Mommy Tides

Waves

Pulsing forward, relentless, endless, foaming blue, climbing green. Reaching, pulling, tugging forming tide after tide, year after year waves pound and crash. Immediately ripped back from whence they came. Always reaching yet never arriving. Always trying, hoping yet never satisfied. Instead they pull and tug, shape and form the world below them.  Churning sands, crushing shells, throwing creatures from their home upon desolate sands. Striving, striving, driving, driving, pulling, tugging, churning tide after tide, year after year forever restless achieving nothing yet altering everything.

Does this churning, relentless mass reflect parenting, my life, your story? Striving, pulling, churning, tugging. Always trying, trying whilst churning and crushing the world below… Trying to ensure the home is not only well kept but sanctuary to all, including the wandering, distant stranger. Crushing every imaginary fort, artistic pursuit or creative flair in the chase for a perfect home. Trying to ensure manners are blossoming without reaching the broken confused soul beneath the plastic grin? Trying to ensure a solid educational foundation ignoring, hence squelching the quest for true knowledge, curiosity and insight desperate to be heard? Trying to show little ones God, his love, miracles, mercy and grace all the while tugging and pulling their natural gaze from Him toward the parent instead? Trying to create aesthetically and nutritionally awesome meals at the cost of pushing aside little hands and hearts desperate to be involved…. Trying, trying, pulling, pushing, tugging yet achieving nothing. Depositing scraps of sand upon the shores of life only to have the next wave wash it away again.

Above the relentless ocean soars the gull on wing and wind. Instead of the relentless tugging, pulling, scraping, it glides. Free, soaring. It’s nest is tenderly, thoughtful woven together. Built of the strongest sticks lined with the softest down, tenderly, lovingly prepared. Built to just the right size and shape for that year, that season, those tiny birds dependant on Mamma this year.

As our year draws silently toward its close let’s assess where we have been and how we have done it. Tugging, nagging, dragging or tenderly building and weaving something eternally beautiful into the lives of our precious little people.

Then just breath in the sweet salt air – free to all who choose to stop and drink it deep into the well of their being.

Nesting

As we sit and ponder the year behind and the one ahead let’s choose, not just for today but for the future of our children, let’s choose to soar. Instead of year after year tugging and pulling let us take this season to weave, with love, foreknowledge, instinct, care and compassion a nest designed just right in which your family can flourish. A nest that protects and provides warmth yet allows for individual growth and exploration. A nest safely tucked against the cliff, far above the crashing waves and sheltered from the howling storm. A nest keeping everyone safe within the protective boundary of love and acceptance. Then one no longer needs to keep striving, trying, pulling instead one can soar high upon the wings of creativity, free from a lifetime of bondage to this wearisome toil. Knowing for this season all are protected and safe within the boundaries of the nest. We can also rest assure that from this season, fledglings won’t be crushed and maimed but instead fed to flourish so that they too can soar!

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A Moment in Time

There are those moments – you know them – those ones that never seem to fade but are instead defining, enlightening – often annoying yet always life changing. They are not planned and yet they sever through the mist of the mundane bringing a ray of clarity.

One such moment happened about 11 years ago… I was a stay at home mom, living in a small flat, with no car, in the middle of a busy part of town daily trying to entertain a very demanding 1 year old. I had taken time to try set up different areas to keep him busy. A little splash pool on the veranda, a tiny slide in the lounge, books and toys in his room and a small table for art and drawing. In one corner he had a small chalk board. My moment of enlightenment happened after a busy morning of trying to juggle cleaning, entertaining him, preparing meals and so on…

To keep my boy busy I had given him some chalk soaked in water to draw on black paper. Suddenly everything was very quiet and I realised he had taken the wet chalk to his chalk board – now having been a teacher I was very aware of how difficult it can be to clean wet chalk off a board, especially red chalk! It was in this moment that I found myself say, “Don’t you dare use that chalk on that chalk board!” As the words flew out my mouth, he whirled around bewildered at this bizarre comment – I could only begin to smile. What had I just said? Chalk was made for a chalk board and in reality what was a little wet chalk on a chalk board when other families were dealing with drug abuse and chronic illness?

As I let the reality of the situation and my life sink in I realised that it was time to let go! Let go of my expectations for myself, my home and my children, time to let go of meeting others expectations, and instead create our own personal reality. A reality that worked for our family.

