Thursday, September 25, 2014

Not Again!

I have been reading through the story of Joshua and can't help but wonder if Israel's "fearless" leader ever thought to himself, "Not again..."

Time to go to battle.
Time to destroy a city.
Time to fight against NUMEROUS kings who have joined together in hopes of having a better chance of protecting their lands.

I can't imagine getting up every morning and having to lead the troops to war, again.  Just thinking about being in charge of that many people and making sure they are obeying your orders and following God's laws and such tires me out.

Heck, I AM worn out every day after taking care of MY troops - 3 precious, adorable, CUTE girls who are lovely and wonderful, but honestly take every ounce of energy I have!

Thankfully, we don't have to go to march to battle every single day.

Oh, but wait.  WE DO.

As believers, we ARE at war.  With an unseen, but very real, enemy.  One who wants nothing more than to DESTROY us.  His goal every single day is to tear us down, injure us, sideline us, distract us, wear us out, and ultimately KILL us.  He doesn't want us to know that though.  He does everything he can to keep us from remembering we are at war, to realize the seriousness of our situation, to understand the urgency of fighting with every fiber of our being at ALL times.

I think one of his most effective tactics is keeping us BUSY.
I know I fall prey to this far too often.
Granted, I am busy doing good things, but still...

And so this morning, I soaked up the peace and quiet as I rocked my baby girl.  She laid on my chest - very unusual for my wiggle worm - and we simply SAT there doing "nothing" but enjoying each other.  I was so thankful I didn't have to rush off to work or have any place to go or anything I really, truly needed to do right at that moment.

Normally, I like to get out of the house and fill our days with fun activities - the park, the library, the zoo, the nature center, or whatever.  BUT today, we are going to stay home and RELAX.  I am going to tackle the dreaded task of switching out our summer clothes to the fall wardrobe.  This means I have to sort through all the clothes in the closets and drawers and get them back in their proper tubs, which you would think would be easy.  Just put the baby clothes back into the 3-6 month tub, BUT we still have 0-3 stuff and it's mixed in with the 3-6 month stuff and some 6-9 month stuff and so on...  Same with our sizes 2-5 for the older girls!!!  I COULD complain about the job, but instead I am going to CHOOSE to be grateful.  You see, we didn't pay for any of the clothes in the closets or drawers or tubs.  We are BEYOND BLESSED as grandparents, friends, neighbors, and people from church have graciously given us bags and bags and bags of clothes and shoes over the years.  We get as much use out of every single piece of clothing or every pair of shoes (or boots) given to us, as Kyiah is on round 3 of everything :)

We will probably take a few breaks from sorting and organizing and folding and hanging clothes to read books, do a craft project, and play princess or whatever make-believe game my girls have in their wild, imaginative minds today.

And as I cherish these precious moments with my darling daughters, I will be PRAYING for them, for our family.  In so doing, I will be wielding my sword and holding up my shield as the enemy does his best to attack me today.

Rather than me being the one sighing, "Not again..." as Satan plots against me, HE is going to be the one growling in frustration as he realizes I am ready ONCE AGAIN for him and not falling for his busy ploy today...

Won't you join me in STANDING FIRM?
Let's help each other get our armor on.
Let's lock arms and fight TOGETHER!!!!

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 
11 Put on all of God’s armor 
so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 
12 For we[d] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, 
but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, 
against mighty powers in this dark world, 
and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor 
so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. 
Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 
14 Stand your ground, 
putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 
15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News 
so that you will be fully prepared.[e] 
16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith 
to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[f]
17 Put on salvation as your helmet, 
and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. 
Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What You DIDN'T See

Yesterday, the girls and I attended the First Annual Mother Daughter Brunch at our church.  I was so excited to spend the morning with other mamas and their girls - young and old.  I woke up early and made an egg casserole and some gluten-free pumpkin muffins.  I showered, got somewhat dressed up, and then set about getting the girls ready.  Finding 3 pink outfits to coordinate my pink and brown assemble was fairly easy seeing as how 85% of the girls' clothes are pink!!!  I got them all dolled up - dresses on, hair bows in - and took some fun pictures.

Then, we headed out to the brunch.

We even got a cute picture of all of us there, which I was VERY thankful for because I had taken the time and effort to get us ALL in matching outfits and wanted to capture that on film so we could look and remember our fun time together.

Kellah was being a stinker and wouldn't open her eyes, but hey, we still got a picture together, with everyone at least FACING the camera and NO ONE crying or screaming or picking their nose.

