Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Who's the Boss?

Some days just don't go as you plan.

...(Ok, I'll be honest and say that MOST days don't go as I plan!)

For a Type A personality, that's rough! I make lists, whether physically or just mentally, of what "needs" to happen every day, and when I think it needs to happen, so when something happens that isn't on the checklist, it can really throw me for a loop. 

As you've probably guessed, today was one of those days where things just did not go as planned. Homeschooling was met with many struggles, my tiniest T is still sick with an upper respiratory virus of some sort, some appointments got changed (which is good, but led to rushing around trying to get needed forms gathered sooner), my kids misbehaved all through tonight's rehearsal, etc. It's not really that anything earth shattering happened, (and some really great things happened today, too, like a sweet friend bringing me my first PSL of the season and helping me with my kids, and another friend bringing me an assortment of gourmet pickles, and an impromptu lunch outing), but it was just a day full of LIFE happening, and today, it left me drained in the parenting department. I felt like a broken record all day long, just totally unable to get through to my precious Lucy. Before leaving for church, I looked her straight in the eyes and said, "I know you want to feel in control of things, because your life has experienced a lot of out of control things, so there's a need to keep things stable. But you've got to remember that you aren't in control. Who's in control?"

Her big, blue eyes looked right back at me and said, "You are."


I literally think I did a double take, because I honestly thought it was a rhetorical question. 

"No no no, honey! Not me! GOD is in control, and He's placed me over you to draw you closer to Him. Every single thing I do and say to you, is to help you draw closer to Jesus. I fail at that a LOT, but I need you to know that that's the goal: I want you to love Jesus, so that's why I get on to you and don't let you get away with certain things. I just want you to draw close to Jesus."

I'm not sure it fully clicked with her, but I think, more than anything else, it was really the Lord speaking through me to remind me of the important calling He's given me. Perhaps my trying so hard to control my daily schedule has come off looking to my kids like I am the one who's taking control, when in reality, no matter how hard I try to maintain control, it is ALWAYS Jesus, and I have the ability to choose whether I will recognize Him or not. 

A video popped up in my Timehop yesterday of Annie last year. She had this game she liked to play with us called "Who's the boss?" She would play-cry when we told her that Daddy or Mommy was the boss, and then she'd giggle and smile if we told her that she was the boss. Even 2 year olds like to feel like they have control...

I am truly so grateful for my chaotic life. It is full of love, laughter, beauty from ashes, grace...I have an amazing husband who cherishes me, four incredible miracle babies who love me, a church family that allows me to serve, opportunities to use the gifts God has given me...but when I take a step back and peek in on all of it, I realize that somewhere inside of me is a little two year old that's throwing a fit when I'm not told that I'm the boss...and that's where Grace steps in, and oh how I need His grace! It is greater than my need to control, it is greater than my poor responses, it is greater than my struggle to forgive those who have wronged me, it is greater than my kids' disobedience...It is greater, and It is enough. So on a day when I feel like I've just had enough of the battle, my Jesus reminds me that He's still on the throne, and His grace is enough to cover it all.

After all, He's the boss!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Power Struggles...

They say that every child is different, so you'd think four children into parenting that I wouldn't be surprised when my kids do things differently from one another, but I still find myself getting caught off guard when they don't act like herd animals! lol:) Our most recent "adventure in parenting" deals with our tiniest of T's who apparently is channeling her inner ninja warrior. Her first feat? Scale the baby bed! I should note that while she's not the first child to climb out of her crib, she IS our first to be so persistent with it!

I'll never forget the afternoon that I put Lucy down for a nap when she was around two years old. I went into our living room to relax for a moment, looked up, and saw her standing in the doorway! I immediately put her back in her bed, and she did it again! That's when we knew it was time for a toddler bed and a baby gate at her door! This was a fairly easy fix though with just one child--her room was perfectly baby proofed (after we moved that blue chair out of the way! LOL), and she didn't really attempt to "scale the fence." She would, however, stand by her door and yell everyone's names out when she wanted to get out of her room, like when GiGi came for a visit: "Mommmmmmy!!! Dadddddyyyy!!! GiGi??? MICHAEL! Paula-Beth??!"

