The Small Moments Matter

small moments

I’m going to the World Series tomorrow night. I’m a little excited. Not because I’m a lifelong Royals fan. (I’m not. My first love is the Red Sox, but after living in Kansas City for 20 years, I’ve become a Royals fan as long as they’re not playing the Sox.) Not because it’s the World Series (although that is exciting). Not because it’s the biggest event to hit this town in nearly 30 years. Not even because it’s baseball (although I do love a baseball game).

No, the reason I’m counting down the hours to tomorrow night’s game (there’s 34 1/2 as a write this) is because I’m going with my dad. You see, my dad and I have always done baseball together. He was a catcher in high school, and baseball has always been the sport he loves more than the others.

I remember sitting on his lap as a little girl watching whatever game was on TV as he explained the rules. Then there were the trips to the ballpark (and we lived in a couple of cities with some great parks) where I learned how to keep score, how to watch the outfield and the infield to see how they lined up against a particular batter, and how to simply enjoy a summer or spring evening at this game that allows you to watch the action but still have meaningful conversation with the person you came with.

Every year in high school, my school had a partnership with the Chicago White Sox. They gave every kid who got straight As two tickets to three White Sox games. I always got straight As in the third quarter, and my dad and I spent four years going to Comiskey Park, just the two of us for three games.

Some of my most treasured memories from childhood revolve around baseball. My dad traveled a lot. I would scour the sports page every morning, read the box scores and the game summaries, and when my dad called in the evenings, we would often talk about baseball. We’d follow the season together even when we weren’t in the same city.

So, for me, baseball means love. Baseball reminds me of moments spent with my dad where we shared something that is uniquely ours. Baseball means small conversations and small moments shared with my dad.

Even now, there’s no better way to spend an evening than to head to the ballpark with my dad. And we’re passing that love on to my daughters (although one of my daughters is more enamored with the food at the ballpark than the game).

So, here’s what I want to tell you today. All those little things you do with your kids, whether it’s family game night or bike rides every Saturday or shared baseball games, it’s those things your kids are going to remember. It’s those moments that are going to be remembered and treasured. It’s those moments that will bring smiles to their lips when they’re grown. It’s those moments that they’ll replicate with their own kids. It’s those moments that tell them that they are loved.

Tomorrow night as I sit in Row XX (yes, that’s almost the last row in the stadium) for the first game of the World Series, I’ll look at the seat next to me, see my dad and remember all those small moments of shared baseball that led us to this day. Because the small moments matter. Don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t.

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A Mom’s Prayer

moms prayer

Here I am again, God. Here, on my knees. Asking for help.

You see, I’ve got these two precious daughters that you somehow thought I was equipped to raise. The thing is, though, I’m kind of lost.

One of them is struggling to see you, hear you and know you. She asks me questions like why didn’t you send Satan to Jupiter instead of sending him to earth and why hurting hurts so much more than feeling good feels good. I have to tell you, I don’t know the answers to those questions, and I don’t even know where to find them.

The other one is growing up so fast. She’s getting interested in boys and all the teenage girly stuff, and I’m really not ready for that. I’m not sure I’m equipped to guide her through those waters in this day of texting and social media.

With two girls in middle school, I have to say middle school is tough. The expectations are high. The world is pulling them in all sorts of directions — none of them pointed at you.

What’s a mom to do? How do I raise them and guide them and lead them to you when I don’t have the answers they need. How do I protect them and yet let them spread their wings to gain some independence? How do I know we’ll navigate these waters together and come out in one piece on the other side?

This age of teens and pre-teens is kind of frightening as a parent. There’s only so much I can do. I miss the days when they were little and I could control so much more. This life of a pre-teen and teen mom is so much more than I thought it would be — both good and bad.

And I can’t do this on my own. I’m not smart enough or strong enough. So, here I am on my knees again asking for the strength and wisdom to get through this day. Let me show my kids grace. Let me show them love. Let me fill them with your wisdom and your strength. Let me trust you to get through to them and touch their hearts when I can’t. Help me be the mom they need. Because I certainly can’t do it on my own.

