Zephaniah 3:17

Last night was one of those motherhood nights that make you want to hand in your minivan and find a new line of work.

The girls were sent upstairs to tidy their room, then the plan was to have ice cream, read bedtime stories and get to bed.  Well, time went by, the room didn’t get clean and bedtime arrived.

I’ve just finished reading the book, “Have a New Kid by Friday” which is all about consequences.  One of the major points is “A doesn’t happen until B does.”  So, that meant that if the room tidy didn’t happen, neither did ice cream.

Now, it has been suggested that I am sometimes a bit of a pushover and I’m not going to deny it.  But being a pushover has, in the case of some strong willed little ladies, taught my daughters how to manipulate me for their own agendas.  We are, after all, born sinners in need of grace and a savior and in the case of children, in need of training up.  I had to step up my training efforts.

You can imagine, I’m sure, what happened when I said no ice cream.  I had thought to still do stories, since reading is important and it’s part of the routine but both of these girls came UNGLUED.  UNHINGED.

Screaming the likes of which I’ve never heard.  “You’re a mean mom!  You’re supposed to feed your kids!  You promised!”

My instinct was to also become unglued and unhinged but I bit it back, took some deep breaths and calmly said, “You had a choice.  You chose to play instead of tidying your room,” which, for the record, was about ten minutes worth of mess,  “And now you’re going to have to go to bed.”

I was proud of how I handled it.  I got them to bed with no screaming from me, plenty of screaming from them and I was in my room watching Hulu Plus and eating crackers and cheese in no time.  I patted myself on the back.

Approximately 2.5 minutes later, there was a knock on the door.

I opened it to find a sweet little paci face with a sheepish smile and the words, “I’m scared, Mommy.  I need to sleep in your bed.”

I ushered her back to her bed.

Back to my room and back to tv.

Approximately 2.5 minutes later, there was a knock at the door and that same little lady was standing there.

I ushered her back to bed, Super Nanny style.

Approximately 2.5 minutes later, there was a knock at the door and I’ll bet you can guess who it was.

I ushered her back to bed, Super Nanny style and she went bananas.

I mean screaming the likes of which I hadn’t heard…well, since I’d first tried to put them to bed.  Carrying on, thrashing around, ugly words, ear splitting shrieks.

Lila said, “It’s kind of hard to sleep when she’s making all that noise.”

I said, “Let’s pray.”  And Lila agreed, probably as much for the chance to get out of bed as any other reason.  She joined me on the bottom bunk and Claire screeched, “I don’t wanna pway!”

We ignored her and prayed for peace and calm and Lila curled into my lap like a little cat, already over the bedtime drama.

Lila went back up to her bed and I hugged Claire who did not want to be hugged.  I began to sing over her and hold her tight, hoping that the Holy Spirit all intertwined in the words of the song would calm her down.  I sang through “Beautiful Mercy” and “Like a Lion” and then “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and then back through all three again.  Praying all the while that the Holy Spirit would descend and blanket her in peace.

And after a while, there was peace.

The bedtime drama began at 8:00 and was finally over at close to 10:00.

Claire has a fierceness.  She is independent and stubborn and strong.  She knows what she wants and gets very stuck on wanting what she wants.  She is rebellious and short tempered.  She is just like me.

I held her last night and sang over her and thought about God and how often He has to hold me down and sing over me until I calm.  I thought about how I sometimes just don’t wanna pway.  I just don’t want to do anything but rage.

I learn so much about God from my children.  So much about love.  So much about mercy.  So much about God as Father.

I was having a grown up tantrum in the kitchen a couple of nights ago while John cooked tacos.  Raging about things not going my way, crying about things not being fair, sulking and storming.  He tried to reassure and I didn’t want to hear it.

I am so much like Claire.

And eventually, God held me and sang over me and quieted my soul.

And I felt better.

This morning, Claire wakes up with a smile on her face and a happy heart.  I watch her talk to Nora.  I see that she loves as fiercely as she rages.  The baby laughs at her sister.  I pray that the day is one filled with peace and in this moment there is only peace.

The morning goes on and the dog is stealing food from the table and this child hits another child and the tantrums go on (most likely because she didn’t get enough sleep) and Claire spits at me and the dog is in the trash and it’s another day in the life.  But the strength of that moment of beauty carries me through.  I will watch for these little moments as the day goes on because these are the moments that help us to survive.

These little moments where God sings over us.

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Watch for your moments today.

Nora Laughs

IMG_3289Nora laughs out loud now.

Julia stretches out beside her on the rug in the book room.  She talks to her small sister, she takes one finger and taps gently on Nora’s collarbone and Nora just laughs.  I watch this moment, my first and my last, twenty years of mothering in one place and I watch this moment. Breathe it in.

