The Greatness of Good Morning

One of the greatest feelings in the world at this point in my life is the moment when I lay my two year old in her bed at night.   We are both genuinely ready for a little rest after a busy day of two-ness.  Knowing that I can put her in her bed and go sit and stare (or write a blog post) without chubby little hands grabbing for mine, without demands for fruit snacks or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, is quite a relief. And, she feels it, too, I know, when we go through our bedtime routines and she feels that rest coming closer.  She often falls right into it, welcoming the end of another full day.

But, something happens after a few hours of sleep and separation.  Morning comes, and I wake up excited to see her precious little face smiling up at me.  Just a few days ago, I went into her room and she opened those big blue eyes and said, “Good morning!”  I scooped her up, blankey and all, and thought, “Yes, it IS a good morning.”  Even though I’m not the most bright and shiny of morning people.  Even though on some mornings I wake up thinking about how many hours it will be before my head will hit the pillow again.

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And, yesterday, instead of waking up and calling me to her room in her usual way, she shouted out, “Mama! I want to say good morning!”  I giggled and walked into her room.  She was practically buried in the middle of a collection of weird little toys and Christmas books and who knows what all that she drags to bed with her.  And she grinned at me in the pale morning light, and said almost shyly, “Mornin’!”

When Emerald wakes up, I’m the very first person on her mind.  She won’t rest anymore once she sees the sunshine streaming in narrow ribbons through her blinds.  She wakes up thinking Mama, and she doesn’t stop calling for me until she sees my face and says good morning.

If I’m being honest, when I consider the first thing on my mind when I wake up, the answer is clear:  it’s me.  What do I have to do today?  How do I feel?  I wish I could sleep longer.  How well did I sleep last night?  On and on and on I can go, thinking of my own thoughts and feelings, never once stopping to think about God.

Imagine how things would be different in my day if the first thought that bloomed in my mind every morning was God. His word. His goodness.  What if I just couldn’t rest until I got the chance to say good morning to my Father?  What if, like Emerald, I opened my eyes each day knowing that all I really want to do is to say, “Mornin’.”  To the One who made the morning.  To the One who spoke light into being.

What if what I really wanted to do was to see His face?

When Emerald calls me in the mornings, I don’t wait to go in and see her.   I rush, just because I enjoy seeing her happy smile as I turn the corner.  If I, so, so imperfect, rush to see my baby girl, how much more does a right and perfect God love showing His face to His children?

I don’t want to miss Him because I’m so busy thinking about myself.  What a shame to miss the glory of God.

On the really special mornings, I meet with God in my first thoughts, and I hear Him again in the sound of a two year old’s “Mornin’.”  He is so good, so worthy.

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And, He blesses so much.

He is a good morning God and a good night God.  And, He is everything in between.  Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, sunrise and sunset.

I want to wake up tomorrow like a two year old with Mama on her mind.

Every thought focused on seeing the face of my Lord.

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113:3

Making the Best of the Time (When Good Things Take Over)

I had just gotten the three kids out of the bathtub, already past bedtime on a Sunday night.  No one had had supper yet, and I was rushing to get pjs on the baby before I made cheese quesadillas out of the few ingredients that were in my kitchen.  Then I remembered that there were no more diapers.  So, I left the naked children with Chad while I raced to the dollar store to buy the last box of diapers on the shelf.  On the drive home, all of the “good things” that I need to do this week weighed heavy on me, not the least of which was the impossible-feeling feat of just getting my kids fed and in their beds within the next thirty minutes.  The street lights in our quiet small-town neighborhood grew blurry halos as my eyes filled with tears.  In that moment, it all seemed like too much.

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And, the things I need to do this week?  They’re all good.  They’re all worthy, upstanding, nice things.   They’re the other side of promises made:  promises kept.  Things I said I would do that I must follow up on and follow through with.  Things I want to do.  But, things that will be hard for me.  Things that, on their own, are nothing much to fret over, but put them all together, into one gigantic swirling ball of Things-I-Must-Do, and suddenly they seem daunting and cause tears in a dark car on a Sunday night.

