Posts made in April, 2012

The Exhausted Mother and the Kind Stranger

Posted by on Apr 30, 2012 in Faith | 2 comments

Once upon a time there was a mother, and the mother had a baby, and the baby had reflux.  The baby was a delightful baby, but the reflux caused her great pain that was only relieved by nursing around the clock and sleeping upright in the arms of her mother, who had to sleep upright in a chair all night every night to make this all possible.  In addition to the baby with reflux, there was also a two year old.  The two year old was a delightful toddler, but a toddler none the less, and her little emerging will caused her to act in some ways that further exhausted her already tired mother.  There was also a husband, a delightful husband of course, but years of his own trials and difficulties caused him to experience his own brand of exhaustion and numbness.  And there was a house, a delightful house, that had sheltered the family for seven years but that had been sold and was now being packed and left behind.  All of these things, the hurting baby, the challenging toddler, the worn out husband, the never ending trials, the packing up and moving out of a home, made the mother an Exhausted Mother.

One day this stressed, hurting, discouraged Exhausted Mother sat with her delightful but hurting baby in a group of wonderful women who loved her.  A new woman, Kind Stranger, was in the group that day who didn’t know Exhausted Mother and had no reason to love her yet, but as the group ended she approached Exhausted Mother and started talking.

“Hi,” she said, “I’ll walk with you to your car.”  Kind Stranger carried Exhausted Mother’s car seat and delightful but hurting baby to the car and loaded them inside.  This small act of kindness gave Exhausted Mother a little boost of energy.

“I don’t want to pry, but it seems like you have a lot going on and I wanted to see if you’re okay.”  Kind Stranger’s eyes were kind and her smile was genuine, and she put Exhausted Mother at ease to share a little of what was making her so exhausted.  As they talked, Exhausted Mother realized that Kind Stranger was able to see her so clearly because she had been through the exact same trials, had felt the exact same exhaustion.

After Kind Stranger and Exhausted Mother had talked for some time, Exhausted Mother got in her car and drove away.  But she didn’t feel so exhausted anymore.  She felt…encouraged.  And understood, and less alone, and very loved.  Exhausted Mother would not have known where to begin asking someone to help her that day, but she knew how to receive help and encouragement when it was offered…it just took someone to see her, someone who was able to see past the surface, a woman who had eyes to see because she had endured and overcome struggles and exhaustion of her own.

“God, use this difficulty and exhaustion in my life to make me softer, more loving, more able to see people, more like You,” Exhausted Mother prayed as she drove.  “And thank you for the privilege of these trials.  They feel just awful, but I see that they also produce something.  They sift out pride, self focus, unforgiveness, fear.  They increase sensitivity to other people, faith in You, strength on the inside of me.  Open my eyes to see the exhausted people around me so that I can give the gift of kindness.”

 

Battlefield of the Will

Posted by on Apr 29, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Mental Health | 2 comments

Battlefield of the Will

A 3 1/2 year old and a 16 month old live at my house, so a lot of my life centers around watching little people’s wills emerge. Sometimes it’s cute, like when my Bear insists on pulling her big sister in the wagon all by herself. Or the time my Bug, in an effort to help her distraught little sister reach something she couldn’t get while I was driving the car said, “Don’t worry, Mommy, I’ve got this. I HAVE A PLAN!” That’s cute, I thought, not paying a ton of attention…next thing I knew she had unbuckled her car seat straps, stood up, and was climbing into the front seat as we traveled down the freeway.

Sometimes it’s maddening, like when they have tantrums in public places, or scream because I don’t understand them, or yell, “NO!” when I ask them to do something.

Mostly it’s just messy. I know I don’t want to squash their little wills, but finding the balance between giving them some practice making choices and experiencing consequences, yet needing them to listen and be obedient so I can keep them safe can be challenging. Especially because sometimes a little person with a lack of judgement and no life experience wildly screaming NO!!! in an act of complete defiance kinda pushes my buttons. And because sometimes other people look on with disapproving stares, or even comments, when the children aren’t being the most charming versions of themselves.

