Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Like my mother does"

When I was a little girl, I did  not like to play with baby dolls, or even barbies- I was probably more on the "tom boy" side of life.
  I also never really grew up saying "I want to be just like my mom"

But now, as an adult, I say all the time " I wish I were more like my mom"
 But God has created us all differently, with unique life situations, making us shaped differently . Sure, I have characteristics of my mom's, but I will never be just like her.

Recently, I made a big baking "mess up", and ended up crying over it because (and I quote myself here) " I just want to be like my mom was with us. She was the best baker. She made goodies all the time. She let us help with them, and she never dictated how we did it, and it always still came out right." Sniff... sniff.... wipe a (silly) tear.
   Now, I laugh about it, and Michael and I have made the joke that I am teaching my kids how NOT to bake!  (To my defense, this was not typical; I can usually bake fairly well. Cooking, on the other hand, not so much.)

But as we joked about that and kidded around about it, I wondered "what am I teaching my kids?" I have beautiful memories of my mom. What memories will my kids have with me?
 I confess, I struggle with mommy working guilt. I was blessed to have my mom stay at home. And now, all the ladies (my siblings' wives) stay at home. I am the only female who works outside of the home. For a long while I struggled with this. And my mommy guilt left me often times giving in to the kids' whims more. This has been a conviction of mine a lot this year of 2013. I have not conquered giving in to my own guilt totally, but it's a work in progress. But a working mama can teach just as much as a stay at home mama....
 so, back to my question of "what am I teaching my kids?" It's not always about what can I teach them; I have learned it's what can we (Michael and I together) teach them as a partnership....Looking back I learned a lot from both my parents, even if at times in indirect ways.
    Both stay at home moms and working moms can teach their kids the most important things in life; it just looks different for each person. I am blessed to have a husband who gets them on the bus and to school, while I am already at work, and then I get the major after school duties. Good team work.
   So I can teach them team work.
      I have modeled rough characteristics at times in the last few years, with countless meltdowns and not always wise decisions. But I have grown tremendously through that and I can teach my kids better now. Especially my daughter, who often has the same emotional characteristic of me. I already see her dealing with things more gracefully than I ever did at that age.
       Hopefully I can teach them about handling emotions and life as God wants us to; not as we want to.
     Michael can teach them to cook far better than I can. I can bake with them. (and teach them that it's ok when you make mistakes when baking!)
              The list goes on and on really....
 But lately I've been learning to grow in new ways as a mama. Both kids are growing up tremendously fast! And with Elizabeth in a whole new phase of life, it's also creating a new phase for me and us. Perhaps that's why I have missed my mom with more depth lately.....I have longed to call her for advice .
 Michael found this song for me  and gave it to me at just the right time. The words go like this:

[Verse 1]
People always say
I have a laugh
Like my mother does
Guess that makes sense
She taught me how to smile
When things get rough

I've got her spirit
She's always got my back
When I look at her
I think, I want to be just like that

When I love I give it all I've got
Like my mother does
When I'm scared, I bow my head and pray
Like my mother does

When I feel weak and unpretty
I know I'm beautiful and strong
Because I see myself like my mother does

[Verse 2]
I never met a stranger
I can talk to anyone
Like my mother does
I let my temper fly
And she can walk away
When she's had enough

She sees everybody
For who they really are
I'm so thankful for her guidance
She helped me get this far

When I love I give it all I've got
Like my mother does
When I'm scared, I bow my head and pray
Like my mother does

When I feel weak and unpretty
I know I'm beautiful and strong
I see myself like my mother does

She's a rock
She is grace
She's an angel
She's my heart and soul
She does it all

When I love I give it all I've got
Like my mother does
When I'm scared, I bow my head and pray
Like my mother does

When I'm weak and unpretty
I know 
I'm beautiful and strong
I see myself like my mother does
Like my mother does

I hear people saying
I'm starting to look like my mother does

Perhaps I am more like my mom than I thought....even if my cakes don't come out perfectly ;)   

Saturday, August 24, 2013

True Friendship

Friendship is a topic often crossing my mind and my path.
  And as my daughter has entered the world of middle school, the topic is also a frequent conversation we are having in our home.  This weekend was no different, as we experienced a tough lesson in the world of friendships.
  She was scheduled to have her 11 year old birthday party. Because she is growing up,I encouraged her to handle the details on her own. We planned it, set the details, but she did all the calling and inviting and setting up.  She was so excited, as she has never had a birthday part with friends since we moved here 6 years ago. Her party was simple: grill out, have a bonfire, jump on the trampoline, and giggle like school girls. She'd built so much excitement into this that Thursday night sleep was not easy to come by for her.
  Friday evening rolls around and Michael did all the cooking and we waited. 6:00. No one.
 Well, Maybe they just aren't precise people.
    6:07......Should we call?
6:18.....Time to call....the food would be cold soon.