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They Don’t Need Supermom

supermom

I want to be supermom.

I want to be able to do it all.

I want to have cookies after school and homework without tears.

I want to have a successful blog and write a book.

I want to be a great writing teacher who inspires kids.

I want to make nutritious dinners and have fun family nights.

I want to be a great wife who makes her husband feel valued and loved.

The reality is, though, that I don’t succeed at these things even half the time.

Many days, my kids are lucky if there’s food in the house to have for a snack and homework time often degenerates into frustration and tears.

My poor blog can go days, sometimes a week, without my attention, and that book is currently sitting in my head.

On the days that I teach, I’m sometimes lucky to have a lesson plan, and I’m often less than inspiring.

Nutritious dinners are, at times, found in the apples included in a McDonald’s happy meal. Fun family nights consist of telling jokes in the car on the way to soccer or hockey practice.

My husband and I can go days without having a decent chance to have a conversation of more than two sentences without being interrupted. We can be ships passing in the night as we go separate ways to take children where they need to be.

This is my life. This is the life where I often fail as much as I succeed. This is the life where I don’t get to be supermom. This is the life where many days I simply put one foot in front of the other to make it through the day.

And, yet, I find I don’t need to be supermom. I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t need to be any more than what my kids and husband need. Because they don’t need perfection. They don’t always need a mom or wife that has all the answers, makes the perfect dinner, writes books and conquers homework without issue.

What they need is a mom and wife who loves them. What they need is a mom and wife who is doing her best to follow Jesus. What they need is not perfection but a mom and wife whose weaknesses are used by a gracious, loving God to guide and love them. What they need is for me to fall at the feet of Jesus and let Him build me up to be the mom and wife that meets their needs.

 

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First Friday: The Mess Upstairs

mess upstairs

Life. Is. Messy.

And nothing in its wake escapes this truth.

Relationships. Faith. Circumstance.

All that and more call out for us to wade into that which cannot be packaged into a pretty box or bound together with a neat and tidy bow.

For years, I fought against it. I thought to be a mess meant to be less than in the eyes of Jesus. But just the other day I was reminded how He has grown me from someone who used to see the clutter of life with “There is nothing about this that is good!” glasses into someone who now is increasingly discovering comfort in it.

It happened the day she brought dinner. I opened the door to a sweet little mama, a darling two-year old and another little tiny (a fact that humbles me still.)  As she looked around my first floor, she graciously said, “Your house looks amazing!!!”

Now in years past, I would have said, “Thank you!” and quickly prayed that no one ventured to the nuclear fallout that was currently occupying what once used to be the upstairs. But this time, I laughed hysterically and said, “Please go upstairs or downstairs and be greatly encouraged!”

Somehow, the first floor had made it to the top of the list the day before most likely because we were in grave danger of losing one of the children or creating the next biological weapon in the half-bath (aka the only communal toilet.)

It was survival. Plain and simple. But in no way did I want this incredible lady to think that it was our reality.

And even though she graciously avoided the mess upstairs, I sent her a picture of said mess shortly after she left if only to confirm I’m a truthful gal.

Whoa. Nelly.

What. A. Mess.

But inside our little interchange, I began to see how my upstairs/downstairs contrast so mirrors life and more specifically, a mama’s life.

We constantly feel the weight of showing the world the cleaned-up version of ourselves. And inside we’re praying all the while that they don’t see the mess upstairs.

The broken hearts.  The broken relationships.  The broken bodies.

It’s all just too unlovely.

Or is it?

In my mess upstairs, you will find quiet corners of a broken heart, scattered with memories of my daddy and permanently stained with tears.

In my mess upstairs, you will find a floor littered in mom-fails, covered with impatience, forgotten permission slips and mountains of laundry.

