Thursday, November 20, 2014

Not What You Think It Means

Lately, I've been wrestling with the whole 'God is good' thing.

By lately I mean the last several months, maybe even years.

I know that God, by his very nature, is holy. I know that God is omnipotent. I know that God is awesome, not in the surfer dude sense of the word, but in the Creator of the Universe way.

But good?  I'm not always so certain.

I struggle to believe that God is good when the world is the way that it is: broken.

As I delve deeper into my faith, questions about who God is come up.  I think this is natural, I think it is faith building.  I also find it painful, annoying, and lonely. I find myself going to bed and thinking on these things for a long time. I wake up very early and ponder my questions, recalling stories from the Bible as anecdote.

During the times when I question, even doubt, the only thing I know to do is to search scripture and spend lots of time in conversation with Jesus. It is vital to me, as a Christ follower, that I be able to say with absolute confidence that I believe that God is good. I do not think that my faith is weak when I am uncertain. Now that I am on the other side I recognize that moments of doubt lead up to moments of huge growth.

Still, it's not pleasant.  It involves gnashing of the teeth, pulling of the hair, sleepless nights, and driving the ones I love a little crazy with questions.

I had a conversation with God to clear things up.  It went like this:

Me:  "God, are you good?  When I say it do I believe it?  Are you good while this earth spins away on it's axis?  Are you good while parents kill their babies in the name of rights?  Are you good while children are sold into slavery of the worst kind?  Are you good while people are killed in wars that will never end?  Are you good while terrorism rises up and normal seems to shrink?  Are you good while we struggle away to be more like you, dying in the process?  Are you?"

God:  "This word good that you keep you using, I do not think it means what you think it means."

 

Okay, so God does not actually talk to me in Inigo Montoya's voice (but that would be so cool!), but I did feel directed to look up the word good.  So I did.

Here's what dictionary.com said:

good: morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious



Um, yeah, that fits. God is good.

I shared with a friend this whole conversation. She smiled and said, "You thought good meant nice."


nice: pleasing; agreeable; delightful


Oh. 

Good does not equal nice. Although I do believe that God is delightful, pleasing and agreeable are where I get hung up. I see, too, that it where my problems stemmed from. I began to wrongly think that God should agree with my plan on how things should go, that he should change the meaning of the word good to mean 'compliant'. 

It appears that God's plan for the world is a little different than my plan.



You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail.
Proverbs 16:9 NLT
 
 

My plan would involve the purpose of a good life, while God's plan has the purpose of relationship with him.  This is when I start to realize that when Jesus says we will lose our lives I know he means it. I follow a God who sent his son to live as a man, to be betrayed, and to die on a cross all so that we, you and I, could have a relationship with him. 

God is good, but that does not mean he is a genie mean to grant my wishes. I am important to him, but my plans for a good life mean nothing in comparison to his purpose of Redemption.


 Actually, it is not that my plans mean nothing to God, but that His purpose means everything


Monday, November 17, 2014

Calm Down, Mama

Sometimes I feel like my big kids are judging me. They say things like, "Why don't you do something about him?" Him being their little brother. It's like they think I don't have it as together as I did when they were little.

They could be right, actually.

My kids' ages are 16, 14, 10, and 5 ( little man just had a birthday).  It is literally like this youngest child of ours has 5 parents rather than two.  When our first two daughters were born I was in the midst of completing my college degree in Family Studies, so I had read a million articles and books devoted to the subject of child development.  I had listened to lectures and taken enough notes to fill multiple three ring binders. In other words, I was over prepared with information and under prepared for the facts of parenting. I did not understand that reality sometimes outweighs plans, and that positive parenting can fly right out the window when you're knee deep in dirty diapers and breast milk.

Our fourth child came along and surprised everyone.

What has surprised me more than anything about this little boy of ours is that his birth seems to have had a calming effect on me. It's not that his personality is particularly laid back. Quite the opposite in fact.  I think of our little Liam as High Octane. Dude wakes up early, batteries fully charged, and falls asleep while flailing around shouting, "But I'm not tired." 

I kid you not.

Our first daughter was born to a different person, no doubt. My poor husband. I probably drove them both crazy. If she was awake I only wanted classical music playing. I was certain the television would microwave her brain or something. I'd like to blame in on hormones, but I know I had some pretty set-in-stone ideas about how children should be raised up.

Liam, on the other hand, had witnessed many parts (okay, maybe the whole thing) of the Lord of the Rings movies before his 4th birthday. Gollum was his favorite character.  Don't judge.

Not yet, anyway. There's more to come.

Our second born came into a family that was figuring out that perfect looked different for everyone. I had let go of the nothing but classical music thing, but moved on to 'nice words' and 'inside voice'.  I wanted to talk it out with my daughters, teach them the art of communication, and foster family relationships.  My goal was to be a family that .

