On Halloween and Pumpkins and being a Scrooge

I’m going to go ahead and lay it all out for you. I am not into Halloween this year. It can just pass on by for all I care, because I have put zero effort in. We haven’t bought costumes, we haven’t carved pumpkins and I’ve got one bag of candy corn to give out.

I’m like the Halloween version of Scrooge. BAH HUMBUG!

Every year, we carve pumpkins. I bake the seeds, we enjoy this very fall-like tradition, but this year? Not interested. Because you see, what really happens is this: Every year the children draw their faces on the pumpkins, then I spend the next two hours scooping the gunk and carving by myself.

This year I decided no. And the kids really haven’t seemed too disappointed, which has diminished my mom guilt only slightly. Now if you all could quit posting your amazing works of pumpkin art on Facebook that would really be helpful.

I did buy three small pumpkins and let them paint them, so I haven’t completely failed. In fact, bring me a friggin medal people!

 

BAH HUMBUG!

 

Tia and Landon are digging costumes out of the costume chest. We have plenty to choose from and that suits them just fine. Sloan wanted to be a zombie or a vampire or something else equally boyish and “cool” but we put the kibosh on those things. I finally suggested he wear his David Freese jersey and a Cardinals hat and told him to go as David Freese.

He agreed.

I’m still waiting on my medal…

BAH HUMBUG!

 

I want to move on past Halloween and into Thanksgiving and Christmas, though if I’m honest, I’m not overly ready for either of those holidays yet, either. The cooler weather this week has gotten me a little more in the holiday spirit, though. Scones and hot tea in the morning make me feel festive. I may have to start listening to Christmas music starting tomorrow to psych myself up for it all.

Micheal Buble Christmas? Yes, please.

So what about you? Are you in the holiday spirit?

Which holiday are you ready for?

Day 30: The Merging

I’ve had this desire for awhile now to start a new site where I could write with a little more abandon. I love this space I’ve created at Minivans Are Hot. I love laughing with you all. I love shaking my head in bewilderment at the fact that I DRIVE A MINIVAN! What the huh?!

Aaaaanyhoooo…

I needed something new – some place to stretch my wings as a writer a bit. I will still be updated here regularly, because this place is my outlet. But I’ll also be over there periodically just…letting the words dance a little.

Join me over there today?

Photo by AvodahImages.com

There is a brief morning moment when the early morning light kisses the ground and staves off the slumber of night. With a wink and a flash the dark slides back and the daylight exposes the newness of the morning. It is still and leaves behind that comforting place where peace settles and all things seem possible.

This new site is my morning post.

It is the quiet and the peace and the shared moment of grace and joy. This is where the words will dance and the act of writing will be less of a labor and more of the shining glimmer of dew on tall green grass. There are no ads to run, and there is no genre to follow. Expectations are low and joy runs rampant.

Read more at KelliStuart.com

When belief trickles down

“I do NOT want to sing on stage. People will look at me and see me and maybe laugh.”

And she made sure she was not seen. At the close of VBS this summer, Tia positioned herself as far back on the stage as she possibly could so that no one would see her during the songs. She hid. We couldn’t catch a glimpse except for one moment when I thought I saw her little hand up in the air.

Fear.

 

She has always hated being on stage. Being in front of people has terrified her only slightly less than it terrifies her brothers. And when Tia, my stubborn, fierce, I-know-who-I-am-and-you-will-not-alter-me second born refuses to do something, it takes nothing short of an act of Congress to change her mind.

Scratch that – the grumpiest, stodgiest and stubbornest of all Congressman couldn’t get this child to do something she doesn’t want to do.

So imagine my utter shock when Tia came to me last week and asked if she could sing on stage at church.

Um…who is this child again?

She came with me to choir practice and sat confidently by my side. She can’t read well yet, so I found myself a bit tickled at the intensity with which she studied the music. No worries, though. She knows these songs.

