Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanks Mom and Dad

I know recently you’ve been apologizing for the way you’ve raised us. Little comments here and there rolling your eyes at yourselves about how you can’t believe you forbade us to celebrate Halloween and how you both were ‘so ridiculous’ because you never did let us believe in an imaginary Santa Claus. I know you feel you’ve deprived me. Through the years it seems you are acquiring something the enemy loves to have us drag along with us- guilt. I have something so important I need to share with you. Please believe me when I say

you did well.

Now more than ever I can see a little more clearly the tough decisions you both made in raising us kids. I realize no one handed you a manual to answer all the tough questions. As far as I know, there were no glowing examples either of you could look up to, to emulate. This raising four kids in the ways of the Lord thing was uncharted territory- I get that. In light of that, I am truly amazed at the ways your extremely strong convictions held strong against the crashing tidal wave of consumerism, culture and disapproving pressure from others- including us!

This letter is not to say that the way you did everything was right and ‘look at me now!’ It’s a letter of gratitude to let you know that I so appreciate my upbringing. I have no regrets about my non-participation in Halloween activities, my non-existent lack of imagination due to never believing in Santa Claus or my thinking of Easter in terms of an empty tomb while others only knew about a big scary bunny. Not only do I not have any regrets, but dealing and wrestling with the ‘whys’ and ‘why not’s’ of each holiday solidified the side I chose to be on.

You presented the ‘narrow way’ and I willingly walked counter culturally. It was never easy to be different but that’s no reason to regret the choice you made. I realized back then that following Christ is never the easy way. It was uncomfortable to be the only one not celebrating Halloween or the only one not believing in an imaginary character. But looking back on it now, what an important lesson I learned.  To stand up for what I believed in, even if it was unpopular.

I grew up knowing, feeling and seeing the ways I was so very different than the majority of my classmates. You know what, mom and dad? That set the stage to forming who I was and who I was to become as an adult. I remember Brandon looking me dead in the eyes and telling me that he had never met anyone with such strong convictions in his life. Not to say I’m always right in my convictions, BUT it’s a little easier for me because you set the stage for me to walk counter culturally on many occasions during my growing up years. Don’t ever apologize for this. This was a blessing for me. If you’re ever proud of us kids for our perspective or pleased with the various ways we are going counter culturally- know that you built that in us. All those hard years and tough decisions created something beautiful and powerful in our core. It built our character even if it wasn’t done perfectly. I’m here to tell you that in the imperfections, my character was being refined. My values were being tested, and your convictions became mine as I sought to honor God the way you always sought to. As a kid, who has convictions? Who knows anything about values and following what’s right even when it’s unpopular?

I did.

So, thank you mom and dad for instilling in me a different way to go. You molded an independent thinker, someone who cares more about what God thinks than about what my neighbor thinks. You carved out the narrow way for me to walk and I am grateful for it. So, I didn’t get to dress up in costumes as a kid. I learned valuable lessons- spiritual battles and spiritual warfare are real. Don't give the enemy a foothold, remember to keep separate the ways of sin and fun and be careful to discern between the two. Be aware that the devil is real and is the author of confusion and deception. When friends and teachers would feel sorry for me and ask me ‘Why?’ all I could hear were your voices saying, “Sweet daughter, Jesus is worthy, choose the narrow way.”

How many little kids can say their parents taught them that?

I can.

Thanks mom and dad for fighting the world on our behalf. I probably complained and had a hard time settling the ways of the world with the ways of God. How separate they were! I’m sure I felt deprived, envious, like I was missing out, alone. I needed to work through those feelings to work out my own salvation. I needed to choose the narrow way for myself. 

I did.

Thanks for showing me the way mom and dad. What I lacked in feeling accepted, God provided for me through His overwhelming love. No need to beat yourselves up. Instead pat yourselves on the back for caring enough to teach the hard lessons even when it was unpopular. I can only hope to do the same for my boys. It’s not easy but anything worth having is worth fighting for, right? You both are exactly what I needed to be the woman I am today. I love you!!!!!!!!!!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Dearest Reeve on your 2nd birthday,

Today you are two years old!! I’m mixed with all types of emotions as I think back to the day you were born


 and see how much you’ve grown these last two years…

I’m thinking about the ways you’ve been exactly the same and the ways you’re changing. How you were the snuggliest, sweetest, most contented baby that ever lived

  and how now you are the same exact way but on your own terms.

How you were quiet and now you’re loud. How before you were always sleeping and now you’re always awake trying desperately to keep up with those two nutty brothers of yours.

You are beyond busy. You are beginning to want mommy a little less and brothers a little more. You are asserting yourself as your own person instead of always being conjoined with me. You are learning that speaking up has its advantages instead of relying on others to speak for you. You move furniture all around the house, you dump little pieces of organized things in a big heaping pile on the floor, you lose sippy cups and hide all of our shoes in various boxes, drawers and compartments. You stand on the edge of extremely high edges and when you see my panicked face, you move closer to the edge to watch in delight as my expression goes from panicked to frantic.

