My Norman Rockwell Life

Boy holding flower

(FreeImages.com/CynthiaTurek)

I don’t have any Norman Rockwell paintings in my house, but I always liked how he had the ability to capture personalities and real life in a painting.  If someone was painting my life, I think that Norman Rockwell might be the best artist to do it justice.  Maybe.

There was the day a few weeks ago when I returned from dumping a load of yard waste into the burn barrel to find my boys emptying our bag of potting soil on my flowers.  With hearts happy to please Momma, they told me that they were “mulching my gardens.”  We had to re-scoop the potting soil to use for garden “starts.”

Every mom likes to talk about the bouquet of dandelion blooms that her boys hand to her, all wilted.  Little boys with beaming smiles proclaim, “Mommy, I picked you flowers to put in your vase.”

Some days are tough, really tough.  As a mom, you hang your head and feel the “weight of the world,” the lies of Satan telling you that you aren’t good enough as a mom and you should just give up.  Failure.  Depression.  Then, a little boy hands you a note before bed that says, “To: Mommy, I am sorry I was mean to you.  Will you furgive me?  Luv,…”  I take the rolled-up-note and place it next to my Bible and journal of thanks.  It’s a visual reminder, another moment of grace.  Hope seeps in, and new strength to persevere is reborn.

One day, my painting would have been of the crazy neighbor lady (guess who?) chasing a ball down the road while her boys hop around and cheer.  There’s no runner’s form — just a mom running for all she’s worth to grab the ball before a car careens around it or over it.  Littlest boy sees Mommy return with the ball and thinks he’ll throw it again to watch Mommy run again.  Mommy stops that effort immediately.

Another painting might show Mommy picking dirt out of her ears and leaves from her hair, thanks to mischievous boys.  Three little boys had the grand scheme to play a joke on Mommy, thought it would be hilarious to dump a bucket of dirt on her head while she was weeding.  It took three scrubbings to get all the dirt out of her hair.  The next day, she was still cleaning dirt out of her ears.

Then there’s the moment when a boy brings a bucket of daffodils and proudly proclaims, “I brought you flowers, Mommy!”  Mommy asks from where he got the flowers.  He excitedly declares, “I dug them up” and points his little finger at a spot where Mommy had planted daffodils last spring.  Someday, Mommy’s garden won’t be dug up and flowers won’t be picked.  Someday, Mommy will miss little grubby hands holding wilting bouquets of flowers “to fill Mommy’s vase.”

Three little boys are scrubbed for church, wearing ties and dress shirts and boy saddle shoes.  It’s picture-taking time at church for the bulletin.  Mommy tells her boys to head straight to the picture-taking room immediately after the service and before snacks.  Church ends, and Mommy meets her boys immediately after in the picture-taking room.  Littlest boys presents himself all smiling.  There are dirt streaks up and down his nice shirt and dress pants.  He looks like he was eating chocolate in church.  Grammie must have given him a crayon, which he managed to get all over his clothes.  The photographer tells Mommy that we can photo-shop his clothes clean.  Too bad, it’s not that easy to clean little boy clothes normally!

Norman Rockwell might have enjoyed painting the “modern” boy telling his daddy that while bike-riding in the driveway, he only got one scratch on his daddy’s car.  “Just one scratch, Daddy!”  Daddy looks at that one, very long scratch across his door.  A son’s autograph.

Then there’s the perfect bathroom painting: Mommy checks on her boy who has been in the bathroom for a little too long.  She finds the toilet plunger with a toilet paper bow around it.  Littlest boy tells her, “I was decorating the plunger, Mommy!”

A favorite painting might be the one of littlest boy and sister sitting side by side, wearing matching cowboy hats.  Baby sister’s is falling down over her eyes.  Little smile peaks out.  Littlest brother says, “[Sissy] and I match!”

Best painting might be of a boy with pockets full of carrots and shirt off, coming in from the garden.  With hands extended, little boy shows Mommy the carrots he dug up.

One more painting in the collection might be of a little boy at a recent wedding.  The wedding is outside at a beautiful historical site.  We sit outside on chairs, in the shade of a tree.  Middle boy looks at a nearby tree and asks, “Mommy, can I climb it?”  He would get a good view of the wedding that way!  Wedding ends, and middle son finds a tree to start climbing, just as soon as he filled his tummy.

Life is all about perspective.  Life events can be seen as frustrations, irritations, inconveniences, or they can be seen as gifts, treasures, memories, and tokens of grace.  Each day, we paint a picture in the hearts of our children.  We can paint our days with strokes of grace or with slashes of anger.  What paintings do our children have?

 

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Girlie With Grit

Who says a girl can’t be girlie and still have grit? 

I like my heels and my boots. 

I like my flowers and my jeans. 

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I like getting down in the dirt, and I like taking a shower afterwards. 

I bring tad-poles home for my boys, and I teach them how to wear ties for church.

Yes, I really do have tad-poles in a bucket in my house.

