Thursday, November 27, 2014

How Going Organic (Didn't) Ruin Thanksgiving!

As always, we're keepin' it real around here this holiday season. So....this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down...on Thanksgiving...(I think I stole that from somewhere. But I digress...as usual...)

                               


We have been trying to do this organic thing in the last eight months or so. It is HARD. We still eat out a lot and we are far from perfect. But after eight months, I feel like we have done this amazing thing. Truly, we are not totally converted. We eat out about five times per week. It's true. Don't faint. But that means we eat at home (or pack) about 16 meals per week. That's a big deal. And if we are making good choices for 16 out of 21 meals per week..well...that has to make a difference.

So, Thanksgiving is very different this year. It's not wholly organic. But here are the ways that we have made changes...without big variations on taste. Because, let's face it..we like food. A lot. So here you go...

5. The sweet potato casserole has no butter.
I bought officially organic butter as well as nearly organic butter from our local farm. But *somehow* the organic butter got put in the freezer on accident. (Ummm...I totally did that.) So I made the sweet potato casserole without butter. I bet it's just as good. I bet.

And did you know...marshmallows have artificial blue dye in them? Why? Marshmallows are white!! The real answer...to make them whiter. Hmmm. We bought no marshmallows.

4. We are eating absolutely NO MSG.
MSG just makes me angry. Besides the fact that it makes me swollen and grumpy, (True, this is a proven fact. As my husband will tell you.) it makes me angry because of its purpose. MSG's purpose is to enhance the flavor of the food it's in. Fine. But it enhances it in such a way that you become addicted to said food. That's just not fair. Especially not for the chubby girls. We have enough trouble staying healthy and you want to make us eat MORE of your junk? It's wrong. Wrong! Down with MSG!!

                                           


3. The broccoli casserole has bunny heads on it.
My Nanny's famous broccoli casserole must be topped with cheese crackers. The only organic cheese crackers I could find were Annie's Bunnies. And that's now....before General Mills has their way with the whole line of Annie's beautiful organic products. (That terrifies me.) So there are dismembered bunny body parts all over the top of my broccoli casserole. Think anyone will notice?

                                            

2. We are having no Kraft anything.
Kraft is one of the leading companies who continually lobby to keep GMO labeling from happening. In case you have been hiding under a rock for awhile, GMO's are genetically modified organisms. They are seeds that are genetically doused with Round Up in order to make buff, hard-to-kill-seeds. But, surprise! They are killing YOU!! Click here to read more: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/ You shoul know that McDonald's has joined Kraft in this save-the-GMOs war. We have been boycotting McDonald's and Kraft for about six months now.

                                                            non-gmo-logo.jpg (2405×1493)

1. I spent over two hours shopping for one meal.
My Evan wanted to go to the grocery store with me. He had no idea what he was in for. I read every label. I considered...I thought...I almost-ed...I maybe-ed...I spent two hours figuring out what would work for one meal. Some battles I  chose not to fight. But I can say for certainty that this year's feast is healthier than last year's. We are moving in the right direction. For that I am thankful.

                                                       

Over the years I have not been the best role model for healthy eating and exercising. I struggle with this daily. But there is far too much evidence that's showing how deadly our processed food supply is here in the United States. I have to make better choices to make a difference for myself, my husband, and especially for my kids. They are so worth it!

Daniel 1:8-16
8But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned yourc food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,12“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”14So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

If this post hit home with you, might we suggest you head on over to http://foodbabe.com/ and look around? There is so much to learn and we are still learning!! 

"Good Eating"


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reinventing socializing

For the past six months I've been waking up. Kind of like a Momma bear coming out of hibernation. The infant stage is behind us (whoooop whoooop!!!) and I'm starting to have time...to think. Oy.

And over analyze. Oh joy!

The last TEN years have consisted of this: get pregnant, be really unbearable, have a newborn, hibernate, start to function 'normally' in society, get pregnant AGAIN. Repeat.

So. I'm trying to start functioning 'normally' in society again.

Hahahaaa. What does that mean?

It means this: I really haven't cared much about socializing or fashion or investing in new friendships (do those exist in your adult life?), or anything else other than trying to survive my day to day life with my awesome growing family.

Now, don't think that paints a gloomy pathetic picture. Quite frankly I have enjoyed this phase of life so much! I got to meet my kids! Kdog and I have reached amazing relationship marriage status. Things are good. Very good.