According to you, you don’t need help anymore with things like eating yogurt, climbing up and down stairs, getting dressed and getting in your car seat.  You think you are so much bigger than you are. Even though this drives me absolutely bonkers, I have to admit, I’m not that much different than you. There are times when I go through life thinking I can do everything on my own too. I don’t need anyone’s help. I can climb this mountain, I can jump this ocean, I can chew more than I can swallow- all on my own. All the while, there is my Father guiding me, helping me in ways I’ll never know and desiring my full reliance on Him. In just the same way you are running away from my help. I know why. I know it’s hard to admit you still need my help. I understand a little too well my son. When you get tired and weary, when you can’t finish what you thought you could finish, I’ll never leave you in your desperation because my Father never leaves me either. You will one day learn that it’s better to trust me instead of always towing the line; just like it’s better for me to trust my Father instead of being weighed down with fear and anxiety. I can’t get frustrated with you because looking at you is like looking at myself. Whether in the physical or spiritual realm, trust is hard but necessary. It might seem like a weak position to hold but in truth it is the strongest people who have enough wisdom to recognize their own inadequacies while at the same time relying on the promise that His strength is their strength. Trouble comes when we think of strength and power independent of the true source. Having faith is boldly admitting we need more of God and less of ourselves pretending we are greater than we are.

Whether running away or running toward me, happy or sad, pushing the line or complying, snuggly or independent, temper tantrum or delightful squeals, I will love you the same. The same gigantic immeasurable love I've always and will always have for you, my precious son. I would say this is the same love my Father has for me, but it’s not even close. As much as I love you, His love for you is greater, and deeper and sweeter than mine could ever be in an eternity. As much as I want you to trust me, trust Him more. As much as I want you to snuggle with me, rest in His unfailing love more. As much as I want you to respect me, listen and fear Him with every fiber of your being. He is more than you can imagine Him to be. A rescuer in times of trouble and a friend in times of joy. He is the lover of your soul, baby.

Even though you are so small, your presence is larger than life. Everywhere we go you bring a smile to strangers’ faces. They look at you and you wave and say, HI!” and give them the smile of a lifetime. Young and old, strangers of all walks of life just beam and have a better day because of you sharing the love you have inside. You came to us as a surprise, a time when we were struggling. You were a blessing in disguise and through you we could hear God shouting clear as day, “Trust me! This is perfect! This is what joy looks like! Trust my perfect timing!” We are learning to listen to our Father and here you are, the love of our lives, teaching us, challenging us to be better, motivating us to trust the unseen, to be more content, and to be thankful no matter what.

My birthday wish for you is that wherever you go you would bring happiness and joy to others, just by being the joy-filled person God made you to be. I hope that your inner peace would bring others the same kind of contentment you were born with. I’m convinced this is your gift, among many others. I’m so excited to see your many gifts develop and blossom throughout the years. Never ever, in a million years, lose this gift of joy. You are, by far, the best undreamt dream come true. Sweeter than I could have ever dreamed. Messy, snuggly, wild, tiny-tornado, dirty, drooly, perfect. I love you Reeve Michael. Happy 2nd Birthday!!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

You know you’re the wife of a police officer if…

  1. When it’s raining, you know he won’t be home on time, ever.

  1. You know better than to complain to him about being hot on a summer’s day in North Carolina... and you know the nastiness that lies underneath the kevlar...

  1. He drives his mini van like his police car.

  1. You know what 10-42 means (among other 10 codes).

  1. You may find yourself on the other side of a homicide investigation, domestic dispute or car wreck just by calling in the middle of his shift to ask if he feels more like shepherd’s pie or tacos for dinner.

  1. Dinner time stories, no matter how graphic, don’t phase you.

  1. You know all the local drunks and insane people by name and where they hang out.

  1. You find bullets in the dryer, in the couch and in random corners of the house.

  1. When the children grow up they want to become… firefighters.

  1. Watching daddy with his gun drawn evokes the same emotions as watching someone twiddle their thumbs.

  1. The wife must work or the family just might starve to death.

  1.  You never feel safer than when you’re with your husband, mostly because you have the inside scoop on the level of badass he is.

  1. No matter how long he’s worn the uniform, when he puts it on he is still sexy as all get out.

  1. He points out expired tags at least 10 times on every road trip with the family as you sit there rolling your eyes.

  1. You’ve watched enough police YouTube videos to become a police officer yourself. 
Have anymore??? SHARE!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Day I Didn't Yell

I feel like something has happened to me. Today feels like a turning point in my life. All day I felt in control when I usually feel like the days control me. I woke up with a clearer focus. I not only had ‘things to do’ but little people to invest in. I didn’t feel tortured by my indecisiveness or my perpetual to-do lists.

I didn’t consciously prepare for today to be different, but it was. I had plenty of opportunities to yell at my ‘littles’, yet I just didn’t. It was almost as though I simply didn’t have it in me anymore. It wasn’t because I didn’t get mad enough. It was like I was able to see past the moment. Before, all I could see was red and nothing else. There has been some kind of switch that has turned on in my life. I feel the Light, the energy.

I can sense that my current reality is shifting. I’m a first-hand spectator on the journey my little itty-bitty babies are on… how now they’re big enough to not need Band-Aids or kisses from Mama to make it all better. I’ve always known that they’ll get older, bigger, hairier. But today, that ‘knowing’ went from my head and sank deep into my heart. I heard whispers all day saying ‘This is the last day you’ll get to have them at this exact age, tomorrow they’ll be a little older.” I sensed that today, even though from an outside view looked a lot like yesterday and the day before that- it somehow wasn’t. I sensed that I was running out of time, because I was, and I am.

