Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Presents and Presence


My husband and I live modestly. We’ve come to only buy what we need and through this, have realized how very little we actually need. We rarely buy the kids gifts and toys throughout the year since we simply don’t have the money for that kind of thing during this season of life. We don’t follow the three gifts per kid in reference to the three presents the three kings brought to Jesus for Christmas. Brandon and I love to overwhelm and overload them with gifts. Isn’t that what Jesus does for us? At least that's how we justify the lavishness!  We love the anticipation, the sparkle in their eyes, the excitement, the chaos, just the whole darn thing. We use the Christmas bonus to go a little crazy showering them with everything we couldn’t afford to get them throughout the year. We absolutely love it and so do they. Last year we just went out and threw things in the shopping cart without really thinking through the quality and the reviews of each toy. Many things we got didn’t last long and a few even broke on Christmas day! This year we wanted it to be different. On Black Friday I decided to check out the deals and saw quite a few! I needed to stay home and do it all online since the boys were home with me. I was in the trenches of online deals, researching, comparing prices, looking up best toys of the year by age group and all sorts of things.

Silas and Cannon were easy. They are three and four and I knew the kind of things they like to do and play with. Reeve, my one year old, was harder. When I was thinking about what he would like, I really didn’t know for sure. He is so quiet, so easy, that I couldn’t even think what he would want. He usually just plays in the cabinets or with his brothers following them around. Before I bought anything for him, I wanted to observe him and see what kind of toys he liked best. I found my opportunity when he woke up from his nap while the other two were still sleeping. After a little while I put him down on the floor, surrounded with toys, and watched what he gravitated to. He just sat there looking up at me probably wondering why I was just standing there. After a little bit of him not doing much of anything I showed him his talking dog with lights; he was not impressed. I gave him a book; he took a bite of the corner then tossed it. I zoomed a car over to him and he looked at it, smiled, then crawled on. He would pick up a toy, put it in his mouth then toss it. No one toy was really standing out as a favorite.

I looked at the clock and saw I had an hour before the other two woke up from their nap. I had major chores backed up that I desperately needed to do. As I looked at the happiest baby in the world and thought about the mountain of clothes that needed folding, I knew I had a decision. It was a no-brainer… I chose the baby. It was the best decision of the day. I decided to get down on the floor with him to see what other toys I could find. As soon as my bottom hit the floor I realized how rarely I do that with him. When he saw me on the floor, he actually squealed with delight and crawled as fast as he could over to me. I then got on my hands and knees and crawled all over his room chasing him and letting him chase me. His belly laughs made it so worth while. I had no other thoughts besides just loving on him. After the beating on my knees, I keeled and played peek-a-boo just to see that beaming smile, hear those squeals, take in his adoration and give him mine.

After several “peak-a-boos,” he crawled right over and began climbing on me. I think he was trying to reach the top of the Mommy Mountain-giggling all the way to the top. The pulls, pokes, jabs, yanks and drooling were his way of showing me that he loved me… and I was loving every second of it. I had an epiphany right there and then in the middle of the nursery, with a foot in my bra and a stream of drool flowing down my neck- I’m it! I’m his favorite toy! He could have a hundred different ‘Voted best toy of the year with five star rating’ toys and nothing would make his eyes sparkle like when he’s able to chase his crawling Mama on the floor. I had such a heartwarming time with my baby. I didn’t think I could love him more than I already did, but getting on the floor with him and playing made me remember how special of a kid he is and how much I love and adore him. I knew what I was going to get Reeve for Christmas… more purposed play time with Mama, which will inadvertently be my Christmas gift too.

The whole experience playing on the floor with Reeve reminded me of the last time I went to a local bookstore. When I went through the ‘Christian living’ aisle, I looked up at the seemingly miles long wall of devotions. I thought about buying one, and then decided against it since I already have several. I thought to myself, I want more of God, but not necessarily more books about God.’ As I continued my walk down the aisle, I felt so overwhelmed. There were figurines, Scripture plaques, framed photographs with Christian quotes, beautiful journals, books, mints, belts- you name it. In the same way Reeve was in a room full of all sorts of toys but only wanted to play with me; I was surrounded by wonderful God related resources and the only thing I really wanted, the only thing that would make my eyes sparkle and my soul content, was to be in the presence of my Father. There is no substitute, no tangible means that ever comes close to relationships. What perfect timing God chose to share this with me- in the middle of the gift purchasing process, when my mind and heart needed reminding that the gifts are just tools that help build the relationship, not a substitution of it.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Silas and the Gospel



It was one of those days where I felt like my chaotic life was going to get the best of me. Every corner of every room was filled to the hilt with kid randomness. Markers, toys, itty bitty tiny pieces of paper, socks, and who knows what else was scattered around the house. My one, three and four year olds were literally running (and crawling) circles around me. I felt like patting myself on the back to have gotten breakfast served before 11am since it was a circus act hopping over babies and cooking over last nights dishes. It probably looked like a comedy routine to a fly on the wall, but to me, it was just life. Nothing to hoot and holler about, just the chaos that normally consumes me on a regular basis. I just looked around at the mess and instead of feeling charged to clean, I felt the very opposite. I felt so tired on so many levels- and I hadn’t even started! I looked over at the fire in the fireplace and saw it needed to be poked to keep the flames ablaze. Perfect excuse to procrastinate even more, I thought.




I walked over and tended to the fire while my little ones leaped and rolled on the rug behind me. If only I could bottle up a tenth of that energy! I decided to sit right in front of the fire and watch it build up. What is it about kids when parents get on the floor with them? I could see all three of their eyes well up with exhilaration as they climbed and rolled all over me. I knew I couldn’t miss this. I needed to be present with them. It was so hard to stop my mind from whirling and weary thoughts on cleaning, organizing, bills, laundry, meals and schedules~ but I had to, I wanted to. I wanted to just have peace with not a stitch of worry. As I sat down in front of the fire, my four year old, Silas, snuggled up to me while I scratched his back. He had questions about how his daddy and I met, what it was like when I found out the boys were inside my belly and things like that. I told them about the day they were born and how their daddy and I were beside ourselves with excitement and anticipation. How Silas was the biggest baby in the hospital and how his cheeks were so big I couldn’t even see his eyes.  I told my three year old, Cannon, how when he was in my belly he would kick me so hard. I told him how I remembered that the minute he came out, his scream could be heard in the next city over. They asked question after question and ate up all the attention. They gleamed at the thought of being loved so much before they were even born.



