Familiar Fears

Today I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on  a given prompt.  This week’s word is FAMILIAR.

Yesterday, I allowed myself to get sucked in to fear.  I got pulled into some shockingly high online stats of one’s chances of being trafficked, and then became panicked and heartbroken watching a news story about a child who was abducted just a few hours away.  Before I became a mother, I would hear these stats and stories, be momentarily sad, and then forget about them minutes later.  Now that I am a mom to a one and a half year old daughter, and one more on the way, this information now rattles me to the core.  What kind of world are we raising our children in?  Is no place safe anymore?  It makes me want to keep my babies locked inside, away from the toxic gas of this world. But then I have to stop and remember that my God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind.  Mommas, pray over your babies.  Daddies, pray over your families.  As parents, we must be alert, vigilant, and smart, while at the same time allowing our children to grow up without fear.

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Learning Grace through Parenthood

A few weeks ago, I took my 17-month-old daughter to a bookstore to do some Christmas shopping. There, we were greeted with free Styrofoam cups full of spiced apple cider. I took a cup, and clearly my girl wanted a taste of what I was drinking. After allowing it to cool for a minute and watching me blow over the surface of the steaming drink, she couldn’t wait anymore and started to fuss. So, I gave her a tiny sip, to which she promptly sputtered and choked. After regaining her breath, she said, “Hot.” However, she of course wanted more of this mysterious hot apple juice every 45 seconds while I was scanning the shelves for a meaningful book. The small cup soon emptied, and so I let her continue playing with the cup contentedly while I scanned the book titles and flipped through the pages of a few I pulled out. I finally picked out what I wanted, and my focus went back to my daughter. She triumphantly showed me the ripped up cup pieces in her lap and on the floor around her. I collected all of the pieces I saw, and we continued to walk around the store.   A few minutes later, she started jamming her whole fist into her mouth, gagging herself. She started doing this awful gagging bit about a month ago, and we have just tried to ignore it, so she hopefully will cease without any reinforcement, positive or negative. After the third time she gagged herself, I just couldn’t take it. I yanked her hand from her mouth and sternly told her to stop. Not a minute later, she did it again, and proceeded to throw up all over the front of her shirt and stroller straps. Of course, an older lady who was also shopping, saw the episode as she was walking towards us, since we were between her and the cash register. Right as she walked by, my friendly girl waved her puke-slimed hand at the lady and gave her a winning smile. The woman didn’t know how to react, so she gave a weak smile in response and then gave me a disapproving, “Oh my,” as she walked past me, and I withered. My face got hot and my eyes threatened to water. I was embarrassed my kid was so gross. I mean, I was walking around a Christian bookstore while my daughter is making herself gag, and I certainly didn’t want anyone to wrongly assume she’d learned this behavior by observation. I was going to lecture her again about not gagging herself, until I realized she had spit out a small fragment of Styrofoam cup. The poor kid was just trying to get the piece of cup out of her throat and I was to blame it was there in the first place.

As a parent, I can totally allow myself to worry about what other people think, instead of just caring about my child and her well being. One day I took her to the grocery store and she started chomping on a whole block of white cheddar cheese. I was initially embarrassed at what others, particularly store employees, would think or say to me. I of course paid for the block of cheese at the register, and had ZERO people gave me strange looks. Most people laughed, including the cashier, and other moms in the store told me that, “whatever it takes,” is what you have to do to get your kids through the grocery store. It was after one of those moms assured me, that I actually started finding humor in the situation.

I’m learning that as a mother and a wife, the only people in this world I should care what they think of me are my husband and my daughter. My little girl is going to do some gross, annoying, loud, messy, and not so cute things as she learns and grows up. I wish I could tell my single, “never having kids” self that all of those kids I grumbled about were just being kids. To have some grace for them, and an even larger share of grace for their parents. Kids are going to be on airplanes and in grocery stores and in restaurants. They are not going to be perfect. Parents certainly are not perfect either, as much as we hope and try to be. Basically, we’re learning on the fly, even if we had amazing parents ourselves.  The time we have with our babies is so short, that we have to embrace these often cringe-worthy times, and laugh through them, even if we want to cry or hide. We all used to be kids, after all.

