TOO

On Christmas Day (but really before that because we couldn’t wait so we just did the whole shebang two days early), we brought home a baby Labrador Retriever and named her Penny.IMG_1986

I’m a new labmom, and I want to offer you some ways to know if you are ready to be a labmom too.

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I’m just trying to help you. I didn’t know this before I became a labmom, but there are ways to tell if you’re ready.  I’ve compiled them into a handy dandy list. Refer to it often as you ponder the possibility of bringing home your own furry friend. There are six tell-tale signs that can help you to make your decision about becoming a labmom:

  1. You have too many shoes. I know this is a problem for some of you. But I’m telling you, a labrador puppy will help you with your collecting hoarding obsession in a jiffy. Not only will she destroy the laces and soles, she’ll start with the most expensive pair and work her way down. Labs keep you from becoming too materialistic.
  2. Your shoes are too easily located. When you put your shoes in an organizer, it’s probably to quickly locate them the next time you need to wear them. But that’s kind of lazy, don’t you think? I’m not sure you realize the calorie burning potential of locating a lost shoe. Labs provide exactly that. Think of it as the squats and lunges you didn’t get to yesterday. You’ll look under the couch, the bed, behind the toilet, in the yard, in the trash… And then you’ll find it – under her bed. And chewed in half. By the time you locate it, your heart rate will have been up for the standard daily 20 minutes. Labs keep you in shape.
  3. Your carpets are too clean. No one likes that new carpet look. ‘Lived in’ is really so much more fashionable these days. Why do you think consignment stores, vintage items, and antiques are so sought after? It’s all the rage. I mean, you could go to one of those places and get an overpriced consigned rug, OR you could get a lab! She won’t let that ‘new’ look hang around at all. She’ll be especially good at rounding off the corners. Labs keep you in style.FullSizeRender                                         I call to witness: Bathroom rug #1
  4. You are getting too much sleep. This is problem for most of you, I’m sure. You just slip into bed around 10, and ease out at around 6. That’s 8 uninterrupted hours.  WAAAAAAAY too many. Suppose the zombie apocalypse happens and the zombies only keep you alive if you can stay awake for a SOLID 24-hour stretch, a stretch that involves traipsing through the mud at 2 a.m.? Owning a lab is really about your own safety.IMG_2136           This is how a 24-hour labmom shift leaves you… #deadonyourfeet 
  5. Your papers are too neatly stacked. Perhaps you’re living into your OCD tendencies. You know who you are. If things are slightly askew, do you start to feel a bit queasy? I say – get a lab. Not only will she wreck any chance of order, she’ll save you tons of electricity by not having to operate that pesky paper shredder. Labs basically cure your OCD while saving the environment. Win win.IMG_2046
  6. Your house is too quiet. We have three boys, and when our miniature schnauzer of 12 years died in October, our house became too quiet. Grief is a strange animal. It’s sneaky and unpredictable and just so terribly quiet at times. A few weeks after Prancer’s death, when I caught a glimpse of my eldest holding the empty dog collar and wiping silent tears from his cheeks, I knew we were a family that belonged to a dog. My formerly reluctant husband agreed, and is now completely smitten with our furry little girl. Things are boisterous and loud and filled up once again. The silence has been traded for laughter and gnawing and chasing and chewed up shoes. It’s been traded for walks in the woods, walks up the stairs, snuggles by the fire, and after dinner doggie dance parties.IMG_1994

If  you’re too orderly, too clean, too rested, have too many shoes, or are too silent, it may be time for you to get a puppy too. You’ll lose silence, order, and sleep, but you certainly won’t regret it. Because as Nolan often says, our little Penny is worth more than gold.

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MRS.

When I was in the eighth grade, I walked into a classroom where there was being spoken a foreign language by the most brilliant, bright-eyed, lovely, quirky, caring teacher I still have ever known. Her name was Mrs. Mahuron, but since her husband worked a few doors down in the science department, we sometimes just called her Mrs.

She was always smitten with her chemist husband, who was equally brilliant and caring. Theirs was a marriage worth having. They subtly displayed a genuine, deep care for one another, and a genuine, deep sense of their calling as teachers. Our little town was so incredibly blessed to have them.

For five years she instructed me in the language, and then and since in all the ways of life.  She was always there. And she was always smiling. And she was always giving off the sense that she cared about us so much, and at the same time expecting us to preform to the absolute best of our ability. Her care for us never excused our mediocrity; her care was so genuine it demanded more from us. The best from us.

