Enough

Enough

My sweet girl and I have a lot in common, but we have one fundamental disagreement every single day: Her hair.

I want to brush her hair, and braid it, and put in the sparkly clips, and then braid it some more, and then maybe add a third braid.

She (begrudgingly) agrees to the brushing, but she must brush it herself. And that’s it. Usually no clips, no braid, no head bands. She likes it down and then she’s off, an independent woman ready to face the day.

I try not to force it – it’s her hair, after all, and this isn’t exactly a safety issue like a seat belt. It’s not worth the inevitable fight. But there is still a part of me that feels the need to brush it just a little more, to suggest one more time that she let me put the clip in, instead of her doing it herself on the back of her head where it clings on by one strand of hair.

It was during one of the “suggestion sessions” that she turned her sweet little face to mine and sighed. “I like it this way, Mommy. I wish you did, too.”

Ouch.

Oops.

Crap.

These were all the thoughts that went through my head as I listened to my five-year-old talk. I realized what I had been doing was not giving helpful ideas, but sending her the message – over and over again – that she could be improved upon, that her beauty was not up to par… that she was not enough.

I didn’t do it on purpose, of course. I would never willingly hurt her that way. But I have a had a lot of practice at it, because I do it to myself all the time.

I am too overweight.

My house is messy.

I am disorganized.

My face is too round.

I don’t have real talent.

I’m not a good mom.

People think I’m weird.

Why do I act so obnoxious?

I talk too much.

I’m not as smart as my friends.

I wish I were taller.

I wish I had more money.

I wish I was a better mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend.

I am not enough.

Through my extensive 3.2 decades of living, I know I am not alone in these feelings. Most women (and probably men, too – shout it out, men; we take all kinds here) struggle with the balance of mom life, wife life, employee life, friend life, and everything in between.

We are told to flatter our features with make up, and we learn that make up is what makes us beautiful. We are reminded that our children need us, and we learn that they will become our sole identity. We are encouraged to keep our homes clean, and we learn that failure to do so makes us a failure, too.

For the record, there is nothing wrong with wearing make up, or raising children, or cleaning your house, or anything else that is a regular part of your life. These things are not inherently bad. But, at least for me, they quickly consume every part of my being, leaving me with the knowledge that, because I can never do every single thing (or anything) in my life perfectly, I am not enough.

I am not enough.

Then I go hang out with friends, and, because I am already prepped to believe the worst of myself, I spend more time analyzing my own words and actions than actually enjoying fellowship with my friends. I talk to my husband with the goal of proving my worth to him, and list out all the ways I have added value to our household. I meet new teachers and coworkers and bosses and pastors with the sole intent of hiding who I really am, so they might be willing to look past all the ways I fail and think well of me anyway.

I am not enough.

It’s not a fun way to live. And, after you live a certain way for a long enough period of time, you start to forget that this idea of not being enough was never true; that it was something of your own creation. You start to believe it, and you can’t remember life before it. You just know it is true.

But it isn’t true.

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

The Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God – in the very image of God Himself. It goes on to remind us that we were carefully and lovingly crafted, each part of us made to glorify God and His wonderful works. A passage in 1 Corinthians reminds us that none of us is identical – we all have different talents and gifts, and the body of Christ is at its best when everyone utilizes their unique attributes. John 3:16 tells us that God loves us – we, who are not enough – so much that He sent His Son to die for us, just so we could be with God in heaven in one day.

Does that sound like someone who is not enough? Or does it sound like we have each been meticulously put together, each with qualities that we may not understand or enjoy but that are an integral part of who we are? How can we possibly improve on the image of God, on the way He has specifically created us? Am I arrogant enough to think I could do better myself?

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean this to sound like I am enough for myself and therefore have no need of a Savior or time in the Bible or wise guidance from leaders. I need Jesus in an increasingly desperate amount of each hour of each day.

And in that knowledge of my need for a Savior, I can also realize that the way I am – the way God Himself created me and the quirks and traits He has given me – is perfectly okay. He is the one who gave me the very qualities that I consider my worst imperfections.

