Grading Grace

housetreeperson

This is my #tbt (throw back thought).

Last week I was speaking with my brother about one of my posts. He reads them, maybe not all of them but he does read them which is cool because in 1986 my sister and I convinced him to use his allowance money to buy the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” album instead of some cool toy he wanted. So naturally, I thought maybe he still had not forgiven me (who even thinks that?).

But it’s all good, it appears that he holds no grudges and that he also still knows all the words to “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Believe it or not this has a lot to do with what we were talking about. We were discussing the issue of grace. Wait, what?

Anyway, he had just read my post “Flightless Bird, Thrashing Deer” and said that he felt the ending was incomplete. I used the word “undone.”

I agreed with his points. I had ended the post quickly mostly because I already rambled on about my animal characters and I wanted a quick way to finish it. The issue left undone was the issue of grace. I said this:

“Girls, ladies, mommies, friends, sisters we all deserve grace. If we ground ourselves because we are afraid of flight it’s because we don’t accept grace. If we thrash and buck because we are afraid of the still, quiet pain then we don’t accept grace. It’s crazy because grace is free and we still think we have to earn it or pay for it or do something amazing, supermom-ish worthy to get it. We don’t.”

Here’s what we agreed on: we actually do not deserve grace at all. It is because we don’t deserve it that makes it so elusive and such a hard for our human minds to grasp. Things we can earn, like money, or things we deserve, like dignity, seem a little easier because they are less abstract concepts. We certainly have a very skewed concept of how to give ourselves grace, which means we have an even harder time offering it to others. Let me see if I can explain myself and try to articulate what I meant to say the first time. Of course, I have a story.

When I was in my Master’s program we had psychotic professors. Well, psychotic is kind of a heavy word. They were really smart, gracious people who taught us psychotic things. Things like how to diagnose ourselves with personality disorders, various mood disorders and trichotillomania. Wait, what? Okay, that was just me. But anyway we learned a ton about how to be better therapists and we also learned a lot about our own processes and our own pathology. Basically, we got emotional boot camp and a peek into why we do the things we do for the very small price of “still paying it off.”

Having been a stellar collegiate athlete and a successful corporate professional I was, of course, perfect (clue number one into my pathology). But underneath this perfection was of course, insecurity (clue number two – not as obvious to me as evidenced by the thought that I was, of course, perfect).

Enter craziest (and probably one of the best) professors in my program. I have forgotten the exact details of the assignment, but we were asked to complete a series of questions. Questions, I believe, that had nothing to do with anything (again, crazy professors). Once we completed the “assignment” we were asked to give ourselves a score. We could give ourselves any score based of what we thought we deserved.

ANY SCORE…LIKE A 100. I could give myself a 100.

I gave myself a 50 something.

Here was my logic. I hadn’t really tried very hard on this “assignment.” I wasn’t going to give myself a 100 because nobody deserves a 100 (except the narcissists in our class who did indeed give themselves a 100) and based on my athletic background if you don’t try really hard and you haven’t given 120% then you are nowhere even near the ball park of 100. I also thought I had no clue what I was talking about so I figured better than half, but not good enough to be in the 70’s or 80’s. The professor then began to ask each of us out loud what score we gave ourselves and he proceeded to write that number in his little grade book. That was the grade of our first assignment for the class. It comprised almost half of our grade for the semester.

When he got to me and I gave my score, I was mortified. Mostly because out of everyone in the class I was THE ONLY PERSON WHO GAVE MYSELF A FAILING GRADE! Who even does that? A very insecure person hiding behind the guise of perfection, that’s who. I pleaded with my professor at the end of class to let me change my grade. He let me change it and do you know what? I STILL COULDN’T GIVE MYSELF AN “A!” Are you freaking serious? He kind of laughed and said “you still couldn’t give yourself an “A.”

Hearing that stung. Of course perfect people don’t cry, so I didn’t do that in front of my teacher. I waited until I got into my car and then the floodgates opened. With all the things I thought were perfect in my life, clearly they were very far from perfect. Far from 100. Far from 80. Far from 70. I allowed little room for error and when something wasn’t 100 it was failing. Ugh. Let’s put it this way I processed that grade and the entire concept of grace the rest of my time in that program. I processed it after I graduated. And when I got married I still processed it. And then when I had my children I still processed it and you know what in the world nipped it right in the bud? Jesus.

