It’s Not About Me, It’s Not About Her

I could not have been happier to be the newly wed, trying to squeeze all our wedding gifts into our teeny tiny little one bedroom apartment.  I was in total bliss, as I would have been anywhere, because we were finally TOGETHER!

Not only was I anxiously awaiting being married, I just wanted to be with my man!  James and I had agonizingly endured six months in a long distance relationship, separated by a fourteen hour drive.  Ahhhh!  My body and my heart longed to have him with me!

When wedding bells finally rang and our honeymoon cruise ship had set sail and then returned home, we began our life together.  James drove off to his first real job to support our family of two and I finished college (tail between my legs, I am that girl!  but hey, I did finish in the end.)  Part of my more flexible schedule included the responsibility of building our new home for us to enjoy together.  OK, well home keeping is still my job and he can’t have it (I love it!)

So, I am going about new dishes stacked neatly in the cabinets, putting approximately eleven holes in the wall to hang one new picture, even enjoying doing laundry for two (that much has changed.  More of it and I can’t say I enjoy that anymore.)….and then I pull out the new bathroom rugs, the very ones I had registered for, but umm, yikes.  I had two rugs for this absolutely, ridiculously small master bathroom and neither one of them would fit without having to be folded completely in half!

So, let’s make a long story short:  I returned them.  For a new lamp.

Hey, I was liking my new exchange.  The living room looked brighter and more decorated than when James left for work.  And I thought he would be pleased with my exchange, my home cooked meal, and ME forever.  And life would forever be bliss.

I do believe it was the first time he spoke to me that his voice wasn’t complete admiration and adoration, “Caaaaaroooooline…..” I hear him yelling from the bathroom later that evening, “Where is the bathroom rug?!!!”

I thought my explanation of the return for the lamp was quite enough but he stared at me dumbfounded, “Where am I supposed to stand when I brush my teeth?!”

And although a small incident, I learned that my marriage would not be perfect.  We are two humans that think differently (oh how little did I know!), we act and shop and interact with family and spend money and joke and reason and even brush our teeth differently.  Which, let me be honest, took a while to iron out…and we still ain’t perfect.  Perhaps, it is just that knowledge that has been an aide to our marriage and a relief to my idealist mind.

So, wrap it all up, marriage taught me that life is not just about me.  There is an us.

James and I were strolling about a happy marriage that we were starting to get figured out.  I had, FINALLY, graduated from college and was working in an amazing school.  We were happy DINKS.  Double Income No Kids.  And then our happy life got even better:  Madison!

I had already grown in maturity through this marriage thing.  I was raised in a family with eight children, I nannied a family for four years with four children ages five and under, I was an elementary teacher with a freakin degree in Kids, I WAS GOING TO ROCK THIS MOMMY THING!

And then something happened:  MADISON!

She could care less what my background was!  She was not impressed with our happy marriage.  She didn’t care to be “polite” when there was company around.  Madison was not concerned with the fact that I had not eaten all day or that it was the VERY MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, or that I was in public with spit up covering my shirt and pants and arms!  Madison was concerned with one thing and one thing only:  Madison!

But even though she was selfish (let’s face it, newborns are selfish) and even though I took great pains to bring her into this world (and she has yet to thank me) and even though she is the most expensive thing that James and I ever invested in and even though she required more out of me than anything, I LOVE THAT LITTLE GIRL MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF!  There is absolutely nothing in this world that I would not do for her!  There is absolutely nothing she could do to lose my love AND NOTHING SHE COULD DO TO EARN IT!

Wow!  Is that how Jesus loves me?!  NO!  HE LOVES ME MORE THAN THAT!

So, if marriage taught me there is an “us.”  Being a mom taught me there is something even bigger than us!  James and I have a purpose that exceeds our great marriage.  We have a baby to raise!  We had to “grow up.”  Less dates, less sleep, less money…there is someone else to think about FIRST.

And life went on.  I wanted the best for Madison!  She must have squeaky shoes to teach her to walk, she must have healthy food to nourish her body, and swim lessons for my little fish, and friends to teach her to share, and this and that and more.

