a funny thing happened on the way to my life….

June Bugs in May (A Horror Story)

Insects are my secret fear. That’s what terrifies me more than anything – insects.  —Michael O’Donoghue

This will probably only make sense to those who know me best: I HATE June bugs!  I don’t remember when my phobia began, but I’m pretty sure that it’s hereditary since I have early childhood memories of my mom, my aunts, my cousins and my sister shrieking in terror when one would come around on a warm spring/summer night.  By time I was in junior high, the phobia was in full force…as my good friend, Joy, and I would part ways at the street light halfway between our houses.  Under this light it would seem that June bugs gathered by the thousands…just looking for young girls with long hair to attack.  Of course, we played it cool…walking to the street light, quickly saying our goodbyes and running like maniacs back to our houses screaming all the way!  I think it’s their large bodies, hard shells, sticky limbs, drunken flight patterns and the sheer noisiness of the little beasts that send me into a tizzy.  YUCK!

June bug memeTurns out that up until now, my fear of June bugs was strictly theoretical.  You see all that time I spent dodging them and screaming about them and running from them was merely child’s play.  I had never actually had one land on me.  I’ve never had to pull one from my hair.  Mostly, when I saw one I ran the other direction and if I came across one on the ground well, I stepped on it and tried not to throw up (it’s that body crushing sound that makes me want to hurl.)  This system was my response to these scary critters and while it may not sound like a great plan, it had always worked…that is up until last night….

While sitting around a warm campfire, preparing s’mores on an especially beautiful night I met my fear head on (so to speak, ) but let me back up just a bit–I should probably set this up a little.  My kiddos were having friends over and with all the comings and goings I left the outdoor lights on.  I wanted parents and kids arriving at our house to have a little light…especially since the bulb in the lamp-post that lights the sidewalk had burned out.  This meant the flood light that illuminates the patio and basketball goal was on…for HOURS!  It was during this time that a swarm of June bugs made their way to our house.  There were so many that my son and his friend took to trying to exterminate the problem by clubbing them with sticks (probably a boy thing) and stepping on them.  This was all well and good (or so I thought) because 1.  it gave them something to do while they were waiting for every one to arrive and 2. they were killing the June bugs!  By the time we were ready to get started I foolishly believed that the June bugs were no longer and issue and that any remaining little beasts would simply move on to someone else’s yard once we turned out the lights.  But, NO.

The only good June bug--a dead one!

The only good June bug–a dead one!

Throughout the campfire we could HEAR the June bugs lurking.  Much of the noise came from June bugs running into the garage wall where the light had once been.  There was even a loud popping noise when the less brilliant bugs sizzled up in the fire–much to the amusement of the kids.  And finally there was the crackling noise of the June bugs beneath MY feet as I moved about helping the kiddos make their s’mores.  Each crunchy moment made me want to lose my dinner and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to stomach eating a s’more myself.  After about 20 minutes my thoughts drifted away from these horrible bugs and on to the silly ghosts stories that were being told.  But wouldn’t you know it…just when I finally got past the situation enough to put together my own ooey gooey, delicious s’more I felt something.  No it wasn’t in my hair or on my arm…no the sinister little beast was crawling up my pant leg–ON THE INSIDE!

So there I was with my marshmallow stick in one hand and my fixin’s in the other when I could feel something moving up my leg (darn those wide leg, boot cut jeans.)  Okay, I thought, be calm…we have company.  We don’t want to panic the children.  I’ll just crush it up against my leg and then it will fall out, right?  (As I type this I can’t believe those words crossed my mind!)  So I quickly transferred everything to one hand and smacked my knee with the other.  I heard and felt the crunch.  I shook out my pant leg, but nothing fell out.  Surely, I had killed the thing!  I mean, I hit it pretty hard.  I shook my pant leg even more, stepping out of my sandal and using the moonlight to search out the area.  NOTHING.  Alright, maybe it fell out and I just didn’t see it.  Yeah, that sounds good.  I’ll go with that.  Thinking that the issue had resolved itself, I went back to the task at hand and set out to assemble my s’more.  As soon as I bit into that little square of goodness that same feeling returned to my leg.  This time I couldn’t help but react.  I jumped, squirmed and announced, “There’s a bug in my pants!”  You can imagine the giggles and fits of laughter.  Great.  So again I smacked my knee as hard as I could and this time I knew without a doubt that I had succeeded in killing that thing.  You can’t deny BUG JUICE! (Excuse me now while I once again try NOT to throw up!)

