THIS is Halloween

Want to hear a scary story?

We were carving pumpkins the other night. We were all having a great time. But then we had a mess and hyper children with sticky fingers crawling underneath of the dining room table. The scary part?

They were up past 10. 

Fear takes on a new meaning when you’re a parent. As does relaxation. As does fun. As does what it means to feel old. And believe me, it doesn’t take much.

My sis in law were just talking about this last night. How holidays like this aren’t always fun because they only serve to make us feel…old. Who wants to be reminded that you’re old and have, like, lots of responsibilities even more than you already are because you spend your Friday nights paying bills and giving the cat medicine.

But I reminded her of something. 

We AREN’T old. It’s just that fun holidays like Halloween, and New Years Eve or that neighborhood Fourth of July BBQ look different when you have children. 

Everything is all fun and games.

But then you have to be home to put the kids in bed, but that’s kind of okay because you’re also super exhausted from hauling the children around with you everywhere, or from even thinking about the fact that you’re going to have to be up with them tomorrow morning. Plus you really want to just sit down and eat some graham crackers while not wearing any pants with Netflix on in the background, and you shutter at what your life has come to. You finally get your children in bed and they take, like, three glow sticks with them because you just don’t care, you just hope they don’t break them open and try to eat them.

But here is the worst part:

You inevitably get a second wind.

Your body wakes you back up because, HEY, THE KIDS ARE IN BED!!!! Look alive!!! Then you start remembering that hey, wait a second, Halloween is a fun holiday and it’s past 9…so you know there is fun stuff going on right.now. Like parties or bobbing for apples and candy corn and face painting.

Only now, it doesn’t matter because oh snap, you can’t leave your property because sleeping children, and you can’t call any of your adulting friends who are parents because they have the exact same issue. And the ones that don’t have children have absolutely no desire to come over and watch you drink some Mike’s Hard while you watch Hocus Pocus and eat your children’s Halloween candy.

They want to be out amongst other fun having adults at the local bar or pub.

And if you do decide to stay up late to watch a movie, (only not that scary one because you and your other half cannot bring yourselves to order The Conjuring on Amazon because that movie looks like no joke) you count the cost of staying up until after 12.

So you stay up late anyway watching What Lies Beneath, eating the pasta salad you made for the party you were at earlier and fighting off sleep on the couch. Only, just kidding, you send up a prayer that tomorrow isn’t too painful with the end of Daylight Savings Time.

This is what adulting looks like on a fun holiday, people. YOU turn into the pumpkin and land right smack in the middle of reality.  And you are more acutely aware of Daylight Savings Time and the affects of swallowing glow stick goo than any person alive.

But at least you have some really good candy. 

November is National Blog Post Month, meaning that I’m supposed to share a post every day of the new month. I’m not sure how often that is going to actually happen, but just the same, if you like a post please share it, and if you want more, click the follow button for my blog’s Facebook page so that you can see stuff. Thanks!

There and Back…

2013 is over.

2013 wasn’t exactly my year.  It downright stank at certain junctures. To be fair, it had many wonderful and delightful moments that I will always treasure. But I am determined about one thing this year: I am not going to make any new year’s resolutions. 

I really don’t have a problem with New Year’s Resolutions. I think it’s great that people use January 1st as a spring-board to start drinking more water, or taking vitamins, or using the stairs instead of the escalator, or spending less time on their smart phone. The problem with some of those plans, though, are that there are always January 2nd’s that come and muck everything up.

I have had way too many expectations in the past. I don’t have a problem with people having vision for their life. The problem is how enamored and possessive we become with those visions and plans. Suddenly, when life doesn’t meet our expectations, we find ourselves depressed and even lost. I sometimes think that New Year’s Resolutions are symptomatic of living as slaves to such specified expectations.

We make a plan because we want to meet some end goal because we believe that things are going to be better once we do. Only we come to find out that the task is more arduous than we had previously thought, or that when we meet our goals, things aren’t just magically rosier than they were before, i.e. January 2nd and 3rd. That’s when stuff gets real.

So yea, no resolutions this year. Though, that might kind of be a resolution in and of itself, right?

For her birthday last year, my mother gave Clara a string of alphabet letters that spell her name. On the bottom of each letter is a set of wheels. All of the letters attach together with magnets to form a train. Jerry has been eyeballing these letters for months, wishing and hoping that his old fart of a mom would agree to let him play with them. I gave in the other day, with Clara’s permission of course, and let him enjoy them. I ending up feeling not entirely sure as to why I hadn’t agreed to let him use them in the first place.

