Today at the Park

The boys fell asleep during rest time today for the first time in weeks, and I rushed them awake at 4:30 knowing we were running out of sunlight and they needed to stretch their legs at the park.

I was slightly annoyed already. Husband is gone for the week, so I’m playing the single parent gig. And PMSing.

Doodlebug got out of bed at the mention of the park, pottied, and got shoes on like it was no big deal. (This is totally a big deal as parenting him lately has been total torture difficult.)

Stinkbug whined, complained, cried, and protested. He didn’t want the shirt I picked. He didn’t want to change out of his shorts. He didn’t want socks. He wanted his new shoes. He didn’t have to go potty right then. FOR. THE. LOVE.

I kept it together (for the most part), and warned him he was going to miss out on playtime. Then I ticked off the minutes he would sit out each time he complained or argued. Six minutes of time-out promised. More crying and complaining.

Finally. Out the door. To the park. I started a timer for Stink’s timeout and at first he watched the seconds tick down. Then he settled back on the bench. By the time the buzzer sounded, he crawled in my lap and announced he didn’t want to play. I tried to convince him to run, slide, chase, swing but he stuck to his guns. No playing today. Whatever, dude.

A few moments later an older lady was walking through the park and staring at Stinkbug. Like a little awkwardly. I worried that I knew her, but I could not for the life of me remember where I would know her from. When she was standing directly in front of me (still staring straight at Stink) she said, “I can’t stop looking at him. He looks just like my son did. My son had blond hair like this. He looked just like this.” She reached out and stroked Stinkbug’s hair and I swear she was somewhere else behind her clear eyes.

“He’s thirty eight now.” She shook her head as if to shake herself from the dream she was re-living. “The time passes so fast.” She said it more to herself than to me and gave Stinkbug one last pat before heading off into the fading daylight.

I felt my eyes filling with tears as I imagined my son as a thirty eight year old man with his own life, his own problems, his own family. I squeezed Stinkbug a little closer and breathed in little boy scent radiating off his sweet blond head.

The days can be hard (especially when my husband is out of town!), but I don’t ever want to wish this away. I don’t want to hold regrets in my heart when I see children playing on the playground near my house thirty years from now. I want to smile at the beautiful memories, laugh with fondness over the messiness of this find-your-shoes, i-need-to-go-potty, we-forgot-the-book-bag, can-i-have-a-snack season of life.

I’m thankful for a little perspective today. These kids? A gift without comparison. These days? Messy, but precious beyond description. These few years? Fleeting. Flying. Never waiting. Never slowing.

I AM your servant

Sometimes I feel worn down by the monotony of motherhood. Of the requests, the needs of my children. Some days it feels like the demands will never end and I’m too tired to tie the shoes, make the beds, wipe the counters, play the games, clear the dishes, sweep the floors, kiss the heads, read the books, give the snacks, admire the artworks, teach the subjects, fix the broken toys, wash the clothes…

Sometimes that ugliness of sin that is ever-lurking just beneath the surface in the soul creeps up and I feel like I might choke on the loveliness of all the blessings around me. They don’t look like blessings anymore. And the narcissistic voice inside screams what about me? what I want and what I need? 

With shame I admit that I have uttered to my children, “Why are you asking me to do that for you? I am not your servant!”

Sometimes it’s their tone– demanding and demeaning. Sometimes it’s just the 856th request and I feel so spent on this whole thing. Reasons aside, I have justified this response to them feeling proud and unwilling to bend to their wishes if they have asked wrongly or if I just don’t want to give anymore.

Two mornings ago I heard one of my children ask their sibling to do something. Something easy and simple– a task of less than a minute. And the response?

I am NOT your servant!

And it broke inside me. The words echoed all around in a hauntingly familiar voice reminding me where they learned this mantra. Where they have seen the example– not of self-sacrificing service in love, but of demanding one’s own way/rights/time/wish/desire/convenience.