What I realized last night is that somewhere along the way, I must have grown up.  While I still wholeheartedly claim AND proclaim my June bug phobia–somehow I got through that moment.  In the past a trauma like this would have completely ruined my night, but not this time.  Instead, I shook out my pant leg (again) and what was left of the bug fell out (of course, I immediately stepped on it for good measure.) Then I moved past it.  We finished up our s’mores and Steve and I enjoyed chatting by the fire until nothing was left but smoldering embers.  It was so peaceful.  Obviously, I didn’t want to discover another bug up my leg, but I wasn’t afraid to let my feet rest on the same slab of concrete where the incident occurred.  Call me crazy, but this is BIG GIRL stuff!  I felt so good and proud of myself (especially after that squishy spot dried on my pant leg.)  Sometimes it truly is the little victories…”sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”…and sometimes you just get over it and move on as dignified as possible…BUG JUICE and all!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

 


My Purse Keeps Getting Bigger (and Not for the Right Reasons)

As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled. –Victor Hugo

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My briefcase-sized purse…easily weighs 8-10 pounds.

Remember the good ol’ days?  Footloose and fancy free?  Not a care in the world?  I do…and what I remember most about them was that everything that I truly NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  Gone are the days of tucking cherry-flavored Chapstick into my pocket and heading out the door.  No more securing a dollar bill to the inside of my sock…you know,  just in case.  Forget about making room in your shoe to save that last piece of gum for later (seriously, forget about that–it’s a bad idea.)  All of these good times ended at about age 16…the year where freedom (a.k.a. driving) meant that you had to carry proof that you were indeed legal behind the wheel!  Thus one enters the era of THE PURSE….

At first, having a purse made me feel all grown up.  My purse contained nothing but the necessities, right?  This is sorta funny because at the time I remember searching my room frantically for items to fill my purse.  You know–a comb, lipstick, gum/candy/breath mints (sometimes ALL three), a pen. perfume (I know…I’m sorry,) a stylish journal (for all my important thoughts) and of course a wallet for money…plus that prized driver’s license (the reason I desperately needed a purse in the first place.)  In the beginning the purse was pretty small…always messenger style so I could wear it across my body.  This is important, because when you’re new to carrying around a purse you need one that you can’t lose…just saying.  The purse and I became sympatico and a relationship was established…albeit a reluctant one at best.

By the time college came around I had to re-evaluate the whole purse thing.  Life was changing–big time!  I found that college life required a backpack and not necessarily a little messenger purse.  The school that I attended was situated on top of a hill, so a lot of walking was a given.  Fortunately, I found an item that I refer to as a wallet-keychain. This nifty little gadget became my best friend for four years.  It tucked nicely into the backpack, held the bare essentials (license, student ID, money, and bank card) and was attached to my keys!  Genius.  I wished I had discovered it in high school.  This would make everything better…or so I thought.  But the purse would have its revenge.

After graduation I ventured into a career path that required some primping to say the least (I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I wanted to be the next Connie Chung :) )  Carrying a make-up bag, a brush and comb, etc. was just the norm for this girl with big dreams.  Add onto that the things I needed for work:  a pen (a back up pen,) a notebook, tapes (and back up tapes,) and HAIRSPRAY!  Then there were the snacks (you wondered when I would get to this point?)  You see, when your lunch hour varies (or doesn’t necessarily exist) you need more than gum to sustain yourself.  Small packages of crackers, cookies and even instant coffee started entering the picture and filling my (now bigger) purse.  My shoulder aches just thinking about those days.

I wish I could say that changing career paths meant less stuff and a smaller purse.  It didn’t…and mostly because I moved to California.  You’re probably wondering why that matters, but it does matter and maybe not for the reasons you might think.  It wasn’t that I needed a big purse so that I could keep up with the Kardashians, but rather I needed a purse filled with survival supplies.  While California is amazingly beautiful, it’s also a jungle!  Jungle life meant that you had to be ready for your 11 mile commute to take as long as two hours.  If you had to cross a bridge someone else’s fender bender might have you looking at a 3 hour delay.  Traffic is ridiculous there and so you had to pack ridiculous things in your purse.  Water was just as big a deal then as it is now.  Carrying around water bottles was not only in vogue, but it could save your life on a warm, Cali day if the traffic was particularly uncooperative (especially when you AC goes out!)  Food in your purse was a must, but because this was the Golden State you felt obligated to have “healthy” food.  Fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers were the standards–and “fresh” food meant carrying a cold-pak, too.  I pity the person who got busted stuffing their face with Cheetos on the California freeway!  (Really, you should know better!)

