Saturday, August 24, 2013

Repeat...and repeat again

Sometimes I feel like my daily conversations with my children are really just a tape that keeps repeating, or skipping, over and over.

"Don't fuss at your brother."
"Eat over your plate."
"Go outside and play."
"Put your shoes in your room, not in the middle of the floor."
"Apologize."
"Go to the bathroom."
"Take a bite."
"Flush the toilet."
"Stop whining."
"Because I'm the MOM and I said so, that's why."

These are just a few, obviously, but by the end of any given day, I have been exasperated more than a dozen times because I've had to repeat myself, repeatedly. 

"Are y'all listening to me?" I have been known to ask. "Am I even speaking English?"

To which my kids have been known to reply, "Our ears aren't grown up yet, Mom. We can't always listen." 

I won't shock you with my response to that particular comment, but I can tell you that they get their smart mouth tendencies from their father. I am totally compliant and never, ever smart off about anything. I am also never sarcastic...and I never lie... 

It's so frustrating that, no matter how many times I tell them to flush the toilet more than once in order to avoid clogging it...I end up using the plunger at least once a day.

It drives me crazy that, regardless of how many times I say my bed is OFF LIMITS for wrestling matches, I have to re-make it because the sheets and quilts are twisted into a knotted pile in the floor.

It's terribly annoying to have to remind them, over and over, to brush their teeth and put on deodorant and take a shower. In fact, I recently gave my 11 and 9 year-old an ultimatum. "The two of you are old enough to remember this on your own. I'm not going to remind you anymore. If I ask you if you brushed your teeth, or put on deodorant, and you say no, I'm gonna smack you on top of your forgetful heads to help jog your memory." Confession: I've said that sentence more than once, as well.

In my moments of internal ranting about the injustice of being ignored, or the exhaustion of having to say the same things repeatedly, I am usually seated firmly on my self appointed pedestal. The one where I never have to be reminded of the same thing twice, and I never screw up the same way more than once, and I am always quick to know the right thing and DO it.

But, just yesterday I was in SERIOUS need of a smack on the top of the head about something...and when it came, I was smacked with more than one thought. 

I've heard this before.
I've been here before.
I know this already.

Crap.

I am just like my kids. I have to be constantly monitored, and reminded, and reminded again, and again, and again.

And my Father is repeatedly patient in His reminders.

He smacks me on the top of my head, sure, but always in love, and always because He wants my life to be full, and fully abandoned to Him, and willing to listen and obey His voice, and devoted to reminding others of who He is, and how He loves, and how great His mercy is, and how strong His arms are, and how deep His rivers of grace flow.

I know who He is. 
I know who I am because of Him. 
I know that He is the place I find peace,
and wholeness,
and healing,
and rest,
and love,
and hope,
and comfort,
and strength,
and refuge,
and mercy,
and forgiveness,
and help,
and joy...

But even though I know, I need to be reminded. I've forgotten, and I need a smack in the head to jar my memory. And sometimes, I need to just obey, without understanding, because HE'S THE DAD AND HE SAID SO. Even if I don't know why, I just need to do what He says, and trust Him. 

Because KNOWING is the parent's job. And TRUSTING is the child's job.

So, today, when I am reminding my kids to brush their teeth and put on deodorant for the tenth time this week, I am going to remind myself that I need to spend some time in fellowship with my Father, listening to Him, and focusing on the things I already know.

The things that give life to my soul when it is weary and thirsty and broken and desperate...I know them. They are wrapped up in HIM, and sometimes I forget, and need to be smacked on the head.

I'm very glad He loves me enough to give me that smack, over and over, every time I need it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lessons from a wave

I like to think that I am a person who is easy to please. Simple things give me great pleasure in life, and I am very vocal about my love of them. Ask any of my closest friends, and they will be able to give you a list.

Coffee
Twizzlers
Flowers
Wine
Chocolate
Sweat pants
Bare feet
The beach
A good book
Time with people I love

So, in case you didn't know the quickest way to my heart...now you have a list. My friends know, and they often solidify their place in my life through one of these avenues. In fact, my best friend, Sarah, brought me a goody bag filled with things from this list just a few days ago.

I am currently enjoying ALL of the things on my list, thanks to the above mentioned goody bag, and the wonderful thoughtfulness and love of my husband, Heath.

