Skin Deep

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I am constantly looking for a new makeup foundation.  Seriously, I don't think I have ever found a good brand that has completely promised to give me the coverage I've wanted.  I have tried the liquid, the powder, the minerals, the primer, the ones with sunscreen, the ones without, the mousse, the cream, the whipped and the tinted moisturizer...and all of them have left me with the same face on the same body with the same questions in my head about why I don't look more like Reese Witherspoon!?  Right???

It's frustrating.  Can't a girl get some glowing skin around here or what?  From Cover Girl to Clinique, I feel like I have shoveled out wads and wads of cash to try the next greatest thing out there to give me the perfect skin I desire.  Nevertheless, I cover up and cover up and dab dab dab and smudge and blend blend blend and then top it off with enough blush and smiles to get through the day without a criticism.

That is to say, I do not have the most perfect skin, so I cover up what I can and distract the rest of you with a flashy eyeliner or pop-of-color-lip.  It's not that I have "bad" skin, I mean, I'm not nervously sitting on hold on the phone watching a Proactive infomercial (though, the thought has crossed my mind many insomniac nights) but, I certainly show signs of weather and wither and the hormone roller coaster of my last two pregnancies left my skin looking more like a teenager than my adolescence ever did.  Harumph.

But, I love makeup.  I don't wear it every day, but when I do, I have to restrain myself from piling it on.  I admit it, I am about two pinky cheeks and a set of fake lashes away from being Honey-Boo-Boo.  Okay, maybe not that bad.  But, I do get all giddy when I see a tray full of eye shadows and a lip palate just waiting to be splashed onto my face.  It sends me straight back to my 12-year-old self standing in front of my sister's Caboodle, just daring to get in trouble if I touched anything.  It's exciting and fun and I can't wait to just "play" with color and feel fancy.  Even a 32-year-old mother deserves a moment of silly-frilliness now and then, right?

And so, every couple days when I gear up to see the public or get-together with girlfriends or head out to do some shopping or (hallelujah) get a date-night with the Mr...I slather on a good foundation, paint-myself-pretty and exit into the wild with my chin-up and my face-on.  It looks good, makes me feel better, and it's entirely expected by the outside world for me to present myself accordingly.  Win-win.

But, it wasn't until a couple months ago that I stopped looking for the perfect foundation.  It wasn't that I found it.  I didn't.  In fact, I had the same old-school version of liquid foundation that I had used in high school in my make-up bag (that is, the same brand and color, NOT the exact same bottle - ha!) and had recently settled on sticking with what was satisfactory for the time being.  No difference there.  But, I came to the realization that nothing was going to completely cover up my skin, nor did it matter, unless I changed my skincare regime.  (Hang with me, you will care in a minute, I promise.)

Since having babies, I had slacked off on my face-washing.  I used to be so good about it.  Never ever ever ever did I used to skip a thorough washing.  I would delicately remove my make-up, then scrub my face gently, then tone and pat dry, then moisturize.  I was a freaking Neutrogena commercial.  Then, babies came.  I got tired, distracted, and frankly didn't care whether I totally removed the last of my mascara or just let it smudge my pillow.  Whatever.  I would use those cheapie face-wipes and call it good for the night and hit the hay.  But, obviously, it wasn't cutting it.  My skin showed signs of wear and torment and nothing was going to make-it-up like Reese-Witherspoon-worthy skin could.

Let me just slice this with a knife for you so we can all understand what I'm about to get at....

au naturale 
Bad skin is like my natural self.  My sinful, disgusting, selfish, gross self.  My self without Jesus.  It seems so so incredibly easy and natural to keep covering it up.  I go to great lengths so that others don't see it.  I smile and show you how great things are.  I post hilarious tweets and capture amazing Instagram photos and all my friends think I am awesome and happy and totally have it all together.  I show up at Bible Study and update my status about how awesome worship was at church.  I quote Scripture and tell you I'm praying for you.  I write blogs about beautiful revelations in my life and encourage you to respect your husband.  I make jokes about motherhood and hug you when it gets rough.  It all looks so fantastic and it feel great when I think I make you slightly jealous about how wonderfully I'm living my life.

And it's all completely worthless without Jesus.

Do you get this?

It's not that I'm like's that we're like this.  You and me.  All of us.  Sinny sinny sin sin sinners.  Us.  Totally devoid of good without Jesus.

But, you add in get to the root of it all.  You dive deeper than even the foundation.  Jesus cleans the pores.  Jesus is that toner you wipe across your brow after you've already used the exfoliating cleanser and you find out that yep, there was leftover muck and disgustingness even deeper than you could ever see.  Whoa.  We can't even handle our own grossness without the grace of Jesus.  If we saw it we would just run for the hills while pulling out our hair, I guarantee it.

We can search and search for the perfect cover-up, for the perfect primer or foundation that will make us look better to everyone.  Maybe they'll even believe it.  But, nothing will ever replace the complete and unconditional redemption that only Jesus can offer us.  It's almost like, the more we can fill ourselves with Him, the more others see Him and not ourselves.  Seriously, think about that.  If you could swap faces with a supermodel for a day, wouldn't you?  (I mean, in the perfect-skin-sense-of-the-word.)  Then, why are we so resistant to the idea that Jesus perfect grace fills in the pock-marks and acne-scars of our soul so that we can look more like Him?

