Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sticks and Stones

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

Oh, how this verse has hit our home this week! Our kindergartner was angry. He had a bad day at school. And then he got in trouble at home. Double trouble. Discipline was a'comin' and he wasn't happy about it.

So, precocious little guy that he is, he decided to lash out verbally and the unlucky recipient of his frustration was his older brother. "Mean words, ugly words, blah, blah!" (I'm paraphrasing.)
What?!?!? You have GOT to be kidding me. Who taught him to talk like that? Why would he think that is OK? Sure, he had a bad day, but slinging angry words at his brother wouldn't make it better. Turns out, it made it much worse.
Unfortunately for him, both his daddy and I heard his tirade...and more discipline was a'comin'! In case you were wondering, it takes a kindergartener a very long time to write "I will speak blessings" 50 times.

So now I'm examining my own speech. I'm not given to fits. Never swear. Don't even raise my voice very often. But do my words build up according to the needs of those around me? (Do I even know their needs?) Is what I'm saying beneficial? I give a lot of instructions to my boys. But are my words edifying and helpful? Life-giving and uplifting? Hmmm. I think I've got some sentences of my own to write.

I will encourage. I will edify. I will repent. I will apologize. I will change. I will definitely encourage my little red-head as he learns to control his tongue. And I too, will speak blessings.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oldest Siblings Unite!

Now clearly, our oldest son was playing with Legos. This is not unusual. He loves to build intricate contraptions with the tiny pieces. The unusual thing was that he was alone...all alone.

"Whatcha doin' buddy?"

"Playing hide-and-seek."

"Um, looks like you're playing Legos to me."

"Yeah, I'm seeking. They're hiding."

"Welcome to the club, little dude."

And with that, I left him alone to build his contraptions in peace. I'm the oldest sibling too, so I understand his logic: Little brothers hide. I don't seek. Little brothers stay out of my stuff for a few minutes.

I know, I know...middle children are neglected, ignored, and generally deprived of attention. And the baby is, well, the baby. Blah, blah, blah. Today I'm cheering for the oldest siblings among us.

We are the ones with whom our parents made their first parental mistakes. We were held to a higher standard and expected to be the example. Whether we were on the bus, at church, crossing the street, in the mall or at the dinner table, we were looking out for our siblings. Who can blame us for being a little bossy?

Sure, there are more photo albums of us. And when we came along, we got ALL of the attention from our parents and grandparents and the world at large. But with all of that attention came scrutiny. As a result, many of us are perfectionists, rule followers to the core.

In my own life, I find comfort in knowing the rules. I like to mark things from my list. Checking off boxes makes me happy. The problem comes when I allow this to bleed over into my spiritual walk.

You see, the christian life is not a list of rules to be followed. Checking a box beside "Bible read daily" is not what brings glory to God. Rather, He desires a relationship with me. Jesus is more interested in my heart being His than in my perfect attendance at every church function. And this is a struggle for me! I like my checked boxes!

But the funny thing is, when I operate in my love relationship with Him, I WANT to read His Word and worship Him with His people. Furthermore, when I seek Him, He doesn't play with Legos. In Jeremiah 29:13, His own words are "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." And with that kind of promise from the King of creation, why would I hide?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More Lessons from Our Boys

I'm constantly learning things from our boys. Here are a few tidbits I've picked up recently:

1. It's not OK to call your son "Punkin'" during a baseball game. Not OK at all.

2. Drinks taste better with a blue straw. Green straws are fine. Yellow and red are iffy. And pink (gasp) is terrible. No boy should be forced to drink anything through a pink straw. Ever. Yuck.

3. Even when I don't think they're paying attention...they are. When my husband kissed my hand while driving the car, I heard giggles in the backseat. And then a chorus of "Mommy and Daddy sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

4. I don't care if they giggle or gag. I want them to always see affection between their parents.

5. When you love someone, you show them. Our middle son FINALLY earned two prizes from the treasure box at school. And for one of his selections, he chose a lovely, plastic ring with a sparkly orange jewel for me. I think I'll keep it forever.

