Saturday, March 29, 2014

to see something grand

"splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty fill His sanctuary." ~ psalm 96:6
when i was 12 my parents decided it was high time for our family to go gaze at the grand canyon.

we lived in cleveland, ohio, and since money wasn’t growing on trees in our yard, the plan was, we would use our christmas break and we would drive --- from cleveland to the grand canyon. 2000 miles across the country. and because it wasn’t exciting enough for six of us to travel all those miles together in one van, my grandparents were invited to join our expedition.

1 van. 8 people. 2000 miles.

now in order for you to get the full picture, it's important to also explain our seating issues. though my dad's van was great for his painting business, it was a little lacking for his passengers. you see, the van only had two seats: driver and front passenger. but dad, being the ever-resourceful guy that he is, figured out a way to attach two aluminum lawn chairs inside the van for grandma and grandpa's seating pleasure. the children?  well, we, in  typical 1970-something fashion, were left to roll around like a quartet of paint cans in the empty shell of the van's back.

and so on a snowy, december day, our gray van holding 8 people, all their luggage, and a whole bunch of high expectations, left ohio and headed for sunny arizona.  and it was good for a little while.  we didn’t have iphones or ipads or itouches or i-anythings, but somehow we survived. somehow in the back of that van, my siblings and i kept ourselves occupied for several days.  i'm not certain what exactly my brother and sisters did,  but i read through every nancy drew mystery i had been able to stuff into my suitcase. in fact, i remember reading the last one slowly, afraid i'd have to make the return trip home without the escape of my reading material.

i'm sure we also did our share of antagonizing my parents with comments like, "i'm hungry" and "she's touching me" and "when are we going to be there?" i don't exactly remember my dad threatening to pull over and spank any of us, but i'm pretty certain that scenario must have occurred. in fact, i'm positive.

one of the most vivid memories from that journey is my grandmother. you see, every time we’d go around a little bend or curve in the road, grandma and grandpa, in their aluminum chairs, would sway slightly left or slightly right. for grandma this was on par with riding a roller coaster and she reacted in like fashion giving a big "whoo-hoo!" though grandma might have enjoyed her theme park experience in  the back of our van, i'm sure she and grandpa were doubting their decision to tag along by the time we crossed into kentucky.

add to grandmother's whoo-hoos, my own mother's, "would you look at THAT, kids!" and the memory is pretty much complete. though i get it now, i didn't understand her enthusiasm back then. every 10 minutes or so, my excited mom would yell out, “look kids, look. would you just look at THAT!” and we’d all clamor out from the depths of the van only to just miss that amazing wildflower display roadside or a piece of texas tumbleweed rolling down the highway.

and this went on hour after hour, day after day, and somewhere around oklahoma, i remember saying to my almost-teenage self .... "how in the world did i get here?”


that was 33 years ago.

this past week, my husband and i took our own kids to go gaze at the grand canyon. we too, thought it "high time" for this adventure.

assuredly, our travel looked a little different. we all had, not only seats on our 747, but also a variety of apple products in hand to occupy us for our 2 and 1/2 hour flight. gone were the aluminum lawn chairs, gone were the nancy drew mysteries, gone were the long hours of a long road trip.

and though travel and time and even i have changed, i found myself asking that same question: "how in the world did i get here?"

except this time it wasn't about the circumstances of my travel, but it was me watching my kids gaze into the canyon with mouths open and eyes wide in disbelief. this time it wasn't me escaping into my mystery book, but me enjoying my kids take in the mystery and grandeur and wonder of this great canyon.

for as i thrilled as i was to see the grand canyon again, i was even more thrilled as a mother to witness my kids seeing it for their first time.

and though i am happy our travel didn't require lawn chairs or long hours, i am thankful, even now, for that experience my parents gave us 30 some years ago.

regardless of how we travel, regardless of the time, regardless of the trip, it is always a gift to go see something grand and to experience some adventure.

can't pass up an opportunity to have a little extra fun ...

we used sedona as our home base. loved sedona and the red rock!

emily, getting her sedona on.
we celebrated sarah's 14th birthday with a surprise helicopter ride! wow. just wow.

my trio of photographers! we've all got the photography bug.

3 sisters
the adventurers! what a tribe.
ATV-ing in the desert

climbing camelback mountain -- to the tip top!
mountain climber connor
back to phoenix for a little RandR after all that adventure.
lazy river. lazy mama!

made a shutterfly book on the way home ... they sent the link to my blog.  slightly obsessed over here with shutterfly books!

