Monday, April 30, 2012

O Love {The Monday Report}

Busy, busy week ahead.  We've got Steve's finals, we've got study nights Steve's administering for his students, we've got students taking finals this weekend, a huge event at the boys' school I'm putting on this Thursday and various other activities from a birthday party to the normal everyday stuff.  But it's okay....resting in this hymn today.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Words:  George Matheson, 1882
Music:  Albert Peace, 1884

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Just Don't Understand

Just this afternoon a dear friend and I were briefly discussing some of the strange things boys say and do and how we, as females, do not understand their ways.  When she dropped Isaac off from school he and his buddy were deep in serious conversation about stomachs exploding and heads falling off (or something of the sort).  This is what originally spawned the conversation.

And as the adage goes, boys will be boys.

But it doesn't mean that their actions aren't totally foreign to us females.

Tonight Caleb was done with his evening chores before his brothers.  He was on dish duty and his brothers were on playroom duty and Caleb was diligent to go fast.  He asked to play.  I, of course, obliged him.  He came to me a few minutes later with three real screwdrivers and this was his desperate plea.  "Mom, can you please find me something to poke holes in!!"  My first reaction was, "No crazy boy!  Go find something else."  But then I took a step back, tried to relate to his need to attack something, and went out to the recycle bin to find him some sort of cardboard box.

It's not that he needed to be violent.  He just needed to poke holes.  And he was perfectly happy doing so.   He even proudly showed me his handiwork at the end, to which all I could respond was, "Wow!  Such great holes!!"  Evidently, that sort of praise was exactly what he was looking for because he walked off brimming with pride.

Totally strange to my female mind.

Totally awesome and perfectly normal to him.

The other day Caleb and Joshua were playing so nicely together outside.  I knew something was up.  They usually fight constantly (so unlike my older two).  I went out and found them building a fire in the back of their Dad's truck.  They were carting wagons full of wood out from the back to the front, actually working together to load it, and then building a "fire" just like their Dad has taught them to (little sticks and paper on the bottom, small logs, then big logs).  The only thing missing was the actual fire.  But why in the back of the truck?

And then there sat Miss Elle.  She was in on the whole thing too.  Except her role was to just sit in the wagon, catch a ride and look adorable.  No one told her to do it.  She just did.
It was as if she was totally unaware of the absolute exertion they were putting into carting her and all of that wood around...up and down the cement steps leading to the back and everything.  As they grunted and pushed to get her and their precious load around all sorts of obstacles, she just smiled.  I half expected her to ask one of them to fetch her a nice cold drink.  "Baba please!  Baba!!"  And they would have because they love her.  Now that was a typical scenario right there.  Beloved woman gets doted on by two adoring fans and it should be that way :)!

Being a woman, I totally get THAT.  Ha ha!  But all of the stomachs exploding talk, poking holes in boxes with a screwdriver, and the building of a manly fire in the back of a pick-up...

I just don't understand at all.

But I do adore it just the same.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Getting There {The Monday Report}

It's been a week just like that.  I have often found myself wanting to just drape myself over something to konk out for awhile!  But alas, many little hands are always waiting for something so, I must keep going. (Isn't that picture just hilarious.  My mom and I found Caleb like that last Friday afternoon after we realized we hadn't heard from him in awhile.  We had been switching out all of my regular clothes for maternity clothes and before we knew it, he had put himself to sleep...just like that.  Don't worry, I moved him.  After I took his picture of course!) 

I discovered, just today, that Steve begins finals for Texas A & M next week not the week after like we both thought.  This is definitely a blessing but a bit of a surprise as well.  It does mean though that we're buckled down to survive the next two weeks or so as he's not only taking finals for his schooling but he's also giving finals, practice tests and administering study nights for his AP Physics and AP Calculus classes that are taking their AP tests in the next two weeks.  Once we get to the end of it all, we can breathe...for a few weeks at least until he starts summer semester.

Looking back this semester has definitely been challenging.  There have been times I've been in tears.  There have been times I thought it wouldn't end.  But truthfully, all in all, it's been okay.  We've found our rhythm and ultimately God has given us the strength needed.  Giving ourselves little goals has also really helped both of us feel like we were making it and seeing Steve succeed in his studies makes the hard work worth it indeed.  Now we just need to get through one more semester like that this summer and then we'll be having our baby boy!  After that, Lord willing, no more two class semesters.  Just two one class semesters left until graduation.  Phew!

