"The eyes of the world are upon you."

Several years ago, I woke up in a haze just as Sam closed the garage door and headed to work. I confess it was earlier in the day than I preferred to wake up, especially in the summertime with nowhere to be. It wasn't the sound of him leaving that roused me, however. It was the sound of what I thought, in my just-woken stupor, was a lawnmower coming along the side of our yard into the back. My initial thought was, "Oh that is SO nice. One of our neighbors must have gotten sick of our knee-high backyard weeds and decided to mow for us." Then in just a few seconds the sound got louder. And louder. It was so loud that the house began to shake.  As I was now more lucid, I realized it was obviously not the early morning neighborly gesture of a backyard lawn-mowing.  I jumped out of bed, looked out my bedroom window and saw a helicopter hovering above the trees behind our playground.  Not only was a helicopter preparing to touch down, but half a dozen policemen with guns drawn were sprinting across the yard, trying to get into my shed, trying to open our back gate, looking under the kids back porch "fort" made out of a sheet thrown over a card table.  As someone unaccustomed to this kind of excitement, I panicked (code word for "started to cry").  I made sure all of the doors were locked, that the alarm system was armed, checked on each of my sleeping babies, and I called Sam (no answer).

Then I did what every self-respecting woman would do in that situation.  I called my dad - you know, the one who probably wasn't awake yet and lives 800 miles away.  I'm not exactly sure what I thought he could do, but I thought he might be able to talk me down from crisis mode.  Or, at least, be on the phone with me when the serial killer I presumed to be hiding in my house popped out from my kitchen pantry and murdered me.

Thankfully that didn't happen.  And my dad is a very calm soul who successfully navigated a 6:30am phone call with a crying crazy person.  He stayed on the phone until the helicopter was gone, the policemen had dispersed, and Sam returned my call.  It turns out, some men who robbed a nearby convenience store had fled on foot through our neighborhood.  They were apprehended a few doors down the street hiding by our drainage pond.

Local law enforcement doesn't play.  (Thanks, Men in Blue.)

I think about this day a lot.

I think about how fortunate I am to live under a blanket of safety every minute of every day.  I think about the fact that I really don't know what it is to fear.  I take for granted the protections of our local police, the state police, and on a much larger scale, our United States armed forces.  I think about what it must be like to live in war-torn nations today.  And to not know whether you will make it home alive from something as innocent as going to the market.  I think of what it must be like to know that a foreign power has invaded your homeland, and to not know the fate of your future.

And today, I think about the brave young men who landed on a beach in France 72 years ago, as part of a collective effort to preserve freedom. 

On June 6, 1944, across an ocean while most Americans were sleeping, 156,000 Allied troops resolved to fight evil and take back Normandy.  Ultimately, because of this invasion, the liberty of an entire continent and possibly, the entire world, was preserved.

We have no idea what that was like for them - the horrors of what they did, saw, lived through, and died from.  As time marches on, all we have is the memory of a generation of men and women who banded together as a country in big ways and small ways to ensure that the war was never fought on our turf, so that our safety on American soil was never threatened.

As we study history, I am regularly moved to tears by the convictions of those who came before us - how brave and resolute and brilliant they were.  I love this country.  And I'm so thankful to be a citizen of it.  I will never be able to thank enough, the men and women who sacrificed to give it to us.  May we never take our freedom for granted.
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”  – John Adams, in a letter to Abigail addressed July 1777
"They fight not for the lust of conquest.  They fight to end conquest.  They fight to liberate." ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, radio address June 6, 1944
“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.”
–Dwight D. Eisenhower, first presidential inaugural address, January 1953

“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” ~ Ronald Reagan, from his first inaugural speech as governor of California, January 5, 1967
The Greatest Generation is quickly dwindling.  I just pray we continue to honor their tenacity, valor, and grit long after they're gone.  May we pick up the baton and run like our freedom depends on it.

Mom Things Resurrected

100 (or in actual reality, eight) years ago when I started this humble blog, I used to do a regular post on Wednesdays called "How to Know You're a Mom."  If I had it all to do over again, I'd name it something more clever and less clunky than that, but if that's my biggest regret, I'm doing okay.

