Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'll Get by with a Little Help from My Friends

I don't know any of the other lyrics to the song, but this one line is all that matters anyway.  And it's the truth.  Without my friends (and family), I wouldn't be able to live life to the fullest, let alone get the dishes washed!  First and foremost, of course, I am totally and completely dependent on my Best Friend, Jesus Christ.  Thankfully, He knows I need physical human beings whom I can see, hear, and touch.  He uses these individuals, in various ways, to give me the breaks I so desperately long for.

I mentioned yesterday how thankful I am that God never grows weary or tired, that He never sleeps.  He never gets a break, never rests, never gives up or throws in the towel.  He is always working, always by my side ready to help me in whatever way I need at the moment.  Psalm 121 has been repeating over and over and over in my mind as I continue to experience restless nights and constant fatigue during the day.  David must have known that I would need the encouragement and wrote this passage that reminds me of God's faithfulness and never-ending strength, upon which I am utterly dependent.  His words were intended for those traveling on their way to Jerusalem, but they are fitting for me/us today:

I look up to the mountains--
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the One who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, He who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord Himself watches over you!
The Lord stands by your side as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
and  watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

As I wake up each morning, having not gotten very much rest, I am so grateful that God hasn't slept a wink and is still fresh and ready to tackle the day head on.  Only by His grace and with His help am I able to do all that is asked and required of me as a wife and mommy.  The famous words of Isaiah come to mind as well:

Look up to the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of His great love and power and incomparable strength,
not a single one of them is missing.

O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?

Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of His understanding.

He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.

Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustaion.

But those who trust in the Lord
will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Thank goodness for that promise!!!  I don't know what I would do without it!  Or my friends, whom God uses, to give me this strength.  They come along beside me, some without even knowing it, and help me run and not grow weary.  They walk with me to make sure I don't faint.  And somehow, together we are able to soar high like the eagles.

I think all moms know and understand what I am saying.  They can relate.  They have all been there before.  Some are still there, right here where I am now -- longing for a break, or at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep!

And thanks to the wonderful invention of facebook, I am able to connect with these other moms.  I am encouraged, inspired, challenged, refueled, re-energized because of their status updates, pictures, blog posts, and more.  I thought I would give a little shout out to these amazing women:

Michele - Your husband is a teacher too, I think.  Your kids are very close in age to mine. You understand long nights by yourself, especially during Parent-Teacher Conferences and the end of the school year.  Your youngest is a mama's boy and has required a lot of your attention, time, and energy -- like Kellah does with me right now.  I see your life -- through facebook and your blog -- and am encouraged to keep on keeping on.  If you can do it, so can I!

Melissa - You too have kiddos very close in age to me.  Your youngest isn't a great sleeper, and I know you have spent many a night rocking him and not getting much rest yourself.  You don't complain though, but look at it as an opportunity to bond with your son.  You have experienced broken bones and who knows what all else that I haven't.  If you are able to maintain a positive outlook, then surely I can do the same!

Ginger -- I really appreciated your story about the Sunday morning you spent in the bathroom.  Motherhood definitely isn't glamorous, but we love our kids all the same.  Knowing that you have experiences that weren't what you planned on or expected, but got through them with a smile, reminds me to laugh rather than cry.  I also appreciate your pictures and stories of how well your kiddos get along and the love they have for one another.  I want the same for my girlies!

Jamie -- You were deathly sick and had a little one to care for.  You had to depend on others.  By God's grace you overcame that illness!  I love seeing your pictures and your words of encouragement.  Knowing that you were able to make it through such a hard time gives me hope.

Jessi -- You trained for a long race.  You ran countless miles, pushing your two girls in the stroller as you did.  You did all of this out of love for your family.  If you can do that, then surely I can read books and stack blocks with my girlies no matter how tired I may be.

Maggie -- You have kids puking and pooping.  Some of these kids aren't yours by birth, but you love them as if they were.  You invite them into your home.  You show them God's grace.  You don't seek out the easy life, but welcome whatever God has for you, no matter how hard the job may be.  And you do it all with a confident faith, trusting that Jesus will be with you every step of the way.  If it's true for you, then it's true for me as well!  Thanks for pushing me to run with endurance, and to run farther and harder than I ever thought or imagined possible.

Melissa -- You share Scripture passages, articles, and more that help me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.  You love your girls (and husband) with a deep, passionate love.  You "attack" life and give everything you have as you love our Jesus.  You inspire me to do likewise.

Vera -- You have more kids than me which means you have more loads of laundry, more dirty dishes, more people pulling your arms and legs and vying for your attention.  Somehow, you manage to homeschool your kids, sew or knit really cool stuff, cook, clean, volunteer at church, and post all this to facebook.  And you do it all with a smile.  I want to be like you when I grow up!

Jennifer -- I used to live with you, so I know firsthand the chaos that was your life with 5 kids under the age of 7!  If you survived the craziness, in a third world country, surely I can manage here in the comfort of the United States!!! 

Jessi -- I can't help but laugh when you post the things your girls say.  I need that comic relief throughout the day.  Not to mention, I don't feel as bad when Coralyn says what sounds like a bad word or makes some off-the-wall remark that she heard from who knows where!

