Sunday, August 18, 2013

You've Been Called

We are called all of the time.

Calls from school.  Calls from home.  Calls from work.  Calls from kids.

Our phones ring off the hook 99% of the time and the smart phones that appear to be surgically attached to our hands have taken this to a whole 'notha level.

Our society is all about being called and we'll even stop face to face conversations to pick up our phones as needed.

The point is, our calls are a priority and we make room in our lives for them.

We answer the school.

We answer when home calls.

We would not dream of missing a call from work...

And a call from our kids?  Everything stops when they call.

But what about God?  When the Creator of the Universe dials your line, are you available?

This crossed my mind today.  I walked into a venue that I am quite certain is my life calling and I thought about the saying, "God equips the called."

What does it feel like to be called?

For me today, it meant feeling alive.  I was there for a reason and the reason extended far beyond the moment we were in.  I felt very clear of the work that is my mission field.

I'm quite certainly the poster child for the thought that "God equips the called."

I don't bring anything especially significant to the table, necessarily, in the world's eyes.  There are certainly many who are more qualified in earthly terms.

But when God qualifies His kids for something, He goes all out and makes the message very clear.

He puts desires in our hearts that He promises to fulfill.

He gives detailed vision to people who are not "big picture thinkers."

He turns writers into speakers.

He creates beauty from ashes.

All God asks for is a heart of willingness... and once He finds one, He'll do everything under the heavens He created to ensure the path is paved with beauty and connected dots.

No matter what your calling may be, when He calls... answer.

And don't just answer... say, "Yes."

He'll take it from there.

Make you make mistakes, crave peace, and dance in grace!

Copyright © 2013 by Christie Aitken. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Drive-By Parenting: A Dollar for Your Thoughts ... Or Not? (2012)

Exhibit A?

Dollar General was exclusively created for moments when you're shopping with a toddler in tow... for the moments when you aren't FULLY committed to the shopping process in a Publix kind of way, but you are danged and determined to GET.  THE.  GROCERY.  SHOPPING.  DONE. 

Yes.  I stand a survivor... and my kids do, too.

You know what it looks like.  Your kids are just being kids.  Doing their kid duty of throwing the "Can-I-Have-A's" left and right while tossing in just enough "yes ma'ams" in their sweet southern drawl to make you consider the notion of actually purchasing a glow-in-the-dark silly putty egg... again.  (And don't get all "holier-than-thou."  You know you have some!)

Then, when you've almost made it to that last item on the hurried list, the spunky kid of the bunch wants to do something that will extend the shopping experience .  For my little love it was a "I want to push the cart" moment.  With emerging speech in hand, however, it sounded more like this, "This is MY cart.  Not yours.  My cart."  Now, my Mommy-Translator knows that this means, "Mommy, I really want to push the cart.  Puh-leeeeeeeeze let me push the cart." 

To the Drive-By-Parenting-Expert we encountered, however, all that was heard was a bossy toddler telling Mommy what to do.

This Stranger-Turned-Parenting-Pro took it upon herself to make our teachable moment HER teachable moment. 

God bless her.  

She meant well, but her "help" took a very simple Mommy/kid moment and turned it into Grocery Store Breakdown Level 10.  Let's just say that we made the People of Walmart look tame before we departed Dollar General.  (If you have pictures, don't tag us.  We prefer to go out on an anonymous note.  It's just how we roll.)

Anyway, Drive-By-Parenting-Pro is telling my new-to-talking toddler why his Mommy is right... and why he is also just plain wrong to want to push the bright yellow buggy that is begging to be pushed.

Determined and freaked out toddler is increasing in his level of freak-out because this stranger is talking to him as if she's known him forever.  I'm freaking out because some stranger is talking to him and interrupting my teachable moment (I was SO on a roll before she came over!). 

Oldest son is totally in his element (kid can talk to a wall and make the wall talk back) as he tells our Personal-But-Not-Requested-Life-Coach about the quality of the items on the Summer Clearance aisle at the DG. 

I finally got my wits about me long enough to politely dismiss our new, um, "friend," and make a beeline for the cash register.  It was beyond time to go and I knew it.  

Code Red Toddler Moment in progress and we FINALLY make the register.  

