Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chickamauga Battlefield Half

I know a lot of people run and I know that a lot of people aren't really impressed by a half marathon. I get it. But today I'm reminded more than ever why running has become such a motivator for me. I know it's hard for people to understand--so you went for a run and you feel better, good for you. Yes, endorphins probably play a huge role for me, but that's not quite it. You know what I think it is more than anything else? I think it's that I finished something. I'm home with our children, day in and day out. My job is never done. I'm never done parenting. I'm never done with the laundry no matter how hard I may try. You know what else I'm also never done with? Cleaning floors. I mean, it's just every little thing that I do throughout the day is never done. It's never done because I'll have to do it a few more times again in the very near future. But somehow when I lace up my shoes and set a goal of running some miles, I do finish that. I complete something I set out to do. It feels finished.

I set a goal a few months ago to run another half marathon. The last time I ran one was a few years ago. I wanted to officially beat that time, but I also wanted to run for thirteen point one miles straight without slowing to walk, something I had never done. Every other half marathon I've done before (3 others), I did not train for. I just winged it...and it showed. For this one, I purposed to train for it a few months in advance. I was ready. But then I fell ill a week before the race and I began to feel very discouraged. Hoping my symptoms would go away, I largely ignored them as best I could. I ended up at the doctor a day before the race and she told me that I had an ear infection and a sinus infection. I was determined to still race. It would have killed me to not get to finish. I trained and trained. Miraculously, we arranged an overnight babysitter. That in itself felt like a lot of work that would go wasted if I did not get to run that day. Nope. No way was I missing this race. Hopped up on an antibiotic and lots of prayers, I set off for our old Chattanooga stomping grounds for a night at a hotel near the race.
I woke up feeling pretty good. Jordan signed up for the race, too and decided to pace me. Because I felt myself getting faster, I began to create a goal in my mind that I wanted to finish around two hours, a twenty one minute improvement over the last half I completed. Honestly, I felt like two hours was a big stretch for me, especially being sick. But I would finish and I would beat my previous time. I was certain of that!
The Chickamauga Battlefield was a place we had visited a time or two before. It was lovely to experience it running on two feet, though. By mile two, we were running by deer meandering through the trees. We started off pretty fast in spurts, but it was difficult to get through the initial crowd of runners so we were nearing nine minutes for the first few miles. Miles 3-5 were the fastest and were closer to eight minutes. I was feeling amazing. I think I was surprising myself that I could keep up with that pace for five miles thus far, but I was also aware that I should probably slow down so I didn't run out of gas since really the race had just begun.

Miles 6-8 I started to settle into my typically comfortable pace around eight and a half minutes. The elevation gain of the following miles slowed me down considerably and for miles 9-13, I was closer to nine minutes. I was keeping a close eye on my watch, paying attention to the time and around mile eleven I realized I was definitely going to meet my goal of two hours if I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I felt myself getting a little emotional thinking about how God had brought me so far and how blessed I was that my health would allow all of it. At mile twelve, Jordan said, "You are going to hit your goal, but you have to turn it up." He kept pointing on me to run right beside him, but I felt smoked every time I caught up to him that I would slack off again. We were wearing shirts that matched and said we were doing this together so that was motivating for me to stay as close as possible to him. I had never run that many consecutive miles so my pace was slowing. My ankle had pain shooting through it and I felt like I was barely moving and limping at that! Still, I managed to hold under a nine minute pace and finished the race at 1:55:10 with an overall pace of 8'48. FIVE WHOLE MINUTES UNDER MY GOAL. Twenty six minutes better than the last half marathon I did. I felt great.

I was so proud. It wasn't because I think I'm a great runner or because I think this is some big feat. No, I was proud because I set a goal and I knocked it out of the park. I finished something for ME and I didn't have to stop to change a diaper. If I had written down my goal, I could have crossed it off my list. I was done...and it felt so good.