There will always be things we want to improve, and things that we should always strive to do our best in. For instance, I have yet to reach the stage of my life where I feel like I really pray enough every day, and should probably cut back. I should definitely keep feeding the kids. I want to improve the quality of my work in my jobs inside and outside of my home. I do need to eat more healthy food; not because I need to be a certain size, but because I need to take care of the body and life I’ve been given. I will keep seeking ways to walk closer to Jesus and reflect Him back to my community, because that is something I will never be perfect at this side of heaven.

But the times where that voice in my head criticizes my singing during worship, or reminds me of the way I talked too loud at carpool, or pointed out that my van looks like my family has been living in it for a week – those are the times I will remember that God Himself has told me that the way I am is perfectly okay.

I am disorganized – and I’m still enough.

I talk too fast – and I am still enough.

I yelled at my kids – and I talked to them and made it right, and I am still enough.

I am overweight – and I took a step in the right direction to eat a little better today, and I am still enough.

I didn’t finish the laundry – and I am still enough.

I’ll never be a mathematician – and I am still enough.

My face is round – and I am still enough.

I’ll never be a famous singer – and I am still enough.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made – so I am enough.

You are enough, too. If you’re not sure, or if you don’t believe me – look it up for yourself. I didn’t make up those words – they came straight from the Creator. You will mess up, and you will break promises, and cheat on diets, and fight with your spouse, and neglect your home, and slack at your job. You are not perfect – none of us ever will be.

But you are enough.

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Five Years of You

Five Years of You

Dear Jenna,

Happy, happy 5th birthday!

Every year on both of your birthdays, I like to stay up until midnight, so I can sneak a peek at you or Josh right as you are turning another year older. I always look forward to it. But this year, I will admit to being a little less excited about it. Not because I am unhappy it’s your birthday, but because a little part of me is sad to see my smallest baby grow into such a big, wonderful girl.

This year has been amazing for you. The transformations I’ve seen in you have been unbelievable. You learned to swim! That was what we spent most of last summer doing. You went from being too afraid to let go of me in the water with floaties on to pushing me away so you could do it all by yourself.

Doing things by yourself has been a theme for this year. You constantly tell me, “Mom, I got this,” and you do not want any help. That has been another change for you – I remember you coming to me at the beginning of the school year and telling me you couldn’t open your applesauce by yourself. Now, you get mad if I don’t give you a chance to try on your own.

Your confidence, while always one of your strongest qualities, has grown so much this year. You used to shy away from strangers, only talk to one or two friends at school, and hide behind me when someone at church said hello. And that was all okay – I never want you to feel like those were bad things to do! They were great things, because they were you. And now, you are the girl who jumps in front of me to greet people, who introduces yourself to new friends, who has gone from one or two friends to a whole classroom full.

You love babies. You loooooooove babies. And you are so patient with them! You let little cousins and little siblings of friends play with your toys, and you walk with them to get to where they are going, and you laugh and gently tell them no when they go for a fistful of your hair. I love that about you – I love how patient you are, and what a generous spirit you have.

This year, you have also learned a lot about what it means to be a sibling of someone with special needs. Through countless therapy visits, doctors appointments, and one memorable hospital stay for Josh, you have never complained. I want you to know that, even though I don’t always get to spend the time I want to with you, I love you SO much. I love you and Joshua the same, and I wish I could always give both of you 100% of my time. But you are my strong, independent girl, and you give me the time I need to help your brother.

That isn’t to say we don’t get our fair share of play time! You and I have had countless adventures together, mostly in the mornings before school when we play with ponies, build with blocks, or explore in the resource room for craft ideas. We pretended to be invisible ninjas, and got to watch baby chicks grow. At home, we were Barbie sisters, Shopkins pals, and had dozens of “sleepovers” in the middle of the afternoon. You are always up for a new adventure, and your imagination never stops.

Your career goals have changed a little – now you want to be a fancy hair stylist for ballerinas. You will drive a van around to the fanciest places and give ballerinas the fanciest hairdos. You will call your business Orange Grape Clips, and you will also have a fancy dog. Just remember your un-fancy mom during all this, okay? I need help with my hair all the time.

