It takes a village.

In the past month, I’ve heard from Isaac’s teacher, Asher’s teacher, their art teacher, gym teacher, and music teacher.  I sat in a meeting with the counselor, the reading specialist, the occupational therapist, a gifted specialist, a psychologist and a couple of other people I didn’t catch their specialty.

The end story is, I’ve got a really smart and special kid.  He’s sweet and kind.  He’s a people pleaser and a class clown.  He loves to make people laugh.  He loves to read, and write, and build.  He’s very creative and more interested in his own daydreams than what may be going on around him.  All of these teachers love Isaac and think he’s great but are concerned that he’s not as focused as they want him to be.  His lack of attention to detail may lead him to under perform when he’s perfectly capable of doing better.  We made some plans and have a few strategies in place.  We’ll keep an eye on him and as the years  go by and school gets harder, we’ll readjust when we need to.

All of that stress, for a cushion in his chair, some cotton balls in his pocket, and a timer on his desk.

In the meantime, I’ve been frustrated and I’ve cried.  I may have screamed a few times as well.

Today, I am happy.  I am proud of my boy.  I am hopeful for our future and I feel like I have a better grip on how to parent my son.  All because it takes a village to raise me

Throughout this month, I’ve had a husband who kept me sane.  My family has been praying for me and supporting me.  I’ve had friends who have told me that they were there once.  I had a sweet friend, who was where I am now 15 years ago, remind me in a very tangible way that it’s all worth it.  I had a friend stop me in the middle of Costco who looked into my eyes and saw into my heart.  No words were spoken, but none had to be.  I had a bunch of groups of friends I just spent time with and laughed with and they eased the stress of the day.

For someone like me, who dreams about living in a cottage alone in the woods, and not seeing another living soul for stretches of years.

That’s a big deal.  That’s a revelation.  Even I, who definitely enjoys solitude, need people. I need friends.  And I’m so thankful God has placed them in my life.

 

God, thank you for my friends.  Thank you for my mentors.  Thank you for my family.  Thank you for creating us for relationships and thank you for the people in my life who stretch me and force me to enjoy those relationships just like you planned for us.  Thank you for my boys who are perfect in every way.  They are the masterpieces that you created.  Just the way you wanted.  Help me to continue to see them for who they are, not who I want them to be.  Thank you for letting me be their mother.  May I follow in the example you gave us as you showed us how to love each other.  Amen.

… Is my middle name.

It’s been a hard week.

My emotions have been on edge as my parenting style was rocked trying to figure out how to let Isaac be Isaac and not expect him to be me.  You can’t just change your parenting tactics overnight…

On top of that, we’ve been struggling to get (and stay) healthy for over a month after having the stomach bug, the super cold, and most recently pink eye (Come on!).

Then last Wednesday, my grandma (mom’s mom) got sick and on Thursday, she unexpectedly passed away. So Thursday through Monday, my life was filled with cleaning my house for guests, cleaning Mama’s house while everyone was in town, and trying to love my family well as we all grieved this huge loss.

With all the emotion, I felt like I was barely able to take care of myself, much less my children, and our relationship struggled because of that.

Yesterday I was feeling much more stable but that didn’t stop me from yelling at Isaac when he flat out refused to obey after about five minutes of asking him nicely.

I got control of myself pretty quickly and by the time he was able to control his behavior, I went to him and apologized for yelling.  I kissed his head and told him how much I loved him.  “Even when I’m screaming, I still love you.  Even when I’m mad at you I still love you.  Do you know that?” I asked.  He nodded. I took his face in my hands and looked him in his blue eyes and told him one more time, “Isaac, I love you.”

He nodded. I can tell him a million times that I love him, but I can’t make him love me back.  That’s something he’ll have to choose to do.

 

I was at a meeting at church last night when a counselor got up and talked to us about pain.  “Why do you think pain is so hard to deal with?” she asked.  “Because it hurts!” someone answered.  We talked for nearly 30 minutes about the importance of dealing with our pain when the counselor said something else that caught my attention.

“You need to know that God loves you in the good times and bad.  Even when you’re in pain, God still loves you.”

Suddenly, I was reminded of the conversation I had with Isaac and it occurred to me that in a way, God is parenting me, while I’m parenting my kids.  I’ve seen time and time again that He is teaching me the same lessons I want my kids to learn.