And then the Word came flooding in, washing over me with its truth…

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, [love] is not self-seeking…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

“…serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

How will my children ever learn that true loves serves and gives continually, sacrificing its own wants and needs for the good of another if I am setting this awful example of only serving them begrudgingly and at my own convenience?

How can I tell my children to love and serve one another and then turn around and tell them I can’t serve them because mommy’s busy/mommy has work to do/mommy has better things to do with her time/mommy is too tired/their request is beneath me/their request inconveniences me?

How can I give empty words to teach something that I don’t live out daily?

This is the motherhood I am called to– to lay down my life. Not just once, but over and over and over again. With each new day, with each new breath. With God’s help, I am teaching my children to love and serve others by loving and serving others myself.

By the Lord’s grace, I am changing my response to the requests of my children from I am not your servant.

I am your servant. I love you and I want to serve you.

Lovely Life

Life is really lovely, isn’t it?

Sometimes I get into such a funk and it’s hard to enjoy life’s loveliness. Of course, we are broken people living in a broken world…

But when I slow down and look around, it doesn’t take long to find the loveliness again.

A friend recently shared about how she wanted to stop talking about how busy she is. Something about what she was saying resonated deep in my soul.

I hate the I’m-busier, I’m-tireder, I-have-more-going-on game that we all seem to play with each other.

As I think about it, Scriptures come to mind– about resting and being still. So opposite of the hustle and bustle we act like we love so much.

In repentance and rest you will be saved,

In quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

Cease striving and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)

So I’m stopping.

When asked about how I’m doing or how my life is going, I do not want to answer “Ugh, I am so busy!”, or, “I’m just really tired.”

Because who isn’t?

I’d rather tell about how good the Lord has been to me. Or how joyful I feel. Or how I have seen something super beautiful in creation.

Or what I have been reading and learning in the Bible and prayer.

Because life really is lovely, ya know?

And it’s so lovely to be alive.

Chasing the Moon

Hubby is gone for a few days for work, so tonight the kids and I called a cab and headed out on an adventure to the mall. I’d like to give a shout out to my new best friend, IKEA, for their free child-care, and warehouse full of cheap housewares for me to breathe and browse while the two oldest Bugs play.

We ate dinner, played at IKEA, looked for a baby gate in another store (I really need one to keep Doodlebug out of the kitchen, ya know), shared an iced (decaf) coffee, looked for pants for Stinkbug, ran to the bathroom because MOMMYIREALLYHAVETOPEE,I’MGONNAPEEMYPANTSRIGHTNOW happened. And then we hopped into another cab with my IKEA bag (I got a new pillow), and rode home.
As we exited the highway my eye caught sight of a huge faintly glowing orb hanging low in the nearly black sky. I pointed it out to the kids, and they tried to track the moon from the window as the taxi turned and turned before depositing us outside our building.
The Bugs were still asking about the moon when we got out of the cab, so I asked if they wanted to hunt it down and see if we could catch it. Ears perked, eyes brightened. Imaginary flashlights flickered on and we were off. We walked and walked and I was worrying a little that because of the mess of cars and buildings and city life, we wouldn’t be able to glimpse the moon again, but we turned one last corner and there it was. Glorious harvest moon. Breath-takingly beautiful in the dark night.
We stopped to appreciate its hugeness and then the kids ran off to try and get closer. 
Come on, mommy, we have to catch it!
At last, we tired of stalking the moon (we had expended a lot of energy at the mall already…), and we trooped back home. On the way, Stinkbug keep asking me to point out the moon to him. He wanted to catch every sight of it he possibly could before it disappeared from view. I smiled at his amazement, a good reminder for me to stop and enjoy.
As I went through the evening chaos monotony routine (potty, brush teeth, pajamas, devotions, track down loveys, get water cups, potty again, kiss goodnight), my heart just felt lighter. I’m glad I went on a moon-chase whim tonight. It felt good to throw normalcy and schedule to the wind, and click on my imaginary magical flashlight (Ladybug’s idea) and hunt down the big, beautiful moon.
That particular moon– the glowing orange ball, as perfectly round as a dinner plate, hanging eerily low over our city– will never exist again. But it will forever live in my heart– along with Ladybug’s eager running ahead to catch a glimpse, and Stinkbug’s wild exclaiming about the size of the moon. 
Let us not forget as moms to hold our routines, our normalcy, our sanity, our plans in open hands, and instead hold tightly to the little ones who will forever be slipping like water from our fingers. Chase the moon. Seize the moment. Enjoy your kids.

