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?!

Like Magic

Image result for magic

Moms are given many gifts when they hand us the baby in the delivery room, or in my case the operating room.  It’s like a magic wand gets waved across our forehead and bippity boppity boo here you go—Mom Dust.  The gift of multi tasking.  Who else can brown a roast, fold towels, check math homework, and make a grocery list all at the same time with a baby on their hip except for a mom? The gift of discernment.  Who else knows when you need a band-aid and a sucker versus when you need a tetanus shot and stitches, when a B is really a B or when a B should have been an A therefore you’re grounded, when no bath Friday can extend into no bath Saturday except for a mom? The gift of reading her people’s minds.  Or even other people’s minds for that matter.  Like when my husband walked out the bedroom this morning to make his breakfast I knew the first thing he would say is We’re out of mayonnaise.  There’s nothing for breakfast.  Because waffles, eggs, toast and cereal aren’t breakfast food.  When he leaves for the store–with a list– he will text me 3 times to ask a question about something on the list and then when I don’t respond he will call.  He will also call two more times from the store.

Because we are given this gift, it’s easy to get caught up thinking other non-moms have the same gift.  So then we start to take things for granted and we mistakenly assume other people can read our minds as well.  We think that we don’t have to spell everything out for everyone because we don’t need it spelled out for us.

For instance every time I lose my cool over my 15 year old’s room, along with the wet towels on the floor and the pile of dirty clothes that looks like the Salvation Army donation room, I just assumed that it was understood I meant for her to not only clean it that specific time that I flipped out, but every time it looks like that.  My bad.  Or when the littles have a meltdown Sunday through Thursday nights when it’s bath time, I just assumed that they knew I really do mean every single school night they–will–bathe..  This is not the first time they have been presented this scenario.  But I just assumed they knew. Or when once a week my husband asks me why there are no sheets on our bed I just assumed by now, after 17 years of cohabitation, he would know I wash the sheets once a week.  I also just assumed he would know where to find them.

So it has become abundantly clear in recent days and weeks that if my own people cannot read my mind, then neither can the rest of the world.  Well, let me rephrase that.  Moms can read other moms’ minds.  I know when to check on a friend and she knows when to check on me.  I know when I can grab her kid and drop her somewhere in the general vicinity of where I’m going that it is like Christmas morning for her and she will know when and how to return the favor. But that’s where the magic ends.  Moms reading other moms’ minds is a member’s only concept.

Mr. Repairman, when I paid you $238 to fix my dishwasher that was holding water and not draining, I meant for you to correct the problem by having it drain in the usual and customary way that dishwashers are meant to drain.  When you came 6 months ago, I had one kid with cooties, one with flu, one with a schedule that just won’t give and a traveling husband and was apparently preoccupied while you worked.  I had hoped that you would have read my mind on the way I wanted it fixed.  I would have preferred for it to not drain into my wall, soak my sheetrock and studs, collect under my wood floor and spill out through my bricks.  Given the option, I would have chosen no dishwasher over this.  Because your route has provided me with 7 jet engines of air blowing into my walls at decibel levels that are loud even for the Leger house.  Now three rooms in my house have been semi-gutted as we wait with anticipation to know how much of a “remodel” my five year old kitchen will get.

My beloved husband, we took vows.  Your part was something about honoring and protecting.  I know how serious you have taken them by how careful you are with the checking of the stove, and the iron and the door locks at night.  You totally rock.  And that one time when you protected us, your four girls, armed with your 12 gauge shot gun–in your underwear–from the motion detector security light…I’ve never loved you more.  I even lived out the “respect” part of my vows that night by not pointing out until the next morning how you had the shotgun in one hand and the box of shells in the other.  You sprung into action with panther like reflexes.  That motion detector light was not coming for us.  Not on your watch.  But I need you to read my mind that I want you to protect me from all the things.  When our little, sweet, eczema ridden caboose is lubed up like a grease monkey and I take her off of the barstool and her foot causes it to fall over, and you’re standing right there (and I mean RIGHT THERE), I need you to catch the barstool.  I need you to protect me from the barstool before it breaks my foot (okay it was my big toe but that’s part of my foot and the big toe is the important toe).  I need those panther like reflexes to save me.  Save my toe.  On another note Hun, when you’re gone for two weeks working, there is a void in my life.  God bless you for taking one for the team and putting on a hard hat and work boots when you’re used to slacks and button downs.  Not to mention the 14 hour drive, the 104 degree heat and the ghost town you called home.  While you were gone I had to plunge a toilet (I don’t care how far us women have come in terms of “equality”, we were NOT MADE FOR THAT) and kill a lizard.  A lizard that was at the top of the bedroom drapes.  A lizard that could have easily gotten into my bed.  The lizard had to die.  The 106 inch bleach streak down the edge of the drapes caused by the industrial strength shower cleaner I used to kill him with clearly shows how capable I am in your absence.  But now you’re home and I need you to read my mind.  When I told you about the family of skunks that have made their home in one of our trees, I wasn’t “sharing.” I need them gone.  Yesterday.  I appreciate your attempts to “scare them away” by riding by the tree with the lawn mower and your umpteen references to how we live in the country but you need to understand that this is not Hundred Acre Wood and you’re not Christopher Robin. My love, the skunks have got to go.  They’re trespassing.  And the day is coming sooner rather than later that you’ll drive up  and find your wife in the yard with your 12 gauge shotgun and the shells won’t still be in the box. Because Babe, if the skunks don’t relocate (and by relocate I mean to heaven), we both know how this story ends.  The story ends with Molly huddled in the tree with the skunks and her Bunny Bear having a tea party and you’ll be halfway to Pecos, TX while I’m dealing with rabies shots and a smell that won’t end.  Read my mind Sweetie, relocate the skunks.  And while you’re at it go ahead and handle the raccoon family down the road that keeps coming borrow sugar from the skunks.

