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Thursday, December 8, 2011

This crazy kind of love...

Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love, came and spoke at church last month shortly before Thanksgiving.

He spoke on giving, from what God has given us, to show people the crazy love that God has for them.  I sat there inspired, and yet a little irritated.

Let me explain.

Here's this guy who is a renowned speaker, author and pastor.  He has money.  And he's able to do these amazing things for people...absolutely amazing things.  I found myself sitting in my chair thinking, "I would do those amazing things too if I had money like that."

And then I was reminded, in the stillness of that moment, of the story where the master gave his three servants money.  He gave one a bunch, one a reasonable amount, and one just a bit.  The man with a bunch multiplied his money as did the one with the reasonable amount.  But the one with just a bit, he just buried his money.  He did nothing with it.

This last year with all the financial struggles my family has gone through with this economy, I feel like I've been wrestling with God to give me more.  I feel like that third servant who has been so afraid to do anything with what God has given me in fear of squandering what I have.  I've struggled with my comfort, and allowing my desire for comfort to come before my service to God.

As I continued listening to Francis, I realized that I have been called to be faithful with what God has given me. No, we haven't been given tons of money.  But we have been given enough, and I was determined to use it to show others God's love.

So, on Thanksgiving the kids and I delivered cookies and brownies to firefighters, police officers and nurses who had to work on Thanksgiving instead of spending it with their families.  I decided to do this, because God has given me food - and the ability to bake.  And maybe, possibly, a warm cookie (and I must say my cookies are quite good) by a kind stranger might make their hearts softer towards the Lord.  I don't know, but I felt like it's what I could do - and so I obeyed.  And it was the most amazing Thanksgiving I have ever had.

Since then, my husband's job has become more in jeopardy as it looks like his company will be going out of business soon. My husband has also started getting sick again with a chronic illness that is very unpredictable.  And just a few weeks before Christmas.

Oh that comfort.  How my flesh so badly wants to grab whatever tangible thing I can and hold onto it for dear life.  But really, right now, the tangible things aren't seeming as important anymore.  The things I can't touch are what's seeming priceless - and even though my flesh is scared, I'm so amazed at God's crazy, crazy, CRAZY love for me, and I find peace in that.

People who I hardly know are calling me to minister to my family in ways that I haven't even spoken a need. My husband and I have had many moments the last few days where we just look at each other speechless on how God is providing for us.

And I know we are going to be ok.

And it makes me want to give from what God has given me.  I want to multiply what I have by giving it away.  I want so badly to be a good steward of what is in me that it is burning inside me.

So what does that look like for me?

You know that Christmas song, "The Little Drummer boy?"  There is a part where it says, "I'm just a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring that's fit to give the King, shall I play for you on my drum?"
God gave him the gift of music - and so he gave...

God gave me the ability to bake.  So I will give.

He's given me the ability to be kind.  So I will give.

He's given me hope.  So I will give.

He's given me love.  So I will give.

He has given me everything that I need - so I will give...and it may just be a smile, or an encouraging word, or a plate of cookies.  It may be a small gift, or a ride to a doctors appointment, or a warm meal.  But I can give - so that others can experience a taste of God's crazy love for them, because I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and that He loves me, in a crazy kind of way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving should not be the new Black Friday.

I am refusing to Christmas shop right now.

I so badly want to focus on Thanksgiving.

I don't want my kids, or me for that matter, to forget how to be thankful.

I don't want to go from wanting lots of candy straight to wanting lots of presents.

I want my kids to enjoy the month of November remembering what they have to be thankful for - hoping that it will create in them an attitude of gratefulness all year long.

And I am quite aware that most people have already started Christmas shopping, hunting for the best deals.  I too love a good bargain.  I know there will be thousands of people shopping before the sun has even thought to rise the day after Thanksgiving - and more power to you!

My hubby has worked in retail his whole career and from Black Friday to the first of the year is an insane time. We always gear up for it mentally, knowing that we won't see much of Daddy during those few weeks.

But this year, it's going to start earlier.

This year he has to work on Thanksgiving.

This year, before my kids will even be in bed from the days festivities, he has to go to work so that people can shop for presents on Thanksgiving.

I understand that times are tough.  I understand that businesses are trying to survive and figure out ways to make even more money.

But can't we as consumers stand up and say that we disagree with them taking time from employee's families on Thanksgiving just to make a little extra profit?

I just want to ask you - please don't support these businesses that are open on Thanksgiving.  Please don't go shopping Thanksgiving night...please wait till Black Friday to spend your money.  Please let these businesses know with your spending that we as a country still value family over stuff...over the best presents...over whatever?

Please be respectful and don't shop on Thanksgiving so that managers like my husband can send home his employees because they are so slow, so at least those people will get to spend the evenings with their families.

Let's spend Thanksgiving being thankful instead of thinking about all the things we want and feel we can't live without.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

SLOW DOWN!!!

I love Fall.

It's my favorite.

The leaves changing, mulled cider candles, pumpkin everything.

This year, the kids and I decorated our porch for the first time.

We made a scarecrow out of leaves stuffed in bags and lovingly named him Frank.

We began a "Thankful Tree" at the beginning of Fall and try to put a leaf for each of us every day with something that we are thankful for written on it.

With the kids in Kindergarten now, it is crazy how I feel like the gas pedal of my life has just been pushed down a little harder and now, just like everyone said would happen, time is flying by.

On Halloween I was running around town looking for a plastic pumpkin for Luke and Emma's Halloween party at school.

I walked into Target with Lily and Will fully expecting all the Halloween stuff to be on clearance.  Not exactly.  There were about 15 Halloween things left and now, on the actual day of Halloween, Christmas music was playing and all the Christmas stuff was out.

I wanted to scream, "SLOW DOWN WORLD!"

What's our hurry?

Can't we just enjoy the day?  Can't we appreciate that there is another holiday in between Halloween and Christmas called Thanksgiving where we don't have to think about "I wants", but instead focus on the "I have's?"

Can't we treasure the day where our little ones dress up like butterflies and silly green turtles before we have to push them on to the next activity or big event?

And now, I feel like I'm holding on for dear life as life itself just hurries around me, pushing my babies to grow up...and I just want it to slow down.

So, as I walked through Target totally irritated that Marriah Carey was singing her Christmas music already, I just stopped and breathed deeply.  I looked into the dark brown eyes of my precious little Lily and smiled and told her she was the cutest little "Punky Dora" that I ever did see, and we continued on with our day.

Are you enjoying the moments...are you breathing deeply...are you treasuring every day?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Messy Love

I've been so willy nilly about the whole blogging thing as of late.  I know.

But with my whole new addiction to Pinterest, the twins starting Kindergarten, teaching Lily preschool and watching another kid two days a week (yes, really) I haven't found much time.

But today I couldn't put it off any longer.  I feel though I may explode.

Really, I have so much I could share:  My ponderings regarding my children being old enough to go to Kindergarten and beginning the road to independence (sigh), how I was almost brought to tears when a group of fifth graders were beyond kind to my son at open house on the playground, my children's monster like behavior at home since they started school (seriously, what's up with that?!)  I could share about things like how I've decided to embrace our tight budget as a blessing and am figuring out how to make the most of it with decorating my home.  Or how somehow, I'm not sure how, I am now helping coach track and field for kindergarten?  Yes...so much to blog about.  But alas, none of these would be the cause of why I feel though I may explode.

I've been a Christian since I was three.  I have had my mind set on things pretty firmly since I was pretty young.  I've known what was right, what was wrong and really that there was no need for grey anywhere. 

Black and white.

And if you have known me for any length of time, you will know that mercy, grace, compassion (all those really wonderful traits) are not on my short list of attributes.

Yet this year, I've just been getting hammered.

In a good way I suppose, but really even if the final result will be something amazing - every time I get hit by the proverbial hammer, it's painful.  But as I've been getting hammered, and refined this year with all the wonderful things that have been thrown our way - love has kept hitting me in my face.

And not the gooey kind of love.  Or the comfortable kind of love.  Or the neat and orderly kind of love.  But the messy kind of love.  The kind of love that drove Jesus to hang with tax collectors and prostitutes.  Messy love.

Now, I am certain that Jesus wasn't down with thievery and fornication (let alone for pay) but He still loved these people.  He still wanted to spend time with them, know them...He still found value in them.  In fact, He found so much value in them that He risked His reputation to be in their presence.

