This past week has been a huge lesson in patience for me. I guess, I could say that about every week if I was truly honest. But this week especially, I feel like God imparted some much needed wisdom on my heart -- hard truths coupled with a freeing comfort that I can't quite put into words yet.
I hate the fact that I need more patience. Every time I lose my patience, I'm so disappointed in myself. I'm especially upset if I lose my patience with my girls. Now, sure, they are absolutely the primary vehicles with which God gives me opportunities to learn patience (*translation: they can drive me insane sometimes*), but they are my precious daughters. I want to have the utmost patience with them above all.
But something that Beth Moore said about patience really hit me hard the other day, and I've carried it with me since. She explained that one reason most people don't have patience (with others) is because the people that try our patience bring out the worst in us, and we don't want to see the worst in us (even though we know it's there). We want to be happy with ourselves; we don't want to confront what it is in us that needs to change.
Wow, that is SO me! It is the exact reason that I lose my patience with my girls, but also with everyone else. I hate the fact that I'm not perfect, that I still need to work on things, that I'm sometimes prideful, judgmental, selfish, etc. And when another person comes along and does something to really drive me nuts, I lash out (usually internally, but I still do it). How dare they come along and show me how terrible I can be?! How dare Elizabeth spill her drink AGAIN and show me how much of a control freak I can be about being the "perfect parent?!" How dare Stephen get home late and show me how unhealthily co-dependent I can be on him?! How dare that person cut me off in traffic and show me how selfish I am about my time?! And the list goes on.
Understanding this cut me to the core. The truth about myself hurt at first because I was finally forced to look at myself in the mirror and admit that I'm way not as awesome as I pridefully believed myself to be. But then, miraculously, I felt more free than I have felt in a long time. Maybe it's because I had been so desperately trying to hide the truth from myself (which is a tiring and useless waste of effort). Maybe it's because knowing why I lose my patience will help me to learn from daily frustrations and change and grow as a person. Maybe it's because I was able to set the others in my life free from the ridiculous expectations I had been wrongly placing on them. It's probably all of the above.
I think what really brought me to my knees, though, was another thought that Beth Moore shared on the subject -- Could it be that the very people that frustrate us the most, are the exact people God places in our lives to force us to face our ugliness and get rid of it? Could it be that He loves us enough to drive us just crazy enough to change us and make us complete, lacking in nothing?
Remembering that God cares about me enough to keep working on me, to keep changing me, to keep helping me become who He knows I can be... that freed my heart in ways I just can't describe.
So with my new found freedom, I'm going to face myself more honestly, and continue on this crazy journey that I'm on, thankful that God has not given up on changing me into the person He wants me to be. :)
And just for fun, here are a couple of "outtakes" from the other day when I was doing a little photo shoot of the girls. They really are a blessing even if they do drive me nuts sometimes! ha!
Wow, I can't believe that we are already in the month of October. Time has flown by! I know it's been a while since my last post, but life literally ran away from me the past month. I'll try to be better about posting this month.
Anyway, what got me writing today was a little email in my inbox this morning. I have gmail, and the calendar for it is cool because it will send you email reminders of events, birthdays, etc. Well, although I didn't need it, I got a reminder that this month is my cousin, Brandon's birthday.
Brandon is my youngest cousin on my mom's side of the family. If you know anything about me, you know that I am extremely close to my mom's side of the family. We were all blessed to live within 10min of each other for my whole life, and because of the crazy lives of my parents and Uncle and Aunt (and because they all like each other), it happened that my brother and I spent a ton of time with our cousins -- more than most people, I would bet. When we were very young, especially, it felt like we were always together. Gran and Grandad watched the 5 of us on nights too numerous to even begin to count, and we spent every holiday, birthday, etc. together. It felt as if we were siblings (except better because we didn't fight as much).
I can't even begin to express what a significant blessing it was for me. There just aren't eloquent (and big enough) words to describe the bond that the 5 of us share. Our relationship is something sweet and special, and it shaped so many things about who I am as a person now. Emilee is practically my sister, and probably one of my best friends in the entire world, and Blake is one of the most inspiring people I know.
But today, I'm thinking about Brandon. He's in college now, and I'm so proud of what he has accomplished so far. But whenever I think of Brandon I'm always brought back to our play time together when we were little. Every once in a while, for differing reasons, Emilee would have to be gone, and it'd be just me and the boys, and since (at the time) Ryan thought I was his yucky big sister, and Blake thought I was just a boring older kid, I would find myself sans a playmate. But I could always count on Brandon to play with me. It didn't matter to him that I was older, or a girl that liked to play with Barbies, he was always willing to spend time with me.