 

God celebrates our diversity, not our perfection. He is also okay with my doodling in church.
God celebrates our diversity, not our perfection. He is also okay with my doodling in church.

The concept of grace is such a hard one to grasp that only God himself can explain it by offering it to us for free. The trick is that we have to accept it. That is the hardest part of the lesson. There comes a time in everyone’s life when you choose to be real or you choose to grade yourself. Whether you give yourself a 100 or a 50 being real gives you a starting point. We all have to start somewhere. We have to begin with the grades we have been giving ourselves and we have to put them on God’s gracing system. I will never be the person who will just give up or not try because I know God’s grace is right there to catch me. That is so not my style.

To that extent, I will probably always wrestle with the balance of perfection and grace. But grace means that I no longer have to grade myself or be graded by others and that is a huge relief. I like God’s gracing system much better than my self-imposed grades.

And guess what? I think this post is still undone.

Tiny Treasures

Taking time to notice a tiny treasure
Taking time to notice a tiny treasure

It’s hard to notice little tiny treasures these days. Like really notice them. Being a third generation (probably longer) process-oriented, project-managing, flow-charting, editing, linear-thinking person it is easy for me to bypass tiny treasures on a daily basis. But over the years, I have trained myself to see the beauty and the art in each and every day. And let’s face it, Instagram helps. Filters are magical.

I am really glad I have taken this practice to heart because when you are a process-oriented, project-managing, flow-charting, editing, linear-thinking person you tend to notice what is wrong or out of place before you notice all the things that are right. This goes there. No, that goes over there. Wait, that’s wrong. Hmmm, something is missing. What is missing? Give me a second…oh, got it – that should be orange, no wait…red. Yeah, definitely red.

As per usual, I was in a rush this morning to get myself and the kids out of the house in time to drop them off at school then hit the gym. I might add that this schedule is not my normal schedule and the margin for error in this kind off-process schedule is very low. Everything needs to go absolutely perfect in order for me to hit my marks.

Mornings are hectic. On most mornings, I wake up at 5:20 a.m. to hit my 6:00 a.m. CrossFit class that is about twelve minutes from my house. I can hit this schedule like clockwork four days a week. Today, however, my husband needed to leave early so that meant I needed to take a later class. One that runs right up against my drop off time at the kids’ school – which means my process is way off. When my process if off, all hell breaks loose. But despite the threat of hell breaking loose, I still managed to leave the house early to ensure that I would get everyone settled at school and then sneak to the back of the class and blend in.

All 5’11” of me.

Sneaking in to the back of the class.

That is well underway.

Think I made it? I count zero hands.

I was late by eleven minutes and I didn’t blend in. Actually, the coach was kind enough to call me out. To which I responded with attitude due to the fact that I was defensive AND guilty of being late. To which I then had to apologize for said attitude because I was in fact late and that was my problem, not his. But this is not about THAT…

What IS this about?

Oh yeah, so as I was rushing around this morning (before being late) trying to get myself ready for the gym I reached into my makeup bag for my “lip stuff.” I don’t know what to call a small tube of Aquaphor except “lip stuff” because it isn’t glossy so it isn’t lip gloss and it isn’t tinted so it’s not lipstick and it’s not really chapstick or lip balm – so, “lip stuff” it is. Anyway, it was missing. All my tubes of lip stuff, lip stick, lip gloss, chapstick, what have you go missing on a regular basis. I have a little bitty princess that likes to take the “lippies” and put them all over her face kind of like the Joker. Not the perfectly drawn Jack Nicholson “Joker,” but the smudgy, psychotic Heath Ledger (Rest in Peace) “Joker.” It’s quite nice.

I searched all the usual areas where she hides my things and finally glanced over to her little princess dressing table. No “lip stuff,” but sitting perfectly on her little dressing table were my blush and brush. I stopped rushing around and in an instant a little smile spread across my face (not a Joker smile, just a regular smile).

A tiny little treasure for me to see.

