Gifts for my Mom- 26 happy thoughts

This morning both of my lovely children rolled out of their beds around 5:50 am.  They actually lined up patiently next to each other and let me change their diapers assembly line style, which is a gift in the wee morning hours.

As I kissed on my daughter’s tummy I marveled at the fact that her birthday is a week out, she’s going to be three.  We plan on making her birthday celebration a week long event and my mind immediately starting singing my Mother’s “Almost a Birthday Girl” song, which she sang to us without fail when our birthdays were coming up.

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and there are a lot of beautiful posts out there that have spoken to my heart on celebrating Mother’s day differently, IE without a mom.  So I’m not going to write that today.

I know that most of the time I share the heartache and grief associated with being the daughter of a mentally ill mama.  However that isn’t the whole story, not by a long shot, under the crust of pain there are thousands of lovely memories and lately I’ve been digging for them.

I don’t delve too deep into the theology of heaven and it surprises even me how little I think about it.  But somewhere inside of myself I feel like my parents are tuning in, I can’t define it or explain it and I am fully willing to admit that this belief may be all about meeting my needs, but either way I don’t see the harm.

I fully that my mom is whole and restored in heaven with God and that she doesn’t feel pain or sadness.  Which means that my worry that she feels misrepresented by me on earth is ill founded.  She’s at peace, yet still I feel compelled to honor her this weekend by sharing all the ways she succeeded and the moments where the beautiful person underneath the depression shone through.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom, this weekend I will shout to the world all the things you did right, the acts that penetrated through your depression and changed the way I do motherhood.

my lovely mom

1)  You couldn’t wait to be a mom, you even tried to convince Dad to start getting you mother’s day gifts before you were pregnant.

2) You read me whatever book I thrust into your hands and this is likely what inspired my love for reading and words.

3) You grew the most beautiful geraniums in the back yard and often cut them into bouquets to share with friends.

4) You would often gather all three of us to the kitchen rug to share slices of cheese or a  carton of yogurt as we sat around you eagerly awaiting our turn like baby birds with open  mouths.

5) Every winter you would bring me fresh, warm bran muffins as I sat on the heating register “Sucking up all the heat” as Dad would say.

6) You made our halloween costumes, even if we were hobos in overalls for five years straight.

7) You drove me the 40 miles round trip to Children’s Bible Hour Choir every week without fail or complaint.

8) You took on a waitressing job to keep us in Christian School, because you believed it was the best thing for us and you were willing to deliver coffee and burgers to crabby dutch people to make it happen.

9) You made sure I made it to every orthodontist appointment for the SEVEN. YEARS I had braces on my crazy teeth.

10) When I didn’t want cake for my birthday you put candles in a coconut cream pie.

11) You let me sing to you and took me all the way to Toronto to see the Phantom of the Opera when it was my total obsession in middle school.

12) In High school when the girls were too mean, you picked me up crying from the office and took me on what you called “An Emotional Day Off.”

13) You did my toe nails for prom because I was too worried that I would mess up my manicure.

14) You always spent your work bonuses on your kids and one year bought us all all electric blankets because you worried we were too cold in the basement.

15) You were my biggest fan and my best cheerleader, you told me this often.

16) You made hundreds of meatballs by hand and without complaint for my graduation party.

17)  You and Dad moved me into my first apartment when I was too busy working three jobs to do it myself.

18) You weren’t weirded out at all when I met an Oklahoma boy on the internet.

19) You tried really hard to sing Lady Gaga.

20) You loved being a grandmother and I think it kept you going for a while in the end.

21)  You would spent whatever extra money you had to fly Noelle and I home for a visit because you said it kept you sane, even though we usually ended up fighting.

22) When Money was tight you sent checks to make sure I could afford co-pays to take myself to the doctor.

23) You taught me to kiss my babies, right on the lips.

24) The way you played “Little Mousey” when you tickled Noelle, she still remembers it somehow.

25) You never stopped telling me how proud you were of me as a Mom, almost daily

26) You had your estate set up so well that it was easy to take care of and you paid for my college in the end.

I love you mom and I miss all that you were and I ache for all that we didn’t get to share.

So Hi reader,  I know that this post might make you sad but please know that it’s one of the most healing things I have done in a while, so intently bright and positive for my heart.

It’s so easy to criticize our moms, especially before we find ourselves on the motherhood journey.

I encourage all of us as much as we are able to take our focus off what our Mother’s didn’t do right and make a list like this because no mother gets it perfect.

Let’s all view this mother’s day in the light of grace and do as much as we can to honor the women who gave and sustained our lives.