Fancy things are your favorite. You love to come into my room and go through my jewelry box. You always walk away with a prize – a bracelet or necklace that was mine as a kid, and you add it carefully to your own “colleption” of beautiful things that you keep inside your Build-A-Bear wardrobe. You love make up and dresses and picking out your shoes always takes some time – and you never pick the ones I think you will.

You even wore a skirt while you played baseball – it was very “A League Of Their Own,” and you did not care one bit that it might be harder to play in a skirt. Although I don’t know if you were in baseball for the game as much as you were for the accessories… You may not ever want to do it again, but I am proud of you for finishing the season and getting your trophy!

The most exciting thing this year happened just a couple of weeks ago – we were driving Josh to school when you asked if you could pray to become a Christian and follow Jesus forever. I was so, so excited for you, and I love that you were bold enough to ask. Things like that can be hard for you – you don’t always love being the center of attention when you don’t expect it. But you asked and we talked and you prayed and it was wonderful <3

Jenna, these last five years with you have been fantastic. You are funny, and silly, and sweet, and smart. One comment I always get about you is how you are always willing to pitch in to clean up, to help out, or answer a question. You get so much joy from giving others joy. I want to be as generous as you!

You have your moments – we all do :) but even in those moments where your lip is out and your foot is stomped and your arms are crossed, I thank God for those qualities (sometimes it takes me a few hours…), because you have a boldness about you that I want you to always have.

And you are still little in just a few ways – you still use “m” for some “n” sounds, like when you “meed” something to eat. You still add an extra “ed” to things you want to make past-tense, like “fixeded.” You still believe that magic is real and that Rapunzel really did escape her tower and that unicorns live in the woods. You don’t really care if your shoes are on the right feet, and you think glitter is the answer to everything. I am clinging to these little girl qualities about you, because I know you are growing before my eyes.

Happy, happy, happy 5th birthday to the best little girl I will ever know – my Jenna, my Jenner Benner, my Beaner Girl, my Jenster, my baby. You will rock kindergarten – because you got this.

Love you forever – or, as you would say, for 9,000 days – ,

Mommy

On Your Sixth Birthday

On Your Sixth Birthday

Dear Joshua:

Happy birthday! You are SIX years old, which you have been waiting for since the day after you turned five, just about a year ago. Congrats, dude; you made it.

This year has been crazy. So good, and so challenging, and everything in between. You finished preschool! You were named the Class Investigator, because of your never-ending need to ask what that is, who that is, why that looks that way, what that person said, what that person really meant, where you’re going next, and so on for about 80 more questions. It’s funny to see some of the same qualities you had as a baby still come out in you now. When you were about two or so, nearly every picture I took of you was you pointing and saying, “What’s that?”

At the beginning of summer, you participated in your first Try-athlon!! You swam, ran, and biked through a course while we all cheered you on from the sidelines. Your giant Batman bike helmet made it easy to spot you as you biked with your buddy, Ms. Julie, and your gigantic smile helped, too.

Over the summer, you began to learn to swim! Your hard work earned you some goggles – blue, of course; it was that day’s favorite color :) You got to go to Disney World and spend time with Nana and Papa and your aunts and uncles and cousins, and you got super tan. I was a little jealous.

The end of the summer brought the beginning of KINDERGARTEN! Man, that was weird. Kindergarten. My little mini-baby off to kindergarten. I was nervous for you, even though I had met your teacher and knew she was great. I just wanted you to love it, and to make friends, and learn a lot. And you did. You have learned a ton so far this year.

First and foremost – you learned to use the POTTY! YAY. That was a tough skill to learn, because muscle control can be so hard! But you persevered, and you did it, and all the grandparents in the world sent you underwear, and you rocked it. Plus, you look super adorable in Paw Patrol undies with your skinny little legs.