Silas snuggled closer and asked me why we named him, ‘Silas’. I told him the story of how one day I was reading my Bible and came across the story of Paul and Silas. I told him that Paul and Silas loved God and couldn’t help but tell other people about Jesus. The judge sent them to jail for being troublemakers, even though they didn’t do anything wrong. His furrowed eyebrows showed the injustice he felt at such a thing. I asked him how he would react if he had to go to jail for no good reason. We talked about feeling sad, mad and complaining about how unfair it would be. When I told him that Paul and Silas did none of those things, he was surprised. I said not only did they not complain, but they prayed and sang songs of praise to God. They worshiped when so many others would have just sat in the corner and cried. I told him that God heard them singing and an earthquake hit and all their chains were loosed and they were free! He was excited that God showed up in such a big way. I told him how much that story meant to me. I said I just loved the fact that even when Paul and Silas were captured and thrown in jail, they loved God so much that they still managed to lift their hands and voices up in praise all night long. I explained how not only did I love that story, but I loved the name ‘Silas’, too. The next question he had bottled up was about heaven. He wanted to know how to get there.

I told him the only way to get to heaven is to believe that when Jesus died, he took all of our sin, all the bad stuff, and put it on himself. Silas chimed in with, “OH! He put all that sin in his heart, inside of him?” I agreed with him and said that not only did He take away all our sin, but He gave us all his love in return. I told him that when Jesus died on the cross he removed all of our sins, forever. He inquisitively answered, “But I still sin, Mom.” He looked perplexed, a little like myself when I think about the same thing. I told him that even though we sin, God only sees Jesus’ love covering all that yucky stuff. He was as quiet as a mouse, just sitting there with his head tilted back, taking it all in. I told him the only thing we can do to get into heaven is to ask God to forgive us and believe what Jesus did for us. I explained that we can’t do anything, we just have to believe. It seemed too simple, even to say that to him. Using the most basic vocabulary reminded me of how simple and amazing the Gospel really is.

He didn’t have anymore questions. I could tell he had a lot to mull over in his little mind. I asked him if he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart. He looked at me, put his hands in the air and said, “Mom, I’m just a kid!” We laughed out loud together and I just gave him a squeeze. I told him if he had anymore questions or if he ever wants to ask Jesus in his heart another time, to just let me know. He ran off to play and I was left staring at the fire again. I was so grateful to share the beautiful Gospel with my son. I felt like the house and my life being so overwhelming was somehow in the plan.  Feeling so beat down led me to get on the floor with my kids and talk about what really matters. Even though the dishes were still piled high and the floor was still in dire need of a good mopping, I felt that peace I desperately needed to keep keeping on. It’s the peace that rushes in when I surrender and let God do His thing, even in the middle of a very chaotic life.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thankful for the Crazy Chaos


Life usually throws twists and turns, but for me here lately, I feel like life has been throwing me hard balls, secret handshakes and trick candles. This year I’ve decided to be thankful for the blessings in disguise, if you will. I’m thankful to God for being God; for being in control of all things and for teaching me to be real, to be desperate and to not be self-sufficient. Of course I’m grateful for things He gives me but to be honest I’m typically not too grateful for the nuisances, the troubles and all the inconveniences. 

I’m not ultra religious and I lack discipline to read the Bible regularly. I can’t remember the last time I went to a church service and the height of my ‘good works’ has been picking up after the other members of my family. There’s no special, gifted, and super spiritual Proverbs 31 woman that lives here- it’s just me. I’m full of service but not always the sunniest soul in the room. Silas recently asked me, “Mom, what are you so angry about?” I answered with a reason, something pertaining to one of them not listening. He responded like a little psychologist, with “Mom, I mean, why are YOU so angry.” I thought, “You’re too little to be convicting me!” Instead, I just huffed and puffed and blew off steam under my breath before sulking, swallowing my pride, and asking for forgiveness from a three and four year old. 

It’s hard being a mom. I sometimes think, “Why the heck do I have this many kids so close together?!” How is it my reasoning skills were so off so many times? LOL. I can think such selfish thoughts and just not want to do anything for anyone all day. Sometimes I just want to sit, stare and veg. This is like the ultimate dream day for me. Sounds so silly to write, but maybe a mom or two out there knows what I’m talking about… then again, maybe not.



Motherhood can be so isolating, so demanding and so tedious. The stars all have to align to get everyone out of the house without someone crying hysterically. Sometimes I’m the one crying hysterically though… wondering why they all can’t be perfect and just listen the first time they are told to do something. Why can’t they stop whining? My God- the whining!! Sometimes I think I will explode. I send whoever’s whining to a far away place where the high-pitched unknown language can hardly be heard; but even then it’s me that wishes for a far off land. There are dark moments where everyone is crying over something and I just want to escape. I feel like I can’t breathe in the house and will need to step outside to just take in some fresh air. It’s like they suck the life right out of me and I need to get out to be replenished again in order to keep myself together and keep giving. 



People look at me with stars in their eyes sometimes and wonder how I do it. I’m like, “Wait, what? I have a choice to not do it?” Sign me up! I need a day…. " Having three kids in four years is crazy. I mean, really delusional and insane. At least it has been for me. I’m not a Duggar- soft spoken-completely organized- painted smile on my face all day- kind of mom. When I’m not frustrated and grinding my teeth at some little person, I’m laughing- often hysterically- mostly because I’ve gone past the point of no return. You know that feeling when you stay up way too late with a friend and you start laughing about something and you just can’t stop. It’s like you’ve gone gitty and whatever somewhat funny thing said is now over the top hilarious. You can’t help but snort and cackle like some odd drunk donkey, slapping your knee with your hand while tears stream down your cheeks uncontrollably? That’s me, except it’s not late at night and there’s no funny girlfriends. It’s me laughing at my kids. In the middle of discipling, dinner, diaper changes, you name it. I’m laughing right now, too. It’s just crazy and funny being in this season of life. Knowing it won’t last forever, but feeling like it will. It’s coming to grips with reality and embracing the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s praying every moment that you’re not messing them up too bad and taking pictures of everything because in a weird sense, the need to capture, to remember, to savor this crazy life is overwhelming. 