I am not like Jesus.

And if I actually look at myself objectively, I would admittedly be more like the pharisees - who were sinning and yet pointing the finger at everyone else...

So my heart has been changing.  And I have found myself surprising myself with how my thoughts have been playing in my head:  "No, as Christians we need to love them..."  "Um, no person with the angry bumper stickers on your car, Democrats haven't been the sole source of the degradation of our society..."  "Good for you President Obama for quoting scripture, actually, thank you..."  "No Christian radio, I don't think playing a montage of someone speaking as God to the 9/11 victims is appropriate..."  "What can I do, how can I practically show them the love God has for them?"

And it has really frustrated me lately because I am seeing more and more how we as Christians have forgotten that it's not us against them - that we were never instructed to surround ourselves with impenetrable walls so that no evil could get us. We were never told to protect ourselves in a little bubble and only talk and socialize with those who are of like mind.  We were never commanded to only love when it was nice and neat, and came in a pretty little Sunday morning package. 

Last time I checked, the Bible didn't say that we as Christians were better or smarter - yet I find that so many of "us" have consciously or unconsciously segregated ourselves.  And I know personally, that it's so easy to talk about talking about our faith - and yet, when I think about the last time I actually talked about my faith to someone who didn't share the same beliefs with me, my memory gets a little foggy.

Because that would entail vulnerability, humility, grace, compassion, mercy...a really messy kind of love.  Sharing with someone who didn't believe the way I do would require me to put aside my schedule, my routine, my comfort.

And here's the one that's been the hardest for to swallow...to say that quite possibly there is room for grey on some issues, that love really can conquer all (and only when it's not in my nice little Sunday package) and that sometimes people with completely different opinions on life may actually have valid points - is all a part of that messy kind of love.

On my newly beloved Pinterest, I saw a pin and it made me squirm when I read it.  It said these words:

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

THY HOMELESS NEIGHBOR
THY MUSLIM NEIGHBOR
THY BLACK NEIGHBOR
THY GAY NEIGHBOR
THY WHITE NEIGHBOR
THY JEWISH NEIGHBOR
THY CHRISTIAN NEIGHBOR
THY ATHEIST NEIGHBOR
THY RACIST NEIGHBOR
THY ADDICTED NEIGHBOR
When I read those words, I was instantly convicted.

Homeless neighbors scare me.  I lock my doors when I see them on the corners.  I don't love them.
Muslim neighbors...I struggle with that continuously since 9/11.
Atheist neighbors make me get on the defensive.  I instantly feel like they are attaching my mental fortitude for believing in God...I'm too busy being proud and arrogant to love them.

I could go on, but you get the point.

I want to love like Jesus loved.  I don't want to love only those who are politically minded like me.  Or spiritually minded like me.  Or family minded like me.

I want to love people because Jesus loves them.  And that should be enough.

Time to get messy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My two cents...may not be worth much, but they are mine...

So, with the political climate heating up again - I figured I would put my two cents in...again. 

No, seriously, keep reading.

Most of my adult life I have been staunchly conservative.

Staunchly conservative as in not listening to anyone's opinion.

And I would like to mention at this point that I think almost EVERYONE on the right or the left is like that (regardless if they will admit it) but that's neither here nor there, just trying to lessen the blows I may take for writing this one...

But in the last five years my opinion has changed on much.

We bought a house.  5 years later it sold for 70,000 more than we bought it for.  Now, 3 years after our sale it is worth 40,000 less than what they bought it for.  Ouch for them, perfect timing for us.

Bush was president when we bought.  Bush was president when we sold.  Obama is president now.

3 years ago, Dave got a promotion for 25000 more than what he was making.  Now, he's back to what he was making before the promotion.

Bush was president when he got the promotion.  Obama is president now.

5 years ago, Dave got a job based on experience and was paid accordingly.  Now, Dave doesn't get jobs because of his experience and is paid significantly less than "accordingly," because we are desperate.

Bush was president then.  Obama is president now.

5 years ago, my mom was getting free home health care through medicaid.  Now she has to pay a significant portion of her very fixed budget to have home health.

Bush was president then.  Obama is president now.

And then there is the abortion card.  I just can't change my mind on that one.  It's biblical.  And whether or not you agree with me, I believe it's murder...not a choice.  Moving on...

Anyway - but here we go...

5 years ago our family had private health insurance.  It wasn't phenomenal but it covered us enough for 350 a month.  Then Dave got sick.  In order for him to get health insurance now (since even his group plans) won't cover pre-existing conditions, he would have to buy a "special" plan for about 500 a month...in addition to what our family would pay for the rest of ours.

Obama's health care plan, from what I understand, would be the closest thing we will come to with having an affordable option for Dave.

When we had Will, he had to be life flighted to Spokane and spend 2 weeks in the hospital.  Had we not been on medicaid, the bills would be insurmountable.

All those liberal programs that Dave and I both wrote off as "just for lazy people," have kept us afloat and surviving through this time...and Dave and I are anything but lazy.

In an ideal world, Dave would have a job that would pay him accordingly so that we wouldn't have to utilize those programs and health care would be offered to everyone - especially those who desperately need to be under a doctors care.

However, our world is not ideal.  And our country is financially screwed up...I get that.  But, now that I understand the importance of all the liberal programs for people, the social aid of it, being a help when you need it and not misused as a crutch - I'm torn.

So, I see benefit from both sides of the line.  But really,are any of our politicians focusing on the issues or are they just focusing on their opinions? 

A few months ago in Idaho they were having some pretty heated debates over education.  Night and day between the liberal opinion and their facts versus the conservative opinion and their facts.  I even wrote our conservative politicians in Idaho to get more information so I could be actually informed and I was treated rudely and as a nuisance because I asked questions.

So, are we actually wanting to solve the problems or are we just wanting to be right and hold power?

Because, this will be the first time, when we reelect, that I will purposefully not vote for a republican because they chose to be shady and rude when asked about facts.

Politicians work for the people, well, at least they are supposed to.  I wish they would stop pushing agendas and solve problems...on both sides.

That, and keep babies alive.

The end.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hauling Dirt and Building Foundations

So, there's this piece of land by my gym that I pass everyday.

Okay, most days.

Fine, I haven't been there in a week and I'm eating a huge candy bar as I type this...don't judge.

Regardless, a huge piece of land across the street from the gym.  This piece of land is supposed to be the future home of a grocery store that once it is here I will not understand how I lived without it and its bulk bins of spices.

But, nothing has been happening.

For awhile, the dozers and excavators and all those big machine type things were working away.  And then nothing.  Just recently, they started moving again...but let's be honest.  Really, they are just moving dirt from one part of the land to the other part of the land.

No progress.

Quite honestly, I've given up on this amazing store and their bulk spice bins ever being in my town.

However, as I was driving by the land (and the gym as well, presumably doing something much more enjoyable) the other day, I glanced over and then something occurred to me.

That land is a lot like my life.

See, I have this time table for my life...this plan.  And I want things done in a certain amount of time.  I also like them done without hiccups and issues.  And then, when my plans, my time tables, don't pan out - I get frustrated.  I write it off.  I count it as failure.

But the other day when I saw that land, I realized it's not failure.  It's not all for not, they are building the foundation.  Making sure it is straight and level.  They are taking their time to make sure it is done right (because really, do bulk bins of spices deserve anything less?)  Now, I know that construction was halted for a while.  Nothing moved.  No ground was excavated.  By all accounts, the land stood in pause.

See, God is building a foundation in my life.  Sometimes, I feel that by this point on my time table, I should have a sky scraper standing on the figurative land of my life.  But more often than not, I feel like I'm having dirt moved from one side of me to the other.  No progress.  No movement.  And yet there is.

God's making sure I have a good foundation.

I'm quite certain that there has been possibly a nice little house built once or twice on the foundation of my life, but it gets torn down. 

By me.

And my little time table and plans and fits and tantrums.

And I'm quite certain that in that time when there was nothing happening on that land, there was someone, somewhere fighting for the future store to be built.  In the same way, when I feel like nothing is happening in my life, something is happening - just not for me to see.

