Thursday, March 26, 2015

That Time I Yelled At My Kids

Stars, ya'll! S.T.A.R.S!!

Confession, the title is a bit deceptive in that there hasn't just been 'A' time that I have yelled at my children (pick up your jaws) there are many timeS (daily) in my nearly 12 years of motherhood, that I have lost my stuff and spewed on them. Just so we are all on the same page here.... :)

The enormous amount of words required to parent four children baffles me at times.  If a courtroom recorder followed me around all day, I think we would all stand in shock at the amount of times I repeat myself like a dementia patient, "Do you have your glasses? Have you brushed your teeth, because EW? Do you have your lunch? Your water bottle? Your homework? Your permission slip? Please turn off your bedroom light (OK, I NEVER say this, but Mark (my little energy conservationist) has said it a bagillion times!:) Please clean up the wet towels (stepping on wet towels makes me cuss), please clear your dishes, please pick up your dirty clothes, please put your back up in your room, please put your lunchbox and water bottle in their home, please refill the toilet paper roll, please empty your trash, please take a shower, please go to bed.... And let me tell you something....sometimes it's too much and I stop saying please and just start pointing and yelling, "TEETH! TRASH! WATER BOTTLES! HOMEWORK! GLASSES! TOWELS! DIRTY CLOTHES! ENERGY! BED! SHOWER! SLEEP!    

Yesterday, I had spent the entire afternoon swallowed whole in the winter/spring clothes exchange. It is a MULTI day affair. Tub after tub that has to be sorted, sized, and exchanged....TIMES FOUR! The house becomes tornadic, because the tubs clutter all the open spaces, and the breathing room is shut out because there are piles stacked to the moon. It is a tedious process that sometimes causes much tension and lunacy in my soul, "This is RIDICULOUS! No child needs this much clothing! No one human can wear all these clothes in a single season! These kids are excessively, spoiled little beings. I am NEVER buying another single stitch of clothing!" Like I said, lunacy.

Enter, 3 unknowing girls, who have each had a day of their own. If you only have boys, let me tell you how my girls debrief after school; they walk me through the ENTIRE 8 hours we were apart, I get it all. Who ate what for lunch, who had drama, who got in trouble, who said what about who, who was absent, who got sick, who was sad, who was cranky, who was nice, who was silly....Like, play by play. A lot of words, a lot of details! Please don't hear what I'm not saying, I don't want my kids coming home to anyone else! I *mostly* cherish the insane debrief and grieve the day it ceases. And yes, I know it will different with Anderson.

Any the who, we had an event we needed to be at, at 615, which meant we needed to leave at 6. Mark gets home from work at 535, and being on time is the sixth love language in my book. As the kids and I sat down early to have dinner, I said "right after dinner we are all going to go outside and clean up the yard, it looks like trailer trash out there!" (It's a joke, laugh :) The evening before, the 3 youngest kids had pulled out every bike, helmet and scooter we own and left them in the yard. Which was fine, except it was scheduled to rain last night.

I cleared my plate, stood up and said, "Ok, time to pick up the yard!' I walked outside and started moving bikes. NO.ONE.MOVED! My blood pressure rose as I walked the first bike to storage. As I was coming back for the second muddy bike, I thought about walking up to the back door and firing off a snotty, guilt ridden exhortation for them to get off their booties and move it. I didn't. Something came over me, I admit it was rare and not of myself. Something I long for, desire and beg God to give me took over, "Help me to not be a reactionary parent. Help me to be reasonable and intentional in my responses."

On trip number three, while 2 scooters which were clanking against my ankles, threatening to cut my Achilles in half, the Lord spoke to my heart, "Sara, they will know ME by YOUR love! This whole world can testify to your patience and love, but if your husband and kids cannot; you are nothing. If others outside your home can claim your tender and gentle ways, but if your husband and kids cannot; you are nothing! If you would sacrifice for a friend, but not your family; you are nothing! If friends can see your love for Me, but Mark, Katie, Julia, Lucy and Anderson cannot; you are nothing! Love means making 10 round trips with scooters beating your ankles, without losing your stuff!"


Ask me what my greatest hope is and I will tell you, "I want my husband and children to know from their head, through their heart, and down to their toes the love of our stunning God!" I want this so much for them I would die for that truth to better cemented in their core. And...that's exactly what I'm called to do. Die to myself, my selfishness, my anger, my bitterness, my spewing, my schedule, my wants and whims, my lusts and desires, and all my disgusting places. Die to live. The greatest calling on our lives.

