Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In the Days to Come

It has been a while since I've been so eager for a year to end. Maybe not so much for the year to end, but for a new year to begin. I'm not one to wish my days away, but as the calendar closes on 2014, I would be lying if I didn't say that I may be up doing the happy dance when the clock strikes midnight and 2015 makes it's entrance.

2014 kicked my hiney. I'm just gonna put that out there. As with all of life there were SO many good things that happened this last year. But if  I learned anything in 2014 (and trust me, it was a learning kind of year) it is that good things don't always come easy. Sometimes good things happen only when we've been pushed and pulled and stretched 95 ways out of our comfort zone. Sometimes they come during times that feel so overwhelmingly not good that it is hard to appreciate them. And sometimes things seem good when they normally wouldn't because they are framed in a new light of perspective that only comes from the hard things. 

This last year could be described in words such as bizarre, exhausting, stressful, and frustrating. I had my wallet stolen, dealt with some really stressful situations at one job, started another job, my (new) vehicle was in the shop 7 out of 12 months of this year, and I was in a car accident. Did I mention my car being in the shop didn't even have anything to do with the wreck? A lady was arrested in my yard (long story) and I had two kidney infections in a two month time. I started my Christmas vacation with a visit from Animal Control thanks to my yappy dog and I was also served with legal papers for my accident. Those are some of the high (low?) points. All of these things happened in a year that my life has changed in a way that is difficult to explain. I started a job working in child welfare and my eyes have been opened to situations and people that make me cry and get angry and see the world in a way I've not seen it before. Sometimes I wish I could unsee it, but I can't. And my heart has grown heavy and at times I feel weary. 

I don't share this to be a bummer. I'm sorry, I know so far it is. But, I share it because this long, bizarre, hard, wearisome year has brought with it some important lessons. It has made deep, soul changes in me. It has also provided some of the most rewarding, feel good moments of my life. I recently read the quote, "The darker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God." (Corrie Ten Boom) That quote sums up my year. There were some dark times. For me and for many around me. But I came to appreciate that the brightness of God's Word and His people most in those times. Important lessons this year. I want to document them so I will remember them. And hopefully I will have learned them and not be revisiting them this time next year. :) Emily of 2014, here are the words of wisdom for you:

1. Some things are beyond your control. They just are. It doesn't matter how much sleep you lose, how many phone calls you make, how much you stress, it's just not in your control.You can only pray and put it in God's hands.

2. Kind words are never wasted.

3. Learning is exhausting. But you should do it anyway. Invest the time and energy to learn new things and do new things.

4. Making mistakes is exhausting. But sometimes it's the only way to learn.

5. It's better to do hard things now and  imperfectly than to be satisfied with an ideal of how you might do things one day. 

6. Make the most of your time. Work hard at work, love hard on your family, help people who need help. Put the kids to bed and watch The Office on Netflix. Promise you'll do better tomorrow because you'll probably feel like you failed in at least one of these areas on a daily basis.

7. You can't do it all, but you can become the grumpiest person to walk the face of the earth trying.

8. It's ok to cry if you miss your child's school party or sporting event, but not in front of them. You are the only one having a nervous breakdown over this. They're fine.

9. Occasionally go out for lunch with friends even if you don't think you have time.  Face it, your social life could use some work. 

10. Yes, you are always going to be tired.

11. Complaining does not change things. Whining does not change things. Stop doing them and stop spending all of your time and energy on people who do them. Focus on the fixing and the praying and the people who work for answers.

12. It's okay to ask for help, and you will be pleasantly surprised and blessed by people who go above and beyond.

13. Appreciate it all. The hard times that teach you, the happy times that you sometimes miss because you're obsessing over the hard times, and the down time that is rare. Be so super thankful for your health to be so busy and overwhelmed and the health of your husband and kids. It is such a gift that you are all able to do all of the things you do. And when you get a chance to sit and snuggle on the couch, do that too.

14. It's okay to laugh.

I added number 14 because anyone who knows me knows that laughter is my coping mechanism. And sweet tea. Unfortunately I've depended a lot more on the sweet tea this year. :)  December is always a hard month for me. In addition to the normal craziness and busy schedule that comes with the holidays, grief seems to always sneak in when I least expect it. It was worse this year. This Christmas Day was five years since I lost my Daddy. This last year was the kind of year when I found myself really needing him. I had to face the fact recently that I have lost my joy. I've had lots of happy, fun moments this last year. I really have. But I realized that what has been even worse this last year has not been all of the crazy things that have happened. It's that somewhere along the way I decided to give in. To let the dark days hide the light. To hide from the world when things got hairy. To question if it is ok to be happy and to laugh when there is so much pain and heartache in the world. 

The other day Josh prayed with me and he prayed that my joy would be restored. And that is my desire for 2015.  I have 430 resolutions I need to make. For real. I need to get my life, y'all. But first, I want my joy restored. That joy that comes from His Spirit, not the aligning of the stars in heaven or everything going right. I think I'm on my way. I think that kind of joy grows in dark places, on hard days. When we let it. When we let challenges make us better instead of bitter. That's what I'm working on. I've been counting down the days until this year ends, but I know that a new day on the calendar will not guarantee brighter days or trouble free times. I can't control the circumstances 2015 will hold, but I can control how I receive what comes my way. Josh made this sign for me for Christmas. It is from the book of Proverbs talking about the Proverbs 31 woman. The verses before this one say, "She will be clothed with strength and dignity." These verses remind me that it is okay to laugh, but it doesn't always come easy. It requires strength. This tells me that the Proverbs 31 woman was the real deal. She didn't live in a cushy, bubble world protected from darkness. I'm pretty sure she was all up in it. But, her strength allowed her to face those things head on and laugh at the days to come. I plan to laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25) I pray you will, too!

Friday, December 5, 2014

It's a Mess

Growing up we are told stories and watch movies of fairy tales. And in those fairy tales there is usually a princess who starts out in raggedy clothes cleaning and serving other people. And the magical, fairy tale part happens when suddenly she is swept away by her prince charming, she is adorned with a beautiful dress and a crown and as far as we know, somebody else is cleaning up the messes now! Whether we are greatly influenced by these stories or not, there is no denying that we all have a strong desire for a "Happily Ever After". Not just in relationships, but in life in general. We have the idea that someday everything will be neat and clean and pretty.

That was my plan. If I could just become the person I was supposed to I would have a picture perfect family with a picture perfect house and things would always go smoothly because we would always make good choices and be good people. Truth be told, I think I gathered this idea in church more than from the movies. You see, I think for a while that has been the message we've sent as the church. Make good choices, be a good person, live in a bubble with other good people. Sounded like a plan to me! For a long time I had such a desire to live up to a certain standard and eventually one day maybe God would use me to teach other people. We would all be perfectly groomed and beautifully dressed and say the right churchy things and I would finally feel good enough.

