Monday, December 23, 2013

What a Gift

The anticipation is mounting.  I don't know about your kids, but my kids have Christmas radar that is unprecedented.  Sure, my 5 year old can count down days, but even my two year old seems to know it's imminent.

It's my favorite time of year.  I love everything Christmas is about.  I love the constant reminder of the miracle of Jesus.  I love the music and the shopping.  I love the giving.  I'm a merry ole St. Nick myself, making my list and checking it twice to ensure everyone is taken care.  Our Santa - he doesn't know naughty or nice - he knows grace, and that's a Santa I can respect.  I love the look of our kids faces on Christmas morning.  (More on this in a coming post.  I can hardly control my excitement!)  I'm like a little kid at Christmas... mostly because I have kids.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy unwrapping a package, feeling as if someone thought of me, the thrill of the unknown beneath the shiny, pretty paper.  But I'd also be lying if I said I remembered many of the gifts I'd been given.  Sure, I can look around and say, "Oh yeah, so and so gave me that for _____", but I couldn't make a grocery list of the loot I brought home last year.  Over the years, there's been a few gifts here or there that have stuck out to me.  I remember what Aaron gave me during our first Christmas as a couple, and of course I remember his proposing on my birthday.  I remember a ridiculous gift here or there, and one or two that left me feeling like 'why did you bother?', but all in all, it's one big blur of 29 Christmas' of stuff.  Stuff.

I can remember a few years ago, B was a newborn.  All I wanted for Christmas that year was a full night sleep.  I remember that, and I meant it something fierce.  Of course, that meant some other sorry soul would be sacrificing his / her said sleep to provide mine, but I need not one wrapped gift under the tree had someone been willing.

All of this came tumbling back through my brain the night of my birthday dinner last weekend.  The hubs and I, the kids and a friend were having dinner at a local restaurant.  Seated at a table next to us was an older couple, a younger couple, and a young couple with a newborn in a carseat.  No other kids, and the older couple seemed to be the parents of the two young couples.  It seemed to be a Christmas gathering.  (I've picked up some of my husband's people watching knack.)

Like clockwork, the moment the food hit the table, baby awoke in a fury, and I could see the exhaustion lace the face of the young dad.  And THAT is when it hit me -- this crazy urge to take that baby from that man, (whom I was sitting just a couple feet from), wish him a Merry Christmas and tell him to 'ENJOY your meal, man!'.  Because sometimes, that's just all you need or want in life.  Of course, we never articulate it because voicing your exhaustion must mean you don't love your kids as much.  At least, that's what it makes us feel like.  Especially for new parents.

Now I will mention, I somewhat shocked myself.  Normally, people want to take quiet sleeping babies and hand them back when they cry... I took it as another sign mine are growing up... taking a crying baby seems like a blessing at this point.

I mentioned my thought to my husband, who probably thought I was crazy, but he - oddly - understood my sentiment.  I mean, it's almost every time our food comes, we've prayed, and I have that first bite on my fork that A announces, "I need to potty."  Almost. Every. Time.  So we both get it, but still, there's something weird about a stranger asking, "Hey sir, why don't you let me hold your baby so you can eat your pasta before it gets cold."

Anyway - I'm making a short story longer than it needs to be.  Bottom line is, dad quickly jostled baby over to mom who whipped out her nursing cover and I knew my time was done before it had started. But the sentiment was there.  I would have held that baby.  I would have.

Fast forward to a few nights later and the newborn at a friends house started crying in his swing, like instinct I ran and scooped him up.  It was something about the challenge of soothing the crying child (who later needed his momma's necessities too, but I did calm him, by golly) and about the pleasure of loving on a baby.  I don't know, I still don't fully get it, but these back to back occurrences got me thinking.

Did I desperately, five years ago, need a full night sleep.  Yes.  It would have felt like my greatest gift at that point.  Today, though, my greatest gifts (aside from Jesus of course) sleep soundly in their beds at night.  They hug my neck and call me 'mommy' -- or 'mom' sometimes, which is okay, but not near as fulfilling for some reason.  I've just been overwhelmed with this sense of thankfulness for them lately.  At the end of the day when I am flat. out. spent. and I know I need to get A up one last time to potty before bed, I relish in that sweet limp little body pressed against mine in the fifteen steps from her bed to the bathroom and back again.  I love whispering to her, again, that I love her, knowing she'll never hear it, but feeling satisfied that my thankfulness for her is expressed through it.  And lately, when my not quite so little anymore boy comes and crawls up next to me and nestles in... my heart quite literally aches for the love and thankfulness that I feel... and my throat swells as I look at him and see how fleeting time is.

Gifts.  You know, I just thought five years ago the best gift ever would be a full night of sleep.  The real gift was the reason for the need for the full night of sleep.  (Not that I wouldn't have taken the sleep itself...)

People keep telling us to cherish every moment and to not blink, and I would say, I'm heeding that advice with every breath of my being and trying to fill each moment with love and with a thankfulness that these will be the days that I will one day long for again.  May I never feel as if "I'd missed them."

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Shift in Perspective

It doesn't take long after having kids that you begin to realize how like you they really are.

Maybe for some that is a good thing.

I'll be honest, at my grandma's funeral many of my extended family had a chance to see the darling daughter of mine, some for the first time.  After two years of hearing, "She looks JUST like her daddy," it was a blessed thing to hear, "She looks just like YOU did at her age."  Because, sometimes, you want to be more than just her avenue into the world.

But that is neither here nor there.

As far as appearances go, I'm sure I'm more than a little bit biased, and I believe both of my children are gorgeous, but what parent doesn't?

The likeness that I'm talking of here is the other kind of likeness.  Those little personality traits that you carry that make you up and characterize you, that your kids either pick up or inherit genetically.   Don't ask me on the science behind it.  All I know is I have two distinctly different children that somehow both tend to possess some of my most wretched qualities.

B.  He's a worrier.  That's all there is to it.  This child will express concern if we take a road he's not familiar with from point a to our destination.  He overthinks everything.  He can't perform well in high pressure situations.  Even if that is just a routine eye test at the doctors office.  (Did I mention that I HATE having my eyes checked at the dmv?  Blast! The pressure!)

Add into the mix that he's recently become very... I say it again... very effected by words, and that, my friends, is a recipe for me.  And not the me that I want to pass on... the me I wish wouldn't have existed... especially as a child.

I want his heart to be light, his step to have pep, his world to seem easy right now.  There's plenty of worries to come, plenty of stress to be had.  But not now.  I want him to simply be a little boy.

And A.  It may be best to describe her going at an opposite angle.  When I was pre - school age my mom quit working... completely because I could not handle daycare.  I mean, I could not handle it.  I cried day in and day out.  Drop off was intense for everyone.  I can remember the sickness I felt in my stomach.  I can remember the despair and urgency I felt as she stepped through the door.  Mom had it, I had it.  She was done, and I never went back to daycare.

A needs me.  As in, can't control her emotion, can't think logically, can't completely function, when she fears she's fittin' to be left.  It's exhausting.  It also used to be very frustrating.  I'd become mad, like I didn't understand, and then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks.  She is me.  This was me.  And I understood for the first time.

And that broke my heart.  I'm going on 29 years old and can remember the fear I felt of being left.  I handled the emotion better as an elementary schooler, but still worried that something would happen and I'd never see her again.  Is this something my own daughter will carry with her?  I've been banking on her not remembering this... but I do!  To say that I hurt for her is an understatement, and I've found myself trying to be more understanding.  More compassionate.  More caring.

The worst thing my mom could have done at that moment in my life would have been to discipline me harshly.  Even when it feels like a battle of wills, it was a feeling of abandonment and fear that I could not control.  Reassurance and love covered a great deal of my heart at that time, and for a mother who was often honest, blunt, and to some degree strict, she knew the battle was not against my will, but my heart, and could not be won with harshness.

Add on top of A's separation that she is even more effected by words than her brother, and you have me in a little nutshell.  Words pierce her deeply.  Tone pierces her deeply.  Physical rejection pierces her deeply.  And I can totally relate.

And I just want to love them and I wish I could change them to be carefree and bubbly, to throw off from themselves the cares of the world.

And in some ways they do.  A is the comic relief our family desperately needed.  B the athlete and 'spunk', if you will.  Spunk and sass... we have them both.  I think they get both from their dad.  The good traits.

*whine alert*
And here I sit, 29, ok, almost.  As if being utterly and ashamedly aware of your own junk isn't hard enough, seeing it characterized through your children is almost unbearable.  You deal with it for you, and you hurt about it for them.  And it makes it worse in your own life.

