Monday, March 21, 2016

Pretty Princess

It was a party fit for a princess. The little girls came dressed in their princess crowns and dress up dresses. There was Anna, Belle and the birthday girl, Rapunzel, of course. This is a girl who prefers comfort over fashion, at least for now. She would much rather wear leggings than a dress to church and for years she protested having her nails painted. But this day was different. This was her birthday party and she wanted it to be special. She wanted to be special.  Now I was helping my niece put on her shiny pink and purple princess gown for her birthday. She wanted to be the bell of the ball and indeed she would be. She didn't want her hair braided. She wanted it down, long, just like Rapunzel's. She would be the embodiment of the princess she adored. 

I brushed her hair and had a twinge of excitement and nervousness at the thought of one day doing my own daughter's hair. "All this princess stuff is new to me," I told her. "I've been throwing dinosaur parties for a long time. Now I'll have to get used to girl things." She smiled and nodded, oh so princess proper, and encouraged me, "Violet won't want dinosaurs. Maybe she will like Rapunzel like me." Maybe. 

One thing is certain. I have no doubt my little girl will don her fair share of princess dresses and tiaras. As a daughter, as a girl, there's a certain femininity created in her being. She will seek to be desired, loved, adored, admired. She will wonder, just like every female, Will she be noticed? Will someone recognize her beauty? 

the king is enthralled with your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord... The bride, a princess, looks glorious in her golden gown. In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king, accompanied by her bridesmaids. What a joyful and enthusiastic procession as they enter the king’s palace!

Psalm 45:11,13-15

It's right there! In God-breathed scriptures. His word speaks of the adornment, the beauty, the adoration. It's inside each of us to be loved, adored and noticed. Some girls prefer tennis shoes over heels and that's ok, but I haven't met a woman yet who doesn't desire to know her worth. We were created in His image, chosen, royalty. So we put on our princess dresses, don tiaras and pay careful attention to the details - the way we would for our wedding day. Surely that is the day all eyes are on us as the bride - the gown, the crown, the details. Her groom waits for her. He notices her. His eyes are locked in on her beauty. Just like its described in this passage. The God who created us also knows us inside and out. He sees our worth. He knows who we are at our core because He Himself  breathed life into our being. He planned our days and adores each one of us for who we are. On our best days and worst days. When we're dressed up in our finest or lounging in comfort. 

Claim your royal heritage. You have a right to it as His child. Enjoy the privileges of royalty and know that He loves and adores you - even in your comfy pants! 

This is dedicated to my beautiful niece Autumn on her 5th birthday! You are truly a princess! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

that's My Boy

It was just a trip to the dentist. After a long day at school. How can you ask a hyper active boy to sit still to get his teeth cleaned after he sat for 7 hours in school?! Clearly this wasn't well planned. But I digress. Because there we were at the dentist, which to a curious boy is a world of wonder. "What's this? What about that? Are you going to use this?" Every single instrument. Every single contraption. He met Mr. Thirsty, the suction that drinks the water from the hose "that's like a fire hydrant." At one point he kicked his shoes off and propped his feet on the arm of the overhead light. Yes he did. The sweet, gentle hygienist- heaven help her. "Just a few more sweetie. I've got to get all your teeth honey." And then he called her out "But aren't you doing ALLLL my teeth? Then you lied because you said just a few more." He wanted to know what was next. He needed to touch and understand each instrument being used. 

My nerves were nearly shot. "Don't touch that. Stop moving. Stay still. Open your mouth. Don't talk. Keep your hands down." Then the baby started fussing. Oh yes. She wanted to eat. Of course she did. 

I guess I looked as stressed as I felt because another hygienist came over to check on me. "He sure is active, isn't he? He just can't sit still." The observation didn't amuse me, nor did it strike up a conversation because I was over the whole thing. 

It was just a trip to the dentist. And I sat there thinking how something as simple as this becomes an ordeal. Some of you won't get it. Some won't understand at all. Some will think I'm just complaining. I'm not. But some things are just hard. 

See that square peg? That's my boy. My amazingly talented, wonderfully creative, super inquisitive, desperately strong willed, tender hearted boy. See that round hole? Well, that's where society wants to put him. And the reality? Well, you know how it goes. It just won't fit. And you know what?! I'm more than okay with it! 

I get it. I understand the expectation. I get the nature of the beast. The standardized everything that supposedly measures ability. The truth is it doesn't account for the natural inclination of the mere fact that God made each and every one of us unique in His own image. He didn't use a standardized anything. He used Himself so the only measure for success in my mind should be whether or not one's heart is after God's. 

You've heard all the impossibilities of the bible stories of old. Moses stuttered. David was a runt. Joseph was despised by his brothers. Mary was an unwed teenager. John the Baptist was homeless. Paul was a murderer. Jesus Himself was not of this world in a blended family and considered a liar and probably crazy. 

