8.22.2014

On Days Like Today...

Usually on a day like today I would say, "Whew!  I wish I could start this day over and try again!". Not today. Today I'm just glad it's (almost) over.

I could list all the things that went wrong today, but the long and short of it is this: today I was not in control of me.

I was unloving, ungracious, impatient and ungrateful with my husband and children. I acted selfishly, my thoughts were on many things other than grace. Many things other than kindness. Many things other than love.

Have you had a day like this before? A day where your heart feels like it is in turmoil. Where if you had to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in how "keyed up" you feel, it would be a 12. Where the literal noise of life has pushed you to the breaking point. A day when your inner voice is a liar, scripted by satan himself, all self-filled, all angry, all curses.

I literally thought to myself at one point today about my husband, "he has locked the van doors exactly one time ever and it's now, when I need into it". I would half smile at the ridiculousness of that thought now if I wasn't so embarrassed by it. Both because it is a lie that he never locks the doors and the absurdity of the insinuation that he locked them to spite me, to make my task harder. It just speaks to the condition of my heart.

We each took a kid to bed tonight and when I got mine laid down, I stole a few minutes outside. I needed some quiet, away from the noise of appliances, of voices and toys and the cricket in the basement. I sat down with my Bible and opened to the book of Joel.

I'll admit, I read the short book quickly without a lot of deep thought, but felt better after turning my focus toward God. I came inside and as I fixed a cup of tea, I thought, "God, what are you saying to me?" Suddenly, some words from Joel popped into my head:
"The Lord's voice will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth will shake.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
and strong fortress for the people of Israel." Joel 3:16-17

It made me think of chaos. That's the best way I can describe my day. Everything felt like chaos. But during that, through it, the Lord will be a refuge for his people. 

Now, I know this is out of context, and don't think that I'm telling you what the book of Joel is about. But this is what the Lord was speaking to me tonight.

When life is chaos, when things are out of your control, I am your refuge. I am your strong fortress. 

Even though, when it comes down to brass tacks, there's really not much other than yourself that you're in control of on ANY day, I am your refuge. I am your strong fortress.

When you're not even in control of yourself (especially when you're not in control of yourself), I am your refuge. I am your strong fortress.

There is still plenty of time and opportunity this evening for things to go wrong. But instead of letting my stress level climb, instead of listening to the liar, I'm going to make another cup of tea and settle into my refuge, my strong fortress.




8.19.2014

Judah's Nursery--An Almost-Neutral Nursery On A Shoestring Budget.

Seeing as Judah is now 13 months old, this post is a little (ahem) late, but I wanted to share it anyway. These are some pics from Judah's nursery!  When we put it together it was "Baby G2's Nursery" because we didn't know what we were having.  Over the past year we've added more boyish things and it's become boyish, but if he had been a girl we would have added more orange and some pink to make it more girly.
So here's our "Almost-Neutral Nursery".
We also did our nursery on a shoestring budget.  And this wasn't one of those shoestring budgets like some blogs or TV shows where they're like, "It was a tight budget--only $1000".  We thrifted, bought secondhand, and used what we already had to make this nursery happen.  I'll tell you about it as we go. How's that?  Good?  Good.  :)
These little guys were the inspiration for the whole nursery.  They are the hanging toys on our swing and mobile and match the print for the bouncer, pack n play and car seat.  I loved the colors, so we ran with it.

  • This door was already painted with chalkboard paint when we moved into the house, so I searched "chalk lettering" on Pinterest to find a design I liked and just subbed in Judah's name and sketched it on the door in colors we used in the room.