There's a healthy balance of being able to see the good and bad in ones self, and to be honest, I've never really seen that.  It's true, if there's any good you see in me, it's Jesus, and if there's any bad, that's me.  And from my perspective, I feel like people see a whole very lot of me and not any of Jesus.  The enemy has a way of reinforcing this in area after area of my life, even when the 'good' become evident, they are usually product of the bad.  (Even when I'm asked to say something good about myself, it comes out like, "I don't worry as much as I used to."  This is how I'm used to being complimented.)

And I fear this for my kids.  I fear that the enemy will feed these lies to them.  They are easily consumed, easily believed, and very... very difficult to conquer.

My prayer is that I will be the one speaking truth in their lives, that God has made them uniquely, wonderfully, specially, and that I see Him in them.  Not just when A doesn't cry when being dropped off, or when B chooses to trust rather than ask questions, but when there little smiles light up the day of their friends, or when they choose to share because they want to, or when they show loyalty and grace to others.  May I always be their biggest cheerleaders, not so they don't see their sin.  I'm sure I'll have to show them that a time or two as well.  But God is the convictor, and the world will magnify their shortcomings.  May I remind them of the Him that they possess.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Great Loss

October 26th was the date of my last blog.  I was immersed in Cardinal baseball.  I was praying, quite literally, over a little boy to not be sick for the huge weekend we had coming up.  (Consisting of a fall fest at school, a fall fest for church, a 5K family run / walk, his last baseball game for the season, game party, birthday shopping for Cowboy boots, friends coming over, with the finale being his birthday party.  Phew.  I'm tired just writing it.)

Anyhow.  Life was banking along. Maybe moving so fast I failed to really see it.

On October 30th I talked with my mom again on the phone.  Her mom was in the hospital... again. This has been a going trend since May.  In and out.  Good and bad.  But never that bad.  Turns out she'd had a minor heart attack earlier in the week, probably due to the fact that her heart wasn't keeping rhythm and was just getting worn out.  The agenda for the next day was to physically 'shock' her heart back into rhythm.  Mom had left the hospital feeling better about the procedure than she had in the months prior.  There had been talks of doing this for some time.  Grandma was in good spirits when she left, with her last remark being that she was sad she couldn't be home to scare all of the kids on Halloween.  The woman loved her holidays.  Especially Christmas.

I passively said on the phone to my mom that night, "Mom, she'll be next."  We both knew what I meant, but as much as I meant it, I didn't expect the phone call at 6:30 the next morning saying she was gone.  To be honest, I wouldn't have expected that a year... or two... from now.

It all happened so fast.  Out of the blue she had severe back pain and no feeling in her legs.  After that she flat lined.  They brought her back twice before my mom could get to the hospital.  Her body was functioning, but she was gone, as my mom and uncles waited... for five hours... for her to go on.

It was Halloween.

The series of events that follows is a whirlwind.  I had school that day to function through.  Trying to know the right thing to do and the thing you want to do at a time where you can't really function anyway, all while being 700 miles away.  That's hard.  Especially when it's unexpected.  Especially when the weekend is supposed to unfold as previously mentioned.  Especially when your five year old's birthday is coming.  I was heartbroken, longed to be with my mom, and confused.

Once we had decided that we were going back come hail or high water, the hubs got rear ended in the car we were supposed to drive back only an hour or so before we were scheduled to leave.  It was also the little man's birthday.  The funeral was only 36 hours away.  Hubs was fine, car was not.  (We would find out later it was totaled.)

I went to bed with a pounding headache that night and no idea what the next day would hold.  A couple hours of talking and $450 for a rental car later, and we were on the road.

We literally made it to the steps of my parents house in time to change clothes and get back in the car to go the cemetery.  A cremation and an intimate graveside service was all she wanted.

I felt blank.  No chance to see her again.  Just a friggin' pot sitting there where at least a casket should be.  All I can think of is the last hug I gave her at those same steps at my parents house months earlier, along with a promise that the next time we went back we'd drive over to her apartment to see her.  This was not in the cards.

My mom held up ok, until the pastor handed her a rose from grandma's spray.  The kids sat on her lap the entire time.  She needed them.

I stood out from under the tent, still utterly shocked that we were doing this.  Ladybugs were everywhere.  Kamikaze ladybugs.  Flying into you like mad, sticking to all of your surfaces.  The infestation of these things were even on the front page of the paper that contained her obituary.  Fitting.
And as mom cried, and I cried, I realized something, my mom had lost her best friend on this earth. The only person who has always been there for her... always.  Her confidant, her listening ear, the crying shoulder... all in that urn.

We spent the week going through paperwork, running errands that no person should have to worry about in their grief, going through every piece of jewelry the woman owned (and it was a lot).  We laughed about that jewelry and about her crazy colors of finger nail polish.  Apparently she'd been complimented on her blazing blue polish in the hospital the day before she died.

She loved to dress up.

She loved shoes.

She loved jewelry.

She loved food.

She loved Jesus.  She was the first person I talked to about Him.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I can remember all of the weekends spent at their house, playing in their yard.  I have this whole collection of holiday memories.  I can remember her laugh.  She had the greatest laugh ever.  She, my mom and I would do these shopping days where we'd go all day and have lunch and hit every store our feet would carry us in.  I'm so thankful for those times.

She went with us to pick out my wedding dress.  She liked one, mom liked the other.  I chose hers.  I'm so glad I did.

And the week passed, and turns out we had to drive two cars 11 hours back to Texas.  And the sweet hubs knew I just needed some time.  And he led.  And I followed.  And for the first time... really... I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  I kept watching the clock thinking it would stop, and it would, for moments here and there, but for the most part, I cried the entire way home.  I needed it.  I needed to think on the good times and mourn the loss.

But mostly, I spent time despairing in the fact that my kids won't have the same relationship with their Gaga that I did with my grandma.  11 hours pretty much prevents any random shopping trips and weekend sleepovers.  I cried for myself, who can't stop by my grandma's anymore... but can't even stop by my mother's when I want to, just because.  And she's living.  But she won't always be.

Like I said... I cried.

I think about her often each day... and have tried to be in contact each day.  She's struggling with not being able to pick up the phone to call her mom.  I'm going to take advantage of being able to do that for as long as I can.

And each day that goes by is different.  Some days are hard.  Some days are easier.  Some I really can't stand the distance between my mom and I.  Some days I can't help but hug on my own kids a little bit more.  All in all... I'm discovering that life will never be the same... it's a new kind of normal that's going to have to happen... and the process is going to be slow and somedays it is going to be painful...

One thing is for sure, I have been able to appreciate the loved ones in my life more.  I know that they, or I, won't be here forever... like this... to call on the phone whenever I want.  Maybe I'll be a little more apt to make phone calls...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I've Learned a Lot from the Cardinals... I Never Thought It'd Go Here

Some love us, some hate us.  Regardless, we're talked about.  It's created such attention, that articles are being written on whether this phenomenon really exists, on whether players are choosing to play for St. Louis because of the fans.

Before I continue - you really should read the article that prompted this post.  Go ahead, go read it here. If you don't have time, I understand.  It is somewhat lengthy, and at times I wondered what direction the author was going to go with it.

To sum it up, the author's point is that fans of the St. Louis Cardinals are different.  

Considered a dirty word in some contexts, this particular valuation of being different has a positive connotation.  Here are just a couple of the {easily discerned} qualities of the normal St. Louis Cardinal fan.  (I'll heed, as he did, this by no means covers all Cardinal fans, but by far the majority.)

