Life & Love With Little Children

Jeremiah and I never used to frequent cafeterias until we had kids. At the cafeteria we ate at a few nights ago, balloons strung from the wooden highchairs, the food selection and presentation was outstanding, and an old lady played the piano in the background.

When we got settled into our table, John and Rebekah were fidgety. When they got their food, it took a while for them to really crave it. But with much prodding, they eventually started to eat. Within ten minutes, Rebekah was screaming to get out of her highchair and she fussed and fussed and fussed.

The old man eating with his wife at the table behind us kept turning his head around to see our little family. He smiled at us and I imagined that he raised toddlers once too. I tried to quiet my baby girl down and make her happy.

The old man kept smiling so I figured he was okay with the noise. Jeremiah sat with his work scrubs on. He had strokes of white paint all over him from working on our new house. He almost didn’t want to come in because he felt so filthy, but I persuaded him that we had to eat and he needed a break from all our house work.

We gobbled up the rest of our food before any big meltdowns occurred. I held John’s hand out the door- his little finger was wrapped up in the balloon string. Jeremiah put Rebekah on his shoulders and we headed to our van.

This is life as we know it, I thought.

I was with my best friend, lover, and husband of 6 1/2 years along with my 17 month old daughter and 3 1/2 year old son. And in just over 2 months, we would welcome the latest addition to our family.

I thought about how life has changed dramatically since the day we said “I do.” Having children has changed our world in so many ways. Life is busy, chaotic, messy, surprising, beautiful, humorous, joyful, difficult, demanding, exciting, exhausting, rewarding and abundant. Such a paradox.

And well… life has never actually been what it once was. But it’s so good.

God has used our children to change us for the better and to help us see the worse areas that need refining. We realize that there is something bigger we must invest in beyond “just us” and that makes our relationship deeper. We acknowledge that our marriage is the priority and must be cultivated everyday.

“Are we growing old together?” Jeremiah asked while we drove down the road, trying to talk over the two busy bodies giggling in the back seat.

I thought about his question earnestly. My mind raced back to our “single” days- married without kids.

“Yep, we are. We’re living out our dreams, babe,” I smiled.

A beautiful peace and contentment swept over my heart, erasing any doubts, fears, or worries. We were right where God created us to be.


Depending on Grace in Motherhood

My kids and I had just settled in at the park. The sky was bright blue. The breeze was gentle. I picked up my 17 month old daughter and inched her little legs into the holes of the swing. My three year old son was off doing his own thing on the slides.

The mom next to me was pushing her little boy in his swing. She looked a few years older than me and had long blonde hair and a nice smile.

“I can’t believe you’re going to have another one!” she said to initiate conversation.

Oh, here we go again, I thought.

I had heard this a few times before from other people (who I didn’t know. in the public setting). It agitated me but I tried my best to be nice.

“Yep, it will be a lot as they are all close in age,” I replied.

I talked a little bit about the challenges I knew I would face as a mom of three young children. And that yes, it seems crazy. Then I switched the subject and asked her questions. She was happy to tell me about her kids and how she could never have them so close in age. And I understood her completely.

But what that mom didn’t know about me was that I have huge fears and worries when it comes to welcoming our third baby in June. I had a rough transition from 1 to 2 kids and being that this baby will only be 20 months apart from my youngest, brings a lot of what if’s in my head. I’m scared of what the “balance” will look like.

How will I handle three meltdowns? Three whines for Mommy? Three hands pulling on my legs? Three bedtimes? And going out in public with three all at once? Do I even know what I am getting myself into?

In the past few months, God has really been working on me in this area of my life. If you can’t already tell! I adore my children. I love investing in them and wouldn’t want anything else in the world. God has entrusted them to me and I consider that a huge honor and great responsibility.

But I also have my days. I’m not the most patient person. I struggle with anger. I’m not a good multi-tasker. And being a stay-at-home mom around the clock has been exhausting at times. Much harder than I could imagine.

And then the same word that came to mind when I was at the park, as if to write itself across that blue sky, came yet again.

GRACE. God has brought me this far in motherhood, how could He leave me now? He has been my sustainer on the days I couldn’t go on anymore. Those days where sleep deprivation gets the best of you and you feel like you’re going crazy.

Somehow and some way, He has always carried me through even when I didn’t deserve it. His grace has helped me live in the Spirit and love my children well, reminding me that what I do in the daily, messy grind isn’t in vain. And that being at home is the greatest gift I can give them. His grace reminds me that I simply can’t do anything in my own strength.

