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Thursday, December 30, 2010

5 years into "Happily Ever After"

Fourteen years ago I sat in 8th grade Algebra with this shy guy whom I never talked to. Eleven years ago, as a Junior in high school, I became good friends with him in French class. Ten years ago, I began trying to find a girl for him because he was "just such a great guy." Seven years ago, I began hoping maybe I could be that girl. Five years ago today, I married him. Matt and I celebrate our 5th anniversary today and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for this man. I figured that when I went to a ministry minded college, I'd find someone there that I would connect with and marry. I was SHOCKED when God had other plans and led me right back to my hometown to a guy that I'd known for years. NOT what I had planned, but I'm so glad that it's what HE planned. There were a lot of things that I knew and didn't know about Matt when I married him 5 years ago. I did know that we connected in so many ways. Yes, we're normal and we argue. I'm not sure if God could have put two more stubborn people together, but fortunately for us, we see eye to eye on so many issues, that our arguments usually end up being about stupid things. A recent example is during our Christmas decorating we had a knock down, drag out about which topper would go on the tree (angel- his preference or star- mine) and where exactly the nativity and Christmas houses should go. Life changing decisions, people. In the end, we got over it peacefully and moved on. Although I don't like that we disagree at all, I'm thankful that it's over things like that and not how to raise our children, spend our money or issues of our faith. He is truly, 100% my best friend in the whole world and I don't know what I'd do without him. I also knew that he was a godly man. I like almost everyone, but there are few people that I connect with on a deeper, more satisfying level. I am so thankful that my husband is one of those people. He challenges me and encourages me. When I'm wondering about something from Scripture, he can often give me an answer off the top of his head. While I was in college reading theology as my textbooks, he would borrow them and read them so that we could talk about them. The main difference now: He's a genius and can remember many details from those books we read and all of that has become painfully fuzzy for me. He's my walking biblical reference who not only KNOWS his stuff, but puts it into practice. I knew that he was good with money. People kid that he's tight, but I am SO thankful that he's a "budgeter." He has kept us on track financially and made what he brings home enough to provide comfortably for his family so that I can stay home with the boys. And honestly, though he rarely spends money on a whim, he is very generous and I get to see first hand his heart and priorities as his master-mind creates formulas and spread sheets to keep it all organized. As much as I knew about him, there were a lot of things I was about to learn. I learned that he is awesome at loving me as Christ loves the church. I tend to be a little bratty and don't like to admit when I'm wrong. When we do have arguments, this can make them difficult to resolve. Time and time and time again, he's stepped up, swallowed his pride and shown me love and grace to bring peace back into our home. He sincerely puts me first. And Ladies, don't be jealous, but my man helps me keep the house clean, do laundry and helps keep this place (somewhat) organized. AND he doesn't do it because I ask him to or because he's trying to make me feel bad. He just helps, no strings attached. He treats me as a beloved bride that he enjoys doing things with and for. I never doubt his love. I learned that he is an incredible family man and father. I could not ask for a better daddy for our boys. He invests in them whole-heartedly and comes home with a fresh burst of energy to get us through the night when I'm all "played out." He gives them a great example of how to treat a woman and leads our family through his example and words. He makes work a priority, but he never puts it before us. I never knew how much I wanted a family man until I found out I married one. I learned that I got a much better man than I thought I did back in 2005. I knew I had done well, but I did much better than that! I am so grateful to be married to someone that I still count down the minutes until he gets home from work. Someone that I can's sleep well without on the rare occasion that he's out of town. Someone who still gives me goosebumps all over when he kisses me soft and slow. I love you, Matthew Steven Miller and I am so glad I get to spend the rest of my life with you!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays and Merry X-mas!

