On the island that I call home some of the most serene beaches are the ones tucked behind rocky barriers. To reach them, one must navigate coral, volcanic rock and sandstone with slippers in hand. Attempting to balance and grip one’s way across the rocky terrain while wearing shoes would be arduous at best, perilous at worst. Of course, walking barefoot through sharp stones, hot rocks and pokey coral isn’t exactly gentle on the feet either. Yet the soft, welcoming sand and blissful solitude that await make the journey worth every “ouch” and “oh, that’s hot!”
I thought about this today as I was navigating a Friday that turned out completely different than I had planned. I had visions of a day filled with fun fall activities since I had completed the bulk of my week’s projects and goals. But a rough night and a late morning start turned chaos into minor catastrophe, and I wasn’t able to quite salvage the day despite my best attempts. Midway through my frantic Friday I literally thought to myself, “I feel like I am walking across rocks in bare feet – jumping from one rough rock to another sharp one only to spring on to another painful point.” But my train of thought didn’t pause there for I remembered the peaceful lagoon that was always waiting around the rugged bend. I started to sift through the moments of my day to find the sand, seashells and soothing surf.
There were the first compliments my son has ever voluntarily spoken to me: “Mommy, is that a new shirt you’re wearing? It’s beautiful.” “Your hair is so beautiful.” The innocent inquiries of “Are you feeling a little bit happy now?” And finding a new tickle spot on my baby that generated incredible belly laughs. I also cannot deny that days such as these allow me to connect and empathize with my circle of mom friends in such a special way; I really don’t think I would trade this camaraderie for a carefree life of perfection and ease. On days like today there is no escaping the rough, painful areas of my character; however, there is also no escaping the great mercy of my Savior who never fails to wash my tired feet and offer hope to my soul.
A beloved friend and I were recently chatting about one of our favorite topics: our kids. This time we were dipping our conversational toes into the realm of education since our oldest children are nearing preschool age. It can be a daunting topic for us moms who are also continuing to juggle nights of interrupted sleep with potty training and younger siblings and everything in between…and now we have to add ABCs and 1-2-3 on top of all that?? But it’s also a subject that I positively LOVE and am completely passionate about. I never have my fill of learning and relish teaching even more.
As a certified secondary education teacher I have spent much time pondering the academic realm and what is required to have a thriving student. I have come to the conclusion that the success of a classroom lies in the vision the teacher has for each of her students; that vision must incorporate the final outcome of those being educated. What is that outcome? Adulthood. Education is the equipping of children for their adult lives. Both teachers and parents can become so immersed in the nitty-gritty of surviving the day that the destination for which we are aiming gets lost in the shuffle. I know! I’ve been there (in both roles). However, I believe that articulating our vision and then reminding ourselves of it on a daily basis can truly clarify and simplify the purpose of each day. Perhaps our days have come down to mere survival because we are overloaded with unnecessary extras. Streamlining and prioritizing routines, responsibilities and requirements throughout a week can help us achieve our goals and reach our destination in a less haphazard fashion.
As a mom I frequently reflect on how I can be the devoted teacher to my children that I was for my students. I don’t want to be so engrossed in mothering that I neglect educating or so obsessed with educating that I set mothering on the back burner. In seeking to achieve the needed balance, I have applied myself to studying my children. During these toddler/ early preschool years, formal school time is not a necessity therefore I have done very little of it and yet they are learning dozens of facts, skills and words every single day. How is this possible? They are teaching themselves! As this realization dawned on me, I tuned in even more to their self-teaching processes and am amazed by their innate ability to soak in and apply new knowledge every day. Inquiry, repetition and application are their favorite methods of self-directed learning. I am making mental notes of their present learning process so that in the future, when formal education becomes a requirement, I can implement their preferred methods and styles of learning. Most of all, I am intent on preserving their delight in learning.
As an individual who loves to learn I often wonder why so many who are so young despise it. I believe that this dislike does not come with a developmental stage, rather children are conditioned towards it. School is considered work and work is something to avoid or endure until something fun comes along. It doesn’t have to be this way. With creative intention, we teachers and parents can faithfully present education as a wonderful world of discovery, adventure and joy. Our children are born knowing this, but through the influence of those around them they soon lose the number one key to being a successful student and thriving adult: a hunger to learn. And it begins in the home. Whether we are home-schooling parents or not, we are all responsible for our children’s education by taking note of how they learn, when they learn and why they learn; nurturing their mental health as diligently as we nurture their physical health; and creating a home environment that celebrates learning, working and creative playing. Most importantly, we, as parents, should never stop learning ourselves. Learn something new today and share your excitement with your kids!