People.  I'm so over wanting to look perfect for you.  I hope that I project happiness and encouragement and total humility to you - but, please know that when/if I's completely Jesus.  I can't stress this enough.  I am constantly throwing my silly/sinful/sarcastic self on the throne of grace asking how I can be a vessel for His use.  Somehow, some way, words get poured through my fingers and I rejoice in the fact that hopefully they dictate God's truth to those who read them.  Beyond that, I am a ball of confusion that battle make-up versus transparency every. single. day.

It's time to put down the Sephora brush set.  It's time to lay down the cotton swabs and sponge applicators.  Maybe you don't even like make-up and you are cray-cray-over this analogy by now.  Fair enough.  Cleanse, exfoliate, tone, repeat.  Jesus, Jesus, and more Jesus.

It's time for some exposure.  Let your skin breath, people!  It feels great.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm exhausted.

I know...shocker.  But, really, up until a few nights ago the girls had been sleeping relatively soundly through the night.  I'm not saying bedtime was a cakewalk, but by the time they eventually fell asleep, they stayed asleep most nights.  This being a miracle after months of acclimating them to sharing a room together.

Until a few nights ago, anyway.

snuggle buddies
Matilda has never been a good sleeper.  Terrible naps, unpredictable nights, and somehow the girl runs like the Energizer bunny regardless of how long she's recharged her batteries.  Unbelievable.  She's woken up from the occasional nightmare or had a prolonged whining session here or there, even had a few nights of just terrible ups-and-downs of never getting quality sleep.  But, these last few nights have been a whole new battle to fight:  night terrors.

I'll admit they sound a little worse than they are.  I mean, when I hear the word "terror" I think freakish screaming that requires some kind of heavy medication and a straight jacket; or some kind of exaggerated nightmare that you wake up from in a cold sweat after having seen a horror movie.  But, as scary as it sounds, it is mostly just sad.

Matilda will fall asleep fine (and by "fine" I mean after a good supper, bath, about 18 stories, prayers, and 400 rounds of singing Silent Night) but, about an hour and a half later, she cries out, moans, yells, and whimpers.  It's pitiful.  She's incoherent and not even really awake.  If it persists or gets loud enough, we'll go in, calm her and reassure her, pray over her and stroke her hair as she flops herself over and quickly falls back to sleep.  Then, maybe 5, 20, 45 minutes later...the same thing.  Again, and again, at least a few times every hour all. night. long.  (Can you hear the exhaustion?)

I've asked other moms, I've researched the jellybeans outta the internet, and I even asked Matilda's "Joyful Parenting/Pre-K" class instructor if she had any insight.  Just about everyone has the same, sympathetic response:  It's normal, it's a phase, it will pass.  This is reassuring, truly, but doesn't help my heart feel any better when I hear my sweet girl crying in futile agony in the middle of the night, even if I fully know in my head that she is absolutely okay.  Pretty much the only resolution is to comfort her or not disturb her at all...which is downright miserable.  The only consolation is that she has no memory of it whatsoever, and almost every resource I've found has said that this phase is usually harder on parents than it is on the actual "victim".

Last night, I couldn't take it.  I finally caved around midnight and went and scooped her up out of her bed and plopped her into ours.  I wasn't sleeping anyway, I might as well snuggle with her.  I had found a medical article that said constant reassurance would at least help her to fall/stay asleep, so I totally justified my reaction with "internet science" (my favorite kind of science!) as I curled my arms around her little body.  Finally, peace.  Maybe it was a mistake.  Maybe I'll regret it later tonight when she demands she sleep in "big bed", but I don't really care.  All you can do is do what you think is best for your child in that moment with the knowledge you have and go from there.  It worked for me.

As I lay there beside her, I prayed over her layer after layer of God's protection.  It was the only real comfort and help I could give her, asking Jesus to send her sweet thoughts and deep rest.  And I thought about how she was just laying there, absorbing all of this, completely unaware of what was happening to her.

Then, I thought about how often that must happen to me and I don't even know it.  How many times does God reach out to comfort me, intervening between me and potential harm, or extending magnificent amounts of love - and I am totally unaware of my need for it?

It must happen daily, hourly, minute-to-minute even.  We live in a scary world.  We're surrounded by news and warnings and rumors that constantly leave us living in a state of doubt or worry or fear.  We have a million reasons in the world to be afraid.  Read that again - We have a million reasons in the world to be afraid.  That part is true.  But we have a God that is not of this world.  We have a Savior who entered in and had to familiarize Himself with fallen surroundings and temporal muck.  We have a Lord who is sovereign and powerful and just by His love alone, He can change, create, and clean anyone, anything, anytime, anywhere.

