Grace, Listen, Parenting, Uncategorized

Rising To Imperfection

So here’s the real story. The story of my imperfection. Of how I’ve read too many magazine covers, listened to too many voices on social media and walked away from too many mirrors more dead than alive. Here’s the story of beginning a new page. Tearing out the perfect and embracing the real imperfect. I’m allowing God to block the lie and open the door to the truth of it. That He is the only perfect, and anything else is an idol. 


Over the last many years, my generation of women have voiced how you can have it all. The perfect life. The perfect house, the perfect landscaping, the perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect salary, the perfect girlfriends, the perfect diet, the perfect husband, the perfect vacations. And being perfectly organized at doing it all. And pretty soon all of that perfection is blurred into a half life that resembles a person. And I was the one failing my own perfection story. The binding of perfectionism can drowned a blushing soul. 


And so, today I came alive. Alive to the love of my imperfection. I didn’t do it all today. Not a bit. 


I did not dust the whole house, only bits and pieces. I did not vacuum. Not at all. I made my bed and made the kids eggs and toast and we made a journey to the garden in boots and sandals. I do not have the perfect garden. It is only a feeble attemp at growing some strawberries and vegetables, so we watered and picked and giggled at the chipmunk standing bravely holding his lunch of our strawberry. He stood on tiny feet under the shade of our weeds and I didn’t shoo him away or pull that tall weed. 


I would talk about my job and my salary, but it’s hardly any of that. My job is 24/7 and I don’t draw a salary. I draw fish on the driveway with chalk. I scoop leftovers onto lunch plates and we drink water out of mismatched cups. We play a memory-matching game on a folding table under the cover of an unfinished porch and sand sticks to the bottom of our feet and tracks through the kitchen to the dishwasher.

I would talk about my perfect husband, but he isn’t and, being a small business owner, he’s out of state doing his own research right now. The last pair of shorts and t-shirt he wore are still laying on the floor next to his side of the bed. And, he took our only tube of toothpaste, so I’m brushing with my eight-year-olds bubblegum something or other form of toothpaste. Yuck!


I drove to town today in our imperfect car. The one that my two-year-old spilled coffee all over and into the center console so buttons no longer work, or work well. The one that may be shiny on the outside, but holds 27 duplos, 8 books, 3 baskets of “Your Story Hour” and “Odyssey” CD’s, 6 plastic cars, napkins from 2 different fast food drive thru’s, a coloring picture of goats, and one stuffed elephant.


That car took us to piano lessons for two of my kids, and they were imperfectly great. Their fingers finding keys and chords and new melodies and it’s all music and their teacher grins and says, “We’re gettin’ there.”  


It took us to see one mother-in-law who gets fresh eggs from a neighbor and I slide her cash across her counter and she wheels around the edge to tease my toddler. We blow bubbles and name birds at the feeder and the kids recount the holiday weekend and she is the perfect listener. 

We get a call to pick up free apricots, so I dig through my wallet and find enough cash for dinner out. We found the perfect green table outdoors and my oldest nibbles a grill cheese and makes a list of all the out-of-state liscense plates we’ve seen today in our resort town. At our last stop we admire the new landscaping of a favorite uncle and giggle at the size of aunties belly. The one who is perfectly growing a new boy cousin, due so soon. 


And at the end of the day, we watched God create a perfect sunset. 

So here’s my perfect day. My perfect life. I didn’t once check social media or run on a treadmill. I didn’t cook perfectly balanced, gourmet meals, and we never did get around to mopping that kitchen floor. 

But God took what was, which was all I had to give today, and He made it perfect. And tomorrow He’ll send rain to water my perfectly brown lawn and I will praise Him for that too. 

That is my rising. My beautiful rise to imperfection. 

In pure imperfection,

~kathy b

Gifts & Talents, Giving, Parenting, Thankfullness

Growing up with Linda

In four weeks a group of old friends will gather on a campus full of highschoolers and reminisce about thier own styles and cliques and adventures full of poor judgement.  They’ll remind each other of hours spent working for free to cover a broken rule, of love lost and found, and they’ll talk about the craziness of 50 years gone by.  They’ll pass their phones around showing off pictures of kids and grandkids and that camper they always wanted.  They also decided to take some time and talk about those who are no longer among them.  Those who have passed away.   One of those is my mom.  Here is the tribute I wrote to be read at that gathering.  I love that they chose to not forget fellow classmates and honored that they asked me to describe what is was like growing up with Linda as my mom.  Here is my, somewhat tearful, walk down memory lane.

