Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When Things Aren't Perfect

One of my favorite motherhood bloggers/authors, Sally Clarkson, often writes about the ideals she has had in motherhood and in life. These ideals aren't meant to make us feel guilty when they aren't met; rather, they are meant as something to strive for.

After reading her book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe (co-written by Sarah Mae) last week, I pulled out my journal and wrote a list of ideals for my days at home. This list included lighting a candle for the dinner table as we sat down to eat each night, playing soft, soothing music in our home, and now that Miss G is getting old enough to understand stories that we read to her, reading from a simple children's Bible story book.

The first few days of practicing these ideals went well. Dave and I enjoyed relaxing at the dinner table and talking about our days with music playing in the background before wrapping things up with the Bible story book.

Then came last night: Dave had training after school, which meant that he wouldn't be home for dinner at 6:30. Miss G and I didn't get home until just after 6, so I hurriedly scooped out the leftover shepherd's pie to heat up while Miss G sat in her chair and ate crackers. With the local classical radio station on in the background, I finally sat down at the candle-less kitchen table to eat with Miss G. Things were going well, until Miss G decided she was done with dinner long before her mama was. Her response lately has been to throw her food on the floor when she doesn't want to eat more, so we had a mess on the floor before I reached over and took her tray away, telling her she needed to wait for Mama to finish eating. This resulted in many tears of frustration from her. I cleared the rest of my plate, then grabbed the Bible story book to take into the living room with Miss G. We sat on the couch together, and I opened the book to our next story.

But I didn't make it past the first sentence before Miss G decided she was done and grabbed the book to look at herself. She ended up settling on the floor, flipping through the pages as she'd occasionally exclaim at some exciting illustration while I remained on the couch, thinking about how the evening's dinner routine was far from perfect.

I could have stayed on that couch all evening, sulking about how we hadn't met our ideals for the day. I could have been discouraged that Miss G didn't get her spiritual nourishment that day. But instead, I focused on what really mattered. First, I tried to meet the ideals I had written down. Second, Miss G and I were both fed a nutritious meal and spent time together. Third, and I think most important of all, there was grace to cover this imperfect night.

Sometimes it's so easy to disregard grace for ourselves when we don't meet our own expectations, but grace is an essential part of the equation in living a life of ideals. (Perhaps it should be included on our list of ideals.) When things aren't perfect, may I never forget that grace.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy New Year (Two Weeks Late)

When Dave and I planned our vacation to Scotland, I knew that the holidays would be different. First, I'd be spending my first Christmas ever away from my family. Second, I'd be watching the Downton Abbey Christmas special in real time rather than two months later in the States. And, third, my usual gusto for the New Year, with its excitement about that new start that comes on January 1, would probably not exist in alignment with the calendar.

Yes, I tried to brainstorm a few New Year's resolutions, but I was too busy taking walks along the beach, riding buses and trains, and visiting with friends and family to really do anything productive about my 2014 goals. There was absolutely no guilt associated with my putting those resolutions on the back burner, but I will admit that the new year felt a little off once we landed in Chicago on the 6th of January.

This past week, I've caught up on blogs about creating goals for the new year and making 2014 the best year yet, all while I've been catching up on sleep to make up for the 24 hours straight I was up during our trip home, looking at our still-packed suitcases sitting in the kitchen, and ordering takeout for our meals. I really wanted to start this year on a good note, but I wasn't feeling it as I struggled through the adjustment of being back home.

Then the idea came to me: I would start my "new year" two weeks late. In other words, Wednesday, January 15 will be my fresh start. I'm giving myself a few days to reflect on how I want this year to look. (So far, I've come up with the goal to read 24 books.) Then, next Wednesday, I will begin anew. Maybe I'll even pour myself a glass of sparkling juice to celebrate, or at the very least, enjoy my Whittard tea first thing that morning.

Here's to a wonderful 2014!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

When Parenthood Is Messy

As the parents of only one child, Dave and I have only experienced a small supply of messes. Although I was half-asleep those first few months of parenthood, I well remember the fountain of spit-up that would follow a feeding, the numerous loads of laundry full of stained clothes, and the emergency baths when wipes just weren't going to cut it.

I know that in the future, we'll likely experience the "fun" of cleaning up a finger paint mural on the wall or floor, the spilled milk on the kitchen counter, the baby powder blanketing the nursery. And, if we have any other children, we'll get to experience the spit-up stage again and again.

But whenever G makes a mess, like she did tonight even, I don't yell at her or decide that the mess is too big to clean up and just give up on being her mama. I clean it up (sometimes frantically before she can get into it again) and give her a cuddle if she's feeling upset about it. I realize that making messes is all a part of G's life right now.

Currently, we're still dealing with the physical messes, but I know that we'll experience other messes, too. The ones that aren't so easy to clean up. The ones that require a prayer for wisdom as we navigate a broken friendship or a broken heart together.

Parenthood is full of messes, but we as Christians have an amazing example of what it looks like to be a good parent. Our heavenly Father patiently walks with us through our messes. He doesn't give up on loving us, no matter how big the mess may be.

