Dear Moms of Littles, This Might Be The Most Important Thing You Do Right Now

She had a two year old wrapped around her leg, holding on for dear life, while she bounced her crying newborn in her arms as we talked.

“What’s new with Mercy House? Oh and the refugee women in Houston?” I noted the longing in her voice. I started to answer and she whispered wistfully, barely audible over newborn noises, “I’m jealous of your life.”

I almost laughed off the comment–because my day had consisted of a crammed  “to do” list,  computer issues, a rushed meeting, dragging boxes to the car to mail, two dramatic daughters, several carlines and a tension headache.

My life is hardly worth being envious of….

But I knew she wasn’t talking about my day.

She was referring to my season in life.

And in a blink, I was the one standing in the kitchen of an older friend with a strong-willed two year old and a nursing baby, longing for my days to matter.

Dreaming of doing something big for God or at least getting enough sleep so I could dream. Or actually sleep.

I took her baby and patted his back, “Right now, your days are long. But the years are short. What you are doing-the burping, the diapering, the chasing, these days matter. Love is not waisted. Loving your babies is the most important thing you can do right now.”

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I suggested a few things she could do from home to help me out if she wanted to and she seemed excited.

But sometimes the best way to serve is to know our season.

And recognize its value.

This isn’t to say moms of littles can’t serve. But first you need to recognize being a mom of small ones is service. Service is never small.

Because you are the only one who can do it.

We often long to do more because we don’t believe what we do matters.

I love talking to others about saying yes. But we need to say it right where we are.

Maybe changing diapers is how God wants you to change the world right now.

I have more time to serve. My season allows it. But instead of having littles wrapped around me, depending on my body, I have kids who lean on me for a shoulder to cry on. And instead of sneaking out to Target when my babies were all asleep by 7pm like I used to, I’m up until 10pm listening to heartaches and headaches that tweens and teens often carry.

This is my season.

But just like winter blossoms into spring, seasons of motherhood change too. Sometimes they blow in like a storm or break the ground like a pastel miracle, new seasons are always coming.

So, don’t wish this time away. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Recognize it as your yes for now.

Because tomorrow the winds may change and you’ll have an opportunity to step out in a new way.

This just might be the most important thing you can do today.


The Uncomfortable (Wonderful) Truth About Doing What God Tells Us

Last week I did something that made me uncomfortable.

I said yes.

It was to an email from a blog reader who also supports Mercy House telling me about a friend who was very sick. A mother diagnosed with a very serious illness who would be separated from her five beautiful children for weeks, seeking complicated medical intervention in my city, where she and her husband didn’t know a soul. Another mother who had spent her life saying yes to God, loving others.

Would I reach out to her? Would I go and pray for her?  

My first thought was to respond that the hospital was 45 minutes away, that I am really an introvert and terrible in these situations, that I am overwhelmed with my yes to Mercy House and yes to helping refugees and yes to the epic laundry pile. I wanted to excuse myself because I didn’t know when I’d find the time and really, I haven’t stepped foot into a hospital since watching my sister-in-law pass away last year. My first reaction was to come up with all the reasons I couldn’t possibly say yes.

Which is generally a clear indication that I should.

I understand we can’t say yes to everything and everyone. And while I’m careful to guard my time, I really believe there are some questions we don’t have to pray about. There are some situations that grip your heart and you know God is speaking.

And this was one for me.

When I read the email to my husband and kids, they didn’t think twice about going. And I had to be honest with myself.

Because here’s the deal: If my To Do List isn’t governed by love, than I need to lay it down. If I’m too busy to love another person, then I’m too busy.

Because all the doing can make a person sick and leave no time for getting well.

Saying yes and obeying God is uncomfortable. It’s awkward. It requires self-denial. It requires action.

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It’s easy to have faith at home that God will heal a sick mom I’ve never met, but it’s a different story when I’m standing next to her hospital bed with my family with a bag of books and goodies asking Him to do so.

Because, yes, I’m sure it encouraged my new friend, but even more, it encouraged me. We must understand that obedience isn’t just for the person receiving. It’s even more for the person doing.

The uncomfortable truth of doing what God tells us is this: It’s going to cost something-pride, time, money, bravery. But the reward of stepping into the unknown far outreaches and outlasts the price you have to pay.

A typical week at my house is anything but typical.

There’s always someone dropping off donations on the front porch, packing orders in the Mercy House building in our backyard,  homeschool groups serving, mothers organizing in the garage, random people ringing the doorbell to see if I need help.