From all appearances, you would think we are happy, excited, calm, cool, collected, and enjoying our morning together.  If so, I am a Master Magician and pulled off the best trick of the year.  I should star on America's Got Talent - Mommy Episode.

What you DIDN'T see was Kellah crying because Lawrence didn't pour any blueberry cereal in her bowl earlier that morning.

What you DIDN'T see was Kellah than balling because Lawrence didn't get her any juice (really it's keifer but we call it juice).  Or once Lawrence DID get her the mango keifer that she dropped her FULL cup and it spilled ALL over the kitchen floor.  Which of course caused Kellah to WEEP even more.  I had to keep myself from laughing when she cried out through the sobs and tears, "Daddy's a boy!!!"  As if his being a male was the root of the problem and the reason why the juice had spilled.

While my husband cleaned up THAT mess, I was taking care of the baby and trying to fry the bacon for the egg casserole, whisk the eggs, and put together the batter for the pumpkin muffins.  You DIDN'T see any of that craziness either.

You also DIDN'T see the baby smearing banana all over her hands and face and belly and hair.

You DIDN'T see me throwing all the long-sleeved onesies and fall clothes I could find in the 3-6 month tub out into the middle of Kyiah's bedroom floor, hoping to find something cute and in matching pink that she could wear to the brunch.

Furthermore, you DIDN'T see me have to wake up Coralyn at 9 am so that she could get up and ready  for the brunch so we could leave on time and get there before the whole thing was over.  You DIDN'T see her whining that she had to get up "so early" and that she was still tired.  You DIDN'T see me searching frantically for a long-sleeve shirt for Kellah to wear under her dress.  You DIDN'T see me crawl into the attic storage area looking for the tub of clothes, where the long-sleeve shirts must be hiding.  You DIDN'T see me jump when I heard a noise or me sigh a breath of relief when I realized it was just a bird, not a mouse.  You DIDN'T see me sort through one container only to find NOTHING for the fall season.  You DIDN'T see me grab the next container, groan when I saw the 3T label, and just hope we would find at least ONE SHIRT that my nearly 3-year-old little girl who still fits comfortably into 18 months clothes could wear that morning without swimming in it.  You DIDN'T see the baby crying at the closet door this whole time.  You DIDN'T see me jump for joy when I finally found a pink shirt that would suffice.  You DIDN'T see me rush back to the girls' bedroom and try to hold and soothe the crying baby while dressing the toddler who was crying AGAIN because this shirt was supposedly her sister's.  You DIDN'T see Coralyn demanding that I button her dress up and fix her hair.  You DIDN'T see the older girls arguing over who would get to wear a certain headband.  You didn't see that special headband BREAK when Kellah wouldn't hand it to me while I was nursing Kyiah.  I had told Kellah to let me hold the headband (one of my favorites) so she could get her shoes, but she INSISTED on pulling it out of my hands and thus snapping it in half.  You, of course, DIDN'T see the tears that ensued.

You DIDN'T see me hurrying to load the hot egg casserole and pumpkin muffins in the car while the girls were supposed to be getting their shoes on.  You DIDN'T see me sigh when Coralyn chose princess tennis shoes to go with her beautiful white dress with pink flowers.  You certainly DIDN'T see me roll my eyes when Kellah decided her pink rain boots were the best option to round out her outfit.  You DIDN'T see me smile when Coralyn handed me a pair of socks for Kyiah, only to realize they didn't match.   So then, you DIDN'T see me dash upstairs to find a pair of matching socks.

You couldn't have seen us climb into the car, the girls almost smashing both the casserole and muffins several times as they made their way to their seats.  You DIDN'T see Coralyn whine because she couldn't get her car seat buckled because her dress was in the way.  You DIDN'T see Kellah screaming because her boot had fallen to the floor (on top of the covered egg casserole and muffins).  You DIDN'T see the baby pulling her hair and crying because she was tired and beyond ready for a nap at this point.

You DIDN'T see me have to stop the car in the middle of the road and run back to the house to move the scooter out of the way so the garage door could close.

You DIDN'T see us stop at every single red light along the way.

You DIDN'T see my children running around like crazy in the room while we waited for all the other mothers and daughters to arrive.  You DIDN'T see them begging to eat every 2 seconds or going up to the table, laden with delicious foods, and trying to touch every single thing as they pointed out what they wanted to eat when the time came.  You DIDN'T see them "playing quietly" in the corner while one of the mothers shared a beautiful message of some things God had laid on her heart.  You DIDN'T see the baby eating the crayons while the older girls were supposed to be coloring a pretty picture but were instead playing tag on the church chairs.

