Sunday, January 30, 2011

Birthday Alley

January ushers in a time period in our family that I fondly refer to as "Birthday Alley." In our immediate family, we each have one birthday every month from January to May (with extended family mixed in a lot, too). Sam totally messed that up, but we'll forgive him. Now that I think of it, I mainly refer to this time as Birthday Alley in my mind, but I'm going to start referring to it as that aloud beginning....NOW.

So, my sweet husband's birthday starts our slide down Birthday Alley on January 17, and it always catches me off guard. Once Christmas is over, I put my mind and life on cruise control for a little bit while I try to get over all the craziness of the holidays. But, next thing you know, I'm staring at the 17th of January totally unprepared. Last year, I improvised. This year, we have Sam. :) (Mama, please forget you read that.)

Chris' birthday is actually celebrated throughout this great nation of ours. School children everywhere thank him for being born since they get a day off of school and everything. Oh, wait. That's not whose birthday they get out for? Either way, it works out well for Chris, seeing as he's a teacher and all. So, for his special day this year, we gave him...a day without us. I know. We're sweet like that. I'm hoping he returns the favor in April. (I'm kidding, of course. I'd never wish for a day without my adoring husband and four amazing children!) To celebrate the big 3-6 (yikes!), he got to go hiking in the leftover ice with his favorite brother-in-law while his (and my)sister-in-law and I took four children out on the town for a day. He was happy and we still only have four children. It worked out well for everyone, I'd say.

I have been intending to devote a blog post to how wonderful he is in honor of his special day, but it's been a couple of weeks now and I still haven't done it, obviously. I just struggle with the words to express how much he means to me. I'm terrible at expressing my love for him (and for most people) in words and when someone is really so wonderful, I hate to take away from that with words that don't do them justice. The greatest compliment I think I can give him is to say that he has been married to me for twelve years now and is still here. He has to put up with A LOT. Seriously. And he does it with so much grace.

We may not be the most lovey dovey couple around. And there are days when we get on each other's last nerve. There are times we're spittin' mad at each other. And days where there's just not much to say. We don't do everything perfectly in our marriage, but that's really what says the most about him. He's a sinner married to a sinner, yet he is a beautiful example of Christlike love. He bathes children endlessly, mops the kitchen floor, washes the dishes, and takes out the trash with hardly a complaint. He stays up late helping me as I frantically try to get all my duties accomplished, refusing to let me go it alone. He cleans the bathroom when I'm pregnant, and many times when I'm not. He goes to work everyday to face gobs of teenagers with attitudes, and does so with a mostly good attitude, to put dinner on our table...and to try to change a few of his students' lives. He has realized that a meager bank account but a full heart is so much better than the other way around. He is faithful to his God and his wife. There is never a day that goes by that I wonder if he'll stick with me...not because I'm so great, but because he is.

So, Happy Belated Birthday, Chris. I hope we celebrate many more together. What can I say? You're the best. I wouldn't trade you for the world.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Breaking the Silence

I have been blogless lately because I have been wordless. I have been struggling with what to say and how to say it, and no matter how hard I tried, God would not give me the words. Anytime I write anything worth reading on here, it is from the Lord. That may sound prideful, but I mean it in the humblest of ways. I have no talent or ability to write anything of value without God showing it to me, from the smallest, silly details of life to the lessons God is showing me through His Word. It was the Lord who prompted me to start this blog, and it is Him who gives me words to write. He has broken His silence, and now so will I.

I sat down a couple nights ago to post on what He's been dealing with me about. I wrote many paragraphs, then just got up and went to bed, frustrated and dissatisfied. It turns out, the lesson was not finished, so it was not ready to share.

Through the holidays, I found myself in one of those pesky spiritual deserts that come along from time to time. I had been reading my Bible and praying, but it was just one of those times of silence from God's end. It seemed that my constant goal of focusing on eternal things was hard to accomplish, because I just couldn't manage to see or hear God at all. I was even becoming vulnerable to the lies and doubts that creep up in my life from time to time and found myself in a battle for my faith...maybe not as desperate as it sounds, but I was longing for the nearness of God.

