Archive of ‘life’ category
Oh hey, February. I see you. I know 2017 is old news and everything, but listen. I’m not ready to move on without first addressing 2016. Because goodNESS it was a year. One of those game-changing, life-rocking years that will not be soon forgotten.
It’s funny, really. Because on January first of 2016, I determined that “rest” would be my one word- my primary mission statement- of the year.
I wrote about longing to do and to be and to be used up by God. I can just sense my passion spilling out onto the keyboard as I typed. And still, I felt as though God was telling me to stop. To wait. To rest in Him.
And so I did. I pulled back and pressed in. I begged Him to reveal Himself to me. And I am here to say, my friends, that those kind of prayers never, ever return void.
Over the past year, God stretched me and pushed me so far outside of my comfort zones that it’s laughable. I’ve found myself on a stage and I’ve found myself overseas and I HAVE FOUND MYSELF INVOLVED IN FREAKING WOMEN’S MINISTRY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
Is it unbiblical to say that God’s surely ROTFL? Because I’m pretty sure that’s precisely what’s happening right about now.
But here’s the thing. This crazy year- all. of. it.- flowed straight out of a deliberate season of rest. I have found that the greatest rest often comes when I’m busy seeking His face. I saw this and lived this close up. And as He taught me His character anew, it’s if He slowly released me out, saying, “Alright, kid. Now go live it. Follow me. Eyes straight ahead. Keep in step with my steps. Just keep doing the next right thing and the next thing after that and just keep stepping and stepping.”
And as I’ve stepped, followed, fallen, and stepped again over the past year, here’s what I’ve learned: Our God is loving, and He is kind. He is quick to forgive and slow to anger. He is righteous and good. But our God is not safe. He doesn’t call us to “be still and know that [He] is God” so that we can sit around and bless our little hearts within the confines of our Christian bubbles. No, that verse that we love to quote? It’s preceded by this:
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling…
‘Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!'”
I mean, just check out that imagery right there. Mountains trembling. Waters roaring. The earth crumbling in.
You see, sometimes it gets messy. Scary. Uncomfortable. Sometimes our footing will get slippery and our ground shaky. Sometimes God will jack up our sense of comfort. Sometimes, he’ll ask if you’ll go, and you’ll say, “well, crap.” Sometimes, you’ll wave your arms around wildly like an obnoxious school kid yelling “me! me! me! pick me!”, and He’ll say, “No, not you. You wait.”
No, God’s not safe. But we’re safe with Him. Because no matter where he sends us or where He keeps us, he has promised His presence. He’ll always be with us- leading, teaching, giving grace for every impossible moment.
2016 taught me that God’s not afraid to get all up in our faces and in our spaces if the end game is our focus and affections ultimately directed toward Him. If experiencing His presence is the ultimate win, then God forbid I get comfy doing this life on my own. Lord, keep launching me into scenarios my stubbornly independent spirit simply cannot handle without you.
Man, I don’t know. I started off 2016 with “rest” as my theme and goal, and God really jacked with my life and heart. In the best way possible. Because, God.
That said, I don’t even know what to think about my goal and theme of 2017:
If assuming a posture of rest got me into THIS much trouble, maybe I’m just asking for it in 2017.
But, God, YES. Interrupt me. May I cling more tightly to Your holy design than my daily agenda. May my days be rearranged at a moment’s notice. May my priorities be realigned. May I pour out from the rest I’ve found in You. Lord, interrupt me.
And all God’s people said… “hang on tight.”
I love summer. I do. The lazier mornings. The looser schedules. Hair that’s turned straight-up crunchy from chlorine. That elusive moment the cry of “I’m booooored” succumbs to creativity and unplugged play.
The other day, I found all three kids outside creating some wobbly structure out of discarded toilet paper rolls. Those moments are pure magic.
Unfortunately, summer also seems to bring out the crazy in me. I mean. I guess fall can bring the crazy out in me in equal measure. As can, oh I don’t know, winter and spring. But SUMMER. I feel all of the pressure to do all of the things. Right now. Really well.
Gotta make those memories! Gotta be a “fun mom”! But just don’t go creating a generation of self-absorbed, all-about-them kids!
