Saturday, April 4, 2015

{On Resurrection and New Beginnings}

We are all broken.

On our own, not one single one of us is whole. 

But there is one, whose sole purpose was to come and fix us. His sole purpose was OUR souls.
Even when you feel like there's no fixing you...Like you're so broken and cracked you must surely be leaving a trail of tiny you pieces in your wake as you move through life. 

Not even then are you beyond Hope - beyond help. 

I've been there more than once in my life. I've thought to myself, "why on earth (or in Heaven), would He die for me? I'm so undeserving and I keep disappointing Him, over and over!"

But you know what disappoints Him more? 
Our inability to give our lives completely to Him. 
The good, the bad, the big, the small, the tiny mundane things that we aren't even sure are "things." 

ALL of it -He wants it ALL. 
And then He wants us to take back our empty hands and trust Him to handle it. He wants us to know deep in our hearts that He will handle it; that He loves us and only wants the best for us. 
He wants us to never come back to the pile we dumped and try to take those problems back. Because doing that means we didn't trust Him to handle it; that somehow we need to help or that we can do it on our own. 

And we can't do it on our own.

I don't say this as someone who knows these things and lives that way everyday.  I say them as someone broken who knows these things and STILL struggles to live as if I know.

Our Maundy Thursday service at church was wonderful, and I've been thinking about it since then.  It gave me a wonderful new perspective on some things as well as some new things to consider.

Today as you think about the immense sacrifice that Christ made for us on Good Friday, prepare your heart to trust Him with all your "stuff." 
Lay it at the foot of the cross.
Better yet, nail it to the cross and never go back for it.

Remember what He did, why He did it, and for whom He did it.  He did it for you, for me, for ALL of us so that we wouldn't be held responsible for the true cost of sin, which we so rightly deserve.

On Sunday morning as you rejoice and celebrate His resurrection, trust Him with all the stuff you've struggled with.  Leave it with Him, turn away from it and start fresh.  After all, a resurrection is a new beginning and in Him we are all new creations.  
Easter Sunday can be your new beginning, no matter what's in your yesterday, your last week, last year, or last decade.

Begin again with His help and His hope.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

{On weekend getaways and bed size...}

Thirteen plus years ago, we went shopping for bedroom furniture for our new house.
The salesman actually tried to talk us out of our choice, stating that the bedroom suite we wanted was usually selected by much older people {wonder if his boss knew he "sold" product this way?}.
But we knew what we wanted, so long as it came with the option of a KING sized bed.

We'd been in a small apartment and an old double bed, which had been mine in college.

We just wanted something with more room and a queen bed didn't seem enough bigger than what we'd gotten used to. 

We love that king sized bed to this day. In fact, my husband, who is actually smaller than me, likes to take up 3/4 of it.  I sleep in a little sliver very close to the edge of my side of the bed.

Often, I try to get in bed at night and find he's in my space.  Not only that, he's cocooned himself in the covers and I have to wrestle them away just to have myself covered.

Now, I'm not trying to speak ill of my husband.  I have to take responsibility for the fact that I stay up much later than him most nights and he has often been asleep for hours before I even come to bed.

Nevertheless, that King bed we were so excited about 13 years ago, has many times felt a little cramped.  When you consider that children have occasionally been in it with us, I think you know where I'm coming from.

Sadly, that whole "never go to bed angry" thing has never held up in our house.  It makes me sad {and a little embarrassed} to say that we have often gone to bed with unresolved issues and hurt feelings.  Times like those, make the bed feel too small.

Which is why last weekend in Atlanta, walking into our hotel room and discovering it was a Double-Double room and not a Double-Queen room, was a bit unsettling.  I personally, would prefer not to be in a room with my kids AT ALL when I'm sleeping.  Call me selfish, but now that my kids are older and usually sleep through the night, I still don't get as much sleep as I'd like and I want to maximize what I can get. Not to mention, I don't get much alone time with my hubby.  When we travel {almost once a month for Sweetpea's dance competitions} I like to have a small suite when possible.  Sometimes we can actually find a suite or a condo for almost the price of a hotel room and it just makes more sense.

