To My First Born (From Another First Born)

To My First Born (From Another First Born)

Sweet, beautiful daughter of mine, I think about you all the time. And recently I find myself staring at you wondering when you grew up. When you were tiny, I remember wondering what you would be like, what would make you laugh and what would make you cry, what your favorite foods would be and what you would dream of becoming. You are more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.

I watch you and I flash back to my own childhood. I watch you holding Georgia, and I remember holding your Aunt Gracie. I see you reading everything you can get your hands on–books and street signs and menus–and I remember doing the same. I see your tears when you mess something up or get embarrassed. I know those same tears.

Today, we were talking when we got home from Classical Conversations. I needed to apologize for the way I handled something with you, and I asked you if there was anything you wanted to say to me. You looked at me with your bottom lip quivering and said, “I couldn’t do the hula hoop at recess.”

I know it might not seem like a big deal to some people. But I get it, sweet girl. My bottom lip quivers too. We first borns want to be great at everything. We want A pluses and gold stars. We chase perfection. Because we think that’s what makes us lovable.

But then we fail or mess up–even just a tiny bit–and everything gets all cracked up, and we’re certain we’ve ruined everything. But you haven’t. And I haven’t. Sweet daughter, you aren’t loved because you can keep a hula hoop in the air. And I’m not loved because I can keep meals and laundry and the endless balls I try to juggle in the air. You are loved because you’re mine. And I’m loved because I’m His.

So, maybe today we won’t try to be perfect. We’ll laugh when the hula hoop falls off because at least we had fun trying. Or when we forget the meat for spaghetti and meatballs or the laundry gets mildewy in the washer. We’ll cheer a friend on when she keeps the hula hoop spinning. Or when she gets the answered prayer or recognition or any of those things that make us feel like life is a competition with finite blessings to go around and surely her good thing means there’s less good things for me now. We’ll be vulnerable and admit our insecurities to Mom. Or our husband or a trusted friend. Because sometimes we need a safe place to fail and an outside voice to remind us that we are loved. Whether the hula hoop is in the air or on the asphalt.

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Things You Can Do in Seven Minutes

Things You Can Do in Seven Minutes

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetMoms don’t have lots of spare time. At least not the ones I know. But we can steal minutes back, even if it’s just a few. We can steal them back from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Netflix, just to name a few.

Here are some things you can do in seven minutes or less to refuel, knock something off the to-do list, or just have fun…

1. Make yourself a snack that isn’t stale Goldfish you found on your coffee table or PB&J crusts leftover from lunch.

2. Start a load of laundry. If you move fast, you can probably even fold a load of laundry.

3. Send your hubby a sweet text. (Bonus points for creative use of emoji.)

4. Clean a toilet and wipe down a counter top. Not fun, but it makes me feel so productive.

5. Find a new recipe for next week’s meal plan. Don’t get lost on Pinterest. Get in there and get out.

6. Set the microwave timer and get the whole family to do a speed clean. Clear as much clutter as you can as fast as you can. Treat it like a race and the kids will get into it too.

7. Pull out your planner and dream for a few minutes.

8. Find a new book to read and order it from Amazon or borrow it from the library.

9. Plan a surprise date night for your hubby. Text the babysitter. Pick a restaurant or activity.

10. Plan a surprise for your kids–breakfast party, zoo trip, ice cream after school, etc.

11. Tell a friend you love her and one specific reason why.

12. Text your mom and say thank you. Because, good gracious, now you understand what she did for you.

13. Read one chapter in your Bible. You can never go wrong with a Proverbs. Or Isaiah. I love Isaiah, and every verse feels like a mini-sermon to me. You might not get to journal or highlight or answer lots of questions, but some is better than none.

14. Wipe down the kitchen counter tops and light a candle. It will give your eye somewhere calm to land instead of the chaos happening on the kitchen floor.

