Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Breaking News...and Breaking Stubborn Wills

At our house, we've been debating the pros and cons of new computer versus old computer and desktop versus laptop. This morning, I've discovered a pro to a laptop. If I wasn't chained to this desktop computer, I could be reporting to you live from the scene of the The Great Muffin Standoff of 2012. As it is, I'll have to take brief breaks from the drama and head in here to give you updates.

This standoff brings back vivid memories of The Great Cereal Standoff of 2009. It's no wonder I'm having flashbacks...same location, same time of day, same problem...a boy child who thinks his breakfast is better off on the floor than in his mouth. Unfortunately for Sam, I'm an experienced mess enforcement officer and he's just a budding toddler. I have secret weapons, like the ability to blog about the whole saga to let off steam, where he is forced to sit in muffin crumbs until he crumbles. Ha!

I reminded Luke of his own standoff which too place approximately three years ago. I was sure it was too long ago for him to remember, but ever since I brought it up, he has disappeared from the scene and is playing quietly in his room. I suppose the memories were too painful after all.

Here are some raw photos, unedited. This is first rate reporting. And, yes, I suppose I could be called a cruel mother for documenting my child's torturous task of cleaning up or for dramatizing the whole event for him, glamorizing his disobedience, but I am seeing this as an opportunity to document reality in order to encourage other mothers of toddlers and to remind myself of the challenges of this stage of life when I'm crying like a baby at my baby's high school graduation. It wasn't all hugs, kisses, and playdates in the sun.

We are now to the ugly cry, snotty stage. He has elected to eat a few of the bigger chunks, but is still stubbornly standing with his hand hovering over some of the remaining mess, refusing to move it 18 inches to the garbage can.

As much as I want to pretend that I am so much more mature than little Sam, this whole episode reminds me that all of us, like sheep, have gone astray. We all still have that stubborn toddler inside of us who is just bent toward disobedience. Doing it God's way would be simpler and have a better outcome, but we'd rather sit in our mess, screaming and snotty, having it our way. Just because.

So, for the next few hours, if you're looking for me, I'll be sitting in the kitchen floor with my child, trying to gently love him into obedience, all the while thanking God for how he gently loves me, his little wayward sheep, back onto the narrow path. That, or I'll be laying beside Sam, swimming in my own tears and frustration.

Good times. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Time for Thanks - Wrapping it Up

Today, I'm thankful that we've had such a fun holiday (I feel like only the British can use that word correctly) that I haven't had the time, or the desire, to break away from it and blog. We had fun and food with the big fam, football with the other side of the fam, and lots of time with just our little fam. As a bonus, we got some good times with good friends as well. The weather has been picture perfect, our tummies have been full of delicious food, and our time has been spent being low-key together. It's so easy to see what I have to be thankful for.

And now, the fun and beauty of fall leads into the sparkle, good times, and celebration of Christmas. Each day, I am more aware that I am living in one of the most special times of my life. These are the years I get to spend every moment with my kids, making memories and pointing them toward Christ. I'm thankful for that opportunity and hoping I can make the most of it.

Though I must admit, it's a little challenging to do so in the midst of all the screaming, crumbs, and laundry, but I'm giving it my best shot. "Kids, be quiet. We're trying to make memories here!"

I must also add that we were about 43 seconds into decorating our first Christmas tree before the first ornament got broken. There's nothing like cleaning up shattered glass to get you in the spirit. Ahhh, the magic of Christmas....

Monday, November 19, 2012

Time for (A Tree of) Thanks

Today, I am thankful for projects followed-through-with and this cute little tree that sits in the center of our kitchen table as a result.

I am thankful for the children who happily thought of what they want to give thanks for.

I'm thankful for the husband who cleaned the kitchen as we crafted (and who made a mean pumpkin dump cake for me tonight).

I'm thankful for the table on which the cute tree sits and the meals that join it there three times a day.

I'm thankful for the fact that we could have filled up more trees than our house could hold with thankful thoughts.

I'm thankful for the letters and pictures that were crafted underneath this tree tonight for our Compassion children, whom we neglect too often.

I'm thankful to know the One to whom all this thanks is given and from whom all blessings flow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Time for Thanks - Lessons Learned

Last week wasn't a great week. I mean, nothing tragic has occurred. Really, it was only a few slightly crummy things that put a damper on the whole week, but sometimes that's all it takes.

Crummy things happen...

I took Maddie to the orthodontist for the first time this week. Then I took her for the second time, because the first time upset me so much that I thought we should just try again. Talk about first world problems! I was in a serious "mood" at the thought of how much I will end up paying for my kids' teeth to look good. I think what put me over the edge was going to the grocery store and buying ground chuck afterward.