I’d love to read a few things from your life, and if you knew my Mom and want to add to my list, I’d love that too.

Rocking Horse Winner

Last night as I was drifting off in a NyQuil induced coma, Kel and I had a really great chat. Maybe it was just the drugs talking but we found a sweet depth in sharing the fears and doubts that we’re kicking around these days.

His heart hangs heavy on what the next step is for our family, we both feel the winds of change but have no idea what that looks like in reality.  We know he needs to finish up  seminary, but as we are currently debt free (except the house, Dave) we aren’t going to take out loans for his 3 remaining classes.

God has covered all the $500 credit hours up til now, yet still we doubt…

He suggested maybe we could cut back the grocery budget a bit and save cash there, I scoffed because the truth of the matter is that the belt is already tight.  I was actually looking for a grocery budget INCREASE, a decrease won’t do.

We always need more Milk, Eggs, Bananas, Milk, Eggs, Bananas.

I suggested he pick up a hobby that makes money on the side, like delivering pizzas.  Hey he likes to drive and he loves pizza, I smell a win/win and pepperoni!

As soon as he began to talk about money for seminary my worry prone mind began to race around in circles around spreadsheets, money envelopes and dollar signs.  There never seems to be enough does there?  I wish there was just a little more money for food, a few new cute shirts for me, maybe one more date night.  I wish there was a bit more.

Then he asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day.  My immediate response is time, I just want a little more time for myself, to write, read, stroll, sip coffee and just be me.  I wish there was more time.

In that instant a red flag popped up inside me, I had said the word “more” in our chat at least five times.  We just need more…more… more….

Does anyone remember the short story The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence?  Well I studied it in lit class in both High School and College and it’s a story about a family whose house is run by a woman who’s trying to live a life that exceeds their means.  She describes herself as “having no luck” and constantly imparts upon her children the need to be lucky and have money.

It’s said in the story that the children can hear their house whispering “There must be more money” and her son sets off with frenzied determination to ride his rocking horse to learn the winner of the next weekend’s horse races so he can gamble his pocket money.  He achieves some success and the mother is left with an 80,000 purse, but she sacrifices her son who dies from fever after riding his rocking horse to find the winner.

As Kel and I chatted about our fears I found myself feeling parallel with the woman in the story.  The one whose children could feel her anxiety and her ever present discontent with their lifestyle and means.

I felt the sting of being smacked in the soul.  Do I want to be the sort of mother who has such deep discontent that her children feel a desperate need to try to fix it?

Resoundingly and heartachingly NO

My daughter is a fixer, she will make you soup in her pretend kitchen to “feel you better” when you’re sick and she will kiss anything you tell her is hurting, from your head to your toe.  I don’t want her to ever endeavor to fix my discontent for money and time.

This realization parallels nicely with my journey to stop complaining this week.  With increased contentment I will surely find a decreased need to complain, right?

Oh mamas, friends, we have to give up this deep ache of “not enough” and replace it swiftly with the sort of contentment that Paul writes about in Philippians 4.  If the early church can have deep joy and contentment in the midst of beatings and persecution then surely through God’s grace we can find it in the midst of our lives.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 12-13

It seems that the secret is taking our focus completely OFF what is in front of us and putting it fully ON he who has guaranteed us the strength to do life in him.

Let us not think that strength means that we don’t need to delve deeply into our pain and struggle.  If you are grieving, weep well, if you are weary, rest up.  We are never called to pretend life isn’t hard but we are called to sew a deep peace into our hearts.

So, how?  We stop looking around us and look to him instead.  We focus on what we have, GRACE, FREEDOM, ASSURANCE and we just stop focusing on what we don’t have

I am preaching to my soul, maybe yours too?

Dear Lord, may I hunt hard to fix this contentment into my heart so that those around me don’t feel the need to rock and reel to fill my stubborn voids.  

What is your more?  Can we lay them down together?

Operation Gripe Jar- a week long challenge

So on the way home tonight Kel brought to my attention that I complain a lot.  The weather’s too hot, the house is too small, I don’t get enough “me time,” The grocery budget is too tight, the kids didn’t nap, My back really hurts, He doesn’t understand me, he doesn’t say the right thing, and the list goes on.

When I talk like this he said, it leaves him wondering I will ever be happy with the life we are making together.  Ouch… I didn’t respond for a few minutes because the only fitting rebuttal was this: “You’re right, and I’m so sorry”

When I replay the soundtrack of my life I sound like a depressing and very broken record at times.

Not only is this irritating and discouraging to those around me, it’s an indication of an ungrateful heart.  How can I be counting gifts and expecting to find joy if I’m so busy complaining?

