Monday, May 30, 2011

Mommy-O Prayer for This Day

Lord, I confess I've been quick to be angry lately. There is no reason to get angry over the annoyances in my life. It makes my kids stressed and worried and is a bad example to them. Please help me to be patient when I'm interrupted. Help me to respond with love and help me to trust that You'll work it out for me to get my work done in Your timing. I need Your grace, Lord. I can't be a good mom without you. You are a good and wonderful God. "Gracious is the Lord and righteous, our god is merciful." Ps. 116:4

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giddy Gratitude

I spent this weekend at a writers’ conference. From the time I got there, through the two workshops I taught, to the spectacular dinner and closing time, I had this incredible feeling of gratitude. I kept thinking, I’m so glad I’m here.

And you know what I meant. I wasn’t just glad to be enjoying the conference, I was truly glad to be there. There, breathing the air, moving my limbs, thinking…living.

Since my cardiac arrest in January, this feeling comes over me quite frequently. It’s a rush of joy, even excitement, simply to be walking around. At the conference when folks talked to me, or I entered a room to hear a speaker, or sat down next to a writing friend at a meal, I was filled with happy anticipation. It reminds of a kid going to Baskin Robbins. Yup, that’s how happy I felt, like I got to eat ice cream all day long for two days (without the bloating and sugar blahs—just the fun part).

It was awesome, but on the drive home, somewhere on Interstate 405, the adrenaline high transformed to exhaustion. I was very tired. I’m still recovering from the cardiac arrest, and a weekend of so much glorious excitement requires a few days of rest. My family and I expected that.

But to be honest, as I’ve returned to my normal routine, I’ve been more than just weary. The giddy gratitude slipped away and I found myself feeling bogged down, sullen, even grumpy.

Doing chores.
Herding kids.
Grocery shopping.
Wiping snotty noses.

Not as thrilling as an action-packed writing weekend. At least that’s what I was thinking as I drudged through my day … but then, thanks be to God, I remembered! All of these things do burst with excitement. Yes, they do! Why? Because I’m here to do them with my wonderful kids. I could've lost these hours and days. Someone else would've been folding their laundry or dabbing away angry tears. It's an honor to serve them. A gift. A gift to relish and treasure. A gift I wouldn't trade for anything.

I’m incredibly grateful for a wonderful weekend, but being a mommy’s way more thrilling than going to a writers’ conference. In fact, it’s even better than ice cream, because the joy of walking this mommy's journey with them is the greatest reason to “be here” of all.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Favorite Part of the Day

“But I want to go, too!” my little Abigail pleaded. “Please!” The desperation in her voice rang throughout the cul-de-sac.

It was almost 8:00 PM, but since the sun’s been lingering till a later hour here in the Pacific Northwest, the older kids were allowed to stay outside and run like wild banshees with their neighborhood friends (at least that’s what it looked like they were doing).

But since, first, Abigail’s just little and needs to go to bed, and, second, it was mostly big boys out there, and finally, like I said, it was no peaceful game of lawn bowling going on, I didn’t think it was a good idea for her to go. I delineated all these reasonable explanations to her…

“But I waaaaaant too!” In her dark moment of anger and sadness, she sprinted up the stairs to her room to continue the wailing (tantrum, perhaps? I think yes).

After five long minutes, she appeared, with a somber yet calm demeanor, in my room where I was sorting laundry. “Put your jammies on, honey.” I told her.

She disappeared to her room, and apparently as she started to dig for jammies she found something. She came running to me holding a teddy bear blanket I had just bought for a friend’s baby shower.

“Is this for me?” A big grin twinkled in her eyes.

“No honey,” I said firmly. “No. That shouldn’t be in your room.” I took it from her hand. “How did it get there?”

My firmness was too much for her. Her big brown eyes peeked up at me—so sad, with a look of helplessness. She didn’t scream or protest her innocence, she just said, “I don’t know,” then slowly slumped toward the door.

“Oh sweetie.” I tugged her back to me, knelt to her level, and looked in her eyes. “I’m sorry. Mommy shouldn’t have been so firm.”

Her chin trembled, just a bit, and a few tears welled in her eyes, then in a quick moment her little body clung to me, her arms tight against my neck. I picked her up, and we sat on the bed, with her snuggled on my lap as she sobbed it out.

