The balance.

I am doing something this summer that I never thought I would do since moving to our quaint little neighborhood.

I am giving up our pool membership.

{I know, first world problems, right?}

Seriously, it was a big decision to come to.  I’m a water baby.  Since infancy, time in the pool has equated to immense happiness.  I longed for summer and vacations and hotels where hours would be spent in the chlorinated goodness until I was forced to get out.  And when we were looking for our new home and a pool club existed just one block away, the choice to join was easy.

I had a lot of fun the first few summers.  We spent long days sitting by the pool and playing games in it.  We got to know people and enjoyed treats from the snack bar.

Last summer was the first one I ever had to work (in the past I either was a stay-at-home-mom or worked in a school), and even though it was only three days a week for a few hours until early afternoon, I still found myself forced to go just to justify the money we spent on it.  If Goob came to work with me, after he’d want to just stay at home to play because he hadn’t been home all day.  If he was at my mom’s house, I wouldn’t want to leave right away just to go swim.  And then the days I did have off, I felt like we never hung out with anyone or said yes to anything because I wanted to spend the day at the pool.  Then factor in weather and vacation away and it became more of a pressure to get there then fun.  Like, we’d be freezing and we’d still get in if it was the one day we could go that week.

But honestly, it’s more than just feeling it was more of an obligation to go.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading this past year, and with that comes a lot of reflecting.  And I thought, “Man, we spend all this money on this ONE thing.  And we go to this ONE thing all the time.  And there’s so much more of this world to see.”

And thus an idea was birthed in my heart–I may live in New York, but in no way am I a “New Yorker.”  I don’t know the great places to eat or the sights to see and I look at my little boy and I want him to know what is is to walk around and discover the city you live in.

So I dubbed this summer “The Summer of Fun: Exploring NYC One Neighborhood at a Time”.  Uptown, Downtown, I want to have adventures that cost little but can impact much.  I think Goob can learn so much more from this than the triviality of lounging by a pool all day.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m going to swallow all my feelings about germs and make use of the free pools our great city has to offer.  And take advantage to utilize the ones friends of ours are blessed with!  But I want my boy to look back at a summer filled with more important memories.

***

But then things like yesterday happen. And I think to myself as I’m preparing dinner, What am I thinking?  Why WOULDN’T I want to just stay safe and comfy in a pool club that’s a mere block away.  Nothing will happen.

I get nervous.  I get anxious.  And I’m scared while I prepare for the day that such incidents will be more normal.  I worry about being on a subway underground and the very worst happening.  I worry that I will have put my precious boy in that position.

I want to stay safe.  I want to stay close to home.  I want to avoid the what-ifs.

But I pray and I remember that that is no way to live.  First, something could happen even in a pool club.  In walking down the street to that pool club.  In my own home, where I’m naive enough to think everything is safe and okay.

But also–I can’t NOT experience life and all it has to offer because I’m scared of the what-ifs.  Do I never take a subway because I’m afraid?  Do I miss out on “The Summer of Fun” because I’ll feel anxiety boarding a train or walking through a tourist spot.  Do I not take my boy to the top of a building or visit a landmark because of the “what-if?”  No.  No, that’s no way to live.  It’s not living.

***

When the shootings at Newtown happened, I wanted to run to this blog to process the overwhelming feelings that were swirling in me.  I never did because it didn’t feel right to.  I was not affected in the way those families were.  And it didn’t feel right to inject myself into a story that wasn’t about me.

But that’s the balance and beauty of blogging.  Not letting it be about me while I explore the feelings that these events make me feel.  The sadness, the anger–that we have to live in a world of “what-ifs”.  I trust completely in the sovereignty of God and that ALL things are for His glory in a purpose we may not understand on this side of heaven, and it’s STILL hard.  I can’t imagine those who don’t have that faith.  But I digress.  The events of yesterday at the marathon are a reminder of the frailty of life–and that’s why it must be lived.  Lived to its fullest.  No regrets.

Now, there is nothing wrong if I wanted another summer by the pool.  But how many summers in a row can we live in such a bubble?  I want to move past the comfortable, past the what-I-already-know, past the easy.

