Thursday, October 25, 2012

Like A New Pair Of House Shoes

One year my grandma told me she wanted a new pair of house shoes for Christmas. (For those of you unfamiliar with southern speak, house shoes are slippers.) Such a simple request, so I had no problem purchasing the house shoes for her, lovingly wrapping them in pretty paper, and placing them underneath her tree. I didn’t tell her what the gift was, though I was pretty sure she knew, and looked forward to seeing her open it on Christmas morning.

A few days later I visited her again. I was relaxing in her recliner when I happened to glance down at the gifts under the tree and noticed that mine appeared to have been tampered with.
I picked it up and examined it, and sure enough, the paper was wrinkled, and the tape had definitely been peeled off and replaced.

Grandma lived alone. There was only one explanation.
“Grandma!” I exclaimed. “You opened your present!”

Her eyebrows raised, but she didn’t even hesitate.
“Well, yeah,” she said casually. “I was just sitting here the other day, and I thought, ‘I’d sure like to put on my new house shoes’, so I did.”

I giggled in disbelief.
“So you just opened your present? You just…you just opened it up, put them on, wore them for a while, and then wrapped them back up?”

“Well, yeah...” she said. “They were too small.”
I rolled on the floor in a fit of laughter.

Grandma! You’re not five. You’re nearly eighty years old – you should know better!”
She just grinned as I laughed at the absurdity of a grown woman not being able to wait until Christmas to open her present (and mostly at her attempt to cover it up).

But you know what? Her casual admission said it all – I think she did know better.
At her age she’d probably spent much of her life waiting for things to happen…waiting for the gifts to appear…waiting for the right moment to enjoy them…and perhaps she had simply decided there was no point in waiting.

Enjoying The Small ThingsI want to be like Grandma. What a tiny, simple, unimportant gift, and yet she literally could not wait to open it.
How great is it to have something to look forward to? To have something that you’re so excited about that you just can’t wait for it? To have a goal, a trip, an opportunity, an event, a moment…something that you long for and go after with your whole heart?

And how much better is it when it's something as simple as a pair of house shoes?

As I walk this path of mine, I want to stop and unwrap my simple gifts along the way with excitement. I don’t want to wait for them if I don’t have to. Life doesn’t last forever, so I’ve got to open as many gifts as I can, right?
So what are my ‘gifts’, those things that I should seek in this journey? What fascinates me? To which parts of life am I irresistibly drawn? What captivates me?

They are the moments that I feel compelled to write about or that prompt me to grab my camera. They are the tiny hands that hold mine, the embrace that calms my fears, and the desires in my heart. They are the things that make me laugh, the things that make me cry, and mostly, the things that open my eyes.
They are everything that is simple and pure and true, and so often overlooked.

Things That Fascinate Me In Life

Those are the things I find myself craving. Those are the simple gifts I want to enjoy each and every day, and I refuse to wait until Christmas.


Mama’s Losin’ It

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Don't Want To Be Controversial

Many years ago – back when my children were just a distant dream – some friends and I were hanging out and ended up taking one of those silly magazine quizzes. I think it had something to do with values, and the idea behind it was that most men chose one set of answers while most women chose the other set of answers, but anyway, one of the questions asked which you would rather your children remember you teaching them – right from wrong, or not to hurt others.

Of course I want to be remembered for both, but I could only choose one, and being the softie that I am, I was the only one of the group who chose ‘not to hurt others’ (which is apparently the more common female choice, just in case you were wondering).
An argument ensued about why teaching right from wrong was more important – and I don’t disagree – but the question asked which you wanted to be remembered for. My thinking was that as a nurturer, my role in my children’s life was to teach kindness and compassion, while a father’s role was more about teaching solid values. Both parents should obviously be role models in both of those areas, but I guess I’m simply a traditionalist in feeling that children should remember their mother’s gentleness and remember their father for his discipleship. And ideally those individual roles should mesh together in a beautiful weaving.

Anyway, my purpose in explaining all of that is so that you can perhaps gain a better understanding about a certain aspect of my personality. I do not like to hurt others or see others hurt, so much so that I chose that answer.
I realize most ‘normal’ people don’t want to see others hurt, but I’m talking about being that way to a fault. I probably hold back words when I shouldn’t (I should speak up but don’t for fear of offending someone), and I definitely try too hard. By that I mean I can be overly polite or struggle so hard to say the perfect thing and keep from offending that maybe I just end up annoying instead.

I don’t know – maybe that’s not true. It’s just how I see it.
When I began this blog, my intention was to always keep it encouraging and to steer clear of controversial topics. That isn’t because I don’t find them to be important or because I don’t have strong opinions on current events (I do), but because I asked myself what I wanted this blog to be, and one thing I didn’t want it to be was divisive.

The problem is I’m beginning to see that no topic is completely safe from controversy.
Take a look at my Facebook news feed and you’ll see that I have friends from all walks of life. You’ll see a vast variety of religious, political, and social beliefs, and while I find myself feeling a bit like Samuel L. Jackson at times,
When do you stay silent and when do you speak up

I try my darndest to be respectful.

