My soldier came home. My heart fills with thankfulness today, Memorial Day. My soldier came home. My husband came home after his last tour of Iraq. My brother returned home from Iraq as well.
Thank God for soldiers.
Thank God for their families.
Today we celebrated Memorial Day. We remembered those that died while in active military service. They sacrificed themselves for our country and what our country stands for. Something inside me shakes, realizing that countless families out there remember loved ones they have lost on this day. What incredible strength those families have.
Military families amaze me. It takes love and fortitude to keep a family healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally through many of the struggles that military families face.
Fathers and mothers must leave behind children, even babies, and travel to the other side of the world. Sometimes they don't come home for months and in the meantime pray that their child still can smile at them when they return. Wives and husbands have to keep marriages strong without physical touch and feeling detached from each other's daily lives. Beyond their immediate family, service men and woman and their spouses must move far from family. They have to uproot multiple times and find support within each other and the friends they will make along the way. And, when it is all over, when they are honorably discharged and packed back into boxes, they must begin their lives again. Some have to start college as forty year-olds. Some have to find where they belong in this civilian world.
This is not an easy life. But I know one thing.
God keeps them close.
He hears their prayers.
He hears their cries.
He smiles with every success.
He takes joy in the tight embraces with every departure and return.
He holds hands when some are lost.
He shelters families who look up to him for protection.
He honors the sacrifices of those who serve and those that stand behind them.
I just wanted to ask my readers today to pray for these men and women that serve our country and for their precious families.
May God continue to keep them close.
Above photo was used with permission from the Murray family.
Poor Marsha. That was all I could think as I tearfully rolled the stroller out of the school office. Poor Marsha whom I ambushed with sobs. I hadn't expected to be so emotional. They just said that Adela might benefit from some extra help and that they would do further testing in August. That is all. But to me it felt like the greatest catastrophe.
I called Jovani to tell him the horrific news. Don't laugh, but his reaction was disappointing. He did not join me in doom and gloom about our little girl's predicament. Instead, he frustrated me with his optimism.
"So she is going to get some extra help. That is great. Right? We know she is bright. And with everything going on with Micaela, Adela could use some attention. What is wrong?" Jovani looked at me so worried like I had grown an extra head.
What was wrong?
For the thousand answers I could give to that question, the truthful one was a little scary.
I want her to be exceptional, spectacular, amazing in the traditional ways that our society views success: a renown surgeon, the President, a NASA engineer, etc. *gulp* Yeah, cheesy, I know. And why do I want those things for her? Because it would show I have been successful as a parent.
Wow. I had not realized I felt that way until right then. I say all the right things about wanting Adela to be happy socially and have faith in God. My husband and I have talked about what she might do or be like and we always simply say that we hope she finds God's will for her. We hope she is happy.
But right there, right then, when the testing data showed Adela's possible difficulties, I had to face that my thoughts about Adela were not healthy. Not everyone one is going to be a surgeon or president. Look at me. I'm a stay-at-home mom. And I love it. Neither I nor my parents have ever been unhappy about that choice. My dad always tells me how proud he is of me, how truly happy he is about the path I am on.
Two close friends of mine recently shared their priorities when it comes to their children and they make so much sense that I have adopted them.
My friends Jessica who teaches preschool and has enough tricks up her sleeve to teach her little girl how to read and do multiplication before she starts kindergarten told me this: My most important goal for my little girl is for her to know how to make friends. She could do or be anything in life, but someone who isn't polite, kind, caring, and considerate will miss out on so much. (Her daughter is 3.)
My sister, Ada, with her normal touch of humor, said this: I want them, first of all to know God, to truly know Him. I want them to be kind to others and find something to do with their lives that makes them happy. And, honestly, I just want them to survive to adulthood. (Her three rambunctious little boys are ages 2, 4, and 5.)
Taking their cue I decided to take a stab at what I want for my little girls. I wrote down some healthy and loving goals I have for them.
* I want them to have a personal relationship with God.
* I want them to have friends and perhaps a family of their own.
* I want them to find and love whatever it is God has planned for them.
* I want them to always know that Jovani and I love them, no matter what.
That is all. And that is enough. Because if either one of our daughters was to be President of the United States but miss out on one of the points above then it would be very heartbreaking. But, if they were to do anything with their lives and fulfill all the points above, then I will shall be more than content.
This parenting business gets complicated when we don't have a crystal ball in front of us and cannot see what the futures of our children hold. But, hey, we can build foundations. We can focus on today.
And that is more than enough.
