"Ain't she a little darling?" The woman's voice shocked me out of my weary perusal of the different kinds of canned tomatoes. I managed to smile at her and then turned my eyes to the "little darling".
My eyes widened and I gasped. "No! Micaela, no!" Somehow she had got a hold of the bag of apples and had chewed on one so much through the bag that she had reduced it to applesauce. Micaela gave me a slobbery grin and continued gnawing until I pried the bag free. Then the "little darling" balled her hands into fists and screamed.
I turned apologetically to the woman. What must she think of me? It was obvious that Micaela must have chewed on that apple for several minutes to accomplish such a disaster. I had been ignoring the child that sat right in front of me on the cart.
But when I turned to the lady her eyes were full of nothing less than love. Adela popped her head out from the side of the cart and said, "Hi."
The lady smiled at Adela and looked back to me. "You have two precious girls. I bet they are a handful. I bet they are well-loved, too. Nice to see that. You are doing a good job, mamma." She patted my hand and moved her own cart along down the ailse. My mouth was open like a fish. I closed it and felt my eyes sting a little.
What she said to me was pure and simple something said to build me up. She hadn't needed to do that. She could have been justified in a dozen ways to offer advice or even lecture me a bit. But she didn't. She found something positive she could tell me and she strengthened me with those words of love.
Lord knew I needed that. Trips to the store are trying. Adela wants to explore and Micaela wants to chew on everything or toss it out of the cart. By the time we leave I'm an exhausted, snappy, defeated mamma. But that day I left the store feeling more like a conqueror and less like the wounded civilian.
Behind someone's back and to their face, our words should always come from love. I know I am guilty of not always doing this. I get angry or feel scandalized and what I speak tears down more than it builds up. It reminds me of a child building a castle out of blocks. It only takes a tiny nudge to send the whole thing tumbling down, but it takes careful concentration and energy to build it up.
I hope my words always reflect the love and consideration that woman showed me that day. Our words should give someone strength and peace and joy when they talk to me and never the opposite. May what we speak to others always be full of truth and encouragement.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
I had my hands full of unbaked pumpkin bread when Adela burst into the house with big news: She had found "all the eggs in the world."
Now, when your four year-old tells you something like that, you don't quite take it seriously. Not quite. I looked down at the pans in my hands and sighed. The kitchen was a mess. A big mess. Micaela's glasses had came off again and I had meat cooking for enchilades. I was not ready for Adela to find "all the eggs in the world."
But, something inside me hinted that I needed to pay attention to whatever it was she was excited about. I gulped back frustration, put the bread in the oven, turned off the stove, and gathered up Micaela and her glasses. Triumphantly Adela led us outside and into the shed to show us her great find.
It was a great find. I had to chuckle when she showed me it. Hidden under the work bench on the wall of the shed, behind empty storage buckets, was a huge cache of eggs. Finally we had found where the chickens had been laying when they aren't locked up in the coop. I handed a couple coffee cans to Adela and let her slender body wiggle to the back and load up "all the eggs in the world."
I loved Adela's dusty smile as she gathered and counted her booty. Her brown eyes sparkled when I kissed her and let her know I was proud. She talked about it all day.
Surprises are not an easy thing for me. My reaction to anything unplanned or spontaneous is innitially negative. But, with God, that is changing. It is great to have a plan and be organized, but some of the sweetest memories of my life have been in the unforeseen moments. When I give up and give in to life I find that I am finally living it. I am living in faith. I am living in joy for whatever God gives me.
Adela's find was a good reminder for me to embrace things that go against my own plans. Life is so much sweeter when when we give up crontrol of it to God.
Of course, when Adela brought me a live mouse a couple hours later...well, I figured it was a good time for a bath followed by pumpkin bread.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I have the most distorted view of time and my abilities. I must. I make lists that are never finished on time and goals that always end up with pushed-back deadlines. When I mark something off or cross it out my eyes move to what needs to happen next. My heart is heavy.
In my head I have failed and continue to come up short.
This afternoon I got out my Bible because I promised God I would use some of Micaela's naptime for him. I waded through some of the Old Testament until I got to the part in 2 Chronicles where they are dedicating the Temple. Did you know that those people partied for two weeks? I read and reread the passage because something about it irked me. Two weeks. Didn't they have fields to plant? Job to do? Babies? Homes? Two weeks, really? Why?
Because it was important.
Celebrating was important.
Celebrating is important.
I never celebrate. When Micaela reaches a milestone I report it to the therapists and move to work on the next skill. When Adela establishes a new habit I pat her on the back and think about what we should learn next. When Jovani finishes a stage on our little ranch I ponder what struggles the next stage will bring. When I write another page in my book I wonder how much editing it will take before it is publisher-worthy.
I never celebrate.
How awful. As I read and re-read the passage of the dedication of the Temple I was struck by the power of celebration. Celebration was not just dancing and music and goofing off. Celebration set aside time to reflect on how good God had been to them. It was time to praise their Lord, and share that story with others who might not have known or understood. Without celebration the Temple would have simply stood silent, a quiet passing into existance.