During this time, I picked up a book again that I have slowly been reading through, The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. (By the way, Tozer rocks in my opinion. I know, I'm not cool enough to use the phrase "somebody rocks" without sounding like a total dork.) In reading about God's omnipresence and His immenence, I found myself pondering the question, "Why do we constantly speak of being near to or far from a God Who is everywhere and in all things?" But Tozer brought an illustration to life for me that I've really been mulling over.

Before we were believers, we were totally in the dark, without the Light of God and the life it brings. We lived in Antarctica in the winter...never seeing the sun. (Okay, please tell me that that is scientifically and geographically accurate. Or, if it's not, just pretend that it is.) Then, that miracle of salvation occurs, and we are reconciled to God and made enough like Him that we can fellowship with Him and know Him. It's as though we've seen the sun in its bright glory and felt its heat for the first time. We are elated. But, for many of us, it seems that we've only moved to Seattle. We benefit from the sun's light and warmth to a degree and we know the sun is just behind the clouds, but it is still blocked. A thick layer of gloomy clouds characterizes the weather on most of our days. We know we should be living as people on the sunny Hawaiian beach, but we are living Christian lives characterized as much by frustration, worry, and even depression as joy and peace.

So, why are we not experiencing the joyous light of God? Why do we feel far from a God who indwells us? Sin, of course. We continue to live such carnal, sin-filled lives that we cannot have consistent, unbroken fellowship with Christ. We are still too much unlike Him to truly experience Him fully. The clouds of sin are blocking out our sun. This takes me to the other book I'm reading, Brokenness by Nancy Leigh deMoss. She's not quite as deep as Tozer, but she makes a simple point. To experience revival and God's manifest presence in our lives, we must be broken.

All of this has lead me to ask God to examine my heart and begin to rid me of the sin that I've allowed to hang out there for so long. I have lightly dismissed so many areas of disobedience, it's no wonder that I don't feel close to the Holy God Almighty. So, as He always does, He showed me one area of disobedience this past weekend. I can say that, as of this morning, I put aside my own will for His and finally obeyed. I cannot state enough the fact that nothing brings a clearer view and a more obvious feeling of the presence of God than brokenness and obedience. He shows Himself, not to those who bring sacrifices and half-heartedness, but to those who are humble, contrite, broken, and obedient.

I have seen with such clarity the evidence of His existence, His hand at work, His goodness, and His personal love for me and others today in a way that I haven't seen those things in a very long time. I have seen so many details, many seemingly unrelated, of the past days, months, and years come together for good and His glory. Obedience brings blessing. I have heard that so many times over the years, but it is true. Not necessarily earthly, spiritual ones, but blessings that really mean something. Blessings that will last forever. Namely, His Presence in a very real way. What greater blessing could there be?

My desire and prayer is to radiate the glory of God in my life. But it is impossible for a mirror to truly radiate the sun's brilliance on a cloudy day. Similarly, it is impossible for us as believers to radiate the presence and glory of God when sin is between us and Him. I'm sure there will be many more sins revealed in my life in the coming days, but I pray that my desire to know His presence and reflect His glory leads me to continued brokenness and obedience before the Lover of My Soul.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:4-5

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Enough is Enough

I am all about some snow. I'm one of these people that gets almost giddy inside at the thought of a snow day. When James Spann starts talking about the possibility, I put up a wall around my fragile heart so that I can protect myself from the inevitable disappointment headed my way. Let's face it. Winter weather events in Alabama usually don't live up to their billing. However, the last few weeks have definitely handed us more of the white stuff than we usually see.

The perfect snow at Christmas was just unbelievable. I didn't even watch the forecast leading up to it, because the disappointment of promised snow not showing up on Christmas would have been too much for me to bear. But it DID show up, and a White Christmas we had! I certainly didn't expect that, just after the kids started back to school, I'd be sitting here looking at Day 4 of Winter Storm 2011. Forget the fluffy stuff of Christmas Day. We're sitting in the middle of an ice skating rink. And I'm ready to hang up the ice skates and get outta here!

