Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You have your hands full!

“You have your hands full.” 

I’ve heard this often in the last three years.  I’ve even said it to other mothers.  It’s not an untrue statement.  Many days, my hands are literally FULL.  I’ve often joked that at least with twins I have one hand for each.  

But this statement often sounds like this:  “SIGH… You have your hands (too) full.”

Recently someone said this to me at least three times in the course of a Sunday morning.  Then she said, “And you have another one coming! (sigh!)”  (how terrible!)  “I guess you’re done after this!”

OUCH.  This stung. 

As if children are a burden.  A season of life to be endured.  Infancy a series of sleepless nights and diaper changes. The toddler years a blur of time-outs and temper tantrums.  School days a gauntlet of homework and social upheaval.  The teenage years a battle of wills and hormonal terrors.  And every additional child simply a prolonging and repetition of these seasons.

May it not be. 

Yes, there are hard days in our home.  We’ve been tired and we’ve snapped at each other and we’ve cried and we cleaned up poop and we’ve wondered when bedtime would come.  We’ve had long nights and longer days.  We’ve “just wanted a break.” 

And then we’re right back in there.  With joyful spinning around the room (“Daddy, the house is tilting”) and new books from the library to delight over, and recitation of favorite Bible verses, and hugs and I-Love-You’s freely given and received.  With prayers over ouchies and forgiveness for hurt feelings and learning new words ("turnstile," "dromedary").  With sunshine on blond heads and digging in the dirt for bugs and painting pictures of dinosaurs and rocketships.  With uncontrollable laughter and smiles that can change the whole day.  

And I can’t wait to open my full hands to another, who will undoubtedly leave my hands more than full (I don’t have three hands).  And will leave my heart overflowing. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In the still of the night

The middle of the night and early morning have become welcome quiet spaces for me recently.  Somehow I'm learning to relish the 4am wake-up calls from a certain little boy and the pregnancy insomnia that makes me alert at odd hours of the night.  When else do I feel so free from responsibilities and able to read, to pray, to let my mind wander? 

This evening I had some lovely quiet time with my boys, as I helped to ease them into sleep in a place away from home.  They were giddy with the fun of sleeping at Papa and Nana's house and excited about waking up to Daddy coming home tomorrow.  As they went from bouncing to wriggling to fidgeting to stillness, I had a chance to reflect and simply soak up the moment.

It is a good place to be.  Sandwiched on one side by twenty-three days that I faced with anxiety, long days without a parenting partner, broken phone conversations, devotions and verses said without Daddy's help.  Sandwiched on the other side by exhaustion and re-entry to "normal" life, hard conversations about the future, decisions about jobs and budgets and child care. 

But tonight... tonight is good.  I can soak in this moment with my sons and look forward to waking to my husband's return in the morning.   Best of all, I trust in the God who carried us through these twenty-three days, gifted me with this moment of peace and joy, and will walk with us through whatever the coming days hold. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The only thing that counts

I like to DO something.  I want to be active, engaged, fixing rather than fretting, using my hands, using my words.  So when I read Galatians 5:6b, I focus on the "doing" part.  Here's what it says:

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I immediately zoom in on the "expressing" part... that's the part that calls for action.  That's what counts, where it's at... the active expression of love. 

However, a closer look reveals that the phrase "expressing itself through love" is a description linked to the main object of the sentence: faith.  The only thing that counts is faith.

My faith is in God and in His son Jesus.  This faith means that I accept every aspect of His character.  Such as:

God is love. 1 Jn 4:16 
God is truth.  Jn 14:6 
God is holy.  Lev 11:44

I cannot have faith in a God who loves me and live as if my life is insignificant.  This denies the God who calls me His beloved. 

I cannot have faith in a God of truth and think that His promises do not apply to me.  This denies the God who has given me "these very great and precious promises." 2 Pet 1:4

I cannot have faith in a God of holiness and believe that He will "understand" my weakness if I harden my heart to His call.  This denies the need for Jesus' death as a way to bring me back to God.

