When “Some” Becomes “Enough”

A couple of weekends back, my brother and sister in law’s family of six came rumbling up our sun-dappled driveway, camper in tow. Almost as soon as the diesel truck engine killed, three eager bodies bounded out of the back seat, excited to join their cousins in play. Hugs were given, backs were slapped, baby cheeks kissed. And with the first slam of the screen door, the weekend began.

There were giggles and arguments. There were summer suntanned legs jumping circles around the trampoline. There were endless pushes on the swings underneath the maple tree, bodies sailing through the humid August air. There were acts of generosity scattered about like the water cups we left everywhere.

The adults rested best we knew how – simple meals, paper plates, life unscheduled. A beach day. A farm day. A meal out. Ice cream so blue it matched Ellis’s eyes. Late at night after the children were in bed, we sunk into the cushions of my worn-in sectional and had uninterrupted conversation, and it felt like luxury.IMG_20160813_173743967 (1280x720)

I love gatherings. I love the connection that flows through the compilation of people and shared experience. Somehow the hours that pass in the presence of others are like in-season blueberries – they taste sweeter, fuller than than the hours alone.

I also want to be honest. Planning, hosting, or attending gatherings with my four children is work. Capital W. O. R. K. work. Our house is in a constant state of flux. Entering it means the likely chance of sitting on rogue My Little Ponies or stepping on hidden legos that blend in with my rug. The sink is usually full of dishes, the fridge is half empty, and the bathroom never has toilet paper.

On the other hand, leaving home requires half a day’s packing and the Spanish Armada to carry all the bags, clothes, and supplies each child needs (or thinks they need) at this stage of life. Case in point: Sunday, we brought no less than two stuffed horses, one stuffed pig, four My Little Ponies, three miniature backpacks, two packages of kinetic sand, one ziplock bag of wikistix, one car seat carrying one infant, a diaper bag, a purse, and a jumbo pack of gum to a one hour church service.

You see what I’m saying.

Gathering with people in any fashion is suddenly like doing the limbo; it requires lots of “just do it” attitude and a fair amount of back-bending in order to get to the cheering on the other side.

That bugs me. I’m already paranoid that people won’t want to hang out with us because big families of small children are overwhelming. I wonder if my constantly distracted (hey stop eating that) demeanor is making me a bad friend. I worry that even when I try to connect with people, my imperfect efforts are not enough.

The other day, we were driving in the van and listening to an audio book of bible stories. Most of the time, I move all the sound to the back of the van (brilliant feature, Toyota) when the kids are watching a movie or listening to audio books, because let’s be honest. Even if it’s not silence, it’s at least a little bit more quiet, or a chance to catch up on a few phone calls, and every parent needs more of that.

But that day I forgot, and ended up listening along to the tale where Jesus feeds five thousand people. In the story, a huge crowd met up on a hillside to hear Jesus teach, but apparently no one had brought lunch. Clearly not in the days of McDonalds, and nowhere near their own homes, the people were starting to get hungry. So Jesus asked his friends to go find whatever food they could.

Just then, up walks a little boy. He has five loaves of bread and two fish in his lunch. I’m sure he knew it wasn’t enough to feed everyone. He probably questioned if it would be enough to feed himself for the whole day. Here the CD narrator pauses for a moment, and then the little boy’s voice pipes up.

“I have some.”

I’m still driving, but sudden tears blur the edges of my vision. Somehow I’ve stepped into the little boy’s sandals up on that hillside. I look down into his woven basket, taking in the meager amount. I look behind me and see crowd and their need. And then I lock eyes with Jesus, who reminds me of a simple truth.

Even if it doesn’t seem like enough, I always have some.

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image via pexels.com

Some means under-abundance. Some might require me to offer a messy, lived in home in lieu of a sparkling, well-managed house. Some means I usually leave the house with mismatched clothes and one wet wipe left in the diaper bag. Some means that right now, as mama of four, I work hard to do things most people don’t have to think twice about.

But Jesus says none of that matters. He wants my five small loaves and two stinky fish not because they’re enough, but because I’m willing to trust Him to work with the little I have.

