Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let Your Light So Shine

Yesterday I had an interesting experience at my pediatrician's office that I'm still trying to process through a bit. We were going in for Elliana's one year check-up and all of the usual happened. First of all, whenever I schlep my little troop around town we get a lot of attention. It doesn't bother me one bit. I mean, who can blame the onlookers? I've got four kids five and under. We are quite a sight. Plus the fact that I have three boys and then a girl ALWAYS makes for stares and comments. For the most part, people are really kind and even funny at times.

So back to yesterday. Everything was going along totally normal. Elliana's check-up was pretty brief and simple. After she had been checked out, our pediatrician, who I have a great relationship with, started shooting the breeze with me a bit since we had so much time left in our appointment. He asked me if I had ever seen the show Modern Family. I answered, "No." And so he proceeded to tell me all about it and how it is the funniest show to him because the families described on the show are exactly who he sees in his office every day.

Okay.....but then, he went on to say that our family is not the typical modern family and wanted to know why and what we were doing differently. He said, "Yet you're not like all of them. Tell me, why are you so different?" I was totally caught off guard. My first thought was to scream, "Because we're Christians!" But I know he already knows that. At least I think he does. He knows my husband teaches at a Christian school. And we've talked about church before. But he was really inquisitive. And I was all of the sudden stage fright. He went on and on about how we have a lot of kids but still seem to like them, are still married and seem to all enjoy one another which is pretty different than the typical family that walks into his office on a daily basis.

As he went on, I didn't know what to say. The first thing out of my mouth was that I had a good husband and that he sets the tone for our home. He then responded with, "I bet you do. That does make sense." After that, all I could do was just murmur that God had blessed us and that we try and do what's right (and fail miserably all the time). But I did feel like a failure when I walked out of there. Why didn't I have the courage to preach the gospel to our pediatrician right then and there? Why didn't I have a tract or something ready for him and his questions? Wouldn't that be what a good Christian would do? What kind of a Christian am I? I can't take the credit for anything going well in our family. It's all God's grace. And there's so much we need to work on that he doesn't see. He only sees us for small bits of time. And to be fair, I always make sure my kids have a snack to help them sit through the time!!

Afterward, we went through the rest of the appointment getting shots and getting Elliana's year old lab work done. During that time various other people came up to me with comments about all of my boys and the "little princess". One lady, with a twinkle in her eye said, "Four kids!! Good for you! I had five ya know." That comment made me smile.

On the way home, we got stuck in some major traffic and I had time to mull over the whole thing a bit more. I regretted not giving God more credit and lamented not speaking up more about my faith. As I was chiding myself, God whispered gently to my heart and a light bulb went off in my head. Sometimes I don't feel like I can do much for the gospel. I can't necessarily pick up and go overseas. I'm not preaching on the street corner or helping out at different ministries. My ministry is my husband, my kids and my home and that's fine with me! But, God reminded me, that what He's given me in my children and marriage is a literal banner of light, shouting at this hurting world. Wherever we go, His light can be shone just by us being His-by us being Christians.

I always thought we were the normal ones. I guess since I'm around so many people that have strong marriages and great kids, I tend to forget about the hurting world around me. There's so much brokenness. So much! I can't fix it. But I can take my kids to the store with me and we can show kindness. Sure someone might throw a tantrum but how do I handle it? There are people watching!! That doesn't mean I just do things "right" to put on a show-no, that's hypocrisy. But am I showing Christ to my kids in how I respond? Am I truly loving them with Christ's love? Because if I am, others will see HIM! And they'll know it's different.

God has given all of us different ways to shine His light. For some it is being a missionary to some unreached peoples. Others show love by visiting shut-ins or prisons. Others reach out to at-risk youth or help in various ministries. For me, right now, building into my family is the best way for Christ to shine. Our pastor always says that the world will be won for Christ around the dinner table.

I've always believed that. But I'm really starting to see how true that is. If we can just love our families, who can deny Him? It's SO drastically different from the world, it can't be us? It must be something SO MUCH greater!!

Be encouraged. Love your family. Pour into them all of who you are. And be in the world. In doing so, God will use your ordinary, every day life to broadcast to the world His shining light!

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Littlest is One

Elliana turned 1 on Saturday! Last week was super busy with two family birthdays and party preparations, thus my utter lack of blogging. But I'm going to make up for it today with a crazy long video!! Ha ha!

Anyhow, I just learned how to create a video/slide show through youtube and it was just too much fun! Since I was just learning, I practiced with Elliana's first year photos.

