Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A note to my boy as he turns 7

Happy birthday, Brady boy!
What a spark you are in our lives.  We had no way of knowing seven years ago how you would change our you would change us.  I love your sweet, happy spirit.  Your light shines through that cute gap-toothed smile.  You woke up this morning with a "Yahoo!", which is a response to the morning that I could never summon, but is so very Brady.  I am thrilled by how happy you are with the simple things: a balloon you picked out at the store, your own handmade birthday banner, new books, and a candle to make a wish (you said, "Want to know what I wished?  I wished you and daddy would be nice, and it came true!")  We had to light the candle for a second time and another wish so Daddy could witness it, too.  You were thrilled that your room was "FILLED with balloons".  That did my heart good as that was my intention, but the reality was that I gave out after four balloons.  I felt like I had failed, but you saw that as an overwhelming success and I love you for that attitude.

I've often thought that life would be much smoother with a soundtrack.  You know how you can be thinking in the car and the perfect song comes on that just meshes with your thoughts?  I guess that's why so many people walk around with earbuds permanently embedded, listening to the soundtrack of their lives.  Well, Brady, you make up your own soundtrack each day.  It is joyful and fun, offbeat and silly.  You sometimes compose it yourself, and always sing it out loud.  Lately you've been obsessed with the new "Sofia the First" soundtrack, and I'm enjoying the routines and "shows" that you and Maryn choreograph and perform.  Your teacher remarked in passing the other day how much you enjoy singing and music, and seem to do it often (she even said it in a complimentary way, which made me love her even more for embracing your goodness).  I believe it's because you live out the music that is in your heart.

I pray that music never stops, that you will always be guided by that sweet melody inside.  Never let anyone silence that beauty or force you to sing a song that is not your own.  You are so special and your song can change the world, just as I know your kind heart will one already does in my world.  I hope you see, my dear one, how much you inspire my own heart to sing along.

All my love forever and ever, one million percent,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Google me

As I self-professed geek, I get a little excited over things that others would find a little nerdy.  My #FanGirl moments are when I get a book signed by a favorite author (Hi, BrenĂ© Brown!)

or when a fellow blogger replies to a comment or "likes" my status on Facebook so that I feel like we're "real life" friends (ok, I generally feel that way regardless, but their clicking of a button gives me affirmation).  Not long after I started this blog, I did a review of a book about Disney and ministry and was floored when the author of the book commented on my post.  Until that point, I didn't think anyone actually read my blog.  He had stumbled across it while Googling himself.

Hmm, that was something I hadn't tried, so I put my name into the Google search box.  The results were rather disappointing.  There were a few social media profiles (that weren't mine), my LinkedIn profile (that I rarely update), some random websites that contained the words "call Jenny", the Jenny Craig weight-loss program (boo), and the YouTube video of the song "867-5309/Jenny" (for your listening pleasure):

It seems that I haven't made much of a name for myself.  Thus began a habit of compulsively Googling other people (friends and celebrities) to see their results and compare them with my own.  As you can probably imagine, this didn't help my wounded ego.  As much as I know how comparison and judgment fuel my "shame gremlins" (as my bff BrenĂ© calls them), it seems I can't stop from digging myself into a pit of despair.  When Dr. Brown surveyed people in her studies on shame and vulnerability, she asked them to fill in the blank of this phrase:  "not  ___________________ enough".  The respondents had immediate answers, as did I (and I imagine you did as well).  It's far easier to focus on what we are lacking, our weaknesses, our deficits, than the many gifts and resources we have.  

For me, it comes down to not being SUCCESSFUL enough.  Never mind that I'm perfectly happy in my calling, roles, family, and place.  Forget how hard I have worked to get exactly here.  It doesn't matter how meaningful my work is on any given day.  I'm always thinking, "What's next?  What MORE can I be and do?"

It's truly a shame, it's exhausting, and I'm working on it.  I don't want my idea of success to be measured in numbers, or programs, or even Google results, but the affirmation from God and from myself that I am living out my calling as a minister, wife, mother, daughter, and friend, whatever that might mean.  

