How to be the Non-Perfect Mommy

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It’s one thing for me to tell you all that I’m crazy.

It’s another thing entirely to have people witness it in real time.

There’s an unwritten rule where I work that goes something like this – never put your words into writing, then they can’t come back to bite you.  Once you write it down, there is proof that you said it.  Otherwise, it’s simply your word against someone else’s.

While that may be true, watching my craziness in action will take that to a whole different level.  It’s more like a spectator sport – so much more exciting to watch in person than to read about online or in the paper.  You can see the play-by-play as it happens!

I want to offer congratulations to my extended family for getting to witness my craziness first-hand this past weekend.  Or maybe I should give my apologies instead. . . .

My father belongs to a hunting cabin in the remote Pennsylvania mountain town of Renovo.  For as long as I can remember we made a weekend trip every year during the summer with my Dad’s cousin and his kids.  Up until I graduated high school, we were like one big family.  Those kids were like my siblings, their parents like my second set.

Once we “kids” became adults, those trips fell by the wayside and for many years, I barely spoke to any of them.  However, since the birth of our own children, the families have begun seeing more of each other and spending more time together.  We’ve managed to spend a weekend at the cabin together for the past three summers.

While it’s been fun to see them again, it’s a whole new ball game when I’ve got two small children to run after.  This year we traveled with a 5 year old, a 4 year old and a 20 month old.  The four and five year old play well together and are mostly self sufficient.  Despite the constant running and shrieking and occasional arguments over the proper way to play with a tractor  :-p , having them along is a great way to remember the good times I had as a kid.

However, my “baby” is the kink in this idyllic little tale.  She’s smart as a whip and wants to do everything her big sister does.  She’s pretty good at keeping up, for the most part.  It’s the times when you need to tell her no that the stuff hits the fan.

She throws world-class temper-tantrums, can yell loud enough to make you wince, and isn’t afraid to ignore or defy your instructions.  My family got to see all this in 3-D this weekend.  They had a good laugh when she started climbing the stairs to the second floor and I told her I would count to three before I spanked her butt.  I got to two and she promptly turned to look at me, saying, “Three. . . four. . .” and then kept on climbing.  All with a smile.

Aargh!

I have to admit, I laughed too, but she still got her rear end spanked.

It wasn’t this one little incident that sent me over the edge.  It was two days filled with these kinds of incidents and the feeling that I need to constantly be hovering over or following her to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself or do something gross, like lick the toilets! While I love my kids, I also love to sit down every now and then.

The “Monster Mommy” persona took over as we were getting ready to leave Sunday.  I managed to keep my cool (for the most part) all weekend, even through the repacking of our bags and the car.  My family so graciously kept an eye on the children while my husband and I made countless trips out to the car (in the rain!) to pack up our stuff.  It was that moment when we were done and I had the silly thought to sit down for a minute that I heard this:  “Okay, kids, let’s go out.  No playing in the bathroom.”

My ears instantly perked up and I scanned the room, watching my cousin emerge from the bathroom with my five-year-old in tow. My youngest was nowhere to be found and I knew immediately that she was still in the bathroom, most likely licking the toilets.

One would think that after spending the weekend with her, my family would have realized you can’t just tell Ella something and expect her to do it.  No, you have to watch her, repeat yourself, and then drag her away kicking and screaming.

So, I marched over to the bathroom, praying I wouldn’t see what I knew I would.  Sure enough, there she stood, reaching into the toilet bowl.

I lost it.  Who exactly I was mad at, I’m not sure.  Ella, for one, because she’s got to get into EVERYTHING!  My cousin, for walking away and leaving her unattended in the bathroom.  Myself, for being a bad mom and not keeping better track of my kids.

Doesn’t matter.  I yelled at Ella, snatched her up and made a beeline for some soap to wash all the icky potty germs from her hands before she stuck them in her mouth.  Because you know she would!

This was accompanied by some grumblings to anyone who could hear me that it is NOT acceptable to leave Ella unattended, especially in a bathroom!

I got some funny looks, mostly of the kind that said, “Why are you acting like a nut job?”

WHY?

Because my kids drive me nuts!  Because I’ve spent the last five and a half years doing nothing but cleaning up messes and doling out instructions only to be ignored by my children.

I don’t enjoy cleaning.  I don’t enjoy repeating myself endlessly.  I don’t enjoy being ignored.

Ugh!

Of course, by the time I got home, I felt like the bad guy because I had lost my temper.  I feel like they all looked at me like I was a terrible mother and they were thankful we were going home because they didn’t want to put up with me any longer.

I get that feeling a lot, like I’m a failure at being a Mom.

