Being Family (31 Days #12)

To read all the posts in the 31 Days series, click here.

He’s started to gray, a tiny bit, around the temples and definitely in the scruff on his chin. He wears (cool, hipster) glasses to read, and was very, very concerned about getting the temporary parking pass replaced so he didn’t get ticketed. He left 45 minutes before the event started since he’d rather be early than late and really likes to play by All of the Rules. (Now.)

37 years later, and I’m still stunned that my little brother continues to grow up.

Do we all do this — us with younger siblings? Do they always stay 13 years old in our mind, slightly awkward and freckly too cool for school?

We live on opposite coasts with thousands of miles of land and life separating us. We don’t physically see each other often, but when we do we pick up where we left off and make fun of each other’s quirks and perform the same dance moves that always reduce us to crying laughter. We share about life struggles and core beliefs and values, and even though we agree to disagree on some (well, most) things, we always leave with tremendous respect and unending love for each other.

It’s been such an unexpected surprise to watch the parallels between all of us in this Big Sister/Little Brother weekend at the beach. I’ve watched the relationship between Jaana and Paxton and realized it’s almost identical to the relationship between my brother and me — the laughter, the tensions, the play, the annoyances, the love. I’ve watched how connected that relationship is with my kids, and they’ve watched how connected my brother and I still are, regardless of years and miles and differences.

It’s a pretty amazing gift, I’m realizing. For all of us.

You know, we’re given these people and these relationships on earth, and we accept them solely because they’re wrapped up in a single word — family. And because of that, we choose to agree to disagree; we choose to love, regardless; we choose to respect each other despite beliefs, quirks, annoyances. We choose to laugh, love and play. We choose to love in spite of and because of all these things — simply because we’re being who we are with the ones who are being who they are. No pretense, no facade, no images to project. Just freedom to be who you arein the freedom of who they are.

And sometimes that being in freedom together makes you realize that the thousands of miles of land and life can grow a person up. It can make them gray around the temples ever so slightly. It can adjust eyesight. It can bring out the inner PePaw in a man.

But mostly, it just makes you love them that much more.

Especially when they do a cartwheel in the middle of the ice cream shop just to make your kids laugh.


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.


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.


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?