Gabriel was the opposite--he preferred his crib so much so that he was in it until he was three and a half years old! We never even converted it to a toddler bed-he just went straight from the crib to his big boy bed, which has pretty high sides so it still gives the feeling of being somewhat enclosed. He knew how to climb out, but her preferred the boundaries around him.

Next up was Annie Beth. She figured the whole crawling out of the crib gig at the usual age of 2-ish, but with correction and the removal of crib bumpers, she stayed put in her crib until she was almost three.

And then there were four...

Everyone told me that adding a third child is the most difficult, so after that, four kids isn't a huge transition.

Those people LIED!  lol!

(I honestly think it has more to do with the age difference in my kids. Lucy is almost five years older that Gabriel, but the other three are 21 months apart in age, so they're all going through big, yet different, stages at the same time.)

Evangeline had the roughest start out of all of my babies. She has remained the tiniest of all my kids (by far! I went from an almost 10 pounder to a 6 pounder!), and she had to spend time in the NICU. The phrase, "Though she be but little, she is fierce!" certainly has applied to her, because she's a determined little girl, conquering all milestones well before any of my other children: rolling over, crawling, walking, teething, and, as you probably have gathered by this point of my post, CLIMBING. I partially (jokingly) blame DH for her upper body strength as she spent a lot of time planking when he was doing a push-up challenge last year;-) I'm sure she's just keeping a close eye on her big brother and sisters and wants to get in on all of the fun they're having, but whatever the reason, "TinyT" is keeping me on my toes by her keeping on top of her own!

...It started a few weeks ago when I put her down for a nap and later found her walking proudly into the living room. She hasn't stopped trying (and succeeding) at climbing out since then. We've found her on top of the changing table (her bed has since been moved away from it), scooting her bed over to the jewelry cabinet and playing with Mommy's beads, trying to climb the oven, climbing on top of the name it, she tries to climb it! The main problem with this is that the bedrooms are far from baby proofed like they were when there was just Lucy, and there's not a space to place Evangeline free from getting into something, because she's just the busiest little girl ever! So yesterday, I made an investment in a wearable blanket, and so far, it has been the most fabulous purchase ever! She can still walk in it, and her arms are free, but she can't lift her legs up to climb around. Of course, she has attempted, but did not succeed!

As I was driving home with my new purchase in towe, I was reminded of my own power struggles with God as I look at the ways my children are determined to do things their own way. On vacation last week, I reminded my children multiple times that the reason Mommy and Daddy tell them "no" to certain things and give them certain rules is because it's our job to keep them safe. It may look like fun to run across the street to get somewhere more quickly, but my little ones don't understand that a car can dart out quickly in front of them and hurt them. Eating a whole bag of candy might sound yummy to begin with, but Mommy and Daddy know that too much of a good thing only ends up making you sick. (Just ask my hubby who can no longer eat chocolate because of a babysitter giving him free reign to a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips!)
We place our babies in a crib to give them a safe place to sleep. They still have plenty of room to roll around and even play a bit, but they're given boundary lines to keep them safe from things they would otherwise get into and possibly hurt themselves with. Sometimes, we can expand those boundaries a bit more, like with Lucy, and sometimes we prefer to stay within the boundaries, like Gabriel. But other times, we feel confined and fight against the restrictions placed upon us. Like Evangeline, we want to taste freedom because we don't realize that what we want is not always what we need.

So we fight with God.

We struggle to be free to do as we please, only to find ourselves with the consequences our loving Heavenly Father was trying to protect us from--like when Evangeline scaled her crib and bumped her head. And sometimes we fight against His perfect plan, until we finally give in from exhaustion and rest. But all along, what He wants us to do is just trust Him and rest in Him, so that we don't have to go through the struggles. God gives us boundaries BECAUSE He loves us.

I love how the Psalmist reminds us here that the best place to be is in God's presence. He desires to shield us from harm and bless us if we will simply let go and trust Him.

"Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere...The Lord God is a SHIELD...and blessed is the man who TRUSTS in You."
Psalms 84:10-12 

 Just as I want to remain patient and consistent with my children, I'm so thankful for a Heavenly Father who is ever gracious and merciful to me when I wander from Him and struggle with my flesh. He may not zip me up in a wearable blanket, but He so desires to cover me in the shadow of His wings.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I Have This Hope...

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19-23

Evangeline's 15 month well check was yesterday. It's kind of neat that it fell on that particular day because it is the day, exactly two years ago, that I got the shock of my life in finding out I was expecting her.  My husband and our, then, pastor had just resigned from our church two days prior because of some really ugly things happening within the leadership of the church, and he had just come home from packing up his office when I shared the news with him. I'll never forget the look on his face. Having struggled so much to expand our family for so many years, we found ourselves in awe of this miracle, and yet completely overwhelmed at the timing of it all. And that is how our sweet Evangeline came to first be known to us as "Baby H," because we knew that God was reminding us of the hope that we have in Him, no matter what the circumstances surrounding us may be.

Yesterday at her appointment, Evangeline ran straight to the doctor when she entered the room and hugged her leg and wanted her to pick her up, and waved and said "bye bye" and blew kisses when she left. After her appointment, she was running up to random people in the waiting room with her arms stretched up, motioning for them to pick her up, and striking up sweet little "conversations" with them. She's definitely a people person, athough every few moments she would run back up to me, as if to check in and make sure everything was okay;-)

She remains our tiniest of T's, weighing only 21.7 pounds (50th percentile) and measuring 29 and 3/4 inches tall (13th percentile.) Don't be fooled by her tiny appearance though, because she's got big plans every day, and I pray she will discover the amazing plan her Heavenly Daddy has for her. She brought hope into our lives during a very dark time, and I pray she continues to eagerly reach her arms out to others to give them the hope I pray she finds in Jesus Christ!

As I was writing this blog post out, I kept finding myself humming "I Have This Hope" by Tenth Avenue North. 
I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

What a blessing it is to be Evangeline's mommy! I cannot imagine our lives without this ray of sunshine who daily reflects her name by being a reminder to me of the Good News we can find in Jesus Christ, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding us.

Friday, July 21, 2017


We are currently in the throws, a third time, with what I have found to be the most challenging part of parenting small children: potty training.  You would think that the "third time would be the charm," but at this point, I'm pretty much just waving my white flag (or maybe a roll of Charmin?!) and realizing that it's probably not my kids: it's me.  I am REALLY really bad at potty training! So far, I have yet to have a child potty trained before they reached their 4th birthday. Part of this I attribute to the fact that I've been blessed to have my babies home with me, so we haven't had to be structured with it all like you would in a school setting. But mostly, I just think I'm really bad at teaching my kids how to use the potty! There is no prize, no chart, no incentive, no song, no special character underwear, no timer, no nifty potty chair or seat, no 3 day program--NOTHING that will win against the determined spirit that overflows from my kiddos. I really see how this strong-willed nature can be a great asset to them, but it's all a matter of directing it, and right now, we are TOTALLY missing the mark (pun intended!!) ;-) With Lucy, it was a matter of everyone else her age being potty trained, so I felt like I was failing her as a mom somehow. With Gabriel, it was a bit of the same. But now that I'm in my third round of it with Annie Beth, I'm not so much trying to keep up with everyone else--I just would really like for her to be able to go to preschool twice a week so she can have fun while I'm trying to do school with her big brother and sister! 

***I should note that I'm really thankful we have Norwex this go around with potty training, because the accidents are no longer as big of a deal to clean up, and they aren't as surprising...although the "artwork" on the bathroom walls certainly was a first (and a SECOND) for me to experience this past week...***

 My sweet little sass-a-pants of a 3 year old certainly has a wonderful mind of her own. I love that she is a determined child with an insistent spirit and strong sense of what she wants and does not want. I love that these qualities are all things that the Lord can and will use for His glory. And while her stubborn attitude can be a challenge, it also fills our days with much humor as we listen to our talkative toddler spout out her plans for the day, which usually do not include using the potty. For example, on a daily basis, my little girl who can't yet pronounce her "r's" will have the following conversation with me:

(Mommy) "Are we going to keep our panties clean and dry today, Annie Beth?"