You learned to read! You are chugging right along through new books and words every day. As I sit and write this, we are fresh off a parent-teacher conference where one of your teachers described how quickly you have learned new letter sounds and words. You love to read anything and everything, including stop signs, which is super fun when I am driving. It’s also been fun to watch you sound out words from the closed-captioning on the television – talk about a win-win, am I right? And since you can say your L sounds now, it’s been even more awesome to hear you speak so clearly!

Among one of my personal favorites of the skills you acquired is the ability to dress yourself from head to toe! This one brought us tears and grumpy mornings and days where I decided you would just be naked forever and we could forget the whole thing. But, in the end, you did it. You did it – not me, or Daddy, or the OT. You did it, and you do a great job every morning. You’ve even started to pick out your own clothes – I like the combo shorts/sequin vest from dance class/mismatched socks combo the best, personally.

When I asked you and Jenna what you both wanted to do in the fall for an activity, you were adamant that you needed to play soccer. Not that you wanted to – you needed to. So we signed you up, and watched as you played your heart out every Sunday afternoon in the fall. What I loved about watching you play was that you weren’t always the fastest, or the highest scorer, but you always had the biggest smile. You loved it, and your coach worked to help you be the very best soccer player you could be for every game.

My favorite moment was during the last game, when you were practicing kicking the ball into the net. You were giving it your all, but it was taking you more timed than you wanted. You weren’t giving up, but I could tell you were frustrated. And then your team started to chant your name: Joshua! Joshua! Joshua! over and over again, and you kicked the ball into the net and they celebrated like you’d won the Super Bowl. Their joy and your joy were contagious, and everyone on the sidelines was part of the excitement in that moment. I had worried those other kids would say something mean, even by accident, about the way you moved. Instead, they showed some of the greatest kindness and compassion I’ve ever seen.

You bring that out in people.

More than anything, that’s what has stood out to me this year. Everywhere you go, people genuinely care for you. They celebrate with you, and cry with you, and cheer you on, and pray for you. That’s not because of me, or anything Daddy has done, or because of the way we raised you. It’s just you. You, and your inability to meet a stranger. You, and the smile that I can’t help but recriprocate, even if you are explaing to me why all of your dinosaurs are jammed into the vents. You have a way of making friends everywhere you go, and inspiring people to feel joyful.

It’s been cool to see you develop your relationship with Jesus. You can’t get enough of the Bible stories we read at night, and (surprise), you are full of questions about what you learned in church. It’s so crazy and amazing to watch you grow in this all on your own, eager to learn more and share it with us.

I don’t know what the next year will bring. The end of kindergarten; maybe the end of Special Education classes? Maybe you’ll learn new ways to ask questions, or maybe you’ll finally find all the answers. You’ll grow some more, just like you did this year (34.6 pounds and 3.5 feet tall as of right now!), and you’ll learn so much more, and you’ll keep turning into this big, magnificent kid who loves science and volcanoes and airplanes and fire trucks. Will you still want to be a police officer when you grow up? Will you still pronounce the word “vacation” as “bah-cation,” and still think that’s where Grammy is every time you don’t see her for more than a day? Will you still look forward to Christmas the moment the school year begins? Will you still crawl into my bed at 5:00 in the morning, whispering that you just need a snuggle before you start the day?

Only time will give us the answers to all those questions and so many more. But I do know you’ll keep growing, and learning, and asking, and loving, and smiling, and trying. You will keep reaching people in the special, inimitable way that God created you to do, and still remind me that if I expect you to try, I need to try, too. That we should all strive to be the best versions of ourselves, whatever that looks like.

Happiest of birthdays to you, Joshua, who made me a mom, who gave me my own personal miracle, who tells silly jokes and loves to rake leaves and always want to bake brownies. I love you so much. Here’s to six years of you <3

Love you now and forever,

Mom (you started calling me “Mom” instead of “Mommy” a few weeks ago – why must six be so cruel??)

Southern Society and the Snowfall

Southern Society and the Snowfall

Ah, the last months of winter. AKA the Time The South Might Get Snow. Unless you’re living in a cave somewhere, I assume you have heard that snow is on its way – is already here, in fact, for many people (in states far north of us down here).