I'm learning this year how to be patient.  I'm learning to accept that God's time table is much more accurate than my time table.  And I'm resting, or tying to rest...ok, really I'm crying like a baby who doesn't want to rest, but I'm trying to rest in the fact that God's ways really are better than my ways.  And I'm trying, with all my might, to not get impatient with the building of the foundation.

Because really, if bulk spice bins deserve it - how much more do I deserve a strong foundation...on the rock.

Friday, August 5, 2011

God's timing: Kindergarten, job hunts, and having babies

I love God's timing.

Ok, really, that was insanely sarcastic.  Because actually, most times, I don't.

I, as you all know, would like things to be neatly done on my schedule...right.on.time.

How many of you remember this post? What to do, what to do?  Remember?  The nice little fertility office called and asked what my plans were - and I was freaking out over what to do.

Well, let me sum it up for you.

We transferred them.  We signed all 479 papers to have the two embryos transferred one floor up in the same building so as to avoid making an actual decision about what to do with them, and signed another little paper that we would provide payment promptly.

Then that whole God's timing thing...

We then started our worse economic year of our marriage to date.

So they never got paid.

Nice, I know.  But while they are being "babysat" in a freezer, we have four warm ones running around like crazy needing to be fed and clothed CONSTANTLY...and they take precedent.

And then we got a letter.

"Your embryos will be discarded if we don't receive payment."

Great.  But we have no money.  We have no viable option to pay them.  So I do nothing and pray that God's will be done (Which is totally an easy prayer when there is no viable option other than God doing His thing.)

Then we receive another letter about a month later saying they are going to send us to collections over it.

Great.  We have no money.  Now we are going to get harassing phone calls about paying for our frozen babies.  But, we have no viable option to pay them.  So I do nothing and pray that God's will be done...again.

Then we receive another letter saying, "Please sign your renewal contract for the storage of your 2 embryos until August 2012, with an additional 350 dollars in addition to the 475 you owe us from last year."

Great.  They didn't throw them away.  Praise God.  But, we have no money.  So I do nothing and pray that God's will be done...again.

But then, I did it.  I called an embryo adoption center...because let's face it - I'm just as overwhelmed as I was when I first posted about this (except Luke hasn't driven the van recently) and financially another kid or 2 more kids for that matter right now would just not be smart (by all worldly standards, right?)

As I spoke to them, they informed me all about how embryo adoptions are open adoptions now.  Our embryos would be mixed with other embryos and if ours took they would let us know after the baby(ies) were born and we could get pictures, even have visitation...

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I would go to jail.  I would kidnap my child.  I don't care if it is June Cleaver parenting my kid- seeing my children's pictures calling someone else Mommy?

What would happen if when they turned 18 they showed up and saw our family, the 6 of us, and wondered why they weren't good enough to keep?  We are a happy family.  We aren't in crisis.  We love our children with all of our hearts - we would just have to tell them that 6 kids were just not part of the, well, our plan - and that just doesn't seem like a good enough reason.

So, then the head guy of the cryobank (the place that's babysitting the embryos) calls me and leaves a message to call him back immediately.

Nice.  Now, I can't avoid any longer...

So, I sit down with Dave.  We discuss.  No easy words.  And after two hours of heartfelt communication, we finally made our decision - the only decision that we felt would be honoring to God...as crazy and irresponsible it may seem to the whole world.

We are going to have the embryos transferred...to me.

I called the guy.  I told him the truth.  I had been avoiding him.  He nicely agreed to a payment plan until we get our tax return (GOD, PLEASE BE A BIG TAX RETURN)  and paid them off in full...and our monthly payment is 75.00

There goes that God's timing thing again.

School is about to start.  School supplies, school clothes, school shoes - I'm overwhelmed people.

Dave is frantically looking for another job that will be more stable (since we all know how well bookstores are going right now) and we are quite literally living from paycheck to paycheck.  And now, we have 75 dollars going out extra each month.

Ok, God.  Your will be done...(which is quite an easy prayer when you have no other viable option)

And then a friend calls me and asks if I will watch her son when school starts - FOR PAY!

Prayer answered.

Dave and I just looked at each other in shock. 

God provided.

Then, we went to Luke's best little buddy's birthday party yesterday.  The paperwork is on our counter.  We have to send him 75.00 this week (before the next paycheck) and although my desire for comfort is still there, I'm learning how to be content with God's plan...no matter how uncomfortable it is.  All of a sudden my friend (who was hosting the party) handed me 200.00 saying it wasn't from her, she was just a messenger.

Prayer answered.

When I handed Dave the money last night he looked at me with a questioning look.  I told him what had happened.  He looked at me in shock.

God provided.

So, here we are.  God provided again - in such miraculous ways, like He has done over and over again this year as we have been hit so hard economically.

We have no idea how we are going to pay for the actual transfer (about 5000.00) but we are confident that we have finally made the best, the right, the only decision we could make...and give them a chance at life - and we are just as confident that God will somehow, how crazy and uncomfortable it may be, provide for that to be done.

The thought of 5000 dollars right now is beyond comprehension.

The thought of the possibility of two more children, making us a family of 8, is unimaginable to me - especially since I have shouted from the rooftops since Will was born, "I AM DONE WITH HAVING CHILDREN!"

The thought of brand new school clothes for my kids seemed impossible and now, we have a pile that keeps growing as other families are blessing my family, and humbling us greatly.

The thought that we would make it 5 months without income seemed ridiculous.  And now in hindsight, I see how God worked miracles the entire time, providing and sustaining our family.

And after that...after being so freshly aware of God's greatness when we succumb to the fact that God is always the only viable option...after that, 5000 dollars doesn't seem so insurmountable.

Two more kids doesn't seem so overwhelming (although I will need prayer for my mental health) when I am made so aware of how God loves me and the 4 kids we have so much - that I am confident that how much more He will take care of us when there are, possibly 2 more.

I don't know what lies ahead...I think I'm done making plans since they never seem to go the way I planned.  But what I do know is that God is the only viable option, and He will provide.

Do you know that?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Something that's okay to hate...

I saw the status update on Facebook.  The sermon title of what we would be hearing that night.

I squirmed in my chair.  Without even hearing the actual message, I felt convicted.  I knew that I needed to hear it, but it would be uncomfortable.

It was on anger.

Yuck.

They said there were three types of angry people - the spewer, the stuffer and the leaker.  The spewer explodes and is out of control.  The stuffer never lets anything out, and become a doormat of sorts.  And the leaker, the passive aggressive, way sarcastic sort of person who won't ever actually admit they are angry.

I am the spewer.

Yuck.

I've mentioned it on this blog a few times, my anger, wanting to be over it so badly - wanting it to not have a foothold in my life - wanting it to not affect my relationships.  And yet it lingers.

Usually at our church, we don't do raising of hands for decisions - if you want prayer, you go forward.  But tonight, they asked for people to raise hands if they were struggling with this.  I knew in that moment that if I didn't, I would be lying to myself...and purposefully not taking an opportunity to deal with it.

This whole thing has actually been something I've been wrestling with the last few weeks. 

I think that it is so easy to condone sin.  To make it alright.  To make it normal.  To make it so acceptable we don't actually notice it any longer as sin, but instead just a normal way of life.

I know I have...condoned, excused, justified my sin.

But a few weeks ago, reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan I was reminded that God doesn't condone, excuse or justify my sin.  He hates it. 

He hates my sin.

Therefore, if I love Him (which I do) I should hate my sin too.

But I don't really.  Although I know it's gross at times, I've grown quite comfortable with it.  Though the guilt lasts for a bit after I sin, the effort that goes into not sinning is overwhelming. 

My closest friend, a mom as well, and I laugh when we "confess" our screw ups to each other.  "Oh boy, what now?"  or "Just another day in paradise...."  I think that I need to make sure that my heart is in the right place.  There is a fine line between condoning sin and offering grace.  And as super spiritual as I would like to make myself sound, I definitely find myself condoning sin more than I find myself giving grace filled wisdom.

I'm so glad that God's love surpasses His hate of my sin.  I'm so thankful that Jesus died so that my nasty, disgusting mistakes that I make so frequently wouldn't be on my shoulders the day I stand before God.  But out of love and adoration to God, I should look on my sin the way He does...and stop accepting it, stop shrugging my shoulders and giving up my efforts to change - but instead, change, repent, be made new.

