Thursday, June 24, 2010

When I Finally Gave Up

If I ever met Lucy, I would have to repress a childhood instinct to slap the lying smirk off her face. Time and time again, I watched her promise she wouldn't yank the football away, only to see her do just that seconds before impact.

Maybe it's just me, but even though I knew the outcome, I always rooted for Charlie Brown. For some reason, I wanted him to finally get one chance, to see foot connect and propel the ball far into the distance.He never gave up.

As an adult, I'm pretty sure that's the lesson Charles Schultz intended. Yet, my grown-up self wants to say, "How dumb can you be!? She's never going to change! Give up! Get a different spotter!"Perhaps my changed attitude is the result of learning there are some times when quitting is the best choice, of learning that sometimes, winners do quit.

Two weeks ago, I flat gave up.I realized keeping up with my teaching load, constantly packing for the move, and cleaning up at the new house was making it impossible to "keep house" where we currently live. Besides, invisible monsters were sneaking in all throughout the day to rearrange everything not glued down or taped shut.

In a word, I was miserable. And so I gave in.

Sure, I kept washing dishes...but not necessarily putting them up. I kept washing clothes...but left them in piles on the back of the couch. I kept throwing the kids' toys in the right direction...but only when they got underfoot; otherwise I just left them alone.You wouldn't think God would be able to speak to me through this chaos. But the other night, he almost knocked me down with a revelation. I immediately stopped and wrote it on the side of a box. (What else do you do when your house is in such disarray there's no way you'll find paper in the first place, much less two days later when it's time to write the blog post?)

I realized I had a choice--keep up with where I'm living and not adequately prepare for the move to my new house OR let go of the unnecessary daily routines of keeping this house clean and focus on my moving preparations.

God showed me this is a lesson I need to learn for my life in general. I can focus on preparing for God's kingdom to come, focus on raising my children to love the Lord, focus on transforming my heart to be like His...or I can focus on all the cares of this life. Sure, I still have to live in this world, but if my eyes aren't focused on Jesus, I'll be miserable.

Even at my best, I cannot give my all to keeping up with two houses.

Photos: This is the kitchen at its worst: less than 12 hours before starting to MOVE OUT!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Business Is Never "Just Business"

There have been a few miscommunications. Several do-overs. A boo-hoo meltdown or two. And a few times I have wanted to scream in a room that would echo back my irritation, stomp my foot like a toddler, and yell, "What were you thinking!?"

It seems silly now, but some days, I have really felt like the problem of the day was monumental and insurmountable. Others, I just wanted to escape the whirlwind of lists and say, "Stop. Sorry. I don't want to do this anymore. We'll start again in a couple of months. Need a vacation from all this."

Yet, overall, building our home has had more enjoyable moments than hair-ripping ones. And come this Friday, we are scheduled to start moving our life into those four walls.

As you can imagine, we've been too busy since February to really stop and smell any roses for more than a split second, but every now and then when I walk from room to room, a burst of happiness swells through me, drawing my mouth into a contented,uncontrollable smile.

What has surprised me the most, though, hasn't been the sheer number of decisions to be made; the time involved even with others doing most of the labor; or the oh so many trips to Lowe's and Home Depot such that Amelia has learned the store next door's name ("Ball!" she yells for the Target sign).

The difficulty has been dealing with people!

That may sound odd, but it's true!

What I've had to confront over the past four months is that demonstrating a Christian attitude does not come naturally to me when dealing with conflict. God has been teaching me that I must consciously, deliberately listen to the Holy Spirit within me, letting Him guide my attitude and choose my words...especially when the people I'm paying to do a job don't do it right, don't consult me first, or just talk down to me like it's not fixable and like I've totally lost my pea-brained female mind if I think otherwise.

I have always believed that "business isn't just business." But it's one thing to believe it...and quite another to live it when something didn't meet my vision for our home.

At one point along the way, I told my husband that even if a problem weren't fixed to my liking, I wanted this to be a blessed home, not one overshadowed by a curse of our wrongdoing. And I really meant it.

