He Sings Too: Five Minute Friday

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He likes to sing along, this last baby of mine. He doesn’t have many words (except shoe, which is his favorite thing to say), but he likes to add his voice to the chorus of little people in my house. The son and daughter are always singing. Silly songs, Star Wars songs, anything they come up with. The baby just adds his own flair to their creations.

His voice is changing now, less baby, more toddler and I know that soon he will be filled with words rather than the tender vocalizations that melt my heart. A part of me is sad as I see the baby years begin to fade in the rear view mirror of my life. The sleepy night time cuddles and snuggles. He’s always been such a trooper, contented to go along wherever we had to be. Now he has stronger opinions and he vocalizes them loudly (if often wordlessly).

I know that I will blink and the diaper years will be gone and all the rest will follow close behind. (We’re already making plans for the crib to take it’s well deserved retirement from service.) Everyone said it would go fast, and I tried so hard to slow it down. As I tuck him in at night and hold him close and whisper “Please don’t grow up too fast. You’re the last one.”

(We call the picture, the Simon selfie. The only way to get a decent picture of him these days).

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The Quiet: Five Minute Saturday

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Photo Credit: [Alan] Flickr via Compfight cc

It’s the empty day. Good Friday is over but Easter Sunday is still on it’s way. Though our culture has filled with day with egg hunts and food prep (I know I’ll spend most of today cleaning my house). But it is essentially a day of silence. The day God was quiet with the world.

The man who so many had set his hopes on was dead. He was buried in the tomb and all hope seemed lost. Saturday is the day of doubts, the day of grief. For the disciples, as good Jews, it was also the Sabbath. A return to normalcy and yet not. Because things would never be normal again.

Grief is like that. We feel like things will never be right again. After all the hubbub of funerals and memorials have past, we are left with the emptiness and trying to find a way to create some kind of normal again.

This is where we have the advantage. We know that Sunday is coming. But that doesn’t mean that we should skip the experience of the silence. I heard a counselor once say, lean into the pain, because there is no avoiding it or going around it or rushing through it.

Today is a day of unknown waiting. I think a lot of can feel this. We know all that we hope for, but it feels uncertain. All we can hear is the quiet and wonder where God is. As you fill your day with celebrations and pleasant diversions, take a few moments to think about this grief day. Connect with the pain and waiting in your own life. It may feel like a dark time. But the dawn is coming.

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We’ve Got This: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: ryeckman Flickr via Compfight cc

I hate that I couldn’t handle it alone. I love to write but technology is not my forte. So whenever I need something, it’s computer programmer husband to the rescue. He gamely offered to help me with some blog research last night which led to a multi-hour drama after I clicked the wrong button. (I firmly believe that everything in life should have an undo button).

Then at 4 AM the smoke alarm started chirping. Of course we couldn’t figure out which one it was. I know my husband doesn’t do well with early morning wakings and I desperately wanted to take care of it myself so he could sleep. An hour later after changing three batteries, he gave up on sleep and I crashed for another hour or two, but not before feeling guilty that I was sleeping and he was awake, headed exhausted into another workday.

I know marriage is supposed to be a team, but sometimes I hate how much I need him. Because I worry that someday if he isn’t there I won’t be able to make it on my own. In a generation that is teaching women self-reliance, after seeing other women flounder after losing husbands to death or divorce I feel like I should be able to do it all on my own.

At the same time, I love knowing that he has my back. He may be cranky at 4 AM, but he takes care of whatever the problem is. He got up with the babies when they were small, and even now when they get sick in the night. I don’t know why I’m so stuck on the idea that I need to be enough on my own.

Maybe it’s just important that I know I can do all the stuff, but that I’m lucky enough not to have to. We share the load not because I am less capable but based on preference and gifting. It doesn’t mean I’m not good enough, but that I have a partner who is equal to this difficult task we have taken on; to share a life and build a family. With God’s help, we’ve got this. Neither of us has to labor alone.

So, Hon, if you are reading this half asleep at your desk at work; thanks again for everything you did last night. Hopefully there’s a full night’s rest coming your way.

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Just As I Am: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Jim Morefield Flickr via Compfight cc

 

This is such a fitting word for someone going through the existential journey I have been on for the past couple of months. Because identity and purpose have been heavy on my mind lately; who I am and how I define myself.  Because I live in a culture that focuses so much on what I do as the definition of who I am.

