Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peacing It All Together

This weekend our pastor talked about stress.  Hmmm, can't really relate there.  :)

I wish.

Sadly, I can understand all too well the negative impact stress can have in your life.  I was intrigued to hear what our pastor had to say about the opposite of stress: PEACE.  Now that is something I would love to have, in abundance!

Pastor Michael described how peace comes as a result of humility.  His primary text was Luke 14:7-11, where Jesus tells a story about choosing the best seat at the party only to be humiliated later when the host asks you to sit someplace else because someone more important or worthy is supposed to sit in that seat of honor.  How embarrassing!  And kind of stressful.  How much better would it be, Jesus suggested, to sit at the lowest place and be pleasantly surprised if the host invites you to a better place, honoring you among his guests.  Yes, much more pleasant indeed!

Yet, in this world of go-getters with a first-come-first-serve and survival of the fittest mentality, how are we supposed to practically do what Jesus proposed?  Won't we get run over and left in the dust?  Do we just get up, brush the dirt out of our hair, and wipe the footprints off our backs, only to get trampled underfoot again minutes later?

Perhaps, we're only meant to pretend to be humble, playing along with Jesus' little mind game.  If the first will be last and the last will be first, then we'll just get at the back of the line, smiling to ourselves and waiting for someone to shout out, "Gottcha, everybody turn around!  The end of the line is really the front!"

Somehow, I don't think that is what Jesus meant.  I tend to believe He really, truly meant for us to be humble.  In fact, Pastor Michael had us turn in our Bibles to Matthew 11, when Jesus invites those of us who are stressed out, "weary and carrying heavy burdens," to come to Him so He can give them rest.  Jesus then goes on to say, "Take my yoke upon you," which most of us have heard before -- Jesus wants to help us, to work with us, to guide and direct us, to have us be in step with Him so that we don't have to do everything on our own and deal with all the stress that would come with that overwhelming responsibility.  That is all nice and good, but Pastor Michael focused more on the next part as Jesus continues,
"Let Me teach you, 
because I am humble and gentle at heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls."

Apparently, this was the only time Jesus said an autobiographical statement about His character.  Yes, He made many other I AM statements.  

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I am the Door; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
I am the Bread of Life.
I am Living Water.
I am the Light of the World.

However, none of these attest to Jesus' actual character.  They are all nouns.  This time, though, Jesus used an adjective, two of them actually, to describe Who He is, who He wants us to be.  



And the result having those two character qualities: "you will find rest for your souls."  Sounds a lot like PEACE to me.  Sounds nice, quite nice.  Lovely, even.

As I was contemplating the concept of peace and praying for more of it in my life, God reminded me of what Pastor Michael was saying -- peace is a result of humility.  So, it would seem, the ball is in my court.  If I want this peace that God promises, then I must first work on being humble.  Truly humble, not just playing mind games and hoping God doesn't catch on to my scheming ways.

Job 22:21 reinforced that idea, "Submit to God, and you will have peace; then things will go well for you."

Isaiah 48:18 did as well, "Oh that you would have listened to my commands!  Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea."

Then, the popular verse from Philippians, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need (admitting you need Him, that you can't do it all on your own, definitely requires humility).   And thank Him for all He has done (giving Him the credit and not taking any for yourself, again requires humility).  THEN, you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and your minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

1 Peter 5:6-7 came to mind after that, "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.  Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you."

The verses kept rolling in, reminding me over and over again that peace comes as a result of trusting God, which more often than not means admitting that you need Him, that you are totally and completely dependent on Him and can do absolutely nothing without Him, but you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will come through for you.  Like Pastor Michael said, peace flows out of humility.  Humility evidenced by trust.  Trust that is founded in a child-like faith.

Isaiah 26:3, "You keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You."

Another translation put it this way, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!"

That idea made me think of Hebrews 12:2 when the author urges us to "fix our eyes on Jesus and run with endurance the race He has set before us."

Paul had the same mindset when he wrote in Philippians 3, "I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."

Speaking of Paul... in seemingly every letter he wrote to his fellow believers, he not only challenged them to pursue God wholeheartedly, but he also prayed they would experience the peace of God.  Makes me wonder if following after God, earnestly seeking Him with every fiber of your being, and enjoying supernatural peace that comes from God alone go hand in hand?

Well, Paul himself certainly ran hard after God.  I would do well to learn from him.  Apparently, Paul agrees because he wrote to the Philippians, "Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me -- everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."  So, if Paul spent his life striving to know God and make Him known and experienced God's peace as a result, then wouldn't the same be true for me as I follow his example?

Makes sense.  As we spend more time with God, we get to know Him -- and His character -- better.  And if He is a God of peace, as Jesus Himself said, then we would come to know His peace more and more as well.  Peter was on the same page as Paul and wrote in one of his letters, "May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of our God and Jesus our Lord." 

Building on that, as we learn more about God and Who He is, our knowledge should lead us to have a deeper and fuller trust in Him.  A true, meaningful, personal relationship with God doesn't affect just our heads.  It can't.  It inevitably moves those 18 inches from our brain to our heart and then proceeds to fills our hearts, and finally flows out of us into every area of our lives, impacting all that we do and say.  That must be what Paul meant when he prayed for the Romans, "I pray that God, the source of all hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust Him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."

As I try to piece this all together, I am realizing more and more that my longing for peace can only be fulfilled as a I spend more time with my Jesus and allow Him to work in me to transform me and develop my character to reflect His own.  With that, I will close with my life verses from Psalm 62, as they seem quite applicable once again to where I am at in life and what God is teaching me.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my Rock and my Salvation,
my Fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my Refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me.
O, my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour your heart out to Him,
for God is our Refuge.


Monday, October 22, 2012

To Ponca and Beyond!