Tiffany -- You have kids very close in age to me as well.  You have had to count every penny and seen God provide in amazing ways for you.  You have never once faltered or wavered in your trust that God will provide.  You have kept a positive outlook and reminded me of God's faithfulness over and over and over again.  You have listened to me, laughed with me, cried with me, prayed for me, and taught me how to make delicious frappacinos!  And this morning you were ready to leave work and come pick me up at Wal-Mart when my car decided not to start and I had two hot, tired girlies in the backseat and a trunk full of groceries. 

Like I said, "I get by with a little help from my friends!"  There are many more of you that I didn't mention here, but if you are my friend on facebook, then consider yourself a source of daily encouragement and inspiration to me.  God has used you to strengthen me, to help me soar on wings like eagles, to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint.

I pray that I do the same for you.  After all, that is what friends are for!



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I Hear You Saying Is...

I don't know if I expressed myself very well in my last blog post. 

I don't feel like I did.

When Lawrence and I were in pre-marriage counseling with our pastor, he told us about "Drive Thru Communication."  He shared how his wife had been stressed and overwhelmed with her wife and mom duties.  At the time he was really into running and working out at the gym.  After he had ran and lifted weights he felt re-energized and ready to take on the world.  He thought his wife might feel the same way, that some time at the gym would help her relax and recoup.  And so, he kindly suggested that she should go for a run or work out like he had been doing.  He had the best of intentions, but his wife did not hear the message or heart behind his words.  Instead, she took his advice to mean that she was fat and needed to lose weight.  Of course, she was offended and deeply hurt.

Thus began their practice of "Drive Thru Communcation," in which they would repeat what the other had said using the phrase, "So what I hear you saying is..."  He described it like when you go to McDonald's and place your order: A Big Mac with no mayo, a small fry, and a Diet Coke.  The person on the other side of the microphone repeats your order: A double cheesburge with extra pickles, a medium chocolate shake, and a Mountain Dew.  Obviously, the McDonald's employee didn't hear you or simply wasn't listening, and you have to correct him and repeat your order to ensure you get what you actually want.  Finally, after several attempts, he gets your order right, you pull forward, pay for your food, and go away happy.  But it took time and multiple, "What I hear you saying is..."  For those of you who went to Berean, maybe you immediately think of Personal Growth with Mr. Homskog our freshmen year of high school! :)  Anyway...our pastor and his wife would use this form of communication to make sure they were hearing the heart behind each other's words and avoiding problems that could be easily avoided if they took the time to really listen to one other.

I guess I want a re-do, a do-over, or a "What I hear you saying is..." session.

I started out my previous post by saying that I wasn't complaining.  If I am being completely honest, I probably was complaining, at least a little bit.  I think I wanted you to feel sorry for me, to pat me on the back, to assure me that it's going to be okay, to remind me that these busy days are indeed the best days of my life (so far). 

Perhaps I just needed to vent, to express myself, to "get it all out."  Whatever the case, I don't think I really got the heart of the matter.  I am terrible at this.  I never get right to the point.  In high school and college I would turn a 2 page, double-spaced essay assignment into a 6 page, single-spaced research paper.  To say that I am verbose is an understatement.  See, I'm doing it right now: going on and on, running around in circles, chasing rabbit trails. 

What I truly intended to write last time was how thankful I am that  God never takes a break from His job as my Heavenly Father.  I can only imagine how exhausting and tiring His work is.  Not to mention frustrating, discouraging, disheartening, and so on.  And yet, He never throws in the towel or even thinks about giving up on us.  He just keeps on keeping on. 

We cry out to Him; He answers.  Even in the middle of the night.  Even if we just called out to Him thirty minutes earlier, about the same exact thing!  Even if we are whining or screaming and kicking our legs.  Even if we are being annoying and crying for no apparent reason at all.  If we cry out to Him, you can guarantee that God hears us and will respond. 

Furthermore, God never feels overwhelmed.  At least I don't think He does.  He doesn't get distracted either.  I get flustered when I wake up to a big pile of dirty dishes, and while I am washing them I start thinking about the hampers full of dirty clothes, the supper that needs to be cooked, the weeds that need pulled, the toilets that need to be cleaned, the floors that need to be swept, mopped, or vacuumed, and so on.  Before I am even able to finish my simple task of washing the dishes, I have gotten myself all worked up and feel overwhelmed with all the things I "must" get done that day.  I can just see God smiling as I think about how much I have on my plate.  While I'm concerned about dirty dishes, He's dealing with much bigger and more important things like planets orbitting and stars shining; rain falling and snow melting; giving wisdom to all the government leaders; healing the sick; providing for the basic needs of every single person.  With all this, and much more, on God's daily "to do list," you would think that your prayer request might go unheard or your situation unnoticed.  Surely God is too busy to take care of something "small" like making sure you have enough money to pay the mortgage or "trivial" like the sun shining for your family's Memorial Day bar-b-que.  And yet, this isn't true at all!  Nothing, absolutely nothing, escapes God's radar.  On top of that, He truly cares about you and all that is happening in your life, from dirty diapers to choosing a new career path.