Ballerina Girl

Before Ladybug’s recital night, I had nightmares visions of her running from the stage screaming, “MOOOOMMMMMMMEEEEEEEE!”, and me promptly melting into an embarrassed puddle. I am glad to report that she stayed on the stage and did (almost) all of the dance moves she was supposed to at (almost) the right time. Whew!

I feel like I’ve entered a new era– my kids doing things without me. Ladybug attended practices, developed friendships with the other little ballerinas, (mostly) obeyed her teacher, practiced for a recital, and then performed on stage without me.

As wonderfully amazing as it is to watch these little human beings I grew inside my womb grow into their own little people, it’s horrifying and ridiculous and annoying also.

Is this motherhood? A constant wistfulness about the quick passing of time, and yet a breath-taking excitement as our little ones grow to big ones– tackling and conquering the world?

Whose Bad Habit?

This morning, I asked the kids to put their PJs in the PJ drawer. Simple enough, right? I proceeded to watch both of them run down the hallway, stop at their bedroom door and toss their PJs in.

I hollered at them that they needed to pick up their PJs and put them in the PJ drawer.

Then I walked into the kitchen shaking my head and said to Hubby, “What is with our kids and throwing their clothes in the middle of their room?”

He looked at me sort of incredulously. I think he was probably thinking of this:

That might just be my bedroom floor. And the clothes I tossed there last night when I was getting ready for bed. Oops.

I felt really dumb and silly. If my kids have the bad habit of tossing clothes on the floor, they learned it from me. What other bad habits have I unwittingly passed along to my offspring?

(It can be a really overwhelming/depressing thought.)

Today, I’m gonna start by putting my clothes in the closet when I’m done with them. And I’m going to try and remember that little eyes are always watching… always imitating.


Did you drink the recommended eight glasses of water today?

Did you brush your teeth?

Did you boil noodles in water or use water in another way to cook?

Did you turn on your coffee maker and brew a pot?

Did you fill up the swimming pool for the kids to splash in?

Did you wash your car?

Did you take a shower or give the kids a bath?

Did you water your garden?

Did you take it for granted?

There are many people who don’t have clean water at all. In fact, each week 42,000 people around the world die from unsafe water and unhygienic living. And 90% of those are kids. (Check it out for yourself.)

Really, in 2011, this is unacceptable. And we can help change it.

By providing wells as clean water sources and educating local people on sanitation and hand-washing techniques, charity:water is making a difference.

My good friend, Cheri’s, husband, Matt (did I need all those commas?) is working to raise one million dollars for charity:water clean water projects this month. Can you help? Can you give the gift of $5, $20, $50 or even $100 to provide clean water for people in need?

Go here to donate now. You can also blog, Tweet, or Facebook about Matt’s one million challenge to help him get the word out!

My $1000 life

Last night I was lying in bed, bone-weary, listening to the snores deep-breathing of my husband, but unable to fall asleep. (Ugh, isn’t that the worst?!) I pulled up an article on my iPod, and was immediately encouraged and challenged.

Go read it at Raising Homemakers: Spending Your Thousand Dollar Life.

Lately, 2 Corinthians 12:15:

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls

has been on my heart as I think about parenting, and I loved how the author of this article described my life so succinctly. I have a $1000 bill that represents my life. I have laid it on the altar… Send me overseas, Lord! Give me a husband to love, support in ministry and make a home for! Give me children to raise for your glory! Easy peasy– I could easily hand my $1000 bill over to Him and be done with it.