I remembered this list as a cute little diary of sorts a few days ago.  It started back in a time when I was working and blogging was something I did on my lunch break.  Now, I'm a stay-at-home mom with few spare moments to sit down a type, despite my endless "How to Know You're a Mom" material happening right before my very eyes every moment of the day.  Interesting how life works out sometimes.

I sat down to compile a list of these things this week, for old time's sake.  And as I did, it became abundantly clear that something has changed in those eight years.  Whether it's me or society, that's up for debate.  I've written about my insecurities of which I have plenty.  Add that to a culture that stands like a runner at the starting block ready to pounce on someone, anyone for the slightest perceived wrongdoing.  Yeah, that's right.  Perceived.  Some of these things we get up in arms about are simply preferences.  Some of these preferences are based on internet memes that haven't been researched in the slightest.  I know better than to blindly trust a self-declared expert on the internet.  And yet, they get in my head and plant seeds of doubt.  Of course, some of these things are legitimate things to be concerned about, but I'm evidently unable to separate the meaningful from the meaningless.  So that's my mental condition.  Apparently it's not getting any better.

It's prompted this list.  Whether it's once or the resurgence of an old habit, here are this week's Mom Things: 2016 Edition - on Friday (because really, I'm always late these days).

1.  You take an adorable picture of your child climbing on the dishwasher just like her brothers and sisters before her and you want to share it with the world - BUT (!!!), then "the world" (aka the people on your Friends List on Facebook) will know you use plastic plates and cups and, worse, put them in the dishwasher.  You post it anyway and brace yourself for inevitable secret judgments and possibly public chastisement because while most of those plastics are BPA-free, not all of them are.

2.  The Walk of Shame has taken on new meaning as what you do when you parade your kids down the church hallways to their Sunday School classes with pink noses and shoulders from too much fun in the sun on Saturday.  (Or wait, is that better than toxic sunscreen?)

3.  You live in fear of Protective Services coming to your home and taking your children because your five month old's arm got broken completely accidentally during a diaper change by her dear, sweet, and loving six year old sister.

4.  You hesitate to even take your two year old to the doctor for a collarbone fracture two months later, which he earned by trust-falling to no one off a kitchen bar stool in a fit of rage.

5.  Your nine month old cruises around the house in a 90's-era walker like an Olympic track star, but you're scared to document it on Facebook, because, well, you know, the Judgmental Judys.

6.  You pat yourself on the back for remembering to pack a snack for each of your children before their afternoon homeschool co-op.  At the end of the day, your nine year old daughter tells you that a classmate informed her that her Goldfish are going to give her cancer.  You aren't sure if you're angry or scared.  In your house, Goldfish are a food group.  Add that to the list of things you're supposed to consume within the privacy of your own four walls along with hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and Lunchables.

7.  You positively refuse to let anyone look in your vehicle and prohibit carseat photographs just in case one of the chest clips has slipped down or someone should happen to notice that your 12 year old is no longer rear-facing.

8.  You went to the drive-thru at McDonalds after an afternoon of exhausting errands with a bunch of sleepy kids.  While they slept you rewarded yourself to a 3-pack of chocolate chip cookies to prolong the nap.  What you didn't bank on was McDonalds having to bake the cookies from scratch while you and your giant, hard-to-miss van parked out front on display for the world to see.  There's no way you weren't spotted at the worst-of-all-bad fast food restaurants.

9.  You don't pay too close attention to the child climbing in and out of your shopping cart with the agility of an ape, because she's been literally scaling walls since she was 15 months old, until a well-meaning observer comments that she really ought to be careful.  You realize this is probably not acceptable behavior and for the benefit of the onlooker, tell her to stop.

10.  You hesitate to mention the times you lost your children at the St. Louis Zoo, Walt Disney World (just as an Electric Light Parade was about to start and you couldn't get down the road to even search), or the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan because that would indicate that you have taken your eyes off of your children for literally 15 seconds (the time it took to get separated in each case).  By the grace of God, they were all safely returned in minutes, and you're thankful no one caught any of those events on a cell phone camera for instantaneous upload on YouTube.

Many of you will probably read this and think "Wow, she needs to get her crap together."  Some of you will think, "Have a little confidence, lady."  Others might feel the same way as me.