Numero quatro figured out that if you sound like a siren all of your siblings will run away from you, and mom will run toward you.  He has also figured out that the face I make, that may or may not look like grimacing, means 'inside voice', 'please stop that', and 'be kind to your brother/sister/playmate/dog/dad/grandparent'  without me ever uttering a single syllable. I think of him as fluent in non-verbal communication.

Spencer, our third child and first son, came just when I thought I had a handle on parenting. Adding a third child means that you, as parents, are now outnumbered.  For me it meant that the only time my kids had matched socks was when I stopped at the dollar store and bought them on our way to somewhere else. One thing I did have, though, was discipline tactics. Time outs?  I'm on it. Reward charts?  Oh, yes.  Positive reinforcement? Absolutely.  Spencer was by no means a difficult child, but he certainly was strong willed, so these parental aids were implemented regularly.

I think there have been times I have completely dropped the proverbial ball with this last child of ours, though.  My husband once video recorded Liam pulling every. single. tissue. out of the box.  He thought it was the funniest, cutest thing he'd ever seen.  Liam has had my number from day one, knowing that if he held his breath til he turned blue when he was mad I would give him anything he wanted if he would just breathe.

At two when I began the count down he would ask, "What happens when you get to one?"  Stink. None of the others figured out that I didn't have a plan for when I got to the number one until they were well over the age of 5.

Lord have mercy, but when I did try and discipline him I had three kids practically climbing on my back crying about how mean I was being to him.  "He's just a baby," they would wail.  For Pete's sake, I was just trying to have him sit on a stool for three minutes.

Man, what they don't get, these big kids of mine, is that I'm not just calm, I'm tired. And a little old. :)

I don't have time to read parenting tips because I'm too busy trying to figure out what we're going to eat for dinner and who's going where, when. Plus, I've learned that that best parenting tactic is letting a kid grow up. Give them enough time, and they all do it eventually.

I guess that's what I have really learned from Liam: kids grow up.  Time is going to go by quickly if I'm enjoying it or not, so I may as well enjoy it and not stress so much about getting it just right.

It'll be gone before I know it.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Guest Post

You know those days when everyone wakes up cranky, and no one wants to do anything?

I'm sharing some tips on getting the creative juices going over at my friend Kristin's blog, From the Stacks. Take a click and check it out!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Enjoy Life



Sometimes, when all you can think about is how messy your house looks, and how much you're messing up everything, and all that you've been procrastinating, and the pile of stuff on your dresser, and Christmas right around the corner, and ISIS, and deadly viruses on the loose... you just need to get away.

Get in your car and drive away from the house that's suffocating your family and forget what all the yelling was about, enjoy the drive, and soon you'll be enjoying each other. Get away from people, and the noise of the world telling you what you should be doing to enjoy life and just enjoy life.



  
 
 
  

They are much to pitied who 
have not been given a taste
for nature early in life.
~ Jane Austen ~ 

 

 
 

When through the woods
and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing
sweetly in the trees,
When I look down 
from lofty mountain 
grandeur and hear the 
brook and feel the gentle
breeze.

Then sings my soul,
my Savior, God to thee.
How great thou art!
How great thou art!


 

 Sometimes you need to remember how to smile.

Friday, October 10, 2014

In My Mind

You know what  I need?  I need a little projector built into my head, so that the lens comes out of my forehead.  I need a projector in my mind to show people what I really mean, because clearly something gets lost between my my mind, my mouth, and their mind.

The other day a friend was telling me about her go-to dish for parties. She loves making antipasto.  Salami, pastrami, olives, cheeses, some veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers. I listened raptly as she described the platter.  Yes, I thought, I need to do this!

I got it in my head to take the kids on a hike. We needed to get out of the house and the fresh air would do us all good.  I also wanted to have a surprise picnic.  A picnic of antipasto! Yes! Yes!  What a fabulous surprise for them.  I had it all arranged in my head. I would wake them in the morning and spring the hike idea on them. The older ones would be grumpy, the younger ones less so. We would drive to a beautiful area, get out of the van, have the fresh air hit us and suddenly be in perfect harmony with one another.  We'd probably even see a bald eagle.  It would be amazing.  At the end of our hike we would be tired and hungry and then I would spring the real surprise on them!  Antipasto platter hidden in the cooler.  Oh, yes. I would be adored.  They would remember this as one of the most special moments of their lives.

I was just thinking of how tired I was, and how little I actually wanted to go to Wal-Mart to fetch my fabulous supplies when my husband mentioned going to the store.

"Do you need anything?" he asked.

"Actually,"  I replied, " I do."