I don't want to ignore my sins any longer, because although it is messy when you take what's done in the darkness into the light - what could happen if it stays in the dark could be a catastrophe.  I'm not perfect, but Jesus loves me, God forgave me and I'm moving forward.

Do you have some "secret" sin that you are struggling with?  Do you have a struggle that you are condoning, justifying, reasoning with yourself about?  Do you need to have a heart change regarding your sin - and instead of accepting it, hating it and turning away from it? 

Are you ready to raise your hand?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My grocery store intervention

I should probably stop going to the grocery store.

Seriously.

No, really - I'm. Not. Joking.

9 out of 10 times I leave asking myself why I put myself through such grueling torture for a gallon of milk and maybe some apples. 

Yet, I continue going back.  Darn that whole eating to survive thing.

Anyway, my darling children have picked up on Mommy's and Daddy's newest eating habits...and they don't think I'm trying to get skinny, they know undeniably that Mommy is just trying to get HEALTHY. Which, let's be honest will take my entire life since I will almost always, hands down, go for the ice cream before the celery.  They also have taken mental notes regarding the foods that we have stated are bad and that we should really TRY to avoid.  Such as Coke...and yes, even Diet Coke.

Over the last month or so, Luke has become emphatic about us drinking soda.  He even wrote a note on our fridge that said,

NO COKE!
STOP!
BAD FOR YOU!

I didn't realize the importance of this subject until the other day...at the grocery store.  Apparently, two or three weeks ago I told Luke that I would only have soda on days that were celebrations, ie. my birthday.  I didn't think I was signing into a law abiding contract nor one that would have my integrity questioned if I didn't hold up my end of the bargain.

But the other day...it was hot (our 4th hot day of the year) and I so badly wanted a drink.

So while we were at the store, I decided to indulge in a Diet Coke.  I know they are bad, but I really wanted one.  When Luke saw, he began to fall apart.

He decided that right then and there, I would have an intervention in the middle of the store.

Lovely.

Huge crocodile tears began streaming down his face.  He started to shake.  His face twisted and turned in ways I had never seen before.  His voice even reached tones I had never heard before.  And then like a shaken up soda can (pun very much intended) he began to explode.

"YOU LIED!  YOU PROMISED ME!  YOU PROMISED ME!  YOU PROMISED ME YOU WOULD STOP DRINKING!!!"

Yes, it was Saturday.  Yes, the store was in fact completely packed.  And yes, it seemed as though everyone stopped to see what was going on.

"IT"S BAD FOR YOU!  I DON'T WANT YOU DRINKING ANYMORE!  YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD STOP DRINKING!"

No, I don't drink.  No, I don't do drugs.  No, I don't smoke cigarettes...but can you imagine if I did?  Oh boy...No, I don't do anything that could land me in jail but I drink an occasional diet coke and in that moment people were looking at me like I was the worst mom...the lush that I am.

So, I promptly held up my drink in the air, just so any bystanders could see that the drink in question was of the carbonated variety and I did my best to calm him down.  It didn't work.

I betrayed him.  I broke his confidence in me.  I lied to him....

So, we reached home and I apologized profusely and then proceeded to write on our calendar that we are not permitted to have any carbonated beverages until our anniversary (August 16th) and if we do we have to pay Luke three bucks.  THREE BUCKS! 

This kid is seriously the coke nazi.

I have abstained from drinking (COKE!) for the last week and a few days ago, after the kids went to bed, Dave went and got us take out...including drinks.  We sat there eating our food in silence, fearing the entire time that Luke would come down the stairs and catch us in the act...I didn't enjoy the diet coke.  In fact, I drank it so fast that I didn't even taste it because the overwhelming knowledge of what would happen if he found out scared me...and then as quickly as we took it down we got rid of the evidence in the outside trash just in case.

I'm pretty sure I won't be drinking a soda for a long time.  A long, long time.

And in case you need an intervention for someone in your life, you can get hold of Luke at my email.  He will kill any addiction.  Seriously.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Should your kid's behavior be rated B for brat?

They have taken the ratings off of video games.

Although this may not come as breaking news to those of you with gaming systems, I was totally unaware.

We don't have a game system.  We did for about two weeks and then we sold it, because I would much rather be outside playing tennis than playing on TV, but regardless...

Now the ratings are off.

So now that my husband is moonlighting as a manager of a media outlet/book/music store - we know what this translates to:

13 year old boy says, "Hey Mom - I'm going to go rent a video game." And his mom says, "Sure, just pick something appropriate."  13 year old boy walks into store, sees a cool title and maybe the disc itself looks cool and he rents it.  It may have been previously rated M for mature but there is no way he could know.  Since the video games are not in their original cases at the rental places, there isn't even a way you can tell what sort of content is in the game.

The rating system was apparently "unconstitutional."  Uh huh, ok.

Yesterday at work, a 13 year old boy came into the store ALONE, picked out a game and went to my husband, "Hey, what's this game rated?"  Dave informed him that games are no longer rated.  The boy looked very concerned and said, "Well, then how am I supposed to know if it's appropriate?"

Amazing.  Here was a young boy without a guardian choosing what was right.  Making choices that mattered.

A few minutes later another 13 year old boy walked in WITH his mom.  He saw a hat sitting behind a counter that had been special ordered for someone and was waiting for pick up.  He felt entitled to grab it, so he did and proudly, without any hesitation, put it on his head.  Dave walked over to the boy and said, "Hey bud, that hat is on hold for someone, can I please have it back?"  The mom interrupted and said, "My boy wants it, he's going to get it."  And a few minutes later, Dave saw the tag ripped out on the floor, the boy and his mom gone and the hat missing.

Amazing.  Here was a young boy with a guardian choosing what was wrong.  Making choices that mattered.

It's hard to parent, admittedly.  But may you never grow tired of instilling the power and importance of integrity and wisdom to your children.  May you never forget that you are your child's first example - and they take note of EVERYTHING.  And in response to your never ceasing instruction, may your child be like the first 13 year old who, without any adult forcing him, makes the right choice.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Red Light, Green Light

I decided to obey (finally) and then God told me, "Wait."

I decided to overcome my fear and my excuses and then God said, "Hold on."

I grew impatient at the journey and God reminded me, "Be patient."

I grew frustrated with the stubbornness of others and God said, "Be loving."

And today, today, today I am certain that I'm about to hear God say, "GO."

And I don't know what that will look like for me, my marriage, my family - but we will obey...

Monday, July 11, 2011

The first day of my new decade...

I screwed up today.

Today, I turned 30 and I wanted to feel special as I am beginning a decade that I hope and pray is amazing in so many ways.

But I didn't.

Instead, I was greeted with an early morning dose of tantrums, fighting, whining and the loving, "I DON'T LIKE YOU's" by my three year old and other kids.

When nap time came, I, as lovingly as I could, begged them/commanded them/threatened them to take a nap.  I so badly wanted to start the day over, and when we all awoke from our nap we could have a "do over" and maybe the second half of my day would be way better.  But nap time didn't happen.

Even my little one, who usually doesn't have a choice, figured how to climb out of his crib though it's on the lowest setting it can be on...and he proceeded to do this AT LEAST 20 times.

Nap didn't happen.  A do over didn't happen.  Instead, the children and I became monsters - screaming and yelling, crying (my tears) and saying words that will probably not soon be forgotten. 

I was so angry.  The first day of my new decade was ruined.

I know, sounds a bit idealistic.  But here's the thing.  This stupid anger I struggle with, that I so badly wanted to have a hold on by this birthday, reared its little angry head.  This whole yelling thing, that I hate so vehemently, and wanted to be rid of by this day, presented itself bigger than ever.  Really, quite honestly, the whole sin thing that I so badly wanted to have surrendered to God and thrown so far into the sea of forgetfulness that I didn't even remember how to sin, was still there.

And this was how I was starting off my new decade...the one that everyone keeps telling me I am going to love.

I won't go into details about my failure today.  But it was sin.  It was ugly.  And the tears I was crying, when I think about it a little less emotionally, were more for my disgust at my behavior and not as much about the frustration with my children's behavior.  Today was rough.

But now, my kids have been asleep for two hours.  I ate dinner.  Dave reassured me that I was in fact NOT the worst mom on the planet.  And some of my favorite people called to tell me that they loved me.

