Staying up past our bedtime

The other night the light was right after an evening walk (and it wasn’t like 100% humidity) so we stayed outside to play-the kids with their toys and me with my camera. I really enjoy taking their pictures even though the more I learn the more I learn I have so much left to learn. Sometimes it isn’t about getting the perfect picture quality, but perfectly capturing who they are.

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(Man, I love my kids' eyes…and cheeks, definitely love those kissable, 3D cheeks.)

After all they are my favorite only subjects and I don’t think I will look back and notice my camera settings being on or off, but I will look back and remember with joy and nostalgia when they used to make that face, or wonder what was going on behind those eyes or let my brain be flooded with the sounds of their laughter.

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These moments are sweet and fleeting. All to often I am too distracted to notice. I fluctuate between distraction and pre-mature nostalgia where I mourn the loss of tomorrow’s tomorrow. Sometimes I need to audibly remind myself to be present in the moment. That is something kids are fantastic at and I want to soak up more of that from them.

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They don’t always need me to be a chauffer, chef, accountant, maid, interior designer, stylist, referee, personal shopper, secretary, or self-appointed therapist. Sometimes they just need their mommy-me in my rawest form. It isn’t always easy, or possible, to drop everything that I am juggling (in my hands and my head) but when I do- those are the moments I want to remember. Those are the moments that I feel the most joy. Those are the moments I feel the most fulfilled. And I think it is because I am doing what God made me to do.

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There are few sweeter words than when I hear my Hayleigh-Girl say “Thank you for filling me up with love, Mommy.” I am not sure if I want to hear those words more often, or less often because I fill her up so regularly that it doesn’t warrant a special thank you. Either way, I don’t want to wait for the perfect light to see my kids the way God sees them or to be the person God calls me to be for them.

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Hello, my name is Emily and I am a hypocrite.

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Her words still sting and inspire weeks later.

Hayleigh and I were talking about patience and gratitude. I was gently explaining the need to stop nagging or demanding things we want right now. I reminded her that God provides for us and we need to wait nicely and be thankful for what we have. This was something she was learning in her class at church. The teachers had even turned it into a little game where they would say things like “I want candy NOW!”or “Thank you for my snack. I can have candy another time.” and ask the kids which one was patient. (Or something like that. I feel like sometimes the finer points of these things get lost in translation.) Anyway, as I explained that this is something even grown-ups struggle with and have to pray about, she jumped in with her wisdom, that wisdom that is spirit inspired,  that “she’s got your number”, “from the mouths of babes” kind of thing, you know-the same wisdom that leaves parents speechless, sometimes feeling like they were punched in the gut. I was just laying down with some wisdom of my own: that sometimes Mommies have to pray for patience and practice being thankful for what we have while we wait (all the while knowing my deepest struggle with contentment being our less than desirable rental house) and she says, “Yeah, like ‘I want a new house NOW!”

Aw crap.

My mouth gaped open -just as if it was a metaphor for how exposed my inner thoughts were (or obviously not so inner.) I immediately looked at Peter and tears filled my eyes. His face was surprised but affirmative. I wish I could have told her what she said wasn’t true, but that would have been the only lie spoken. So I did the only thing left to do in that moment, as those sweet blue eyes looked back at me waiting for my reaction. I put my hand on her leg and told her how right she was. I thanked her for telling me what she was thinking and I told her we needed to pray.

Sometimes parents pray more to their children’s ears than to God’s. We say things like “God, thank you for giving us mommies and daddies who work sooo hard to take good care of us.” or “I pray that you would help us all to make better choices tomorrow.” I like to think of them as sermon prayers. I hated when my parents did that, yet I still find myself doing this sometimes. Funny how that works, huh? Well this wasn’t time for a sermon prayer. My heart-guilt was exposed. I wasn’t as concerned with teaching Hayleigh a lesson as I was in acknowledging God’s hand in our conversation and falling flat on my face in humility before His throne.

He must have known it would take my four year old to reach me in my sin of discontent and impatience. I didn’t even realize how much I talked about my discontent in front of her. I knew it was there but I guess for so long I brushed it off. Maybe I felt entitled to my sin. Maybe I thought it wasn’t so bad. Maybe I just really didn’t care. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. And this conversation made me realize the ugliest part of all: that often I care so much more about my public sin (in this case what I say in front of my kids) than what is really going on in my heart. (This is where the hypocrite part comes in…)

It really comes back to that verse: “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”. (Luke 6:45). I try to reach the hearts of my children rather than just their behavior. In the midst of trying to do that I guess I needed the reminder that God is trying to do the same for me.

That is all. I am going to clean my house now, with a thankful heart.

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