Mrs. was a steady, dependable constant at a time in my life when all was chaotic and in perpetual motion. She was always there. Over the course of five years, she showed up for me. She listened, but didn’t pry. She counseled, but didn’t lecture. She encouraged, but didn’t pressure. The atmosphere she created within those hard cinderblock walls was one of warmth and invitation. It was as if walking through those doors were walking right into a warm blanket on a cold day.

Outside of my family, she has been the greatest influence in my life.

My favorite exercise she had us to complete was a journal. It was informal. It was handwritten. It was loose leaf paper tucked in a plain manilla folder. An unassuming facade for a sea of thoughts and teenage emotions. Oh, how I wrote. It was as if I had been bound, and all of a sudden I had been set free. I, of course, journaled about very mature and distinguished things. Boys. Homecoming. Prom. Upcoming collegiate adventures….to where? What should I do? Where should I go?

Do you know that she always took considerable time to answer my quandaries? Her written responses were thoughtful and wise, deliberate and sure. She never dismissed my juvenile woes. I can still see her distinct handwriting to this day in my mind’s eye.

A few weeks ago I was able to speak to her by phone. She smiled as she spoke. I am sure of it. And do you know what she said? She said these words me, “Oh, I know I didn’t have anything to do with it, but I’m just so proud of you.” And she said other beautiful things that I could hardly swallow through my tightened throat and tear brimmed eyes.

And I just want to say now, Mrs., that YES YOU DID. You had everything to do with it. You taught me. But you taught me in the truest sense of the word. You taught in a way that compelled me to learn. To yearn to be a seeker of knowledge, and ultimately of Truth. Thank you. Thank you for compelling me to learn. Thank you for demanding my best, but most importantly for demonstrating yours. Yours is such an incredible testimony to Truth. Of excellence and steadfast perseverance.

And Mrs. Mahuron, thank you for showing up for me. Your classroom was always a refuge and your smile always a comfort. I cannot imagine the number of students whose lives you touched in your tenure at our small school. I cannot imagine the ripple effect that flows from your influence. I only know that there is more excellence and less mediocrity in the world because you taught in it. I know there is more warmth and less arrogance, more authenticity and less pretense, more security and less confusion. Because you have taught in this world, there are more smiles and down right more joy. Your influence knows no bounds.

Para la idioma de español, muchas gracias. Para la idioma de enseñar, infinitas gracias. Tu ejemplo es un regalo muy muy precioso.

 

(By the way, Mrs., ….fragments in the above reflection are intentional and for dramatic effect.) 😉

 

BLESSONS

For those of you who have followed this blog since it began, I am eternally grateful.  Your encouragement has been phenomenal, and I have cherished every exchange. I am so excited to tell you that I have turned this little blog into a book…and until September 13th @ 11:59p.m., you can get FREE SHIPPING if you preorder it!  Just go to our website (http://www.living-legacy-ministries.com/publishing) to order your copy today!  Books will be shipped after October 5th.

Here’s what some of my favorite people said about the book. (I cry every time I read their words):

“This open file of life experiences will be your go to when you need a fresh perspective during the most demanding of days.  You will laugh.  You will cry. You will not feel alone in your journey.”  
Adair Moorefield, fellow sojourner, mother of 2

In the breathless world of iPhone notifications and extracurricular everything, Blessons offers us a moment to stop, to catch our breath, and to remember that this world’s clock has not bound God’s timeless hands. ChristiAnna Coats invites us into her reflections on an ordinary life that feels close to home but helps us to see the God who often goes unnoticed when life stays ordinary and home stays close. If the Christian life is lived forwards but understood backwards (Kierkegaard), this is a book that demonstrates the possibility of hindsight in a world that puts life on fast-forward. In that way, Coats shows us what it means to think like a Christian and thus how to speak like a Christian–not through the mystical way of escape, not through the political way of protest, not through the pious way of perfection, but through the human way of remembering. The God in these pages is a God who is real enough to remember and true enough to transform our memory. I have no doubt that anyone who encounters these testimonies will remember this God as well, even if for the first time.”

-Jeremy Spainhour, fellow reflector, father of 3

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I’m so emotional about this whole endeavor. I cried when I read my ISBN number. I cried when I saw the cover. I don’t know what I’ll do when the actual hold-me-in-my-hands book arrives at my door….

