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There is NO. ROOM. at this inn.

Why? Well…

I wrote for almost THIRTY ONE DAYS IN A ROW the same month we launched This Thing.

And then it was Halloween and I wore an afro.

FROS copy

And then it was November and our church had a luau. (Because of course!)

LUAU

And I wrote about naked trees and emptiness.

And now it’s just days (DAYS!) before Thanksgiving and I feel sort of out of words.

Especially since I’m verbally expressing a few words here and here.

I just don’t know if I’m going to have many words here for the next few weeks. Because The Elf is making a return soon and the church Christmas production is coming up and then Paxton’s 4th birthday and good grief I have to shop and wrap and decorate!

All this to say — consider this fair warning that this place may be a little closed for business for the next few weeks as I focus on BEING with my family and friends over the holidays. I know that goes against everything PLATFORM — but whatevs. Jesus didn’t forsake His being to focus on His platform, now did He?

(I just Jesus Juke’d my own self.)

(There should be a law.)

Please make sure to check out Be Still Be Free in my absence, because this is The Thing that has most of my focus and attention in this particular season, and rightfully so. It’s the bomb-diggity, yo. Supa-phly with a ‘ph’ and all that jazz.

I love you to pieces, and receive all the grace you’re throwing my way.

Wishing you an incredible, gravy-and-jellied-cranberry-full Thanksgiving!

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I’m an OG, Baby

And by OG, I totally mean Organizing Gangsta.

When you have one child in full-day school and another in half-day preschool, the dilemma inevitably arises — how on earth should I spend my time??

On the one hand you can cram every single second with stuff that you never get to do alone — pee, shower, laundry, cleaning, dance around the house, exercise.

But on the other hand you can enjoy what you what you never get to enjoy alone — sit still, watch non-animated television, paint nails that are adult-sized, write, read, dream, think, pray.

And so today — after I dropped my youngest off at preschool — I found myself facing the conundrum head on and worried to death I’d make the wrong decision. (I mean, it’s a precious four hours [not counting 40 minutes total drive time if I do decide to go home and back] and wasting even a minute is tear-inducing.)

And since he’s in preschool four days a week, I realized today that I need to very carefully strategize how to best to utilize these minutes of liquid gold.

So that’s what I did. I strategized today, and I made a plan. And I actually (wait for it) — PUT IT IN WRITING.

(Gasp! Shock! Awe!)

Listen.

I know.

It is absolutely NO SECRET that I’m an anti-organizationally-gifted wife and mother. I’m very shoot-from-the-hip when it comes to meal planning, house cleaning, day-planning and everything else that requires home economical-type things.

But something happened today. I can’t describe exactly what happened when I dropped him off…but suddenly, I had the energy to do everything.

I exercised and them came home and cleaned bathrooms. Then I showered. Then I worked. Then I ate lunch and did laundry. Then I picked him up and we came home and he chilled and watched his new favorite show Paw Patrol while I got iced coffee ready and refrigerated, the kitchen straightened up some more, and laundry switched out.

It was as if that side-heel-clicky-jump thing I did in the parking lot after drop-off elicited magical productive powers.

Just look!

photo 2-1

(Do you see the column for dinner? It’s GENIUS!)

Yes, I realize there are a lot of gaps to fill. Yes, it only goes through Thursday (let’s pace ourselves, shall we? Rome wasn’t built in a day). And yes, I realize this doesn’t include my work-related tasks and how to tackle the beast that is this book I want to finish writing by my 41st birthday just nine months from now (metaphorically mystical music inserted here). And of course, it doesn’t include time to work on the other fabulous project that I’M SO EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE SOON.

But y’all.

For me, this is HUGE. Not only do I have a pseudo-plan for my life days, I’m also getting Jaana onboard the “magically erase your responsibilities away” train. And she loves it! Just look!

photo 1

I know what you’re thinking and I’ve already thought it: it’s been ONE. DAY.

Yes, that’s right.

But that one day ROCKED.

And this one day not only rocked, it was highly effective. And if a day to the Lord is like a thousand years, then this productive day of mine is like a thousand productive years to Him.

Which is more productivity than my mind can even handle.

