Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ode to Men

It’s so easy to man-bash, isn’t it?  He doesn’t communicate enough, he isn’t thoughtful, he doesn’t help out as much as I need him to, etc. Really this can all be summed up by this phrase:  he’s human.  Guess what?  So are we!  And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure my hubby could rack up quite the list if he wanted to and woman bash!

To tell you the truth, I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  I never was.  My husband and I don’t really even celebrate it because, a. our anniversary is in 2 weeks, and b. it was never important to either of us. But as my boys grow, I realize how wonderful it is that there’s a day set aside to remind us to extravagantly love, whether that means our spouse, our kids, our friends, our parents, or a stranger who is all alone.   This morning, I woke up with immeasurable joy knowing that I am blessed woman, surrounded by amazing men who need no reminder to love me extravagantly every day.

So, in light of Cupid’s big day, I thought I’d take a moment to thank my men, both big and small.  As I reflect on who I am and how I’ve got here, I realize that God has used all these guys in some major ways.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my dad.  He is the first man I ever loved.  There was a time that we were not close, but not by his choosing.  There were times I pulled away, but he has always faithfully waited for me.  To this day, he remains the most gentle man I know.  Our visits always seem to short and the years go by so fast.  He taught me what love looks like during a time when I could not see it. He made it a point to live life with me, always taking me on new adventures, whether it was ice skating, hiking through the woods, or teaching me all the swimming strokes.  He imparted in me a hunger for knowledge, and fed it with frequent trips to the bookstore.  He is a servant, and to this day shows me what it means to be a parent and lay your life down, even when it’s not convenient.  Just last week, on one of his only days off, he drove 30 minutes to pick me up and take me to the dr., then to the pharmacy, just to drop me back off and drive 30 minutes back home.  I hope that I can show my kids the love, leadership, and servant-hood the way my dad has shown me.  I’m glad I take after him in so many ways, and am honored to be his daughter. 

Happy Valentine’s Day to my brother-in-law.  There was a time during my adolescence when he was the only man I was allowed to see.  He was the cool guy with the red sports car, playing M.C. Hammer while he took me to Chuck E. Cheese.  He showed me that life could be fun.  He played air drums while I danced around the living room on a Saturday morning.  He made me forget a lot of life’s pain during that time.  He taught me that it’s important to work hard, but not to take all of life’s woes too seriously.  He still is one of the first to tell me how proud he is of me, to cry when I’m crying, and to poke fun at me when I need to lighten up.  Thank you for loving my sister the way you do, and showing your four girls what a great husband and father looks like.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my sons.  All three of them are so different, but so perfect!  Micah, with his compassionate heart, is an absolute thrill to have in my life.  Daily, we talk about God and His word.  We pray together, encourage one another, and enjoy each other’s company.  His heart provokes me.  He is also a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness.  For years we wondered if we’d ever have a child, and he’s the tangible evidence that God does what He said He will do.  Noah, with his exuberant joy lightens the mood of our entire house.  He smiles almost constantly (even when getting disciplined) and he genuinely loves each member of our family in such a divine way.  He always thinks of others before himself, and he teaches me every day that we should enjoy this life that we are blessed with.  Sam, with his fearless, adventurous spirit has molded me into a woman who cannot lack spontaneity and who must let go of expectations.  This is a good thing!  I was rigid and scheduled, but I have learned to slow down and enjoy more…and to always be prepared with gauze and bandages!  All three have servants’ hearts, going above and beyond what I ask them to do.  All three are eager to help around the house, with their siblings, and let us know how much they love us.  You will all be amazing husbands one day, because you are amazing men!

