Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm No Mrs.Cleaver

I grew up in the most classic of ways depicted by Leave it to Beaver and Daddy Knows Best. Daddy worked and Mom stayed home with us girls. She cooked, she cleaned, she even mowed the lawn a few times. I have wonderful memories of growing up in this family and, because we often watched old Leave it to Beaver reruns, I thought this was considered "normal".

Fast forward twenty-one years and I found myself vowing to love, cherish, and devote myself to a young, handsome man by the name of Josh Parr. I couldn't wait to pick up his socks and underwear, which I assumed smelled of roses, cook his meals, and clean the house. Well, that lasted all of five minutes after the honeymoon. Roses my ...never mind. I had no idea that marriage was going to be a lot harder than it looked from the outside. No wonder so many fairytales ended at the first kiss or with the prince and fair maiden galloping off into the sunset; it was a far more hopeful ending when you didn't show Cinderella browbeating Prince Charming for not picking up his dirty socks or wiping off the horse manure before he walked into the house.

Being the young, naive bride that I was, I didn't figure that picking up dirty laundry off the floor, chipping old food out of the pan, or making beds would ever get old. I had seen my mother do it for years and she had made it look effortless. What I had forgotten to take into account was that she also never sat down. When dinner was over she did the dishes until Kelly and I were old enough to chip in around the house. She and my dad both held to the theory that there was nothing worse than dirty dishes in the morning. We also made our beds every morning before even leaving the room, clothes were put away, breakfast dishes were put away, then Kelly and I were off to school. Every Saturday, like clockwork, was cleaning the house day or grocery shopping day. It was just the way things were done at our house. "A place for everything and everything in it's place."

My sister inherited my mom's gift for keeping house...I did not. At this very moment I am sitting at the kitchen table that has all kinds of stuff left over from the day. The living room is a mess, DVDs need to be put away, shoes are scattered everywhere, threatening the very lives of any would-be thieves who figured they could sneak in unobserved, and there's a stack of paperwork on the kitchen counter with two pizza boxes acting as paperweights. And yes, these things will all be picked up tomorrow morning. And yes, it will be this messy again by tomorrow night! And why, do you ask, am I up at 11:30-ish writing? Well, I'm killing time while Josh's lunch finishes cooking because I got too involved in a book and forgot to cook the dang chicken earlier.

You may also be wondering how in the world two type A personalities ended up with a complete type B child. I've been wondering the same exact thing myself. Was it to test their faith, test their resolve, keep them humble?...We may never know the answer to these all-important questions (this said snidely), but I believe that God is the great multi-tasker and has many reasons for placing me in this family and thus wrecking any sort of pride they may have had in how their daughters turned out. At least one of them is good at housekeeping...and I think they might be still praying for me in this aspect.

You may now be wondering about any unresolved issues I might have, but before you pull out the card with your therapist's name on it and offering to call them on my behalf, let me tell you what the Lord has been showing me over the past couple of years:
A) I am never going to be my mother. I am not being sarcastic now or even trying to be mean. She was truly gifted in keeping the house clean, being the helpmate my dad needed, having the house organized so he could find what he needed when he needed it. She also had a LOT of energy to do it all. Blame it on health issues or whatever, but I've never had the amount of energy she has had and still has today. She is a hard worker, and she has wonderful work ethics. I really respect her for those things. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit the energy that makes her capable to work so hard.
B) That is okay that I am never going to be my mother. This lesson has been a hard one to come to grips with. Because of what I grew up with, the ideals of the man going to work, the woman staying home with the children, I thought that anything less than that was considered failure, that I wasn't doing my job as a wife or mother if I was not cleaning, cooking, and caring for the children 24/7. But now I'm thinking my disorderly way of living doesn't automatically mean I'm a bad mother.
I forget sometimes that I'm the only mother my children have. They don't know what it's like to live in a home that is clean ALL the time, unless they stay the weekend at Grammie and Papa's house. They do chores here at our house, but it's more hit and miss then every hour on the hour. I'm getting much better at making them brush their teeth, but I forget the well-child check-ups until one of them needs to enroll in school.We rock out to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" instead of singing along to "The wheels on the bus go round and round..." I worry that my yelling at other drivers in the Costco parking lot is teaching them bad driving manners and I've already had to talk with Elli about not using the 'D' word because it is in fact a bad word regardless of how many times mommy uses it throughout the week. I worry that my lack of attention to the mundane duties of housekeeping will scar them for life and I worry at least twice a month when I can't find that darn bill that I swore I put somewhere for safekeeping, or I'm late on paying a bill because I didn't pay attention to the due date for payments. I kick myself when I go to bed at night for the things I did and the mistakes I made, but where they as bad as I thought?
Are there bad mothers out there? Uh, yeah. The ones who do drugs, the ones who kill their children. So compared to them I'm not doing so bad.
And who are the good mothers? They are the ones who take care of their children as well as they can despite difficult circumstances. They are the mothers that cheer for their kids at athletic games, or school plays, or concerts, or ______ (fill in the blank). They are the mothers that teach their children to reach for the stars but also teach them how to lose because in life you're not going to win everything you go for and losing graciously is just as important as winning, if not more so. They are the women who work because their husbands need help or because they are the only ones left to do so. They are the women love their children and do what they can to show them how much they love them. They sit on benches at games and sometimes they talk to their children through glass partitions and by telephone because no matter how she parented the child still made his/her own decisions. They pray every night and every day for they wayward child, never giving up hope for them. These are the good mothers.