  • I love these ABC wall clings! (above and below)  They were originally from Target (I think), but I found them brand new in an unopened box at Goodwill.  I just noticed the picture below makes them look crooked, but they're not in real life.  They've been up there for well over a year now and haven't budged.
  • The changing pad and cover is the one we had for Nora when she was a baby.  The pads run around $20 (I think ours was originally from Babies R Us or Wal-Mart) and the covers come in a wide variety of prices.  I think the cheapest I've seen them in store is about $12, but always check the clearance section at Babies R Us and I see these often brand new at Once Upon A Child.  A quick search on Amazon shows one just like this on sale for $8.74 and it's Prime eligible.
  • The dresser!  We rented a house the first year we lived here and our landlord told us we could keep/use/give away/sell anything that was in the garage while we lived there and that's where this came from.  This little dresser was a really, weird, ugly green color, but we chose this orange paint and gave it a little makeover.  The drawer pulls are just the wooden drawer pulls that were on it and I painted them the same color as the walls.
  • The hamper (in the shadow on the left) is one of our "boy" touches and is just a pop-up hamper from Wal-Mart.  I've seen similar ones at Family Dollar/Dollar General.
  • The curtains!  They were a lesson in resourcefulness!  We got the white curtains for free from a parent of a friend of Zach's parents (whew!) and Zach's Mom refashioned them to work in our living room.  These curtains were the ones left over from that project.  They happened to fit the window, so we went with it.  The valances were made by Zach's Mom to give it a bit more of a baby feel and cover the tab-tops of the curtains.


  •  We bought the crib, glider/ottoman (as well as a changing table that's in the bathroom and a dresser that's in Nora's room) from a friend for Nora's nursery.  We spent $300 on the whole set.  She was a trusted friend, so we knew we were getting clean, quality pieces.  Don't be afraid to buy secondhand as long as you trust the source!  By the time Judah came around, the chair and ottoman had seen better days, so my Mom recovered them in a nice, soft, neutral fabric (and it cleans well).
  • The green rug was purchased at a wonderful thrift store called R Kids.  I have gotten plenty of quality items there and the owner told me the consignor for this rug is a regular at the shop and always has great pieces.  The rug retails online at JCP.com for $100 and we paid $40.
  • The big basket next to the glider that you can see in several of these pictures was part of a purchase long ago from Menard's.  I think we got 13 baskets in that set and you can spot them all around our house.  It holds toys that the kids have grown out of or haven't yet grown into.


  •  The poster on the wall is a map of the zoo in the town where Zach grew up.  His grandparents bought it for him when he was a toddler and it has hung in both our kids' nurseries.  It's just in a 1 in poster frame.



  •  Books are on top of the basket, and the yellow fabric is a place mat from our dining room.  My Mom put it there so my glass wouldn't sweat onto the basket (the stain on the basket bleeds when it gets wet).  It was in the color scheme of the room and worked perfectly.
  • The sad little bunny is a toy that belonged to my husband as a baby.
  • The framed hand print is a kit that came from Pottery Barn Kids.  My aunt picked it up at a yard sale and gave it to us.  It came with 2 frames and the mats have ages printed on them--Newborn, 6 months, 1 year.  PB doesn't carry this same one anymore.  It could be easily replicated with frames from any store and some mat from a craft store.


  •  Judah loves his WubbaNub. That little paci creature has been awesome.  The paci doesn't bounce when it falls (so it doesn't disappear), it's easy for little hands to hold onto and when he was teeny tiny the weight of the animal helped the paci stay in his mouth while he slept.  You can find them in several stores and online.  They're worth the $13.
  • We have 3 crib sheets.  Two were from when Nora was a baby and the 3rd I bought at a resale shop.  I'm a little weird about secondhand bedding and trust me, I washed and dried the crap outta that 3rd sheet the second I brought it home.  If you're not into secondhand bedding, watch the sales.  Again, the clearance section at Babies R Us is sometimes great, Amazon, and my Aunt scored crib sheets on clearance for less than $2 at JCP a while back.  This is another product that Once Upon A Child ALWAYS has brand new, in the package.  That sheet is not going to make or break your nursery.  Please don't spend $30 on it.


