My Pot of Honey

So I realized my life is really serious.  And, I’m not a terribly serious person.  I’m always talking about all the things that happen in my life that are difficult to deal with because that is where I am. I sound a little like Eeyore when I’m really more like Tigger, although lately, I’ve been a bit like Piglet with my “oh dear, oh dear” attitude and a little bit like Rabbit with my “get off my lawn” grumpiness.

I think maybe I should try to be more like Pooh Bear – lovable ole pudgy Pooh, minus the pudgy part. Happy go lucky Pooh – just searching for that pot of honey all the time.  What’s my pot of honey?  Today, sleep.  Yesterday…ummm…sleep.  Tomorrow, well, probably sleep.  I’m kidding (well, a little bit).  I think, in all seriousness, my pot of honey is Jesus.  I want more of Him.  I want to know Him better, love Him more and be a better Jesus freak to my family.  I’m afraid I’m just freaky most of the time.

In the past I’ve been heard to say, “Give me Jesus!” And, to some degree, I have meant it.  I believe though that now I really want Him for the right reasons.  Living over your head tends to do that to you.   I’m overwhelmed by EVERYTHING, and occasionally there are things in my life, my Heffalumps, which make me want to run for the hills.

Better than ever, I know that I’m weak and I think that I finally understand that in my weakness He is strong.  That one always tripped me up before.  I didn’t get it – I mean really didn’t get it.  Today, I’m getting it.  My own ability to do this life is severely hindered by my weaknesses BUT God’s strength enables me to do my life.

I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Things are still difficult, messy and a little  a lot harried, but if I have the right perspective I think I might make it through the day with some success at the end.  I might actually get to grab hold of that pot of honey and drink deep of it.  Actually, since my pot of honey is Jesus – I get the blessing of drinking deep of His Word as often as possible, of sweet communion with Him whenever and wherever I can, and of tapping into His strength for each task that is before me.

So often I have struggled with trying to figure out what that looks like – it looks like me praying, me studying His word, and me understanding that I simply can’t think that I can do it all.  I want to do it all…I’m not sure why I do because it just stresses me out.  If I could wrap my brain around the fact that God will give me what I need to do what He has called me to do…now that would be sweet peace!!  I have to grab hold of my “I got this” thoughts and turn them into “He’s got this” thoughts.  Then maybe my Eeyore self will stop sighing.  My rabbit self will stop fussing.  And my piglet self will stop fearing.

My pooh self and her pot of honey will be hanging out and living life with some good ole peace and some serious joy.  I think my pot of honey would go quite well with a cup of hot tea!

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A Cavity, A Concern and A Change

Lizzie's Tooth Fairy Note - Lizzie, Tooth Fairy and MommyWhy is it that a cavity in one of my children’s teeth is such a blow to my mommy self esteem?  I even prayed the dentist wouldn’t think I was a terrible parent because of it.  Really?!?  I worry too much about stupid stuff.  Now I’m worried that I’ve offended someone because I used the word stupid in my blog.  Honestly, I have issues.

The funny thing…not ha ha funny… that silly cavity in my 4-year old’s tooth was nuthin!  My 5-year old had to have a tooth pulled today because her root was infected.  Seriously?!?!  I’m like the crazy tooth brushing, flossing, fluoride swishing mommy!  Even when I do it “right”, something goes wrong!  At least she was excited to have a tooth to put under her pillow.  (I attached the picture she drew of her, the Tooth Fairy and me around her bed – she is such a precious little girl.  The note was all her idea.  I even gave her a hard time about not being in her bed because I thought she was doodling — loser mom moment. ugh.)

I realize that I think too much about what other people might be thinking and, truly, what a waste of the limited brain power I have.  If you look at me without smiling I’m likely to assume you are disappointed with me…angry at me…frustrated with me… maybe you even heard that I used the word stupid in my blog.

Recently a couple of friends have asked if I’m doing okay. I can tell by their tone of voice, tilted head and sweet expression that they really mean to say, “You seem like more of a wreck than usual.  Wanna talk about it?”