Goodness, I need celebration in my life. I need to reflect on God's grace each time my little family finishes something. I need to praise Him when I have the energy and time to do even a single house chore on my list. I need to joyfully share with others how great He is.
Time to start scooping up some joy and pouring it on all that surrounds me and makes up my world.
And, I will celebrate.
You are not the man I married.
The man I married had never fixed bows in little girls hair or rocked a feverish body. The man I married had never laughed with me watching toddler feet discover bugs and tumbles. He had never snuggled tiny bodies to his chest and watched monitors confirming their every breath.
The man I married had never held my hand at the most painful moments of our lives. He had never wrapped me in his arms when we had both hit rock-bottom and told me, "It's going to be okay."
You've changed, you know. You like a good time as much as you ever did, but a day of solid work you are more pleased to call your own. I did not know this man when we slid rings onto our younger fingers.
You are not the man I married.
You have more callouses now, more scars. You think about things like Life Insurance and baby-proofing cabinets. You work not just to put money in the bank but also to show your daughters integrity and perseverance. You believe in church and dreams and hope.
Who you are now is so much more than I could have ever wished for. You are the man who tells me at every meal that he loved my cooking and was thankful, even if it was his fourth meal of the same leftovers. You are the man who asks me about our girls with the same interest and excitement as you give to livestock sales and new cars. You are the man who surrenders a potential morning of longer sleep because little girls crawled under the covers with you and wanted tickles and stories and to stomp around in the pasture with you.
You are not the same at all. We are not the same. We tell way too many silly inside jokes and think about health insurance. We talk about the strange, the mundane, family, politics,...everything. You know my every hope and fear and encourage me constantly.
Marriage has to be one of the most beautiful experiences on Earth. I love the way it grows us and changes us and makes us daily into stronger people as we live this life together.
A month ago I read an article written my a tired mother titled, Dear Husband: I'm Not the Person You Married and it made me sad. The lady in the article seemed worried and angry that she wasn't the same wife to her husband that she had been when they married. But, I doubt her husband saw her that way. None of us are the same, but we are beautiful and growing into God's plans for us. And everyday I'm thankful I am on this journey with the man God chose for me.
There are a lot of things I don't do well. I'm not much of a gardener. Even house plants are forever doomed once they enter my home. I have no eye for decorating. If I were given a ton of money to redo my home it would up looking like a strange collection of objects gathered on walls, or everything would simply stay bare since it feels more sane that way. I am also pitiful at ironing clothes or remembering to get stains out of anything.
I don't have those gifts. But thankfully, there are other things I'm good at.
Have you ever thought about your gifts? Your talents? If you haven't, you should. God has given us all a unique set of abilities that are different than anyone else. And some of us, if we never think about what we do well, we will never consider giving of the best of ourselves to others.
This Sunday when we went to pick up the girls from their weekend stay with Jovani's parents, I also had a birthday dinner to enjoy. The food was excellent, as always. My mother-in-law is always blessing others with her amazing cooking. And then there was a gorgeous cake decorated by our dear friend Claudia. I always love seeing one of her creations. They are works of art. But it is her heart behind those spectacular deserts that awe me even more. Claudia is a giver. She loves finding others to bless and her cakes bring so much joy to others. They help her connect with people. They make people feel loved, unique, and special. It is such a beautiful talent, one that she hasn't squandered away.
In the bible Jesus told a precious parable about three servants given different amounts of money before their master went away. Two out of the three invested the money and when the master returned they were able to give him double what he had left with them. But the last servant hid his money, afraid to take it and lose it. That money did not do anything but sit buried in soil. The master was so pleased with the two servants that had took a chance and did something with those assets that he shared with them of all his belongings. However, the last servant was sent away and given nothing at all. (Matthew 25:14-30)
I sat on a chair and indulged in a lovely Tres Leches cake. I pondered the talents that God gives his children. None of those abilities are small when they are used for His purposes. But they have to be used. They have to be taken into the world in order to make a difference. That can be a pretty frightening idea for many of us. We would prefer to keep our abilities safe within our own home and family than risk exposing ourselves to critisism. However, accepting what you are good at and bringing it out into the world with faith can be the most liberating experience you ever had. When you can do that you can tell the world, "See, this is who I am. This is how God made me. This is how I give. This is me."
May not one of us ever feel unacceptable. All of us have amazing things to give.
All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the Lord has commanded.
When we first brought Micaela home from the hospital she was a very needy baby. For the first nine months simply feeding her took about nine hours out of the day since she had to be fed by a machine, given intensive oral therapy to try to get her to eat, and I was still pumping to provide breast milk. Then there were all the therapists and specialists and nurse visits. Two care coordinators and a pediatrician all suggested that I accept some respite care for her. I refused. In my mind she was just a baby and I was perfectly capable of handling her life. And I did handle it. And I handled everything else. I coped. I survived. I grew stronger. I didn't need help.
I stayed in my little shell of self-sufficiency and ignored the heartache.
