Five(ish) Minute Friday #34 – AGAIN

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays for a writing flash mob…throwing caution to the wind and gathering to share what a few minutes of free writing can buy. 

Today’s topic: AGAIN

GO.

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I’m tucked away in the corner where my back can be to the wall and I’ve got a great vantage point of the room. Straight ahead of me is a hipster couple in their early 20s enjoying bread bowls and pastries. Just past them are the group of three friends who’ve been laid back in their chairs and laughing in between every sip of their coffee/tea/water, respectively.

Next to them is either a mother/adult daughter or mentor/mentee combination — I’m leaning toward mentor and mentee by how engrossed in conversation they are, and how it seems like quite a deep discussion and the mentee is picking absently at her bread while studying each word that comes out of the other woman’s mouth.

Then I notice how the adult daughter/mentee is wearing tight-fitting yoga pants a cool shirt and I wish I had her body. And one of the girls in the group of friends has amazing bangs and I’m not sure I could ever pull that off. I watch the hipster 20-something eat her pastry and her bread bowl and get annoyed at my apple and low-carb salad because I don’t have her metabolism. I wish I looked as good in a hat as another woman I hadn’t noticed until this very second and then her…a tall brunette walks by tall and poised, and there’s just no way I will ever be that graceful or look so poised.

And there it goes again, the broken record stuck on repeat of self-loathing. The never-enough, always-too-much, quit-pretending number one hit that is so ingrained, so comfortable, so normal to me that it takes at least half an hour of it replaying in my mind for me to even recognize it.

And by then it’s too late.

In that moment the three miles I ran earlier in the day doesn’t matter. The healthy food choices I’ve made for the past month doesn’t matter. The increase in energy and amazing sleep doesn’t matter. All I can focus on is I’m not enough, I’m not doing enough, I’ll never be enough and the cycle repeats again and again and again.

I hate that song. It’s a stupid, redundant, uncreative, overplayed, wore-out, dead wrong, untrue, lie-filled, ear-deafenting tune and I hate it. How did it get to be so popular? I never requested the stupid song, not even one time. And yet is just shows up uninvited and barrels its way into my subconscious and like hypnosis causes me to act and react without my knowledge.

I need strength to break the record in two and throw the pieces over the edge because this? This tango-samba-two-step? It isn’t working anymore. There’s no room for it in my playlist of gratefulness or my playlist of joy or my playlist of goals. It’s outdated and archaic and on vinyl and no one uses that anymore. So in order to drown it out I crank up the song of Enough and it blares through the speakers of Redemption and fills my mind with notes of Beautiful. (<=tweet that)

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Because that’s the truth.

STOP.

*I’m pretty sure I went over five minutes. I kept getting super-distracted by amazing people-watching.

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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.

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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.

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Five Minute Friday #33 – CHERISHED

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays for a writing flash mob…throwing caution to the wind and gathering to share what a few minutes of free writing can buy. 

Today’s topic: CHERISHED

GO.

He used to be fuzzy and bright red but now after three years his fur is matted and the color is dark and even though I wash him regularly, there always seems to be some sort of an odor to him. Paxton can’t go to sleep without him. His name has even changed  — he’s not just Elmo anymore, he’s Better Elmo.

ELMO 1 copy

Oh, be still my heart.

We walk into school and he’s always hesitant at first, saying he wants to go home with me. We hang up his backpack and take off his coat and he greets his other friends and gets excited about playing dinosaurs. “Mommy, look! It’s T-Rex! Rawwrrrrrr!” and before he speeds off I remind him to give Elmo a hug and a kiss and put him down for a nap in the backpack. He cradles him close and kisses his head and lays him down.

ELMO 2

Oh, be still my heart.

I pick him up from school and he bursts forward from the throng of kids with a “Mommy!!!!” loud enough to rattle my heart just enough and he leaps into my arms with the biggest hug his little arms will give. And after a snuggle and a kiss he is as predictable as my mediocre cooking and says, “I want Better Elmo.” And we pull him from his quiet slumber and Paxton squeals with delight and gives him the biggest hug Elmo’s worn out body can handle and plants a huge kiss on his head.

ELMO 3 copy

Oh, be still my heart.

His love is pure and simple and unwavering and his joy is pure when he’s with his Elmo. He doesn’t care how tattered and beaten he gets; when his mouth is ripped open at the seams and he looks a bit like Santa…when the back comes open and the lost stuffing leaves him skinny and emaciated…when he’s covered in leaves and dirt from bringing him with him to play…it just makes him love even more.

Because right there, before my very eyes, is God’s love for me. He has never let me go. He squeals with delight when I’m with him. Even though I’m tattered and beaten and often ripped open at the seams, He doesn’t care. It just makes Him love me more. In fact, He calls me Better, too. (<= tweet that)

Oh, be still my heart.

