What do you do with a snowball in your face?

They were wild the other night. Spun up on sugar and a day full of being indoors, months of being indoors. These have been months of being only outside until you couldn’t stand the cold any longer, which is like five minutes or twenty, if you are my oldest son.

And then it was birthday night at church last night so of course cupcakes at 7pm are a perfect recipe for hyper little boys. I picked them up.  After the neon yellow and orange shoes flew across the lobby while one refused his sweatshirt and the other refused his gloves, we headed out into the zero degree night. Our boots crunched over the icy snow as we stepped out of the warm glow of the church building. Before I could catch my breath from the bite of the bitter cold they were both off, down the path into the inky dark night of the parking lot. My heart caught in my throat because they don’t know how dangerous the dark is. Every time it is like this…with boys who are primed and ready for adventure but a mama whose trying to protect her nestlings as they learn to fly.

The younger one, he is more likely to listen to mamma’s pleas, he slows, returns to walk with me down the path toward the car. The older adventurer, he is out of sight. My eyes scan the shadows urgently, needing to know where to look. Then, thank you, Lord, the tip of a red hat behind a huge snow bank bobs up for an instant.

“Make it a game. Relax. Have some fun.” I tell myself because I know I worry too much and I don’t want my boys to just tune me out because mamma always spoils the fun.

So the youngest and I loudly wonder where oh where has that big boy gone?

Then, just as we round the end of the snow bank, ready for a surprise and a laugh and a sigh of relief that I didn’t loose my every loving mind when he ran and hid, that boy of mine threw a snowball. Right. In. My. Face.

I was so surprised I could barely breath. And it was so cold. I wanted to explode but somehow, instead…

I laughed.

As my face stung and I caught my breath.

I laughed.

They asked me why I was laughing.

Because, dear sons, if I don’t I will dissolve into a puddle of mamma tears and fire right here in the dark parking lot.

I think laughing was probably the best thing I could have done just then.

And then we got into the car. I have to confess, I was still steaming but once I was able to calm down we could discuss why icy snowballs in someone’s face in the dark are dangerous and not a good idea.

These boys of mine – I love them wildly, of course, but it still amazes me how they can push my buttons. I’m working on remembering to laugh, when I want to scream, and to find a safe way to release my emotions. And then to talk through the issues with my boys. This is one of those places I’m being refined by the hot fires of motherhood.

Have you ever had a moment where you thought you might implode? What strategies do you use to diffuse in those situations?

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Five Minute Friday: Grace

Five Minute Friday

The silence has been deafening here, no? It has to me. So as a way to break the silence I am joining up here with five minutes on my lunch break. Five minutes on Grace.

GO:Grace.

A definition: “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency”

I need so much of this beautiful stuff, the stuff that enables me to keep breathing when it feels like the weight of life and responsibilities are pushing in.

Grace.

For myself, most especially, I find. When others are running late or don’t quite delivery, it feels easier to give grace there. But when I fail, when I let myself or others down? Well, lately I’ve been bringing out the whip and flinging it over my shoulders, over and over again.

It has to stop. I don’t think I’m the only one either. All us mommas, us women, why do we beat ourselves up and refuse to love ourselves just. as. we. are?

I have a little faded piece of a sticky note on my bulletin board at work with this:

“Grace must find an expression in life, otherwise it is not grace.” – Karl Barth

Today, I will give grace to myself even as I seek to extend it to those around me.

STOP

on a day i’m needing some courage

DSC05420_2There are some parts of my life right now that I am actually getting excited about again, where I see amazing things happening and I am getting to be part of how God is working in a larger way. Some of those things have come as a direct result of Naomi and the path I’ve gone down since she went to Heaven. I don’t for a minute believe that she had to die for these things to happen. I don’t think God works that way. But I do see that there is good coming out of something that was and will always be bad – because death was never in the plan originally. It wasn’t what we were meant for. We were made to live, to live abundantly. It really does amaze me when I can sit back and see these places where I see life coming out of the death of someone I love so very much and out of my deep grief. I am thankful for that.

But then there are these other parts of my life that feel so incredibly hard and insurmountable. These are things that were there before we knew Naomi was sick. For a large part of this past year I just ignored them because I couldn’t handle anything else and really I found I didn’t care so much about those things because I was hurting so badly. But recently I’ve been starting to face them, to wake up, so to speak, once again to these realities. Today, it all seemed so big that I just wanted to give up (and just maybe the screaming and fighting and needs of two little boys on top of these things was just pushing me a bit over the edge?)

