When I am desperate, God is till enough

It got a little dark around these parts on Wednesday.  I have the strong desire to tell you that when my sister therapized me she pointed out my nature to catastrophize things and then make some self deprecating joke or point to my own sinful nature and laugh it off. Isn’t Abby silly, she gets so worked up over stuff when God really has it. Sigh. Maybe one day I will learn. (Insert patronizing head shake and finger wagging at myself here.)

But today the Spirit is leading me to leave it. In that moment, it was that bad. It was worse. Some days this Jesus-filled-spirit-lead living thing is hard. Whether it is because you have as many diapers that need changed as hands every morning, or you drive into work everyday thinking that if you got into an accident you could skip today (hello, first year of teaching), you feel like you are suddenly in a situation that you did not sign up for and you have no idea how to get out.

Even though I try desperately to be a Jesus Lover, to live by the Norman Family Creed, to dismantle the Failure Siren, it all came to a head last week. I now understand better than ever before why the Lord implores us to humble ourselves. Being humbled by the reality of your own sinful nature totally sucks. The difference between knowing in your head that you are a sinner, and watching your sin punch someone you love in the stomach is severe.

In the midst of that I called out, Is God enough? And my call was answered. Because He is enough. He is enough and He is faithful. Not in that, yes, yes, the Bible says He is faithful so it must be true kind of ways, but rather in a visceral I did not deserve His grace and the Lord chose to lift me from my pit of self loathing anyway kind of faithful.

God was enough when  I confessed to my small group ending in “my heart is so ugly”, and they all laid hands on my head and chose to love me anyway. He was faithful in the Peanut placing her little hand on my head and patting. “Okay, mommy? Okay?” and “Jesus, Jesus, Amen.” I hope she never grows out of praying more Jesus over people. I have yet to run into a circumstance that wouldn’t be helped by more Jesus.

Meanwhile the Rooster was tickling my foot and checking for smiles. Bringing me joy, being the change she was insistent on seeing. I suppose you could say that a 7 month old was only grabbing what was right in front of her, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed her looking. I wasn’t even the first. Her looking and tickling and smiling, that is what was right in front. God is enough. He is faithful.

Thursday I received an email from Sarah Bessey.  I hope to never get over how much this means to me. There was a marked change in the way that I write out my life when I read hers. Her honest living and writing gave me permission to be the me God is molding me into. The Lord saw fit that I receive her words to me on my lunch break and cried big fat ugly tears on the keyboard until the bell rang and my freshmen were about to walk in the door. (The only crying that is acceptable in my 9th grade class is the crying I cause.)  She did not smack my hand for bringing her name into all of my mess, but instead offered prayer, understanding that grad-school is hard for the wife too, and assurance that as loud as we howl, it is enough. God is enough.

Then, Friday another email. Grace extended that I do not deserve, hope and restoration chosen when death and excommunication would be easier. Understanding and assurance and the door left open when I was sure it would be slammed in my face. There is no clearer way to see Jesus in a believer than when they extend unwarranted forgiveness to you.

Sometimes God has swooped down and healed my heart. BAM. Done. I am forever changed. I can mark the day on the calendar that He healed my body. It is finished. This change, this enough, God’s faithfulness that I am sure I do need and will need all the days of my life, this is a healing that God is asking me to choose, that He offers in this moment, and this one until the “and this moments” are linked in an eternal chain that I must continue to grab on to.

And I will, continue to grab on to that glorious chain. Because today I know that falling is hard and it can get lonely in those moments when you are no longer sure where that healing is. That chain gets covered in the muck that is the moment right here. But it will be unearthed because my God, He is faithful. My God is enough.

The Princess Problem, Officially Solved!

Perhaps I am thinking a little too far ahead on this one. The Peanut has yet to reach her second birthday, and the only thing the Rooster currently wants to do with sparkly pink shoes is gnaw on them. (Seriously, Elvis the Elephant, Eddie-Frogruerro, tossed aside in favor of shoes that are occasionally still on your feet. Mmmm.) But I have three nieces and a not so secret feminist agenda. (I have a recurring conversation with one of my students where he continually calls me “one of those people” and I tell him the word he is looking for is feminist, it isn’t an insult and my hair cut has very little to do with my ideas about gender-roles.) The princess thing makes me nervous and I haven’t even read Cinderella Ate My Daughter yet.