So I was thankful for this reminder the other day that I want my children to have a strong enough will to make good choices even if I’m not there to do it for them… I want them to do the messy work of learning who they are, how to make decisions for themselves, and that choices have consequences even if it inconveniences me at times…and I don’t want them to learn blind obedience to all adults.

We were playing at the park and my social butterfly Bug had, as usual, quickly made a friend with whom she was playing. After some time, the friend became frustrated with Bug because she wasn’t playing chase the way he wanted her to. The child’s grandmother approached me and pointed out that Bug was playing the game incorrectly. I agreed, but didn’t intervene…with so many opportunities in a day for power struggles and battles of the will, I generally see the park as a place she can make her own choices and find her own way in friendships without my intervention as long as no one is in danger. When I didn’t get involved, the grandmother started trying to call to Bug…

Grandmother, calling my child by name: “Come here! I want to tell you something!”

Me, quietly observing, wanting to see how my Bug would respond to this stranger.

Bug: “No thank you!”

Grandmother, again calling her by name: “Come here! I need to tell you a secret! Don’t you want to hear a secret?!”

Me, thinking to myself, I know this woman isn’t trying to sound creepy but she does, I wonder what Bug will do.

Bug, crossing her arms, looking directly at the woman, and using a firm tone: “NO! I’m busy!”

In that moment I realized that my Bug’s will could save her life. Now she definitely needs help using it for good and not evil, but I recognize that the same will that can get her into trouble is also what will keep her out of trouble. I can think of many situations, both at this stage and in the future, in which I definitely want my child to scream NO!

After we left the park, on the car ride home, I told my Bug how proud I was of her for saying no at the right time in the right way. We talked about times you say no and times you say yes. I explained that if a stranger says something to her like, “Come here, I want to tell you a secret/give you something,” that’s a time to say NO. Or if anybody asks her to do something that scares her or would hurt her, that’s a time to say NO. On the other hand, if mommy or daddy asks her to do something then that’s a time to say YES because we ask her to do things to keep her safe. Or if her teacher at preschool asks her to do something that’s part of her jobs at school, like cleaning up, or washing her hands, or sharing a toy, that’s also a time to say YES. I know she doesn’t completely understand yet but I’m confident that one day she will, and I will sleep just a little easier at night knowing that my daughter knows the right time and the right way to say NO.

 

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Hear her roar!

 

Testimony of Waiting

Posted by on Apr 20, 2012 in Faith | 3 comments

Testimony of Waiting

“The human experience commonly shared is suffering… If he suffers well, that might be the most important sermon he’s ever preached.”

The above was said about Matt Chandler, a pastor of a quickly growing church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, shortly after he was diagnosed with incurable, terminal brain cancer at the age of 35.  I love the quote, and when I read it, it instantly resonated with me as truth.  Suffering is a universal human experience, yet we rarely talk about it while enduring it.  More often, we talk about our suffering after the fact, if and when victory has been achieved and we’re able to present it as a tidy package wrapped up pretty.  Don’t get me wrong, I love those stories of obstacles overcome and victory realized, they are encouraging and inspiring and worth telling.  The problem with only hearing those stories, I think, is that they give a sense of the journey through suffering being far easier than it actually is…there’s no way around this being the case, it’s impossible to adequately convey the anguish that was experienced in a lengthy battle when you’re summing it up in a few sentences after the fact.  Chandler’s brain cancer, surgery, and ongoing treatment provided a unique opportunity to witness a man walking through suffering holding God’s hand.

The past four years have brought significant struggle and difficulty to my life.  When the difficulty first started to show up in my life, I was very vocal about the goodness of God in the midst of my struggles, but as the years wore on I got a lot quieter.  It wasn’t because I felt that God was any less good to me, but because I thought my testimony seemed to be losing some momentum as my struggles continued.  Mine was not a story of quick resolution that I could package up with a beautiful bow and tell as a proper tale with a beginning, middle, and end, and a solid plot line running throughout that I absolutely understood.  Mine was a lot messier, a story with a beginning that made little sense to me, a middle that hurt like hell, and an ending yet to be determined.  But this morning when I got up to pray, I felt like God asked me to tell it.

