Did I Do It Well Enough?

Some of the sweetest wins in life come from receiving a reward for a job well done. Rewards are often that little extra push to finish something successfully that I’ve begun and have lost interest in. Knowing my efforts will be valued and affirmed help me finish well.

Being rewarded doesn’t always guarantee an expected result.

Sloane is at the age where she’s learning to use the bathroom like a big girl. Sophisticated real underwear with her favorite princesses on them added to her sense of ability and capacity.

Life too often gets in the way of the task. Remembering to go when she was playing or intently looking at books was a challenge for Sloane. Being aware of what you’ve never had to be aware of before can be difficult.

In preschool, she had no problem with consistency. Everybody was doing it. When everyone gets herded toward the bathroom with one specific goal in mind, being part of the herd makes remembering easy.

Home was harder. So much to do. Places to go. Baby brother Ward to play with. Helping Mommy and Daddy with whatever they needed to do. A girl can only recall so much.

My daughter Melody created a chart for Sloane to record her accomplishments. She’d be rewarded with success immediately–an M&M entices quite nicely. But when she reached twenty successes, she’d get a bigger reward.

A fake fish tank.

I’ve seen this tank. It’s more like an exaggerated night light with colorful fake fish swimming together in circles. She had one in her preschool class and really wanted one for her room. I didn’t understand the fascination.

It worked for Sloane.

The day came when she’d accomplished her twenty successes. She was jubilant; the fake fish tank was ordered. When it arrived, there was genuine excitement. When it was plugged in, and the fish began to swim in choreographed circles, I thought it quite restful.

Sloane sat and watch, somewhat mesmerized.

Now that her potty points had been accumulated and the tank purchased, urgency wasn’t the name of the game. Without the anticipation of a bigger reward, it became easier to get involved in play. To forget what she’d learned.

There will come a time when using the bathroom will become a habit. As she grows, it will make more sense to her.

Maturing does that for us. Being adults and doing things in healthy ways that respect who we are and respect others is part of growing up.

So often I find I want to be rewarded for the good choices I’ve made. Not necessarily with something tangible, like a fake fish tank. Words of affirmation are often what it takes to motivate me to keep going, especially in difficult situations.

Many times what I’ve done isn’t recognized. I’m not thanked or my work isn’t seen as beneficial.

Did it matter that I did my best? Does my effort make a difference?

In our busy world, it’s easy to feel overlooked or underappreciated.

God sees all I do. He values me. His perspective of me as His beloved child doesn’t ever change. Even if I haven’t given my best.

And He’s pleased with me.

No point chart required.

 

 

 

 

But I Want It!

 

 

Sugar, butter, sprinkles and lots of frosting–cake! What’s not to like?

We were in Washington D.C. for the celebration of Ward’s first birthday and baptism. Celebrating two landmarks and enjoying the camaraderie of friends and family.

The ceremony at the church was meaningful–especially as Ward grinned ear to ear and batted his folks in the face while the pastor shared thoughtful truths.

His birthday celebration was more festive. He had a beautiful green mini-cake with frosting and sprinkles that was begging to be eaten. Its brief, beautiful life was destroyed with his intent to eat as much sugar as possible before it was taken from him.

Ward’s face was sheer bliss. His eyes closed with pleasure, his hands couldn’t get the green and gold goodness into his mouth fast enough. He was able to lift most of it to sink his face into it as if he was in a cake-eating contest.

How much sugar was he eating? How often does a first birthday come around? The gratification he experienced was visceral; those of us watching were enjoying his satisfied eating almost as much as he was.

His responsible parents stepped in. Enough was enough. He needed to be cleaned up and put a halt to sugar consumption. As the cake was being taken from him, he let his aggravation be felt with his displeased cry.

They then added insult to injury and put him in a baby pool with a running hose, removing layers of colored frosting, chunks of cake and sprinkles found in places no one expected.

The earlier smiles and bliss gave way to indignant cries which then morphed into cold, wet discomfort.

Ward was mad. He wanted his cake and his mess, and he didn’t want to be cleaned up.

I empathize with Ward.