All week, I waited for her to back out – to change her mind. Of all my children, she is the last one I would have ever suspected of stepping up on stage and singing in front of a group of people. I assured her she didn’t have to stand in front of a microphone and that seemed to be enough to satisfy any fears that still lingered.

And Sunday morning she proudly walked up in front of everyone, the youngest in the group. She didn’t even need to hold my hand. With a confidence and poise that took my breath away, she conquered fear and led. And I have never felt more proud.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my daughter took this step at the end of this month. I’ve spent the last 31 Days boldly believing that I, too, can do the things that intimidate me. I haven’t written 31 posts about the subject, because…well, that would have been terribly boring.

But I have adopted the attitude of believing I can and I have chosen to speak confidently – moreso than I usually do. I’ve written more on my book this month than I ever have in a single month before. I’ve taken steps in several areas to move past fear, past laziness, past the mountains that stand in my way so that I could feel more sure of where I’m headed.

It’s not that I ever really thought I couldn’t do any of these things. It’s simply that they seemed so hard and scary that I was content to drag my feet and…well, sit in the corner and hope things went my way.

But when I stopped allowing myself to be intimidated by the hard things I felt a renewed confidence in my own abilities. Could it be that such confidence has trickled down? Could it be that my willingness to embrace who God has made me and how I can use those gifts to bless others has impacted my children? I certainly wasn’t making any extra effort to live more boldly in front of them, but I did feel much more sure of myself because I made it a point to do so.

I chose to believe.

She chose to believe.

Is there anything more moving and beautiful than a child singing praise songs? A child who has turned from fear and walks in confidence?

I don’t want my children to be content to sit in a corner. I don’t want them to hide who they are out of fear of who might see. Each of my kids is so uniquely gifted and I want them to walk in full confidence of those gifts.

Who will teach them?

 

Who will teach your children?

Audience Participation Requested

So here’s the deal. My goal next month is to make at least three (or four) decent, healthy meals a week for my family.

But Kelli, don’t you already make meals for your family?

You had to ask, didn’t you?

Yes, alright?! I make meals for my family. Every day, in fact. Well…every day that I’m not reheating a meal for my family, which if you think about it, is simply heating up a meal that I already prepared, so it’s kind of like double preparing a meal, which clearly shows double the love, right?

Who says I’m bad at math?

A typical dinnertime hour in our house usually involves me flying around the kitchen like a crazy lady, trying desperately to defrost meat or chicken and popping open cans of vegetables that I know my kids won’t eat, but I’m going to prepare anyway because a well rounded dinner plate involves vegetables. I will whip together a decent, if not all that coordinating, meal in less than thirty minutes and will plop those plates in front of wide eyed cherubs who will ultimately turn up their noses in disdain.

Unless that which I plopped in front of them happens to be chicken nuggets or Mac and Cheese, which I rarely buy because I’m fairly certain there is neither chicken nor cheese in either of those items.

But I digress…

I will watch them smother their meat in ketchup or Barbeque…or Frank’s Hot Sauce for Landon because the child was born without taste buds, and they will choke down the required number of bites before pushing their plates away and declaring how NOT hungry they are.

This is usually followed by an immediate request for a snack, which leads me to shoot flaming daggers from my eyes as I huff around the kitchen and boldly declare that no one will eat snacks before bedtime because I had to throw away so much food.

And sometimes I throw in a side of guilt by reminding them of children in Africa with no food, which is basically lifted straight from the Mother’s Guide to Driving Your Kid’s Crazy.

So all that to say…cooking isn’t my forte. It’s not that I can’t cook. It’s that I seem to be allergic to planning ahead. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I coach Tia’s gymnastics class, so I generally try to put something in the crock pot those days so the boys aren’t left to eat cereal for dinner, but other than that, I just tend to prepare meals on the fly, which leaves very little room for creativity and has left my children with less than adventurous pallets.

So part of my 31 Days series, was to plan out and ffeed my family a week’s worth of real meals. The kind that you plan ahead and prepare for and that require fresh ingredients and what not. Since Octobre is almost over, I’m just going to push this plan to next month. I put it off because…well, because I’m scared, quite frankly. I mean, you read what I wrote above, right?

