Gimme that cape and shut your mouth

superman logoAfter a particularly draining day at work, I made the executive decision that my boys and I (then 4 yrs. and 2) would meet my husband for dinner before heading home. Within minutes of being seated in our booth at Chili’s, I could tell this was going to be a more demanding experience than I had anticipated.

(Will Ferrell kept playing in my head: “Let’s go get kicked out of an Applebees!”)

#1 was tired and cranky and crying about EVERYTHING. #2 was strong in the midst of his phase when he was trying to exert his new-found independence. His chosen method during this time was to remain standing while eating. No matter where we were, at home or at a restaurant, or who we were with, Braden would stand up in his chair to eat. Every. single. meal. we. battled. over. this.  

There are many things I am willing to overlook as a parent, internally reminding myself that my child is growing and learning and sometimes the best course of action is no action. Like when your child picks the most opportune time to try out the bad word they overheard– in your house nonetheless– while you’re standing in the check-out line at the library, where silence is of course deafening. All the experts, our respected day care director included, warn not to overreact and make the offensive language look appealing. So, even though I was mortified and could feel the judgmental eyes of everyone in the library boring into me, I calmly led my son into the foyer for some privacy (and to hide my reddening face) and almost nonchalantly said, “We don’t say the word *****.  It doesn’t sound pretty.”  Problem solved.

So, I’d say I’m flexible. But the whole standing up to eat debacle has gone on FOREVER. It is maddening! I have finally reached the point where  I am willing to die on that hill.

Needless to say, our dining experience this particular evening wasn’t going well. I gave #1 a chance to sit up in the booth and stop crying, but he refused to cooperate. I was tired, but I needed to make good on my promise that I had blurted out just moments before. “I’ll give you one more chance, and then I’m going to take you outside for a consequence.”

Outside we went. I led the oddly compliant four-year-old by his little hand, already regretting my hasty choice of words. I knelt down to his level and again explained my expectations for dinner and what he was doing that wasn’t meeting those expectations. After I swatted his bottom, he looked up at me. He didn’t cry or moan or wail as expected, but looked right into my eyes with a look of seriousness. “Mama,” he said. “That wasn’t very hard. Do you need to borrow some of my superpowers?”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

 Erupt is more like it.

Crisis averted.

We start 'em early. The evolution of Superherodom over the last three years.

We start ’em early. The evolution of  Superhero-dom over the last three years.

Superhero underwear

Superheroes instagram

 

And then there was that winter when #2 wouldn't take the toboggan off. The. whole. dern. winter.

And then there was that year when #2 wouldn’t take the toboggan off the. whole. dern. winter.

No. As a matter of fact, I’m not listening

“I’m walking you through this.”

Life-changing Bible study. Seriously. "For such a time as this."

Life-changing Bible study. Seriously.
“For such a time as this.”

That’s what the Lord spoke to my heart one afternoon as I sat with a brand new, fresh off the shelf Bible study book I’d been eyeing for quite some time. It was a Beth Moore book. Need I say more? However,  I was hesitant to start. God and I weren’t really on speaking terms then. I glanced doubtfully at the introduction in the front of the book.

I was coming off a dry spell, so to speak, a rut. At that time, I was frustrated with my God. Looking back, I see how simple the whole thing was really. It was all so circumstantial. I was frustrated and discouraged by some hard-to-swallow situations my husband and I found ourselves in. There is no denying how deeply hurt and downcast I felt. I felt like God was shouting a deafening “NO!” in my face every time I turned to Him. Out of sheer frustration, I stubbornly  spent a couple of months boycotting my right to ask Him for anything. For three whole months, I avoided personal prayer.  My fragile heart could not handle one more “no” in response to my pleas. So, I just avoided prayer all together.

Like my 4-year-old who sticks his fingers in his ears when we start to tell him something he doesn’t want to hear. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

Ridiculous. I know.

But hindsight is 20/20, right? I can see now that as difficult as that time was, God’s protection and love were constant. In the moment, I couldn’t see the forrest for the trees; I couldn’t see past the current circumstances that I felt burying me.

But unbeknownst to me, He was still near, waiting for the right moment to draw me back.