Photo above is of Ada's 5 year-old, Samuel and Jessica's 3 year-old, Tilly.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Every once in a while (ha, ha. I should say often. Very often) I second-guess where I am at Parenting. Am I too lenient? Too hard? Am I being too cautious? Am I pushing them too much? And I don't know the answers to any of it. I'm scared, bewildered, and angry.
Sometimes (yes, I mean often) it feels like too much. Too overwhelming that I must push them and prune them and make these precious little girls into grown women who will be ready for God's plan. I'm not good enough for this job. I lose my temper. I lose my drive, my energy, my focus. In the middle of Adela's worst tantrum I become powerless.
The deep defiance in those brown eyes breaks my heart.
Every trick is out of the bag. Every tactic deployed. The arsenal is empty and I still haven't reached that place where she will hear me and I can change her heart.
What am I to do now? The fury bubbles and whispers that I become bigger, stronger, and blistering. I can make her listen. I can end this. I can stop this. Because this is wrong.
But then would I be wrong too.
He answers, "Stand firm."
Strength seeps in me. I stand firm. I stay honest. I am unmoving, uncompromising. I love her and I will allow neither her nor I to become something ugly right now.
I Stand firm. Stand firm in all the right and good things that I am with God in me. I cannot be afraid. Love is and will always be stronger. Love is powerful. Within the love you have for that child you have all the patience, kindness, gentleness, and joy that will get you through this and every other moment when you have to stand firm and be a parent.
I stop second-guessing. Stop over-analyzing. Stop letting anger and fear sway and pressure me. I let love be bigger.
I stand firm.
Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.
I went for a run today. It was just repetitive circles in my driveway, but it was so much fun. In the middle of the morning I decided for the next half-hour I would work on exercising, nothing else. I would not even try to mentally plan how I would get something else done later that was highlighted orange on my list. No. Because, if I was going to truly do this one thing I was going to focus only on it for a while.
Micaela sat in the stroller and played with her water bottle. Adela visited our kittens. And me, I just ran.
I feel like I'm finally breathing again.
It has been a really busy week with a hundred struggles, but I look back on the last few days and my heart is light. I can smile without having to think about creating the expression. Goodness, I found myself grinning while I pulled weeds this morning. Finally, life feels manageable.
Deciding to cut multitasking from my life is such an amazing change.
Now, mommies, when the kids are awake we never really stop multitasking. We can't, because we are keeping an eye on our children and being social with them no matter what we are doing. However, sometimes, when we focus just on them, we are actually, truly doing one thing.
Ah. Yes. One thing at a time.
The biggest change that cutting out multitasking and beginning this new 'monotasking' regime has done for me is given me grace. I have to pick one thing to focus on and tell myself not to worry about the list. I could come back to the list when I had finished a task. And, when the girls inevitably interrupted my focus then I would not try to juggle them too. Instead, I would switch gears, be mom-only for a few minutes and not worry about that either.
Our bodies physically are limited at how much they can do at one time. Our minds can focus on multiple issues. Those habits were stressing me out so much more than I realized. I would do Micaela's therapy and become frustrated at how long it would take. My mind would start sorting out bills or scheduling another load of laundry. And, becoming worried at how much was on my plate, I would leave poor little Micaela much sooner than she needed.
For me, 'monotasking' is simply a change in focus. It is telling myself "Lora, you are doing Micaela's therapy right now. That is all you are doing. You are going to move these little feet and encourage her. You are going to enjoy her smiles and giggles. You are going to thank God that He made you a mother. And that is all. Yes, the dryer went off, but those clothes will still be there when we finish this. So, focus. Move that little foot. Isn't she amazing?"
Want to hear something funny? My house is just as clean as it always is. Nothing spectacular. I did get less writing done, but, I finally put in the garden. There were rough things that happened. I took our three-year-old to Child Find to see if she needed speech services (she is bilingual and delayed in speech) and found out that she is delayed in all areas and might have vision issues. Our bathroom flooded. A care-coordinator gently brought it up that Micaela might have extensive needs her whole life and that we should start putting things in place to help her and our family such as respite care. There has been a roller-coaster of emotions and a lot of long days. But, like I said, I'm still smiling.
Goodness, I just feel good.
One thing at a time.
And this experience has me second guessing why this multitasking skill became suddenly so important in our society. I did not even know how to eat sitting down, not looking at my phone, my kindle, or my computer. It felt strange to sit down and stare at my children while they ate, too. And, it was such a great time to talk with them. Or, when I ended up finally getting nutrition after everyone else, I had a lot of prayer time while I chewed.
I wrinkle my nose and bite the inside of my cheek as I recognize that I've taken a lot of pride in my multitasking skills. My "time management" talents.
