The measuring stick

I cry over the stupidest things sometimes.

Take today, for example, when I left the Y in tears. Why I left the Y in tears requires a tiny bit of backstory.

For the last two weeks, we’ve been focusing on potty training Isabelle. We committed to putting her in underwear as often as possible and dealing with the consequences. She’s been sporadic. Some days, no accidents. Other days, too many to count. Almost always, though, she has an accident when she’s at the Y Kids Korner. She plays with other kids and forgets and Mom and Dad aren’t around to ask her every hour if she needs to sit on the potty.

I thought today was going to be a good day. She pottied before we left the house. She pottied when we got to Kids Korner. I was gone an hour, and when I got back, she had just peed in her pants, and the staff was cleaning it up. The director, very kindly and sweetly, asked if Isabelle could wear training pants when she comes. Totally valid request, right? They’ve got dozens of kids to deal with. I wouldn’t want to be cleaning up pee every day, either. I agreed, but as I changed Isabelle’s clothes, I started to cry.

I felt like I should have known better. That I’d failed at potty training her. That I was stupid because I brought my daughter to group babysitting with no protection from pee accidents. And I was annoyed because this 5-year-old kid, very curious, asked me a ton of questions: What are you getting for her? Does she have to wear Pull-Ups? Why? My brother is 3, too. All while I’m trying to gather Isabelle’s fresh clothes and search for the socks that have fallen to the bottom of the diaper bag. I wanted to say, “Shut up and leave me alone, kid,” but I didn’t think  that would help the situation.

I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. And I was so embarrassed that I knew Corban had a dirty diaper and I didn’t change it on the changing table. I waited till we were outside, in the car, to take care of it.

Driving home, I thought about my reaction. I already feel like I don’t measure up to the other Y moms. I don’t have cute little name-embroidered backpacks for the kids, or matching workout wear for myself. I envy their SUVs (for a moment) when I get into my just plain van. I overheard one mom talking about how she can’t do anything for herself, like brush her teeth in the morning, until the kids go to school. And I thought, “You get to brush your teeth in the morning?”

This is my first go-round with group daycare of any kind, excepting the nursery at church which doesn’t count in my mind, and I fear these inadequacy feelings will only get worse with preschool and school. I have this idea in my head that the other moms will be judging me and my kids every time they see us. Is that a normal feeling or am I just super paranoid?

I know I need a dose of my own medicine. Thanks for identifying with me.

Being a mom is hard. I don’t know why I make it harder by creating this “perfect mom” measuring stick to compare myself with.

On the way home, while I’m sinking into self-pity, trying to hold back the tears so I don’t make Isabelle think I’m upset with her for having an accident, I hear this sweet voice from the back say, “Guess what, Mom?”

“What?” I reply.

“I love you,” she says.

Sometimes I don’t cry when the moment might call for it. But she encouraged me with those three little words.

Later, Isabelle told me tales of another girl in the Kids Korner who was talking about puking in the bathroom.

Perhaps we’re in good company after all.


I am a Mom

I am a Mom.

I can’t always tell you what I did yesterday.

I don’t shower regularly.

I can’t keep a clean house. Or even keep up with the housework.

I can’t stop worrying that something terrible might happen to my kids.

I am a mom.

I lose patience.

I get frustrated. Especially when I have to answer the question, “Why?” for the millionth time.

I wish I could go back to the “before kids” days. Or I look ahead to the empty-nest days.

I beg. I plead. I bribe.

I sneak chocolate during nap time.

I am a mom.

I can’t do all the things I used to do. Like go out to eat whenever I want. Or see a movie. Or stay up as late as I want. Or have a lazy day. Or meet a friend for coffee. Or serve on a committee. Or work full-time. Or dedicate myself to my work.

I am a mom.

But I CAN:

  • name all the characters in my kids’ favorite shows.
  • spot or smell poop from across the room.
  • distract my kids from temper tantrums. I’m becoming a master at this art.
  • juggle, as in do three or four things at one time. But I’m forever dropping the ball on something.
  • use one hand to do things that usually require two.
  • make just about anything into a song if it’ll make my kids smile or giggle.
  • tell stories at a moment’s notice, like in the public restroom where my daughter is potty training while we’re out shopping.
  • read stories for the billionth time.
  • be a doctor, a firefighter, a police officer, a queen, and a cook, all in the course of a day. And be prepared to be any or all of those at the whim of my daughter’s imagination.
  • bargain hunt.
  • survive on only a few hours of sleep, sometimes with coffee, sometimes not.
  • give up chocolate for my baby. (But oh, is that hard.)

