Monday, April 28, 2014

My Last Post

GUESS WHAT??
I have moved to a new site! Soon this page will be taken down. To continue following, bookmark my new website, sign up to follow by email, or like my facebook page.

Thank you again for your support!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I'm Moving Out

It's time. Time to move on. Something has been stirring in my heart for quite some time, and I can't ignore it any longer. For many reasons, some of which are practical and some that are downright crazy, I have decided to leave this blogging space.

I owe an immense thank you to those who have followed me and encouraged me, especially those who have been hanging on from the beginning and sharing my journey from buying our first home to my struggles with post-partum depression to my renewed walk with the Lord. It means the world to me to be able to share my stories and have them heard by even one person, let alone the many who have joined me along the way. I have dreamed of calling myself a writer for many years and to own that title in my heart means everything to me. I cannot thank you enough.

Though I am sad to say good-bye to this space, I hope it marks just a small beginning to a bigger journey. I believe that we are all called to greatness through some gift or talent and to own it and use it is to serve the Lord to the highest order.

Therefore, I plan to continue my journey in a new space - a space that gives me greater freedom and more control (you know how I love that!) to grow into this calling to write. A space with more user friendly mechanics that will allow for more frequent posting and fewer formatting headaches. And a space where we can continue to ponder big questions, laugh at small moments, walk closer to the Lord, and discover His plan for our lives.

The journey continues. Please join me at lisamhurley.com.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lessons from a Sleepless Night

It’s Blog Hop time! This month’s theme is “Love Your Struggles,” and today the Hearts at Home bloggers are putting some of our own challenges into perspective. I love this topic because in this stage of life I do a lot of struggling. I definitely don’t love the time spent in the midst of it, but it is through my struggles that I learn the most about myself and my faith. Here is the story of one such lesson…

I lie in bed staring at the wall. Seething with anger. Allie’s voice hollers over the monitor. Three short, angry blasts between sobs, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” and then a pause to catch her breath. “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Next to me, Matt snores softly. I resent him for being able to sleep through this.

I look at the clock. 2:15am. It’s been 50 minutes, and I’ve been in there three times to offer her comfort. I’m afraid to go in again because I’ve hit the point of frustration where I understand how babies get shaken. Tears begin to fall on my pillow – a mixture of guilt and exhaustion in liquid form. 

I should go get her. 

No I shouldn’t.
 
Either way, I know I will berate myself for it. 

What kind of mother am I?
 
I take a few deep breaths and pray, reflecting on her cuteness and how much I really do love her. Finally I get up and cross the house to her room. She sees me and reaches out. She lets out one more, “Mommy!” but this time it carries a tone of relief.  

I take her to the living room and rock her. She falls asleep on my chest almost instantly. After a few minutes I carry her to her bed and then trudge back to my own. Within minutes I hear it again, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” I’m too tired to put up a fight. I go get her again and bring her to bed with me, but I can’t sleep because I’m afraid she will fall off the edge or be crushed under Matt’s weight. She rolls around next to me. Her foot kicks my chest. That’s it! I grab her from the bed and walk her back to the crib and leave, closing the door. “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

The tears start again as I continue to criticize myself for my confusion and inconsistency. 

What kind of mother am I? 

I never do get back to sleep. The back and forth continues until morning. Eventually we go out to the living room and I collapse in the recliner, unable to imagine how I will get through the day with L’s million questions and Reese’s role play games.

I reach in the cabinet for my coffee and push the decaf aside. I reach all the way to the back. Even half-caf won’t cut it today. 

I pray again, seeking reasons to be grateful and asking for strength and patience. Smiles come easier than I expected but still my outward positivity fits my inner condition about as well as my high school jeans would fit my post-children body. Hope carries me through the day as I count the hours until bedtime.
 
Most nights are not this bad. Tonight she might sleep through.

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m not struggling. Or maybe I actually convince myself that I’m fine because it’s not exactly acceptable to walk around complaining, especially about something that might seem so trivial. But I’m writing this today in the midst of it and today it’s difficult to downplay the challenge. Today it’s hard to pretend. Today I can’t hide it. 

Ladies, I’m exhausted. 

I’ve mentioned in passing that Allie is not a great sleeper. That is an understatement. She is a terrible sleeper. She’s nearly eighteen months old, and I’m STILL waiting for a predictable sleep pattern. I feel guilty and defeated and I’m seriously ashamed of the above account because it makes me look so erratic and inconsistent and I can’t help wondering if it makes people think what I’m already thinking.

What kind of mother am I?
 
There was a time when I was methodical about this whole thing. I tried everything. Absolutely everything. My theories have ranged from over-stimulation to dietary issues to teething (which is an intermittent issue that no remedy has ever helped). There is no evidence that she is in physical pain or has a medical problem, although I have called her doctor in several moments of desperation, which always end with me feeling embarrassed for calling and wondering if the nurse is thinking, what kind of mother are you?

So here I am today – crazy, inconsistent, and tired – and trying to make sense of this struggle that seems so insignificant in the grand scheme of life’s problems. I approach every evening with hope for a good night and dread for a bad one, and I relish the mornings that come with anything less than one or two minor interruptions. Mostly, I just try to take it in stride – one night at a time – without entertaining too many thoughts about when or if she will outgrow this habit.

All I know is that until she outgrows it or I discover a miracle solution, I turn to prayer and gratitude to get me through the worst days. After nearly eighteen months of inadequate sleep (plus the last three months of my pregnancy), I’ve learned a few things that help me remember that no struggle is for naught. 

1. Your thoughts are not always your thoughts. In my darkest moments of guilt-ridden self-criticism, my thoughts often reflect my fears of what the League of Perfect Mothers might think about me and not what I really believe in my heart about the kind of mother I am. The same goes for the other voices that say, “You’re too fat to wear that,” and “You don’t do [fill in the blank] well enough.”

2. There is give and take in everything. Allie is at my very favorite age (sleep habits aside), and the thought that she will not always exist in this precious form makes me want to cry. Maybe when she’s older and I find myself wishing I could return to these days, I will also remember the struggles and take comfort in the reminder that there are beautiful roses and painful thorns in every stage of life.
 
3. Challenges give rise to gratitude. Nothing clears the wreckage of negative emotions faster than a heart seeking thankfulness. On my worst mornings, I sit in the recliner and pray a silent list of thank yous for everything from my coffee pot to a job that allows me to stay in my pajamas on these difficult days. And on the days when Allie goes down easy and sleeps until morning, I experience a level of gratitude that cannot be known when life is too easy.
 
4. You have the right to struggle. Sometimes I berate myself in these moments. A toddler with poor sleep habits is hardly a life-threatening problem. There are people in the world who are dying and starving. What right do you have to complain? Something inside me just loves to kick me when I’m down. Why do we do that to ourselves? We don’t tell ourselves, “I don’t have the right to be happy because some people have it better than I do.” It’s all relative. Just because your struggle isn’t the end of the world, doesn’t make it easy to bear at the time.

5. Vulnerability breeds connection. There’s no greater relief in the midst of a struggle than validation from a friend who’s been there. But it’s hard to make those connections when we walk around pretending that we’ve got it all figured out and don’t need any help. Some of my deepest connections with my closest friends were born out of shared “hot mess” moments and “me too” conversations. 

6. Faith grows in times of need. No experience in my life has been more challenging, humbling, or tiring than motherhood. When I struggled to recover from Reese’s abnormally difficult delivery; when I had to quit nursing Allie at three months; when she cried all night with colic; when I hit a near-suicidal level of post-partum depression; I called on the Lord to walk with me through all of it and each time my relationship with Him deepened and strengthened. The storms passed but the Lord stayed present and now I invite Him to walk with me daily, not just in times of need but also in praise, thanksgiving, and joy so that everything I do may be to the glory of He who saves me in my darkest hours.