When we arrived last weekend, my husband thought it was funny to throw himself on one of the beds and announce, "I don't know where you're gonna sleep, but I got this one covered" as he sprawled spread-eagle on the bed.  He did, in fact, have it covered.  I just rolled my eyes and continued the unpacking.

I resigned myself to a night of uncomfortable sleep as we tried to settle in.  The TV went off and it was lights out for all of us at once; yet another thing I don't like about kids in the room.

But here's what that little bed taught me:

1.) Sometimes comfort or space is a just an excuse for distance, intentional or not.  It's just a fact that when we sleep in a king sized bed, there is often lots of space between us.

2.) Intimacy {closeness, not sex} is increased in smaller spaces.  For most of the night, we had no choice but to "spoon" or sleep with our backs to each other; I'm grateful we chose the former.

3.) There are some things you can get away with when kids are asleep in the next bed - wink, wink ;-)

4.) Couples need time away no matter how busy they are and how much they love their kids.  The foundation of our family exists because I first loved my husband and we had 4 years of "just us" before kids.  We need to remember to regularly schedule a weekend away.  That little bed was like a mini-vacation for us and it led to more closeness for the rest of the trip.  It prompted me to forgive some of his {minor} recent transgressions because I would rather be happy in the moment than lugging around resentment and tension.

5.) I miss my husband.  It sounds crazy to say because I do actually see him everyday.  BUT with a man who works 50-60 hours most weeks, and just wants to eat dinner and go to bed when he comes home, I have to be very intentional about our time together. I can't stop showing and telling him I love him and miss him just because I anticipate no reciprocation or because it gets frustrating. He even went to work on Tuesday and was the only one in his office due to the ice and snow on the ground and roads.  I was glad to know he got there safely, but I also sent him several texts during the day letting him know I missed him and wanted him to come home.

Last weekend's trip *almost* had me wishing we could downsize our bed at home.  ALMOST...

It was a good trip for us.
It was no less stressful than most of these trips are, but somehow it felt different.
I think I owe it all to that little double bed in a Hilton somewhere in Atlanta.

Yes, I know I've been very absent from this space of late.  

I'll address that later. 

Believe it or not, I started a post about 3 weeks ago, 

got one sentence in, and never wrote anything else. 
Chalk it up to winter :-) See you soon!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Baby Jesus, Saint Nick, and Mr. Jinx {the elf}

Before I'm even awake good I hear his little feet jump from the ladder on his bed, down to the floor, landing with a thump.
The bedroom door opens and I hear the pat-pat-pat of his feet as he runs through the house.


"Mom? I can't find the Elf!"

This is our angel; one morning Mr Jinx was on this high shelf hugging her.

"Ummmm," I mumble from the far side of the bed.
His little voice is so excited and I know he has been this way every morning since Thanksgiving.

I pat the empty space in the bed beside me and say, "come cuddle with me, Buddy;" he ignores me.

At six years old, he's still a Mama's boy and has lots of anxiety over being left at school, Sunday School, and just about anywhere else.  He'd rather go with me wherever I'm going -- even Walmart--but he doesn't want just anyone to know these things.
He's small for his age and is often mistaken for a preschooler.
Most of the time, there's a ton of sweetness packed into that little body.  I just want to pick him up and squeeze him tight, kiss him, and keep him from getting any bigger.

Sunday morning I did that {well, except for the keeping him from getting bigger part}.
He climbed in my lap to tell me a secret as we sat in the church pew before worship began.  His eyes twinkled with mischief as he came to whisper to me, "Daddy's code to his new phone is XXXX!"
He was just so sweet and his dimples too delicious to not scoop him up for a kiss.  He didn't even protest, though there were tons of people around to see.

And I know these moments are fleeting; even as I live them they are bittersweet because I know they are numbered.  And selfishly, I don't want them to end.
I want my kids to stay this young, this sweet, this innocent.

