Monday, February 19, 2018

Ready or Not, Here I Am

It's been a while...

Seems I always start that way.

But now it's Lent and part of what I am doing is slowing down, writing, being.

It's hard. The being part. Just being. Not worrying about where else I should be or who wants me doing what. Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at never stopping. It's become a source of pride almost - look at all that I can do! Throw in something else if you dare! I can do it all.

So far I've been able to do just that, but at what cost?

More importantly, why? Why must I do it all? Have I allowed the fear of disappointing someone with a "no" or "not me" take priority over savoring the moments of nothingness, stillness? Or have I grown afraid of the stillness, the quiet?

One of the devotionals I try to read regularly challenged readers to summarize their spiritual journeys in a sentence. Without much thought, the words to Amazing Grace popped in my head. Yet, this time the words did not really ring true for me. I am not lost. I was not lost. I have not been found. Instead, in that moment, I realized with much clarity that rather than lost, I have been hiding.

And while I have been hiding, God has not been looking for me and, thus, has not found me. He does not need to look or find, He has known where I have been all along. You see, this game of hide-and-seek we are playing is like one you would play with a very small child. I am hiding and He is standing close by pretending He doesn't know where I am. He is waiting for me to come out. Occasionally, He will remind me that He is nearby with a beautiful sky or a gentle wind, like a father making an exaggerated cough or claiming loudly that he "just can't find" his little rascal. And then He waits some more, until finally I give up and come out from my hiding spot.

On my run yesterday evening, He gave me the beautiful evening sky shown in the picture (which my mid-stride IPhone shot does not do justice to). He was there. He has always been there.

So this Lent, I am just giving up. I am giving up doing everything in favor of doing nothing. Obviously, I cannot always do nothing, but I can certainly do more nothing. I can actually get on the floor and play with the girls without looking around at the mess I could be cleaning (which inevitably leads to me actually cleaning it). I can read a book or write a poem without thinking of the things I "need" from the store and running out for them. I can let the laundry and dishes pile up (within reason) and play a board game or watch a movie instead.

For the next 40-days I will not hide and I will not numb myself with busy-ness. I will be and I will feel and I will let myself be filled with that Amazing Grace that can save even a wretch like me. So ready or not, here I am.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I Can Only Imagine

On the drive to school this morning this song came on and I told the girls it reminded me of my Mee Maw, after whom Pumpkin was named. It wasn't that she particularly loved this song or ever sang it - those memories are saved exclusively for Patsy and Conway and the likes. Bug asked why this reminded me of her and I explained that it was because she was with Jesus and the song is about what someone would do if they saw Jesus.

So we started talking. Pumpkin quickly and reverently exclaimed that she would bow to Him. I have no doubt. I'm certain that if it were a couple thousand years ago, like Mary, Pumpkin would hang on every word and anoint His feet with the finest oil. They asked me and I said (with tears already welling up) that I would probably cry. Bug didn't miss a beat when she said excitedly, "I would hug Him and then we would go swimming in my pool."

From the mouths of babes. She didn't even consider NOT inviting Him to her home, to do her favorite activity. She didn't feel a bit of worthlessness. She didn't think that maybe she should plan something more elaborate. It didn't even cross her mind that He might have more important things to do than drive to Moss Bluff to go swimming with her. She knows her worth in His eyes; knows inherently and undoubtedly that He wants nothing more than to spend time with her where she is. If only I were so wise.

Of course, before He can meet me where I am first I need to be where I am. I need to be. That was a big lesson of our summer, but one that I can find myself losing a grip on as we get back into the busy-ness of our fall schedule.

See, this summer we did all the typical "summer time" things. I could write my back-to-school essay on a trip to church camp, visits with family, playing at the beach or swimming in the pool; but, honestly, the best thing we did all summer was recover from Pumpkin's tonsillectomy. Don't get me wrong - the surgery terrified me and I was a wreck every day leading up to it until it was over. Physically, she took it like a champ and recovered in record time.

