Friday, June 23, 2017

Finish strong, Dear Mama

For some of you, summer has already arrived.

For others, today is the day!

For the rest of us parents, next week is the week when children at home all day every day becomes our reality again.

Are you ready?

Can I be honest with you for a moment? I am shaking a little in my flip flops. I am an odd combination of enthused, elated and completely terrified. We desperately need a change of scenery and a respite from our patterns as of late but I'm not entirely convinced spending every waking moment together is going to be quite the "break" we are looking for.

This morning was typical. I remembered at 8:25 AM that today was the day my second grader's summer birthday was to be celebrated in her class. Her teacher just told me about this two days ago, along with a myriad of other emails. We leave for school at 8:55 which meant I had a grand total of 30 minutes. Though it was made clear my daughter "would still be celebrated" if she didn't bring a treat to share, reading between the lines, the message was clear: If I were a "good" mom, she would arrive with a birthday dessert in arms. Great.

Had you been in my house from 8:26 AM onward, you would have found me in my kitchen throwing together brownie "muffins" because they were the only thing I could think of that even had a slim chance at baking completely before we needed to be walking out the door to school. My efforts were, I'd say, maybe 73% successful. Like the awesome mom that I am, I sent her to school with the chocolate goodies still steaming IN A PIPING HOT MUFFIN TIN that I literally pulled out of the oven 13 seconds before. They were slightly undercooked but I'm sure the 6 minutes of sunshine they received on the walk down the hill to school gave them a nice sun-baked finish.

I've got this Momming thing down pat, y'all.

Oh and not only was today the day to celebrate the summer birthdays, but it was also "Walk and Talk Day" as well as "Stuffed Animal Day," whatever the heck that means. Yay! All I know is that the festivities therein caused a major kerfluffle when it was time to leave for school because no one had ALL THE THINGS in their backpack for walking and talking and stuffed animal ceremonial libations.

I am told today also happens to be the end of the year assembly and, for all I know, my kids could be performing in it but I have no idea because my head won't stop spinning from trying to keep all the other school activities from earlier in the week straight. You see, yesterday was "Field Day" so we were told to pack our kids with running shoes, a water bottle, and sun screen (a non-spray variety only please, but be sure it's one your child can successfully self-apply because no one will be permitted to help them.....right). The day before that, one kid had "Read On A Beach Towel Day" (where she was to do the obvious - bring a beach towel and books) and the other kid had her special Kindergarten Celebration party and we were to bring refreshments.

Call me a spoil-sport but I am really tired and am SO. OVER. ALL. THE. SPECIAL. DAYS.

Then I got a notice that my 5 year old has apparently been buying lunch at school without my knowing and has drained her lunch money account into the red and we need to get some money to the office ASAP before the last day of school. I sent her with money to pay it off yesterday but now I'm told we are still two quarters shy. I'm only remembering this now as I type as I'd intended to give her the coins before she left this morning but in all the brownie mess and stuffed animal day business, of course I forgot.

Don't mind me. I'm totally rocking it.

Also, you know those "Take-Home Reading books" the kids have been bringing home all year? The school wants them back. And they were supposed to be delivered to the classroom by Monday and here it is Friday afternoon and who knows how many might be hiding in their bedrooms still. Oh! And good news! I finally made it to the school office to request that vague sheet that the staff kept eluding to where I could request my child be put in a separate classroom from a problematic classmate next year....only to learn that it is past due.....on May 45 days ago.


I feel like for the most part I'm sort of an on-top-of-it kind of mom. Except for the fact that I only remembered like 3 Mondays THIS ENTIRE YEAR that it was library day for my younger one, and that, in order to check out a new book, she had to actually return the one she already had. She checked out a grand total of maybe 5 whole books this year and I'm not even exaggerating (2 because the librarian must have been feeling especially merciful toward the poor child). We have only been doing this school thing for 179 days and we are still a wild and harried mess most of the time. I haven't even attempted to volunteer in her classroom, because, well, maybe it's obvious.

Anyone? Please tell me it isn't just me.

I am so totally over all the rushing and all the remembering (or not), the organizing and arranging, the piling and filling out papers, the helping with homework and running to the store for the special things for the special party, all the scheduling and the timer-setting. I'm plum out of steam. Maybe I will be back on board next year. But for right now, sorry, all I've got to offer are the leftovers. And they aren't pretty. Teachers, forgive me. Y'all are amazing.