If you read my last post on Christmas traditions, then you know that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Christmas! So I've been thinking about a couple of popular Christian topics around this time of year and thought I would share some thoughts on the issues and maybe offer a little bit of a history lesson. Our pastor is one of the best preachers I've ever sat under and it seems like he's always got an aside in his sermon that is more profound that many pastors' main points. Seriously. He's that good. Anyway, a couple years ago he made a comment about all the commotion that's been raised in the recent past about being politically correct around Christmastime. "Merry Christmas" has turned into "Happy Holidays" with a lot of businesses and on Greeting Cards and in songs so as not to offend those who don't celebrate Christmas and to encompass those who celebrate other religious holidays. I'm very used to hearing Christians grumble about this and take offense, but he didn't. In fact, he said something along the lines of, "The world isn't celebrating Christmas anyway, so why would we get mad about it? The focus on commercialism and Santa has nothing to do with the incarantion of Christ, so it really doesn't need to be called Christmas." (This is a major paraphrase people.... he's much more eloquent and I should have written it down when it said it, but I didn't.) At first it was so contrary to what I was used to hearing that I didn't absorb it right away. As I thought about it though, I became more convinced that what he said was right. Why do we (Christians) get so caught up in expecting the world to act like Christians? Why would we expect people who don't love Jesus to feel attached to the word "Christmas" and feel compelled to call what they celebrate "Christmas"? Even if they do call it "Christmas", if Christ is not involved in their celebration, then that's not really what it is they're celebrating. It's merely a pagan celebration involving fun and good will towards others, but there's nothing sacred about it. In fact, one may be able to go so far as to say that embracing what the world calls "Christmas" in many ways defames the name of Christ. His name is part of something that often has nothing to do with him. So, I've resolved that when someone tells me "Happy Holidays," I'll respond with "Merry Christmas" but I won't get mad. I'll pray that someday their vain-attempt-to-bring-true-happiness "holiday" will turn into a blessed-celebration-of -the-Word-made-flesh "Christmas." Which leads me to another hot topic. The supposed removal of Christ's name from the word Christmas, found penned as "Xmas," often gets Christians up in arms. Here's a bit of history that you might find interesting. As a child I had always heard that "Xmas" was a non-Christian's way of taking Christ's name out of Christmas. One day my Grandpa Cooper (who was a bit of a history buff) told me that "Xmas" wasn't bad and that the "X" actually stood for Christ. I found it interesting enough that I never forgot it; however, I never heard support of this statement growing up, so I became skeptical over time and assumed he must have been wrong. As a Greek student at Moody, we talked briefly about the issue and how the Greek letters "Chi" and "Rho" ("X" and "P") became a popular abbreviation for Christ because they were the first two letters in the word "Christos" or Christ. (Click the link to the article below to see pictures of how this looked) We talked about how sometimes just an "X" was used and thus the abbreviation "Xmas" came into being as a way to represent the word "Christmas" but we didn't talk about details of how that came to be. I decided to make a "tricky" Christmas quiz for our AWANA kids this year and added a question about this issue on it. I decided to do a little more research on it so that I would have clear answers if they asked any and found this explanation from Dennis Bratcher fascinating! (www.crivoice.org/symbols/xmasorigin.html) Here's the part that was new to me:

In any case, by the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with movable type. In the early days of printing, typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation "X" for the word "Christ" to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From here, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and "Xmas" became an accepted way of printing "Christmas" (along with the abbreviation Xian and Xianity). Even Webster's dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviations "Xmas" was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.

So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not an modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season. Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church. It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the Church. In fact, as in other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation "Xmas" should be pronounced "Christmas" just as if the word were written out it full, rather than saying, "exmas." Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas season.

This is just the end of the article and the whole thing is really worth reading if you want a better (much better) explanation on the other stuff. All this is not to say that there are not some who use "Xmas" as a way to avoid the name of Christ, but I find it kind of funny that if that is their intention, they are unsuccessful. :)
I especially like what Bratcher says at the end of his article and thought his encouragement to focus on more important issues of the faith during Advent were dead on. So here's to keeping the focus on Christ and not "issues."
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Having Fun Celebrating Jesus!