I could go on.  Faith is not a mental mind-game, a "yes, I believe in God."  It overtakes every aspect of my life, every thought, every decision, every action.  

Everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Rom 14:23b

Whatever thoughts I think, decisions I make, actions I take, if they are not rooted and grounded in true faith in a God of love, truth, and holiness, they are sinful.  They cannot stand.  They will not stand. 
I join the father in Mark 9:24, pleading:
I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday's awards

Sweetest: Titus bringing Micah's new toy truck to him upstairs.  "I found this for you Micah."

Funniest: Titus and Micah playing hockey together, and saying "fight, fight."  Then they wanted to put gloves on "because hockey guys wear gloves" and presumably because they take them off to fight.  (I'm not sure this is actually funny, but I know that Daddy will think it is!)

Most precious: Prayer time, Micah: "and help us to sleep well and help us to not do bad things."  Titus: "and thank you for our lunch and our family..."

Most refreshing: A visit from a friend who I don't get to see often, seeing Micah and Titus laugh and laugh with her.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three Ways to Change the Day

Some days just need a change in them, you know?  Nothing terrible has happened, but the time is dragging or you feel irritable or children are restless.  Here's three simple things that I find helpful for us.

1. Music!
I enjoy quiet too much to play music all day, so sometimes I forget to turn it on at all.  However, if I am feeling sluggish or I have a cleaning task, there's nothing like some upbeat music to energize me.  If my mind is taking all the wrong turns, I need to turn on some praise or scripture music to get back on track.

For my children, there is something hypnotic about Veggie Tales music... no joke!  They will play more independently and contentedly without me if Veggie Tales are setting the soundtrack.  We also have music that they love to dance to (Sandra Boynton and some of the Slugs and Bugs).  Recently, they have been absolutely captivated by a library CD, Jazz for Babies.  The several times I've played it, they've sat and listened, not doing anything else other than getting out toy instruments to join in and asking "what song comes next?"  Wow. 

2. Friends
Sometimes you just need a fresh face to change the tone of a day.  I can't count how many days have been rescued by a visit from a friend.  Seeing someone else's perspective, hearing their stories, playing games their way... these all help to get us out of our ruts.  This strategy is harder for me to implement spontaneously, but I try to schedule it in often enough that it comes on those days when we really need it. 

3. Prayer
You know those days when everything seems to go wrong?  By 8am, you've already given a succession of time-outs, or the afternoon has been filled with tears instead of smiles?  Those are moments we take to Jesus.  We bring our tear-stained cheeks, our rebellious hearts, our weary bodies and we ask for grace and help, for joy, and for peace in our home.  I LOVE LOVE to be able to talk to my children an hour later or at bedtime and remind them what we prayed for and show them how kindly and clearly God answered our prayer.  This happens all the time!  

What strategies do you use when you need a change in your day?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I made some choices today that resulted in many tears and great unhappiness. 

As I reflected midday at the causes of the tears, I thought tonight's post was going to be about instincts.  About how I failed to follow my maternal instincts and thus to prevent tears where they could have been avoided.

As I thought more, I decided the post needed to be about insecurities.  About my inclination to compare my sons to the other children at church, to wonder what I am doing wrong that they still suffer such distress when left in the nursery.  To think that I am failing because I am unable to keep them quietly entertained during church.

But I'm coming at this from another angle.  Tonight it's about happiness.

Let me back up a week and remember a conversation I had with a dear family friend.  She brought gifts for the boys, and they both latched onto a certain scooter toy that was given to one of them; it resulted in a great deal of fighting and unhappiness.  She was upset that she had not given them the same items and so prevented this unhappiness.  I stood by my position that it is good for them to learn to share and that they do not need to have two of each toy.  I told her, "My first priority is not their happiness." 

I needed to remind myself of that today.  

