Thursday Thoughts: Seasons Change

Right now, I find myself in this tricky season of life. I'm an almost 40 year old who has been married almost 12 years. My husband and I have a 10 year old and a 9 year old and a 16 month old. So, for those of you trying to do the math, there are 7 and a half years between the baby and our middle child. That might not seem like a super big gap, but it feels like one to me. 

It's strange to be starting over with a baby when all of my friends' kids are nearing the end of elementary school and moving on to middle school and even some going into high school. So, I find myself as a mostly stay-at-home mom with a one year old and 80% of my focus has shifted back to poop and diapers and board books and sleeping (or not sleeping) and pretty much all of my friends have moved way past this season of life. I feel like I'm going backwards. At the very least, its like I'm riding a donkey and my friends are in sports cars. I'm straddling two life seasons and think I need some friends who are also in this baby season.

When I was a brand new mom, I went to a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting. I had been staying at home with our infant son for 3 months and was feeling a little isolated and unsure of what it meant to be a mom and how to navigate the waters of friendship with other moms. That was a new season for me, too.

When I walked into that MOPS meeting 10 years ago I found just what I needed. Community, support and some of my dearest friends. There's no MOPS group in our town right now, but there is a MOMS Club which is similar in that it offers support and community for moms in the young child stage of life. The local MOMS Club recently held an new member open house at a local coffee shop and I thought it might be a perfect time to check it out and see if I might want to jump in and be a part of a group like that again since I have a little one again. A low risk way to seek out some friends in my season of life.

When the day of the open house came the baby was a little sniffly and so I left her with my mom and headed to the coffee shop on my own. I went to the MOMS Club new member open house by myself. Without my baby. The coffee shop was PACKED with cute, young moms with babies on their hips and there I was with no baby. And, remember how I said I was almost 40??? Well, these moms are about 10 years younger and 10 years cuter than me so I was feeling super old and super the opposite of cute. And there I was... with no baby. Awkward. They probably thought I was some weirdo who just happened to stumble into the coffee shop to get a coffee and decided to stick around to try and steal one of their kids.

Truth be told, everyone I spoke to was VERY kind and there were lots of other moms who were there just to check it out like me. But, I'm an introvert through and through. It may have been the most extroverted thing I've EVER done to walk into a coffee shop full of other women without the safety net of my baby on my hip and just walk up to people and start talking to them. I NEVER DO THAT. That is the definition of torture for me. So, if you happen to be reading this and you are one of the people that I talked to, thank you for being so kind! I guess my extroverted effort really speaks to how concerned I am about this season of life issue.

I stayed for about 15 or 20 minutes and as I was getting back into the car with my Chocolate Chai Latte (delicious by the way!) I started wondering if I really NEEDED the Moms Club. Maybe it was my introverted panic and all that effort made me question the need to start up a whole new set of friendships.  I already have a great circle of friends, so was it REALLY that big a deal that none of them had babies? Was it worth the time and energy to develop more relationships just because those women had babies? Could I really relate to these young moms since I am so old???

So, I've been wrestling with this season of life thing for the last 3 or 4 months. It seems like I keep bumping up against the advice that we all need people in our lives that go before us and come after us and we can all lend each other a helping hand. We so often tend to run our race of life alongside people just like us - people who are doing the same thing we do. What I keep feeling God tell me is that there's value in surrounding ourselves with people who have already been through what we are facing as well as those who may need help in the future with something WE have already faced.

One of my favorite author/bloggers, Sophie Hudson, has a new book coming out in June called Giddy Up, Eunice: Because Women Need Each Other and it's about this very idea. If this description of the book doesn't sum up what I'm working through I don't know what does...
"It’s easy for women to focus on what seems to separate us: differences in age, parenting styles, career goals, or maybe even core beliefs about whether leggings can adequately serve as pants (the struggle is real, y’all). The reality, though, is that we have far more in common than we realize, and since Scripture shows us the blessing of friendships across generations, it’s high time we step out of our same-age, same-stage silos. Life is so much better that way.

Sophie Hudson, in the delightfully quirky Southern style her readers have come to know and love, sends out a rallying cry for women everywhere to open our eyes and see the people God has put in our lives—whether they’re behind us, beside us, or in front of us. It is such a gift to love one another, walk with one another, and soak up the blessings that flow across all generations.

Saddle up, sister. This is going to be fun."

You better believe I've already pre-ordered this book.

After I'd been pondering on this theme for a couple of weeks, I saw a post about the next IF:Table discussion topic. The IF:Table is an idea that came out of the IF: ministry movement and basically its gathering a small group of women around the table once a month to share a meal and discuss a certain topic and how it relates to our faith. The topic that was put out most recently was to discuss life seasons and how we can relate to those women who are in a different season. Ummmm... sign me up.

Well, actually, I signed myself up. I hosted my own IF:Table last weekend. I invited 5 women who are all in different seasons from each other and from me - single, single mom, married no kids, married with teenagers and a brand new grandma. I was soooooooooooo excited to get these women around the table. They were from all different parts of my life - kids teachers, work acquaintances, church friends... some knew each other, others only knew me. It was delightful. We kicked off our discussion with the first question...
How would you define the season you are in and what are some of the relational challenges being in that season?
It was so amazing to hear each woman around the table share about her season and where she was struggling and where she found strength. I was so encouraged to learn that I didn't need to run out and purposely FIND women going through the exact same thing I was going through. These women and so many others around me are already here and our joy and our struggles are so similar regardless of the season. The greatest joy comes in sharing life. Period. 

