Sitting in a romantically lit cafe during a long-awaited evening out with my husband, it happened. We talked easily, sipped our wine and waited for our dinner. My handsome, effortlessly thin husband ordered Mediterranean lettuce wraps. I ordered a cheeseburger. The waiter (someone different than the one who took our order) swooped over and.. you guessed it… set the lettuce wraps down in front of me and gave my cheeseburger to Thinny McThin.
I’m not that sensitive about my weight. Really, I’m not. I live somewhere between wanting to drop about 30 pounds and trying to learn to be happy and at peace at whatever weight I am, since I know being thin isn’t the key to happiness. Yeah, I’d like to be a couple sizes smaller, but I also know that there are pretty features about me. My husband loves me, and I know that constant obsessing about my weight doesn’t make me sexy to him. You can’t be married to a chef and be shy about enjoying food. They aren’t really into that. Plus, there’s sugar. And I ain’t talkin’ about the kind you give your Granny on the cheek. I can’t give up hope that there’s a way to be healthy without totally sacrificing bread, cookies, and cake.
At the end of a long, emotional week, the cheeseburger thing just rubbed me wrong. I know that magazine covers are airbrushed, that stretch marks can’t be erased, and that a woman’s weight and shape don’t define her value. I really wish the rest of society knew it too. There are still enough smart remarks, fat jokes, and judgemental looks out there to make a girl feel like a less-than because of her weight… especially in a weak moment. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at the waiter’s assumption that the fat girl needed the lettuce wraps. Couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed at his quizzical expression as my husband corrected him and handed the cheeseburger over to me. Couldn’t help wondering if the guy walked away shaking his head at why a handsome, thin guy would be with a Mrs. Sprat like me. Depressing, huh? I know. AND a little crazy. AND I totally projected my feelings onto the poor, unsuspecting, stereotyping waiter. It was enough to ruin a perfectly good first-date-night-in-a-long-time with grumpy sighs and over-obsessing defensiveness.
When I was a little girl, my mom and dad used to sing a song about how God made me special. They believed that, and still do. I do, too. Most of the time.
The cheeseburger was great, by the way. I ate about half and took the rest home, a normal part of my attempt to practice balance and moderation every day. My head’s still held high, and I know I’m loved. My shape’s not perfect but it’s me, and no one else can be my husband’s wife, my kids’ mom, my parents’ daughter better than I. There’s so much more to life than bodyweight and so much more to me than my physical appearance.
I’ve recovered from my temporary insanity and remembered that other people don’t get to dictate whether I enjoy my life. I shall continue to laugh, love, and eat sugar.
Lettuce is nice. Thanks for the gesture. But stereotypes just don’t fit me right. I’ll have the cheeseburger.
I recently read the book,” Attack Your Day! Before it Attacks You!” The main thing I took away from the book was the idea of managing my TASKS instead of my time. Just because someone comes along and asks something of me doesn’t necessarily mean I must stop right that moment and complete the interrupting task. It’s my responsibility to prioritize my tasks.
SOOOooooo much easier said than done. My knee-jerk reaction was “Well, you’ve never spent a day at my desk! I’m the first face anyone sees when they pass our office, and there are 63 people between the ages of 80 and 100 who all think I’m at their personal beck and call, not to mention all of their responsible parties who need questions answered or need to tell me about a doctor’s appointment. Before and after and during work, I mother three children. Three children with no less than 5 years between their ages, all needing different things simultaneously. Mommy! Mom! Mama! Hey Mom! I have a husband and a boss (not the same person) and somehow I’d LIKE to think I try to write stuff and help people. NO way I can just call the shots on what I want to do.” It seems that most of my life is basically one interruption after another, putting out one fire after another. Even while typing this, I’m typing around a pair of three-year-old hands as they stick stickers on my laptop.
So basically, my first thought was “Nice idea. Totally impossible for me.” Then I remembered… (start playing Battle Hymn of the Republic background music) I remembered that it’s still the United States of America, the land of the free. I’m still of legal adult-decision-making age. This means I AM in charge of what I do. I make the choice to allow myself to be interrupted, to allow myself to forget the tasks I’ve decided are most important and do the stuff other people present to me as “emergencies.”