For the past 7 years, ever since Lawrence invited his first class of students to attend Ponca Bible Camp, we have been praying for the opportunity to have a Bible study with his former students, especially those who went to camp, made decisions to trust Jesus, and need some discipleship follow-up until it's time to go to camp again the next summer.

We have been blown away with how God has expanded this Ponca ministry.  The first year we invited students, back in 2007, we had 9 kids come.  This last summer over 90 kids from the area attended one, or even two!, weeks of camp!!!!  We are super excited about this, but are also heavily burdened with the need for mentoring these boys and girls when they get home from camp and don't always have the best role models or the time set aside to read their Bible or sing praise songs or talk with a counselor about problems they are dealing with in their daily lives.  Ponca is awesome, but it's just the beginning.  The very beginning.

Hence, the name "Ponca and Beyond" for the Bible study that just began.  We had our first meeting last night, with 10 boys and 2 girls.

You see, God heard the cries of our heart and answered our prayers.  After we got back from camp, a parent contacted us and offered their house for a Bible study for their kids and their friends who had been at Ponca.   We jumped on board, had a informational meeting with 5 families who had expressed interest before we ever made our desire known, and sent out invitations for the first Bible study.

We truly believe God has some absolutely amazing things in store for the kids who have gone to Ponca and now their friends back home.  We are anticipating that this ministry is going to skyrocket and become something "out of this world."  Not because of anything we have done or will do, but simply because God is a God of wonders and seems to enjoy showing us just how extraordinary He is!

We are so blessed to be a part of what He is doing, both at Ponca and here in the Liberty/Kansas City area.  My heart overflowed with joy and enthusiasm as I watched the boys and girls open their Bibles last night and talk about how they want to put Jesus first in their daily lives.  My earnest prayer is for these kids to grow up loving Jesus passionately, to live boldly for Him, and make an astronomical impact in their homes/families, schools, neighborhoods, churches, community, and the world!  There's no limit to what God can do in and through these boys and girls, and not just when they grow up, but RIGHT NOW!

I am thrilled about that, but I am also pretty stinkin' excited to hear Coralyn ask me, "When are we going to Ponca Bible study?" She was bouncing up and down as we got ready to leave last night.  My mama's heart was spilling over as I thought about the opportunity I get to watch my girls grow up being a part of something so special.  Coralyn and Kellah are already, at such a young age, seeing what it means and looks like to learn about God, know Jesus personally, tell others about Him, and live all out for Him every single day.  And that is the best part of all of this!

From the moment we knew that Coralyn and Kellah existed, we have been praying for them to "know Jesus personally and make Him known" (the Ponca motto).  I have prayed that they will be "missionaries" wherever they are at -- in our neighborhood and at school, for starters.  How awesome that God is already answering those prayers as we prepare to put our house on the market and move into the Kellybrook area for the sole purpose of being "missionaries" to the kids (and their families) who attend Kellybrook Elementary School!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kellah Grace {10 Months}

In just two short months, my baby girl will be one whole year old.  But for today, I am going to focus on the fact that she is "only" 10 months.  At the rate she is going, she'll be sprinting by next week! :)

I guess she knew this milestone was coming and wanted to beat her older sister at something, and so Kellah started walking yesterday.  At 9 months, just so she could say she walked before Coralyn did.  Coralyn walked at 10 months, so Kellah just scraped by to win the "Earliest Walker" title.

Kellah's been cruising for the past 2 months, so I knew it was coming.  This past week, though, it was as if something went off in her little brain.  She was more daring, reaching the end of the table or couch or wall and reaching out to see if she could take that next step all on her own.  Most times, she would stumble and fall, but oh so gracefully.  Living up to her middle name of Grace, I guess.

Even after she would sit down, Kellah wouldn't sit still.  Oh no!  She would crawl to the nearest thing, or person, and stand back up and be off again.

Kellah doesn't seem to realize that she is a little baby in the midst of bigger babies (more like toddlers really), as she wants to do anything and everything Caleb and Jameson are doing.  Not to mention, her big sister Coralyn, who is definitely not a baby by any stretch of the imagination (though I wonder at times when she throws a tantrum or cries for no apparent reason!).

Her small size (25 inches long/tall and about 16 pounds) doesn't deter Kellah from doing what she wants or getting where she wants to go.

And her smile is so big and wide.  She's a happy girl, most of the time.  As long as I am near by, really.  It's quite funny actually.  I will hand her off to Lawrence, and Kellah will start screaming.  He will try to play with her or distract her and make her happy in any way he can.  But he always seems to come up short.  And so he begrudingly brings her back to me.  The second she is in my arms again, she is content.  Then, she looks over at Lawrence, smiles a sneaky little grin, and lays her head on my shoulders.  Sure, baby girl, rub it in.

I don't mind that Kellah is a mama's girl, except at night.  The child has not still realized the value and beauty of a good night's rest.  For about 6 weeks she was sleeping through the night, and it was amazing!  Then, she got a cough and sore ear, which resulted in several nights of screaming for hours on end.  I guess she got accustomed to me holding and rocking her and sleeping with her, and now she wants to do that all.the.time.  I know she will only be little for a short time and this is just a phase of life, one that will pass too quickly, but I really would like to sleep uninterrupted for a good 6 hours.  I don't think that is too much to ask :)

You would think that Kellah would be a giant with all the food she eats.  She puts her 8 teeth to great use, chomping on apples, carrots, and anything she can get her hands on.  Paper seems to be her favorite "food." I will turn my head for 2 seconds and find her with a book, ripping out a page or chewing on the corner.  AGH!  If I could just teach her the love of reading that Coralyn has!  All in good time...

I may be small, but I can make a BIG mess! ;)

Like I said earlier, Kellah is a happy girl.  She loves to clap and "dance."  She will cheer for herself after she takes a few steps or when we are singing or listening to music.  She also claps to sign "All Done," when she is finished nursing or eating in her high chair.  The silly girl also likes to stand up and crawl out of her high chair to let me know she's ready to get down!  I seriously need eyes in the back of my head to keep track of this on-the-go child!