I filled him in on my Fabulous Plan. He seemed keen.  Well, he nodded his head.  I asked for salami, fabulous cheese, olives, and some fancy crackers.

"You know, so I can put together something fabulous like the Barefoot Contessa. Okay?  Get some good stuff."  I re-iterated my Fabulous Plan.  He again nodded his head in what I took as comprehension.

I went to bed.

In the middle of the night I awoke thinking of my Fabulous Plan.  I poked my husband, "Hey, did you get the stuff I asked for?"

"Yes. I did. Don't talk to me anymore,"  he mumbled back.

The next morning I pulled the cooler into the kitchen, giddy with excitement.  A hike!  An antipasto platter!  My joy would be complete!

I could find none of the objects of my desire.  I went deeper.  I moved the eggs. Finally, underneath a bottle of dressing, still in the plastic sack, I found what I was looking for.

Well, not really what I was looking for.

I found some Oscar Meyer salami, a package of American cheese, and a jar of baby dills.  There was also a box of saltines on the kitchen table.

I went to the window to put some distance between me and the demise of my antipasto platter.  I noticed it looked like rain.  I felt a funk coming on. On my second cup of coffee, though, I felt like I had a handle on the situation.

I had a moment of clarity after the coffee had taken effect. Each and every time I had ever asked my husband for something and ended up with a something completely different from my original vision  flashed before my eyes. The time I wanted a lavender bedroom and he surprised me with Barney-purple walls. The time I asked him if he could trim the boys' hair for me and he shaved them practically bald. The time I had the flu and asked him to get me a great movie and he brought home Riddick. The time I told him we really needed new curtains for our bedroom and he brought home black sheets to hang over the window.  (Those black sheets still are my curtains. HELP.)

You get the idea.

The coffee combined with the stark difference between my dream and reality shed some light on the situation.  Men and women obviously come with different pictures in their heads. All of my pictures come from Better Homes and Garden, HGTV, and the Food Network.  All of Lee's pictures come from the Dollar General ad. He can't help it if he doesn't have the right pictures in his head.

I can help him with that though. I just need to put the right pictures in his head.




Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oh, Mother

The year I was in fourth grade I had an obsession: guarding my mother's bra strap.

I would notice it slinking down her arm and stage whisper, "Mother! Your bra strap!" out of the corner of my mouth.  Utterly ridiculous, but I had just begun to wear a 'trainer' bra  and I wanted no one to know I had one underneath my t-shirt, because I was a DECENT person. (What is a trainer bra anyway, and what are we training our poor prepubescent bodies for?)

At ten I just found it completely humiliating that my mother's bra strap could be seen in public by friends and total strangers alike. For Pete's sake, no DECENT lady would ever let another soul know they wore a bra.  If people knew that my Mother wore a bra then they would know that she also had breasts.  If they knew she had breasts, they would also be able to figure out that she wore underwear, and that was an unwelcome can of worms I did not want opened.

1983 was the momentous year; the year I considered myself to be keeper of the secret of Mama's lingerie - a knight of sorts.

I stood watch at all times. If I caught a glimmer of of strap beginning the wayward descent I would push it back under her shirt and do my excellent stage whisper. In my ten year old mind I was practicing the art of subtlety; to my mother I must have seemed an obnoxious fool.

Now that I have lived through two ten year olds - I'm on my third and have one more to go - I kind of get it. Kids are completely enamored of their mothers until about age 10. My kids still think I'm beautiful and wonderful and all of that, when we're at home.  However, once we step out into public I am capable of inflicting humiliation on them simply by existing. It's awesome.

I think noticing Mom's bra strap also caused me notice the fact that she was a person who lived her own life. I could not fathom that she did anything while my brothers and I were away from her.  I imagined her sitting idly at the kitchen table, bored out of her head, until we came home from school or wherever we had been.

Ten is about the age I started to fight with my mom in earnest - and that is about the age each my children have chosen to exert their individuality. (Read:  be completely rude and irrational at any given moment.)  I wanted to become my own person and I decided that should be the exact opposite of the person I was finding my mother to be.  I think this must be encoded in our DNA because it is such a painful, tedious, bizarre process no one would willingly participate in this ritual dance of independence.  

I can honestly say that I have, thus far, enjoyed every stage of parenting. This is not to say that I do not find it difficult.  I do; gut wrenchingly so, and I have the gray hair to prove it. :)  There are two things that keep me going on the days when I feel that I am being crushed beneath all the mental and physical exertion of parenting:  1. Baby pictures of my darling children  2. The relationship I have with my mother now.  Those two things remind of me of how much I love those human beings that can cause me sleepless nights, and give me hope for a future with them.