I AM ALLERGIC TO PLANNING AHEAD!

I am writing this post in faith knowing that I will need plenty of encouragement along that way, because friends this is one thing I don’t believe I am capable of.

I need to believe in my ability to cook a decent meal for my family and to start planning said meal before 4:30 in the afternoon.

So how can you help?

I did not make this meal. My friend Wendy made this meal. I ate this meal. It was delicious.

If you have a favorite recipe, or a meal that your kids really enjoy, please leave it in the comments.

If you have a link to a pin on Pinterest with a killer recipe, leave the link. I’ll pin it to my board (if I can figure out how…I’m a Pinterest newbie) and I’ll stockpile a few good recipes from the internet to try out.

There are a few guidelines, though:

- Don’t go too easy on me. I want to try real recipes – nothing canned or boxed. I need to prove to myself and my family that I can make real food from time to time.

- No fancy ingredients. If the recipe calls for Gouda or shallots or any obscure fair that can only be found in the fresh market section of Whole Foods on Fridays and Tuesdays between 9:00 and 9:22 am, then there’s a really good chance I will never make that meal.

- Nothing that involves pasta sauce, because my children don’t like pasta sauce. Can you believe it? I birthed children who don’t like spaghetti! Or frozen pizza! Sometimes I wonder if they’re really even my children…

- Crock Pot recipes are my friends. I am fairly convinced that whoever invented the Crock Pot has been granted a special place in heaven because if I can toss all ingredients in a big pot in the morning and POOF! At 5:00 dinner is ready? Um…yes, please. Yes. Please. 

Other than those simple rules, the sky’s the limit. Lay it on me. What is your favorite dinnertime recipe? Who’s gonna help a slacking sister out?!

 

Pretty please?

Grounds for Divorce?

A picture of my little natural.

Last night I wandered into the family room to find Lee watching The Natural on TV. I sat down on the couch and watched Robert Redford swing the bat a few times, then turned to look at him.

Me: “So what’s going on here?”

Lee (eyes wide): “Have you never seen The Natural?”

Me: “Well, I’ve seen bits and pieces, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the whole thing from beginning to end.”

Lee: “I can’t even believe I married you.”

Me: “Is he about to get shot?”

Lee: “No. He gets shot at the beginning of the movie. This is the end.”

Me: “Oh. Then why is his side bleeding like that?”

Lee: “He…(sigh)he had surgery.”

Me: “Oh….well, I do know that it was Barbara Hershey who shot him.”

Lee (heaves a long, impatient sigh): “Yes. Barbara Hershey shot him.”

Me: “Who’s that blonde chick in the box up there?”

Lee: “That’s Kim Basinger.”

Me: “Well I know it’s Kim Basinger. But who is she in the movie. Why is she crying?”

Lee: “It would really be helpful if you watched the movie from the beginning.”

Me: “You know, I did see the whole thing once. One of my teachers in high school played it in class.”

Lee: “Were you sleeping or something?”

Me: “No. I was flirting with a cute senior. I can’t remember his name, but I remember he was on the baseball team.”

Lee: “A dude on the baseball team was more interested in flirting with you than watching The Natural? Weirdo.”

Me: “I was very beguiling back then. Man…I wish I could remember his name. He was really cute.”

Lee (muttering): “I guess.”

Me: “So why do you think this is such a great movie? I mean, it’s not even historically accurate, right? This isn’t a true story, is it?”

Lee: “No, it’s not a true story, but it’s just so awesome. I mean, it’s a great story. Great writing. Great acting. Great music.” He starts humming along to the music.

Me: “Huh. Well, why is Roy Hobbs so much older than everyone else?”

Lee: “Because he got shot and left the game for a long time. But he used to be a real up and comer. In fact, he once struck out the Great Bambino.”

Me: “Well, if he struck out Babe Ruth, then why doesn’t anyone know who he is?”

Lee: “Because…you know what, you just need to watch the movie. I can’t explain it all.”