But what was great about surgery was it made us slow down - literally forced us to hardly leave the house for two solid weeks. Two weeks of pajamas, movies, board games and rediscovering the simple joys of imagination. I realized that my kids don't need more activities and more experiences, they need more time - family time, play time, time to be bored and time to dream. It was amazing what all that time did for the girls and for our family. I realize how precious those two weeks and all of our time together is and continue to pray that as we get back into school, dance lessons, gymnastics, and friends, we keep coming back together as a family just to be.

And when we do, I pray we also always let Him in.

Monday, June 19, 2017

If I were a Butterfly

This post may end up sounding cliche, but I just can't help myself this time.

See, we bought a butterfly hatching kit and so, needless to say, I've had the life cycle of a butterfly on my mind. I've always known the story of the butterfly - ugly caterpillar, transformation, beauty, yadda, yadda,  yadda, but I've never actually seen it all first hand.

So we got a jar of dirt and caterpillars. You all know I'm not the biggest fan of creepy crawlies, but fortunately they are delivered in such a way that you don't have to touch them until they are safely in their chrysalises (which, in my day, was called a cocoon, but times change I suppose). The whole caterpillar-to-chrysalis part of the project was quick and a little dirty. They trudge around in the dirt and get fat. Within a week there was slimy silk all over the jar and about 1/4 of the fuzzy caterpillar bodies all over the ground (parts they do not need apparently).

Then we waited. And waited. Another week of nothing - I wasn't even sure they were alive honestly and was hoping not to disappoint the little ones. But then, one morning as I was pouring coffee and staring out the window I saw it - an honest-to-God butterfly was in our netted habitat! I ran outside whooping and hollering like a little kid, rousing the fam out of bed to come and see. There it was, dripping with yucky red meconium and wrinkled and unsure - but it was as butterfly. It was colorless and essentially motionless.

Suddenly all around it little wings started busting out of those chrysalises left and right. We'd watch as one after the other, they struggled, fought, kicked (and maybe screamed in their tiny butterfly voices) to be released from their little safe haven. They'd stand up, colorless and confused and, no matter where they hatched, they stumbled to the side netting and climbed up to dry out and figure out this new life.

Slowly, one-by-one, they would start to get color in their wings, they start to crawl, start to try to fly. We placed fruit and nectar in the cage and they found it and drank and got bigger and stronger. Soon they were fluttering and flying all around their little habitat until, with both anticipation and a little sadness, they were ready to be set free. And when we released them, at least one came back to tell us goodbye. To thank us and for us to thank them.

See, as cliche as it sounds, life is like that - cyclical, with hard times and dark times. Sometimes we have to leave things behind, even go into hiding so-to-speak, become something different. And sometimes being that something different doesn't look as good as it sounds at first. We have to dry out our wings, get some color back in us, and then we are ready to fly. And much like our little painted ladies, our life is short too, so we have to fly.

I was so excited the girls got to have this nature experience but I'm also excited I did. I may not be a butterfly, but I do thank you God for giving me wings!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Only So Many Hours in a Day

Pumpkin asked me the other day, as I reminded her of the time for the fifth time that morning, why “grownups always lie about the time.” I stopped dead in my nagging tracks. “What do you mean?” “Well,” she started slowly explaining, “you said it was already 7:15 and it’s only 7:11. And you always do that. It’s like when you told me I had to start doing things for myself because I was 7 before I even turned 7.”

Talk about an early morning gut-check.

Why do grownups do that? Why do I do that? She, of course, in her complete innocence, didn’t realize the profound questions she was making me ask myself. Billy Joel’s “Vienna” starts playing in my head – a song that I often here in my states of over-stressed melancholy - reminding me to "slow down, you crazy child."

Here I am still reeling from the fact that she did actually turn 7 just two weeks ago and I spend so much time and energy hurrying her – hurrying them both – worried about the next appointment, the next event. Always worrying about what is coming, what I need to do, where we need to be – losing, in that worry, the moment. So caught up in keeping up with life that I miss out on living.