  • Cardinal fans are loyal.  They show up in droves for games.  They deck out in attire always.  The off-season only indicates a lack of play, not a lack of devotion.  I'll add, from a personal perspective, that they don't have to live in or near St. Louis to express this loyalty.  It really surpasses geography and is done so quite easily. 
  • Cardinals fans think on the Cardinals.  Though often unprompted, Cardinal fans think on baseball often.  They mention Cardinal baseball in everyday, unrelated conversations.  It comes up in hotel lobbies, in the airport, in restaurants, at work, etc.  Read the article above.  The author writes that weeks after the 2011 World Series concluded, in a commute in St. Louis his driver, when asked how he was doing, replied that he was just worried about the fate of Albert Pujols. Seasons over.  Winter is setting in.  Baseball is still on the brain.  More specifically, a certain player is on the brain.  Which brings me to my next item:
  • Players become family.  Geesh, fans become family.  It's like one big, ole happy family reunion at Cardinal games.  (Yes, a happy family reunion.  Who woulda' thought?!)  Fans know their players.  Sure, they know their histories and their stats, what real fan doesn't?  But they also know their passions, their charities, their roots.  We are interested in where they came from and where they are going.  We have to know these things.  We really want to care for our players. And we all know, the dreaded trades happen and beloved family members take off the family crest for the last time.  No matter.  Once in, adopted in for life.  Once ours, ours forever.  Ask Skip Schumaker how he felt when given a standing ovation during the NLCS when he was playing as a Dodger.  I need not mention that the standing ovation was given in Busch Stadium, by Cardinal fans.  It's expected here.  That's what we love about it.  That's what makes it so easy to be a fan.  
  • Play for another team?  No worries.  Cardinal fans make it easier to play in an opponents stadium.  Also mentioned in the article,  Cardinal fans, for all intents and purposes, don't boo.  Now, I'll admit I've been to many-a Cardinal games in my lifetime, and though I've never heard an entire stadium boo, I have heard some grumbling, but as I sit here and think of it, the circumstances surrounding the grumbling are often the same.  Pitch. The. Ball.  The runner at first,  yeah, you don't have Yadi behind the plate, so if he's going to go, he's going to go.  We aren't known for stealing all that often anyway.  Stop checking the runner.  Seriously.  Ahem. But overall, no booing.  And that's to be commended.  All of this can be summed up in one word: Respect.  Fans respect players.  Even opposing players. 
  • And lastly, they tend to be humble.  Don't get me wrong, there are some arrogant Cardinal fans out there.  They are probably the same ones booing or shouting at someone at a game.  I'm just saying.  But otherwise, Cardinals fans have a unique way of passionately loving their team, voicing it, wearing it... dare I say... living it without seeming arrogant.  Sure, we rejoice at winning, as any fan would.  Sure, we enjoy being called by others "the greatest fans in baseball", but for the most part, it's not something we brag about as much as it's something we enjoy in... not the title... the camaraderie and the passion.  

And here is where I make or break the article for most of you.  As I finished reading the linked article above... I felt conviction.  Major, gut wrenching, cut through to the heart conviction.  Not because I lack any of the above listed qualities in relation to the Cardinals.  I bear those well.  

But on the bigger scale, how many of us who claim to be Christians share the above qualities?  I mean, shouldn't this be what we look like?  Shouldn't we be loyal and faithful, not only on Sunday or when our lives are going great, but everyday?  Win or lose?   Shouldn't we be vocal?  Are the things of God often rolling from our lips?  Or are we silent?  Do we come off as a family?  Do we find camaraderie in our common denominator?  Do we relish in our relationships?  Do we mourn together and rejoice together?  Is our love for Christ something that brings us together despite our differences?  The Cardinal fans have that figured out.  

Do we live out our lives in such a way that we aren't loudly booing those who aren't on our side.  I'll be honest... I've grown a great love for the Cardinals team.  Trust me, I know stats and players like I never thought I'd know.  But the Cardinal franchise wasn't what drew me to the Cardinals as a young girl.  The Cardinal fans were.  They taught me how to be classy, how to be a loyal fan through wins and losses, how to treat opponents, how to give credit where credit is due.  They are vocal, but their actions make them... well... different.  The above article is spot on.  

How are we Christians doing at that?  

Would the world say we're humble?  Or would they say they are arrogant and rude?  

These are real questions we need to be asking.  

And I'm not promoting that by accomplishing all of these things we eliminate the haters.  Just as the author mentioned, many people hate the Cardinals, many people hate the fans.  

But what about people like the author?  What about those who see something different and enjoy it?  Think about the difference it could make.  Is this the reputation the new testament told us we should guard?  I think it's a part, for sure.  The way we love... God and others... should be evident.  

God and baseball are closer together at this point of mine then I've ever thought they would be.  All I know is this:  I'm fortunate to be a part of what is considered to be the greatest fans in baseball.  Being a part of that group has taught me a lot about class in athletics.  Today, it's taught me a lot about how I should carry that out in a much larger aspect of my life.  

Monday, October 21, 2013


There used to be a time in my life when words came easy.  Words come easy for me at hard times. They well up in my soul and spill over.  There's a reason an entire book of poetry rushed out of me during my senior year of high school.  It was hard, ya'll.  I felt like everything stable had been ripped from me.  I hurt, but I rejoiced.  My writing was my healing, and I sat in front of a flashing cursor every. single. day.  For hours.  It felt great.

I've had many an aspiration to write a great American novel... or, just a book that gets purchased and read.  In the season I'm in, however, time is fleeting, and the time has just not come.  Where words once came easy, words now seem so difficult.  My words consist of, "Was that a good choice?' and "No, we can't have a snack before dinner."  Words are practical, not poetic.  They are purposeful, not beautiful. At least, that has been my perception.

Many times I've longed for that edge back.  I've longed for the words to flow from me as they did in years before, with ease and fluidity.  I long for that short poetic phrase to erupt in my mind that causes me to put down all else and write line after line around it.

Rarely does it happen.

But last night, the words came.

Let me preface with saying, first, that I've reached a monumental milestone in my life as a mother.  This may seem menial to many of you.  You must realize, it is not for me.  With my youngest (and more than likely last) child nearing *gulp* three and hitting milestone after milestone, I'm putting a lot of things away.  No more cribs, no more diapers, no more size 2t clothing (yeah, she's huge), no more calling her 'baby' ("I a big girl, mommy"), and the list goes on.  Believe it or not, I've fared well with these.  The realization that stopped me in my tracks:  I've more than likely bought my last box of Cheerios.  Ok, not in the sense that we'll never eat Cheerios again, but in the sense that this staple of a 'finger - food' is no longer a necessity in my pantry.  Ans hasn't been in a high chair in many, many months, and we've totally passed the place of them wanting dry cereal for breakfast, or Cheerios at all for that matter.  So the other day when I was making my grocery list and I noticed the Cheerios were all but out, as I was going to write it on my list I thought, "I don't really need these."  And it hit me.  Like a ton of falling bricks.  For the first time in 4.5 years, we are out of the Cheerio stage.

It was a series of events after that where I caught myself thinking, "I can't wait until..." and I found myself catching my thought mid-sentence and changing it, "I'm so thankful she's still...".   It's amazing how your perspective changes.

Secondly - this is rough.  It's literally the first poem I've written in... years.  It's choppy, unedited, and doesn't exactly have a cadence I love at the moment, but it's what poured from my heart last night.  Be easy on me.  Here it is:

Leaves on a Windy Day
A time for all things - 
Plenty tasks to be done, 
But my heart longs and wanders
for the season to come.
The groanings of labors
and untimely deeds
leaves my soul rushing forward,
No warning it heeds,
To days far ahead
where we can coast on with ease.

And they pass. Seasons change. 
Leaves on a windy day. 

Yet new seasons, new struggles,
New longings and pain,
And just a glimmer of wishing 
things could still be the same
of a day in past seasons,
But now I look on
to just a stage, just a day 
to get this day gone
and see what new things 
lie ahead and along. 

And they pass.  Seasons change.  
Leaves on a windy day. 

And fleeting and flying 
are the days that go past.
And I taste and I savor ALL seasons,
At last!
But not without longing
and wishing for days
that I'd squandered, rejected, 
and wished far away.
And now I can see
the mistake that I've made.
The days I'd wished through,
The days now gone past,
Are the days that I missed
that I now want to last!
And the mist rises slowly,
but just in a flash...

They pass.  Seasons change. 
We are leaves on a windy day.
Don't wish it away. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Explaining Grace

A sweet little boy waited patiently for me to tuck his sister in last night to come and kiss him goodnight. I tucked the comforter in underneath his buried little form and kissed his pink little cheeks (note to self: just because the temperature drops, sunscreen is still vital).  I nonchalantly asked him if daddy had prayed with him, to which he replied, 'Yeah,' and proceeded to tell me for what he had prayed. Namely, he'd prayed to thank God that we had chose to show him grace in allowing him to go to his baseball practice, though he'd disobeyed us during his nap-time.

Nap-time can be frustrating, for sure.  For him, he's required an hour worth of a quiet time each day, except for the days that we strongly feel that he needs a nap.  It's those days he tends to disobey the most, and he's out of bed 100 times before the initial hour is up.  It's frustrating, to say the least, but we are well aware that as our baby boy nears *gulp* FIVE his napping days may be nearing an end.  

