How Spilled Cheerios Taught Me To Laugh

high chair
“Watch this, Mom!” my daughter said this morning at breakfast. Before I could respond, I watched her toss her bowl of dry Cheerios up in the air, and try to catch them in the bowl. “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” I screamed a deep, bellowing scream–as the Cheerios cascaded through the air and scattered all across the kitchen floor. “Ughh!!!” I screamed again. “Why did you do that!?”

“Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to throw your food on the floor??!!”

“Pick these up right now!!” I glared.

The look on my 3-year-old’s face showed me how terrifying I must have looked in that moment. For one, when I screamed, “NOOOOOO!!” it was the same pitch and intensity that Frodo screams in the Lord of the Rings when Gandalf falls off the cliff.

Pretty good for 8:10 a.m.

We were off to a great start. I’d like to add that I read this post last night about how God desires mothers to be gentle creatures. It was a great idea–gentleness. And it was a great post–I shared it with a bunch of friends before bed.

Too bad in real life (and especially before I’ve had my coffee), I’m not a gentle creature, but more like a creature from Middle Earth.

Realizing this, I knelt down…, “Selah,” I said, “Was that just an accident?” She nodded her head, looking up at me with her big blue eyes. “Were you trying to catch the Cheerios in your bowl?” She nodded again, and fell into my arms for an embrace.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I said, “Everyone makes mistakes. Even Mom.”

“It’s okay, let’s clean them up together,” I said.

We picked up as many as we could and put them in the trash. Then Selah said, looking dissapointed, “But I really wanted some Cheerios, Mom.”

I told her the ones on the floor were dirty–but I could get her a new bowl. “Here, I’m going to put you in the high-chair this time so you don’t spill. And let Mommy get them for you.”

I put her in her high-chair (which we don’t use much any more–except when I feel like she is acting sort of baby-ish.) I poured her another hefty helping of Cheerios into her little plastic Ikea bowl and said, “Be careful this time.” And…I kid you not…as I was about to hand her the bowl–I bumped my elbow on a kitchen chair–and the bowl and all the Cheerios went flying through the air. And then scattered all across the kitchen floor.

My jaw dropped, Selah’s jaw dropped–and then our eyes met.

And we burst out laughing.

We laughed hysterically–as we looked around at the plague of Cheerios that covered our kitchen floor.

And I swallowed hard. I was such a hypocite. And I knew it.

And she knew it. But she didn’t look at me like that. She just kept smiling.

Instead of screaming at me, or giving me the “ugly sigh.” (Like I would do to her.)

She giggled. And I giggled. And we couldn’t stop.

“I have accidents, too,” I said.

I got my broom, and said, “Do you want to help me?”

“Yes!” she cheered. I pulled her out of her high-chair and she grabbed her little broom and swept with a smile, and crushed some under her bare toes–but I couldn’t help but smile back.

I guess sometimes grace comes from the eyes of a child. And grace isn’t really as complicated as we make it. It’s simply laughing, instead of sighing. It’s biting your tongue, instead of screaming. It’s letting accidents be accidents. And it’s pausing to realize what your reaction (a.k.a. “wrath”) means to the heart of a child.

I think laughter is evidence of a gracious person. If you want to know if you are gracious–how much do you laugh?

She’s actually better at it than I am.

But I’m learning.

To laugh.

And to ask my 3-year-old for forgiveness when I lose it.

And to feel the power of recieving it from her.

And God is so faithful to expose my Orc-like heart–especially as a writer who wants to hide behind my words. He shows me my actions. Even the morning after I share great blog posts about “gentleness” with a bunch of my friends.

He humbles me. Whether it’s by me bumping my elbow, and spilling the Cheerios, or whether He sent an angel to smack them out of my hands (I really think it might be the second one–because they went flying.) But either way: He humbles me.

Right in front of my daughter.

And He reminds me I need Him even more than I thought I did. I need His love, and grace—and she needs it. She needs to see it on my face, and in my eyes. She needs to hear it in my laugh.

And He reminds me, in the voice of a little girl, that grace laughs.

