tail between our legs we called the doctor.  He took one look and said “Duuuuuude maybe you’re not supposed to have this surgery.  Of allllll the places to get bit.”  And then he comes home with a new surgery date.  The first day of school.

Ya’ll.

So there I stood, with my jaw on the floor and in my hand, God’s proverbial beer.  Oh I definitely saw God that day.  In all His might showing me who was boss.  And that’s when I felt completely confident that we had a firm surgery date.  This one was would  stick because the only other less convenient date He could give us would be Christmas Day.

I don’t think I spoke for three days.  Well not beyond the usual nagging and bossing of the donkeys who live under this roof.  Aggravation, confusion and overwhelming dread had set in.  For a mom who’s had the same first day of school drop off routine for 12 years–he drives, I video and commentate, they smile and sometimes cry, then I cry and always smile (when I walk into a quiet house)– to learn that I wouldn’t even see my donkeys that morning kinda broke me.

And then of course they don’t all start on the same day.  But when I realized that my most needy, least confident one would start the day before, I saw God that day.  If ever there was a child who needed her momma to drop her off on the first day of school it was that middle donkey of mine.  My big donkey and my baby donkey would survive their first day without Momma.  Gulp.  My big can drive and dress herself and jumped at the chance to sleep out.  And my baby, well she could run the world with her bracelets on her wrist and a candy in her pocket, flirting her way to power.  So all three got spread out amongst that village of mine and I saw God that day too.  Because the pictures were taken, the holy water was sprinkled, the signs were written, the car ride prayers were said and off they went to 11th grade, 2nd grade, and Kindergarten.

Surgery, check.  Recovery, check.  Awful night in the hospital where no one sleeps, check.  First physical therapy session, check.  Occupational therapy session where they teach us how to survive the next 6 weeks, check.  Wheelchair ride to our car, check.  We get home to settle in before the donkey brigade rides in and we have no electricity so we can’t raise the garage door so we can’t get in the house.  Of course neither of us can find a house key to use a side door so we track down the 16 year old who is far more responsible than her parents and get her key.  We finally settle in and here come the donkeys.  Don’t touch daddy, don’t jump on daddy, leave daddy’s walker alone, no you can’t see daddy’s bo-bo, clear the path right here so daddy doesn’t trip.  We were so careful to keep daddy safe and upright that nobody was watching Momma.  Who tripped over baby donkey and hit her ankle just so on the corner of the bottom stair and hit the floor.  Wailing,  sobbing and screaming the whole way down.  Apparently so much so that 16 year old donkey joins me on the floor and whispers “Momma I’m calling 911 to come get you.”  I stopped her but I did call a friend to take me for an X-ray.  That poor clinic doctor. Bless his heart.  “If it’s broken it’s okay, we’re gonna put you in a boot and you’re gonna see an orthopedist Monday and go about your business. Do you know an orthopedist?” Do I know an orthopedist? DO I KNOW AN ORTHOPEDIST? Matter of fact, I saw one at 7am this morning when he discharged my husband–from-the-hospital.  Same husband who can’t drive for 6 weeks. Husband who needs newborn baby level care right now.  Yessss I’ll just call the orthopedist and then right after that he’s going to call the social worker. It wasn’t broken.  Sprained and bruised.  I saw God that day.

Day two of recovery was baby donkey’s 5th birthday party, which had been scheduled way before  the final surgery date was set.  My only duties were to show up with the co-birthday girl, smile (or try to) and two hours later check the box.  The other co-birthday girl’s momma had handled every detail right down to the treat bags (we all know I don’t do treat bags)…and when all I had to do was write her a check, I saw God that day.  Thank you village.

Our first full week with his new hip did not disappoint.  We unexpectedly saw the doctor on day one with an incision issue.  Then there was a school meeting every night that week for something.  When I got home from meeting number one my oldest tells me, “Daddy is in bed with the covers up to his neck and his teeth are chattering.”  Gulp. That could only mean fever which could only mean infection.  Double gulp. Fever was 100.4.  Paperwork said call at 100.6.  Okay we’re good.  Thirty minutes later we were at 102.5 and two hours later 104.5 and maxed out on meds.  Two calls to the doctor later and we’re still riding it out.  And by we, I mean me because he was not very engaged.  I have walked the floors with four sick kids over the years and am no stranger to fever.  But let me tell you.  A 220 pound 41 year old man, shivering uncontrollably, not speaking very coherently….literally brought me to my knees.  I can honestly say it was the second scariest night of my entire life.  When you’ve got a sick baby with high fever, you toss them in the car seat and head to the ER.  But by 2am when I had a grown man trying to get out of bed and not listening to reason who was a major “fall risk”, I didn’t have many options.  I could not have handled him myself and 911 seemed a bit dramatic.  So I prayed, prayed, prayed and at 5am we were at 100.1 and by 7am we were at 98.9. Okay crisis averted.  I saw God that morning.  After sending my little donkeys off to school I tucked him in all nice and neat into the recliner with the remote and I climbed into bed.  Just to be safe I called the doctor to update them but I let them know there was no reason to worry because the fever had broken.  Just as I closed my eyes they called and said he may have a blood clot and to go in for ultrasound now.  Four hours and no blood clot later I climbed back into bed.  And woke up to find that supper had been delivered and the kids were being picked up from school, fed and dropped off later.  I saw God that afternoon too.

