What I Need (And You Probably Do, Too)

The longer I do life, the more I see flaws with how I’m living it. I’m not sure the blame is wholly mine, though; some of the ideas that flow through my mind seem to flood our society, as well. Somewhere along the way we got this idea that we could do it all–careers, marriage, parenting–and do it alone.

For a few years now, I’ve craved community. I’ve wanted to move past the casual ‘hellos’ and enter into meaningful relationships with my neighbors. I’ve wanted to form friendships with my small group that continue when they leave our home on Sunday night into the rest of the week. Some of those relationships are taking root, and I realize now that true friendship takes time. It can’t be rushed, and it must be nurtured.

I’m also realizing that what I desired in relationship with my neighbors and friends in my community was too shallow. I looked for companionship, friends to lend an ear or girls to sip coffee with me, but I didn’t look for help. I thought my life–my marriage, my kids, my housework–were mine alone and fellowship fell outside of that circle.

I was wrong.

An elderly woman moved next door to our family. I’ve driven her around town, showing her the closest supermarkets, and taken her meals. I check in on her when I haven’t seen her in a few days, and the kids bring her birthday cake when she doesn’t feel well enough to celebrate with us.

The other day, though, she showed me that I need her. My daughter was running around, acting hyper and disobedient, and Ms. JoAnn simply said, “Sometime, I’ll have her over. I’ll talk to her and let her paint. She’ll enjoy it.”

At that moment, a switch turned on in my mind. I do not need to raise my children alone.

I know that Matt and I are ultimately responsible for our kids, but we are not the only ones who need to pour into their lives. I don’t need to feel guilty that Caleb has learned some things at school that I never would’ve thought to teach him. I don’t need to hold onto the idea I need to figure everything out on my own.

I need Ms. JoAnn as much as she needs me.

I was given confirmation of this idea a couple of days later when my son asked if he could play with one of his neighbor friends. This friendship is new, so I walked over to the house and told the mom that her son could play at our home. The kids spent 20 minutes together that flew by in a flash, and then I walked this little boy across the street from whence we just came so he could have dinner.

His mother thanked me. She thanked me for the 20 minutes to decompress without two kids running around–she needed that time emotionally. Hearing her tired voice I understood; we need each other.

Somewhere along the way, we lost this idea. We lost the idea of a community who is genuinely involved in each others’ lives. Perhaps, the growth of our towns is partly to blame. I don’t have to see a neighbor on any given day if I don’t want to. I get in my minivan that is parked by the garage (not in the garage, mind you, but the garage could fill a whole other post), and drive to school or the store or the gym–a minivan that I need given the fact that our town has very few sidewalks, and nothing I need is within walking distance.  I come back home and enter through the garage again. If I don’t want to socialize, I don’t have to. If I want to be left alone, I can.

But we are not supposed to do life alone–even Jesus surrounded himself with 12 friends. He took 3 with him during those dark hours before his crucifixion and asked them to pray. Why, then, do I feel I must do my life alone?

It’s not that I’ve never asked for help–I will never be able to repay my mom and sister for the times they’ve babysat–but I need to change my mindset about who can help me. I need to redefine ‘community.’

I need to open my home to my neighbors when milk is spilled on the floor, and the dishes are piled high. I need to let those I trust see me when I’m on the verge of tears. And I need to call on my neighbor when my rope is unraveling and get rid of the pride that says my kids are my problem.

We all have gifts to give–it’s just taken me 33 years to realize that it’s okay to receive those gifts, as well.

Linking up with Michelle and Jen after another blogging hiatus. I’m not sure if I’m going to give all the details of this break, but just know that life at the Davis household is a little crazy right now–and with Matt out of town again, I can definitely use prayer! Have a great day!


 

 

Looking Forward to ‘Goodbye’

photo courtesy of Erich Ferdinand

The last time Matt left for one of his trips, the kids listened as the garage door closed and then cried. They gathered around me in a circle, and the hysterics began. ‘Goodbyes’ are painful, and I’m not looking forward to the next time Matt leaves with a packed suitcase.

The last few months, I’ve had to deal with my own ‘goodbyes.’ They were also painful, but I’ve decided they are for the best. A few months ago, someone pointed out to me that perfectionism is not a good thing. I had always thought that my strong points were that I’m a perfectionist and have high expectations–I work hard until the job is done, and I never turn in sub-par work. People can depend on me. However, this person revealed to me that I’m setting myself and others up for unrealistic expectations.

