Thank you for loving my children

Dear friend,

In case I haven’t said so before, I wanted to thank you for loving my children.  Maybe you don’t think it’s a big deal, but I want you to know it means the world.

Thank you for looking them in the eye and greeting them by name. You are teaching them they are valuable.

Thank you for asking them questions about their lives and waiting patiently for their stumbled replies. You are teaching them the currency of conversation.

Thank you for entering their imaginary worlds and helping find the pet unicorn a snack. Thank you for reading to them, even though they were sticky and stinky. Thank you for for pretending you couldn’t see them under the kitchen table when they hid in the same place for the tenth time playing hide-and-go-seek. You are teaching them that that they are wanted. You are showing them the value of play.

Thank you for that time you played rough-and-tumble T-ball with them. Thank you for asking about their first day of school. Thank you for reminding them to say thank you when I’m too weary to remind them again. Thank you for telling them your own childhood story to distract them from their tears.

Thank you for being a safe adult, another role model in their “village”. Your presence in their life is more valuable than you know. They soak up your laughter, your kindness, your pleases-and-thank-yous.

We take our children to church, but you are the church to our children. You are one of the teaching aides God has put into their life, and they love you.

Thank you for loving my children, and in doing so, for loving me.

Bronwyn Lea is a reluctant pro at speed-diapering and mini-van parking. She loves Jesus, ice cream and laughing til her sides hurt. You can visit her online at bronwyn’s corner or follow  on Facebook or twitter.

Jericho – by Aleah

This post originally appeared Sept. 1, 2013 on Aleah’s blog, Depth of the Riches. You can find it here.

After nearly eight years out, last week I rejoined the workforce. It’s not much, only about ten hours a week as a sales associate in an outlet shoe store. It is the same shoe store I worked in when I was in eleventh grade. I have walked the gray industrial carpeted floors past the very same spot where I remember realizing I was in love with the guy who would one day be my husband. (And excitedly decided to tell him, only for him to beat me to it and tell me he had a new girlfriend). I’m about a solid decade older than my coworkers, one of whom is actually our babysitter.

I had been praying for more money. Now, that might sound shallow, but I’ve got three kids in private school on a single income. I am nothing if not completely honest with God when I pray; He knows what I need, so why beat around the bush? However, I planned on these prayers leading to either something happening with Mike at work or to some awesome writing opportunity where I could actually make money off something I’m already doing.

Let’s face it, time is not a commodity I have in great supply. I’m currently a junior high youth leader, women’s Bible study leader, church nursery director, and I dabble in the blogosphere. And that’s just what I do in my “free” time. Sometimes though, perfect circumstances are in motion that are just so obviously an answer to prayer that, whether it was the answer I wanted or not, I knew the opportunity to work for an old friend (who was willing to be very flexible with scheduling) was the answer I got.

In my daily Bible reading I’m going through an Old Testament Overview reading plan. Around the time of all this prayer and part-part time employment talk I was reading in Joshua. (Note: the following is not a coincidence. You want to have God speak to you? Put in the effort by being consistently in the Word and believe you have been purposed to read what you are when you are.)

Joshua 6 tells the story of the fall of Jericho (and the walls came a-tumbling down–yeah that one). The Israelites have just crossed into the land God promised to give them after forty years of wandering in the desert. They are now faced with the somewhat daunting task of claiming the land. Jericho looms before them, an advanced fortress with four foot thick walls. No one was just going to sneak up on Jericho. It would have to be taken by extreme force.

So God tells them to walk in circles around the place. Not in military formation, but strung out with priests blowing ram’s horns and the ark of the covenant being carried in the mix. Oh, and they’re not even allowed to talk. They’re to do this once a day for six days, then on the seventh day they’re to walk around the city seven times, blast the trumpets, and everyone shouts. Then the walls fall down and the Israelites will march in and conquer the city.

Sounds pretty cut-and-dried. And, if we’re being honest, kind of ridiculous and a bit tedious.

