Friday, June 28, 2013

Five Minute Friday: In Between

I wake up to the sight of my son's smiling face, just inches away from mine.  I'm still in-between the state of dreaming and reality, trying to will myself to keep my eye's open and sluggishly get out of our comfortable bed.  "Go potty" are the only words I can get to come out of my mouth.  And off runs my four-year-old, bright eyed and bushy tailed at, what time is it?  6:30 in the morning.  I want to slap myself for not going to bed earlier.  Tonight, I think to myself.  Tonight I'll pass out at a decent hour.

We wash his hands together since his short little legs are still unable to reach the sink, and I long for the days when he will be able to do this task himself.  These are the days of the in-between.  Days when he's big enough to do some things on his own, like go potty and put on his clothes and brush his teeth and put his toys away.  But there are so many things he still needs help with.

Then a realization gives me pause and I remember to be grateful for this time when he still needs his mom for a few of the little things.  These in-between days when he's not so big, and he still wants a hug from his mom when he falls down and scrapes his knee.  He still wants to give me hugs and kisses and he's not embarrassed when I embrace him good-bye.  Moments in between being a little boy and an adolescent, when he still delights in trying new things and doesn't let self-awareness get in the way of being completely consumed by life, blue skies, dog's wet kisses, blowing big, fat bubbles and afternoons at the lake.  Yes, I will slow down and enjoy these days just a little longer.  I will breathe and take notice, not worrying about the next thing that needs to get checked off my to-do list.  My face transforms into a toothy grin as my son wraps is dripping wet arms around me.

Response to Five Minute Friday writing prompt, "In Between"

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Five Minute Friday


Monday, June 24, 2013

A Thankful Heart

I love listening to my oldest son pray. Often he'll just recite prayers we've taught him, but every now and then he'll be spontaneous and speak to God from the heart, and I get a chance to see just how grateful he is for the little things we often take for granted as adults.  He thanks God for the hugs he is able to give his Dadda.  (When was the last time I thanked God for the ability to give someone a hug?)  He thanks God for his best friend's broken arm healing.  He thanks God for Transformers. The list can go on and on, and every time I just sit back, listen, and smile. Although I try to teach my son what I know about this beautiful ability to speak to the Most High, I often find that he is teaching me, making me remember that often there is only one thing I need to say to God…Thank you.

Having grown up in the church, prayer is something that, until a few years ago, I never considered to be anything extraordinary. Now, when I stop and think about what I am actually doing, my tiny brain cannot comprehend it. To think that I am coming before an all-powerful, utterly holy God who performs miracles beyond our galaxy, on behalf of myself, my family, my friends and loved ones…and he cares. I went through a period of my life when I was convinced that God either did not hear my prayers at all, or was some distant deity who wasn't concerned with the every day trifles of my life. There were years when I rarely prayed at all. The realization that not only did he listen, but he cared about even the seemingly minuscule happenings of my day, changed my life. (See Psalm 139)

After moving cross-country for the second time two years ago and finding ourselves in the Western Maryland area, I was continually thanking God for the little things. Ice cream.  Mexican food. I was pregnant, so these were the things that mattered to me. But finding a church, friends, and feeling part of the community, well, these things took time. Waiting on a God who seems to be silent can be discouraging.  There are days when I pray and I can see the answer almost immediately and I just know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is Him. And then there times when I pray for someone, or something, for weeks, months, even years, and the answer is never evident, at least not in the way I expect. During the past two years, I have experienced a mix of both, and I know both types of answers provide unique opportunities for growth.

Lately, I have felt the abundance of God's grace and answer to prayer in a way I have not experienced in a while. I have met more people in the past few months than the entire two years we've lived here, and friendships are starting to grow. We finally found a church that our entire family loves, and have become part of a small group there.  With the enthusiasm and dedication of a good friend, our local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group is beginning to thrive, and I get to be a part of its development. My youngest, now nineteen months, is sleeping at night. Well, not all the time, but more often than not. And to top it off, I have finally felt inspired to write after a long lull, and well, lack of time. During the past two years, I never lost hope, thanking God for his provision and believing that God would fulfill our spiritual needs. I know there will be seasons of waiting and valleys to forge through. But as answers overflow, I have felt so full, so blessed beyond measure, that all I can do is follow my son's lead and say, "Thank you, God. Thank you."