And picks up Cheerios. One at a time.

mess

How Spilled Cheerios Taught Me That Grace Laughs

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“Watch this, Mom!” my daughter said this morning at breakfast. Before I could respond, I watched her toss her bowl of dry Cheerios up in the air, and try to catch them in the bowl. “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” I screamed a deep, bellowing scream–as the Cheerios cascaded through the air and scattered all across the kitchen floor. “Ughh!!!” I screamed again. “Why did you do that!?”

“Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to throw your food on the floor??!!”

“Pick these up right now!!” I glared.

The look on my 3-year-old’s face showed me how terrifying I must have looked in that moment. For one, when I screamed, “NOOOOOO!!” it was the same pitch and intensity that Frodo screams in the Lord of the Rings when Gandalf falls off the cliff.

Pretty good for 8:10 a.m.

We were off to a great start. I’d like to add that I read this post last night about how God desires mothers to be gentle creatures. It was a great idea–gentleness. And it was a great post–I shared it with a bunch of friends before bed.

Too bad in real life (and especially before I’ve had my coffee), I’m not a gentle creature, but more like a creature from Middle Earth.

Realizing this, I knelt down…, “Selah,” I said, “Was that just an accident?” She nodded her head, looking up at me with her big blue eyes. “Were you trying to catch the Cheerios in your bowl?” She nodded again, and fell into my arms for an embrace.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I said, “Everyone makes mistakes. Even Mom.”

“It’s okay, let’s clean them up together,” I said.

We picked up as many as we could and put them in the trash. Then Selah said, looking dissapointed, “But I really wanted some Cheerios, Mom.”

I told her the ones on the floor were dirty–but I could get her a new bowl. “Here, I’m going to put you in the high-chair this time so you don’t spill. And let Mommy get them for you.”

I put her in her high-chair (which we don’t use much any more–except when I feel like she is acting sort of baby-ish.) I poured her another hefty helping of Cheerios into her little plastic Ikea bowl and said, “Be careful this time.” And…I kid you not…as I was about to hand her the bowl–I bumped my elbow on a kitchen chair–and the bowl and all the Cheerios went flying through the air.  And then scattered all across the kitchen floor.

My jaw dropped, Selah’s jaw dropped–and then our eyes met.

And we burst out laughing.

We laughed hysterically–as we looked around at the plague of Cheerios that covered our kitchen floor.

And I swallowed hard. I was such a hypocite. And I knew it.

And she knew it. But she didn’t look at me like that. She just kept smiling.

Instead of screaming at me, or giving me the “ugly sigh.” (Like I would do to her.)

She giggled. And I giggled. And we couldn’t stop.

“I have accidents, too,” I said.

I got my broom, and said, “Do you want to help me?”

“Yes!” she cheered. I pulled her out of her high-chair and she grabbed her little broom and swept with a smile, and crushed some under her bare toes–but I couldn’t help but smile back.

I guess sometimes grace comes from the eyes of a child. And grace isn’t really as complicated as we make it. It’s simply laughing, instead of sighing. It’s biting your tongue, instead of screaming. It’s letting accidents be accidents. And it’s pausing to realize what your reaction (a.k.a. “wrath”) means to the heart of a child.

I think laughter is evidence of a gracious person. If you want to know if you are gracious–how much do you laugh?

She’s actually better at it than I am.

But I’m learning.

To laugh.

And to ask my 3-year-old for forgiveness when I lose it.

And to feel the power of recieving it from her.

And God is so faithful to expose my Orc-like heart–especially as a writer who wants to hide behind my words. He shows me my actions. Even the morning after I share great blog posts about gentleness with a bunch of my friends.

He humbles me. Whether it’s by me bumping my elbow, and spilling the Cheerios, or whether He sent an angel to smack them out of my hands (I really think it might be the second one–because they went flying.) But either way: He humbles me.

Right in front of my daughter.

And He reminds me I need Him even more than I thought I did. I need His love, and grace—and she needs it. She needs to see it on my face, and in my eyes. She needs to hear it in my laugh.

And He reminds me, in the voice of a little girl, that grace laughs. 