But...
Finding friends that are in the same season of life is HARD. 

So, I've been over analyzing my friendships.

And I've been placing too much of 'what can I get out of this friendship' in my criteria for friends. 

That'll slap you right upside the head. It certainly will.

The Lord revealed this to me a few weeks ago:
Girl, it doesn't matter what you get out of a friendship. All that matters is that you serve others. And you serve others with a grateful, caring heart. You meet people where they are and don't expect a single thing in return. Life isn't about how others don't care about you (like you care for them). Life is about loving and giving freely. No strings. No stipulations. You shouldn't require anything from anyone. All of your self worth or feeling of admiration should come from God. (Now, I don't recommend being in abusive unhealthy friendships or relationships but that's an entirely different blog post). 

I've realized I have got to stop. Stop putting stipulations or stupid expectations on friendships. 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 ESV)

There are also things I've had to realize when it comes to HOW people are friends. I am very much an acts of service, bake you a freaking ten pound bundt cake, kind of friend. And guess what, Renae? Not everyone else is wired the same way. 

Learning to accept the way other people connect to me was truly an eye opener.

This has also made me reach out to others in ways I normally wouldn't. Being intuative to what others are going through and making that phone call or dropping by a cup of coffee and even sending a little note of encouragement really shows others you care. And I've made a promise to myself to make sure others know how much I care. 




We are designed, by God, to form relationships with eachother. Positive, uplifting, hilarious, serious, complicated and wonderful relationships.

As I steer through this interesting season of my life, I'm determined to change the way I am a friend to others and maybe, prayerfully, God will lead me to form some more genuine, deep friendships that I will be forever grateful for. 

Think of others more than you think of yourself. Tell the people you love how much you appreciate them. Don't second guess yourself. People need to be loved and yes, we need God first, but we also need eachother.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV)




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Rejoice!

It's a beautiful day.

Today is the first day of a new school year. 

For all of you Mommas out there who are sending your babies off to kindergarten, rejoice! 

Can you believe you've kept them alive long enough to be ready for kindergarten?

It's sad, exciting, terrifying, amazing...

Sending your babies to school is exhausting! Believe me, I've been there twice. Two more to go. It's an emotional situation.

But as you send your babies to school today, remember this...

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

Our sweet chickadees are being a light to others. 

They are planting seeds they don't even know they are planting...

Y'all know I've struggled with public school. (Go back and read Kindergarten Crazies).  But I also have come to grips with the fact that our family was chosen to be warriors in public schools. And that isn't for every family (no judging here! Every family has their own specific plan from God, and that's a fact. Period.).

I'm praying for you today, all of you. All of your sweet babies!!! 

We can't keep our kids from this world. THIS FALLEN world. We can't keep them from seeing and hearing things that aren't part of our parenting plan. We are never going to be able to shelter them from all of the evil in the world. 

But, by golly, we can suit up our kids and prep them for battle. Because we all know it is a battle. We can lay solid foundations that make them fearless leaders for Christ. We can teach them to be BOLD. Be DIFFERENT than their classmates. 

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:11-20 ESV)

Did you put on your armor today? Did you suit your kids up? 

For whatever your day holds, remember that God is sovereign. He holds your babies in His tight grip. He loves them even more than you. 

Rejoice!! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Routine

I am a lover of routine.

This time of year is my favorite because I get to organize a classroom, plan lessons, create templates, make schedules, stock my pantry, pack lunches, match up freshly laundered clothing...

And then 21 or so little people come marching with enthusiasm into my classroom and I get to teach them to organize their binders and their notebooks and their tool boxes...and their minds.

I love.

Clearly, I love me some Thirty-One.

 

I do better and I AM BETTER when I am in the zone. I am on my game, I am productive, I am feelin' it. I can organize, I can plan, I can produce, I can lead, and I can step in and help.

But Father, I ask you this year to let me live in my routine without becoming a creature of habit. Allow me to live in the process and not just in the product. Let me live in relationships and help me build them in healthy ways.

Help me to be the best me for my family, my friends, my coworkers, and my church...and ultimately for YOU and YOUR KINGDOM.

Slow me down when I need slowing down, but just enough that I can use every gift you have given me. I am forever thankful for your love and your example in Jesus Christ. 

Help me to say NO when it is time.

