Thursday, January 30, 2014

I Once Drove A Bus

Back in the day, when I was a preschool teacher at "Creme de la Creme" part of my job was to travel to all the local elementary schools at the end of the school day and pick up kids who were going back to the daycare center until their parents came and picked them up. It wasn't a bus that required me to have my CDL, but nonetheless, it was a bus. I received one day training and was sent off into the bus world like I knew what the heck I was doing.

It didn't take very many curb checks and almost accidents for me to figure out I was really bad at left hand turns. Not sure what it was, but I could not get the correct depth perception of the bus, or angle, or something. I was bad at left hand turns. Every time I came upon a left hand turn my palms would sweat, a lump in the throat would form, and I would begin to FREAK OUT! So naturally, like any good bus driver would do, I completely reconfigure my entire bus route to ONLY include right hand turns. Wasn't that brave of me?! I literally spent hours studying maps in order to avoid something that was causing me great fear and trepidation. It lengthened my route considerably and I never conquered left hand turns.

Recently, I have been rerouting some things in my personal life in order to avoid left hand turns. I've spent hours analyzing new maps, new formulas, and different agendas so I can avoid some things that are causing me to be highly uncomfortable and discouraged. Oh, this isn't the first time, nor probably the last I will come to the end of myself and realize that I can no longer avoid the left hand turns in my life. I gave it a valiant attempt this time around,(just ask Mark how much I've stewed) and came up entirely short. I've known it all along, taking just right hand turns only extends my route and teaches me avoidance instead of victory.

Taking left hand turns can be scary. We can hit a bunch a curbs, we can have near collisions, or even true accidents. It can be painful to watch the paint of your heart get scratched, your ego bruised, your plans rerouted, and your map of "life" null and void. But never growing, never changing, and never claiming victory over the left hand turns in our lives has to be FAR worse.

Turn that left blinker on!
Here is to taking some of those left hand turns!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Permission Slips

At some point each of us will be called to walk a road that is littered with tragedy. It is not IF, it is WHEN!

Mom used to say, "You're either going into a storm, in a storm, or coming out of a storm!" And THIS cycle is what we call life.

It will not be until our tear stained faces enter our eternal home that the storms of this life will cease to exist.

So somebody please hand me a permission slip.

Yesterday, I received this permission slip from a friend who has walked one hell of a road herself, and refuses to let me walk my road alone. I will always love her for it. My note read,"You have full permission to use this pass whenever you need!" Then there was a picture of a woman lying in a bed and it read, "I'll be ok, just not today!"

I needed that. I needed someone to sprinkle some permission all over my heart. She gave me the gift of compassion. Compassion means to enter into someone's suffering and reside there with them. Compassion does not include a to-do list, an expectations list, a list that entails what he or she SHOULD be feeling, a list that minimizes one's pain, and disenfranchises a struggle. No lists, no rules, no deadlines, just a warm body entering into your road, grabbing your hand and your heart and saying, "You are not alone, and I'm not going anywhere!" Compassion, while maybe not entirely understanding another's pain, is vulnerable and humble enough to try and embrace the pain in order to offer hope to the broken.

We are terrible at giving each other permission. Permission to grieve, permission to be sad, permission to be broken, permission to struggle, permission to cry, permission to have not it altogether, permission to be a dysfunctional MESS!

As a culture we do it to men from the very beginning of their heart's journey;
"Stop crying, boys don't cry!'
"Be a big boy and get up, you're not that hurt!"
"Real men hunt!"
"Real men play football"
"Real men don't play with dolls!"
"Real men love sports"
"Real men are athletic"
"Real men don't feel anything except anger and happiness"
"Real men don't sympathize"
"Real men don't talk about their feelings"
"Real men don't sing"
"Real men stay neutral"
"Real men roll their eyes when women get emotional"
And on and on we go, replacing human emotion with passive aggressive men who have learned to feel nothing.

