Friday, April 18, 2014

This year Good Friday seems especially good

I have started and restarted this post. I even wrote half a dozen paragraphs before scrapping it and beginning again. I just don’t know how to really express what is on my heart.

 

Lately I have been wrestling with something that I think I have been struggling with my entire life without even realizing it. I first began to realize my struggle when the words “Each day is a gift from God” came as a shock to me. And then the fact that they came as a shock to me was even more of a shock, and a disconcerting one. The truth is for a while now I have not been living as if I believed that each day was a gift from God. I have been living as if each day was another 24 hours to wade through, bringing me one day closer to heaven. I can relate to Jesus saying “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).  I have been living with my guards up ready to take shelter from “what else” each new day will bring. Once I am able to process each individual “what else” I come around to see them as blessings, opportunities for growth, gifts from God. I really do. I can now say with certainty that Romans 8:28 is true. God DOES “work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”. I can also say that the troubles that each day brings are often part of that good. I really can and do see the “what elses” as good gifts from God, even when they seem to pile on. But the truth also is that often times I see each day as a necessary evil or a way to buy my time until I get to go to heaven. Yikes.

 

I know this sounds bad. I really do love my life. Daily I thank God for all He has given me-the people, the opportunities, the provisions, the many blessings. I don’t want to blame this way of thinking on my constant battle with Depression. I don’t want to chalk it up to some really difficult life events. I know it is my sinful and warped way of thinking that is the cause. But never-the-less it remains a struggle for me. So I wrestle with it. I wrestle with how do I balance longing for heaven and viewing each day here as a gift? How do I balance never feeling completely at home here on earth with enjoying life here on earth among all the blessings God has showered on me? How can I do both well?

 

I don’t know the answer completely. I don’t know if anyone can ever really live this out perfectly this side of heaven. But I DO think that the answer is found in Easter.

 

Today is “Good Friday’. Why is it so good? Well the simple answer is that because Jesus died, I didn’t have to. Surely he was “pierced for (my) transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). It wasn’t the hands of the Romans held Jesus' hand steady for the nails; it was God’s hand. It wasn’t Pilate who condemned him to death; he went willingly. It wasn’t the nails that held him there; it was love. (Isaiah 53 says this better than I ever could.) That is it really-the crux of it. And even a few weeks ago I would have left it at that. I would have said “weeee!!! I can go to heaven because of Jesus’ sacrifice! That is what Good Friday and  Easter are all about!” I may even have added some Jersey style fistpump or if I was feeling really wild a raise the roof circa 2002.

 

But I think there is more to it than that. I think that the truth of what happened this weekend almost 2000 years ago holds the answer to my struggle. Yes, because Jesus died I know my debt is paid. Because Jesus rose I know my hope is secure. And that is infinitely more than I deserve. And that causes me to be eternally grateful. And worshipful. And I find myself longing for heaven. Because of what Jesus did I can do that, and should long for heaven. But there is more than that. 

 

Good Friday is good and Easter is better because they give me joyous victory not just for eternity but for this life too! They hold the answer to how I can long for heaven and still enjoy his blessings here and now. What is that?! I can actually find pleasure in my family and friends?! I can go out on a date with Peter and enjoy it? (Wait…what is this word “date” I speak of?) I can actually….wait for it….have fun?! Without feeling guilty?! Whoa. (In case you are unfamiliar with the word “fun” I looked up a definition of it when I was looking up the word “date” for myself. Dictionary.com defines fun as “something that provides mirth or amusement: A picnic would be fun” . Why, yes! A picnic would be fun! Maybe a picnic date?! Okay, okay I won’t get too crazy.)

 

  Jesus didn’t give me days here as roadblocks to eternity. He gave me days as an opportunity to serve Him and love others. He gave me blessings and He wants me to enjoy them, life and He wants me to enjoy it-even though this life is not all there is. Jesus isn’t a joy-sapper. He is the joy-giver.

 

Paul said:

 

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”

Philippians 1:20-26

 

It should not be a shock to me to hear that each day is a gift from God. True, the greatest gift of all took place on this weekend long ago, but because of that greatest gift-and what it unwraps in heaven for me- I can enjoy God’s other gifts here and now.  I can find joy in the blessings He has given me and still long for heaven. I can take pleasure in this world and still store up treasure in a better place. After all “it is for freedom that (I) have been set free” (Galatians 5:1a) and Jesus “came that (I) might have life and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10b). Easter enables me to say this. Easter is the answer. Okay, now I am going to go plan a picnic.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The dust He loves


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“Mommy?”
The inquisitive voice said from the back seat.
“Yes, baby?” I have become quite accustomed to her starting a myriad of questions this way. They usually vary from deep: something like “why does God send people to hell if He loves everyone?” and…slightly less deep: “Why does Anna look at Elsa that way in Frozen when Elsa is frozening things…you know…before Olaf comes in…after he counts?” Either way she often leaves me sputtering, especially when my mind is else where.
“Mommy, is God still making people out of dust and dirt these days?”
I almost put on the brakes right there, and sat, and cried.
I knew what she meant, so I told her “no. God grows people inside mommy’s tummies now.”
“But He still makes them from nothing? Or does He make them from dust and dirt and then put them inside the mommy to grow?”
“Yeah, that is basically it, baby.”