In trying to discern what exactly might have caused my friends’ concern, I realized that lately I’ve been pretty introspective and a bit weary (and by “a bit” – I mean A LOT).  I’m usually quite bubbly and lately I’m fairly beat down.  I feel like I can’t catch my breath – running from thing to thing and thought to thought.  All this running makes me a tad anti-social (and by “a tad” – I mean a tad).  I still talk to friends, text friends and when possible grab a moment of face to face with friends, but I feel a pressure I haven’t before.  I must get things in order…I must get things under control…I must get rid of things!  So much to do and so little time has taken on a reality I haven’t known before.  If you know me, you know that I’ve been living at warp speed for a little over 3 years now.  What changed?  Still trying to figure that out.  I believe to some degree it is just life — new challenges, new issues and new responsibilities.  But I also believe God is preparing me for something…I believe I’m supposed to be in a better place in so many areas of my life so that God can use me in greater ways.  I believe I need to get my house in order, my finances in order, my life in order so that I can best serve Him, love Him and glorify Him through my life, my family and my ministry.

I’ve wanted to be one of those hyper-organized, super moms forever…I’m just not her.  It’s pretty funny (again, not ha ha funny) when I think of my pre-children career…I was a conference planner.  I swear I used to be a super-organized person (I don’t really swear…I mean…not REAL swear words…Oh no! I’ve probably offended someone…)  Back then I was actually organized.  Now….ummm…well, at least I want to be organized.  Golly, I want to be Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way.

I recognize that my life is not conducive to perfection in any realm, but I’d like to feel less stress because of clutter, less stress because of activities, less stress because of to-dos.  I basically just want less stress!!! I find myself saying, “Just do it, Sue.  Just gitterdone.”  That seems to be half the battle – focus and do it.  Just do it!  Just throw stuff away. Just sign up for a few things not everything.  Just  say no.  Just make the call.  (Makes me think of Nike and saying no to drugs – focus Sue!)

One of my friends always says, “Do a little. Do it well.”  I’m more “Do a lot. Do it ok.”  I’m changing things though.  I want change to happen immediately, but it will be  a process. Baby steps. One room at a time.  One project at a time.  One to do list at a time.  I’ll make my lists (because I’m a lunatic list lady) and then I’ll tackle them.  I’ll prioritize and then I’ll get busy getting it done.  Then maybe I can get back to the self who loves on her friends a bit better!  And who isn’t worried about what the dentist, or anyone else, thinks!  (I can hope can’t I!?!)

Changes – the good, the bad and the just different

Today is a wistful feeling sort of day for me.  I’m not sure what prompted it – maybe its planning for college for my oldest or planning kindergarten for my youngest.  I’m missing a simpler time.  When a perfect day involved reading on the sofa, math on the patio, and memory work in the cul-de-sac.  I miss being with my children 24/7.  It was beautiful chaos.  Of course, there were days I would have LOVED to forget about grammar, biology and lap books.  And other days I just wanted to read my book rather than “The Vikings” to 5 squirrely kids.  But oh, what I wouldn’t give to have one of those days again.  I miss them – the sweet simplicity of our life back then.

When my husband left lots of things changed.  Some things became something different, not necessarily bad.  Some things became better.  And then there are those things that became something altogether unwanted.

I had to go back to work full time which meant 5 children to school or day care.  A huge challenge for us all.  We survived and, dare I say, thrived.  We figured it out.  Not pretty but doable.

Now my children are 3 years older and I wish I could say that I was 3 years wiser…maybe.  Some days I think I’m doing pretty well and then other days, I can’t seem to keep the muttering mommy away.  She grumps around the house fussing at everyone and acting annoyed at everything.  Where did fun mommy go?  She used to be here all the time…even on the most stressful of days.  Now, she’s lost in the work and worry.  I have so much to do and so much to deal with and so much less money than I’d like.  But then I have to ask myself…is this the mom I want my kids to remember?  Is this the woman I want to be?  Do I trust God or not?