Lazy days at the pool! But, oh wait! Don’t forget the chore charts and workbooks pages!
Rest! No, play!
Go! No, stay!
Let ’em be bored! No, give them enriching experiences!
Parenting is hard work, y’all.
And if these intrusive thoughts are not enough to get me all flustered, the steady stream of kid questions and musings stand ready to DO ME IN.
For example. Last week, the kids were watching Planet Earth. Naturally, I was feeling pretty good about my mothering because, while some children were frittering away their hours with Pokemon, mine were learning biology. Ecology. Lots of ologies.
Then, it came. “Mom. What’s SPERM?” she yelled. “Sperm, mom, the SPEEEERRRM. What is that?”
Ohmygosh. So much for education; give me Disney Junior. GIVE ME POKEMON.
Later that day, we found ourselves at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Again, I’m feeling pretty smug at this point, patting myself on the bat for having children who could tiptoe around priceless pieces of art without wreaking complete havoc. Children who were interested enough in the artwork to carefully sound out the descriptions of each painting. (Children who now know that “sperm help make babies.” Because we’re very well-rounded around here.)
We wandered through gallery after gallery. We saw mummies. Ancient artifacts. But there was one burning question of the morning that Mary Grace just needed answered.
“Mom. Mommmm. What’s a…” and she pointed at the word in question. “Virgin,” I whispered. No, mom. Let me read it! And she sounded it out. Carefully. Slowly. Loudly. “Vvvviiiirrrginnn. What’s a VIRGIN?”
Y’all. Art galleries are quiet. Art galleries do not generally seem accustomed to young children. Art galleries can hear everything. So, you can imagine that my daughter’s newfound interest in the immaculate conception felt particularly… deafening.
I’m telling you. Summer is exhausting.
So, we’re on the homestretch. T-29 days to be exact (but who’s counting?) 29 days of fun/games/amusement/excitement. 29 more days of unstructured, lock-’em-outside-until-dinnertime play. 29 more days of crunchy pool hair and popsicle-stained mouths. 29 more days of “mommommommommom” on repeat all the day long. 29 more days ’till my countertops are overrun with backpacks and homework and papers to sign and date and return.
We’ve got this, moms of summer. Let’s finish strong.
Though, if I’m completely honest, yesterday’s question du jour (“How do babies get in mommies’ tummies anyway?”) made me a tiny bit doubtful that I can swing another 29 days of Q&A.
“Well, Mary Grace,” Matt said, “God just puts them there.”
“Ew. That’s SO GROSS,” she yelled.
Summer. It’s winding down. So, may these final days and weeks be filled with equal measures of fun and rest. May the hard days be punctuated with easy, early bedtimes. May the easy days linger on as you enjoy the small things. And may you have the good fortune of evading questions that you’re JUST NOT READY TO ANSWER thankyouverymuch.
Just this morning, I was scrolling through my phone’s photo library when I was struck by a particularly alarming trend: sunrise pictures. Of my children. ON VACATION.
So. Many. Sunrise. Pics.
Hi, my name is Catherine. And I mother children who do not sleep. Sleepless children who also happen to live and breathe the timeless adage, “Go hard or go home.”
And they. went. hard. Per usual.
Flying off docks like crazy people.
Kayaking. Skiing. Tubing.
In the rare moments we were not in the water, we were doing other very crucial things. Crucial things like paying visits to the neighbors’ pigs. As you can clearly see, I do it all for the kids.
So, we swam. We whispered sweet nothings into the ears of giant swine. We painted. We read.
As we were packing up to leave, Mary Grace said, through tears, “I just don’t like the feeling I get when I have to leave a place I really love.”
I nodded. Agreed with her. And we ended up staying an extra day.
Because, the way I see it- if you’re gonna go hard and wake up for seven sunrises, you might as well go even harder and stay for one more.
In the words of the great Celine Dion, it’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to me now.
Why does summer feel so wondrous and yet so… challenging… in the same moment? Why do I feel a constant tension in work versus play? Relaxation versus GoGoGoing?
Because, oh yeah, KIDS. Three kids with three completely different personalities and three wildly varied levels of energy.
We’ve got this:
and we’ve got this:
Fun! And excitement!
