Lessons from a Stranger.

Remember when I told you about that frazzled time I had at Target a month or two ago?  Well, that piece morphed into an article on leadership featured yesterday at She Loves magazine.  Enjoy!  

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She didn’t have to do it. But she saw the tears in my eyes and she saw the reddening frustration in my face and she saw the screaming toddler slumped over my protruding, bloated belly.

She saw me, and that was all it took. And in that moment, receiving her gift of kindness was the only thing I could do in return.

Because it was just one of those days: Thomas the Train wasn’t enough today, and Mama ran out of more “Berries! Berries!” All I wanted to do was lay on the couch and hibernate for another nine months, and all my son wanted to do was run and catch and throw, repeat—run and catch and throw, repeat.

By the time we arrived at Target, he wasn’t having the cart and I wasn’t having his tantrums, but what’s a girl to do when you’re already splitting the one remaining square of toilet paper in two, and all the baby-in-womb seems to crave is a bowl of Quaker Oats?

Although I could have—and perhaps should have—left the store the minute we walked inside, I remained determined to win. I’ll beat him at his own game, I thought to myself. But there’s no beating the stubborn will of a 25-month old—and by the time we met that Stranger-of-a-Saint in line, we’d both fought the good fight … and lost.

So somehow, perhaps because she saw me, she just knew. She knew we needed to not wait in line a minute longer than necessary: she began clearing her items from the conveyer belt, putting them back into her cart, motioning her young daughter to help. In broken English, she said, “Go ahead of us, please.” She waved and she motioned at me—and she, the giver of kindness—tacked on a please, to me, the recipient.

All I could do was receive.

All I could do was hope she saw the thank you, thank you, thank you of my teary eyes, and the bless you, bless you, bless you emanating from choked-up throat.

Now, a week later, I think and reflect on this little two-minute gift of selflessness, and I can’t help but muse that she is a woman who knows how to lead.

And it makes me realize that leadership looks different from my own original definitions of it, when I toted a leader as the one with wit and charm and good looks, to boot. A gregarious, up-front, hilarious attitude was naturally a part of the package, as was—at least in the Evangelical circles of my youth—the one who preached the best sermon, who loved Jesus the most, who emanated holiness the best.

Click here to read the rest of the article – otherwise, how have everyday experiences taught you life’s bigger lessons?  

the little things: the unanswered skype call (rachel zupke).

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Today’s writer is the lovely Rachel, who captures what it means to make the choice to live positively in the moment …even when a two-year-old seems to dictate every brain thought and reaction-filled emotion.  So revel in what our friend has to say today, and – of course, as usual – enjoy.

The Unanswered Skype CallShe didn’t answer. But that was okay, at least to me (initially). To my toddler, though, having Auntie not answer our Skype call was devastating. I think we tried to call her at least 12 more times, that mechanical ring sounding ever louder each time we’d attempt a connection. At the time, it was quite annoying but my daughter was insistent that we talk to Auntie.

I will admit I got a bit frustrated. Frustrated because I knew she wouldn’t answer if she didn’t answer right away. Frustrated because I was exhausted but we were out of milk which meant I couldn’t have an iced chai. Frustrated because there was a pile of diapers left to assemble from last night’s cleaning cycle and I simply didn’t have the energy to do them. And frustrated because my daughter just wouldn’t let it go. Auntie was not going to answer.

Of course, she was chirping on and on about “Auntie no answer” and “Auntie not there” and even “Auntie call us?”.

Instead of reveling in her sing song voice that will mature into a true little girl at any moment, instead of making a game out of the repeat attempts to reach her beloved Auntie, instead of acknowledging her disappointment and demonstrating empathy with her difficulty…I got frustrated. By the littlest thing.

I had a choice that morning. Enjoy the hopeful search for Auntie through cyberspace and join in my daughter’s anticipation of a potential conversation with this woman she and I both love or get frustrated by what I, in that moment, deemed annoying.