When you are a parent who primarily stays at home and doesn’t have much else to show for her day than piles of dishes and laundry, defining myself by my accomplishments isn’t very appealing. I don’t produce much in the way of product because most of the tasks in my life are perpetual. Dishes will be used and washed, clothes worn, meals eaten faster than they are prepared.  Much of the rest is immeasurable. I cannot quantify the hugs I give my children or the discipline and encouragement I dispense (often more of one than the other, depending on the day).

It is easiest to define myself as wife and mother but if I wasn’t those things (or if I suddenly ceased to be those things), I am still someone. I can focus on my identity as author, dancer, creative artist, but again, even if those were stripped away, I am still someone.

As I’ve labored over this concept for the past few months a friend commented to me something that has stuck fast, and I keep returning to it again and again.

“Something that God is teaching me is that my most important ‘job’ in life is not to be ‘productive’, but to love Him. If I never work outside the home again; if all of my life is spent driving children, wiping bums and noses, limiting screen time and folding laundry, I am just as loved and valuable to Him as if I was a globe-trotting evangelist – and that’s what is really important. My value needs to be in what He thinks of me, not how ‘productive’ for the Kingdom I feel.”

I strive to live like I really believe this. That even as I pursue God’s will for my life, investing myself in dreams and desires that I believe he has given to me, I need to be willing to build all of that on the immutable and unchangeable foundation of my identity in Christ. That I am a loved child, a daughter of the king. Nothing I accomplish in my life can make me more worthy of that position in the heart of God than my redemption through the blood of Christ has already made me. It is done, finished. With that comes a beautiful freedom to explore because I cannot fail, not really. Because even if my strivings, godly as they are, come to nothing measurable; I am loved just as I am for who I am.

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Though the Darkness Comes, I Am Not Alone: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: R J Ruppenthal Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in nearly two weeks. We’ve been virtually house bound (except for a 20 minute run to the grocery store) for nearly two weeks. First came the snow, then the respiratory infection my daughter had. Followed by the stomach bug that hit both the big kids and my husband. My daughter became so dehydrated we thought we were going to the emergency room. Now the baby has a nasty cold. Definitely not the week I had planned.

I know these are just part of parenting. I feel like, for the most part, I’ve accepted it. But this time was different. I could feel my nerves wearing thin by the fourth night of getting up with one vomiting child or another. When I have to leave the door open and I don’t really sleep because I know the minute I close my eyes, someone will need me. It is exhausting.  It has been such a challenge for me to sleep in this new house, it still doesn’t fully feel like home.

There are so many things I want to be doing and things I feel like I should be doing. Instead I’m tackling the 18th load of laundry and disinfecting everything in sight. I found myself angry at my daughter yesterday because she didn’t like the food I made for her (though she had requested it). I snapped at my son when he decided to serve himself soy milk into multiple glasses and onto the table. Even the baby, who is usually my happiest and most easy going child, threw his lunch on the floor. (I guess nothing tastes good when your nose is stuffy and you can’t blow it).

I have never been great at embracing this part of parenting. I love the cuddling babies, the connecting with my big kids. The light in their eyes when they learn something new. But the drudgery and monotony gets to me. I also have trouble with the way an illness just derails life. I want to be the nice person who doesn’t spread the germs so I have to be the mean mom that makes everyone miss their activities. Some women rise to the occasion at times like this. I always survive (as does everyone else) but just barely.

Instead of leaning into the difficult moments, and soldiering on, I find myself holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop and praying like crazy that things will just return to normal.Because this crazy life is hard enough without everything being derailed indefinitely until the bug of the month has had its fill of terrorizing my family and moves on.

I want to be able to learn to feel the embrace of the Father during times like this. I am not alone. I don’t know why some of my prayers whispered in desperation in the dark weren’t answered. I’m grateful for the one’s that were. I watched my children sit at the dinner table last night and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Yes, they were driving me crazy, but they were all there. The baby isn’t throwing up, though his nose is stuff. My son is fully recovered. My husband is back at work again. My daughter averted an ER visit and is showing interest in normal food again. For this I can be thankful. Until next time, I continue to try and hear His voice amid the daily chaos, hoping that when the difficult times come again, I will feel His presence more.