I remember Julia’s first laughs.  I was getting ready for work and she was lying on my bed, smiling at me as I bustled around.  I had her socks in my hand.  I went over to her and talked to her for a second, reveling in those sweet smiles.  I took the sock and ran it across her nose, which always made her smile wider.  She laughed.  I melted.  I did it 100 times that morning, loving that sweet laughter.  I was late for work.  But even as a young mother, I knew that moment was one to memorize.

When Aubrey laughed, she was still a little butterball with tons of black hair.  Chase, a round faced ball of sheer joy- he laughed early and often.  Lila’s laugh was so infectious that the whole household stopped to revel in it.  Claire’s laugh came late after months of colicky fussing and when it did, our hearts just stopped.

Now Nora joins the ranks, adds another set of “firsts” to my career.  She is my last, the last of the firsts and my heart breaks a little bit over that but is mostly just filled with the joy that I am here to witness these firsts, to witness the miracles.

I am here to see her smile.  She is here to smile.  I am here to hear her giggles, she is here to giggle.  We are here.  We are here together.

So often my thoughts take me back to those moments, the moments when I went in for surgery, so afraid.  When I woke up, tubed and confused but somehow at peace.  When I held Nora the first time, when I had to go back to the hospital.  Night after night in various hospital rooms…the pain I’m still in…the exhaustion I can’t describe, this painful bone deep weariness.  Five months out and I struggle in mind, heart and body, struggle daily to take one step forward and two steps back.  (Sometimes even more when I overdo it.  Which I always do.)  Five months of pain and weariness, soul battle scarred and tired…

But these moments, these firsts, this baby’s smiles and laughter…it’s worth it.  I wouldn’t have missed Nora’s smile, Nora’s laughter for the world.

I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to.

That’s enough for today.

 

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The Slow Journey

 

When Julia was born, I was just a young girl of nineteen and I had no idea what motherhood even meant.  I knew it would be diapers and crying and sleepless nights…but I didn’t anticipate the wonder.

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I can remember watching Saturday Night Live in our tiny apartment and I would get her out of bed just to let her sleep on my chest.  I loved every second of motherhood in those early days.  She was an easy, laid back baby and I felt love and contentment I’d never, ever known before.  Yes, there were diapers and crying and sleepless nights and I’m sure the passage of time has made me remember it all through rose colored glasses but I knew I’d been given a good gift.

And what’s funny about it is that finding out I was pregnant…it had been a shock and a point of stress.  I’d been living the wild life for a while and my mom and some members of our church had gathered together to pray.  The prayer was:  “Whatever it takes, whatever it takes to get her to stop living this wild life and get back to what she knows.”

Within a week, I was telling my mom some pretty crazy news.  She was forty, just like I am today.

I worried.  I worried that I wouldn’t be good at being a mom, that I wouldn’t make my parents proud, that I wouldn’t ever get to do anything that I wanted to do.

And then, this thing I’d been worried about and frightened of happened and I counted it joy.  Because it was.  Julia was.  Mothering her gave me purpose and confidence and made me want to be better and I started the slow journey to being better.

Slow journey.

But that’s how it works.  We don’t just wake up one day fully healed and fully actualized and fully walking upright with Jesus, sinning no more.

I screwed up lots.  I made mistakes lots.  I did the wrong thing, lots.  But my heart was open to Him in a new way and that part has not changed in 20 years.

I had two more babies and while the day to day got more harried and busy and messy, I still loved it all.  I loved my babies, loved motherhood, loved Jesus.  And I kept trying to be better.  Sometimes I did well and sometimes I failed so loud and so hard that my whole world shook.

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And the truth is…that hasn’t changed.  I still fall down, I still fail and I still love my babies.  And God is still faithful.

Because God knows how to love well.  He knows that sometimes He has to let me feel consequences and sometimes He has to offer grace unmerited.  He knows that I will turn my back on Him and act like a selfish brat and sometimes I get too cozy with Poor Me and Discouragement and that whole crowd.  He knows that sometimes I don’t believe I have what it takes and sometimes I believe I can do anything.  He knows that sometimes I’m going to try too hard on my own and sometimes I’m going to try and fix things and that He’s going to need to be there to pick up the pieces.

He knows that sometimes, He’s going to offer me something amazing and I’m going to balk.

And I know that He is never anywhere but right beside me, within me, before me and behind me.

We all know Jeremiah 29:11 and we quote it so much that the words lose their meaning.  But it’s truth.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Not disaster, but good.

And then there’s Romans 8:28, another one we can all quote and know and still not know.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

All things…my failures, my mistakes, my sins…He redeems.

And so I’m thinking on all of that this morning as I’m looking down at my sweet Nora, as I get Lila and Claire ready for the day.  I think of how God has taught me more and more about love with each one of these precious six.  How He has shown His hand on my life and on theirs.  How He is teaching me how safe it is to trust Him and love Him.  How He has shown me what Love looks like.

He has plans for me, plans for good things, for a hope and a future.  And He will work all things together for my good, and He will guide me to His purpose and plans for my life.  Because I am His.

