Friday, November 30, 2012

Tis the season...for germs.  Time to stuff the stockings with Purrell and trim the tree with Kleenex, right?  Oh man, it seems like just about everywhere I turn someone is coughing or sniffling.  I'm feeling MUCH better (thank you, Lord!) than a few days ago, but awoke Wednesday morning to a sick husband and a sick baby!  (Somehow my three-year-old, Matilda, is so far getting through this week unscathed.  My best guess is that her super-human energy allows her to dodge most germs simply out of sheer speed!)

If anything trumps not feeling's watching those you love not feel well.  Luckily, a couple long naps, vitamins, and decongestants seemed to ward off any real health villains for my husband; but, unfortunately the baby has not been so triumphant.  Is there anything worse than a sick baby?

What's worse (in my book, anyway) is that she didn't catch a cold...she caught a tummy flu bug.  UGH!  Wah-waaaah.  The poor sweetie bear.  Again, the only thing worse than cleaning up disgusting germs is having to watch your pitiful little 16-month-old stare at you blurry-eyed with her sad gaze of "Why mommy?" going unanswered.  Gosh, it just breaks my heart!

Having two kids and one of them be sick is a whole other ball game.  Instead of the usual Get off your sister, you're killing her! you have to referee them with a new initiative:  Don't touch your sister, you'll get sick!  You have to quarantine them both the best you can and about halfway through the day - by the time the sick one has sneezed on the other one, they've accidentally swapped sippy cups, and you catch them cuddling and just can't bear to break up the love-fest...well, you just cross your fingers and pray the plague doesn't go any further.  What's a mom to do?

Taking care of a sick baby is such a weird, odd, terrible little gift that I think God gives us moms.  I mean, it's awful, for sure.  If I could bubble-wrap my kids and shampoo them in Purrell, I'm sure I would, don't get me wrong.  It only takes one heinous Yankee-candle-of-all-diapers to convince you that baby-flu-bug is certainly the doing of the Devil himself.  Ugh.

But, since we do live in a fallen world where illness exists, why not take this moment to try and recognize God among the yuckiness?  Anything's possible here.  So, honestly, I feel the presence of Jesus when I am stopped COLD in my footsteps to throw everything else out the window in that moment and care for my baby.  Dishes stink.  Clothes rumple.  Floors crumb-up.  Whatever.

Daphne has not been able to nap in her crib the last two days.  Not a wink.  I'll rock or nurse her completely to sleep, multiple times, but as soon as I lay her down she springs up screaming and won't stop.  The only way she has been able to sleep during the day has been cuddled up ON me.  The first time was heartwrenchingly wonderful.  Endearing.  The kinds of moments you dream about as a mother.

The next few times...well, it progressively got awkward and a bit burdensome.  With an energetic 3-year old vying for attention, it just wasn't exactly the ideal situation.  Not only that, but when you have a 22 lb. anchor on your chest you can't exactly get anything done during the day.  This is when it occurred to me:  Shut up, Emily.  Sit still.  Look at your baby.  

Whoa, okay.  Right.  Put the iPhone down and focus on the present.  WHY is this so hard to do?  (Granted, I was glad I had the phone there just to capture the moment!)  I want to remember that feeling.  I wish I was the kind of person who never needed to be forced to STOP and smell the roses (or the baby), but I am.  I'm just so grateful that I could soak that up, as best I could (even if there was a dancing Matilda in the background at times) and allow that baby to smother her germy self into my body for that moment.

How many times does this happen in our lives?  How much longer will she turn to me for that amount of comfort?

It's such a challenge to hold still these days.  It's increasingly difficult to be thankful for tiny things like fragile babies with vomit-covered jammies and greasy hair and diaper rash.  It's frustrating to have our daily schedules overturned and interrupted and entirely disregarded.'s so insanely worth it.

