Why We All Need a Little Whimsy

Blue Moon SmileIt was a typical Wednesday. Piles of laundry lined my hallways. An afternoon of schoolwork lingered before me. My girls gobbled up mac-n-cheese while I juggled dishes and a sleeping newborn.

“I’m headed to Holland,” Chris said. “Want to join me?”

How simple he made it sound. Yes! Of course I’d love to join you, I thought. But the laundry, and the schoolwork, and the kids

For several minutes my practical side warred against the side of me that loves nothing more than to hop in the car and go for a ride on a beautiful spring afternoon, a mini road trip with my family.

“We can stop and get ice cream before we head home,” he added. My man, he sure knows how to up the ante.

“Ice cream?” My girls and I said in unison. “Let’s go!”

We loaded into the van and took off. A couple hours later we found ourselves lapping up delicious hot fudge sundaes and ice cream cones. It was our first trip for ice cream after a long Michigan winter and even though it was only in the forties the sunshine felt so good and the ice cream tasted so creamy it might as well have been a summer afternoon.

I looked over at Tenley with her mouth rimmed in Blue Moon ice cream. Bright turquoise drops dripped down her fingers and onto her pants. I looked at Aletheia with a matching blue circle smeared round her lips and Blue Moon drops stuck to her hair.

The sight of them made me so happy I wanted to cry. This moment, with my family, was so full of delight. But following these thoughts my practical side launched another strike. What a mess, I thought. Why can’t they just like vanilla?

Vanilla.

The question made me consider my own approach to life.

Most of my days are pretty vanilla and, believe me, I like it this way. I am not knocking vanilla, the simple, the calm, the routine. I thrive on vanilla days and what Jane Austen calls the “real comfort of staying home.”

But there is also something that must be said for the whimsy of Blue Moon. In terms of ice cream, it’s a mess. It’s terribly impractical. I honestly don’t understand what every child on the planet seems to get from a drippy scoop of bright blue ice cream on top of a crunchy cone.

What I do know is that days like this Wednesday are precious and rare. They are once-in-a-blue-moon treats in a long strand of vanilla days.

Days like these, if we let them, are what fill us up and keep us going. And while they don’t always make since, aren’t always convenient, and are usually not very practical, I’m finding in my own life the importance of fighting for whimsy, for adventure, for wondrous Blue Moon joy.

For this, my children are my teachers. Always ready to play, to dive-in head first, to slurp up the messy with a smile, my girls remind me each day to lighten up, to embrace what God is giving, to seek and chase and live with awestruck, giggling, wonder.

Last summer I was invited to join a group of writer friends at a cottage on Lake Michigan for a weekend of nothing but food, friendship, and writing. For a mom with two young children at home it seemed completely indulgent. But I went anyway and the joy I experienced that weekend bore the very texture of Heaven.

This week I received an invitation to return to the cottage this summer, and while I want to go with all my heart, the addition of a newborn makes the arrangements, the planning, the finding a way to make it work seem very Blue Moon.

The practical thing to do is politely decline and hope for another chance next year, and in the end, this may be what I have to do. This may be what’s best for my family. Chris and I are still trying to decide.

But you can bet I’m going to fight for it, this weekend of whimsy, of adventure, of joy. This couplet of Blue Moon days in the midst of my vanilla life. Because I know I need it. I know it’s good for my heart. I know it’s full of the stuff that keeps me full. The very stuff of Heaven.

I know it’s messy, and drippy, and vanilla would make much more sense…

But one look at my girls with their Blue Moon smiles reminds me, again and again.

In the end, it’s totally worth it.

Why It’s Time to be Done with Mom-Guilt

Barnes and Noble“How did I get here?” I wondered to myself as I sat in the middle of Barnes and Noble trying desperately not to slip into an ugly-cry meltdown.

Barnes and Noble…my happy place! What could possibly cause a mostly stable, high-functioning adult to wind up cuddling a stuffed Pooh Bear in the B&N cafe to keep from crying like a two-year-old? (Where, by the way, not even a tall vanilla latte with a side of frilly chocolate mousse could entice me to cheer up.)

Mom-Guilt. That’s what. I mean serious Mom-Guilt. I mean, mommy-meltdown-I- will-never-forgive-myself-for-being-such-an-awful-mother-kind of Mom-Guilt.