It was like in that moment, God took my face in his hands and mirrored my own words, “Even when you’re screaming, I love you.  Even when I’m mad at you, I love you…  Emily, I love you.”

I like to think of God most often as the big Grandpa in the sky.  One who loves me unconditionally and wants to spoil me rotten.  I realize that I may be in the minority of thinking of God this way, but I’m a cup half full kinda girl.  I don’t like to think of God as being capable of anger, though the Bible clearly says He is.

I wonder if God gets angry with me when day after day I refuse to control my temper and hurt my relationship with my kids in the process.  When I think about it now, it’s a worthy reason to get angry.

Or maybe He’s just disappointed in me.  I remember feeling the most guilt when my mom was disappointed in me.  It often happened when she’d ask someone to do the dishes for her after slaving over our dinner in the kitchen all afternoon.  My brother and sisters and I would start fighting over who’s turn it was to do the dishes.  Ten minutes later, my mom would sadly turn on the faucet and start doing the dishes herself.  That felt way worse than any punishment she could have given us.

Either way, I realized last night that my inability to keep my cool not only hurts my relationship with my kids (which you’d think was a big enough reason to get it together) but it also disappoints God.

Thankfully, I know He loves me anyway.

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I wrote the above post yesterday but something didn’t sit right with me.  I couldn’t post it.  So I slept on it and waited until today to finish it up.  I thought about it all morning, wondering if anyone else can relate to the little revelations I get from God.  Maybe this post was just for me.

Then, I checked my Bible app and read the verse of the day: 

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. 

                                                                                  -Psalm 30:5

That’s what I needed to hear. Did you need to hear it, too?

God, I’m sorry.  Every single time I am pushed to my limit I fail to do the right thing.  It’s a big deal.  I’m sorry for yelling at my kids.  I’m sorry for not having the patience they deserve.  You’ve got to help me.  I obviously can’t handle it by myself.  Please give me patience, and peace, and understanding when I just don’t have it.  Remind me how much I love my kids and want to strengthen our relationship, not tear it down.  Thank you for loving me anyway, in the good times and bad.  Thank you for your favor on me and my family.  Thank you for joy in the morning and cutting through my wandering thoughts to speak to me clearly.  Don’t let me forget how much you love me in every circumstance, but don’t let me forget that my actions here affect our relationship, too.  I trust you.  I know you are just AND good.  Thank you for being both.  Help me to be the same.

 

 

Stars

There was a meteor shower on Thursday night.  I stayed up later than the rest of the family in hopes to get a glimpse of the amazing night sky in motion.

I’ve always been attracted to the stars.  They twinkle as if winking in acknowledgment of me.  There are more than I will ever be able to count, up to 1 septillion stars and the Bible says that God knows them each by name.

As a child, I would wish on the “first star I see tonight” and every shooting star I would get a glimpse of.  But my wishes have always been more than just hopes.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in a God who hears our every thought, so my wishes have always been more of prayers to someone who can actually make a difference.

For over a decade, whenever I would see a star, I would be reminded to pray for a friend of mine who was battling his own demons.  It seems that prayer has now been answered positively.  So my “wishes” are now always for my boys.

I know God hears my thoughts and prayers, but it seems I still look for visible signs that he hears me.   People can make their own signs, but we can’t make rocks fall through the sky, catching fire as they tip in and out of our atmosphere. So I look to the sky with my prayers, asking God for a sign that I am heard, that I am loved.

Thursday night, I walked out onto my back deck having a conversation with God.  God show me a shooting star.  Show me you love me.  Change my heart for my boys.  Help me to love them better.  Help me to be more patient.  Help them to grow strong in their love for you and others.

I caught a flash in my peripheral vision.  Was that it?  Was that a sign?  Was that a meteor?  Or did my eyes deceive me?  “Ok, God, I’m going to need another one to be sure that it was from you,” I told him.  I’m so thankful that God lets me demand things from him.  Who am I to ask anything of the God who controls the universe?!

I stared long and hard at the stars.  I looked to the brightest stars and tried to remember where the news said to look for the meteors.  The harder I looked for a sign, the more I saw a million “falling stars”.  Or more likely, my eyes just started playing tricks on me.