You DIDN'T see any of that.
Why not?

Because that's not cute or glamorous.
That's not what kodak moments are made of.
That's not what happens to a mom who has it all together.

BUT, it IS what goes on EVERY SINGLE DAY in MOST homes.
That IS what takes place in MY house most every day, multiple times over.

So, I may not be the Mom of the Year.
I may not have it all together.
I may not be calm, cool, and collected all the time.
I can put on a good show, though, can't I?

Can't we ALL?
At least we try...

After all, how could we possibly admit we are't perfect.  That our house doesn't look like those pictures we find on Pinterest.  That our children don't always smile and obey the first time.  That we don't casually sip our coffee in the morning, read our Bible, pray for 30 minutes, and greet our happy children as they bounce down the stairs and rush to give us a hug while telling us, "Mommy, I love you and think you're the best ever and I'm so excited about the time we're going to spend together today!"

We can dream, right?
But, in our dreaming, let's also not forget to be REAL and HONEST with each other.
Let's not be such good magicians that we trick ourselves into believing we have to have it all together.  Let's not fall for those lies...

And so, let me be the first to throw in the towel and acknowledge defeat.
Let me assure you I DON'T deserve any awards.
I could use a hug or knowing smile, letting me know you've been there too.  That you're there NOW.
I could probably use a word of encouragement too.  A prayer, perhaps.
Maybe we both could?!

If your house looks anything like mine does this morning after my fun, relaxing, tasty, delightful Girls' Night, then I KNOW you could...

Yeah, that's what you DIDN'T see yesterday evening.  All I did was post on Facebook about our scrumptious chocolate peanut butter brownies, pumpkin cheesecake, and very berry smoothies! :)

But now you know the TRUTH...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Where's Daddy?

As a mother of 3 small girls, I am blessed beyond measure to be able to stay home with my children.  My days may be mundane at times - laundry, cleaning, preparing meals, changing diapers, more cleaning, more laundry, changing more diapers, making more meals, and then more laundry.  BUT, my day is also full of laughter and smiles.  I get random hugs from my precious girls.  I hear, "Mommy, come play with us!"  I get asked to read books, built forts, have tea parties, set up obstacle courses, go on nature walks, draw pictures, explore around the yard, and make special treats.  Be it spending time at home or seeing animals at the zoo or listening to a story at the library or swinging at the park or hiking a nature trail, I am making priceless memories with my girls every single day.  I get to be there for all the "firsts" and capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments on camera. The first roll over.  The first smile.  The first babble.  The first crawl.  The first pull-up.  The first step.  The first words.  The first time down the slide.  The first bike ride.  The first bruised knee.  Yeah, I also get to experience the many spilled milks, the countless fights between siblings over who got the beloved purple plate, the arguments over who gets to wear the Cinderella dress and who has to be Snow White.  Dirty dishes, diapers, and all, I wouldn't trade any of it for the world...

Recently, I feel as though my mindset is shifting...

Maybe it's because I am able to leave the house now (I couldn't before due to my in-home daycare - no way I was going to try and load up 6 kids under 4 in their carseats, drive somewhere, get them OUT of the car seats, cross a parking lot to get to the park or library, bring enough snacks and drinks to keep everyone happy, take everyone to the bathroom, get back across the parking lot to the car, load them all up in the car seats, drive home, unload the kids from the car seats, and get them back inside the house - I'm tired and stressed out just writing that out).

Maybe it's because I am seeing more stay-at-home moms on a daily basis now that I CAN take my girls to the park or library or nature center or zoo or wherever we want to go.

Maybe it's because I am able to focus more fully on my girls and hear more of what they are saying and see more of what they are doing and learn more of who they are becoming...

Maybe it's because I'm learning it's okay to ask questions, to do things differently, to NOT go with the flow, to try something new, to NOT be the norm, to be UNtypical, to be EXTRAordinary...

The girls asked a question this morning, as they do on MOST mornings when they first come downstairs.  This morning, however, their seemingly innocent question rocked my world.

Where's Daddy?

My answer is a fairly common one.  
In the majority of households I know, the answer would have been the same

At work.