I am a mom.

I’m never perfect, but I’m always right. At least that’s what I tell myself when I start to doubt.

I’m not graceful (Is that a Cheeto handprint on my shirt? Did you just wipe snot on my pants?) but hope to be full of grace. At this, too, I fail.

I say, “No” a lot. I worry about the mess. I take life too serious.

But God gives me another day. And He doesn’t give up on me.

I am a mom.

I don’t always love my job, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Why the least childproofed thing in your house might be you

“Mom, let’s play leapfrog.”

An innocent request from the 3-year-old. Unfortunately, she wasn’t talking about any of the technological doodads we have of the same name. Nope. She was talking old-fashioned, jump over each other kind of leapfrog, though I have my suspicions she didn’t really know what she was asking.

We’d just read a book about a frog that plays leapfrog with another frog. Isabelle put “play” and “leapfrog” together and must have thought, “That sounds fun.”

Initially, I resisted. Our house isn’t exactly set up for leapfrog type space. And I was trying to imagine how she would jump over me. I resisted; she persisted. So, I said, “OK,” thinking, what could happen?

Famous. Last. Words.

Isabelle hopped and then crouched down on the ground. I took that as my cue to jump over her. I assumed the leapfrog position with a hand on her back and my legs ready to propel myself up and over. I jumped, and as I did, Isabelle stood up, just as I was descending. The collision forced her face to the floor with a thud I won’t soon forget.

My husband and I quickly checked for blood as Isabelle screamed and cried. We found none. I held her and rocked her, tears streaming down my face as I berated myself for making such a boneheaded decision.

I kept checking her nose, sure it was going to swell to Marcia Brady-broken-nose-by-football proportions. I imagined myself embarrassedly confessing to the doctor that I had broken my daughter’s nose because she wanted to play leapfrog and I was too much of a wimp to say, “No.”

More tears, from both of us. We put a Hello Kitty cold pack on her nose and started playing peek-a-boo with it, laughing and crying at the same time. “I guess we can’t play leapfrog anymore,” Isabelle whimpered through her tears, which for some reason made me laugh and cry all the more.

Meanwhile, our 15-month-old had made a deposit in his diaper that I hadn’t yet taken care of. My husband asked him to go get a diaper and wipes. He obeyed, by wheeling the entire diaper cart to the living room.

Maybe it was the tension of the situation or maybe we’re warped, but suddenly, my husband and I were rolling with laughter at the absurdity of it all.

Isabelle’s nose did NOT turn purple, just a nice shade of I’ve-smacked-my-face-on-the-floor red. (Probably won’t see that in a Crayola box anytime soon.)

Life went on as usual. No harm done.

I’ve heard that the best childproofing is a vigilant parent.

Guess I just proved that I need to find a way to childproof myself.

If you’re happy and you know it …

I’m happy.

And I don’t know what to do about it. Clap my hands? Stomp my feet? Say, “Amen!”? Scratch my belly? — all options offered by the well-known children’s song or my daughter’s Elmo storybook of the same name as the song.

Frankly, I can’t remember ever being this happy, and in a way, it scares me a little.

Weird, huh? I’m afraid to be happy. But I wonder if that’s not a little bit normal. Or maybe I just hope it’s normal.

Honestly, I’m slightly suspicious of happy people — you know, the ones who are happy AND they know it AND their faces really show it. I mean, what are they so happy about anyway? Don’t they watch the news? Don’t they read the paper? Don’t they worry about ANYTHING? Do they ever get tired or cranky or snippy? Are they some kind of superhumans?

I’ve been skeptical, at best, that a person could truly, honestly be happy living in a world of so much pain, suffering and injustice.

Even as a Christian, I’ve been taught that I don’t really NEED to be happy as long as I have the joy of the Lord. Now, I wonder if that’s just an excuse to be miserable in this life yet hopeful about my eternal existence.

