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)

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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)

The Show

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“Character refers to who you are.  Reputation refers to who people think you are.”

~Emily P. Freeman

So often we move and act, aware of the eyes that seek us out  . . . convinced that the eyes are ever present . . . “Girl, somebody is always watching . . . .”  We overact or prepare to perform without even knowing for sure if the audience is present and attentive.  This hyper awareness has the potential to have us spending money that we don’t have to impress people we don’t know.  It can have us posting to blogs and social media sites our every move, especially the really triumphant ones, executive producers of commercials and vignettes about the great lives we live.  So often this awareness makes us sensitive to the people we encounter daily, devoted family and adoring friends but it mutes and blurries the sovereign God and the conviction of His Holy Spirit.  The presence of people, our busy world, its persistent distractions–both beautiful and destructive–have a way of confusing what’s most important and therefore making us actors on the world’s stage.  At the end of the week, we look back and wonder at some of our decisions . . . or we fight our way through the week, each day a struggle like Rocky Balboa pulling that huge, heavy truck uphill, knee deep in snow, because the temptation brought on by the curtain call beckons us daily, and to keep focus, to keep true is harder than we realize.  Those of us who are most caught up in the performance have made it to Broadway.   People expect a version of ourselves that is not true.  They can calculate what we’ll do next and they know where to expect us.  Not because we are so predictable as much as it is because we have done such a good job at showing ourselves, making ourselves known.  At the end of a life, these people look back and wonder, “What was it all for?  Where has it all gone?”  Being careful to develop your character according to the Father by the instructions given in His word can produce similar results (as it pertains to a sort of predictability), but the actions are Christ-driven, the purpose is Christ-centered and reward is so much greater.  Living character-conscious takes care of reputation.  You don’t have to throw yourself in front of the spotlight . . .somehow it finds its way to you, like gravity . . . like the wind, they obey their laws and everything else flows naturally to its sway.

I received an Emmy for my role in the show.  Actually, I have a wall full.  No condemnation if you were my co-star.  Let’s pray for each other today, that we would look to the Master Director for our roles and lines.  Love and grace, Frans. xxoo

Five Minute Friday!

I have so missed this!  So glad to be joining the Five Minute Friday crew today!  Today’s word is “together.”  Five minutes.  One Word.  Here goes!

Together

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Mommy, may I have some water?

Mommy, I need to use the potty.

Mommy, what does frog mean?

Mommy, what are you doing?

Mommy?  Mommy?  Mommeeeeeee!  Mommy, I called you!

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I do dearly love those two little girls.  I get to spend my all day everyday with them.  It is a blessing and I know it full well.

When I go about my day doing laundry, or cleaning bathrooms, the cadence of their happy little feet mark time behind me, following diligently from room to room.  They volunteer to help even when there’s not much to do.  They RSVP to be by my side even when there has been no invitation extended.  If I sit, snuggled with a blanket, they take it as an open seat, and snuggle next to me.  They want to hold me.  They want to kiss me.  They want hugs.  They want me.

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And as much as I often want nothing more than a quiet moment to myself, I think to myself that one day, they will need the wisdom, love a listening ear and comfort of a mother.  They will need me, but if satan has his way, they may not want me.  I do not want to spend their little years having them practice being sent away to play or be otherwise engaged while mommy has a moment.  There will be moments I get to myself but for now I will love them. And I will enjoy us being . . . together.

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On Love . . .

on love . . .

Love heals.  Heals and liberates.  I use the word love, not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.” ~Maya Angelou in Mom & Me & Mom 

Thinking about when was the last time I loved on purpose . . . As a mom and a wife, most of the time my love is set on default; it’s just what I do.  Love is in every move I make, every sacrifice, every offering . . .the sweet good morning hugs and hellos, enthusiastically and  intently listening to the same story more than twice, giving lessons, watching movies with tired eyes and a heavy mind, embracing, caring, sharing . . .  But, I asked myself today as I reread this impactful, little passage, when was the last time I made love my ambition, purpose, aspiration, intent . . .my ulterior motive?  In this world of broken hearts and distracted minds, surely there’s someone in my life right now who needs me to consider this . . .and act on it . . .