And picks up Cheerios. One at a time.

spilled cheerios

 

The Zombie Mommy In The Mirror

scared woman
Last night, when I saw my reflection in the mirror, it actually startled me. My daughter was simply brushing her teeth, and I was helping her steer her toothbrush into her mouth and away from the nasty drain (where she likes to put it). And when I glanced up into the mirror, I jumped. Because this woman with black mascara and eye-liner drooped about half an inch lower than where it should be, and looking much like a zombie, was staring back at me. “Whoa!” I exclaimed, and quickly grabbed a tissue and wiped off the melting mascara that had somehow turned me Zombie Mommy by night fall.

To be honest, I was kind of surprised I hadn’t scared anyone else in the house with my horrifying looks. You’d think as I was coaxing my two year old daughter, with my arms wide out to, “Come here!” she would have shrieked with panic and hidden under her bed or something.

But she didn’t.

You see, before I saw “Zombie Mommy” in the mirror that night, we were actually having a lot of fun. And I was doing something I don’t do nearly enough–I was playing with her. Not like, “Oh, that’s cute honey,” while I distractedly went through my facebook newsfeed. But I actually put my phone and iPad away, and was fully hers. We were in the living room playing what she was calling “the boat game.” (One of my childhood favorites.) It’s where you take the couch cushions and make them a giant raft on the floor, and then the big storm comes, and you save each other from the sharks, and rescue each other from drowning in the “water,” and you scream the whole time. (I highly recommend it.)

And while this was going on, and we were shrieking and saving each other and rolling around on the floor–I had no idea my hair was a wreck and my eyeliner had smeared below my eyes, and that I looked like a zombie. I just knew I was having fun, and so was she, and in that moment, that’s all that mattered.

The great thing about being Zombie Mommy is that before you look in the mirror and see a zombie staring back at you, you are usually having a fantastic time.

I fully agree with John Piper who says, “The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.” (pg. 33, Don’t Waste Your Life) You wouldn’t take someone to the Alps and lock them in a room full of mirrors. Because the greatest joy doesn’t come from seeing how great you look, it comes from gazing on a majesty that is greater, and more powerful, and more glorious than yours.

toddler play

And in motherhood there is something greater than the Alps right in your living room. There is this glory right in front of you, staring back in the eyes of a little boy or girl who very much bears the image of God.  And His glory.

But sometimes we miss it.

I wish I could say I don’t care what I look like. But I still do. And while I’ve come a long way from the girl who used to check her make-up during 8th grade Social Studies class, and reapply my lip glass and Champagne eyeshadow (anyone else?) during study hall–I still care very much about that girl in the mirror. And she sometimes the girl in the mirror takes me away from the little girl in the room that is waiting for me, and longing for me, and crying for me to come and play ” the boat game.”

Though I don’t want to totally “let myself go,” I have to say, sometimes I really admire Zombie Mommy. Because, there is a reason she looks like a zombie, and no matter how “ugly” she looks, there is usually a very beautiful reason behind it.

And to the mom who looks like a zombie tonight–you are exactly where you need to be. Every time you nurse your baby, or change a diaper, or fall asleep in the glider–you are being a living and breathing example of love. And while you don’t need to feel guilty if you do find time to primp, you don’t need to feel bad about the times you don’t. Because those times you don’t, and you are blissfully unaware that your mascara is down to your cheek bones and your hair looks like Medusa–are actually some of your most shining moments, in your kids eyes. They won’t remember if you had your make up on, or your hair was straightened, or if it was in a giant messy bun–but they will remember that you made them feel loved. They will remember the time you rolled around on the floor and played “the boat game,” or any game at all. They will remember your laughter, they will remember your joy, and the way your eyes shone when you looked into theirs. And they will remember always, your arms open out wide to embrace them, and hold them close.

And as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t make you a zombie. It actually makes you quite beautiful.

