Friday, February 3, 2012

Zippers and Egos

It's a rite of passage that all children must go through, the "embarrassing parent" moments. You know, the comments meant to expose you and embarrass you in front of God and everyone, such as “I’ll miss you!” or “Mommy loves you!” and the ever popular “Make good choices!” I lived through it and now laugh about it and sometimes it winds up in a skit…or a blog post.

But as my sweet, southern mother would say after I whined about my Dad sending my boyfriend a tape of me singing, "God is building character in your life". And I fell for it.

Well, now it's my turn. The torch has been passed. The student becomes the master. But in order to fly the flag of Embarrassing Parent one must acquire a child who will succumb to the humiliation of being in such a family. A child who will cower in fear and submit to a higher power that has the ability to take you out of this world and make another one just like you.

We have two children in which to inflict such pain and humiliation upon. But only one can be swayed by threats of hugging in front of his friends or blowing kisses while he's on the soccer field.

No...the other, the older, the wiser, the unaffected...will not be moved. In fact, she welcomes it. "Bring it on!" is her motto. "Do your worst!" She is unafraid. She will gladly wave and blow kisses to "mommy" and respond with "you're the coolest" to my "make good choices" battle cry when dropping her off at school. She proudly exits the car at school when my hair is unkempt and I’m still in the t-shirt I wore to bed. Don’t dare her to do stuff. She will wind up in jail. She is a rock. Non-embarrassable. Non-self-conscious.

Until today.

After dropping off my beautiful, talented, well-liked daughter at school I noticed something a little off about the jeans she was wearing. Now, Rachel has had a problem with this since...well...birth. For Graham, it's keeping his shoes tied. For Rachel, it's been this particular oversight that she's never been mindful of or cared about until someone pointed it out, and with a shrug of her shoulders and an "oh thanks" she would fix the problem and carry on with her life. No big deal.

I have searched far and wide for the chink in Rachel's armor. Her Achilles heel. And today I found it. And now that she's in middle school this particular thing holds new meaning, unbeknownst to me. So with love in my heart and nothing but the best of intentions, as Rachel waved goodbye and we exchanged "I love you's", I rolled the window down and declared:

"Honey, zip your pants!"

The next few seconds happened in slow motion. The freezing in mid-stride. The slowly turning around in utter mortification. The eyes as wide as saucers. I had done it. I had finally embarrassed my daughter

She took it all in stride and with good humor. I honestly didn’t mean to embarrass her. It was just a bonus to my Friday. She checked her zipper to make sure that they were, in fact, zipped and gave me a “Mooommm!!”

As parents, we don’t mean our children harm. But somewhere in the parent manual it says that you’re supposed to remind your children of their place in the world. It’s the same reason I read her emails and text messages. I want to know who she’s talking to and about what. She understands that she’s not entitled. There are things we must endure in life, and well-intentioned but oftentimes ego-busting parents are one of them.

I know that for myself, God laughs and says to the saints and angels around him “Hey, you wanna see something funny?” and then proceeds to put me in my place. Whether it be tripping while walking down the sidewalk, waving at a stranger I thought I knew, or asking that lady in Wal-Mart when she’s due…you get the rest of that story. It’s the natural order of things. It happens to all of us and will continue to happen for the rest of our lives. It’s just that the older you get, the less you care.

But I have to laugh, because it reminds me that I am not perfect. There will always be things out of my control. I am human and God is God. And that is such a good thing.

Originally posted May 2010.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In Response to "Don't Carpe Diem"

I hate conflict. Hate it. I don't like it all. I feel uncomfortable contradicting someone. Especially when everyone is so excited about what that person is saying.

Which is why I really hate posting this blog, but I feel as if I need to do so. But just a side note, this seriously puts my stomach in knots and makes my hands shake, but here goes.

There has been a blog post circulating called "Don't Carpe Diem". The first time I read it, I got the warm fuzzies that are intended for the reader. But I also got some ringing bells, a few sirens, and a whole bunch of red flags.

As Christian women we have got to be careful about what we accept as good advice. Let's just break down the Don't Carpe Diem post.

