Monday, November 01, 2010

In defense of Thanksgiving...

Yesterday as I walked through the mall with my husband, I was surrounded by Christmas decorations and merchandise and I could hardly stand it. It was October 31st for goodness sakes! What happened to Thanksgiving??!!

Is it just me, or is Thanksgiving a forgotten holiday? It's a quiet holiday without much fanfare and that's just exactly why I love it so much. It doesn't have the excitement of opening presents like Christmas morning, and it doesn't have the sugar rush and darkness of just seems to be lost in the shuffle. But still it remains my favorite. So why is it ignored? Is it because you can't buy thankfulness in a mall that it is deemed unworthy of celebration?

I suppose as it is often celebrated today - as another day to stuff yourself on food and watch football, it isn't worth celebrating. But, what if, as its name suggests, we took the time to survey the faces around our Thanksgiving feast and really experience gratitude and thankfulness? What if we even dared to take that thankfulness away from the table and walk it out in real life? I'll just bet it would change a lot of lives. In the midst of a trial in my own life, I learned what it means to be thankful.

As a Christian, Thanksgiving should be a way of life. Sadly, I find it is all too easy for me to focus on the negative than to retain an "attitude of gratitude." In Psalm 116: 17 we are exhorted to offer the "sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord."

Right after my miscarriage, I was able to fully understand what a sacrifice of thanksgiving was. I was hesitant to go to church. I just couldn't face that many people. I was too raw. But the gentle encouragement of my husband and a dear friend got me to church that morning. And when we rose to sing, as the tears streamed down my face, I found I was able to worship God in a new way. I was able to see his goodness and his perfect love for me in the midst of my pain. We sang "blessed be your name, on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering, blessed be your name..." and this time, I understood. I even managed to smile through the tears. It changed me to know with my heart and not just my head that God is good all the time. A few weeks later, sitting around a feast at Thanksgiving, I was truly thankful...for everything.

So, forgive me if I get a little protective of Thanksgiving. It was the simple act of giving thanks when nothing in my life made sense that made God's love clear to me, and the Thanksgiving Holiday will always be special for that reason.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Victory Dance...

I've been watching a lot of sports lately. For those of you who know me best, that will come as a big surprise. While I know that a homerun is in baseball and a touchdown is in football, I do often get the sports teams all mixed up. It's just not my thing. My husband and son are big sports fans, however, and they find the games exciting. Frankly, I just enjoy watching them watch the game together. 

As I spent time reading the Bible this morning I was drawn to Romans 8:37. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (ESV) I tried to continue reading but my heart was drawn back to the phrase "more than conquerors" and I couldn't get it out of my mind. As I turned that verse over in my mind, I felt God ask me Where's your victory dance? My mind immediately went to the end zone dances that I've seen in Sunday football games. After beating out the other players and scoring a touchdown, some of these men literally danced for joy. They visibly celebrated their victory. 

I've been given the gift of eternal life. A gift inarguably better than a touchdown. So, where is my victory dance? As I've mulled over that verse and God's question, I realized that while I've claimed victory, I've been allowing myself to get bogged down lately in things that just don't matter and in the process,  I've lost my victory dance. I've been maxxed out in frustration, forgetting that I am more than a conqueror of my circumstances. 

I've got my victory dance back now and I'm thankful for the opportunity to reclaim it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

At a loss for words...

Sometimes there are no words. I'm a very verbal person and so it is rare that I find myself with nothing to say. Lately, however, I have come across many situations for which I have no words. At first it made me very uncomfortable - awkward silence is not my cup of tea - but now I'm coming to grips with the fact that sometimes there just aren't any words to say, and perhaps more importantly, my words are unnecessary.

My sick friend doesn't need me to tell her how sorry I am. She needs me to listen while she talks, to hold her hand and stroke her hair when the pain is bad. She doesn't need my words; she needs my presence and the love that I can show her without saying a word.

My friend was horribly betrayed by someone she loves. Again, she doesn't need my words. She needs me to hold her while she cries, to listen as she speaks, to laugh at her thin attempts at humor, to be there for her when the bottom dropped out of her world.

My words alone cannot fix anything.  Maybe it's not so much that my words aren't correct, but that they aren't enough. Saying "I'm so sorry" seems empty at best. Maybe it's not about saying "I love you", but about demonstrating love, being the hands and feet of Christ. My words are only truly powerful when I'm on my knees praying for my friends.

There is a time to speak and a time to listen. There is a time for words and a time to act. I pray that God will help me to discern what is needed, and also help me to keep quiet so He can speak through me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Highs and lows...

There has been a bit of a poem floating around in my head lately... "and when she was good, she was very, very good; and when she was bad, she was horrid." (I think it's Longfellow, but I'd have to check to be sure.) Anyway, it seems like this sentiment is quite applicable to our homeschooling adventure this year. When it is good, it is a wonderful, blissful, I-can't-ever-imagine-doing-anything-else kind of feeling. When it is bad...well, you get the idea.

As I was reflecting on all of this, the wind blew a door shut somewhere upstairs. The resulting loud noise and startled scream from one of the children was enough to wake up an already-grouchy toddler. Nap time is "my" time and I had a lot I needed to get done. I could feel my blood start to boil. "Who didn't prop their door open???" It was an accusation, not a question really.

Well, as it turns out, it was me. I was the culprit. Sigh!

Properly humbled, I put the toddler back down for the rest of her much-needed nap, and apologized to my other children for assuming it was one of them who left the offending door un-propped.

As I sat back down, I prayerfully re-evaluated our situation. The problem isn't so much that we've had some rough patches so far this year in our homeschooling. I expect we always will. The problem is, that is what I am focusing on. God gently reminded me to take a step back and enjoy the journey. Just a few moments before the door blew shut, I was thanking God for the beautiful breeze. How quickly I was irritated by something that was, while I was focused on God, seen as a blessing. I need to remember that I am completely dependent on God to do what He has called me to do. I'll only ever be disappointed when I focus on my agenda, and not His calling.

Does this mean tomorrow will be perfect? I seriously doubt it. But it will be His perfect will for my life.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Bend in the Road...

“…my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend…” Anne of Green Gables

I always enjoyed Anne of Green Gables as a girl, but I understand the richness of the stories so much more as a grown woman. Recently, I re-discovered this quote from the book and it has been tumbling around in my mind and my heart ever since. Something about it, at this particular time in my life, resonates with me.

I've been on the "straight road" many times and it is wonderful to be able to clearly see where I am headed. But therein lies the problem. When I can see where I'm going, I tend to forget that I'm not directing my own steps. I tend to become complacent and enjoy easy street a bit too much for my own good.

I'm thankful for bends in the road because they have made God's love for me concrete. I wouldn't have wished for many things I have faced in my life, but I'm not sorry that they happened. During those times when I can't see the next step, God lovingly guides my heart towards him. It is those times when his love is palpable. When I leave what is familiar and step out in faith, it is never easy, but it is what is best for me. God's dreams for me are always better than my own. 

I don't know what lies ahead for me, but I know that there will be many more bends in my life's road. I hope that I can face them believing that the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fare thee well...

I don't like to say goodbye. I'm always terrible at it because I am an emotional person. On ordinary occasions I have been known to cry for no apparent reason. When saying "goodbye" to friends, I'm a mess. My solution? I don't say goodbye. Goodbye sounds so final - besides there really is nothing "good" in it, at least not right away.

Our dear friends are just a few days away from a new adventure, and I wish them all the best. But I will not say goodbye. I will send them with my prayers because that is the best of what I can offer.

As I listen to the giggling of two little girls who have become the best of friends, my heart breaks because partings always hurt. But I am thankful that, for now, they are blissfully unaware of how short a time they have left to play. You see, we've learned that friendship isn't really about time after all. It's about connections. It's about serving one another, laughter, and the knowledge that in someone else's eyes; you are special.

When they are away from us, I will smile when I see how much my daughter has grown because of her special friend. When they are gone, I will remember how much I was blessed by my beautiful friend and, in turn, I will be able to bless someone else.

I won't say goodbye. I think this says it better...

"May the LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."
Numbers 6: 24 - 26

Monday, August 16, 2010

Running on empty...

...let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith...
Hebrews 12: 1 - 2

I really don't have it all together like I thought. (I'm certain that I'm the only person surprised by this admission.) I've spent hours planning our school year and so far I've accomplished very little of what I planned to do. Nothing has been working out like I thought...and that is exactly where God wants me to be.

So many things went wrong one day that I literally fell to my knees and prayed, "What do you want from me, Lord?" His answer: everything.

He wants all of me, not just the parts I'm willingly giving. The hymn "I Surrender All" came to my mind and I realized that my version was more like "I surrender most of my life, but I'm still going to keep control of this stuff over here." Needless to say, this isn't where God wants me to be.