I knew what she meant. So I told her “No, God doesn’t still make people from dust and dirt.” But while I was telling her “no”, I felt the Spirit telling me “yes. Yes, God still makes people out of dust…and to dust they will return.” And for some reason it resonated with me. Through me. It shook me almost to the point of instant tears. And I found myself wondering why I would have such a strong reaction.

I am sure it has something to do with how often the brevity and fragility of life has been thrown in my face lately. It may also have something to do with the fact that try as I might I cannot yet find a way to be truly happy with how quickly time passes, and moments, and people that slip away. As I answered her I was immediately reminded of the curse brought on the human race, stemming from Adam’s sin.

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Genesis 3:17-19

It made me shudder. Not because I am scared of death. Not because I don’t want to die. Actually fairly often I moan to Peter that I just want everyone I love to be in heaven, like right now. That I just want to be in Jesus’ arms. I often pray for the rapture. I know it makes me sound looney. That is okay. I kinda am…looney that is. Peter is used to me and my slightly craziness. He thinks I get a little melodramatic…”emo” even. But sometimes life hurts. Sometimes it hurts bad. So no, I am not afraid of death. I long for Heaven. What I am fighting against (and to no avail) is earthly time. Why does it go so darn fast?

In the Fall Hayleigh will begin Kindergarten, full day Kindergarten. I am less than thrilled say the least. Actually I am dreading it. But don’t worry. I am lying through my teeth telling her how excited I am for her. That’s what a good mom would do, right?

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I picture going to wake her up that morning. (In all actuality it will be she that wakes me up before the sun, jumping to go-go-go, but pretend with me for a moment that I am one of those moms who actually wakes up before my kids and rouses them in each morning with a sweet whisper and a soft kiss on the cheek while the smell of a warm breakfast wafts up the stairs.) I imagine myself urging her for the first time of many (pre-school doesn’t count) “Wake up, Hayleigh-Girl. It is time to get ready for school”. I am sure before I wake her I will sit in the silence for a moment and watch her sleep. She still looks like my baby all curled up with her bunny blanket, her rosy cheeks and her hair strewn behind her and over her face. I will want to let this moment stand still. Because I will know, the moment I wake her she will enter a new world. Until this point she has belonged to just me and her Daddy. We have taught her. We had read to her. We have comforted her. We have fed her. We have cuddled her. Once I wake her she crosses a threshold. She begins to climb a long ladder. The ladder of education that she does not see the end of yet. Once I wake her I know that I have to give a little bit of her away. Someone else, and over the years many someone elses, will teach her, and comfort her and mold her. By waking her, by taking her down the street to Kindergarten, I am giving up a little bit of her. Not a lot, I know. But a little. So I imagine I will linger, and let the silence comfort and stir me. But then I will wake her. With a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. Because I will know it is time. I will know it is right and best. But I will know that I am giving up little pieces of her bit by bit. And although it may be right and best, it will still hurt a little….or a lot. Remember: I am melodramatic.

I have been thinking about giving her up, about letting pieces of her go. And I am reminded of this verse:
 
“What then shall we say in response to this?
If God is for us who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own son,
but gave him up for us all,
how will he not also, along with him
graciously give us all things?”
Romans 8:31-32

I am not claiming, even for a second, that Hayleigh growing up and entering school is the same thing as God sacrificing His Son Jesus in my place. I will leave Hayleigh in the hands of a capable, kind teacher who will be ready to guide her, teach her and wipe her tears. God sent Jesus  into the hands of those he knew would misunderstand him ,spit on him, ridicule him, beat him, and brutally kill him. When I send Hayleigh to school we both know that if she needs me I will be there in a moment. God knew He would turn his face from his son, that he would not be able to look at Jesus hanging there, dying, covered in our sin. Although the angels were in heaven poised for the word, God would not speak it. Though his son cried out to him in agony, he would receive no comfort from God’s hand. God would let his son die, the son he loved. The son He proclaimed with a chorus of angels. The son he opened up the heavens for at his baptism. The son he comforted in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. No, they are not even close to being the same thing. But I wonder if the ache I feel is even a teeny- tiny bit the same as what God felt giving up His son. I am “giving Hayleigh up” for her betterment. God gave Jesus up for ours, for mine, for us dust.

When I start wondering if God cares about me, what I am going through, I just have to look to Calvary. Yes, I am dust. He made me from dust and to dust I will return. How much more awesome does that make my salvation?! I am but dust. I could not accomplish anything on my own. I needed a Savior. And out of His great love, and for His great glory God sent  one. He redeemed the dust. He redeemed me. The very God who breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7), the very God who “If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust” (Job 34:14-15), that very same God chose to give up His son to rescue me.