So I’m attempting an experiment this week and I’m going public with it and inviting you to join me.  We can hold each other accountable, on twitter, Facebook, or here on the blog.

Here is my commitment: This week I will not complain, put down, whine or gripe, I will not even insult what God has given me by talking about what I would like to have instead.

Every time I notice myself complaining I have to put a penny in this jar:

This is going to be hard because it’s become a bad and seriously ingrained habit.  But I’ll be honest with you, record my successes and failures and report back about how it went and how it changed me.

I would love for you to do the same if you feel like this is an area of your life where you’re choosing death over life by focusing on the negative

Sentence starters to be AVOIDED
– ” I really hate that…”
– ” I wish I didn’t have to…”
– ” I’m not looking forward to…”
– “You know what sucks?…”

Some Motivational Text to put on a sticky note or two

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” Hebrews 13:15

“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”Matthew 15:11 (for those of us who worry more about what we’re eating than what we’re saying)

“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.”Proverbs 10:21

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

The long and short of it is that I need to get some control over what I say and what it says about the state of my heart.  So I’m doing something simple yet public and moving in a direction so that my mouth becomes a more life giving source for those I love.

So If you want to get in on Operation Gripe Jar:

1) Comment, Facebook, tweet to me etc and let me know you’re on board.

2) Get a jar, a bowl, a bag, a box, whatever and start Monday morning with it empty.  (I’d love it if you shared a pic of your jar with me #operationgripejar) 

3) When you gripe, jot down on paper or on your phone what you said and where your heart was at when it happened and then put a penny in the jar.

4) Report back to me Next week monday and let me know how it went, how you succeeded and failed and how it changed your week and hopefully your heart for the better.

And hey, report back on my Facebook or twitter all week long!  Strength in numbers my friends!

This is a simple, easy system that might lead to some long term changes in every aspect of our lives.  If God can use a jar and some pennies to cultivate gratitude in my heart, then I’m all in baby.

People are Persons

Some people are crabby, and this lady may win for being the crabbiest (sorry couldn’t help myself)

It’s the weekend, which means that you, like me, may be out and about in a  crowd of people.  Today I took our two kids as well as our friends son and daughter to the children’s museum about 45 minutes from our house.  It’s my daughter’s favorite place on earth and she begs to go there over breakfast nearly every morning.

There is certain worker at this museum who always wears a lemon pucker face and talks to children in such a crabby tone it causes this mom to wonder why on earth she choose to work there.  She’s yelled at me for drinking coffee, yelled at my daughter for having 2 too many apples in her pretend grocery story cart and today I saw her scowling as she hung up the little dress up doctor’s coats.

She is a crabby crabby muffin when she’s at work, that much is for sure.  I must confess that a lot of times I refer to her as “that pissy lady who works at the museum” but today on the way home I began to wonder about her.

Why would you work at a children’s museum when you seem to have a serious disdain for playing children?

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My Meltdown

This afternoon I had a meltdown, I couldn’t even tell you why really.  I just remember losing all perspective and weeping my way home from preschool pickup.  So dramatic, so embarrassing.

For some reason I just couldn’t see the hope or the good, most of all in myself.

I was determined to figure out what caused my meltdown so I did what any normal person would do and had a good ol’ fashioned spider web brainstorming session on my chalkboard.

I’ve seen my children have meltdowns and I’ve had them myself.  The meltdown has a common thread, it’s a combination of a lack of perspective and a lack of understanding and above all a perceived hurt.

When I tell my kids that they can’t have another scone from the top of the fridge or yet another new bouncy ball at WalMart they get angry and lash out at me.  They don’t understand why I’m saying no.  I know that they’ll get sick from too much sugar and that we already have upwards of 10 balls at home, but they see me as a fun stealing tyrant.   These sort of meltdowns look ridiculous to me because I’m more mature than they are, I know what’s best, but their little world is legitimately melting and it hurts.

If a more mature person were to bear witness to my meltdown this afternoon, so riddled with self doubt and empty of faith, they would see it as I see my children’s fits, silly and needless.  But in my little world, I was hurting.

God is so faithfully growing and tending to my heart, how often I feel that strength and stability!  But, once in a while, on days like today, I plant my feet in toddler-like resistance and have an epic meltdown.

And after the kicking and the tears subside God is still standing there, shaking his head and reminding me of the truth.  Whispering who I am in him and untangling all the lies I’ve tied myself up in.

It’s so easy to let the meltdowns define us as crazy or incapable, but we have to remember that the bad days will come, they just will.  I will never cease being human and asking for another portion of grace from God and my family.