My sister Emily does a good job at her house, of allowing her girls to be whoever they might be, which means the Star gets to be a S-T-A-R in all of her glitz and glamour and show-boating glory. The Scientist will join in, but she also is allowed to take apart the fish tank and see if the addition of play dough will contribute or hinder the filter mechanism of the tank. (Well, perhaps not all of the Scientist’s experiments are explicitly sanctioned.) The third kid (who I have yet to name on here. I am open to S suggestions, Seer? Sage? I don’t know help me out here family!) is pretty much just interested in being with Mama. But the point is that Em doesn’t monitor the amount of pink plastic versus the amount of red plastic in her house like I do. She doesn’t fret over the implications of her daughters liking nail polish. (which duh I currently have a fascination with the Sally Hansen nail stickers so couldn’t it just be that nail art, like all art, is super fun and colors are pretty. Or perhaps, I want to be like Mommy. I am clearly over-thinking this bit.)

She doesn’t worry about any of that, and Em’s kids are fine. All kinds of girls are encouraged to be just the kind of girl who God made them. My nieces are healthy and happy and I don’t think anyone is worried that they are not empowered to feel like they can make their own choices. Some days I bet Emily is looking for the book on how to un-empower your girls so that they will just do what you want and not question you this one time for Pete’s sake we are late to church! I know I am.

Maybe I am over thinking it, and watching Em parent makes me confident I am. But first I get nervous when the Peanut develops a fascination for my make-up and then think that is stupid because it is my make up after all and what am I trying to say I don’t want her to be like me? Then I think about how make-up is essentially getting to draw on your own face and the Peanut is way into that. The other day she went at it with red and brown washable marker and she looked like she had been in a fight. She managed to color red up all visible parts of both nostrils. And yet, I still worry

Basically the whole princess thing boils down to this. If I get past all of my issues with the pink, glittery, plastic stuff. I have one concern remaining: I don’t want my girls to think that they are incomplete without a man, that they are not fully whole until they get married. (If they even want to get married. I believe the Apostle Paul when he said singleness is a gift from God.) I want my girls to believe that God thinks they are incredibly value just for being them, and not only in the role of  wife or mother.

I want my girls to grow up believing in their own white horse, hitched to a carriage with the Holy Spirit driving. And if God has it for them, I want another rider, with a white horse of his own, together they would choose to ride into the sunset, because they believe that God has for them an amazing adventure and a partner in crime. But no one has written that story book, and Disney hasn’t picked it up. There is no two-hour movie complete with happy meal toys to tell it. The Princess Problem indeed.

But today I read a blog post and something happened in real-life that I have only dreamed about Julie Andrews solved my problem. Julie Andrews, just like when she played Mary Poppins, swooped in and told me which spoonful of sugar I could utilize to make the whole princess thing go down smoothly with me. Real Princesses. They speak foreign languages, they dress beautifully and modestly and sometimes funkily (give it up for those crazy hats!) they stump for good causes and make sick people feel better. They are the light of the world and they sit up straight.

Yes ma’am you can wear that tiara. Now tell me, which foreign language will we be learning today? What worthy cause would you like to shed light on? Sign me up for this tea party. One lump, or two?

The Younger Siblings Baby Book

The best way for me to describe my relationship with my sisters while growing up is this story. In pre-school we were talking about heroes or bravery or something. Anyway, I told my teacher about how brave my sister Jill was, that she stuck her fork into the toaster in order to rescue my breakfast from the malfunctioning button that was holding my bread hostage and burning it. My teacher, (being a responsible professional) told me that this was very dangerous and no one should ever shove a metal fork into a plugged-in toaster, especially one that was turned on. In my four-year-old brain this teacher was a complete idiot. She missed the whole point of how extraordinarily brave my older sister was, and did not understand that my sister was clearly invincible. I never saw her in the same light, she was a moron for the rest of the year.