I want this to be a year of exploring God in a way I’ve never before.  I want to devour more books than I ever have in my life.  I want to meet friends for dinner and not worry if I have the money to.  I want to show my boy all this world has to offer, so that one day he himself will not be content with the comfortable.  And that’s a lesson I can take away from yesterday.  We never know when our time will end.  I want to know I used that time wisely, to the fullest, and to the best of my ability.

***

Man, what a mix of thoughts in this post.  Was it about a pool?  Was it about a tragic event that makes my heart so sad?  I don’t know.  I just know it’s just me putting fingers to a keyboard because in moments like this, it’s a gift that makes sense.

Finding the balance in using this blog to connect to the hearts of others.

Here’s to not being afraid.  To living life.  To using time wisely.

And for me personally, honoring and loving God above all.

47548_427627512186_5290110_nI’ll never forget this photo.  Our first summer at the pool.  All summer, Goob just could not bring himself to jump in.  And then finally, on the last day, he did it.  It was such a reminder of many things.  And today, as I look at this photo, I’m reminded that we have no choice but to jump in feet first into the day ahead of us–not really sure what’s going to happen but trusting the cool blue waters will catch us and buoy us back up.

On being in this together.

I’m typing this as I sit in one of our local McDonald’s.

I used to joke that a place like this is the greatest form of birth control.

The screaming. The running. The children who sneeze and wipe their snot on their hands.

Or as in the case I saw today–on the back of their mom’s jacket without her even noticing.

Beautiful.

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I sit here and observe the other moms, some dads; maybe grandparents. But mostly moms.

I laugh as the mom sitting in the infant-sized play area table next to mine jokes that putting together the Happy Meal toy is equivalent to trying to piece together a science experiment.

Does she notice that our table is free from a meal toy? Yeah, we don’t do those.

See, years ago it’d have been easy for me to turn my nose up at anyone who “wasted” money on such things.

Until I started seeing things differently. Like maybe how that mother could turn up her nose on the fact that my child is chowing down on fries while hers relish the apple slices she’s given them.

That’s the thing I don’t get about parenting and motherhood in particular. We can be very quick to cut another mother down for their choices. We can be a judgmental species. And for what?

The beauty of motherhood is in the common strand we share–we are all trying to do the best we can with our precious treasures.

I see the mom across the way who cranes her neck attentively to follow her child’s every move.

And the ones in a group more engrossed in their own conversations and trusting their children will be okay.

And then there’s me and “science experiment” mom fiddling around on our iPads. You know why? Because for more than 30 second stretches, we can actually breathe and linger in our own thoughts without the constant interruption, beautiful but interruptions none the less, of children who need constant attention when there isn’t a gigantic slide to satisfy their whims.

I see many children running around like it’s the last time they will ever experience such joy again. Some more behaved than others. There’s the older boy throwing a mega-tantrum in the corner. The adventurous child climbing on the structure in all the ways the posted rules clearly tell you not to do.

Their parents are no better than me. Their no choices no less valid. We’ve made good decisions; we’ve made questionable ones. We will continue to make ones that people do not understand.

Guess what? The people don’t have to agree. If I am certain that I am faithfully doing what my heart {and as a Christian, I have to throw in, the word of God} is telling me is the right choice for my child–whether in that moment, that day, that year–I will trust that God knows my intentions. To never harm my child. To give him a life that was lived fully in the best way his momma knew how to provide it.

So, rock on mamas. Feed your kids the genetically modified nuggets {in SEVERE moderation} even though you’d never allow such a thing in your home.  Or don’t ever set foot in a place like McD’s.  That’s okay too.

Don’t yell at them when they jump off the slide.

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Ahem.

Enjoy the moments and encourage the mamas you encounter.

They are trying to make it through, just like you.

May us mamas band together to fulfill the common goal of loving our children fully.

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Just like High School Musical taught us,

we’re all in this together.

***

This post was originally written on Tuesday, April 2–little man’s last day of Spring Break–but published today to link up with:

BetterMondaysLinkup

Five Minute Friday: After.

There’s a scared little girl standing outside the double doors.  She’s standing in a dress that cost but twenty-seven dollars to sew together.  She’s not so little at 23, but in that moment she feels small.

At the end of the aisle is the man who waits for her.  The doors open and she hesitates.  It feels surreal.  Not like it is supposed to be and yet, there is no turning back.  Almost a decade later, she’s glad she did not have a reason to.  She never has.