**I hope to write more on this topic in future blogs. Please send me your questions and comments so that I can incorporate them in my posts**
I find that caring for my seedling garden is proving to be a refreshing diversion for me. I am checking soil, sun and shade multiple times throughout the day. Sadly, my herbs are wasting away and I have yet to diagnose the cause: not enough water? Too much? Not enough sunlight? Too much? Adequate drainage? As I fuss over and tend to my plants, my knowledge of them is increasing and my care for them is becoming more specialized. If it was merely a buy and bloom process, I would have little attachment to these earthy blessings. The fragile balance between withering and flourishing requires the tending. This past week was one of those three steps forward, two steps back kind of weeks. It was a week when serenity seemed to avoid me while throwing itself into the embrace of others. It was seven days of intense spirit versus flesh battles. I fought hard to retain my joy and maintain a positive outlook on life, even embracing the mountain of laundry that was two weeks in the making and viewing the piles of dirty dishes as an adventure. But there are times when a soul gets tired and one must choose to allot that last bit of energy to either pushing one foot in front of the other or grasping for one more positive thought. In a week like this one, I often cope by pondering the human experience in light of God’s Word. I note my human situation and my human responses to said situation and compare them to those around me. I especially like to do this because I want to have a more informed approach when relating to others, particularly my children as they grow older. This week I reached out to my closest friends and discovered that they too were having trying weeks as well. Their hardships were all different from mine, but our emotions were quite similar. It seems to me that in this journey called life the trials will be as frequent as the triumphs, if not more so. What is a human to do? Just as the desire for my fragile plants to flourish prompts me to nurture and cultivate them, so it is in my relationship with Jesus. A trial-laden week like this one has most certainly not escaped His notice. He wants for me to flourish in everything that He has designed me to be. If life were all roses and no thorns, I most certainly would not be as aware of and dependent on His careful tending of my body, mind and spirit. What is a human to do then? Look to the Gardener and allow Him to bloom you where you are planted.
As I was cleaning my floors today, I had ample time to reflect on my reactions towards the recent violent crimes making headlines: the one in my neighborhood and the one in Las Vegas. Both crimes received reactions of shock and horror from me. I wondered why. And then I had a thought.
Even on my most diligent days of floor cleaning a visitor to my home would not need a magnifying glass to see areas I missed: the dust clutching the baseboards, the teasing crumbs under the table, the pet fur floating in corners. I simply can’t maintain a spotless floor despite my best efforts to do so. This thought transfers to me as well. Despite my most heartfelt attempts to live a righteous life sleepless nights still render me impatient, a friend’s words still leave me feeling bitter, laziness is still more appealing than diligence and a critical spirit is still an easier default than a loving one. And this is true for all of us, dear Readership, for we all fall short in our attempts to please the One who holds our eternity in His hands.
Society is always seeking alternative means to eternal life, peace with God and peace of mind. They worship nature or themselves; they embrace all belief systems; or they simply reject all thoughts of tomorrow and live only for today. Most people find ways around Jesus: “He was a good teacher.” “He was a prophet.” “He was a divine being.” Few people accept Jesus for who He is: Creator of the Universe, Maker of Time, Lord of Life, Almighty God, Savior from the Curse of Sin. When faced with the details of the Crucifixion, we are confronted with why He died and why it was He who died. The price for sin is death and sin demanded its payment. The only way for humanity (from the beginning of time to its end) to have the opportunity for reconciliation with God was if the ransom was paid. The problem was that everyone was bankrupt by their own sin; no one could pay their own debt, let alone the entire world’s! And so, the Creator of the Universe, the Maker of Time, the Lord of Life, the Almighty God became the Savior of the World by providing an escape from the curse of sin and paying the ransom once and for all.
Now, returning to my floor-cleaning train of thought: I shouldn’t be shocked by these recent crimes because they are simply the result of a sin-drenched world. Thousands of crimes more horrific than these occur every day behind closed doors, in cold clinics, invisible to the headlines. What more can we expect from a society that lauds self-indulgence and instant gratification? I shouldn’t be shocked; I should be humbled. Humbled that I am forgiven; humbled that my eternity is secure in the hands of the Keeper of Time; and humbled that I can point my children to the Cross so that they need never live in fear of a gun.
In my last post, I focused on what it is like to be the mom of my cluster of tiny people. Tonight I would like to zoom in on that other most important person to these six little feet. They truly would not be the outstanding people that they are if it wasn’t for his exceptional involvement in their daily lives.
This week my husband and I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. When I was praying for the man that God had designed for me, I knew that I wasn’t simply praying for my sake alone; I was also praying for the man who would forever impact the lives of our future children. However, when I was standing in front of a vast crowd of witnesses, looking deep into the soul of my best friend and committing to a lifetime of loving sacrifice, children weren’t really front and center on my brain. Instead, I was thinking about life together, as a couple. I was thinking about what I would do for him and what he was going to do for me. And life together was just as wonderful as we had expected. I lived to serve him, and he lived to serve me. I thought that my husband was the best guy in the world.
And then a baby came…and then another baby came…and then another baby came…and another baby is coming. They rocked our world. It seemed like all we did was blink, and it was no longer us and what we wanted to do; it was them and what they needed us to do. It was nausea, vomiting, exhaustion to the nth degree, endless grocery bills, piles of laundry, falling into bed barely able to keep our eyes open. And just as quickly I saw my husband with new eyes. I saw him cleaning up my vomit in the shower. I saw him rising early to do my chores and prepare food for me in bed before heading off to work. I saw him forcing himself to stay awake during midnight feedings so that I wouldn’t have to be awake alone. I saw him eager to change diapers, clean up messes, wrestle with toddlers and take over bedtime routine so I could slip away to be by myself. Each year that passes and each child that comes reveals a deeper layer to this man that I married nearly four years ago.
