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To young families at Christmas

Published December 25, 2015 by joypatton

IMG_0710For all the moms who are just beginning families: be intentional about the traditions you begin. They will be the things your kids remember, and it becomes very sweet as your kids get older and take over.

I remember one of the first Christmases we had as a little family. I tried to do all the things my family did and all the things everyone else said we should do. From big meals to Santa to Elf on the Shelf. I was exhausted at the end. So I decided to start some new traditions. The only rule was that it had to be easy for me. Yes, it sounds selfish, but going into Christmas with an exhausted mom is no fun either.

Fifteen years into making our family, I wanted to share some of the ones that have stuck, and the payoff is good.

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Joy, Hope and Faith in 2009.

Christmas Eve – I remember coming home from Christmas Eve service after getting everyone dressed. I wanted a big meal, but I didn’t want to make it at the end of the day. So I started doing a pot roast in the crock pot. All you have to do it warm rolls when you get home, and you have a great meal. This year was ingenious because I used stew meat instead of a roast. Delicious! (See the recipe below) After dinner, everyone opens one gift: a pair of PJ’s. Everyone has a new look for Christmas morning, and the little ones satisfy the urge to open a gift.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole – What I love about this one is that you make everything the night before and let it sit in the fridge. On Christmas morning, I just wake up and put it in the oven while we open gifts. This is one of my kids’ favorite traditions. My oldest told me this morning, “This casserole is the only reason I get up on Christmas morning now that I’m a teen.” The best part is that this morning I got an extra hour of sleep because my 13-year-old helped me make it last night, and I told him he could start baking it in the morning. I got out of bed, and it was all ready to go. Merry Christmas to me! (See the recipe below.)

Kids Giving Gifts – One of my favorite traditions is having my kids buy each other gifts. I used to think everyone did this, but I have found out that it’s not very common. When we do our Christmas budget, I include enough for each kid to buy each of their siblings a $10 gift. It helps them to think about each other and keeps them focused on others…a little. This Christmas we used our Citicard Thank You points from my husband’s business card to buy gifts on Amazon. All the kids made wish lists, and shopping was really easy. Each kid sat with me at the computer and picked out gifts for each other. When they came, they helped wrap them. It was so sweet to watch Faith’s face light up as she watched her big brother open the gift she picked out for him.

I love this because it teaches my children how to give good gifts and think of others. This year we didn’t have enough money in the budget for them to buy gifts for mom and dad, but my oldest used some of his own money to get gifts for Andrew and me. They were things we actually wanted. He has learned to watch and listen to see what people need. He has learned that giving gifts is as satisfying as getting them.

As far as Santa and Elf on the Shelf, I’ve tried to avoid them, partly because we didn’t do either one in my family of origin. I don’t like that Santa gets credit for the best gifts, and an Elf that goes around the house and makes more messes for me to clean up is insanity defined.

We dabbled in Santa with my boys, but when they figured it out, we decided not to attempt it with the girls. However Faith, my six-year-old drug me back into it this year and her older sister Hope (age 8) played along with her. They each got one gift from Santa, and the stockings were filled after the kids went to bed.

I’ve learned that inviting some close friends over for Christmas dinner in the evening is just right because by that time we are tired of each other, and we prefer to travel to Ohio at Thanksgiving so that we can have our own family traditions for Christmas at our house. Last night we had our own little candle-lighting service. My boys instinctively started humming “Silent Night” because that’s what we always sing at church.

From left to right: Faith, Hope, Kyle and Connor

It’s so rewarding as a mom to watch these traditions become a part of the fabric of our family. The kids did most of the decorating this year because the decorations always go in the same spot, and they know where to put them. When I am old and tired, they will carry on. When they start their own families, our traditions will help them enjoy the holiday as parents.

I’ve seen the reward of being intentional about these things. As a young mom, sometimes you wonder if the day will ever come. I’m here to tell you that it will. When it does, it’s very sweet and fulfilling to a momma’s heart.

