Thursday, June 20, 2013

Expectations of Magical Moments

When visiting the “Magic Kingdom” one would expect a dreamlike vacation. While I’ve never been to Florida, I did experience the magic of Disneyland, California as a child. We knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as children of a self-employed carpenter and stay-at-home-mom! I remember being encouraged to share all of our loose change in a large coin bank that was being saved for our vacation. Dad had a goal of finishing laying the brick on our home which we all helped with in an effort to make our dreams come true. In hindsight, I can now imagine the sacrifices my parents must have made to make this magical vacation happen.

For my dad to take two weeks off of work to drive out west was unheard of. I don’t remember him as a man who could relax easily. Construction is a hard-working job where he had to take advantage of the good weather in the summer months to get his work done to provide for our family. The fact that we gardened much of our five acre property didn’t make it any easier to get away. Somehow, he was able my parents were able to let go of everything to create memories that are cherished in my dad’s absence today.

(My mom teases me that I always talk about the way my dad created memories. I do realize the part my mom played. It’s just that my mom was always there for us. I didn’t long for her time the way I did my dad’s. Thank you, mom, for being humble enough to cultivate memories that likely left you feeling on the sidelines. I’m grateful for all you did to make family memories happen.)

While we were given incentive to make our vacation happen, my husband and I are taking a different approach. For the past couple of months, we’ve been planning a SURPRISE vacation for our kids. With our oldest entering junior high in the fall, we want to be sure to create our own enchanted experience before she loses the simple awe that comes with being a child. More than anything, I want them to have memories to take with them into adulthood.

So here I am busy planning a fairytale vacation, all the while doing my best to keep it from our children. That means I’m still hosting an open house for my daughter’s 11th year of life. And when my mother-in-law’s neighbor unexpectedly gifted us with a set of bedroom furniture, we decided it was God’s nudging to graduate Nikelle from the dorm style bedroom shared with her two younger sisters to her very own room (birthday wish list #1). Ideally, this would all happen before her birthday party (one week before we leave on vacation).

I had just about given up on this idea when grandma offered to take the girls overnight. It was the ideal opportunity to set my plan into motion. I was determined to create the best birthday surprise for her, fresh paint and all. Yep, I’m crazy… and I want it all to be perfect.

I once heard it said that if you procrastinate on projects until you can do it just right, you are a perfectionist. That defines me to a tee. It’s also why I get nothing accomplished.

Last weekend I finally admitted the need to give up on my idea of perfect. Reality hit that I had bit off more than I could chew and I had to admit my limitations. My daughter was surprised with her own room painted exactly the same way it was when she entered the world 11 years ago (with a mural of Little Suzy’s Zoo characters in Noah’s Ark). It doesn’t match the rest of the d├ęcor but we could still present her with her own room.

Nikelle was so overjoyed that she was choked up as she thanked God for her own room during family prayer time that evening. Later, as I explained my desire to paint her room, my daughter surprised me. “I don’t want you to paint over the mural! Carrie made that for me when I was born.”

I need to remember my daughter’s response. While I thought I had let her down, she was thrilled. Rarely, do my girls’ react to the disappointment I create for them.
As we set out to surprise them with a magical vacation, I must let go of my expectations. (PLEASE REMEMBER WE ARE STILL TRYING TO SURPRISE THEM. SHHH!!!) The enchantment will not be in the experiences I try to create for them. Our children have no hopes for this experience. They don’t even know where they are going! Magic happens because we are sharing this time together away from all the demands of home. That’s the captivating experience I’ll be reaching for this summer!
What expectations are you setting your children up for that you need to let go of this summer?

(Today is the Third Thursday of the month. Time for the Hearts at Home Home Blog Hop! This month's topic: No More Perfect Vacations. Head over to Jill's blog
to read more.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013


A friend was talking to me recently about the signs from God she was recognizing in her life. Honestly, I’m not really sure how I feel about this topic. It’s not that I want to put God in a box. He can talk to us in any way He wants. He is God after all. Moses heard Him from a burning bush; Balaam's donkey spoke to him; and Nebuchadnezzar's future played out just the way the dream revealed. What makes me hesitant to embrace “signs” is the way we justify God’s hand at work when our “signs” clearly contradict the Bible.

Left to my thoughts the other morning, I recalled a time my husband attended an Illini football game in Champaign with his dad. It was a memory about the time my father-in-law was smacked in the face with a sign…. literally. To save money, they parked in one of the empty-field-turned parking-lots off campus. After the game one night, they were walking in darkness back to the car. Before my husband could get the words out to warn his dad… face plant right into a street sign. Ouch! (Is it rude to say he resembled a raccoon for quite some time?)

I feel a bit like my father-in-law with signs God has smacked me over the head with lately. No, I didn’t walk into a street sign and I’m not referring to signs that reaffirm my choices. I’m talking about the ones that give directions like we come across on the roads every day. These sings are pointing me toward life-change. There are WARNING signs that I must change my current thought patterns to avoid negatively impacting my girls’ futures. DETOUR signs have appeared all over my path changing the direction of my course. Just when I think I am picking up the pace toward the finish line, another DETOUR. I am told to YIELD and STOP more than ever before.

This is where I have been at in my life for some time now.

On the first day of summer vacation, my husband took the day off and we set off to the cheap movie theater for some family time. We ordered a large buttery popcorn to make the experience complete. Have you ever watched those machines make the tasty treat? Kernels pop all over the machine in every which way to perfect the idealistic movie snack. My mind has resembled the popcorn machine lately with my thoughts going every direction in order to line them up with God’s.

I realize my thoughts are not God’s thoughts. His ways are higher than my ways. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I’ve ever really believed it until now. And I’m still a work in progress. I’m seeing that I do put Him in a box too often. While I continue to apply for the job of the Holy Spirit, the position is already filled and God just wants me to live with purpose where He has called me. I’m in a season where God is opening my eyes and my heart. It’s a bit different for what I’ve always thought was right and true. That’s the problem. I’ve relied on my own thoughts for too long.

If I’m not blogging much these days, it is because the current sign in my life is UNDER CONSTRUCTION I’m attempting to watch, listen and respond to God. In this, is a struggle of breaking away from my selfishness and embracing humility. This is a difficult season for me but I’m going to remember the satisfying taste of luscious popcorn on my tongue and know God’s work will be so much more rewarding.