What’s your struggle? Maybe you’re physically exhausted from your child’s poor sleep habits. Maybe it’s mental or emotional exhaustion over something else. Battles with picky eating, behavioral issues, medical problems. Maybe it’s something much bigger. The list of things over which moms carry unnecessary guilt is endless. In the toughest moments, it’s easy to lose sight of our perspective, especially when we come up against the League of Perfect Mothers. 

If you have a struggle (or series of struggles as most of us do), love might seem like a bit of a stretch in terms of how you feel about them, especially in the middle of the worst of it. Of course the struggles themselves aren’t quite so lovable, but they do shed light on what’s really important in life. They help us connect with others, urge us to keep our eyes to God, and remind us to give thanks for all that is right in an unpredictable world.   

Allie’s sleep habits are certainly not the end of the world. I know that. I also know that greater struggles surely lie ahead. I can’t predict what those might be or how big of an effect they might have on the life I know today. But I do know that I have a God and a husband and a few special friends who will walk with me to the other side. And I know that I can always rest in them and in Him and in hope for the joy, the peace, and the calm that comes with the passing of the storm and the dawn of each new day.

                     “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
                     – Newsboys, Your Love Never Fails (adapted from Psalm 30:5) 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lessons from a Pool Toy

I sat on the edge of the zero-depth kiddie pool and watched my girls splash near my feet. Reese filled a miniature watering can and poured it into Allie's open palm. Ah, those precious giggles. Matt sat nearby on the floor of the pool fiddling with a rubber squirt toy. Last fall we talked about spending his spring break in Mexico sans children, but instead opted for the far cheaper - and much less relaxing - family fun day in Peoria, Illinois (just 30 minutes from home). Toddler Splash at the Riverplex and Burger Barge 2 for lunch. Upper class all the way.

We really did have a great time at the pool. Reese finally overcame her fear of getting her face and head wet, and she had a blast going down the miniature water slide and perfecting her crab walk. Allie had not been in a pool since last summer, and her elated expression was well worth missing out on the palm trees and Margaritas. 


Sometimes when I see my kids having so much fun in such a simple moment I wonder where I derailed. I can (reluctantly) admit that I am a bit of a no-nonsense person, and the days of carefree child-like fun seem so far lost. My desire to prevent messes and injuries often overrides my ability to let loose and have fun. Routine. Order. Control. Boring. That's me. And if it doesn't seem that way to others (thank God), that's often how I feel. 

Watching the girls continue to play, I caught a glimpse of Matt raising a now full squirt toy out of the water. Before I could react, he sprayed a line of water down my abdomen. I shot him a "don't you dare" look as he submerged the toy again. This time he shot me in the face. In the face! He roared with laughter as I stared back at him. "Hun, c'mon," I always say in that long, drawn out way that shows my level of irritation with just two words.

Only I didn't say that. I didn't say anything. Instead, Reese jumped up and said, "Daddy, Mommy doesn't want you to do that!" This wasn't the first wake-up call to the reality that I am creating a miniature no-nonsense version of myself. Her personality is mine in every way. She is bossy and controlling. She prefers order to chaos. And she is often intolerant of even the most innocent teasing. 

And, boy, did I marry a teaser. He's the type who likes to give me jumper cables while I'm cracking eggs. (That's when you take your index fingers and poke them into both sides of another person's waist). One year when Reese had the flu on New Year's Eve, Matt wanted to bet on which one of us would come down with it first. I was not amused. That night, I got up from the couch and went to the bathroom. As I hung my head over the toilet, he peeked around the corner and said, "You win." And suddenly there I was throwing up and laughing at the same time. He's witty and sarcastic and his humor has thwarted way more arguments than it's caused. In fact, it tops the list of things I love about him. He's hilarious.

Yet here I am today giving him dirty looks because I don't want to go to a dumpy burger joint with frizzy hair. Really?? 

I realized then that I never derailed. I just don't choose to laugh as often anymore, and for some reason it seems that the older I get, the less laughter wins. I blame stress – and not the I-can’t-pay-my-bills stress or someone-I-love-is-dying stress, but the kind of senseless self-induced, anxiety-driven stress that I can’t seem to pin on any single life event (or even series of events). And isn’t life just too damn short for imaginary stress to override moments of laughter, joy, and soaking-wet fun? 

I think so.

As suddenly as it appeared, my angry expression transformed into a sly smile as I reached for a squirt toy of my own. I pointed it at Matt and squeezed the head of a rubber tiger. A pitiful arc of water dribbled from its mouth. Matt laughed even harder and sprayed my face again. I tried to reload, but I couldn't squeeze the tiger hard enough to reach him. After a few more tries, I dropped my weapon in surrender. Water dripped from my face and hair and our laughter echoed off the walls. 

Reese ran over and sat on the edge of the pool next to me. "Spray me, Daddy! Spray me!" 

Matt squirted her belly. She squealed. "Do it again!"

Then Allie walked over to him and doused him with the watering can, getting revenge for Reese and me. Someday in the future, when I hear a song that prompts a spontaneous mental montage of special moments, this scene at the pool will surely make the cut.

Laughter doesn't always come up against another choice; it just flows naturally from a good happy mood. Other times, it fights tooth and nail just to get you to crack a smile. It’s like the way your response to a messy spill can land anywhere between indifferent shrug and total meltdown depending on anything from hormones to stress levels (real or imagined) to where this spill falls in today’s lineup of mishaps. If I’m in a good mood and Matt gives me jumper cables while I’m cracking eggs, I laugh and turn my head to kiss his cheek. If I’m in a bad mood, or (more often) in a self-induced stress frenzy, I resort to an irritated “grow up” comment and matching eye roll.

What I’ve learned, though, is that – in more circumstances than we may know (or care to admit) – our response is a matter of choice. In the split second that I felt the water from Matt’s squirt toy begin to pelt my face, something inside me wanted to react with anger or annoyance or – at the very least – a pleading, “Hun, please don’t” with forced politeness. At the same time, another part of me urged a different response…

“Laugh. Really, it’s ok. So what if your makeup runs and your hair gets frizzy? So what if you didn’t pack a brush or a hair tie? The annoyance you feel isn’t about Matt or the squirt toy. It’s about other (totally unfounded) fears and worries that have nothing to do with family fun day. What a great chance to let all that go for a while. Now grab that tiger and squirt him back!” 

An hour later, I sat at the Burger Barge 2 with my Moo-Shroom (aka Swiss and mushroom) burger and fries and, seriously, the frizziest hair ever. I took Allie to the bathroom for a diaper change and glanced in the mirror. Cringing at the sight of my, I turned on the sink hoping some moisture would temporarily tame my frizz. From her position on my hip, Allie reached forward and splashed in the water. I gave her a moment of fun (ah, those precious giggles) and then turned the faucet off without touching my hair. I dried my hands and looked in the mirror again, smiling at my wild hairdo and the memory of the moment that created it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This is Now

The Hearts at Home Blog Hop continues today with "Love Your Now." I haven't participated in a Hearts blog hop in 2014, so let me bring you up to speed. The conference theme for 2014 is "Love Your Life" so this year the bloggers will be sharing what we love about various aspects of our lives. Last Monday I woke up to an email containing the topic for March - Love Your Now. I had just spent the whole weekend with 3 close friends in Lake Geneva at a Christian women's retreat (Breakaway). When I came home I felt refreshed, energized, and totally on fire for Jesus. Upon reading the email, I was so excited to write about all that I love about this time in my life - my "now."

Then all Hell broke loose.

First, a little background tidbit. We hired a contractor to replace our patio door with a sliding glass door. He called me while I was at the retreat to ask if they could come out on Monday. I knew that would be inconvenient with the kids, but we had already rescheduled twice (our fault, not theirs), so I said yes thinking I would just take the kids to a friend's house while the carpenter worked. I should also add that five minutes later I completely forgot that I just had that conversation.