 

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Two Worlds

Published July 30, 2013 by joypatton

A baseball game in July in Tennessee. An all black team versus an all white team playing for the World Series Championship. Two black umpires. LaVergne versus Brentwood. One loud crowd and one quiet. One with chants and cheers and one with jeers and golf claps. I hate it. I hate the bad calls. I hate the tension. I hate the division.

We are almost at the end of the first game, and we are losing badly. Another bad call, and the parents are complaining loudly. “Bad call! That was horrible!” And then I heard someone make it personal, “We know which side you are on.” The umpire warns our coach that if he can’t control the parents, he will get thrown out of the game. I hate it. The tension is too much. We should win this game because if we don’t, we have to play this team again with the same umpires. I don’t think I can do this again.

Faith brings me out of the tension by announcing that she has added a new friend to her club. Her name is Cora, and in a few minutes she is sitting in the shade of our tent. She’s an adorable black girl with pigtails, and these little girls have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world around them. They only see friends to play with. I smile and welcome her under our tent and ask her if her mom knows where she is. I’m reminded there is a bigger game to play than the one on the field.

We lose the first game and take a break before the next game. Some parents go to inquire about whether we can get new umpires for the second game, but there’s no resolution. The parents pace and stretch, and Connor sits under our tent trying to re-set for the next game. “Are you going to be able to put that game behind you?” asks one of the parents. “Yes, sir,” Connor replies.

Second game begins, and we come out swinging. For the other team, this is their third game in a row. Everyone is tired. Then they hit a homerun, and we slowly lose our lead. The chant comes from the other side, “Uh, oh…Stealers, Stealers. Uh, oh….Stealers, Stealers.” We clap a little harder and yell a little louder. We come back and tie, but in the next inning, they pull ahead. Connor throws fourteen pitches to end an inning, but the next one, he is tired. The coach pulls him after he hits his third batter with the ball. Another good hit, and they are ahead 12-8 going into the bottom of the fifth inning.

The moms can’t take it. We leave the stands and go for a walk. Two of the moms have walked down to the end of the fence and are smoking. Another mom is looking for a strong drink. One of the dads says he forgot his valium. We are all discouraged; some even turn on the coaches and on each other. Two of the moms can’t handle the tension and leave in a hurry before they start to say things they will regret. It’s ugly. I hate it. I find another conversation to distract me from the game for a few minutes.

Our boys held them in the top of the sixth. As they come to the dugout, we cheer for them and encourage them to stay in it and not give up. Even though in our hearts, we have mostly given up. But the boys have not given up. They hit the ball, the other team makes costly errors, and we are tied. Connor goes in as a sub runner on second. He makes it to third and watches for a chance to steal home. His chance comes when the catcher misses a wild pitch. Connor slides into home for the winning run. In minutes, the team piles on top of him.

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Both teams stand on the base lines for the award presentations. I linger for awhile and then head to the stands to start packing up. I didn’t know my proudest moment was yet to come. They called Connor’s name, and I stand to watch him. He heads toward the other team to congratulate them like his teammates before him. But before he gets to the coach and the team, he stops at the mommas standing on the field. I see my talk, lanky white son giving big bear hugs to each of those beautiful black women who have cheered their team on all day. Then he hugs the coaches and goes down the line congratulating the team. “Uh, oh…Patton, Patton. Uh, oh… Patton, Patton,” the women cheer.

Then I hear, “Where’s Connie’s momma? Which one is Connor’s mom?” These women have come looking for me, and I go out to the field to meet them. They embrace me with the same embrace they gave to Connor and tell me how they love my son and how sweet he is. We laugh and congratulate each other on a battle well-fought. It’s good for the boys to see. It’s good to leave it all on the field. They even try to teach me the cheer, so we can use it at Cooperstown. “Uh, oh…Sting, Sting. Uh, oh….Sting, Sting.” My husband assures them that I don’t have the rhythm for it, and I try to prove him wrong.

I walk off the field smiling. I’m so glad my kids don’t see color, that they understand so little of what the world used to be like. When we watched the movie “42,” it showed a world that seems so strange to them, so unfathomable the way that black people were treated. I’m so glad it’s 2013, and thankful for all the hard-fought battles that came before. Battles that allow black and white girls to be in the same clubs and teams to play on the same fields. So thankful for open hearts and open arms that take us in. My heart is full.