Maybe this shift in my thinking is because Silas is starting kindergarten and he won’t be home every single moment, like he is now. Maybe it’s because I’m beginning to work outside the house here and there and the days are going to look totally different.  I’m realizing these seemingly boring days are somehow extremely valuable. I really don’t think I can pin point just one reason for this paradigm shift. All I know is today I was the eye of the storm. I was kinder and spoke sweeter words. I was calmer and got a few hard tasks accomplished.

I glanced at Silas and instantly saw myself as a little kid just wanting to love my mom and have fun, just like him.

I identified with him.

I saw how Cannon responded to a composed mom in a tense situation. He didn’t fight back. He submitted. He respected me more when I could control myself- I could see it in his eyes.

I earned his respect.

I looked at Reeve ripping up important papers and throwing food across the room and I quickly dealt with it instead of losing my mind with an emotional outburst.

I responded instead of reacted.

I’m starting to realize if I cannot manage myself, I can’t be effective at managing others.  

Today, I didn’t yell.

It takes a lot of energy to yell. I think yelling is not just spewing forceful words, it’s spewing angst, regrets and more turmoil than what’s already there. Not yelling is going in the other direction. It’s refocusing everyone on the positive, on what they should be doing, making a way where they can thrive. It’s not taking their sin personally. It’s identifying with them and coming alongside of them and guiding them with the wisdom of someone who’s been there, done that. Yelling is shaming and guilting in hopes they’ll hate that so much they will decide to turn around and go in the right direction. Yelling is verbal chaos. It’s like a bullhorn. It’s just loud noise that no one wants to hear- agitating, aggressive, confrontational, assertion of self. Keeping your wits about you and lovingly teaching them the right way is like a song. It’s an immediate shift in a new direction within the appropriate boundaries. It’s a lovely place where everybody wants to be and feels free to dance and be themselves.

Here at the end of the day I’m tired but it’s a different tired. I’m tired because I have a lively life filled with activity every moment of my day, but I’m not emotionally drained like I usually am. I didn’t realize how different it feels to be emotionally drained vs. physically tired. I’ll take physically tired any day.

I hope this sticks, I hope somewhere in the heavens God declared August 19th the day that I finally grow up and start taking charge of my life instead of playing catch up and grasping at the coat tails of the hurricane of life. I hope it’s not just today. I hope that tomorrow and all my tomorrows after that will stem from the changes of today. I am impressed with today, with this peace I mysteriously acquired for no apparent reason. It’s probably not so mysterious after all. It’s a good thing and all good things come from God, right? I’m going to go ahead and give credit where credit is due. Maybe there is an unforeseen reason as well. I’m sure there is.

I’m so thankful for the subtle surprises that lighten my load and fill me with gratitude. Thank you Lord for love poured out and unmerited peace. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this day. It was yet another chance to learn, to reflect and to make adjustments for the benefit of my entire household but especially my little legacies. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

I Like You

I have three boys who are very young. I have not mastered home organization or using my time wisely. I seem to pick the wrong times to clean and get frustrated when the tornado trio come and destroy my attempts at putting things in their place. I try to keep them tame but they are so wild. So wild that I fall apart sometimes just thinking about putting the little house pieces back together again, after again and then again after that. I don’t have the stamina or the real desire to win that battle every moment of everyday. Between the clothes, the food, the random bits of paper and the ‘what is this thing?!’ I could spend all day everyday bent over picking up ‘debris'.

This particular day my four year old, Cannon, went into my drawers and pulled out my craft supplies. He peeled the backing off my magnet roll and jumbled up all my stuff. I have a thing with anyone touching the few things that I actually have organized and messing it up. I admit I went a little over-the-top crazy-eyed monster teeth at him. He got thrown in time out after a ridiculous mommy-hissy fit. While he’s bawling in the tiny chair all I could think was, “I need to get myself together here. I’m ruining my children’s lives.” Melodramatic much? After several minutes, when the tempers and emotions calmed down, I called him over to me. I crouched down and we said our ‘I’m sorrys’ and ‘I forgive yous’ and off he ran. The weight got lifted off our shoulders and we were back to being mama and boy. Not three minutes went by when he stops a few feet away from me and announces, “I like you.” I wanted to make sure I was hearing him right, so I said, “What did you say?” He said it again even louder, “I like you!” I couldn’t help the enormous smile that came over me as I said, “I like you too!” We just gazed lovingly into each others eyes, then he ran off to play again.

I stood there wondering, ‘Why does he like me?” I literally just exploded with anger and frustration at him. As I sat there thinking about it I realized he likes me not because I blew up at him but because I asked him for forgiveness. I admitted I was wrong then made it right again. He likes me because maybe he realizes I’m human, I don’t pretend to have it all together. Maybe he likes me because he knows he can’t do anything that is so bad that I won’t keep on immensely loving him, unconditionally. Maybe after all these four years he’s coming to grips that I’m not perfect, but I’m genuine. I’m not organized, but I try. I’m not rich, but I’m giving them all I have. Maybe he said that because he sensed I needed to hear that today. It made me feel like perhaps I’m not ruining their lives after all. Maybe I’m teaching them what it looks like to struggle well, to fall apart then get back up again. Maybe he was trying to tell me in so many words, “Everyone loves their mom but not everyone likes them.” He was choosing to like me, not out of obligation, but of choice. Or maybe he just wanted to tell me that he likes me because he simply does. J

Saturday, June 8, 2013

To My Can Man on your 4th birthday

Sometimes I sit back watching you play with your brothers and think to myself, “This kid is the most unique individual I think I’ll ever meet.”