I know it’s crazy, I know it’s not all that desirable to some, (probably many) but it’s mine. It’s what God gave me. Now these moments that I write about are just raw moments for me. I believe every mom has them at least once in blue moon. These times when I’m ‘going off the deep end’ make me so aware of my desperate need for a Savior. I need God to rescue me, to save me and to give me discernment, release that pride within, to forgive me, and to simply love me. He never ceases to do all these things on a daily basis. This is why I’m such a fan of His. I fail. I fall short. I don’t measure up. But, God. He rescues me. He gets me out of that ugly pit and makes a way for me to make things right again. He’s in the business of restoration and He does that in my life moment to moment. He changes my attitude from only seeing the negative to only seeing the positive, from whining to pure gratefulness. Where things look bleak, He sheds light and there is hope. Where things seem two dimensional, He creates the three dimensional. He helps me to slow down when life is speeding ahead. He helps me enjoy the noise and take it all in with a heart of humility and gratitude. 


Silas told me to write this on the 'Thankful tree' leaf... how thankful I am for this too!

I’m so thankful for my life, not because it’s perfect but because it’s mine. Without my three little men in my life I would be unchallenged, way more selfish and definitely more vain. They challenge me, keep me grounded and show me what’s really important in life. Through them, God is refining me, teaching me and loving me through the whole thing. With Him I can be the kind of mom I’m proud to be- taking on God’s love, kindness, patience and long suffering. Oh God, do I need that long suffering- but without that martyr complex. J
  




2 Corinthians 4:8-9


We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wallowing and an Unwavering God




Cannon had a sick day from school today. He looked about as pathetic as ever with a double ear infection, strep throat and terrible congestion. I figured it would be such a great day to just relax together. He loves mommy dates and I was imagining this one to be extra special with all day snuggles and cuddles just him and me. Reeve, my one year old, needed to fall asleep so Cannon and I could leave on our date while my napping husband stayed with the baby. After the baby already fell asleep, a glitch with the fan woke him up again. We had our fingers crossed that he would fall back asleep after the fan went back on a minute later, so we could leave. While waiting on Reeve, I tried to snuggle Cannon in my arms, but in his true defiant and difficult nature, he pulled away saying, “No! I don’t want you to hold me!” He proceeded to fling himself on the floor and sit by himself completely missing out on his mommy’s love. I felt I could cut the pride with a knife. I really felt sad for him because he was missing out on feeling loved in my arms, especially when he was so sick. I was wondering how much longer he was willing to waste being stubborn. Watching him refuse something good when there was absolutely no benefit to him, reminded me of the way I do the same thing in my relationship with God.

I wondered if God feels sad for us that we’re missing out on His love when we choose to push Him away and wallow on the floor all by ourselves. When we throw ourselves on the floor, away from His loving arms, you know what I think He does? I think he waits earnestly for us to come back to him. I know what He doesn’t do. He doesn’t sit there with His arms crossed and begin plotting how he can get back at us for not making time for him. There is no revenge, no stones, no “I told you so,” no disappointed looks or judging fingers. He isn’t mad at us!  God isn’t shaking his head at us, totally frustrated and annoyed. God covers us with His perfect Son. When He looks at us, He sees the redemption, the grace and the sufficiency of Christ. In a sense, it doesn’t matter that we don’t measure up, that we make mistakes and mess up. That’s why Christ died and with His last breath said, “It is finished!” This is the heart of God. This is why He is so incredible. His grace is nothing short of a miracle, a beautiful picture of His limitless and boundless love. Maybe that’s why the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. He desires for us to sit on His lap and be enveloped in His warm embrace. He wants us to find fullness of joy, live in His everlasting freedom and simply enjoy Him and revel in His unimaginable love.



Those times with the Savior that we can schedule or sneak in are life giving and life changing for US. If we have even a smidge of feeling obligated or a sense of being ‘finished’ after a religious moment, like a checking off a duty, than we’ve missed it and we’ve missed Him. We have to fight against seeking approval and acceptance in the ‘doing.’ God operates on His doing, not ours. He’s already done the work. Whatever work God chooses to do through us, should come from a heart of love and adoration rather than a legalistic chore or some sort of ‘holy’ obligation.

After a bunch of wasted time just sitting there on the floor, my little boy decided that it was about time to snuggle with his mom. So, releasing his stubbornness and pride, he got back on the couch, curled his little three year old body into my side while I gently stroked his arm. I didn’t scold him for waiting so long. I didn’t have a disapproving expression on my face. I simply enjoyed him next to me in the same way God simply enjoys us when we curl up to Him, no matter how long it’s been. I just took in the moment. I thought to myself, “I love him so much!” and you know what? It was the same thought I had when he was telling me “No!” and throwing himself all over the floor. In the same sense- God loves us the same whether we haven’t prayed in a month or if we’ve been praying from sun up to sun down. The benefit from spending time with Him is all ours! It’s us that misses out if we choose to be stubborn or not make it a priority. It’s us that suffers by carrying the load, instead of letting our Savior carry it for us. It is us that knows peace, love, joy, kindness, truth and freedom when we do spend time with him. The benefit or the suffering is all ours and we can chose to be stubborn or to find unspeakable love and joy in our Creator. God’s love toward us is constant, it is available and it isn’t dependent on anything we do or don’t do. Take the unwarranted guilt associated with not measuring up and throw it into the pit of hell where it comes from. Don’t believe the lie.


We did end up getting the baby up and dressed and taking him along on our mommy date, when it was obvious he wasn’t going back to sleep. Cannon didn’t mind and was still thrilled to have a special day going to the library and to the store. Even with the movies, ice cream and snacks, our favorite part was just snuggling on the couch waiting for Reeve to fall asleep. I feel that has to be God’s favorite part with His children, too. Maybe that’s why God talks so much:

…about rest.

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

… and enjoying him

Psalm 73:25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

… and being still

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 

Question: Have your children reminded you of the way you have a tendency to act toward God?