But never was the purse’s revenge as terrible as the day I become a mother.  It’s like I could hear the purse saying, “You will never, EVER go back!”  I tried making my purse into a diaper bag and when that didn’t work I asked the diaper bag to do double duty as a baby-things-carry-all and a purse.  Either was you look at it, I was carrying around a bunch of nonsense.  Okay, you’re thinking…”Well, your kids weren’t toddlers forever, right?  Eventually you went back to carrying around a plain old purse.”  Well, yes AND no.  Now that I was a mom I discovered this unwritten rule where you are forced to carry things for your kiddos.  This form of servanthood is sneaky, even to the most savvy mother.  So many times I have told my children that if they brought it, they had to carry it…only to find my purse a little heavier and their book, toy, or gadget safety tucked inside while my child proceeded to run and do hand stands all over the place with their newfound freedom.

My migration to the extra-large purse didn’t end with just the kids’ stuff.  My purse also doubles as a medicine cabinet.  Bandages, Neosporin, allergy medicine, etc.  all make their home here as well.  I am the keeper of Kleenex, keys and bubble gum (of various flavors nonetheless.)  My purse houses accessories for cleaning glasses, and extra pair of contact lenses as well as a portable hair salon equipped with fashionable hair-ties for my daughter.  Need to write something down?  I have pencils, pens and SHARPIES in my bag!  Not to mention lotion, hand sanitizer, post-its and a small magnifying glass (BTW I’m aging and my eyes were the first things to go.)  I have ear buds, sunglasses and occasionally pizza crumbs (don’t ask.)  These are just the staples, I could go on (and on….)

So why am I telling you all this?  Because I want it to stop.  REALLY.  I am over the purse thing.  I want to be the kind of person who just goes with the flow (sans the “luggage.”)  The kind of person who doesn’t need a million accessories just to go to the grocery store or to watch my kiddos play ball. I want to go back to the days when everything I NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  I am craving simplicity and I think the reason all of this has to come to a head is because physically AND spiritually the purse is weighing me down.  Stop.  I know that’s a pretty big leap, but hear me out.  I finally understand the reason I carry around the equivalent of  a briefcase everywhere I go, 365 days a year.  It’s because of fear and control.  Every time a situation has come up in the last 20+ years and I DIDN’T have the tools I needed to handle it, another “something” was added to the purse.  This is a pretty big revelation for me.  While feigning having it all together, what was really going on was a lack of trust.  I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t trust life and in someway I was also saying that I didn’t trust God (at least not completely.)

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My new wristlet…smaller than a paperback book!

After so many years, it’s going to be hard to change this pattern…to fight the urge to cover all the bases, at all times–EVERY time.  The desire to be superwoman, superwife, supermom, etc.  is so very strong.  Listen, I know this isn’t the biggest problem on the planet, but I feel convicted to make a change.  I want to trust more…to put myself out there.  In some suburban-housewife-kind-of-way…this is my next faith test.  So here’s where I am–I purchased a wristlet (which just may be the grown-up version of the wallet-keychain that I loved so much in college.)  Full disclosure–right now the wristlet resides in my purse (along side a million other items,) but I am making a plan to downsize to this little dandy.  Just the NECESSITIES!  Those of you who know me, know that this is a tall order!  I think I’m up to the challenge.  Don’t worry, I’m not going cold turkey…I will still have a large bag (NOT a purse) for sporting events, kid-related activities and church projects.  So what if I don’t have a bandage for every boo-boo or a just the right flavor of gum for my kiddos?  I have a funny feeling (and a whole lot of FAITH) that we will survive…and it just might save my shoulders, too!

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”  “Nothing,” they answered.  Luke 22:35

 

 

 


Losing Our Easter Booth (and Our “P.I.G.” Status)

When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go. –Alexandra Stoddard

Never, EVER, did I think I would be writing about a midwest BBQ chain and Easter Sunday.  Yet, here I am.  This goes to show two things…first, that the cliché holds true (again):  Never say never.  And second. that convenient, tasty, family style BBQ is perfectly acceptable as a go-to meal for ANY holiday or celebration (and in our family’s case, especially religious ones!)

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Easter Lunch 2013

For the past six years we have “dined” at Famous Dave’s on Easter Sunday.  Okay, I know it’s not fine dining.  Yes, I am aware that they are a paper napkin establishment (gasp!) And I understand that French fries are not typical Easter dinner fare.  (Glad we got all that out of the way :) )  Still, I think Famous Dave’s is just as good a place as any to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  It’s a Spencer family tradition that’s often met with puzzling looks, stammering comments and even a little pity.  But that’s okay.  We like Famous Dave’s and we especially like the reason we ended up there in the first place (insert sappy background music here….)

