Monday, December 26, 2011

Santa's gift to our family

There may not be peace on earth, but we have peace in our home thanks to Santa and his elves. The girls are upstairs enjoying their new desks and we are enjoying quiet.



Thank you Santa!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Teacher Gifts


When I saw these on All Things Heart and Home (she got the idea from Craft Rookie), I knew this was what I wanted to do for teacher gifts. (You can find the recipe by clicking on the better picture of the reindeer pop on their sites.) Sure, a gift card would probably be more useful but the purpose behind the gift is to say thank you. I thought these little guys did the job well. We simply wrapped them in sandwich bags and attached a little card that said "You are a deer. Thank you for being part of my life." The girls signed them and we had tasty little thank yous.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wedding Witness

Anytime I hear of a marriage falling apart, my heart aches. When did we decide that the wedding comes with a revolving door? Is it really a wonder that people push the thought of this “commitment” far away? Will marriage ever again become what God intended it to be and appeal to us once again?

Recently, my husband and I attended a wedding of a girl I used to babysit when I was a teenager. My emotions got tangled up in the day. From embracing the adults in my past that made such an impact on my life to flashbacks of me as a bride, tears blurred my eyes. It was emotional to see children I babysat for in the current stage of life I was back in the day. The bride’s brother closest in age to her was my own ring bearer so it was especially difficult to prevent my mind from wandering back to my own wedding day.

The most difficult moment for my heart to witness was the father walking his daughter down the aisle. The moment has always choked me up but even more powerfully on this day. Not only did I respect and look up to this man and the role he played in my life, but my own dad is no longer alive. It was heart wrenching to recall the way my daddy fought back his tears as he prepared to give me away on that day some fifteen years ago. Now, here I stood witness to the same raw emotions between a father and his daughter with “Butterfly Kisses” playing in the background.

My heart was present at this wedding ceremony and my ears were attentive to the challenge the pastor would give to the bride and groom. What I did not anticipate was the challenge I would hear for myself that day from God. Have you ever thought about your responsibility at a wedding? Are you simply family or an honored guest? What is your relationship to the bride and groom? In that moment, God impressed upon my heart the responsibility placed on me as one of the witnesses gathered.

Here are two young people making vows for life “before God and these witnesses”. “These witnesses” are referring to those of us watching the intimate moment unveiled. Have you ever thought about the fact that you were not just invited to the wedding to comment on the beauty of the bride? We are not in attendance to smile and clap or even renew our own vows with our spouse. As invited guests, we are there to witness a binding agreement.

Vows are being made for a lifetime. Our challenge is to listen to those vows so that should this couple reach the revolving door, we can stop them before they begin to walk out. We can help them remember that vows made before God and a multitude of witnesses were never meant to be broken. Could it be that we are partly to blame for the failed marriages in this world because we refuse to stand up as witnesses and say “I was there that day you promised to share this life together and I am going to do everything I can to help you keep those vows”?

If we were witnesses to a will signing or some other binding contract, we would be called into court to give testimony of what we witnessed. In the same way, shouldn’t we be there to give testimony of the vows we witnessed in a legal agreement on a wedding day? If we would surround ourselves on the day we say “I do” with witnesses who will encourage us to work on this priceless institution of marriage, wouldn’t we be better off?

I am so grateful to know that my wedding vows were not made with an open door. Had I made the choice to leave my husband at any moment, I would have face repercussions. It would not have been an easy out for me and I’m grateful for that. Because, yes, in the early years of our marriage, I probably would have walked right through that revolving door had it been readily available to me. And if I had, I would have missed out on the many blessings of where hard work and commitment have taken my husband and me in these fifteen years.

Commitment is not a welcome word in our world today. Not with work or church and sadly, not with friendships or family. If we cannot keep our commitments that we make before God and witnesses, how will we ever keep any commitment we make? Yes, commitments take work. Very often, we will look at the long road ahead with all the obstacles in our way and wonder how the work can possibly be worth it. But it is. It is so very much worth every effort we put forth.

I am going to seize the challenge I have as a witness to wedding vows. Take this into consideration if you think of inviting me to your wedding. I will encourage you that the challenges and obstacles ahead are worth the work. Any relationship that endures that kind of testing will be gold in the end!

The relationship between a husband and wife was meant to be so much more than what we have turned it into. God intended for our marriages to be a glimpse into our relationship with Him. Could it be that if marriage is done right we might want more of God as well?

Will you join me and take your responsibility seriously the next time you are invited to be a witness to a couple’s wedding vows?

"Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together." - Matthew 19:6

Need help? Check out Family Life's Weekend to Remember.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When did you realize that you weren't alone on this journey called motherhood?



It's the Hearts at Home Blog Hop today! For December: When did you realize that you weren't alone on this journey called Motherhood?

Because I know God is always with me

Because I have a husband like no other

Because my sister will drop whatever she is doing if I call for help

Because my mom is the very definition of the word “servant”

Because my brother and sister-in-law have a little girl exactly 4-months older than my oldest

Because I have a community of believers

Because I joined a MOPS group when my firstborn came along

Because I can tell my girlfriend that I feel like throwing my child out the window and she knows I don’t ever really intend to do that

Because my girlfriend knows just the right words to say to point me to truth when my mind is filled with negativity

Because my life is filled with older, wiser advice givers

Because being a mother gives me a greater understanding of God’s love for me

Because giving birth to three little girls swells my heart for my Creator

Because I have friends who are with me through the thick-of-it

Because my girlfriends are all up for a weekend away

Because my husband is a trooper and knows how often I need to be refreshed

Because God sent His one and only Son into this world for me

Because Jesus took my sin upon Himself on that cross

Because the stone was rolled away

Because He lives

Because of all this and more, I have never had to feel alone on this journey called Motherhood. And when the moments of self-pity hit, all I have to do is be pointed in the right direction to fill up on truth to shine light in the darkness. Motherhood was never a journey meant to be done alone. I’m grateful for the blessings in my life and the grace God has given me just when I need it. If you feel alone in mothering, find a MOPS group, comes to Hearts at Home, join a church community or most importantly, pull out your Bible and empty your heart to He who has always been.

This journey of Motherhood was never meant to be done alone.

Jill Savage is starting a book study on Facebook in January on Real Moms, Real Jesus… check it out!

MOPS has groups all over. Moms looking for others in their same life stage find this group invaluable.

Hearts at Home is March 16-17 at Illinois State University. Don’t miss it!

(in)courage is hosting a conference where you don’t need a lot of money, time, or even friends to attend on April 27-28. Check out (in)RL.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

If you only had 30 days to live?

Robin over at All Things Hearts and Home asks the question: "If you had only 30 days to live what would you change?" It's a good question because it is how we should attempt to fill our days every day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It starts with the little choices

Lysa Terkeurst has a post today that reminds us why the little choices matter. I don't need to reach the world for Jesus today. I just need to be obedient in the next choice I make.

Finding Thanks

Do you struggle with gratitude? Grumbling comes so naturally for me. I'm always working on learning how to be thankful. (In)courage has a must read today. If we could just live like these people who really truly do have something to be depressed about... that's how we thank God with their lives. That is how we honor Him. It's time to do the same.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jesus is all that matters

For the past couple of days, I have read Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. The daily devotionals have been about forgiveness and the death of Jesus Christ. The thought that forgiveness comes only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the fact that we should not take that lightly.

This morning I read this piece over at (in)courage. It left me deep in thought. Although it's difficult to wrap your mind around, it's true... Jesus is all that matters.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Living with Less (HAH November Blog Hop)



It's the Hearts at Home Blog Hop today! For November: Share 5 “things” you’ve given up or are living without as a family so that you can have more.

