Celebrate

Today is the day. It’s the last day of our never-ending spring break and the day before my boys head back to school. I should be excited, for both me and them, but I’m not. Instead, I’m swimming in an all too deep pool of anxiety and guilt.

I’m anxious, as I’m sure almost every parent is right now about the decision to send them back to school. We all want what’s best for our kids, and I’m sure that’s why we all feel the need to explain our decisions, virtual or in-person school, to anyone that asks what we’ll be doing this year. I’m also anxious because in true -why do today what you can put off until tomorrow- fashion, I’m buried beneath sorting school supplies, hoping at least some uniforms everyone, and shopping for school lunches, that I’m sure I’ll forget to pack until the last minute.

That leads straight into the guilt. Instead of enjoying this last weekend with them, I’m busy. Just like I’ve been for most of the time off. You see, the toughest part of all this, at least for me, is that my youngest starts kindergarten tomorrow. Instead of taking in all extra time with him, I’ve been busy and distracted. That’s what I tell myself, but the truth is just that I’m human. I’ve had a lot on my mind and my to-do list, and I’m not good at giving myself grace in that way.

The truth is, a lot of parents, myself included have been busy and distracted and have not really been given the time or permission to grieve things that our kids and ourselves have lost out on in the past 5 months. Yes, there are much bigger problems in the world than not being able to walk my last kindergartener in on his first day. I know that. That doesn’t mean these little ones don’t hurt our hearts too.

So today, I’m going to celebrate this tiny little tyrant that will be going to kindergarten in the morning, whether they’re ready for him or not. And I’m going to give myself time to take it all in. I’m going to give extra grace all around and then I’m going to get ready for a big fun morning and first day pictures and probably being a little late. I’m going to remember that God loves us all and He wants us to celebrate the good things in life. And I’m going to celebrate.

This Easter

I was thinking today as I was helping to get ready for our alternative Palm Sunday service, there’s never been an Easter like this.

There’s never been a Palm Sunday that I wasn’t almost unsuccessfully trying to herd a group of children into line, keep them somewhat quiet until it’s their time to go, and repeatedly saying, “Your palm leaf is not a weapon!”.

There’s never been an Easter that I wasn’t prepared at this point, or at least had a decent list of what was going in each Easter basket, with each kid specifically in mind.

There’s never been an Easter that I didn’t already have at least a few hundred eggs stuffed with candy and a plan (and rain plan) in place for an Easter morning egg hunt.

There’s never been an Easter that the plans for Holy Week weren’t already in place, with advertising done and everything ready to go.

There’s never been an Easter that our outfits weren’t already coordinated and purchased, ready for before church pictures.

There’s also never been an Easter that I’ve stopped and prayed this much leading up to Holy Week.

And there’s never been an Easter that I felt the tension and pain in the days before, more than the excitement.

And there’s never been an Easter that the concept of sacrifice was such a prevalent part of my preparations.

And there’s never been an Easter that made me look forward to the rebirth of everything around me quite like this one has.

So, maybe there has been an Easter kinda like this, I just never thought about it before now.

Rest

Today was so heavy. Much like yesterday, but even more so. That’s how everyday has felt for a while now – like an incredibly heavy weight that somehow grows each day. I see it in the actions of my boys as they try to understand their new reality. I see it in the texts from friends as they try to keep their own world spinning , while also checking in on each other. I see it in the emails from teachers as they obviously miss their students more each day. I see it in all the posts of everyone encouraging each other to get to the other side of this insanity. I see it in my face as I look in the mirror wondering how on earth I made it through this day. We all want to help. We all want to fix it. We all want to make everything ok for everyone we can. We’re all doing all we can, and then a little more. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this exhausted and this helpless all at the same time.

Today was the day it almost got too heavy. I made it through what I thought was the majority of my day, with little energy left when I found out I had a lot of work left to do. I help to direct a backpack ministry for local schools for my church. News came very late in the day that we would have a big job to tackle of providing food to families as the school district would no longer be able to because of health concerns. After making calls, making a plan, and engaging amazing volunteers, I started to melt. I felt so weak and the weight so heavy.

Then God yelled at me, as He often has to do, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). If I ever thought I was weary before, boy, was I wrong. This has to be the heaviest weight I’ve tried to carry so far – uncertainty, anxiety, fear, overwhelm, and exhaustion all at the same time. Even so, He wants it. God is offering to take it all from me and let me rest.

And that rest, that beautiful, peaceful rest is the only reason I will be able to get up and take on tomorrow and everything it has to throw my way. I am so thankful for the rest and the relief from the burdens of right now. I know that I will continue to need that for quite a while, and I’m so grateful it will never run out.

Feed them.