In 2009, my husband was called to lead what I will politely label a “broken” church.  You see the pastor had decided to leave our denomination and he additionally took the congregation with him.  For whatever reasons, all that was left were about a dozen people, loads of tech equipment and a lot of questions.  This clearly would not be easy.  And, did I mention this was Steve’s first senior pastor appointment?  Despite the best efforts of many, the prayers of many more and the sheer broken-heartedness of the situation, a decision was made to close down the church.  All of this took place in a matter of weeks.  It was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed.  So here’s the worst part…the last worship celebration for this now defunct church would be on Easter Sunday.  (I can hardly type these words!)  CLOSING A CHURCH ON EASTER.  (There really should be a law against such a thing!)  I could barely stomach the idea.  I thought of the church members who stayed behind.  Those who wanted to restructure and carry on.  And all those who put their heart and soul into trying to make this church a healthy, functioning place of worship.  But it wasn’t meant to be.

Much work went into that final worship celebration.  First, there was the cleaning.  Since worship would be held in the church’s youth building, couches had to be moved, chairs brought in and EVERYTHING had to be wiped down.  The sound system was reconfigured, light bulbs were replaced and a small room was readied to serve as a nursery.  A sweet woman who had hoped for a different outcome for her church set aside her sorrow and assembled Easter baskets for any children who would arrive on Sunday morning.  With just a few musicians, songs were selected to praise a newly risen King.  My husband crafted a sermon of hope and promise…in the midst of all of the responsibilities of closing a church.  It was a sad and rainy morning.  I felt like God was weeping right along with us.

But if you know how the Easter story ends…then you know that there are no limits to what our Great Creator can do!  As worship came to a close, the sun and the SON broke through!  The rain moved out and although we closed the doors on that final worship celebration, what we didn’t know was that God was already opening another.  It was almost three o’clock in the afternoon when we left the church parking lot that day.  Our children, ages 7 and 4 at the time, were tired and hungry.  In the midst of all that was going on we neglected to make lunch plans…and that’s how we ended up at Famous Dave’s.

The restaurant was practically empty.  The lunch crowd was gone, the wait staff looked spent and here walks in this family of four…dressed in now wrinkled Easter wear, tired and clearly saddened.  We crawled into what would be called our Easter booth…to be honest, while we always sat in a booth on these occasions it wasn’t the same booth every time–and that was okay.  Steve ordered ribs, I ordered the baked potato with chili and the kiddos put in their request for chicken strips and fries.  Then we waited.  Not just for food, but for everything.  We honestly didn’t know where we would land…although we knew it would be another church, most likely in another town.  And yet somehow, in that little booth our spirits lifted.  The children made us laugh and we counted our blessings.  We were together and life was in fact GOOD!  There was safety and warmth in those comfy, red seats.  The little kids’ menus reminded us that at Famous Dave’s we’re all P.I.G.s…Pretty Important Guests!  I liked the thought of that and when the meal arrived, we prayed.  The food tasted extra delicious that day, too–satisfying in a way that I cannot explain.  An afternoon at Famous Dave’s was just what we needed.

Obviously, we kept going back.  Steve was appointed to a new church in a nearby suburb and our Easter lunch plans practically wrote themselves.  After a busy Holy Week and all its activities, we found a sanctuary at the east side’s Famous Dave’s restaurant.  The pig-themed decorations, the fishing signs and decals, and those red colored booths–we loved it all!  I have several photos of our kids in their cute, little Easter outfits posing with their Daddy for our annual Easter pic.  Good times.  Blessed times.  Necessary times…but as you can guess, “the times they are a-changing” (thanks, Bob Dylan.)  Famous Dave’s closed this past fall…and the Spencer family DID NOT find out about it until January :(

Holy Week has arrived again and the question on everyone’s mind is “where are we going to eat Easter lunch?”  I don’t have any answers.  I have tried to coordinate just how long it will take us to drive to the nearest Famous Dave’s (too long unfortunately.)  I’ve looked into dining at other BBQ establishments.  I’ve tried to sell myself on the idea of having Mexican food on Easter (it’s not working.)  I’ve even thought about preparing and cooking a meal myself (and if you know me, then you know this is a desperate thought!)  The reality is we’ve lost our Easter booth, but we certainly haven’t lost Easter and all its promises.  So tonight as I type this, I still have no clue what we will be doing for lunch.  Somehow, though, I’ve gone past worry and fret to a place of “wait and see.”  Not a flippant, inactive state, but rather an active, hopeful resolve.  My husband and kids are not with me in this place.  They want answers and our P.I.G. status back!  But please, don’t feel bad for us…because I so clearly remember a gray, downcast day not so long ago when the sun and the SON came out.  It’s Easter, everyone, and we KNOW how the story ends.  I’m not sure if the booths will be red, but I know that wherever we end up we’ll be fed (in more ways than one)…and it WILL certainly be good!

Praying that the Holy Spirit moves you to worship this Easter Sunday and that you experience the hope and renewal that Christ Jesus offers to us each and every day.  Amen. 

