the little things: skittles & surprises (missy hall).

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Missy is a friend of mine who seems to bring sunshine with her everywhere she goes.  She and I have known about each other for awhile now, but are just now entering into the burgeoning journey of friendship …and I couldn’t be more excited for time with this lovely lady!  So enter in, and be encouraged by her words today. Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 1.31.15 PM

It had been an exhausting day at work. My feet were swollen and my stomach was growling.  My mind was filled with the stresses of planning a wedding, buying a house and graduating from college.  I hadn’t seen my Hunnie in two days due to all the craziness and when I came out to my car, there was a little note and a bag a skittles – my favorite.  Just a little something sweet to show he was thinking of me.  Just a little surprise to lift my spirits.

Sometimes surprises come just when you need that little bit of hope and joy.  Yes, there are surprises that don’t bring joy – like a flat tire that makes you late or a child who comes home with lice from school, but there are probably just as many surprises,  both big and little, that can remind us about what is important in life.

If we have eyes to see, we can easily spot the sweetness of the surprises all around us.  This week alone, I was surprised by Kindness, Love, Hope and Generosity.  When these came a-knocking, I almost didn’t open the door!

I often dread checking my email.  Although I am social by nature, lately I have become overwhelmed by the requests and the have-to’s and the managing of my calendar.  But, early one morning I opened an email from a friend– that asked nothing from me, instead she wanted to show kindness to me. She wanted to come over and take the kids to dinner (yes, all three!), to bring them gifts and to just show them some love so that Hunnie and I could go out on a date.  She didn’t just say she wanted to help, she actually gave me some possible days and times.  This Surprise of Kindness made it so easy for me- immediately my mood was brightened and now I have a happy Date Nite to look forward to on Saturday!

My little girlie is in a very creative phase.  Almost daily I come home to pictures, stories, presents (things she has wrapped up from her room) and little love notes.  One morning I could tell it was going to be a trying day with my toddler who was already yelling, “I still poopin’!” when it was time to walk out the door, the laundry was piled up high and the my list of errands was already being trampled upon by an impending migraine. I huffed out to the car and wrestled little man into his seat and walked around to get into my seat to rush the big muffins off to school.  But, I paused when I saw a note written into the morning dew: “I love you, Mommy.” I almost missed it; I almost forgot that these little ones who were already draining me… could also fill my cup with their sweet words, hugs and smiles.  A Surprise of Love to soften my already hardening heart. The grouchiness started to melt away before the letters disappeared in the morning sunshine.

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On Tuesday, I pulled a muscle by my rib – right in the middle of my back.  I was crying by the time I reached the car.  I came home and called just about everyone I knew to help me with my toddler – “B Rex”- the active, growling, wild beast that I could not lift up. Some days just stink more than others. Some days I really hate living so far from family. Some days Hunnie has a million meetings and no flexibility.  Some days are just lonely. l sat on the couch and just cried- too uncomfortable to even nap.  But, an unlikely new friend offered to come over and help me all evening.  She helped feed my kids dinner, she lifted my boy into his crib, she graciously wiped up counters.  A Surprise of Hope covered over the depression that was growing in my mind.

Moms often find it hard to find a time to shower – no time before school when there are lunches to be made, socks to be searched for, papers to be signed and fights to be refereed.  No time after school when there is homework to be done, games to go to, dinner to be cooked, and laundry to be put away.  So, I’ve started showering in the middle of the day when B Rex is asleep and cannot bang on the door and scream the whole time.  But, people sometimes come and ring the doorbell.  Then, the dog barks, then the kids run by yelling that someone is here (so you can’t just ignore it and pretend you didn’t hear.) On Sunday I’d just put the shampoo in my hair, when I heard it. Ding Dong. At first I did try to ignore it, but it came again, and again. So, finally, I wrapped a towel around me and answered it, as I was expecting a friend anyhow. Well, it wasn’t her– it was a man! Luckily, I had the screen door shut and locked and you can’t see through it. So, I told him that Hunnie wasn’t available, but I’d tell him that he had stopped by.  “Oh, would he be available if I were to give him tickets to the World Series game today?”  Yeah, pretty sure he would. Hold on…

A Surprise of Generosity – and to think, I almost didn’t answer the door!

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 2.05.21 PMMissy began writing about their family journey to adoption three years ago.  Last summer she wrote about the crazy long road trip she took with her three crazy children on her family blog.  You can email her if you want details about how to survive both of those adventures at missyb.hall@gmail.com.  Her Hunnie is a pastor in the Bay Area and her heart beats for missions, justice, hope and exploring!! She loves books, words and the therapy of writing, and has started a new season in writing.  So, what little Surprises of Kindness, Hope, Love, and Generosity have you seen in your life recently?  Did you almost miss them, too?  Leave a comment, and encourage Missy today!

flailing toddlers, scary students & encouragement.