It reminds me of the little girl I saw one morning as I was dropping off my first grader at school. Cruising up the sidewalk on her bike, this girl, who looked like she was probably about third grade or so, was grinning from ear to ear. It didn’t take me long to figure out this must have been her first solo ride to campus. With those colored streamers  dangling from her handlebars, she confidently neared the corner of the school. She was a textbook example of bike riding. I could tell she’d been given very precise instructions about how to navigate the front of the school where there was more activity- hurried parents, kids running up the sidewalk, crying kindergarteners.  I pondered a second for how proud she must feel. I also considered her parents, with a tinge of jealousy. Oh, they must be THOSE kind of parents. They teach their children something cool, explain their expectations, and then confidently turn their backs knowing their offspring will carry out the plan perfectly. Then as I pulled away from the school, I noticed the blue sedan across the street. The driver was hunched over his steering wheel, white knuckles gripping the top of it. His hazard lights were blinking his arrival, and he was maxing out at a whopping speed of no more than 2 miles per hour. The little girl’s dad. He had trailed her all the way to school!

As I read through the introduction of my new Beth Moore Bible study, still feeling a bit defiant, His voice whispered, gentle but firm: “I’m walking you through this.”

It caught me by total and complete surprise. I hadn’t personally called on His name in over  90 days. But here He was calling out to me! He’d been trailing me the whole time, waiting for my heart to be ready to listen again.

And as predicted, He kept his promise. Though I had been reluctant to start the study in the first place because I worried the barrier would remain and I wouldn’t get anything out of it, He indeed walked me through the study. He gave me a fresh wind and a new hope.

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

 

2 Kings 20:5

“…‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.'”

Silent, Not Inactive

What might the following items have in common?

#1. Could've been an audition for "E.T." or "Hoarders Kids: Buried Alive." This is how out of control we can get if we're not careful!

#1. Could’ve been an audition for “E.T.” or “Hoarders Kids: Buried Alive.” This is how out of control we can get if we’re not careful!

One of my husband’s size 15 tennis shoes
a children’s book about our beloved hometown university, Texas Tech
a wooden play guitar missing all of its strings
a sock
an entire fleet of miniature fighter jets
a pair mangled glasses.

All of these were items I cleared from #2’s bed when I checked on him on my way to my own bed one night. (Seriously. They could give this kid his own reality show. It could be a mix between Toddlers & Tiaras and Hoarding: Buried Alive!)

And to think how funny that little guy seemed…

until I got to the mangled glasses!

My son Brennan was four at the time and had been wearing glasses for about 6 months. To say that we went through frames quickly that first year would be a gross understatement. The pair I rescued from his two-year-old brother’s bed that night was, unfortunately, no exception. The ear pieces were grotesquely twisted and one lens had been dislodged.

Had I been an animated character in that moment, I probably would have most closely resembled one of the old Donald Duck cartoons. You know the kind, where he’s jumping up and down in frustration, his head rapid-fire changing different shades of red, stars flying. All you can hear is unintelligible squabble.mad donald duck

Once I regained composure and mentally re-scheduled the next day’s plans to allow for a rushed stop by the optometrist’s office, I went back to the boys’ bedroom to face Braden. True to his nature, he was still wide awake, but quietly observant as if he were unsure how to react to me. Just where I want him I thought. He’s scared. He has no idea what ‘s coming next. He just laid there expectantly and waited for me to make the first move. Smart kid.

I knew exactly what he wanted me to do- he wanted me to smile and hug him and tell him I wasn’t mad at him. But that wasn’t true and I simply stood there for a minute gathering my response. I think I must have said a quick prayer for the composure to stay calm. And for just a moment, my mind jumped back to a time when I found myself in a situation that felt similar to this one. I remembered a specific time when I looked expectantly to God, desperate to feel His smile and His arms folded around me in their secure embrace and His kind voice telling me everything was going to be okay. But He didn’t. I called out to Him, but He seemed to stand there, unmoved, much like I must have looked to Braden as he waited for me to react.

Undeniably, there are times when God doesn’t provide an immediate or direct response. We call out to Him, sometimes crying out to Him, and all we can hear are crickets chirping on the other side. We may feel frustrated; I felt abandoned, until I (much later) began to see the bigger picture. In those times, I think it’s beneficial to remember that we are in no position to return the silent treatment. The apostle Paul believed that some blessings are only the result of prayer. And well, if it ain’t broke…

So, God still wants us to speak with Him. We’re instructed to pray continually, even when He’s not honoring our limited, human time- frame. We’re still expected to communicate and listen -and to wait expectantly so our hearts will be ready for His reply. I learned from my experience that even though God is silent at times, He is not necessarily inactive.

