belief

We traipsed through Disney World with two children in tow (before our youngest was born). We posed with pirates and cuddled up to characters.  We woke up early and stayed up late, sipping each moment in. But on the third day, as our kids sprinted steps ahead, my husband leaned into my ear and said, “Amanda, she thinks they’re all real,” he sighed, “She doesn’t know that they are characters.”

“Of course she does,” I quipped.  At nine years old, I was sure my daughter knew there was no such thing as a talking mouse and his pack of pals roaming perfectly tended gardens.   

But as each parade slipped further down the street and fireworks exploded, I saw it in her eyes. I watched her stand, tiptoes to the sky, waving emphatic at each princess and her band of maidens.  It was obvious, she believed.

And for the next few days, I tried to believe alongside her. There would come a time in life when magical kingdoms lived only in libraries of imagination. And soon enough she would be finding the flaws behind the production, the secret to the illusion. But on that day she was doe eyed, believing that animals talked and she was privy to walk with the royals.

And that’s how I desire to see God, with an open heart and eyes of awe. That I stand in wonder and admiration of His creation and Who He really is.

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.

Matthew 18:2-5 (The Message)

keeping on

I’m more of a walker than a runner. But I untangled double knots this morning and strapped on an Ipod, determined to run. I ran through one song and walked through another. Sarah Groves whistled lyrics while I breathed in and out, like timed contractions, jogging to the soft tempo.

But soon enough my body begged to stop and my feet ached beneath dark asphalt. And thoughts slipped in, quietly drowning out the music.     

“You’re not a runner, why even try?” and then like a game of follow the leader, another stomped in, loud and clear.

“You’re a mother, not a teacher,” and I second guessed the lesson plans that sat on my desk ready to be taught.

But softness played into my ears of how God makes beautiful things. And as the morning sun peaked through acres of thick trees, I realize there is always a choice to make: continue or quit. Walk or run. Stroll or sprint.  And my feet came off the ground, one in front of the other, in a quiet rhythm of up and down and the jogging continued.

And it’s true, I’m not a runner, but there is peace in pursuing truth and seeking the lovely that God lavishes on us each and every day.

And I’m not a teacher by trade, but my soul stirs and bubbles over watching creativity spill onto pages and into the hearts of the children I love.

And continuing on is easier when I know I’m not doing it alone. There is one that runs and walks alongside my tired steps in the mornings and in the afternoons and moments when I need Him most. And it’s that promise that keeps me going.

Linking up this week with Emily’s Imperfect Prose and Dayle’s Simple Pleasures

being there

She shuffled around the kitchen after announcing she was making cookies. She is young and restless and doesn’t see the need to read the recipe first. She stirs and whips and soon realizes we are out of eggs. She adds a heaping cup of water into an already full to the brim bowl, just because.  The concoction was thin; it dripped from a spatula like chunky chocolate milk.  Minutes later she asked her father to take her to the grocery store to buy a carton of eggs. 

He knows regardless of the eggs, the cookies will never take shape. They will fold in the oven.  She has stretched the recipe beyond repair, with too much of this and not enough of that. But even though her dad can predict the obvious ending, he drives her to the store to buy the eggs that won’t make a difference in the failed dessert.

But I know him well enough, this father of hers for 12 years, to say that the five-mile drive has little to do with the mixture of mush.  What he says in his actions is that success or fail, he believes in her. He will applaud her effort to spite the outcome. He’ll stop what he’s doing to invest in another ordinary afternoon. And as they walk out the door I shake my head, wondering why he would waste his time buying a silly ingredient that will do absolutely no good.   

But late in the evening, a lump forms deep in the back of my throat as I scrawl this simple story. Too often I focus on the success in my daughter and my two sons. I push and persuade these little ones of mine to behave and listen, and the obvious missing ingredient in my tattered and tired recipe for mothering is grace. 

Grace in the daily blunders because they are still children. Grace to giggle at the frequent fiascos.  And a heaping amount of grace in the moments of success and failure.

 

Linking up this week with Michelle at Graceful & Jen at Finding Heaven

what we do matters

Just as the sun barely makes an entrance, before coffee brews or before feet are brushed by carpet, I wonder how the day will unfold. There are always lists and expectations, there is more to do than what lazily rests on white lined paper.