If you would have described this life scenario to me a few years ago, I would have laughed. And then hid.

I used to be a private person. I rarely had friends over and I was uncomfortable with people I didn’t know. I was safe in my controlled little world where I didn’t have to push my introverted self out of my comfort zone.

But I wouldn’t trade this real life today for anything in the world. Because my yes depends on a lot of others to say yes with me.

And I’ve been changed in the process.

As we drove home from the hospital, Terrell and I marveled at how much we had in common with our new friends from Missouri and we thanked God for introducing us to this beautiful, brave family.

My kids are already asking when we can go again.

The truth is we needed that visit as much as they did.

Stepping out in obedience makes us feel better because To Do lists can make a soul sick and it’s in the loving others we get well.

Do what God tells you to do. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Especially then.

You won’t regret it.

 

P.S. Please pray for my friend Heather.


What I Want My Children to See When the World Comes Together

For the last week, we’ve piled together –too many bodies on too small a sofa– to watch the Winter Olympics.

We’ve become fans of sports we didn’t know existed last week.

We’ve tried curling on the kitchen floor.

We’ve ice-skated in our socks.

We’ve sighed at losses and fist bumped at victories.

We’ve held our breath in nervous anticipation.

The Olympics are so much more than a worldwide sporting event. They are about unity, about the world coming together. They are about endurance and hard work. They are about the defeat of champions and victory of underdogs. They are about finishing what you started.

More than 20 years ago, I sat in my USA leotard in my living room and watched a girl a couple of years older win gold in gymnastics. I never made it to a platform and gold never hung around my neck, but I’ve never stopped dreaming or doing the impossible. I traded a leotard for a laptop and now I watch my son practice archery for hours with Olympic rings in his  dreams.

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[Mom brag moment: this past weekend my son won his division for the state of Texas in Junior Olympic Archery for recurve. Here he is with Olympic Archery team member, Vick Wunderle, who autographed his winning target]

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I want my kids to dream to do the impossible. I want them to feel the spirit of the Olympics rise up within them. I want them to find their purpose and accomplish what they are called to do.

I’m proud to be an American.

But sometimes I’m embarrassed by our actions.

We’ve turned social media into a forum to complain about first world problems and mock others–even at the Olympics. I understand this is mostly fueled by ignorance. Not everyone has been exposed to extreme poverty, but I quickly tired of hearing about the missing doorknobs and unfinished hotel rooms in Sochi, in a country that has spent more money in the history of the Olympics to present perfection on the backs of a broken people. I want my kids to look past the complaints about the color of the drinking water in an oppressed country and remember the millions of people who will still have undrinkable water weeks after the venues are empty.

Russia spent 51 billion dollars on the Olympics.

51 billion.

1500 families were kicked out of there homes (some at gunpoint) to make room for infrastructure.

“As journalists and athletes began to check in, social media site Twitter exploded with “#Sochi” tweets sharing traveler woes such as hotels without lobbies, water outages, guests trapped in malfunctioning elevators, faulty plumbing, missing manhole covers, unfinished sidewalks, and showers without shower curtains. A Twitter account dedicated to sharing these tweets quickly gained 325,000 followers, while the official account of the Winter Olympics has only recently cleared 200,000 followers.”  source

This isn’t the first or last time a country will overspend to showcase an over-the-top show. Fences separated poor slum conditions from athletes in Bejing, too.

I know this is a global issue. I love my country. I am proud to be an American, but I’m more proud to be human.

And when the world comes together, I want to my kids to see what really matters.

It’s not winning. It’s not a medal. It’s not victory. It’s not building something beautiful on top of something broken. It’s laying down the flags and color and language that divides us and it’s having compassion for others, even if they live and believe differently than we do, especially then. It’s lending a competitor a ski when his breaks in the middle of the race; it’s speeding down a mountain for your down syndrome brother who can’t.

This is the Olympic spirit.

More than winning, I want my children to value the beauty of helping those behind us in the race. I want them to be the one to come along the injured runner, the limping skier, and lend a hand.

I want them to finish this race well, not necessarily first, but with dignity and integrity.


What to Do With The Bad Days

I gave into temptation and colored my hair. In my own home.

And then at 10 o’clock in the P.M. I washed my hair 37 times because hair color called Espresso is named that for a reason.