Mere nights ago, Doug and I leaned against the door frame of our newly painted kitchen, let out a deep sigh and said, "I think we're going to be happy here."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Too Green or Too Ripe

In the early morning heat, six little legs ran down rows of blueberry bushes in search of the juicy fruit. Although Wyatt was disappointed that the blueberry farm didn't have animals, the clusters of dark blue-purple fruit easily within his grasp soon made up for it.

As I hurriedly filled my bucket without taking the time to eat even one, the twins darted between the rows, making it hard for me to keep them in sight. Wyatt, though, took his job seriously; he constantly picked and only ate the occasional berry, steadily covering the bottom of his small bucket.I don't think one berry even made it into Amelia's bucket--her mouth was a much easier target. And Emerson? Well, he picked berries, but the ones he grabbed from the branches were hard, bitter, and green or were the burst-open overripe ones that had already fallen to the ground.Thirty minutes in the South Louisiana heat and humidity was enough to leave us soggy, smelling like a teenager's gym bag, and with enough berries to make a couple recipes of jam.

But Emerson's berries? I tossed them out without a second thought. Until later.

Sure--over-ripe and under-ripe fruit isn't really good to eat. But it's not useless--the over-ripe still would make good jam; and when left on the branches, the under-ripe still has potential that I just ignore in search of the perfect fruit.

I'm afraid this is indicative of a negative spirit I have about everything in my life.

I learned my lesson last month about de-valuing the overripe. One very long month of kicking myself and watching the calendar...I made sure I didn't miss the nursing home ministry this past Tuesday. All I can say is what a blessing.

The residents may not even remember me by today. But it was wonderful to see how my children have grown since the first time I brought them in February, how they are learning to show others Jesus' love and to think of someone besides themselves. This time, Wyatt didn't have to be prompted to go speak to people; he even sang happy birthday to one lady.

Unfortunately, I think it's going to take me a lot longer to learn to view the green ones as anything but green. Most days, I don't see the potential. Sure, I catch glimpses.

But I confess that I still have a hard time seeing my children as anything but the fussy, crying, whining, sour-puss-faced, defiant, messy, maddening know-it-alls they are right now.

I guess that just means God's not finished with me yet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One for the Dust Bunnies: "Who is In Charge Anyway?"

"Who is in Charge Anyway" is the newest installment in the Hermie and Friends video series. In this episode, Freddie the Flea asks God why He isn't special like the other garden characters. The bulk of the film shows outtakes from other Hermie and Friends' videos plus three new flashbacks of Flo, Hermie, and Buzby in their youth.

In the end, Freddie learns that God made everyone special, but it takes time and patience for a bug's special talents to be put to use. God tells Freddie he can make a difference in small ways by sharing with others the "good news" because not every bug knows about God.

I can't tell you how excited I was to receive this DVD in the mail. My children love Hermie & Friends, and I didn't have to fork over $10.

And that's where the good review ends.

My three-year old requests several of the Hermie episodes over and over because of their memorable musical numbers he can sing along with (watch Milo the Mantis who Wouldn't Pray or Webster the Scaredy Spider) or slapstick humor that makes him giggle (like the golf balls falling from the sky to bean poor Hermie throughout Antonio Meets His Match or the rude behavior of a certain Elvis-sounding bee in Buzby the Misbehaving Bee).

This episode will likely collect dust on the shelf.

To be fair, my 3 1/2 year-old enjoyed seeing scenes he was familiar with from the other episodes, but he was unable to put the pieces together and understand this episode's point, which didn't surprise me.

Overall, the episode felt disjointed, the flashbacks to the characters' childhood weren't as interesting or funny as I anticipated, and even the "bonus material" sing-along (which is usually popular) was just a song from an earlier episode. The other bonus features included an enjoyable "To Share or Nut to Share" read-along and a behind the scenes short film that was only mildly interesting to an adult, and so boring to my son that he left the room.