Challenge: Out of a heart of love and expectancy, carve out a moment or two with the Savior this week to reap the benefits of knowing a loving God.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Mom


My Mom
 

I’m thankful for my mom. How often I took her for granted growing up. All I knew was my little world and didn't know, or maybe just didn't see, all the moms that weren't there for their kids. I didn't know some moms could be so mean and hateful to their children. I didn't know some moms could not show their children love and treat them as though they were a mistake or a constant nuisance.  There are moms that are dying of horrible diseases and cancers who just can’t be there for their kids. There are moms who just abandoned their children either physically or emotionally. I didn't realize that some moms cause so much heart ache in their children, so much emotional turmoil that can affect their kids their whole lives. There are moms with mental illnesses, and all types of addictions that wound and hurt their whole families for years. I didn't know that not everyone thought their mom was “the best.” That there were some people who didn't care to see or talk to their mom because of the pain and confusion it brought. Having a mom like this seemed like fiction to me. It was so far removed from what my mom showed me that I don’t think I could even process that kind of mom. I didn't know people could have a mom but feel like they didn't at the same time. I've taken for granted the constant love and support my mom has shown me from the second I was born.


 
My whole life she would tell me how much I was wanted and how I was her special gift from God. She poured into me such tenderness. She adored me and sacrificed her life to rock me in her loving arms and nurse me with such care. She pushed everything off to the side and made sure I knew I was loved and completely beautiful. She must have told me I was beautiful every single day. How I needed that! Really, what little girl doesn't? She showed me real beauty and how God had a purpose for me. 

She taught me that I had something special to give the world and never to compromise. She taught me about God and loved to point Him out in everyday life. She saw Him in the colorful fish, rainbows and flowers. How she spotted him in those flowers!


 
We would be walking somewhere and all of a sudden she would gasp so loud and her voice would get super high-pitched and everyone would think something horrible just happened. But nothing horrible happened… she just had spotted a flower, butterfly or a sunset. She saw what others missed. She would just stare at it for a few seconds in awe and always say, without fail, “How can people say there in no God?” She couldn't understand denying the undeniable. I love that about her. These little things made such an impact on me. Because of my mom, I see the world a little bit differently, too. I notice God’s handiwork, His little splashes of color and life in the everyday routine.


 
I remember one ordinary night when I was a teenager. I was in my bed and was coughing and coughing the whole night. My mom came in at some ungodly hour and spoon fed me medicine while I was half asleep. She didn't have to do that. I was definitely old enough to get it myself, but that’s how she loved me. She was my biggest fan and still is. She would take me out of school occasionally so we could have a mommy date at the movies and just talk. I may have missed a few lessons at school, but I gained memories I wouldn't trade for the world. She never ceased to encourage me day in and day out. When I was nervous she would look me dead in the eyes and say with no uncertainty in her voice that, “If someone else can do it, so can you.” I believed her and I still repeat that to myself when those insecurities come creeping back. She always thought my writing was special and she kept all my poems that I even forgot I wrote so many years back. That meant the world to me and helped me to believe in myself that much more. My standards were so high throughout my life because she never expected anything less for me. It was normal to have high expectations because that’s really all I knew. She taught me that I was worth waiting for, that I was a gift. She poured out her love, she sacrificed more than I know, and she cheered me on. There’s no one else out there like my mom! I can’t believe I didn't thank her everyday for all that she's done. I owe more than I can ever pay to her.
 

 

Even though we are so different in so many ways, I find it endearing when I see my mom in myself~ when I gasp at a grasshopper or squeal with delight at the blue jay perched on the tree branch. Motherhood is so hard! The days are so long but my mom reminds me that the years are short. I'm so thankful for all her wisdom she is constantly tossing my way. I do need to enjoy this season. I need to remember that ‘this too shall pass.’ It's never too late to say thanks for all the times she changed my diaper, wiped my nose and bandaged my wounds. Thanks to my mom when she disciplined me and wouldn't let me have my way. She was always going beyond the call of motherhood and just simply enjoying me. I am the person I am today because of the way she loved me. Here are my words, my heart and my thanksgiving for my mom. I hope I can cherish my children the way she always has with me. I love her not even for all she does (which is a whole other book to write) or the fact that she's an organizational goddess, but I love her because she's mine and God chose her exactly for me. I don’t deserve such an amazing mom. I really couldn't ask for more. She is a gem in my life. I love my mom!


Lessons through the weeds

I was in the middle of washing the dishes from the last several meals, so to say I was backed up was an understatement. I was about halfway through when I needed some motivation to finish the last half. I decided to put on the radio and came across a local Christian station and started humming to a familiar song. I suddenly didn’t feel like running away from the dish grime anymore. With my new and refreshing ambiance, I felt I could do the dishes for hours now. My thoughts wandered to God and how He’s really been teaching me a lot lately.I thought about motherhood and how fast the time has really been going by. I was thinking about the last time I blew up at my kids and how often I have to apologize for doing so over and over again. I felt bad that they fall victim to the temper tantrums I throw, when one of them gets under my skin. I was thinking I need to have thicker skin and I need to learn to count to 100 to calm myself down. Who knew I was so hot-headed? Motherhood sure shines a light on that one! Ha! I was thinking that I hope they are great at apologizing. I hope even though I’m messing up, they take the apologies that I make hourly to heart, and do the same with their wives, friends and anyone else they mess up with. What an attribute to have- to apologize in a genuine and meaningful way. Lord, please don’t let them get my short temper, but if they do, please help them to apologize well. I pray humility would reign in their little hearts. These were my thoughts as I scraped the cast iron skillet down. Simple prayers and good will to my little ones.

My peaceful ambiance was then interrupted by a loud bang. It was the back door flying open. As the stomping came closer I wondered which little munchkin it was this time. Who hit who? Who needs a time out? Who’s bleeding? Bracing myself to answer these typical questions, I turn my head around to see my firecracker little three year old, Cannon. The first thing I saw was his arm outstretched with his fat little fist full of weeds with the dirt and roots sticking out in every direction. “Mom, I picked these for you” he said matter-of-factly with his unusually deep voice. As I looked at his little face I saw he was waiting for some kind of approval, a sweet response from his mom. I flashed back to all the times he’s tried to give me something and I was in the middle of something else. I would say, “Thanks Baby!” and continue to do what I was doing, glancing at him for just a second and then getting back to my business.

