Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lifting Up a Family We Never Knew

This is a quick post…unedited as most are seeing as though I have 4 littles always hanging around.

This is a reminder that all of our children, young and old, are gifts from God and we don’t know when He will call one home.  A friend of my cousin lost her little boy this past weekend.  I didn’t know the family, but I cannot help but weep for them and pray that they find a peace that passes whatever understanding they are grasping for right now.  It seems that her two year old little man wandered away from some grown ups at a park just for the briefest of moments.  Those of you with two-year-olds can understand how quickly this can happen!  Tragically, he was found in a lake, and though his heart responded to CPR, he never came back.  The family selflessly donated his organs to help another ailing child, but will never have their son back in their arms this side of eternity.

My heart absolutely breaks for them.  I can’t even imagine what this loss would feel like, and I pray I never have to experience it.  For now, I know that our duty is to lift up the Gorham family in prayer…not just for now, but for the many long days and nights ahead.

We all have had tragedies in our lives.  For me, I lost my cousin, who was my dearest friend, two Octobers ago.  My life will never be the same without her, and I still cannot believe she’s gone.  Her husband lost his best friend, and their two small children lost their mother.  There still is a war of emotions that I battle with constantly over why she was taken and what life will look like without her.  But we know this:  God is sovereign.  He knows why, and all we must do is trust Him. 

I take the hurt that I feel all the time and offer it to the Lord who makes something beautiful with it.  I pray that my cousin’s family can have the continued strength to rebuild life and experience joy and peace.  Now, I pray that the Gorham family can do the same, day in and day out with each passing milestone and memory.  Please pray with me so that they don’t feel the entire weight of this tragedy themselves.

Oh, and one more thing:  treasure everyone who is in your life.  Hug them, kiss them…linger in your conversation and enjoy their laughter.

You can read more of the news story here. 


Monday, August 27, 2012

A Father's Love

You see, every little girl-and every little boy-is asking one fundamental question.  But they are very different questions, depending on whether you are a little boy or a little girl.  Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes? …He was made in the image of a warrior God.  Nearly all a man does is fueled by his search for validation…

Little girls want to know, Am I lovely?  …When I was a girl of maybe five years old, I remember standing on top of the coffee table in my grandparents’ living room and signing my heart out.  I wanted to capture attention-especially my father’s attention.  I wanted to be captivating.  We all did.  But for most of us, the answer to our Question when we were young was “No, there is nothing captivating about you.” Get off the coffee table.  Nearly all a woman does in her adult life is fueled by her longing to be delighted in, her longing to be beautiful, to be irreplaceable, to have her Question answered, Yes!...

-Stasi Eldredge, taken from Captivating-


After having three boys, I naturally started to panic upon finding out that our fourth was a girl.  I immediately began reading as much as I could find about parenting a little woman.  Not having a mother in my own life, I was (and admittedly still am) a nervous wreck. 

I find that my boys indeed do challenge themselves and each other on a daily, if not hourly, basis to see who can be the best.  It doesn’t matter what the game is: lego building, sword fighting, running faster, jumping higher, eating quicker…everything is a challenge.  And when one wins the challenge, they make sure my husband and I validate them!  I’m amazed at how quickly my knights in plastic armor, clad with sword and shield, can go from fierce battle mode to a sweet, adoring voice asking, “Did you see me mommy?”   When I show how proud I am of their grand feat, they beam with pride and love.

But how will we show our little girl this same kind of love?  I have always felt inadequate as a mother because I lacked that matriarchal example of love, kindness, and faithfulness in my life.  But, as I contemplated mothering my own little girl, I realized that I am not without a rich source of love in my life.  After all, I am a daughter, just like she is, and I have a dad who has shown me more love than I could ever ask for.  Time and time again, he has not failed to answer me “Yes!  You, daughter, are captivating.”   He would not tell me to get off the coffee table…he’d probably join in the singing!  And upon this recent realization, just like that, many years of feeling rejected, frustrated, and unloved by my natural mother has been overshadowed by my father’s love and dedication to me.

