Wednesday, September 28, 2011
|View from my front door. If there was sound you would hear a rooster crowing.|
I am a morning person, I love coffee and breakfast food. I love the sunrise and the cool breeze that wafts in from the window. As long as I have about 6 hours of sleep under my belt, I’m fine with getting up. My husband hates the morning and even though morning comes every day, it always seems to hit him like a nasty surprise. This has been a source of tension in our marriage. I expected a coffee date every morning with the man I love and instead I usually get a grumpy guy squinting and grumbling around the house in his boxers. Ah well, such is life.
It wasn’t until this year that I got the coffee date buddy I wanted, and I only realized it this very morning. Every morning I share a cup of coffee with my two year old daughter, Noelle. Every morning when I help her out of her toddler bed she hugs me with an enthusiastic “Good morning!” After the coffee is made, I pour myself a cup and then I heat up a bit of milk in a sippy cup and top it off with a couple tablespoons of coffee for her. And this is my unexpected coffee partner. I always thought my morning date would take place over two mugs, but it turns out that for now, it’s a mug and a sippy cup.
|The remnants of my morning coffee date.|
Even though we often part ways after we receive our java (she watches mickey on the couch and I usually sit down at the table to write before the boys get up) there is a camaraderie that links us across the room. She is the coffee date I always wanted, and every morning I try to make her feel wanted and seen. Even at the age of two we all long to connect, and since she isn’t able to connect on my level, I have to get down and connect with her on hers.
Pretty much any time I reflect on mothering, I drift back to my own Mom. Who doesn’t? Our relationship was usually pretty hard. For starters, I am energy incarnate. I don’t’ stop moving from the time I leave bed until the time I crawl back in. I have always been this way, I played so hard I often fell asleep face down in spaghetti in my highchair. My daughter is a lot the same way.
My energy was a source of frustration for my Mom, because she was coping with mental illness and I pushed her buttons and ran her down with my willfulness. Growing up I often felt all- wrong, like a mistake or a problem. I was taken to a lot of doctors and put on a lot of pills from the age of three until the age of 18. For along time I felt like they were trying to fix me but that they couldn’t because I was too screwed up. My mom made some mistakes, but in hindsight I give her grace, mostly because being angry with her now solves nothing. However, this insight does serve as a reminder of how I want to respond to my own little energetic girl, who just came over to steal sips of my coffee after she drained her own. She also is refusing to eat the overnight fig-raisin steel-cut oatmeal I made us. Sad.
Everyone wants to feel important, seen and loved and so I try to respond like that to my daughter. Even when she asks the same question ten times in a row I respond to most of her chatter, because I remember how awful it is to feel like an annoyance every time you open your mouth. I am not a perfect mom, I screw up every day, I promise. I am not always intentional and I am not always patient. Some days I feel like all that is keeping me going is the hope of a glass of wine after they fall asleep. But I love my children, and I want them to feel cherished. I know that they will have moments of self doubt, but I want to do all I can to communicate to them that I love who God created them to be, even if some days it flat out exhausts me.
So most mornings Noelle and I drink coffee and watch Mickey Mouse. We build a lot of block towers and we bake pretend cakes. We race across the backyard and draw endless shapes on the patio. Right now she is running around with a clothespin in her mouth. I should probably go put a stop to that. So in closing, I hope that you are able to see the people in your life as the beautiful gifts they are, even when they drain you dry. God is the source that will quench your thirst, and he typically only gives you enough to do one day, it keeps you coming back. He’s brilliant that way.
We all have pain from our past, but instead of carrying it around with you, forgive. And use it to influence the choices you make today. What is something from your past you can unload from your backpack. Haul it out and leave it this morning, then use the memory of it to change the way you move forward.
