Thursday, January 28, 2010

Panama City

Ok, some of you are probably tired of hearing me go on and on with my random thoughts and what you really want is to see some pictures of the kids :). So this is for you. Every year we go to Panama City Beach for the Gulf Coast Getaway. We had a great trip this year. I might share more about the conference later, but for now here are some pics.






Even Target is a photo-op with these boys!


Dinner as a family before Duane got entrenched in all things GCG.

How is it that I am 5 years younger than him and he looks 10 years younger than me??

Nothing like a nice, quiet dinner with the fam :).

Keeping it Real

For some reason people assume that I'm organized...
People say that I must be organized if I homeschool my children.




and because I try to clean my house right before people come over, they may assume that my house is always clean, but...





and some people think that I only feed my kids organic food and they tend to apologize when they are offering something that's not so healthy...


but the TRUTH is:
I want to be organized. And I wish my house was always clean. And I would love to have the time, money, energy, and co-operation from my kids to feed them healthy every day. But I'm weak :). I give in to their requests for Froot Loops and such. And I can't seem to keep up with the laundry and the dishes. And I'm constantly cleaning things out and trying to organize things, but somehow I never get there.

I started to post some pics of my kids and say, "...and some people think my kids are well behaved and well mannered", but then I had to face reality. I don't think I have anyone fooled on that one :).

Confession: Some days I panic just a little bit. I think about the fact that I am adopting a 4th child! And this child could very likely have some special needs that I have never dealt with before. I will soon be homeschooling 4 children. I am currently homeschooling one and barely managing to do it well. I will be feeding 4 children Froot Loops because I will have even less time and energy to come up with healthy meals. The laundry and dishes will pile up a little bit higher. More discipline required. More love required. More energy required. More boo boo's to kiss. More sleepless nights. More diapers! More potty training :(. More siblings to fight with. More extra curricular activities to get to. More money. More time. More patience. More....selflessness.

...and the Enemy likes to whisper to me "are you sure you are capable of this? Are you sure you have this in you?"

...to which I have slowly learned to reply, "No. I am not. There's no way I am capable of this. And no. I do not have this in me. But my Father is so very capable of doing this through me and in me!"

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. 2 Corinthians 9:8

And when I see images like these..



...I am humbly reminded that these children aren't desperately hoping for an organized, spotless, organic home to live in. They are desperately hoping for love. I have that. A warm, dry bed. I have several of those. Clothing. I have so much it disgusts me. Food. My cabinets are busting at the seams and my refrigerator is dangerously full. A family. I've taken mine for granted too many times.

So, I hope nobody thinks that I have decided to do this adoption thing because I have everything else under control and I'm ready to tackle the next challenge. It's never been my intention to lead anybody to that conclusion, but I think sometimes I might do it by accident. The truth is, I have no idea how this is gonna look or how I'm going to manage it all. I just know I'm gonna do it, because He asked me to.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Bring on the Froot Loops.





Saturday, January 23, 2010

Extravagant



ex·trav·a·gant
Pronunciation: \ik-ˈstra-vi-gənt\
Function: adjective
1 a : exceeding the limits of reason or necessity b : lacking in moderation, balance, and restraint
c : extremely or excessively elaborate
2 : spending much more than necessary
3
: extremely or unreasonably high in price

I don't consider myself to be an "extravagant" girl. If you come to my house for dinner, you are more likely to eat off of paper than china. I couldn't care less about diamonds or other expensive jewelry. My favorite shoes are my $2 flip flops. Ordering anything that costs more than $10 off of a restaurant menu makes my stomach hurt just a little bit. I rarely use hairspray or nail polish. I'm just a pretty simple girl. I would like to think that my husband would say I'm not all that "high maintenance". I usually consider my practical nature to be one of my positive traits, but....