You know what?  Screw that!

The bottom line is, I am who I am.  I bring certain strengths and weaknesses to the table and they are going to be different than everyone else’s.   I reach the end of my limits much sooner than some people do and I expect more of my extremely intelligent children than other’s do.

I used to be that person who judged other Moms – thinking how they just needed to do things this way or that, that they just needed to have more patience or give more hugs.

Then I had kids.

I challenge anyone to spend twenty-four hours with my kids.  Then, if you want to tell me how to be a mother, go right ahead.

My point for all you other Moms out there who struggle with the image of being a “good mommy” – God made you to be exactly who you are and he doesn’t want you to be anyone else.

He knows our weaknesses, because he gave them to us.  It’s when we embrace them and ask Him to use us anyway that we’re set free.

One of my biggest weaknesses is impatience.  Ask anyone who’s ever met me.

Another is my temper.  I have a short fuse and my kids are pros at lighting it.

That’s why when I rock my baby to sleep at night, my prayers usually go something like this – “Lord, please don’t let me screw my kids up.  Help them to understand that I’m trying and that I love them.”

No one is perfect, so don’t think you need to be.  Know you’re weaknesses, but don’t be defeated by them.  Own up to them, but don’t be judged by them.

You’ve got plenty of strengths too.  God can and will use them both.

To my family – I’m sorry you had to witness Monster Mommy.  I’m not sorry for who I am.  Hopefully you’ll love me anyway.

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Pursuing Your Passion

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I wish I had known when I was young that I would grow to love writing so much.  More than that, I wish those who’d recognized my talent/passion would’ve encouraged me to pursue it and helped put me on a path that would help it flourish in the future.  Instead I ended up majoring in Nutrition and graduated with both a B.S. and an M.S. in the field.

I do enjoy my job with the WIC Program – I like the aspects of nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy and childhood.  After ten years in this specific field, I’m pretty darn good at my job.

But it’s not my passion.  I don’t go home still thirsting to learn more about nutrition.

Instead I spend my down time working over plots or character sketches or simply writing a story.

This true passionate talent gets relegated to the back burner because I pursued something else.

I’m 100% positive I’m not the only one.

I think it’s silly that those of us who choose to pursue a college education are expected to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives at the tender age of 18.  At that point in life we barely have our heads screwed on straight.  All we’re looking forward to is the chance to have freedom from Mom and Dad.

Granted, there are a few who know their passion and pursue it in four years and leave the rest of us in the dust.  It took me a whole semester just to decide to major in Nutrition.  Now, two degrees and thousands of dollars later, I wish I hadn’t wasted the time or money.

My hope now is that I can look at my girls as they grow, see what they’re both good at and truly passionate about, and encourage them to pursue that.  I want them to enjoy what they do and feel fulfilled by it.

This concept isn’t new and I think more parents need to pay attention to it.

When I got married I quickly discovered that one of my Mother-in-Laws favorite scripture passages is Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  At the time, my brother-in-law was a rather wild and rebellious soul and I think she clung to this verse hoping that it meant he would someday accept the much more conservative principles of her own faith.

In some ways, she’s right.  As Christians we are in charge of spreading the gospel to our kids.  It is then their responsibility to believe or not believe.

But this verse means so much more.  I didn’t dig any deeper until I picked up a Max Lucado book and he spent an entire chapter devoted to this one verse.  His interpretation of the scripture meant something entirely different.  He charged parents instead to help their kids discover their talents, to find what they are good at, passionate about, and built for.  Then we are to take every opportunity we can to let them practice and hone that skill so that they can carry it into old age.

There are many translations of that verse, some helping to see this viewpoint better than others:
“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.”  The Living Bible
“Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.”  The Message
“Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.”  New Life Version
“Teach a child how to follow the right way; even when he is old, he will stay on course.”  The Voice

They all speak of a path or a course or a direction – and most assume that means the straight and narrow walk to Heaven.  However, it can also mean the direction of their life in general.  Help them discover who God created them to be.  We are all parts of one Body, that of Jesus Christ, and we all have different skills and assignments.  It is our job as parents to help our kids discover what God created them to do and be.  Beyond that, we need to put them on a course that allows them to use their talent to glorify God.

I only started taking my writing seriously when I turned 30.  For our anniversary my husband bought me a laptop and said, “I expect you to use that to write.  You’re good at it.  So do it.”

No one had ever said that to me before.  People humored me.  Some even read my books and told me they liked it or thought I was a good writer.  But no one ever pushed me to pursue it or helped me find the means to do so.