Turns out, things don't always go the way we plan. In fact, I wouldn't begin to know what to do if a plan I had came to fruition. Because life. Because people. You see the longer we have been in ministry the more God has opened my eyes and tugged at my heart. I've learned that ministry is not so much the classes taught or the songs sung on Sunday morning. It is the late night phone calls and unexpected knocks at the door. It is brokenhearted people, confused people, and honestly sometimes downright mean people. It is unscheduled, inconvenient, and messy. It is questioning how much to help, how much tough love to give, how to answer hard questions. It is feeling that there is never quite enough time or of you to go around. It is feeling that no matter what you do it is never enough. It is a downright battle between the Spirit's leading and self. 

Because what I have learned is that while God calls us His heirs and that means we are royalty as the child of the King, it looks a little different from Cinderella. It is true we are adorned with new clothes, His robe of righteousness, but our task is so much more than appearances and productions. He saves us from our own mess so that we can be equipped to go right back into the mess. Sometimes He literally leads us to be the sweepers and the moppers and the builders. Sometimes He leads us to be the listeners and the huggers and the comforters. Sometimes He leads us to be the voice of wisdom and grace. Wherever it is He leads, I assure it's probably not going to be easy. 

Last year I felt that God was telling me "Do hard things."  I think I have. I think this last year has hands down been one of the hardest years I've had. I wish I could say I've always handled it well, but I've often found myself saying, "I didn't know the hard things would be so hard!" Insert 2 year old tantrum. And I guess if I'm honest I thought that would be my word for one year, and maybe this year would be "Do happy things!" :)  But as time passes and I am continually brought to a place of complete reliance on my Savior, it becomes more and more clear to me that the mess is where it's at. Have I thought, "I didn't make this mess"?  Yes, yes I have. Have I thought, "Why can't someone else clean up this mess?"  Yes, yes I have. And then I've been gently reminded that I've made plenty of messes myself and I had a kind Redeemer, a gracious God. And also, people. I had people who loved on me, put up with me, prayed for me, and supported me. They were real. They were tangible. They were the hands and feet of God. And that is what we are to be to those around us. Even those in messes. Especially those in messes.

Let me be clear that I'm not talking about supporting bad habits, throwing money at problems, or trying to put a happy face on things. I'm talking about real, let's do this, we may get dirty, too, kind of caring. The kind of loving and caring that stretches us, tries us, tires us, and moves us to action. The kind that teaches us good boundaries but sometimes leads us to work around them. The kind of caring that brings us to the point where there is no way to do it without Jesus because His, "strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

I share this because I just have such a burden. A burden for people. A burden for the church. I think sometimes we forget that while it is important and valuable to have opinions on things, one day we will be accountable just as much for how obedient we have been in action. We are told, "Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)  I am so thankful for the many teachers and writers who have poured their words into others. I know I am blessed by them daily. But sometimes I think, there are so many voices, but where are the hands and feet? Where are the workers? How do we put these things we've been taught into action? And the answer I find is that we have to be in the mess. 

People often bring up that Jesus hung out with sinners. He did. He wanted to help them out of their mess. He preached on hilltops, but then he personally invested in those people's messes. He was in their homes. He ate with them. He washed their dirty feet.  He gave them time and attention. He had his reputation and his sanity questioned. 

A few Sundays ago Josh painted during his sermon. We weren't sure how that was going to go. At one point he almost knocked over an entire can of paint on the carpet IN THE SANCTUARY. Mine was the gasp heard round the world. Thankfully it stayed put but I immediately thought about how worried I was about the carpet. It's always a joke about carpet in the churches, but it is so true that we often stress and worry over things that have no eternal value. We get all kinds of bent out of shape about messing up God's house (don't get me wrong, I believe in taking care of God's house!), but we destroy people through our words and actions and apathy. By the way, God sent Jesus to save the people, not the carpet.

As Josh finished painting he came forward to offer the invitation. I was taken aback as I noticed red paint all over his hands and arms. It was such a visible reminder that we are able to stand before God only because the blood of Jesus covers us. Because He was willing to come be a part of the mess. 

I only share this because I want to encourage you. I know God is calling people to do hard things, and I know it is scary. I know it is exhausting and challenging and sometimes you don't know if it's worth it. Do it anyway. I promise, the mess is where it's at. You never appreciate a clean room until you've helped pick up the mess. It's a gift God gives us to be a part. To walk bumpy roads and to cry important tears. I recently came across Psalm 126:5 that says, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy." I felt suddenly overwhelmed by the idea  that it is truly a blessing to care about something or someone enough that your prayers are tears. Those are the kind of prayers that lead to joy. And we can be in the mess and never be alone. "The Lord your God in your midst, The mighty one, will save." (Zephaniah 3:17) He's in the midst. In the middle of the mess.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Sitting under  white lights in the midst of tables adorned with linen tablecloths and hydrangeas, I watched as the father of the bride stood up to give a speech. I knew the minute that he did that I would cry. I was right. When he began to talk about how precious it was to raise her, I cried for the dad who, while proud of his grown daughter, misses the little girl she was. I cried because I missed my Daddy. I will never forget my Daddy tearing up as he walked me down the aisle, or watching him dance with my sister at her wedding. And I cried for all of the little people I now know that don't have the kind of daddy that would give speeches at their weddings or make them feel precious. But I really cried when he got to the part of his speech where he told them that they would have good days and bad days. And what seems like a simple statement brought with it an intense weight as it had been one of those bad days. I thought of my own wedding thirteen years ago and the advice we were given, the times we heard there would be tough days ahead. It was the happiest day of our lives and we felt sorry for all of the couples who had experienced bad days. We couldn't fathom that we ever would.

A month or so ago we were swimming and Kate seemed surprised to discover that I had my wedding ring on. "Is it waterproof?" she asked.  I assured her it was. That innocent question led me to think seriously about all the kinds of "proof" my ring has been in the last thirteen years. It has never come off, with the exception of three pregnancies when my fingers were too swollen to wear it. Since it was placed on my finger over a decade ago it has been clinical depression proof, sleep deprivation proof, job change proof, finish school with two children under the age of 3 proof, move multiple times proof, answer the call to ministry proof, job loss proof, broke down cars proof, experience the death of loved ones proof, financial struggles proof, scary medical issues proof, crazy work schedule proof, we have no idea what we are doing with our children proof, and we have no idea what we are doing in life proof. 

I don't write this to say that there has been no romance or fun. That is far from the truth. I write this because more and more I hear people talk about long lasting, successful marriages as if they magically happen to people who are lucky, As if there are a certain few people who are just blessed with amazing lives that never have problems and their days are full of breakfast in bed and flowers everyday. I'm a hopeless romantic, so I like those things. But sitting at that wedding reception it dawned on me that while a wedding is a time to celebrate a new life being forged and the fresh, fun, romantic part of love, it is also a chance to celebrate the marriages that are in the trenches of those vows; vows that don't just apply on the wedding day. 

