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The Good and the Hard and The First Three Weeks

There’s something comfortably familiar about opening up my laptop to this blog and banging out some words in the dark and quiet of the early morning. Except that, while it may still be dark as I begin this, it’s certainly far from quiet. Come to find out, it never really is here. I joked the other day that, with the number of dog fights I hear throughout the night, it’s a true wonder that any dogs are left in Malawi. And the birds (OHMYGOSH THE BIRDS). They arise entirely too cheery and chirpy at Way Too Early O’Clock in the morning, and with them, I wake as well.

In concert with the birds, we hear the sounds of Indian music from a yard on one side of us coupled with the upbeat rhythm of African gospel radio on the other, and if you close your eyes and listen even harder, you can pick up on some Ed Sheeran just yards down the street from us at a popular hangout spot. We live on a corner lot here, so there are always people passing by our gate, chatting about life. Or death. Or maybe they’re chatting about the new azungus in town but, hey, we wouldn’t even know because we’ve had a whole seven days of language class thus far.

It’s good finally being here in Malawi. Really good. And it’s been hard. Sometimes, really hard. It’s both/and, and sometimes we don’t even know how we’re feeling except just that. We’re good. And it’s hard.

Today marks three weeks since we left US soil, and it’s been a packed out three weeks of transition and settling. Travel here was remarkably smooth and, dare I say, easy. Landing in Lilongwe with my family and 650+ pounds of luggage was one of the more surreal moments of my life, and it was marked by a sweet welcoming by our team here in town. The days that followed were a blur of learning our city and learning how to grocery shop and learning how to work our house. No really. There’s more to learn that one might think.

For instance, if one happens to want to use a standard two-pronged electric mixer in the three-holed kitchen outlet, one must first gather a small stick from the yard to shove in the third hole while you insert the other two prongs of the mixer into holes #1-2 and JUST LIKE THAT voila. A functioning mixer and guilty conscience from breaking every rule my mother ever gave me about electricity. I DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU GUYS. I just do as I’m told.

Just as we begin to find our footing in one area of life here- for instance, aforementioned sticks-in-outlets- even more questions arise. Everything from, “Is it normal for our kitchen faucet to be producing brown, bubbly water?” (Yes.) to “How can I know that the chicken I’m buying in the grocery store is fresh-ish and safe to consume?” (Jury’s still out.) In short, we have a heckofalot to learn.

Like language. Holy moly. This year, Matt and I will be spending 30-40 hours a week learning Chichewa from a language “nurturer.” Together. We sit through lessons together in the morning and study together in the evening and it’s just all merriment and fun and joyous times together from dawn till dusk with our two very different personalities and two very different learning styles and two very competitive spirits. But it’s good and it’s hard and a mere seven days in, we can totally understand the instructions, “Touch the eyelid of the old man with the bald head who has a baby in a kettle behind the house.” Don’t even ask me how I know these things.

Finally, I know what the masses ACTUALLY care about is, “But how are the kids??” I’m guessing you can guess the answer. It’s been good. Really good. But it’s also been hard. To be perfectly honest, they’re thriving better than I had even expected they would at this point. While their first week of school last week wasn’t entirely drama-free (is life ever drama-free around these parts??), they’re all doing well, enjoying school, and making friends. All three kids are playing basketball this quarter, and Carson has joined chess club… which should surprise exactly no one. They’re well aware of what they’ve left behind, but they’re also readily embracing their new lives, new experiences, and God’s new gifts for them here in Malawi. In short, they’re doing really, really well.

The beauty of all of this is that, while our days are often unpredictable and our feelings can vacillate on a moment-by-moment basis, we’re here serving a God who is far less fickle than our feelings. A God with an affection for us that has never once wavered. And so we’ll live and work here in this new (but not-so-new after all) reality of really good + really hard, resting in the character of the One who has gone before us. Y’all, we relocated from America to the beautiful country of Malawi. Jesus came down from the glories of HEAVEN ABOVE to the brokenness of this jacked-up earth for us. Power outages and brown water may cramp our American style from time to time, but I’m not about to hold that up to the cross thankyouverymuch.