June is such a tease. We are tired and ready for a change of pace and everyone quit doing their reading logs back in April and we are just trying to drag our ragged bodies toward that finish line. Though it is literally in our line of sight, it couldn't feel farther away.


How will I do this? How will we make it through summer? We need a break. We need a respite from the crazy. But won't three kids at home just make it all the more crazy? I've been pinning to my Pinterest board, which I've entitled it "Surviving Summer" desperately this week to try and ready myself. But I want to do so, so much more than just survive. I want us to THRIVE. And we are far, far from thriving right now.

Finish strong, Dear Mama. Finish strong.

Maybe you too are drowning in all the feels right now? You aren't the only one! I know how hard it can be to hear those around you expressing elation for the coming summer days when all you feel is dread. I also know what it's like to feel the exact opposite - to look forward to freedom from the expectations and rigorous schedules that the school year requires of you. And yet this excitement makes you feel bad because you fear appearing ungrateful toward the teachers or maybe it means you don't value your child's education enough?

Rid yourself of it. Rid yourself of all of it! Take a deep breath and pray over your family. Think about YOUR people - what do YOUR people need, what makes YOU GUYS thrive? Ignore those around you who are signing up for all the camps and who are creating structure for their summers if that isn't what you need. Ignore those around you who are doing more of a "take it as it comes" approach if what your family needs right now is structure. We aren't going to thrive by following the same recipe. Our family dynamics differ. We aren't going to look the same as those around us and that's a good thing, a very good thing indeed.

So as you look toward summer, it's ok to feel excited. It's ok to be dreading it a bit too (or a lot). Bring it all before the Lord and leave it there. Erase the guilt and trade it in for His strength. Take heart, you aren't the only one feeling desperately messy right now. Trust me.

Finish strong, Dear Mama. Finish strong. You've got this.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A tribute to their Dad

Happiest of Father's Days to the guy on the left, my kids' amazing Dad. 

When we took the plunge into to parenthood, I had no idea what it would look like for my husband to step into his new role as "Dad." 

But let me tell you, he is ROCKING it. The photo above was taken mere moments after he became a father. Just look at his sweet grin as he gazes at our eldest! He is so proud of her and it shows. What has surprised me most about his fatherhood journey has been how naturally everything comes to him. Prior to starting a family, I never really saw Graham around kids, let alone babies, but it wasn't long before I began referring to him as the "baby whisperer." The ease with which he has taken each of our children (and others' children) into his arms leaves me in awe every time.

He is calm and fearless and very little fazes him. These are awesome qualities to have in a father. He approaches life with ease; my how fiercely he loves his brood! When our second born was terrifyingly ill and re-hospitalized as a newborn, he was both a rock and a safe place, tenderly loving and deeply bonded with his sick infant daughter. It was a moving moment for a mother to witness. Graham isn't afraid to show emotion and I am proud that our kids will get to learn from him how experience and show emotion with confidence. What a gift!

I told Graham many-a-times in those first few years of raising girls that he was made to be a daddy to daughters. But now I know he's absolutely made for parenting a boy as well. Just look at the way he is beaming (above) when he held our newborn son for the very first time (above). I can't even. He's smitten.

Graham is the best partner to have at my side. During the infant years, he was always the more patient one when it came to getting a baby to sleep. When I had done and had it, he would step in and send me to bed, replacing my frustrated exhaustion with a fresh willingness to rock and bounce and rock some more. Whether it was sleep-training or binky-eliminating or some other insanity-inducing parenting tactic we were taking on, Graham always formed his stance confidently. Still to this day, he stands unaffected by what those around us our doing; he does what he believes is best for our family of five. 

If you were to ask the kids some of their favorite things about their dad, I'm sure the following would make the list:

-how he tells amazing stories about "Long John Sliver"
-how he plays the "Speckled Frogs" song on the piano while they jump of the living room furniture, er, I mean lilypads
-how he snuggles them
-how he writes songs about tractors and combines that now the whole family knows
-how he takes them on zoo adventures
-how he makes them "flat pancakes" and lets them eat Nutella with reckless abandon
-how he helps them with the hard math problems on their homework
-how he takes them swimming and stand-up paddleboarding

There are days where it feels as though he and I are just plain missing each other on the parenting front. Our desired approaches can be so different that at times it is hard to imagine it's the same thing we want. In our exhaustion, we can cut and tear down the ways of the other. We can argue and disagree and debate over how to train and raise up and parent these souls who have been entrusted to our care. It is easy to get lost in the fog of busyness or get sink ourselves in the harmful trench of the "It's my way or the highway" kind of attitude. 