I truly wish I could tell you that I am one of these precious mothers who is smiling ear to ear and enjoying every sweet moment of being snowed in with my four little angels and my sweet husband. And I have enjoyed many moments over the past several days. But enough is enough. This house is getting smaller by the minute and there doesn't seem to be any escape. I'm pretty sure I heard the echo of a collective scream coming from the general vicinity of Trussville when the email went out. Snow Day #3. You know I love my kids, right?

The last several days have not been without some significant events around here. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but Luke has been teeteeing in the potty and wearing underwear!! I figured that, as long as we were going to be stuck at home (and Daddy would be around to share in this magnificent experience), we should get serious about this potty training thing. Yesterday was the first time Luke had ever made a deposit in the old porcelain throne, and today I sit here the mother of a two-year-old who has put plenty of urine in the potty! We won't mention the other places he has put urine over the past few days. Just be careful where you sit next time you come for a visit.

I will also take a moment to brag on my husband. No, he hasn't been pottying like a champ. Well, okay, he has, but that's not too impressive considering he's in his mid-30's. He fixed the automatic door on my old, dented minivan so I don't feel like a total redneck whenever we go out and have to go through a 15-step process to unload everyone from the van. And he did it for the price of the part instead of paying five times as much at the mechanic. How's that for a Handy Manny?

I've been working on a spiritually deep and insightful post, which I know you all are looking forward to. (Does anyone actually read those?) But, whenever I'm on the brink of bringing it all together, I find myself being summoned to sit in the bathroom staring at a wee-wee for 15 minutes, pour the 17th cup of juice for the day, let the baby "drink from my tummy," or break up a near fist fight between two little boys who will go unnamed. (It ain't Sam.) So, just as soon as I find 15 minutes to string a few thoughts together, maybe God will poof the final product into my head. 'Cause anything worth writing will come from Him anyway.

One last tidbit of info, for all of you wondering: Sam is currently in his crib in the room with the two other Bond Boys for the first time. And, as I'm typing this, there are multiple boys crying in said room. Can it already be disaster after 45 minutes? Sigh.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Daily Dilemma

It seems that pretty much every day of my life contains some sort of situation or decision that is worthy of the label "dilemma" to me. I'm sure this has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a little bit of a stresser-outer when it comes to basically every aspect of life...from what to cook for dinner to the best college savings plan for our children. (Ha! As if we'll ever save enough money to send four kids to college. The good news is Maddie has at least enough money to cover her books for that first semester. What a relief!)

So, the huge, insermountable, life-altering dilemma in front of me this week is (drum roll, please): Where in the world is this new baby of ours going to sleep? Compared to the majority of the world, we live in a mansion. Somehow, though, to this spoiled American girl, it doesn't seem quite as spacious as I imagine a mansion would be. Factor in three boys in one room, two of whom rarely sleep through the night (that would be one who has never slept through the night and one who does only when the other one gets up four times) and who both also like to make quite a bit of racket before they submit to sleep, and the house seems even smaller.

Seeing as sleep feels like an impossible dream to me right now (you know, like finding 7 million dollars on your front doorstep), I'm doing whatever I can to ensure that it is interrupted as little as possible. Or maybe I'm not, since I'm typing this paragraph at 11:53pm. Okay, maybe I could make a few better choices, but the point of all this is that Sam needs a new sleeping arrangement. The poor child is about to bust out of the bassinet he's in, but his crib is just so far away for this sleepy mama to walk to in the middle of the night when he decides he cannot go on without his snack. Not only that, but the last thing I want to add to a hungry infant at 3am is a grumpy toddler who wakes up and refuses to go back to sleep in his bed. Just for fun, let's add in a five-year-old whose disposition is more dependent on adequate sleep than anyone I've ever known, and you have the potential for a nighttime disaster.

One of our options is to use the pack n' play in our room for Sam. But, honestly, I don't want to look at an ugly pack n' play everyday and the "mattress" is just ridiculously thin and it's hard to gently transfer a sleeping baby down into it without falling in head first yourself.

The next option would be to throw caution to the wind and risk our (uh, that would be MY) precious sleep by throwing Sam in the room with Grumpy and Grumpier and seeing how it all plays out for a few days. That just scares the dickens out of me.