So please, for the actual love of God, don't tell me what my son can't do. Let me show you how great he is at creating something out of nothing. Take a moment to explore a mind that sees things for what they can be. What looks like trash to you (and me) is a piece of something that I promise you he will make great. 

This isn't about labels or disabilities. This is about the hands of God who formed him in utter seclusion and planned each moment of his life. Even a fateful trip to the dentist. This is about the fact that God Himself chose to bless him with such uniqueness that all of us who know and love him stand back and marvel with expectation because we just can't wait to see what he will one day do with all this ingenuity and energy. The hard days don't come without hopeful anticipation of that one day when the things that make him "different" will finally be recognized as what makes him so great. 

I know not everyone gets it. And I know some even consider his lack of falling in order as some great parental flaw. I got some of those looks today. Believe me, I've asked myself the same. Have I somehow done something wrong? Should I be doing something differently? My mind doesn't work like his and as frustrated as that can make me, I have to stop and wonder how much more frustrated he must be in his own skin when he can't communicate to all of us "normal" people how he sees and does things unlike me. He teaches me everyday. And he keeps me on my knees. But as many prayers as I pray over him each day, the most important is that he will become the person God created him to be. I don't want him to fit into a space he doesn't belong. I want him to be comfortable enough to kick his shoes off and prop his feet up and be himself. His wonderful, creative, active self. That's my boy. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

An Hour Lost

That blasted time change. It got us all. This morning was brutal. Last night was a struggle. The baby was ready for bed and asleep by 8 pm because her nap schedule was all messed up. Poor E-man couldn't get his mind to shut down. Then the rain came.

"Mom?! I hear a storm," he called from the other room.

I went in and assured him it was just a spring rain and the downpour would be calming to listen to. 

"No thunder, right?"

"Of course not." I was confident. 

Not five minutes later two bright flashes of lightening lit up the sky through the blinds and the longest crack of thunder followed closely behind. My dear husband cracked his own laughter. 3-2-1... 

"Mooooom! You said no thunder!" 

I laid down beside my boy and began to tickle his back as he likes. I started to share the stories my own mother had used to comfort me; angels moving furniture and playing games of flashlight to explain away the storm. I was tired from a long day and an hour lost but I savored the moments I had to comfort him. He'll be 8 soon. He proved so thoughtful and responsible all weekend. I enjoyed the moments of simplicity watching him make it his job to entertain his sister and the sincere adoration she gave to her big brother in response. "There's that smile I've been waiting for," he would say to her. 

These are the moments I cherish. These are the times where I don't want to waste a single second, let alone lose an hour. This has nothing to do with sleep and everything to do with the brevity of life. 

At the same time my simple blessed world was overflowing with joy, I know families mourning the loss of loved ones, hearts broken over dying dreams, life lost before a heartbeat could ever be heard, lives attempting to be rebuilt, questions of how bills will be paid with uncertain futures...and the list goes on. Surely moments that losing an hour over would seem almost welcome, yet somehow even in the midst of these, time was seemingly standing still.

I am yet again reminded that our time here is but a vapor. A passing moment to eternal God. My simple structured mind can't even grasp the idea of forever. So instead I will do my best to live in the temporal fleeting moments. Relishing the joy. Grieving the loss. Living through the pain. Savoring each moment.

You give and take away, You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name

The familiar song is playing as I type. It takes me back every time. I stood in church the Sunday after being told a young pregnant birthmother had not chosen me. I would not be the mother to the son she was carrying. How could I forget that moment? I grieved. I can honestly say, now having gone through both experiences, it was like grieving the loss of my own baby I was carrying. And there I stood that Sunday, just over 8 years ago, leading my church in worship and believing with all my heart that truly I would still bless His name. I had to claim it. I had to hold on to that belief. Here I sit 8 years later telling you that it is in fact true. It is not always immediate. It is sometimes in the defining moments and sometimes in the hours lost but He is worthy to be praised. In the storms. In the grief. In the pain. In the joy. Making the most of each day.

Monday, March 7, 2016

21 Day Fix

This is week one. Done. It's an accomplishment I'm proud of because the last time I stuck to a strict workout and eating plan was when I was training for Miss Virginia...and that was a loooong time ago. But even more proud are the inches that I'm losing as I see my body get toned and back into the shape it was before my pregnancy. It's been hard. I wanted to quit. I wanted to cheat. (Okay, being honest, I've cheated a teeny little bit.) But I'm seeing results and fitting into my old clothes and that in itself makes it worth it. One week down. Two more to go for round 1. 