Kellah has a great laugh too.  I love to hear her giggle, especially when I have done something funny and she is having fun with me.  Even better, I LOVE when Coralyn and Kellah are playing together and make each other laugh.  I am so blessed to have girls who enjoy playing together.  I hope this continues as they get older!  I know they will fight, as all good sisters do, but I pray they will be best friends and help each other stand strong and firm as they live for Jesus and  make their love for Him known.

As I reflect on my two girls, as they are both passing important milestones here of late, I can't help but smile and thank God.  He has blessed me BIG TIME.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You Say Tomato, I Say Blessing

We planted a garden again this year.  Once again, we probably got too late of a start to have much of a crop.  The weather -- hot and very, very, very little rain -- didn't really help our chances of a bountiful harvest.  In fact, I was going to be shocked if we got a single tomato off any of the six plants we had.

Several months back, we got a whopping 15 peas from the two rows of plants Lawrence had painstakingly made into straight lines, measuring each hole to make sure it was the proper distance away from the last.

We had four rows of green beans, and surprisingly, we got two huge bowlfuls of beans from them.

The tomatoes have really knocked my socks off.  As of late September, we had picked maybe five tomatoes.  The plants themselves were doing extremely well, growing like vines.  Literally.  I had never seen tomato plants do that before, but they were all over the place and tangled up like a box of Christmas lights.  I was determined to have some yummy red tomatoes, seeing as how the vines were chock full of tiny green balls.  And so I went to the store, bought some twine, and set to work untangling and tying up those vines.  I guess all my hard work (with some help from some much-needed rain), paid off.

Today, I picked an entire bowl of tomatoes.

It is the fourth one we have collected, and there are still PLENTY of green tomatoes left on the vines, just waiting to turn red.  Ironically enough, two of the tomato plants had even fallen over due to the ground being too wet.  How's that for a turn of events after a hot, dry summer that resulted in cracked dirt everywhere you looked.

As I brought in my heaping bowl of tomatoes, I was reminded yet again how good God is, how abundantly He blesses us.  Here I was thinking we might, if we were "lucky," get a handful of tomatoes, and now I have tomatoes coming out of my ears!  Oh me of little faith!

In the same way, God has blown me away with His answers to my prayers as of late.

*Lawrence and I have been praying about starting a Bible study for the kiddos who go to Ponca, then come home and don't really have any sort of follow up or discipleship.  Last night, we met with 5 families who are super excited about working with us to get this "Ponca and Beyond" group going.  One family is opening up their home every Sunday evening for the Bible study, and the other families have volunteered to bring snacks and send out e-mail invites to their children's friends.  Our first meeting will be next week!  I am stoked to see what God is going to do with this Bible study!  We are praying it is just the beginning of something very, very, very, very, very, very HUGE that God is doing in the Liberty area!

*We have also been praying about selling our home.  To make our house competitive on the market, we simply had to put on a new roof.  Understandable, but waaaaaaay too expensive for us to do any time soon. And so, we started saving.  God blew us away when we received a check in the mail to pay for the cost of the roof!  Hopefully, by the end of the month, the new roof will be on and a "For Sale" sign will be in the front yard!

*After losing a daycare kiddo, finances have been pretty tight.  God has been oh so faithful to provide, though, as He always is.  I have a childbirth class coming up, and I have been praying and praying for God to send me FIVE couples/students.  With that many couples/students, we will be able to cover what I lost in daycare income.  Well, the class starts on Sunday, and I have FIVE couples/students who have enrolled in the series.  For a cherry on top, I have a SIXTH couple who will be taking a one-time class next month since the class day/time doesn't work for them.  THREE of these six couples are considering hiring me as their doula too!  I have been praying for opportunities to attend more births and expand that part of my "business" as well.  God knows the desires of my heart and has shown me His goodness in answering my prayers, above and beyond what I had even dared to dream.  I am  so extremely thankful to Him!

So, as I go wash my bowful of tomatoes, I will be praising my Jesus for His abundant love and extravagant kindness.  I am blessed beyond words to be a daughter of the King!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't Touch Me...Yet

As a mother of two small children and a daycare provider, I deal with a lot of poop, snot, ooey gooey boogers, sticky fingers, slimy hands, muddy feet, sand-filled shoes, and spilled milk.  For the most part none of these aspects of motherhood bother me all that much.  Perhaps I am immune to the grossness, as I think is inherent in being a mom.  Or maybe I have just become accustomed to the nastiness and thus it no longer phases me.  Whatever the case, it's part of my life, which I love.  Wouldn't want to change it for the world.  I am soooooo blessed!

HOWEVER, that does mean that I like, or enjoy, those yucky aspects of my "job."  I don't wake up in the morning all giddy at the prospect of changing diapers, wiping runny noses, or cleaning mess after mess after mess.  I may not be thrilled at what my day my hold, but I don't shy away from it either.

I just make sure I have a box of wipes near-by at all times.  And a good towel to put between me and Kellah after she's eaten so that I don't get covered in blueberries, mashed bananas, partially chewed carrot, yogurt, or whatever else she may have had for that particular meal or snack.  I love my baby girl, but I don't exactly relish getting snot on my shirt sleeve or spit up on my pants.  Hence, the wipes and towels.  Also, my hold-the-baby-at-an-arm's-length-so-as-not-to-get-dirty-myself technique, at which I am becoming an expert.

As I was doing my best to keep Kellah from getting me dirty the other morning, I was struck with the thought at how different my relationship with God would be if He did the same thing, if He kept me at an arm's length until I got myself all cleaned up.

Good thing He doesn't do that, or He would still be waiting.  Because I will never, ever be completely "clean," at least not in this lifetime.

I am reminded of Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrated His love for us in that WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us."