It’s true… You are the greatest mix of personality the world will encounter. Your daddy and I laugh all the time at how you simply cannot just go with the flow. There’s no convincing you to leave your shirt on if you get a drop of water on it or to settle down from a major temper tantrum right before preschool every week, for any given reason.

One of my favorite things about you is the fact that you cannot keep a reward to yourself. You have it in your heart to always share with Silas whether it’s a special treat daddy gives you or a treasure prize at preschool. There are so many times you’ve asked your teacher to save an extra goody for your brother. Whenever good news is heard, you always run to tell Silas first. I love your heart!

 You are so particular about the little things in life. For example: no long pants to bed because you don’t like the feeling of them riding up when you get in bed… your socks have to be put on exactly right so that you (God forbid) don’t step on the ‘dot’ (where the stitching comes together near the front of the sock.) You find only one out of your seven sweatshirts acceptable to wear and you will only put on ‘soccer socks’ cheerfully, everything else is a battle. You cannot handle being up in front of people for any kind of group presentation… you will cry the whole time while everyone else is singing. Once you lose it, there is no retrieving any kind of sanity until you spend good quality time with your blanket (and by blanket I mean your bundle of yarn that's been loved on really, REALLY hard) in your room, by yourself.

I went to pick you up early from the children’s church today and I peeked through the little door window and our eyes met. Everyone was bouncing a beach ball up in the air, laughing and yelling... and there you were standing perfectly still just smiling your adorable sweet smile, with your head cocked to one side just gazing at me with all the love in your heart. Everyone was running circles around you and you just didn’t care. You just stayed staring and smiling for a minute or two. I’m going to hold onto that moment forever. This moment really does epitomize who you are. You don’t go with the flow, you hold your own and you don’t care who’s watching…you love your mama! Then...

and now...

 Maybe because you were so colicky and I was the only one that held you for the first few months of your life, but your love for me and my love for you is something fierce. A bond that cannot be broken.

Even at children’s church when everyone was in the middle of dancing and having a blast, you turn to me and say, “MOM! When are we getting outta here?!” LOL. You crack me up. Even when there is a fun day planned with grandma and it’s time to say goodbye to me, you always want to just stay with me. Even when bribed with all the ice cream, parks and bounce houses out there, you always want me to be there with you. Truth be told, I eat this up! Every mama needs a sweet-as-pie baby boy like you.

There are so many things I love about you, it’s impossible to pin point them all. You are my deep voiced, bug smashing, best bear-huggin', secret animal lovin’, Reeve-guardin', home lovin', Mama snugglin’, non-button down shirt wearin', use-your-fry-as-a-ketchup-spoon kind of kid. 

I know your strong-willed yet tender heart will bring you places even I can’t imagine. Your special combination of tough and kind are just what this world needs. Even though there are times I don’t know how to handle your outbursts and irrational thinking, we're growing together. God has taught me more through you than any living soul on this planet. You remind me how much I need a Savior. I thank God for you Cannon because you were designed especially for me to mother and your daddy to father. You are exactly what this world needs to be a better place. At the end of the day when you’re in bed sleeping I think about the little boy you are, your quirks, your sweet and loving ways and your determination and I am certain I wouldn’t want to change a thing about you. I’m a better Mama because of you. Here’s a hug and a kiss and a punch and a five from me to you baby. Happy 4th birthday to my bronze-skinned, blonde haired, absolutely beautiful, handsome-as-all-get-out baby boy! I love you!!!



Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Simple Life

I stumbled upon this stunning blog the other day. Really, it took my breath away. My eyes welled up with tears while listening to the background music dance with the poetic way this mom expressed her beautiful thoughts. The way she portrayed her ‘simple life’ just struck a chord with me. Obviously she lived on a farm because everyone who lives the simple life lives on a farm, right? Her magazine worthy pictures on the site just oozed with family love and camaraderie. There is one shot of one out of her six children giving the baby calf a bottle of milk. It just melted my heart. I sighed to myself and thought, “Ah… the simple life.” When I clicked out of the site, the music stopped and I was met with the whaling of little ones tugging on my pant leg asking for milk, a snack and another piece of my sanity.

After feeling a bit discontented with my own non-farming life, I asked myself, “What does it even mean to live ‘the simple life?’” Do I have to live on a farm to claim this highly desirable yet seemingly unattainable status? Do I have to home school, have five, six or seven children or make my own bread from scratch? Is there room for my not-so-large yet messier-than-most family to live such a life?

Truth is, the simple life can also mean something different than a lovely family with six home-schooled children living on a farm. Lest we be dismayed, discouraged and feeling inadequate, I believe the simple life can indeed be attainable to anyone anywhere- whether living on a farm or right in the middle of a bustling metropolitan. I’ve come to realize that the simple life has little to do with possessions, circumstances, or number of children and everything to do with our inner thoughts, perspective and our individual and unique lens we filter life through, everyday.