I believe a shoe flew off somewhere around the green bean aisle and as frugal as I am, I was willing to eat the loss.  Take one for the team, Shoe.  #teamwork

So, we're at the register and our new friend was also there...  explaining to the clerk and friends how she tried to help intervene with our "moment" over by the toy aisle.  That conversation shifted into "Can we just get him his own buggy?" when I walked up with a very upset little man and a cart full of groceries.

Here's where the lesson sticks, though, friends... for my kids AND for me... but also for the Drive-By-Parents of the world.

When asked if my child could be pacified by just getting his way (i.e. PLEASE shut him up), I told her, "NO." 

She looked at me funny and I reiterated, "NO.  He's a toddler and in a learning curve.  God gave me the job of teaching him through these moments and I'm up for the task.  I realize that it might be more comfortable for others if I just gave him his way and got him to be quiet; however, that's not my calling.  My calling is to teach and I'm up for the task... even when it's not a pretty process."  (The movie theaters of the world may not be teachable zones, but with all of the parenting power I possess, I hereby deem the grocery store a zone for teaching.)

See, I believe that our kids can test boundaries with us first... OR as a sweet friend told me once, they can test them with a police officer when they are 18... or with a judge when they are 28... or with a boss when they are 35.  The consequences now are much more apt to be more in the spirit of a teachable moment and less in the realm of traumatic life change that cannot be turned around.  

My job IS to teach and to meet the challenge when my kids test the limits.  It's how they learn and if I'm freaking out every single time they test the parameters, I stunt their growth AND create needless anxiety for myself.  (In other words, break out the number 2 pencils, kiddos.  It's time for some testing!)  

I choose (over and over again) to meet them with calm... and when I'm all out of calm, to press my own restart button and try for calm all over again.

Needless to say, Dollar General wasn't prepped for this response... and I don't know if I was either.  I watched the words float out of my mouth and thought, "Who IS this woman speaking?".  And then I realized, "this woman" is the woman God called to these moments.  She's got arms strong enough to carry a writhing toddler and a heart soft enough to cuddle him up when the meltdown is over. 

And "this woman"?  She's also courageous.

Courageous enough to walk in the same Dollar General less than 24 hours later... with the same toddler... and try it all over again... just to bless us both with a second chance at trying out this lesson... to make sure that it really did stick.

And guess what?  On Take 2, he DID drive the cart... and he did it quite well.  Turns out, he's not bucking authority, but begging to have a task that's his own. He's a little leader and he wanted to have a moment to "drive."  I kind of like that about him and am glad to feed that part of his spirit.

Honestly, I believe deeply that sometimes parenting is all about how we perceive "the battles" at hand.  Sometimes, just sometimes, they really aren't battles at all. 

Sometimes they are more growing pains that require that we as parents care less about what the people around us think.  They are moments that insist on parentals that have their egos in check.  (Whew.  Yes, parenting without an ego is where it's at, friends... and it's TOUGH stuff. I don't always pull it off, but oh, how I'm trying!)

So, I don't know if YOU all learned anything, but I know that this Mommy did.

1- Drive By Parenting is a no-no.  Just don't do it.  If you don't know that mom with the upset kid in the grocery store, then chances are you don't know the size of their shoes, much less where said shoes have traveled.  Smile.  Practice grace.  Go back to your grocery list unless you'd like to help her get her list tackled.  If the latter is true, chances are she could use some Tylenol and it's on Aisle 10 on the right.

2- The woman who puts the missing shoe back in your buggy really does understand.  Her smile says it all.  She speaks your parenting language.  She's fluent in grace-speak.  She is your friend and it's perfectly permissible to hug her before you leave the store.

3- The friend that you see in the grocery store who smiles knowingly, doesn't ask questions, and proceeds to say, "Anyone who says they haven't had this moment is lying"... well, that's a TRUE friend.

 4- This one's my fave-- we may do it different than you do, but we do it perfectly "us".  There is a lot to learn, but God picked me for this crew... and I think He kind of smiles at us more often than not.

Key lesson, though? 

When you go back for the Take 2/Do-Over shopping experience... only take ONE kid with you.  (I mean, come one, people! I'm determined... NOT CRAZY!) 

