Monday, December 17, 2012


We have our family Christmas before Christmas because we always travel to Colorado.   
The Saturday before we head out for the holiday, we've established a family tradition, thanks to my aunt and uncle, who treat us financially to a family day for our Christmas present. 
We ice skate at Crown Center, gorge ourselves at The Cheesecake Factory, see a movie (this year we saw Wreck It, Ralph), and open our family presents.  
The day is always one of the highlights of our Christmas week.   

This year was no different, but we started with lunch first. 
Because it's good to be sickening full of food when you ice skate.   
As we practically skipped with excitement toward The Cheesecake Factory, a man on crutches stood out front.    Dressed in layers of clothing trying to keep warm, he was holding a cup for money.  The kids remembered him there last year too.    
He joyfully smiled at people walking by.   You couldn't help but want to give this man a big hug.
Money for my daughter's Christmas present?   Have a blessed day
My children slowed as we neared him. 
They love to give coins...and so they begged me for some money to put in his cup.  
It's amazing how generous they are with someone else's money. 
I, however, firmly believe that children asking to give money to someone else should rarely be denied.   It's just a thing I have.     Who am I to judge the worth of the receiver?    
Give, Children, give.
They are too young to become hardened to need.  
That will come in time, I'm sure.
But as long as they are under our roof, if we have the money, we let our children give.

We gorged ourselves on fabulous food and prepared to leave with two bags full of leftovers.  
My nine-year-old daughter had the idea. 
Let's buy him a hamburger.  
My husband and I looked at each other.  
The waitress brought our bag of leftovers.   
Well, we could give him our leftovers...
Our leftovers?   Food we'd touched, took bites out of, germified...
The kids were mortified.    Give him our leftovers, Mom?
The hamburger was going to take fifteen minutes and we were short on time.  
"How about cheesecake?" a child suggested as we packed up. 
"No, he doesn't need cheesecake,"   an adult offered practically.  

We walked out...empty handed of gifts for the man on the street...heads somewhat downcast...carrying our excess food.     
We slipped some more money in his cup, but I couldn't help but think that we somehow missed an awesome opportunity to foster the generosity of children and teach them a bigger lesson.

I woke up thinking about cheesecake this morning. 
Lessons learned sometimes take days to hit me.  
Cheesecake would have been a great idea.   
Cheesecake for the man on the street.  
Because isn't that what God does for us?  
We deserve nothing.
He saved our souls from eternal hell with His death on the cross.  
That's more than enough.     
Yet, He gives us cheesecake too.  
Children, houses, sunsets, warmth, laughter, love, hope, families, churches, joy, celebrations, coffee, snow, flowers, light, animals, hugs, kindness, and so much more.  
And cheesecake.       
We should have bought the man on the street a cheesecake.  
And we should have done that telling our children,   
"This is what your Heavenly Father has done for you."     

My 6-Year-Old

All of the sudden I can't get enough of my 6-year-old.
Her beautiful long hair. 
Her shining eyes. 
Her pout. 
I can't stop touching her.  Hugging her.   Pulling her close.  
I have an insatiable appetite for all of my kids right now, but particularly the 6-year-old. 
Because I still have her today.    And I feel so blessed.   

Several nights ago, I lost sleep because of her.
I wasn't home and my older son was watching her for thirty minutes before my husband got home.
My cell phone rang not too long after I had left.    
"Savannah swallowed a metal ball."  
I knew exactly the ball he was talking about.   It's slightly larger than a marble and it belongs to a magnet kit the kids own.  It's the perfect choker.  
He didn't sound overly stressed though, just a little annoyed.  
"Can she breathe?" 
"She's freaking out, Mom." 
My heart began racing.  
"Freaking out because she can't breathe or freaking out because she swallowed it and she's scared?"
"She can breathe.  She's just totally freaking out."
"Put her on the phone."    
And then the mostly beautiful thing I'd heard that week. 
Her crying, hysterical voice.  
Because if she was crying, she was breathing.   
We talked for a bit and she calmed down as my heart slowly began to settle. 
She's fine.  She can breathe.  She's fine.  She can breathe.   Be still my heart.
In a second, you realize how quickly life could change.    

I laid in bed late that night fighting different scenarios in my mind. 
As I tossed and turned, I failed repeatedly to cast those thoughts on to the Lord. 
Over and over again, fear pounced.  Something terrible could have happened...and I wouldn't have been there...I wouldn't have been there...I wouldn't have been there...
God would have been there, though. 
But I want to be there, Lord.  I want to be there.    