I used to hate to hear people say that relationships are "hard work" and you have to "fight for your marriage". I was married at the wise, mature age of 20 and I couldn't believe people had to fight and work hard. What sad, sorry relationships they had! Well, a few years and some hard days later, I'm here to say that relationships are hard and you have to fight for them! Sitting at a wedding I now both reminisce about our innocent, fun, romantic early days, but more than that I treasure the hard days. I do, I treasure them. Because it is fun to think of our happy days, but it is life-altering to think of the hard days. To realize that during times when it would have been so easy to push each other away, you held on for dear life and knew that you had something worth fighting for.  To know that the hard days grew a compassion and a connection you only get with someone who has walked the hard roads with you. 

I used to dream that my children would grow up seeing a love story to rival the movies. That they would know nothing but parents with stars in their eyes who doted on one another constantly. I pray that they do see those times often enough. But I also understand the value now that one day when their Daddy stands up to give a speech and says, "There will be good days and there will be bad days" he will speak as one with experience. That the example that has been set for them has been one of parents who gave and received unconditional love. Parents who weathered the storms and never gave up on rebuilding what life tried to tear down. Parents who learned to fight for each other instead of against each other. Parents who decided their relationship was going to be waterproof and every kind of proof it needed to be. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's Not How it Looks

So it's Friday night and preparations are being made for Sarah's birthday party tomorrow. And anyone who knows me well knows that preparing for such events can kind of become a thing. Like we're preparing for the Queen or something. I have come a long way, but still have oh so far to go. Am I the only one who notices every smudge on a mirror or every crumb missed on the floor when company is coming? Do you, too, feel the need to buy new silverware or curtains when you are going to have guests? Just me? Well, I have to tell you that God has dealt with me so much about this over the years. Contentment. Appearances. Purpose. Hospitality. Gratitude. Yes, all of these have been issues I've dealt with through the years in relation to inviting people into my home.

Josh and I have lived in six homes since we married 13 years ago. We started out in an apartment that was barely big enough to hold the sectional we were given as a wedding gift. At one point we lived in a 100 year old farmhouse that would have been positively charming if we had thousands of dollars and plenty of time to put into it. We had neither. My friend and I refloored that house, not for aesthetic purposes but because I didn't want my toddlers crawling on the original floor. For real. But in all of our living spaces we have found ways to make them our own and filled them each with the best of memories. And sometimes the worst of memories. But those times remind me of why we need a home, a safe place in a hard world. 

And that's where my heart is tonight. My body needs to be in my bedroom finding a place for all of the clothes piled on my bed or scrubbing my bathroom. But as I've cleaned and done laundry I've struggled with this same battle I've fought for so long. That it never feels "enough". Clean enough. Decorated enough. Furnished enough. Do you know what I mean? There just aren't enough hours in the day to deep clean that spot on the floor between the refrigerator and the cabinet. And I can't for the life of me remember to buy new doormats for the back door, despite the fact we are having a pool party tomorrow and a dozen people will be traipsing in and out soaking wet. I will probably do something classy and put down my rattiest towel. :)  

But as I was straightening up my bookcase tonight I was reminded again of this lesson that seems always at the forefront of my life syllabus. "It's not how it looks." You see, like many women my age I have a Pinterest page (it had some kind of security issue several months ago and I can't figure out how to use it again, but that's another story) and it is full of decorating ideas, dreams of how my perfect home would look. I browse stores for the perfect decorative pieces and make big plans. But this is how it looks.

Josh built this for me a few birthdays ago and it is one of my absolute, favorite- we have to grab it in case of fire-things. And I had all kinds of ideas for how I would style it, because obviously a bookcase is not just for books! :)  As I dusted it tonight I thought about the pieces that fill it's shelves. On top is a boat made of shells. It was given to us by a guy Josh has spent a lot of time working with. He wanted to thank Josh. He makes them from shells and driftwood. On the second shelf is a sign that Eli got me at Santa's Workshop at school. It says, "Home is Where Your Story Begins", which is one of my most favorite quotes. It also has a music box that Josh bought for me when I went to college. It used to play John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads". It doesn't anymore, but it will always be a treasured possession. The third shelf has a huge shell. I honestly am not completely sure where it came from, but one of my kids thought it would look good there. :) The fourth shelf has a Little Mermaid bubble bath globe. You might think it is Kate's. It's not. It belongs to our family. It was a gift from another man in our community who said he just wanted to thank us. He is a special man with many mental and physical challenges, but a heart of gold. I still haven't figured out what he is thanking us for, but every time I feel tempted to find a new home for our gift, I can't. You can't buy things like that at the store. 

Then I was trying to figure out how to cover up this chair. This chair that our puppy, Scooter, decided would be a great chew toy. If I thought I was unprepared to be a mother I cannot tell you how unprepared I was for a puppy. My word! HE HAS CHEWED THE FURNITURE Y'ALL!

This is Scooter and I having a discussion about how he should do something really cute or funny while I videotape it so we can win America's Funniest Home Videos and get enough money to replace all of the things in our house he's destroyed.

He looks really concerned about it, doesn't he?

The truth is, we are searching for a new chair, but it won't be that chair. It won't be the chair that I rocked my babies in  or that my Dad sat in when he came to visit. So I can bear with my chewed up chair for a little while longer.

As I am feeling tempted to stress about the state of my abode I remember a night we had a passerby in our home. A man who comes by about once a year. He rides his bike across the country. He asked if he could put his tent up in the church yard. One night I sent Josh out to ask if he wanted some supper. Honestly, I expected Josh to come back and tell me what he wanted and then he would take the food back with him. Because I'm so hospitable like that. :) But, Josh brought him back. It was a Sunday night and in  our house that equals two things: 1. House disaster from busy weekends. 2. Leftovers. And as this man sat at my dining room table talking to my husband I washed the mountain of dirty dishes and felt so embarrassed my house looked the way it did and I only had leftovers. And in that moment it dawned on me that I was worried how my home would be judged by a man who was sleeping in a tent. Wow. That was such a moment for me. And do you know what he said to me? He said, "It's so good to see all of the kid's toys at the door. That means there is happiness here."

 I'm sharing this because my heart is tender tonight about this inner battle between how my home looks and how it feels. Don't get me wrong, I like for it to feel clean. I would like it to feel that way more than it does. :) But not sterile. Not void of life or warmth. Or dog hair. For the love, you should take an allergy pill before you come to my house because the dog hair, y'all! But seriously, it is my heart's desire that my home would be a sanctuary. A safe place. I have prayed that so much since we moved into this neighborhood and met so many people who seemed to need a safe place. Not a fancy place. Not the cleanest place ever. Not the most organized or the place with gourmet food. But a safe place. A place where people can rest and relax and let their burdens go. A place that is inviting and nourishing for their soul. That is truly my prayer. That I won't spend the time people are at my house stressing over my dirty kitchen floors or if the kids left toothpaste in the sink. That I will invest in people who love me even if we've broken all of our good glasses and the kids have used all of the plastic ones to dig in the yard. That I will welcome people into my home even if we have to order a pizza and drink kool-aid. 

