Until about 1998 or so, I was a fun person. I liked to joke around and try crazy things just to be amused. I have been all over the world and have so many stories from a life filled to the max that I spent significant time spontaneously laughing at the memory of something funny that happened or gasping at something unfortunate. My life has all along the way continued to be full of things. I still love to pack life with as much as I possibly can since I have just this one go-round with it.
However, 1998 was the year I really became an adult and most of the fun was sucked out of it for me and anyone else who had to be around me. In May that year I got married at the ripe old age of 19, and I began taking myself and my situations entirely too seriously. I lacked faith in God to work in the midst of things and shouldered too much responsibility for trying to form the outcomes of everyone and every situation in my life just the way I thought it should be. I tried to stay away from anything remotely risky because my family and ministries needed me. I was overwhelmed with guilt and all kinds of pressures I put on myself in the name of being a good wife, mother, friend, church member and so on.
This past year has been an amazing one for me on many levels. Turning 30 in 2008 was eye opening for me. Life is going by so quickly. I spent some time trying to figure out who I am now. I am not young and free, I am not old and wise. I am not going to have more children, my children are growing up fast and will leave me more quickly than I will like, and then who will I be?
For whatever reason it occurred to me about a year ago that I was just me, and that’s just fine. I don’t have to be young and free or old and wise. I don’t have to have more children or get a job or keep a perfect house or cook the perfect meal or dessert as a means to define myself. When everything around me goes away, I am still just me, the person God created me to be. Now I have set about letting go of all of the pretenses I was trying to keep up to make sure I looked like the person I wanted to be, and I have started getting comfortable in my own skin.
So, the person who I am is a fun one. I like adventure and risk taking, cutting up, and creating memories. I like having whatever color hair I want and wearing what I want to and not having to worry about whether or not I have the personality to “pull it off”. I am not being rebellious or egocentric about it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Instead of obsessing about the image I thought others expected of me or that I felt I needed to portray in order to gain the respect of others, I just let go and decide with ease based on who I am. I still take my husband and children’s thoughts into account, but they are enjoying this change in me as much as I am.
Before this last year, I was a grumpy mess most of the time. My nerves were shot. I was negative, overly critical, impatient and always, always looking for a way to get in some “me time” to get away from all of the responsibilities I shouldered. My life was such a burden to me that I was obsessed with taking breaks to go out on dates with Stephen or planning vacations we could never take or getting away with my friends or whatever. Then when I would get small breaks away from my work, I couldn’t enjoy them because there were things I should be getting done. I also knew that hard work was waiting for me just around the corner, and it would be too long before I would get a moment away again. Many times I would come back more grouchy than when I left. At least before I left I had something to look forward to!
A good day for me came when I realized all of those bad attitudes I was carrying around with me were choices I was making. I was deciding to have bad attitudes. I felt entitled to them because my life is so much work and responsibility. I liked to dwell on the reasons I was entitled to be grumpy and work myself up into a faithless, ungrateful, discontent, critical, rebellious, worrisome, and impatient frenzy. When I began to choose instead to let those negative attitudes go and replace them with faith, contentment, gratitude, love and compassion for others, submission to the Lord and authorities in my life, and patience to wait on God to work in all areas of my life and the people and circumstances around me, I began to do something I haven’t done for more than a few seconds at a time since 1998. I began to enjoy life right where I was. I didn’t need to escape from it with temporary, all-together, completely, unsatisfying breaks from it all. I could take my life as it is, the way God created me and in the situations He was putting me in and have some dadgum fun with it all.
Many things about my life are downright hilarious, and where it is not hilarious, I like to figure out a way to quickly turn it that way. One day in early January after a rare snow fall in Georgia, I was sitting in the parking lot at church with all 4 kids strapped into their seats waiting on Stephen to get done with a meeting that should have already ended. A year ago I would have fumed and worked myself up into a frenzy that would have resulted in Stephen getting into the car with a hostile wife who couldn’t believe he could be so insensitive as to leave his family in the car for so long (like 10 extra minutes) for his (admittedly very important) meeting. Then we would have had a tense day until it blew over or I apologized and felt like crap about myself. I ALMOST went there, and then caught myself. “No”, I said. What actually do I do in a situation like this to avoid such a scenario from happening? I had to try to remember, but it came to me! I can’t just bite my tongue, internalize my bad attitude and hope it goes away because it won’t. However, I can find an icy patch in a secluded parking lot behind the church, and whip donuts in my Eco-slasher 2000 (with the kids laughing hysterically in the back) like I haven’t done in at least 10 years. We had the best time and made the best memory and when the text came in from Stephen that he was done and wondering where we were, a truck full of laughing, nutty people came sliding up. I didn’t have to escape the kids or my life, I just had to find some joy in it right where I was, and boy did I.