I started to get cold.  I gave God an ultimatum.  Okay God, three minutes.  You have three minutes then I’m going inside.  In those three minutes I saw a hundred faint lights arch through the sky, but none bright enough for me to know for sure that it wasn’t just my imagination.

I backed into the house, not taking my eyes off of the sky.  I closed the glass door and waited.  Okay, God last chance.  Reveal something to me.  Give me a sign that you’re out there.  That you care about me.  I leaned my head against the cold glass and my breath fogged up the window.

I started trying to explain God’s motives of making me wait on him.  It’s all an analogy for life isn’t it?  I can never really tell if God is speaking to me.  When I do get visible assurance that he’s asking me to move, I question it.  Was that really from Him or just my eyes playing tricks on me?

I sucked back in some of my warm breath.  The glass cleared just in time for me to see a meteor fall into our atmosphere, fall out, and back in again leaving two short trails of sparkling light behind it.

I smiled.  Thank you, God.

I walked back in through a pitch black house, but somehow, being in the dark, my eyes had adjusted and I could clearly see all around me.  Maybe hanging out with God for a while does help you to see things more clearly.

Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.

Isaiah 40:26

In the days since the horrific Newtown shooting I’ve heard so many people question “Where was God in all of this?”  Extremists from one side say that this is proof there is no God, and if there is one, he is either not all powerful, or he is absolutely not the loving God people claim he is.  On the opposite side, I’ve heard people say, this is a consequence, in direct relation to us pushing God out of schools.  Because we banned prayer and the ten commandments out of schools, God let this evil enter in.

Both answers make me sick to my stomach.  I know there is a God.  The stars themselves proclaim that there is something bigger than us out there, bigger than human laws and buildings. I know that looking for a “sign from God” after watching the news and knowing that the Geminid Meteor Shower is coming won’t convince anyone as proof of his existence.  But I’ve tested him.  I’ve lived life with him. And moving through this life with God has made a world of a difference.

I also know that God allows us to make our own choices.  If he intervened in every horrible decision, we’d not have free will.  We’d not really have life.  But I don’t think that is to say that he doesn’t intervene in some bad decisions.  I feel he has intervened in my life on multiple occasions.

Just last year, I was driving one of my youth girls and her little sister to the Magic House to play with a bunch of kiddos with special needs.  We were driving on highway 40 at a pretty good speed.  As I approached the top of a hill, I saw a huge line of traffic at a complete stop on the other side.  So I slowed to a stop.  The semi-truck behind me couldn’t foresee the traffic on the other side of the hill and didn’t have enough time to stop before hitting me.  So by the time I realized what could have happened.  I looked to my right and saw a huge semi truck screeching to a complete stop on the shoulder right next to my car.  That would have crushed me and two young girls to death.  I say, God intervened in that case.

So who are we to try to understand when God intervenes and why sometimes he doesn’t?  Who are we to try to understand the motives of the One who held the oceans in his hand; the One who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?

How can you say that God does not see your troubles?  How can you say he ignores your rights?  Haven’t you heard?

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.

Isaiah 40:28

And he loves us.  He loves you.  He loves those in such desperate heartache.  He loves those who are honestly questioning him and seeking after him.  He loves all.  He IS love.  He is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed (Psalm 34:18).  Try living life with him.  You won’t be disappointed.  Look at the stars.  If God cares enough to name a septillion balls of burning gas, you can believe that he cares about a person who was created in his own image.  May those stars remind you that there is a great and powerful God who loves you and wants to be close to you.

Santa Update

Here’s a quick update on how life has been since the Santa Reveal of 2012.

I’ve had some positive feedback from people saying that their kids found out early too.  I’ve had some other feedback where most people are confirming my fears that it’s just way too early for my boys not to believe in Santa anymore.

I’ve tried not to get depressed about it.

Today our neighbor boys walked in the house, saw our Christmas tree and blurted out, “There is no Santa, YOU put the gifts under the tree!”  To which Randall replied, “I don’t come in your house and put gifts under your tree.”

Turns out they don’t have a tree. Their religion doesn’t allow them to celebrate Christmas at all.  That makes sense that his parents would tell him young that there is no Santa.  But I made sure to let them know that SOME people still believe in Santa and they can’t go around telling people he’s not real.