The simple life is a way of thinking. It’s letting those thoughts change your life so you can say ‘yes’ to the important and ‘no’ to the distractions. It’s figuring out what to value and what to just let go. It’s about contentment, avoiding comparisons like the plague, and being unexpectedly gracious and kind. It’s being genuine, down-to-earth and letting your guard down. It’s identifying with people and moving closer to relationships and further away from superficiality. It’s finding humor in the things you could fall apart over. It’s being true to yourself when there’s an opportunity to stand up for what’s right, even if it’s unpopular. It’s having it fresh in our mind that today is a gift, a special opportunity to pour into another’s life whether that someone is our own child or a total stranger. It’s looking our hardships square in the face and shouting, “I’m blessed, I’m blessed, I’m blessed!” It’s seeing the big picture when life so often is only pointing at a tiny piece of it. It’s bringing others up when it seems everyone is hurting, fighting an impossible battle. It’s forgiving when mercy isn’t warranted and remembering life is but a breath. Make it count…. bring something beautiful to it that only you can give.

To me, this is the ultimate simple life; keeping first things first, and not sweating the small stuff. It’s constantly remembering we are not the center of the universe and letting that reality drive us to be part of the larger community where we have something to give rather than only looking to see what we can receive. It’s letting technology aid these efforts, not hinder them. It’s choosing to be the victor and not the victim in any given circumstance.

Recently an old high school acquaintance 'friend requested' me over social media. He wrote me an unexpected message telling me that he had a horrible time in high school and wanted to let me know, thirteen years later, that I was one of the few that brightened his day. He thanked me for ‘always having a smile for him.’ I had absolutely no idea that I was contributing anything to him or anyone else. In my own eyes I didn’t do anything seemingly special... but to him it was what helped him get through high school. I was floored and so grateful I was able to bring light to his life all those years ago. It was a gift to him I didn’t even know I was giving. Getting this message from an old friend reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson.

Maybe all you did was stay in your pajamas all day, didn’t even brush your teeth… but you nursed that little baby from sun up to sun down. You’ve nourished another. Find peace and pleasure in such a gift. This is the simple life. Maybe you’ve not met your quota at work but during lunch break you listened to another tell her story, and you were there, present, connecting, enabling her to feel heard, important. This rare gift of attention- this is the simple life. Maybe you’ve reached the end of your rope emotionally and physically and are just about ready to collapse when you hear the baby crying, again. Somehow when there’s nothing left to give, there you are giving, again and again. This, my precious friend, is the face of raw sacrificial love, the greatest gift of all. That smile at a stranger, that undeserved gesture of kindness, that moment in time, this is the simple life.

Perfection is an illusion. The simple life is not necessarily living like the Amish as much as living like yourself, in your own mess- except with a new lens that sees and yearns to live out gratitude in spite of the circumstances, not because of it. Go ahead, go live the simple life, right smack in the middle of your very busy non-farming kind of life. As you live it out you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How to not meet the status quo- and be thankful for it

Easter morning was chaotic. I should have been prepared with the clothes laid out and pressed with matching accessories and shoes but I didn’t. Three quarters of the clothes were in the laundry, wash or clean but wrinkled in a heaping pile on the laundry room floor. I woke up late and rushed around finding button-down shirts and some sort of khaki bottoms for everyone. Although looking like my life depended on it, I was unable to find matching socks in the whole house- for anyone. How does anyone have 18 socks with no matches? I felt like Murphy’s Law was at work at this point. So, with no matching socks I had them put on socks from the day before. Obviously not the ideal solution, but you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.

Suppressing the disappointment and guilt I inevitably felt, I finally got all the pieces of everyone’s outfits together and told them to put it on. Tears and tantrums were the immediate response. As the time was ticking I started to give the evil eye and curl my lip in frustration. Still more whining and running all around. Anger started to rise and my voice was rising along with my blood. Why can’t they just listen? Why of all days are they fighting me with this? A button-down shirt isn’t too much to ask, is it? Well, in my house it was too much. At my wits end, weighing getting to church super late or disciplining properly I resorted to bargaining and bribes. 

I walked into the kitchen to see my husband dressed like he was going to play baseball. I’m like, “IT’S EASTER! Can you put on something a little more… dressy/nice?”  He looks at what I’m wearing and grunts, “Oh” with an, ‘I guess you’re right but I’m still annoyed’ kind of look. We had about 5 minutes to get in the car and no one had eaten breakfast yet. I tossed some eggs on a few plates and every other word I uttered was, “Come on, hurry up, let’s go, we’re going to be late, stop screaming, stop messing around, come on, hurry up…”

This is highly ironic since it’s a known fact for anyone that’s known me more than five seconds that I’m always late and just about everything I do is slow. But today it was everyone else’s problem that we were running late (so it was in my mind anyway… ) Plus, pointing fingers is so much easier than taking responsibility, right?

I just wanted so badly to be that picture perfect family dressed to the nines with darling smiles on, holding hands and being adorable. Instead I was the mean Mama barking orders at everyone while mopey kids and disgruntled husband shot non-verbal insults my way. Was that button-down shirt worth all this? Why did I care about such superficial things?

Of course we were late. Of course we all were miserable. On the way to church I kept wondering how many other families had the same morning as us. How many didn’t? What could I have done differently? From someone whose motto is “Don’t sweat the small stuff” all I was doing was sweating the small stuff.

I wish I would have woken up earlier. I wish I would have prayed that morning and asked God to help me remember what it was I was going to church for. I wish I would have let them pick out their own outfits. I wish I wouldn’t have been influenced by what culture says is “Easter outfits.” I wish I would have spoken sweetly to them and given out more words of love and encouragement then of judgment and hostility. I wish I would have said, “You want to wear your Spiderman shirt? Okay Baby, I love that shirt too.” I wish I would have looked at my husband’s casual outfit and said, “You look so handsome- I love you no matter what you wear! (because he did and because I do)” As I sat there in the car wishing my morning away and rethinking my attitude, I started thinking about Easter. I thought about why we’re even going to this church building. I should have been praying for souls to be reached, for God to move in the hearts of those attending, for God to heal my broken way of thinking, for Him to touch people’s lives through the worship and message. I should have cared about different things.  