Hope you enjoy it.

Elliana, we love you so much and are so thankful God blessed us with you, a daughter. Although we have no idea how to raise a girl, we look forward to the many lessons God has for us in these coming years.

Your smile and presence lights up our whole family. The Lord Has Heard...God Has Answered and He has given us a daughter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Like a Bed and Breakfast

Yesterday I got an amazing surprise. I got a new bed! Here's what happened.

When we got married, in college, we took whatever free furniture we could get our hands on. And we were grateful let me tell you. Our first bed sat on the ground and we didn't mind it at all. But when we got the opportunity to get some new mattresses from my parents a few years ago, we decided that we were outgrowing our newlywed, random status and that we should to go for it. We never got an actual bed and so the mattresses sat on a simple metal frame for the last couple of years. It was okay. We were content with it. Really we were.

But, if I'm being honest, I've always dreamed of a certain bed. One that if I had all the money in the world, would be perfect. I have always wanted a wooden, four poster bed.

They are just so romantic and beautiful. But I knew we couldn't afford to drop a chunk simply for me to get the bed I wanted. It just wasn't practical. So I kept dreaming.

One day, I told a lady who lives close by, my dreams of having a four poster bed and she said that when she went to yard sales, she'd look for one for me. She is the queen of decorating and has an eye for beautiful things for a reasonable price. I thought she might be successful but I didn't get my hopes up.

That was two years ago.

About a month ago she mentioned that she still hadn't found a bed for me but that she hadn't given up. I had forgotten all about it and thought she probably wouldn't find one-ever.

Then yesterday I had a horrible migraine. I sloshed through the day waiting until I could lay down at naptime to get some relief. I haven't had a migraine like that-ever. Anyhow, in the midst of my misery, she came by to tell me the good news.

She had found the bed at a yard sale over the weekend and she just wanted to bless me with it.

And bless me she did. I can't stop staring at it.

I can't believe it's mine.

I had a coverlet I had bought off of a friend from church and it looks just perfect with the bed. It looked a little silly on our plain mattresses. But with the bed, it's the perfect, finishing touch.

It's like sleeping at a Bed and Breakfast. Every night.

Can you tell I'm excited?

Sometimes God just blesses us beyond what we were ever expecting.

Yesterday, He reminded me again just how much He cares for us...even in the silly little pleasures like a new, dream bed.

I'm thankful. Really, really thankful.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Mission of Motherhood and a Theology Lesson

This article popped up on John Piper's website and it was just so good. So I thought I'd re-post it for you all. It's so easy to forget that we have a ready and willing audience to the gospel right in front of us every second of the day. We don't have to travel to Timbuktu to find some unreached peoples...they're playing, eating, fighting, crying or asleep in the other room.

And also for your viewing pleasure...the other day, Caleb came triumphantly into my room during his rest time to show me his new masterpiece. After congratulating him on a job well done with the color by numbers part, I was about to ask him about the person up in the sky. But before I could, he responded very proudly, "Mom, that's God. And look, He's got his socks and shoes on." Well, good thing. Because if He didn't, His feet might get cold. It's always so funny to see our childrens' perceptions of God.

I just rolled.

Keepin' it real.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's That Time Again

Things have been a bit dreary here lately due to various sicknesses. So when a lull in the action hit the other night, in the hopes of lifting some spirits (including our own), Steve and I jumped on the opportunity to have our first jammy ride of the season.

It was a hit-for sure. Cheesy smiles all around. And lots of sticky hands and faces. Sounds about right.

Since it was the first one in awhile, we thought we'd get it on video. Don't laugh at my haggard appearance-vanity almost kept me from posting the video but, then I threw caution to the wind. Remember, at this point, it had been many days of sickness (post camping too) and not a lot of upkeep if you, ahem, know what I mean.

But it was a lot of fun! Jammy rides in the summer are simply THE BEST! If you haven't tried one yet, DO IT! Who doesn't love prolonging bedtime and getting ice cream instead? Okay, I'm off my soapbox now.

But seriously, it is fun and a great way to lift spirits that are waning. Hope you're all having a great week full of fun summer activities. Until next time...

Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm Not Strong

A lot of times I think I'm strong. I'm young. I can be fast. My mind processes things quickly. And my health is currently in order.

It's easy to get lost in this mindset and forget that my youth is fading, my strength is dwindling and my memory is quickly flying out the window.

I'm not strong.

The older I get, the more I realize this truth.