Just a tip: When you get less than stellar financial news, just go home and have a hot cup of coffee and relax. Don't go to the store and spend money. Because it just might leave you thinking that it's all over. The economy is in the pooper. You have four kids to raise, four sets of teeth to straighten, and you are probably going to have to eat beans for the next ten years to do it because that dadgum ground chuck is so expensive!

See. Home and coffee.

So we spent the next few days at home, conserving gasoline and eating only the food we'd already purchased. Okay, we really stayed home because there was so much laundry to do and taking Sam in public is a risky venture even on a good day. My hopes were set on Thursday, when I get to go out into the big world and spend most of my day at Bible study, talking to grown-ups while someone else entertains my boys. And this was a special Thursday because my sister-in-law was having the aforementioned surgery and I had plans to go visit her sans preschoolers.

Then the puke happened. It always does.

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. It doesn't always happen, but when it does happen, it feels like it always happens.

So we stayed home again. On the bright side, we saved more gas!

All in all, the main thing that was bad about this week was my perspective and the attitude that went with it. And all this rambling leads me to the point...what I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for the lesson the Lord is slowly teaching my heart. He is showing me the difference between conviction and condemnation. For much of my life, I've confused the guilt and defeat of condemnation with the encouraging push of the Spirit toward better things. While sin is nothing to be justified or brushed under the rug, the Lord desires to help us change, not to leave us feeling like hopeless losers.

I liked this quote from Bob Sorge (I have no idea who that is, but it was in a study I'm doing), which says, "The purpose of the voice of condemnation is to push you away from His presence - that which is the very source of your victory. The purpose of the voice of conviction is to press you into the face of Christ."

So, even though this week feels like one that I'd just as soon forget, I am doing my best to shush the voice that says, "You stink at this whole being a Christian and a decent mom and a loving wife thing. You're never going to get it right." And I'm trying to tune my heart to hear the voice that whispers, "Confess and turn from all this junk. You've made bad choices, but you can start fresh right now. Remember the joy and hope you have in me? I can help you with this. It can all be redeemed."

I still don't know how the Lord plans on paying for braces, or if he does, and I still don't know which doctor to use, and the price of groceries is climbing ever higher, and I got impatient with my kids again today, and puke is likely to happen again (though I'm really hoping it's not for, like, another 72 years), but Jesus will be there for it all. He'll be helping, reminding, encouraging, loving, nudging, pursuing, and sometimes disciplining, but never condemning.

And for that, I'm thankful.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Time for Thanks - I Guess

For the past decade, we've had a crib in our house.

And I had planned on it staying here a little while longer.

But then Sam kept doing this...

I suppose it's remarkable that he's the first of my four children to do it.

And I suppose I'm thankful he hasn't gotten hurt the 148 times he's done it in the last two weeks.

There is a part of me that has dreaded this day for a long time...the day the crib came down.

But there is a part of me that is okay with it.

Sam definitely seems okay with it.

And why wouldn't he be? Because now all he has to do is this...

...and this... order to do this.

Oh, dear.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time for Thanks - For the Ultimate Gift

Today, as we are one week away from the day we all stop to purposefully give thanks, there is one lady who I imagine sees this as her greatest day of thanksgiving. Today, someone very special to me is giving part of her body to another and with it, hopefully, a fuller, longer life. I imagine the recipient and her family are more grateful than they've been in a great while. It's not often that one will sacrifice their very body for another, especially one they're not particularly close to. But it happened today.

Many people are amazed and full of admiration for my sister-in-law as she donates one of her very valuable kidneys to another person, and rightly so. It is quite the sacrifice. I mean, I'm someone who doesn't want to sacrifice my bunco night to take care of a sick kid, much less a vital organ to an acquaintance.

But shouldn't our amazement and admiration of this great gift pale in comparison to our amazement at the Gospel? My sister-in-law wants all glory to go to God for what she's doing. And it makes sense, if you think about it. It's in obedience to him that she's doing this. Not because she's a fabulous person (which I happen to think she is) or so that others will think her wonderful. It's because God says to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So she's acting like he really meant it.

Today, I'm thankful for people in my life who practice what they preach. They are not perfect, but they love Jesus and seek to love others the way they themselves have been loved.