We always talk about how this baby/toddler stage of life goes by in a blink.  But, you know, if we can just slow down once in a while (even if that's only when the germs of life slow them down) then we get to capture a silent, beautiful moment where nothing else in the world matters but this sacred, sweet gift of our very own baby needing us for who we are - mom.  It may go by in a blink...but, we're in the midst of it right now...the part where your eyes are closed and you can still hear your heart beating outside your body.  Inhale, exhale.  Everything can wait.

I hope I remember this moment.  Maybe it's even contagious.

Seasonal Help

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Well, I'm back!  I don't know why I used an exclamation point, honestly it's more like an "eh, here I am" because, well, I'm hopped up on decongestants and weary from wrestling toddlers while under the weather.  Whew.  But hey, here I am.  I revived from my post-Thanksgiving-turkey-coma just long enough to catch a cold, but I'll be darned if I let one more day slip by without getting a word in edgewise on this blog!  (I am a stubborn one, aren't I?)

I come bearing news.  Perhaps you've seen the update pop up on my personal Facebook status or Twitter, but if you haven't, then here it is:  I'm employed.  Ha!  (What, were you hoping for something more monumental?)

Yes indeed, I've joined the work force once more and extended my ever-changing resume to include yet another mall job.  I've accepted a position at the local mall to work at Williams-Sonoma as holiday seasonal help.  It's part-time and absolutely temporary, but, it still requires me to show up somewhere on time with a smile, punch a time card, and fill out one of those horrible W-4's that make you feel like an idiot every time you see them (Put 1 for dependents on the what and add up the who now?)

I'm a holiday mall rat, it's true!  Josh and I had a good chat a few months ago as we looked ahead to the holiday season and figured it would be in our best interest to tuck away some extra cash if possible.  If nothing else, we can at least not go into any additional debt this Christmas, barring I don't give in to blowing my paycheck on Calphalon and Le Creuset (which is harder than it sounds, let me tell you!)

I've only been to work a few times so far, but it's going well.  Luckily they only call in the "B team" when it gets extra hairy and their more competent crew can't carry the full (chaotic) load.  But, it's been great thus far and I'm so thankful to take on a new challenge in such a lovely setting.  It sort of feels like working in Mrs. Claus' own personal Christmas pantry, or that's partly how I like to think of it anyway.

Truth be told, this is the 32nd job of my life (if you count stay-at-home-mom as a job - which you should and if you don't, you really have no business reading any further) - and so, I honestly went into this whole idea of working part-time with the utmost confidence and enthusiasm.  It's the first time in my life I've had the luxury of choosing to work and knowing it was for a very short amount of time, all of which has given me new insight into myself, my schedule, my ideals, and goals.  It also is a great reminder of what is happening in the world outside of my little bubble, namely, my little Christian-mom bubble.

Williams-Sonoma is a beautiful, luxurious place to work, no doubt.  I can't pronounce nor afford over half of the items available for purchase, and I count it a privilege to even be thought of as "one" among the clientele who enters.  You know what I mean, it's just one of those "shmancy" places that you hope is holding a good sale, or you go into because you see someone handing out's not a place you go to blow chump change.  That is, it's not a place I've ever gone to actually spend a wad of cash.  I love it, I adore it, but I simply can't afford it!  And, if we are all being honest here, it's just sort of pretentious...and that's exactly what we love about it.

All this to say, I entirely admit that I pretty much figured I'd be encountering some snobs when it came to selling kitchenware that costs as much as my rent.  This excited me!  It had been a long time since I'd worked with a crowd like this (yes, I have a bit of a retail resume history).  And, to be honest, it's a huge weakness of mine to find compassion and empathy for those that are overprivileged than myself.

You know, the overprivileged.  Yeah, you don't hear much about them this time of year.  Maybe you see them on commercials and envy them or drive by car dealerships and wonder just who does get a Lexus with a giant red bow on it for Christmas (I always wonder this)?  In fact, this is the time of year when we especially take time out to remember the impoverished, the poor, and the underprivileged.  But, I'm here to tell you my friends - while we middle-classers may have blinders to them, we are full well living among the plentiful.  Oh yes, oh yes we are.