And He hasn’t forgotten me.

“As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children
 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.”
Psalm 103:13-18

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 
 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

That is Easter. Easter is the “therefore” I live by.

These thoughts are what I am meditating on this week. I am embracing the brevity of life, the fragility of life. I am embracing how frail and feeble I am. I am embracing that I am but dust. It puts things into perspective. It causes things to make sense (and not just the dust accumulating in the corners and crevices of my house). Knowing I am dust makes Easter so much more meaningful. It makes His love that much more powerful. It makes His sacrifice that much more nonsensical. It makes His victory that much more essential. It makes my heart rejoice that much more. And knowing He remembers that I am dust, that he calls me, the dust, to approach His throne with confidence , makes everyday that much more joy-filled. It is all the difference.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

founts and streams of blessing


The other day it broke 50 degrees here and since our fevers had also broken (for the time being), we decided a walk in the fresh air was an imperative. So we saddled up our mini-van and headed for a nearby park to try out our rusty monkey bar skills and dodge mud puddles. Some of us were better than others at that last part.

It is amazing how 50 degree air can feel like a summer breeze when you have been stifled by stale indoor air for the past 5 months. How freeing to be able to walk outdoors with your head up, your shoulders down, and your eyes open-rather than having to assume the “winter hunch and squint” we have become accustomed to. My shoulders literally felt lighter as I wasn’t tightening every muscle in my body in an attempt to hold in body heat and brace myself against the icy winter gusts. The kids laughed and ran and swang and slid and watched ducks swim on giant puddles in the grass. Royce got her first playground experience where she was free to climb, fall and eat wood chips all by herself. Oh the freedom and happiness of Spring!

As we were making our leisurely way back to our car we walked over a little bridge. Below was a stream, rushing fast and brown with the newly melted snow. I took a stick and tossed it in. I showed the kids how fast the current went. Then they took turns tossing sticks in too, along with handfuls of dead leaves and pine needles. They were amazed at how quickly the stream swept the sticks away, down the stream and soon out of sight. To be honest I was kind of surprised too. It wasn’t until we tossed a stick right in the middle of the stream that I saw how strong and fast the current really was. We experimented by throwing sticks into the sides of the stream. The current was not as strong there. The sticks didn’t move as quickly, and sometimes they would end up getting stuck in the roots of trees growing along the banks of the stream. The kids quickly discovered that the best place to toss a stick was right in the middle of the rushing stream.

After leaving, and since for the past few days, I cannot get that stream out of my head. I keep seeing the sticks being carried away by the current. And I keep singing this song to myself:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
mount of God's redeeming love
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
 
I keep catching myself at the line that says “streams of mercy, never ceasing”. It has never before been the most profound lyric of this familiar song. But after spending a few minutes watching the stream, it has new meaning to me. I think of the current of the stream in the park. I think of how fast and strong and constant it was. I think of how the sticks were carried away by it, directed by it. I think of how the middle of the stream was the “best” place to be.
 
Oh, how I long to find myself carried away and directed by the strong current of the mercy and grace of my Savior. Oh, how I need to be right in the middle of it. I could never make it up-stream without it. I would get tangled in the distractions, ensnared by my sin. No, I need to be right in the middle of the stream of God’s unceasing mercy. I am truly a great debtor to grace, every day. I cannot live without it. I cannot move forward without it. It carries me.
 
I am learning more about what his mercy and grace is. He is “tuning my heart to sing His grace”, which is in itself grace. I see grace clearly on the cross, on “the mount”. I can get so distracted and bogged down by the troubles of this life. I can be blinded to the daily grace He gives me. Even in the troubles He draws me closer to Himself: grace. To be able to see the circumstances I face (the ones I would never want to ever dream of facing but yet I face), to be able to see even those circumstances as grace, is the truest gift. Anything that pulls me away from myself and towards my God is grace. Any piece of Him is something I do not deserve. So, grace. Streams of grace and mercy shower me and pull me and direct me. And I find myself carried away by them. Rather than feeling out of control I feel free. Free to surrender to the power wiser and stronger than I. Why fight the current? Why spend so much time wading into the side of the stream, afraid to be swept away? Why paddle slowly along the side fighting against the snares, exhausting so much energy, yet moving so slowly? No, I want to dive right into the middle. The mess that I am, the mess that my life can be, needs nothing less than the middle-the middle of grace and mercy. Whenever I feel stuck, whenever I feel paralyzed by fear or sin or circumstance, whenever I lose sight of the cross, whenever I stop kneeling at the foot of it, I will pray to find my way back to the center of the rushing stream of God’s mercy and grace.
 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

B is three!