The truth was, we could've all used a little bit more support but it was my pride that denied it. Adela needed my time too. My home, my marriage, all of it was held together by God's grace. I had never been pulling us through with any sort of power of my own. When we moved back to my home-town community in rural New Mexico I started to feel again what it is to be loved and supported by those who live close enough to help and hug. I remembered that it takes a village to raise a child. My husband's parents live closer now too and are often having their granddaughters over for a visit. There is a break in the pressure I have put on myself because I said yes to help.
I finally said yes.
Guess what? There was no condemnation from the world. There was no feelings of shame. Honestly, I feel like my world has simply gotten bigger as the love expands outwards instead of being horded inside my home. Watching someone else chuckle as they hold Adela's hand or cuddle Micaela's soft body makes my heart fill with joy.
This weekend was quiet. Jovani's parents asked if they could give me a weekend off as my birthday present. I gratefully accepted. In the silent home my heart had a lot of time to think about how much I have changed in the last few months. The shocking reality is that when God strips away our pride, or devotion to self-sufficiency, our hearts have more room for peace and our lives have more space for His grace.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
And now there are glasses.
In truth, we were not surprised or upset. We knew she might need them. When we got them in the mail and put them on her tiny little face, both my husband and I couldn't help but grin ear to ear. She looks ridiculously cute.
However, I am now about fives days in with the glasses and already more than a little frazzled. Guess what a toddler does when you put glasses on? That's right, they take them off. Now, don't get me wrong, when she is distracted and playing they stay mostly on. But the moment she is bored or sleepy that eye-gear has become a very handy mommy-magnet for Micaela. Tonight when dinner no longer looked appealing and the machine still had several minutes to go to finish her feed, Micaela grabbed up her glasses with egg-salad hands, tore them off her face, and waved them in the air. When I scolded she gave me that cheeky grin.
Having a 'different' child can weigh on a mama from time to time. I look at Micaela now with her glasses, ankle & foot braces, and G-tube and sometimes she overwhelms me. It is scary to look into the future and wonder. Fear has a whole other meaning when your child has been given a different chance at life.
It was with thoughts like these running through my head that I ran across an old verse. "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (Psalm 139:14) I stopped and stared at the words. Through the eyes of a mother, they mean something new to me.
Micaela was fearfully and wonderfully made. Adela was fearfully and wonderfully made. God wove them carefully into who they are knowing full-well the bumps and bruises they were set up against. He made their bodies just as strong or weak as they are. He made their minds and instincts. He set those little souls right here--our daughters.
I've been struggling with this for a long time, this battle against perfection and what it means for how my girls grow. Though in my deepest heart I know that it is wrong for me to insist that they mold themselves into my ideal, I wrestle with so many fearful thoughts about what they will be in life.
But, they were fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Their very hearts were specifically crafted and shaped just like this. What could be more beautiful? What could be more perfect than what is made by God?
Surrounded by friends and family today, my husband and I felt very blessed. We finally got our hay baled, off the ground, and stored. So, this was our Labor Day, full of labor, but abounding in God's goodness.
Happy Labor Day.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord
I just couldn't do it. I couldn't believe how difficult it was to give God ten minutes. I gripped the coffee in my hands and stared out onto the quiet mist-covered pastures. Even the fog seemed to close in on me, reminding me that I was supposed to be concentrating on Him, not letting my mind wander to the day ahead and how good the sweet warm coffee felt on my scratchy throat.
The fog began to melt off. I could feel time leak away. How long had I been outside holding a teacup? I regretted not bringing my phone out with me so I could keep track of time.
What time? God's time? Wasn't He welcome to all my time? Why wasn't my heart cooperating? Why wasn't my mind relaxing? This was supposed to be a good investment of meaningful prayer time, not moments fretted away as I stomped around my front yard worried about getting dew-soaked pajama pants.
I've forgotten how to do this.
Once upon a time there was a young woman who could spend hours outdoors talking to her God and contemplating life with Him. But not anymore. My mind and heart are pretty crowded places these days and the noise isn't outside, it is inside me.
I looked at the house and saw the sun begin to glint off the windows. It really was time to go in. Time to prep breakfast and convince Adela to eat a bowl of cereal. It was time to kiss Micaela's tiny feet as I pried off her sweaty braces from a night of encased sleep.
So I did. I left my attempted seclusion and went back to life.
When life slowed down enough for me to find some answers I dove into my bible and a few google searches. My big question was, "How to pray?" Not just how to talk to God, but how to connect with Him. How to quiet your mind and still your heart so you can meet with him and blissfully spend time with Him.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
There is a reason I've forgotten how to do this--I don't do this anymore. I practice faith daily. Hope sustains me. Love is what keeps me moving. But prayer...yeah, I need to practice. My popcorn prayers of tiny wishes zapped off to God in the heat of the moment isn't giving me the peace that my soul craves. And that soul is good at letting us know when things are out of balance.
So practice. Apparently spending one morning outdoors stomping around in the fog is not going to fix my prayer life. But I'm a determined soul.
And, I'm going to learn how to pray.
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"...and God was already there with me."