Confession: Sometimes I censor myself on this blog, and insert a little more optimism than I am really feeling. I don’t want anyone who is struggling to feel like I gave them permission to go off the deep end, or falter in their belief that God is crazy faithful. He is times a trillion.
|Crusty, stationary bundt cake. It doesn’t jiggle at all, it stays put.|
The truth of the matter is that as the anniversary of my Mom’s death approaches the shade of my attitude gets a little closer to gray. But blah, I don’t want to be down, I would rather reject the pain, proclaim that I am a fighter and “ain’t nothing gonna get me down.” Pretending to have it all together is easier in some ways but it always bites you in the end. Somewhere inside God is whispering to me that he is using my struggle in big ways. He wants my real and dirty approach to grieving to be used as an example, to help give others the permission to do the same. At least I think that’s part of what he is calling me. So I am going to operate under that philosophy.
|The Oklahoma Night Sky|
We realized that we hadn’t given the stars much of a glance since our trip to Taos, NM last Labor Day. It had been over a year since we really looked at the stars, together or individually. A year without stars, I really hope I don’t ever do that again. For me there are few things in life that give perspective as quickly as taking in the night sky. As we laid there our conversation slowly deepened to good stuff like heaven and how God gives Wisdom. If we would have started another TV show instead of venturing outside we would have missed connecting like that.
I hope to have more date nights under the stars soon, because I want to explore the trails we find as we lay there together realizing how small we are in comparison to all God created. Just the concept of a light year blew my mind last night. I was looking at something that was so far away, we measure the distance in the time it takes light to travel a year. Light moves faster than my eyes or brain can even process. Think about that. That’s how far away those stars are. We are small but we are so significant, and well loved by our Father. I hope that God’s wisdom leads us all to delight in choosing a hard trail, even if we are only thankful after the fact.
Off the top of my head, here are some good trails that are hard but worth it:
reconciling with a friend
serving your church or community
bringing a meal to someone who needs it
talking a walk instead of watching tv
getting swept up in a good book
sitting down and talking with your significant other to work toward a better relationship
building a fort with your kids
calling your grandma
eating an apple instead of chips
putting down your phone and connecting over a meal
reading the bible instead of Facebook over your am coffee
You may think these are cliche, but they’re good trails, God led paths that will lead to deep and more fulfilling life. If you are tired and broken, they are especially good for you. Healing always takes work, but we serve a God who is longing to support you as you hike.
Maybe tonight I’ll go out again to gaze up at the stars, maybe you will join me and we will support each other just by gazing together, even from different back yards.
Yesterday I lost it. I ugly cried. I didn’t see it coming, I couldn’t fend it off and so I gave into it. At some point after lunch, I stopped making sense and started spouting nonsense that centered around how worthless I am. I had completely lost sight of the truth in my life and I laid there wallowing. I wallowed hard core. I still can’t tell you exactly why I broke down, but I can tell you that it took a series of tough choices yesterday evening to climb back out.
Large chunks of our world are set up to distract us from almost everything truly valuable about life. We turn on the tv or log into Facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc and if we are not careful we are immediately reminded of who we aren’t and what we don’t have. I have heard at least 67 people say that they often feel bad about themselves after Facebook-ing. And here is why: typically people are only posting the good stuff on their walls, and not the ugly moments. I don’t post the pictures of my kids snotty and crying, so you may falsely believe we don’t use kleenex or have tantrums. We do, I just don’t whip out the camera in those moments, and neither would you. We have to remember that people are typically putting their best stuff out there, who would want to immortalize their ugly moments. So measuring your life against what you see on tv or social media is usually a bad and dangerous way to go. Don’t do that.
|To add a touch of real life, my kitchen window compass zone is show with dishes and all. please enjoy.|
The thing is that it is almost always easier to lose yourself to BS than to stay on track with the truth. So we have got to use all the resources God gave us as compasses to stay on track or get back on the path if needed. God surrounded you with friends and family, so use them to speak the truth to you. If you have walls, put up memories and quotes that tell the truth about who you are so you remember where exactly you are going.