It meant more to me than I could express, and I was just so happy to hang with him. One of my fondest memories of those times was a day when, after we had spent time together, I told my mom how much fun I had with Brandon, and how happy I was that he was willing to play with me. Without skipping a beat, my mom simply said, "Well, that's because he likes you." -- not "he's your cousin," or "he just likes to play," not even "well, he loves you," but "he likes you."
Let me tell you, that is a memory I will cherish forever. I mean, think about it: of course your family loves you (or should love you). They are your family! That's what families do! But for your family to like you?! This concept blew my little elementary school aged mind! I will never forget the joy I felt by being liked by my cousin, Brandon.
I'm happy to say that the years together only tightened our little bond of 5. We all like each other and enjoy each others' company now, and are happy to admit it. But every October, when Brandon's birthday comes around, I think about how different my life would have been if Brandon hadn't been there to simply like me.
It still blows my mind to think about it. So this month, as with every October, I'm unbelievably thankful for Brandon.
Confession: I am an incredible coward sometimes. Seriously! I'm not ever afraid to make friends, and I'm certainly not afraid to love them with as much love as I can muster. I'm not even afraid of looking like a big dork in front of them because I know that's who I am, and it's cool. But I can sometimes be afraid to share the deeper parts of my heart because of an irrational fear.
Those of you who know me best will be surprised by this because I'm usually a pretty open person. There's not a topic that you could ask me about that I would flinch at opening up about. What I've realized is that I won't usually offer to share. If someone else brings it up, sure, but I won't actually start the conversation. I'm not afraid of rejection, really; I'm more afraid of being criticized. I know it's ridiculous because the friends I have are way better than that, AND there is no amount of criticism that can change who I am. But it doesn't change the fact that being criticized hurts, and the fear of that pain makes me afraid of sharing sometimes -- not all the time, but definitely enough that I've decided I want to be better about it.
So today's post is a little more personal than just updates and the usual fluff. I write it because my heart has been moved to share, and because I need to face my fear (however irrational it may be):
I think that God knows us so well, He knows exactly how to communicate with us specifically so that we will be impacted by His love perfectly. Each person hears His voice in differing ways, and I definitely hear Him through music (as most of you know), but the funny thing is that, I hear him best through narrative. I cant count the number of times I have been reading a book or watching a movie (totally unrelated to God), and His still, small voice spoke into my soul and brought me to tears. It happens at the most random times and always moves me significantly.
Last night was one of those times. Stephen is out of town for a week, and I am terrible without him. He has literally become my other half, and I hate it when he's gone. The worst is at night when I have to go to bed sans my darling. I will just lay awake in bed for hours without catching a wink of sleep. A while back, I discovered that if I fall asleep to a chick flick I can get at least a little bit of sleep, and last night that's what I was doing.
I was watching a movie called "Beastly," and for those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a modern re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast." It's set in a high school, and yes, it is ridiculously "angsty" and cheesy. However, it's beautifully shot, and the two leads have great chemistry. AND it has a happy ending, so I was cool with it.
What I was NOT expecting was to have God move me so greatly during my attempt to simply fall asleep. That's the way He works in my life, though, so I guess I couldn't really be all that surprised. I think He moves my heart the most when He has to interrupt me.
Anyway, in the Disney version of the story, the Beast is really a big, hairy...beast! In this modern version, the "beast" is a guy named Kyle who is made to look "as aggressively unattractive on the outside as [he is] inside." His heart is ugly, and so his body reflects that. He has a year to find someone to love him, or he's stuck like that forever. Eventually, he finds his "beauty," in a girl named Lindy, who isn't bothered by his ugliness, and you can probably guess the rest.
One significant change to the story, though, is the ending. In the Disney version of the story, Belle tells the Beast that she loves him after he's died. Of course, this makes it all the more magical when he comes back from the dead, and all is well. This newer version, on the other hand, didn't take the story in quite that direction. Kyle, doesn't die, but he DOES think that he's run out of time. Lindy tells Kyle that she loves him just after his year is up. The amazing thing about this portrayal is that Kyle believes that his ugly looks are now permanent, but it doesn't matter to him anymore. Love has changed his heart. Lindy loves him no matter his looks, and thus, he no longer has to look good. It is then that his body changes back....but it changes as a reflection of what has taken place in his heart already.
As I watched Kyle's heart transform, and then his outward appearance transform, God quietly whispered, "That's what I did for you; I loved you even when you were at your worst, even when you thought you were ugly, and MY love transformed you." And when Kyle asks Lindy, "Can you imagine that kind of love?" it was as if God was directing that question my way.