This last week I really noticed that I'm getting more pregnant.  I'm 24 weeks and feeling it.  I just realized the other day that I am only three weeks out from my third trimester-no wonder I feel so tired!  I'm trying to slow down a bit here and there but, life just doesn't slow down much with four little kids and a husband who works all day and who is also in grad school full-time.  However, both Steve and I walked into all of that with our eyes wide open.  We both knew it wouldn't be easy so, discovering we were right isn't all that surprising.  I'm just trying to find the balance I need to get keep going while still being fair to my poor, tired body.  I'll get there.

There have been so many things I've also been working through (sometimes fighting through) that I have really been seeing God's hand in.  Various things have been helping me sift through my thoughts and feelings.  One of those is music.  As a mom it's very difficult to get a moment to myself.  It's not like I can escape to Starbucks to get some amazing alone time with God.  But I need Him-desperately!  However, throughout the day, God ministers to me so much through music.  Hymns, popular Christian, secular...all of it.  It's as if the songs pray the words I need to pray for me.  The lyrics tap into my very heart and help me pour out my requests to God as the music washes over me.  I need this.  Often.  And I've been finding that the more I allow music to minister to my weary soul, the more God heals my heart, brings me to repentance and provides me with hope.

Knowing God is the keeper of my heart makes me feel like all of my concerns, cares and hurts don't go unnoticed.  God knows my heart, good and bad, and He alone knows how to take my restlessness away and bring me rest.   This song has been a favorite of mine for awhile.  Hope you all enjoy it.   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Chance Encounter

Her ring gleamed in the sun as she reached for her delectable brownie. Surprised to see what looked like a real diamond on her slender, young finger, I inquired. "What a beautiful ring. Are you engaged?" She shyly shifted her feet and them beamed at me, "Yes! Just recently." I smiled knowing she'd expect me to be incredulous or confused that such a young girl (nearly high school graduate) would be engaged at such an age.

But instead, she found out that I wasn't armed to judge but rather to encourage. I know this girl-well, a little. She often stops by my cookie stand on Wednesdays with a smile and a dollar to buy a brownie. So I quickly offered her congratulations and then asked her what their plans were. She responded that her fiance was waiting to hear about a Coast Guard scholarship and once they knew his status, that they'd be able to proceed forward. From the looks of her ring, I could tell this guy was serious. For it was stunning.

To her I was just a thirty-something-mom-of-many that sells baked goods on Wednesdays. But little did she know that I was once in her shoes and I know how important it is to be encouraging. I didn't get married quite as young as she will. But I was still young and I can't tell you how many people told me that I'd regret it later.

So I told her. I told her that I was 21. I told her that it was the best decision I ever made in my whole life. I told her that my husband and I learned to live life together, on very little and that we were happy. We learned to save, together. We learned to face life, together. We learned to make decisions, together. We learned that it's best not to live on impulse but to wait for God's provision. We learned to be responsible, together.

And we did all of that by making mistakes, together. But God used it to grow us up and we are so, so thankful for that time.

But most importantly, we learned to build our finances, our possessions, our relationship, our home...slowly, one brick at a time-together on the Rock that is Christ.

As I explained this to her, she grinned with that winsome young love look that is so optimistic about the future and she reminded me of myself. I wanted to tell her that they'd face hardship. That it wouldn't be easy to put each other first. That at times, in the dark after a long hard day, that they'd cling to one another as they faced an uncertain future. That they'd find themselves with little money. Or that they'd have to learn to work together and that alone would be so physically, mentally and emotionally difficult.

But I didn't. Because that's the beauty and mystery of marriage. God has us all on our own journeys. Hers won't look like mine. And she will discover what it means to married after she's committed for life, which is the best way.

What I did tell her was this though...I told her that I will be married 10 years this July. That we have four going on five beautiful children. That God has been with us every single step of the way and that whatever journey He had for them, He'd carry them through, no matter how difficult. And that I never once have wished I was older or more financially secure nor have I regretted making that choice young. Not once.

Instead I'm thankful for the lessons, for the better person God has made me by being married to Steve, for all of the children He's given us and for the time He's given us so far. One of my prayers is that I'll have the privilege to grow old with him-to be married for sixty or seventy years. To sit and do 1000 piece puzzles with him. To read together, see our grandchildren and go for walks. To just be with him.