The blogger writes about older women ("little old ladies") telling her to "carpe diem":

"I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn't work for me."

First off, if you KNOW that something is right and good, as Christians, shouldn't it work for you? To say that you know what to do that is right and good but that you "can't" is to say God can't work in you.

"Being confident of this, He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." Philippians 1:5

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come! The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Second, the blogger says, ”I felt guilty because I wasn't in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn't MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing."

But the Bible says,

"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

The blogger goes on to say that she is not able to enjoy every moment and that she simply cannot carpe diem.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
James 1:2-3

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12 Or as the NIV Reader's Version says, "Teach us to realize how short our lives are."

Yes, I know the main point of the blog is that we can't always be shiny, happy people when our kids are screaming and pooping and throwing things. And I know that it gets overwhelming and frustrating when we get told "what to do" by the women who have boldly gone before us.

Which, by the way,

"Then they (older women) can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:4-5

Want to rock that Titus Woman's world that feels compelled to give you advice in Target and tells you to enjoy it because it goes by so fast? Ask her how she did it. Tell her you're having a hard time and would love to know specifically what she did to enjoy every single moment. Not in a sarcastic condescending way, but with true curiosity and a desire to learn from your elder. That is absolutely God's design.

I understand the sentiment of what the blogger is getting at. But friends, sisters in Christ, we must be on our guard when messages look like they're great advice. She's saying that this message of "seizing the day" and "making the most of every opportunity" is really hard and doesn't work for her. Okay. But shouldn't we try? Just because it's hard and a fact that every mother (and father) suffers through and endures, shouldn't we give it a go since that's what the Bible tells us to do? Is it ever okay to say, "Well, that's just the way that I am, so that's the way I'm going to be"?

"Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."
Philippians 2:12-13

We're actually called to be perfect.

"Be perfect, as I am perfect." Matthew 5:48

James 1:1-4 lays out how we achieve perfection, or completeness.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

God's not saying be Martha Stewart perfect. Or even those "mamas in the parenting magazines" perfect. In all honesty, I don't think anyone is. But we should be ever moving forward, becoming Christ-like. God has given us everything we need to be able to achieve perfection.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3

He says to "be perfect, like I am perfect." Not like the mom who has 5 kids, volunteers in all of their classes, sews all of her kids clothes, while cooking her way through Julia Childs cookbook.

Perfect like Christ.

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:1-5

I'm not even saying that her sentiment is bad. It's really, really hard (really hard) to be a parent and to filter the 942 bits of advice from everybody and their mother and not feel overwhelmed.

The problem with the blogger's post is that she has some truth mixed in with contradictions to scripture. And I believe that at the first sign of contradiction to God's Word, we should turn and run the other way. Otherwise, what a great way for Satan to get his foot in the door.

Let's say, for instance, that Truth is a sterile operating room in a hospital. If even one person enters in the operating room that hasn't scrubbed their hands and arms and hasn't put their mask on, then the whole room is tainted and the surgeons and nurses have to start all over again. It's useless.

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-7 about "having a form of godliness but denying it's power." Paul's got some stuff to say about the nature of women. Yipes. I didn't write it. Paul did. So take it up with him. (My husband made me put that scripture in so you can take it up with him too.)

As a mom of two young teenagers, I've made tons of mistakes. I'm sure my kids could write a book one day of all the things that Randy and I have done wrong. But I do know that God has entrusted me with their souls and that terrifies me. Therefore, a plan that Randy and I have is that when our kids are acting outside of God's will- when they are being defiant, or painting my car with craft paint, or smearing their poop all over the wall, or asking very loudly why that woman is so fat, or running out into the street, or lying from their face to my face…it's an opportunity to teach them. It does not make me happy, but I can find the joy because I know for a fact that He is making them. And He is making me. And we will always…always…measure up advice against God's word. Even from those blessed "little old ladies".