15. Write a blog. Okay, I spent like 11 minutes on this one, but, still, you get the point. Whatever your “thing” is–the thing that fuels you–give it a few minutes. Pull out the guitar and strum a few chords, sing a new song, plan an impromptu dinner party, take a photograph with something other than your iPhone. You’ll be surprised how those few minutes give you energy and make you smile.

The Witching Hour(s) & Feeling Like a Failure

The Witching Hour(s) & Feeling Like a Failure

There’s that time with babies they call the witching hour. (And they use that word “hour” quite loosely.) But what they don’t tell you is that the particular hour of the day might change but the concept doesn’t. For us, it’s the hour right before nap/rest time and the hour before Matt gets home. (Cue meltdown central and Momma hiding in the bathroom.) My friend told me her hardest hour is the homework hour. (Cue nails scraping chalkboard.) And, of course, the wee morning hours which you get to visit when they’re teeny tiny. (Cue extra caffeine. Cue oh-wait-not-too-much-because-you’re-breastfeeding anxiety.) And again when they’re not so teeny tiny. (Cue ten-minutes-past-curfew paranoia.)

Last Saturday, we had a rough day. At one point, all three kids were crying so I just decided to join them. The mailman rang the doorbell to deliver a package, and upon my answering it he told me, “Glad it’s you and not me.” Thanks for that, sir.

I know it’s a season. I know I’ll miss it one day. I know they won’t be little long. I’ve read all those FB posts about “What Empty-Nesters Want to Tell Parents of Young Ones.” I hear you, and I know there’s much wisdom in your words. But it’s still hard. And maybe we could just stop telling parents to cherish every moment and instead give them a high five and tell them, “It’s hard, but what you’re doing matters.” Or maybe give them a hug instead of a stare. Or better yet a nap and a cookie.

If I’m being honest, there are a lot of days I feel like a failure. And from talking to other moms, I know I’m not alone in that. Between you and me, I just finished apologizing to my oldest. We were leaving a friend’s house, and I was corralling muddy shoes and lunch boxes and the infant carrier when she started crying hysterically because I said she couldn’t have a snack. (Mind you, lunch had been 30 minutes prior.) I was frustrated and embarrassed, and by the time we got to the car I wasn’t quite yelling but I had that I’m-not-yelling-but-my-teeth-are-clenched-and-I’ve-dropped-an-octave voice going on. Not my best moment.

So, there’s my messy heart splayed open today. I want to be a truth-teller with my writing, and the truth is parenting is hard. It’s really, really hard. Not just because of fits or tantrums or how they push my buttons but because of what those circumstances reveal about me and my own heart. My kids have much growing to do, but so do I. Maybe some moms have it all figured out. But this one is a hot mess in need of piles of grace. The very same thing my girls need from me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Pace & Parenting

Pace & Parenting

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 presetI was wrapped in the metallic blanket, my legs already turning to jello. I had hugged my husband, my girls, my sister, my parents and in-laws. Then this man, who four-and-a-half hours ago had been a stranger, walked up to me and said, “Congratulations! You did it!” With all the strength left in my exhausted body I said, “Thank you for everything. I couldn’t have done it without you.” This person I had not met prior to the race helped me cross a finish line that once seemed impossible. All because he set the pace and kept me to it. He kept my nervous, jittery self from running too fast in the beginning and not having the strength to finish. He kept my weary self from slowing down during the hills on miles 20-24 when it would have been easy to give up.

Runners know how valuable pacers are, but do we as parents know it? Do we recognize how our pace affects those within our home, those little lives we are entrusted with? A couple weekends ago, we pulled in the garage late Sunday night, and I told Matt I needed a weekend to recover from the weekend. Like I’m often prone to do, I had filled our weekend with my to-do list and pushed us all too hard. We had gone from one thing to another for three days straight, and now our van seats were a mess of tears and weariness and grumpy moods.