On Monday morning L got dropped off at her usual time and we started our normal daily routine. Around mid-morning, the doorbell rang and I looked outside to see the guy with our new door. I had totally forgotten! Not a big deal right? Wrong! I originally thought I would leave with the kids, but I had no car because while I was in Lake Geneva my car was hit and was not drivable. So I welcomed the carpenter and braced for impact because...

Sawdust + power tools + curious toddler = God help me!

For the next nine hours, there was a seven-foot hole in my living room and constant noise from saws, hammers, and drills. Nobody could nap because of the noise so Allie was a crying mess all afternoon.

Around lunchtime, Matt called to see if I could take over with the whole car thing because he had too much going on at work to make all the necessary phone calls. Oh and by the way, he now has to stay late and go to a meeting for someone who can't be there (which means he won't get home until well after bedtime).

I started making phone calls to the other driver's insurance company, the body shop, the tow truck, and the rental car place, and I couldn't really hear over the noise of the tools and the children so everything took longer.

Suddenly, Reese was tugging my arm and urgently yelling, "Mommy! Mommy!" Finally, I turned to her with a highly inappropriate "WHAT!?" And she said, "L threw up!"

I peeked around the corner and there was L sitting on my couch covered in vomit.

That was one of those moments where I stop and think, I could deal with this OR I could just get in the car and head for Mexico... Oh wait, I have no car. Now what??

So I did the most intelligent I could think of and called L's dad at work, like he can teleport here and fix it. I should add that L's parents are some of the most flexible and laid back people I've ever met, and I'm fairly certain that they think (or I should say know) that I am a neurotic mess. Well, if they didn't before, they do now.

So now I have the right side of my living room covered in tools and sawdust, the left side covered in vomit, a child who needs a shower, and a 16-month-old who I can barely handle in a hazard-free environment.

I sent Reese and N (L's older brother who comes to my house after kindergarten) into Reese's room with Allie. I told them to watch her, closed the door, and hoped for the best while I helped L shower.

By the time I got L out of the shower, her dad was there and he was kind enough to help me start the clean up process. He was super apologetic and they offered to pay for the cleaning, but I felt pretty responsible because I was on the phone all afternoon and not being very attentive.

Shortly after the kids got picked up, the guy finished the door and left. I proceeded to make a sorry excuse for a dinner for two super tired and crabby kids. Then I tried to put them to bed early, which in keeping with the spirit of my day, did not happen.

Finally, with both kids in bed, I took a shower, poured a (really big) glass of wine, and sat down with my computer. But I wasn't excited. I was defeated. What could I possibly say that I love about my "now" after a day like that??

I almost closed my computer thinking I would just sit this one out (again), but then I looked around. The house was quiet, and I was sitting in the living room in my super-comfy bathrobe with a glass of wine. The Christian radio station played softly in the background and I was ready to engage in my very favorite hobby.

At that moment, my "now" was awesome, but I didn't see that because I was still holding on to the negativity from the rest of my day. The sawdust, the car, the crabby kids, the vomit - that was then. It was over. It doesn't have to be a part of my now.

I sat there thinking about how often I let feelings from times that were "then" affect my enjoyment of now. We all have times when our now is not so great, but when we carry the emotional aftermath into the future, a bad morning can ruin a whole day or a bad day can ruin a whole week.

So I took a few deep breaths and tried to clear my head. Yes, it was a pretty awful day. Yes, it brought me to tears. And, yes, there was a series of moments that day that had me down about my now.

But that was then.

As I finished writing this post a few days later, I looked around my living room. My patio door is beautiful, and my couch is freshly shampooed for the first time in 5 years. Reese and L were playing with Allie in the other room after a very peaceful morning. We shared laughs, smiles, and hugs, and I am thankful every day for the blessing of my children and for my ability to stay home and be with them all day, every day - even if it means bearing days like last Monday. Today, I am smiling. Today, all is well in my home and in my heart. I love my kids. I love my house. I love my life.

This is now.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Trust, Wait, and Believe

Uncertainty is my enemy. Any time I have a piece of my life up in the air, I can focus on nothing else until an outcome is reached - even when that outcome is beyond my control. Right now it seems we have a lot of unanswered questions. Some involve decisions we need to make; some involve waiting on the decisions of others. All of them have me pacing the floors all day and sitting up at night in anticipation.

Fortunately for us, none of the potential outcomes is inherently bad. There will be challenges and rewards either way. I'm not worried. I'm unsettled. Uncertain. I can handle big disasters pretty well, but give me a minor uncertainty with an answer any further away than right now, and I go bananas.

Usually, I respond to weeks like this with activity. Constant activity. The faster I can pass the time, the quicker the answers will come. But now that I have two kids of my own and two more that I watch, it's not as easy to numb myself with busyness (and not the kind of mundane taking care of kids busyness, but productive re-tile the bathroom busyness).

Just a few years ago, on a week like this, I would be a tough person to live with. (Just ask my husband). I would be flustered and snappy and overwhelmed by little things. I would talk through the same things over and over and analyze every possible outcome to death.

Today, I will admit that I still do a lot of those things. I still get restless, and I still can't seem to pass the time fast enough. But I have one thing now that I didn't have then - God. As much as I still struggle in times of uncertainty, there is a peace underneath that everything is in His hands and all will be well.

I never thought prayer could have such a large impact on my anxiety, but it does. I don't ask Him to fix it. I ask Him to walk with me through it. I will probably never get over my dislike for uncertainty. It's a part of who I am. But today I am a much easier person to live with through these times. I don't know what will come of our current uncertainties, but I offer all of the restless feelings up to He who walks with me. Until the answers come...

 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If I Didn't Have Children...


If I didn’t have children, my life would be grand.
I’d fly off to Hawaii, dig my toes in the sand.

No more need to take care of everyone else.
No more, “I didn’t touch it. It broke by itself.”

No monsters in closets or “I need a drink.”
No wishing and hoping for one full night’s sleep.

No more silly questions, “Are we almost there yet?
“Where does snow go in summer?"
"Why’s water so wet?”

No sending my skinny clothes off to Good Will.
No, “Mommy, come in here and see what I spilled.”

If I didn’t have children, my life would be swell.
I could travel the world, sleep in five-star hotels.

I could have peace and quiet, spend time all alone.
Without a trail of destruction all over my home.

I could go back to school, get another degree,
Have a life and career that is all about me.

No more tantrums over broken crayons;
Or touching my stuff with chocolaty hands.

No more, “Tell her not to look at me!”
Or, “Mommy, I’m about to pee!”

No more changing poopy pants.
No Mickey’s Clubhouse Hot Dog Dance.



Yes, that is how my life could be                                                
Without these kids all over me.

BUT…

If I didn’t have children, there’s a lot I would miss.
Like the soft little “pip” of a sweet baby kiss.


No more first little smiles or sweet baby giggles.
No, “I love you, Mommy;” no tummies to tickle.

No more, “This Little Piggy” on those teeny toes.
No rocking, no singing,
No “Where’s mommy’s nose?”

No more pictures of all the cute things that they do.
No, “what a cute baby! She looks just like you!”

Not as much to celebrate, no more “firsts” to share.
No more little pigtail sprouts sticking in the air.

No more special bedtime prayers;
No more evening cuddles.
No more, “Good night, Daddy;”
No more morning snuggles.

I wouldn’t know the deepest love anyone can know.
I wouldn't see the miracle of watching as they grow.

I wouldn’t know the joy of holding little hands.
Sacrifice and selflessness - I couldn’t understand.

I wouldn’t be as tired and I wouldn’t be as bored.
But because of all my struggles,
I walk closer with the Lord.

And so as hard as it can be,
I’d rather have them here with me.

