The Spin Cycle

And, once again, just like that, it’s Five-Minute Friday with Lisa Jo Baker!!

http://lisajobaker.com/

And, this Friday, the word is…

LAUNDRY

Because this week, a community of women, came together and helped build a laundry center in South Africa!

http://lisajobaker.com/2013/10/from-south-africa-with-thanks/

And, I have to confess, this week, I spent longer than 5 minutes on my Five-Minute Friday, and, with everything on the schedule today, there were a lot of starts and stops. Much like the load of laundry that accidentally gets left in the washer and has to be rewashed or the load that sits in the dryer and gets fluffed a few times before I finally take the clothes out. ‘Cause that’s how it is with…

LAUNDRY

Laundry… it’s always been in the background of family, a spin cycle rhythm of wash, dry, and repeat.

Just like everyone has to be fed, they all have to be clothed as well. And these clothes need to be clean, of course… at least when we go out. Otherwise, you’re just sure everyone is gonna start thinking things like, “Look at that poor child! His mother doesn’t even care that he’s wearing filthy clothes!

So, as moms, we search for the best, most workable laundry system for our homes, some wonderful way to get the dirty clothes out of all the rooms, into the washer and dryer, nicely folded, and then put back away in all the rooms. We look at Pinterest for ideas and get distracted and start wondering if we can hang a chandelier on the ceiling of the laundry room, you know, so we’ll feel like a queen washing clothes in her castle.

Round here, we’ve tried different things. Currently, there are four baskets for laundry sorting in the hallway outside of our bedrooms. It’s mostly working, but, when company comes, we’re kinda literally airing our dirty laundry for everyone to see. We still haven’t mastered the art of turning anything right side out before we throw it in a basket though. And, socks? Well, I’ve just given up on socks. Clean socks get dumped in a laundry basket in our bedroom, and everyone gets to match a pair of socks as needed.

And, as we wash and dry and put away, even amidst the routine of the process, we’re reminded of the passage of time. As those loads of clothes and towels circle round and round, the seasons of our families go round and round too. Winter sweaters to summer swimsuits and back to winter sweaters that are sized larger than they were the previous winter. Those adorable little baby clothes that my husband and I laundered so carefully with Dreft have become bigger and bigger and bigger. My two older kids and I currently argue over whose socks are whose. The brand new towels that I was so excited about receiving at our wedding showers are frayed with age.

Just like time, the spin cycles don’t stop.

We carefully smooth down the t-shirts and put them away in dressers and closets or lay them on beds for others to put away over and over and over again. As much of a chore laundry is, there is also something almost therapeutic, almost comforting in the routine. No matter how we do it, or how often we do it, laundry tells our family’s story in a never-ending rhythm of wash, dry, and repeat. The clothes change, the wearers of the clothes change, but, in the background, our washers and dryers keep humming. And we keep washing and drying and repeating.

Because, as soon as you’re caught up with the laundry, someone throws a wrong-side out shirt in the basket. You’re never caught up. Before you know it, that shirt has multiplied into four different loads. Or, after I’m completely finished washing and drying a load of dark clothes, for example, someone will inevitably inform me, “But you forgot to wash my jeans!” That were not in a laundry basket. But were, instead, wadded up in a bedroom corner. ‘Cause I’m just supposed to know these things.

Last week, I had a cold and didn’t feel like doing really much of anything. It’s kinda amazing how quickly the dirty clothes mound up when you take a sick day.

Right now, there is a load of laundry in our dryer. However, I could do 2, maybe 3, more loads of laundry and be caught up.

It hasn’t always been this way.

There were many times that our laundry has resembled Mount Everest, or Mount Neverest, as it were. We’d paw through the dirty clothes to find what we needed, then do a load or two, and pull outfits of the day out of a laundry basket or, many times, straight out of the dryer. Actually, the first year I taught, I think all our clothes just rotated in and out of a pile in the floor in front of the laundry room. (It was right about then that a family closet-laundry room combo started looking attractive.) Sometimes, we would finish a load, then the clean clothes would get mixed back up with the dirty clothes. Since we couldn’t remember what was clean or dirty, if the sniff test didn’t work, we’d have to wash and dry all over again. Or, sometimes, we just went out and bought new underwear or socks.

Our current laundry room is right off our family room.

It hasn’t always been this way.

The first two places we lived, washer and dryer hook-ups were in the garage. So doing the laundry meant hanging out with the cars and all the other garage-y stuff like tools and spiders and the lawn mower and spiders. Our babies’ little onesies and sleepers hung from clotheslines in cute little sentry rows across the garage at our first house.