A friend gave me a compliment that she enjoys this “blog” because there is always a lesson that I find in the chaos that is my life.  Something that others can take away and apply to themselves.  I find myself having to dig hard this go around to find said lesson.  Obviously as I type with 7 ginormous fans, dehumidifiers and air purifiers blazing in the background I am eternally grateful for this hand that was dealt and not the hand neighbors to the east and west were dealt.  It’s 7 machines blowing and not 70.  Six inches of sheetrock cut out and not six feet.  It will be covered by insurance and not my life savings or retirement.  So yes there is perspective.  Until I’m reminded of the many more of you reading who do not have 7 machines blowing and your walls are closed in.  Perspective schermespective.

But I am reminded of the 1 and 2 Timothy study I’m doing right now.  Not nearly as uplifting and mic dropping as the Ruth one in May.  Or the Genesis one from the summer.  But nevertheless still useful. Paul is encouraging Timothy in his pursuit to bring the gospel of Jesus to the people of Ephesus.  And in it Paul is hard on women, on organized religion, on widows, and even on men.  So hard that some of the time I have had to admonish Paul and his insight to the bookshelf for a day or two.  Clearly Paul was not married.  And on one particularly harsh day after my soul sista and I compared perspectives we came to the realization that Paul was human just like us.  He was not perfect and all knowing like Jesus therefore we could assume it was not out of the realm of possibility for Paul to be….wrong….on some things.  That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.  But around chapter 6 he made some sense.  No matter what, we are to be respectful, serve better, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.  Respectful and gentle.  No matter the hand dealt or the circumstance we are to pursue the good and the right first.  So even when the hamster wheel gets stuck on turbo, what is right is still right and what is good is still good.

As for my lesson learned, I guess my super chaotic, loud and messy family and even my faulty senile repairman deserve some grace for their constant inability to read my mind.  It’s not like any of you are moms!

Not Today

anot today pic

There’s a shirt that has floated around recently saying  Not Today Satan.  The Book of James says to resist the devil and he will flee from you.  God doesn’t cause the bad things to come.  But sometimes He allows them.  And that has been a lesson this momma has tried for over a decade to wrap her head around.  It’s what we do with the bad things, how we react to them that allows Him to work.  Nothing glorifies the enemy more than when we blame God, blame each other, blame irrational scientific theories, blame, blame, blame.  But what happens when we’re quiet instead of arguing?  When we’re watching instead of reacting?  When we’re praying instead of analyzing?  He works.  He WILL bring beauty from ashes.  He WILL send the rainbow.  He WILL part the sea. He WILL empty the tomb.  He WILL stop the rain.  He WILL drain the waters.

There is a picture that has gone viral of a SWAT officer walking through water carrying a minority woman who is cradling her child.  If you’ve seen it already, go back and study it.  Look how tightly his hands are clutching her.  Look how tightly she is clutching her baby.  I read a caption by a conservative journalist that referenced the picture as portraying what are traditional gender roles.  You can bet he took a lot of heat for it.  I believe that picture will become synonymous with this moment in history.  It was neighbor helping neighbor.  It was the hands and feet of Jesus, wearing camo fatigues.  When disaster strikes, instinct kicks in.  Good people jump into action.  Nobody cares about color, neighborhood or tax bracket.  People do what their instincts tell them to do.  How many trucks pulling boats left my home state of Louisiana to help with the rescue?  Who drove those trucks?  Who navigated those boats?  Who carried survivors to safety?  Men.  Who started supply drives?  Who started cooking, washing, rocking?  Women.  And what’s wrong with that?

