Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life is Waiting for You

Sometimes I have this dream where I'm supposed to be somewhere. Somewhere important. But I can't get there. Either I'm taking too long getting ready or my feet are stuck to the floor and I can't move. And when I finally do get there, everyone's gone. I've missed it. The party's over.

I hate having that dream. I always wake up feeling frustrated. Surely I could have done something differently, moved quicker, anything to make me get there on time.

Lately I've been feeling like I'm living out that dream. As a mom of young kids, I'm constantly wanting to make things special for them. Especially around the holidays. I've been working so hard to make sure every special meal is cooked, every tradition is carried out, every item on their Christmas list is wrapped and placed under the tree.

And as hard as I work, I'm still coming up short. We didn't get to do everything I had hoped we would do this holiday season. It came and went, and it left me feeling like my feet have been stuck, not quite able to make it to that perfect moment I have in my head.

Christmas Eve found me cooking and baking all day. Yes, I loved it, but I knew I was getting sick. And by Christmas morning, I was out for the count. I wanted to scream. All these weeks of working and preparing for this one day and my body decided to poop out on me just when I needed good health the most.

But what I got from my Christmas spent sick was perspective. I want my children to have magical memories. But I also want to control those moments. I want them to be wearing the cutest outfits, I want the pictures that are taken to be of them laughing and getting along, I want each special meal I cook to come out perfectly and not take me all day. But that isn't realistic. It'd be awesome, sure, but that will never happen. What I get is snotty noses wiped on my sweater when my kids are giving me a hug. A messy kitchen and burnt cookies. A home where it is impossible to walk through without tripping over a toy. In my pursuit to find perfection in my life, I've been missing the good stuff. I've lost sight of the every day moments.

You see, I've worked so hard to get there, but what I didn't realize is that I'm missing the party.

In this new year to come, I want to wake up every day and remind myself to find the beauty in my every day life. I want to go to bed every night and thank God that I get to spend each day with my family. And I want to stop standing still, stop trying to achieve an unobtainable idea of perfection, and enjoy the party.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


For years I've wanted to get pictures of my kids hung on the wall. As much as I take pictures and love pictures, I don't display them. But today I decided to give myself a Christmas gift and finally print special pictures of the kids and get nice picture frames.

Being the savvy shopper that I am, I started at the thrift store. I found lots of things that I wanted to get, but the picture frames I had in mind just weren't there. So I headed to my next go to place- Target. As I was trudging through the slushy snow to get inside, I saw a mom carrying in her baby in an infant car seat. Oh, how I remember the days of hoisting a heavy car seat on your hip, trying to pull a shopping cart out and lifting that heavy car seat in place. I quickly pulled a cart out and turned to her, "Here, you can take this one." I know she heard me. But she looked right past me, poker faced, and hoisted that car seat up on her hip and grabbed her own cart. I wish I was the type of person who could keep my mouth shut. But I can't. Without hesitation I said, "UHHHH, Oook!!!!" And I made sure for it to be loud enough that other people heard and saw me rolling my eyes at her.

I quickly made my way to the home decor section. But by then, I was in a sour mood. Every person had turned from a last minute shopper to a stupid jerk face who was just out to annoy me.

I wanted to just go home and not deal with people anymore. It's Christmastime, what happened to people being joyful, or at least nice?

But I was on a mission to find the perfect picture frames to hang on the wall. So I went to another store. It took me forever to choose just the right frames, but I finally found what I had in mind, so I went to stand in the check out line.

As I was waiting in line, five picture frames in hand, an older man snuck in front of me. "Ughh, here we go again, with the rude people," I thought. And then he turned to me, "I reckon I don't know where to get in line. I'm sorry if I cut in front of you, I'm just trying to get this paid for and out of the store before my granddaughter sees." He held two pink doll chairs and a table. I suddenly felt like a complete jerk face. I love being nice to people. I love going out of my way to do something kind for others. But it's contingent upon their response. Sure, I'll hold the door for someone or let them pull out in front of me, but if I don't get a "thanks" or a wave or an acknowledgement that I did something nice, it's all over. I want to be loving, but if I do something kind with only my selfish reasons in mind, what's the point?

I gulped down my pride, and said, "Please, go in front of me. I'm not in a hurry." And then something happened. I saw that old man for what he was. A person, flawed, just like me, trying to get a Christmas present for his granddaughter. If he hadn't said anything to me, I would have thought the worst of him and given him the stink eye.

And who knows, maybe the woman who refused my shopping cart really didn't hear me. Or maybe she was having a really hard day and didn't even notice my kind gesture.

I was reminded of something today that I must be reminded of daily- "Love is patient, Love is kind." If I want to live out the kind of Love that only Christ can give, I must start at the very root of Love and put all of my expectations and pretenses aside. It's hard. It's especially hard for me. But there is no way to demonstrate genuine love and kindness when you expect something in return.

This holiday season, I want to see people for what they are- human, just like me, and in need of Love. I pray that God will give me opportunities to show that Love. And I pray that I will realize, deeply, that demonstrating Love requires no response.