We also have a nice Whirlpool HE stackable washer and dryer set.

It hasn’t always been this way either.

Right after we got married, we didn’t have enough money to purchase a washer and dryer. Instead, when we ran out of clean clothes, we loaded up all the dirty clothes and drove them to the local Laundromat.

But we only did that for a little while.

About 2 months into our married life, my mom called me. Someone at their church knew someone who had a younger sister who was moving out of a college sorority house, and she was looking to get rid of her old washer and dryer. Did anyone know someone who needed a washer and dryer?

“We’ll take them,” I told my mom.

My mom cautioned me, “She said it was a really old washer and dryer, so I don’t know what condition they’re in, Wendy. They may not last long.”

I don’t care. We’ll take them.

So my husband went and picked up our new-to-us washer and dryer in his truck, brought them home to the little duplex we rented, and set them up in the corner of the garage.

Old was an understatement. They were both really, really old, ancient actually. And a little a lot decrepit. I’m quite sure that there are probably replicas of these particular models in a museum somewhere. The washer had a rusted out corner, and we had to prop it up on wooden blocks. We had to use a wrench to turn the dryer on. And they both liked to take turns shaking and trying to walk across the floor.

But they cleaned and dried our clothes.

My husband agreed with my mom, “Neither one of these is going to last long. We need to start saving some money because I bet we have to replace them soon.”

Well, guess what?

That old washer and rusty dryer lasted for years!

Every time we thought we might think about purchasing a new set, we had to use the money for something else.

And our ancient washer and dryer just kept washing and drying and drying and washing and washing and drying in dedicated (yet tired) little spin cycles. Through babies and two moves and stomach viruses with marathon sheet washes and yearly fire school trainings with stinky, smoky clothes and beach vacations with sandy swimsuits and beach towels and in sickness and in health and for richer and for poorer.

As long as we needed them, they lasted.

About four years ago, we finally purchased a brand new set.

And, as excited as I was to get some flashy new appliances, there was a part of me that was a bit sad as the deliverymen rolled our trusty old washer and dryer away.

Like people do, I posted something on Facebook about being thankful for our new washer and dryer and the miracle of actually being able to turn the dryer on without having to use a wrench. The woman who, so many years ago, had asked around to see if anyone could use her sister’s old washer and dryer saw my post and asked, “You’re not talking about my sister’s set are you? Y’all are just now getting rid of that old washer and dryer?

Yes, actually, I am.

Because God provides. And provides and provides and provides. It’s a spin cycle of faithfulness, really.

When we first got married, I hadn’t prayed for a washer and dryer. I assumed we’d keep going to the Laundromat until we could afford to purchase our own washer and dryer. And, since I knew that’d be a while, I hadn’t even thought to pray for a washer and dryer.

But God knew. And God loves us. And God supplies. He answers even unthought-of prayers.

And our old washer and dryer taught me a lesson.

We’ve been married for over eighteen years now, and, sometimes, I worry and get anxious and even start to doubt. But, every time I walk into our laundry room, I’m reminded. As never-ending as the spin cycles of laundry are, so too is God’s never-ending love. God is faithful. God provides.

He even cares about a young newly married couple and their laundry.

And the amazing, wonderful thing is… He still cares about that same couple, their three kids, and all their laundry.

It’s always been this way.

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Beautifully Fleeting Ordinary

5-Minute Friday Time with Lisa-Jo Baker!! And, today, it’s all about the ORDINARY!

http://lisajobaker.com/

(Confession: I wrote for longer than 5 minutes… kinda like in high school when I was assigned a 500 word essay but ended up writing 1,000 or so words instead.)

ORDINARY

“Ordinary, no, really don’t think so…” (Kenny Chesney, “Me and You”)

The ultrasound technician pressed the wand over my gel-slicked tummy with one hand while making various notations on the computer with her other hand. The click-clack of the computer’s keys sounded loud in the little room as my husband and I barely breathed, waiting to see our first glimpse of our first child.

And, suddenly, emerging from all the indistinguishable gray blobs, was our baby with a little head and 2 little legs…

“Oh, look! There’s a little hand waving!”

And then the thump-thump-thump of the baby’s heartbeat, reassuring and so sweet… music in perfect harmony with the beat of my own heart.

The technician looked over at us. “And do we want to find out boy or girl today?”

“Yes, please.”

“Hmm…” the technician paused, concentrating on the screen. “It looks like we have a shy one. Let’s see if we can get this baby to move around a little.”

