Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tired of All the Christmas Brag Letters?

Tired of All the Christmas Brag Letters?

I really admire those people who send out letters with their Christmas cards.  They send perfect pictures of their well-behaved children in the beautiful places they’ve visited this year.

First of all, I can’t sit down and watch 5 minutes of Dr. Phil without being plagued by some important task hanging over my head.  It’s too bad I can’t remember what it is.
Second of all, why can’t I go to those beautiful places?  I’m home editing a 5-page paper on why Zeus and Hermione (Her-mine-ee) wound up inside the Trojan Horse or something like that.  Midnight, head spinning.  Later I’m scraping burnt french fries off my rusty cookie sheet, and my friend is over there in Italy telling Edwardo, her hot masseuse, “A little more warm oil, please.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my friends who send letters.  I want to know about their exciting lives.  A part of me wants to slip it down the garbage disposal, but the senders may ask me later what I thought about their Alaskan cruise.  But a part of me is glad that they are thoroughly enjoying their lives.
Why am I jealous sometimes, though?  I have everything I want.  I have plenty of time to ponder my blessings when I’m driving back from a wrestling match in Millington (for those of you living elsewhere, about an hour away) at 9 p.m.  Thank goodness my two other kids have a wonderful beef stew in the crock pot I made this morning—yeah, right.  I also ruminate on my blessings, shivering, at 7 a.m. and again at 7 p.m. at soccer games in a tournament 7 hours away.  Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with thankfulness that I want to get on my knees right there on the sideline but my butt is stuck to the bleachers.

But the thing is—there’s no where I’d rather be.  I’ll never have these days back, but Turks and Caicos will always be there.  I’d rather watch my daughter play point guard for the very first time than visit some Paradise Point. 

I’d rather see her perfect her rise ball than watch a sunrise in Oahu.  And most of all, seeing my daughter’s embarrassment when I volunteer to have her Bible study at my house is priceless.  
One day I might make it to an exotic location, but right now I’m enjoying watching my beautiful children put their home-made (well, school-made) ornaments on our Christmas tree.    When I do make it to Italy, I wonder if Edwardo will still be there.   

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Frazzled Mom is Looking for Her Inner Diva

In Search of My Inner Domestic Diva
          The frazzled mom made great strides in her defrazzlement the other day.  I passed up undecorated artificial wreaths that were half off at Hobby Lobby.  The bad elf on my left shoulder wheedled, 
     “You could decorate these!  You can use all that left over faux fruit, greenery in the attic, even some fresh berries—”  
     The good elf on my other shoulder screamed, 

          I’m trying to follow my own advice of simplifying my life.  My goal is to decide on two or three priorities this Christmas and to close my eyes and resist anything that falls outside those priorities. 
          I’m trying to squelch my “I can do it all” tendencies and realize I’m not Martha Stewart sweetly serving her rack of lamb with truffle sauce—or whatever goes with rack of lamb which I’ve never made because I’m a frazzled mom. This Chef Boyardee’s idea of homemade biscuits is whacking a tube on the side of the counter.  And I’ve finally mastered the skill of unrolling crescent rolls without tearing all of them up.  Then there’s my delicious frozen meatballs with Ragu.  I’m overjoyed that I can now make things my children love.  However, I refuse to pick up the  spaghetti sauce-crusted plates they leave in the family room.  The next day they have the nerve to actually sit in front of the crusty plate, completely unfazed, and log in to Facebook.
          If I ever transform into Martha Stewart, even after the kids leave for college, Hell will have frozen over.  However, I’d love to think of myself as Sandra Lee, that incredible domestic diva who writes “Semi-Homemade” magazine, who makes us think she slaves in her kitchen when her beautifully decorated red velvet cake is from Betty Crocker. She’s my idol. But I’ve got to face the fact that even striving to be a semi-domestic goddess is not in my cards right now. 
          You can bet your sweet Easy Mac that Sandra Lee’s not in the car from 3:00 to 9:30.  During those 6 1/2 hours, I may have a few minutes in which I come home and whip out a lovely lasagna from Russo’s pizza which I added  mozzarella to that I’m trying to pass off as homemade.  Sandra would be proud.  I also wager she didn’t have to make a 3-D Santa face on a paper plate in the car during morning carpool that her first-grader forgot was due. It’s pretty sad that I can boast about being able to make a 3-D Santa face out of the contents of my purse.  You know—lifesavers stuck in the bottom of my purse for eyes—ketchup from fast-food packets for rosy cheeks—and Sweet ‘n Low for the beard. First I must glob some of the sticky residue in the bottom of the Sonic cup from August onto the plate, sprinkle generously with Sweet ‘n Low, and Voila!—snow white whiskers.  If the motherhood gods are going to stump ME, they’re going to have to do better than that.
But, alas, in reality Peg Bundy is more my speed. You know, “Married With Children.”  On the ladder of domestic divinity, I’m a rung below her, looking up at her tight capris.  At least she manages to wear nice high heels instead of ratty bunny slippers and uses make-up everyday.  But after deep reflection, I bet Martha Stewart and Sandra Lee, probably having grown kids now, were too busy watching their oven timers to watch their daughter make a three-pointer in her basketball game.  There’s give-and-take, and there are seasons in life.  One day the frantic pace will slow down, and I’ll have all the time in the world to learn how to cook a perfect turkey and maybe giblets—whatever that is.  But right now, though I’m forever frazzled, I wouldn’t take anything for the privilege of tying shoes, typing school papers, and tucking in.  Peg Bundy can keep the high heels, and maybe I’ll use my bunny slippers to sweep away the dust bunnies under the couch.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010



This is a poem inspired by a picture of my son, at about 10 months old, sitting on Santa's lap.  He looked up at Santa as if he was wondering, "Who the heck are you?"  Then I started thinking about how very young children are probably confused about the whole Santa and Jesus thing.  Here's my interpretation of their confusion!