Almost exactly a year ago my hometown flooded.  Along with our neighboring city to the east.  We saw the best of each other.  Those of us whose sheetrock stayed dry showed up on doorsteps of those whose didn’t and we busted out theirs.  The men used circular saws and cut it loose for us and we kicked it in. Then the men hauled the wheel barrels to the dumpster and we vacuumed up the dust.  Wall after wall, room after room and house after house.  Instinct kicked in to do what needed to be done which was to help our neighbor in the way we were best designed for.

Despite very threatening radar, my town and area have largely been spared.  So my village and I are waiting in the wings.  Our instincts are telling us to help our neighbors.  How?  We don’t know yet.  Thankfully there doesn’t appear to be any sheetrock in our area that needs kicking in.  But there will be plenty to the west of us.  It will be hard for most of us moms to drop everything and head that way.  But maybe a lot of our guys can.  How many of our guys will be taking vacation days and going help our neighbors?  How many of us women will be sending them with supplies and food to feed whole neighborhoods while we keep the store running back home?  And what’s wrong with that?

When the worst happens and we give the wheel to Jesus, the pieces fall into place.  We do what we are designed to do and then miracles happen.  And when we stop bickering over who can do what just as good as someone else, we find what we are really good at, what we are made to do.

Have you seen Irma?  Irma is spinning off the coast of Africa with its eye on the Caribbean.  We all know once it’s hits the Caribbean what might be next…the Gulf.  Have you seen soon to be named Jose?  Jose is forming in the south Gulf.  A friend said today that God must not be happy with the South.  From last year’s flood until now we’ve had our share of strife.  I said I saw it differently.  God allows tragedy to change us. What happens when God sends us Southerners, in particular us Cajuns and Texans more than we can handle?  He sends in our neighbors to help carry the load.  And when the rest of the world is watching, it’s His work on display.  Jesus is the head of the Church and we are the body.  With all eyes on us, the body of the Church answered its calling.

Harvey has hung around day after day.  That’s the enemy’s calling card…to keep pushing.  But I think he’s hanging around because he’s still looking for a kink in the armor.  A few million God fearing people have said day after day Not Today Satan.  And with that declaration he’s been weakened and weakened.  And with each day men and women alike have fought harder and harder to help each other, save each other, love each other.

When the worst happens, instinct kicks in.  Men rush in to save, to rescue.  Women start cooking, planning and praying.  Oh my word do we pray.  And the world watches as Matthew 25:40 comes alive across their TV sets, their Facebook news feeds, their talk radio stations and their Instagram pages.  They watch as the body of the Church feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, heals the sick and prays for the lost.  They watch as we rock the babies, wash the clothes, raise the money, collect the diapers, stack the water and whatever else our wet, waterlogged, devastated neighbor needs us to do.  Because when we serve each other, we serve Jesus.  And our test becomes our testimony.

Too soon the day is coming that the pundits will come out in force replaying it all, blaming the powers that be, blaming victims and offering false hopes by way of greedy charities and misappropriated funds.  We’re seeing some of it trickle in already.  Pictures of looters.  Stories of Pastor McFancyPants not opening his church doors.  Our job, as the body of the Church is to keep repeating Not Today, Not Today, NOT TODAY.  Because the enemy wants us to think that it’s a city of thieves asking for help, so maybe we won’t go help.  And he wants us to think that none of the churches care about the lost, hungry and naked.  So maybe we won’t support the churches.  But when we say Not Today we shut him down and he flees.   And then we remember why God allowed the rain to fall and the waters to rise.  Texas, many of our best are there with you now.  Many more of us are coming.  We’ve got you.

Called

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Oh how I love the lazy crawl of summer.  The late mornings, the late evenings, the long popsicle pool days.  The only things in my laundry basket are beach towels and swim suits.  I love summer so much that I wanna marry summer.  But although June, July and soon to be August have showed up, “summer” has not.  Because there is nothing late about 5AM alarm clocks for 6AM running practice.  (Just to be clear, my 15 year old runs.  I do not run.  Ever.) There is nothing lazy about doctor appointments followed by lab work followed by nutritionist and specialist appointments in the never ending toddler skin battle.  And there is nothing long about unpacking one suitcase only to pack another, replacing the light laundry basket for the ironing board.  So summer, you have failed me.  Or did I fail you?

Or did you teach me?  Have you been a 10 week training course of prioritizing, discovering and questioning?  What will this momma do when all three of my birdies head off to school on Aug 9?  (And ya’ll, I apologize now for the post to follow when that little caboose of mine marches out the door for big school.  That little firecracker that tests my patience and my limits like no other breathing creature ever could…she will leave me soon.)

I got my week at the beach with my people.  All in one place, all together.  And thanks to hurricane season, we were really together, all the time.  One couch.  Lots of college baseball and Fox News.  All together.  All.  Week.  Long.