I got my picture frames. Perfect frames to encase the faces of my precious babies. I know I will walk by these pictures on my wall every day, and I will see little faces that will turn into grown faces. I'll cherish my Christmas gift. One day, even that will fade away. But Love won't. Love conquers all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Eleven Years

"When are you due?," the woman at the grocery store smiled and nodded at my swollen belly. "I'm, uhh, I'm due Christmas day," I stammered. I wanted to get a sign that said, "Yes, I'm having a baby out of wedlock." I squeezed my box of fudgesicles close to me and prayed that by not making eye contact with her, she would stop talking. "Aww! Congratulations! And good luck!", she said, with indifference that only a stranger can get away with.

That was eleven years ago. But today, that memory hit me like it just happened. It's funny how a warm December day, or a certain smell or location, can transport you back to a place in time. I was scared to be a mom. Scared to give birth. But I was determined to do it all on my own. What did I know? Malachi didn't come on Christmas day. He came on my birthday- New Year's Eve. A 9 pound baby boy. And I fought hard to be the best mom I could be- Those first few nights, cradling him in my arms. Not getting any sleep because I kept checking to make sure he was still breathing. Nights spent gently laying him in his bassinet, only to hear the sound of his cry minutes later. Which led me to the living room, sitting in my dad's chair, turning on Charles in Charge and trying to keep my eyes open while a wide eyed boy stared at his exhausted mama.

When I think back on that season of my life, I remember how hard it was. But it's only when I really think about it, that I realize how difficult it was. Because my life moved on from the days of being pregnant with Malachi. My days of being a single mom and struggling to take care of my son, turned into days of being married and having more children and having a beautiful, amazing life that I couldn't imagine of when I was going through the hard days.

That's what life gives us. Memories. Sometimes they're hard to think of. Sometimes all of the good things that happen as a result of the tough times make those memories something to smile about. But one thing I'm always reminded of, is that God is good. God is sovereign. God is faithful.

My life didn't turn out the way I thought it would. It's so much better than I could have ever dreamed. It was when I stopped fighting to have control of what I thought my life should be, that I got to see this life I have for what it is.

If someone would have told me, eleven years ago, when I was filled with uncertainty, that I would end up marrying the father of the child that moved inside of me, I wouldn't have believed them. But it gets even better- not only would I have Malachi and marry the love of my life, but we would go on to have four more kids? That was something I could never have imagined.

Sometimes when I look at Malachi, I can still see that chubby baby who changed my life. I cherish those memories of the first few months I had when it was just me and him. And I thank God that He can change the times when I was bone tired, and scared for what the future held, into memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our Christmas Card

I love traditions. And Christmas. And pictures. So obviously taking a Christmas picture every year is a tradition I started when Nate and I celebrated our first Christmas together as a married couple. That was 10 years ago, but I can remember our first family Christmas picture like we took it yesterday. I had us color coordinated in white and red. Malachi sat on Nate's lap and I held our first doggie, a wiggly beagle named Henry. We propped up our camera and set the self timer- the result was a few blurry pictures of a young couple joyfully celebrating their first Christmas together as a little family. Every year since then, we've taken a Christmas picture that gets sent out to family and friends.

This year I had good intentions of color coordinating again for our family Christmas picture. I thought about searching for the perfect outfits for all of us. I thought about taking pictures in the fall when the leaves were changing colors and the air was crisp. But all of my thinking and planning didn't quite cut it when I realized that time was ticking to get that family Christmas picture this year.

Tuesday evening I hosted an Origami Owl party. My kiddos were all there and Nate walked in the door. I decided to cease the moment and take that picture. So I snagged my best friend, Jan, and asked her to snap a few pictures of us. But then I had a freak out thought- the kids were all wearing clothes that they had worn all day. Some of them had chosen things that were too small for them, or had holes in them. And of course, they all had some form of food spilled on them. Should I at least brush their hair? Or wipe off their faces? But it was too late- a miracle had happened. Every one of the kids and Nate were standing in front of the fireplace anxiously awaiting that Christmas picture. Jan started snapping photos- click, click, click. In a matter of 3 minutes, everyone stood still and smiled and I just knew there had to be a good picture in there.

The next morning, I took out the sd card from our camera and popped it into my computer. And there was my little family. Pictures of me with my mouth open telling everyone, "just look at the camera and smile!". Pictures of rosy cheeked kids making silly faces. Pictures of Nate trying to force the smile he knows I desperately want him to make! (:

And then I saw it- our 2013 Christmas picture. It wasn't the picture I had dreamed of. But it was us. Not everyone is looking at the camera, or has combed hair, or is wearing clothes void of holes or stains. But in that moment, our family is captured for who we are. Loving each other, laughing with each other, humoring a mother and wife who takes the tradition of a Christmas picture seriously. One day I'll have the perfectly color coordinated picture of our family. But for now, for this year, I can't imagine a more beautiful Christmas picture than the one we have.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Social Media New Year's Resolution

If I think really hard, I can remember a time when there was a world without social media. A time when if you wanted to let your friends know what you did that day, you picked up the phone and called them. A time when letters were written and envelopes were mailed packed full of pictures of your kid's piano recital. It's funny how in just a few years the world as we know it has drastically changed. And even stranger, the world our children know will only be one consisting of the rise of technology.

