Stars and Stripes Forever

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

As I dress my girls up in patriotic fashion, I'm blessed by the FUN that we get to experience as we reflect on the meaning of our freedom and the gratitude we feel for those who have bravely fought for it.   While we prepare for an evening filled with overeating, overcrowding, and overwhelming awe as we gather to watch fireworks fill the night sky, I'm also nostalgic for the past July Fourths of my childhood.

I love July 4th!  As a kid growing up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, I grew up shooting off more fireworks than watching them.  Though, there was one tradition of going to a local golf course the weekend before the fourth to watch a huge fireworks display, much like we will do with my own family tonight.  In my memories, this tradition is filled with fun, laughter, and lots of waiting until the evening sky would finally darken enough for the first flames in the clouds to be visible.

Now, as a parent, I can only imagine the massive amounts of prep that went on behind-the-scenes that made this event possible.  Food was prepped, friends were called, parking was a nightmare, carrying all the blankets and lawn chairs, staking out the perfect spot, trying to calm the nerves of restless children, and then undoing it all at the end of the night only to drag your exhausted kids home and plop them in their beds smelling like grass and bug-spray.  Wow, thanks mom and dad.  Thanks for enduring effort to make memories for our family.

And now, here I am, hoping for the same.  I look at my goofy girls, and while I'm already tired at the thought of this evening, I'm grateful for the memories we're making right now, right in the moment.  To see my kids' faces light up when they watch the fireworks (fortunately my girls are exhilarated by the sight) fills my heart with stars.  But, the stars wouldn't exist without the stripes.

As parents, we earn new stripes daily.  Some of these came in a literal sense, as the stretchmarked scars on my belly will prove.  But most come in the form of never-ending acts of love and kindness that parenthood forces you into enduring.  Yes, I would love to be the kind of person who willingly looks for new opportunities to think of others first and consider needs other than my own...but, I'm human, and that's much easier said than done.

Parenthood has given my ego more battle wounds than I ever thought my sense of self could withstand.    I get easily frustrated and impatient on an hourly basis, yet I'm constantly motivated to give more, be more, care more, love more.  Why?  Because my children fill my world with stars.  Stars that shine brighter and longer than any perfectly, beautiful memory I could ever imagine.  They create awe and wonder in my universe unlike anything else.

So, as you lather your kids up with sunscreen, take another helping of potato salad, and finally lay in bed tonight exhausted from making memories - take a second to look at the stars.  Your stars.  And be grateful for the stripes that make them possible.

Happy Fourth.

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