This story caught me off guard because, though I was already familiar with it, in reading it I was struck with what a perfect metaphor it is for where I feel I’m at in life. I’m doing weird, disjointed things that wouldn’t seem to add up were it not for the common factor that I’m honestly seeking the Lord in all of it as best I know how. I’m writing late into the night, reading books off of seminary lists, selling comfortable shoes for minimum wage, comforting a feverish teething toddler, prepping for Bible study, meal planning, and keeping tabs on my personal heroes of faith via Twitter.

Much like the Israelites must have looked fools to their enemies on the other side of the wall, I am currently marching in my own vulnerability parade. I’m willingly putting myself in situations I don’t feel totally prepared for, anticipating God will show up big, but risking looking ridiculous. (Hence my new video attempts).

Unlike times of more lost “what am I supposed to do” wanderings in the desert of the past, I do believe there is some sort of divine purpose that is set in motion. I just can’t see how it’s all going to work out. I’m just circling around and around and around. Day in and day out living how I hope Jesus would live my life if He were me.

Some words I read in John Calvin’s commentary keep playing in my head: “Though the circulatory movement round the walls might have excited derision, it was afterwards known, by its prosperous result, that God commands nothing in vain.” It is a message the Lord has reminded me of again and again and again. If nothing I’m doing is in vain, then by default it has a purpose. I can view the journey as a burden, or I can trust there are things being shaken that I cannot fathom and make the most of this purposeful, circuitous wandering.

Even Jesus didn’t just march straight to the pinnacle of His ministry at the cross. He first spent time teaching around the countryside and in the cities of the life now being made available, and healing and casting out demons. After a few years of this transient life He was led to die slowly on the horrible, glorious cross where He shouted in victory, “It is finished!” And the earth shook and the very walls of death came tumbling down.

If I give up now I’ll never get to see what’s on the other side of this wall. And who knows how many laps I have left?

******

Thinking of Jericho has been helping me keep perspective on the days it feels like the fatigue and tedium of daily life is going to overtake me. Anyone else experiencing a Jericho season?

While you were sleeping

I love to watch my children sleep.

After the battles of the will, the chaos of creativity, the pushing and pulling and learning and laughing, the discipline and the nurture, the tantrums and the tears; I love to watch them crumpled in sleepy surrender. Chaos at rest. Tantrums forgotten.

In those stolen moments, with the crack of light from the hallway spilling into the darkened room, I marvel at them. My heart squeezes with protective longing. I feel the fullness of tender care, the delight in their little bodies. I see limbs splayed and fingers uncurled. The feisty fury of the day gives way to frailty and sweetness.

They have no idea how much we love them, and even less idea how much that love allows us to weather their defiance and dependence. They still live in a world where they think cupboards magically restock themselves and laundry fairies find their missing socks.

When they are awake, we are all energy and independence – five people doing the dance of life around each other, giving and taking and talking and being. But when they sleep, the true nature of things is revealed: children being raised, nurtured, protected, sheltered by us. Dependent on us, though they are only dimly aware of it. Adored by us, though they have no idea how much.

Sometimes, as I lie on my pillow about to yield to sleep myself, I imagine God watching me sleep. I imagine him looking on me after a day filled with my pushing and pulling and learning and laughing, after my own tantrums and tears, now crumpled in sleepy surrender.

I imagine his heart filled with tenderness, seeing my true frailty after my feisty fury is spent. He sees my defiance. He knows my dependence. He knows I live in a world where I am only vaguely aware of all He does to sustain and provide.

During the day, I imagine it’s all me, all the time. But at night, I am a sleeping child; His child being raised, nurtured, protected, sheltered by Him.

Dependent on him, though I am only dimly aware of it. Adored by him, though I have no idea how much.

And so, in the half light of my room, just before my eyes finally close, I smile up to my Daddy. He watches while I am sleeping.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. (Psalm 121:4)

Father-like He tends and spares us, well our feeble frame he knows   (From the Hymn “Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven”, based on Psalm 103)

 

Bronwyn is a South-African born mom of three who now lives in NorCal. She loves her children fiercely, but often confesses that she loves them the most while they are asleep. She blogs about faith, laughter, and the joyful chaos of trying to live for Jesus while doing dishes at bronwyn’s corner.

You might be a mom if….

This post appeared at bronwyn’s corner on 6/19/2013.

You might be a Mom if….

1… You know that two arms is less than half the number you actually need.

