I gathered up all the supplies and invited Micaela to the couch for our afterschool homework. I have been so excited to have Micaela interested in "reading " again. For nearly 3 months she was on total strike of all academic-related activities. However, for the last few weeks she has engaged in reading books and doing some learning activities on the tablet.
On today's stack of books was "Dear Dragon Goes to the hospital." She loved it, flapping her hands excitedly with terms and scenery she is more than familiar with. However, she didn't want to say all the words with me, instead, for several pages, she became fixed on saying, "Oh, no, he has owie." It wasn't even part of the text. It was just a comment I had made. Frustrated at her lack of attention on the following pages, I let out a deep angry breath. Disappointment and a familiar fear filled me. What if she never learns to read?
I buried my head in my hands and felt my heart pulse in my ears.
Micaela's small fingers reached up and pulled my hands away from my eyes. A grin, reaching from ear to ear, filled her face and she said, "Peek-a-boo!" I chuckled and remembered something I had learned that day called "The Manual".
It was on a podcast for weight loss where a physician was talking about relationships. She said, that often we are at odds with the people in our life simply because they are not acting in compliance to the "manual" we have in our heads about the way they are supposed to act. Usually, neither they nor us are aware of this detailed collection we have about the way they are supposed to act and talk. All we are aware of is our disappointment, anger, and frustration we feel when they don't toe the line.
Micaela has no idea her Mama expects her to read, go to the bathroom by herself, and behave like a normal human being. In her world, she just wants to talk about "owies" and play peek-a-boo. My expectations for her future get in the way of enjoying who she is. Period. And, it is not just her. I have manuals for all the people in my life that do not serve me in my interactions with them. Those expectations dirty the lens from which I view the people that I love.
We finished the homework and played peek-a-boo. I realized that on so many levels, making sure Micaela feels loved, balms both her soul and my own. I can do the hard work of helping her learn and grow, but I have to accept that she is the one who will do that learning and growing. Just like I have my own areas of imperfections in need of change.
God loves us beyond our brokenness with a complete and perfect love. I ask Him to give me a heart more like His as I parent my girls.
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
In what ways are your expectations for other people getting in the way of enjoying who they are?
I felt like my eyeballs were going to burst from my skull from the inner pressure of built-up frustration. Adela sat on the bed, oblivious to the fact that she only had one leg in her pants and launched into some long explanation of the eating habits of hippos. For some reason, she cannot dress and talk at the same time.
That same morning I had sifted through my Monday morning emails and found an article about being present for our children. I looked at the clock. The time was ticking for me to jump in the truck and go to work, but, wanting to be a "good" mom I took a breath and focused on my half-dressed 8-year-old.
Time slowed. I smiled. She was so stinkin' cute. Her entire face lit up as she described the animal's behavior she had learned in some book or another. Her hands lifted and waved with her words. Her expressions changed with her drama-filled explanation. My frustration was replaced by fascination as I watched this child alive with passion for animals.
Then she stopped. "So, now you know how they eat, Mama."
I blinked, just like that she was sliding her other leg into her pants and flipping back her hair. Moment done.
I think it was shame that fell over me next. I often ignore or brush off Adela's strange animal-fact-tirades. They are simply just not on my agenda. But, the whole thing had taken less than a minute and my eye-contact showed her how much I respected and loved her. What a small but very powerful gift I had been withholding from my precious daughter.
Micaela crawled out of bed and grabbed one shoe, shoving it at my face. "Mama, another one shoe?" I grabbed her other. She happily hugged them as we prepared her for school and handed them to me so we could fit them over her braces. She reached up and pushed her finger onto my nose and said, ever so sincerely, "Mama, I love your nose." I laughed and rubbed my nose against hers. "I love your nose, too."
Somewhere in the back of my mind I was aware of the clock ticking, but, for this moment, I didn't care so much. I was here, now.
Oh, how incredible it is to live in the present. Worry and fear are truly emotions that come from living in the future, agonizing on what might come. I am so thankful for that article Monday morning that has set the course for the week as I engage in the present with the people I love. It is the space where God slides peacefully into my spirit as I invite Him back in. It is the practice that gives me strength and perspective.
Where in life do you feel your own agenda gets in the way of being present for the people you love?
I cooked three different meals that we could re-heat, if needed, on the portable propane burners. I closed all the curtains. I filled pitchers with water and filled both bathtubs in case we lost power or our water lines froze. Jovani set up a portable gas heater and left it ready in case our heaters failed us.
We were as ready as we could be for the cold-snap that followed.
Even when we lived in Patagonia it never got to -7 degrees. While we prepared, I tried to hide my nerves from Adela who sees everything, but it didn't work. She finally pried the information from me. When I told her what was happening her eyes went wide and she went into action, working alongside me. She helped fill the pitchers then went and rounded up everyone's water bottles and filled them all up, too. Shortly it was time for bed. After a quick prayer to God, asking for His protection, she was sound asleep.
I watched her deep breathing and tucked her quilt in around tighter. What a delicate balance we live with our Heavenly Father. We must work but also trust. We must move forward but believe that He ultimately controls every outcome. We must prepare but have peace that God is our true Protector and Provider. Life is still teaching me how to keep this balance. I totally lean in to my own responsibilities and could prepare and plan endlessly. I often wait until I've reached the end of myself before turning to God and trusting Him with the rest.
Jovani had to haul hay during the cold snap and snow. A few times I went outside to break ice and do a handful of farm chores. The cold was biting and breath-taking. However, when I went to break ice for our ewes I stopped in amazement. Spread out in the pen sat our group of pregnant ewes. Fat and happy, they sat chewing their cud and blinking at me. The area was filled with peace. They were not frantically searching for shelter or pushing at each other trying to secure the best spot under the shed or next to the windbreak. They were utterly content. They had everything they needed with no thought that it all might go wrong for them later.
I broke ice and wandered back to the house. The scene of those peaceful ladies was still on my mind as I took off the multiple layers of clothing and warmed myself up with a cup of coffee. Micaela was stacking cans by the pantry. Adela was reading her latest copy of National Geographic Kids. Even my daughters were filled with peace and contentment.
I once heard Barb Mulvey from Hope Ahead Ministries explain it like this: God give us an umbrella of protection for today. However, when we become anxious, worrying about tomorrow, we step out from under the umbrella and are assaulted by all the what-if's.
I let out a deep breath and chose to settle into God's protection. Right then, right that moment, we were prepared for whatever might happen and we were warm and safe. After a few days, the temperature crawled back above freezing. I drained the bathtubs and poured out the pitchers of water. I was thankful that I had stopped worrying because the days were delightful with extra snuggles, books, movies, and bowls of popcorn. I would have missed out on it all if I had paced and worried instead of settling into trust.
How were you through the cold snap?
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"...and God was already there with me."