May you make mistakes, crave peace, and dance in grace- 

Copyright © 2012 by Christie Aitken. All rights reserved.

This, Too, Shall...Um... (2011)

I am sitting in the McDonald's drive-thru... completely drenched in all that is motherhood.  I am multitasking my multitasks as I seek to feed the masses that travel in my Camry.  Yes.  This is how we roll.

The coolest 8 year old on the planet is sitting in my front seat going through his book bag.  His mission? To find and complete homework in the car (because it's much more entertaining that way) all while rattling off his preferences for fine dining at Mickey D's... and singing a song, taking off his shoes and lamenting the heavy decision of a chocolate shake or frozen lemonade drink.  (I wonder if he got ANY of my genes.  I mean, IS there a choice other than chocolate?)
In my ear, a dear friend joins our fun via cell phone.  We chit chat over everything from tornado relief efforts to collar bones that regret motorcycle rides... IEP meetings to meeting quotas... packing up and only taking fun people with us to the beach to doing the next right thing.  

In essence, we, in 5 short minutes, make the world a better place... in a single, highly interrupted, "talk-with-your-mouth-full" sitting.  (Yes, we amaze ourselves sometimes.)

As we talk I discover that the McDonalds order is correct... and then wrong...and then correct again... seemingly with the sole purpose of teaching me the difference between the common man's double cheeseburger (er, the dollar menu) and the high falutin' double cheeseburger that has its own snazzy name.  I feel brighter just by traveling this path. Don't you? 

Throughout my fast food learning curve, my 3 year old is sound asleep in the back seat.  Now, it might seem that he is out of the loop-- somehow not in on the family multitasking magic.  I assure you that's not the case.  Every little snore that he snorts out actively reassures me that I will know what 3 a.m. looks like... again.  

Without uttering a word, he reminds me of the day I made the big switch to decaf coffee... and that that orange rim on those coffee pots of unleaded java will haunt me for the next 24 hours. This whole dialogue appears to be his current choice of love language.  (I swear that he smiled in his sleep as he multi-tasked his snoring.) 

I pull to a parking space... cell phone glued to my ear as I try to avoid "cheek muting" my friend via touchscreen.  I shovel a half attempt at healthy eating in my mouth (part fried chicken/part salad) while watching my oldest child delight in the joy of a chocolate shake before dinner.   I try to pick my battles... and soon just find myself floating to the land of "This too shall pass." 
The hustle and bustle of school nights... of just trying to get it all done... that will end soon. I've even heard rumor that the weekend will eventually come. 

One day I will never again dart my car into a McDonald's drive-thru.  On that very same day, I'm quite certain that my car will be all cleaned out, too, without the first glimpse of a Happy Meal toy in my floorboard.

In time, my grocery list will be free of pull ups, diapers and baby wipes.  There will come a day when I'll understand every word that comes out of my 3 year old's mouth, too. 

Eventually, I will sleep all night in my bed without little people climbing in there in the middle of the night.  Yes, I will sleep again... and wake up one magical morning without a lego embedded in my back.

One day, I believe in my heart of hearts, that my purse will not have a single Thomas the Train settled in the bottom of it... and that the lipgloss in my purse will not have been used to paint Thomas the Train at any point in time. 

I'm even going to go out on a limb and say that I will have a phone conversation again that does not involve a single interruption by a short person. 

I may get highly ambitious and shoot for a trip to the bathroom... alone.  (Okay, okay.  I'm pushing it and I know it.)

Regardless, one day... every bit of this... it will all pass.



And all of a sudden, I'm not sure what to do with that.  

Because I guarantee you that as soon as each of these things passes, there is a little piece of my Mommy heart that will want them all back.

As tired as I may ever get of the hustle and bustle, there is part of me that knows that THESE are the moments I was created for... that these moments may very well encompass my life's greatest work. 


So, just for today, I'm relishing every moment of drive thru mania and car-seat craziness. 

Just for this moment, I'm carrying wet wipes instead of polka dot, monogrammed tissue packs. 

On this given Thursday, this girl is right where she's supposed to be... with homework still to be done, baths to still be taken, and laundry with my name on it.