I stopped all my rushing around and just sat on the edge of her bed and uncovered another kind of treasure. One that doesn’t just bring a smile to your face, but one that warms your heart. You have to search a little harder for these kinds of buried treasures, but they are there. They are everywhere.

look for them, tiny treasures are everywhere
look for them, tiny treasures are everywhere

The treasure I uncovered is that my daughter is watching me. She is watching everything that I do. When she is bossy and demanding it is because she has first seen it in me. When she is kind and compassionate and offering to help a friend, it is because she has first seen it in me. When she stands up for herself against her big brother or the kid in class who is being mean to her, she has seen me set boundaries and take care of myself too. I know it isn’t a perfect science and so much of what I do as a  mother will not be revealed to me until she is grown and on her own. But today, that little tiny treasure that brought a smile to my face – and the subsequent buried treasure that I sat on the edge of her bed and discovered just by being still and quiet – was a glimpse of the work I have already put in.

Find your tiny treasures even when the mornings are rushed and the evenings are spent and then dig a little deeper to find the buried meaning in the beauty that you have found. Keep in mind that not all treasures will seem beautiful to begin with, we have to train our eyes to see them and practice looking every day.

Do Good Things

A version of my former selfie
A version of my former selfie

“Do good things.”

Last Friday I stood before a group of young athletes from my alma mater and was asked if I had any words of wisdom, inspiration or advice for their time as student-athletes. They were me twenty, ahem nineteen, years ago.

I remember talking and I remember thinking that I had so much to tell them and so much to say, but instead the overwhelming feeling of gratitude and nostalgia got the best of me and so I babbled and kept repeating this phrase:

“Do good things.”

Omg.

I know they have all moved on but if I ever get another chance to say something, I will say this:

“Wow, you guys! What an amazing time in your lives. These next few years that you will spend as a student-athlete will prime you for so much after you graduate and even beyond into your careers, marriages and mothering years.

You might not know it now because you have probably been playing club for at least the past four years and you have always been surrounded by people who have worked hard (or harder than you), have pushed you and have expected your best effort on a regular basis. You have expected the same from yourself.

You have coaches now who believe in you (or not), assistant coaches who balance out the intensity of your head coach, trainers who tape your ankles, get bags of ice for shoulders, knees, hands, whatever, and stretch out all those sore and aching muscles. And – oh my gosh – did you guys just cool down with yoga!?  So stinkin’ cool.

Strength and Conditioning coaches who work hard to get you stronger and faster. Administrators and support staff that make sure you get registered for classes, make the grade and graduate. Not just as a statistic, but because THEY ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT YOU  – although a recent HBO series might suggest otherwise for some sports, but for the vast majority this is true, both my husband and I can attest to this, thank you very much HBO.

(Okay, I wouldn’t say that last part about HBO, but it’s true.)

Everyone you are surrounded by right now, today wants the same thing as you do: to win.

Some day that system of intense and concentrated support will be gone. The actual physical people will be gone, but the lessons they leave behind will last for a lifetime. You are learning things today that you will need in years to come.

Things like: you are all winners. You have amazing talent and gifts to offer. You can and will win despite setbacks. You will beat odds, overcome challenges, push yourself, get down on yourself and bounce back.

You can DO GOOD THINGS (ah, there it is) because you have already done GOOD THINGS – a lot of them. Give back to your community, serve others, encourage young athletes, sign autographs, take pictures and tell them that they too can DO GOOD THINGS.

The four or five years you have as a student-athlete will set up how you transition after your time is done. I will not lie, the transition is a little tricky. It is a big adjustment.

But remember, you did all of these hard things once and you can do them again…”

Okay, so the coach may have cut me off half way through that but that is what I would have said.

On a day to day basis, I don’t think much about “my former life.” I am consumed with raising my children and working to keep my family  healthy and happy. It is work. But when I get a chance to step back into that life even just for a moment, I feel overwhelmed by the things I got to experience, the places I got to go and the people I got to meet. I am overwhelmed by the fact that I did good things then and that is exactly what I want to spend my life doing now.

My name is on a wall, nbd. 1 Cor 9:25-27
My name is on a wall, nbd. 1 Cor 9:25-27

*I imagine this is also true for anyone who has spent time as a musician, artist, devoted to ministry, businessman/woman, coach, mother-turned-empty-nester, someone in recovery for drug/alcohol addiction (you beat odds every day!), etc. It’s not just sports, our previous experiences shape our future behaviors. If you have done something difficult or overcome an obstacle or challenge, you can do it again. Because you already have.