My relationship with Mom began blossoming when I married, but was solidified when I had my first child. The interesting thing about birth is that also brings the birth of a mother, and in turn the birth of a grandmother. Mom's emergence into being a grandparent allowed me to glimpse another facet of herself, and was a gift to watch. This continuation of lineage put us somewhere we had never been: equals. We were both beginning a new stage of life and even though I still look to her for security in small ways, Mom and I learned to do this new part of life together.

There were days, early days, when the baby was so new it was scary.  Lee had to leave for work at the crack of dawn so Mom came over to fix me breakfast for the first few days home. We would lie in bed together, our daughter/granddaughter between us, watching her wiggle and squeak and stretch. I had postpartum depression that made me feel it would swallow me whole, and mother just took my hand and led me through that dark forest. Those days cemented our friendship.  Each child that has come along has added more layers to our amity.   When I rolled over in the night to nurse a baby to find a thermos of cold milk and peanut butter crackers sitting on my nightstand, I learned that I would never stop mothering from my Mom . That was a hug from my mother, her way of still nurturing one of her babies.

I had forgotten about the bra strap thing until we were all together this summer. One of my kids elbowed me and muttered 'Your strap is showing'. Mom cracked up and told me it was just punishment for the year she endured with me pushing her strap up. She said she sometimes pushed it down into view just to get me going. I'm so glad she thinks it's so funny.

Later, when we were leaving a restaurant I noticed her bra strap hanging down.  I pointed it out to her.  She just wiggled her eyebrows at me.

Oh, Mother.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Paint Your Hair

So, it finally happened, the thing I have been waiting on for 10 months. It went way better than I thought it would.

Sweet little girl, big blue eyes, button nose, long blonde hair verbally sucker punched me last night at work.

I work at a library and I was checking out her books for her when she said, "You should paint your hair."  She said it with wide eyes, all truthful like.  There was no malice behind her words - she was just passing along some information.

I knew immediately what she meant.  I quit coloring my hair last November, and in June I finally was able to cut the last of my permanently dyed hair away, revealing a pixie cut full of silver.

(FYI, it IS silver, NOT gray.  Ever.  Always Silver. As in 'Silver Fox', thank you very much.)

"Nope, no paint for me,"  I answered with a smile, "I like it just like this."

I didn't know that I did like it.  Go figure.  Out of the mouth of babes and all that jazz.

I started going gray at 27.  When I had our third child at 30 my sprinkling of gray had grown to full blown waterfall.  I started coloring it it a couple of years later when a family member pointed out that they could officially count more silver hair than brown.  Over the last 5 years, in between coloring, I noticed that my skunk stripe had widened quite a bit.  Last year I decided that when I turned 40 I would quit coloring my mop and see what was really going on under there.

Over the last 10 months I have taken more selfies that any woman my age should.  I was just so curious! In the beginning I was curious about what I would look like once it had grown out - would my skin look more sallow?  Would it age me?  Would people now think that I was older than 40?  What would my husband think?  What would my friends think?

I read blog upon blog about going gray.  Yes!  There are blogs devoted to this phenomenon. I pinned pictures of silver-haired ladies like a fiend. I talked about it incessantly. I even talked to other people about it incessantly.

As the months grew on, and the gray kept coming I was befuddled. I did not feel like a Silver Fox.  I felt like a woman who was on her way to an unknown destination and no one had bothered to fill her in on what she needed to pack.  Honestly, this whole '40' thing wasn't as great as I imagined it as kid. I grew up watching Oprah and she said 40 was amazing, and that 50 was even better. Ha! Watching the color grow out of my hair made me feel like all of the vibrancy was leaving, as well.

I was committed to growing out my gray partly because I had made a big deal about it to myself.  I also just didn't want to spend the time and money on the upkeep it was taking. I also liked how silver hair looked on other women.  Apparently that was key: I liked the idea of gray hair on other women who weren't me.

 I felt betrayed by my hair that I had always been so good to.  I always deep conditioned once a month or so, brushed and treated it kindly. I never said things like, "I hate my hair!", because I did not hate my hair. I loved it. It was thick, and healthy and a nice chestnut color.  People always complimented me on hair.

So, there it was. I was a little vain.  Nobody was saying anything about my hair because they didn't care.  Friends, family, and total strangers were just living their lives not actually thinking about my hair color.

Imagine that.

Turns out I don't think much about my hair anymore, either. It's just there, up on top of my head being silver. But only in the front. If I look real closely I can still see some of the beautiful chestnut color coming through. The back is still (mostly) brown, but what can I do?   It's just hair, right?

That sweet little girl who suggested I 'paint' my hair enlightened me. I had no idea that I liked it until I answered her so readily.  By the way, her mother was nearly speechless saying, "I'm sorry - I'm a hair dresser."  I quickly let her know that I knew her little girl was just being honest.

Turns out, so was I.

Mostly.


Only two of my 749 selfies. You're welcome.