Still, after the one hundred and fortieth time (ok, maybe that is a slight exaggeration), of him being up, we'd had it, and when we finally let him come down (and sit in time out), his only question was, "Are you going to show me grace and let me go to my ball practice?"

Now, let me just tell you, there's something about the expectation of the extension of grace that makes me want to cancel a whole SLEW of his ball practices.  Grace is unmerited, and not to be expected.
Which, indeed, is what makes it grace.  

Ultimately, lucky little man got to go, with the result of that being his prayer of thanks to the Lord.

It's amazing the things you learn out of the mouths of babes.  I've always felt that teaching something is one of the best ways to learn it yourself.  Last night was no different.

After he had told me about his prayer, I felt compelled to explain to him that the only reason we are able to show him grace is because, ultimately, we have been shown grace in a much greater form that it is our joy to extend it to others.

I told him that his mommy and daddy have done many bad things that have made God sad and unhappy with us, just like we were sad and unhappy with him for getting up from his nap.   I explained that those bad things completely separated us from God and meant that we couldn't be with Him in heaven when we die, but that He loved us so much, and wanted so badly for us to be with Him, that He sent Jesus to take our punishment so that He could extend us grace and allow us to be in Him with Heaven some day, much like we allowed B to attend his baseball practice, except that God's grace to us was much much more than the grace that we could ever show B.  It's because of the grace God chose to show us that we find joy in extending grace ourselves.

I finished by telling him that, one day, when God saves him, he will want to extend grace and forgive people who hurt him or make him sad, because he'll understand how much God had forgiven him.

My prayer is that we are providing real learning examples of God's love for our kids by expressing that love to them through our disciplining and parenting them.  Ultimately, they should experience God's grace and love through us as Christians who have been saved by a gracious and merciful God whom we have sinned outwardly against.

May I never forget, even in those moments of frustration, that the sin of my children will never be greater than my own sin against the Father, and that each extension of grace is a sweet breath from the Father to my children, beckoning them to Himself.  May I also remember that, even now, I find myself looking up to heaven asking the Father, as I sit in my filth, "Are you going to show me grace?" and that, though it should not be abused, the Father's grace is limitless, His mercy is great.  

May we love others with the same love we've been shown.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Romans 1:7 - The Read Over Verse I Couldn't Get Past

So as I laid down to read my Bible last night, and prayed for God to give me eyes to see and wisdom to understand His word, I nestled in to the book of Romans.

My normal reading experience is one chapter per night, normally giving me enough time to study and pray through the material.

Last night shouldn't have been any different.  Romans 1 isn't a long chapter, but I couldn't get past verse 7.  Like, couldn't. get. past. it.  Trust me, I'm a girl about getting things done, and so I kept on reading, but I heard nothing, understood nothing.  One word kept resonating in my mind:  Shalom.

In essence, I didn't even make it past the greeting.  Verse 7 reads:

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And when I read through my study notes, one line tinged my heart, "peace is not just the lack of conflict."  It goes on to say that the word is 'shalom', which is a peace about all things.  

Lord, the conviction.  

As a Christian, I have the potential to experience shalom in all places of my life.  

You know, when the lovely daughter is shrieking her pretty little head off because she doesn't want to leave bub's baseball game?  Shalom is possible. 

Or the many nights I've lost sleep over finances?  Shalom.

Or how would we ever get almost 300 chairs set back up after an event in our worship center?  Shalom.  
Or the 'right' way to discipline the kids... 

Or what is going to be for dinner tonight... 

Or the uber stressful change in the schedule... 

Or when are these floors EVER going to get clean?!?!

Shalom.  Shalom.  Shalom.  

Apparently, I feel like the glue that is supposed to hold all of these things together.  I feel I have enough control on these things to manage them.  Failures are mine, but successes are too. 

But didn't Jesus say to drop everything to follow him?  I'm sure it meant more than just physically.  I'm sure the disciples had to drop many of their worries and concerns, and cast them aside, in order to focus and follow Jesus.  

Jesus later promises that if we bring our burdens to Him, He will give us rest.  


There's a great bit of a sigh of relief in that word.  And it's not just the physical, "I just need 5 more minutes, God," kind of rest.  It's the 'God's got this, stop your worrying, you need just OBEY kind of rest.'  And it is good.  

So I guess, tonight, I'll continue on in verse 8, and try to keep in mind that the Lord Jesus is offering me rest...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

You Come Back, Mommy?

About four months ago my sweet little girl started separation anxiety at a level I've never experienced.

Every time dropping her off for church or small group became a very real, gut - wrenching battle.  Her tears and cries were not that of a fit - throwing toddler, but of a very, very scared little girl who reached desperately for me as I handed her off.  (Luckily 99 / 100 of the check-in workers are sweet friends who have bared with me and loved on me through this.)

Though it was never easy to leave her crying, there was solace knowing only moments after I left she was able to be consoled.  Still, I couldn't shake the desperation she felt.

Then school started.

Our preschool has two 2-year old classrooms, separated by age.  Technically, by three days, sweet girl should be in my class, but it was agreed by all that would probably never work.  Instead, she resides right next door.  In fact, we share a bathroom.  And a chapel time.  And a playground time.  And to say that many days we encounter each other several times would be an understatement.  To say that each time the separation is much more difficult than the first would also be an understatement.  Each time she was more difficult to console.  Each time the desperation seemed greater.

Last Tuesday I broke down.  It was lunchtime, and I had nine children in my class and a sub as a co-teacher (an experienced pre-k teacher whom I worked with last year, who was also sweet girl's teacher last year, so I was thankful).  We had just come in from playground and then had gone to wash hands, both of our classes, in the large bathrooms.  Two moments of separation in a very short time period.   As I walked my class back into their room I could hear her weeping in her classroom, and it continued and continued and continued.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't think.  All I could do was hear her crying out... wanting me, and me, in the next room, unable to do anything.

I held the tears back for a moment, and then our director, a sweet sweet friend, walked to my door to check on me.  (The whole school, more than likely, could hear the crying child, and our director knows her cry as well as I do.)  And the tears came.  And I wept, on the other side of that one thin wall, with the shrieking little girl in the next room.

I had a talk with my sweet two year old that night, and all it took was one phrase, "I always come back, baby," I told her.  She repeated me, "You always come back, mommy?"  I could hear the question in her voice and see the quiver in the lip... the tears in her eyes.  I reassured her, "Yes, baby, I will come back for you."

This has become a mantra for us.  She will fight back tears, her little quivering lip, being strong and big, and she'll look at me with big blue eyes and say, maybe a little more assuredly each time, "You come back, mommy!"

Tuesday, we got by with {almost} no tears.  And we will take that, friends.

And the Lord whispers.  God tends to continually break me in ways I don't foresee.  This battle, that is still very much raging, has been hard and long and uncomfortable, but in it I've felt this little desperation in myself growing up, a little flame flickering wondering the exact same thing as my daughter, "Daddy, you come back for me? Abba?"  Me, like my little girl, questioning the faithfulness of my Father.

I'm reminded of the strong, faithful promise of our Lord Jesus saying He will come back for us someday, and is with us now.

What a reminder, even when my babies feel alone, I'm always there, I'm always overseeing, and I always, always come back.  How I wish I could express this to them!  How I wish they could understand that I'd fight and give and die for them without a moments thought!

And how much greater is God's love for me!  And how much stronger is God's Word than mine!  He is faithful.  He is good.  His words are true, and even more than me with my own precious children, God is reassuring, "I'm coming back, baby, and I'm closer than you even know, now.  Trust me."  

I, just like my sweet girl, wrestle with the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the one I love, my protector, the one I desperately plead for, not realizing He's. always. right. there.

He's always right there.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Great Need

I've been a Christian for just at fourteen years.  There have been a lot of hills and valleys in my experience.  I've celebrated and shouted from the mountain tops.  I've wept bitterly and cried out desperately when God has felt distant.  My perspective has also changed on some things as I've grown and studied God's word.

The latter led me into uncharted waters, into a place where I could not control my own destiny, into a place where my choice becomes insignificant, or better, no choice at all.  To say it bluntly, God used His word to reform my life and faith, humbling me quickly and bringing me to the realization that there was NOTHING I could do to earn God's favor or forgiveness.  I could not even choose to accept it apart from Him. 

Let me tell you, folks.  This was hard.  Everything I read in the Bible affirmed my new suspicions, but with each affirmation came a gamete of hard questions.  