Braden watched me. In my silence, I was taking the moment to make sure I was comfortable with how I was about to handle the situation. I think I could give myself a pat on the back for how it played out. I played the Stern Parent Card but ended the conversation with hugs and “I love yous.” I wanted the last interaction we had that night before I exited the room to include prayer. I knelt down next to his little toddler bed, his scrawny little hands cupped in mine. No sooner had I gotten the words “Dear Father” out of my mouth, when Braden piped up, “No, mama. I want to say it!” Ever the voice of independence, Braden insisted on leading the prayer himself. I forced myself to close my eyes knowing that he wouldn’t dare start while I was looking at him. But boy, did I want to watch!

We sat there for a few moments and I heard a few short starts, like he didn’t remember exactly what he was supposed to say.
After another brief pause, he let out this loud sigh and finally chanted, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food”
Ha!

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Philippians 4:6-7
… in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Oops! I missed my turn!

Oops! I missed my turn!

One afternoon as I was getting ready to tackle a few chores around the house, I set up my then three-year-old with a mother-load of hot wheels on the floor of my bedroom. I thought smugly to myself, This is going to be great. #2 is finally down for his nap, and #1 could line these cars up all day long. I remember how my firstborn would park each car in this perfectly straight line. Funny, how even that early in life, Brennan’s little Type A brain was already driving him to be a perfectionist. He usually labored over this way longer than he should have, especially since his 10 month old baby brother had a radar for such important feats and would hone in on it like Godzilla taking over Tokyo.

I was running around trying to get as much done as I could while the peace lasted, popping in and out of the bedroom where Brennan was creating his parking garage. I remember I’d just scooped up a huge pile of clothes and headed out of the room when I heard him comment to himself, “Oops! I missed my turn!” Curious, I doubled back to peek around the doorframe, and I saw him with one special car pulled out of the lineup. He was bent over his little hot wheel, driving it in a wide arc, going back and forth over the same indented path in the carpet each time. And each time he reached the end to turn back, he called out, “Oops! I missed my turn!”

There are several truths I’ve learned about kids, mostly through the trials and errors of parenting. One is that kids learn through repetition. Another is that kids learn by imitating.

You know you have a poor sense of direction when…

Rest

Screenshot of play area

Screenshot of play area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(NOTE: This was written last month, posted now.)

Well, I did it again. My husband and I were supposed to watch a movie last night after we got the kids in bed, but I fell asleep before we even picked one out. That may be a new record, even for me.

It’s a running joke in my family that I fall asleep every time we watch a movie. And it’s getting harder to defend myself when I keep proving everyone right. All I can hear in my head is the nasally voice of a young Brittney Spears singing “Oops, I did it again…” The really really young Brittney. The semi-innocent one. Before the cameo in Austin Powers, before the kids, the shaved head, and the very scary comeback attempt. I’m envisioning my college roommates now, bobbing their heads in agreement. If you were in school around the turn of the century, you know exactly what I mean.

Last night, I apparently fell asleep around 7:30, just moments after promising my husband I was “only going to close my eyes for thirty minutes.” I sincerely meant it. But he knows better; no matter how good my intentions, Brad knows that’s code for “Good luck waking me up to move me to the bed. Get a bulldozer or leave me where I land.” I remember waking up about two hours later, snuggly curled in my favorite oversized chair in the living room, wrapped in a thin fleece blanket. I never stood a chance; with that combo, I set myself up for failure. My first thought was “Oh, shoot. I was supposed to call my mom an hour ago.” My second was, “I wonder if I can make it to the back before I’m out again.”

Everything after that is a little fuzzy, but it seems I made it to bed without too much incident. When I woke up this morning, it was 7:30 am. 12 hours?!? I haven’t slept like that since before I had kids.

My oldest is almost seven.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize I was all that sleepy until I finally let myself lie down and rest. Those are usually the times I sleep the hardest though. I’d been burning the candle at both ends, with teaching and (GAG!) standardized testing going on, taking care of my own three boys, five– COUNT THEM FIVE– t-ball games this week for the six-year-old, and just Life in general. And I was tired. But I’m the Mom. That’s just what Moms do. You keep going because most of life falls under that category in our contract that reads “And other duties as assigned.” Apparently I was really tired. And I’m so thankful for my insightful husband who let me rest! Because although I woke up at 7:30, I can’t pretend the 7 month old didn’t set his usual alarm for a 5:30am snack.