This specific plan requires a commitment to a very clean eating meal plan in addition to a 30 minute workout each day. You commit to 21 days because that's how long they say it takes to break an old habit and create a new one. The idea is not to pig out on fast food and sugar on day 22. It's to create new eating habits and a healthy lifestyle. It's about what I put in - the work I put in AND the nutrition I give my body. The benefits are not just being seen - they're felt! I have more energy and my stamina and strength are increasing. Our June vacation has me committed. Last summer I spent my days at the pool in maternity bathing suits. This summer I'm determined to be back in shape!

It's taken time to meal plan so that I get all the necessary nutrition each day. It's the right foods, the right portions of those foods and pre-planning to take what I need when I'm going to be out or in places where healthy options might not be available. Clean eating isn't something new to me but this is taking it to a whole new level. It requires balance and organization, commitment and discipline. It truly becomes a lifestyle.

Hopefully you know where I'm going with this. I've had to stop and examine the discipline and commitment I give my spiritual life. Am I committed to planning my time with the Lord? Do I put the time and work in? Do I give my time and effort to making sure this is a way of life? I have to admit, if I were giving the same amount of attention and discipline to my spiritual growth as I am to the 21 day fix, I would be seeing much better results. Toning my attitude to be spirit-led and not reacting in my flesh. Cleansing my heart, mind and soul to be filled with things above and removing the byproducts of crud that so often crowd my thoughts and feelings. Instead of tracking pounds and inches, I should be writing scripture on my heart and mind as I let His Word wash over me. I'm proud of my physical results and equally ashamed of lack of spiritual results. I am the only one to blame.

When I want a snack, I'm going to grab something healthy. There are no other options in my cabinets. The Oreos (yes, I did), Doritos and Little Debbie cakes have been replaced with raw almonds, fresh fruit and hummus and veggies. But if I want Christ-like behaviors and actions, I've got to also clean "house" by removing the sin and stains from my heart, mind and flesh. I've got to put in the time and effort to pre-plan and make sure I don't miss a "spiritual meal." I've got to be spiritually armed with God's Word and prayer. I can't just sit on the couch and watch the DVD. I'll never see results. I've got to commit to the plan, make it a part of my daily living, let it become my lifestyle.

It's equally hard. There are times I want to quit, cheat, just throw in the towel. But the results are more than worth it. I don't know what trials lay ahead and I want to be ready. Suited up and ready. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Super Day

"You should be president, mom!"

"Me?!" I asked. "Why do you think I should be president?"

"Because you're the best mom in the planet. I would vote for you."

Ladies and gentlemen, I approved this message. But before you get ready to put a check mark beside my name, let's stop the presses and evaluate the issues.

The truth is it was one of those amazing days where memories were made. It was nothing of significance yet significant in every way.

The entire living room was transformed into a couch fort. There were made up games and crafts that didn't come as a set or with their own rules. It was whatever we wanted to do. There were hours in the kitchen cooking and preparing meals together. We all helped while Violet happily played and observed. There was music and lots of singing. Our house was filled with laughter and smiles for what seemed like the whole day. I can't recall all the things we found to smile about but I know my heart was happy.

"What a super Saturday we had!" I told my boy as I snuck in one more hug before putting him to bed. It helps that he knows the way to schmooze me and voting for me for president, well, that just worked its way right into my heart. As we laid down to rest that night all my husband and I could do was recall the moments that turned into memories simply because we had spent precious time together.

It was indeed a super Saturday.

The next day was not as super. It's one thing when you get a call from school. It's another thing when you get a call from church. Let's be clear. There are known (and unknown) behavioral, developmental and social issues that my child has to contend with. But you never want to be "the one" who is called out of church because your child can't behave. Oh yes, Sunday we became "the one." What made it even worse was my reaction to the situation wasn't going to win any nominations for president, much less mom of the year. I couldn't even be mad at my son because my own choices were less than admirable.

Aren't you glad you haven't cast your ballot yet?!

Life ebbs and flows in and out of the good and bad, the beautiful and difficult. It becomes a series of fortunate and unfortunate circumstances that make up our moments and memories. Some days are simply super while others pale in comparison. There could be a million and one things that all add up to be the best days of our lives. And just like that, a million more things could go horribly wrong.

Today is "Super Tuesday" but only if you decide for it to be. What will make (or break) this day is very much up to you. You decide. You choose. It's up to you.

I'm not running for president, despite my son's nomination, but I am determined to make today the very best it can be. I want it to be super. I want it to be memorable. I want to be reminded that even in the difficult and challenging moments I have the choice of how I will respond. I want to be proactive instead of reactive. I want to face the issues head on when they're presented to me and rise to the occasion rather than crumble under the pressure. Today is Tuesday and quite frankly, there's nothing truly super about it...except for what I choose to make it!