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The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Proverb

 

Do you know this saying?

Last night at 2:00am, I couldn’t sleep and I was thinking about everything that had happened since November 10th when my water broke.  I was thinking about how nervous I was going into surgery on November 18th.  I had no idea how bad it was going to be or even how bad it was.

I remember laying in the bed before surgery staring at that curtain with my stomach doing flip flops and just praying for God to help me surrender my fears.  I remember John walking down the hall with me as they wheeled me away, saying he loved me and would see me soon.  I remember the bright lights of the operating room, of the vulnerable feeling of being naked on the table while people hustled and bustled all around me.  I remember that the anesthesiologist talked me through what was happening in this calm voice but  I felt like I was being suffocated under the oxygen mask (fear and claustrophobia). He kept saying, “Sweetie, it’s oxygen.  Oxygen isn’t going to suffocate you.”  I heard my name being stated, what we were there to do and that is all I remember of November 18th.

November 19th.  Flashes of memory of what I thought was during surgery and have since figured out was the wee hours of the morning in ICU, after Nora’s birth, after my hysterectomy, after interventional radiology, after or maybe while I was bleeding out.  Another piece of  a memory- John, Philip, Parwin, Chris and (strangely) the hospital chaplain praying around me.  Everyone’s face teary and tired and worried.

Finally my first lucid memory.  I wake up and feel the tube in my throat.  I feel how puffy my eyes are and I feel out of it.  John and Bethany greet me as though I’ve been gone forever, eyes wide and faces stressed.  I look at the clock and take note of the time.  1:00.  I look out the window.  Daylight.  I went into surgery at 10pm.  Why isn’t it 1:00am?

It’s November 19th.  As the day goes on, I find out that sweet Nora was born and doing better than expected.  I find out that she’d fared far better than I had.  I find out that I was a hair’s breadth away from death.  I find out that even the amazing MFM doctors were sure they were losing me but never gave up.  That my family and friends and people I don’t know prayed me safely from the brink.  That I’d needed twenty seven units of blood in surgery.  (Three more while I was in ICU, bringing the grand total up to thirty.)  That I’d nearly lost my life on November 19th.

And last night, as I laid in my bed and stared at the gray blue walls that John painted for my birthday…I treasured these things in my heart.  My story could’ve ended that day.  My husband could’ve ended up on his own with two little girls and a broken heart, missing his wife and stepchildren because the whole structure of his life would’ve changed without me.  My children’s story- Julia could’ve lost her mom at twenty, Aubrey at seventeen, Chase at fifteen, Lila at only five…what would she have remembered?  Claire, only two…she wouldn’t have remembered anything except what pictures and other people’s stories told her.  The same for Nora…except she would’ve carried with her the fact that she was born and then I died.

I just couldn’t think about much else last night as I laid awake.

November 19th, it was the first day of the rest of my life.

I’m processing through all of this stuff and thinking about what God would have me do with it.  I know I feel more raw, more vulnerable.  I know I’m more prone to tears that come awfully quickly.  I know I feel more compassion than I used to. I know I feel even more mercy than I used to.  And oh, do I feel more gratitude.  Every minute I have with John. Facetime with Chase.  Hugs from Lila.  Laughing with Aubrey and Julia.  Claire climbing into my lap.  The warm, soft weight of little Nora.  I hold her close in the nicu and I breathe her in.  She is the prize for all of this hard work and pain and physical suffering.  Her presence in my world makes it all worth it.

But there is more that I have gained.  My eyes are opened wider to the beauty and blessing.  Even as I type those words, Lila and Claire are arguing over Christmas toys which isn’t particularly beautiful but even that makes me grateful.  I am here to break up the squabble.  I am here to explain that we love our sister and we don’t fight in this house.  My eyes can suddenly see His gifts even more clearly and I am looking even harder for them.  November 19th was the first day of the rest of my life and I don’t want to miss even one gift He’s given me.

Even those days when my pain level is high, when I’m so tired that I fall asleep in my chair or in the car or while I’m reading…even those days when it seems like Nora will be in the NICU until she’s in kindergarten…even those days when the drive to and from Norfolk just seems impossibly long…no matter how down I feel, I am thankful.

I am here.

And the changes I want to make are quite simple.  I want to love more, pray more, serve more, give more.  I want to walk with Jesus, pressing in close to His side, learning His ways.  I don’t want to squander all of these new days He’s given me.

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And now, because I know you are a praying people, would you join me in some special and persistent prayers for two of God’s beloved ones?

1.  My friend Laura is going for a PET scan on Friday.  Laura has been receiving chemo for quite a while now.  She is doing this while being a busy mom to two little ones.  She has her own Nora and Jacob too and she is an amazing person.   Chemo is slowing her down though and she is ready to be done and begin the first day of the rest of her life.  Will you pray that her cancer is gone for good?