That said, we would love prayers. Specifically…

  • Pray for relationships. It’s hard to be the new kid and to feel “unknown.” Pray for the kids to each make good friends at school and for me and Matt to build relationships quickly.
  • Pray for language. Sweet goodness, there’s so much to learn. Matt and I are both achievers and put too much entirely too much pressure on ourselves, so pray that, YES, we would have the ability to focus and retain a million nouns, verbs, and prepositions a week, but that we would also give ourselves grace throughout the process.
  • Pray for church. For at least the first year, we will be attending a Chichewa-speaking church which can be (and has been) hard for the kids. Pray that we would find the right church home for us for this season and that we would all not only persevere through services that can be long and hot and… not in English… but that God would grow us as well.

We love you guys. We miss you guys. And we cannot WAIT to show you guys our new home here in Malawi someday down the road.

My three-pronged approach to all things Christmas. In pictures.

 

Matt and I have officially enjoyed ten years of marital mostly-bliss…. aaand not nearly that many years of marital Christmas-bliss.  Let me give it to y’all straight: Christmases have not always been completely joyous around here.  Learning how to navigate so many families and people and traditions and OH HEY having a husband in ministry has not always been easy.  But I have to admit- I think we may have hit our stride over the past few years.

As I’ve pondered what we’ve actually done right this go ’round, I’ve arrived at a few thoughts.  Enter The Allisons’ Three-Pronged Approach to All Things Christmas.  Sure, the Christmas lights are down, the halls are un-decked, and we’re nearly a week into January, but WHATEVER.  I’m preparing you in advance for what is to come in eleven months.  You’re so welcome.  Here we go:

1.Don’t go crazy.  There will be many people, things, and events vying for your attention and time.  Do not do them all.  Maybe do half.  For instance, my clan places a high value on driving an hour to the middle of no man’s land to eat pre-packaged corndogs and drive through a field of Christmas lights.  SO WE DID IT.  We said “no” to other things so that we could say “yes” to corndogs and good friends and Christmas lights.  This is how it’s done, people.

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We also said “yes” to waiting an hour to ride a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Wake Forest.  Now, this was only a priority for me.  Every other member of my family whined about the entire experience, but that’s only because they’re a very misled group of people and did not have the Christmas spirit within their souls.  So their opinions were nothing to me.  Remember?  Do not go crazy.

IMG_6248Then, there was Christmas at DPAC.  This is a pretty stellar event/show/service that our church puts on in the days leading up to Christmas.

Now, remember, Matt works at church.  He’s a pastor.  This is kind of what he does.  There is no penciling this into our calendar, but it’s well worth it.  This year, close to 12,000 people attended.   And it was phenomenal, per usual.  If you still need a little Christmas right this very minute- or if you’re just in the mood to hear some insanely-talented musicians at work, watch it here.  It won’t disappoint.

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There was Elizabeth’s preschool Christmas program.  Which just so happened to be the LAST preschool Christmas program we’ll attend as parents.  (Tear.)

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And there was Christmas poker.

You see, all important things.

IMG_6571Moving on.

2. Don’t let your kids go crazy.

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Now, this one is a bit trickier because my children always have a small element of crazy within their compact little bodies.  But we’re talking about the “gimmegimmegimme” brand of crazy here.  This year, I tried to keep those glossy-paged toy catalogs out of their hands and didn’t even bother asking them for detailed Christmas lists.  Why?  Because they would’ve WANTED IT ALL AND MORE.

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Y’all, we’re not scrooges.  We love to give our kids good gifts!  But I’ve also seen their propensity to obsess over their lists of All Things They Must Have, and I just wasn’t feelin that this year.
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Sorry not sorry, kiddos.  I still think you made out just fine.  And look!  You didn’t go crazy!  So, winning!

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(We could only avoid the crazy for so long.  It’s inescapable!  It’s IN THE FAMILY, you guys!)

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3. Keep Jesus first.

I mean, of course this would be on our list.  We are a PASTOR’S FAMILY, people.  I don’t know what you even expect.

Of course we do our Advent readings.  Daily.  With reverence.  Worshipfully.  Kids pleading for “More Bible! Less Minecraft!” and earnestly begging, “tell me more about prophecy and the incarnation, daddy!!”

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Alright, so we tried.