May I have the peace to know that I am enough and I have enough, simply because of "I AM".  And also with you.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Hello again, long lost friends!  It's been a while and I'm sorry for the unintentional break.  I think the problem may have been my decision to make writing my Lenten discipline.  It worked about as well as the time I decided to give up being negative for Lent (i.e. not well at all).  Most recently, I've been home-bound with children sick with the stomach flu.  The thing about having two kids is you get double of everything.  Once you recover from one bug, it's time for the other kid to catch it.  So we've been in cleaning, laundering, de-germing, and healing mode.  It's awakened in me a deep sense of gratitude for our general health, for recovery, and for modern luxuries like washing machines, television, and Pedialyte Freezer Pops. 

It's also reminded me of the many changes in our lives as our kids get older.  It has been a long time since both kids were so miserably sick, although it seemed pretty continuous for the first couple years of both their lives.  As they are growing, their immune systems are strengthening along with the rest of their bodies.  It seems like they come home each day showing us something new they can do.  Brady is working on doing the monkey bars, and has become an excellent Lego builder and Star Wars Jedi.  Maryn is now reading independently as keeps up a continuous flow of imaginative chatter, regardless of whether anyone else is around.  She also enjoys riding her bike and building things (Lego creations, train tracks, Leprechaun traps) with Brady.  Both are excited about their upcoming birthdays--Brady will be 7 at the end of this month, and Maryn will be 5 at the end of the next month.  Somehow, this has seemed like a bigger transition than the others.  When they were 4 and 2, I began to finally get a handle on this parenting thing, and they started becoming best friends.  Five and 3 still allowed me to think of them as my babies.  Six and 4 has been a transition with both of them in school full time.  Brady finally started to grow, and Maryn quickly caught up with him, outgrowing three wardrobes this fall and winter.  Now I have to shop for their clothing in the kid section, and many of the coupons I receive through various email subscriptions are for toys and supplies they have outgrown.  We got rid of their carseats and replaced them with booster seats, and they are both proud of their "big kid" identities (although Maryn still enjoys playing baby).

As one who struggled through early parenthood and babyhood, I don't regret these changes.  I can certainly relate to Glennon Melton's viral Momastery blog post Don't Carpe Diem--even though everyone reminds me to enjoy these times because they go by so fast, there are many moments I've prayed for the clock to speed up.  Likewise, I've embraced and encouraged their growing independence.  And yet, the changes seem to be happening at an ever-escalating pace.  My son pulled me aside the other day and whispered to me that he knew that Santa wasn't real and that the mommies and daddies bought the presents.  It might have broken my heart if we had put a greater emphasis on Santa in our house, or if he hadn't had the mischievous grin on his face.  Or if I hadn't known that he had recently watched the movie "Elf".

At a recent women's retreat with friends from church, I was meditating (or attempting to over the noisy chatter of my thoughts), when a picture of Brady missing his front tooth popped into my head.  At the time I left, his tooth was loose, but still intact.  Somehow this vision brought peace to my anxious, chaotic mind.  His smile was goofy and sweet, just like my boy himself.  It was reassuring to think that even with the changes we would always adapt and find our way, knowing that the love we have will always be there.  So it wasn't a surprise when he lost that tooth a couple of days later...although it was unexpected when he pulled out its mate the following day.  Hmm...maybe it's time to let him in on the truth of the tooth fairy before we run out of money.
Nah, let's hold onto some childhood magic for as long as we can...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thank God for Unanswered Prayers

Dear God,

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you that things haven't turned out as I planned.  You know I was such a serious type-A child, with my binders and to-do lists, and plans.  I was a nerd before it was cool, and I really can't blame my classmates who just barely tolerated me.  I had my life all figured out by third grade.  I imagine you got a chuckle out of that!  I wanted to be a marine biologist (thanks for the trips to Sea World, Mom), and wasn't even phased that I was a terrible swimmer (in spite of the yearly swim lessons...sorry, Mom).  I discovered the College of William and Mary early on and set my sights on this dream school.  That part of the plan actually took.