That's why I choose to do Santa and the Elf on the Shelf with them. They know the real reason we celebrate Christmas is Jesus, but they also enjoy these other celebrations leading up to Christmas day.

There's been a lot of controversy lately, especially in cyber space, about "lying" to your kids when you include Santa in your Christmas celebration.
There's even this meme circulating Facebook:

And while it did provide me a chuckle, I realize that there are lots of different ways people use the Elf on the Shelf and Santa as well as lots of misconceptions about how they are used by those who choose not to use them.

Now, this blog isn't my way of saying "this is the proper way to do it," or me being judgey about what someone else chooses for their family's Christmas traditions. I'm simply stating how we do things here and sharing my recent observations.  I realize that some people will still think that, but there's my disclaimer {wink, wink}.  Just check out this poor lady's blog, the comments especially, where she gets reamed for misleading other Christians!

I agree with her on lots of points, but let me start by saying that we don't do the "guilted" good behavior in our house.  By that I mean, I want my kids to be "good" {as good as kids can be when they're normal} for the sake of being good, not because they feel their Christmas gifts are threatened if they don't.  And we don't make our elf, "Mr. Jinx," out to be some creepy I'm-watching-you-and-reporting-back-to-Santa toy.  {For similar content see this.}

In the aforementioned blog, the author does a great job of addressing some of the most common objections to Santa: balancing secular Christmas with a Spiritual Christmas; is it lying or supporting an unhealthy view of reality?; Santa promotes rewards for good works. I think one of the most important points she makes is that EVERY SINGLE HOLIDAY  and occasion {not just Christmas} in this country are completely over-commercialized and exploited in the name of making a buck.  
I am fully aware of the charge we have as Christians to be IN the world but not OF the world. BUT, I also know that it's not my job to tell other people's children the truth about Santa! When you have kids and you choose not to do Santa with them, there is no guarantee that they will keep the "secret" to themselves.

Buddy wrote a letter to Mr. Jinx...

As with everything in life, it's a balance.

A few years ago, much earlier than I had planned, I had "the Santa talk" with my daughter, who was 7 at the time.  She had become quite bold in her Christmas requests and was really portraying an attitude of entitlement.  I didn't want to lie to her with her some "Mommy and Daddy have to pay Santa for all the toys." At the time, Buddy was still quite young (3, if I'm remembering which year this happened) and we were a little concerned she might ruin it for him.  So I slipped her a letter under her pillow one night addressed to "The Keeper of the Magic" {an idea I stumbled across online for older kids with younger siblings who still believe.} The idea that she helped keep the magic of Christmas alive for him, has worked wonderfully for us.

My son, even though now only 6, is quite astute and asks TONS of questions.  I sense the day when he asks me outright, "is Santa real?" is not far off.  And when he does, I will not lie to him.  Already, when he asks me a question that I find hard to answer without an untruth, I turn the question around on him: "well, Buddy; what do you think?" Last week, for example, we saw an older gentleman in Walmart who looked remarkably like Santa and was dressed like him from head to foot.  He greeted every child he encountered on his trip through the store and my daughter even took a picture with him.  Buddy, on the other hand, was quite skeptical; he shrunk back against me and just watched.  After the picture taking, he asked me if that was the real Santa.  Since we were in a public place, the best thing for me to say was "well, what do you think?"  

For all the people who say Santa is a lie, I would remind them that life is full of teachable moments.  That there was a REAL man named Saint Nicholas. Here is just one source on the subject, but of course Google will afford you many more hits when you search "The Real Saint Nick." And this is where I would also ask, "so what if he wasn't real?" Isn't there still something from the legend we could use to teach our kids that it is more "blessed to give than to receive?"

I will not post all of the letters my kids have received from our elf, Mr. Jinx, but I will say this: Mr. Jinx takes every opportunity in our house to remind the kids to be kind and loving to each other.  He reminds them of the real reason we celebrate Christmas and why Christmas wouldn't be the same without Christ. Here is one excerpt:

Always remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas:
God sent the BEST gift to us in the form of His son, the baby Jesus.  One way we can show our love for others is by remembering his sacrifice and giving gifts to others this time of year.  Also important to remember, the size or cost of the present is of little importance compared to the value and love behind it.  Sometimes the best gift is just a hug or a simple act that shows you are thinking about the other person.