She expertly maneuvered the wand around my stomach. “A-ha! There we go… have a look at your baby girl.”

Our baby girl…

In an instant, my baby dreams turned fairy-princess pink. I was having a daughter.

“There’s daddy’s girl!” my husband exclaimed in awe; with one view, he was already wrapped around her tiny finger. He may have even started humming “Butterfly Kisses.”

The technician smiled, having been witness to so many of these moments, and quickly printed off some grainy black and white pictures for us to take with us. She then wiped the gel off my stomach and helped me sit up.

“You can go back to the exam room now, and the doctor should be in to see you soon. Congratulations, again” she said as she walked out of the room, already on her way to the next room and the next new mommy. The technician did ultrasounds every day, so our very typical sonogram was nothing out of the ordinary for her.

But how very life-changing and overwhelming and miraculous the ordinary can be…

Like the very ordinary moment when the stick turned pink in the doctor’s office after thinking I couldn’t have children or the moment when I told my husband, “We’re having a baby!” And he jumped up from his chair and hugged me so, so tightly, and, together, we cried tears of shared joy over our very own ordinary miracle. Or that moment, after 23 and a half hours of labor, they placed our baby girl in my arms, and I became a mother.

So ordinary, but so… not.

I’ve been her mother for almost 14 years now… or 165 months or 715 weeks or 5,024 days.

And each year, each month, each day has been filled with ordinary little moments…

Playing dress-up in pretty princess costumes, reading bedtime stories, digging up worms, making sandcastles, crying over math homework, planning sleepovers, giggling with her cousins, writing stories and plays, collecting sea turtles, painting her toenails three different colors, waiting so anxiously for “Once Upon a Time” to come back on TV, holding her baby brother, squabbling with her other brother, dancing with her daddy…

And, from her very first wobbly baby steps to her first day of kindergarten when she told me, “Mommy, I think the parents are leaving now” to the day when she threw a shirt across the room and yelled, “You just don’t understand!” each of these very ordinary moments have been taking her further away from me.

That’s what’s supposed to happen, right? From the moment they’re born, they grow away from us a little more each day, and our job is to prepare them for that day when they’re “grown up” and leave home for the last time. Each moment of the journey, we have to learn to let go just a little bit more. Instead of taking the steps with them, we have to start standing back and watching from the sidelines as they take the steps on their own.

Tonight, she is going with her best friend to her first lock-in at church. Except can you call it a lock-in when they’re going all over town from one fun teenage-y place to another?

The night, before she was born, when I went into labor I remember thinking, “But I’m not ready! What if she cries, and I don’t know what’s wrong? What if I drop her? And, oh my goodness, I still don’t know how to make meatloaf! I’m not ready to be somebody’s mother!”

And, this afternoon, while she giggles with her friend as they get ready, I’m once again thinking, “But I’m not ready!”

Since neither my husband nor I can help chaperone this time, she’ll be on her own. What if she loses her cell phone? What if she loses her towel and change of clothes at the pool and has to wear wet clothes for the entire night? What if she gets left at the bowling alley? What if she forgets to use her hand sanitizer before she eats?

And I know tens of thousands of other teenagers have done this same thing, and they’ve all survived and had loads of fun.

It’s quite ordinary really.

But for me, like all the other moments of her almost 14 years, it’s really not all that ordinary.

This fun lock-in is a new moment where I’m having to let go some more. We share a journey, she and I, a very ordinary mother-daughter journey, and, as all the moments of our journey change her from baby to little girl to young lady, I am changed as well… from a mommy to a momma to the mom of a teenager. And, while she is filled with a heady rush of excitement and freedom and can’t wait-ness, I don’t feel ready for this moment (and still don’t know how to make meatloaf).

I’m worried and anxious… like I was the first time she had a fever when she was a baby and we rushed her to the emergency room. To the doctors and nurses, she was just another patient, and we were just 2 typical worried parents. So routine for them, so out of the ordinary for us.

I’m excited and happy for her… like I was when she conquered her fear and rode her first rollercoaster and held her hands up in glee and victory as she zoomed down the big hill. To the ride operators, she was just another young girl. They didn’t know that the previous year she had been in tears she was so scared at even the thought of riding. So routine for them, so out of the ordinary for us.

I realized the other day, that, at almost 14 years old, more than half her life with us is over. There are only so many of these ordinary moments left where she’s just our little girl.

