What I Want My Little Girls To Know About My Wedding

Dear Daughters,

A few months ago you were both in a wedding and between that and all the popular TLC bridal shows on Netflix and the breathtaking wedding boards on Pinterest, it’s got you asking questions about my wedding.

So, I want to tell you about it.

First of all, it was ugly.

No, really, it was. It was 1994, so that didn’t help.

Neither did my temporary romantic love for the Victorian era. My accent colors were mauve and forest green. Yeah. They were interesting colors against the burnt orange pews of the church and twinkling Christmas trees on the stage. (It was a December wedding).

The bridesmaids wore handmade mauve tent-like dresses that could accommodate an array of sizes, including a very pregnant bridesmaid. I’m pretty sure they were burned while I was on my honeymoon.

I had always planned on wearing a long-sleeved ivory Victorian gown. But instead I fell in love with a white off-the-shoulder sequined contemporary one. I had multiple themes going on.

Remember when you found my dress in a box in the attic a couple of years ago and asked if you could try it on? That kind of stuff is hard on moms.

photo-600x600

The reception was in the small, dimly-lit fellowship hall. There wasn’t dinner or dancing or enough satin to cover the drabness of the room. There was some sort of Sprite punch, a delicious wedding cake, groom’s cake (with a plastic fisherman on top) and some mixed nuts.

There weren’t party favors or sparklers. The guests threw birdseed as we ran to my blue Isuzu compact car, awash with ridiculous writing and a condom on the muffler (your Uncle’s contribution). I can still remember the look on the pastor’s face as we waved goodbye.

We immediately stopped at a fast food restaurant where I dumped a pint of birdseed from my underwear on the floor of the bathroom. That was wrong. But it was itchy.

I can’t think of a single pin-worthy picture from the day.

It wasn’t trendy or lavish.

luxe-reception-decor_0

source

There wasn’t a dance floor or fresh orchids and chandeliers hanging from trees.

But I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

Somehow even with our less than glamorous wedding photo album and honeymoon on an extreme budget to exotic Arkansas, your dad and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this Christmas.

Because we understood that a marriage isn’t about a wedding.

We discovered that a lifetime of love and commitment trumps an event any day. We learned that starting our new life together debt and doubt-free was a gift to each other.

Yesterday, I read that 70% of girls creating wedding boards on Pinterest, aren’t even engaged yet. With every other marriage ending, do we have time for all this planning and pining for one perfect day?

It makes me sad that the world you’re growing up in concentrates more on the wedding than the marriage. It’s over in a sunset and it’s easy compared to the long marathon of becoming and staying one with your one and only.

I want you to know marriage is more than a venue or a menu. It’s far more than The Perfect Day or saying yes to the dress.

And I know you will probably want all of the above some day. And that’s okay.

I just want you to spend more time praying than planning. I want you to sacrifice more than you spend. I want you to understand your commitment to the man of your dreams is more than a certificate—it’s a covenant to God.

Most of all, I want you to know love. The kind of love your dad and I have that lasts through heartache and headaches. I want you to know that you are loved. You don’t have to earn or achieve it. It’s not dependent on a good hair day or bad. It’s not something you can lose. Whether you’re swept off your feet or remain a confidant single woman, you are enough.

I have seen how fast time flies. I know the days are long and the years are short. I put away the toys and clothes you outgrow regularly. I know while I write this, one of you is practicing eye shadow upstairs and the other is practicing cartwheels in the yard, and I will blink and it will be time to give you away.

You are just beginning to dream. Don’t stop.

And on this regular Monday, I want you to know that my wedding wasn’t much.

But my marriage is more.

Love,

Mom

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Christmas, Kids & Entitlement

I’ll never forget the year I told my husband not to get me anything for Christmas.

It was the year he got me exactly what I’d asked for.

Nothing.

I watched my kids open their gifts, snapped pictures of their excited faces, made a big breakfast feast and I waited. I knew he was going to pull out a surprise gift.

But he didn’t. And I was disappointed.

Inwardly, I felt like such an ungrateful brat. He was doing exactly what I told him, but the problem was I still had expectations. I still wanted…something.

A couple of days after Christmas, he brought home a belated gift and I said thank you, but I’d missed the point of Christmas and we both knew it.