Yet when I pause and step back, I am always reminded it is the very best for our kids that we are both after. The picture of "very best" that I have formulated in my mind might look different than the one he sees. But it is this same goal we are after. WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM! We are fighting together against disconnection and disorder and hurt and pain, and fighting together for connection and order and joy and love. This, my friends is a very, very good thing. And there is no other man I would want raising my beautiful brood of three.

I've heard it said before, "The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother."
I absolutely could not agree more. And Graham nails it with this one.

In front of our children, he compliments me, woos me, touches me, prioritizes me, dates me and affirms me. It is one of the most beautiful things in the world to be loved by a man and have your kids stand witness to it. In a culture that prioritizes parenting over marriage, kids activities over date night, it's no wonder we struggle with disconnection and a lack of intimacy.

So to all you dads out there, I leave you with this, your Father's Day charge: Love your wife. Tell her not just that you love her but also that you cherish her, that you adore her. Pay attention to details, to the intricacies of her day-to-day. Date her, prioritize her and see her. This is your challenge.

And to all you mama readers out there, you get a Father's Day charge as well: Honor your husband and sing his praises. Set the housework aside for a moment and focus on him. You may feel tired and exhausted and so totally done, but dig deep for a minute or two to hold him and tell him all the reasons you think he is an amazing dad. Remember that he is on your team. Notice the ways he is supporting you. 

Happy Father's Day to all you amazing Dads out there. You play such a special, formative role in equipping the next generation and so many little eyes are watching you and following your lead.

And a special shout out and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY goes to my main man and the love of my life! THANK YOU for being on my team. I would have it no other way. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Remember how I recently shared with you all my favorite recipe for The Best Angel Biscuits? And how I told you to serve them with jam? And then I left you hanging with NOT A JAM RECIPE TO BE HAD?! My apologies. My son literally shattered the very last jar of homemade freezer jam we had in our possession WHILE I was away writing that post. And so I was left with nothing to photograph. And I had to wait for the berries to do their thing and ripen. Which is why, had you been out in the strawberry U-fields of the Pacific Northwest on opening day last Sunday, you would have found the Crozier family, picking desperately with visions of blog posts dancing in our little heads. We are that dedicated to you, Readers.

I would like to say that it was wholly for you, Dear Readers, that we got down to jam-making business with such promptness. Or could it have merely been the fact that WE WERE OUT OF HOMEMADE FREEZER JAM that we ran to the fields with such desperation? We picked those berries like maniacs, drooling as we imagined jam-adorned toast once again, peanut butter and jellies, and a freezer shelf restocked with jammy goodness.

Two things: I hate packing lunches. Hate it, hate it, HATE IT. It is pretty much the worst, isn't it? I have one kid that likes red Baby Bell cheeses on Tuesdays but only the blue ones on Wednesdays. Then the other one won't eat cheese. Except for on the random days that she does. But she likes yogurt which is awesome (hallelujah a protein source!) but only at breakfast (darn!) The other one likes what we refer to as "ice cream yogurt" (Trader Joe's Honey Greek yogurt - it's divine and high enough in everything to be considered dessert) but of course only when it's scooped directly from the tub onto her plate. Should it present in her lunch in a Tupperware or some other ungodly vessel, she will not touch it. Will. Not. It simply cannot taste the same when unlabeled. Obviously. Both the girls like apple slices (hooray!!!!!!).....on some days, except for the days when they don't, like every third Friday or some other random pattern I have yet to figure out (shoot! we almost had a winner there...) One likes carrots with ranch, the other simply can't do either because of her loose tooth. Heaven forbid they ever both like the same thing at the same time! Please tell me you get it.