I don't know how many times throughout the day I "just want a break."  I want a few moments to myself, to catch my breath, to hear myself think, to go to the bathroom without someone watching me.  I would much rather catch up with friends on facebook than read "Where's Mittens?" to Coralyn for the 13th time.  I would prefer reading my book on the couch, in the air conditioned living room, than pushing Coralyn in her swing, in the hot afternoon sun, for thirty minutes.  I would make the banana bread a lot faster if I didn't have Coralyn, and now Kellah, "helping" me, but I would also miss out on some pretty fun mother-daughter memories. 

I am guessing God might feel the same way.  How many times do we ask Him the same question in a 15-second time frame or try to get His attention by tugging on His arm while He is obviously working?  How often do we get on His nerves?  Oh wait, God isn't that kind of Father.  That's right.  God is never too busy for us.  He never sends us away.  He never escapes to the basement for a moment to Himself.  He's always available, always ready to meet with us, always welcoming us into His presence. 

That's what God has been impressing on my heart and mind these past few days and weeks.  That's what I truly wanted to communicate.  And so I hope that "what you hear me saying is..." how grateful I am to God for never growing tired or weary, for never giving up on me, for never asking for a break...from me.  I am so glad that God always gives me His best, that He cares about every detail of my life, and that He is always right by my side giving me the strength and energy I need to be the wife and mommy He has called me to be.  I am extremely blessed.  I want you to hear that too. 

Yes, I am busy.  Yes, I am tired.  But, once again, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Remind me of that the next time you hear me complaining, or "venting," or "getting it all out," or whatever I try to call it.

Just Give Me a Break

Break me off a piece...a piece of that Kit-Kat Bar!

I haven't seen that commerical for awhile, but the song has been running through my head lately.  I haven't been craving a Kit-Kat Bar.  I'm not sure the last time I had one anyway.  No, I am focused on the other part of the jingle -- a break.  I just want a break! 

Please hear me out: I am NOT complaining about being a mom.  I love, love, LOVE being a mom.  And I love, love, LOVE my girls!  So often people see me or follow me on facebook and make the comment, "You have your hands full," or something along the lines of, "You must be busy!"  Yes and yes.  As I have said before, my hands are definitely full, but so is my heart.  I wouldn't want things to be any different.

Well, maybe I would like Kellah to sleep longer than 2 hours at a time at night, and perhaps take a nap for more than 30 minutes during the day.  But, I love my baby and am more than happy to hold her, feed her, soothe her, and play with her.  I am blessed to have this opportunity.  I know many (too many) who would give anything to wake up in the middle of the night to the cries of their precious little one.  So, as I said, I am not complaining.

Rather, I am contemplating on my frailness, my weakness, my humanity.  I am admitting that I am indeed tired, exhausted really.  I am not Superwoman.  I don't have super hero abilities or powers of any sort.  If I did, I wouldn't be asking for a break.

As I drink my coffee every morning, I think how nice it would be to have an IV hooked up to my arm that just poured caffeine to my body throughout the day.  Somehow, though, I manage to "survive" the morning rush of the girls waking up, needing to eat, changing diapers and wet pull-ups, getting all of us dressed, and out the door to enjoy the beautiful weather.  I figure maybe if I wear the girls out before lunch, they'll be nice and both take a nice, long afternoon the same time.  Wishful thinking!!!

And so we go the library and pick out a whole bag full of new books, or we play at the park, or we might go walk around at the Nature Center.  We return home hot and sweaty, hungry and thirsty.  Cranky and fussy.  The girls are wiped out.  I see them rubbing their eyes and pray that signals a good nap is around the corner.  Oh, you would think that I would have learned by now.  It's never that simple.

Yesterday, and most every day this past week, Coralyn has actually taken a nap.  Granted, at times it took her a couple of hours of playing quietly in her room to fall asleep, but sleep she did.  And once she closed her eyes, she stayed asleep for two or more hours!!!  Kellah, however, has been an insominac lately.  The poor thing must be teething (still!) because she never seems to sleep for more than 30 minutes during the day.  As soon as she does decide to take a little cat nap, Coralyn wakes up.  She's ready for a snack, and then she's off to the races once more.  "Let's go play outside, Mommy!"  If that request gets turned down, she isn't deterred for long.  She gets runs over to the library bag, grabs a stack of books, and suggests, "Let's ready all these books, Mommy!"  At least that means I get to sit down for a few minutes!!!!

Before long though, Kellah is back up and wanting to join in on the fun.  She really isn't rested, but I guess she doesn't want to miss anything either.  I get that.  I am the same way.  She is my daughter.  And like me, by bedtime she is absolutely exhausted.  And so every night I think she is going to zonk out and just sleep, sleep, sleep.  I couldn't be more wrong.  About an hour and half to maybe two hours after she finally lays down, she is up crying.  I go in, hold her and feed her.  She goes back to sleep, and I lay her down again, thinking THIS time she will surely stay asleep for an extended amount of time.  I should just set my watch because in another couple hours she is up and at 'em again.  Consistenly, her longest stretch is from 4 am to 7 am. 