I had been writing for 19 years by that point, but only in the past five have I allowed my words free reign for the world to see.

Now when people ask me to define myself it rolls off my tongue without hesitation or embarrassment – “I’m a writer.”

I want my kids to have that kind of confidence from the start.  I want them to embrace and be proud of the person God made them to be.   So between all the temper tantrums and dirty diapers, spilled sippy cups and mountains of toys, I am quietly observing who they are.  What makes them tick?  What do they show a natural talent and interest in?

Those are the things I want them to pursue.

Though I may lament lost time and opportunities, I’m still thankful that I finally found someone who convinced me to take myself seriously.  Better late than never.  Even though I haven’t achieved “traditional success” – meaning I’m not published in print or in electronic form – I still feel like I’ve accomplished something for God.  I haven’t wasted my talent.

I have five complete novels posted on WattPad and all five of them are quickly and quietly racking up readers.  All but one of them focuses on a person’s journey to God – whether through grief, fear, anger or unforgiveness.  Better than the numbers and the followers are the comments I’ve garnered from my readers.

God is using my words to tell His story and people are responding to that.

Two of the best comments I’ve received were these:

“Absolutely loved the story line, the flow and character descriptions. You did a good job manipulating my emotions and reminding me of the various tough times that I just couldn’t pray or believe. Grief is not an easy road for many. You were quite effective in answering many grief related questions that people normally ask. All in all, this was an excellent story! This story is truly one of those hidden gems on Watt Pad. Keep up the awesome work!”

“The two stories I’ve read of yours have been a wealth of knowledge for me.  I’ve learned more about God and it’s given me some peace.  Your stories are excellent tools of learning and I hope you write more.  When Gabby threw the Bible I felt the pain rip through me too.  Thank you for beautiful stories of such deep faith.  I’ll treasure all I’ve learned.”

I have three goals when I sit down to write:
1.  Write real and raw.
2.  Point back to the source of my gift – God.
3.  Get it read.

I’ve accomplished those things with every single one and that makes me proud.

I don’t know it all and I’ve still got plenty of learning of my own to do.  But even in the middle of my mess – this crazy, insane, and totally brain-squashing thing called Motherhood – He’s still using me.

We’ve all got a gift or a talent, a passion that drives us.  Harness it.  Thank God for it and figure out how to use it to spread His message.

Beyond that, help your children learn who they are so they can do those things too.

 

*All scripture references were taken from BibleGateway.com*

*Max Lucado reference is taken from Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot*

I’m not Gay – but I might as well be!

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This post has nothing to do with parenting.  (Unless maybe you’re a parent with gay children.)

I typically refrain from discussing or debating religion or politics beyond how my faith effects my life.  I am deeply routed in my beliefs and I feel that my faith, when practiced as intended, can change people for good.  I don’t feel the need to push it on other people or think that everyone must believe what I believe.  I’ll tell you if you want to hear, but in the end, we’ll all find out one way or the other when we die.

All that being said, there is something that’s been on my mind and heart for a while and it has only intensified with the decision for Pennsylvania to legalize gay marriage.

I don’t have many gay friends and I have even fewer who claim to be gay and Christian.  Two in particular have challenged my faith and my opinions on being gay.  One has been openly homosexual for as long as I’ve known him.  He’s also been openly Christian.  He directs the choir at my church and seems more sincere than some of the straight people sitting in the pews.  I never question that he deeply believes the message of Christ as Savior.

Recently I watched a friend who has been raised in a highly religious family his whole life, who married and had two beautiful daughters, and who was active enough in his church that he released praise music on his own worship CD – declare that he is gay. It didn’t surprise me one bit.  Many of us close to him had wondered that very thing for as long as we’ve known him.  It had to be the hardest decision of his life to throw that all away and tell the truth.  Where his faith stands now, I’m not sure.  But I certainly hope he didn’t give up on it.

What is my opinion on homosexuality?

I don’t believe that when God created Eve for Adam and instituted the covenant of marriage he ever intended that union to become homosexual.

But then God didn’t intend for our world to be the way it is now.  Period.

Adam and Eve made the decision to defy God’s plan and instruction and that same mentality has followed for generations.  He created us as creatures with free will, wanting us to choose to love and obey Him.  He hasn’t forced us to do anything.  We didn’t want Him, so he stepped back and said, okay.  Have it your way.

We’ve been dealing with the consequences ever since.

I don’t have any answers for why homosexuality exists.  I just know that it does.  And I also know that it is not my place to pass judgment or declare that these people are going to hell.  Their relationship with God is theirs and theirs alone.  The only commandment I have is to love.  And that’s what I do.  I will not condemn gay people.  I will support their rights as human beings.