Jesus, please give me a heart that puts others comfort and needs above my need to impress. Please replace my insecurities with your grace and compassion. Help me make this a home for my family and our friends, not a display case. Bring others here who need support and encouragement. And fill me with You to meet their needs.  Fill this home with fun and love and security and use my hands to create it, not my discontentment to tear it down. Thank you for the people in it. They are what make it home!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sweeter by the Dozen

I just kissed Sarah on the cheek and told her goodnight for the last time as an 11 year old. Tomorrow she will be twelve, and we will celebrate her last birthday before she enters the teenage years. As Kate used to say, "What the world?" I don't even know how that happened. Because yesterday we were celebrating her turning one and she looked like this.

I had a house full of family and friends and I had the brilliant idea that we should take five one year olds and have  them paint their hand prints on pretty scrapbook paper. My kitchen that was the size of a shoe box held frantic, stressed out moms and babies who were almost toddlers streaking through in bursts of energy and purple paint. You have to give me some credit; we didn't have Pinterest in those days and sometimes your creativity and plans of grandeur get out of hand when you are sleep deprived and have experienced a traumatic amount of the Wiggles. I hate to admit that I have no idea if that little project has survived the three moves we've made since then. I hope that one day I will come across it. But if I don't, I will always have the memory. So many memories. 

A dozen years of memories.

A dozen years of smiles.

A dozen years of planning. :)

A dozen years of learning.

A dozen years of seeing the world in a whole new way, because you made me a Mama. <3 div="">

Sarah Beth, you are such a gift from the Father. Sometimes I just have to stop and thank Him for letting me be your Mom. You are truly a special girl. You came into this world with the strongest will I've ever experienced, and it has been a joy to watch you grow and develop that strong will. When you were two that strong will led to some knock down drag outs and you were blessed to have lots of grandparents around to rescue you. :) As the years went on I watched as that strong will made you a fighter, in the best sense of the word. I've watched grow from a shy little girl who was terrified to sing or dance in front of an audience, to a confident, self-assured performer.  Other kids are drawn to you. You are a nurturer and a natural born leader. I never thought of kids as having the gift of hospitality, but you do. You love to cook and bake and decorate and plan parties. You love to celebrate, and I love that about you! You think all the things are special occasions, a reason for a dress and a fancy tablecloth.  You are a planner and praise God for putting one in this family! I know your Daddy and I drive you crazy with our play it by ear personalities, but be patient with us, eventually you will train us. :) 

I love your willingness to try new things, but also that you know what you like. You are kind and thoughtful and mature beyond your years. You are the BEST big sister, a loyal friend, a hard-working student, and the sweetest daughter we could ask for. 

I pray that while these upcoming years may be awkward, and at times challenging, that you will stay you. That you will know you are special and have a beautiful soul. That you will find great joy in becoming who God intended you to be, not wasting time trying to be someone else. That you will choose friends who build you up and encourage you to be better. That you will continue to grow in grace and knowledge. That you will be brave and bold and stand for what you believe in. And most importantly that you will always know that you still have a shoulder to lean on when you need one. 

                We love you SB!! Happy 12th Birthday!! Take this year slow, for your Mama's sake.  :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Just A Mom

Eleven years ago I celebrated my first Mother's Day. Josh gave me pearls. I sported a new, short mom do. I was 22 years old. I was a stay at a home mom. And those were the best of times and the worst of times. I alternated between a crazy love for the new little life my world now revolved around, and a sense of loss for the college program I had left behind, the friends who couldn't relate, and the body that I no longer saw in the mirror. Mostly, I struggled with the idea that I was "just a mom".

I have always been an overachiever. An obnoxious one. I have no idea how I had any friends or anyone could stand to be around me. I wanted to be the best and win all the awards. It took me a long time to realize how much my self-worth was tied up in trophies and recognition and certificates. I needed them to make me feel like I was ok. This realization came to me about the same time as motherhood. Did you know that no one claps for you after a midnight feeding or a diaper change that would bring a grown man to his knees?

Suddenly, I was "just a mom" and it didn't feel very important or special. Lots of people are moms. Anyone can be one. Right?

Of course, eleven years later, I know that's not true. I've learned there's a lot more to the being a mom thing than people think. I've watched people I love struggle with the fact that maybe a baby of their own is not in the plan for them. I've worked with women who have physically given birth, but their maternal instincts are lacking. I've been introduced to children who are desperate for the love, attention and affection of their mother.

And all of those things have caused me to rethink the phrase, "just a mom".  Last night Sarah had her dance recital and it's the first time in several years that I wasn't teaching or working backstage for the studio. The comment was made that I would get to come to the show as "just a mom".  And it thrilled my heart. It was so nice to be able to make last night about her and not have to share my attention with other girls or be in 5 different places. I loved being "just a mom", but it made me think about how that phrase used to fill me with a sense of disappointment in myself.

I thought being "just a mom" meant losing my identity, losing the respect of others, losing my dreams.

You see, it just didn't seem all that important. Until it did. Until I met those kids whose lives were lacking someone to kiss their owies and brush their hair. Until I watched them devour pizza at church on Wednesday night and came to understand that there had been no after school snacks for them. Until they told me it was their birthday, and there were no parties or special dinners planned. Until they were laying on the floor during class, exhausted because no one had provided a bed time or structure in their life.

I am so thankful that in the last 11 years God has made being "just a mom" my heart's desire. I have learned that being a mom has a lot less to do with how many children you bring home from the hospital, and more to do with  how you learn to love the people in your life. It's looking at precious lives and knowing that they cannot have too many people love them. A child cannot be too loved or too taken care of. And things that may seem so routine, so mundane, are so important in the life of a child. There is nothing disappointing in loving, serving and nurturing other people.

Since that first Mother's Day I have gone back to school and worked different jobs, even jobs that I've loved. Despite my initial fears, I am still capable of adult conversation and I have some knowledge of pop culture beyond the Wiggles. :)  I have friends and I have causes that are important to me. But, at the end of the day being "just a mom" has changed me in every way. In the best ways. I realized that I had allowed myself to believe that being a Mom would take things from me. Especially becoming one at such a young age. I believed a lie. Becoming a Mom grew things in me. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Fruit that grows in the routine, long, sometimes stormy seasons of life. The kind that grows when a person's well-being becomes more important to you than your own.

I wanted to share this for all the Moms who spend their days rocking and feeding and refereeing. For the moms vacuuming and cooking and scrubbing. For the moms wiping noses and bottoms and tears. For the moms running and driving and longing to be many places at one time. For the moms trying to do it all and feeling like it's never all quite done. For the moms who may not even have their own children, but love and care and nurture as if they did. Being "just a mom" is just enough. It's just exactly what your babies need. And sometimes, other people's babies, too.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What's Nice About Nine

It seems almost impossible to believe that this was nine years ago...