I’ve really had to process through this idea, something I can’t do in five minutes, yet the moment I owned this fact, I felt like I could breathe a little deeper. I can never be perfect, and neither can those in my life. I can’t change the way others are or our relationships in some cases, but I can acknowledge and work within our reality.

I’ve packed my own bags and have headed out the garage door. I don’t know that anyone is crying (except for me a little), and unlike when Matt leaves, I’m looking forward to this ‘goodbye.’

When I saw the topic for this week’s ‘Five Minute Friday,’ I almost immediately had this idea. However, because I’ve lowered my expectations, I decided I’d write on Sunday, instead. For those new to ‘Five Minute Friday,’ the Gypsy Mama encourages us to write for five minutes without changing our thoughts or editing–we just get the words down. What ‘goodbyes’ have been good for you?

 

Lent: What to Give?

I find us at the typical halfway point for the school year–the kids no longer sleep with their backpacks on, nor do they dress in one minute flat. They’ve exchanged eagerness for apathy as they lie on their beds in the morning pulling covers over their ears hoping to snatch one more minute of sleep. The freshness of those first few weeks in a new class have given way to the tiredness and doldrom of routine.

Their mother is no better. Most nights, she packs their lunches ahead of time, but there are those nights when she slumps on the couch, fatigued and determined to not do another chore for the day. Ironing the night before becomes part of the morning haste, a haste brought on by one too many swats of the ‘snooze’ button. And at the mid-point for the school year, a new routine has emerged–a routine of frenzy and angst and the general need for a few days of ‘slow.’

I get it. After so many days of the same thing, I test the waters. I try to accomplish more in less time because the need for more sleep presses in hard, yet, all I create is more rush, less harmony, and greater fatigue. When I get to this point, I look to the next break from routine where I can start over fresh, restoring the exhilaration I felt back in August.

Perhaps those who crafted the church calendar had a sense that a break in routine is needed to keep our faith fresh, too. I look back to Christmas and think of the devotions I had with my children. My heart felt full and my love for Christ renewed as I told them the story and purpose of His birth. Now, just as my mornings gave way to rush and routine, so has much of my own time to quiet devotion.

Yet in the midst of my own faith doldrom, along comes Lent. Last week I watched my Facebook feed as friends said ‘goodbye’ for 40 days while others had their last piece of chocolate or glass of soda. In the midst of those updates, a friend posted a quotation that immediately resonated within me:

Lent is a call to renew a commitment grown dull, perhaps, by a life more marked by routine than by reflection. After a lifetime of mundane regularity or unconsidered adherence to the trappings of faith, Lent requires me, as a Christian, to stop for awhile, to reflect again on what is going on in me. I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ-and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the song of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me. Lent is not a ritual. It is a time given to think seriously about who Jesus is for us, to renew our faith from the inside out. – Joan Chittister

When I read Chittister’s comment, I immediately thought of my own relationship with God and how the newness of Christmas had begun to wane. I thought of my mornings with rushed quiet times and rushed dressings and rushed breakfasts. In my mind, I brought the two together. I have fallen into a “lifetime of mundane regularity” as Chittister writes, and for Lent, something needs to give.

I’ve always wondered about the practice of giving up things for Lent. As a child, I would give up soda or potato chips and feel so proud when I resisted temptation for 40 days. However, now as an adult, I look at the practice a little differently than as a child.

While I have heard that we sacrifice so that we can relate to the sacrifice of Christ, I cannot find anything that I would give up for Lent that could ever cause me to understand what it would feel like to be sinless yet take on the weight and shame of every person’s sin on this earth. I cannot give up anything that would help me understand what Christ felt when the Father turned His back as He hung on the cross.

Honestly, I don’t think God intends for us to give up things merely for the purpose of sacrifice. Rather, I imagine He wants to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. When He tells us to fast and pray for those who are sick, we are not fasting so that we will feel hunger and broken. Instead, we fast as a reminder.

I cannot go without one meal before I feel hunger pains. It is then that I am reminded of who sustains me. When I am tempted by a worthless potato chip, I am reminded of the weakness of my flesh. It is in those moments of weakness that should draw me to God in prayer, for if not, for what purpose did I practice sacrifice?