But as my plan shifted to become a medical researcher, things began to fall apart.  It was a struggle to get the grades in biology and chemistry that had always come naturally, and as my identity had gotten tied up in achievement, I was at a loss.  Relationships fell apart, and I think I kind of lost you in there somewhere, too, although I know you never left my side.  I was allowed to question you for the first time as that had not been part of my fundamentalist background.  I started to see shades of gray where at first there had only been black and white.  It was exhilarating...and a little terrifying.  Although I couldn't see or feel it at the time, I know now that you were carrying me through that dark and confusing time.

Most of all, you celebrated with me when I finally came to the place of realizing and accepting your calling on my life.  I felt your joy and peace as my own for the first time in years.  I got a big laugh out of the fact that not only did you give me a call to ministry (as a Southern Baptist WOMAN at Liberty University, no less), but you also finally answered my prayers of a wonderful partner who has the last name Call (two Calls in one, leaving me forever reflecting on the gifts of Call in my life).

God, I would never want to walk through that dark valley again (although I have, repeatedly), but I'm so grateful for what these journeys have taught me, and for the light you have brought out of it.  Every day I have students come to me, broken, as they've lost sight of who they are and what they are meant to be and do.  Each one feels so isolated and thinks she's the only one struggling.  And each one is amazed that I can understand and put myself in her shoes.  After all, I was in that same place 14 (gulp) years ago.  I am so grateful for the ways you have spoken to me these years, loosening my grip on my image of how things "should" be and opening my heart to what is and what can be.  I thank you for the ways you've connected me to unlikely people who have opened doors for me and allowed me to minister out of my past brokenness and witness to the healing you have brought.  I thank you for the unknowns, the uncertainties, that have helped me to appreciate your awesome mystery and to find my strength and trust in you.  Thank you for growing my faith when I didn't even have the strength or motivation to ask for your help.

Thank you for calling me here and reminding me every single day of the brutiful (brutal + beautiful) journey to get to this place.  I could have never have imagined it.  In the words of the "prophet" Garth Brooks:  "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers".

Thanks be to you, God.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Like a child

The weather forecast was on a constant loop, and all the students had visions of a snow day dancing in their heads.  I was grumpy at the thought.  Sure, a day curled up in a warm house with a book and hot chocolate sounds perfectly delightful, but the reality of a snow day for me means scraping off my car, bundling up, braving the roads, and going in to work (though perhaps late).  But I'll take it over the alternative, I thought, as I snuck off, feeling guilty at the laundry, cold snow play, cleaning up,  baths, snacks, and endless entertainment that John would manage and provide for two restless kids stuck at home.  The kids, of course, woke up at 6:00am, not getting the memo that snow days are for sleeping in.  By the time I was leaving for work, they were already bundled in multiple layers and fruitlessly trying to make snow angels in the mostly icy snow.  As I shuffled to my car, Brady slapped my arm and yelled, "Tag, mom, you're it!" and tore off through the front yard.  I paused for a second.  I so hate the snow.  But then he looked back with a grin to see if I was following him, and I couldn't resist.  I ran after him, grateful for my boots, and for the laughter of Maryn, who joined in the fun.  I felt the exhilaration of running in the cold, of child's play, and of bringing and receiving simple delight.  It was an easy cure for the grumpiness that waking up had brought.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a friend.  He had been a resident of the group home where I had worked for over eight years before my calling to Hollins.  He lived with others in a home for developmentally disabled adults, who had become like a family along with the staff that so lovingly cared for them.  I never saw Teddy when I wasn't met with an exuberant "Hey!", a full embrace, and a kiss.  Ted reminded me some of my grandfather as he was approaching senior adulthood, and yet he had the heart of a child, full of wonder, love, and excitement.  He was an honorary deputy sheriff for our local police department and loved nothing more than to wear his badge and carry a walkie talkie.  He would station himself at the end of his home's driveway on "patrol", waving to administrative staff as they left their shifts each day at 4:30, ready to give tickets to anyone not properly following the rules.  The funeral was full of lovely remembrances, catching up with old friends, laughter, and Elvis songs.  It was a fitting tribute to one who reminded us of the importance of childlike faith and love.

I'm grateful for the many reminders others show me of how growing up is not necessarily about growing old.

“When I grew up I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness 
and the desire to be very grown up”. ~ C.S. Lewis