There are so many things in my life that are enticing. Drawing me in with promises of satisfaction, enjoyment, unvoiced needs being met, I too often succumb to desire without thinking about possible consequences.

There are always consequences.

Too much cake means extra weight and cavities. Binge watching TV keeps me from accomplishing what I’d like to do and insidiously steals sleep from me. Overworking makes me cranky, especially if others aren’t working to the same degree I am. Any addiction becomes a driving force that I can’t control or manage. No excuse, justification, rationalization makes hurtful habits good for me.

We’ve been created with needs that are often satisfied more simply than we want to think. Our bodies need certain nutrients, not extremes in anything. All of us need relationships, the opportunity to interact with others honestly and authentically. We need space and time to think and process things happening in life.

We need God.

I tried for years to fill up the yearning in my heart with friends and activities. To work harder, be better, be enough for others to like and accept me.

When someone introduced me to a personal relationship with Jesus, I didn’t have to prove myself worthy of His love. He gave it freely based on His grace. Not my efforts.

Ward wanted cake. But cake could not satisfy what he really needed.

Do you know what you really need?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It All “Please” And No “Thank You”?

When people begin a year-long program of leadership development and growth, many things are taken into account. Location, team participants, content. The big picture of hoped-for success.

When families are part of the picture, little ones must be considered.

I love belonging to an organization that values the family and provides opportunities for husbands, wives, and singles. Everyone is valued; everyone is seen for who they are and what their needs may be.

With children being part of the equation, it’s easy to consider them as collateral damage. Get a sitter and be done with it. The focus, the resources, are spent on the adults.

What do little kids add?

Having walked this path as John and I were involved in training opportunities, our six kids were in various stages of growth.

Being watched by folks they didn’t know was rarely appreciated by them.

Kids experience transition as dramatically as adults, and when these little guys got here months ago, they’d been uprooted from the familiar and friendly. Thrown together with kids from different places and adjusting to new norms wasn’t easy. After ten months together, they’ve made friends and have developed a new norm of familiar and friendly.

The unsung heroes are the childcare workers who come in every week to watch, teach and love on these little people. They deal with sadness, discomfort, separation anxiety, and attitudes. Two of these workers are my two oldest grands; one of them is a close friend. All of them have been present with these kids, meeting needs and supervising well.

Without much appreciation from those they care for.

I can’t remember seeing a child telling a parent or caregiver, “I’m so glad you’ve cared well for me.”

The parents have been grateful. They know their children are being loved well and are safe.

What has been impressive is the kindness with which these teens have cared for these kids. Many of them have younger siblings–they know what being bothered is like. Older siblings are whined about to parents, yelled at for not including younger siblings, have demands placed on them by littles who think these older ones are at their beck and call.

It’s often how we treat God.

As Creator and Sustainer of the universe, it’s easy to whine about how He doesn’t give us this or that. Why He lets hard things happen to good people. Why He doesn’t always do what we ask.

As our good and loving Parent, He gives us free will to choose Him and His ways–and reminds us that there are consequences for our choices. He knows what we need and what it will take for us to grow into adulthood well. Sometimes that’s painful. Often we fight Him on it.

Watching these young people take care of these kids makes me realize how often I’m not grateful for all God has provided for me. For the sacrifices He’s made for me–sending His Son to die in my place so I can experience heaven with Him.

Even in small things, when was the last time I was grateful for being able to walk, see or laugh out loud? To experience the sun on my face and a cool breeze in the air?

Gratitude is a gift we give God for all He’s given us.

When was the last time you thanked Him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s A Mom?

Mother’s Day ranks right up there with Valentine’s Day with its ability to make people feel miserable.

It’s the reminder of what isn’t. What might be but hasn’t happened. And because women are particularly adept at comparing, it’s one more opportunity to experience a sense of “Why not me?” “Where did I go wrong?”

There are many women who long to be married and have children, an opportunity that hasn’t been given them. There are those married who are challenged by infertility, and every month is a reminder that what they hope for hasn’t yet happened. Some have chosen to adopt or foster those birthed by others. Some have lost children, through miscarriage or early in life, which leaves a tangible hole in a heart that knows they’re there but are no longer. Others have children who are challenged with special needs or difficult circumstances that no mother can control. Others became moms without a plan or a partner, and being a single parent has changed everything for them.