I know that not everyone chooses to marry young. Or those that desire to, don't always get to. I understand that and I'm not saying this is the only way. But in today's culture, the young who do desire to commit and get married often receive such negative feedback that whenever I come across such situations, I try to encourage. Because I've been there. I know.

She walked off with a brownie in her hand and a full heart, thanking me over and over as she walked away. And I was so glad to have interacted with her. In fact, looking at her reminded me so much of myself and as a result, the memories just flooded back to me. And as she left, I was able to thank God for His mercies, His grace and goodness to us over the years.

For He has always been faithful and I know He will continue to be.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Monday Report

Well, the little girl and I are making it. She is getting the hang of things more and more each day which has given me hope that in a few weeks, all will be back to normal~at least a new normal that is. It was touch-and-go for awhile there but over the weekend, things started clicking more and I felt I could continue. I knew I had to add in all of my other responsibilities this week like carpool, school, cooking everyday, cookies/brownies on Wednesdays, and generally living life with 4.5 kids, so it was encouraging to know she was becoming manageable. Today it felt good to be back in a routine again. God's grace is sufficient.

Lots of things have been on my mind lately. Many of them I cannot write about but, I can say that God has been working me over, literally, for a few months now. I'm such a fighter and so sometimes I will fight and fight and fight. When I finally come to the end of myself and get a good look at my heart, I realize once again that sometimes there isn't a thing I can do but let go. I can't change circumstances. I can't change people. I can't necessarily even reveal truth. I can only trust that God has not forgotten me...

"Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you." Isaiah 44: 21-22

Last week I hit a bit of a wall. I usually do at this point in the semester-every semester. The end is near but not quite near enough. It was a perfect storm. I'm getting more pregnant. And as much as I forget about the state I'm in, my body hasn't and it's slowly winding down more and more as the weeks go on. Steve was really busy, even though it was his Spring Break, and my resolve to keep trucking on through met its match in potty training Elliana.

But life is made up of a lot of little decisions. Sure there are big ones too but ultimately, the things that matter are stacked up over time. And Thursday morning I wasn't in the best of shape. Steve sent me out for a few moments by myself (I hadn't left the house in three days due to potty training) and I came back in tears. There I was, haggard from a few intense days with Elle and worn down from outside circumstances beyond my control, and he just pulled me up into his lap and let me sob reminding me that I needed to let go and lay down my will to fight. "God will care for us, Nikki." As I explained to him all the things I was just plain mad/frustrated about, he held me close and gently reminded me that everyday I had a choice. Would I be angry or would I trust in One who knows my frame and who also knows all?

I needed this gentle push back on the right track.

It's a little decision. Lay down. Give up. Stop fighting. I can't change everything, even the things I think shouldn't be. Sure things might be unfair. Sure they may be wrong or unjust. This is just life.

But God has not forgotten me.

This I know. And I can trust Him.

It may have been an emotionally taxing week but, I'm trying to just put one foot in front of the other with little decisions. Don't worry about next week. Worry about now.

God has not forgotten me. I can let go. I can stop fighting what I can't change and let Him fight for me.

And that is this week's Monday Report.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Yet Again...

For the fourth time, I've found myself knee deep in potty training. Horrible, disgusting, gut-wrenching potty training. I'm no stranger to its "delights" yet still, I find myself battling the same emotions that I go through every.single.time.

Are they even getting it?

Have we made any progress?

Yesterday was a great day. Why is today so off?

Maybe I should've waited longer.

These are just a few of the thoughts running through my mind when I'm in the thick of it. If I could just step back and get out of the messy world I'm running in, I might realize that today really is better than yesterday-really. Sometimes perspective is everything. And perseverance is the only thing that keeps you going.

All that said, Elliana is doing fairly well especially for a little girl just shy of two years old. I decided to try and get her out of diapers now for many, many reasons. I'm not an impulsive person and so I've been thinking through the whole thing for many months now.
1. She seemed ready.
2. In the past I have always had a nursing baby in tow while running a two-year old to the bathroom. The thought of avoiding that debacle this time around seemed, I don't know, pleasant.
3. It was either now or in 8-10 months due to us having a baby in four months. Saving nearly a year's worth of money on diapers was a great motivation. Plus, I've always had at least two in diapers for awhile...the thought of only changing one when the baby comes seemed so wonderful too.
4. When she turns two in June, I knew I'd be too big and would lack the physical stamina needed to be bending over and getting up and down off the floor a hundred times a day in order to properly train her. At nearly 23 weeks now, I can still pull it off-well barely.
5. Giving her four months until she spends time away from us seemed like a reasonable amount of time for her to get good at it. At least good enough to be away for a few days.