Me: “Oh! Is this the part where he hits a Grand Slam to win the game?”

Lee: “He doesn’t hit a Grand Slam. There are only two runners on base.

Me: “He doesn’t hit a Grand Slam?! What’s so exciting about the ending then? This movie doesn’t make any sense. There are just too many holes in the plot. I don’t get why boys consider it the greatest movie ever.”

Lee: “I’m gonna need you to stop talking.”

Me: “Man, I really thought he hit a Grand Slam at the end. This is a let down.”

Lee: “I’m going to bed.”

He did go straight to bed, shocked and saddened and entirely baffled by my lack of knowledge. I, on the other hand, went to bed trying to remember the cute baseball player’s name who prevented me from seeing this movie the first time.

So I have now added, “Watch The Natural from beginning to end” on the Bucket List of things to do before I die. I kind of think I have to to save my marriage.

For those of you who would like to watch the last homerun (which according to my husband is “just so emotional and awesome and exciting and cool”), here you go. BUT BE WARNED: He does not hit a Grand Slam here. That knowledge has forever ruined my feelings about this movie.

The good news is that I am still beguiling and despite my lack of knowledge or love for the alleged “greatest movie of all time” I can still charm my husband. So…score one for me.

A final sneak peek

I haven’t written many of my trademark witty posts lately. I’m sorry about that. I tried to think of something funny to write about today,  but I got nothin’.

Actually, I have several things…but I can’t share them. The kids are at the ages where they get all embarrassed and mortified at the thought of me sharing anything about them. I mean, SHEESH! Don’t they know we’re living in the technical age when all of life is lived under a bowl and nothing is left private?

They’re holding me back, they are.

Please note the sarcasm. I do not want any nasty notes about how I need to respect my children and guard their privacy.

Anyhoo, the kids have done and said and written some HI-LAAAAA-RIOUS things as of late. But alas, I will not share it with the world because there will be plenty of opportunity for me to drive my children to a counselor’s office, but oversharing their childhood will not be one of them.

So I’m not really feeling that funny today. I do have a couple of ideas rolling around, though, so stay tuned. I’ll make you laugh again, dear readers. I will make you howl with delight, roar in helpless hysterics, chuckle with amused glee.

Or I will bore you to death.

Today I am going to give you one last sneak peek at the novel. This is the last time I’ll let you see what I’m writing until the finished product is in your hand. I don’t want to give too much away. I want to leave you hanging a bit. To recap, here are the teasers I’ve already let you read:

Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek 2

The Novel

One More Glance

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can

Another Peek

Okay, so the final peek? Are you ready? Here it is.

A little set up: A young man named Oleg has gone missing. Hans is a German soldier who has fallen in love with Luda. He is helping the family find out what happened to Oleg. I know it sounds confusing. You’ll just have to read the rest of the book to figure it all out!

Hans looks hard at me and I nod, squeezing his hand in reassurance. He nods back, then shifts his gaze to Alexei again.

“Oleg and the other prisoners are being forced to construct a secret hide out for Adolf Hitler. It is to be a place where war time operations are discussed and where Hitler can come to vacation and hide.”

“What?” Baba Mysa gasps and she sinks down into a chair next to her husband. Katya shrinks back against the wall, her hands still clutching her chin.

“Hitler is constructing a hideout in Vinnitsya?” Alexei says, his eyes wide with shock, anger and fear.

Hans nods. “This is top secret information among the ranks,” he says and together he and I sit across from Alexei and Baba Mysa. “They are calling the hiding place Werwolf, or Vervolfy.”

“When will it be completed?” Alexei asks.

“Very soon, I imagine,” Hans replies. “The prisoners are now digging underground tunnels which will work to allow Hitler the freedom to wander from one building to another without exposing himself outdoors. I’m told that Hitler is planning his first stay for July.”

“That’s just a couple of weeks away!” I exclaim and Hans nods soberly.

“There isn’t much time,” he says quietly.

