Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wintry Mix

I do not like winter time.  I detest the snow.  I hate being cold.  I feel justified in these statements.  When I was younger, growing up in a rural area, snow meant you lost power.  Without fail, when it snowed, regardless of the amount, we would lose power in our home.  Thankfully, my Grandmama lived across the road from us, and she had kerosene heaters.  Here's the rub, I am allergic to kerosene.  My throat closes up, and I struggle to breathe.  So, when it would snow, we (my parents, 3 siblings, and myself) would trek across the road to Grandmama's house, where she would have closed off all the rooms and would have set the kerosene heater in the middle of the living room.  Everyone would cozy up in the warm room, and I would go to my Grandmama's room, with no heat, a stack of quilts and blankets, and a book or two to read.  I love to read, and I always stayed warm enough, but I did not like being alone.  There is the history of why I am not an advocate for the winter season.

Growing up in the mountains of NC also meant that when it snowed, school would be closed.  I loved school and was not happy when we would miss.  When I was younger, I can remember sledding in our yard using a stop sign and a speed limit sign that my Daddy had fashioned into sleds.  I never knew where those sleds came from, but I always thought they were excellent.  Many times, we would climb the hill to our neighbors' farm where we would sled through the pasture and hike up the hills over and over until our legs were tingling with exhaustion.  Without fail, we would have hot chocolate with marshmallows either prepared by Mama or Grandmama.  With the power often going out, food preparation would be interesting.  I distinctly remember during the blizzard of 1993 storing our food out in the snow.  I remember my Daddy wrapping up frozen burritos in aluminum foil then "cooking" them on top of the kerosene heater.  I remember bringing in milk from the snow, fixing cereal, then placing the gallon jug back in the snow.

I also remember when the threat of snow would arrive, Mama would make each of us take a shower in case the power would go out.  Then, she and Grandmama both, would run every sink and bathtub full of water.  We had a well, and if you're power went out, the water went out, too.  The funny thing is, when our forecast predicts snow, I have the kids hop in the shower, too...just in case!

When I got older, I did not like missing school because I knew we would have to go longer during the warmer months.  When a snow day would appear, I would be disappointed.  Thankfully, God blessed me with a full house.  My sister, brothers, and I would sit down and write out skits.  I have had a love of parody since 10th grade English, and I discovered Saturday Night Live the same year.  So, we would sit down and toss around ideas then write out scripts for everyone.  Sometimes, we would have friends over, and we would include them in the fun.  Our Daddy would be at work, and Mama would usually be in her room working on papers for college or lesson plans once she was teaching.  The four of us would take turns being behind the camera and on camera.  We would do a talk show entitled Freddy Springer.  We would impersonate celebrities, namely Martha Stewart and Wycleff Jean.  We would have the world's worst makeovers.  But, my favorite skit was when my sister, Andrea, and I put on a morning show where we interviewed my brothers, Tyler and Timothy, who were portraying actors from the "Broadyway" musical, Rats. 

As an adult, I still loathe the cold.  More layers means more laundry.  Colder temps lead to whiny kiddos.  Freezing weather makes for challenging driving conditions.  However, I love seeing my kids light up when they watch the snow fall quietly and beautifully to the ground.  I love listening to them shriek and giggle when they throw a snowball or roll down a snow covered hill.  I adore extra days where we get to stay inside and have movie marathons. 

I will never be pro-winter, and I constantly pray that God will keep me from ever moving any farther north of where I am presently.  While there are so many things that I do not enjoy about the winter time, looking back, my absolute favorite memories from my teenage years take place on an out-of-school-for-barely-any-snow day.  Days when my siblings would laugh, create, and play hold a special place in my heart.  Memories of pots of chili, rushed cold showers, games of Uno by candlelight flood my mind and make me grateful for my childhood.  Now, as a Mama, I'm looking for ways to place those same opportunities in my children's hearts and minds.  My challenge to you, whether you embrace the cold or not, how can you take advantage of God's creativity with the weather to make a lasting impression on your family?  Unplug from the electronics, remember when you were younger, and make some winter memories with your kiddos!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Prayer for Families...

To My Dear Friends,

I have a heavy heart for families.  I am weighed down with the reality of the hardships of life.  I am overwhelmed for the dangers facing the sanctity of the traditional family.  Now, that I am not part of that classification and having walked the path I have, I feel very burdened to lift up my wonderful families who are.  To that end...

Husbands-protect your wife, guard her heart, lift her up.  Fight for her on a daily basis.  Remind her why you chose her.  Acknowledge the things she does just for you.  Protect your mind.  Place perimeters on what you watch and how you invest your time.  Make sure to prioritize appropriately...God, Your Bride, children, other family, career, etc.  Take the time engage your wife in conversation.  Allow her to use the gifts God has given her to minister to you and your family.  Remind her that she is valued, she is cherished, she is beautiful.  Try to remember what drew you to her and tell her all about it.  