He brought me to the end of myself countless times lately and gently asked, are you ready to go deeper? I've taken steps of faith in obedience not knowing the next step. I've laid aside feelings, choosing instead to react the way I know I should - praying that my heart will follow. I let go of my plans for school and dared to dream God's dreams for my children's education this year. That has been a struggle, but God has rewarded my efforts. I wonder why it's taken so long to realize that God's dreams are better than mine.

I realize he is sanding off some rough edges so that I am more "usable." He loves me enough to care about those deep recesses of my heart.

It hasn't been easy. What I know now (perhaps more than ever) is that keeping my eyes on Jesus makes it easier to keep going - even when I am running on empty. He's never tired, never too busy, never out of grace for my feeble efforts. When I am at the end of myself, Jesus can fill me completely because there is nothing to stand in his way.

It's going to be a good year!

Monday, August 09, 2010


This weekend I dealt with a lot of boo-boos.

A scraped foot and turned ankle were easily fixed. There weren't even many tears to dry (I'm brave now, mommy.)  A fall down the stairs  - again - brought a lot of tears (from both mommy and child).  But despite an angry-looking knot on the head and a bruised nose (did you even know your nose could bruise??) the injury was fixed with ice and a lot of TLC. I think the lollipop helped too.

There was another injury this weekend too, but ice and tylenol can't heal this kind...

I've known that something has been bothering my precious daughter for a while. I can usually tell. I also knew that pressing her to talk to me wasn't the right thing. So I waited...and I prayed for the right time to come. It came unexpectedly during a shopping trip yesterday. Had I not really been listening, I may have missed the opportunity. As we were driving home, in the midst of random conversation and laughter, the hurt was revealed.

Sadly, some wounds cannot be fixed with band-aids or tylenol. Feeling uncomfortable in your own skin is never a small thing. I can tell her she is beautiful just as she is, but I can't make her believe it. Oh, that there was an easy answer! These wounds pierce flesh and go directly to the heart. My tears and understanding were really all I could offer. Thankfully, I could also remind her that she is fearfully and wonderfully made for a special purpose - one that only she can fulfill. I could point her eyes to a Heavenly Father who loves her with a perfect love even greater than my own. I can only hurt with her; I can't fix it.

I once heard it said that being a mom is like having your heart walk around outside your body. I'm beginning to understand the truth of that statement. Physical wounds are healed and kissed away and ultimately forgotten. Emotional wounds can scar in ways that are hidden. There is a lesson here, and it is this: I can't possibly do this on my own. I can't fix these unseen hurts, but I can point my sweet girl to the One who can. I'm thankful that as she grows and matures she will begin to see herself through the eyes of the one who made her. My tears may help for a moment, but God's love will heal.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Let us not become weary...

Have you ever had one of those days where you just feel like asking your children "How many times have I told you (fill in the blank)...?" Truly, there are things that I know I've said hundreds (thousands?) of times. Yet I still somehow have to find the strength to take a deep breath and remind them - again - of the expectations. But these are also the times when I feel the most weary. Weariness isn't just feeling tired. It has an emotional component, a feeling of being ready to throw up your hands in surrender. So when we find ourselves at the brink of despair, what can we do?

The author of Galatians reminds us:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

It sometimes seems like all the behind the scenes work of mommyhood goes unnoticed and under-appreciated (especially when the shirt is the one thing that didn't make it into the laundry!) and I am left to wonder if it's worth it. When you add to that a string of days where all the training and correcting seem to fall on rocky soil it spells DISCOURAGEMENT.

This business of training up children in the way they should go is difficult. Especially when the way they should go runs so contrary to our sinful desires. But, thankfully, we aren't parenting alone. The ultimate parent is right there in the trenches with us. God sees all the little tasks that we do even if no one else does. When we gently correct our children and lead them to restoration, He smiles on our efforts. When we serve unselfishly he lavishes his love on us. The task can seem overwhelming at times, but I'm reminded that it will ultimately be worth it - even if I can't see it right now.

If my efforts are not bearing fruit today, I can hold on to the truth that "at the proper time" they will. There will be a harvest beyond what I can imagine. All I have to do is wait in expectation.

So today as I retrain and redirect and cook and clean and serve my family I will not become weary. I will smile and gently redirect. I will hold on to God's promise in faith. It is worth it. God doesn't want us to be discouraged, he wants us to rest in him. I'm thankful that I don't have to do this alone. Today if I feel discouraged, I will just remind myself that God is faithful. My children are far too precious to give up.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reality check...

I've been reading a wonderful book on motherhood lately but instead of encouraging me, I have to admit that it sometimes makes me feel downright inadequate. I find that I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the author. I know her intent is to inspire, but it seems sort of unrealistic at times. I am not bashing this book or its author. I just wish that in the midst of all the wonderful scenarios she has painted of her idyllic home life, she had thrown in a touch of "reality" (ie something that would make me feel better about my less-than-ideal home). So, here are my true confessions...

  • When my children whine and have bad attitudes, I don't treat them to candlelit teas in my boudoir. I usually say something inspiring like "stop whining, you're going to drive me crazy."  
  • We don't spend Sunday afternoons reading stories and having tea and delectable treats. I don't bake. We take naps, watch a movie and have leftovers of some kind. 
  • My children have never been to an art museum, an opera, performed in a professional acting company or toured the United States (let alone Europe). 
  • When my kids turn 15, they will not be treated to a trip to another country to celebrate. 
  • They most likely will never have a picnic in a secret grotto in Vienna. 
  • Sometimes I have PMS and act like it.

I don't think I'll ever write a book on motherhood because my life will never be perfect. But I'm ok with that. However, I'll bet if I could pick out all the wonderful moments from my mothering journey thus far, I could write a book that would make me look pretty good too.

Reality is messy. Imperfection is a fact of life in the Slattery household. Just this morning I had to deal with both vomit and spiders. Neither are my favorite, and no one writes books about these things. I certainly wouldn't buy it if somebody did. But it's reality.

And, you know what? In the midst of vomit and spiders and whatever else today throws at me, there's still no place I'd rather be than home with my kids. It's my calling and God gives me grace every day to follow His plan for my life.

So maybe I'll never serve high tea on bone china in my dining room, but that isn't who I am. I am glad that there are people out there who have that gift. I've been on the receiving end of beautiful hospitality and it blesses and refreshes.

This morning, I served my sick daughter tea in the Mickey Mouse mug we bought on our honeymoon. My tea was made with no less love. I am making a pot of homemade chicken soup. The flowers on her bedside table were picked (and crushed) by an adoring toddler. My son made her a homemade get well card. She is listening to my ipod and I'm quite certain it's Switchfoot or Superchick that is playing right now, not Mozart or Bach, but her music is no less beautiful.

Right now, she knows that she is loved and cherished and isn't that what really matters?

My kids may not have been to the opera or the Louvre in Paris, but I have an art gallery in my school room of all my kids' best art projects. I think it's the most beautiful room in my home. We may not ever tour the country with a professional acting troupe, but we have performed many impromptu plays and responsive dances right in my family room. Our home is their stage. It is safe and comfortable and fun.

What I'm really trying to say is, the reality of motherhood is not all wine (or tea) and roses, but it IS worth every moment. I have learned and grown from my mistakes. My children have learned that I am not perfect and have extended me much grace and forgiveness. I have rejoiced when things went smoothly and cried when they didn't. To know that I am training up another generation of Godly children is the greatest privilege I have. Spending several hours once a week discussing this book with wonderful, like-minded women has been refreshing and encouraging because they've shared that none of them are perfect either.

Sometimes it's just a paper plate kind of day at my house, but that doesn't mean that my journey of motherhood is any less beautiful or worthy. Neither is yours. I don't need to measure up to anyone's standards. I just need to be fully me, fearfully and wonderfully made by my God.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A subtle shift...

I've been on auto pilot. I've been sailing through days without my heart and mind fully engaged. This morning, as I was reading from Hebrews I got another wonderful, gentle reminder from God that he wants my full attention.

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, 
so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1

I am so thankful that God had me pause and truly reflect and meditate on this verse. I got so caught up in my own "stuff" that I didn't even realize that I had drifted until this morning. I once saw one of those little church signs that said "If God seems far away, who moved?" I could make a million and one excuses, but the truth is that other things were given my careful attention and my relationship with God drifted from the center.

I am amazed at how subtle it was.  It didn't happen all at once, it was a slow and frighteningly easy parting. I was praying, but it was more like "Thank you, God, for the (fill in the blank)..."  my mouth was telling God that I was thankful, but my heart barely paused to reflect on God's goodness and mercy. I was praying for others with my full attention but I had devoted little time to praying for things in my own life. I hadn't really examined my own heart's condition. The "weeds" that I was starting to see in my life didn't just suddenly appear out of nowhere. I neglected the careful tending of my own thought and prayer life. From my own experience, I know full well it is easiest to pull out weeds when they are still small. They are easier to remove before their roots have fully developed. The author of Hebrews warns us to pay careful attention because it is so easy to become complacent, to drift.