Today was different. I sensed he needed me. So, I stopped washing the dishes. I dried my hands with the paper towel and I crouched down and really looked at what he was handing me. I grabbed the ‘bouquet’ and put it in a little baby food jar filled with water. I looked him deep in the eyes and saw his eyes just sparkle back with delight. I could tell he really needed that affirmation. He was eating this special attention all up. I slowed the moment down. I gave him a big long squeeze and told him how special he was to me and how I absolutely loved my bouquet. I placed it up on the window sill and said, “Whenever I look at it, I’m going to think of you.” He had the sweetest little smile on that I hope stays etched in my memory forever. He said, “You're welcome mom. I love you too.” You could have mopped me off the floor. I was a big mush. He ran back outside just as abrasively as he came in. I continued doing the dishes and just stared at the mess of weeds my baby boy just gave me with all the love in his heart. I absolutely loved it.



As I was enjoying that sweet little moment I thought, “This is what my worship must be to God.” He takes all my brokenness, pieces of random debris stuck upside down and all mixed up and makes it perfect, beautiful, enough. I give him what’s left of me and He multiplies it, overwhelms me with His goodness and gives me more than I can hold. How often my cup overflows. He adores me, his child. I bet his eyes even sparkle- not at the gift, but at the heart behind it. Thank God He loves me so and meets me in my mess and only sees the covering of his perfect Son. Thank God He pours his wisdom, promises and truth into my soul and constantly reminds me to rest in His finished work. I just can’t believe that He did it again. He revealed his absolute, never-ending; always and forever love toward me~ through a fist full of weeds. I’m so amazed he sees me when I feel invisible and smiles on me just because it delights his heart to do so.

Letter to my littlest on his first birthday




Dear Reeve,

Just the other day you turned one year old! I can hardly believe it. I seems like yesterday you were kicking the heck out of my belly from inside J You would make my stomach contort into different shapes… it was quite unbelievable to watch! Now you have a head full of hair and are so big. I love you so much buddy. Your smile and the way you “get shy” and wring your hands makes my heart just melt. You are the sweetest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. Always smiling, always making sweet baby noises. I just want to bottle you up so whenever I’m down I can open the bottle up and you can fill me with joy once again. You love being held and posing for the camera. OH MY Gosh are you adorable. When I take out the camera you make a noise (your version of “cheese”) and you open your mouth really wide and show your tonsils. Everyone can’t help but crack up when they see you hamming it up for the photos! I’m still nursing you in the mornings and I just enjoy every minute of you, snuggled in my arms. It’s one of the highlights of my day. Almost every morning you wake up “talking” and your two crazy brothers come barging through into your room and jump in your crib with you. You all wrestle and you climb on them and everyone laughs. All I can hear are giggles through the monitor. Am I not the luckiest mommy to wake up to my three boys giggling? When I go in to pick you up, there you are standing up, smiling from the top of your head to the tips of your toes with your arms outstretched so excited to see me. When I pick you up, you nuzzle your head in my neck and I just want to eat you up. You absolutely love your brothers. When you take a bath with them you like to wash their backs and then smile at them when they look at you. When you knocked over the craft bookcase on top of yourself the other day, Silas covered his eyes and had to look away because he couldn’t bear to see you hurt. He told me later, “Mommy, thank God our baby didn’t get hurt- I was so scared.” Cannon is always watching after you and steals toys from you. You just let him at this point. He likes to make you laugh and you dance when he puts the music on for you. He laughs watching you. Your daddy thinks you are the greatest. One little snuggle and it gives him the energy to keep going and helps alleviate some of the stress. Reeve Michael, you are one special kid. Since the day you were born you’ve been a blessing and a force of love, joy and peace. I can’t imagine not having you part of our family. In so many ways your presence has brought calm to the storms of life. You are my peaceful angel and one day when you read this I hope you know what an undeserved gift from God you were and always will be. I love you Reeve Michael. Happy 1st Birthday!

Love,
Mommy

When in Doubt, Choose Grace!



When in doubt, choose grace!

Today I told Silas and Cannon that they had to eat a “good amount” of their dinner before they got to have dessert (apples with peanut butter). This is a favorite and usually they gobble dinner down in anticipation for this scrumptious treat. Silas, in big brother, rule-follower fashion, quickly stopped messing around and got down to the business of eating. On the other hand Cannon, my strong-willed cherub, decided he was going to continue to mess around, yelp, fling his head back and forth and laugh about his wild mannered antics. I set the timer for 8 minutes and said if the timer goes off before he finished then he wouldn’t get to have his apple and peanut butter. He proceeded to mess around and his speed at finishing was only slightly faster. Well, after Silas finished (well before the timer went off) he got to have his treat. Cannon continued to just be Cannon and was having a good ‘ole time not letting the timer dictate his behavior. After a few more reminders, he still had at least half way to go.

I was really rooting for him even though he was going so slow, on purpose. I just didn’t want to deal with a melt down once he finished and realized that it was too late. It’s funny thinking about withholding a fruit as a consequence… but that’s how we roll here at our house. Well, the timer finally beeped and Cannon had about 4 more bites left. He announced, “Mom! I’m ready for my apples and peanut butter!!” Silas responded, “Um, Can.. you don’t get to have it because you didn’t finish in time.” I went into the kitchen and was really debating on what to do and weighing my options. (Don’t tell me you haven’t done this with your kids!!) During this time, he finally finished. If I give in and just give it to him, he’ll learn that when mommy says something, it’s optional and he still get his way anyway. If I say ‘no’, he’ll miss out on some yummy apples and peanut butter, throw a fit, and make my heart hurt. It would also teach Silas that only he is subject to the rules and Cannon is exempt. I was leaning toward option 1 but God gave me a loophole. I decided to implement “operation grace.”

I announced that everyday, mommy is going to give grace to each of them when they least expect it. Silas asked, “What’s grace mom?” I thought about it for a second and said, “It’s when you get something good when you don’t deserve to get it.”  I could see him thinking about it and I think he liked that idea even if it was for his brother and not him. Cannon was happy to get his dessert and loved the idea of grace. Who wouldn’t? I’m hoping this implementation of daily unexpected grace will help remind all of us of the grace we also receive everyday that God gives to us. I explained how we don’t deserve Jesus, yet He not only died for us but never leaves us by ourselves. I could see the connections starting to develop and wondered why I never implemented this before. I hope the same way they get pardoned for their infractions, they will extend grace to others- including their own mama. I love the way God pops in when we least expect it and says, “Remember me! I love you!” When in doubt, choose grace!

