Thursday, September 22, 2016

Never Thought I'd Ever...

Me, at 2:21am: 

"God you spoke this very universe into existence and Your awesome and mighty power astounds me. The smallness of my life compared to the vastness that You've created humbles me when I consider how deep and wide and far Your love for me still reaches. It's with this view in mind that I ask that Your grace and mercy and favor be poured out to me and that You SEND THAT HAMSTER OUT OF WHATEVER HIDING PLACE HE IS CURRENTLY OCCUPYING because, God- he long gone. And Lord, if it isn't Your will that this escaped rodent be found, I beseech You for Your imminent return because there is zero percent of me that wants to break this news to my oldest offspring in approximately five hours hence. It's in Jesus' holy and perfect name I pray this humble prayer, Amen." 

Y'all, I'm gonna go ahead and add this to my column of "Prayers I Never Thought I'd Pray". 
(The list is ever growing.) 

**And also, the hamster WAS found. That's the power of prayer for ya. 

::praise hands::

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"You're Pretty. On the INside."

Vanity, y'all. 
It's seeds get planted early with little girls, or so I recently discovered. 

A few months ago, as I was getting my 4 year old daughter dressed for church one Sunday morning, she admired her reflection in the bathroom mirror and remarked "I look SO beautiful!" And granted, she did. Her dress was freshly ironed and her hair was shiny and combed. I'd just pulled her hair out of her face and secured it with a bow. Her lace trimmed socks peeked out the top of her little Mary Jane shoes and she really was quite adorable, if I do say so myself. 

But, despite her preciousness, I heard warning bells. They rang out to me from just a few years in the future when, if pride in her appearance were too unnecessarily praised, my sweet Josie may fall into the trap of believing that feeling good about yourself as a person only comes when you feel good about yourself in the mirror. So I put the comb on the countertop and swiveled her to face me. 

"You're right, Shug. You DO look nice today. Your hair is combed and your dress is pretty and your bow matches the pink in the cupcakes on your collar. But there's a more important beauty I want to tell you about. And you can't see it when you look in the mirror. The prettiness I want to tell you about is the kind that's found in your heart. It's the loveliness that happens when your heart loves Jesus and your family and others. When you love God, you treat others with kindness and gentleness. You share your toys and crayons and very favorite stuffed animals. When you are that pretty on the inside, what you look like on the outside doesn't matter. Who would you rather play with? A little girl who has on a beautiful dress and fancy bow but who screams at her brothers and ignores her parents and snatches Legos away from people or a little girl in plain play clothes who loves her family and hugs her friends and shares her PlayDoh? It's an easy choice, isn't it? Because when your heart is hard and cold and unloving, it doesn't matter how beautiful you are on the outside because you'll still be unkind. But if you love Jesus and others, you'll always be pretty, no matter what you have on. So remember that the best kind of beautiful to be is when your insides are just as lovely as your outsides. AND YOURS ARE." 

I left the pep talk in the bathroom that day, but continued to bring it up from time to time as we dressed up or left the house looking especially special. We continued to talk about the importance of our pretty hearts throughout the months, but I never realized until this morning just how much of the message had sunk in with her. Bless it.

I was in my bathroom, brushing my teeth before we needed to leave for our weekly Bible study at our church building. It's a typical, stressed out homeschool Tuesday and I'm absolutely, positively looking it: jeans, t-shirt, dirty hair covered in one of my husband's baseball hats, chapstick and sunscreen rounded out my current ensemble. I'm wiping my mouth on a hand towel when I feel some tiny arms wrap themselves around my right leg. I look down and see my sweet, innocent Josie looking up at me, head cocked to the side and examining my current state. "Momma, you sure are beautiful on the inside," she said. ::inwardly beaming:: "Well, thank you, Jo. That's very nice of you to say," I replied. "Yep," she said, "because your outsides don't look pretty at all today." Sweet merciful heavens. 

I nearly died y'all, right there on the tile. I was crying laughing. CRI-NE. True story.

So the moral of the story is this: If you ever find yourself afflicted with false modesty, just come over to my house and spend some time with my kids and they'll knock you off your polished pedestal REAL QUICK. Bless 'em.

*PSA: I am 1000% taking a shower during nap time today. Promise. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On Slothful Motherhood.

Heaven sakes, y'all. Am I the only one who feels like they are trapped inside a tornado of stress and school and activities and dog hair?? My two bigs woke up nearly TWO HOURS EARLY this morning so that can only mean one thing: MANDATORY REST TIME this afternoon. (And that is the lone reason I can even sit still long enough to write all this down.) 