Pardon My Dust – Work In Progress

This is all the other serious, real-life Christians - the warriors.
This is all the other serious, real-life Christians – the warriors.

I’m insecure.

There. I said it. Shocker.

I’m not insecure about the usual suspects. Like, I don’t worry about how dirty my house is (it is), or if my kids are put together (they aren’t) or even if I haven’t had a chance to shower this morning (I haven’t).

I know I’m not the strongest or fastest person at the gym. I don’t even try to compete with PTA caliber moms (I know my place) and I don’t have a Pinterest account (the horror). I am awkward (so what). I babble and talk about myself when I speak to people I admire (so, so charming).

But the biggest area of insecurity and where I feel like I’m just not up to snuff is my spirituality.

Listen. I know I am saved. I know I am a Christian. I know where I am going when I die, but for some reason, I feel insecure that I am not somehow the female version of Joel Osteen.

I am confident that God has a plan for me. I am confident in my salvation and believe me there is no shortage of pride in many other areas of my life, but when it comes to being enough as a Christian, I feel like I should just leave the heavy lifting to the professionals.

To the nice people. To the people without sarcasm. To the people who don’t wear Lululemon speed shorts to bible study. To the people who memorize scripture and keep their bibles in their cars. To the people who don’t know all the words to “Paul Revere,” (God bless the Beastie Boys) but all the words to every worship song. To the people I admire and babble around.

These ARE my combat boots
These ARE my combat boots

I feel like I should leave the heavy lifting to them, but I know that I am called to do my own kind of heavy lifting. After all, my insecurity does not come from anything they are doing or not doing, it comes right from me. It’s between me and…me.

But insecurity is the opposite of faith. Insecurity doesn’t get anything done for the kingdom of God or for anyone else and so therefore, despite being insecure, I am going to keep on doing what I do.

We all have something to lift.

I MISS DADDY!

How could you NOT miss Daddy? He's way cooler than me.
How could you NOT miss Daddy? He’s way cooler than me.

We have an adjustment problem in our house.

My husband does not travel often, but from time to time he does need to be away for business. In fact, we just got done with a week without Daddy and my kids were still reeling when he told them he had another trip early this week.

As soon as the news is broken that their beloved (because, really Moms, are we not just chopped liver sometimes?) will be gone for any amount of time, the moping begins. The moping leads to whining, the whining leads to walking on eggshells and eventually the eggshells just crack and we are in full blown tantrum mode. “I MISS DADDY!” “I WANT DADDY!”

This week they hit an all time low. As they were desperately trying to find ways to soothe themselves, my daughter starts crying about the training potty that she saw in the garage. The training potty she never actually used. The training potty that is about to be sold at consignment. The training potty that is shaped like a froggy. “I WANT MY FROGGY POTTY! I MISS DADDY! I WANT MY POTTY!” I mean, the child was desperate. Here, give me that random thing that I haven’t seen in about a year and then all my pain about missing my daddy will go away.

Later on in the week, my son was at a sports program and as I watched him at practice, he was bounding around like a kangaroo, distracted and just not paying attention at all. After class, I asked him why he was so distracted today and he said “I didn’t pay attention because Daddy wasn’t there. I miss Daddy.”

Isn’t that how we are though? Aren’t we always looking for ways to ease or diminish our pain? Wouldn’t it just be easier to buy something, take something, eat something, smash something, hurt someone, ignore someone or slack off just so we can just FEEL BETTER? Our culture has a bad habit of just pushing stuff underground and thinking that they will just deal with it later. I’m not saying that wallowing in our emotions is productive or beneficial all the time, but left invalidated or ignored, they will come back roaring with a vengeance to be heard. Regardless of what we try to do to hide or mask them sadness, loneliness, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, longing or any other unpleasant feeling will come out of hiding eventually. Sometimes, it is a daily surrender…

In a moment of clarity during my daughters crying, I said to her “I miss Daddy too. But that froggy potty is not going to make you miss him any less. Sometimes, we just have to miss Daddy and deal with the sadness that comes along with it.” She didn’t stop crying right away, but by validating her feelings and then letting her know that I missed Daddy too, we were able to move on – and I didn’t have to bring that froggy potty into the house. I said something similar to my son about him being distracted in his class “Son, even if Daddy is not at our class, we still have to focus and do our best. We cannot do a poor job just because Daddy is not here. It is not always going to work out that we can all come to every class.”