Truly, though, my opinions on the matter aren’t the important part.

This is:

What if it doesn’t matter?

What if THE only thing that matters is our acceptance of Christ?

What if it doesn’t matter how we live our life or how many good things we do in His name or how many people we lead to Christ?

Christ told that thief on the cross that because he believed in Him, he would be with Christ that day in paradise.  Up until that point that thief had lived a life of crime and evil.  He did NOTHING to deserve it.  He spent his entire life sinning.  Yet Christ promised to take him to Heaven.

My mind has been blown by this concept recently as I’ve been opened up to it’s implications in a way I never understood before.

Mercy Me has a new song out called Wishful Thinking and it has certainly got me thinking.  Here are a few of the lyrics:

Lord, is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are
I’m feeling foolish, yet relieved as well
‘Cause what I bought before I just can’t sell
But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong I don’t wanna be right

 Could it be that on my worst day
How You love me simply will not change
What if it’s really not about what I do but what You did
Or what if
This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is

(Read more: Mercy Me – Wishful Thinking Lyrics | MetroLyrics )

To put it simply – what if it doesn’t matter whether we’re straight or gay, healer or murderer, do-gooder or couch-sitter?

What if the ONLY thing that matters is that Christ loves us because he wants to no matter what?

What if the ONLY thing that matters in our quest for Heaven is that we declare our acceptance of Christ?

What if all of us “Christians” who have worked our whole lives to be good and seek Him and live our lives for Him get to Heaven and find ourselves sharing space with gay people, murderers, thieves, abusers, drunks . . . . .(you name it)?

What if all our religious rules and opinions and doctrine mean absolutely nothing?

What if God doesn’t care that you’ve lived your whole life gay – as long as you profess Christ as Savior, He’ll take you into Heaven?

MIND. BLOWN.

Here’s what I’ve concluded – I don’t have all the answers and I never will.  What I do know is that God doesn’t rank sin.  Some people may look at gays and say “They can’t go to Heaven, they haven’t repented of their sins.”  I say, let those without sin throw the first stone.

I may not be gay but I deal with other things – impure thoughts, coveting the immaterial, selfishness, rudeness, unforgiveness. . . . I could keep going.

In the end sin is sin.  And if Christ says I get to Heaven in spite of all that then why can’t gay people get to Heaven in spite of their homosexuality?

STOP JUDGING!

STOP ACTING LIKE YOU’VE GOT GOD ALL FIGURED OUT!

If you claim to be a Christian and claim to have accepted Christ into your life then start acting like He did – befriend the sinners, love your neighbors, and change the only thing you can – yourself!

Bring Back Our Girls

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I first saw this slogan while scrolling through my news feed on Facebook.  Emma Watson (any other Harry Potter fans out there?) had written it on a piece of paper and then took a photo of herself holding it.

10313837_869269056425319_7438102736117514391_n[1]    (photo courtesy of: https://www.facebook.com/emmawatson)

Honestly, I had no idea what it was about and I didn’t have the time to care.  Celebrities are always petitioning a cause of some sort or another and, while I hurt for the world at large because I know that bad stuff happens every day, I can’t make the time to care about everything.

If you’ve read ANY of my posts you know I barely keep my head above water in my own home.

However, these words came back around and this time they struck like a slap in the face.

I subscribe to a blog (the link is on my menu) of a mother who volunteers for a mission in Kenya called Mercy House.  I didn’t start reading it because I was interested in the missions, I read it because she gives great advice on raising children and cultivating marriage.  The mission stuff just slips in every now and then.

This time though, she posted about the young women at Mercy House and how easily it could have been those girls who’d been kidnapped while no one cared.  And then I realized that the cry of Bring Back Our Girls could very easily be mine as well.

You see, my husband and I recently attended a Casting Crowns concert at which God placed on our hearts the desire to sponsor a child through World Vision.  We requested a child the same age as our five-year-old, hoping that having a “sister” in need would open her eyes and heart to the concepts of compassion and service.

Brilliant

This little girl lives in Africa.

This little girl could be one of those girls – maybe not this time but some time.

Suddenly I cared.

I’ve never met Brilliant.  She’s never heard my voice and I’ve never heard hers.  Chances are we never will. But from the moment we decided to sponsor her she became mine.  Every extra penny that I used to divide in two for my daughters’ piggy banks now gets divided in three.  Every night when I rock my youngest to sleep and take the chance to pray for them, I pray for Brilliant.

My few dollars every month may go a long way to help cultivate her village.  It’ll put food in her belly, clothes on her back and shelter over her head.  But it will not keep her safe from the violence and disrespect that proliferates in her country and on her continent.

