Thursday, October 28, 2010

Learning from the Little Ones

Being a mom has taught me quite a bit about myself and my relationship with God. Doing daycare and taking care of 4 other kids has taught me even more. Without knowing it, these little ones are teaching me and showing me how I need to grow up!

For example, my two and a half year old boy is in that stage where he likes the words, "Me" and "Mine." Sharing is a difficult concept, but lately we have had another dilemma. He will be playing quite contently with a toy or be having fun doing some activity until I show Coralyn or one of the other kids a toy or suggest something for them to do. Then it's as if that toy is the greatest toy ever or that activity is going to be so much more fun. His toy no longer provides an enjoyment. As soon as I start playing with one of the kids, he immediately jumps up and says, "I want to play with that too!" or "Me do that too." Five seconds ago he didn't even know I had that toy. Five seconds ago he had no interest in playing that game. But now, not only does he want to be involved, he wants to be the middle of all the action and the center of attention. This makes working with the babies quite difficult, but is quite the opportunity to teach sharing!

The lesson I think is trying to teach me through this little boy: How often am I quite content with what I have until I start comparing myself to others? I see that someone else got a new shirt or a new washer or a new house. All of a sudden I am not content with the wardrobe in my closest, my appliances, or my home. I want what they have, and I want it now!

Yet another way this little boy is helping me see where I need to grow up is in the area of obedience. Every day we clean up the toys before we have a snack, again before we eat lunch, and then one last time before the kids go home. (Yes, I know that is a lot of cleaning up!) I try to give the older boys specific jobs rather than just saying, "Pick up the toys" so that they know exactly what to do. So, I will tell Carson to put the blocks away and Aaron to gather all the stacking cups. Instead of cleaning up the blocks, Carson focuses only on finding the cups and trying to get to them before Aaron can. Yes, Carson is picking up, BUT he isn't doing what I asked. He isn't obeying. He is doing what HE wants.

What is God teaching me? I often try to do what I want and justify it. What I am doing is a good thing, BUT it's not what God told me to do. I want to do my thing instead of His. I am not obeying. In fact, I am outright defying God. I don't like when my kiddos do that to me, so why would I think that God excuses me when I act the same way?!

How is it that such little people can teach me so much?! Because God is using a BIG way to help me grow up...that's why!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Counting My Blessings

"Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done." That's how the familiar hymn goes. I remember singing it back in the day, but recently God has brought the chorus to my mind, challenging me to actually do it -- to count my blessings.

See, I have been kind of "down in the dumps" lately. Really, it's a matter of focus and perspective. I have been feeling sorry for myself and letting all the "negatives" take over my heart. Because I do in-home daycare I am at home all day, every day. Due to the number and ages of the children I watch I am not able to safely take everyone outside to play, drive or walk to the park, etc. Thus, I feel trapped. I also start to feel the monotony of changing diapers, singing the alphabet song, fixing snacks, watching Baby Einstein, changing diapers, wiping snotty noses, refilling bottles, stacking blocks, changing diapers, picking up toys, counting to ten, changing diapers...well, I think you get the idea. The past couple of days in particular I have let these feelings overwhelm me and I have become discouraged. I focus on the things I am not able to do, the places I am not able to go, the activities I am not able to be involved in, etc, etc.

God is so good though. He always knows exactly where we are at, the condition of our hearts. And He knows what is best for us. Instead of changing my situation, He is going to help me change my attitude, my perspective. Because I am stubborn, He knew that I would need to hear the same thing several times before I really caught on to what He is trying to teach me.

Last Wednesday in our small group, Jay mentioned the song, "Count Your Blessings." This past week I have been doing a Bible study by Beth Moore on the fruit of the Spirit. When I read the very familiar 1 Corinthians 13, "love always hopes, love always perseveres through every circumstance, love never fails" really stuck out to me, especially the persevering part. It was kind of like God was reminding me that my situation isn't going to change, so I need to "deal with it" and just keep going. Next, Coralyn and I went to the library one evening after everyone had gone home for the day. I got some kids' Scripture memory CDs. The first song, "Give Thanks to the Lord." Last, but not least, I started the next week's homework for the Beth Moore Bible study. We are on the second aspect of the fruit of the Spirit -- JOY. How fitting! I think I am at least starting to get the idea. :)

So, figure I should act on that and work on changing my attitude and perspective. I need to focus on the positives, and there are so many as God has blessed me abundantly. Since I'm a literal person, I am going to "count my blessings" and "name them one by one."