The truth is, all of the good things in our lives can take over if we’re not careful.  I am doing lots of good stuff.  But, is it the very best stuff?  Is it the stuff that will make my children know Christ more?  The stuff that will make me grow in Him?  Is it the stuff that makes living in our home a pleasant experience?  Is it the stuff that gives my marriage endurance?

Or is it just the stuff that I think will make me look good?

That will feed my pride and my glory-lust?

I really don’t know.

But, I do know this.  My children are growing quickly.  If I blink, I’ll miss it.  And, if I keep my heart and mind buried in the “good stuff” that is banging down my door, I’ll look right past the incredible miracle of motherhood that is lying at my feet.

A true case of missing the best for the good.

So, tonight I will lie down with prayers floating round a messy bedroom.  Prayers for industrious hands, a clear mind, a patient spirit, and a heart that loves Jesus and lives to serve Him, whether in my home or out in this big, broken world.  Prayers for humility, for dependence on God, and for the wisdom to let Him use me, even when it’s hard.

Prayers for knowing what is worth saying yes to.

While I’m at it, I’ll pray the same for you.

And, when Monday morning hits like a Mack truck, may we reach for the best first:  knowing Christ and loving our families well.   All of the other good things can fall in line accordingly.

What Would Julie Andrews Do?

Originally posted February 15, 2014.

To begin with, I was too tired. We had stayed up way too late the night before, something about a DVR’d two hour finale of Downton Abbey. Then I was up way too early with a child who was being tortured by a stopped up nostril. We’ve had an ongoing conversation for many years now.  I say, Just breathe through your mouth!  She says, I can’t breathe through my mouth!  I say, Really. 

And then we wind up sitting on the couch squinting into the bright lights of the TV, watchingMy Little Pony at an hour when only nurses and serial killers are awake.  When I was considering motherhood ten years ago, I never imagined a life where someone else’s nostril issues would cause me to lose sleep.

So, that’s one reason that I began the day in no condition to tackle grocery shopping with a huge list and a strict budget and a six year old and a 21 month old there to “help.”  But, there was no getting around the fact that we had no food to eat.  So, I decided I was going to go ahead with the badly laid plan to drag myself to the store.  You might say that I began with a bad attitude.  When we started the twenty minute drive to WalMart and Emerald began crying, I may have brooded a little bit.  By the time we were halfway there and the crying still hadn’t let up, I had a moment.

I suddenly felt completely overwhelmed by the task at hand.  In fact, I felt like turning the car around, driving home, and feeding the children a jar of olives and some pickle spears, since that’s pretty much all we had in the fridge that was somewhat edible.  But, truthfully, I hate olives, and I didn’t want to get all dramatic about my mama meltdown here in the minivan.  After all, I could vaguely make out the tune of The Sound of Music as it played on the DVD player in the background.

The kids have fallen in love with Maria and all of her escapades since they got the movie for Christmas, so Julie Andrews has sung the soundtrack to my life in the past few months.  Occasionally Emerald would have to pause in her screaming to take in air.  So, I brooded and I sulked and I felt totally inadequate, and I listened to Maaamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! (How do you solve a problem like Maria?)  Maaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaaa! (A flibbety-jibbit, a will-of-a-wisp, a clown.)  Maaaaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaa!  And I began wondering how you solve a problem like a baby screaming her way to the grocery trip you don’t want to take.   How do you solve the problem of not-enough-sleep and way too many items on the list?  How do you solve the problem of a true and living and violent hate for WalMart at 5:00 on a Monday afternoon?

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And then there’s this:  how can you be sad when Julie Andrews is singing to you?  How can you feel blue when she is cheering I have confidence in me through your mediocre minivan speakers?  All of these things were going through my weary mind as we pulled into the WalMart parking lot.   While the kids were still confined to their seats, I took out my grocery list and started trying to pump myself up for this experience.  Come on, Melissa!  I pep-talked, You have confidence in you!  You are a mother of three!  You have birthed nine pound babies!  You can DO THIS!  Yeah!!!! And while the Rocky theme played faintly in the back of my mind somewhere, I put on my brightest Mommy’s Got This smile and pulled those babies out of the car.  We were going to rock this grocery shopping experience.  People would probably write handbooks about grocery shopping based on this particular trip.  I was feeling it.  I was ready.