I'm thankful for the simplicity of the Gospel. We make it complicated when our pride and selfishness get in the way. But it's not. It was lived out today in a hospital not too far from my home. There was someone in need who could do nothing to save herself from death. And there was one who had the power to meet that need, and just so happened to also be loving enough to do it. So a gift was offered, not because it was earned, but because of love for one so in need. And the gift was received, not out of obligation or tradition, but because it was so desperately needed and so much appreciated.
We are all amazed at this selfless sacrifice, but at the end of today (a day that has thankfully ended with two successful surgeries) it was just a physical, earthly picture of what Jesus Christ has done for all of us spiritually. One day, both the donor and the recipient involved today will die, though the gift offered was beautiful. But they both have the hope that there is one gift of life that has been offered and received that will never end in death.

The shadow is a reality.

I'm thankful for the physical sacrifice given and the physical life received today. I'm a million times more thankful that it is just an earthly picture of an even greater spiritual reality.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Time for Thanks - What They Want for Christmas

Yesterday, I wasn't thankful for much. I had much to be thankful for, but I didn't choose to be.

However, I was and am thankful that I have kids who, when asked to make a Christmas list, begin to list things like: I want Mommy and Daddy, I just want to play with you, I want snuggle time, or I want a camping trip. While it may seem like they get no time with us (it's busy with four!), I'm so thankful that not one of them came up with "stuff."

We've tried to raise them to appreciate what they have and not to place too much value on earthly things. I pray everyday that they'd desire the things of God and not the things of the world. It's nice to see that, just maybe, it's working. Now if we can survive adolescence.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Time for Thanks - Day I'm-Behind!

I realize that I'm days behind on my thanksgiving deal, but with very good reason. I have just experienced something that I am incredibly thankful for, but it was so much fun that I'm exhausted. So, I'll leave you with this quick note of thankfulness and maybe, sometime, I will get to unload the mother lode of all thanks-worthy weekends.

Before the weekend, though, I had this to be thankful for...

What is this, you ask, and why am I thankful for it?

If you must know, I'm grateful for the visual reminder to give thanks, right in the middle of our sometimes chaotic house. Sometimes you just need to be reminded to be thankful for all the screaming munchkins that live with you.

Also, I'm thankful for proof that I'm not completely inept when it comes to crafts. I am not a crafty girl. I do not have the required creativity, skill, or desire to be truly crafty, but I do seem to be able to produce what must be one of the simplest crafts known to the internet. On average, I do one craft per decade, so I'm good for a while.

As I reflect on this fabulous craft, I'm thankful for a mom who will retrieve burlap from the ends of the earth for me so that I can be crafty. And I'm also grateful for one certain man who would rather keep his craftiness under wraps (in an effort to maintain his manly reputation) but who was vital to me in the craft-making process. He can hot-glue with the best of them and makes a mean pot of decaf to make Craft Night cozy and perfect. I can't say for sure, but I think he actually enjoyed helping me. He could say that because he knows he most likely won't be called on to help me craft again for another 10-12 years.

And you can be thankful that this post riddled with various forms of the word "craft" is over, and by the time I'm ready to document my next craft, blogs will probably be obsolete. Or I will have shut mine down because I lost all my readers due to boring posts like this.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Time for Thanks - Day 8

Many things you feel thankful for, like cupcakes or coffee or central heat and air or a roof. And then there are things you have to remind yourself that you are thankful for, like laundry or crumbs on the floor or doctor visits or rain.

Right now, I'm reminding myself, with an aim to motivate, that I'm thankful for a body that is able to exercise, that stinkin' Jillian Michaels lady who likes to turture people, and my little 3-pound weights. I've sat at this computer, reading facebook and blogs for as long as my conscience would allow in order to procrastinate, and now I'm posting this to remind myself to be thankful and to get up and go in there and get this over with!

And in about thirty minutes, I will be sore and out of breath and exhausted...but I'll be thankful that I went ahead and did it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Time for Thanks - Day 7

Somehow, I'm already feeling like this thankful series is getting a little uninteresting. And it's day 7. But I don't like starting things and not finishing them, so we will press on.

Today I am thankful for a typical thing we give thanks for - friends. Not just any friends, but friends who sharpen me and challenge me and put up with me and help me grow. Friends who love God and his Word, who will stay up til midnight talking with me about it week in and week out or who will give up an hour or more of their morning to read through Scripture with me.

I'm thankful for friends I see almost every day and friends I see only rarely, but who immediately settle right back into my life when we're together.

I'm thankful for the friend I just happen to be married to, for friends from the past who helped me through different phases of my life and helped to make me who I am, and for the friends the Lord has yet to bring me.

I'm thankful for friends who, just as a bonus, also happen to be family.