6. Slushies make everything better. Well they do, don't they?

7. When Daddy gets home, the tv is abandoned, the toys are tossed aside, Leapsters hit the floor, and homework is forgotten. They run out the door and into the arms of their father. They know they will find acceptance there. They know he will want to hear about their day. All they have to do is run to him. Wouldn't everyone love to be greeted like that?

8. Makes me want to greet that wonderful man with their kind of enthusiasm.

9. Do I run to Father God with that kind of enthusiasm? Hmmmmmm.

10. You will fight with your brother at home. You are probably going to argue, tussle and fuss. You may swipe his stuff. He may swipe yours. And you will likely tease, poke, chase and harass your brother mercilessly. And he will return the favor. But when you are in public, you make sure no one messes with your brother. No one. Because he is your brother. Period.

11. Boys are always hungry. Always hungry. ALWAYS.

12. And finally, when you dress up like a superhero, you ARE a superhero. You can leap higher, you can run faster, you can banish the bad guys forever. Especially if your brother is a superhero too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom

Well folks, it's official. I won't be receiving the "Mother of the Year" award this year. I messed up big time. I lost one of my boys! But wait, before you gasp and declare that you would never do such a thing, let me explain.

Our youngest Golden boy and I were shopping at a used book store. These musty places with various books, toys, DVDs, and workbooks crammed into overflowing shelves are some of my son's favorite places to be. He loves books. He would love to buy a hundred of them! But our deal each time we go is that he gets to pick out one book for me to buy.

So today, while I was scanning titles to find a "robot" book as he requested, he was sitting on the floor behind me looking through a Disney search-and-find volume. I found lots of dinosaur books, animal books, truck books, food books and strangely, an entire section of "farting dog" books. (Not kidding.)

But while I was diligently searching for his requested robot book, he apparently got bored and decided to do some searching on his own. I turned around to find neither my son, nor the book at which he had been looking. I tentatively called his name, and then called it louder, more firmly.

This drew a few looks from other book store shoppers, but at this point I did not care. Not one bit. My precious three-year-old with big brown eyes and curly hair, who loves to sing, loves his Ducky, and has his momma wrapped around his little finger, was missing. Missing.

My heart dropped and I began to run through the aisles calling his name. Have you ever been there? My little one has no idea about the evil intentions of some people in this world. But I do. By this time, I was telling the people that I passed that my son is three years old and wearing a green shirt. Strangers began to look around for him too.

And just as quickly as he had disappeared, I found him. He had discovered a kiosk with train books that were just at his eye level. He was happy to see me and show me what he had found, blissfully unaware of the mini-heart attack he had given me. All-in-all, only about 20 seconds had passed since I discovered his absence, and he was only a few aisles away...but still.

Once my heart stopped racing, my mind began churning. I wonder if this is a tiny taste of how the Father felt when Adam and Eve fell. When they stepped outside of the protection that God provided, they were vulnerable. And although they were unaware of their precarious position, God knew the vile hatred that Satan had for them. While they were coming up with new apple pie recipes, Satan was planning to steal, kill and destroy them (and us) in the most heinous ways.

So what is a parent to do? I ran around calling my son's name and soliciting the help of strangers to find him. To make him safe. To keep him with me even though he loves to wander. Father God went to far greater lengths to secure our safety. Since our sin debt could only be satisfied by One who is holy, God chose to pay the price Himself. He allowed His Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice - His life, His blood - for us.

When I found my son and scooped him into my arms, it would have broken my heart for him to reject me and say that he preferred to take his chances with the book store shoppers. He's only three! What does he know about life? I would have carried him to the car with me and taken him home, whether he liked it or not.

But God doesn't strap us into a carseat and make us go to heaven. He has provided the way. He has fulfilled the requirements Himself. And He graciously allows us to choose. Amazing grace, indeed!