And there is a great pull, a tugging of sorts that calls out to mothers, do and be more. It whispers that motherhood is not enough. There are more important roads to travel, more scenery to seize.  I wonder if it’s because there is little recognition in the menial tasks done over and over, day after day.

It often becomes routine to meet the responsibilities of life: fixing lunches, pressing clothes, washing and folding, and putting away. The have to’s seem to come in quickly and leave quietly. But it’s the moments that are not measured that linger like a hazy fog. It’s the opportunities in the day when chatting and play pass and no one knows the wiser.

But what seems menial now will soon enough tip the scales of significance. The days will have rolled into weeks and weeks into months and added together seasons will have passed. And the words and lessons taught around a cramped kitchen table will stretch further than the walls and windows of our home.

And the tasks that seem tedious today will gently shape, from silhouettes to soul, who are children become.

more to do

Our walls were thin, which probably explained why the rent was cheap. J and I lived on a bottom floor apartment as newlyweds. And every evening, as dependable as the six o’clock news, the music began. Sinatra and his cohorts Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr., and sometimes Rosemary Clooney belted out classics that dripped down the vents from the upstairs, one bedroom, to ours. We heard a static filled record player as the needle scratched vinyl, repeating a crooner’s line over and over.  In the beginning, we rolled our eyes and thought it bizarre. But as the days and months wore on, the big band era was just another noise as common as the washing machine and the built-in microwave. We grew to enjoy the old melodies.  

I eventually met the man who lived upstairs. He’d lost his wife to cancer. His deep-set wrinkles and white furry brow revealed a life long-lived. We’d often meet outside where I’d follow behind a rambunctious puppy and he would stand grounded with an obedient terrier at his heels. I began to leave leftovers or day old sweets on his doorstep before I hurried off to work. And by the afternoon, he’d always return the plate, shiny and clean and with a scribbled note of thanks.  

But on a fall evening, when his record player should have been circling, it was the blare of sirens that rang into our little place we called home. And he was gone. His death slipped in quiet, leaving behind a hushed, vacant apartment.  

We really weren’t that different. We both were moving ahead, feet shuffling from day-to-day. Life has a way of nudging us forward without needing our permission. And often I want to suspend it in mid-air, to keep children from growing a bit older, to stay in this age of 30’s, to settle into comfort. But God gently urges us on because there is more to do, more to say and more to live.

Linking up this week with Michelle at Graceful & Jen at Finding Heaven 

taking the time

The clock seemed to tick faster that day. There was an unplanned trip to the pediatrician and a needed phone conversation that carried on until after lunch. It was my father’s birthday and I rummaged through a box of cards I’d collected, hoping to find just the right one to sign and hand him that evening. But of course there was no perfect card. I knew he wouldn’t mind a quick note on a blank notepad. My father understands that life is busy with three children.

 But in that moment my mind twirled backwards to years ago. Memories of homemade cards, adorned with aluminum foil hearts and stick figures dressed in bright-colored ruffles. Our family never bought real cards, instead we scribbled our own. They were the first love notes tucked into my hand.

So I gathered up a few pieces of construction paper and cut out a couple lop sided hearts. I taped and glued and drew. And I filled it with words I don’t say often enough.

And because life is sometimes frenzied, I choose to fire off emails instead of picking up a pen and paper. I scamper down the bakery aisle selecting a dozen perfectly peaked cupcakes for a friend in need, instead of taking the time to mix and sift batches that are fantastically flawed.     

Lord, please help me choose connection over convenience.   

 When I connect with those I love, it is never wasted time. It says: You are worth the extra minutes. You are worth capturing creativity. You are worth the sacrifice. And you are more important than me.

 And giving it away feels good.

passing it on

On the spur of the moment, I drug out a box cake mix, barely enough oil and a carton of eggs. Within the hour it went from batter to baked and was ready to be flipped onto a cooling rack. And just as it was turned upside down, I saw the name I always see stuck to the back of a pan I purchased at a thrift store nearly two years ago. The sticker was tattered, but the name was clear, Elois Amos of Sandy Ridge, North Carolina.

I wondered why she’d gotten rid of the perfectly usable round pan. I wondered who she was and if she filled her nine inches to the brim with fresh, made from scratch ingredients. I wondered if she was a mother and if her children poured into the kitchen waiting for the cake to cool before it could be lathered in icing.   