 

 


Beyond Grateful (A Slice of Ministry Life)

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.  Acts 20:24

“Just because you go to seminary doesn’t mean you have to be a pastor.”  I’m sure those words have been uttered by other seminarians (?) but the first time I heard these words they were coming out of the mouth of my husband.  Although I knew he would become a Pastor, he wasn’t absolutely convinced at the time.  Silly guy.  Called is CALLED…am I right?  Needless to say, all these many years later, we are a clergy family–growing spiritually and serving in ministry–and I am beyond grateful for this call upon ALL of our lives!  It wasn’t something that I expected or even considered a possibility.  In fact, you just might file this experience right up there with “things that make you go hmmmm….”

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As a pastor’s wife I’ve seen a lot of stuff.  Interesting stuff. Far too much to include here, but one of the things that always stops me dead in my tracks is the way people respond to this vocation.  People (churchgoing and non-churchgoing) seem to have a preconceived notion about our life and us.  My all-time favorite reaction to this calling occurred at a local restaurant a few years back on our anniversary.  While waiting for a table we struck up a conversation (or should I say, Steve struck up a conversation…he’s the talker) with another couple.  We were making small talk when the exchange drifted from “what brings you out tonight?” to “California wineries.”  (Steve is from the San Francisco Bay Area and we lived there for a few years together early in our marriage.)  This was a favorite vacation spot for our new friends and we compared notes about some of our best-loved places in the region.  All was right in the world when suddenly the man asked my husband what he did for a living.  (Insert screech sound effect here.)  Let’s just say in a record amount of time we had gone from potential “besties” to complete zeroes.  The guy actually turned away from us.  I, of course, can’t help but chuckle when I recall the experience (yes, I have a strange sense of humor!)

Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve seen this reaction.  And, I’m okay with that.  I only tell this story because time and time again I hear people comment that it must be “hard” to be a clergy family.  They feel bad for our children because they wear the “PK” label.  The general impression is that we operate outside of “ordinary” life.  For some the word “clergy” is quickly linked with judgemental, hypocritical, strict and even boring.  Hey, we’re all entitled to our own opinions!  But for me, it’s just another addendum to that file I mentioned earlier–you know the one titled “things that make you go hmmmm….”  So, I would like to state for the record that we’re just about as ordinary as people get.  You don’t have to feel bad for us or think that we live this horrible, sheltered, recluse life.  We actually laugh (a lot,) disagree occasionally, hang out at places outside of the church, and sometimes we even have interesting things to say (and it’s not always about church!)  Being a clergy family really isn’t all that awful…in fact, it might actually be AWESOME.  And that’s really what I wanted to share with you today.

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So while every vocation comes with its own share of good and bad…ministry comes with an amazingly huge amount of AWESOME!  Not just the parking-angels-smiled-on-me-today or I-found-an-extra-$20-in-my-pocket kind of awesome, but the kind of AWESOME that only God can provide.  Working in a church and being a part of a community of believers comes with a lot of God-moments.  These are the kind of things regularly lifted up as part of Sunday morning worship, in prayer chains and sprinkled in conversations all over the church.  These are the incidents where the impossible becomes possible.  The times where generosity and grace exude from every direction and you just know you’re in the midst of something amazing and special.  And the greatest part is that these AWESOME moments are not confined to the walls of the church building.  This is the part of our life that I wish I could just wrap up and share with everyone…because it’s not exclusive to clergy families.  It is ready and available to everyone.  God’s desire for creation is that we live with our eyes and hearts open to the AWESOME moments.  Saying YES to Jesus is saying YES to life.  Taking nothing for granted, grateful for the good things and seeking out the unexpected.  This is what God can do!

Throughout Steve’s ministry we have been blessed time and time again.  Please do not receive this sentence as boastful.  I type it in the most humble manner possible.  As a kid I remember feeling God’s presence and the comfort and security only He can offer.  Today, as I’ve grown in my own faith, I feel God’s presence not only with the promise of comfort and security, but alongside the assurance of joy and hope!  Our life isn’t easy.  No life is easy.  We all struggle, we all worry, we all fall short, but I am so glad that I never go through anything, good or bad, alone.  NEVER.  Outside of a loving relationship with our Creator and Savior, I think fellowship among believers is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.   Have you seen the good that a church body can do?  I can tell you that this kind of support and encouragement cannot be matched.  When people say “church family” the key word is family!  I cannot imagine life without these treasured friends and we’ve been privileged to be a part of many church families that remain near and dear to our hearts despite the miles.