Every morning, sometime between 5 and 6 am, I am awake, trying to decide if I should just get up and enjoy some quiet time to myself before the rush of the day or if I should take advantage of the opportunity to actually sleep.  It's a real dilemma.  If I get up, I don't get as much rest as I would like.  If I stay in bed, I can catch a few more zzzz's, BUT I don't get any time to myself before the girlies are needing my full attention.  I am a morning person, but after getting up 3-5 times during the course of the night, I am not ready to bounce out of bed and hit the road running.  I am doing good to get a shower and enjoy a cup of coffee while I read my Bible.  That's really all I want. 

Sure, I would love to go for a long run, come back and enjoy a nice, leisurely shower, and then sit down with a cup of coffee and dig into the Word without any thought of washing the dirty dishes stacked in the sink, getting some meat out to thaw so I can fix supper at some point, folding a load of laundry, or mopping the kitchen floor.  But, of course, that's not realistic at this time in my life.  And that's okay.  Because I would take my girls and all that being their mommy entails over my "perfect morning" any day of the week!

All this thought of having, and even deserving, a break has got me thinking.  :)

God never gets a break.  Nor does He ever ask for one. 
And His job is much, much, much more exhausting than mine is or ever will be!

I may be tired, but at least I can "check out" for a couple of minutes at some point during the day to get on facebook, write an email, or read a book.  I may have to get up multiple times during the night, but at least my head hits the pillow for an hour or two.  God doesn't get that luxury.  He never slows down.  He never rests, not even for a second.   And thank goodness!  Can you imagine what would happen if He did?!  The world would fall apart, literally!!!

So, the next time I think to myself, "I just need a break!" I need to remember to turn to God to give me the strength to finish the day.  He will.  I need to let Him help me carry my burdens.  He will. 

Above all though, I need to rest in Him.

Well, I guess that was my break for the day: Kellah's up from her nap.  She must have known what I was blogging about! :)  She must have felt sorry for me too, because she actually slept for a little over an hour!!! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Clock's A Tickin'

And it isn't going to be slowing down any time soon.  I think it might actually be one of those crazy clocks with hands that spin super fast.  At least it seems that the time is flying by, way too fast!

Today, Kellah is 5 months old. 

She's still pretty small: 12-13 pounds and 22 inches long.  Not sure where that puts her on the growth charts, but I'm not too concerned.  She's healthy, and that's what's important.  And as an added bonus, she's super duper cute!

Kellah is still working on her top teeth, and some bottom ones too (I think).  I thought for sure they would have come through by now, as she's been working on them for the past month and a half!  She drools almost constantly, and her spit bubbles can get to be pretty big!

I haven't tried any solid foods with her yet, but the way Kellah watches us eat, I think she will definitely be ready next month.  (Ah, she'll be 6 months old in June!  Half a year!!!  Like I said, I think time is speeding by far too quickly!!!)  The other day, Lawrence was eating a sandwich, and Kellah watched him hold it in his hand, put it to his mouth, and then back down again.  It was funny to watch her eyes, and whole head, move up and down as she followed the sandwich.

Enjoying Tummy Time

Kellah isn't crawling, or scooting yet, but she sure is trying her hardest to get there.  During tummy time, which she LOVES, she will push up on her arms and then on her toes too so she can push off with her feet to attempt to move forward.

She can somewhat scoot and turn herself, but she doesn't get too far.  When she gets tired, she just lays her head down, takes a quick thumb-sucking break, and then is back at trying to move.

She is a talker.  Most mornings Kellah wakes up and starts gooing and ahing and cooing right away.  I love walking into her room and being greeted with a huge smile and adorable giggle.  Except when she's asleep, Kellah is usually making noise.  Lawrence says she is going to be a verbal processor as she grows up.

Kellah is also an observer.  Like she watches us eat, she watches Coralyn play.  She is pretty focused and intent as she tries to catch everything going on around her.  And she's not afraid to get in the middle of things either.  Which is probably good since Coralyn loves to tickle her, producing quite the laughs from both of the girls!  If they're not giggling, then Coralyn is probably reading Kellah a book or showing her how to stack cups or put the shapes in the bucket.  Kellah seems to enjoy the attention, though she can get a little overwhelmed at times, like when Coralyn tries to give her every toy in the box!  I think they are going to be great friends!!!  Coralyn has informed me multiple times this week that Kellah is her best friend.  And every time she does I can't help but smile, and feel my heart melt just a little bit more.

Yep, I am extremely blessed. 
I am so thankful for my girls (and their daddy!). 