It was Frozen Day at Barnes and Noble. Frozen Day. We’re talking little girls dressed up like tiny Anna and Elsas everywhere. A real life Prince Hans roamed the store. The children’s department was transformed into Arendelle. Story time and sing-alongs were repeating every hour.

And I had no idea.

My sister, my girls and I thought we’d take a quick trip to our favorite bookstore. We thought it’d be a respite to get out of the house for a few minutes before it was time for my one-week-old baby to nurse again. My sister and I thought we’d let the girls play with the train set in the children’s section while we leisurely sipped fancy hot drinks and enjoyed some long awaited sister time.

But no. Frozen had thrown up in Barnes and Noble and I was caught holding the bucket.

It felt like the mommy equivalent of Pearl Harbor. I was taken by surprise and my sweet girls with their Anna and Elsa costumes at home in their closet were the casualties of war.

We couldn’t even stay for story time, and the guilt I felt was suffocating.

Now my girls, they handled the disappointment of our Barnes and Noble debacle far better than I did. With a couple of cookies from the café, compliments of their still-functioning Aunt, they were happy as clams. But me? I couldn’t get over it. When I got home and relayed the story to my husband my ugly cry broke free.

Looking back, from a slightly more stable perspective, I know it was never just about missing out on Frozen Day.

It’s the journal I never kept…or even started…or even bought…for baby number three.

It’s the crocheted blanket I didn’t finish.

It’s the intense anger I felt and showed against my girls when they woke me up from a much-needed nap.

It’s the baby that doesn’t always nurse quite right.

It’s the infant gas bubbles I can’t seem to fix.

It’s the attempts at homeschooling that never seem up to par and all the “I’m sorry Mommy can’t (fill in the blank) right nows,” that seem to riddle our days.

It’s a long list of ways I’ve failed or feel like I’ve failed or seemingly keep failing these precious ones I love so much.

During a recent doctor visit I commented to my doctor about the difference between being a mom of one and being a mom of three. “When I think of all the things I did with my first that aren’t even on the radar with my third I feel so guilty.”

“Just stop right there,” my doctor said, “because that’s not what’s important. What matters are the kids, and you give them plenty of love in hundreds of ways every single day. Trust me. Listen to me. Believe me. You have nothing to feel guilty about.” 

It’s the hardest thing to believe. I know it in my head but in my heart…

As I’ve tried to take my doctor’s words of wisdom to heart another voice, a still, small voice, keeps trying to teach me something new.

A truth that reveals the real truth about guilt.

The truth that teaches me that guilt is nothing more than the belief that God is not enough. For me. For them. For all my mistakes, my mean tos, my mishaps.

Whenever I allow my head, my heart, my feelings to bog down in guilt what I’m really depending on is myself, my own limitations, my own capabilities. I’m tricking myself into believing that it’s all up to me and that if I mess up or don’t come through the penalty will be more than I or my girls can bear.

Guilt leaves no room for grace.

Guilt leaves no room for God.

And this is precisely why it’s time to be done with the mom-guilt.

Because God is enough. He’s enough for me and enough for them

And there is grace. Grace that covers my shortcomings, my mean tos, my mistakes.

There’s the daily invitation to live close to Him, trusting Him to come through when I can’t. Trusting that He is capable when I’m not. 

Trusting that He has entrusted me with these little lives for a reason, that He has already given or will give me everything I need to mother my children well. 

So Mamas, (because I know I’m not alone), what if we decided to live mom-guilt free?

What if we chose to love ourselves the way we love our kids?

What if we chose to show ourselves the grace God shows us?

What if we stopped all the striving, performing, the high-pressure comparing, and simply sought the heart of God, and His heart for us, in all the mommy moments (good and bad) that fill our lives?

It’s time to be done with Mom-Guilt because even the most broken down, messy mom is a beloved child of God.

A Sweet Little Tale on Inviting God In (And the Story Behind the Name)

Cabellea SignSo there once was this couple and long before they wed, long before they had any right to think about having kids they dreamed and laughed and envisioned what one-day might be.

They pictured tiny little cowboys running wild in boots. They pictured pretty little girls twirling dainty in sun-splashed dresses.

