Monday, March 22, 2010

Bombarded

It seems that whenever we want to change, we are faced with situation after situation where we are tempted to stay the same. I have really been convicted that I need to become self-controlled. Ever since attending Hearts at Home, I have been acutely aware that my temper is unacceptable and it is time for some change. I am hurting those I love most and that is far from my heart's desire.

I was up for 2 hours in the middle of the night last week with my 4-year-old because she was coughing so hard she was throwing up. Although very capable of handling the situation in the moment, morning came too quickly. The baby was up early as usual and woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I was greeted with crabbiness every moment I was in her sight. Nap time brought huge relief which ended shortly when my preschooler decided "room time" was over before I was ready. I simply had no energy to fight.

When my oldest returned home from school, I reminded her over and over again to do her homework. We were supposed to be leaving in an hour to go to my niece's track meet but my second grader was continually distracted from the task at hand.

While I was attempting to get everything ready to leave, the baby was demanding to eat some shredded coconut. Again, I was too tired to fight and gave in to her request. Too bad the highly-demanded snack was thrown all over the floor. I was now shouting at my 7-year-old to "DO HER HOMEWORK!" all the while fielding questions from my middle child.

At this point, my 18-month-old decided to drop a buck of toys on my foot. There are now tears in my eyes as I fight from allowing myself to completely lose control while I carefully pick every piece of shredded coconut out of the carpet. "Please do your homework," I begged my child.

I finally get the girls loaded into the van to leave. Deciding this is a good time to make long overdue deposits of Christmas money they received into each of their bank accounts, I head out the door. By the time I reached the bank, I had calmed down substantially. And good thing for that because the teller began to ask me if I knew that my checking account was overdrawn!

What?! There was no possible way! Having just received our tax return (and a greater amount than anticipated), I was quite certain she was mistaken. I attempted to convince the teller that she was looking at something wrong and she continued in her attempt to help me understand that my account was overdrawn. As I was beginning to wonder if there was some type of identity theft involved, she realized her mistake and went to talk to a woman in another drive-up lane.

As she completed the correct transaction for me, I got the message that the day could be worse. With a sigh of relief, I accepted the suckers she returned with the deposit slips for the girls and headed out to my niece's track meet.

My sister helped juggle the kids while we watched my niece compete. The baby pulled her sister's pony tail out of her hair and I attempted to console her as the oldest whined that she was hungry. It's just a typical moment in the life of a mom.

I was thankful that I was able to watch my niece run. I felt a well of emotion inside me and wondered if that is like anything I will feel when my own children begin extracurricular activities of the like.

I grabbed a pizza for the kids on the way home uncertain of whether I was grateful to get out to a meeting that evening or too exhausted to even head out the door. "Uh-oh," was my cue to the fact that I now had vomit to clean up from the baby now. I got everything cleaned up and the laundry loaded into the washing machine. Watching the clock, I quickly shoved some food into my mouth and headed out for my meeting. At the meeting, we discussed the news of a friend whose brother had passed away unexpectedly in his young 40's. He left behind a wife and three kids.

Needless to say, as I laid my head on the pillow that evening, my perspective was corrected again. I have three kids to care for. Memories to cherish. A husband at home beside me. I'm reminded to cherish each and every moment I have. For who knows what tomorrow will bring?

And what if this moment is my last? How will it be remembered? Will I be yelling at my kids? Will I be exploding at my husband? I don't want to leave those memories behind. I want my kids to remember that #1 - I loved God and #2 - I loved their daddy. That will leave them secure in the love I have for them as well as the love I have for others.

I may feel bombarded with situations that tempt me to lose my cool every day. What I need to remember is that it's worth facing every day. If that's what I need to change, bring it on!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Random Questions in my Head today

Does the wise fiscal choice of eating leftover pizza and breadsticks for breakfast balance out the poor nutritional choice I just made?

Is it terrible that I allow my 4-year-old to sleep past 9am in the morning just because I am enjoying the sanity created by having only one child making demands of me?

Does my 18-month-old’s action of throwing her Cheerios all over the floor express her desire to have the floor be her plate or does she just prefer to leave them there for easy snacking access later in the day?

Why is it that my mind waits until the moment I finally motivate myself to get showered so I can run some errands and do something with my day to remember that I have the baby’s car seat disassembled because I had to clean up vomit yesterday?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oooh...Burn!