“How is Oleg?” Baba Mysa asks. Her voice is tired and her eyes drawn. This week has aged her.

Hans looks at her closely and I see him judging how much he should admit. “He is tired,” he answers. “And I believe he is sick. All of the prisoners are sick.”

Everyone sits quietly for a moment as we ingest this news. Finally, I speak. “What are we going to do?” I ask.

Hans looks at me and grabs my hand, then he turns to the rest of the group. “I am going to get him out,” he answers. “If I don’t, Oleg will be killed.”

Alexei leans forward and pressing his elbows against the table looking hard at Hans. “They will kill all the prisoners when construction is complete, won’t they?” he asks and Hans nods slowly. Katya begins to weep softly and I feel my hands begin to shake.

“Will you be safe?” I ask.

“Stupid girl!”

We all jump at Katya’s outburst. She shoves herself away from the wall and lunges toward me. Alexei manages to catch her just before her fist hits my face. “You’re worried about this…this…GERMAN while my brother is being forced to build a hide out for the devil?! I hate you! I HATE YOU!”

Alexei drags his daughter from the room as she writhes and squirms in his arms. The tears fall hot against my cheeks and Hans wraps his arm around my shoulders protectively. In the background, I hear my son begin to wail.

“I will get the baby,” Baba Mysa says, standing up slowly. She looks at Hans closely. “I believe Luda, now,” she says. “You are a good man. Forgive my granddaughter’s emotions. Thank you for what you are doing.”

Hans nods and Baba Mysa moves quickly to retrieve Sasha.

“I’m sorry, Hans,” I cry. “I’m so sorry.”

“Ssshhh…” Hans whispers. “It’s okay. I understand. I know that Katya is upset and I believe she has the right to be angry at me. But I don’t like her anger at you.”

“I’m afraid of losing you,” I weep and I bury my face in his chest, his strong arms engulfing me in a tight embrace. “I’m so afraid.”

Hans lets me cry for a moment before pushing me back. He wipes the tears from my cheeks gently and offers a small smile. “I’m afraid, too,” he says. “Which is why I have to do what I’m going to do.”

The sound of his voice stops me cold and I look up at him closely. His eyes burn bright and his jaw is set firmly. “What are you going to do?” I ask.

“I’m going to free Oleg,” he answers. “And then I’m going to kill Adolf Hitler.”

©Kelli Stuart, October 2012

Do you want to read the rest? Great! You can buy it when it comes out, hopefully sometime next year! (Yes, I’m thinking positive).

Kitchen Adventures: A Guest Post

So I think it’s safe to say I won’t actually have posted 31 times in my 31 Days Series. I felt very…shaky this weekend. I was a little stressed and jittery and just needed a few days away from the screens. I needed to step back, take a deep breath and simply remind myself that I can.

I can do this.

I can survive this (adoption paperwork).

I can step away if I need to.

It felt so good.

Today, I get one more day to breathe. I’m going to let Shay talk to you instead. Shay and I “met” over the phone about a month ago when I did a bit of social media consulting for her. She has taken the advice I had to offer and run with it and I couldn’t be more impressed.

Shay is pretty newly married (she’s been married a year *sigh*) and, well she’s just adorable. This post made me laugh out loud because, um…I was so there. No joke, I once turned the wrong burner on on our stove…the burner with a tupperware of cookies on top of it.

Have you ever tried to get melted plastic off of an electric burner?

(hint: it’s impossible)

Shay is sharing her own kitchen adventures and what she’s learned in this first year of cooking for two. Make her feel welcome, will you?

Hi there, I’m Shay, popping over from The Pocket Buzz to join Kelli for 31 Days of Believing I Can. Last month, my husband Adam and I celebrated our one year anniversary. It was a great year, and as you can imagine, we both learned a lot about ourselves and each other.

Before getting married, I’d been at college and on my own for about six years, so I’ve had some time to experiment in the kitchen. The reality of it is, though, Adam is a better cook. It comes more naturally to him; thankfully we make a great team. And in the last year, our kitchen has produced some great meals (mostly his doing), and it’s also produced some great memories.

