Learning to Curb my Temper in Motherhood

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old-faithful-2You guys, I struggle with being a grumpy mom. That’s a nice way of saying that I tend to snap quickly and ask questions later when I’m dealing with my children; particularly when I’m tired and/or stressed. So, basically the past 2 years of our lives.

However, I’m taking steps, along with the Spirit’s help, to improve my situation – and my attitude.

Surprisingly, what is helping most is allowing myself to get ANGRY. Yes, really. To find out exactly what I mean, click over to the Better Mom to learn how Getting ANGRY is Helping Curb My Temper.

If you’ve just hopped over here from The Better Mom, welcome! I’m so glad to have you here! I hope you’re grab a cup-o-joe, make yourself at home and look around awhile.

Blessings, friends!

What Anxiety and a Buffalo Taught me About Grace

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It has taken a long time for me to feel comfortable talking about my struggles with anxiety publicly. Who am I kidding, I’m still not comfortable with it, but I believe that what God has taught me and used to encourage me in my journey may just be exactly what you need to hear in this moment. So I am being faithful to share more.

Be Still My SoulThere’s been no diagnosis, no medication. But anxiety has struck nonetheless.

Today, I’m over at The Better Mom talking about a time when panic set in at the most unexpected and inopportune time; and how God is using that experience to let me experience grace in a more tangible way, and hopefully be an encouragement to others.

So, if you struggle with anxiety, or know someone who does, won’t you join me at The Better Mom today?

If you’ve just clicked over from The Better Mom, I just want to say how much I love having you here and sharing this space – and my heart – with you. It is my prayer that you at home here and leave feeling uplifted, encouraged and/or challenged to stretch your faith in some way today. Welcome!

The New Year’s Eve That Changed My Life

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We settled in on the couch next to one another as the TV popped and the VCR whirred into action. My boyfriend had planned a mystery movie he wanted us to watch.

Not mystery in the genre, but mystery in that he wanted it to be a surprise.

We were celebrating our 2nd dating anniversary and the day had already been perfect.

He had taken me to the cinema to see quite possibly the most un-romantic movie known to man – Galaxy Quest.

Then we went and walked around the grocery store to get a few last-minute items needed for the dinner he was making me.

We then returned to our friends’ house where he prepared a grilled steak dinner served by candlelight, complete with sparkling apple cider. In the middle of dinner, he took my hand and looked deeply into my eyes. The soft gleam from the candles added to the sparkle I already saw reflected in his.

He spoke of his undying love for me; he spoke of my beauty; he spoke of how these had been the best two years of his life and he can’t imagine the rest of his life without me.

OH MY GOSH, THIS IS IT!! I thought to myself. He’s going to propose!

After a few more lovely sentiments, he gently kissed the back of my hand and returned to eating his steak.

I was stunned, and tried hard not to be hurt. I forced a smile back on my face and before too long I was back in the celebratory mood.

Then came dessert.

I don’t remember what he served, but I know it was delicious and involved chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Once again, he took both my hands in his and spoke breathtaking words that every woman longs to hear. Once again, my heart beat wildly at the thought that this just might be the moment he asks me to be his wife.

Nope.

He kissed my cheek, finished his dessert and said there was another movie he wanted to watch, but couldn’t tell me what it was.

December 31, 1999 Just hours before my life would change forever in the best possible way.

December 31, 1999 Just hours before my life would change forever in the best possible way.

At this point I had no idea what to think. I figured it was a stupid boy movie like Down Periscope of something of that ilk and he simply didn’t want to hear my protests. So, as we settled onto the couch, I was pleasantly surprised to see the beginning of the movie Hope Floats on the screen.

We watched, snuggled up, and enjoyed finally seeing the movie together, as he had been overseas on a summer exchange when I saw it in the theater.

Just as the movie reached it’s romantic climax when Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. dance to that amazing Garth Brooks song, snow and static suddenly filled the screen.

Before I could turn and ask Seth what was wrong with the tape, suddenly the snow and static cut out and there was Seth on the screen! I sat, dumbfounded, and tried to focus on what he was saying.

He was talking about how he remembered me telling him about how I sat and cried through the whole movie in the cinema because I missed him to much. He talked about how he never wanted to be apart from me again. Then he asked me to turn and face him because he had something very special to give me and something very important to ask me.

I turned and he was already on his knee, ring held up for me to see.

“Jennifer, I love you so much. Will you marry me?”

I believe my exact words were,

OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH!

Seth maintains to this day that I never actually said, “Yes.”