Quiet comes from her room, as she called the friends and they all cancelled.

Heartbreak from me. I know how that hurts.
  Frustration from Michael. For his little girl.
A desperate attempt to say "it's ok...." from Elizabeth.

A first hard lesson in friendship.

Now, it's not to say that these girls aren't her true friends.  It was just oddly coincidental that they all cancelled and didn't tell her. Or perhaps it was a lesson for me, as a mother, to make better connections with the other girls' mothers.  But regardless of the reasons, it brought on a valuable lesson I have been taught over the last couple of years and really learned to embrace, and one I was able to talk about with Elizabeth in this circumstance.

The most true friend is found in Jesus.
    He is the ONE constant we have in life.
He is there when we are sad. (Psalm 56:8 -every tear is recorded and held by Him)
   He is there when we are angry.
         He is there when we rejoice.
               He is there when we call on Him and He waits for us when we walk away from Him. (Ps. 50:15)
 He is found in the midst of grief, sorrow, pain and hurt. (Is 41:10, Is 43:2, 2 Cor 1:3-4)
      He is the center of joy, fun, dancing, laughter and fellowship. (Ps. 149:3; 2 Sam 6)

I have learned this lesson in painful ways over the years. I have always been one to thrive on friendship. And friends are a beautiful gift from God. But, we have to learn to go to Him first. We have to learn that He is our constant. He is a true friend....through thick and thin. Good and bad. Pain and joy. He is always there. He knows me inside and out and is still the most constant in my life.

  This weekend, we were able to talk about that. Every life circumstance presents us with lessons. For we girls, friendship lessons can be some of the toughest. Elizabeth handled it gracefully. she was probably one of the most understanding girls you'll find out there. And she learned some important things about responsibility and about God through it all.
By the way, the night ended up fantastically. We went to a movie as a family and then came back to have our own bonfire and do sparklers and eat cupcakes around the fire. A beautiful picture of a friend from next door even joined us for it all.
    All the while, we could smile, knowing God was in the moment, just as He always is, if we look for Him and allow Him. He is our most true friend.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A chipped mug

When the alarm sounds at 4 am, and I roll out of bed, I am ready for my coffee before I do anything else. Literally. Recently, as I went into the dark kitchen, and pulled out my favorite mug to drink my savory cup of morning joe, I found my favorite mug was chipped.
  It is my favorite mug because it is ceramic, it is 20 oz (and I need my big cup to start the day), it has a large handle, it is colorful and it is happy. It's a great way to start my day. When I found it chipped, I was devastated (ok, that's dramatic; not devastated, but disappointed). My favorite mug was chipped! I was going to have to throw it out.
  As I pondered that, and decided to drink from it one last time, I began to ponder another idea.

I am chipped.
   I have bumps, bruises, knicks, chips, and scars from life's battles.
 I have made mistakes, chosen unwise friends at times, had trust broken, broken trust, and been beat up at times (emotionally, that is).
 I have wrestled with the battles of anxiety and depression and some days I have lost, other days had victories.
    I faced thoughts of wanting life to end head on (and thankfully won that battle).
 I have grieved.
   I am chipped, and my story is evidence of those "chips".
The beautiful part of my story is that even though I am chipped, God still loves me. He didn't throw me out. He sees my knicks and scars and bumps and bruises and chips and embraces me.
  He is strength in my weakness.
     He is the potter and I am the clay, and He doesn't throw away the "clay" just because I am chipped.
  He loves, not because or if I love Him, but because He IS love, and He first loved me.
         He chooses me every time, even if I don't choose Him.
And He never has, nor will He ever, throw me away because of my "chips".

I used to hate that I had all these knicks and chips in me. But now, I look at them differently. I see them in a beautiful way. They make . They tell my story- one of grace, love, learning, forgiveness and compassion. The chips are simply evidence of my journey through life, and a picture of what God can do through even a cracked vessel like myself.
  I drank my morning brew, spent time pondering, reading and praying. I saw myself and others in a new light that day.