So, I think I'll continue loving the people around me regardless of the season and I'm going to go to the MOMS Club, too. We moms need all the support we can get. Maybe there's a new mom in that group who needs the advice of an old mom like me. ;-)

I'm so glad that God hit me over the head with this message. When something keeps coming up in front of me, I know He's trying to tell me something. And, He's always right. And, that's such a comfort. 


Thursday Thoughts: Brave vs Careful

After dinner last night I left the dishes for later and played with Nora, our 15 month old, on the floor in the kitchen. She was having fun just babbling and pulling things out of drawers and then she saw it. The step stool.

This stool has been well used in our home forever and before that it was well used in my husband's grandparent's home. Its always within arm's reach to help get to a top shelf and its my preferred perch in the kitchen to eat a snack. Its got the cool steps that flip up under the seat so it doesn't take up much space. Recently, Nora realized it was a neat thing to climb, so, I end up pulling her off the bottom step quite frequently and redirecting her to something safer.

As expected, she made a beeline for the step stool tonight. Rather than pull her off again, I sat on the floor next to the stool and let her explore it to her heart's content. She sat on the bottom step. Then she turned around and started to climb onto the bottom step. When she got onto the step, she, of course started to try and climb onto the 2nd step. It occurred to me as I was sort of hovering and using my hands to spot her as she worked to figure out the best way to reach the summit, that there were all kinds of cautions on the tip of my tongue.

"You can only do this when Mama is here to keep you safe."

"This is dangerous and you need my help."

"You're too little to do this on your own."

"You can't go all the way to the top, that's too high for you."

"Be careful!"

But, each time I opened my mouth to actually speak these words, I heard a translation of them in my own head.

"You won't be able to accomplish your goal unless I'm here to help you."

"When something is scary or difficult, you won't be able to do it on your own."

"You're not big enough or strong enough to handle this."

"Your goal is unreachable."

"Be scared!"

Each phrase of caution ended up sounding like it was taking away her strength and potential. I didn't want to speak fear over her. I didn't want her to shrink in the face of a challenge or give up when it seemed too difficult. I didn't want her to doubt her ability to accomplish her goal. I wanted to commend her for her bravery and strength. I wanted her to thrill in the fact that she was doing something BIG!

So, I didn't say anything for a few minutes. I just watched her. Her face screwed up in frustration and then lit up with joy. She asked for help and I offered a solution. I didn't do it for her. She took her time and I could see she was thinking and analyzing and she was so pleased with herself. THEN, I told her she was courageous. She tried to repeat the word courageous. I said she was brave. She repeated the word brave. I said she was strong. She repeated the word strong.

A lightbulb went on in my head. It was like she was doing self-affirmation. She's a parrot right now. She basically repeats the last word of every sentence she hears. So she was affirming to herself that she was courageous, brave and strong without even knowing it. It reminded me of the affirmation that Aibilene had the baby girl do in the book The Help "You is kind, you is smart, you is important."

Now, I know, she's only 15 months old. I was just inches away from her. She wasn't in any danger. I wasn't going to walk away and let her fall and crack her head open, but I also didn't want to undermine her sense of adventure and strength. Toddlerhood is all about pushing limits and learning boundaries. I know that there are some situations that are absolutely not safe, but this was an opportunity for her to test HERSELF not the boundary. From here on out I'm going to keep my eyes open to the opportunities that arise for all of our kids to test themselves. Pass or fail, its always a good lesson.


Thursday Thoughts: Nostalgia

Sometimes there's a small thing that brings back big memories. Cinnamon toast does it for me. 

My mom used to make cinnamon toast for me when I was a little. And she cut it into strips rather than just in half or corner to corner. The strips made it feel special. It was like 4 little toast people lined up. As I recall, she made me cinnamon toast on Saturdays or days when I wasn't feeling good. It wasn't all the time. It was special. 

When my kids got big enough to start making requests for breakfast we got into kind of a rut. One day it came to me... cinnamon toast. I don't think I'd ever made cinnamon toast for myself. My mom always made it for me. But, its just toast with butter, sugar and cinnamon. How hard could it be? 

So, I put the bread in the toaster and while I waited I mixed up the cinnamon and sugar. It took me a couple of minutes to get the ratio of cinnamon to sugar just right. When the toast popped up, I  buttered it and sprinkled the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Then I remembered that she used to cut it into strips. And so I cut the toast in strips. And I stopped. And I remembered how I felt when she handed me a napkin with fresh, warm cinnamon toast. It was like a sweet smelling gift. It was an expression of love. A small expression of deep love. 

There's nothing inherently magical about cinnamon toast, but remembering it with such vivid clarity seemed to bring focus that morning - a focus on finding ways to show love in small ways. Making cinnamon toast and cutting it into strips is such a small thing, but it obviously made a big impact on me. 

Long live cinnamon toast. Long live the small expressions of deep love. 

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