New York came calling and Abby and I answered.  She danced by day and we shopped, toured, ate and laughed by afternoon and night.  My girl, who has been dancing since was two years old, stood on the stage where legends have performed.  What a moment for a girl like her….to plant her feet on the same wood that decades of Rockettes have danced and kick lined.  When you’re raising that kid with big dreams and the brain to pull them off, time is limited.  No matter how tight you hold on to her ankles, every day she takes one more step towards the door.  And despite my sales pitch on our local college and the benefits of living at home with her super cool parents and sisters, she’s got other plans.  So you take the time and the opportunities that God provides and you make the memories and have the fun.  And maybe show her along the way how super cool her mom really is, so maybe she won’t go too far.

And speaking of dreams, I followed an opportunity to pursue one of mine.  I put on my big girl panties and jumped on a plane and went to a big girl conference with 800 other women looking to get published or speak on a stage.  I’m so big.  And I was so fancy in my business casual attire, heels (yes, wedges count) and all my jewelry with my business cards.  I was so big that as I was waiting on my flight I was texting my soul sista, with tears running down my cheeks,  I changed my mind.  Please come get me.  What am I doing here???  But she didn’t.  She told me to suck it up buttercup and go see what God had planned.  So I did.  The cover of my new notebook said “She trusted in His plan even when she didn’t know His path.”  I took 37 pages of notes.  From the first verse of the first song of the first minute of the first day of the conference, He ripped me wide open.  Raw emotion and utter peace all at the same time. I soaked up all 48 hours of talks, workshops, sessions and prayer.  I learned, learned and learned some more.

Women from all walks of life, all shapes, sizes and colors and all across the globe in one room feeling called to write, speak, testify, minister and lead.  There were a million stories in that room if there was one.  And a million avenues to pursue these passions.  Most of the roads were filled with terms like platform, brand, shares, tags, and the measuring stick of 25,000 followers.  But amongst the abundance of information and noise, I heard a repeated whisper. I recognized a recurring theme.  And I remembered the thread He keeps weaving.  I’ve written more than once about the power we have to change the world within our own families.  Then I met a woman who was writing a curriculum for both public and Christian schools on the premise of changing the world from the classroom.  And then I heard a speaker talk who said to change the kingdom we must go home and love our church.  Home, school, church.

In a culture obsessed with social media, selfies and stupidity, there has never been more information available and accessible.  And yet we still don’t get it.  We still search.  But it has never been so simple.  Home, school, church.

God bless that man of mine who let me step off one plane and onto another a few days later.  Both times leaving him behind to handle daily life with littles and on top of that, his job.  When I asked if I go to this conference knowing it would be right after a week in the Big Apple he said, Go do your thing.  I got this. So I did.   And God showed up.  The dream I went there to chase wasn’t in that conference center.  I’m already living my dream.  The family I raise in the home we built, at the school we attend, at the church we pray is the dream meant for me.

Some of us girls are called for “big” things.  And thank goodness for that because we all need someone to write the books we read and the give the speeches  we listen to that fuel us and motivate us in our faith. The words both spoken and written that encourage us to do another day.  And some of us girls are called for “little” things.  Some of us are called to “just” raise families with Jesus at the center, support and encourage teachers who shape and mold His followers and serve in churches where His Word is alive.  Home, school, church.  Some of us are called to change the world.

The Rear View Mirror

rearview mirror

It’s a double edge sword that old thing.  You can’t get where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.  But if you stay focused on where you’ve been you’ll never get where you’re supposed to be.

Sometimes you just shouldn’t look back. Don’t do it.  Like when you’ve loaded the last box and are pulling out of the driveway of your first house headed to your new one…don’t look back.  Especially when the one you’re leaving would have been paid off in another 3 years and you just signed up for an additional 30 years of payment bliss.  And surely don’t look back 5 years later when your checkbook is begging for mercy and you start to think that maybe three girls sharing one room and bathroom could have worked out?  Don’t look back.  You signed on that dotted line, boo.  You wanted the granite and the big porch and the fancy pantry.  No use looking back now.

When you finally plop yourself down in that old blue beach chair, dig your heels in the sand, pop that top (even if it’s 10:30 in the morning) and exhale, it usually takes about 3 minutes for a kid to want to go to the pool.  But when your husband, who you know wants to watch the baseball game at 7:00, jumps up and says I got this, let him. You’ve had a hell of week (actually 6 or 7 of them to be exact) and it took a whole lot to finally plop down in that chair.  A lot of momma-ing, wife-ing, seamstress-ing, dance mom-ing, trip planner-ing, prayer warrior-ing, obedient servant-ing, car pack-ing, car unpack-ing, meal cook-ing, sunscreen apply-ing, beach bag and wagon load-ing then haul-ing…to finally plop down in that chair.  So when he takes those girls to the pools and he’s been gone a while…do not look back.  Do not turn around and look at that boardwalk.  Even when it gets to be 4:30 in the afternoon.  Don’t look back. They’ll show up soon enough.  Even when you see emergency personnel race by in the red truck through the sand, do not look back!  (Maybe check your phone as precaution but don’t look back.) When you hit that spot in the day where the volume on your ear buds is just loud enough to hear your perfect beach playlist but low enough to still hear the waves but yet not the droning of other people’s children…that’s lightening in a bottle my friend. Because once they do show up, two children who have spent 6 hours with their dad with nary a complaint will all of the sudden be hungry, thirsty, itchy, sweaty, sandy, cranky, and every other word that ends in -y the minute they lay eyes on you.  Because Momma is the promised land. For the love of humanity, don’t turn around.