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Every time I think about Christmas, I can hear Andy Williams singing this song in my head. I SERIOUSLY love Christmas! Even more than birthdays. I like every part of it! I like the parties and the lights and the food and the music and the smells and the weather and the bell ringers and the presents and deep down I don't even mind all the craziness and people in the stores. I get a warm fuzzy feeling from Thanksgiving until December 25th and I LOVE it! But amidst all the hustle and bustle and fairytale feelings, it can be easy for me, even as an adult, to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. Last year Matt and I spent a lot of time talking about ways that we can make sure that even though all this other stuff is fun, Christ remains the focus in our home. Here's a few Christmas traditions we came up with or copied off of others: The day after Thanksgiving gift- We like to decorate and get all of our Christmas stuff out the day after Thanksgiving. That's when Christmas officially starts for us. One thing we decided to do is to give a collective gift to our children on that day that focuses on Christ and that they can enjoy the whole season and help them focus on him. Ideas include: books and videos about his birth, ornaments (I just saw a super cool set at Hobby Lobby today that could be used to decorate a tree in their room... maybe next year?:)), toys (Fisher Price has a toddler Nativity set), advent calendars, activities, etc. Each year that stuff comes back out and you add something else to it and the idea is that they'll be surrounded with fun things that celebrate Christ and will remind them of the meaning of Christmas when they see and play with them. Three Gifts- Several people gave us the idea of giving 3 gifts to each child to represent the 3 gifts the wise men gave to Jesus. Nothing spiritual about it, just another reminder. This year with Isaac, we got him some "smaller" gifts (puzzles, videos and board games). Because none of them were super expensive and our budget this year allowed it, we got him several of each and we're wrapping them as "themed" gifts. Silas is getting 3 "bigger" items. Santa- How can you not love that big, jolly guy? We struggled with how to allow Santa Claus to be a part of our holiday season without him stealing the show. We finally decided on stockings. We got these super cute stockings last year with Santa on them and each year on Christmas morning they will find it stuffed full of fun things from him. We really don't want to be Scrooges, but we do want to be Christ centered. Everyone has their opinions on this, but this is what we've decided for our family and I'm super excited about it. Isaac's getting some Thomas trains in his this year and I'm pretty sure he'll be more excited about those than anything else he gets. Silas, well, he's getting a rubber ducky and some socks. :) Breakfast- This year we'd like to implement a fun breakfast tradition. To minimize stress on an already crazy morning/week, I think we're going to do cinnamon rolls out of a can. When it's time to eat we'll light a candle and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. Quick and fun and one more way to bring it back around to the reason we're celebrating. Reading the Christmas story- Of course we'll be reading the story of Jesus' birth a lot over the next month, but when I was growing up, we always read the story out of Luke before we opened presents as a family. I like that idea and think we'll continue it with our family, though we may use a more toddler/baby friendly version for the next couple of years. Theme days- I'll be doing 1 or 2 themed Christmas days with Isaac to reinforce what he's been learning about the birth of Christ. So that's how we're going to try and stay focused this year and how we hope to pass down to our children the amazing Gift that was given to us by our Father at Christmas time. What are some of your traditions that help you celebrate Jesus? Does anyone have any good traditions between them and their spouse? I'm all about getting some more good ideas and tweaking or changing or adding to what we already have!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking AT the windshield instead of THROUGH it

Prayer. It's been my focus as of late. I think I may have had a mini-breakthrough. I've already lamented about how prayer has always been a struggle for me and that I've been fighting to make it a more vibrant part of my life. I recently finished up A Praying Life by Paul Miller and found it to be a fresh perspective that left me feeling hopeful that perhaps progress can be made in this area of my life. In his chapter on listening to God, Miller uses a word picture that really struck me. He was actually using it in reference to elevating an experience with God over God himself but he said, "Without realizing it, we can look at the windshield instead of through it." All at once it hit me that that's what I've been doing with prayer. I want to pray "right," so I study the topic of prayer. I read books on Scripture. I read Scripture itself. I have books that give amazing testimony to the power of prayer. I get all "motivated up" and then give it a shot. I think, "Okay, now I know what the Bible says about it and the effects it can have, so let's do this!" And I fizzle out again and come out on the other side discouraged. Okay, so then Miller talks about how a "praying life" can look and gives some practical advice to get there. He focuses on Scripture and how it is such an important part of praying. He talks about finding passages of Scripture to help you "pray biblically" about specific circumstances. Not an idea that's completely foreign to me. Then it all came together in my mind: I left Scripture alone once I learned what the Bible said about the topic. I used my intellect and my emotions, but rarely the Word of God. Sure, I occasionally prayed through a Psalm as a praise offering or lament or let a passage (such as the Lord's Prayer) guide my praying, but for the most part, Scripture was not a part of the praying process. Enter confusion. I second guess myself as I pray because I don't know whether to pray "in faith" or pray "your will be done" or give it up all together because deep down I don't believe it does anything. Doest that make sense? I'm looking AT the windshield (theology of prayer) instead of THROUGH it? I then become paralyzed by the idea of praying correctly. Aiyayay! I've seriously been doing this for years!!!! He suggests something that I've embarrassingly never even thought of. Make my "prayer list" using Scripture. Novel idea. Here's how it looks: He has an index card for specific members of his family and areas of his life (people who are suffering, friends, non-Christians, church leadership, missionaries and ministries, cultural issues, work, co-workers, repentance, hopes/dream, etc.). He considers the things they need prayer for and then finds a verse or passage in Scripture to guide his prayer for that person. Brilliant! No more second guessing! (Or at least less of it, anyway!) I think it will make more sense if you read the book or look at my cards, so I'll give some examples. Isaac, as most two year old are, is struggling with obedience and whining right now. So here's what his card says: ISAAC Obedience- "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." (Eph. 6:1) Whining- "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation..." (Phi. 2:14-15) Salvation- "For 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Rom. 10:13) These are things I am praying for Isaac right now. Instead of just praying that Isaac won't whine (which in reality would really be a prayer for me because I can't stand listening to it!!!), I can pray that he would not whine for his character's sake and for God's glory; that he would grow up to be a blameless and pure child of God even in the midst of the evil going on in the world around him. Here's a personal card with areas that I struggle with and am continually coming back to the Lord for forgiveness and help. REPENTANCE Selfishness with others (especially Matt)- "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil. 2:3-4) Laziness in household responsibilities- "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (Col. 3:23) Pride-When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Prov. 11:2) That's about all the dirty laundry that I'm willing to share, but you get the idea. I have a lot of friends from Moody who are either on the mission field or are getting ready to go and this is my prayer card for them (some names are X'ed out because they're in sensitive areas and I'm not sure that it's good to have "missionary" next to their name on a public site). MISSIONARIES XXXXXX and XXXXXX Matt and Pam XXXXXX and XXXXXX Kevin and Alyssa Nate and Kelley "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Gal. 6:9) I LOVE it. My "prayer list" items don't change much, but the WAY I pray for those things do! Such a breath of fresh air! Miller doesn't pray through every prayer card everyday and he suggests using your designated prayer time to make these cards if you don't feel you have a lot of extra time (which is what I'm trying to do). He also gives a sneak peek into his prayer life and gives a real life representation of the 20-25 min. he spent in his "set aside prayer time" and what it looked like with interruptions and all. It was encouraging to me to see a guy who takes prayer so seriously yet doesn't spend hours in a prayer closet uninterrupted before God (not that that isn't AMAZING if you do it, but not extremely practical for me right now unless I were to get up in the middle of the night.) I'll once again recommend this book. It's not perfect, but it sure is a fresh perspective and unlike any other book I've read on the subject. That's all for now. I am still very open to suggestions and would love to hear how your prayer life works. For now, I'm grateful for the mini-breakthrough and pray that the Lord continues to work on me in this area of weakness.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Noah Day