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I like boys who can imagine that they’re David fighting Goliath, brandishing sticks and garbage can lids as shields.  I also like boys who say “Please” and “Thank you!” and who know how to pick flowers for their Momma!

 

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I like reading a book to “chill”, but I also can shovel 17 wheelbarrows of mulch in one day while five months pregnant!

I like getting a pedicure before giving birth, but I also can endure Pitocin and deliver a baby sans pain-killers or meds.!

I like wearing girlie colors and dressing up, but I am not afraid of sweats and my husband’s T-shirts when I have a painting job to do.

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I am not afraid to plant a garden while 9 months pregnant and in 90+ degree weather, but I love my A/C too.

I am not afraid or ashamed to be girlie and to have grit too!  I believe that God designed women to enjoy beautiful things, to be sweet and gentle.  I also think He designed women to have grit, creativity, perseverance, and fortitude too.  I think it’s okay to have the “girlie” with the grit.  I am thankful that God designed me the way He did!

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What I Love!

I love babies who wave at bushes weaving in the breeze.

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I love boys who whisper in my ear that I am the best mom ever.

I love boys who make up their own Easter egg hunt, while sharing their own toys, stickers, and money with each other.

I love sisters to laugh with and be silly with.

I love nieces to take shopping and enjoy girlie stuff with.

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I love having a baby to cuddle in the night when she awakes screaming.

I love yellow tulips from my Secret Prayer Sister.

I love chocolate candy from her as well.

I love spring grass, so green!

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I love sunny days and white fluffy clouds.

I love trees and bushes and plants decked in their most fragrant and colorful dresses for spring.

I love brothers who read to each other and wrap their arms around each other.

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I love wet boy smooches.

I love warm, husband hugs.

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I love boys who love to match me and each other in dress.

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I love boys who beg to help me cook.

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I love pudgy hands and thighs on my baby girl.

I love friends who visit and laugh with us over broken vacuum cleaners, clogged drains, and rabid raccoons, because life is too crazy to not laugh.

I love boys who bring me piles of carrots that they dug up from last year’s garden.

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I love making soup from our carrots and very own onions.

I love even boys who yell and argue and kick — not because of bad behavior but because they remind me of God’s great grace to me.

I love dreams that are sad but make me awaken to realize how blessed I am to have a loving husband and four precious children!

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I love that I am loved — loved beyond my wildest imagination from a God powerful and yet tender!

When Light Pierces the Darkness

It was a Friday, a long time ago.  It will always be remembered as the darkest of days…  All seemed hopeless, full of depressing darkness.  Angry clouds billowed overhead.  Even the flowers seemed to wilt.  The Roman heel seemed poised to crush any dreams of freedom from oppression.  Life was fragile and tenuous at best, and every family had felt death’s sting.

Into this time of great turmoil, hope began to breathe again.  For a few years, a Man — more than a Man — showed them a glimpse of light within a dark world.  Sick were made well!  The lame were made whole!  The blind saw again!  Even the dead were raised to life!  Here was a Man who knew their deepest desires, their most secret thoughts.  Here was a Man who loved the most decrepit, most despised, most down-trodden.  Here was a Man who spoke truths that penetrated even the hardest of hearts.  He turned the focus of those who listened to Him from the physical to the eternal.  For a few short years, Heaven seemed nearer.  An awe-inspiring, Ten Commandment, full of justice-God humbled Himself to relate to mankind in the fragility of their humanity.  God became man in all his weaknesses but without the ability to sin.

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This Man-God experienced the anguish of facing the vulnerability of death and the despair of separation from a Just and Holy, Heavenly Father during his excruciating hours upon a splintered cross, while bearing the load of a whole world’s sin and guilt upon Himself.  While blood and sweat blurred his gaze, searing pain from skin ripping and tendons tearing sent dizzying waves of pain across frayed nerve endings, this Man-God endured mocking scorn from those who even yet could not comprehend an all-powerful God submitting to the death of a slave and criminal.  Those who rejected this God-Man clung to the darkness of their unbelief, to their traditions and religious trappings rather than accepting a God who came not in the regal robes of a ruler but slid from the bloody womb of a peasant girl while struggling to gasp His first breath.  They could not comprehend a God who would leave a home of unparalleled riches and glory and homage to enter a world gone mad with greed, death, sickness, and social injustice on every level.  By accepting that God could humble Himself so completely, they would need to accept a love so great and so encompassing that their undivided loyalty would be required.  For God to sacrifice His very own Son, for this Son to sacrifice His very own life would represent an almost incomprehensible level of loving sacrifice — more than man could ever imagine.  A love so great required a vulnerability and allegiance that not every recipient was willing to yield. 

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True love requires a yielding and vulnerability. 

It is easier to accept superficial representations as the genuine when complacency and mediocrity is the only requirement.  Yet, this very complacency, this very mediocrity produces endless monotony, stunted character-growth, shallow goals, and reflections of emptiness at the end of a life.