I saw God a lot in the weeks that followed.  And boy did God see a lot of me…and not always my best side.  But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?  Where’s the barbell because I’d like to see what I could bench press today.  Busy moms, run don’t walk and load the bible app “YouVersion.”  There is a reading plan for everything under the sun.  Most are 5-7 day plans and each day’s readings are short and concise.  Which is about all I’ve been able to devote these days. On a particular trying morning, during a particular trying week, I was on the final day of the study titled “The Warrior We Call Mom.”  My pre-prayer convo went about like this….5:04am: Lord, I’m about done. He’s got to go.  Five weeks of togetherness is enough Lord….he’s healed.  He’s—got—to—go.  And I opened the day’s devotional and it was titled, “Fight the Enemy in Your House”…well Lord I wouldn’t say he’s my enemy per se…but he has got to go. 5:06am The devotional read, “You might be similar to Jael today–a mom who dwells in her tent and is faithful in her own territory, seemingly unarmed and far from dangerous to your adversary…..You may choose to believe that the battle is someone else’s responsibility because you are up to your eyes in laundry…..But you, woman of God, are the secret weapon that God desires to use on the front line.  Jael fought the one battle that would win the war all by herself in her living room”  Okay. God.  Seems kinda dramatic but what are you saying? 

 5:09am: Then the Scripture reading.  And I quote what was given to me in the context in which it was given: “But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent stake and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay asleep, exhausted.  She drove the stake through his temple into the ground and he died.”

5:12am text to my Soul Sista read: “I’m pretty sure God just told me to kill Jacob.”

5:12 and a 1/2 am text received from my Soul Sista read: “I just spit coffee all over my phone, please explain.” So I sent her screenshots of what I read and she replied, “Yep.  I think that’s what He said.”

6am text sent to one who is way wiser than me in all things Bible: “So are you familiar with the story of Jael?”  Her reply was, “Yes, the woman who drove a stake through some poor dude’s temple?   What are you trying to tell me?”   So I sent her the screenshots from the study and I said, “You think God is telling me to kill my husband?”  Her reply, which came a bit later, no doubt after struggling between her sympathy for my mental state yet her own fear of being accessory to murder, read “Oh my. I guess there are many ways to interpret that.”

So the next day I pulled out my Bible and read the passage in its full context.  Ohhhhhhhhh Jael didn’t kill her husband, she killed the intruder in her tent.  Ohhhhh.  My bad.  And honey, if you’re reading this….that was close!  You almost not only saw God that day, you almost met Him. (I’m nothing if not obedient) So having all of that “context”, I went back and also read the devotional in the app.  Ohhhhh.  The enemy in our house is busyness, distraction, addictions and it comes through our tvs, computers and devices.  Ohhhhh.

And so now here we are. Daddy donkey got his walking papers  today and more importantly, his driving papers.  We are no longer joined at the hip (literally) and I’ve got my house back.  Fly little birdie, fly.  I saw God today.

We are all fighting battles.  And often times I think I could handle some people’s battles blindfolded.  And I’m sure some people wish their battle of the day was their husband’s hip surgery.  It’s all relative.  But I’m not ashamed to say that the Hip Replacement of 2018 goes down in this momma’s book as one I’m glad to check the box on.  If and when we reach the day where we’re rocking together on the porch, way older and way grayer than we already are, we will no doubt look back on this adventure and laugh.  Not today, but maybe on that day.

And the battles we face today prepare us for the battles that are coming tomorrow.  And he and I…well we’ve already fought some doozies.  We’ve checked more boxes in our two decades than most people check in a lifetime. We are fully suited up and know that this latest one, came as preparation for tomorrow’s. And that battle that is looming, it’s a big one.  But that’s a post for another day.

Disclaimer:  It should be noted that my husband’s life was never truly in danger.  We don’t even own any tent stakes.  I know because I checked. 

 

 

 

Porchin’

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I love my front porch.  The house we built, all began with a front porch.  I really think that I can solve any problem from there.  My front yard is always so pretty…nice flower beds. trees along the road, sloping yard.  (No comment on the backyard with its dilapidated swing set and trampoline, but I digress…) My front door is rustically elegant.  There are two rockers, two swings, and Mary sits out there with me in her grotto. Well I sit, she actually stands. The view from my front porch is so peaceful.  It all makes sense on the porch.  My husband and I sat out there a couple of months ago on a Sunday afternoon and he said We don’t do this enough.   No we don’t.  During Holy Week I sat out there alone, no doubt hiding from my kids, and I thought about Pilate.  As in Pontious Pilate.  So much so that apparently I wrote it in my little notebook I keep with my bible and prayer books yet only discovered the note a day or so ago.  If Pontious Pilate had had a front porch, I bet he would never have condemned Jesus to die.

Other people like my porch too.  We solve a lot of problems on my porch.  We sit.  We rock.  We laugh.  We cry.  Oh boy do we cry.  We sip.  We sip even more than we cry.  It just makes sense on the porch.  I don’t have any proof but I’m fairly certain that Kenny Chesney and David Lee Murphy wrote “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” on my porch.  Life just makes sense on the porch.

Well moms, we did it.  We survived another year.  When you’ve got kids, time is measured in school years, not calendar years and we checked another one off the list.  I know for me this one was a doozie.  Lots of front porchin’ this year and yet not enough front porchin’ this year.  First grade ain’t no joke ya’ll.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had a first grader but oh my word have things changed.  It is going to take me the next year just to recover from it.  Then I get to do it all over again. With Molly.  I wonder what one year of boarding school costs… This year we also had ourselves a driving teenager.  That ain’t no joke either.  There ain’t no worry like a momma’s worry with her first born on the road  kinda worry.  And let’s not forget the traveling husband, the kitchen flood of 2017, my month in the orthopedic boot, the seven year old broken wrist and the two hour round trips to see the healing nun for the four year old’s ongoing skin battle.  But more than the school year, moms…we survived May.