He brought me to the beach for a week. (insert every single form of smiling emoticon here)

There are sun burnt noses and shoulders, sand is a film on everything, its more surprising to see people wearing shoes than not, towels are hanging over every single chair, every little boy has a tan back and a white backside, and when you inhale, you can smell salt even if you're inside.

Sigh. I'm in heaven.

We spend hours on the shore, piling up seashells, building sandcastles, moving our blanket up the beach when the tide comes in, moving it down the beach as the tide goes out, fishing in the surf, watching dolphins swimming by, rinsing our hands so we can eat a snack, rinsing our snack because it dropped in the sand, applying and reapplying sunblock, body surfing on big waves, and baking in the sun.

Yesterday I was siting in the shallow surf, laughing when the kids got bowled over by a wave, smiling as I watched my husband enjoy some fishing time, soaking up some much needed rays, and in general feeling pretty relaxed.

And then, when I wasn't looking, a much bigger wave than those before it crashed over me. I sputtered and spit out sand and salt. I squealed at the shocking cold, and I scrambled quickly to a safer distance, while my kids took the opportunity to laugh hysterically.

A few minutes later, it happened again. But this time I was glad, because the previous wave had left behind a layer of sand, and the next one, while still cold and shocking and carrying its own sand, washed away what the one before it had deposited on my legs and midsection.

And suddenly, in the midst of the screeching birds, crashing surf, frolicking children, and beating sun, came the whisper of the Creator.

The wave crashes. Its shocking sometimes. It takes your breath away. It messes up what you were doing. You want to run from it.

But.

You are washed by the water.

The pain comes, the tragedy takes you by surprise, the anger batters your heart, the anxiety threatens to choke you, your life is turned upside down, or rearranged, or altered forever, and all you want to do is scramble to safety, out of the way of the stabbing, burning, drowning unexpected.

But the waves also wash you. They peel back the layers of your heart. The "I can handle it myself" bravado is shattered, and underneath, "no one needs to know about that" secrets are exposed, and when the next wave comes, it washes those away. And you are left with two choices: fight the waves (which accomplishes nothing, but will exhaust you in about five seconds) or accept their coming, and embrace their work.

God is so clever, building lessons into all of His creation, and whispering its truth to us. The waves pound the shore, and they wash away sand castles, and steal buckets and flip flops and goggles and shells, and get towels wet that were intended to stay dry.

But they also clean the shore, washing away impurities, and they shape the shore, forming it differently than it was the day before.

The Lord is in the waves. They are His mercy, His blessing, His way of shocking us into hearing Him, and then cleaning away the debris that was unearthed by the shock.

So today, when the tide takes me by surprise, I think I'm going to stay where I am, just for a moment, and listen for what the Creator of the waves wants me to hear.

"Even when the rain falls, even when the flood starts rising, even when the storm comes...I am washed by the water." (song lyrics by Need to Breath)

Friday, August 9, 2013

This changes everything...

Sometimes, I wish there were cameras in my house that could document the events of a single day.

Like when my husband gets home from work and he asks me how my day was, and I make a sound that comes out something like "blecharggrrpllll" ...he looks at me like I'm probably exaggerating, and I wish for just a moment that I could show him a tape to confirm my articulate expression of the craziness.

The other day my youngest son poured himself a drink from a jug in the pantry. It wasn't juice, it wasn't coke, it wasn't water. It was olive oil. When he realized how nasty it tasted, he promptly spit it all over the kitchen floor.

Yesterday I walked into my bathroom and noticed that the toilet had been filled with an entire tube of toothpaste. I still haven't cleaned it up.

While I was taking a shower, the boys used the contents of our fruit bowl as baseballs to toss back and forth through the hall. They aren't very good at catching them, though. Every single apple now has a giant bruise on it, and I'm pretty sure I saw one apple laying underneath the bench in my entry way. It, like the toothpaste in the toilet, is still there.

My bathroom mirror has a half dozen fuzzy spots on it from a child attempting to "clean the mirror for me" ...with hairspray. Its a big mirror, so I just step to the side if I can't see in a certain spot.

There are multiple articles of children's clothing in my backyard, because something about playing outside gives my kids the urge to strip down to...nothing. Eventually I will have to go get the clothes and wash them. Eventually.

The kids took all the cushions off the couch to make a "jumping pit," and then they got distracted by all the stuff they uncovered under the cushions. It was almost snack time anyway, so I wasn't too concerned that they decided to eat the old chips and goldfish and skittles they found.

