Thursday, November 21, 2013

Living In The Storm: November 21, 2013

"I can still believe that a day comes for all of us, however far off it may be, when we shall understand; when these tragedies that now blacken and darken the very air of heaven for us will sink into their places in a scheme so august, so magnificent, so joyful, that we shall laugh for wonder and delight"
Arthur Christoper Bacon

Dear Mama,

A year ago today, I watched you breathe your final breath. I saw your chest rise and fall one last time, and the finality of the words, "she's gone" filled the room. I experienced the most sacred exchange that day; your broken body and mind for the clothes of newness and righteousness. You traded in your valley of the shadow of death, for a cup of eternity spilling over with life. Your absence here on earth immediately meant that you were present with your Beloved. Oh what a glorious thought! Oh what love divine! Oh what healing hope!

Every time heaven has been mentioned in the last 365 days, I cannot help but envision you whole. All the heart ache you walked, now seen as a,"light and momentary affliction" compared to the eternal weight of glory you now dance to. I know your dancing.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, my God how great Thou art!

And when my task on earth is done, when by the grace, the victry's won, e'en death's cold wave I will not flee, since God thro' Jordan's leadeth me.

And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound,
And the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul

So Spirit, come, put strength in ev'ry stride,
Give grace for ev'ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.

In thirty one years, you seem to have weaved yourself permanently to my heart, moms are good at that. I think of you everyday; browning ground beef, folding laundry, thumbing through the card section at Walmart, packing a school lunch, cutting onions, washing dishes, making scrambled eggs with your secret ingredient, walking passed the garden section, brushing my teeth, cursing the Chris Tomlin song, "I Will Rise" that follows me every where I go (just kidding :), tasting Amaretto, seeing your handwriting on endless cards and recipes, recognizing a familiar spark of tenacity in my girls, and without fail; every time my hands slip open the word, you are at your closest.

Mom, I miss you! I miss you!

On this day, one year since the great exchange, we honor you, we celebrate you, we remember; not just that day, but all the days written forever on our hearts.

I love you!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dear French Camp

Dear French Camp,

November is celebrated as the month of thanks, and I would be remiss if I did not stop for a few beats and tell you that I am thankful for the life our family has found in this tiny, oh so tiny, corner of the world.

I love that from any where in my house I can peek out the windows and see the warm lights of Grandma and Grandy's house. It is a rare and profound gift doing life literally next door to your parents.

I appreciate that I know every single one of our neighbors, all three hundred of them!

Our budget is very pleased that the minivan stays parked six days a week, while our legs and Grandy's four-wheeler, do the rest of the transporting.

I think it is incredibly quaint that French Camp houses a hardware store and a bakery within walking distance of my house.

I cannot get over the number of deep breaths that I get to take over the course of a single day.

I'm happy that the Mayor and his wife serve ice cream treats on their front porch.

After spending numerous hours waiting in line at post offices in the big city, I am a big fan of the "no waiting in line" post office system we have going here. Even if I have showed up a half a dozen times when it was closed because I could not remember the specific hours they are opened. M-F 12-4? Saturday 10-1, but only if it is a full moon and nobody happens to be on lunch.

I giggle when it is pizza night and I ride the four wheeler up to Leonard's and appropriately strap my pizzas to the front rack with a bungee cord. Classic.

One of the many reasons we wanted to come back to Mississippi was because we felt so at peace with the pace of life here. Three months later, the pace is as deliberate as I remember it being. We have slowed down significantly and intentionally.

I think it's so sweet that my girls are escorted everyday to school by their Grandy.

Having not grown up in a football school, I get a bit giddy on Thursday nights when all six of us our digging out our "panther nation" tshirts to sport on Friday. Friday night lights. It's the real deal. So real in fact we will be making a six hour round trip tomorrow night to watch our boys in blue play in the playoffs. Just call us Eric and Tami Taylor.

My heart skips a beat every time the church bells chime, "Nearer My God to Thee, Be Thou My Vision, How Great Thou Art". Nostalgic.

I am thankful for Lake Anne. It never gets old. Canoeing or fishing on it; four wheeling or hiking around it. Or just sitting on her banks breathing in those deep breaths. Perfect for the soul.

I am so glad that my son asked to go 'muddin' the other day and he actually knew what it meant.

The front porch swing has become a quiet and special meeting place with Grandma; precious.

Camo has an increasing presence in our home these days, and I am ok with that!

I am deeply blessed by long coffee dates.

It is not lost on me, everyday since moving here, little people have showed up to play with my kids.

I am grateful to see the stars again....clearly, and LOTS of them!

I rely on the guarantee that while traveling to and from the grocery store in "the big town", I have a carved out time to talk to friends and family.

I look forward to the silence and serenity of circling our small town in the wee hours of the morning, before the hustle and bustle of life fills our one fine place.

And one of the richest thoughts I am extremely thankful for, during this the month of thankfulness; is that when I close my eyes tightly, breathe in the Mississippi air, I can see my family growing up here, I can see our family goals being achieved here, I know my hair can turn gray here with my love at my side, and I know I am right where I am suppose to be!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Don't Mean To Be Rude...BUT!