I say this because I realize that it in parenting a little girl, it is imperative that we show her that we see her, we enjoy her, and are dedicated to her no matter what.  My father’s faithfulness, time, and attention has sowed and produced more in my life than anything or anyone else.  My dad will be the first one to tell you he’s not perfect.  Nobody is.  But my daughter’s heart never needed perfection…just acceptance and faithfulness.  I needed to know that nothing would make him stop loving me.  Despite an 8 hour, every other weekend visitation schedule, an overbearing ex-wife who lived to divide us, and many other of life’s concerns, my dad was the only constant throughout my life.  When people hear what I lived through, one of their first comments is “How did you turn out the way you did?”  I say by the grace of God…I also realize that it is through the loving kindness of my father.

He did not tuck me in every night or make me breakfast in the morning, a fact that deeply upsets him to this day.  What he didn’t realize is that he never needed to love me that way.  He did other things to show me, instead of tell me, how much I meant to him.   He was never a moment late in picking me up when it was our time to be together.  He never missed a day. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to dive, how to swim every swimming stroke, how to ice skate, and how to play softball.  He was the only one who showed me that life could be fun.  He was the one who removed me from my volatile home every other week to show me that there was joy in the real world.   He attended every extracurricular activity…he even ran the time clock and buzzer at my jr. high basketball games.  He knew every one of my friends and most of their parents.  He worked hard to put me through private school.  He taught me how to drive (and a stick shift at that!)…he endured my many frustrations and tears when I just couldn’t get first gear!  He took me to my first concert, taught me how to sing harmonies, and always challenged me to think through my opinions before I voiced them.  He was there when I graduated from high school, college, and law school. 

My dad is incredibly intelligent…really guys.  He was on Jeopardy when I was a little girl.  I used to cringe every time someone found that out, but now I’m proud of my trivia-loving dad.  My dad loves baseball…I will never be able to walk into a ballpark, smell the peanuts and crackerjacks, or hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” without thinking of him.  My dad loves playing games, a hobby he inadvertently has passed down to me.  He loves reading and the theater, other hobbies he has bestowed upon me.  And, if you know him, you know he is the king of puns.  Many an eye-roll occur when he gets rolling (no pun intended).

I love that my dad is still in my life.  He is always one of the first ones at the hospital when I have a baby.  He took on babysitting my three little ones when I went back to work for a few months.  If I’m in a pinch, I know I can call on him.  But what I love absolutely the most is our talks.  We have this special bond.  I can talk to him about anything.  Our favorite topics are usually politics and religion…taboo subjects among most, but not for us.  I realize that many of my views, convictions, and revelations are shared with my dad.  He has passed on a spiritual heritage to me that I treasure more than anything he could physically give me. 

I know our little girl is going to be okay.  I know we’ll make mistakes.  But I am confident that she will feel very much the same way about her daddy as I do about mine…after all, I married a man who is very much like my dad.  He is gentle, kind, quirky, intelligent, and compassionate.  Most of all, my husband finds his kids captivating just like my dad does with me.  He is never too busy to spend time or attention with the tiny loves of his life.

I am grateful for a dad who never once made me feel like I was work.  I never felt the stress of the relational issues that occurred in our family when I was with him.  I felt delighted in, irreplaceable, and loved.  His constant presence in my life has produced much of who I am today.  I am a lucky girl to have a dad like him…and my daughter is lucky to have her daddy, and her papa.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

This morning, I woke up humming this little song I learned in grade school:  “Make new friends but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.”  I must have been singing out loud because later in the morning, I heard my oldest singing those very words.

What a blessing a good friend is.  In the age of social media, it is easy to mistake profile friends vs. I’m-gonna-love-you-through-trials and kick-you-in-the-pants-when-I-need-to type friends.  I’ve learned in my adult years, that it is much easier to keep shallow, casual friendships than to develop relationships that are real.  However, it is so much more rewarding to have a confidant in your life. 

In the past 10 days, I’ve gotten together with 3 very special people in my life.  One I am honored to see every week as we get our kids together and play.  She is my new friend…and I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without her!  We motivate each other to be God-centered, healthy, productive women.  Every week, I look forward to seeing her and spending time with her kids.  I prayed for a good friend in a similar season of life who loves our Lord the way I do…boy, did He deliver!