I have done some other things like highlighting my hair pink just because I have always wanted to. I bought some new, pink, bejeweled glasses I would have previously thought too funky for me that I now think suit me perfectly. Stephen bought us main stage tickets to a major music festival this summer in Kentucky where I will finally achieve a lifelong goal of seeing Bon Jovi (among many others) in concert, and I am already enjoying myself just thinking about it. I am not dreading my return home or overwhelmed with guilt for leaving the kids or the things that won’t get done while I’m gone. I am looking forward to always having that memory and getting a chance to miss the kids a bit so I don’t accidentally take them for granted among a million other things to look forward to about it. The pink in my hair for that event will be noteworthy, I assure you, and I am going to love it. When I am making a meal for a friend who has had a baby, instead of letting the pressure of adding a big production to my already hectic day make me irritable and touchy, I focus on how much I actually love bringing meals to people and add some silly, loud music to the equation to make it fun for everyone.
I do have to say, that my amazing hubby is very supportive of the new (though even of the old) me. He actually likes the glasses and the hair and how excited I am about Bon Jovi among other things. My children are less on edge with me and and learning how to find God’s faithful and loving hand in all things rather than being burdened by faithless stress. I feel like people in general are more open to me. I am grateful I go to a church where I can be who God created me to be, and I am not expected to fit any kind of a mold in order to be allowed to work and minister there.
Without a damp, dark cloud hanging over me, I am able to just love and appreciate the Lord and His faithfulness in my life with such clarity, joy and peace! You can almost get caught in a rut of thinking that God isn’t happy unless we are miserable, but the truth of the matter is that living a life of ingratitude, misery, discontentment, and/or being critical of others without any compassion for them is downright sinful. Trying to control the outcome of everything and everyone around us is faithless. It is honoring to God to be content in ALL things, peaceful, patient, kind, compassionate, loving, hopeful, joyful and faithfully resting in the promises in God’s word that say He is always with us and works all things together for the good for those who love Him. I now divide my attitudes into two categories when I evaluate how I am feeling. Do I have a wilderness attitude which is one that has me obsessed with the negatives in life, or do I have a Promise Land attitude that keeps my eyes faithfully on Him, resting in His perfect will regardless of what that looks like, and along the way maybe even enjoying the life He gave me.
I have to give a special thanks to James McDonald and his book “Lord, Change my Attitude: Before It’s Too Late”, for helping me make more sense of what God was already doing in my life.
-I needed this general box today to dump a few things in that covered all of the kids.
-The kids have really gotten into screaming the golden rule at each other in order to make the other children do what they want them to do. For example, “Give me that toy! Don’t you know you are supposed to do unto others as you would have them do unto you”!!
-This is for the general box in order to protect the reputation of the offending child, but the other day, one of them came up to me out of the blue and said, “Um, mom? I thought I had to toot, and poop just poured out of my butt and down my legs”. Even after two days I was still laughing so hard my eyes were bulging and my internal organs ached (rather than chewing the child out for the additional work they added to my day). I know it’s gross, but I had to remember it. I just had to.
-During “Tsnownami”. . . I mean “Snowpocalyps”. . . I mean “Snowmageddon”, I mean” 3 Tame Inches of Snow 2010”, we got to build a snowman and go sledding and had so much fun with it (rather than getting grumpy about having to see snow in the south). Unfortunately, I don’t know where the pictures are at the moment. I will have to add them to the next blog update.
-They all love and are obsessed with cemeteries. They want to visit every one we pass and love to contemplate the lives of the people buried there. They do not seem to fear death at all and have complete faith that they have a pretty sweet gig waiting for them after this life.
-is such a standup guy. Every Sunday after church he shares the candy or trinkets he wins during children church with his siblings.
-was totally excited to be selected for AWANA Olympics again this year.
-has a love/hate relationship with school. He loves to have the knowledge, he just doesn’t want to sit and learn it. Fortunately, he picks things up easily so we can keep school short.
-isn’t afraid to let you know that he can do anything better than you.
-has extreme compassion for the disadvantaged and loves being given outlets to help them, even if it means hard work.
-thinks that Stephen helped God hang the sun, moon and stars.
-was given a backpack for Christmas so he can go backpacking with Stephen as soon as the weather warms up a bit.
-is given one hour of media time a day, and he fills every second with computer games rather than any TV.
-no longer has a shy bone in his body.
-knows all of the books of the entire bible in order.
-if asked if she is a princess, will give a very certain, “Yes”.