Since attending the Hearts at Home conference, I have had a visual image in my mind of fires consuming forests, houses and families. Nicole Johnson did a dramatic presentation on the topic of James 3, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

While traveling to the conference, there were two visual images glaring at me from my life. The first was that of me yelling at my husband from a couple of weeks ago when we met at the gas station after church to fill both vehicles up with gasoline for the week. I had just begun filling up the tank on the vehicle I was driving. I was reflecting on the morning’s message and making faces at my girls while smiling as they waited in the vehicles. While my husband begins to fill the vehicle he is driving, I hear him direct a question towards me. “Are you tired?”

I couldn't help but think, Did he not see me smiling and in a strangely good mood? Was it not obvious that I was enjoying my children and enjoying life? “No, I’m not tired,” I responded. “Why?”

I looked at him in disbelief as he shared more about his inquisition. “Well, you were swerving and hugging the white line and tailgating the person in front of you.”

Was he serious? “If you are attempting to start a fight right here in this parking lot...,” I retorted, "...fine!" I got in the van and pulled away.

I simply could not believe that he was disguising a criticism as a concern! Entering our home, I got the baby situated and waited the good 5-10 minutes preparing to greet him with my choice words when he walked in the door. The girls were in the garage taking off their shoes when I laid into him. (Really, it didn’t matter that the girls were in the garage. It just makes it sound better to tell the story as though I was concerned as to whether or not they would hear what I would say next. Fact is, they probably could have been down the street and heard what I had to say.)

My husband had not even completely closed the garage door when I let him have it. “Next time you choose to wrap a criticism in a concern for my well-being - don’t... just tell me that you think I drive recklessly.”

My husband immediately went on the defense. (I'm not really certain what other position there would be to take in his situation.) “That’s not what I was doing. I truly was concerned.”

I could not believe that he was going to try to convince me that it was anything more worthy than the attack on me that it truly was! “You were not concerned about me. You just think that because you don’t yell like I do and the fact that you can sugar coat it as though you care about my safety, then it’s not a criticism. Well, next week, if you would like to drive the car home with all the kids in it and allow me to drive your vehicle home in peace and quiet, we can just plan on that…”

I continued on but he decided to come clean (from my perspective). “Fine,” he cut me off, “next time I’ll just tell you that I think you drive recklessly.”

Never did I really think he’d own up. (Although it would seem like I just won and this would all be over, I didn't let it drop.) “Good. That way when I bite your head off, I won’t have to feel guilty about it. Just because I don’t drive like a Grandpa…”

The picture doesn’t get any prettier. The worst part is that I chose to paint this picture. I have a choice as to what pictures I will paint in a day with the words I will use and yet I choose destruction.

“I am an arsonist,” I heard the speaker say as the mental images changed in my mind. This time it was of my sweet baby girl. The picture of my 18-month-old’s bottom lip turning to an upside down frown and beginning to quiver was vivid in my mind

She had pulled my glasses off the end of the counter thinking they were play glasses she could wear. If she hadn’t twisted them up so I now have to wear them perched on my nose with only the right frame tucked snuggly behind my ear, it would have likely been a Kodak moment. I was furious! We try so hard to save money and this little booger took the glasses I left where they don’t belong… my fault, self-control gained… for the moment.

Upon returning from picking up my preschooler for lunch, we came home to where I had chicken nuggets cooling on the counter. (Thankfully, the dog had not discovered this treasure while we were gone.) While instructing my 4-year-old on where to place all of her belongings, I noticed my toddler, with the empty plate in hand and the dog eating nuggets off the floor beside her. The dog not stealing the food made sense now - the baby was her partner in crime - all she had to do was wait!

I felt the volcano errupt! I yelled as I tossed the dog in the garage and went over and grabbed the dish from my little girl. I actually considered what I was about to do before I did it - but I did it anyway. It was going to make me feel better to yell. So I spewed lava all over my baby girl.

It didn’t make me feel better. It just made me want to crawl into a hole.

I watched as her little lip stuck out and she began to cry all the while looking for comfort from her blanket. I picked her up and cuddled her in my arms as I wondered, "What in the world is my problem?"