I don’t like May.  For as long as I can remember I don’t like May.  It goes back ohhhh I don’t know, about 13 years to be exact.  And along with the burden of that one day comes utter and total chaos.  But this year I was prepared.  My nearest and dearest were also prepared (by that I mean my closest friends…surely not my family given they’re the cause of the chaos.)  On April 30 one texted and said I’m walking into yoga so I can get my Zen on and I’ll be ready to handle you in May.  On May 1 the other one texted a prayer about handling May.  So I suited up and we did May.  And May did not disappoint.  May showed up with all of its fury and might and gave its best shot.  And more than once May brought me to my knees (literally), throwing a few sucker punches but just as May showed up, God showed up too.

For the third year in row, at the same time each year, my oldest has taken a risk and strived for something.  Being way braver than I ever was at her age, she has put herself out there and reached for something–a different something each year. And for the third year in a row the answer was no.  It’s hard enough to be told no yourself.  Watch your child get a no…all bets are off.  And this year was the toughest.  When she got the news we sat on the porch and cried.  And I mustered up my best pep talk.  You know, these are only four years of your life.  And for some, the best things that ever happen to some kids happen in these four years.  I want so much more for you than these four years.  So if I have to pick for you to soar now or soar later, I choose later.  She dusted herself off and went inside.  Then I got a text from a mom checking on my girl and I learned a little more of what went down that day.  I went and asked her about it and clearly she had held back some of the details of the day’s rejection.  She knows her momma and she knows when the claws come out.  And as the tears rolled down her face as she filled me in, the claws grew about eight inches.  I WANT NAMES I kept saying and she refused.  More often than not she is the adult in our relationship.  So I breathed deeply,  took my cues from her, we hugged and she dusted herself off yet again then left for dancing.  I kept my composure until she turned the corner and I headed for the porch but I kept going.  And that’s when my husband found me bent over the A/C unit sobbing.  Like full on ugly cry trying to tell him what happened and he couldn’t understand a word I said.  Until he did.  A momma bear has claws but a poppa bear has fists.  That poppa bear made three laps around the house with his fists clenched until he could utter a word and when he did, it wasn’t pretty.  And certainly not fit for print in the blog of a Christian mom.  But in the light of day we learned a lot from our 16 year old.  How can kids be this resilient and full of grace?  I wanted to expel, sue or egg somebody.  Talk about a lesson in humility and let it go-ness for the adults.  And the day after that she already had her plan for what her goal was for the next year.  Out loud I said Good for you! You go girl! but inside I whined Seriously? Please nooooo.  I can’t take it again.  I can learn a lot from that girl.  She’s a far better person than me!  And thank you God for that.

In our house, there’s regular school year mom whose rants and handle fly offs are sporadic.  Usually brought on after stepping on a lego or finding dog poop in the dining room.  There’s December mom but caramel lattes and mint Kit Kats usually keep her in check.  There’s birthday party mom who doesn’t do treat bags and orders grocery store cupcakes the day of.  Then there’s May mom.  May mom throws Shopkins out of the car window when she’s heard enough fighting.  She doesn’t even care that “that” one was a limited edition. May mom has been known to reach in the backseat and start swatting at whatever leg she can reach…even if it’s the wrong leg.  And when she’s at a red light during the swatting of the legs, she’s been known to roll down her window–mid swat–and tell the obviously childless guy on the side of her to LOOK AWAY MAN…LOOK AWAY…YOU DON’T KNOW!!   May mom’s head spins around 360 degrees Exorcist style when asked the question “What’s for supper?” before she starts giggling and says “I’m sorry I just can’t seem to remember to cook supper these days…here’s some cheetos.”  May mom passes herself in the hall and crosses herself on the road.  May mom says a prayer over the calendar and tosses holy water on it when she tears off April and then she sings Amazing Grace when she tears off May.  RIP May.

And then there’s June mom.  The angels sing a sweet lullaby when June mom arrives.  June mom grocery shops on a Saturday like she’s got no other place to be.  June mom does the laundry at her leisure, not in a mad Sunday rotation.  June mom sits on the porch til dark instead of just 5:30- 6:00– which is after homework but before baths because June mom doesn’t have homework and June mom thinks the swimming pool bath is good enough.  Ahhhh June mom.  She’s a hoot. A delight to be around.  June mom has all kinds of plans for summer.  Lots of swimming and popsicles, 1/2 price shakes after 8:00 and library story time.  June mom plans to cook hot breakfasts.  June mom bought matching K and J mugs so she and her BFF can drink coffee on the porch all summer long. June mom has a koozie in her purse for afternoons when she sits on someone else’s porch.  June mom plans to exercise and read books without pictures.  June mom is freaking awesome.

Wanna make God laugh?  Tell Him your plans.  Thank you Lord for another survived and somewhat thrived school year.  Thank you that summer is here…it’s gonna be a great one. You shoulda known not to tell Him that in May.  May ain’t over til it’s over.  Because on May 30 you sat in the doctor’s office with your other half and got some rather shocking news.  Nothing devastating, just surprising.  And it didn’t take long for perspective to sink in once the doctor said Look, you could be sitting in an oncologist’s office but instead you’re sitting in an orthopedist’s office.  Gulp. Noted. Could be far worse.  But ya’ll.  You wanna test the limits of the in sickness and in health part of the vows…tell this momma that she’s going to be trying to get a 41 year old man back on his feet all summer long.  Driving him everywhere, catering to his needs.  B-b-b-b-bbbbbut God it’s summer.  I’m pretty sure in that convo with the Almighty I referred to Him as “dude.”  As in Dude, what are you thinking?  It’s summer.  Let’s revisit this around February.  