Because I have children, my life is complete;
And I am blessed beyond belief.


I’m proud and I’m grateful. I’m faithful and strong.
Because I have children; because I’m a mom.




Thursday, January 23, 2014

He is With You

Sometimes I get swallowed up in the busyness of life. From birthdays and family outings to paying bills and calling repair guys, I rarely have time to sit and relax without those nagging "shoulds."

Sometimes I complain about minor inconveniences. I get all the way home from the grocery store and realize I forgot laundry detergent. And we live so far from town and gas is so expensive.

Sometimes nothing makes sense. In a world of so much pain and suffering, so much anger and violence, so much illness and death, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. It's easy to wonder if there even is a bigger picture to see.

Sometimes I forget about God. I don't take enough time to pray and I take my blessings for granted. I'm too busy going here and there and doing this and that. Too busy to feel His presence in the moments when I need Him the most.

But sometimes I wake up to this...


And for one simple moment, I do stop. And I do listen. And I am grateful. Because life is busy and loud and inconvenient, but it's all part of a journey that is cloaked in a deeper meaning, a greater beauty, a higher purpose.

Those are the moments that bring me back to the heart of what really matters. Those are the moments that reset my compass and point me back toward inner peace and toward He who provides it. Those are the moments that drown out the sound of life rushing by, silencing the roar just long enough to hear the Lord's calming whisper, "I am with you."

Stop in those moments. Forget the rush. Forget the roar. Forget the shoulds. Just stop. And breathe. And listen. And remember - you never walk alone. He is with you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Light of a Perfect God

Well, this is that last Hearts at Home "No More Perfect Moms" blog hop of 2013. Together the Hearts at Home community has opened our hearts and our blogs to share the many ways in which we are flawed, challenged, and imperfect. We examined every area of life from marriage to housekeeping to friendships, and I have been humbled and inspired by the experience. This month, we end with our thoughts on the one area of life that truly is undeniably perfect: "Our One Perfect God."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese made this Christmas tree at school on Tuesday. Each colored ornament is printed with a special representation to help kids identify with the true meaning of Christmas. The start at the top of tree reads, “Yellow represents God’s perfect light.”


As I clipped the tree to our refrigerator, I read those three words over and over.

God’s perfect light.

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of the many ways in which His perfect light shines on my imperfect life...

It is a light of full acceptance. There are parts of me I dislike - personality traits, physical attributes, and habits I could do without. But my perfect God accepts me anyway. And I can rest easy knowing He doesn't care how much I weigh or how over-organized I am.

It is a light of complete forgiveness. There are choices I regret – moments of weakness and words of anger I wish I could take back. But my perfect God forgives me anyway. And because I know how that feels, I can free myself from resentment by forgiving others.

It is a light of unconditional love. There are times when I wander – challenges in my relationships and doubts in my faith that tempt me toward selfishness. But my perfect God loves me anyway. And He gave me a Savior and a life full of wonderful people to remind me what it means to love and be loved.

It is a light of profound blessings. There are days when I forget – daily hassles and feelings of entitlement that blind me to the blessing in each breath of air. But my perfect God gives me those blessings anyway. And He continues to bring me comfort, strength, and guidance even on my most undeserving days.

It is a light of unending gratitude. There are moments when I stop – breathtaking sunsets, hugs from my children, and the sight of my overflowing pantry that keep my life turned in toward His all-providing light. And the more I open the door to gratitude, the more easily I find it in the smallest moments.

It is a light of eternal life. There are reasons I believe - the written Word of the Lord and the birth of our Savior that give me hope, happiness, and peace for the future and beyond. And the more I focus my life on His light, the brighter it shines and the greater my peace.

This Christmas, celebrate the coming of God's perfect light in the form of Jesus. Let Him brighten your soul with a light that outshines all of your doubts, fears, sins, and regrets. And know that it's okay to be an imperfect person living an imperfect life in an imperfect world because you are fully accepted, completely forgiven, unconditionally loved, and profoundly blessed by the light of a perfect God.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Santa Claus is Real

“Mom, just so ya know, I know there’s no Santa. I know it’s you.”

The combination of my tone and my age must have indicated that there was no use denying it, but as the confession left her lips I began to cry.

“So Santa’s not real?”

“Honey, Santa Claus IS real. It’s just not who you thought it was.”

Santa Claus is real.

My mom’s response allowed me to continue believing in Santa all the way through college. He visited our house until the year I got married, and every year at Christmas time, I still reflect on the words that have kept Santa alive for me for so many years after I stopped seeing him as the jolly man in the red suit. 

In my adulthood, those words now help me understand Santa on a different level. Santa is often labeled as a representation of selfishness, a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas. If you ask me, the problem isn’t Santa. It’s the way commercialism has misconstrued his meaning by overlooking his giving nature and focusing only on the receiving end of his goodness.

When given the right focus, Santa can add to the meaning of Christmas. After all, Santa IS the spirit of giving; he IS the embodiment of generosity; and he continues to exist in the hearts of all who open their hearts and homes and wallets during this magical season. That’s why it doesn’t bother me that Reese is so excited about Santa while so many Christian parents work to take the focus off of him. Sure, she's excited to get presents. She's three. But she also knows that Santa gives presents because he wants to make kids happy and that we can create that same happiness by sharing our blessings with others.

How cool for a kid to discover that not only is there really a Santa, but that they, too, can become Santa with their own generosity! With every thoughtful gift we present to our family and friends, every donation to a Toys for Tots collection bin, every dollar dropped in a Salvation Army bucket, and every canned food item given to a charity drive, we become Santa Claus as we create smiles on the hearts and faces of those around us.

Someday when my kids ask me if there really is a Santa Claus, I won’t be lying when I say yes. And when they tell me that they know the truth, I can tell them who Santa really is and give them the power to keep him alive by embracing the joy of giving with an open heart.

This Christmas, don't turn away from Santa. Become him. Give joyfully, love generously, create happiness, and never stop believing that Santa Claus is real.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Perfect Holidays: Hostess with the... Mostest?

