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.  :)