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 opportunities...so little time! There are so many activities, play dates, playgrounds to explore, ball games, dance practices, swimming lessons, VBS...my 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 not...watch 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.