The week before Thanksgiving, Hearts at Home hosted its monthly "No More Perfect Moms" blog hop. The topic was a fitting "No More Perfect Holidays" theme. In the pre-Thanksgiving bustle, I skipped out on this one. (I blame my therapist, whose has been successfully encouraging me to lower my expectations, especially of myself). So this is my belated No More Perfect holidays post.

~~~~~~

Shortly following a family gathering, my sister-in-law sent me an email in which she complimented my sense of hospitality.

My first thought… She must be thinking of someone else.

Me? Hospitality? Really?

I had always equated a good sense of hospitality with the “Hostess with the Mostest” type. The scent of the candles matches the season and the decorations are perfectly coordinated - beautiful place settings, matching serving dishes, plate chargers (and if you don’t know what a charger is, keep reading. This is for you).

These women make great hostesses because their commitment to their guests’ experience is apparent in their effort. They have handmade centerpieces and homemade pies. They bustle around non-stop, making sure the drinks stay full and the food keeps coming. Their creative extras add a lot to the party atmosphere, and the fancy touches are endearing. Their parties are so festive. And so fun.

And that's so not me.

Hosting events can be intimidating when you don’t have a Pinterest-worthy flare. It’s tough to host a fall gathering when you’ve been to a party where the soup was served in hollow pumpkins. It’s hard to be proud of cupcakes topped with plain sprinkles after you’ve been to a party where the cupcakes had Minnie Mouse ears. (Think oreo halves and pink sugar bows. Adorable). When you have Martha-Stewart-types friends and family members, it’s easy to feel like everything you do pales in comparison.

Hospitality was a quality I admired in other women, but it’s definitely never been on my list of my own personal strengths. My china is boxed up in the basement; my gravy boat has never been used; and I don’t own a set of napkin rings or plate chargers. (For those still wondering, they’re decorative plates that you put underneath your real plates. Yeah, I don’t get it either). I don’t have much of an eye for decorating, and I don’t use seasonal centerpieces. I prefer to keep things simple.

So what’s to compliment about that?

If you’re one of those women with over-the-top festive flare, that’s awesome. We admire your effort, we envy your creativity, and we have a great time at your parties. But I’m starting to learn that just as much as people appreciate all-out festive fun, they also appreciate the simple, calm, and casual. There’s no need to worry about breaking one of my dishes or spilling red wine on my white tablecloth. (The dishes were cheap and there is no tablecloth). No need to offer to help me in the kitchen. Let’s have fun. I’ll get the mess later.

I come from a “come on in and grab a beer” kind of family, and I’m proud of that. Matt and I host gatherings all the time, despite my mismatched dinnerware and lack of napkin rings. We don’t buzz around for hours beforehand making sure everything is spotless and perfect. We create a “make yourself at home” setting that is nice enough to be welcoming and relaxed enough to comforting. And we’ve discovered that people have just as much fun without plate chargers.

So if you’re next in line to host the big family Christmas, don’t feel like you have to spend hours on Pinterest finding the perfect recipes and creating the perfect table setting. People will appreciate you for whichever kind of hostess you are. A good sense of hospitality goes deeper than what people see when they walk in the door. It’s really about how they feel when they walk out.

Have a merry (and stress-free) Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kid Logic: More Cute Stories from the Mind of a Child

After numerous unsuccessful attempts to get any writing done last month, I am celebrating a long-awaited double nap today. I'm excited to announce that Allie is officially sleeping through the night (knock on wood) and I hope the end of this thirteen-month battle will finally allow me to get at least a few hours at the computer each week.

I'm starting back with something easy and sharing my most recent "Kid Logic" stories. Reese never ceases to amaze and entertain us with her miniature worldview. Here are some of my recent favorites...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back story: We had a recent ER visit because Reese shoved a black bean up her nose.

Reese: My bunny is hurt.
Me: He is? What happened?
Reese: He fell down the stairs.
Me: Does he need to go to the hospital?
Reese: No because he doesn't have a bean up his nose.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese has a book of brain games for preschoolers. One page had a cartoon bunny making a series of different facial expressions with a blank under each one to write the corresponding emotion. I pointed to the first face and said, "How does the bunny feel?" Reese answered, "Soft."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese has an older cousin named Savannah, but when Reese first started talking, she couldn't say "Savannah," so she just said "Cousin." Well, it stuck and we just kept calling her Cousin. Last month (nearly 2 years later) the kids spent the night there while Matt and I attended a wedding. When we picked them up the next the day Reese said, "Mommy! Did you know that Cousin's name isn't really Cousin? It's Savannah!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One day at lunch, Reese asked me, "Mommy, does God feel sad when I feel sad?"
"He sure does," I replied.
"And does he feel happy when I'm happy?"
"Yep."
Later that day, Reese and I were kneading pizza dough for dinner when she asked, "Mommy, does God make pizza when I make pizza?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back story: Allie's nickname is "Bean." It started as "Allie Beanie" and has since evolved into numerous variations including Bean, Beaner, Beanie-Weenie, and (my favorite, coined by Matt) Bean-Diggity.

Me: Reese, what's your full name?
Reese: Reese Margaret Hurley
Me: That's right. Do you know Allie's full name?
Reese: Allie Bean Hurley.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese: Mommy, how old are you? More than ten?
Me: More than 30.
Reese: Is that why you color in the lines so good?
Me: Yes, good coloring takes many years of practice.
Reese: How old is Mema? More that 30?
Me: More than 50.
Reese: So she colors really, really, REALLY good.

Leave a comment or send me an email with your favorite Kid Logic story and I will include it next time. Thanks for continuing to hang in here with me through my sporadic absences!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let Yourself Go

When I chose to be a full-time mom, the last thing I wanted was to lose myself in my kids. I imagine that’s the last thing any mom wants – for the four walls of her home to be the end all, be all of her existence; to become less marketable in the workforce every year; to be known only as “So-And-So’s Mom.” After all, our self-focused society says don’t do that. Be who you are. Put yourself first. Do what makes you happy. And whatever you do, don’t let yourself go – physically, socially, or professionally.

Well, that certainly wasn’t in my plan. I was going to stay involved in my profession, keep myself in shape, and jumpstart my writing career. I held onto my “self” – my wants, my goals, my desires – long after Reese was born, and I felt fortunate to have a baby who made it easy. She slept through the night early on, took long daytime naps, and was always mild-tempered. She was a great sleeper, healthy eater, and required minimal baby-proofing. Finding “me-time” was easy… and daily, and I quickly developed a very unrealistic set of expectations for this stage of my life.

Enter: Allie.

There have been times when I thought she would be the end of me. Shortly after she was born, I realized how spoiled we had been with Reese. Allie and Reese are opposites in every way. Allie takes short, unpredictable naps and still doesn’t sleep through the night. She’s the pickiest and messiest of eaters, and most of her meals require a mop and a bath. I have to wrestle her into and out of every outfit, and sometimes I swear it would be easier to diaper an alligator. She tears through the house like a wrecking ball, and I can’t turn my back for even one second or I find her climbing on the fireplace, pulling sharp objects from the dishwasher, or throwing things in the toilet.

For nearly a year, I fought to maintain my original expectations of life with children. I lived in almost-constant frustration over not being able to get to the things I wanted to do: cooking, cleaning, organizing, scrapbooking, reading, writing – all the things that keep me feeling like I have some semblance of a life outside of my children. My inability to meet my own expectations had me questioning my success and my happiness in this role nearly every day.

Over the past year, the demands of living with two small children have slowly chipped away at my selfish tendencies, and I started to realize that the little girl I once thought might be the end of me would actually help me find a new beginning.

Allie woke me one morning at 5:30 am – her usual. I trudged down the hall to her room and lifted her from her crib. We settled in the rocking chair with her morning bottle, and she stared up at me with her innocent blue eyes as she started to drink. I stroked her little face and ran my fingers through her hair. She dropped her bottle and smiled up at me. I noticed how much more space her body consumed in my lap now that she was nearly a year old. I thought about Reese sleeping across the hall and how much I miss the little babies they both used to be.

In that moment I realized more deeply than ever before how short and precious this stage of life really is, and I started to wonder what it would be like to really let my “self” go for these few years; to fully embrace this phase of my life without any selfish desires; to stop pushing back against the forces of motherhood and fully give my life over to the needs of my family; to abandon my own plans for myself and follow to God’s plan for me.