Happy is fleeting, I’ve heard; joy is everlasting. Happy is based on circumstances; joy on the unchangeable truths of God’s word. Maybe that’s why I’m scared to be happy — because, in that line of thinking, something could take “happy” away.

Happy people seem to have it all together, and I assume their lives are perfect. My life is far from perfect or even ideal. I wish a whole lot of things were different, but still there’s this deep down, smiling in my heart kind of feeling that won’t go away. My life isn’t perfect, but I don’t want to change it. Things may not happen the way I want them to, but I’m OK with that. Is this really what “happy” feels like?

This happiness has been a recent revelation, but I’ve still been reluctant to share it. I’m afraid people won’t believe me, especially if they know where I’ve been the past six months. But not even that is enough to contain it.

A quick search for the word “happy” in the Bible shows me this:

Psalm 68:3: But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

Proverbs 15:13a: A happy heart makes the face cheerful.

Ecclesiastes 7:14a: When times are good, be happy.

James 5:13b: Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

I’m not about to construct a theology of happy, but I think after reading these verses it’s safe to say that happy is OK with God.

And what to do with happy? Sing and smile, that’s a start. I guess the song’s not far off, after all.

Happy, I’m wondering where you’ve been my whole life. You’re certainly welcome to stay.

Here’s a few of my favorite “happy” songs:

“Oh Happiness” by David Crowder Band

Happy” by Ayiesha Woods

Happy” by Matthew West

The ugly side of church

A radio station in our area is running a promotion called “The Ugly Side of Church.” I heard the advertisement for the first time tonight and, at first, thought, “Wow. What a great idea.” Then I realized it was like “Extreme  Makeover: Church Edition.” The premise is to submit a picture of an ugly room at church and win a chance to have the room made over.

I get it. We’ve been at churches with rooms in dire need of improvement and no resources — manpower or money — to fix them.

But I was more excited when I thought it was a chance for authenticity. A chance to acknowledge that sometimes the church, the Bride of Christ, has some warts.

I don’t want to make this a church-bashing post. I feel like I do that far more than is healthy. Francis Chan, in his book “Forgotten God,” asks this question: “How much do you love the church?” I struggled with that question: do I love the church too much and therefore long to see her be all that she’s destined to be, or do I not love her enough to see past her faults and look at the good she does?

I’m still not sure of the answer.

But I’m tired of putting my best face forward. I’m actually not that good at it. When I’m upset, I have a hard time hiding it, even when I want to. This past week at church, I was tired from the 14-hour day on the road on Saturday, and emotionally drained from a tough but rewarding week with family. Corban was overtired and fussy and hard to put to sleep. I thought I could just get through the day unnoticed. Turns out someone noticed.

How many other Sundays am I struggling with something and able to hide it so that no one notices?

That’s just a start to my ugliness. And I’m just one person in the church. Tell me I’m not the only one who hides behind a made-up mask of perceived perfection.

I have seen the church do beautiful work. I have met her beautiful saints. I see her potential to radiate God’s love in a dark world.

But the truth is, the church DOES have an ugly side, and that too often is what the world sees and remembers.

I was challenged a couple of weeks ago by this quote from our Beth Moore Bible study: “When, because of your faith, your life too becomes perceptibly different; when your reactions are quite opposite to what the situation seems to call for and your activities can no longer be explained in terms of your personality; that is when your neighborhood will sit up and take notice. In the eyes of the world, it is not our relationship with Jesus Christ that counts; it is our resemblance to him!” — “The Queen and I” by Ray Stedman (emphasis mine).

Lately, I’m convicted at how little I resemble Christ to the world. There’s an ugly side to me, and maybe there always will be to some extent, but I’m desperate for God to work in me in such a way that the ugliness diminishes day by day.

We were reminded tonight at Bible study that God makes everything beautiful in its time. That’s true for me and for His church.

Maybe “Extreme Makeover: Church Edition” isn’t such a bad idea after all. But the church needs more than a fresh coat of paint or new carpet. She needs a change of heart, a return to her first love, a revival of the Spirit’s leading.

I don’t know when or how it will happen, but, man, will it be beautiful.

Ugly’s had its day. Time for a facelift.