There is plenty of terror out there.  Plenty that we don't even know about, that we don't see, that we don't want to even acknowledge happens.  And we kind of walk through life moaning about it, crying or whining, but I'm sure we don't even touch the tip of the ice berg compared to the evil that exists out there.

mustache mug of coffee, round three
I could choose to walk through most days not really feeling like I "need" God.  Sometimes we all think to ourselves:  I'm doing okay.  I'm making it.  I'm surviving.  I'm happy enough.  But, can you even imagine a world where Jesus never walked or God didn't exist?  I couldn't.  Nor do I want to!  I need Jesus constantly, regardless of how in control or happy I might "feel" in the moment.  It's all an illusion if you remove Jesus.  Separation from God would be the only, ultimate nightmare.

Deep sigh.  Ahhh.  Maybe those were too heavy of thoughts for a midnight snuggle, maybe not.  But, it made me incredibly grateful we have an all-powerful God who can cover our hearts and minds with shields of protection, even when we lay around totally not acknowledging it!

Our battle with night terrors might not be over, but they can offer me reminders from where my hope comes from and where to find ultimate peace.  Last night certainly made me do a double-take at even my slightest need for Jesus, even at its most esoteric state:  rest.  Tranquil, restful sleep is a nightly gift of security we're given, maybe to remind us why we can be at peace at all.

That...and the reminder to be grateful God also (clearly) made coffee for those nights when your toddler just has to snuggle with you.  Thanks, Lord.

29 Again

Monday, September 17, 2012

Today is my birthday!

Weirdness.  Does anyone after the age of 6 ever actually feel like the day of their birthday is the day of their birthday?  Nevertheless, the day has arrived, and I've been teaching my toddler for weeks now how to say "Mommy is 29 again!"

sad birthday kitty meme
I should be really good at 29 by now, after all, it's my fourth time.  What can I say?  As much as I would really love to embrace the whole "you get better with age" thing - I've sort of come to the conclusion that I just don't like getting older.  There you have it.

It's not that I don't like where I am.  It's not that I'm unhappy or think I should be doing anything other that what I'm doing.  No, no, it's just that time keeps passing more quickly than I am prepared for it to pass...and there is not one thing I can do about it (despite what those Loreal commercials tell me).

I suppose I didn't really mind turning 30.  It was strange to leave my twenties, but motherhood was a new and exciting adventure, and so I took it all in stride as the decade turned.  But, now that I am really starting to dig into this new decade, well, I'm very nearly on the verge of denying it all together.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I was reading a magazine article about which "eye cream" was best at wrinkle prevention that I realized they were talking to me about how to reverse the signs of aging.  WHAT?  But, there it was spelled out for all to see, how "women in their thirties" should start blah blah blah blah.  Oh man, that was ME!  When did that happen?  When did I jump into the category of consumers that needed to start making sure retinol and vitamin C were in their moisturizing routine???


One last rant... My husband is still a twenty-something.  Yup.  I robbed the cradle when I married him, and now I'm paying the price.  Call me silly.  Call me a cougar (ha).  But, now I'm doing my darndest to not throw my birthday cake in his face.  When I turned thirty it didn't seem like a big deal, it seemed like he was right behind me.  But, turns out this whole "time" thing continues on a linear path and there will never be a day that he catches up and surpasses me, and here I am turning 32 while he is leisurely hanging back at a cool 29.  Bah, humbug.

Okay, okay.  Enough of that.  Enough complaining and scoffing and pity-partying.  I know, I know, it is NOT very mature, nor becoming of me.  Sigh.

Today is my birthday.  Another year of survival, triumph, tears, love, laughter, hardship, prayers, patience, pain and joy.  It's remarkable how the days seem to drag on and then all of a sudden a year has spun out of control again.

Today is my birthday.  I feel older than I have in a while, I feel more accomplished that I thought I would have felt as a stay-at-home-mom, I feel wiser and dumbfounded all the same.  I don't think I've ever been more in control of what is out-of-my-control in my whole life.  That is, as a gal in my thirties, I just now start to have a sense of balancing the peace amidst the chaos, letting the knowledge and experience that I have seep deeper into my heart that the feelings or emotions that I have.  I'm not just full of a series of reactions anymore, like I was in my twenties.  I'm not just a walking ball of drama that never quits (regardless of popular opinion).  I stop and think before I speak a lot more often than I used to.  I not only know I'm not the center of the world, but I'm starting to act like it too.

Today is my birthday, and here's what I have to say about it:  I like myself.

It might seem arrogant or taboo or downright haughty to say such a thing, and it all honesty, it only makes me a little bit sad if you think that way.  Because, as I'm raising two daughters who are silly and awesome, it really makes me realize how important it is that they value who they are.  I'm not saying it's good to focus on yourself or be full of yourself or even put yourself first...but, it makes me sad to think about my girls possibly not liking themselves someday, and that lesson really starts right here, with me, right now.

Insecurities flood us from every direction these days.  Each day, each month, each year we wake up to new fears and new circumstances that await us with new problems.  None of us could ever possibly be skinny enough, lucky enough, rich enough, happy enough with everything that the world throws our way.  It's futile.