And then Connecticut.  
I've laid in the bed these last nights, I'm sure like so many others, and imagined myself as one of those parents.   Could anything hurt worse than what they are going through?   
I've imagined too much. 
I've imagined being a mom, whose child had a slight runny nose that morning, but she thought that it would be no big deal.   It's just a runny nose.   Go on to school. 
I've imagined being the mom, whose 6-year-old child was only a little sick, but she chose to keep her child home from school that day.   Stay home today, Little One.   We have a big weekend planned and we need you well.    
I've imagined being the mom...this would be me...the one who was a little too short-tempered at bedtime the night before and hastily put her kids in bed because they were crabby and she was tired.   I'd like her to have that night back to do differently.         
This burden is just too heavy to carry.
I've imagined carrying this load and I crumble every time.  

My mom always shares her hard-earned wisdom with me, and as a teen I remember being particularly troubled by a trial that was facing a friend.   I was overwhelmed for my friend and I questioned if I would ever be strong enough to carry something so big, "If God asked you to carry such a load, He would help you.   He's not asking you to carry this, so you don't have the strength for it.  You can't carry a load not meant for you.  You can't imagine the strength He would give you if this was truly yours to carry."
I'm trusting that God will do the carrying for those Connecticut parents. 
Because when I imagine how heavy this burden must be...
It's more than anyone can stand.       

And then this thought keeps haunting me.   
Could I praise you, Lord?
Could I praise you?
Could I praise Him?     
Would I fall into His arms knowing that He is good...He is good...He is good...somehow, even in this, God is still good. 
Or would I curl up in the fetal position, close my fists, and shake them at Him?
I don't know. 
I've not been tested in such a way.   
I want to have the faith that praises Him.  
No matter what.
But I really don't want to know if God is big enough to carry something of this size.  
I really don't.     


But Lord, this would be a great week for you to come back.  
Living in this world hurts. 
Come back for your birthday.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Day at the Beach

Very few moms that I know boast of their parenting skills.
Perhaps, it's just a mom thing.  
Few of us ever feel like we have it all together.  
Most nights I think that I'll do better tomorrow.  
Most mornings I add a couple more dollars to their "future counseling" account knowing that I'm surely messing them up forever.         
Maybe because we love them so much, and we just want them to have the best parents possible. 
Maybe we know ourselves, and we aren't quite sure that we are it.

There are several stories in my parenting journey that might rightfully feed my fears that my parenting skills are lacking a bit.    
A couple years ago, I left my 10-year-old in the front seat of the car with my two-year-old asleep in her car seat.   
I left the keys in the ignition...the car running.
A brief thought ran through my head, "This is not smart."
But it was an emergency.
I needed a Diet Coke.    
I ran into the busiest gas station on the face of the earth, where a police officer confronted me with the threat that she could indeed take me to jail that moment for child endangerment.    
I could have died on the spot.  
Child endangerment?  
"Officer, take me to jail for stealing this candy bar right here, or for punching the worker in the face, or for lewd conduct, but please, please, please don't take me to jail for child endangerment!"        
For some reason, I'd rather go to jail for stealing than for being a bad mama.  
The truth is, however, I'm not a serious criminal, but I often feel like a completely incompetent mother, who was wrongly entrusted with the lives of five very precious children.  

Some days, though, God gives me a break from my self-absorbed feelings of parental inadequacy.  
Like today. 
Today was a really good mama day.   
Well, not the whole day.   Really just 15 minutes worth, but I haven't had 15 minutes of good mommying in a really long time, so I'm going to share.  

My little guy climbed up on the seat of the toilet to look intently at a picture of the beach.  
"I want to go to the beach, Mommy."  
"How can we go to the beach now, Mommy?" 
And here's where the good mommy moment began.

So, we stretched out on the floor with our feet pointing toward our blue wall.
We closed our eyes and smelled the ocean.  
Gradually, little waves began nipping at our toes.
I grabbed a nerf bullet from behind me and said, "Look!   I found a snail."  
He grabbed a piece of plastic sausage from the pretend kitchen and said, "Look, I found a sausage in the sand."   Well, okay.
Then the waves began to crash against us and we fell backward.   
A huge wave...a Mom wave grew bigger and bigger until it picked the little guy up and rolled with him across the floor.     When his face ended up shoved into the carpet, we pretended that he had to spit out the sand that had found its way into his mouth.
His eyes lit up with excitement as he was once again tackled by a gigantic wave.  
Then a brother and a sister came to the beach with us.   
We took turns flying kites (or flying little kids like an airplane) through the air.              
They grabbed some pillows and began to boogie board.   
"Look at me ride this wave.Wooooow."
"Watch this wave knock me over.  Ahhhhhh."
"Look at Mommy sunbathing in the sand."  
And I just laid there.  
Flat on my back in the sand with the sound of giggling children pretending to boogie board at our imaginary beach. 
For that moment, I fully enjoyed being a mama.    
The little guy soon became a big wave and tackled me just as I could almost feel the warmth of the  pretend sun on my face.
"Thanks for taking me to the beach today, Mommy."  

Just when I thought I was the worst mom in the world, the Lord gives us a day at the beach.   
Thank.  You.  Jesus.