Tuesday, November 27, 2012

At Least I Didn't Forget the Baby

(This post was included in The Christian Home Magazine Issue 91. Check it out to read what other Christian bloggers have to say.)

What's up with this photo?
     I got to church early today. Which is miraculous in its own right considering I have a toddler, a preschooler, and a first grader who still hasn’t mastered that whole zip-up-your-own-coat rite of passage into full winter independence. And it’s definitely winter here, if you were wondering.

     I actually didn’t just happen to show up at church before my usual 10:34 am entrance. (I am of the persuasion that four minutes late is completely acceptable. It’s a lot like the speed limit, I figure. As long as you’re not five over, nobody’s going to give you a hard time about it, right?)

     Showing up early to church today, along with my three bundled Eskimos, was actually a pre-meditated feat. You see, apparently some people in our congregation feel I must have the spiritual gift of janitor, because I’ve been asked to clean the church building once a week (which, I assure you, would never have happened if any of the deacons had ever stepped foot into our home. Let this be a lesson to you to always invite your deacons over for dinner at least once in your early days attending a new church).

     Anyway, this morning I was cleaning the men’s room (a sanctifying work in itself) and I decided that my long hair was definitely not an asset at that moment. (Another point at which long hair becomes a liability: changing poopy diapers. But I digress…) As I went to pull my hair up, I realized: I didn’t brush my hair today.

     All right. There’s something you need to know about me. I am not high maintenance. I brush my hair for exactly one minute a day: half a minute in the morning, and half a minute at night. But today, in the rush of getting three pairs of coats, three pairs of mittens, and three pairs of boots on my three little snow babies, I not only forgot my own coat; I apparently also forgot to brush my own hair.

     With my tangles pulled back for the rest of the morning in a messy bun, I’m sure nobody noticed my grooming faux paux. (In case anybody’s wondering, I still haven’t brushed my mange and it’s close to bedtime now.) The truth is I’m often forgetting things, only to notice my mistake at the most inconvenient times. You don’t even want to know about shopping trip I had almost completed before I realized I had forgotten to put on my bra. And this happened at about three in the afternoon!

     Whenever I feel like I must be losing part of my brain (blame it on three full-term pregnancies and two miscarriages) I encourage myself with the thought: At least I’ve never forgotten my kids.

     Maybe I shouldn’t joke about it, because I know some parents who seriously traumatized either themselves or their offspring by doing that exact thing. One night in youth group we were discussing the verse about how a mother can never forget the children she has borne, and the conversation took a fifteen-minute turn towards the ugly as everyone shared stories of how their parents lost them at some point or another. Let me assure you, that as soon as I forgot one of my kids somewhere, I’ll post a column about it (once Child Protective Services is through with me, that is).

     What I’m trying to say is that we women have to constantly juggle so many tasks and roles (not to mention handbags) that it’s no wonder we forget things every once in a while. But I figure that as long as we’re not forgetting the really important stuff, we must be doing all right.

     But what exactly is this important stuff (besides the baby), you ask? Each woman is going to have her own list, but a few things are probably universal to all of us.

     For example, never forget to be thankful. Even during hard times. Even on bad days. Gratitude is not an option, at least not according to Scripture. So let’s “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4) every day of the year … not just on days when we’re stuffing turkeys and drawing the play-by-play schematics of our Black Friday plans of attack.

     And what about this one? Never forget that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). It’s no wonder that James says the woman who learns never sins with her mouth has reached total perfection. Our words can breathe life and hope to those we love, or completely tear them down. When we forget to “tame our tongues,” we can actually speak words that bring death … death to dreams, death to trust, or death to relationships. Not a pretty picture, is it?

     In addition to cleaning urinals (did you know those things actually flush?) my Sunday included a pretty sad reminder that we should never forget how short life is. Our kids may drive us crazy. Our spouses may never get over that one bad habit that's been driving us bonkers for years. But our loved ones might not be with us tomorrow. Are we going to let petty inconveniences ruin our relationships?

     When I worked at an assisted living home as a caregiver, I met a woman who couldn’t remember her name. She couldn’t remember what she ate for breakfast. She couldn’t remember who her husband was, how many children she had, or what she was doing living on the Alzheimer floor. But she remembered a song, a song she sang to herself all the time. In spite of her Alzheimer’s, she still remembered Jesus loves me. Which brings me to my last point:

     Never forget that you are loved. You and I might forget to be thankful. We might forget to hold our tongues. We might even forget to pick up our kids, or – maybe worse - forget to cherish them. But just like Martha on the Alzheimer’s floor, may we never forget: Jesus loves us, this we know for the Bible tells us so.

     Because that would be even worse than forgetting to wear a bra to WalMart.

What about you? When has your memory gotten the better of you? Have you ever forgotten something really important (like the kids)? (Feel free to leave your comment below.)  

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Liebester Award

What's up with this photo?