I looked up the definition of the word drift, and it completely described how I've been feeling lately. To drift means to be carried along by currents or wind or by the force of circumstances. Happiness depends on my circumstances, and frankly, I haven't been terribly happy lately. Joy comes from a connection with Jesus and is completely beyond our circumstances. I had mindlessly drifted from my Father and lost my Joy. Drift means to wander aimlessly. Since I really hadn't sought God's true direction for my life, I was just wandering from task to task. My focus was missing and my sense of purpose, gone. Finally, drift means to deviate from a set course. 

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

I'm so glad that God so lovingly pointed me back in the right direction. I had drifted, but God called me back before I was in danger. He isn't waiting for us to fail, he's gently calling us back to a true relationship with him. When we allow him to direct our steps we stop the drift and can be fully restored to his care.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Heavenly music...

Nothing touches my heart like music. I've heard music that brought me to tears, made me fall to my knees, made me dance with joy, and filled me with peace. I try to fill our home with music of all kinds so that my children will at least be able to appreciate good music.

As I was reading my Bible last week, God brought my attention to Zephaniah 3:17 and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind.
The LORD your God is in your midst.
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)

I've heard some good music in my life, I've even had the privilege of hearing some great music, but my heart was touched deeply by the thought of the God of the universe "singing" over me. I make God sing? Me? 

Then I allowed my imagination to run wild with what God's song would sound like... I realized that everything I've ever heard on earth, no matter how beautiful, would fall short of the beauty of God's song. I was moved to tears by my inability to grasp even a note of God's music, by the unimaginable beauty and absolute perfection of that song.

I've been blown away before imagining the singing that will happen around God's throne in Heaven, but I had never really meditated on this particular verse before. It has blessed me immensely. I've felt God's presence, I've also been quieted by his love in the midst of anxiety and pain, but I never realized that God exults over me (and YOU!) with singing. I encourage you to listen to your favorite song, one that touches you deeply, and then try to imagine what God's song (just for you!) will be like...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And the winner is...

This weekend was a whirlwind of activity for my Erin. All of it was fun and exciting and wonderful, but I think I got the biggest reward of all...

Friday night I took Erin to a 2 hour dance rehearsal for the upcoming Celtic Fling Feis (competition for Irish Dance). It is the only real competition we enter so it is very important to Erin. She has practiced for hours in the basement and the blisters on her feet and the wear on her hard shoes serve as testimony to her dedication to do her best dancing. As we drove to the practice we talked and laughed and listened to music on the radio. As we walked to her class we were startled by a squirrel that unexpectedly ran across our paths. We laughed and giggled at how silly we must have looked when we jumped and screeched from surprise. As I watched her dig deep in her practice, I was very proud. She had just sprained her wrist a week ago, and I could tell it was hurting but she was determined that no one would know just how much. We drove home and I fed her a snack and put her to bed after praying over her for sweet sleep.

I prepared her costume and shined and polished her hard shoes and ghillies, made sure her wig was in order. Made a list. Found the missing poodle sock. Made another list of all the important things to do in the morning before the feis and decorated for her birthday party that would follow the competition.

Saturday morning was a blur of activity as we were up super early and in the car and on our way to the competition before we knew it. I even remembered to wish Kevin luck on his last tee-ball game of the season. We smiled and joked as we drove. Just before the competition got underway, I had the sweet opportunity to hold her in my lap and pray for her before she danced. She looked at me and smiled. She knew what I was doing. What she didn't know is that part of me was on stage too. She sailed through the competition and danced beautifully, perhaps her best yet. As we anxiously awaited the posting of the results there was much rejoicing. Two first-place medals, a second-place medal, a third-place medal and a sixth place medal. We left on cloud nine! Her performance exceeded even our wildest expectations!! Her party was beautiful and she enjoyed the congratulations of her family.

Sunday morning we drove again to the Renaissance Faire, this time just to perform. The pressure was off and again we joked and talked in the car. This was when I received my "award." "You know, mommy this was the best weekend of my whole life." I told her again how proud I was of her hard work and all her medals and how I couldn't believe that she would be 10 in just a few short days. "No, mommy. That's not what I mean....I got to spend the whole weekend with just you. You cheered for me and loved me. I love you, mommy." They don't give out medals for being a mommy, but that was mine. And, just for a moment, I knew what it felt like to win first place.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gift of a "perfect"ly ordinary day...

Attitude is everything, is the lesson I am confronted with day after day. Yesterday was no different...but yet somehow it was... Perhaps it is because I am actively seeking the beauty in each moment, or perhaps it was just another "kiss" from my Heavenly Father. You see, it really doesn't matter because I found beauty and joy in an ordinary day. I was there for every moment - not every woman has that privilege. I'd like to share my day with you.

The kids and I had breakfast and I realized that both Kevin and Jordyn have glints of red in their hair when the sun hits it just right. It made me smile.

We reviewed some math problems and elapsed time questions were a breeze for Erin, and Kevin easily mastered some new subtraction facts. Another smile.

Brian came home for lunch. Not many husbands have the chance to do that almost every day. We are blessed by the bonus time we get to spend with daddy. Smile...

The kids ran through the sprinkler. They were so cute sopping wet and giggling. I almost went to get the camera and then I realized that some moments are just too precious. Smile...tear...

I took a nap...enough said.

Brian took Kevin to a Barnstormers game. Kevin was so excited to have "man time." He's growing up so fast. I took the time to count the freckles on his nose as I adjusted his baseball cap. There are 27.

The girls and I went to buy party supplies for Erin's family birthday party this weekend. Jordyn wore her movie star sunglasses and matching binky. When we got to the store, Erin said "I want something that really represents who I am at 10." (She is a riot) We found bright patterned plates, napkins and tableware. She really has no idea how breathtakingly beautiful she is. Happy tears...

To cap off our TGT evening (total girl time) we stopped at Sonic for milkshakes. They were buy one get one free. You would have thought I bought diamonds for all the excitement that caused. Joy.

We ate milkshakes on the front porch and caught fireflies. Jordyn's face was priceless as she watched with pure delight as they lit up in our hands. Smiles...

Kevin and Brian came home in time to join us for the last few moments of twilight. He held my hand for a moment as we watched our children run around the yard. Still in love after almost-11 years. Priceless.

Smiles, joyful tears, precious moments, joyful children, free milkshakes, loving husband...Thank you, Jesus for a perfectly ordinary day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Misery loves company...

Everybody is aware of the power of words to wound. We've all, unfortunately, been the target of someone's verbal ammunition. But what about using our words as a different kind of weapon?

As I've been reading through Proverbs this month I've been struck by the simple, direct wisdom in the words God chose to instruct us. The verses are beautiful in their simplicity, each one a nugget of wisdom applicable to any situation we face. God's Word truly is living and active (Hebrews 4:12)!

I've spent quite a bit of time lately reflecting on words...mine, and the words of others. The gift of speech and the written word were given to us by God. So how are we using it? Sometimes I speak too quickly, like a fool, giving vent to feelings best kept under wraps. I've also been guilty of not speaking up, not righting a wrong.

Further, I've realized that in this world of instant communication on Facebook, texting and email, it's way too easy to give myself a public platform to be miserable. After all, misery loves company...right? It's almost too easy to vent my frustrations and irritations to all of my friends on Facebook. And to have them respond sympathetically somehow makes me feel better. Wouldn't I be better served by laying these irritations at the feet of the One who died so I can overcome? What if I spent all my time "venting" in prayer instead of on the computer?

So, what about using words as a different kind of weapon? Today when I went to the grocery store, I went out of my way to say "hello" and smile at the people I passed, and who served me. I thanked the man who bagged my groceries and complimented him. I chatted with the cashier. I tried to be an encourager in my words and had prayed before we went into the store that God would help me to do just that.

There seems to be a spirit of negativity that hangs over the media and so many other forms of communication today. I feel like God is telling me that my words can be weapons of encouragement. It certainly isn't easy but as I meditate on Philippians 4:8 I realize encouragement starts in my thought life.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV emphasis mine)
In Matthew 12:34 Jesus warns that "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (NIV) If my heart is in a negative spot, my words are going to reflect that. If my heart is full of Jesus, my words are going to reflect that as well. I want to be a light, not a downer. I'm challenging myself to stay positive in my thoughts and speech and to truly be an encouragment to others. Since I'm making this a public intention, it will be quite easy to hold me accountable!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Big Questions...