My kids (and me too) will likely feel the pain of missing Daddy again and dealing with the unpleasantness of being sad is a skill they are going to need to thrive.

It can get messy with the tangle of emotions, but pushing them underground doesn't make them go away, it only helps them take root and grab on.
It can get messy with the tangle of emotions, but pushing them underground doesn’t make them go away, it only makes them take root and grab on even tighter.

*I am truly amazed by military spouses, first responder spouses, single mom’s, young widows or any other parent that has to take on the responsibility of their whole family without their partner on a consistent and frequent basis. My kids do not know how good they have it and I am always trying to teach them that while they miss their Daddy for a few days, that we are incredibly blessed to have him around as much as we do.

Momgarry Mom Ross

your two toughest customers ever - always be closing
your two toughest customers ever – always be closing

“Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only.”

Not in my house.

Coffee is for whoever needs it. Except the children. Coffee is not for the children.

My husband and I have this running joke about the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. First of all, he has actually seen it. I could barely stay focused watching a five-minute clip of Alec Baldwin swearing and talking about his $80,000 BMW. Honestly, I’d take the Hyundai. I’d be Blake’s worst nightmare. I’d be fired. But the funny thing (and what our joke revolves around) is that without all the swearing, that movie could be a page out of a Mother’s playbook. Let me explain.

ABC – Always Be Closing. In sales? Yes. Of course. It’s how you make money. It’s how you keep your job. But for the mom, we wake up closing. Attempting to get a young child dressed, fed and on track to get them anywhere on time or at all requires the art of the ABC’s. You must predict every move they will make, every detour they will take and every opportunity they have to go completely sideways on you. You have to be selling every second of the day.

“Oh, you don’t want to go to school today? Well, how in the world are we going to get that super cool show and share about the polar region to your class? You don’t want oatmeal for breakfast? But I have all these cool frozen berries you can put in it and watch them melt…and then your oatmeal will turn purple! Oh, you can’t find your shoes? Let’s sing that Bear Hunt song, but let’s sing it about your shoes.”

Always be closing.


Sell your NO – If there is one piece of sales advice that I tell my husband every day it is that he has to sell his “no.” Nobody wants to hear the word “no.” Especially children. You can’t just say “no” to a kid and expect them to smile at you, tilt their head in agreement and say “you’re right mom. I don’t really need anything else. I have enough. I don’t need to go to the park right this second, I can wait until you are finished with dinner and then wait until you have also fed yourself and had a nice chat with Father.” That just doesn’t happen. You have to sell that “no.” It usually looks something like this:

“Wow! The park sound like a great idea. We have so much fun there. What should we do when we get to the park? I like the swings. Let’s go on the swings after dinner.”

Sure it takes almost a hundred extra words, but you’re just not going to get good results unless you sell that “no.” I ask my husband if he likes to hear the word “no” from his customers and he looks at me and with a straight face, he says “no.”


Help me, help you! –  Most of the time, kids are not looking for solutions. They do not want you to fix everything. Toys, yes. Torn pages in books, of course. But when they are acting out and putting you through the ringer, it’s best to step back and see what it is they actually need.

One evening while I was finishing up dinner, I heard my exasperated husband ask our five year-old “tell me a little bit about what you are looking for.”  I started laughing because I have heard him say this to his customers. My husband knows that the relationship is the most important thing in closing business. The customer has to trust you and has to trust that what you are selling him is the best solution for his problem.

Your kids are your toughest customer and they have every objection in the book. When you back up a bit and ask what they need, you are engaging your child. You are having relationship with your child. Most of the time, they just want us to be still with them and enter whatever play world they have imagined up. Ask a couple of questions, have them tell you the rules of the game, dress up, whatever – but give them a chance to tell you what they need and for the love, LISTEN.


The Weird Clapping Thing – When all else fails, just go bananas. Sometimes, you have to resort to complete and utter nonsense to distract them. Weird clapping and dancing work, but so does laughter and humor. Some customers have just had a tough day. They don’t want another sales pitch and they don’t want another box of stale donuts (although I’ve never seen one turn that down). Lighten up the room with a smile and a laugh and then maybe if those don’t work, start handing out stale donuts.