And then we actually got inside the building.

And Emerald wanted to ride in the basket.  For 2.3 seconds.  And then she wanted to walk–no, dance–no, crawl–no, meander–no, run aimlessly–through the store.  She cried a lot.  She wanted to sit in the cart and draw on my grocery list.  Then she wanted to walk and draw–not easy to do, especially when you aren’t that proficient at regular walking yet.  I was trying so hard to stick to my budget, so I wrote down the price of every item as I put it in the cart.  This means that every time I picked something up I had to wrestle the pen and paper out of the little darling’s hand to write down the number.  Why didn’t you give her a DIFFERENT piece of paper and a DIFFERENT pen, some of you are thinking right now.  Well, my purse is sort of like the inside of our fridge.  Lots of trash and not much that is useful in the moment.  I had chewed gum.  I had lots of old receipts.  I had an UNSHARPENED pencil.  Oh, yes.  I was well prepared.

By the time we got to the checkout, I felt like I had run a marathon in the middle of a thunderstorm.  People were glancing my way with pity?  admiration?  I had survived.  I had gotten every single item on my list.  I had stuck to my budget.  I had won the day.  I started putting our things on the conveyor belt, so close now to walking out of the store having stayed on budget despite millions of distractions in the form of a blonde haired baby girl.  I was expecting the total to be right around $105.  Five dollars over budget, but I felt like I deserved the extra five bucks spent on fiber bars or something else equally boring.  The cashier scanned my last item and read my total:  $122. 

I considered cussing.

Obviously I had forgotten to write down a few things.  I paid the lady, my shoulders slumped in defeat.  I had gone through TWO HOURS of the type of torture that makes a stopped up nostril look like child’s play.  All so I could stay on budget.  Being meticulous in a haphazard fashion.  Doing math.  That is real sacrifice.  And I had failed miserably.  And Emerald had eaten at least three packages of fruit snacks.  And in the frozen food aisle Sawyer had sung a song that included the lyrics Oh Mama, you have so much to learn, don’t you?

Why, yes.  Yes, I do.

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I drove home in a sullen state. I cranked up Julie Andrews and I tried to focus on how the hills are alive with the sound of music.  I sang along. I knew that this grocery trip, the terror that it was, would be completely underappreciated by anyone who wasn’t there to see it take place.  I knew that it would be impossible to truly put into words how totally loser-ish I felt as the final total was read by the oblivious checker.  Yet, I was reminded that this experience hadn’t been witnessed just by the six year old and a few disinterested shoppers.  Actually, God had witnessed the whole crazy affair.  And He saw the pacifying and the adding in crooked columns and the sweat and the effort that went into the seemingly failed venture.

Not only that, but He carried me through the whole thing.  And, even though in the grand scheme of life’s problems this trip really wasn’t one, it’s nice to know that I have a God who sees me, who knows me, and who understands that sometimes just the day to day chores of being a mother are enough to bring me to my knees.  He sees the storms that brew in my heart, and He calms them.

Later in the evening, the two older kids were in bed and Emerald and I were sitting on the couch, hanging out for just a few minutes before her bedtime.  She suddenly looked up at me with the brightest smile on her face, pointed at me with her chubby little finger, and said, Mama, sing Doe.

I looked into those crystal blue eyes of hers and thanked God that she is around to give me a headache in WalMart.  And, then in true Julie Andrews fashion, I sang to the child of a million distractions:  Doe, a deer, a female deer. . .

The Folly in Wishing for Fast Forward

Today was a day of learning technology.

I hate learning technology.

And, as I sat there, with Chad on the phone trying to walk me through every agonizingly frustrating step of the grueling process, Emerald cried.  No, she didn’t just cry.  She screamed.  In my face.  About everything.