Why was that more important than enjoying life?
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
"Great Moms Multitask." Raise your hand if you've heard this or some version of this statement. I can raise my hand, my other hand, both feet, my ponytail...okay, you get the picture. We hear it all the time. Good mom's know how to juggle their to-do list while they handle the needs of their children, keep their home clean and inviting, and strongly invest in their marriage.
"I'm a good mom." I tell myself. "If other moms can do that, then I can do that too."
But all the while the pressure builds. Life becomes a game of trying to do as many things at one time as possible. Forget doing the dishes. I can do the dishes while answering Adela's questions about the universe, listening to an online motivational speaker, encouraging Micaela to crawl, and mentally planning dinner.
And that pressure, the one that builds under the surface as we recognize deep down that we are not doing anything really well anymore, that pressure undermines our love for all of it.
Suddenly I've had it. I've had enough. Enough of with dishes. Done with three year-old's nosy curiosity. Done with begging Micaela to show me something incredible. Done listening to Joyce Meyer talk about attitude. And I definitely don't care what dinner is going to be. Sadly, that is only after about half-an-hour to 45 minutes of 'multitasking'.
Hmm, I thought, I don't really know how to do this very well. I guess I am a mediocre mom, not a great or good mom. If I was I would still be smiling.
I ran across an article this morning that challenged others to stop multitasking and start 'monotasking'.
The theory is sound.
If we devote ourselves to one thing at a time then we do it better. Our stress level stays low. And we feel successful.
We just need to give ourselves some grace.
Mom's are multitaskers, duh. We have to be. But when God gave us the ability to care for more than one thing at a time, he gave us a gift to care for our families and to be productive. He did not give us a superpower to be abused to the point that we don't want to do it anymore.
This is going to be hard for me, but I am taking the challenge. I am going to stop multitasking. I am going to do one thing at a time and do it well.
I'm a little scared. My to-do lists are massive. The needs of my girls rest all on me. I have a lot of pride in the way my home and family is cared for.
But, I know this is right. I don't want to do Micaela's therapy anymore while I mentally worry about everything else on the list. I don't want to help Adela color and cut paper while I agonize about how long it seems to take.
I'm tired of not being all there for them. I'm tired of feeling like I'm not really there for anything.
Yes, this a big commitment, to say that whatever I am doing I am going to give it all my body, mind, and heart.
It is time for change.
Perhaps we could all use a little less multitasking and more "monotasking" in our lives.
Article sighted: http://www.mumsmakelists.com/2014/10/hey-busy-mums-stop-multitasking-start-monotasking/
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
She found it at school weeks ago. Her preschool teacher said that Adela picked it up at lunch and would not let it go. With our callused adult eyes it is a bent plastic bottle cap, but to Adela it is amazing. She said it was a clam and it is now queen of her shell collection. She talks to it and has made it the mama of all the tiny seashells.
Last night as I was picking up toys I stared at the bizarre thing and laughed.
And then I became just a little sad.
One of these days she is going to pick up this bottle cap and realize that it is just trash.
Our perceptions, even as stable adults, are constantly changing and shifting. The things that we prioritize or treasure morph and evolve.
Not too long ago one of my favorite activities was to go to the mall and shop for cute tops and dresses. Now, if someone were to give me the afternoon off I would want nothing more than to put on the most comfortable sweats I owned, crawl into bed, and read. The mall would not even be thought of.
You think about it, and generally, hopefully, the changes are good. They signal maturity and an ability to better prioritize our resources. But, as I stare at that bottle cap "shell" I was horrifically aware of the fact that there is so little in my life that I allow to be "special". I brush over and rush so many things. I don't make room for tiny miracles and precious blessings because I am so focused on what I believe is most important in life. My heart would have never seen a bottle cap-shell, never considered a treasure. No, my heart would have put it in the trash and been somewhat offended that another being had left trash around.
There is a reason kids are happier than us.
They see joy and promise surrounding them so thick that they are excited simply to get up and go outside in the morning.
Oh, I know I will never have the sight of a child again, there is too much life that my eyes have seen and my heart has lived to really be that way again. Yet I am so thankful that as a mom I get to taste that love for life as I watch my girls.
I get to watch babies play with wrapping paper and tissue more than the toys they receive for their birthday. I get to have weeds brought to me because they are flowers even if they grew uninvited. I get to watch tiny hands pet puppies and kittens with unconditional love and awe. I get to laugh with them when a picnic made of toy food is ever more fun that a real meal.
Some days I wonder if my heart grows younger even when the gray hairs keep coming.
God, you just keep sneaking amazing amounts of love and beauty into my life.