Just then Allie reached up and tried to poke me in the eye. I deflected her little finger and she squirmed off my lap and toddled away. I followed her into the hallway with more enthusiasm than I usually have before 6:00 am and without any of my own plans for what I would accomplish (or attempt to accomplish) that day.

Since then, I’ve tried to live every day like that – fully surrendered to the needs of my family and the plan of my God. I don’t rush through the bedtime routines or cut bath time short because I want to write a blog post or finish the dishes or catch up on scrapbooking. I do still find time to myself, but it’s no longer on my terms, and I’m thankful for the time I get rather than frustrated over the time I want. I spend less time wondering what will become of my career goals and more time praying for God to lead me down any path that lets me glorify Him while serving my family.

I thought losing myself in my kids would be stifling, especially when our self-focused culture says don’t do that. But it’s not stifling at all. My experience has been the opposite. It has freed me from unnecessary stress, pressure, and expectations. It helps me find greater joy in simpler moments. And day by day, it draws me into a closer walk with the Lord.

God knows that control freaks like me don’t go down without a fight, and every day I thank Him for the little girl who helped me surrender; the little girl whose curiosity and unpredictability keep me living in the moment every day; the little girl whose up-all-night, food-throwing, toilet-splashing antics remind me that there's no room for selfishness in motherhood; the little girl who taught me that sometimes you can’t begin to find yourself without first letting your “self” go.

Happy 1st birthday, Allie! 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to be a Perfect Friend

It’s time for another Hearts at Home Third Thursday Blog Hop! I’ve missed the past few months – not because I haven’t had any imperfections to share, but because not taking enough time to write (and do other things for myself) is one of them. The No More Perfect Moms theme continues today with No More Perfect Friends. Happy reading!

Allie clung to my leg, crying to be held. In the other room, Reese and L argued over a toy. It wasn’t even 8:00 am and I was already taking deep breaths as I prepared for a long day. Can I just have 5 minutes to scramble an egg?!

Scanning the room, I immediately wished I had taken the time to pick up the night before. Choosing sleep instead, I left the mess for morning. Bad idea. My daily accomplishments are so limited these days. Between my super high maintenance ten-month-old and the stark personality contrast between Reese and L (who I now babysit 30-40 hours a week), I’m struggling to find peace with my hindered ability to feel even the slightest bit productive throughout the day.

My thoughts immediately turned to other women I know. The mom with 8 kids. The mom who’s two kids are just 13 months apart. The mom with twins. The mom who runs marathons. The mom who cooks everything from scratch. The mom who runs a business. The mom who blogs every day. The mom whose house is always clean. How do they do it?!

Later that morning, my phone vibrated across the counter. I could tell by the rhythm it was a text message. I picked it up and swiped the screen. My friend sent me a picture of the main living space in her home. The room was covered with toys and clutter. The message read “I’m finding peace within today.”

I surveyed my own messy living room again, this time with a smile. I love having a friend who isn't afraid to share her own struggles in the name of connection, compassion, and friendship. I love having a friend who lets me in on her tough moments because she knows I'm on the other side of town having my own moments. I love having a friend who gets it, a friend who knows that I get it.

Three years ago, this friend was on my “how does she do it” list. That was before we grew into the kind of friendship that lets us show up for play dates in our pajamas and text each other pictures of our messes. That was before we could laugh about how many days had passed since our last shower or how challenging life with little ones can be. That was before the many “me too!” conversations that squashed any reason to wonder “how does she do it?”

I hope every mom finds a friend like that, a friend who helps you remember that no one has it all together. We all have different strengths, values, motivators, and priorities. We all have different kids with different schedules and temperaments. We all have different husbands and different sources of stress.

Yet, we’re all in the same boat. We all have the same amount of time in a day. We’re all struggling to fit everything in. We’re all trying to balance the needs of our husbands, our homes, our kids, and ourselves. And we’re all looking at each other and wondering, “How do you do it?”

The answer is really pretty simple - we don't have an answer. None of us does. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we have. No one has magical secret powers. There are no Supermoms (despite what those looking in on a snapshot of our lives might think). No one has anything special figured out.

But I do know one thing. You may not be the perfect woman and you may not be the perfect mom, but it's those imperfections that give you the ability to reach out and be the perfect friend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Are You Smarter Than A Ten-Month-Old?

Allie is ten months old now (yes, I know, time flies) and entering the most fascinating - and aggravating - stage of development. She’s fully mobile (not quite walking on her own, but almost) and getting into everything. Life is one big discovery and common sense is non-existent. It’s cute, funny, annoying, frustrating, and amazing all at the same time.

Yesterday she pulled a spoon out of the dishwasher. She looked it over from every angle and smiled at the shiny metal. She stuck the handle in her mouth, unimpressed by the taste. Then she tapped it on the open door of the dishwasher and looked up at me with wide eyes and a huge smile as she continued banging it on the other items in the rack.

 

I stopped chopping tomatoes and sat down on the floor to watch my little drummer. I love those moments. Actually, I love watching her do anything – pull all the sandwich baggies out of the box, push tiny pieces of banana around her high chair tray, play with her toes. I love it because whatever she does, she’s completely absorbed in the moment. Every smile conveys genuine, unfeathered joy. Her shoulders carry no weight of any burden. Her heart is not heavy with worry or fear. She’s just being her. Just being here. Just being.

We have so much to learn by watching our little ones in action. How wonderful would it be to be able to close our minds to any thoughts that are irrelevant to - or distracting from - the beauty and peace available in any given moment?

When I first started leaning into spiritual growth several years ago, the concept of presence kept coming up. Just be where you are. At first, I didn’t get it. How can you be anywhere else? As it turns out, you can be in many places at once if you give your mind and your thoughts the freedom to wander. Once I really became aware of the constant disconnect between the actions of my body and the thoughts in my head, I discovered that I am really not very present at all. Rather, a large part of me is chronically absent.

Presence is all about being fully engaged in the current moment with no part of your mind dwelling on events of the future or past (or judgmental thoughts about others or personal insecurities or what’s going on with healthcare reform). For most of us, that is not easy to do because we are not even aware that our minds are fragmented. Having irrelevant or counter-productive thoughts when we’re supposed to be enjoying a movie with our spouses or building block towers with our kids or praying in church is so common that we don’t really recognize it as a problem. We entertain our thoughts and worries so automatically that we don’t even know we’re missing out on the full experience of being wherever we are.

The key to breaking these habits is awareness. It’s kind of hard to stop yourself from being distracted if you’re not even aware that you are distracted in the first place. It starts with turning your attention inward and recognizing that being absorbed in irrelevant thought serves no purpose other than pulling you away from feeling pure joy for this moment.

Growing in presence has helped me tremendously with my tendency to feel overwhelmed by the many demands of life and motherhood. Often, when I engage with my kids, a part of me remains focused on what’s not getting done. Then I start getting things done and another part of me feels guilty for not engaging with my kids. That’s so silly, and yet, so common. By focusing on presence, I can find guilt-free joy in playtime and productive time and my days flow with less effort.

Try it today. The next time you’re engaged in an activity (anything from washing dishes to playing with your kids to getting a manicure), notice where your thoughts are wandering and notice how present – or absent – you are in the experience of what you’re doing. Then try doing that activity as if you are a ten-month-old child. No competing emotions. No worries. No outside thoughts. Just being.

Then take in the joy.

Joy? Even for dishes?

Yes, joy for dishes. Sing while you rinse. Dance while you dry. Who knows? You might even start drumming with a spoon.

Monday, August 26, 2013

When Life Goes in Circles...

It was a bit of a roller coaster around here beginning with my first postpartum meltdown last December and ending with the final day of my teaching contract in May. I needed a quiet summer to decompress and catch up on over nine months of inadequate sleep.

Once again, I am in a good place within myself. My occasional backslide (usually through the winter months) is discouraging, and last year was particularly difficult with the added effects of PPD. It often makes me feel as though I’m caught in an endless cycle of ups and downs, triumphs and trials, successes and struggles.