Physically, I just needed some rest. And thank God I got it! (Literally. The first words I thought after such awesome sleep were “Thank. You. God!”) When I am worn out, I can count on the fact that eventually there will come a time when I can find relief. It’s not usually as quick to come as I’d like, but I’ve learned God knows just how much I can take. Then He seems to always provide a way out.

It reminds me of the old school Pac-Man game. (It hurts a bit that I have to refer to that classic game as old school. But it must be said that I teach 13 and 14 year olds, and bless their hearts! Some of them need a visual to realize who Pac-Man is exactly.) Back in the day, I was a master of that game! I remember my mom taught an English course on Tuesday nights at the two-year college where she’s long been employed. My dad would take my sister and I to Pizza Inn on Tuesdays for dinner. I can still hear him responding to my mother when she would ask what he had fed us the night before. Never having developed a very plausible poker-face, he’d chuckle, “Well, I cooked… and Pizza Inn helped.”

The restaurant I remember so fondly had the table-set Pac-Man. Where two players would sit on each side of the table, facing each other armed with their own joystick control. The video game screen was positioned flat under the glass table-top. My sister and I were forever bumping heads in the middle as we would both crane our necks closer and closer to the screen, no matter whose turn it was to play. I was the younger sister– and this caused a ton of friction– but I DOMINATED that game! Because I quickly figured out the key to beating the levels. Pac-Man was always allowed one escape route. When he was surrounded by ghosts or being chased around those corners where you tried to eat the big bullets and buy some time while the ghosts blinked on and off, there was always a split second he could escape if you were quick enough to find it and move out of the way. Sometimes I feel like God works the same way. He’ll always provide a way out.

The same holds true emotionally and spiritually as well. He’s still my out. When my heart is plain worn out, the Lord provides rest. When my soul fears it lacks the strength to hold on, the Lord provides rest. I heard evangelist  Angela Thomas say once that unlike us moms, God doesn’t need a nap to be a better God. And thank goodness! We can find rest in Him because He never tires. Even more amazing, I’ve learned, is that there have been so many times that He was meeting my needs long before I ever asked Him to, sometimes before I even realized I needed Him to.

With that, I’ve learned that hindsight is 20/20. There are many instances I can look back on and think “Oh! That’s what God was doing then.” In the midst of the situation, I often couldn’t see the forest for the trees. But God was indeed at work in me. And for me.

When I start to feel tired– physically, emotionally, or spiritually– I can remember that the Lord won’t give me more than I can handle. Rest will come. I can also remember that even though I may not be able to see the big picture now, God is likely already at work meeting my needs and fulfilling His purpose.

 

Matthew 11:28

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

 

Exodus 33:14

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

JUNE- Like Christmas Come Early for Coaches’ Wives

JUNE- Like Christmas Come Early for Coaches' Wives

I don’t remember exactly when it started, but those words “see you in June” have become laughably dear to me.

I imagine they were first spoken in the very early dim of our kitchen as I fumbled around trying to get everything ready for another school day. Which kitchen in which house in which city, I’ve lost track of. We’re a coaching family and we lead somewhat migrant lives.

It translates into my husband telling me: “I know coaching is taking all of my time now, but June will be here before you know it. And when school is out, I’ll make up for all of that lost time and be an extra set of hands for the kids.”

I imagine it started with a nauseatingly early exchange, Coach having hit the hay following his away game just a few hours ago. I imagine he was charging through the kitchen as usual- making a beeline for the door. Gasp! It’s already 6:00?

An aside: if you’ll humor me while I jump up on my soapbox regarding gender equality and morning routines. I’m pretty jealous that men do that- wake up, throw on the top and pants, brush the teeth, and hop in the car in 12 minutes flat. Ladies, first, I need my beauty sleep! Second, heck, let’s be honest. I just don’t like the way any of my clothes fit after boy #3, so even though I was sufficiently organized last night and set out my outfit for the day, I’m going to change clothes approximately 3.5 more times before I’m willing to concede and leave my bathroom.

But I digress…

That morning, I must’ve given Brad a fairly helpless look as he started to jet by me. There I am surrounded with half-made lunches, backpacks and diaper bags splayed all over the table, too frequently glancing at the microwave to check the time. I’m sure I dropped the lame, loaded bomb: “You’re leaving already?”

He glanced at me with his lop-sided smirk. “See you in June.”

It was more of a question really.

To the other coaches’ wives: Happy Take-Back-Your-Husband Day!