Scare Tag

The last night, because my kids requested it, we played scare tag.

We shut off all the lights in the house after dark.  All of them. Then we separated.

There are no real rules to the game, we just turn off all lights and try to scare each other.  Everyone is “it”.

The boys stuck together, but Randall and I hid in the shadows around the house.  The boys came looking for us, knowing that around any corner, Randall or I would jump out with a loud Boo and scare them half to death.

I have to admit, the game made me nervous.  The first time I played, I picked a spot flooded by the light of the street lamp outside, sat, and waited for the scarers to come for me.  But last night, as I played again, I got the hang of it.  My eyes adjusted to the dark quickly and I was able to move about the house stealthily.

I’ve questioned how fear and parenting go together before, but I think character can be shaped from these types of experiences.  I’m astonished at how brave my sons are.  Isaac uses the excuse that he’s afraid of the dark so we’ll keep the hall light on while he’s trying to sleep.  The truth behind that is, that he wants to read in bed.  We know now, he’s not at all afraid of the dark.  I saw him time after time grabbing Asher’s hand and saying, “Let’s be brave,” as they’d head out in search of their silent father.

I think the most powerful thing I noticed in this game is how my boys trust their parents.  Yes, Mom and Dad will jump out at me, yes, they will make a loud noise that will startle me.  No, that is not something to fear.

Can that be translated to our lives?  Do we have a loving father that will make any scary situation okay?  In a time when christians were being killed and jailed, Paul, in Hebrews 13 says:

For God has said,

     “I will never fail you.
         I will never abandon you.”

     So we can say with confidence,

     “The Lord is my helper,
         so I will have no fear.
         What can mere people do to me?”

Yes, we may be startled in life. God does not promise to keep us away from all harm, but do we need to be afraid?  We can put our trust in the safety of our Father.

Tired

Last week at church, we were told that it’s okay to be honest and raw in our prayers to God.  We were asked to take time and write down one of those honest prayers.

I grabbed my sheet of paper and held onto it for a minute.  I started to write something down, and then abandoned it.

I thought about it all night.  What would my honest prayer be?  God is the only person in heaven or earth that I know I can truly trust.  What would I have to say to him that he doesn’t already know?

Then Sunday rolled around.  I fought with my kids all morning.  I’ve come to the conclusion that most of our biggest struggles come with the kids are tired, sick or hungry.  I saw one of those big struggles coming on and quickly went to make lunch.  I set lunch on the table and Isaac and I had it out. Randall walked in the house just in time to hear me crying to Isaac, “I don’t know how to be your mother!”  I didn’t stop there.  I kept talking, surely scarring my kid for life.  Asking out loud if it would be okay to stop being his mother.  To stop doing his chores and cleaning his clothes and making his food.  If he gets to choose not to obey as a son should, could I choose not to obey as his mother?  I answered the question.  It’s just not an option for me.  I wish it were not an option for him to treat me as he does.

I tell you this, so that you will feel like a better parent.  Surely, you’re not as bad as me.  But I also want to tell you my honest heart so that if any of you have felt like this before, you know you’re not alone.  I want to know I’m not alone in this world!  Please tell me someone else has felt this way.

I sat down after lunch (avoiding Randall’s eyes at all costs) and got on my computer.  I typed this up:

 

I’m tired.

I’m tired of cleaning up after ungrateful kids.

I’m tired of making decisions for other people.

I’m tired of yelling.

I’m tired of screaming.

I’m tired of no one listening to me.

I’m tired of not knowing how to parent my child.

I’m tired of discipline.

I’m tired of rewards.

I’m tired of holding back four letter words.

I’m tired of filtering.

I’m tired of constant loud bursts of gas exploding out of mouths and other orifices at all hours of the day and night.

I’m tired of boys.

I’m tired of tears.

I’m tired of whines.

I’m tired of being mom.

I’m tired of the headaches.

I’m tired of the early mornings and early bedtimes.

I’m tired of homework.

I’m tired of synchronizing calendars.

I’m tired of my seat getting kicked in the car.