 

She’s Longing For A Child This Christmas

This goes out to every woman whose heart aches to be a mother, but finds herself still in waiting. May these words soothe your soul if you are in this place, or otherwise break your heart for those who are. This guest post was originally published on MomLife Now by a beautiful writer named Sasha and I am honored to share it with you:

She’s Longing For A Child This Christmas

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Christmas can be the most joyous time of year. The pitter patter of little feet running out on Christmas morning. The squeals and shouts, the laughter and excitement. . .

Not everyone will feel such joy. For many this day is a sharp wound. Piercing deep in the mother who has yet to hear herself called by this name. She who has tried and tried again, only to see another negative stick, another baby lost in the womb. The adoption at a standstill–again.

To you, dear momma, I have been thinking about you. My heart unable to push you to the back of my mind. With every visit to Santa’s lap I have ached for you. I felt the hot tears fall onto my pillow last night, brushing your searing pain. The emptiness which tries to engulf you.

But what good are my tears to you? I tried to make them worth something. A prayer.

~~~~~~~~~~

God of the childless mother,

She may not have a little one who calls her “momma” just yet, but she is a mother still. Your definition of the word starts with the heart, and hers, tenderly longing, is tenderly felt by you.

I see her as she smiles lovingly on my own child, helping him pick up his cheerios just spilled across the floor. I see her as she acknowledges my shy little girl, telling her just how beautiful she looks this morning. What an incredible mommy she will be. I feel such joy for the soul who will be so blessed as to call her such.

Today though, her own soul, it’s so wounded. So desperate.

Meet her at her desperation. Give her the patience–the miraculous patience–she needs.

I see so many “mothers.” Mothers who leave their children, who neglect them, beat them, shame them. They keep on having more babies. Babies who will live through hurt and suffering. Then, I see her. She who would love her child more than life itself. God, why is she the one having difficulty? She who deserves so much to be a mother! If I struggle with this question then I know she does too. I know her hope fades thin.

Revive her hope. Hope for a day when she will find herself face to face with the child you have destined for her. Mothers come in all different shapes and sizes. Show her the path to take.

When all seems hopeless, bring your hope. When all falls dark, shine your light. When life slaps much too hard, bring your arms of comfort. Hold her God. For although a mother is her desire, your daughter she is first.

Christmas day, which could bring such pain to her tender heart. May it be a day of hope, of sweet longing for the future. A reminder that one day she too will hear the pitter patter of little feet–feet running straight to her.

Hold her tight this Christmas. She needs you.

~~~~~~~~~~

“The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.” ~Deuteronomy 33:27


Sasha is a wife and mom of two who loves to open up about the realities of motherhood at her blog, MomLife Now. For more from Sasha, you can also follow her on Facebook.

Christmas is for Desperate People

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To My Daughter on Christmas,
I realize Christmas may seem a little confusing right now: This week you saw a glowing tree magically appear in our living room. (Then you were yelled at for touching it.) We went to the mall story-time and you got paper antlers and jingle bells to wear. Christmas music blared and as we strolled away, you saw a very long line of kids waiting to sit on an old man’s lap. Later that night, I dressed you in your new red and pink reindeer pajamas–but you kept calling them, “puppies.”

I know you are not yet two, but even at twenty-seven, this holiday can still make your head swirl. But someday, I hope you can see what Christmas is really about, and that is this: Christmas is for desperate people.

Last night, as you pulled all the ornaments within your reach off our Christmas tree, you kept pointing to one in particular you called, “baby.” We haven’t talked about this “baby” yet. But He is the reason we have Christmas at all.

See, a long time ago, the world was full of desperate people. And it was dark, and sad, and in need of a Rescuer. Remember how I told you I used to cry because I had to wait a very long time for you to be born? The earth was waiting for a baby too. But this was no ordinary baby. He was the Rescuer. He would rescue people from death, and despair, and darkness. Because the people loved darkness, they kept running further and further away from God. They didn’t know His love yet. What they needed to see, was a God who would run towards them. A God who would come close. At any cost.

God had been silent a very long time. But two thousand years ago, in a barn, in the starlight, in the straw, His teenage momma pushed out His warm, slippery, little body. And the moment this “baby” let out His first cry–the silence was broken forever. Between God and men.