But what I’m finding is that God didn’t want my $1000 bill. He wants every bit of my offering, but instead He asks for a nickel here, a dime there, a quarter today and a dollar tomorrow.

Puddles on the floor from little boy in undies: $.25

Baby who wakes twice a night to nurse: $.50 (for each night-time feeding session)

Daughter having trouble obeying, needing constant correction and training: $1 per day

Picking up the toys (again) before Hubby comes home: $.01

Washing a load of dirty (read: nasty) cloth diapers: $.25

Rocking a snotty-nosed baby, so he is able to sleep: $.10

Taping a book back together after it was destroyed by little hands: $.05

Wiping a poopy bottom: $.05

Cooking dinner even though I’m too tired to stand up: $1 per meal

Greeting a neighbor and asking how she is: $.05

Inviting a friend over because she’s having a hard day: $.50

Sharing a Scripture with someone: $.25

I’m finding it’s much harder to give my $1000 to God in this way. And then when I read 2 Corinthians 12:15 again, I’m doubly challenged because so often I don’t do these things gladly.

I don’t gladly change diapers and pick up toys everyday. It’s hard to gladly cook dinner and clean up pee puddles. I have a hard time gladly disciplining and gladly reaching out to a neighbor (because I’m tired and I’m grumpy). I don’t want to gladly wake up twice a night to feed my baby (I would prefer to gladly sleep all night).

This great illustration has challenged me to get on my knees before the Lord, and re-offer my $1000 to Him daily. To let Him know that I’m ready to give it, whether He wants it in hundred-dollar bills, or in pennies. And then to humbly ask Him for the grace I need to give it to Him gladly.

Postpartum Lesson

I had a baby three and a half months ago, so that puts me in the “postpartum” phase of life.  I’ve never struggled with postpartum depression, but boy oh boy am I struggling with postpartum hair loss these days.

I shed almost enough for another human every day.  Seriously, my bath tub drain looks like I lost a fight with a hair-pulling high school girl every morning.  I find hair on my pillow when I wake up, hair on the couch when I stand up, and I have to clean out my brush every day because… well, you get the picture.

Hubby and I have agreed it’s amazing I still have hair on my head at all.

The other day as I was cleaning out the bathtub drain (again), and fuming about the hormonal imbalances that will certainly, eventually lead to total baldness, I remembered a funny little Scripture:

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30)

I just had to smile.  You see, the Bible says there are a number to the hair atop my head, and the Lord holds that number in His infinite sea of wisdom.  He knows.  That may not even strike you as such a great thing for Him to know about you, but my friend, I’m losing hundreds, possibly thousands of hairs every week, and each time ONE HAIR falls out, it doesn’t do so without the Lord knowing.

Sheila has 3,478,213,459,213 hairs. Now, she has 3,478,213,459,212 hairs. Oh, there goes another one–3,478,213,459,211 hairs. 3,478,213,459,210 hairs.

He knows every one of them.  That’s how valuable I am to my Heavenly Father.  So as much as losing my hair chunks at a time stinks these days, I am so grateful for the God who knows me in such a deep, personal, detailed way.  A God who cares about my hair more than I even do.

Worth a Thousand Words

Most days it just seems insane that I’m their mom. A mom. A woman who has kids. Responsible for raising two human beings. The kids have been amazing through the transition of moving around the world. As long as they have their toys, are well-fed and pretty close to mommy, they’re fine. (That’s me, I’m their mommy. Crazy!) Parenting is truly sanctifying– a lot of times, I say something to the kids, and hear God’s voice echoing the words to me.

Nothing is yours. It belongs to me and I let you borrow it.

Stop being selfish. What does the Bible say? God loves a cheerful giver.

Are you glorifying God with how you’re acting right now?

Stop whining!

I could go on… but mostly, I just love being a mom. As draining and exhausting and challenging as it can it, it’s even more rewarding, hilarious, and fun.

I’m their mom. Aren’t they cute?