In my journey through motherhood, I’ve been more than disappointed in myself. I am a recovering perfectionist and control freak, two conditions I am sure I will never be completely free of. But in the last two years, I’ve learned more about myself as well as of God.

How many times has He patiently waited through my repeated pleas for what to Him could seem incredibly small? Because of His great love for us, He never once cast off my request as frustrating or as lacking His attention. Sure, I didn’t get an answer right away but then again maybe I did, seeing as unanswered prayers are also a form of answer (to channel a famous country music singer).

A Skype call, or unanswered one, rather, brought out the worst in me. Upon recollection, though, I think it also illuminated where I need to work the most. On patience, on remembering and comprehending just how much patience my Heavenly Father has for me, and on the incredible opportunity I’m given each day I get to spend with a child who will be little for not much longer.

In case you’re still wondering, Auntie did call back. The ear to ear grin my newly turned two year old was something I’ll never forget. Yes, her smile was technically small in size and in brevity, but giant in its ability to imprint on my mind. It’s something I’ll go back to every time I get frustrated over something small.

IMG_7134cropRachel is a stay at home mom to a toddler. Her husband brings home the big bucks as a high school science teacher, and she helps out financially by coaching (cross country, basketball, and rowing) and substitute teaching at her hubby’s high school (where she taught HS science, pre-baby). She writes about living with perseverance, passion, and purpose (or, what she deems Mason Jar Values) over at rachelzupke.com. Because life for Rachel = faith and family, homemaking, real food and natural living, outdoor adventures with their Siberian Husky, and local happenings.  You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.  So, your thoughts?  (This coming from someone who just posted “PSA to the whole wide world: don’t ever try and reason with a two-year-old”…).  What have you learned about yourself and about the world in one small moment?  Encourage Rachel today!

the little things: saying good-bye (ginger lobdell).

Friends, I want you to meet one of my favorite internet-friends, Ginger.  She is a storyteller, and for today’s guest post spot, she catches that moment of saying good-bye just perfectly.  So enter in to what she has to say today …and be sure to cheer her on afterwards.  Love to all!

Nothing is small, in fact...

It was the time that every divorced parent fears – the moment when your heart is ripped from your body as you say goodbye to your precious little ones. His Friday evening had rolled around again, and it was time for hugs and farewells as my boys left to spend the scheduled every other weekend with their father. These are the times that I dreaded the most.

“Bye, Mom! See you Monday! Love you!”

Our middle son jumped down the last three stairs and gave me a high-five as he started toward the door. I caught him and planted a smooch on his freckled cheek. “Blech,” he giggled as he wiped the back of his hand over the place where I had kissed him. He’s not a fan of showing affection through physical touch, so I’m used to him brushing it off.

He turned around and smiled up at me as I gave him a quick hug. “I’ll miss you, Mom! Tell Daddy Joe HI for me and that I miss him, too!” 

“I’ll do that, Buddy. I love you so much!”

Our youngest son grabbed my hand, wrapping my arm around him and his backpack filled with his favorite stuffed animals. I can’t believe my baby is getting so big.

“Bye-bye, Momma! I yuv you!”

“I love you, too, Honey. I’ll miss you so much while you’re gone!”

I nuzzled my cheek against our oldest son’s black hair as he threw his arms in a bear hug around me. When did he grow to be so strong?

“Love you, Mom! I’ll miss you!”

“I love you so much, Dude! Have a great weekend!”

Sighing, I watched them climb into the car. Every other weekend… You’d think I would be used to these goodbyes by now, but the part where I watch them drive away never gets easier, even after all these years.

I almost turned away from the window. I didn’t want to watch them leave again…but something held me there. Our middle son looked up to see me waving at the window. He waved back, and then he blew me a kiss.

I yearned to run after my boys, and wrap them up in the safety of my arms for just a moment longer, but I knew that I had to let them go.

My eyes welled up with all of the emotion that I had been holding back. That little moment in time, and those little fingers blowing me a kiss, was greater than any gift that I could have ever wished for myself. A peace trickled over me as the taillights faded into the night.

