Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Parents don't get sick days

I had one of those mornings where I kept wondering who was being more awful, the kids or me? My husband and I have colds, thanks to our daughter who is finally recovering after 3 weeks of sickness and various medicines and breathing treatments. The kids have been out of preschool for years now, with an eternity of Christmas break days stretching ahead, and an unbearable 3 more days until Christmas. It's too cold to go outside, plus all I want to do is stay in bed. But, as you know, parents don't get sick days. I bent our 30 minutes a day TV rule to an hour, but that only intensified the whiny neediness (and I'm not just talking about me). I remembered in hindsight the reason for the 30 minute or less rule. So I decided to distract us with a project, making some playdoh. Of course I didn't have enough salt, and the kids fought over "helping" me, and then half of it ended up on the floor with no one being willing to help clean it up. So the screaming began (mine) and they were banished upstairs until I could get everything (me) sorted out.
And this was the scene I saw when I finally calmed down enough to check on them:

They were singing along to their VBS cd, using their books as "songbooks". Such joy, such sweetness, it almost broke my heart. To think that these angels could be the source of so much tension and stress for me that I could yell at them.

I was really not going to be a screamer. Or a spanker. I was such a good parent before these kids arrived. The work of parenting is unrelenting and often heartbreaking. You have such hopes, and beliefs that if you do and say the "right" thing, it will all be easy and work out like a 30 minute sitcom that ends on a happy note. But I remember clearly the first time my heart broke, realizing that they were fallible, just as I so clearly am. And I can never forget the hurt on their faces time and time again when I break their tender hearts (and Brady sobbing, "You hurt my feelings"). Those sweet cuddly babies turn into toddlers and preschoolers that tell you they don't love you, or they want another daddy, or call you "bad mommy" for any tiny manner of thing (mostly not giving them what they want). They refuse to listen, hurt their sibling, and endanger themselves.

And yet...and yet...what beauty they bring, and what hope and joy. Even when they seem to disregard everything I try to teach them at home, I know they are "getting it" when we go out and everyone remarks on what lovely, kind, sweet, well-mannered kids we have. They are so smart and creative and so giving, so kind to one another (when no one is looking). I wish they wouldn't save it all up for times when we're out of the house, but I'm glad to know that they feel loved and trusted enough to share all of who they are with us, the good, bad, and the ugly. Just as I hope and trust in their forgiveness when I show my bad sides.

I apologized to them for my behavior, and Maryn said, "'sokay, mommmy. I sorry for dumping playdoh on the floor. I won't do that anymore. Now sing with us. Here's your songbook." And on we go, continuing on the roller coaster ride of love and family, the best ride of all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Random things running through my head before bed...

I've been having some trouble getting to sleep lately, and a friend suggested I journal. That's a great idea, but I can't find any of the numerous journals I've started and abandoned! So here's a list of all the things on my mind right now (in no particular order):

-the trip to Chuck E. Cheese I promised my kids if they would stop whining and fighting for 5 days (I both hope they are successful and hope for no crazy mouse at the same time)

-the memorial service and Christmas chapels that I have to get together for Tuesday

-a birthday party for Jesus (aka: how to help our kids sort out what Christmas is all about)

-will the Nyquil John took make him snore tonight?

-Can we possibly have a night without being woken up by kids who need water or have a bad dream (come on kids, it's been almost 5 years of you should be sleeping through the night on a regular basis!)

-could we save money by moving to a house without flood insurance?

-Would I want to move?

-Brady starting kindergarten next year and leaving his perfect preschool

-trying to find time this week to spend with friends

-how to get rid of a ginormous trifle taking up our fridge (maybe share with the forementioned friends?)

-a dream and crafty idea coming together with a friend, new possibilities

-cooking our first real Christmas meal (how to cook a turkey or ham??)

-family drama

-did anything happen during the Christmas party for the residents that I don't know about and will be confronted with at work this week?

-how to help the grieving staff and residents at work (3 deaths in a month)

-need to sit down and reflect on this year and do a little visioning for next year

-want to start a regular blogging and yoga routine (not together, of course)

See why I can never get to sleep?!

Snow days

Ah, the things a mother will do for her kids.  I am not a cold weather person.  As I am cold most of the year anyway, I wish winter would find me hibernating inside for months with a stack of good books and lots of tasty treats.  It is not so with my kids.  Brady, in particular, got his first taste of snow play last year, and after waking up to snow falling yesterday with a whoop of joy, was ready to go out immediately.  I held him off yesterday as it continued to snow and sleet for most of the day...and I was punished severely.  Two whiny, fighting, cooped up kids made for a LOOONG day.  So today had to be different.  After venturing out for a pizza lunch, we promised a few minutes of playing in the snow.  Maryn was reluctant initially, and had been terrified last year.  But after watching Brady, she finally braved the cold and her delight mirrored his.

So happy together...(for the moment)

 Maryn finally had a chance to wear her beloved boots.

The only casualty of the snow days was an unfortunate and highly contagious case of the "chicken pox" (which Maryn kept calling "chicken butts" due to the new joke in our house thanks to preschool:
"Guess what?   
Chicken Butt!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Abundance in a time of scarcity

I have enough...