And as I was about to head upstairs to bed, thinking about how tomorrow will begin with an apology to my kids for my horrible behavior today, I realized that today was a God send.  Today was a fantastic way to start out my new decade, because today served up a wonderful reminder (regardless of how painful it was) that I am in desperate need of God.

I forget that often.

I am in desperate need of God.

I used to think that God was there, God was cool, but really, it was about me.  What I had was based on my abilities, my efforts, my talents, my hard work.  My life and actions, although I loved God, came from a really arrogant heart.

Now though...oh now, I have realized that what I have and who I am is all because of who He is.  I touched on this in my last post, but let me say it again:

I am who I am because He is who He is.

I have four kids because He miraculously blessed me with four children.  I am married to a good man who loves the Lord, because God showed me grace.  We have a good marriage, because of Him...not because of us.  Dave has a job because God provided him one. 

And when I operate on my own accord, it almost always is a train wreck sooner or later - and today that train had wrecked quite early and kept piling up and up and up.

I need God...desperately.

So, here's to my 30's.  And here is to tomorrow, a day full of forgiveness and new beginnings...and a day of being mindful that I need God...desperately.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Imagine this...

Imagine this:

You woke up in the morning at 8 am after a full night of uninterrupted sleep.  When you awoke, the house was completely quiet and you were able to sit down at the table and drink a cup of coffee that was magically already made and have a quiet time with the Lord.  After this, you went and took a long, QUIET shower with complete privacy, picked clothes out that were fashionable and you were able to spend a good amount of time making yourself look presentable AND attractive.

Then you walked calmly, not tripping on any toys, to your children's rooms and woke them from their full night of slumber.  They woke up with smiles on their faces and the first words out of their mouths were, "Mommy, I love you."  Your children, without fighting or whining, got themselves dressed and ready for the day and the day proceeded to go on like that.  Perfectly.

Ok, so maybe this is how some of you live.  If so, what land do you live in, and can I move there?  But for the rest of us, most of us, I think this is a fantasy.

In my home, it generally goes like this:

Groggy after getting up multiple times in the night for various wonderful reasons, I roll out of bed at 6:30 and stumble downstairs to a flour covered kitchen where my son has decided to attempt another creation in the kitchen.  I reach for a coffee cup and some creamer as my other kids make their presence known by whining about being hungry before I even see their angelic little faces. 

Then, after being up for an extended amount of time I realize that perhaps I may need to use the bathroom and am greeted by the smiley face on the toilet seat that showed up about a month ago. 

As I walk through my living room back to the kitchen, I glance at my walls that are partially decorated by pictures of when we only had 2 kids with an occasional Lily picture thrown in there for good measure...poor Will isn't even documented on our walls...and my kids pictures hung willy nilly on the walls for more decor. 

Then I enter the kitchen to feed the monkeys, I slip on any given toy and practice my gymnastics ability (or lack thereof) as I escape near death and start the day by filling their bowls with cereal and maybe milk...if we didn't run out the night before.

Quiet time?  Uh huh.  Having a private shower with time to look presentable and attractive?  Right.  Children being respectful and obedient all the time?  Sure.

Not so much.

So, for a while now, I've had a bad attitude about my reality versus my expectations.  I suppose I thought that even though rationally I knew that I would have to live in tv land for that to even be close to my life, I wanted that to be my life.  I wanted my husband to not just be a provider and work a wonderfully extravagantly paid job, but I also wanted him to be one hundred percent there emotionally for me too, as well as being a handyman, mechanic and landscaper.  I wanted my kids to not only be respectful and obedient, but geniuses and prodigies and all the time perfect.  And me, well, I was more focused on my family not meeting their expectations, I couldn't really look at myself.

Besides, anything that I was lacking, any personality trait that needed to be tweeked was only an issue because the other people under my room made me that way....

Hmmm...

How about you, what are your expectations?  Reality or fantasy?  Can you even objectively asses your expectations or are you still where I spent a lot of time, in angry blame mode?

This is my life.  And yes, if you come to my home, the smiley face on the toilet seat will greet you as well.  As you walk to my front door, two muddy hand prints will be waving hello to you from the garage door and sidewalk chalk that has been there for over a month will remind you of your numbers and my children's names written over and over again.

There is never a clean, toy free floor and my house is NEVER quiet.  And quiet time with the Lord, as I can find a million excuses as to why I am too busy for it, God has been showing me a million and one reasons as to why I can't survive without it.

I'm learning, slowly but surely, that my life is my life because God has blessed me with my life.  And if my life was that perfect picture of quiet and perfection, I'm not so sure I would be so aware of my need for God in my life.

I'm aware.

Before kids, before marriage, before I was a real grown up even though I had a relationship with the Lord, it was about me.

Now, after kids and marriage and bills and sickness and everything in between, I realize that it is all about God, and if it weren't for Him, I wouldn't be.  I am who I am because He is who He is. 

He has abundant grace and mercy for me.  And now that I have started taking my eyes off the downfalls of my family not being perfect, I am able to fix my eyes on He who is perfect and then I have realized that my family, though not perfect, is wonderful.

When we accept our imperfection, and admit it to ourselves- we reveal the need we have for God and experience His grace and mercy.

Quite honestly, I think if my house was quiet I would be freaked out a bit.  I wouldn't know how to operate...I probably would be bored.  And if my kids were perfect, I would never be challenged and reminded of my relationship with the Lord as my father and His patience for me. 



Friday, July 1, 2011

Leaving a Legacy

He was quiet, but I knew he was strong.

He was strong, but I could tell he was gentle.

When I first met him, I sat across from the table staring at his hands.  I always wondered about the stories he could tell, the things he had seen.  And though those stories were probably great, the thing I knew for sure was that this man, quiet and strong, was greatly loved.

He was Dad to my Father-In-Law and four brothers.  Grandpa to all his grand kids including my husband.  But in our home, we spent the last five years referring to him as Great Papa.
The first time that I saw a glimpse into who Great Papa was was when Grandma passed away.  I remember sitting in the hospital room on one side of the bed and as I watched him, I could see the love he had for her.  This big, strong, quiet man loved his wife.  And as I watched, my heart hurting for him, I was thankful that my husband came from a legacy of strong, honorable men.

Great Papa and Grandma had five sons and a daughter whom they lost when she was quite young.  When he would speak of Gloria his eyes would light up and the love for his little girl was made so obvious.  Six children, ten grandchildren, and thirteen grandchildren later - when he would talk to Dave and I about raising children, he would chuckle and tell me stories about when all his kids were little.  And often times, feeling overwhelmed with twins, he would encourage me with stories of when him and his brother were little.

Great Papa was a twin as well.  He would tell me stories about how his dad would tie him and his brother (Uncle Al) up to a clothesline and let them run around - but at least that way they were contained...and believe me, I considered it for my kiddos! I remember when we had our twins and they began to talk in their twin language, they would both come to him and stand at his knees and talk up a storm.  And Great Papa would just join in on their conversation, talking in twin language right with them - they seemed to understand each other.

When we had Lily, we were so excited to go over and see Great Papa and introduce him to the newest part of our family.  Dave loved his grandpa so much and I knew how much it meant to have Great Papa see him in the role of "dad" and be proud of him.

And then Will was born and we went over there shortly thereafter and Great Papa asked me with a smirk, "When's the next one coming?  You need a couple more to keep up with Joan and me."  I told him I was more than happy to let him keep the record.  He then let me know that big families were such a blessing, as they are, and then he blessed me with his next statement.

"My boys all married strong women.  They sure have minds of their own, but they are all such great women.  You fit right in."  I had been married into the family for six years, and with that statement, I felt like I was one of his.

This last week as we knew his time here was coming to an end, Dave went to see him.  He opened his eyes and upon seeing Dave asked, "How are those kids?  Are those kids good?"
Dave replied, "They are great.  They talk about Great Papa all the time and draw you pictures."  Great Papa smiled and closed his eyes again.  I know he was proud of Dave and who he has become, operating in the most important job of his life as father to our children...and his last words to Dave were about the legacy that he began, and that Dave will continue.

Great Papa passed away yesterday.  He went to heaven.  Right now I can only imagine the reunion that is happening between him, Grandma and Gloria.