But then something happened, Jesus took my firm grip on my daughter and loosened one little finger.  Madison wanted to do things that were mean.  She didn’t want to speak kindly to her cousin when she was upset.  Shocker to me!  My daughter is a sinner!  And then even good things, “Mom, I want to swim in one of those cages with sharks in the water!”

“NO! NO! NO!”  That was not the plan that I had!  She wanted geckos for pets and to wear Nike shorts when I wanted her to wear a dress, and her plan for the day was not exactly my plan.  And Jesus loosened one more finger!

And bit by bit by little bit, I learned something:  It is not about me, it is not about my husband, and it is not EVEN about my daughter!  I love them both so much, so very much!  But it is not good for me and not good for them for me to make them an idol and give them the responsibility of being my god!

IT IS ABOUT JESUS!

So, my darling husband, I long so very much to be a wife after God’s own heart.  I desire to be a 1 Corinthians 13 wife, whose love is full of patience, kindness, humility, and all the qualities that can only be from God and not myself.  My baby girl, I want God’s plan for you, not my own!  He made you so absolutely amazing and he has a plan for you that is so much greater than my plan!  IF HE makes you a marine biologist that swims with sharks, I want to support that!  (OUCH!)

My family, I surrender you to God.  Lord, never let me be a stumbling block to those that I love the most!  I want to be a servant that seeks ways to be helpful, not demanding my own way.  I want to be wisdom that is godly advice.  I want to be an example to my daughter of God’s grace, forgiveness, and power that can come from no one other than him!

Lord, be a miracle in me so that those that know my weaknesses more than anyone would look at me and claim, “Wow!  That is God himself at work, because Caroline could never do that!”

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This is How it Ends

All readers gather here.  To the Momma late at night, propped up on her pillow and promising herself just one more page.  To the college student that is cramming for class because she could not peel away the romance novel.  I am writing this to the man sitting in his car flipping the pages that needs to go into work.

I hate to give away my personal love life details, but here it is.  James and I fight sometimes.  I know, I know, but it is true.  And maybe, just possibly, we had a little bit of one yesterday.  But do you see that I said yesterday?  As the day ended, I was at his side holding his hand and I thought, “If I would have known this morning, this is how it ended…”

Well, I think that a lot.  HOW DOES IT ALL END?  Does he get the girl?  Does the army invade?  Is there a baby in the future?  Who wins the election?  What’s she going to grow up to be?  Do they ever find out?  What does she decide?

Well, I’m not giving any spoiler alerts here.  Click on the link below.  Chose your method of reading and enjoy a free, yes free, book on me. Then get back to me and let me know what you think of the ending!  http://freeditorial.com/en/books/spiritual-flesh-and-blood

The Best Things in Life are Free OR $6.99

  
The reward for completion is that her little eight year old fingers get to erase the completed chore off our dry erase To Do list. 

Laundry. Check. Make beds. Check. Grocery shopping. Check. We have gotten to the point in our summer day where the next item to be completed is reading. 

She reads the coming “chore” as…just that…a chore. But she curls up on the sofa pillow with a throw to one of both of our favorite books, Trumpet of the Swan. It is the first time SHE is reading the book to herself, but it has already been read to her two times. (I adore books that are so good that they must be read more than once. In the words of CS Lewis, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and only reading it once.”

I hear a deep roll of thunder in the distance promising relief from the drought. The moment could not be any more perfect. It is that time when all is at peace and my heart is happy. 

Madison looks up from her book giggling. When she gets excited, she gives two really deep breaths and then continues with something she is eager to share. Her chore has become a love and now she can’t put the book down. 

I am quite a long distance from being what I want to be as a mother. Sadly, it is not hard to find fault with my accomplishments. However, I swell with pride and thanksgiving that I have passed on a love of books to my daughter. 

READ. Learn. It is one of the greatest accomplishments this life has to offer. And once you have become an accomplished reader, pass it on. 

I Heart Science

Very tall for her age, even taller than her twin sister. She was long and lean, blonde and breautiful, and just as clumsy with her grace as any other fourth grader should be.  My fourth grade students were still babies, but I could see in their achievements (they were impressive) that they would be teenagers tomorrow. 