I am so thankful for the blessing of health this year. Oh, so thankful. I pray for health in our family to be sustained and for those who are sick or healing. You are the one and only True Healer.

Let me hear You in every breath I take and live out your LOVE in every action. And help me forgive myself in the times when I fail.

In Jesus name, AMEN.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. ~John 15:2

27"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.29"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…  ~Matthew 11:1-27

Friday, July 11, 2014

In the secret quiet place...

Sometimes in the quiet God speaks the loudest.

I've been pretty quiet the past few months.

Children have been growing and time is swirling around too fast. So, I took some time to focus on their little faces. Look into their little souls. Snuggle their bodies when I felt like writing or kiss off their sweet cheeks when I wanted to open the MacBook.

Sometimes God comes through in ways you never knew He would.

It makes me think of an amazing bible study I did back in the winter. It was on Esther by Beth Moore. It's phenomenal. 

Did you know God's name isn't mentioned once in that book of the bible?

But, His presence and intricate planning turned an average girl into an amazingly strong, intelligent, powerful queen.

You can feel God all over the words in the book of Esther.

Even when God is silent, He is still guiding & working out His plan.

"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 ESV)

I LOVE love love this passage from Esther. 

Sometimes God calls us to rise up and to follow through with the plan He has placed in front of us all while He is silent...

Huh?

Do you ever feel like you can't hear God?

 Why is it that sometimes He gives us tangible cues to help guide our steps and other times He is silent? 

Lately, I've felt like He is silent. But, I know He is there. 

I've been wondering why I've been so uninspired to write.

Then, as quiet as He seems the more real He is.

As God made me pause, I stopped to focus on what is. Present. 

I've been very present the past two months. 

And here are a few of the biggest things I've learned:

We have always known our kids don't need 'stuff' but I've really been focusing on giving my kids 'experiences'. I don't care a lick about what I leave my kids with in this world but I do care about what kind of experiences I've helped provide. Good experiences, happy, painful, sad, eye opening experiences. And ALL of those experiences relating to the love of God and His word. 

There is a fine line between your children experiencing different things in life and becoming an 'I'm entitled' person verses becoming a 'how can I help others experience these things' kind of person. Luckily, I've only had to strip my kids down to NOTHING in our house a few times (as in zero material possessions they love) for them to realize they are owed NOTHING in this world. We are entitled to NOTHING.

We owe God everything. He paid the ultimate sacrifice and my greatest attempts will never live up to the selfless sacrifice Jesus paid on the cross. Thank you, God, for Grace! And for Mercy!

I want to help teach my kids that even though you can't always see God directly in every circumstance, He is there. In every aspect of our lives God is present. Whether He is kicking our butts and slapping us silly or gently prodding & nudging our next move, He is the One orchestrating it all.

The biggest thing I've learned is this: put down your freaking phone. 

I think about our current world we live in...

It's pretty weird.

There's not enough verbal communication anymore.

Put. Down. Your. Phone.

And go run around outside with your kids  or lay in the floor and let them climb all over you.

You won't regret it (even if you accidentally peg your kid in the stomach with a baseball or get puke on your forehead.). I promise.

Jesus,
  Thank you for YOU. Thank you for the little moments in my day where I can just be present. Thank you for little stinky toes and sweaty headed boys with red flushed cheeks. I praise you for dramatic interpretive dances by a tiny tutu loving Goldie lochs. Thanking you for Legos on my floor that cause puncture wounds at 3am (and maybe a curse word. But I'm still praising You). Lord, I thank you for 4am crib parties (the kind that involve miniature people. Also known as toddlers). Even when I don't act thankful, I am thankful for You. I am with most gratitude for belly laughing and squealing in my home. Oh!! How I am thankful for the buzz of tiny people chatter and chaos. Yes, Lord. Yes, I am thankful. Jesus, thank you for being quiet. Even when I ask you why You're quiet...I am thankful. Lord, thank you for revealing to me that it's time to be present. Even more present than I was before. Thank you for whispering the sweet words 'be still' into my heart. Thank you, Jesus, for the ability to smell my children's sweet salty skin after a day in the sun. I'm praising You for my bed full of sixty fingers and sixty toes. I. Am. Praising. You. If I have nothing in this world except my family and Jesus Christ then I have EVERYTHING. And my EVERYTHING is not anything I deserve. For I am owed nothing but I owe my EVERYTHING to the One whom I am most thankful.