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s also reflected back at me by our little Bug, who in the middle of the most fun-imaginable day chock full of carnivals and candy and friends and games, will ask me, “what other fun thing are we going to do after this?” It makes me crazy. I try to tell her to just enjoy what we are doing, which is obviously sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher to her – especially when she looks at my actions in always rushing, worrying, checking off boxes, and scheduling more “to dos.”

So I couldn’t explain to Pumpkin why grownups do that. But what I could do – and what I did – was promise her that we would have a slow-down summer. We have things planned, but they are not going to cause us stress. I’m not going to be so adamant about a schedule that I miss an opportunity. We are going to be bored and see what kind of fun we can create with that boredom. We are going to smell flowers – literally. And we are never, ever going to say that it’s a time that it isn’t. Those 4 extra minutes could hold magic for us.

Most importantly, mama is going to “cool it off before [she] burn[s] it out.”

And I hope this summer to find more time to write here and elsewhere; but I’m not going to stress if I don’t find that time because they are only this age once.

Monday, November 28, 2016

T'is the Season

Something about Advent – decking the halls in preparation for Santa, slowing our spirits down in preparation for the Christ-child – brings me back to this Blog again. It’s been a very long time since I’ve written. There is no way in this post or a dozen more that I could capture everything I’ve missed, but yesterday while decorating the tree I realized what a hole I’ve left in our memories by letting this blog go.

See, last year I was busy. Obviously, like anyone else with kids, jobs, lives, I could probably say that anytime. But last year I let busy-ness win. I hired out our Christmas decorating. I didn’t lift a finger and the kids didn’t hang a single ornament. First, let me say that my tree was department store gorgeous. There wasn’t a single personal memory on the tree. In fact, what I discovered yesterday while decorating the tree was that among those gorgeous ornaments were several small gold picture frame ornaments that had hung all last Christmas in my perfect tree. When I looked closer I realized the photos in those frames were the stock photos of someone else’s life. It literally brought tears to my eyes to recall a time in our lives when I didn’t slow down long enough to put pictures in frames. My tree was as beautiful as one at Macy’s and just as soul-less.

This year we decorated the most beautiful Griswald tree, full of memories and color. There are too many ornaments hung in a cluster at about 3-feet high because that is where the girls could reach. There are bright rainbows of colorful LED lights. There was hot chocolate and singing and laughter. There was frustration getting the tree in the door, more frustration getting the lights on the tree, and the angel is hung precariously on the top of a slightly tilted evergreen. But, in the end, it is the most amazing tree I’ve ever seen. The gold frames and all of the other gorgeous ornaments are back in the attic.

Luckily Bug told me she didn’t remember Christmas last year. Pumpkin on the other hand remembered every detail of where every decoration went (which was quite helpful for the other knick knacks and things I didn’t put up last year). But I hope they remember this year. I will strive this Advent to take time to make sure that each moment is memorable. That they always equate the holidays with slowing down and loving those close to you, even during the time of shopping and holiday parties.

Amidst all of this insight, a family friend sent me some photos of the girls she found on her phone from when they were so tiny they didn’t recognize themselves. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a couple of years and they’ve grown so much. That tiny little baby Bug is the same child who asked me questions yesterday about Heaven that were so profound I couldn’t find an answer for them. That big sister is the same one trying to read Harry Potter and writing stories of her own. I only thought they kept me on my toes back then. Now, it’s difficult to stay one step ahead of them mentally.

It’s hard to always set aside the hustle and bustle, not just during the holidays but year-round. My Advent practice and my New Year’s Resolution will be to strive each day to make memories, no matter how small, that let my family know that they are loved and that their home is a place of warmth, joy, and safety. If you are reading this, you are dear to me also and I pray for you the same peace. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

You Say It's Your Birthday! It's My Birthday Too, Yeah!

Six years ago today, almost to the minute now, I became a mommy.

Just typing those words makes the Earth stop spinning and my eyes well with tears.

Six years ago.