2.  My little cousin Makayla is thirteen and she is struggling deeply with anorexia.  Will you pray that she will be delivered from this?  Will you pray that she would know the truths of God and how He loves her?   I want to see her thrive and begin the first day of the rest of her life.  I want to see her live with a free heart and a healthy body.

Thank you, beloved ones.

Learning Contentment

Something weird is going on.

It’s not Murphy’s Law…but it’s like that.  Lately, I’ve said several things to the positive and then something negative about that very thing happened..

1. “Caroline is really getting to be such  good dog.”  I said, to a cousin at the Blanton Family reunion.  And she was!  She wasn’t jumping up on people as much, she was able to be loose in the house throughout most of the day instead of sequestered to the laundry room.  I was really feeling good about how well she was doing.

And then yesterday, Julia was putting her out on the yard on the chain (JUST for dinner time, don’t call PETA. She spends maybe an hour a week on that thing, if that, and it’s only for now until we get her electric fence in and it’s only when we have company for dinner.  We just deal with her head at eye level at the dining room table but we don’t expect our guests too.) and she was being hyper and bananas. She ended up somehow getting the chain (it’s a plastic coated tie out) wrapped around Julia’s finger and the metal clip bounced up and knocked the mess out of her. Julia ended up having a broken finger.

2.  I was talking about raising children with some other moms and I said these words, “At least I can usually count on Claire to be good in public.  She saves her worst tantrums for home.”


She literally had the biggest, longest tantrum I’ve ever seen her have the very next night. At home, you ask? Nope. At Food Lion.

This is not a picture of the actual tantrum. It’s a picture of a tantrum from another day.

3.  And THEN!  Monday night, John and I were talking about how glad we were that Lila was adjusting so well to kindergarten.  That she was really doing far better than we’d expected and we’d had almost no behavior issues with her and she ‘d been sweet and loving and just a joy to be around.

Well, do you know the very next morning, she didn’t want to get dressed, she didn’t want to eat breakfast. She had a terrible attitude, she didn’t want to go to school and everything I said to her was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard of.
What in the world?!

5. Final thing…you know I hadn’t been sleeping, right? Well, I’d found a solution. One, the Ambien helped break the not sleeping cycle. Two, the Natural Calm has basically stopped my legs twitching and jumping. It’s been fantastic. I’ve been sleeping really, really well. I only needed the Ambien twice!


So, I was singing the praises of the Natural Calm to my aunts at dinner last night. Guess who didn’t sleep last night? That’s right, me.

It wasn’t as bad as it was before the Natural Calm and the Ambien. I was only up for about an hour and a half in the middle of the night…but it wasn’t the 7-9 hours of sleep I’ve been getting!

So, what’s going on?  Something is going on!  And I started to get irritated about it.  Poor Me peered hopefully through my front window.  But I saw her and I stopped myself.  No.  No Poor Me.

I closed the blinds on her and I said, “What are you trying to show me, Lord?”  And He is faithful to answer the question.

1.  I might think I have something figured out, but life is unpredictable.  What will I choose in those unpredictable times?  Will I choose thankfulness?  Will I choose to laugh and move on?  The Proverbs 31 woman “laughs with no fear of the future”.  Will I do that?  Knowing that tomorrow is another day and tomorrow, things will probably change again?

2.  I’m never going to have it all together.  I can do my best as a mom and as a dog owner and as a steward of my body and as everything else I am…but I’m never going to get it 100% right.  I was trying to encourage another mom not too long ago, when she was feeling guilty and feeling like she’d failed.  I told her there was no perfect mom.  Perfect mom is a myth!  We’re all just doing what we can.  We’re all just figuring it out, day by day, and some days are better than other days.  Some days, we do our very best and the kids go crazy anyway.  What more can we do?  And maybe we have days where we didn’t do our best at all, well…we can start over tomorrow.  His mercies are new EVERY morning…not just some mornings.  Great is His faithfulness.

3.  You have to be content with your life no matter what’s shaking it up.

God is really working on me with this one. Sometimes I get caught up in the “When we get to…” or “When we do this…” Sometimes I mark time, just waiting for some condition to be met for my happiness. I am learning that this is dumb, because there are good gifts and sweet moments every single day. And while Claire might scream her head off in the Food Lion one moment, later that night she wraps her little arms around my neck and says, “Mommy, don’t be scared. It’s just a plane.” (She’s scared of exactly one thing. The sound of planes flying overhead.)
Contentment is a gift that God will help you get. And it’s a good gift, but it’s a discipline and a practice.

So…I guess I’ll keep on saying those positive things about my kids and my family and my dog and my life.  It’s part of being thankful- celebrating the good.  I’ll keep on believing for good things and I’ll stand on those new mercies and ask God to help me to be content.

And I will laugh with no fear of the future.  Because God is for me…so who can be against me?

Ditching the Short Cuts

I’m the kind of mom who likes to take short cuts.  If I can do it now or later, I’ll choose later.  If there’s a quick way, I’m going with that way…even if it’s not the best way.  Truth is, I am lazy.

