Monday, November 15, 2010

Run for Your Eternal Life

I posed the question to myself recently, “If you could choose one word to describe yourself what would it be?” And the only answer I could surmise was, “Defeated.” Simply stated, I am losing. I’m losing the battle for sleep. I’m losing battles with my children on an almost daily basis. I’m definitely losing the battle of the bulge. And I’m sure to lose what little I have left of my mind any day now. There is no pit boss belting out my name in response to, “Who’s the big winner?” I’m more likely to be the one face down in the glitter gulch – the big loser, that’s me. Give me an inch, I’ll probably take a centimeter, because that’s about all I’ve got room for right now.

So I think it’s time to stop throwing for the end zone and take a knee. So that’s it. I’m closing my play book and heading to the locker room. And it is at this point my Jesus whispers, “Sweet child, take your hands off your ears and listen closely. I have you right where I want you. Stop pining and check your back pocket. You’ve already won.”

Make no mistake. There’s no white flag of surrender in my rearview mirror. I firmly believe I’m called to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12). But the finish line at the end of the race looks a little different from this angle. There won’t be a gold medal around my neck, only a garland of grace to adorn my head. And there won’t be a trophy engraved with “Best overall,” but rather a book with my name written somewhere around page 6,327. And I will not be the one waving from atop the highest step on the podium. I’ll most likely be the one on my knees, weeping uncontrollably. Yep, the race is pretty clear to me now. I crossed the finish line years ago when I said, “Take my heart.” And I claimed my prize that very same day, a prize I did not deserve, but humbly accepted. The redeeming work of Calvary was and is enough. Let it be, girlfriend! There once was a man who loved His children so much He gave up the one thing any parent simply could not bear to lose. And to this I am called, to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for me. And now I run only because my heart knows no different, because I long for better days, because in my loss, there is great victory.

And the beauty in the race is this. When I look in the mirror and see a big loser, somewhere in the back of my self-deprecating mind, I hear a voice that drowns my own and reassures me, “You are the one Jesus loves.” Oh, to live in that love! To think half as highly of myself as Jesus thinks of me. To feel the joy He feels when His daughter comes running home and falls into His arms begging for mercy, forgiveness, and rest. I have always fancied myself the prodigal’s daughter, testing boundaries, pushing limits, and going it alone until I finally make my way home again. And then it weighs on me like a forty-three pound toddler, “Why am I running again?” I have already won. I received my prize a long, long, long time ago, on a hill, by a tree, where I met my first love, my Savior, my Jesus. Game over!

Heavenly Father, bless my friends and family with perseverance and rest, strength and weakness, joy and pain. Reassure them that though the faces they see in the mirror might not seem appealing, you see them as flawless, as you intended them to be. Amen.

Remember, if only for today, YOU ARE THE ONE JESUS LOVES!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dazed & confused...but slightly encouraged

I was highly encouraged by a guest speaker to my MOPS group this morning whose words gently reminded me that I hold the keys to both my husband and my children’s hearts. Let me get this straight. I am not only charged with feeding, clothing and meeting the basic needs of bubba and the princess, but I am also responsible for the maintenance and care of their souls as well. Ugh! Of course, at the end of the day they will rest safely in the palm of my Heavenly Father’s hand, but in the interim, little ole me has the power to make or break their spirit in a thousand different ways. I am the guardian of their tender little hearts. What a terrifying thought! I might even go so far as to say that it feels a bit burdensome. So as I ponder the way I have raised my children thus far I am left with no other option than to throw up my hands in shame and disgrace and cry, “Dear Lord, what on Earth were you thinking?!”

Psalm 8:3-5 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

And who am I that you find me even vaguely capable of molding and shaping your precious little ones into fully functioning adults, putting their faith and trust in you always and seeking your face all the days of their lives? I mean, are you kidding me? Most days I can barely muster the wherewithal to brush my own teeth let alone find the time, patience, and at the very least desire to not irreparably damage my children for all eternity. The responsibility of “training my children in the way they should go” weighs so heavily on my heart and chest I can barely breathe, but for some reason you have planted these seeds in my life and deem me worthy and capable of watering them on a daily basis. And so, I humbly, but more often hesitantly accept the challenge and set about on this journey of motherhood once again, and today, Thursday, October 14, 2010 (one for the record books) I believe I may have actually done more good than harm to these two little munchkins that sit before me watching Alvin and the Chipmunks as if they were Jesus, Mary, and Joseph themselves.