The moment where I discovered her hiding in her bedroom with my makeup smeared all over her and her bed and the floor really does seem like just yesterday. But, today, she and her friend are giving each other makeovers and trying on different outfits in preparation for tonight. One day, I was busy cutting her grapes in half and praying for an early bedtime. Today, I washed her favorite pair of jeans and I’m going to drop her off at church then drive away.

Everyone will tell you “Time flies,” but you don’t really get it until one day you look back and wonder, “Where did it go?” Those quiet ordinary moments go by so quickly that before you know it, you’re in another moment thinking, “Wait a minute. How did we get here? We weren’t ready to move on. I’m not sure I played patty cake enough. I didn’t know that was the last time she was going to dance to the ‘Fresh Prince’ theme. I forgot to take her picture when her hair was in curlers. I didn’t read enough books to her. I was too busy to paint with her.

When you’re right there in the midst of the everyday moments, you don’t even notice. You’re too busy with the mundane to see the fleeting beauty of the ordinary.

Flowers bloom in the spring. Fireflies light the summer’s evening. The leaves turn colors every autumn. Snow falls in winter. Seasons come and go, and time passes. All so ordinary… but still so beautiful.

And it is these beautifully fleeting ordinary moments that make life quite extraordinary.

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The Little Girl Who Wrote About Aliens

It’s 5-Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker!!

http://lisajobaker.com/

And, on this first Friday of October, the word is…

WRITE

The seven year old little girl was very, very nervous.

As an assignment in her 2nd grade class at school, the little girl had written a story. Her teacher had liked the story so much that she had asked the little girl to read her story in front of the entire rest of the school with all the students and their parents at the annual end of year awards banquet.

When the little girl had first written her story at the direction of her teacher, she, of course, hadn’t been thinking that what she had written would ever be read in front of anyone, much less that she herself would be the one reading it to everyone. She had simply taken the teacher’s prompt, “One morning, I woke up, and…” and had just gone with it, not caring about spelling or grammar or rhyme or reason, just carelessly in love with telling the story of her very own characters and never imagining in her seven year old little mind that her story would really ever go anywhere besides her own small classroom.

She had simply written because it was fun and she enjoyed doing it, and she had gotten a little carried away with her story too… while all the other students had only written a page or two, she had five pages, front and back. Now, the little girl was going to have to read those five pages. Out loud. In front of everyone. What if no one liked it? What if everybody laughed at all the wrong places?

So, that night in her pretty pink dress and matching bow, she was nervous, although a bit excited too, and was experiencing her very first case of butterflies.

As she slowly walked up to the stage, she clutched her story so tightly in her trembly, sweaty hands that she wrinkled the paper, and her shiny black patent leather shoes sounded very loud to her on the tiled floor. Once she reached the stage, the principal had to adjust the microphone because, even for a seven year old little girl, she was short. The too-bright light of the spotlight shone directly onto the stage, and, when the little girl risked a tiny glance into the crowd, all she could see was a blur of faces looking expectantly up at her. She gulped and quickly looked back down at her paper. Penciled words danced across the pages, and she struggled to find her place.

Earlier in the evening, her teacher, knowing she was anxious, had smiled kindly at the little girl and advised, “Just take a deep breath, and you’ll be fine.”

So she took that breath, took one more just because, and then began to read what she had written. At first the little girl’s voice was maybe a little soft and shaky but, as she continued to read, her voice became stronger – loud enough even to be heard over the “whap-whap-whap” of the fans circulating overhead. And her own words, the very words she had written herself, soon began to fill the banquet room.

The little girl was reading her story, a story about breakfast and aliens and homework and a really cool spaceship and an even cooler galaxy.

The audience of students and parents and teachers smiled and laughed at all the right places and, when she was done, everyone clapped. And the little girl smiled as she fairly skipped back to her seat.

“I’m so proud of you,” her daddy said. “You did a great job,” her momma told her. “I loved it,” a friend’s momma said.

Magic.

There during a humid May evening in a crowded banquet room, the seven year old little girl experienced both the joyful headiness and the scary vulnerability of sharing her written word, her story, for the first time.

And, over the next years, she continued to write – more stories for school and stories to play with her dolls and plays to perform at Christmas time with her little sister and, later, essays and papers for school and articles for the school’s newspaper and some angsty teenage poetry and, even later after she grew up, plays and skits for the church and school where she worked, a little fanfiction, and even some blog-writing. Sometimes, her heart would get too full, so she would write… a poem for her husband, an eulogy for her grandfather, an essay after 9/11, stories for her children, and other little bits and pieces of things she’d start but never finish…

But, while she may have stayed intrigued with the power of sharply written words, fascinated by the craft of a good story, and in love with the beauty and melody of lyrical words, she really never wrote again with quite so much careless abandon as that seven year old little girl who wrote about aliens.