Until this day nine years ago, I thought there would only ever be room in my heart for one boy. Joshua Fidler alone had my heart. That is, until the day I met Joshua Eli Fidler. You were eight pounds and 4 ounces of pure sweetness. The most laid back, go with the flow little baby boy and I fell so in love with you. We even went on dates together. Me with my boys.

Now somehow, you are nine. Almost a decade old. You asked me tonight if next year you would be a century old and I clarified it's a decade. Because seriously, the decade thing makes me feel old enough!!

You've grown from my chunky baby boy into an energetic, athletic boy. Overnight you've gone from this....

To this.....

You are still sweet and you still have my heart. You still like to cuddle and have your back scratched and your head rubbed. You are still all boy. But you are a big boy now. You are competitive and a perfectionist and you expect big things from yourself. You're the kid that makes straight A's and hits homeruns and you're basically just totally cool and awesome. You are funny in a witty way, the way that takes people off guard because you can also be very serious. I adore your laugh and even the way you make farting noises with your arm because that's what boys do. 

I love that you always look for me in the stands before you get up to bat. That you still want to tell me about your day. That you are super tight with your sisters and put up with all the fussing they do over you. 

I especially love that you are in a stage where you adore your Daddy. Actually, I can't think of a time you haven't. But I've really seen it this last year. The bond between a boy and his Daddy. You can't get enough of his attention. What he says, about baseball or riding bikes or Jesus is the final word in your book. He is the smartest person on the planet to you and you soak up every minute he spends throwing a ball with you, playing a video game with you or talking about serious stuff with you. It makes me swoon. I pray you are always so close. I pray you always realize how smart and wise your Daddy is. I especially pray that you grow to be the kind of man he is.

But for now, you're nine and life is full of dreams and possibilities and bases to run and games to play. I hope you enjoy every minute of what this year holds for you. Innocence. Fun. Adventure. Learning. Playing. Nine is so nice.

Happy Birthday Eli! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Be Brave. Do Hard Things.

45 million=The number of times I've asked God if He's sure we're where we should be. If He is sure we are doing what we're supposed to be doing.

Am I the only one who has asked that question? I know people who seem so confident, so self-assured that they are exactly where they should be. The neighborhood they were meant to live in. The career they were born to do. The social circle where they belong. I don't know if it is being in the ministry or just my natural tendency to over analyze every.single.thing, but I often find myself questioning if I'm where I should be.

I mostly ask this question when things feel hard. When life is busy, when crisis occurs, when I feel like the demands of life significantly outweigh my energy level.

You see, over the last, oh, decade of my life, things have changed. Obviously there have been changes in where we've lived, where I've worked, if I've worked, the church where we served, and the number of children on the journey with us. We've added friends. We've lost loved ones. But when I talk about a change, what I'm talking about is a change in mission of our ministry. Mostly, that now we have one. :) I don't know that we necessarily set out with a mission. We just wanted to serve God and His people. Our intentions were good, but our understanding of what that really means, well, that was lacking. Growing up in church it is easy to have the idea that "being in ministry" means shaking people's hands on the way out of church and cooking casseroles for the church suppers. Of course *everybody* loves you because you are the preacher's family. (g)

But here's what we've learned in the time since-there's not a thing easy about it. Not even making the casseroles y'all. Do you know how hard it is to live up to the cooking skills of the older ladies in the church? :) But seriously, as our years in ministry have progressed, so have the trials. Sometimes those trials have been our own. Sometimes they are the trials of those we are ministering to. Sometimes the church itself is in a deep trial. And sometimes two or more of those hit at the same time and it always leads to the same thought: This is hard.

Fight or flight. We've all learned that this is the brain's response in tough situations. Sometimes it happens physically. We physically fight or run away as fast possible. Sometimes it's emotional. Sometimes we shutdown and sometimes we do the hard work to face things in life we'd rather not. And then there are spiritual hard times. Lately I've been thinking a lot about the church as a whole. And it's hard to group an enormous amount of people into a neat little box where everyone fits, so I would never try to do that. But on a day to day basis as I observe life around me, I question if at times we are guilty of taking flight spiritually. I'm not talking about the Rapture here. Before you break out in a chorus of "I'll Fly Away", what I mean is that I think that as life gets hard and the situations in the world get tougher, we are spiritually fleeing.

When we first went into ministry learned a new term: White flight. It referred to the number of neighborhoods and churches that had an increase in diverse populations and the white people were moving out. There. I don't know any PC way to put it. And I may create a firestorm for even talking about it, but it was real and it was happening.

That being said, I feel that we are also guilty of "right flight". Regardless of race or any other factor, we just want to get to the closest group of Christians and live the right way and thank God we are not like "those other people". You know what I'm talking about. People who don't agree with us on every thing. Basically, anybody who is different.

I feel like I need to stop here and clarify that I am not trying to paint Christians with a broad stroke. I absolutely know for a fact that there are many who are ministering and serving and loving on others. I just share this because of my own struggle. My struggle with the fact that it is tempting to huddle up with other Christians and do life our own way and be completely oblivious to the struggle of those around us.

I have to tell you that God has continually put me in places that I can't ignore the struggle. We are blessed with an amazingly loving, caring church family. But it just happens to be located in a community where we have faced some unique ministry challenges. The only word to describe our ministry is "need". So much need. There are always financial needs. Always, Everywhere. Need for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Need for sobriety. Those are hard needs. Sometimes impossible ones when it comes to our personal ability or our church's ability to meet them. We can pay a light bill or buy some groceries. We can pray for healing and offer counseling. But some things are just out of our control. And so I understand where churches feel at a loss in how to help some people. But as our ministry has taken us to a more personal place with many of our neighbors, I've realized greater needs. A need for attention and company. A need to be seen and heard. A need to feel just as valued as the most upstanding church member. A need to feel a part of a family. And while those seem like easier needs, they're not.

It's not always easy to provide attention to someone when your own life is already overflowing with responsibilities and activities. It's not always easy to develop relationships with people who take more than they give. It's not always easy to invite people to be a part of your family when you're not sure you can trust them. Are you getting what I'm saying? It's hard.

It's hard to discern when someone will benefit from your time and attention and when it might just enable someone else in a negative way. It's hard when their issues get all up in your business and remind you of your issues. It's hard when people have crisis situations at the most inopportune times. It's hard when God opens your eyes to suffering around you and you realize that you are His plan to be His hands and feet in hard places. It's hard when you rediscover 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) that once seemed romantic, but now reminds you that love is patient. And you begin to understand why that is the first characteristic of love, because some people require SO much patience to love.