I asked my boys how they were feeling after The Talk the other night.  I made sure that they knew that sometimes adults tell stories about Santa, and not all of them are true, but when we tell you anything about Jesus, it’s always true.  “There are some things in life that you have to just believe in, even if you can’t see it.  Santa’s not one of those things, but God is.  I promise you, I’ve never told you a lie about God.  Every thing I’ve ever said about Jesus is absolutely true. And you can trust that.”

Isaac said quietly, “I still believe in Santa.”  That’s my boy.  Asher said, “I don’t,” loud and clear.  I told them they could believe whatever they wanted about Santa, but I was a firm believer.

And for the record:

This boy is on Santa’s nice list.

This boy is still to be determined.

 

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.

Seasons

I’ve always had a hard time determining what my favorite season is.  It seems that as each new season turns, I welcome the change.  I dream of winter and the holidays and the family and comfort food that it brings,

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but when spring comes around, I am so ready for new life and flower buds and awakening trees.

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Everyone loves summer, right?  We get to play out in the sun and go on vacations and swim.

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But fall really must be my favorite.  It brings with it cooler weather (usually) and beautiful colors in the trees.  I absolutely love jacket weather, crunchy leaves, and pumpkins.

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Every new season brings the joy of change for me.  I don’t like monotony.  Though I know the benefits of it, I am not one for routine.

 

Asher started full day kindergarten today.

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He was so visibly excited and had no sign of apprehension.

So, now I find myself in a new season of life.  And I am full of possibilities… and apprehension, myself.

I was reminded to “run with endurance the race God has set before me” this morning when I read Hebrews 12.  But what if you don’t know which race you’re running?

People ask me what I’m going to do now that both boys are in school and I shrug and say, “We’ll see!”  God has given me some talents and passions and I want to spend my free time using those, but what will come of it?!  I don’t know yet.

I guess the verse says to run the race that has been set before you, not sprint to the finish line.  Maybe we don’t have to know which race we’re running, quite yet.  Maybe, in obedience, we just set one foot in front of the other.

I teach a class at my church and actually talk about the blessing it can be when God doesn’t reveal his big picture to us at the beginning.  If Paul had known what he’d encounter on the race God set before him, he may never have started.  Ship wreck, imprisonment, stoning, running for your life all to spread the news that Jesus really is who he said he was.  Even if God had just said, “Paul, you’re going to spread my story throughout the known world through a bunch of soldiers and other gentiles,” it may have been too much for him to handle the first day.

Today is my first day.  It’s new, it’s a change, it’s good and exciting.  But today, I’m going to write one word at a time.  Take one breath at a time.  Say one prayer at a time.  And tomorrow, I’ll do the same.

What will come of it?

We’ll see.

No Longer Her Son

As I prepare my heart for Easter I’ve been reading through all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion.  Because I am a mother, I can’t help but imagine the reality of the situation through Mary’s eyes.

 

Here it is, as I imagine it:

 

 

She didn’t even know how she had come to this point.  The beginning was miraculous to say the least.  The old priest, Simeon told her about the prophecies, but that was 33 years ago.  It seems like a long time ago, but it has been such a short time that she had with her son.

 

It was just hours ago that James, her younger son, came flying through the door in the middle of the night announcing that He had just been arrested.  Before she got to him he had been tried, and mocked.  Spit on and beaten.  She saw Pilate order him flogged.  She couldn’t bare to watch as the lead tipped whip thrashed against her son’s bare back, ripping the skin and muscles to shreds.  Maybe that would be punishment enough, maybe Pilate would convince the crowd to set him free.  But still he was sentenced to death; the most humiliating death on a cross.

 

She screamed, she yelled, he was innocent!  More innocent than any human who has ever lived on this earth.  He had done literally NOTHING to deserve punishment, much less death.  And she knew!  She was his mother.  Not once did she need to break out the rod with Jesus.  Not once did he ever disobey.  Not once did he make fun of his brothers, or make them feel inferior to his perfection.  Not once did he retaliate when others ridiculed him and poked fun.  He was PERFECT. 

 

So how did it come to pass that here he was, sentenced to death, beaten, mocked, bruised and bloodied, carrying his own weapon of demise down the streets toward Golgotha?

 

He stumbled, she cried out in pain for her son.  “Someone help him!  Oh God, please, someone help my baby!”  Then someone stepped out.  Removed the blood stained cross beam from his shoulders and helped him up.  “God bless that man, whoever he is.” She prayed.