In my mess upstairs, you will find walls that tell stories of a broken body, with some that end in angry tears and others, in hysterical laughter.

But in each corner, on each floor and from each fingerprint marking the wall, my mess upstairs is filled with mercy and grace and such abounding love.

With every tear, comes the quiet and steady hand of a Savior. With every failure, comes mercy in the moment and reconciliation after. And with every trip to the ER and every pill bottle and every diagnosis, comes abundant and steady grace to greet what comes with the knowledge that this mess is purposeful.

Let me say that again, there is such purpose in the mess.

It builds more than it tears. It bends more than it breaks. It salves more than it wounds.

For in the mess, in that place where we are unencumbered by the need to show the cleaned-up version of ourselves, there is room for Jesus. There is room for all He is and is meant to be in our often tattered little lives. And it is not ugly or shameful or burdensome.

It is a breathtaking vessel.

One in which we fade into the loveliness of Jesus. One where our dings and scratches breathe life into others, dinged and scratched. One that is not us but rather Him, through us.

So that when life comes and storms rage, Jesus can fill every corner, touch every floor and cover every wall.  Freeing us from picked-up and perfect. And instead, growing us steadily into that which heaven needs us to be…

Battle-scarred, broken and breathtakingly remade by the mess upstairs.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

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Sometimes We Need to Bench Our Kids

bench

My older daughter played in a soccer tournament last weekend and had an experience she hasn’t had in a while. In her game on Friday night she spent a good bit of time on the bench.

It’s been a long time since my daughter has to ride the pine. She had gotten to the point where she just assumed that she would start and play most of every game. She was taking her playing time for granted.

Five minutes into Friday night’s game, she wasn’t playing well. She was out of position and looked a little lost. Her coach pulled her out of the game, told her what she was doing wrong and sat her on the bench for most of the rest of the half.

My daughter told me after the game that she understood why she was sitting there, but it made her mad. It made her determined to go out there and get it right in the second half. It made her think about what she was doing wrong and how to fix it. And it made her appreciate the playing time that she usually gets.

My daughter came out in the second half and played much better. She carried over Friday night’s lesson to her games on Saturday and Sunday and came to each game determined not to sit on the bench again.

After talking with my daughter about Friday night, I realized that there are times when sitting on the bench in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a learning tool. It can be some much needed time to reflect on the situation. It can be a moment to begin to focus on the things that are important.

Our kids’ lives are full. In this world of constant information overflow and activity, sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to bench them. When their choices are poor and their reactions are out of hand, it’s time to give our kids some time on the bench. It’s time to tell them what they’re doing wrong and give them some time to figure out how to fix it.

When my kids were younger, I used “time outs” as a way of benching my kids, but as they get older, that particular method of discipline goes by the wayside. However, even older kids can benefit from time away from an escalating situation. They can use time to reflect and problem solve. Whether it’s some time in their rooms without electronics or simply in another room by themselves, asking our kids to recognize the problems they’re having and work out a solution is still a viable parenting tactic.

Because the end goal of parenting is to teach our kids to solve problems on their own. We want them to be independent and able to tackle the world. To do that we have to teach them how to recognize when their own behavior is creating an issue. We have to teach them where to find the wisdom to solve their problems. We have to teach them how to make a change.

When we “bench” our kids and make sure that they know why they’re being “benched” we are helping them to learn to do those things. When we take the time to talk with our kids and let them know which behaviors need to change, when we show them how to ask God for the help they need to change, and when we give them the opportunity to try again, we move them one step closer to being independent. We help them take one more step on the path from dependence on us to dependence on God.

Benching our kids isn’t a bad thing. It’s a tool we can use to motivate them to make a change.

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5 Things I Want My Kids to Know About God

5 things

My girls are 11 and 13. They are both in the midst of trying to figure out who they are, who they want to be and how God fits into the mix.

My older daughter has a giant faith. She believes with her whole heart that God can do anything. She has no trouble believing that He has a plan — even when things are tough.