illustration by my niece, Nazaria Metz

Support Staff

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It was a beautiful, bright, winter Saturday.  The kind where the air is crisp and wet, thick with the anticipation of some wintry mix threatening to keep everyone inside, fireside bound for the whole of the day.  Except the bright boldness of the sun dared anyone to mention inclement weather, as she spread all her rays out over the earth like a mama’s proud arms, welcoming her babies in to the warmth, love and comfort that only a mama can assure.  Yes, the sun was working her magic and wooing all of the women as they excitedly dressed and prepared to go and wish well another Darling, preparing herself to take on a new last name and a basket full of responsibilities to go along with it.  They were all so excited that though aware of the blue temperatures outside, they were motivated to be with her, share with her, celebrate her and tell her exactly how to be the best wife possible to this lucky man.  So excited they were, in fact, and having done this several times before for a friend, a niece, sister, cousin, that they got caught up in the excitement and familiarity of it all and forgot to consult with their their editor and manager about what they should say.  Surely He cares that much about us, to inform us on how to inform others about how to do His will?!?!  Yet they sauntered out there, laughing, playing happy games, conversing amongst themselves, sipping the sweet, inviting nectar of joy and eating the tenderly baked, enticing confections of comfort and started talking out of turn.  Their guards were down–which can be one of the worse times to speak aloud at all, especially in a group setting and especially when you haven’t spoken with your manager.

No, they weren’t rude or harsh, but they spoke more from their own heartaches and past mistakes rather than from truth.  And Darling, so eager to please and be the wife she felt her lover deserved, took it all in without a sieve.  She swallowed it all whole thinking that it’d be better to receive it all now, soak up the moment and try it out later to see for herself if these platters of advice from the kind, well-meaning women in her community, would lay softly on the palate of her intended.

Seeing that she was a hungry girl, and wanting her to do well in this call, they talked more and more and became braver in their offerings, leaving no room in the house untouched.  From the Kitchen to the laundry room to the bedroom, Darling was told exactly what her man would like and wouldn’t like, and how she should conduct herself if she wanted to stay married. Shucks, it got so good in there that even the younger, unmarried school girls started placing their offerings before her, as if they knew anything about this scared calling for themselves except for what they had been warned against or had seen played out in some version the Housewives franchise.  They meant well. . .

No one seemed to notice that Darling’s once bright, anxious, joyful eyes had now dropped to a half moon, wandering, listless stare.  And those that did notice figured that she was probably just getting tired and wanted to open gifts.

Not all of the talk was unproductive and unedited but one of the comments that I think dimmed her light a bit came from the back of the room, an auntie, older, respected, and thought to be wiser than most of them said,

 “Don’t tell your business.  If anything happens in your marriage, keep that between you and your husband.  Don’t tell people what’s going in your relationship because you’ll choose to forgive him and they won’t.”

If I were a betting woman, I would bet you that all across the world, there is some version of this same bit of advice being told to women all over the world.  But is it biblical?

It just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me.

Darling finds herself in the position of being recognized as that “good thing” that the gentleman has been searching for.  She is so excited about being with this man and so she sets out to plan her wedding, for some, the day of her dreams.  As she plans, she chooses the women who will stand closest to her on that day.  They smile, cry, tilt heads to the side, clutch hearts and prepare for months of sentimentality and love, anxious for the big day.  Then, after the day has come, they have all celebrated, eaten cake and burned it off with the Cupid Shuffle and the Electric Slide, the couple drives off into the sunset to live happily ever after . . . and the supporting cast members are supposed to just walk away and stay out of their business?

No.  I think we’ve got this all wrong.

I don’t believe that you should share your business with just anybody just as much as I believe that you shouldn’t have just anybody in your wedding.  Marriage is sacred and we should treat it as such from the moment we start dating.

The bible speaks often about community and how we are to conduct ourselves as we live in community with each other.  One example is in Galatians 6:2 encouraging us to: Carry each others burdens…”

I should be able to talk to a select few women in my life, or perhaps one woman, who is close to me, loves me, sincerely cares about me and my marriage when I am happy and when I am struggling to be the wife who respects her husband as I am called to do in Ephesians.  I should be able to go to her and trust that she will keep my confidence and lead me to the throne to receive help and healing for my heart, mind and marriage.

Now, to be clear, I do believe that our first move should always be toward the Lord, in prayer.  We shouldn’t ever get into the habit of running to friends and family for help when our God has already set Himself up as everything that we need.  But the place where most people get mixed up is in forgetting that God places people in our lives who we are to grow with.  He will often use people to show us His love for us, to show us His hand of provision, and even His hand of correction can come down through the people in our lives.  Don’t shut people out because you have been told to cover your relationship like a newborn child in the middle of a war zone.  Be wise about the people you have in your life, and trust God to use them to lead you into His call for you, which is holiness.

I have some of the most amazing women in my life.   Truly.  They love me.  They like me.  They applaud me but they also challenge me.  They know who I am and they know that I aspire to be pleasing to God, so they never let me compromise that. I am free to pitch a 60 second fit but they are are there, one (and sometimes two) at a time, to gently get my head back in the game and get back on point.  They are consistent as I parent, in my friendships, my work, relationships, goals, and yes, my marriage.