  I didn't throw away my favorite mug. I keep my mug and drink from it regularly still. The mug is still my favorite. It is still chipped. It always will be. But that is what makes it even more beautiful.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Savoring Summer

Where has the time gone? Summer is coming to a close, in terms of school beginning.
 I am entering new territory as a mom, with a daughter moving into Junior High. Change is happening. But it is good change. We had orientation and open house this week at the new building, and though they were good tears, I had to stop the big crocodile drops from running down my cheeks as I watch my little girl grow up in a whole new fashion.
  I am savoring the last days of summer. We will have a campfire with S'mores, we will have our last "late night" movie nights, we will jump on the trampoline and we will do sparklers.
  I want to recap some of our good times from this summer, though, and I will also recap some lessons I have learned in this particular "Season". As summer closes, and a new season approaches, so will a new season of life for our family. Here's what this summer has looked like a little bit:
-A family trip to the Zoo
-Weekend movie nights-sometimes at the drive in; sometimes on our couch.
-Elizabeth's first mission trip./graduation into the church junior high group
-Birthdays! Joseph, Michael, myself, and Elizabeth! We had a lot of cake during this time.
-catching fireflies
-Walking the beach
-Creek swims.

Challenging experiences:
-Saying goodbye to Granny forever
- Saying goodbye to our 9 year old American Bulldog
- Emotional changes of an 11 year old daughter
-Time flying....

As this season draws to a close, I always stop to ponder what I've learned, what was good, what could I do better.
 My friend, Julie, at come have a peace, has been blogging about her transition of her daughter going off to college. It has made me think about many things for many reasons. Her daughter used to be a child I babysat when I was a teenager. I can't believe she is now entering college. Her transition has made me think about how fast time goes.  It seems like just yesterday I was babysitting her. Now I have my very own, growing up before my eyes daily. And a few things I've been learning more deeply this summer are:
 Embrace the moments.  They go too fast. These are the days that are important.
   Be thankful.  

God is good. ALL the time!!

Change is a constant in our lives. But change can be a really good thing. 

I'm perfectly imperfect.  That is my new mantra. I embrace that. It's been a really tough lesson for me, taken me a long time to really embrace this, and one lesson I am sure I will need to remind myself of (or you may need to remind me, too) . I am perfectly imperfect. I am who God has made me, I am a beautiful mess, I am constantly working to be the best woman I can be- as a wife, as a mom, as an employee, in my dreams/goals, and when I look in the mirror. I will never be a Perfect person, as far as my mind can grasp. I am, however, perfectly imperfect, His daughter, and He loves me....and I will embrace that. Size, weight, mistakes, idiosyncracies (sp?) and all....Perfectly Imperfect. And I embrace that.

  There have been challenging moments this summer, but I know God has brought me a very long way because I never completely fell apart during them, as I have in the past. I looked for the above things in those hard times. And God showed up each and every time. when we sat at the table last night, after Junior High open house, I asked the family their favorite summer moments.
 Elizabeth: Her mission trip to TN.
   Joseph: His trip to the water park with Grandma, Papa and his cousins.
    Michael: our date nights.
  Me:.....I couldn't pick one. I was savoring all the summer moments and all I've learned. I'd say the trip to the zoo as a family was mine. Watching my kids' faces light up and "Oh, mommy, look!!!" and even the moments walking in the rain, holding Michael's hand that day.  The little moments.
   I also had a perfect cup of coffee while in Florida (for the tough reason of the funeral) and I got to go back in the Cuban kitchen and they taught me how to make their Cafe Cubano. Now I can bring that to my coffee shop. The little moments.
   I'm savoring the next few days....they are going all too fast.
 Some summer picture moments:
Elizabeth and her cousin, Abi.

Joseph, and his cousin, Kenzie

A time to reflect. 

A perfect cup. Cafe con leche. Cuban coffee.

The last days with our faithful dog, Milo.

A zoo snapshot

A ridiculously fun race this summer, with my friend, Alyssa.

And my favorite.... time with my husband.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Labels are everywhere.
  They tell us how many calories we consume.
 They warn us of possible side effects.
   They tell us the latest and greatest brands.