And as His mom held Him on her chest and felt His skin against hers, she breathed out His name, “Jesus.” “Immanuel.” It means, “God is with us.”

And He was.

God had come. Skin to skin. Breath to breath. And soon, blood for blood. For the desperate. For the sinners. And that’s what that “baby” means. That was the beginning. Of God coming close to us. Of us being brought close to Him. Forever.

Sadly, some people don’t really know why we have Christmas. They try very hard to be happy and make it mean something, but they don’t know that the only reason to be happy is that the Rescuer made a way for us to be saved from going to a very bad place, and that we can be close to God now. Forever.

I’m telling you this because you are going to see big presents and flashing lights, and hear Christmas carols, and there will be cookies, and ugly sweaters, and people rushing around buying gifts. There will be little Santa’s and big inflatable ones, and reindeer, and movies, and ads for toys, and itchy dresses, and family photos. And I give you full permission to enjoy those things. But those are extra. They are not the main thing. Christmas is about Jesus.

And He came to save people enslaved to sin. To free people from addiction. He came to cleanse sinners in His blood and clothe the naked in His righteousness. He came to take shame away. He came to feed the hungry with good things, to make rich the poor, to set captives free. He came to give Living Water to the thirsty, so they may not thirst any more. He came for brokeness and unhealable pain. He came for the lowly. And for those who thought they were really holy. He came for people who would break their marriage vows. And for all the people who would be wounded by it. He came for girls that would take off their clothes for attention, and men who would take off their rings for satisfaction. He came for people with cancer, who would be healed in the life to come. He came for abused people, and sexually confused people. He came for depressed and anxious people, and those paralyzed constantly by fear. And shame.

And He came for people like me. Because, though you don’t know yet, you will know soon that: I am desperate. And I say this with tears: I desperately need Jesus. I need Him. He is life to me.

Me and your dad: we are desperate people. We are weak and sinful. We get angry. We do bad things, we think bad things. But in Jesus, we find an invitation to come. Not because of who we are, or what we’ve done, but because of who He is, and what He’s done. Are you desperate? I pray one day you will be.

Because of this you can be sure—He is coming back again. Not as a Baby this time, but as King. And He’s coming for the desperate. And only for the desperate. “For all those who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8) And when He comes back He won’t appear as weak and lowly, but exalted and glorious. King of the earth. He will ride in on a great white horse, wearing many diadems, and He will be called: Faithful and True. On his robe and on his thigh will be written: King of kings and Lord of lords. And all the armies of heaven will ride in behind Him. And all nations and people will fall down before Him. And when He lifts His voice, the only ones who will rise will be, the desperate. Desperate for Jesus. And they shall enter the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and be satisfied forever. And nothing shall separate them from His love.

For God himself will be with them.

Immanuel.

So if you want to celebrate Christmas, my dear, we shall. We will celebrate the only way we truly can: as desperate people. As those who long for His appearing.

Love,
Mom

Photo Credit/Teamaskins

Braver Than Me

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She charges into the roaring surf at the ocean. And wants to be pushed higher, and higher on the swings. She pets barking dogs. And scales the walls of her crib. She stands on the very edge of the kitchen chairs, like she’s ready to spring off a diving board. And during her bath, she dumps bucket after bucket of water on her head, drenching her face.

How did she come from me?

This dauntless creature?

Who screams louder than I did. Moves faster. Laughs harder. And jumps higher. (In her crib.)

Last week, I set her down in the store, and at once she ran to a giant “Back to School” display, grabbed a lunch box for each hand and charged down the aisle just like someone about to miss a flight (except, she was laughing hysterically.)

“Stop!” I’m yelling, “Come back!”

I snatch her up like a squealing pig, and whisper, “Shhh!” in her ear, trying hard not to laugh. But as I’m prying the Hello Kitty lunch boxes, like suitcases, from each of her hands, a wave of loss washes over my heart.

Don’t grow up, Baby Girl.

She’s only one and a half, but is already racing out of my arms the moment they swing open, like a derby horse out of the gate. And I know the day will come when she’s not just heading down an aisle at the store, but another aisle. Where she is dressed in a white flowing gown, and I stand by with streaming tears, and…a thousand tiny memories of her,
are suddenly awakened,
like a thousand butterflies put to flight.