Sometimes though, you have to look back.  Because sometimes that rearview mirror holds the key to moving forward. Or hell even just moving at all.  Like when you have a bad month.  A really bad month.  So bad of a month that your friends have begun a countdown until the month is over.  Your checkbook starts laughing at you and then it starts cursing you out then it just collapses in defeat waving a white flag.  It was time to pay the piper on commitments you made months ago when your work load was quite a bit heavier.  Then around the middle of the month you discover an $800 mistake.  You lost $800.  And with it you lost your mind for a day or two.  And you couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  You must sell your house, drive for Waitr during the day and work at Walgreens at night.  There is no other answer.  When will you big oil field companies decide that you need side pocket gauges again??? When will you people decide that you need new drapes??? What are you waiting for??? Don’t you KNOW??? So you start a social media fast, you use your spare time to pray harder, do a little more bible studying and wait.  You once sat on a bathroom floor for three days waiting on a 3 year old to pee on the potty for the first time.  You’re still waiting on your 15 year old to clean her room. You know how to wait.  And all month He made you wait.  He gave you a study that started on the first of the month about a widowed woman trying to survive a famine.  Surely He wasn’t going to make you study her only to learn the lady starved to death, right?  But He surely made you wait until the end to know that not only did she live but she got remarried and bore a son who helped bring about the lineage of Jesus Christ.  Whoa. And even on the very last day of the month you still didn’t know if or how He was going to work out this pickle for you.  But on the very first day of the next month He did.  You found the $800 mistake.  Oops.  Paid a bill twice and didn’t see it until the new statement came.  My bad. Same day your husband calls and tells you of the bonus he just got.  His whaaaaaaaa?  Then on the 2nd day of the month someone needs some drapes.  A lot of them. And then on the 3rd, someone else.  And on the 4th someone else.  And that’s when you look back and see what He did there.  And then you question why was it so hard to know that it would work out?  Maybe if you had looked back over the last 12 years of your life and remembered all of the ways He delivered, redeemed and work out much bigger, much harder battles, then you wouldn’t have called a realtor.

And then there are times you don’t want to look back.  Chapters that you thought you closed, boxes that you thought you had checked, keep opening and keep unchecking. Ugh.  You have done a whole lot of work with your therapist of 12 years.  Yes, I said therapist.  Yes I said 12 years.  You started one week to the day after life as you knew it changed.  She’s had 4 couches and you’ve sat on all of them.  You really don’t need to go anymore but she would miss you.  Most times you don’t even talk about the thing that changed life as you knew it.  But you start to talk more and more about your children’s issues and battles and why all of the sudden am I thinking of this thing from 10 years ago? From 5 years ago?  And she connects the dots for you and you realize that you’re not quite as healed as you thought.  And you cross your arms and say oh yes I am… I don’t want to go there and you can’t make me. You’re not the boss of ME.  But you DO want your children healthy and happy and not carrying your baggage.  So you agree to dive in again.  To do the specific trauma work she is suggesting.  The work you were never whole enough to do before. To relive it and dig deeper.  You agree, reluctantly, to look back.  Ugh.

But sometimes you get to look back and forward all at the same time.  Like when you get a little surprise gift of an unexpected night at a most unexpected event with your teenage daughter and your soul sista friend.  Who knew that 4 hours with Garth Brooks and these two wild and crazy gals would give such a full circle moment of reflection and also an opportunity to pass such sage wisdom on to your little grasshopper!  To my little grasshopper….you think that you just tagged along with your mother and her friend to a concert.  But we weren’t just at a concert, my girl.  That little outing gave you a rare glimpse into a side of your mother you don’t get to see.  A few hours earlier that day your mother was a screeching nag about your room, the laundry, the mess and constantly running up the stairs to work and back down to switch loads from washer to dryer.  You only know that version along with the one who is always preaching or praying about something.  But that’s not the momma who took you to “just a concert”. There is nothing like a song to take her back.  Like when she jumped up and belted out in perfect sync with Trisha Yearwood to “She’s in Love with the Boy”….your momma loves that song because she married the hay seed plow boy and against many odds she’s still in love with him 20 years later.  And that plow boy is now the man who loves you more than any other man ever will, because he loved you first.  And when she nearly lost her voice singing “Friends in Low Places”, ‘The Thunder Rolls”, and “Shameless” it’s because it took her back to a carefree, responsibility-free, bill-free time of nothing but wild oat sewing.  Long before your momma sewed drapes, she sewed oats.  Lots.  Of.  Oats.  And when she sat down with her arm around you squeezing the life out of you while she sang along to “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance” it was because she knows all too well that sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come and moments like that one are to be breathed in.  And when she sang “Unanswered Prayers” into your ear it’s because she remembers the break up before your dad came along and how her own momma reminded her of that song and sometimes unanswered prayers are gifts from God.  Without that particular unanswered prayer there would be no you. So I’m glad that you tagged along with your momma and her friend to a concert.  I’m glad that you got to see your momma act the fool and dance like no one was watching and let her hair down.  There is far more to your momma than the nagging and the preaching and the praying.  And I hope that one day you look back on that night and remember.