 

John, Jesus’ closest friend found Mary in the crowd.  He held her up and walked with her to the hill.  She could barely support her own weight from the angst she carried for her son.

 

At nine in the morning, up on the hill that they call “Skull Hill,” a hill she had always avoided and never looked upon for fear of the gruesome events that happened there, her son was nailed to the cross beams and raised up onto the cross.  She watched in horror as her son suffered and struggled to breathe.  It was more than she could bare, she bent over and heaved onto the grass.

 

The soldiers placed bets and rolled dice for his clothes.  Even the thieves dying themselves on the crosses next to Jesus mocked him.  “So you’re the Messiah, are you?  Prove it by saving yourself!”

 

“Yes, Jesus, yes, no one would blame you.  Save yourself.  I know you can.  I believe you are the Messiah.  Show them!” Mary sobbed quietly to her self.  If she could, she would do anything for her baby to stop the pain.  But even she knew that as much as she wanted to take his place and make the sacrifice herself, or let her son live and show his power, it had to be this way.  No other death could do what Jesus’ sacrifice would do: save all of humanity.  It would free us all from the bondage of sin and death.  For our freedom, an innocent man had to die.

 

As blood continued to drip from his forehead, arms, feet, and back, Jesus saw her in the crowd standing beside his friend John.  He knew that her heart was breaking and since her husband had past years before she would need the support of another son.  “Dear Woman, John is your son, now.  John, she is your mother.”  Suddenly Mary realized, that he was no longer her baby.  No longer her son at all.  He was her Savior.   And not just hers, but the Savior of all the world.  It was a heartfelt offer both she, and John, would take.  From now on John would be her son, and Jesus would be her Messiah.

 

Around noon the sky went dark.  The atmosphere mirrored that of her heart.  For three more hours they stood with him.  At three in the afternoon, he cried out, louder that she thought he had energy for, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” And then, “It is finished.

 

And then, Jesus died with his beloved friend and mother in view.  Really, he died with us all in view.  With the weight of all our sin on his shoulders he breathed his last breath and gave up his spirit. 

 

The mocking crowd quieted at his cries.  “Surely this was the Son of God,” one of the soldiers said aloud.  When the ground began to shake, rocks split apart, people could not deny that this was no ordinary man.  The curtain in the Temple separating the holiest of holy places was torn in two from top to bottom in a way that only God, himself, could have done.

 

But that last shout that Jesus uttered rang in the peoples’ ears.  God has abandoned us.  We killed the Messiah.  Even Satan, the Enemy, thought he had won.

 

The Sabbath passed.  A day of rest that should have been celebrated, was a day of mourning.  A day when His followers had felt completely abandoned by their God.  They hid.  They made plans to move on.

 

Then Sunday morning came.  Mary cried all the way there.  She didn’t want to see his lifeless body again.  That bloodied and broken body was not her son.  But she would care for him one last time. She brought spices that she had carefully prepared to the tomb.  But Jesus was not there. Oh no.  He had risen!  Her son, no, her Savior, was healed and whole again.  God had won.  Satan was defeated.   Death was conquered.

 

Because of the sacrifice that Jesus made, grace and freedom now belong to the world.  Grace and freedom from sin, freedom to live life to the fullest potential is ours because He gave his son in the ultimate sacrifice… for me.

 

 

Home

There’s this idea floating around the Christian community that this world is not our home.  It’s a biblical concept that I think has gotten skewed.  Peter talks about it.  Paul talks about it.  We are reminded to live like citizens of Heaven, worthy to spread the Good News of Jesus.  Meaning, we are to live in a way that makes people want to know the Jesus we know.  It’s a concept that brings hope to many people.  When we feel like we just can’t take much more life on this earth, because it is hard and it is painful, we can have hope that this world is not the end.  Something much better awaits us.

It’s true, but it’s a dangerous concept, too.  I think there are many Christians that skew this thought and sit around just waiting for their future home in Heaven.  Like Chris Seay said in his Culture Maker Series talk, we go through this life as if this world is a public bathroom.  We try to get in and out without touching anything!

I hate to tell you this but: This world IS your home.  At the end of the end, God will make the world; everything we already know, NEW.  He created this world for you, for your pleasure!  In the beginning, He gave Adam and Eve a perfect garden.  Everything worked together.  Humans and animals were not afraid of each other.  Food was readily available for every living thing on this earth.  There was no sin; there was no pain.  Then we made a choice that shook the core of the earth.  Since that day, this world has not been what God created it to be, but it will again someday.  We’ll live in a new Heaven AND A NEW EARTH.