There is something very profound that occurs when God assembles a group of ten women with very different upbringings, ideas and temperments and they each exude the courage to be vulnerable and honest from the get go, laying their souls bare for each other to examine. A divine appointment, if you will. And so I have been more than blessed today by my new girlfriends whose willingness to share parts of themselves they find unsavory at best touches my heart on the deepest level. I have always been a bit of an over-sharer myself, lacking the filter that says, “Hold that one back for awhile. You don’t want to scare them.” But I truly believe my ability to get to know others is solely based on my ability to let myself be known. If I get real with them, they feel a sense of relief and comfort knowing they can get real with me. Perhaps the fear of judgment is left out of the equation and the playing field is leveled. Needless to say, I left my group this morning feeling rejuvenated and encouraged, ready to spend some quality time with my babies, investing in their souls, if only for a few hours before naptime.

We built a fort in the living room and plopped ourselves down on a tower of pillows to watch a movie. And there on the floor, snuggled by my side, my darling PJ turned his precious face to me and whispered, “Momma, I like you. I had a great day.” My heart wept. What have I done to these children to make an hour on the floor feel like a day at Disneyland? Has my screaming and yelling and lack of patience traumatized them past the point of return or is there hope for me yet? Does God trust me that much with their future choices, actions, path in life, and even success as a husband or wife? Or at the heart of the matter, am I really just responsible for their general well-being and how they feel about themselves at the end of the day? I’m not sure which idea scares me more. I think I’d like to use a lifeline. Hello, Jesus, are you there? Help a mother out, would ya? These kids are going to need all the help they can get. So here I sit, praying for a miracle and feeling overwhelmed. And once again, with nowhere left to turn but back...all the way back to the beginning, the Bible.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

I’m going to try to break this down to the most fundamental level. My hope, my help, the wisdom, the patience, and the power to love my children and care for their souls comes from above. How blessed my children would be if I daily tapped into the Heavenly resources that so freely await me anytime I ask. Why is it that the “doing” is not quite as difficult as the “remembering to do?” I can remember to put gas in the car and change a diaper every few hours, but remembering that my babies hang on my every word and look to me for security and acceptance is far too great a task. What a sad, sad world I’ve created for myself. The power to become the mother I so desperately long to be God says is already within me, a treasure found in a jar of clay, cracked and flawed to let the light of a loving Father shine through for the world to see. I guess that’s a visual aid I can wrap my hands around. You know, the Bible speaks of clay again in Isaiah, as God is described as the potter and we, putty in His hands, so to speak.

Isaiah 64:8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Really, Father, really? I am putty in your hands, ever-changing, far from perfect and now I am expected to be the potter and take a spin on the wheel, molding my children from the ground up? Most days I’m lucky if I can carve a donut out of a can of neon pink Play-Doh and now I’m supposed to turn these two little mini-me’s into priceless works of art? God has quite a sense of humor, but I’ve heard it said that He does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called. So again, I wipe the cobwebs from the jar of clay collecting dust on this shelf I call my heart and offer up this simple prayer. I can only hope to someday fashion treasures not perfect and refined as we will someday be, but loved and loving, worn and weathered, flawed just enough to let the beauty and wonder of your love shine through for all to see. The treasure we claim in our jars of clay is not the work of our hands we pridefully exhibit to a world hungry for success, but the work of the cross we humbly preach to a world thirsty for redemption.

I woke up this morning pondering what lessons I would teach my children today and found instead, that I am learning more from them on this journey than they are from me. In their eyes, I’ve seen fear and anxiety, anticipation of what their day will look like based on my mood. I’ve seen the reflection of a tired, worn down, impatient girl longing for some quiet time who now understands that I am no longer just the clay, I am a potter as well. I am a sheep and a shepherd. I am a child and a mother. I am a canvas and an artist. There is one thing my children did learn from me today though. I taught them that their mommy has a lot to learn, but she is a humble “student,” a blank slate, an empty page, and God is the author and perfector of her faith.