 
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Last month Braxton turned three. Hard to believe. I feel as though people prepare to have their lives drastically changed when they have their first child. And for Hayleigh, we were, both prepared and changed. Maybe that is why I am continually amazed at how much Braxton, our second born, has changed me. Just as I am often amazed at how someone who has only lived three years on this planet can teach me so much, as he holds my heart in his hands.
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This kid. How many times a week do I say that? I find myself shaking my head at his antics. Stifling smiles at the adorable things he says when he tries to act like a 3 foot tall grown-up. I mutter in aggravation under my breath. I laugh out loud. I pray prayers pleading for patience, prayers begging for wisdom and prayers where my heart spills out tears of gratitude: “This kid.” He fills voids. He is a void-filler. He fills up a room with personality , fills up a silent moment with the adorable sound of his voice. He fills up my lonely, sad moments with his affection: a kiss right on the lips, or a hug with his soft, pudgy cheek pressed against mine. He fills up the tension with laughter, the mundane with the unexpected, the complex with his simple way of seeing things, the lackluster with exuberance, and my heart with oh-so, so much joy. He fills me up. Which is good because so often he empties me out too. This kid. This boy of mine.

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There is just something about Braxton. It is as if God wrapped him up, him and his curiosity, his independent thinking, his exuberance, his passion, his affection, his sensitivity, his imagination. God mixed up the most complex yet the most simple concoction. He wrapped him up inside of me like a gift and gave me what I never knew I needed and what I never expected. And every day He gives me more. There is so much to this kid, so much to learn and understand. There are so many complexities and contradictions. Yet I find myself immersed in them. Somehow amidst it all, he is simple to me. He hides nothing, leaves nothing for me to guess. He is direct. He is profound. He is a fable, a mystery, a poem in which I find myself lost in the lines of it, despite knowing the rhyme. No one confounds me like B. No one reaches me like he does. He is the simplest complexity, the sweetest contradiction. And oh, how my cup overflows with this kid, this void-filler, this one who doesn’t stop until you are full and spilling over the edges of yourself, with love and joy and emotions- brimming and flowing to fill up the spaces you never knew were there.

And God is teaching me to learn from his vigor, to strengthen my will, to bridle my emotions and let them pour out like a pitcher to where there is thirst.

And I am learning to allow myself to melt into a puddle in front of him, still, quiet, and reflective. And also to be a rock when he needs it, firm and steadfast, not evaporating or vanishing in the heat. I am learning. I am learning more than I thought I would. I am learning there is still so much learning to be done. But I am better for it, and happy with it, if it means I get more moments with this kid.

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This kid who spends his days fighting against imaginary dragons and pirates and giants as big as Goliath. Oh how I pray that I can teach him how to battle the giants of life and the demons within with the same bravery and vigor with which he wields his foam swords. Oh how I pray that I can direct his passion without crushing his will. I pray that the way he gives himself to people, the way he heaps affection on those he loves, will never change. I pray that when he comes to know hurt or rejection or loss (specifically of the ones he loves with abandon) that He will be the better for it. I pray that he will not let it take away pieces of him so that he becomes less, so that he becomes guarded and holds back. I pray that he will emulate Christ in pouring himself out for the ones He loves, giving himself to people with no thought for what he will get in return or how much of himself he may lose in the process. One thing Braxton has taught me is not to ration myself. This is an area in which I still have so much to learn. I pray that I am a good student so that if he ever needs to be re-taught I can instruct and guide him in how to empty himself for others, sharing his contagious joy and affection. And I pray I can direct him to the One who will fill him back up to overflowing.

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I pray for him that he will be a leader- full on conviction, courage and bravery. But not the kind of mock bravery that hides behind a mask, rather the kind of bravery that faces the hardships of life and the struggles within, with humility, vulnerability and trust. I want a son who is brave enough to be weak, who is brave enough to admit his weaknesses so in Christ he can be strong. I want a son who is brave enough to let the Bible define for him what ‘manhood” is and courageous enough to pursue it (with the help of God), despite failures and setbacks. I want a son brave enough to be pure, brave enough to flee from legalism, brave enough to let God set the course of His life, brave enough to let God chisel him into the mighty man He made him to be. So I pray for these things. All of these things. All of these things I want for my son I also want for myself, and I had better because how else could I ever hope to instill them in him, this kid?

