In Parenting “Perfect” is a Four Letter Word

You know your life has taken a strange turn when vacuuming becomes a celebratory event. What I mean is when you get terribly excited that you have finally nailed down the extra time to clean the carpet of its mass collection of cookie crumbs, cracker fragments, and other tiny unmentionables that crunch under foot then you have most likely found yourself living in a period of your adult life that is now solely devoted to keeping your small children alive, entertained, and maybe some extra stuff like teaching life lessons when time and circumstance allows.

If you find yourself anticipating the arrival home from work of your co-parent and partner in this mad race to bedtime like you used to look forward to Christmas or your birthday as a kid then you most definitely exist in a parental world where raising children occupies approximately 95% of all your energies, thoughts, and goals for the day.

When the other parent finally arrives to spell you and you race to the other room to do absolutely nothing like it’s the most exciting plan you have formulated in years then you might just be living in Toddler Town or Kidsville, or even worse The City of Newborn.

This arrival to the planet of child, where although kids don’t rule per se, but definitely dominate the allotment of time and resources, is a much anticipated stage of life. Many a young couple dream of walking hand-in-hand, mom cradle-carrying an infant, and dad with a young tot on his shoulders as they frolic through a field of daisies. They can almost hear the soothing soundtrack that accompanies this picturesque vision of parenting splendor.

Years later they find themselves cutting a sideways glance at their spouse as they lay exhausted on the sofa after dinner, baths, and bedtime. They try not to speak aloud of the day’s adventurous trek taken haphazardly through that field of flowers they saw and just had to try and picnic in. They’ll try to forget the day’s outing that started two hours late after finally getting everyone fed, dressed, and pottied. They’ll wince at memories of children whining to go home 15 steps into the walk, and how they finally settled for a picnic spot where the three year old chose so as to prevent any more emotional outbursts. The picnic sandwiches would have been soaked by an overturned container of juice that no one knows who opened and left the top loose prior to leaving. If a soundtrack was present it was probably Disney’s Frozen. Again. They sadly know every “nail on chalkboard” word.

The existence within the thick of parenthood is a little different from any preconceived notions. Things that once were important will no longer exist.

Privacy. Nonexistent.

Modesty. Pointless.

Time alone. I’m sorry, what?

Things that didn’t matter at all will suddenly be very important. Growth charts and percentiles. First everything. First smile, laugh, word, steps, peepee in the toilet. Yes, if you find yourself clapping over someone else’s ability to poop in the commode you have entered that place. If you share it excitedly with other people then you most definitely are there.

When you do get there or as you find yourself there right this minute you will soon or perhaps have already discovered that it is almost like being reborn, meaning the old self, the way you used to be is no more. It has to make room for the new. If it does not agree to this parental metamorphosis then you will likely suffer a mental breakdown. Either that, or you will find yourself in misery on a daily basis.

If you enjoy a clean house then you will be in for disappointment. Your house will never be completely clean when children reside there. It can be picked-up. It can be straightened-up. It can be to the point that no one will die in an avalanche. But that’s about as good as it will get. No more than that. If you do manage to rid the home of children long enough to thoroughly clean the premises I must tell you, it will be for naught. When they return your unrealistic facade of cleanliness will crumble. I am sorry.

If you used to enjoy large projects that took more than a day’s worth of your time to complete than I must break it to you that this can be no more. Not while they are small at least. You will not be able to take your eyes off of them for a minute. Seriously. You might want to get frustrated when you forget this fact and try to do something, anything productive. You will want to pull your hair out and scream when you look up and see wet, dirty, naked bohemians in place of your sweet children who are normally content to sit in one place and play with a toy. They are content until you start something. Then they become adventurous. Or hungry. Or sleepy. Or whatever.

It’s okay to get frustrated and desire for a moment the life of freedom to shop, garden, read, or even poop in solitude that you once held. It’s ok. Scream a little on the inside (or outside). Then go collect the toddler out of the tree and admit defeat of your personal project.

Now this part is very important. It is almost the most difficult to accept for many. There might be a term you used to describe your passions, pursuits, or fruits of your labor in the past. That word was “perfect.” That word is a four letter word in parenting. In fact, you must pretend that it no longer exists. If it helps you, imagine that “perfect” is an old college friend who passed away. You will not see them again on this side of existence. Accept that fact and move on.

Any imagined perfectionism associated with parenting prior to entering the fold is ill-advised to strive for as a reality. It’s unobtainable and efforts to succeed in this false state are fruitless. And terribly disappointing.

No task will be as imagined. Not as easy or as moldable to your ideal. Whether it’s teaching ABCs, potty training, or decorating the most adorable little girl’s room Pinterest has ever seen it will never turn out as planned. Why? We plan it in our heads a little too close to perfect. Perfect is dead, remember?