  • So, since I was not reformed at my salvation, am I saved?
  • Did God really choose me?  (It's obvious I had relied on my own works in the process for a long period of time.) 
  • What about John 3:16 and God loving the world? 
  • So God really DOES choose people for hell?  
And the list goes on.  But even above the questions circling my own salvation, one question left me with many... dare I say it again... many sleepless nights, and it was:
  • But what about my kids?  Does that mean I have no control over their decision?  
Because somewhere in my mind I felt if we read enough scripture together, did enough Bible studies, walked through church doors, served in enough ministries, prayed together enough and worshipped together in our home, I COULD SAVE OUR CHILDREN.  

It's a heavy load.  But I tend to do better when I have control.  Or at least I thought I did.  

And then my oldest, almost 5, rocked my world.  He's obedient, overall well behaved, fun, good spirited, and sweet, but more and more and more we were seeing a characteristic come out in him that scared me:  he has a very hard time trusting.  

It came out everywhere.  In the car, if he knew where we were going, but we had chosen to go a way unfamiliar to him, he heavily doubted that we knew how to get him there.  Upon promise after promise by us to not let him fall (riding his bike, monkey bars, hanging upside down, you name it), he'd doubt us and cry until it was over (in which he'd then express great joy).  He's a 'what if' asker, even if the answer is certain.  Trusting does not come easy for him.  Nor does it for me (obviously, hence my salvation questions listed previously).  

And one day, when we were in the car, traveling yet again to a known destination on an unknown path, he questioned us multiple times on if we really knew how to get there, and it occurred to me.  

There is not a thing I could do to convince this child to be in the faith.  There's not enough scripture to be read, enough worship songs to be sung, not enough prayers to be said at the table that would encourage him, in and of themselves, to trust in the Lord Jesus.  

Now, these aren't bad things, and these things may very well be utilized in bringing him to faith, but ultimately, the Lord must bring him to faith.  HE must do the work.  He must make the blind see.  He must heal the lame.  

I cannot. 

And for the first time, in the car that day, I became ever so thankful that his salvation doesn't rest on my shoulders.  Me, a sinner, a failure, a mere mortal.  To have control over any one person's eternity would be ridiculous.  There is freedom in not having the control I so desperately thought I needed.  

The husband and I decided that, should the Lord choose to save our kids, and we pray urgently and passionately that He does and He does quickly, that we will know for certain that it will be nothing shy of a miracle from God.  

After all, there are those of us who don't trust easily and don't rely on others well, and when God can bring us into a faith and trust in Him that leads us to confidence and assurance in our faith, well, that is something that only God can do.  He satisfies that one great need. 

Praying, anticipating and pleading for salvation - 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lots and Lots of Open Tabs

Have you ever heard people say they are so busy that they are afraid things may start falling through the cracks?

Or have you seen the e-card on pinterest that explains that a woman's brain is like 4,279 tabs open in a browser window?

That's been my life lately.

I'm just a bit overwhelmed.

But I'm thankful.  I'm thankful for opportunities.  I'm thankful for a job in which I get to see both of my kiddos sporadically throughout the day.  I'm thankful for a house that may be in a little more disarray than I'd like, but provides a roof over our head.  I'm thankful that we've been eating better, even if it does take longer.  I'm thankful for every minute I get to watch B play baseball, even if Tuesdays and Thursdays are our most difficult days.

I'm overwhelmed, but I'm thankful for it.  I'm thankful for the blessing that is children, family, church, income, faith, and service.

And so - since I've been a wee bit overwhelmed, here's a brief overview of where we've been:

Our lovely female offspring has been having some separation anxiety in pretty much every realm of life: church, school, and bed.  What had been increasingly frustrating bedtimes I'm now trying to combat with lots of love, a cuddle session with a story, and an open door policy.  The policy being as long as she stays in bed, her door can remain open.  These tactics come after many miserably failed attempts at a sticker chart (which worked beautifully for potty training), a new doll, many scoldings, lots of different items / activities taken away, etc.

It was in this process the other night that I truly believe the Lord convicted and brought to my mind my own childhood... in which my parents had to put me to sleep on the couch and carry me to my room.  It's the only way I could sleep, and they showed me grace.

In other news, B is baseball playing again.  I think I'd be fine if this was the only sport he ever played, though I'm sure he would do fine in others, and I would enjoy them equally as well.  It's just so... enjoyable.

School has started again, and I'm ready to be 'in the swing of it' again.  Besides, that, it's been well so far!

We are on a healthy eating lifestyle, as a family, which hopefully that accountability will put us on it 'for good'.  We are taking a cheat day a week for the sake of giving ourselves a little leeway.  Let me just say, as sick as my Steak n Shake made me feel today... I'm not sure I care if I ever eat again...

And I'm considering becoming a coffee drinker.  I know, I know, not something you convince yourself to do, but all of this water, and the need for caffeine, and my new love for Starbucks, I'm hoping I can create something (easily and quickly) at home that will be extremely low cal and a good way to start the day.

I just read through the book of Ruth in my study time.  I also 'restarted' a journey notebook, something to write my prayers and struggles, the things I'm thankful for, where I'm reading, and what God is teaching me.  I've found it makes me more attentive.  It makes me apply what I've read more.  And I've grown a renewed love for Ruth.  I mean, really.  How many women marry a man, he dies, and she sticks with her mother-in-law to the extent of traveling to an unfamiliar land and serving to keep them both afloat.  Of course, we know that God provides perfectly for Ruth and Naomi, but to watch Ruth's 'fruit of the spirit' play out throughout the entire book (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control).  The patience alone that Ruth showed the night at the threshing floor, waiting for Boaz to wake.  I'd be a nervous wreck.  I can't lie next to the hubs for any period of time before I feel the need to wake him.  I've been blessed by her story.

And thus, it is 'fall' (read: I hear the temperatures are cooling and even leaves are changing in OTHER parts of the country.)  I love everything about fall.  Granted, here in the south we don't get much fall... but I'm more than ready to relish in it when it gets here.

And yes, I'm counting down days until Christmas.  And yes, I do have half my Christmas shopping done :)

Until next time -

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Who Is the Woman at the Well?

John chapter 4 is a powerful reminder of the Savior's pursuant heart towards those He has loved and called.  It's a beautiful picture of God meeting us right where we are, in the muck and mire of sin, shame, loneliness.

The Samaritan woman walked to the well in the mid of the day, not because she enjoyed a good work out in the heat, but because she knew her reputation and chose to go at a time when she wouldn't be forced into any awkward social experiences.  This time, a man was there, and He wasn't a Samaritan man.

The fact that He even spoke to her was astounding.  They were of different cultures, classes and genders.  But He didn't just speak to her.  No, He asked her for a drink, and then He offered her living water, full knowing who she was and the reputation and burden of sin that she carried.

He challenged her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." She responded that she had no husband.  He then blew her sandals off by basically saying, "Yeah, no kidding.  You've had five husbands and the guy you are with now isn't even your husband."

Hello, large elephant in the room.

It was at that moment that He dealt with her shame and her sin by calling it immediately out into the open.

Then - He offered her living water.  He called her unto Himself.  Right in the thick of her circumstances, sin, blindness and rebellion, He pursued her!

Miley Cyrus walked onto a stage a few nights ago - whom, may I remind you, was one time a professing believer - and she was very much like that woman at the well.

Our society is different.  Rather than avoid the public due to our sin, we tend to display to the public our sin, but ultimately, her needs are exactly the same.  She needs the Savior.

I watched the performance via youtube when the whole thing went viral.  Judge if you must.  It's not that I'm much of an MTV fan, but I have growing kids who will be soon out of my care in public school and since I know that I will not always be there to shelter them from the world, I need to be informed about the world.  (As well as spiritually armed to inform them and guide them through the world.)

Would I recommend my husband to watch it?  Probably not, but I'm guessing, if he did, he'd find it more disturbing than arousing.  In fact, I'd think most men would.

Would I let my children watch it now? That is a firm no.   Do I condone or approve of her behavior?  Absolutely not.  

I'm sure Jesus didn't approve of it either, but, as He has proven, sin has never been an obstacle to the Savior's pursing of a person.  

The bottom line is - She needs the Lord.  She doesn't need us casting stones at her.  (Though we can eliminate her from our television screens.)  She doesn't need us posting a thousand status updates about how trashy she is.  I doubt that will change her behavior or do anything besides emotionally charge the situation.  No.  What she needs is Jesus.

She needs us to look like Jesus.

She needs the friends and family and mentors she has to stand firm and approach her.

She needs accountability.

