It's strange to write those words. There was a time where I wondered if I'd ever get married, and yet we just celebrated six years of marriage. What a precious gift God gave me in Kevin. This man is hardworking and courageous, funny and tender, humble and patient. I have learned so much from him. I have learned so much about myself through him. And with each passing year, we learn how to love each other better.
This year Kevin surprised me with the gift of a few wonderful days in Denver to celebrate us. Anniversaries should be celebrated! They display God's faithfulness. They remind me that, "He who began a good work in me [being a wife] will carry it on to completion." I cannot wait to see how God completes us even more—through this amazing journey called marriage—in the years ahead.
Last week I decided that Monday, Labor Day, would be the day we did something fun as a family. We worked hard Friday through Sunday, so Monday could be our fun day. Well, our my plan to go out to breakfast and drive to the mountains started to self-destruct this morning, when I checked the weather and saw that it would be cold and rainy in the mountains. Not a great environment to take toddlers.
So we decided to go to our favorite little place for breakfast. It's about 40 minutes away in the foothills of the mountains. When we arrived (around 11), it was apparent from the crowd that we weren't going to get a table for quite awhile, so we continued on to check out The Donut Mill in Woodland Park, Colo. Unfortunately the power had gone out, so they weren't serving full breakfast and only selling the donuts they had on hand ... for cash. My $7 got us half a dozen donuts to tide us over. Then we drove back down to Colorado Springs to another favorite breakfast place (because by this point Kevin was set on breakfast), and we sat down to our hard-won pancakes at 1:08 p.m.
Not the day I'd imagined.
When we got home, I made Kevin take the picture above. I just needed something to prove we'd made a memory and had a good day. Proof that the day wasn't a total wash. But it wasn't. We spent time together. Kevin and I had good conversation. We enjoyed the beauty of the day as we drove from place to place. And we even got home in time for a nap, allowing the holiday to end on a relaxing note.
Many days don't go as I imagined these days. I plan to finish a whole to-do list and only check off one or two things. Sometimes I find that frustrating. I often lack the sense of accomplishment I used to feel before I stayed home with kids. A few years ago I wrote about how sometimes I turn to Facebook to feel a sense of worth. But I'm learning that flexibility has its charms. When I allow plans to change without being too bothered by it, sometimes I stumble upon unexpected joys—like the tasty old-fashioned donuts we sampled in a Colorado mountain town. Or the bit of unexpected rest we received because everyone was so worn out by the excursion.
Sometimes a day doesn't go as planned. But that's not always a bad thing. It's good to stay open to being pleasantly surprised by what happens instead. That's part of what makes life sweet, I think. That and donuts.
This past week was a busy one. As with all weeks, it had its ups and downs. Kevin and I toured some coffee shops on Tuesday morning (what is called a "caffeine crawl") to do a little research for the new coffee shop our church is putting in this fall. My friend, Becky, provided a more comprehensive review of local coffee shops, but here is my quick rundown of the three we visited:
Jives (on Nevada): Converted from the old Harley Davidson Motorcycle Museum, I'm told the style in here is Steampunk. It was a little dark inside for 10 a.m., but the pumpkin spice latte (my first of the season) was delicious and it would be the perfect, cozy place to work without distractions (at least on a Tuesday morning).
Stir: My favorite of the three, the bright, cool, 1950s vibe in here (think your Grandma's porch or a diner) was complemented by the easy-going, friendly barista. I tried a Cafe Miel (honey and cinnamon latte), and it was divine. Just be sure to go early—they close at 3 p.m.
Fifty Fifty Coffeehouse: Recently remodeled (it used to be called The Raven's Nest), this place is a fair-trade (I think all of them are) hipster heaven. I spotted a man-bun, Chaco's and khaki dress shorts (on the same person), i-devices galore, and entertaining signage at every turn. Maybe some day I will "Do Good Work" at their inspiring high-top community table, if I ever escape my children get a babysitter for an afternoon. (Granted I can stop staring at all the fascinating people!) Oh, and I enjoyed my brown-sugar latte--made with homemade brown-sugar syrup.
That was definitely an up of the week. But there were some downs too. On Thursday, we Redboxed (that's a verb, right?) McFarland, USA. I've decided that while I don't really like sports, I LOVE sports movies. This movie was so uplifting and really spoke to me on issues of faith, life and family. Although it's about a public school coach starting a track team in a poor California town, it had some great insights for those in ministry (all Christians, right?). I won't spell them out for you (because you should really watch the movie and be uplifted, too) but let's just say that what you do has lasting effect on those you build relationships with.
In conclusion, Ungrind published my article "Reinventing Mommy" this week. It's basically me offering help and hope to other mamas who may feel a loss of identity in motherhood (even though it's their very favorite thing in the world). Until next time ...
“Being a parent is hard!” My sister’s words tumbled forth in a Monday-afternoon email. She continued, “Of course I wouldn’t change anything, but I didn’t realize what I was giving up by having kids or how hard it would be.”
What prompted her lament was that, as a mom of two toddlers, she could no longer participate in the community theater scene the way she had since she was a girl. The leading lady parts she had once played were no longer really an option for her with two active little boys to care for.
As a mother of three young children myself, I understand her feelings. I, too, often feel like I “gave something up” when I made the decision to take on the role and responsibilities of motherhood.
There were the obvious things I said goodbye to — my job as a magazine editor and my place on the improv comedy team I had helped to found. But there were also the more subtle things — money for extras, regular haircuts, time with friends, free time and kudos for my accomplishments. And while, like my sister, I wouldn’t change a thing, sometimes I do feel like my identity had been altered beyond recognition.
Cross-stitched family by the talented Heather Bauers.