In the name of Jesus I pray this prayer of thankfulness & gratitude,
Amen.

Find your stillness. Find your quiet place with God. He will show up in ways you never expected...

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2 ESV)


Monday, June 16, 2014

5 Things I Learned During the Last Week of School

We've been gone for awhile. It's not just that we've been busy (oh, we have) but it's more like this: If the Holy Spirit doesn't inspire our writing, we don't write. If He doesn't speak to us and through us, then it's of no importance to us or to anyone else. And then again, it may not be that He hasn't tried to inspire us or hasn't spoken to us, but perhaps we just haven't slowed down enough to listen. 

Summer is finally here, which brings with it a little time to slow down. Thank.You.Jesus. But before we jump into pretty posts about lightning bugs and sandcastles and sun-kissed children so tired that they fall asleep in odd places...let me tell you about how I kept from losing my mind during the last two weeks of school this year.

If you are by chance a 3rd grade teacher in the state of North Carolina, or if by chance you know and love one, I don't even have to explain this to you. It's fodder for another day. For now, here's the gist of it:

Our legislature done gone lost it's mind.

The amount of testing, more testing, and high stakes testing put on 3rd grade this year was profit driven, irresponsible, and almost to the point of abusive to both students and teachers. (And maybe even to parents.)



All students and teachers in grades 3 and up were dealing with such high stakes this year. If I had to use one word to describe the climate, I think it would have to be "tearful." There were lots of tears, from both children and adults. Tears of frustration, fear, sadness, disappointment, and at the end - relief. 

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~ Romans 8:28


I won't pretend that I understand why God is allowing this to happen to children across our country. Are there worse things? Sure. But what's going on in education everywhere right now is more than just a little crappy. It's frightening. What I do know, though, is this: God will use every bit of this for each child's good, each teacher's good, and for my good. I know this because I learned a few things last week despite the swirling mire of negativity and doubt and blame that surrounded us all. God will take these lessons and make something beautiful out of them. Somehow.

Here is what I learned (or was reminded of) last week...

5. Children are generous.
All week long, children were giving me pictures, cards, and gifts. They asked me to sign their yearbooks and autograph books as they always do. On the last day of school one little girl bounced up to me with a gift bag. Inside was a handmade craft and a Starbucks gift card. She said, "This is for you because it's a place you've never even been before!" I don't know what made her think that I'd never been to Starbucks before ;). But the sincerity with which she gave, and with which she wanted me to experience something I would enjoy caught me off guard. 

I read not long ago that you should always accept gifts from children with sincerity. I've often shrugged off my own offspring's gifts of sticky Cheerios and scribbled half-hearted drawings. But when someone cares for you, they may want to show that through gift giving. Children are naturally generous and we need to perpetuate this through receiving their gifts joyfully. Yes, joyfully. Even the stinky lotion, the lopsided rainbow loom bracelets, and the questionable baked goods. All of them.

4. Nine year olds still love their teachers.
One of my little boys had a particularly rough last week of school. Nothing we did pleased him. The games we played were wrong. His tie dyed t-shirt was not colorful enough. Our read-aloud was boring. He detested every single game at field day. He pushed away from his friends and he barely did any of the "fun" assignments. I wanted to lighten his mood. Teasingly, I said, "What's wrong? Are you just sad because you're going to miss me all summer?"

"Well, that's part of it," he replied. Cue heart explosion. I was stunned. After all those days that I hounded him for missing work. Made him sit up instead of laying down during carpet times. Guided him (forced him) to work with others on group projects instead of doing them on his own. Gave him silent lunch as a natural consequence for being sassy to his classmates. But still, he loved me and he wanted and needed the discipline and structure that I provided.

3. Parents do care.
I know this to be true and always have. But this week I got an amazing surprise from one of my Hispanic moms, who doesn't speak any English. As she took her child home on the last day, she looked around, took a deep breath, looked me in the face and said,

"Thank you for all you do for my son this year. Thank you so much. He learn lot. He happy every day."

She learned English for me. *tears*

2. I can depend on my husband. 
Over the course of four days my husband attended two awards presentations, three parties,  two field days, one splash day, and multiple lunches. He carried heavy gallons of sweet tea. He applied sunscreen. He had water gun fights. He also picked up 100 tacos and delivered them to my class wearing a sombrero and a mustache. All so that I could take care of my other 22 kids this past week.