We told our kids that Great Papa went to go be with Jesus in heaven.  They asked when he was coming back.  We told them that he wasn't, but when we went to heaven, we would get to see him again and that he would be healthy and so excited to see them and play with them. 

We will miss him here tremendously, yet I know his heart is thrilled to be with the ones he has so terribly missed...and in my heart I know we will see him again...strong, healthy and whole.

We love you Great Papa.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Was that really necessary?

I've been running on empty lately.

I'm super tired because nights are never full of sleep, and my sacred nap time is slowly going away. 

Being tired just stinks.

When I'm tired, I don't feel good about myself.  I make poor choices in food.  I have less energy to exercise.  Which then leads to the biggest problem -

When I'm tired, I have a hard time controlling my emotions.

So, last night when Lily woke me up at 1 AM deciding to wage an all out battle with me over sleeping in my bed, I just didn't, I just couldn't let her win.  I won.

It wasn't pretty.  I was definitely not a sweet, loving, kind, patient mommy at 1 AM.  I was a tired human who desperately wanted sleep.  So, I returned to my bed feeling slightly like a monster, and continued sleeping for a few more hours before I started my day.

Today, the kids and I went to the gym so I could do a half-hearted work out, we had a picnic and we went on a bike ride all before 11:30 AM.  By noon, I was ready for nap.  And 3 of the 4 kids were ready too.

Lily asked me to carry her to bed.  I obliged.  I laid her down and told both the girls that they needed to get a good rest because they were having a sleep over with their aunt tonight - and they wanted to be able to have enough energy to enjoy it.  Emma, who can't stand naps, quickly rolled over and fell asleep.

I walked down stairs excited to lay down on the couch and join my children in a few minutes of glorious shut eye. 

But here came Lily.

She had a ridiculous explanation as to why she was out of bed and then she asked me to carry her to bed...again.

I replied with something very loving like, "Walk your little tushie upstairs yourself."

Lily then looked at me, dug her heels into the ground, and said, "MOMMY!!!  CARRY ME!!!"

After we went back and forth, I threw that little girl over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, stomped up the stairs like a mean ol' giant and tossed her on her bed and demanded she fall asleep (Yes, I win the "Stellar Mom of the Year Award) 

I walked downstairs, as I plopped myself into my chair and I felt this quiet voice speak...

"Was that really necessary?"

Crap.

"She's just a little girl.  Was that really necessary?"

As I heard His quiet whisper, I was suddenly humbled...but then, I dug my feet into the ground and said, "BUT GOD!!!  If I carried her upstairs all loving and sweet, then she would know she could throw a tantrum like that every time and get what she wants.  If I carried her like she wanted me to, she would think I was wrapped around her finger.  If I didn't respond the way I did, she would think she was in control...."

"But Melissa, I love you.  Sometimes, I make you walk...but a lot of the time I carry you.  And even though I'm holding you, you are learning you aren't in control.  It's taking you awhile, though."

Oh.

Tonight, as I drove away from my aunt's house waving goodbye to my precious children and Lily screaming, "I WUV YOU MOMMY!!!  I WUV YOU MOMMY!!!" the words I felt whispered to my heart today resonated with me.  She is just a little girl.  They are just little precious babies. 

I know they are 5,3 and almost 2.  I know there are times when boundaries have to be clearly in place, but soon, before I want it to happen, they won't be little anymore.

Soon, she won't want me to carry her to her bed.  Soon, she won't be living in my home.  Soon, she will have a strong willed daughter just like her that she calls me to share the crazy stories about.  Soon, she won't be a little girl anymore but a grown woman and I will think about today and long for the time when she just wanted to cuddle.

So, tonight I am going to bed and I'm going to sleep all night long (well, as long as Will decided to allow me) and in the morning I will be reunited with my three oldest children and I, running hopefully on a half tank by the morning, will embrace them and remember they are just little, precious, wonderful children...

And then she will dig her heels in and I will, hopefully, respond more...kind,gentle,patient...loving.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Discovering The Value Of Girlfriends

I never peeled an orange well until this year.

I didn't learn how to legitimately whistle until I was well in my twenties.

And I think I was about eleven when I realized that after people sneezed they were saying, "Bless You," and not, "Bleshschue" (a word from what I assumed was some foreign language.)

Sometimes, yes sometimes, I am a slow learner.

Something else that has taken me my entire life to fully understand is relationships.  Not with men (perhaps what you are thinking...which is a whole 'nother post!) but with women.

Oh women.

I've just never been a fan really of, well, us.

I mean throughout my childhood and teenage years I had a few good girl friends, but I always felt more comfortable around men.  I think my reasons were all very reasonable, and to this day, think I had a very logical point.

1.  Men don't gossip.
2.  Men don't back bite.
3.  Men aren't (generally) emotional.
4.  Men are pretty consistent.
5.  Men don't always need to talk.

(And yes, referring to my future post about understanding men, these aforementioned things are sometimes the things that drive me crazy about my man...)

Anyhow, but then I got married.  To a man.  And all of a sudden it seemed rather inappropriate to hang with my buddies.  I know some of you women can maintain healthy relationships with your man friends that have very staunch boundaries...however, we just decided to not even let a foot hold in our relationship - blah blah blah, moving on...

And then it was my husband and me.  All the time.  Every day.  Awesome.

No, really, I like him so it's good.  We maintained this little lifestyle of ours for awhile and then we decided to add a few more faces to our picture and then it was my husband and my four kids who don't speak intelligible English half the time and me.  All the time.  Every day. Awe-freaking-some.

And then I realized it, slow learner that I am, that I perhaps need to befriend other people who don't have my last name.  Shocking, I know.

I even recently read an article about how women benefit from spending time with other women:
"The speaker (head  of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a  woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends."

Nurturing relationships with girlfriends.  Hmmm....  I quite honestly don't know what that actually looks like, I mean in an effective way.

Recently my dear friend, with four children of her own, came to visit.  I love her.  But I'm not sure how many sentences we were able to actually complete or complete thoughts we were able to communicate during our three hour visit.  Were we nurturing our friendship?  Probably to some degree...but really, quite honestly, it left me hungry for more.

And Facebook, well, I tend to have more meaningful conversations over Facebook than I do in person or on the phone - because you can't hear the screaming in person or be interrupted 21343923 times because someone threw something at someone else because someone did something to someone - but that still doesn't fill the void I have often times for genuine relationship.

So, what's the solution?

Invest in my relationships, make new relationships with girlfriends.  Perhaps without children so real words can be spoken and heard.  But it must happen.

How are you feeling?  Do you feel like you need to connect with other women?  Are you hungry for relationship with other women to tell you that "no, you aren't crazy" and "yes, that's perfectly normal?"  Do you wish you had friends that could tell you, "Yes, my kid TOTALLY did that" and "Yes, you really should call the doctor."  Perhaps you are ready for friends who can go deeper and say, "I will walk with you friend during this trial," or those ladies who can pray with you for clarity when things are so hazy and confusing.

If so, wanna have coffee?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grown up and Glamorous? Ok, maybe not yet...

I am turning 30 in 18 days.

18 days.

I'm actually quite excited.  30 seems grown up.  I will, by my own definition, finally be a grown up.

Which got me thinking...pondering...mulling over what that means.

WOMAN - for some reason that word has always freaked me out. I don't know why...but it always has.  Now, I remember when I stopped referring to Dave as a great "guy" and started referring to him as a great "man."  But me, a woman?  Really? 

When I was 23 and newly married, I would look at my friends who were in their early thirties and would imagine what it would be like to be that age.  They were so beautiful...and put together.  Not necessarily just physically, but inwardly as well. 

And now, I'm almost there.

I've spent the last 6, nearly 7 months, losing weight.  I've lost a little over 30 pounds.  That's fitting, eh?  Anyway, I'm thinner (which is great) but that's the end of the story.

I feel like inwardly, I'm doing well.  I think I'm mature (most days) and I'm constantly being pruned and shaped by God (every day) and then it stops there.

I was never a girly girl.  I was definitely a tom boy.  I hated dresses.  Now, I have two little girls - one who is the epitome of a girly girl and another one who likes to wear a tutu over her jeans and a baseball hat while covered in mud.  But they both look at me.  They both take notice when I do my hair (however I manage to do it) and when I actually put on make up (however I manage to do it) and they love when I do it. 