And, ladies and gents, dazed and confused and exhausted.
As I said, wondrous + challenging.
But we do the best we can. We live and learn. We rest.
And we go. And go. And we go.
Celine, you are spot on. There are moments of gold. And there are flashes of light.
But then there are those things we’d never do again (but then they’d always seemed right)…
It’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to me now….
This picture was taken exactly one week ago. Last day of school. We were all bursting with enthusiasm and expectations for a summer filled with excitement! Adventure! General merriment and awesomeness for now and evermore. Or. At least, until school was back in session.
Flash forward to two nights ago when I excused myself from the dinner table at 7pm. To go to bed. AT SEVEN PM. Because I was convinced I was dying. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My body hurt. My ears were ringing. I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck. And Matt’s only response was, “Uh, kids. What did you DO to my wife today?”
I woke up the following morning feeling like a new human and mentioned to Matt that I identified with those celebs who wind up “hospitalized for exhaustion.” He looked at me skeptically and was all, “So. You’re calling yourself a movie star?”
NO, husband-of-mine. I’m calling myself exhausted. As in the hospitalized-celebrity brand of exhaustion.
And, looking back on our past week, I just can’t even figure out why.
These little people of mine? They can’t stop, won’t stop. They’re MACHINES, y’all. And maybe they will land me in the hospital after all. (But hospitals have WiFi, right? And cable? And food served to me on little trays? I MEAN…)
So, to all the parents of children on the first days of summer break, I stand in solidarity with you. Dear mom hiding behind her sunglasses as she dozes off while “watching her kids” at the park, I salute you. To those who substitute chlorine for shampoo and lemonade for servings of fruit, keep on keepin’ on.
We can do this. And when we can’t, there’s always Netflix.
Or 7pm bedtimes.
“Hey mom. Do you think you’re gonna pee in your pants when you’re up there talking to those ladies? Cuz, when I’m in front of people, my eyes start watering and I ALWAYS feel like I’m gonna pee.”
Mary Grace always knows exactly how to encourage my soul.
“Man, I hope I don’t pee in my pants,” I responded. “Because this is kind of hard for me! It makes me nervous and doesn’t feel comfortable. But we have a really big God, so we can do hard things.”
We can do hard things.
If we had a family mantra, this would be one of them. Right along with, “FOR THE LOVE. Put the lightsaber DOWN.”
You see, as a mom, I want my kids to see me struggle. I want them to sit at the dinner table and hear their imperfect parents wrestle over decisions, over scripture, over all the things that we just don’t understand. I want them to watch us fail and ask for forgiveness and get right back up.
The last thing I want is for my kids to view their parents as some impenetrable force who has this life all figured out.
I want my kids to see me struggle because I don’t want them to view me as a hero. I want them to see me flounder and push through the hard so that God’s strength can burst through my weakness.
I have heard parents buck against this. They deliberately conceal their weaknesses and failures out of a desire for their children to “feel secure.” In an attempt to reassure their kids that their parents are strong! That they’re able! That WE ARE ALL OKAY!
But the truth is that we are not all okay. And if my kids learn to look to us as the strong ones- as their saviors- well, just go ahead and stamp FAILURE on my forehead. Because my chief goal as mom is to continually, almost-fanatically, train my kids to look to Jesus as the Strong One. As the only One who saves. As the One through whom we do the hard things.
Parents, it is OKAY for your kids to see you struggle and wrestle and question and (gasp) even fail. It’s okay for me to tell my daughter that, “man, I’m not really feeling that brave right now, and I really hope I don’t pee in my pants.” Because this following-Jesus-thing is not always a cakewalk. It’s hard. There’s sacrifice. There’s that whole, “take up your cross, and follow me” deal that Jesus threw out there (Matthew 16:24). Sometimes, following Jesus looks a lot more like battle than anything else. But the best news of all- the news that we better be speaking over our children day in and day out- is that we already know who wins.
So, yes. We, Allisons, can do hard things. We can love others when they’re unlovable. We can go when we want to stay. We can speak up for those who have no voice. We can push past our fears and get up on that dang stage.
We can do hard things. Not because we’re omnipotent, omniscient, fearless little mini-gods. But because we have a Savior who is.