I don't share this to point fingers or call anyone out. Every word is written for me because I need it the most. Over the last year I have continually felt the Spirit prompting me to be brave and do hard things. Our natural human tendency is to figure out-how do I make this is as easy as possible? Right? Where do we think microwaves and dishwashers came from? We spend a lot of time trying to make our lives easier. It doesn't come naturally to do the hard things. I think of the saying that firefighters are the only ones who run into a burning building when everyone is running out. Can I be so bold as to say that we as Christians have got to become brave enough to run into the hard places when others run out? I am reminded that God never told us this was going to be easy. Somewhere along the way we've decided that being in God's will equals ease, comfort, and our personal happiness. But in truth we are told,

 "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:35

As I read that I realize that for me the phrase 'it is more blessed to give than to receive' has always conjured a nice thought of a gift wrapped in a beautiful box and the warm fuzzies you get when you give a good gift. But as I put this in context by including the part before it that says, "I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak" I think of a different kind of giving. The giving of ourselves. Our time. Our attention. Our hearts. Our minds. Giving of everything we have that others would see the love of Jesus in a tangible way, with arms to hug, ears to listen and a mouth to speak words of life. 

As I've been made aware of so many painful, hard things I have continually found myself wanting to not know about them. To question if it is in my best interest to know about such dark things. But knowledge is power, and we cannot meet needs that we are not aware of. We cannot pray for situations we would never dream existed. And we cannot meet people in places we are too afraid to go. The story of The Good Samaritan is a perfect example of what God expects from us. I love these two quotes:

“We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need - regardless of race, politics, class, and religion - is your neighbour. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbour, and you must love your neighbour.” ― Timothy KellerGenerous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just
“On the parable of the Good Samaritan: "I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.Strength to Love
My human self may always question if I'm where I should be. It will probably always long for an easier path, a more comfy location. I may question if it's a Christian's responsibility to wade into hard places, but I will always know the answer.  1 Thessalonians  1:5:7 tells us that it is was "in the midst of severe suffering" that they received the message of the Gospel. Somebody had to deliver it "in the midst of severe suffering". Someone had to be brave and do hard things.
"You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit."1 Thessalonians 1:5-7

Saturday, April 19, 2014

You're Invited to the Table

Have you ever experienced a time of being the odd man out? Going to a new school, a new job or church or eating lunch by yourself? The feeling of walking into a cafeteria or social event and having no idea where you will sit or if the person you choose to sit by would prefer you weren't there. Isn't it the greatest relief to see a familiar face or just hear someone say, "Hey! Come sit here!"

Last week in Sunday School we learned about Mephibosheth. He was the crippled son of King David's friend, Jonathan. But he was the grandson of King David's arch enemy, Saul. We are told in Scripture that he was lame in both feet. He had been accidentally dropped as his family was fleeing a dangerous situation. He would later live isolated and alone, by his own choice. The part of the story we picked up in was the part when David asked, "“Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Samuel 9:1

David desired to show kindness to Mephibosheth, not because of anything he did, but because of his love for Jonathan. My favorite part of the story is when we read, "So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king’s table." 2 Samuel 9:13.

All week I have remained in awe of what this story represents. First, I had the opportunity to meet some of the foster families I will be working with and see real life versions of people who have invited weak, vulnerable strangers to join them at their table. It's beautiful and breathtaking and life giving. More importantly, as we approach Easter Sunday my heart swells, overwhelmed that, not because of anything I've done, but solely based on my relationship with Jesus, I've been invited to sit at the King's table. 

It never gets old. It never stops rocking my world. The idea that the King looked down, He saw me broken, lame, crippled. With sin and heartache. And He showed me kindness for Jesus' sake. He invited me to the table.

Wherever you are tonight, whatever your struggle, no matter how broken-you're invited, too.

"And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
Romans 8:10-11

Thursday, February 20, 2014

His Handwriting

My favorite part of reading books is getting to know the characters. I love stories where you have to read and read and read to get to the heart of the person and their motivations and their history. Where it is unveiled one piece at a time, even sometimes agonizingly slow at times. Of course, that's how a good writer tells a story because who wants to keep reading when the whole thing is laid out in the first chapter, right? As I write this I feel stunningly aware of what a brilliant author our Heavenly Father is. He keeps me on my toes, keeps me wanting to know more, to dig more, to turn the next page. I used to feel confident that I knew it all, but now I am confident that He knows it all, and sometimes He allows us to see the pages of our lives unfold like a beautifully, well laid out manuscript full of His handwriting and plot lines.

Maybe it is just me, but I have moments in my life in which the memories play like the protagonist's  flashback. One such memory takes me back a couple of years ago. When we first moved to the community we are in now I was blessed with a new friend I met through an old friend. This friend had been college roommates with one of my dearest long time friends and when she found out I was moving to the same town she decided we had to meet. I'm so thankful we did. She became a fast friend and encourager.She also had 3 kids close to the same ages and instantly hit it off. Sadly, not too long after that her family moved out of town. It was sad for us, but a great opportunity for their family. And later I would realize, it would be important for me, too. 

Soon after they moved something big happened in their lives. They became foster parents. It started with twin boys who eventually were adopted by another family. Then, they would take in two sisters. They would also provide a loving home for another little boy in transition. Did I mention all of these children were under the age of 2??? They brought their expanding family to visit us one night and we all went to the park for the kids to play. While there, pushing babies in swings, she shared that they found out the mom of the two sisters was expecting again and the decision had already been made that the baby would be taken away. Their options were either to also take in the baby or set up scheduled appointments for the girls to see their sister. Of course, they began preparing for another baby. Even as we shared that night there was already a tugging at my heart. Of course I admired my friend. Of course I knew that what she was doing was absolutely needed. And even as we shared that night they got word that the baby was on the way and their trip was cut short to head home and prepare to add a newborn to their family.

I was in awe. I can honestly say that I had never considered fostering. Never. Josh and I had talked about adoption one night when he came home from an event he had been at where they talked about orphan babies in China who don't cry anymore because they've resigned themselves to the fact that no one will answer them. So Josh and I cried for them that night. But we knew that if it was something for us, it would be far in the future. I knew I could not foster. How could you let yourself care for a child knowing that they would most likely be taken away from you? Even as a social worker I said from the days I was in school that I could not work with kids. I knew my heart would not be strong enough.  And yet, now I was seeing it in real life, and I was looking at children and they were real people and I was being told that they had lived in more homes in their 2 years of life than most people live in a lifetime. And not just different houses, but with different families.  And they were real people. 

Slowly fostering came onto my radar and I couldn't get it to leave. Not too long after that visit a neighborhood boy who, for all intensive purposes lived at my house, became involved in a child abuse case. I panicked wondering what would happen to him and where he would go. And it hit me, maybe he could stay with us. The case was resolved before it got to that point, but again the issue of fostering was brought before me. The need. The real people. 