Good vs. Bad

Published July 16, 2013 by joypatton

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I’ve been realizing lately that I have two columns running through my head all day long. One column keeps all the good things I’ve done and one keeps all the bad. Mostly it’s good mom vs. bad mom. I have been realizing how often I tell myself I’m a bad mom in one form or another. (See last week’s post.)

For example, this morning started off with the good mom column. I spent time checking my kids “work boxes,” giving points for yesterday’s chores and loading them up with chores for the day. I even included “fun chores” like playing UNO Attack together. But this could turn out to be an item in the bad mom column if they actually attack each other during the game. You see, I’m a bad mom because I haven’t taught my children how to play together without fighting. Then at work I realized I didn’t have my phone within ear shot. Bad mom. Fortunately when I checked it, there were no urgent messages, so the work boxes must be working. Good mom.

This afternoon I came home and the girls wanted to go to the pool. But I couldn’t take them because I had to take Connor to the doctor. This is bad mom because I let him play in the woods, and he got poison ivy because I didn’t make him shower when he came in. Every time he gets poison ivy it takes over, and we can’t get rid of it until he gets a steroid prescription.  Bad mom.

While at the doctor’s, my dear husband texted to say he was taking the girls to the pool. Bad mom because he had to stop working to take care of the kids. When I got home, I made a good mom choice…I think. Andrew stayed at the pool with the kids and I mopped the floor. It could be bad mom for not choosing to spend time with the girls or it could be bad wife for not spending time with the husband.  But it could also be good wife because he came home to a clean house.

Tonight the boys went to a baseball game, so I was trying to find something fun to do with the girls. We decided to go to the mall and ride the little train. Bad mom for teaching my girls that shopping is what girls do for fun. Bad mom for not being content to spend the evening at home. Good mom for spending time with the girls.

When we got there, I had no cash. Bad mom. After the train ride, I let them pick the restaurant in the food court. Of course, it was pizza again. Bad mom. I picked the salad. Good choice. But also ate a big helping of pasta. Bad choice. I did have a diet Pepsi that I split with my daughter. Now this one could go in either column depending who you talk to. Bad for the caffeine and letting my daughter have it and that all diet drinks are just bad for you and you should just have water. Good because it was diet and had very few calories?? So confusing. I realized that pasta was a really bad choice when I went to try on clothes and everything made me look fat. Very bad choice.

Then we went to the playground at the mall. Good mom. And I just removed the sucker from my daughter’s mouth so as not to worry other moms that she would get a sucker stick through her brain. Good mom. But then again, I’m sitting here typing a blog instead of engaging with them. Bad mom.

Maybe your columns are different. maybe your day is measured by smart vs. dumb or cool vs. lame. Do you think that God keeps this kind of record of your day? If he did, would his record match yours?

As I have considered it, I think the answer to both of those questions is no. When God looks at me he doesn’t see two columns. He has no cosmic scale. When he looks at the chart of my day, the current of his thought is love. His abundant, free-flowing grace covers my day. His mercy is new every morning. He keeps no record of wrongs. It has all been forgiven. He is far more concerned with my heart because when my heart is turned toward him, the choices that matter fall into place. My heart turns toward him because of his great love for me, not because I’m trying to keep points in the good column. I also don’t avoid him because I’m afraid the bad column will bring his wrath, which is completely deserved. Instead I turn toward him because of his steadfast, everlasting love.

When I judge my day according to columns, it also affects those closest to me. They get columns too: good kid vs. bad kid, good husband vs. bad husband, good friend vs. bad friend. But when I learn to accept the grace and mercy God pours on my day, I am free to pour out grace and mercy on those around me. And they feel loved.

Consider this question: how many checks in the bad column could your child have before you stopped loving him or her? This is a ridiculous question because I simply can’t come up with a number. No matter how full the bad column was this good mom would always love her kid. So then if we know how to love our children in spite of poor choices, how much more does our Father in heaven?

I’m learning to replace two words, good and bad, with one word… LOVE. To receive it from the Father and to give it to others.

What are your columns today? Will you believe in and accept the Father’s love?

 

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