Everything is going to be okay. I promise.

As long as I live, I will cherish the gift I was given that day. I know that it was just a small thing, but to this Mommy’s heart, she was given the whole world.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart…” ~ Luke 2:19

Ginger ~ Justoneoftheboys.comGinger is an Air Force wife to her Beloved, mommy to her three growing boys, and a Kansas girl. Her Yellow Brick Road has led her through deep valleys of loneliness, betrayal, heartache, divorce, illness, and searching. She has also encountered the glorious paths of motherhood, friendship, rapture, butterflies – oh the butterflies, promise, hope, healing, new beginnings, and a love that she had never known possible. She would love to connect with you on her blog – Just One of the Boys, and on Facebook!  So, what did you think of Ginger’s moment?  How did her words touch you?

 

love made tangible.

I posted this picture on Instagram last night, with the following caption:

Let’s be honest: besides the little human who now resides outside of the womb, my favorite post-pregnancy thing is the FOOD.  To me, meal trains are love personified …shown through taqueria burritos and wine bearing family names.  Thank you to those who have loved us and will love us in this way.  It matters.

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And it does.  It does matter.  Because too often in our social media-saturated culture, we forget about each other, even though we see each other all the time.  We observe each other’s worlds (or at least the worlds we choose to portray) on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, and we read about each other on our blogs – and it makes us think that we’re connecting with each other.  But we’re not.  We are like ships passing in the night, perhaps even lifting a hand or blowing a kiss in our friend’s general direction – though altogether failing to actually make human contact.  Oftentimes, we entirely miss the point of connection, hoping that those we love know we’re thinking of them as pictures of their lives scroll through our news feeds, as a story they’ve told makes us giggle and laugh and think.

But we forget to call.

And we don’t always take the time to shoot a thinking of you text.

Letters and packages become virtually obsolete, and stopping by “because I was in the neighborhood” becomes a thing of yesterday.

Truthfully, I’ve had countless conversations with people about the simultaneous blessing and curse that comes with living in a technology-sodden cosmos, because, really, I’m just as guilty as the next person.  But it brings us full-circle back to Point A: that’s why I love the meals that come post-pregnancy.  Because, whether it’s made from scratch or picked up from the local taqueria or delivered via Munchery from 800 miles away, it’s love made tangible.

It reminds me that I am remembered …and not just another one of your 1000 friends.

It lets me know that I am loved and cared for and thought of …and not just another pixel-filled image taking up brain space.

And it nudges me to do the same, because this is what and who we’re supposed to be for each other, whether on the end of giver or receiver.

So, go.  Do it.  Make love – or Love, however you see it – tangible.

In this with you, c.

Some thoughts: Do you have a friend who just had a baby or lost a loved one?  Is a buddy of yours sick or seeming overwhelmed?  Reach out to him or her.  Don’t just hope your psychic good vibes make the subliminal journey from one city to the next, but make love tangible.  And if, for instance, you want to jump on providing a friend a meal, even though you live a state or two away, check out websites like Munchery or Caviar, which deliver chef-made meals right to your door.  Pick up a restaurant gift card at Safeway and pop it in the mail.  Enter their zip code into Yelp, and see what local businesses potentially deliver right to their door.  Just do something. What about you?  When you’ve need a helping hand, how have you been shown love?  What other websites or ideas would you recommend to the rest of us?   

welcome, baby boy.

Indulge me for just a day as I introduce to you to the campfire we just can’t stop staring at… for on August 29th at 1 pm, we welcomed Baby Boy Meredith into this world.

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Big Brother Cancan and Gaga (my mom) came to meet Baby Brother around 5 that afternoon.  Gaga was, of course, gaga, and Cancan was over-the-moon in awe.

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We began getting to know him…

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We being Dada…

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And Mama…

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And finally, around 8 o’clock that night, after whittling our choices down to three names, we went with Theodore John.  We call him Theo (or TJ, if the mood strikes us), and we’re smitten with its meaning and significance: for he is loved (‘dore) by God (theo).  

