I Opened My Eyes and Saw You

I have many titles/roles in my life:  wife, sister, daughter, friend, “boss,” employee, etc. etc.  One of the most rewarding roles and titles I have is that of simply “Mommy.”  There are so many things rolled into that.  You are parent, disciplinarian, confidant, friend, protector and so many more things to your children.  My role is particularly special, because I am really 2nd Mommy.  My girls I love as my own, though I did not birth them and do not see them every single day. But every summer, I get to spend extra time with them, and that is very special to me.

For the past two weeks, our youngest, Miss Lady, has been with us.  It’s been hectic:  balancing camp drop off and pick up schedules with work and after-work responsibilities; ensuring dinner was ready at a decent hour and creating some semblance of a schedule so things weren’t chaotic in the mornings.  Whew, I’m exhausted thinking about it.  Even so, this summer was probably one of my favorites with Miss Lady.

About a month or so ago, I started a new bedtime routine with Miss Lady.  I would say her prayers with her (well, listen while she said her prayers), tuck her in, and then she and I would just talk for about 10-15 minutes.  Nothing major, I always ask the same questions:  “What was your favorite part of today?  What was your least favorite part of the day? What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”  At first, she would answer the questions then I would kiss her goodnight and that would be that.  It was a nice way to wind down the day and she would go right off to sleep.  It set the stage for a restful night’s sleep.  Then, over the past two weeks, something cool happened.

Our bedtime routine evolved from being questions I asked to her asking me bunches of questions and just being a conversation between mother and daughter.  Miss Lady started asking about my day, and some of my life experiences.  And I began to see the world through her eyes.  She wonders what college will be like, and will she be ready for college.  She is curious what our house is like when she isn’t there, what kinds of things Daddy and I do when she isn’t there, and is it boring or fun?  She cares deeply about family, and whether people are happy or sad, tired or work too hard.  She reminds me of me, because when I am working late, she always says “Don’t work too hard, Mommy.”  Those are words I’ve spoken many times to both my mom and dad, and I know that they are genuine and heartfelt.

When it was time for Miss Lady to go back to her mom and stepdad, I was a little sad. And on Sunday, when I was leaving for church, I felt like something was missing.  I didn’t have to fight to wake her up and get her going, or make sure she’d put on lotion and lip gloss (she is a very girly little girl).  And while those things can be draining to any parent, I missed them.  I miss that little voice in the house, her huge smile and giant hugs; the joy and laughter that she brings into our home and family.

Parenting is both enjoyable and draining.  But there are few things more rewarding than being a parent.  I’m thankful for my girls, and for the opportunity to spend some time with my baby girl the past couple of weeks.  She turns 8 tomorrow, and it’s a little bittersweet.  No more car seat (under VA laws), which means she’s really a big girl now.  But she’ll always be my baby girl, and I’ll always be her Mommy.  And I am grateful for those special moments we share, when everything slows down, and it’s just the two of us, talking and learning.  It is in those moments that I see Miss Lady and the young lady she is growing into, and I am grateful and proud that God blessed me with the privilege of knowing and raising her.

A Parent’s Love

Momma!!!!!  Momma!!!!!  I had a bad dream!!!!

My husband and I were jolted awake Saturday morning around 5:00 am.  Our 7-year-old, “Miss Lady,” had come into our room crying uncontrollably and yelling for me.  I was so exhausted I could barely open my eyes, and sat up a little and motioned for her to come over. She came straight into my arms and I pulled her up and hugged her.  Her breath was heavy and jerky, you know, the kind of breathing you have when you can’t stop crying and you’re a bit hysterical.

I finally found my voice and just rubbed her back and kept saying, “It’s okay, baby.  It was just a dream.  Everything is okay.”  I could feel her breathing ease back to normal, and within a few minutes, she was calm again and just laying on me. Soon, we walked back to her room and I prayed with her and helped her get back to sleep.  I laid in the bed with her until I heard her snoring and was assured she was sound asleep, and then went back to my own bed.