 

Cheese

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No EXCUSE Necessary

Today I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on  a given prompt.  This week’s word is EXCUSE.

 

When my oldest niece, Eriah, was three years old, she had quite a vocabulary. You could have an entire conversation with her, and would completely forget how young she actually was. One morning, she and I were making breakfast together. I had whipped up some pancake batter and had a chair pulled up to the counter so she could watch what I was doing and “help.” As I poured batter into the pan, she dutifully scooped up some batter and proceeded to pour it directly into the toaster.  Blobs of batter dribbled down the inside of the toast slots, all over the outside, and onto the counter.  I was so shocked at what she’d done, I looked at her and asked, “What were you thinking?” She just looked at me like I was crazy for asking her such a question. After I got that look in response, I stopped and realized I was asking a THREE year old why she’d just dumped pancake batter into the toaster.   There didn’t need to be an excuse for her actions. She simply didn’t know any better. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I keep this story in the back of my mind because I know these kinds of things are going to happen. I can’t get upset because she’s figuring out her world, and with that exploration, often comes messes.

 

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Five Minute Friday: Growth in the SILENCE

Today I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week’s word is SILENCE.

 

In the silence, you’re growing inside me.  I can’t hear you or see you, but when I’m still, I feel you moving within me.  When I sit and read or lay down to sleep, that is when you’re most active.  And I’m grateful for your movements.  I grab your daddy’s hand and place it on my round belly so he can feel you too.  And so that the love we have for you grows each day as you grow.  One day, we will get to see you and hear you too, but until then, I’m excited to feel you kicking and splashing around inside.

 

SILENCE

 

 

 

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Desperately Seeking Love

I spent most of my life as a single, having now only been married for three years.  In high school, I wondered what made other girls who always had a boyfriend different from me.  Even into my twenties and early thirties, it was a rare event for me to actually have a boyfriend.  I grew up in an Assemblies of God (AG) church and developed a staunch reverence and fear of maintaining my purity.   I was involved in Missionettes, an AG version of the Girl Scouts, which used up most of my free time while in middle school.  Back then, there was no internet or cell phones, so the only distractions for me were books, the creek in my backyard, practicing the piano, and beating my uncle Mark at Mario Brothers.

As my college roommates know, I didn’t actually listen to pop music from the ’80s until I got to college.  Growing up, the only music we were allowed to listen to was on 90-Joy or some other Christian music station, classical music, and the occasional Beatles or Rolling Stones song my dad had playing as he lifted weights in the basement.   I remember finding out in middle school that a girl who had just moved in across the street from me was going to have a party at her house.  I was not invited because she figured I wouldn’t be allowed to go.  She was most likely correct, but after that, I never felt like I really fit in at school anymore, despite having grown up knowing most everyone since first grade.  Somehow, I missed the cheerleading and gymnastics tryouts, and my volleyball tryout was a total bust.  Thinking on my Freshman year of high school makes me wish I could go back in time and give a pep talk to my younger self.  A group of “pretty girls” seemed to befriend me at the same time I sort of led a parade of smart but “uncool” girls of my own.  The “pretty girls” let us all cram around their table, requiring several girls to eat lunch on their laps, pushed out from the table.  Why didn’t I just find a table for ourselves, instead of desperately pushing to be included?

I believe the operative word is “desperate.”  When we become desperate for attention, or love, or even friendship, we lower our standards.  Particularly when it comes to dating relationships.   A boy could literally say, “Grunt.  Grunt.  Boobs.  Grunt.  Grunt.  Bacon.” There was a period in my life as a lonely single when I would have heard those same words and translated them to, “You’re beautiful.  I love you more than bacon.”  And then I would have been heartsick and shocked to be confronted with silence.  This kind of “relationship” is as sincere as a drunk apology.  We, as confident women, would never allow a friendship with another girl continue like that.  No sad texts would be sent asking if we’re okay.  We wouldn’t hold our Friday nights open just in case she calls, right?  We’d make other plans with our girlfriends who value our friendship!  Why do we allow boys to lodge such a four-pronged fish hook in our hearts?