But seriously people, I'm lost.

I would like to be pretty.  I would like to feel feminine...especially now that I'm actually thin(ner).  But where do I start?
Ok, so we were making decorations for a bday party, but ya...you get the point

I know this isn't seventh grade health class, but I have no idea. 

What clothes? 

What hairstyle and color (and let's be practical here - I can not, nor will I spend more than 20 minutes on my hair...it is a threat to my home and all my neighbors if I am preoccupied for longer than that.)

What make up (and please don't sell me a brand...I don't even know what products to buy let alone a brand right now)

What shoes (and once again, be practical...I cannot run after four children down my street while flying a kite and molding a meat loaf in stilettos - although, that would be amazing)

Help a sistah out.

I want my daughters to look at me and I want to show them what beauty is, genuine modest strong beauty.  And I'm not thinking jeans and a t-shirt with my hair pulled back every day is shouting "FEMININE!!!" 

Oh, and please take note - I like to play with my children.  I like to get on the ground and play...all my jeans have holes in the knees...

Ok, ready - give me suggestions!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Day worth celebrating

The baby was so tiny.

The numerous wires and IV's that were connected to him looped around his precious feet, as he laid there in peace amongst the beeps and constant chatter of the NICU.  I longed to hold him.  The fear that was inside of my mommy heart was excruciating, and the doctors had yet to give me solid hope that he would survive.

We walked out of the hospital, my heart limping. 

He was strong.

We pulled over to get something to eat, and I collapsed in tears at the side of the car.  "I just want my baby!  I want to know my baby is going to live!  Please God.  Please."

He wrapped his arms around me.  He was strong.

Soon, our precious baby started to improve.  Slowly, the IV's were removed and I was able to hold him.  I couldn't speak.  I soaked in the moment.  Aaah, thank you Jesus...my baby will be ok. 

I handed him the baby, who looked so small in his arms.

"Hey, little guy.  I'm your daddy.  I knew you were going to be ok - you scared your mommy though.  No more of that."

He was strong.

He walked into the house, with his hands full.  He was exhausted - mentally and physically.  He was greeted with the sounds of our children's voices.  I could tell all he wanted to do was sit, relax.

As he spoke to me about his day, that precious little baby who is a toddler now, heard his daddy's voice.  He ran yelling, "Daddy!  Daddy!  Hi!"  He ran straight into him wrapping his tiny little arms around his daddy's legs.

He loves his daddy.  I love his daddy.

We sat around the table eating dinner.  The noise level and the commotion were as normal, and then it was time to do our new dinner time ritual of "feeding our hearts" with a family devotional.

We read the words of the Lord, as we could see the excitement on our kid's faces as they were understanding Jesus in a whole new way.  We prayed and then excused our kids from the table.

My son looked at me and said, "Is that it Mommy?  My heart is still hungry!"

My heart was thrilled.

He loves his Father.

The desire of my heart, is that my children grow into adults feeling abundantly loved and protected by their daddy.  My hope, is that they always love their daddy as big as they love him now.  And the greatest yearning of mine as a parent is that their daddy and I can cultivate a love, a passion, a constant desire for more of their Father God.

May this Father's day be a day for all you wonderful, strong daddies to experience just a glimpse of what treasures you are to your families.

May this Father's day be a day where you take a moment to thank your daddies for their strength and consistent love.

And if today is a day that makes your heart hurt because you don't have a daddy who was strong and loving, or your daddy was taken too soon - please know that you have a Father who is stronger and more loving than any other. 

You are loved. 




 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

So long good friend, so long...

Silence.

Let's all take a deep breath...aaaahhhhhh.

Ya, it's 10 PM and I'm going on less than 2.5 hours of sleep - but hey, it's silent and I know that the minute my head touches my pillow, I will be getting up again...

Anyway, Lily lost her pacifier.

Ya, she's 3.5 - wanna say something about it?

No really...I know how bad it is that she still has it.  She has horrible speech because of it, her teeth are turning because of it, it is always getting lost and then we spend hours finding it.

Well, she lost it yesterday - for good.  We just can't find it.

I know what you are thinking.  This is good, about time, she's 3.5 for goodness sake!  Well, people, hold your horses - let me tell you something:

Lily is loud.  So amazingly loud that she amazes even the loudest of people.  And Lily is the middle child - demanding, outspoken, stubborn and focused.

Once, when she was 1.5, she lost her paci in the middle of the night and since I just had the baby (who I've come to accept is no longer a baby but a punk who is almost 2, agh!) I didn't get up to help her.  Ok, let's be honest...I was exhausted.  I didn't hear her.  She began screaming.

This was in August in the hottest time of the year, windows fully open, box fans on high and I didn't hear her.

Well, apparently someone did.

And apparently they thought someone was being killed.  So they called the cops.

I know, I know, babies cry.  Well, Lily's angry cry does sound like someone is being murdered, but still - hadn't my neighbors heard her do this in the middle of the day?

So the police came out and knocked on my door.  I didn't answer.  They left.  If I can't hear the murderous scream, you really think I can hear the door being knocked on? 

I guess she stopped, and then started up again.  They called the police.  Again!  Really people, come on.  We aren't the quiet family on the block if you know what I mean...we have 7 million children who are all in diapers...don't kids cry in the middle of the night where you come from?

Well, the police came again.  And knocked.  Again.  And I didn't hear them.  Again.

So, at six in the morning, my son who was 3 at the time decided it would be an awesome idea to sneak into the garage, open the garage door and start pulling in the Christmas decorations thinking they were in fact Christmas presents.  And of course, in that moment of parenting glory, the police pull up again.

I had warned him.  I had told him if he continued to sneak away, run off, the police were going to take him to baby jail.  And here they were.

He runs up the stairs screaming, "THEY ARE HERE!  THEY ARE HERE!!!"

"Who's here Luke?"

"The Powice Officawhs!"

In my post baby, sleep deprived state I walked down the stairs greeted by two rather unfriendly police officers.

Awesome.

I was then accused of being a neglectful parent.  I was informed that I was "lucky" I answered this time, otherwise they were going to knock down my door (I didn't know a crying baby was means to knocking on the door, but apparently it is) and I was instructed to no longer use our faithful little box fans to cool down our house.

I shut the door not exactly sure of what just happened, but one thing I knew for sure - that paci wasn't going anywhere.

It's amazing what happens when you are a good mom and accused of being a bad one...the anxiety that comes with that.

Anyway - I know it's been 2 years since then.  But she's still loud.  And it's summer.  And well, my excuses are a mile long...

Last night, she didn't fall asleep until 11 PM and was in my bed this morning at 5.  Tonight though, oh tonight, she was out like a light at 8.

She did inform me that she just knows the "paci fairy" took it and that she "doesn't wike the paci fairy...the paci fairy is dumb...the paci fairy needs to shub up (yes, all bad words in our home punishable by time on the naughty step, but that didn't stop her)"  She wanted me to call the paci fairy this morning so she could have a little 1 on 1, but for some odd reason, I could never connect with her.

Weird.

Anyway, I think it's gone.  Forever.

Ahhh, a new phase of life.

And now, I'm going to bed...for at least ten minutes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

True Encouragment, 30 Day Husband Challenge...

We've been married almost 8 years.

And here we are.

I love him, I do.  I am thankful for him, really, I am.

But he's been home for 4 months...unemployed.  I suppose it would be different had he been home for 4 months on a vacation and we were independently wealthy.  But add the stress of looking for a job, and waning finances - the last four months have seemed like 120 days.

Anyway, he finally got a job and it provides for our needs.  It in no way is his dream job - but it provides for our needs.  He, quite randomly, was also in the final three to get another job that would have fallen in that "dream job" category and he found out last night that he didn't get it.

He is rather unhappy about this.

I get it.

So there he is, in all his manly frustration - and instead of having words to encourage him or feeling sympathetic for him, I find myself being frustrated with him being, well, frustrated.

When I have said anything he snaps at me.  So, that adds a bit to my frustration.

But really, even in this, I know that there is a plan.  Right?  The economy sucks.  The job market sucks.  His career field really sucks.  But there is a season for everything...and this is the season for us to lean into God and rely on Him to provide above and beyond our wildest dreams - which He has...just not in ways that are comfortable or desirable...but He has provided.

