Monday, July 30, 2012

A Mommy-Writer's Sparkly Distractions

Shiny things always distract. Always. Whether you are driving down the road, and a glint of light glimmers from the corner of your eye, or you see a shiny newborn squirming in a stroller down the aisle, you can't help but take a peek.
And it might be harmless. Just a little look to satisfy your curiosity. A simple stare to enjoy the shine. But then, if you look too long, you might crash into the car ahead, or risk that sweet little face scrunching up and screaming with terror.
As a mother of four, I am often enamored by the shiny theory. It really does trick me each time, and I always fall for the trap.
Any mom out there will tell you that one of the best things in the world, is when sleepy heads greet you with a snuggle first thing in the morning. They are warm, cuddly, and super sweet. I LOVE that first morning, "hi mommy". It is the best. And as for my baby girl, she may not talk, but her smile always does the trick.
If only that first shine stayed polished all day long.
A brother hits a brother, a t.v. gets turned off, the cereal gets soggy, and my shiny awakened child turns into that kid from yesterday who sat in time out five times and went to bed straight after dinner.

Even as I type this, I think, yeah, that's so normal. Yeah, I got distracted by the shine, so when the child begins to tarnish, I am foolishly unprepared to handle it with patience. How can my shiny little boy become THIS? Mommy guilt sets in...I did this wrong, said that wrong, forgot to instill this....
What I really need to do is delight in the few moments of the day when the son outshines the sun. ;) And most days I do. Some days though, I lose my patience and forget that the monster was once a lamb just hours before.

You are going to think I am absolutely bonkers, but I am going to tie this into something else very important to me--writing.

I have come to realize that these past five or six years, I have been distracted by the sparkle of publishing. Most days it distracts me when I should be writing (or mothering), and I strive to figure out what my next plan of attack, my next query, my next pitch should be to turn that sparkle into a brilliant shine.
The possibility of publishing has not just become something on the side of the road that distracts a little and catches my eye, it has become a giant polished Budah belly that pulls my focus off of everything else.
It is an idol.
Something that was once a goal, has become an obsession. Shiny things always distract. And if we let them, they can entrance us in an unhealthy way.
The cool thing is, that once I figured this out (just this morning during my Bible study), God gave me grace and freedom from that stronghold. I know that publishing isn't going to be Easy Street, and that it comes with its own hurdles, own screaming newborns, its own tantrums. But I kept my focus on the sparkle of it, and it made me miserable (can we say, major fenderbenders with my husband, spiritual health?)
While goals are amazing and often blessed by God, idols are not.
So, I have grabbed my cool, polarized shades and, while the goal of publishing remains, I won't be so distracted by its shine so that everything else around me appears dull and tarnished.

Do you have any shiny distractions in your life? Are you tending to them in a healthy way, or have they become an obsession?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wave Wisdom

on our beach trip this week, i learned a few things... 

no matter how many times you trek down to the water prepared with swimsuits and towels,

it's always more fun to get wet in your clothes.

they grow up fast, from chasing seagulls as a two year old, to entertaining themselves with more challenging things...
 like boomerangs. 

whether, we are inspired by His handiwork,
or our own,

daddies (heavenly and human) really are the coolest.

and even a baby who is terrified of the water, and doesn't care for the sand too much, can't resist the lulls of the ocean waves to put her to sleep...
but most of all, she can't resist a smile when she knows Mama's close by.

Happy Summer!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Gift To Write

Recently, one of my writer friends and I had a nice little chat on the phone. She is one of the most amazing friends and encouragers.

 If you know me at all, you know that I am not shy to tell you how I feel. I might not be very eloquent in expressing my concerns, but I don't usually hold back.

Miss Transparent to a T.

Sometimes it is a good thing, and sometime it is a bad thing. During my conversation with Miss Encourager, it was a very good thing.
Because of my transparency, she was able to pour out wisdom that especially pertained to Miss T, me.

How refreshing it is to receive handcrafted advice specifically for you! It's like cool water on a hot day. It fills your insides, and gives you renewed energy to tackle the heat. And yes, this writing journey sure holds lots of fires along the way. The flame of self-doubt, the burn of rejection, the scorch of writer's block.

Miss Encourager reminded me that my ability (no matter how little or how much I feel I have on any given day) is a gift from God (period)

A gift.

He delights in giving us presents that give us joy. That's right! The reason I started writing in the first place was because it gave me joy!

I had gone years without giving away my little secret hobby. And I was content with it being just that, a hobby. But once it went "public", the pressure began to mold it into something more, to take my focus off of the little gift God bestowed upon me, and see what kind of rewards it could bring in the world (publishing, contest wins etc.)

So, as usual, after my conversation with Miss. Encourager, God found me and gave me some Scripture that I could apply (side note: He always does that!! I praise Him for strengthening my faith by His timeliness.)

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, ” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands. ”

This is from Haggai 1:7-11 --The people had built themselves houses while God's house was in ruins. See, they took their focus off of pleasing God first, to please themselves with the blessings God gave them. Oh my heart is tingly right now! What a prompting by the Spirit to refocus!  

