Chasing Praise

cologne cathedral

Six hundred years. Staring in 1248 and ending in 1880. That’s how long it took builders to complete Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The construction of that cathedral took longer than the United States has been in existence. Of course not all cathedrals took this long – on the other end of the spectrum the main structure in Chartres Cathedral, for example, was built in just 25 years. Chartres is definitely the exception though, most cathedrals were built well beyond the lifespan of the original architect, builders, priest, bishop, and pope involved in its planning and design and initial construction.

There was an email forward that went around a while back that compared the work of mothers to the work of those who built those awe-inspiring cathedrals so many years ago. The gist of the email is that we as mothers do things that may never receive notice in the here and now. In fact, much of what we do goes without thanks or notice and from all external appearances, no one has any clue the effort that goes into much of what it takes to raise a family. Children may never say thank you for late nights spent on lunches, laundry, cleaning, prayer, and in tears over the burden of it all well after they’re snuggled in bed wrapped in the world of dreams. Put simply, so much of motherhood is unseen. And it can be easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged as we equate being “seen” with being important.

The writer tells the story of reading through a book about the great Cathedrals of Europe and reading a legend that illustrates the nature of those who built the cathedrals. There was a rich man who came to visit a cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it.” And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”

In all honesty, I’m usually one for forwarding an email like to share a laugh with a friend who is as cynical as I am about email forwards – but even to my cynical mind and heart, this spoke much needed truth. God sees. I will likely never be heaped with praise for sacrifices big and small or hours spent caring for sick or heart-broken children. I will likely never get a pat on the back for running errands to gather all of the supplies needed for a school project or watching soccer games in the rain or getting kids to choir and making sure they make it to Sunday School each week.

And so long as I’m being honest, sometimes even knowing the humbling truth that God sees isn’t enough for me. That truth may be what I need to hear and embrace, but in my selfish and prideful and narcissistic way, I still want those pats on the back and the praise. I want praise from my husband and my kids and my friends. I want to be noticed. I want to be affirmed. And I am constantly looking to the world for that affirmation. I’m looking to other needy, broken people to fill that need to be approved. I read that email about motherhood being analogous to being a cathedral builder and I read the multitude of verses in the Bible about our approval coming from God alone – and I say “Yes, but . . .” – I look over them, past them and into the eyes of the world.

The world we live in isn’t much help in our endeavor to stop chasing praise; it encourages us to look externally for all of our approval. The world of facebooking and instagramming and tweeting our accomplishments and vacations, the pinterest-worthy creations we make with our kids, and every profound thought that crosses our mind.

So the obvious question lurking right over my head is: How do I change this dissatisfaction? How can I rest in knowing that God sees? I think the answer might be staring me in the face everywhere I turn:

Give thanks.

Open your eyes and see what you have, crazy woman! Look all around you at the blessing in your life!

Soak it in.

Roll around in it. Smile. Laugh.

Relax those shoulders and stop looking ahead and behind.

Open your hands and recognize what gifts you have.

And be thankful. Be grateful.

Because the seeking and striving after something else from this world implies that what I have is not enough. And that couldn’t be further from true – I have enough. More than enough. Heaps of enough. So today I am reminding myself that God sees. God has given me so much more than I deserve and I will open my eyes and my hands in thankfulness for it all

beautiful

Go:

The way they dance and look at themselves in the mirror out of the corner of their eyes.  The uninhibited hugs and smiles for people whom they’ve just met.  Their way of walking through life with bright eyes, heads up, and shoulders back.  Certainty that their ideas are great, their jokes are funny, and the kids at the playground want to be their friends.  No second guessing.  Their hearts for one another.  And for the world.  The empathy that can’t help but esacpe when one of them is hurt or sick or sad.  Their lack of concern for physical differences in people.  The confidence to love freely.  And show you their creativity or to perform without hesitation.  Their willingness and try anything at least once – okay two of them are willing to try anything at least once.  The way they light up even my toughest days.

STOP.

This post is in response to a writing prompt from Lisa Jo here.  

What now?

“For the most part wisdom comes in chips rather than blocks.
You have to be willing to gather than constantly and from sources you never imagined to be probable.  …
If you’re lucky, putting together your life is a process that will last through every single day you’re alive.”

(Ann Patchett, What now?)

Ann Patchett gave a graduation speech at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, several years ago and it was turned into a fabulous little book.  You can read in one sitting – or maybe five if you’re like me and read a bit waiting for the dentist and a bit before you go to bed at night.   In it, Patchett poses the question to the graduates – and to herself, and to the rest of of us: What now?

I think at any given time we’re all at a “what now” point in life.  You’ve just graduated?  Well, then what now?  You’ve just moved?  What now?  Recently married?  What now?  Recently divorced?  What now?  Just woke up?  What now?

