Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Giving is Better Than the Receiving

The giving in life, to me, is always better than the receiving.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good gift as much as the next girl, especially one that sparkles!  I look forward to getting a big hug from The Committee, but, I long to give my affection to all of my boys at any time of the day.  There isn't anything that I enjoy more than seeing a smile on a face because I gave something of myself in their honor. 

Over the winter, we went as a family to celebrate all of the February birthdays in The Committee's family.  February is a busy little month for our group.  We have several birthdays, one anniversary, and Valentine's all wrapped up into one short, little month.  It is a joyful month filled with love.

As we were at dinner, we all passed around presents for one another that were growing another year older.  My husband had decided he wanted to pass on a family memento from his grandfather to his new brother-in-law.  We were thrilled to see the emotion upon opening this gift.  It wasn't anything major, and I'm not even sure if there is a great deal of monetary value in the gift.  But, our new brother-in-law shares a love of Alabama football with my husband's grandfather.  The Committee wanted to recognize this shared trait.  It wasn't much, but it was a gift of family.

That's the key.  The giving doesn't always have to be much.  But, the meaning behind the small gift can be great.  It is the meaning that wins out in the end.  It is the offering that makes all the difference.  Imagine a teacher offering a kind, congratulatory word to a student.  How often does someone later in life remember this act of love versus the reason it was given?  Many times, the kind word can make all the difference for a lifetime.  Or, what about the gift of love to someone that has never truly felt loved before?  It has the power to change a life and a future. 

I love the hand me downs that my mother and father have given to me from my grandparents.  A few years ago, my uncle needed to do some spring cleaning and he passed on my grandmother and grandfather’s table to me.  It was always used in my grandparent's home as their dining table.  I can remember going to visit them, and we would always enjoy a family roast beef dinner together. 

In our house, we use it as our kitchen table.  In other words, this is the one place (besides The Committee's leather chair) in our home where someone in our family sits for some reason or another every single day.  Some days it's one of my school-age boys sitting there doing their homework or reading a book.  Or perhaps, The Wild Hair is home on one of his non-Mother's Day Out days eating his lunch while I unload the dishwasher.  One of us is there living out our life just as it was in my grandparent's home.  I love this table.  It is not at all sturdy enough for four rowdy boys, but it is most certainly sturdy enough to hold so many memories from my childhood as well as my mother and uncle's childhood.  It was a gift of convenience for my uncle that has so much meaning each day in my home. 

There are gifts of many different kinds.  All of them varying in substance and monetary value.  Some gifts are minor while others are major.  The giving isn't always easy, and the receiving isn't always graceful.  But, always the gift is a gift and generally the receiving is in the giving.  Serving one another is laying down our needs and looking to help another prosper.  This is truly the difference in living in greed and giving in grace.

Acts 20:35 (NKJV)
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ 
It’s important to remember that “God prospers us not to raise our standard of living, but our standard of giving.” Jesus says that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” Isn’t it a blessing to know that you’ve helped out someone in need? Doesn’t it make you feel good? I think it feels a lot better to give to help someone else than when someone gives to us, even though that’s great too.
It’s always rewarding when you help feed a homeless person or someone in poverty who can barely feed themselves. I think it’s rewarding to go on a missions trip to a third world country and just help those in need and pour into their lives. Isn’t that what Jesus modeled for us? To feed the hungry and help those in need? We should follow Jesus’ example of service in everything we do. We need to have an attitude of a servant.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Being true to who you are where you are

It is not the easiest thing in the world.  Staying true to who you are called to be can be hard even in the easiest of times.  I can't say that I have done a perfect job of it...probably not even once.  I know who I am supposed to be in the eyes of my God, my husband, my children, and my parents.  But, it gets tricky sometimes. 

Over the last few weeks, I have seen my resolve tested on many occasions.  But, I am trying so hard to stand firm not to crumble in the midst of confusion.  I am giving it my all to look the discomfort in the eye and persevere.  It's what I am aiming for all of my days.  I continuously think of this quote..."We're going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us." — Beth Moore 

Each time I want to turn to an unkind word or a hateful thought, I think of the song "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking" by Blake Shelton.  It's not so much the words of the song that trigger my thoughts, but the title of the song.  I think a great deal about whom I choose to be around, and who they are when I'm not looking.  Are they true to their word?  Are they full of love and kindness?  If not, why are they spending a great deal of time in my life if our values are totally different? 

