Black-Eyed Peas and Other Resolutions

No. No recipe here for black-eyed peas.

More of a recipe for the new year…

 

I get giddy about January.  I love the thought of a fresh start, goals to strive for, and opportunities that await.

I’ll admit, some years I am discouraged.  Only human, I hope to achieve this or that and end up in a complete opposite space by January 3rd.

This year I was a little bit slow to make my list of resolutions.  I was {and still am (and probably always will be)} a bit unsure of where life is going.  As December slid out of my hands, I was lackluster when I considered the future.

It has always been in these times of waiting and drifting that I learn and grow the most.  But even as unconcerned as I tell myself that I am, because I know something golden will come out of this season of life, the planner and dreamer parts of me are running haywire.

I once heard the perfect analogy for my life.  Coincidentally, this piece of enlightenment came to me in one of my life’s many waiting and drifting periods.

“Be like a duck.” — Staying calm on the surface but paddling frantically underneath.

beaduck

This can mean many things to different people, but it always seems to cycle through my mind when I’m more or less “stuck.” Trying to keep my demeanor in check when really my questioning and anxiety are out of control on the inside.  The duck idea comes up other places in my life too.  I tend to want a lot of projects on my plate at once, making me, again, strive to appear cool and collected when really I bit off more than I could chew.

January 1st knocked on my door, and I still didn’t have any resolutions to hand over. What is wrong with me this year? I wondered.

I sat down on the couch with a notebook, a computer, and a pen and tried to plan.  Tried to dream up some vision or goal or hope or intention for 2017.  I visited some websites with lists of ideas for the new year, you know the kind: “Get Organized in 60 Days” and “A Workout Plan That Won’t Feel Like Work.”  Normally these would be super appealing to me, but instead, I just kept scrolling.

Suddenly, on the screen in front of me I saw it– black-eyed peas.  

Gross.  If I search my mind, I cannot uncover a memory of tasting black-eyed peas ever in my life, but I have..right?  And they’re gross..right?  I mean some people like them, sure, if they have just always grown up eating them.  If you’ve had something since childhood, then yeah, you’d have to just like it.  But otherwise? Gross.

2017 just clicked.  I DON’T KNOW WHAT BLACK-EYED PEAS TASTE LIKE!!  Why don’t I know?  What else of life am I missing?  And why am I not out there?  Doing and trying and tasting and knowing?

The stars are aligning as I write this, so-to-speak.  As 2016 dwindled down, I had been praying for God to make me bolder.  Not only in my faith, but also in life.  And with this black-eyed-pea-epiphany (or, e-pea-phany if you will 😛 ), 2017 has been given direction.

I don’t know what opportunities will arise, but I will take them.

I don’t know what surprises are around the corner, but I will happily greet them.

I don’t know what foods will present themselves in front of me, but I will taste them.

I don’t know what sorrows I will face, but I will accept them.

I don’t know what lessons will be taught, but I will be sure to apply them.

I don’t know where God will lead, but I will follow Him.

I don’t know where life is going, but I will stay calm as I paddle like hell to keep up.

 

 

Growing Pains

You grew today.

I missed it.

You left this morning, and when you returned to me this evening, you were different.  Your mannerisms, your speech, forever changed.  Evolved.

Your time away filled your mind with fresh experiences, your ears with new expressions, and your heart with countless first loves.  What you were this morning is only a memory now.

This happens every now and then, and each time I’m caught off guard.  It’s no secret that you’re growing rapidly.  Changing from baby to toddler to little girl.  I can tell that you are taller now than when the summer began.  But still, occasionally, all this change happens in the span of one day.  I catch a glimpse of my grown-up-little-girl and my footsteps stagger; my breath is cut short.

I wonder if I will remember each stage; if I have enough photos to recount the moments.  I already know the answers: I can’t and I don’t.

Sometimes I think I should take more pictures, sometimes I think I should take none.

It is a day like today that becomes an encouragement for me.  Everything can change in an instant.  Often all the change only takes an instant. You come home and everything is different. Being present everyday is the only cure for this sometimes brutal truth.

Yet even when I prepare for this battle of the heart, consciously savoring every sound and smell, dressing myself in morning cuddles, focusing carefully on individual details…I still am perpetually conquered by my emotions.

But, I know that my feeling of defeat signals this: I am doing something right.

My daughter’s youth may be slipping past me, and memories are sure to be rapidly fading away from my mind, but the pain that comes from those realizations shows me that I’m loving thoroughly.  Enjoying fully.  Caring immeasurably.  Treasuring endlessly.

And living, completely.

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Finding the GOOD in Mommy Guilt

Last night I yelled.  I have before, too.  That ugly, throaty, harsh tone that my husband had never heard before our sweet daughter came along.

But, last night, it was different.  Only two words were emphasized in this animalistic timbre.

“I’M TIRED”

It echoed throughout the walls of my mind, before striking my heart with its icy selfishness.

We had tucked the babe tightly in her bed at 8:30.  She flitted around upstairs for two more hours, wearing on my sanity.  After many minor battles, she abruptly drifted off to sleep.  Then it was my turn, so I climbed the stairs to bed and tucked myself in only to be woken up by her tiny voice about an hour and a half later.

“Mommy?”

“Can I come in your bed?”

Whatever!  Whatever at this point.  I trudged across the hall and unlatched her gate, urging her to follow me back to my bed.  She stayed put.  Yelling out to me, me -now snuggled back under my covers- yelling back to her.

Daddy stepped in to calm her down, but she would have none of it.  All she longed for were the comforts of mama.

Now boiling, steaming, and calculating the sleep I was losing by the second, I stormed over to her bed, scooped her up, along with the thousand animals she cuddles with each night, and marched back to my room as I ugly-yelled, “I’m TIRED!”