And she needs us to pray, on our faces, petitioning the Lord for her.  I may never meet her, our paths likely will never cross, but the God of our universe knows the very innermost part of her being.  He created her and longs for her.

Ultimately - it's not poor ratings or a lost (or blossoming) career, it's not how many write up's she received, it's not even how her parents' reacted to the performance (can you imagine being her dad!?).  No, ultimately she is a soul without a Savior, acting out in such a way that our flesh dictates, and one day she will die.  What happened on that stage the other night will be nothing at that moment.  Without the atoning blood of Jesus Christ one lie would send her to hell.  That performance did nothing extra to damn her (this applies to all of us, for that matter).  She needs Jesus.  Period.

My plea is sincere: while we go to all efforts to guard ourselves from the sin that very well could result from her performance (mimicking behaviors, lust, pornography, etc), could we please do more PRAYING for her than COMPLAINING about her?

If I were her (mortified) mother, I'd pray that people would shut their mouths and hit their knees for my daughter.  I would imagine Jesus might feel the same way, as He sits waiting at the well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Finally Getting to the Bedroom

And it's not what you think.

No.  Really.

We moved in over a year ago now.  In the 14 months or so we've been here, we've rearranged some furniture around, found a decor piece to hang on a wall here or there, and overall, just let it be.

I then realized something:  there were little things that were driving me crazy.  Like crazy, can't take it anymore crazy.   So I decided to compile a list of the crazy and start getting at it, fixing the crazy as cheaply and effectively as possible.  Here was my list:

  • Our kitchen said 'blah'.  We have a larger wish list in the realm of Kitchen dreaming, but I knew the cheap, fast, easy fix to cure the crazy was to put a few items on top of the cabinets, so when you looked into the room you didn't see creamy white walls, a couple of appliances and ugly cabinets.  I spent $4 at the Dollar store for a few glasses, rounded up a bunch of random junk from around the house (aka: a basket, glass milk bottle, a silhoutte of Aaron from when he was a boy, a picture of the kids - ok, that's not junk - and an empty easel that still needs something) and I'm calling that project completed... for now.  

  • Our formal living area had a wall lined with furniture and very empty walls.  Drive me crazy twice! So we got rid of the cedar chest from the room, added two smaller side tables (thanks mil and fil!) and have intentions of getting some large vases with some reeds or something to pull the eye up the wall some... so, we're getting there.  It's the formal for a reason.  

  • The upstairs living is the kids playroom, so obviously it doesn't need 'much', but we had an awesome bean bag (read: HUGE) given to us by the honorary aunt in our lives, and it needed a good, utilizable home.  We moved a large bookshelf that had stored -ahem - junk in that living room, to our bedroom.  (More on that later.)  We inserted aforementioned large bean bag and a small table with a lamp... which resides next to a little window in a little nook = reading nook.  Tada!  (Ok, maybe the proper term would be Leapster Nook... which is what it has been thus far.)  

  • The crazy part?  The only rooms that haven't made me crazy are the kids rooms, because I actually decorated theirs when we moved in.  Granted, B's is better than A's, but we're moving on it.  The sad part... the rooms that made me the most crazy were our bedroom and bathroom.   The bathroom is still majorly on the to - do list... as in, hasn't been touched.  But our bedroom... well, that's what I'm here to tell you about: 

First, we rearranged.  Bed moved from an open wall to in front of the windows.  Usually a big no no, but the room feels so much more even. You walk in and see the room head on.  That's nice.  Second, we have a color of walls that I like (grey) , and we have a bedspread I like (yellow), but I didn't want to get stuck in a yellow and grey rut.  (I have a hard enough time making a decision.  I need the option to change a whole room by changing a couple of accessories, and I don't want to be limited.)  So this was a brainstorming thing for me.  

Then it hit me.  Over a year ago I bought a... well... I'll just say it - I bought an ugly knitted afghan at a thrift store for like $3.00.  I'm not sure what it was that drew my eye to it that day.  I really couldn't stand it much, but something said that, for $3, it may make for good pictures if nothing else.  Since then, it's been about everywhere but on display... until now.  I added that afghan and our zebra striped pillows that were intended for the chairs in our downstairs living (that always end up on the floor) to add some mixed prints to the bed and voila!  I now have the possibility of color in our room!  

So there was color in the middle... and then we moved the previously mentioned bookcase into the room (did I mention our room is insanely large... a blessing and a curse) and added color to that side through the filling of shelves...

Closed the roll top desk (that isn't utilized near as often now that my computer won't technically 'fit' in it any longer).

Replaced a decor item here or there:

And we STILL have a ways to go, namely on the walls.  But I'm fine with that, we are making progress here!  And I enjoy being in our room now!  And, can I tell you a secret?  I've actually been making our bed (which I haven't done since we've lived here because, frankly, I just haven't cared.)  Now, it seems so nice in there, I can't help but make it :)  

I'll update as more comes together!  I have prints ordered for our walls, and we have some holes to fill on the book case.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Will I Leave Them?

Every now and then little flickers of my childhood come to mind, playing much like an old movie reeling out a black and white picture.  It's even a little fuzzy around the edges.

When I think about my childhood I see flickers of fireflies and kick the can.  I feel balmy summer nights, so real I believe I can literally hear the locusts and croaking frogs.  I can feel, and even smell, the air conditioner unit as it kicks on.  Oh, to have the air come from the floor.

I can feel rubbery swings better for flipping on than swinging on, soggy blisters turning into rough callouses from the monkey bars my dad built with his own two hands.  I can smell his lumber yard on his clothing.

It's safe to say that my childhood was simple, but it was good.  I can remember times begging my parents to go someplace, to get out of the house rather than do yard work all day on a perfectly good Saturday.  I can feel the frustration.  I'm a goer by nature.  Yet, I did not feel deprived.

I can remember the paddle ball paddle that became my spanking device.  I can remember my mom's angry voice and her silent treatment that cut to the core when she was upset with me.  Yet, when remembering, these aren't the moments I remember first. 

No, first I remember my mom's fingers running through my hair or swiping it from my face gently.  I remember her rubbing my back when I was tired and her sacrificial rubbing of my shoulders and the soothing sound of her voice when a migraine had me sick.  I remember the security of knowing that, despite 14 + hours on the couch fighting nausea and auras, she was in the other room, not complaining about what she was missing out on, but checking to see if she could make my rag cold again.  I remember sitting on her lap and her complaining about my 'bony butt', but never wanting to get up because I wanted to be close to her.

With my dad, I remember the butterfly kisses given every night before bed.  I feel foolish now, looking back there was definitely a weirdness of affection between my dad and I as I got older.  It was a wall I built, not him.  Those butterfly and eskimo kisses given before bed are a memory I'll forever cherish.  I loved sitting on his lap.  His lap was a place of security, safety, a haven from the world.  When I think about God and dream about seeing Him and being with Him, I dream about crawling up in His lap, being a kid again, sitting with her Abba.

My dad was the strong, quiet type.  He had the wisdom to pick his battles, to stay out of the ones that didn't pertain to him, and to love despite the stubbornness of the women who loved him.  I was the little buddy that was by his side.  Seeing him with Bryton often sends me back to how he interacted with me as a child.  As a parent myself, now, I see that interaction for what it was... I was cherished by that man.
And not many days go by that I don't wonder what it will be that my kids - when they are gone from my home - will long for, will remember with joy, will cherish about the time that they spent in my care. I pray that the memories that I'm making for them allow them to look back at some point and really feel that they were cherished, precious, and important in the lives of their parents.

May this effect my decisions, my priorities, my tone and my attitude as I lead and guide them daily. May HE lead and guide me daily to become the parent that I cannot become on my own.  I only get one shot as I lead them.  May I kiss goodnight - and do it well - may I discipline without harshness - may I rub backs and play with hair and not only expect nothing in return, but ASK for nothing in return.  May my life exude Jesus and what He has done in and through me, so that eventually, I fade to the background and they'll see that they weren't really cherished and loved dearly by a mother, who is by nature sinful, but moreso, they are cherished and loved dearly by their Creator, our God, who at one point used me as a vessel to love them well.

May I love them well.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Return to Neverland

There's been a lot of Peter Pan in this house lately.  Namely, a return to Neverland rather than the primary trip to Neverland itself.  Why?  Here's the mom answer:  we limit TV time in this house and it's short enough to entertain and long enough for me to make a meatloaf.  (That's a slight lie, I very rarely make meatloaf.  Let's say, "long enough for me to make a casserole.")