For example, to celebrate Adam’s birthday I decorated the house and made french toast from scratch. The decorating part, I seem to have a handle on. The cooking part…not so much. I turned around for one split second and the dish towel sitting nearby somehow leaped into the gas burners on the stove and caught fire.

How’s that for birthday candles?

I was really trying to out-do myself for this birthday and make an angel food cake (his fave). What I didn’t realize about this particular cake is that it rises quite a bit. As in…they can nearly double in size when you don’t have an Angel food cake pan. Now I know. And to this day, we still have a bit of angel food cake batter in our oven.

Last week, we made lasagna to take to a friend. It’s a tried-and-true family recipe of Adam’s that’s beyond delicious. As I went to put it in the fridge, something came crashing down on me. Unbeknownst to me, there was a huge glass serving bowl sitting precariously on top of the fridge. (Mind you, I had set it up there.) It hit me on the head and fell to the floor. I was in shock and Adam was just glad it wasn’t the lasagna. I had a good headache after that one.

Now, enter Pinterest–where thousands of people post anything and everything. My saving grace has been the recipes with photos, and often step-by-step instructions. Finally, I just decided that if I wanted to be a better cook, I was just going to have to cook. And recipes on Pinterest helped me see that I could.

It’s been a journey. And I still have mess ups. But now I have a whole repertoire of recipes that we go back to again and again. It’s also given me the guts to try new things. I just have one piece of advice: before you cook for a family gathering, make sure you’ve tried the recipe at least once. Otherwise you may end up with only once-baked-potato casserole instead of a twice-baked one.

Trust me–it’s not nearly as good.

If you’re not on Pinterest yet, I’d highly recommend it. One thing I wish I’d done to start with is to be make my categories more specific. Instead of just a Foody board, I now have a Breakfast Board, one just for Sweet Treats, and an Actually Made This board for the recipes we’ve really tried.

And if you want to trust this kitchen-novice to give you some recipes, here are a few that have worked really well for us:

Crock pot Chicken Tacos Three Ingredients + a Crock pot = my kind of meal (we actually served this for a mexican dinner with friends. It was a hit.)

White Chicken Chili is great for a cold day. It makes great leftovers, too. (We served this as an afternoon snack on Christmas Eve last year. Success.)

French Dip Sandwiches are also made in the crock pot. These were a hit, too.

Thanks for humoring me today and letting me share my kitchen stories. Surely I’m not alone. Here’s to another year of continuing to learn that I can, in fact, cook!

Take some time to hop on over to Shay’s blog, The Pocket Buzz, where she shares all her techy tips and tricks and gives you a heads up on some great deals! You can also follow her on Pinterest where, clearly, amazing recipes await you.


And if you’re interested in consulting with me on how to grow your blog and your social media presence, or if you would like to guest post on Minivans Are Hot (indeed), feel free to shoot me an email! kellistuart00 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Lean into the embrace

I came home torn and confused and frustrated and plopped on the couch with a long sigh. He looked up at me over the glow of his iPad and waited a moment before speaking.

“I knew this would happen,” he said with a smile. It wasn’t a haughty or prideful smile. I felt his sympathy and my eyes welled with tears.

“This is so hard,” I whispered and he nodded his head.

We have lived in Florida for a year and we have visited and tried out every church in the greater Tampa area. We found one we loved and we connected. We connected with the people and the pastor and the worship. It was everything we thought we were looking for.

Large.

Stable.

Connected.

It fit into the neat little puzzle of church that we were used to and I desperately wanted to stay there. But…

It was a solid thirty minute drive from our house and I saw Lee shut down every time we made the drive. I knew that this couldn’t become our church home. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t practical to drive that far, particularly because our children turn into rabid, psychotic baboons in the car.

I wish I was joking.

So I wasn’t surprised when Lee mentioned that we needed to start visiting churches closer to home again. We did, over and over we visited and nothing fit. Nothing felt right. I came home in tears every single Sunday.