Confessions and Beauty in Parenting



Today my Cannon got hysterical… again. The line I have between patience and losing my mind is often crossed by this 3 1/2 foot tall 3 year old. His logic and rationale seems decades from maturity. Even before he got to the door I could hear him yelling, screaming and throwing a fit. I braced myself to mediate yet another disagreement and be the justice in the world of a 3 year old. I didn’t feel like it though. I just wanted to relax and take a break from whatever the drama was. But us moms know we hardly get a break.  So, there I was, unsympathetic and irritated before a single word was uttered. He starts trying to tell me what happened while simultaneously yelling, screaming and all and out bawling. Obviously I couldn’t make out anything he was saying. I had a mini vision of opening a window and casually tossing him out of it. Maybe a mom or two has had a similar vision?? Not that I’m proud of such a vision, but I’m being real here. Instead of acting on such ridiculous visions, I felt God urge me to pick him up and just hug him.

I felt his breathing start to regulate, his tense body became relaxed he nuzzled his head into my neck and didn’t say a word; neither of us did. In a sense we were both calming each others’ spirits down. He melted into my arms. I also felt my own tense body become relaxed and my disposition completely changed. It’s like I suddenly remembered, “Oh yeah, I love this kid to pieces!” How easy I forget. The embrace lasted just a few minutes, but it’s just what we both needed at that very moment. He ran off seemingly renewed and ready to face the backyard obstacles yet again. But I just stood there and watched him run off.  I thought, “Man, is this not exactly how God treats me?” It was one of those epiphanies that left me in awe of the way God teaches me, especially and particularly through parenting.

How often do my troubles seem like miniscule non-issues to God in the grand scheme of things? How does he not get so frustrated that I fret over things he has in the palm of his hands? How does he not tire over my insecurities when He tells me over and over how fearfully and wonderfully I’m made? Does He envision throwing me out the window? I wouldn’t blame Him if He did! His thoughts toward me are precious. It’s times like this that it is so clear how much I need a savior. The way my attitude was so clearly unloving and selfish makes me realize how good God really is. Not only does he not throw the first stone, he throws all the stones away. He picks me up, doesn’t think twice and holds me in His arms. He just loves, pouring himself into me, with absolutely no agenda. He waits for me, reminds me how much he treasures me and gives me beauty for ashes.  For as long as I need Him to, he is there. I release my cares on Him and he takes them away. He completely reenergizes me to run off and face the world again, enabling me to love and have patience when mine has run out 6 temper tantrums ago. I love how he doesn’t cease to teach me through unexpected everyday non-events. The more I parent, the more I realize how similar I am to my kids in my relationship with God. He is teaching me more than I could ever teach my kids through parenting.  His uncompromising and unending love is still a wonder and truly a miracle.

Cannon


Cannon

I love this kid.

He is demanding.
He is illogical.
He talks like a man, and has looked like a man, from birth.
He has a smile that melts the heart.
He is a natural flirt.
He is the middle child, say more?
He still has a scream that will literally make the ears ring for hours.
He loses his mind for reasons unknown.
He is the dog’s torturer.
He is Silas’ best friend.
He can’t stop talking about Monster Truck Rally.
He is the definition of a mama’s boy.
He wants to be like his daddy.
His excitability is adorable.
He is stubborn, stubborn, stubborn.
He will be a leader, I know it.
He is difficult.
He doesn’t wear pants.
He is particular and likes his socks on just right.
He can snuggle indefinitely.
He calls every meal ‘lunch’.
He has caused me to say, “This kid will be the end of me” on more than one occasion.
He is polite.
He is sweet.
He loves to help, on his terms.
He likes to bring frogs and worms into the house.
He is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.
He is Cannon.
He is an original.

I love this kid.

Happy Birthday to my boy… you’ve single-handedly taught me what patience really looks like. I am so thankful God gave you to me to be your mommy. You are my pride and joy and you always will be.

Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas


Testimony of Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. Awesome book and amazing class




I decided to take Sacred Parenting class for several reasons. One is because I LOVE Lynn Wray and the other was because it was a parenting class with a different take on what parenting is all about. I have three boys, 4, almost 3 and a 5 month old- all boys. I often get caught up in the how-to’s and the what-if’s and the guilt and uncertainty of not doing it right. I think just like any mom, I fear the worst and wonder if I am doing anything right. Lynn and Sheryl were so candid and genuine sharing about their own families and how God showed up and intervened in every stage of their parenting. They so lovingly and tenderly reminded us that it really isn’t about us at all. It’s not even about our precious children. It’s about God working in and through us and in and through our children to draw us closer in relationship to Him.

Motherhood is more special than we give it sometimes I think. It’s not just something every woman does. Motherhood is the perfect way for God to teach us who He is. We moms sacrifice it all. Our lives consist of laying down our own desires to pursue another’s. Is this not what Christ did for us? He not only made the ultimate sacrifice, but His whole life was sacrificed for His children- us. What a connection to see our role as moms to Christ’s role on earth. It brings such gut wrenching feelings of gratitude to me instead of resentment about what I may not be getting. It brings love and understanding (even for the difficult child) not because we need to work on being patient but because Christ is that way with us. He chose for us to develop long-suffering and to walk the hard road to build in us the very character of God. How amazing! It was so refreshing to hear that real moms struggle with motherhood and that it’s a good thing because it builds in us the character we want to pass along to our children to posses when they have their own children.