Oh Lu.

First grade, six year old, book reading, math loving, Lu-Lu.

Lucy has mimicked more of a tornado since school started, than the lively, consistent, creek she typically resembles. All my first grade teacher-friends say to give her some more time to adjust to school and the hard work of following directions 8 hours a day, before I panic about her spastic behavior patterns. *sigh*

One of the tornadic things Lucy has started doing, that will be short lived in the Littlejohn venue, is whenever she wants to give her opinion about a certain situation, or just be flat out unkind, she prefaces her statement with, "I don't mean to be rude, but..."

.... "your dress is ugly"
.... "your breath smells"
.... "you didn't work very hard"
.... "you can't play with me"
.... "I'd prefer you leave my house now"

One of the things I have ALWAYS appreciated about Lucy is her ability to be assertive. I really struggle with being assertive. I have grown in this area since becoming a Mama, but it has taken a lot of practice.

So while I am working with Lucy on smoothing over the rough edges in her particular form of communicating; I, in no way want to stifle the beautiful gift of assertion.

Per usual, when I am working with one of our kiddos in a specific area I am often convicted of similar patterns and/or behavior in my own life. My struggle is not external (Val would have never stood for such lippy clauses :) as much as it is internal. I like to add mental clauses and conditions in my most intimate relationships.

I am reading a book called, "Give Them Grace" which is an excellent book on showing your children the gospel through grace. But it is not an easy read. The author hammers away at all the little clauses we intentionally or unintentionally place around the little hearts growing up under our roofs. She identifies the difference between preferences and actual heart conditions that need to be addressed.

Often times we spend endless hours correcting external preferences and ignoring the beautifully, wild heart beneath.

If you would mentally journal every interaction you have with your child then sort them into categories of preference vs heart issue, you will be shocked how we are prone to harp on the preference junk. How our children go numb to our voices because we nit pick and nag about stupid stuff. It's no wonder then, that when we desire for them to hear us regarding really meaty stuff, they're already deaf to our guiding voices.

One of my all time favorite statements a counselor made at our CCEF conference, in regards to raising children was, "less rules, more conversations!"  I love this! I wish we could apply this across the board in every relationship and circumstance we encounter; marriages, schools, ministries, churches, friendships, families, and the work place. "Less rules, more conversations!"

Imagine if we consciously abandoned our petty rules, opinions, preferences, clauses, and conditions, and tried with gentle hands to meet people on the road they were walking. If we laid aside our, "I don't mean to be rude, but...." prefaces, and poured renewing grace all over each other. How different would relationships jive? How sweet would it be to commune in that circle of friends? How life giving would that church be? How transformed would our marriages look? How much easier would it be for our children to hear us?

Before the Throne, we are viewed in this incredible way. Our heart is what is sought after. Our core is found. It is grace, precious, precious, grace, that we stand upon.

I don't mean to be rude... but for real y'all, this grace stuff is where it is AT!!

Happy de-clausing your life :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Dress I Buried My Mother In

There hangs this little black dress in my closet. The dress I wore the day I buried my mother. Probably a dress I will never wear again, because who re-wears the dress they buried their mother in? The black dress will probably hang there year after year, because who gives away the black dress they buried their mother in? While thumbing through my attempt at a wardrobe, I always catch my breath when I feel the material. I don't even have to look. I know the dress by heart. I could not bring myself to go buy a new black dress to wear to bury my mother. I loathe shopping to begin with, so that task seemed torturesque. I randomly grabbed a dress that day, my brain fogged with incomplete thoughts and swimming in confusion. "Just put something on," I whispered over and over to myself, in an attempt to walk myself through the horror, "Just find something black and slip it on over your head."

As a little girl, I would spend hours sitting on my mom's bed watching her get ready. A slip and panty hose were non-negotiables for every event. It seemed like every where she went she always put those on first. Except for the rare occasion she wore ironed slacks. The woman had drawers full of panty hose; nude, black, brown, navy, shiny, thick, full length, knee length, and on and on. And often times, she'd slip on a little black dress.

No book can prepare you for choosing the outfit you wear to bury someone you cannot imagine life without. Most people cannot help you work through whether or not to ditch the dress you wore, or leave it as a hanging shrine in your closet for all time. Most people dare not even approach the subject.

But this is raw grief. Daily life. Walls you run into and sometimes collapse under. Memories that appear from thin air and threaten to suffocate you. Eventually, you find comfort in the suffocating memories. They become life lines to the person who is gone. You can close your eyes and run to them in the barricaded safety of your memory. The suffocation provides a place to find them. The emptiness connects you to them.

Sometimes I walk into the darkness of the closet. Gently pull it off the hanger and down into my lap, and let the tears spill over onto the little black dress I buried my mother in.

There hangs this little black dress in my closet.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Homeschooling Mistakes

I am a really messed up person. The older I get I feel like I see my messed-upness clearer and clearer. Maybe it's age, maybe it's kids, (my mom always said, "God gives kids to raise parents! TRUTH) maybe, according to the book I'm reading, Extravagant Grace, God loves me so much He refuses to let me stay stagnant and He uses the clarity to humble me. Hash tag. humbled.