2… You have used a public restroom, zippers and all, while holding a baby.

3… You sing nursery rhymes in the car, even when you’re alone.

4… Sandra Boynton is the best poetry you’ve read in years.

5… You have had to restrain yourself from slapping someone who said they slept in til 9am.

6… Laughter and tears are everyday occurrences at the breakfast table.

7… You have answered the front door dressed up as a princess or fireman and it is not Halloween.

8… Bodily fluids, schmodily fluids.

9… You say utterly ridiculous things like “please don’t lick the dog”, and “no you may not look down my throat with that slipper.”

10… You sometimes wear flip flops indoors for fear of stepping on yet another cheerio, grape or Lego.

11… Your wallet is buried under any of the following: lollipops, restaurant crayons, hot wheels, disney band aids, wipes.

12… Also, you cannot remember how you lived without wipes.

13… You completely understand how shaken baby syndrome happens. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

14… You have a newfound awe for your body, which has nothing to do with how it looks.

15… You have discovered the genius and comic relief of mommy blogs. Honest toddler, I’m talking about you. And you, Jen Hatmaker.

16… Bench pressing toddlers totally counts as upper body exercise.

17… After yet another sleep deprived night, you throw your used Kleenex in the laundry basket and cannot find the dirty shirt you were just carrying a moment ago.

18… Your lunch too often consists of PBJ crusts and half-eaten apples.

19… Going grocery shopping alone with your husband feels like a date. Because it is.

20… You have spent 24 hours wearing the same yoga pants and hooded jacket.

21… The smell of a newborn baby’s head makes you ache with joy and wonder.

22… You have 5237 blurry photos of your kids that you can’t bear to delete, even though you know you’ll never print them. Each one is precious, even though there are 43 other blurry ones just like it.

23… Wearing blue glitter nail polish makes you an object of fascination rather than an object of ridicule, even though you’re in your thirties.

24… You have to restrain yourself from counting loudly to three when your spouse doesn’t respond immediately.

25… You’ve never felt more stretched, more humbled, more clueless, more frustrated, and yet,

… You’ve never felt more blessed.

Bronwyn is a South-African born mom of three who now lives in NorCal. She sometimes switches up the blue glitter nail polish for orange or pink. She has made her husband upgrade the disk space on her computer three times to accommodate all the blurry pictures. She blogs about faith, laughter, and the joyful chaos of trying to live for Jesus while doing dishes at bronwyn’s corner.

Moments for Mom

One of my children tells me, repeatedly, and with a certain tone of disapproval, that I take everything too seriously.  Of course, I go on to prove the theory within seconds by getting upset each time it’s said.  (I need to work on my poker face apparently.)

This is said when I won’t allow something that everyone else’s parents on the planet supposedly allow.  Or when I dare to ask a semi-probing question about feelings.  Or when I point out a not-so-great grade.  Or when I mention the importance of preparing for college.  Or when I don’t laugh at a hurtful joke.  Or when I gasp at music lyrics.  Or, you know, when I breathe.

For some reason, the last time this was said to me, I got more defensive than usual and I spent about an hour ruminating on it while we were in the car together.  I didn’t say anything out loud, but I debated.  So instead of saying what I wanted to say in the heat of the moment, I’m saying it here.

Dear child of mine, I have a feeling you don’t care the reason behind me taking things so seriously, you probably just want me to stop. Odds are against that.  So, in case you’re ever discussing your mother issues with your future wife or future therapist and she asks, ‘Why do you think your mother acted that way’?, you can say you don’t know but that this is what your mother told you to say…

I take everything so seriously when it comes to you for three very different but equally important reasons. 

First, parenting is serious.  You won’t get this until you’re a parent.  But one day you will.  (Hopefully.)  The stakes are high.  Your heart is up for grabs.  And I believe that God chose me for you to help you get through your childhood and to help you get ready for your adulthood.  I’ve messed up a lot. And I’m looking down the barrel of only a couple more years with you under my roof.  It’s crunch time.  There’s so much more for you to learn.  And God is going to hold me accountable for how I raised you.  So that’s the first reason I take parenting so seriously.