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Friendship Without Fear: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Vicki’s Nature Flickr via Compfight cc

I think of all the women who say “I don’t really like other women.” I used to be one of these women, mostly because I’d been hurt and excluded. Among my male friends I found a place where I could be myself, without pretension. After my husband and I got married, having close male friends wasn’t really doable. So I often found myself lonely. I had a couple of good girl friends I made in college, but the downside of getting married young, is that it isolates you. Logistically, because I no longer lived on campus, but also socially too.

It never occurred to me until years later that it was those early female relationships that were flawed, not the concept of female relationships in general. I thought that since I couldn’t be the “right” kind of girl that other women wouldn’t accept me. Or at least that I would never have the kind of close relationships where I could really be myself. 

Lisa Jo Baker has a new book coming out (You preorder it here), that I’ve been lucky enough to preview. The following quote hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Because Satan would like nothing more than to see all of us women infected by our past hurts, the lies we’ve believed, and the grievances we bear. If it were up to him he would strap the corpses of our failed friendships and dead relationships to our backs and have us carry them into every conversation, every tender connection, and new interaction. Into every Bible study and book club, into every girls’ night out and kids’ birthday party. “

Yikes! I know many women for whom this is true, including myself. We may suffer from what Lisa Jo calls Friendship PTSD. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can extend ourselves without worrying what the final picture will look like. Risking vulnerability and pain, creating healthy boundaries and still finding intimacy.

I may not have a bosom friend like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. But that doesn’t mean I’m doomed to walk the planet alone with only my husband (dear as he is) to make conversation with. I remember the old childhood saying “To have a friend, you must be a friend.” It sounds cliche but maybe not all wrong. If I could learn to let go of the fear, to be a friend even if I’m not sure that it’s going to work, applying the save level of sacrificial love that I’m trying to find for my family into my friendships as well, even the one’s too new to have necessarily earned it. Then maybe I will be surprised by what I find.

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Loving With Abandon, Serving Without Bitterness: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Calpastor Flickr via Compfight cc

Parenthood has a way of making things both clear and confusing at the same time. It quickly revealed to me my worst qualities, while also showing me how much I am really capable of. But as I approach my eighth year of parenting, I continue to find myself analyzing my reactions.

When the children are small (or in the case of my older two, not quite as small as they used to be) it is easy to feel like a victim. Maybe this isn’t your experience. But I have found myself struggling with bouncing between the extremes of selfishness and martyrdom. Yes, I have needs, and burning myself out (and feeling bitter about it) isn’t useful to my family. But at the same time, I am not entitled to my “me time” either.

Even the church can’t seem to make up its mind. After generations of telling women to sacrifice all for their families, now the pendulum swings the other way and we see women willing to abandon their families for a “higher” calling of ministry. (Let me be clear here, I am not criticizing women who work outside the home or are heavily involved in ministry. Those things aren’t good or bad. It is what we do with them, and the attitude in which we do it that the issue lies).

I find myself in the place again looking at how to love sacrificially. How can I learn to love them with abandon? What does this look like in my life? The only example I can look to is Christ is his time on earth. Why only him? Because he did take time for himself yet he was without the sin of selfishness. We see in the scriptures that sometimes he prioritized self-care for both himself and his disciples. But I doubt Jesus looked as his disciples and uttered the words “Ok, I’ve had enough of you. This is ‘my time.’ Get out of my face.” (Not that I’ve EVER said that, and I’m sure you haven’t either, right? wink wink).

So how did he do it? The Father was his source. He had a mission, and he constantly communed and touched base with the Father to keep him on course. This is something I can do as well. I can serve my children, my family, and my ministry obligations and still take care of myself. But I need to be continually listening for the still small voice so I can learn when to stand aside and when to press forward. Not because of my own selfish desires but because I have become attuned to the voice of the Father as Jesus was. Then I can love and serve without expecting anything in return and without worrying that the well will run dry. Because I am connected to the source and allowing myself to be continually replenished.

This will look different in each life. For me right now, it looks like pursuing silence, listening closely, deep breaths and constant attitude adjustment. May you find what it looks like for you, so you can love with abandon.

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