I admit, I wonder if deflecting all of the interruptions that come my way would take more time than just doing the task right then and getting it overwith. A legitimate concern, except if I keep on simply stopping and doing every single interruption, I’ll keep on being unable to get past all the interruptions and accomplish the things I’ve deemed important.
This idea applies to all of life. Churches, jobs, friends, social organizations, and more are all lining up for a piece of us. Saying “yes” to them all creates a constant stream of interruptions and interruptions to the interruptions. (Dizzy yet? Me too.)
I’ve decided it’s important to homeschool my kids. I’ve also decided since we still need to feed them, that I can’t quit my job. Oh yes, and I also want to make a healthy happy marriage, do life with my friends, and make a difference in the world. This means I HAVE to be a master at managing my tasks. This life isn’t going to just “happen to me.” I have to keep my priorities in the forefront of my mind and I have to make these things happen. I have to be on the attack.
So what do I do? Here are some ideas:
1) I need to know what is important to me today. There’s no way I can order my tasks if I don’t know what I want and need to be doing. This means I’ve gotta spend a few minutes planning, thinking, and prioritizing. This could be a simple “to do list” or a calendar program or whatever. Anything that helps identify what exactly I plan to do and need to do puts me in a better position to be in control of my tasks.
2) Learn to say NO already!! Sheesh!! There are some things absolutely required of me because of my job or position in the family, some things to which I can’t simply say “no.” BUT there are a LOT of things not absolutely required. A lot more than I want to admit. For me, saying “no” is uncomfortable, it’s weird, it’s unfriendly… I hate doing it. But, I can’t say yes to the important things if I can’t say no to the unimportant.
3) Strategize. I don’t often think about having a strategy. I prefer to dance around and float through life while everything seems to fall into place. Nice idea but not effective goal achieving material. I need to use strategy. I don’t think great marriages and good parenting just happen. There’s a strategy there, or at least a set of core beliefs that are applied by the partners or parents. I wonder what the simple step of identifying what I want and actually creating a strategy to achieve what I want, would do? This may seem silly to a business-minded organizer, but to a people-pleasing social butterfly it’s groundbreaking. There’s also a level of commitment in making a plan. It’s one thing to say I want to homeschool my children. It’s another entirely to make a strategy figuring out how to do it. Strategy in place, my excuses are few, aren’ t they?
My life is a juggling act. THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT. I’m overly, wonderfully, incredibly, undeservedly blessed with more than my share of loveliness. Attacking my day means I get to dive in with gusto and enjoy fully the huge pile of good things in my life. Handsome husband, wonderful children, great job, dreams of good things to strive toward. All mine to attack at will.
In New Orleans, we don’t buy groceries. We “make groceries.” Whatever you call it, feeding a family of five is no small task, especially if one wants to stay out of the drive thru lane. Lucky me, I have a chef for a husband and a daughter in culinary school. We’re officially “foodies” now. I know. So cool.
Lately, we’ve been working on a menu-planning, grocery makin’ project. Here’s what we did:
STEP 1: INVENTORY
I’ve learned from my very own Chef that inventory is an important part of menu planning and grocery making. Honestly, it’s something I didn’t do much of in the past, though I’ve done my share of attempts at menu organizing and grocery list making. So we took inventory of everything we had in the house. Every. Single. Consumable. Item.
We made a word document and divided our items into categories so we can see a list of our stock on paper. Knowing what you have on hand is important, right down to the spices, jams, jellies, vinegars, everything. To my surprise, we planned almost four weeks’ worth of meals off of what we already have on hand. This also was a way to reveal the things we’ve had on hand for like, a year, and have never eaten. When something’s been sitting in your freezer or pantry for a year, there’s a good chance it’s either out of date or it’s something your family really doesn’t like. Might’ve looked good in the store or been a great deal, but if you aren’t going to eat it… you get the point. What… ya’ll know you’ve got some Ramen noodles from 2010 just like I do.
My husband keeps an inventory list on hand at work and uses it when he orders groceries every week. (The UNGLAMOROUS part of a chef’s job, my friends. Behind the scenes, they sit at computers, order groceries, spend hours inside freezers and refrigerators and worry about food costs. They endure all of that to bring a smile to your mouth. That’s why they’re so sexy.) So we’ve decided to do the same at home to help us use up the things we have and know when we’re getting low on staples that we use often. I printed our list and put it on the fridge so that we can mark off things as we use them up.