This backfires when you have a child whose love language is quality time.

Since Mother’s Day, and my Mother’s Day Resolutions, I’ve figured out how much easier my life can be if I just take a few extra minutes.

I’ve added a few steps to our bedtime routine which used to be:  Put on your jammies, brush your teeth, get in the bed.  I’m usually pretty well spent by bedtime and anxious for the day to be over.  But something was happening at bedtime…

Lila wouldn’t give me a good night hug.

So, even though I’d justified our short bedtime routine by saying that I read stories all day long and we pray together all day long…I knew that bedtime needed more than I was giving it.

Bedtime now goes like this:  Put on your jammies, brush your teeth, read three stories, pray together.  And it takes about five times longer.  But it is worth it.

Lila is giving out hugs again.

And it’s not actually about the hugs.  It’s about this:  How do I want the day to end with them?  Do I want them to feel pushed into bed with a quick good night or do I want them to remember these evenings of reading together, laughing together, praying together.  I want to remember these sweet moments of Lila’s prayers (“We just hope that you’ll put your angels around us…”) and Claire giggling from her crib and reading some of the best stories.  I was missing all of this by trying to rush through and this is the good stuff.

I have to say I patted myself on the back because bedtimes were going so well.

Then last night happened.

We read three stories, we prayed, we got hugs and kisses and tucked in.  I went downstairs to watch a Bollywood movie with Aubrey.  About a million pleas for “Mo-o-o-m-my.”  were forthcoming but I stood my ground and just yelled back, “It’s bedtime.  Go to sleep.”  This went on for forty five minutes and it’s not too uncommon…sometimes those two get talking and giggling and don’t fall asleep right away.

Aubrey said, “I’ll just go and make sure that Claire has her passy.”

About forty five seconds later, I hear Aubrey’s laugh.  “Mom, you’ve got to come and see this.”

This was that Lila had given Claire every single stuffed animal in the room and Claire had literally no place in the crib to lay her head.  No place at all!  She was standing knee deep in elephants, giraffes, bunnies, puppies, puppies and more puppies…She pointed to the masses at her feet and said, “Mommy!”

I shook my head, started pulling out stuffed animals (Claire was happy to help by throwing them out of the crib.) and then tucked everyone in again.  I should’ve fussed at Lila about it, i should’ve given some kind of correction, but we were all just laughing too much.  New hugs and kisses, a quick prayer and eventually Aubrey and I got back to our movie.

So much for my awesome parenting.  The ploy had been that spending that extra time would make them go to bed happily and more smoothly.  That didn’t happen…becuase kids don’t care if we think we’ve figured it all out.  Kids are unpredictable.

And this is the kind of stuff we remember.  I love hearing my older kids say things like, “Remember the time when we…” and they remember some crazy thing we did, something I wouldn’t have thought was all that important, but it made a memory.  They remember so fondly so much of the ordinary, everyday things.  And because I can see that now, with Julia on the verge of twenty, Aubrey at seventeen and Chase at fifteen…I don’t want to miss out on all these good memories I can be building for the little ones too.

This is why we have our daily dance parties.  And when they happen (as they do, spontaneously, almost every day), we drop everything and just dance.

And I think I’ve just come to realize that shortcuts, procrastination, doing things halfway…it just makes more work in the end.

So, tell me what funny things you do at your house?  What things will/do your kids remember?

Bubbles, Peez.

Claire brings me a little bottle of bubbles while I’m folding the last load of laundry of the day.  I remember my Mother’s Day resolution to her and her siblings, even though I was really just trying to finish this last load.

I blow bubbles for her and she laughs and laughs and tries to catch them.  I watch her, how cute and little she is and how much fun she is and I think, “This is a moment I’ll be writing about in my thankfulness journal.  Or better yet, I’ll blog about it.”  And as I watch her chase the bubbles, a whole blog about living simply and living in the moment is forming.  About keeping those Mother’s Day resolutions.

I put the bubbles down to fold a few more things and she says, “Peez.”  and does the sign for please.  I cheerfully blow more bubbles and she shakes her head, “No!  Bubble.  Peez.”  She holds her little hand up and I realize she wants to blow the bubbles.

But she’s only nineteen months and the only thing that’s going to be accomplished by handing her a bottle of bubbles is a giant, sticky mess.

So, I say, “No, sweetie.  Mommy will blow the bubbles for you but you can’t hold them.”

“Peez.  Bubbles.”  Hysteria threatens her little voice.

“No, no, sweetie.”   And for someone who likes to say No so much, she sure doesn’t like to hear it.  She starts screaming, throws herself on the floor and starts flailing and occasionally reaching out to try and hit or scratch me.

I ignore her, which was the day’s ineffectual approach to tantrums and the fit goes on and on.