After all my apologies and after the service was over and we came home, everyone ripped out of their clothes not one minute after stepping into the house. I immediately thought, “Well all that fighting was totally not worth it.” I didn’t get one picture of us… instead I got a lesson learned. The best lessons learned are the ones where you can look back on your mistakes and say, “Wow, that was dumb… I’m not doing that again.” Later that day as all the Easter Facebook pictures popped up on my news feed I just smiled and thought, ‘We missed that picturesque moment, but I learned a timely lesson that I wouldn’t trade for all the pastel pants and Chaps shirts in the world.’ Next Easter I’ll concentrate on things that matter. I’ll think about Jesus instead of fancy clothes. We’ll more than likely be the family dressed like we’re going to a sports event. Maybe some of us will be wearing clean socks, maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll have our shirts tucked in, maybe we won’t. One thing is for sure, I’m not going to sweat the small stuff. No one will be spoken to harshly and we’ll be wearing the only thing that really matters… a thankful heart for Jesus. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013


It seems like at least once a day at some point I’ve been drilling the kids to remember what Easter really means. It feels like an uphill battle where every sign, commercial and display is about bunnies and colorful eggs. One time after I quizzed them on what Easter really means Silas asked, “Then why are there so many Easter bunnies if that has nothing to do with Easter?” I said, “I guess it’s because there’s always something else that seems more colorful and exciting to take away from Jesus.” He looked thoughtful then ran off to play. I hope he gets that even though in so many ways Jesus and His truths are unpopular, they are the only way to peace, contentment and true joy.

Just yesterday, the kids came home with a huge bucket filled with candy. They had an Easter egg hunt at school. The amount of candy was almost like Halloween- ridiculous amounts. My kids never looked so happy as they trotted out of the school building proudly swinging their heavy buckets filled to the brim with everything deliciously desired in their little minds.

Even at age 31, I still really enjoy a good Snickers, Twix, Reece’s peanut butter cup, etc. I have gone on a long journey with food to come to a place now where I am no longer ignorant about the dangers and realities behind the food industry. I have gone from no awareness, ‘ignorance is bliss’, eat-whatever- I-want-without-a-care-in-the-world, to very much informed, knowledgeable, cautious and a proactive advocate for a healthy, natural, eating as close to God’s green earth as humanly possible kind of gal. We have no allergies per se but we live like we do. We cut out modern hybridized wheat, genetically modified foods, most processed sugary foods, and grain fed beef. This list seems small but it’s basically everything they sell at the store. This has been very hard but I know it’s what we have to do as a family. In a sense, I know too much to just go back to the way we used to eat. As a result, we’ve all slimmed down a bit and I feel really good about feeding my kids knowing that I’m doing everything I can to fuel their bodies with what it needs to be healthy and to give them the best start possible in life. As far as perfection goes, we are far from it. Eating healthy in an unhealthy world is so hard. Parties, family functions, last minute meals are all temptations to slip up. We do slip up and have these forbidden foods on occasion but the next day we hop back on the healthy eating train and all is well again.

So, as the kids are getting in the van with their candy I am trying to figure out how to handle it. I want to just throw it all out in the garbage and give them a few treats I got them at Earthfare, where there are no GMO’s and there is actually a short ingredient list instead of the never ending chemicals on the traditional candy labels. But then the look in their eyes, I just couldn’t. So, I made them a deal. We would eat a few pieces today and then throw the rest out and not have any tomorrow. We did the same thing for Halloween and they took that okay. So we broke out the candy and immediately threw out all the Tootsie Rolls. I just couldn’t even go there. To be fair, all the candy is pretty much horrible for you, but for some reason Tootsie Rolls just push me a little too far. They are completely banned for us. So, for the rest of the candy we just ate a few pieces and a few pieces more and then before we knew it, all the candy was gone. I ate right along with them! Next thing I knew we all had runny noses… out of nowhere. I had a splitting headache and Cannon’s belly was hurting him. How this candy was affecting us was so telling.

It reminded me of the way we handle sin in our lives. It looks so appealing, it’s wrapped in such shiny, pretty packaging with bright colors and cute bows. It taste so good. We can’t have enough and we indulge ourselves as much as we can. Afterwards, we are hurting. That hurt can be emotional, spiritual, or directed at someone we love. Either way, we would have been better off to run away from the temptation, like when Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife when she was tempting him.

When Brandon came home from work, the kids were jumping off the walls and I was feeling terrible with a headache that wouldn’t go away.  I asked B, “Since when did Easter mean GMO partially-hydrogenated oils, genetically modified corn starch, GMO corn syrup, GMO sugar, preservatives, artificial dyes and a host of other unpronounceable chemicals? When did we go from, “Praise God! Jesus is alive!!” to “Let’s fill our babies’ bodies with everything that’s terrible for them and call that Easter fun!” I know I’m probably the scrooge of Easter egg candy, but isn’t there a better way? They actually do make candy that is not terrible for you. I had to search, but it’s out there, for about quadruple the price… but it’s out there!