My younger daughter, though, is much more analytical, much more easily hung up on the tough questions. She’s my kid who wants to know why God lets bad things happen, why God gave us free will, why if the world is so messed up God doesn’t just fix it.

Being the mom to both of them is tough when it comes to matters of faith. You see, my older daughter’s faith is so much bigger, stronger and more resilient than my own. There are days when I’m in awe of how much faith she has.

My younger daughter, on the other hand, challenges me daily. She makes me think about the answers to those big questions. She forces me to think about my faith in ways I never would if she wasn’t asking the questions. She makes me pray for wisdom because I don’t have anything for her on my own.

Regardless of their different approaches to understanding God, though, there are certain absolutes that I want my girls to know and understand. There are certain things that they need to know about Him no matter whether they have the faith to move mountains or more questions than I can answer. So, here’s the things I want my girls to know about God as they work to make their faith their own.

1. You are loved. You are loved more than you can imagine. God’s love is so big, you can’t even begin to fathom it. His love is so amazing that He chose to have His Son die in your place. He wanted to have a relationship with you so badly that He made the greatest sacrifice.

2. God is always there. Even when God seems silent, even when you can’t hear Him, even when it seems your prayers are going no farther than the ceiling, God is there. He will never leave you. In the darkest moments when you can’t see any light at all, God is there. He’s love and life and hope. And He will never, ever let you down.

3. We are never going to understand everything about God. God is so much bigger than us. He is so much more amazing than we can imagine. We can never possibly wrap our brains around everything He can do. And we wouldn’t want to. If we could figure God out, then He wouldn’t be much of a God. He’d just be something else we can understand and quantify. For Him to truly be who He says He is, He has to be someone that we can’t completely understand.

4. God created you. He gave you unique gifts and talents. He gave you a sense of humor, and He made your brain. You don’t have to be like anyone else because you were created to be you. God wants you to be the person He created you to be. He doesn’t want you to be like anyone else. Because He thinks you’re magnificent just the way you are.

5. God has a plan for you. No matter how insignificant you feel sometimes, God has great things for you. You’re never too small, too young or too insignificant to do the things that God has created you to do. All those things that you’re great at, all those things that only you can do, God made you that way. And He did it so you could be a part of His bigger plan. You’re important. You fill a spot in God’s plan that no one else can fill.

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A Square Peg Won’t Fit in a Round Hole

square peg

Square peg. Round hole. Two things that will never fit together. Yet sometimes, we try so hard to make that square peg fit in a round hole.

There’s a scene in the movie Apollo 13 where the engineers in Houston had to figure out how to make a square air filter fit into a round hole so they can filter the air for the astronauts in the damaged capsule. The end result wasn’t pretty. It was a taped up, cut up air filter that finally bought those astronauts some time. It worked, but not as well as an air filter that had been designed to fit that hole.

I often look at my younger daughter, and I see a square peg. Unfortunately, most of the holes the world wants her to fit in are round. My daughter simply marches to the beat of her own drum. She’s a one-man band playing music that the rest of us don’t even hear. And sometimes I wish she would fit into that round hole. I wish that she was just a little bit more like the other girls her age. I wish that the road you walk when your beat is different was just a little easier.

And I wonder just how much I should push her to conform — just a little. I wonder just how much I should cut and tape that square peg so it just might fit in one of those round holes. It’s not because it would make my life easier (although it would). It’s because I can sometimes see the pain that following her own drum can cause because people around her don’t understand. It’s because I want to protect her from that.

And then she does something amazing. She stands up to injustice. She fights a fight that no one else will fight. She offers compassion to someone that no one else even noticed. She flings herself into living life with abandon. She brings up a perspective that no one else had even thought about.

That’s when I know. I know that no amount of snipping or taping, shaping or molding that I can do to her square peg will ever make her fit into a round hole. All it will do is make her a miserable, taped up, out of shape mess. Because God didn’t make her to fit a round hole. He made her to fit a square one — a space in this universe that He designed just for her.