Will His grace continue on, and on, and on? It always has. And it always will.

My prayer is that I will lean into grace all the more as I approach delivery and the days and months after. My prayer is that I will stop worrying so much about the opinions of others and trust in God’s plan for my life and my family, being confident that His grace is always available to hold onto.

The Stuff That Satisfies (Hint: It’s Not Stuff)

photo: G&B's Art Gallery

Downtown Dallas sits proudly right outside our window. Every morning, I look forward to opening the blinds and watching the sun rise over the skyscrapers. We’re among a few of our friends who have a stunning view in seminary housing. We feel pretty blessed to live in an apartment that people typically pay big bucks for.

But don’t be fooled. On a tight seminary budget we aren’t rolling in the dough by any means!

And that’s just where my heart often longs for more especially since the discipline of being frugal can get old. While all my needs are being met in addition to my wants and then some, the sinful part of me believes that stuff will satisfy my deepest longings. And I’m not just talking about the “big” stuff. The silly, little stuff too.

God desires to bless me and to give me good things but it’s the coveting, obsession, mismanaging, greed, lack of contentment and making comparisons that are like poison to the soul.

True life and contentment can only be found in a person and that person is Jesus. Life cannot be found in material possessions or gadgets or other goodies. I’ve looked and I just can’t seem to find it. Life just doesn’t exist there.

I don’t need to worry about the stuff that will fill up my life on a daily basis either. As always, Jesus has a way of gently shooting straight to the core:

Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, yet they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! – Luke 12:24

Will God take care of me and even give me my deepest desires? Certainly. They might look different than what I thought but he promises to provide for me. And a raven… A bird that isn’t attractive or special… God has his eye on and cares for.

God is much more concerned about the details of my life than a raven.

He knows about the stuff I long, but he wants me to learn to lean on Him before I try to put my trust in things that have the potential to greatly disappoint and that aren’t eternal.

Even though our budget might not look like anyone else’s right now, the truth is that I have more than I could ever imagine materially and spiritually. Above all, I have Jesus, my ultimate joy and satisfaction in life. And He is enough.

Do you ever long for more stuff? Is there anything stealing your satisfaction in Christ?

Running for Life [abundantly]

I want to really live in 2011, but sometimes I fear the unknown and I fear failure.

I’m still on vacation at my parents place, and this morning I went on a run for the second time this week. It had been over a year since I ran last. In the first 15 minutes of my run, I felt stronger and my pace was faster than it was on Monday. I barely had to stop and walk. I didn’t look at the time to see if I was almost done. I just savored the feeling of sweat again, my surroundings and my worship music on Pandora.

Then I thought about the fears I had: Can I really run again and run well? Can I really drop the 10 lbs. of baby weight that’s lingering? I wasn’t sure if I had it in me.

On my way back home, the wind blew harder against my face and my feet ached. I had to walk again. I looked over at the golf course to my right and the landscape was brown- not a pretty bright green as I thought it should be. I thought about how I didn’t want my life to be dormant and drab like that green. I wanted my life to be alive and vibrant. A life that bears much fruit.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

Then I thought about my fears again. Fear and the worries of this world tend to choke the life out of me. And the Enemy wants exactly that. But Jesus came so I would live life to its fullest.

In 2011, I want to take the first steps required for me to live more fully in my relationship with Christ. It might mean getting up early before the babies are awake to be in the Word. Or praying more through out the day. Or having self-control and resisting the urge to get angry at my toddler or impatient with my husband. Or embracing where I am right now and complaining less. Or going out of my way to love and invest radically in someone who is different than me. It might mean dreaming God-sized dreams.

I’m not sure, but I know I need to live more. I know that I haven’t fully embraced the abundant life that God has for me.

Well, after walking those few minutes in my run, I picked up my pace again. My parents’ house was in the distance and I started sprinting towards it, knowing there was no other choice but to run again.

My first white hair: thoughts on being 27

This past weekend, while Jeremiah and I were talking in bed, I thought my life was just about over. As we were engaging in meaningful conversation, he blurts out and says, “Honey, you have a white hair!”

I look at him like he’s crazy. Why did he have to tell me that? My husband loves to play and joke and sometimes it’s just not funny.

“Oh, let me get it!” he says.

He pulls the white hair out and I look at it: “It’s blonde! Not white!”

“Look at it again. It’s not blonde,” he says.

