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    The Tapestry

    Childhood

    Here are my most vivid memories from childhood…

    Kaiser rolls and animal crackers at the grocery store.

    Burger King crowns.

    Popcorn for dinner and Murder She Wrote.

    I remember few of the details of my birthday parties, except for my surprise party in second grade, only because I cried when everyone jumped out and scared me.

    I don’t remember the details of our vacations. I don’t remember spending the night at friends’ houses.

    I remember the simple things. The rituals of our ordinary life made sweet by my parents’ love for us kids.

    Each week my mom would take us to the grocery store. Upon arriving, my sister and I would each get a fluffy kaiser roll from the bakery bin to eat while we shopped. On special days, we would also get a box of animal crackers as we approached the checkout line, and we clutched our little red boxes with eager fingers. It’s one of my favorite memories from my youth. Bakery bread and circus crackers.

    When we were little, my dad didn’t have to work on Fridays, so he would often take us with him on his errands. At some point, we would always stop at Burger King, my dad’s favorite place to grab lunch. My sister and I would get chicken nuggets and wear our Burger King crowns with pride as we made the most mundane stops to the post office and the hardware store. Another of my favorite memories.

    And boring weekend nights at home are forever etched in my mind. I remember eating Little Caesar’s pizza while watching Full House on Friday nights. And making a giant bowl of popcorn every Sunday night to munch on during my mom’s favorite show, Murder She Wrote. It wasn’t even a show for kids, but if you had asked me then, Sunday nights were my favorite. I still have a special fondness for Angela Lansbury after all these years.

    But you know what I don’t really remember? I don’t really remember Saturdays. The days we did all the big, fun stuff like birthday parties and trips to the museums and parks. We had a few yearly traditions, like going to the state fair, that remain fond memories, but the “big stuff” during the week… the parties, the picnics, the Girl Scout meetings, the dance recitals, Vacation Bible School… those are all a blur to me.

    Instead, I remember watching popcorn seeds dance in the hot oil on Sunday nights. I remember the taste of my chicken nuggets and the paper crown digging into my forehead. I remember the shopping cart and the fluffy rolls. That’s my childhood.

    The fancy stuff never stood out to me. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate it, but it wasn’t the fabric of our lives. The tiny threads of love and simplicity that made up our Monday shopping and our Friday errands, those are the tapestry of my youth. Parents who took me out and about with them. Parents who made a ritual out of eating popcorn for dinner.

    I want to weave the same type of tapestry for my own children. They won’t remember the details of their birthday parties or splurging at the fancy donut shop or taking tumbling lessons. Those are all great things, but they won’t be the memories forever etched on their hearts.

    This is what I hope they remember… 6pm dance parties every night when dad got home from work. Eating waffles for breakfast and going grocery shopping with mom. Eating bread out of the bakery bins. Fro-yo dates. Reading the Bible every night before bed.

    And may I always remember it’s the rituals of every day life they will recall the most. The little things, not the big, will make the most profound impact on their minds and hearts. So may I embrace hectic trips to the grocery store and loud music as I fix dinner. In those moments, I am building the tapestry of my children’s youth.

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    I don’t have the right…

    worship

    It started out like most marital fights do… over something incredibly insignificant.

    This time it was an Instagram photo. It was “dress up” night at camp. Micah wasn’t in the mood for a family picture, I demanded one, our kids cried, and I went to the nightly worship session irritated.

    But, really, it was more than that. The first few nights of camp I didn’t sleep at all. I was running on about six hours of sleep spread over two nights. I was exhausted. Easily irritated. It was my last week of summer vacation before I started my new job, and I wanted it to be perfect. I was hoping camp would be incredibly restful or in some way spiritually transformative or deeply restorative before I began this new, exciting school year.

    Instead, I was incredibly tired, hardly able to focus on the Bible teaching, and annoyed with my husband for not smiling with the correct amount of enthusiasm.

    The worship music started and I felt my heart harden. I wasn’t in the mood to sing. Clearly, God could understand why. Why would I lift my arms or raise my voice when I was going on three hours of sleep?

    But the music continued to swell. I didn’t slowly melt into a soft, joyful, heap. Instead, the Spirit convicted me with this thought…

    “I don’t have the right to withhold my worship.”

    I don’t have the right to withhold my worship. Lack of sleep. Whiny kids. An imperfect family photo. Although these issues were amplified in my mind, my heart knew they were no excuse. My mood should not dictate my actions before the Lord. He is still good, even when my attitude or my circumstances are not. I have no right to cross my arms or close my lips when I should be singing out to the Living God.

    And with that my lips parted and I began to sing. I was still tired. I didn’t sing loud. But my heart was humbled before the Lord, and I acknowledged that I have no right to hold anything back from him. He deserves my worship always.

    And then I thought about how this applies to all areas of my life. Rough day with the kids? I don’t have a right to withhold my worship. Conflict with a friend. Job loss. Devastating diagnosis. Plans gone awry. Vacation ruined. Disappointing news. A dream delayed. I don’t have a right to withhold my worship from the Lord.