In those moments when I’m tempted to make my child march to the beat of my drum, I forget that it’s not my drum she needs to follow — it’s God’s. And the drumbeat He has for her is oh so different from the one He has for me.

So, as I parent this child through the sometimes turbulent waters of being a tween, I’m reminded that I should stop and listen for the beat of her drum — because that’s the beat she needs to follow.

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Whose Approval Are You Seeking?

approval

I wear a lot of hats these days. I’m a wife. I’m a mom. I’m a writer. I’m an editor. I’m a teacher. I’m the primary chauffeur. I’m the cook. I’m the house cleaner. I’m the birthday party planner. I’m the keeper of the calendar.

Of all those jobs, one of the most important is my job as a mom. God has gifted me with two amazing, talented, incredible young ladies to raise. Some days I’m pretty good at it and other days, I’m a complete failure.

When your primary job is mom, though, it becomes really easy to pull your self-worth from the accomplishments of your children. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when they excel, it’s because of something you did and when they fail, it’s also because of something you did. We get trapped into thinking that our children’s success or failure actually depends on us.

There’s no discounting that parents play a role in the success of their kids, but there’s also no discounting that our children our their own people. They have their own minds, emotions and dreams. They don’t always think like we do. They don’t always react the way we would. They don’t always make the choices we would make.

And when that happens, we often try to make their choices about us. We make it our fault or our success instead of recognizing that our children’s successes or failures are theirs. They’re not ours.

My younger daughter has been struggling to get herself organized in middle school. Just as she was starting to get it together, she got sick and missed a week of school. We took two steps back in the organization department. My frustration with her was definitely out of proportion. Instead of using it as a learning opportunity, I found myself getting really upset with her because she wasn’t handling things the way I would handle them. Instead of teaching her, I made her cry.

Because I forgot an important part of my job description as a mom. It’s my job to love my kids. It’s my job to guide them. It’s my job to help them. It’s my job to discipline them. It is not my job to make them into little mini clones of me.

God gives us our children to direct and guide. He doesn’t give them to us to make their choices for them. He created our children with the same free will that He gave us. He created them to make their own choices, to forge their own path. He gave our children us to help them find Him, to offer wisdom, to guide and correct them. We’re supposed to be their coach, their mentor, not someone who makes all their decisions for them.

I know that when I want to take over my kids’ decision-making, it’s usually because I’m being selfish. I’m worried about how my child’s choices are going to reflect on me as a parent. My decisions aren’t necessarily being made out of what’s best for my child but out of what people are going to think about me. And that’s wrong.

My parenting and everything else I do in my life needs to be about God. My parenting needs to measure up to the standard of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” I need to be concerned about whether God is going to approve of my parenting, not whether my friend or my neighbor is.

I know that lately my parenting has been way too tied up in worrying about how my daughters’ decisions reflect on me and not enough about how my parenting decisions are being viewed by God. So, today, I’m going to worry less about how my daughters’ actions reflect on my parenting skills and more about how my parenting is living up to God’s standards. Won’t you join me?

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Beauty in the Mess

beautiful

It took three tries to get the kids out the door this morning. Forgotten IDs, retainer cases and instruments made the Monday morning rush a little more rushed. The migraine I’m nursing didn’t help.

This particular Monday has already been a chaotic mess, and it doesn’t look to get much better with guitar lessons, homework, soccer practice, hockey practice, deacons meeting and eating dinner in shifts.

After finally dropping the girls off at school, I came home and collapsed in a chair. My thoughts wandered over the morning, and I realized something important. I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

Because while this life has its moments of complete frustration and exasperation and I sometimes feel as if it’s a complete mess, it’s a beautiful mess.

Many of us have this image in our heads of what our lives should look like if we were doing everything right. Our kids would be straight-A, well-adjusted, athletic and artistic kids. Our houses would be spotless. Our dinners would be gourmet meals every night. We would be skinny, funny, perfectly coiffed moms.