So I will carpe diem. Every day. And I believe that if I'm not, I really should be.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Prayer and Target

This morning I couldn't find a container for Spaghettio's that would fit in Rachel's lunch box. When I finally found something, the floor of my kitchen looked like a Rubbermaid factory exploded (but only with containers…no lids.) After dumping the can of Spaghettio's into the container and nuking it for a minute in the microwave, I promptly burned my hand on the molten lava tomato-y goodness that Rachel insisted she had to have for lunch that day. I snapped at my kids on our way out of the door to go to school. I know, it wasn't very Proverbs 31 or WWJD of me. They just banked it for some other time when they did something they didn't mean to do.

It was not a great start to the day.

Later that morning, as I was cleaning out my inbox on my computer, I ran across an old email that reminded me of a painful experience from a long time ago. It's amazing how just when you think you've moved on, a reminder of a difficult time just punches you in the face and suddenly I'm weighed down with that old feeling of not being good enough.

I busied myself with errands, trying to be productive and get some things done that I had been putting off. After taking one look at the line for vehicle registration to get my tags renewed and deciding we'd live on the edge for a few more days, I drove to the other side of town to a store where I had ordered something they didn't have in stock. They informed me that it wouldn't be in until tomorrow and wanted the name of the employee who gave me the wrong information. I insisted I heard her wrong and it was my fault. They rolled their eyes and said to come back tomorrow.

After striking out with two of my three errands, I found myself in my favorite happy place. Target. I only needed a sprayer for the hose in my backyard, but it still makes me glad to walk into that place. I have no idea what it is…packaging, maybe? The smell of freshly popped popcorn? The dollar section? The color red? Yes, yes, yes and yes.

So there I am, in the farthest corner of Target, still feeling kind of bummed because I haven't yet gotten a clue that the past does not define me, when I got a text message on my phone. It was from my friend, Sarah, who lives in South Carolina saying that she had prayed for me that day. For whatever reason, God had laid me on her heart and she obeyed by interceding for me.

I thought, "Well that was nice of her." It was nice to be prayed for.

But then something happened on the inside of me. Deep down in my guts. There in the lawn and garden section of Target- where a woman was speaking so loudly on her phone about Kaitlin's Girl Scout troop and what time she needed to be at the birthday party and that Addison loves Barbie so she would just pick one up and put it in a gift bag because that would be easier and save time- I just had a moment of clarity.

God had set all this up. I felt unworthy. Not unworthy…worthless. And as if on cue, my friend who is so in love and in tune with her Heavenly Father, was told to pray for me all the way in Texas and did so.

To be honest- and you're going to be shocked and I know you'd never think this- I thought, "Wouldn't it have been kind of cool if something REALLY serious was going on in my life? Like a fatal disease or a job loss or car accident?"

It would've made a much better story. But it was just a simple illustration of God at work in my life on an otherwise ordinary day. I was having a little bit of a low moment and God used my friend to say, "You're on my mind. Snap out of it."

What did I glean from this extraordinary moment?

Number one, that my self-esteem is not defined by an incident, or what a person thinks or said about me from the past. Duh. "Indeed the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:7.

I know that. But it's good to be reminded sometimes, and it's even better when it's from a friend you know you can count on for some pretty great spiritual mojo.

And number B, how's MY spiritual mojo? Am I spending enough time with God to hear Him when He tells me to do something? Am I missing opportunities to pray for a friend just because God told me to?

The very simple truth is, Sarah and I were both blessed, brought closer together despite our miles apart, and God…our unfailing Father…was glorified.

It doesn't take the parting of the Red Sea to have a moment of sheer amazement at God's presence in our lives.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's Worked for Us- Fun With Discipline

When I think about discipline in the context of a grown-up, I think of an athlete, a writer, an actor or anyone who relies on their strongly developed skills to achieve their goals.

Discipline in the realm of kid-dom, we usually think of punishment. When we "discipline" our children it usually means there's a privilege lost or a time out involved. But in our house, discipline encompasses so much more. Like an athlete training for a game or a meet, we train our children for life (Proverbs 22:6).

If you've ever heard Randy and/or me talk about disciplining our children, then you can probably quote the following statement from memory because we will say it until Jesus comes: Discipline is easy for our children. It's difficult for us as parents.