(Annie) "I'll go poo poo on the potty...tomorrow!"

I can't help but laugh at her phrasing, seeing as how her name instantly brings to mind the beloved musical of another curly-headed little girl, "Annie," who is best known for belting out "Tomorrow" at the top of her amazing set of pipes.  But this newfound phrase of my Annie's also stirs up some other emotions within because of it's timeliness.

My last blogpost was written a few weeks ago, as I reflected on the tenth anniversary of my daddy's passing, and today would have been his 68th birthday. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my daddy and miss him. But if you've known me for very many of these past ten years of my life, you've probably heard me say that, more than missing my daddy, I miss knowing all that he missed out on. 

If you were to have visited my daddy at his office, you would have found his walls adorned with clocks of all types and sizes. He enjoyed a nice wrist watch, too, and had quite the collection. He would commonly make the remark, followed by his classic chuckle, that he collected them so that he would never run out of time. He worked so very hard to provide for our family, but in his doing so, the one thing we missed out on the most with him was time with him. I think he always thought that there would be a tomorrow, so he wanted to make the most out of his "today" to try to make everyone's "tomorrows" better. 

But we aren't promised tomorrow.

Joshua 24:15 reads:
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
We live in a world that is constantly wanting to tell us how to better ourselves, but God doesn't want the "new and improved" version of us, because there is nothing we could ever do that would cause Him to love us or want us more. He gave His Son for us, because He loves us! We have to be willing to stop and lay down our own hopes and dreams, though, so that we will be able to take hold of HIS great plans for us.

It is so easy to become distracted in this world. We have technology constantly at our fingertips, we have jobs and families and friends that depend on us and pull at us, and we have goals and desires for what we want in our lives. Whether we admit it or not, we prioritize everything in our lives every single day. Am I spending my few moments of free time on facebook, or am I choosing to spend it in HIS book? It becomes far too easy to put things off for tomorrow when we become immersed in all that the world says it has for us today. That's why God calls us to fix our eyes firmly on Him...

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Oh how I wish that my Daddy were alive to see these 4 amazing miracles that the Lord has entrusted to me on this earth! I know that Lucy would tug at his heart strings, Gabriel would be his little buddy, Evangeline would bring a soft side out of him, and Annie would be constantly causing him to deliver his signature chuckle. He missed out on experiencing the life God has blessed our family with in these children, and a life sold out abundantly to Jesus. So, my greatest desire for those of you reading this is for you to look to Jesus and give Him every part of your life--not tomorrow, because tomorrow isn't promised, but today...

Saturday, July 8, 2017

10 years...

It was ten years ago this morning when my mother was frantically trying to get in touch with me. I was in worship team rehearsal and had turned my phone off though. (This is why you will probably never find me without my phone to this day.) She was able to get a hold of the church's number, and someone came and pulled my husband out of rehearsal. After being gone for several minutes, I felt like something must be wrong, so I went to check on him. I'm not really sure how he was able to tell me those horrible words, but I'm so thankful for the caring, loving man that he is, always looking out for me and loving me so well.

 If you've ever lost someone, you know that the grief of their passing can hit like waves in the oceans or thunderstorms in the summer. Sometimes we see the storm coming and suit up in our raincoat and galoshes, and sometimes we are caught off guard and struggle to feel God's grace in the midst of the turbulent winds. 

Yesterday, we were caught off guard by the physical storms that rolled in and interrupted our swimming time. My kids were disappointed, but coming home, eating popsicles, and watching Moana for the hundredth time seemed to do the trick;-) All the while, in the back of my mind, a mental storm was brewing within me, looming over my head like a dark cloud.