The amazing Tiffany Anderson send me a verse from Proverbs (The Message style) today and it knocked me off my chair with its timely fantastical truth. (If you don’t know Tiffany, I’m sorry for you, but mostly I’m thankful for me. God loves me so much that he put her into my life to encourage me and love the heck out of my kids. She was the first person I met in Ada, and the last person I want to hug should we ever leave. If there is a word that means blessing x1,756 then that’s the word I use to describe Tiff)
Anyway, sorry about the ode to Tiffany but it was appropriate and necessary, but back to that verse from Proverbs. I wrote it out on an envelope (because we are completely of all paper) and it made my kitchen window compass zone along with other pictures and cards and quotes.
|oh the baggy eyes, if only the little Pennys would sleep.|
And just to prove that I am all about being real here is a picture of me in a pony tail with no makeup and huge bags under my eyes. This is my gift to you and is sure to make you feel better about however you look today. The cute baby is my only accessory, and yes its hard to type when he tries to help. He’s going to be an amazing author someday but for now he just likes the space bar and the ,/. keys a lot.
It’s just another evening of life and I am sitting in bed reading and writing, windows open and a cup of tea on my night stand. There’s some sort of chirping creature outside my window who seemed charming at first but who is now becoming an unwelcome addition to my solitude. I tried yelling at it through the screen, because I am apparently that crazy.
Do you ever catch yourself experiencing a moment where you are caught off guard at where your life has taken you? These moments are not necessarily good or bad, simply surreal and surprising. Often I think that they start with an “I never thought I would be…” and end with something timely and personal.
For example “I never thought I would be a full time Mom”
Or “I never saw myself living in Oklahoma with an oil well in my backyard”
I have had a lot of moments like these lately, especially coming up on the one year anniversary of losing my mom.
“I never thought I would be orphaned before 30.”
I so often try to ignore the statistics of my life, like the fact that between Kel and I, all four of our parents are gone and our kids will never know their real grandparents. It’s such an awful stat about our family and I try really hard to downplay it. To simply confirm it and move on.
I spent the weekend with a friend, supporting her as she attended the funeral of her roommate’s brother, who died last week in Afghanistan. Experiencing that death third-hand kept taking me back to last October and the gut wrenching, hope-crushing process that was burying my mom. Through helping process this new loss I was continuously reminded of the shocking and harsh nature of death. There is usually this look of utter disbelief on the faces of those left behind, as if to say “Is this really happening?” “Are they really gone forever?”
Yes, it really is. And I am so sorry about that truth. If I could carry it away from you I would. There is nothing as permanent as death, in a world where almost everything is negotiable and can be fixed, death is not and cannot. For me the shock of my mother’s death still hits me. A year later I still go to call her each and every Sunday afternoon, as if almost 52 Sundays of not talking has had no effect on my routine of connecting with her on her loneliest day.
Normally I am all about optimism and hope, and if you look closely I still am tonight. But death can’t just be patched over with sweet words, no matter how true. Just because you are honest about the harsh, hard, sharp reality of death doesn’t mean that you lost faith. Faith can be there among the shock. I think we show a lack of faith when we refuse to “go there.” We have to do into the pain of loss in order to emerge whole again. I think true faith shines brightly in an individual who goes into the deep painful seasons of life with faith that they can be real with pain because they serve a God who brings us back again. He is all about restoring but he is never about pretending or burying the truth.
There is no raw pain like that of sudden and shocking loss. Loss hits us in all sorts of ways: loss of relationships, loved ones, jobs and health. I still visit that shock from time to time, but not always. It’s okay to mourn deeply, I promise if you keep digging through the darkness you will find light and strength. But I know that it sucks deeply and steals your breath. Be real about that. Keep going there, keep going and going. Life is composed of seasons, and this it just one temporary one, albeit the darkest sort.
Journey with friends and never stop talking to your God.