It’s too easy to be misunderstood in social media. People already have assumptions about you based on the very little they already know, so having web debates never quite feels pure. Sometimes I feel like I’m already being looked at through a dirty lens, you know? So what’s the point?

Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t have discussions about issues that are important to us. I’m all for intelligent discourse. The part that confounds me is when people start getting outright hateful by making far-reaching judgments about entire groups or by allowing their anger to blind them from the implications that exist within their words.

Consider how hurtful your bias may be. Consider what your words truly mean and what they say about you. Consider that your judgment might actually be quite arrogant and born out of experiences from your past that are no longer relevant. Consider that you’re wrong. Consider that even if you are right, the manner in which you speak your words can have profound, lasting effects on the soul to whom you’re speaking.
Or maybe not even to whom you’re speaking – just a passerby who happens to see your post or read your comment.

Luckily, I’m not easily offended. I have a pretty broad sense of humor and a fairly high tolerance for bad manners. But I do get hurt. We all do, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. It’s just unavoidable when we’re in the midst of a social universe unlike one that’s ever previously existed.
More often than not, though, I get angry, and it’s an anger that comes from a place of deep conviction and passion. I’m sure that, especially right now, most of us can relate to that. My hope is that, despite my anger, my words will always come from a place of love – though I know my humanity will prevent me from achieving that.

That’s why I keep quiet. That’s why I stay out of it. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to offend. I don’t want my passion to put me in a place of vulnerability.
But then again, that’s life, and how am I to avoid it unless I squelch that passion?

Just as in all things in life, there is a balance, and I’m struggling to find it. When do you stay silent, and when do you speak up for what’s right?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This Path I'm On

Last week we took another road trip (I know - we're crazy!) back home to see my sister get married.  And it was one of those weeks.

No, not a bad week - a good week! One of those weeks when everything just goes right and your heart wants to burst with joy and life is all rainbows and butterflies and unicorns.

The kids did great in the car. (Only a couple of screamfests, and they were brief.)
Family, family, family.

We got to play, play, play in the country.
Little Girl got to ride a horse.

Fun on the Farm Blog

She got to be a flower girl.
Bridal Pic Holding Hands

Little Dude has been walking - and dancing - all over the place.

Country Living

I took some gorgeous bridal pics of my gorgeous sister.
Bridal Picture Park Setting
And it was a gorgeous wedding.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. That’s what life has been lately.
And now we’re back and approaching my favorite time of year.

So, sorry, but I just feel like gushing.
I haven’t been doing much writing, but I’ve been doing a lot of living, and also a lot of thinking about what the future holds...

I'm grateful and looking forward to it all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How Siblings Prepare You For Motherhood

I’ve been putting together a slideshow for my sister’s wedding, and boy, does it have me thinking about the passage of time. I’m imagining myself putting together a slideshow for Hannah’s wedding one day (while bawling my eyes out) and thinking about how that ‘one day’ is not so far off in the distance.

Years ago I was just a big sister who yearned to be a mother. Siblings are great for preparing you for motherhood. Their significance lies in the fact that they have just enough in common with you to drive you batshit crazy while also keeping you a little sane. It’s that bizarre dichotomous nature that makes life with siblings so interesting, infuriating, and yet rewarding (if you’re lucky enough to recognize the perks).
As the oldest in the family, I always felt a lot of responsibility in taking care of and raising my little sisters. Probably too much…I so badly wanted to set a good example for them, which greatly shaped who I became as a cautious perfectionist and someone who didn’t step outside of boundaries for fear of failing in their eyes.

Honestly, I don't see myself as much of a perfectionist anymore, probably because becoming a parent has made my own flaws so much more glaringly obvious, and I've grown tired of trying to hide them. I am, however, quite aware of the little eyes upon me, and I see myself reflected in them as they look up at me, pleading with me to love them, accept them, be proud of them…
Once, while babysitting my youngest sister (I’m ten years older), I felt like I was a little too hard on her when I sent her to her room after she’d acted up. I had yelled, lost my temper, and then felt like a horrible sister and worried I would eventually become a terribly impatient mother. But it wasn’t long before she came back out of her room, gave me a hug, and told me she was sorry.  Of course, my heart immediately melted into a pile of syrupy goo, I forgot all about the prior frustration, and I had a realization that would stick with me throughout my journey toward parenthood.

My patience is not unfailing, and my temperament is not unfaltering.  But Love guides us, and it never wavers. Despite my imperfections, weaknesses, failures…I have what I need to help shape a child. Their eyes will see the weak and the strong, the good and the bad, but because I love them enough to teach them and guide them through it all, they’ll be better for it.
I felt like a mama long before I ever had children of my own, and now I find myself knee-deep in nostalgia as my kids and I do many of the same things my sisters and I did back then.

We tell stories. We act silly. We crank up the music and have ‘dance parties’. We wrestle. We tickle. We laugh and joke. We get on each other’s nerves and then can’t get enough of each other.
I watch them sleep, I marvel at the beauty in their tiny faces, I worry about them, and I wonder where their lives will take them.

To all my sisters – thank you for giving me a small taste of motherhood. I hope my trial run was okay, and I hope you all look back on our memories together as fondly as I do. Even if you did drive me batshit crazy.