Lastly, Happy Valentine’s Day to the man I was created for.  No one else in the world gets me like he does.  He is the one my soul loves, and if I reminisce about our beginnings, I see how God worked even before we knew much of each other.  From the very first conversation that we had, we started becoming each other’s best friends.  He has taught me how to selflessly love, how to be patient, how to be kind, how to be a servant, and how to serve without grumbling or complaining.  He works so hard for our family, and comes home to wrestle with the boys, help out with the dishes, and run an errand if I need him to.  We’ve watched each other struggle through difficult life issues, but he’s remained faithfully at my side through mine, and I have remained faithfully at his side through his.  I have learned more about I Corinthians 13 love by loving this man, which means he has been doing his job at helping me become more Christ-like.  I am honored and blessed to be his wife, and forever and always consider it my life’s biggest blessing and joy to be forever joined to him. 

I am thankful for the men in my life, and I pray that you find the time to reflect and thank all the men in yours!  Happy Valentine’s Day!



Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Well, I just can't seem to catch a break this winter season!

After 5 of us battling the flu over Christmas/New Years, we had about 2 weeks of health before I caught another bug that developed into a lengthy case of bronchitis.  Slowly, each of my little ones are coughing and sneezing their way out of the healthy zone. 

I will admit:  I am exhausted and annoyed that despite all the hand washing, sanitizing, and bundling, I have had more sick days in 2013 than healthy by far!  All I want is a few hours of sleep, uninterrupted by my cough, my teething baby, my fevering 6 year old, or my other two little dreamers.  All I want is the energy to be able to do the "basics" around our home, instead of just falling back to survival mode, which is a setting we know all too well around here.

Confessions aside, I have a choice to make.  I can choose to act how I feel, or I can choose to actively love and find the good in this season of life. 

I have been chatting with a good friend about finding the little moments in each day when God is giving us a gift, big or small, instead of being so distracted by our circumstances to stop and breathe.  I remember once when I left a few little encouragement notes for my husband to read when he got up one morning.  I stayed up late, wrote some thoughtful messages that I knew would encourage him during a discouraging season, and tucked them in places where he would normally look during his morning routine.  I woke up to find all of my notes still tucked away, unopened.  Later, I learned that he had woken up late for work and rushed around to get ready, completely missing the encouragments and love notes waiting for him.

I am like that a lot.  I rush around, checking things off my list, feeling overwhelmed with my responsibilities and my energy levels.  However, when I rush around, I miss the little mercies that I get from my Creator each and every day.  I am thankful for my friend who I can text and say "I'm wanting to have a bad attitude," who texts back, "Let's pray that you see His mercies, big or small, today."   I'm thankful for a God who doesn't let our circumstances stand in the way of His neverchanging goodness and faithfulness. 

So, instead of complaining, I want to celebrate my little gifts that I received during my break from health! 

Today's mercies...

1.  No one cried during breakfast, which is EXTREMELY rare, and much appreciated due to a headache!
2.  My boys actually cleaned their room when they were asked, without getting side tracked.
3.  I called the dr. about my oldest, who is fevering and coughing, and they were able to get us right in!
4.  We had the very first parking space at the dr.'s office.
5.  My kids have been napping all at the same time for an hour and a half so far!
6.  I grabbed a box of pasta and a jar of sauce while grocery shopping last week, which I NEVER do...but that's what's for dinner tonight!
7.  I'm able to teach my oldest son, who is miserable with his cold, to look for the little mercies in his day, and he happily found 3!

In every season, I will praise Him and in every season I will tell of His good works.  Look for His little mercies and I think it will put a smile on your face!  (I wish it also acted as concealer under my eyes...but I digress!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oh, To Stop Comparing and Start Encouraging!

I’m in a season of life right now that is much akin to being on a roller coaster blindfolded:  motherhood.

Just when you think you’ve soared down the highest hill and can breathe, you are jolted sharply to the right, and then to the left.  Just when you think you can get used to the speed, you are slowly clicking your way up the next hill, never knowing when you’ll drop again.

Yes, that sounds right, doesn’t it?  We all feel like that.  We can be as prepared as any one human can be, but when our jobs are to nurture little beings that we cannot control, unpredictability is an inevitable part of our daily equation.