July 8 is a day I often approach feeling like Eyeore. And for anyone who experiences the waves of grief, you probably understand how it feel like a rain cloud is hovering over you, following you wherever you
go. But don't forget that there is always a calm after the storm, and with a storm comes refreshment to the earth, despite the destruction it may cause. And the cloud itself, though it can produce a storm, can also provide protection. 

I dread the inevitable resurrection of memories from ten years ago when I learned that my daddy had passed away. I can't see past the clouds at what God did in His infinite wisdom, but I can choose to let Him cover me with His comfort and the knowledge that He is good.

I'm thankful that my Heavenly Daddy doesn't chastise me for struggling over my earthly daddy's sudden death. Instead, He wraps His arms around me and catches each tear that falls from my face and reminds me that He is a good, good Father. 

I imagine today will come with its share of tears, but right now, what the Lord is speaking to my heart is that He is still good, and He is ever near to the broken-hearted. Without pain, we would not experience comfort. And just like I long for my babies to crawl up in my lap and let me hold them close, my Heavenly Daddy wants to do the same for me. 

No matter the circumstance in your life, God is able to bring good from them. It may be that your Daddy-God reveals the bigger picture to you, or you may just experience the blessing of His comfort in the midst of the storm. Some days I still feel like I'm sorting through the damage of that great storm in my life ten years ago, but at the same time, I choose to rest in the total assurance that my God is good, faithful, just, and He cares deeply for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Holding on and Letting Go...

We spend a lot of time telling our children, "Don't let go!" As we were walking through Six Flags yesterday, I can't tell you how many times the question, "Does everyone have a hand?!" came out of my mouth.
Basically, everyone is supposed to be holding someone else's hand (or onto the stroller) as we maneuver through crowded areas. There is something about holding on to each other that makes us feel safer. It's easier to stay together and stay on task when we join hands and hold on tightly. (It's also comforting to have others at your side, like our amazing Mimi who came along with us yesterday to help with the kids.)

But with as many times as I told my kids to not let go yesterday, I also found myself telling them the exact opposite! Like the moment when I was trying to sit Evangeline onto the carousel horse, but she clung tightly to her momma out of fear of the unknown. She squealed in delight as she was in line watching each horse go round and round and up and down, but she cried in fear when she was given the opportunity to experience it firsthand. In those moments, all she wanted was for her momma to hold her closely so she could watch it all unfold from afar.

Lucy, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. There is no ride she doesn't want to try. She raises her arms in abandon as she screams in excitement through the unknown twists and turns of each roller coaster. She has excitement for the unknown, with an inner confidence that she is still safe in the hands of the operator of each ride.
And then there is my sweet Gabriel. I don't think I will ever forget how terrified he once was of everything about Six Flags. He wanted nothing to do with any of the rides or characters. He still wants nothing to do with the ginormous characters (notice his absence from the photo here with Tweety Bird--he was hiding behind my back and holding on tightly to my legs!), but he was eager to ride as many rides as he could. Slowly, but surely, he's learning to let go and experience things. 

And then there's my Annie Beth--so eager to go on all of the rides, but not quite big enough yet. She's still growing, and it is difficult to not grow impatient in the process. (Animal crackers help though;-) 

Lastly, there's the momma--me. I used to ride every single ride that I could get on! I loved the thrills and the excitement, but as I've gotten older, I've found that most of those circular motions just make me feel sick! Lucy told me yesterday, quite sincerely, "Momma, I feel bad that you don't get to ride very much because you have to stay with Evangeline." I responded, "It's okay, baby. This way, I get to watch all of your reactions as YOU are on the rides, and that's just as thrilling for me as if I were getting to ride it myself!"
You see, life is full of so many seasons. And with a large family full of kids at various ages, the Lord is really working on my heart on what it means to truly embrace each of those seasons...