If God required us to change before He loved us, we would be lost for all eternity.  If we had to meet His perfect standards before He accepted us, we would forever get a big, fat, red F on our righteousness/godliness/worthiness report card.  ONLY because of God's grace and mercy does He let us come to Him, covered in dirt, filthy with sin.  And like any good mother, He doesn't let us stay that way.  He cleans us up.

Isaiah 1:18 tells us, "'Come now, let's settle this,' says the Lord, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them white as wool.'"

Jesus modeled this love-you-just-like-you-are attitude throughout His ministry.  When He healed people, He didn't wear gloves or a face mask.  He didn't keep His distance from the diseased, the ill, the lame.  Instead, He let them come to Him, to touch Him.  In fact, He often initiated the contact between Himself and those who needed His healing touch.

Just this week, Coralyn brought home a picture she had colored during her class at church.  Quite fittingly, it was of Jesus healing a leper.  Yet another reminder, God seemed to be telling me, that I need to love like He does.  I need to hold my kiddos close, even if they are covered in blueberries, have snot running down their face, and smell like the poop in their dirty diaper.  For as I love "the least of these," I am loving my Jesus.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Boys to Men

I am so excited for Lawrence!  Today, after school, he will meet with the fifth grade boys for the first session of Boys to Men this year.  At least 15 boys have already turned in their permission slips to take part in the "club," and I am thinking several more will bring their paperwork in today.  I am also pretty sure that after this afternoon's session, the boys who attend will tell their friends and classmates how cool the "club" is and more will come next week.

This is the third year that Lawrence and another male teacher have lead the Boys to Men after-school club.  Ever since we first invited his students to Ponca back in 2007 and saw God work in a mighty way in those kiddos' lives, we had been praying for an opportunity for Lawrence to do a Bible study in his school.  Getting that up and going is easier said than done, and so we just had to keep praying and trust that God would open doors at the right time.  We didn't get an answer until 2010, but the wait was well worth it!

I don't know exactly when the Girls on the Run program started, but in 2010 the running club was available for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade girls at Kellybrook Elementary where Lawrence teaches.  The girls run, of course, even working their way up to participating in a 5K race at the end of the year.  In addition to running, they discuss various character traits they will need in order to succeed at life.  I guess the boys at Kellybrook felt jilted that they didn't have a Running Club or anything of the sort.  And so some of Lawrence's former students came to him and declared, "We need a Boys on the Run club, and you should be the leader!"  Lawrence was flattered that they would ask him to head up the group and assured them he would think about the idea.  Well, that wasn't good enough for them.  These boys were persistent, and persuasive too.  Several days later, they came back to his classroom with a letter outlining three reasons why the boys needed the club and why Lawrence should be the one leading it.  That settled it.  A few weeks later, over half of the fifth grade boys attended the very first Boys to Men meeting.

God is soooooo awesome!!!!  Not only was Lawrence able to impact the lives of the students in his third grade class, but also follow up with some former students as well as new boys he had never personally taught.  He may not bring out his Bible at the Boys to Men meetings, but they do discuss a character trait that "real men" will display in their lives.  And no one modeled those qualities better than Jesus Himself, and so really Lawrence is teaching these boys about our God and Savior.  He is modeling to them what it looks like to have a personal relationship with Him and how to live boldly and passionately for Him in your every day life.  The club meetings are also a wonderful platform, providing Lawrence with the opportunity to invite these boys to Ponca.

This past summer, an entire cabin of boys (7, I think) who had attended Boys to Men during the school year came to camp.  If they had already trusted Jesus as their Savior before coming to Ponca, they left with a deeper love for Him and a renewed commitment to really live for Him.  If they came not knowing Jesus, they left having Him as their personal Savior!!!  So cool!!!  We were blown away by how God had worked!!!

BUT, He wasn't done knocking our socks off yet!  Those boys are now in 6th grade, middle school.  Lawrence doesn't get to see them on a regular basis, as many of his former students were faithful to stop by his classroom and say hi in the mornings before heading to their own classrooms.  And so we started praying again.  This time, we felt burdened to follow up with the boys, and girls, who have come to camp and are growing up in need of godly mentors to help them stay on track, to remember what they learned at Ponca, and to challenge them to keep living for Jesus.

Since we don't live in the Kellybrook area yet, we didn't really know how to go about starting up a Bible study for the "older kids" who live there, in a place that would be convenient for them to come.  God had that covered!  A few weeks after camp, we received an e-mail from a parent who wanted to share with us how God had laid on their hearts (and several other families as well) to open up their homes for a Bible study for the boys and girls who had gone to Ponca!  On Sunday, we will be meeting with 4-5 families to discuss what the "Ponca and Beyond" Bible study is going to look like for kiddos in 5th, 6th, and 7th grades.

We are excited about the opportunities God is giving us, as He seems to be throwing doors wide open for us to influence the lives of the boys and girls (and consequently their families) in the Kellybrook area.  Who knows what kind of impact the Boys to Men club and this Ponca and Beyond Bible study will have?!  We are looking forward to seeing what mighty and awesome and wonderful things God does.  And we are already praying for the next group of kiddos who will be going to Ponca in June and July as a result!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

See Ya Later, Alligator!

Oh how I wish that this cute little phrase would take care of our nightly drama!

Coralyn tends to go through phases when she says and/or does certain things repeatedly day after day after day after day...  Recently, her hang-up is, "Mommy, I'm scared."

She tells me this when I ask her to put something away in her room, and the light isn't on -- because it's the middle of the day and the sunshine is pouring in through her window.  Yet, she's still scared.  Scared of what, I ask her.  "Ummmmmm," as she has to stop and think for several looooooong seconds about her answer.  Then, finally, she comes up with something, "There's an alligator in my room."  And so I "investigate" to find out where the alligator is and then proceed to ensure her that that alligator has left, or that there wasn't even an alligator in the first place.  I try reasoning with her, "Alligators live in Florida, not Missouri."  or "We only see alligators at the zoo, in their cages.  An alligator would never be able to get inside our house, or your room."  Logical explanations just don't fly with Coralyn though.  Not at three years old.