Often times I miss the mark when it comes to being a mother. I yell the kids, I forget to do laundry, I neglect the housework, and I've been known to forget a meal or two if I'm in the middle of writing something. But I also give them hugs when they least suspect it, and I laugh at their jokes or antics when I know their doing it for me. We sing loudly, and off pitch, in the car together. We cry together. And I sing to my daughter and pray with my sons at bedtime most of the time.
My daughter still tells me that I'm the best mother she's ever had and one of my sons told me that he'll love me the most even if he has another mom, thanks son. Do I make mistakes? All the time. Do I agonize over them? All the time. Do I wake up the next morning and try again? All the time.

I don't know about you, but I'll keep trying to be a good mom with every day I'm given. I may not be Mrs. Cleaver, the beds won't be made, and the clean laundry might get mixed in with the dirty laundry on occasion, but, by golly, I'll try my best to be a good mother for these four children the Lord has blessed me with, and pray, pray, pray for the wisdom in raising them everyday. And when I run into ruts I'll call my parents, my in-laws, my aunts or my uncles, and ask them how in the world I'm supposed to do this.

And someday, I hope, they will rise and call me blessed. I feel blessed by them already, in any case.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Different Perspective...

Last night Josh and I sat down and watched the movie The Book of Eli. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where murder, rape, lawlessness and chaos run free. In some ways it looked like those old spaghetti western films that John Wayne and Clint Eastwood made so famous back in the day. This story opens with a man named Eli (incidentally, the name Eli means 'My God'), walking west with a backpack as his only possession. For thirty years he has carried the very last Bible on the planet. He is on a mission, sent by God himself.

While this movie is not in my favorite genre to watch and it was definitely a downer with a very humanistic point of view, it did make me think of how far I would go to protect the Bible if it were the last one on the face of the earth and God spoke directly to me to protect it and carry it west. In this day with nuclear holocaust poking it's head out of the proverbial news hole that it is, the idea of an age that is horrific like this movie portrayed isn't too off base. Once the government is taken out by war or bomb, we who are left will be living in a nightmare. I think that's why there has been so many movies depicting our world in a post-apocalyptic scenario. But even if we don't have some nuclear bomb blasting us out of bed, we still have to face the fact that one day we will be called to stand for what we believe in-whether it's the harsh truth or a happy lie. We will all have to choose who we will serve and if we choose wrong it will mean death. Whether or not this happens in our lifetime isn't the point. What I'm trying to say is: Would you be willing to walk west because God told you to and would you be willing to die for your faith?

The other part of this story that really struck me was his blindness. Everything he did was by faith and not by sight. He walked blind, he talked blind, he fought blind. At first, I was angry that he gave up the Bible for the girl, but when I realized that he had memorized all of the scripture it occurred to me that he could give up the book. The Word was hidden within his mind.
Two things we can get from these things:
When we walk by faith we are able to accomplish the things God calls us to do. You look at Elijah in the Bible. He walked by faith, aware always of the heavenly realm. He performed many miracles and prophesied in order to bring the people of Israel back to God. And he made mistakes. But God used those too and then sent Elijah back into the fight. My point is not to make Eli out to be a modern day Elijah, but to show a real story of a real man who really did walk by faith and less by sight, at least without the earthly sight and with more spiritual sight. When we walk with our spiritual eyes open and fixed on what God has called on us to do it is then that we can accomplish so much more. The world will look at us and say to each other, "How did he do that?" They may be drawn to us like Solara was to Eli, curious, defensive, scared. Whatever their feelings may be towards us they will still take notice of us as we walk by faith and not by earthly sight alone. We should be looking through the way things appear and asking God what is really happening that we may not see with our human eyes. If we try to see with spiritual sight and less with our human eyes we will begin to see things better and respond in a different and more redemptive way.