I do what I want!
I do what I want!

Y’all: it’s getting  hard up here in these mama-hood parts.

It’s like Cancan just woke up one morning and decided to have an opinion – and his opinion is boisterous and strong-willed and not about to back down.  I shirk back, remembering how I innocently bragged about this Angel Baby’s ability to sleep through the night at a young age, at the ease of which he transitioned from breast to bottle, marveling incredulously at my own incredible first-time mothering skills.

I mean, should I start teaching parenting classes now, or wait until I have another month or two under my belt?  

In my own brilliancy (…ahem), consider my alarm when a lost shoe in the World’s Biggest Target flushed itself into a flailing, wailing tantrum at his naked left foot.  It mattered not that we were in public.  Retracing our exact steps back through Target and standing in line at Lost & Found, and tracking down the cashier who’d rung us up didn’t count – but the people who sympathized with me did.  

It was the “I’ve been there…” from the mama with two kiddos trailing behind her and one stuffed in cart in front of her that encouraged my heart.

It was the “I remember those days…” from the kindly older gentleman who bent down on his hands and knees to help me look under and around the car, just in case, who gave me the strength to keep on going.

Because sometimes it’s just nice to know that I’m not alone.  Losing a shoe happens.  Sad and tearful toddlers lamenting the new shoes bought with Dada happen.  And sometimes the greatest thing we can do is just say I get it, I’ve been there, I understand.  

My favorite part of Monday’s presentation involved walking through the Multiple Intelligence Theory with class after class of high school students.

“Every single one of us is born with eight main intelligences,” I’d say.  You are brilliant.  You are special.  You matter, deeply.  But each one of us also has one main intelligence that we excel in – so what if we were to figure out the “intelligence” that most gives us LIFE, and let that show us where we’re potentially to go in the future, vocationally?”

They’d read through the theory, comic strip-style, and then turn to their neighbor and say, “Neighbor, what’s your intelligence?”  I’d go over the characteristics and potential career choices for each intelligence, affirming and validating each natural giftedness present in that room.

And then a funny thing always happened: each time we talked through the examples of Interpersonal Intelligence, quizzical looks would rise on the faces of these 15 and 16 year olds when he came to the characteristic of positive body language.

“Let’s say you have a problem you want to talk with an adult about: who would you rather talk to – the adult who says, “What’dya want?!”, with frown on face and arms folded angrily in front of her body?  Or the one whose head turns slightly to the side when he sees you, and palms up, welcomes you into his classroom?”

Without a doubt, they chose the latter option – and then, miracle of miracles, they began to mimic it themselves.  

Almost unconsciously, the slit-eyes that had eyed me from the minute they entered room 1301 grew wide with openness.  Defensive, crossed arms began dropping to the side.  And shy, toothy smiles began to emerge on their faces.

I KID YOU NOT – this really did happen.  

And it made me realize: sometimes encouragement comes in the most unlikely of places.

Because sometimes encouragement is found bending underneath cars in the Target parking lot with a stranger, and sometimes it’s found when that One Thing strikes a classroom of not-so-scary high school students, and walls are unabashedly broken down.

But always, always, it’s necessary.

So friends, let’s take a hurling leap towards encouragement.  Let’s not give advice when advice is not asked for, but let’s say, I get it, I’ve been there, I understand.  Let’s all recognize that although life is so, so beautiful, it’s also very, very hard (especially when little toddler babies wake up and learn how to assert their Very Important Opinion, all the live-long day).  Let’s let our body language communicate kindness to strangers and friends alike, and let’s be encouragers who change the world, one encouragement at a time.

I’m going for it.

I am.  I am.

What about you?  How do YOU need encouragement today?  How have you been encouraged lately by the kindness of friend or stranger?  

jumping on the kindness train.

Fight through the cheese, friends.
Fight through the cheese, friends.

I feel like we’ve been run over by the Kindness Train lately – in a really, really good, we’re not heading to the hospital sort of way.

And, as humans, isn’t this exactly who we’re supposed to be, and what we should be doing?

When crisis comes, whether little or big or somewhere in the middle, we respond.  We send a text, we make a phone call, we shoot an email; we drop off donuts to friends who’ve had puke-ridden children all week long, and we take the effort to walk across the street and introduce ourselves to our neighbors.  We hug our dear ones just a little bit tighter, and we listen – we truly listen – to the other without seeking to tack on our own story to the end.

This is Mother Teresa.

This is, of course, Jesus, whom she sought to emulate.

This is The Monkees movement of Glennon Melton’s Momastery fame, because this is seeking to treat others in the way we wish to be treated, and this is putting others before ourselves, and overall, this is responding to and acting with an attitude of love.

This, this all, because love does.  