I've got a long way to go to become the perfect parent. And I don't think that a "Mother of the Year" award is in my future. But I'm committed to protecting my sons and teaching them about God, the perfect Father, who loves them far more than I do.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that I bought that sweet baby TWO books today!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Great is Our God - Sing with Me!

It's not about me. Whatever "it" is, it's definitely not about me. Life, worship, power, fame, adoration, strength - I am not the focus of any of it. And boy, has this become evident to me this week.

I have a friend whose baby was born two days ago. She is a beautiful, chunky-cheeked, dark-haired little thing who was not expected to survive outside of the womb. The prognosis was grim. And every single ultrasound confirmed that prognosis. She just wasn't developing in a way that would allow her to survive. Her chest was too small for her lungs to develop. She had no muscle tone. Her bones were too short. And that was that.

Furthermore, this friend gave birth to a baby girl a few years ago who had the same condition. That child only survived a few precious minutes. So we all knew what was going to happen this time. We didn't do a baby shower. We didn't talk about the child's future. We just prayed and prayed and prayed for her parents. We accepted what we knew would happen based on our experience.

BUT WAIT JUST A MINUTE!!! Our God doesn't act based on our experience. He is not restricted to only perform miracles for which we ask. His power is not limited by medical science, by us...by me. He is wholly independent of me. He does not need me, my approval, my instructions, or my pleading in order to act on my behalf - or my friend's.

Yes, God loves me and has fully paid the price for me to be His. He does hear my prayers and generously answers. My relationship with Him is deeply personal and intense. But the God who created the universe does not need my permission. Whether I choose to serve Him or praise Him does not change who He is. He just is.

So, with great humility, it is my privilege to pray for my friend's daughter. That precious baby's health is still precarious. But her bones are developed and she is breathing on her own. On her own!!! And with a renewed awe of who He is, I am praising the God whose "ways are above my ways and thoughts are above my thoughts." Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ode to My Boys

Ode to My Boys
Stinky and sweaty and sticky and sweet
Dirty fingernails, grubby feet
Three little guys consume all my day
"Mommy, I'm hungry. Mom, can we play?"
A trail of tractors and blocks in their wake
And train tracks and dump trucks and Legos and cake
Yes, cake.
For wherever my boys are, I'm sure to find food
And wrappers and crumbs, and things left half-chewed
For they're growing, I tell you, too fast for my liking
Their shoes are a'shrinking, their pant legs are hiking
They eat and they grow and they then eat some more
I'm known by first name at our grocery store
That store.
They wrestle, they tumble, they tug and they fight
Competitive critters, from morning 'til night
Kicking at balls and swinging foam swords
They grunt and they laugh and they growl and they roar
All the while watching to see that I see
Their young macho conquests performing for me
Just me.
'Cause they love their momma, they all tell me so
(I hope this is something they never outgrow)
They're learning their manners, their math and their chores
To stick up for each other, to follow the Lord
Courageous and true men their wives all will find
Someday far from now, but today they're just mine
All mine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pull Ups and Pacifiers

Our youngest little Golden boy is now three years old, but he's having trouble giving up the last vestiges of babyhood: diapers and pacifiers. Technically, he's wearing Pull Ups and only has his "pappie" at nght, but he is not at all convinced that he's ready to give up either one.

When his daddy tucked him into bed last night he told him that "big boys don't have pacifiers." His chubby fist clamped over his mouth and from behind the pacifier he proclaimed "But I the baby." Ha!

Since he is the caboose of the clan, I tend to agree with him. I love to snuggle with babies and hold them and sniff their little baby heads. (Don't judge. You moms know exactly what I'm talking about. ) Needless to say, I'm not looking forward to the day when there are no more babies in our house. Or has that day already come and I just haven't acknowledged it yet? He does run around like his big brothers. And talk like his big brothers. And *sigh* smell like his big brothers.

To be honest, I don't want for his development to be delayed in any way. Just yesterday we started bribing him with stickers to use the potty. Whatever works. While I would love to keep him in my arms forever, I love him too much to allow him to stay at this stage. Growth is hard sometimes. It takes work. But I know that he can do it - even if he doesn't.