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about that experience.  This was the first time Miss Lady has had a nightmare and asked for me.  She usually asks for Daddy (she is a Daddy’s girl).  But that’s not what has stuck with me.  What has stuck with me was the panic that was in her voice, and in her breathing, and how, as quickly as it woke me, it was soothed by simply being in the arms of her “Momma,” who she knows loves her and will protect her always.

Our children look to us to protect them. They look to us to keep them safe, and to always make sure we look out for them.  When things go wrong, they look to us for comfort.  Our job is to love them always, to teach them and to protect them.  And once they are sure that we are going to do our job, their worlds are better by simply the presence of Mom or Dad.

It made me think about that day we found out our son passed.  My husband obliged my request to go to my parents’ house, and in their arms I felt some comfort, but it wasn’t quite enough.  Not because my parents didn’t love me enough, but because this was something that, even with all the love they had for me and pain they were experiencing at the time, they weren’t the parents I needed to take away the pain.  I had to turn to my first Father, my heavenly Father.  And that night, as I lay in my bed, wrapped in the arms of His love and His peace, my panicked breathing slowly eased and became a calm in the midst of a raging storm.

So often, we run away from the place that can give us comfort.  But, as Miss Lady has reminded me, we need to run to the place of comfort, because it is there that we will find the peace and healing that we need…quickly.  So in times of trouble, I encourage you, run to the arms of the Father, not away from them. Because His love will always ease your pain, hurt and panic.

A Change is Gonna Come

About a year and a half ago, I bought some wall decals for my youngest daughter’s room (Miss Lady).  She was five at the time, and very into the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell.  So one day, while strolling through Target, I saw both Fairy wall decals and Princess wall decals on sale, and picked them up.  The next time she came over for her weekend with us, I showed her the decals and she selected the fairies to put on the wall.

You have to understand, Miss Lady is a girl’s girl.  She loves pink, princesses, dresses and dolls.  Her room is “Bunny Nose Pink” (gotta love those fancy paint color names), and, while she has it setup with all her toys and photos, it was missing that special touch that told us all it was her room.  Clearly the pink wasn’t enough of a statement for me.  When she saw the wall decals, she was elated and immediately selected the Disney fairy decals.  There were like 50 stickers in this packet (I should’ve read it more carefully), some small, some large.  We literally spent an hour placing each and every sticker, no matter how big or small, around her room.  Admittedly, when it was done, it was just what she needed to complete the look of her room.  She thought it was, “Awesome!”

Now, Miss Lady turned 7 last month (I know, she’s growing up before my very eyes).  I’ve been trying for the past few months to get her to take down the fairy decals and put up the princesses.  But whenever I asked (and I didn’t ask very often), she would say, “No, I’m not ready yet, Momma.  Maybe when I’m 8.”  So I let it go.  The last time I asked was in May after we returned from Disney.  After all that time with the Princesses, I just knew she would be ready for the fairy decals to come down.  But, no, she wanted to wait until she was 8.

Understand, I didn’t ask about the decals because I was tired of looking at them.  That really is her room and her space, so, unless she is there, I don’t spend much time in her room (our girls don’t live with us, for those who are looking confused right now).  But I knew that she had outgrown the fairies and moved on to the next thing, as evidenced in the things she chose to play with and liked to do.  So I wanted to support that in her living environment as well.  Growth is good.  At the same time, you have to know when to use a gentle nudge, and when to step back.  So after I nudged, I stepped back.  And a funny thing happened.

I was coming out of my bedroom on Saturday, and was met at the door by Miss Lady.  “Momma,” she said to me, with that look that told me she wanted something.  “Miss Lady,” was my reply.  “Momma, I want to take down my fairies and put up my princess stickers.”  I smiled to her and said, “But I thought you wanted to wait until you were 8.”  “Yes, but I changed my mind.  I’m ready now.”  I just smiled and said okay, and off we went to her room to work on our new project:  taking down the old stickers and putting up the new ones.