Now I know what some of you are thinking (and believe me, I've thought it too!) - why don't I just have the kids pack their own lunches? One thing at a time, my friends - this is what I'm learning. I'm trying to give myself the grace to let this one go, at least for the time being. We have bigger fish we are frying right now and sometimes one can only tackle one challenge at a time. Maybe you too have found this? Too many changes attempted all at once and none of them last. But gosh darn it, self-packing of lunches will hopefully make it on the docket for next school year!!

Anyhow, here we are, with 5 lunch-making days of school left in the year, and we've finally found a lunch rhythm that is working! One daughter will happily eat peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat and the other, meat and cheese on dry bread. So you can imagine why the shattering of our last jar of jam on day 187 of school sent us straight to the berry fields to replenish our supply. We aren't about to mess with the good thing we had going.

Why didn't I just buy a jar of jam? You are wondering this, I know. It seems like a fairly reasonable solution. But, this leads me to thing number two that I shall mention: store-bought jam sucks. In my ever-so-humble opinion. Pardon my French, but when you've grown up on the good stuff, no other attempt at a substitute will ever suffice. And this is my story.

Graham is now a believer in homemade jam. Early on in our dating relationship, I think it was our very first Valentine's Day together, I put together a classy little "sunrise" picnic breakfast for the two of us. I showed up at his place at the crack of dawn with a basket full of heart-shaped scones, hot chocolate, strawberries, butter, and a jar of my mom's homemade freezer jam that she'd sent along to keep me company at college. I drove Graham and our breakfast up Queen Anne Hill to a special lookout where we were to eat and watch the sunrise.

There was only one minor detail that I overlooked that perfect morning: this was Seattle, the city of clouds and gray. The sun never did rise (or at least not that we noticed) but otherwise the morning went off without a hitch. And that was the morning Graham was introduced to this thing called homemade freezer jam.

When I was growing up, we'd go berry picking during the summer months, come home and mix up a batch or two of jam and ladle it into little glass jars. We'd make labels out of masking tape, stating the jam type and year, and affix them to the lids before placing them in the freezer. Sometimes the labels would come off when the jars were eventually emptied and washed. And, sometimes they wouldn't. It didn't much matter. We would reuse the jars from year to year and slap a new label over the old one if it was out-of-date. I actually never paid very close attention to those labels until that Valentine's picnic of 2005.

We'd reached the lookout and were settling in to begin our breakfast. I removed a warm scone from the red kitchen towel I'd wrapped it in, sliced it open and handed it to Graham. When I pulled out the jar of jam, Graham's eyes lit up eagerly...until they landed on the date.

"1998!?" he exclaimed. "Wow! This stuff is vintage!"

I had no idea to what he was referring to at first until I too, spotted the lid.

Embarrassed, I explained to him our elementary labeling process and how I was sure it wasn't really seven years old. Of course, he wasn't one to let a teasing opportunity pass and I have yet to hear the end of it. For the record, he LOVED the stuff but to this day, we refer to any and all homemade jars as "Vintage Freezer Jam."

My first attempt at using one of Sure Jell pectin's reduced-sugar recipes turned my favorite blackberry freezer jam into what I would describe as fermented-tasting blackberry soup. I was sorely disappointed and understandably a bit skeptical toward the idea of sacrificing any of my precious U-picked fresh strawberries toward a reduced-sugar jam recipe if I wasn't absolutely sure it was going to turn out. But I didn't want to write off the reduced-sugar strawberry version without first trying it.

Now, before you get your panties all in a wad about the amount of sugar in this recipe, let me be clear that this is by no means what I would refer to as a "low sugar" recipe. It is certainly reduced in sugar when compared to the original Sure Jell freezer jam recipe that I grew up on (which contained 2 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of berries!) but there is still a lot of sugar in here. If you really do want a lower sugar version, I'd recommend you look elsewhere rather than attempting to tweak this one (see below). For me, however, there is a certain flavor profile I'm looking for in my jam (to match my childhood) and I'm OK with some sugar in moderation. I was so pleasantly surprised to discover that, upon making this recipe, not only did it set well, but it tasted JUST LIKE the full sugar version to me. I feel better about it because it has less sugar than it's original counterpart but still plenty enough to make it DELICIOUS. Win win!