LOST

I attended a conference of sorts this weekend that was aimed at mothers with children. It was located in a city. And I, sweet reader, am a country dweller.

Cities make me nervous.  My fear is founded.  I have been lost and alone in both Chicago and Madrid, without a cell phone.  Both times I was too nervous to eat.  The feeling of being lost in an unfamiliar place is not a feeling I wish anyone to experience. And it does not get better with age. At least I now have Siri. Michael claims that the GPS makes the human race stupider. So be it. I will garnish my intelligence to feel the security that that little magical device provides.

In the country we have buildings with big wide parking lots all around them. In the city there are buildings with no places to park, except in another building – the dreaded dark, cold parking garage. The place where every Lifetime movie plot begins. Also, parking garages are made for Honda Civics and motorcycles. And this was a momference. We drive Suburbans, Yukons, Astro minivans and various crossovers. Also the occasional F-350 extended cab long bed.  The spaces are only wide enough for the vehicle to slide into, and then you have to go out through the trunk because there isn’t a viable alternative.

Finally, I got my crossover parked. On the third attempt. And promptly realized I was lost again. I spun around so many times in the upward ascent to the roof of the garage that I had become disoriented. No fear, I thought. Siri knows where we are. So, I loaded up the directions and approached the elevator.  The elevator was loaded with seasoned conference attenders – they were my people – and I promptly tried to turn Siri off so she wouldn’t embarrass me in front of the group of perfect strangers. In my hurry, I couldn’t figure out how to quiet her. Once you ask her to get you somewhere, she is committed. I finally shut my phone completely off, and followed my new friends to the conference.

Eleventy hours later, I exited the conference and was lost again. I had no idea where I parked…and there was no device to assist me! I had to rely on my faulty spatial memory.

Can I talk psychobabble for just 5 seconds?? The theory of multiple intelligence says that some people are good with words, some are good with music, some with art, some with dance, and some with seeing 3-D objects from multiple angles and orienting themselves accordingly. Let’s say, in a city, for example. I AM A WORDS PERSON. I was lost. 

Providentially, I at least had trusted friends with me. They drove me to the parking garage, and I got to the top, where my car was not! I was in the wrong garage. Feeling very, very small in a big, big city, I had my friends drive me to the garage around the corner, where I at last located my car. After paying my NINE DOLLARS to the parking attendant, I started for home.

Immediately, Siri tripped me up. She told me to ‘head north’…. I only know left and right. I don’t know north which is WHY I AM USING YOU – SIRI!!! Oh – we got into it. She drove me in circles for 15 minutes. With the one way streets and no turn on reds.  FINALLY, I was back on a familiar road. I was heading  home. I knew the way. It was away from the crowded buildings and heavy traffic and along the highway with trees, fields, and neighborhood dwellings. It was familiar and comforting and the security resolved all the dissonance that had been created by being lost.  I no longer had the anticipation of the next, as I settled in the present.

The most familiar hymn ever written includes the line, “I once was lost, but now am found.” It is the most familiar hymn for a reason. The writer, John Newton, knew the terrible unsettling feeling of being lost. And consequently the absolute security in being found. And it is a feeling that is as old as man and resonates with every man. And every mom. And every child and grandparent and everyone in between.

And the resolve that comes with being found is one that every person is created to experience. 

Grace does that. Grace finds you. Grace makes you feel found. It makes you head home and turn north, even if you turn south first. To all who are unsettled, to all who are lost, I pray you experience grace our Savior provides. The found-ness. It is like no other. It is like heading to the country after a weekend in the city…only infinitely and definitely better than that.

TOGETHER

A few months ago I was talking to a friend of mine. She said this to me:

“You just always seem like you’ve got it together.”

Um-hum.

Fluke.

And then today a co-worker said the exact same thing.

I am beyond befuddlement. I do not know who they see. So let me set the record straight.

No. I. Don’t.

Every single day is a monumental struggle. Last night, for example, Michael made dinner early because sports make life impossible, and then had gone outside to put something something fluid something something necessary something something vehicle, leaving the children with my portion of the dinner. When I walked through the door 20 minutes later, they had obviously eaten it. And then the deprived ones cried of extreme hunger pangs less than an hour later while I was trying to eat my off-brand Cinnamon Life sitting on the toilet overseeing bath time while another complained about homework requirements for a solid hour.

This is my life. NOT together.