  •  This cute little worm was also from Zach's childhood nursery/bedroom.  It would be a super easy DIY.

  So there you have it: an almost-neutral-nursery on a shoestring budget.  My biggest suggestion is to get an idea of what you want and start shopping early so you have time to shop around (especially if you don't thrift). Thrift, shop secondhand, accept hand-me-downs, repurpose what you already have, use some childhood mementos, DIY.

The nursery is a room that can quickly become like a wedding: having concrete plans for each item that you won't budge on is just going to cost you a bunch of money that you don't need to spend and often won't matter later.  Look for inspiration (or Pinspiration!), don't try to replicate someone else's room.  For some more ideas like these, here's a link to my Pinterest: check out the boards "Nora" (girl ideas), "Judah" (boy ideas), "Kids' Room Ideas" and "Nursery Ideas".

7.29.2014

Start Now

I was having a text conversation with one of our students the other night and I confessed something to her that I have not told anyone.


I have a regret.


I know, it's not cool to have regrets.  Just look at Pinterest.  It'll tell you so.


But I do.  And what is it?


I wish I would have started sooner.


I wish I would have started working with youth sooner...
...taking piano seriously sooner...
...worked with missions...
...searched out opportunities to answer the tugs God put on my heart at the moment they were placed there.


Some things I can start working at today.  Other opportunities are altered forever.  Still others have passed me by entirely.


So I implore you, I beg you...no matter what your age.  If you're 15 or 30 or 50.  START TODAY.


Put hands and feet to the things God is calling you to.  Find opportunities to use and follow your passions.  Don't be afraid to start something.  To move away.  To apply for programs or internships.  To work for a nonprofit. 


Two things have made me really face this recently. 
1.  In the first sermon in the "Meaning from Memes" series at FCC, Dallas said his dad told him he wished he'd "done less for my family and more for Jesus". 
2.  This brilliant "Liking isn't helping" campaign for Crisis Relief Singapore


If you want to see human trafficking stop in your lifetime, find an organization who is doing something about it and go work there.  Volunteer there.  Support them financially.


If you care about the homeless, find a shelter where you can work. 


If you want to lead worship, find a church with a worship leader and apply for an internship...or ask if you can shadow.


God called people at all ages.  Samuel was a child.  David and Mary were little more than children.  Timothy was young.  Abraham received his promise in old age.  Moses was something like 500 years old when he built the ark. 


You can be part of something amazing and you can do it now.  So do.


Matthew 28:18-20


and


Oceans (Hillsong United)
"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters
wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my strength could ever wander
and my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior."



6.18.2014

Threes

I have heard that having a three year old is terrible. That the threes put "terrible twos" to shame. And sometimes that's true. 

My Mom, however, in her infinite wisdom (seriously, she has never been wrong!), told me three is the best.  She was right, too.

Ever since turning 3 Nora has been astounding me daily. Her comprehension of things in life and in make believe is growing, her capacity for emotional connection and compassion is expanding in breadth and depth daily.

This week is VBS for us. We are doing Group's Weird Animals. The mission for the week is Operation Kid-to-Kid, working to bring clean water to over a billion kids in India who lack safe drinking water. 

Tonight during bedtime Nora and I were talking about VBS.  I asked if she saw the kids giving their money and if she knew what that money was going to buy. She didn't. So I told her that lots of kids just like her far away in India have water that makes them sick. She said, "oh, that's not good". I told her the money at VBS is going to buy clean, healthy water for those kids. I asked her if we should give some money tomorrow at VBS. She said yes. She asked where she could find some money to give and I told her we could look in her piggy bank. She enthusiastically looked at the coins that tumbled out of the bank and counted out just the right ones to give tomorrow. 

Then we prayed. We put our hands together on the coins and I prayed. When it was Nora's turn she hesitated. I asked if she wanted me to say some words and she repeat them. She told me no, she can do it herself. Then she prayed.