(Big thanks to my sister for watching the kids so we could make this happen. Plus, I am grateful to my husband for pushing me to finish fast and for all the hours he watched the kids while I was out running with my girlfriends to prepare. I was so thankful to him on Saturday. It was Veteran's Day and my veteran was sacrificing his own goals to run alongside me instead...and he looked great doing it! )

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Isn't This A Lovely Day

The sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday are on a continuous flow through the thin walls of my home tonight. I have poured myself a glass of white and there are no harsh overhead lights glaring on me, instead soft light twinkles from strings and lamps. The rain has ended. It's almost bedtime and it's the first time today that I've allowed the t.v. to be turned on so the boys are huddled around it. In other words, I finally have a chance to sit. It has been a full five minutes since anyone has asked me for anything and I've done nothing with that time except stare at this screen, begging for a place for my creativity and emotion to end up. It's a beautiful night here. I have mostly silence, a place to write, old enchanting music, and my husband is on his way home from his business trip. A girl can't want for much more.

Earlier today, I didn't feel as optimistic. Do you ever wonder what your children will remember? About their childhoods, I mean. When I think back on my own, I see that I have nothing but good thoughts and it scares me. It makes me wonder why I can't just get it together. The best I do every day is show my kids my own need for a savior. They see how selfish I am- daily, hourly. I'm exhausted by endless demands and even though I know I'm called to a life of service to them and others, it's often the very last thing I want to do.
There's nothing else I want to do in the world. I get to be here to wash four curly heads at night and watch strong sibling bonds develop over belly laughs and wrestling matches. I don't have to miss them because I'm always right there by their sides. When I feel the walls of this small house closing in on me the more the children grow, I remember that one day our house will feel hopelessly quiet and empty. Soon enough, Merit won't grab my hand and kiss it, telling me "I like you so much, Mom." No, they'll all leave this little nest I've worked so hard to create and I'm afraid I'll be empty, too.
I'll mentally try to capture this fleeting moment with Merit dancing to early jazz with a mouth full of peanut butter he helped himself to. Abel is also enthralled with the music as he curls his cold toes underneath the quilt with me. He is spelling out his name with the letters on this keyboard and bobbing his head softly to the music. My deaf child! Saylor is sleeping sweetly in her pink polka dot pjs and Kinley wouldn't dare look away from some coveted screen time. It's business as usual here, but it's nice. I want for nothing.
It's just another simple night on the chestnut farm. Not much to write home about.
"Let the rain pitter patter
But it really doesn't matter
If the skies are gray
Long as I can be with you it's a lovely day"

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Arrows

"We don't become capable of developing the necessary strength in ourselves. The problem is with the placement of our eyes. When we believe we are enough-even when we feel Jesus's enough makes us enough-we're placing our eyes on ourselves, as if our abilities are top priority. On the other hand, when we acknowledge our constant need for and dependence on Him, our eyes are placed on Him, and His priorities take over." --Brooke McGlothlin (Gospel Centered Mom)

If any one picture could describe "Back to School" it's this one. We are tired. We decided to send the older boys to a school quite a bit farther away and the new routine has us a bit delirious. Motherhood is tiring any which way you spin it, though. For me, this week brought more time with my two babies. We've been to parks, read more books, cooked together, snuggled, and actually had a designated (double) nap time work out a time or two. I really like it. I just wish we were a bit closer to the school, but that's okay. We are getting into a new groove.

I'm proud of my school aged boys, too. I have a Kindergartner and a Pre-K student. Our goals for mainstreaming Abel have been set into place and we are hoping he flourishes in this environment with his typically developing peers. There have been some struggles with dragging boys out of beds in the morning, but other than that the challenges have been minimal.

I'm truly trying to remember as I cart my kiddos here and there that it's okay that I'm not a perfect mom. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you've read the inner anxiety I have about feeling as if I'm enough for these kids. We've heard people tell us and even encourage us to repeat it mantra style, "You are enough"/"I am enough". The book I'm reading now says to look at it in a different light. I'll never be enough. I need Jesus for that. And boy, do I! The summer started out strong and I was mommin' like crazy. We went to pools, we hiked, and we played sun up to sun down. But as summers do, ungratefulness and hatefulness bred within us as we took the ability to get out for granted and brotherly rivalry turned into all out brawls over the silliest things. The summer drew to an epic close when on the very last day of summer break, I decided with the help of another questionably sane friend to load up seven of our kids (under 7) and take them to the aquarium two hours away. The day made for a cute picture or ten, but it was also another reality check-
I need Jesus. THEY need Jesus, too. In every moment. With every breath.