The second thing that caught my attention was the fact that he had memorized the scripture. In Psalm 119:11 David said,"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 1 says "Blessed is the man...who delights in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates on it day and night." Proverbs 7:2-3 says, "Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart."
Memorizing scripture is a great habit to get into, but it's not enough if that is all you do with it. With the memorizing should come meditation on what the scripture means. These are only three verses but I bet you could spend at least a half hour processing and journal about each one of these verses and what exactly they mean. We don't memorize scripture for the sole purpose of spouting off a verse that suits an argument, or put someone in their place, but to let it sink in and change our own heart and mind. We memorize it so that when anything happens, either wonderful or devastating, we have His word we can turn to, his promises we can remember even if there isn't a Bible in front of us.

Now, I'm not hailing The Book of Eli as the great story of all time. Yes, there is the political correctness of placing the Bible next to the Koran on the shelf at the end of the movie; and Jesus was never discussed in the movie even though that is what the Bible is all about-His saving mankind throughout His life, death, burial and resurrection. And I didn't like that Eli wouldn't tell Solara about the Bible at first or even discuss Jesus with her. I don't like these things in the movie, but lets face it, we live in a world that belongs to an enemy and we shouldn't be shocked when a decent story that has good potential is twisted to feed the propaganda of this world. Remember, we are the ones who are aliens and this is not our home, but one we are traveling through. I agree with those of you who said what you didn't like about the Book of Eli on my facebook page and I agreed with those points. But on the flip-side, I challenge you to ask yourself a) How far do I go when God has called me to do something for Him? b)Would I be willing to die in order to accomplish what He has asked me to do? and c)Do I rely on my human instincts or do I rely on God and see things with His view in mind?

So, before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, give thought to what can be learned by, interesting, movie.

Just a thought...

*Disclaimer: I do not recommend this movie to anyone faint of heart, regardless of age. :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

You Can Have All this World...

The wind blew sharp and cold against my cheeks and neck. I pulled my coat tighter around me, wrapped my arms around my body, and hunched my shoulders against to shivering breeze. The clouds above me moved with the wind and the sun was no longer hidden. It began warming up again and I closed my eyes against the brightness and took a deep, contented breath of fresh air.

It had taken several minutes, after climbing the path to the top of the hill, to realize what that mysterious sound was that I had heard. It was the wind as it flowed through trees, around hills, up valleys and down mountainsides, reaching past, jostling from behind, swirling about, reminding me of what it feels like to be away from the rest of the world. I took another deep breath in and blew it out again as tears made pathways down the makeup I applied earlier that morning. It seemed as if the tears were melting away parts of a mask, revealing my true face and with it my real and exhausted emotions. On this mountain, in front of three giant crosses, I was at the end of who I thought I was. I was at the end of who I had become.

For the last several years I believed I was a city girl. I don't like camping, I don't like sleeping on the ground, and I don't like getting dirty. I like electricity, I like indoor plumbing, and I like to go places and not take all day to get there. From a very young age I loved the excitement of being in large cities, going to gigantic shopping malls and being surrounded by beauty and glamour. I was captivated by that shining and shimmering world, that alluring universe of enchantment. I wanted that life and the one I had paled in comparison.

Until now...

For the last two years my life turned upside down and inside out on me. Life as I knew it was forever changed and, for the first time in years, I was forced to view life with fresh perspective. With my foundation shaken to it's core, all the things I had been excited by in the past no longer look so grand. Instead of being full, I am empty. Instead of excited, I am bored. Instead of enchanted, I am discontented. It has all been fluff, no substance. The make-up, hairstyling, and clothes all seem like a waste of time and energy and a chore.

These things aren't bad to do and I will most likely keep doing them, but what my heart was concerned with was ugly. The things of this world that I've been preoccupied with leave nothing to be desired. It's like eating marshmallows for dinner. They may taste good at first, but they won't last long and you'll eventually get sick on them. My concentrating on the things of this world was making me sick and I had no idea until I got away from it all for the weekend.