As he played, he was cheerfully telling his sister that these letters were HER name. Unfortunately, he was more excited about that than she was.

And it got me thinking: just what is it about the simplicity of their own name leaves children so beholden?

At his young age, Jerry easily recognizes his name. When he sees it written on the front of a birthday card, or typed on the screen of my phone, or on the front of a handwritten note he becomes giddy with delight. He sees his name on some little old thing and realizes that there is something there for him. Of course, one day he will probably see his name written at the top of a speeding ticket, or on the front of an envelope that also is inscribed with the words”Jury Summons,” and all that shimmers now will quickly fade.

I caused me to question myself: Do I look at the Word that way? Do I comb through scripture and see all that God has for me? Does we see it as having our name on it? Of course it doesn’t implicitly say our names in scripture, but how much more work is it for you or I to see the scriptures as,

“And I am sure of this, Ashley,

that he who began a good work in you

will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.”

?

Do we see what He has for those who love Him? This isn’t the prosperity gospel, people, it is sheer truth. Do we see such bold and life-giving words as being solely reserved for His prophets? His high priests? The apostles? But we can’t fathom that they could be for us, too?

We’re the stinky stable that Christ came to be born in. We’re the hometown that rejects the words of the Messiah. We’re Peter that denies the Christ three times. We’re Moses who killed the Egyptian and buried our secrets in the sand. We’re Sarah who laughs when the promises are spoken plainly to us.

We are unworthy. Constantly unworthy. But because of HIS great goodness, we have more. And His words remind us of just that.

I don’t want to be weighted down with the guilt of failures and shortcomings from 2013, or 2014 for that matter. Cus heaven knows, there are gonna be plenty.

I don’t want to wait and live within the parameters of expectation and hope that MY plans will be fulfilled. I want to live with anticipation to see God’s plans fulfilled.

So while I would really love to get myself in shape, become more organized, make an iron clad routine with my children, spend less time on my smart phone…the truth is that those are things that I want to do anyway. I’ll work on some of that behavior modification later. For now, I’m gonna go eat a cookie. 

Happy 2014, people. Sally forth! 

You Can Go Your Own Way

I know, I know.

The title of this post is also the title of a Fleetwood Mac song. But this post has absolutely nothing to do with Fleetwood Mac, I promise. I’m not sure if that reassures anyone or if now you’re all bummed but I can only do so much.

I’m coming up on my 10 year high school reunion, which in my book seems pretty impossible. But regardless, this November, it’s going down class of 2003 style. It feels like only yesterday that I was sneaking bites of Chex Mix while in Geometry class and breaking into my friend’s lockers so that I could tape stuff all over the inside of it. Now, I have children who want to play hot wheels on my lap while I’m sitting on the loo, trying to have just two minutes to myself. I’ve got responsibilities and stuff.

Sometimes I fight off that fleeting feeling that this life really isn’t mine. The paranoia that someone is going to show up at my house and pick these kids up because, as it turns out, I’ve only been babysitting. That my husband is going to walk in the door and ask just who the heck I am. Does that ever happen to you? You feel like it was just yesterday you were running barefoot through your yard and all of a sudden now you’re the mom whose yelling at her children, telling them to put on their shoes when they’re outside.

At times I feel like I have only been babysitting and playing house for eight years and that this existence can’t really be mine. Those days it’s hard to believe that all of this is just for me, poopy diapers, anniversary cards and all.

Color me blessed and fortunate and consider me still wet behind the ears after almost 8 years of marriage and 10 years removed from that orange and tan high school auditorium. I don’t know how in such a relatively short amount of time that I came to be so lucky. 

Of course, when big milestones are right around the corner it triggers something in us subconsciously that makes us want to look back. Naturally. It’s time to see if there was anything that you would do differently. It’s another chance to savor the moments that you would live again and again if you could. We don’t get a choice or a do-over in the whole growing up thing, I guess. Why hasn’t someone invented an app for that, yet?

Woot!

Woot!

This is the part of my post where things are supposed to start looking all introspective-ish. And I guess that would be appropriate. What have I learned in the last ten years that makes 28-year-old Ashley different from 18-year-old Ashley? What would I tell her to do or not do with herself? Would I only dispense with practical advice and tell her to stand up straight so that she doesn’t end up with terrible posture and caution her against drinking Dr. Pepper like water?

Or would I have something else more contemplative to offer up?

The most significant pieces of advice I would have to give to that lanky, frizzy haired girl would be these little trinkets.

Quit waiting.

That’s right. Don’t wait. (This can easily be misconstrued as advice that is encouraging irrational and uninformed decisions. It isn’t.)