Sometimes I feel like it is easier to reach out to the needy than the rich.  There is a fine line between my feelings of jealousy and my feelings of resentment towards those that are seemingly more "successful" than me.  They make me feel insecure.  They make me feel uncool.  They make me feel like they must have done something better than I to deserve the belongings they have.  They make me feel like I need Jesus more than they do.  That's some pretty sick stuff, right?

When I reach out to those who have less than I do, I never feel that way!  In fact, I feel fabulous.  When I hand a homeless girl a few bucks, or take a name off the Angel Tree at church, or buy someone's coffee in the Starbucks drive-thru line behind me (okay, maybe they weren't that underprivileged) but, still, I get a feeling of heroic enthusiasm bursting in my heart.  Hooray!  Score one for humanity and goodwill!  I feel like a parade should be held in my honor because I graciously bestowed my overflow among the begging.  Wow.  That's some harsh reality there.

If I am among openly broken people, it's fairly easy to become transparent and shed the outward skin of security and show my redemption for what it truly is:  a gift.  But, it's a lot harder to be confident in my broken need for Jesus when I'm among people who can seemingly not look like they are lacking.  When I get around successful, beautiful, intelligent, wealthy people (no matter the time or place) it becomes more and more difficult to act like I don't deserve the life I've been given - the blessed, redeemed, totally sanctified life that I'm usually so eager to share.

I'm just being honest here.  I'm just asking you to stop and look around you this holiday season.  I'm just wanting to encourage you, as you roam the malls and stores and sales that are attacking you with ever possible angle (guilt, insecurity, bargain, glitter, what-have-you) that you need such-n-such before you are complete or that you have-to-have such-n-such to give to someone else or you aren't worth it, etc. to please consider what's really of value here.  Yes, consider the impoverished, of course (no duh, right?)  But, when's the last time you considered the snobs?  Hmm.

This is why it has become a little bit thrilling for me to go to work in the epicenter of holiday madness - THE MALL.  Commercialism and pretentious snobbery at its best.  You can feel the electricity of the sliding charge cards in the air.  Yikes.  They all need Jesus just like I do, just like you do, just like the broken soul on the corner with the cardboard sign.  They need honesty.  They need prayers.  They need exposure to transparent hearts who give all the glory to Jesus.

It's a goal of mine to try and remain rooted in my identity in Christ regardless of my surroundings.  When things look lovely, I'm just as in-need.  When things are dire, I'm just as un-deserving.  When things are confusing, I'm just as saved-by-grace.

The holidays can be an emotional time for many.  A lot of times we see a movie on TV or hear a sermon that can reference a troubled soul falling to their knees in recognition and in awe of their Savior.  All I'm saying is, let's not limit our scope of who is considered "needy".  That lady who just bought a leather coat for her teenager or spent a rent's-worth-of-cash on a pair of earrings for a Christmas party might be in the perfectly-vulnerable place to ask you about why you are so cheerful about the holidays. And, you might want to have an answer ready.

The world around us, even the privileged, holiday, glamorous, commercialized world we witness daily right now, is a mission field waiting for our genuine and compassionate touch.  The touch only a true Savior could offer through us.  The touch that each believer has the capacity to delicately give.  This Christmas season, as you're looking to give to a worthy cause (and I urge you to do so!) don't overlook your own surroundings.

It's a mission field out there, folks.  Don't let the tinsel fool you.

Meat & Potatoes

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The other day, I was at a crossroads.  Perhaps you've been there before.  It was early afternoon and I was just beginning to think about that age old (yet, daily) question:  What's for dinner?  The pickings were slim.  I didn't want to order in (scratch that, I did want to order in, but we really couldn't afford it and I knew I shouldn't cop out of dinner-making one more time that week) and I definitely did not want to load up the girls in the car, unload them, scream and cry our way through a trip around the grocery store, and have to come all the way back home to start cooking.  Ugh, that sounded terrible to me.