I know I have spoken about The Committee on many occasions, but I have to reflect upon his character for you to understand how good he is.  His theory in life is less is more.  Meaning if you stay true to your word, there is not a reason to elaborate.  He doesn't have the verbal attention deficit disorder that I have.  We all truly know that he says what he means and means what he says without a whole lot of fluff to clutter your mind.  I'm certain most men are like this.  But, not me.  It is something that I envy of the opposite gender.  I am constantly getting lost in the land mines amongst the spoken word.  I know in my heart who he is when I'm not looking and couldn't be more pleased.

But, on many occasions, I'm not always certain about who I'll be when no one is looking.  It's a time when I have to rely on moments of prayer.  I have to reign in my doubtful thoughts and know that in following the good, I need to let the bad fall away.  The world will continue to turn, I can't change that.  But, the imprint that I am leaving can be changed by me and me alone.  Walking in the path of Jesus will always lead me to be a better person than I am on my own.  I am hoping that I won't have to cause doubt about who I am when others aren't looking.

“Our love must not be a thing of words and fine talk. It must be a thing of action and sincerity."
(1 John 3:18).” 

"Who Are You When I'm Not Looking" by Blake Shelton

Monday, April 18, 2011

Had to Share

I read this today, and I had to share it with you.  I can totally relate to all of the thoughts listed in this article.  Yes, I have four boys, but if you know me, you know that a daughter was in my dreams.  During each pregnancy, I was always ready to fire up my monogramming machine to put Mary Catherine on any and everything.  I am so richly blessed with my dear boys and will wait for wonderful daughters-in-law one day, instead. 


Wanting Daughters, Getting Sons

When I set out to find guest bloggers, my goal was to find parents whose life equations were made of different variables than mine, to reflect the range of ways to be a parent. Enter Allison Tate, who, lives in a house full of boys, and sometimes feels lost amid the testosterone.
Yes, Allison’s life is different — after a career in TV and film development, she is now a stay-at-home mom in central Florida, while I stayed in the work force. She has three children, I stopped at two. But the true difference is that she’s in the middle of it — raising three sons ages 6, 4 and 16 months. My tales of those stages are memories while hers are immediate. I have the benefit of hindsight; she has the edge of the moment.
Listening to her describe her feeling that she is not living the life she’d expected brought a particular pang of recognition. Like Allison, I always assumed I would have daughters. And I admire her honesty here in describing how she is still coming to terms with the fact that she will not.
When I conceived my first child, I wanted more than anything for him to be a girl. I whispered at night to my burgeoning belly, “Be a girl,” much to my husband’s horror and dismay. It’s not that I didn’t want a son. It’s just that I wanted to know for sure I would be able to have a daughter, and so having one first would get that worry out of the way.

I had been planning my whole life to be the mother of a daughter. I had mothered 22 Cabbage Patch Kids, named all my Madame Alexander dolls, and signed imaginary Christmas cards with the names of the children I would someday have.

My future daughter had a lot of Anne of Green Gables and Ramona Quimby to look forward to, as well as French braids and tutus and Mary Janes and apron dresses. She was going to watch “Felicity” marathons with me and ogle the new J. Crew catalog and have annual viewings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with me under a blanket with hot chocolate and lots of whipped cream. She was going to be, I thought, my best friend. You know, until she reached her teenage years and all. But that would take a loooong time, and then she would come back to me and we could plan a wedding together and I could watch her fall in love and have babies of her own.

My worst nightmare, back then, was that I would end up being a Mom of Boys, one of those women with a “practical” haircut and flat shoes who spent her afternoons at the baseball field and washed a lot of sweaty athletic clothes. A Mom of Boys bought a lot of boring clothes for her children — polo shirts and khaki shorts and Nike trainers. She was looked on with pity by the Moms of Girls, who color-coordinated with their daughters and took them on trips to the American Girl store and “The Nutcracker” and who had princess birthdays and tea parties with their mommy friends.