But for now, I soaked up their current love for their teacher (me), I fed off of their enthusiasm for learning, and I was blown away with their profound statements and questions. 

She raised her long arm. It was, with the rest of her body, jumping up and down in her desk from excitement. Her fingers twisted and turned through the air. She had something to say. 

I paused at the right time during my lecture (yes, I said during my lecture. Please note this was lecture and note taking time)….I paused during my lecture and smiled at Laura and nodded my head for her to go ahead with her question or comment. She proceeded with the attention of the whole class:

I (she pointed to herself)

Heart (her fingers formed a heart in front of her own)

Science (and she spread her arms out pointing and displaying the lecture notes that still covered the board)

She loved to learn. What a gift!  What a blessing!  It was learning that she was in love with, hard lecture notes at such a young age, but something had clicked and she could not contain the excitement and the joy she found in new knowledge. 

I believe that when we learn truth, we learn about Jesus. I believe that Science is the study of God’s creation. I believe that school should be hard work and not always fun, but at the end of the day the kids should beam with excitement from their new found treasure. Knowledge. 

And now I am not a teacher anymore in a classroom. I AM A MOMMY!  And it is summer break and Madison Academy is in full force. We have a list of classic books to read. We are going to conquer labeling all 50 states (she can label 30), by Fall, we will be able to list all the American presidents in order, our nature notebook will be full of sketches and information about plants in our neighborhood, and Daddy is going to teach the fundamentals of basketball. 

And this is where I want to thank Laura’s parents. Because I believe that love of learning begins at home. Yes!  A teacher can spark this or squash it. But almost always, I believe children, like Laura, come from homes where learning prospers and runs wild and covers the smiles of the whole family learning together. 

So, I take my daughter’s hand and I have the PRIVILIDGE of learning alongside her (trust me, I am learning also!) I have the joy of picking, “What do I want my girl to know?” And then teaching her!  

There will be late cookouts. She will have cousins spend the night and sleep in late. We will spend entire days playing at the pool. But perhaps learning just as much as in the classroom (or dare I say possibly more?) I now say with confidence, SCHOOL IS IN SESSION!

I Am Growing Up

One of the best things about being a parent is learning alongside children. Starting back at the very basics and building from there. The continued education of James and Caroline began the day the test had two lines. 

With Madison in my tummy, her Daddy and I began to research and read like never before.  We were about to be responsible for a miracle called: life. One of my favorite pictures shows James sitting Indian style on our bed reading a children’s book. On first glance, it looks like he is reading to himself. You really have to search to find the brand new baby (maybe three days old) sleeping among the covers to know the book is not for his own enjoyment. 

One of my favorite traditions is, every year for Christmas, buying Madison a new Bible. We started with Children’s Bibles like The Big Picture Storybook, The Jesus Storybook Bible, I Can Read Bible, The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos, and other jewels. With her Daddy reading every night, she has read through the Bible several times moving up to an NIRV Bible. Guess what that means?  It means James and I have been more consistent in our devotions than ever before. 

And when Madison wants to know why Evergreen Trees don’t turn brown, and every single thing about every single animal, and how to make origami, and where all the fifty states are located and who all the presidents were, and why doggies don’t get married. Guess what that means?  It means that Momma learns them also!

Recently, my little Renaissance girl wanted to learn to sew. So, (haha. Homophone)…so, her Daddy and I purchased a sewing machine for her birthday. You should have seen James and I trying to figure it out. But we did!  And Madison and I spent one of our Spring Break days purchasing fabric and making a travel laundry bag, couch pillows, and her new very favorite stuffed bunny. I can sew!  And that is one of the very small ways that having a daughter has made me a better person. 

Being a mother, gazing into the eyes of a precious little girl with a curious mind, has taught me something I should have known before I was a mother. Knowledge may be power, but LEARNING IS JOY. 

The Opinion Revolution

“Sweetheart, what would you like for breakfast?”
“Class, what is your opinion about this?”
“Baby, what do you want to do today?”

The opinion revolution. Society teaches parents to let kids think for themselves. “Raise a thinker.” No. “Raise a spoiled brat that can not think.”