The thing to remember when making homemade jam is that measurements are very important. If you try and alter a jam recipe (such as reducing the sugar), it won't gel properly and you'll likely end up with more of a runny syrup. I have no idea what went wrong with my blackberry jam disaster a few years ago but I can safely say that this strawberry version works! I've made it three times already this week and each batch has turned out perfectly.

And on an even more important note, our family is school-lunch-operational again. Hallelujah!

"Vintage" Strawberry Freezer Jam
(Adapted from Reduced-Sugar Sure Jell Box) 

4 cups crushed strawberries (from about 8 cups fresh berries)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 package Sure Jell Fruit Pectin For Use in Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes (pink box)
1 cup water

Rinse and hull strawberries. In a large, wide-bottomed bowl or stockpot, crush berries until you have 4 cups exactly of mashed berries. You can leave the berries slightly chunkier if you prefer some larger lumps of fruit in your jam or mash them more finely for smoother jam (but do not blend!)

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together sugar and 1 package of reduced-sugar Sure Jell fruit pectin. Once combined, whisk in 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Mix in crushed berries until well combined. Ladle jam into clean jars of desired size and screw on lids. Wipe the jar exterior with a wet washcloth to remove any sticky spots and let jars sit on counter at room temperature for 24 hours to allow jam to set. Label with year and jam type and freeze.

When ready to serve, thaw jam in refrigerator or, if you are impatient like me, using the defrost setting of the microwave.

Makes ~7 cups (56 ounces)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Eggs, Worms, Sex and Pie

Last night we had an exciting dinnertime conversation, exciting in all the ways imaginable.

It all started because we were talking about eggs. My daughter landed the envious role of "Narrator Number 2" in her kindergarten class' upcoming production of Jack and the Beanstalk. Her lines, which she has been rehearsing nightly, set the stage for Jack and the Giant and the hen who lays golden eggs.

We were talking about how magical this would be - to have a hen laying eggs of solid gold. Before I knew it, the conversation had morphed and my five-year-old started out her next sentence with the words "Well, if people laid eggs..."

I saw the opportunity and I seized it.

"Honey, girls do have eggs inside them," I told her. "We don't exactly lay them like hens do, but us girls have eggs in our bodies from the moment we are born."

"I know, Mom," my seven-year-old joined. She isn't one to be left out of the conversation. "There was this one time," she continued, "my friend was telling me how she and her little brother were teasing each other. He told her 'You have eggs inside of you!" and then, to get back at him, she said 'Well you have worms inside of you and that's worse!'"

Graham and I looked at each other, trying our best to hide our grins. Worms, huh? Ha!

Worms? Sperm? Same difference, right? 😉

My kindergartener, of course, found this idea hysterical. I could see her imagination taking the concept to the next level, dreaming up of pictures of little boys running about with squirmy worms coursing through their veins.

"Actually," I corrected, "I think what he was referring to was something called 'sperm' and I'm not sure a boy his age would have that yet."

I couldn't remember for absolute sure so thus commenced a quick bit of scientific "research" (read: I asked Siri to Google it) where I confirmed the fact that boys don't have sperm until they reach puberty. I was pretty sure this was the case but I wanted to feel confident and I was teaching my kids accurately.

None of the conversation was planned but, before I knew it, we were having a full-blown discussion about puberty and the purpose behind the menstrual cycle and what happens physiologically during a period. Then of course they wanted to know why boys have millions of sperm. I spared them no detail and told them that intercourse is for purposes beyond just baby-making so boys need to have tons of sperm so there's enough to go around for those times when parenthood IS actually the goal.

HELLO!!!! (Are you still with me?)

It wasn't our first conversation and it certainly won't be our last. We were on the subject for a grand total of maybe three minutes before the kids moved on and were asking if it was time for pie. Seriously. Eggs, worms, sex, and pie. The topics of our chat flowed together with epic smoothness in their little minds. They were absolutely unashamed, unembarrassed and unfazed and, I have to say, it felt pretty amazing.