That rear view mirror…it’s a beautiful thing.

May…again.

popsicle

I hate May.  I just really hate it.  I dread it as it creeps in.  On the night of April 30 when I turned the calendar page I texted a couple of friends asking if they were ready….ready for May.  It’s a marathon of events, extra rehearsals, kids cramming, tuition bills, summer activity bills, school elections and tryouts…sometimes with heart breaking outcomes, awards ceremonies, graduations.…I don’t even like Mother’s Day.

Kids grow up in May.  Despite when their actual birthdays are, they all age in May.  Another year done.  Another box checked.  The month of May equals ending.  At least it does for this mom.

My youngest had her Mother’s Day Out “Tea” the other day.  Precious.  They sang the songs.  They answered the questions of mom’s age and favorite foods….all hilariously inaccurate.  They wore the straw hats and construction paper ties.  We wore the corsages and ate the sandwiches and marveled at their talent and artwork.  There were moms everywhere with younger babies and toddlers in tow while they watched their older children perform.  Not this mom though.  It was my baby, my caboose on that stage.  End of an era for me.  Years and years of Mother’s Day Out songfests and teas and this was the last one.

I’m perfectly content with my brood of three.  I’ve got all I can handle with this crazy train.  But nothing makes a uterus contract and a woman 3 ½  years post-partum lactate like seeing her youngest sing “I’m a Little Teapot” in a room full of babies.  I’m 40 and I’ve had 4 C-sections.  My factory no longer works.  That baby ship has sailed for me.  And rationally, I don’t even want to set eyes on that boat.  I’m usually standing somewhere on the bank waving at it screaming “Bye Felicia!” But here we are in May and another chapter closes.  And I am anything but rational.

I hate May.  Twelve years ago we said goodbye to our son in May.  The end of May at that.  So the month of May hovers as one big dark cloud.  Things end in May.  Teenagers change from freshman into sophomores.  Kindergarteners become first graders and leave their nap mats and snack time behind.  And three year olds move on from part time Mother’s Day Out to full time big school.  And the house will soon be empty, five days a week.  And those of us with school age children know that once they start school it is never the same.  They change overnight….they become students.

And in the middle of dreaded May is Mother’s Day. I know it should be a beautiful loving day spent with family but when your family is not whole this side of Heaven, it just sucks.  There’s no other word.  It serves as another reminder of what you’re missing.  Husbands and children can have the best of intentions but your heart just aches.  I prefer to spend it with my own…just another day.  Church, lunch and maybe a nap.  Just make it go away.  I know that I probably hurt feelings in the process but some things you just need to do to survive.  I’m grateful beyond measure for three girls.  Girls that I get a front row seat to watch grow into kind, faith filled mothers of their own.   It is an honor and a task that I don’t take lightly.  Not many of us are chosen to raise all same sex children and I believe that God has a specific purpose in that.  But my heart aches to have a dirty baseball uniform clad boy hand me a bunch of flowers.  I want to be the one in Mass wearing his number on my back in between games.  I’ve heard of the Mother’s Day Mother/Son baseball game.  Put me in coach.  I wanna play.  Thank goodness it’s just one day a year.

So that is May in a nutshell for this mom.  I hate it.  And just as the pity party really kicks into high gear, God shows up.  And reminds me of June.  Oh sweet June is coming.  There are very few things that I enjoy more in this life than summertime with my kids.  Life moves much more slowly.  We sleep late.  We go to bed late.  My husband and I hide from them on the front porch with a longneck or glass of red until the mosquitoes start.  We listen to his very short playlist of Kenny Chesney and Chris Ledoux.  Until I hijack his phone and switch it to Aretha.  Until the kids find us and hijack his phone and switch it to Taylor (Swift, not James).