   
 

  
Encapsulating the life of your Mom is maybe one of the more difficult things. Mapping out a timechart of motherhood roles and duties requires a scroll of paper across the kitchen floor because the kids have full bellies and safe play and always, always a shoulder to lean into whenever it’s needed and how do you chart that? Growing up with Linda as a Mom was busy and full and secure because she literally took care of everything! Linda was an extrovert but absolutely wanted, needed, to stay home with her kids. So she opened a daycare in our home and filled it with kids and made friends with other Mama’s who needed her multi-tasking, her practicality, and her Christian boldness to help raise their offspring. For roughly 13 years she took care of multiple kids alongside her own 4. At times there were between 15 and 20 little beings pounding up and down the stairs, hanging from trees, splashing in the pool, and snacking on graham crackers with left-over cake frosting smothered on them. She embodied the “old” woman who lived in a shoe and the chaos fueled her. And while the mundane of scrubbing dirty floors and dirty dishes might literally scrub out the very creativity of a God-designed soul, she battled that with a small business on the side. Word got out that Linda made wedding cakes, and so, blushing couples sat side-by-side on our brown patterned couch and talked colors, styles, and dates and there are many memories of helping Mom transport multi-tiered cakes to church after church, the upside, for us, of course, was the start of a new tradition. Leftover wedding cake frosting smeared on graham crackers! Mom and Dad were conservative Seventh day Adventists which meant there was no caffeine, no meat, no alcohol, and no rock-n-roll. Instead, there was church and school involvement. Everything from teaching/leading Sabbath School and heading a group in a potluck rotation to attending music programs and gymnastics shows for all four kids, and eventually starting up a preschool program at Hinsdale Junior Academy. Linda was an early bird, a roadrunner, for the rate of speed at which she could accomplish things was amazing. She started every day ahead of her kids, but that also meant bedtimes were early because mama was tired and she needed to be done at the end of the day.
 Our home was always full of people. If the 6 of us was not enough, we often had people in various transitional places in theirs lives staying for days or weeks, or, occasionally, months. Every Sabbath a special lunch was prepared and it was not an unusual site to have invited guests over for Sabbath lunch. Holidays were the same. If we did not have family around to share a loaded Thanksgiving table with, then she would seek out a single person or two from the church or school and add another place-setting. Hospitality was defined for me by my Mom, and she seemed to have a soft spot for single mothers, because my memory lists quite a few that found a warm smile, a heart that didn’t judge, and a flexible drop-off and pick-up place to bring their kids. The Christian atmosphere was just a bonus.

 Linda was a high-energy, bossy, woman, but she was equally kind, gentle, and nurturing and how you pour all of that into a 5’2″ woman is a wonder to me, but that is how God designed her.

 Her “working” life after kids was that of her in-home daycare until 1988 when she started a preschool program at Hinsdale Junior Academy. It was into her second year there that she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44. She took that on like everything else, with fury. She scheduled herself, her kids, and her job around her single mastectomy surgery, her chemotherapy, and her radiation treatments. She never lost her hair that time. I think she was too stubborn and bossy, even the hair follicles learned who they were dealing with. She chose no reconstruction, but instead bore those scars as any good soldier would. You do what you have to do to survive so you can take care of your kids. Because that was her only prayer, “Lord, please let me finish raising my kids.” And she did.

 From the school she left and went on to run a daycare center in an elite business district in a western suburb of Chicago, eventually starting a private school within its walls. When she reached a point where she could no longer give her whole heart to those kids and their families, she switched careers and worked for a financial investment group. When the main broker that she worked for went to start his own company she left and went to work for a Honda dealership close to home, where she retired from when her own mother got sick with cancer. 

  She left and went to FL and stayed with her mom until her death in March of 2005. Struggling with where to stay and live from there, she and Alan, who had retired from Hinsdale Hospital, sent prayers heavenward for direction, never dreaming that a few weeks later they would get an anxious call from a hospital in Grand Rapids, MI where their second daughter, (me) had just given birth to micro-premie twins at only 24 wks gestation. She shed tears and packed her bags and sat by my side for all of the fours months required. This is where she also buried a grandson. The loss of her mother, who was one of her closest friends, and her almost 2 month old baby grandson whom she had held only once, finally took some of the wind out of her sails. Once her daughter and granddaughter were safely home, she and Alan moved down to Nashville, TN to live near her oldest daughter, Diana. Life grew quieter there.

 Linda was a ‘busy-body’, and although she had slowed some, true “retirement” nearly drove her crazy, so she got involved in a free medical clinic for the poor and put her efforts into running the office there. But in January of 2008, the same day grandchild number 7 was born, she received an early morning call from her doctor who told her that the weakness in her left hand and the drooping of the left side of her smile was because of an inoperable brain tumor. For the next two and a half years she took the recommended treatments until finally there was nothing else and the tumor was growing so fast she declined every day. Her family gathered quickly and on June 2, 2010, after a peaceful five day coma, her heart stopped, and she rested quietly. It was a strange quiet for a woman born with a fire burning in her. Linda was 64 years old.

 I miss that Mama every day. I miss how she would stop her entire world if you called her and needed her. “Ok, honey, what can I do to help? Do you need me to come?”

 Always. Every time.