He shares a middle name with the HBH’s favorite person in the world, his brother John, and a middle name with my dad and brother.  We also like to think that he high-fived his great grandfather in and out of life, as Grandpa (John) Mac, passed exactly 24 hours after Theo’s birth.  Because it’s all life and death, death and life, folks.  We live and breathe resurrection.

Finally, he bonded with Big Brother and Gaga some more.

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Eventually, along the way, we took a couple baby selfies…

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He’s not-so-secretly made known his favorite place to reside: chest side, neck side, nestled-in-to-your-whole-being side.  I am not opposed.

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We arrived home yesterday, and he’s already started joining in on the family dance party.  Here’s his best “Stayin’ Alive” pose thus far.

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We’re all learning the art of one-on-one parent-child defense, and Gaga is quite the pro teaching all of us the ropes.  (She did raise three children, after all).

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Thanks for cheering us on, friends!

xo,

Cara “up all night, but that’s all the moaning I’m going to do” Meredith

the little things: he thanked me (brenda miller).

Guest post Tuesday continues (and readers, I promise, the official baby announcement will be up tomorrow or Thursday, as Baby Theo is here!).  But first things first: Brenda is a real-life, real-deal, love-and-appreciate her friend, and I think anyone who’s ever LEARNED to ask for help will relish in her story today.  Enjoy.  
Flickr Creative Commons.  Photo cred: Keoki Seu.

Flickr Creative Commons. Photo cred: Keoki Seu.

For some reason I have always considered asking for help is a sign of weakness.   I should be able to accomplish, and do anything, on my own.  But, the older I get the more this “belief” is challenged and the more I see this isn’t the case.

On Superbowl Sunday 2012 my husband was traveling overseas.   My boys and I (2 and 4 months at the time) had just entertained my parents for the weekend and they had left early that morning.   I kept hearing a funny noise as I was laying on the couch watching my boys drive trains.   I mostly ignored it until it dawned on me that the funny noise was coming from our own house.   I went to investigate and found our hot water heater spewing water everywhere in the garage.    Oh the instant panic!   Without explanation I left my boys alone in our house as I went sprinting through the neighborhood trying to find someone to help me.

The second door I knocked on was answered.   Sheer panic apparently on my face as I only got as far as “Josh is gone and my water heater is leaking…”   Chris did not hesitate –  In his “Sunday best” he took off sprinting back to my home to help me.    His wife and daughter not far behind us.   He quickly shut the water off and evaluated the situation.   All the while his wife graciously said “Let us take your boys for you” leaving me to deal with the situation on hand.

I don’t know to this day what all plans they may have had that Superbowl Sunday, but regardless they spent the entire day helping me.   Chris emptied my water heater.   He took me shopping for a new one, helping me pick out the best one for my family.   He and his son removed my old water heater, his wife and daughter spent the day playing with my boys, and Chris spent the afternoon installing our new water heater.    It was fairly late into the evening before every thing was back in working order.   Their entire day spent helping me.

I’ve never felt more grateful.   I wasn’t even sure how to express my gratitude and a simple “thank you” seemed so insufficient.   But, that is what I uttered as Chris told me he was done.   “Thank you, I don’t know what I would have done without you and your family”.   The reply stopped me in my tracks.   “No, THANK YOU for coming to us for help and allowing us to be the neighbor Jesus calls us to be.”

He. Thanked. Me.  

I think about that moment often.   It was one of the first times I haven’t looked back and thought “I am weak”  but rather, I think of how blessed I was to have a family so ready to help.  From that moment I have found I am more willing to ask for help without a fear that others will see me as weak or a burden.   And, I find myself wanting to be that kind of a friend and neighbor to other’s.  Someone who is there when you call on them, ready to help with nothing but a loving heart, as we are called to be.