I didn't go into the details.
Their 2 and 4 year old brains wouldn't understand.
Their 2 and 4 year old hearts wouldn't quite grasp the depth of my words, or their meaning.
And so I didn't go on to explain:

He's dutifully providing for his family.  He's earning money to pay the bills, put food on the table and gas in the cars, buy your clothes, and allow us to do fun things like go on vacation or get ice cream every once in awhile as a special treat.  He's using his hard-earned college degree and even harder-earned Master's to educate his students and equip them to be upstanding citizens in our community.   

I didn't say any of that.  Just a simple "At work," was all they needed to know.  

"But he'll come back to me," my 2 year old assured me almost immediately.

"Yes, my dear little one, your daddy will come back to you.  He will come home from work."

But what if he didn't have to leave in the first place?
What if he didn't have to go to work?
What if he could be a stay-at-home dad, just like I am a stay-at-home mom?

Their simple question stirred up a host of emotions in my soul.
Their simple question left me with quite a few questions of my own.

What if we could be a stay-at-home FAMILY?

Is that even possible?
I am starting to know of more and more families who are doing this.
I know them personally.
I see them spending time together, making those precious memories.  Every day.

At first I thought it was strange to see a dad with his kids at the park in the middle of the day.  He kind of stands out in the midst of all us MOMS.  

I would do a double-take when I saw a dad with his kids at the grocery store or library or zoo or wherever else I might be with my girls.  But I didn't think twice about all the MOMS who crossed our path.

Why is that?
Why do I automatically assume he took a day of vacation?
Why do I feel like he is out of place?
Why do I think this is a special occasion?  

Why can't it be NORMAL?
Why shouldn't a dad be able to stay home with his kids?
I'm sure he would enjoy seeing all those firsts too.  I bet he would have fun building forts or playing catch or going on nature hikes or reading books or seeing animals at the zoo.  I'm going to guess he would laugh and smile right along with his kids.  I believe his heart would be full.  He might even melt a little at hearing a random "I love you, Daddy!" or "You're the best Daddy in the whole world!" or getting a surprise hug for no other reason than the fact that his little girls adore him and are happy to be with him.

And yet, we tend to believe -whether we realize it or not - that a man's place is AT WORK.  That's his JOB.  He has to provide for his family, take care of their financial needs.  And so he "has" to GO TO WORK.  

He gives it his all, all day long.  When he comes home to his family, he is spent and tired.  He doesn't have much left to give.  He gets a couple hours max with his kids - and those might be spent rushing to and from practice or a game, finishing homework, taking baths, and getting ready for bed.  THAT, in my opinion, is simply NOT ENOUGH.  It seems extremely far off from what I believe God had in mind when He created and designed families.

BUT, someone has to work.  Someone has to be responsible.  Someone has to make money to pay the bills.   In most cases - not all - this someone is usually the DAD of the family.

What if in putting dads in this BOX, we are keeping them from being the best husband and father they could be?  What if we are limiting our potential as FAMILIES?  What if we are missing out on the biggest blessing of all - being TOGETHER?!

And so my mindset is shifting...
I am beginning to look at things in a new light...
I am believing there is a different way, a better way...
I am starting to LONG for something MORE...

As I see more and more of my It Works team mates "rewiring" their husbands and becoming stay-at-home families, I can't help but want the same for MY family.  

So, I work hard to fulfill that longing, to make my dream a reality.
If they can do it, so can I.  So can WE...

I do believe God has called Lawrence to be in the schools, to be a light, to share the love of Jesus with his students and co-workers.  I am confident he is right where God has put him, for this time.  BUT, our desire is for him to stay home with us all summer.  Instead of teaching summer school, we will have a WHOLE MONTH together as a family!!!  We are already excited and starting to plan some fun things we can do together.  I am thinking this month of being a stay-at-home family will give us a taste of what could be...and who knows where that will take us.

All I know is that my mindset is shifting...

What about YOU?  
What do YOU think about stay-at-home dads?  
When you hear the phrase stay-at-home FAMILY, what goes through your mind, your heart?

If this is something that you are interested in or have questions about, I would love to talk with you more.  Or maybe you want to start with JUST one parent staying home - we can talk about that too!  Either way, if this is something you feel pulling at your heart, like you want to make that dream a reality for your family as well, I would certainly LOVE to show you how God is working in our lives to make it happen.  

I know it's different and new and NOT normal...
But I also know it's EXTRAordinary.   It's amazing.  Special.

I would even go so far as to say it's a HUGE BLESSING from God Himself.
And perhaps even His intention for us as families...

Like I said, I would LOVE to know YOUR thoughts!!!