Little did we know that this would set the foundation for what the future held. As after not falling pregnant for 3 years after our first son we went from 1 to 5 children in 2 years! Had I not learned to let go those 3 years before I would be a wreck today! So with a houseful of little people we now only have 4 rules:

1. No one gets hurt (this includes emotionally)

2. Nothing gets broken – you look after everyones things

3. You put away what you took out – before taking something else out

4. We work as a team

I have also set certain parameters for myself such as either we have certain tidy up times each day or we only going to tidy at 5pm. This gives me the freedom to give the children freedom to just be. Hubby and I have also realised that the reality of spending every evening together is something that will need to wait for retirement – so we have had to let go of our expectations in this area too. In the mean time we organise date evenings. We were often short on cash and couldn’t leave very little people with a sitter so we simply decided on a R30 budget and each take a turn once a week to organise a date at home once kids are in bed (we aim for 7pm.) This maybe as simple as hiring a movie, having dinner without the kids, buying a special pudding or playing a board game.

After 15 years of marriage and 7 children later I finally have a lady who comes and helps me clean and a dish washer. But up until now we made it through. Yes there were many tears, many months without luxuries such as cheese, many times we couldn’t join in as the time and money didn’t stretch that far and many days we wore creased clothes or stayed up very late washing a whole day’s dishes but as I learned to let go and as time went by I was able train my children to take control of their own personal domains, cook meals, fold washing etc. So today as I sit holding my 6th baby I know my 9 year old son can bath and dress my 2 year old, my 12 year old can hang the washing and do the dishes and my 7yr old twins can make an amazing salad and set the table. Had I panicked all those years ago I would have rushed out  back to work, only to fund creche and hired help and I would never have had time to train these beautiful children to work alongside their mama. And what fun we have working together!

Who would have though a little wet chalk, 11 years ago would have such a profound impact on the direction that one family would take.

Coming Home

Nagging and Nagging. Deliberate disobedience! Fighting. Arguing. Nastiness. I could no longer recognise my home. As I escaped to do some shopping I found myself walking the aisles dreading going back home. What had happened? After 12 years how could everything so quickly have fallen apart? How could my sweet, helpful children be the same people as these back lashing, nasty creatures that had slipped into our life?

Pacing up and down the pasta aisle my fervent prayers we met with a still, honest answer. I had neglected Being Mom. As much as I didn’t want to hear the truth I chose to look into the cold eyes of reality and take stock of my heart and focus in life. As I pushed the trolley past the milk I realised that unless I “came home” not only physically but emotionally too I would be setting out to “tear down my house.”

It wasn’t as if I had neglected my children. I spent almost every hour of every day with them and yet – when I chose to see the truth – even in being with them I had been absent. We have had the awesome privilege of setting up a homeschool learning centre. This has been an amazing adventure that we as a family had embarked upon as a ministry and we stand in awe of how God has used it to affect so many people’s lives. My children loved coming to do school at the centre. They had so much fun playing with the other children and all the art and crafts, science experiments and great things we offer there. I was there with them all morning. So how could anything have really changed?

Yet how silently and quickly the downward spiral had descended upon us! The symptoms I was now desperately trying to escape from were in fact my children desperately crying out not just for their mom to be around be for her to be present and her heart to be beating alongside theirs.  As I slowed my trolley I knew the truth. Yes I had been physically present with them but my focus had been on the other children. Always pushing my own aside, telling them I’d help them later at home – a later which in fact never came. With us rushing out in the morning we no longer sat and savoured breakfast. The afternoons were a flurry of extra murals. By the evening I was prepping for the next day – time only for bath, supper and bed. No stories or snuggle time. Mom was stretched beyond and having so many people relying on her she let her own slip between her fingers.

In a haze I left the shop and silently began the journey home. My mind full of all that now needed to take place for me to once again return home. God in his love and grace speedily sent me two amazing facilitators to run with lessons at the facilitation centre. They have been such a blessing and have done such a marvelous job. With that I was able to quickly return home. Back to lengthy breakfasts, one on one reading and maths lessons with my weaker children, stories outside in the sun, cuddles when a knee or heart was sore. Healthy food once again began to appear on our table and within days all the nastiness disappeared. Yes, my children do still fight and they still don’t clean their rooms when asked but those things were always there. It’s the grating, antagonising and deliberate disobedience that has all vanished as a vapour that never was.