As a Southerner, I am not terribly experienced with snow. For years it was promised to me and never arrived, and now I don’t trust like I used to. It cut me deep.

I am, however, very experienced with watching people argue about snow and any kind of inclement weather over social media. It usually follows a pattern:

First, about a week or so before the snow is projected to fall, someone makes a joke about how wintry weather affects the Southerners. Usually this person is either a recent transplant or still lives up north and is observing via Facebook/Twitter/8,000 news reports that occur every ten minutes. Either way, they are typically not from ’round these parts.

It’s usually something like, “Uh-oh – the forecast calls for snow! That means Atlanta will be out of toilet paper and beer in about ten minutes!” They often add an emoticon to show they mean no harm. They will soon learn that no emoticon can save them from their fate.

Immediately you get one native Southerner who a) does not take jokes well and b) is VERY sensitive about our snow needs. This comment usually involves some capital letters, a few exclamation points, and no emoticons. It’s Very Serious:

“Don’t be so cruel. You don’t understand – we don’t have plows/were in a drought for a long time/have little experience with the snow [the excuse tends to vary]. It’s a BIG DEAL, okay?”

Then another native chimes in. This one is eager to prove that, unlike his angry counterpart, he is totally cool with the snow and is just as amused by his friends’ inability to cope. Emoticons come back into play for this one:

“Lol. This is so true. SO true. I was just telling Susan how true this is. We will not be going to the store to buy bread or anything. I mean, if we need it, sure. But not because of the snow. Lol. So funny.”

And then the memes begin.

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Then, if – if – it does, indeed, snow, or sleet, or rain really cold, the comments get a little more…heated.

‘Not From Round These Parts: “Lol, wow. People are freaking out. It’s just snow. But let’s all freak out and leave work early! Silly people. ;)”

Angry Southerner: “YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW, OKAY? IT MIGHT JUST BE ONE INCH BUT WE DON’T EVEN HAVE SNOW TIRES. WE ONLY HAVE THREE PLOWS FOR THE WHOLE STATE. JUST STOP. SO CONDESCENDING.”

Amiable Counterpart Who Wants To Be Cool: “Haha. Soooooooo true. It is a little scary, though, don’t you think? I think you were just joking, anyway. You don’t think we’re silly. I mean, it doesn’t matter; I’m proud of who I am either way. But you were just joking and people got so mad. Lol. Hilarious!”

And so it goes. With each new prediction or instance of wintry weather, the cycle begins anew. Sometimes it is a continuation of previous conversations. Sometimes it’s a poor, clueless fool who really had no idea snow was predicted to fall over the weekend.

And then things get ugly.

People start to turn on each other.

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This is when Not From ‘Round Here and Angry Southerner begin to put it all out on the table. The chilly, snow-covered table. Insults fly, friends are defriended, and passive-aggressive posts like “Guess some people can’t take a joke. SMH.” begin to pop up. Meanwhile, Amiable Counterpart is just doing  a lot of “lol” and “soooooo true.”

It will last until the spring.

And then all will be forgiven; friends will refriend, and the memes will go back to politics, wine, and hilarious Tumblr posts, just as God intended.

Stay warm, friends! Don’t forget to tell us your thoughts about snow on Facebook!

Stop It

Stop It

You’re in the grocery store with your baby. You have made it almost all the way through, and now you just have to grab some ice cream – uh, organic carrots, and you will be done! Your baby is still smiling from her seat in the cart, you have found your last item, and – uh-oh.

You’ve been spotted by someone. She sees you, and she sees your baby in the cart. You try to turn around, but you’re blocked on that side by one of those weird cart things that are used for stocking shelves, and why do you always manage to come on restocking day, anyway? Is there a schedule you can see to help plan your trips? Are they following you? Will they be mad if you take an item off the shelf that they literally just placed there, ever-so-carefully?

You emerge from your restocking reverie to find that the worst has happened – the stranger in the grocery store is now touching your baby.  Sure, she is only touching the baby’s hands – you know, the one place your daughter is certain to immediately stick in her mouth.