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Right now it is all pirates and knights “-gah-wuds” (guards) and “sow-uds” (swords). Right now the only letters he wants to know are “B” for Braxton and “J” for Jayna. Right now he chooses one consonant to start a word with, even if the word begins with two  or three (shopping=sopping, sprinkle=pinkle, shoes=sooes, chicken=ticken, cracker=cacker etc.) Right now he refuses to take an afternoon nap and gets so cranky and beside himself by four o-clock that we usually spend the next hour cuddled up on the couch. I love that right now he will still fall asleep on me. I love that he says cuddles are one of his favorite things. I love the excuse to sit and “do nothing” but listen to his steady breathing. Right now he will still come up out of nowhere and grab my face so he can plant a slimy kiss right on my lips. Right now he will physically and verbally assault his sisters for a spot on my lap. Right now Ursula from the Little Mermaid scares him so he watches from the door to the living room, peaking in through his fingers. Right now taking a walk, not holding onto the stroller and gathering sticks so he can “do wo-wuk” (work) pretty much makes him a big deal. Right now marshmallows are heaven sent like manna and as precious as gold. Playing with Hayleigh, even if it means being her puppet on a string, her errand boy or her audience is the highlight of his day. Right now he still wraps her in a big embrace every time she goes to preschool. Right now he wants to sleep curled up with his elephant lovey given to me before he was born. Right now he vacillates back and forth between wanting “pivacy” going to the bathroom and needing a “potty helpuh”. Right now he will regularly stop whatever he is doing to  squeeze Royce's cheeks until he leaves fingerprints and say “ooooh tubby-tubby-tubby  (chubby) Roycie Boo-boo” . Right now doing manly things with Peter, like shoveling snow, is a good way for him to exercise his muscles. Right now he will regularly say “I am not Bwaxton! I am _____” and won’t answer to anything but his new alias.  Right now he says "I don't fe-wuhl we-wuhl" every time there is something he doesn't want to do. Right now he has trouble falling asleep unless someone is next to him. Right now he thinks Pop is the greatest because he is a rock star and Papa is the best because he knows how to make pizza-in his house! Right now he and I will pray together "so God can he-wulp (him) make a good toice (choice) even when it is ha-wud (hard)".  Right now he goes back and forth between being excited to join Ms. Patty's preschool class in the fall and "nevuh wanting to leave (me) and nevuh letting me go". Right now he wants to marry me. He is a prince and a king and a pirate and a knight and a basketball player and a baker and a rock star and a digger man and a performer and not a big strong man anymore, "just a littuh boy gwowing up".

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Right now he is little, though he insists that he used to be little (remembuh when Hayleigh and I did _____when we wuwuh  little, but now we awuh big?). I know all I am promised is right now. Sometimes that paralyzes me. I am not promised tomorrow with my Braxton. And even if  we are blessed with many, many tomorrows the reality is that I do not know they hold. I do know though that they will bring change. I do know that they will bring moments of joy and moments of trouble-as the Bible promises. So really, all  we have is right now. I have right now, which I pray will become a string of “right nows”, to love and lead my children, to point them to eternity. It is so easy to either get stuck drowning in the logistics of right now, or to get overwhelmed by the future and how quickly time goes. I need God’s help to use the right now, to view it as a blessing and an opportunity, to instill some of the ideals I have for Braxton in Braxton. Because pretty soon  the right now I am living in will be the distant past. I hope and pray that the right now Braxton is living in then will be positively influenced by the way I choose to live all the right nows before it. I never want to forget the little boy he is right now. I never want to lose the parts of him that are naturally his-the untainted way that God made him to be. Part of me wants to hold onto this part of him forever. But the other part of me is in awe of the person that he is and is just so excited to see the plans God has for this little man of mine. I am often humbled by him, my heart enlarged with pride by him, my being bursting with joy because of him. I know that in the years to come he will amaze me. I know that just as King David or Daniel or Joshua did before him, that when he chooses to fight for God’s team, when he puts down his play swords for the sword of the Spirit,  he will be more than a conqueror-a true hero, a warrior for our Lord.

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Right now he is watching having a rest time and watching Peter Pan with his sister. I look in at him. His little lounge working back and forth on his lips. He is entranced by this favorite movie. He is three. That is what we have right now. And right now, I am amazed and so grateful.

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Just as I did with Hayleigh I asked Braxton some questions:

What is your favorite animal? Deers, wild animals and zoo ones. I see them at Miss Julie’s house.
What is your favorite color? Blue and green
What is your favorite food? soup, quesadillas, and corn bread, and bananas,  and pancakes, and veggie sticks, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and honey, and chocolate, and pizza, and apples…I like a lot of food
What is your favorite movie? Peter Pan because all the guys have swords! on guard! and Robin Hood
What is your favorite toy? Pirate Ship and toy swords and belts
What do you want to be when you grow up? A cookie man who bakes cookies
What is your favorite song? A pirate one!
What is your favorite book? A pirate one!
Where is your favorite place to go? to goldilocks (??) to see Jayna
What is one thing you want for your birthday? Transformers from Mac
What will be different about being three? Pirate things! And I am older and get to got Hop Pot (Hot Spot at church).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring is coming