Only God can do that.

Instead of crying out to Him to “Bring Back Our Girls”, I cry out for Him to keep her safe in the first place.  Shield her and protect her from the evils of this world and the hands of people who would want to hurt her, use her, demean her, enslave her, or even kill her.

I can’t care about everything.

Neither can you.

But you can care about something.

Something other than yourself and the things you desire.  Extend yourself.  Give of yourself.  Take the time to care about someone else.  It doesn’t have to be a woman in Africa.  Most of us need look no further than across the street or across our desk.

Please don’t ignore those hurting in this world or think that you don’t have the time to care.  Don’t be like me and become blinded by the overwhelming amount of people who need love and mercy.   Instead, take a step back and look at all the stuff you do have.  Be thankful for it and then resolve to share those blessings with someone who has none.

YOU may become their blessing.

 

Happy Day-After Mother’s Day

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I’m a little late to say a genuine Happy Mother’s Day.  Forgive me . . .I was in the car for 11 hours over the weekend, coming home from a blissful vacation in the Outer Banks.

We decided to break the trip into two days since the idea of a nine hour trip in one day didn’t sound appealing.  We did that on the way down, none of us had the desire to do it on the way back.  My husband and I thought it would be easier, make the trip home a bit more enjoyable.

WHOA BOY!  Let me tell you about the first half of the trip:

5 hours turned into 7 hours.

We hit rain in Norfolk while we sat in a 6.5 mile backup outside the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel – and I’m not talking a Spring shower.  I’m talking black skies, lightning, and rain so heavy the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up.

Once we cleared the tunnel we ended up sitting in traffic AGAIN to clear an accident scene – which my husband and I both cringed over when we passed it.  I sent prayers to Heaven because it was one of those that made you sure someone had died.

When traffic started to back up again we decided to take a break and stop for dinner.  We gassed up our bellies and our car, then hit the road.  I mistakenly thought it would be smooth sailing until we hit yet MORE TRAFFIC due to ANOTHER ACCIDENT!

By now my 18 month-old has decided to start screaming in the back seat – so much so and for so long that she vomits on herself.  YAY!  Finally, my husband whips out the Veggie Tales DVDs and this seems to appease her for a while.

When we passed a digital road sign warning us of yet ANOTHER accident 9 miles ahead I thought for sure God had it in for me.  This was the Praxis of all tests of patience and I was quickly losing the desire to pass!  Thankfully, we made a detour off 95 to a smaller road and made it to our hotel seconds before my daughter decided to have another melt down.

With a mediocre night’s sleep and breakfast in our bellies we hit the road again the next morning – and thankfully Sunday’s trip was sunny and peaceful.

I didn’t get any Mother’s Day presents – other than a hug and kiss from my 5-year-old.   It didn’t really faze me as I’d been on the road for so long that the only present I wanted was to be out of the car!  Honestly, for most of the day, I forgot it was even Mother’s Day.  That was until my daughter decided to poop her pants mere minutes after we pulled onto the highway from a stop at Sheetz.

Really?  You couldn’t have done this five minutes ago?

So, once we were sure she was finished, we pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot and did a quick change-a-roo in the front seat.  It was as I attempted to put a clean diaper on the baby’s behind that the man who had parked next to us emerged from the restaurant.  He took one look at what was happening, gave me a grin, and quickly offered a “Happy Mother’s Day!”

The moment caught me so off-guard that I had to laugh as I said thank-you.  The longer I thought about it though, the more I felt like it was the first genuine Mother’s Day greeting I’ve ever gotten.

Sure, the cards and flowers and presents are nice.  But that’s not what Mother’s Day is about.  Being a Mom is about the nitty-gritty, dirty, INSANE work of raising children.  It’s about changing diapers in McDonald’s parking lots and listening to your child scream for an hour straight while you drive through a rain storm.  It’s about buying them toys instead of getting yourself a new wine glass, feeding them first while your food gets cold, waking up at the crack of dawn EVERY MORNING on vacation. . . . and all that other stuff that equals sacrifice and putting yourself last.

It’s hard, thankless, and – a lot of times – unappreciated work.  It’s enough to drive anyone nuts.  Especially me.

But at the end of the day, it’s about giving of yourself to another human being – one that you created.  It’s about all the kisses and squeezes and smiles and laughs that take the edge off the urge to go crazy.

So, to you sir, whoever you were, thank you for the genuine reminder of what Mother’s Day is really about and for taking the time to say it while I stood in the middle of the dirty work.  I really appreciated it!