1. God has saved me, rescuing me from death and eternal separation from Him. He has written my name in the Lamb's Book of Life, guaranteeing that I will spend all eternity with Him and forever enjoy His presence.

2. I have an amazing husband who loves me. Lawrence is my best friend and the greatest gift God could have ever given me.

3. I have a precious "baby" girl. Coralyn is the second greatest gift from God. I am so delighted to be a mama.

4. I get to stay at home with Coralyn and spend every day with her. I get to see all her "firsts" and help her develop new skills. Not only do I get to teach her letters, shapes, colors, etc., but I get to teach her about Jesus.

5. I have 4 really good kiddos who I get to take care of every day. They are well-behaved and get along with each other (for the most part, they are human after all!). Coralyn gets to interact with other kids all the time and learn from them.

6. I watch teachers' kids, so I have the same vacation days as Lawrence and we can spend that time together as a family.

7. I have a wonderful family. My parents love me (and Lawrence and Coralyn) so extravagantly.
8. I have some fabulous in-laws. Lawrence's family loves us and I am so blessed to get to be a part of their lives.

9. We a part of a great church where God's Word is preached and we are given the opportunity to live out the gospel message in the community.

10. We have some fantastic friends. Our small group especially challenges and encourages us as we live out life together.

11. We have a house in the "perfect" location. We are close to church. We are close to all the stores and shops we could ever need. Yet, we are in a quiet neighborhood, close to a park.

12. We have money to buy groceries, pay the bills, and put aside some savings.

13. Our closets are more than full.

14. We are free to worship God. We have His Word in our language. We can meet with other believers without fear of imprisonment or other such persecution.

15. We live in a community with a school district known for academic excellence, as well as its extracurricular activities.

16. We live in a country with a democratic government and we elect our leaders (granted, the person we want may not win the election or we may not like everything our leaders do).

17. We have live in a country with a road system that includes paved roads, highways, stop lights, stop signs, cross walks, etc.

18. We have constant electricity and running water.

19. We have a plethora of books in our own language that are free to borrow from a local library.

20. We have a variety of restaurants available for us so that we can go out to eat and not have to prepare food or do any of the clean-up.

21. We have endless options for entertainment.

22. I am in good health and can enjoy working out at the community center or going for a run through town.

23. Lawrence is also in good health. We get to enjoy walking, hiking, camping, etc. outdoors together.

24. We both have jobs where we get to use the talents God has given us.

25. We get to make a lasting impact on kids' lives. Lawrence gets to invite students to Ponca every year, and as a result many children have accepted Christ as their Savior.

26. We get to be a part of what God does at Ponca and develop relationships with some pretty amazing people in the process.

27. We have two vehicles that are in good condition, and no car payments.

28. We don't have any allergies and get to enjoy all the foods we could possibly want.

29. Our fridge and cupboards always have food in them.

30. We have an oven, microwave, and many other appliances that make our lives easier, including a coffee maker!

31. We have furniture in every room of our house.

32. We have air conditioning and heat.

33. We have a computer and printer.

34. We live in a part of the country that has all 4 seasons (usually).

35. I have all five senses. At this time of year, I am especially glad that I can see and enjoy the beautiful colors of fall.

36. The Holy Spirit is living within, meaning that all of God's power and wisdom (not to mention all His other qualities) are available to me 24/7.

37. Because of Jesus Christ, I can have direct access to God at all times.

38. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and has promised to return. When He does I will be transformed and share in His glory.

39. This world is not my eternal home. I am only here for a short time, compared to the eternity that I will spend in God's very presence.

40. God has forgiven me of every single sin I have ever committed or will ever commit. He sees me as perfect and innocent, pure and holy because I am washed in the blood of Jesus.

41. God created me in His image. He designed me so that I am unique and exactly the way He wanted me to be.

42. God gave me special gifts and abilities to use so that I can accomplish the plans He has for me. He actually lets me play a role in His kingdom work.

43. We have had both the opportunity and the means to travel to different places and see some really cool parts of God's creation.

44. God has kept Coralyn safe so many times it's not even funny.

45. I have shoes that fit. They don't have holes and aren't coming apart. If I don't like a certain pair, I have plenty of others in the closet that I can wear.

46. I have a bed to sleep in at night, and it's very comfortable.

47. While I may not be talented musically myself, I am still thankful for music. And that there are many different kinds to enjoy.