But the reality is that no one lives like that. We’re all messes in our own ways. Life is messy. There are days when the kids are sick, when dinner is carryout pizza, and when we lose our tempers. There are days when the house has a layer of dust so thick we can draw pictures in it and we’re just so thankful that the homework is done that we don’t care if it’s correct. Heck, there are days when taking a shower is a big accomplishment.

When we take a moment, though, and step back and look, really look, at the life God has given us, we’ll find that in the middle of that mess is a beauty so deep and so real that it will bring tears to your eyes. There’s shimmering beauty in a mom who takes time out of what she’s doing to listen to the soul-deep hurt of her child. There’s beauty in the dinner left uncooked because mom was busy holding a fussy infant. There’s crazy beauty in the laughter of your teenager and her friends in the basement on what could have been a quiet evening at home.

This crazy life of school, work, sports, arts, and family isn’t pretty. It’s real people working their way through the real problems that life throws our way. Sometimes we deal with those things with grace and joy, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we make a mess. Sometimes we have to pick up the pieces. Sometimes we lose sight of the beauty.

Through it all, though, if we really step back and look, we’ll see the beauty in this life. We’ll see the shared joy, the shared tears, the moments that bind our hearts together into this thing we call family. We’ll realize that the laughter and the tears are creating relationships that will stand the tests that are thrown our way. We’ll see the bonds between siblings. We’ll know the feeling of loving another being unconditionally.

When we step back and look at our messy lives, we’ll truly understand what the words of Ecclesiastes 3:11 mean: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Can you see the beauty in the mess?

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Behavior Always Matters

Slide1

My younger daughter was sick all last week. She missed the entire week of school. While she’s not running a fever this week, she’s still fighting through the remnants of her illness. She has a horrible cough and is exhausted by the time she gets home from school.

Unfortunately, when you miss an entire week of middle school, there’s a lot to make up. She’s finally waded through all the homework, but she still has a few quizzes to make up. The whole process of making up work has been frustrating for her. Figuring out what’s missing and remembering to get it turned in has been stressful. Trying to take tests and quizzes over material from two weeks ago as you move on to new material in class is difficult. Honestly, she and I both are ready for it to be Friday.

We’ve had tears every night this week over schoolwork. My daughter is exhausted and so am I. She’s still not feeling 100 percent. Often her attitude has been less than stellar about all the work she’s had to do.

It would be really easy this week to let that attitude slide. And, truly, I’ve offered a lot of grace. But the thing is, even when we don’t feel good, even when we’re tired, it doesn’t excuse poor behavior, and we shouldn’t let our kids think it does.

God doesn’t ask us to follow Him, to become like His Son just when everything is going well. He doesn’t say “Be a witness for me when everything in your world is perfect, but it’s OK to act mean and cranky when things aren’t going well.” He says “Follow me. Become like me. No matter what.”

Paul spent a lot of time in some pretty awful jail cells. Yet he wrote letter after letter from those jail cells proclaiming the goodness of Christ. He shared the good news of Jesus despite his circumstances.

When we let our kids get away with poor behavior because of their circumstances, we’re telling our kids that it’s OK to let our circumstances get in the way. It’s OK to let external things change who we are on the inside, and that’s really not the message we want to send.

When things get tough for our kids and their behavior begins to reflect it, it’s time to take a step back. It’s time to remind them that God is present even the midst of difficult circumstances. It’s time to show them that God can be the source of strength and calm in the middle of their storms.

Because it’s often how we act in the middle of a tough time that says the most about who we are to others. It shows people our character and who we truly are.

When we teach our kids to rely on God when the going gets tough, we teach them that He is present in their lives in the good times and the bad ones. We teach them that when our strength is gone, His just keeps on going. We teach them that their behavior matters no matter how difficult the day. And that’s a lesson worth learning.

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