I’m tired of the interruptions.

I’m tired of stepping on legos.

I’m tired of sticky walls and sticky floors.

I’m tired of smelling urine when I walk near a bathroom because someone has found a way to pee in crevices that cannot be reached.

I’m tired of scraping toothpaste off the mirror.

I’m tired of forcing my kids to apologize or to say please and thank you.

I’m tired of hearing my son tell me he doesn’t love me.

I’m tired of suppressing the feeling that I don’t like him much either.

I’m just… tired.

 

I put the computer down and went on with my day.  Randall and I actually had a very nice (and greatly needed) date that night.  We left before dinner and spent the whole evening together.  It was lovely. I didn’t even realize at the time that the ranting above was my honest prayer.  But God answered it. He does that a lot; answers my prayer before I even knew I had prayed it.

The rest of the week went by and it was a good week.  Not all flowers and roses.  No rainbows or unicorns.  But a good week.  My boys and I made some memories.  I got more hugs in one week from my oldest boy than I have in months combined.  I wonder if he’s afraid that if he doesn’t hug me, I’ll quit on him…

Or maybe God’s working on his little heart, and mine.

Wonders of His Love

I had horrible homework habits as a student.  I told myself I worked better under pressure and always saved my homework until the last minute.  The fact is, I only worked under pressure, so I have no idea how well I would have done if I would have given myself more time to complete each assignment.

I’ve tried to start my kids off from the beginning with good study habits.  They have way more homework than I ever remember having (I don’t think I had any homework until 3rd or 4th grade), but we already have a routine.  The boys come home and have a snack and waste time for a while, and then it’s straight to the table for homework, followed by at least 15 minutes of reading (also required by their teachers) before they can play with friends.

The other day when the boys got home from school I told them to grab a snack and get started on their homework while I took a quick shower.  As soon as I got upstairs, I heard them outside in the backyard.  I opened my bathroom window to yell at them to get to their homework, but a warm breeze hit me.

I looked down to see that the breeze was rattling my Ash tree.  Dozens of yellow leaves danced toward the ground.  Isaac was chasing each leaf, trying to catch them all in a cup in his hands.  They proved too fast and capricious for his small cup.

Asher grabbed a handful of leaves tossed them in the air and managed to catch a couple of his own.

I’m so glad that my boys still notice the allure of creation.

Oh, it just brought a smile to my face and a peace in my heart.

Depending on how the wind blows, we usually have a couple of days a week, where homework takes hours and the boys whine and complain the whole time.  This day, was not one of those days.  We decided to head to the deck and read outside and finish our homework there.  This was our view.

Oh, the difference a view can make!

I dread the coming months, when the leaves are long raked away and our bare trees open up a new scenery of a bright yellow and green building and a chain link fence.  When it’s too cold to expend all our energy outside, and the homework tears start rolling again…

But that’s in the future.  This is now.  And now, I’m going to enjoy the view.

 

God, may these boys, may I never lose the sense of wonder at the beauty of your creation.  May we never put a list of chores above noticing what you are doing around us.  Keep our eyes open and our souls in tune with your spirit.  Thank you for giving us this amazing world.  May we hold on to these moments in the sun when the dark clouds roll in and the colorful leaves are long gone and we’re left with little but a chill in the air.  May we find new beauty in pine trees and twinkling lights. Remind me then that the table is not a mandatory tool for homework. That a change of scenery can flip a mood. May we remember that each new season will come in it’s time, and never forget to enjoy the wonders of your love.

Pumpkin Patch Outtakes

Our annual trip to the pumpkin patch last week was great, as always.  We love Rombach’s and it was an exceptionally beautiful, crisp, fall day.

But it was bright.  Not optimal for photos.  We got to the farm around 5pm and the sun was just starting it’s decent in a cloudless sky.

We got a lot of pictures like this one.

The harsh light made for lots of squints and dark shadows.

 

A professional photographer would know how to adjust her camera to compensate.  I, however, have no technical knowledge of my camera, and have very little photo editing skills (or resources).

The other challenge we came across was my subjects.