With the technology headache slashing my patience to ribbons, I had a moment of just wishing that Emerald wasn’t two.  I don’t know what age I wanted her to be–maybe a calm and careful nine.  Or a sweet and quiet six.  But, her two-ness was raging, and technology was uncooperative, and I just wished for something other than the textbook toddler moment we had going on.

I decided to quit for the moment and take her home to let her eat and nap–two fairly vital parts of her day.  And, as I buckled her in the car, her face still wet with tears, she launched into a long story about Sawyer and his Legos.  She spoke in her broken baby-English, and her exaggerated facial expressions and her grown up looking gestures made me laugh.

emmy Tonight before bed she was pretending she had forgotten how to say yogurt.  “I want some orgash,” she sang, before  dissolving into a footie-pj-ed pile of giggles.  I watched her eyes squint as part of the huge grin that covered her tiny face, and I wondered how I could ever dream of rushing this stage, this age, this day-I-will-never-have-back.

While she napped, I figured out the technology.  When she woke up, she cried.  And she laughed.  She danced and sang and she refused to get out of the tub.  She had opinions about which pjs to wear, and she insisted on a peculiar and painfully slow method of eating her “orgash.”  She wanted to wear shoes to bed.

And, tomorrow we’ll do it all again.

I’m glad.  So, so glad.

The Art of Being Ungrateful

I could sing you a song of ungratefulness.  I know so many verses, so many long and loud laments, so many quiet whispers in the darkest parts of my heart.  I could sing this song on the best of days, even while swimming through an enormous pool of God’s goodness.

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Today was such a day.  Things went haywire in the way that ordinary things do on any given day in a life with three children and old cars and weird things that happen when you’re making plans for life to go just right.  And, I had a moment, in the middle of a superstore someplace, when I clearly watched God send me help that I didn’t even know I needed.  I was wowed.  I shed a tear in the toy aisle.  I couldn’t even believe how faithful, how good, how incredible, how involved, how precious God is.  I felt His presence, and I worshiped Him for His great love and provision.

Imagine how shocked I was, just a few hours later, to find myself singing another verse of the old song of ungratefulness.  Just because we had homework to tackle.  And, I actually ran over the cat’s toe.  I mean, who does that?  And, everyone in my home could see the shift–I sang the old familiar song with barked orders and loud sighs and general self-pity.  And, in the middle of the third refrain I was suddenly jolted by the image of the friend God had sent to my rescue earlier today.

And, I was so ashamed.

Because it is so easy to forget what God has done.

I have always identified with the “stiff-necked” Israelites wandering through the desert.  Because I have no doubt whatsoever that I could watch God part the Red Sea in the morning and be grumbling about something by nightfall.  That is how the song of ungratefulness works. Sometimes it almost seems like songs of praise melt right into verses about cats’ toes and homework.  It seems ridiculous when we read about the Hebrews being rescued by God again and again and again, but still they complained and grumbled and refused to trust God.

Yet, here I was, this very day, singing that lame old song that the Israelites knew so well, even after God had shown Himself so clearly just hours before.  I want to be like Moses instead, beaming so brightly after an encounter with God that no ungratefulness can creep in and turn my praise to grumbling.

After I recognized my stiff-necked ways this afternoon, I changed my tone with my children.  I changed the tune in my heart.  At bedtime I told them the incredible story of God’s provision in my day.  And, I sent them to bed with songs of praise instead of an ungrateful dirge.  And, now I sing my song to you.

He is good.  May I remember these notes as the sun rises tomorrow.

Beautiful Feet: Our CD Has Arrived!

Some of you may remember when I wrote about that time when we were recording artists.  Well, months later, our CD is finally here!

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You can download the music here, or if you’re more of a CD kind of person (I am!) you can send $10 to:

Chad and Melissa
P.O. Box 848
Olney, TX 76374

Making this record was one of those humbling, fascinating, only-God-could’ve-orchestrated-this-whole-thing sorts of deals, so I hope that means at least one person out there will get a blessing out of listening to it.

Google Search of the Week: Will My Children Need a Mother in Heaven?