Slowly, I’m relearning the value of offering myself within the context of getting together with people. Circumstances and surroundings don’t matter nearly as much as how I listen to and love the other person.

I’m finding that even though it’s work, or that it might be easier to hunker down alone with my kids, I’m blessed by the grace I find in others.

Imagine what could happen if we all pulled the real, crinkly some out of our back pockets. Imagine our personal offerings becoming a collective sum, with all of us feeling whole.

That’s a gathering I’d do almost anything to be a part of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why My Girls Wear Hand-me-downs

Handmedows

You would have sworn it was Christmas. My girls were pulling items out of the box, shrieking in delight. My oldest daughter plastered a shirt against her front. “Isn’t it so cute, mama?” The little ones pulled out book after book, ooo ooo oooing in excitement.

The box didn’t come from an online retailer promoting the latest kid trends and stories. It wasn’t from grandma, and it didn’t contain anything with tags.

It was a cardboard diaper box full of hand-me-downs from a friend.

We are the last in our group of friends to have kids, which means there are three girls older than my daughters who are passing down clothes, toys, and shoes. The items cover each of their little bodies for a season or two, and then time is up. The sleeves are too short. The hems lets cold air reach newly exposed skin. The clothing moves on.

Inevitably, every season my friend Katie gives us a bag or box of things her daughter has outgrown. (I admire/adore her timeliness. Her bags are the only thing that reminds me I should be going through my own girls’ clothes.)

Lucia gets stoked about new books for the library.

Lucia gets stoked about new books for the library.

And every season, I love watching my oldest open the box or bag. She immediately puts on any dresses she finds. She grabs a top and says “hey, that’s Avery’s shirt!” But my favorite part of the whole procedure is the moment when Ellis proclaims, “That was so nice of Avery to share her clothes with me, wasn’t it Mama?”

Something more is happening besides us rounding out our seasonal wardrobes. My daughter is learning the joy of sharing. She’s not thumbing up her nose at clothes with the occasional stain or shoes that are already worn. She simply recognizes that her friend was kind enough to share with her.

Shouldn’t clothing warm us, body and soul?

I get it. My girls are not trend setters. We don’t model the latest fashions in your Instagram feed. And you know what? I’m fine with that. The lifestyle I’m sharing with my kids is one that doesn’t put too much value on what we wear. You know why?

Play clothes actually get dirty at my house. And contrary to Oxiclean’s promise, grass stains and dirt streaks and paint splatters don’t always come out. Eggs get dropped on the way back from the chicken coop. Shoes that aren’t waterproof end up in mud puddles.

But thankfully, I don’t spend my time caring for and worrying over the $38 on-trend sweater that’s now covered in ketchup and apple juice. I do my best to clean what I can, but at the end of the day, there’s no crying over ruined threads.

Kids are messy, and I love letting them embrace that. It means they are exploring. Touching things. Dragging their knees through soft earth, feeling their way into the real world.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the freshness of new clothes as much as the next girl. When my daughters need new things, or a few special occasion outfits, I’m more than happy to oblige. But for the bulk of their wardrobes, hand-me-downs are the perfect fit.

At least for the next six months.

Welcome to the season of giving, when it’s easy to think about stores and shopping and one-click purchases as the answer to every wish. But you know what I’ve been most blessed by? A neighbor who dropped off her son’s outgrown wooden train blocks and a couple of sleds. Or my friends, who’ve shared the clothes and dresses their sweet daughters bounced and danced in. 

Don’t underestimate what you have to give. Offer things your child is done with to a friend, a co-worker, the parents next to you at church, the woman you sit by on the PTO. The worst they can say is no, and the best they can say is a grateful, graceful thanks.

Take Care, Make Care – Part 2: Amber’s thoughts

Take CareHey Everyone! I’m really excited to share this week’s Make Care Take Care guest post from Amber Kuiper over at Mommy’s Me Time. Amber has a great way of encouraging and making me feel really stoked about being a mama (not always an easy task on rough days.) And she’s not just saying it – as mom to a toddler, twins who just turned one, and a baby due in September, she’s in the glorious thick of motherhood – and she’s living and loving it. Here are her thoughts on prioritizing self-care.