It is a wonderful thing to be around children all day. I love to share in the energy that they bring to everyday tasks. I love to watch them play and learn and explore. Everything is new, fresh and exciting. I'm also blown away by the depth of their faith in Jesus and the depth to the questions they ask about their Heavenly Father. Just this week my children have asked some "big questions."

"Why doesn't God just clean up the oil spill? He can, mommy."
"Why does God speak so clearly sometimes, and other times I am just not sure what I am hearing?"

Or, just this morning, "If God wants me to tell about Him, why do my words get stuck?"

My son has had speech difficulties as long as he has been talking. It has been heartbreaking at times to watch him try and speak but the words just don't come. He and I have both cried many tears of frustration over this, but I remain certain that it will be overcome either by a miracle (God himself) or by the practical (God working through someone else). This morning, I again shared with him the story of Moses. How God was able to use him though he was "slow of speech." In Exodus 4:10 Moses tells God why he is unable to lead... "Moses said to the LORD, 'O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.'" After that excuse, God doesn't just tell Moses, "You're right, I should choose someone else" and He also doesn't say "Oh, don't worry, I'll fix your speech right now." No, God reminds Moses that He made His mouth, He is in control and He will teach Moses what to say.

My precious boy always smiles when I tell him that story. Today he said "God will fix my words when it's time, won't he mommy?"
Yes, little man, I think He will.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A dry spell? Depends on how you look at it.

I haven't written anything for a while. Not that I haven't tried, mind you, but I have not had anything that I could share. I've sat in front of this screen with the cursor blinking at me, waiting, praying...nothing. I had lots of ideas, but I knew that these were just my words and thoughts and, as such, not worth posting. It was a dry spell as far as the writing goes, but God was pouring richly into my life through his word and through some other reading I was doing, but I was prevented from sharing these things.

Slowly it dawned on me that these truths God was lavishing on me, were just for me, just what I wanted and needed to hear. Isn't God amazing?

I am amazed daily at the love that my God has for me: that He cares enough about the state of my heart that he wants to pour into my life. Instead of trying to interfere, I decided (and I really did have to decide) to just enjoy time with Him and see where He would take me.

As I spent time in His word again this morning, I knew it was time to sit back down at the computer and share. Once again, the words are pouring out almost faster than I can type them, so I know that He is with me as I share. He promises that His yoke is easy and His burden, light. When He wants me to share, it will be a joy, the words will come easily, and I really won't have to stare at a blinking cursor.

So was I experiencing a dry spell? I thought so at first, but now I realize that he was just filling me with His word and His love so I can pour out fresh living water - not just here, but everywhere I go. In fact, I am so excited to start this week, I can hardly contain myself!

Sow for yourself righteouness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12
Don't you just love that picture of God lovingly breaking up the fallow ground in your life so that He can plant and sow and ultimately rain righteousness on you? What's even more exciting is that when He rains upon you, it is contagious. You just can't keep this kind of excitement to yourself!

The next time you feel dried up, it may not be a dry spell at all, but rather the start of a beautiful opportunity. 

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Finding balance...

So many little time! There are so many activities, play dates, playgrounds to explore, ball games, dance practices, swimming lessons, head is spinning! What happened to just spending time together as a family this summer? It seems a bit backwards when we have to "schedule" family time around our many activities. The real question is, how much is too much...

I hate feeling like I've barely seen my children this week, and it's only Tuesday afternoon! I'm so thankful that they have so many opportunities for wonderful, fun, even enriching experiences this summer. But when our summer calendar is busier than our school year calendar, it makes me wonder have we overdone it a bit? So, how much is too much? How do we balance these wonderful opportunities with family time?

As I've prayed it all through it seems to me that it is all a matter of priorities. Just like with our finances, some of the potential activities are "needs" but that also means some fit into the category of "want" or "desire." My daughter has an amazing opportunity to serve others in a local, short term mission project. That's a no-brainer! Of course she'll serve. Our church has a fun-packed week of VBS in store for the older 2 children. We've moved things around to be sure they'll be there. Other activities have much less to offer them spiritually, so they'll probably be limited on our calendar. There are wonderful opportunities for educational enrichment, but again, it's a matter of balance. Do they need to spend 6 hours a day away from home for a week at a history day camp?  Probably not. Would it have been fun and educational? Yes. However, that one didn't make the cut.

I don't want to finish the summer break stressed and burnt out from activity overkill. As I've always told my kids, it's the same love that tells them "no" that tells them "yes." As I was praying through our calendar today, the Lord directed my attention to 1 Corinthians 10: 23 - 24. "'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." As we plan our activities, this will be our guiding principle. With the Lord holding the reins of our summer schedule, I think we'll have a blast!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Setting the Mood...

My husband is head of our home, so I must be the "heart." As such, my mood (good or bad) sets the tone for everyone. When I am full of Jesus (and a good night's sleep helps a lot) things seem to run pretty smoothly. When I'm out! After a rocky few days this week dealing with discipline issues with the kids and tottering on the brink of emotional exhaustion, yesterday ended really well. So much so, in fact, that my oldest was inspired to make a sign for the door that said "Welcome to a happier family, daddy!"

So what changed? I am ashamed to admit that the rampant lack of joy around here probably had more to do with me than I first realized. Yesterday, when I allowed God to "reset" my heart, my joy once again overflowed into my parenting. I felt renewed, invigorated, able to lovingly guide the three beautiful little people in my care. Conflicts were able to be resolved without feeling frustration (or exhaustion). I felt the Holy Spirit guide me as I tried to guide the children. It was right and we all knew it.

We put on worship music and danced and sang. We cleaned up in record time. We all (even little one) pitched in and made dinner. By the time my hubby got home, we were ready with a delicious dinner and, more importantly, new attitudes. Yes, it was a happier family than the one my husband had left at breakfast.

I think I tend to downplay my own needs and focus on everybody else first. As moms we all tend to try and ignore our own needs in favor of those of others. I often think of the airline stewardess who, during our pre-flight instructions, explained that parents should put on their own oxygen masks before tending to their children. It is absolutely counter-intuitive, but essential. I have to learn that my time with God is not a luxury, time to unwind from a stressful day is not "stealing" time from my kids and husband. It is a necessity! As a homeschooling mom who spends 24/7/365 with her children it is essential that I make certain my First Love has my full attention. If my own spirit isn't overflowing with God's love, how in the world am I to pour out to others?

I am so thankful to serve a God who is patiently fashioning me into the wife, mother and teacher I am called to be!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

We interrupt this broadcast....

I dreamed of paint colors last night. Followed by a dream of setting up the school room...I get the feeling that I have way too much going on in my mind right now! The "stuff" that I think I have to do before we start school again in a few weeks is now interrupting my dreams.

God usually seems to speak to my heart in whispers and I have to admit that I haven't "heard" Him lately. Not, mind you, because He isn't speaking, but because I've been too busy to listen. This morning, God interrupted my "mental broadcast." I almost felt Him saying, remember me? I'd love to help.  He's not a God that will forcibly demand my attention. He's a wonderfully loving and patient God who whispers and waits...

God brought to my mind the song "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." I went to get a little musical book that Jordyn has so I could hear it and read its words. As I listened, the tears flowed freely, and the relief and peace that flooded my soul were indescribable.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.

O, what peace we often forfeit.
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
I realize I've been praying "little prayers" again. You know, the prayers you utter to get through a situation. "Give me wisdom Lord," "Give me patience, Lord."  etc. I'm afraid little prayers are not enough for our big God. He wants to hear from us because He knows we can't do it without Him. Prayer is a heartfelt conversation, a dialogue with the Creator who knows us. Prayer helps our hearts to beat in time with His. I want to walk through my day knowing that I am in step with Jesus. When I'm not, it's disastrous - the day is filled with much more frustration and pain than necessary. I am designed to be in relationship with my God, and when I drift away mentally, I'm denying who I was created to be.

I'm so thankful for the interruption. I'm so sorry that it was necessary.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Perspective shift...

There was a terrible storm last evening. Just about 2 years ago we went through a freak storm that did some damage to our old home. It hailed so hard and the wind blew so strong (it was actually a tornado we found out later) that we moved into the basement with the kids. When we came up, siding looked like swiss cheese all through the neighborhood in which we used to live. It was very scary. Last night as the wind howled and the hail pounded the windows my children were frightened remembering what had been. Their fear was abated by snuggling and prayer and we watched the storm rage outside in relative peace until my oldest looked outside to check on the garden.

We had been dreaming of putting in a garden for years but the postage-stamp sized yard in our last home made it an impossible dream. When we moved to this house with over 1/2 an acre, the first thing the kids talked about was the garden. We talked about where we would plant it, what we would plant...we couldn't wait for spring to come! Saturday was going to be the day we'd plant the much-anticipated garden. We went and purchased all of our plants and seeds, compost and top soil. The kids could barely wait until we got home and ate lunch to start. We hit a "small" snag, however, the borrowed tiller wouldn't (despite prayer, pleading and several kicks) start. There were tears and frustration but the promise of my parent's tiller and their assistance on Memorial Day made up for it.

