Am I Doing This Right?

IMG_0470"Wow! You're Super Mom!" I looked up, startled, to see a woman walking toward the table at the supermarket where my four children and I are eating hot dogs, a lunchtime reward for a successful shopping trip. My children, their mouths full, are all eating quietly and politely, and nobody is throwing any food or whining about their ketchup. It's a good day. "I just wanted to compliment you on your well behaved children," says the women. "They've been eating so nicely and quietly. You're obviously raising them well."

"Haha! Thank you!" I stammer, an awkward joke at the tip of my tongue. I'm not sure what else to say. I'm never sure what else to say when this happens. Because, believe it or not, it's happened to me more than once. The couple at the restaurant, the old lady at the zoo, the man in line in front of us at the post office, and now this lady at Costco. All of these random strangers observing my family during a calm, peaceful outing, and complimenting my parenting. This should feel amazing, shouldn't it?

While it does feel a little nice to hear I'm "raising my children well," I'll admit my initial inward response when I hear this is defensiveness mixed with laughter. Sometimes I crack an awkward joke in response like "you caught 'em on a good day!" or "Yeah, they are being really well behaved. I'm starting to get suspicious." I want to tell these well wishers about all the times my family wasn't so well received by the general public. Like that time I tried to go out to breakfast with my three children under age 3 and the meal culminated in my 1 year old standing on top of the table and pouring an entire pitcher of syrup all over herself and the table while my baby and 2 year old screamed? Yeah, we did the walk of shame out of that one. I can still see the waitress's fake smile and gritted teeth as she eyeballed the syrup and deadpanned "have a nice day" while we high tailed it out of there. Or just last week, when my five year old threw an epic toddler-style tantrum about her shoes or her bike or something. She was kicking and screaming and rolling around on the sidewalk while we were supposed to be out on a nice family walk. The elderly neighbor out gardening who raised one eyebrow over her fence and muttered "oh my..." definitely wasn't paying our parenting any compliments.

It's funny how easily one kind word or raised eyebrow from a stranger can make or break my day. It feels so great to be admired and so awful to be scorned, that I find myself giving the desire for admiration undue attention. I will catch myself worrying over others' approval, even in instances where it doesn't matter! Will they like what I'm wearing? Ugh, this hair cut! I should have worn different shoes. Am I too underdressed for the occasion? Did the way I said that sound ok to them? What do they think of my kids? Am I doing ok? Maybe I should be stricter? Is that normal behavior for a four year old?

In truth, the only person I have to answer to and seek a yes or no from is my Lord. I spend so much time wondering and worrying over what other people think of me, whether I'm making the right decisions by worldly standards, when I can just take my concerns to the Lord in prayer instead! I can pray for guidance and help in my parenting, in my business, in my life as a homeschooling mother, in my marriage, in my friendships. I can look to Him for the model of how I should be acting and behaving on a daily basis.

"Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually." 1 Chronicles 16:11

And I can confess those times I fall short, ask for grace, and rest assured that I'm forgiven.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

Lord, am I doing this right? Are my kids alright? Did I respond to that situation with the right mix of love and discipline, Lord? Help my kids, Lord. Help me be the best mother I can be.  Forgive me for the times I've been short tempered, angry, unresponsive, or lazy with them and others. Thank you for the times you've given me glimmers of a hopeful future with them. Keep them always safe in your care, and help them to have a strong and healthy relationship with you as they grow. Amen.

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The Bag Lady

I have a peculiar toddler wandering around my house. I'm sure everyone thinks that about their toddler, but mine really is a little quirky. Like many toddlers, she has piles of toys everywhere but she always finds the weirdest little things to play with. The vast majority of her day is spent carrying little bags around our house, collecting little treasures and reorganizing things. These little treasures might follow her around for the next few days, including nap and bedtime.  Other items are quickly discarded or removed by me (like when it's food!). The possibilities are pretty much endless for what she will decide is worthy of belonging in her bag for that moment. I have found multiple individually wrapped string cheeses, little tiny creatures, ping pong balls, bath toys, tiny beanie babies, cloth diapers (which are "nests" for tiny stuffed worms in case you are wondering), unmatched socks, etc. I often wonder why she insists on doing this. She often makes her little journeys way more difficult by bring along all these extras. Carrying a bag (or two) along with whatever else she can fit in her arms inevitably means that things are dropped, repeatedly, on her way from here to there.

I can't help be reminded of myself when watching my little pork-chop run around. I, as a sinner, am constantly carrying around baggage. My baggage of sin and guilt, as facilitated by the devil himself. Wouldn't it be easier if I dropped a bag or two? Wouldn't it be easier if I just set aside this sin, that regret, that guilt. Wouldn't God help me do this? Couldn't He and doesn't He make my load lighter by giving me unconditional love and forgiveness? He can prevent me from stumbling and falling under the load of my sin and guilt. Jesus instructs us in Matthew 11,

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This hymn also sums up this idea.

Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me, Died that I might live on high, Lives that I might never die. As the branch is to the vine, I am his and he is mine!

 

Oh, the height of Jesus' love, Higher than the heavens above, Deeper than the depths of sea, Lasting as eternity, Love that found me -- wondrous thought! -- Found me when I sought him not.

 

Only Jesus can impart Comfort to a wounded heart: Peace that flows from sins forgiven. Joy that lifts the souls to heaven, Faith and hope to walk with God In the way that Enoch trod.

 

Chief of sinners though I be, Christ is all in all to me. All my wants to him are known; All my sorrows are his own. Safe with him in earthly strife, I await the heavenly life.

 

Strengthen me, O gracious Lord, By your Spirit and your word. When my wayward heart would stray, Keep me in the narrow way; Grace in time of need supply While I love and when I die.

 

And for the little shoppers in your life, here is a fun little project my husband and I have been working on! Seeing as we have a number of little bags always lying around our house, I wanted a little coat rack for my daughter to hang her little treasures. I bought a bunch of non-matchinig knobs on the cheap, I think they were less than a dollar a piece, from Pier One. (I had to ask where they were as they were essentially hidden in the way back.) We attached them to a piece of scrap wood. Then we had to add two pieces of wood to the back in order to allow for the ends of the knobs to be able to be screwed on, since they stuck out further than the wood. Then we hung it up by screwing in four screws in each corner. Now she has a place to hang her all her bags. Also, the top is serving as a little art display for an added bonus.

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She seems pretty excited about it. I'm a little jealous and may have to make one for the adults in the house as well. I feel like I could use knobs and hooks everywhere. Add one to the entryway for coats,  in our bedroom for the not clean but not dirty clothes that are always strewn everywhere or to hang necklaces and bracelets, or in the bathroom for towels.

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What fun little odd and end projects do you have going around your house? What helpful things have you added in your house to keep you or your kids' things organized? Please share!

Just wanted to say a quick see you later, as I will be taking a bit of a hiatus from writing for a while as we anticipate the birth of our second child in the next few weeks. May God bless you all in your adventures in the meantime!

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