Saturday, November 30, 2013

Daily Bread

Several years ago, God met some of our needs in the most unexpected ways.   Medical expenses were piling up as we continued to figure out what was keeping our son from gaining weight….and our medical insurance was worthless at the time.  My husband and I had already planned a humble Christmas---agreeing to a $15 budget to swap presents.  They were wrapped and tucked under our small tree that has been with me since my days in the college dorm.  Expenses kept mounting and a few days before Christmas (and a few days shy of our next paycheck) we knew the gifts would need to be returned to fill our gas tank to make it to see family at Christmas.  We unwrapped and returned the presents to the store.  I would survive without the pajama set my husband had picked out---and he would be fine without the travel mug.  We returned home that night to a surprise envelope on our front porch & another in our mailbox. No one knew where we had just been----but God provided in that moment.  In a few acts of generosity, our medical bills were paid.  Our daily bread (and then some) had been provided.

We ask God to “give us this day, our daily bread”---but often what I really mean is “give me this day, what I think is best.  Give us more money to pay off things more quickly.  Give us a home that isn’t full of broken things.  Give me a car in pristine condition.  Give us perfect health.  Give us vacations.  Give me the ability to shop whenever I what for whatever I want.  Give us relationships that aren’t broken.”
November has been rather unkind to us.  Between medical bills, urgent care & specialty doctor visits, a broken car tire, broken car battery, sick kiddos,  two broken phones, an ER trip/eye emergency & some major plumbing issues---I’ve been tempted to give in to the discouragement.  And yet, God has continued to be at work in my heart and reminding me how quick He is to meet our needs.  We ask for our “daily bread”---not for provision of that dream vacation, or retirement or even for faster ability to finish paying off lingering debt.  I need to trust Him daily to provide us with what we need---and thank Him when those needs are met. 

Daily bread is….

… having access to health insurance, which covers so much more than we’ve ever had covered in the past.

… a group of men giving up their Saturday morning to dig a hole in your the wind and rain.  (And subsequently saving us thousands of dollars)

… watching pudgy rolls develop on your baby to assure you she’s gaining weight…even on her own time.

… walking into Goodwill to find an egg timer and instead bringing home a brand new dress---with the tags still on.

… a holiday bonus check the same week your car battery and plumbing go out.

… a free redbox rental code for date night.

… the perfect song played to calm your heart and drown out the sound of the whirling inside the MRI machine.

… that recipe working out on your first try when all your other attempts seem to be falling short.

… sermons on podcasts when a child has a fever/cough/nasty nose….again.

… selling items you no longer need---and finding wonderful used toys that will delight your kids on Christmas morning with the profit.

… free phones on “Black Friday” the same week your phone bites the dust.

… having a friend haul your entire family home on a Saturday night because your tire is shot and you are stuck in a different town.

…finding gently used swaddle wraps when you can’t afford the brand new price---and your 5 month old still wants to be wrapped up tight.

…nice strangers that jump your car battery when it’s dark and your baby is screaming in the backseat.

Daily bread.

It’s the little things, the big things…and mostly, it’s the unexpected things.

My faith can be so small, but our God is so very good.

Happy belated Thanksgiving….

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

learning to move on

It was a particularly rough night recently in our home.  My husband was at work, the baby was incredibly fussy and my two oldest were struggling with following anything that resembled directions.  My patience was waning and I knew it.  The problem was, I was committed to “push through,” instead of stopping and asking God for help.  As if to be a warning sign, my daughter even came up to me and sweetly said, “mommy, don’t be frust-er-ated with us.”  The night continued to spiral downward until I finally started yelling over how slowly toys were being picked up.  And then it happened.  Her sad eyes met mine, tears spilling over.  I had blown it.  Again.

I pulled her into my lap and apologized (again) for blowing it(again).  Through her tears she kept saying, “I told you not to be frust-er-ated, mommy.  I don’t want you to be angry with me.”  Oh sweet girl, I’m not angry with you.  I’m angry with myself.  I’m angry that I’m selfish, and that because I chose to be selfish, I yelled because things weren’t happening on my time.  It’s important to listen and follow directions and obey mommy, but even if you choose not to listen, mommy should never yell.”

She leaned in, sniffled a few more times and kissed my cheek.  “it’s okay, mommy.  I love you.  I forgive you.”

At the very core of it, my impatience and anger with my kids is just selfishness. Kids are not getting dressed as quickly as I would like.  The toys are not put up in the way (and at the rate) that I believe they should.  The noise level is elevated to a point where I find it difficult to continue whatever (usually unimportant) task I’m doing.  While it is our responsibility to teach and discipline our children,  I have to be careful not to justify my actions, saying something similar to, “I’m sorry I yelled, but you need to listen to mommy!”  My kids are not responsible for my actions.  They may act poorly, but I am always accountable for my response and attitude.   I can’t season it enough and call it “discipline”, when I really need to call it sin.  When I lose my patience with my kids and raise my voice, I need to own that.  I need to recognize that my anger is MY anger.  I need to stop and humble myself and ask for their forgiveness. 