One particular chapter really made a huge impact on me. It was entitled “A Very Boring Chapter in the Bible (That Can Change Your Life Forever). It talks about Genesis 3 where it goes on and on about so-and-so lived x amount of years, had a son with this name, so-and-so had other sons and daughters and then died. I always thought that was included in the bible to show the lineage of Christ (which is a part of it) but like so much of God’s word, it’s more than that. It’s to show that we all live, have children and then die. There are no exceptions to the rules. We like to think that we’ll have all these things that all our descendants will remember us by. The harsh reality is that we will only be remembered by our children and maybe their children. Shortly after that, our legacy is so simple- we gave birth to make a way for them to be born down the line. As I sat there in class I can’t even begin to tell you how humbled I was. What a sobering thought; that we aren't as important as we think we are or will be. Even presidents and extremely famous people will too be forgotten. Gary Thomas (the author) goes on to say that although we won’t have historical importance, we can have relational significance through our children. Learning to think generationally instead of individually is so counter-cultural but this is the heart of God. Through this truth we can then focus on what’s really important, on what’s really going to last- a lasting legacy through the generations after us. This is what sacred parenting is all about and I was so impacted through this class and material to really embrace the sacred trust of children that God blessed me with (yes- even that difficult one!) and to remember that although the days are long the years are short and I will soon miss this terribly.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let them mix the play doh colors


     Let them mix the play doh colors. Sometimes we moms can be so uptight and want things just right even at the expense of a stressed out life. Simplify your life. Cut out a sport, an activity, a lesson, a bible study. De-stress and let them be kids. Choose your battles wisely. They will run and get scrapes on their knees; they will make obnoxious noises and faces; they will use 50 pieces of paper and think each line on each page is a masterpiece worthy of the fridge; they will have irrational fears; they will sneak a bit of dessert from the fridge before dinner and without asking; they will laugh and laugh and laugh over pee-pee poo-poo-head type talk; they will forget where they put their socks, their shoes and their sippy cups; they will break things; they will ruin something important; they will want to watch too much TV. Don’t be so predictable. Say it’s okay sometimes; expect the delays, the inconveniences. Join in when they make distorted faces. Run in the rain with them and just sometimes, throw caution to the wind.





      Don’t sweat the small stuff and teach them not to either. I’ve been telling them on different occasions, “Is this really a big deal? Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I tell them “In a few minutes you won’t even remember or care who had it first.” My very uncharacteristically logical 4 year old just recently seems to be getting it. He will think about it and say, “No, it really doesn’t matter” and move on. These little tid bits of break through are making my heart skip a beat. Finally, something is clicking!



     Not everything they do is great. When it is, give a sincere and specific praise. I’m a firm believer that kids can pick up on phony praise. When it’s not their best effort, kindly encourage them to go back to the drawing board. Give them the gift of being able to differentiate between hard work and mediocrity. They learn so much in their failings, don’t deprive them of these important lessons. No one succeeds in everything they set out to do without failing at something somewhere along the way. They will fail. The choice is whether it’s in your home, under your care or out in the real world. At home, you can guide them on how to cope and watch them develop important characteristics, such as patience, hard work, perseverance and a humble perspective. You'll be there to encourage them to pick themselves up to try again. The other option is they will think their failures are really successes (everyone gets a trophy mentality) and when they leave the safety net of the home they will be confronted with a harsh world. There, they will not have developed any coping strategies and fall to pieces at the first onset of failure. Do you want them wondering, “Why doesn’t everyone think I’m the best?” I’d go with the first scenario.



     Attitude and perspective is truly everything. Tone and demeanor speak volumes. Teach them early that lip service will get them nowhere. The way they say their words speaks volumes over their actual words. This attitude also shows the condition of their hearts and helps them see their need for a savior. Anyone can be legalistic. It takes courage to own a mistake and takes steps to fix it.

     Teach them gratitude by having gratitude. One of the best things to teach your kids is they are not entitled to all the sacrifices us parents make for them every minute of every day. ‘Thank yous’ are not optional. If anyone gives them anything, they say thank you… whether it’s a meal or to the teacher after a day of school. I am already starting to see glimmers of gratitude in my little toddlers without prompting- best feeling ever. Of course, like most things, this is more caught than taught. In the beginning though, it’s not giving up on the constant reminders that leads to them having unprompted gratitude when they are older.

     Help them understand that their brother or sister is to be respected. All the parenting books make big points in explaining how to get the kids to listen and obey the parent, but not nearly enough talk about the importance of showing respect and speaking kindly to their sibling. In our house, it is unacceptable to ignore, to have a dismissive attitude or to not speak respectfully to the other sibling. Thank you’s and your welcomes are expected to be exchanged by one another throughout the day. Teach them to resolve their own conflicts. The constant tattling ceases when they are required to respectfully voice their concern to the other sibling before coming to me. I am amazed at how many conflicts they are solving all by themselves! They aren’t perfect at it, but I can’t believe the difference it has made. They are learning respect for their sibling as well as communication skills. Sharing is another area that they are expected to show respect. If they wish to play with a toy that the other has, it is unacceptable to snatch. They know that in 5 minutes they get a turn. They sometimes come to me to start the timer but they are getting better at figuring out what 5 minutes looks like and having less fights about it. The fruits of my labor are starting to ripen!



     Take time out and do nothing or something with them. Watch a movie, read a book, play a game, dance to a song, fold the clothes, organize the toys, color, create a project. I can get caught up in my own thing, trying to get things done around the house, that sometimes I forget how important this is! Reading every night is great. Really, it’s great. I was a teacher, I know about these things… BUT, don’t stress if it can’t get done occasionally. I wouldn’t even feel guilty about it. Give yourself grace, and often. If you’re anything like me.. I need it every day and typically moment to moment.

     Expect to be constantly correcting, teaching, encouraging, loving, and admonishing. This is your job. Sometimes it will seem overwhelming… take a break and get at it again.



     Play music all the time… and not just little kid cartoon music. Play country, play pop and rock ‘n roll, classical and all different genres. Get them cultured and let them develop their own preference.

     Dance along with the music. Act stupid and crazy and make them (and yourself) laugh just because it’s a Tuesday.


     Brag on your kids in front of others. I can tell this makes their spirit soar.