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Keep it Simple

Sometimes it amazes me how different my two boys are.  Like night and day,  I tell some people.  How two children who came from the same gene pool, being raised by the same two parents, could have such contrasting personalities.  One of the differences that is still emerging is their love languages, and while I'm still not sure what Gabe's is going to be, I know that Jaden's two primary languages are physical touch and quality time.  He hugs and kisses Gabe to the point of smothering him at times, and while I am overjoyed by the fact that he is so affectionate, I sometimes have to tell him to back off because I can see that he is irritating his little brother.  Gabe enjoys the first hug and maybe even a second, but at that point he is done and sees the attention as slowing him from taking over the world, bulldozing over Jaden if he stays in his way any longer.

Love… It's an action which speaks at higher decibels than any other endeavor we make in life, and yet the one we often make more excuses than any other to avoid.

She has weird hair.
Her kids give me a headache.
I don't have time for another friend right now.
I'm too busy busy busy...

The list can go on and on.  

Love….Seemingly pretty simple, and we dilute it, complicate it to the point where it's unrecognizable.  We judge others but want grace for ourselves.  I write about it because everywhere I go lately, I'm being reminded of it's importance, how it's the thing, the only thing, that matters.  On the radio, at church, in my daily reading.   Although I've been guilty more times than I can count of turning away from someone in need of love and grace, John summarized an all powerful, omnipresent God by saying one thing, "God is love."  Jesus himself tells us all of the commands given in the Bible can be summarized with one, "Love."

My greatest desire for my children is not that they grow up to have lucrative careers, fame or popularity, or a successful business, but that they love God with every fragment of their being and that they be transparent enough for others to see that love pouring through them.  Would I prefer that they not be living in our basement when they're 30?  Absolutely.  But more than that I want them to follow Jesus.  How will they ever have that hunger if they do not see it in their own mom?  I can make them learn all the Bible verses in the world, have them attend every Vacation Bible school in town all summer long until school starts in fall, send them to AWANA on Sunday nights and when they're older teach them great theological principles, but if I don't show them what it looks like to love God and love others, all of my effort is worthless. 

So lately, my prayer has been that God will transform me.  That he would make me less like the person I once was and more like Jesus.  That I would love my children the way they need to be loved, so it's not just words coming out of my mouth but something tangible.  Something real.  That they would see, through my actions, what it looks like to carry out this Biblical command, sometimes toward people who may not seem like they deserve it.  That they would see love in motion, not just sitting on the couch eating potato chips and waiting for the commercials to be over, saying, "Someone should really do something about that…"  

Mother Theresa once said, "Don't look for big things, just do small things with great love....The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love."  I pray that even on days when my actions seem insignificant, that I would be filled with the love Christ gave me.

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."
1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

Saturday, June 15, 2013

From Fear to Trust

About a week ago I learned something new about my oldest son, Jaden.  He is afraid of heights.  It was interesting because he had never displayed this phobia before, and yet there it was, completely obvious to me and my husband, Chris.  We were taking a walk in a nearby state park and had stopped on a bridge which crosses over a dam.  Chris lifted Jaden up to get a better view of the ravine below, and although he was holding my son quite securely, Jaden latched on to him, afraid of the expanse that divided him and the ground below.  I'd seen him ride roller coasters, even a free fall ride at an amusement park, and he'd never given indication of any emotion other than pure delight.  And then it occurred to me.  "He was strapped in.  The straps made him feel safe."  

After Chris spoke calmingly to my son, assuring him that he would not let him go, his body relaxed a bit, but his grip never loosened.  Now, I'm sure most of you are thinking this response is completely natural for an almost-five-year-old and I completely agree, but it started me thinking about that ball-and-chain emotion.  It keeps you awake at night, stops you from applying for that job you've been eyeing, and can even prevent you from making new friends.  But most of all it hinders us from experiencing the life that God intended for us, or, as NewSpring pastor Perry Noble puts it, a life "unleashed."