Mommy brought me in with her
To say hello to you.
But I’m not sure about this , Sir,
“Just what is it you do?”
Mommy said you were born on Christmas day
And you fly with reindeer too,
Bringing gift to girls and boys
Like the Wisemen brought to you.
Daddy said to ask you for things I want
And not be naughty, but nice,
And remember to thank you for all you brought
When I pray and close my eyes.
Sir, I’m not sure what it is you do,
But Mommy always talks to you.
Mom and Dad believe in you 
And they said that I should too.
So, Sir, put in your sleigh some trucks and trains
When from Bethlehem you come.
Dad knows you can do ANYTHING —
‘Cause you brought ME to him and mom.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

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Dear Frazzled Reader,
This is one of my favorite poems.  When we worry about the challenges we will face today or in the future, we assess them based on our own strength, as if God were not in the picture.  The fact is, God shapes and weighs our trials based not on how strong we are alone, but how strong we are leaning on Him.
Lean Hard
Child of My love, lean hard,
And let me feel the pressure of your care;
I know your burden, child. I shaped it;
Balanced it in Mine Own Hand; made no proportion
In its weight to your unaided strength,
For even as I laid it on, I said,
“I will be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden will be Mine, not hers;
So I will keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love.” Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder that upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come:
You are not near enough. I would embrace your care;
So I might feel My child reclining on My breast.
You love Me, I know. So then do not doubt;
But loving Me, lean hard.
From Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman, Edited by Jim Reimann

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Strength for the Day

Last night one of my children woke me up distressed about having a bad dream.  She said it definitely wasn’t from watching “The Predator” at a sleep over the other night.  After sweeping her room of drooling aliens and affirming God was with her, I told her to fix her eyes on the picture of the Virgin Mary in the hallway.  I assured her Mary, mother of all mothers, would watch over her all night because this one was going straight back to bed.  Crawling into sleep-number serenity, I lamented the fact that I’ll never get a good night’s rest. But in the darkness God reminded me I’m very blessed to have her under my roof because in five years she’ll be on her own, learning to deal with adult-sized fears.  
I remembered the sleepless nights when my children were newborns. As they grew, I trudged through days in which my four-and two-year-olds wanted to play cowboys and indians and all I wanted to do was take a nap while my two-week-old slept. I made three meals a day for my Tasmanian devils, wiping up baby food explosions around the high chair after each meal.  I learned that although velcro fasteners on shoes and pants made dressing my toddler easier on a tight schedule, it also made it easier for her to immediately undress herself again and perch proudly in her fuzzy Elmo chair to watch Barney. I was utterly exhausted after baths, teeth brushing and bedtime rituals every night. Despite the overwhelming love I felt, especially when I noticed little toes with remnants of nail polish peeking out from under the covers, it seemed like those long, arduous days would never end.
Likewise, my mother, in her 60’s, weathers long, strenuous weeks helping care for her ailing, elderly parents who need attention 24/7.  She stays overnight with them 5 times a week, barely sleeping on the sofa, because my grandfather, suffering from Alzheimers, roams the house.  Night after night she also monitors the blood sugar of my bed-ridden grandmother, checks her oxygen levels, cleans her up, rolls her over and feeds her, along with a litany of other chores.  The mental and physical stress week after week and the pain of seeing her parents’ health degenerate sap her energy and motivation, but she perseveres.
We all have phases of our lives in which we have no other option than to rely on God for stamina to get through the day.  He is our strength as we struggle up steep mountains and as we descend into the stagnant air of the valleys.  But there is another situation that is even more grueling.  It is when God calls us to trudge along the same dreary path day after monotonous day, laden with responsibilities and seeing no encouragement or hope along the way.   Often the most difficult part of a trial is the extended time frame we must endure.  A short, unpleasant experience is easily borne, but when heartbreak drags on for weeks or years,  our soul loses its strength, as in the case of my mother.  As we toil along the course God has laid out for us, we must keep in constant communication with the One who knows us better than we know ourselves.  He can help us live above our circumstances even when we think we are at the limit of our strength.  We must remember God Himself shaped this difficulty, and even though we strain under the weight of our duties, “we can believe that (these) days... are the most significant we are called upon to live.”  Robert Collyer quoted from Streams in the Desert 
Psalms 71:16  I walk in the strength of the Lord God. God goes before me and makes a way.
     Lord, I can’t go forward without you. I need your supernatural strength and your supernatural love to do this today.  Teach me what you want me to learn through my circumstances and help me to live above them. I know I am in the exact place you want me to be.  Protect me from discouragement and doubt that Satan uses to destroy my faith. I’m thankful that you go before me, making a way in the wilderness that seeks to swallow me up. As I strive to bloom where you’ve planted me, help me every day to see the beautiful ways you show me how precious I am to you.