Friday, October 25, 2013

Truths to Live By...and other things

(Disclaimer: If poop-talk is offensive, be forewarned!)

My firstborn is a natural student, much like me. She comes by her studious heart naturally. She helps her friends, her sisters, and anyone else who will let her be the boss. She loves to learn and she comes from a long line of teachers.

In my foolish expectations, I thought my twins would be the same. Ha! Yes, you may laugh at me.

You know. Stellar students. Well-Behaved. Attentive. Polite. Courteous. Need I go on??

I may have been wrong.

We mamas work very hard to ensure our children are not THOSE children. Right? I am a teacher. I know all about THOSE children. I teach them every day and I have a new batch every year. We laugh about their antics over lunch and we lament over how difficult it can be to teach them sometimes.

And isn't it appropriate that the Lord would choose to humble me and smooth out some of my perfectionist tendencies through my twins? I feel like that Lord has used them to smooth out so many rough edges that I'm sometimes convinced any more smoothing might cause me to slip right out of my own skin. Which may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Here's how this unfolded:

Kadence is fascinated with what we fondly call bathroom talk. You know, poop and pee stuff. Any conversation should have a random poopy or peepee thrown in for effect. (Why is there not a parent manual somewhere? And why is this tidbit of information not in it??). And the more inappropriate the place, the more likely poop and pee are to make an appearance.

The first week of school she was using the facilities and her teacher heard a shout.

Upon investigation, she discovered Kadence in the bathroom trying to poop.

"Can you help me prease?" Kadence asks with her little three year old lisp.

"Well, no, I'm sorry Kadence, but I can't help you poop."

"Can you stay wif me?"

"If you like."

A pause. Kadence pushes. A mischevious glint and a devlish smile and then..."Wait for it. Wait for it..."  Plop.

Her teacher laughs. I'm mortified.

Who does this?

Sitting in circle time, Kadence is chasing dust motes with her fingers, probably because to her they look just like pixie dust on that Tinkerbell movie.

Carol shows her numbers. Kadence not paying attention at all, guesses. "That's One."

Ryleigh, watching from the other side of the circle, widens her eyes, furrows her eyebrows in thought and says adamantly to her teacher, "Kadence doesn't know anything."


Her teacher thinks. Okay, if you know so much, let's see you do it.  To Ryleigh she says, "Okay Ryleigh, you try." She holds up number 1.

Ryleigh: "That's One."
She holds up number 3.
Ryleigh: "That's free." (her version of three)
She holds up number 7.
Ryleigh: "That's number 7."

Hmmmm. Okay smarty pants.

Meanwhile, Kadence is still chasing dust motes.

Her teacher holds up their names written on strips of paper to teach them how to visually recognize their names.

The teacher holds us K's name. "Kadence look here."

Ryleigh, again, the proverbial older sister by four minutes, sees what's NOT happening and officiously inserts her helpfulness.

"Kadence, that's your name." Then to her teacher, "She's not paying 'tention."

Oh heavens. A scholar, a space cadet, and a smarty pants. Awesome. At least I have alliteration.

So by the end of their first month of school I have some new truths to live by:

1. Kadence has educated her classmates on the wonder and regularity of poop. According to her teacher, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Huh?

2. I am guaranteed a story just about every day.

3. My children, while certainly not perfectly behaved, are not delinquents. More like puppies. In the teething stage.

4. I probably need to lighten up.

5. I need to allow my kids the freedom to explore the world, to figure out what to do and how to do it, to back off and get out of the way. There are no cookie cutter kids. And their gifts and talents will not be identical. The only way for them to discover their gifts is to let them be. I need to practice gratitude for their unique qualities and pray for wisdom as I help grow them in Jesus.

6. Really, everybody needs a little more humor. Even if it's just poop talk.

Update: Saturday Kadence was talking bathroom talk and I called her on it.

"Kadence, we don't say those words. That's bathroom talk."

She looks at me. And with utter sincerity says:
"But I'm in the bafroom."

And so you are.
And so you are.

Grace Always Rises,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pedestals and Jelly Faces

I had a conversation this week with a mom of twins, a frayed, worn-out, stumped, hard loving mama. She has a boy and girl, about six. 

My oldest went to school with them and now my youngest go to school with them.

This mama has always adored my Eldest. She has made no bones that in her eyes, the sun rises and sets on her--she is perfect. Oh if she only knew...

Pedestals are dangerous things...

Her boy is challenging, being a boy, learning the art of boundaries.

I tell her my Eldest did the same--in fact still does--tests, challenges, manipulates, negotiates.

She tells me of course my Eldest doesn't do these things because she is perfect.

My eyes are saucers in a face of disbelief.

This heart worn mama continues: She has to be perfect. If she's not perfect, I have no hope.

Oh. Wow.

What is it about our mama's hearts that feel we have to compare and compete and calculate? What is it that makes us feel that if we aren't perfect then we aren't good? What is 'perfect' anyway? Because to be honest, what is perfect today probably won't work perfectly tomorrow.

I. am. baffled.

I would like this dear mama to come home and see our messy, our struggling through homework and spelling words and washing hands with soap AND water, our dirty faces and cluttered rooms, our laundry piles and book piles and piles on piles, our words, our playing nice or not playing, our temper tantrums, our lazy humdrum, and our ugly beautiful. There are no pedestals in my house. We'd fall right off.

I have only grace.

But for the grace of God I go, I live, I breathe.

Just Sunday, a woman from church smiled and hugged and said, "I just don't know how you do it."

To be honest, there are days I don't how I do it either.

But for the grace of God I go, I live, I breathe.

I find breathing is very important. When breathing stops, we have a big problem. If I can just breathe, then I can go on. One more breath, one more moment.