There are unique situations that only apply, if you are the little sibling. The Rooster has a whole list of firsts the Peanut never had.

The first time you and your sister meet.

The first time your sister and you wear matching outfits and everyone thinks you are ao cute.

The first time your sister hits you.

The first time she scratches you.

The first time your sister leaves a mark.

The first time your sister hits/kicks/scratches/ you because she is really just mad at your mother and she knows this will make her mad.

The first time your eyes light up and you kick your little feet because you see your sister.

The first time your sister lies about you. (Ouch, Rilla pushin’ me out of the back seat of the car when both of you are strapped firmly into your respective car seats.)

The first time you pull her hair.

The first time she shares her food with you.

The first time you get to have a present strictly as your own, rather than sharing it with your sister becuase she wants it (sorry about your christmas presents this year, you can have them back when you are mobile enough to go get them).

The first time you sneak into her space and play with or wear the things she told you not to, just because you can (this will likely happen when she is at school and you are not).

The first time you miss each other.

The first night you share a room.

The first time you refuse to wear matching outfits with your sister (note this has still not happened with me and your Aunts. We still would wear matching outfits.)

The first time you are in cahoots with your sister behind your mom’s back.

I hope you two like having sisters as much as I do!

So commenters, this list is not complete! What did I miss?

Biggest Critic. Biggest Fan

I remember when I was too sick, or maybe too sick of being sick, to get up off the couch. I remember my sister, the one who had not yet left for college, coming home to her sister laying on the couch…..again….and yelling at me to get up. Get up, go to school, do something. My illness had not just infiltrated my body. It had infiltrated our entire family. She wanted it, needed it, gone.

Later, in high school, I remember going to her best friends house to get ready for homecoming, my first high school dance. Though she does not remember saying it, I remember her saying that I wore too much make up. Easy to say I suppose, when you get elected prom queen in nothing but lipgloss. Later, she would ask me for make up tips, and I would be vindicated.

I remember her critiques on my outfits and my boyfriends. She was always right about the latter. Some weren’t good enough for me, some did hurt me, some were jerks.

I remember my freshman year when I did not make the musical. To my face she told me that it happened sometimes to freshman, I would just have to wait my turn. To her friends she complained that the freshman girls who did make it were not nearly as talented as her sister. I heard her. I was probably listenting in on her phone call.

Now, Jill is not so quick to criticize. She is the one who tells me “You can’t talk about my sister like that.” She is the biggest fan of this blog. She shares every post and emails some to her friends. She tells me that I write well, that sometimes, when I get it right, she can see Jesus in here. She took me to see her writer friend because she believes, more deeply than I that someone will like this enough to publish it.

I know now what I didn’t know then. That the criticism was coming from a place that screamed both “You can do better” and “You are already enough.” She was critical because she knew I was better than that. She was critical because she wasn’t going to let anyone, including myself, sell me short.

It is this relationship that reminds me, when I hear the Spirit convict me. That God is telling me to change because He loves me deeply. He wants great things for me. He will not let me sell myself short.

I Can’t Talk About Me Like That

Today started out like that other terrible day this week. Rooster is running a mild fever do to her four month vaccines so she is uncomfortable and can’t sleep well and I was just going to lay my head down for 5 more minutes….and this time I didn’t wake up until 17 minutes after I am supposed to leave the house. And the traffic was terrible because no one in Atlanta really knows what inclement weather is so they slow down to 35 when it is a little rainy out. (Seriously people, 75/85 isn’t just the interstate number, it should be the speed minimum!)

So I had to call my co-worker for the second time in three days and ask her to unlock my door. When I showed up at school the announcements were on. Another co-worker who also has an itty-bitty and a blooming toddler at home was holding down the fort. Both women told me it was no problem as I admitted how embarrassed I was. As the voice in my head chided, two days in a week you pull this? Get it together Abby!

