Friday, March 26, 2010

What's So Great About Goals?

If I had to single out the biggest challenge in my life, I would say that it is undoubtedly time management. I have become a tight rope walker, balancing and staying centered, precariously carrying all of the aspects of my life. Occasionally my load becomes too cumbersome and if I don't drop something, I will lose my balance and fall.

For a long time, I have really pushed myself with questions like, What's next? What am I going to do now? What are my goals? Like a little honey bee, I search for my next flower; an area that needs growth, something I want to learn about, what I'm going to do next. In many ways, this is a part of myself that I really like. I am rarely bored and I feel this attitude helps me to grow and continue to be dynamic.

However, there is also a huge disadvantage to this train of thought: It can at times discourage contentedness.

When I am constantly striving for more, more, more and
str e e e e tching 
myself further with high ambitions, I fail to live in the present, to be satisfied with myself in this moment. In Terry Hershey's words, it is the "tyranny of pursuit." I am like a frantic shopper, always looking for the latest trend to buy only to become bored with my most recent purchase and replace it with another. Goals can be like that. What about simply being comfortable in your own skin? How many accomplishments do I need to accomplish before I am satisfied?

Another problem with goals is that you can lose yourself in your accomplishments and define yourself by them. There is a real danger in this. What will it mean if I don't accomplish a certain goal? Who am I then? Furthermore, I need to reflect on the reason for my aspirations. What need is this fulfilling? Or am I simply driven to this in order to stroke my own ego???

Of course goals in general are not inherently evil. But I do believe they can be taken too far, a means of boosting my own pride. The seesaw of self-confidence is a delicate balance. But for some of us, maybe we don't need to work on feeling better about ourselves. We live in a culture of me-ism, constantly told to "put ourselves first." And while I realize it is very important to take good care of yourself, a life of only "putting yourself first" should just be called what it is: a selfish life. How many magazine articles or episodes of Oprah are there about how to become more humble? How to work on humility? Self-sacrifice?

Lastly, sometimes goals can be self-defeating in that the means of obtaining them takes away from another priority in my life. Goals take time and time is a precious, hot commodity in my life; it seems that the supply can never meet the demand. This year I planned to run a full marathon in June; a bigger, better achievement than last year's puny half marathon. So I prepared my training schedule and have made it about halfway through. Several evenings a week, my darling Jason would walk in the door after a long day's work, and we would kiss goodbye as I walked out the door for my run. Family dinner time often had to be rearranged or sometimes just didn't happen because of this schedule. Jason and I didn't have as much time to talk.

Do you see the irony? In trying to accomplish yet another goal, I was taking too much away from other more important areas in my life.

I could run the full marathon. I know I'm capable. But I don't want to! I actually don't have to accomplish every feat that I could. I am under no obligation! This is such a freeing realization for me. A weight is lifted and I find myself with more time and energy free to talk to my husband, play with my children or take a nap.

No full marathon for me. I'm keeping it simple and sticking with the puny half :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

And Then He Turned Five - The Tale of Froggy

Well, there has been a plethora of evidence lately that Joshua is growing up. First was a sudden question that interrupted the silence while we drove home from grocery shopping today:

"What's a vulva?"

What???!!! For goodness sake, he's only four! Okay, he turns five on Saturday, but still--Isn't that a little young to be asking about the details of female anatomy? He goes on . . .

"Right there on the back of that car. V-O-L-V-O. Vulva."

Aaaaaaaah. Big sigh of relief and internal chuckle, snort. That particular conversation is not actually necessary just yet. Praise the Lord.

Then there was last night just before we went out for a nice dinner with some family - a big treat in our home. Joshua was all decked out with a button-down shirt, cords and "Church shoes." After I teased him a little bit about how all the girls at the restaurant were going to be checking out how handsome he was, he actually blushed and admitted, "It's just that I really like girls."

Oh really? Joshua has always had a coy, flirtatious demeanor with certain women - especially blonds. But this was more than that - a bold statement, a proclamation, evidence that my little boy is a man in the making! Okay, well that just might be putting a little too much weight on a four-year-old's words, but it was awfully cute.

To help you to understand the gravity of the last bit of evidence, I will have to give a little bit of history. When Joshua was three months old, we spent our traditional week-long summer vacation at Lake Chelan over the Fourth of July. We had a surprise baby shower for my sister-in-law who was due in December. They received a duck "buddy blanket" by Bunnies By the Bay. I had seen these before and wanted to get Joshua the frog buddy blanket. Upon arriving home, I extensively searched online only to find disappointment. That particular buddy blanket was not being made, yet I knew it was the right one for Joshua.

The very next week, Joshua was baptized. We celebrated afterward at my parents' house. When it came time for gifts, I opened a bag from my parents and inside was a frog buddy blanket.

"Where did you get this?"

"You won't believe this . . . "

My mother then explained how on that very morning, the mysterious frog blankie was found on the sidewalk in front of their house, with no owner in sight. The very same one I had been searching for to no avail. And because it was in good condition, she simply washed it and wrapped it up for him as a gift for his baptism. From that moment on, "Froggy" has never been left behind. For five years, it has been dragged along the path of Joshua's childhood, always present for every bump along the way. 