I shake my head wondering where my blog post about living out my resolution had gone.  “I was just trying to have a nice moment with this baby!”  I think to myself and she rages in the floor.

I keep folding and finally finish as Claire cries and yells, “No, no, no!” at me.  (She has a very strong personality.)

“Claire!”  I say, “Want to help me?”

She likes to help.  She loves to help me unload the dishwasher.  It’s not actually super helpful, but she feels like such a big girl and she is so happy to be doing work with Mommy.  She’ll like helping with the laundry too.  I show her where the wet laundry goes in the dryer and hand her a wet shirt.  She throws it in and I am rewarded with a beaming grin.  I give her each piece of laundry to then put in the dryer.  She is proud of her work, shouting, “Yay!” after each item goes in.

I don’t think about how I’m trying to beat the clock and get a certain amount of chores done before dinner needs to be cooked.  I don’t think about how I would be done already and on to something else.  I just think…”Wow, giving her something else to do stopped the fit…and…I am living out my Mother’s Day resolutions after all.”

We put the last thing in the dryer and she looks to me for the next one.  “All done.”  I say, wondering if this will set off another fit but she slams the dryer door closed.  Another, “Yay!” and we go on to the dishwasher.  The bubbles are forgotten.

As we spend an inordinately long time putting the dishes away, I am reminded of how Aubrey was a lot like this one.  Full of fire and a personal agenda that no one else could decipher.  I think of the many tantrums Aubrey threw.  How we were all a little afraid of her.

As though summoned, Aubrey twirls into the kitchen, dancing a Hindi dance to a Bollywood song on her iPod.  She is all tall, willowy beauty and cheer and she hasn’t had a fit in like fourteen years.  She is responsible and smart and is quick to serve.  She uses her drive and determination and her perseverance for good purposes now.

But she didn’t know how to do that when she was little and neither does Claire.

I realize that there was a time when I thought Aubrey would never stop having fits.  But thinking about it now…I don’t remember when her last one was.  One day, she just didn’t have tantrums anymore.  And she grew up into this lovely woman who is so full of promise and potential.

She recently did a project in her photography class, take a look.

And all of my friends kept asking, “Hey, if there are really four Aubreys, can I have one?”  because she is such a delight.  Helpful and funny and smart (smart mouthed too, in the good way).  She’s fun to hang out with, she’s great with kids, she doesn’t mind doing her share.  But like I told everyone…you have to grow your own.

I take the bowl Claire gives me and put it away in the cabinet.  She pulls out a spatula and goes to the wrong drawer to put it in. I let her, thinking I’ll fix it later…she is taking great pride in her work.

This too shall pass and I will just wait it out…because before I know it, this little dervish who colors on her legs and dumps out my coffee into my yarn bag and wants to drink all of my water, every day…she’ll be like her sister…using her powers for good and not evil.

Changing the world.

“So maybe this moment will go in my thankfulness journal”, I say to myself.  Because there’s freedom in figuring out that this too shall pass and I must just fight the good fight and persevere and it will all pay off in the end.

The Lord reminds me of a verse I learned while teaching the kids at church a few weeks ago.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

And the tantrums can be really wearisome.  And honestly, sometimes the “help” she offers…it’s wearisome because I want to rush through and get it done.  (Let’s don’t even go into how she helps by throwing everything away, including keys, shoes and library books.)   The day to day and the here and now can be wearisome.  But we remember the promises we made our children.

We are making world changers.  That requires perseverance and hard work.  And if we persevere, if we see it through and do the best we can to love them well…we will reap a harvest.

You can do this, Wearied Mama.  You can do it.

 

Psalm 45:11

I’ve spent the last couple of hours trying to figure out how to say what I want to say this morning.  In fact, what usually takes me an hour or at most two has taken me more like four hours.

Really, I’m still figuring it out.

So, I’ll ask you to forgive me if this seems ragged, pieced together crudely or less eloquent than I sometimes am.

And even more than being worried it won’t be good writing…I’m also worried it’s going to be a little too heart-real and a little too soul bare.  I’m going to share something that sums up my life’s struggle and it’s a little bit scary.

Deep breath.  And then I’m jumping in with both feet and I’m going to show you a deep, deep piece of me.

Here is the truth.  I’ve struggled always with feeling like I don’t measure up.  I’ve struggled always with feeling like I’m not enough.  It’s hard for me to receive the affections of my God and King.  It’s hard for me to believe that He’s “enthralled with my beauty”. (Psalm 45:11)  My whole life…I’ve just longed for belonging.  To know and be known and to be loved anyway…All my life, I’ve felt this feeling of restlessness and  “if only”…This restless feeling of longing to be better, to be more, to prove that I’m something, that I’m someone.

There have been so many who have loved and who do love me.  I am blessed to be loved so much and so well.  But the truth is this:  there have been a number of people and circumstances who have left me with deep wounds and left me deeply scarred.  And while I would allow the Lord to work on those wounds and scars, to soothe them with His oil and with His love…I guess I didn’t let Him keep at them until they were fully healed. I always held back enough of that woundedness to fuel my self-pity and my insecurities.  My restlessness.