The bottom line? Unless you need another place for your dust bunnies to collect, keep enjoying the old episodes and skip this one.

**I receive no compensation for this review other than a free copy of the video...and I'm still in shock that they keep sending me material when I submit reviews like this one.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Gross Factor

Two weeks into a summer teaching semester. Two weeks from our move-in date. Wall-to-wall boxes. More work than will fit on a to-do list.

This is not the time to start potty training my 19-month old twins. And yet, I'm not the one who fired the first volley. That would be Amelia, smallest in stature but largest in voice.

After my struggles with Wyatt (caused by this dumb mommy not learning he had a milk allergy until he was two), I had already decided I was happy to change diapers for another 6 months. The twins watch Wyatt, watch their daddy, watch me...and they have other ideas.

Amelia honestly believes the pink throne is hers. Thankfully, she is easily bribed with the thought of playing in the sink as she washes her hands. Otherwise, I might spend half my day sitting on the bathroom floor as she says, "Pee!!!!" and claps her hands before sitting back down to wait for her second wind that may or may not come.

Emerson, on the other hand, wants to do whatever his sister is doing, but so far, he's having limited success doing anything but sitting. Yet last night, he easily walked naked from the tub into the kitchen, squatted on the floor, and peed a small lake on the linoleum.

I dutifully wiped up the puddle (i.e., didn't shove the duty off on his daddy) and sprayed a heavy coat of disinfectant spray that promises to kill everything that has the potential to make me go "eww." Then, I had the bright idea that if I let the solution stay on the floor a minute or two longer, it might kill more bacteria than if I wiped it right off.

Bad move. Seconds later, Amelia flew into the room, hit the puddle, and slid, upending herself--feet in the air, head banging on the floor. She went to bed smelling like disinfectant.

But I guess this was a better outcome than the night before when, as she sat on the potty, Emerson came in and sat on top of her, demanding his turn now. No, the double decker potty approach didn't work.

I could laugh at all this--really, I could. But the three year old has joined in the battle, too. His role? Waiting too long to go to the potty because, well, everything in life is more fun than making a trek to the porcelain bowl.

Last Monday, Wyatt couldn't leave "Dinosaur Train," so he peed on the living room rug...and didn't tell me. Then, one night, he went to play in the toy kitchen. Apparently, twenty paces is just too far to walk to the bathroom. So, he took a toy bowl from the cabinet and peed it full! Thankfully, his aim was pretty good.

Wyatt has even started giving me advice. He barged in the bathroom last week with another last-minute effort only to find me sitting there. I told him he just had to wait. I guess he thought I wasn't going to hurry up without a bit of instruction: "Well, when I need to poo, I just...."

I know God's grace is sufficient...but I wonder if He's just up there laughing at my children's antics as I struggle with the gross factor that is potty training times three.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Giant Woman-Eating Tootsie Rolls

As part of the moving process, I had the bright idea it'd be nice to deep clean all the area rugs before laying them out on the new wood floor in our "coming soon" house.

The job sounded deceptively simple--roll up a rug, rent a deep cleaning machine for $25 from the hardware store, roll out the rug on the carport for cleaning, and hang it to dry on the clothesline.

Yet, as usually happens, this simple job turned into a week-long undertaking.

For starters, rolling up the rugs was a Herculean endeavor. Even not taking into account the furniture sitting atop them, our present house is a labyrinth of floor to ceiling boxes. In fact, a night time trip to the bathroom is a Helen-Keller-esque experience in darkness as I move by touch, feeling for the boxes lining our bedroom and the hall.

Despite the clutter, I somehow managed to maneuver these four heavy tootsie rolls on steroids through the boxy maze and out the back door. After an hour's labor cleaning off the carport (i.e., my bench/desk/swing painting studio of late), cleaning the rugs was the easy part, as long as my mother could keep the children from dancing/running/stomping on them. We have been waiting for a day with 30% or less of showers--today was that day...but it was also one of the muggiest so far this summer with the humidity bringing the heat index to 110 and making me feel like a snow woman in the Sahara.