I know where the Christian artists are going with this thought, and I have beautiful friends that have been getting through each day with the hope that this world is not the end.  And they’re right. But I disagree with the #1 Christian song in America today.  This IS where we belong.  God put us here on this earth for today.  If we live life with the mind set that we are just waiting until the day that God takes us to our eternal home, then we are missing the WHOLE point of LIFE!!!

 

This world is absolutely amazing!  I think we’ve lost the wonder of it all.  Let me remind you.  Watch this.

It is absolutely breathtaking.  This world was created for YOU.  Enjoy it.  Remind others of its sheer wonder.  Take care of it.  Leave it more beautiful than you found it.  My boys are inheriting this world in this life.  Adam’s first job was to take care of the animals and land he was given.  After they sinned, God sent Adam out into the world to cultivate the land from which he came.

But even more than that, we have to use Jesus as our example as we LIVE in this world.  He didn’t treat it like a public bathroom, that’s for sure.  He got his hands dirty.  He got out in it and touched things and people that no one else would go near.

Paul talks in Philippians 1 about how dying would be better for him, but concludes that it’s best for everyone that he lives.  He said that in the last years of his life.  There are seasons when we just need to cling to the hope that Heaven awaits us, but for most of our lives, we need to live to the fullest.  Jesus came so that we may have LIFE and have it to the full.  He left us to go prepare heaven, but he came to show us how to live life here on earth.  Yes, this world is flawed, but we’re called to live as ambassadors for God.  Our job is to do our best to make it right again.

So, Go.  Live.

Enjoy this world.

This world IS our home.

 

 

True Sacrifice

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Fact: Parenting is hard.

                                                And gross and fun and frustrating and wonderful.

Fact: I am imperfect.

                                                Oh, so flawed…

I am still learning how to parent.   I question if I’m screwing up my kids by not letting them do things.  I question if I’m screwing up my kids by letting them do other things.  Every day is a new experiment and quite honestly, I don’t know how I’m doing. 

Fact: My imperfection, as a parent and as a person, affects my boys.

                                                 Ugh.

 

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We learned this weekend at church that we should look to God as our example for how to parent.  We can take cues from how He loves us, and pass that love on to our kids.  God loves us unconditionally.  He loves us enough to give us rules and guidelines and we should do the same for our kids.  

But so much more than that, God loves us enough to sacrifice everything for us.  To give us grace and mercy and even to give up his own life for us.

When I think about that example and how I live up to it, I know I would give my life for my boys.  When they’re sick or hurt, it breaks my heart and I wish I could take that pain on myself to stop their suffering.  I would absolutely make the ultimate sacrifice for my boys.

But that’s not what is called of me on a daily basis.  My kids don’t need me to give up my life for them.  They need me to give up my selfishness for them.  They need my time.  They need my attention.  They need me to LIVE for them, not die for them.

Believe it or not, that’s a much harder sacrifice for me.

This blog was originally started as an online baby book for my boys, to record their milestones and remember them at each stage of growth.  It’s now a place where I am recording how much my boys have taught me and how I’ve grown.  But I pray that someday, Isaac and Asher will look back and read these words from their young mother.

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Isaac and Asher:  I hope you know how much I love you.  I hope you know I would do anything for you.  My goal as a parent is to love you well and teach you to be godly men who love others more than yourselves.  I hope that is apparent to you.  Today’s lesson in godliness is that you must give each other grace.  I am human and this whole parenting thing will always be new to me.  I have made mistakes and I will continue to make mistakes and I know that it is very likely that you will be in counseling one day because of the way I have parented you.  I am so sorry for that.  Please forgive me and please extend some grace my way.