I've got a long way to go in this life.  I mean, I pray this is still only one of many, many birthdays to come.  I can't imagine what the future holds, nor do I want to!  That's part of the adventure!

I don't like the passage of time - I'm still working on just how to grasp the beauty of the moment (easier said than done when a toddler is throwing Cheetos at your face) and I still have to get used to my new night cream (I can still pass for 21, right?) but, I'm not ashamed of getting to know who I am anymore.  I'm not avoiding the subject.  I'm not intimidated by what I may or may not become.

Jesus was only 33 when He was crucified for mankind.  T-H-I-R-T-Y-T-H-R-E-E.  Whoa.  My whole life I've thought of Jesus as this wise old owl who was so much older than me that I at least could use that as an excuse for misbehaving.  And, here I am.  What if this was my final year?  What if?

Thanks for still pursuing me, God.  Thank you for creating me and being just as interested in me as you were that very first day I came into the world.

Birthdays are weird.  They celebrate us for something we had nothing to do with.  I had no choice that my parents made me, kept me, raised me; and yet, I get a day all to myself to be recognized for just being.  

Jesus looks at us as if every day is our birthday.  (Go with me on this.)  He died for us, pursues us, loves us, took on all our sin (past, present, future) whether we wanted Him to or not...and there's nothing we can do about it.  Nothing.  It's done.

We can't earn it, we can't work for it, we can't change it, and we certainly don't deserve it.  But, every day - Jesus looks upon us as if we are clean and beautiful and worthy of having saved.  Jesus never wishes He hadn't gone through all that pain for us.  Jesus never regrets the sacrifice He made for us.  He lavishes us with love and mercy as if the day was made just for us.  All we have to do is believe it, accept it, and rejoice in the privilege of sharing it with others.

Now, that's a thought worth celebrating!

Alright, alright, I feel better already.  Maybe it's the cake or the presents or maybe that new moisturizer had magical healing powers (naaah)...but, I'm getting the sense that this year is going to hold so much more than just 365 days.  Maybe next year I'll even turn 30 (again)!

Cheers.  Jesus loves you.  You should love you too.

There Will Be Blog

Friday, September 14, 2012

Blood, sweat, and tears.  Today, that's what it seems like it is taking me in order to sit and write.  The question I get most regarding the blog these days is simply this:  How do you have time to write? And my answer is simple:  I don't have time not to write.  Strange and honest and all together true.  If I didn't write, I genuinely think my brain would either melt or explode, neither of which I'm willing to clean up.

Yes, that is green crayon on my keyboard
In all practicality, I write whenever, wherever, however I can.  Sometimes I start a blog on my phone while I'm parked in the car after a long afternoon out and both my girls have fallen asleep in the back seat on the way home.  Sometimes I write after everyone has gone to bed and the squeaky wheels in my brain won't quit churning until I let out some steam.  Sometimes the planets and moons align just right and magical nap fairies sprinkle their dust over my children to fall fast asleep at just the exact moment so I can steal a chunk of time, avoid the dishes, and type like the wind.

However I can get it, I'll take a break and sit and write.  I love it.  I need it.  I crave it.  But, it is always, always work.  Always.  It still takes me the same amount of effort as it would anyone else to construct a sentence or think of a word or dump out a pile of letters into a formulated syntax so your eyes can interpret it into something comprehensible.  It still takes focus (albeit, sometimes very limited focus) and energy (zzzzz, what was I saying?) for me to sit down and choose thoughts over laziness and make sure I exercise my creativity for the day.  All this to say, I don't always want to do it.

It's important to find something you love, something you're good at, something you can make time for - and it is generally important for these things to somehow collide into the same activity.  If you can find something about yourself that fulfills those three criteria, my goodness - you've got yourself a passion.

"Passion" is an overused word with an underutilized worth.  A lot of people will tell you to search for your passion, or let your passion find you, or that you should do your best to find passion in what you are already doing.  I don't really have an answer for you.  I think maintaining passion still requires a great deal of effort, and to think that you'll be passionate about something without putting forth any actual work is only a sorry and sad excuse for wanting something you aren't willing to fight for (which is futile).

It's important to carve out time for something that you value.  Something you want to invest yourself in.  Maybe this is reading, cooking, learning a language, or journaling.  Perhaps you like to paint or plant or write cards to friends or surf the web for interesting articles or ideas.  Hopefully, whatever your hobby of habit, you are finding a good use for it - allowing it to better yourself, using it to help others, or expanding your knowledge in some way.  You get the idea.  But, the hard truth is, if you actually value it and want to do it, there is only one trick:  you have to do it.

I say that "I don't have time not to write", because the reality is, if I stop doing it, I will stop doing it.  And I don't want to stop doing it.  It's not that I don't want a break.  It's not that I don't run out of ideas.  It's not that I don't struggle with the insecurity of whether I'm actually good or getting better or spending enough time at it, etc.  No.  It's that, for me, the more I do it the more I want to do it...which, is often true about any habit, good or bad.