My hands are full, but so is my heart. 
 I may be busy, and tired, but I wouldn't want it any other way!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Big Sister

Kellah will be 5 months old tomorrow!!!  And I will be posting pictures of her and updating you on all her most recent accomplishments.  I know, I are on the edge of your seat with anticipation.  You might not even be able to sleep tonight. :)

Since I don't really do a monthly post/update for Coralyn now that she is way past a year old, and it takes far too long for me to calculate exactly how many months she is anyway!  Let's see...she was born in October of 2009.  In October 2011 she turned two, making her 24 months.  This April she was officially 2 and a half, putting her at 30 months.  Now that it's May, she is 31 months.  Like I said, that took up way too much time.  Not to mention, she's not reaching new milestones like rolling over, crawling, sitting up, taking her first steps, or anything like that.  Instead, I have started keeping track of al the cute, funny, shocking, brillant, convicting things she says!

All by myself!  Independence seems to be a pretty common theme around our house these days.  Coralyn wants to get dressed by herself, and she can.  But it sure is funny to watch her pull up her "big girl pants" and then her shorts!  She wants to go potty all by herself.  She wants to get in and out of the car all by herself.  She wants to pour her milk all by herself.  Needless to say, I don't oblige on that one!

That was funny!  Coralyn has a great sense of humor and likes to laugh, for sure!  Lately, any time something makes her laugh or she notices something out of the ordinary or she attempts telling a joke, she'll announce, "That was funny!"  Kellah evidentally thinks Coralyn is hilarious because she will laugh and laugh at her big sister.  I love hearing them giggle together!!!

Will you kiss it?  We are now in the "I have a boo-boo.  Will you kiss it?" stage.  Thankfully, a kiss is all she needs to feel better and get back to playing happily.  The other day we were at the park, eating our picnic lunch.  I had packed an orange, more for me than Coralyn really because she very rarely eats more than one slice before she decides to "save the rest for later."  Coralyn asked me to peel the orange, and I wasn't really in the mood to deal with a sticky mess, and so I tried to get out of it.  "I have a sore on my finger, and if I open up the orange it will burn my boo-boo."  She didn't bat an eyelash.  "I'll kiss it for you," she kindly offered.  I was touched by her tender thoughtfulness.  I should have known there was something behind her sweetness!  Immediately after she kissed my finger, she looked up at me and asked, "Now will you open it?"  Apparently, her kiss had made my boo-boo all better and I was now able to peel the orange without any difficulty!  Of course, I gave in and peeled the orange for her.  She ate three slices!

Are we going a special way?  Coralyn has a keen sense of direction, which she most certainly did not inherit from me!  Lately, I have been taking the "long way" to the park so I can squeeze in a few extra minutes of exercise.  When we didn't take our normal turn, Coralyn noticed and shouted out that I needed to go "that way" and pointed in the direction of the park.  I explained we were going a "special way" and would still have plenty of time to play on the swings and slides.  The other day we left the house to run errands, one of which was getting the oil changed in the Yukon.  I had set aside a Jiffy Lube coupon and was glad to save $18.  However, in my haste to get out the door and load the girls up, I forgot the coupon on the kitchen counter.  Thankfully, I realized my mistake shortly after we left the house and started to turn around to go back home and get the coupon.  As we were driving on a "new" street, Coralyn asked, "Are we going home a special way?"  Nothing gets by you, kid!  This morning on our way to Deanna Rose, I missed my exit and had to turn around.  Once again, Coralyn was aware of my directional difficulties and commented, "We're going a special way!"  Yep, we sure are! 

Are you frustrated? Did I mention that nothing gets by Coralyn without her noticing, and remembering for the rest of her life?  When I get frustrated, I tend to make noises.  Like growling.  For the first few times Coralyn heard me do this, she would ask what was wrong.  I would explain that I was just frustrated because I had made a mess or that I had made a wrong turn or that I had found out some sad news.  The other day I was unloading the dishwasher, only to discover that yet again the dishes weren't clean.  I mumbled and grrrrred.  Coralyn was in the kitchen, eating her breakfast.  She stopped mid-bite.  "Mommy, are you frustrated?"  Yes, yes I was!!! 

I'm SO big!  Coralyn takes great delight in reminding me that she is growing up.  Out of nowhere, she will tell me, "Mommy, I'm SO big!"  I guess being just plain ol' big doesn't cut it.  No, for Coralyn, it is all or nothing.  It's go hard or go home.  And I like that about her...for the most part! :)

I am certainly blessed to have Coralyn in my life!  I love being her mommy and am looking forward to the next 31 months (and more) with her!  Who knows what all she will do, and say, between now and then!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Daddy! Daddy? DADDY?!

This past weekend we celebrated Mothers' Day, and I can't help but think of God's love for me as I reflect on my own love for my two precious little girls.

We have been reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible with Coralyn.  Each night before bed we read a "story" and then discuss what it means and how we can live it out in our lives.  You would think that these mini-devotions explained in two-year-old language wouldn't be that deep, but let me tell you: God sure speaks to me through them.  And challenges me BIG TIME!

Last week, just before Mothers' Day nonetheless, we read the story of Jesus' arrest and crucifixion.  Whew, talk about God meeting me where I am at and then some!