STEP 2: PLAN MENU
In the past, I’ve tried doing this by the week and bi-week and month. I’ve had successes and failures all ways. This time, I decided to just see how far our inventory would take us. ANNND our handy-dandy inventory list kept us from having to run back and forth to the fridge, freezer or pantry to make sure we have an item needed for a meal. Interestingly, we got almost all the way to the end of the month planning meals out of our inventory. I’m not necessarily a proponent of shopping by the month, but I do love the idea of one MAIN trip to the store each month and the rest of your trips are just for perishables like milk and eggs. This is the way it worked out for us and is how we’ll probably continue to roll, considering our time is so limited anyway, and one Saturday morning per month to shop for groceries with a three-year-old is a gracious Lord’s plenty if you ask me.
Since we are a family of food-lovers, we all sat down together and brainstormed our menus. We planned three meals each day, since we homeschool and actually serve all three meals at home. We used some cute printables for this. I’ve found that even though my big kids are capable of getting their own lunch, they do better knowing what’s for lunch that day, which means less blank staring into an open fridge, which is fine with me.
In the future, I’m thinking we’ll put the food magazines, websites, and cookbooks that overrun our home into good use as we brainstorm more creative ideas to add to our inventory and meal repertoire. That’s why they have Pinterest, right?
STEP 3: MAKE A GROCERY LIST
I don’t feel the need to get all crazy with a grocery list. The perfectionist in me considers, for a second, that all the dairy should be together, then the meat, then the freezer aisle, then the staples… then I slap her and just get the list on paper. The reason for having a list is to keep from getting sidetracked by the “deals” at the store on the aisle endcaps, and by the Oreos you always want to buy. Don’t act like I’m the only one.
STEP 4: SHOP
I take the kids with me grocery shopping. I do this because life IS school, and the grocery store is part of life. I do this because I want them to see the REASON behind the math work they have to do. I do impromptu math lessons in the grocery store aisle as we figure out which item is REALLY the best price. Hint: It’s not always the item “on sale.” I also do impromptu logic and reasoning lessons. For example, we bought applesauce this trip. We talked about the fact that there are individual packs of applesauce, but for less money we could get a large jar of applesauce and portion it out ourselves. We discussed the fact that what we were really paying for would be the convenience of not having to wash dishes and spoon out portions. We decided it was worth the price to have a little less clean-up and to have something Caleb can snack on by himself without much help. We also discussed how most prepackaged foods aren’t the best choices and we can make so many things ourselves and save money.
Lessons like these are priceless. If you ask me, it’s fine to spend money on whatever you deem worthwhile, as long as YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING. I want my kids to know where their money is going and how to decide if what you are buying is worth the price TO YOU.
STEP 5: EAT TOGETHER!!!
Ya’ll, none of this works if you still go to McDonald’s most nights. You gotta cook the food, put it on the table, sit down and eat. This is our favorite part, the main attraction. All of the inventory, menu planning, listing and shopping are simply to lead up to the actual EATING TOGETHER.
Makin’ groceries is a big part of makin’ a family.
Our homeschooling adventure continues! One of the main things I want to do when I think of teaching my kids myself is stuff their heads with as much scripture as possible. My own little brain was stuffed full of God’s words when I was a little girl and I find He uses that library in my brain to talk to me. I want my kids to have a nice-sized God-vocabulary, so a big part of our homeschooling is scripture memory.
So far this schoolyear we’ve memorized:
Romans 3:23-24 (As a kid I learned 3:23 alone, but verse 24 actually finishes the sentence. )
1 John 4:8
Psalm 23 entire chapter
Since I’ve also been working on cursive handwriting with Levi, the scripture verses provide a good opportunity to practice handwriting and work on memorization at the same time. We do one verse each week, with a “test” on Friday. On Monday, we print out the verse and each day, Caleb helps by holding the paper for us to read aloud together. He gets a kick out of saying “GO!” and we read the verse again. We also write the verse several times to “layer the learning” by using our hand to write, seeing with eyes, and speaking the verse aloud.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a Friday morning and “tested” on all the verses we’d learned up until that time, having the kids write them out as I called out the reference or the first couple of words.