Here’s the part that is hard for me….after I ask for their forgiveness, I need to move on.  I can get stuck on a moment where I really blew it and dwell on that.  I can give into the thoughts that tell me I’m a terrible mother as I replay for my husband the events of the day.  Just as I need to learn to give my children grace, I’m learning I need to accept the grace that they give me.  Children are remarkably forgiving and in my world where I’m so used to adult-sized grudges, I have a hard time understanding it.  I’ve made it a habit of apologizing to my kids when I’ve been angry or selfish, and my daughter never fails to throw her arms around me and whisper, “It’s okay mommy.  I forgive you.”  My kids need to see this model.  They need to see mommy and daddy confessing their mistakes, seeking repentance and creating new habits.  They need to see me asking Jesus for strength and grace for the day.  

Marriage showed me just how selfish I am, but parenting has put that under the largest spotlight possible.  My sins are illuminated because my children reflect my actions back to me.  I yell at them for yelling at each other (ironic, no?)  I lose my patience because they get into stuff of mine that I want left alone, yet I expect my four year old to willingly share all of her prized stuff without hesitation or frustration.  I need grace just as much as my children---and I need to learn to accept it and move on.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

a (not-so-formal) break-up with Victoria's Secret

Dear Victoria’s Secret,

I’m breaking up with you.  I don’t even know if I can really call it that, seeing as how we haven’t had much of a relationship since I turned a pregnancy test positive approximately five years ago. 

I thought I had deleted myself permanently from the secret lists you store that send me tantalizing offers for free undergarments.  The catalogues stopped coming quite some time ago and I assumed that was because you had been notified that I was expecting my second child and you believed chances were slim that I would ever step foot in your store again.

I was grateful. For once I wasn’t concerned that your catalogue of women’s products (that is so clearly targeted for men), would find its way into my home stashed between the Aldi’s ad and our mortgage bill.  Sure, there was still the occasional “free” offer that only required me to get my children fed & dressed, drive to the mall, find a decent parking spot & haul all my children into your store to secure the “free” offer.  Those offers were nice and a little less boisterous then your nauseating catalogues.

It’s been a while since your half-naked women have graced my mailbox.  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to open that mail and wonder why no one thinks to use models that look like real women.  I don’t need a half-naked model that has clearly never given birth, posing in a seductive manner to encourage me to purchase your products.  An ad with a picture of underwear and bras on a table that reads, “Hey! We sell these pretty things!”, would probably be more effective advertising to a woman like me.

Alas, you hadn’t forgotten about me.  Three babies later and you still are working to win my affection and bank account.  Amidst the latest hospital statement, Christian bookstore catalogue & obligatory Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon---there you were.  For a moment I was excited and began to reminisce the days when these offers would grant me an excuse to pop into the mall, just to browse of course.  I didn’t have to have an agenda—carefully planned around naps and feeding times.  There was not a need to pack enough for a small vacation just to visit your store.

Yes, it was fun to remember.  And then, little voices quickly snapped me back to reality as my little ones started to fight over the mail.  And your offer, like so many offers before it, was shredded and discarded in the trash just as quickly as it came in.

 They say that sex sells.  Well, not in this household it doesn’t. 

You see, I have a husband that I am happily married to…and that I care deeply about.  We work hard to safeguard our home against threats such as half-naked photos showing up in our mailbox.  Your ads often end up shredded and in our trash…because I don’t even want your coupon (that also contains half-naked women on it) sitting in my wallet.  It’s not something we want in our home…and it’s not something I want in my heart.

But more than that, I have a son now…and while he is only two years old, I need to start thinking about his heart and his mind & what we will need to do to continue to safeguard our home to do our part to protect him.

BUT, EVEN more than that…I have two daughters.  Two beautifully sweet and perfectly made little girls.  One who already has knowledge of” beauty” and wants to “be” beautiful, as if simply being herself isn’t enough—and I hate that.  I know the impact your ad can have on women who are hard on themselves.  What you consider beautiful is not what I consider beautiful and I want my daughters to hear that message loud and clear.

No, sex does not “sell” in this household.  I am thankful for your quality products, but not the way in which you choose to sell your products.

In closing, I appreciate you continuing to reach out to me month after month with your free offers.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I can’t turn down a bargain, but I’m willing to make an exception…just this once.
-a former fan.