Above all things my heart is deceitful, and at the end of the day my core is constantly selfish. Here, in the safe place of my writing, I am always VERY aware of how something comes off to my readers. Finding the perfect balance between putting off this air that we think we are the idyllic Jone's, and the contrary, sounding like Eeyore and whining too much, can be extremely challenging. *SIGH*

Mark is always teasing me that I am too nice to him on the blog. He always says, "Say something mean about me!" Which always makes me laugh. Here's the deal, while our marriage is full of mistakes and mundane muck; I refuse to air that junk here on the blog. Not happening. As far as you are concerned, I want you to walk away from this blog knowing how much I love my husband. And for those of you who know my husband, and know our marriage, you know how real we keep it... and how depraved my husband is :) See babe, I did it, I was sassy about your sin :)!!!!!

Ok, so where the heck are we going?

Here's the deal. I make a lot of mistakes. Line them up. Starting with when my feet hit the ground at 5:40 a.m. That in itself is a mistake. No one should get up that early :) One of my prayers is that I want my children to be able to say of me, "Mom was quick to admit her faults!" 

So here I am today, talking about a major mistake in my homeschooling history. This is not a critique on homeschooling families. Obviously, we loved homeschooling so much we did it for five years. This is just my experience, and somewhere along the way I hope it is helpful for another homeschooling Mom.

Confession: I spent too much time with my children. *loud gasp* I did. I really, really did. Here's the deal, somehow we have taken the idea of the stay at home mom, and the homeschooling mom and holed her up in her house 24/7 with no community, no friends, no support, no outlet, no space, and called it good.  We have left the stay at home mom all alone in her house with small, raging, manic beasts who pull on her, nurse on her, ask for a million snacks, fill her ears day and night with whining, who make a million messes, and on top of all of that need to be educated. And then we say, "smile for the cover of, "The New Christian Homeschooling Mom Magazine" ".

So what am I suggesting? We put all of our kids in brick and mortar school? NO WAY! What I am suggesting, is that those who homeschool be highly sensitive to the fact that mom has GOT to be able to catch her breath some where along the way. This is also true of the SAHM with small children. Our kids need a break from our voices. Otherwise, the contributing factors to monster mom increases exponentially. And boom, before you are even aware of it, the space you have created to love and educate your children becomes your children's prison and your ongoing nightmare.

Dads this is where you HAVE to be aware of your wife and her needs. While yes, you work all day long too, your wife does not get the space she needs while she is at home all day. She is with them 24/7. I used to dream of being Mark, riding in the car all alone 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes back from work. Eating lunch with adults, sitting in my cubicle; silent, still, and yes maybe even bored. Oh, that was the heaven I drooled after. This is when I realized something was amiss in our home. I was drooling over cubicles :)

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula. Each mom is so unique with a different set of needs. When I first started homeschooling I had a really good formula going. Katie was 6 and the only one homeschooling. Julia was 4, Lucy was 2, and Anderson was 5 months. I taught in the morning, then everyone did nap time and I got 2 hours of reprieve. Then we spent our afternoons at ballet, piano lessons, gymnastics, and field trips.I worked on Tuesday evenings and got adult interaction. I had something to call my own. It worked. It worked well! The balance was ideal. Speaking of balance, a special shout out to my sister who is homeschooling for the first time this year and I am so PROUD of her!! She has found a great balance and routinely hears from me, "Get away! Get away! Get away!"

Last year (while really nothing was 'normal' about last year) did me in. We were in no position financially to involve the kids in extra curricular activities and I had no desire to seek out the millions of free opportunities in homeschooling circles for activities, because grief sits you on your butt and says, "be. still." So we spent too much time together. The kids rarely, if ever, gave me 90 minutes of quiet during "quiet time" and I was homeschooling 3 different grades last year. So the work was more intense and the hours homeschooling required increased. We also downsized for financial reasons and had little space to breathe. It was the perfect formula for the monster mom in me to reside in our home way too often, and the guilt began to chew me up. Anxiety, stress, sadness, took it's toll of my gut and my heart, and it was time for a change.

It would have been EXTREMELY selfish of me to keep homeschooling under those conditions. It stopped being healthy for ALL parties involved. This is where we trap ourselves, especially in homeschooling circles. As a homeschooling parent, you have to know that other options exist! Co-ops, fields trips, exchanges, mother's morning out, bible studies, girls night out, YMCA, date nights, and yes, even brick and mortar school. Any and everything that will allow you to recharge and renew, so that you can do your job better. Again, this is also very applicable to SAHMs.

Hands down, I am a better mom to my kids this year. Not necessarily because we put them in public school, but because we all have the much needed and very natural space it takes to raise a butt load of kids. Yay for the double wide! If and when I homeschool again, it will look significantly different. The formula will include ample "time away from my cherubs", and I will fight with more determination to keep that monster mom at bay.

Please hear my heart. 
Please know that I HAVE walked a mile in your shoes.
Please know that you are not a failure if homeschooling is not your thing.
Please know that God uses all different ways to educate our children.
Please know your options.

And for heaven's sake! Get away from those kids :)!!!