I’m so excited for my kids to learn the Bible, and as He always does, God is using His words to change us. For example, several weeks ago, when we were memorizing Psalm 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it,” Dwayne and I had a really rough evening. It was one of those needless marital disagreements where both people say and do things they don’t mean and nobody wins. It wasn’t the kind of thing we could hide from the kids, even though they were in bed when it happened. We screwed up and our kids knew it. The next morning, I tearfully read over Psalm 34:14 and had to explain to my three babies how Dad and I were wrong to not do what the verse asked. We had not departed from evil and sought peace. We had done the opposite. I also shared with them how we planned to work on our disagreement, and ask God to help us too. Talk about humble pie. Talk about relevant scripture.
As He always does, God turned my stupid mistake into something good for me and my children. I had a chance to talk honestly with my kids, not hiding from them the fact that adults make mistakes. I had a chance to teach them that being an adult isn’t about not messing up, but it’s about owning your mistakes and doing what it takes to learn how to do better.
So far, we’ve also started a creation science unit, made “rain,” created a vacuum, and we are pairing that with a World History study, starting off at the very beginning, of course. I’ve been working with Mackenzie on poetry, and with Levi on reading comprehension. For math, I have a geometry student and one working on multiplication with several digits. For some extra curricular work, Mackenzie is taking a cake decorating class and Levi is participating in the children’s choir at NOBTS. As a family, we’ve also done a menu-planning and grocery budgeting project.
I’m finding my days are intense, with nonstop activity from 6am to 8 or 9pm by the time I complete the entire day from homeschool to work to NOCCA pick-up to putting everyone to bed. BUT I’m working on some different techniques to manage my tasks and time. I’m so thrilled with my kids’ progress and so surprised at how much MOM is learning. Guess they aren’t the only ones gettin’ schooled!
So remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that I managed to avoid my annual Pit of Despair during the summer? I totally promised to tell you about that. So I am:
If you’ve read for a while or know me at all, then you know I dread summer, and it ain’t the New Orleans heat. Summers are when my big kids have to go away for a several weeks and…
I. Hate. It.
Like, deep depression, crying most days, eating everything in sight, hate it.
I miss those babies, what can I say?!?
This year, however, I managed to cope a bit more effectively with my summer emotions. Here are a few reasons why:
1) Homemade Vinaigrette. I’m totally serious. I got kind of interested in a bunch of homemade things and I made some awesome vinaigrettes this summer. Most included honey and lime. (How can you beat that?) I also made some yummy cocktails like key lime pie martini and a salty dog with fresh grapefruit juice. So. Good. Not to mention I kept up with my biscuit project and became a Joy the Baker disciple. With only one kid at home and he had an age 3-sized tummy, it was easier to make grown-up food for dinner without having to coerce anyone into trying what was on the plate. So, things like arugula pesto went down easy. And I had fun with the distraction.
2) Friends. Not the TV show. The real kind. We have some darling friends down the street who invited us like crazy to swim in their gorgeous pool. I learned a few water aerobics moves, but mostly had a fun place to move my body and have fun with my littlest boy and enjoy time with some great grownups. And of course our house church friends stick close during summers. They run straight toward the crazy. They hover near, show up on weeknights, and call to see if I can have lunch. I have some long distance heart friends (Christy and my sister) who also video chat and such. It’s hard to BS when they can see my face. And then there are the girls night friends. Friends help. A lot.
3) I started reading the Bible. Ha ha! Like I’ve never done that before!! Yeah, I’ve totally done that since forever, but not like this. Untangling myself from Bible reading/study as a vocational requirement has been a little awkward at times. It all started with the “quiet time” one year at youth camp. They taught us how to have “time with God” every day and then I had another thing I could be a perfectionist about. Another thing to add to my “things that make me an awesome Christian” list. Over the past few years, I’ve questioned it all and picked it all apart and set aside most of the stuff on that list. BUT… this past April we as a home church started a chronological read through the Bible in a year. We’re using Youversion. This time, my journey through scripture has been compelling and nourishing AND completely disconnected from my reputation. I’ve rarely missed a day, even though I haven’t obsessed about making it happen. It’s been so much fun to connect with God for no other reason than just… to connect with God. He was my Lifeline, my Safety Net, my Secret Weapon for Pit Avoidance this summer. It was so natural, so lovely, to have God and His Words to me remain when so many other things have changed.