    And that worship might not always be literal singing. We know from the Bible we are to worship God with our whole lives – with our words, our thoughts, and our actions in day to day life. Didn’t get the promotion you were hoping for? We worship God with our first fruits no matter how much (or how little) our paycheck (Deut 26:10). Want to lash out out your disobedient kids or your irksome neighbor? We worship God by showing the same kindness and mercy to others that He has shown to us (Zech 7:9).

    The car may break down. The kids will fight. Taxes will increase. My friends will let me down. My job may be uncertain. I will often be hungry or tired. I don’t have a right to withhold my worship.

    Though my circumstances will change, God remains the same. He loves me. His Son lived and died for me. His grace covers me. I may want to shake my fists, but God deserves my hands raised in reverence and awe. I may purse my lips, but God deserves hymns of devotion and praise. I may be tired, but He is my strength. I may be irritated, but He is my joy.

    No matter the day, no matter the trial, He is worthy of my praise.

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    Stories

    stories about motherhood

    With one swoop, I got dinner started. I walked into the kitchen, flipped the knob on the oven to 400, made a brisk 180 turn to grab a pan from the highest shelf across the kitchen, remembering to hit the faucet on the sink mid-turn to start running hot water for the corn. If the water was hot already, the water would boil faster and dinner would be ready sooner. I finished my spin on tippy toes, bringing the pan down to sink where the running water was already turning warm. “I’ve got this,” I thought. It was one of the first times since having two kids I thought maybe motherhood – the endless cleaning, the cooking, the discipline – wasn’t so hard after all. I just started multiple components of dinner prep with one graceful ballerina spin across my kitchen. Maybe we are ready to have another baby?

    The third child scenario… I analyze it constantly. Ever since Talitha turned about six months old, “baby number three” has become a permanent category in my brain. It’s a topic worthy of inspection, one shrouded in a bit of fear. We want another child… we think? But when? Our first two are fairly close in age, just 20ish months apart. Do we have another one soon and “get the baby stage over with?” We’ve heard that’s a good method. Or do we wait? Would a three year gap be healthier for our family? Other moms tell me a gap is best. They tell me I will feel more sane if we wait a longer next time.

    And which baby will be my breaking point? Sometimes I feel like I’ve transitioned to life with two kids fairly well. But on other days I’m certain I’m on the verge of a breakdown and question if I should have any more kids at all? Every mom has her breaking point right? That’s what I hear. For some moms, it’s number one… a rough entry to motherhood with an unexpected c-section, postpartum depression, or a colicky child. For others, it’s number two. Two young children in need of just one mom. It’s completely overwhelming. But then I’ve heard three is the real test of one’s will. The breaking point. It’s when things become a “circus” because you are officially outnumbered. These are the stories I’ve heard, but I don’t know which one is my story. I want a third child, but I don’t ever want to reach my breaking point.

    Then I hear good stories too. The kind of stories that give you hope. That convince you that you can handle motherhood – no matter how many kids you have or how many bumps there are along the road. My friend had her fourth baby and told me this, “I get it now. I don’t necessarily want any more children, but I see why people are okay having five, six, seven kids. When you hit four children, you’ve reached “official big family status.” You have a huge car and your house is chaotic and you think “would one more kid really alter things that much?”

    Recently, I was talking to a friend who is a mother of five, all spaced approximately 18 months apart. I haven’t done the exact math, but that’s a lot of kids in not very many years. She told me it’s not actually as hard as you would think, because by the time you have four or five kids you have so many systems in place that make life easier. Tasks that overwhelmed you when had only one or two children are now a breeze. I thought back to my single-handed dinner prep 180 around my kitchen and nodded my head in agreement. Maybe my systems were falling into place?

    I hear stories from moms all day long. You hear them too. At your MOPS group. On play dates. The never-ending stories from the Internet. One is overwhelming. Two is a tough transition. Three is a circus. Four in big family status. Five is easy. Breastfeeding is hard. Nursing is the best. Discipline is difficult. Just spank. Never spank. Sleep train. Co-sleep. My time spent reading in graduate school pales in comparison to all the narratives I have read about motherhood.

    But I think I am starting to figure it out. As a mother, you write your own story. Sometimes the words flow out of you smoothly and gracefully, and you flip page after page with ease. The kids behave, the chores get done, you squeeze in a date night and learn to carve out alone time in your schedule. Other times the words are clunky and slow-going and you scribble on the page and call in an editor – in the form of a nanny, a housekeeper, a best friend, or a therapist. The kids don’t behave, the house is a mess, date night (when it happens) ends in a fight, and you can’t remember the last time you were alone.

    Every mom’s story is different, but I’m sure they have some things in common. There are always unexpected plot twists, passages that feel stale and boring, vital supporting characters, and climactic moments where the overwhelming joy of motherhood redeems the rough patches in the text. There are monologues filled with both self-loathing, and self-discovery. There are dialogues filled with both conflict and reconciliation. There are words such as “pain” or “laughter” that can’t fully describe what it’s like to experience the heart-crushing grief that accompanies parenthood or the unparalleled feeling of shaking with happy, tear-filled eyes at a child’s innocent and hilarious antics.

    Your story is completely different from mine with complex characters and distinct rising action. However, as mothers, we understand common themes that unite us to one another. Love, loss, grief, sacrifice, overcoming struggle, hope. These are the themes that yoke us together. Each story unfolds on its own, page by page, but they are bound together in a great and glorious volume called motherhood.

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