My incredible "Tiny Toller" (Evangeline) is at the season of learning to let go. Yes, I want to hold her tightly and keep her safe, but I also know there are so many amazing things she can experience if she will just let go and try. Her fear often overtakes her willingness to try, but I continue to be patient with her, knowing that she will eventually learn. Our Heavenly Daddy does the same with us. He loves us and encourages us through our fears. God is so ever patient with us as we learn to trust Him, which is the place Lucy was at yesterday at the amusement park. She had confidence in who was in control, and she was simply there to "enjoy the ride." God so desires that for His children--for us to trust Him and let Him take control so that, like Gabriel is learning, we can experience all of the amazing things He has for us when we are willing to let go! But then there are seasons like my Annie Beth is in. Those are the seasons where we so desperately are ready to move on, but God is telling us "not yet." He is still molding us and growing us so that we can be prepared for exactly what that next step is that He has for us. He wants us to trust that HIS timing is always best, and if we will let Him, He will give us the grace to handle that time in the waiting room. 
Just like my kids had to be reminded yesterday to "hold on" AND to "let go," this roller coaster of life we are all on is much the same. Once we are finally willing to grab a hold of His goodness, we don't want to let go--it becomes comfortable and safe. But the Lord reminded me this morning that we aren't meant to hold on forever. Just like my kids find it hard at first to grab each other's hands, we often think that holding on for very long is the hard part. However, it's often the letting go that becomes the most difficult task. What will happen when we let go? Will we fall? Will we forget? Will our hands be filled with something uncomfortable? Or what if it's a season that our hands are going to be completely empty? Just as I ask my kids to trust that my requests of them are to keep them safe, God reminds me that I need to trust Him to do the same. Do I believe He is going to take care of me and that His best is truly THE best? 

The Truth is that He IS a good Father! He can do nothing less than what is the very best, and He invites us to experience that with Him, just like sweet Mimi accepted our invitation for a day of Six Flags fun.Whether we are waiting for our turn to come, nervously stepping out in faith to the unknown, cheering others on from the sidelines, or in the midst of enjoying the ride, God simply asks us to be willing to follow Him. We don't have to fear or hold tightly to the past--we can eagerly anticipate what He is doing now and wants to do in the future! (And I think it's okay to munch on a few animal crackers in the meantime;-)
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you...forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a NEW thing! Now it Springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:5a and 18-19)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Taste and See...

It's a common scene at our dinner table. I spend time trying to make something yummy for my family, but when I set it in front of everyone, I'm met with moans and groans from my picky, unadventurous eaters.

"I don't like that!"


"I'm not eating that!"

It took me awhile to figure out that you simply cannot force a child to eat something. Yes, you can force the food into their mouth, but you can't make them digest it, because if they truly don't want it, while they may still swallow it, they're just going to throw it back up. This would be Lucy and chicken.

Yes. Chicken.

I don't understand how you can't like chicken, but it makes Lucy gag every.single.time!

We all have foods that we don't care for, but with children, they so often want to just stick to what they're used to. They'd prefer fish sticks and peanut butter and jelly (not together!) over some mysterious looking dish. And while some of us love experiencing new things, many of us prefer to stick with what is safe and known.

As I was perusing Facebook this morning, a friend of mine posted a verse I've heard many times:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8)

Maybe it was because of the yummy mini bundt cakes leftover from our home group last night staring me down from the kitchen counter, but whatever the reason, when I saw that verse this morning, my mind immediately halted at that first word: taste.

We live in a society that has rejected God and His Truth in so many ways. When It is presented, it's met with responses similar to a child who gets broccoli on their plate. "I don't like that!" People reject It without ever tasting of It. You see, if we truly taste of the Lord, we will always find that He is GOOD, and it will only leave us hungering for more and more of Him. We can't MAKE anyone partake of His goodness though. Just like force-feeding a child, if we "shove Jesus down the throats" of others it's only going to come back up...and not in a pretty way! But perhaps, just like when introducing new foods to our kids, if we will repeatedly present Jesus to this hurting world, we can hope that one day, they will choose to give Him a try, filling their plates-their lives!-with the things of Him. I know if I will do that, I'll find myself going in for a second helping...and many more, because when we taste of Jesus, we will see that He truly is so very, very good!