This last weekend, I was reminded yet again, how weak I really am. We've been a regular infirmary around here. At the end of our wonderful camping trip last week with friends, Isaac came down with a fever. And then pretty quickly everyone else trickled in with their own ailments.

Miss Elliana has had some sort of bug that has given her the runs for eight days now. No matter of rice, bananas, bread or cheese will plug her up. She's happy as a clam with no other symptoms but she's a literal mess. Today's "present" on the floor has only been one of many over the last week. So I've been worried about her. She's so small. Is she okay? How do I know when enough is enough? How am I to care for her? A quick call to the nurse only yielded a "wait and see" approach. long do you let a little baby go like that? As I pondered my daughter's condition, I tried to be reasonable but fear of the unknown, of my lack of knowledge, would seep in. I want her to just be better. I don't want to wait for it. I want her to be okay. I don't want to watch her be sick. I'm not strong.

Then there is Isaac. He had a fever. It came down promptly. But then he had the worst sort of stomach cramping we've ever seen in any of our kids. He was screaming and writhing in pain over a period of hours. He's our oldest. He can talk expressively. He can describe his symptoms. Yet I was so scared and had no idea how to help him. When you child tells you that it hurts to breathe, and you don't know why, it's scary. Especially when you know that child isn't your King of Drama. That's when it is helpful for Dad to take over and head off to Urgent Care since it is nighttime. I don't cry often. But as I set to the task Steve had given me when he left (he gave me a job to try and keep my mind occupied), tears streamed down my face. And I realized again. I'm not strong. I don't know how to care for Isaac. What is the wisest course of action? How long does one wait? When does a parent act and when does a parent just watch?

Of course Joshua and Caleb were not to be outdone. They both registered decent fevers on Saturday. No biggie. I had the same ailment as all of them so I was walking around achy and feverish but, not too bad. Tylenol helped. But Sunday, just as I was catching my breath from Isaac's little scare (which they had no idea what was wrong with him by the way-just some weird virus) Joshy decided to ramp his fever up to 105. It was too soon to give him medicine again and so we were dunking him in the bath, trying to calm him down and then we finally decided to give him more ibuprofen. The process repeated itself on into the early morning as we battled this very high fever. By morning his fever had broken. And I thought to myself, as I rocked him in the twilight, "I'm not strong. I'm achy, tired and mentally fried. I am not strong."

All moms experience times like this. I have many times before and will many times after. It's nothing new. But, I forget my own frailty so easily. I get caught up in all the things I can juggle, how well I can generally get things running that I forget, in the end, I can't do it all. The weight gets to be too great. I have such a responsibility to care for all of these little souls yet I can hardly remember who got what medicine at what time!! Yet with that responsibility also comes a realization that I must trust in One who is greater than me. And so, in response, I open my hands and give up.

He made each little body. He knows the intricacies of their precious souls. And He loves them even more than me. As much as I love them, it is like nothing compared to His love.

As the hours ticked by last night with little Joshua by my side, I worried, I prayed and I talked with God reminding Him that I'm not strong. That I'm at the end of myself. That I have no wisdom left.

Then He reminded me that He is strong. That He will bear this very little, tiny burden (for it really is a small one) and that all of this chaos is His work in me. And I am not to go through the years raising my children without my job totally and radically turning me inside out.

"These are children, they are eternal souls. They are not supposed to be easy. They are not supposed to pass through our homes like quiet guests. They are supposed to be the unmaking and the making of us. They are supposed to challenge us and change us." Rachel Jankovic, The Strength of the Ox.

I'm not strong. I'm not wise. I'm not loving. I'm not good.

So it is Christ and His strength, His wisdom, His love and His goodness in me that will shine through. Without it, it's simply impossible...totally and completely impossible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

So the little girl took her first steps last week. And this week, she's decided she likes it quite a lot. If she wants to, she can go for a couple of feet and slowly toddle toward us. So adorable.

When I sit to think about it, this year has flown. It seems like just a minute ago that I was here...the night before she came. Just an aside: isn't it always incredible to look back at pictures of yourself at the end of pregnancy and see just how big your belly is! I always feel big, but to see it, WOW! How do we ever walk at the end? Very slowly! Anyhow though...

And now, she's on her own two feet.

Soon she'll be tearing through the house.

Somebody please make it stop.

My littlest baby is getting older. The next thing I know, she'll be asking for the keys to the car.