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind around our house. I won't go into ALL the gory details, but let's just say the hi lights are: we've started school, adopted a hamster, baked almost 70 pans of bread pudding, practiced baseball, planned food to feed 150 ladies at our church's Ladies Day, taught a new quarter of Bible Classes, and bleached our porch furniture. For starters.

I am busy and frazzled and fried, if I'm being totally honest. There are times when I think I'm being held together by Jesus, coffee and dry shampoo. I'm not sleeping much and instead spending the hours between 1:30am and 5:00am channeling my stress energy by wiping out my icebox drawers or turning over laundry loads or rewriting my To Do list or Pinteresting butterfly life cycle lesson plans. I've become quite good at managing my work flow demands at 3:45am and cat napping on my couch while our newest family member Rhino the hamster trains for the Olympics on his squeaky exercise wheel. (Also to be noted: When the pet store associates tell you hamsters are nocturnal: THEY ARE NOT LYING.)

Early mornings come and I brew my coffee and read my Bible and pray before my day "officially" begins and more often than not, despite my best efforts- I'm burned out before the sun even comes up. And I realize that, while I'm not alone in the stress vortex that sometimes comes with motherhood, busy seasons like this are ripe with opportunities for me to meltdown. I'm busy, tired, stretched thin and ready to snap all before breakfast is over. Coffee can't cure what ails me, but it does give me enough energy to blink in surprise when I look at the clock and realize it's only 9:07am. 

 I can feel my emotions simmering just below the surface and they are ready to boil over at the slightest provocation. I KNOW YOU KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. On a normal day, my youngest's artistic expressions inside one of my lesson planner pages wouldn't bother me. But on a day like this, it's enough to make my temper explode and my blood positively boil. I see a spilled bag of goldfish crackers and want to scream. Abandoned uncapped markers make my neck veins distend and do not even get me started about what milk splatter on my baseboards does to me. Normal sibling squabbles find me quick to overreact and typical childlike delays have me barking orders and thundering through my living room. My stressed out self can turn me into a short tempered, overly dramatic, narcissistic, whining, complaining, victim and THAT IS NOT COOL because last time I checked, approximately zero of those things were fruits of the Spirit.  

But fear not! I've discovered a trick that has helped me cope on days like these. When my tank is running on fumes and I haven't washed my hair in like 100 hours, I CHANNEL MY INNER SLOTH LIKE A BOSS and somehow find the strength to survive another day. That's right: When I can't take it anymore, I take on slothful motherhood and

When I want to yell at the kids for emptying Legos onto their bedroom floor: I whisper. I walk slooowly around the house instead of stomping in frustration from room to room. I make the bed purposefully instead of throwing pillows down in angst and self pity. I gently open the icebox door to get eggs out to scramble instead of jerking it open with impatience. I brush teeth gently, comb hair like it's fragile and drive like I'm 92. When my patience is thin and I want to scream: I start speaking in nearly monotone. I wash dishes by hand instead of tossing silverware angrily into the dishwasher caddy. And guess what y'all: IT WORKS.

When I am nearly out of energy, and the opportunity for me to refill my tank is still hours away, it makes sense for me to conserve as much of it as I can by limiting my energy output. The more I fuss and the more I sigh and the more I exhale dramatically over every.little.thing- the less energy I have to do the things I really need to do like Godly parenting. And teaching. And vacuuming. And cooking supper. On the days when I blow my top and explode all my emotions on all my kids over all the little things they do, by 10:45am I have nothing left but a sick, guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach and loads of remorse for the way I lost it with the kids. 

But, by LITERALLY SLOWING DOWN and almost coasting through the day's activities- the more energy I have to actually make it through them. And, surprisingly, the less I fuss at the kids or lecture them for not listening or freak out over their typical sibling bickering- the less I am inclined to actually do it. For me, madness breeds madness and havoc breeds havoc. Once I lose my temper it becomes that much easier for it to happen again and again and again AND AGAIN. But, on the flip side- the longer I can exercise self control and refrain from blowing my top, the easier it becomes to knock my gears down a few levels and channel my patience instead of blowing it while I yell at the kids over fighting over what episode of Wild Kratts to watch next.  

So my hopeful hope is that maybe this self realization may help you on the days when you feel like you have nothing left. Maybe knowing I slow down, breathe quietly and tiptoe around my house when I'm about to lose it will help you do the same. And maybe, just maybe, channeling our inner sloths will in turn help us be better Moms on those hard, empty tank days. And y'all, I know this for sure- going slowly through my day beats the post freak out high blood pressure headache HANDS DOWN. 

So go on and own your own version of slothful motherhood on the hard days and rest assured that I will, too.