Ask my seven year old daughter every single morning what she wants for breakfast and, if it were an option, she would pick donuts.

What is the classes opinion about why the sun waxes and wanes? Quite frankly, It doesn’t really matter.

What does a child want to do today? It almost never includes doing homework or making their bed.

Let’s talk Science. A brain is not fully developed until around the age of 19. A child IS NOT CAPABLE OF THINKING WISELY! A child can only learn to imitate. “Mom serves me eggs and fruit for breakfast, I learn to make healthy choices.”

Then, when the child grows up, they have learned to do things that are good for their bodies, things that are kind, things that need to be done INSTEAD of the perspective of ME, ME, ME. What do I need to eat vs. what do I want to eat? Exercising because I need to vs. watching tv because I want to. Reading because I will learn vs. yada yada…

Ok. Ok. Getting labeled meanest mom of the year here. More explanation: children start out completely dependent on parents. They don’t make any decisions. They rely completely on caretaker. Put milk in the bottle, not coke. (And sidetracking here. I believe baby crying needs to be held and cuddled and taught security vs. scheduling nap time. There is a long discussion there, just want to say that that is not what I am saying. I may have just lost the men in that women talk). However, as children grow, they become more independent and begin to learn to make decisions. “Would you like milk, water, or juice?”

And I have to put the precursor on this touchy subject. NO JUDGING! I hope in life to form opinions. Strong opinions to apply to my life. But, I never want to go about telling everyone, or anyone, what they are doing wrong! (The danger of writing!). Madison may be eating skittles because she never eats candy and it is her birthday or we are having dinner with Mimi, or whatever and not because I let her do whatever she wants to do.

Wow! This is taking a short blog post to say what takes a book to explain. Children need to constantly be told two things every second of every day:
1. I LOVE YOU!
And 2. You CAN NOT do whatever you want BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!

To the parents who sue McDonalds for being unhealthy, to the teachers whose rooms are controlled by the students, to the legislators who want to outlaw candy, to the authors that say to let kids make their own decisions: it is the job of the parents to teach children what is right and what is wrong! So, do it. …please

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The Most Important Thing

The sun has hit the snooze button and we creep out of the garage in the darkness.  Frost glistens on the grass and roofs and wreaths that are hanging on our windows.  The car heat is turned on high and blowing on our feet.  We have the morning count down.  “Nine more days until Christmas.  Three more days of school.”

We sit in silence and sleepiness as we join the early birds on the road and continue on our journey to school.  I take a sip of my morning energy.  Coffee.  I take another sip.  I have been through the check list before we left the house, but I can not help but run it through my head again.  Is Madison prepared for school?  Plaid skirt and polo shirt?  Check.  The weather is cold.  Fleece and leggings.  Check.  The weather is colder than that.  Heavy coat.  Check.  Gloves in her backpack because she doesn’t want to wear them but incase she changes her mind.  Check.

But at this point, that is definitely not enough.  She is still not even close to ready for school.  Morning preparations:  Daddy made her scrambled eggs and she had a glass of water.  Check.  I supervised the brushing of her teeth.  Check.  Combed her hair and pulled it into her favorite do, a ponytail.  Check.  Face washed.  Check.  Oh, so far from being prepared for school.

Healthy school lunch in her lunchbox, in her backpack.  Check.  Two healthy snacks in small animal shaped containers in her front backpack pocket.  Check.  Water bottle.  Check.  Homework folder in binder.  Check.  Binder in backpack.  Check.  She is not ready for this day at all.

With my eyes open, as I am driving down the road, “Madison, let’s pray:

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for Madison.  I pray that she will enjoy learning about your creation today.  I pray she will be kind and patient and obedient.  I pray she will know when to talk and when she needs to listen.  Thank you for her school and her teacher and her friends.  Thank you for Daddy.  We pray that he will have a wonderful day at work.  Please keep us safe and healthy today.  Please help us to do your will today.

We love you Jesus.  Amen

And now she is ready.  She is prepared for this day.  We roll to a stop.  She unbuckles and gives me a kiss.  I return the favor on her cheek.  “I love you.  Goodbye.”

Jesus is going with her.  It is the only way that I can let her go.