A few days ago, I was trying to get the "perfect" photo of my girls in their matching PJs. I must have taken twelve or more shots. The 3-year-old was either making a contorted face with eyes scrunched closed, or the baby's hands were a total blur because she was clapping. The best photo I got had both girls looking at the camera and mostly smiling, but wisps of hair hung over the 3-year-old's eyes. Imperfection.
I've been a pseudo-perfectionist my whole life. I say "pseudo," because there are definitely things I let go. (My laundry pile is a perfect example.) But something about being the oldest child, I think, has always driven me to be excellent in what I do. More precisely, I crave to be recognized for excellence in what I do.
I'm not a person who would intentionally broadcast to others that I'm perfect or have a perfect family, despite what the Facebook "highlights reel" may convey, but I still probably aim for "pseudo-perfect." Imperfect is one thing; sub-standard is another. The season of raising young children is an especially difficult one in which to maintain any level of perfection. Messy house. Messy kids. Messy car. I try to have the right expectations, but sometimes the imperfection gets to me.
The concept of beauty in the imperfection is a well-worn theme. But sometimes you don't see the beauty in the moment—or maybe you never see it. Forget about the beauty for a minute (it is there); most days I ask God what He's trying to teach me through this assault on my perfectionism. And you know what I think it is? Dependence. The less I can do on my own, the more I am forced to turn to Him—the One in whom I live and breathe and have my being (Acts 17:28). He's big enough to handle my frustrations. More than that, He loves me. He loves my husband. And He especially loves the little people who are wreaking havoc on my carpet (SO imperfect).
God's been teaching me dependence throughout my life. Because it seems perfectionists have hard heads when it comes to things like this. This is just His newest strategy. On the flip side, the enemy is very good at knowing my weak points, and one of them is my pride in my pseudo-perfection. It could also be called self-reliance. That's exactly it. I am a chronic self-relier. And I think God is trying to break me of that ... in a big way. It may be painful, but I'm OK with that. Because I trust the end result will be worth it. It always is.
Cute in imperfection.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
The setting was gorgeous and we enjoyed many fun family activities, including making s'mores, swimming and boating, and participating in an Amazing Race (Team Gosselin came in 4th!). But the teaching Matt and Chantal McGee provide on marriage and family life was truly life-changing. (You can get a taste of it in their book "The View From the Rocking Chair.") It forces you to evaluate what your priorities truly are and move forward with intentionality that will change the course of your family. There are a lot of things you (and your children) can spend your time doing. Some of them are good things. But are they the best things? That is a question that parents should never stop asking.
Another thing that really blessed us was the wonderful staff and volunteers at the camp. These people loved on our kids (Josiah in particular) and encouraged Kevin and me as parents. As my last post showed, parenting can be really difficult sometimes. And it can be a big deal for someone to notice your efforts and tell you that you're doing a good job—that they can see God at work in and through you.
It reminds me of Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." I think sometimes we forget how critical this is—to notice what God is doing in the lives of other believers—and to not only notice, but to speak up about it. Many times when I've received this type of encouragement, it feels as if the words are being spoken to me directly from God.
So refresh someone today. Notice what God is doing and say something. A little encouragement goes a long way.
They actually look pretty cute and innocent in this photo.
So this week, we’ve been spending some time at a wonderful
family camp in the mountains of Colorado. Just one week on the heels of our
epic road trip with toddlers, we set off again on a five-hour drive to Sonrise Mountain Ranch. Some people in our church gifted us with this week at camp, and
so far it has been beautiful, restful and spiritually refreshing. But it
started off kind of rough.
The combination of too little sleep the night before, seven
hours of travel (including too many potty breaks to count), and rolling into
camp as events were already underway, left all of us feeling a little frazzled. We made
it through dinner, but by the time we had gathered for worship and
introductions in the lodge, it had become absolutely impossible to control
My 4-year-old, who has developmental issues, alternated
running away from us and doing an exuberant interpretive dance. Following his
cue, my 2-year-old danced around the room, laughing impishly and evading our
attempts to wrangle her back to our corner of the room. And the baby was, well
… being a baby. Every so often she let us know (loudly) that she was ready for
bed. There was nothing we could do to get our unruly children under control.
That’s when I felt tears brimming in my eyes. I was just so
embarrassed. This was one of those moments where I really wished my children were
a little less like themselves and a little more like the Von Trapps—lining up
neatly and politely to impress the crowd with a goodnight song.
I know that at
“family camp,” these fellow parents completely understand what we’re going through
and aren’t there to judge. But still, why did MY children have to be the ones
acting up? Everyone was super-kind and gracious to us following the debacle.
(My son almost landed on a baby—not ours—during his interpretive dance, and my
daughter at one point yelled, “I’m done!” loudly during prayer—just in case
there was any question.) I appreciated the encouragement, but my pride was
hurt. Really hurt. And even back at the cabin I couldn’t stop the tears from
flowing as I replayed “the incident” over and over again in my head.
But here’s the facts: I have a child with special needs. I
have a delightfully spirited, precocious, creative 2-year-old. And I have a
baby. Sometimes my kids are going to be embarrassing. And for all my parenting
flaws—which I know exist—I can’t change who they are … who God created them to
be. If that bruises my pride, so what? Kevin and I plan to do our best to raise
them to be compassionate, polite, godly adults, but right now they’re kids.
They’re our kids. And when they embarrass me, I just need to remember that one
day I’ll embarrass them too. Just kidding. (Kind of.)
But seriously, as a parent, I’m going to have to let go
of my pride sometimes. So they’re not behaving the way I wish they would …
that’s part of the process. My daughter won’t be 2 forever. Before long, public
interpretive dance will be a thing of the past. And you know what. I have a feeling I'll miss these embarrassing moments. Well, at least some of them.