WordPress and Google work together to show me which Google searches lead people to my blog.  I thought it would be fun to dig through some of the search terms that brought people here and explore some answers to their questions.

If the popularity of all of the Heaven books has taught us anything, it’s that people are hungry for knowledge of what Heaven will be like.  I doubt that any human being is more interested in Heaven than a parent who has a child there.  I’m not sure if the sweet mama who asked Google this question has lost a child, or if she’s just thinking about what would happen if she did lose one.  But, either way, I think her question is valid and worth looking into.

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First of all, we know that God loves children.  In His word, He calls them blessings and rewards, and Jesus welcomed children into His presence and even His arms during His ministry on Earth. (Psalm 127:3-5, Matthew 18:2-6) God shows a tenderness toward children throughout Scripture, and He even tells us that we should have faith like a child.  (Matthew 18:3)

Secondly, we know that Heaven is real and that it is a place that is specially prepared for us (and our children).  (John 14:2-3)  If He, in His wisdom, is preparing a place for our children, that place will not lack anything that they need.We can trust that things in Heaven are perfect in a way that they cannot be on Earth.  In Heaven, sin is no more, time is irrelevant, and there are no tears.  So, even though the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us, sweet mothers, if our children will need us in Heaven, we can know beyond any doubt that they most certainly will not need us.  God is sufficient for us, and He is sufficient for our children.

But, this knowledge is a real dilemma for us.  Because as much as we want our children to be okay without us, somehow it adds to our sadness to think that our children could forget about us in Heaven.  There is plenty of evidence in scripture that we will know each other in Heaven.  When Jesus appears to His disciples after His death, they recognized Him.  When He takes Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17, the men saw Elijah and Moses appear beside Jesus.  And, they knew who Elijah and Moses were, even though they had never seen them before.  So, it stands to reason that we will surely recognize our dearest loved ones in Heaven.

Our relationships will be different.  Our children won’t need us like they do on Earth.  But, I believe we will know them, and they will know us.  I like the way John Piper explains the change in the nature of our relationships in Heaven.  He was asked about marriage, and how we will relate to our spouses in Heaven.  He simply answered, “Whatever marriage is here on Earth, it will be infinitely better in Heaven.”

I think the same is true of our relationships with our children.  We can trust that they will be taken care of in our absence, and we can trust that when we are reunited, it will be infinitely better than we can imagine.  As the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9:  “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love him–”

We know His character.  We can trust His promises.  And, we can trust Him with our children, in this life and in the next.

I Wandered, Then Motherhood

Originally posted March 20, 2013.

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Motherhood is eye rolling.

It is heart breaking, heart thumping, and heart swelling.

It is big, huge, enormous, work.

It is tiny details that matter to few.

Motherhood is light sleeping. It is no sleeping. It is squished, feet-in-the-face, listening for breathing, wishing for a king-sized bed sleeping.

Motherhood is long.

It is so short that it hurts.

It is dark nights, endless nights, coughing and crying and vomiting nights. It is I-thought-I-was-going-to-get-caught-up-on-sleep-but-I-was-so-so-wrong nights.

Motherhood is nights filled with sweet secret moments between mother and child.

It is terrifying.

Motherhood is my tooth is loose and it is don’t touch my tooth and it is that tooth has to come out.

It is sweet victory.

Motherhood is all open doors.

It is double checking locks.

It is energy-zapping and life-giving.

Motherhood is brain altering. It is how-did-the-phone-bill-get-in-the-fridge.

It is considering buying new underwear to avoid laundry.

It is doing the right thing because you have no choice.

It is wanting to do the right thing.

Motherhood is looking God in the face.

It is humility.

It is tears. Lots of tears.

It is falling in love.

Motherhood is brave.

It is forever.

It is real.

Motherhood is the end of me. It is the beginning of me.

Motherhood is overwhelming.

It is drowning. It is swimming.

It is rescue.