She also lets me know, "Mommy, I'm scared," when she opens the bathroom door, and once again the light isn't on.  I will give her that the room is dark since it doesn't have any windows, and I always go turn the light on, right as she informs me that she could see the alligator's red eyes peeking out in the blackness.  Oh the imagination!!!  And the memory...as she saw this on an episode of Diego.  Who knew that rescuing animals could lead to nightmares.

Oh yes, that would be the most difficult, and tiring, time when Coralyn screams, "Mommy, I'm scared!" in the middle of the night.  Night after night after night after night.  Usually around 2 am.  Usually right after I have just finished nursing Kellah and gotten her to go back to sleep.  Like last night...

We have tried everything to try and prevent this problem from happening time and time and time again.  We gave her a night light.  That resulted in shadows on her wall, and she was scared of those.  We left her door open and the hallway light on, but still she would wake up in the middle of the night, scared and screaming, endlessly.  We have been leaving her lamp on as well, thinking perhaps that would help, as she requests it vehemently every single night.  And yet, she continues to have these nightmares of an alligator (usually) that result in seemingly unsolable screaming.  She doesn't stop when Lawrence or I go in to talk with her and make sure she's okay, either.  Oh no, she keeps on crying, LOUDLY, no matter what we say or do.  We can hold her and rock her, but she yells even LOUDER.  We can "grab the alligator and throw him all the way to China."  We can pray with her.  If she does calm down, we attempt to leave her room and go back to bed, which results in more frantic, hysterical kicking and shouting.  Last night, I even laid on her floor and waited until she fell back asleep.  Thinking it was safe to get up and return to the comfort of my own bed -- and covers -- I quietly tiptoed out of the room and crawled wearily back into my bed.  Not fifteen minutes later, she was up and screaming again!!!!

I am so tired.  Exhausted doesn't really do justice to how I feel.  Kellah, bless her little heart, is getting over what I think was an ear infection.  Thankfully, she's not screaming in pain for hours on end no matter what I do, BUT she has gone back to waking up countless times in the night.  And we had just started week 4 of her sleeping through the night!!!  I guess I got spoiled, in such a short time!  Last night, she had just woken up, again, and I was doing my best to rock her back to sleep when I hear Coralyn coming out of her room, dragging her blanket behind her.  I quickly dash to her door and ask, "What are you doing?"  She gives her typical response, "Mommy, I'm scared.  There's an alligator in my room."  Holding Kellah and swaying back and forth with her, since she just closed her eyes, I go into Coralyn's room, take a look around, and assure her that the alligator has left.  She insists on going into Mommy and Daddy's room and sleeping in our bed, as she has done for the past several nights.  Having her sleep with us isn't that big of a deal, I guess.  BUT, it certainly inhibits my sleep, as having her knee in my back or her foot across my face or her snoring in my ear doesn't really help me feel refreshed in the morning.  Quite the opposite.  Plus, I really don't want it becoming a pattern.  I don't mind if she sleeps in our bed, say on Saturday morning, but every night is not ideal.  I want her to face her fear, to overcome it.

How to go about doing that, though, I am not sure.

I certainly wish I had the answer, yesterday!!!

Lawrence did an amazing job of coming in to the room, grabbing the alligator, and tossing him all the way to China.  He held her.  Rocked her.  Prayed with her.  Tickled her.  Read Bible stories to her.  Still, she screamed and yelled and hollered and shouted.  And it's a scary thing to hear.  Almost like she's a totally different person.  Definitely not my sweet, precious little girl.  Far from it.  As far as China.  Maybe farther.

And so, we are at a total loss of what to do.

At 2 am, I want to be having sweet dreams, not dealing with alligators.  At 2 am, I have already dealt with enough drama to last an entire lifetime and am not really in the mood to handle yet another toddler tantrum.  At 2 am, being calm and patient and compassionate does not come naturally.  At 2 am, I just want to find that annoying alligator, grab him by the nose, look him square in the eye, and in my meanest mommy voice tell him, "See ya later, alligator," and then swing him out the door and lock it behind him.

Has anyone else dealt with "alligators" and come up with a remedy to keep them away, forever?!  If so, PLEASE...I am begging you, tell me your secret.

If you could let me know before 8 pm tonight that would be all the better!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Never Say Never

Tonight, Coralyn and I were talking before she went to bed.  We had just finished reading her Bible story, which was about the time Jesus told a story relating the Kingdom of Heaven to a fisherman's net.  Just as the fisherman will sort through the fish in his net, keeping the good fish and tossing out the bad ones, many people will try to enter heaven but only those who have trusted Jesus will be greeted with open arms.  Sadly, God must turn everyone else away since they did not choose to accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus.  I told Coralyn we want to be like the good fish, and that to live in heaven with Jesus we have to believe that He died on the cross for our sins.  I went on to explain that we want others to know about Jesus and His love for us too.

We had been playing with some playdough she got for her birthday earlier in the day.  A friend from high school made three different flavors for her -- pink grapefruit, pumpkin patch, and candy cane.  My mom had gotten some of Julie's playdough last year, and it is still fresh and smells delicious.  And so, I requested some more, with new scents, for this Coralyn's birthday this year.  Julie makes the playdough and sells it to raise money for the adoption they will be finishing next month!  Little Katee will leave her orphanage in China and come home to small town Kansas to her forever family (Julie, her husband Ian, and their two kiddos Ori and Calla).  I shared the story with Coralyn, explaining that Julie and her family were showing Jesus' love to Katee and adopting her into their family since she didn't have a mommy and daddy.