After prayer, I found what God wants me to give, and I heard Him loud and clear. He doesn’t want me to give up anything for the purpose of taking away my joy. Instead, He wants me to trust that His hands are overflowing with a greater abundance of joy than mine could ever hold, and I have to let go of some things in order to hold His. I cannot fall into routine when it comes to my faith; I have to not only find time but truly use this time to reflect on the goodness of God and the importance of my faith.

Everyone needs a little break from routine. Everyone needs a fresh start. This Lent I’m hoping to find a newness and exhilaration in my faith that will carry me from the first sound of the alarm in the morning to the last lunch I pack at night. And I pray that you find that newness, too.

Linking up with Michelle and Jen today. How do you observe Lent?

 

Lie to Me

I never count it a good sign when I’ve hardly started my day and am already counting the hours until I can go back to bed. Nonetheless, I have found myself in that state this morning, thanks to a voodoo TV that turned on in the middle of the night, a naked, little girl who appeared at my bedside an hour later, and a pathetic boy with a tummy ache who tossed and turned next to me–rather in between his two sisters–while I was clinging to the side of the bed with one hand while trying to rub his tummy with the other.

I couldn’t help but notice that Matt is actually here; typically, this kind of nonsense only happens when he is out-of-town. The first night he was gone on his last trip, my youngest screamed in my bed with an earache until 2:30 a.m. when the liquor, I mean Tylenol, finally kicked in.

I have a suspicion, however, that my children are giving me a taste of what’s to come. Last night, Matt came home from work with the news that he needed to travel quite a bit next month. I’m sure my nervous anticipation of that fact already sent the cosmos in disarray, explaining why my one child took off all her clothes in the middle of the night. And since I know there’s more to come, I want to prepare Matt with a little list I made the last time he was gone.

Now, typically, I hold to the idiom that ‘honesty is the best policy,’ but there are certain circumstances that necessitate a lie. Allow me to elaborate:

If one’s business trip is to a state where people are swimming in February, it is okay to lie to the wife who is at home with the kids.

Matt, if you are in Florida, and the sun is shining, and the warm breeze is running through your hair, please just tell me it’s raining. It rained every stinkin’ day.

If part of one’s day on the above mentioned trip ends with dinner on a boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, develop temporary amnesia.

Seriously, dude, for the good of our marriage, do not tell me that you have to go because it’s time to board the boat for your dinner cruise. In fact, if you choose to mention anything about you and the boat, it better only be the details that after you boarded a terrible storm arose. The boat swayed back and forth, and the crew began to panic. “We’re not going to make it!” they screamed, to which you responded, “Yes, you will! Throw me overboard! I’m the reason we’re going to sink!” The crew didn’t want to throw you overboard, a polite, southern gentleman enjoying a nice dinner on the Gulf, but the waves began to rise, and they became convinced that, yes, you were the reason for this storm. They threw you over, and immediately you were swallowed by a great fish. You repented of leaving your wife, were spit up on dry ground, and headed back to Georgia.

Do not call your wife and say, “Hold on a minute; let me step out onto my balcony.”

Seriously? At this point all I’m picturing is my throwing you off of the balcony!

Even if it is true, do not tell your wife, “I really wish you were here with me.”

This statement may sound sweet; it may be 100% sincere. However, now you’ve caused me to lie, or at least deceive you. Yes, I responded, “I wish I were there, too,” but I left off the rest of the sentence. I wish I were there while you were back here with the kids! I wish you were here for four days straight, no dropping the kids off at the grandparents, and no ordering fast food. Just you. And the kids. Four nights.

I’m on a boat sipping a pina colada. Have fun with these crazies!

What lies are you okay hearing?

 

 

Rethinking Valentine’s Day

As a young girl in high school, I looked on Valentine’s Day with disdain — mostly because for three out of the four holidays, I didn’t have a boyfriend. However, that special senior year when I received a cheap carnation along with the other girls who had boys willing to pay a dollar, I embraced Valentine’s Day with open arms!

I grew older though, and my fondness for the holiday began to wane again. Spending exorbitant amounts of money on over-priced flowers and chocolate for a day with little spiritual or historical significance just seemed dumb. After all, if I loved a person, I should show him love all the time, not just on Valentine’s Day, right?