This Mommy has now learned the truth of Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” And by keeping God close by my side I do trust to keep walking in wisdom.

Just Waiting…

Mother with Children [front]

Recently, during worship at church, I wandered to the back with baby on my arm. Soon I noticed one of the twins had followed me. Catching up she complained how sore her tummy was. Knowing there were people all around, I had no medicine or snack to help and it was freezing outside, there was little I could do. Gently reassuring her I explained that if she waited just a little longer I may be able to help her after worship. Nodding she wandered off for a bit then quietly came back and lay on the carpet and curled up on my feet. And there she lay in a little ball and waited.

She still felt uncomfortable and sore but yet she chose to lay down, curled up on my feet. Waiting for me to take control. Waiting for me, in my time, to reach down, pick her up and use my huge “Mommy Power” to make all things right again. And all the while she simply curled up and waited, occasionally looking up from way own there, giving me a huge grin or whispering, “I love you, Mom.”

What a lesson for me today. How often to I beseech my heavenly father and hound Him to answer me here and now. How often do I hammer His chest and yell and cry and try to force his hand to fulfill my ever urgent “NOW.” Yet in Mathew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Like a little child let me learn today to bring my requests to Him. Then too, like my little daughter, lay at his feet and in expectant, anticipation simply quietly, rest and wait.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

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Seize the Day

This adventure called parenting is one that is constantly challenging, changing and one that keeps us learning. The irony being that more often than not it is the children teaching us not only about where they need their boundaries or security to fall or what stimulation they require but they teach us about life too. And just when we think we have it all together once again they open our eyes to a whole new realm.

It is easy as a parent to become caught up in the discipline, parenting and ensuring that all our child’s educational needs are met that we do in fact lose out on the very marrow of parenthood. Parenting is a hard job and a huge responsibility. It is however just as important to take time out with our children. We need to laugh, to play, to dance and explore this amazing earth with them. It is so easy for us to become caught up in our “mature” adult world that we are no longer capable of drawing ourselves away to simply be with, and enjoy being with, our children. When last did we sit with our child and simply watch a dragon fly dance across the water? Have we recently squashed our toes in mud? Did we take the time to colour a picture? Or dance in the kitchen? Yes these are all interruptions within our busy schedule and they do draw us away from all we need to do. But I am learning day by day that they do instead draw us into the company of our children which draws us into their lives and as they grow into their confidence. We are then able to see the world through their eyes, their understanding, and their hearts.

Just this last week I was yet once again pulled back to the essence of being Mom. It had been a long day and I had asked the twins – aged 4 – to yet again get out the bath, dressed and tidy their room. After a period of time mother instinct kicked in and I knew nothing was happening. I threw down the peeler and marched to their room – ready to deal out the wrath of Tired Mommy. On reaching their room I could see no one, only a lump under one duvet. Pulling back the blanket, ready to reel out my list of consequences, I was greeted by two, barely clad, squirming cherubs. They held within their hands a torch and were giggling incessantly.  “You found us. We hid. The torch… Giggle, giggle.” Instantly my parenting wanted to discipline, wanted to see to it that I remained the one in control, that they learned they needed to obey. Yet a small voice inside me began to ring louder, a voice saying, “this is actually really funny and you too need a good laugh.” Digging deep I managed to push past all the serious parenting, discipline, and training roles and for that moment in time just be Giddy Mommy. We tickled and giggled and squirmed. With that the stress of the day melted away and I could return to peeling the carrots rejuvenated and refreshed. My children then too jumped to their tasks and were soon dressed and had a tidy room.

So yes we are called to a high, noble and difficult position of training and education these little beings. But we are also called to a humble place: a place of simply being, a place of learning to stop, and relish the simple moments that these wonderful little people bring into our lives.

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Finding Strength

Mom and daughter reading

As I sit and reflect on the year ahead and what’s in store for us as well as what we walked through in 2011, I can only turn to God for council, strength, wisdom and direction.

Flicking through my Bible my eyes were drawn to Psalm 51. So often God calls me back here and today He has yet another treasure to share with me. “Restore in me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Now I’m sure there are all sorts of theological views and insights into this verse – for me however I simply felt my Father wrap his clock of love and direction upon my shoulders.