Friday morning Duane took the boys out for breakfast. When they came home I was in my bedroom working on something. My sweet Micah, eyes shining, came to the room and said for me to come to the kitchen with him. Knowing he was up to something, I quickly followed him into the kitchen. When I got in there I saw a dozen red roses sitting on the counter. He, Noah, and Duane all looked at me for my reaction. Of course I smiled and told them thank you. I told them they were so pretty. I smelled them and commented on how good they smelled. I was trying. But deep down all I could think about was how a dozen roses were just too extravagant. I mean, how impractical. I thought about how expensive they must have been and how in just a few days they would die. I'm ashamed to say that I allowed my practicality to rob me of the joy that should've come with the realization that I have a husband who loves me so much he would buy me a dozen beautiful red roses even though it wasn't practical. Just because he thinks I'm worth it. I failed to fully appreciate the expressions on the faces of my sweet boys as they anticipated my response. I failed to praise my God for His creativity which is so evident in the beauty and lovely scent of a rose. I realize this is not a good thing, and I'm really trying to stifle these feelings. And it's had me thinking.....

Does this practical, non-extravagant part of me hinder my ability to fully accept God's love for me and the grace he pours out on me? Because only extravagant love could move an Almighty God to humbly become a man and live life on this earth. And only extravagant love would move that man to not only heal lepers, but to also touch them. Only extravagant love drives a perfect, sinless man to submit to having his hands and feet nailed to a cross for someone as sinful and imperfect as me. Only extravagant love prays through the pain on that cross, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." And only extravagant love could know my every thought, my every mistake, my every failure and still love me and call me His precious child.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message

So the roses were more than just an expensive, thoughtful gesture that will die in a few days after all. They were actually an extremely worthwhile gift. In fact, I believe it was quite likely Duane's obedience to God's spirit that caused him to pick those up and bring them home to me. Because I needed to be reminded. I needed to remember how extravagantly my Father loves me. Why? Because I needed to be reminded that I am also to "love like that". I would hate to think that my practical nature prevents me from doing this.

If you come to my house for dinner, you will still probably eat off of paper plates. I still don't give a rip about diamonds and I can't wait for it to be warm enough for my flip flops again. I'm still a practical girl. But from now on, when it comes to love, I'm shooting for extravagance.

The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.
2 Corinthians 13:14

If you have time, turn off the music in the left hand column and listen to this beautiful song about God's extravagant love for us!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Droppings


Droppings. That's what people refer to them as. Somehow it makes them feel better about the fact that they have discovered poop. Poop from a furry creature which has invaded your space. Dozens of little "droppings". That's what I found under my bathroom sink today. I must admit that initially I panicked - just a little bit. But then I pulled myself together and made a conscious decision to handle this calmly.

See, I have ulterior motives. I've been trying to convince Duane that I could handle living on a farm. It's just a funny dream of mine. Let me clarify what I mean by farm. More than one acre of land :), a large garden, perhaps some chickens, etc.... (By etc.. I mean a horse or 2). When I mention this, he says that I am "romanticizing a lot of hard work". If you know Duane, you know that he is not afraid of hard work. He's just afraid that I am. So, when I considered how to handle this, I could just hear him saying "And you think you want to live on a farm?"

The old me that wasn't trying to convince Duane that I could live on a farm would've left all of the poopy evidence so that Duane could experience the full drama of my discovery when he arrived home from work this afternoon. And to be honest, I probably would've expected him to clean it up. But the new me carefully plucked every item in the cabinet out - there's a lot in my cabinet. I "carefully plucked" because I was scared to death that the mouse was in there and was going to run up my arm when I least expected it. I washed everything off, threw a few things away, swept up the "droppings" and shredded paper, and washed the cabinet. Ok, here's where it gets really good. I then inspected the cabinet to find the hole that my friend may have entered through. I found it. 10 mice at a time could've fit through there. By the looks of things, it might have been 10 mice! Again, the old me would've waited until Duane got home and insisted that he fix it TO-NIGHT. The new me thought, I can handle this. "Noah", I yell, "bring me some duck tape". Proudly and confidently, I secured the hole, returned everything to the cabinet, shut the door, and dusted off my hands. As if on cue, my phone rings. It's Duane. In my initial panic state I may have called him a couple of times and sent him a text when he didn't answer. "Hello", I answer in my sweetest, calmest voice. I waited for him to bring it up :). When he did I jumped on the opportunity to boast about how I had "handled the situation". While I'm sure deep down he was very proud of me, he responded by telling me that I would have to clean all of that stuff back out and remove the duck tape so that we could trap it and it wouldn't die in our wall, rot, and stink us out. Good point.