(So I can totally bow out whenever I want and be done and you can’t. say. a. word.)

I promise I’m not going to turn into a home-organizing, meal-planning blogger — they amaze me and leave me speechless and I can’t compete. Plus, it’s just not in me and I couldn’t pull it off anyway. (And if that’s what drew you here, I am so sorry…you totally got punked.)

But I have to ask (just to plan ahead for the next thousand years, of course):

Do you have any easy, non-OCD, non-intimidating ways you stay organized you think I might try for a day??

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Being

Mama & son in field

The kids are tucked in bed dreaming their Lego-and-lollipop-filled dreams and I go downstairs and flop into My Chair and exhale loudly with all my limbs splayed out as far as they can reach. It takes me a few minutes to gather the energy to get My Fuzzy Blanket and wrap it all the way up to my chin, and as soon as I do, it starts:

The rehashing of the day’s activities and the replaying of the hustle and the bustle and my quick transformation into snappy mom and order-barking-mom and the focus on getting things done and the checking of the lists…twice even. And again like clockwork I start beating myself up for being That Mom and try to reassure myself that the script change starts tomorrow.

It’s always tomorrow. The sun and Fun Mom and Dedicated Writer and Consistent Worker-Outer — they will all come out tomorrow. Right?

And then I fall asleep and when I wake up and I forget all about the new script because I have the old one down pat, man. Down. Pat. I don’t need cue cards or a teleprompter or anyone off to the side feeding me my lines. And the scenes unfold exactly as the script dictates they would and the next thing I know, I’m splayed out with limbs askew and I remember that doggone it, today was supposed to be the day.

My husband and I have been talking lately about me having the courage to be who I am and letting go of what I think others expect of me. I’ve been trying to be a great cook even though I hate cooking and meal planning. I’ve been trying to be Holly Homemaker but in all honesty consider it’s a good day if just the countertops are clean. And while eating and cleanliness are important (some would say vital), I’m realizing that putting a meal on the table and trying to be the next Giada are two totally different things. And I’m learning it takes more out of me to try to be amazing at the things I’m naturally bad at, than it does to pour energy into the things I’m naturally good at.

I spent the majority of last year ignoring the things that make me me, and instead poured myself into the things that are the antithesis of me because I’ve been too fearful to fully embrace me. I’m scared of success and I’m scared of failure and I get too easily overwhelmed by the big picture — so instead of starting small I just don’t start at all. And when I do that, everyone suffers — my kids suffer and my husband suffers and my calling suffers and everyone and every thing around me suffers.

And I think that makes God suffer, too.

So this year has turned into tomorrow and now the script is changing because if the script doesn’t change then the show gets cancelled. And the changes started last week and it was so hard to read the new script. The paper was different and type was small and I think it was written in Farsi and it was so very hard. The words were foreign on my tongue and I felt like an inexperienced hack — but I read them anyway.

And I acted my heart out.

On Monday after school, instead of demanding that bags be unpacked and homework started immediately, I scooped my kids onto my bed and we started playing. We had a pillow fight and they pretended they were sumo wrestlers and thank goodness Jaana remembered to make a pillow boundary around the edges so Paxton didn’t fall off. They played Rock the Boat and Bicycle and we laughed and giggled and watching the two of them enjoying the moment reminded me again and again that there’s so much I miss when I’m That Mom. That night as I tucked Jaana into bed she told God in her prayers, “Thanks for the fun we had with Mommy today.”

I don’t ever remember her saying a prayer of gratitude that I made her do homework the minute we got home from school.

As soon as we walked through the door on Tuesday afternoon, the kids yelled, “race you to Mommy’s bed!” and off we went to play and pillow fight and laugh together. On Friday we played Headbandz and Guess Who? and Twister and watching Paxton trying to put left foot on green while right foot was on red is something I will carry deep in my heart forever and ever amen.

The next morning as I was still sleeping, Jaana snuck in and put breakfast by the bed with a precious note that said, “Dear Mommy, you are such a great mom! You’re a good writer. This is a gift for everything you do. Love, Jaana”

That note is my very own Academy Award.