The only other thing we can think of is to do fruit basket turnover with the furniture in our house in an attempt to put the crib in our room. I'll be honest. That just goes against so many of my principles as a parent and a person who likes to be able to say I've spent at least a couple hours a day alone with my husband without sweet monkeys climbing all over us, even if we are sleeping the whole time. I do NOT, repeat do NOT want to have a kid sleeping in our room with us for the next five years. I'm just afraid that somehow we'd never make the transition to Sam joining the Boy Bungalow.

I think the one takeaway from this whole situation would be: I need to try to tone down my over-thinking-everything level just a tad. But, seeing as how that's not likely to happen anytime in this milennium, how about you all (and by you all, I mean all three of you who have taken the time to click on my blog and then been bored enough with your life to read to this point) put your two cents in and help this poor mama make a decision. New options are also welcome, as long as they don't involve buying a bigger house - unless you're willing to make a sizeable contribution to the Bonds Need a Bigger House for All These Kids Fund.)

Help me! Before this funny guy's bassinett collapses underneath him from all his yummy chubbiness.

Am I the only one who thinks he looks like a deranged elf in this picture? Of course, I mean that in the nicest way.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Some Things Just Aren't Meant to Be

I am so disgusted! (What a lovely way to start a post.) I spent I don't know how long uploading Christmas pics to my blog yesterday so that each one of you could share in my family's magical White Christmas, and God saw fit to spare you from the boredom of it all. The autosave didn't work and then our computer froze up, and I had to shut it down without saving anything. Stink, stank, stunk!

Oh, well. I felt a little silly making you all sit through all that tedious stuff anyway (though there were some funny pics of Sam, which I may try to put back on here anyway) when you were either there yourself or you had enough Christmas memories of your own that you certainly don't need any of mine.

So, here's a brief, commemorative Christmas summary: food, presents, two-year-old temper tantrum, spankings, food, SNOW!!!!, food, Sam's first Christmas, a few more presents, and food. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I'm starting a new book on brokenness with my girls' group, and it's pretty fun letting God take his scalpel and dig away at your pride. Doesn't it sound like a barrel of laughs? Obviously, He is starting by not letting my blog be so much about me. Really, what do I have to offer without Him anyway? So, I'll continue with what He gave me to blog about the other day, and it wasn't pictures of rhinestone weiner dogs (I'll explain later) or my kids playing in the snow.

The fam was headed to church Sunday for our first worship service of the new year. We pulled to the end of our street, where we always have to stop and wait to turn on the main road outside of our neighborhood. Chris uttered the simple words, "I've never noticed that house before. It's big." I looked up from whatever I was doing which had drawn my eyes and attention downward and saw a large house up on the hill in front of us. There were lots of trees in front of the house, so in the summer, you'd be unable to see it from the road. Still, I was amazed that we have lived in this house no less than 5 1/2 years, and we had just now noticed this house that sits right outside of our neighborhood.

Immediately, God said, "How many times do you fail to look up, past the trees, and see the eternity I'm preparing for you?" And the answer to that would be: pretty much all the time. I always look forward to times like Christmas, spring break, and summer, when we get to take a break from the craziness of everyday life, but it's not long before I see the need to return to "normal." We spent time indulging in sleep, fun, and food, but after day upon day of that indulgance, I have to be reminded to look up and refocus. It is not sleep, fun, and food that give my life meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. It is Christ alone. How quickly I get preoccupied with all the pleasures and distractions right in front of me, and I fail to notice the future God has for me. I don't look just past the tree and up the hill to focus on the mansion He has for me in glory. That glorious future with Him should be my focus and aim, rather than the empty pleasures of this life.

Don't get me wrong. God blesses us with times of refreshment. But it's not for us to stay in that time. It's to refresh us for the work He has for us. So, rather than bemoan the fact that "real life" must begin again, I need to choose to rejoice that, just beyond the trees and up the hill, I have my real home waiting for me. That needs to be my focus and my heart's desire.

In this New Year, let's take our eyes off of us and this world and focus on the work He has for us to do, which will be totally worth it when we get to spend eternity with Him.

18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:18-21