That seven year old little girl was me. That seven year old little girl was I.

The English major in me knows that “That seven year old little girl was I” is correct. The writer in me feels that “That seven year old little girl was me” sounds better. So I can’t decide which one to go with – me or I? And my internal monologue starts tripping me up. “If I say ‘me,’ people will think I don’t know how to write or speak correctly. If I say ‘I,’ it kinda sounds a little awkward.”

And the seven year old little girl who wrote about aliens wouldn’t have cared.

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Truth Shines

You can’t handle the truth!” Jack Nicholson’s character screams to Tom Cruise’s character in the movie “A Few Good Men.”

And, many days, we can’t.

It’s easier to believe the lie, to shut our eyes and heart to what we know is true and, instead, keep focusing on the lie.

Almost like, if we ignore what we know to be true and right, the lie will become what’s true. And the truth? Well, what’s true is just some old-fashioned notion of our grandmothers that doesn’t fit in our today.

And the truth, the honest truth, makes us vulnerable in ways that the lie doesn’t. The lie lets us hide in the excuses of our wannas, couldas, shouldas, wouldas.

The Pinterest lies, the Superwoman lies, the Facebook lies, the Hollywood lies…

Lies that tell us we have to be a certain way, believe a certain way, look a certain way, act a certain way, speak a certain way in order to be good, better, and best.

Lies that claim our hearts, our bodies, and our minds until we’re lost to who we really were and are.

Lies that take away our focus, our contentment, our peace, our joy.

Lies that we convince ourselves are such truth that we use them to judge and condemn ourselves and each other.

Lies that taunt us, eventually beat us down into submission, and then imprison and enslave.

But, it’s true, you know, what they say… the truth will set you free.

And, always, what’s true and right and pure and lovely has a way of sneaking in. Like the sun’s rays finding the cracks in an old building and illuminating the forgotten corners, truth shines.

In the light of the sun, even the dust sparkles and floats freely.

Truth unlocks the chains and lets the prisoner step into the light… free.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

TRUE

For this 5-Minute Friday, Lisa Jo Baker asked us to write about what’s TRUE in our lives, to write our TRUE STORIES.

http://lisajobaker.com/

That’s hard, and I’m not sure I can do it. I was just going to let the above be my entry for “TRUE,” but that’s not really my TRUE STORY. And, if you know me at all, you know I’m a rule-follower.

I can take MERCY or words like it and write some pretty words. But can I take the word TRUE and really write honestly about me? I don’t know… because, honestly, I don’t think my truth is pretty enough or interesting enough or exciting enough. That “just a mom” thing? I think that’s my truth right now.

I’m not sure I’ve stopped believing the lie yet anyway. Okay, since we’re being truthful today, I know I haven’t stopped believing the lie. And I’m not sure I know what my true story is.

Yet, I keep remembering that one of the reasons I started this blog is because I wanted to be honest, to be truthful about who I was and am. I think, as women, we need to be more truthful with ourselves and with each other and to stop judging ourselves and each other so critically.

We need to share our valleys as well as our mountains, kinda like – “I’ll show you my scars if you show me yours” and “It’s okay, because I’ve been there too” or maybe even “I’m still there, sister.

I’m not perfect. Of course, I’m not. But I’m a whole lot less perfect than I usually let everyone see.

And this word, this TRUE, is difficult. And it’s taken me longer than five minutes to write today’s “Five-Minute Friday.” Truthfully, it’s taken me even longer to decide whether or not to post it. I’ve started and stopped so many times that I’m not even sure what the heck I’m writing anymore. And I’ve cried some too. Because, honestly, I’m just not sure I can. When you finally speak the truth, you’re vulnerable, and it’s not easy to let yourself be vulnerable.

If I were to write about my true story for today, I would tell you that my hair needs cutting and coloring, and it’s really bothering me, to the point where I hate leaving the house. But every time I think we have the money for me to get my hair done, I decide we need to use the money for something else. I could cut and color it myself, but I keep holding out.

We went walking yesterday for the first time in a while, and my shadow reflected back a wider me than I had realized I was and that made me feel very frumpy.

My toenails and fingernails both need a polish update. My t-shirt is stained. Both the refrigerator and the pantry need cleaning out and reorganizing, but it’s frustrating because, even after I finally get around to doing it, no one else in this household will pay a lick of attention to the orderliness and in 3 days (maybe 2), both will be right back to where they were. The desk is kinda cluttered right now as well.