So, what spurred this post?  (Yes, I actually had a point when I started writing today!)  Our family has recently been the recipient of something so kind and generous I cannot even begin to tell you how astonished we felt in receiving this gift.  It came out of the blue and when we least expected it.  It was an answer to a prayer that we might not have even fully realized yet.  I would gladly share the details, but we received this gift anonymously and I believe in honoring the giver’s intention.  However, I will tell you that this is the sort of thing that qualifies as amazingly AWESOME.  We are a witness to God’s love through the hands of his followers.  This is the “blessed to be a blessing,” that Steve talks about all the time.  This sort of generosity is the kind of thing we practice and diligently try to teach our kids (they’re still learning, by the way.)  And I am beyond grateful.  Not just for this timely gift, but also for so many other things that God has placed in our lives.  To Him belongs the glory.  We do not understand, we cannot explain, we do not deserve God’s marvelous love and grace..and yet it’s my favorite thing to file under “things that make you go hmmmm….”

God is good all the time.  And all the time…God is good.


He’s Not YOU and She’s Not ME (Oh, the Perils of Parenting!)

Don’t try to make children grow up to be like you, or they may do it. –Russell Baker

madhouseThe idea of being in charge of small people always seemed overwhelming to me.  Babies need constant care, toddlers keep you running, then come the tantrums…and all this during a child’s cutest phase!  And please, don’t be fooled by the false hope of the elementary school years…while the child is certainly capable of handling many tasks independently, elementary school is definitely a whirlwind all its own.  If questions and comments your child picked up from preschool friends had you blushing…just wait!  With a better vocabulary and dedicated lunch/recess time to “share,” your child is sure to come home with a couple of doozies!  I am just now treading into the tween and teen years of parenthood and I’m anticipating even more hurdles and embarrassing conversations.  I mean, these are the years they actually WARN us about :(

In reality parenthood is everything they said it would be…good, bad, frustrating and rewarding.  We love our kiddos and I’m pretty sure the cycle of life isn’t going anywhere!  However, it’s come to my attention lately that dealing with my kids is getting a lot more complicated.  When they were little they exemplified typical “little” people behavior.  The moments of defiance and cuteness along with the awe of learning new things were just part of a normal day.  And newsflash–probably none of our children were truly exceptional at this point.  In fact, I’ve read several studies that suggest that most of our children all level out in kindergarten.  That means despite being the product of a stay-at-home mom, single-parent household, working parents, or daycare (home or otherwise,) all of our kiddos have reached the same milestones at this particular crossroad in life.  The differences become evident after our children enter school and not necessarily because of school itself.  It appears that a child’s personality begins to develop and solidify all within the first few years of elementary school (barring any huge life events, of course.)  I am not a psychologist, but I think the stats hold up.  An even-tempered child at age 6 likely maintains that even temper.  A selfish child at age 7 probably has selfish tendencies throughout life.  A sensitive demeanor at age 8 means the child has a good chance of maintaining that sensitivity well into adulthood.

So here’s where I stand with my now “complicated” kiddos.  As a 10 and 13-year-old, their personalities are well-developed and those same personalities are not afraid to go head to head with mine!  This is a good AND a bad thing.  As nature would have it, my kids and I have some similar personality traits.  For example, my son and I are suckers for comedies and enjoy wasting hours watching funny movies.  We laugh at the same dumb things and for the most part “speak the same language.”  My daughter and I both love organization, we approach problems very analytically, and LOVE to read and learn new things!  All three of us are artistic.  On the other hand, my kids are extremely social while I am an introvert.  Their constant need to be with friends and have friends over just blows me away!  They both enjoy sports while I threw out my hip playing kickball in my grandma’s front yard (no athletic ability here.)  They both love video games and I consider video games to be the ultimate waste of time.  None of this is a deal breaker, but we do spar over homework, practice time, and responsibility.  I wonder about their commitment level, attention to detail and their desire to work hard.  I have a tough time hearing them complain about problems that they can fix themselves, whine about situations that get a little difficult and sulk when things don’t go their way.  It’s in these things that I have to stop and remind myself, “He’s not you, and she’s not me.”

It’s not an easy thing to maneuver.  When I got into this parenting gig I never once contemplated the idea that these little beings could give me any problems or try my nerves.  In a naïve way, I imagined they would be some kind of “mini-me” and thus, they would be perfectly reasonable at all times (feel free to laugh out loud here!)  All any of us really have to go on when we enter parenthood are our own childhood experiences, the experiences of those closest to us, and maybe a couple of baby books.  So basically, we might as well go into this blind…because this is what I remember from my early days:

I’m pretty sure I was not your typical child.  In a lot of ways I was probably always a little bit of a grown up…or perhaps an old soul.  I was thoughtful in ways that most kids never think of…weighing the pros and cons of many decisions that others wouldn’t even consider.  I was very self-concerned and stubborn.  I worked hard.  By the time I was 8 I knew I wanted to go to college and I was driven to get there.  I was shy and serious.  I was afraid of failure.  I WAS BY NO MEANS PERFECT.  I put a lot of pressure on myself.  I hated making mistakes and vowed to learn from them.  I felt very safe and secure with my family.  I was creative.  I didn’t really care what other people thought of me.  I believed in a God who loved me and would never abandon me.  