So, February is birthday month around here. Actually my SIL whose birthday is on or around Thanksgiving starts of what I have dubbed “Birthday season” (or perhaps more accurately: the most wonderful time of year where all of our muffin tops expand, all of our blood pressures rise and all of our bank accounts are empty). Between the end of November and the end of February we celebrate 8 birthdays in our family (with 4 of them being in our nuclear family) as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. February is also the time of month where I get super emotional and nostalgic. I look at old pictures. I text Peter to warn him that my annual breakdown is scheduled for tonight at 8:02. I give my kids too much sugar and cuddle with them in their beds when they are supposed to be sleeping because I just can’t say no. I consider hiding them in closets and I Google the punishment for truancy.  Or, even better than closets are those little houses that baby cows live in so they won’t grow and will remain nice and tender. Just how I like my meat, and my kids, tender. So yeah. That is my February now, 5th annual actually. (And apparently this year, March as well.) You know, all the normal stuff. But really though, they should make those cow houses for kids. I am working on a prototype. .When my kids stop having plump, soft cheeks and my last kid’s last leg roll vanishes, my sanity might vanish along with it. Peter, you have been warned.

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I have already documented Hayleigh’s birthday on the blog. Braxton’s is coming. I am a little behind. It also means these photos in this post are out of chronological order. A no-no for me. I actually sat down intending this to be a post about B’s 3rd birthday but it morphed into something else. So instead of terrorize future Braxton with my emotional and clingy ramblings, I decided to let this post go where it will. I prefer to terrorize my kids by forcing my love and affection on them in person, thank you, not as much in my writing…maybe…kinda. So, B’s birthday summary post is coming some time before he turns 4 (oh gosh, 4! ah! make it stop!). And this post is, well, whatever this post turns out to be.
The other day it was a balmy 46 degrees. A regular heat wave. We actually went outside for a walk that lasted longer than around the block (or if I am being honest around the mini-van as I scream, shiver and buckle wiggly bodies into their harnesses). We wore light jackets. Light jackets. You know winter coat 2.0.. The things we get to wear for about 3 weeks out of the year in Fall and Spring (otherwise known as pre and post winter, the book end seasons.) In Rochester the appropriate weather for a light jacket is anything about 40 degrees and anything below 48 degrees. Once it reaches 49 people wear shorts and t shirts. And once it reaches 49 degrees for more than 3 days in row people open their pools. And once it reaches 49 degrees for more than a week in a row people complain about the heat. Rochestarians. Anyway, it was 46 degrees, light coat weather, basically a tropical island. We look a nice, long walk. The kids played outside without being so bundled up in “snow gear” that we had roll them where they wanted to go. Despite the fact that there was still somewhere between 3-6 inches of snow on the ground it felt downright tropical. I mean Hayleigh did see a few patches of grass which prompted her to nearly hyperventilate with excitement as she shouted that it was “almost green!” As we walked we smelled hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill. We saw people sitting out in lawn chairs (in the almost green spots). I kid not.
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It got me thinking about perspective. I mean when 46 degrees feels like such a heat wave that the neighbors are grilling in t-shirts and you take your 15 month old out for an hour long walk in just a hoodie, perspective is clearly in play. To one of those people from California (not sure I have ever actually met one of those people) 46 degrees is a Tundra. Perspective.
 
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Because I like to over-think everything, I decided to stretch this line of thinking just a tad further. I decided to apply it to my present situation. I can chose to bemoan the fact that my kids are growing up, and try as I might I can’t stop it. (Just wait for the baby cow house prototype though. Its a comin’.) Or I can revel in the moments that I have. Savor them. Store them away in my heart. Write them down. Snap some pictures. But mostly just let them absorb into my being and with a sigh know they are fleeting, but the joy they bring me is not.

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I can chose to dwell on the heartache our family is going through. I can chose to look at my dad and see what is already gone. Or I can chose to see all that he still has, all that  we still have by having him here. I can see the amazing opportunity we have to say good-bye with no regrets. And I can stop being paralyzed and hiding away from the storm of life. I can actually live these days with no regrets.

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I tend to be a hider. When it comes to fight or flight, I fall very comfortably in the flight category. I tend to flee even before the danger comes. I don’t run away as much as I burrow. I hide. I hide behind being busy. Behind shallow preoccupations. Behind my smile. And when I just don’t have it in me to do that anymore I just hide behind closed doors and under my covers. I am not proud of it. I guess I just don’t know how to grieve. I guess I just don’t know how to be okay when things are not okay. It is something God and I are working on together. But because I am a big old fleeing retreating burrower it is taking longer than it probably should. God has to keep chasing me down, pulling away whatever I am hiding behind and chiseling away at me. It often leaves me raw. Which is another reason I opt for flight instead of fight. I am weak when I am weak. Profound I know. I am learning to be strong when I am weak, in His strength of coarse. But it is a process. It takes a while. This whole perspective thing can very easily get all out of wack for me. I can very easily hid under the covers instead of calling my dad on the phone. It is easier to wrap my wounds up and hide them, rather than wrapping my arms around my dad and crying together, or just talking.