But it's still so hard. So, so hard. If I wasn't SO cheap, I'd pay someone to do it for me. Seriously.

Once they "get it" and get it well, there is freedom. But until then, it's a lot of hard work.

Now, I've only trained boys so far and that is one of the things that has thrown me off-big time, this time around. I know everyone says that girls are easier but, listen people, I beg to differ. Girls are messy. MESSY! With boys, you help them aim and it all goes in the potty. No wiping involved unless it's a #2. With girls, pee goes everywhere. There's no aim and there certainly isn't any decorum involved. It's just plain messy. Plus, you can't take them anywhere. Boys can slyly pee in a bush if you need them to. And there's many more reasons why I think boys are easier.

But I'm digressing.

If you think of it, pray for me. Even though it's my fourth time around, I still feel like it's my first and I'm blubbering through it all.

I guess that's how God keeps us humble huh?!

Until next time....

Monday, April 9, 2012


Isaac blue-steeling it...this was the only decent one out of the 20+ I took but Isaac's face cracks me up!!

Our family had a wonderful Easter weekend remembering and then celebrating Christ's death and Resurrection from the grave. Every year, as the boys get older and can take more in, it gets even more exciting to give them more to chew on.

We started out our Holy Week a week ago Saturday at our Sabbath Dinner. Red candles were lit instead of the usual white and our Jesus Branch was hung up. Sunday we started adding different objects to our branch that told the story of the Resurrection and continued every night until Easter. During the week we made our playdough mountain that depicts Jesus on the cross. Joshy helped me make it this year. On Good Friday, Jesus went in the tomb. Every night we read more of the story and I was amazed at how riveted they all were by it.

We started off the Easter weekend with church on Good Friday. We then spent the afternoon with Steve's family eating amazing food and getting cousin playtime.

On Saturday, we prepared for our own family's celebration of Easter at our Sabbath Dinner. This year we decided to add in something we had never tried before. Toward the end of the week we decided to show the boys some scenes from The Passion because they were so interested in what it must've been like for Jesus and it was really the only movie we had on hand. I was a tad worried about how they would take it. However, they really did well with it. They kept saying, "It's okay...we know He's going to rise from the dead."

One of the scenes depicted was Jesus washing his disciples feet at the Last Supper and the boys were pretty intrigued by the whole thing especially after hearing us read it to them as well. So, after seeing their interest we decided that Steve would wash theirs during our dinner as an example of what Christ did for his followers. I think that was my favorite part of the whole night. They loved it. Isaac asked if Steve could do it every Saturday. It was truly an amazing, meaningful night. We also practiced, quite loudly I might add, "Christ is Risen...He is Risen indeed!! This was in preparation for church the next day. After that we of course feasted on good food that was a splurge budget and calorie wise, as we awaited to hear the news that Christ is Risen!!

Sunday morning we enjoyed a yummy waffle breakfast and then headed out to church all laden with refreshments and candy-filled eggs for the Easter Egg hunt after service. The service was chock full of joy and hope. As we moved through the service, standing, sitting, singing, reciting creeds and remembering, I was reminded once again how a liturgy can help prepare my heart to receive God's Word and then Communion (but that's just my experience :) ). During the sermon, there were so many things that came to mind as I was reminded that my sin does nothing for me and needs to be left behind. Why do we try and live as if we are dead? He is alive! He is Risen! We can leave our sin that produces nothing but death in our lives and be free! Amen!

After getting some eggs at the egg hunt after service, we headed over to my parents' for the afternoon to spend time with my family including both of my brothers and my parents. We feasted on amazing food, had another egg hunt and just got to hang out and rest.

In reflection, sometimes I am tempted to slack off and do less during these type holidays so that I don't become overwhelmed. But as Steve told me recently that he often has to tell himself, "I need to die...I need to die for them (meaning the kids and me)." So I also need to die. I wasn't perfect for sure, but I definitely found myself having more joy in the process. Who cares if I have to make five million desserts and drag out all the paraphernalia and plan more elaborate menus, etc...this stuff is IMPORTANT. I can't coast. It's hard work but good work. Christ has called me to it. So I tried really hard to lay myself aside and just die for them, so that they could see clearly all that Jesus did on the cross.