The first day we drove into those mountains I felt withdrawals. I was nervous from being so far away from civilization, but after a day I began to relax. Instead of hearing honking horns and reving engines, I heard the rustling of leaves and the scurrying of squirrels. Instead of being surrounded by hundreds of homes and people, I was surrounded by swaying trees and whistling birds. And instead of feeling lost and alone, I felt found again and more full then I ever have in a mall.

As I sat on that mountain top, feeling the wind brush away my tears, I found a peace I had long forgotten. The peace of simply coming before the Lord and laying all of me-my sins, insecurities, mistakes, triumphs and gifts-at the foot of the cross. I have been so caught up in the 'bells and whistles' of Christian living that I have forgotten the simple wonder of sitting at his feet and praying. Like my distraction with the world, I had become distracted with church music sounding the 'right' way in order to worship Jesus and concerned with who delivered a sermon than the sermon itself. Shame on me.

But the baggage I had carried on my back as I drove those switch-back roads to the ranch, fell away at the top of that hill. What my heart longed for was the exquisite beauty of simplicity. Simply coming before the Lord with the Word of God opened and a voice to sing praises to Him. Nothing else is needed, only ears to hear and a heart bowed before His throne.

"You can have all this world, just give me Jesus." ~ Fernando Ortega

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Breakfast at Dutch Brothers

Have you every spent $2.50 just to talk to another adult? I remember a few years ago, when my children were all under the age of five, I would haul them into the van, buckle them up, insert ear plugs to drown out whining and/or crying, and drive down to Dutch Bros. for coffee.

Sure, I needed the energy, and the children enjoyed getting out of the house for the most part, but what I really needed was to talk to someone about something other than diapers, nursing vs. formula, and nap times. As soon as I spotted the sign for the kiosk my whole day brightened up and even the children would squeal with delight. I would be getting my daily dose of energy and interaction and my children would each get a sucker. It was a great way to start the day!

It never failed that when I pulled up to the window there would be a young guy asking me what he could get for me and he always called me "honey". It wasn't the "honey" that warmed the cockles of my heart as much as it was that he talked to me nicely and he wanted to do something for me instead of me doing it for everybody else. All I had to do was sit there while he expertly made my drink, oh, and pay him money to do so. It was money, I thought, well spent.

I had long forgotten those random trips to Dutch Bros. until this last week. A sweet friend invited me to the church for a mom's group she and some friends had started in September. I wasn't going to go but my day opened up and I felt the Lord's urging to try it out. So, Ellianna, my five-year-old 'baby', and I ventured off to the mom's group. We left the peace of the parking lot and stepped into the chaos of baby land.

About twenty women, babies and children filled the great room. I stood planted to one spot, shocked by the noise and the fact that I had forgotten the constant sounds small children make. Over the next hour and a half I watched the women as they conversed, laughed, planned for a luncheon, ate, passed babies to each other, and generally enjoy each other's company. I had a wonderful time as I caught up with some of the girls and what they were up to nowadays. It went quickly and before I knew it I was on my way home, both Elli and I enjoying the silence of the van.

As I drove home my mind played a mental video of years past when I would drive home with just two small children after a morning at the Ladies Bible Study or some function or other. Logan would be babbling about wanting lunch and Garrett would be either babbling as well or screaming his head off. I would drive home, sometimes turn up the radio in hopes of drowning out the angry screams from the back seat, and plan what to make for lunch for the children. After eating the children would take a nap and sometimes I would too. My days were simple. They revolved around meals, nap times, and bedtimes. At the time life felt difficult and monotonous. I was elbow deep in diapers and knee deep in laundry with no end in sight.

Fast forward to the present. We decreased our monthly expenses on diapers only to have it increase in the amount of food we eat. I stand hip-deep in laundry since the clothes are no longer sweet and small, but instead long and bulky. My daily schedule no longer revolves around nap times, but around school bells and soccer practices. Conversations no longer involve them learning new words to say, but new words to not repeat ever again...And my prayers are no longer just "Lord, get me through this day," but also, "Lord, help my children to make it through this day safely."