I joke often that Elmo is going to be hidden in his wife’s bouquet someday when she walks down the aisle, and that she’ll tip her flowers to him just enough to see Better Elmo smiling at him once again, mouth wide and matted fur even darker red than he will have remembered. A reminder to him and to me that cherishing the broken is simply being like Jesus.

STOP.

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Sibling (Thanksday #84)

She always rushes ahead of me up the stairs so she can be the first one in his room in the morning. Always. She wants to be the first face he sees and then climb into his bed so they can laugh and wrestle and giggle and hide under the blankets.

As we slowly crawl through car line to pick her up, he likes for me to roll down the window so he can see her from across the way and as soon as she climbs into her seat he always says, “How was school today, Jaana Boo?” Always.

The way they hide behind the couch giggling together and trying to be quiet when Daddy’s on his way home. Their laughter as they play and chase and tickle and then dress up in scarves and hats and gloves for their “trips to Atlanta” which are walks hand-in-hand around the house. Their snuggles as they watch Word Girl or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and even though they are six years apart they are twins in spirit.

Right now he’s walking his chubby almost three-year old toes across her tummy and saying, “push baby push!” and they’re in a fit of laughter as he pushes my throw pillow (again) around the kitchen and living room pretending it’s a T-Rex on its way to get her.

I love these two. To my toes I love them. Yes they bicker and yes they tattle and yes they whine. But they love each other fiercely and watching their faces light up when they see each other after a long day at school makes it all better. Makes everything all better. (<= click to tweet)

I’m thankful today for my two amazing kids. For their sweet hearts and tender spirits and their loving hearts. For the smiles they bring to my face when they have no idea I’m even watching. I wonder if that’s what God feels like when He watches us enjoy and love each other too.

What are you thankful for this week?

Releasing

I’m suggled in my long, gray sweater with my hot cup of coffee and writing on my bright and shiny laptop. My house is warm and clean(ish) and our food is in the refrigerator. Screens and windows keep the bugs from getting in and crawling all over us and our water is clean and it’s time to make my kids a hot breakfast and then get lunches ready for school.

My kids are still in their beds. Jaana has a queen-size bed with a turquoise and purple and pink and orange comforter and it’s stacked high with pillows and pillow pets and stuffed animals. Paxton is tucked into the bottom of his bunk beds and sleeping cozily in his Star Wars pajamas with his monogrammed Pottery Barn blanket high under his chin. When he wakes up I’ll take off his Pull-Up and put on his big boy Spiderman underwear because he feels so big time when he has them on.

My daughter is eight and in the third grade and is struggling with understanding changing friendships. Girls are forming new relationships and old ones are changing and it hurts her feelings when someone would rather play with boys than play with her. She brings her American Girl dolls and clothes to school to play with at recess when she doesn’t jump rope or play on the eco-friendly playground. I pack her a big lunch in her Pack-It lunchbox on the days that Subway doesn’t deliver lunch for her so everything stays cool and refrigerated.

All around my house are framed family pictures and children pictures, some with just Jaana and some with Jaana and Paxton and they are in matching black frames so that everything looks cohesive in our house. They’ve never known picture-taking without instantly seeing themselves on the back of the camera and they always ask to look after they say cheese.

First world problems. It’s not just a Twitter hashtag. It’s a way of life.

When I went to Manila, Philippines 12 years ago, it changed me. Families and children living in squatter villages with shacks and metal roofs and no running water and entire families sleeping on the floor of the shack. Flies and bugs and mosquitos zipping in and out of the rooms and all over the kids and they spent their time just playing outside in the dirt like kids do. They didn’t know better. But I did. It’s so easy to forget — and I do often. But pulling out my pictures and reliving that trip was incredibly eye-opening and so necessary for me this week.

We made and decorated picture frames with popsicle sticks and took their pictures with a Polaroid camera and most of them had never seen a picture of themselves before. They couldn’t get enough of it. We’d hand them over each time with a smile and a “Jesus loves you so much” and a pat on the head.

We dressed up and did silly skits and told them how much Jesus loved them and then got back into the van and sanitized our hands with rubbing alcohol and Purell. We hugged them and loved on them and laughed with them and jump roped with them and kept telling them how much Jesus loved them.

Was that enough?

Those children and those families weren’t on a short-term mission trip. That was their life and their reality and that’s all those children would ever know. And the work we did there was extremely important, spiritually and relationally. But they also need long-term spiritual and physical care.

And that’s where Compassion International comes in. “Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus’ Name.

Sponsoring a child through Compassion International will change the future of the child, and your own life as well. Your sponsorship makes possible a church-based program that provides food, clean water, medical care, education, Bibles and life-skills training. Most important, your sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God.

Would you consider visiting the Sponsor a Child page and pray over the children? Pray for sponsorship. Pray for them to know Jesus. Pray for protection and safety and comfort and provision.

Would you visit the Sponsor a Child page and spend time asking God to reveal His heart toward these children to you?

Would you consider viewing the page with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and share with them about the reality of other children around the work?

Would you consider sponsoring a child today?

Let’s partner to release children from poverty. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.