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But I, we, have been given this gracious gift from God. We have been given the opportunity to live the rest of my dad’s life with no regrets. Nothing needs to be left unsaid. Nothing needs to be left undone. Instead of being paralyzed by that, instead of fleeing from that and burrowing inside my self-made cocoon, I choose to act. I choose to take a step. I choose to retreat to the arms of my Heavenly Father and wrap His layers of love around me. I choose to mourn and grieve but not in such a way that it steals my joy and steals our days, just as winter and cabin fever do. I am going to step outside. I choose to view the snow and slush of life as necessary evil on the pathway to spring. Hey, there is even some good in snow, some charm to be found there. And believe me I will find the charm, find the fun, find the joy amidst this seemingly never-ending winter. Because I know the hope that “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5).  I know that “weeping may endure for a night, but the joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b) I know. The depths of my soul clings to this truth. Spring is coming. And I might be wrong, but I like to think it will seem even more beautiful because of the winter.

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“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:6-11

Hayleigh’s 5th Birthday

Last month (already!) Hayleigh turned 5 years old. 5! I feel as if I have never been without her, as if she has always been a part of me. I struggle to remember myself before knowing her and being her Mommy. Yet, I sit in amazement (and tears) at how quickly the past five years have gone! I look at her, getting all tall and long-legged, and wonder “when did this happen?! When did we have a big kid?!” She will go to Kindergarten next year. It is a 5 day a week, full day program. I don’t really know how we are “here” already-with a school age kid-but somehow time keeps going and I keep being amazed at the little people I get to spend my days with.

Since I am flooded with emotions and thoughts lately (and every year at this time: birthday season), and since I am very “behind” on keeping up with this blog I decided not to attempt a long letter to each of my birthday kids (Braxton being next). It seemed too intimidating right now which I why I have been putting it off. So instead I figured I would just jot, or type, some blurbs and random thoughts to each of my kids, starting with the one who made me a Mommy: my sweet, beautiful Hayleigh Grace.

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Some of your favorite things: The movie Frozen. On your actual birthday I took you and your best friend Brynlee to see the Frozen sing along movie in theaters. You had a Frozen themed birthday party with your friends from school and church. You have pretty much the entire Target toy aisle of Frozen toys now. Apparently your favorite color is blue now-because of the movie. Nearly every day you ask me when we can buy the DVD (not out yet) and if we can watch the songs on You Tube. I usually don’t mind because I secretly (or not so secretly) am obsessed with the movie as well.

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Crafts and coloring. Playing elaborate pretend games with Braxton-usually restaurant, or birthday party, or recently Robin Hood or Pirates. (You are always the most feminine and delicate character.) Royce. Yep. She is still one of your favorite things. She can do no wrong. You love to squeeze her face and do “nosies” or try to pick her up (really just pull her back on your lap and put her in a choke hold until she has to scream and punch her way out).  You sing lullabies to her in your shared room at night (usually Frozen ones). You get excited every time she does something new and have asked for months if she is a “tobbler” now. I know I should correct you and say toddler but I want to hold onto the few things you still say wrong because it reminds me you aren’t quite as big as you like to act.

 

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You are full of questions about God and Satan and Heaven and Hell. You get very bothered and emotional whenever we talk about or read about Jesus dying on the cross, and then very elated when we get to the resurrection. You are so moved. It is as if you are living through it fresh each time. I have tried to learn from you on this one. Not a day goes by that you and your brother are not asking me spiritual questions. You have taken it upon yourself to ask the kids at school if they go to church, if they believe in God or Santa or Satan (still working on the Santa thing…but Daddy and I may have made a breakthrough with the help of some props including a parmesan cheese shaker the other night at dinner. If you are in your twenties and still thinking of Christmas every time you eat spaghetti this may be why.) You even told some kids that they are going to hell. Yeeeah…working on that one too. I love your passion though. I love the faith of a child. The reasoning of a child. The urgency of a child. The honesty of a child. We could all use more of that. You though, you could use a little more tact. Maybe by the time you are six. hehe. I love that God and spiritual things are some of your favorite things. I love that the truth of God’s word is what you want to filter life through. Oh how I pray that never waivers!

 

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A few questions I asked you: favorite song? My God is #1 (from Hot Spot)

favorite animal? piggies and those birds that are pinkish… me: flamingos? you: yeah. Cuz they’re pink.

favorite color? pink and purple and coral (this was before it was apparently blue)

favorite food? pancakes, tacos and taco mac and strawberries

favorite movie? Frozen!

favorite toy? mostly my Disney princess dolls and my Sofia doll and my Felicity Doll

favorite book? The Jesus Bible and Princess and the Pig

favorite place to go? my preschool

What do you want to be when you grow up? A virtue and a bakery who bakes dinners and desserts and a Mommy and a teacher.

What you want for your birthday? Frozen things and a flutterby fairy

How will it be different to be 5? I will get to wear earrings all the time and get my ears pierced.

