I’m blessed to have retired parents and friends. In watching them, I’m more and more convinced that I don’t want to wait another 30 years to do what they do now. While I’m pretty sure a full time career is still in my long term future, there are 5 little things I can do now:
1. Think of others and act on it – even in little ways: This weekend I was so tickled to get a note from my mom. She cut out an article from a newspaper about a Cubs player and how he, his wife, and 3 kids make their Christian walk, marriage, career, and family work. She saw it, knew I’d like it, and sent it to me. I love that. I don’t need to wait till I “have more time” to actively encourage people. I have 15 minutes and $.48 for a stamp now. This – and chicken and dumplings. My Mother in law who is almost at retirement 😀 has a knack for filling Tupperware with meals that make our life easier. Never underestimate the beauty of spaghetti or chicken and dumplings!
2. Deeply value 1 day at a time: Maybe it’s the maturity and the wisdom birthed through trials and persevering. Or the simple fact that they see more people dying to remind them how temporary this earthly gig is. Retired people appreciate each day. Each outing. Each smile, conversation and hug they exchange is a big deal. I used to romanticize that if you retire “right,” then you have a rite of passage to pick up and travel to far away lands, take exotic adventures, and savor the unordinary. My parents delight in a daily trip to the YMCA to exercise, their local McDonalds for coffee, and relish sales at their neighborhood market. This is beautiful to me. This is just as “right.” This summer, I’ve spent more time counting the simple blessings and less time wondering if I’m doing summer right. Have my kids been encouraged, nurtured, stretched, blessed with fun family memories? I think so, but I’m not stressing on it. Instead, I’m taking joy in us watering our flowers, reading to them, admiring the blue of their eyes, and delighting in fresh tomatoes from the garden. Let’s be honest, they may also have eaten too much junk food, watched too much television, and slept late. I’m okay with it. I’m trying to initiate devotion to my husband now. Don’t wait till you have an empty nest to give that extra love tap or lingering kiss. Do it now. We burst out laughing the other day when our 4 year old remarked that Mommy and Daddy are married a lot. We are not sure what that means exactly but are taking it as a good thing.
3. Don’t do Guilt: Make the best, prayerful decision you can. Have you noticed that older people have a little extra spunk about them? They make a decision and kindly don’t give two flying figs about whether you agree to it or not. Sure, I like to keep the peace, but I don’t want to take an entire lifetime to bury people pleasing. Be genuine, do what you want with God in mind, and leave it at that. Some people will get you, some will not. Don’t do Guilt.
4. Stewardship is a priority: Maybe it is the finite reality of a set income, maybe the remnants of good spending to help them get to retirement, but these people know their money. They know what they have, where it goes, how much wiggle room they have, and what to avoid. It is such a shame that younger people get so caught up in earning money that they simultaneously have very little idea where their hard earned money goes. Or they focus on big toys that in reality, continually take big money to sustain. How true it is that godliness with contentment is great gain! And this requires an attitude adjustment, not a PhD. I wish I was excited about all the fine print on the glossy 401k brochures, but I’m not. It may as well be a different language to me. The more I medidtate on this topic, the more I see that stewardship is not an all or nothing situation in that you are really awesome at it or not. There is value, quite literally, in each good, small decision. Good, small, daily decisions over the next 30 years will lead to retirement. (Even if I don’t understand the 401(k) conversations).
5. Rest is not a 4 letter word: Older people don’t feel a need to justify rest. Rhythms of rest look different to each family, and for each season of life. The more I think and pray about what works in our house, rest keeps coming up on the radar. Life is too precious to spend the next 30 years wondering if taking a nap, declining an invite, or scheduling for health is okay.
Our garage currently holds several containers of recyclables, yard sale items (for like the past 8 months) and a couple of dead things that smell really, really badly.
The dead things are part of a happy memory. We took a family getaway to the seaside and couldn’t help but pick up too many sea shells and a couple of sea creatures – heroic almost, the way we scooped up that little crab while the birds circled over it.
Who balances a sand bucket between her feet filled with sea things, original sea water and sand for a 6+ hr ride home in a too stuffed Honda Civic and two little kids?
I know, that’s a little different. And now each time I walk out to our garage, I almost gag and smile. Truthfully, the pursuit of the now dead things was academic at the core – a science teacher friend asked for something cool to show her students when school is back in session. Who doesn’t want to dissect a crab, a shrimp,and whatever else that thing was?