Finally we visited a small church about seven minutes away. We’d visited this church earlier in the year. It was a recent plant and there were a lot of bugs to be worked out. Upon revisiting the church I realized there were still bugs to be worked out…but they were in my own heart.

It’s small, this church. Smaller than any church we have ever attended. I’m not used to that.

It’s a plant, something I’m also unfamilier with and makes me feel uncomfortable. But who said comfort was the goal, right?

It’s Baptist. I haven’t been in a Baptist church in a really, really long time. I have to get used to it. It’s not wrong, but it is different and I am learning to embrace the different.

But the people…oh the people. They are wonderful. They remember us when we walk in the door. They are excited to see us when we arrive. They know us and want to see us using the gifts and talents that we have been given in the best way possible.

They want to build a community.

We need community.

And so we have stayed and I continue to allow the bugs to be pushed and prodded and shaped into something more beautiful. Less about me.

But it’s still hard, because it’s not what I’ve known. I’ve lived in the unfamiliar for over a year now and part of me longs for the peace that comes with knowing and understanding. The peace of comfort. Peace.

 

Could it be that peace is a choice?

 

I stepped forward to serve in a way that I’ve always served – in the area that God has not only gifted me, but also that I’m passionate about. But they don’t know me. They know I say I’m gifted in this area, but there’s no proof to back up those claims and I…well, I’m prone to sit in the back corner and wait to be discovered. That’s what happened on this particular night. I sat in the corner and I knew I couldn’t stay there.

As I sat on the couch, knees pulled up to my chest, Lee leaned forward and spoke wisdom.

These are your gifts.

You have to use your gifts this way.

Sitting in the corner is not your gift.

You have to tell them.

You have to be bold.

And this month is the month of believing I can, so I made the call. It was uncomfortable, this business of boldly proclaiming my gifts. It felt snobby to so bluntly lay out how I believe I can best serve within the Church.

I felt like a diva.

But I also felt empowered. My husband has never before told me those things and I’d never thought of my abilities in the way he spoke of them. It was the first time I’d embraced my skills and I leaned into the embrace. You know what happened?

Relief. Not just my own relief, though I certainly felt freed from the inner angst that threatened to keep me tied in the corner. But, there was also relief from those in leadership positions who really want to use us all in the way that God desigend us to be used.

As it turns out, pastors and worship leaders and church leaders don’t have ESP. They don’t have some magical sixth sense that allows them to see the future and see exactly how each member of the body should be used.

 

Weird, huh?

 

Leaning into the embrace not only freed me up to be used, but it freed them up to know how to best utilize my skills. Bold living, humble serving – this is how we work together as a body of believers.

It’s actually not as scary as I thought it would be.

Major Mom Fail – I may have ruined her for life

A few years ago, I had this little game I’d play with the kids. For those of you who have been around here awhile, you may remember it. I would put Landon’s sock monkey in all kinds of funny and strange places and Tia and Landon were convinced he was alive. They loved waking up or coming home and seeing where the monkey would be next.

IT was a fun game!

We haven’t played the game in awhile, so last night I thought I’d pull out the old “your toys might be alive and love to move around trick.” Tia has had her American Girl dolls set up like this for days.

“The Girls” have been celebrating McKenna’s 7th birthday. Obviously. And every day, Tia would walk in her room and then immediately run out to exclaim in wonder at the fact they were still partying. “They just really love to party, Mom.”

Our American Girl dolls are party girls. Awesome…

So last night, on a whim, I decided to pull the old trick out of my hat. After Tia went to sleep, I arranged the dolls in various party positions thinking she would wake up in the morning and laugh at the fact that they must have really been having fun through the night.

 

Around 5:00 this morning, I felt her standing over me. (Why do kids go all Children of the Corn in the middle of the night?!) She was breathing heavy and when I finally opened my eyes I saw her inches from my face. I almost karate chopped her.

“Mom!” she hissed. “I woke up and my dolls were all over my room. IT’S. SO. FREAKY!”