A few months later, I traveled to Africa for the first time and my life–and my expectations– wrecked me.

There are expectations with Christmas. And with expectations, comes disappointment. And disappointment is the breeding ground for ingratitude.

We’ve had our fair share of all of the above in our house.
Christmas, Kids and Entitlement

You’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the parents who’ve “canceled Christmas” this year. In their words, “Here is why – we feel like we are fighting a very hard uphill battle with our kids when it comes to entitlement. It is one of the biggest struggles as a parent these days in middle class America. Our kids have been acting so ungrateful lately. They expect so much even when their behavior is disrespectful. We gave them good warning, either it was time for their behavior to change or there would be consequences. We patiently worked with them for several months and guess what, very little changed. One day after a particularly bad display of entitlement John said, “we should just cancel Christmas.” And, so that’s what we did.”

The reaction on the Internet to their decision has been epic and opinions split parents down the middle:

Jeannie Cunnion, who wrote “Parenting the Wholehearted Child,” told Fox News that Christmas gifts should not reflect a child’s behavior — in fact, an undeserved and unearned gift, like the gift of Jesus, best encapsulates the Christmas spirit.

But Ericka Souter, an editor for The Stir, told Good Morning America that Henderson is a “hero for parents with bratty kids all over the country,” encouraging parents and children to make a habit of volunteering and donating clothes and toys.

We all know how hard parenting is… we question our kid’s behavior along with our decisions on how to handle it regularly. But if I’ve learned anything in this parenting journey, I’ve discovered that entitled kids start with parents who entitle them.

I spent the first few years as a mother giving my kids everything I wanted them to have whether they needed it or not and I failed to see that I was creating an atmosphere that I would later try and change.

We live in a culture that thrives on getting what we want and our children are a natural result of that. And let’s face it, we are entitled ourselves. We may not always throw a fit like I did a few years ago, but we live with expectations.

While I understand the frustration of wanting to pull the plug on gift giving because of ingratitude, here are 4 ways to battle entitlement this Christmas season:

1. Give back on Christmas Day | Look for a way to do something tangible for someone else on Christmas Day. For 6-7 years, we’ve taken treats to the local hospitals that took care of our youngest when she was born premature. It’s always a great way to stop in the middle of celebrating and remember someone else. Invite a single person over for Christmas dinner or visit someone who might feel forgotten…

2. Don’t forget to create opportunities for hard work | Grace and salvation are free, but stuff we want isn’t. Sometimes this is more obvious at Christmas (especially if we don’t get what we hoped for). Here are 15 ways to teach kids about hard work. (Christmas break is a great time to start).

3. Look for the lesson -When entitlement rears its head, look beyond the demand. | When my kids expect more than I give them, my first reaction isn’t to look for the teachable moment. But I’m learning that’s often what I need to do. I understand I’ve created some of the problem and it’s to be expected in our culture in certain situations. Offering perspective is often a great way to remind kids how much they already have.

4. Make gratitude a way of life all year long | When we make gratitude and thankfulness a priority all the time, kids are more apt to show thankfulness when they get what they want and when they don’t.

Christmas and kids go together. And in our culture, entitlement right along with them. My family will be opening gifts on Christmas morning probably like yours.  Everyone might get exactly what they want or maybe they won’t. But we can start teaching our kids the true meaning of Christmas by making entitled moments teachable ones and thanking them for grateful ones.


Dear Neighbor:

Driving around looking at Christmas lights is one of our favorite family traditions every December.

And we love the houses with Nativities the most!

Last year, we started a new tradition. Every time we saw a house with a Nativity in the yard, we put a note on their door. My kids loved sneaking up and blessing our neighbors with an anonymous thank you. Yours might too!

It’s a great reminder to our kids to keep Jesus the reason for the season and it’s really fun trying not to get caught.

Go, ahead, try it.

dear neighbor printable

Click to print letters of your own and start a new Christmas tradition today.

Don’t Make Me Take Away the Nativity and Other Things Moms Say In December

I met Cindy at Walgreens.

She recognized me from the back cover of my book, Rhinestone Jesus.

That happens all the time.

#firsttime

We stood in front of the store and talked for 20 minutes. Two weeks later she showed up for our monthly Fair Trade Friday packing party.