My friend helped me pinpoint my problem, that I forgot God had blessed me with a gift, and Scripture gave me a way to fix it, a way to sift the sin that was weighing me down.
When you begin to worship the gift and not the GIVER, then your heart will only suffer in drought like the people in Haggai. But when you worship the GIVER and find His joy in your gift, then you are blessed beyond measure!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Tight Rope of Hope

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. " Matthew 6:34

This verse is so difficult for me. I am a planner. As a ministry coordinator, I feel like if I don't look to the future and plan out exactly what's going to will never happen. It's great to be organized, to prepare for quality ministry, this I know.

But this Bible verse is a salve for something more taxing to me than my personal calendar. Perhaps it is because of a lack of faith, or just an allowance of fear to creep into my heart. Some days, I walk around, wobbling along a tight rope of hope, sure that I'll plummet any moment into a pit of despair. There are gusts of talk, winds of rumors, tornadoes of change that threaten to knock me off kilter...and sometimes they do, and sometimes I fall and fall and fall, until I finally remember that I have a Savior, and if I would stop looking down to where I am falling and up to where He reaches out His hand, I can stop the fall, and climb my way back up, pulled by Christ's grace-filled hand.

 It happens most when I read the news. Really. I am not one of those people who shakes their head and says, "That's terrible. I don't know what I would do if..." I am one of those people who grips my chair and can peek ahead in my imagination and develop all sorts of scenarios where the political climate, the world leader, the new law, the new tax, the verdict, will specifically affect me and my children. And my parents wonder why I don't watch the news. It is personally draining and a threat to my fragile balance on hope. 

It also happens when people mention "the end times", "the end of the world". Yes, I am a Christian, and I know what prophesy holds, and deep down, I sometimes can understand how something that happens could be considered as fulfilling that prophesy. But when what's in my head is verbalized by someone else, blow me down and hear me scream! I walk the rest of the day with my head lowered as if the skies are trembling from above and I may as well give up on dreaming about all the things I dream for mine and my children's future.
 It is a lack of faith. It is a shift of a Christ-centered view to a flesh-centered view. It is good old fashioned joy extinguished by ancient old fear.

I am sure there are people out there who suffer these same things. Sometimes I wonder. There are people in my life who embrace life with joy even in admission of these things and their consequences. And then there are people in my life who feed off the disasters and destruction and obsess with the hopelessness of it all and turn to personal coping, which is not a pretty sight since God's usually not involved.

Scripture is my only light at the end of the chasm. It is through Scripture that I find Christ's open hand waiting to hold mine. Another verse comes to mind. It renews my strength of mind, my peace of heart. I will end with it, because it sandwiches these confessions of fear with a truth-filled hedge. Amen! 

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 

Keep Your Eyes Open For These Girls!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Five Stitches and Two Cents.

Last night was a doozey. I don't even use that word, doozey, but it is quite appropriate for our night. The family was buzzing around like bees--- my husband was trying to get our camper ready before he set off to band practice, I was mothering my oldest who refused to let our 5 year old touch his golf clubs, borrowed that is, and my 7 year old was chasing my one year old around because she had the box of cereal that he wanted to snack on. Typical chaos around here.

So as most days, I am a little frazzled trying to be the somewhat patient wife (although I failed miserably as I tried to convince my husband to not go to band practice), psychotherapist  (trying to explain to my son that this is a great opportunity to be a good big brother and teach my 5 year old how to swing a golf club), and the cereal police (I told my son to get a bowl out and I'd give him cereal so I could pacify our stubborn one year old and let her hold the box).

Besides my husband (he knows when to tune me out for being irrational :) ) and my one year old (heh heh), they listened to me amazingly enough.

My oldest took the younger brother outside with the golf clubs.

My seven year old got out a bowl (glass, mind you) and filled it up.

My one year old then decided she also wanted a bowl, and frazzled Mama told my seven year old to get her one. Next thing I know, is there is a clatter and the bowl filled with cereal hit the floor and broke in two, right at my one year old's feet. Cereal was everywhere...I had just mopped those floors...and the baby was whimpering.

Before I could pick up the glass, a sudden terrifying scream came from the garage. Now, unfortunately, I am a little numb to such a scream, as is my husband (you'll understand below). My boys really are highly emotional and their screaming and fighting has become a tad too normal. But, I stormed into the garage, ready to reprimand, when my oldest came at me, blood gushing down the side of his face.
His hysteria turned into my hysteria.

What happened? What do I do? WHERE IS MY HUSBAND????

I was screaming for my husband, my oldest was screaming "I am going to die!", my baby was screaming because we were screaming, and my seven year old was predicting that our five year old is IN TROUBLE!
When my oldest said the five year old did it, I yelled, with no sign of the five year old in sight, he IS in trouble, but was quickly corrected by the sobbing injured that it was an accident.

GREAT. No Mom of the Year here.