Working off a new script meant some things just didn’t get gone. Our meals were Anything But Gourmet. The house was Just Kinda Sorta Clean. I only vacuumed once and forgot about that load of laundry in the washing machine.

But the new script brought a lot of peace. I wrote some. I ran even more. We ate and didn’t go hungry. I enjoyed my kids and my days and I enjoyed my week. I looked ahead at next week’s scripts. I felt more fulfilled and more satisfied and inherently more me.

And I think that’s what it’s supposed to be like — this journey as parents and this journey as Christ-followers and just this journey as sojourners. I adore the Amplified version of John 10:10, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” Not just have life for the sake of living, but to enjoy life. Not just have it in abundance, but until it overflows.

Life that is to the full and overflows isn’t a life of tasks and to-do’s and days spent with doing. It’s life full of relationship and being and I truly believe that includes being with my kids and enjoying my life with them. Life that is enjoyed is life spent being who God created me to be. Being a wife and being a mom and being a writer and being a runner.

BEING-QUOTE-01

Click to grab this

And the overflow of that Wife/Mom/Writer/Runner Being pours into meals that are mediocre and a house that needs to be dusted again. It fills the holes and turns the just-okay into more-than-okay. Because that’s how things work in God’s economy. When that script is weird and uncomfortable, that usually means God wrote it. (<= tweet that)

So as I sit here full and content and satisfied, I rehearse next week’s script and allow those foreign words to roll around on my tongue so when it’s time to say my lines they aren’t as awkward:

  • Take the kids to the park and leave my phone in the car
  • Give grace to Jaana and not insist her room stay clean because after all, she’s a pretty amazing kid in a million other ways
  • Go outside with the kids and play

And lastly,

  • Just BE.

MDS-SIG-01

The Mothers of All Battles

The leave of absence was granted with full enthusiasm, both by the colonel and me, the Good Soldier. I needed not only time away from the battle, but time to regain strength to carry on.

I returned to duty expecting not to get completely exasperated the first day. After all, isn’t a Good Soldier trained to endure? To not be swayed under pressure?

Yet immediately, the grenades were thrown: “MOM! Paxton threw a ball and it hit me in the eye!!”

And the mines erupted beneath every footstep: “MOOOOOMMMMMYYYYYYYY! Sissa won’t let me watch a show!!!”

I had stolen a few minutes to talk on the phone to a friend, and she had the privilege of hearing me respond to each with typical soldier rhetoric: “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTT?!!”

My friend, a fellow Good Soldier, quickly realized I needed to engage in battle and hung up the phone. And I proceeded to break all the rules of battle — I didn’t assess the situation or stealthily sneak an attack. No, instead I pounded through the kitchen and up the stairs as loud and as fast as I could, guns a-blazing, so as to instill a holy fear in them before I arrived.

Hark! The Mother of All the Battles approaches.

There are days I pound up the steps like an attack on Normandy, and other days I’m willing to exit my house with hands clasped behind my head in full surrender…waving a juice-stained white flag.

I sometimes think we’d all be better off — this whole bunker — if I hired a Ghost Mother. Someone to come in and take over the duties, writing the story of my kids’ childhood for me, while I still get the byline and the credit. And if that’s not possible, maybe I could just find a foxhole to climb into until an ally comes to fight for me, so I can walk out without scars and wounds.

In the words of Combeferre,

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Somewhere beyond the barricade of potty-training and pre-tween-ness is a world where I’m not losing both the battles and the war.

Wars are neither fought nor won alone. Each side has thousands of fellow Good Soldiers, all focused on the same vision. Soldiers who immediately jump in to rescue when a sister is down. Or down and out.

I need partners in this War of the Kids’ Worlds. Women who will be strong and stand with me. Women who don’t offer yet another battle strategy or tactic, or compare how much worse their battles are than mine, or (God forbid) judge me silently — but women who will link arms with me and help cover my back with prayer. Women who won’t leave me to hide in my foxhole, but will simply say, “Chin up, soldier. ‘No Woman Left Behind’ is our motto.”

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” (Proverbs 17:7, NLT)

Women who encourage me to remember I get to start over tomorrow.

I need this woman, and yet I don’t think I am this woman. I fear I’ve neglected the motto and get too focused on only me and my bunker…oblivious to all the battles raging around me and the other Good Soldiers’ cries for help.