Monday morning the kids were ready to get started long before my parents arrived. They couldn't wait for daddy to get home from work at 10:30. They (almost) drove me crazy asking if it was time yet. When my parents and their daddy arrived almost simultaneously the kids were ecstatic. It was, finally, going to happen. Despite the almost 90 degree heat the kids jumped right in working as hard as the rest of us, picking up the tilled up grass and stones - wheelbarrows full of stones - and working in the topsoil and compost alongside their grandparents and parents. It truly was a beautiful thing to work so hard together. When it was finished and all was planted, we just stood back and admired the fruits of our labor. Ahh...all the dreaming had finally come true.

Just a few short hours later, the aforementioned storm arrived. We looked out to see the tomato cages blown over onto tender plants and the entire thing flooded. When the hail started, I truly thought the garden was gone. The disappointment and tears of my children were almost heartbreaking. They had waited so long and worked so hard. Lord, why? I wondered silently.

Then the storm stopped and we rushed outside to survey the damage. There was none. Yes, it was flooded, but none of the soil had washed away. Plants were blown over, but no stems were broken so they were easily righted. The tomato cages were placed upright and the slightly-bedraggled plants leaned against them. My oldest, literally jumped with joy and thanked God for protecting our garden.

Then we looked around and saw that there was damage all around us, people were without power, trees were down, mailboxes blown around, a trampoline blew through our yard and across the street...Wow! And we were worried about our garden. I was humbled as I realized that perhaps the garden had become an idol, more important than it should have been in my life. After all, I was more concerned about it (and the hard work it represented) than our home and our neighborhood during the storm.

God spared our garden, but in doing so, He taught our hearts a lesson about what is really important.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sweeter than honey...

"You're an awesome wife."
That's what Brian said as he left for work this morning. I can't stop smiling. Someone thinks I'm's a pretty good feeling.

It is way too easy in the rush of life to criticize or just be "functional" in our speech. But it really does take some effort to compliment and encourage someone. I often think encouraging things about others and as they come to mind I thank God for that particular person, but my follow up for actually sharing those encouraging words needs some work. I've really been trying to do better with that because, as I experienced again this morning, sweet words really do make you feel special. Through Brian's words I could feel God smiling on me. For the price of our effort, we too, can make the difference in someone's day by encouraging and complimenting.

Proverbs 16:24 says:
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
       sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Who needs to hear our encouragement this morning? I will ask God, and follow up on what He shares with me!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A delightful wife...?

I love to entertain. There is nothing I enjoy more than preparing to have guests in our home. I delight in the preparation and all the "little touches" that go into making people feel welcome. After a weekend of entertaining guests and being a hostess, it was kind of nice to go back to regular life yesterday.

This morning, the Lord drew my attention to this verse...
May your fountain be blessed,
       and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  Proverbs 5:18
I started to reflect on that verse and what it meant for me. What does it mean to rejoice? Do I give my husband something to rejoice in? When we have guests, I spend the whole day making preparations, but do I routinely do the same thing for my own dear husband? Do I make it easy for him to rejoice or delight in coming home to me?

Sadly, this is what my husband walked into yesterday at 5:15...I had on my painting clothes, paint in my hair, no supper started (or even thought about), and smoke was coming out of my ears as I had just sent the little darlings to their respective rooms for a time out. Now, that was a scene for him to rejoice in! I realize that more often than not, I give my husband very little to delight in when he comes home for the day. I want him to look forward to coming home as much as I do. I want to be a wife to rejoice in! I want my home to be a place of rest and peace, for my family as much as my guests. It really won't be that hard, just a bit more pre-planning and involving the children in getting ready for daddy. I want to show my husband that I look forward to his arrival at the end of his work day. He is the head of the house and my enthusiasm and energy shouldn't just be reserved for our guests!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Caution or Fear?

There have been several child abduction attempts frighteningly close to our home. The bold, in-broad-daylight-in-front-of-others kind that make you feel sick. I have really been battling with fear because of that. I want to protect my children from a person whose only intent is to harm - my mind can't even go there. But I don't want to cause my precious children to live in fear. I want to go on with my life, but I don't want to take any unnecessary risks either. So where do I draw the line between caution and fear?

As my husband prayed over me last night, I decided to really look in the Bible for the answer. God is pretty clear on this subject of fear. I was surprised how many times I came across "fear not" just in the book of Genesis alone. God doesn't tell us that He'd rather we weren't afraid. He says, "Fear not, I am your shield" (Gen. 15:1), "Fear not, for I have heard" (Gen. 21:17), "Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you" (Gen. 26: 24). One of the sweetest verses on this topic comes in the book of Isaiah (God keeps drawing me back to this book lately).

fear not, for I am with you;
   be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10
God's perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). He has promised that He will be with me and uphold me. The key, for me, seems to be to spend time with Him and let His love and reassurance flow into my life so that the fear retreats. I must admit that it is still in the background, and probably will be until this person is caught, but it is an issue that I am actively dealing with. God can't reassure me if I don't spend time with Him. God can't uphold me if I'm trying to do everything in my own strength. I'm trying to rest in Him and to fight this battle on my knees. God certainly wants me to pray protection over my home and my community because He can be everywhere at once and I can't. I will go on with my life (hopefully less fearfully) but we will be a bit more cautious of our surroundings. So where is the line? I'm still not sure. I do know, however,  that God will fill me with the wisdom and strength to overcome my fears if I'm willing to cling to Him.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Sanballat Moment...

Sometimes you just know you're doing the right thing because of the attacks that come your way. Does this happen to you too? You step out to do what you know you should and the attacks start...It seems to happen to me frequently - the more I know I am walking in what God wants me to do, the more I am plagued by "naysayers" and doubt. I have learned, however, not to listen to those who tell me I'm crazy (otherwise I'd have never started homeschooling). I look at it almost like a backhanded confirmation. This morning, the Lord drew my attention to the story of Nehemiah. He was called to finish building the wall around Jerusalem. This was no small undertaking and almost as soon as Nehemiah started, Sanballat and Tobiah and their cronies gathered around to jeer and taunt and criticize.
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?" 3Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, "Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!" (Nehemiah 4: 1 - 3 ESV)
This passage can teach us about our critics. First, critics seldom act on their own. There is safety in numbers. You certainly don't want to be the only critic in the crowd of onlookers! Second, they didn't come against Nehemiah until he began to build. Action brings about the opposition. "Knowing" what you should do isn't enough. And this passage is telling in another way, Sanballat was angry and that caused him to come against the Jews - He knew that they were doing the Lord's will and just wanted it stopped. Satan isn't interested in messing with us until we are fully committed to doing God's will. If we're just coasting, there won't be any opposition. Lukewarm and safe isn't going to draw any fire from the enemy.

What was Nehemiah's response? Did he cower with fear, run for cover, say "you're right, this is as crazy idea. Thanks for the warning." No. He prayed. And after he prayed, he got right back to the building. Verse 6 is my favorite.
 6So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4: 6 emphasis mine)
 What an awesome response! "So we built the wall!" If you are feeling a bit under fire lately, perhaps it's because you are exactly where you're supposed to be. Confer with the Lord. He'll let you know your next steps. Then allow the Master Builder and Architect of your life direct you. The critics will always be there. Fine tune your hearing to the Lord's voice.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)
I'd rather hear Jesus singing than my critics any day!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A love letter from my Father...

Since I've been reading through the Bible this year, my intention has been to read it from cover to cover in 365 days. That is the "goal." I've read the Bible, every verse, every chapter, but never straight through cover to cover.  (If you haven't ever done this, I'd encourage you to do it! It's never too late to start. You can even find on-line reading schedules to suit your personal needs.)

My time with the Lord is my favorite part of the day. This is especially true when I do my reading before I do anything else. I can't wait to see what He wants to tell me through His word. Verses that I have read time after time seem new and fresh. I see new applications in my life. I'm hearing from God in a way I've experienced only sporadically before this adventure in reading. This is exciting stuff!! I am blessed every day to see Hebrews 4:12 in action. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

This morning I was reading Psalm 139 (always one of my favorites) and I felt drawn to verse 16. I am especially fond of how it is stated in The Message.

You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I'd even lived one day. (The Message)

Our tomorrows are already laid out and perfectly designed by One who loves us more than we can imagine -  the troubling times laid out just as lovingly as the joyful times. I take great comfort today in knowing I really don't have to worry about tomorrow because the One who designed me has created good things for me to do.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In defense of fatherhood...