But aren’t we all?

For some, it’s financial or marital turmoil. For others, it’s a personal battle with health, weight, or addiction. For many, it’s a true chemical imbalance, enhanced by situational factors, internal stressors, weather patterns, and seasonal changes.

Two steps forward, one step back… or many steps back, as it sometimes feels.

In my discouraging times, I exacerbate my own issues with self-criticism. I tell myself that I must not be this deeply spiritual person or that my trust in God is clearly fake. I wonder if reading about spiritual growth, listening to motivational speakers, watching TED talks, deep breathing and prayer are all for naught - because peaceful people aren’t supposed to experience these radical shifts, these doubts, these occasional backslides.

Right?

Karen Armstrong - a former Catholic nun turned spiritual teacher and religious tolerance leader - wrote a book called The Spiral Staircase, which is currently sitting on my endless list of someday reads. I added it to the list when I heard an interview where she described the concept of the title, and my shame and discouragement over the darker moments in my life were instantly comforted.

She said: When we’re on a spiral staircase, we may feel like we’re walking in circles, but all the time we’re going up.

I love it.

It’s easy to feel like life takes us in circles. Some days we’ve got it all together, other days we’re falling apart. Some days we are overwhelmed with gratitude and good, other days the good gets lost in the shuffle and we’re just plain overwhelmed. Sometimes we’re head-over-heels in love, other times we raving mad. Then we use those not-so-great moments to question whether we’ve really come very far at all in achieving the goal, kicking the habit, finding peace, forgiving, or letting go.

But what if the circles we experience in life are not simply laps we run on a flat surface, but an upward spiral through which we are constantly ascending toward something greater?

Brookfield Zoo
While my summer wasn't exactly quiet (because nothing is quiet with little kids around), it was full of fun family outings and few serious responsibilities. We took trips to Brookfield Zoo, Wisconsin Dells, and Lake of the Ozarks. We danced at weddings and sipped coffee on our patio. I started a weekly Bible study – just me and one of my closest friends on the tailgate of her car facing the sunrise and talking about life, love, and faith. I read four new books, started running again, took up meditation, and broke my caffeine addiction. 

I am well.

And content.

And growing in ways that would not be possible without the struggles that sometimes make me feel like I'm going in circles... until I look back and see that I've actually been going up all along.


"It's not about how fast I get there. 
It's not about what's waiting on the other side.
It's the climb." 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hurry, Hurry



Reese set her book down next to me and crawled into my lap. I immediately recognized the cover and title, though I haven't read it in many years. My mom saved my collection of children's books and she gave them to me when Reese was born. Between those and Reese's own growing collection of books, we still haven't read them all. 

I read the title out loud, "Hurry, Hurry." I recalled the words with ease as I read to Reese about "Funny Old Miss Mugs" and her inability to do anything at a relaxed pace. 

"Hurry, Suzie, brush your teeth... Hurry, eat your breakfast.... Hurry, put your shoes on... or you will be late for school." 

As she rushes Suzie along to school, Miss Mugs runs into one problem after another. She runs into the milkman, trips a lady walking her dog, falls through a manhole, and gets scooped up by a bulldozer. She's in such a hurry that she forgets to say "sorry" to those she inconveniences and she forgets to say "thank you" to the people who help her out of her messes. As she rushes off, each person warns her, "Don't be in such a hurry or something worse may happen!"

Finally, Miss Mugs walks into a ladder with a large bucket of glue on top. The glue covers her from head to toe. Suzie helps her get cleaned up, but she is unable to remove the glue from Miss Mugs' shoes. Miss Mugs has no choice but to walk very slowly, and she quickly discovers that it is much more enjoyable (and much less hazardous) to slow down and lighten up. 

Yikes, that sounds a lot like me, I thought. I've always been one of those ninety miles an hour people. Always thinking ahead to the next task. Never getting enough done. Never fully relaxed. Missing out on opportunities to experience the fullness of my life and the depths of my gratitude for it. Too busy to pray. Too busy to breathe. Too busy to notice. It makes a giant glue spill sound rather inviting.

The next morning, I got my kids out of bed and started the breakfast routine. As I lowered Allie onto the living room floor, a sharp pain in my lower back brought me to my knees. I don't know much about back injuries, but I knew I must have pinched, pulled, or strained something important. I made my way over to the couch and got back to my feet, but it was a struggle. I quickly learned that I could still function as long as I avoided sudden or unnecessary movements. 

I stood up slowly. I shuffled to the kitchen slowly. I made breakfast slowly. After breakfast I sat down to play with my girls. My phone range in the living room. I ignored it. The dryer buzzed in the laundry room. I didn't get up. Every few minutes, I felt an urge to go do something... this room needs to be vacuumed... that desk is awfully dusty... did I ever pay the insurance bill?  

Normally, I respond to those urges. Hurry, hurry. Get everything done. 

Only I couldn't hurry. I couldn't do much of anything. For nearly a week, I shuffled around the house. Like the glue on Miss Mugs' shoes, the twinge in my lower back kept me in check. I played with my kids without feeling guilty that messes were piling up. At the end of the day, I listened to my body's need for rest rather than my head's desire to restore order to my living room. I prayed more. I breathed more. I noticed more.  

It's been over a week, and I feel totally normal again. As ability to "hurry, hurry" returns, I am grateful for the quick recovery but I am also thankful for my real life Miss Mugs' reminder that "it is quite a joy to move slowly, and a terrible bother to hurry."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Got This.

I tucked two Xanax inside a tiny zipper pouch and stuck it in my purse. I couldn't take the whole bottle because, well, they weren't mine. I just happen to know someone who graciously (and illegally) agreed to help me ease my flight anxiety. Just before boarding the plane to San Diego, I ducked inside a bathroom at Midway Airport to stifle the panic. I pulled the coin pouch from my purse but as I dumped the pills into my hand, somehow both of them hit the floor. The wet, dirty, public bathroom floor.

I turned around but the space behind me was empty. I wasn't surprised. I've been known to be rather clumsy and it's quite possible that I'm just that much of a klutz. Even though there was no one around, I wasn't desperate enough to retrieve the pills from the floor. I turned to leave the restroom, but instead of melting down into an all-out panic attack, I laughed a little as I pictured God's message in that moment:

Seriously, Lisa? Just get on the plane. Trust me. I got this.

It really is a silly fear. I felt silly packing Xanax to begin with. I felt silly Googling "the odds of dying in a plane crash" the day before my flight. And I felt silly adding "would have to fly" to my list of reasons not to go to the wedding.

It's ok. He's got this.

I returned to my seat at the gate and offered up my fear. The flight to San Diego was smooth and easy, and I was proud of myself for "letting it go and letting God," as they say. I knew He would come through for me, and He did.

I had a blast at the wedding and enjoyed a much-needed break from the demands of full-time motherhood. The bride has been one of my closest friends since middle school, and I couldn't imagine having been anywhere else on her wedding day. Her husband is from Malaysia, and I found so much beauty in God's ability to unite two people who were born and raised over 14,000 miles apart.

When I witness such amazing examples of His work, I feel silly for not trusting Him with my silly fears. Totally absorbed in the happiness of the day, I looked out at the ocean and breathed in deep gratitude, awe, and joy.

He's got this. He's got all of this.

The following evening, I sat at Gate 1 at the San Diego airport. My thoughts didn't even wander toward the now-empty zipper pouch in my purse. I boarded the plane without any fear.

He's got this.

An hour into the nearly four hour flight, the air got bumpy. In my heightened sensitivity, every little jolt felt like a 10,000 foot dive. I tightened my seat belt and gripped the arm rest. Just minutes after lighting the "fasten seat belt" sign, the crew announced that they would also be taking their seats and that call buttons should only be pressed in the case of a medical emergency.

Almost instantly, my trust and awe dissolved into worry and anger.

Really, God? I thought You had this.

Isn't that the way it works for most of us? It's easy to be thankful for joyful moments. It's easy to have faith when things are smooth. It's easy to feel blessed when life is good. The real tests of faith come in difficult moments, when things are hard, and when life is challenging.

On the flight home, I was acutely aware of the difference in my attitude on a smooth flight compared to a bumpy one. It looked a lot like the difference in my attitude on an easy day compared to a difficult one.

Sometimes I feel guilty in my weak moments because too often I hear that worry and anxiety imply a lack of faith or a lack of trust in God's plan. But I don't think it's the worry and fear themselves that are a cause for guilt. It's our response to that worry. It's whether we choose to wallow in fearful anger or to humbly accept God's curve balls and to find strength in our suffering to turn toward Him rather than away.