A bucket of beans is all it took this morning to entertain the girls as I did some paperwork. Beans. They didn't need anything else. Yet, as they played and scattered those tiny little lumps throughout the house it was pretty hard for me to have patience. Why couldn't they play with something just a little more organized? Something not quite so messy?
I forget to rejoice in the beautiful simplicity of these early childhood years.
I want order and reliable schedules. I want a clean, quiet house in which I can think. Not a home where every second I have to take a deep breath and pray for God to help me keep my lid on.
But, this really is an amazing stage in life.
As the girls played with beans on the kitchen floor Adela pretended to make an angel in the "snow". She invited Micaela to play with her and shared the excitement of throwing those beans up in the air. Micaela gleefully practiced picking up the tiny things with her thumb and forefinger.
They were so happy. They were so happy with a bucket of beans.
I know this stage in life can be trying, but isn't that just life? There will always be things that try us and test us, but we were never told to focus on the bad things.
Last week when I held on to sanity with that last ounce of self-will, I made a horrible mistake. I kept my eyes on the test instead of on God. I dwelt on the hurt instead of the One that heals. I thought about how much I wished I could get done instead of how much my good health and situation allows me to do every single day. I thought how much more Micaela needs to learn instead of how far she has already come. (I mean, oh my goodness, she is crawling!) I thought about Adela's frustrating experimentation with breaking rules instead of the promise she has in life because we are teaching her boundaries.
This is hard, this stage in life, but it is never going to get easier until we lift our eyes and choose to see God above all that frustrates our hearts.
God saw the spilled beans, too, this morning. But I doubt he was biting his tongue, stomping his feet, and wishing to grab the broom. I bet he was down on that kitchen floor with my girls and enjoying the marvel of little hands that could love something so simple as a bucket of beans.
I'm going to get there. I'm going to get to a point in my heart's life when I don't see the mess but see the life. God's working on me. He's working.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I watched in horror as the cat walked down the road. She was leaving her kittens. Just like that. Through the kitchen window her body became a solitary black dot far down the dirt road. She was gone.
Minnie, the cat, had went on walkabout and left her two-week old kittens behind.
Why would she do that? It was so random. She literally had not left the shed since the kittens had been born. I had been bringing her food and water and placing it right beside her nest. She was safe and warm and content. And now she was gone.
Those kittens must have got real annoying.
I blinked and shook my head. I squashed down a slightly jealous feeling. A walkabout sounds pretty good.
It has been one of those weeks. It just has. The blahs battle the anger which battles the exhaustion and not one of them wins. Getting burnt out on our 24/7 job of mom/wife/cook/cleaner/care-coordinator/therapist/animal-caretaker/and-everything-else is simply going to happen.
We are human. Human. Human. Human.
But, what are we going to do about it? The neurotic mess in me wants to pout indefinitely. The self-sufficient motivator in me wants to keep pushing on and pretend like all is hunky-dory.
The truth is that we need a break.
We need other people.
We need friends and mothers, sisters and brothers, that can laugh off the ongoing lunacy of life.
We need to stop all this mad multitasking and simply be for a little while. Because we are really just one person.
One soul. One set of hands.
Let that sink in and give a little love to yourself, to you. Just you.
Perhaps the cat had to step away, just for a moment, so she could breathe.
God loves all us little mothers. That is part of you, too.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
The sunrise was magnificent this morning, brushing the sky with pink and orange and red. There were clouds thick above the farms and ranches and the glowing ball only had a few minutes when it was not obstructed by earth or storms. I snapped this picture and stood back to stare.
I could feel God's peace surrounding me, in me. The girls were still asleep. The birds were trying out their voices. The day was beginning.
Oh, God, I prayed, I just want to stay here. I wish I could pause indefinitely.
Then I felt a stirring, an answer. And I could almost hear His voice.
I think that if I had listened more carefully I would have heard Him say,
"Daughter, I have made this day for you. It is perfect.
Little girls will wake hungry, impatient, and you will be taught to think of others.
The air will be chilly at first and it will remind you to be thankful for warmth and shelter.
Your oldest daughter will have one of those days where she whines and it will teach you patience.
Your youngest daughter will need more hugs today and it will make your heart grow just a little bigger.
There will be phone calls to make so that you can be kind to strangers.
There will be a point, right before naptime, where you are sure you will lose your mind, and that is when you will remember to come back to Me.
And when the day is done, and the girls giggle in their beds, you will sip a cup a tea and see that I am Lord of all.
I made this day for you. And I made yesterday and tomorrow. You have nothing to be afraid of.
This is your day, my daughter. This is your day."
"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."
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"...and God was already there with me."