It’s okay. Grieve for your old pal, then move on. You’ll be a lot happier when you do. Because as you settle back and let the current of chaos take you for a ride something very strange will happen. You’ll take a look around at your beautiful, crazy life and realize that it’s about as close to perfect as you could have ever hoped for or imagined. Every perfectly imperfect moment will be counted as joy in the grand scheme of life with kids. They say one day we’ll miss it, and I’m quite certain this is true.

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Storms of Blessing

I’m continuing to contribute a guest blog post every Monday in April over at Mississippi Women Bloggers. This Monday I shared about the trials in life and what we can expect as we make our way through the flood.

Who doesn’t love a promise? Well, you might not be a big fan if you’ve suffered a broken one. My Nanny used to say promises were like pie crusts. Easily made, easily broken. And sadly I suppose that’s true, at least where humans are concerned.

Read more by clicking the link here.

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Did He Conquer the Grave?

Oh no. Not now. Not today.

I felt that familiar clinching in my throat, that lump that takes hold and catches your breath. It’s as if my emotions had risen from my heart, memories released, and had gotten stuck on their way out. I tried to choke them down, to swallow that hot, unwelcome emotion before it overtook me.

I didn’t want to cry, not on a day of celebration over the conquering of death.

I don’t think my stepdaughter noticed, but she may have. Her and the baby were in the bath together scrubbing away the dirt from a full day of play. She had mentioned the brown tinge the water was taking on as it transferred from their dirty bodies into the awaiting tub of suds. We laughed as we looked at the dingy water, and she mused “A little dirt don’t hurt.”

I agreed and was reminded of a story from my own childhood. I recounted to her a time when as a child I had dug a hole in the backyard and filled it with water from the water hose. I had filled it full, and then had rode my hot wheels tricycle down into the muddy pit over and over. By the end I looked like a mud wrestler. I had trudged to the back door and knocked tentatively, certain that my mom would be furious.

But she wasn’t. When she opened the door she didn’t look fazed. She simply instructed me to take my clothes off and proceeded to hose me down on the back porch steps.

I had never forgotten her grace when I had feared punishment. As I told my story while lathering soap in a dirty baby’s hair I felt a twinge of melancholy. And then she said, “Your mom was so nice. I remember her some from when I was little.” I was awash with a current of several emotions coming over me at once.

It had been the most wonderful day, filled with family time and joy. But she hadn’t been there.

I spoke to her through my turmoil in a voice I barely recognized, thick with grief, “I miss my mommy so much.”

I distantly heard her say, “I know you do,” but by that point I was too focused on not focusing to focus. What I mean is I was intent to not cry for my momma. Not today. But it was taking more will power than I imagined. Grief is like that. So stealthy. Even after a certain time has passed it can sneak up on you suddenly, scraping its cold fingers across your spine, sending a chill of longing bone deep.

I thought of the sermon from this morning. It spoke of conquering death. It spoke of death losing its sting. So how could I possibly feel the emotions that were coming over me?

I knew I was human and deserved a little slack in my emotional upset, but I was conflicted over how much I wanted to weep at that moment. I never really felt better afterwards as I thought I might after a liquid release of grieving pain.

As I thought more on this Savior of mine who broke the curse of death I felt a peace wash over me. Initially I had wanted to push my tears away simply because I didn’t think I could handle the pain, but then I guess they began to dissipate because there simply wasn’t room. It wasn’t as if the pain, the loss, the memories suddenly ceased and became replaced with the desire to turn cartwheels or skip through a field. No, not like that. I just found the overwhelming sadness being softened by the hope my faith infuses in me.

I couldn’t imagine how I would navigate my way through the loss of a loved one without that hope of eternal life. What of people who didn’t have that? Did their grief threaten to overtake them? I couldn’t say. I only knew that without the promise of an eternity with no pain I would be an empty shell in moments like this, and I might not be able to crawl out of my own pit of despair.

He did conquer death didn’t He? I knew that death could take people from this world, but I also knew it ushered them towards eternal life. Grief would still come, and often times when I least expected it, like on a really happy day. But something about that hope my risen Savior built did indeed take away the sting.

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15 Things Only a Nurse Would Say, Even When Off the Clock

Many jobs are a nine-to-five type deal. When you clock out you go home and leave your work life behind. I’ve attempted this, but it’s just not possible as a nurse. Not completely. Nursing is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It becomes a part of who you are, and you’re unable to just turn it off. I tried, believe me. It’s not happening.

As a professional nurse you are always connected to the knowledge and skills you possess. They bleed into everything you are. If you’re a mother then you end up being a nurse for your children. You also serve your other family members, friends, and community. You can’t help it. Every action, every thought is laced with your career choice.

I’m sure there are a number of careers that are like this, jobs that you just can’t leave at work, but they instead follow you and influence everything you are. I’m sure there’s other jobs like that, but there’s not one quite like nursing. Even if your job is one you never leave I’ll bet you haven’t said any of these things. Only a nurse could truly understand these comments we make even when we’re not at work.