Right. Except nine years into a marriage and three small children later, I don’t always do what I’m supposed to do. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I find myself in bed sleeping in between two pillows as three children wormed their way into our bed in the middle of the night. I sleep to the tune of one child grinding her teeth in my ear and another sticking her toe up my nose and a third pushing his elbow in my back. Of course, I could move to sleep in one of their beds if I didn’t find myself pinned in a cocoon of sheets and bedspread by the dog lying on my feet.

Sometimes this tiredness competes with the desire to show love. Sometimes when my husband comes home from work, I greet him with the kid I am no longer going to deal with instead of a passionate kiss and a moment of space for him to breathe. I don’t care about romance; I want a shower by myself in a bed by myself with a book by myself.

And, sometimes, while I don’t like to admit it, I need a reminder.

Honestly, I should have a soft spot in my heart for Valentine’s Day. Twelve years ago when we were poor, college students, Matt and I met over a burrito in Athens as friends, not even realizing the significance of the day at the time. Twelve years later, our friendship has grown as we have weathered many storms and celebrated many joys.

Now, Valentine’s Day for me isn’t about flowers or chocolate. It’s about the moment to pause and remember how blessed I am to have this man who loves me and whom I love. It’s a time to remember that the children we have are a product of our love and a gift from God.

My own father made Valentine’s Day his holiday. Unlike Christmas and birthdays when we knew our mom did all the present shopping and wrapping, Valentine’s Day was all his. Today it still is. Every February 14th, I always receive a card and something special from my dad.

Last year, my husband and I followed his lead. I had a handsome date accompany me for the dinner of his choice at Zaxby’s while my husband took two cute little girls to Shane’s Rib Shack. And while my husband didn’t sweep me away for a romantic dinner for two, on that night, I found him holding those cheap carnations for his family quite sexy.

So I’ve come around to this over-commercialized, insignificant holiday. And while I need to work on greeting my husband at the door daily with a big kiss instead of a disobedient child, I’ll welcome the reminder on February 14th, too.

I took an unintentional blogging break last week, and I’m definitely itching to get out some new blog posts. This post was featured in the ‘Local Voices’ section of the Dacula Patch a couple of weeks ago. During my hiatus, I learned some more differences between my kids and me, and I also developed a list of when it’s okay for my spouse to lie to me. I hope you’ll come back and join me this week as I share!

If you’d like new posts delivered to your inbox or my blog added to your feed, click here.

Tender

As we drove back from the hair salon, my neighbor Joann thanked me again for driving her.

“You’re very calm, and I like that. Some people aren’t when they drive.”

I smiled a little because ‘calm’ and ‘patient’ are words that many have used to describe me, but, in the last three years, they are words that to me seem the furthest away. I’ve wanted to reclaim them so that my kids would see what others have seen. I’ve gotten a little help along the way, but I’ve also learned a new trick.

I study them, and I savor their uniqueness. Last night, I watched as Chloe ate her ice cream cone. She took a napkin and delicately wrapped it around the cone to keep the melted mess from running down her hands. And I watched her little tongue. She stuck out that little tongue just over the top of the napkin that came up a little too high, and she found the soft cream below. Oh, how she enjoyed that ice cream!

Watching that sweet face, my heart couldn’t help but turn tender. So I watch my children now, and I send up a note of thanks for every ‘Punky Brewster’ style outfit, every nonchalant attitude toward another 100% on a spelling test, and every silly expression that comes out of her mouth. And this heart turns to mush every time I do.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her Five Minute Friday where we write what comes to our minds whether or not it’s exactly right. We spend five minutes getting down those thoughts and don’t change once they’re here. Click below to play along. What makes your heart tender?

 

If I Were Mary

photo courtesy of lindsayshaver

The year I turned 15, Christmas took on a different meaning for me. I remember looking in the mirror and imagining myself pregnant. I rubbed my belly as I thought of how I would tell my family the news. I envisioned the walk downstairs to the kitchen and the kitchen table where I would ask my parents to sit, and I pictured the look on my dad’s face as I shared what I learned from the angel Gabriel:

Dad, Mom, I’m pregnant–but please don’t be mad. I’m still a virgin–I’m carrying God’s baby.

But of course they would be mad…and confused…and scared, much the same as I imagine Mary and her family were. Sometimes as I read the Bible, I forget that these people in the stories weren’t some special breed of holiness, able to accept anything God threw their way. They were real people, and when I was 15, I got that for a moment.