Living without two incomes is a choice we have made. I quit my job while I was pregnant with our first daughter because I was so sick at the beginning of the pregnancy. At the same time, we knew that we wanted me to be able to be home with our children. I consider it a privilege to be able to witness all their firsts, help with classroom parties, chaperone field trips and be here when they get home from school every day. Sure, there are days I wonder if working outside the home might help my sanity but ultimately, I know these days are a gift God has given me that I’ll never get back.

A couple of years ago, we eliminated cable television. It wasn’t an easy decision in that we all had our channels we really enjoyed watching. Due to finances, it was a decision we needed to make. Honestly, I think it was a bit of prompting from God as well. While there is some good stuff that we miss out on, TV is a lot lower on the priority list in our household these days.

I would love to have an iphone (or a Windows phone – I have no loyalty to either company). A plan with texting and internet access would be a lot of fun to have. The monthly bill to accompany that phone, however, is unaffordable for our family. Our current plan is prepaid on an out-of-date phone. We utilize our cell phone only when necessary. It’s another choice we’ve made to cut costs as well as make more time for family. If I had a phone of high caliber, I believe I would have a hard time limiting my time. Without it, the temptation is eliminated.

We limit our children on the activities they can participate in. All of those outside activities add up in monetary commitments as well as time commitments. Even just the weekly commitment of AWANA which I chose for them years ago eats up one evening a week. The benefits of this program with hiding God’s Word in the hearts of my girls keep this commitment on our calendar. However, I refuse to fill up every evening with a commitment. My girls would love to be in dance but dance classes are limited in our home to the small programs offered in the summer time. It requires intentional planning to keep our lives from spinning out-of-control. I don’t want us to live hurried lives and even with these boundaries in place, I feel as if it’s a constant battle.

Our family does not even attempt to keep up with the Joneses. We have a beautiful living room thanks to friends and family who were willing to give us their old entertainment center, television, sofas and coffee table they were parting with (each item from a different family). It’s a place where our family is enjoying reading together, watching family films together, and playing games. And despite the fact that my husband is a technical guy, we don’t have the latest and greatest technical items. We don’t even have a flat screen television. It’s my hope that we learn a need v. a want as we limit the material items we bring into our homes.

It can be a struggle to live with less in today’s world. When I see people in “poverty” utilizing a phone that I barely dream of having, I question our priorities. I find myself desiring the life of comfort so many seem to live but the fact is that it is only an appearance. Many people are living in debt and those that do truly live comfortably have usually worked hard and made sacrifices to get to where they are. If I attempt to keep up with the rest of the world, I will only find myself frustrated. I simply cannot responsibly afford the next best thing. Our household may live with outdated items, but we are a family that can stay together and spend quality time together and that benefit tops anything else. When I find myself struggling with desires for more, I remember that God has ALWAYS provided for every one of our needs and some. While I’d love to save up money for vacations and our future, this verse keeps me giving thanks to God and remembering that He is the one who provides.

“O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” – Proverbs 30: 7-9

How do you live with less so your family can have more? Check out the ideas other Hearts at Home bloggers have, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Imperfect Perfection

Dad on a Sunday morning with his Bible and my brother
(not the way I picture him - but a cool picture anyway)

The other day, a friend of mine asked me to suggest some hymns because her grandmother had passed away. I spent a morning thumbing through our hymnal recalling one song after the other. Peace overwhelmed as I the tunes played through my mind and words lifted from my tongue. At times, tears won out at the mixture of sadness and joy as thoughts of Dad crept in.

For a time, Dad was the song leader at our church. I remember him sitting in the pew, hymnal in hand, marking the songs he wanted the congregation to sing together. The picture of him standing at the pulpit, dressed in his suit, directing us with his hands, reminds me how worship was more enjoyable because my daddy was leading us.

I began writing this morning to talk about the way my friend’s request reminded me how much I crave time alone with my God. Singing hymns reminded me of the fact that I need to do more than just spend time consistently reading the Bible and lifting my requests to my Lord in prayer. I need to continually spend time worshipping and acknowledging the Almighty for who He is.

In mentioning my dad, I am struck with the fact that he left me this example. Dad was not a perfect man. At times, I struggle with pain that was left behind because it cannot be remedied with a face-to-face conversation. And then God gives me the gift of a memory; a memory that floods my heart and wells up tears and breaks through my pain. No, dad wasn’t perfect; but in his imperfection, he led by example. When I think of someone who had awe and respect and reverence for God, I see my dad’s emotion-filled face in my mind.
What kind of example will I unknowingly leave behind for my kids? I know they will remember those moments where I screw up. Sadly, the faults blind us and make it nearly impossible to recall the positive. I’m thankful that God continues to heal my soul with memories that impacted who I am today. Dad led songs because there was a need; not because he wanted to be center stage. He was just a man who loved God and wanted others to share in that love. When he talked about God and the gratefulness welled up in his throat, causing his chin to quiver, I’m certain he had no idea the impact he was making on his youngest daughter. And yet today, God uses it as a balm for my wounded heart. My daddy was an imperfect man who loved God and desired to please Him. (On a side note: I love to imagine him in his perfected stated with Jesus.)

I’m glad my dad wasn’t perfect. It gives me hope for myself. Maybe my girls will catch me in a vulnerable moment and hold onto that memory to bring their hearts comfort some day. Today, I choose to look at God’s creation and stand in awe because my daddy did. I will laugh and thank God for my children because my dad thoroughly enjoyed them, too. As we enter into the holidays, the pain in my heart will draw me to lean on the Truth we are celebrating because of his example. I will remember that he was a gift to draw me to The Father of us all. And I will stand in grateful awe with my eyes on the hope of Heaven and the day we will all be rid of our impurities with Jesus.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday's Mullings: You are a Masterpiece




This song by Sandi Patty entitled “Masterpiece” was one that I sung with my brother at my niece’s baby dedication. I was 15 when she was born. This song impacted my heart in a way that I’ve sung it to all three of my girls as I rocked them to sleep as babies. I believe they are God’s special design. It boggles my mind how anyone can look at a little baby and believe they are anything less than God’s creation. I used Psalm 139 on their birth announcements.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”

I think of the way I watched my mom or grandma knit. The thought of their delicate care in their work overwhelms my heart. This is the word picture God gives when he refers to His creation of us. Certainly, I believe that we, as human beings, created in God’s image, are His masterpiece.

My mind wandered yesterday from rocking my baby girls to standing in front of my bathroom mirror alone. “Every time you look into the mirror, you look at a work of art,” my pastor emphasized from the platform. Do I really believe I am a work of art? I know God created me and I believe He did a wonderful job with my girls and even other people in this world… but me… a work of art? I tend to question his handiwork when it comes to the reflection staring back at me. The list of imperfections in my mind are long. I nod my head in agreement, however. I do believe I am a work of art created by the God of the Universe. It’s time I remind myself of this and praise Him for His work rather than criticize.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:10

Currently, my intentions are to write this verse along my girls’ bathroom mirror. More importantly, I need to write it on my heart. I am God’s masterpiece. If I truly believe this and live it, my girls will learn to do the same by example.

Pastor Dennis then ended directing our thoughts to an auction. Many pieces of art go for a lot of money. He stressed that “No piece of art has ever cost more than you.” We are God’s artwork paid for by the blood of Christ.

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

The challenge: Live up to the price that’s been paid for you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Birthday Letter #6 to Jaycie October 2011

















Dear Jaycie,

It has been so encouraging to watch you grow this last year of your life. To hear you excited to spend time with your friends at school makes me smile. While I love the moments you want to snuggle, I know God created you for more than just a relationship with me. I want others to know our fun, loving Jaycie the way we do. You’ve come such a long way from being attached to your Mama, Little Lama.

You thrive on making others laugh. I enjoy listening to your funny stories and witnessing your silly antics. You have a special way of brightening our lives.