This last week has been approximately 932 days long and so exhausting and on top of that it was Daylight Saving day (which is an absolutely evil day to a parent and someone that adores sleep). Even though it’s the end of the weekend, I’m done. I’m talking possibly sleeping with my eyes open done. As I was trying to get my kids in bed, they asked to read the Bible story from Sunday school this morning. I half-heartedly agreed, because I knew they were stalling and knew I wouldn’t say no to reading the Bible, and asked which one. They said it was the story about Jesus feeding all the people.

If you need a refresher, a group of people found Jesus when He was trying to get some time alone. He healed them and taught them and then it was late. The disciples all said the people should leave because they didn’t have any food and the people were getting hungry (and I’m guessing a large group of hangry people didn’t look fun to the disciples). Jesus told the disciples to feed them, but they responded that they only had a little bread and fish. Jesus told them that was good and to feed them. The disciples did as they were told and had plenty, even leftovers. This was amazing because of how little they had and how many they were able to feed.

Well, tonight was the first night that this tired mama got it. As I sat with my boys, exhausted, I realized how many times this week alone I felt like I didn’t have enough. I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t have enough energy. I didn’t have enough enthusiasm. I didn’t have enough patience. But it turns out I did. Every time. Jesus needed me to feed them. All of them. And even though I felt like it just wasn’t going to be enough, I kept going and it was.

So when you’re done, really done, “can’t even” done, remember that you’re not. Jesus can take what little you have and make it more than enough to feed those that need it. And someone will.

Lunch

I took this photo at lunch a few weeks back. A lunch that I went to with 4 boys and me. I had taken them all to church by myself and survived, so I thought lunched sounded like a good idea too. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person walking into the restaurant with 4 boys, all ages nine to four. I’m sure the waiter wasn’t too happy to get our table. I’m sure the people beside us were a little skeptical too. I know I was. And I was feeling the glances and apprehension of anyone that looked our way. I was starting to get a little anxiety and a lot of regret for my decision.

But then something changed. As we sat down, they all started to settle in, and after deciding on lunch, they started talking. Y’all. I just sat and listened as this table of crazy boys discussed football teams and their opinions of the best quarterbacks. They talked about what they were going to do during Christmas break. They talked about what kind of cars they wanted to drive one day. They discussed their hopes and plans for the future. I kid you not, they started talking about where they wanted to go to college and what they wanted to do. They talked about how they would go together.

And all I could think during all of this, besides trying as hard as I could to cram in all into my memory, was that I could have missed this. I could have decided it would be too hard to bring them all by myself and just taken them home for a sandwich instead. Instead of sitting here and listening to this amazing conversation, I could be at home where they wouldn’t make a mess or cause a scene.

Turns out, they didn’t make (a big) mess or cause any trouble. They were amazing lunch dates. They let me see into their world and their thoughts and dreams. And I got to actually be there. Not there cooking and cleaning up and making sure they all had what they needed. Just be there.

And this is why. This is why I go all the places and do all the things and take all the chances with my crazy bunch. I want to experience as much with them and as much of them as I can. I want to fill my memory completely full with all the funny little stories and big ideas. They’ll only be with me for a little while and I want to make the most of it.

Oops.

We all make mistakes as parents, and if you’re like me, we all give ourselves a really hard time about it. I can make myself feel so bad about the smallest thing. The truth is usually that my kids didn’t even notice, but I did and I’m in big trouble with me.
As I said before, we all need to work on leading by example in giving ourselves a little grace. everyday. But this job of parenting is a big deal, right? It’s really something that we can’t mess up. We have to do everything we can to be as perfect as we can, right? God trusted us to raise these small humans and it’s a huge responsibility.
I had a new thought about this during Sunday School this week. We were talking about when Jesus was lost as a child and his parents found him at the temple. The story always focuses on Jesus going to learn and talk about God, even as a child. That’s what the kids were all talking about Sunday morning, but I started having a different thought.
What about Mary? Y’all, she lost Jesus. She had to have been in complete panic. And I bet she had some major mom-guilt. God didn’t just trust her with a small human, he trusted her with human Jesus. And she lost him! I’m sure she was questioning Him quite a lot while she was searching. She was pretty sure God picked the wrong person for this job.
I’ve had that thought before too. “God, you picked the wrong person for this. I’m gonna need to bow out.” But He didn’t. He didn’t pick the wrong mother for human Jesus and He didn’t pick the wrong parent for your baby either. Your mistakes are not anything He can’t handle.
Give yourself a little grace and continue to do your best. everyday.

New year, new you?