My life begins and ends there. It has to. What I have is because of Him and what I need is more of Him and what I want is to want Him more.

My kids are not perfect. They are kids. They are beautiful, laughing, messy, jelly-faced kids. And they are deeply loved, jelly faced and all.

I certainly won't win any mother of the year awards. I am broken just like we all are. And like a cracked pot, Jesus still shines through me because of grace. Admittedly, some days He shines brighter than others.

There are no gold stars, extra brownie points, retirement bonuses at the end of our mama-roads (do they really ever end?). There is only grace. There is only satisfaction of having done the best we could at the moment we could with what we had. There is only resting in the knowledge that tomorrow is a new day and His mercies are new every morning. There is only trust that God's forgiveness covers my transgressions, my impatience, my harsh words, my brokenness. That God's grace is made perfect in my weakness.

The last time I checked, I had no superpowers and my sparkly spandex superhero suit had gone missing (what a relief).

We can only be mamas together, bumping and stumbling and bumbling down this mama road together, as sisters. God fashioned us to be better together, in community. We women are peculiar though. What one day is a beautiful display of community and compassion can turn into a hurtful competition of one up-man-ship. Noone wins and we break each other because we don't want to see our own brokenness.

When our brokenness competes in an attempt to be whole, we only end up more broken.

There is no quicker end to genuine community than comparing and competing. We can't be heart true when our hearts aren't grateful. And isn't that the crux of comparing--thinking that the grass is greener, that someone else's road is more than your own, and not living in gratitude for the road you are on. And so we compare ourselves to others and build walls instead of bridges, fearful that we might not be as good or as smart or as patient or as affluent as that other mama with the perfect kids. When really, we are all mamas. And shouldn't that be the thing that binds us as women, as sisters. We all want the best for our children and to be the best for our children. We all want a place where we can be authentic, a soft place to land when we fall short, a gentle hand to grab when we feel like we are drowning in a sea of obligations, a compassionate ear to hear when we are weary-worn and tired, a loving heart to cheer us on when life just seems too hard. And aren't we the best kind of people to offer this to one another because we know...we know.

Perhaps us mamas can stumble humbly towards grace, leaning when we need a boost, holding when we have some extra, crying when our hearts are hurting, laughing when we need to heal. And together we are more than we are apart. And as mamas we know the truth:
                                There are no perfect mamas.
                                There are no perfect  children.
                                There are no perfect roads.
                                There are no perfect solutions.
                                There. is. only. perfect. grace.

Grace always rises,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bubbles and Bathtime Prayers

So I had forgotten this. And then I found it written in my journal and I had to share.

May 15

My twins have been having issues with bathtime. Frustrating. Aggravating. Nerve-jarring.

Two year olds have little rationality and a tired, frustrated mama sadly meets them head on in their irrationality. We've all been here.

You'd think I'd learn. One cannot rationalize with a two year old. Or two.

I was a single mama tonight. No daddy to buffer, to break, to conquer and divide.

Plan of attack: Power through.

And maybe ear plugs.

I prayed. Sure, it was under my soul's breath, sort of a "hail mary" on the fly, not even formally - or informally - worded...more like that prayer that begins as a vapor, a wisp, not even fully birthed, and then is thrown heavenward in a rush because the screaming has started and there are little people tearing hair and banging fists. And a mama's heart is pushed hard.

And God hears even those prayers.

I start the bathwater amidst the screaming. In spite of the screaming. Heart weary. Temper hot. Hopes scattered like so many rubber duckies.

Ryleigh's big brown eyes scrunch in sadness.

"How about a bubble bath?" I ask brightly. Subtext: Dear Jesus, pleeeeeeeaaaaaase!!

Brown eyes opened wide, a quick grin.

"Bubbles." The little word becomes a grain of hope. And aren't all good things birthed from some small grain of hope, some small word of gentleness, some small grace given freely?

I scramble for all the bubble bath I can find. There has never been so grand a bubble bath in the history of bubble baths. There are bubbles. Everywhere.

One down, one to go. The one-to-go is M.I.A. I hear her running and screaming. I catch her though. I stand her in the water. Tears stream. Screams build. Mama panics. Enter Big Sister. Who took over. Grace made manifest.

"Kadence, look at the bubbles," she says in her sweet, little-girl-grown-up voice, as she pats hope on a tummy and blows some magic foam off her hand.

Screaming stops.

My ears breathe. Deeply.

I look on in wonder. Could it be that my five year old, my amazing five year old, has done what was impossible for a 35 year old?

She single-handedly re-enamored Kadence (who is not easily re-enamored with anything) with water. In two minutes, I had two happy two-year-olds playing in bubbles.

I forget sometimes that God hears the smallest, most hasty of prayers. And that in His heart, those prayers matter, too. And sometimes the answers are just as seemingly small and unexpected. And the power of those small, unexpected answers astounds me. How often do we miss the small graces because we are too busy looking for the fleece to be made wet, the storm to be stilled, the cancer to be gone?

My answer was a bottle of bubble bath and my five year old's joyous love for her sisters.

What I could not do, God provided. It was not what I expected, probably not even what I wanted when I threw my prayer heavenward. But God provided. And when I see the cross and I am even more humbled. What I could not do, Jesus did. In the cross is all the grace I will ever need.

My life is filled with small graces, small answers to little prayers and sometimes not-so-little prayers. I am guilty of missing HIM. I almost missed Him made manifest in my firstborn, who managed to still my storm. May my eyes be open to see more of His grace because He may not always still my storm, but He will always provide what I need...right when I need it...right when I'm at the end of me. So that His grace might be bigger than my storm. So that His provision might be bigger than my need. So that He will get all the glory.

Grace Always Rises,