He also listened to me worry and fuss every single night about every detail. Oh, he complained. He I-told-you-so'd. But he was there. And I am thankful.

You know what they say. Real men marry teachers. There's even a shirt.

1. They may have thought they did, but they can't take God out of public schools.
Teachers and students and principals are still praying for themselves and for each other. Parents are taking their kids to church. Kids are talking to each other about Jesus. They are asking their teachers questions about the Bible. And teachers are answering. Scripture is found on desks and walls. Words of life are being spoken to children who are in need of love.

If God lives inside our hearts, and we are in the public schools, then God has been there all along. Maybe some of us just stopped looking for Him. I stopped for awhile. But it's time now, that we start looking again. What we're doing in public schools right now is really, really hard. And there is no way to get through hard things without the strength that comes from Christ alone.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. ~1 John 4:16

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 
~Psalm 139:7-10






Monday, March 31, 2014

What if?

For about five days now I've had my next blog post swirling around in my brain. And quite frankly I can't stand it when this happens to me sometimes! I'm just being honest...

I was driving down the road and heard the song What if? by Nicole Nordeman.  I started to dissect the lyrics. And when I did there was this rush of urgency that came over me. Someone needs to read this...

Her song starts off like this:

What if you're right?
And he was just another nice guy
What if you're right?
What if it's true?
They say the cross will only make a fool of you
And what if it's true?

What if he takes his place in history
With all the prophets and the kings
Who taught us love and came in peace
But then the story ends
What then?


There are SO MANY people that go through my head when I hear this song. So many wonderful, smart, beautiful, gracious, loving people that I am acquaintances with who don't really know The Lord. And I love these people. I love them dearly. I pray for their lives and souls to just open up...

Then I want to jack them up in the name of Jesus. 

WHAT?!?!

I can't even explain it. I envision myself shaking them and throwing water on them yelling WAKE UP! WAKE UP!! And they come alive out of the horrible dream they are living in. 

Then I snap out of it and realize they probably want to do the same to me! If you don't believe and haven't received the Lord then your capability to love and show grace is not on the same level as love filled with the Holy Spirit. 

So. Now what? 

How do you reach someone who is lost? But they don't know they're lost? 

Well. 

I, me, personally, can't reach anyone. But Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit can move mountains. And I pray DAILY that someone who is doubting or wavering or even just plain lost is sparked by the hue that comes from my body...

If you can't see the Holy Spirit alive in me as I live my day to day life than I might as well not even claim to know His power or love. 

And if I'm not...then you better call me out on it! I'm not even kidding. How could I write this stuff and then not "walk the walk".  There are no double standards here. No ma'am. 

I think of those who don't know the Lord and the next verse of her song plays over and over and over in my head...



But what if you're wrong?
What if there's more?
What if there's hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He's more than enough?
What if it's love?


Seriously. What if you're wrong? What are you losing (besides control) if you surrender your life to Christ? You lose eternal darkness and fear. It is replaced by HOPE. When you have Jesus in your life you always have HOPE. 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

You lose NOTHING when you seek the Lord but you gain EVERYTHING. 

There is an ancient philosopher named Blaise Pascal. He wrote a collection of thoughts that in summary titled Pascal's Wager. What if you read his wager & it was the catalyst that opened your eyes to believing in Truth?!? While I don't agree with everything he ever wrote he hits the nail on the head here...

Pascal says, "I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true."

Of course it is SO MUCH MORE than just wagering. It's a relationship.  With Jesus.

It isn't all whimsy and twirly and rosy...but when the days get long and the burdens are heavy then you have a resting place. You have a comfort like no other. Nothing earthly can compare to the feeling of the Holy Spirit filling your body. 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28


You know that nagging feeling you get when something isn't right with your kid? Or that weird sensation you feel when you're listening to a song that just really moves you? Or what about how your heart swells to the point of exploding when you look at your sweet babies sleeping at night. 

THAT. THAT is CHRIST!


What if you allow yourself to feel and think and dig...

What if you dig
Way down deeper than your simple-minded friends
What if you dig?
What if you find
A thousand more unanswered questions down inside
That's all you find?
What if you pick apart the logic
And begin to poke the holes
What if the crown of thorns is no more
Than folklore that must be told and retold?


And after you dig you think....ok, now what? Crap. 

Here's the cool part. 

