Sunday, August 31, 2008

Holy Moley!

As anyone who lives in Texas knows, there are only a few weeks of honest-to-goodness spring squished between the chilly winter and the hundred-degree days of summer. An all-too-brief respite between raucous late-night thunderstorms that send you searching for the local Doppler radar and the blistering days when you can’t touch your steering wheel or send bare-legged children down playground slides. During one of these precious few mornings, when the temps were pleasantly cool, school was still in session, and the community pool was not yet open, it was peaceful as I rocked on our porch swing and watched JJ and Buddy play in the backyard.

I was sipping my second cup of coffee when JJ came running up to me, exclaiming, "Holy moley, Mom! Holy moley!” I wondered, How in the world did she hear that expression? I mean, the kids haven’t watched reruns of the old Batman TV show—not that I know of, anyway.

I peered into her outstretched hand to discover—a roly poly. Aha! A “holy moley.” Sweet JJ, she was so excited that I didn’t have the heart to correct her.

Flash-forward to Mother’s Day. (It’s already 91 degrees outside.) My mom gave JJ a small, round plastic case with teeny-tiny slides inside, called a “Pill Bug Playground”—only she crossed out “pill bug” and wrote “Holy Moley Playground.” JJ gleefully took it into our backyard and soon unearthed two “holy moleys”—ready for their new digs. JJ took them everywhere with her that day—in the car, in the living room, even in her bedroom while she napped, so “Emmy” and “Somersault” could nap with her (totally enclosed in their little plastic case of course—eew!).

It's fun to watch how much JJ delights in her prized “holy moleys.” How precious to realize that somewhere under all her boundless energy and curiosity and excitement and joie de vivre, there is a very tender heart.

Holy moley! It sure does make this mama proud.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Queen for a Day

The thunderstorms that rolled in yesterday put a damper on our plans to go to the playground (one of my favorite ways to burn off the kids’ energy by dinnertime). So instead, we stayed inside and tried to make the most of the afternoon.

The four of us paraded upstairs, where Boo pulled out the Dance Praise 2 mat and started some fancy footwork in the game room. JJ headed to her bedroom to put on a play and asked me to join her. “I’m going to be the princess,” she announced, pulling out a tiara and her favorite purple dress. “Okay. What should Buddy be?” I asked, as her younger brother nosed around beside her in the dress-up box. “Oh, he can be the boring guy,” JJ said dismissively. Hmm. Okay. I handed Buddy a hard hat and instructed him to “be boring.” He put the hat on backwards and grabbed a toy baseball bat. “O-tay, Mama!” He grinned broadly. Huh. That boy couldn’t be boring if he tried.

I turned back to JJ. “What do you want me to be?” She handed me some costume jewelry. “You can be the queen!” she announced. Then she reached into the dress-up box and handed me her prized Disney Princess magic wand—the kind that you push a button and briiiing! Your wish comes true.

Bejeweled with my magic wand, a sparkly tiara, and pink beaded necklace, I took my place on my “throne” (JJ’s bed) and began my reign as “queen.” It went something like this:

Buddy grabs JJ’s lip gloss when she’s not looking.
JJ: “Hey, give me that! Hey! HEY!”
Buddy, clinging to the lip gloss with all his might: “AAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”
Me, waving my magic wand: “JJ, don’t fight with your brother!” Briiing!
JJ giggles and smiles. I unfurl Buddy’s clenched fist, retrieve the lip gloss, and grab a tissue to wipe off the glittery pink goo from his cheek.

A few minutes later . . .

Boo, coming into the room: “Hey, what are you guys doing?”
JJ: “We’re having a play. I’m the princess!”
Boo: “No fair, I wanna be the princess!”
JJ, firmly: “No. You can be the maid.”
Boo: “I don’t wanna be the maid! I’m wanna be the princess!”
JJ: “Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! I’m the princess!!!!!!!!”
Me, waving my magic wand: “Children, get along!” Briiiing!
JJ and Boo giggle at me and reach a compromise: JJ can be the princess, but Boo will be the empress. (Smart kid, that Boo.)

This went on for about ten minutes, with the “royal subjects” (mostly) agreeing to do what the “queen” commanded with her magic wand. And with each briiiing!, I thought, Hey, this is great. We should play this game more often!

Don’t you wish there were some kind of “magic wand” to grab on those days when you feel like you’re about to lose your cool—or your mind?

Stop whining! Briiing!
Take your nap! Briiing!
Clean your room! Briiing!