I moved it around for the light to catch it at different angles. I studied it for a bit. “Okay… it is white. Ughh. I can’t believe how old I’m getting! That makes me so sad.”

“Oh everyone gets a white hair once in while no matter how old you are. It’s okay babe, you’re beautiful,” he says.
………..
Well I’m not sure it’s been “okay” with me lately. A lot of my friends and myself included are in the stage of growing our families. I think just about every facebook profile pic I see has a sonogram on it (and it’s awesome). I’ve been told by acquaintances that I look like I “have it all together” now that I have a child (really? Hmm). Jeremiah and I looked at some pictures when we were first dating and we look like babies (that was 6 years ago). Now, he’s 30 and I’m 27. And to top it off, my 10 year high school reunion is this year.

Everything is just happening so fast.Where does time go? And will it really be okay as I age?

I’ve had these thoughts way before the white hair episode and I’m still trying to figure out how I can best give God my worry about growing older. But I’ve been encouraged by these verses:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matt. 6:25-26

There’s so much wisdom here because God knows the natural tendency for us is to worry… what’s for lunch, what to wear, where the money will come from, who we’ll marry, who our kids will marry… Things that are not even here yet.

Life itself, however, is more valuable than anything else. God sustains us and gives us the ability to experience life to its absolute fullest: to feel the sunshine, laugh over meals, write out words, engage in meaningful relationships, drink a warm cup coffee, share his truth with others, know him through his Word, and feel our very own breath. As his children, he cares deeply for us and for our concerns. And he wants us to depend on his daily provision, not what we plan for ourselves.

I think he understands my struggles in facing the fact that life just happens and we grow older. But I think he might also wants me to realize that the best is yet to come because he’s on my side and no matter if I grow weaker or my looks change a little, what ultimately matters is the life change that happens in my heart as the days get faster.

If I do end up finding a white hair again and I (or Jeremiah) probably will, I told God that I’m going to thank him that I even have a head of hair.

life without fear?

29_NewsPGMPHovIn less than one month, my brother-in-law Paul who is a Navy Chaplain will get on a plane and head to Afghanistan to serve our country. He will say goodbye to my sister and four-year-old nephew for six whole months. Because of what’s going on over there, I have my share of worries and fears when it comes to Paul’s safety and God’s sovereignty.

But I’ve been encouraged today in reading Chapter 1 of Max Lucado’s new book Fearless. I downloaded the PDF off of The Fearless Times, a site that’s all about the book and is a great marketing tool for it.

In almost 25 years of writing, more than 65 million books filled with Max Lucado’s words have been sold. Max is so gifted when it comes to words that you’d think he was Jesus. But he’s not. He’s a human being with fears just like you and me.

Here are some of my favorite lines from Ch. 1 that I hope will tease you into heading over there and reading it for yourself:

“Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.”

“Christ-followers contract malaria, bury children, and battle addictions, and, as a result, face fears. It’s not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It’s whom we discover in the storm; an unstirred Christ.”

“Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. We begin to wonder if love lives in heaven. If God can sleep in our storms, if his eyes stay shut when our eyes grow wide, if he permits storms after we get on his boat, does he care? Fear unleashes a swarm of doubts, anger-stirring doubts.”

“And fear feels dreadful. It sucks the life out of the soul, curls us into an embryonic state, and drains us dry of contentment. We become abandoned barns, rickety and tilting from the winds, a place where humanity used to eat, thrive, and find warmth. No longer. When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.”

“If we medicate fear with angry outbursts, drinking binges, sullen withdrawals, self-starvation, or viselike control, we exclude God from the solution and exacerbate the problem. We subject ourselves to a position of fear, allowing anxiety to dominate and define our lives. Joy-sapping worries. Day-numbing dread. Repeated bouts of insecurity that petrify and paralyze us. Hysteria is not from God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have always loved 2 Timothy 1:7 in that fear is not from God. Fear can make us do all kinds of crazy things.

As we get closer to Paul’s deployment, I know that God wants me to continue to trust that he’s in control and he’s directing Paul’s path no matter where he goes. The issue isn’t really about Paul going to a dangerous place, but whether I will trust and have faith in God that He is good and is sovereign over everything in life.

Don’t Be Afraid

FearlessHB_LThe economy, global warming, finances, job losses, health care, swine flu… Behind these issues often comes the word FEAR. A lot of us are living lives in fear and can’t seem to tackle it. I’ve definitely had fears and struggles when it comes to those things.