Folks, she did not pray eloquently with fancy words or even with complete sentences. But she prayed with the words she had. She thanked God for making her and making the kids in India. She prayed that her money would help kids not get sick and she thanked Him for Jesus who loves us. 

My eyes filled with tears. This is why three is the best.  I'm not just proud of her, I also feel there's lessons to learn here. 

If you're not praying because you feel your words are inadequate, start praying today. I wish you could have heard Nora pray. You didn't have to understand every word to understand the sincerity of them. 

If you're not parenting your child to love God and love others because you feel they don't understand, start today. 

I can't wait to continue to watch her grow and love God more. 

1.23.2014

2014 Goals and Resolutions (Part 1)


Ok, folks.  New Year’s Resolutions.  Wowza.  I made a very extensive list of goals for 2014 and was very excited about it—I even started a couple of them early.  But as I began to really work on my goals I discovered something: it’s going to be tough this year.  I’ve got several goals that require planning and preparation and several that require…Time Management.  Dun, dun, duuuuuunnnnnnnn!!!!  Ugh.  If there is one thing that I am terrible at (and have always been terrible at) it is time management.

I’m not going to put my full list of goals and resolutions in this post, but here are the tough ones.

1. Pay off Zach’s student loan.  This goal won’t crush us financially, but it won’t be easy, either.  Thankfully this action plan was easy to make and I’ve already figured up how much we need to pay each month to make it happen by the end of 2014…and it’s probably going to take till the end of 2014.  But when it’s all paid, it will be paid off about 2.5 years early!
 
2. Become more reliable.  I’ve never been the least flaky person you’ve ever met, but ever since having Judah my memory is jello and I have found myself to be even less reliable than before!  So I’m trying to use my appointment calendar for everything meeting/event-wise.  Here is my first time management challenge, too.  I am using the calendar so I can see what’s happening in the next several days and then I have to manage my time and prioritize my to-do list to make sure the appropriate things get finished for each meeting/event.  For example, I might remember that I have Bible Study, but I might not remember that I was bringing snack (I’ve already signed up for snack at Ladies’ Bible Study to take a baby step toward achieving this goal).  I also could stand to be a little more punctual…not like first person at an event punctual, but at least not abhorrently late.

3. Read 1 novel and 1 other book.  I’ve got an ebook from the library that I have read the first sentence of.  It’s “Looking for Alaska” by John Green.  I have recently become a fan of the Green brothers via YouTube and decided I would give one of John’s novels a try.  Now I need the time management skills to actually end up with time to read it.

4. Be a better house keeper.  Don’t get me wrong…you’re not going to sit on a dirty toilet or sleep on dirty sheets at my house.  But you probably will see laundry piled somewhere (clean and/or dirty) and dishes in the sink.  And clutter.  Now, I’m not looking to make my house a museum—that wouldn’t suit us at all—but I’d like to not have to scramble to get the house semi-presentable when someone is coming over or clean for days before someone comes to stay with us.  When we bought this house we wanted our home and prayed that our home would be a haven for friends, family and strangers.  We want to share our home with others frequently and in the current state of housekeeping we can’t do that.  So in accordance with consecrating this home to the Lord, I need to become a better house keeper.  I thought I was in good shape on this because I found a cleaning schedule that I thought seemed reasonable.  I started trying it and discovered that my options were to meet my cleaning goals or spend time with my kids and I couldn’t do both.  So I lamented over this and then got frustrated and then angry about it and then curious as to how others do it.  And then I came to terms with the big, fat elephant in the room of my life: time management.  I can easily meet my cooking and cleaning goals with a little planning ahead and choosing to prioritize my home over my desire to watch something on TV, nap, or piddle around on my iPad.  Proverbs 31 says (a lot of things that apply here, but this sums it up) in verse 17 & 27: “She sets about her work vigorously…She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness”.  Oh, wife of noble character, you convict me every time!  I also read this blog post recently that really, really spoke to me: “ISigned Up For This”.  I won’t elaborate on it, just go at least skim over it. 
I’ll wait…………………………........................................................................................................OK.