The questions you come up with seem never ending. You are one smart cookie who desires answers to her inquiries. I pray your questions will drive you closer to God, that you will accept the fact that certain answers will not come this side of Heaven and remember we are saved by grace through faith. Sometimes, you will just have to embrace the answers God has given us and have faith for the rest.

I am so thankful that memorizing comes so easy for you. While we are working to get you to actually sound out words so you can learn to read rather than just memorize the stories, it does our hearts good to know memorizing Bible verses for AWANA is not a problem. It is so very important to know the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word to us and it allows us to know His voice.

One of my fondest memories of your sixth year of life is family prayer time. When it is your turn to pray, your eyes are open as you scan the room. You begin to pray and then continue on with one thing you see, moving on to the next thing your eyes catch and so on. You even thank God for yourself in your prayers. And that you should, because you are His masterpiece. Sometimes I wonder if your prayer will ever end and then I remember that my desire is for you to stay in constant communication with our Lord and Savior.

Dance was a highlight of your summer. While I screwed up and only taped the one dance instead of two, it was so fun to watch you in a comfortable element. As you practice tap or show me how you can balance on the tips of your toes, I find myself wishing we could dedicate more time and money to dance for you.

We love to watch the moments you and your sisters get along. I know it can be difficult for you sometimes with Andelise being so little still, but you are doing a good job of being her big sister. Probably because you have such a good example that you look up to.

I enjoy watching you play because it reveals so much about you. You seem to be an expert at puzzles and Legos. Daddy is so excited that you want to make creations out of Legos with him. When I see you swinging, there appears not to be a worry in the world. You get so excited to see Treasure and Loyal when Grams comes over. Although you don't want her grown puppies to jump all over you, you welcome being close to them when they calm down. Sitting down next to them, you pet their heads and talk sweetly to them (the same way you do when you give our Pup a kiss on the cheek and tell her you love her). This, as well as the moments I catch you playing with your baby dolls or Barbies, are especially endearing to witness.

I’m sorry that I cause your smiling face to crumble with my lofty expectations. I am working to learn what is truly important and to let go of the rest. My prayer is that you and your sisters will know how very much I love each one of you. I realize my faults and sins may cause you to question my love at times. I am imperfect and therefore, my love is far from perfection as well. If I can raise you and point your eyes and direct your heart to the only one who can love you perfectly, then, my dear daughter, I have mothered well.

I desire so much for you, Jaycie. For today, I want you to have friends that will bring out the best in you. Every day, I hope your family relationships will grow strong and be quality for a lifetime. It is my hope that the community we surround you with of friends and church family as well as our God-given family will allow you an earthly glimpse of God’s love for you. My hope for your future is that you will have a man love you the way your daddy loves me because God intended the marriage relationship to mirror our relationship with Him. Ultimately, Jaycie Mariah, my prayer is that you will live your life in grateful response to the love God demonstrated through Jesus’ death on the cross for you. For there is no greater love and this is what life is all about.

Please know how very much I love you and please forgive me for the times I mess up. I’m thankful God gave us you. My life is richer because you are in it and I am better because of my relationship with you. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for you this next year.

Love,

Mommy

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Daughter's Reflection of Me (October HAH Blog Hop)



I’m grateful that we are back to the monthly Hearts at Home Blog Hop today. For October: Tell us about that time at the playground when that thing happened.

It seems like it is so easy to get embarrassed or irritated with things my children do. Too often, I believe that their actions are a reflection on me. Sadly, the expectations I put on my children are too lofty and too much about myself.
The moment that keeps blaring in my mind when I think of my girls and outings with our friends was more of a disappointment than anything else. It was one of the first fits I recall my oldest daughter throwing. We were on a walk to the library with her first or second grade class. (My oldest is very compliant and fits are highly uncommon.)

Anytime we are in a group situation, I tend to talk to the adults and expect my children to play with their friends. At this outing, Nikelle was walking with her friends as I talked with their mom. The walk was so nice. The weather was beautiful. Everything went smoothly. Until the end of the scavenger hunt the librarian organized for the kids.

My daughter and her friends all found the books that were listed and turned in proof for their prize. (The prizes were the usual use-a-couple-times-and-throw-away kind of junk we so often acquire.) As my daughter chose her item I made sure it was what she wanted. Being that the prize was a whistle or something (I really don’t remember what the item was); I knew there would be no option of changing our minds later. Assuring me that this was her desired prize, we walked away.

As her friends met up with us to walk the forest preserve path back to our vehicles, Nikelle noticed their prize choices and inquired as to changing her mind. Informing her that we already had this discussion, my daughter began to throw a fit. It wasn’t a throw-myself-on-the-ground, kicking and screaming kind of fit but there was pouting and stomping involved. The part that disappointed me the most was the way she took it out on her friends. As we walked back to the car, I witnessed her friends attempting to catch up with her to walk together and make conversation. I was in disbelief as I watched my sweet little girl run from them to continue her pity party.

Getting into the van, I prayed for the right response with my daughter. The root of the matter was that she had an ungrateful heart. She didn’t appreciate the walk with her mom, with her friends, or the kind gesture by the library to offer prizes. This was an issue of character and one that saddened my mother’s heart.

Pulling away, I noticed some of God’s natural consequences for my daughter’s behavior and pointed them out to her. Her friends that she was running away from on the walk were now rolling down a hill, laughing and extending their time of fun. As she saw them, she made the request to join them. I informed her that because of her behavior, she would not be participating in their fun.

When we got home, I sent my daughter to her room to think about the situation. She was instructed to write a list of 10 or 20 things she was thankful for (I don’t recall the exact number). I then went to my husband and cried about our imperfect daughter. The concern was that we were raising ungrateful children. What I recall more than anything that day was the way my daughter came down with a list of thanksgiving exceeding the number required of her. This discipline was effective and I believe came because I asked God for wisdom in handling the situation.

I don’t recall if my heartbreak over the situation had anything to do with a fear of reflection of myself. However, I realize that every action in my children should draw my attention back to me. Not because my children are a reflection of me to others. Rather, my children are a reflection of my character. If I disapprove of their behavior, it is time to examine my own. What flaws do you witness your children reflecting back at you?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

5 things I wish I'd known

What are 5 things you wished you would have known BEFORE you became a mother?

Before I became a mother, I knew the very best way to raise children. It was easy for me to judge “those” moms who simply did not raise their children appropriately. Too often, I shook my head in disgust. If those parents would only invest the necessary time and implement the necessary rules, their children would not be behaving that way. Then I had kids.
I wish I knew how futile it would be to measure myself up to other moms. Every mom is different. That’s the bottom line. No two women mother exactly alike and there is so much freedom in knowing that. Too often, I succumb to the lies that other moms are better. It’s just not true. We are certainly different and they may have strengths I don’t but that just means I have strengths that they don’t. It’s time to quit the comparison game in mothering.

It’s time to quit the comparison game between our children as well. No matter how hard we try, we cannot hold to one set of rules for every child. We have to be flexible because our children our different. What works with one child may not work with another. It is important to modify our plan of action to best suit each child. I wish I knew that determining my list of rules before my first child was born would only lead to frustration. Circumstances will change. With each new scenario comes a need for flexibility.

I wish I knew the certain failure that came with parenting. The failure of living up to my own expectations as well as the expectations of my children and the expectations of others are inevitable. There is no possible way I can live up to my own expectations. They are always too lofty. Inevitably, my children will grow up with a list of the way I failed them as I did with my parents and they did with theirs. Children always know better than their parents (until they become parents anyway). Just as I judged others, they are judging me and it doesn’t matter. Until they walk in my shoes and know the life I live, they cannot judge accurately. There is only one Judge whose opinion matters and I will face Him on Judgment Day.
Pain in parenting is unavoidable. I certainly could not comprehend that fact before my first child came along. There is pain for our children the moment we dream about their existence. In bringing the child into the world, we endure pain. Once that child is here and has to experience pain for themselves, it is utterly heartbreaking. In those moments where I cannot take the hurt away, all pain is magnified. It saddens me deeply to watch my child endure the pain. In this pain, I am drawn closer to God. The love I have for my own children gives me a glimpse of His indescribable love.