“She’s so cute!” the stranger croons, while pulling your baby’s eyelids apart and coughing directly on her iris.

You nod and smile, trying to think of a way out. Short of running this woman over with your cart – which will land you in prison, so try to resist – you have only one defense left: Your words.

But what to say? You don’t want to sound mean, because you know this woman means well. On the other hand, it is FLU SEASON, y’all, and you did not Lysol your entire house and force your family to wash their hands 80 times a day just to be brought down by some lady in the frozen foods section.

I used to struggle with this a lot for my son, but I got a super fun bonus added because he was, at separate times, on oxygen and then in a helmet. Instead of just touching my immuno-compromised baby, I enjoyed strangers asking me all sorts of personal questions, like “What is that giant green tank?” and “What’s wrong with him?” and “Do babies really need helmets?” as if I was teaching him how to rollerblade right there in the pasta aisle.

It’s easy to drink the hater-ade here and talk about how everyone is so dumb and doesn’t understand, as if I have never asked someone a silly question before. But, really, it isn’t about the people – 99% of the time, the people mean well. They just need boundaries.

Which brings us back to the question: What do you say? What do you do? It’s perfectly reasonable to not want someone to touch your baby, but you really don’t want to throw down with Stacy from the produce section just because she sneezed in your child’s ear.

I have given this a lot of thought – too much thought – because I am a people pleaser. I am also someone who has received (and continues to need) a lottttt of grace for things I have said or done, and I want to give that grace back and share the love of Christ. But in the moment, it’s really hard to take someone down the Romans Road when you want to beat them with your loaf of bread for insinuating that something is wrong with your child.

So, in my opinion, you just have to keep it short and simple. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but since I have literally seen two women fight because one of them bumped the other’s cart and didn’t apologize well enough, maybe don’t go the super-aggressive route, either. What you need is a happy face and firm words. It goes like this:

Step 1: Stranger approaches. Stranger reaches hand out.

Step 2: Back up if possible. Block stranger’s hand and find your happy face.

Step 3: Say, “Oh, it’s flu season, sorry.”* Even if it isn’t flu season, just use that line, because the time the stranger realizes it’s July, you are onto….

Step 4: Get the heckola out of there. You don’t need to hit the turbo drive, but it’s a lot harder for someone to touch your kiddo from ten feet away.

Step 5: Don’t forget to go back for your ice cream.

See? Simple, and you have a valid medical reason (at least from October – April) that doesn’t make it personal. And you have ice cream!

*Sometimes, I also say, “Oh, he has been sick recently.” That usually gets people out of there really fast. Sometimes my daughter answers questions for me, and since she is four, she does it with the highest level of disdain in her voice that is possible to be conveyed by a human. Feel free to borrow her.

This next part is just for the strangers in our scenario. Yes, Ethel, I am talking to you – you, who thinks it’s perfectly fine to touch a baby because new moms worry too much about germs and when you were a kid your parents took you to ERs to lick the floor and let you use needles you found under the couch. I get it, girl. Babies are cute. It is not a typical occurrence for you to see a child with a helmet, or using crutches, or flapping their hands. You don’t mean any harm. You just want to visit, or you just have an innocent, curious need to know about this child’s special need.

But, sister, from me to you, heed these words:

Stop it.

Seriously. Stop it. No more touching. Don’t ask weird and very personal medical questions in the middle of the floral department. Approach from a distance, and, by all means, have a conversation! Compliment the heck out of that baby, and tell that parent what a great job they have done. Don’t make jokes about kidnapping, or offer advice. Smile, wave, and move on.

Because while I know you mean well, I also know you’ve been in my shoes before. You know what it is to have young children who you are just trying to keep healthy and happy for the duration of your grocery trip. You raised children, you love children, and you know how hard being a mom is. Bring those memories to the front of your mind with every interaction you have, and remember the days where you just wanted to keep everyone’s snot a regular, clear color, just for one week out of the winter.

When in doubt, consult Bob Newhart.

And then stop it.

Shop on, moms – don’t be afraid to speak up for your kids! And always, always – like for real, always – carry hand sanitizer in your purse.