Motherhood isn’t what it appears to be.

I have friends and family in all those situations, and for each, there is an underlying whisper of insufficiency. Of something good being not so good.

What is a mom? Certainly not just a baby-making machine, a sum total of eggs that can produce a perfect human being.

It’s the nurturing nature that reaches out to those who have a need to be cared for, seen, and loved. It’s the willingness to sacrifice oneself for someone else because their life demands can’t be attained alone. It’s being present when you’re tired because somebody desperately needs to be heard. It’s loving others with authenticity, no matter who they are, how they look, or how they act.

It’s not the kids that make the moms. It’s receiving well whatever “kids” God gives us and loving them without strings attached.

I’ve had wonderful mom figures in my life who never had biological kids of their own. These women were present with me, heard me and loved me well. They made me feel like I could do anything, and they didn’t condemn my failures but encouraged me to try again.

It’s easy to be disappointed with what we have because we look at what others have and it appears to be so much better. In a culture where images are constantly managed, it’s simple to fall prey to what we perceive is good.

God knows us perfectly. He is more concerned about who we are than what we have, about how we deal with life circumstances than the value of a reputation. We limit ourselves when we assess our value based on societal norms.

God has a better story for us. One of redemption and love, of forgiveness and hope. Every story is different. Every woman has a unique plotline that raises her to be somebody special in the eyes of the One who made her.

I’m grateful to be celebrating as a mom. My story engages my six amazing kids.

Beauty isn’t limited to procreation.

Beauty is the gift God gives in making us complete in Him.

Maybe Mother’s Day should be Loving Day.

 

 

The Little Lump Of Clay That Could

Give a person of any age a lump of clay, and one of a few things will happen.

They’ll roll it into a clay snake or a ball.

Or mush it between fingers and begin to create.

I’ve long been fascinated with pottery. I’ve never had the opportunity to fashion a piece from scratch and have it fired, but my son’s avocation is pottery. He’s been doing it for close to twenty years, and his pieces are beautiful. He uses shapes, textures, colors to take them out of the ordinary into amazing.

Yes, I’m his mom. Biased. A bit. But also very curious about the process of going from wet clay to hardened pot. I learned from him.

First is the clay is thoroughly kneaded so all the air bubbles are forced out. They can cause the piece to weaken and collapse.

One of the tougher parts comes next–centering the clay on the wheel. Clay is uncooperative, so getting it to stay centered for even shaping as the wheel spins is no easy matter. Positioning is important, and potters often wedge their elbows on their legs to get even pressure on both sides so the clay won’t flop out.

Once the clay is centered and the wheel spinning, the potter puts his thumb in the middle and begins to pull out then up, using knuckles to evenly shape the sides of the pot. Slow and deliberate, even pressure. If done too quickly, the pot gets off-center and will need to be mashed to start over again.

If the order of procedure is wrong, the end product is off.

Who knew it was so hard to make a quality pot?

Our team wanted to do something fun and meaningful for the women in our group, and making clay pots was suggested. There’s some wonderful clay-like material that molds well and hardens in the air. We decided to challenge these gals to make pots or whatever suited them out of this clay as a reflection of how they were doing at this point in the year, close to the end of this cycle of participants.

I shared some of what I’d learned from my son. It was an aha moment for all of us.

God is referred to as the Potter; we are His clay. Potters patiently create in clay what they see in their minds. God has created each of us specifically, with a special design in mind, for special purposes. Every one of us a work of art, a masterpiece.

I find I often fight the hand of the Potter. When the pain of His shaping hurts, I want to smack His hand away and tell Him “Enough”. I want to be all He wants me to be, but I don’t want to have to hurt to get there. To put up with the pressure of being shaped. Or worse, being pressed down to begin again. When I fight His work in my life, I throw myself into the off-center position. Turmoil.

God gently recenters me. Which can feel uncomfortable, painful.

He is patient with us, longing for us to be vessels filled with His light and love. If we will see His shaping as an act of love, helping us to grow to who He sees we can be.

How will you respond to God’s shaping?