Those are the really tough ones for me personally.  I’ll probably be back with the full list later (without long explanations).  Blogging has been tough for me since the New Year because…time management.  Whenever I feel like blogging there’s always something more important to do.  Hopefully as my resolutions become habits I’ll be able to blog more frequently.  I’m a work in progress, that’s for sure!

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?  Goals for 2014?  What are they?  Do you set goals frequently?  Once a year?  Maybe on your birthday or anniversary?  Tell me about your goal-setting habits!

12.09.2013

2013 Resolution Review

We've got just a bit over 3 weeks till the new year.  Can you believe it?  If you don't know already, I am passionate about New Year's Resolutions.  I feel like it's just a good idea to start out each new year by assessing where you've been, where you can improve and setting some goals. 

If you've never set New Year's Resolutions or you've never been successful at them, check out my Top 10 Resolution Setting Tips.

But before I finalize my goals for 2014, I want to assess my 2013 goals and how I did.

1. Read the Bible more & build my faith/relationship with Him: I made progress, so I guess this one gets the green light as complete.

2. Reduce screen time : Epic fail.  I don't think this will be on my list in the same format as last year, but I am hoping some of my other resolutions will help me reach this goal.

3. Have a healthy pregnancy: WooHoo!  Success!  I gained a healthy (but less-than-with-Nora) 25 pounds, didn't eat my weight in junk food (at least not every day) and carried to 40 weeks.

4. Have a healthy post-pregnancy: So far, so good!  I've lost all my pregnancy weight and a few more pounds, leaving me hovering right around my pre-pregnancy weight with Nora.  I managed not to get the baby blues so severely as I did with Nora.  I reached out for help with nursing during those tough early weeks and now nursing is going swimmingly.  Checks in all the mini-goal boxes for this one.

5. Give more gifts: This is an example of didn't-make-an-action-plan-so-I-forgot-about-it.  It may or may not make the list this year in some form.

6. Save Money: Check!  We both cut expenses and put some money away this year.  It wasn't a ton, but enough to call it a success.  Now we just need to make this a lifestyle.

7. Make Action Plans: I didn't follow my own advice!  My goals for 2013 weren't really too lofty, so I was able to reach several without the action plan. You'll see that the ones that were at the forefront of my mind were reached and the ones that weren't...weren't.  It's hard to forget you're pregnant (or have a newborn), we took a financial class in 2013 and my husband is a Pastor.  So it's clear which ones were easy to remember and which ones weren't.  This one goes back on the list this year.

Now's the time to get your thinking caps on for your 2014 goals! 
If you'd like, you can go back and see what made my list for 2012 and the full explanation of my 2013 goals.

12.02.2013

Ugly Honesty and a Little Redemption

Tonight it happened. I was putting the kids to bed and was just at the end of my emotional rope. I felt as if the dog barked at one more thing, if Nora said, "Mama" one more time, if Judah cried for one more minute, that I would just calmly walk out the door and go. Somewhere. Anywhere. It was ugly. I was ugly inside.  

As I sat there nursing Judah, hoping against hope that he wouldn't wake and cry when I laid him down and wishing Nora could just put herself to bed, I prayed. I prayed that God would redeem parenting for me. 

I left Judah crying while I helped Nora get ready for bed, even though I've tried not to leave him to cry at night. And Nora got her Bible story and prayers, but no extra frills at bedtime; even though there's this inspiring blog post being shared all over about how "sometimes bedtime takes forever (and it should)", this Mama's love always stretches to forever, but sometimes her kindness doesn't.  

The crying subsided and even though the dog still barked and I still heard my name at least 10 more times, I didn't walk out the door.  And at first I heard nothing in response to my request about redemption. So I headed to the only place that made sense. The Bible. I looked up some passages about parents and children. And felt discouraged.