Immediately, Coralyn got really sad.  She looked up at me with big eyes, "I don't want my mommy and daddy to leave me."  My knee-jerk reaction was to quickly assure her that we will always be there for her, that we will never leave her, that nothing bad will ever happen to us, that we will always be together.  BUT, I couldn't.  I couldn't lie to her.  And yet, I wanted to comfort her and assure her that we would never leave her on purpose, that we will do everything in our power to stay together forever.  I'm not sure exactly what I ended up telling her.  I guess it worked because within seconds Coralyn was jumping off her bed to catch a runaway birthday balloon.  She came back with the balloon and started describing a game we were going to play with the balloon.  "You have to pass the balloon to somebody and you can't let it drop.  You can only let it drop the next time."  So, we played with the balloon for a bit and all was good.

I did stay a little longer in her room than normal, even giving in to her request for me to lay down with her "for just a little bit."  Not sure why, but lately she has been scared of every little thing, especially shadows.

After a few minutes, I got up, kissed Coralyn one last time and left the room, light on and door open.  I walked into the kitchen to get the coffee ready for tomorrow morning and clean up a few things.  I could hear Coralyn talking to her animals and playing with the balloon. Just now, about 30 minutes later, she is finally quiet and sleeping peacefully.  For now, she has forgotten all about our conversation about the possibility of mommy and daddy leaving.  Knowing Coralyn, though, she will remember...and bring it up again.

When she does, I don't know exactly what I will say or how I will respond.  I do know, however, that I want to make the most of the time that I do have with her.  I am learning more and more that we are not assured tomorrow, that we can't guarantee our children that we will always be there for them.  Earlier today I read a post from Chase's mom regarding his battle against cancer and the reality of his need for radiation, which will only do slightly less damage than the cancer waging war against him in the form of his brain tumor. I cannot imagine being in her shoes, or Alicia's shoes (Levi's mom).  I am almost completely sure that neither one of these women ever dreamed about spending even a day in the hospital with their little boys.  And yet, there they are.

Their stories, which are still being written (praying hard for a miracle for Chase!), have drastically changed the way I look at life, the way I interact with my own children, the way I answer Coralyn's questions about mommy and daddy leaving her.

As I get ready to go to bed myself, I will go nurse Kellah one last time.  I will hold her close and thank God for her yet again.  I will pray and thank God for my girlies.  I will ask him for many more days with them, days filled with good memories.  And I will ask Him for wisdom in raising them to know and love Him, to help me make the most of the time He will give me with them, however long that may be.

Speaking of Kellah, I guess she knew I was writing about her because she just woke up and is calling for me.  Nothing sweeter than hearing, "Maaaamaaa!" from your little one.  Even cries are a blessing...this is what I am learning.

3 Going on 13

Sadly, I recently heard that the way your child acts at age three is how he/she will behave when he/she is thirteen.  Not lookin' good for me when the tween years arrive for Coralyn.  Maybe Jesus will come back before then...I can certainly hope!!!

Despite her tantrums and stubbornness and strong-willedness and drama-filled days, I love my "little" girl more than I could ever express in words.  And while these "negative" traits can be wearing on me and drain me of all energy before 8 am on a daily basis, I can choose to see the positive in them.  I am definitely praying that all her determination and ferocity and refusal to back down will prove her well in standing up for what's right no matter what anyone else is doing or what the cost may be, in boldly living for her Savior, and passionately telling others about Jesus.

The past three years have flown by, but they have been filled with precious memories.  As well as countless lessons God has taught me, using my precious eldest daughter.  I am so thankful God has given Coralyn to us for this time and am looking forward to many, many, many more years with her.

Here are some snapshots of her birthday yesterday:

Birthday balloon, card, candy, and money from our neighbor Miss June

Birthday breakfast
Holding up THREE fingers

Opening her present from Mommy and Daddy

T-Bone, the Butterfly Cat

 Sooooo excited to be THREE!

Birthday lunch at IHOP

Ready for her birthday party

All bundled up to jump on the trampoline

Friendly hugs


Friday, October 5, 2012

Mixed Emotions

Well, we ended up not getting an offer on our house.  I have mixed emotions.

I am slightly disappointed, as I would have loved to be done with the deep cleaning and all that comes along with having your house ready to show at a moment's notice.  Also, I would have loved for Donny's client to have made an offer and help him get his first sell/buy as a realtor.

BUT, it was simply not meant to be...for now.

And honestly, I am somewhat relieved.  We would have been moving just days before Kellah's first birthday, and a week before Christmas.  Not exactly the ideal time, but I would have been too excited to care (I think).  Plus, we were taking a huge step of faith (and still will be once the house officially goes on market and does sell).  With the current market, we can afford a house that would provide us with ample space to have people over and do some of the ministry ideas we have (like backyard Bible clubs, kids hanging out in a rec room, families over for supper, Bible studies with former students, etc.).  While being able to buy a bigger house and keep -- or LOWER -- our mortgage payment each month is amazing, it also means that our house will sell for less than what we owe on it right now.  So frustrating and discouraging!!!!  Especially since we have basically finished the basement and done extensive landscape in both the front and backyards.  Isn't that supposed to ADD value to your home?  I distinctively remember Mr. Ron Harder telling us back in high school that buying a house was an investment and would result in a profit, NOT a loss!

Since our house didn't sell, we have more time to see if we can qualify for re-financing and work on paying off our current mortgage, at a much lower interest rate!

Not only that, we will be able to put the new roof on the house BEFORE we put a "For Sale" sign in the yard.  Thanks to some generous people, we have the funds necessary to pay for a new roof, which was a necessity for selling our house.  We would have had to save for many, many, many months to get the money we received last month.  Because of these Simons, we are getting a new roof next week!

Once the roof is done, we will move forward with putting our house on the market, officially.  Then, we can be more serious about looking for a new house in the Kellybrook area (there are four main subdivisions).  Maybe that house we saw (and really, really, really liked) last week will still be available.  :)  If not, then God must have something else, something BETTER, for us.