When I pulled into my driveway I felt like I had taken a five year jaunt instead of a ten minute drive. I missed my boys, I missed the simplicity of life, but I didn't miss the crying. What I was surprised to miss was the getting together of moms. I hadn't realized how long it had been since I had gathered with other young mothers and discussed baby things, laugh about the cute things children do, and swap ideas on how to make motherhood a little more bearable.

Yes, my life has changed dramatically in just five years, but there are some things that remain the same. I still need to gather with other moms and discuss issues we have with our children, I still need the friends that the Lord has blessed me with over the years, and I still very much need coffee...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writer's Block

I'm sitting here at my keyboard and I'm stuck with nothing to say at the moment. I've neglected my blog for sometime, partly because I was so busy working and taking care of my family that I didn't have the time to write. Now that I'm no longer working I don't have that excuse anymore. Hopefully you can bear with me because this is like pulling teeth to even get these words out of my head and onto the screen.

Writers will tell you that to jump the hurdle of writer's block you need to just start with one word and go from there. So that's what I am trying to do. The problem isn't that I don't have anything to say, but that I have so much to say but can't share much of what is going on in my life. I don't think I have writer's block, I think I have an emotional block.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with this line of am I. I don't know if you have ever had a block of some sort, writer's or otherwise. They aren't fun and they can disrupt your thinking and even physical activity. Even writing this paragraph I have deleted it several times because I can't seem to get my thoughts out correctly. It's extremely frustrating as I type, delete, type, get the picture. My brain is all jumbled up and one of the reasons is that I waited too long to write this blog. I'm now out of practice and like exercise, if I don't do it everyday I get out of shape, lose lean muscle and my body turns flabby. My brain is just that: flabby.

As I contemplated this writing block I realized how similar my spiritual walk with the Lord has been in the past. There were times I would think of reasons not to read my Bible, do a study, spend time talking to God. I got caught up in life and the busyness of it. There was always something that needed to be done before I could sit down and have quiet time. I noticed a few days of missing my quiet time but if I ignored it long enough I would get through the whole day without giving the Lord a second thought unless it was for a quick prayer like, "Lord, help me find my car keys" or "Lord, help me find my debit card." My life just got too busy for God.

But then something happened in my life. It jerked me back from the path I was on and I remembered that this life was not about working out, soccer practices, praying for a bigger home or a nicer car. The world as I knew it crashed and burned and I fell to my knees and cried out to the Lord. I knew he was there but it had been awhile since I had called on him in such desperation. I had forgotten him for too long and had to start at square one. I didn't know him as well as I used to and I hadn't talked to him for so long that my prayers felt stunted as I groped for the words to say to him.

A friend once gave me the advice to keep your accounts short with God. In other words, always be confessing sins when you realized you've sinned. It sounds funny but it's true. When I sat down and talked to him I had a lot of confessing to do because I hadn't been keeping up on it. I couldn't come before the Throne of God and ask for something if I didn't first ask for his forgiveness of my sins. I also had to reacquaint myself with who he is, his character and how much he loved me. That all seemed foreign to me even though I knew the right 'church-y' answers. It was like seeing an old friend from school. After the initial hug and "Hi, how ya' doing?" it takes time to get back the closeness of your friendship you shared years before. Things have happened over the years and if you didn't keep in contact over that time you have to start at square one.

The Lord doesn't change but we do. If too much has happened, too many bad decisions made, or too much devastation occurred than we often feel like we can't just come back to Christ. But we can. The enemy would love for us to always feel separated from Jesus, feel like we are too bad to come back to him, but those are lies. We can come back no matter how far we've run from him, whether it was purposely or unintentionally. He was behind us all the time. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who referred to God as the 'hound of Heaven'. He will come after those who are his children and when he does the best thing you can do is turn around and run back into his arms. It will take some time to get to know him again but it's possible.

I'm still struggling with writing this blog. I'm still deleting what I type and it's taken me awhile to get this written, but now the words are coming faster and I'm remembering how to do this. I can't let the difficulties and frustrations stop me from finishing what I've started. I have to keep going not only with this entry but with more to come. It might take some more time for my thoughts to flow more easily, but once I get over this little bump in the road it'll become easier to do once again. It's the same with my walk with the Lord. Now that I've been in his word for awhile it's easier to talk to him all the time and I desire to spend time with him.

I don't know what your block might be. You do though. I think the tip of how to get over writer's block can work well for a spiritual block too. Just like you start with putting one word on the page, you can also start with saying one word out loud to God like "Hi."
You just might be surprised where you'll end up.