We swim.  A lot.  We turn into wrinkled, waterlogged creatures until August. It’s a good day when the mint green swim bag comes down out of the closet.  And it’s a sad day in August when it goes back up there.   We have a long standing swimming tradition among a group of us moms who are lifelong friends.  It started over a decade ago when my youngest was three and we were just two moms.  Then more friends had babies and it grew to five of us.  And now some are teens.  And some are tweens.  And some are tots.  But when summer comes, there is no age difference.  They all play lifeguard, school, and Marco Polo.  Until the two 16 year olds need to tan.  Then they sneak out to lay out.  And the littlest of the crew are always throwing rocks in the fountain despite how many times they’ve been told to stop.  But then the popsicles come out.  And they all draw like moths to a flame.  Everyone comes running when the popsicles come out…always “Scribblers,” always with the joke printed on the stick.  And everyone tells their joke one at a time and we all laugh like hyenas no matter how many times we’ve heard them.  The menu is always the same…75 cent chili dogs and Funyuns.  Usually with Sonic half and half iced tea.  Our biggest worry in June is what will we do when everyone is all grown and they won’t swim with us anymore?  And then we realize we are the mommas and if we say they swim with us then they will swim with us.  Any questions?

Then there is vacation. There is always money in the budget for the beach.  Even if there is not money in the budget, this momma finds it.  Right or wrong, and maybe not what some would do but family time at the beach is like oxygen to me.  Salt infused, seagull swarming oxygen.  When there is a 9 year gap between your kids, the years go fast.  When your firstborn has her heart set on going AWAY to college, you want to stop time.  You want to stop the clock.  You want to make the memories, have the fun, take the pictures.  Because when she’s in grad school or med school or engaged, you will still be raising her sisters, still taking them to the beach.  And you want her to want to come.  You want her to want to still make the memories, have the fun and take the pictures.  We can’t get to the beach in May.  Not until June.

We all have our own May.  It’s the way God does life.  He peels layers.  And every May He peels another layer or two or a hundred of mine.  I just finished a pretty in depth study on the Book of Ruth.  Ironically it was a four week study that began on May 1st.  Ruth starts out as a story full of loss and famine.  The study was slow…as in 3-4 verses a day.  It was so tempting to read on ahead and find out what came next…to be assured that it all works out…but that was the point of such a slow pace.  To sit with it and soak it in.  To be patient while God worked it out….just in time for June.  And oh how He DID work it out for Ruth! Little did that destitute and shunned widow know the place that God held for her in the history of creation.  All she had to do was be obedient and believe.

I hate May.  But we all need May or whatever famine or loss we are given.  It’s a running theme with God…the whole beauty from ashes; darkest just before the dawn; good things come to those who wait thing He loves to do.  So here I am with another May under my belt and my kids have aged yet again.  They are another year older.  But then He reminds me that in order to have the girl who wins the academic awards and soars into her sophomore year with a 4.0, then we have to get through the freshman May.  If we want to watch with pride as our speech and language challenged six year old says even just four words into a microphone in front of a crowd, we’ve got to get through the Kindergarten May.  And we’ve got to watch her hold that candle sing about lighting her world….a rite of passage ceremony for kindergarteners at her school and one that both breaks this momma’s heart into a million pieces and overflows it a million times over at the same time.  And even when your heart breaks yet again as you watch her battle with anxiety win another round, you realize that there was a day that she would not have been able to say those 4 words into the microphone.  How far will she come by the next May?!  And finally, if we want to watch our caboose find her wings and get to play on that buckle bridge at big school then we’ve got to get through Mother’s Day Out May.  (Truth be told that one was born with wings and fire in her belly.)

Whatever your May might be, June is coming.  Sweet sweet June.  Because May is always followed by June.  And thank you God for that.

What if….?

what if

Well, how ’bout them politicians? I don’t care what side of the aisle you sit on I think we are all pretty disgusted.  With just about everything they do.  So what can we do about the current state of affairs?  Well the obvious is we can vote. We can call, write, email them and “let our voices be heard.”  Oh they are heard alright.  But nobody listens.

So what can we really do?  We pray.  We look above for answers.  And then He reminds us that He already gave us the answers. He gave us the 783,137 word handbook, give or take.  And right at the beginning of it He started with a family.  He created all of the world, the oceans and mountains, every elephant, every mosquito, the sun and every star in the sky but He wasn’t satisfied until He created the family.  And after Eve condemned us all with her apple, about 1000 years later He felt we were still worth redeeming.  So He sent Noah and his family on a boat to save His creation.  After starting again with a clean slate, Noah and his family repopulated the world.  Then after several thousand years of sin, idolatry, witchcraft, paganism,  impurity, adultery, and plain ole rampant immorality, He sent another savior.  But this time He sent THE SAVIOR.  The Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End…the It Is Finished, Shepherd, Healer, Teacher….the Head of the Church, Light of the World, King of Kings, Bread of Life, Prince of Peace….Jesus Christ.  And how did He send Him?  He sent Him through the womb of a woman, born into a family.