Studies reveal time and time again, that little boys are every bit as emotional as little girls, but they are trained to feel otherwise.

If you interact with boys on ANY level, especially if you are raising boys, teaching boys, coaching boys, shepherding boys, married to a man who WAS a boy....PLEASE go read "Raising Cain" by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. It will alter everything you thought you knew about little boys who become men.

Back to permission slips.

We actually do a poor job giving people permission to happy also;
"Geez, why is she so happy all the time, she must think she has it altogether!"
"Good grief, her house is always so annoyingly perfect!"
"She's holding her husband's hand in public, they must think they have the perfect marriage!"
"She's homeschooling her kids this year, she must think she's all that!"
"She's putting her kids in public school this year, must be nice to not have conscious about your child's education!"
"She always talks about what a great job she has, that's so unrealistic, she must be lying!"
"All of her fb pictures have her smiling, tanned, and on the beach. She must be compensating for an unhappy home life!"

We are a cruel people. We've all thought these thoughts, we have all judged someone's happiness or grief because inside we are extremely insecure, selfish, and jealous.

I have struggled through the grief cycle a few times in thirty two years; saying goodbye to two of my grandparents before age 11, holding my fiancee's hand as he said goodbye to his only brother, feeling like I was drowning as I gasped my way through my best friends memorial service at the age of 21, and watching my Mama breathe her very last breath on this earth, only after watching her die for years.

Grief is no stranger in this house. We talk about her with raw emotion. We explain to our children how she can make you cry for no reason at all, or how she can make you feel tired, endlessly tired. We talk about how grief is a sacred journey we are ALL called too. We talk about the opportunities we have EVERY DAY to love people who are grieving, most importantly the people you live with. We are honest with our kids and each other about our heart's conditions. "I'm sad today, I'm afraid today, I'm cranky today, I feel safe today, I am content today, I'm excited today," etc.etc.

No question about death, grief, pain and struggle are turned away in the protected walls of our home. We duke it out around here with our feelings. We speak truth, that sometimes our feelings can trap us, lie to us, and hold us in bondage. Sometimes, a lot of times, our feelings can mislead us. That is why we have to get to know them. That is why we have to familiarize ourselves with them, so that we can interrupt them more clearly. But at the end of the day, no feeling is turned away here, no feeling too big or too small not to explore.

I know there are people in your life TODAY, that need to get a permission slip FROM YOU! Sometimes that is all it takes, one person reaching out and saying, "It is going to be ok, just maybe not TODAY!" Would you be bold enough, humble enough, vulnerable enough to hand out a permission slip today?

I also know that so MANY of you, like ME, need a permission slip today.
So here it is, with the best words anyone ever spoke over me regarding pain, struggle, grief, and LIFE! Words that my mother said to me during one of the darkest periods of my life, "You can go there!" (a permission slip to feel) "You just can't camp there!" (exhortation to stand on truth)..

Go there friends, it's ok, you have permission!
Just no camping!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Just Give Me the Dirt: Day 103

Semester one in public school in the books. HOLLA!
*insert collapse at the finish line of semester one. Sucking air like an out of shape freshman running the 400 for the first time*

Facing semester two with renewed vigor, with a predicted fizzle date of about April-first-ish. :)

When we hit the finish line of May, we will have a 6th grader, 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and a bona fide Kindergartner. Good gracious! Not sure I can wrap my Mama brain around that idea.

I assisted in one of the girls classrooms recently, I walked out more convinced than ever that the starting pay for a teacher should be a hundred grand. And that's just the STARTING salary. Teachers, you ROCK! I consider myself pretty child savy, kid friendly, energetic, patient, person. But OH WOW! Y'all take the cake. Teaching your own children is one thing, teaching OTHER people's children is a whole other realm of special. We are so blessed by YOU! Y'all find a teacher and appreciate them today!