   
    
 

Grace, Parenting

When A Mama Needs Rest In The Rubble

The first sound that registers is his feet softly thumping basement stairs and I roll over and peer search for the time. I quiet smile proudly cause he’s headed for the gym and the guy friends who harass loud but love loyal and the bantering is part of that sound. The porch light slices through the bedroom and the baby’s cough slices through my awakeness when it hits me. I’ve, we’ve, slept all night! Too happy to care that it’s not yet 5, I consider this well rested. Perspective is a funny thing.

All week the baby has battled wheezing coughs, low grade temps, and blowing nose bubbles. Which, in a Mama’s world, means piles and piles of laundry, sandy kitchen floors, and a bathroom, I hope, isn’t growing anything yet.

It’s also been the week of a new roof needed badly, but the pounding rattles the milk bottle chandelier for nine straight hours a day. The five month old goat gets flipped and wedged between two trees no bigger round than a broom handle but seriously injures his back and we’re giving anti-inflammatory injections and rubbing his paralyzed body down with warm water daily and how will I help her heart if he doesn’t make it? The nine year old who pulls on barn clothes every morning and happily traipses out in the cold before breakfast to feed and water and love all over her two goats?

It’s the week a lawsuit lands on the business desk, the internet company raises the bill, and 50 people are coming on a, possibly, rainy, Sunday afternoon for a company picnic, and, yeah, they’ll need to use our 1 bathroom. That one not getting cleaned cause the baby’s still got both arms around my neck sneezing snot across my shoulder.

Ah! That kind of week! That one kind of weary week….

Makes me want to write a new kind of definition for the word ‘endurance’. I wonder how many Mama’s push forward, onward, every day, every moment, even when there’s been little rest for her body, let alone her mind. And I hear her question her self-esteem, her confidence, her ability to make any change in the world when she can’t even get sheets changed on the bed.

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But…maybe that is the change. The perspective. The job of supporting her husband through healthier choices and business pitfalls and shaking hands and patting backs of employees and feeling the blessing of their hard work and dedication and support for a business they believe in. And maybe it is about holding the kids close when hearts have to walk through sad good-byes and packages get wrapped to be given away and babies just need a soft hip and a handful of hair and a little soft humming.

Scripture says, “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV)

Maybe that should be the perspective. God has promised you, dear Mama, a reward. And though the race seems long, sometimes it’s about the leaning forward into this life, the leaning on a God we can trust to change our perspective. And maybe while your sweeping the porch and wiping off the table and chanting out phonograms with your first grader, you’ll remember it’s the trust. The trust that at the end there’s a reward. And with that reward comes REST! Rest, weary Mama. Sweet rest!

Parenting

Remembering To Prioritize Your To-Do Lists

My quiet time is limited. Small. So intention is a must. A reach for the bigger picture. How do you put a day, a week, together, and hope to fill it with holy so the strived for rhythm doesn’t grind out shoulder grimacing sounds?
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Songs of King David play in the background and the life sketch of the apostle Paul lays on the table and I mull over both lives. How do I sing hallelujah when one kid prefers laziness over helpfulness and another forgets about considering PEOPLE around them, instead tuning voices out? Christ was about people. People matter more than anything. I find myself preaching.
But it’s the quiet time that points all that back to me. 4 pages of lists line up neatly across the table. My ‘to-do’ lists. More organized than I’ve been in a long time, but when was the last time I made that phone call? When was that sisters voice last heard, did I ever send that card to the woman’s mailbox that recently lost her Mama, and what about those kids? Have they felt me reach for them much lately or just heard my voice hissing?
Paul stands before King Agrippa and Bernice. He stands before Festus, procurator of Judea, dressed like his name, festive, his entire assembly displayed in a whole lot of foofaraw. Soldiers with shined armor and swords mirrored. Commanders in metaled attire bouncing back the light of the daytime hours. Enough pomp in one room to retire several lifetimes on. And Paul, manacled, pulled from 2 years spent in a prison cell because no one knew what to do with him, but they didn’t dare let him go, stands quietly in the middle of it all. Paul’s to-do list held only 1 item. Christ. His Jesus friend. And the angels had gathered.
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See, Jesus’ story has to be told. If you’ve seen His cross, if you’ve been filled with His miracle and known how His grace has been tangled, threaded, right through your life, then it’s possible to see Paul standing there. It’s possible to understand the calm with which he told his transforming life story with no intimidation even though you’re looked upon like the ugly dirt speck on a golden canvas. But knowing and doing are two different things, friend.
The massive messes that I’m sorting through with these lists I realize don’t compare to the lives I’ve got living in this home. If I have to stand alone in a bedazzled room and tell Jesus’ story, if these kids ever have to, will we be able to? Have I enfolded myself into the love the God of heaven offers? Am I folding these kids, these people, into a love that’s supposed to mirror Christs?
Maybe it’s time to reorganize that to-do list? The stuff is just that. Stuff. These lives are formed in the image of God and this mama needs to gather them, hold them, and tell them stories of their Creator. And I’m being thankful for God’s mercy on me. Unlike King Agrippa who couldn’t quite be persuaded. I am.

In pure persuasion,

~kathy