And for the record, that same child- darling little Mary Grace- approached me a few days later and asked, “If I’m a mom one day, will it be a hard thing?” To which I replied, “YEP. It’s amazing and worth it but it is a REALLY HARD THING.”
“Well then,” she said. “I’m not gonna be a mom then. Cuz I do NOT like to do hard things.”
We’re working on it.
The other day, I found myself in the ultimate Circle ‘O Guilt. I had rolled up to my kids’ school, ready to spend the morning helping out at field day. Innocent. Blameless. A+ Mom Status. Or so I thought.
UNTIL. I found myself in The Mom Huddle, and the conversation turned dark. Condemning.
Baby books and scrapbooks.
Y’all. Did you know this is even a thing any more? I CERTAINLY DID NOT. But it is. According my sources, children not only have completed baby books these days, but they still have scrapbooks! With real printed-out PHOTOS that you can touch. Hold. And are not floating out there in some invisible “cloud.”
If that’s you, I offer you a digital pat on the back. I applaud your dedication. When your children are old and grey, they will have real, actual tokens of their childhood to have and to hold. Meanwhile, my kids will be left scrounging through old hard drives. “That old Instagram thing mom used to have.” And this blog.
And, with that, I think we’re due for an Allison Family Update. You’re welcome, children.
Talks like Barbie. Because she’s the third kid and has been allowed access to things I have previously shunned (read: Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse. OMG.), her language is now WAY TOO REMINISCENT of a Barbie clone.
Me: “Hey Elizabeth, go brush your teeth.”
Elizabeth: “Yeah, girl. I’m on it.”
Me: “Elizabeth, wanna go out to lunch?”
Elizabeth: “Right on, girl. I love to chill with you.”
Me: *kisses Matt as he leaves for work*
Elizabeth: “Oh, girl. That’s so romantic.”
THIS IS A VERY REAL PROBLEM, PEOPLE. Elizabeth, I know Barbie is SO RAD and everything, but I’m thinking Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse may have to “disappear” from Netflix for a while. Sorry, girl.
Elizabeth also continues to be a lover of all things sequined, glittery, and bedazzled. As such, Sequined Cat Purse remains front and center in her daily life.
It must be known, however, that her adoration of All Things Fancy does not stop her from getting filthy outside with her siblings. Because, it’s all about balance. Girl.
I found him like this the other night, hours past his bedtime. Squatting on his bathroom counter, book in hand. Needless to say, he’s still a lover of reading. Most recently, he’s been obsessing over the old-school Garfield comic books which he thinks are the FUNNIEST EVER.
He’s had a fantastic year in second grade and has enthusiastically declared it his best year yet. (Why? Because he was allowed to hit up the library every. single. day. Bless.)
When Carson’s not reading (or playing Scrabble. because he’s awesome.), he can be found climbing. Everything.
A few weeks ago, we were at a cookout when we realized Carson had been missing for a while. Within minutes, Matt found him a good THIRTY FEET up in a tree. Like it was no thing. With the other kids assembled below, mouths agape. (As I typed this, it hit me that surely it couldn’t have been thirty feet. Like, 3-0. And so I texted Matt to confirm. His response? “At least.” My response? “Dear Jesus, help me.”)
This kid has slayed kindergarten and has brought laughter to many in the process. There’s been a steady banter going on this year between Mary Grace and her hilariously awesome teacher’s assistant who has dubbed my darling child, “Mary Mary Quite Contrary”. Ahem.
Mary Grace has a quick wit, abounding(!) energy(!), and an uncanny ability to lead others.
She’s a lover of art (her self-portrait makes me smile)…
…and a lover of animals. Bats. Foxes. Earthworms. Lizards. Nasty, screechy rodents. Girl adores all of ’em. Every single creature is the best. ever. Except for her own PET DOG for whom she has zero regard. And perhaps a small bit of disdain. I don’t even know.
When not working and pastoring, Matt plans to spend his summer throwing small children. Into lakes. Pools. Rivers. All the while, his doting wife will cheer from afar and will take photos for her kids’ non-existent scrapbooks and will say encouraging words about his strength and kid-tossing stamina. Because there are books to read. And I ain’t getting in that lake water.