But secondly, somebody has to.  God created families to come with two parents.  And for years and years before your dad and I divorced, I think I knew deep down that I was going to have to be the mother and the father.  The other role has been abdicated.  If you don’t know what abdicated means, you can look it up. Kidding.  It basically means when someone is given a role but they don’t step up to the plate to fulfill it, they just walk away from doing what they are responsible for, what they are supposed to be doing.  When things are working right, moms and dads work in partnership, each switching back and forth between good cop and bad cop, between fun parent and work parent, between rational and crazy even.  But some sad, hard things have happened – and you know most of them – and that is not the case in our family.  I get to be good cop.  I have to be bad cop.  I get to be fun parent. I have to be work parent.  I get to be rational parent. I totally am crazy parent.  I have to be both; I have to do it all.  Pretty much all day every day.  So that’s the second reason I seem to take everything so seriously; because someone has to.

And the last reason, because I love you. And I want the best for you. And I want you to know what it’s like to walk with God, and make wise choices on your own even in tough situations, and have solid, healthy relationships.  I want things for you that you’re not seeing in your life being modeled for you.  So, I might be a little more rigid than you’d like.  And I’m sure you’ll need some therapy.  And I’m sure it drives you crazy.  But it’s only because I love you.  It’s always only been because I love you.

Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2013

Elisabeth is mom to Sara (16-1/2) and Jack (15).  She loves spending time with her kids, her friends, reading and writing.  She is the author of At the Corner of Broken & Love; One Girl, Third World; He Is Just That Into You;In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother’s Heart; and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul.  All these books can be purchased on Amazon.com.  Her upcoming book, Unraveling, is releasing with Abingdon Press in October 2013.

Visit her website at http://www.elisabethcorcoran.com/ and her blog at  www.elisabethcorcoran.com/blog.

If you are in a difficult marriage or find yourself going through a difficult divorce, Elisabeth has created two private groups on Facebook that she would like to invite you to. Simply email her at elisabethkcorcoran@gmail.com for more information.

Elisabeth is a proud Member of Redbud Writer’s Guild.

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NEW BLOG  www.elisabethcorcoran.com/blog
SPEAKING  www.elisabethcorcoran.com/speaking
BOOKS  www.elisabethcorcoran.com/books
TWITTER  https://twitter.com/ekcorcoran
FACEBOOK  http://www.facebook.com/ElisabethKleinCorcoran
UNRAVELING coming 10.01.13 from Abingdon

I’m Not Coming Out and You Can’t Make Me!

(This post originally appeared here on 5.21.2013).

My family knows that my shower- and getting ready time is “my” time. They know that, unless I am absolutely forced to, I will not open the bathroom door during the entire 45-60 minutes it takes me to shower and apply makeup, which is something I do every single day, unless I am so sick I can barely stand. Like the Fly Lady needs her shoes, I need my shower and eyeliner.

This doesn’t mean that in particular life seasons I don’t have someone either in the bathroom with me or banging on the door, screaming, from the outside. In fact, with a teen, toddler, and infant in the house, this happens more often than not. And my husband and I are often forced to plan an entire day’s schedule by shouting through the bathroom door. Nonetheless, the fundamental rule remains the same: if mama is in the bathroom getting ready, you better leave her alone or be prepared to face the consequences.

Sometimes I hear major chaos going on beyond the locked door of my sanctuary. Loud thumps and bumps followed by cries, phones ringing, dogs barking, teen requests intermingled with toddler tantrums and an infant’s demand to be feed. In these moments, I sigh, hastily apply 8-minutes worth of make-up in two, and head out the door to sort it all out.

The other day I heard all those things at once. My husband and mom were surviving, but they certainly could have used more (wo)manpower to ease the hurt.

As I listened to my husband try to make a phone call for our sixteen-year-old while the little ones’ battles raged around him and my mom pleaded with Rachel to stop poking her in the eye, I sighed a sigh of resignation and started to go into getting-ready overdrive.

But then… I didn’t.

I thought, “I am not coming out of here and you can’t make me.” If I could have locked the door even tighter, I would have.

No one knows what’s going on behind the bathroom door, and they aren’t going to ask. And if they do, I’ll tell them that mama’s getting-ready bathroom time is like Vegas—what goes on in there stays in there.