Thank you, Lord, for your wonderful, zany blessings... and for allowing me to be the leader of this wonderfully, wacky pack... and thank you for Mickey D's.  (God help me.)
May you make mistakes, crave peace, and dance in grace- 

Copyright © 2011 by Christie Aitken. All rights reserved.

Waiting Room Transformations (2011)

Today I picked up a book that I bought as my first marriage was ending.  When I bought this book my heart was hurting.  I felt like I was going to die... quite literally.  The person that I thought I needed in my life in order to breathe was leaving and moving on to new love.  Half of my time on earth was spent in this relationship and I knew what my God told me about marriage.  My mind could not begin to wrap around the reality in front of me.  The divorce was dragging on and on and  I "needed" the waiting to end.  Everything about the situation was out of my control, though, and the most realistic thought that I could conjure was that I was powerless. 

In what seemed to be an endless ache and one of the first weekends without my 3 year old son,  I ventured out to increase my suffering.

I went grocery shopping at Walmart.  Yes. I was a glutton for punishment back then.

As it turns out, God speaks at Walmart... even in a mass of self help books that often point to anything but Him.  Somewhere between Oprah, Dr. Phil and friends I found a book with a title that explained me perfectly... AND pointed at  God.  It was entitled, "You're Late Again, Lord! The Impatient Woman's Guide to God's Timing."  

Yes.  It pointed a finger at God and I was comfortable with that during that season of my life.  Since this author was blaming the Almighty for being late, I wouldn't have to go there myself.  Never mind the fact that she described me as impatient.  She recognized what I knew... that His timing was off right now.  I'm fairly certain that my lips simultaneously formed a smile for the first time in about a year as I said, "Thank you, Jesus! SOMEONE gets it."  

As I flipped the pages of this book that was clearly written for and about me, I was struck by the first chapter's title.  It simply said, "He has a plan."  All I could think of is that if this was His plan, then the plan was for the birds and I would like to opt out of it.  I am quite sure the people in the Profound Literature section at Wally-World could feel the good vibes coming from my general direction. I'm inclined to say that I was that woman in the store that you just know not to make eye contact with, too. 

I trudged through the cashier line with my curly hair tossed into a haphazard bun of sorts, wearing no makeup, and donning a wardrobe that begged for color (black was my signature color at the time).  It was in that line that I began my reading.  I mean, seriously, I was waiting for a divorce to get finalized.  I was waiting for my child to get back home.  I was waiting for the extremely slow cashier to act like she liked her job a little.  I was waiting for the crazy coupon lady in front of me to stop being so stinkin' cheap and pay already. With every fiber of my being and with my martyrdom in check, I knew that I had more than met my waiting quota for a lifetime.  I was not going to wait to start reading MY book.  So there!

One of the first things I read as I skipped around Chapter 1 was, "Doesn't God know that we need those answers now?  Yes, He knows, but thankfully, He's smarter than we are."  Hmmmm.  I had handed Him my world...and my world was crashing apart.  I wasn't convinced that He was really smarter than me at this point in the game.  Regardless, I gave this writer grace and a few more promised minutes of reading as she had perfectly titled this book.  She may have had a questionable line in her book, but I was willing to give credit where it was due and continue exploring her work.

And then the unexpected... a few minutes of promised reading turned into a few days... and a few days turned into weeks and then months of reading and re-reading.  I was captivated by the author's promise to me that this was just a waiting room in my life.  I considered that she might be on to something as she comforted me saying that this pain would not last forever.  Then, God fully backed her in His word and assured me that  my labor was not in vain.  The fog was clearing and I was remembering the verses that I knew so well from my Bible. 

However, God knew I needed more.  To complete my trail of reassurance, He sent one of His kids.  He gave me a dear friend that held my hand during this time and continually guaranteed me that my God could and would use this pain for good.  She swore that one day He would use ME (me?) to hold the hand of another ravaged soul.  She promised me that just as I was not walking alone, I would be part of the way that God assured other women never had to walk alone, either.  

Suddenly, I had a purpose.  I could breathe again.  I was not happy, but function and purpose had reconnected in my soul and I didn't hate my existence quite as much.