In the mean time, we will keep on doing what we can to reach the students and their families from right where we are at in our current house.

Last week, we cheered for the Liberty North football team and visited with several former students and their parents.  I even got to talk with one of MY former students, who is now a freshmen at LN and plays trumpet in the Screaming Eagles Marching Band.  Coralyn was more interested in the half-time show when the Cheerleaders and Golden Girls (dance team) did a performance with "little" girls (ages 5-13) who had attended a day camp.  I even told her she could be a cheerleader when she gets bigger, though I did remind her that volleyball season is at the same time.  In Liberty, you have to choose ONE thing to do: cheerleading, band, volleyball, tennis, softball, dance team, etc.  Unlike the small town school I attended where you could be a cheerleader, compete in another sport, play in the band, sing in the choir, have the lead in the school play, and serve on STUCO.  Guess that's just one difference between 2A and 5A schools.

Go Eagles!!!

This past weekend, we went to the Liberty Fall Festival.  We waved and cheered for Lawrence's students and former students as they passed in various "floats" as part of the parade.  We kept our eyes peeled for students as we walked the streets and toured the booths as well.

Heading to the parade

Tuesday, we watched the Liberty North Lady Eages play volleyball.  One of Lawrence's former students, a freshmen, plays on the Varsity team (quite an accomplishment!).  Several other students play on JV or the Freshmen teams, so we got to say hello to them as well.

Madison had just served and then made this great pass!

Last night, we attended Kellybrook's Skate Night.  We saw numerous students and their families.  Not only did Coralyn get to have some fun, but Lawrence's students (and other Kellybrook kiddos) got to interact with him outside of the classroom.

The Taff family goes to DC as well.  Ethan was disappointed to find out he wasn't in Lawrence's class.

Hi, Mr. Young!

Talking with Kierra, a current student, and her older brother Devin, a student from Lawrence's very first class.

Chatting with another former student

Kaitlyn needed some help getting her skates laced up.  She's in Lawrence's class this year.

Kellah didn't skate, but she sure had fun watching everyone there!

Next week, we are meeting with parents about starting a "Ponca and Beyond" Bible study for students in grades 5-7 to provide follow up after their week at camp.  Some of these boys and girls won't have even come to Ponca, but are friends of those who did.  Regardless, they all need help learning what it means to love Jesus and live boldly and passionately for him, they need encouragement and support, they need to know we are there for them, that they are there for each other.

Everything we do is about building relationships with the kids and families who live in the Kellybrook area.  This is the ministry God has laid on our hearts, and we want to be faithful to complete it.  Just this morning I read in 2 Timothy 4:5, "Work at bringing others to Christ.  Complete the ministry God has given you."

THAT is why we want to move into the Kellybrook area.  Yes, we can have an impact on the students and their families from where we are at right now, but how much more effective could we be if we live AMONG them, if we are doing life SIDE BY SIDE, if they can see firsthand how we love Jesus and live for Him day in and day out?!

And so I have mixed emotions about not getting an offer on our house.  I really want to move sooner rather than later.  I don't want to wait and miss out on possible ministry opportunities that will happen only when we live in the Kellybrook area.  BUT, I have to remember that God is in control, that He will work everything out in HIS perfect timing.  I have to trust Him and to be faithful with what He has given us now.  There's no doubt that God is already at work and allowing us to make a difference in the lives of the students and their families right now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Turning a Mountain into a Mole Hill

If you listen to Christian radio at all – say K-Love or Air One – then you have no doubt heard Jason Castro’s latest hit single, “It’s Only a Mountain.”  Probably multiple times a day, in all reality.  At times I get extremely frustrated that the DJs play the same song over and over and over again.  Don’t they communicate with one another, or leave a list of the songs they played during their individual shifts, so as not to play the same song 13 times every single day?  I’m not a music expert or anything, nor do I follow any particular singer or band, but I would think that Jason Castro sang more than one song for his newest album. 

Upon further consideration, I realized a couple of things.

11)     Not everyone listens to the radio all day long like me.  (I just have it on in the house as we go about our day.)  And so, perhaps not everyone hears “It’s Only a Mountain” while they are feeding the kiddos breakfast, and then again when handing out the morning snack, or once more while making lunch, and yet again during the chaotic diaper-changing-eat-another-snack frenzy, or one last time when you’re trying to make supper.  (Funny, how my day seems to revolve around food! J)  And who can forget the middle of the night helping your child go to the bathroom or the frantic search for the lost blanket that simply must be found before said child can go back to sleep after waking up from a bad dream? (I also have the radio playing in Coralyn’s room, sort of like a noise-maker.)

22)     Perhaps, I NEED to hear the same song over and over and over and over again.  Maybe God is trying to tell me something, and He’s using that particular song to get His point across.

And so rather than get annoyed when “It’s Only a Mountain” comes on for the 8th time, I just smile and start singing along, reminding myself that God is indeed able to do more than I can even begin to imagine.  That “big, huge problem” I am facing in life certainly seems like an impassable mountain to me.  Yet, there’s no way around it, and so I am left with no choice but to climb that steep, rocky path that has been laid before me.  Or am I?

According to Jason Castro, my “big, huge problem,” is ONLY a mountain.   
This is only a mountain
You don’t have to find your way around it
Tell it to move, it’ll move
Tell it to fall, it’ll fall
This is only a moment
You don’t have to let your fear control it
Tell it to move, it’ll move

See, simple.  No big deal.  JUST tell that mountain to move, and it will. 

Am I the only one who tends to think, “Yeah, riiiiight,” and let out a deep sigh?

Of course, I don’t want to say this out loud.  Oh, no.  I’m a good little Christian girl.  I’ve heard the Scripture Castro is referencing since before I could walk. 
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them.
“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed,
you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.
Nothing would be impossible. ” 
~Matthew 17:20

And yet, somehow, I still lack faith. 