And maybe it’s the occasional reporter in me or the fact I’m just nosy, but as the cake cooked and my sons and daughter played, I googled her name, Elois Amos of Sandy Ridge. And seconds later her picture appeared on my computer screen.  She had kind eyes.

Mrs. Amos was born July 6, 1933, in Rockingham County, to the late Joseph Henry Clark and Annie Clarice Amos Clark. She was an active member of Oak Grove Baptist Church and WMU, taught Sunday school, and worked with the children’s choir and story hour. She loved traveling on bus tours, crossword puzzles, reading, charity work, and spending time with her family.

She and her sister were killed in a car accident in 2009. The roads were icy and she veered to the right when she was struck by a tractor-trailer. She was 75.

And when I walked back into the kitchen, the pan with a story was floating in suds, mingled between dirty dishes. I took it out because it felt more like a treasure than a discarded vessel. It belonged to a Sunday school teacher, a charity worker, a reader.

And she was the mother to six children, four girls and two boys. And I imagined her home was rowdy and that her children sometimes talked back. If I had to guess there were complaints of chores and animals waiting to be fed. There were likely balls being lobbed from one room to the next and teeth hurriedly brushed in the mornings. There were probably fevers and tears and long nights with little sleep. 

But in the flurry of motherhood, I know that Elois Amos of Sandy Ridge baked cakes. That’s what we do as mothers. We sit and sift until it is sweet and place it on a table, knowing the ones we have birthed and bandaged will gather around.

And if we’re lucky, we can keep doing it again and again. And then one day pass the tradition, and the pan, on.

Linking up this week with Michelle at Graceful & Jen at Finding Heaven 

babies

 

A baby is a small member of the home that makes love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, the bank roll smaller, the home happier, the clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.

– Laurens van der Post and Jane Taylor

thankfulness

I pre-ordered Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, after reading her blog nearly a year ago. And before I finished the second chapter I began recording those thankful in the hurried moments throughout the day.

After hearing Ann speak at a conference last weekend, I came home energized, eager to encourage my children to do the same.

The next day we sat around the kitchen table, white lined sheets staring back at us, waiting to be filled.  

I’m finding emptying out gratitude is easier on some days than others. I witness it as I watch my son and daughter mull over flimsy spiral notebooks, pencils tapping and eyes wandering. They’ve written the obvious, they are thankful for their home and each other, their health and their grandparents, their church and our harebrained dog, Caroline.

I stare at my own red leather journal of thankfulness. And the words don’t spill. They don’t pour out onto the page.  Instead what gushes out naturally is:

 the air conditioning in our van is out … again

 the roses in my flowerbeds are dying an untimely death

 another school year is looming and I question if I have what it takes to teach those same subjects all over again

This is what the spring of my soul flows fluid.

I say it aloud to my children, but more so for myself. “Thankfulness is a choice that we stroll past or we pause to appreciate.”

We’re learning this lesson together. And for that I am thankful.

real stories

“Tell me a story,” she says. The truth is, I have nothing. I’m storied out. I’m written out. I’m cooked out. And on that day, I was mothered out. But she crawled into my bed as I heard J tucking the boys in. And I saw it in her tilted head that lay content on my pillow, she needed conversation. 

“Just tell me a story,” she said again. She’s 12, too old for fables and thick board books. What she really wanted to know is the story of me. She asked of my teenage trysts. She wanted to know it all. Did I talk on the phone late into the night? Did I wear black mascara? Did I like boys at her age? When did I date? Did I ever come home late?  It’s a slippery conversation and I worried I’d slide off course by saying too much or too little.    

I told her of the time I forged my mother’s signature in middle school. I studied her P in Patsy and I curled it precisely at the top and rounded it off with a twisted y. I end the story by shaking my head, “I shouldn’t have done it.”

And she laughed, “Tell me another one!” Sadly, there’s an arsenal full. There have been many missteps and silly mistakes left littered over the years.

But if I teach her anything, this growing in God young daughter of mine, it’s that we need to be real in our faith. And the reality is that as her mother, I’m far from perfect, then and now. There is a constant clashing battle to ward off envy and discipline, love and forgiveness.  

 I can’t spend the rest of her childhood pretending that I have all the answers. So instead I tell her there is someone who does. He is all the things we can’t be on our own. And He waits for us to seek Him when we are full of life’s greatest joys and when we’ve been emptied and drained.

 And His love and pursuit of us is a story worth hearing over and over again.