But now we’re a few days into June.  Ahhh sweet June.  Lots of porch talks since that appointment.  And in the words of Kenny and David, everything’s gonna be alright.  Yes you are going to wake up from the anesthesia (**eye roll that we had to have that discussion**), no I won’t need to cash out the IRA to survive since we’re only dealing with a few bones (**more eye rolls**), I will be the best damn nurse/coach/cheerleader there ever was and get you back on your feet like a BOSS (I’ll even wear a nurse’s outfit if that’s your thing), I’ll handle all of the husbandly duties like yard work and trash and whatever else husbands do…and when you’re 100% back to normal three months later (just to be clear–summer will be over by that point)—insert strategic slight pause on my part before he said, “You will need a break so why don’t you plan on a beach weekend with your friends once this is over.”  There it is.  That’s why I married you.  You get me.  I can do anything if the beach is waiting.  There are three types of people in this world.  There are beach people, not beach people, and then there’s me.  The beach and I are one.  (It should be noted that we will still get to the beach mid-recovery even if I’m pushing him in a wheelchair balancing the ice chest on my head but I’ll have my kids in tow.  And we all know that a week at the beach with kids is actually a week at the pool. But we also all know what a trip to the beach is without kids…it’s why we have kids in the first place.  So we can go to the beach without them.)

It’s June.  I can handle anything in June.   Walkers and all.  He’s got a phone.  He can text me when I’m on the porch.  I’ll come in.  Probably.

To Roar or Not to Roar

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I’m so in love with Keith Urban’s new song “Female.”

Sister, shoulder

Daughter, lover,

Healer, broken halo

Mother Nature

Fire, suit of armor

Soul survivor, Holy Water

Secret keeper, fortune teller

Virgin Mary, scarlet letter

Technicolor river wild

Baby girl, women shine

Female

Keith Urban.  Husband and father to two daughters.  Now that’s a man who knows where his bread is buttered. As a female myself, raising three mini females, my instinct is to whoop whoop Arsenio Hall style when I hear it.  But not in an I am woman hear me roar kind of way.  More like an I am woman and maybe I don’t NEED to roar kind of way.

A few weeks ago two marches were held across our country.  One was the March for Life protesting abortion and the other was the Women’s March protesting all kinds of things.  A year ago I was very vocal about my beliefs on the Women’s March  (I’ve got a mouth on me!) in which I held nothing back about my opinion.  I still don’t regret a word of it.  But this year instead of venting and ranting, I went out and actually marched.  But I marched for Life.  And I brought two of my three daughters with me (my 87 year old middle daughter was afraid it was too chilly, it might rain, the cars might hit us so she stayed behind where it was “safe”).  I’ve marched before for breast cancer and for Down Syndrome.  I’ve marched at my share of Mardi Gras parades with the girl scouts and behind the barricades to the band. And we all know most days I march to the beat of my own drum.  But for the first time I went out and actually marched for Life.  There is no other cause in this world that I feel more strongly about than the Pro-Life cause and it surprises even me that I’ve never marched for Life before.  And it’s not a typo that I capitalize the word Life.   Marching in the rain with hundreds of others, down the city’s busiest street, was powerful.  It was quiet, the only sounds were the voices in unison praying the Rosary.  No chanting, no screaming.  But the message was loud and clear.  Choose Life.

I’ve been pregnant five times.  First came Abby, a product of lackadaisical natural family planning eight months into marriage.  Then came Lane, planned and anticipated.  And after he died 11 months later it took four years to conceive again.  It took many doctor visits, injections and money before we just threw our hands up and then came Mary-Grace, all in God’s time.  Next was “Matthew”, who was very unplanned and very unexpected.  And just as unplanned and unexpected, he went up to Heaven before we got to meet him.  And then came Molly.  Oh Molly.  Unexpected, unplanned, no explanation for how she got there ( I think we passed in the hall), indescribable… Molly.  The Legers…party of 7.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.  Do we have to legally, formally, presidentially, systematically, or officially be in charge to actually run the world?  We already do.  There is no Life without women (I mean, technically men play a part but come on….their part takes 3 minutes, 7 if we’re lucky and if we’re really, really lucky, a minute and a half).  Who runs the household, the school, the office, the car pool?  Who handles Christmas from the first ornament hung to the last stocking stuffed, dyes the eggs, matches the shoes to the bow, writes the check for the collection, monitors the grades, makes the practice test, plans the trip, coordinates the costumes, starts the crockpot, updates the calendar, refills the medicines and keeps her cool?  Don’t we already run the world?

Keith says…

When somebody talks about how it was Adam first

                Does that make you second best?

                Or did he save the best for last?

Clearly it’s the latter.  God’s original version was not equipped for actually running the world.  Only for pretending to!