“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thess 5:8, NIV)

This thing we do — this Motherhood Warfare — can’t be won with just artillery or might. It isn’t a just battle of brawn. It can’t be. It has to be a battle that engages our spirits, minds, souls and bodies. Because we, almost like Jesus, pour out every bloody ounce of ourselves in desperation that our children be saved. Saved spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. A pleading escapes our souls that their lives would exceed our own. That they would become Great Soldiers one day, not just good ones.

This long-term war can only be endured in communion with God the Father.  A daily pre-dawn intake of Bread and Water, so that after the sun rises and the battle is underway, we won’t faint with fear, anxiety and worry. So that we’ll stay sharp, focused and be able to strategize with intention and purpose.

And it can only be endured in communion with each other — where we share the Bread and share the Cup and remind each other that this parenting thing we do is in remembrance of Him. In remembrance of The One who poured all of Himself out for His children.

I promise to stand with you, praying and cheering and rescuing you from the foxhole when you need it. I promise to enter into communion with you, helping you remember you get to start over tomorrow. Will you join me in my crusade? Will you be strong and stand with me, too?

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT)

 A triple-braided cord — you, me and Jesus. Now get out there and do this thing.

This Amount of Fun Should Be Illegal

I hate being a braggart, but really, this so far has been the best summer ever.

I hate being a braggart, but really, this so far has been the best summer ever. Quitting has been good for me.

Let me list for you the oodles of fun already had, just in the 24 days since school has been out:

  1. Dance recital
  2. End of the year pizza party
  3. Hilton Head trip
  4. A few days in The Big City visiting grandparents, cousins and their new pool
  5. Swimming no less than four days a week (counting Hilton Head and cousins’ new pool)
  6. Dinner with friends (they cooked, not me, yippee!)
  7. PePaw’s visit
  8. Seeing Disney-Pixar’s Brave (in 3D)
  9. Seeing Madagascar 3 (in 3D)
  10. Church production
  11. Paxton’s first pair of flip-flops
  12. Day in Asheville

I mean, it’s been so jam-packed, even Jaana is sleeping until 8 am. And that, my friends, means fun to the point of exhaustion.

Yesterday, my dad and I took the kids to Asheville for the day. We had lunch out (using a gift card, holla!), saw Madagascar 3 in 3D, and did a bunch of bookstore jaunts, as Mama is doing market research for her book proposal. The day also included no less than 100 stops at various stores so I could “run in and grab something.” My dad chose to stay in the air-conditioned car and rest. ‘Cuz it was day two of no nap for PePaw.

Two observations after yesterday’s adventures:

1) I’m done with 3D movies. Ever. They cost more, for one, which annoys me. For two, I hate wearing dark glasses inside a dark theater. For three, wearing dark glasses in a dark theater diminishes the vibrancy of color in the movie. And for what? So I can see a zebra shooting RIGHT AT ME from the screen?

2) If you already have doubts about writing a book and preparing a book proposal, then definitely go to multiple bookstores visiting their Christian Growth/Inspiration sections. Because then you’d realize chopping your arm off would be much less daunting prospect. Seriously, it was incredibly depressing. I look and look at the thousands of books and think over and over , “Why am I doing this again? Why add to this clutter? Do I really have anything new to say or a new way to say it?” And then King Solomon confirms it with his whole “there’s nothing new under the sun” scripture, and I leave each store defeated, fists shoved into my pockets and head hanging low. (Sigh.) (This isn’t me fishing for compliments, by the way. I’m just being honest.)

Here are a few pics from our adventures in the A-ville yesterday (does anyone call it that? I might have just made that up.):

Fun at lunch

His first 3D movie!

Her bazillionth 3D movie

Bob & Larry. Veggin’ out.

Little feet up close. Aren’t they the cutest??

So that’s our fun in a nutshell. (What in the world does “in a nutshell” mean, anyway?) And now, I need to make a grocery run for the lake fun tonight and the Fourth Festivities tomorrow. And who am I kidding? Take a nap, too (since I’ve been up for three hours now).

Peace out and Happy Fourth, y’all!