The week leading up to our wedding was a busy one. There was all the flurry and activity that comes with guests arriving and final touches being put on the upcoming celebrations. It was was weighing heavily on my heart that we weren’t getting much time together so he initiated arriving at my house at 5:30am so that we could have devotions together. Ahhh! Such precious quiet time together. Now, here we are. That same man who led me in a pre-sunrise Bible study the week before we married helps with the potty-training of his son, brushes his toddler daughter’s hair every night and carefully spoon feeds his infant daughter at dinnertime. He brings out the man in his son and the ladies in his daughters. What chokes me up every time they say his name is the fact that they KNOW he loves them. There first waking thought is, “Where’s Poppa?” Their play often involves “going to base.” They recognize his ringtone on my phone and rush to bring my phone to me when he calls. He gets squeals out of them that elude my playful abilities, and the stampede to the door when he gets home from work is second to none.
Yes, my children received a heaven-sent father and I KNOW, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I married the best guy in the world.
Many stares come my way these days. Today I went to the post office, a couple of thrift stores and then out to lunch; just an ordinary day of errands, right? Not exactly. At least three people said, “Wow! You have your hands full!” And they weren’t referring to my armload of packages. I got more than twice as many stares as comments and I’m pretty sure my clothes matched. Two older men started sharing their life stories with me – and I don’t think it was because I look like a good listener. Nope. It was because I was accompanied by 6 additional feet.
An array of thoughts rushes through my mind as I block the gawking looks, ignore the crass comments (“You do know how this happens, right?”), the nosiness (“So how many more are you going to have?” “When’s the next one coming?”), and the subtle hints that I’m just plain crazy. Instead, I savor those precious word gifts of encouragement: “You are so blessed!” “What beautiful children and they are so well-behaved!” “Your children are blessed to have you and your husband as their parents.” Some people really do understand what a gift children are, but many do not. The latter also do not understand how discouraging it can be when they voice their ignorance. In a time when daily life has to fit neatly into a Facebook status update or an Instagram photo post, larger families are an anomaly. There’s a certain level of chaos that accompanies my daily life, a trail of spills and mishaps that leads to creative mischief-makers and a slowed pace of accomplished tasks that has extended the lifespan of my to-do list to kingdom come.
These 3 mini people have turned my life topsy-turvy, upside down and inside out. There is no aspect of my life that has remained untouched by them. This entire week I have been pondering how my life is different because of them. In less than 4 years I have gone from singleness to family life. I know belly laugh-inducing inside jokes that were created by a toddler and preschooler. I have experienced the head-to-toe warmth that comes when I hear my 3-year old singing a medley of hymns that our family has been memorizing or see my almost 2-year old browsing through clothes at a thrift store in the same way that I do. I understand the rich exhaustion that comes from being needed around the clock. I can now cross off my bucket list: mopping floors with a baby on my back. Once more I am seeing the simplicity in life; that sweet simplicity that is lost somewhere between being a child and becoming an adult. Suddenly bubbles are enchanting, the wild ducks have names, sprinklers are as good as a water park, peanut butter roll-ups are the answer for every meal, and stories are better the hundredth time they are read. And after all these years of just being me, I am now the most important person in the world to a handful of little people of whom the world is not worthy.
It’s true that these six little growing feet come at a high price; but so do fancy houses, gorgeous clothing, memorable cruises, expensive entertainment systems and fine dining. Those are all things that my husband and I have had to bid farewell. However, as we waved adieu to those incredible experiences and possessions we knew that the choice we made instead is an investment into eternity. So the next time you see a mom trailed by many little feet, don’t stare or deliver a sentiment that she already knows. Offer a helping hand; give a compliment; inquire about a prayer request she may have; or simply smile and nod your head in respect. It’ll make her day even better!
Hurricane Irma is making landfall today. My family and I are snugly situated in a friend’s home in a different state. It wasn’t an easy decision to evacuate. Our house and belongings had to be left behind; many people had chosen to stay. But my husband decided that since such young ones lived in our care we needed to exercise caution, so we packed up our van with necessities, loaded up the kids and critters and headed west northwest ahead of the storm. Evacuating proved quite interesting to me. We took back roads and saw countryside that was new to us. We saw license plates from other counties, and vehicles loaded down with everything from boats to motorcycles to pets and suitcases. When we stopped for dinner in Homerville, I chatted with a helpful boy who told me, “It’s gonna be a big’un…but why now of all times? My friends and I were planning a big party and then we had to evacuate.” Ah, the priorities of a kid. It’s true, though, that storms have a way of reordering one’s priorities. Whether they are storms of wind and rain or storms that lash our emotional, physical or spiritual state, we are confronted by what matters the most to us. Storms require a simplification of life and routine in order for them to be weathered with minimal damage. They draw us closer to family and friends and even strangers. Most of all, they remind us that there really is only One who can speak into the storm and order it to be still. Come to think of it, He is the only One who can do that to my heart as well.