Choosing the latter, I clicked the button on my Kindle and selected The Bible from my reading list. Among the first passages I read was:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6 

It's definitely harder to keep our eyes toward God in the midst of life's turbulence. Uncertainty, adversity, worry, and fear give rise to doubts about His plan and the intentions behind it. But if we can find a way to listen, He will find a way to say...

Trust me. I got this.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Make a Card Collage

We flip through our wedding albums every year on our anniversary. We have two because one is our formal photography pictures and the other is a scrapbook that documents our journey from engagement to honeymoon. I'm an avid scrapbooker, and I love finding fun and creative ways to recreate our best memories on paper.

I still remember the week I spent scrapbooking our wedding memories. I sat in our living room surrounded by pictures and construction paper. To my left was an box of wedding cards. I dumped the box on the floor, still trying to decide if what I was about to do was a good idea. 

It's a great idea. What else are you going to do with them? No one ever pulls out their old wedding cards. They are destined for either the garbage can or a dusty storage shelf. Just do it.

Wincing just a bit, I took a pair of scissors and started shredding. I spent hours cutting the messages and handwritten signatures from each of our wedding cards. I spent even more hours perfectly arranging them on page after page of our scrapbook.




It turned out to be one of my favorite sections in our album. I read through them at least once a year, and now I make collages with cards from every scrapbooked occasion.

Baby Showers
Reese's Birth
So if you have a box of wedding cards (or baby cards or 1st birthday cards) tucked away somewhere that you'll probably never read, grab a pair of scissors and start shredding! What else are you going to do with them?  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lessons from a Past Regret

Two months ago I stood in my kitchen holding an invitation to my best friend’s wedding. I read the print as if I didn’t already know the details. Sunday, June 16, 2013. San Diego, California. Why does it have to be in San Diego? I clipped the invitation to the refrigerator wondering how long I would wait to tell her that I had decided not to go.

Feeling guilty for my decision, I silently listed my reasons. It made me feel better. It’s not really a choice. I just can’t go.

For starters, I’ve never been a great flyer and ever since my semi-emergency landing situation in 2008, I’ve become an awful flyer. (Actually, I’ve only flown once since then but it was enough for me to know that my level of fear has skyrocketed past uneasiness and is now orbiting straight-up panic attack).

I can’t go.

And now we’ve got this house and these two kids and I don’t work and money doesn’t grow on trees and ticket prices are high – not to mention hotel rooms, meals, and the high cost of everything in California (or so I’ve heard).

I can’t go.

PLUS, I’ve never left my kids. Ever. I’ve left town without my children one time since Reese was born. One time! Matt and I went to Chicago for a weekend getaway - we didn’t even leave the state. How can I go across the country without them? What if they get sick or hurt or they just need mommy?

See?

I can’t go.

After convincing myself that this was not a choice made by me but by factors outside of my control, I made my peace with it. Her parents are having a reception here in July. I’ll go to that. There. Now I really felt better. Well, that’s the end of that.

A few weeks later, I was clearing out my office/guest room/catch-all-disaster (because I'm finally giving in to my desire for an official play room). I filled a small box with my framed diplomas, pictures, and other decorations. I paused as I grabbed the picture of my brother in his Marine uniform. That picture is all I have of the experience of his graduation. I don’t remember the ceremony. Because I wasn’t there.

I chose not to go for a lot of the same reasons. Mike had advised me against bringing Reese because of the lack of accommodations for a baby. He warned me that we would be outside all day in the heat with few (if any) convenient places to change or nurse her. As a new mom (and a generally high-strung person), I didn’t think I could handle that. But I also couldn’t handle the thought of leaving her…. AND I probably would’ve had a panic attack on the plane and I had just quit my job and money doesn’t grow on trees and...

I should’ve gone.

Until then I didn’t realize that I had never really made peace with my decision. Even though I did what I thought was best at the time, I wish I hadn’t let fear, discomfort, and uncertainty cause me to miss such an important milestone in my brother’s life.

If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t miss it.

I didn’t add his picture to the box. Instead I took it out of the frame and walked it to the kitchen. As I clipped it to the refrigerator next to Katie's wedding invitation, I saw my handwriting on the back.



People talk about living without regrets and I don't know if such a person exists, but I feel sorry for anyone who truly has none. Some of my deepest regrets and biggest mistakes have taught me the most valuable lessons of my life. Often the choices I would change if I could go back and do it over are the ones that shine a light on an opportunity to go forward and do it better.  

My flight leaves Saturday morning.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Serious Accident

I should start this one by saying that neither of my kids is hurt, but we were all a little shaken. I’m sharing this story because I never thought anything like this would ever happen to us, and I can’t imagine how horrifying of a situation we could have had if one small detail of this accident had been different.

Last night Matt and I planned a date night to celebrate our five year anniversary. I was in our bathroom curling my hair while Matt and the girls played on our bedroom floor. Neither of us are sure of the exact chain of events because everything happened so fast, but I remember hearing a loud noise and a panicked yell. I dropped my curling iron in the sink and turned toward the bedroom just in time to see our dresser and everything on it tumbling forward.

I was too far away to catch anything (or anyone) as everything came down – including a DVD player and flat screen TV. Matt dove in front of the dresser and I lunged toward the kids. The plugs ripped from the outlets and the DVD player and TV crashed to the floor. Both kids were immediately in hysterics, and I started assessing for injuries as Matt pushed the dresser back in place. By the grace of God, Allie wasn't hit by anything. Just a few minutes earlier, she was laying where the DVD player fell, but she's been working on her army crawl and had managed to inch herself out of the way. I didn’t see what hit Reese, but she was crying and saying her head hurt and that the TV hit her. We didn’t find any bumps, and a few minutes later she was acting normal again. We think she may have been hit by a picture frame, but we never did find any marks on her.

For several minutes after we all settled down, we sat on the floor holding our kids and forcing our minds away from the horrific images of what could have been.

Maybe we’re na├»ve, but we had no idea that could happen. Oh, we’ve heard of furniture tipping over and hurting or even killing small children. We know that TV’s are dangerous and that furniture should be bolted to the wall, but we thought our setup was safe. Our dresser is tall enough that the kids can’t reach up and pull the TV down, but it's wider than it is tall so it doesn't seem top heavy. It sits on a level floor and it’s a high quality dresser – one I always thought was too heavy for a three-year-old to topple.

I always thought the tipping hazard was a result of kids climbing in open drawers, but Reese was just opening and closing drawers and relocating her doll from one drawer to the next. The drawers are small but they're on rollers and they don't pull all the way out. We think she just had too many drawers open at once and the weight of the clothes made it just heavy enough to shift the center of gravity, making it possible for one small tug to take it off balance.

After we discovered that everyone was okay, we finished getting ready and went on our date. On the way we stopped at Lowes and picked up brackets to attach all three of the dressers in our house to the walls.

Looking back, I remember very specific moments where I thought certain pieces of furniture should be more secure but I never acted on that hunch. I just didn’t think it would happen. And even though we had to find out the importance of it the hard way, I’m so very thankful that we didn’t find out in a devastating way.

I know we’re not the only parents with unsecure furniture in the house. I don’t know why it’s so common to wait until something happens to address a potential hazard, but don’t do what we did. If you have dressers, desks, and bookshelves that are not secured to the wall, please consider doing it. Watch your kids in other people’s homes, and make sure they stay clear of furniture that isn’t stationary.

Things happen quickly, and parents certainly can’t prevent everything, but in this situation we didn’t even know there was something to prevent in the first place. I hope this story resonates with other parents who assumed that a toddler can’t tip a dresser or that certain things are not a fall risk. Know that it can and does happen to anyone in any house. And when you have these occasional close calls - as we all do - be thankful for the eye opener and try not to dwell on the what-ifs. Don't let your mind trick you into thinking that it wouldn't have happened to a better dad or a more attentive mom. And don't let those thoughts stop you from sharing your story with other parents. Your close call could prevent someone else's tragedy.