As I think about the mess we had to clean up and the love I still feel for my daughter even though she required a lot of work tonight, I'm reminded of my Father, who still loves me even when I make my own big messes.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Two of our dear friends have just left after an enjoyable evening of cheesecake, coffee, and conversation, and I must say it was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend. These are friends we don't have to put on a show for. Yes, I did tidy up a bit before they came, but I didn't care that there was a pile of baby clothes still on the bar stool in the kitchen. Tonight, we were all able to relax as we chatted and sipped our coffee.

Dave and I decided to be intentional about inviting people to our home on a Friday night for dessert. Our original goal was to do this twice a month, but given our other social commitments on Friday nights, it seems one time a month is working well. I suppose you could say it was a New Year's resolution considering it began in January with inviting two of my coworkers and their husbands. We simply pick up a pie or other special treat, bring out the box of K-cups for guests to choose from, and chat about anything and everything either around the kitchen table or spread out among the comfy leather couches in the living room.

Although I'm an introvert at heart, one of my desires is to open our home to others. Through our marriage, this has taken many forms. We've hosted college students here on choir tours, friends and family visiting from Scotland, small group meetings, and annual Christmas parties. At this stage in our lives, it's a bit more difficult to go out in the evenings when Miss G's bedtime is 6:30, so it makes perfect sense to invite people over instead of making plans to meet at a restaurant. Buying something already made at the grocery store may not sound as charming as a homemade treat, but it's the best I can do for now, and I'm perfectly fine with that. What matters to me is that our friends feel at home when they visit.

And, really, I think that's what hospitality is all about. Forget about the fancy desserts or the entertaining games. Hospitality is simply about making others feel welcome in your home.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunday Reflections (February 10)

Yesterday, Dave and I dropped off Miss G at the nursery, walked to our seats in the second row, and sat down to read our bulletins together for the first time in so long we couldn't even remember the last time we'd attended an entire service together.

It was an amazing service to attend, too. Our church has special weekends a few times each year when we invite high-profile guests to share their stories. We've had sports legends, television stars, and simply inspiring people who have walked through heartache and come out stronger because of Christ's work in their lives. Anyway, our church's guest this past weekend was Matthew Luhn. His name may not be familiar, but you definitely know his work if you've seen Pixar movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Up. Matthew Luhn is one of the many people involved in creating the stories we enjoy when we watch Pixar films.

Matthew grew up with a family who encouraged him to use his gift of drawing. They didn't squash his dreams but instead encouraged him to shoot for the stars in his career. He ended up working as an animator for The Simpsons at the age of 19. As a parent, I was really encouraged by this example of being your child's number one cheerleader. Once G gets old enough to exhibit some of her gifts, I hope to be able to encourage her to use them. As a Christian, I hope to encourage her to use those gifts in service to God, who blessed her with them. She may not become a superstar, and that's okay. My prayer is that she does the best she can do with what God has given her.

One of the favorite things I heard in the service was something our pastor said during the altar call. He said, "The problem is that we want to write our own story. And then we mess it all up." It is certainly human nature to pluck that pencil from our life's Author and begin to write our own version of the story. But that only leads to a bunch of crumpled up paper. Instead, we need to let God hold the pencil and trust that his story for our lives is a true masterpiece and better than anything we could ever create.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Reflections (January 27)

Most churches see an increase in attendance this time of the year thanks to New Year's resolutions and people pledging to attend church more in the next year. It's funny to me, then, that my church attendance this month has been less than stellar. Let's see, there was teaching the preschoolers on the first week, sitting in the lobby with Miss G the second week, attending my nephew's dedication and consequently spending more time in the lobby with Miss G last week, and staying home this week thanks to a promised ice storm and the desire to avoid slipping on any ice while carrying my daughter into church by myself since Dave had other church obligations.

I guess I was physically inside a church 3 out of the 4 weeks this month, but I wasn't able to sit and receive what God might have for me through worship or a sermon. I can feel it, too. It reminds me of a time in my life a few years ago when Dave and I were serving every single time the church doors were open and unable to attend any services. That was one of the darkest periods of my life. I don't want to return to that.

I hope that next month will bring more opportunities to be filled rather than to pour out. (Not that pouring out is bad; I just need to be refilled.) In the meantime, I'll be listening to those sermons I missed this month and asking God to fill me with His strength this week.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Reflections (January 13)

Our church is in the middle of a series about why we do what we do in our weekend services. Today the focus was on worship--my absolute favorite part of a church service. (Really, if I'm late and miss even one song, I feel like my experience at church is incomplete.)

Now, you can argue that worship isn't just about a church service and that it isn't really just about the segment of the service when we sing a few songs. It's true that worship encompasses our entire lives and that it can be expressed in church through not only singing but giving, praying, studying the Bible, and serving various ministries. But my favorite expression of worship is what is usually titled "worship."

All of that to say, I was really looking forward to hearing this sermon. But I had a little girl who absolutely loves to make noise in church and requires me to hang out with her in the atrium when she's not in nursery. I didn't hear most of the sermon while I kept Miss G occupied, but the subject got me thinking about worship and what my favorite worship songs are. This is a little different from what I normally post, but below are a few songs that get me excited about worshiping God.

What are some of your favorite worship songs?