There are a lot of things I wish I had known before I had children. Just like being a teenager who has to experience it before they’ll ever understand, however, I had to become a parent first. The pains of parenting are completely outweighed by the joys. I’m so grateful to be the mom to three little girls. More so, I’m grateful to have a Heavenly Father who is the only perfect parent I ever need to measure up to.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Searching for Peace Amidst the Chaos (2004)

(I came across this article I had written for my MOPS group back in 2004. Those were days where I had only one child. Funny... these days I'd be happy to find messes limited to the rooms they should be in. Two more kids and more than 7 years later, my search is still for peace amidst the chaos.)

“Mommy?”

“Mommy?”

“Mommmmmy!”

It never fails that my daughter calls my name when I am washing dishes or preparing a meal. She’ll even go so far as to place herself between my body and the sink (or the stove) to push me away from my current task. I try to explain to my 1 ½ -year-old “Mommy has to wash the dishes so she can get dinner ready for Daddy to eat when he is done with work.” It’s a temporary solution that generally leads to her request, “Hold you.” “Hold you.” until I give in to the attention she longs for and feels the peace she needs. Needless to say, my kitchen on any given day is a disaster area.

My kitchen is not the only area that is in desperate need of help. Generally, it is impossible to walk in the family room without stepping on some kind of toy. Fed up with trying to find clean spots to place my feet, I will stop to organize the room. Pleased with my accomplishment, I head upstairs only to find that my daughter is emptying every single item out of her dresser! My body aches for rest and peace so I sit down hoping to close my eyes for five minutes. After only a few seconds, quietness alerts me that something isn’t right. Running, I meet my daughter’s smiling face. Smiling, because she has found a new game involving her black dress shoes and the dog’s completely filled water bowl (or at least it was full prior to her new game).

Chaos. That’s the way I would define my mornings, my days – my life. This continual disorder naturally leads to stress, which I so maturely handle by going on the warpath. I go through the day looking for that “release valve” to reduce the stress in my life. Until I find it, everyone in my path will, unfortunately, have to suffer. There are those moments where the weight is temporarily lifted off my shoulders (possibly because I have found the “release valve” in completely losing my temper). But just when I begin to sense a little peace in my life – make room for chaos! I fill that schedule jam-packed again. The result is continually the same. Day-in and day-out: Disorder. Chaos. Lack of peace.

So, I’m on a mission to replace the chaos in my life with peace. Some advice I’ve received has seemed very reasonable. “Make a daily schedule.” “Write out lists.” “Keep the counters clean.” “Budget.” “Invest in friendships.” “Rely on family.” Sadly, attempting these suggestions lead to more stress. Often, I feel that I should just resign myself to living in chaos. For many of the things filling my schedule, there is no option to remove them out of my life. There’s the grocery shopping; the meetings; the family gatherings and even the workouts and social gatherings. Not to mention the all-familiar saga of never-ending dirty laundry. All of these time consuming tasks leave me longing for peace.

My mission to replace the chaos in my life with peace has led me to the Bible. In reading God’s Word, I find in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” This verse gives me some hope. Clearly, my search for peace needs to begin with God. He is the source of peace. In John 14:27, Christ tells His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” I have been learning that I will only find peace when I turn to the God of Peace. I must place my total dependence on Him and trust Him at His Word.

Trusting in God is something I have a very difficult time with. By nature, I am a control-freak. It is unnatural for me to be dependent on anyone. This is one area where I have had no choice but to grow this past year and it is an area, I’m learning, where there is always room for more growth.

One way God is teaching me how to grow is through my daughter’s example. She trusts me. Completely. Totally. She depends on me. The prophet, Isaiah, in Chapter 26 verse 3 writes “You [God] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Peace will only be found when I admit my total dependence on God and trust that He will keep His promises to me.

My search for peace is an ever-continuing mission. For those moments; mornings; days; for my life – when chaos and disorder overwhelm me, I’ll cry out to the one who continually hears my prayers; to the only one who has earned my complete and total trust and dependence. In my search for peace, I can learn something from watching my daughter. By following her example, I know I can cry out to the only one I can trust completely and totally. “Father?” “Father?” “Father!” He will hear my cry and answer. “Hold me.” “Hold me.” will be my request. And I will find peace.

“I cried out to the Lord, and he heard me… Then I lay down and slept in peace…” (Psalm 3:4-5)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remembering her example

Today, people are remembering Sara Frankl aka Gitzen Girl. While I’ve never met her, I am thinking about her life, too. I am one of the many follower’s of Sara’s blog. What intrigued me was the way a woman who was homebound with AS was able to experience so much joy.

How did she do it? Honestly, she was dying... yet all the way until the end... she chose joy. Her friend put it here in a tangible way for me. "By continually taking joy in the lives of others, she taught me to feel bliss when something good happens to someone else… as much bliss as if it were happening to me."

I’m working on putting this into practice. When I feel a twinge of jealousy inside my heart instead of joy, I will choose to remember Sara's example. I will flip my feeling and choose joy instead. All I need to do is be honestly excited for my friend and it will give me joy.

The way Sara chose joy amidst her suffering was an anomaly. I whine and complain about the slightest little ache, pain, sniffle or cough. Her blog was full of joy… not negativity. Her love for God was magnetic. I only hope I can leave the kind of legacy behind that she did.

In honor of her memory today, how can you choose joy?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happy 3rd Birthday, Andelise Randall! (Even if it is a couple of weeks late)

My Dear Andelise Randall,

You are too anxious to grow up. At times, it makes it difficult to remember that you are only just 3-years-old. As you try to keep up with your big sisters and imitate everything they do, it’s easy to forget that you are still our baby girl. Watching you monkey all over your bunk beds (in the room you now share with your sisters); I try to recall just when it was that you got so big. It seems like it happened overnight. Was it moving you out of the crib? When you were potty trained? Maybe it happened when your big girl haircut no longer allowed the piggy tales to keep you looking little anymore? It seems like over your third year of life, we blinked and you grew up.

I will miss the little phrases that only a toddler can say. “I got biggers” always brought a smile as we reached for the tissue to clean your nose. It was hard to hold back laughter in my attempt to discipline as you would yell “I not willy want to”. All of your little quotes (along with those of your sisters) are now reliant upon memory because I never took the time to write them down.

It is so much fun to watch you break into dance whenever you hear a good beat. Even in the middle of the grocery store, you’ll start to shake your little hips at the sound of a good tune. You beg me to play “He’s got the whole world in His hands” as we drive in the van. And while I love listening to your voice sing any note; my favorite song to hear on your lips is “When We all get to Heaven”. To hear your little voice belting out our hope of Heaven makes my heart swell. I pray you and your sisters will always find such joy in God’s future for us.

You have a way of manipulating – especially your daddy. It seems like you can always convince him to give you an extra story at bedtime. When you want a piece of candy, you simply say please followed by a great big smile at the end. Knowingly, you anticipate the payment of a kiss on daddy’s cheek before you yell “whoo hoo” and run for the candy bin. (Grams taught you to utilize this please and smile tactic to obtain just about anything. Sometimes the smile immediately turns sour after achieving your goal, though.)

It does my heart good to know you are another one of daddy’s girls. Your love for him makes you bolt out of bed at the sound of the garage door opening every morning. We open the front door and run out to the driveway to get a goodbye hug. I wipe away your tears as we wave goodbye from the front window. In being a daddy’s girl, I pray you will embrace our Heavenly Father’s love for you as well.