And the worst part is, I may have lied to them. (I did) I may have told them that I was late because the Rooster had a fever, and not because the Rooster had a fever which made me tired so I made Christian take her a half hour before the alarm went off, so I lazily fell asleep after I turned off my alarm. (I just left out the part that made me look bad.)

Lucky for me the Lord convicted my heart and gave me the chance to come clean and apologize. My sweet grace giving colleagues forgave me and decided the grace they extended previously still stood. (I was not planning on confessing in person. I was planning on sticking an apology on here where neither of them go…that dang pride again.)

I was, I am, ashamed that I messed it up twice this week. My pride could not get over it. I am better than that. Other people are just big screw ups, but not me. I am not allowed to over sleep because I don’t do that. But I do, do that. I was easily the biggest screw up in my department this week, and it isn’t even Friday yet.

This morning I tweeted this: Kill my pride oh Lord; steal it from me. Let your grace fill those spaces.

God has heard my prayer of less than 140 characters. I decided to fight the lie that I am not good enough by treating myself to lunch, on a day I certainly did not deserve it. Besides, I had to go to the bank because I had no toll money to get home.

On the way out of the door I ran in to a teacher on duty. (Duty- the time once a week a teacher has to stand somewhere and bother every kid that walks by for a pass. It is necessary, but it is no fun.) She asked me where I was going and I asked her if she needed anything. Was I going to Starbuck’s? I was not. So we left it at that. Until my errands drove me right into the Starbucks parking lot. Literally, my bank and the Starbucks have adjoining parking lots. Cafe Mocha’s for everybody!!!

And when I delivered it to her, she told me I was good to her. She told me I was good, and I believed her. In that moment, by God’s grace, I was good. Not a screw up, not someone who better start doing better. And I had a beautiful conversation with another mom about how we don’t give ourselves the grace we give everyone else.

Sometime in mid-October I was telling Jill all the terrible things I was and she stopped me with this line, “I’m sorry, but I don’t let anyone talk about my sister like that.” She doesn’t let anyone say mean things about me, not Starcha who told me I was buck-toothed in the second grade who Jill threatened to beat up in the cafeteria, and not me about myself in my own kitchen. And now, I don’t either. I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about me like that.

Sisterhood of the traveling….sisterhood

This past weekend Jill moved into my neighborhood! Her and Calvin closed on a sweet house with a seriously sweet price in a great little neighborhood ( I may be partial…) YEAH! We are super excited to have her and she has promised not to move again in a year and a half and I have promised to not be eight months pregnant if she does move in a year and a half (please Lord!). Jill and Calvin moved to Atlanta about a month before I was due with the Peanut.

The interesting thing to first, Jill moving to Atlanta, and second, my serious joy that she lives 1.4 miles from my home is there was a time growing up where this did not seem likely. We couldn’t be in the same 170  person marching band marching in completely different sections that never actually had to talk to each other and not have a couple of yelling matches (two that I recall).

Recently I read a line about mother hood. This mom was lamenting the fact that her family was done growing, and she remained daughterless. She described the mother daughter relationship as uniquely complicated. I was taken off guard. I don’t think of my relationship with my mom as complicated. Maybe I am just part of a ridiculously lucky minority, but I just hope I can do as good of a job as she did.  I always felt (and still feel) loved and accepted. I know my mom is always rooting for me. There were no big battles to allow me my adulthood. It just was.

But sisters. Those were complicated for me. I wanted to be just like my sisters and at the exact same time completely different. I sometimes resented being “The third France” but know I would have been heart broken had I not been linked to the previous two.

I find myself thinking about sisters a lot lately. I am about to have a pair of them in my home after all. I find myself fretting over what to buy new just for the new baby and what is it okay to share? I want to make sure that the little one knows she was wanted and special and got everything her sister did. I want the big one to know she is wanted and special and not being replaced. And I want them to share well. And each have special things to pass down to their daughters but still have enough that mostly belongs to everybody.

I think I am trying too hard to control the stuff because it is the only thing I can control. I cannot control the Peanut’s reaction to her sister, or the temperament of the new baby. I cannot control the ways they will inevitably attempt to torture each other or the hurt they may inflict. I cannot control whether or not they will think of each other as their best friends as adults, like I think of my sisters, but I can hope. And I do.