48. I got to sleep and rest last night, and woke up again this morning.

49. I saw 7 deer while I was running this morning.

50. Right now all the kids are quiet. :)

And that's just 50. I will keep counting my blessings as I go throughout the day. And the cool thing is that as I have been naming my blessings this morning, my attitude has been better. I have had more patience with the kids. I have had more fun playing with them, even if it is the same things over and over again. Thank You, God, for opening my eyes and changing my heart.

Now I feel like I really can sing along with the kids, "I've got joy, joy, joy down in my heart...deep, deep down in my heart."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wonder Woman

I am a little late, but better late than never is what they say. Last Sunday was Wonder Woman's birthday. No, no, not the superhero. My mom. In honor of her birthday, I thought I would list the top 60 things I love, appreciate, admire, and respect about her. So here goes:

1. I would have to start out with the obvious fact that if not for my mom I wouldn't be here today. She had quite the time getting me into the world, and after having given birth myself, I now have a new appreciation for those 48 hours of labor and then the C-section she "endured" to make my life possible.

2. Another obvious one, for anyone who knows my mom in the least, is that she is the most generous person I know.

3. To along with her generosity, my mom is extremely thoughtful, always looking out for things other people may need or ways that she can bless those around her.

4. In addition to that, my mom is a caring person. When other people are hurting, she is hurting.

5. This is probably redundant, but my mom is selfless. If she is blessed, she immediately looks for ways that she can use that to bless others.

6. Again, my mom is a servant. If someone needs help, she tries to find a way she can meet their need -- including selling stuff on ebay for them, having a garage sale, working the clock at sporting games, or driving someone to a game.

7. Following that, my mom is supportive. When I was in junior high and high school, she was at all of my volleyball and basketball games and my track meets. Now she still supports Berean and attends many of their athletic events.

8. My mom is encouraging. She always has something nice to say to you to make your day.

9. Along with that, my mom is attentive. It's like she is trying to pay special attention to what is happening in people's lives so she knows how she can serve them, help them, or encourage them.

10. I think this goes without saying because everything so far has been an example of this, but my mom is loving.

11. My mom is reliable. If she says she will do something, you can count on her to do it.

12. Again, probably repeating myself here, but my mom is dependable. If you need help, you can ask her and she will be there for you.

13. Right along those lines, my mom is faithful. She frequently calls me to see how we are doing, and if you are in her life, she is going to do her best to be an active part of it.

14. My mom is also patient. A few months ago I watched her take care of my grandma -- helping her walk, getting her food ready, dressing her, bathing her, and so much more. Now that is patience at its finest (well, besides dealing with me day in and day out for the 18 years I was home).

15. Mom is crafty. She has made Coralyn numerous sleep slacks, bibs, a denim skirt, and of course her birthday tutu.

16. Hand in hand with that, my mom is resourceful, finding creative ways to put "junk" or "leftovers" to good use.

17. My mom is also thorough. If she is going to do something, she is going to do it well.

18. Personable is another word for my mom. She enjoys talking with people and sharing in their lives in so many different ways.

19. Mom is committed. The latest example of this is her commitment to lose weight and have a more healthy lifestyle. She had ridden hundreds of miles on her bike and stayed on track with her "diet" as part of this commitment.

20. Going along with that, my mom is dedicated. If she puts her mind to it, you can count on it getting done.

21. Another side of that is that my mom strives for excellence. She always gives her best.

22. My mom is also family minded. She enjoys spending time with us and shows us her love in so many ways.

23. Open arms are another pair of words that describe my mom. She has welcomed Lawrence into our family, not to mention his entire family as well.

24. If I am going to be honest, I have to include that mom can be opinionated. That's good though because she's not afraid to let you know what she's thinking.

25. On the flip side of the coin, my mom is also understanding. If she disagrees with me, she tries to understand my position and let me have my own opinion or way of doing things. She's done great at letting me be the mom I want to be for Coralyn.

26. While we are on that note, my mom is a fantastic Grammy. Coralyn is supplied with clothes, coats, bibs, diapers, shoes, and much more thanks to her (and Lawrence's family too).

27. Thankful is another word for my mom. She is good about expressing her gratitude for all God has given her and what He is doing in her life.

28. Mom is also humble. She doesn't like to draw attention to herself or the many ways she has been able to bless others.

29. Hospitable describes my mom too. She may not cook all the time, but if you go to her house, she will take great care of you. Every time we go to visit, she has Mountain Dew for Lawrence because she knows that is his favorite kind of pop.