I find myself wanting to apologize for the flawed example I leave you to follow. As I see, in you, my negative characteristics peaking through, I desire to change. With you, I am working to teach us both to show more kindness. As I see myself mirrored in your own behavior, I long for us to learn the fruits of God’s Spirit and exercise the same. You are wired like your mommy and get easily frustrated with not getting your way. We all have our limits and we both need to learn to get plenty of sleep. (When we are tired, we become irrational.) Even though I wish you were a little less like me, I am grateful for the lessons God teaches me in raising you. I know God will do great things through you. (After all, you are wired like me.) *wink* *wink*

We’ve had three amazing years with you, Ande Randy. I look forward to the future and seeing more and more of who you will become. You can brighten up a room with your smile. Our home is filled with laughter due to your silliness. Most often, you are willing to offer up an apology when necessary. That, along with your expressions of gratitude, is an example to follow. And your hugs… they melt our hearts. I’m glad God put you in our family so we can work to live for Him together. You and I will work on choosing joy. We will work on being gentle and kind and good. We will work on loving fully. When I look into that mirror of your soul, my prayer is that, even if I see myself, I will ultimately see God.

I love you dearly. Andelise Randall, You are God’s masterpiece.

Loving you,

Mommy

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog Impact

I hear she is going home. Tears fall. At the same time, my heart overflows with joy for her. She will see Jesus! She will see her dad. I have never even met her. Still, the power of her written word changed my life. She lived her life fully. Homebound but embracing life. I pray I will continually remember her life and mine will be different for it. One more person to look forward to seeing (meeting) in Heaven.

I hope you are free to run and breathe air and enjoy all the things you've had to give up for so long, Gitzen Girl. When we all get to Heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Constant

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." - Hebrews 13:8

I don’t like change. My life is constantly changing. Therefore, I do not adjust well. Constantly, I find myself scrambling to figure out how to get through the day. There is no consistency of a routine. Wrench after wrench is thrown my way. I’m left at a loss.

Today’s devotion on youversion.com reminded me that while my circumstances may constantly be changing, my God remains the same. I need to learn to anchor myself in God. When I feel lonely: He will never leave me or forsake me. When I feel unloved: He made the ultimate sacrifice for me. When I feel lost: He is the way, truth and life. I need to feed on truth and get past the lies.

What lies do you believe today? Join me in seeking His truth.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Perspective

I was able to connect with this post over at (in)courage today. It just reminded me that while my hurts are real, it always helps to keep things in perspective.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Threatening Sarcasm

I believed the lies running rampant in my heart. They stirred my feelings of insecurity. As my self-confidence waivers, sarcasm is my coping mechanism. When sarcasm rears its ugly head, even the very best of relationships are threatened.

You are not in competition with your best friend. I had to remind myself. It seemed silly really. She didn't even know there was a contest. The confusion on her face revealed her lack of understanding as to why my tongue was laced with mockery.

Immediately, I knew that my words had the potential to damage our friendship. The receiving end of a sarcastic comment is never a fun place to be. God began convicting my heart instantly as I worked on gaining control of my tongue. While I rehearsed an apology in my head, I wondered why I am so dependent on scornful words; especially when I know the misunderstanding it creates.

Unfortunately, I allowed my friend to walk away from our evening bewildered. I needed to identify the reason behind my insecurity so I could apologize sincerely. Even with the confidence that my dear friend would forgive me, “I was wrong” always turns to cotton in my mouth.

I went to sleep with a heavy heart. Friends do not behave the way I had. Waking up, I knew my apology needed to be extended not only for her benefit, but mine as well. My uncontrolled tongue most certainly left my friend perplexed and fighting her own insecurities. Thankfully, one honest apology broke the cycle. It is never easy to seek forgiveness but it was certainly necessary.

Few have had to forgive the magnitude of my wrongs the way this friend has. We’ve had our rough spots and it is certain that we will face more in the future. My friend and I are in agreement that the hard times have been more than worth the effort. Facing our tensions head-on has only strengthened our relationship. I’ve become quite the expert at apologizing and she is teaching me to forgive.

Here’s the bottom line: Our words and actions impact those around us. All our hope for things to blow over will never fix the problem. Unaddressed conflicts will leave our relationships failing to thrive. We need to start living with love. True love is more than talk. Sincere love always involves apologies and forgiveness.

My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. – 1 John 3:18

Monday, August 29, 2011

Psalm 139 (NCV)

Lord, you have examined me and know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know my thoughts before I think them.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
You know everything I do.
Lord, even before I say a word, you already know it.
You are all around me—in front and in back— and have put your hand on me.
Your knowledge is amazing to me; it is more than I can understand.

Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?
Where can I run from you?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I lie down in the grave, you are there.
If I rise with the sun in the east and settle in the west beyond the sea,
even there you would guide me.
With your right hand you would hold me.

I could say, "The darkness will hide me.
Let the light around me turn into night."
But even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night is as light as the day;
darkness and light are the same to you.

You made my whole being;
you formed me in my mother's body.
I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way.
What you have done is wonderful.
I know this very well.
You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother's body.
When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed.
All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.

God, your thoughts are precious to me.
They are so many!
If I could count them, they would be more than all the grains of sand.
When I wake up, I am still with you.

God, I wish you would kill the wicked!
Get away from me, you murderers!
They say evil things about you.
Your enemies use your name thoughtlessly.
Lord, I hate those who hate you;
I hate those who rise up against you.
I feel only hate for them;
they are my enemies.

God, examine me and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any bad thing in me.
Lead me on the road to everlasting life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Timely Reminder

Do you ever get tired of trying to keep up with the Joneses? If you do, jump over to Jill Savage's blog. I needed this timely reminder for my life as summer comes to an end.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Celebrations of Few


Just yesterday, I was thinking about my dad. Actually, just this morning, too. I often think about the first man who held the center stage of my heart... for many reasons.

I received an email from FamilyLife today. It was an excerpt from Moments with You by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. The story was of a young navy couple who, only 10 months into their marriage, were in a car accident. The wife, was left as a quadriplegic, legally blind and unable to speak. For 50 years, the husband has remained committed to his wife. He has taken care of her every need.

This month would have been the month to celebrate my parents' marriage union. "Would have" because cancer made it impossible for my parents to ever celebrate another anniversary milestone... let alone reach 50 years. Milestones are something to be achieved. It is sad because so few make the commitment for life these days. My parents, I was certain, would have been in that few.

Hearing stories of the faithful who make the commitment for life encourages my heart. While reading this story, my mind reflects on the love my parents shared. Cancer left my mom faced with the decision to show her love for my dad by caring for him in ways people usually train for. This decision was not a difficult one for my mom to make. My mom's decision was predetermined the day she spoke the words "I do". For better... For worse... In sickness... That's what love is. While some may have only been aware of her sacrificial love displayed during my dad's year of cancer, I witnessed it every day.

When a boy broke my heart in high school, my mom wrote me a poem. I imagine the reason she gave it to me was so I would understand God's message about guarding my heart. "I love you" is a phrase that can rock your world; both when used sincerely and when used without much forethought.

"I love you" - means I want your very best
"I love you" - means I chose you o'er the rest
"I love you" - it's not just some romantic phrase that I'll say while in a phase
But it's commitment; my promise to you

"I love you" - means I'll stay right by your side
"I love you" - is what Christ said when He died
"I love you" - means I want you to share how Christ my sins did bear
'Cuz it's commitment; His promise to you

"I love you" - are more than words I'll say today
"I love you" - will endure along life's way
"I love you" - whether happy, sad or mad, it's not just some passing fad
No, it's commitment; my promise to you

"You love me?" - Then together we will grow
"You love me?" - Christ in us His fruits will sow
"You love me?" - You'll forgive me when I'm wrong, we'll pray God will make us strong
Yes, it's commitment, this love 'tween me and you


We won't be throwing any 40th anniversary celebrations this year. However, I still celebrate the love my parents shared. My mom and dad may not have loved perfectly, but they knew that Jesus was the source of perfect love. They passed that love onto me and gave me a love to live secure in.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I look forward to meeting the Apostle Paul

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord...

