Softball Pitches & New Years Resolutions

I can see our tree skirt again because presents have been opened and trash bags stuffed with torn paper and cardboard packaging. Today we ate bits of leftovers from the last four days of family Christmas celebrations.

The girls’ new Rapunzel’s Tower & Popstar Dressing Room Lego sets are assembled and extra pieces litter the table and floor. And, as I write, Mark is matching the socks after folding five loads of laundry (and that’s with the girls wearing the same Christmas dresses three days in a row).  Buying gifts, planning menus, advent wreaths & countdown crafts–there is this glorious momentum that drives us to Christmas.

And, every year, it seems I am startled by how quickly the new year follows.  Last night, as I washed dishes and found places for leftovers in our fridge, I recalled the list of 2015 goals I had written down on a coffee date with Mark–some of them accomplished and several abandoned by summer.

Those abandoned goals make me feel embarrassed, lazy, and immature.

This past summer Mark played on a co-ed softball league; at a practice before the games officially began, Audrey and Charlotte wanted to try hitting a ball like Daddy.  Charlotte, first, held the oversized bat, with Mark’s help, while another teammate slowly lobbed the ball her way.  Even with Daddy’s help, she swung and missed.  Immediately, she dropped the bat, and with her arms crossed stomped away angry and defeated.

She failed to reach the goal she had envisioned–did I see her as embarrassing, lazy, or immature? Of course not.

Because, as parents we accept that when our children are attempting to accomplish significant {new} goals, failure is normal and inevitable.

We also accept that failure is not final.

If you are like me, you are better at expecting and accepting failure from your children than from yourself.  And our crafty adversary would like to use your abandoned goals (or the ones you meant to make and never got around to) to keep you from even trying in 2016.

But, what if, we give ourselves the same grace we present to our children when they’re tackling a new goal and pursue the goals (after we’ve chosen them under the Holy Spirit’s guidance) with the tenacity we have for potty-training.

This year, some of my 2016 goals will be nearly identical to the 2015 list, but that will not stop me from writing the list, identifying steps, and going after them by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Won’t you join me? 

A Christmas Prayer for Mommas

Here we are, the last Sunday of advent has passed and we are in the final days of this season of anticipation. Gifts for cousins, grandparents, aunties, and uncles are wrapped and under our Christmas tree; my gifts for Mark are still hiding in various places around the house hoping for a few minutes alone to wrap them. My pad of paper is waiting for me to finish my menu for Christmas morning and make a grocery list of the ingredients I’ll need for the fresh guacamole, pumpkin dip, sweet potato casserole, and dark chocolate bark.

Maybe you still have some gifts to purchase or stockings to stuff.  Perhaps you don’t have your menu done yet, and you’re like me and in the midst of planning dishes to bring to parties, you forgot to make sure you had lunch for your family yesterday (yup, that’s real life around here sometimes).

Wherever you are as the week of Christmas begins, this is my prayer for each of you,

I pray you will be captivated this week by God’s love for you.

As you ponder difficult relationships, losses over the last year, and where God will lead you in the year to come, may you know Him as your Wonderful Counselor who freely gives wisdom to any who asks.

While you celebrate the birth of the Messiah may you remember that He grew up to be your Mighty God able and available for whatever is facing you.

As you receive gifts this week I pray you would know the Eternal Father is the giver of all good gifts, and is always working on your behalf.

In the middle of menus, kids’ Christmas outfits, and parties, I plead on your behalf that you would experience Him as your Prince of Peace.

Lord, let these mommas know you as Immanuel.

Praise you God, you are with us.

7 Minutes in a Parking Lot

“Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” (Helen Keller)

At times, I am paralyzed by what I should have done yesterday, other days I am so determined to make moments align with pictures painted in my mind that when faced with the choice to do something, though not ideal or entirely as imagined, or nothing, I choose to do nothing.

I make no effort if my efforts won’t produce my ideal results.

If I cannot teach Charlotte all of the alphabet sounds by the deadline I imagined, I will teach her none.  If I cannot straighten the entire main floor of my house in the time given, I sometimes choose to straighten none. For the last year, I have been dreaming of one-on-one dates with my girls which will store away dear memories and strengthen our ties.  I am especially craving this time with my first grader, Audrey; this is our first year being away from each other for so many hours a day.  I miss my un-calculated, un-squeezed, un-rushed minutes with her.

For 2016, working with Mark to create space for monthly dates with Audrey will be a priority.  But, for the last few months, schedules and younger siblings have made it impossible to have the kinds of dates I imagine; so, I have done nothing.  Until last Tuesday morning.

Entirely out of routine, Audrey and I found ourselves in the school parking lot just the two of us that morning.  Mark wasn’t leaving for his stores as early as usual and stayed home with the Charlotte & Beckett, who were still dreaming. Audrey and I had loaded into the car at our normal time, but not having to buckle the two littlest meant we arrived at school 7 minutes earlier than usual. It was a chilly morning, and we chose to wait in the van until the doors were open from the playground.  7 minutes.

I had notifications waiting on my Facebook app, e-mails from students that needed responses, and an unread text from my mom.  Sitting in a van, at 7:46 on a Tuesday morning with only 7 minutes is not one of the mommy-daughter dates I had pinned on Pinterest. I could have chosen to do nothing, to make no effort towards my relationship with Audrey.  After all, wouldn’t 7 minutes be a waste?

But, I listened to the whisper of the Holy Spirit {finally} and invited Audrey to unbuckle and come sit in the passenger seat next to me; I tucked my phone in my pocket as she scooted her little buns into the heated leather seat. She crossed her legs daintily, and spent 6 minutes catching me up on the excitement occurring in her Nancy Clancy chapter book.

Cultivating a relationship is a beautiful thing, and no effort made towards that relationship is ever lost.

What if we stop waiting for the big moments, or the planned events and we just do something? Rather than brushing off the two minutes alone with your toddler each morning, snatch them and invest them.  You may not be able to go out for dinner and hire a sitter every weekend for a date with your hubby, but what about those few quiet minutes in the evening when the dishes are washed and the kids are in bed? Do something.

Helen Keller said, “Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” [emphasis mine]

No effort you make towards something beautiful–a relationship with your child, cultivating a love for the Word of God, creating a prayer-life, keeping your husband loved–is ever lost, no matter how small the opportunity or how minor the effort.