Speaking of desks, while it’s only September, we’re already behind on homeschooling because I don’t want to tackle literature. I know me and know that I will completely overdo it, so I don’t even want to start.

And even all this is superficial truth.

The honest truth?

Some days, I really resent the way the mom’s attitude is the rhythm for the family. My attitude and my outlook are what set the tone for our household, and, sometimes, this is a burden I just don’t want. I get tired of the responsibility and the weight of everyone’s emotional and physical wellbeing resting on my shoulders.

I want to stay in my pajamas in bed all day by myself. Today, I’m tired of being the adult. I’m tired of being the wife and the mother.

I really don’t care what we eat for supper. If it were just myself, I’d be eating a bowl of popcorn. Or ice cream straight out of the carton.

And, oh my goodness, do I feel guilty for feeling these things.

I tell myself that it’s good that the kids know how to get their own breakfasts because they need to know these things, but, really, I’m just a slacker mom.

I had plans for this week to be a week of service and giving back for our family, but, while I’ve had good intentions, instead, I’ve been lazy. There are some people I need to text, to write, to call.

My husband and I have not had a date night in months, and I miss it. I miss him. I hate when he works on Friday nights, and I’m home alone with our kids and pets and reading on Facebook about everyone else’s exciting lives.

I also hate being 40 and that I can’t work the remote for the TV in our family room and the way no one turns their clothes right side out before throwing them into the laundry basket.

There is not one thing in this house that does not show the mark of a child or a pet. My almost new comforter set for our bed already has a hole in it. We’ve lived here for 10 years, and there’s not one room that is “done.” And I keep on pinning stuff on Pinterest, believing in the dream of “some day.”

I worry a lot; sometimes, I’m terrified and feel suffocated by anxiety. And, while I know His grace is sufficient, I don’t even ask for it most days. Most days I put on a brave face, smile, and hide behind “I’m fine.” Most days, I feel really inadequate and not quite good enough and definitely unworthy.

When my husband comes home from work and asks me how my day was, I’m not quite sure how to respond. “It was a day?” or “Guess what? You’re married to a lazy woman, but, at least, the kids are still alive?” And, bless his heart, he’s a longsuffering saint that loves me just the way I am.

But does emptying and loading the dishwasher, doing a couple of loads of laundry, playing two or three rounds of Candy Crush, refereeing arguments, finding something for everyone to eat for lunch, and then thinking about dinner really constitute a day anyway?

If we’re being honest, if we’re telling truths, I’m a mess most days.

But, even with all this, even underneath the lies I tell myself, even when I want to hide in the shower and cry, the real truth finds a way to shine in my corners and highlight the good and the right and the lovely.

I know that even when I’m tired of the day-to-day routine of being a mom and a wife, that I still love my family dearly and passionately and wholeheartedly. That’s true.

I know that, while our kitchen cabinets may still not have hardware and the chair in the family room looks like a garage sale reject, our home is our haven, the place where we live and laugh and love together. That’s true.

I know I’m more than my hair or my fingernails or my weight. I’m more than the day’s “to do” list that I never finish. I’m more than my mess. I’m more than my guilt and regret. Even on the days I forget, deep inside, the heart of who I really am still beats. That’s true.

I love these truths. These truths are my story as much as or, praise God, even more than the yuckiness is.

I know that, even on the days I’m wallowing in the lies, the truth is waiting to shine.

I know that, even on the days when I don’t want to acknowledge the truth, it’s still there, waiting to set me free…

And I know, that even though I may already be 40, I have more to tell and more to love and more to live.

There’s still more to my story.

That’s the truth. And maybe I can handle it.

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Gorgeous Chaos

It’s Friday!! Which means it’s also “Five Minute Friday” with Lisa Jo Baker!

http://lisajobaker.com/2013/09/five-minute-friday-she/#comments

And today’s word is SHE. Well, good grief… where do I go with that?

“She’s a mess of gorgeous chaos, and you can see it in her eyes…”

Sometimes when she looks in the mirror above the toothpaste smeared bathroom sink, she looks into her eyes, really looks into the blue depths.

These eyes have seen a lot… seen enough, been around enough, to be considered “middle-aged” eyes by now.

Is that a wrinkle at the corner? she asks herself. We’ll call it a laugh line, she decides.

Because even though she cries, she really, really likes to laugh.

Her husband knows it, so he makes her laugh a lot. And she laughs like a crazy girl with her sister.

She may be a wife and a mother, but, first, she’s just a girl.