The hot topic today is the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.  I have no experience with sexual  harassment or abuse so I won’t even pretend to understand the pain.  But I am having a hard time getting behind a cause that is only a cause now that it has become popular.  I’m having a hard time finding sympathy for women who knew and said nothing because they needed a powerful slime ball of a man to get ahead.  And the women who were affected and not only said nothing but continued to be affected because they wanted what he had to offer to get ahead.  Those were choices.  And now because it has become popular to speak out, those choices have turned into testimonies, creeds and badges of honor.   All of the sudden these women are heroes because they “had” to do what they “needed” to do either on their back or on their knees on their way to fame?  No, they had a choice.  And if that was the only choice in order to “succeed”, then a true hero would have chosen a different industry.  Their choices and claim of sudden victimhood belittle and diminish the real victims of this crime.  The women caught in dark alleys and parking garages, the women and children of poverty stricken countries who are raped and pillaged and those who are sold and trafficked every day.  THOSE women had no choice.   I want to hear the stories of the women who said Nope, not taking that road if that’s how I have to get there.

Sister, shoulder….healer, broken halo….suit of armor…soul survivor…secret keeper…

God has used music to communicate with me my whole life.  So much so that Joy Behar would have me in the padded cell next to Mike Pence.  When we were trying to just keep breathing after Lane died He sent me Held by Natalie Grant during that first week.  This is what it means to be held.  How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life.  And you survive.  Or like a year and a half ago when I found myself very overwhelmed with kids, schedules, bills and an urgent deadline, He sent the songs.  When I was working against the clock to finish a breakfast room for a dear client who was battling cancer, when her husband called to tell me she died before I could finish, He sent three songs in a row about storms then He drove my car to the closest church and planted me in front of the crucifix for an hour.  That poor janitor didn’t know what to do at the sight and sounds of me that day.  When I’ve walked the floor with babies with ear infections, or changed wet sheets at 4:05 in the morning, or picked up a sick child from school the first day back after a 9 day break, or driven the same dancing route 8 times that week, He sends the likes of Trace Adkins’ It Won’t Be Like this for Long or Kenny Chesney’s There Goes My Life.   When December and its insanity hit and I’m running on autopilot, He sends me that first Mary Did You Know and Little Drummer Boy to bring me to my knees.  He uses those not only to remind me of what it’s really all about but to remind me to feel.  To remember who and what has been lost and then remember the promise that it’s not for long.  And if those don’t work then He’ll send me Christmas Shoes and good gracious alive it’s not good if He has to send me Christmas Shoes (talk about question every parenting decision ever made…am I raising kids who will buy their momma Christmas shoes??).  And don’t even get me started on the St. Jude telethons.  Every song, every parent’s testimony spoken over the melody….here you go….here’s my credit card, my social security number, my IRA account passwords.  Take it all.

So when He keeps sending a song about females, He means it.

Sister, shoulder….healer, broken halo….suit of armor…soul survivor…secret keeper….

In a day and age where women are clamoring to be heard, seen, validated, recognized, here is a song about the quieter, unseen, unrewarded side to us.  And doesn’t it speak louder than any speech or rant ever could?  What we do that goes without notice, without recognition, isn’t it as important if not more than what they do that often gets all the attention? Men may technically “run” the world but they run it because we let them!  What we do makes it possible.  Somewhere, somehow there’s always a woman behind the curtain making it happen.  Whether it’s picking out the tie, offering support, writing the speech, putting supper on the table, holding the clipboard to a million other things that make it possible, there’s always a woman.

She’s the heart of life

She’s the dreamer’s dream

She’s the hands of time

She’s the queen of kings 

My husband will tell you I’m not a submissive type of wife.  Like I’ve said, I’ve got a mouth of me.  If I ever, God forbid, found myself on the betrayed side of marriage, there would be no Tammy Wynette Stand by Your Man playing in my head.  I would go full on Carrie Underwood with my key dug into the side of his white 4-wheel drive,” Queenie wuz here” would be carved into his leather seats, and the Louisville slugger would stay stuck in his head lights.  Like I said, God speaks to me through music and that is definitely the song He’d send to me in THAT situation.  But I digress…submissive I am not but I’ve also come to know, understand and appreciate our roles.  This household survives (and some days it actually thrives) because he does what he does and I do what I do.  And while we would be on the street if he didn’t do what he did, we would still be on the street if I didn’t do what I do.  Well, he would be on the street because I’d be at my momma’s.

God made Adam from dust.  He made Eve from a rib.  We came second because He needed the rib.  We are the stronger one and He knew we’d have to be.  It takes great strength to stand behind the curtain and be okay with it.

 

 

 

 

It’s Christmas

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I’m a busy mom.  Which is kind of a conundrum because the word mom equals busy.  But I’m busier than some in that I’ve got three girls, a home business and a non-profit organization.  In addition to being the drape lady I’m also the cleaning lady, lunch lady, and laundry lady.  I’m less busy than others in that I can go to work in my pajamas and toil away while the rest of the world sleeps.  I don’t have to fit in errands and appointments on my lunch hour. But when it comes to Christmastime, a mom is a mom is a mom.  And none of us are busy.  We are manic.

With all of the shopping–both retail and online, the decorating–both inside and out, the outfit coordinating, picture taking, card ordering, menu planning, gift wrapping, class party organizing, light viewing, wish list writing, Santa visiting, t-shirt appliqueing, matching pajama finding, ultimate holiday experience searching, charitable giving, and extra church going..…we are manic.