That may seem odd at first because it feels like kids have such a hard time falling in line with what you're telling them to do. But the truth is, all they have to do is what I tell them. The hard part is for me to actually follow through on what I tell them to do and what will happen if they don't. They're just looking for the chink in my armor.

How many times have you heard a parent in public tell their child, "If you do that one more time you're going to get a time out. (Pause, child does it again) Caitlin, I'm serious. Do not do that again. You're going to get a time out (child does it again.)" And this goes on and on.

Ephesians 6:1 says, "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." This verse literally means for children to blindly obey their parents. Utter submission. . .as we are to obey Christ, by the way, seeing as how we're his children and all.

A great bit of advice that I got as a young mom was that learning and discipline happens outside of a crisis or a meltdown. We'd love it if the conversation with our 3-year-old went like this:

Child: (On the floor thrashing, wailing, throwing a fit.)
Mom: Sweetie, Mommy needs you to stand up and be a big girl right now and stop acting like this.
Child: (Jumps up, stands up straight, stops crying) What was I thinking? I do apologize, Mother. I'm so sorry for my horrid behavior. I will now go to my room and contemplate my actions and how they have adversely affected your day.

That would actually be kinda creepy. I knew that when my child was having a meltdown, they were not thinking logically or being at all reasonable. They're brains were fixated on one thing- Me! Me! Me! Mine!

So here's one of our tricks that worked for us.

One of those little things that I just could not tolerate was when one of my children did not come or ran away when I called them. It was defiance all the way. So I made up a game to play that would emphasize the importance of coming when I called.

I would sit in the middle of my living room with a little container of mini M&M's and play "Reverse Hide and Seek."

Me: Rachel, we're going to play a game! Mommy is going to sit here while you go hide somewhere. When I call your name, you say "yes ma'am!" and come to me as fast as you can! If you get here fast, then I'll give you an M&M. But if you don't come, or I have to say your name more than once, you won't get an M&M. Got it? (*See the blog post about rules and expectations.) Ready?

Rachel would run off and hide, squealing with glee. She would hide and I would call her name. She would yell "yes ma'am!" and come tearing into the living room and get her prize. She would also test me on the consequences of not coming when I called. No M&M. That was for the birds, so it didn't happen very often.

After playing a few times we'd talk about the importance of obeying Mommy and Daddy. I'd have my Bible handy and we'd quote Ephesians 6:1, the 2-3 year-old version- "Rachel, obey Mommy and Daddy. This is right!"

This was just a fun way to reinforce good behavior. Rachel had a chance to be successful, and at that age it's all about those small victories. When Daddy got home, we'd relive the whole thing and he would get so excited. We'd even show a demonstration. Rachel wanted so desperately to please us. . .still does.

When it came time to test this in a "real world" situation, we would praise the obedience and give consequences for the disobedience (e.g. hellfire would rain down and the wrath of Mommy was blinding). We went over the verse, "Rachel obey Mommy and Daddy. This is right! Ephesians 6:1" (Be sure to say the name and address of the verse, to reinforce that it's from the Bible and God is saying it, not just Mommy and Daddy.)

This game came in real handy when we'd go to McDonald's to eat and play. Before we even got out of the car, we went over the rules (expectations).

Me: When we get into McDonald's we're going to get our food. We are going to sit down and eat our food and after that you can go and play. You are going to put your shoes in a cubby before you play. When Mommy calls your name, you're going to say "yes ma'am" and come to me as soon as you can. When I say it's time to go, there will be no whining or complaining. You will say "yes ma'am" and get your shoes on quickly. Otherwise, we won't come back for a while. Got it?
Kids: Got it!

And usually I would make them repeat it because inevitably somebody was watching a bird or thinking about swords during orientation.

Warning: If all goes well in McDonald's, instead of getting to read that book you brought, you may be spending your time explaining to the other moms how you got your kids to come so quick when you called their name.

I would also give them a countdown (again with the expectations, e.g."You have fifteen minutes!"). Don't debate the time. They'll start to push your buttons. If this happens, leave immediately. This will probably result in a meltdown, but do not lose your cool. You told them what to expect, now follow through on your promise.