I write about fear because it controlled me for many years, and still rears its ugly head with regularity, but I'm learning that God never intended me to live life in a shell, only protruding my head when life became so chaotic that I had no other choice.  Although I talk about my avoidance of stereotypes and cliches in my bio, fear is one of the main reasons I was hesitant to start this blog.  Fear of what people would say.  Fear of being judged and being exposed to negativity.  Fear that people would read it and think to themselves, "My experience is so much more profound."  I know, silly.  But if that is the case, good.  Go use it for God's glory.  In summary, I was afraid of rejection, because acceptance is something we all crave and if we deny it we are simply fooling ourselves.  Sometimes we will even change our own identity in search of it, compromising ourselves in a way that destroys us rather than making us stronger.

I mentioned in my previous post that being a mother has changed me, and one of the ways God has made me grow is in my ability to move past my fear and into a habit of trust.  Trusting that if God is quietly nudging my heart to do something, there is a reason why.  And chances are his vision is much grander and more magnificent than mine.  If I rely on his strength rather than my own, little by little, I begin to see the vista rather than the ground.

"But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint."

Isaiah 40:31

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Plans vs. God's

In the weeks leading up to the arrival of my first son, I had a birth plan.  Although I never actually wrote it down, it was in my head.  I would have a natural delivery.  I would make every attempt to avoid an epidural.  I would breastfeed.  I was a strong woman who would do what we are made to do.  However, within a few hours of my arrival at the hospital, I realized that my plan was falling part piece by piece.

Excruciating back labor had me practically begging for an epidural and the anesthesiologist quickly became my new best friend.  Not long after the needle was successfully injected in my spine, I was prepped for surgery and in an OR.  And although I was able to successfully breastfeed, an unexpected trip to the ER with symptoms of what the on-call nurse believed to be a pulmonary embolism forced me to supplement with formula for several months.  A dwindling milk supply left me wondering if I was going to be able to continue breastfeeding at all.  

Then there was the death of my grandmother.  The day after my son's arrival, my dad entered the hospital room with tears in his eyes and told me she had passed away that morning.  Although I am usually a person who is rather in control of my emotions, lack of sleep, hormones, and what I can only describe as "shell shock" left me crying on the night shift nurse's shoulder later that day.  But a new mother does not have time to mourn the loss of a family member.  She has time for two things:  to take care of her baby and herself.  So that's what I did.

My husband and I had recently moved to Utah, over two thousand miles away from the place where I spent the first 28 years of my life: South Carolina.  So after all of the family who was visiting went home, I was left alone with the baby.  And he cried.  And cried.  It didn't seem anything I could do could console him and sometimes I felt as though I was a human pacifier, since feeding him was the only way to keep him quiet.  Medical jargon has a name for it:  "The Period of Purple Crying."  I call it "The Period I Considered Putting My Son up for Adoption."

In all seriousness, I loved my son.  He is now almost five and I love him even more now than I did those first few months.  I would throw myself in front of a moving train for him, walk through a desert, you name it.  But loving him was not enough.  I was lonely, depressed, and literally felt as though I was walking around in a fog every day.  My husband could not help me, so he prayed.  He wanted his wife back, and I longed desperately to be the wife he married, but that was never going to happen.  Becoming a mother changes you, for better, for worse, and sometimes makes you grow in ways you are hesitant to change.

I tried antidepressants.  They left me feeling worse than before and unable to sleep in my already zombie-like state.  I tried exercise, but who has time to exercise with a newborn?  Finally, after trying practically everything else, I cried out to God with a simple prayer:  "Help me."

Things did not change right away.  I had to make changes in myself in order for God to heal me, to make me realize that God's plans for my life are always better than my own.  That there is a difference between believing in God and trusting him.  I also, despite being an introvert, had to seek community with other moms.  Being a mother is not a job you can do on your own.  You need the support and fellowship of other moms who will love you and encourage you.  Finally, after some very dark days, I began to feel like myself again, and although changed, I was stronger.

David writes in Psalm 40, "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry….  He put a a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."Although I was not always patient, God heard my cry when I needed him the most.  And nearly five years later, I am still singing praises to Him for redeeming me from those days of despair.