Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Leftovers


I am tired.  Like, really, really tired.  So you are not getting bright-eyed-let's-write-a-new-blog-post-hooray-Jen.  You are getting my leftovers.

This writing thing is honestly harder than it looks, at least for me anyway.  I've spent all week writing and re-writing, throwing my hands up in frustration, and re-writing some more an article for Exemplify Online Magazine.  I've only read one issue since I am new reader, but I highly suggest you check it out.  Anyway, I don't have high hopes for publication, but I thought it would be a good practice experience nonetheless.  (Tell me this again once I've been rejected and you  may not get this same peppy reaction, but anyway...)  So, towards the end of this loooong writing process (it was a week, but felt like a month), I asked my husband to edit it.  I already hear the snickers --  You asked your husband to do what??

In truth, both of us barely survived the experience.  As he was halfway through the editing process, I glanced over at the paper.  I could barely see printer ink!  It was covered in his own handwriting!  I felt as though he had cut a painting of mine into tiny little pieces.  I told him to. put. down. the. pen.  Step away from the essay...SLOWLY.

In the end, I let him finish the editing, but I let him know my displeasure.  The truth was, though, he was right about most things.  Perhaps that was the root all along.  How desperately I just wanted it to be perfect the first time --  not because of the time I wouldn't have to spend rewriting (of course, that would have been nice), but because I just wanted to magically be this natural writer.  Pipe dream!

You'd be proud, though.  I didn't give up.  I rewrote and incorporated most of his suggestions.  But before I submitted the article, I had to write a brief bio.  I really hate writing these things (I had to write one for an article I submitted for Blissfully Domestic.)  I thought you might find what I really wanted to say amusing:

Jen Ferguson is crazy.  Somehow she has this unrealistic belief that during the SUMMER when there is no school, she can still handle two part-time jobs, be the sole childcare provider for her two daughters from 7:30-5:30, juggle their playdates, AND begin a career in writing.  She also attempts to stay in reasonable shape so that when half-marathon training begins she won't lag behind her running partner by 50 paces, pay the bills, go grocery shopping, ferry children to swimming lessons, remember to sign up children for gymnastics, plan a fabulous weekend getaway with husband to celebrate 10 year anniversary, and find good, silent, quality-time with Jesus EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Amen, anyone?

I'm linking up with Home Sanctuary and Caffeinated Randomness!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Random Beach Musings

1.  The veil between heaven and earth may be thinner than I thought.
            I have no other explanation for the perfect rainbow that greeted us at the beach.  An arc of colors extending from the clouds to the ocean that shimmered in the light.  For 30 years, every July, Grannie had been at the Coral Sands Inn & Seaside Cottages.  This year, her presence just took another form and God allowed her to radiate in all her sweet glory in those moments when her family gazed at her beauty.

2.  I desire to seek out playtime with my children.
            Shocking, yes.  I thought so, too.  In all honesty, I do not look forward to playing Barbies or My Little Ponies.  I'm not saying that I don't enjoy spending time with my kids, but I'm just not much of a playing type of person.  I do it, but in the back of my mind, I am usually thinking about work, housecleaning, or what is next on my agenda.  At the beach where someone was doing all the vacuuming, bed-making, and where I regulated my work email to Siberia, I was...free.  And when I saw my children dancing in the waves or building sandcastles, I asked them if I could play, too.  There is a certain sweet smile that plays across my kid's lips when they see that I am seeking to enter their world.  Somehow, probably by the grace of God, I would like this to happen in the midst of our daily lives at home, so that they know, truly, how much I value and love them.