Or maybe for you, it would look more like,

Overdue bills, disappear! Briiing!
Marriage, be restored! Briiing!
Someone, pay attention to me! Briiing!

But we all know that’s not how God created us. After all, if we had a magic wand, we wouldn’t need Him! What our loving, heavenly Father really wants for us is not a carefree life, but a faith that clings to Him amid life’s struggles.

A year ago, my husband sensed God’s call to plant a church. So we sold our home in Austin, packed up our family of five, and moved to Fort Worth with the assurance of God’s calling—but with no church members, sponsors, or financial aid of any kind. It was just Brett and me, our children, and God’s call.

One of the verses I kept going back to during those faith-clinging, loaves-and-fishes days was Psalm 37:5: “Depend on the Lord; trust him, and he will take care of you.” I often found myself reminding God of this verse: “God, we’re completely depending on You here. See this? You promised that if we depend on You, You will take care of us!” And then I’d sense God’s gentle response: Yes, my child, I know you are depending on Me. But do you trust Me?

Humph. I was kind of hoping God would just wave His “magic wand” and give us everything we needed. Poof! Here are your church members. Poof! Here’s a salary for Brett. Poof! Here are your building and church office and worship leader and staff and children’s ministry workers and . . . You get the idea. But instead, God was teaching me to trust Him.

And He still is.

I’m no longer reigning as “queen” around here; that game ended all too quickly yesterday. But I am a daughter of the King, depending on and trusting my heavenly Father a little more each day.

And that’s the kind of royalty I’m proud to be!

Friday, August 29, 2008

If Every Day Could Be My Birthday . . .

… I’d awake to the smell of strong coffee already brewing in the kitchen;

… I’d be able to roll over and pull up the covers for a few more minutes, with the blissful knowledge that this morning, the first in a long time, I am not in charge;

… I’d hear the twitter of three excited little voices in the living room, saying, “C’mon, let’s go sing her ‘Happy Birthday’!” “No, Dad said we can’t wake her up!” “But I wanna give her our present!” “Shh, she might hear you. We're not supposed to tell her we got her pot holders!” “Mama! Mama? Mama, where are you? Mama!” (that’s my two-year-old);

… I’d finally admit defeat and get up, realizing I do not have my husband’s ability to sleep like Rip Van Winkle through the hullabaloo;

… I’d open our bedroom door and take exactly four steps forward before three sets of feet come charging down the hall: “Mama! Mama! Happy birthday!” Then I’d walk ponderously the rest of the way into the kitchen like an eight-legged race, with all three kids hanging off my pajamas.

… I’d be quickly ushered to the kitchen table by children whose hands are smeared with telltale marker smudges, urging, “C’mon, Mom, open your cards!" "Open mine first!”

…I’d strengthen my finger muscles by prying off twenty strips of Scotch tape from each of the handmade, folded cards and then let the kids gleefully pull the tissue paper off the gift bag to reveal the pot holders I asked for . . . oh! and a fun gift from my husband—my favorite sweet treat, Little Debbie Nutty Bars (or as I sometimes affectionately refer to them, “my freshman fifteen”).

… I’d swat away three sets of fingers from my precious box of Nutty Bars: “No! These are Mommy’s!” Pleeeeeeeease, Mom! Sigh. “Oh, okay. We’ll all have some later today.” After all, Nutty Bars are much better when shared, and that way I won’t feel as guilty for splurging.

… I’d drive my oldest child to first grade and then return home to find the kitchen clean and my husband watching our younger two kids playing in the backyard. He'd greet me with a kiss and offer an unexpected gift: a few minutes alone with my laptop, to finally start the blog I've been talking about wanting to write for months now.

Ah, if only every day could be my birthday! Sometimes, I admit, I awake so bleary-eyed that it’s hard for me to see past the piles of laundry, pressing book deadlines, and seemingly endless demands of ministry. But on days like these, God opens my eyes to see this beautiful mess as a gift of His grace. Those piles of laundry are from my amazing, adoring husband and our three incredible, spunky kids who show me a little more about His love every day. Those pressing book deadlines are God’s marvelous provision for our family, allowing me to stay home with the kids and still have my dream job—I get paid to read, edit, and write great books! And those ministry demands are far more than the details and dailyness of planting a church—they’re lives changed, marriages restored, and our community transformed by people who are coming to know our Savior and experience His love.

Thanks for the reminder, God. I needed that.

Oh, and one more small request: when the kids and I break into that box of Nutty Bars in a little while, could you please keep them from going straight to my hips this time? Just this once?