-LOVES the ballet and tea parties more than anything.
-has decided she really wants to learn Spanish instead of French, so she is not attending her French lessons anymore while I look for a Spanish teacher. She just loves and has an aptitude for foreign language. Evan does too, but he doesn’t show any interest in taking classes. He picks up on what Julia comes home with.
-LOVES her AWANA Cubbies program at church, but cannot wait for kindergarten to start in the fall and for her to move up to AWANA Sparkies where Evan is.
-is still very, very shy, but she has come a ways since her crying and burying her head into my legs days. She just silently observes the children and adults around her when she is not totally familiar with them.
-spends a great deal of energy dreaming up an enchanted 5th birthday party/sleepover with every friend imaginable in attendance.
-asks me all of the time how she can have curly hair like mine.
-Makes up random things in order to manipulate each situation. When asked what kind of happy meal she wanted she said, “I want the cheeseburger instead of the chicken nuggets because chicken nuggets make my cheeks turn red”. . . Certainly a news flash to me.
-When asked if she was hungry said, “No, I’m WAY passed hungry. I’m STARVING!”
-knows all of the books of the entire bible in order.
-spends a great deal of energy dreaming up what he wants for his 4th birthday in June.
-is OBSESSED with coloring. It’s unreal. He would color without ceasing if we didn’t cut him off.
-knows all of the words to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song by heart.
-likes to sing the songs he knows by adding the same letter sound to the beginning of each work. For example “Teenage Tutant Tinja Turtles. Teroes tin ta talf tell. Turtle Tower! Tere ta torlds tost tearsome tighting teens”. . . (Teenage mutant ninja turtles. Heroes in a half shell. Turtle Power! They’re the world’s most fearsome fighting teens”.
-is less substantially less shy than Julia and Evan were at his age, but will still take a few minutes to warm up to most people.
-reminds me several times a day that green is his favorite color.
-doesn’t seem to love AWANA as much as the other two do. He could take it or leave it.
-“Mom, I haven’t had a bath for two million years, right, Mom? (He begins and ends many sentences with “mom”).
-is going through a very emotional faze. Even looking at him wrong will cause him to dissolve into a pile of tears. If he gets in trouble, we have to give him significant amount of time to calm down so we can talk with him about it.
-knows all of the book of the entire bible in order.
-is 21 months old already.
-drank a boatload of rubbing alcohol one day. Poison control said to make sure he didn’t get drunk. I’m not sure how you would tell if my toddler were drunk, to-be-honest.
-will lick or eat nearly everything but the food we put on his plate. I found him last week sitting in the sink in my bathroom sucking on the drain plug in one hand and licking my deodorant in the other.
-still has a passion for dryer sheets.
-has a mad passion for black coffee just like his mother. He will even eat coffee grinds if I leave them where he can get them.
-has gotten into the habit of absent mindedly twisting my earrings whenever I carry him around.
-spends ever decreasing amounts of time crying, but is still just as loud. He has no inside voice at all.
-always has us either laughing or scratching our heads. Mr. Personality.
-is talking about as much as the others were by this age. He talks in full, very loud sentences now. He is like Julia in that he would rather say a lot very unclearly than he is like Evan and Harrison who were more interested in saying things again and again until it sounded right.
-calls Evan “Bubby”, Julia “Ju-ia”, and Harrison “Haysey”.
-most of what he says is very bossy and demanding. For example, he will stand on the bed pointing down at it and demand, “I want Bubby bed”, which means “I want to play with Evan on the bed”.
-before every meal we ask who wants to pray and Eli is always the first to yell, “ME”! Then we say, “Ok, Eli. You want to pray”? We always get an immediate, “No”. It’s the same nearly every meal.
-Stephen and the kids like to bump fists and say, “Boo-yeah”. Eli has really picked this up. I tried it one day with him and after I extended my fist to get a boo-yeah. He looked at me like was crazy, said, “No”, and rolled his eyes at me. I am so uncool, I guess.
-is my first child to like the church nursery. I’m loving that.
-As soon as I pick him up, he starts grunting like a little pig and absent mindedly spinning my earings.
-figured out how to open doors at 19 months old.
-loves to play with any kind of ball. He has bizzarely amazing kicking skills. Evan loved animals as a toddler, Harrison loves cars, and Eli is majorly into throwing, kicking, or just wandering around with a ball.
Jeremy and Natalie serenade our 2009 video slideshow collage.
Evan worked extremely hard to make the $50 necessary to put this Operation Christmas Child box together for a needy boy his age in a 3rd world country.
“Ahem, let’s toast to high societies to which we clearly belong”.