I’ve cried a thousand times today, my heart so tender.  My daughter ran up to me with concern, plying me with questions in her pure childlike desire to take away my pain.

She threw a tantrum over a scone and I threw one because I don’t believe I can live the life I’m called to.

I had grace for her tantrum and she had compassion for mine.  I’m the 30 year old parent and she’s the almost three year old little girl.  We both struggle and cry, we both stand in deep need of grace, and we both love each other within a relationship that cannot be severed.

And in that moment I wonder how I missed it, how I lost sight of it, and I pray with all that I am that God strengthens my soul so that I keep his truth and beauty forever in my minds eye.

My grace instructor who looks way too cute in a hat.

The beauty of scars

not my knees, I'm not that brave

not my knees, I'm not that brave

My knees are full of scars and by far my least favorite part of my body.  No matter what I do my knees don’t heal right and I have lingering scars.  For example on the morning before Caedmon was born via C-section  I set out to shave my legs, because well, there would be a lot of people examining my lower half.  In my attempt to bend around my huge belly I nicked my knee something fierce.  That scar is still there, a smooth, red reminder of the day Caedmon officially joined the Penny clan, as if the C-section scar wasn’t enough.

My body is covered in scars, on my wrists from my days as a pizza maker and one on my nose from a night where my dare devil childhood met the corner of a coffee table.  My scars tell a story, but other than that I don’t see what they’re really doing for me.  To my knowledge Kel doesn’t find them sexy.

By the age of 30 we’re all bound to have some scars on our skin, but not only that, we bear scars on a deeper level.  Few people make it to 30 without going through something painful and heartbreaking.  It may be loss through death, divorce, abuse or abandonment.  These are immensely painful parts of our story.   Yet lately God has given me fresh perspective on scars.

Your scars are beautiful credentials and they point you toward something you are uniquely equipped for.  I’ve been depressed and buried both my parents, so I write about that.  I have a deep passion to speak truth and light into the lives of those who grieve and linger without hope.  My scars have given my life passion and purpose.

About a month ago I attempted to write a submission for an amazing project called “What a Woman is worth”  headed up by Támara Lunardo of Támara out Loud.   This project tells the stories of women who struggled to find their worth as a woman and it affirms their God-given value.  I went through at least 8 drafts trying to craft a submission that told my story well, but nothing came together.  I called my Aunt Betsy and asked her about my childhood and her take on my mother’s illness and how it effected my younger years.

Eventually our conversation turned to my own daughter, Noelle, and all the truth I’m endeavoring to speak into her life.  She’s forever active just like I am and was as a child.  She struggles to focus and be still, she moves from one thing to the next in rapid succession, she keeps me on my tippiest of toes from morning to night.  She stretches and challenges me and gives me stinging insight into what my Mother went through.

The difference is that I am the mentally healthy mother of a busy daughter, while my mother was occupied fighting her own inner battle.  I have a million assets she didn’t.

The words “hyper” and “busy” stung me as a child, I heard them over and over again and I always felt broken and all wrong.  This left a scar that took years to heal and caused me to look for my worth in all the wrong places.  It also left me uniquely qualified to parent my bright and beautiful Noelle.  Now, anytime someone calls her “hyper”, “too busy” or “loud” my guard goes up and I’m quick to advocate that her energy is a gift,  we are simply teaching her how to use it well.

My busyness felt like the disease of my childhood, I was forever medicated, rejected and discouraged.  Yet, now I use those scars to Noelle’s advantage, they have gone from a wound to an asset.

As I endeavored to write about what a woman is worth, I failed miserably.  Yet I did emerge with amazing perspective on validating the worth of my daughter through my scars.

That’s the thing with scars and wounds, once they heal and we make peace with them, God stands fully ready to use them for his glory.  I have a deep desire to offer up my smooth, red scars to help others on the journey.  I survived because others were willing to do this for me and it’s an understatement to say that I want to return the favor.

Physically I only have two hands and they’re often filled with the little paws of my children.  Yet spiritually I am able to reach out beyond the walls of our home and hold the hands of those struggling to heal from the same wounds that left me scarred.  And as I reach out to grasp and uplift, I am also pulled along and held by the hands of others who guide me forward.

We are all called to grasp hands and use our scars and lessons to lead and be led.  God does not send us our wounds but he will use them to bring healing and hope.

I know you have scars, we all do, all of us.  You are not alone in this, and I pray that God shows you that you are brave, that you have two hands and that he yearns to use your hands and scars for his glory.

Think upon your wounds, are the healing?  Have they healed?  You are uniquely equipped through these scars to bring heaven to earth.  Don’t wait another day, you know what to do.