Around this time the decision was made for me to go back to work full-time and that it would definitely not be the time to foster. I can't lie. I was not thrilled about going back to work. I loved teaching dance. I loved being able to go to my kid's class parties and take them to the park on days they were out of school. It was going to be a big adjustment. Then, it took what felt like forever to find a job. And my confidence was low. Re-entering the workforce after a 4 year break, during a time of economic hardship is not easy or confidence boosting. My heart became set on a social work position at the hospital that is 10 minutes from my house and 5 minutes from the school. I had it all planned in my head. My experience was in medical social work. It was going to be perfect. I made it to the final interview believing I had the job. I didn't. I was bummed and I hung out in my pj's for a few days, and then I went to the workforce center and applied for another job. And I got it. And it was working with kids. And it was new and different and a lot to learn and a lot  for our family to adjust to. And sometimes it has been sad and stressful and I've seen things I wish I could unsee and handled situations I never knew I would be tough enough to handle. And two things happened. My confidence grew. Confidence that if God calls you to do something, He will equip you to do it. And my burden grew. My burden for children who do not have healthy, functioning parents to care for them. Children who've known abuse and instability and fear. And I've wished with all my heart that some hugs and smiles could fix it, but they can't. I learned that I have a  passion for these kids that has created a boldness and bravery in me that I had never experienced. 

The thoughts about foster care continued to creep in and out of my mind only to be chased away by fear or doubts. Then, a few weeks ago, I was overcome by them. I could not stop thinking about it. I received an e-mail about an upcoming meeting and a month full of classes to be certified. Josh and I had continually talked about it being something we might do in the future, but there are some things we felt like we needed to get taken care of before we could. Even though we had that conversation and I knew those things were not done yet, I became an emotional wreck over the whole thing. I couldn't explain it. I cried every time I talked to Josh. We had long, deep talks. I kept asking him what was wrong with me. I'm sure he was asking himself the same thing! What I felt was urgency. That I needed to do something about this now. My prayer all along had been that I would know it was time when Josh was ready and that he knew it was time. So I couldn't figure out why I felt this way and he wasn't there yet.

Out of the kindness of his heart (and probably the fear of my insanity) he agreed to go to the orientation meeting with me to get some information. Then, the day came. It was a snow day. Polar Vortex and all that stuff. Craziness. Anyway, I wasn't sure if they would still be having the meeting because of the weather. I wasn't able to get ahold of anyone at the church where it was supposed to be held. Normally I probably would have just been relieved to feel like that was a sign I wasn't supposed to go and I could hang out in my pajamas and read a book, but I still had that feeling. Josh could tell. I'm sure I had the crazy eyes going on. He offered to get on the webpage of the organization offering the classes and see if it said anything. It didn't say anything about the classes. But what he did find was a job opening. A job opening for someone with my degree who also had experience building relationships with churches. Wow. Who knew being a preacher's wife might have a perk. :) A job whose responsibilities include recruiting, training and supporting foster families. 

Now you might think that I had a moment of "OH! This is what the urgency was about!" But I honestly didn't think I had a chance of getting the job. I e-mailed an application just to see. I got an e-mail back saying it didn't go through. Things were really busy and crazy at work when I got back so I didn't even think any more of it. Then, the next Monday I was home with Sarah because she was sick. I decided I would try to send my application one more time. Just to see. Within 30 minutes I had a phone call and an interview scheduled for that Wednesday afternoon. My head was spinning. I couldn't even fathom it. I am someone who had waited months during my last job search to hear back from people and this happened this fast! I wasn't even sure that I really wanted this job or that I wanted to leave my job. But I couldn't help but be a little excited about the possibilities. Cautiously excited. 

I scheduled a last minute hair appointment with my SIL and bought a new outfit. You know, the important stuff. Wednesday morning it occurred to me that perhaps I should have spent as much time preparing for interview questions as I had getting my hair colored. :) The interview was going to be in Tallahassee so I planned to leave work after lunch. However, there would be other plans. It hit me that my wallet had been stolen a couple of weeks before and I still had not replaced my driver's license. What if they needed it at my interview? So, I was going to just go in to work late. Turned out the DL place opened even later than I thought. Didn't matter. While I was waiting for it to open the school nurse called to tell me that it looked like the scrape on Kate's knee from where she had fallen off her scooter over the weekend was infected now. And her eye looked infected to. And I remembered asking one of Kate's friends who stopped by to play at the house what happened to her eye and she said, "Oh, it's just infected."  Awesome. :) So, I went to the school and Josh and I decided to take her to the dr. We hung out there for 2 1/2 hours. At that point I knew I would have to leave straight from there to get to my interview and I still didn't have my license. During this time my supervisor sent an e-mail saying she was going out of town so she needed my timesheet a day early. I could only do it at my office. 30 minutes away. She also sent another e-mail saying we needed to bring 32 files to our meeting that week. I thought the dr. was going to have to treat me for a panic attack. Thankfully, she corrected herself that it was only supposed to be 3. Whew! 

I felt torn about leaving Kate so pitiful, but Josh assured me he could handle it. I took off for my office praying I could run up to my office without seeing anybody or having to answer the phone. I did my timesheet and headed out as fast as I could. It finally hit me that I was going to interview for another job. And that I was not going to have time to stop for lunch on the way so  my stomach would probably be growling uncontrollably during it. :)  

During the interview they asked why I wanted to work in that field. I told them about my friend and the impact her family has had on me. I shared my crazy story of the urgency and the website and knew that if they hired me after that it would be a God thing. When we finished the interview they said they would be praying for the person the LORD had for the position and I could honestly say, "Me, too" even if that person wasn't me.

I didn't let myself feel confident. I felt like the interview went well, but I have known the disappointment of hopes set high. I also was overcome with the importance of this job and the responsibility. It would be a challenge. For me. For my family. I prayed that if I wasn't supposed to have it that God would close every door. He certainly had on jobs in the past. 

To wrap up this long story, I was offered the job. I am both thrilled and terrified. I have no doubt this will be a job that will require God's strength being made perfect in my weakness everyday. I have so much to learn. I am bracing for the challenges and longing for the rewards.  I feel blessed to be entrusted with the job of supporting and training everyday heroes and I feel dependent on my Savior to give me strength and wisdom and faith. Mostly, I am just living in awe of the author and perfecter of my faith! He was writing some chapters I didn't see coming. :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Parenting Is An Endurance Sport

Hello there! My name is Emily and I use to blog here. :)

I wish I could give you a really awesome, exciting reason that I've not been blogging. That I've been off traveling the world, or writing a book or somethin' like that. But the truth is that in place of what use to be my "blogging time" you will now find me sprawled on the couch trying to keep my eyes open and wondering if I should fix a pot of coffee at 8:30 pm because, life. Because I want to read one more chapter in my book or have a coherent conversation with my husband or actually do the night before routine the night before. 

But that would require energy so I just drag myself to bed instead. These last few months have been a struggle for me. I don't do winter well. And y'all, we've had a real winter. Like, I've actually had a reason to wear my scarves and not just for fashion purposes. Over the last couple of months I've had some hard conversations, made some hard decisions, watched people I love deal with hard things, had my wallet stolen, and right now my new vehicle is waiting to have it's first parts replaced. On top of it all the Fidler 5 has done a marvelous job of sharing. Sharing germs, that is. It honestly feels like someone has been sick at my house every week since November. All of these are little things and I constantly remind myself how blessed I am and how good things really are, but sometimes the little things add up and seem bigger. It's those times when you feel like you can't catch a breath before something else happens. 