Every morning I intend, set my alarm for, and plan to wake up 45 minutes before the rest of the family to have my devotions and quiet time.   Every morning, I program my alarm to say things like, “You need to wash your hair today. GET UP!”, or “You have to pack for your trip to Kentucky, GET UP!!”, or “Nolan has a math test and needs extra protein at breakfast, GET UP and make him an egg!!” Every morning, the coffee maker is programmed to fill the air with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee by 5:30 am. And lately, every morning, I tell the alarm to stop it. And I snooze my way through the 45 minutes of quiet that I desperately needed before the day begins.

And then it does.

Waking up is not only hard on me. Every morning Zachary claims that he has woken up both blind and lame and is unable to proceed with any task. He dramatically army crawls up the stairs, lays prostrate at the top, and waits for mercy from a parent. Josiah lectures us about not having put him to bed early enough the evening prior. And Nolan begins each day with a proposal to restructure the education system to suit his personal needs. Michael and I have an unspoken agreement not to speak before at least a half cup of coffee. We typically stumble towards each other and acknowledge that the day has begun with an armless embrace.

The flurry ensues and though we have been technically awake for 2 solid hours, we are ALWAYS rushed to get out the door. And IF we manage to get out the door without forgetting the reading book that was last read ‘while I was jumping on the trampoline’, it is always later than I had originally intended. Then, while dropping them off, I am writing a check for a fundraiser/school lunch/field trip/school picture that I didn’t order but they sent anyway and that my son cut out and framed before I could tell them I didn’t want their manipulative forty-five dollar ‘proof set’ thank you very much/school carnival. At this point, I typically spill coffee somewhere because I can’t drive, put on makeup, write checks, and manage the coffee simultaneously.

And my whole life smells like a wet soccer cleat. It’s all the vehicles, the closets, the bathrooms, everywhere. There is this demonic spongy layer between the inner and outer lining of the cleat that absorbs sweat and dew and makes a mixture of death that hovers and spreads and lasts. I’ve tried to kill it with every Pinterest plan there is. NO. It is the devil himself manifest in an odor. And if your Pinterest plan worked, it’s because you are desensitized. My nose is my superpower and THE SMELL PERSISTS.

We recently had family pictures made. I have posted them on social media.

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We look like we have it together, don’t we? BUT LET ME BE CLEAR. Behind every single perfect family photo is an argument about adjustable waist corduroy pants. And underwear. And smiling. And all the things that make family pictures family pictures. Remember, we post the HIGHLIGHTS.

No, I don’t have it all together. And I regret projecting that I do. Because moms, let’s stop looking around and finding our faults in other peoples’ momentary glimpses of perceived perfection. Her perfect pig-tailed daughter probably eats her boogers when no one is looking, and her son does not enjoy the Ralph Lauren seersucker shorts with argyle socks…no matter what the picture projects. He doesn’t. She gave him candy to keep him from tantruming in public. I know because I have put my kids in that stuff. And they looked great…

The only thing I have together is a group of girlfriends that really know me and tell me to hang the cleats out the car window, forge the homework packet, and let him go commando to relieve myself of at least one argument. It’s my fellow soldiers  in the trenches that keep it real with me. Next time you see her, and are wondering about how she has it ‘all together’, ask her to have a cup of coffee with you. I bet she tells you about her struggles. I bet she is grateful someone asked. I bet you find a friend and start to bear one another’s burdens. And perhaps you will live out the incredibly cheesy, although true, cliché…

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

 

BABY

There has never been a longer walk than the one I just made from my baby’s kindergarten class to our minivan in the back of the parking lot.  Michael has asked me to please stop calling him a baby, and I cannot.  My mom still calls me her baby, and so I have resolved that my babies are my babies forever.

Last night Zachary said he wasn’t ready to go to kindergarten.  I almost told him he didn’t have to.  I almost quit my job.  I almost decided to have another baby.  The boys suggested it the other day, and I thought about what it feels like to pick up a new born and watch them squirm and stretch and then nestle back into my chest and stomach and then look up at me with reassured eyes and how that is the most exhilarating feeling in all the world and how I cherished every snuggle I was afforded in those early days.

And then I thought about how those early days were eternal days that never ever ended and how I thought everyone who said ‘they are growing so fast!’ was a lunatic because no they weren’t.  They were growing so slowly, and I was feeling every single millisecond of their growth because I was with them always and they were so needy and so dependent and so loud and so messy.  All I ever did was wipe things.  Ever.