I know that I fail at a lot. My kids will no doubt be in therapy long after I’m gone.  I’ve forgotten 2 year olds at school.  I’ve lost Bunny Bears in Disney World.  I’ve served Oreos for breakfast and Cheetos for supper more times than I can count.  I yell a lot.  And I nag even more.  But I rock Christmas.  I’ve always been able to deliver that wish list like a boss.  We don’t just make cookies, we host a cookie party and every year Mrs. Claus miraculously shows up.  We get a real tree–no pre-lit with sturdy branches that never needs water tree for MY family.  We don’t just have one elf on the shelf–we have three. You’d be hard pressed to find a corner in this house (and out of it) that’s not decorated.  I rock Christmas.  And end up manic in the process.  But in my mind, it makes up for the other 11 months of the year that I do not rock.

I love a to do list.  Like, I really love a to do list.  I don’t love doing the stuff on the to do list, but I love, love, love scratching stuff off of my to do list.  I love scratching stuff off of my to do list so much that sometimes I write stuff I’ve already done just so I can scratch it off.  And when it comes to December, the list is long.  Patio tree.  Check.  Porches.  Check.  Girls tree, Advent wreath, table, mantle.  Check check check check.

So why do we do it?  Whatever processes and events and activities a mom adds to her plate for the month of December…Why do we do it?  One word. I-don’t-freaking-know.  Blame the kids.  Kids change everything.  They change our dress sizes, our budgets, our marriages, our schedules.   The size of our houses, our savings accounts, our cars and our favorite restaurants all change once we have kids.  They change where we vacation (beach or Disney World), where we have phone conversations (in the corner of our closet) and where we fight with our spouses (in the driveway….we’d never let our kids hear us argue, just the neighbors).  Once the stick turns blue and there’s a baby brewing, everything changes.  A baby changes everything.  Oh the things we could afford if we didn’t have tuition and a teenage driver and a dancing bill.   Oh the places we could go travel to if they knew how to act right and appreciate more than just swimming and “The” Princesses.  Oh we’d be so skinny if they didn’t drive us to hide behind our jeans with a bag of mint Kit  Kats while we call them names on the phone with our soul sista.  We probably wouldn’t even fight with our spouse.  Kids change everything.

And boy do they change Christmas.  Couples have trees that stand straight all the time with the nice breakable ornaments evenly spaced throughout the tree instead of only at the top and out of reach.  They light fires and sip wine while watching the Hallmark channel.  They leisurely shop together on a Saturday after brunch.  They go to fancy Christmas parties and even a New Year’s Eve bash that doesn’t include lighting their own fireworks.  (Or at least in my mind that’s what they do.)  But when the kids come, the tree will fall over at least once, 2/3 of the ornaments are super glued back together, the fire is too much of a hazard, Hallmark changes to Disney Channel with Olaf’s Frozen Adventure on repeat, mom does all of the shopping (including her own) and there is NOTHING leisurely about it, brunch is replaced by waffle fries and lattes and the parties are at school.  The only constant is the wine.  Just more of it.

There is just so much to do.  And I thought with Thanksgiving a little earlier this year that there would be more time.  Wrong.  It just meant more time for more stuff.  The Season of Peace is anything but peaceful.  Jesus may be the reason for the season but insane is the name of the game.  So why do we do it?  I-don’t-freaking-know.

In the middle of the chaos we preach and we preach to our kids that it’s better to give than to receive, and that it’s not about the presents but about Jesus’ birthday and then there’s the annual gratitude lecture.  But do we practice what we preach?  Are we a bit hypocritical if we don’t get it ourselves?  Advent is a time of preparation.  But when so much of our time is wrapped up in shopping, lists, check marks and exhaustion, what are we preparing for?

I sat alone in mass several Sundays ago.  The first reading was from Proverbs 31, the chapter many of us Christian mothers cling to daily. Being alone, I could hear every word read and every syllable preached that day.  And the communion hymn sung that day included the words “Mothers lead their children just as the Lord lights the way.”  I don’t remember what the battle of the day was causing all of that to reach me so deeply in my core–could have been the sassy, ever exasperated teenager, the anxiety ridden 7 year old or the constantly itching and scratching 4 year old–but it was a good mass.  So good that I typed notes into my phone when I got in the car.  But the thing that stopped me in my tracks was the Nicene Creed.  As Catholics we recite a creed in every mass and it states what we believe.  I’ve said that creed a million times if I’ve said it once.  And around the middle we nod our heads in reverence as we recite 22 words. Something that is second nature to me. I do it on autopilot.  All of us “good Catholics” do.  But for some reason that day it was like I was doing it for the first time. And I watched a church full of people bow their heads and recite the 22 words.  And all of the sudden I was in awe of something that seemed so ordinary to me for so long.  We bow our heads at that part because it is the most crucial, most important, most awe invoking part of the prayer.  “…he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  And it is the most crucial, most important, most awe invoking part of the prayer because it is the most crucial, most important, most awe invoking part of the history of all of humanity.

God came down from heaven and became one of us.  Christmas.  Maybe it didn’t happen exactly on December 25 two thousand and seventeen years ago, but it happened.  Christmas happened.

So it makes sense that the day that we celebrate the most crucial, most important, most awe invoking part in all of history requires a little fanfare.  And while the layers and layers that we have added to the season of peace might not necessarily be biblical, it doesn’t mean that they’re unbiblical.

It might take a week to decorate but in those seven days little ones ask us to tell the story of each ornament as we put it on the tree and they ask us why we must hang the angel upside down on the crèche.  The ornaments are from our trips (mostly to the beach and Disney) or they were made from popsicle sticks by little hands or they signify a moment in time we shared.  And the angel must be hung upside because it’s what your daddy used to do when he was your age at his Granny’s house and before she died she gave it to us and asked us to always hang the angel upside down.  It’s the only possession she gifted to anyone before she died and it sits on our foyer table every December.  Jesus is in the room when we decorate.