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Brenda Joy is wife to Josh, mama to Liam and Brandon and friend to many.  She plays a mean classical piano and her engagement ended not only with a ring, but with a bull mastiff puppy.  She’s also an incredible photographer, so cheer on and check out her skills on Facebook and on her photography website.  (And if you’re in western Washington, hire her today!)  Otherwise, what resonated with you today in Brenda’s writing?  How has asking for help or helping others changed you?  

what i’m into :: august 2014.

Y’all: Love you, love your show.  I’m making this quick for obvious baby-was-due-four-days-ago reasons.  Check back for the inevitable birth of our second son!  But otherwise, if you’re new here on a “What I’m Into” monthly check-up, I link up with the Lovely Leigh for a recap of the past month.  Who am I kidding?  It’s mostly about the books I’ve read and the two-year-old kid I already think is pretty cute, as I’m not the best about recording everything else.  Enjoy!  

38.5 weeks pregnant (i.e.: two weeks ago).  What's the little bugger going to look like?!

38.5 weeks pregnant (i.e.: two weeks ago). What’s the little bugger going to look like?!

I read…

Devil in the Details (Traig, 4/5) – I mean, how can you go wrong with a memoir involving OCD and Judaism?  Bam.

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (McLaren, 4/5) – While I would have preferred something meatier, I think this is a necessary read for people of the Christian faith.

We Need New Names (Bulawayo, 3/5) – this African writer explores super tough issues in a coming-of-age novel. Definitely hard to digest at times.

The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage (Achtemeier, 2/5) – I don’t give it a low rating because of the content per say, but more so because of the way he went about exploring the topic.

A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island (Putman, 2/5) – I just needed a brainless Kindle read during those insomniac nights. Mission accomplished.

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child (Gottman, 4/5) – A definite must-read for parents.

Big Little Lies (Moriarty, 5/5) – Friends, this is the PERFECT summer beach read. Moriarty’s best one yet!

Reclaiming Eve (Burden, 3/5) – I am so proud of my friend Suzanne’s words and simply have some other theologically-minded pro-women books at the top of my list.

Life After Life (Atkinson, 3/5) – K. I’m not sure if pregnancy brain just SUPER set in upon reading this book, but it took me a good while to feel like I actually understood the plot line. If you loved this book, tell me more, tell me more!

A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving, 5/5) – Do not do as I did, and that is for YEARS judge a book by its title. Instead, head to your local bookstore and pick it up ASAP. This is one of the best fictional books I’ve read in years.  Also, click here to join in the discussion on She Loves magazine, as it’s this month’s Red Couch book club pick!

Animal Farm (Orwell, 3/5) – I’m a sucker for 99-cent deals on Audible …what can I say? And, considering I’ve known all about this book, but hadn’t actually read the book, I needed an excuse to read it. Done.

I’m reading… The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective; The Preaching Life; Crossing to Safety; The Circle.  

I wore… big, stretchy womb-filled clothes.  Not a whole lot to write home about, folks.

I wrote… Oh friends, I edited and revised and revamped and rewrote last month’s “three more chapters.”  The book writing process never ends, I say!  It was also fun to write for Jen Pollock Michael and Suzanne Burden, fellow Redbuds, and to pour my heart into an article for an upcoming digest, Theology of Ferguson.  

I ate… lots of heartburn-filled food.  (This baby must be rather hairy with all the heartburn he’s giving me come 9 pm each night!)

Le bebe?  Check back here for details – he’s arriving soon, soon, soon!

And otherwise…

My kid and one of his besties.

My kid and one of his besties.

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My love and a celebration of life together …although we didn’t go out the night of, we did make it out of the house, kid-free three nights later!

Finally, I laughed a hearty belly-laugh at this… awkward parenting story from our girl, Glennon Doyle Melton.  LUB.  

Much love!

Knocked-up mama and soon-to-be baby

What about you?  What have you read and digested and seen and done this past month?  What put a HUGE smile on your face?  What left you disgruntled?  Do share!