While Patchett doesn’t provide the answer to anyone’s what now, she does provide a fertile ground for formulating the answers, or perhaps just more questions, for wherever you may be in the what now journey.

She tells the story of running into a Hare Krishna in an airport when she was in college.  He was an unassuming Hare Krishna, covert maybe, not in the robe, very attractive, younger man who offered to help her find her way to her gate.

She concludes the story with this,

“It occured to me that the Hare Krishna had probably been chosen for airport duty because without the robes he fit in so nicely.  He had a soft voice and a pleasant manner.  He had no doubt been voted the least likely to scare anyone away by his Hare Krishna class and still he failed at his task.  But what all the opeole who had run from him would never know was that he was good company.  We ate the chocolate covered alomnds I had in my bag and we talked about God.  It was the longest conversation I’d had on the subject since I graduated from

Catholic school, and I can’t imagine it did me any harm. . . . One of the first lessons of childhood is to be wary of strangers, and while this is good counsel to guard against the world’s very small negarious element, it also teaches us to block out the large majority of those who just have something on their mind they’d like to say.  We are taught to be suspicious, espeically of anyone who might not look like us or share our beliefs.  By the time we reach adulthood, we may have perfected the art of isolation, of being careful, of not listening in the name of safety.  But the truth is that we need to hear other people, all people, espeically in those moments when we don’t know exactly where we’re going ourselves.”

There have been so many times in my life when I step back and take stock, examining my intentions and desires, my dreams and my goals.  Looking to and hearing from other people has been invaluable every step of my journey.  In a day and culture when we value independence and self-sufficiency, and success is measured in dollars and cents, I loved reading this reminder that we need one another.  And while I’m prone to take that to heart for myself, it is a humbling reminder that maybe somehow, someway God is using what He’s done and is doing in my life to speak into the life of another.

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

-2 Corinthians 9:10-12

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Chasing Tomorrow

Heart racing, jaw clenched, out of breath, sweat beading up on my forehead.  No, not right after a run or a workout, but that moment right after waking up in the morning, or the middle of the night, or maybe even as I’m trying to get to sleep at night.  Sleep is fitful, waking sometimes even more so.

I worry, but that’s normal, isn’t it?

I’m anxious; but I’m not the only one, right?.

From all external appearances, you would think I actually dread tomorrow.  And yet I’ve spent so much of my life chasing it, running hard after it.  So hard in fact, that I catch myself sprinting through the moments I’m living and not actually living in them.

At any given time my “tomorrow” is something different.  On a particularly busy day at work, my tomorrow will be getting home and getting dinner on the table.  If I can just get there, I will be okay.  Until I sit down to dinner.  Then my “tomorrow” will become getting the kids bathed and in bed.  And after that, the laundry or the dishes or the thank you notes waiting to be written, they become my tomorrow.  The cycle goes on.  Even the fun parts can become a goal I’m racing toward rather than moments to be lived.  Bed time stories and good night kisses are not immune from the blanket of worry I wrap around so much of life.  The goals may be harmless – good even – having an orderly evening at home, avoiding unnecessary conflict with my family, keeping our busy family on schedule so that we can all get the nutrition and sleep we desperately need – the means to those ends are far from harmless.

What am I missing along the way to those goals?  Why is schedule dictating so much behavior?  What is my attitude communicating to those I love most?  What are the highest priorities in my life?  And would anyone be able to tell from the way I live?

I’m on a journey.  Examining and praying through priorities and approach.  Nothing is off-limits.  So if you’re here, thank you and you’re welcome to bear with me toward keeping awake and uncovering joy.

A Visit From the Toothfairy

Last Thursday night Charlotte suffered the wrath of the evil combination of tile floors, slick bottomed sandals, and running in the house.  She slipped and slammed chin-and-mouth-first into a door frame, leaving quite a mark on her chin as well as a pretty serious injury to her mouth.  That night her tooth seemed a little loose (thankfully a baby tooth) and the next morning it was apparent that a dentist would need to take a look at it.

[Disclaimer: There is no blood in these pictures, but if you are very squeamish, click away now.]
Exhibit A:
So the next morning was Good Friday and our regular dentist’s office was closed.  I put out an APB on Facebook for any dentists and thankfully I have several friends who were willing to make phone calls and send texts to find us a great dentist who had office hours on Friday.  Dr. Hunt got us in at 9:00 am and she put both Charlotte and her mom at ease. They took x-rays and showed me that the only damage was to the baby tooth and root and there doesn’t appear to be any damage to her permanent tooth or the gum surrounding it.
While I was hoping and praying that they might be able to save her tooth, it wasn’t possible.  The nurse was great and she stayed with Charlotte and put on Wreck-it Ralph while we waited for the numbing medicine to start to work.  Charlotte was a brave champ through it all.  She didn’t even whine when she was getting the shot in her gums.
watching the movie in the ceiling while she waited
checking out the dentist’s tools
The tooth came out quickly and again, Charlotte was so brave and made it through with barely a tear.  We were out of the office within about ten minutes, off to get a special morning ice cream treat.
This wasn’t the smile I would have expected from my four year old on Easter Sunday, but I’m so thankful for a such a minor issue from what could have been much worse.