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

- Philippians 4:1a, 4-8 (NLT)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still...

I decided to do something new this morning. I've linked up with The Gypsy Mama for a Five Minute Friday. Today they're writing on the word "still" for 5 unedited minutes. (I have to be honest... I took out some punctuation... it's not easy to deny myself criticism!)

Still…

I still want to sleep more

I still want to clean out the closets upstairs

I still need to do the dishes

I still have laundry waiting for me

I still need to shower

I still have a lot of things on my to do list for the day

Good thing it’s just beginning

I’ve chosen well

I’ve taken time to be still before my God

My husband is still sleeping

My children are still on vacation at my mom’s

I have the opportunity to just be still

It’s a place I need to be more often

Still in thought

Still in quiet

Still in peace

Still in His presence

The source of all my desires

The giver of my every need

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm)

It’s the verse that brings my life into focus

Taking time to listen

It’s hard

It always feels like there is something to rush off to

Somewhere to be

Something on my checklist to complete

“Still” is hard to accomplish

This week my husband and I have been on a “staycation”. Money kept us from shelling out for a hotel and going away. Since we live in the great Chicagoland area, however, there is plenty to do. We both said it yesterday, it’s hard to relax. We feel like we need to be ready to rush to the next activity, get back for the kids or whatever other activity is on our calendar.

This time has been a gift and I need it more often. Moments of stillness draw us closer to God and closer to each other. In this busy world, I just need a little more time to be still.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Like and Unlike Mom



As I watch my girls interact each day, I can't help but see my flaws reflecting back on me. I listen to my youngest yell at the top of her lungs demanding that her voice be heard and it makes me want to change. My 5-year-old loses all rationality when she gets tired and it leads me to wonder if she will fight this struggle in adulthood as well. As I witness my oldest losing patience with her youngers sisters, I can't help but think my example is being followed. It is easy to see the negative behaviors I have passed down to my girls. My fear is that they will only remember these into their adulthood.

In the same way, I've always been quick to blame my parents for the negative characteristics I display. I like to have control and often strive too much for perfection like my father. The way I keep house (or lack thereof) I learned from my mother (sorry mom). In my head, I am always able to excuse away my behavior as my parents' problems.

Today's Hearts at Home blog hop question "How are you like your mom? How are you different?" leaves me struggling. It is so easy to criticize parent/child similarities. I don't want this post to end up being a list of everything I wish I could change about myself had have that reflect on my mom. The truth is that the list of things I love about my mom is much longer than anything I'd criticize. I hope that holds true of what my girls will say about me in the future as well.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of one way I am like my mom is our passion for truth. It's not so much that we don't tolerate lies (although that is part of it) so much as we desire that our lives are lived according to God's Word. When advice is offered for our lives, the question must be asked: "What does God have to say about it?" Truth is our foundation. It is one thing I feel confident I am doing right and I'm grateful my mom passed that on to me.

One way I am not like my mom is in her love for children. Lock her up with a bunch of babies or a group of toddlers and she will be all smiles (although she may still need some Excedrin). Lock me up in a nursery and I feel like I'm missing out. I'll do it, but I'd much rather have the adult conversation. There is nothing my mom enjoys more than being with her grandchildren. I pray that God helps me be fully present with my children as they grow and I know it will take some major changes in my heart to become the kind of "Grams" my mom is. (However, it may simply be enough for me to remember the benefit my mom plays in raising my young children in order to do the same for my adult kids.)

Next time I wonder if all my girls will remember about me are my negative characteristics, all I need to do is think about what I remember about my parents. The positive always outweighs the negative. It's all about what we choose to remember. It wasn't until I became a parent myself that I realized they were simply trying to do their best. It's my choice if I hold onto the negative or the positive. I'm thankful that while I didn't have perfect parents, I had the best ones for raising me. I hope my girls will believe the same.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The fear of cancer and my faithful friend




I feared the word “cancer” again. Our almost-12-year-old dog has been behaving strangely for some time. Over the past few weeks, she has begun to destroy our house. Her breathing has become labored. Yesterday, the final ailment prompted us to the veterinary office. Her back legs were giving out as she struggled to get up, walk, utilize the stairs, or just simply squat.

“Pup” was appropriately named to match her energy and enthusiasm for life. Our aging dog has always had the vibrancy of a puppy. As I wrapped my arms around her body to hoist her in and out of the van yesterday, I struggled to keep control of my emotions.

My three little girls just said goodbye to two carnival fish that same morning. Could it be that our loyal family pet would soon be a memory as well? Despite my irritation of her incessant barking and tendency to always get underfoot, I was not ready to say goodbye.

I watched my elderly companion uncharacteristically take a nap on the floor at the veterinary office as we waited for the examination. I fought the choking tears as I attempted to explain the situation. She’ll be twelve in just a few short weeks but the turn for the worse has been so drastic. As I heard the possibility of cancer suggested, it wasn’t unexpected. Just some x-rays and we would know.

Peace and control of my emotions were the prayers I lifted to God as I attempted to hold in the sobs. I didn’t even ask Him to extend the life of my dog. She’s lived a full life. Having already said goodbye to my dad because of cancer, I tried to convince myself not to be so upset about an animal.

It seemed to take an eternity as I waited for the results. Smiling, the veterinarian shared that she had good news! While our dog is most certainly a senior, she has a healthy heart and healthy lungs! With instructions to administer Dramamine and an anti-inflammatory, I imagined my daughters’ smiling faces. (Apparently, many dogs as they age develop some problem with their inner ear that causes their balance to go and their back legs to give out. We will see if there is any improvement in a couple weeks. Otherwise, we will reassess then.)

For now, I need to learn to appreciate the inappropriately timed bark that has the potential to ruin naptime. As I trip over our 50-pound friend or feel her nail pierce my foot in her clumsy excitement, it will require patience to recall the tears I shed at the thought of losing her. Next time you hear me yelling and expressing frustration at our furry family member, I invite you to help me remember.

I am thankful that our faithful friend, Pup, appears to be a healthy, old girl.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blowing my top... with a whisper?

Jill Savage had a quote by Lisa Welchel on her blog today:

“Often whispering can be more effective than yelling. Try it next time you feel like screaming. Your children may actually hear you more clearly.”

I yell at my kids all the time and it is showing up way too often in the way my youngest speaks to others. I need to start doing something different. Hopefully, I will remember this next time I want to blow my top.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I've got the joy

This morning I was asking God to help me find the joy. In one of my readings today, Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, points out that the way to find joy is by looking to Jesus. (I highly recommend this devotional book.) She highlighted Psalm 34:5:

"Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy." - Psalm 34:5 (NCV)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Speaking my Heart

This summer that I was so excited to start because I looked forward to relaxing has been anything but. I feel crazed and out-of-control. I asked God for help this morning. Attempting to refocus, I spilled my heart to Him. I just read this post at (in)courage and thought the author was speaking so much of what I'm feeling these days.

Today, I'm asking for God's love to quiet my soul.

"The Lord Your God is with you, He is might to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing." - Zephaniah 3:17

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy 9th Birthday, Nikelle Evadne! (Belated)



When I was pregnant with my oldest, a friend of mine shared how she wrote letters to her daughters on special days to give them one day when they became adults. My husband and I have held to this practice every year on our daughters' birthdays. Our girls have yet to read these letters and will receive them in the future. This year was hard for me clear my mind and heart and focus on the words I wanted to say to my daughter (hence its belated fashion). I hesitated some to share it on my blog. However, this is the way I have done it for the past few years and therefore, continue today.