They are boys.

Need I say more?

They’re hams.

They’re fast.

And there’s two of them.

No.  Yes.

 

Yes. No.

No.  No.

Um… Is this as good as we get?

 

 

Either way, they’re mine.  And I LOVE them!

And (despite the poor lighting) this is an improvement from last year.

The Pumpkin

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!
Thank you God for fall!

Child of Weakness

So, you know me, I’m a teacher at heart and I analyze everything looking for the lesson.

After my accident, all I wanted to do was lay down and take a nap.  Randall said that was not an option so I went downstairs and sat on the couch with a good book.  But the information we read online said not to read or watch TV or do anything that would make my brain have to “work” for a while after a concussion.

So what’s left?  Staring off into space?

If I’m not chasing after my kids or reading a book, I’m writing blog posts in my head.  I can’t help it!  I immediately started thinking about all the things I could write about because of my stupid accident.

I could write about pain and healing, I could write about patience and God’s timing, I could write about how a one second decision could affect your world for two weeks.  I could talk about regret.

I started to research what the Bible says about pain and patience.  Those verses were all fine and dandy, but what kept drawing my attention was Paul’s response to the “thorn in his flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12.  Paul isn’t specific about what that “thorn” is.  It could have been a physical ailment, or an emotional or spiritual pain that tormented him day in and day out.  Some people suggest that it was the fact that he had to live with the memory of the Christians he had killed before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Some people say it could have been his failing eye sight or another health issue.

Either way, I have never understood what these verses mean:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

…To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I’ve tried to apply these verses to my life.  Not my silly little accident, but I have an ever constant struggle with a character flaw I’ve been given.  I am constantly battling a food addiction and a problem with laziness.  I think about these issues every minute of every day.

They are typical issues and I’m sure that many of you can relate to me and that brings me comfort but I am not boasting in my weaknesses. It’s taken a lifetime to finally admit to them openly.

These are my weaknesses: food and couches.  Maybe we can argue that half of America wrestles with the same problems, but for me, it’s a war.  And I’m losing more battles than I’m winning.

If I apply God’s answer to Paul in verse 8 to my weakness, it doesn’t make sense.  “My power works best in weakness.”  My weakness seems to be way stronger than the power of God in me.

What does that say about me?  That I don’t have enough faith?  I don’t think so.

Does God give us weakness so that we’ll depend on him?  If we were all perfectly strong, we wouldn’t need his power…

But that’s not what it says.  Paul says his “thorn” is a messenger from Satan.  Not God.  So God is not giving us these issues so that we will need his strength.

That’s good to know.

I still struggle with this.  I have asked God, more times than I can count, to take away my weaknesses.  To just fix me.  Make me better.  To stop the cravings.  To motivate me to move.

And then I’d usually just wait to see what happened.  I’d go about my day expecting Him to supernaturally change me.  That’s what I asked for.  And he’s big enough to change me, right?

After coming back to these verses once more, God revealed something to me.

I keep expecting God to heal me in his power. But that’s not what he’s offering.  God never healed Paul.  He’ll probably never take away my struggles either.  His offer is not for healing, but for power.

And there have been days and even seasons when I have been able to overcome my weaknesses.  I have had friends who motivated me to make life change.  I have had times when I was down and depressed about never being able to overcome these issues when Randall reminded me that I was taking small steps in the right direction and making improvements.

I guess what I’m learning today from 2 Corinthians 12 is that God is offering his grace.  To forgive us when we fail.  And his power, to help us in our struggles.  He’s not offering healing.  He’s not offering a supernatural fix, but he has given us himself.

God lives inside of me, his Holy Spirit resides in me.  I know for a fact that I don’t have the power to stay away from foods that are bad for me.  But I also know that I have a piece of God inside of me that I rarely tap into.  If I’m honest, it’s the times when I am depending on his strength that I’m headed in the right direction.

From now on, I’ll take my progress as a sign of my dependence on God.  On my bad days, I’ll be reminded that God’s open hand is outstretched, offering to pull me in the right direction.  I’ll be reminded that I’m not using the awesome tool I’ve been given.