I'm really thankful for friends who can make me laugh that kind of laughter that makes your stomach hurt and your eyes water.

But there is a special place in my heart for friends who bring me cupcakes. Because, let's face it, good friends are hard to come by, and friends who will drive out of their way to buy you a gourmet cupcake and then sneak it to you at church are a blessing from the Lord. I believe that's found in Proverbs. Look it up.

Time for Thanks - Day 6

I'm really slacking on this thankfulness thing. Today will be short and sweet...I'm thankful to be able to vote and have a say-so in the way my country is run. I'd be more thankful if more people agreed with me! Ha! But, really, I'm seriously thankful that I can lay down my sleepy head on my not-so-fluffy pillow and know that my eternity is still secure and that nothing has happened today that is not ultimately in God's sovereign hand.

I'm also thankful for hot apple cider and warm white chicken chili on a cold day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Time for Thanks - Day 5

Today, I'm extra thankful for something that I'm sure Chris is pretty thankful for as well. I'm overflowing with gratitude for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. At 35, I'm getting to an age where I have enough history with the Lord to see the changes he's brought about in my life. I have countless recesses in my heart that still need his refining touch, but he's brought me a long way already.

Something in particular that he's been giving me victory over are my emotions. I always have to follow a statement like that with a disclaimer: He is giving me victory. It's an ongoing process. So if you should come upon me spewing forth less than lovely words on my children for something that's really not a big deal, just because I'm in a bad mood, please give me a little kick in the tail and sing a line from "He's Still Workin' on Me" to yourself.

As women, it's so easy for us to justify our behavior because of our emotions. Let's face it. The Lord didn't give us the better end of the deal when it comes to feelings. Ours can sometimes seem like you're in a racecar with a monkey at the wheel, while our husbands seem to be chugging happily along a railroad track, heading straight for where they want to go with no u-turns necessary. It's so easy to believe the lie that "We just can't help it. It's that time of the month." Or, "You can't blame yourself. Anyone would feel that way."

The truth is, though we cannot determine what hand the Lord deals us, we can control what we do with it. He has not given us a bad hand and then kicked us to the curb to handle it alone. Our emotions can be a wonderful thing, when they're brought into submission to God. So many things we struggle with in life, like money or food, are not bad things in and of themselves, and neither are emotions. Emotions are God-given and something that he shares in common with us. But when they're a result of our sinful flesh, things can get ugly. Frying pans can start to fly.

When my emotions control me instead of me controlling them, we have a problem. When my grumpy attitude or selfish irritations result in ugly words spoken, we have a problem. When I spend my day trying to manipulate people or circumstances so that I can feel happy or satisfied or calm, we have a problem. When my sadness and depression cause me to whine or simply become paralyzed, missing out on the blessings right before me, we have a problem.

But, a part of the problem is that I've always felt so powerless against this powerful force we call emotion. Now I see that as I make the choice to take the thoughts linked to my emotion captive and force them to obey the truth of God's Word...I am free! If I'm kidnapped and put into a car with a driver who is taking me to my doom, the car isn't bad. I just need a new driver. It's up to me who I put in the driver's seat of my emotions. The Lord gives me the tools of the Holy Spirit and His Word steer my thoughts and, ultimately, my feelings where he wants them to go. And where he wants them to go is a place of humble, happy service to him. A place where God's glory and knowing him brings me all the joy and satisfaction I could possibly desire. A place where circumstances and hormones and irritations are all just things he uses to point me to him.

So everyone in my house joins me in thanking God for the times I don't fly off the handle and in praying for their safety during the times when I do.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time for Thanks - Day 3 (Whoops! I mean, 4)

Well, I think the time change got me. Or maybe it was that heart attack in football form that was the Alabama-LSU game last night. It left my head spinning! Somehow, I missed a day of thanks. So today, I'll just be thankful for two things.

Today, and everyday, I'm thankful for Laminin. Either you know exactly what I'm talking about or you're wondering why I'm so thankful for fake, less than beautiful flooring. I'll explain.

I've always loved Colossians 1:17, which says, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." I just had this image in my mind of Jesus with is hands around the universe, keeping it all intact from the outside. But now I see it a little differently. Take a look...

I'm thankful that, though there are plenty of days when I think I'm about to fall apart, Jesus holds me together. It's also really great that my body isn't falling apart bit by bit, though I'm at that age when it's starting to feel like it at times. I know...just wait.

Isn't it amazing how into details God is? Nothing is by accident. He didn't just get lazy on that fifth or sixth day and randomly start throwing things into the mix. He is an intentional Creator who had a plan in mind before he even got started. And, to think, you and I were part of that plan, and he's holding us together this very minute. Amazing.