I fell into bed with my damaged vanity and slept fitfully. When the alarm sounded the next morning for church, I was still in a bad hair mood with a tingly scalp, a stiff neck and a-gone-to-bed-too-late hangover. I went back to sleep.

The house was sluggish until after noon, our regular routine turned on its side.

What started out as a simple “don’t do that” to one of my kids ended up in a full blown tantrum (I call that the bonus level). We generally handle these in stride. Because three kids and 19 years of marriage.

Take a deep breath. It's just a bad day, not a bad life.

But I was cranky and we let our child’s behavior turn a rocky parenting moment into marital strife because we disagreed on how to handle the blowout.  Please tell me you’ve been there. 

Just like that, our day went from lazy Sunday to the END TIMES if you know what I mean. While my husband and I retreated to our bedroom to try and get on the same page, I could hear my kids arguing in the other room.

The tension in our house was thick. And these are the moments, I am weakest. I feel most inadequate in every area of my life when I feel most human. And in those moments, I feel like one big failure. I tried to tell myself that this was normal.

But even that reminder can fall short on the bad days.

We said our “sorry’s.” Again.  Because it’s still the only way to start over even as the sun is setting. But we just couldn’t seem to get along or get it right.

I wanted the day to end because sometimes it feels like you can’t wait for those new mercies in the morning. I just needed them now.

Everyone was scattered-reading and doing their own thing and I longed to have a do-over and I’m not just talking about my hair.

“Can we just pray together?” I asked my husband with tears right on the edge of spilling over. And what I really meant was can my family just pray with me, for me?

We piled up on our bed, too many legs and arms and too little space and we held hands. It was an awkward Little House on the Prairie moment for sure. But no one pulled away or complained. Our kids could feel the tension and they wanted a do-over as much as we did.

Our youngest asked if she could pray first. Bless her. And then my husband led us in a simple prayer. I couldn’t hold my tears then because this is what I needed. Just knowing we are in this together and although we fight together, we love together.

My teen daughter rubbed my hand when she saw my tears and whispered, “It’s okay, Mom.” I nodded.

Because now it was.

So, what do we do with those bad days? We let them go. And we start new, not with perfection in mind, but forgiveness and love.

And we decide the color Espresso isn’t so bad after all.


What We Teach Our Kids When We Don’t Know They Are Watching

I started this terrible wonderful habit last year.

All three of my kids started a new school and there were some bumpy days in the beginning.

So on the first Friday of the first week, I took my kids to a darling little hometown bakery near our house. And we celebrated with a cookie.

The next week it was a brownie.

A few weeks after that it was a cake pop.

It became a sweet tradition.

And well, many Fridays later and my pants won’t button. It’s a weighty problem.

What we teach our kids when we dont know they are watching n

So a few Friday’s ago, I was backing out of my spot and looking behind me and not at the lovely Mercedes next to me and I scratched the whole side of the car.

That is a bad feeling.

I slowly pulled into my spot (straighter this time) and told my kids to follow me to look for the owner. The car was parked in front of Massage Envy, next to the bakery. So, yeah, I immediately felt worse, of course.

I was about to stress out someone who was having a massage. 

I told the gals behind the desk what happened and described the car. They said, yes, the owner was having a massage and I wrote my name and number on a piece of paper. And then the receptionist said, “I can’t believe you came in to find her. You know you could have left. She would have never know.”

The other girls nodded their heads and encouraged me to throw away the paper.

I looked at my kids looking at us, listening and watching what I would say.  “I would know. My kids would know.”

They were impressed with how “good” I was.

Really? This is what it’s come to in our world? Being honest about hitting someone’s car when they aren’t looking makes me a good person. Huh.

We left and I told my kids it would have been wrong for me to drive away without telling the truth. I fear there is an entire generation of kids who don’t take responsibility for their actions and wave the “it wasn’t my fault” banner.

Say what you need to say. And do what you say you’ll do. It’s called integrity.

Friends of mine from another country, who are now new Americans made this observation to me, “We’ve noticed that when you mention a new idea or cause, many Americans are so excited! They think it’s a wonderful idea and they want to do everything to help! and share! and give! But many do nothing. All the excitement ends when it’s time to show up. In our country, not many people are interested in new ideas, but at least you know where they stand.

I was embarrassed because they spoke the truth.

Sure things come up and plans change. That’s life. But when we make a habit of hiding the truth or not following through with what we’ve said we will do, we are teaching our children to do the same.

Integrity is something we teach our kids when we don’t know they are watching.

Sometimes we use words.