On Saturday I watched a father out playing with his kids with complete abandon and joy. The sight brought tears to my eyes. A sight that should be so normal, so everyday, has become rare. Where have all the fathers gone? I've been dismayed at my son's tee ball practices that my husband and my father have been the few males present (other than the coach). My own father, Kevin's grandpa, drives 1/2 hour from Ephrata every Saturday morning to be there to help coach because no other fathers were there and/or willing that first practice. What is going on with our society when even tee ball is showing signs of absentee fathers? I understand that some must work, and some are single moms but those are probably the exceptions. So where are the daddys?

This is another issue that has driven me to my knees lately. God has really laid it upon my heart to pray for fathers. As I watched a video at church about dads who are at Angola prison I was moved to tears. These men, whose lives were changed by Christ, were given an opportunity to break the generational bondage with their own children.  I realize just how blessed I am that my own dad was so involved in my growing up years. That fact alone may have kept me from getting in more trouble than I know! I also realize how blessed my own children are to have a wonderful, loving, involved daddy in their lives. So why are so few blessed as I have been?

I'm not a TV all. It's used in emergency situations only in our house (like when I'm too sick to move) or for a rare TV show that we all decide to watch. But what I've noticed as I've watched lately is, men are portrayed as complete morons on television shows. Mothers are the all-knowing goddesses of the home while the men are bungling, yet lovable, comedic relief. That is completely backwards and wrong! Where are the good role models for fathers in society at large? Are there any? Little boys like my son certainly can't even look to "sports heroes" any more. So it is, perhaps, no wonder that the fathers have left the sports practices as well. If no one tells men in our society about the Ultimate Father, nothing will ever change.

My heart breaks for the fathers out there that feel worthless and disrespected by their wives. My heart goes out to those that may want to try but never had fatherhood modeled for them. I know it breaks my Heavenly Father's heart to see so many men hurting and lost. I can't help but think of Malachi 4:6 "He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

Perhaps it can start with us as wives and mothers to model Godly womanhood in our homes: to respect our husbands with what we say and what we do.  To pray for them and with them. To show our sons a more excellent way...I want my son to grow up knowing who he is in Christ. I thank God that he has so many good role models at Church, and most importantly, one in his own home. Thank you, Brian for being a Godly father to our son, and a loving coach to those dear little ones on your team.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Do List, Interrupted...

Yesterday there was a flurry of activity around our house. My son dubbed me the "cleaning tornado" and I have an organized closet and peaceful master bedroom to show for it. This morning I was in the midst of making a to-do list for the next several days with all the big projects to accomplish when God interrupted my list at about number 23...

Check your email.
Ok, God. Should I try and tackle Kevin's closet or the basement bookshelf first??

When I looked, I realized how insignificant my projects truly were. A dear friend of mine is in the ICU with preeclampsia complications following the birth of her precious and long-awaited little girl. Another dear friend's precious grandmother has taken a turn for the worse. I'm sure they aren't the only ones hurting or sick today and I was moved to tears with thankfulness that God drew my attention to what really matters.

My revised list looks something like this...
1. Wait on the Lord
2. Pray
3. Repeat

I thank God that he never forgets his hurting, broken people. I thank God for his faithfulness. I thank God for the opportunity to pray. I thank God for an interrupted to-do list.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Gift of Monday...

It's always hard to say goodbye to my husband as he heads out the door to work on a Monday. I love the time we spend together as a family on the weekends. This particular morning it was harder than usual because we had such an awesome conversation and time of prayer last night. Even though he'll be home at lunch, I still miss him and find myself counting down until he comes home.

We heard an awesome message at church yesterday about being soft and moldable in our walk with Christ. We talked a lot about that message which led to other really good conversations. Don't you just love when the message you hear on Sunday spurs you to action?!

That is the gift of Monday. Yesterday, our spiritual tanks were refilled with corporate worship and prayer - which is a very powerful thing - today, it is my challenge to now "walk out" what I heard yesterday. To work those wise words into my life and to make changes. The gift of Monday is a new beginning, a new opportunity to share Jesus with all those we come in contact with today. I'm excited to see what God is going to do this week.

Monday is a day full of opportunity and promise for the week ahead. How we start today can impact our entire week. May we all start well today!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lessons learned...

Today is our last official day of school. Whew! This has been a difficult year, a growing year. There were days when I wasn't sure we could do it, but we did by God's matchless grace. We all made it through and we even managed to learn some really cool things. As I've been reflecting over this past year at the "Slattery Academy" I have been blessed to see how much we've all grown.

I've learned that I can't let myself run empty spiritually or I will have nothing to give to anyone. If my children weren't with me 24/7/365, I may never have learned that. My time with Jesus every morning is precious. Because it is usually not quiet here, I've had to learn to quiet my heart and meditate on God's word with a toddler wiggling on my lap. When I get out my Bible, Jordyn often says "Jesus, Bible." I hope this becomes ingrained in her memory so that she won't struggle with prioritizing time for Jesus as I did. I don't want her to be 35 before she realizes that time with Jesus is the most important thing. I can go without breakfast, but not without my time with the Lord. One morning, when I was particularly grouchy, Erin said, "Mommy did you get to do your devotions yet?" I hadn't. I was humbled that the difference was so striking.

We learned perseverance and focus. There were days when the toddler tornado was so distracting and "busy" that we could barely concentrate. If she could dump it out, rip it up, climb get the picture. We pushed through, we adapted and we learned a wonderful lesson. We learned that concentrating is a skill. I'm proud to say that my kids can take a math test without silence. I think the real world implications for this will help them go far.

We learned to put others first. There was only one mommy and three people who needed her. We learned to say, "that's ok. I'll wait" or even, "I'll try it myself." We experienced the joy of doing a task we didn't think we could. We learned that there is no greater joy than serving others. We learned that many hands make light work. Folding laundry, dusting, washing dishes, etc. takes no time at all when we all pitch in. We learned to finish well. It was hard to do school work when the sunshine was beckoning. Sometimes we gave in and just enjoyed the gift, and sometimes we learned how much sweeter the sunshine feels after the work is done.

Perhaps most importantly, we learned how much we love being together. We learned that home is the best place in the whole world and that there was no place we'd rather be (except maybe at co op). Where ever the journey takes us, I know we are stronger together. Praise God for His faithfulness!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who's carrying the torch??

I just love when I read scripture and God reveals something really cool! I love that by God's grace I have a new hunger for His word and I really look forward to my morning time with Him. I am also thankful that nothing quite feels right on the days when I neglect to spend time with Him. He is so faithful when we seek Him!

I am learning a bit more each day what it means to "lean not on your own understanding." Sometimes when I read a difficult passage of scripture, I immediately go to the notes at the bottom of the page to help me understand, or I ask my husband, or I run to the computer and look up the passage in several different versions. There's probably nothing wrong with doing that, but this morning God gently whispered to my heart - could I explain it to you now? Yikes! My chin just about hit the table! Why was I looking everywhere for the answers when the Author was waiting for me to talk to Him? He led me to this passage in Isaiah 50: 10, 11.

10 Who among you fears the LORD
       and obeys the word of his servant?
       Let him who walks in the dark,
       who has no light,
       trust in the name of the LORD
       and rely on his God.
 11 But now, all you who light fires
       and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
       go, walk in the light of your fires
       and of the torches you have set ablaze.
       This is what you shall receive from my hand:
       You will lie down in torment.

I was walking in the light of my own torch...again. I was so impatient for an answer that I almost missed an opportunity to meet with God this morning. How much torment do I subject myself to by trying to walk along with my own flashlight instead of relying on God for light and direction? As I go through this life, my dim little light isn't going to be sufficient. I'd rather walk in the dark and let God show me the way. I don't know about you, but I'd rather know that the Creator of the Universe is carrying my torch. I think I'll put my torch away now and wait.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lessons from a bird...

I am so thankful that our God is a lover of beauty. Can you imagine a world devoid of color, of flowers and trees? I'm thankful that he created us with eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to comprehend our surroundings. I'm struck by the beauty of the world He created every time I look out our window. I enjoy watching the flowers poke up through the mulch, grow taller and bloom with vibrant colors. I am especially fond of watching the birds that have decided to make our home, theirs.

The birds seem to love our house. I wake up to a virtual symphony every morning. They hang on our window screens, sit on our rain spouts and sing their little hearts out. One bird family has a nest behind a shutter, another has just built a nest in my hanging basket. My husband accidentally found this particular nest. He took the flowers down to water, and those persistent little birds (who had been trying to build over our front door) had settled in among the flowers and laid three tiny, speckled eggs. He called us all to come and see. They were so beautiful and small, so fragile and unprotected there. He gently put the basket back on its hook under the watchful eyes of the mother and father bird. The kids and I find ourselves going to the dining room window to peek out and see the mother bird sitting on her eggs. She sits there so quiet and still, all of her energy focused on protecting those tiny eggs.