Just receive His love. It's free. You do NOTHING to earn it. It is given without strings attached. Never failing. Relentless. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

Do you feel like you're constantly running? Or treading water? Are you just trying not to drown? Listen, I feel you. I do. And just because I love the Lord doesn't mean I never feel that way. But what I do feel instead is relief. I can take those feelings and throw them at God. He takes them and works it all out. Christ has it all figured out and GOOD GRAVY that is comforting. And He works everything for our good. I'm so NOT EVEN KIDDING. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Seek Him. Find Him. Receive Him. Let Him run wild with your life and as you surrender to His love and grace and His plans you'll find reprieve. 

Rest. In Jesus.

Are you tired? Have you been running so hard in the opposite direction that you can't even get the breath to turn your head around and look over your shoulder? 

Stop.

Turn around. 

Receive His love and rest.


You've been running as fast as you can
You've been looking for a place you can land for so long
But what if you're wrong?


Seriously...

What if you're wrong?




Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Beautiful Thing: In Memory of Our Aunt Judy


I am sad today, having heard that my Aunt Judy passed away this afternoon after a long battle with cancer and other health issues. Long is a relative word. While she has suffered over the course of a few years, it doesn’t really matter. A few weeks or a decade with cancer is too much. Too long. Too painful. Too hard. Too mind-bending. Too hope-raising and then hope-dashing. Too expensive. Plus an infinite amount of more.

My younger years were full of family time. Weekends and holidays were spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We knew too much about each other. Good families usually do. I can tell you that my Aunt Judy suffered her share of demons. And heartaches. And she made her share of bad choices. Haven’t we all? Maybe some, more so than others. But people are messy. Life is messy. And God knows this. That’s why he gave us families to hold us up through it all.

The thing I get to remember today though is the beauty in Judy's life. Beauty is a big deal. First, Judy was the mother of Shannon. A dimpled little pigtailed thing, she stole hearts throughout the family. The first child, first grandchild, and better yet...first precious little girl...she was more than enough. (And you still are.) Little cousins came along who idolized her and the family grew in size and in heart.

As hearts grow, after finding Judy's love of her life, Art, they decided to have a baby. As couples do. But things didn’t go well which led to more heartbreak. Thankfully, she and Art had the strength to think outside of the box. To think globally. And by globally, I mean that quite literally. One spring day Judy flew to the Philippines on her own and came back with a four month old baby boy. Her first time on a plane, she crossed the world to do a beautiful thing.

Andy, the love and sacrifice made by your mother and father to bring you here is nothing less than inspiring. Not only because it was expensive and hard and confusing…but because it was visionary. Overseas adoptions were not unheard of during the 80’s, but they were not the norm. Especially not in a little town in Virginia that was nearly as vanilla as a bowl of pudding. Your grandfather thought you were Indian. And he meant well. “Beautiful people, the Indians,” he would say. “Philippino,” we would correct him. But when he held you, we saw teeth. Whenever he flashed those, we all knew he was happy. He loved you, brown skin and all.

Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house. God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom...  ~Psalm 68:5-6 (MSG)

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ~ Matthew 18:3-5

I have no doubt that she was welcomed into Heaven today.
Shannon and Andy: Your mother, my dad’s sister, our Nanny’s daughter…did a beautiful thing in this world. I know that you are thankful. But also know that we are thankful. All of us. Because we can always look back and say, “She was so strong.” For that moment in time, she was powerful enough, she listened to God just enough, to change the trajectory of a life. Yours, yes. But also ours. Tonight we can celebrate that and remember her.

LOVE CHANGES LIVES.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

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. ~ Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

He changed everything.

This sweet, kind, spiritual soul had a birthday this past week. He's my first born and is like his Momma in so many ways...





I can't believe he is nine. When he was born I was so young. And clueless. Clueless about so many things. Of everyone we know I was the one ready to have a baby! So maternal and nurturing. Then, this baby came out and I was like...who the heck are you?!?!


He brought forth my lifelong dream to reality. But when he got here I wasn't so sure I knew what to do as a Mom. All my life I just KNEW I would be a good mom. Then, I was a mom. And I wasn't a good one at all (at least for the first 3 months of his life).  I didn't bond with him right away. I loved him. I was enthralled by him. But I didn't know what to do with him?!? He cried A LOT. He wouldn't nurse. He was...

A BABY!!!

Now it's funny. But in the moment it was NOT.

