The Lovely

“There’s a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance, between looking for lovely and not giving up. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things that everyone sees, but it’s what you see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments that God gives you to collect and hold and draw strength from during the difficult times” -Annie F. Downs in Looking for Lovely

Every night at dinner, we each say two things we are thankful for. We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. Maybe even before Harrison could talk. Lately, one of the boys has had trouble coming up with something. He says similar things most days, but as he gets older, we try to teach him to search for deeper things. Daniel is so good about modeling how we can find the lovely in seemingly mundane things. He’s thankful for cars that get us where we need to go. He’s thankful for air conditioning. He’s thankful for audio books. He shows the boys that we don’t have to find some enormous situation to be enormously grateful.

Last week we had two upset boys when their plans for ice cream got cancelled. They had a weekend full of sweet treats, parades, cousin play time, surprise lunches, and pizza, but when we opted to eat cookie cake instead of ice cream, their world fell apart, and so did they. We knew they were tired and out of sorts, but we tried desperately to teach them about being grateful for the things we have instead of upset about the things we don’t. We had a similar experience again this week over gum.

As parents, it’s disheartening to see your kids act ungrateful when you provide so much. We may not have as much as some, but we have way more than most. I want them to realize that.

When our son said he couldn’t think of anything he was thankful for, I knew we had to have a Full House moment. Daniel and I named about ten things he could be thankful for- serious things, silly things, everyday things. He didn’t bite. We left him to think about it, and he eventually wrote down that he was thankful for his brother. After he finally came up with something, I noticed he was lighter. I saw his goofiness return, he was more playful, and more loving toward Daniel and me.

In the Bible study I’m doing right now at church, Annie F. Downs talks about looking for the lovely. She anchored the study around Romans 5:3-4 which tells us that suffering produces patience, which produces character, which produces hope. Daniel and I were by no means suffering at our child’s ungratefulness, but we were frustrated. Still, we kept reiterating the importance, because we knew it would pay off. Perseverance in our efforts to discipline our kids not only shapes our characters, but our kids’ as well.

Will our kids have things to say thank you about today? Maybe not. Will we have another meltdown over desserts? Probably so. But I truly believe they will become fewer and farther between; that is my hope. We will continue in pursuit of Proverbs 22:6, which says¬†“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV)

Someone wise on Facebook once said “Mommin’ ain’t easy”. It’s hard, holy work. Today, my other son has said thank you a little more, yes ma’am and yes sir a few more times, and given unsolicited hugs and kisses. We’re getting there, little by little. Our goal today was no complaining, and so far, we’re on track.

I say all this, not to say I have it all figured out or even to commiserate, but to say that whatever you’re doing today to prepare your kids for adulthood is important. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. They’ll get there, and the world will thank you for it.

Keep on, dear friends!

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Transition

Transition. The word has gotten a bad rap lately, thanks to John Crist’s video about it being a sugar coated word in churches for “you’re fired”. But, it’s one I’ve used a hundred times in the last two weeks. My role has transitioned. I am transitioning to a new job. My schedule has transitioned. All of the above.

My students are sweet and rambunctious. They give me hugs and headaches. They are loving but temperamental. They always want to know when it’s lunch time. Even after lunch. And the tattling. Oh, the tattling.

I felt an exhaustion I didn’t recognize this week. At 2pm on Wednesday afternoon, I thought to myself, “I don’t know how I will make it another 90 minutes, much less through church tonight.” But I did. Life went on, and Thursday was easier.

I don’t think it’s hit me that this is permanent. Like, I changed careers. This isn’t a vacation or a trial run. This is it. I know I’ve made the right choice. I know this is the path that God led me on over the last two years. It’s just a little crazy to think about it being the culmination of putting one step in front of the other.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105 KJV

After all the tears, stuck feelings, frustration, uncertainty, and prayer, He’s brought me to where I’m supposed to be. He’s answered my prayers.

I was listening to Lysa Terkeurst’s new book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way,¬†this morning, and she said something that really stuck out to me: God loves me too much to answer my prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way (page 45).

When I started my teaching curriculum last fall, I knew it would prepare me for a job the following fall, but I held onto the hope that a position would open up in January. At Christmas break, I began searching the school board website for openings, to no avail. I figured certainly, if someone was going to leave midyear, they would turn in their resignation before Christmas. When nothing opened, I felt my heart sink a little. I had January in my head. If I could just make it to January, things would get better. Halfway through the month, I continued to feel discouraged, but I trusted God’s timing. Then I got a call. I was asked to come in for an interview on a day I was already scheduled to be off. Talk about God lining everything up! Here’s the thing though: I didn’t start in January, but February.

If you’ve been following my story or my posts for any length of time, you may remember that February is kind of a hard month for me. A few years ago, we lost our baby, Hartley, when I was pregnant in September, but his due date was in February. The due date tends to be harder because I see what I “should” have had. Because I was pregnant at the same time as several friends, February is the month they celebrate birthdays, and I don’t. February is the time when I look at what could have been and compare it to what is. Comparison truly is the thief of joy-even when you’re comparing against your own story.

Daniel and I have been intentional with our Februarys. The first year, we went to Nashville and saw some of our favorite artists, ate amazing food, and volunteered with Show Hope. Now God, in His kindness, allows us to attend the Linger conference every February around the time Hartley would have been born. (I say “would have” from a human perspective- his story was never meant to go any farther than September.) This year, God gave me the gift of an answered prayer. An answer that could have seemed late came right on time. He answered it in the right time and in the right way.

This gift comes with work. Like a parent who gives their child a puppy after they promise to feed, walk, and groom said puppy, I have to keep learning how to be a teacher. I have to figure out how to enter grades, how to control the volume of six year olds, how to navigate unkind comments, how to work with parents, and how to balance work and home life. I feel like my new job came with a big, fancy bow tied around it, but I know I worked for this too. God gave me the endurance and just enough information and encouragement to take one step at a time, leading me to my classroom.

We are learning to look for lovely in my Thursday night Bible study, and I can see this season is abounding in lovely if I keep looking. I can look at the past few months and see the lovely in the heartache and appreciate the lovely as I stand on the mountain top. He was with me every step of the way, and He continues to hold my hand on the other side of the finish line.

The Bible tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17), and I wholeheartedly believe that- now more than ever. He’s gifted me with friends who provide classroom supplies, stress-relieving bubble bath, words of encouragement, texts with school related jokes every morning, food, and flowers. He’s gifted me with an amazing team of teachers who are willing to answer all of my questions with smiles on their faces. He’s gifted me with this transition, and I’m so thankful.

-Mrs. Dumas (aka Mrs. Doo-MAS, Mrs. Doofus, Mrs. Dugas, Mommy, or Teacher.)