As a mother myself, I feel I understand her as she sits quietly among the flowers, protecting her little ones. Her instinct is to protect and nurture, to feed, to train and eventually release her little ones into the care of the One who made them. She's really not so different than me. I too have the privilege of protecting, nurturing, training and eventually (not too soon, please!) releasing my children to try out their own wings. Even on those difficult days of mothering, I need to remind myself how quickly the time passes, how little time they really spend in our "nest." As I enter each new phase of mothering, may I wait with quiet expectation safely under the wing of my Heavenly Father.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Out with the old...

It seems fitting that as I finish up our school year this week, we are also preparing for our neighborhood yard sale. I've never done a yard sale, I've always just given stuff away, but this year I decided to give it a try. Not being a fan of holding onto things we no longer use, this whole process has been kind of freeing! I've gone through boxes still taped closed from our move almost seven months ago and realized that we can live without that extra "stuff." It was enjoyable to make piles of things we want to sell, things to throw away, and things to donate to charity. Our basement is now a mess of piles, but the overall clutter has diminished a bit.

I was doing really well until it came time to go through the baby stuff. It was so easy to toss away old pots and pans and toys, but to put aside tiny socks and onesies...I wasn't prepared for the crush of emotions as I realized that we really didn't need to hold on to those things anymore. I was a bit sad, but I was ok until I came upon a tiny pair of shoes...My little one's Robeez, sage green with pink and brown dots on the top...a perfect fit for her tiny toes as she mastered walking. I was undone. I sobbed as I cradled those shoes and remembered. In a way I can't quite comprehend, I needed to keep those little shoes. Maybe it's because it represented such a milestone as - she who we weren't sure would live - mastered walking. Maybe it's because those shoes are a reminder of God's faithfulness in my little one's life. I'm not sure why, but those shoes are now safely tucked away in my drawer along with other precious mementos of my children. Looking at the collection as an outsider, it would seem random, but I can recall just why I kept each of those little reminders.

Motherhood is a process of letting go, of allowing our children to grow in the training and admonition of the Lord. Sometimes that means watching from the sidelines and cheering on the victories or softening the blow of a defeat, and sometimes it is a simple act of remembering where we've been and how far we have yet to go.

I think, in a way, by letting go of some of the unnecessary things in my house, I've freed up space in my life for something new. God was tugging at my soul and reminding me that if I hold on too tightly to things of the past, I won't be able to walk into the beautiful plan He has for my life. I tucked those little shoes away for now. They are there when I want to remember, but, for today, I choose to look forward to the future with joyful expectation of what God will do.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I have been working like crazy preparing for upcoming events. Several birthday parties to buy presents for, thank you cards for a recent party, Mother's Day cards, party invitations for my son, planning curriculum for next year, sorting stuff for our neighborhood yard sale, plus all of my normal tasks... Busy, busy, busy. Sadly, my to-do list is still very long. I feel like I've made very little progress for all of the energy I've expended.

What struck me most today is how little I've included God in all my preparations. I've been working on next year's studies for my 2 oldest, but have I been praying for wisdom as I chose curriculum? No. I've finished preparing our homeschool portfolio for evaluation tomorrow, and I don't think I took a moment to thank God for mercifully guiding us through another year of homeschooling. It's almost as if I've left God on the fringes of my activities this week. It's so easy to trust him for the big stuff in life...but I really struggle with involving Him in the little things.

I want a relationship with my Father where I can rest assured that He is in control of everything in my life, the big and the small. All I have to do is let it go...

Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. For me, it will be a time of "hanging out" with my Heavenly Father. I want to be sure He has first place in my life. Tomorrow, I want to rejoice in being the daughter of the King, to stop all the preparations and just be in His presence.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Dry spaghetti...

I was blissfully enjoying my morning shower when my son calmly walked into the bathroom...
K - "Hi, Mommy. How are you doing?"
Mommy - "I'm fine son, what is it that you need? I am taking a shower."
K - "Oh, yeah. Ummmm...I think the toaster is on fire."
Mommy - "WHAT????!!!!!"
K - "Maybe the toast is on fire or something."
I had just put the shampoo in my hair when he made this revelation. I grabbed my towel and robe and ran downstairs to find that the toaster was filled with what looked like charcoal. There was no fire, praise God, but it had tripped the reset button on the outlet.

Did you ever know (and I mean really KNOW) that God is trying to teach you something? For the past several days nothing has gone according to plan. The kids have been fighting like crazy, I am frazzled and tired and just about at the end of my rope. Unfortunately it took all of the above for me to consult God about what he may be trying to work on in my life. Lord, what are you trying to tell me? What needs to change? Please help me to know! I calmed my mind and heart when I got back into the shower (it's really the only place I can think) and God said,

"Bend or break?" 

What? Bend or break...?

When I reflected over the events of the past few days I realized what that means. You see, I tend to be very "first born" in my need for things to go according to plan (i.e. Just do it my way and everything will be fine). I realized that I am, once again, getting way too caught up in the little details and am missing the big picture.

God is gently trying to teach me flexibility. My dear friend (who is a treasure trove of object lessons) once illustrated this with a piece of dry spaghetti and a piece of cooked spaghetti. I am "dry spaghetti" right now. Things aren't working out and I am snapping all over the place. I need to be flexible, teachable so I don't get so stressed out. The cool thing about cooked spaghetti? You can bend and mold it into just about any shape you want. That's what God wants for me. He wants me to stay flexible...even when the toaster is on fire.

Hoping you all have a "cooked spaghetti" day!

Monday, May 03, 2010


They were fighting already. It didn't matter that the children had only been awake for half an hour. There was yelling and stomping of feet and crying and lots of "righteous indignation." Why is it that the moment I try and take a shower (or make a phone call) the children start to argue and fuss at each other? I could blame it on the rainy, dreary weather, but I won't. We all know better than that.

I warned from the top of the stairs..."I am a mommy, not a referee! Please try and work it out!"...and then I waited, counted to 100 or so and began to feel more calm when I heard the slap. Someone hit someone else and that was IT!

I ran downstairs to see what had happened and to try and sort out the ensuing chaos. Everyone was crying, everyone was angry, everyone was talking at once, and no one was listening to me. "THAT'S IT! GO BACK UP TO YOUR ROOMS AND START OVER!" Silence. That declaration was met with three blank stares. I lowered the tone of my voice and declared that we were rewinding today. We were going to go back upstairs and start our day over, this time the right way. We prayed and you could feel the tension dissipate. My two oldest decided that the only appropriate way to rewind the day was to walk backwards through the house and up the stairs. The little one and I joined in and we all started to laugh. We crawled back in our beds and "woke up" again - this time being exceedingly polite. "Good morning little cherubs. How are you all feeling on this beautiful Spring morning?" (more giggling). "Good morning, dear mother. Might I pour you some coffee." What could have been a disastrous start to our day was turned around by prayer, a little laughter and some forgiveness.

I thank God that He graciously allows us to "press the rewind button" in our walk with Him. We don't have to continue in our wrong thinking or our grouchiness (even if it is raining). All we have to do is confess where we went wrong and He will help us make things right.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Having it all together...

I'm not perfect.

There, I said it.

Are you shocked? I don't think a single one of you fell out of your chair (except perhaps with laughter) when you read that statement.

So why is it so important that I give the appearance of "having it all together?" Am I the only one? I doubt it, because God interrupted my shower with this blog post. Why is it that I seem to only cling to the first part of Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things) and ignore the second (through Christ who gives me strength.)? This is just another lie that I tell myself. It is really just fear of man, and therefore, sin.

Would the world really fall apart if I left the dirty dishes on the kitchen table, or left the house in my grubby, comfy clothes? I doubt it. God can't shine through me if I'm busy covering up weakness in my life. God doesn't shine through my efforts to "do it all." He shows Himself strong when I allow myself to be weak, to say without You, Jesus, I can't even draw my next breath.

I am a perfectionist, and the daughter of a perfectionist. I don't want to curse my children with this burden, too. Because that is what having it all together is: bondage. Jesus, free me from my need to cover up just how fragile I am at times. Help me to admit to myself and to You that I really can't do it all.

Blessings to you on this Lord's Day.

Friday, April 30, 2010


My husband has been researching our family trees using He has found some really interesting information, but what census, birth and death records can't tell is us who those ancestors really were. It's nice to know a name, but I'd really like to know where I got my green eyes (no one else has green eyes), and what were my great-great-great-grandparents like? Were they kind? Did they know Jesus?

Names and superficial information are nice, but I want to know more. Unfortunately, I may never know unless I find someone who remembers. Doing this type of research has strengthened my resolve to leave a true legacy for my children. No, not riches or property or fabulous antiques fit for Antiques Roadshow...I'm talking about the legacy of a mommy who knows the Lord and who loves Him with all her heart. A lasting legacy. An indestructible legacy. A mommy who drops everything to play and dance and sing silly songs. A mommy who builds blanket tents in the living room, and has picnics in the backyard. A mommy whose joy for life is contagious. (If you find her let me know!)