4) I prayed. Again… not a new thing for me. But this time… you got it… different. My kids had quite a bit of anxiety about their summer and since my own anxiety nearly swallows me whole, what could I do but grab their hands and pray out loud and trust God to make it ok? There’s this thing about praying something in front of your kids. You kind of have to mean it or else what would that teach them? So I did it. I threw myself and my darling children on the mercy, the vast and amazing mercy, of God. I gave up control. I didn’t know whether He would resolve the anxiety producing situations or whether He would give us extra guts and grace to handle them, but I squeezed my eyes shut and jumped into trust. I had to do it for my kids. I had to do it because I’M a kid. Whatever… it worked.
This is hardly a 12 step or anything. It’s actually only one-third of a 12 step. (See what I did there? I can do math since I’m a homeschool mom now.) Heh. What I’m saying is I don’t mean this to be a formula or anything preachy like that. It’s simply the real nitty gritty of what got me through one of my most anxiety producing events with WAAAAYYYYY less anxiety than I’ve felt in past years. This is me, being real with you, about what a sincere but imperfect Christian girl does to try to cope with her dark and scary emotions. No pie-in-the-sky here. Nothing lofty or super spiritual fakety fake. Just me stumblin’ and bumblin’ and grateful for any progress I can make.
So what do you think? What keeps you out of your pits?
Distracted. That’s the way so many of us live our lives. I know I do.
So much on my mind, from finances (or lack thereof), to parenting, to school, to work, to marriage, to theology and more. I get so overwhelmed with my life that I walk around in a daze, unable to focus on any one thing for the cacophony of things that need my attention. And then there are the “on purpose” distractions like social media or blog reading that I do to just get my mind off of everything. Ironically those things usually add to the volume of my mind’s congested grid-lock.
This week I was reminded to stop. Stop.
Stop and NOTICE what is already here. Quiet my drive toward what I’m trying to produce and actually experience what’s already around me.
How sad. How embarrassing, really, that I get so stressed out about paying bills that I completely walk past three miracles living in my house. Three beautiful souls with names and hearts, and lovely faces. Three little human beings who were formed inside me. I forget to notice what’s ALREADY THERE.
Today I will open my eyes. I will breathe in the cool air and notice it’s cinnamon scent. I’ll drink in the heat from my coffee cup and revel in the blessing of a full fridge and pantry. I’ll wake those lovely faces and look at the miraculous eyes light up with sleepy/happy fun. I will notice what I already have, and when the tide of crazy comes in, I’ll remind myself to take a few moments a few times through the day to realize where I am, what I love, and how good it is to be alive. I’ll put down my phone and be present in my great big wonderful life. I’ll refuse to let what’s over my head make me forget what’s under my nose.
Ok, again… too long since last post. I promised I’d avoid the POD (Pit of Despair) this summer and I’m happy to report: I DID!!! Another post will outline my strategy for success on this. For now, I have other news.
We’ve spent this summer, Dwayne and I, wrestling with a major decision: What to do about school for the kids???
Our oldest has been getting by with online school, middle had a sad excuse for a fourth grade year, and baby is only 3. Bottom line, we were looking for some good solutions for our kids when it comes to school. Private school is out. Can’t afford tuition, plus our last experience with private school was not too great. Public school, while I have no problem in theory with it, didn’t do the trick for my kids either. Especially Levi struggled mightily this past school year and nothing I tried seemed to work. Nothing major, just barely passing grades and little actual growth. Translate this: 2 frustrating hours of homework every night until somebody or everybody cries and nobody knows what we’re doing wrong. Now that Mackenzie is accepted to NOCCA, meaning we won’t arrive home until 7pm to start the aforementioned homework torture routine, we needed a new direction.
I had a thought, a daring, crazy thought that I knew my husband would immediately reject but I couldn’t keep it out of my mind. So I brought it up.
He didn’t reject it. He thought about it. I thought about it. We prayed about it. We sought advice of trusted friends. We decided to go for it. I’m going to say it really fast so it won’t seem so ca-razy.