Last night, God gently reminded me of His powerful, amazing, and yes, magical Love. I was reminded of how He changed me, and how He sees me as beautiful. I guess I needed that reminder more than I thought I did because it really blew me away. I'm so very blessed to be loved by "that kind of Love."
Anyway, just needed to share that. Love to you all!
I figured it was about time for a Bush family update, so here we go!
Cecily: She's in her 4th month, now, and I can't believe how much she's grown already. She can roll over (although, when she does, it still surprises her), and we just started her on solid food. She's not a fan, though. Ha! She's a sweet baby, and I'm so blessed to have her. My only dilemma, now, is that I kind of let the both of us get into a bad habit. When Elizabeth was Cecily's age, I had her sleeping in her crib. Well, Cecily has been a different story. Because of several different issues that I won't bore anyone with, Cecily naps in her baby swing and sleeps in a "position-er" called the "Nap-Nanny." Yup, she's not sleeping in her crib yet, and I'm dreading the day she gets too big for these contraptions, and I finally have to transition her to her bed. Ugh! Oh well, it will happen one day soon!
Elizabeth: I guess the biggest update for Elizabeth is that I am currently on the hunt for a good dance school to get her involved in. She is so nuts for dancing that I really want to give her a chance to learn, but it hasn't been the easiest process. I'm struggling with finding a place that will be good for her personality (and our wallets). I feel like every place I investigate is almost good but not quite. Sigh, I've just got to keep looking.
Stephen: He leaves for his big science conference tomorrow morning, and it will be the first one that he gets to speak at. I'm really proud of him, and I know he'll do great! I'm bummed, though, because he'll be gone for a week! :( Luckily, my parents will be here for part of that time to help me keep my mind off how badly I miss him.
Jen: Well, I guess my two new updates are that #1 I'm working out again. I joined a gym that has daycare, so I can take the girls and get some good exercising in while they play. Elizabeth really likes it, and today when I went to pick her up, she asked me to go exercise more so she could play longer. Ha! #2 I decided that I need a new hobby that is something that just I can do and enjoy. I used to scrapbook, but two children and a crazy schedule is not conducive to a hobby like that, so I have picked up a hobby I haven't done since middle school: cross-stitching. I used to LOVE it, so I'm going to try it again. I'm really excited to have a chance to do something creative and relaxing just for myself. Stephen has been sweet and supportive of my need to be creative, so he hung out with the girls one night so that I could go to Michael's and get all of the supplies I need. He's the best, and I'm pumped to start something new.
Well, I guess that the Bushes for now. Love to you all!
Thank you to all who put up with my rather negative previous post. As always, I have the BEST friends and family ever, and I can't tell you how encouraged I felt after your many sweet comments.
And I was also reminded by many of you (and the girls themselves) that the good really does out-weigh the bad when it comes to my little darlings. I recently read this really cool article about parenting written by a dad who is currently in the thick of it with his kids, and he made note of the fact that when they are really young, and you use the phrase, "the good out-weighs the bad," you are not talking about percentages. Percentage-wise, the hard stuff actually occurs about 85% of the time, and the good stuff occurs about 15% of the time. The thing that you have to realize is that the good 15% is so unbelievably amazing, it makes you forget everything else - like today, Elizabeth was getting into the car, she looked at me and said, "Mommy, you are the best of the best!." Now THAT is something that made all the troubles of the day worth it!
And so this is where I am right now, dear friends: doing my best and enjoying that sublime 15%. :)
So as a thank you for all of the wonderful encouraging, and also as a little bit of bragging on my part, here are some fun new pics of my sweet girls.
A list of my latest joyful 15%:
- today Elizabeth went down for her nap with NO problems. Yay!
- Cecily tries to "talk" to me, now. She makes the CUTEST noises.
- A clean bill of health for both girls from the Dr. yesterday.
- Elizabeth sings herself to sleep at night.
- Stephen and I got some fish for Elizabeth for her birthday. She named them "King," "Queen," and "Princess."
- in the car on our way to the store, just me and Elizabeth, "Mommy, I really miss Cecily!"
- "Mommy, I love you....and I like you!" <--- this is my favorite!
You know, there are great days and hard days and then.....today. I waited until now to write this post because I knew that if I wrote when I wanted to, I'd write something unpleasant.
This morning was a troubling morning for me as a mother. I haven't had many of these types of mornings, but when I do they ruin me for about a week. Today was one of those days when something about Elizabeth was brought to my attention that caused me to question my abilities as a mother. I know it sounds silly, but every once in a while this happens.
You see, Elizabeth is a great kid, but she has had the great misfortune of being born with the exact combo of Stephen's and my personality traits. This particular combo makes her wonderful, but also extremely difficult at the same time. She's friendly and outgoing like me, and she's determined and ready to learn like Stephen. These traits make her super fun and very good at learning things.