I know we want them to grow up. But with each successive child I've had, I've wanted them to stay little for just a tad longer each time-to savor them, drink in their baby smell, kiss their chubby cheeks and thighs, and hear them belly laugh just one more time. I've learned to enjoy the process that much more and mostly that is because I've come to realize, over time, how it all passes away rather quickly. So instead of wishing it away, I try to internalize it as much as possible.

But there is so much joy in the growing though. It is good and God designed life that way. I do want my kids to grow up and mature. I do want them to learn how to love God and those around them. I do want them to grow in wisdom and knowledge over time.

Recently we've been talking with our oldest about time and how when you're little it goes really slow. But that when you're older, it goes so fast. Too fast. Along these same lines, our pastor has been preaching right through Ecclesiastes and the futility of life, how God has given us our lives to enjoy His blessings but also how, without Him, it is utterly meaningless.

It's a total oxymoron. Only God, who is wisdom Himself, can sort it out. But even so, here's my little stab in the dark.

Her first steps-memorable, fun, exciting-yet utterly meaningless. All of my other kids' accomplishments, totally meaningless. Nothing is new under the sun. Nothing.

Yet because they're meaningless in the grand scheme, in turn, we as the parents, get to enjoy them. That's God's blessing to us. If we learn to see them as meaningless, then we will worship the One who made them to do these amazing things and not our kids in themselves.

"There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after...I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind." Ecclesiastes 1:11, 14

Not that there isn't hope...just not hope in ourselves and our own accomplishments because in the end, they're all forgotten.

So once again, pondering things I don't really understand. I probably don't even make sense. But this I do know-this life doesn't really mean much apart from Christ. And the time He's given us is fleeting. So I better enjoy it.

As all of my kids continue to grow, I need to keep this perspective. Enjoy them; be proud of them; relish in their strengths; encourage them in their weaknesses. But remember who made them and how short the time really is.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Good Stuff

I ran across a couple of great posts on teaching children to love the standard. This whole idea really resonates with me because I tend to be rigid. That is my bent. I have to learn to parent in this way and often that means going against the grain and my own first insticts. You should check them out. I hope they encourage you as much as they have me.


Loving the Standard

One Rule

And just a disclaimer: if you think the writer is advocating for crazy, disobedient, "free" kids, then you've missed the point. You might want to read them again.

Friday, June 3, 2011

So Much More

So it's been six years since my husband started teaching. We've seen a lot of students come and go. I've known a few. In my defense, there have been four children born during that six years! But mostly, I've stayed holed up in my little circle of friends just trying to maintain my own life. There have been some great students over the years that Steve has really gotten to know but I haven't ever really been a part of that. I've always just considered the students "his job" and not really much of my concern.

Until this year.

Once I started doing the cookie stand, I began to notice and get to know the students who would come by as regulars. While they would pick out a brownie, I had the opportunity to ask how their sports were going, or the play, or whatever it was they were involved in. Some girls would stop and chat for awhile. I had a few open up a bit as the year went on. And whenever I'd be on campus with my children, I'd always see a few students who would smile and wave at me shyly. And as this started to happen, I realized that all this time, I've lived across the street from the school and yet I still hadn't engaged much of my heart into Steve's work. The more I got to know students, the more my heart began to love them. And I realized, there is so much I can do to support and come alongside them even though I'm not their teacher. I can smile at these kids. I can laugh with them. I can be a friend.

But most importantly, I can pray for them.

Our family had a recent experience, where we found out that another family had been caring for our family over a period time without our knowledge. That care, that love for us God placed on their hearts, translated into such incredible encouragement to all of us-especially me. And we didn't even know it was going on. This situation reminded me that I need to be looking for ways to be loving the people God puts in my path.

The girl who looks downcast on a regular basis, the jock who constantly tries to be cool but really exudes an incredible amount of insecurity, the girl who dresses all in black, the boy who won't look me in the eye when buying a cookie, the girl who is struggling with her body image...these are just a handful of the types of kids that come in and out of this place I call home and all of them are people, with families, cares, hurts, dreams and hopes.

And I need to remember them. I need to pray for them.

This last year I finally got my heart involved and it was a wonderful experience. I'm truly going to miss the seniors-a lot! I got so used to them striding through the parking lot, making jokes and giving my boys high fives. But I'm also looking forward to getting to know more kids next year and reaching out to more parents too.

I started selling cookies and brownies to make some much needed extra cash while the husband is in grad school. And what I received was a beautiful reminder of all the amazing things God can do through friendship, reaching out and caring.

So, so much more than I ever thought or imagined. But isn't God that way?

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us..." Ephesians 3:20