This is how I “remember” my childhood, but this alone doesn’t garner enough information on how to raise a child…especially a child that in all likelihood would be very different from myself.  Oh, how I wish I had realized all this earlier!

Possessing an awareness that there are and will be differences is key to navigating my parenting responsibilities now and into the future.  This newfound credo of  “he’s not you, and she’s not me,” might be the saving grace that I need to get over this parenting hump.  Stepping back and realizing that we are all separate individuals and that our differences are okay (heck, we might even learn something from one another) could make these next years a growing experience for us all.  I know that the head to head battles will exist (there’s no way I’m going to let them grow up without a sense of accountability and purpose,) but hopefully the battles will also include some level of understanding.  I truly love these kiddos and I want to love them into being the people God called them to be…not a “mini-me” clone and certainly not the “ideal” person that lives in my imagination.  Most of us hope to raise children to be more than ourselves…we seek to give them not only the things that we had growing up but so much more.  We want them to have the benefit of all those who have come before them…us included.  The long-held belief that each generation should be better than the one before drives us in so many ways, but it’s also a belief that can cause us to “run-over” our own children.  A lack of understanding can stop them in their tracks before they’ve even had a chance to start…and we’ve all seen it happen far too many times.

My kids will not have a childhood experience that mirrors mine.  Their friendships and relationships will look different from the ones I knew 30+ years ago.  They will stumble and fall.  They will let me down and they will find a strength that I never knew they could possess.  These same kiddos will test the waters and sometimes they will get hurt.  They will succeed in areas where I’ve failed and they will thrive in places I would have been too afraid to venture into.  And really, the last thing the world needs is a “mini-me,” (because I am certainly not all that easy to deal with!)  In the end, when they finally reach adulthood, I pray that I would have loved them through all of it.  I know it will not be easy because I have high hopes and expectations (I’m still a mom after all!)  But these years–the tweens and teens, the “home-stretch” if you will, are far too valuable to just endure.  These are critical times.  Love your daughter.  Love your son.  And remember, “he’s not you and she’s not me…” it just might make all the difference.

Childhood is a short season.  –Helen Hayes


hymningandhaing (The Title Explained)

First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.  Epictetus, Greek Philosopher

Not that anyone has ever asked, but I thought that maybe I should explain (just in case the thought ever crossed your mind)…why hymningandhaing?  If it sounds familiar and looks horribly misspelled, then you’re right on both accounts.  The title is my take on the familiar idiom “hem and haw.”

hem and haw and hymn and ha

When I began writing this blog in 2011, I planned to share bits and pieces of my faith along with my everyday life and I wanted a title that would reflect that theme (go with me on this one, the road is a little twisted here….)  To hem and haw means to dither, refuse to give a definitive answer and to keep one’s options open (according to The Word Detective at least.)  So while the more familiar version of hemming and hawing connotes a level of indecisiveness, uncertainty and fence-sitting, my interpretation is a little more personal.  The “hymning” part is a playful way of suggesting that while I’m a pastor’s wife, I am also the least literate hymn person in the congregation!  I didn’t grow up in church so for the most part the hymnal is full of dozens of songs I’ve never, EVER heard of.  Not exactly what you’d expect from the so-called “first lady of the church,” (a title that makes me giggle every time!)  While this might seem like a sad state of affairs, the “haing” part of the title (pronounced ha-ing…like ha, ha, ha) suggests that I try to take all this in stride and accept the fact that no matter what role I find myself in (wife, mother, sister, friend, etc.) I always try to find the lighter side of things and not take myself too seriously.  Afterall, NONE of this was my plan.  I am just grateful that God’s plans are so much bigger than anything I could have imagined for myself!  And that’s where the original hemming and hawing meets my variation.  I don’t know where all this is going or how it will all play out.  For the most part, I try to stay open to the possibilities, be thoughtful in all situations and just wait and see…realizing that I don’t have all the answers (if any at all.)