My mom broke her elbow the day after we came home from the hospital. SO, she came to stay with us so we could help her. Ummmm...

That woman was up THE NEXT morning mixing muffins with her left hand trying to take care of us. US!!! (we were pretty pitiful).

I'd like to say that having this sweet first born G-man made me grow up. Through his first year of life Kdog and I went from a young couple who were selfish and lazy to a young couple who grew deeper in love with each other and learned compromise.

Having a baby forces you to compromise.

It slings you into this place where if you don't give some of yourself up then everything else around you falls apart.

When I realized this and really internalized it I started to see the parallel between being a parent and having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When you surrender your life to Christ your old self is gone and your new life begins...

When you become a parent you have to give over your old life. You must start a new life as it begins raising a child.

Your relationship with Christ is to be a commitment that Jesus said: '...deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me...' Matthew 16:24

Being a parent requires us to deny ourselves of a lot of things.

Let me just list a few:
1. sleep
2. privacy
3. time to yourself whenever you please
4. sleep
5. relaxing vacations
6. long leisurely walks in the park
7. sleep
8. boredom
9. clothes that don't have stains
10. sleep

Seriously though...

I''m not saying when you become a parent your entire life stops. You still have to focus on the relationship that created this child. Nurture your marriage. Work at your marriage. Tend to it...pick out the weeds (because if overgrowth occurs it's going to cost A LOT more to make the flowers bloom again if you get what I'm saying...).



We have always said that there is just "something about G-man." He has this spiritual understanding and comprehends much more about Jesus than I did when I was nine. This kid is kind hearted and sensitive. He's also really intense. He's such a people pleaser that I sometimes find myself pleading with him to understand that sometimes people fail. And it's ok!!!

Sometimes I wish I could fly back in time and love him all over again as a baby. When you're a new mom you can't enjoy all the little moments as much as you do when you've had an entire litter. He was the sweetest baby. Chubby, fluffy hair and loved to be rocked (which I didn't appreciate then either. I mean, who wants to sit and rock a baby ALL DAY?). GAH!!! What I wouldn't do to be able to just sit. SIT. Sit and rock my baby all day...but once you have more than one...

Being able to learn from these phases of life is what it's really all about.

Are you learning from your life?

Or are you just living your life?

Becoming a mom made me grow up.  It forced me to take my self centered, calorie counting, insecure, jealous, paranoid life and lay it down at the foot of the cross where my Savior died so I could LIVE.

REALLY LIVE.

Loving a child is as close as it gets to experiencing Christ's love for us this side of heavens gates.

My first born changed everything.



He changed the way I viewed Jesus' love for me.

I would give every ounce of myself to my kids. And no matter what they do in life I will love them just the same. There is no way to stop the love I feel for my children. It is UNSHAKEABLE.

Hmmmm....

That is a fraction of what the Lord's love for us is like. He loves us more than we can even imagine. More than the love we feel for our children.  He loves us when we are jealous, petty, unthankful, rebellious...

whaaaaaaat?!?!?

It's real.

It is freaking real!!!!

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:5-8 NIV)

This kid, that entered my world on a cold snowy day in February, changed my life. He saved me from just living my life. His sweet little face and full head of hair opened my eyes to what the love of Christ really is...

Pure. Relentless. Free. 

"The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His (God's) love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him." C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

God is relentlessly pursuing you whether you believe it or not. He desires for you to surrender up your life and accept His love that is free...













Monday, March 3, 2014

PUKE

A four act play. That actually happened in my house last night.

2:15a.m.

Mother is sleeping soundly in her bed. Father bustles in with their five and a half year old daughter, hand in hand.

Father: Murmer...murmer...murmer...(something unintelligible...)

*pauses*

Father: Mother, Daughter is awake. She came downstairs...here...

Mother (groggily): Ok, get in bed with me, Daughter.

*Daugher climbs into Mother's side of bed.*

Daughter: I need water on my stomach.

Mother: (groggily) Hmmm?

Daughter: I feel bad in my chest and I need water on my stomach.

Mother: Ok, we can get some water.

Daughter: No. I need to go potty.

Mother: Ok, go potty in the bathroom.

*Mommy Senses kick in and Mother bolts upright. Immediately locates emergency puke bucket in the dark and dumps out books. Runs to bathroom door.*

*Footsteps from inside the bathroom stop and make a U-turn.*

Daughter: Mom, I just need you to hug me!