How do I politely decline on the basis that I don’t think my testimony makes God look that good?  Believe me, I tried, but no go.  He started showing me the testimony of waiting I have that would only be possible by His grace…

The fact that I have no idea what the outcome of my circumstances will be but I continue to go forward in faith and hope..

That I don’t understand why this is happening, but I am fully convinced that if I understand nothing else, I know that GOD IS GOOD, and He is good TO ME…

That there are threats surrounding me but rather than fear I feel the determination to fight…

That with storms raging all around me, on the inside I feel full of joy and peace…

That my reality should really look so, so much worse than it actually does after these years of unrelenting trials.

That’s my testimony, and it would be impossible for me to say those things without the power and grace of God at work in my life.  He showed me that testimony makes Him look amazing, all powerful and able to do the impossible, to all the other people who are waiting, wondering why their stories aren’t wrapped up in beautiful little packages.  They’re not yet, but just wait.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.

1 Peter 5:10


 

Sunshine

Posted by on Apr 18, 2012 in Bug & Bear | 0 comments

Sunshine

 

“Children refresh our spirit, make our hearts smile, and give us the courage to overcome overwhelming obstacles.”

Dr. Mark Freed

 

 

 

Reminders today from my sunshines…

 

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They remind me to show kindness

 

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The remind me to enjoy the simple things

 

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The remind me that love is most important

 

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They remind me that life is beautiful

 

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They remind me to keep growing because someone is looking up to me

 

20 Minute Meal: Grilled Chicken & Asparagus With Fettuccine Alfredo

Posted by on Apr 17, 2012 in Cooking | 0 comments

Rachael Ray is known for popularizing “30 minute meals”. I guess the intent is that busy professionals or parents can enjoy home cooked meals without the stress of a time consuming cooking process, but really, what person with the demands of a job, or the demands of kids, or both, has 30 minutes to prepare a meal?

I used to spend hours preparing fancy and complicated meals, but that was before children.  Actually, I had no children and I only worked 25-30 hours a week, it was bliss.  Bliss.  But I digress.  For some reason, the children seem to fall apart every day at 5:30 on the dot, right as I’m getting dinner ready, and do things like chase the dogs with push toys, or cling to my legs crying, or try to battle each other to the death…ya know, things that require my supervision and intervention and interfere with me being tied to the stove whisking the perfect cream sauce.  But I love to cook.  And I love to eat.  Since I’m not willing to give up either one of those things, I’ve had to adapt.  These days, I’m able to successfully prepare a family meal if the recipe is either one that I can prepare early in the day and just heat up at dinner time, or one that I can make with alarming speed.

This dinner fit in the category of quick and easy, and it was yummy!  The Fettuccine Alfredo recipe is from the Pioneer Woman.  If you don’t want to take the time to make the Fettuccine Alfredo then you can just toss your pasta with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, but for as little work as the Alfredo takes it makes this dinner a lot nicer.

If you prepare the meal in this order, it only takes about 20 minutes:

1. Preheat the grill (or broiler if you prefer to cook indoors).

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat for the pasta.

3. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and season it.  You can marinate it ahead of time, but on the night I made this I just mixed equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil and let the chicken sit in it at room temperature until I was ready to cook it, then I seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes.

4. After about 10 minutes the grill should be hot and the water should be boiling.  Put the chicken on the grill and add the fettuccine to the boiling water.

5. Snap the ends off of the asparagus, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and toss.

6. After 5 minutes, turn the chicken over (I butterflied my chicken so that it would cook faster, thicker breasts may take a few minutes longer per side) and add the asparagus to the grill.

7. While the chicken, asparagus, and pasta finish cooking, add the Fettuccine Alfredo ingredients to a large serving bowl.

8. After the chicken and asparagus have cooked 5 minutes, remove from the grill and finish the Fettuccine Alfredo according to the recipe.

This dinner was simple but good, and even my picky child ate it cut up as “chicken nuggets.”  Since most of the cooking was done on the grill, we were all able to play together outside while I made it, which seemed to keep Bug and Bear happy.  The dogs seemed happy too, as they were not chased with a single push toy in the making of this meal.

 

 

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