Rhythm at is simplest definition is a strong, repeated pattern. Sometimes we don’t feel strong and even though we feel life moving – sometimes with us, sometimes without -we don’t recognize the pattern. Maybe we are not meant to right now.
I recently applied for credit in which the lender asked me, if I could remember, why I was 30 days late on a payment back in 2013? Well, let’s see, I’m chalking that one up to the fact that I had a baby that year. Then she asked me the same for 2014. I chalked that up to the first full year where I learned how to mother two babies at once and not one. So many long days of those short years where I didn’t know my rhythm.
It was there, we were there, I couldn’t always discern it in the moment. Figuring out the pattern of motherhood is a puzzling pursuit: I’ve now decided -Beats me. I just sway with it.
Each foray into the garage reminds me that each family has its rhythm – its movement and beat and atmosphere that defines us. Not every minute of every moment is a happy one. We won’t always understand the rhythm of ours or other families – and that’s okay. We don’t have to. Respect is an admirable goal, to always like or appreciate, perhaps just not realistic.
And sometimes we settle into a routine and sometimes we find new ones. I’ve stood by breathless as I’ve watched women, younger and older, bravely pursue their new rhythms after illness, divorce, death.
This Holiday as we enjoy our family times, my eyes and ears are keener to the rhythms that sustain us. I am grateful for each quiet moment where I can glimpse and value each simple beat of life and love repeating.
“She lives the poetry that she cannot write” – Oscar Wilde
I am 110% sure there is a book inside of me. I am a little fuzzy on the details of when and how I will write the thing. I suppose I am, in a not so literal sense, pregnant with this idea that also comes with an indefinite gestation period. Little by little it grows inside, forming, developing, maturing, and someday it will come out.
I often wonder, as “pregnant” as I am with this thing, what is keeping me from actually doing it. What causes me to wistfully tilt my head to the side and sigh when people ask “how’s the writing, working on anything now?”
And then I read the above Oscar Wilde quote and it clicked. I am so in the process of living right now. I am living out the very topics that fascinate me and inspire me to write – God, marriage, children, career, friendship, achievement, rest, crafting, wine and tea drinking, bubble bathing, scrap-booking. All the things that arrest my attention and keep me from my keyboard – I am living them now and therefore can not also as readily process and formulate and communicate.
My daily life is its own beautiful (and not so beautiful) grace filled prose. I simply can not be both my own protagonist and narrator. Not right now.
We constantly choose with a finite amount of time what occupies our hours. We continually asses what we want to do now. And what we want to do someday. It’s really hard to both fight the battle and report from the trenches. There is simply no shortcut to perspective.
But the day is coming. And so my hope is not deferred, my hope is in embracing the now. I am faithful for the future.
Someday, I would love to write everyday. I would also love to make an awesome homemade potato salad. I would love to learn how to knit. I would love to raise children that simultaneously love God, have clean underwear, and subside off more than hot dogs!
She cannot write – right now. Because she is living it. So I trust. I trust in this living and I trust that in time, this living gives birth to more.
Adulting is hard, this we know. It’s the reason we stash away cute little bottles of Moscato and Dove chocolates, fantasize about sleeping for an entire day, and huddle over a little plastic table commiserating with a girl friend at Monkey Joe’s.
There are 4 things that I figure are pretty darn motherly and responsible which are totally missed by our sweet cherubs. In fact, during some moments, I wonder if our 6 year old, who I really am fond of and adore, may let her head spin all the way around, inviting a darker being to emerge.
In honor of this week where we Georgians go back to school and routines start up again – just when do mine find me wicked?
- Flossing and brushing the teeth: I’m on the bandwagon, friends! Healthy gums are happy gums! I met a dental hygienist who converted me – and that enthusiasm has not yet spread throughout our entire household. I know it is inconvenient of me, as your mother, to ask you to push pause on your extremely busy life to keep your mouth open an extra 5 minutes. We’ll get thru this.
- Brushing of the hair: Yes. We have heard of tangle spray. We currently own 3 bottles. Yet, why, each night, do I feel like we are reenacting that particularly poignant scene from that 80’s movie, Mommie Dearest? I promise: no wire hangars, and yet, from the squeals, you would think differently.