 

God, I thank you for showing us how to raise our kids.  It seems counter-intuitive to say “no” because of our love, but it is evident that you love us by the boundaries you’ve given us.  You want us to live full, guilt-free, joy filled lives and the limits you’ve given us guide us towards that full life. I beg you to give me wisdom and help me to make wise choices when it comes to raising my boys.  I pray that you and my boys both will forgive me when I screw up.  Just as you forgive and forget our mistakes, I pray that my faults won’t leave a lasting impression on my kids.  May they be able to overcome my imperfection and learn from my faults.  But more than anything, I pray that You help me achieve my parenting goal, may these boys grow up to be godly men who put You and others before themselves. May I learn that lesson as well, and love my boys more than I love my own time. God, I cannot do this alone.  Thank you that I don’t have to.  Thank you for Randall who compliments me perfectly.  Thank you for a community of people who care enough about my boys to have the same goal.  Thank you most of all, for never giving up on us and for never once leaving us to do this on our own.

Imagine

Well, Christmas season is over.  I took down all of the Christmas decorations this week.  I sent my boys back to school today.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with my family this season.  I intentionally made my schedule less hectic and planned for time to just be with my family while they were in town.  Still, we kept busy.  We hit the Magic House and the Science Center and two Christmas Eve services, we celebrated Christmas three times in one day and hit the road 12 hours later for Oklahoma City to do it all again.

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In OKC we hit a lego exhibit and the lego store.  We shopped, we visited the Oklahoma City Memorial and museum, we played a lot of games and celebrated some more.  I stayed up way too late reading but slept in longer than I have in years. Over the break, I finished reading the book Havah: the story of Eve by Tosca Lee.  The fictional book is written in the voice of Eve, the first woman.  It was beautiful and poetic and haunting.  Though I’m not sure I agree with a few small points of the book’s theology, it gives imagination to a short story in the Bible and brings it to life as the reality it may have been.  It imagines the relationship between the first man and woman and their Creator.  But the part that haunted me most was the description of the DEPTH of the fall. We don’t even realize how far we now stand from how we were created to be.

That’s our problem with every Bible story.  We read the words and we commit them to memory, but we don’t give life to them by imagining the reality of the story.  That’s the problem with the Christmas story.  We’ve heard it so many times.  We know it backward and forward.  We can recite it in our heads in Linus’ voice “And the glory of the Lord shown round about them and they were sore afraid.”  This year, I got out four different nativity sets and played with them with my boys over the holdiay.  We told the story of Jesus’ birth in our own voices just like we’ve read it in Luke chapter 2.  It was fun.

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But can we imagine how it really must have been?  More than the words, but the sights, the sounds, the feelings?  I’m sure we have the nativity picture in our heads of a bright star over a stable and angels singing over shepherds but here’s the deal:  God promised centuries before that he would send a savior; a king to save his people.  Prophets spoke about him and gave very specific instructions about who this king would be.  I’m sure for years and years, people waited in eager expectation of their savior.  They probably had high hopes for every son born in the city of David for years and years, but the reality of the situation was this:  He did not come and God and his prophets were silent for 400 years.   People probably lost hope over the centuries.  They probably stopped expecting each new boy to be Him long ago.

Then one day God approached an angel.  “Gabriel,” He said, “it’s time.” Gabriel’s heart started pounding.  Did He really mean that NOW was the time that he would send his son to save the world?!  This was the moment the universe had been waiting for for thousands of years.  Since the day that Eve gave the fruit to Adam and they both disobeyed their Adonai.

Gabriel was sent to visit a teenage girl and she was given the shocking and exciting news.  Still they had to wait another 9 months.  The angels in heaven were taking polls and guessing when the baby would come.  They knew it wouldn’t be until Mary and her betrothed took their trip to Bethlehem.  But the wheels were set in motion.  Joseph and Mary set off on their journey.  They took their time and arrived about seven days later.  There was no room in the inn, but they found room for this couple.

Sometime while they were there Mary had her first painful contraction.  The angels waited with eager expectation.  They timed her contractions and as they became closer and closer together, from the heights of Heaven they cheered her on.  “Breathe,” they chanted.  “Push!” they yelled. It was about time to celebrate!!!

After much labor, He was born.  He was here.  God was on earth.  It was done.  Jesus gave up his crown and came to earth to be born of a poor carpenter’s young wife.  He would be beaten and bruised.  Mocked and tempted. He would have acne and colds and the stomach virus.  He would have to work hard and study harder.  He would have to feast and fast.  He would have to suffer in this life like we all do, and suffer like no one in all of eternity has or will with the weight of all of our sin on his shoulders.  But first, he would have to eat, sleep, cry and get dirty like every other human born on this earth as a baby.  As he entered the light, the tiny baby, God himself, took his first breath and let out a gurgling wail.