She cried for a long time, and then she just stayed cuddled, silently, as I rubbed her back and whispered that I love her and how pretty she is. The thoughts of my duties of laundry, dishes, and toys on the floor fluttered to my mind, but I tossed them away. I won’t let go of her until she let’s go of me.

Finally, after about twenty-five minutes, she leaned back and smiled. “Do you want to see my daughter, Mama? She’s just a baby, but I have a new shirt for her to wear, and you know she lives in my room by my bed. I don’t have a crib for her, so I just use a box ...”

Of everything I did yesterday, working, writing, dishes, talking, cooking, eating ... those twenty-five minutes were my favorite. What could be better than being the one she needed in her heartache, knowing my embrace would comfort, giving my heart and receiving her love? These moments will become less frequent as she grows. I’m grateful for each one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

As the Deer Panteth...

As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after Thee.

The words to an old praise song taken from Psalm 42. I love the way the King James-ish words sound--there’s something comforting about them. And of course, the desperate crying out to Jesus—that hits me.

Especially as a mom, there are times I so long for Jesus it brings tears to my eyes. I often fail to be the mother I want to be, yet I try so hard to do everything I know I should. And even when I think I’m making the right parenting decision, often doubt creeps in. Especially when it comes to discipline.

We have attitude issues in this family, and not just the kids. Both my husband and I struggle at times, which makes it even more difficult to discipline the one who glares at us with eyes full of rebellion. How do we tell him to get his attitude on track when ours can be less than Christlike?

A helping of long-ago advice comes to mind:

It’s my job as a parent to teach my children the truth. The truth doesn’t change, even if I fail to live up to it.

Yes, I know …

But still, disciplining a child’s heart is difficult, full of doubts and regrets, hopes and fears, all mixed up into a soup of confusion.

What can I do but pray? Or more honestly, what can I do but run to my Savior, begging for help and comfort, clinging to Him like a child myself?

I long for You, dear Jesus, like a deer that panteth for the water.

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God? Ps. 42:1-2

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dandelions and Daffodils: A Mother/Daughter Memory of Hope

My four-year-old daughter’s face beams as she hands me a “bouquet” of dandelions. “Put ‘em in you ‘air, Mama.” My sweet girl sure brings smiles to my heart.

But being a mommy of four (six years old and younger) doesn’t always make me smile. It can be a rough adventure—millions of pairs of pee-wee sized underwear to fold, infinite toys to pick up, handfuls of Cheerios to fish from the sofa. And need I mention the mental stress of constantly training those less-than-virtuous attitudes? “Stop screaming at your brother.” “I just told you not to do that.” All together, they create one exhausted mama.

Sometimes I find myself complaining—even whining—about the chores of motherhood. In my darker moments, I long to escape to the time before kids when I could finish the laundry in a couple hours and spend an uninterrupted evening with my husband.

Reflecting on those pre-kid years also invites not-so-happy memories of a year that brought no joy—not a bit. My pastor called it a time of “frowning providence.” I called it the worst year of my life.

Michael and I had been married five years when pregnancy surprised us—we were overjoyed. My mom rejoiced with us, and she and I dreamed I’d have a girl for us to deck out in baby-sized funky fashions. As our little one grew older, I visualized teaching her to rollerblade and inviting church friends to birthday parties. She’d be a considerate teen and then, when she’d experienced just enough life on her own, she’d marry the godly man of her (and my) dreams.

Those dreams crumbled when an ultrasound at ten weeks revealed no heartbeat.
During the heart-wrenching days that followed, my mom comforted me, even though she was fighting a battle of her own …

She was amazing—not only continuing to jig silly dances, sing constantly, and most of all, fill the house with laughter, but also not letting the cancer shake her faith. She’d thank God for the intense pain because it drew her closer to Him. She’d pray for me when I was sad—even though she was the one who was dying.

Mom deteriorated quickly. Soon hospice arrived, and within weeks, mom departed. Bouquets of daffodils decorated the funeral hall. When I see daffodils, I think of her.

As the days and months passed, I felt isolated and lonely, and despite my struggles to contain them, tears flowed.

But then, eventually, came Gabby, and here she is, gifting me with her handful of dandelions. I still miss Mom and the baby I lost, but remembering my pain helps me to be grateful for what I have. And if God’s grace carried me through those dark nights, I know He’ll be with me, holding my hand, giving me strength to pick up millions of underwear, infinite toys, handfuls of Cheerios—and even to train those less-than-virtuous attitudes.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. Psalm 62:5 (NIV)