IMG_6290But, hey.  If God came to earth as baby Jesus and was birthed in a dirty stable filled with the cacophony of bleating sheep and mooing cows, I’d like to think He feels right at home in our house of dustballs, far-from-sedate children, and parents aching to see some semblance of peace on earth descend upon their home.  And desperate not to lose their ever-loving minds in the process.

the Allisons vs. Pinterest

I’m pretty sure this dumb box is to blame:

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I brought it home from Michael’s a few weeks ago to house the kids’ school supplies.  Anything to simplify homework time, you know?  Anyway, Matt took one look at my new $4 purchase and acted utterly confused.  “Why would you buy something like this when I could make it?”

Well, my dear husband, allow me to explain.  We Allisons are not box-makers.  We are box-buyers.  That’s why.

But I moved on, completely oblivious to the foreshadowing of this event.  Because flash forward a few weeks.  For some reason or another, I casually showed Matt a picture on Pinterest of something I’ve been eyeing for a few months.  A wood pallet map.  FROM ETSY.  Because remember?  We’re not box-makers.  Which means we are absolutely and positively not wood-pallet-world-map makers.  DUH.

Oh, but no, my friends.  Matt was not convinced.  In fact, it was like something clicked in that cute head of his the moment he caught a glimpse of the map that fateful day.  “We’ll make it!” he said enthusiastically.  “Together!”

Now, people.  I may have mentioned a time or twenty before, but Matt and I are not so much alike.  This truth manifests itself daily, but we’ve learned the dance of give and take.  In this situation, Matt was placing a very high value on the idea of spending time together working toward a common goal.  We’d build something beautiful for our home!  Together!  We’d look back on this project with fond memories for years to come, and we’d live happily ever after.  Meanwhile, I was placing an even higher value on my sanity.  Because I could think of many more experiences I’d rather share as a couple than painting the world.  Like eating burritos together.  Binging on Netflix together.  ALL GOOD THINGS.

This time, however, I gave.  Marriage is hard, y’all, but I’m learning.

You should know better than expecting a DIY tutorial out of this here blog.  Nuh uh.  Not happening.  Because (a) I don’t even know how we pulled it off and (b) it’s too soon.  I just can’t relive it yet.  Or ever.  It took a long time though.  Did you ever KNOW how many islands are in this great world of ours?  A LOT.  And I traced them all.  Three times.  And then, guess what!  I got to PAINT them too!  YES!!

FullSizeRenderAt the end of the day, I love it.  It turned out way better than I thought, and I’m so glad we have it.  BUT (and this is where Matt and I disagree), I’m not convinced that I’d do it again.  It took way too long.  And apparently tracing (again, TIMES THREE) and painting a gigantic world map all day makes me cranky.  Etsy exists for a reason, you guys.  The reason is me.

IMG_6102The good news is that the world map is going to be a permanent fixture in our home forever.  It’s going wherever we go because I WORKED for that thing. And when I gaze at its awesomeness, I will recall so many lovely marital moments.  Magical moments like that time I looked at my beloved and snapped, “How do you expect me to paint the islands of Indonesia with you staring over my shoulder like that????”

IMG_6113Also.  I’ll remember that the next time Matt suggests another “fun experience” to do as a couple, he’s taking me out for burritos instead.

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leader. delegator. or perhaps mini dictator.

She started the kindergarten parent-teacher conference with the obvious: “Mary Grace, well, she has a very strong personality.”  I smiled and nodded in agreement, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Her sweet teacher chuckled as she continued with her take on Mary Grace.

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“All of the children follow your daughter around.  They all want to be where Mary Grace is because she’s always just so confident that she knows what she’s doing.”

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She continued on to use words like “highly self-motivated” and “very social” and “a little talkative” (oh teachers can be so sweet in their wording).  Basically, she’s doing awesome.  I thought.

Until I chatted with the child of interest this morning and learned her latest ploy.  As she dressed, Mary Grace casually mentioned that she has now started recruiting classmates to tie her shoes for her.  Note: this is a skill she is VERY CAPABLE of doing herself.  And still, her friends, her sweet sweet friends who apparently trust her “very confident” leadership, comply.  At the sound of her request (demand? help us, Lord.), they stoop down and tangle their chubby little five year old fingers around my child’s shoelaces.   (“Because my friends just LIKE to do things for me, mooooom!”)