All I can say is that I admit my shortcomings as a mother.  I'm not a perfect mom.  But here's a secret, none of us are.  Especially not the ones who think so.  Maybe some day I'll be more heavily convicted about food, carseats, plastics, whatever the issue du jour might be, but for now, I'm just doing the best I can.  I don't think there's any more our children can ask of us.

Let's remember that.

(If I do another one, I promise to be a little less cynical.  Maybe.)

3

But it's a GOOD hard. I mean it.

People sometimes wrongfully assume that because I have six kids I must be some sort of parenting expert.  Let me just clarify something for you right now.

Nope.

I don't know what the heck I'm doing.  And I won't pretend for a moment I've got it all figured out.  If you ask me for advice, my answer will probably be just that - "I don't know."

Because here's the truth -

It's hard.

It's hard whether you have one or ten.

It's hard whether you work out of the house or don't.

It's hard whether you send your kids to public school or private school or homeschool.

It's hard whether your baby sleeps through the night or doesn't.

It's hard whether your child is compliant or strong-willed.

It's hard whether you have a struggling learner or your child is so smart they think they're smarter than you.

It's hard whether you are brand new at it or have thirteen years experience.

BUT....

It's a good hard.  It's worth it.  Just like working out, you take the sore muscles with the exhilaration of a post-workout high and the promise that it will be worth it.  It's worth it.  It's so worth it.

It feels like we're inundated with all of this pressure to be perfect and we have the platforms to pretend like we are, but I say just ignore it.  Anyone who has an answer for everything in life is lying, either to you or to themselves.  No one has it all figured out.  And that's okay.

Having children was the best thing that ever happened to me because it helped me realize that things just aren't all about me.  Want to learn selflessness?  Perseverance?  Patience?  What it feels like to love someone else unconditionally?  A child can teach you those things.  And more.  (Edited to say:  I have obviously not learned these things in totality, but rather have been afforded many opportunities to learn them, thanks to these tiny people.  I'm very much a work in progress.)

I waver each day between trying to focus on the good things and being transparent about the bad.  My hesitation with sharing the real bits is that someone might mistake the negative aspects of parenting for cons on a list of reasons not to have kids.  Those negatives are just circumstantial.  They cause temporary unhappiness.  They don't steal the joy that is had by having kids.

After securing a very last minute Mother's Day substitute for our Sunday School class (to whom I'm most-definitely indebted), we set out for a spontaneous trip to the beach.  You might find it humorous that I use the word spontaneous when it took about 6 hours of furious texting, searching, and packing, but that's the closest it gets with a family of eight.  We embarked on the trip way-too-late, and arrived at the hotel after midnight with a crew of six kids that had slept part of the way.  We managed to get everyone back to sleep without any major crises by about 1am and determined to wake up and get going to maximize our time at the beach the next day.

At 2am, my sweetest-baby-ever, Hannah, woke up screaming.  It was the high-pitched, inconsolable kind of screaming the likes of which can wake up an entire hotel, not only the other guests in the very same room.  It was the kind of screaming I had to get under control just to walk her down the hallway outside, so I could, well, get her under control.  I'm still not sure why she was crying like that (other than the fact that she was a little off her schedule and out of sorts), but I do know she's the reason I ended up spending most of my night sleeping in the passenger seat of our van.  If you don't count the fact that I had an alarmingly real dream about a S.W.A.T. team canvassing the entire parking lot culminating with me sitting bolt upright as a cat plodded across the roof of our van and the slightly embarrassing encounter with a man packing up his vehicle next to me who probably surmised I was either a vagabond or involved in some sort of lovers quarrel, I actually had a pretty good night's rest.

Needless to say, Mother's Day morning didn't go exactly as I imagined it would.  But it began with a giant cup or seven of coffee.  (As all good days should.)

Later in the day, after the hours worth of sunblock application on eight people of varying sizes had certainly worn off and two tiny people were hours late for their naps, we decided to head back to the hotel for a little rest.  Unbeknownst to me, our nearly-potty-trained two-year-old, had left more than a small "present" for me in his swimming trunks, just as we arrived at our van from the beach.  A full pack of wipes later, and he was deemed "clean enough" to ride in his seat back to the hotel.

These are the things, in my rookie-mom-dom, that would have ruined my day.