I also was privileged to get together with one of my life’s most dear friends.  We knew each other when we were little, then became very close in college.  When we get together, we can be vulnerable, deeply spiritual, and silly.  We have so many amazing memories, and look forward to making many more.  Getting together with her is literally one of those “we laughed, we cried” situations. 

Recently, I was able to spend some wonderful time with a dear friend I met in high school.  We have watched each other go through so many different seasons of life, and were always able to encourage and provoke one another in these seasons.  She is so full of life and love, and her joy is infectious!  Her children are awesome because she and her husband pour into them…these are the kind of people I love for my kids to hang around.

Each one of these women was a gift to me from God…literally.  Each one of these friendships was birthed shortly after I cried out to God for a companion while navigating different seasons of my life.  I am not only thankful that I was able to become friends with them, but that we stay active parts of each other’s lives throughout time, distance or circumstance.    

True friendship puts a spring in your step.  It’s refreshing.  It sometimes comes with correction.  Sometimes it takes vulnerability.  Sometimes it requires effort to keep it going.  It’s always worth it.  It’s always rewarding.  It’s always something I treasure most in life.

The King James Version of Proverbs 27:9 gets right to the point:  “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”

To all of my friends: thank you for making my heart rejoice!  I’m a better woman and a better mom to have you in my life!    

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival."
- C. S. Lewis-

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Making Time for Fun

Ah…peace and quiet.  It has been a LONG day today.  We packed up our troops this morning and headed out a whole whopping 45 minutes away to a state park to meet my dear hubby’s dad and wife.  After a long, exciting day, all 4 of my little angels are soundly asleep and my hubby has gone to help his sister move some furniture into her new home…hence, the peace and quiet!  And as I sit here listening to the crickets, I don’t mind my extra fatigue…I have it because we chose to live life and make some memories.

I go through phases of wanting be a “fun” mom.  You know?  The kind who is spontaneous and adventurous.  The kind who will strap on the baby in a carrier and take my boys hiking through the woods, perhaps even dressed like Indians, finding ancient treasure.  It sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  Reality for me:  baby is way too heavy for that thing, toddler would be screaming/tantruming and trying to push his brother off a ledge, preschooler would have to find a potty every 10 minutes, and I probably would lose my oldest, because if I don’t pay attention, he will get distracted and wander off (like his dad). 

 Nope. Not brave enough.  Alternative:  stay at home, play in the backyard, and have friends over.  It sounds like a great life, but unfortunately, in my head, I’m the Indian Chief mom who is dying to live adventurously with her children.  Here are my excuses, if you will, for not being brave: laundry, dishes, tantrums, groceries, meals, tantrums, vacuuming, diapers, boogers, spit up, baby food, tantrums and so on…let your imagination run wild with this mundane to-do list!  The other reality is that it takes me about 6 years worth of energy to pack everything we need for a “simple” adventure and another 3 years of energy to make sure everyone has clothes on and hasn’t taken off an article while I was busy changing a diaper! 

So this has been my prayer (quite literally one that I’ve written down):  Lord, I want to show my kids that the life you gave them is fun and full of adventure.  I don’t want to be a parent to just give them rules, I want to give them memories.  I love watching them learn, but I long to watch them live.  I just don’t know how to be adventurous within the limitations of this season of life.  Help us learn to live boldly, without fear, and with excitement in our hearts about each day that you have given to us.

Result:  my conclusion that said memory-making does not have to be a big production.

Besides getting out the door, today was simple.  The boys threw rocks in the water, collected snail shells, and ate sandwiches without plates (a concept that blew their minds!).  They loved every second of it!  The real treat was when their grandpa took them into his boat for a spin on the lake.  It was three generations of Stack men and the great outdoors-a sight to be beheld!  After their relaxing boat ride, sitting still for an upwards of 45 minutes, they had some extra energy ; ) I uncharacteristically ran around and played soccer with them…we’re talking some competitive soccer.  Well, that is for a 4 year old, 5 year old and an out of shape mommy!  Then, it was some relaxing fishing with grandpa…with live bait!  Can we imagine what my 2 year old might have done with bait?  That’s right-worms for dessert! 