     Now I know what you're thinking. If someone nominated me for the Liebester Award, that means that I must lie "bester" than anyone else. Well, sorry. No lies here. Actually, the Liebester Award (as it was explained to me by Regi McClain, the friend responsible for my nomination) is like the chain letter of the blogosphere. I'm touched, Regi. Really, I am.

     Anyway, my job is to answer the eleven questions posed to me on Regi's blog, then come up with eleven more questions to pass on to other bloggers that I know. This will not be easy, by the way. If you haven't noticed, Lightly Salted is a brand-new blog. I don't have many followers yet (hint, hint) and I don't have two many personal blogging friends who would truly appreciate the honor of getting tagged as a Liebester recipient. (You see that sidebar to the left, by the way? The Networked Blogs one? It needs a few more nice smiley pictures, don't you think? Any takers?)

     And speaking of pictures, are you curious about the headshots I place on my blog? Check out the story behind the headshots.

     But on to more important matters ... my responses. True to form, Regi came up with some real doozies. I actually had to fast before answering one of them. I wanted to make sure that my reply could convey the depths of my feelings as poignantly as possible. Only time (and the number of new followers I gain from this post) will tell if I succeeded. 

1. If you could rewrite a “classic” book, which would it be? I’m a fool for Russian literature and I usually enjoy detective stories as well. Therefore, my first classic rewrite would involve Hercule Poirot pursuing Raskolnikov from “Crime and Punishment” all around St. Petersburg. I also hate sucky endings, so one day I plan to rewrite “Little Women” and have Jo and Laurie get hitched at the end. We all know that’s what they really should have done, right?

2. Of all the book-to-movie adaptations you’ve seen, which is the worst? “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Disney shouldn’t have touched it in the first place. My sympathies go out to Mr. Hugo. And I would like it to go on record that I wouldn't have even sat through such dribble if I hadn't been doing my sick college dorm-mate a favor. It was her favorite movie. You'll notice her picture does not appear on that cute little side bar to the left.

3. Is there a book you’d like to see as a movie that is not yet a movie (that you know of)? If you’re asking about books besides the ones I've written, I think Larry Correia’s “Monster Hunters International” has some great Blockbuster potential. Unfortunately, the movie would be way too gory for me to watch without wasting the $7 I'd spend on popcorn.

4. Beatrice Potter or Dr. Seuss? I’m more into memorable rhymes and bold pictures and silly words. Not as much into water-colored talking animals going on insignificant quasi-adventures. Sorry.

5. How do you choose names for your characters? Choosing a character’s name is even harder for me than choosing names for my own kids. So what I do is put on some Bollywood music, wrap my muskox-hair scarf over my eyes, open my phone book and sprinkle a jumbo Pixie Dust candy stick on the first page I come to. I then observe which name has the most unique design of glitter around it, and thus my character is christened.

6. What was the worst book you had to read for school? “The Great Gatsby.” To this day, I still don’t know what it was about. Someone named Daisy and a hit-and-run?

7. Who is your favorite cartoon character? Doug. Who else can wear a belt on his head and underwear over his shorts and still be that cool?

8. Heroes or villains? Aren’t all villains just misunderstood heroes?

9. If you could pick a destination anywhere in the world for a 30 day, total-seclusion writing retreat, where would you go? PLEASE  don’t send me on a 30 day, total-seclusion writing retreat. (But I would take an extended weekend at a cabin in the mountains near a creek. But three days is my max. Then I’m coming home to my family! And I’m taking my kill-now-and-ask-questions-never guard dog with me.)

10. What is the current state of the inside of your sock drawer? Mismatched, with an unmentionable or two that shall remain - true to their essence - unmentioned.

11. If you had no other options, would you choose Earth-bound immortality or death before your next birthday? I love my life, but have no desire to outlive my kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids, etc. I also happen to love a lot of people currently residing in heaven, including my Savior Jesus Christ, and there’s no way I’m passing up never-ending bliss with them for an eternity stuck here. If I'm allowed to make requests, I'll take a quick a painless death over a prolonged, scary one.

     So now that you've read all my answers (and clicked that cute little Follow button on the left side of your screen) it's my turn to ask a few questions of my own. Feel free to cut and paste the questions into your own blog, or just leave your response in the comments section below.

1. Which Lord of the Rings character do you resemble most?

2. Who was your first celebrity crush?

3. What is the one job or chore you like the least, either at home or at work?

4. The most annoying kids' show in existence is ______________________.

5. If you were in need of rescuing, which Avenger would you want to show up?

6. If you could relive just one day of your life, not because you want to change something but because it was just so perfect, what would it be?

7. What is a hidden talent you have that very few people know about?

8. Tell us about a great first date (real or imaginary).

9. If you could instantaneously (and effortlessly) acquire a new skill, what would it be?

10. You are preparing to spend a month entirely secluded from civilization and get to pack one suitcase. What is in it?

11. If you could make any one character come alive from a book, who would it be?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Parenting in Community

What's up with this photo?