The new year is here and already rolling along. Everyone had plans of eating better, losing weight, exercising more, spending less time on screens, reading more, being present, and all the other super responsible things that sound like a great idea. How’s all that going? Are you still sticking to your resolutions three weeks in? A surprising amount of people have already given up at this point.
It’s amazing to me how hard it can be to change ourselves. It’s also amazing how much importance we give to these kinds of details about ourselves and not others. We really work hard to transform our appearance (and health, I know. It is important. I’m not saying it’s not.)
But how much effort do we put into transforming out spiritual health? How often do we have a resolution to be more forgiving? More patient? More loving? I’m sure some of us do, and that’s awesome.
But let me ask you another question. How often do we apply those things to ourselves? When we fall off the healthy-food wagon by mid-January, do we say, “that’s ok. You’ll get it figured out. Keep trying?” Or, do we beat ourselves up and think we can’t do it? Do we think to ourselves what a horrible parent we are for zoning out on our screens when we said we wouldn’t? Or do we just put it down and get right back on track?
My point in all of this is to say that whether it’s a resolution or not, we teach our children every day. We teach them not what we say, but what we do. And if we want to teach our children to be kind and forgiving, it starts with us. And it starts with how we treat ourselves. And it starts with making a point to give ourselves a break and show them it’s ok to mess up, start over, and do better.
So, this new year, I’m working towards a new me. Everyday.

Be Busy

I’ve heard several times, “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” While I don’t know how much I agree with the theology behind this statement, I do understand why it resonates with so many people. We’re told by culture today that being busy is a bad thing. If we’re busy, we’re not enjoying life, we’re not taking it all in, we’re not present. I know that this can be true, but I would like to present an argument against that sentiment completely. I would like to argue that busy is not a bad thing.

I’m almost always busy, and even when my body is not, my brain is. I am in a constant state of doing and have no idea what people mean when they say they are doing nothing or thinking about nothing. – Just to be clear, I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that people are different. – I don’t see myself as missing out on life because of it, quite the opposite. I think that I am getting the most out of life that I can. I think the trick to being busy without being wasteful is to always check your why.

God tells us to do his work. He wants us to be his hands and feet in the world. He wants us to love others and take care of them. He wants us to teach, lead, and help in any way we can. I have to believe that if we’re going to do that, we’re going to be busy. Even if each little thing we do is not some big, monumental task with amazing results, we’re still serving our purpose. We’re still busy with the work we were told to do.

For example, I spend a lot of time taking my kids places. If I were taking them places just to be there, I could understand, but I’m not. I have a purpose. I’m taking them places to learn a sport, learn to socialize with friends, learn to enjoy the church, or have a new experience in life. I’m trying to spend my years of influence with them in a productive way. I know that before too long, any idea I have will sound horrible to them, so I’m capitalizing now. While they still think I’m cool, I’m trying to love them with my time. I have a purpose behind my actions, and for the most part, the results are good. Rarely do I finish up time I spend being busy taking them places feeling like it was a waste.

I also spend a lot, and I mean a lot, of time taking care of my home. While this can feel a little bit like a waste with three little boys in the house, I argue that it’s not. They see all the time I spend cleaning up and doing things for them. They see service for others everyday. It doesn’t take long before they want to help and then learn to do the chore for themselves. I’m raising adults and I want them to know how to be independent. I want them to know how to take care of things they will need to do once they’re on their own. I also want them to see how important it is to help others whenever possible. Showing them how, and then helping them as they learn is the best way I have found to do this. I think it has a great purpose, and the results have been good. My boys can take care of several chores on their own now.

So many things in life fit into this category, and it’s hard to count in all as “being bad” when great results can be achieved. If your purpose is good and you are carrying out God’s work, I don’t see how busy is a problem at all. I would say that “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you blind to the good that you’re actually doing.”

Letting it slide

Summer is almost over, and oh, are my boys showing it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a lot of fun this summer. We went to the beach and the zoo, the park and the movies. We’ve been at the pool almost every day. We’ve played games, had sleep overs, went to birthday parties, and competed on swim team. We have stayed up late and got up early. We are all running on empty from all the fun we’ve had in the past 2 1/2 months. I’m not sure any of us have the energy to start school next week.
I’m pretty sure none of us have the energy to be on our best behavior anymore. We’re all out of patience and fighting nonstop a little too used to seeing the same faces each and every day. We love each other, we’re just in need of some new friends to spend our time with right now. I’m sure they will all be glad to be back with school friends and have a break from brothers.
Because of all this brotherly togetherness this summer, I have found myself becoming the queen of second chances (and third, fourth, tenth…). I’m continually letting my boys try again to get it right, show me they can behave, earn a reward, or escape a punishment. I know this may not be the best parenting tactic, but at the end of the summer, this mama is tired too.
I have to believe that even though we are suppose to teach our children discipline and self control and respect, we are also supposed to show them love and forgiveness. What better way to explain the way God loves than to show it every now and then? Maybe they weren’t quite up to the standard I set to receive that bribe reward I was offering, but if they tried, sometimes that counts. I know we’ll all have to buckle down once the school year starts and we get busy again. I know I can’t always let them slide and I’ll have to be tougher on them, but we have one week of summer left. And as many times a day as God grants me that love and forgiveness, I’m quite alright giving a little extra right now too.