Now where did I put that coffee…

Dream a Little Dream

where is my other sock!?
where is my other sock!?

Every now and again, I have these dreams that wake me in frustration.

I hate to bore you, but the set up is this. I played competitive volleyball for a long time. I started playing when I was nine years old and “retired” when I was rickety and old at the ripe old age of twenty-six. I wasn’t very good for a very long time and then I grew, my practice paid off and I was good for a short period of time. Okay, set up done. It’s boring even to me, but my dreams may not make sense with out that part.

Anyway…the dreams are these volleyball dreams. I am somewhere in some gym (most commonly our old P.E. building at the University of Awesome – sorry, Georgia) and I can hear that the gym is already packed with fans and it’s almost time to hit the court. We are all in the locker room waiting for our coach to come get us and tell us it’s time to run out together. I am usually finishing up putting on some piece of equipment, like tying a shoe or looking for a knee pad or lacing up one of those old white leather ankle braces (I mean talk about subconscious, I didn’t even wear those in college!). While I am fumbling around getting my stuff on, my team begins to leave. One by one, they leave the room and I can hear them all running onto the court – without me.

I can feel my frustration and my anxiety mounting and oh, my gosh! Where is my sock!? I feel totally helpless and like I am going to miss out on something and I freakin’ hate it! I always wake up feeling frustrated and not knowing what that dream means. Is it volleyball (can’t be that literal, it’s a dream, right?), is it life, is it my kids, my marriage…what am I missing that my brain is playing this theme over and over while I am trying to slumber? I could seriously write a one hundred page thesis about that last sentence alone! I won’t, but I could. I have managed to connect some of the pieces over the years because I didn’t start having these dreams until I finished playing. It is usually during a time of stress and feelings of being overwhelmed that I tend to have these dreams. I also know that since I stopped playing competitively that there has been a void or space in this area that is being filled with lots of other wonderful things, but sports people you know what I am talking about when I say that nothing even comes close to the feeling of competing.

So, this morning I read this little snipet by Jon Acuff: http://acuff.me/2014/01/learned-6-months-nightmares/ and was like sweet, I knew I wasn’t crazy!

Here’s the deal, I’m not trying to be like Joseph and say that God gave me some uncanny ability to interpret dreams, but I do think they try to tell us something. Something that we aren’t able to see or feel in our waking hours – because doing dishes and laundry don’t usually lend themselves to major epiphany. BUT, whenever I have that dream it’s a reminder that I am struggling with something and that I do feel like I am missing something. It’s a reminder for me to slow down, get back in touch with my surroundings on a more intimate level and stop trying to tread water through my life. It is a crazy, chaotic snapshot of my life when I try to take control. Oooohhh, now there’s an epiphany for you. Wait, that was for me.

But, wanna know the coolest thing ever? Fine, it’s just cool to me. About a year and a half ago, I had that same dream and you know what? I was no longer in the locker room, I had made my way onto the court, fully dressed and ready to play with the rest of the team. I woke up before I hit the winning ball hard angle inside the triple block for the win against Florida…but that’s okay.

I was on the court. I was living my life and participating. Haven’t had the old dream since.

I Don’t Want To Lose

I am afraid of losing those I love, even our pet fish.
I am afraid of losing those I love, even our pet fish.

I don’t always grieve, but when I do I am more sarcastic than usual.

This week, seemed to be a week that many people I know lost someone close to them or have been grieving something or someone. I have been following posts and status updates about treatments and symptoms and courses of treatment and whatnot and sending up prayers for people I’ve never met and hoping and praying for miracles and complete healing. Their stories, Facebook pages and video logs have brought me to tears. Seeing the outpouring of love they are surrounded by with friends and family members has been so touching. Knowing of those families who support and encourage them willing to travel thousands of miles to support their friends and stay up with them in the middle of the night just to be there or just to cry with them if need be makes me want to be a better person. Watching two adult men escort my pastor onto the stage for him to deliver our greeting because at just about the three year mark of his diagnosis with Multiple System Atrophy, his legs are beginning to fail (you can go to www.gregrohlinger.com to read the story of facing his greatest fear) made my eyes well up with tears and my breathing shallow.