There's another old me. One that I'm much more ashamed of. A year ago, I would've been more than just disgusted that there was poop in my bathroom cabinet. Deep down I would have been outraged. I may not have ever spoken it aloud or put it into words, but deep down I would've had the feeling that I deserved to live in rodent free environment. Or a roach free environment. I operated under the idea that I deserved to be in a comfortable, creature free, inconvenience free environment. How dare I? I have new lenses now. I've chosen to become more aware of the world around me. Or maybe I should say that God has chosen for me to become more aware. The new me thinks about the millions of children worldwide who live with rats, not mice, on a daily basis. I would imagine that some even choose to eat them, rather than starve. I really don't mean to be dramatic. It's just the truth. When our power went out a couple of days ago, the first thing I thought about was how many people in our world have no electricity. Ever. It was a bitter cold morning. I wondered how many people didn't have a warm place to stay the night before. When it takes the hot water in my kitchen sink forever to get warm, I try to thank God that I have running water. Clean water. One billion people in the world do not.

So did God give me these new lenses so that I could finally realize I don't deserve the blessings He's given me, but rather that each and every one is an undeserved gift? Or was it so that I could be more thankful for what I have? Maybe partially, but I doubt it. I don't think he blesses me so that I can sit around and be thankful for how blessed I am. I don't think He's made me more aware of the world so that I can pity those who live in deplorable conditions, are growing up without families, or are dying from AIDS. I'm definitely not boasting about this new me like I so quickly did the other one. I have so far to go. I long to move from the new me to the even newer me :). The me that does something more about what I see with my new lenses. You see, I do think He blesses me because He loves me. He loves me so much, that he desperately wants me to experience the joy that comes from truly following Him. From getting over myself and feelings of entitlement to comfort and convenience.

We will set out traps and hopefully catch our furry little friends. But, as crazy as it may sound, I'm actually a little thankful that they pooped all up in my space. It gave me one more reminder to be thankful. And even more than that, to be AWARE. And even more than that, to DO something about it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Bubble Blowing 101

(pause the music in the left hand column before playing)

video




Freckles


Freckles. Noah has freckles.

You can't really see them here, but they are mostly on his nose. I saw them this morning when we were laying face to face on the couch together - talking. I guess I knew he had freckles. But I forgot? Failed to notice lately? I don't know. What I do know is that I looked at his face and thought, "He has freckles!". How distracted do you have to be to not notice that your firstborn has freckles? Or to forget, or whatever. How much of a fog do you have to be in to look at the really dark freckle right above his lip and think "Has that always been there?". How busy must a mother be if she can't remember the last time she lay down face to face with her child just to chat and make sure he knows just how much he is loved? I submit that one must be too busy. Too distracted.

When I was a kid, my dad had the unfortunate task of waking me up each morning. If you know me, you know it was like trying to wake someone from a coma. If you know my dad, you won't be surprised to know he always did it with a song. THE SAME SONG. EVERY MORNING. In the moment it just made me want to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. But deep down I loved it. I loved that I had a dad who woke me up with a song rather than the harsh words I deserved for being so slow to respond. I loved the consistency. I loved the gentle nature of it.

I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I have been in a "mommy coma" for too long. Remember the freckles? Remember the really dark one right above his lip? I actually tried to scratch it off, desperately needing for it to be food or anything besides something that had likely been there all of his life.

I have become so bogged down in my tasks. So deadened by my routine. I've wandered so far off the path that I set out to follow on this journey. I've pursued perfection instead of playing. I've traded time for tidyness. I've spent too little time caring and too much time controlling. I've let life get in the way of love.

But today.... today I have noticed chubby knees and blue eyes. I've had a pillow fight. I read a book about ants to 3 children on the couch while the sun from the window warmed us up. I let a 9 year old bake muffins by himself. I cherished the uncontrollable laughter of a spunky 4 year old. I've tackled. I've tickled. I saw his freckles.

Once again, my Father is waking me up. Praise God! He is waking me up! I'm slowly but surely waking up out of my mommy coma. And He is doing it gently. And consistently. Even though I have been so slow to respond and sometimes want to pull the covers back over my head. And he does it with a song. 3 beautiful songs in fact. They are my children.