So, I faced my cupboards and my fears and decided with all my might to figure out something that could be constructed into an edible excuse for supper.  I sighed as I sifted through my barren pantry, finding a can of this or that.  I yanked out my last pound of meat at the back of the freezer (ground turkey!) and found some frozen peas next to it.  I dug around the bins of my fridge and discovered leftover potatoes that hadn't rotted through yet.  I know, this sounds scary to most of you, but I was so determined to scrape by until payday that I had really let our kitchen become quite meager.  Still, I knew I could pull something together.  Something.

As I surfed the Internet for ideas, it suddenly struck me.  Maybe it was the crisp new chill in the air, but suddenly the need for comfort food hit my belly and mashed potatoes crossed my brain.  Aha - that was it - Shepherd's Pie!  For those of you who may not know, Shepherd's Pie is a sort of an old "peasant" kind of dish, meant for recycling leftovers for people who don't have access to the first round of good food.  It's a layered dish of meat and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes.  Generally, around here anyway, you see it with ground beef, carrots, corn, and peas.  The topping of buttery mashed potatoes is really its selling point, let's be honest here.

Voila!  Shepherd's Pie it was, and as the weather got chillier and our tummies grew hungrier, the better and better it was smelling.  Sure enough, by the time we ate, it was super delicious.  Yay - a hit!  And I was mighty proud that I had scavenged our cabinets and turned our humble means into something quite delectable.  (Great recipe here for those of you wondering!)

It wasn't until hours afterward, with my hunger and dignity satisfied, that it occurred to me what an analogy my day had become.  As I tucked my girls into bed for the night, exhausted from another haphazardly wonder-filled day, it struck me how motherhood is like that silly Shepherd's Pie.

In the day-to-day events, motherhood is such a mess.  It really is.  I must look at the clock about 13 times a day, and I have no idea why except for the fact that it helps confirm one thing to me:  this too shall pass.  I love motherhood.  Sincerely!  I cherish these precious girlies the Lord has blessed me with.  I want nothing more than to be with them, nurture them, engage with them, help guide them.  But, boy oh boy can they press my buttons!  Whew!

The hour-by-hour focus that two little toddlers requires of me is astounding.  At their best, they are talking non-stop, running around, climbing, throwing food or clothes, or trying to leap from furniture.  And at their worst, well, let's just say I've had to clean Play-Doh out of carpets, crayons off of walls, get glue and honey and paint and applesauce out of hair, and keep them from strangling each other with dress up clothes or jewelry.  It's crazy business, let me tell you!  In fact, just today it crossed my mind that, "Hey, God, if even EVE couldn't keep her kids from killing each other, how do you expect me to?!?"  Sometimes I wonder.

The everyday mischief is just like those peas and carrots.  It's just like that freezer burned ground meat or those nearly rotten potatoes.  You line it all up and it looks like nothing but a heap of garbage.  What a mess.

But, you're looking at it all wrong.  There's more to it then that.  (Hold on, I'm gonna go all Karate Kid on you here!)  How many times has an older mother passed by you and your youngins in public and looked at you sweetly, maybe even stopped and said something like "Oh, how wonderful, I remember those days!  Cherish them!"?  Do you think she is remembering the rotten potatoes?  Heavens, no.  She's smelling the Shepherd's Pie.

All these days, these terribly exhausting days of trouble, they are all adding up into a terrific era of our lives.  I just know it.  I can't quite see it, at least, not while I'm in the middle of it and just want to strap my toddler to her highchair so I can please just fold this basket of laundry that's been sitting in my living room for a week!  Please!?  But, I know it's true.

Some days, when the dust settles long enough for the sunlight to beam in just right and my girls are smiling and my brain hits pause just long enough to capture a moment in time that looks better than any Instagram filter ever could...I get a glimpse of the big picture.  I can very nearly imagine myself an old woman trying to recall this very moment.  I can almost smell the memory of the present, though it is happening right in front of me, as if it were decades ago and I'm longing for the sweet innocence of not knowing their futures.  I blink, and their older.  I blink, and I forget it all.  I blink, and suddenly I am back in the throws of the day and just struggling to survive once more.  Peas and carrots, again.