Scene one: the church nursery.  Titus is upset that I am leaving.  There are loving and capable care-takers, and one in particular who has connected well with Titus in the past.  He tells me, "Go, we've got this."  I leave Titus crying.  I have a nagging suspicion that this is an unhappiness from which he will not be easily distracted.  However, I choose to place a priority on hearing the word of God applied to my life.  True to my suspicions, I learn later that Titus did cry for a very long time and much worse than I had anticipated.  I feel heartbroken.  He is calm when I pick him up, but looks worn, as we all feel after a long, hard cry.  I worry that my selfishness sacrificed his happiness.

Scene two: the car.  I offer to take a friend home after church, and also offer to make a quick stop she needs before heading home.  I realize that the delay of this stop combined with the length of time it takes to get to her home and back will inevitably result in the boys falling asleep in the car.  This means they won't nap at home later, which will leave them more worn and me without an afternoon respite.  I choose to do it anyway.  They do, in fact, sleep in the car, and are crying and screaming as I attempt to stumble-walk them from the car to the house.  They flop onto the floor but are too hungry to be eased back into napping.  Much crying occurs over the dinner table.  This is unhappiness that I could have prevented. 

Their happiness is important to me.  But it is not the most important goal.  Sometimes their character development takes priority (as in the case of learning to share the toy).  Sometimes my own spiritual needs take priority (as in the case of leaving Titus in the nursery).  Sometimes a valued relationship takes priority (in the case of giving a friend a ride). 

Will there be tears?  Yes. 
Will I wonder if I am making the right choice?  Yes. 
Will my boys learn that their happiness is not the only thing that matters?  Maybe, someday.

I need to remember this for myself, as well: my happiness is not the most important goal either.  

"Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Cor 4:16-18

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lost in the cloud of mother-love?

Maternal instincts always put our children first, right?  Which means moms never struggle with selfishness, right?  Our children always get priority... we never think of our own needs... we never try to get our own way now that we're parents?  Selfishness is lost in the great cloud of mother-love, right? 

Yes, mothering does bring out much grace and love in me.  But is also brings my inherent selfishness into the bright light of minute-by-minute choices that I make in the daily routine of life.  It reveals my narcissism, my attention to my own "needs," wants, and priorities. 

Today I felt bad.  Just tired, sluggish, off.  I felt like my third child had taken up residence in my rib cage, not allowing my lungs to get a breath-full.  Not being able to breathe is somewhat distracting.  Silly, right? 

So I found a peaceful moment as the boys were playing to actually go horizontal on the couch.  And here comes my son: he sees the perfect opportunity for snuggling.  Now snuggling does not mean finding a cozy spot to curl up; it means wiggling and touching and caressing my belly and sitting on top of me and showing me a succession of animals and putting his face next to mine and touching some more and talking to me and bringing me books and ....  This is all unbearably sweet.

And I don't want to be touched. 

Ouch.  My reaction when I don't feel well is to retreat.  Don't touch me, don't talk to me, let me be.  My son's reaction to pain is to comfort.  His response to me lying on the couch is to join me. 

Reading I Spy books at the end of the day always tests my touch limits.  I'm tired and my nerves feel raw.  Something about I Spy books brings out the pointy-ness of elbows as they lean in to look.  It forces me to go at their pace rather than reading through the story and turning the page when I'm ready.   

I find myself with a choice to make.  The mother-love cloud isn't always working for me in these moments.  I need to chose to put them first, to remember how much I love them and how amazing it is to snuggle with them and to press in tight to read the book together and to put my arm around them tighter and hold a hand and tell them "I love you so much."  I need to stop thinking, "I can't breathe" and think "Look at what I get to breathe in... beautiful beloved boys." 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Car Talk

Titus: I saw a clown!!
Micah: Was is a clown house or a real clown?
T: A real clown, I think.
M: Was it on the sign?
T: Yeah.
M: What color was it?  Was it red, or blue, or yellow...?
T: Yellow, I think.
M: Oh, yellow.  Mama, do you like yellow?
Mama: Oh yes, it's one of my favorites.
M: Do you want a banana?  Bananas are yellow.
Mama: Maybe later.  What else is yellow?
(discussion of yellow things follows)