At night when all the Easter candy is gone and we’ve all recovered from our sugar highs (and lows) and refueled our bodies with vegetables to try and compensate for the day before, I’m going to sit down with my boys. I’m going to tell them that this is the best holiday in the world because we know that not even death can keep us apart from God. Jesus died and when He rose on the third day, that’s proof to everyone that not only is He God, but all of our bad stuff that was put on Jesus is now forever gone. Whenever you mess up, remember that Jesus already died for that and He’s alive now waiting on you to grab a hold of that forgiveness. I’m going to tell them that because of Easter we can live without worrying about anything. We don’t have to fear a thing because the same God that loved us enough to send Jesus to die on a cross for our sin is inside of us compelling us to live out this love to others. I hope they are amazed at the grace of God and how absolutely nothing, not even death, can keep us from the love of God.

I pray this scripture would be hidden in their hearts. No matter where they are or what circumstances come their way- that they would know that the love and grace of God is not earned or deserved. It’s not to be taken lightly or for granted. It’s a treasure, a gift, a mystery and a marvel. It’s everything we could ever hope for and everything we’ll ever need. It’s freedom and life, peace and hope and all that we can ever desire. It’s enough, more than enough... Thank you Lord for Easter, for this amazing miracle of grace. For taking every bad thing I’ve done and thought or will do or will think and sending it as far as the east is from the west. Thank you for the promise of heaven and for never leaving us alone. Thank you for the truth that sets our souls free. May gratitude reign in my heart today and tomorrow and all the days and years after. May my heart never grow weary of thanking You for victory over sin, peace for today and hope for eternity.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chosen for him and he for me

Sometimes at night I pick up my baby, nuzzle my head in his neck, and kiss him until I get that deep-bellied cackle out of him. After all that cackling, I just stare in his beautiful hazel eyes. I suddenly realize I’m holding this incredible miracle, this sweet beautiful bundle of everything lovely. I become overwhelmed at the fact that he’s mine and I am his. With his head on my shoulder and my arms wrapped around his stout, chubby body, I start dancing with him, right in the middle of the kitchen. We’re dancing to the sound of our hearts, in the midst of the dirty pots and pans.

For that moment I don’t see the mess or care one iota about it.  He just lets me love him and this time snuggles his neck into mine as we sway back and forth, back and forth. Oh how my cup overflows! In that instant I am the richest person in the world, and of all women, the most blessed. My eyes are so tightly closed so as to squeeze all the love in my heart into precious memories that I can keep forever. I need to savor and enjoy this; I need to remember this exact minute. All I can muster out is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’- just whispering to the One who gave me this child, this reward, this moment. 

I hope He sees my heart, how it overflows with gratitude, how although my words are few- they are full of awe, praise and wonderment.  How could it be that I was chosen for him and he for me? It feels good to get lost in this love… the love that I didn’t even know I’d have. 

He was not in our plans. He ‘wasn’t supposed to be’. On all accounts, he came at the exact wrong time in a situation that was overwhelmingly in disarray. How the news of his coming tempted hearts into fear, anxiety, worry and every untrue thought to think. To see him now, just the opposite of all the lies we told ourselves. In true lavish God-fashion, he is not only a good baby, he’s over-the-top adorable, peaceful, loving, delightful, joyful and simply exactly what we needed that we didn’t know we did. 

There is not one crevice of my soul that doesn’t regret any second I spent not completely elated over having this baby. When all anyone could see was the burden, the price, the inconvenience, God saw the gift, the treasure, the lessons that would refine us and build us up to be the parents He created us to be. 

When will we ever learn that “A man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps?” When will we believe this? I have the proof of it and his name is Reeve Michael, one of the best unexpected miracles I could have ever hoped to receive. Look at what we would have missed! When I hear that squeal of delight or catch him dancing to the music only he can hear, may I stop and remember that “His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways.” 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

Death has always been a terrible thing for me. As a young girl I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking that my mom, dad or someone I loved was going to die. I would run downstairs and cry and cry on my mother’s lap thinking awful thoughts of being left alone. Death was incomprehensibly horrifying! It was something to be feared, to be worried about and to be shocked about if you heard someone actually went ahead and died.

My favorite scripture growing up was Psalm 139 where it says, “16 Your eyes saw me before I was put together. And all the days of my life were written in Your book before any of them came to be.”

I believe that God knows the number of our days. I know that I can’t screw up and die before I was really ‘supposed to’. The ball is no longer (or ever was) in my court. In a strange sense, relinquishing this control brings a kind of comfort. It’s somehow liberating because I’m not responsible. It means I’m trusting in God and saying that He really knows what’s best even when it looks just the opposite. The hard part is that we don’t know His plan. We don’t know why some people last until they’re ninety years old and others until they are four. We don’t know why some women are born in Afghanistan while others are born in America. Why some are born without limbs and others completely intact. There are so many variables to being alive. Who, why, where, when, how long? We just don’t know so many things, but thank God it’s not up to chance either. Faith is truly the opposite of fear. You can’t be afraid if you believe God is good. One of our many problems is that we can only see our existence here on earth. Do we truly believe that there is a heaven? Do we believe in eternity?