Find those opportunities to teach discipline in a really calm environment. It can happen during playtime, mealtime, story time, any time. It creates expectations and kids find such safety and peace when they know what to expect. Then when it comes time to give consequences, and we've had plenty of those, you will have already set a precedent.

But know this- none of this works if you don't stick to what you say. If you tell them what the consequences are, do not flake out or be manipulated. My son will be an attorney when he grows up, I know it. He's the king of how-can-I-get-out-of-this. You must be firm and resolved. It's so tough and will break your heart, but you are saving their little lives.

My kids still say "yes ma'am" when I call their name and it still fills my heart with pride and joy.

And I will sometimes still give them a mini M&M.

You share:
What creative ways or games have you found to practice good behavior outside of a meltdown?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Winning the War of Spiritual Leadership

Written by Randy

A Tactical Strategy
Have you ever noticed that we focus on tactics and not strategy?
No? Well, let me explain…

I spend a lot of time wargaming lately. It could be the fact that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool gamer-geek who has more board games in his closet than he will play this year. It could also have something to do with the fact that I have the pleasure of working with a retired Army Colonel, who is patiently mentoring me into manhood. Either way, I find myself inundated in thoughts of military leadership.

One of the lessons that keeps coming to mind is the difference between tactics and strategy.

Strategy is what those “guys on top” do. It’s the big planning. The major movements. “We need to capture that hill!” “We need to buy a car with better gas mileage.” Those are strategies.

Tactics are those specific things you do to accomplish the strategy. “Circle behind the enemy.” “Get to that rock!” “Read Consumer Reports yearly automotive review!”

However, it takes both strategy AND tactics to win a battle.

You can want that hill all day long, but if you don’t move to get it, it remains in enemy territory. Or, you can be the soldieriest soldier who ever soldiered a charge, but if you run right into the enemies guns, you won’t accomplish what you desire.

As Christians, we get mired in tactics.

We like “to do” items. We like grocery lists. We like the feeling of accomplishment and direction. We are an action-hero society, and our hero needs action!

We pile chore upon chore, and commitment upon commitment. We busy ourselves to our utmost limit, because if we’re busy, we’re doing good, right? We don’t want to be lazy. We don’t want to be less of a husband/wife/parent/son/daughter than that guy over there, right?

So, we busy ourselves with tactics. We add chores to our life. We schedule our calendars to the hour, filling in every ugly open spot. We add rules to our Sabbath.

We forget an important lesson that Jesus taught.

See, there was this really tactical guy…he did it all right. He trained. He planned. He performed. He was on time. He was head of his class. He was first in his platoon. And he asked Jesus “Hey, sergeant, I’ve mastered all the drills, moves, and maneuvers! Which one of those tactics is going to win the most battles?”

And Jesus answered:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-38).

It wasn’t the reply the young man was looking for.

Jesus gave him a strategic answer, not a tactical one. Jesus could have said, “Wash our feet.” Or “Feed my sheep,” or “Shelter the homeless”, “listen to your wife when she talks,” or “discipline your children when they mess up.” All of those are the tactics of love. But instead, Jesus cut to the chase. He talked strategy.

That’s a good plan. When we understand the strategy—I mean REALLY understand it--we can make better choices about our tactics. When we know the goal, then we can improvise as necessary in the steps to reach that goal. When we know God wants us to “love your neighbor as yourself” then we can make a decision to spend as much quality time with our spouse as we do Oprah or Madden.

Tactics appeal to us because they are short, discreet, and easy to understand (if not perform).

But we get lost in tactics when we forget the strategy.

We don’t see the forest because of the bees. (Bees are sting-ey…they DEMAND your attention!)

The Flexical Strategery of Spirtual Leadery

If you Google the phrase “Spiritual Leadership Husband”, it only takes you a couple of hits to see some link where a wife is asking about ways to prod her husband into becoming the spiritual leader of her household. Now, I’m not saying this is wrong! All husbands should get a good prodding now and then by a well-intentioned partner. And husbands have a Biblical mandate to “headship” (Ephesians 5:23, but please, oh please read ALL of that context!)