We try very, very hard to understand our children and to raise them in a way that acknowledges and respects their natural tendencies, affections, and bents, pointing them to Christ along the way.  And so, when I heard this latest kindergarten anecdote, I really wanted to characterize it as an excellent use of delegation.  Precocious leadership even.  I really and truly tried.

But then.  I then found myself googling “charismatic dictators” and couldn’t help but wonder.  Did Fidel Castro ever convince his peers to lace up his boots for him?

Parenting is hard, y’all.

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(Sidewalk chalk artwork by Mary Grace.  OF COURSE.)

Carson’s hip hop hobby

It’s no secret that we, Allisons, are lovers of some Christian hip hop.  Many a night, the likes of Lecrae and Shai Linne croon my kids into a sleepful(ish) slumber.  Which may or may not explain the falling-asleep-difficulties they often report.  But WHATEVER because you try to find a lullaby that’s more theologically rich.

This week, Carson’s taken it upon his awesome self to learn to rap.  Yesterday, he came home from school, finished his homework, played some chess, and spent the rest of his evening studying lyrics and teaching himself to rap.  I can’t even handle it.  So, before he makes it big as a child rapper, you can say you knew him first.  You’re welcome.  🙂

Oh, and while I’m at it, how ’bout a flashback to Mary Grace’s rendition of Lecrae’s “Background” circa 2013 (age 3).  I KNOW.

fall, crazytown, and God’s glory

I don’t mean to be a whiner or anything, but it is my humble opinion that I was straight up ROBBED last fall.  I agreed to have my shoulder sliced and diced and put back together, and AUF WIEDERSEHEN FALL!  Just like that, the greatest season of all seasons vanished in a haze of pills and appointments.

Then there was another surgery.  A move.  Leaving my job.  New schools, attachment issues, counseling, sickness, death.  Crazytown, y’all.  Crazy.  Town.

Here’s the thing though.

This year, I’ve been reading through the Bible in a pretty methodical way.  This isn’t the method I’ve historically used to go through scripture, nor does it make me holier than thou.  In fact, if I’m being honest, it has sometimes felt far more laborious than how I’ve done the whole Bible-study-thing in the past.  But I keep chugging along.  Partly because I’m Type A and that’s how we do things.  We’re chuggers.

But mostly it’s because I’ve been completely taken by this thread that weaves through the pages of God’s Word.  This thread that I’ve always known to be there but now, after methodically reading page after sequential page, I have seen in technicolor: God always is, and He never changes.  He’s wholly good and wholly just.  Full of grace and full of truth.  All-powerful, all- knowing, and all-loving.  Over and over and over again.  From Genesis to Revelation and from birth to death.  God has been and was and will be forever and always.

Man, this gives me hope.  Coming out of a season of change and hard and “I just can’t”s, this is exactly what my soul has needed to hear.  That, even when life gets CRAY, He is.

And when life feels easy?  When we, requisite pumpkin spice latte in hand, gasp at the beauty and glory of fall?  When things make sense and things feel right, He still is.

God’s character is not contingent on our belief.  His glory does not depend on the praise we offer Him.  His goodness doesn’t falter when we, His beloved creation, screw up again and again.

This fall, we’ve seen dark days and we’ve seen beauty.  There’s been tons of laughter, and there have been stomping feet and shaking fists.  We’ve known bitter one day and sweet the next.  I’ve come to realize that this is just how life goes.  I’m learning that, when Paul (in Romans 11:36) said, “from him and through him and to him are all things,” he wasn’t just talking about the good things, nor was he referring only to the pumpkin spice latte days and Instagram-worthy moments.  Negative.

ALL things are from him.  ALL things are through him.  ALL things are to him.  And all of it, every last beautiful and messy moment, points to His glory.  Whether or not we’re feeling it or seeing it or talking about it, it’s there.  His glory.

(For the record, I’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte day.  Because I’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte.  I don’t even know what this says about me.)

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the beginning (and end) of my career as food blogger

In this life, there are people who really, really excel in the culinary arts.  People who use ingredients that have names I can’t pronounce and MAKE THINGS with them!  Real edible things!

In this life, there are also people who have a gift for baking birthday cakes so beautiful and ornate that I shed a tear or two when they’re cut and handed off to grimy little preschooler hands.

