Home for the Holidays

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It has been as quiet as a mom with a sleeping baby around here lately.  And I’ve been as busy as . . .well . . . as a person can be.  :0)  And in the process of all this busy, I’ve contracted some sort of something.  I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s a whole bunch of up and down, sneeze and blow, rest and unrest, uugghh and uuuuurrrrrggggghhhh.  So I am saying a prayer for myself, my baby girls (who are actually getting much better by the day) and everyone else who may be getting over the uuurrggghhhs (you define what that is).  I certainly want to feel better, for good.  Next week I am making my way to my hometown to spend some time with my family.  I’m looking forward to wrapping my arms around my nieces and nephews.  There’s a juicy little dimple faced boy who looks just like my little sister when she was a baby.  Then there’s my other nephew with the golden ears which have been switched to the off position, for whom I’ve been brushing up on my sign language so that he and I can have a conversation and perhaps he’ll better know that I see him and I love him. The crew of what feels like scores of nieces each with their own tv variety personalities and a new, precious wonder of a girl who I cannot wait to hold in my arms for the first time.  Oh yes, I must get better!  So many joys ahead.

For some people, though, going home for the holidays is often a very sad and often painful time.  Since my parents are divorced, this used to be true for me.   I hated the idea of dividing up my time between the two houses and the stress that accompanied that type of planning.  Considerations flowed in and out of my mind in capital, oxblood red letters like breaking news scrolling across a ticker: I have to make sure I get to daddy’s house.  How will my mom feel while I am gone?  Will she feel alone or abandoned?  Will daddy feel like I spent enough time with him?  The whole thing could easily give me a case of the uuurrrggghhhsss!  For real.  It was very heart-wrenching and difficult for this people pleaser to feel as though there was no hope for me to make the people I care about the most, happy.  It was as though I was approaching Mt. Kilomanjaro in stilettos and a clutch bag without so much as a 4 oz. Deer Park for the journey.  I found myself praying off anxiety before each visit or just avoiding going home altogether.  And because I know that there are some of you who may be experiencing the same for similar reasons or reasons completely different from mine, I want to offer you hope.

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How about instead of thinking about all the dysfunction in your family, you take out a pen, right now, and jot down a list of thanks, to God, for anything and everything right about your family.  Before you roll your eyes and call me an idealistic Pollyanna wanna be just try it.  I really believe that in every family, there is some redeeming quality, some glimmer of hope, some semblance of goodness if we look hard enough.  And the alternative to seeing and appreciating the good is your misery and the risk of making an idol out of every grievance you legitimately have with each person in your family.  And we all know who so badly desires your misery . . .  So take a few moments and call forth the good.  Conjure it up.  And be careful not to allow your enemy to overshadow each sweet thought with a memory that negates it.  After you have a hefty list of only the sweet, thank God for each item and enter into a time of prayer asking Him for whatever it is you need to experience His joy and be a light for Him while with your family.

I am sincerely looking forward to going home to be with my family.  And I sincerely believe that it is going to be a beautiful time as we make new memories together.  And I am going to accept nothing less than that . . . and I challenge you to do the same.

Disclaimer:  Above are not pictures of a dysfunctional family . . . they are actually a very sweet family with dysfunctional tendencies.  :0)

The Network

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Verizon boasts to have one of the largest 3G cell phone networks available.  The cellular provider claims that no matter where you go in the United States, you will have coverage and, therefore, be able to both receive and make phone calls from your cellular device.  It’s a pretty grand offering.  Since my primary place of residence is somewhere between John’s barnyard and Mary’s farmhouse, I play “chase the signal” a few times a day as I move skittish throughout my house shouting, “Can you hear me?  Hello?  You there?  Can you hear now?  Hello?  Hello?  Wait, I can hear you!  Wait, don’t hang up!  Helloooooo!!”  :0/  Yea.  Oh what fun.  Clearly I don’t have the Verizon network.  But, it got me thinking about another network.