An hour later, all of our work was done (and the paint on the walls remained perfectly in tact . .. those decals are GREAT!).  As I walked out of Miss Lady’s room, I looked back at her.  She was staring at the walls and spinning and laughing, which is what she does when she’s REALLY happy. The next day, I asked Miss Lady about her “new” room, and if she liked it.  Her response?  “I love it, it’s awesome, but I kinda miss my old stickers too.”

I thought about the process of her changing her mind about the stickers.   I gave her a gentle nudge, but didn’t push hard when she felt she wasn’t ready.  And yet, she was ready, which I knew all along, and when she finally realized it, the change was made.   But even after the change was made, she still missed, just a little bit, what she’d left behind.  How often does God, through the Holy Spirit, give us a gentle nudge to make a change or adjustment?  And how often do we push back on it, feeling that we’re not quite ready, even though we know inherently that He knows all and is doing what is best for us.  But eventually, God works on our hearts, and we walk the path we’re supposed to be on.  And even then, we may look back longingly at the past, but we must realize that the past is behind us, and we have to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling (Philippians 3:14).

What lies ahead of you?  Has God been speaking to you about doing something that makes you nervous or apprehensive; feeling that you aren’t quite ready?  Why are you waiting?  Just as parents do with their children, He knows best, and we must trust God and walk the path that He has set before us.  So step out of your comfort zone, there are better things ahead of you.

Up in the Air

Last week, we went on vacation with friends.  We took a great trip to Orlando, Florida, home of the place where dreams come true.  Yep, Walt Disney World!  (SN:  I’m a big kid and TOTALLY geeked out on this trip).  But, that’s not the purpose of today’s blog.

My 6-year-old daughter joined us for the this trip, and it was her first time on a plane.  Now, I have traveled quite a bit, and have a routine down for the airport.  I have a travel wallet (a nice, leather one, not one of those vinyl, zip up wallets) in which I carry every frequent traveler card (yes, I am a member of them all), my trip itinerary, rental car reservation, boarding pass, passport (for photo id), etc.  I keep it in a strategic location in my carry on so that I don’t have to fumble for it.  I also have a specific location for my quart sized bag, which is not a Ziploc bag, but a durable, plastic like one that I bought from Target.  I know exactly where everything is in my carry on, and I even pack my luggage in a very specific way to ensure that I remain under the 50 lb weight limit.  I don’t get in security lines where I see a lot of small children or people who look like they’ve never traveled before.  By the time I get to the line, I know exactly how many containers I need to place my shoes, laptop, purse, quart sized bag and other items that go on the conveyor belt.  I am, by my own standards, a professional traveler.

Well, clearly on this trip, I had to learn to give up my professional traveler status for my daughter.  Now, I had everything organized and packed properly.  I had both my ID and my husband’s ID paired with our boarding passes, and my daughter’s boarding pass ready to go for the TSA agent.  Her carry on bag was her doll baby carrier/backpack that carried her doll, the doll’s change of clothes (3 outfits), a small stuffed animal and her headphones for the tv on the plane (yay for JetBlue).  So I was ready.

Once we got cleanly through security, though, her excitement boiled over.  She couldn’t wait to see the plane, and was very proud of her wings, given to her by the gate agent.  I’d shown her a video of the plane a couple of weeks before, so she knew what to expect.  But as she sat on the plane behind us, with her buddy, Jalen, I smiled as I listened to her excitement about everything.  They were trying to find Nickelodeon on the tv, trying to look out the window, and were amazed at how it was storming on the ground but sunny when we got above the clouds.  They were fascinated to see the moon and the sun and wanted to know when snacks would come.

Their excitement reminded me to, once again, take time to smell the roses.  As a business traveler, it is easy to settle into your routine; to get to your seat as quickly as possible and turn on the tv or, in my case most days, nod off.  You know the polite things to say to the flight attendants, to thank them when you deplane, to stick to your space and not spread into your seatmate’s space.  But how often do we look out of the window in excitement or amazement at the true miracle of being able to fly through the air on a HEAVY plane?  How often do we appreciate that is around us?