Please, could I catch just one, to keep?

I want to pin her down forever. Right here. Like this. Where I can stroke her soft white-blonde hair, that curls when she wakes-up warm from a nap. And stare deep into her blue eyes, like two worlds. And to grab her skinny, squirming frame, and pull her close against me, if even for a moment. Could we just stay frozen like this forever?

But I can’t pin her down like a butterfly in a collection. And fragile as she seems, she was made to be free.

Free to fly.

My Darling Girl,
Sometimes, I fear what you will be. Where you will go. The adventures you will take. And the risk.

But if God has given you wings, I will teach you to fly.

To reach higher than me. Love deeper than me. Run harder than me. Stretch further. And be braver.

For when the world goes dark, your hands may need to strike the match and carry the torch. And when the Dragon invades, your bow may need to shoot the arrows into his heart. But don’t be afraid.

For your Rescuer, Jesus,

is coming back,

and coming soon,

for brave hearts longing for Him.

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[I recently had the honor of being a guest blogger and submitting this piece for a wonderful blog called MomLife Now, which is written by an incredibly gifted writer and mother named Sasha, whom I believe you will love as much as I do.]

Motherhood: The Moments No One Sees

Today’s mothers hold a special power that no other generation of mothers quite held: the Smart Phone. And with this power (sometimes) comes the pressure to capture every moment of your darling child’s life.

(Especially if you have family out of town, who eat it up!) The least you can do is snap a picture, or post a video. Right??

It’s amazing that now 362 of your Friends can tune into Baby Girl smearing spaghetti sauce all through her hair at dinner. And by bath time, you can have 31 ‘Likes’ on it.

But this wasn’t always so. There was a time when the only people who could see your little guy run through the sprinkler in his diaper were the neighbors next door.

One part of me, (the minimalist part), wants to pull the curtains of Facebook closed for awhile and just live. I want to lose the constant camera waiting to burst out of my pocket, and the feeling of “I should be taking a video right now…” I want lose the self-consciousness, and the constant mirror my camera can become.

But, the other part of me (really) loves technology. I love that my brother-in-law in Africa can see his niece’s first steps, hear her first words, and spew out her first bite of rice cereal. I love that my sisters and parents can watch her splash in the tub after dinner, or dance like a maniac on the kitchen floor. Because in a way, they get to share it too, the moment. Moments they would otherwise miss.

But what about the moments we don’t capture? The moments no one sees?

Motherhood is full of these. No one gets to share some moments because you were laughing so hard, you forgot to snap a picture. Or you were too busy chasing monsters, or you were waiting to burst out of the closet, or you were ‘It’ in freeze tag. Maybe your toddler hid your phone in his toy box. Maybe you were too focused holding your breath in silence during hide-n-seek. Or you were lost in making Play-dough together, or painting, or building a fort out of cushions—so it was never recorded.

And some moments are so sacred, no camera could ever capture them. Like the tenderness of rocking your little one to sleep in a dark room, and watching her drift away in the moonlight. Staying there, with her, even after she’s long fallen asleep. Just to hold her. Or was she holding you?

Sometimes the moments no one sees, the moments you couldn’t capture, are the moments that captured you.

I don’t say this to make you self-conscious of what you post, or to bash my (incredibly gifted) photographer friends. That’s the last thing I want. By all means, take pictures, and videos, a lot of them! One day, you will be so glad you did. You will remember so many beautiful, hilarious, crazy moments you were bound to forget in the haze of your memory. And it doesn’t make you one bit vain to share them with others. It’s good to give others a window into your daily joy. It’s a part of community.

But I guess what I want to say to moms, and I want to say to myself is: It’s okay if you miss some moments because you were enjoying them too much. It’s okay if you were just too busy being there. It’s okay if while looking into those gorgeous blue eyes, or those chocolate brown ones, gazing into yours–you got lost, and didn’t even think to reach for your phone.

You were captured instead.