And isn't that just the way the Father treats me too? Over my protests that I'm still a baby, He lovingly requires of me what He knows I can do. I can't teach that class - yes you can. Get a more mature Christian to disciple that person - I want you to do it. I just don't have the strength to move again, find a new home, in a new town, with a new church and new friends - I'll be with you every step of the way.

While I'm not getting stickers on a chart, the rewards of His presence, His strength, His joy, and just...HIM are enough to make me want to put away my pacifier.

Hebrews 5:13-14

Monday, July 5, 2010

Family, Fireworks, and Questions

What a wonderful weekend! We spent time with my in-laws. At church, I was reminded of the high price that has been paid for my freedom - both spiritual and physical. And my heart swelled with pride in our country as I listened to a live band playing patriotic songs while my family (and a few thousand other Texans) watched the fireworks over Kingwood.

All in all, a good weekend.

So today we loaded the boys back into our car and made the trek back home. What would take us four hours to drive without kids, takes us five hours to drive with them. But they were good boys, didn't fight (too much), didn't sleep (oh well), and didn't require us to pull over and use the side of the highway as a urinal (this time).

Like I said, this weekend rocked!

And then, when we were about 45 minutes from home, sweet home, we hit a WALL of traffic. This was not the normal, early afternoon, weekday traffic. This was construction, major accident, lanes closed down kind of traffic. Ugh. So much for the boys not fighting...

As we ooched forward, we saw an electronic sign telling us that a nearby road was closed due to an accident. Generally, in the metroplex roads don't CLOSE for accidents. Lanes close for accidents. So we knew this must be a doozie. Probably a fatality. And that helped us be a little more patient with the traffic.

But when we got up to the road that was closed, we could see the problem...and it wasn't an accident...not yet anyway. On the bridge crossing near the road where we were driving, there was a person sitting on the railing with one leg hanging over the traffic below. Officers were on the scene atop the bridge. I assume they were desperately trying to talk him out of ending his life.

I have no idea what he decided. Did he make the leap into eternity, or is he in custody? Did he decide to face his problems or his Maker?

And is there a believer who knows him? Have they shared their faith? Has he ever heard of the One who willingly gave His life for him? And - is there someone in my life who needs to hear about Jesus? These are the questions with which I'm ending my weekend.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Grocery List

My grocery list is a work in progress. It lives on my counter and is updated often. I used the last scoop of coffee. Write it down. We're out of bread. Put it on the list. Mom, I need some batteries. Can you bring me the grocery list? I need... I want... I can't find any... Do we have some more... Just. Write. It. Down.

But when I get to the store, this list acts more as a guideline than a rule book. While my husband can walk into Wal Mart and buy ONLY the things that have made it to the list, I am incapable of such discipline. I need a bleach pen. But there's no bleach pen on your list. So? I need a bleach pen.

Maybe this is why Prince Charming is convinced that there is a $100 entry fee for me to even enter the door of our grocery store. But I digress.

I think that God would approve of my "off the list" shopping. I came to this conclusion because when I allow Him to develop the things on His list in my life, I get so much more! As He is teaching me love, I'm also learning graciousness. With joy, I'm also learning to appreciate the little things. Peace? I'm finding a calm home is a bonus. Patience (when it happens) also brings a greater understanding of His plan. And the rewards with kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control are all good stuff. Really good stuff.

So today I'm thanking the Father for his "off the list" blessings in my life. And I'm treating a stain with my shiny new bleach pen.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

So Much More Than Folding Laundry

Do you remember your first year of marriage? I mean...really remember it? It was such bliss being able to spend as much time as I wanted to with Mr. Wonderful. And taking trips. And sleeping late. And discovering so many things about my man that I didn't know before we said "I do."

But that first year was also a time of BIG adjustment. We each came into our marriage with preconceived ideas about how our household would work. And it is these ideas that have had me thinking lately. Remember??