1. See you soon! This is something you say to yourself when you see someone not being as healthy as they should. Cardiac nurses think this especially. This may occur for example when you see a morbidly obese person, drunk, and smoking a cigarette. I can understand weight problems may be unavoidable, but the others are a choice. Let’s not add insult to injury.

2. Do what?! This is your response when someone says, “I can’t believe I have to work on Sunday.” Like seriously I forget that a lot of people don’t work Sundays.

3. That is so wrong and unrealistic! This is what you say when watching a medical drama on television. As a young woman I hated watching the show ER with my mom (a RN). She never shut up. Now I understand.

4. He is not allowed to work on me! This is what you say concerning certain doctors you know when you are confronted with the thought of being hospitalized.

5. That’s not really my area of expertise. This is what you say when a church member, your postman, or some other acquaintance wants to show you some personal part of their body so you can give them your opinion on it. Think rash on the inner thigh of the man who sprays your house for termites. Yikes!

6. I could hit that! This is what you say when you see that muscular, young man in front of you at the checkout line at Walmart. No, you’re not thinking about a romantic interlude. You’re simply admiring his Basilic vein.

7. No. You don’t need an antibiotic for your cold. What you say when someone keeps complaining that their doctor didn’t give them “a shot.”

8. Oh Lord. Please don’t let them wreck. I don’t have time to stop. This is what you say when a car passes you recklessly on a hill in the rain.

9. So what did the doctor say? What do you mean you don’t know?! This is what you say to your spouse when they come home from their check-up and have no clue what happened there. The doctor mentioned high blood pressure, but your spouse can’t give you numbers! You knew you should have went along!

10. Yes, everyone has one. But don’t worry, she doesn’t have a fever. This is what you say when someone asks about your sick child and enquires if they “have a temperature?” You don’t want this to be a pet peeve, but you can’t help it.

11. When was the last time you pooped? This is what you ask your child when they say their tummy hurts. Or when your spouse says their tummy hurts. Or when your tummy hurts. You pretty much need to know the bowel habits of anyone with a stomach ache.

12. So, what’s our plan? This is what you say to the poor nurse or doctor taking care of your friend or family member when you’re there at the hospital as a visitor. You actually loathe when this happens to you at work, but once again, you can’t help yourself. You want to be involved in that plan of care!

13. He better straighten up. I’m off duty! This is what you say when you see a teenage boy doing some risk-taking behavior in your neighborhood, like letting his friends drive him around the block in their beat-up van while he “surfs” on the roof. It’s your only day off this week, and you just know if he gets hurt and you see it you’ll end up out there working on him until EMS arrives.

14. That’s outside of my scope of practice. This is what you end up saying when a family member continues to needle you for a diagnosis based on the laundry list of symptoms they have. You want to help, and you appreciate their faith in you, but sometimes folks just need to go to the doctor!

15. Oh God. I’m sorry. I’m going to make the worst patient ever! This is what we say when we realize we’re getting admitted to the hospital. Come on now. You know it’s true.

If you’re a nurse I’m sure you’ve said a few of these things once or twice. So tell me. What could I add to the list?

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I’ll Just Wait For You Here

Recently my daughter bombarded into the bathroom while I was in there. She had a very urgent matter on her mind and was determined to find resolution. Nope I wasn’t surprised one bit when she invaded my supposed fortress of solitude. Not at all. And I especially wasn’t surprised when her pressing problem ranked pretty low on the totem pole of importance to me.

“Mom! I need your help! There’s a pink tea cup and piece of pie under the couch. Up against the wall real far! Can you reach it for me?!”

Even if I would have thought for a moment that the piece of pie was real I still wouldn’t have found this a pressing matter. It was fake pie, and I was in the tub. She suggested I could always dry myself off right at that moment to retrieve the missing pieces of her tea party set, but quickly got the point that I would be doing no such thing.

“You’ll just have to wait until I’m done.” I said. And with that she ran off. I’m quite certain in her absence she was down flat on the living room rug with her hand stretched under the sofa as far as it would go. This happened to be not far enough. Not far enough at all.

Minutes later she reappeared in the bathroom. Lucky for me. I was about to fall into a state of relaxation if she hadn’t intervened at that precise moment. But alas, that and the baby in the tub with me insured that wouldn’t occur.

“I’ll just wait for you right here,” my three year old chirped. Then she smiled brilliantly and leaned up against the wall. To wait.

A couple of years ago I felt like The Lord spoke very clearly and magnificently to my heart about some of the plans He had for my life and that of my family. For a full week I was so in tune with His voice, and He just kept revealing these wonderful words to my heart. I was pretty excited about it all, and I took to my journal, writing down each revelation as I felt it had been spoken.

I’m glad I wrote them down as it would be a good reference of hope in the years to come. You see, I was very happy and eager for the promises I felt God speak. Eager probably should have been listed first for it certainly ranked that way. I was indeed eager for the plans He had.