You haven't witnessed a humorous scene until you've watched my mother and me manhandle a wet eight foot rug across the yard to the heavy clothes line mounted between two pipes. (Imagine us as Larry and Darryl.) You haven't laughed until you have witnessed us struggle to heave the ginormous rectangle high enough to go over the line...only to have the pole choose that very moment to rust through at the joint and collapse to the ground, leaving us wondering how we're going to get them dry.

By early afternoon, every rug was dry, rolled back up, and stacked against a wall between some boxes. We were exhausted. And I couldn't help thinking how something that required so few words to print on a "To Do" list could be so great a challenge.

Yet, I guess it's not that hard for me to believe. The Scriptures plainly state what I'm required to do. It sounds so easy.

But even with the Spirit's help, it's the hardest thing in the world to overcome myself and my shortcomings.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'll Fly Away

I did not feed it, nurture it, or watch it grow from an egg the size of a pinpoint. I never even enjoyed stroking its soft caterpillar skin. One day, the chrysalis just appeared, attached to the back of a patio chair.

It was quite an unexpected gift to this one who has spent many an afternoon searching the bellies of leaves for any part of the butterfly's life cycle.

Knowing the temptation kindred little fingers would be unable to resist, I sat the chair atop a table and waited for the hatching. Each day, I checked on it, like an expectant mother. Two weeks later, my shoulders slumped when I came home to find the shell empty.

I had missed watching him pump his wings full and hang in silence as they dried before that impressive, inaugural flight. I consoled myself with the thought that perhaps he was the butterfly who kept visiting my grapefruit tree, weaving an airy path among its branches.

This past weekend, though, my broom found the truth. Tucked under a rotted away corner of the outdoor room's door molding lay the lifeless, hollow form--crinkly wings not pumped full.

To think that he survived weeks as a caterpillar, weeks as a chrysalis, only to fail to keep his grasp when hatching, ending the race with the goal in sight.

I wanted to weep for not just this life but for the many I've known over the past year whose minutes were ended...and also for those who were spared by God's grace.

Just this past month, a good friend's baby went home--a baby whose heart stopped beating in the womb while on the monitors at an OB check up, who doctors then said wouldn't survive a surgery. God is gracious.

But just this past week, a seven-year-old only son died after being struck by lightening from a storm still miles away. God help this family.

I have never hugged, kissed, or nurtured either of these children, but the motherly heart of Christ within me aches for the parents striving to hang tight to life's sacred golden strand that cannot be controlled, much less understood.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Seamless Transitions

I always thought one's brain would expand, create new synapses when called upon to increase its activity. Now I read that multitasking is not the most efficient use of time. Apparently, there is only so much one's brain can properly focus on at one time before things start to slip and get buried in its creases.

But as most of us understand, multitasking is a required way of life. Were I to list all the hats I have worn since February 20 when we started construction of our house, you'd be yawning and wouldn't finish this post.

I've tried to counter the chaos by making lists (and more lists) as well as nailing up a calendar on the bathroom wall next to the light switch so I must "see" it each morning. Still, I miss events penned clearly in dark blue marker.

The letters in one square speak of my monthly act of service at the local nursing home. One hour a month when I imperfectly hammer out a few hymns on a very out of tune piano, listen to our pastor give a devotional, and help my children interact with the residents to show them Jesus' love.

But for the month of May, I didn't attend. The bad part is, it wasn't like I had anything else planned that interfered...or that I didn't wake up in time. I just flat out forgot what I had reminded myself of just the day before.

That was three weeks ago, and my non-attendance has burdened my heart and mind ever since. It's uncanny--something I couldn't remember, now I can't forget.

One month, visiting the nursing home was a duty. The next, it's a desire of my heart, and I am left with an ache of sadness for the blessings I missed.

I'm not sure when the transition happened.

The heart is a funny thing...causing me to pause as it continually makes leaps without giving me notice.