"Figures.  Little twerps probably planned it.  Don't they know this is my ONE SPECIAL DAY!!? Classic - no sleep and a pooptastrophe."

What it's taken me 13 years to realize is that, these things are hardly real trials.  They're just life.  It's what they do.  It's what I do.  And it's what I did to my mom and what she did for me.  It's what every mom in the history of the world has dealt with.  These things are not new or planned or coordinated by tiny conspirators.  Sometimes, having kids is hard.  But at the same time, it's a good hard.  Know what I'll remember about that Mother's Day trip?







I'll remember a husband and father who made the trip possible.  A four year old who wasn't afraid.  A two year old who played so hard we couldn't wake him up for dinner.  A pair of sisters/best friends who must've ridden 500 waves on boogie boards.  A pair of brothers who swam together.  A baby who wouldn't stop smiling (you know except for that whole screaming incident).  

The good stuff.  I'll remember the good stuff.

It's a choice we all have.  We can wallow in the bad or we can choose to see the good.  In our postmodern world it's become trendy to believe that we're entitled to be pissed off.  I have lots of thoughts on what we're entitled to, but I'll just say that I don't think there's anything beneficial about living an angry life.  Don't do that to yourself.  I'm not going to let myself live that way either.

Relish the good.  I dare you. There's so very much of it.

Blessings,
0

Seven

Seven years ago, I met this chick.


She's the one who turned me into an outnumbered mom.  She's the reason I cried inconsolably at the end of my maternity leave because for the first time I just didn't want to go back.  She's the one who stayed home with me while the big brother and sister were at school after I lost my job and schooled me on the ins-and-outs of being a stay-at-home mom.  She was the first child to climb out of her crib before the age of one.  She was the reason I stood post at her door for hours at a time trying to get her to fall asleep for a nap (because, by golly, I was going to win).  She was the first child to have stitches.  She was the first child to have stitches again.

She's the child who nearly cut her finger off trying to open her own toys on Christmas day, left a trail of blood across the entire house, and attempted to stop the bleeding with a band-aid in her bathroom.  She's the child who threw up in the sink in the middle of the night and tried to clean it up herself because she didn't want to bother Mommy while I was sleeping.

She's the girl who puts on a dress, then goes and rolls in mud.  She would never brush her hair if we didn't make her, and yet still manages a still-fashionable, wild and crazy Farrah Fawcett look.  She will not go to sleep without at least two hugs from every member of the family and a seriously sloppy kiss on the lips.  She always remembers to say her prayers at night and before every meal.  She takes good care of her toys.  And she loves her sisters and brothers with every fiber of her being.


She gets up first in the mornings and snuggles with me in my bed.  Sometimes she falls back to sleep, but usually she goes and wakes up a baby or two to deliver to me.  She is an independent woman, despising asking for help.  She's good with numbers.  She's an eager learner, always ready with a million questions, even though the questions themselves don't always make a lot of sense to anyone except for her.  She's a great listener.  And she has a fantastic memory.

She plays soccer with gusto, and when she's not contemplating strategy (you can practically see the wheels turning), she's literally bouncing up and down with enthusiasm.  She does all sorts of daring tricks on the backyard swings and in the pool.  She loves to give gifts.  She loves to eat sandwiches.  Her favorite color is orange (today at least).  She has an imagination that's out of this world.  She gets embarrassed when people laugh at the hilarious things she says.  But she's got plenty more where that came from.

She's just...Sarah.

And she's awesome.



The other day, out of the blue, Leah looked at me and said, "God knew we needed a Leah."

Indeed, precious girl, and God knew we needed a Sarah too.

Happy Seventh Birthday, Sweetest Girl!

Go and Be Comfortable.

Yesterday, we spent the day doing the usual school routine and as I wound down for the afternoon, I could hear from the kitchen table that our neighbor was on his mower, cutting his grass.  I reminded myself I would probably need to do the same thing soon and carried on.  As early afternoon turned to late afternoon, I piled the six kids into the van to head for the soccer fields for back-to-back games for the three older kids.

That's when I noticed the mangled wiffle ball in the middle of our driveway.

At first, I thought, "Oh, he must have hit that with the mower and it landed in our yard."

Upon further inspection, however, there was not a single blade of cut grass anywhere on the driveway.  That chunked-up wiffle ball had been purposely placed there.