But, we do what we want to do.  Don't we?  I mean, I like the idea of working out every day, sure.  But, evidently I don't really want to work out every day or my Jillian Michael's dvd would be in the BluRay player right now instead of gathering dust on the shelf in the other room.  I might say I want to finish that blanket I started crocheting about 3 years ago...but, I really must not want to since it is buried under a pile of toys stashed in the corner behind a bookcase.  Huh.

I've come to term with those things.  I'm okay with not working out for the time being (hello, I am caring for two little personal trainers day in and day out!) and I'm not interested in re-learning to crochet at the moment (it's too hot for blankets anyway).  But, I do want to, I write.  And, if I want to get better at it, then I have to keep it up.

The hard truth when someone asks me how in the world I have time to write is this:  I choose it over other things.  And that's how I figured out I must be passionate about it.

That little thought has been true about every single deep value I hold in my life.  I chose my husband over every other living male on the planet.  I choose time with my children over greater financial security.  I choose to love Jesus over any other idol.  And, I choose to write over chores, naps, relaxing, or whatever else I could potentially be doing at that time.  It's important to me, so I slip it into the schedule of crazy life because without it, well, I might just not be totally me!  The trick is, not to let your passion slip into becoming an obligation.  If you can't want to do it, then start with wanting to want to do it!  Pray about, think about it, pursue it.

What do you choose over other things?  What do you make time for?  What do you want to do?

Some seasons in life are more easy to interpret than others.  Some come with a grand focus (getting married, having a baby) and others blur together (did I do laundry this week?).  Allow yourself the freedom to investigate what you like.  Have fun with it!  Don't get bogged down in the insecurities of not having someone else's gifts (i.e. I wish I could sew like so-n-so or I wish I ran marathons like whats-her-name).  Hopefully this becomes a lifelong pursuit!  I hope as the months and years and decades go by that I continue to challenge myself with new goals and new passions, ever-changing and ever-deepening with age.

It's always going to be work to get out the computer, come up with new ideas, and pour my soul/brain/heart/guts out onto a page for someone else to absorb.  I have no idea where it all will lead, and I might never know who all it reaches (though, of course I love love love to hear from you!) but, I know one thing for sure:  blood, sweat, and tears...the blogs keep comin.

Thanks for choosing to stop and read this silly blog over whatever else you could be doing right now.  I sincerely appreciate it and it doesn't go unnoticed that you are helping fuel the motivation for this silly mom to sit down and rant about her crazy life.  So, thanks for encouraging my passion.  I hope I've encouraged yours a little too.  xoxo


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

About 4 seconds.

That's how long I think it takes after my husband walks through the door to know what kind of evening we're about to have.  And it has almost nothing to do with him.

How I choose to react in those first four seconds almost always dictates the tone for the rest of the night.  It's almost like a wife-super-power, frightening and amazing all at once, but I really think it's true.  

My husband doesn't have an easy job.  He works hard all day, and regardless of whether his day has been frustrating, successful, busy or boring, he is always always always glad to be home.  I love that about him.  He would always choose to hang out with us (no matter how manic) than have to stay late and put extra hours in at work, though sometimes that is necessary.  But, when he walks through that door, no matter how his previous 8 hours have really seems to be me that holds the power to sway the tone of the house...and I would go out on a limb here and say that's probably true for many, many wives out there. 
my little werewolf
I call the hours from 3-5pm before daddy gets home the "witching hour".  There might as well be a full moon out at that time, because my two little daughters turn into werewolves, complete with fangs, red eyes, and sometimes even foaming at the mouth.  Okay, maybe they don't have claws the size of Texas (most nights) but they certainly go all Jekyll-and-Hyde on me and suddenly lose the ability to control their emotions and actions.  

No matter how sweet or pleasant our day has been, those last couple hours just seem to totally unravel.  I lose the ability to form complete sentences, my toddler can't help but tackle and lay on her sister, and my baby becomes inconsolable.  They try climbing the shelves, the walls, the fireplace mantel.  They won't watch a show or color in their books.  They might chase the cat, until they pin him down into a desperate headlock, but he eventually takes haven under the bed.  No matter what, we all just seem to lose our minds.

This is not a pretty picture to come home to.  If I was my husband, I would probably request to work late most nights of the week.  Haha.  Or, I would highly start to question the sanity of my care taking ability and maybe suggest we hire extra help...or put the girls on Ritalin or something.  Crazyville.  

All that to say, when he comes home and finds me shaking in frustration or downing another cup of coffee while my eye is twitching from the chaos, it's a lot to take in.  But, in those first four seconds, everything can change.

Somedays, I'll admit, I hand him the baby and grab the mail key and say "see you 5 min!" and walk out the door to get the mail, and in reality I truly just need some fresh air and a quiet second to control my brain.  Whew.  Or, maybe I'll snap at him the second he walks in.  (Sounding familiar to anyone else?)  You know - the whole Do you even KNOW what kind of day I have had with these crazy critters!? while he is left wondering if he did something wrong or whether he should even answer me and, oh yeah - three hours later I finally get around to asking him how his day was?  Whoops.