And then after that week life just continued to happen. Nothing exciting or eventful happened. You might think the weeks or months following a heart-to-heart with God would be filled with new developments or even some of those open doors you always hear about. But it didn’t. There weren’t open doors, or closed doors, or any door for that matter. There wasn’t a window of opportunity either. It was just the same old thing,week after week, and month after month. God had told me about all this stuff that was going to happen in my life! And then… All I heard was crickets chirping.

I’m a big believer in the whole “Be Still” thing. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s that verse people who are usually older and wiser than yourself will repeat to you when you enter a stale and uneventful time in your life, a desert place, or difficult, barren walk of life.

You know that you are to “Be Still.” And you’re pretty sure that means you’re to trust God, to trust that He is working things out for you. Ok.

Being still is like being on a diet or eating for heart health. You know deep down you’re supposed to do it, that it’s a really good idea and for the best in the long run, but follow through can be a rocky road. Chocolate cake tastes too dang good, and being patient and full of blind trust is crazy hard.

A couple of things I noticed about my little girl’s decision to wait for me were her attitude and her location. First off she did have to realize she couldn’t do it alone. She tried naturally, but became aware fairly quickly that her arms were just too short. She accepted that I would have to do it for her. Then she accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to do it right then. She’d have to wait.

So, she smiled. I think we miss that part about being still. It’s not just being still in body. It doesn’t mean we just stop trying to do something we cannot achieve on our own. It also means being still in spirit. It means to cease grumbling and complaining over the wait. It means a smiling spirit.

My daughter also chose to wait right there with me. She made the decision to stay within my presence. This isn’t always so easy for us all to do.

In my own life I felt like God had spoken to me with His will for my life in specifics. I felt as if it were promises He had for me. In the past when I’ve had God speak a promise and I didn’t see it fulfilled right away I had a tendency to do a couple of things. First I questioned if I heard Him correctly. I would begin to doubt my ability to hear His voice. Then I would pull back. I would distance myself. I felt uncertain of my future, my ability to hear God, and in essence our relationship in general. So I left His presence. I left slowly so that I barely noticed until I was separate from Him. Until I felt like it was too late.

The key to being still is to do so in His presence. To truly wait patiently you must reside within God’s will as He brings it to pass. You make the decision to remain at His side and walk with Him even when you can’t see where you’re going or how that direction will take you to the place He promised.

You just do. Because you know He will.

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How to Get the Most Enjoyment From Your Kid-Friendly Pinterest Project

Who loves Pinterest? Everyone! And what better way to discover all the many things you could be doing with your home, wardrobe, and meal plans than by sitting around for hours on end capturing these ideas on a virtual pin-board. I personally have thus far gathered 23 different ideas for furniture items I can make affordably out of a basic wood pallet. Brilliant! All I’m lacking is a pallet, basic carpentry skills, and time.

And parents, you’re in luck. Pinterest holds a plethora of knowledge on how to engage young minds with simple ideas you can do as a family. Strangely enough I don’t usually see children in the accompanying photos to these projects, but I’m sure that’s just an oversight. I’m sure it has nothing to do with being unable to complete any task that has more than three steps with children involved.

Any-who, today I’ll tell you how to really gain enjoyment from a basic Pinterest project. We’ll use the template for the seasonal project I completed just today, with just a few of my own personal touches for flare and realism.

Today I’ll tell you in easy to follow steps how to make Easter basket cookies. The minute I saw this project on Pinterest I knew it was for me.

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This is an original picture from Pinterest! So cute, right? I just knew it would be a piece of cake. Or piece of cookie rather.

And so I dove head first into an Easter cookie adventure.

To get started I suggest that you pin this recipe three months prior to Easter, then forget about it. Let it come back to you a few days before the actual Easter holiday. That way you will feel pressed to hurry and buy the ingredients so you can complete this project before the actual holiday arrives and you’re too busy dying eggs and filling your kids’ baskets to make them look just like the pictures you pinned in recent weeks.

Also much like my advice on grocery shopping I would suggest forgoing naps for this adventure. Sleep-deprived children are really good at following instruction. If you’re feeling really froggy you can do like myself and also schedule this project when your child is getting over being sick. Their short fuse really adds to the overall experience by punctuating it with episodes of tears when something doesn’t work out. Oh, and your child may cry too.

Really it’s best to plan this project towards the end of the day when everyone is collectively exhausted. This will also ensure that it occurs when you should be cooking dinner, but are unable to with the oven being tied up. It can successfully throw a wrench in an already frustrating part of your day. You’re welcome.

So now that you know when to plan this project let’s get started. Place all your ingredients on the kitchen table. Surround this collection of brightly colored and differing forms of straight sugar with your un-napped kiddos. They will stand on the chairs even as you repeat over and over “sit down!” They won’t be able to help themselves. The sight of all that sugar and candy will send them into a frenzy.