This weekend Huni had the great fortune of visiting his alma mater, North Carolina State University, to participate in a leadership panel.  On a whim and at the very last minute he convinced the girls and me to join him.  Whilst there, I had the great, good fortune of talking to and spending some time with family and friends.  During one conversation, I had a friend describe the latest happenings in her marvelous life (she wouldn’t describe it that way, but hey, that’s what friends are for!).   She told me that she and her roommates, three single ladies, are doing a study on purity together.  The other night one of the roommates led the time and it was phenomenal.  She told me about how she prays with a different friend in the mornings either before or after going to the gym.  The day that we were chatting she was tired after having a sleepover with a friend/colleague in support of two women who are currently raising financial support and preparing to go into full time ministry.  And there it was that she and I were talking, laughing, crying and reflecting together.  She does have a marvelous life, right!?!?

Since I live quite a distance away from all of my Frans, I was feeling quite sad after our conversation. I was like, man, how lucky you are to have all of these great connections and great women in your life.  And most of them are at your fingertips!  Comparison and self-pity are two venomous arrows in satan’s quiver.  He aims them right into your eyes, blinding you from the glory that surrounds you and somehow simultaneously highlighting someone else’s.

Sunday we went to our church.  I missed my favorite part of the service, praise and worship, I was tired from a restless night of tossing and turning and although I was happy to be there, I just wasn’t feeling it.  Honestly, I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed.  After service was over, I talked to a Fran from undergrad.  She’s so fabulous and always greets me with such a warm reception.  This time we were able to talk a little while longer than usual and she was just as sweet, gracious, funny and cool as ever.  As I finished my conversation with her, I looked up and saw a dear sister who I’ve intimately studied the word with over the past few years.  I was only able to give her a quick squeeze before a big sister in the faith came and squeezed the tears out of me.  Literally.  Just the sight of her brought a flood of tears.  Her prophetic wisdom knew that my tears were more than just the sight of her, so immediately she inquired for the real story, wiped away my tears and prayed for me.  Once we were done, I looked to the row directly below and there was yet another sister in the faith, looking at me compassionately, embracing me with her eyes, saying more than words could say as she offered me her home as a homebase for me and my girls whenever we came to town and wanted a change of scenery.  Later that night I hopped on OoVoo with Huni and we goofed, teased and chatted with some couples, the wives of which are more of my sisters  in the faith.  Together we shared some of the latest news in our lives and talked intently about how we saw the Lord calling us and directing our lives.  And this doesn’t include all of my Frans.  Only a handful.  Only a handful.

These women keep me grounded.  They know my heart, they know my hurts, they get my humor.  They love me, they enjoy me and they want me . . . just as I am yet they actively participate in my growth; they pour into me and root for me.  Even when I cannot wrap my arms around them, lay my eyes on them, or hear their sweet voices, I know that they are for me, thinking of me, praying for me.  I too have a marvelous life.  Not because of the things I have but, in part, because of my network.   All of these women are a way that God shows His love, concern and compassion for me.  They remind me that He sees me and He knows me.  No matter how lonely I feel, the truth is I have a network.  And it is sweet-potato-pie-with-whipped-cream-on-top-amazing.

What about you?  Who’s in your network?  How about showing them some love this week either via text, phone call, lunch date, good ole snail mail, or something free and simple like a stroll through your local Target?  The moment you start reaching out to each of them, you’ll receive an instant reminder of just how big and bountiful is your life.  And you’ll smile.  And your heart will feel all warm and fuzzy.  And it’ll be better than a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

Deep Breaths

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Note:  I know that not all of my readers are moms, but I need to take this mom moment anyway.

Today was a day, okay?!?!  Busy, like most days, but as I was texting with one of my sister-Frans earlier tonight, I described myself as an introvert living in an extroverted situation, daily.

I am a stay at home mom.