The boys took a very exciting and creative shower the other day, where they used conditioner to make the whole thing so slippery they could barely stand up.

My oldest son came into my room last night and said "Mom, there's something crunchy in my hair." I examined the spot, then leaned in to smell it...yeah, it smelled like a hot dog with ketchup. We haven't had that for supper in at least a week.

On our way to the grocery store, a child rolled down his window and tossed out a toy...onto the road...as if it was a totally normal thing that he does every day.


Truly, it boggles the mind, this day-to-day life that I have. I am a crazy person most of the time.

In the rare moments, when I am not giving myself a sore throat from shouting over top of the madness, I wonder if it will ever be peaceful, relaxed, and normal in my house. Will I ever go to bed WITHOUT a headache caused from clenching my jaw all day long? Will my house ever be clean for more than 5 minutes? Will we ever have an entire gallon of milk in the refrigerator for more than an hour? Will I ever NOT know the words to every single PBS kids song? When will I be able to stop saying the sentence "Go to the bathroom right now before you pee your pants." ???

Will. There. Ever. Be. Peace?

Yesterday I heard a single sentence that changed everything.

It was during a 5-minute-escape time, where the kids were left to their own devices while I made a reservation online, and during which they rummaged through the contents of a kitchen drawer and had a battle with rolling pins. It was in a blog that I follow occasionally, this sentence, and I was skimming through it, hoping for something to calm my tumultuous emotions.

Because I've been feeling pretty beat up the last few weeks. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Just a general wearing down, curled into a ball so when I get kicked it hurts less, crying for no reason whatsoever, snapping at my husband for stuff he didn't even do, impatient, isolated, hurt, sad...blecharggrrplll.

Then, one sentence.

PEACE IS A PERSON.

Time stood still, I'm telling you. My heart stuttered. My breath hitched.

I've been turning it over in my mind since yesterday, and I won't expound on everything Peace has been saying to me since then, because He will say something different to you, I'm sure. But, suffice it to say, all my searching, and hoping, and clenching my jaw, and yelling till my throat is sore, and STRIVING, is useless. Totally unnescesary, and utterly unsuccessful. I can't create peace in my house.

He's already here.

I just forget to look for Him.

I see the olive oil on the floor, and the toothpaste in the toilet, and the apples covered in bruises.

But I miss Peace. Because when I hear "Mommy, you're so pretty," I am too busy cleaning up to really HEAR Peace speaking to my hurting heart. And when I am asked "Mommy, will you snuggle with me?" I am too overcome with stress to recognize Peace whispering for me to stop for a moment and offer the love to my little ones that is freely given to me.

Peace is a person.
And He's already here.
We just aren't looking in the right places for Him.

Stop.
Take a breath.
Peace.
Is.
Here.

What does it mean to you today?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Gamer

I love to play games.

Not in the bad way you might be thinking. I don't like to manipulate people's emotions, or play pranks, or sit in front of a television or computer with a controller, or any of the other possibilities that spring to mind when the term "playing games" is mentioned.

I'm talking about an old fashioned, requires a card table, needs multiple players and a pen and paper for keeping score, GAME.

I've been an avid gamer since I was a small girl.

I have early memories of Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and Sorry. After that are memories of Clue, where my dad devised a number system for my sister Joy because she wanted to play but couldn't read well enough, and one of my all time favorites, Columbo. (I am betting no one has even heard of that game, but my siblings and I could play it for hours.) Of course there are also the usual suspects; Monopoly, Life, Mouse Trap, Parcheesi, Scrabble, Risk, and Backgammon. And card games; Canasta, Spades, Hearts, Rook, etc. When my dad left for a missions trip to Africa for two weeks, he gave my brother and I each a deck of cards, and told us he wanted us to know how to shuffle by the time he got home. (we were 9 and 7 at the time) We practiced every day, and you better believe we knew how to shuffle when he walked in the door, stinky and tired and bearded, two weeks later.

When my daughter, Faith, was really little, I began passing along my game-love to her. She, I am proud to brag, could independently play Guess Who and Memory as a three year old. And she won with surprising regularity, even when I wasn't LETTING her win. Although, to be honest, I always let my kids win at Memory. Just last year, when Nate and I were playing a round of Memory-Superhero edition, I turned over a card with the Hulk on it, and then missed revealing the match, turning over Wolverine instead, and my sweet son, in his attempt to help me, shook his head and sighed. "Mom, you're not very good at this game. You have to REMEMBER where the other cards are if you want to win." (he was 5 at the time) I wonder how many year it will take him to figure out I was leaving the Hulk match for him to collect because I know Hulk is his favorite.