I LURVED having my girls home over Christmas. One of my favorite, "file this in your Mama treasure box" moments, was when Lucy impersonated Jim Carey in the Grinch alllllllll the way to Jackson. Hysterical. Stephanie can testify it was fantastical. I'm not sure if I sent Lucy back to school or the Grinch back to school. It was good to see her light-hearted, easy going, third born spunk and wit return after a long hibernation.

Our quiet,sleeping-in mornings, were so worth all the chaotic Christmas craziness. I always loved a slow paced morning in the home school realm. Hmmmm.. So sweet.

But we are back in full 6am swing. Mom and Dad collapsing into the bed by 9pm. Protecting our family evening hours like a pot of gold, and counting down the hours til sweet weekends.

For those who are tracking the AJ academic journey, this week he wrote his alphabet and I almost cried.

Because, remember this time last year we were alphabet bowling and pulling our hair out just to get him to recognize his letters. You've come a long way baby boy!

A couple weeks ago Katie continued a long family tradition and preached excuse me, taught from Psalm 139. Listening to your children read the word out loud? Knock you out  incredible! Preach it sister!

Recently, I've spent a significant amount of time watching my Julia. Motherhood has taught me that there are seasons when one specific child needs intensified attention, intensified prayer, intensified affirmation, intensified discipline, intensified instruction, intensified grace, etc..etc.. This last year Julia has needed all those intensifications (blogger is telling me that's not a word, we're rolling with it). Many days, I wish for osmosis so that I could become like Julia simply by holding her.  One word for her, meek.

There has already been a common theme to my 2014. Words I have preached to my heart in the dark of night. Words that have carried me through some heavy days. Words; meaty, wonderful, powerfully precise WORDS!

"God is the blessed controller of all things!"
"God is the blessed controller of all things!"
"God is the blessed controller of all things!"
"God is the blessed controller of all things!"


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

He Makes A Path For Me

Today is concrete day. The day my husband has been working towards since the house was planted on the land in July. Mark is as giddy as the kids were on Christmas morning. Who needs Santa when you have a concrete truck coming to your house?  For months, Mark has diligently been building the footer around our house so that the concrete can be poured, so that the brick can be laid, so that the under belly of our baby, (The Double Wide), can be insulated. *WHEW*

Since July, Mark has had to create, reroute, uncover, transplant, renovate, and redo paths into our home. We have 3 entrances, but at this time only one set of stairs. He has used multiple resources to minimize the amount of Mississippi mud that gets tracked into the house. He has used hay, grass, rocks, stepping stones, and now gravel. At some point in the near future all the paths will be gloriously paved like a city side walk...

It wasn't until this last year, that I heard the most profound and right on definition of marriage. Marriage is the DAILY choice to wake up and minister to your spouse's weaknesses for the rest of their life. It is the INTENTIONAL declaration that you will not seek to change or manipulate your spouses weaknesses, but willingly, compassionately, enter into their weakness, meet them there, and minister to THEM!

Over Christmas, I received the greatest gift a little girl could ask for; I had 3 hours of uninterrupted conversation with my Daddy. Inevitably, we set out to solve all the world's problems. Listening to my Dad and talking with him about ministry, marriage, parenting, Duck Dynasty drama, church woes, missions, and a butt load of other things; always renews my vision for the unfinished work we are all being called to.

And if I were being honest, any time he mentioned his marriage to my sweet Mama, they way he loved her, the way they worked through conflict, the way he remembers her constant ministry to him, a wave of emotions ran over me and my heart collected each word like balm.  

Six days from today will be the thirteenth anniversary of the day Mark proposed. I laugh at who we were then. That baby couple would hardly recognize the old geezers we have become today. The beauty of starting our journey together shortly after we can out of the womb, is that more often than not we have been able to be convicted, changed and challenged together. Since the conception of our relationship, we have sought to find pathways to each other. A means to connect, collaborate, and continue on in the journey of marriage. Different seasons of life have required different means of path making. Early on in our relationship we would write long, deep, overly colorful love letters to each other. Conveying our deepest dreams and desires. Today, 14 1/2 years later, we send text messages, "You are so hot! Grab some milk on your way home! Smooches!"