Oh yeah. I guess you need to know the ingredients. It’s all pretty healthy stuff. Especially for little kids.

Cookie dough
Sprinkles
Jelly Beans
Icing
Licorice

Coconut

I’ve placed this last ingredient that is healthier than the rest apart from all its counterparts and will explain why shortly.

First you’ll need to take the cookie dough and roll it into balls. You’ll want to do this all yourself, but you won’t be able to. Your child will want to help and subsequently get cookie dough all over herself. Just accept it and move on. Believe me, it’s going to get way better. Don’t lose momentum just yet.

You’re going to need to pour those sprinkles (surprise, surprise, we chose pink) into a bowl. This allows easy access to roll the dough balls in sugar (I mean sprinkles). Because there’s not enough sugar in the sugar cookie dough.

At this point you may question yourself, what the hell was I thinking?! It’s too late now. Just like that first week you brought them home from the hospital. Just go with it.

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I’m going to go ahead and kill the surprise for you at this point. Pinterest does not. I’ll just go ahead and let you know that there’s going to be pink sprinkles everywhere. You will think you can keep them contained. But you cannot. They won’t just be on the table and all over your child’s cookie dough crusted fingers and forehead. They will somehow have managed to get all over the floor.

Ahhh. You’re remembering that Christmas cookie fun now aren’t you? Yes. Like the red and green sprinkles these pink ones will be found on the bottoms of your bare feet for a month. No matter how much you sweep.

At this point you’ll remember that you chose to open that bag of jelly beans already. While you’ve been trying to contain pink sprinkles the baby will be standing on the chair. She will be standing on the chair with her cheeks packed like a chipmunk. But instead of nuts, it’s jelly beans. You might regret this in about five minutes.

Okay. So next go ahead and put those sugar balls in a muffin pan to bake. You may realize at this point that you forgot to spray the muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Just pull out the sticky balls and put them on the table you just wiped clean. More sprinkles to breed with their friends.

While baking your cookies you can keep yourself busy by using the finger sweep maneuver to remove masticated jelly beans from the baby’s throat. The Pinterest directions suggest making the green grass from the coconut while they’re baking, so you can do that too.

Be aware that if you take too long with this you will probably burn your first batch of cookie baskets. It’s ok. That’s why you buy an extra tube of dough. Did I mention that?

While baking your second tray of cookies you can make the grass. This may be your child’s first experience with shaved coconut. Be aware that they will hate it. They will say it’s the worst thing they’ve ever tasted. They will choke and gag dramatically as if the stray taste they got while the tip of their tongue grazed a coconut shaving will make them puke uncontrollably from disgust.

You might enter a moment of internal conflict here where you question if you should not use the coconut grass and risk your cookies looking stupid. Go with your child’s taste preference or have amazing, Pinterest worthy cookies? Parenting is choked full of monumental decisions like this one.

If you decide to make half with grass and half without then I salute you for your diplomacy. You can use your child to mix the food coloring in the coconut in a ziplock bag. Note: make certain bag is closed. Coconut is difficult to sweep up. Especially when coated with hot pink sugar. The child will be an effective mixer due to an influx of sugar high at this time.

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You are allowed to feel a small sense of accomplishment at this time since you remembered to remove the second batch prior to burning them to a crisp. Grab a diet coke in celebration. You’re going to need the caffeine. Now you have to wait for the cookies to cool. All the way.

It’s ok. No need to explain this to the children. They’ve already lost interest and ran off to get into something while you were distracted with sweeping up sprinkles, coconut, and stray pieces of partially chewed jelly bean.

An hour later you can convince the kids it’s time to finish the cookies. Once everyone is gathered back to the table with freshly scrubbed hands you can explain the next step of filling the cookie baskets with icing!

Oh dear. This is embarrassing. You’ll likely find at this point that the icing container is mostly empty. You’ll have a vague memory of opening the tub when you first started, and how you took a taste, a taste that started a domino effect of icing tasting by everyone involved.

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You’ll wince as you remember your own uncontrolled indulgence. After months of gluten-free, sugar-free eating you might have just fallen off the wagon and greedily gobbled mouthful after mouthful of sweet sin in a fugue state of sugary bliss.

Just move on. You can use that Paula Dean rubber spatula you were given one year at Christmas and has rested at the bottom of the utensil drawer to scrape enough icing to place a dollop in each cookie’s gaping belly.

You’ll be sick of this project by now. Or maybe it’s all the icing making you ill. Either way you’ll have to finish now. Throw some coconut grass and jelly beans on top of that sickly icing. Then fashion some handles from the licorice strings. Be prepared. These won’t work anything like the picture on Pinterest. Your handles will droop sadly to the side.

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You will probably wince at your picture of the finished product. That’s okay and is actually expected. Take this moment to pick out the best one and take a picture of it alone. Then use a photo editing tool to make it look awesome. I suggest Instagram to really make your project pop. Take this edited photo and let it be the one you post to social media.