Fast forward about five years, and I kid you not, the same froggy which Joshua received on the day of his baptism was once again a symbol of God's grace in his life.

This morning, as we prepared to be gone for the afternoon, Joshua announced, "I think I am done with my froggy. I want to give it to Noah."

OK, I know that might not sound like a very big deal, but look at it this way. What is your most prized possession in the world? Could you give it away? I don't think I could! And this amazing boy is just five years old, ready to part with his most loved toy; the crutch he has leaned on whenever in need of comfort for his entire life.

I was speechless. But upon further questioning, I found that Joshua was quite serious. He was done with Froggy and ready to pass it on.

I have praised him all day for his decision, and tonight we took him to the mall to purchase a surprise, early birthday gift. We visited Build-A-Bear and Joshua was able to help construct his chosen camouflage teddy bear, pick out his fisherman's outfit and then very appropriately name him Fisher.

Right now he sleeps Froggy-less, his discarded treasure in his brother's bed.

This evening before bed we read part of the story of Moses out of a children's Bible. This section explained that the king would not listen to God, so bad things happened to him.

Afterwords, I explained to Joshua that when we listen to God and do what is right, good things happen. I told him that because he chose to give away his Froggy, it gave me the idea to go get him a more big-boy stuffed animal for his birthday, and so now he had his new bear. I explained that this was God bringing something good into his life.

And how did he respond?

He looked into my eyes and stated simply, "I think that God was telling me inside that I should give my frog to Noah."

And so here I am, five years into motherhood, and I am in awe of God's work in my own life as well as the life of my son. Joshua proved to us very quickly that parenthood would be more difficult than we could ever have anticipated with his very strong will. I will never forget when he was one, I told him "no" as he got into something he was not supposed to, after which Joshua proceeded to toddle right on over to me and hit me.

How sweet it is to taste the other side of that, to feel some encouragement. Two family members have remarked recently how Joshua seems to be maturing.

Motherhood is difficult. And it will continue to be. I have been at my wit's end countless times and lost my patience just as much; but in the midst of chaos, frustration, anger and discouragement, I can be lifted up. By friends. By family. By Jason. And by my son.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Tiredness, an inevitability of parenting small children, ails me this week. There are several reasons: toddlers' nightmares, talking too late with Jason, marathon training, last weekend's trip to Portland, this weekend's catering job for 100 people and then of course, just the infinite cooking, cleaning, laundry and dishes dance.

So, yes, I have good reason to be tired, right? It's okay for me to have a week where I just get by, right? It's okay if all the cleaning doesn't get done, right? If we order pizza for dinner one night? If I don't get all my runs in? If we watch a little more TV? If there's laundry in the dryer from two days ago?

Hopefully you know that those questions are rheutorical. But then why don't I? Why do I still have this pressing sense of guilt when I have a week like this?

Yes, I am being a little bit lazier. Letting things slide some. There's definitely a long to-do list with not so many things getting done. I am on auto-pilot, accomplishing the minimum.

But here's the thing - both me and my family are in need of some downtime. So then by instating a temporary much more relaxed attitude, aren't I just giving my family what they need and taking care of myself? Why, oh why, the ever presence of guilt? It's like one of the mysteries of the world or something, because it makes absolutely no sense.It's like I feel guilty for being a good mom!

So I am banishing this weight from my shoulders, replacing it with gratitude. For I should be grateful. I have been granted a mother's instinct, an awareness of my family's needs, a grace which allows me to serve my family the best that I can.

And if that means I don't shower today, then so be it. Who am I to inhibit grace from working in my life?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thoughts of Spring

The Rising

Rise up blades of grass beneath my feet.
Rise up, fragile blooms, from the earth so sweet.
Rise up! Oh moon, come and light my dark.
Rise up! Oh Son, come and lift my heart.

Let the frost melt and the waters run
All over me, reborn in full immersion.
Let the cold winds lose their chill,
Growing warmer, spreading Your will.

Oh, Breath of Life, rise within me!
Fill me up,
Renew me.
I eagerly wait
And anticipate
Your coming and
Your rising.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thinking About Babies (No, I am not pregnant. Just Nostalgic.)

5 am Feeding

Tiny pink clouds and enormous blue skies;
I watch the day breaking within your eyes
And all wonder, all awe is caught in my throat
As the angels sing high and the angels fly low.

You dream your sweet little dreams in the land of nod.
Holding you, I raise a thousand prayers to the hands of God.
May you grow into the one the Lord intended you to be
And may I guide you well with the wisdom the Lord grants unto me.

May your faith grow strong as my love is now.
May your hopes be high and may you learn how
To reach for them till they’re within your tight grasp.
Dear Lord, please stop time and make this moment last.

Here in my arms I hold such a blessing, a treasure—
The Spirit in my hands; nothing can weigh or measure
The overflowing joy that this miracle provides.
Never have I seen such beauty; never have I been more alive.

With your hand in my hand,
Let your heart grow in mine.
May your blessings be many, my angel.
Ever do I love thee for I am ever thine.