Recently I’ve been studying James – a very challenging book of the Bible.  It got me thinking.  This whole faith thing isn’t just believing, it’s living.  I was trying to encourage a friend’s faith recently and now I’m finding that everything I shared applies very much to me.  (Dang it.)  My faith needs to be the place where I start, and end, and all the stuff in between.  James calls us double-minded when we are half-hearted in our commitment to God.  I’m committed to God…truly, but I’m finding that this single mom life really makes it difficult to keep my focus on Christ rather than my circumstances.  I’m so busy looking at the train wreck that is my life, I’m missing the beauty of the life God is building before me.   James also informs me that the ultimate result of my double-mindedness is instability and vulnerability.   Ouch.  I see the instability in my life especially in my overly emotional reaction to things.  I’m vulnerable to fear, anxiety and sleepless nights.  I must ask myself, “Do I believe what I say I believe?”  Do I believe that God is enough – He says He is!  Do I believe that God will provide?  Do I believe that God will give me His peace and strength – for my heart and my mind?  Do I believe that He loves me?

I have to say that I do.  I do believe.

The prophet Elijah once asked the people of Israel, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal (the idol du jour), then follow him.”  (1 Kings 18:21)  What are my idols du jour?  Peace?  My children’s salvation?  My children’s character? The future?  Time to accomplish everything?  Sleep?  Health?  An organized house? Financial security? …. There are more but I’ll stop.   I think at one time or another, probably each day, I’ve made those idols much more influential in my life than my faith.  (No wonder I’m a mess.)

I think one of the biggest changes because of my husband’s departure is me.  Although things that didn’t challenge before, challenge now; things I took for granted have become struggles; and things I could never imagine happening, have happened, I can say the changes in me have often been for the better.  Things I could never imagine surviving; I’ve survived.  I understand God’s faithfulness in all circumstances.  I’m learning to count it ALL joy.  I’m becoming a stronger, more focused woman in many ways…I just need to get and keep my focus firmly on the right thing.   I’m choosing Jesus.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121

“Mommy, you forgot my show and tell today…again.” 

That’s how my sweet preschooler greeted me today after preschool.  Yup.  I forgot.  I think I’ve forgotten more than remembered.  She is scheduled for Monday morning show and tell which usually would be great for my just get it done attitude.  BUT I don’t ever think about it in the crazy mad rush on Sunday night or Monday morning.

I’m pretty sure I’m the reigning most pathetic mom at preschool so I can’t bring myself to ask for a different day.

I really need to get over trying to appear like I have it all together.  I joke that I can’t even give the illusion of being organized.  I used to be able to at least appear like I was slightly organized.  Now…not so much.  Things are always falling by the wayside. I have lists.  I have calendars.  I have more lists.  No matter how hard I try, I end up forgetting something daily.

The good thing is I haven’t forgotten any of my children anywhere yet.  (Oh golly…now I’m gonna forget someone cause I said that!)

I used to be so much about appearing like I could handle this life really well – you know that organized, put-together, calm mom – on the outside, I mean.  I’ve always been a bit of a mess on the inside.  But now…things are different.  It’s interesting how God works in our lives.  Now, when my outside world seems most out of control  — crazy schedule, mile long to-do list, forgotten stuff, mismatched socks on my 4-year-old (well, actually that’s her choice), cluttered living, endless laundry, too many books, papers and crayons and an unknown number of house projects — my inside world, my heart and soul, is at peace.

And by peace I mean that peace which passes all understanding – you know that God peace.  I still have worries, stress and occasional emotional meltdowns.  But I feel a current of peace under the storm of my life.  I think it’s because I’m learning to be thankful for what God is doing in my life.  I’m thankful for how He takes care of us, provides for us and shows His love for us in big and little ways. There is A LOT I would change about my life, but there is a lot I wouldn’t change at all.

You know that verse in Philippians 4 that talks about God’s peace which passes all understanding guarding our hearts and minds? That guarding peace is because we rejoice (vs 4), we are willing to put aside our rights for others (vs 5), we have an eternal perspective (vs 5), when we are anxious, we fight it with prayer (vs.6), and we are thankful (vs 7).  That’s quite a list – I like lists.  I believe that the key is prayer with thanksgiving.

As I’m faced with daunting tasks and difficult decisions, I’m trying to find something to be grateful for in the process.  Right now I’m trying to figure out how to address my little girls’ learning issues next year. I can get rather anxious about it – it’s a big deal and the options are limited and expensive.  What can I be thankful for?  That these sweet little girls are mine.  That there are options – and some are pretty good.  That I know that He loves my little girls even more than I do – unfathomable.  That I know that He has a great plan for their lives.  And that He will show me the right path in His time (which, by the way, is NEVER the same as my time).