I have a confession to make. Deep down in the bottom of my soul I have started seeing myself as Rosie the Robot. Shocking, I know. If you don’t know who Rosie is, I have provided this wiki-link. I came to this conclusion last week Friday morning. To say that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed would be the understatement of the year. My mood was so foul and I was so angry I may as well have been pushed out of bed onto a pile of legos, doused with ice water all while “Come on Eileen” (I HATE that song) played loudly in the background. I was just. that. pissy. However nothing that dramatic happened. I woke up to a hungry baby boy just like I always do. After I took care of his urgent hunger I proceeded to do things I’m not proud of, like throw laundry baskets in our bedroom to wake up Kel and kick the dryer, all this in addition to yelling and only speaking in thickly sarcastic phrases. I am sure you have never yelled or thrown anything, so please try to love me in spite of this.
After about 45 minutes of this rage bender I was able to step back and get a glimpse of what was really causing this crazy behavior. I slowly softened up as I explained myself to Kel and as I did I came to realize that I had developed some seriously flawed ways of defining myself. In the middle of the snot and tears I blurted out “I feel like I’m just Rosie the Robot and all I do is cook, clean and watch afternoon television, but I feel like I supposed to be so much more than that!”
Ah, there it is. I feel like “the help” of our family, a machine who cranks out food and clean laundry and doesn’t need a lot of upkeep to keep functioning. You don’t need a therapist to point out that this is an unhealthy mindset. I don’t currently have a job outside of our house and so I believe that my days less valuable than Kel’s because he has a career right now and I don’t. I spend most of my time playing blocks, singing the ABCs and picking up messes. Most days I don’t do my makeup or hair, I just change into a clean sports bra and yoga pants and keep doing the mom thing.
The lie is that I am a robotic maid and the truth is that I am a mother, guiding the steps of two beautiful little people. I am building a strong foundation for the life of children and this will echo in eternity. All the pot roasts and endless laundry are just fluff.
When I started to view myself as a maid or cook instead of a wife and Mom I threw myself down a slope that was bound to result in a dangerous crash. In my case it was the crashing sound of plastic laundry baskets against drywall, but for you it could be any number of weird noises. It is so easy to look at what you do with your days and think of your role as “less than” what someone else does. The enemy is all about making you feel small and insignificant, because people who feel worthless won’t do too much about bringing the kingdom of God to their surroundings.
So now you may realize that you too have a flawed “rosie the robot” type view of yourself. Now you have to start seeing yourself as God does. None of us are worthless and every role is valuable. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12, it talks about how every different set of talents and skills are valuable and essential, just like the different parts of the body. Perhaps the hands are more often seen in action but they couldn’t do much without the invisible workings of the brain.
No matter what you do with your days, if you are living in God’s will, you are fulfilling an essential and valuable role in this world. When we live with this attitude God will use our days to echo in eternity. Maybe you work at WalMart, a fast food restaurant, a shoe stores or you deliver pizza. I have been there. Just because you aren’t in a business card toting career doesn’t mean that God doesn’t need you to do the Heck out of the job he placed you in. Almost everything in life is a season and if you are flipping burgers and you do it with gusto, you won’t stay there long. God always promotes hard workers in one way or another.
I honestly believe that we each have some faulty ways of viewing ourselves and when I look around I am painfully aware of how easy it is to feel irrelevant. So know this: God didn’t put a single irrelevant person on this planet, and that includes us. So today when I get around to putting on a clean pair of yoga pants I will view them as my super hero cape. I am a valuable person to my children and all I will interact with today. I have to remember what it is I am really doing with my life. I am a strong mother, a new author, and a faithful wife and friend.
So if you are feeling insignificant Remember that what we are doing with our hands is often not nearly as important as the mindset and attitude with which we do it.
Is there any way in which you need to redefine the way your view yourself? Maybe you too have been seeing yourself as a ridiculous old-school cartoon character. I would love to hear about it, and I really hope and pray that you realize how essential you are to this world.
It’s impossible not to type the date above and be instantly taken back to the events of ten years ago. The ten year anniversary of the attacks in New York and DC will be all over television and social media today so I don’t want to say too much here. However in my own voice I wanted to add this: As we remember and grieve the enormous tragedy of ten years ago, we cannot lose sight of the fact that God has promised restoration for all of us as well as our broken and fallen world. It is right and good to remember, but it is terribly dangerous to freak out and forget that God has promised to redeem it all.