I don't know that I 'got it' as a kid, but I'm really enjoying Neverland at the moment.  (I'll admit, I've cried at various parts each and every time we've watched it.)  And on a magical night swim with my sweet little man (his first ever with the pool lights on), he pointed up at a star and said, "I bet that's Hook's pirate ship."  I love the imagination, and I love how easy it is for him to believe what he is saying.

Peter Pan has brought a lot to light in my life lately.  The premis in Return to Neverland is simple: Wendy's daughter, Jane, thinks the Peter Pan stories her mother tells her little brother are rubbish.  She goes to bed one night after telling him as much and is then kidnapped in the night by Captain Hook himself, believing she is Wendy.  Of course, he's still trying to get his hands on Peter Pan's treasure. Wendy ends up in Neverland with none other than Peter himself (and the lost boys and Tinkerbell of course), but is more than ready to get home.  Of course, we all know the only way out of Neverland is by flying, and the only way to fly is by (say it with me), "faith, trust and pixie dust!"

Here's where it gets spiritual for me.  (Yes, there is a spiritual analogy coming, hold on to your seats.)  Tinkerbell is more than ready to get Jane back home (jealous little fairy), and she douses Jane with enough pixie dust to make us all sneeze.  Rather than fly, Jane falls straight through the forest overgrowth and hits the forest floor with a famous Disney 'thud'.  (No stars overhead this time.) Jane had the pixie dust but did not have the faith (or the trust).

Over time - Tink's light begins to die (it is implied that Tink herself is dying as well) because of Jane's unbelief.

And as Tinkerbell's light continues to fade, the lightbulb goes on for myself.

Jane had physically seen Tinkerbell.  Not only that, she had seen Tinkerbell's ability to make Peter and the Lost Boys fly, but just because she saw her and what she was capable of, meant nothing in her own life.  The pixie dust wasn't enough.  Jane had to have the faith and trust with the pixie dust.

This brings James 2:19 to my mind, my own paraphrase: "Oh, you believe there's a God?  Great, even the demons in hell believe that, and they tremble."

It also brings to the forefront of my mind Matthew 7:23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

AKA "But we knew Tinkerbell!  I talked to her!  I saw that she made the others fly! I have heard the stories!  I have seen her dust!"  

So easily we can lose sight of the 'faith' part of... well... faith.  We settle on, "Of course I believe in Jesus," and we believe in what He has done in the lives of others around us... but what has He done in our own lives?  Has He given us the faith to believe?  Do we, in essence, have the faith to fly as opposed to simply the recognizing of His power in the lives of others?

It's amazing the parallels we can see if we look hard enough.  Tinkerbell alone is not enough to fly you out of Neverland... as a belief in God or a 'belief' in Jesus is not enough to bring us into a relationship with Him or to deliver us into His presence upon our dying.  Faith is vital, and faith comes only through Christ.

My prayer would be that we would be given an incredibly firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, full of the assurance and joy that is promised to those who love Him.  I also echo the cry of the father in Mark 9:24, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"  

Ephesians 2:8-9 sums it up:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Written Sighs of Exhaustion

Yes, friends, I know, I know.  April was my last post.  I'm well aware.  I'd like to say I didn't have much of anything of significance to say between then and now but I teeter on whether much anything we say holds any great significance or on whether every moment is so significant I get tired of writing it all out.

I guess it depends on whether you are an optimist or pessimist which side you prefer.

Anywho - after another eventful trip to the mainland, so to speak (since Texans tend to think they are their own little island down here, and I'm somewhat starting to believe it), I couldn't help but put a few lines down.  For those of you who have been here before, you know that is entirely sarcastic.  For me to put a few lines down would be for a sports editor to only report a score.

And so I digress.

Anyway.  Back to said trip.

For anyone new here let me briefly catch you up.  Our families live 10+ hours away, on our last journey to visit our 'new to us' minivan broke down not once, but three times, and never exactly made us to our destination.  A rental car did.  Once repaired, it again 'broke' on our way home, though we were able to get it here.  Did I mention it was Christmas day?  In an ice storm.  Yeah.  Fun.

I distinctly remember on this journey stating, "barring a wedding or a funeral, I'll be back no time soon."  On New Year's Eve two great friends of ours - from 'the mainland' - got engaged and set a wedding for June.  Ironic, isn't it?

Undoubtedly, we wouldn't have missed it for the world, but when 75% of our family was asked to be a part of the wedding itself, we started weighing our options on how to best get there.

Remember - van is still not 'right', but drivable.

After much debate and number crunching, it was decided we would drive.  It was then decided that our van would be the most practical choice to drive, after being fixed, of course.

Fast forward to two weeks prior to departure.  Van is looked over, said problem is said to be 'no problem' and 'won't hurt to drive that way.'  We decide to wait until after the three week excursion (for kids and I) to fix the problem.

So when the day came myself, two children (4 and 2), lots of dvds and already prepackaged snacks set off for a ten hour trek north.

The first five hours went on without a hitch.  I was even surprised about how well the kids had behaved.  At their ages now, it seems like even short car rides can be a struggle.  Forbid B may stare at A, one would have thought a third world war had started.  But all in all, we were good.

Minus a slight panic that we may get stranded out in no-mans land with an empty gas tank, we made it to our first stop 5.5 hours in with happy riders and a little less anxiety for mom.  I was feeling better about the whole situation.

And we rode the two hours or so without a hitch as well.

It was about the 8 hour, 8 minute mark that changed everything.  I'm quite certain that at exactly the same time both kids had had enough of being in the car, B was asking every three seconds how much farther it was and stating how long we'd been driving, A was fussing for, well, probably anything that required her to get out of her car seat... and our transmission gave out.  In the hills in MO, on the interstate.  With cars all around me going 80.

I don't know if any of you have had this happen before, but let me just say this.  When the transmission goes out, you go no where.  As in, no acceleration.  As in, "UH OH!"

So here I am, two hours from being there, two crying kids, one lame van, stuck on an exit ramp in the sticks of MO, calling my husband who is 8+ hours away saying, "We're stuck on the side of the road."

And that's just how the trip STARTED.

From there it was laced with worry about what to do / how to deal with the van issue, how we were to get around / get home, a sick family member who became a live in at one of the places that should have been one of our accommodations, ending up in a hotel with two kids, alone, one of which doesn't fit in a pack n play but still sleeps in a crib, meaning lots of sleeping with a two year old, which means little sleeping for mom, sub-par family time on a lot of levels, more family drama than a person could expect in a lifetime, let alone one trip, a baseball game that we'd already purchased tickets for that rained to the point of not being able to take the kids, only to buy tickets to the next game and to have bought the worst seats ever.  And they lost.  To their rivals.  We then ended up on air mattresses in a friends basement (which the part about staying at the friends house was a perk), to which we found the Hubs apparently does not do air mattresses well, and spent both mornings nauseous, dizzy and the morning of the wedding, that he was officiating, throwing up (bet you didn't know that Marks' ;) ), all to end the trip with one snotty sick kid, then the ride home with myself sick, and the next morning with a little boy throwing up.  Did I mention that our two year old (who needs potty trained!) won't poop in the car anymore, and so during both the trip there and the trip back we had to stop to let her walk around to 'do her business'.  Yeesh.  Oh, and we scrapped the van for $150.  Did I mention we just got it in December?

Yikes.  Yikes.  And triple yikes.

But was it worth it?  Yes.  To be a part of a fantastic wedding, great friends, and family... it was worth it.  Would I have changed some things, yes.

But to say that I'm tired would be an understatement.  And now we've began tackling the transition to the toddler bed for said two year old, which resulted in about an hour of putting her back into bed at bedtime last night, and then again for 2.5 hours in the very wee hours of the morning...

Bad timing.  Yeah, probably.

And so I dare say it - barring major illness, death or marriage, we'll be residing in lovely Texas for as long as possible, with the next major trip hopefully being a VACATION rather than a trip...

Until the next long catch up blog

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Better than Thin Mints

So I didn't announce this or anything (you'll find out why shortly), but about a month ago I decided I was going to attempt to go sugar-free (and none of the gross fake sweetener either) for a month.  It was more a personal challenge to control my sugar intake.  Why really doesn't matter, because, I'll be honest, I made it about 72 hours... and these cookies are why.

So as many of you know, I've discovered the world of chocolate and mint, and it makes me incredibly happy.  After 72 hours of no sugar, my friend and co-worker AshLeigh showed up at school with these little beauties, and I walked by them three times before I'd justified that the sugar thing was way over rated and I was totally going to eat one.  I am SO glad I did!  These are better than thin mints my friend, on several different levels.