Unfortunately, they also make her over-bearing and stubborn. These are things that I have known about her for a long time, now, and Stephen and I are doing the best we can to teach her to be the best little girl she can be. Some days it works out, and she behaves well; other days.....not so much.
Most of the time Elizabeth's infractions occur with Stephen and me only, so we deal with her and move on. Sometimes, though, they occur with other kids. It's inevitable, I guess. When you get a bunch of kiddos together all between the ages of 2-5, there are going to be little squabbles. Usually it's not a big deal because all of the kiddos are somehow involved and at fault, and the parents step in when needed and deal with them. That is how I've always viewed "playdates." To me they are a chance for mommies to have some much-needed adult time, and they are also a chance for kiddos to learn to socialize. Unfortunately, kiddos are simultaneously great and horrible at helping each other learn how to treat each other. By hanging out together, kids can help each other pick up good habits, but they can pick up bad ones too. Learning how to deal with this has been a MUCH trickier process than I ever expected.
You see, I have some incredible friends who all understand this process. They are dealing with it too. Most of us have an understanding between us that everyone's kid will be a little monster sometimes, but we never judge each other because we are all in the thick of it and doing our best. Most of my friends also understand the need for kids to be taught to be good but also allowed to work things out amongst themselves sometimes. Elizabeth has learned some of her best playtime lessons by being scolded not by me, but by her little friends. All of these play times have been good experiences for Elizabeth and me, and they have been a great encouragement in so many ways.
However, this morning I was hit with something I never experienced before. At our usual Monday morning playdate at our favorite place, Elizabeth was playing with some of her friends and then some other kiddos of mommies who had also brought their kids to the same place. She was extra hyper because she was so excited to be at her favorite place with her friends. When she is hyper, she has trouble controlling her actions, and we have been WORKING on that A LOT lately. However, the excitement was just too much for her. She was other-enthusiastic, and started being bossy. She tried to force the other kids to play the way she wanted to. I noticed and took what I thought was the appropriate action.
Then, a few minutes later, Elizabeth got so excited she yelled right into another child's face. I know my own child, so I can say confidently that Elizabeth was NOT being malicious. She was being aggressive (and we are working on that too!), but she meant no harm to this little kid. She considers ALL children she meets as friends, whom she loves. However, his mother was very upset. She loudly told her child, "it's okay, son, she's just being mean." I, of course, took this as her not-so-subtle cue to deal with Elizabeth, so I, again, took her aside and dealt with her. I made her apologize to the boy, and I also informed her that if it happened again, we'd leave. I then apologized to the mother, and she basically told me that it wasn't okay, and she thought Elizabeth had something against her son.
Well, after that, I kept an extra close eye on Elizabeth, and she played nicely for a while after that. But she got hyped up, again, and yelled again. This time it was at another kid; a kid that she knows well. He was not upset by it, and it was clear that she was just playing around, but it was too late. Elizabeth had disobeyed, so I told her we were leaving and started to pack up to leave. As I was doing so, the first boy's mother came up to me and informed me that she was uncomfortable with her son ever playing with my daughter again. Without revealing her exact wording, I'll just say that she decided that Elizabeth was a bad influence and not to be trusted around her boy.
I was mortified. I was extremely embarrassed, and had no idea how to react. I was deeply hurt, but mostly just angry at myself. As we drove home, all I could think was, "how could I be such a horrible mother that I'd allow my daughter to become 'that kid' that no mommies want their kids around?" and "how could I possibly have ever thought that I could handle motherhood?"
I know it seems extreme, but those are the actual thoughts that went through my head. I couldn't believe what had just happened, and worse, I absolutely had no idea what to do next. I had no idea how to parent my child anymore. I mean, I have been doing my VERY BEST every day since she was born, and this is what I have to show for it?
Then, of course, my mom's favorite parenting advice ran through my head, "never take too much of the credit or too much of the blame," and she's right, but I won't lie; I've been battling myself, trying to make myself believe that all day. I want my child to be the kind of kid that others (no matter the age) want to be around. I want to raise her to respect and love others with her words and actions, but I know that I only have a small role in that, and it's hard.
Now that the day is over, and I sit here reflecting, I still don't know. All I know to do is to keep doing my best every day and pray that God gives me the wisdom and discernment to know how to teach Elizabeth to be the best kid she can be.
I'd appreciate your prayers for me as I continue traveling down this tough, and sometimes confusing road.
Love to you all,
P.S. Sorry that this was kind of a downer post, but hopefully I can post a more positive one, soon.