After that weekend, I was reading in Genesis and noticed a little passage I’ve never paid attention to before. Tucked in Genesis 33, Jacob has brought his family and herds to reconcile with his brother Esau. Esau suggests Jacob go with him, but Jacob tells Esau, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children … .”

There’s no such thing as “hurry up offense” for children. Rather, the moment I try to make mine go faster we enter some weird time warp where it seems like everything but the clock stands still. This is the moment one decides she doesn’t like her hair up and wants it down instead. This is the moment the sparkle shoes that are absolutely necessary cannot be found. This is the moment the car seat buckle must be buckled by herself even if it takes 39 attempts. This is the moment I remember I haven’t eaten a single thing all day. And thirty minutes later we have moved the vast distance of three-and-a-half feet, and the back door is still eight feet away. At this rate, I should have packed a lunch and maybe dinner too.

One of the hardest lessons for me in parenting has been learning to roll with the punches and adjust my expectations. The truth is children move at a slower pace. Jacob recognized it when he was making his journey to reconcile with Esau. Jesus recognized it when the people brought their children to Him so He could lay hands on them, but the disciples became upset because they wanted to stay on schedule.

And when I examine my calendar with honest eyes I see the source of all that doing and running and achieving. I cram the calendar full of events and parties and RSVPs because I want to be liked. I stack the day’s agenda so I can prove my worth. I drag the kids from one place to another so they can do and run and achieve just like me.

There is a time to push yourself in a marathon, but there is also a time to restrain yourself. As parents we have to strike that balance too. In our family I am usually the one pushing, and Matt is usually the one slowing. Both are vital. Sometimes we need a push to serve in a new way or take on more responsibility so that our children know they are capable of doing big things for God’s kingdom. But sometimes, and especially if we have young children, we need to slow our pace. We need to say no to good things that aren’t our best yes right now. We need to quit some things that we really enjoy–not for forever but for this season–so that we can enjoy the relationships within our home.

I’m taking a semester off from leading Bible study with our ladies ministry. This decision was so difficult for me because those women have been my midweek sanity for two years now. But God has been whispering this message about pace to me over and over recently, and I can’t ignore Him. With homeschooling and potty training and feeding a newborn, our mornings just go much better if we aren’t trying to rush out the door by a certain time. With margin, there is more room for grace and peace and spilled sippy cups. With an empty morning on the calendar, we can move a little slower, read that book they’re begging for, and bandage that invisible boo-boo she’s certain she just acquired. With a little less on the day’s agenda, we can all take a deep breath and maybe get a second cup of caffeine.

Like everything else, this is a season. Their little legs will one day run everywhere. Their little hands will one day move faster than ours. Before we know it, their feet will be pushing the pedals of a car and walking down the aisle. They won’t be this small for long, and one day it will be time to pick up our pace, time to surge ahead. But this race called parenting is a marathon, and it’s one I want to finish well. And right now, we must slow our pace. For the sake of our children.

Table Manners

Table Manners

At some point last week, I looked at Matt and said, “I feel like I’m raising savages.” I believe it was when one child had her naked booty on the dining room table–during dinner mind you–and one was wiping her booger underneath the same table. (Said table has since been cleaned but fair warning if you come over here–it’s an eat at your own risk type situation most days. Don’t judge.)

And I can’t even remember the last time we went to eat at a restaurant. I probably blocked it from memory as a coping mechanism. All that to say, I’m raising three girls who I want to one day become ladies. (And I’d like to eat dinner without gagging.) So, we have some things to work on. My goal for homeschool this semester and even more for our family story is that we have fun. With that in mind, we had a tea party today. The Downton Abbey crew would disown us, what with our oatmeal and orange juice in lieu of scones and tea, but it’s what we had. (And I wasn’t going to share my iced tea because I used my last two tea bags to make the current pitcher yesterday and Momma needs her caffeine. Or otherwise I’ll be the savage.)