And in this life, there are people who, well, THEY TRY HARD, YOU GUYS!  But then they go one tiny step further and decided that hey! while I’m ahead (or not), let’s just pretend to be a food blogger! and post less-than-mediocre iPhone pics! of food!  Because if a Purple Bug/Lemur/Anteater Cake isn’t something to pin*, than what the heck is?  IMG_5369

(*Dear grandparents and other blissfully-Pinterest-unaware blog readers, “pinning” refers to the act in which one saves a lovely, possibly photoshopped, picture of something of interest onto an online gathering place of overachievers and wannabes. Said item of interest typically is coupled with a caption so promising that one cannot resist. Because when you stumble upon “CRACK KALE! Just like crack, once you start, YOU WILL NEVER STOP AGAIN!!!”, there is really only one option, now, isn’t there?  You pin it.  Which, in case you’re wondering, is pretty much the equivalent of actually serving the wholesome vitamin-rich kale to your family.  Without the hassle and everything.  Because who needs another addiction anyway?  Let’s continue.)

IMG_5423Okay.  So, while it may be hard to believe, I must confess that I am not known for my cake decorating skills. This particular cake materialized after Mary Grace scrounged up some of her favorite plastic animals from random corners of the house, dumped them on the kitchen table, and asked for them to be transformed into a cake.

IMG_5332I know you’re salivating.  It’s okay, there’s more.  Because this was just ONE cake of her sixth birthday extravaganza.  (Welcome to America, the land of excess.  And apparently very “creative” celebratory desserts.)  When my parents came to visit a few days earlier, the Birthday Princess Entomologist requested a dirt cake with “gummy everything”.  And that’s precisely what she got: gummy frogs, gummy worms, gummy bears, and gummy eggs.  With a side of dirt cake.

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Moving on.  Onto bigger things. Things with masa!  And corn husks!  And lard!  Actually, no.  No lard.  Hang with me.

After all of the edible dirt had been consumed and the last bit of Bug/Lemur/Anteater cake had been polished off, something got into me.  It started as a nagging sense of loss- specifically, the loss of a reliable source of homemade tamales.  Because, prior to our move, at least once a week, the mom of one of my patients would roll up in our parking lot at work with her trunk overflowing with tamales.  Tortas.  Plastic cups of fruit doused with chili powder.  As the ancient adage goes, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”… my tamales were gone!  And I needed more!

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So I got to work.  For hours.  HOURS.  I purchased real corn husks.  I boiled dried chilies. I made my own masa dough!  But there was one small hiccup in my master plan- every recipe I came across called for lard.  Uh, no thanks.  Full disclosure: I do not know know what lard actually is, nor was I prepared to find out.  Because, the word.  In my brain, it falls into the same category as the “m” word (hint: starts with “m” and rhymes with “hoist”).  In my humble, slightly immature opinion, it just seems like the world would be better without it.

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So I powered through, creating my own definitely-not-authentic substitutes here and there, and so many hours later, these found their way onto the dinner table.  And do you even know what they tasted like?  You guessed it!  Or maybe you are lover of lard and completely doubted me from the get-go.  In which case, I don’t really blame you at all. Regardless, they tasted like tamales.  I made tamales!

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And, though I’m sure the internet world is in dire need of more subpar pictures of haphazard birthday cakes and inauthentic (but delicious!) Mexican cuisine, I have officially decided to leave my career as a food blogger on a high note.  Effective immediately.

(Until the day I decide to get really loco and make homemade Salvadorian pupusas.  Which don’t call for any lard.  So, maybe next week?)

dear Anmama, we’re gonna be okay.

IMG_1287Matt’s sweet, sweet grandmother, “Anmama”, passed away early Saturday morning.  A definite matriarch of the family, Anmama loved her tribe something fierce, and a void has been left in the lives of all who knew her.

Anmama and Carson

Really, it bears repeating: Anmama (known in some other circles as Faye Allison) loved. her. people.  Like, nothing in the world made her happier than when the entire family was sitting together in her living room- chatting, snoozing in the recliner, and stealthily ransacking her bowls filled with butterscotch candies.  (Guilty.  Of the butterscotch-ransacking.)