It took me a minute to register her words and to decipher them in my sleepy state. “What?” I asked.

“Marie Claire is sitting on top of the lamp, and Kit pulled a drawer of clothes out and McKenna is on top of the table and Cecile is waving at me on the dresser. I’m too scared to go back to my room.”

I was so out of it myself that I honestly could not figure out what she was talking about, so I sent her to sleep in the trundle in Landon’s room. About thirty minutes later, I heard Tia and Landon both screaming my name across the house.

“MooooOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!”

Tearing out of my room, I ran to them. Tia had turned every single light in the house on from our room to hers. I found her and Landon huddled under the covers.

“Why are you screaming my name?” I said, exasperated.

“We’re scared to get out of Landon’s bed in case the dolls might try to attack us.”

And then I remembered my little…um…joke.

So…I guess that backfired, huh?

For those of you interested, I will be teaching parenting classes in the near future. The first class? How to scare the crap out of your kids in one easy step.

The tear in my flesh

Jackson Pollack "Autumn Rhythm"

This mothering thing is hard. No one really tells you how hard it will be. Or maybe they try and you just can’t believe it until you live it on your own. No one tells you that your heart will be torn in two and you will go through repeated cycles of trying to figure out who you are and how to match your independent desires with your desires to serve and love your family well.

No one mentions how messy it all is – that the desires will never match up, will never fit and yet somehow it all comes together anyway, but it looks more like a Jackson Pollack painting and less like Michealanjelo.

Before we were mothers, we were all something besides…mothers. We had dreams and longings and aspirations and desires that went beyond cleaning and scrubbing and washing and drying and refereeing and surviving.

When motherhood sets upon us, those dreams don’t disappear, but they do shift. Our desire to be Mommy becomes so much stronger than any other thing we’ve ever felt and we give ourselves wholly and fully to the task and yet….there remains something else inside.

The truth is, I sometimes feel like a big failure for not accomplishing more before I became a Mom. And I fight the feeling of failure for not attaining more even after I became mother. I compare myself to others and I wonder why they seem to accomplish so much and I can barely get through  my days.

Then I remember that every journey is different.

I wish I was finished with this novel. I wish I could write it faster. I feel like I’ve failed already for taking so long. But the truth is, this is the best I can do. I cannot stay up until all hours of the night writing, because that’s not how I operate or function.

I can’t do this any faster and still do my job as Mom well. I’m learning to be okay with that.

I wish I had more time. I wish it were easier. I wish I could accomplish more in the few hours I have alone. I wish I could shirk every other duty and focus solely on the one thing I want to do the most – finish this book.

But that is not where life has me right now. Right now I don’t have the solitude needed to be a great writer. I do, however, have everything I need to be a great mother. I have all the tools and all the abilities and all the time to excel in the role that matters most.

I will finish the book. I know that I will. But it’s taking time – so much more time than I want it to. I won’t finish it in the wee hours of the mornings because I must sleep in those hours so that I can be alert to pour all my energy into my number one job. And I will save a bit of time, a bit of energy for the desires and longings that are mine and will work fervently in the little time I have to reach that goal.

But it won’t be a quick ascent. I am the tortoise in this race. I’ll reach the finish line, but only through perseverence because I’ve found that, for me, slow and steady is far more successful than fast and furious. I’m much less prone to burn outs that way.

Lisa-Jo Baker wrote a wonderful post on writing the other day. It has encouraged me so much. If you feel like you’re always a step behind, like you can’t keep up, I suggest you read “If You Wish You had an Island to Write On Alone.”  This quote by Madaleine L’Engle bounces off my soul and clangs inside my heart:

 

“I uncovered the typewriter. In my journal I recorded this moment of decision, for that’s what it was. I had to write. I had no choice in the after. I didn’t matter how small or inadequate my talent. If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing.”

 

Day 16: If you, like me, feel frustrated with the longings that war against once another, take heart. It will all come together, and though it may look messy and wild, in the end it will be considered a masterpiece. 

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