The night we brought Zachary home from the hospital was the longest night.  He cried all night long.  We couldn’t figure each other out, and so I woke up my husband.  I almost made him take us back to the hospital because I thought something cannot be okay with a baby that cries this much.  A baby’s cry unsettles me to my innermost being and there is no other focus until the baby is pacified. It was the longest night in the history of the world.

That was five seconds ago.

It was a blink.  You were right and you are not lunatics.

And that is the reason I felt compelled to help a mama in Wal-Mart last week.  I was picking something up for work.  In my work clothes.  With no children.  She had a baby strapped to her chest, a toddler licking things from the ‘please touch me’ section of the checkout aisle, and an older child who was attempting to help, but making more work for the mom in the meantime.  I had been her.  And I sensed she had been me, once in the professional world but taking a moment to embrace this other parallel universe.  I walked over and asked if I could please load the bags in her cart, as she was struggling to work around the baby carrier and give commands to the licking toddler. She looked relieved and grateful and almost in tears.  And I said it before I thought about it.

‘It goes by so fast.’

And she probably thought, ‘No it doesn’t you crazy working mom who got a shower and peaceful drive to work this morning.’

But it does.  It is a blink.  The early years of motherhood are quick and painful.  They are joy and sorrow and struggle and fun and long and fulfilling and exhilarating and endless and so so so so so very fast.  

When I woke Zachary up this morning (he was on the floor because he occasionally insists that it is more comfortable than his bed), he asked me to hold him for a minute.  As I cradled his long heavy body in my overwhelmed arms, I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of his sweet childhood.  Of his innocence. Of his babyhood. Of his potential and possibility. Of his soft skin and his blue eyes and his telling smile. 

And I whispered in my mind, because the words wouldn’t come:

‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.’

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(Quote taken from: Munsch, R. N., & McGraw, S. (n.d.). Love you forever.)

SEE

I stood in the aisle trying to find a card that matched my husband or my dad for Father’s Day.  The cards either had a grill or a golf club.  The one card I did pick up and read pitted the poor recipient as the butt of the joke.  It said something like “The thing I like best about you is your taste in women.” Wow.

I left.

You really missed the mark, greeting card industry.  There’s more to dads that what you are giving them credit.  Yes, they like meat and sports, but I’m surrounded by dads. I have a husband, a dad, a granddaddy, cousins, a brother and countless friends that I get to watch being fathers.  And I see more. I see more than a grill master or a sports junkie.  I see more than a beer-guzzling, careless, uninvolved, unrelational, passive workhorse whose only role is ‘provider’.  Let me tell you what I see:

I have seen his eyes gaze tenderly and anxiously at his newborn.

I have seen his knuckles white, clutching the steering wheel with all the weight of the new responsibility of driving this living being home from the hospital.

I have seen his hand steady the bike, cautiously letting go and sending him on his own way.

I have seen the approving nod and thumbs up from the bleachers, the only one for which the jagged-tooth grin begs.

I have seen his steel frame twisted in grief.

I have seen his misty eyes as she twirls at the recital.

I have seen his protective glance over his home, and his double checking the door is latched before bed.

I have seen his heart swell and overcome with compassion when his child is in pain.

I have seen him pierce right through to the core when he asks, and genuinely cares to know, “how’s your heart?”

I have seen him rock them to sleep, carry them up a mountain, change their diapers, read them Scripture, warm their bottles, toss them in the air, wipe their noses, calm their fears, apply their band-aids, stroke their hair, pray for their needs, scoop them away from danger, wrestle ’til they hurt and giggle ’til they cry.

I’ve seen men who accept the call to fatherhood, and live it out with patience, integrity, and purpose.

That’s what I’ve seen.  And this isn’t new-age mumbo jumbo where men are all of the sudden jumping in and helping more with the kids.   It’s no surprise that men are relational.  In Genesis, God saw that it wasn’t good for man to be alone.  And they were instructed to be involved from the beginning (Deut. 4:9, 6:7, 11:19), teaching their children and bringing them up in the way they should go.  I think Paul especially knew the importance of a father in the life of his children:  “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Col. 3:21).

I’ve seen that.  I’ve seen them put the courage in their children, bring them up as they should go, and teach them diligently as they walk along the road.

I am so eternally grateful for all I get to see.  Dads, watching you father is a joy unspeakable.  Thanks for all you are.