I started exploring the concept of "life's waiting rooms" with a vengeance.  The term "waiting room" did not bring pleasant images into my mind for me, so I needed more information.  Historically, I had clumped waiting room time into the "moments of my life I can never get back" category.  The words signified everything I hated about the hurry up and wait concept and about being under the control of someone else.  Waiting rooms, for me, were the collective anxiety of a room full of people.  People who don't know one another from Adam's house cat and are ordered to silently wait while their fears, impatience, and insecurities dance intimately... good times, good times.

Even so, I never recalled being stuck in a waiting room forever.  My spark of hope rested in the fact that there was always an end in sight.  I felt an unfamiliar solace... a little tiny particle of peace was planted in my heart.  Somehow I just knew that if God had me in a waiting room, that my time there had purpose.  It's key to understand that this was rather miraculous considering that my level of mistrust was as worn as an American Express card that I never left home without.  Even at my level of "mustard seed faith", however, I knew to BELIEVE that God was on target here and that I could implicitly trust this promise. 

It was at that point I recognized, too, that He didn't cause the need for this waiting room.  He simply had a plan for me and knew that life's circumstances would cause me to need it... and being the Gentleman that He is, He provided for His girl.  (I kind of love that about Him these days!)

See, that particular waiting room is one that I would have never chosen.  Divorce, for me, was the equivalent of a death with no body to bury.  Closure was hard to come by.  Divorce meant burying a dream... burying many dreams... and I couldn't see where anything could be quite as beautiful after the funeral.

Further growth and many years later, I can now see that laying a dream to rest REQUIRES a waiting room... no matter what that dream may be.  It's the only way to learn to live again and God DOES, indeed, have a plan.  The treasures bestowed upon me on this path and in this waiting room are how I know that even with crazy human variables, my God has the final say.  I have received treasures via this path that I would not have received in any other way. 

I have learned that I am enough and that my Creator loves the masterpiece that is me. 

I've discovered that transformation is one of the fruits of relationships... and an invitation sometimes to life's waiting rooms.   

Experience has shown me that even when I get restless and make mistakes in my waiting room, His grace will scoop me up and make me whole again.  All He sees when He looks at me is a reflection of His love.

Today I can clearly see that I am no longer that child that entered the waiting room via Walmart's book aisle... and black is no longer my signature color.  There's a lot of life to celebrate and this woman is doing just that! 

God has entrusted to me two lives that I never would have had without this path.  These little guys teach me that the sole purpose of relationships is transformation and without knowing it, they challenge me to continue being transformed one moment at a time. 

Fulfilled promises surround me.  The promise of women to walk on life's journey with has come true and then some.  I am SURROUNDED by women who have walked similar paths and have chosen to have a partnership with the King himself.  Through them I am reminded, yet again, that I'm still not alone.   

A new word has entered my vocabulary indicating that I'm no longer a machine.  It's the H word and it's a 4 letter one.  

I can receive and give help today.  Today I know that just means that I'm able to be loved and love.

Today, so many years later, I picked up the Walmart book off my bookshelf. I was feeling anxious with the loose ends and intricacies of life and my book just seemed like a good stopping point. Author Karon Goodman wrote this teeny little book that is truly a calming point of reference...and that also continually points to the Ultimate Book... for life's "moments."   Today I read just what I needed to read in one statement.  Karon wrote, "Each wait should get us closer to God." 

Once again, I could breathe as I was reminded of life's purpose.  The ultimate, eternal purpose of all that is me is to get cuddled up with the Creator of the Universe.  It's just that simple.  While I'm here, there will be hurts.  Life will kick and kick hard sometimes.  It won't always be pretty and I'm fooling myself if I think that things will work down here like they will in heaven.  My God doesn't cause the trauma that this world brings with it, but I'm convinced now more than ever that He is not caught off guard by any of it and that He has a plan.  Sometimes His plan involves waiting rooms, but it's in those rooms that I grow most beautifully.

Just for this moment and just for this waiting room, I don't have to wait to live.  I've learned to live, love and even dance in life's waiting rooms.  The One that I'm truly waiting for is ALWAYS right on time and there is definitely joy in the waiting... if I'm willing.

May you make mistakes, crave peace, and dance in grace-

Copyright © 2011 by Christie Aitken. All rights reserved.