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When you receive compliments on your posted pic just remember to act very humble. Act like it was no big deal, and make certain that no one realizes you fought tooth and nail to keep that one cookie from the children’s grimy fingers so you could spend 15 minutes on it making it look awesome.

When your spouse gets home I pray for his sake that he showers you with compliments over what an amazing wife and mother you are.

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Follow these steps and you too can succeed in your kid-friendly Pinterest projects. Happy Pinning!

Enjoy the Ride

I hugged her tightly to my chest burying me head into her fine hair and breathing in the sweet smell of little girl. I could feel the heat, the beginnings of a building fever radiating through her cotton shirt and conducting the warmth to my lap. I sighed with angst over being unable to wish it away and held her a little tighter, as if my tight embrace might just successfully squeeze the sickness right out.

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I brushed her wayward hair from her face. As I tucked the loose strands behind her ear I thought of my husband’s words.

“Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.”

I thought about the night before. I had been excitedly planning something fun for us to do as a family on our day off together. The zoo perhaps. Or maybe Buffalo Park (a local park that was rather “zoo-like”). I just knew it would be a super fun outing that the kids would enjoy, and mom and dad too. The weather was starting to really be lovely and left me feeling so upbeat and energized. I had watched the beautiful sunshine all weekend as I worked and looked forward to enjoying it with my husband and children.

But then I had seen the weather. Rain. Cold fronts. No sunshine at all. It definitely wasn’t zoo weather. Or park weather. Or any outdoor activity I had imagined.

But I refused to accept defeat, so I began to place another plan into action. What about the museum? I thought. Brilliant! I picked a couple out and began to research all they had to offer. I grew excited again as I found exhibits I knew the girls would enjoy. I started showing my husband the photos on the different websites and he agreed it would be a good time.

I next began looking at specifics such as times, admission rates, and package deals. I started to calculate the total admission price for our sizable family in addition to the gas money required for travel. During my calculating we became aware of an unexpected expense that would need to be paid the next day before our fun, family trip commenced.

The debits were starting to get precariously close to the credits and it just seemed like the added expense of a trip out of town wasn’t in the stars for our little family.

I accepted my eventual defeat in the best way possible. By becoming frustrated, sullen, and perhaps by even spewing some self-pitying comment to my poor husband. He just took it in silently while I lamented over “how poor” I envisioned us to be.

Thankfully my self-induced pity party only lasted a few minutes before I realized the ridiculousness of my attitude. I apologized to my spouse who simply smiled at me knowingly, as if he expected I would see the error of my ways in due time. Or maybe he had thought the same thoughts as me and was happy for a voice of reason stating the obvious blessings our simple life contained.

As we spent the next day close to home little signs began to emerge that pointed to illness in our three year old daughter. Normally exuberant in even a simple trip to the bank and out for a reasonably priced lunch, this day she seemed to lack her zeal for anything. As her big eyes began to take on a red-rimmed appearance despite a full night’s sleep I knew we might have trouble brewing. When she ended up being too tired to eat her Happy Meal or play the touch screen games at the restaurant I knew without a doubt she was sick.

Her father felt the fever brewing in her with the back of his hand and stated to me, “Today would have been a horrible day to go to the zoo!” He began to express the truth we both knew guided our life. We truly believed that everything happened for a reason. That even the seemingly “bad stuff” held a purpose. That God worked it all together for our good.

You can know this in your heart and believe it to be true, but it’s how you decide to perceive it on a daily basis that drives if you’re content in your life or not.

Which brought me back to holding a feverish, young lady in a hard-backed, fast-food restaurant chair. My husband had chimed “sometimes you just gotta enjoy the ride” in his description of accepting God’s will. I wondered if this simple phrase fit in the tumultuous attraction called life.

I was reminded of amusement parks I had been to before. I thought of a particularly large park where I went as a child. It seemed like the best, most exciting attractions always had the longest line. In these lines you would come across signs that proclaimed “two hours,” and “one hour,” to try and advise you of the time you had left to wait. It sounds crazy. But the really crazy part is that we remained in line, knowing that it would be hours of waiting. We waited because we knew the ride would be worth it.

About half-way through the wait we would be privy to seeing others on the ride in the distance. We could hear their screams of excitement. The anticipation would build dramatically.

As we neared the head of the line the fear would begin to build. “Oh man! I’m not sure if I can do this!” But we would. We had waited. We couldn’t not get on!

The climb to the top would be exhilarating, and for a moment as we were suspended above the entire park you would feel electrified, as if you could fly. Then it would drop!

So many feelings then. Fear, excitement, joy. Weeeeeee!

Then it would be over, and there would be two types of people that exited the gate. There would always be the kid that said, “That was not worth 3 1/2 hours in line!!”

But I was always the kid that exited the gate saying, “That was awesome!! Let’s go again!!”