Labels are all over our society.
 Now step outside the visible labels.
Let's be honest here.....we label those around us. Even worse, we label ourselves. Labeling is a habit we sometimes don't even realize we do. We say things to ourselves repeatedly, and saying it so much often makes it so we are putting a big label across our chest. It may be one only we see, but it is a blazing neon in our own eyes.  Just a few examples would be:

Those words, or "labels", are things we put on ourselves when we  have done something, gone through something, or feel something that the world says is wrong, or ugly, or bad. And when we repeat it in our minds enough, we become consumed by it, just as a product on a shelf is posted with a label, telling us what we, as consumers are about to have.
   The beauty in us labeling is that it doesn't have to BE that.
      I struggle with this. I, myself, will have a battle within my own mind about this, often times daily and even hourly. I get consumed by it. And the label I put on myself isn't true. I struggle with the battle of looking in the mirror and not loving what I see. I get consumed with what the world puts out there as good and when I see myself, I don't always see myself as God sees me.
 Or I see my past mistakes and label myself with those, hanging my head even at times, feeling like that neon sign is flashing brightly for everyone to see.
 I struggle with seeing myself as God sees me. But I realize this and I am working on it daily. and working on it is the best place to be. I'm allowing God to teach me. I am allowing HIM to place the label on me, and not me place the label there.
   So let's change something. One label, one thought at a time. Let's look at others differently. Better yet, is to start within our own hearts and look at ourselves differently. Perhaps I should say, I am going to start with me. I am going to endeavor on a new journey of looking at myself like God does. It won't be easy all the time, but with Him all things are possible.  Below aren't necessarily all labels of my own, just examples of labels we put out there and hang around our necks. Have you felt one or put one on you? Cross it out. Put on God's label.
   Divorced                     wanted
Fat                                 loved
Adulterer                       forgiven
     Ugly                         beautiful
          Failure                Redeemed
Angry                            kind
    Depressed                sympathetic/empathetic
 Anxious                        normal
    Infertile                      God's child

 Rip off the label you are putting on yourself and replace it with how God views you. Because He doesn't see you that way....He sees His child. His creation. And that is beautiful in and of itself.
   Psalm 139: 13-16 
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Be Still.

The thunder is rumbling gently in the distance. And as the thunder rolls, I hear the gentle whisper of "Be Still."
 It's been a long 2 weeks, full of events beyond our control. And these events have called me to the action of Being Still.
  I do not sit still very well.
 I run for a hobby.
   I am on my feet 8 hours a day, moving and multi tasking all day with my job.
     I talk all day.
       I come home and do....
  Even when I am semi still (lying in bed or sitting on the couch) my mind is running many miles per minute.

Sitting still is not my strength.

Therefore, when I hear the gentle whisper (and I mean whisper. I literally have to BE sitting in order to sense this whisper) that I need to be still, I fight it.
  The conversations in my mind go something like this:

"Oh, I need to send that email about the 5K. It's coming so fast..." still. Rest.
   "I can't believe we have to put Milo down (our dog). How will the kids handle that. How will I handle that?"    Rachael....Be still and know that I am God. Let me handle it.
    "I need to get up and do the dishes. Oh, and I need to file that bill. Oh yeah, I need to get Elizabeth's permission slip....." Rachael....Rest. The time is slipping away. You need to be still before you can do anything.
  "School is starting. We have orientation and open house and I need to get supplies. Oh, I need to make sure Elizabeth is ready for Junior High...."  No, Rachael, you need to give it me. You need to be still. You need to rest in me and let me handle the worries.

These conversations don't mean I sit idly and do nothing. The conversations- or whispers, if I may- are reminders that I need to quiet my mind and just sit still. I need to rest in His peace. Peace He offers constantly, but peace often times found most when I sit still.

Life has been rolling fast around me in recent weeks. We've had to say a lot of "goodbyes". It's been So fast that in the last few days I have felt a bit of sadness that summer is almost gone and what did we even do?? In those moments of "time is flying" realization, God whispers to me to Be Still.
  Soak in the moment.
   Soak in His grace.
    Soak in His words.
 don't focus on the goodbyes. Focus on the Good.
Allow my mind to rest.
   Be still.

It's not a shouted command at me.
   it is a gentle beckoning for me.

Be Still.
  Watch the kids laugh.
    Listen to Elizabeth talk.
     Snuggle with the kids.
      Play games with Joseph.
        Laugh with Michael.
        Smile at the little moments.
          Give God the tough ones.
   Pray. Listen. Wait. Allow.
 Be Still.

God has brought me so far in my journey of learning to be still. In these weeks of chaos and goodbyes and,'ve felt a peace only He can offer.
   As the thunder rolls around the house outside me, I have shelter to offer me a quiet place during the storm. And just as that shelter stands, so does the peace that surrounds me during the storms of goodbyes and lawsuits and chaos and tough days.
 Peace found when I am still.
Peace found in God alone.

And so I will be still as long as He needs. It teaches me more than all my "doing" ever will.