One of the things that I have found in myself over this past year is, I guess, courage. Perhaps I could call it candor? I struggle incredibly with self-doubt and with wanting to please others. However, this past year I think that I have come to a place of seeing how futile the self-doubt truly is. I’ve begun to learn to trust more of how I hear the Lord speaking to me and who he has made me to be. And because I have faced what I never thought I could face, I’ve learned a courage that is not built on my own strength, but on a deep knowledge of my weakness and God’s all sufficient strength. So these things in life that feel really hard? I know I need courage to face them, but courage and patience, candor and wisdom to do it in God’s strength and as he leads.

This afternoon with these thoughts in my head (and after escaping to the park with those two energetic boys) I opened up my copy of Jesus Today by Sarah Young, asking God to speak some words of strength to my flailing heart. This book of devotionals are written as if Jesus is speaking directly to the reader. Sitting on a bench in the shade while sand flew through the air and a hole to China was being dug, this is what I read:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, for I will be with you wherever you go. You can choose to be strong and courageous even when you are feeling very weak. However, the weaker you feel, the more effort it takes to choose to be strong. It all depends on where you look. If you gaze at yourself and your problems, your courage will melt away. The choice to be bold rests on your confidence that I am with you and for you…When everything seems to be going wrong, refuse to get discouraged. Remember that I am a God of surprises: I am not limited by the way things are or by the paltry possibilities you can see. I am infinitely creative and powerful…I am good to those who wait for Me.

One of the verses that went along with this entry was Lamentations 3:25-26, one of my favorite passages of Scripture this past year:

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

I so needed to hear these words of truth today. Sometimes it is hard for me to hope for good things in the future, because often I have a very specific idea of what that looks like and yet I know that what I think would be good for me and my family may not actually be what is best. It is hard to hope and dream after one has had their dreams shattered because you wonder if those dreams were right and if they were then why didn’t God bring them to fruition? I don’t understand God’s ways. But I am seeking to trust him and follow him because even though I don’t understand him, I know, deep in my soul, that he is good, that he loves me and that somehow he will bring redemption and restoration to all that is lost.

and laughter too…

I couldn’t resist also sharing these shots of a boy and his dad that I was able to capture last week at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The pure joy and love that radiates from their faces makes me smile every time I look at them.

DSC05208 DSC05207 DSC05203 DSC05202 DSC05194 DSC05191And then these of me and my oldest boy, who is growing up so quickly. But even when you are a great big boy you can’t escape your momma’s lovin’.DSC05251 DSC05254 DSC05270 These boys, they make me laugh and cry, and yes sometimes (umm, often times) they bring me to my knees. But they and their daddy know how to make me laugh. Beauty and laughter…these are food for my soul, gifts straight from Heaven.

on prayers in the mess and not being alone

DSC04796_2A month of Sundays has come and gone since I’ve written here.

Sunny, 90 degree days of shorts and sandals followed by pull the wool socks back out, chilly days we’ve had this May. Celebrations of graduation, a trip out west, visiting gardens and watching baseball along with school and work and the day to day business of living have filled our days.

I’ve stumble for words, for the right words to put here this month. Because in everything I do I want the “right.” But my life doesn’t often feel orderly and put together. Most of the time it feels messy and like I’m just barely keeping my head above water and,

oh Jesus, help!

I pray that a lot.

Oh Jesus, help!

I think its a good prayer. I also wish I remembered to pray it more. Like when I am so done with repeating myself for the fiftieth time to my boys. Or when I smell the warm air and am transported back to one year ago in the hospital with Naomi on my first Mother’s Day as a mother of three. Or when I am about to board a plane for Portland and leave my boys for a week for the first time since my daughter died. Or when I have so much to do and all I want to do is go to bed. Or when I hear about tornadoes and children dying and homes destroyed. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I want to pray but can’t. But all the time Jesus is with me. And He knows. He knows the struggle and the mess and the joy and the sorrow.

In grief and in life I think sometimes all we need is to know we are not alone. And to know we are loved.

You are loved. I am loved. We’re all a mess. And Jesus is here in the midst of it with us.

This is what I know to be true.