It's ten o'clock at night and do you know how many times I've put my three and four year old back to bed? Me either. Lost count. It's helping to write this so I can truly focus on not absolutely losing it. 

But sometimes I lose it. Sometimes I have the facade of having it all together, but underneath it's just ugly and sinful--in need of a cleansing Savior.

People give you funny looks when you take that many children that close in age to a place like that. In the kids' defense, they were pretty stinkin' good that day, really. Anyway, I had four or five of the boys at an interactive part of an exhibit and they were taking turns among one another pretty pleasantly when another child walked up with three (yes, THREE) adults with her. They stood there as the boys each got a chance to play with the submarine viewer. When the last boy was looking (in a timely matter I might add), the woman said "All she wants to do is have a turn looking at this thing, but this lady has too many kids!" 

There are moments in life where you chew on what you should have said or would have said, but all you can do is think about it because the moment has passed. With just a hint of snark in my voice, I will tell you that I said exactly what I wanted to say in that moment-"Okay boys, let's move on. This little girl's mommy wants a turn at the submarine."

I've giggled at the look on her face a time or two since then.

But when I think about that moment, my thoughts are drawn to sin and how it so easily entangles us. My reaction to her was not love, but an immediate desire to make her feel small while I held my tongue to what I really wanted to say. I mean, why would anyone want to make a child feel unwanted? Don't you dare let my kids or any kids in my care hear you say anything about how you wish there were less of them. These kids are arrows (Psalm 127:3-5). They are His handiwork. They will be His messengers, His disciples. The God of the Universe gave them to me. He doesn't make mistakes. Back off, lady.

So, it's okay. To the world, I'm definitely definitely not enough. Far from perfect. My lot is one long crazy train most days. But I get to raise these kids. Me. This selfish, prideful, tired mom was chosen for them. They are prayed over and diligently loved and corrected. And I will continue to seek God's help in doing so. What a magnificent role I have here and I thank God for it.

But if I'm truly introspective, I can see that so many times it's not the behaviors, attitudes or personality characteristics of my kids' that need attention. Instead, it's my own. These boys (and girl) were given their attributes specifically and He is making them to work for good. I can't stomp on their independence now and expect them to feel confident in themselves in other ways down the road. My job is to make them into the individuals God made them to be, not who I want them to be.

People tell me often, "I don't know how you do it."

I don't either, but I know it's by the grace of God that we get through each new week. It's an exhausting, beautifully chaotic, messy life but it's an incredible one, too. I'm thankful for a Savior who doesn't leave us, ever.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Space in Between

It's endearing, right? The way I'm confident I'll blog weekly and how I always say to check back regularly and then months go by. The summer has been wild, y'all. We've squeezed a whole lot of living into the hours of the day and on into the night. Catching you up would be a laundry list of trails we've hiked, afternoons we've struggled through, swimming pools we've frequented, and much more.
Tonight, though, I've settled into our newly constructed office with a glass of wine and a large piece of chocolate cake (because my husband is amazing and thought of me at his business dinner tonight) to write something else.
I had an epiphany tonight.
I have honestly been in a sour mood today. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I was annoyed. I decided that we should have a little fun this evening since Daddy would be working late and we had been home all afternoon with a sleeping, sick baby. I got everyone dressed which is a feat in itself and started loading up the car, buckling in the loves of my life. One of them, whose name shall not be mentioned, grabbed the handle and hung on it like a primate and in doing so broke the handle completely off it's hinges. There it was, dangling there. Standing between me and an evening of ice cream with my kids in hopes of pacifying them just a little bit longer. In hopes of snapping that picture perfect shot of my lot in front of my hometown ice cream shop. In hopes of pretending for just a little bit longer that I am supermom. Dream shattered, y'all. Obliterated.
It's silly how incredibly often I have to take a humility pill and a reality pill. I'm reminded over and over in raising my four young children that I'm called to truth. Nothing more, nothing less. At the church we attend, we heard a lot about humility on Sunday. Bear with one another in love, stop measuring, count others as more significant than you, have self sacrificing love. Still, I need these reminders every day. 