We had to work out: How are we going to divide housework? Where will our holidays be celebrated? Who buys groceries? What about the checkbook? Arrrrgh, the checkbook. And dishes. And laundry. And toilets. And floors. Who goes to the dry cleaner? Who washes the car? Who mows the lawn? Or do we even care if the lawn gets mowed? Where will we worship? How will we fight? And make up?!?

And where did we even come up with our opinions on all of those things anyway?!?

Ahhh, our history. Dishes should be washed - and dried - in this way because that's how my mom did it. Our finances should be handled in a certain way because that's how my spouse's parents did it. From the division of chores to the way we raise our boys, my husband and I each drew from our experiences to determine how we should proceed. Our experiences. Our stories. Our history determined how our household would operate.

So here's my point - if my boys see our home as "the norm", then I want it to be the best it can be! I'm not just folding laundry, I'm raising boys! I'm not just balancing the checkbook, I'm making (their) history! I'm not just loving their daddy, I'm writing the story of their family!

And one day, when my boys are creating households of their own, I hope that the work that I'm doing now will contribute to their "happily ever after."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When You Can't See the Tree for the Forest

So there's this giant tree in my parent's backyard. In years gone by, its strong limbs held a swing where my boys and their cousins spent hours playing. It towers above the yard and has been there for who-knows-how-long.

But my Dad told me something about it recently that surprised me. "It's dead." "What? Really?" "Yep. See? It doesn't have any leaves at all. In fact, don't let the kids play under it. The limbs have started falling off. It could be dangerous."

I had looked at it many, many times throughout the winter and never noticed anything wrong. All of the trees were barren at that time of year. It blended right in. But now that the trees behind it are in full bloom, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Its lack of life is painfully apparent. It can't hide. I wonder if its uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable.

I'm pondering this tree-predicament because we are searching for a new church home. After moving recently, we are ready to find a fellowship of believers of like faith and share our lives with them. But the search is a little tiring.

It would be easy for us to choose one of the hundreds of churches in our new location and become back row pew sitters, showing up for service and going home. We could get dressed up, put our boys in their respective classes, smile, and check the box beside "attended church" for the week.

But my spirit rages against that type of existence! I don't want to become a dead tree, perfectly at home in a winter forest. I desire for my life to be vibrant, alive in Christ, and surrounded by believers who challenge and encourage me.

And I don't want my little "sprouts" to grow up thinking that Christianity is lifeless. So our search continues. That old, dead tree reminds me once again that "the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me." And I've never felt more alive.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Sweet Smell

Has a scent ever taken you to another time, another place? It happened to me today as I was shopping for groceries. I was pushing my cart and a sweet elderly passed by me. And little did she know it, but the "White Shoulders" perfume that she was wearing transported me far away.

My Grandma wore that same fragrance and just the scent of her took me back to the farm where she and Grandpa lived. I was eating pastel-colored marshmallows from her cupboard and learning to recognize the song of the "Bob White" birds. I was watching cars go past on the dirt road while sitting in metal chairs on the front porch. I shelled peas. I gathered eggs. I fished with a cane pole and a bobber and rode on a board on the back of Grandpa's tractor. I patiently waited while Grandma turned the television antennae that was mounted on a pole outside so I could watch a fuzzy game show. I colored. I sang. I got told a million times not to put my fingers in the box fan. And I fell asleep tucked under cool, scratchy, line-dried sheets that smelled like sunshine.

And then...I pulled my cart into the checkout line. That dear lady had no idea that her scent would have such a great impact on me today. She was being who she was. She was going about her day, taking care of her business.

So what things fragrance my life? As I go about my day, do my actions remind people of Jesus? Does the aroma of my choices draw people to the Savior? Or does the stench of hypocrisy surround me? When my husband, my boys, and my friends catch my scent, will it bring memories of faithfulness and joy or of wasted potential or a critical spirit?

Here's the thing: my scent (both figuratively and literally) is my choice. And I choose to become a sweet fragrance to my Lord.

2 Corinthians 2:15-16