I prayed for this.  Which in itself is an irony because I was the girl who never wanted children.  I mean, never.  I thought that this would cause problems in my marriage because Huni wanted children the minute we said “I do” but I said, “Boy, NO!”  So he waited, patiently, as God worked on my heart and then gave it desires for beautiful babies.  Then God filled those desires twice over.  And when we discovered that we were preggers with the first, then got her in our arms, I knew immediately that I wanted to be like the Levite woman and hide her away (Exodus 1:2).  So, I prayed that the Lord would bless us financially so that I could stay home and care for my new baby girl.  I worked part time and kept praying.  Months passed and my belly became swollen once more with yet another sweet surprise and my prayers became more urgent and intense as I felt that my best was compromised because I gave a percentage of it away everyday when I went off to educate other people’s children.  And He did it.  He gave Huni a job through which He chooses to bless us with income that allows me to spend my days with my baby girls.

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Each week, I face hard days.  But each day, I enjoy sweet moments.  Every few hours, I have to repent.  But every second, if I pause to receive it, grace abounds.  I see myself and the lack of patience, gentleness and understanding with which I parent.  I mourn over not being able to get it right.   I crave alone time and give way to self entitlement so that at the end of the day when the girls are sleeping, I can selfishly say, this is finally MY time, please just let me have MY time (but sometimes I don’t say it that nicely).  Instead of reflecting on the joy and love I felt as the Levite woman, I become the garden woman, tempted by the crafty serpent to slap God’s hand away by looking to what I cannot have, ungrateful for all that presently I have (Genesis 3).  And so, combined with legitimate fatigue of the mind and body, my emotions weigh and sway to the ebb and flow of condemnation, to gratefulness, to discouragement about the outcome of today, to hope for a better outcome tomorrow.  But, God’s grace abounds.

Tonight I had a good talk with another of my sweeeeet sister-Frans.  We laughed.  I felt a little lighter after a hectic day and found, through my twitter feed, this little video here:  A New Perspective For Moms from Elevation Church on Vimeo.  It felt like God’s gracious reminder to me that satan loves to use our weaknesses to distract us and cause us to take our eyes off of the One who can make us strong.  Oh, that I would train myself to fix my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

To all moms (and all of you who hope to be moms, or know a mom, or have ever had a mom . . .):  Everyday is Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day to you.  My goal is to see myself more through God’s eyes, not my expectations and failings.  Will you join me?  As a wife, mom, daughter, granddaughter, sister, Fran, cousin . . . I won’t get it right every time.  But there is grace and God is good.  And in His grace and goodness, He will deal with me, and perfect me, and cover me so that He can receive the glory from every part of me.  Love you ladies!!  Through Christ, WE GOT THIS!!!  (Philippians 4:13)

Saturday Night Contemplations

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I think we are most self conscious when we are acutely others conscious. . .

Don’t punish self for crimes committed by others.

Awkward stares, rudeness, insensitive comments, misunderstandings, heartbreaks. . .

Even though you have good reason to, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Take heart. 
Our world is incomplete partly because we have so many impersonators and not nearly enough originals.

We need you.

The real you.

Then it occurred to me, many of us have spent so much time and energy trying to be something we’re not, or running from who we don’t want to become or trying to maintain an image or trying not to come off as weird … that we really don’t know who we are.  Some may try to shame you for this.  I say, congratulations. They say when you know better, you do better and now that you know, you have approached the passageway to a beautiful place called self discovery. It can be a lonely city; the names on the mailboxes of most of its citizens are Incognito and Inconspicuous.  Few people are willing to admit that as self assured and confident as they appear, it’s only a charade.

But it’s ok.

 Journey through your own adventure of self discovery. Take God with you. You’ll be a wilderness child spending unnecessary time going in circles if you choose to go without Him.  And as with everything I post here, this one is hitting home.  You won’t be alone. We’ll be neighbors.