We laughed and played a lot more today than we had in awhile. 

Earlier this week, we started our school year off officially.  I wasn’t planning on it, but these kids were busting at the seams, so I thought I would encourage learning rather than discourage it because I wasn’t ready.  It was tough getting back into a schedule, but we were intentional about making it fun. 

One fun new tradition that we decided to create is our annual donut day.  We decided that at the end of the first week of school every year, we celebrate our new family holiday!    On Friday morning, we all got dressed “stylishly,” as my four year old would say (in baseball caps and sunglasses-just to add some extra fun) and the boys got to go to the donut shop and pick out their own donuts to eat while doing school work.  So simple, and yet, you would have thought they had never had a donut!  It is a rare thing in our family, which made it extra special.

We also started this weird, but fun, little game.  The boys have a stuffed animal possum.  One night, I went to the bathroom and one of my little guys had left Pasta (oh, that’s the possum’s name!) on the bathroom floor.  Yes, the boys were indeed woken up to a shrieking mama in the bathroom!  My hubby thought it was so funny, he has kept the “hiding” game going, and I have returned the favor.  Be careful in our house…if you open the refrigerator, the mailbox, the linen closet, or just go to bed, there may be a small, furry Pasta waiting for you!  The boys have caught on and are thoroughly enjoying scaring my hubby or I as we go about the daily routine only to have a stuffed possum jump out at us from an undisclosed location.  This stinkin’ possum has brought more laughs to our family than anything else I think! 

We are really enjoying our boys.  When you have little ones close together in age, sometimes that statement is hard to make.  We’ve had to learn to lighten up, think like a child, and play more.  This is hard for us because we are both task-oriented people.  However, in the midst of all the tasks that must get done, we can lose sight of why we do them.  We do all this because we are privileged to have a family to do it for.  While our reward is in heaven, we get glimpses of it here and there…in every curious discovery, squeal of delight, wide-eyed gaze of excitement and tight hug. 

It’s hard to maintain a balance of getting things done and enjoying your family.  I’m so grateful that because of our kids, we’re growing into having family traditions and silly games.  There are lots of ways to connect with our kids in a long term way.  Fun is one of them.  The best part:  having fun is the most fun way to connect!  It doesn’t have to be intricate, expensive, or labor-intensive.  It just has to be fun!  For us, we’re learning how to have fun again after a sabbatical while growing babies!

So, plain and simple…have some fun and make some memories!

P.S.  I still want to be a pretend Indian chief one day.  Don’t be alarmed if you catch me with a feather in my headdress!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Being Alert

So…I have this fascination with the Duggars.  And before you even start to wonder, I’m NOT trying to say that I want 19 kids!  Four feels like a lot right now and I want to enjoy every minute : )  More on that another day…

But…I have read both of their books, and they implement some wonderful, simple ideas in their home that teach their children what actually living out the Word looks like rather than just being someone who talks about it.  One thing that they do that we have personally implemented is studying and memorizing operational definitions of character qualities and a corresponding Scripture verses.  If you’re like me, you find yourself telling your children to be a certain way.  Eventually, I’ve come to realize that they have no idea what we’re talking about unless we painstakingly define it and repetitively remind them of that definition in their everyday life.  These operational definitions have been a lifesaver, both as a mom teaching her children, and as a woman who desires to keep working on my own heart.  You can find the chart of operational definitions here.

This week, we are learning about Alertness:  being aware of that which is taking place around me so that I may have the right response.   The Bible verse listed is Mark 14:38:  Watch and pray so that you may not fall into temptation.

I have Micah (my oldest) copy the verse and the definition as part of his handwriting work each week.  Then we hang it up in the kitchen and review it during every meal.  If it sounds tedious, it’s really not!  We use hand motions and we get skittles once we’ve memorized it!  Even my 2 year old finds this fun!

