Thursday, April 16, 2015

Forty Days

My husband grew up Catholic, and he has always followed the Lenten practices leading up to Easter, even though that is not something our church promotes.  When we first started dating, I had a lot of questions about this.  Todd explained to me that it is just a small way to remember the sacrifice that Chriset made for us.  That made a lot of sense to me so I have done it too since we got married.

The first year I decided I would give up chocolate.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that chocolate is the very lifeblood running through my veins so this was a pretty big deal for me.  Right after Lent started, I went to a conference for work.  I don't remember anything about that conference except that they served the biggest, most delicious-looking piece of chocolate cake I have ever set my eyes on.  I can still see that piece of cake in my mind; it makes my mouth water a little when I think about it.  Well, this was most certainly a test, and I was tempted.  VERY TEMPTED.  Someone at the table must have seen the dilemma I was having because they asked me what was wrong.  Their advice was to just eat it anyway because my husband would never know.  Oh, that didn't work for me because I would know.  And, more importantly, God would know that just two days into my promise I gave into temptation.

Later on, when  I was telling Todd the agony I faced in resisting that piece of chocolate cake, he had no sympathy for me at all.  He said, "Jesus gave up his life for you, and you can't give up a piece of chocolate cake?"  OUCH!  That cut right to my heart, and the sacrifice that Jesus made for me has never been more clear.

Over the years, I have given up different things during Lent to help me remember what Jesus did.  What I have found year to year is that no matter what I give up, it is only difficult for about three days.  After that, it does not require all that much effort.  I have also found that what I give up is really only a benefit to me.  It doesn't impact anyone else at all.  (Except the year that I gave up chocolate and caffeine--I am pretty sure that was not beneficial to anyone who had to be near me!)

So this year I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to do something that would benefit other people.  I prayed about it, and I began thinking about how Jesus treated people.  He was loving.  He was kind.  He was encouraging.  And those are all things I would like to be too.

I decided I would do 40 Days of Encouragement.  Each day I took the time to write a simple note to someone in my life. It wasn't lengthy or anything really earth-shattering.  Just a handwritten note that said I appreciate them.

I started by making a list of people that would get a note from me.  Some were family; some from church, and some from work.  A couple were for people who had an impact on me years ago, but haven't had much contact with recently.

It is funny how the Holy Spirit works.  I would often wake up thinking about a particular person, and I would write a note to that person. About half of the people were from the original list I made, and the other half were people I had not thought of on my own.  Some of the ones I wrote to are people  I barely know.

The really cool part of this project was how many times someone came up to me and said, "Thanks.  Your note came at the perfect time.  I really needed that right then."  Well, that is not my timing.  That is all God.  He knew who most needed some encouragement; that did not come from me.

I really enjoyed seeing how my words brought a smile to someone else.  Something I did made a difference to someone else.  That was a big blessing to me.

It really is true that we reap what we sow.  Out of the blue, I received an email from a mom of a student I worked with a few years ago.  She told me her student had just been accepted into National Junior Honor Society, and she attributed a lot of his successes now to the time I had invested in him.  WOW!!!   I was totally blown away.  Not only did she send that to me, but she sent that exact same message to my principal, my assistant principal, and my superintendent.  I was totally and completely humbled and blessed by her taking the time to do that.  And then I got a very similar note from a different parent the next day!  Since neither of these moms were people I had written a note to, that made it even more special.  I have to believe it was a direct outcome of me taking the time to notice other people.

My 40 Days of Encouragement were not terribly difficult to accomplish.  It did not require a huge sacrifice of my time, willpower, or finances.  Some days I forgot to write a note; some days I wrote two or three at once.  But what I learned was the importance of taking time out of my own little world to notice someone around me.  To say thanks.  To say I appreciate you.  That is something I need to do all the time-not just forty days a year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Night to Remember

One day last week I got to spend the whole evening with my girl.  We went to see the movie Cinderella, just the two of us.  We got a giant soda and a huge tub of extra buttery popcorn to share.  (We do love those boys of ours, but they don't enjoy all that drippy, melty goodness like we do so that was an extra special treat.)

During the movie, I enjoyed watching my girl-and just being near her-as much as I enjoyed watching the movie.  Such a curious and wonderful mix of big and little girl all wrapped into one package.

It wasn't very far into the movie at all when she abandoned her own chair to sit in my lap.  Once she had settled in, I was relishing the snuggle time.  I was thinking how one day in the not-too-distant future she won't want to sit on my lap anymore.  Actually, she won't even want to be in the same theater with me--let alone the same chair.  So I was enjoying this "little girl" moment. 

While I was all caught up in this precious one sitting on my lap, the Prince appeared on the screen.  And these are the words that came out of my "little" one's mouth.  "Oh, look at the Prince.  I want to kiss him.  He is hot."    I am not kidding: those were her actual words.  How is it possible that these things actually came out of my six-year-old's mouth?  With the appearance of a man on a horse, my little girl vanished before my eyes and was talking about kissing and hotness.  This was almost too much for this mama to bear.  All I could is shake my head and tell her that sometimes she is just too much for me.  She just giggled.

Later on, Cinderella is about to make her grand entrance into the ballroom.  There she stands in her splendid blue ball gown, and it is marvelous.  Hannah and I were both a little jealous of that dress.   (And I don't even like ruffles and lace and all that girly stuff!). Anyway, Cinderella is showing a fair bit of cleavage as she prepares herself to enter.  Again, my girl floors me with her observation:  "Mom, she has boobs.   No, wait,  I mean, she has cooties."

Cinderella has cooties?  I know what she meant to say, but it amused me a great deal that she got her words all mixed up.  There is that curious mix of big and little girl again.  How can she be all curled up in my lap and be talking about boobs, cooties, and hotness?  The contrast just makes me shake my head in wonder and disbelief.

When we got home, we still had some time before bedtime.  Since the boys were out playing racquetball (having their own time together), I figured she would want to do a craft or paint our nails.  I was even mentally preparing myself for her to paint my nails-something I have a really hard time letting her do.  A control thing, I guess.  Instead of doing either of these things, she asked if we could play Monopoly.  She had never played it before, but she had been wanting to play it for about a week or more.  Another surprise for me...I was not expecting her to choose such a grown up game.  And, for the record, she needed some help counting the money, but she was a total shark otherwise.  (Takes after her dad like that, I do believe!)  We were having a lot of fun playing so I was going to let her keep playing instead of doing our normal bedtime routine.  No, she wanted her regular routine, reading a book together with her on my lap and me rubbing her back and stroking her hair until she falls asleep.  Back to the little girl again...

I was reading a book by Lysa TerKeurst this morning called, Am I Messing Up My Kids?  In there, she was talking about how our children are like rainbows.  Brightly colored gifts from God, but they are fleeting.   This really struck a chord with me.  I don't want to be the kind of mom who one day wakes to finds her kids grown and realizes that I didn't spend enough time with them.  This kind of one-on-one is hard to come by, but I really cherish it.

Every tomorrow brings a little less of my little girl and a little bit more the woman she will someday become.  I have heard many, many people talk about how quickly the kids grow up and leave and how it is important to cherish when they are little.  Honestly, I try to appreciate the current stages and phases that we are in, but some moments are more enjoyable than others.  (The way she sassed me last night, for example...) 

Never before have I experienced that feeling of her growing up right before my eyes.  It was a humbling and eye-opening evening for me.  It was a night that reminded me what a treasure my little girl, blessing and challenges and all. 

A night I always want to remember...