I always learn so much from my baby girl, and this time was no different.  When I get on another plane in a few weeks, I will remember to enjoy the experience, and I smile as I remember how much she enjoyed her first plane ride.  In her words, “It was AWE-SOME!!!”

Lessons from the Little One

When I married my husband, I inherited two beautiful daughters.  At the time, they were 3 and 10 years old, and are now 6 and 13.  I walked immediately into motherhood, and it wasn’t exactly easy.  Our oldest was the easier one for me.  She’s fairly laid back, and took to me pretty quickly.  The youngest, well, it isn’t that she didn’t take to me, but moreso that she is a complete Daddy’s Girl, and there was definitely some tension that would manifest that sometimes felt like there was a competition for Daddy’s affection, and I was losing.

My husband kept telling me not to force it, it would come with time.  And I tried to take on his laid back attitude.  But it wasn’t easy.  I’m very much a typical Type A personality:  I’m a planner, organizer and like to have an agenda, know what’s coming next and be in control.  I know, relax much?  LOL.

Well, Miss Lady and I have grown over the years, and, just last fall, she took to calling me Mommy.  It was her own thing, I’ve never asked either of the girls to call me anything specific, just not Ms. Rasheeda (I’m not their teacher).  She still calls me Rasheeda sometimes, but she also periodically will say Mommy, and, frankly, it warms my heart.  Now, I’m not here to replace her mother.  In fact, I’ve had conversations with her to help her understand she has a mommy and daddy that love her very very much, and she also has a step-mom and step-dad that love her very much.  Can you imagine how confusing that has to be for a child?  There will be a time, in the near future, that she won’t remember when she didn’t have me or her step-father in her life.  So to her, she’s got 2 moms and 2 dads, and that can definitely be confusing.

As much as she has grown to love me, I’ve grown to love Miss Lady like my own.  She teaches me so much, even in the moments where I’m wondering “what in the world were you thinking, little girl?”  She was with us this past weekend, and we had a conversation about prayer.  We’d sent her upstairs to go to bed, and let her watch a little tv just before.  She had specific instructions to say her prayers before she turned on the tv, and it seemed awfully fast to me that she’d done it.  So I went upstairs and asked her what she prayed about in her prayers.  She told me, and it was the same thing she prays every single night.  So I asked her if she knew what prayer was.  She said yes, but couldn’t really explain it, so I simply said, “Prayer is just talking to God.”  Her little eyes got big like she didn’t believe what I was saying.  I continued, “It’s just like when you talk to me or Daddy.”  We then talked about the importance of not always praying the same prayer.  But she’s 6, so I had to make it real to her.

“What if I came up to you and said, ‘Hi Miss Lady!  How are you? Did you have a good day?  Okay, bye!’ ‘Hi Miss Lady!  How are you? Did you have a good day?  Okay, bye!’?  Would you want to talk to me?”  She said, “Nooo, you just keep saying the same thing.”  “Well, that’s exactly how God feels when we pray the same thing every time.  He wants us to talk to Him.”  I could tell she got it, and she said her prayers again.  When she finished, she said she had a hard time knowing what to say, but I told her she did great (she is quite the little prayer warrior), and that it wasn’t about saying the right thing, it was about sharing what is on your heart with God.

As I kissed Miss Lady goodnight and walked out of her room, I thought about that conversation.  I pray every day before I leave the house for safety and protection.  It is often the same prayer.  How boring that must be for God!  How many other times do we say the same prayer, whether it be grace, or even your regular prayer and praise time?  Have we gotten into a routine or are we being sincere in what we do?

I’m often amazed at how teaching my own children also teaches me, or can be a reminder for me as well.  And I’m grateful for the lesson learned this week from Miss Lady.