Hello Fellow Passengers readers! I’m so excited to have the chance to chat with you today. When Rachel and I randomly met in the bathroom at a mom’s night out a few months ago, I’m pretty sure it was fate. After a few sentences, we learned that we both had a toddler and twin babies at home. Our friendship was a match made in heaven.

One of the things we talked about that night was how wonderful it was to be out of the house BY OURSELVES. We didn’t have to think about high chairs or messy fingers or having to rush home to get them to bed on time. We simply had the night to relax without wearing our mom hats. We could just be us.

I have to admit though, sometimes it can be easy to forget who I really am. I stay at home with my kids who are all two and under, so most of my conversations are about toy airplanes, pooping on the potty and peek-a-boo! My days are spent singing nursery rhymes, pretending I’m Lightning McQueen, and changing endless dirty diapers. When I actually have the opportunity to have an adult conversation it can feel really awkward, unless I’m talking about my kids.

As moms, we give and give and give to our families. We love our kids so much that we’re willing to do whatever it takes for them to be happy and content. When they need us in the middle of the night, we’re there. When they wake up early in the morning, we scoop them up in our arms and cuddle. When they’re hungry, we make sure to fill up their little tummies. From the little things to the big things, we do it all. We provide for their every need. We oftentimes don’t even think about how much of ourselves we’re pouring out because we simply view it as doing what needs to be done.

At some point though, I think we’ve all felt empty. But instead of acknowledging that we need to be filled up, it can be easy to beat ourselves up and feel inadequate. We feel overwhelmed, defeated, and alone. We look around and everyone else seems to be painting a picture of their perfect little lives. We wonder why our life doesn’t feel like that.

The truth is, none of us have a perfect life, and none of us can do it all. We weren’t designed to! Perhaps one of the most important things I’ve learned since becoming a mom is how important it is to humble myself and ask for help. It isn’t easy, because for some reason we think we should be able to do it on our own. But that just isn’t realistic or healthy.

We all need breaks. We need time away from our kids to reflect on who we are. We need to remember what we loved doing before kids, what fills us up and makes us have more love to give to our families.

I love this metaphor:

If you’ve been on an airplane, you likely remember hearing this phrase from the flight crew before take-off.

“Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, stay calm and listen for instructions…Oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat…If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.”

Mommas, we need to be breathing if we want our kids to be breathing. We shouldn’t be grasping for air. When we’re filled up, we’re able to be the best moms we can be and love on them like crazy.

We need to stop making excuses as to why we don’t deserve or need “me time.”

Here are some things that helped me to prioritize self-care. I hope they can be of some help to you, too! You matter, and you deserve to be taken care of.

5 Steps To Prioritizing Self Care

1. Make a list of things that fill you up. Maybe it’s reading, or exercising, or sleeping, or blogging. Maybe it’s something totally different. Whatever it is, you need to pinpoint it.

2. Communicate to your husband, family, or friends that you need a break. And don’t feel ashamed when you do. Ask them to help you make it a priority. They want what’s best for you, but unless you tell them how you’re really doing, they won’t be able to know what you need. Schedule a time for them to watch the kids. Ideally, make it a reoccurring appointment for as often as you think you’ll need it!

3. Follow through. Unless there’s a life threatening emergency, do not postpone your “me time.” You NEED it!

4. Don’t micromanage while you’re gone. Trust your husband to take care of the kids. Or your friend, or your babysitter. Don’t check in a million times. I promise, the kids will be just fine. I know it’s hard to give up control, but it’ll be good for your soul.

5. Don’t return until you are in a better place. Give yourself the time you need. Don’t rush it. When you walk through the doors and pick up your sweethearts, you’ll look at them with new eyes and a new perspective!

IMG_0984 I’m Amber, a 28 year old stay-at-home mom to three sweet kids. I have a two-year-old son, one-year-old twin girls, and we’re expecting Baby #4 in September! God’s grace is the only thing that gets us through each crazy day!
I’m passionate about encouraging moms to prioritize self-care and take time to fill ourselves up by pursuing Christ. When we’re full, we can love on our families like crazy and be the moms we’ve always wanted to be!

Amber blogs at www.mommysmetime.com