People then and people now have experienced this reflection of emptiness and hopelessness.  On that Friday a few thousand years ago, life was at its very bleakest.  It was even worse — to go from such high hopes and then to have them crushed so completely.  Heaven seemed billions of light years away, unattainable.  Darkness had never been darker than when the solitary figure hung stiff and still upon a crude cross.  When a large boulder blocked the entrance of the tomb and the ruler’s own seal insured that no one would disturb the grave for fear of his own quick and tormented demise, only the darkest of despair remained.  For two whole nights and a full day, all life anguished.  But on the third day, a startling discovery transformed the darkest of nights into the brightest of mornings!

Angels, clothed in garments of brilliant light, guarded a now empty tomb.  The grave clothes still lay in place, hardened by the spices and dried blood of the body that had once lain entombed within … the contours of the body still visible.  The huge boulder was rolled away!  The soldiers had fainted in fright.  The governor’s seal was broken.  This was no amateur attempt at grave-robbing.  His followers were still hiding away in fear and in despair.

The fear of Jesus’ followers would soon disappear in the face of overwhelming evidence that Jesus’ words had been literal.  “He would rise from the dead!”  He did rise from the dead!  These first witnesses would suffer terrible deaths and persecution with unflinching dedication, giving credence to their message that the God-Man had indeed risen from the dead!  From that Sunday on, their lives would no longer be marked with doubts, despair, darkness, and defeat.  It was the celebration of that first Easter Sunday — the message of that first Easter — that would empower them and transform each of Jesus’ followers into “beacons” of ardent light.  These followers would share a message that has transformed millions of lives and still does thousands of years later.  It is a message of Love, lighting the way from man to God. 

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Accepting so great a love means letting go of my own feelings of pride in thinking that His love is based on my own merit or worthiness.  It means letting go of clinging to my own feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  It means experiencing a love so all-consuming, so all-encompassing that the brilliance of it reaches into the darkest crevasses of my heart, the last vestiges of my pride, and reveals a love so dazzling that it can only be compared with light itself.  The Love of this God-Man penetrates and peels back the layers of hard outer shells that we wrap our most vulnerable hopes and dreams and needs within.  Where once there was darkness, there is now effulgent illumination.  Where once there was confusion and doubts, His Love has brought clarification, peace, and incandescent joy!

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Balancing Community And Family

Life has been extra crazy lately.  My husband is preparing for an important test to get a license.  This requires sacrifice on the part of the entire family.  The man has to study, the mommy has to carry on without the assistance of her husband, the kids miss out on some play times with their daddy.  The days seem longer, along with the “To-Do” lists.  This is also the time when stairs break, dishwashers come unscrewed from their mountings, vacuum cleaners break, taxes need to be filed, grass needs to be mowed, and the list grows.

Allergy season is also in full swing.  Baby is congested again.  My nights are far too short, while my days are much longer.  So the stresses, the frustrations, the inconveniences build.  It’s easy to release some of that tension towards those around me in negative ways — to not be as gracious, meek, patient, or sensitive.

Weeks pass, and I haven’t yet found a quiet hour to sit and blog, to reflect on the good that is occurring.  And it is occurring.  All the time.

Instead, I focus on what is important: living the life I have been given.  Sometimes, it’s too easy to write about the life we want to have, wish we had, but not really live in the moment.  The crux though is am I living my life — living it fully in the present and as God intended?


I don’t want to borrow the blessings/the good from the present in my rush to pursue the future or record the past. 

This blog is taking me days to write — days because I stop to feed my family, clean dishes, sew bunny ears on a child’s stuffed toy.  How rewarding it is to have a child’s “million-dollar” smile when he sees the restored bunny!  There is beauty in the simple things and so much good too!  There is fulfillment in ironing wrinkles out of a dress shirt.  There is contentment in vacuuming behind a dresser.  Joy is all about perspective, priorities.  It’s about commitment and balance.

I love to blog and will still blog as I can.  Why?  Because it gives me a record of lessons God is teaching me.  It helps me to connect to a larger community.  It encourages me to know that I might somehow assist someone else who is on a similar path of life.

Blogging can also be about affirmation — getting the affirmation and encouragement from others so that our mundane becomes more glorious — not because it isn’t or wasn’t — but because we needed another perspective or just a simple dose of encouragement to change our perspectives.  Is that all bad?  No.  It is good to get encouragement.  Community is meant to share and care.  I just need to make sure that the larger community has not replaced my heart connections to my “individual family”.

I also need to determine that I am not reaching out to a broader community for support because I am lacking in closer relationships at home.  If my relationships at home are lacking, it is time to readjust, redefine, reevaluate, and reestablish heart connections.  Community is not meant to replace needs that stem from deficient connections within the nucleus of my own family.

I’ll end this blog for now as I have many other topics running through my mind and stories I would love to share.  For now though, it’s all about connecting with my children’s hearts, stitching patterns of love, patience, selflessness, and joy into our days.