Mary had to be scared even though she trusted God completely. Her parents had to be confused, worried about public shame, and unsure as to how to treat their daughter. And Mary’s community–I’m sure they were abuzz with their own interpretation of how that baby bump got there.

When I was 26 at Christmastime, I imagined I was Mary again. I looked in the mirror and rubbed my belly, except this time my belly was round from the life that grew inside it. I was pregnant with my first child, a son, and I was full of joy and anticipation for his arrival that March.

I was also nervous. Would I instinctively know how to care for this child? Would I be a good mother? I thought about Mary, brimming with joy as she felt her baby kick inside her womb, brimming with questions and pressure as she realized her responsibility–she was the mother to God’s son. How does one prepare for that job?

Now I’m 32. I look in the mirror and find a couple laugh lines that I hadn’t previously noticed. I rub my belly that has never quite gone back to the way it was before three kids. Over the last six years, God has shown me glimpses of His goodness, His holiness, His provision, His plan; and I’ve grown as a result of struggles He has brought me through while holding my hand.

And I think of Mary, riding on a donkey as her stomach tightens and the pangs of labor prick her abdomen, while God is holding her hand. I wonder what runs through her mind as she realizes her baby is coming and she is still far off from a bed. I wonder what she thinks as each door Joseph  knocks on is opened to the news No room. I wonder if she feels His hand, this young girl who had not yet experienced the pain of sex for the first time, as she experiences the pain of childbirth on a bed of hay with cows and sheep as her audience instead of a midwife.

Because I know what I would think. If I were Mary on that donkey, I would worry. If I were Mary watching door upon door close with bad news, I would question. If I were Mary lying on that bed of hay, I would doubt. God, where are you? Why didn’t you plan for the birth of your Son?

Looking back over the last six years, I’ve seen how I react. I get confused when God’s plan takes me through hardship. I question what He is doing. And when doors close, I despise the words of those who reply,”Well, that must not be God’s will.”

But they are wrong as I have been wrong. For something to be God’s will doesn’t mean that all doors fly open. For something to be God’s will doesn’t mean that the end result is neat and clean. Sometimes God’s will is exactly what He told us it would be–He just used different means to that end than we would’ve chosen.

He held Mary’s hand as He closed the doors to those inns, yet she had heard Him correctly. She was in the center of His will. He hadn’t forgotten that she was giving birth to His Son–He chose that blanket of hay for his baby’s bed. He chose the most humiliating way for a woman to deliver a baby to deliver the most beautiful love story this world has ever heard.

God’s Son, Immanuel, God with us, God for us. God’s son, for the lowly shepherd, God’s son for the rich intellectual. God’s son, for the old prophet, God’s son for the smallest child. God’s son, accessible to all on that humble bed of hay.

I wonder if Mary felt God’s hand, if she were able to push aside the doubt that I would’ve allowed to creep in and fester in my mind. I wonder if Mary were able to trust in the midst of agonizing pain and closed doors.

If I were Mary, I’m not sure that I would’ve. It is only now, at 32, that I’m beginning to grasp that the truths in these crazy Bible stories are also true for my crazy life. When I thought I heard God clearly only to have door upon door close, I may have been right.

I just hadn’t realized that God is preparing my own bed of hay.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. May you feel God’s hand as He leads you this coming year.

 

A Message in a Shoebox

photo courtesy of 'Operation Christmas Child'

God shows His love and kindness in many ways. For me, He showed it in a shoebox’s destination….

Around four years ago, I sat on the back row at church and listened to the woman on the screen rattle off statistics that I have never been able to forget. At that time, our church was connected to the orphanage in the Ukraine that this woman represented. I remember hearing her describe girls lured into prostitution after leaving most orphanages, and the majority of boys of choosing a life of crime. The number that hit me the hardest, however, was the number of young men who chose to live no life at all.

I can’t remember if I was pregnant with my second child or if she had just been born, but I know that the thought of adopting a child had not yet entered my mind given my own circumstances. But those statistics, oh, how they changed me forever. I sat in church that day with tears in my eyes. How horrible were those orphanages that these children thought they were worthless? How horrible were their prospects that these young men thought they had no hope at all? The thought of so many children taking their own lives rather than live in the world was incomprehensible to me.