Romance novels and movies want to talk about the happily ever after.  The scripted endings, with their perfectly tied bows, that hem all the broken parts together.  And the ones that don’t have those make us angry.

It’s not supposed to be that way.

Same for marriage.  The petty arguments, the long days of not speaking to one another; the nights spent falling asleep on the couch when you should have fallen asleep together.

Sometimes, it’s doesn’t feel like living so happily ever after.

And yet, through the tears, you fight your way back to one another.  Sometimes it’s because you remember why you came together in the first place.  And sometimes, simply because you know it’s the right thing to do.

No, it’s not always happy.  But it’s always worth it.

The after can be beautiful.

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***

Link up with Lisa-Jo  here.

On receiving gifts.

I spent a better part of my 33 years wanting.

I am an only child, so growing up I was doted on–both emotionally and with material items.

I did not grow up spoiled by no means, at least in terms of how I acted.  My parents would not have had that.  But I was used to getting the best of everything.  Receiving came naturally.

And don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it.  But you know how sometimes God begins working in you long before he saves you?  Somewhere around age 7, I became keenly aware of how much I had and how little some children did.  I can remember one Christmas in tears that I had a bag full of gifts to open and there were people in the world who would have nothing.

I am glad for that heart of compassion that has grown and is being molded since the Lord chose to save me.  It hasn’t always been there even though I had that pivotal moment in 1987.  The teenage years grabbed the worst parts of me and brought them to life.  I had my moments of kindness and putting others before myself, but they were fleeting.  I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.  When I was on my own and no longer had parents who purchased it all for me, I purchased those things for myself even when I did not have the means at all to do so.  I’m not the kind of girl who gets her hair done or likes name-band handbags (well, actually I like them I just wouldn’t spend crazy money for them!), but I love gadgets and drool over every Apple product that comes on the market and sometimes it’s just wanting to buy a new bedspread for our room or even the desire to want more money to be able to bless others more!  It’s not that these things are bad in and of themselves.  It’s when those desires consume you or when you become bitter about not having those things that it becomes a problem.  It’s sin.  So I’ve had to come a long way to not feel the need to always be in a constant state of want.

But I have come to a place in my life where I never want it to be about me.  I dread receiving gifts because I already have so.much.stuff.  I can feel very guilty to the point of being overwhelmed that I have so many things and there are those who can only dream of having even a roof over their heads.

I try hard to dissuade people from giving me gifts and try to divert the blessing to a more worthwhile cause.  Still, people will often want to bless you personally.  This past birthday I celebrated was no different.

But I realized something this past week that really put a new spin onto receiving a gift and how even something that is just for me can be turned into something even greater.

Every time I use something that someone gave me as a gift, it reminds me of that person.  I’m sure this happens to you.  You may smile and move on.  But to me it’s a reminder to pray for that person.  Seriously, my prayer life has been revolutionized because of this!

DSC05314That beautiful notebook that “D” gave me where I writing the current spiritual journey I am on?  It reminds me to pray for health and for marriage to remain strong and for children who are serving in our military to remain safe from harm.

The adorable mug (and Trader Joe’s Spicy Chai Tea Latte!) “H” gifted me?  It reminds me to pray for a young mother dealing with not ideal circumstances.  It brings me to my knees to pray for healing and help and for husbands who are in leadership and carry a great deal of weight on their shoulders.

The long-admired duvet cover I was able to purchase?  I think of four sweet girls who chipped in to bless me with a gift card where I was able to treat myself to shopping at a store and buy some things for my home I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

And the list goes on.

I do not want to feel guilt when I receive gifts–whether it’s a present, a meal, or a helping hand.  I know the Lord allows us to receive blessings and that’s okay.

I am so glad He brought it to my mind to use these items as a means to remember friends and family that are dearly loved.  This practice has become so routine already that I can look at many things at my home and know instantly who to pray for in that moment.  I no longer have to wander aimlessly in my home seeking things or people to pray about.  It’s all there, right in front of me.

Try this practice and I guarantee you will be blessed.

If you’d like to share in the comments, name a gift you received and how you can pray for the person who gave it to you.

Love and blessings,

Lis.