A couple things happened during this conversation that I think are important to highlight:

  1. Maybe the first one is obvious. WE TALKED WITH OUR THREE, FIVE AND SEVEN-YEAR-OLD ABOUT SEX!! Outloud. Is that even legal?!?? If there is sweat on your brow and you are squirming in your seat, I get it. This definitely would not have been a kosher conversation to be having with kids this age when I was growing up, at least in the community I was raised in. Regardless of our thoughts and upbringings, the topic makes many of us feel reeeeeeeeally uncomfortable. But I know it is incredibly important so I'm speaking up and saying something. The experts today are telling us that what kids need are one hundred, one-minute conversations about sex, not one, one hundred-minute conversation with a side of red, embarrassed faces all around. We need to be interjecting the facts from a very early age, teaching our kids that our bodies are beautifully and wonderfully made, not something to be hushed about, scared of, or embarrassed by. In a best-case scenario, we will be encouraging our kids to ask questions and we will be communicating to them that WE are a safe source for them to come to when they are confused. Frankly, I would rather have my kids coming to ask ME why their sheets are wet when they wake up in the morning or why they feel all tingly when they are around a cute boy than having them find out from another (untrustworthy or potentially inaccurate) source!    
  1. We used the real names for all body parts throughout our conversation. We don't do this simply because we are a medical family. Sexual violence prevention experts tell us that using accurate nomenclature for genitalia discourages sexual predators. A predator is much more likely to move on to a more naive-seeming child who refers to his parts as a "wee-wee" or "pee-pee" than one who confidently calls it a "penis." By teaching our kids the proper names for their body parts, we are also helping promote a positive body image and self-confidence. 
  1. I admitted when I didn't know the answer. There is no shame in that! But I didn't stop there. I took the next step and looked up the answer to make sure my kids got the information they were looking for (even if my Google searching means of "research" weren't the most scientific). When they come to me with questions with their bodies, I pray my response always begins with "Well honey, I am SO glad you asked me!" I want to keep the lines of communication with them open at all times. I want to be approachable and welcoming of their curiosity, never shaming. And just as importantly, I want them to know we can't possibly know all the things about everything and that's okay. But there are sources out there that do know and we will seek the answers out together. 
How does this topic sit with you? Did it catch you by surprise? Did you come to this space hoping to find inspiration for an upcoming meal only to be shocked by a post about sex and kids? (Trust me, this wasn't a topic I planned on covering today but sometimes the words just fall out). Did you feel totally comfortable reading about sex? Are these conversations you are already having in your home? Do you have some work still to do in this area?

Wherever you are at, chew on these words for a while. Take your pulse and assess any resistance; wrestle with any discomfort. CELEBRATE it if you experience none of these. No matter where you are at, I welcome your thoughts.

I will close with one of my favorite passages from Psalm 139:13-14:

"For You formed my inward parts;
            You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
            Wonderful are Your works,
            And my soul knows it very well."

To know that we were designed by God - every part of us - intricately and intentionally. This, my friends, is a beautiful and sacred gift!

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Land of "I Just"

I just need more time.

I just need a break.

I just need silence.

I just need to finish this one last thing.

I just need for him to get it.

I just need for them to listen the first time.

I just need her to pick up after herself.

I just need a moment to think.

I just need to finish this parenting book so I will have a plan.

I just need to feel seen.

When we sit down and think about it, we have an endless number of phrases that begin with the words "I just need….," don’t we? They are our mental list of unmet desires that, when fulfilled, we believe will magically bring strength and order, smoothness and calm to our days.

It struck me yesterday how many things I am subconsciously waiting on. I'm waiting for summer, when my kids will have more down time and miraculously stop fighting with each other. (Since when has more time together resulted in less fighting??! Umm, never.) I'm waiting for tomorrow to have the hard conversation because I don’t want to face it today. I'm waiting for the next appointment with the expert where I'm sure the solution to all our problems will finally made known. I'm waiting until another day to play with my kids because right now the to-do list is endless. I'm waiting for tomorrow to rise early because today I'm too tired. I’m waiting for someday in the future to address my selfishness because this week I can’t face the music. I'm waiting for the invitation instead of taking the initiative and doing the inviting.

Where are you right now, my friend? Where do you find yourself waiting? What needs are on your “I just” list? Are you waiting for that break to come, waiting for the quiet, waiting for the disciplining principles you read about in that parenting book to actually start working? Are you yearning forward for something to materialize?

How often do the days flying by and we miss them because we’re holding back and trying to make the pieces fit before we join in? Meanwhile, the ship has sailed and those aboard appear to be having a mighty fine time and we’re here watching from the shore, waiting to partake because our needs aren’t yet met.