"A Dark Night in the Garden" based on Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane the night Judas betrayed him and the religious leaders arrested him (from Luke 22, Mark 14, and John 18).
     The wind was picking up now, blowing clouds across the moon, shrouding the garden in darkness.
     "Stay up with me?" Jesus asked His friends.  They said yes and waited under the olive trees, but they were tired and soon they fell asleep.
     Jesus walked ahead alone, into the dark.  He needed to talk to His heavenly Father. 
     He knew it was time for Him to die.  They had planned it long ago, He and His Father.  Jesus was going to take the punishment for all the wrong things anybody had ever done, or would ever do.
     "Papa!  Father!"  Jesus cried.  And He fell to the ground.  "Is there any other way to get your children back?  To heal their hearts?  To get rid of the poison?"
     But Jesus knew -- there was no other way.  All the poison of sin was going to have to go into His own heart.
     God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts.  He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies.  God was going to have to blame His Son for everything that had gone wrong.  It would crush Jesus.

It's amazing how reading such a familar passage in words intended for a child can bring the story to life in an entirely new way!  Or perhaps because I am a mom now I look at things through my "mommy lens" and see the situation differently than before I had children of my own, before I could relate to God as a parent. 

Can you even begin to imagine?!  To "have" to do such terrible, horrible things to your child, whom you love with all your heart?  You would do anything to protect them, to keep them from harm.  You would step in front of a speeding car or dive to block a bullet with your body in order to save your child.  You would willingly die in their place.  And yet, here is God...doing the exact opposite.  Because of His love for us.  This love is what compels Him to put Jesus in this tragic place, to make Him carry such a heavy burden.  God is indeed dying in our place, saving us -- His dearly loved children -- from death.  But to do that, He has to sacrifice His own Son in the process.

I can't even picture myself watching Coralyn or Kellah endure such pain without at least trying to help them in some way.  My heart caught in my chest this weekend when Coralyn fell and hit her head.  I would have to take that feeling and multiply it several billion times to even begin to understand what God must have been going through as Jesus prayed to Him in the garden that night, as they together anticipated what was about to happen. 

The Storybook Bible continues:
    But there was something else, something even more horrible.  When people ran away from God, they lost God -- it was what happened when they ran away.  Not being close to God was like a punishment.   Jesus was going to take that punishment.
     Jesus knew what that meant.  He was going to lose His Father -- and that, Jesus knew, would break His heart in two.
     Violent sobs shook Jesus' whole body.
     Then Jesus was quiet.  Like a lamb, "I trust you, Papa," He said.  "Whatever You say, I will do."

Ahhhh!  The anguish!  The pain!  The grief, the agony!  The despair!!! 

And yet, here is Jesus...accepting God's plan, willingly laying down His life.  For our sake.  Dying, so that we might live.  It was the only way, and so Jesus got up and made His way back to the disciples, every step taking Him one step closer to the cross.  To that terrible, horrible separation from His Father.

The next few pages describe Jesus' arrest and the brutal treatment He experienced at the hands of the Roman soldiers.  Finally, we get to the actual crucifixion.

     They nailed Jesus to the cross.
     "Father, forgive them," Jesus gasped.  "They don't understand what they're doing."
     "You say You've come to rescue us!" people shouted.  "But You can't even rescue Yourself!"
     But they were wrong.  Jesus could have rescued Himself.  A legion of angels would have flow to his side -- if He'd called.
     "If You were really the Son of God, You could just climb down off that cross!"  they said.
     And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, He could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when He healed that little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5,000 people.
     But Jesus stayed.
     You see, they didn't understand.  It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus there.  It was love.

That right there would be enough, you would think.  I have heard about Jesus' death on the cross since I was born.  I could have probably recited the story of the crucifixion to you by the time I was three.  But still, that night, I was moved to tears.  The depth of God's love hit me all over again.

God wasn't done though.  If I was already drowning, He was about to sweep me away all together.

     "Papa?"  Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky.  "Papa?  Where are You?  Don't leave Me!"
     And for the first time -- and the last -- when He spoke, nothing happened.  Just a horrible, endless silence.   God didn't answer.  He turned away from his Boy.
     Tears rolled down Jesus' face.  The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.

Oh my goodness!  To have to turn my head and ignore Coralyn or Kellah when they cry out to me for help!  To know they are hurting and need me and not be able to do anything...or to choose not to do anything!!!! 

Why?  Why would God, who is Love, do such an awful, seemingly hateful, thing to His own Son?

The Storybook Bible goes on to explain just that:
    Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world.  The sun could not shine.  The earth trembled and quaked.  The great mountains shook.  Rocks split in two.  Until it seemed that the whole world would break.  That creation itself would tear apart.
     The full force of the storm of God's fierce anger at sin was coming down. 
On His own Son. 
Instead of His people. 
It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy His children whose hearts were filled with sin.
    Then Jesus shouted out in a loud voice, "It is finished!"
    And it was.  He had done it.  Jesus had rescued the whole world.
    "Father!"  Jesus cried.  "I give You My life."  And with a great sigh He let Himself die.
    Strange clouds and shadows filled the sky.  Purple, orange, black.  Like a bruise.