This past week has been beautiful and difficult all at the same time. Our family is adjusting to new routines and with that comes stress and anxiety. For me “back to school” had been a beacon of hope for my writing. A time when I would finally have space to let all the things that have been collecting in my mind out onto the keys of my new computer. I found myself frustrated and disappointed, and realized that in the midst of all my thoughts about perspective and seasons I had lost a good chunk of mine. I threw a few laundry baskets and kicked the dryer for a while. I think that will become a whole post of its own tomorrow or so. But for now I want to focus on all the little and big ways that joy found me this week.
First of all, if you haven’t already noticed I love food and I love to cook. So I am unable not keep my favorite recipes to myself. I will get the recipes out of the way first so you can skip them if you enjoy being in the kitchen as much as I enjoy WalMart. Here are my 2 favorites from this week.
Apple Caramel Bread Pudding (healthy!) : This is a tasty dessert and I liked the concept but I fiddled with this a little and used real skim milk from a cow and real eggs from a chicken. I also added two sauteed apples in the middle of the layers of bread because I wanted an authentic apple texture. I went easy on the caramel sauce as well and just did a small drizzle after I pulled it out of the oven. I am really contemplating creating a breakfast bread pudding for myself this week that is whole grain and low fat. You could make it once and eat on it all week. The wheels are turning….
Perfect Pot Roast: I used to be so anti beef that it actually came up during the sermon at our wedding. My move to Oklahoma has changed a lot of things about me, and being surrounded by cattle ranchers was bound to have an impact on me. I still use a good bit of ground turkey bc my Dad had serious heart disease. However this week my friend Sarah brought me this recipe as well as the meat I would need to fix it. Best play date gift ever! This was the best pot roast I have ever had and the first one I ever made. It will be made again, and probably again.
We have a chimenea on our patio and for the first time since spring it was cool enough to sit outside and enjoy it. Our family enjoyed a long and amazing weekend of cookouts and parties and ate hamburgers on the grill and homemade potato salad for dinner every night that weekend. As our last party of the weekend came to a close we made an intentional decision to turn off the TV and head outside to chat and watch the sun officially set on this past summer. If feet gross you out I am sorry for the silhouette of my talon-like toes above.
|He finally made the right adjustments to his dixie cup to achieve the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow.|
This week we watched the Big Bang Theory, a lot, and then on Saturday took our kids to the Oklahoma Science Museum where we did extremely cool things like play with air tubes and show Noelle how to play hopscotch using the periodic table of elements. So this week nerdiness really made me laugh and also illustrated how much science I forgot since my Freshman year in college. Eek.
My New Laptop: This week has been so busy that I haven’t even found a spare second to change the desktop image on my new computer to a syrupy sweet picture of my kids, but I am overjoyed by my new present and when the UPS guy came to the door I had my camera in hand to take a picture of him for this post, but I chickened out because I am pretty sure we can all agree that would have been a bit over the top.
Before I close I feel compelled to post this because maybe you need it this morning as much as I do: On the Sabbath- we ask the question: what feeds our soul? And then we do that ~ Rob Bell
Well I am off to enjoy my Sunday, we are having dinner and supper with friends whom we love so I expect it will be a great day.
Fall finally came, and no matter what the temperatures do in the next few weeks I have gotten enough autumn on my skin to remind me that the seasons do change. If I look back in my life I can assure you that God has 100% track record of changing the seasons. And I have also observed that as each season ends there is a “change day.” A change day is that day at the very beginning of a new season where everyone emerges from their houses or cars in total shock that it actually happened. On the change day of spring we roll down our windows and marvel at tulip and hyacinth bulbs popping up from the cool wet soil. On the change day of winter we all break out our scarves and coats and no matter where you go it seems like a crazy colorful wool fashion show. I love change days and they are some of my favorite days of the year.