Actually, I take that back.  Nothing made her happier than a house full of WELL-FED family.  We’re talking, beyond the point of full.  (Ideally full of something other than butterscotches.)  Feeding others was her love language.  In some of her final words to Matt last week, Anmama pleaded with Matt to get himself some chicken salad.  This was so typical that we just had to laugh. She knew how much I love and crave Bullock’s brunswick stew and somehow always had some on hand when I came over.  If I didn’t eat seconds, I was hurting her heart… so, naturally, I always obliged.  Happily.

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Anmama was the beloved wife to Pop (aka Fred), and I have loved watching the sweetness of their marriage over the years.  They were united on so many fronts: their love of Jesus… their love of family… the Duke Blue Devils.  Anmama worked for Duke for many years and was a fiercely loyal Blue Devil.  Duke games provoked just too much anxiety to handle- over and over again, she’d have to step out of the room to remove herself from the stress.  Obviously, that Duke love runs deep.

There is so much that will be missed about Anmama.  I’ll miss the important life skills she passed on to me.  Skills like how to properly tie the bow on the back of a little girl dress so that it doesn’t get all sideways and wonky.  I’ll miss how she never (ever!) allowed us to exit her house without something in hand, be it a can of corn, a cantaloupe, or half a bushel of sweet potatoes.  (All of those scenarios happened.  Probably on multiple occasions.)  I’ll miss her smile and her spunk and the love she exuded to everyone around her.

From its very conception, Anmama was always one of the biggest fans of my blog.  I can’t tell you how many calls I received from her that went something like this (insert a strong North Carolinian southern drawl as you read):

“Catherine?  Hey, it’s Anmama.  Look.  I’ve been checking your blog and you haven’t posted anything recently, and I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.  You know, I get worried about y’all…”

So, Anmama, this one’s for you.  A new blog post, just for you.  Because we’re gonna be okay.  We’re all going to miss you like crazy, but we’re going to be okay.

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MG is six!

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OMG.

(Oh, Mary Grace.)

You’re six!  Just last night, your daddy was tucking you in for the last time as a five year old and informed you that you’re growing up just too fast.  That there was surely no way you could be six today.  You responded, ‘Well, dad.  At least I can’t even fit in size 5 pants yet!”

Which, okay, is true.  You’re tiny.  But anyone who has known you for more than 60 seconds can attest to the fact that your physical stature is in no way a reflection of your personality.  It’s LARGE.  And your voice?  LOUD.  Size 5 pants or not, you make your mark on wherever you go.

IMG_5201You’re completely obsessed with animals these days- the fiercer and slimier the better.  Unless we’re talking about your OWN PET DOG.  You sweet talk giant beetles and, in the next breath, act like docile little Lucy is your arch nemesis.  I don’t even know.  Your days are spent pretending to be whatever creature you have last learned about.  Last week, you busted up your face on the school playground.  Apparently, you were sprinting after your friends like a cheetah and ran straight into a safety sign.  Typical.

IMG_5079Mary Grace, you’re enthusiastic and passionate.  When you set your mind to something, good gracious, you’re gonna do it.  Just this summer, you learned how to ride a bike without training wheels.  Oh, but just ditching the training wheels didn’t cut it for you- we have since found you trying to teach yourself how to ride without hands.  Or feet.  How we made it through the summer without an ER visit was truly a miracle from the heavens above.

IMG_4917You love art and could draw all day long.  Wild Kratts is your favorite show, and you’re currently completely enamored with those old-school Little Miss and Mr. Men books.  Buffalo Wild Wings is your favorite restaurant, and this makes your dad just. so. happy.  When you grow up, you want to be a zookeeper, an artist, a pirate, or the “first girl president”.

IMG_4051As I watch you grow up, Mary Grace, I continue to be amazed at how comfortable you are in your own skin.  Without looking to the left and the right, you keep staying your course.  Doing your thing.  Confidently living life big and loving others hard.

I’m so proud of you, my big six year old.  Keep doing your thing.  (But also.  Listen to your parents.  Just sayin’.)

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Dear moms, stop believing the lies. Your days matter.

It always catches him off-guard.  I’m a morning person and an introvert, so I do my best thinking and processing before the troops and the sun rise.  Matt is the exact opposite.  Of course.