Pumpkin is not a baby anymore. She doesn't need me for every little thing. She doesn't need me for any little thing, really, although sometimes she still acts like she can't brush her own hair or tie her shoes.

But the truth is: she doesn't need me for any little thing.

She needs me now only for big, scary things.

I look back through these blogs and remember freaking out trying to find the right sippy cup, make sure she walked and talked on time, and that her ear infections stopped. All noble mommy causes in their own right.  All nerve-wracking and consuming in their own time. How I wish any one of them were my biggest concern now.

These days I lose sleep over much heavier mama burdens like which friends she will choose, what choices she will make when I'm not looking, how comfortable she will be telling me things that I might not like, making sure she follows her heart but keeps her head, convincing myself to clip her wings, while holding her close as long as I can.

This child - this person - that God entrusted us with is such a paradox of beauty and depth and passion and soul. She can brighten an entire room with her smile and she can just as quickly darken the world with her eyes. She feels and knows thing that are beyond her years and even her own ability to fully comprehend. She's wise. She's a seer and an artist. Yet, when she gets the giggles there is no music on Earth that can compete in the utter joyfulness of the sound.

Six years ago she made me a mommy. But more that that, she made me a better person. She gave me love, hope, joy, and faith. She has taught me to see the world with new eyes and to experience true wonder. She has taught me to slow down, to listen, to admit to my weakness and to believe in my strength. In many ways, I strive to be more like her and pray that she always wants to be and is her own beautiful, strong, amazing self.

Happy birthday Pumpkin. mommy and daddy love you. Eat cake, stay up late, and laugh a lot. But most of all enjoy every minute of your life.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lord Prepare Me, to be a Sanctuary

I love Lent. I know Lent is not supposed to be a season of joy but the solemnity of penitence and ashes on Ash Wednesday, the anxiety of the knowledge of his death, the wonder of what those in the moment must have felt, and the anticipation of the joy of his resurrection brings my heart such fullness. I always look forward to the opportunity to slow down and just be. I am entering this Lent with a new hope that I have not felt before and I am excited and anxious to see how He will work through me.

Now, having espoused all of that great philosophy, let me get real for a minute. Flash back to that Ash Wednesday service barely 12-hours ago. I'm on my knees trying to get in my holy groove, confessing sins, yadda yadda yadda when no sooner had I invoked the "Most merciful Father" when I hear a slight chuckle behind me. I turn to my side and see Bug trying to take off her shirt in the middle of church. Luckily her belly was a road block and I was able to get her mostly covered. Realizing she had to stay dressed, Bug was undeterred and immediately began building a giant throne of hymnals and tried to hoist her little self onto the top of them - repeatedly. Of course, they slipped, she'd fall, she'd cry, and we would start all over again.

As my left arm is trying to save Bug's life, keep her dressed, and hold on to my prayer book, to my right I have Pumpkin trying to follow along with the prayer book, bulletin, hymnal and insert. She is constantly whispering for the correct book and page number and needs me to point to "where we are" every few seconds. She's melting my heart with her recitation of the Kyrie and the confession and she belts out the Lord's prayer. She even made a "card" for Jesus promising that "for Ash Wednesday" she will be "more nice to Maggie." I'm hoping she meant Lent, not just Ash Wednesday. A direct handwritten promise to Jesus is even better incentive for good behavior than the Elf on the Shelf.

Yet, despite not hearing every word of the homily (I heard most of it, I promise), despite not having a single moment of complete silence, despite all of our ashes being wiped off by chubby fingers before the Recessional - despite all of this, I got a glimpse of true holiness. Our every day lives, the mundane, the frustrating, it is His Sanctuary. It is where He works. Our Church family - and ours truly is a family - is a place of unconditional love and support. I can bring my greatest frustration, my most wearied secrets, and place them at His altar, surrounded by those folks, and know that I will leave with my burden lightened. And I did.

So, I wish you a Happy Lent. I know that isn't the right phrase, but I mean it - because in losing ourselves and finding Him we have the chance for true happiness that the world cannot bring us.