But God has been showing me more of his love lately and it’s been casting shadows on the fears I’ve had inside. When I go to his word, I’m strengthened because he addresses my very fears (amazing how He knows them all) and gives me such indescribable love and peace.

1 John 4:18 says it beautifully: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I love how John says that perfect love drives out fear. If we live lives constantly overwhelmed by fear, we’ll never have the life God wants for us. We’ll never experience the depths of his love. Our goal is to be made perfect in love, and not fear. The way to do this is to cast our cares, worries, and concerns upon Him. To literally throw them on him. And he will take care of our burdens for us.

A few months back, I had the opportunity to meet mega bestselling author and master storyteller, Max Lucado. I absolutely loved meeting him and talking with him for a little bit. He just had this great peace about him. You just wanted to be around him. He barely answered the questions I had for him. He just wanted to know more about me and my family and what I did.

My work was interviewing him for some small group training videos to help leaders across the country. We asked him some questions about fear, keeping in mind he was writing a book called Fearless. Max’s clip has been edited and you can check it out here at SmallGroupExchange.com.

If fear is something you really struggle with, in addition to finding all you will ever need in God’s word, be sure to pre-order Max’s book to get another glimpse on the topic of fear.

Monday Wake-up Call

This past Monday, I went to bed consumed by fear, worry, and anxiety. It all started when a few coworkers of mine were briefly talking about the potential Health Care plan and its implications on our insurance and America as a whole. After we talked, my thoughts just began to snowball into thinking about the crazy czar’s that Obama is surrounding himself with (Just check out GlennBeck.com), communism, socialism, a one world economy, end times, the anti-Christ, the rapture, and wondering if a New World Order is coming? I know it sounds crazy. And I’m really not I promise.

Everything just kind of got to me that day. I acted differently around Jeremiah. I laid down with a headache and woke up with one. But on Tuesday, something changed.

I realized I had been a little ignorant of what’s been going in our world. Maybe for a reason because turning on the news can be depressing. But I realized that I was letting all those things affect me so much as if I had never heard about them. As if I had no hope. I was encouraged by a friend to be more aware of what’s going on. To be educated. And most of all- TO WAKE UP! to the crisis that we’re really in as a nation.

So… my goal this month is to be more informed but not to be so affected that I’m not the person I want to be. To worry a little less and trust that whatever the next few years hold for our country, that God is moving at the same time- somehow, some way. Even though evil is clearly and tangibly at work, Good is right there with it. His plan is unfolding and if anything, we’re getting a little bit closer to His return…

So if that’s the case and His return is in fact near, then I need to get back to work and start focusing on eternal things.

Orange Air & Anxious Thoughts

APW_orangeA lot of mornings in Dallas, there are what you call “orange air pollution” watches. I saw one on the marquees driving down the interstate this morning. I was also notified via radio. I can’t quite figure out what action they want me to take when they tell me about this orange air. Do they want me to turn around and carpool with someone last minute? Am I supposed to hide inside all day, in hopes that my respiratory system won’t be exposed? Do I need to text all my friends and tell them to stay inside? If anything, all these watches do is make me worry instead of take caution.

I got an email from a friend yesterday. She shared some of her struggles with having a “controlling, anxious personality.” I struck a chord with that. I battle anxious thoughts every day: Will I get sleep tonight? Will my brother in law be okay when he deploys to Afghanistan in a few months? Am I communicating well in my marriage? Is America going to recover from the current condition we’re in and are we really protecting ourselves well from terrorism?  And then it’s the more simple things like What will I eat next? Am I staying healthy? Will I survive my 15k tomorrow? Will I make it to that appointment on time?

God knew that we would be people of worry and he knew it would be one of my main struggles. He knew that I would have to refer back to this verse 10,000 times to remind myself: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-8).

So what’s the solution to worry and anxious thoughts? PRAY. Petition. Be thankful. Present all your concerns to God- yes that means your laundry list. But make sure you LISTEN. Complain to him. Talk to him. Believe in him. Depend on him. Have faith that he will answer. Rely on truth that he deeply cares about what you think. Stand firm in his power to give you strength to endure this life. SURRENDER.

Then what? His peace will consume you and guard your life. You won’t be able to explain it because it transcends human comprehension. Your anxious thoughts will be turned into thoughts of trusting in someone Greater.

So, what do you need to give Him today? Do you trust that he will carry whatever burdens you have?

Well I guess the next time I see “Air Pollution: Orange” I’ll be reminded that God is in control, even when we do stupid things to our environment.

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