For Charlotte, the whole thing was well-worth it, the Toothfairy made her first visit to our house for someone other than Caroline on Thursday night.  :) Even with her snaggletooth, she’s my precious Charlotte-girl!

What a waitress can teach a doctor

A couple of weeks ago Jeff’s finger was the unfortunate casualty of an encounter with his car door.  That encounter resulted in lots of blood, an unplanned early morning jaunt to the ER, much pain and many stitches, and a broken finger.  The next day we saw an orthopedic surgeon who informed us that Jeff would need surgery to repair his finger and prevent something disgustingly titled, “bone infection.”  So, we scheduled the surgery for the following Tuesday.  We dutifully got the girls off to  school that morning and went to the surgery center for the procedure that was “scheduled for 11:00,” but of course they asked us to be there an hour early to check in and complete any paperwork, etc.

In hindsight, I’m amused by the “be there an hour early” requirement.

As we waited, and waited, and waited, it became apparent that surgery would not begin at 11:00.  Or 12:00.  When we were called back to pre-op at 12:45, I was hopeful that maybe we’d be getting closer to actually having the surgery.  The nurses took care of all of the blood work  setting up an IV, and taking his vitals in about 15 minutes.  So we settled in to watch the Karate Kid while we waited.  Another hour passed and still no sign that surgery was coming anytime soon.  Jeff was resting, in an out of sleep, and I was just growing increasingly aggravated   At this point the nurses even stopped checking in on us.

Finally at about 2:30 I went to talk to the nurse on duty.  There was basically no one else even around.  Though I knew the whole situation was not her fault, she heard an earful.  She apologized profusely and with lots of “yes, ma’am’s” she called the OR to check on the doctor’s status.  About 15 minutes later the doctor’s OR nurse came in and she had to hear it from me as well. I wasn’t surprised, but the doctor didn’t come back to talk to us before surgery, I’m sure he’d been duly warned that there was an angry redhead in pre-op 1.

So here’s my point:  I completely understand that doctors are incredibly busy and the unexpected often occurs in the medical field   I have the utmost respect for the burden doctors carry – trying to juggle many patients, their families, the things they’ve scheduled and the emergencies that arise.  I cannot, however, excuse the complete disregard for the waiting that patients and families have to endure with no explanation for what’s going on or when we might expect to actually see the doctor or have the surgery we were “scheduled” for four hours earlier.

Lie to me.  Tell me there was a massive trauma and the doctor has been called to emergency surgery at another hospital.  Don’t let us sit watching Karate Kid (and the first forty-five minutes of Karate Kid 2) with zero communication about our situation.  It’s inconsiderate and disrespectful.

I was a waitress in college for a couple of years.  One of the worst parts about being a waitress was having to apologize for food that was wrong or late.  When a  table had been waiting for their food for an inordinate amount of time, I wanted to avoid them.  I didn’t want to have to apologize for the kitchen and fill drinks and hear complaints.  But I can say that the experience of being in the shoes of the table sitting there waiting for their food with no waiter in sight made me do the uncomfortable and put myself into the discomfort.  People are better when we know what to expect.

Is it going to be another 15 minutes?  Tell me.

Is it going to be another two hours?  Just tell me.

I may be unhappy, disappointed, angry even.  But most of the time, we will endure it if we know what to expect.

[stepping of soapbox]

Believe

We had a great Christmas. We got to spend time with family, visit Santa Claus, take some time to relax, open presents, go to church, participate and watch a Live Nativity, have school parties, cook, bake, wrap presents . . .. I could go on, but I’m sure you’d all rather see it than read my words about t it all.

Here’s a recap of the whirlwind of it all in photo and video

Visiting with Santa

Visiting the LSU Christmas Tree

The Live Nativity at church

Discovering all that Santa brought on Christmas morning (the girls asked for a Barbie Dream House, but Santa thought this dollhouse was a better investment :-) )

Friends, I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas – enjoying the gift of family and the magic of believing 

When you least expect it

I often find myself trying to force a memory – getting the girls to pose or pause doing something – and nine times out of ten, it just doesn’t work.  And other times I take a picture just on an impulse.  These are some of those and I love how their personalities come through.