Matt remains mostly-asleep until approximately lunchtime and is at his prime at 11pm.  I’m dead to the world at 9pm and wanting to chat about racial reconciliation and adoption ethics and the Syrian refugee crisis while the moon’s still up.  And I do.  So many mornings, I’ll march up to my almost-entirely-asleep husband, my second (or my third. stop judging.) cup of coffee in hand, to unload all of my early morning feelings.  Because not only did he marry an annoyingly chipper morning bird, but he married one with so. many. feelings.  Bless his heart.

So, it came as zero surprise to him when he came downstairs a few mornings ago to find me on the couch, Bible open, coffee cup in-hand, and tears on my cheeks.  I cast him a sheepish look because (1) I knew he wasn’t ready for this so early in the morn’ and (2) I also knew he’s too good of a man to hustle out the door for work while I was likely in the process of trying to solve the world’s biggest problems before sunrise.  Again.

“I don’t even know what to do with myself,” I blurted out.  “I feel like God filled me with so many passions.  I feel like I’m finally figuring out some of my giftings and abilities and callings.  I want to serve the unloved and the marginalized.  But here I am.  Shuttling kids around all the live-long day.”

I continued to emote.  (Y’all, I can emote.  Clearly, that is not AT ALL evident on this blog.  Clearly.)  I emoted about how I feel like my passions are being wasted these days.  How I still mourn having to leave my old job where I felt like I was actually doing something of significance.  Something that mattered.  Something that I loved.

While emoting, I may have said the words, “I feel like I’m going to explode.”  (Okay, so I actually did say those words.  I’m telling you- SO MANY PRE-DAWN FEELINGS.)  “Like all of my passion is just going to explode out of me and is going to be wasted.  Because all of my time and bandwidth and everything goes straight to our kids.”

Poor half-asleep, uncaffeinated husband of mine just stared at me for a minute.  Probably because we had been here before, and he knew that I already knew the answer to my own early-morning internal drama.  Also, because of the whole morning thing.  But he rallied.  And he prayed.  And he reminded me, “Catherine, God wants his kingdom to advance more than you do.  He’s going to use you.  He IS using you.”

Ugh, I married a good man.

It’s so bizarre how we moms completely invalidate the ministry that God has set before us.  How I look right past the little lives I’m pouring into day and night and ask, “God, when’s it MY turn?  Here I am!  Use me!”  Somehow, I have bought into the lie that “being used” and doing great things for God involves all things big and flashy.  Going overseas.  Launching a non-profit.  Writing a book.  Being right up-front and center.

When I’m pushing back against the good and holy work the Lord has sovereignly appointed me to do or when I bemoan my current season or circumstances because I’m just not able to get out there and “do ministry”, I am completely in the wrong.  When I diminish what God has me doing in his name, it begs the question: am I really doing it in His name at all?

Moms, let’s stop negating the value of the work that God has set right on our laps.  Let’s keep reminding ourselves that God didn’t put the fire in our bellies and passion in our hearts for naught.  Let’s really believe that, with palms up and motives pure, He will use us mightily.

It’s just that sometimes, the ministry he has for us looks a lot like the children living right under our roofs.  And sometimes the marginalized just happen to be their classmates sitting right beside them at school.  When I hear my child mention that he invited “that boy who doesn’t speak English” to join him at recess, I am reminded that, yes, this work matters.

When my daughter is tantruming for the seventeenth time this morning, and I want to throw a tantrum right there beside her.  But instead, I pull myself together, wrap her in a bear-hug and whisper truth upon truth into her ears, I remember that this work is good.

And when I lose my cool, roll my eyes, exhale an exaggerated sigh, and snap at my kids, I am reminded that I am saved by His grace alone.  When a day is punctuated with apologies and forgiveness, our gaze is shifted back up to Jesus.  All of this- the good and the bad- it matters.

So moms, let’s steward what He’s given us well.  Let’s just agree to toss out all of our preconceived notions of what it looks like to live a life that matters.   Meanwhile, let’s do good with whatever sphere of influence, large or small, He has entrusted to us.  May we speak truth over one another until we’re breathless.  Give of ourselves ’till it hurts, whether it’s in our homes or in the slums of Nairobi.  Raise up a generation of brave sons and strong daughters who love Jesus with reckless abandon and whose God-given passions and abilities DO explode right into whatever platform the Lord gives them.

My friends, let’s carry on about our days as if these days matter in an eternally-important kind of way.  Because nothing could be more true.

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