We are so over the line for the mall Santa so this year we found one at the Mexican restaurant. No fancy backdrop but lots of quality of time with the man himself.  And when you watch your children star struck, wondering how he knew their name (it was monogrammed on their shirt) you start counting in your head how many years your families have visited Santa together.  You’ve added two more littles to the mix since you started.  The original littles are now the bigs.  But not too big to sit on Santa’s lap (which you made them do).  How many Santa pics do you have together?  And when two 40 something year old mommas sit there and contemplate, Could he be the “real” Santa? I mean, look at his hair and his beard.  Look at how kind and patient he is. I think he’s real. When you see your teens, tweens and tots all at the same table coloring and giggling on a Tuesday night, you whisper a silent thank you.  And Jesus is at the table across from the chips and salsa.

You don’t have time to host a cookie party days before Christmas and they don’t have time to attend a cookie party.  But when Mrs. Claus shows up, unbeknownst to any of the guests and she oddly resembles a mom in your group whose kids are grown, everyone realizes there’s always time for that.  The kids are mumbling to each other Is that really Mrs. Claus?  She looks a little like Miss Shannon.  But they are too scared to doubt because if she is real, then she’s got Santa’s ear. There’s sprinkles and burnt edges and dried icing from the ceiling to the barstool but a hundred memories made. And Jesus’ footprints are in the flour all over the floor.

Our to do lists are long, our shopping lists are longer and our calendars are full.  We overextend and overspend.  It wasn’t like this before kids.  They changed everything.  Maybe before kids our trees used to look like a magazine ad.  But now they tell a story.  Before kids we didn’t know the Santa picture schedule and package price, or even where to find him.  But now we have a decade of pictures that would never exist otherwise.  Before kids, bakeries baked the most tasty, most beautiful treats.  But now we know that sugar and butter shaped by dirty hands and tiny hearts are the real treat.  We have three elves because we have three kids.  And one day each of those elves will make their new home in each of their homes.

It’s Christmas.  It’s when God became one of us.  It’s the event that changed everything.  The baby that changed everything.  And while our lists and our check marks may seem a far cry from Bethlehem, the fruits of our labor are not.  Whatever it is that puts us in the same room, the same train car, the same shopping mall or the same restaurant….whatever it is that makes us laugh, makes us cry, makes us remember, makes us tell the story yet again….whatever it is that makes us pray together, eat together, cook together or two-step on a cornmeal covered linoleum floor a million years ago….is worth it.

In the middle of your chaos, in the homestretch of the season, may you look around and see Jesus at your table, on your porch, in the pew on the side of you, or in line at Target for the 8th time this week.  May you falala, and may you actually like it.

It’s Christmas.

 

 

The When Then

blog october

October.  Ya’ll.  What is it about October?  Ask any mother with school age children.  There are three months each year that send a shiver down our spine.  May and December obviously.  But then there’s October that’s like a sleeper cell full of snipers that attack.  It’s the height of football season, Halloween prep, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING (seriously, I just can’t get on board with pumpkin spice ANYTHING), Homecoming, Fall Fests, decorate for Fall or not decorate for Fall? The stores are exploding with Christmas but you’re still trying to decide whether to get your orange and brown out of the attic. A cool snap hits and nobody has any long pants that fit much less a jacket. And we all know how I feel about Halloween treats.  October.

But we’re in the home stretch now. We’re hours away from checking the October box.  Another insane “season” of crazy chaos  soon to be replaced by the mother of all seasons.  Let me rephrase that…the mutha of all seasons.  There’s that shiver again.  Maybe we lump our chaos into categories to help us process it?  Maybe we subdivide it so we can let ourselves think when we check the box then this will happen.  Because who are we kidding?  It’s never going to be calmer, quieter, simpler, easier, less expensive or less busy.

My one flaw–my only flaw because besides this I’m just a peach–is I spend so much time in the “when.”  When this happens then that will be better.  When When When.  Then Then Then.  Lie Lie Lie.

Don’t drink the kool-aid moms.  It’s lies, all lies.  When we build the house and have more room, more space, more stuff, more land, more fresh air then life will be so simple and lovely and organized.  No it’s not!  It’s more expensive, takes longer to clean, longer to maintain and it’s farther from town!  And town is where the schools are, the dance classes are, the doctors are…for the love of humanity it’s where the stores are. The house is more roomy and quite lovely but it’s anything but organized.  We’re too busy to organize.  And it’s certainly never clean.  Not as long as there are little people living in it…which is why we needed more room and more stuff to begin with.

When they all get in school then I’ll get more work done, more housework done, I’ll be more organized.  No you won’t.  Because somebody will always be sick, have a doctor’s appointment or need antiseptic put on their ear at 11:20 on a Tuesday morning.  There will always be the thing you volunteered to do “now that they’re all in school.” And there is that list of things still undone that you saved for just that day.  When they all get in school, then you’re just as busy and consumed as when they weren’t all in school.