Don’t wait until you get to college or reach some other insignificant mile marker in adult life to finally get the nerve to try something new. Don’t wait and make sure that three or four of your friends have signed up with you before you finally embark on a new hobby. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for everyone else’s nod of approval. Do it. If it’s something you care about, something that you love, do it. Do it well and with all of your heart.

One day, you won’t have the ample amount of time or energy – please, let me stress that – that you have now. Now is the time to enroll in three or four things at once, to smile your most youthful smile and branch out in ways that you hadn’t thought yourself capable of. No, you don’t die when you turn 25, but after that things can become more complicated.

On the flip-side, figure out how to wait for the things that are worth waiting for. For the right guy, and for him while he’s serving overseas. For the right season to buy a home and make babies. And wait before you put your foot in your mouth –  please, please, always do that. Wait it out for the right stuff, live it out for the ‘right now’ stuff. 

And another piece of advice: do things for yourself.

It seems like such trivial and overly used advice – but that doesn’t make it any less true. As a nearing 30, mother to two, lover of chocolate, owner of a white Kia minivan I am still trying to figure this part out, myself.

But I wish that I had tried to live out this principle more ten years ago then in just the past few years. When you realize that the only person that you have to justify yourself to is, well, yourself, and the Lord, then you’re free. Again, this isn’t a call to be completely insensitive or irresponsible.

It’s simply encouragement so that you know that you don’t have to explain why you might prefer wearing a one piece swimsuit instead of a bikini, no matter what anyone else is wearing. Why you prefer Katharine Hepburn and the stars of old to any of the new and tainted starlet that they churn out now a days. Why you don’t need to drink beer to feel lively. Why you might like the way that you take pictures or make your famous homemade lasagna. It’s OK to prefer Mr. Pibb to a glass of chardonnay. You do you, sister.

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I mean it. If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased, so says Kate anyway. This isn’t about being selfish. You can still love others with all of your heart and give them Jesus every day. I don’t want this to sound too much like heaping piles of self-esteem because I am pretty opposed to that stuff. But I think that there is something to be said for being yourself. You are worthy because you are a child of God. You are worthy because of Jesus. You don’t have any kissing up to do, because it really won’t change anything. God created you, quirks and all.

Note: being a jerk is not being quirky. Which leads to my next point…

Know when you’re wrong and know that you’re going to be wrong and that you’re going to have to love others even when they are wrong. 

Confused yet?

When you’re young, you think you have it all figured out and you think that you have it all together. How wrong you are. I’m pretty sure that the longer we live, the more time we have to realize that we actually don’t have any grasp on where life will take us, on the people we will become. That’s in God’s hands. It takes some time for us to realize that those who are compassionate, those who are graceful – they’re the ones that people are truly drawn to. Those are the ones who don’t miss out on the good stuff because they’re too busy being “right” and self-righteous.

Life isn’t going to be fair, the moment you realize that you aren’t something special and that your fulfillment and happiness isn’t the end all goal of existence, the happier you’re going to be. The moment you realize that life isn’t meant to just be easy, it will all start connecting for you.

And to love with a Godly love – sometimes, you’re going to have to humble yourself (in fact, always act with humility) and remember that you are wrong. And sometimes, to love will be painful and it will be hard and you won’t want to love with any part of yourself. But you have to. And you will. If you only love when you feel loved, well, then that’s not love. That’s cheap, fleeting feelings. Loving when it’s hard, having faith when it’s difficult to see the light beyond the darkness, now that means something.

But love God first. Let Him fill you with rivers of living water. I’ve never heard anyone have any regrets about that.

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A few other pieces. Wear your glasses more often because you’re gonna end up blind if you don’t. Don’t buy three or four of the same shirt in different colors, because one day you’re gonna get married and your stinking husband will make fun of you. It’s OK to sometimes still be in pj’s around lunch time – other times not so much, like when you’re hosting Bible study at your house. Enjoy those quiet Saturday mornings because you have the rest of your life to figure out where the heck they went. Embrace boredom for the same reason as the last reason.

Do make a fool out of yourself in theater class – but I suspect you have that covered. Say yes to hacky-sacking in front of the library at college instead of going to class. Remember that sometimes, others aren’t going to love you as much as you love them, but that’s OK. That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you, so keep on keeping on. Xena and Buffy are good, Twilight is a no-no. Hug your parents and tell them thank you now, right now, this very moment.

Thank God. Right now. For everything. For everyone. Live a life of gratitude and hope and faith.

And always laugh at yourself, because let’s be honest, everyone else is normally laughing at you anyway.

*End Scene*