“My words came out and now were inside of her hurting and burning...” I listened further to the sketch. Nicole Johnson talked about the visual picture of a little girl who was burned in a house fire and how that image would continually remind her of the damage we do every time we take out our issues on those we love the very most.

I came home with new mental images in my mind and grabbing hold of my heart. I am considering framing a picture of a house fire in my kitchen (where I spend the most time) to remind me that my words burn.

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” - James 3

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Bigger World

This past weekend I attended the Hearts at Home conference in Bloomington, IL. I have enjoyed this experience in the past but for some reason feel as though this time around I really came home with life applications. There were many moments that I believe God was tugging at my heart. It was a gentle reminder that I need to quit living my life for me and live it for the greatest commandments. #1 - LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, SOUL, MIND AND STRENGTH. #2 - LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. Here, in America, I believe it is easy to forget about the rest of the world.

While at the conference, I was privileged to hear the story of a man named Alex from Uganda. Alex shared about his childhood. If I remember correctly, he talked about how his father left before he was even born. His mother became a follower of Jesus and therefore, was shunned by her family. His mother was left raising him and his three siblings. There were nights, he said, where his mother would come home with one mango. She would then proceed to cut the mango up into four pieces and feed it to her children for dinner. Other nights, she would come home with nothing, give them a cup of water, and send them to bed. He talked about the fact that his mother stressed the importance of getting an education so he went to school to learn. Schooling in Uganda, however, must be paid for. There were numerous times that the principal would call his name (among others) as a child whose tuition was unpaid. He would be required to leave the school. He decided it was no longer worth it to attempt to attend school and would go and fish instead. One day while he was fishing, his pastor came and took him to get his picture taken so he could have the opportunity to have someone sponsor him. He was guaranteed schooling and a meal a day because of one woman here in the states. One woman who believed it was important enough to look outside of her own life. Although God grabbed a hold of my heart with Alex's story, I did not sign up to sponsor any children while at the conference. Money is tight and I knew that Rod and I would really have to examine things and see what we could cut if there was any way we could reach out to a world bigger than ourselves.

On Sunday at church, there was one comment that stood out in my mind from the morning message. "What good thing is it that you are growing weary of doing?" Being responsible with our finances came flying to the forefront of my mind. I'm not a saver and attempting to make wise money decisions has been quite exhausting.

Sunday afternoon brought us to the wonderful moment of nap time. I was in desperate need of some sleep after an inspiring conference that ended with the greeting of a time change. We watched Facing the Giants (while in and out of sleep). We own the movie and have been reminded every time we watch it that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD. After the movie, I decided to look into our finances. Without our tax return, it looked as though we were going to have to pull some money out of savings to make it to the end of the month. Hopeful, I checked our bank account and found that our tax return was deposited. What a sigh of relief and perfect timing! As I sat and looked further into our finances I realized that the amount we received back from the government was substantially different from what Rod and figured. It ends up that although we made an error in preparing our tax return, the government caught it and still gave us what was rightfully ours. It was a substantial amount and left us examining our hearts. As we said how grateful we were to God for this, would we only speak lip service and go out and buy different material things we feel would benefit our lives or would be show our gratitude by investing in what matters?

We are now sponsors of two children through Compassion International. I thought it would be cool if we could pick children the same ages as our girls to help them see a more accurate picture of the world we live in. One little boy, Johnson, shares Nikelle birthday. There were no children that shared Jaycie's birthday but we did find a little girl who was born in the same month, named Nabila. Hopefully these children and their families can be shown a bit of God's love through this small offering. And in return, hopefully our family will learn to be grateful and care about others all the while reminded that we live in a world bigger than what we experience.

Nikelle was excited to write a letter to her sponsor child immediately. Here is her letter (it is small and difficult to read so I also wrote it out underneath):
Dear Johnson,
I have heard about you on the internet. Here are some things that we have in common.


  • We have 3 kids in our family.

  • We both enjoy singing and art.

  • We both live with our mom and dad.

  • We have the same birthday. I'd have to say that, my mom is so concerned about these things and I am praying for you each night.

I hope you might write back to me and I am hoping you get a little bit of help.

Sincerely,
Nikelle Carlson

P.S. My missionary is in Benin, Africa.