As I sat there, staring at that gorgeous ring, I was full of ideals and how we were going to do this right and convinced that things were only to get better and more romantic from that day forward.

Ah, youthful naiveté.

That was 16 years ago today. Had I known then what I know now…

If I had known about all the moves, all the laughter, all the travel, all the pain and grief…

Without a doubt I would have said yes all over again.

Our marriage has been far from perfect…because we ourselves are far from perfect. But wev’e done a couple of things right: when it’s been hard, when it’s felt impossible, we’ve hung on to one another all the tighter, refusing to see the other as the enemy.

And when it’s been amazing, and unbelievable, when it’s felt humbling to be blessed to do this thing called life together, we’ve hung on to one another all the tighter, recognizing that the sweetness would be pure bitterness without the other by our side.

Seth, it’s been one heckuva crazy ride, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. But I truly, madly, deeply, honestly cannot imagine anyone else I’d rather careen this roller coaster with than you.

You keep me me grounded, you remind me to breathe, you make me laugh and you inspire me to want to be a better person, a better wife, a better mom, a better friend.

I have no doubt that God brought us together and equipped us to sharpen one another through all the amazing crazy.

Thank you for asking me. And I would say yes in a heartbeat anyway of the week and twice on Sunday.

Here’s to another crazy, wild, amazing, adventurous 16 years. May they be even better than the first.

I love you.

Would I Have Really Known? {Thoughts on ‘Mary, Did You Know?’}

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I close my eyes and in an instant I’m back in time. Back to that glider-rocker in the perfect shade of cream to tie the nursery together. Back to when I would sit and rock, absently rubbing my burgeoning belly and treasuring all the precious thoughts I had towards that sweet baby growing and wriggling within.

It was such a sweet time for me, that pregnancy. Not only was it my first, but she was due December 29. I remember finally relating to Mary in a more tangible way, expecting a baby so close to Christmas. I would rock and wonder what it would’ve really been like in her hometown. In her marriage. On the donkey. In the stable.

I sat and wondered if Mary felt a fraction of the fear, excitement and awe that I felt. Or did I even feel a fraction of what she felt?

I knew I was having a baby.

I knew it was a girl.

I knew it would be exhausting. And wonderful.

But, I didn’t really know. I didn’t fully understand.

I couldn’t possibly fully understand, until time and experience allowed me the luxury of understanding.

Photo by Miguel Ugalde

Photo by Miguel Ugalde

I think of the lyrics of the popular Christmas tune, Mary, Did You Know?:

“Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know,
That your baby boy
Has come to make you new?

This child that you delivered,
Will soon delivery you!”

We know from Luke 1 that Mary knew the child she was carrying was God’s Son. She knew there was a greater purpose than she could have ever dreamed for God to find favor in her, and to choose her to be the mother of The Messiah.

Yes, Mary knew that when she “kissed her little baby, [she] kissed the face of God.”

But I have to wonder, did she really know?

Could she have fathomed the depth of what that truly meant?

As she sat on the dirty floor of that filthy, muck-ridden stable, staring into the face of her precious newborn son, did she fully grasp the magnitude of the task that lay before Him? Before her?

I don’t know.

Just like there was no way to fully grasp the beauty, love, greatness and pain of bringing my own firstborn child into this world, I can’t help but think it was the same for her.

Even if she did know – really know – there’s no way in our finite minds and fogged-up hearts to fully know. The Bible also tells us that even though we think we understand the things of God, we only partially understand. It’s like we’re looking through a dim, foggy, mirror – seeing only fragments and distorted images. So it’s only natural that we wonder if it was the same for someone like Mary, whom we hold in very high regard, and tend to put on a spiritual pedestal. Was she able to get it?, we think. Because I certainly struggle with really, truly getting it.

I know there are some who really struggle with the theology behind a song like Mary, Did You Know?. However, here’s what I believe to be the truth:

Mary, Did You Know? is for us, not Mary. It’s to get us to stop, think and ask ourselves – “Wow, do I really grasp this? This is huge!”

The mental image of kissing the very face of God? It’s ironically and simultaneously terrifying and deeply intimate. Moving. Unfathomable.

Yet it’s true: the God of the burning bush, the God of the parted Red Sea, the God who brought countless dead back to life wants intimacy with us. He wants a real, personal, all-the-mess-of-family relationship with us.

And that’s what Mary, Did You Know? does for me.

It brings back the intimacy. It brings back the wonder. And it brings back the reality of just how crazy, how confusing and how miraculous the Christmas season truly is.