And in all that dying, a resurrected Savior lives.
He is the deflection of my spewing.
He is the calm in my calamity.
He is the tender in my tense.
He is the patient in my pain.
He is the faithful in my failure.
He is the kind in my cranky.
He is the love in my loss.
And HE is the life in my death!

Here is to a day of dying and finally living!!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Your Heart Says, "Go Home!"

The changing seasons seem to always tap into my "missing mama" chambers. My mom came alive in the spring. Winter was hard for her, but she faithfully stood in the watch tower announcing every sign of life, "SPRING IS COMING!"

Maybe it was the changing seasons, maybe it was the thought of spending spring break cooped up in the double-wide during unending rain and gloom, maybe I just needed to see my dad and family, maybe the 10 day forecast in Kansas was sunny and 70... Regardless, I made the decision at 3pm the Friday before spring break that was I going home to Kansas in stealth mode. In all my years of traveling, this was the first time I would ever take a stealth trip. It was also the fastest packing I've ever done. Usually, I prep for an entire week leading up to a trip. Saturday morning, when I pulled out of the driveway at 6 am, I just made sure I had all 4 kids my cell phone, my contacts and glasses. Everything else was replaceable.

Christmas in Kansas was so wonderful, but I hardly had time to see my dad. Typically, when I go home, I kid you not, I take an excel spreadsheet to keep up with all the different friends/family we want to see. Maintaining relationships with people far away is like one of my core values, it's incredibly important to me! But this trip I needed to see my family.

I stayed at my dad's house, which is the first time I had spent the night in his home since July 2011. Which also means it was the first time I had spent the night in his home since Mama died. Obviously, when we lived in KS from July of 2011 to July of 2013, we had no real need to spend the night, and since moving back to MS we have stayed at my sister's house when visiting. The inn at Dad's had been full ;) I was not really prepared for the flood of emotions that accompanied staying there. It was SO sweet and SO right, but harder than I expected. Mama was every where! It was purging for my heart to be in the space where memories of her abounded. It was good to run my hands over her clothes, and pull them up to my nose to see if I could smell her. I took time to flip through scrap books she made and see reminders of her face and her love every where I turned. I wandered through the basement opening random boxes and seeing her handwriting on endless cards and recipes, and I kneeled at her old book shelf and pulled off books of hers that she had underlined and highlighted to death. As I sat by her book shelf, I heard my kids and their cousins storming through the upstairs giggling and yelling, "Poppo, WHERE ARE YOU!? Pops, Pops, POPS?!" And dad could only respond with deep belly laughs and, "I'm out here grilling your food!" My throat tighten, "Oh mom, I so wish you were here! You would LOVE these moments!"

Katie has been on a Jr Beta Club Convention trip this week (for those outside of the south, Beta Club is an academic club) she was competing in the speech category. The first round of speeches was yesterday, and she was allowed one person in the room to support her. She and I discussed at length if she wanted me there for the first round, I left the decision up to her. Of course, I would travel ANYWHERE she needed me to go! However, this time we agreed that she would have a teacher come with her to round one, and if she made it to the final round, AJ and I would make the trip to come hear her compete.

I won't tell you how many times I have thought about her since she climbed up on that bus. I won't tell you how many times my eyes (and maybe Mark's :) have blinked back tears, reeling over the fact how grown and fiercely independent she has become (I think some of Mark's tears were tears of remembrance and apprehension regarding his former Jr. Beta Club trips!;) I woke up yesterday scanning my bible, trying to pick the perfect verse to send her right before she was due to give her speech. I didn't want to make her more nervous by sending a bunch of public speaking advice, but I wanted her to know that we were so proud of her and we stood behind her!

It was a loooonnnnngggggg three hour wait before we finally heard from her. I cleaned like a mad woman while waiting. Half way through, Mark called to see if I had heard anything, I hadn't. He said, "make sure you let me know when you do!" Finally, her text tone pierced through the double-wide we chatted back and forth and then this happened.....

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had spent all morning thinking about her, closing my eyes and envisioning her doing her speech. Let's be honest, I had heard the speech so often, I too had memorized it! I had covered her in prayer and sent my most powerful cheers 82 miles north up the Trace. I was WITH her in every way I could be, while physically still in French Camp. When that text came through, "Wish you could have been there!" the plea resounded so familiar in my gut, I walked to the bathroom and fell to pieces. I cannot tell you how many times my lips have whispered that EXACT request over the last 28 months, "Mom, I wish you could have been here!" And for the first time, I feel like I got a small glimpse into my mama's answer, "Oh Sara, I was there! Small pieces of me are all over you. Wherever you go, I GO! And love, for as long as I lived on that earth, and now dwell in Glory, I'm covering every inch of your life in prayer!" I spent the rest of the day feeling like I had received a small gift of clarity. I knew EXACTLY how Katie was feeling, and for the first time I felt like I understood a little bit better how my mom might be feeling.