Just hanging on for dear life. Doing what it takes. And not scrapbooking.
The countdown is on, people. The school year is winding down. The summer is ramping up. And we are in the thick of the crazy that is May. That time of year in which we have All of the Things with None of the Energy. It’s a perfect storm.
Which is precisely why I’ve coined a new phrase in our home. May is cray.
Y’all, it just slides effortlessly into so many conversations and situations.
Forget your kid’s school snack? Again? And maybe their lunch too? May is cray. (And for you novice parents, God has graciously provided us with those blessed things called LUNCHABLES for such a time as this. Jehovah Jireh.)
PTA hitting you up for the very last droplets of your blood, sweat, and tears? “Naw, I can’t. May is cray.”
Find your kids snoozing in Amazon boxes? Leave ’em. Because May is cray.
Kids sobbing on the way to school because their new backyard lizard friend has fallen prey to the circle of life? “Cool it, kids. May is cray! Also, take it up with your dad. I told him this was a terrible idea.”
You’ve promised your son ten bucks for hitting a rabbit with their marshmallow shooter just to get him out of the flippin’ house? (And $50 for a bird. And $1,000 for a whale. Don’t judge.) Eh, don’t feel bad. May is cray.
Your six year old daughter comes home with a tiny paper heart and a big grin on her face? Because of a BOY? A six year old BOY giving his heart away to your precious, not-so-innocent, but PRECIOUS DAUGHTER? Deep breaths. May is cray.
Y’all. We’ve got this. We are survivors. We can DO THIS. Just a few more weeks ’till the calm of summer rushes over us, and peace reigns once more.
Ha. HA. Right.
Eight years ago, I jumped into the workforce as a brand new mama. New city, new baby, new career and new master’s degree hot off the press. As a bright eyed, idealistic nurse practitioner out to save the world, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I just wanted to help kids. (Also, I wanted our family to have food and shelter while my husband went to seminary. That was also kind of vital.)
It took approximately zero time for my bright eyes to become glazed over as I realized that working + being a mom + being a wife + being all of the other things was no walk in the park. It was hard. And I felt alone.
So, for years, I whined about it. I complained. I became fixated on all of the stay-at-home moms at church who did it all- who had playdates in the mornings while I worked and who hung out in the evenings when I could hardly function- and I became bitter. My thoughts arced inward, solely focusing on my own sorry self. How I felt. How I was drowning. I felt isolated. Self-centeredness seems to do that to you. Every single time.
Had I been willing to look out rather than constantly gazing within, I would have seen reality. I would have noticed the tribe of women surrounding me navigating careers and motherhood with a whole heck of a lot more grace than I was. I could have listened to their stories, their wisdom.
Or, you know, maybe I would have seen the women drowning right next to me. Flailing their arms. Gasping for a breath. Maybe I could have pointed them to shore on those rare days I could actually catch a glimpse of it. Or at least given them the head nod of solidarity. The look of “Girrrrl, I KNOW. I’m right there with you.”
A few weeks ago, I attended an event at my church that my friend, April, had spent months planning and promoting. They called the event “Women in the Workplace”, and the discussion that followed centered on just that. How do we, as women, navigate careers, families, and church well? What do we do when it feels hard? Is “doing it all” even a thing, or is it some mythical creation of our minds? How does the gospel intersect with our work?
Y’all, it was phenomenal. The wisdom shared from the panel discussion was so rich, and the connections I made that morning were God-appointed. However, you know what was the absolute best? Looking around the room and seeing heads nod. Because, finally, there was a community gathered to acknowledge that, “Man, this is really flippin hard some days. But this is what we’ve learned.”
I came home encouraged. Really encouraged. But I also came home convicted. Really seriously convicted.
Do you know why there were 50+ women at church early on a Saturday morning? Why I was able to be the recipient of such wisdom and experience? Why dozens of women, desperate to live out their faith in their workplaces, nodded their heads in unison as they finally felt heard and understood?
Why? Because my friend felt many of the same things when she jumped into the workforce as a mom and wife. Like me, she thought it was really hard to balance it all. Like me, she felt alone. But UNLIKE me, she did something about it. I moped and complained. She gathered people. I looked within. She looked to others.