3.  I need to work based on God's timing instead of my own deadlines.
            Knowing that I am very Type A, have a very strong work ethic, and that I function way better in a house that is clean and tidy, I prayed and asked God just how #2 would happen.  I asked Him if there is something in my life that I need to sacrifice.  Am I doing too much?  Should I give up my blog writing?  Writing is the only "work" that I do that doesn't make money right now (except of course, motherhood and housecleaning, but I can't really get out of those, can I?).  So, I offered it up to God to see if He would call me to lay it down.  After a few days, He had made it clear that it was something He was using, both to refine me and reach others.  So if nothing is leaving my life, all that is left is reorganizing it.  But here is the kick -- I have to let God reorganize it and not take the reigns over every hour of my day.  I usually feel anxiety if I have work hanging over my head, but that should not be the primary motivator of how my day goes.  I simply cannot, and am not called to, put work first.  If God wants it to get done, He will make it happen.  But I need to do what He has put in front of me and then deal with the rest later.  I think this translates into focusing on quality time with my kids (and by quality, I mean thinking about what I am doing with them and not x,y, and z).  This all sounds good in theory, and honestly, it's been a pretty good week, but it takes a long time to build a habit...Here's hopin'!

4.  Extended family is important.
            This week at the beach was our annual family reunion.  The past few years, my grandmother was the one that planned it.  Little did I know that she was grooming me to take over.  Although her presence was sorely missed, I could see her in each of my family members.  There were moments of wistful nostalgia and tears of sadness, but really, we were all...joyful.  We were together, celebrating her life and making new memories.  Knowing I have a whole family behind me makes me feel so rich.  That feeling alone propels me to keep the tradition going.

 5.  Sometimes, I have to just ride the waves or read a good book.
            I am not built to be constantly moving or thinking all the time, contrary to my belief.  I have to have a break because if I don't, I will break -- down.  I have to give up my own current and allow God to bring me to shore.  I have to learn to ebb and flow and sometimes, yes sometimes, in the middle of chaos and tumult, I have to pick up a good book, crawl into bed, and be.  The world will still go on.


I'm linking up with Home Sanctuary http://www.homesanctuary.com/ and Andrea's Caffeinated Randomness http://www.undergraceovercoffee.com/

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Giving & Receiving

It seems that whenever I start having doubts about continuing on the path to develop my writing (career?), God seems to send the message that this is not something I am to give up.

Today, that came in the form of an award from Vicky (http://myblog4bliss.blogspot.com/).  What a sweet gift from an amazing, honest, wonderful writer.



Here are the rules:

Thank the blogger who awarded it to you.

Sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience using five (5) words. example: WRITE HEART PEOPLE LIVE HAPPY
 

The five words I would use for my blog are:  Painfully honest (yes, I know that is actually a phrase and not a word), humorous (or at least I try to be), God-inspired, soul-searching, and connective.


Pass it on to 10 other blogs which you feel have real substance (I'm relatively  new to blogging and to blogs, so this is what I could come up with so far.)

Juliana @ http://julieday.typepad.com/

Barbie @ http://myfreshlybrewedlife.blogspot.com/

Natalie @ http://mommyonfire.com/

Critty @ http://www.crittyjoy.typepad.com/

Sandy @ http://www.godspeakstoday.net/ 

Have a happy day!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Rainbow & the Woman Under the Umbrella

We are here and she is not.  I say that, but then, something happens and I am not so sure.

We arrived at the beach on Sunday evening after a full day of travel.  Everything looked the same, except Grannie was not there, perched upon the couch, anxiously awaiting our arrival.  It was raining when we got here, but it soon abated.  Dad went out to the main high rise to get some ice, but then ran back in.  

Come look at the rainbow!

My heart seized.  A rainbow.  God knows that during some of the most difficult and most disconcerting times in my life, I have clung to rainbows as a symbol of His unceasing desire to love me and carry me through.  In my darkest times, He dazzles me with an array of hope in every color on the spectrum.  It’s come to be bit of a secret symbol between Him and me.  I know He’s watching.  I know He cares enough to send me a tangible symbol of His promises.

The kids clamored out the door and we looked, drinking in the beautiful hues that extended from the top of the sky to the waters of the ocean.  What else could I say but Grannie is letting us know that she is here.