MY INFORMATION
Sex: girl
Age: 7
Birth: June 28th, 2002
Children: 3
Grade: 2
State: ILL
City: Joliet
Street: Arden Place
Favorites: Singing, art, crafts, drawing, organizing, and playing

"So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up." - Galatians 6:9

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Morning by Morning

Yesterday I took my baby to get her 18-month pictures taken. She surprised me with the way she cooperated and as I look at her pictures, I'm struck with the thought that I no longer have a little baby anymore. She then proceeded later in the day to take off all of her clothes and use the potty chair. The fact that my littlest one is growing up, in and of itself, does not sadden my heart. How quickly time flies, however, does tug at my soul. We have these kids to shape for such a short period of time.

I was praying the other day and asking God to cover our mistakes. I know we will screw our kids up. It's inevitable. We're human and most children want to change something from their own upbringing. That's when it struck me (again) that it all starts right here with me. Yes, I will screw up. I will make mistakes. What will matter to my kids is how I handle those moments. Do I claim to be perfect? Do I think I'm doing everything right? Do I truly believe I have all the answers? Or can I humbly apologize when I wrong my children? Can I admit that I am a flawed sinner who needs forgiveness? Can I honestly inform my children that I don't have all the answers but I know who does and I trust in Him?

I posted on Facebook this Monday that I was thankful for a fresh start. That's one thing I embrace about Mondays. What I need to remember, however, is that each and every day brings with it a fresh start. The song lyrics, "Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me," runs through my mind. I'm thankful that each moment I have the opportunity to start with a clean slate. All because Christ cleaned me from the inside out when He took my sin upon the cross. All because I'm covered with grace.

Today is Wednesday. I'm thankful for Wednesdays. It means I have a fresh start, a new beginning, a day to implement some change.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:8-10

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD." - Lamentations 3:21-26

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Eating through sleep deprivation

I'm very aware of the fact that I eat when I'm tired and can't sleep. I guess that I think for some reason eating will help me stay awake better??? I'm really not sure why I do it. It's just one excuse that I have yet to overcome.

Today, my baby is 18-months-old and I am a bit sleep deprived. She'll go a stretch of sleeping well and then she gets sick or cuts teeth and all that is out the window. Of course, when she goes the stretch of sleeping well, someone else is sick and needs me in the middle of the night.

There was one night this past week where everyone was sleeping soundly and yet I awoke to a loud "boom". I could not figure out what the noise was and heard yelling. I was a tad bit concerned that someone was attempting to break into our house. Finally, I figured out that someone decided to run through our neighbor's fence with their vehicle. Once that mystery was solved, I was able to get back to sleep all the while fairly irritated with the fact that even when my family does allow me to sleep there's something else keeping me awake.

I have an early to bed early to rise philosophy. When this doesn't work with our weekly schedule, I begin to feel run down and fill my exhaustion with food. Most of the time, I can identify this and just get my butt to bed but there are times when meetings and children do not allow me to take that course. Yesterday and today would fall into that category and I have not coped in an appropriate way. Tonight is another "need to be up" moment and I look forward to a down day tomorrow where I can hopefully get a nap or something before another evening out.

At least there is Saturday to look forward to. Rod will share the load that morning. I really need to figure out another avenue for dealing with my sleep deprivation when I can't hit the hay. For now, I'm so grateful I don't do this parenting thing alone!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Identification = Change

Identifying the excuses I make has been helpful in changing my ways. Now, when I think of one of these excuses I can quickly identify it as just that and find something else to do other than eat. If we never quite pinpoint the problem, how do we change?

For years now, I've had a problem with my toes. I had gone to a podiatrist back when Nike was a baby and was informed that I have a circulation issue. There wasn't really much I could do other than attempt to keep my toes from getting cold. It's always worse in the winter. My toes itch so incredibly bad that the only way I can relieve it is to scald my toes with hot water. The other morning, I decided to google things a little further and found a name for the problem: Chilblains. When my toes get cold and I warm them up too quickly (i.e., with a heater), my blood vessels refuse to work properly and I end up with sore, itchy, red toes. This is a fairly consistent problem during the winter and it clears up some in the warmer months.

Knowing this allows me to change. Rather than heating my toes up quickly by cranking up the floor heat in the van or even using a space heater, I now warm them slowly. This has lead to huge improvement. I can now put my shoes on without pain. So I put them on this morning and utilized my treadmill.

Identifying my problems, triggers, excuses... it's all part of changing the path I'm on.