We all have friends or even family members who seem to have a consistent line of bozos waiting in line for them.  And our friends actually seem genuinely excited about dragging these guys in for us to meet them, just as long as we don’t reveal our eye rolls and aren’t honest about how we really feel.  I can remember one of my friends from college who was so excited and exhilarated about her new relationship.  Just from hearing who this guy was, and how he treated their first date night made my heart hurt for her.  I knew she was going to be crushed, that he was just using her because she was young and desperate for love.  However, she took my reluctant and cautious lack of enthusiasm as me judging her.  And oh, how I know now how she felt years later, after I was confronted by friends who loved me and just wanted to protect me.  A close friend told me she wanted to “punch him in the throat” after telling her about this boy who still wanted to hang out with me all the time despite telling me he didn’t love me.  Instead of that shaking me out of the puppy-love trance I was in, her (awesome) statement made me only want to defend him.  Loved ones could tell after meeting some random boy for five minutes that he wasn’t the one.  I’d initially think they just didn’t get enough time with him or were being too picky, because why couldn’t you see he’s as wonderful as I did?  But, it never took long to figure out that they were all right.

God absolutely protected me from so many more heartaches than I could have experienced.  I certainly didn’t miss out on anything by not dating more.  Lord knows, I have journals enough filled with tear stains and gut-wrenching, heart aching laments.  Once I figured out that life can be full of adventure as a single and real love could be experienced from true friends and authentic community, that’s when I stopped believing that I’d drawn the short stick in the dating world.  It took about thirty-one years to get there, but I did eventually get there.  I embraced my life, loved it, and allowed God to fill my heart’s deepest needs.  And I know that my husband, my daughter, and another girl on the way are special blessings that God gave me, not because I was desperate for the love of a husband or a child, but because God himself is Love.

 

LOVEinthesky

 

 

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Five Minute Friday: NEED

About ten years ago, I dated a boy who told me right off the bat he was codependent.  I had no idea what that meant initially, even as he explained that he “needed to feel needed.”  Our relationship came to a rapid demise after just a few months.  He told me that because I owned my own condo, had a great job that took me all over the country, and had a great family, I didn’t need him.  Looking back, he was totally right.  I don’t need any man to feel complete or feel loved.  Jesus alone completes me and fills my heart.

My husband is my best friend.  I married him because I want to spend the rest of my life with him, not because I need him to fill some selfish hole within me.  I tend to think that a symbiotic relationship makes for a better foundation than a parasitic one.  Our relationship is strong because we compliment each other and spur each other on to grow.

 

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Day 31/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: REST

Day 31

Rest, my precious child.

Lay your head on my shoulder

allow your breaths to slow

and our heartbeats to align.

Let me feel the warmth of your cheek against mine.

Close your sleepy eyes and melt into me.

REST

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Day 30/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: REFINE

Day 30

Scrubbing clean

sanding down

filing rough edges.

Softening harsh words

molding hardened hearts

distilling thoughts.

Painful at times,

uncomfortable but necessary for growth.

 

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Day 29/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: FOLLOW

Day 29

If one were to follow the track of my life, it would not be a stretch to say I’ve moved around a lot.  I was born in Bethesda, MD, grew up for the first 16 years of my life in Northern VA, spent the last few years of high school and all of my college days in Wilmington, NC, moved to Baltimore for three and a half years after college, then back to Wilmington from September 2004-2009, moved to Denver in September 2009 and lived there until July 2014.  Then, I moved to Connecticut to get married, and we lived there until July 2017, and have since been living in Charlotte, NC.  What a meandering path.  Each move was for a good reason, although I know from the outside, it must have seemed like I had no idea what to do with my life.  Partly (okay, maybe mostly) true, but thankfully, throughout this nomadic wandering, God’s hand has been on me.  There were periods of time I ran from him, but he kept his steady hand on me the whole time.