Hmm...another thing to be thankful for. I'm going to have to go with the Bama victory. I know I'd still have lots and lots to be thankful for even if a football game didn't turn out the way I liked, but I'm still enjoying the win. Imagine...if a football game causes me to jump on the couch for joy, what's heaven gonna be like?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Time for Thanks - Day 2

Right at this very moment, it's easy for me to think of what I'm thankful for. I'm thankful I'm in my bedroom and Sam is napping. I'm thankful I'm not shopping with Sam. I am thankful for Sam, but it's much easier to be thankful for him when he's in a contained area, preferably a padded area with nothing breakable and no strangers around to watch him in the (not so) rare instance in which he feels it necessary to pitch a fit.

Really, I adore him. I just enjoy him more when we're not in public.

I'm also thankful that this little guy has tee-teed in the potty twice now. So we know he can do it. Now I just need someone to volunteer to come to my house and take him to the potty constantly for a week...and clean up any messes that might find their way onto my less-than-new carpet...and wash all the loads of wet underwear. I'm sure there will be lots of people jumping at my offer, so I may be forced to do a random drawing. Keep your fingers crossed, people. It just might be your lucky day.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Time for Thanks, Day 1

This topic may be a little overdone in the coming days, but who can resist talking about thankfulness (aka gratitude) during the month of November? Today at Bible study, my group was a little surprised at how, despite the lesson subtitles referring to other topics, our conversation kept turning to giving thanks. Then I was reminded that last year, I did a little thankful blog post for every day in November. I thought I had had a wonderful epiphany and that I should do that again, with this being November 1st, and then saw that my idea was anything but original. Everybody's jumping on the thankful bandwagon this month, on Facebook, blogs, etc. But really, that's something to be thankful for! :) What better thing to remind us each to stop and give thanks than seeing all of our "friends" doing the same thing?

While this season is filled with reminders to be thankful, I'm seeing more and more how my entire life should be characterized by gratitude. As a believer in Jesus Christ, when my name comes up in conversation, I want people to have thoughts of a thankful, positive person come into their minds. When someone sees me coming toward them down the hallway, I want their spirits to lift just a bit, anticipating an encouraging encounter. I do not want to be that person who sends people's eyes darting here and there looking for any viable exit to avoid crossing my path. (Surely you know what I'm talking about.)

Thankfulness should be a pervading attitude of our lives, not just a random thrown up comment here and there. It's an indicator of the health of our relationship with God. When our thoughts, words, and attitudes are filled with appreciation, it shows that we trust God's promises, plans, and character. On the other hand, discontentment and grumbling displays a heart that has a problem with the way God is handling our lives. We are screaming to him, "You're making a mess of things and I don't appreciate it. I'd rather be handling this myself. Obviously, you either a) don't know what you're doing or b) you don't love me."

If I love and trust the Lord, then I see him as my provider and the giver of all good things. All the "good things" in my life remind me of him and prompt me to stop and give thanks.

If I love and trust the Lord, I can be thankful, and even joyful, for the trials that cross my path as well, because I believe him when he says that he's using them all to make me more like Christ and I believe that knowing and being like Christ is way better than having an easy life here and now.

If I want my life to be a fragrant offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma that draws people to Jesus, then it has to be overflowing with thankfulness. Unfortunately, most of my life, I've been oozing with complaints rather than spilling over with gratitude. But, over time, the Lord has begun to give me that heavenly perspective I've been begging him for and that has resulted in a more thankful heart.

So, as I tell my little Luke, who gets so discouraged when he can't write his letters right the first time, we need to practice. This month, I want to practice and prepare for living a thankful life...a life that shouts of the goodness of my God and the wisdom of his ways. I want to practice being thankful for the big things and the little things, for the good things and the hard things, for the happy things and the sad things, because someone who believes that their God is working all those things together for their good definitely has reason to give thanks.

On this first day of the lovely month of November, I'm thankful for November! I love fall (which really means October, too) and the way God shows off through his creation. I'm thankful for the five senses he's given me to take it all in, to see him through his creative masterpiece called nature, to feel the wind blowing over my face, to smell those evening fires with marshmallows roasting over them, to hear the crunching of the leaves and the laughter of my children, and to taste the yummy pumpkin and caramel apple treats of the season. Only God could create such an overtly beautiful season, full of color and crispness and life. I want to drink it all in and enjoy every minute, and it's a reminder to me to drink in all of God and enjoy him immensely. How could I experience the richness of God without being THANKFUL?