I guess Jason Castro knew that about me (and many others too, I think).  He reminds me:
And I know it looks big
And I know you feel small
But just a little bit of faith can change it all
Change it all

Faith…it’s a funny thing, isn’t it?  The author of Hebrews tells us, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

Well, I for one certainly can’t see how in the world we are going to be able to sell our house, have enough money to pay off what we still owe, and make a down payment on a new house.  That seems like a big, huge, steep, rocky mountain to me.  Maybe even a whole range of mountains. 

Castro just won’t let me give up though.  He urges me:
Ask like you believe it
Trust like you can see it
Take your fear and say
There’s nothing in your way
, no oh
Even when it looks big
Even when you feel small
Just a little bit of faith can change it all

That reminds me of yet another passage I have known since childhood.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.
He will not rebuke you for asking. 
But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.
Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty
is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 
Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 
Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
~James 1:5-8

Often, I follow up Jason Castro’s song with a more child-friendly rendition, complete with actions:
            My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty.
            There’s nothing my God cannot do.
            The mountains are His, the rivers are His, the stars are His handiwork too.
            My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty.
            There’s nothing my God cannot do FOR YOU!

As I sing to the kiddos, I have to tell myself to really, truly believe the words.

I guess that is what Lawrence and I are doing.  We are scared and unsure, as we have no idea how things are going to work out, seeing as how the situation is humanly impossible.  At the same time, though, we are excited and confident, as we trust God to take care of us, to provide, to come through as only He can. 

We feel as we simply MUST take this step of faith.  If we are going to be doers of the Word, if we are going to live in obedience to our God, if we are going to follow after Jesus with every fiber of our being, then we have no other option.  We may not know all the details, but we are certain that God has called us to move into the Kellybrook area.  We feel the burden He has placed on our hearts for the students (and their families).  We have seen God open doors and provide opportunities for us to reach out to these kiddos, to mentor and disciple them.  We cannot ignore the need for these boys and girls to not only know Jesus as their personal Savior, but to grow up learning how to live boldly and passionately for Him, no matter the cost.

And so, we are moving forward in putting our house on the market, officially.  Like NOW. 

Yes, there may be a “mountain” in front of us, but with God’s help (and yours…more to come on that later), we are going to tell this mountain to move.  Then, we are going to watch as our Mighty God turns this mountain into a tiny, little itty bitty mole hill.  And we will be amazed and give Him all glory, praise, and honor that is due His marvelous and majestic name!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Caught Empty-Handed

I have to laugh at my daycare kiddos and my own daughter (Coralyn) at times.  The other day, we were down in the playroom and both of the boys were trying to carry so many toys that they couldn't really walk or hold everything in their hands, let alone actually play with and enjoy the toys they were clutching so desperately.  They didn't want anyone else to play with the toys.  Those toys were THEIRS, no one else could have them, or even think about even looking at them.  

Coralyn does the same thing, "all the time."  Whether it be the time she tried to carry all 14 of her stuffed animals down the hallway from her room to the living room.  Obviously, bringing them one or two at a time was not an option!  Nor was leaving a few of them behind in her room.  ALL of them -- every single last one -- simply HAD to be in the living room with her, at that very moment!  

Another time, Coralyn was attempting to hold FIVE cups.  I think we had every sippy cup in the house full, each with a different beverage of choice -- milk, water, orange juice, grape juice, and a smoothie.  Not only was she unable to drink anything from any of the cups, but she couldn't hold them all, no matter how earnestly she wanted to or how many times she tried to get them all from the kitchen to the coffee table, in one single trip.

As I was doing my best to contain my laughter, I realized that I am much the same way.  Heaven forbid, I get caught empty-handed.  I am so caught up in trying to go, go, go and do, do, do that I forget to simply BE.  I feel guilty if I am not "busy."  Surely there is something I need to be doing, something that needs to get done.  I simply can't take the time to sit down and rest or read a book or anything of that nature.  That would be lazy, and selfish.  Instead, I become consumed with trying to stay on top of things, and get somewhat stressed out in the process.  

God has been teaching me about contentment lately.  Last week, probably the same day I was laughing at my daycare kiddos for trying to carry way too many toys, I read in 1 Timothy 6:6, "Yet true godliness with contentment is in itself great wealth."  Then, two nights ago, we read in Coralyn's Bible before bed, Look at the birds.  They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in bars because Your heavenly Father feeds them.  And you are far more valuable to Him than they are.  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  Of course not.  Look at the lilies and how they grow.  They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't He more surely care for you?  You have so little faith!"

As we look to sell our house, I easily get extremely discouraged and frustrated.  I am ready to move yesterday! :)  BUT, I have to be content right where we are.  Absolutely nothing I can do will make our house sell faster or for more money.  Only God can bring that about, in addition to providing the financial requirements that are humanly impossible for us to fulfill.  

Hanging my head in despair, God seems to whisper time and time again in my ear that HE is our hope, that His ways are not my ways, that I can't even begin to imagine all that He has in store for us.

He has me hear "It's Only a Mountain" on the radio, for the third time today.  He gives me great reminders of His awesome power and His amazing faithfulness to His children.  He has healed Baby Levi!  He has given us the money to put a new roof on our house.  He has provided the money some friends needed for their daughter's dental work.  He has removed cancer from one of Lawrence's co-worker's moms.  A questionable sonogram turned out to be nothing of concern for another one of Lawrence's fellow third grade teacher's wife.  

Rather than try to grasp at things and hold onto them as tightly as possible, I need to LET GO of it all, surrendering my life to God, letting Him be in complete control and trusting Him to give me exactly what I need, when I need it.  Only then can I truly enjoy what God has for me, anyway.  Otherwise, I look about as ridiculous as my daycare boys and Coralyn do when they have their hands so full they can't play, let alone move at all.

"So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing.  Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things?  Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.  So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today's trouble is enough for today."

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