My friends and family reading this may be tempted to reply with "You're way too hard on yourself." But I know the fog. And I'm not saying that I haven't been a good mother. I'm a good mother. The thing is, I'm not so sure it's my kids who have been missing out. The fog has robbed ME of the joy that being a mother can bring.

I'm just so thankful that today the fog was lifted high enough for me to see those freckles. I wonder what I'll discover tomorrow?


Monday, January 04, 2010

Checking my mommy motives

I'm not good at basketball. Or volleyball. Or softball, or any other kind of ball. I can swim only well enough to stay above water. I don't play the piano or the guitar. I probably can't even play a kazoo. I was a good student, but not a great one. I'm not an actress and I'm too nervous to sing in front of people. I'm a mediocre cook. I can't draw or paint. I've never really had a "talent". You know what I mean. That thing that you were born to do and it's obvious because you are SO good at it. It comes natural to you and you excel in it. Everyone around me has always seemed to have something they were talented at, but me not so much. As a result, when I became a mother at the ripe old age of 22, I declared to myself that this is going to be my talent. This was finally going to be the one that thing that I was good at. Really good at. I was going to be the best mother EVER - no matter what it took! It seemed like a worthy talent to desire and pursue. It didn't take me long to realize that I didn't have the natural ability that I thought I would. But I didn't let that stop me as easily as I did with things like basketball and painting. NO, this was too important!

So, I've spent the last 9 years striving for this perfectly talented mother thing. You know the image I'm talking about. She's a cookie baking, craft making, sweet talking, self sacrificing, encouraging, fun mom. And on top of that, she's skinny and beautiful and cool. She's a spiritual giant, just oozing with wisdom and the fruits of God's spirit. She spends hours in the floor playing with her children and somehow her house is always clean too. She always feeds her kids healthy meals. And since she's the perfect mom, her kids are obviously going to be perfect too! They have impeccable manners, are always respectful, and constantly asking what they can do to help out around the house. They never argue with her or one another. Everyone wishes that their children were more like hers.

Once again, as I've thought about a new year, I've been asking myself how I can come a little closer to achieving this perfect mommy thing that I set out to accomplish 9 years ago? Because, you see, I'm not talented at it. I stink. It's hard. Nothing about it comes naturally. I yell. I put them in front of the TV to accomplish my tasks. I've even resorted to buying Cookie Crisps for breakfast! And the kids....well they are a far cry from perfect too. I'm called stupid head by my 4 year old on a daily basis. When I ask my 9 year old to help with a chore he has been known to say, "Here we go again.". My 2 year old is still pretty sweet. I haven't had time to ruin her yet :). As I've made my mental list of all the things I need to do better and how I'm going to do them better and how as a result my family is going to BE better, God has been whispering something that I just didn't have the ears to hear until this very morning. This morning he has finally stopped whispering and has shouted at me, because I can be quite stubborn and He knows this. He is telling me to stop. Stop. Stop trying to prove yourself.....to yourself. Stop using your family to make yourself feel good. To make yourself feel talented. You see, for all these years I've been lying to myself. Or rather, I've believed the lies of the Enemy. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that this pursuit of perfect mommy was for my kids. It wasn't about me. They need a perfect mommy. I convinced myself that since God had entrusted me with these children, he must want me to be the perfect mom. But all of this was really just a lie. Deep down, my quest to be an unselfish mother who gave all of herself to her family, was rooted in my own selfish desire to be talented at something. To be recognized for being GREAT at something. God is telling me to stop.

So, while I will always be striving to be a Godly mother to my children, from this day forward I will accept that I am not talented at this either. And that's ok. It's actually quite a relief. It means I don't have to be racked with guilt when my children wake up in a few minutes and scarf down a bowl of Cookie Crisps. The old me would have been beating myself up that it wasn't bran muffins. And when Sophia watches 3 episodes of Dora in a row just so that I can finish helping Noah with his math, I will try to be proud that I'm teaching one of my children math. And when Micah calls me stupid head today (because he will), it won't be quite as irritating to me that he's not perfect. Because neither am I.

Maybe this year I'll try an instrument again.