M: It's good to share and I love Daddy.
Mama: Yes, that's wonderful!
T: I love Daddy too!
M: and I love Titus and Mama and Daddy and tiger and kitty...
T: and I love Mama and Micah and Daddy...
Mama: and Mama loves Micah and Titus and Daddy and baby...
Mama: and you know what?  God loves Daddy and Mama and Titus and Micah SOOO much!
M: I love ALLLL of the people!


T: Are we on the ramp?
Mama: No, we're on the highway. 
T: Are we on the ramp now?
Mama: No, we're still on the highway.
T: But it feels like we're going down.
Mama: Yes, the highway goes down.  It's going to go under the underpass.
T: How do we get off the highway?
Mama: We go off on the ramp.
T: Are we on the ramp?
Mama: We're on the highway.
M: Are we going fast? Can we go fast?
Mama: Yes, we're going fast.  We can go fast on the highway if there's not too much traffic.
T: But we have to slow down if there's a red light.
Mama: Yes, that's right.
T: Are we on the ramp?
and repeat...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

All About Books

When I was a girl, one of my aspirations was to be an author of children's books.  I have always been an avid reader, and I remember a period of time in 4th and 5th grades where I would read stacks of age-appropriate books along with stacks of below-my-level children's books.  I was drawn to their simple stories, clever use of language, engaging plot lines.  It was a wonderful way for an aspiring author to study literature.

Recently, I am again surrounded by stacks of children's books.  I find myself in the picture book section of the library, barely able to restrain my grasping hands from choosing "just one more"... oh, Titus would like this one... oh, look at the pictures in this one... oh, the rhymes here are perfect... oh, I remember this one!  We are a book-reading family.  We read many, many different books.  We read the same books many, many times.

Sometimes I read a book and think, "I could write that!" Old aspirations linger, I suppose.  And sometimes I read a book, and I'm blown away by it's cleverness, it's beauty, it's ability to engage us, and I realize, "I would never have thought of that!" 

There are books that I think are marvelous.  There are books that my sons think are marvelous.  These often coincide, but not always.  Some books get put on the "return pile" more quickly than others.

There are books that I loved the first, second, and third time through.  But not so much on the fourth.

Some books I WANT to love... I know in my heart of heart they are good books: sound, educational, worthwhile.

There are books that read so well... the words practically fall off the tongue.  The rhythms are impossible to twist up... they always come smoothly.  They are a pleasure to read.  Dr Seuss, I'm looking at you.

Did you know you could sleep-read?  You know those times you've driven your car home only to wonder how you got there because you have no memory of passing that intersection or making that left turn?  It's possible to do that with a book: to get to the end with no memory of reading the words.  Or to read a book for the umpteenth time and notice a phrase for the first time...  have I been reading that all along?

Some books have some subtle adult humor mixed in.  Currently, we have a library book called "The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)" by Philemon Sturges.  Every time the hen realizes that she is missing an ingredient, she says "Cluck."  Now, don't tell me that isn't intentional. 

It's fun to read in a new place or have books read by another person.  As much as we all love our daily snuggle-on-the-couch-and-read-together time, we also love to mix it up!  Reading at a coffee shop or while waiting at the doctor's office... reading at the park... these are special treats!  Having someone else read a beloved book lets us enjoy it in a new way; Grandma might read it just a little bit differently than mama does.  We love storytime at the library, and when Ms Elizabeth chooses a familiar book, the enjoyment skyrockets! 

Some books are gorgeous and some are icky.  Some are funny and some are serious.  Some are straightforward and some have a subtle agenda.  There are I Spy books and lift-the-flap books and truck books and poem books.  There are singing books and books without words.  There are at least a half dozen books for toddlers about trash trucks (we know them all). 

Books, books, books, we love books.