I sometimes worry that I will put too much pressure on them, to be best of friends from day one. I need to remember it takes time. I didn’t even choose my own sisters as my maids of honor (though I regret that now) that somewhere along the way push came to shove and it occurred to me that the people who understand me best are the ones who were raised in the same house as me. God built in my adult best friends, it is an amazing gift. I pray that the same will be true for my girls.

Mixed Feelings

I have been having some mixed feelings about welcoming this new baby recently. I know, I know, I am considered full term so really…..it is kind of late for all of that. She could literally come at any moment, and medically speaking that would be just fine. But me? In the spring I was all, “I could have this baby tomorrow, and I wouldn’t need to do anything! Yeah for another girl!” and now I am all “I could have this baby tomorrow and I wouldn’t have done anything! AAAAH I am having another baby!”

Yesterday I did manage to go to Target and get a diaper bag that is big enough for two kids, and a sizing stuffed animal for Priscilla. I don’t want to make the Peanut share her bear. Teddy is the only thing she seems genuinely attached to. So now there are just a few things that are on my MUST DO list. They are not things like get the newborn clothes in order or set up the new crib and pack and play upstairs so the baby has some places to sleep. I guess I figure if I don’t do that someone else will.

I did find out yesterday I have to take the water birth class again, so that sounds like a heck of a Friday night! (I really want to bring a flask….just to see what would happen…..). I suppose I should be grateful North Fulton had an opening this Friday. Because for a minute there last night it looked like if I wanted a water birth, it was likely to happen only in my own tub….and my midwives don’t make house calls. But as is so often the case with me I was freaking out about one things because I did not want to deal with the other.

Then I read this amazing post and suddenly I understood what I was really freaking out about. My family is about to change. Forever. And that is scary, and a little sad. The weeks before my wedding I cried a lot more than I thought I would. But looking back it made sense. I knew this would be the last time I would celebrate Christmas with the family I had always celebrated with. I would no longer be calling the house I grew up in, home. I no longer claimed exclusive rights to my bedroom, because it wasn’t anymore. My bedroom, my life, my family would now be the one I shared with my husband, not the one my parents provided for me. My new life was what the Lord had for me, and I am so grateful He did. But the old one was no more, and sometimes, even when it is good change, change is sad.

The Lord allows for that. Besides Ecclesiastes, where I am assured there is a time for my sadness, many times the psalmists mourn and grieve. So here it is. While I am thrilled to meet this perfect little girl who the Lord has picked out exactly for our family, I am sad. I am sad that Juliet will no longer be the baby. I am sad that there will be parts of her journey that I will miss because I will be focused on her sister. I am wistful that this marks the Peanut as a little girl who is quickly leaving her babyhood behind. That while she will always be my  baby, she will no longer be the baby. And while I know how very amazing the sister relationship can be, I am a little sad that Juliet and Priscilla will not always share their secrets with me. They will have each other to run to, it may not always be Mommy who best soothes those bumps and bruises. Sisters only is an important creed. I know. I have said it….to my mom. I am so glad Juliet will get to be the big sister. And I know that God has designed her to fill that role. But I am sad that that means that she is growing up, in a way that is more concrete to me than weaning, or a first birthday, becoming a big sister is a line in the sand.

Lately she has been cuddling more. The Peanut likes to lift up my shirt, pat my belly and say “baby, baby” (granted she also does this with Christian so maybe it isn’t as impressive as it sounds.) She likes to cuddle with my bump, wrap her arms around the sides, her torso around the top and rest her head on her sister. I wonder if she knows this time where she does not have to wait her turn is coming to an end. She still is not walking, she could, just no interest. It is as though she is reminding me that she is still a baby, still needs me to hold her. I do feel guilty changing her existence like this. With little warning and no input from her, her family will be altered. Another little person is coming to live at our house……permanently. How will this change her?

Ultimately I know that this is what the Lord wants. Not just for me, but for my daughters. Both of them. And I trust His judgement infinitely more than my fears.