This daily struggle matters.  This mess that we're trying to make sense of, it will make sense before we know it, and all too soon we will be smacking our lips wondering why we ever thought it seemed so terrible.  We don't have to wait until then to believe it will be satisfying.  Take hold of it right now, dig right it, get messy and creative and believe in what you are doing, because before its all over you will want to know that this was part of what makes it great.

You're in the thick of it, mamas.  This is real meat and potatoes kind of life stuff.  Keep up the good work, and savor every second.

Voting for Gratitude

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I sort of hate politics.  Hate is a strong word, but then again, tis the season for throwing around strong words and slandering your fellow man until he's covered in enough mud that it sinks him, right?  Ugh.  Everywhere you turn it seems like someone is super passionate about something, even if it's being super passionate about not caring about any of it.  But, I did my civic duty and voted today, just as many of you did.  So, congratulations, we took a step and did our part, and now we can sit back, relax, and celebrate and/or cringe as the results start pouring in.

Tonight is election night.  And, like it or not, the chances are that by morning as I'm posting this blog I'm writing right now, we'll be glued to our televisions hearing about who will be our President for the next four years.  Crazy stuff.

I told Matilda tonight, "Just think, four years from now when there's another election, you'll be seven years old!"  I had to literally stop and count on my fingers if that was correct because I just couldn't comprehend the thought of her being a seven-year-old, it just seemed so impossible.  This is when it dawned on me that when the last election took place, she wasn't even conceived yet!?!  Holy moly.

A lot can change in four years.  Maybe not the way we like it.  Maybe not the way we planned.  Or maybe exactly how we predicted (whether to our chagrin or delight).  But there is only one guarantee:  plenty of change will occur.

I think there is a reason that elections take place in November.  I mean, yes, there probably actually is a good reason they take place now in the practical sense...but, I'm actually talking about the kind of season we're in.  I think there is a genuine reason God placed our election day so close to our Thanksgiving Day.

(Maybe you are already arguing in your head the calendar-making-statistics of why this doesn't involve God's hand, and let me just stop you right there - you've been watching too many numbers on the screen.  Take a deep breath, chill, and just stop worrying about it all for one second with me.)

In all this hubbub of debates and passion and arguing and apathy and criticism and the season of thanksgiving.  What a strange time.  I see the newsfeed in my Facebook account just full of complaints and promotions, and then scattered throughout the day are status updates celebrating whatever someone is thankful for.  I'll tell you one thing:  I think we'll all be good and thankful when the ads for all politicians stop running and we can get a little bit of our sanity back!

I don't know who will win in the morning.  You'll already have the answer (most likely) by the time you are reading this.  But, I know that I want my daughter to grow up the next four years surrounded by more thanksgiving than debating.  By the time she is seven, I want her to understand that people can love the same Jesus and vote for different people for President.  I want her to see her parents honor and respect the authority that God has placed over us and our country.  And I want her to know without a doubt that we're able to do it only by the strength of knowing our dependance comes from the one true authority of Jesus Christ alone.

I'm so thankful for our next President.  I don't know who he is yet, but I'm thankful for him.  I'm thankful I don't have his job.  I'm thankful that God will use him regardless of his strengths and certainly through his weaknesses.  I'm thankful that he has willingly opened up his heart to guide a nation, and I can't imagine the kind of pressure, influence, or guts that it must take to step into a position that is so irreverently criticized by today's media.  I'm thankful that we live in a country where we can still speak the name of Jesus and open our Bible's in our own language without any concern or worry.

As the political persuasions dwindle down over the coming days, let's try to amplify our voice of gratefulness.  We may not get the President we voted for, or the President we think we deserve, or the President we think should have won...or, we might!  But, our future is not in his hands anyway.  There's a lot to be thankful for, folks.  Let's try and not lose sight of that.

Four years from now, we'll be right back here, wearing our "I Voted!" stickers and watching the TV with baited breath.  But, four years from now, maybe I can be explaining to my seven-year-old Matilda how proud I am to live in a thankful country.

You don't have to like the weather to be thankful for the sun.  Let's welcome this morning with praise.

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