But look closely how those desperate housewives define “spiritual leadership”. “He should schedule our family devotions every day!” or “He should do more things at church” or “I really wish he would plan the systematic theological training of our family across a fifteen year period.”.

Again, don’t misread me. All of those endeavors are good and right and excellent things. They are fine tactics in their time and place. I’m also “marriage enriched” enough to recognize that when a wife asks for specific things like that, there’s often something deeper that’s missing.

You’re missing strategy.

Headship, spiritually, cannot overlook the importance of strategy. “Love the Lod your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” As a spiritual leader in your home, do your children think of you and say “ahh…my mom loves Jesus” or “wow…my dad is Godly in all that he does”? Or, do your children say: “oh no…here comes drill instructor again!”

Modeling how to memorize a Bible verse is important. So is holding your children accountable to daily time in God’s word.

But being a strategic spiritual leader means you are always focused on the primary goal of “Love God.” So, every nuance, every interaction—all the things that make up your life—those around you know where your heart is.

It’s how you speak to your spouse when money is tight.

It’s how you make decisions about what to do with a Sunday afternoon.

It’s thirty minutes spent on a science fair project, and an hour at practice with the team, and being the first to sign up for the service project, and what you say about your in-laws after you hang up the phone.

My friend, the Colonel, defines leadership as the “art of influence”, and you know what? He’s spot on.

Spiritual leadership of a family is a constant influence. It’s much harder than a task list, by the way. It’s living in constant love, fear, and obedience of the one true Almighty God who could unmake and forget all about you in a sneeze, if ever were he to desire it. (Note: He’s not going to desire that. )

So, as you plan for your next battle in this spiritual war we wage daily against a world that wants to wear us out and keep us ineffective, keep this in mind:

Tactics without Strategy will often leave you dead halfway up the hill you’re charging.

Strategy without Tactics will result in well-meaning-ness that never will quite inspire your family to grow.

Be both. Be godly.

And lead it like you mean it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ritual

Originally posted in October of 2009, but still very true.

There is a ritual that happens every school morning in our house. There is also routine, but the meaning of the ritual is more significant to me. The routine is the pre-show to the ritual.

Graham gets up first and drags himself into the living room where I let him sit at the coffee table to eat his cereal while he watches cartoons. We have a few moments of snuggling and lamenting about how we wish we could go back to bed. That is followed by me kicking him out of the chair, convincing him that he’s not sick and no I won’t homeschool him. Then finally I wake Rachel up. Her eyes are bleary and she walks into the living room like a zombie with hair every which way. I repeat the routine with her with a bowl of cereal and cartoons. In the meantime, Graham is dressed and ready to go out the door. After Rachel finishes her breakfast, she finally emerges from her room a completely different person than the one she entered as, looking as if she’s stepped right out of a Neutrogena ad.

Graham sometimes rides his skateboard, but half of the time I drive him. I come home from dropping him off only to load Rachel up and begin the trek to the middle school. Sometimes the routine is interrupted by turning around because of a forgotten lunch box, signed form, or homework assignment. But finally each child is where they’re supposed to be and on time.

This is when the ritual begins.

When I walk back in the door, my house is lit up like a Christmas tree. I’m sure you can see it from space. I begin with the hall light next to the kitchen, then the laundry room light, then the kitchen. I fold up cereal boxes and rinse out bowls that should have already been rinsed out. I tie up loaves of bread and 409 the milk that was sloshed on the floor, otherwise it’ll be sticky. I make my way to the kids’ rooms and turn off each of their lights- lamps and overhead lights- and their bathroom light. Then finally the hall light.

The house is quiet and empty, but each room tells a story of what happened that morning. In Rachel’s room, there are books stacked everywhere and clean clothes strewn across the floor because she couldn’t decide what to wear. There are papers with cartoons drawn on them carefully scattered next to her bed. There’s a pencil lying on top of the paper where she dropped it from falling asleep the night before.