This was a particularly empowering moment, but don’t worry. I have no intention of abusing my loved ones by hiding out in the bathroom during the morning crazies. But you know what? Despite the cries and chaos coming from beyond the door, despite the stress and frustration I heard in the outnumbered grown-up voices, everything turned out just fine. My oldest son’s car got to the shop, the phone call was made, the baby was fed, and my mom’s eye remained in tact. And all of this was done just fine without me.  Can you believe it?

(Stuff in the third person: Jamie is going on her 4th year of membership in Mothers’ Council. She blogs at http://jamiecallowayhanauer.com)

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

My best simply isn’t good enough anymore.

No, no. It really isn’t. I’m not fishing for compliments, or advice, or sympathy. I’m just stating the facts, ma’am.

I say the following phrase with increasing frequency: “I’m doing the best I can!” This is usually in response to questions like:

“Why are there no clean towels?”

“Why do I have to borrow Dad’s socks again?”

“What am I supposed to eat? There’s no food in the house!”

And then there are the questions I ask myself:

“Why haven’t I had quiet time today?”

“Why does everything seem so grungy and chaotic?”

“Why am I so snappy with my family when I have so darn much?”

“Why are we eating chicken apple sausage and noodles AGAIN?”

Lately I’ve felt a big, ugly thing inside of me. I don’t have to be a psych major to know what it is: It’s discontent because nothing is how I want it to be.

Common refrains:

“Honey, PLEASE take the kids out today so I can get something done.”

“Honey, PLEASE take Rachel to the Splash Park so I can have a bit of silence and maybe get a shower.”

“Honey, PLEASE help Collin so I can type up this declaration.”

So, even though I’m “doing the best I can,” that “best” seldom seems to include “doing it all,” or hanging out with my kids, who I very much wanted and am so glad to have.

Trust me: this has nothing to do with having a smaller to-do list. I am not trying to scrapbook and reorganize closets and Shop Vac the garage. This is Survival 101. Such as having NO TOWELS, not even dish towels, the other day, so we all had to drip dry after showering. Such as having canned soup and a green lemon from our lemon tree as the only foods in the house. Such as my husband borrowing my underwear because all of his are in the wash (I made that last one up, but not by much). Such as having to store my “active” files on the kitchen counter, right by the CDs of singing vegetables and the “Home Menus and Shopping Lists” binder I haven’t touched in eight months, so I can glance over them while boiling noodles.

Rachel often says things like, “I want Daddy to take me somewhere!” And, ugly upon ugly, I think, “Wait! I’M the MOMMA. Why don’t you want me???” And of course, the answer is because I constantly beg Andy to take the kids and go — somewhere, anywhere — so basic essentials (you know, like food and undies) can magically appear in the house. It’s because Rachel’s daddy is a very good daddy, and she should want to be with him just as much as she wants to be with me.

And frankly, I think this sucks.

I would really like to be Supermom. I would dearly love to Shop Vac the garage and paste cute things onto acid-free paper. But, it just isn’t happening. And so I mutter bad things to myself about how I used to do it all, and how I’ve lost control of the house, and how I’ll never have clean area rugs again. And I get angry that my best isn’t good enough to be 110% perfect, and then I get angry that I don’t extend to myself the same forgiveness I advise other moms to feel in their own hectic lives.

I know all the tips, tricks, and gimmicks to cut time, save time, eat healthy, work out, get ‘er done. But sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate. There’s simply nothing left to cut from my to-do list, no other way to incorporate efficiency. In fact, I know that to overcome the ugliness of my discontent, I have to add more tasks, in bright red letters, to my little sticky notes that clutter up the kitchen counter:

1) Find the quiet time you’re missing. Use it to read scripture, not to blog, edit declarations, or strategize.

2) Remember to use shower time for prayer and meditation.

3) Extend love, even when you don’t feel it, to everyone around you, until your smile becomes real.

And with these things done, and done well, all the rest will fall into place.

How do you overcome your discontent? Where do you carve time from a chaotic, overfull life when you’re already down to bare bones? I’d love to know!

(Stuff in the third person: Jamie is going on her 4th year of membership in Mothers’ Council. She blogs at http://jamiecallowayhanauer.com)