I always think of redemption as God taking something that was His that sin made ugly and making it what He intended it to be again. I can think of at least three times that redemption has been mentioned in this context in the past several weeks during sermons: redeeming marriage, redeeming singleness, redeeming gender roles. These have all been nice, easy concepts of redemption for me. Like when God redeems us from sin, these three have been taking something stressful and messy and made it better. Made it easier, gave relief, gave peace. 

Redeemed parenting? It wasn't shaping up to be so nice, easy, clean, or relieving. I was hoping for a nice metaphor. I was hoping for lots of passages saying things like, "children are a gift" or "being a parent is a joy"...at least then all I'd have to do is grapple with how to get my emotions to reflect what the Bible said. 

But God doesn't deal so much in emotions as He does truth.

The truth that I kept coming across was that passive parenting is not what God intended. I found time and time again a charge for parents to pass the scriptures and the testimonies of what God has done in their lives down to their children. I found Hannah who prayed so hard for a child that Eli thought she was drunk and when she received him she dedicated him back to The Lord. I turned to that darn Proverbs 31 woman (who I often feel I hold so little in common with--especially tonight) and found that she actively worked hard to provide for her children and they called her blessed. I found that she had "faithful instruction on her tongue". I found that parenting is hard. 

I began to think God was telling me my picture of redemption was skewed. This is what I found when I started digging a little: 

"The most common definition provided for the word redemption is to buy back. However, in studying the use of this word in scripture, this simplified definition is found lacking. While it does provide a nice simple definition for many instances of scriptural redemption, it does not adequately define the word as used in the most significant biblical redemptions. A more accurate definition of redemption, as used in scripture, would be to justly bring about the end of a covenant of bondage by which someone or something belonging to God is being held captive." (http://josephjpote.com/what-is-redemption/)

So the thing in captivity which is God's is my parenting and my children. What, then, is the bondage?Our pastor mentioned a few weeks back how what the world advertises as freedom is often slavery.  What am I being told in the parenting world is freedom for my children?  The thing that has come to me strongly is this: freedom of choice. It starts early and only escalates as they grow. 

"Susie didn't want bedtime prayers tonight, so in order not to spoil them/poison her against them, I didn't force the issue."

"Johnny chooses to play 4 sports, be in band, take private music lessons, dance classes and be a Boy Scouts."

"Jane is too old for me to be approving what she wears."

"Chris didn't want to come to church/Sunday School/Youth Group today. I can't make him, it's really his choice."

Then we sit back and wonder how the next generation's morals, values and priorities got all mixed up. Look back at that definition of redemption. Buy. Bring about. Verbs. Action. Passive parenting is creating a prison for our children. Our choice not to set a standard or expectations makes our parenting a covenant of bondage with our children. 

God then directed my thoughts back to the few passages I did find about children being a gift and  to parables like the talents and those beautiful metaphors I was looking for like gold being made perfect in the refiner's fire. God has lent us His children here on earth. Our sweet little ones are but borrowed. What will we do to improve them while they are in our charge until God comes back for us or for them?

We must choose action. 

We must set an example of a heart that loves God and pursues His heart.

We must offer guidance and that faithful instruction mentioned in Proverbs 31. 

A diamond in the rough does not become a sparkling gemstone without shaping, gold does not become beautiful without refining. 

We must choose discipline for ourselves. To commit to redeemed parenting. 

We must pray hard for our children. Hard like Hannah. 

We must dedicate them to The Lord. 

No. I did not find a nice, easy, comforting lesson tonight. But I did find peace.  Parenting is tough, but the redemption is mine to receive, not to create. I am not the redeemer, I am the redeemed.  The freedom for me tonight in my moment of ugly is knowing I don't walk this path without the Wonderful Counsellor by my side giving me faithful instruction so I can make the right choices.

Thank you, God, for answering my call tonight, even though you answered it much differently than I expected.