So that’s it.  It’s definitely not an earth shattering revelation.  Just a little insight.  Although I will admit that it makes me belly laugh every time someone mispronounces the blog title!  My favorite to date is when someone asked me why I call it hymning-and-HAYing…is it because I live on a farm?  (No, I don’t.) :)

 

 

 

 


Small Town Night Owl

I stay up late every night and realize it’s a bad idea every morning.  —unknown

As I near 40, I’m almost ashamed to admit it.  Almost.  But here’s my confession:  When it comes to sleep I am my own worst enemy.  I think I might have jinxed myself as a kid when I muttered that both food and sleep were overrated.  While I still hold these tenets to be true, I have come to discover that sleep is pretty vital (I’m sure food is, too…I just don’t want to admit it or PREPARE it.)

sleepIt’s not that I don’t need sleep.  Trust me, I NEED it!  It’s just that my clock is “off.”  I could try blaming age, but my real trouble with sleep began way before that.  It seems that at bedtime…I’m just not tired.  As a child I remember sharing a room with my little sister and after lights out, we would simply stay up and talk…or sing.  (We had these singing contests where we tried to win the other person over to our song.  Popular catchy songs work well, but if I remember right, annoying brain worm songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” worked much better!)  I also loved to tell stories and like an old woman I could spin a yarn that would go on for days.  My poor sister!  On more than one occasion I’d tell a story that would go on so long that she would fall asleep before it ended :)  It was slightly embarrassing….  Only slightly.

In junior high and especially high school, I continued my night owl ways.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t tired.  I really, really was!  But afterschool activities, a social life and school work kept me up ’til the wee hours of the morning.  (Before you jump to any conclusions let it be known that I stayed up way later for school work than for anything else! I know–I’m a NERD :) ) For some reason, I always felt like I had more energy at night.  11pm seems to be peak time for me.  To be fair, I have to admit that I am not a morning person.  Not at all.  Maybe that’s part of why I’m a night owl.

During my college years, being a night owl just went with the territory.  We were all night owls…burning the candle at both ends.  It wasn’t that big of a deal–nothing ever is at that age.  Wake up early, stay up late…some nights sleep was more of a good idea than a reality.  I can remember going to a Poe concert the night before a final, closing down the club, going out to breakfast, drinking my weight in coffee, studying for an hour and arriving on campus just in time to take a 7am final–and acing it.  (Good genetics, I can thank my Mom for my test taking abilities!)  This was the way life rolled and I loved it!  Yes, sleep was overrated indeed.  We are so invincible in our 20s….

One might think that motherhood would change everything.  No.  Now I had an excuse to be awake at all hours of the night.  Pregnancy, middle of the night feedings, a colicky baby, illness of one kind or another, bad dreams, etc.  All this and so much more just pushed my night owl tendencies to the next level because a sleeping child meant that I could have a moment to do what I wanted to do.  You know, like watch a sitcom from beginning to end (forget movies…that’s asking for too much time,) have a snack and not have to share, catch up on correspondence, READ, and have a continuous thought (crazy, right?)  Let me be clear, my late night tendencies have never had anything to do with insomnia (which sounds horrible!)  It really is LIGHTS OUT once my head hits the pillow.  It’s just that I can find a million and one things to do before going to sleep.  Did I mention that I drink ALOT of coffee?

I’ve given my night owl tendencies a lot of thought lately.  For the past few weeks I’ve noticed several news articles and studies that cite the need for better sleep habits…specifically MORE sleep and an earlier bedtime.  At first I sort of brushed it off, but I’m starting to think that maybe I should take these things more seriously.  These same studies say that a lack of sleep leads to poor memory, an inability to focus, impaired immunity, sluggish metabolism and WRINKLES.  (Look, I claim not to be vain, but I don’t know a woman on the planet who’s “okay” with wrinkles!)  So, what’s a girl to do? Change seems practically impossible.  And let me just state for the record, this wouldn’t even be an issue if I could find a school district where classes didn’t start until 10am (that’s what I call a reasonable morning hour.)

My best friend recently told me that she has successfully made “the transition,” moving from night owl (she was my social counterpart in my early years) to morning person.  I know–it just doesn’t seem possible!  No longer does she fritter away the late night hours or need to set several alarm clocks to wake up in the morning.  Instead she’s up with the sun and happy about it.  So what’s her secret?  She tells me that through prayer and discipline she has made a change for the better.  Wouldn’t you just know it?  Jesus is the answer (again!) I have to tell you that I’m not optimistic.  It’s not that I don’t have faith…it’s more that I don’t know if I’m ready.  Because you see EVERY part of me LIKES staying up late.  It’s my chance to breathe, to sit without interruption, to find peace, READ and have a continuous thought all my own! (Notice a theme here?)  I like being the only person awake in the quiet of our little home.  Maybe it’s an introvert thing, but nighttime is MY TIME!

Okay, so someday (soon) I plan to grow up and get serious about sleep and taking care of myself.  And when I do, I know (without a doubt) that Jesus will see me through.  That and the threat of WRINKLES….

Night, night.


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