I don't think I will ever be able to look at, hear, or read the story of Jesus' crucifixion the same again.  Nor should I.  Knowing the extent of God's love for me, and the sacrificed it required, should I not be willing to love Him in matter the cost?!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Good Enough

Awhile back I wrote about my deep ponderings as I cleaned my kitchen.  I questioned, "What's the point?" seeing as how the counter, table, floors, and everything else I so furiously scrubbed and washed and wiped down would be dirty again in 3.7 seconds.  You wouldn't even be able to tell that I had gone to all the work to make my sink sparkle or the floor shine.  So, what was the point of cleaning my kitchen in the first place?!

Thankfully, my despair did not keep me from finishing the much-needed and necessary household chore.  Instead, I just accepted the reality that being a mother of two small children meant cleaning and recleaning and recleaning and recleaning and...well, you get the idea.

And since my "job" is never done, God has had ample opportunity to teach me more about Him and our relationship as I have been doing other chores throughout the house this week.  The recurring thought in my head as I try to clean as quickly as I can in the few "spare" minutes I have while the girls are napping or playing contentedly by themselves seems to be, "That's good enough."  I justify my haste and lack of zeal with a, "At least it's better than it used to be." 

I found myself thinking these very things two days ago as I pulled dirty dishes out of the dishwasher.  I was pretty frustrated that my dishwasher wasn't doing its job and that I would have to take extra time to actually wash the dishes myself!  (What did people do before the dishwasher was invented?!)  Annoyed, I filled one side of the sink with hot, soapy water and then went to get the rinse water ready in the other side, only to realize that the drain wasn't working and the water slowly disappeared.  Already aggravated, my grumpy mood got even grumpier.  Still, I knew the dishes wouldn't wash themselves, and so I proceeded to take all the dirty dishes out of the sink, place them on the counter, and then wash one item at a time, placing the clean but still studsy dishes in the empty side of the sink.  As the dry side of the sink filled with wet dishes, I would stop to rinse off the clean dishes and stack them in the drying rack that I found stashed behind plastic bags and some potatoes in the cabinet under the sink.  I wasn't really planning on spending thirty minutes of my morning washing dishes, especially since I had expected the dishwasher to do the job for me, while I got other things done -- like cleaning the inside of the microwave and mopping the floor.  So, I must admit I did not stop to thoroughly investigate every single pot, pan, bowl, plate, cup, spoon, knife, and fork to make sure I had removed every single speck of food.  I just wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible and assured myself, "They're good enough.  At least they're better than they used to be."  I think I probably added a, "They're just going to get dirty again," and maybe a, "No one will notice since there will be food in the dishes anyway."  It's wasn't like I left huge chunks of crusted oatmeal or dried egg yolk on my dishes....I promise, I didn't.

This morning both girls were still sleeping after I had read my Bible, so I figured I should take advantage of the situation (like I am right now, as BOTH girls are actually taking a nap!).  One of today's household chores is cleaning the bathrooms.  We have the windows up to let the cool air in, and I noticed that the windowsill definitely needed some attention.  Dust and a few dead flies had accumulated since we had the windows open last time (you know, when it was actually spring-like weather instead of the more summer-esque temperatures we had been having in March and April).  I sprayed the windowsill and wiped up the dirt and flies.  I even cleaned the little ledge/crack thing on the window where you hold onto when you lift it up to open it.  However, I did not get out a Q-tip and clean out the corners of the windowsill where my towel simply couldn't reach.  I figured, "That's good enough.  It's better than it used to be.  Lots better!"   Then, I moved on to the main bathroom, where there are no windows.

As I was making my way back to the kitchen to put away my cleaning supplies and get another sip of coffee before it went from lukewarm to cold, God tapped me on the shoulder.  It's as if He whispered in my ear, "Good thing I don't have your work ethic."  If He did, He would have given up on me long, long, long ago!  If He looked at me and decided, "That's good enough.  She's better than she used to be," I would be a lost cause.  I would have no hope of becoming all that God has created me to be.  No way I could get there on my own.  About as much of a chance of that happening as my dishes washing themselves!

Several more thoughts came rushing into my head as I contemplated the fact that God never gives up on me, never stops working to make me better -- the way He intended me to be in the first place.  The children's song, "He's still working on me" ran through my mind. 

He's still working on me
to make me what I ought to be.
It only took a week to make the moon and stars,
the sun and the earth, and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
He's still working on me.

There really ought to be
a sign upon my heart.
Don't judge her yet,
There's an unfinished part.
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan,
Fashioned by the Master's loving hands.

And that reminded me of Philippians 1:6, "I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back."

God never stops.  He never gives up or throws in the towel.  He never gets tired or weary.  Psalms 121 assures me of this:
I look up to the mountains --
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made the heavens and the earth!

He will not let you stumble and fall;
the one who watches oer you will not sleep.
Indeed, He who watches over Israel
never tires and never sleeps.

The Lord Himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not hurt you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all evil
and preserves your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

The "as you come and go" part brought to mind Psalm 139 as David praises God with these words:

O Lord, You have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my every thought when far away.
You chart the path ahead of me,
and tell me where to stop and rest.
Every moment You know where I am.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You both precede and follow me.
You place Your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to know!