Oh my gosh, I said it. I know this is taboo so you’ll still be my friend, right? Even if you think I’m nuts? Thanks, I knew you would.
I’ve rearranged my schedule a bit, so I’m up at 5:45am, and by 7:00 the kids and I are doing school core studies. (The bus for public high school stops on our street at 6:45am in case this seems crazy early to anyone.) Roughly three hours later I head to work and then tap out with stepdad who does afternoon reading, driving to field trips, music lessons, P.E. and the drop off at NOCCA where Mackenzie has been accepted as a student of culinary arts. Around 6 I leave work and head to NOCCA to pick up my girl, and we all reconvene at home around 7:00 to have dinner, get baths, and drop into bed. Weekends include some prep time and coaching from my very own homeschool professional, Janet, is in abundance.
Ya’ll, for a while I totally doubted if I could do this. I sought help from various sources, validation really. I asked a homeschool blogger for advice, but got something like “I understand. I work full time AT HOME too.” Hmmm… I know it came from a good heart, but I felt like it meant “NO way can a work OUTside the home mom do this.” But the truth is, it’s doable. Not easy. But possible. Kids who are professional entertainers, missionary kids, and even regular old American families, all homeschool in unconventional ways…so why not us?
Since this IS still the US of A and my school choice for my kids is still my business, I considered keeping quiet about this because I fear the judgemental attitudes of others. However, I’ve had so much fun the past three weeks and so much joy with my kids that I had to share this with ya’ll.
We’ve memorized scripture verses, learned about sea turtles, dolphins and alligators, learned spelling rules and cursive handwriting, analyzed and written our own poems, studied prohibition and Lewis and Clark and more. And this was all during our “trial run” before regular school started. You know, in case we couldn’t handle this schedule we’d still be able to start regular school and keep trying to figure something out. But the trial run only served to prove to me that this CAN work.
I’m looking into my children’s eyes. I’m spending the FIRST and best part of my day concentrating on them, not just the last and most irritable moments. My son has learned more in three weeks than I saw him pick up over the entire second semester of last year. I’ve been able to determine some areas that need attention, ones I didn’t realize were lacking.
Since Levi was a baby, I’ve been haunted by a night when I, against what I KNEW God was telling me in my heart, allowed a doctor to catheterize him. I knew it was unnecessary, but was afraid to go against the doctor’s orders. I never want to feel that way again. It turned out, my “feeling” was right, he was fine and there was no bladder infection. I caused my baby unnecessary pain by being scared to just be his mom. Not anymore. In my heart’s deepest places, I want to give whatever it takes, do whatever it takes to love these babies and introduce them to God and give them a happy life. I know that God will direct me and give me everything I need to do what He wants done for these three amazing creatures He created in my womb. I’m so excited for what we’re doing. Whether we do it for the next year only or for the rest of their school careers, I’m enjoying every minute in this uncharted territory. Maybe it’s a lil’ weird, but I’m cool with that. I’m happy to be mommy to these three, wife to Dwayne and whatever else God asks me to be.
I’m a terrible faker. Really bad. I can’t figure out if it’s because I’m no good at faking or because faking is fake, in and of itself. Yes, I said faking is fake. The idea of faking is a mirage because fake effort yields fake results.
You can’t fake being sober if you’re drunk. Don’t ask how I know, and if you’re one of the ones who know how I know, quit snickering.
You can’t fake being an athlete if you’re a couch potato.
You can’t fake right relationship, either. Once you’ve gone there, once you’ve experienced real connection with someone, then try all you want but you won’t be able to fake that if something gets in the way.
Here’s where I struggle: Sometimes I “fake” because I’m not completely trusting God for the results. It’s a form of self protection.
Here’s an example: Part of my job is to build relationships with the residents and families at the assisted living home where I work. I love that part of my job. I work hard to make real connections with people, show them real love, and give them a sincere hand of friendship during a difficult life transition. This week, during a pretty hectic day, a family member showed up during my lunch break. I was irritated. I had already bent over backwards on more than one occasion for this person and I was a bit annoyed at having to cut into my precious half hour’s peace. I pasted on a smile and did what I thought was an excellent job of faking it while I handled what was needed. The family member gave me a quizzical look and said “You seem upset today. Are you ok?”