That is one of the big ones for me right now — others are college decisions and paying for college for my oldest, raising a teenage girl in this culture, a little boy who needs a godly man to step into his world and ask deep questions, and the thousands of other decisions that need my attention each day.  I’m sure we all have ridiculously long and complicated lists.  Even in the midst of all the yuck of our lives, we can choose to be thankful and focus on the good things.  There’s gotta be a good thing or two or more.  I just know it.

I might not have it all together for more than 5 seconds a day, but I have a lot to be thankful for so maybe having it all together isn’t the be all end all I thought it was.  Maybe I can just be messy me who forgets stuff and gets weepy at times, who can choose to smile while tripping over the clutter of a house full of children I love with abandon and who occasionally forgets to pack show and tell for her preschoolers.

I guess what I’m sharing is — we don’t have to have it all together to be blessed or to be a blessing.

Stuck in My Head

You know how sometimes something just sticks in your head like a commercial jingle?  Thankfully the one sticking in my head is a song by Shane and Shane which has the refrain, “My grace, my grace, my grace is sufficient, my grace is sufficient.”  It runs through my head over and over again reminding me that God is enough.

It’s one of the things that I firmly believe yet struggle to live out.  I know I believe the Bible to be true and my God to be trustworthy therefore I must believe that His grace is sufficient.  He says it in 2 Corinthians 12:9.  When Paul asked the Lord to remove the thing that challenged him the most, God responded with, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I feel like I have so many weaknesses, so many challenges, that I can’t fix.  No amount of determination will make things the way I want them to be apart from divine intervention.  I have to figure out what it means to live knowing His grace is sufficient.

I get it.  God is enough, but why doesn’t it feel that way?  Sometimes I get it better than others.  Sometimes I know to my core He is enough – His grace is enough.  Other times life just overwhelms me with clutter and chores and children.  Now, if His grace appeared in the form of a maid or a cook or a home manager I might “get it” a little better.  I don’t mean to be silly….well, too silly…I just can’t deny that sometimes nothing seems sufficient to truly cover the tasks that lay before me.

Lord, what does it look like?  How do I live sufficient grace?  I’m still figuring this out, but I believe that time in the Word – reading, studying, and memorizing it will transform my mind and change my perspective.  I thing it must be one of those supernatural things that happens without me realizing it.  Someday, hopefully soon, I’ll find that I lived through the day because God was sufficient.  It wasn’t that I was sufficient or that the tasks were lessened, but completely that His grace, HIS grace was sufficient.

When the laundry will not ever get done, His grace is sufficient.

When the dishes are piled high, His grace is sufficient.

When the house explodes with clutter, His grace is sufficient.

When everything feels like an imminent disaster just waiting to happen, His grace is sufficient.

When my teenagers are fussing and fighting, His grace is sufficient.

When my preschoolers are just plain rotten, His grace is sufficient.

When I can’t figure out how to do this single parent thing (AT ALL!), His grace is sufficient.

When I’m lonely (how is that possible?), His grace is sufficient.

When I’m overwhelmed (when am I not?), His grace is sufficient.

When I’m exhausted (sure love to get some sleep someday), His grace is sufficient.

When I can’t figure out our finances, His grace is sufficient.

When the basement floods for the 10th time in 8 months (no kidding), His grace is sufficient.

When the car makes an interesting noise at odd times, His grace is sufficient.

When the doctor can’t identify the problem, His grace is sufficient.

When the doctor can identify the problem, His grace is sufficient.

When I have to deal with my ex, His grace is sufficient.

When I have to ignore comments meant to help but which hurt deeply, His grace is sufficient.

When I watch my children struggle, His grace is sufficient.

When I don’t want to make ONE MORE DECISION, His grace is sufficient.

When I begin the day, live the day and end the day, His grace is sufficient.

I’m still singing the song in my head, “His grace, His grace, His grace is sufficient…”  I wish I could hum it for you so you could get it stuck in your head too.