 

I thought that she needed to know.  I thought that someone needed to hear it in my voice just how tired I was.  Tired of the back and forth.  Tired from the day, now behind us.  Tired from the past three years of waking up at least once a night.

Or maybe this grunt of exhaustion was spewed out because I just needed to validate my own feelings; it’s stupid-late o’clock and everyone should be asleep by now- aren’t I right about this?

 

My blood still bubbling, we settled down together into my bed.  Her little voice whispered.

“Mommy, why you yell to me?”

“I don’t like you yelling because it makes me cry.”

“Please don’t do that next time, Mommy.”

Tears of my own begin streaming down.  My heart ached for how much I love her.  I called out silently to God:  Then what, Lord?  Do I just never sleep?  There have to be boundaries, and consequences; she’s old enough to know that it is time for bed.  I can’t stay awake like this and just keep talking, telling stories, signing, entertaining, can I? 

Yes, you can.

That was the answer.  Yes I can.  Suddenly everything faded away for me.  I saw clearly.  My daughter is a gift to me.  It is my job to take care of her.  Suddenly I could see that sleep didn’t really matter, what time we woke up tomorrow, was no longer a worry.

I had all of these fears in my mind about what would happen if I did not sleep as fully as I could.   Would we be able to check off all of the items on my list of chores and activities for tomorrow?  Would we be happy with each other and not crabby from a night of wakefulness?  Would we wake up early enough to get a nap in at the right time so that bedtime the next night could go smoothly?  And the day after that?  And the night after that?  Looking back, and in my time in prayer, I discovered just how trivial they were.

But more so than that, in this messy, tear-stained jumble of mommy-guilt, God revealed my true need for a Savior.  And just how special; how teachable, this ugly moment would become.  No matter how much of me I give to my daughter, how diligent I am in serving her and caring for her, I will fail.  Though heartbreaking, it is important that she knows this, too.

This lesson is almost unbearable to learn.  It is humbling.  Putting myself aside, and accepting that I am nothing-without Christ.  Submitting to the Lord and asking Him to change my ways of thinking; to slow my responses; to stifle my anger, and fully admitting that I can not do it alone.  Asking Him to show my daughter my heart and my intentions; to shield her ears and her delicate heart from the harshness of my yelling voice; to reveal to her that only with Jesus’ example of love, and earnest prayer and reflection can we be better to each other.

 

There will be days I am tired, days I am sick, days I am selfish, days I am lazy – the list goes on.  These days I will drown in guilt knowing that I should have done better for my daughter.  These days I will remember that with guilt, comes repentance and with that, redemption.Blog7

 

I am redeemed. Thank God. Redeemed.

 

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Add Orlando to The List

The news of another mass shooting.  I try to feel, I try to hide deep in prayer and discover true emotion for people involved in this tragedy.  I worry though, that I am becoming jaded.

Time after time these attacks saturate the media, and I am starting to go numb.  I have a tough time deciphering if this numbness comes from the frequency of these horrific events and the sort of expectation of them -as brutal as that sounds- or, if because of that frequency -and the tiny bit of terror sitting in all of our hearts knowing that events like these could hit even closer to home- my brain just wants to avoid getting my feelings involved, and sort of ‘checks out’.

There is something, I think, we all can identify with however.  It is the ‘up-in-the-air-ness’ feeling.  The feeling of not knowing what you’re feeling.  I’ve described some of my battle with it here, but it goes deeper, and there is more to it than that.

A storm of emotions spills into my mind after events similar to those that happened in Orlando over the weekend.  Pile on practical thoughts:  How would I act in a situation like that?  Am I in danger of being in a situation like that?  Toss in media coverage; just when you find a sense of understanding (I use this term loosely, there really is no true understanding acts of terror such as this), a new angle of the story is released that shoots your head back up into the fog.  Put all of these components on ‘Blend’ and there you have it, a recipe for ‘up-in-the-air-ness’.

This definitely isn’t the first time I have felt this way, and though I pray it’s the last, the realist in me knows that is probably not the case.

 

When I was a student at Northern Illinois University, a similar situation occurred.  A gunman opened fire in a lecture hall, where I comfortably sat the previous semester, killing five people and injuring 21 more before taking his own life.

Every time I hear about another one of these mass murders, this same feeling comes back.  This ‘up-in-the-air-ness’ that was planted with Virginia Tech, but has roots as deep as the Oklahoma City Bombing.  This feeling that branched off to a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012 followed closely by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

With each massacre, the feeling grows.

So, how do I reverse this?  When everything is so totally up in the air, how can I make sure I’m walking on solid ground?  What can I rely on that will remain unchanging?

I remind myself of what I know to be Truth:

Before these situations came to be, and much, much further before that, God was there.

After these situations  fizzle out, and much, much further after that, God will be there.

Revalation 22:13

The Lord is my unchanging, solid ground.

God works for our eternal good.  Because we are living it, we can’t usually see the bigger picture.  We can’t see how all the dots are connected.  And, we might never get that perspective, but, God has it covered.  In the end, His plan will be complete.  And His plan is GOOD.

But how can the outcome be GOOD when we keep witnessing these tragic, evil events?

We must know that sin is part of this life.  Things will go wrong here (sometimes unbelievably, horribly wrong); we can’t expect a flawless earth-experience.  However, what we are offered is a chance at eternal life.  Romans 6

We can not possibly prepare for the hardships the world will bring, but we can trust that through it all, God remains faithful; God remains sovereign.

 

Little by little, my up-in-the-air-ness slowly morphs into down-on-solid-ground-ness.  Thank you, Jesus.

Sometimes words are not found

All that hangs is an open mouth

A scene seen so many times before

Is left barren

After survivors burst through the door

Memories number as the hours pass

How long will this day last?

–Jordan Walz

February 2008