Then mid week, I noticed something wrong with our kids pet fish “Golden Blackie.” He is named that because he is a goldfish with a black spot on his head. Don’t you just love the way kids see things? Anyway, GB (as I call him for short, sometimes even just “Geebs”) was kind of just floating around and his scales seemed to be kind of peeling. He looked pale and wasn’t swimming all over like he usually does. Immediately, I took action and cleaned out his little fish bowl thinking that maybe it was just a dirty bowl – even though we had just cleaned it. Then, just like you see in the movies, I got right up in his fishy face and said “you hang in there Golden, don’t you leave us. We still need you!! Don’t you quit on us now!” Don’t laugh. I was totally serious. I could not let that fish die.

You see, most of the time we are so out of touch with our grief. We are out of touch with the fact that the reason we are a little touchy, more sarcastic, quick to anger, mopey, edgy, or any other manner of emotions is because we are grieving something. When I spoke those words to our pet fish, whom I have only known for eight months, I was touching on my fear of loss. I am afraid to lose my kids pet fish because I am afraid to see them grieve. Seeing others grieve reminds me that I too have much to lose. I am afraid of losing those who are close to me and those who I love with the kind of love that can make your heart burst. I am afraid of my kids ever having to lose me, or their daddy, their grandparents, cousins or…their pet fish. I am afraid to hurt and I am afraid to lose.

I think we all are at some level. Grieving and mourning are tough.

Our fish is fine. But this week, two different young mothers lost the loves of their lives and their kids lost their daddy. Another young wife, mother and sorority sister of mine began chemo and began sharing her thoughts on her Facebook page, “Running Through Chemo.” A sweet toddler with the most infectious smile and sweetest eyes took a stay in the hospital to treat a fever that comes after several rounds of chemo and after a surgery to remove his neuroblastoma, you can pray for Zane on their Facebook page, “Pray For Zane” and Mary, the woman who always had a smile for you as she handed you your church bulletin before service left her mark on this world too.

It is hard to grieve and mourn those who are still around you and still with you. We don’t naturally have that sense of urgency. But we can cherish our moments. Even the hard ones.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Sometimes It’s So Hard To Be…

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My son and I have this saying “Sometimes it’s so fun to be…” and then I wait for him to answer with his age. So, if we are having a super great day at the kids museum and then eating our lunch on the steps while trying not to let the pigeons eat our food I’ll look at him and say “Sometimes it’s so fun to be…” and then he’ll look up at me with his little serious face and break into a small smile and answer “five.” Then we just keep on keeping on.

On tough days I do the same thing. At the end of a tough day at school or after being disappointed that his sister got more Daddy time than he did that day, I’ll lay in bed with him and after talking through his day I’ll look at him and say “Sometimes it’s so hard to be…” and he’ll close his eyes, roll over on his side and quietly say “five.”

This kid is my heart. Every kid has a different personality and takes up different space in your soul. My daughter is effervescent, lively, cheerful, joyful and just full of sass. She is like a little celebration every time you encounter her. My son is deep, thoughtful, serious, intuitive, logical and will only laugh if you are legitimately funny – he has the most thought out questions and he communicates everything, but you have to listen and be tracking his every word (even the non-verbals) if you are going to keep up with him. Luckily, he’s put together just like me. He is my heart.

When I was pregnant with him, he was covered in prayer. Daily. Like all day, daily. It was our first child and we just poured over him like you do when you are pregnant with your first child. We read to him and sang to him and prayed for him to have a big, giant voice that would change the world. We joked that he was our little Viking because of how forcefully he would kick. His nickname in utero was “Thor” and we joked he was throwing around little hammers in my belly. When our doctor showed him to us on ultrasound and we saw his little hands and feet moving here and there, he said “you guys are going to have your hands full with this one,” and then we all got a good laugh, my little boy bouncing up and down in my belly as I laughed too. My husband and I, of course, thought “what does he know? Our boy is gonna be perfect.” And he is.