My Dearest Nikelle Evadne,

It seems as though you have grown up more this year than any year in the past. When I look at you, I am amazed at your long legs and the way your body has grown. You now stand as tall as my shoulder and I wonder how soon it will be that your height will surpass my own. More than your height, you have grown in character, in knowledge and in love. You are amazing, Nikelle. God made you that way, and at 9-years-old, I am so thankful that you are striving to become the woman God has made you to be.

As I think back on this last year of your life, I am reminded of the bond you have shared with your teachers both in school and at church. These people sacrifice their time to help you grow up to become an adult who will in turn sacrifice to help others. When you overheard your third grade teacher informing the fourth grade teachers that “they want to have you in their class next year”, you took it without any pride. It was just a statement that made sense to you. You are a good kid who obeys the rules and cares about others. Adults appreciate that and more so, God desires that for you.

You continue to cherish your relationships with your cousins and friends. It hurt my heart to watch you work to understand why a friend would desert you because you did the right thing. Through it, you learned to embrace other friendships, all the while continuing to extend friendship to the one who wounded you. I have come to realize that I can no longer protect you from the many pains of life. You are going to experience all the bad stuff. We all do. You’ve already been exposed to loss from death and divorce. Life has taken friends from you as they’ve moved away or just chose to distance themselves from you. While I want to protect you from all the pain in this world, I am realizing that the most I can do is prepare you.

The world is going to tell you that God is not the Creator and that His plans are out-of-date. There will be moments that you feel alone and possibly even stupid because of the beliefs that you hold to. Please know that just being a minority does NOT make you wrong. Hold to the truth God has given you in the Bible. When you question it (it is okay to question it), talk about it with those you know love you and have earned your respect. Ultimately, talk to God and study His Word. We serve a God who rewards those who earnestly seek Him. If you ask for wisdom, He will give it to you. My biggest prayer is that you will truly desire God and seek Him with all of your heart.

I can no longer protect you from the pains of the world, but please know, that is my desire. It hurts me to see you hurt. Divorce was not a word I ever wanted you to understand. While I can promise you that your daddy and I will never take this path, you have unfortunately had to come to an understanding that not everyone respects God’s standard that marriage is to be for a lifetime. My eyes still fill with tears when I think of the way your heart broke at the loss of relationship in our lives. You are a girl who loves with her whole heart. People who love big get hurt big. Don’t allow that to squelch your love. It is still worth it to love deeply. In the pain, I hope you will learn the great love God has for you. The love we experience outside of God is flawed and can never fully fill the hole in our hearts. Still, the love we share in our relationships with others gives us a glimpse of what we will experience for eternity. Even when your heart is aching, know love is worth the pain.

Our friends and family chose to purchase a combined birthday gift for you this year. As I knew this would take a big dent out of the presents you received on your special day, I did my best to prepare you for the moment. We discussed the fact that while presents are nice, just the fact that we can have family and friends gather with us to celebrate is present enough. While you agreed, your face still dropped with every person who came to the party empty handed. I knew the surprise would cheer you up in the end but it was hard to watch the disappointment in your face. You encouraged me by your actions, dear daughter. Although you didn’t understand why people who had bestowed gifts on you in the past brought nothing but themselves to celebrate this year, you celebrated in the same fashion. You enjoyed your party and were thrilled in the end. That purple bicycle will always remind me of your character, Nikelle. You are more often than not, a selfless giver and that is more valuable than gold. Thank you for always being willing to share and put others first. It is a rare quality in a person these days.

You have continued to excel in art and had your work displayed at the Rialto for the Children for Peace program this year. We know this is one way God has gifted you. It has been fun to watch you embrace the music of the recorder this year, too. We look forward to seeing the instrument you choose to play in the future and wonder if you will continue to apply yourself with practicing the way you did this year in music class.

As I look back over this past year, I realize that you have changed in so many ways. It is so fun to watch you become the person God created you to be. More than anything, I am struck with the overwhelming truth that you are one of God’s greatest gifts to us. As the firstborn, we are bound to screw you up in big ways. We pray for God’s grace to cover our mistakes and trust you will know that all of our actions come out of our love for you and our God. I thank God for the blessing of having you as a daughter, Nike. It is good to be your mother.

You were made for victory, Nike. When you fear, embrace the truth that God’s spirit gives us power. Whatever the future holds, I pray you will live life loving God and striving to please Him. He gave His life for you. There is no greater love.

Loving you the best I know how,

Mommy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I want my teenage self (and my daughters) to know...



“Spin the Bottle” was not a game we planned on having a conversation with our 9-year-old daughter about. When my husband came upon a reference to the game while reading with her, however, we thought it important to seize the opportunity. I inquired of my daughter as to any knowledge of the game. Satisfied that she was clueless, we proceeded with questioning.

“Should you kiss a boy just because of a game?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do we kiss someone?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who do you kiss?”

“Daddy”

“Who else do you kiss?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who do I kiss?”

“Daddy”

“You give a kiss to show someone you love them. What would you say if a boy asked you if he could kiss you?”

“Not right now.”

“That’s actually a really good answer.”

Raising three daughters, I constantly want to instill in them the bigger picture. I want their actions to be rooted in pleasing God. It is important to me that my girls are able to think through situations before they encounter them and make appropriate decisions on their own. Too many times, growing up, I would be faced with situations and have to make a decision on the spot. While I realize this cannot be entirely avoided, I desire for them to have done some premeditating so they can confidently make God-pleasing decisions.

Today is the Hearts at Home blog hop. Feel free to join us! This Third Thursday Thought is “If you could go back in time and tell your teenage self one thing, what would you say?”

If I were to have a conversation with my teenage self, I would stress the importance of purity being more than some line we shouldn’t cross. Purity is more than protecting your body. We also need to guard our hearts and minds. The concept of purity is something we all need to know at an early age and carry throughout our lives. It doesn’t stop when we get married. Purity involves the mind, heart and body.

At an early age, there is a lot of pressure to hook up with a boyfriend/girlfriend. Holding hands and kissing and declaring one’s “love” makes you feel as though you belong. It is difficult to feel accepted when everyone else claims a boyfriend or girlfriend and you stand alone. No one wants to be considered an outcast.

I distinctly remember my friends in fourth and fifth grade who were considered a “couple”. Back then it seemed to be an innocent declaration to be “going out”. These days, the stakes seem to be much higher. It is important to me that my children desire to guard their hearts. I want my girls to confidently and boldly make decisions even if it means they will feel alone.

Thankfully, I had parents who protected my innocence and set boundaries for me. Unfortunately, I still had no idea what to do when the situation was staring me in the face and really no clue that purity was more than just preserving my virginity. Purity involves protecting not only our bodies, but our minds and hearts as well.

As a teenager, I was quick to give my heart away. It left me with a broken heart that took years into my marriage to heal. I didn’t guard my heart or my mind when it came to love. As a 16-year-old, my unguarded thoughts ran off into the future. Declarations were made without a commitment in place and sadly, I was left regretting the parts of me I did give away. I did not guard my heart and I paid the price.

Guarding my heart is a lesson I learned the hard way but still need to apply to my life today. Even as a married woman, we can find our thoughts and daydreams running away. It takes work to keep our hearts and minds pure. Too many marriages are shattered by affairs. I have learned that it starts in our thoughts and affections. We need to protect our marriages. We need to train our hearts and minds not to stray.

I may not have learned the bigger definition of purity until many years into my marriage, but my hope is that my girls will learn it at an early age and be saved from a world of hurt and pain. This year, I have a fourth grader. It is a year I distinctly remember friends “going out”. While I want to avoid destroying my daughter’s innocence with a conversation about the inevitable, I also know the importance of having it now. If I don’t teach my daughter about purity, love and sex, she will learn her lessons somewhere less than ideal. I may not be able to have a conversation with my teenage self, but God is giving me an opportunity to have the conversation with my daughters. I want my children to thrive in life and love.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Risking Friendship

Taking risks is really not my thing. I like my feet safely planted on the ground. Security makes me feel good. Expecting the unexpected has never been my cup of tea. I will never be one of those risk takers who receive their 30 seconds of fame. My life will have to be highlighted for doing something other than out-of-the-ordinary.