As you have probably guessed, my first child defied me, as he continues to do to this day, and was, indeed, a boy. And I loved him with all my heart. But when I conceived my second child unexpectedly, I thought for sure it was fate. I wasn’t yet ready for another, so surely this one would be a girl. …

Nope, another boy. A sweetheart of a boy. A really, really good little guy. Then we had our third child, our last child, a child I thought for sure would be a little tomboy sister and … all of a sudden, here I am: Mom of Boys.

I now see it as a challenge to redefine this whole Mom of Boys thing. I’m not giving up my ribbon flip-flops and I am not giving up my Vera Bradley diaper bag. I still wear lip gloss and I do not in any way have a practical haircut. I can play Star Wars and Transformers, but I draw the line at Pokémon — I don’t do anime.

I trudge out to the soccer fields, and root for teams where the girls are the stars, if only because they are heads taller than the boys. I drool over their cute little pink Pumas and make sure my own boys have the cutest soccer water bottles and cute haircuts and cute backpacks. And I am making new literary lists full of Henry Huggins and “Superfudge” and the Hardy Boys and Magic Tree Houses. I’m still going to read them “Anne of Green Gables,” because they need to know about strong female characters (like their mother). They are still going to have to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” with me so they can see what a wonderful character George Bailey is. I want sons like George Bailey — sons who make good, close friendships and who can dream big dreams and who fall in love.

As I raise my children, I am forever conscious that I am raising little men. I want them to be men who take responsibility, who aren’t afraid of commitments and who thrill to the thought of a challenge or an adventure. I want them to be both spontaneous and thorough. I want them to be able to cry and show emotion. I want them to love and be loved.

They’re all the same wishes I would have had for daughters, when it comes down to it.

The clothes just aren’t quite as cute.

A True Friend

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely.  Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. 
~Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859

It was the first day of eight grade.  It was a first step into a new middle school.  It was a scary morning.  It was a venture from years of a comfortable private school to an unknown land, a new public school.  It started with stepping up onto a bus. 

She was in the back.  This had always been her ride to school.  She knew all the people.  She never thought to be scared.  She shouted from the back of the bus to the new girl, "My mama told me to tell you hi!"  And then she grinned really big and sat down.

She was my future best friend, and I was mortified and shocked.   I hadn't ever really lived out of my bubble before.  I had never been forced to meet new friends.  I was shy and somewhat skittish to new people.  But, none of that mattered to her.  She just wanted to say hi in her own way.

To this day, that's how she rolls.  She always says hi (and everything else) in her own way with a big old grin.  She's one of the most comfortable things in the world to me.  She knows all about me, my family, and my idiosyncrasies.  There' never really a reason to explain my thoughts to her, as she already knows.  I don't have to apologize for geeking out on her in a middle-school kind of way, as she was right there with me. 

You can always tell a real friend: 
when you've made a fool of yourself,
he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job. 
~Laurence J. Peter
A best friend is cheaper than therapy. 

It is called true friendship and it makes the world go round.  It soothes the heart.  It eases an insecure spirit.  It's the old oak tree in the back of the yard that offers shade on a sunny day.  You don't have to question the love or doubt the care.  You know it will be there in times of sorrow and sadness.  You don't have to call every day to know that she's there for you, unless you just need a new giggle.  

Our friendship makes me smile as I think of an inside joke or hear someone say something familiar to our kinship.  It is like a piece of old silver that is cherished and placed on the nicest shelf for display and gentle care.  It is a rite of passage.  I wish for it every day for each of my boys.  The Committe has a friend just like mine.  When our boys meet someone with potential, I tell him how maybe this might be One-of-a-Kind's friend forever.  

In the quiet of night, when you think of all that might be wrong in your life, knowing that you have someone that knows all of your secrets and loves you tremendously, makes looking for the early morning light a little bit sweeter.  New friends are great, but that aged old friend might be one of the nicest prizes you get in your life.