My husband and I are really impressed with how well our oldest has responded to this.  One of the recurring problems in our home is keeping the volume low (not silent!) while I’m trying to get the baby to settle down to sleep.  It seems that just as her sweet eyelids slowly start fluttering shut, Micah comes tromping through the house, little brothers in tow, setting monster traps or going on hunting missions…decibels at their maximum level!  After a couple of days reviewing the definition of alertness, he seemed to understand how it applied. 

Last Friday, I was rocking the baby to sleep.  Fully clad in superhero costumes and gear, I heard my little men running up the stairs.  As Iron Man, Spider Man, and Captain America were in view, my heart started to race and yes…I was starting to feel angry gurgling inside knowing that my sweet girl would soon be rudely awakened in the name of Superheroes conquering evil.  Once Micah caught my eye, he stopped, turned around and whispered to his brothers “I am aware mom is rocking Emma.  Let’s go back downstairs and play so that she can finish.”  What????!!!! (And yes, he actually used the word “aware”!)  Now, we don’t live in a perfect world…the next night was a whole different story!  I’m considering baby ear muffs to drown out some of the ambient boy noise in the house.  However, we are trying to teach what the Word of God says, what is expected of us, and what that looks like in our everyday lives.  We may fail a thousand times, but the one time in a thousand that my kids get it right makes me so proud! 

I’m learning that must be how God feels about us.  Actually, He is all the more proud of us because His love is perfect.  The feeling in my heart made me want to please God all the more.  I want Him to feel that proud of me.  He wants us to be alert so that we use the gifts He has given us to respond to situations He has brought into our every day lives.  We can grumble, complain, and walk around unaware of our surroundings.  He has a better plan.  He knows what a smile, a word of encouragement, or a hug can mean to someone set in our path.  He promises to keep us protected, but we must be alert to notice the protections He has set in place.  He warns us that we must always keep watch and keep connected to Him so that we can steer clear of situations that have been laid down to trip us up.  He has given us everything we need to succeed, but we need to keep ourselves alert, making sure we are always watching and praying. 

As for us in the Stack house, we know in our heads now what this means and what God’s Word says.  Next, we must sink it down deep in our hearts so that it becomes second nature.  I want to practice this character quality.  I want to notice it in my kids.  I want to bless others and not be rude or ignorant for lack of alertness.  I want to be aware of all the blessings the Lord has put in my life and all of the pitfalls that I can avoid. 

As for sweet baby girl, I think she just needs some good, old fashioned R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  But that’s an operational definition for another day!

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Love Looks Like in Every Day Life

I had a blog post all prepared about how we keep our house in order:  a chore chart, a menu/shopping list, and school lesson plans.  While we do follow this system faithfully in our home, the Lord's been teaching me that's it's all for nothing if I don't check off my checklist with love in my heart.  I found this poem (I am sorry, but I have no idea who wrote it!) and it encouraged my heart.  I hope it encourages yours!


If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love-I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.
If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love-my children learn of cleanliness, not godliness.
Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh.
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window.
Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.
Love is present through trials.
Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive.
As a mohter there is much I must teach my child, but the greates of all is...LOVE.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pain, Prayer, and the Power of a Smile

You’ve heard it said before…it’s the woman who sets the tone in the home.  That’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it?  And yet, I’m learning that it’s a great opportunity to practice spiritual discipline.

So, it’s been a crazy week.  We thought I may have had to have my gall bladder removed…random, huh?  I’ve had this incredible pain in my right side and it has been getting worse all week.  The doctors thought it was the gall bladder and sent me to ultrasound to confirm.  Before I went, we talked through the surgical procedure and who would be performing this “very simple” process of taking out an organ.  We enlisted a few close friends and prayed.  The good news: it’s not my gall bladder!  I’m so thankful that I get to keep all the organs I was born with!  The bad news: I’m still in considerable pain, and it’s really wearing me out.