This all ended rather peacefully, believe it or not. After cleaning him up, my son had a half inch cut by his eyebrow made by a backswinging golf club when he was trying to teach his younger brother. I took him to the ER and since it was a Children's hospital, the staff were amazing with him and he got stitched up without a peep from him (before we left for the hospital he was freaking out about the pain of stitches).

My five year old might have been affected most by this whole thing. While my son was washing up before we left for the hospital, my five year old came into the room and said, "He's going to kill me." with a look of terror in his eyes. I reassured him, he's not. But his older brother has been quite a bully this summer, and I understood his worry.

He was the first one on the phone when we called Dad to say how it was going, and my five year old demanded to talk to my oldest and apologized. Supposedly, he had huddled on the couch all night, feeling terrible about the whole thing.

And the knife in my heart twisted as I remembered my initial reaction, screaming that he was IN TROUBLE.


And this is why I am in a Bible Study about taming your tongue...if only it would get through my thick skull!

As I type this, I see how much I have to do with the going-ons in this family. I realize that our emotional atmosphere, our reactions to things, might be fueled by Mama's own. Suddenly I am aware of how ludicrous it seems that God would trust me with raising these kids with any chance of emotional stability!! The nut doesn't fall far from the tree, and let me tell you, I am sometimes as nutty as an entire nut tree!

So, as I wait for my five year old to wake up so I can reassure him that he's not at fault, and as I grow anxious to see his older brother hug him and show off his five neat stitches, I have learned a mighty lesson through all of this.

Mothering, although difficult, should be done with great care because we are shaping, not only our children's minds, but their hearts. Nobody has the affect on our  children as we do, and while this is frightening, it is also empowering that we can equip ourselves to raise an even more powerful generation.

Please Lord, give me foresight to steer my children with a loving heart and a wise word, and let my hindsight be filled with satisfaction and not regret!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doubting Tom Ramblings

Is it worth it? Really, I don't know. I have connected with other writers over the past two years and have LEARNED a ton. My writing has definitely grown, hey, I actually volunteer the fact that I write to people (Before, it was my little secret).
But...I wonder, is it worth it? I am not moving forward with my goal of finding that agent that believes in me...not signing some sure-thing publishing contract. I am one of the thousands of writers investing their time in a process that doesn't promise to provide a "Yes".
Hmmm. The many, many, many hours I spend writing, the time I take to educate myself on the craft, could those be used for something better? Could I have missed out on more time with my family because of those? Could I have saved my money I used on business cards, one sheets, hotels, conferences, and invested it in home improvements or family vacation?
Is it really a calling or is it an obsession?
Do I feel like my writing could make a difference to someone one day, or do I want to write to make a difference in boring old me?

These are things I ponder ALL the time.

I absolutely LOVE writing. I LOVE the book I am writing...more than any other book I've written. I feel like I am finally finding my groove in voice and story development.

So why do I want to bang my head on the big, looming wall that is still standing firm in my way? Doubt seems unmoving right now. I tell myself, this is the last book, this is the last conference. Don't put your hope in these things, they're just temporal.

But I don't want to quit. I won't.

YES! This is just temporal. But heck, I'd love for this temporary time to be well-spent! Thank goodness for my writing friends. They push me along more than they know. Wish I could see the bigger picture, see the plan that I think I am suppose to be following.

Do you ever have doubt in something that seems so good yet doesn't work out how you expect? What dreams are dangling ahead of you, and what keeps you going no matter how long it takes?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Mama's Heartspeak

The past few weeks have given me the conviction, more than ever before, to raise my children with a firm foundation--one based on truth and love. It's easy, now-a-days, to justify ourselves with subjective ideals, patchwork moral fabrics pulled from here and there, borrowed because it's popular or researched, used because of self-image or trying to fit in.

Frustration is my sidekick, it seems. I allow too many things to internalize and blur my heart's vision. If I gave into this, I'd find myself heartsick with worry about the world where my children are forming their own self-image, their own opinions. I'd throw myself in front of the threshold to the future, begging them to sneak away to my perfect little bubble on this side of Reason.

Today my son revealed some knowledge that I didn't realize he knew. Nothing terrible, just an "adult" subject in my mind. I wanted to ask, "where did you learn this?", "what do you think?", "how does this make you feel?","Can I tell you what I think...", all at once!! But I know I must wait, wait for a time when he is ready to discuss, ready to listen, ready to begin shaping his own opinion to his heart's blueprint. And that is what my prayer will be...that he listens to HIS heart, the one he gave to Jesus long ago, and not allow biased talk to cloud his heartspeak.

Isn't that something we should all pray for each other? To keep the world from scrambling our heart's conversation with God?  When burdens threaten to crush me, that is when I finally take the time to clear the "heart"waves and find God's voice again. My heartspeak was muddled and lost amidst the cloud of worldly things. I pray that I will not allow the static of this world to cloud my heartspeak, because ultimately, the One who longs to hear our hearts loud and clear is so much more satisfying, no matter how loud the static.