This happens all the time, right? We see holes, gaps, and areas of need, and we wait for the fixers and doers to show up.
We hope for a more vibrant women’s ministry.
We wish our kid’s ministry would just offer x, y, and z.
We just don’t understand why our church doesn’t seem to do this or care about that.
But the truth is, while we’re standing around sighing about the problems we see and the change we desire, we don’t even pause to think that WE may very well be the fixer we’re anxiously awaiting. We tap our impatient little feet waiting for someone to hear us out, grab ahold of our passions, and get ‘er done while we refuse to put our own feet to the pavement and start doing it ourselves.
Am I just preaching at myself here?
Whatev. While I’m getting all preachy, I have one final word to all of you church people out there. Heeeey. K, listen. Pastors are great. And they do a lot. I’m married to one- I KNOW. But you wanna know a little secret? They can’t do everything. And for many of them, it’s hard to come to terms with this. So when you approach them with an idea that gets you all fired up with excitement, don’t leave their office in a tizzy if their response is, “That’s awesome! You do it, and we’ll help!” No. Because often, the best leaders are those who empower and equip others to go out and lead well. Be grateful you have such a leader.
So, dear friends, I end with this sage piece of advice: don’t be like me. Don’t be a grump and sit around wishing for things to change. Do something about it. Put in the hard work. The blood, sweat, and tears. Because that’s precisely when the exciting things happen. And it’s where the beauty of the body of Christ, with all of its different pieces and parts and giftings and talents and passions, becomes most evident.
(Plus, no one likes whiners. There’s that, too.)
photo cred: Ashley Gormon
Oh hi, Friday Favorites bandwagon! I’m hopping onboard. Because books! Music! More books! All good things that I’m loving! And things that maybe you should love too.
So, here we go. An unsolicited list of five of my favorite things that you should totally know about.
1.This week’s Archibald Project podcast with Jamie Ivey. If you are considering adoption, you should listen. If you have adopted and you’re feeling a bit like “uhhh what have we gotten ourselves into because this is kinda really HARD,” then you should listen. If you have adopted and things are going along just swimmingly, you should listen. I love Jamie’s transparency and wisdom here.
2. Speaking of adoption, I just read Jillian Lauren’s Everything You Ever Wanted this past month and LOVED. IT. It’s a beautifully written memoir that’s centered around the adoption of her son from Ethiopia. I highly recommend it… particularly for any adoptive parent who’s feeling alone in the world of trauma and attachment issues. Read this, and you’ll find yourself nodding, “amen”ing, and tearing up. Because finally! Someone gets it!
3. Dear fellow book nerds, gather close as I fill you in on one of the best-kept book-lover secrets of our time. I’m not talking Amazon, people. Or Kindles. (Oh my gosh, I don’t even know how you Kindle people do it. Give me PAPER. All paper all day.) Y’all, these are the words you must learn to know and love: INTERLIBRARY LOANS. See if your library does this. Wake County does. And it’s magical. You see, our libraries here are great, but there are always books I want that they don’t have. I’m just greedy, I guess. And since I have real people to feed, I can’t buy every book that makes its way onto my wishlist. But here’s where it gets crazy: my library can borrow these books from other libraries all over our great nation! I just have to hop onto a website, click a few buttons, tell them my every bookish hope and desire, and boom. They ship them to my local library. For free. For me. Life-changing, people. (Also, if this is old news to you, you deserve a pat on the back. And maybe a punch in the arm for not filling me in on the secret earlier.)
Neglecting important things like cooking and homework and clothes for better things like popsicles and bathing suits. The kids have thirtysomething days left of school which is just crazy-town. I’m looking forward to slowing down. Can’t wait for more laze and less hustle. Every year, I think I love summer more. Check back in with me in August though. We’ll reassess then.
5. Pat McGee Band. Y’all. It may be sixteen years old, but this album is the ultimate soundtrack to my spring. Every year. Only to be listened to on the sunniest of days. Windows down. Minivan overflowing with kids and crumbs. Oh wait. But really. It’s Friday. And it’s spring. Listen to this and be very happy. Oh, and while you’re at it, this, too, goes well with spring. Because, Dave Matthews Band. That’s all.