Christmas in America (or How Silent Night Makes me Cry)

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You know, it’s funny, this expat life. So much time spent longing for things and people in far off places. And never is that longing so palpable than Christmastime.

When overseas, the heart yearns for family, familiarity and the Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor-esque light displays. You go to great lengths (and financial cost) to procure the specialty import items – like canned pumpkin and chocolate chips – to make the holidays feel more like home.

When in America, the heart and mind swim in aching memory of Viennese Christmas Markets or the quaint-but-charming afternoon spent at the rural Irish Christmas fair complete with Paddy-the-builder playing Santa and enough cups of tea to drown the Pope. You go to great lengths (and financial cost) to procure the specialty import items – like authentic Christmas crackers or that perfect Gulaschsuppe – to make the holidays feel more like home.

Christmas in America

I have decided that Christmas (much like the expat life in general) will simply be a season spent in a constant state of tension. That tenuous balance between remembering the places and people who have so deeply touched your life and growth, and “blooming where you’re planted” and being fully present in whichever home you find yourself this year. I also completely understand that this tension is not limited to the expat lifestyle. But the expat life is what I know; I also remember LPE (Life Pre-Expat) and there is a distinct difference.

Anyway.

One song, for some reason, seems to buoy this tension, this ache, to the surface faster and more often than others. You might guess it to be something that conjures the concept of home like I’ll be Home for Christmas or Home for the Holidays, but no. While those songs stir a sense of nostalgia and longing in their own right, they don’t move the core of my soul.

Only one song does that. Only one carol awakens a deeper part of me that seems lulled during the rest of the year.

Silent Night.

Every time. Every language.

I distinctly remember the very first time I heard Silent Night in Irish Gaelic. It was absolutely mesmerizing. I also remember the year the community choir of which I was a member sang it at a special Christmas program. I stood there in the front row, tears running down my face, unable to sing a single note. The beauty and magnitude of the lyrics had so touched my heart, I was rendered speechless.

I also remember sitting in an overcrowded school auditorium. My precious girls stood among the throng of students, shifting and shuffling in anticipation. Then they began to sing, Stille Nacht – Silent Night in it’s original German. Once again, tears poured, heart pounded and my soul churned deep within me.

Last week, standing in church, the notes began and we all sang together the words of this beloved Christmas Carol. Instantly images flooded my mind. Images of my father-in-law sharing about the history of the song, of my beloved Ireland and the faces from our village singing by candlelight, of the children and teachers we hold so dear lifting their voices in recognition of this holiest of nights when our Savior came into this world. And the tears flowed. It was very nearly body-shaking sobs but I willed the tears to come alone.

Those memories moved me, to be sure. But it goes far deeper than that. You see, with each language in which I hear and understand the lyrics to this song, I gain a deeper, fuller understanding of the gospel. A fuller grasp on just how incredible, how incomprehensible it was that the holy, perfect, Creator of the universe would humble himself so much that he would become a human baby – the most helpless and dependent of creatures.

Just look at the second verse of Silent Night in Irish:

Oíche chiúin,
(quiet night)
Oíche Mhic Dé,
(night of God’s Son)
Aoirí ar dtús chuala ‘n scéal. (Shepherds were the first to hear the story)
Allelúia aingeal ag glaoch. (Angels calling “Alleluia)
Cantain suairc i ngar is i gcéin. (Giving joy near and far)
Críost ar Slánaitheoir Féin. (Christ, our own Savior)
Críost ar Slánaitheoir Féin. (Christ, our own Savior)

It was the last line that sent my heart reeling. To stand there and listen to a hundred people proclaiming Christ as savior, in their heart language, was almost more than I could take in, so great was the beauty of it. The translation I have given of those last two lines doesn’t fully do it’s meaning justice.

It is not just declaring Christ as the savior. It is written in a way that denotes personal possession. It brings an element of intimacy and relationship to the lyrics in a way I hadn’t grasped before.

And isn’t that what our God is? Intimate. Relational.

I may never stop crying when I hear this song, no matter the language – and I pray that I don’t. Because it means there are signs of life in my soul.

We were made to worship, we were created for longing, for beauty, for relationship. And Silent Night reminds my spirit that the only One in which to place those longings without fear of disappointment is this God who took on flesh. He was born, that He might die, that I might live.

This expat life sure brings with it a whole host of random and awkward experiences. But it sure has brought with it something far sweeter – a greater understanding of and closer relationship with Jesus than I could have ever hoped. And I pray it continues to grow sweeter still.

 

What stirs your soul?