We made our little motley set up with mismatched cups and bowls and the little honey pot my mom gave me years ago. We practiced letting others go before us, waiting to eat until everyone was seated and ready, saying please and thank you. Now, one of us was still naked because one of us is potty training and thinks if she isn’t going to wear bottoms then why bother with a top. (Clearly, we have other things to work on as well–modesty and the need to clothe oneself being high on the list.) But as in all things learning is about progress and not perfection.

The girls had a blast and–maybe just maybe–learned something too. Because even pink musketeers need to practice their manners.

Pink Laundry

Pink Laundry

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI do entire loads of pink laundry. And not because I accidentally got a red shirt in with my whites. It’s ironic since I was never a “pink” person before kids. Now, I love it. I even caved last year and painted the girls’ bathroom the palest shade of coral-pink, the color of ballet slippers.

We have been asked (Matt especially) if we were disappointed when we had a third girl. We stare dumbfounded at these people and think to ourselves, “You obviously don’t know our girls.” Every single time Matt has brought a pink shirt to the hospital to wear home because he just “knew” we were having a girl. And every time he has been right.

So, girls, here’s what I want you to know. We wanted you. Your daddy wanted you. I wanted you. We were over-the-moon-squeal-with-excitement-cry-tears-of-joy happy when we heard “It’s a girl!” each time. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t smile because God has entrusted us with three daughters. We pray you’ll be best friends and trusted confidantes. We pray specific prayers for each of you based on the gifts we see in you, but we pray for all of you that you’ll love God with your whole heart and that you’ll serve Him with your whole life. (We also pray you’ll want to spend every holiday–including Groundhog Day and Arbor Day–with us once you’re grown, but we’ll try to be understanding if that doesn’t happen.)

I won’t lie. It’s somewhat daunting to think of raising three daughters because it means I must model for you what it looks like to be brave and trusting, gentle and strong, vulnerable and courageous. That is not an easy calling, and I will certainly continue to mess it up. But I promise you I will give my whole life to loving God and loving my husband so fiercely that you might one day be compelled to do the same. I hope you see in me many traits you want to emulate. I know you’ll see some you’d rather not. But more than anything I hope you see love. Lots and lots of love.

I love you each, and I love you together–my three pink musketeers.

When Christmas Comes

When Christmas Comes

I am a little tired. I’m sure you can relate. This time of year just seems to do it to us. I can’t complain because my Peach is sleeping like a champ. But there’s usually an early morning feed and then she goes back down to snooze until mid morning. My older two, on the other hand, are part rooster and don’t like to miss a sunrise. Whatever your reasons, I’m guessing a nap sounds pretty great to most of the mommas out there right now.

I’m thinking Mary could have gone for a nap too. There she was feeling like a cross between an elephant and a jumbo marshmallow when she finds out she has to take a long trip…via donkey. I can tell you what my reaction would have been to that news, and let’s just say Joseph might have wanted to be well out of arm’s reach for that.

The truth is Christmas didn’t come to a mom who was watching Netflix and eating snickerdoodles. Christmas came to a weary momma who felt insignificant, ill-equipped, and unpopular. And Christmas is still coming to weary mommas. Mommas who feel like they’ve lost their voice in a child’s life. Mommas who don’t have all the answers. Mommas who don’t have the popular gift to give their kids or maybe any gifts at all. Mommas who feel like failures and mommas who are utterly exhausted.

Christmas comes in the middle of all our frenetic activity. The hope of Emmanuel pierced the night sky in all the craziness of a census, in all the hustle of sold out inns, and all the bustle of crowded streets.

But Mary, weary as she may have been, knew where to turn her heart. It wasn’t to a to-do list or a pity party. She looked around her at the manger and the hay and the smelly animals, at the shepherds and Joseph and the beaming star. Then she gazed down at her son–the Son–and she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Christmas comes to us in our weariness, our craziness, our hustle and bustle and invites us to sit and stare at the wonder of Christ.