I wish I could say I calmly told my son that it was okay and accidents happen. Instead, I angrily said we couldn't go anywhere now. I nagged him by saying, "This is why I tell you not to do that!Why don't you listen to me?" I'm reminded of me, too. Doesn't my Heavenly Father not treat me as my sins deserve? He lets natural consequences arise (my own conviction for being wrong) instead of yelling at me about how I disappointed Him (again). So many times my perspective needs to be adjusted and today was one of those times. Here comes the epiphany...
Why am I assigning blame to Satan when I'm presented with difficult obstacles? For example, when I deliberately wake up early so that I can have a steaming cup of coffee in silence and study God's Word and my kids decide they'll get up early as well- Why do I say or think that Satan is trying to get me down? What if I instead looked at that situation as an opportunity for ministry? What if I looked at it as a test from God? How much would my day-to-day change?
The truth is that I am human. I try diligently to brush everyones teeth, have them memorize scripture, and not raise my voice but folks, that doesn't always happen. But what I can do in those moments-like the moment of the car handle incident- is show them grace. I can say that this isn't Satan trying to get me down, but God trying to build me up to be a better mom and person. I could let them join in on my bible study. I could lovingly correct their behavior. And, like I had to do earlier, I can get down on their level and admit I was wrong in my reaction and ask them to forgive me. And they do. God love them.
Difficult days come and they go. The older I get, the more I'm convinced that I'm to share that truth. Some days are the terrible, awful we learned about in The Help....and some days are perfect gifts from above...and some days are just that awkward space in between. Life happens in those days, though. The kids get a bit older, your hair grows a little longer, and you find yourself having to buy toilet paper again. In those mundane days, we still have a beautiful chance to minister. During breakfast, during diaper changes, during orange juice all over the floor--that's when we can show them Jesus.

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude." Colossians 2:6-7

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ready For Summer!

Another school year come and gone. Kinley finished up his second year at a private pre-school. I think he came into his own a little more this year, gaining some confidence and learning a lot. It's hard to believe that the little boy who made me mama five years ago will soon be walking into a new school as a kindergartner. I remember being pregnant with him and thinking that he would learn Spanish as we taught him English because naturally. Oh, that mom was cute. That mom went on to have three more kids in the next four years and now barely knows English herself. Still, I'm very proud of my oldest. He loves to be outside. He will squeeze all the daylight he can out of each day this summer.
Abel also finished up his second year at preschool. His Pre-K class has been good for him. I think he enjoys the structure and routine that school brings. Familiar faces greeted him while he attended and I think that has helped to make him feel more comfortable. His progress has jumped in the past few months and he surprises me weekly with the things he says and does. One of the goals I have had for him was to mainstream him as soon as possible. We are going to try that in the fall when he will hopefully start a mainstream pre-k with his typically developing four year old peers. I'm excited for him. I know he can do it!
I also got another year at home with my Merit. He's two now- two going on five. He wants to do everything Kinley does and certainly holds his own in brother conversations, quarrels, and joy. He thrives at being the only big boy at home when he can. We often had a few mornings each week together, just the baby, Merit, and me. I'll cherish those. He is great with chores, eager to learn, and independent. His laugh will fill up a room, but he sure does have some strong, ever-changing opinions, too. Watch out for this one. At heart, he's a good boy.

And now that the school year is over, that means my baby is almost one. I have no idea how that happened. I never knew a baby could be so sweet. Saylor's smile is contagious. I can't stop kissing her. She loves to fuss when she sees me and I'm not holding her. She loves her mama, but she won't say it. She just says "Dada" all the time. Her latest party tricks include pointing, waving and saying "hi" and "hey". I look forward to more one on one time next fall when some of the brothers filter out into their school system.