But, it doesn't have to be that way.  I have a choice in the matter here.  And I truly think that a good four seconds is pretty much all it takes.  Four seconds to stand up, smile, shout "Yay! Daddy's home!" and actually stop what I'm doing to kiss him on the mouth and say "How was your day?" and sincerely mean it and listen to what he says.

We have all evening.  I have the rest of the night to dictate to him all of the chaos that the previous hours may have held.  He knows how insane/naughty/debilitatingly-loud our girls can be, so he truly does understand that my day has been hard.  EVERY DAY is hard for mothers (in one way or another). 

Not only can those first four seconds help usher us into an evening of peacefulness, but literally the actual tone I use to speak to him in those first moments seem to determine the mood of our children as well.  This one goes both ways, really.  Meaning, how we converse with each other (even about outside subjects) makes a difference.  It's something we learned early on in parenthood when we would get home from work and vent about our days.  If we spoke with harsh, loud, moody ups and downs, our girls would stare at us and scowl, as if to say "Why are you mad at each other?" when we actually weren't!  

Trust me, there's some serious crazy
behind those beautiful, blue eyes
Now, we save those vent-sessions for after they're in bed, or else we will pleasantly fake our tone in a creepy sing-songy polite way while actually telling each other how manically frustrating something might have been.  It matters!  It might sound ridiculously silly, but it's better than having our little ones thinking we are mad at each other when really we are just getting fired up about an issue outside of our little world.  

Tone matters.  We've heard it a million times - "It's not what she said, it's the way she said it" and so on.  And the same thing goes for your kids.  What they hear, how you talk to your spouse, the way you say all comes across loud and clear to them one way or another.  

It's not easy for me to always stop what I'm doing when Josh walks in the door from work.  I don't necessarily feel like taking a deep breath or listening to stories about the outside world or even smiling - even though I am always super glad he is home and very thankful for someone to help care for our crazy girls!  

But, I can tell you that I've never regretted rising above my own needs in those first moments when he comes home.  I've never thought "You know, I really should have laid into him for being gone working hard all day and told him how it got all crazy around here and I'm doing a terrific job just keeping everyone alive!"  No.  Sometimes I do need to vent, sometimes I do need a hug, sometimes I do need to tell him exactly what I need so that he can specifically help me more effectively...but, not in those first four seconds.

You've probably heard or read the following two Proverbs at sometime in your life:

Proverbs 21:9  Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 21:19  Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

Yikes.  I don't want my husband to want to live on the corner of a roof or a desert!  I want him to want to still come home at the end of a long hard day of work!  And let's be honest, it's almost never even "about him" when we greet him at the door with a snappy tone or a furrowed brow.  

I've had to have a "heart check" here with the Holy Spirit and make sure that when my hero walks in at the end of the day I am greeting him with the thankful and peaceful heart I know he desires to encounter.  I'm so grateful that he works hard so that I get to stay home, so that we can eat, so that we can live and I don't want him ever feeling taken for granted.  I also really want my girls to see just how much I enjoy being with their daddy and for them to appreciate those first seconds when he arrives home.

God is amazing how He provides for us (the work, food, clothing, shelter) just enough, every day.  Doesn't He also provide us enough grace and patience to extend a loving hello to our spouse?  




Greet your spouse with a kiss and a hug at the door tonight.  Maybe you won't have dinner on the table, maybe you will still have laundry or vacuuming, maybe your kids will be screaming and wrestling at that very moment...but, trust me, everything will be okay and I guarantee it will usher in a whole new happiness for the rest of the night.  It must be better to live inside the house with a happy and encouraging wife, than on a corner of a roof or in the desert all alone!  How about that?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

I hardly ever advocate for a specific "cause" on here.  I don't have any ads and I don't want people to ever get the impression that I use this site (right or wrong) for any sort of kick-back or particular gain.  I'm just me, airing out my thoughts, emotions, and any words that seem to flow from God through the tips of my fingers.
In time-out.

But, when something personal strikes me to my core and I'm stunned by the fact that maybe hardly anyone else out there might know about it - I can't not share it.

Perhaps you remember way way back a couple years ago when my husband took a trip to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.  You can read about it here, here, and here.  I urge you to.

Since then, my friend Kelly has been in the process of adopting a sweet girl named Lovencia who is currently still residing at the orphanage in Port Au Prince.  She is doing well and we are all praying her home to Chattanooga to be with Kelly as quickly as possible.

 Kelly is in Haiti right now.  THIS VERY MOMENT!  It is always crazy to me when I think of her there, hot and tired and loving on hot and tired people...all sweaty with their crazy language bouncing around trying to communicate with each other their fears and their gratitude and their emotions of all kinds.  She amazes me and I am so blessed to call her one of my dearest friends.

I'll cut to the chase.

Today sucked.  For me, I mean.  It was one of those awful, horrible, no good, very bad days that just started out all wrong from the get-go.  Josh lost his debit card, I couldn't find the remote, the baby woke up early, I spilled coffee, etc.

And it only escalated from there.  A toy in the potty, poop out of the potty, a disastrous nap time that led to the baby screaming inconsolably and a toddler who only slept for twenty minutes.  It seemed that everything I did led to someone throwing a fit or yelling at me.  I was really losing my cool and surviving on a spoonful of cookie dough and a caffeine high to keep me going.  This was not my finest moment.