My strength for the year ahead does not lie in any workshops, tricks, studies or books instead He whispers that it lies within “the joy of my salvation.” Have I forgotten how much my salvation means to me? Am I spending time thinking on and then living out that joy? Or am I focused on my own needs, wants, insecurities and hangups?

As I swing my focus back to my salvation and what that eternally implies, well – my own qualms regarding the number of dishes I need to wash and unfinished school work fades into but “light and momentary troubles.” 2 Cor 4:17.

Secondly He speaks of “a willing spirit.” How often is my mind geared up for homeschooling, being wife and mother and yet my spirit has been so un-enthused? So often I’m not willing to give my spirit over to what God is calling me to do in the home and rather keep my eyes fixed on the great career, blogs, friends, dishwasher and new car I could have if I just managed to work my time carefully. God however is calling me today to have a willing spirit – willing to have my spirit led by him and to be content and willing to do his will here and now. Which for today involves being available to spend time with my children

So as we are leaping into 2012 I hear my father call – He’s wanting our eyes kept firmly focused upon him and to find our joy and strength in what he’s done for us. Then in response to trust him with our spirits and to be willingly involved where he had placed us – not tugging in our own directions.

This tiny verse has offered me such peace, direction and comfort for 2012 that I hope it does the same for you.

It will be great to know your thoughts on this verse and other ways God has directed your year ahead….

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Being Mom Redefined

A mother holds up her child.

When I stepped into maternity leave with our first child I boldly claimed I knew what Being Mom was all about: Discipline, education and preparing a child for their future and their place in the world. I valued outstanding report cards, first team positions and social recognition. Being Mom was something that required time spent developing a child into all you saw they were meant to become.

Today however Being Mom entailed watching my 9 year old son skip properly for the first time. To see the concentration etched upon his face. Then as he suddenly surprised himself by skipping with two feet together his face broke into pure glee but as he reached the 7th skip the rope tangled around his feet and he almost went flying and together we laughed and laughed. Turning around my five year old son tugged at my sleeve, “Mommy, look I build all the numbers.” There using maths cards he’d discovered that 55 was not merely a 5 and a 5 but rather a 50 and a 5. He proudly bounced around the kitchen as he pointed out all the different number he had built. My 14 year old then bounded into the kitchen begging us to listen to the piano piece she’s figured out all on her own. There with cords and notes floating around us I settled down with my 5 year old and he began reading one of his first sentences. So far today has been good.

The afternoon hurried past in a mixture of music and art lessons. One son played the xylophone for the first time whilst the other painted the most exquisite clay birds he had made – never mind he can’t stand touching paint. The three year old twins discovered that dice have dots representing numbers and that by throwing it alternatively and moving chess pieces around you can create the most glorious game – to which I still see no patterns or rules, but the screaks of delight confirmed that none were required.

Insisting on candles for dinner, making their carrot pieces and potatoes into mice upon their plates and arguing over who was to pray first was what Being Mom was all about today.

No one came first, or won a prize. I didn’t settle a business deal or even make any great meals but Being Mom today has allowed me to tuck in and kiss 5 little people goodnight with a heart so full and proud that I may as well have conquered the world.

Everyday Mommying

When I was growing up and I spoke or thought about the future for some reason I assumed I’d have children but never thought of myself as a Mommy. For that reason I never gave much thought to what being a Mommy would entail. Many times being Mommy involves cuddling, reading books or discovering another natural beauty with our children.

On other days however  – or should I say on most days – it’s actually about food, clothes, cuts, tears, lost items, irritated siblings and stuff (everything from old toast to ballet tutus to my handbag contents) strewn from one end of the house to another. You feed the tribe, tidy the kitchen only to hear a little voice say, “Mom, what can I eat?” Once the kitchen is finally sorted you find that the teeth cleaning turned into washing the bath – and walls – with the toilet brush. An art activity results in the dining room table having glitter glued to it – on purpose or the paint brushes have all the bristles eaten off before they get to even start painting. Need I continue?

Today was one of these “normal” Mommy days. It was hard and I’m not proud to say that when the kitchen floor was flooded, everyone had wet their last dry tracksuit pants in the rain, I had tripped over yet another dress up item, someone asked for food and then I was faced with a toilet incident I wasn’t a very nice Mommy. BUT thank you God for the TV and especially for the creation of the movie Heffalump! Needless to say it was watched twice!