Until then, we're going to have a great summer. We kicked it off yesterday with a pool party and a few of our closest friends! I plan to document our summer here on the blog so I hope you'll come back frequently. I'm determined to not plant these kids in front of the t.v., but instead to get out and live in the sunshine!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Are You Haley?

I stumbled across this piece of art at a coffee shop I grew up in. What I mean is that for four years of my early adulthood, I met people at this place to talk about love lost, to medicate with sugary, caffeine- plenty drinks after staying up too late in the computer lab, and to study some more in this small sanctuary called Poet's in the town in which I completed my Bachelor's degree. The picture was titled "Haley had a dream", but I looked at it and thought, 'Isn't this the picture of motherhood?'
I see myself in this girl. Her hair is beautifully curled. She put something nice on to wear. For the most part, her house is clean and tidy. While those things rarely describe my life, it's something I'm encouraged to believe is an easy task to accomplish. Yet, it's harder than it may seem. I see myself in Haley because she seems to have made such an effort, but still, there's uncooked food sitting beside her. It's messy, dripping, and the clock is ticking for her to salvage it into something more desirable. I imagine there are many children under this table, pulling on her leg. They're probably needing a diaper change, their nose wiped, their shoes tied, and more hugs than she's offered up today. The demand she feels in every direction has closed in on her in this moment and she just has to lay her head down and breathe for sixty seconds. I see me.
I like this picture a lot, actually. It reminds me that not everyone exists in tiny picture perfect Instagram squares. It helps to remind me that the incredible strength of a woman comes from God and that it's Him who keeps me going despite the growing demands a society places on me. I like it because it's peculiar--like it almost wouldn't make sense to you unless you were a little strange yourself. I feel this way because I know many of you who are reading this right now don't understand me. You likely wonder why raising young children is emotionally and physically exhausting. I know. I remember thinking those thoughts long ago, too. I even remember when I had two children under two and managed to keep my house in order, my body fit, and whatever else you may think is good and proper for a young mother to do. Their little bottoms were covered with cloth diapers. We ate fresh, clean foods. I was figuring this motherhood gig out! Then, two became three and shortly after that there were four. One by one, I've begun to let some things go. The perfect mom facade was never for me. Here I am. Like Haley. I'm tired, but I'm strong. When I finish writing these words, I'll lift myself up off the table again and handle whatever may be thrown my way today. And grace. I'll give myself plenty of that.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Girl

Yes, you're lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft
There is nothing for me but to love you
And the way you look tonight

This girl is changing me. Where I previously wished the hours away until bedtime, I now find myself ignoring the clock just a little bit more so I can take in the darling fat rolls forming on her beautiful legs and breathe in the freshness of her new baby smell. I sat with her on this blanket, legs stretched out in front of us and had the weighty feeling that I wouldn't have enough time with her. I'm not sure if the feeling was meant to foreshadow something dark or if it simply was there for me to recognize that she looks slightly more like a little girl today and a little less like my squishy newborn I brought home in July. It doesn't matter, though because either way, it's true. I don't have enough time to cherish this sweet girl. I began whispering suggestions for her. You can't be boy crazy because God is preparing someone for you. You have to focus on God and He will find the one you should pour your time and energy into. You will be his helper. Start praying for him now. I know you must be thinking- that's silly! But even if my brown eyed girl doesn't understand a word I'm saying, I know I'm communicating love to her in those moments. I touched her olive skin and I quietly sang to her as she looked at me with her adoring eyes and it hit me. I'm different because of her. She's my girl. She has changed me. I prayed for her, for the mother she would become. And now as she's laying on her back in her crib with her little hands curled up in those cute baby fists and sucking on her lower lip, I can only hope that she won't grow up too fast, that I'll be able to SEE her, to smell her, to have her wispy hair tickle my face as we dance together in the backyard, that I won't let the busyness of life take me away from my truly important mission right in front of me.

Saylor Eden.

My girl.

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