Friday, July 31, 2015

Slow Down. Get Grace.

"When a child gives you a gift, even if it is a rock they just picked up, exude gratitude. It might be the only thing they have to give, and they have chosen to give it to you." -Dean Jackson
I caught my oldest son, Luke sneaking out our back door earlier this week with a pair of scissors in his hand. He had the hunched back crouch of a jungle cat stalking it's prey and I knew right then that there was trouble afoot.

"Luke Andrew! WHERE ARE YOU GOING??! You know you can't go in the backyard without permission; and why do you have A PAIR OF MY SCISSORS in your hand??!!! Come back here and explain yourself, Son!" 

With his bottom lip trembling, he started to protest, and I quickly jumped onto him with some no-nonsense, authoritative-Mom action: "Luke, when I tell you to do something, I expect you to listen and obey IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT respond with excuses, Son. You have to come to me when I call you. PERIOD. Now.Come.Here."

At this point, his bottom lip had gone from trembling to quivering and huge puddles had formed in his eyes. He took a shaky breath, put on a brave face and replied as tears rolled down his face: "But, Momma. But, Momma- I was just trying to sneak outside and cut you some flowers. You always like when you have your pretty flowers out, and I just wanted to surprise you."

At that moment, my anger evaporated and my heart shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.

My face hot, I dropped to the ground and wrapped him up in a hug. My throat was tight and my voice was pinched as I apologized for snapping at him. I reminded him that there are reasons why he can't go outside without permission, but I also told him that I should have asked patiently first without immediately fussing at him. 

I needed grace. I got it.

Still intent on his big surprise, I covered my eyes while he slipped away on his covert mission. He returned a few minutes later with a huge handful of the Black Eyed Susans that were blooming in our yard. 

I got them into some water and asked him to pick the perfect spot for them: in our living room on a bookshelf my Dad made for me. I've passed them dozens of times this week, and every time I've looked at them, I've remembered that bittersweet morning. 

It made me realize I need to slow down more when I parent. I've got to give out more leeway and fewer orders. I should dole out heaping helpings of grace- for my kids, for my husband, and for myselfI don't want to become a harsh foreman and forget to be a loving Mother. These childhood days pass so quickly, I don't want to be distracted by enforcing 100%-perfectly-perfect-behavior-protocol that I miss them completely. 

Things get so busy and crazy and chaotic and LOUD here that I sometimes snap. I get overwhelmed and overloaded and overstimulated and in those weak moments, I can crumble. And I remembered that Paul did, too. 

"And Jesus has said to me, "MY grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." -Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

My flowers will stay fresh for a few days longer, but my prayer is that their lesson to slow down and get grace will abide in my house for much, much longer than that. Hallelujah.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Time I Fell Off My High Horse At Big Kahuna's

One day, when I die, I'm donating my body to science. 

A medical study has to be done because I'm convinced that the amount of fluid my body is able to retain should qualify me as some sort of medical marvel. Y'all, I can just look at a bag of salt and vinegar chips and swell up like a diaper in a kiddie pool. A piece of Popeye's fried chicken will make my hands look like Vienna sausages. Please don't ask me what happens after I inhale eat crawfish: let's just say that it isn't pretty. 

Trust me when I say that body can hold onto some serious fluid. 
It's borderline miraculous, really, when I think about it. 

Last week, the bloated planets that circulate within my life aligned when my in laws visited and arranged to take us all to a water park. (Cue ominous music playing in your head.) 

I was rapidly approaching the horrific 28th day in the fierce and ferocious merry-go-round that is a ladies' favorite monthly countdown. I'd noticed that the numbers on my bathroom scale had been not so subtly creeping and creeping and creeping up in anticipation of this month's jubilant celebration of my empty womb about three days before my in-laws came to visit. THEN, I spent four.consecutive.meals dining at varied and various restaurant establishments consuming things like French fries and pizza slices and a stack (or two) of blueberry pancakes as tall as my toddler. 

Suffice to say that the morning of our slated water park trip dawned and I wasn't feeling like my best self. I wasn't even feeling like my worst self. 
I was feeling fat. And huge. And puffy. And swollen. 

It was as if, over the course of the previous week, my body decided to back log a dump truck full of fluid around my midsection and my cheekbones and neck and hands and feet. My rings didn't fit, my jeans mocked me from their hangers in my closet and the elastic in my socks had slowly begun to squeeze my ankles like some sort of medieval torture device. 

Hoooray for me! Because in approximately 18 hours we were going to get to go to a waterpark and spend the entire day dressed in swimsuits surrounded by friends and family and strangers alike. Funnesses of funness, amIright??! (Not.)

I was dreading it. Not the fun-family-togetherness-bonding part of the things. We had an awesome time with my in-laws during our staycation week together. It was the required attire that made me want to cringe and cry and crawl in a corner and call in sick. 