Apparently, he'd hit a wiffle ball on his mower and assumed it was ours.  I guess that seems reasonable.  We do have six kids and our driveway abuts his yard.  And sometimes, things roll down the natural elevation change into his yard.

The thing is, though, we don't even own any wiffle balls.  (We're a soccer/basketball family.)

So, my panties got twisted in a hurry.  Who does this guy think he is?!  He hits a wiffle ball with his mower, walks back to it, picks it up, assumes it ours to deal with, and tosses it in our driveway.  The NERVE!  It would have taken no more effort to throw it in his own trashcan or even our trashcan that was less than ten feet from the piece of junk's placement on our driveway.

Grumble, grumble, angry text messages to complain about it some more, grumble, grumble.  Consider passive-aggressive counter move of tossing it back into his yard.

My heart condition is the best.  (Can't you tell?)

Now let's rewind a few nights ago to when I was sitting around the house after finishing a Jen Hatmaker video series called "Pulling the Thread" after which I felt empowered to view my mission field as right where I'm planted.  It seems more genuine, more noble, somehow, to hop on a plane for the remotest areas of the world and tell others about Jesus, but is it really less noble or even less necessary to do the exact same thing right here in my home town?  Overseas, short-term missions are awesome.  The missionaries who serve overseas are amazing, and deserve our unrelenting support, but does that mean I need to beat myself up about not being able to go right now or yet?

I contend that it does not.

You see, I might be living in a prosperous, not-very-diverse area, but these middle-class/upper-middle-class white people have souls that need Jesus every bit as much.

It's true.  Don't be mad.

I don't pretend to know the heart condition of my neighbor.  Maybe he was just doing what he thought was the neighborly thing to do - he returned what he assumed to be our missing ball.

The point is, I have neighbors whose heart conditions I don't know.  I encounter people every single day in whose lives I can make a difference in some small or large way.  But I have to see them.  I have to encounter them.  I have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

I like my home.  I'm a homebody, and if it weren't for my adventurous husband dragging me out of my comfort zone on epic cross-country "field trips," I would probably never leave my kitchen table, or the familiar territory of the local Aldi, our home church, and the public library.  I don't think it's inherently wrong to like being home or to like familiarity, but I don't think it's okay to remain there and limit ourselves.  There's so much more to see and experience in this world, in our country, and even (perhaps, especially) in our home towns (where we spend the majority of our lives) when we dare to leave our own comfortable corner of it.  It's hard to think about others and recognize how others might view the world if everyone we see looks and thinks like us.

I just finished reading Kristen Welch's Raising Grateful Kids in and Entitled World and a few things have jabbed me like a knife.
Being others-oriented is about as countercultural as it gets.  Self-centeredness is so prevalent in our world that we don't even recognize it anymore.  We are a society of the entitled; we think we deserve whatever we have - and then some.  
Society screams me, and Jesus scream them.  Becoming others-oriented is not a matter of flipping a switch; it's a lifestyle you cultivate. 
I have a knack for making the simplest things complicated.  I have two purposes for my time here on this earth - to love God and to love others.  If my relationship with Facebook is any sort of indication of my spiritual condition, I'm failing pretty miserably at both of those.  Instead of realizing my worth and value as a child of God, I seek "likes" on the internet.  Instead of loving others, I promote myself.  Instead of leaving the familiarity of home where I might have to feel awkward or uncomfortable I consider myself first, and others second.  This flies in the face of the Gospel.

So what does that mean?  I'm grateful for grace, thankful I'm forgiven, and I'm working towards looking even slightly more like Jesus each day.  It means I'm terrified to do so, but praying that God will make me uncomfortable.  I'm actively seeking ways to serve others instead of hiding behind my selfish tendencies.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.  And above all of these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Colossians 3:12-14

Jesus didn't tell us to Go and be comfortable. He said to Go and make disciples.  He said it would be hard.  Guaranteed.  Jesus lived a life of discomfort, culminated by the ultimate pain and agony - the recipient of all of God's wrath for my own sin.  The very least I can do is take a first step outside of my comfort zone and make myself second.  If only I didn't have that darn inherent sin nature to make this all about me, and less about Him.  What can I say?  I'm a MAJOR work in progress.

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