     Don’t be afraid to talk to them about God and not only the Bible stories, but what He means to you today. Think outside the box and show them that God cannot be contained. Don't get caught up in all the rules we set up for ourselves. Instead of all the 'should' and 'shouldn'ts', reveal the heart of God every chance you get. There are so many opportunities we let slip by. Let someones compliment toward you be a lesson on humility. Let your sinful attitude be a lesson on forgiveness and grace. Let the changing seasons and the constant sun be a lesson that although things change God is always there, unchanged, pouring his light and goodness no matter the weather. Life in inundated with the characteristics and heart of God. Don't miss it!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reflecting back on my 30 years

I’m actually nursing right this minute. When you’re on the third kid, the skills of nursing while doing other things just become second nature. I had my sweet baby boy this past October. That makes a total of three boys, ages three and under. This life I live is absolutely nothing like the life I used to live. It is so incredibly different that I hardly even remember my life before them. I know people used to tell me that they couldn’t remember their life before kids either but now that I’m living it, I understand. I can see how moms might forget who they are after having babies. Sometimes I forget who I am too. It is just so natural, and maybe too easy, to put everyone and their needs before our own. I really don’t think about it and it’s not an obvious thing that happens. It’s not like one day I wake up and say, “Today, I will put myself last and not think about myself in any facet at all.” I’m thinking it happens slowly and gradually until one day I do wake up and think, “What about me?” Then- “How can I be so selfish to think about me?” Then think, “Me? Who am I anymore?” If I was a betting gal, I bet this has crossed the mind of many a mom.




I remember getting dressed up and spending way too much time on my hair and accessories. I remember seeing my imperfections through a magnifying glass and totally blowing it out of proportion. Can you believe I still have those tendencies? These days I just don’t have the time to worry about things like this, but if there was time, I bet I’d fall back to a degree of those critical thoughts toward myself. In a way, I’m thankful for the distractions. I’m definitely less superficial and I see how much of a waste of time it all really was.



Right now I am around 25 lbs over what I’ve weighed for most of my life. This is now my third time dealing with being very overweight after a pregnancy. Those suppressed insecurities come seeping out of the woodworks when that happens. I’m actually kinder to myself than I would have been years ago. How many times have I said, “OMG, you’re so fat” “How can anyone look at you like this, so gross.” “Don’t even leave the house without that mask of makeup on because you’re just hideous.” “How can you even walk with those nasty legs, you need some kind of surgery to fix that major problem.” Thoughts like these try and raise its ugly head every now and again but thank God I’ve learned to not entertain thoughts like these. I now know those come straight from hell to make me feel hurt and empty. Back then I was actually full of youthfulness and vibrancy. There was nothing to be embarrassed about, but I can remember feeling it eat away at me, almost all the time. This battle in my head about what to believe about myself was always raging. Not a soul on earth would have ever known about it. I remember after someone would compliment me I would never really believe them. I would say thank you but just thought they were so nice to say something so not true to make me feel something I wasn’t. It’s pretty comical looking back on it all. I don’t think I met a girl in high school that was not starting a new diet, on a diet, struggling with a diet or figuring out what diet to go on. The constant emphasis on image and desirability was so exhausting. Who could keep up? I even remember wishing I was someone else and thinking I had nothing to offer. For such down trodden thoughts you would have never known. I think I appeared fairly grounded, but yet the battles of the mind remained. My faithful mom would try and persuade me to believe how beautiful I was, but I just couldn’t believe it… not compared to this person or that person. The comparisons were so burdening!



When I went away to college I met the best of friends- as Anne of Green Gables would say, “Bosom friends.” I slowly felt loved for who I was. Gradually I began to see God in it all. I saw the beauty and uniqueness in others and maybe for the first time just appreciated it in them without desiring it for myself. Sounds so simple, but what a long time it took to do! I started to see the gifts that God had given to others as gifts for them and then I started to actually see the gifts within myself. This is an ongoing journey, as these gifts manifest itself in different ways based on the season of life I’m in. So I would say during my college years my eyes began to see something that I was very blind to before- real beauty.



During my first years working as a teacher I had an epiphany that I’ll never forget. I was sitting with some of the other teachers in the teachers’ cafeteria and another teacher was talking about how she needed to lose weight and get fit. She went on and on about it. What she was saying was nothing really out of the ordinary. But just then and there my eyes were opened and I almost said out loud, “Oh my God, it never ends!” It was like I just realized the same insecurities, dissatisfaction and self improvements just never end. Here this teacher was in her 60’s and she was still struggling with the same issues I was when I was a young teen. I remember feeling so sad. Not necessarily sad for her or me, but for all the woman out there. The culture we live in is so pervasive, it’s so strong and it infiltrates everything. We literally cannot get away from the messages they are sending. Messages that this is what beauty is, this is what’s desirable, this is what men want, these are the things you have to say and do… Who could measure up? Women are unknowingly in bondage to this made up standard that no one person can attain.



This is why knowing God is so important. He tells me who I am. I don’t have to guess or wonder. He calls me His beloved, His child. He rejoices over me with singing and has set me apart for Himself. He picked me up from the grime and placed me in the heavenly places. His spirit intercedes for me and He sends His angels to guard over me. He sticks closer than a brother and gives us the ultimate gift of Himself for eternity.

As I hold my precious little baby in my arms, the love I have for him just cannot even be measured. It is insurmountable. I would die right now to save him from harm without even a bit of hesitation. To even imagine that anyone could love more than this is really unfathomable; yet the way God loves is so much deeper than this. It’s beyond the human capacity to understand. It’s something to always be in awe about.



I feel like I knew that God loved me my whole life, yet I still struggled with such deep rooted insecurities. I knew this truth in my head but not in my heart. In my core I don’t think I really grasped this agape love or understood the magnitude and depth of it. It is so great!

Now that I’ll be 30 years old in exactly 9 days and as I sit in my favorite sofa and reflect on my life, I can actually say that I am finally content. Yes, I’m at least 25 lbs overweight, I still see all my “imperfections”, I have the smallest wardrobe of my life, my shoe collection consists of sneakers and flip flops, and my stretch marks are forever ingrained in my belly. Being the prettiest person in the room is no longer my aspiration. I just sit back and am amazed at how far God has brought me. Every hurdle I’ve gone through, every person I’ve met, every friend I’ve had, every disagreement I’ve experienced has led me to this point. I can honestly say that when I close my eyes at the end of each day I know who I am. It has nothing to do with my husband, my kids, my family or friends. It has nothing to do with my fashionista ways (or non-ways), my creative projects or my skill level in writing. It has everything to do with knowing and believing what the Bible says about me. I believe even as grown women, we need to constantly be reminded of it in order to keep the freedom of living a contented life- 25 lbs heavier or not.