I realised that as long as I had this cozy picture of what the day could have been: sitting snuggling with books in front of the fire everything went from bad to worse. I hate using the TV to babysit but today that was good Mommying. I had to take stock of my capacity, where the day was heading and what I was becoming. Yes I did contemplate trying to sit down and read to everyone but they were all irritating each other and I knew it would just agitate. So I stopped trying to strive toward the fantastical and managed to eventually literally live minute by minute.

So even though I gave little thought to being Mommy when I was growing up – the pictures I had conjured didn’t look anything like today did but I got through it and at bedtime my almost 9yr old boy called me back 3 times saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong but I just need to hug you some more.” Hmmm – maybe he too had a hard day but I was too busy with the clutter to notice?

Winter 2011

The last three months have been probably some of the most difficult months we’ve lived through. (Hence the reason for the lack of blogs.) Winter not only invaded our garden but our hearts and minds too.

During this time we felt a certainty that it was time for us to move from our out-of-town country home to a small suburb our closest city. So in May we began packing. By June we’d found a home and on 1 July we were booked for the big move! At this time I was overwhelmed with kids birthdays, boxes, meals and general chaos. In our 11 and a half years of marriage this would be our 10th move so I thought I had it all pretty taped. Granted we hadn’t moved in the last 5 years and we had gone from 1 to 5 children in this time – but still I thought it would be a breeze.

On the day of the move besides the fact that we still had boxes to pack and children to sort out my husband was called in by his office and retrenched!

Let’s back track here. Reason 1 for our move: to save petrol on travelling to his work – which he now doesn’t have! Reason 2 for our move: We’ve calculated that on his salary we can just afford to cover the cost of the new house and the old one till it is sold or rented out – he now has no salary! At this point we had truly stepped into the winter of not only 2011 but the winter of our lives.

How we got through July? I can only say it was by God’s grace. I must however digress here to share with you an amazing story of God’s grace and provision. The day after my hubby was retrenched he went online to pay his accounts and noticed that there was too much money in his account. On investigation he noticed that Oxford – for whom he’d written a text-book 5 years previously, had just paid him the equivalent of half a month’s salary! Hmmm, why now, five years later? Was God keeping that money for the exact day and time we would really need it? Wow this retrenchment was maybe not an accident, maybe God had something to do with it. So funny we humans are, just like the Israelites who were taken out of Egypt we forget so soon that God is involved – even if we don’t like it, want it or care. Even so the month of July was an emotionally, spiritually and physically a very challenging time.

Why am I writing this in my Mommymemo blog? Well just because we were walking through a desolate winter didn’t mean that I was no longer Mommy, no indeed I still had to meet the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of my children and husband. Parenting is often painted in this rosy glow – well this had nothing rosy about it. We are all humans and this was a season of quick tempers, little patience, rushed Bible stories and toast for almost every meal. It was also a season of quick forgiveness, many prayers and tears and lots of quick hugs and cuddles. You see our children need to know that we are real people – no, it is wrong to lash out and become angry with each other but sometimes we do and then it’s not about what we shouldn’t have done but rather what are we going to do about it. Do we forgive, stand together as a family and hold one another up?

Just like winter has stripped summer of all its glory so we were stripped to our cores but so too does winter hold the odd beauty of a sunrise or special touch such as snow we saw beauty in God’s faithfulness and provision and protection in such a desperate time of need.

Taking Forever Pictures

Today we attended Art in the Park. An event that gathers together the top artists in South Africa and they sell their art work in a park. As it’s autumn it’s the park is covered in leaves and it is a beautiful outing.

I always go home feeling inspired and uplifted. Today however I realised something else. I realised that the pictures that really pull at my heart are not the pictures painted by these wonderful artists. Instead it is the forever pictures painted within my mind. The pictures of my children playing in the leaves, my wonderful hubby reading Bible stories at bed time, my girls putting their dolls to bed and a family picnic at the dam.

So I didn’t come home with any paintings (which would have cost me a few thousand rands) instead I have a my own new personal gallery. It includes a picture of my son playing his violin beneath the autumn leaves and my 3 year olds grinning up at me squinting through their new sunglasses. All of which cost me nothing more than taking the time to notice.

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