When he was born on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2008, we joked that he would be our little activist because he did indeed get that big, giant voice we prayed for. He screamed his little lungs off! Those screams turned into cries and coos and eventually they turned into words. If you see my son, he will talk and talk until you listen and he will only speak if you are an attentive audience. He will not settle for his message to be watered down by interruptions, so you better listen up. Prayers answered – big, giant voice. God was so good and so faithful and we didn’t stop praying for him – not one single day. During the first year when I went through post-partum depression, we once again prayed our hearts out. One of my favorite prayers that God answered is that no matter what anxiety or difficulties I had during the day, God always allowed me to hold and rock my son to sleep…every single night. It was the only time I wasn’t anxious. I would breathe in his little baby smell and hold him until he fell asleep. He had acid reflux and colic so sometimes that took close to 45 minutes, but it didn’t matter. It was my favorite time of day.

We haven’t stopped praying for him, not one single day. There are really tough days when I just feel overwhelmed that maybe I’m not getting it right. That maybe I’ve done it all wrong or that I have completely blown it, not just for today – but permanently. I hate those days. I hate that he would ever feel like I am not for him, like I am not his biggest fan. And so we keep praying. As I was driving around yesterday, I remembered all the prayers God had answered on our behalf for our little warrior and that filled me with peace. If he has already answered so many prayers that we have visibly seen and many we haven’t (maybe not exactly how we would have played it out), then won’t He continue to answer the prayers we continue to send his way?

YES. Yes, He will.

Sometimes it’s so fun (and at times hard) to be…a MOM.

Happy Birthday to my little heart, my little angel. I. Love. You.

Get That Cake Outta My Face!

I would scale walls and leap over tall buildings for my kids. That's what we do as mommy's. We just do.
I would scale walls and leap over tall buildings for my kids. That’s what we do as mommy’s. We just do.

Look people, I am not really going to slap anyone’s birthday cake out of their hands…

But if I did, I would probably be good at it. No, like really good at it. I’m serious. Okay, I might actually try it.

But seriously ever since my daughter had her first reaction to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I’ve been a nervous wreck about whatever she eats. Every single thing. When we first discovered her allergy it took me two hours to go through everything at the grocery store before finally checking out with about two items. Eventually, over time, I figured it out “oh! just eat actual food!” Our whole family had to make some big adjustments, adjustments that were actually a total blessing and changed the way we look at food in general. For instance we just dialed it way back and ate lots of fruits and vegetables and some meats – I rationalized that there would be very little chance of cross-contamination with broccoli or swiss chard. So, for the past two years we have eaten relatively clean and carried her epi-pen in a little pouch with detailed instructions for anyone who would be caring for her for any period of time.

Of course, I would freak out if one of us forgot the epi-pouch we kept her stuff in and I would make us turn the car around to grab her emergency supplies even if it meant we were late. I pretty much raked my husband over the coals for feeding her an unmarked cake pop from a familiar coffee shop because the teenage worker claimed “yeah, like, I think there are definitely not peanuts in them” after knowing that all of those baked good are prepared off-site and the chance of cross-contamination is extremely high. And there have been electric tantrums when we have to leave a birthday party early or before cake is served just so that we can protect her from eating something of which we cannot confirm the ingredients. It’s stressful. I wish I could say that my neuroses had lessened over time, but…well, not so much.

We have our favorite brands of things we can offer as snacks. We have our “hippie” food and candy that we can give her on occasions such as Christmas (candy canes) and Halloween (Yummy Earth has lollipops and gummi bears that suffice) and our family has gotten used to baked goods that taste like saw dust. And I’m totally okay with that. I am totally okay with making adjustments, because that’s what you do for your kids. You do everything you can to keep them safe and you do whatever it takes to make them better when they are sick. People may not understand food allergies, but I know that deep down every single parent understands that they would do anything for their kids.

We have our few spots that we know will work with our food allergy requests.
We have our few spots that we know will work with our food allergy requests.

So, when I am anxious at your party (i.e. hover over my child like a helicopter, scratch that, military drone) or ask for a list of ingredients, I hope you understand that I’m just protecting my kid. It’s what we do as parents. It just looks different for each of us. I will control what I can control and then I have to leave the rest to God – and truly he is the one in control anyway, He just lets me think I am for some reason.

And, If you ever want me to demonstrate my mad birthday cake slapping skills, I will do that too. I have a pretty good arm, so just be sure to step aside.