The restlessness came and went.  I would throw myself into this or throw myself into that…I would spend too much time away from home doing the work of the Lord or put too much faith in this friend or too much weight to that friend’s opinion.  I would agonize over things I’d said and things I’d done…wondering if I could’ve said it better, could’ve done it better.  I would beat myself up with “if onlys” and self deprecation.  I was (and often still am) my worst critic, my worst enemy, my worst friend.

The restlessness drove me to constantly reinvent myself, to make me second guess my every move.  I lived and died by what others thought of me.  And there would be seasons where it was better and there would be seasons where it would be much worse.  On a scale of 1-10, ten being the worst and one being the best…I would go through cycles of being every single number.

Whenever I would find a place of belonging, I would cling to it hard and throw my all into it.  I would serve my heart out, doing the work of the Lord, sacrificing all else….and sacrifice is good.

But did you know?

He desires obedience more than sacrifice.

And it was only when I began to be obedient to His leading, listening to His prompting and putting what I wanted on the backburner that I began to feel freedom.

Freedom from the restlessness and freedom from the desire for the approval of others.

Freedom.

You see, I am right where I am supposed to be.  And nowadays, my service to the Lord has more to do with what happens within my four walls than what happens out in the world.  I am fulfilling my calling.  By just being present in my home fully…body, mind, soul and spirit…I am doing the work of the Lord.  I believe I’ve learned the art of contentment, at long last.

I started to make a list of every volunteer ministry position I’d ever been in…but it was a long, long list.  I spent quite a few moments on it, listing my accomplishments, my job titles, my endless hours of serving.  I found pictures to match the job descriptions.  But He stopped my fingers typing and said no to the list.

Because this particular entry is actually not about what I’ve done.  It’s about why I’ve done what I’ve done.

I’ve served for lots of reasons.

1. I love the Lord.
2. I love to do His work.
3. I love to serve out of my giftings.
4. I am a team player. I believe that kingdom work is more effective when we do it together.
5. I love being a part of something that impacts the world.
6. I need to belong. I need to be known.
7. I crave the approval of others.

And it’s numbers six and seven that begin to get me in trouble, to distort things.  All these many years I’ve lived, I have often lived according to numbers six and seven.

It’s scary for me to share this stuff.  I’ve deleted it and typed it, deleted it and typed it again.  I want the world to see that I’m whole, that I’ve got it together, that I’m okay.  But the truth is that…I’m somewhat  whole, being constantly healed and loved into His image.  That I absolutely do not have it together, but I rest in the Hands of the One who holds everything together.  That I’m okay but only because I’ve been redeemed.

And I think it’s important for you to know that this work He’s done in me…He can do in you.

Here and now I’ve discovered this side effect of dwelling in thankfulness.

I don’t need to please anyone anymore.

I don’t need to reinvent myself.

I don’t need to try so hard to prove I’m okay.

This is new to me, this feeling of peace that has replaced my restlessness.  This feeling of having good gifts to offer…but not feeling like I have to do every single thing that comes my way to prove my gifts are good.  This calm, this release…this freedom to be the me-est me I can be.  It’s new.

It’s good, my beloved ones.

I say that I think it’s come about because of thankfulness and I do think that’s true…but I’m thinking about my life now and my life during my most restless times…and there are quite a few things that are different now.

1. I live in a healthy home. My husband loves me fully and as Christ loved the church. He values me for who I am and I have nothing to prove to him. He loves me because I am me and he doesn’t ever ask me to be different than who I am and he doesn’t ever ask me to be better or do better. He just loves me, I am good enough for him…and that makes me want to be better. A Christ centered marriage…for this I am every day so thankful, so grateful and so overjoyed that I could cry.  What a good, good gift.

2. Obedience. I am living out my true calling. God has been asking me for years to put my wifehood, motherhood and stewardship of my home first. And I’ve listened for a season here and a season there but with no consistency. I love my family, I love being a mom but there were definitely times over the years when I became a ministry-aholic. A messy, messy house, kids that needed more of my time than they got and (in my first marriage) not making my husband a priority all limited, I think, my freedom from the restlessness. And it so typical of me, trying to meet my needs my way instead of His way. Now, I put John, my children and caring for my home first. I don’t do a ton of ministry away from home because my gifts are best suited to my home. I sing in the prayer room twice a month and hope to eventually move to once a week. I lead a small group of first graders at church every week and that’s it. The rest is here- at home. And I have bloomed as I’ve lived out His will for me.

3. Thankfulness. It’s teaching me to see His goodness and to see His love for me. I must believe He loves me as I am when I write out all the beautiful gifts He gives me everyday. It makes it easier for me to give and receive love because my heart is satisfied with the goodness of God. I’m no longer starved.