Without Jesus, I am none of those things. I'm grumpy and selfish and not a lot of fun to be with. But when I've spent time with him, I'm free to be the mommy that He has called me to be. A mommy who delights in her children. Every day I am building a foundation for my children. Every word I choose to say (or not say), and everything that we do either builds up the foundation or tears it down. I want my legacy to be children firmly rooted in the Lord. I want to know the joy "above rubies" that they all walk with God. At the end of my life, it's ok if my baking skills have never improved, or if I never quite organize the basement. I just want the world to know how much I love my husband and my children, and how much I love the Lord. It may not be information you can find on, but it will be written on the one place it matters - my children's hearts.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Signs of love...

So often we hear news stories that cause us to focus on the negative, with what is wrong with our world. Today I am resolved to focus on what's right. As I was reading Psalm 119:65 this morning, I was blessed to see that "The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love..."

So what are the signs of God's steadfast love this morning? Well, it's a beautiful sunny day. The kind of day that dawns with the promise of warmer weather. The birds were singing as my eyes opened. Sometimes I wonder if they are worshiping as they wake. My little one woke up calling "Mah-meeeee." That is a sweet sound too. When I walked into the room, she was genuinely glad to see me! There was plenty of food for breakfast. The coffee was already brewing (programmable coffee makers are wonderful!). My husband and I sat at the table while little one played and we read God's word together. My son awoke and said, "I love you, Mommy."

In our family, we call these things "kisses" from God. The world is full of these kisses, reminders of His steadfast love. It falls upon us to choose to see them. As I began to focus my attention on what was right with the world (instead of the crumbs on my kitchen floor) my heart was flooded with joy and thankfulness. I can't think of a better way to start my day.

It's not a matter of whether your cup is half-full or half-empty, but rather where your attention is focused. Stop looking at your cup! Today, I challenge you to focus on signs of God's love. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ashes for Beauty...A story of God's faithfulness

Two years ago today my youngest daughter was born.  By all accounts, we should have been facing a very sad anniversary. We very nearly lost her. Delivered weeks early by emergency c-section, we learned her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck 3 times and knotted. That is why she had stopped moving. By God's matchless mercy and grace Jordyn Grace is healthy and strong. To see her today, you'd never know that the NICU doctor was concerned that she may not be able to hear or see. This part of the story, however, is just part 2 of the miracle. Part 1 took place in my life just before her birth...

As I watched her put on her princess crown and skirt and dance this morning, my mind was transported back to the events of two years ago. Just prior to Jordyn's pregnancy, I suffered a miscarriage. It was a horrible, dark time for me. We had waited so long for another child, and the loss was almost more than I could bear. Sometimes, our miracles come in dark wrappings. You see, it was during this time that God became real. Sure, I knew Him before I lost the baby, but I didn't comprehend the depth of His love for me. I was angry, but I felt him wrap His arms around me as I cried and mourned that child I would never hold. I learned what it was to rest in the shadow of His wings. I know with certainty now that He hurts when His child hurts. He really does keep count of my tossing and turning, and keep my tears in a bottle. (See Psalm 56:8) Through all of that sorrow, God changed me and revealed himself to me in a way that is beyond my words.

Just 8 weeks after my miscarriage, I found out we were expecting Jordyn. When I started bleeding at 10 weeks, the icy fingers of fear were back. (Not again, Lord. I can't do this again!) But all was well and God calmed the storm in my heart. He knew how fragile I was, He gently lead me through the rest of my pregnancy.

The day of her birth, I hadn't felt her move all day. I knew something was wrong. Through a series of God-ordained events, my husband came home early. Had he gone to his appointment as expected, Jordyn may not be here. Soon after my arrival at the hospital for a non-stress test, we knew something was terribly wrong. Doctors and nurses kept leaving the room without saying a word. She was born by c-section just a short while later. The doctor came to see my husband when I was in the recovery room and told him "You don't know how lucky you are." Yes, we do. But luck really has nothing to do with it. God has a plan for Jordyn. I'm not sure what it is yet, but I am thankful that I will get to watch it unfold. Happy Birthday, Princess Jordyn.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

White Noise...

Every night before my little one goes to sleep we turn on a fan in her room for "white noise." The droning noise drowns out all the background noises in our house. This morning, I was trying to concentrate on my time with the Lord, but I kept getting distracted. Ideas for the co op class I'm going to teach, the dinner menu, something that should be added into the homeschool portfolio...all these ideas were buzzing around in my head. I must have re-read the chapter in Ephesians 3 times before it dawned on me - I wasn't giving God my full attention. I was frustrated that I, once again, allowed the white noise of my life to cut into my time with my Father.

I looked up from my Bible and saw the sign above the fireplace. "Be still and know I am God." I don't think God intended it as a mere suggestion. So, why is it so hard to actually be still? What am I missing in my relationship with Jesus because His voice is drowned out by all the white noise? Do I know the true voice of my Shepherd, or only the part that cuts through all the other "stuff" that I'm thinking or doing at the moment?

When we fully give our attention to Jesus, nothing else seems important, nothing else matters. Today, I want to hear His voice. I know he's speaking to me. I want to be able to answer like Samuel, "Speak, for your servant hears." No more white noise. It's time to turn off the fan!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rites of passage...

First t-ball games...Dance practices...Dance performances...Second birthday parties...Rites of passage, all. But when they happen in one weekend, whoa! This mommy was feeling emotionally overwhelmed this weekend.

I watched my little man get his first ever t-ball uniform. He is number 5 ("Just like me, mommy!"). When he put on that shirt and baseball cap, his face lit up and the tears stung the back of my eyes. He is so grown up, yet still so small. It is hard to know just now how much to protect and how much to let go. There are still glimpses of my baby boy now and then when he climbs up in my lap or when I watch him sleeping, but those are getting fewer and fewer. His latest mantra is "I can do it, Mommy. I'm getting bigger." I know I have to pull back and let him try, and perhaps even let him fail. Who knew that mothering would be a slow process of letting go, of training and instructing and then stepping back to watch the seeds take root. One of the boys on the team didn't hit as well as the others. I watched my little guy walk up and give him a high five and congratulate him. Another rung on the ladder climbed. He's getting so big, Lord. I'm so thankful that you walk with him on his journey.

My oldest daughter was gone all day on Saturday with dance practices and performances. I really missed her by the end of the day. I missed hearing her laugh and her easy smile. She was gone from "the nest" for the better part of a day. She was fine. She did her part well as I knew she would. It wasn't the performance that concerned me, it was the "letting go." I found myself wondering what it would feel like when she would be old enough to drive herself to these events, not even needing me for transportation...Thank you, Lord that you are easing me into this stepping back portion of mothering. She's only 9, so this was just a baby step. But it is sometimes so difficult.

My "baby" turns two this week. I know our quiver is full and there will be no more babies. This is another kind of letting go altogether.

For a while, I was gloomily reflecting on these rites of passage, then God again changed my perspective. He gently took my hand and allowed me to see that these were just small steps of "beginning." God whispered to my heart, "you've tended the garden well. Stand back and enjoy the beauty for a while. It's just another beginning." I will still cry at these beginnings, but my perspective has changed. It's not about them needing me less, it's that they are becoming more fully who God created them to be. Isn't that the wonderful privilege of mothering? We get to hold their little hands, kiss their little faces and watch and pray as they become just who God wanted them to be.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Eagle's Wings

"They that wait upon the Lord,
Will renew their strength.
They will mount up on wings
like eagles.
They will run and not be weary
They will walk and not faint.
Teach me, Lord;
Teach me, Lord, to wait."

This little snippet of a song has been playing in my mind for the past several hours now. I wish I could remember more of it, or who wrote it to credit them (if you know, please share with me!). This song has always been a great comfort to me.

Facing the next several days when there is too much to do and too little time to do it, has stressed me out much more than it should. You see, I've been trying - again - to do it all myself. It's shockingly easy for me to think that I can carry all the burdens of what "should" be done over the next few days. God gently, lovingly reminded me (again!!) that I am not designed to make it all work. I am designed to be just as fragile and overwhelmed as I'm feeling, but only because I haven't let Him be in control of the schedule. My simple prayer, "Today, I lay all of my expectations down, Lord. Today is yours." brought immediate peace to my soul. I was able to focus and write a to-do list that suddenly didn't seem quite so daunting.

Today I choose to let God take control of "the schedule." It's such a simple thing, really. But it is so difficult to remember in the midst of the planning and striving to make it work. I pray that letting go is much easier for all of you.