Create your own custom photo books at

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

when The Mommy's just not enough

i'm not sure if it was when we added our 4th child or our 5th, or if it was when i was diagnosed with cancer or when someone missed diagnosing my {obvious} case of the crazies. maybe it was some combination of all those life-altering events, but sometime around then, somewhere in those years, i figured out that i was no longer a contender for super-mom.

it was time to turn in the cape.

somewhere in those moments of forgetfulness, helplessness and plain, old overwhelmed-ness i found out that i was never going to be enough.

i was never going to be the perfect mother or the ideal wife. never. ever. {do you hear me?} ev-er.

i was never going to achieve, accomplish or be awarded my impending mother-of-the-year medal.

but, the truth is, for many years, i pretended otherwise.

for many years, i faithfully clipped articles from parenting magazines and stayed up late attempting cute crafts and yummy baked things from the pages of family fun. (just thanking the Lord pinterest had yet to evolve). for many years i refused to let the sun go down with dirty dishes in the sink or with laundry left on the floor. for many years i meal-planned and color-coded my schedule and wrote detailed lists and even remembered to buy only organic apples.

for many years i thought if i just worked a little bit harder, stayed up a little bit later, organized a little bit better, walked a little bit faster ... i'd find myself a little bit closer to being enough.

thankfully, mercifully, just in the nick of time, God released me from that kind of crazy. like i said, i'm not sure exactly when that epiphany occurred ... but somewhere in those years i realized it just wasn't going to happen. and what's more --- it shouldn't.
it wasn't the right goal. it was never how God intended me (or any mother) to be.

motherhood isn't supposed to be a race to the finish line.
motherhood isn't a competition in who's the most prepared or punctual or perfect.
motherhood isn't a test of creativity or craftiness or cute clothes.
motherhood isn't even about keeping a clean house or incredibly clean kids.

motherhood is a journey.
it's a painstaking, heart-wrenching, spirit-filling, joy-bringing  p r o c e s s.

and good mothering isn't what happens when we are trying to be the greatest mom out there, but when we are just being a good mom right here.

in the almost 20 years i've been parenting, i've made more mistakes than i'd ever have imagined possible. seriously, i could blush at some of my blunders.
i've messed up and screwed up and even thrown up my hands in defeat. i've cried over spilled milk and stubbed toes and moldy laundry. i've stepped in baby poop, been smeared with peanut butter and left the house without my wallet, my shoes -- and even once -- forgot the baby. (don't worry. the older kids reminded me before we had turned out of our street. it can happen, people. don't judge).

there have been many moments where i've been just flat out thankful no one was watching or grading or taking detailed notes. the marks wouldn't have been pretty and the notes certainly not nice.

i can remember a few years ago wrestling this out with God. it was the summer after we adopted bella. the same summer i was recovering from breast cancer and a double mastectomy. nothing like gaining a kid and losing your strength (not to mention body parts) to make you wonder just what lesson God is teaching.

it was one of those hot summer nights in georgia. {the word sweltering comes quickly to mind}. i was out on our deck and feeling like i had just spent my whole day dropping balls and letting everyone down in my house. so, sitting there steaming in my frustration (and the georgia heat), i just flat out told Him, "guess what God: i'm not enough."

and though it wasn't exactly an audible voice, God whispered clearly right back to me:
"you're right. you're not enough ... and you're not even supposed to be. but i am."

whoa! like. stop. the. presses. people!

did you hear that?

are you kidding me?
is this a joke?

are you really saying i don't have to be super-mom?

"nope. you don't. in fact, i don't even want you to try."

He didn't say it exactly, but i was sure right then and there He was even giving me full permission to have a bonfire and burn up all of the family fun magazines i had been saving for a rainy day.

that night i walked back in the house, hugged my kids and husband goodnight, left a sink full of dirty dishes and went directly to bed.

and it was the beginning of my new walk. i was giving up my mommy-frenzy for my new found mommy-freedom.

don't misread what i'm saying: God wasn't giving me a license to be negligent, reckless, careless or lazy with my kids, but he was giving me the license to be more lenient with myself.  because somewhere i had gotten off track in thinking that my kids had to be my whole world and i had to be there's. sound familiar? somewhere in the early years of parenting, i did what many mothers do, i wrapped my identity and my ego around them and tightly tied a big old (pretty) bow.

let's face it, that's easy to do.
it's an amazing gift to be called mama.
it's like my favorite job ever. ev-er!
but between the hormones and the housework, we women can get a little cra-cra about our "calling."

i've always wanted to be a mother.
though i carried a triple major in college, i knew even then, as much as i loved all that stuff and all those studies, i wanted nothing more than to be a plain, old mom. i never saw it as second best. i never once considered it anything less than the highest calling possible in a woman's life. and even on the hardest of days, i knew i was doing exactly what i was made for. i've seriously never had a moment of doubt.