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Missing My Uncle Mark

The end of September in 2004 was the last time I saw my uncle Mark.  He and my parents had driven up to Baltimore to help move me out of the condo I was living, since I was moving back to Wilmington, NC.  He was so strong, lugging my dressers and couch from up and down the stairs.  There was no indication to any of us he’d have a heart attack on a crisp cool October morning while hunting, just a few weeks later.

In the line of my mom’s biological siblings, he came third, and my mom was fourth.  My mom and Mark always were together.  When my mom first moved out of her parents house, they were roommates, and he still lived with us until I was in High School.  My brother was probably in first or second grade, and my sister was in third or fourth, but I know he was a huge part of their formative years.  In my childhood memory of my Gramma and Poppy’s house, there was a Norman Rockwell painting of a boy and girl sitting on a bench with a knapsack on the ground behind them with the sun in front of them.  It always reminded Gramma of the two of them, so now it does the same for me, too.

Mark was probably the easiest person to like that I’ve ever met.  He always wore a smile, except when the camera was pointed in his direction.  He would either just stare unsmiling at the lens, or put his hand up in front of his face.  Out of all the pictures ever taken of him, that’s what you saw.  UNLESS he had a fish in his hands that he’d just pulled out of the water.  Then that smile would be as big as the fish tales he would tell.  He was always agreeable, yet annoying in a big-brother kind of way.   At mealtimes, he insisted on sitting to my left, so we constantly bumped elbows.  I’m a lefty, and he was a born righty, having to switch to being left-handed after royally messing up his right thumb so it couldn’t bend.  He’d also know just when to swipe my hand out from under my head when we were watching tv.  I’d be laying on the ground with my head propped up by my hand, and when I was most absorbed or oblivious, he’d whack my arm back and chuckle as my head nearly hit the floor.  He always let me punch him for it afterwards, which was satisfying.

We were never without milk or bread in the house because nearly every night before he came home from work, he’d stop and grab one or the other, or both.  The only time he took days off from work was for for the opening day of duck, buck, turkey, or bow season.  He worked for Transmission Incorporated, and I still can remember his work phone number.  His fingernails were always rough from working and black with car grease.  He always wore a ball cap.  It was strange to see his head, he wore a hat so much.  In the summer, he’d let us all pile in the pack of his gray Toyota truck for a 7-11 Slurpee run.  When we got home, we’d jump in our backyard pool.  We would all have our swimming suits on, except him.  He always wore his navy blue Dickies in the pool.  I never saw his legs above those pink ankles, and I don’t think he ever wore shorts beyond his teen years.  I remember his bedroom was just off our family room above the basement.  It always smelled like stale smoke, even after he quit smoking.  He had a waterbed, and we all thought that was the most amazing bed to lay on.  He also had a tiny 5×5″ square black and white television on his nightstand with knobs to change the channel and volume.

I remember one night, probably after watching MacGuyver or Tour of Duty, he told me about seeing bullfrogs as big as his forearm.  I wanted so badly to see one, so he offered to take me, on the condition we had to wake up before the sun the next morning since I had school and he had work.  I woke up the next morning, after the sun, and went down to his room.  A man’s sized shoebox was on the floor wrapped in a rubber band, and a note scribbled from Mark that here was my bullfrog.  I opened the lid, and sure enough, the biggest frog I’ve ever seen in my life was sitting inside.  Wonder, awe, and guilt rushed through me.  I didn’t want to leave the poor frog inside the shoe box all day- I am a child of the 80’s and saw E.T. dozens of times.  So, I took him out to the backyard and released him near our creek, praying he’d make it back home unscathed.  I loved Mark for going and bringing me back this magnificent creature.  To this day, I still kick myself for not waking up early to go with him.  It would have given me just a few more hours of memories.

 

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