- Encouraging you to wear your shoes on the right feet. I know, there used to be a time where I really didn’t care if you were wearing shoes at all. But I’m maturing. Help me help you. You walk funny because your feet are totally confused!
- Bathing/Changing clothes: Again, see point 3, in the beginning, we both smelled like milk, charming at first, and then too tiresome to care. There wasn’t energy to sweat the small stuff, and bathing was small. And then you crawled and toddled through germ land which was pretty gross so we bathed you frequently. Now, you can shower – like by yourself. I promise I am not asking you to solve the world’s problems, I’m just asking you to shower, just gently reminding you that clean underwear is NOT overrated.
Press on. Pick your battles. Hold Tight. Rest confidently in your priorities. We have this, Friends. I say these things to myself as I tuck in each night. And I reassure myself. It’s not like I’m Cruella De Vil. There are no cute little puppies smuggled away in obscure places. Dental floss – maybe – but no smuggled puppies.
Ask any adult that has logged a week at VBS and that about sums it up.
I grew up in rural New York State, not attending church on a regular basis. It wasn’t until my 30s when I started having my own kids that I even knew what Vacation Bible School is. And in the South, churches get down! Themed curriculum, scripts, materials lists, treats, discussions, it is no small thing.
We had a lot of fun helping with games this week, and in reflecting upon what I learned, it got kind of deep. I thought I was walking into a refresher course on “Jesus loves me, this I know,” and my heart was so encouraged beyond.
I cherish opportunities where I get to see our kids bonding with our adult friends at church. They need to be challenged and have fun and laugh and be pushed out of their comfort zones by adults other than Dad and I. They won’t be good at everything in life (who is?) but they can experience that our joy comes not from how well we do things, but from who We are in Him. The more people that can live out this concept with them, now, when they are young and impressionable, the better.
If you want to serve God’s Kingdom, He will find you. The last few years with two little kids and two working parents have seen many a daunting Sunday morning. The Spirit is willing, the body is weak, and that body wants to stay in bed. More times than not, we get there, but walking in wearily, I often don’t feel like I am contributing much to the Body. Can I help God’s Kingdom by balancing a wet sponge on my head at 7p on a Tuesday night with a passel of laughing 5th graders? YES! Church activities like VBS provide an opportunity to serve when the ‘usual’ times to serve seem tough.
Kids watch what we rearrange our schedules for, and for what we are willing to be inconvenienced. I’ll be real: for a lot of us, a week of VBS was not very practical. It meant 5 consecutive 14 hours days, leaving the house early for work and going right to the church and getting home late. It was a week of eating dinner late and more fast food than normal and my already minimal housecleaning routine was totally jacked. Our kids stayed up late, went to bed without baths when they were grimy, and were really tired in the mornings. But you know what? Having VBS this week stretched me to see that their spiritual growth is more important than a death grip on my so called schedule and my so called comfort. Their memories, their conversations in the car ride home, their night time prayers ‘thanking God that they got to go to church camp’ were all confirmations that tweaks to the schedule for the right activities are totally worth it. Kids are watching how we spend our time and for what we make our schedules flexible to accommodate.
A week of VBS takes a village. I am so glad to have been a part of one. It was designed to bless the young ones, but I think it did a lot of good for adult hearts too!
Public toilets: freaking out First World Parents of little ones for decades. I was recently in a bathroom of a local restaurant when I heard the all too familiar sounds: A gasp. A shrieking wail of disgust followed by minor hyperventilating. “OH MY GOD! DON’T TOUCH THAT! OR THAT! OR GET TOO CLOSE! YOU. ARE. TOO. CLOSE!” You might think there was a Hazmat team scouring for Ebola, but no, it is merely the curious pre-schooler tracing the outline of the toilet seat, enthralled with the flush handle. He has found that if the toilet paper holder is the shiny metal kind, he can stand there for days and make funny faces reflect back at him. And the more you tell him not to look, not take too long, to do his business and get out, the more he wants to stay a while. Mom, here is a painful truth – public toilets are actually pretty cool things. They are different than the toilets at home, thereby making them new and wonderful. Automatic flushers?! Oh My!