I guess that’s life, right? There’s ups, downs. There’s certainly lots of waiting. There’s unexpected thrills and even moments where it feels like the bottom falls out and you’re hurdling out of control.

The great thing about this ride called life though is that even if you get out of control, God never does. He always has it under His power. He knows the purpose. He knows the beginning, and He knows the end. He knows how long the wait will be. Sometimes you get a sign that tells you how much longer. Sometimes you don’t. But the ride is always worth the wait.

How you react to it though is up to you. Will you say, “That was awesome! Let’s do it again!”?

Sometimes the ride isn’t awesome though. Sometimes it’s just plain awful. But that has it’s purpose too. And when you can realize that then you can truly enjoy the ride. You enjoy it because you know that even if a part of it, a certain attraction is no good, that overall it’s going to be great. You know that overall He has your best interests at heart. You know He has purposes, and you know that they’re working together for your good.

It comes down to trust. You trust Him. You trust He is good and that He loves you. When you can see His true character you have no option but to enjoy the ride, to hang on and dig it. To grin big and shout out, “this is awesome.” Even when it’s not always fun.

Waiting Out the Storm

For those unaware I am the guest blogger for April over at Mississippi Women Bloggers. I am sharing a post every Monday on their site. The theme for April is “No rain, no rainbows,” and I have been sharing along those lines.

This Monday I discussed something I struggle with and so many people close to me do as well. You always hear “bloom where you’re planted.” That’s hard advice to accept when you find yourself in a tough spot. It’s difficult to remember that to bloom we must first be drenched by a downpour.

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It’s hard to remain still and weather the storm, much less with a smile in place and a hopeful heart.

Find this week’s post over at MSWB by clicking the link here.

I Love You More Than…

Do you remember the game we played yesterday? It’s one of your favorites. I’m not exactly sure when or how it started, but basically it goes like this. You say, “I love you more than (insert something you really enjoy here.)

It’s usually fun, silly, and lighthearted. Such as, I love you more than tacos. Yesterday as we went for a walk you told me, “Mom, I love you more than a pink cupcake with pink sprinkles.”

Of course I was honored my dear. Anyone who knows you realizes the weight of those little words. After all we’re talking about sugar. And sprinkles. And the color pink. Heavy stuff indeed.

But then you asked, “What do you love me more than Mom?” And I thought about it.

Right off the bat I obviously loved you more than water. As we started our walk you drank all of yours, and then asked for some of mine. I hesitantly gave you half. Then you accidentally dropped it on the sidewalk, spilling all the water out onto the thirsty pavement. And you asked for more. I gave you all I had left, emptying my bottle into your cup. Every single drop. It was a perfect example of how I would give everything I had for you.

I had certainly sacrificed my body. I knew without a doubt that I loved you more than my body image. I loved you more than a firm waistline and flat tummy. The things that mattered so much before now hid in the shadow of your radiant, gap-toothed smile.

I had sacrificed my sleep, even to this day. I certainly loved you more than sleeping in late, or even the whole night through. I might grumble when a well-placed foot in my back woke me in the night, but I reveled at the chance to take you in my arms while your tiny body slumbered, so warm, so ready for my hugs.

I would sigh with frustration as your little finger pulled back my swollen eyelid at daybreak and you chimed happily, “Get up Mommy. It’s a sunny day!” Even when I could see through the window that it was overcast. But I would get up with a smile and flourish in our mornings together with you watching cartoons perched on my lap.

As we walked through the park on a Friday evening I knew that my whole routine had changed since the moment you began forming inside me. I loved you more than the life I used to live.

I loved you more than big novels in a hot bath with a cold beer to drink. Something I did daily before you came, but something I discovered I was just fine without.

I loved you more than going out with friends. Or watching adult, forensic shows on the television. Or being able to just get up and run to the store in a moment’s notice, without getting another person ready. I loved you more than all those things.

I loved you more than a clean house, an empty laundry basket, and a sink without toothpaste stains or a bathtub uncluttered by toys.

I loved you more than quiet, a lack of sound that I never heard anymore. Although I’ll admit I loved revisiting the sound while you slept. But I can’t imagine what I would do now if it stayed silent.

As I watched you run ahead of me on long, pale legs with your pony tail bouncing in your wake I knew…

I loved you more than anything. I loved you more than anything I had ever experienced and anything I could have ever imagined. When God saw fit to bestow the gift of motherhood upon me He changed my whole plane of comparison when it came to love. He took ever single thing I had ever thought of loving and blew it out of the water. With you.

He taught me a new way to love, an unconditional way of loving someone so much more than I loved my self. He showed me a sacrificial love. He opened my eyes to finally see even just a fraction of the kind of love He had for me. The kind of sacrificial love He has for His children.

“What do you love me more than Momma?”

How much time you got kid?