      I am not an outgoing person by nature. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve hiding behind my dad’s legs. As a teenager, I was paralyzed with insecurities. When I was newly married, I only went to social functions if my husband – a textbook case of ENTJ extroversion – came along with me.

     Then, a year and a half after our wedding, I delivered a six-pound, fifteen-ounce human being into the world. Of course, my life would never be the same.

     Something major changed in me that day (and it wasn’t just my waistline size, either). I had spent just about my entire life feeling like I didn’t belong. I was on the pom-pon squad in high school, but didn’t fit the confident, bubbly and flirty personality of the cheerleader stereotype. I was an editor of my college newspaper, but didn’t know half of the pop culture references in the music and movie reviews I was publishing. When my husband moved to his hometown to youth pastor the country church he grew up in, I felt more like the communal daughter-in-law than an actual member of the body.

     And then I got pregnant.

     Like it or not, I was now the center of attention. (It had been years since that church had seen a baby.) I clenched my teeth and dragged my embarrassed self to my own baby shower … and had a wonderful time being prayed over by the women in my congregation. Every Sunday morning, I received more belly rubs and unsolicited advice than I thought possible … and felt truly loved.

     After Nate’s birth, women came over to deliver meals and many of them stayed to visit. For the first time, I was part of that wonderful rite of female relationships, when two mothers share their birth stories together. It didn’t matter that a few of these women hadn’t delivered babies in five decades or more. The fact that I was now a mother meant I shared something universal with every other woman who had ever had a child of her own.

     We left our small country church when Nate was only six months old in order complete our missionary training at Sanford Bible College. Both Phillip and I knew going into it that I would have to get a job. I had such a strong heart for at-home mothering that the prospect of finding employment was unnerving, to say the least. Fortunately, I was hired to work at the local daycare center, where I could bring Nate with me, nurse him, put him down for his naps, and do everything I would be doing with him at home anyway.

     The other benefit of working at the daycare – besides getting to be with my son full-time -  was spending my afternoons with other moms. There were three of us who worked there at the center, and each of brought our own kids along with us. It was like getting paid to have a play date every day of the week. These other moms shared their stories, gave their advice, modeled healthy parenting, and became great friends to me.

     Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” No mother should try to raise her children in isolation. I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t be the same kind of mom I am today were it not for these friendships I made with other women when my son was still a baby.

Seeking Out Community

     Unfortunately, in our busy day and age, finding a community of other mothers to share experiences with can take a lot of work. Here are some basic ideas to help you foster deeper relationships with other moms.

     Join a Bible study. Notice that I didn’t tell you to join a women’s group. A ladies Bible study or a mixed Bible study can both be great ways to meet other moms who have encouragement and advice to share with you. (And chances are you’ll meet other moms who need the encouragement and advice that you have to share with them!) Our family was so close to our small group that when we brought our third son home from the hospital, we invited everyone from our Bible study over to our house for Papa John’s pizza the very next day. It was a wonderful experience welcoming Thomas into our family surrounded by some of our closest friends (and no one expected the house to be clean either!).

     Get nosy (politely). I have never yet met a mother who refuses to tell me how old her child is. Often, asking these kinds of basic questions about another woman’s family is a great way to start a conversation. One weekday in Wal-Mart, I was standing behind a mother and her kids. Since the two girls were obviously past their preschool years, I asked their mom if schools were closed that day, and ended up meeting a fellow homeschooler who remains a very dear friend to this day.

     Ask for help. I needed a C-section when my oldest son Nate was born. After laboring 24 hours and then getting spliced open, my body didn’t feel like recovering very easily. It was humbling to ask other women in my church for help, but they were more than happy to oblige. In addition to benefiting from their practical assistance, I was also blessed by their fellowship. Many of my relationships in my church blossomed even more deeply as women came over and washed dishes of swept floors.

     Seek out advice. Sometimes motherhood is scary. When Nate turned two and discovered it was fun to play with his little brother’s “anatomical bath toy,” I was on the phone within seconds with a veteran mother (who assured me Nate’s behavior was normal and helped me to laugh it off). Sometimes just talking through an issue with another mom is enough to give us clearer perspective or deeper peace. Other times, we can rely on the experiences of other moms, learn from their successes and failures, and become even wiser parents for our own children.

     Today, I am thankful for the friends God has put in my life, women who assure me that I am not alone as a mom. My prayer is that God would likewise surround you with wise and encouraging mentors, sisters, and friends who can walk with you hand in hand on this glorious journey called motherhood.

(This post was included in The Christian Home Magazine Issue 90. Check it out to read what other Christian bloggers have to say.)

What about you? What kind of support or encouragement have you received from the fellow moms in your life? (Feel free to leave your comment below.)