And as with most life stories, it came so easy for me to connect this concept to the Eternal. How many moments the darkness have found me begging the Lord, "I wish you were. I wish you were IN THIS!" And then the urgency I felt yesterday, He too feels, but he does it perfectly, without the boundaries of space and time and humanity...He really, TRULY, is always here. Not just in spirit or prayer, but THERE! Ever abiding, ever so close....


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

#FindingFrenchCamp: The Beginning

I was laying in bed the other night, wide awake in the wee hours of the morning. Insomnia is not my typical M.O. when I'm struggling with something.  I love my sleep and everyone in my life can vouch for that fact. However, the other night I was plagued with a tour of restlessness. Why is it that we think we should solve all the world's problems at 2am?! I mean, I can solve some mean problems at 9am with a cup of java in hand.

2am is too, two-ish.
Too, irrational.
Too, dark.
Too, unknown.
Too, heavy.

But.... I've learned, some pretty big thoughts cross my mental radar when no one is talking to me or needing me. It dawned on me, this May will mark my NINTH year of living in Mississippi. Obviously, not nine consecutive years, but nine years when added up altogether. Next to Kansas, Mississippi is the longest lasting home for me. That is SOOOOOO bizarre-O to me. In all the writing I did as a little girl, never ONCE did my mid-west heart land in the south, let alone, Mississippi. Never once, did I title a chapter "Southern Living!" Never once, did any of my imaginary characters have southern accents. And I definitely never penned my personal biography to include four-wheelers, deep freezes, camouflage, double-wides, grand front porches for sittin', pick-up trucks  for spittin', bonfires, doilies, monograms, (not to be confused with mammograms) and red lip stick.

I was the BIGGEST home body growing up. I told everyone I was going to live with my parents forever.. I was 16 not 6, when I said this.  I hated sleepovers and summer camp. I almost failed 1/2 day Kindergarten, because I was absent so often. I could not imagine why people wanted to leave home as badly as they did. When I dreamed about my future, I was going to be a Kansas girl forever. I was going to graduate from JUCO then KU. I was going to marry a local flavor, be a junior high history teacher and coach, and send my kids to KCCS. I had a brilliant plan.

Then, at 16 (just weeks after swearing I was never leaving home) a series of miraculous events took place and I packed my bags for French Camp, Mississippi. I cried the entire 12 hour trip here. 17 years ago this May, my little, size 7 foot, encountered its first ever Mississippi mud. And the rest is history, or is it? That's just it, French Camp, MS is as much as my history now as it is my unwritten future, and I feel like I still don't know her the way I should.  Oh, I've been learned in MANY Mississippi traditions since then, but my heart is still a bit resistant to the reality she is my home. Lord willing, she will be home for a very long time, because this Mama cannot stomach the thought of moving. EVER.AGAIN (this kind of statement usually initiates the heavenly realm to start rearranging my grand plans for a glorious kind of laughter to erupt! ;)

Today, Anderson and I were studying the map and he said, "Mama, where IS Mississippi?!"

And the idea bloomed.

I've learned that the kryptonite to bitterness is story. In order for my heart to grow in admiration and respect for something, I need to know its story. Not just its cover on "Southern Living", but the deeply-rooted, untold story underneath.

SOOOOO.... I'm starting a new, little project. It's called #findingFrenchCamp!! In the upcoming weeks and months, I'm putting my blogger hat on to uncover this little space of land we call home. I think it will cause my love for her to deepen, my admiration for her to grow, and for some of the BEST stories to be told.

I need your help!

First, using the hashtage #findingFrenchCamp I would love for you to join in on the project. One of my amazing best friends inspired this idea (thanks, Jess) You can follow me on Twitter @saraslittlejohn. Instagram @saralj4. And FB @ Mark Sara Littlejohn.

Second, I need your stories. I've lived here for like .8 seconds and have only a portion of experiences to share. I'd LOVE to meet with you, sip java with you, and just LISTEN to your endless stories. Contact me @, swing by the doublewide and sit on my porch, or honk at me at Leonard's... I'll find you, and I'll find the stories!!

Come on, get excited! This is fuuuunnnn. And everyone needs a little fun in their fire!