The other night I was watching the Olympics and there was some event where guys were skiing cross country, but occasionally they would stop and shoot at a target. So weird. I'm still convinced 13 year old boys came up  with all of the winter sports. Except ice dancing. Anyway, it is almost painful to me to watch these cross country skiers. I've never been skiing, but I've walked uphill in the sand at the beach carrying coolers and chairs and children and it.is.torture. to me. And I imagine that is what cross country skiing must feel like. I always feel relieved for them when they can pick up their arms and just glide downhill for a minute. Makes me feel better. :)  But soon they are going uphill again and I think, 'Isn't it enough that they are skiing for 94 miles?'  But nope, they gotta go uphill. And they have to shoot a target. And does it ever end? And then it does and these people, these Olympians who spend every day of their life training for this, fall out on the ground. And I'm so happy for them that it is over that I want to lay in the snow with them and make snow angels.

Because that sport, is an endurance sport. It's not like the "Flying Squirrel" event where these guys go flying off of a slope and land a minute later. This goes on. and on. and on. 

Endurance is hard for me. I'm good with now. Impulse. Crisis. Hostage situation. Whatever. As long as it is quick. As long as I know the pain/fatigue/embarrassment/fear/heartache/whatever will be over soon. But it's when those things last. When there is no end in sight. When you know there will not come a time to neatly put a sticker on a chart or mark a check in a box that it is completed. The hard stuff. The never ending stuff. 

That's why I've decided parenting is an endurance sport. I think it is best if we just call it what it is. Because I think we become disheartened and disillusioned when we prepare for a 40 yard dash and then we realize it is a cross country event. We tell ourselves "as soon as they sleep through the night", "as soon as they're potty trained", "as soon as they can get themselves ready". We totally envision ourselves leisurely lounging, sipping on coffee, finishing complete thoughts. Just recently we've been looking at new couches and I seriously started considering a light colored fabric like I don't have 3 children + 50 more who hang out at our house and 2 dogs. I had drifted into the dream world where my kids are all completely self-sufficient, never spill a drink (good luck with that since their adult parents are the worst offenders with that) and never drop a permanent marker on the furniture. 

Now, before I go any further, please do not feel that I am saying my children are a huge chore that I'm just trying to survive. I know that is how it sounds. I love my children dearly and raising them is the greatest blessing and responsibility I've ever been given. But what I'm saying is that some roles and responsibilities are for a season, but parenthood is for a lifetime. 

For those in the potty training, spaghetti throwing, never sleeping phase-I want to give you hope. That season does come to a close. Your house and your mental state will hold up better than you think. :)  But, then you move into a new season. We are currently in the season of teaching children to do things for themselves and to be happy for their friends when they win contests you really wanted to win and trying to avoid the hospital as bikes and scooters and skates seem to be extremely dangerous for the Fidkids. For me this season has meant balancing work and motherhood and church responsibilities. And some days it honestly does feel so much easier than those early days of diapers and babies being in.to.everything. And then I have a day like I had this last Saturday and I am reminded that I have not reached my destination. I am still on the course and sometimes it feels like going uphill in the snow.

On Valetine's day my MIL kindly asked if the kids could spend the night with her. So, we got a date. I think it is the first time we went out on Valentine's Day as a married couple ever. For real. But Saturday morning I got a text that Kate was throwing up. I loaded up in the church van (because remember my vehicle is waiting on a car part. :)  and headed to pick up the kids. Kate got sick again before we left and PRAISE GOD for my MIL who had the forethought to give me several plastic bags to take with me. My mom had goodies for the kids she wanted to give them and she was willing to brave the germs so went by her house. After sharing germs  visiting with her and my brother and his fiance and my niece,  Kate got sick again. I got her changed and cleaned up and we took that as our cue to leave. My poor brother, who used to have his own bout with motion sickness, was standing at the van holding the bag for Kate while I loaded myself and all of our stuff up.

 I went as fast as I could go in a 1990's 15 passenger van and we made it to Mexico Beach where traffic came to standstill. A gumbo festival was happening and apparently that meant no one could drive above 1.5 mph through there. I think you know what happened. We're stuck in traffic. Kate starts puking. Sarah and Eli are throwing plastic bags at her like they are bombs set to explode at any moment. Kate finished puking and kindly placed the used bag on Sarah's arm rest. Sarah proceeded to flip out. I began laughing. Hysterically. Like the hyena laugh people do when the men in the white jackets are coming to get them. There was literally nothing else to do at that point. I had a flashback to a time when my brother had gotten sick on a trip and my Dad, who had the weakest stomach ever (and who I inherited it from) also freaked out and pulled into an Applebee's parking lot and threw the bag in a bush and drove off. I couldn't even get to a bush, y'all! 

I felt so guilty because my baby was so sick and I could NOT stop laughing. I knew that it was just another version of sobbing, but my poor child will grow up talking about the time she was puking her guts up and her mother was laughing hysterically. 

But the point is- I did not jump out of the van and run away. I did not say ugly words. I did not join in the puking. And that might not count for much to others, but for me it was progress.  I remembered my Dad with the weak stomach and was reminded that I also have a somewhat weak stomach, and yet here I was, accepting a bag of puke as my daughter flung it at me. And I thought of a time when my marriage was new and we had just adopted our first child, our cocker spaniel Abby. And Abby ate Fruit Loops and proceeded to throw up little mounds of rainbows all over our 25 square foot apartment. And I called my husband at work and told him he would have to come home to deal with this situation because me and my weak stomach certainly could not. And in that moment I realized that just like those cross country skiers I have been training for over a decade now, often going uphill and having to stop occasionally to shoot at targets. I have come a long way. But that's the point. It didn't happen overnight. It's an endurance sport. Things that felt absolutely impossible with my firstborn I could do now on 2 hours of sleep walking backwards in heels. (Or something like that.) 

This job is not for the faint of heart. Or weak of stomach. I've found that there are two camps of people you talk to. The ones who idealize parenthood and only remember tea parties and bed time stories. And those who warn you of the impending doom of parenthood. I prefer to see parenthood as a lifetime in training with occasional falls and losses and frequent, though sometimes small, victories. It's not necessarily a race to be won, just one you are trying to finish. You are trying to get these little people who've been entrusted into your care from Point A to Point B and the plan is that you will all be stronger, more capable when it is over. It is easy to become overwhelmed by all you don't know, all you mess up, all you don't have. Sometimes we just have to breathe and pray and trust God to equip us in the moment. As He equips us in each moment we become a little stronger, a little wiser, a little more capable. And as our kids begin their own journeys through life maybe what they need to see is not that we are perfect, but that we can endure. That even in the not so wonderful moments of life, we will still be there to comfort their heart and hold their hands or bags of puke, or whatever. :)