It would seem to me that God regards the idea of family as important.  As in the most important part of everything He made.  And the fact that every time He has reached down to save everything, He has begun with a family.  So what if everything worth anything all starts with the family?  What if we held all the power in the world to change the world, within our own family?

Every word of the Bible is intentional.  Every word is divinely inspired and purposed. So what if we were to implement its teachings and lessons into every day practical life into our families?  What would the world today look like if we followed the rules?

What if Paul really meant what he said to the Ephesians, “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  What if husbands remembered that the wife is to be protected and revered and wives…*cough*cough*…obey?  Hang on.  Don’t close the computer.  But think about it.  Turn on any television show today and for the last 15 years or so.  Husbands are portrayed as goofballs completely incapable of thinking for themselves.  And perception is reality.  So how many families emulate what mainstream outlets tell us is the norm?  This is coming from a my way or the highway, I know best, bossy wife and mother.  But what if we sought to live, even if just a little bit, as our roles were initially designed?  Would we still be neurotic, over-scheduled, passing ourselves on the road, angry-half-the-time wives and mothers?   What if we would see our goofballs rise to the occasion and lead more?  What if it took some of the self inflicted burden off of us?  There’s plenty of things that only us girls can do, period, so why do we have to be in charge too?  We weren’t designed to be.  What would we see in our children’s and children’s children’s marriages if we embraced, even on our modern, modified terms, traditional roles of marriage?  What if it means we raised softer, more virtuous generations of daughters?  What if it means we raised stronger, more Godly generations of sons?  What then would be the state of the world?

What if Isaiah meant it when he said, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  What if we applied biblical principles to our parenting?  Principles beyond share, tell the truth and don’t steal.  What if we expected better from our children than what society says is okay?  What if we draw the line in the sand and the rule is not to cross it?  They may still cross it but what if we have consequences?  What if we thought beyond today’s standard of they’re going to do it anyway they might as well do it in front of me….at least they’re not driving…at least they used protection… at least it was this and not that…we did it so I would be a hypocrite if… What if we expected more of them? What if it then meant we raised more peace filled children in the process?  What if we applied biblical principles to helping them choose friends, dates, clothing, movies, books, music, and colleges?  What if we applied biblical principles to their use of social media? DING DING!! That’s how we help this generation we’re rearing….reigning in their social media use and setting biblical standards for what they post.  Children will fail and make mistakes and we’ve got to continually show them grace when they do.  But if we set the bar higher?

What if Peter was right when he said, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  What if we taught our children to respect authority?  In particular, teachers.   What if we didn’t march down to school over everything? Growing up, my parents marched down to school one time.  And it was when the social studies teacher was looking up our skirts and down our shirts. That’s when a whole bunch of other parents marched down there too who had never marched down there before.  We were taught that teachers are right up there with mom, dad and the police.  I know that there are bad eggs but in general, teachers teach because they are called to teach.  None of them do it for the money or lack thereof.  What if we taught our kids to respect them, do the work and when the teacher does screw up, we all show him or her some grace?  What if in turn we raised generations of respectable, law abiding, God fearing sons and daughters?

What if Moses was serious when he said, “Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  What if we remember what Sundays are for?  Speaking in modern day, realistic terms, what if we made a general adaptable effort to honor Sundays with church, family and rest?  It is hard to take my two little ones to church.  As in I walk out with sweat dripping and near cracked teeth from all of the clenching.  So “hard” that for 2 years or so, for the most part we went to separate Masses with our oldest so as not to drag them along.  I for one needed that hour alone on Sunday to hear, focus and receive!  And then we collectively decided that church as a family of 5 would become the rule rather than the exception.  And after each Mass we’ve gotten one more under our belt.  I told my oldest the other day that it feels like such an accomplishment when we walk out of church each Sunday.  And her reply was “Seriously?  I just feel exhausted when we walk out!”  But we’re creating a habit and with each Mass we are one Mass closer to them sitting reverently, quietly and listening….right?  There will come a day when they don’t moon anyone, blurt out that they have a booger or ask why the lady in front of us is so old?  Right?  Tell me that day is coming!

I don’t say any of this lightly.  I say it from a place of being more often than not unsure of what I’m doing, a place of fear of losing my children to sin and society, and of confusion on how to line up what is right with what is today’s reality.  My oldest is a rule follower and will end up rebelling in some way but it will likely be something comparable to ripping tags off of mattresses or not filling her parking meter.  My middle one is an introvert follower so where will she be led?  What crowd will she find herself in?  My youngest is and will always be my hell raiser.  Raising her will be a constant battle to keep her off of the pole. My Bible will be tattered and worn and my rosary in pieces by the time that one leaves the nest and far beyond that I’m sure.

The enemy slithers around in our lives, homes, school and even our churches.  His purpose is to divide us and there is no place that he is more successful than when he divides us in our families.  We have the handbook on how to handle him at our disposal.  What if we used it?