I hate goodbyes. When someone leaves this world that I knew and loved it is the most surreal, most weird thing I can think of. The physiological response is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s like the body wants to shrivel up and turn itself inside out. I feel like I can't breathe, walk or think straight. I remember my brother’s funeral. Standing there, looking at his pictures that I’d seen a million times, but now instead of an album, they were in a slideshow with sad music. His name plastered in the obituaries with his birthday along with the death date. I remember looking at that and thinking, “This is fake. This is so strange. This is really not happening.” I felt like I was playing a role in a movie or having an out of body experience. I would get upset when people referred to him in the past tense thinking, “He was just here a few days ago, what do you mean, ‘He was a funny guy?” He is hilarious and crazy and lives in the moment.’ I remember standing up on the podium looking out at everyone’s faces and thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ A million memories clouded my thinking and a thousand thoughts rushed to my brain all at once. It was just so sudden, so unexpected, sad, unfair, unnatural and difficult, like the whole world was coming undone.

In Ecclesiastes 3 it says, 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

These words came alive to me trying to make sense and cope with the loss of my brother. Death is so unnatural because we were created for eternity. We were never intended to die. We were made in the image of God to live and love forever. Doesn’t it make perfect sense that death is so foreign?  

Our fish, “Froggy” died recently. He was laying at the bottom of the fish bowl. I broke the news to the kids who didn’t know how to respond. I told them that Froggy died and that he’ll no longer be with us. I told them he was gone forever. Cannon ran and got the stool to get a better look into the fish bowl. When he saw him upside down and sunk down to the bottom, he looked over at me and said, “I know! I’ll just feed him!” He grabbed the fish food and was thrilled to death that he figured it out. I explained that when someone or something dies, they don’t come back, even if you feed it. I’ll never forget the look on his face. His facial expression was a mix between, “You’re crazy and I’m totally confused.” All kids are confused with death. There is no category for not being here anymore. In their little minds they were always here and always will be…. and in a way, they’re right.  

In John 3:16 Jesus says, “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

How is it that we ‘should not perish?’ Don’t we all die? According to Jesus, we don’t perish. We just go on living in another place, in another way, in another capacity.

We are going to leave this earth. All the questions pertaining to it I do not know. I do know that God is good and His goodness is defined by Him. I know that it is overwhelmingly sad when someone leaves us for the duration of our lives. Even Jesus wept over Lazarus’s death, and He was about to raise him up from the dead!

As I stare at the picture of a smiling Sgt. Gary Morales, my heart simply breaks. This everyday hero just recently died on February 28th, 2013 in the line of duty as a law enforcement officer in Florida, at the young age of thirty-five. I remember him in our development growing up, always smiling that same exact smile he has in his police picture.

I have that same sinking feeling thinking that he wasn’t supposed to die. He was just with his family. His poor wife, his poor little girls, his mom, his dad, his three brothers, his friends! How they will miss everything about him! It just doesn’t seem right that he would be taken so young, in his prime with so much to live for. Then, when I think about where he is, as a believer, a small smile creeps in and I think he is in the best, most amazing, most indescribable place. We can’t even describe how wonderful it is. Yes, here we all are, sad and shaking our heads in disbelief, shock and horror. We don’t know so many things. We don’t have answers. What we do know is that God has all the answers. He wipes away every tear. He loves like crazy and He only asks that we believe and trust in His work and dare I say, His good plan. In all the world, with so many unexpected deaths from infants all the way up to the very elderly…God is working, moving, and loving us. His goodness and love isn’t defined in the manner in which we die or whether we die young or old. It’s encapsulated in His Son whom He gave up for us all, so that we could live eternally and that this very sadness we are experiencing would be temporary and not permanent. I pray He would open our eyes to see Him as good, in any and every circumstance. Even when our hearts are breaking, I pray He would help us in our humanity and rescue us from our short-sighted thinking. I pray every single time we let our minds wander to that dark and burdened place, that God would come quickly to our aid. I pray He would remind us of His love and how he slayed and defeated death once and for all- so that we, His prized and cherished possessions, would live with Him and all our believing family and friends, forever and ever and ever.

When I die, whether it be tomorrow or in a hundred years, I pray that my three boys, who are my living legacy, would see the world as it is- not their ultimate home. While they are here I pray Romans 12 over them- that they would not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds. That then they will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. To love sincerely, hate what is evil and to cling to what is good. 10 I pray that they would be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above themselves. 11 I pray they would never be lacking in zeal, but keep their spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Lord, let them be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Help them to share with the Lord’s people who are in need and to practice hospitality. 14 Help them to bless those who persecute them; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Help them not to be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position and not be conceited. 17 Remind them not to repay anyone evil for evil…. and 18  if it is possible, as far as it depends on them, to live at peace with everyone. 19 Give them strength to not take revenge, but to leave room for God’s wrath… help them not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I pray that they would earnestly pray for wisdom above success. That they would count their blessings and be ever humbled by Your abundant and extravagant love for them. Whether they live in luxury or poverty, I pray Your praise would continually be on their lips. I pray they would seek truth and honor above fortune and fame. May their God-given talents and gifts be used everyday for Your work for Your glory as long as they live. I pray for their perfect care, but if You see fit in Your perfect will and plan to take them early, I pray You would still my heart and keep me focused on eternity, where I’ll get to be with them again, along with all my precious loved ones. In the meantime, may everyday be full of life, love, laughter, peace, joy and all the fruit of the Spirit. May the person who You’ve made me to be be my greatest witness to the kind of gracious, adoring and absolutely incredible God You are, regardless of any circumstance I encounter. Help me to believe this difficult thing. When I want to doubt your goodness Lord, remind me of eternity!