This unpredictability, this unpreparedness, this wild ride is par for the course.  Every one of us sits in the seat, harnessed in for dear life, with our feet dangling below.  Though we all have different experiences, different children, different environments, one thing is the same: we all have nurturing hearts and the desire to do our very best for our family.  This, my friends, should unite us.  This should provoke each and every one of us to make every effort to encourage each other.  Sadly, though, I feel we often walk around discouraged, watching other moms “do it better,” or so we think.  We read articles about what we should be doing for our sons to make them into solid leaders, or for our daughters to be confident young women.  We are inundated with advice on what we should be feeding our kids and how often.  We are scolded for letting them have too much entertainment, and yet criticized for sheltering them.  Public school is too rough, private school is uptight, and home schooling is just weird.  Get them involved, but don’t have them in too many activities.  

The world in which we live in sets us up for failure.  We will never please everyone, will never parent like everyone, and most certainly cannot adapt our parenting techniques as quickly as the latest expert advice and trends change.  So what’s a mom (or dad) to do?

Thankfully, we don’t have to do this alone. Thankfully, we have someone who sits at the controls of the roller coaster, and who assures our safety.  Thankfully, we have someone who has promised to lead us through this journey, and that someone loves our kids more than we do!

One of my favorite verses to fall back on when I feel like I can’t take the twists and turns anymore is Isaiah 40:11:  “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

In Sunday school two weeks ago, I taught my kids about the name of God Jehovah Rohi, the Lord my Shepherd.  We talked a lot about sheep.  The kids loved to tell me all about how stinky they were, how they were loud, and how they wandered off all the time.  We made the analogy clear that we are like sheep, always running away, and God is our good shepherd, always bringing us back.  But then we read Isaiah 40:11 together.  “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.  They thought it was gross and inconvenient to lug a big, old, smelly sheep that close.  You know what?  I agree.  The love of God, though, is so amazing, that He sees past all that.  He, being holy, righteous and just, makes himself our humble shepherd.  He’s not just “doing his job” but is doing it with extravagant love.  He isn’t struggling with us as parents, wondering when we’ll ever get this right.  He is lovingly, gently leading us.

Why do we criticize other parents?  Why do we criticize ourselves?  Don’t we trust our Shepherd to lead us (and others) to green pastures and still waters?  The love our children need, real, agape love, doesn’t come from attachment parenting, organic food, play dates, or soccer trophies.  It comes from the very heart of God.  We can have the best intentions and can lay down the best plans for our little ones, but without God’s love poured into our hearts as mothers and fathers, we are unable to pour it into our little ones.  We can co-sleep, puree kale, teach Chinese, and run a co-op, but without love, we’ve gained nothing.

With this in mind, why not encourage each other rather than tear each other down?  If someone is a working mom, let’s encourage her…that’s a tough calling!  If someone is a stay at home mom, let’s encourage her…those days are long and discouraging.  If someone feeds their kids happy meals once a week, let’s encourage her…she’s making bellies full.  If someone wants to live processed food free, let’s encourage her…that is a huge time commitment.  If someone sends their child to public school, let’s encourage her…she doesn’t have to cover her child in prayer by herself.  If someone home schools their children, let’s encourage her…it can be challenging and frustrating.  This is not a contest, this is not a game, this is real life, and we can live it together.

Let us not compare and wear ourselves down.  Let us not criticize and confuse the gentle leading in someone else’s life.  Let us not be silent and watch others struggle along.  Let’s be life givers.  Let’s accept one another’s different styles and different leadings.  Let’s celebrate the roller coaster ride, knowing that just as one of us coasts down a hill, another one of us is taking a twist, hanging upside, or screeching to a halt. 

I am a good parent. You are a good parent. Let’s stop beating ourselves up and start being confident role models for our children, future parents in the making.  After all, our gentle Shepherd has us close to his heart and wants the same thing we do: the very best for our young.