Then I check Facebook.  I need a glimmer of escape, so I pull up Facebook on my phone to see if I can vicariously live through someone else's day - maybe dream about grabbing frozen yogurt or perhaps someone Instagrammed a photo from the beach?  That's when I saw the following post from Kelly.  Her latest update from Haiti.  Mind you, you won't know all the people she mentions...but read it anyway.  You'll understand all you need to know:

It's an old pic, but I love it.
Kelly's spirit shining through.
Today, a beautiful and caring and grieving woman came to give her child to the orphanage. She was so tender and so full of grief. Within the past year she has lost her parents and her husband and today, her child.

I hid in the office for a couple of hours and told Angie I just couldn't bring myself to engage her relationally just to see her have to leave. Angie didn't try to fix me, she just qu

ietly let me put my head on her shoulder as my soul wrestled and she said, "I know...."

I needed her to just be quiet and let me wrestle. She loved me well and her empathy toward me reminded me of the truth.

I bit into a lie that made me feel powerless. A lie that said risking my heart to love her was not worth it because I knew my limited time with her could solve nothing. I knew she would leave at some point today and I'd never see her again. When I realized how I was guarding my own heart and how I was believing that a small act of kindness was worthless in the face of her plight, I got up.

Jahreece did too and we went out front to ask her if we could go buy her an ice cold soda. As we walked we wondered out loud how much love has been withheld from her in her journey, or in the lives of any hurting person, because of the lie that the simplicity of love does not count in the face of grief.

We returned a few minutes later and gave it to her. We sat beside her and tried to make conversation. She laughed at my terrible Creole as Fifi forced me to say everything in Creole and Fifi taught me new things. And then we took the glass 7up bottle and blew into it to makes sounds and we all laughed together.

That didn't solve anything. And the truth is, we are not asked to solve people like a math problem. (thank God cause I suck at math anyway).

Rather, we are asked to sit with them, hold their hand, laugh with them, to give them our love and to receive their love. Simply, to be there WITH them. Not to condescendingly put on our capes and be there FOR them in order that we make ourselves feel better and nervously let that definitive outcome defend the goodness of God to our broken hearts.

Love hopes all things. And my love for her hopes for dramatic rescue in her life. But today, rescue may have been finding a way to laugh on such a horrible day.

Today, she rescued me from believing the lie that small acts filled with love and that the simplicity of presence are worthless. She reminded me that choosing to love is always better than protecting myself from grief.

Love always wins and I truly believe God is good even when I can't see the outcomes.

My eyes welled up with shame and sadness and utter love for my girls.  Lord have mercy, Christ forgive me for my selfish thoughts.  God, change my heart and give me patience to be able to see all I have right now, the whole beautiful mess of it.  My girls are screaming their brains out - but, they are MY, with me, healthy and safe.  

I took my girls in my arms right then.  I told them I loved them and kissed them hard.  I thanked God for His compassion and prayed for that mother and that baby and Kelly and all the children in Haiti.  It wasn't enough - but, my God is enough and that was just the reminder I needed right in that very moment.  What a rescue, indeed.

Please pray for Kelly and all of the nannies and babies at the orphanage in Haiti.  Please stop what you are doing and pray for your own babies and thank God for them.  Please join me in letting out a collective sigh when you come to the realization that we have nothing to complain about.  It's a lot to swallow, but it is the truth.  

Getting slapped in the face with a Facebook update like that (no pun intended) didn't make my day any easier.  I mean, it didn't shut my babies' mouths or make them obey me any more or calm their spirits or lessen the volume of chaos in any way.  But, it shook me to my soul.  I had to stop in my tracks and ask forgiveness.  I had been dishing up time-outs all day long to my toddler, and here I was in total need of one myself.  

Take a time-out if you need one.  Take a deep breath.  Take a moment to be humbled.

And, if you can, I urge you to consider giving to this amazing organization.  I know these people.  Not only are they amazing and legit and love God...but they will use every single penny to pass on to the people who need it and change lives (we're talking about things like eye surgeries, new roofs, seriously tangible miracles here).  

Skip the latte today and send $5 to The Oak Project and select the OASIS FUND...or any of the ministries they have listed on the donation page.  

You might not change the course of your day...but, you just might change someone else's life.

Food For Thought

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September is here!  And with it, comes much relief that August has passed.  Whew.  August was an unusually busy month for us, and with a husband working in the education system it seemed like every day was leading up to the big back-to-school moment.  But, also (just for kicks) I decided to throw another wrench in the cogs of the Pardy-go-round and undergo another entire month of NOT eating out!

Yes, you might recall that we did this same experiment back in January.  So, I sort of had an idea of what I was getting into (i.e. cooking, cooking, and more cooking).  But, there was a vast difference between this month's experiment and January's:  planning.  Or, lack thereof, I should say.

Yep, this month I entirely winged it.  Not even a shopping list.  Not one item written on the calendar.  Not one meal prepped ahead of time or stored in the freezer.  I just knew that we were going to eat at home - every meal, every day.  That was the goal, anyway.