 He has also "intervened" when the kids have been squabbling over something: reminding Buddy that he is the little one and that Sweetpea is his big sister, who generally looks out for him.  In the same letter, he reminded Sweatpea that part of growing up is learning to do things for oneself and that Buddy would learn more from his mistakes and hardships than he would if she did everything for him or corrected his every move.

I didn't expect it to work at first, but I suppose it's similar to how kids tend to listen to a teacher better than a parent sometimes. Hearing the same things from someone else sometimes makes them "stick."

I wanted to be sure when we incorporated an elf into our holidays here, that it fit into what, and why, we already celebrate and didn't trump anything we already did.  While I'm sure some people DO use an elf on the shelf to enforce good behavior, I don't think MOST use them that way.
After we started our elf adventure, I found this: it might be helpful for someone else considering an elf in their home.

I think the bottom line is this: would it be ideal if our secular society ONLY celebrated the true meaning of Christmas - Christ? Of course! 
Do I wish that that were the case? Yes, again!
But this is reality and we live in a society that is, unfortunately, moving further and further away from God and the true meaning of Christmas.  As for me and my family, we will not let that happen! I consider it my job to teach my kids how to live as a citizen of this world, while having an eternal home in Heaven.
I may not do the best job 100% of the time, but having that goal and striving for it is better than not trying at all.

As I said earlier, I didn't write this to critique anyone else's interpretation of Jesus, Santa, and an elf in their Christmas.  I wrote it to say that this is meant to be a joyful time of year; let's stop judging each other for how we celebrate that joy.  After all, how can we be joyful and enjoy our Christmas while pointing fingers at someone else's choices for theirs?

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Yes, I know I've been conspicuously absent from this space for some time.  I've missed writing.
There are a lot of blanks to fill in, and I certainly have enough material to do so, but not this week.  I've learned that writing can be therapeutic for me, but it can also be obligatory. So when my hubby left for an 8 day trip on November 30th, I knew I had to drop anything not completely necessary while he was gone. I waited to be as present as possible for my kids in the midst of an already busy time.  Even since his return, things have been crazy and I wanted to be IN the moments we were living rather than taking pictures {although I still took plenty}, or jotting down notes for a blog post. 
More things coming soon, so stay tuned! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Humbled & Grateful}

Last night when I realized I couldn't "get myself together" over the injustice that is public school first grade homework, I ran away to my room to fold laundry.

I folded and cried and wiped my eyes for what seemed like an hour but probably wasn't.

Then I realized I had makeup all over my face so I had to fix that.  When I pulled the hot washcloth off my face, I looked into the mirror and flashed back to see my mother's swollen red eyes looking back at me.

I think about all the times she cried for her three children and all the times I probably don't even know about.  As mothers we cry when our babies are hurt and we can't fix it; we cry when our kids are faced with tough choices that we can't make for them; we cry when they disappoint us; most of all, we cry because in all situations we just love them so much and want only the best for them.

There is a lot of humbling that comes with becoming a mother and a lot of realizing that we never valued {and never can value} our mothers enough.

This morning's results of last night's uglier-than-ugly cry are not good.  My eyes are swollen and  they actually hurt.
Once again I had to hear my son tearfully protest from the back-seat, "Mommy, I don't want to go to school."
But I am thankful for all the ways, just this morning, I have been reminded of my blessings.

We listen to HIS Radio in the car most mornings and bless them, they saved me from self this morning.  They are doing a project called The Blessings Project and reading excerpts of these "needs" on the air.  I was instantly humbled and grateful to remember all that I have in comparison to the lack that many have.

And then I got home to lots of wonderful encouragement through Facebook from other moms who are struggling {and seeing their kids struggle} with ridiculous Common Core homework and classwork at school. 

One of them even sent this, which was great and brought laughter to me so I hope it will for you too!