Here I am, just me, but beautiful in the eyes of the King of all.  I was good enough all along…because I am made in the image of the King.  I am covered by the blood of Jesus and through that filter, God sees me.

It’s so simple and I want to make it so hard…but here I am!  I’m almost forty, and I’m just figuring out so many things.

He loves me.

I read Psalm 45:11 in every possible translation and every single one was truth and we must write this truth on our hearts.  Write it on your hand, write it on your mirror.  Know it and believe it.

“Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.” (NIV)

“For your royal husband delights in your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.” (NLT)

“Then the King will desire your beauty.
Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” (NASB)

“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.” (KJV)

“Be here—the king is wild for you.
Since he’s your lord, adore him”.  (the Message)

“So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.” (NKJV)

What’s verse or truth can you share with us today? A verse, a truth that says who you are? Will you share it?

My Great Commission

My motherhood journey began when I was nineteen and Julia was born.  Four years and eight months flew by and I was suddenly a mother of three.  Julia, Aubrey and Chase.  I loved every minute of it.

For lots of different reasons, my ex husband and I decided three was our limit and he had a vasectomy.

I loved my three and we had So Much Fun together.  We went everywhere and did everything together.  And very shortly, I began to deeply regret my choice to stop at three.

You see, I am a kid person.  God tooled me with a deep love for kids…He has given me a tolerance for their messes and their silliness.  And while I lose my temper like any mom, while I sometimes long for just A. Minute. To. My. Self. Please., I think I am gifted in handling their brand of crazy.  Motherhood is my Great Commission.

The Great Commission is this:  to make disciples.

And this is my Great Commission:  My two warrior women, my strong, compassionate son and my two littlest ones…they are my life’s work.  The ones I am privileged enough to have influence on- our bonus daughter, Deanna, my sweet nieces and nephew to come, the little guys I see every day, the young people we know through our kids and church and Bible study…these ones are my life’s work.  All of them.

I was just discovering this all these years ago.

And so, there we were, quite a few years ago and Chase was one.  I began to deeply long for a large family, for more children.  I got a couple of words from the Lord about my role as a mother, how it was my calling.  I began to feel that so intensely.

My heart grieved for another child.  I begged the Lord, I begged my then husband…I cried a million and one tears.  And ultimately it was decided that we would go to Indiana for a reversal.  Eight years of praying and pleading and longing…

My pregnancy with Lila was stressful.  I had preterm labor and was consigned to bed rest somewhere around month seven.  For what felt like forever, I laid in my bed and prayed for this little girl.

Her birth was complicated.  I had an induction at week 39, amidst concerns about her size.  Completely founded concerns, as it turned out.  The last ten minutes of her birth were extraordinarily stressful and the thing I will say about that is this:

You just never know how a birth is going to go.  My first three were text book, no complications, no nothing.  Big babies that were born easily.  But my fourth?  I almost lost her…She was 10lb. and 4oz., which turned out to be about my limit for easy births.  I’ll spare you the details.

She was born, she was beautiful and she was a dream come true.  A long deferred hope that came to pass…When I held her for the first time, I was almost in shock…It was a surreal moment…here was the baby I had longed for and prayed for and prayed for and longed for.  Lila Rebekah, born April 27, 2007.

She was an early talker and a late walker. She could speak in sentences but didn’t walk until she was seventeen months old. She was serious about things and she loved Yo! Gabba Gabba!

Happy first birthday!

She was so funny, her little personality cracked everyone up. I was on staff at LivingStone House of Prayer when she turned two and we were third order workers at Living Stone Monastery. I can remember Lila dancing in prayer room, singing “You’re Beautiful” out on the patio…Such a character.

And then she was three. A few months before she turned three I married her Stepdaddy. She slept through the wedding! She began her love affair with animals that year. (It hasn’t ended yet.)

She also became a big sister in her third year.

And then she was four. Four has been a fun year. Lila is a smart girl, full of questions and a desire to figure out how everything is connected. She’s so funny, she still loves the song, “You’re Beautiful” and she is a great big sister.

Five years old today. I just can’t believe it. Our lives have changed so much in five years, it’s been a bit of a wild ride. At five, Miss Lila loves dancing to Kids Bop, she loves to pray, she still loves her animals, she loves her family- all four parents, all of her siblings, her grandparents (with four parents, she has quite a few), her cousins, her friends. She is very relational and I see that as a strength. She’s a leader, sometimes to a fault, sometimes to the good. She is, in short, amazing.

She is more than I ever could’ve dreamed when I began asking the Lord for just one more so many years ago. (And because God is who He is…He gave me two- Lila and Claire!)

So happy birthday to my miracle baby. Happy birthday to a little girl who is the fulfillment of a promise- my Samuel, my Isaac, my Lila. I give thanks for her today- for her quirks, for her strengths, for the way she loves. She is a treasure. An absolute treasure.

Five years old…full of promise…Thank you, God.