i didn't doubt my calling, but i did doubt myself and my abilities and my strength and my being "enough."

ultimately, though, that doubt was a good thing.

because when i brought my burden to that place of brokenness, God met me there. and assured me in the sweltering heat on my nighttime deck and many, many times since, i didn't need to be enough, because He was.

that was His job. my job was to point my kids to His sufficiency, not my own.

in fact, if i was working my tail off trying to be all that and a bag of chips for my kids, then i was actually working against what God wanted to do and demonstrate in their lives. moms aren't ever supposed to compete with God. our accomplishments aren't ever supposed to rival God's awesomeness. 

amazing to think, "He must increase, but i must decrease." (john 3:30).
have you ever thought about how those words might apply to mothers?

cool, huh?

and freeing.

as moms, we spend so much energy trying to be MORE ... and yet God is telling us there's actually great blessing found in being LESS.

we aren't training up our kids to assume "mom's got this!"
but instead, we need to teach them to see how "God's got this!"

that was a few years ago, but the truth is, i still struggle. those same urges and desires come bubbling up in my competitive and creative nature. i still find myself striving and stretching and spinning my way around ... trying to do it all, juggle it all, be it all.

i'm not completely healed from the super-mom syndrome, but i am more aware of it.

and God often brings me reminders along the way.

like last weekend.

my middle child, sarah, had a volleyball tournament and she had to be up at the crack of dawn on saturday morning. friday night she was out late and when she came in i was already in bed. half asleep, i asked her if she had everything ready for the morning. (volleyball bag, uniform, knee pads, spandex, socks, shoes, water bottle, blah,blah,blah ....)

"i don't mom, but i will," she answered.
and with that, i fell asleep. i didn't get up and follow her down the hall or chase her around with reminders. i just fell asleep. i had a good case of friday night exhaustion, leaving nothing in me eager to get out of bed and double check on her.

i didn't hunt down her uniform or lay out her socks or pack up her healthy snacks. i just went to bed.

we were up the next morning at 6am. before leaving the house i ran up to her room to grab something and found this list on her desk.  the night before she had created a checklist. complete with little boxes and check marks.

i stood there looking at this little piece of paper and my eyes welled with tears when i realized what i was seeing was evidence of mom isn't enough. not just evidence, but the blessing which moves in when i, the mother, move out a bit. when i let go of the list, when i loosen the reigns ... i leave room for her to step in, to step up.

and women, wherever you are in your motherhood journey, today i am writing to encourage you to let go a little. it's okay. i know it's not always easy, but it what we are supposed to do. let them forget something, let them fail a little, let them face a struggle or two. put away your mom's-got-this cape and let them figure it out.

this has nothing to do with shirking our responsibilities or taking the easy way out. not at all. we are instructed to work "heartily for the Lord," and encouraged to "approve what is excellent."  but somehow i don't believe when Jesus asked us to "think on things which are excellent or worthy of praise" He was necessarily talking about that cute little frog cupcake in the family fun magazine or that heavenly homemade whatever on pinterest.

not that there's anything wrong with pinterest or magazines pages. i like them too! not that there's anything wrong with being a prepared mom. not that there's anything wrong with displaying creativity and craftiness. not that there aren't times to go that extra mile or deliver that extra something special. nothing wrong at all, in fact, God wired us to be those things. i am not discouraging you from your passion in serving and blessing your family. not at all. but i am encouraging you to keep it realistic and to know that what counts most is not the praise for the woman and her healthy, homemade meal, but the home-loved child who learns to seek God's heart.


one of my favorite all time writers ever is erma bombeck. she was an american humorist who (in my mind) perfectly and cunningly captured the tricky essence of motherhood. she died the same year i entered mommy-hood. i've read pretty much everything this woman's ever written. what i probably love most about her writing is how she was brilliantly able to mix together the holy and the hilarious.

here are a few of my favorite erma quotes on motherhood:

I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: “Checkout Time is 18 years.”
If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.
In general my children refuse to eat anything that hasn’t danced in television.
It goes without saying that you should never have more children than you have car windows.
My kids always perceived the bathroom as a place where you wait it out until all the groceries are unloaded from the car.
No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed. I have known mothers who remake the bed after their children do it because there is wrinkle in the spread or the blanket is on crooked. This is sick.
One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child’s name and how old he or she is.
Who in their infinite wisdom decreed that Little League uniforms be white? Certainly not a mother.
Do you know what you call those who use towels and never wash them, eat meals and never do the dishes, sit in rooms they never clean, and are entertained till they drop? If you have just answered, “A house guest,” you’re wrong because I have just described my kids.