Things that Go Kerthump in the Night

How sad is it that at 4:30 am I was trying to think of how I would describe the noise that work me up at 3:30 am.  I’m not good at onomatopoeia.  Pahpahumpump kinda fits, but not exactly.  It was one of those times when I wasn’t sure if I’d actually heard it or just dreamt it.  So I laid there straining my ears. Nothing. I realized that if I was ever going to sleep again, I just needed to go check out the noise.  I dragged myself out of bed and instantly had a big old pitiful me party because there wasn’t some big, strong husband for me to push outta bed and check on scary noises.  I’ll blame that moment of weakness on the late hour of the night.

I’m almost embarassed to say this, but I did it, so I’ll share it — I woke up one of my teenagers so someone was awake while I did my security sweep. My poor child.   That made me wish again for a partner to have my back.  But I didn’t dwell…I was on a mission.

With my cell phone handy and ready to dial 9-1-1 at a moments notice, I flicked on the lights and walked around my house checking doors, windows and closets.  All clear – thank goodness!  Don’t know what I’d do if I actually did find someone.  Hopefully something intelligent and brave.

I’ve come a long way.  I’m becoming a strong mama. I can bravely do so many things I would have absolutely dreaded before.  I recall many times during my married life when I was afraid to be alone, feared going out by myself at night, hated going down to the basement (well….occasionally I still do)…  I couldn’t have imagined facing my fears head on without anxiety.  Now I live a new kind of life that requires me to face and master my anxious thoughts.

Many years ago, my mantra verse was Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything 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.”  I really REALLY struggled with fear.  Then 9/11 happened and I basically had a freakout period – I couldn’t figure out how to begin to protect my children from this world and all its dangers.  Thankfully, God got my attention. I had to decide if I trusted Him or not.  I knew I trusted deep down.  And, if I trusted Him with my life, I needed to trust Him with everything and that included my children.  I still struggled at times (see above – basements can be scary) to live out my trust.  The things I deal with now – fear of the future, fear of failure as a single mom, fear of being alone, fear for the way all this will impact my children, fear of lots of stuff.

The first year after my husband left I had a lot of fears come crashing in.  In ways I can’t comprehend, God was gracious to fill me with His peace.  I found Him to be more than faithful in the big and small.  I know that He still is and always will be my provider, my strength and my hope.  I grabbed hold of verses like Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.”  I love all those verses that command us to be strong and courageous.  Did you know that God commands us to not be afraid more than any other command in the Bible?  I’ve read that God says it 366 times – one for every day, even leap year!

There will be noises in the nights and dark basements to deal with, but we face our fears because we must.  We will be strong and courageous mommas!  We don’t need to be afraid – not one single day or night!

A Sweet Day

I had the nicest day.  Those are such sweet words when each day has seemed more of a disappointment than a day to cheer.  I didn’t realize how desperately I needed to get nothing done, until I did that very thing…or didn’t do that thing??…um…er…I mean, I accomplished my goal of accomplishing nothing quite well and, surprisingly it felt great.  I visited with a friend who has known me “forever” and loved me anyway.  We talked of walking tightropes of sorrow and joy…of finding things to give thanks for when there really didn’t seem to be one obvious thing to rejoice over.  We talked about children and voiced our prayer requests knowing that we would each pray.  We shared fears and hopes and nightmares and dreams.   We drank copious amounts of tea and the honey we poured in our tea was no sweeter than the fellowship.

I’m so surprised how much I needed it.  I shared that on the way to her home I feared the loss of time to get more done on my to-do list even as I longed to visit.  She understood.  But, oh the heart-mending time spent with a dear friend cannot be equaled by a to-do list completed.  I’m blessed by many sweet friendships.  I have a friend who calls or texts me every single day to make sure I’m okay – I shudder to think what I would do without her care of me.  The prayers we have voiced together have been precious and plentiful.  I have friends who email me encouragement – how welcomed are those messages.  But rarely do I set aside time for true fellowship.

I want my list done and my house neat, before I can take the time to visit.  It’s surprising how easily we forget the clutter surrounding us when we sit and look into the eyes of a dear friend who understands.  You know, I believe that we all really do understand.  We get where we each are!  There is grace in friendship – grace to be overwhelmed, grace to be cluttered, grace to be tired, grace to be grumpy, grace to be who we are, grace to be where we are.  We must make time to fill our cups with tea and our hearts with the joy of friendship…we will be better for it.

That sweet time sitting at a kitchen table with sweet tea, sweet chocolate 🙂 and a sweet friend was just well…sweet.