Lord, teach my babies that though their mommy is finite, You are infinite – in wisdom, in love, and in boundless grace. Amen.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Stuff on my kids #2

Oops! I missed one and how could I forget this...

But while I'm at it, the bear suit made an appearance way back in January.

More to come...

A New Series

Allow me to "steal" an idea, if you will. I've come across several recent blogs in which the author has created a series to which they add when an opportunity arises. One friend blogs occasionally about "things she loves," my sister told me about a blogger who consistently writes about "things he wants to punch in the face," and one of my all-time faves is a guy who posts about "stuff on his cat," literally, he takes pictures of his cat with things stuck to it. And so as I thought about a common theme in my life, the only thing that came to mind was my kids' obssessions with trying stuff on. And so, when I say "steal," I mean kindly "borrow" the latter blogger's idea and I will call my new segment, "stuff on my kids."

Allow me to demonstrate with photos of the last several months in which my darling babies have taken their fetishes and ran with them. There is this little ditty in which my beanie babies test out their winter hats.

This gem of my sweet, and let me affirm, very masculine son, bubba.

And of course, the princess getting ready for her debut in the shower.

Ah, but lest I forget the most recent snapshot of little princess testing out her brother's new suit of armor.And thus begins the first of many posts of "stuff on my kids." Let the games begin, folks. Much more to come...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Here's where the story begins

Do you ever ask yourself...

Have I let it sink in, or has it merely scratched the surface? Have I taken stock and counted each and every blessing today? When I tell them “I am the one Jesus loves,” do I live in that love, or am I still pining for it? Have I come to the place of rest in the shadow of your wings, or am I still toiling on the ground? Do I lie awake at night thinking of how I will protect my babies when the enemy comes near, or do I recognize that they are yours and yours alone, entrusted to me for only a short time? Have I surrendered, or am I still behind the wheel? Have I even remotely grasped the magnitude of your power, the abundance of your grace, the depth of your love, and the lengths you would go to – and have gone to – to call me daughter and friend? Have I been changed, as you stand unchanging? Have I forgiven myself, as you have forgiven me and made me pure?

Today was emotionally exhausting in the best way possible. As I listened to the testimony of one you call your own, I heard the pain that still lingers, saw the hope as it unfolded, felt the joy of things to come, and fought back tears. I felt as though I was looking in a mirror and took a good, hard look at where I stand on this journey. A thousand questions came to mind, and though I can’t say I was thrilled with all the answers, I am at peace knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be. Your timing never ceases to amaze me. Lord, you have my heart, you know my story, and I am confident that you will not stop writing until every chapter is complete, every wound is healed, and every tear has been bottled.

Friday, March 12, 2010

When Toddlers Attack

I’ve spent the last month trying to come to grips with the fact that my sweet angel, PJ, has finally fallen into the trap of the “terrible twos” that I was so certain I had miraculously avoided. Now in all fairness, bubba is also contending with an ear infection, lack of sleep, and a somewhat new baby sissy and simply cannot understand why he is no longer the center of everyone’s universe (though I’d like to tell him secretly that he is, indeed, still the center of mine and will always be “my special son”). And so I find myself, once again, dealing with a very strong-willed, stubborn and let’s face it, just plain HUGE physical force that I can no longer control. Let me illustrate. On a weekend vacation visiting with in-laws, we thought it would great fun to visit the aquarium and zoo on consecutive days. Both did not end well. I spent the day at the zoo trying to corral perhaps the wildest animal that place has ever seen. Seriously, even the lions were begging me to remove him. My solace came around 2 o’clock, after a peanut butter sandwich and some chocolate milk. The aquarium did not go quite as well. The trek from the puffer fish to the second level of the parking lot carrying my 42 pound son, kicking and screaming, was made even more enjoyable by the pouring rain and starving baby girl that awaited me in the back seat of the car. And for the third time that week, I locked the doors and waited for close to an hour for PJ to stop fighting and give in. He did not. I climbed in the back seat and held his seat belt closed long enough for the drive home while Grant drove. Those were, however, the worst days thus far (if you don’t count the trip to the pediatrician’s office today, wherein two nurses and myself fought diligently to hold him down long enough for the doc to check his ears and I might have caught every sixth word she said amid the wailing and screaming and repeated attempts to flee the room or at the very least, kill the lights). A typical day, on the other hand, consists of a mere 4-5 meltdowns and numerous attempts to sit on, kick, or knock over the princess for no apparent reason.