Faith is now 11, and she can play any game we pull out of our large, full to capacity, game closet. Clay is 9 and he can play almost all of them too. We frequently have "Martin family game night," and its one of our favorite things to do as a family.

You get the picture. I like games.

Its very competitive in our house too. (with three boys (well, four if you count my husband) how could it not be?) Faith is a typical first-born, and always wants to win, because nothing else is PERFECT, and I can hardly fault her for that, since I feel that way too. Although I will say, as a mom, its more important that we have a fun time playing than that I come out the victor...but only when my kids are playing against me. If we are on the same team, I want us to crush the competition, and when its a game with other adults, I definitely want to be the winner. I'm pretty good at games too, if I do say so myself. Not because there is anything special about me, but mostly because I've been playing games for my whole life, and practice makes perfect-ish.

The one person I almost never, ever, win against, is my dad. I don't remember when I was really small, if he 'threw' games for me or not, the way I do with my kids, but I do remember as I got older, knowing from the very beginning that it was a battle for second place on our Bausum family game nights.

He crushed us in Scrabble, and Monopoly, and especially Risk. And in Spades too. He is just good at games, which is partly because he, too, has been playing them his whole life, and partly because he's just really awesome. Somehow we never minded losing to him (well, not too much) because he was always a gracious winner. In fact, I remember one hand of Spades, when I was 11 or 12, where Daddy bid zero, and my brother and I both threw out small cards, causing him to take a trick and thereby lose points. "Man, you set me!" he exclaimed in surprise. Honest-to-goodness, I wanted to take my card back and play something else. He was just so sweet and accepting and not mad at all, and I, suddenly and only for a moment, wanted him to win.

Once, when I had strep throat, Daddy and I played a game of Axis and Allies. (a much more complicated version of Risk, complete with World War 2 war strategies and multiple hours of battling and maneuvering) This particular game is one that my dad excels at. Strategy and clever maneuvering are his forte. He almost always wins, no matter his opponent. In fact, shortly after Heath and I got married, we were playing it one Sunday afternoon, and I couldn't figure out what to do, so I called my dad on the phone (its important to note that I was in Indiana and my dad was in South Carolina at the time). After a few minutes of describing the board to him, he gave me the strategy I needed to eventually win the game. That was the last time Heath permitted me to call my SC home during a game. Anyway, back to the game when I had strep throat, I don't know if the antibiotics gave me extra super-luck, or if my dad was taking it easy on me because I was sick, but I beat him that day. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and that was the very last time I ever played Axis and Allies as an opponent of my father. It was 20 years ago. Might as well end on a high note, right?

By now you are probably wondering what this blog post has to do with anything, and where I am headed with all these game stories.

Last week my dad came over for supper (my mom is out of town) and we decided to play a game afterward. It was me, Daddy, and Heath, and the winner of both games we played was...

ME!

After the first game, my dad shook his head and said, "She thumped us!" And after the second game, he offered me a high five of congratulations. (I may or may not have floated around the house in sheer joy for the rest of the evening. That is how rare it is for me to win a game against him,) He came over for another meal a few days ago, followed by another game. He had never played that one before, and after we taught it to him...he beat us soundly. Sigh.

Winning against my dad is just as great as losing to him, because he's a good sport either way. And this is a lesson I am now attempting to pass along to my kids.

Still waiting for the moral of this story?

There isn't one. I just wanted to have it made public that I beat my dad at a game, TWICE in one night.

And, also, I wanted to say that bonding over a game is way more memorable than lots of other things you could do with your kids. I remember SO many family game nights from my childhood. My siblings and I are still avid gamers, and I wouldn't trade a single moment of Monopoly or Scrabble or Clue, despite the fact that we all lost every single game to my dad...

Playing a game together strengthens your relationships with your kids, or parents, or siblings, or friends, and it makes a great memory, as well as a mediocre blog post.

Challenge for the day: Play a game with someone in your life. Just don't invite my dad if you want to win. Or my daughter, Faith. She is ruthless, no matter how nice she may seem.

I, for one, am planning to lose a few rounds of Superhero Memory after breakfast.

Happy gaming, and not the bad kind!