There are very few people who really know, really get, this girl, but he’s one of them. And she’s okay with that.

And, when she looks in that mirror, the girl’s eyes stare back. Unflinching. Unwavering. Knowing.

She’s not laughing this time.

She’s not quite the woman she’d thought she’d be by now, and she can see the truth of it lurking in her eyes.

So she looks away.

She’s so, so, so not that infamous Proverbs 31 woman, but she wants to be.

Does that count? she wonders. Does that matter?

She bites her nails, then lets them grow out, and then bites them again. It’s a bad habit she tries to break over and over again because she knows he likes pretty fingernails. So she tries.

Just like some weeks she’s really good with the whole menu-planning, grocery-shopping, cooking-meals thing. And other weeks, she’s not.

Just like the diet and exercise thing. And the house-cleaning thing. And the laundry-thing.

She knows she’s more than all that stuff anyway.

But she still tries.

Sometimes, she dances across the kitchen and giggles with her children. And, sometimes, she just plods slowly along.

She has big plans and schemes which sometimes work out and, many times, fizzle out. But she has some really good intentions.

She’s shy, a bit of introvert really, which comes across as all wrong to people, and she worries that she doesn’t measure up and will never be good enough.

So she pretends.

She’s a dreamer, a romantic, a reader, a writer, but she really can’t stand math or politics or technological things.

She loves the poetry of the ocean. And she stands at the edge of the shore and lets herself sink as the waves come in and out and out and in. Sometimes, she grabs her boogy board, catches a wave just right, and laughs as she rides its crest, her fear of sharks be darned.

She likes fried green tomatoes and hates mayonnaise. She loves music and movie nights and road trips.

She drives a mini-van. But, in her mind, she’s decided it’s as cool as her dream BMW. And sometimes she drives with the windows down and the music up and with the wind blowing freely through hair that could really use a good trip to the salon.

She reads romance novels and plays a really good Scattergories game. She appreciates a good pair of heels as much as the next girl, and she adores date nights.

She wants to be noticed, wants to be heard, but not all the time.

She’s smarter than she looks. Her signature color is blue. And she wears her sunglasses on top of her head, even at night.

She’s anxious a lot and is sometimes prone to panic attacks. But she still loves adventure.

She has a habit of overdoing things, but she does it well and with style. She can be practical and impractical at the same time.

She can organize a closet like nobody’s business while completely ignoring the dog hair on the carpet. And planning her family’s outfits so they all coordinate and match thrills her.

She’ll run barefoot through the summer’s evening with her kids catching lightning bugs.

Sometimes, she thinks she would have liked to have been a secret CIA agent or a famous author or a relief worker in a far-off country, but, at night, when she tucks her children into bed, she’s happy just being their momma.

She’s so proud of these three children; they’re the very best of him and her together.

She loves her children so much it scares her. But she really doesn’t think she’s that good of a mother.

She loves her husband too and all the ways he loves her back. And, at night, when the lights are off and he kisses her, the extra pounds don’t matter ‘cause he makes her feel beautiful.

She doesn’t deserve how well he loves her, but she’s proud to be his wife.

Sometimes she hides in the shower. But, sometimes, she sings.

She’s a worrier. She’s a procrastinator. And a little bit lazy. But she can also be fun and a little bit silly.

She cares too much and sometimes not enough. She thinks too much and overthinks often. She sometimes doesn’t know what to say, or how to say it, or, when she says it, it comes out wrong. The evening news and a good Hallmark commercial can make her cry. So can the missionary at church.

She cares. And she wants to do more, give more, be more.

She very often doesn’t hold it all together, but she holds it all close in her heart.

And that matters.

She messes up frequently, but she gets back up. She’s never once not gotten back up.

And that counts.

She’s old enough now to know that life gets messy, but she’s also old enough to finally see the beauty in the chaos.

She takes a deep breath and looks back at the girl in the mirror.

She’s right there… right there in the gorgeous chaos.

She tells herself firmly, It counts. It matters.

And the girl in the mirror with the knowing eyes nods back at the truth she sees.

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Mercy for Tomorrow

It’s another Five Minute Friday with Lisa Jo Baker!

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MERCY

“After all… tomorrow is another day.” – Scarlett O’Hara

My momma once told me that Scarlett must be my heroine, and, when I asked what she meant, she smartly replied, “Well, with the way you procrastinate and put everything off until tomorrow, I thought you must identify with her.”

Oh, yeah, I did.

I still do.

There is a fine art to procrastination, and I’m really very good at it.