The weather yesterday was interesting, too.  It rained a few times when we were in the ocean, which the kids thought was the coolest.  Abby rolled with the waves and Hannah danced in the raindrop-pitted sand.  It was a sweet respite from the heat and felt more like a blessing than an intrusion.  When I looked at the radar map it appeared that a big storm was always headed our way, but I swear Grannie must have been up there directing the clouds because the big storms seem to go right around us.  It seemed to pour on Flagler Beach (north) and Daytona Beach (south), but mysteriously, Ormond Beach was spared.  I always knew she had an “in” with God, but never did I imagine her pull would be great enough to manipulate the weather.

Up until late this morning, Hannah and Abby seemed to be handling everything quite well.  We would talk about Grannie without bursting into tears or sitting in sadness.  It was more wistful nostalgia than mourning.  More laughing about what Grannie would have said than lamenting her absence. 

And then, the tide turned. 

We were playing on the beach and all of the sudden it was as if someone had flipped a switch in Hannah.  She immediately became withdrawn, sullen, and would not talk to anyone.  I had a strong inkling that something had conjured up feelings of sadness and loss inside of her, but for the life of me, I could not figure out what it was.  When I got her semi-calmed down, I asked her if she was missing Grannie.

I wanted her to come here before she died.

Then later, I just want to go home to my friends.  I want to swim in my pool.  I just want to go home.

My interpretation?

This is overwhelming for me to be here without her. Everywhere I look, I am reminded of her.   If I go home, maybe I won’t feel this way.

To sum it up, I finally got her calmed down with lunch and PBS Kids.  But the process was not without my own tears.  Yes, tears of my own grief, but also tears shed for my daughter, my sweet little four-year old daughter whose heart is filled with pain.  It is true -- when she hurts, when she drowns in her own sorrow, I drown, too.  It is this invisible cord that stretches between mother and daughter, an emotional wave that we both ride together.

When Dad and Carol came up, Carol said, I think I know what did it.  Did you see that woman under the umbrella on the beach?  She looked just like Grannie.  Even I had to do a double take.

I gather now that that woman sitting under the umbrella reminded Hannah of Grannie and all she could do was act out in anger. 

Why does she get to be here and my Grannie doesn’t? 

Of course, I could be projecting because as I see families gathering together here at the beach, the same thoughts course through my own head.  I am envious.  I am a bit downtrodden.  Simply put, I want what they have, or rather, I just want Grannie.

So, now, I cling to the rainbow, the hope that all of this is just part of the grieving/healing process.  My prayer is that the more Hannah is able to openly process her grief, the more space is left in her heart for joy, the more her eyes are open to Grannie’s presence, and the more hope she will have in God for soothing her broken heart.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And God Said Yes

 Too bad it wasn't to winning the lottery, but I digress.

If you read my post on Tuesday, you'd know that it already wasn't the greatest day.  And then, Craig came home.

This is usually a highlight of the day. Of course, I am glad to see him -- he's my husband.  But, he also happens to be the father of my children which means that when he is home, I can, for about 5 minutes at a time, flick on the "off-duty" light until the kids go to bed.

However, on Tuesday, he got out of his car, flung his computer bag over his shoulder, and winced.  Something is going on with my back.

Honestly, I didn't have much sympathy.  I should have felt more compassion, I'm sure, but I really didn't think much of it.  Sometimes men can be, well, you know...

However, after he laid down on the floor and couldn't get back up an hour later, I started to wonder if maybe there was something to all this.  Anyway, to make a long and boring story short, he went to the urgent care clinic (yes, we eventually got him off the floor and he was able crawl down the stairs thanks to a rather massive dose of Motrin) and he was diagnosed with a lumbar sprain.

Well, just to uncover all my selfish thoughts, as Craig had laid on the floor and I was downstairs helping the kids finish up their dinner (funny, during a crisis, kids still want to eat), the realization hit that Craig might be in some serious pain for a good amount of time.  Which then meant that I would have to do all my jobs, plus the ones that he normally did.  And since there was a legitimate excuse for this and not just dereliction of duty, I had to have a good attitude about picking up the slack.  And this was still all happening on Tuesday, which was NOT a very good day already.  So, as I was cleaning up the dishes, I threw up a prayer.