The angels cheered!  God, in heaven wept over the beauty that is new life.  Over the knowledge of how his son will live and die.  Over the pride he had in his newborn son.

Suddenly a bright star appeared in the night.  Even the rocks and gases of this universe exploded in celebration.  Wise men hundreds of miles away saw the star and knew that this was huge.  Something big just happened.  The One that people had prophesied for years about was here.  The new King.  And they set off for years on a journey to find that king.

Shepherds who were watching their flock at night were startled as a light shone above them.  It was a being of some sort.  Too bright to see clearly but speaking to them.  They were terrified!  What was going on?  The sheep were probably terrified as well and there was a second where everyone was running around trying to make sense out of what was happening when the angel spoke.  He could hardly keep his cool he was so excited.  He had to spread the good news!!!

“Calm down, don’t be afraid.  Shh, shh.  Listen up!  I just have some great news I HAVE to share with you!  You’ll want to hear this it will bring you great joy. Everybody, PEACE!”  The shepherds stopped, stunned.  The sheep calmed, too.  They all listened intently to what this being had to say.  “Today, just now… He’s here!!!”  The angel grabbed his head still in disbelief.  “The baby, The Savior was born tonight in Bethlehem!  He’s the One we’ve all been waiting for.  He’s the Messiah, the LORD!  Go, find him!  He’s lying in a manger and wrapped in cloths.  GO!”

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An army of angels were watching the whole conversation but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer.  They appeared and rejoiced and whooped and hollered and started singing and dancing.  I assure you they did not stand still like a choir.  The shepherds, still dumbfounded started laughing at the excitement in the angels.  They watched in awe as the angels continued the celebration.  Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone; off to celebrate somewhere that smelled better than the sheep stenched fields.

The shepherds stood in silence.  They looked at each other, not sure if they had just awoken from a dream.  “What just happened?” they asked each other.  “Apparently the Messiah was born tonight in Bethlehem,” the smart one said.  They decided they should check it out just to reassure themselves that they weren’t going crazy.  They left the sheep where they were and started running towards town.

Then they found it.  I don’t know how they found the place where a baby was lying in cloths in a manger, and I don’t think they knew how they found it either, but there they were.  And there He was.  “So, it’s true?  This is the One?  This is the Messiah, here to save us all?”

Mary looked down at her precious baby, “Yes, this is Him.  This is God’s son.  He will save us all”

The shepherds could hardly believe their eyes.  What an amazing night.  Centuries they had been waiting for this moment and it was here!!!  They ran out of the house and told everyone they saw on the streets.  They went home and told their mothers who asked where the sheep were and who was watching them.  They spread the news until there was no one left to tell and they went back to the room where the Messiah was sleeping.  They fell to their knees and started crying.  “Adonai, God, you have fulfilled your promise.  You said that He would come and he is here.  You sent angels to announce his birth and they told us where to find him and it’s just as they said.  You told me.  You let me be a part of this night.  I will never forget this.  I will tell my children and they will tell their children and my family will be blessed because you invited me into your story.  May this baby boy grow up to be strong enough to save us all.  May it be as you said.  Thank you!”

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And Mary, the mother of God’s son, just took it all in.  She didn’t get any sleep that night.  The shepherds were there and people from the street started peeking in to see if what the shepherds had said was true.  She dried her eyes and prayed with the shepherds, “Thank you,” and took it all in and kept it in her heart.  For thirty three years, and even longer, every year on this day she told her son the story of his birth, unlike any other birth in history.  A long anticipated night, celebrated by the heavens and earth.  It was huge.

And we recite the story in Linus’ drone.  It. was. huge. Much bigger than I can even imagine.

 

God, may we be surprised by your story.  May we never grow bored with the miracles that you have performed.  Give us a glimpse into the reality of your story.  You created us with an imagination, help us to remember to use it like children do on a regular basis.  And thank you for inviting US into your story.  Thank you for using regular people to spread your word and good news.  Thank you for giving us hope that we can be used in spectacular ways even though we don’t feel like spectacular people. You are the God of the poor, of the normal, of us.  Thank you for giving up Heaven and coming to earth.  May we never forget your sacrifice.  May Christmas always seem like a huge deal and something to celebrate with whoops and hollers and singing and dancing.