While I will never hesitate on the edge of jumping out of a plane (because I will never be there in the first place), I identified a risk that I am willing to take. I risk it all for relationships. Love is one of the few things I am willing to lay it all on the line for.

Yesterday I said goodbye to some dear friends. I have been doing life with some of them for just a short while; some for years and some for over a decade. As I did, my mind flashbacked on the past and the many goodbyes I have had to say. Some are less painful than others but all of them shape me. When friends move away, when people cut you out of their life unexpectedly or when the finality of death forces the goodbye, it hurts. Farewells hurt. And in the moment, I find myself hesitant to reach out and make any more friends.

My initial reaction with people is to protect my heart (and the hearts of my family). I think twice before I give any information about my life. Reluctant to make investments that won’t yield a good return, I hold back. Initially, I want to weigh the risks because no one knows what the future holds.

I have watched people live this life unwilling to risk their hearts due to the fear of pain. The worry of rejection make some unwilling to form new friendships. And the pain of death has hit some so hard that the thought of moving forward is unbearable. While I experience the gamut of emotions as well, I know that our inability to know the future will also leave us missing out.

One has to be willing to risk pain if they yearn to experience joy. True friendship can only be found in experiencing and weeding out the traits that don’t measure up. In opening up our hearts and sharing our experiences, we find that others are willing to do the same. It is only when we are found trustworthy that we experience the dependability of a friend. When we love others, we find the devotion and adoration we long for from them. Camaraderie is understood only by those who are willing to take the risk.

Jesus Christ extended his arms on the cross to display His love for us. Yet, all over the world, people reject this greatest demonstration of love. Knowing this, Christ still offers His love. When the risk is taken, we may not always receive the response we desire. The desired response, however, will never come until we take the risk.

“I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love. I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.” – John 15:9-15

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Encouraged to be Brave and Bold for Jesus

Galatians 6:9 reads, “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.” And yet, that is usually just how I feel… tired of doing what is good; exhausted with trying to make the right choices; done with making the effort above and beyond. What’s the point? I wonder. Is it really worth it? Will it even matter? Does anyone even care?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in myself and want to quit. Quitting is standard these days anyway. People quit on just about everything… from their diet to their family. Why don’t I? It would be easier, wouldn’t it? “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good.” I repeat it to myself. Those words are uttered in attempt to encourage others but when we don’t see the “harvest of blessing” it just feels easier to give up.

That’s why I was thankful for my friend’s message to me the other day. It wasn’t necessary but it was needed. The reminder to persevere and the hope of blessings yet to come were evident. “Listen around minute 12” were his instructions to me referring to the attached MP3 file (11:43-13:15 to be exact). I listened to my friend’s name being referred to and recognized the reference to our friendship.

I met Mike during our freshman year in high school; in Mr. Lapicki’s Biology class to be exact. Mike was talking about a music group and I got excited. “I love DC Talk!” I responded. His look expressed his confusion and cluelessness as to my reference. I felt stupid and he continued his conversation with his friends about the group, ZZ Top.

When I think of our friendship, I remember feeling awkward about this initial meeting. I recall my dismay in the class we shared, when I raised my hand alone to state that I believed in creation. (Whether anyone else raised their hand or not, I don’t recall for certain. However, I vividly remember feeling alone.). There are memories of the way Mike admired my childhood friend, Janelle, from day one and the joy in seeing their strong marriage today. Rarely, (if ever) do I think about the impact my relationship with God played in my friend’s life.

As I listened to this brief audio clip, I was encouraged. For me, I simply invited a friend of mine to a place I enjoyed going. For him, he saw a girl being brave and bold for Jesus. It wasn’t the only encounter I had in high school that made me appear that way to others.

I’ll never forget the way a pothead stood up for me one Friday afternoon in another class. (He actually wore a baseball cap with an image of weed on it.) I had come to expect the weekly time that almost seemed set aside for “bash on Tristi and her religious beliefs” by my classmates and yes, even my teacher. This boy stood up and spoke on my behalf, “At least she stands up for what she believes in. Which is more than can be said for the rest of you.” While I don't even remember this boy's name, he encouraged me to stand strong in my beliefs.

Somewhere between high school and now, I lost my tenacity to live boldly for my God. Fear has made me shy in speaking of Jesus. What will others think of me? Will they think I'm too pushy? What if they no longer want to do life with me? As I sit back timidly shaking my head, the messages that are opposed to God's Word threaten to deafen His message of Truth. Hanging my head and holding my tongue is not what God called me to do.

"Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." Deuteronomy 31:6 is one of my daughter’s favorite verses. I need it these days… I often feel alone. However, I’m not alone. God is right there with me.

My mind and my emotions are not a good place to locate truth. I may think I know what others think of me but I really don’t. Besides, it doesn’t matter what they think. In the end, I will stand before the only One whose opinion matters. “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:4b

My friend, Mike, reminded me of why it’s worth it to live bold and courageous for our God. In the same way his wife encouraged me to live boldly for God in high school simply by doing it with me, his encouragement inspires me now. It’s my prayer for everyone I love: to experience a growing relationship with God. Life seems so empty without it. With God, however, life has purpose and hope.

We need to encourage each other to do the right thing. It’s easy to find the encouragement in today’s world to take the “easy way out”. Persevering through the trials to develop character is where we need help. Relationships are where we experience it. Live it out daily in gratitude, in love, in word and in action. “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.”

Thanks, Mike, for encouraging me. Thank you, friends and family, for doing life with me… especially when the going gets tough. Thank you, God, for giving me hope and purpose and being right there with me through it all.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” – Hebrews 3:12-14

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Third Thursday Thoughts: Favorite recipe



Today is this month’s Hearts at Home blog hop. On the third Thursday of every month, I have the opportunity to write on a specific topic and link up with other bloggers and Jill Savage. This Third Thursday’s Thoughts are prompted by the question, “What is your favorite homemade dish? Share your recipe!”

Lasagna, bread, sausage and all the heavy Italian foods are the delicacies served at gatherings with my mom’s side of the family. My husband came from a Swedish family where the foods don’t contain quite as much spice. While my husband didn’t complain about the pasta I served every night in the early years of our marriage, he did request that I at least use a meat sauce. It took some years to combine the meals we enjoyed.

When I served “skinny” pancakes for the first time, my husband was thrilled that I made a Swedish food. Unbeknownst to me, the pancakes that we rolled up log style, topped with syrup and powdered sugar, were a favorite of his as well. The exception was that his family always had lingonberries on hand. Needless to say, these pancakes (I was now educated originated with his ancestors) became a popular meal in our home.

Expectations of this comfort food come on Christmas Eve with my family, Saturday breakfast, Sunday lunch, or even a weeknight dinner. My children beg for the meal and I have heard no complaints about the alterations I gradually made to use whole wheat flour in the recipe. If you are looking for an easy meal that will be enjoyed by all, cook up a package of sausage or bacon and serve it with these pancakes and some fruit on the side to make it complete.



“SKINNY”/SWEDISH PANCAKES
3 eggs
¾ cup flour (I use whole wheat)
1 ¼ cup milk
1 Tablespoon sugar

Beat eggs until thick and yellow. Add milk. Then flour, sugar and salt. Cook over medium-high heat in continually buttered pan. (Melt a pat of butter each time before you add just shy of a ¼ cup of batter to the heated frying pan.) Serve with syrup and/or powdered sugar or with your favorite berries.

SYRUP
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp mapeline
Bring water with sugar to a boil. Stir in mapeline and remove from heat.

(Note: I double the recipe for my family of 5 which usually leaves some leftovers)

Do you have a favorite recipe?

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