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Making Self Second to Serve Your Marriage

I was on my knees when I heard him pull into the driveway. My ears were tuned into the sound of him cutting off the engine and slamming the car door shut while they simultaneously listened to the splashes and giggles coming from the bath tub.

It was that time of day again already. Dinner time, bath-time, bedtime. Somehow the conglomeration of the three made for a strange vortex that sapped the remaining time right out of the day while eradicating any patience or energy I had left within me. By the time they were all under way the cycle of events would spiral downward into a seemingly chaotic, rushed chore to achieve.

The good times washing poop off a little white booty and wiping snot from dripping noses would seem like a distant vacationland when compared to the nighttime routine. I felt the awe of the disregard for the space/time continuum when I heard my husband arrive home. He was home already and the kitchen looked as if I had done nothing all day but let the children run amuck.

I heard high-pitched screams of joy and the sound when five gallons of water is being splashed upon the bathroom rug coming from the other side of the wall. The back door opened as I raked a second pile of thrown meat and pasta from the kitchen floor. The cheese sauce smeared a path across the floor as I attempted to gather the discarded dinner. Hadn’t I just done this right before I put them in the bath?!

As my husband walked in I finished haphazardly cleaning the floor with a damp paper towel and spoke to him, “It seems like I do the same thing over and over around here. And you can’t even tell.” Then I huffed off to the bathroom to collect wet bodies for pajama time. I could hear his half-hearted response of “I know” as I walked away.

As I carried a lotion-soaked, diaper clad baby into the living room I deposited a kiss upon my husband’s lips and felt a slight remorse over not greeting him better when he first arrived. I knew he understood. I also knew he didn’t expect a freshly mopped kitchen with newly scrubbed daughters lined up in their PJ’s ready for a bedtime kiss before trotting off happily to dreamland. Thank goodness. Because instead he was greeted with the usual disastrous remnants of leftover dinner, like an image of a battlefield captured after the war. He was welcomed home by a passel of wet, naked little girls exhausted from a day of play, and a weary looking wife with cheese sauce on her knees and bath water soaking her shirt.

Later in the night as children slept and silence reigned I joined him in the living room. I plopped upon the couch and we sat in a collective vegetative state sapped of all our energies from the day that was now essentially over. It was midnight after all. I watched him and I could see his weariness. I could tell he’d had a difficult day. Why had I not noticed earlier? I wondered.

“Bad day? Wanna talk about it?” I asked.

“Not really.” He replied quietly.

Those two words said so much to me. They spoke strength even when weary. They spoke of the inward silence of a man, taking his complaints and holding them. They made me proud to have a man so determined to take care of me and our children.

So I replied, “If you decide you do want to talk about it I’m here. I just wanted you to know that it’s important to me, that I care even if I don’t always act like I do. I do. And I’m here to listen whenever you need me to.”

A pause from him, and then, “Thank you.”

I suppose sometimes, most times, that’s what we all need. We don’t expect another person to fix things. We don’t need them to make it all better. It would be nice, but most of us are realistic enough to know our significant others or even best friends can’t wave a magic wand. No. What we want is to know someone else cares.

We need to know someone cares. After all, we certainly do. What I mean is that we are abundantly aware of our own problems. Sometimes we’re even too aware. We are so focused on our own nuisances that we fail to see the struggles of those we hold most dear.

It’s easy to become so caught up in your own work load, be it taking care of children or patient care, that we develop tunnel vision. We only see what we’re up against personally, and if we do happen to see the things that are bothering our spouse it’s simply because they’re affecting us in some way. For example, “I hate my husband has to work so late! He’s never home in time to help me with the children! And at the worst time of the day too!”

We see what bothers our spouse if it bothers us too, but do we see anything else? Do we see the rough patches through their eyes or with a heart for them? Do they know that we even care?

Sometimes you can know something but you still need to hear it. You can know your spouse loves you, but you still like to hear them say it. Right? Caring about what is important to your spouse is the same. Sometimes they just need to hear that you see. That you care. That you’re present in this with them. That they’re not alone.

When you can place yourself second in a relationship them you end up being first to the other person. Does that make sense? In other words, when you place the needs and emotions of another person above your own they tend to reciprocate. Or they should. If this is a new practice in your marriage then give it a bit. Don’t expect change overnight. Just continue to walk selflessly and see what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s easy to become consumed by our own wants, needs, and daily struggles. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by keeping floors clean and little people alive. It’s easy to become consumed by building new websites and producing buzz over a newly written book. It’s easy to think “my job is so much harder.” But is it? A selfish view will never begin to see the beauty a relationship can hold. A selfless view will illuminate the best qualities of the person you walk beside in this difficult and challenging world. And it will also open their eyes to you. Empathy is contagious.

When you feel as if your day couldn’t get any worse try focusing on the needs of another. Amazing how it changes your perspective and lightens your own load while lifting up someone else.

Proverbs 11:25 ESV
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

Luke 6:38 ESV
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

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