Why I Let My Kids Make Messes

My kids are sleeping.  And, this is what my living room looks like.

mess blogThey had a short amount of time today between homework and church, and they set up this elaborate game during their few completely free moments.  I saw them gathering supplies and moving pieces of furniture (however small). I heard them plan what they were going to do.  And, I’ll be honest with you.  My initial thought was, “Oh, no!  They’re going to make a huge mess.”  And, you see my living room as it sits right now.  They did.

But, I resisted my urge to stop them.  I didn’t suggest that they watch TV instead, and I didn’t make them do the chores that would’ve actually helped me out quite a lot.  I just let them play.

I let them play, and I helped them get blankets, and I got “dog snacks” out of the cabinet and put them in bowls so that they could pretend they were eating from dog dishes.  They crawled around in this little set up for almost an hour before we had to leave.  We went to church, and by the time we came home, it was time to get them ready for bed.  So, the mess remains.

And, I know that not everyone could live with this mess tonight.

But, here’s where I’ve landed on the housekeeping issue after fifteen years of feeling like I’m failing miserably.  What do I want my kids to remember?  Will they remember how I meticulously cleaned their rooms for them?  Will they remember that the laundry room was always perfectly in order?  They might notice those things and appreciate them.  But, what they will really remember is how they feel in our house.  Do they feel like they belong here?  Like they are allowed to explore, create, invent, make messes, imagine?

I hope when my kids are grown and they’re looking back on their childhood with their far from perfect mother, they will remember most of all that I allowed them to be kids, in the messy way that kids are kids.

So, maybe as you read this you feel like you’re failing at the homemaking game.  Be encouraged.  Your kids likely feel at home in your house.

Maybe you feel stressed because your kids want to play and you want them to sit and read quietly or watch TV.  Be encouraged.  When your kids play and mess things up, they are doing important work of childhood.  And, even when it stresses you out, let your kids make a mess occasionally, no strings attached.  They will love you for it, and they will remember so much more about the fun than the cleanliness.

How do you keep a balance between clean and fun?

Also, have you entered my Elly le Fripouille giveaway yet?  It ends on Friday!

The Difference Between Looking and Seeing

Today I watched you, little boy of mine, running freely through brown crisp grass that has been kissed too often by the summer sun.  I saw your eyes as we pulled up to the park, wide, taking in all of the wonders of this place, your mind quickly trying to choose which fun to start with.  You climbed, and you bounced and you swung so high that you thought you’d leave footprints in the clouds.

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Your cheeks grew pink, but you ignored the heat of a September afternoon in Texas.  All you could think about was the fun, the greatness, the genuine treat of these moments, little boy running, golden late day sun dancing across the freckles on your smiling face.

You climbed to the very top of everything there was to climb.  You looked down on the earth with no fear, just a boyish sense of manliness, surveying your great accomplishment from the highest of heights.  And then, you made sure that I saw you there, little boy testing his courage, building up in small ways the masculine strengths you will need in order to live this life that you have been given.

I looked around this place, and wondered what you could possibly see in it.  It was old.  Broken.  The sprawling playground was unattractive at best, completely unusable at its worst.  I looked at the chipped paint, busted swing chains, squeaky metal parts struggling to move after decades of piloting children through the adventure of childhood.

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park3It seemed obvious that what I saw was very different from what your little boy heart took in.  And, I thought as I stood there among the rust, that I hope this is how you see people, too, my boy.  I hope that when you look at a world of human beings that are chipped and broken, that you will see what they were made to be. In a worn mother’s way, I pray that you will see the image of God in your fellow broken down, busted up adventurers.

And, when you feel forgotten and abandoned, when you feel left behind and useless, I pray that you will remember my words, sweet boy.  Because God sees you the way you saw this rusty playground.  He knows your purpose.  He will use you for His glory, with great joy.  With great joy.

When the sun was beginning to set, you reluctantly turned your back to the enormous playground, walking resolutely to the car, knowing baths and bedtimes and other evils of little boyhood awaited.  I smiled at you in the rearview mirror, my only man to raise, my little silver lining sketcher, and I prayed that you and I could grow up together, seeing with the eyes of God, joyfully ignoring the rust.