Because if Steve and I, their own parents, don't show them, who will?

All in all, it was a wonderful Easter season for our family.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Respecting His Position

Back when I was a newlywed and attempting to navigate the world of the married, one of the issues that really concerned me was respect. I knew that I was supposed to give my husband respect, but at the time (mostly because I was young and foolish) I didn't always think he deserved it. I had all sorts of funny reasons why I didn't think so. And I of course, thought I was totally in the right. I remember voicing these reasons to a mentor of mine and her very wise response.

"You don't respect him because he deserves it. You respect him because he is your head. God has put him over you, no matter if you think he deserves that position or not. You respect him for the God-given position he's in and then you in trust God, not in him."

Pretty monumental to me. I'd never heard this before. In my mind, he needed to earn my respect and he needed to do it in ways that were meaningful to me. The church has pretty much followed our culture in this aspect too. "He better respect you or he's not worth it." Or, "Now when you're young, that's the time to 'train' him." Attitudes such as these are prevalent. And as prevalent as they are, they're also devastating to a marriage.

Now hear me, none of the issues I was worried about were really much of anything. They were only important to me because I was still learning what it meant to be part of a team and not just by myself. Many of the issues fell in the area of money where I thought I knew better. Oh boy did I. And the other ones, well some of them were just a result of both of us learning how to be married.

The key was this though, would I be teachable and resolve to do as advised or continue in the way that seemed right to me?

I truly wanted to have a good marriage so I decided to give her advice a shot despite my misgivings. This is what I discovered.

For one, I think much more highly of myself than I ought. Enough said.

Secondly, I do not have the same protective eye that Steve has. I might've thought that I had more "street knowledge" about certain things, but the truth is that over and over again, the eye that God has given to Steve to see danger and protect our family stepped in and saved us when I would've gone a different route. These events humbled me and caused my respect to rise.

Thirdly, and most importantly, when I began to just respect Steve because he is my head and not because I felt he deserved it, he rose to it. He began acting more respectable, which made me respect him even more, which made him act even more respectable (and the vicious cycle continued).....Ha ha ha!

When he felt I had let go and shifted the responsibilities to him, he had to own it and he learned to be a better leader, husband and man. The weight he bore caused him to bear up under it with pride and determination. If I would've kept trying to help shoulder it, he would've felt more and more like a wimp. It definitely was strength I was after anyway. Ironically, I had to move out of the way to let him be strong.

It all came down to a choice.

Often love is described this way and I believe it to be true. Love is a choice.

But so is respect. It's a choice.

I don't always know better. But God does.

God has put our husbands in a position that requires much responsibility. Of course we work as a team. Of course, there is mutual respect. But when the rubber meets the road, at the end of the day, I better respect the man God has given me no matter what.

And when mistakes are made, (for there have been mistakes and there will be more) I need to remember that I'm just as culpable.

I'm also just as likely to need forgiveness.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Monday Report

Well my friends, it's late on a Monday night and my whole body is rebelling against me writing out a Monday Report. So I'll keep it brief.

Here are some highlights:
*In case you missed the news, we had our 20 week ultrasound on Friday and we are having another boy. Yes, I'm okay-don't worry :). We took the whole fam and it was fun.
*One of my favorite and most embarassing moments during the ultrasound occurred when Joshua decided it was the perfect time to sing, quite loudly I might add, "Shut the door, keep out the debil (devil)" over and over again. The ultrasound tech seemed a bit startled and perplexed as to why my three year old would be singing a song about the devil. I tried explaining that it was a silly camp song, but then I just felt that her lack of context for the whole situation would simply make any explanation sound absurd so I gave up and let her think as she pleased.
*One of my sister-in-laws is having a little girl in a few weeks and I had the pleasure/honor to go with my mom and mother-in-law to help shower her a bit. Theodora is so dear and I'm really looking forward to meeting her new precious little one.
*Steve began his second round of midterms for the semester today. As nervous as I get for him, I am thankful that after this set of exams, there are only a few weeks left until his finals. Then just one more crazy two class semester this summer! His last two semesters will be one class semesters (thankful for that since we'll have a newborn and he'll be studying for a smaller exam in the fall and then his comprehensive exams next spring before he graduates).
*Next week is spring break...bring it!