-I have money to pay my bills, even though costs keep rising
-I have a warm house.  Even though it's drafty, we have heat, blankets, warm water, and the warmth of our love
-I have my family and our love is strong
-I have security--in my job, in our finances, in protection for the "what ifs", even if I don't always realize it
-I have the loving presence of God to guide me and to help me continually realize that I have an abundance, even when my tendency is to see what is lacking
-I have enough to share

Monday, December 6, 2010

What I want to be when I grow up...

Once upon a time, I was a very self-assured little girl.  I had tons of confidence and felt that I could be and do anything I wanted, as that was what I had always been told.  I worked hard and did well in school, and was self-motivated and goal-oriented.  I knew by the third grade that I wanted to be a marine biologist.  Never mind that I have never been a good swimmer and am just a little afraid of the water.  Nothing would stop me!  I graduated second in my class and went off to my dream school, William and Mary.  By this time, I had had a couple of inspiring science teachers and had slightly altered my plans to be a medical researcher.  I started out on the pre-med track and discovered my first true academic competition.  I struggled some in my biology and chemistry classes, earning Bs and Cs instead of the As I was accustomed to, but I never questioned my direction.  Even a talk with my research professor, who gently warned me that grad school for biology was extremely competitive and I would not get in with my 3.2 GPA did not deter me.  I continued through taking my GREs, but never even looked at my scores as finally the revelation hit me--I hated research.  I had signed on as a lab assistant and spent the summer going in to the lab at all hours of the day and night to monitor microscopic roundworms.  Microscopic roundworms!!  Somewhere in there, I hit bottom.  This was not how I wanted to spend my life.  I lost all motivation to compete with my peers, who were all too happy to pick up the tasks that I was dismally failing at anyway.  I graduated, moved to Richmond with friends, and took on several part-time jobs to pay the bills.  It was a low point for me as I finally began to understand that my dreams were not going to come true.

Now, years later, I'm glad that I went through this trying time and learned many powerful lessons.  It was during those dark days that I heard God calling me to ministry, and the joy and passion I've felt for this calling has sustained me for over eleven years now.  I loved seminary, the classes, the community, the friends, and feeling like I was living out of a greater purpose.  I also met and married the love of my life there.  It's been a beautiful journey.

I've been honored to minister at HopeTree Family Services, a residential group home for at-risk youth and developmentally disabled adults for the past seven and a half years and have loved learning and growing along with the residents, sharing my love and creativity.  And yet, on and off I've felt a stirring, a longing to find something more.

Perhaps this longing is my own personal need to reconnect with God in new ways, or maybe I need to find better ways to use my gifts here in my current setting.  But perhaps that still small voice is leading me to something new.  In many ways this terrifies me.  I want stability.  I am comfortable here...and maybe that's the problem.  I resist exploring other options even though I feel that I'm not always living out my calling.

I have lots of dreams.  I've thought about counseling as I love the pastoral counseling part of my job.  But that would mean more schooling, or training and certification.  My lovely husband is getting ready to work towards licensure, and we used to think about working and ministering together, maybe incorporating art therapy.  Maybe he'll hire me someday!  :)

I've also thought of starting some sort of coffeehouse that would be a cozy meeting spot for parents and their children to play and explore.  Something like this:

or maybe one that involves a space to create like this:

I've even though of a name--CrEATe and Play Cafe.  I love the idea of using my creativity to spark the creativity in others, and particularly with families working and learning together.  This is another of my favorites:

I love the work my friend Suzanne is doing in her art studio and in the ministry she does leading workshops and bereavement groups:

I also dream of writing (more than a blog).  Maybe a devo book as I've been writing for work for some time.  My husband and I have written a children's book, too, but after our first rejection letter I've become a little discouraged about sending it off again.  Maybe this new magazine will give me a chance to gain some writing experience:

Then, there's also my photography dream, which I've been slowly pursuing by taking some classes.  I'm inspired by and

So the dreams are there, but here I am.  I don't feel as stuck as I once did.  I don't know if it's laziness, or if this is a time of waiting.  I don't want to risk missing out on at least one of my dreams, but I'm in that land of trying to see which is best and how to make it happen.  I've learned that there's no "ONE PERFECT" path for me anymore, but now I need to learn how to take that leap of faith into the new....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Love never ends

I just had the privilege of doing a memorial service, and it was the highlight of my week.  Now that's not saying that I've had a bad week, but it was just one of those uplifting moments where you could feel the love of those gathered merging with the love of God.  God's love is always present, of course, but there are those moments when we get a little taste of heaven, where our joy makes us aware of God's loving presence in a powerful new way.

The service was for one of the adult residents in our Developmentally Disabled Ministries (DDM) program.  He was actually one of our first residents who joined us in 1992, so he had lots of friends, "brothers", and loving staff.  In all my years here (over seven), I never heard him speak, but even so, you could just sense his love in his welcoming smile.  It was amazing to hear everyone's recollections, but my favorite was that he was "love personified". 

I read from 1 Corinthians 13:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails.

This is God's love, but in rare occurrences, we see it modeled in others.  Those gathered today had experienced that love in their friend, JC Davis.  Although he spoke few words, his life spoke volumes.  May we all be encouraged to live such a life of love, to "Be still and know God" and to BE LOVE to others.