I remember when our first born was about 18 months, and it was summer and I was feeling a little summery confused – were we supposed to make magical family memories by taking beautiful vacations, isn’t that what people did? Particularly since my sweet hubby is a school teacher and has a few extra days off, I tend to feel a weird pressure each summer, like seriously, WE GOTTA MAKE THIS COUNT!! That particular week I was lamenting a trip to Disney World. We had stopped into Walmart for a late night diaper/beer run ( don’t judge, it happens). Our daughter followed me into the bathroom and behold: the automatic flusher. Glorious. It turned out we did not need to smooze with Mickey Mouse, that snarky Walmart toilet was entertainment enough! (We are still planning that family trip to Disney, when we have older children and less debt – employing that ‘everything beautiful in its own time’ concept :))
The point is, public restrooms and indoor plumbing in general are incredibly cool luxuries. While we sit in our multiple square footage abodes in comfy clothes and full bellies, there are children who do not have access to fresh water nor know what an indoor toilet is.
While I trust there are dangerous germs lurking there, and I do not encourage my child to lick the toilet, I want my kids to appreciate them, to marvel at them, to not take them for granted. We are so ridiculously rich to be able to poop inside!
It is about to be summer again, and a few days ago, I’ll admit I was feeling summery confused. This time it was for summer camps. In about a week we were covered with several summer camp options. Our oldest is 6, and yet I realized that we could quickly spend more money in summer camps than we do our mortgage! Apparently it is a booming business. Should we sign her up for math camp? (My hubby is a math teacher, it sounds like a good thing to do.) Latin? Jeopardy Junior training? I do get secretly competitive watching the National Spelling Bee, it can never be too early to teach her to purse her lips, wrinkle her nose and ask for the language of origin. Or, she seems to like soccer, maybe soccer camp?
And then, I am reminded of the toilet. And I see how much our kid has, even on our seemingly humble starter home, and middle class income. And I feel peace with deciding on one week of camp, and swimming lessons, and leaving plenty of unscheduled time for rest, extra trips to the library, cloud gazing, and laughter.
Our kids don’t need more and more, they need us to help them appreciate what they already have. The next time we are at Target and our kids see something they have to have, lets remind them of the toilet. Let’s genuinely take the time to explain that that they don’t precariously squat over a hole in the ground.
And this summer? Simple is okay. Leave a little extra wiggle room in the calendar for exploration and creativity…you never know, it may just be fun to take apart something, really learn how it works.
It may be that this summer is for the crapper -you know, really check how that cool toilet works!
“But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13b
I maneuvered the morning traffic, our 3 year old screamed his frustrations at the world while the sun shone brightly on our 6 year old’s head buried in a book. I was running close to the bell again. Someday, I thought, this-getting-kids ready-in-the mornings-thing is going to get easier.
I had just referred an all-out brawl between these two on who was going to turn off the TV. If you see our 3 year run out the front door screaming, it’s not because I’m beating him. It’s simply that I let his sister turn off the TV, or the light, or something else this time. Lord, these children are infinitely creative. They never cease to amaze me as to what they think to fight over.
After everyone was in their respective places, I power walked down the elementary school hallway to my car and the work day ahead. I tried to imagine what the voice mail that came in entailed. I have a stick shift, and a 3 year old, which pretty much means answering my phone while driving is nearly impossible. If I am not changing gears, then I am navigating endless questions, or on this morning, complaints. “Mommy, I am mad at you!” He declared. (To which I managed to calmly reply, “That’s okay honey that will happen, just keep moving, we are on a schedule….”)
I saw a little boy out of the corner of my eye. He had his full concentration focused on the flimsy Styrofoam breakfast tray he was carrying to his class. It happened in slow motion – his milk tumbling into his grits, his grits about to hit the floor. I rushed over and got there in the nick of time. “Can I help you out with that?” I offered. He just glanced up at me, readjusted his stow of goodies and proceeded on.
“I love you!” He replied over his shoulder. “I love the whole world!” One of the Special Education teachers came up then, and helped him on his course. My heart went out to him and his generous love offering. I thought of his mom, and his team of teachers and paraprofessionals. I don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes, but I applaud them and appreciate them. This kid must absorb a lot of love to want to so freely give it -reflecting so well what regularly shines on him. This little one: barely three feet tall, living out 1 Corinthians 13:13, walking in step with the greatest thing.
His morning routine is not punctuated with the passing of another Accelerated Reader test, or the mastery of arithmetic, or thoughts of after school activities. His morning is different, because he is different. This morning, though, it was not limitation I saw. Instead, it was a different ability that I fell witness to: the ability to so purely live out the greatest of these.