When she starts driving then things will calm down.  I won’t be running around as much.  I’ll have more time.  Another lie because the when she starts driving is replaced by the then you start to worry.  And there ain’t no worry like a momma worrying about her kid behind the wheel kind of worry.  And the emotion.  Like when she comes home that night after her first solo trip to dancing and she walks in your room.  You’re playing it all cool like Oh hey, you made it back?  When the truth is you and your husband (who is 722 miles away) have been simultaneously tracking her every movement  on the Life 360 app.  You know how fast she drove, you know if and when she used her phone.  You even know how much charge her battery has.  So she sits on your bed and says she missed you on the trip home because “that’s when we talk.”  Gulp…but you calmly wait until she walks out before you hit the bathroom floor in a puddle of tears.  For 14 years you’ve been making that trip with her.  Many, many late nights just you and her headed home.  Many nights you sat in that parking lot balancing your checkbook, making more to do lists or watching Netflix waiting for her to finish.  You’re usually the mom hauling extra kids here and there.   But that was always okay with you because you throw a few girls in the back of an SUV and guess what?  They talk.  A lot.  And you listen.  And that’s how you get to know the girls your girls are friends with.  But just like that it’s all over.

When we pay off the car, when we get the bonus, when we pay the costume bill, when we get our tax refund, when I finish this job, when when when.  Well then there’s another car to buy, the bonus is already earmarked, the costume bill is followed by Christmas, the tax refund pays tuition, this job is followed by another and another and another.

When he gets back from this trek to West Texas then things will be calmer. There will be another pair of hands around. No they won’t because then his supper expectations will exceed the two weeks of nuggets, macaroni and homemade pizza you’ve been serving.  He’s going to prefer stuff that requires using pots…on the stove.  He’s going to want his clothes washed and folded too.  And the TV will go back to being on Fox News (not NFL because he’s still boycotting). But the calm does come in the way that only the things that go wrong when he is gone won’t go wrong while he is home.  On his last trek, the dishwasher flooded the kitchen, you ended up in a boot for three weeks over the bone he broke in your foot (the toe is part of the foot!),  and you had skunks in your tree (of which have now been relocated to Heaven no doubt courtesy of the big black F250 that speeds down your road twice a day. RIP skunks…said no one ever.)  However during this trek of his, you’re still dealing with a semi gutted kitchen and sheetrock dust everywhere.  The dog ate an entire tube of very strong steroid cream and had to be rushed to the vet to have his stomach pumped.  So serious that you walk in at 5:45pm and they are waiting for you trauma room style to take him “stat” to assess him.  They decide that with him weighing in at 4 pounds, the pumping of the stomach is more dangerous than the cream itself so they give him activated charcoal, an antacid and an antibiotic and send you home for him to pass it.  There is no way to prepare yourself for a dog to pass things via activated charcoal.  They don’t teach you that in college.  You also got rear ended pretty badly and ended up on muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory meds.  Your trunk won’t open and you’re probably about to be put in a Fred Flintstone rental car.  You’re flying solo for trick or treating and you had to handle two flat tires.  But nonetheless it will be smooth sailing when he comes home. Because it only hits the fan when he’s 722 miles away from home.

The when is not always better because the then is not always the answer we’re looking for.  The now is the answer.  It’s when magic is made.  Every season has its own chaos and drama.  And wishing it away only means the next season of chaos and drama will be upon us.  But looking back on the last season makes you wonder why you were so ready to check that box in the first place.  Did we see how good and blessed and beautiful that season was when it was upon us?  Did we notice it?  Like when you’re holding your friends four week old baby and you can’t stop smelling the top of his head.  And you snuggle that baby in all of his light blue smocked adorableness and don’t want to let go.  It’s been a long time since you had a baby in the house and a really long time since you had one who wore blue.  You watch her try and scarf down her lunch while her hands are free and you know her mind is flooded with what lies ahead in the afternoon with two other kids and a baby in tow.  And the homework and frustration that may follow.  She’s worn and she’s tired but you think Does she know?  Does she know how fast it will go?  Does she know that she will blink and those homework challenged afternoons will soon be gone and replaced by monitoring her phone app while the same child drives across town?  No she doesn’t know because you surely didn’t know!  You didn’t know it yourself until a week ago.

Oh they all told me.  It goes so fast they all said.  You’re gonna miss this they all said.    I’d smile and say That’s what I keep hearing but I don’t believe you all!  Most days I’ve got one who needs to be picked up here and brought there and in between that I’ve got one who needs to study math facts and high frequency words and the other needs steroid cream, probiotics and a bleach bath and the gum cut out of her hair and supper is still frozen in the sink and there’s an installation tomorrow and birthday party invitations to address and oh crap I didn’t order the birthday party invitations and we forgot to get an allergy shot this week!!!  I will not miss this.

But it’s in the car driving everyone every which way every day that the two littles learned every single word to Missy Elliott’s Pep Rally and then moved on to James Brown’s Get Up On It followed by the Spice Girls Wannabe. It’s in the car that your oldest decided she likes country music and KLOVE.  And by waiting for “when” that season was over, the “then” means we’re not in the car all together anymore. And I already DO miss that.

So I’m studying Philippians right now.  If you keep up with this blog you know it tends to always tie into the study I’m doing!  It’s a study on joy which is ironic because Paul writes it from prison where he is being tortured and persecuted for preaching the gospel.  The author of the study quoted Augustine in her introduction:

   Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; Where your treasure is, there is your heart; Where your heart is, there is your happiness.

 Our heart is found in the middle of the chaotic, noisy, complicated, hard seasons.  Because when we struggle, when we are overwhelmed, when we are just getting $h!t done….then we are growing in strength and resolve, then we are developing character (ours and theirs), then we are making magic. And if we’re lucky, we see the joy in that season before it passes instead of looking back from the next one.

She missed me.  Who knew?!