Wives-guard your heart, protect your mind.  Do not be tempted by what you think other women have or what another man might offer.  Choose friends who will hold you accountable to the call of being a wife.  Surround yourself with women who will build you up and encourage you.  Fight for your husband's heart.  Show him that you respect him and love him.  Never tear him down, always build him up.  Remember what he had that prompted you to say "yes" when he asked you to be his one and only forever.  Put aside distractions and focus on him.  Remind him that he matters and that he makes a difference in your world.  Be confident in the woman God made you to be...that confidence translates into beauty.  Align your priorities with the Scripture...God, Your Husband, children, etc.  Use your gifts to serve your husband and allow him to do the same for you.

Fathers-love your children.  Spend focused, uninterrupted, consecutive time with them.  Tell them stories of your childhood.  Share in their interests.  Invest in their hearts.  Pray with them, for them, over them.  Never stop hugging them.  Always tell them you love them.  Put aside work, sports, etc and take the time to live life with them.  Show them God's love by being God's love to them.  

Mothers-slow down, take a minute, relax.  Chores can wait.  Children are young for the briefest of moments.  Laundry, dishes, floors can all be conquered later.  There is only a moment when your children want to be held.  Hold them.  Wrap them up in your arms.  Tell them you love them.  Play with them.  Ask them questions.  Let them ask you questions.  Be silly with them.  Teach them how to serve others.  Be a model of Christ.  

Children-be patient with your parents.  Grown-ups take life very seriously.  They are under a lot of pressure.  Stresses that you cannot see or understand are constantly running through your parents' minds.  Remind your parents how to play.  Reteach them how to laugh and be crazy.  Be confident in who you are.  Be bold, but respectful when talking with your parents.  Tell them what you are thinking and feeling.  Let your parents hug you...hug them back.  Ask them what their hopes and dreams were when they were your age.  Tell them what yours are now.  Put down the distractions, and simply take time to be a child with parents who love you.

There are those of us out there who no longer fit the traditional model of families.  Blended families can be every bit as beautiful as a traditional family.  I have been so blessed to have a Mama and a Step-Dad (but I call him Dad) who have shown the hard work that goes into blending a family, but who, at the same time, have also modeled the possibility of loving others who may not have been a part of your life forever.  I am hoping and believing that my future holds another husband one day, and the reality is he will probably have children.  A blended family could very well be a part of my future.  I have hope and faith that God can take another marriage and bless it greatly if our family commits to Him and His ways.  For my friends who are now "non-traditional"...

Single Parents-do not lose hope, do not give up!  You are incredible.  You've been given the great task of being two parents to your are both Mom and Dad.  I know you are exhausted.  I know you doubt your ability.  Lighten up on yourself.  Realize that the job at hand was designed for two people...and, you are championing that!  You are going to mess up.  You are going to break down.  But, DO NOT GIVE UP!  Surround yourself with friends who can help you.  Find those you can count on who can help ease the burden.  Pray for your children.  Be honest and appropriate about the challenges you are facing.  Try not to overcompensate for the decisions of your former spouses.  Your children crave your love and attention more than they do material things.  Love on your babies.  Build them up.  Tell them of your struggles and help them conquer theirs.  Pray together.

Step-parents-you are heroes in my book.  You have willingly and knowingly accepted the role as a new parent to a child you did not conceive.  You know that pain these children have suffered.  You know the hurt your spouse has endured.  You know this choice was not an easy one to make and that the journey will be difficult.  You are incredible.  While children may go back and forth between loving and hating you, between resenting and relishing you, be consistent.  Stay the course.  Remain as a united front with your spouse.  Invest in the heart of your children by praying with them, for them and over them.  Spend time learning about their interests, goals, dreams, fears.  Take your time sharing your stories and listening to theirs.  Never speak poorly of their parent in front of them.  Be a parent of integrity.  Be patient with your spouse.  While you know the hurt and pain, you also need to remember the depth of the damage they are recovering from.  Do not expect a fairytale romance or a quick-fix.  The fixing should never stop in any relationship.  Grow with your new spouse.  Take time out of life for the two of you.  Never stop dating.  Always share your thoughts and heart.  Be brave.  Fight old habits.  Build a new future together.

Adoptive parents-rock stars, for sure!  Do not let the uncertainty and doubts that can accompany adoption outweigh joy and promise that came into play the day you adopted your sweet little one.  You are the very model of God...He has adopted each one of us as His own.  You did not bear these children, you did not compose their genetic makeup, but you have given your heart and soul to be the ones who raise them up.  You have taken children who would have had a questionable and risky future, and you have given them hope and endless possibilities.  When other people question your choice in adoption, when there are those who do not understand, and when others do not accept your children, know this...God knows your hearts and sees the blessing you have been on these innocent lives.  

So, to my sweet friends near and far, traditional or not, happy or sad, overjoyed or overwhelmed, know you are in my thoughts and prayers.  Whatever your family situation may be, I say guard it, protect it, fight for it.  Do not give up, do not give in.  Learn from yesterday, treasure today, and have hope in tomorrow...