On my good days, I’ll give thanks.

 

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy pow’r, and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

God, I get it now.  I will never be rid of my struggles.  But I can come to you for strength in everyday battles.  And your strength will be enough to help me through the day.  Please continue to remind me of your Spirit inside of me.  Continue to tap on my shoulder and remind me to depend on your power not my own will power. Shoot… We all know it’s useless.  I thank you for my struggles.  I don’t like them, but I’m thankful that I know what they are and can work toward overcoming them day by day.  I thank you for your help.  I thank you for loving me despite them.  For calling me a masterpiece and creating me “wonderfully made.”  When I think of how you love me, I can’t help but gleam in all my imperfection.

Speaking of…

Speaking of being vulnerable

My stupidity surprises me sometimes.

Thursday, Isaac had a doctor’s appointment after school.  I was well prepared for it.  I sent notes to school with the boys telling their teachers that I would pick them up from school and asking them to make sure they didn’t get on the bus.

We were also planning a garage sale for Saturday so I had a lot to do around the house.  I set an alarm on my phone for 3:00 so I would be sure to have time to get myself ready before I picked my kids up from school at 3:30.

I got a LOT done that day.  I worked hard and cleaned out every corner of Isaac’s room.  I went through all of the boys’ toys and separated them into Keep, Sell, and Trash piles.  I got rid of 5 trash bags full of garbage from Isaac’s room alone (how’s that for vulnerable?!).

I came to a stopping point around 2:40 and decided to hop in the shower since I had plenty of time before I needed to pick the kids up from school.

I turned on the shower and undressed and checked the clock one more time to make sure I was good to go.  It was 2:44 when I opened the shower door to step in.

Then it occurred to me.  MY KIDS GET OUT OF SCHOOL AT 2:30, not 3:30!!!!

WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

My body was shaking uncontrollably, as I threw back on my sweaty clothes and grabbed some sandals and hopped in the car.  I was still putting on my shoe as I pulled up to an empty parking lot at my kids’ school.  They were no longer waiting for me outside.

I threw my uncontrolled hair (see Vincent picture) in a ponytail as I rushed into the school.  The school secretary met me at the door with my kids and I smiled a thank you and walked the kids back to the car.

My foot didn’t stop shaking on the accelerator until I was halfway to the doctors office.  We made it just in time for our 3:15 appointment and all was good.  The kids had no idea that I had forgotten them.

Except, I never forgot them.  I was just an hour off on my timing that day!

I knew that the appointment was at 3:15. I specifically made it 45 minutes after the kids get out of school to give us plenty of time to get there.  And that’s what I was thinking about as I set my alarm that day, not the actual appointment time.

I have no idea how I thought my kids got out an hour later than they do every day (and have every day for the past three years!).

There is a God, friends! Thursday afternoon at 2:44pm, He showed up in my house.  And that’s all the proof I need.

Vulnerability

Vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is bad.  Real bad.  Maybe it doesn’t sound that bad, maybe it’s even a quality people aspire to.

Then you read the definition:

capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon

 

“Sure it makes sense that someone would see that as bad, but that’s not the meaning for me.  I want to be vulnerable with others, not in war,” you say.

Vulnerable definition #2:

open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.

 

Etc?!  There’s a need to put an etc. there?  I don’t want to be open to moral attack!  I don’t want to be open to criticism!  That sounds bad!  I just want to be me.  To be honest and authentic.

But that is vulnerability.  When you put yourself out there, you, yourself, are open to criticism and attack.

Not just your writing, but you.

That’s why I don’t tweet what’s really on my mind.  Like how the first thing I’m going to do when I get rich is buy a heated toilet seat.  I think about that every morning.  That’d be a great tweet wouldn’t it?  But I can’t let people think of me as human… using a toilet!  That’s vulnerable!