A sharp decline from our Shakespearean days.

None the less, a pathway for today.

At some point in your marriage you might feel as if there are no pathways left to uncover. The pathways that might have once existed have been burned or blocked by harmful words and habits. But there are always pathways! Maybe there are pathways you are ignoring because they are uninviting. Some pathways are ugly, over grown, and dark. They can be saturated in thorns, and the fear of the unknown can hinder you from exploring those paths.  Don't stop finding pathways. Don't stop exploring.

I am incredibly blessed as an undeserving recipient, to have watched my husband create, reroute, uncover, transplant, renovate, and redo paths to try and get to me. It has not always been easy, comfortable, and instantly rewarding, but worth it.

Every pathway.
Worth it for the life of our marriage.

Now go start blazing a trail!!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Stranger In The Double Wide

For those who are not familiar with double wide purchasing process, I am here to enlighten you. After you purchase your brand-spanking new home and settle in, the manufacturer sends a carpenter to do some finishing work, because inevitably when your house has to be driven down the highway shift happens.

Yesterday, our finisher came to begin the process. Every crack, every scrap, every lopsided toilet gets replaced, repainted, redone. All free of charge to the owner. It's a slamming bonus.

Yesterday, was just a normal day in the life of Sara Littlejohn. AJ and I had a play date with our Josiah, we had tea with a neighbor, Grandma came for a chat, and the girls came busting through the door from school at 3 with two extra friends in tow.  Every one needed a snack and some uninterrupted eye time. Five little girls, all with a short order for the cook, all needing to complete their word count for the day. Don't hear what I am not saying, this is one of the highlights of my day! Between chats, I was sustaining the running of the house with the never ending house chores; laundry, sweeping, dishes, toy dispersion, and dinner prep. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing that every other mother doesn't do everyday. Nothing extraordinary.

In the midst of this day, Mr. Mike, our carpenter, quietly, contently, uninvadingly (not a word, but what I'm trying to say is that he didn't invade upon our day or routine) and with such a kind spirit fixed up all the little messes in our house.

Towards the end of the day, as I was beginning to start the chore list AGAIN, Mr. Mike walked through the living room where I was embarking upon 6 loads of unfolded laundry while simultaneously putting out Wii fires, giving strict instructions to the two girls who were going on a walk around town, zipping up Buzz Light Year costumes, and stepping smack dab in the middle of an ice pile on the floor with my socks on. Mr Mike, in his sweet, smooth, southern accent, lifted up his head, made eye contact with me and said, "You have a full time job Ma'am, a FULL. TIME. JOB!"

Tears formed in the bottom of my eyes, a lump formed in my throat, and I squeaked out, "it is, it is indeed!"

Mr. Mike, who drove hours from his home, to work for days on my home, whom exudes every characteristic of a hard working man, stepped out of his role for 10 seconds and gave me one of the greatest compliments of my life.

If you follow us on facebook you will remember that just two days ago I was having one of those days when I really needed to talk to my mom. My mom excelled in the encouragement department. During the early days of my motherhood my mom was one of my main sources for affirmation. She offered counsel when needed, a listening ear when needed, and most times a funny memory of her own motherhood journey that made everything feel lighter and more doable. She knew my heart, the areas that I would instinctively struggle with as a mom, the guilt I would struggle through, the insecurity I would have to sort out. She knew because she had walked through it herself.

Just hours after expressing the impossible; needing to sort through some motherhood junk with my Mama, a stranger (a CARPENTER no less) came into my household craziness and in eleven short words delivered a message that I am 100% sure I would have found in that conversation with my mom; validation, affirmation, kindness, and encouragement!

Mr. Mike, I know you came expecting to fix the external messes in my home, but really you fixed some internal messes. You offered me a great gift, one that I will tuck away for some time to come.

Here's to double wides, and all the sucker punches they pack!