Now, I know there are times when an honest, painful heart to heart is necessary to clear the air. But there are some times when it’s just me. In that moment, when I was asked “Are you ok?”, God whispered to me. “Why are you trying to fake this? Why not just get your heart right? Why not just decide to go the second mile, love above and beyond, and surrender your annoyance to Me?”
Part of having real relationship is being able to “bear with one another,” “forgive one another.” Part of loving other people is deciding to leave the “fairness” up to God. You can’t fake that type of surrender. Start holding onto your “rights” or keeping score, and something shows up in the curl of your lip, the hesitance in your smile, the dullness in your eyes, and your feelings are betrayed.
When it’s needed, nothing can take the place of a true, honest confrontation with another person who has hurt you. But that’s for another blog. Sometimes, when I can’t keep my feelings in check, what I’m really trying to fake is trust in God.
Can’t be done.
Real trust and real surrender to a very real God make for the realest of relationships with other people. I’m learning that you can’t go back to fake once you’ve had what’s real.
My dad made 70 today. In New Orleans you don’t “turn” a certain age, like “turn 30.” You MAKE your age each year. Only Dad’s not here, he’s in Lakeland, Florida. Still, for me, he makes 70. I’ll see him soon, but on days like today I wake up with tears wishing I were helping cook his birthday dinner and make him a cake.
New Orleans is the wild, wild west compared to where I grew up. You don’t find guys like my Dad here. Sure there are lots of good ole boys, but it’s not the same. I remember when I first moved here, going months on end without seeing a cow, or really a piece of open land big enough to handle a cow. It was weird.
Dad isn’t really all that fond of the nearly 700 miles between us. I’m not either.
Some days I wonder why I even bother. If anyone knew how many times a day my heart cries to go home to Daddy and Mom, they’d wonder the same thing. But I know the answer, really. I bother because I really think God wants me here in this crazy, awesome, sideways place. My mom took a picture of me at about 17, upset over something and crying in my Daddy’s arms. I’m pretty sure God knows that if I were physically close enough, I’d never really move beyond that. There’s no place safer or better, except the arms of God Himself. I’m lucky to have had a Dad who introduced me to God and made an example of God’s unconditional love in a world where so many Fathers become an obstacle to a child’s understanding of God as a loving Father. My Dad only enhanced that understanding for me.
My Dad, and Mom, taught me love. They taught me work. They taught me Jesus. They taught me faith, a for-real, down-deep, affects every part of your life faith, not a measly one day a week, take-a-lick-at-a-snake excuse for religion. And here… here in a place where there isn’t any room for cows, I’m bringing and sharing and living what they taught me. I’m raising my kids their way. I’m growing veggies in my fenced-in, subdivided yard. My house has more than its share of mason jars and my van finds its way to the farmer’s market practically on its own. I stand there among very cool, very green, hipster types and look for a flat of strawberries cheap enough to make jam. I cock my head to the side at the things they grow, like kale, and wonder where are the “new potatoes” and “silver queen corn” and “zipper peas”? My hands hold babies the way Dad and Mom did, and love old people the way they did. They introduced me to hospitals and nursing homes and funerals through their ministry in those places and now I love old people for a living. My eyes and my smile carry their physical traits, and communicate their philosophy of real faith and real love for people.
It occurs to me that I repeat this behavior on a fairly regular basis. Trying to bring a little of the love I was brought up with to the place I’ve been transplanted. Trying to say “See, Daddy? Mom? See, Granny? Papa? I listened! I watched! I loved the things you made for me and taught me and did for me and now I’m doing them over and over again, copying you in another part of the world because the goodness of you needs to be taken to other places.” It’s in my tomatoes, potatoes, strawberry jam, vegetable soup, various holiday casseroles, and so on. It’s in my children and the way they are being raised. It’s in my work and the way I love to see crinkly laugh lines and wrinkly eyes light up.
It’s you, Dad. (And Mama too!!!) You gave me a lot of good stuff to bring beyond the 20 acres where I learned it all. I’m living the faith you taught me. I’m adding your flair to my everyday life. I’m following the God you introduced me to, with all of my heart. I keep Jeffries in my name because it’s a reminder of who I am, and who I’m teaching my children to be.
You’ve made a lot more than 70, Daddy! Hope you have a happy birthday!!