I always like making New Year's Resolutions. I don't always keep them, but I think it's a good time to assess the past year and what changes I want to make. I've thought about getting rid of my Facebook and Instagram accounts a lot over the past few months.  I know, I know, it's crazy talk.The rare times I do talk to someone who doesn't engage in any kind of social media outlets, I always find myself thinking, "That's so weird. Why do you even have a smart phone?"  But I started to really take a look at how having constant access to social media affects me and my family. When I look at other people's Facebook or Instagram, I often find myself feeling like my life is lacking somehow. Someone has a nicer car than I do, their kids have nicer clothes than mine do, they get to travel and do more fun things than me. It's kind of like being in a bad relationship that you just can't bring yourself to get out of. And what's even worse than how I often feel when I see what other people are doing, is how I portray my own life to be. The pictures that I take where my hair is frizzy or my face is pimply get quickly deleted. If I take a picture of the kids at our house, I make sure to crop out the pile of dirty clothes laying in the corner. And I do all of this with the hope and anticipation that I'll get some "likes" or some nice comments about how pretty I am or how awesome my family is. The truth left me feeling kind of icky. What kind of role model am I when I try and teach my kids that their self worth comes from their loving actions and morals when I'm kind of, sort of relying on other people to make me feel good about myself?

Now I'm not saying that I'm going to get rid of the social media outlets that I do use on a daily basis. I came to the excuse conclusion that keeping in touch with loved ones that are far away is a good reason to keep Facebook and Instagram. But when my phone is full of more pictures than my photo albums are, I know it's time to make a change. So my Social Media New Year's Resolution is to actually use my camera (and not the one on my cell phone!). I'm committing to taking pictures and writing letters to send to loved ones. I'm committing to getting on the phone and calling my friends, or better yet, setting up a time to meet with them and talk about life in person! And I'm committing to emulating the values that I desperately want to teach my children and realizing that how I feel about myself, doesn't have to come from a nice comment on a picture that I took 50 times to make sure it looked just right (:

So if you don't see my pictures as much on Facebook or Instagram, just know that my face is still zitty and my house is still messy and my life is just perfectly the way it should be- whether or not my cropped, filter used pictures are on your screen (;

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Tree

 As soon as November arrives, I think it's time to get the Christmas decorations going. I try to get the $15 artificial Christmas tree I got off Craigslist up within the first few days of November. But this year was different. The business of everyday life consumed us and I found the middle of the month quickly creeping up. So I decided, while throwing a load of laundry into the dryer, that this was the day to get the tree out.

Ivan and I went down into the basement and attempted to find the Christmas tree. Staying true to my unorganized self, every bit of Christmas decorations (including the tree) were scattered everywhere. After several trips up and down the stairs bringing anything Christmas related I could find up, I realized that the all important nap time had come and gone. In fact, the kids would be getting off the bus in a few minutes. I hurried to put together our old, rusty Christmas tree. And before I knew it, I heard the bus and the sound of four kids running and screaming excitedly to come home.

And that's when it hit me- my idea of having a perfect afternoon of decorating the Christmas tree was out the door. The kids all came running inside- they dropped their backpacks and rushed into the living room. "OK, guys," I said, trying to get some order in how to decorate the tree, "let's just each take one thing at a time and put it on the tree." I truly believe that those words I spoke were never heard. Within minutes, Aylah had found some horrific Christmas music and started blasting it, ribbons and ornaments were flying all around, candy canes from who knows how many years ago were entering slobbery mouths.

For one moment, I thought about what it would be like if this Christmas tree decorating was different. If I had hot chocolate to sip, if  I was listening to Dean Martin and not the Chipmunks, if all of the ornaments were pretty and things that were never meant to go on a Christmas tree weren't being shoved on by sticky hands. Defeated, I grabbed the laundry basket and went into the kids's room to put away their clothes.

I was folding their laundry when I heard the voice of an angel singing, "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head." I looked up to see Malachi, my man child, singing Away in a Manger. And he wasn't just singing those words- he meant it. Tears filled my eyes. Seeing this boy- my child on the brink of becoming a man- sing such sweet words about the true meaning of Christmas, hit me like a ton of bricks. And I thought, how many more years will I get the chaos of decorating the Christmas tree? How many more years will I have of having a tree that turns out looking like an elementary school art project? Yes, one day, one day too soon, I'll have my pretty ornaments and ribbons, I'll have my Dean Martin and hot chocolate, but could that ever compare to the joy of my sweet children decorating a tree the best they know how?

I put the laundry down and hugged my boy. Together we walked back into the loudness of the living room. Little bodies were now twirling around to Christmas music. "Mom, Mom! Look at the tree! Look what we've done." "Wow!", I said. "It's amazing!" And I didn't just see a Christmas tree. I saw the most beautiful tree I've ever seen.