Someone asked her how she met me. She said Amazon recommended my book to her. “I bought it because years before, I’d read Kristen’s first book, Don’t Make Me Come Up There!
.

Dont Make Me Take Away The Nativity

Do you know what my favorite story was from your first book?” she asked me while she stuffed bags.

I was sure I had the answer: “The time our dental hygienist gave me good news and bad news: your daughter doesn’t have any cavities, but she does have head lice?” I asked. “That seems to be everyone’s favorite. We found a new dentist, by the way.”

“No,” she answered. “My favorite is the one about the black light spy toy your kids got for Christmas and you wanted to see if it really worked and you discovered pee all over the bathroom,” she laughed.

Y’all. This is called fame.

It comes at a price.

I still stand at the foot of our stairs and yell, “Don’t make me come up there.” Often.

Dont Make Me

And I’ve reached an all new low with some of things I’ve already said the first week of December.

“Don’t make me call Santa,” which gets an eye roll from all three of my kids and a reply of, “Why call Dad? He’s in the other room.” Backfire.

“I don’t care if your friend’s Elf on the Shelf poops peppermint candy, we still aren’t buying one.”

“Please don’t dip your fingers in the Advent candle wax.”

“What are you talking about? These break and bake sugar cookies are homemade.”

“I don’t care if you’re nearly grown, you’re taking a picture with Santa.” #holdme

FullSizeRender

And the other day, I actually said, “Don’t make me take away the Nativity,” when I discovered my 7 year old dragging around the rope attached to the wisemen’s camel pretending it was a black mamba trying to eat baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus survived that attack. Unfortunately, one of the wisemen didn’t.

Motherhood is not a joke.

Especially at Christmas.

 

What are some things you’ve said so far this month?

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World:

I lay awake with an unsettled feeling. I searched my mind going over my day, picturing names and faces until I settled on one of my kid’s tucked in bed upstairs.

Yes, that’s the one. She’s keeping me up tonight.

I thought about the tough day, the words we’d flung at each other and I prayed for her. And I prayed for me.

The night before I started thinking about how expensive college is going to be and stayed up an extra hour pondering it.

Two nights earlier, I didn’t rest well because of a tension headache from overthinking all I needed to get done.

The week before that is was the flu, strain A, that put a feverish second grader on a pallet wheezing through the night and I slept with one eye open.

I keep a notepad next to my bed and it’s always got something on it in the morning. Some worry, some reminder, some whispered prayer, something to do.

This morning’s said, “Call ortho. Tell son to stop eating chips.”

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World

Every season of parenting is different and the same. We never move past the worry, the wonder, the what-the-heck-am-I-doing-wrong thoughts, or the bone-tired weary responsibility of raising these little people.

We work hard.

We love harder.

We look ahead at the weeks To Do List of grocery shopping and cleaning and baking and thawing that turkey followed by weeks of Christmas shopping and tree decorating and merry making and we are tired. And not just the sleepy kind (although yes, what a day in bed wouldn’t fix).

Exhausted.

Bone-weary, worn out.

Can you feel it? The noise, the never-ending piles of laundry, dishes and demands.

And some days I think we just need permission to leave the worry and the doubts, the fear and the unknown. To walk away. To turn it off. To say no. To take time for ourselves. To lay down the burden.

Here it is.

Here’s the permission to rest, to be quiet, to reflect. To be.

We can kill ourselves trying to create a perfect holiday season or rest in the fact that perfection is overrated.

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World

This week as we prepare for company and cooking, family and friends, let’s put ourselves on the list.

God didn’t tell us to be thankful.

He told us to give thanks.

And we know all about giving, don’t we? 

We give our kids the last cookie we were saving for ourselves.

We give them our hoodie off our own back because they are cold at the park. We shiver through.

We give to our children first. Because that’s what we do.

Giving thanks might just sound like another thing on our list. Someone else who needs something from us.

But here’s the beauty of giving him Thanks when we’re empty, tired and worn down, worried and burdened:

In exchange, He gives us rest. 

‘But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
I’m taking my own advice to rest with my family this week. We are tucked away for a quiet few days.  I’m letting go of a lot of things…
This week, take a moment to put your feet up. Trade your worry and doubt for peace and rest. Give God your exhaustion and He will renew you. “He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” Psalm 103:4
Remind yourself you’re a good mom.

Happy Thanksgiving.