Y'all, the idea of squeezing my squishy, bloated abdomen into a spandex rashguard and board shorts while splashing around a humongous water park full of hundreds pairs of staring eyes made me want to throw up in my mouth a little. (Or a lot, if I'm being honest.) I didn't relish the idea of scarring innocent tourist's retinas with my pale, pasty, puffy persona, but my kids were so, so, SO EXCITED to go I knew there would be no getting out of it. So, I went. I was feeling self conscious and unattractive, but I went anyway. 

We arrived at the park and I begrudgingly shuttled myself and the kids into the dressing rooms to change into our gear. I got the kids squared away and finally squished my way into my SPF 50 ensemble. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride, and left the dressing room ready to face whatever jeers and public humiliation I knew awaited me on the other side of that swinging door. 

I stepped into the bright sunlight, and as if on cue, a young boy next to me let out a blood curdling scream. Knowing that his poor innocence had just been violated by my enormous muffin top/Lycra combo, I hesitantly glanced in his direction. Much to my surprise, he wasn't even looking at me. He was flailing his arms like a chicken and hopping around like the cement was lava. 

He was crying because his mom had accidentally sprayed sunscreen in his eyes. 

Bullet: DODGED. 

Much to my surprise, we made our way through the snack bar area and down into the wade pool without any further incident. We put our towels down and entered the lazy river without my making any small children cry out in fear or disgust. I'd barely noticed anybody glancing our way to jeer at my midsection's cushy circumference I couldn't believe it

It was like nobody had even noticed or even cared how unrighteously bloated I was. Could it be that I was not, in fact, the Quasimodo of the water park that I thought I was?? It was as if, within a crowd of dozens of people meandering down a fake lazy river that I wasn't a social pariah at all. I wasn't hideous. I was completely ordinary

Settling into the wave pool with the kids, I had a mind blowing realization about it all: NOBODY CARED ABOUT MY MUFFIN TOP. 

Out of the hundreds of people attending that glorious water wonderland with us that day, exactly zero of them cared to waste even a single second of their time judging me. The only person that was hesitantly having a good time because of my muffin top/PMS bloat combo situation was: me

As self important as I'd tried be and as paramount as I though my precious feelings and my tender, fragile self esteem were- nobody gave two hoots about me. They were there to have a great time with their families. They'd paid to spend the day making memories with their kids and wives and husbands, not to sit around nitpicking other people's giggly places. I got so worried about how I was feeling about myself that I totally forgot about having fun with my kids! I was missing out on my family's memory making day by focusing too much on myself. 


Y'all, I felt about the size of an English pea. 

That water park had not only doused me in a torrential downfall of over-chlorinated water, but also in a hearty stream of healthy self-realization. 

Before that day, I never thought I had a problem with an overinflated view of myself. If you would've asked me, I would have said that I considered myself a pretty humble person. I thought that humility and low self image went hand in hand. But it doesn't. My self image was ROCK BOTTOM that day, but I was walking around like my issues were the biggest and the baddest and the darkest of anybody's out there. I was as self important and self righteous as any OT Pharisee out there ever was. Because even though I was feeling reserved and self conscious and hesitant, I was still far from being humble. 

Nobody cares about my muffin top, and, y'all, nobody cares about yours, either. Do yourself a favor and learn from my character flaws. Stop wasting time obsessing about yourself like I did. It's not worth it. Focus that energy somewhere else. ANYWHERE else. It'll be better spent there, I promise. Our appearances just aren't that important.

It's pretty pathetic, when I really stop to think about it. How much time have I spent unnecessarily focusing on myself when I could've been thinking about more important things- like dried in grease stain removal or balancing my checkbook or the perfect foam-to-coffee ratio??

As I sat in a wave pool full of swim diaper runoff and sunscreen overspray I realized that underneath my swollen ankles and puffy eyelids- my ego was  I left that water park with renewed resolve to reroute my own self-obsessed thoughts into more positive directions. 

And get this: I'm actually doing it. I'm intentionally hydrating to try and give my poor overworked kidneys a break. I'm exercising self restraint when my jeans fit a little more snugly than I'd prefer. When I've tried on the 17th outfit before we need to leave the house and I can't find anything I like about any of them- I and walk out the door anyway. (Thanks, Elsa.) 

And, when the goin' gets tough, and I start to feel pathetic and puffy and want to crawl back in bed and hide in my covers instead of leaving the house- I stop and focus on what Peter said when he wrote the verses I read in 1 Peter 3:3- 
"And don't let your adornment be merely external- braiding your hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." 
These verses remind me that an obsessive focus on myself isn't Godly. It isn't holy. It's not what I'm called to be. My body won't matter when I get to heaven, but focusing on it to the extent that I neglect my family and husband and the entirety that is the rest of my life will. I want to strive to possess that gentle and quiet spirit that is precious to God. 

I'm a work in progress.I learned an important lesson about myself that day. 
It was a gritty, humbling and unflattering lesson, FO' SHO. 

But I'm so glad I did.