Mondays are usually my best day of the week…I know, I know.  I’m a strange specimen of human that actually enjoys Mondays.  This week was no different, other than by night time, the pain was increasing.  Tuesday morning was rough.  I woke up to the cries of a toddler and a baby simultaneously, which is never fun.  Our morning routine of making sure everyone is changed, fed, washed up, and dressed usually takes about 1 ½ hours.  Tuesday morning, it took close to 3.  By 10 a.m., we were finally done with breakfast!  I was crabby, tired, and having one of those “why me God?” attitudes.  We had a great visit with some friends we hadn’t seen for awhile, but after they left, it was business as usual.  I was physically miserable, and I didn’t do a great job at masking that feeling.  It seemed that my feelings seeped into my boys through osmosis, manifesting themselves by way of bad attitudes.  I watched as the bickering started to grow.  I cringed as the impatience and intolerance towards each other seemed to dominate every interaction between the three of them.  I lacked energy to know how to deal with this slow motion avalanche of yuk that was going on.  I begrudgingly made dinner and cleaned up the kitchen.  The evening was filled with bad attitudes, and even my husband was exasperated trying to keep everyone in check.  It was an awful night. 

After the kids went to bed, I asked my husband, “why is it that every time I feel absolutely miserable does the rest of the family decide to lose control?”  Before he could even answer, it was as if God was directly speaking to my heart…it was because I was leading them down a road of discontent, unhappiness, intolerance, and impatience.  And though my husband leads our family, I really do set the tone for how we operate our home.  And little eyes are always watching. 

Yikes!  I have really been messing up this one!  Today, I sat my boys down and explained to them that God’s Word applies to us no matter how we feel and that mommy has been making some mistakes.  I asked them to forgive me, which of course they did because kids are amazing!

We don’t have a choice to opt out of giving Him glory with our entire being.  We don’t have the excuse that we don’t feel well or are tired so we can’t love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  There’s no opt out clause or loophole in His commandments to love Him first and others second.  I certainly am not the only one who walks through life with physical ailments and limitations.  Arguably, everyone has hurdles that they must overcome on a daily basis.  I am beginning to see Jesus’ life in a new light.  He was fully man, with physical limitations. 

In His typical gentle way, the Lord showed me just how my reactions should look by highlighting a subtle point in a well known story.  There is an account in the Bible when Jesus was ministering all day, and at the end of the day, he hopped on a boat in order to retreat to the mountains, by himself, and pray.  He was probably exhausted after a day of ministry in the hot sun.  During the boat ride, he was probably already relaxing his mind just thinking that soon he would be alone, resting with his father.  But, as soon as he hit land, there was a crowd of people that gathered to be with him.  A crowd of hungry people.  He could have been crabby and tired.  He could have told them “just a minute, I have something that I planned on doing.  I’ll get to you when I get to you.”  But he knew what his calling was…he knew what His father wanted him to do.  And that knowledge plus the great love for his father gave him the strength to overcome his physical limitations at that moment.  He fed five thousand people that day and taught them.  I like to think that Jesus never rushed through the fellowship part of teaching people either.  I think that he said what he needed to say, and that he touched, hugged, and locked eyes with everyone he could.  That takes time, energy, and an immense amount of love and insight. 

Today, I tried to be a little more like Jesus.  I woke up in more pain than yesterday. I’m even more tired.  But, I fed my hungry troops and I sat and listened to their dreams last night.  We read together and I taught them.  I smiled at them and looked them in the eye as much as I could.  When one needed to be picked up, I stopped what I was doing and picked them up.  I made sure I told each one today just how special they were to me.  What a difference my attitude made!  Though it seemed like I was putting on an Oscar winning performance, every word I said was true and every hug I gave was authentic. 

A smile from a mommy to a child means more than many words.  A random hug from a wife to a husband warms his heart.  God’s perfect order dictates that we cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us all.  If we honor this idea, our cares are properly placed on the shoulders of someone able and willing to handle it, and not on our families who do not know how to heal our bodies and bring peace to our spirits.  While we need to be honest with each other, and while many teachable moments are born in walking out a hardship in an intentional way, we must also have the insight and the love in our hearts to overlook our pain and problems to feed and serve our families. 

Today, I’m thankful for many things:  that I get to keep all my organs, that I’m blessed with a family to love and serve, that I have great friends that I can trust and pray with, and that God cares so immensely for us that if we listen, His still, small voice can break through our ordinary day to make a lasting impact on our hearts and ultimately, the hearts of our children.