Each little boy, each little girl had a name, a dream attached.

So the man, he loved to fish, he loved to hunt. He loved a certain huntin’ store and thought the name of that store a pretty one for a someday little girl. And the woman, she loved the man and she loved the dream and even though it seemed a tiny bit crazy, she thought it a pretty name too.

So years passed by and the couple said their vows but before the babies with names and dreams a four-legged creature was first to fill their nest.

Now, had that couple known that someday down the road they would welcome not one, not two, but three little girls into their tiny home in Michigan, perhaps they would have named the four-legged creature differently. But they didn’t know. How could they know? And that name, of the huntin’ store, seemed to fit the creature just right.

The couple lived on happily as their house filled up with pink. Filled right to the roof with laughter and dolls and dancing feet. And the man, he didn’t get the wrestling team he’d sort of always dreamed of but what he did get seemed even better.

Twelve years into happily ever after the woman turned to the man and smiled, “Ready for one more?”

“Of course,” came his reply.

Belle's FeetFor twenty weeks they waited and wondered. Maybe? This time? A cowboy in boots? But the cowboy names and the cowboy dreams would have to wait a few more years because the black and white TV screen showed another little girl.

So the couple that had a list of boy names as long as a lasso, scratched their heads and wondered how’d they ever come up with another perfect name for another perfect girl.

September? No.

Avenlea? No.

Remington? NO! NO! NO!

Colt? Hmm… Maybe?

Nothing seemed quite right.

Now, this couple had a tradition, a secret weapon of sorts. For each little girl they prayed. From beginning to end they prayed. For health and happiness and hope in a Savior they prayed for the hearts of their girls. And they asked that Savior if He’d shed some light. If He’d, please, give them a message to speak over each little girl. A special message from God, just for her, to be spoken over her by her father.

The first little girl became God’s Blessing.

The second God’s Message of Hope.

Six months into the nine-month wait the man turned to the woman and smiled, “God spoke to me,” he said. “She’s God’s Promise.”

With tears in her eyes, the woman replied, “That’s what He’s been telling me too.”

Baby Belle CheeksThey had their precious, perfect little girl curling ‘round their hearts. Curling all around her mama’s belly. And they had His words to speak over their precious, perfect girl.

But the name? That stubborn name refused come.

“We could name her Cabela,” the man said one day.

“Could we?” The woman asked as joy turned in her heart. As a nameless gift of God turned happy in her belly. “We’ve always loved that name…”

“We could call her Belle, for short.”

“I love that. Belle.”

Together the couple continued to pray. They prayed and asked for a name. They invited God in, they asked Him, please, to affirm the name they chose.

They knew they loved that name. That name they’d always dreamt of. But that huntin’ store? And that four-legged creature, now long gone?

They wanted to be sure.

Only God could make them sure.

Belle's HandThanksgiving, family, and friends came ‘round, and hearing the couple’s plight, one friend piped up and asked, “Have you Googled names that mean God’s promise?”

The couple turned to each other and smiled, “Why haven’t we Googled names that mean God’s promise?”

The man, he got his computer and filled the search field with hope. With curious joy at what might follow.

And wouldn’t you know? How could anyone know? That God glory can show up on Google? Can show up in a list of names.

In a list of names that mean God’s promise. And at the very top of the list…

Belle.

Belle, Bella, Carabelle…which seemed awful close to that long-loved name.

BelleAnd the couple knew within their hearts what this little girl’s name would be. God was in it, the name, the dream, the wish their hearts made all those years ago.

God had been in it all along but it wasn’t until they invited Him in that the thread began to unravel.

The couple had learned it again and again. Over broken friendships and lost jobs. Over big disappointments and small inconveniences. The simple act of inviting God in to the twisted, the mangled, the knotted, the tangled would always, eventually, unravel Glory. Unravel a tapestry that could only be crafted by His unfailing hands.

“People will laugh, and joke, and tease.”

“They’ll look at us funny.”

“Let them,” the couple agreed.

For nothing could steal their joy.

Nothing and no one in the whole wild world could steal God’s Promise away.

Could steal their long-loved little girl, Cabellea Wren…

Their precious, perfect Belle.