30. Mom is down to earth. She doesn't have to have the latest, greatest, biggest, best thing.

31. Determination would be another characteristic of my mom. I think about when we were hiking in Arizona and even though she didn't feel well at all, she was determined to make it back to the car without help.

32. Busy describes my mom to the "T." She is always doing something. I don't think she can sit still for longer than 2 minutes! :)

33. With that said, Mom is a hustler, in a good way. She works fast and hard to get things done.

34. My mom is also very observant. She notices little things that most people don't even think about. It's like she is on the look out for things people may need or things she could do to help.

35. Along those lines, my mom is willing. She gives of herself, her time, her talents, etc. cheerfully and finds joy in doing it.

36. Okay, we're getting further down in the list so I don't want to reuse words, but I'm pretty sure I haven't used this one yet: ambitious. Mom isn't afraid to take on "big" tasks and does a great job getting them done.

37. With that, she is industrious, working as long as necessary to finish something.

38. Mom is also proactive. She doesn't sit back and wait for things to happen. She takes the initiative and starts the ball rolling.

39. This one probably goes without saying since a lot of the previous words are evidence of this trait, but my mom is kind.

40. She is loyal as well.

41. Sympathetic would be another word to describe Mom. She often calls to let me know how I can be praying for people who are in difficult situations.

42. Energetic fits my mom well too. She's like the energizer bunny and just keeps going and going and going.

43. My mom is intelligent, especially when it comes to grammar! :)

44. Experienced is another word I think of when I think of my mom. She has worked many different jobs in her lifetime.

45. Competitive is definitely a characteristic of Mom. She's where I got it. When I was little she would enter me in the distance events at track meets so I would be guaranteed a ribbon or medal.

46. Thought of another "C" word: competent. Mom is able to do quite a few things and does them extremely well.

47. Staying with the "C's" my mom is a conversationalist. She loves to talk!

48. When I think of my mom, another word that comes to mind is seamstress. She has made Coralyn blankets, bibs, sleep sacks, and more. She can repair tears, replace buttons, and lots more so I don't have to. :)

49. Independent also describes Mom. While she does like being with people, she can do things and go places on her own.

50. Almost there...I thought I should use some intellectual ones here at the end. Mom is amicable (friendly and good-willed).

51. Gregarious: Mom likes talking to people and is energized when surrounded by large crowds of people.

52. Convivial: she is full of life.

53. Now we get simple. But still so true. Irreplaceable. There's never going to be another person like her. So blessed that she is my mom!

54. Unforgettable. Once you have met my mom, you will remember her. All you have to do is go to a Berean athletic event and say "Cleta" and everyone will know who you are talking about.

55. Generous...I know I already said this one, but it's so true it needs to be said again.

56. A blessing. She has touched so many lives!

57. Wonderful.

58. A. MA .ZING. What else is there to say?

59. Well, I need two more...Inspiring is definitely word I have to include. My mom has lived out what it means to be like Jesus, and she inspires me to do the same.

60. Last one...precious. I love my mom a whole lot. She is a very special lady! She is a Wonder Woman!!!

Happy Birthday (like I said a bit late) to my mom!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Our Little Monkey

We went bananas celebrating Coralyn's birthday. Our theme was Jungle Safari. Check out my pictures on facebook to see all the decorations, the cake, and other party festivities. I can hardly believe that it's been a year (well, almost...her actual birthday is Wednesday) since Coralyn was born. Lawrence and I can't really seem to remember what life was like before she was a part of our family. She has captured our hearts in so many ways and we are looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays with her in the future.

Weird how it seems like she's grown up even more since Saturday. She got jeans for her birthday and it's the first time she has ever worn them. Granted they are way too long and they about fall off (she's gonna look like a fool with her pants on the ground), but they are so cute. With a monkey t-shirt and some Sketcher tennis shoes, she is just down right adorable! I just wish she would let me put a bow or clip in her hair. She is a tomboy through and through (an answer to my prayers!).

I don't know what else to write because I am overcome with love and joy at being a mama. I am so blessed to have a daughter. She lights up my life like nothing else (except Lawrence of course). Happy Birthday to my precious baby girl, who's not really a "baby" anymore! I love you so very much, Coralyn! I am excited to see what this next year will hold, what new things you will be able to do, what adventures we will have together. Again, I love you, I love you, I love you!