I think that we should talk more about this and unravel it a bit more.  We’ve got to debunk this myth and see what the Lord has to say about it.  While it has some value for keeping the sanctity of your marriage, I believe that it has taken a turn and put more of us in bondage than anything else.  I believe that there is a reader who needs to be free and know that she just may have someone in her life that she can be completely transparent with about her marriage, to the glory of God and the edification of her and her husband.  I also believe that for some of us, it runs a little deeper and we need to clean house and get some new Frans ’cause the ones we have on staff have taken an extended, paid vacation.

Tonight I Tripped Over a Barbie Doll

It was pitch black dark in the den.  After a long day, tired and frustrated I was making my way down to the breakfast room for some sense to be talked into me.  For some words of prayer to be spoken over me.  And there she was.  Just a smiling.  All sprawled out on the hardwood floor like that’s where she belonged.  Like I was in her way.  Of course because it was dark, I got a little nervous about what exactly was lying on the floor that sent my feet into an impromptu jig that could have rendered my body bruised and scratched tonight.

Then I realized it was her.  And a funny thing happened.

I didn’t get mad.  I didn’t think about how she got left there or who it was that should have picked her up.  I fought the temptation to use that as a time to run that movie in my mind where I play the thankless mom who cleans up after the girls and cares for the huni and am often overlooked.  Because it’s a reality show that plays on repeat in my head most days.

But not tonight.

My immediate thought was gratitude and thankfulness.  I smiled at that ole barbie.  Because I thought about my little girls and the great joy that they bring me everyday.  I thought about how much fun I have playing with them and how much happiness I receive when they are happy.  And let me tell you, after a day like today when we run out of time for afternoon naps and have to endure each other in our sleepiest, crankiest of states, these were gooooood thoughts to dwell on.  And a sure blessing from God and a sign of His growing me that these were among the first thoughts to spring into my psyche.

This job of being mom and wife is hard.  And everyday carries with it a new challenge, a new opportunity for me to get over myself and enjoy this life I have been given, to see my children and husband as gifts, not burdens and to realize that I am so blessed to have this family of mine.  On the sunny days and the rainy ones.  While the babies are napping and when they’re running off of remnants of last night’s sleep.  Oh, Pamela.  That you would count it all joy.

Tonight I tripped over a barbie doll and instead of wanting to throw her out of the nearest window, I smiled, placed her in her “bed,” and thanked God for the little girls who clamor to play with her each day.

Rock on all you wives and mamas out there.  You are never overlooked.  He longs to be gracious to you and He always sees you.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

Marriage Letters: On Transition

Huni, Huni, HUNI!!!

Transition?  Huh!  It’s the story of our lives, right?!?!  We’ve been transitioning since the moment we decided to change almost everything and move our family farther away from our will for our lives and closer to His.  Every conversation had, every decision made, every box packed, every box unpacked, each tear of joy and sorrow, each goodbye and each hello, all have been another part of our transition story.  It’s been bittersweet, but it’s been a journey that both of us are so moved by, daily.

Ironically, I think that’s what has made this transition hardest for me– the “dailyness” of it all.  I haven’t began to feel yet like the transition is over.  Cool thing that happened today was that I started to feel some of my motives changing and, as a result, I gained a bit of new strength accompanied by some new brain juice to fight with.  That was really cool, really, sweet and really, very needed.  For as much as as we can realize that in the center of His will is the safest place, and for as much as we encourage each other on to great works, I am searching for level ground.  I am looking for the waves to rest and the boat to stop rocking with such a rowdy sway.  I don’t know all of what God is trying to do in us, but I do know that He is trying to make us stronger and more effective.

In the meantime, I have needed you and I have needed for our connection to be strong, steady, comforting, joyful.  I have needed you to be a place of comfort and consistency among all of the change.  Thinking about what I need and alllllll of the conversations we’ve had in efforts to make this transition smoother makes me think about what we’ve learned in this process.  Well, what have we learned, Huni?  If the Lord were to send us another couple that was transitioning in anyway, what would our testimony be at this point?  What would we tell them?  How would we encourage them?  Let’s not waste this opportunity.  transition and its tremors are often the demise of many unions.  Let’s begin to get this figured out.  I have a feeling that searching through it and getting an understanding of ourselves in this season will yield fruit not only for others transitioning, but for us.  Right now.  This sounds like a date night conversation!!!  no?  ok, lemme know!!  I love me some you!!!!!

pamela t.

The Sunday Community: Proverbs 17:6

 Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children.

Proverbs 17:6 (NIV)

Happy Grandparents Day, Grandma, Granddaddy, Nana Phee, PawPaw, GG, and GG Mama!  We count it a sheer blessing to have so many of you to celebrate today and we love you.

~Izzie, Ava, Emmanuel & Pamela

  Please join me and The Sunday Community at Jumping Tandem for more of God’s word and inspiration.