I don't know.  I've always been the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" kind of person.  And Dave, well, he gets a little more angry at himself and can find himself staying there for a bit longer than I would personally like him to stay.  Darn it, why can't it always be about me?

Anyway, so tonight I googled, because that's what I do when I have deep intense relational questions (ok, not really, ok...nevermind, I actually do...ya, that's pathetic), on encouraging my husband.

I was surprised.  I found site after site after site on how to encourage my husband to do x,y and z for me.  I found sites on how to encourage my husband to be a certain way for me.  I found sites on how to manipulate my husband to get the results I wanted - just in the form of encouragement.

Ok, let's be honest.  There are definitely things I would like Dave to do for me...like dishes or the laundry or changing a dirty diaper.  But come on now, really, do I have to manipulate him to get er' done?  Can't I just ask?

And as for being a certain way for me?  Well, romantic would be fabulous.  But he is who he is...and I married him knowing he's not a romantic, and he has stayed true to form.  Now I tell him what I want, and if I get it, he gets points in the romantic category.  No manipulation needed...it doesn't work anyway.

And results?  I think the only way to get results in a marriage is by effectively and honestly communicating.  If I try to glean results from my manipulation - then are they even real?  Will they even really last?

I didn't want to know how to encourage my hubby for selfish reasons - I just want to know how to best encourage my man when he's in a slump.  And I came across this:

30 Day Husband Challenge

So, I think I'll do it.  I think for 30 days, I will get over him not being exactly like me (thank God, really) and encourage him.  Our lives can look drastically different in 30 days than they do today, but in 30 days I will still be his wife, he will still be my hubby and I will still want to spend every single day of my life with him.  So, I think I can encourage him.

Here's how day 1 starts:
To refresh your memory, here's the 30-Day Encouragement Challenge for the next 30
days:

You can't say anything negative about your husband . . . to your husband . . . or to anyone else, about your husband.
Say something that you admire or appreciate about your husband . . . to your
husband . . . and to someone else, about your husband!
To help you get started, have you ever thanked your husband for choosing you above
all other women? He found you attractive as a person, and appreciated you. Though
many circumstances in your marriage may have changed, let your husband know that
you are glad God led you together, and that you want to be a blessing to him for the rest
of your marriage. Let him know that he can trust you to be in his corner.
One of the best opportunities to express your gratitude is first thing in the morning. How
do you greet your husband each morning? Is he confident in your love? Give him a
"wake up call" that he'll never forget—a big "I love you" and an "I'm so glad I'm your wife!"


Wowsahs!  So, quite honestly I do not regularly let him know that I'm so glad I'm his wife.  I am though.  Really, I am.  But I don't let him know it, because, I guess I assume he knows it.  And not saying anything negative too him or about him - I suppose normally, this wouldn't be so hard, but when tensions are so high it's way easier to spout off negativity and frustration than thank you's and you're amazing's.

So tomorrow, I shall start this challenge. 

Want to join me?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Obedience and finally feasting!

I went to college to get my MRS degree.  I admit it.

But that day will forever stand out in my mind.  The day when I was walking to the grocery store from campus and God spoke loud and clear to my heart, "Melissa, right now I'm not calling you to be a mom and a wife.  Right now I'm calling you to speak for me."

So, I obeyed (which is rare for me...I wonder where my kids get it from.)

Then, a couple years later, another day that will forever stand out in my memory.  I was driving home from Nashville for the holidays before I flew to Phoenix to sign a speaking contract with a company when God spoke loud and clear to my heart, "Melissa, right now I'm not calling you to speak, I'm calling you to start a family."

So, I obeyed (please in no way think that this is standard operating procedure for me...for it definitely is not.)

Now, almost ten years later, in the most uncomfortable of times, God is speaking loud and clear to my heart, "Melissa, now I'm calling you to do both."

This time friends, I have not obeyed.  In fact, I have disobeyed.

Ok, my kids get it from me.  For certain.  Those little monkeys have definitely received the strong willed, stubborn, defiance from me.  Acceptance is half the battle, right?

I have disobeyed for a year now.  I have ignored God.  I have told Him and myself that I am quite busy enough let alone to take on something else.  When people have told me that my family is my ministry (which it is) I have allowed myself to accept that my family is my ONLY ministry.  I have volunteered in a ministry that I know I'm not called to so I can have one more reason as to why I'm too busy.

But I can't disobey any longer.

I am so hungry for God right now.  I'm desperate for Him in my life, in my family, in my friend's lives.  I want to see families healthy, broken and hurting families restored, children seeing the power of God's forgiveness and grace in action within their families.

So, I'm going to start putting myself out there to speak again the message that God has laid upon my heart.  Maybe no one will respond.  But at least I will know I obeyed- with a happy heart.

Recently, a friend posted a link to this blog post: One Habit That Changes A Family So, I clicked and read while my kids ran around the house screaming, laughing, fighting, and loving each other.  I thought it was nice.  Very well written.  The words she wrote nestled in my heart and then on Sunday I went to church where the pastor preached on man not surviving on bread alone but by the word of God.  I realized, that despite my great efforts, I was hungry.  I've been snacking on the word of God, but not feasting on it.  Instead, I've been feasting on other things like my desire for control, my fear, my laziness.

That night at dinner, after talking with Dave about it, I informed my kids that after dinner from now on - after we had fed our bodies, we were going to be feeding our hearts by reading the bible.  Now, that looks like a child's devotional bible for our family right now, but it's the word of the Lord none the less.  After the first night of devotions, I shut the bible and excused the kids from the table.  Luke looked at me and said, "That's it Mommy?  My heart is still hungry for more."

Is your heart hungry for more?  Is God calling you to do something that you've been resisting?  If it is, I leave you with this post from my pastor Jim Putman this last week on Facebook:

What if we lived scripture out for the next year?  What if we lived out what we said we believed in every part of our lives...what would happen after one year...what would we have experienced what would our world look like if we lived out what we said we believed...oh I know we couldn't perfectly, but what if our heart was to read and do by God's power?

So, I am compelled to see what happens.  I am compelled to throw myself at the feet of Christ and allow myself to be an offering to Him - and see what happens.

Will you join me?

Is your heart hungry for more?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's just not FAIR!!!

In our living room sits our computer.

I love it.  I hate it.  It sucks my time away.  It distracts me.  It gives me an outlet.  It makes me feel like I have friends other than my 4 children I am with all day (really, I'm not that pathetic, but seriously...there are days.)  Anyway, since it sits there in its ugliness, I constantly have a picture of our kids on it to make it a little  bit more desirable to the eyes.






I change the picture on the screen every once in awhile so as to not make the kids feel like I love one more than the other...but, really, on the list of priorities - this is not on the top of priorities.

This morning, Luke was up first (as usual), and when I came down he had already made breakfast.  This morning, it was ice cream cones filled with chocolate syrup and honey.

Delightful.

Sorry, I didn't take a picture - but at 6 AM, my response was less than, um, loving.

Anyway, I sat down at the computer to do my early before the kids all wake up email check when Luke walked over to me and said, "Now the picture is Emma.  Before it was you and Lily.  Then Will.  What, are you trying to hurt my feelings or something?"

OH NO!!!!!!!!

So, I instantly grabbed my memory card and switched the pic.


Now the computer has this precious picture gracing its screen.

I have now entered the land of fair.  I think that I'm pretty fortunate to just now be entering into this grueling, tedious land.  But regardless, I am here.

As we all know, and I'm sure most of you are with me, but I want the world my kids live in to be fair.  I want everything to be easy and simple and cut perfectly down the middle every single time.  But life is just not that way. 

Life is messy and life is not fair.  Crap.

I'm his hero...I'm all of their heroes.  They draw pictures of me and them - I mean, really, I'm right up there with Spiderman...and ya, I'm pretty sure that's how I looked in my workout clothes from the other day.

I should be able to keep it fair all the time for them - well, in theory.

But I don't.

I remember taking a parenting class when the twins were two and this whole fair thing was a topic of conversation, but my kids were different from all other kids, and things being fair was just not an issue nor would it ever be.  Seriously, they were two...lay off.

Well, now I'm there.  My kids, shocking I know, are not different from all other kids.  And fair matters.

So, how do you teach your kids the unfortunate reality of life just not being fair?

I promise this time, I will take notes.