Tomorrow, tomorrow… I’ll do it tomorrow.

I’ll start my diet tomorrow.

I’ll clean off the bookshelves tomorrow.

I’ll shop for groceries tomorrow.

I’ll lesson plan tomorrow.

Like Scarlett, I tell myself, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

And, every night, when I lie down in bed, I decide, “Tomorrow. I’ll do better tomorrow.”

I’ll be a better wife.

I’ll be a better mom.

I’ll be more patient, more pleasant, more productive.

I’ll be better.

Because, every day, I fail. Every day, I mess up. And every night, I go to sleep covered with a blanket of guilt and lying on a pillow of regret.

On one particular fussy, grumpy, “nothing’s going right” kinda day, I snapped at the kids.

“This is the LAST time, I’m going to tell y’all. If you do that ONE MORE TIME…”

Then I stopped in mid-sentence.

Sometimes, y’all, God whispers in a still, small voice. But, sometimes?

He speaks with the voice of a thunderbolt.

And, this time, on that day, I heard Him quite clearly. And He and I had a little “Come to Jesus” moment.

“Aren’t you glad I’m not like that?” He asked me in the depths of my lightning-struck heart. “Aren’t you glad I don’t love like that? Aren’t you glad I give YOU a second chance?”

And a third chance. And a fourth chance. And a one hundred and thirty-fourth chance…

New chances and new opportunities to make things right. To be better…

Because He loves me.

And He loves with infinite grace. He loves with patient mercy.

The kind of grace and mercy that forgives and washes away guilt and regret.

The kind of grace and mercy that I have a hard time accepting… the kind of grace and mercy that I often don’t show my kids.

Stunned by the power of His grace and mercy, humbled once again by His love, there I prayed, “Lord, please forgive me for not accepting Your grace. For not showing Your mercy to my family and others. Please let me love the way You do.”

He forgave me then. He still forgives me today. He’ll forgive me tomorrow. And He’ll keep on loving me.

Because He patiently loves with the unfailing love of a merciful Father.

Even when I mess up. Even when I don’t show up. Even when I throw up my hands in despair.

Because even when I fail, His grace is sufficient, and His sweet mercy falls like cleansing rain.

He says, “I give you new moments, new hours, new days.

New moments to be better, new hours to love the way He loves, and new days to try again.

Tomorrow, after all, really is another day, Scarlett.

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

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Keepsake Red

It’s “Five Minute Friday” with Lisa Jo Baker!! And the word is RED, & it was hard!

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RED

She wore a red dress, and it was sassy and flirty. And daring. And, when he saw it, his eyes lit up.

She kept the petals of every single rose he gave her. In a vase on her dresser, over the years, the bright red darkened to a deep burgundy, and the satiny petals became brittle and crumbly with age. So, she threw them away.

Keep the memories; toss the clutter. Right?

The red dress is no longer in her closet either.

But, sometimes, she remembers that red dress with the matching red high heels. Every girl needs a pair of red high heels, you know.

Of course, she’d never be able to fit into the dress now. Much less have a place to wear it.

But, still, it was red. And it was fun. And she remembers that world with its “everything’s possible” days of dares and dreams and discoveries.

And days became years until that world faded away like the last burning red rays of a sunset. In her rearview mirror.

Sometimes, she looks in the mirror and wonders what happened to that girl in the sassy red dress. So she paints her toenails a shiny, daring, glossy red. ‘Cause even though time and life have changed and shaped her into someone maybe a little different than that girl in the red dress, she knows… she’s still there. And he knows it too.

Today, she glances across a family room littered with toys and books and all the little things that make up today’s world, and, there, on the table beside the loveseat, she sees the sippy cup with the red lid. Half-filled with orange juice because that’s just about all he ever drinks.

This sippy cup with the red lid has lasted through three kids for thirteen years. Tiny little teeth marks decorate the spout.

Thirteen years of strawberries and sippy cups and construction paper hearts and “ketchup is a vegetable” and Santa Claus and ladybugs…

Someday, she’ll put away the sippy cup with the red lid for the last time. And she’ll have to look back in her rearview mirror. Again. And wonder, like everyone does, where did it go?

Her thirteen year old daughter prances across the kitchen as only a thirteen year old girl can, and she asks herself, “When did she get to be so tall?”

So pretty and more confident than she ever was… She’s got daring dreams of her own with the whole world waiting to be discovered.

And there’s a tiny catch in her heart when that thirteen year old girl announces one day she wants to put some red streaks in her blonde hair.

Sassy red. Sippy cup red. Keepsake red.

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