In Graham’s room, it’s not much different. Of course there’s laundry everywhere because it takes way too much effort to pick it up and walk the 2 feet to their laundry basket. In one corner there’s soccer gear. In the other corner is skateboard gear. And all over the bed are chord charts for his guitar. There is a phenomenon, however, in Graham’s room. Do you remember in the movie Signs that Abigail Breslyn always left glasses of water everywhere? Graham does that. I don’t know why he can’t finish one before he gets another. Sometimes it’s cups of milk, but he naturally learned his lesson after finding out the science behind it being unrefrigerated.

I will rant and rave about the virtues of keeping things straight…a place for everything and everything in it’s place. There will be no skateboarding or computer until your room is straight. Why is this basket right here? It’s for your backpack to go in, not beside. Don’t you know that corn flakes will dry up and stick to the side of this bowl and it will take a blow torch to get it off?

I sometimes feel like the Army- I do more before 7am than most people do all day. My house and I just roll our eyes and shake our heads and snicker at the mass chaos each morning.

But I will take a deep breath, realize the President isn’t going to visit today, and be thankful to the Lord that the house is full of people that I like.

That’s part of the ritual too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Works For Us- It Keeps Getting Better

In honor of our anniversary today, I asked Randy 10 questions about what makes our marriage tick.

What's the best thing about being married (in general, not just to me)?

Knowing that I always have a friend to share life with. Someone whom I can take care of, and who will take care of me when things are tough. Knowing that there's always someone to listen to my trivial stories, to acknowledge my bad jokes, to surprise with news of new movies and shows, and in general just to share life with--that's awesome.

What's the worst?

As close as we are, knowing how often I disappoint you and let you down. You see me at all my worst times, and after 17 years, you know most of my mistakes even before I make them.

What's the biggest challenge?

Answering 17th Anniversary Surveys.

What do you think makes our marriage work so well?

God. Seriously, I believe the fact that we both respect and seek God, and our commitment to Him...that keeps drawing our commitment to one another closer together.

When you leave your clothes on the floor in the bedroom...actually that's not a question. It's more of an observation. Care to comment?

It's Feng Shui. It balances out the shopping bags and empty Diet Coke cans.

Touché. We've been married for 17 years. Any regrets?

I regret that it's gone by so fast.

Name one all-time favorite memory of being married to me.

That's like saying name your favorite meal. I might be able to narrow down to a favorite food or restauraunt, but the great experiences are too numerous to say just one. The memory that always goes to the front of my mind is just our evenings together, talking and watching TV, or just talking. Hearing you laugh when I pretend the dog is talking.
Oh. Maybe the cookie dance.

Ah, the cookie dance. If you could give one piece of advice to a couple of newlyweds, what would it be?

Find something you love together and do it at least once a week. Other than sex, I mean. Go to a movie. Paint a picture. Do a puzzle. Play a game. Watch a show. Spend your life planting opportunities to interact. As you grow closer together, deepen them.

Why do you think men are so romantically challenged when they know it would go a really long way with their wives? (No, this is not a set-up.)

If I could answer that, I wouldn't be romantically challenged. :) We all see the world through our own eyes, and map our wants, likes, and dislikes to other people. We each assume that our mate works just like we do. A lot of marriage is spent correcting that notion.

With the above in mind, define "romantic". For women, I think it's typically things that require planning and forethought--you want to know that your guy is connecting with you emotionally, and that you are on his mind. It might be as simple as agreeing with something you say, or something as elaborate as leaving a trail of roses through the house.

For guys, "romance" is when you are engaged with him in an activity he loves--and no, I don't just mean physically. I remember those times in our marriage when we've read the same book at the same time, or played a game together. Those moments of selflessness on Carrie's part--sharing experiences, but outside her first preference, that's incredible.

So, when it comes down to it, I think both men and women are romantically challenged. Just like every human on the planet is service-challenged. We are all fairly selfish. Romance--and love--come in to play when we give up some of our time or thought or plans to make someone else feel special.

Wow, you really thought that one through. What are you most looking forward to in the next 17 years of marriage?

Comfort. Not as in luxury, but as in relationship. I think we're just starting to get a lot of life figured out. There is a security in knowing someone so well. There's also a challenge; that we can find a way to keep surprising each other. I'm looking forward to that too.