Or the fact that I think in 140 characters or less about how:

Emily Littleton @emilylittleton
I always feel my phone buzzing in my back pocket, when my phone is not in my back pocket… Is that a problem?  Should I see a doctor about that?
Expand

 

I didn’t even post pictures of my face after the accident (which I did take…) because I woke up and took the picture every morning to check on my swelling and I hadn’t done my hair yet in most of the pictures:

Emily Littleton @emilylittleton
Less whiskers, more oozy scrapes.
View photo

I led you to think it was the size of my cheek that made me look like Vincent, the Beast from the 90s TV series.  Nope.  It was the hair…

Here’s what the Bible has to say about vulnerability:

A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.  Proverbs 29:11

See.  I knew I was right.  Don’t let them know you’re human.  Keep your tweets about your cold, vibrating, butt cheeks to yourself.

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

Aha!  I knew I couldn’t trust anyone.  I LOVE the Bible.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

Wait; am I supposed to tell others about my weaknesses?  I’ve told hundreds of people that Paul is my hero.  I HATE Paul.  Why did he have to brag about his weaknesses?

Because he’s human.  And so is everyone else.  And that’s what we relate to.  That’s what makes us feel comfortable.  That’s what makes us laugh and cry and feel like we’re not alone in this world.

That’s my favorite kind of writing to read.  The writers that are honest, and vulnerable and put themselves out there for all to see.  And love.  Or hate.  Or laugh at.  Or laugh with.

In order to represent God well, I have to be vulnerable.  Think about the stereotypical church ladies.

They snub their noses and tsk tsk everyone else without ever owning up to their own mistakes.  They have perfectly coiffed hair and ironed clothes and can play the drums better than anyone else you know.  I don’t want to seem like a church lady.  I’m NOT a church lady.  My hair is never perfectly coiffed (see above).  I do more damage when I iron than if I’d left it alone.  I have clean laundry sitting in a basket for weeks.  I only clean my second floor when people are going to see it (and no one ever sees my top floor, so I never clean it).  I’m an imperfect mom and a less perfect human.

Church ladies don’t make you want to know Jesus.  You know who gets the biggest slot at the revivals?  Not the church ladies, but the outcasts who have turned their lives around and now follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The people who screwed up big time and are vulnerable enough to tell you about it.  Those are the stories that move us.  Those are the stories that let us know it’s okay to love God and still be human.

This verse has really stuck out to me:

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

 

With pride comes the know it all blog posts.  The I’ll-pray-for-you-and-your-kids posts because I’ve got it all put together.

With humility comes honesty and admitting you don’t have all the answers.  And admitting that you screw up every day and you’re going to start saving money now to put your kids through therapy later (they can get their own loans for college).  With humility and vulnerability come wisdom.  Wisdom for others to learn from, wisdom for me to learn from.

So maybe I should absolutely keep my butt posts to myself.  But maybe I shouldn’t trash all the stories I write that make me feel vulnerable.  Maybe God can use those, too.

Worship

I went to church last weekend and someone heard about my accident and said, “God must have known you needed a break.”

I laughed and proceeded into the auditorium. As I sat there waiting for the service to start I wondered what I would need a break from. I sit at home alone everyday and read and write. That didn’t stop because my shoulder hurt.

I did stop carrying heavy laundry loads up two flights of stairs… Maybe I did need a break from that and God must have known it! Isn’t he marvelous to care about our minuscule needs?

He is, really.

Then our service started.  We sang a few choruses and then the music quieted.  A woman sat behind the piano and played a beautiful song.  I sang loudly and worshipped in harmony.  And then God reminded me what I needed a break from.

In my stupor of pain, I declined the opportunity to lead worship at my church this weekend.  I regretted the decision, once I started improving so rapidly.  But sitting in the auditorium by myself as I worshipped, God told me to sit down and shut up.

More often than not, when I attempt to worship God with all my heart, he tells me to shut my mouth and worship him with ONLY my heart.

Sometimes I need a break from harmony.

Sometimes I need a break from words.  There are so many beautiful and grace filled things  in this world that I want to praise God for but our human language just does not have the words to express my gratitude.

 

So today, I end without a paragraph of prayer, but with my hands raised and my heart open with the longing to bless the one who blesses me:  my God.