Around two years later, I sat in the stands of the Gwinnett Arena and listened to the testimony of Christian after Christian who said they believed the call in James to care for orphans and widows was not merely a suggestion. They believed that God really meant we should give homes to these orphans, and they shared their stories of how they adopted children into their families.

My husband and I had never discussed adoption before, and I wasn’t sure that he would be receptive to the idea, but God had stirred some embers in my heart. I thought of those young boys in the Ukraine, and I felt I knew God’s plan for us.

But time passed. Life with my own three kids was crazy enough. Managing our finances was challenging as it was–saving tens of thousands of dollars for adoption seemed unreasonable. And as time went on, even though I truly felt God had spoken to me two years prior in that arena, I began to doubt what I heard. I still had the desire to adopt, but I also knew now was not the time to bring another child into our home. In fact, sometimes I didn’t know if there’d ever be the time to bring another child into our home, and, at times, I was okay with that idea.

My mind didn’t do well with this ambiguity. I’m the girl with the five-year and ten-year plans, and I needed to know if adoption was part of those plans. I needed to know how to plan for those plans. The last few months, however, I had the sense that I needed to stop planning all-together. The details in my life didn’t match up with the details of adoption.

And I felt crushed. Because as life often works, during this time of my life, a time when bringing another child into our home makes no sense, my desire to have another child is burning within me.

I told God I trusted Him. Maybe I hadn’t heard correctly a couple years ago. Maybe God does want me to have a heart for orphans, but maybe my role isn’t to be a mother to orphans. I would trust Him, though, trust that He would reveal His will to me–perhaps not today but when I needed to know.

In November, my son and I packed a box for his school’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive, and I printed out a label with a barcode so we could track it’s destination. Two days ago, I received an e-mail from Samaritan’s Purse:

Merry Christmas from Samaritan’s Purse! Thank you for participating in Operation Christmas Child and for choosing to Follow Your Box.

Your gift box(es) went to Ukraine. For photos, stories, and other information about Operation Christmas Child in this country, click here.”

I gasped when I saw the country. The Ukraine, the one place that is always in my heart, and there, a little boy would hold a shoebox full of toys and markers and toothpaste and know that he is loved.

And as I read that e-mail, I knew that I am loved. I know this post seems to be about adoption, but, actually, it’s about God’s love for me. When I read that e-mail, I knew God was speaking to me. I knew that He was telling me that He heard and hears the desires of my heart, and, as much as I care about those little boys in the Ukraine, He cares even more. He will make clear His Will to me, whether or not adoption is part of it.

All I could do was close my eyes and say I trust, Lord. How could I not trust the God of the universe who carried a simple shoebox to a place where He could speak to both the recipient and the sender?

Some might say that our shoebox landing in the Ukraine was a coincidence–it had to go somewhere–but I believe God cares enough about me to get involved in the details of life. Like a perfect Father, He knows the time to step back and let me learn and grow, but He also knows those times when I need to hear from Him.

He loves me enough to speak to me through an e-mail.

And He loves you that much, too.

 

Linking up with Michelle and Jen. When was a time that you knew God was speaking to you? How did He do it? And don’t forget to tune in this week to read more Christmas lessons. Thank you to those who have e-mailed/commented with suggestions!

I Had a Dream

I’m sure it started after my mom said, “I wish we lived closer.” In fact, we do live relatively close to one another. We’re only about a half an hour away, but with Atlanta traffic, that half an hour can stretch anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. In any event, we don’t live close enough to just drop over for a chat any time the idea strikes our fancy.

Thus birthed the idea for our plot of land. At first, it started as a joke; we’d have a home for all the women to live in and a separate home for all the grumpy men. The women could get together every night after the kids went to bed and play the board games we so love while the men stayed home and scratched their rears and fell asleep on the couch.

Except my brother-in-law said he didn’t want to be stuck in a house with the grumpy men, either.

Then the idea morphed into something more realistic. Instead of two houses divided by gender, we’d have three homes divided by family units all sharing a large plot of land. There would be a communal garden. There would be Hilda the cow. There would be game night. Many nights.