Our reasoning seems sound. Firmly we state our case, backed with all the evidence. Endlessly we defend our honor, listing all the explanations. If we just had time, rest, clean houses, obedient children and perfect communication with our husbands, everything would be fine!!

Our anxious thoughts and desire for control (the "I just needs") are leaving us emptier than when we began. We feel like more of a failure than when we started because exactly nothing is getting checked off our list. One step forward drags us three steps back. All the people seem intent on sabotaging.

More time, increased control, improved organization – all these things we feel we need - may build positive momentum toward solving our problems, at least initially. But will they fix them indefinitely? Certainly not. The fluidness of this life, of our people, ever-changing and growing and challenging, guarantee that what worked today will not work again tomorrow.

But maybe that's just it – all these longings we have for something other than what is - is simply God’s way of continuously reminding us that He is standing by at the ready, waiting to permeate our being, if only we would only reach out and ask. I’ve heard it said before that one can’t become filled without first becoming empty. I hate this answer.

I've been reading a book called "You Are Free" by Rebekah Lyons. In it, she writes:

"How many of us try to manage our stress with some method of numbing ourselves? The problem with pain management is exactly that: we are managing. What if we are called to acknowledge our pain, to confess our inability to beat it?"

I just need you, Father.

Plain and simple.

Inhaling. Communion with Him and deep companionship.

I breathe you in, Lord. Fill me. I need your words. I need your strength. I need your joy. I just need you.

Exhaling. The fretting and the toiling released. I’ve been trying to do it all again and I'm over it. I don't want to miss today because I'm busy cramming a square peg in a round hole.

Help me to remember the simplicity of your ways.

The surrender. Handing over the reigns.

All I need is you Lord.

The words of Psalm 139 rise to my awareness.

You have searched me and known me.

I feel confused. So often I don't even know myself. I don't know what makes me tick but you know it all because you made me. You designed my innermost being. And you don't make mistakes.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you understand my thoughts from afar.

When life doesn't allow me the luxury of taking the time to process and tease out my true thoughts and feelings, you get it. I make sense to you and I can rest in this.

I am an open book to you. 

You know each word on every page. There are no surprises. I can bare my soul, unashamed. Before I even whisper a word, you know.

I am never out of your sight.

What a comfort! When I feel lost in the crowd, I look up and realize your loving gaze is locked on me.

I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too.

There are times when I feel alone and I miss your presence. I wonder why you aren’t in my midst and I look behind me to see if you are hiding in the distant forest that I have journeyed through. You aren't there and I am confused. But as I focus in and pay attention, I become aware of a presence directly behind me, a comforting warmth pressing against my back, holding me up when I falter. You have been here the whole time. You never left my side. My gaze was simply focused too far away; you would never allow that much distance between us. 

You hem me in behind and before.

You have been so close to me all along. You envelope me securely.

And you lay your hand upon me.

Your gentle touch slows and calms me. I am comforted by the reminder that you are here and you are pleased with me.

Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day.

What terrifies me does not threaten you in the slightest. There is no darkness when you are near.

The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.

This is not the rat race I often mistake it for. Each day has been purposefully ordained. There is ample opportunity for service, for worship and for loving. My life has meaning and significance.

You are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

You get me. You really, truly get me. When I can't discern truth amidst the emotional hurricane raging through my brain, you understand and I am comforted.

Do these words bring solace to your weary soul? This is our God. He is our loving, caring Heavenly Father and He delights in us and longs to walk with us intimately. Instead of wasting away our hours waiting for our “I justs” to be fulfilled, what if we instead breathed in the presence of our God?

Lyons writes:

"Waiting is a critical part of your anointing. It prepares you, strengthens you, equips and trains you to step up when the moment comes."

Lord, we confess how often our minds wander. How quick we are to get lost in the waiting. When we stray and catch ourselves thinking “I just need _____ ,” would you please stop us and remind us that all me need is you, Father? Would you slow us down to breath you in? To inhale your presence? To meditate on your pursuit of us? May we be acutely aware of your equipping?

In these moments where we are waiting, longing for the fulfillment of our needs, would you speak to us and remind us of your intimate closeness? Would you hem us in so tightly with the reminder of your companionship that there isn't room for anything else? 

This is our prayer, God.

All we need is you.

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