When I got the recipe from her, it wasn't long before I fixed them myself.  After realizing how incredibly easy these are to make, how few ingredients you actually have to 'shop' for, and the quantity of cookies, I asked her to share it with you, because, friends, secrets like these should NOT be kept!

So here's what you are going to need:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups chocolate chips (I used milk, but you could use whatever)
2 eggs
3/4 margarine
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 boxes Andes chocolate mints (and yes, you need TWO FULL BOXES, aka - don't let your husband thieve 6 or 7 because your last batch of cookies will suffer, friends, they will suffer)

So get in your pantry and get out that brown sugar and stick it in a saucepan with the margarine and water.  You are going to warm this over low heat until the margarine is completely melted.  I did a lot of stirring here, mostly because it makes me feel like I'm really cooking something ;)

When that gets all warm and melty, take all of those chocolate chips and dump them on in there.  Stir those in until all of those are completely melted.  Smell the goodness.  Go ahead, smell it...

I failed here because I skipped pictures for some time, but you'll get the drift...

Pour that chocolaty goodness into your mixing bowl.  Yes, your mixing bowl.  Pour it all in there and make sure you scrape that excess out.  Let it stand for ten minutes.  We are getting ready to add the eggs and the mixture is hot... let's not cook them.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.

Ok, ten minutes later - at HIGH speed beat in your eggs one at a time.  Reduce the speed to LOW and add your dry ingredients (the baking soda and flour) beating until blended.  I poured a bit in at a time while it was blending as to not have a huge flour grenade go off in my kitchen.

What you will have is a very sticky cookie dough unlike any you've seen before.  Don't panic.  That means it's right.

Now - take a load off, you're going to stick it in the fridge to chill for an hour.  Ready?  Go do it, and read a book or something...

After an hour - this is the fun part.  The consistency of your creation should now be a pliable but interesting enough... Get your hands dirty and grab you some teaspoons and make balls out of them.  (Don't judge my pizza pan... the cookie sheet already had a batch on them when I realized I hadn't taken the pictures :)  By the way, you DO want to cover your pans with aluminum foil and I sprayed a little pam - just for good measure.

Now - stick those babies in the oven and let them bake.  350 degrees for NO MORE than 12-13 minutes.  They will harden as they cool.

Now- here's another fun part (what can I say, these cookies are fun!) - grab those andes mints (I had mine all unwrapped and awaiting in a bowl close) and put one on top of each cookie.  Yep, before you even take it off the cookie sheet.  Then, get yourself a spoon and swirl that chocolate around when its good and melty... cover the top of the cookie as best you can.  (See, I had to break some mints in half to accomodate all of my cookies - more than 50 btw - and that is just too sparse for the mint portion of these cookies imo.)

And what you get is a little edible masterpiece like this.  Remove from the cookie sheet and let cool (and let your chocolate harden.)  Finally, enjoy!  Enjoy the cookie AND the fact that you can revel in better than Thin Mint cookies WHENEVER you want for way cheaper.

Yum Yum!  Eat up!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Pile of Stones

Proverbs 22:6 reads, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Before kids, and if I'm honest, for some time after having kids, this was my go-to raising children scripture.  Do 'a' and get 'b'.  I do my part, He does His.  Let's instill programs, go to a good church, pray before every meal, snack and bed and make sure to read them Bible stories over and over and over again.  That's what every kid needs.  He needs to be able to recall a Bible story.

Let's forget the fact that Aaron and I were in student ministry for many years and saw many students come through who, truth be told, probably 'knew' the Bible stories better than we did, yet were as far off from being Christians or to 'not departing from the way' than they could possibly be.  Let's also forget - then - the doubts that left on my raising my own children.  He's supposed to be faithful.  He says, "you do this," and He's supposed to do that! I struggled and battled with this for some time.  As a matter of fact, I'd say one of my greatest fears would be if my children never came to know the Lord, but there's a difference between Alicia now and Alicia then.  I'm trusting Him that HE changes hearts, not me, and I've allowed myself to take rest in parenting under Godly direction and trusting that He'll work all things out for His good.

But that doesn't mean He isn't going to use me in the lives of my children.  As a matter of fact, I'm finding a major bit of foundation for this Proverbs verse previously mentioned in other Old Testament text, and it continues onward in the New Testament.  Let me say that everything I'll mention from here forth is not an exhaustive text or list or group of ideas regarding parenting in scripture.  No - I'd call it just the shaved ice atop the very tip of the iceberg that God is spoon - feeding me bit by bit, but it's revolutionizing how I live and breathe and discuss the Gospel with my kids.

Now - I've discussed the 'shema'  before, but I'll touch here very briefly one more time, as this was the second major scripture God used in my parenting life.  The text is found in Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 and reads:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." 

The first direction is a direction to Israel - for our case specifically - parents.  You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might.  The lineage for people pressing hard after the Lord must start somewhere.  Here is a call to authentic, genuine, fierce, raw worship, when every sense of your being calls out and longs for the thins of the Lord and loves Him greatly.  From the offspring of that love comes the idea that His words and commandments would be on the heart of the people, but it's the next line that begins building the foundation for the "train up a child" verse that God began in me in Proverbs. 

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The idea here is that out of that fierce - consuming - love for the Lord resonates a lifestyle that communicates verbally (and we'll find several other ways as Scripture progresses) the goodness and the wonderful works of the Lord.  He says to discuss them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when  you rise.  Are we getting the gist here?  Always.  In all circumstances.  God is always in it.  Always a part of it.  Always handling it.  The author speaks further commanding physical markers in the home of God's word and law.  

What we'll find as we continue is that though this absolutely includes scripture, and we have lots and lots of scripture on our walls, it also includes experience, something I feel we often leave out.  

Here's what I mean. 

In student ministry we used to tell our kids repeatedly that their testimonies may not only be the only Jesus some people ever see, but that their personal experience with God is something that cannot be argued with by those who don't believe.  It's an experience and a perspective that cannot be taken away from them, and as I really dug into the context of these Old Testament scriptures, I'm seeing that God has performed many, many, many wonderful, miraculous works in the life of the Israelites.  It was so evident often times that Israel's enemies could see the mighty works of God and feared Him because of it.  It was then that I got it. 

This is the other thing we pass on to our kids, and our grandkids, and our great grandkids.  It makes the words of scripture and the stories of the Bible more than just words on a page.  It shows those with lesser experience how God has already moved (and is moving) in the lives of the people closest to them.  There's an idea of retelling the stories over and over and over again, so they are not forgotten.  Many - many - many times in the Old Testament we see God leading the people to set up monuments for specific events lest they not forget them.  I don't know about you, but this is good for myself as well.  Though I've seen God bring us in and out of many circumstances, and I've seen how His hand has faithfully guided us, it's amazing how it doesn't take much as far as life is concerned to make our little faith wonder if He'd ever been there to begin with.  I need those reminders in my life!  I need the writing on the wall that says, "LOOK WHAT HE'S DONE FOR YOU!  THIS was YOUR promise!  Your miracle.  This was HIM moving in YOUR life."  It's a reminder.

I'm reminded of Joshua 3 where the Israelites, who are finally getting ready to inherit the land God has promised them, must cross the Jordan river.  God performs yet another miracle in allowing the people to cross through on foot by stopping the water.  It's immediately after this in chapter 4 where God gives Israel the instructions of taking twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan - a reminder.  We read in verses 6-7:

That this may be a sign among you.  When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  So these stones shall be up to the people of Israel a memorial forever.

He repeats the same idea in Joshua 4:21-23 and continues the idea in verse 24 saying:

So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.

What's the purpose of the reminder?  So we may know the Lord is mighty and that we may fear Him forever... these are the traditions and teachings to pass on. 

What does this mean for me practically?  In all honesty, I'm still trying to figure that out on a large level, however, I know that it means that those scriptures that got me through difficult times in my life are finding their way to my walls, so that when the kids ask what they mean I don't just rattle off the theologically correct answer, but I tell them how God was faithful in working specifically in some way of my life.  I know it means that those little trinket things that we keep as 'souvenirs' from the insignificant events in our life, will be surrounded now by the physical reminders of the journey God has brought us on. 

Though I can't predict the journey that lies ahead of my children, I can build within them a history of the God who isn't just 'alive' in the pages of a book we read to them and in our words on Sunday morning, but of a God who is alive and well, working for our good in our lives specifically.  It then only becomes a matter of time before this God who works deeply and intimate in our lives becomes recognizable to our children in their own.  

Until next time -