I have spent hours upon hours trying to reason with my child, all the while forgetting that even though he uses words like “impressive” and “fortunate” and calls me a “genius” when I suggest lotion for his dry cheeks, he is still a two-year old child. I have spanked and I am not afraid to admit, purely in frustration. I have forced numerous “time outs” to no avail, taken away all of his favorite toys, which I found he really CAN live without, and have locked him in his room and watched incredulously as he broke the childproof doorknob lock off again and again. And now, way beyond my breaking point and purely at a loss, I throw my hands up in surrender and cry, “I give!” You win, my sweet, sweet, boy. You are the master manipulator, the king of the castle and I simply cannot compete.

So here, at the end of my rope, I am now seeking the advice of professionals. My pediatrician had little to say on the matter and referred me to a child psychologist who affirmed what I have since discovered on my own. The only way to survive this period is to simply not react. I am currently “attending” to my child (positively reinforcing without instructing or asking questions while we play). I cover my mouth when I feel the urge to cry and instead, find myself laughing. Let’s face it, at times like these, is there really anything else we can do? And I’ve noticed small improvements already. Here’s what I really struggle with. Why do mommies take everything so personally? I have called every friend and mommy I know to vent, hoping all the while to hear them tell me that indeed, I DO have the most difficult and challenging child on the face of the Earth. Believe me, I know there are much worse situations and I am now praying diligently for the sanity and safety of those mommies and their babies. But it just seems that if someone would validate how tough my struggle is at the moment, I might not feel like such a failure as a mommy or that I somehow caused this behavior in my frustrated, little angel of a son. The truth is, I put so much pressure on myself to be a good parent and what I’m failing to realize is that I am a good parent, simply because I love them both so much and have the desire to do right by them. Don’t we all just want happy, healthy, well-adjusted children who will grow up to be the same in adulthood? Don’t we all just want them to love us unconditionally as we love them? And truth be told, don’t we all just want a spa weekend in the Hamptons with the nearest diaper thousands of miles away? I guess what I’m really learning on this journey is that it isn’t about PJ’s behavior at all. It’s really about my response to it and what I am supposed to be learning at the moment. Don’t they say that it’s actually our children who teach us life lessons? So what is it that I am to glean from this challenging period? At the end of the day, I’m not as big of a failure as a mommy as I sometimes feel. I mean, they both still want me 24/7 so I can’t be that big of a downer, right? It is not my job to raise the perfect child. It is my job to love my children the best way I know how and to seek guidance and wisdom from the only one who does love my children perfectly, my Heavenly Father, my hope, my Jesus.

And let me just say, straight from my heart and completely unabashedly, the one thing I have been lacking in my parenting is peace and I have known all along where to turn for that. Emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted, I come on hands and knees back to my first love, back to my Jesus and cannot wait for the intimacy I’ve been missing for way too long. It is time to draw near to the one who’s been waiting to hear from me. It is time to draw upon the strength that will carry me through these trying times. It is time to give my babies what they’ve needed all along – a mommy who loves them so much that she would carry them kicking and screaming ten thousand miles in the pouring rain if that’s what they need to feel her love.

One final thought, the best advice I’ve received so far is to nurture your child’s heart first and the behavior will follow. What a concept, right? So simple and yet so packed with truth and wisdom. And now my “and on the bright side” moment for today…as I was putting the finishing touches on bubba’s PB&J today, he began to scream as usual, “MOMMA, I WANT…” and stopped mid-sentence. He got up and came into the kitchen and quietly stated, “Um, 'scuse me, momma, can you please put my bib on?” My darling little angel is already on the road to recovery, or better stated, I am on the road to recovery and bubba is waving furiously from the sidewalk, waiting for me to catch up.