Oh, Lord, help me have a servant's heart.

And God said, Yes.

So from that point on, for the most part, I had a good attitude about him being out of commission.  There were quite a few times when I didn't think twice about doing things that he normally does or grumble under my breath about the extra chores or duties.  God helped me put my selfishness aside and give Craig the gift of rest so that he might heal more quickly.

Of course, all good things must come to an end.

By the end of the day today, I had a bit of a dip in the whole joyful servant thing.  I had grown tired and was ready for a break.  Another one-liner went up as dinner heated.  Lord, Craig is getting better.  I'm so close to having help again.  Please help me finish well.  The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Okay, that was four lines, but still.

The dip did not end up becoming all consuming.  I didn't have to run and lock myself in my bedroom for quiet to come out of the funk.  I still enjoyed dinner with my family and read books to the kids before they went to sleep.  Now, I was putting them to bed at 6:45, but still...there was quality time involved here.

The whole reason I write this is because I am just astounded at how quickly and how fully God can answer my prayers.  Right there at the kitchen sink, I truly surrendered my objectives, my needs, and my agenda and asked for Him to make up for my weakness, to give me that which I lack, to fill me with His Spirit instead of relying on my own willpower.  Reflecting back on all that has happened the last few days, I feel slightly exhilarated -- This is what it feels like to pray in God's will.  This is what it feels like to ask and then receive.  This is what it feels like to truly surrender and lay myself at His mercy.   It is encouraging to me that in the midst of my selfish thoughts, I could throw up a one-liner (or 4) and that God would hone in on that instead of making me feel guilty for all those other negative thoughts I had.  It reiterates to me the truth -- that the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!

Oh, and I'm linking up with Caffeinated Randomness at Andrea's blog.  Click the link to visit!
http://www.undergraceovercoffee.com/



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Potential Eruption


The day started oh-so-right.

I got up at 6:30, which in and of itself is a miracle, to have quiet time and then head to the grocery store before Craig went to work.

At 6:50, when I am almost finished with my quiet time, my eldest daughter comes and sits by me.  She picks up my phone and asks if she can play a game.  She ends up looking at the pictures, scrolling haphazardly through, one by one.  And then, out of the corner of my eye, I see her pause.  Her lower lip juts out and quivers just so slightly.  She lifts the phone to her lips and gives it a kiss.

I stare at the picture, now covered faintly by the kiss imprint, and see what she was looking at.

Grannie.  Bald but beautiful.  Broken but smiling.  Brittle but oh-so-strong.

The tear leaks from my eye and my daughter sees it.  I miss her, she says.  Me, too, baby.  Me, too.

I hear Hannah clunking down the stairs and we put away the phone.  We put away our stolen moment of reflection.  We put away our conversation so that we can move on with the day.  To add Hannah's emotional intensity over Grannie to the mix before 7am would be too much.

I hop into the car to go to the store.  I'm in and out quickly and on the way home, I feel fresh.  I feel ready to tackle the day.  The girls and I are moving on fine and then I start to feel, well, irritated.  For really, no good reason at all, except that just beneath the surface, I am a volcano ready to blow.  My red-hot magma is the overwhelming emotional burdens that I keep holding in because, really, who has time to deal with them?  Who has the energy?  I'm trying to prepare myself to go back to the place that holds so many memories for me and my children with my grandmother.  I'm trying to anticipate the needs of my daughters as they begin yet another step in their own grieving process.  I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that my other grandmother is in the hospital now, not recovering well from hip surgery, and who has, according to my mother, lost her will to live.  So, when my daughter comes in while I am trying to vent all these feelings on my blog and says, Mom, there is something that looks like cat throw-up under your bed, I have to use what seems like super-human strength to keep from sighing, rolling my eyes, and screaming I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH CAT THROW UP!  I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANYTHING!  Being that she is six and she is the child and I am the mom, I do not scream these words.  (Okay, I did maybe do the eye roll.)  God graciously gives me the strength to walk over, confirm the cat throw-up, sigh quietly, and walk back to my computer to finish venting.  (I know you are thinking, I can't believe she left the cat throw-up on the floor.  Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess, so just believe it.) 