 

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Some of my favorite things about you: Your spirit. You have such a tender, sensitive spirit. You are intuitive, compassionate and wise beyond your years. I think sometimes you sense and feel more than you are capable of understanding and managing. Your feelings and perceptions are older than you are. Don’t shy away from your feelings. Don’t hide from the things you are able to pick up on. We need to learn how to manage them, together. It will probably always be somewhat of a challenge for you, but I see this an an incredible strength, a gift from God. He wired you to be able to care for people in a wonderful way. You can sense their needs, beyond the surface. That, coupled with your genuine love and compassion for others, gives you a unique and beautiful ability to love others as Jesus did. You often inspire me. What I have to discipline myself to do comes so naturally to you. I love that about you. I pray I can nurture it in you and that you never lose your ability to see others and put others first.

 

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Your imagination and creativity. You are always dreaming something up. A party, complete with decorations, invitations, a menu, a schedule etc. A wedding dress and bridal party. A game that you get so entranced in, it consumes all of you attention and energy. I see so much of myself in you in this area. As a little girl I remember being so captivated by my own ideas and games that they seemed so real And I wanted them to be real. And for moments in time, they were. I still find my mind spinning with more ideas than I can juggle. Sometimes it paralyzes me. Sometimes it excites me. Sometimes it frustrates me. Sometimes it fuels me. I know you are the same way. You are always asking me if you can make something or throw a party or some other big, elaborate idea. You even have mental lists of all the things that are spinning around in that brilliant brain of yours. I love your passion for your ideas. I love your passion for life. I love to see you creating and imagining. It brings me back to a time where I thought nearly anything was possible. I don’t want to crush that in you. Some day God will use your talents and exuberance and endless ideas to do big things.

 

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Your leadership capabilities. A year ago I may not have said this, but you have grown so much the past year. You are a leader socially, here at home and also at school and church. You are much more confident and outgoing. You are friendly and enlivened by social settings. At times there are still insecurities that sneak in and come out to me. I love being able to hash through them with you and give you simple solutions that you get so excited to implement. Because we are so alike I hope to be able to guide you as one who has been there before. I know you have to learn some things for yourself, but hopefully I can point you in the right direction and hold your hand along the path as you need it. I want to give you the tools so that your leadership ability flourishes, so that you are confident enough to not follow the wrong people in the wrong directions, but rather lead people the right way-even if sometimes it is unpopular or you feel as though you are leading no one but your own wandering heart. It isn’t easy to have people look up to you, I know. It is a weight and burden we may feel we never asked to carry, but I hope to help you carry it with grace.

 

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These things about you are characteristics that are true of you now, at five years old, but will also be true of you however old you are when you read this. These are characteristics that God created in you. And He created me as your Mommy to first see them in you (to see how God wired you), to help you see them in yourself and to channel and direct them in the right direction. Our greatest strengths can easily become our biggest stumbling blocks if we do not harness them, if we do not use them for good-for God’s glory. I have seen this in my own life and in the lives of many others. My prayer is that you are confident in how God has made you and thankful for the gifts that He has given you. I pray also that you will be determined to not be controlled by your personality but to direct your strong abilities as you serve God, that you will learn how to have your emotions, your sensitivity, your compassion, your intuition, your creativity, your imagination and your leadership work for you (and for God) and not against you. That you will control them and not the other way around. This is so difficult, knowing and controlling yourself, especially when you are wired to be such a thinker and a feeler. But my sweet girl, God knows. He made you this way. He thinks it is beautiful. He has a plan and a purpose for you. Consult Him. Consult the maker and the author and the sustainer. And consult me and Daddy. We are your biggest fans and want to be your biggest allies and helpers on this winding journey. We love you. Every piece of you. Nothing could ever make us stop loving you.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

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You are my jewel, my precious Hayleigh-Girl. My little Momma. My sweet Angel. You filled a hole in my heart-one I always knew was there,. one I begged God to fill but didn’t know the answer. He knew. He knew that it would take a 9lb sweet cheeked girl born at 11:42 on February 11, 2009, to fill my arms and fill my heart. You are on of God’s greatest, greatest gifts to me. So many of my smiles begin with you. So many of my passions and visions of the future are about you. I consider myself blessed beyond what I deserve to be your Mommy. It is all I ever dreamed of, and yet better than I could ever imagine. You are a beautiful person inside and out, my love. I am not just saying that. I believe it as strongly as almost anything. Your beauty radiates to all who know you. I am proud to call you my daughter. Sometimes I still find myself catching at that word, “daughter”. You are my dream and wish and prayer incarnate. My heart walking outside my body. I ache with love for you. 

 

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Happy 5th birthday to both of us-the anniversary of the day we met, the day you took your first breath, the day I became a Mommy. Ever since then I have felt as if I am in the groove, living the purpose god intended for me. And it is all tied up in you, in that day that our lives became intertwined. I love you more than I can say, my sweet girl. And I always, always will.

Love, Mommy

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