Sometimes when I would get discouraged with the condition of my home or tired thinking about putting the kids to bed after a visit with my parents, I would envision my dream home on that large plot of land. I would see the tall trees surrounding us, hear the stream running through the woods. I could taste the tomatoes I’d pick from our garden, and I was never overwhelmed at its upkeep–the three families worked together.

photo by vastateparksstaff via Flickr 'Creative Commons'

And there was Hilda. Oh, she was such a good cow. She ate her grass and gave us the finest milk. No longer did I have to debate whether or not (not, most often) to purchase organic milk for $5.99 a gallon–our organic milk was right in our yard.

photo by JHayne

But like most dreams, this one was squashed by those whom I love.

“Do you think I’m made out of money?!”

No, Dad, I think you’re made out of blood and muscles and bones.

“Dad, you’re just buying the land first since you’re ready to move now. You’re reserving our spot. Then, we’ll come and buy our section of the land from you and build our house. This plan made sense to me.

“What happens when Matt and you decide to move and sell your home? Now I have this piece of land that I have to share with someone I don’t know.”

“Well, we’re not going to move.”

And then a few days later my husband joined in:

“Do you know how much a cow costs? It would cost thousands of dollars. It would take years before you even reaped the benefits of having your own cow to milk.”

I don’t trust your math.

“Jennifer, you don’t live on Little House on the Prairie.”

You’re right; Caroline’s husband was warm and kind, and he played the fiddle.

This move doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective. What happens if we want to move? We now have a house that’s connected to two other families.”

Are we planning to move? Did you and my dad have a talk that I don’t know about. Are you being transferred to Canada or something?!

After that moment, I told myself, “Forget it.” Forget the big plot of land. Forget the communal garden. Forget Hilda. And definitely forget game night many nights during the week.

At least I have ‘Word With Friends.’

Has your family ever squashed your dream before it had time to come to fruition? Have you ever wanted to own a cow? It’s the middle of the week, folks. Let’s take a minute to smile and get through it!

 

Thanksgiving Presents

 

When I was a child, no holiday could top Christmas. While I loved stuffing and mashed potatoes, I’d happily skip over Thanksgiving to get to the present-opening holiday faster. However, nothing could make that last month before Christmas go any quicker.

Now that I’m a little bit older than eight, I find that, much as my tastebuds changed as I became an adult, so did my taste for the different holidays. I still find Christmas a beautiful holiday to celebrate, yet I would never skip Thanksgiving. In fact, I would venture to say that Thanksgiving is my new favorite.

With a few exceptions, I don’t remember the presents I opened beneath the tree, those presents that I’m sure my parents budgeted for and fought their way through crazy mobs at the mall. I don’t remember what Santa snuck down the chimney.

But I do remember family. Little stories will sneak up and pinch me when I least expect it. These memories are the presents that have far outlasted those wrapped in shiny paper and topped with big bows.

My grandmother much preferred the company of children and seemed to relate better to them than adults. That characteristic worked out well for all of her grandchildren. Every time we had a family get-together, Grandma Ann would gather the grandkids to her while the adults talked in another room. While they laughed and scraped the last bit of food off their plates, the kids worked in another room on a retelling of Cinderella. We rushed around looking for Cinderella’s broom and a costume to do the magical fairy godmother justice, and when we were ready, Grandma would silence the adults and command their attention for the show we had prepared.

The parents would roll their eyes and silently endure the production. This tradition has lived on….

For my father’s birthday, I was in a silly mood and wanted to help control the chaos of four kids five and under while we waited for my husband to get home. I gathered all the children in the playroom, and everyone was assigned a role.

Caleb, you will dance first. Max, you’re next. You will come out after Aunt Jennie introduces you.

And so began my first attempt at organizing a show with all of the grandkids. A few weekends later, the kids requested we put on another performance for Uncle Mason’s birthday, and the other day, an ordinary-non-birthday-nothing-special day, my nephew requested we put on a show.

“Well, hello, Grandma,” my mom said to me.

She was right–I had had the realization before–Grandma’s present was still going strong long after she was gone. I’m currently drafting a Christmas performance.

So I look forward to tomorrow, a day without the stress of Christmas, a day when we enjoy the delicious food with which we have been so abundantly blessed and count the numerous ways God has provided. I look forward to receiving the presents that time with family always gives, and I look forward to remembering.

I’m thankful that we each live on long after we’re gone, in the fried okra recipe that’s used every holiday or the sound of snoring from the recliner in the den or the after-dinner performance that the adults are forced to endure.

These are the presents that I will celebrate. For these, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours. For what presents are you thankful this year?