I'll tell you right off the bat - we each "cheated" once.  My husband really didn't even mean to - he just forgot it was August 1st and simply ate out at lunch the very first day out of sheer habit.  Whoopsie.  Oh well.  As for me, my lack of planning (even though I was planning to not plan - ha!) simply got the best of me.  Halfway through the month, I was out shopping with the girls and noon (and hunger) hit.  We were not nearly done with our errands and they had chomped their way through the snacks I'd brought with us almost as soon as we had left the house.  They were cranky and starving and frankly, I had to weigh my options:  Go all the way back to the house to scrounge around for scraps (as grocery shopping was on the list of our errands to run), or Drive thru Chick-Fil-A and calm our souls and stomachs for and easy ten bucks.

Needless to say, the value of convenience won out that day, and it was totally worth it at the time.  However, the next night when I made an entire roast chicken for $3.20 that fed all of us for the next two struck me just how completely insane it is that I paid twice as much for one meal for one person.  Crazy.

We all know that eating at home is cheaper and generally healthier.  It does take extra time and effort, usually, and as a person without a dishwasher, I can genuinely say that it doesn't always feel worth it.  But, after the dishes are done and the oven has cooled and our tummies are full of delicious foods I slaved helps me refocus on why we are even eating in the first place.

Yes, we have some bananas!
Food is fuel.  We know this.  It gives us energy to burn and calories to keep our bodies functioning properly.  But, I think we can almost all agree that food is so much more than that.  Food is family-time.  Food is friendship-building.  Food is rewarding and creative and inspiring and, at times, even nostalgic or romantic.

So often we think of food as just something we put in front of us to enjoy and devour and get us through the day.  But really, food has the power to give power to whatever you put in front of it.

You put a couple of cranky kids in front of one will start an argument.  You put an amorous couple in front of one will spark romance.  You put a whole family (and a little creativity) in front of one might trigger a game.  You put a dieter in front of one fuel will power (or potential guilt).

You see what I'm saying here.  Food can ignite emotions in us if we spend the time to evaluate and appreciate it.

Sure, I do these silly family experiments (i.e. giving up Target for a year or whatever) to save us money, or be healthier, but it also helps us regain our values and refocus our energy to what we truly deem important.  When we eat out, I find myself assigning value to convenience (sometimes very valid - as it was on the shopping day!) or because it saves me energy or dishes or sanity.  But, when I just eliminate the option for a chunk of time (and, a month quickly feels like an eternity when you are cooking this much!) I suddenly feel myself empowered to be able to make it happen.  I do have the energy.  I do have the time.  I do have the creativity and resources and ability.  I do because, if I don't...we don't eat!

Not planning ahead was super difficult this month.  Many (many) nights it felt like I was starring in an episode of Chopped on the Food Network.  (You know, that show where they open a basket of unknown/surprise ingredients and have to somehow make a meal using it all!?)  I would look in my cupboards and fridge and just Tim-Gunn-it into something edible (that is, I would just have to "Make it work!")

Okay, let's see, we got some leftover roast chicken, a can of tomatoes, some olive oil, a clove of garlic, half a pack of rotini, I got some basil in the garden, maybe that spinach is still good....and....GO!" 

It is a cooking challenge, no doubt.  And, with two little kids, it's not like I could up and run to the grocery store every day either.  I just had to work with what I had, be willing to bake from scratch or take a risk or try a recipe that I googled...and keep some cereal on back-up just in case.

I wanted to try to go a month without eating out and without planning this month for one major reason:  to show you that you can do it too.  You can!  Stop rolling your eyes.  Maybe you don't need to.  Maybe you hate the idea.  But, you could do it, seriously.  You might not need to save the money or eat healthier or even spend extra time with your family (and if those are all true, please - tell me your secret!) but, maybe you just want to try something to spice up your usual routine and challenge yourself to see just what your food is empowering you to do.

Watermelon, fueling some silliness
Is your lunch fueling your frustration in getting your kids fed before nap time?  Is your supper triggering you to turn on the tv and avoid conversations about how your day really was?  Is your afternoon snack comforting you so you can just make it a few more hours before daddy gets home to help??

Sometimes it helps me to just stop, take a step back, and evaluate why I do what I'm doing.  We eat every day, and several times a day for that matter.  Food is part of our lives and can set the tone for how we treat ourselves and others around us.  Are we rushing around, being thoughtless and cheap and valuing convenience as our highest priority?  Or, are we willing to take time, maybe get a little messy, take a few risks, and be intentional about what we are really fueling in our homes?

(Am I talking about food or relationships here is the real question?)

I love restaurants.  I love eating out and appreciating how others can cook (not to mention, clean up!) the foods my family enjoys.  But, having these months of "time-out from going out" has been a great way for me to realign what I truly value for my family (plus, it's like a boot camp for my cooking skills).  Sure, it saved us money and calories; but more than anything, this experiment fed my family a new perspective for appreciating time with each other.  And that's something I hope we are always hungry for.
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