Mother: Not yet! Here! Lean over this!

Daughter: PUUUUUUKE!!

OH NO! I'M PUKING!

Father: Go to the toilet!

Mother: No! She's doing great! It's all in the bucket! (to Daughter) Stay right here!

Daughter: This is horrible. (arm flourish over forehead) I don't like this. PUUUUKE!!

Mother: I know. But you did a great job! Dont' get your hand in it. Put your hands down. You got it all in the bucket!

Daughter: Mom?

Mother: Hmmm?

Daughter: YOU. ARE. AWESOME! I have to pee.

*Mother smiles and hands puke bucket to father with directions to wash it out and return.*

*Father mumbles something under his breath.*

Daughter: FATHER! YOU. ARE. AWESOME. TOO! (to Mother) Does puking make you have to pee?

Mother: Sometimes.

 YOU. ARE. AWESOME!


Daughter: This tastes terrible. (with arm flourish over mouth)

Mother: We'll get a little something to drink in a second. Let's finish up here.

*Daughter walks to sink to wash hands.*

Daughter: Mom, I need you to hug me right now.

*Mother goes to hug Daughter...but stops. Grabs well-timed return of bucket from Father and shoves it under Daughter's chin.)

Daughter: PUUUUUUKE!

Father: This is going to be a long night.

Mother disappears briefly to enter absence from school online and to request a substitute for tomorrow.

Father gets water for Daughter. All three settle into the bed as best they can with puke bucket close by on the nightstand.

SCENE.

*******

3:30 a.m.

Daughter: *cough cough*

*Mother bolts upright. Grabs puke bucket. Shoves it under Daughter's chin.

Daughter: My back hur....PUUUUUKE!!

Mother: You're doing great! You got it all in the bucket again! I'm so proud of you!

Daughter: (dramatically) Why do people have to throw up? This is ridiculous. I hate it. I'm so sorry to say hate but is it ok to say hate about puking?


I REALLY HATE PUKING.
 

Mother: It's ok for today. Just don't say it about anything else.

Daughter: I hate puking. This is miserable! (hands flourished out to each side)

*Father brings in wet cloth to wash off Daughter's face. Daughter sips water. Everyone lays back down.*

Daughter: Puking DOES make you have to pee. I have to pee again.

*Mother and Daughter make a trip to the bathroom, wash hands, and return to bed. Daughter crawls into the middle of the bed.*

Mother: Honey, let Mother get into the middle so you can stay on the side.

Daughter. But Mother what if I FALL OUT OF THE BED?

Mother: You've been sleeping on this side for the last hour or so. You'll be ok, I won't let you fall out. It's much better if you're close to the puke bucket.

Daughter. (holds up hand) I know...in case I puke again. (dramatically) WHY does this have to happen to me?

WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO ME?
 


Father: Woah, that's a big one.

*Father kindly removes puke bucket for rinsing and comes back with wet wash cloth.*

Mother: It happens to everyone once in awhile.

*Mother and Daughter join Father again and attempt to go to sleep. They are briefly successful*

SCENE.

********

5:30 a.m.

Daughter: My heart is running fast!

*Mother, once again, uses her cat-like reflexes to reach across Daughter to grab puke bucket and shove it under Daughter's chin.

Daughter: PUUUUUKE!! (to Mother) Now I know the signal. When my back starts hurting and my heart is running fast, it's time to puke.

Mother: This is a breakthrough. I'm proud beyond...

Daughter: PUUUUKE!! I just don't know why this keeps happening.

*Rinse. Sip water. Wipe face. Lay back down.*

*Mother sneaks away to write lesson plans and email them to school. Returns thirty minutes later to a sleeping Father and Daughter.*

SCENE.

*******

Light creeps into the bedroom and Mother never really goes back to sleep. Son enters around 7:00 a. m., wondering why Daughter was not upstairs in her bed.

Daughter: Do NOT touch me! (arms out) I still like you but I PUKED!

Son: Oh. Ok.

Daughter: When you get to school, be sure to tell my teacher that I puked. And try to tell ALL of my friends. (double hand flourish) Also, you can tell all of your friends, too. (additional double hand flourish) Tell them I puked THREE TIMES. Ok?

Son: Ok. What's for breakfast?

Mother: Not sure yet. We'll all be eating light today....

FIN.
 
 
or....TO BE CONTINUED?


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