I get tired just thinking about God never growing weary or sleeping!  And it's not just my life that He knows every single detail of.  I'm not the only one that He is constantly and cotinuously guiding and directing, molding and shaping, transforming into the person He created me to be.  He does that with every single person, all 6.6 billion of us!  Now I'm really exhausted! 

And not once does God ever look at me, or any of us, and say with an exasperated sigh, "Well, I guess that's good enough.  At least she's better than she used to be."   Thank goodness!

Instead, we are promised, "But we are citizens of heave, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.  And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.  He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own using the same mighty power that He will use to conquer everything, everywhere." (Php 3:20-21)

Paul writes much the same again in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord.  And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more."

I can't promise that the next time I wash dishes, mop the floor, or clean the toilets, I won't hurry through the chore and justify, "That's good enough.  At least it's better than it used to be."  But, I assure you that the next time I look into the mirror to quickly do my hair and put on my make-up, I will remember "God's still working on me," transforming me into the woman He dreamed me to be as He "knit me together in my mother's womb."  And when my head hits the pillow tonight, exhausted from my day's work, I will be extremely thankful that my "God never tires or sleeps" but keeps on working, working, working.  "How loving and patient He must be!  He's still working on me!" 

And He will be until Jesus returns.
Only then will I be "all that I ought to be, perfect just according to His plan."
Only then will I truly be "good enough!"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oh, Coralyn!

No one can make me laugh like Coralyn (except maybe Lawrence).  The things she say can range from precious to frustrating, hilarious to confusing, surprising to typical (or what I have come to expect from her at least).

This afternoon while we were out in the backyard, and Coralyn was in her swing (as usual) she announces out of the blue, "I love Kellah.  She's my best friend."  And my heart melts.

Minutes later my sweet, lovely little girl is shouting, "No!" when I ask her to do something.  Not a polite NO, not in the least.  More like a mean-spirited, devilish, bratty NO!  What happened to my smiling, kind-hearted, happy-go-lucky daughter?

Oh there she is -- bouncing on the trampoline and yelling for me to watch her "do tricks" as she twists and spins or attempts a forward roll.

There she is again -- putting her watch on her wrist and making sure I am aware, "It's thirty o'clock."  Only her "o'clock" sounds more like a bad word than a measurement of time.  I just have to smile and laugh, because no matter how many times I try to correct her and explain yet again how to say "o'clock," it still comes out the same.

My favorite though -- "Mommy, I have a booger.  Here you go," and she reaches out for me to take the booger off her finger.  I guess this is better than her eating the booger, like she was several weeks ago.  We were driving along and she informs me, "Mommy, I have a booger.  Will you get it for me?"  After I told her that I couldn't help her because I was driving, she replied a few seconds later, "That's okay.  I got it."  I was going to try to hand her a towel to wipe her booger on, but before I was able to grab one out of my purse, Coralyn let me know, "I ate it, Mommy."  I guess she caught on to the fact that eating boogers is absolutely disgusting and she should, under no circumstances, ever eat her boogers again.  Since then she has been sure to give me her boogers.  How kind of her! :)

Coralyn definitely keeps me on my toes.  And a smile on my face, most of the time. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Love Like No Other

This morning I am overwhelmed with the love God has for me.

I don't deserve His love.  More like His condemnation.  Yet, Romans 8:1 assures me, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus."

How is this possible?  I am a sinner, guilty, and worthy of death.  BUT instead of receiving the death penalty, I have been offered the free gift of eternal life. 
"For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you
through Christ Jesus
from the power of sin that leads to death. 
The law of Moses could not save us,
because of our sinful nature.
But God put into effect a different plan to save us.
He sent His own Son in a human body, like ours,
except that ours are sinful.
God destroyed sin's control over us
by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
He did this so that the requirement of the law
would be fully accomplished for us
who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit."

And so, I am free.
Completely and totally forgiven.  My sins are washed away, by the blood of the Lamb.
And I am free.
Free for God to love me, as He intended from the very beginning.
Free to love God in return.

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves.
You should behave instead like God's very own children,
adopted into His family - calling Him 'Father, dear Father.'
For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts
and tells us that we are God's children.
And since we are His children, we will share His treasures -
for everything God gives to His Son, Christ, is ours too."

Wow!!!  Talk about love. 

Not only did God forgive my sins, but in so doing He paid for them, Himself.  He sacrificed His Son, on my behalf.  Jesus died, so that I could live.

And if being granted eternal life wasn't enough, God has adopted me into His family.  I am no longer His enemy, but His child.  His precious, dearly loved child.  That alone boggles my mind.  But this, this totally blows it to smitherines, "And since we are His children, we will share His treasures - for everything God gives to His Son, Christ, is ours too."

Say what?!!!  Are you serious?  Is that a typo?  Did I read that wrong? 

I can't help but think of a hymn we sang at Moody from time to time.  It was Dr. Stowell's favorite.  "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" captures what my heart is feeling today as I try to wrap my mind around the love God has for me.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His Only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

I don't really know how to respond to this love, except to love God in return.  And certainly I should.

How can I not?

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