The best kind of friend is the one
you could sit on a porch with,
never saying a word,
and walk away feeling like that was
the best conversation you've had. 
~Author Unknown 


Monday, April 11, 2011

Lent Promises

Each year, we all look at the calendar and see the date for Easter.  Then, we might glance at the forty days prior to this most special day and wonder about what can be given up this year.  Well, I really wasn't sure I wanted to give up anything this year.  I wasn't having these feelings because of angst toward the Church.  No.  The Committee and I gave up carbs, soda, and any other hateful (yet, extremely tempting) food known to man at the beginning of 2011.  So, I really wasn't sure what else to drop.  In years past, I've tried shedding harsh words, gossip, chocolate, etc.  Usually I give out somehwere around day 25.

"Show me, don't tell me."

So this year, I decided to give in rather than give up.  I decided to "give in" to the mothering around here.  I know you are thinking that I mother every single day, and I do.  But, I also tend to run from the mother-ish activities, most of the time.  Want to play on the floor?  Check with your brother.  Want to read a book?  Maybe tomorrow night.  Need to go to the theater and see a new movie? Let's call your grandmother.  Having four boys and a close grandma at hand has provided constant playmates around the clock and generally lets me off the hook.  So, during these 40 days, I'm trying to give in to the acts that make up my job description.

"Live life and live it good." 

I know it sounds easy.  But, let me tell you it isn't always easy at all.  It's easier to carry on with my other chores than giving up marking things of the "list" of life.  But, it is also easier to slow down my life and take the moments to love on those around me.  The sweet moments on the floor having match box cars run up and down my legs won't last very long.  One day, these boys will be driving away from my house in their own cars, and all I'll have are the memories from yesterday.  So, "giving in" isn't nearly as easy as "giving up" has been in the past.  But, it is proving to be much more memorable!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Here I Am!

I'm gearing up for a guest post at {in} at the end of the month.  So, I had a little housekeeping to do.  The first box that needed to be checked off...getting a decent photo of me.  So, here I am!  My dear, dear friend Shannon took a quick pic of me at her house at the very last minute.  She is a precious jewel to me.  I'll keep you posted on the date that my post will debut over @ {in}courage!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ode to Crabgrass

Well, it is that time of year again.  When we chose this house to purchase, one of the things that I instantly loved was the established flower beds.  I don't have the greenest thumb, but I do love the luscious hydrangeas that are planted outside my bedroom window.  I enjoy clipping the fresh flowers from the other shrubs throughout the entire summer season.

However, I absolutely detest the crabgrass that grows deep within the dirt of these beds.  I spend hours on my hands and knees each month digging for the creepy weed growing within the earth.  While I'm totally destroying any hopes of having overly feminine hands, I am thinking very hateful words. 

Each time our beds need weeding, I draw many similarities between the crabgrass and real life.  I know it seems like a stretch, but this is what I have come up with.  At some point in a life turned awry, a person makes a conscious effort to accept the bad.  They begin to live solely for the bad and no longer fight to be the better person.  Some might say the bad is the devil working within each one of us, and perhaps I believe this too.  I'm not sure; I go back and forth.  But, none the less, the bad gets into our life. 

Like the crabgrass, the bad lives down deep in a dark place.  If you have been out weeding too, you know that the crabgrass that grows in the depths of the soil is colorless.  It is no longer green and somewhat healthy looking.  Instead it is almost white and disturbing.  It makes you wonder how it is living without the sun. 

Isn't what the bad is like?  Isn't it growing down deep?  One might try to hide the traces of the bad to the exposed eye.  Maybe the bad is drugs, alcohol, infidelity, or any other game-changer.  From a distance it might not be noticeable to those strolling along.  At some point, someone walking by is going to get a closer glimpse of the crabgrass.  Small clues will be seen and a curious eye will certainly delve deeper into the soil to see what is happening.

"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."
Proverbs 28:13

Hopefully the weed can be extracted through work or the possibility of a total do-over.  That really is left up the person and their true will.  Just like in my garden, the crabgrass can be kept at bay with a little perseverance and hard work.  As I have learned, it's never easy to be rid of all of the troublesome weed, but over time, it can be cleaned out and washed anew.