I’ve mused over this whole idea before (here, in particular), and as one friend pointed out to me, there’s a certain irony in that she who seeks to be urges herself and others to do.  And I totally agree, with of course a “but” caveat.

For me, it is in my being, in my resting and praying and allowing my mind to slow down (even if everything around me is Crazy Sauce, exclamation point), that I’m given a greater urgency to respond.  Because it’s in this centering – which for me, is a centering with Christ – that my mind is taken off myself.  I’m reminded that woe is not me, that this too shall pass, and that there are greater battles to be fought.

So who do I need to respond to in love today?  Who do I need to show kindness to, and who can I be even further present to today?

Because when I receive this kindness, this love, this movement of saying and believing that YOU, stranger, YOU friend, YOU matter deeply because you simply ARE – it makes me want to respond with even more love and more kindness and more generosity.  

And isn’t this how it should be?

I’m jumping on the Kindness Train, cheese and all.

xo, c.

Thank you to so many of you who’ve reached out to us over the past week and a half.  Thank you for responding, thank you for showing kindness and thank you for loving us well.  IT matters – so thank you indeed.  

Otherwise, who has shown kindness to you today?  How have you joined in the movement?

the battle inside you & me.

I left the library on Monday, blissful six hours of writing time under my belt, sans (precious, adorable, energy-filled) Little Man.  Driving down a narrow residential street, I turned the corner past our favorite neighborhood playground, and was about to turn right again when I came face to face with Mr. Mercedes Benz.  Our streets were perpendicular to each other, so as he cut the corner to turn left, and I went around the parked truck in an effort to turn right, we came head to head, narrowly missing each other.

Literally.

The hoods of our cars were almost kissing, a mere three feet between us, drivers squared up and ready to duel.  We were Talladega Nights, but set to broad daylight in a quiet, residential area of the City.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who are able to afford a $131,000 car payment – and maybe if I banked a million or two a year, I too would be sporting a Benz.  But then I’d also have my own driver (…and nanny and butler and personal assistant to boot), and I’d be spending every other month on a small island off the coast of Italy, so this kind of interaction wouldn’t necessarily apply.

But I digress.

Anger evident, he motioned his hands wildly for me to go to the left around him, for he obviously had the right of way.

I fought back, motioning for him to back up and admit mistake, as any kind I-almost-cut-you-off, I-was-wrong-you-were-right driver would do.  I also debated the logistics of hopping the curb to the right of his car, as the laws of driving would suggest, but figured that the innocent stop sign or the neighbor’s white picket fence would probably win.

We were head to head, waiting for the other to plead mercy, to let go, to give up the fight.  

And then I realized something: He’s fighting a battle.  

Even though at that moment, I wanted to win the battle so, so badly, I stopped fighting.  I stopped revving my engine, I stopped trying to be right, I stopped trying to win.  And as I drove past him, I didn’t even give him the bird, as I’m so prone to do when I think that the driving population is far from being for me, when the world is entirely against me.

But instead, I drove around to the left, and instead of a lone middle finger salute, I raised all FIVE fingers in the air and plastered a -mostly sincere and genuine – smile on my face and waved at him.

Like a good neighbor would.

Like any human being should.  

I feel like the phrase has been floating around the portals of America for a good while now; I’d heard it in sermons, and seen it in books, and lately strewn across Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram alike.  But it wasn’t until this last week that the depths of its truth sunk into my soul:

Truth.
Truth.

Because this I realized: I’ve been fighting a pretty hard battle lately too.  Experiencing the violation of a break-in has rocked me at times; even though I know in my head that we’re safe, that physically our house is more secure than ever, that mentally the chances of The Bad Guys coming again is slim, still I feel violated.  Still I feel scared and paranoid and sad and mad sometimes.

It’s like I’ve got my Berenstein Bears distorted green glasses atop my eyes for a little while here – so I glance at the backpacks of those we walk past on the street to see if they’re wearing my husband’s stolen one, and I peer out the window at every passing truck – are they the fake service workers the police said robbed our house?  

But then I stop.

I stop because I realize that these thoughts and feelings are normal for the time being, but they will not claim me.  This evil is powerless.  Instead, I acknowledge my own hard battle, and I lean into He who is my peace, the One who calms my beating heart.

I take a deep breath, and confetti-like grace showers my head, tickling my eyes and dusting my nose and covering my hair in all its New Year’s glory.

Somehow, this Divine Grace reminds me that the battle doesn’t just exist just inside me, but it’s inside every single one of us.  

And somehow this truth, this truth of Hard Battles inside you and inside me, inside Mr. Mercedes Benz and inside every other stranger and friend I encounter today, is healing.  It’s enough to make me realize that I don’t need to be right and win, that I can let go and practice kindness.  

Because you never know what might happen along the way.

xoxo, c.

What about you?  Can we fight the hard battles together?  Are you in?