All of this planning and thinking and anticipating, though, doesn't seem to bring me release.  The sadness that sits in my heart doesn't come out as sadness.  It comes out as frustration, irritation, and fatigue.  I'm not really sure what to do with it, except keep looking to God and giving it to Him.
Upon reflection, I think that instead of going more inward, I will try to push myself outward -- to seek quality time with my kids and find joy in their laughter and quirks.  To continue to organize the family gathering and look ahead to new memories.  To lay in bed at night and let the grief come out in the form of what it really is -- genuine sadness.  I am realizing that to hide it away only makes it rear its head in much uglier forms.

Speaking of ugly, I guess it's time to get to that cat throw-up.  Oh, joy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Slowly Getting It

Sometimes, the message gets through.  I can imagine God and the angels singing, Halleluiah! 

Finally, He says.  And then, He sighs.

It's hard work being God and trying to transform this child's heart.  I am emotional.  I take a lot of things personally that I should not.  I am passionate.  I am stubborn and I want to be right.  All of these things, while they have excellent upsides (except maybe the last two), mix them together on certain days and well, I am sure you can see the smoke and smell the fumes.

I have been actively trying to remain in control when my emotions run high and my two darling daughters decide that today is the day to push Mom's buttons.  Today was definitely the day.  I was tested and I think I might have actually passed.

It wasn't the perfect score.  I wasn't flawless, but everyone emerged with their dignity.  There were no guilt-trips (I fixed you the perfect lunch and now you can't even clean up your blocks?).  There were no outlandish consequences (If you don't clean up this mess right now, you will not go to Florida!).  There was no passive-aggressiveness (Well, fine then!  I'll just do it myself!).

Okay, I did raise my voice (a.k.a. yelling) and I think I caught myself shaking my finger at them.  I was not able to fully communicate without letting them know that I was livid.  I did have to try a couple of decisions on before I arrived to the one I felt was appropriate (If you talk while I'm talking again, you will stay in your room until your father gets home!).  Hmmm, for some of you, that may count as an outlandish consequence.  Anyhoo...

The bottom line came down to this:  My children neglected to clean up the blocks on the floor after I had asked them several times.  The last straw was when they hid behind the television from me when I was coming down the stairs.  Finally (after all of the above happened), I sat them down.  Here's the deal.  In our family, we treat people with love and respect.  You are not showing me love or respect by your actions.  I need you to stay in your beds until you can change your heart.  You can always pray to Jesus to help you make the right decision.  That's what I have to do.

Now, I'm not saying that this will work every time, but I think I might try this first instead of yelling or threatening next time.  Within a minute, both of the girls were lined up.  They said they were sorry and told me what they were sorry for.  They told me that they wanted to make better choices.  I told them they were forgiven.  They gave me a kiss and a hug and then went straight to their beds for rest time.

When I went in later to tell them that they could finish the rest of their quiet time by playing together in their room, Abby said, Can we finish our rest time watching Cinderella III?  I told her that no, rest time meant upstairs in her room, playing quietly.  Okay, Mommy. I understand the deal.

Halleluiah!

Maybe next time, I'll get it right the first time instead of the third.  Maybe next time, they'll clean up when I ask them to.  Maybe next time, my first instinct as to how to discipline will be purely to teach them and I won't have to fight the battles of passive-aggression, guilt-induction, or idle threatening.

But for right now, I'll settle for a less than perfect victory.  I'll settle for grace for me in my parenting and grace for my children in growing up.