Okay, this post has been a long time coming. I did a "Noah Day" with Isaac a while back and am just now getting around to posting pictures. I must admit that it was a little harder to do it by myself and a LOT harder to get good 'in the moment' pics. These don't do it justice, but will give you an idea of what our morning looked like. All in all, it went well and we had a lot of fun. Our coffee table is becoming my new best friend. This time I turned it upside down and took advantage of it's bow-shaped legs and made it into an ark with postal paper and threw a blanket in the bottom to cover up the staples and unfinished wood. I thought it turned out pretty cute.
Silas doing his normal laid back thing.
This is the "Noah" puppet from the set I ordered a while back. He helped me read the books and tell the story and it really helped keep Isaac's attention. (P.S. I know Noah looks kinda creepy here, but I had a hard time getting him far enough away from the camera on my arm... he really is cute, I promise.)
We have the Playskool Noah's Ark set and I got an extra set of animal pairs. We dumped all the animals out on the floor and he had to find the matches and march them two by two into the ark. When I saw this picture at first I thought the animals looked way too small for our large "coffee table boat," but then I got to thinking about it and this is probably more to scale than we might inititally think. Can you imagine how large the ark must have looked in comparison to even the most giant of beasts?!?
Once they were all on, "God" shut the door and Isaac played the with the animals inside the boat for a while. He thought it was pretty cool, but the paper boat took a beating and didn't last too long after this round of fun. :)
In between each activity, we read the story of Noah's ark again. There are no shortage of children's book on this one, so I had a lot to choose from. Sometimes the puppet helped me, sometimes he didn't, but repetition is helpful and with the wide variety, Isaac stayed engaged. Next we moved on to making a lion mask. I cut out the pattern beforehand and he simply colored it and then we stapled on the "Stretch Magic" string.
He got creative and colored with two crayons at once. :)
Lest you think the morning was all fun and games, here's proof that it was not. He screamed his head off when I put the mask on him. He is not a fan of things on his head or face...
We also made an elephant finger puppet where your finger acts as a trunk. I thought it was so cute and it suited him a little better. :)
We told the story again using a paper dove and a branch from a tree in our backyard. There are so many fun things you can focus on in the story. (As well as some not fun things.... like God in his wrath wiping out everything on earth save those people and animals on the ark... but we didn't focus on that this time... ;) My pastor jokes about how people decorate their nursery in Noah's ark, not thinking about what a sobering story it truly is in many ways.) Moving on... We then painted a rainbow to use in a picture we made later. I helped him with this one as he told me the colors and then I let him make one of his own.
I think his turned out pretty cute! :)
While the paint dried, we went to work building the ark.
He is ALL boy!
Next on to some animal puzzles!
After the paint dried, we put together this Noah's ark picture. I got the idea from my new friend Mandy who did an awesome Noah day with her kiddos and some friends over the summer. We also had an animal cracker snack with all of our leftovers. Yummy! What a fun morning!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

22 things about me...

The notes with "Name 25 things about yourself" has been floating around facebook again lately. I thought it would be kind of fun to sit down and reflect on some of the more notable things in my life. So, here goes: 1. I like chocolate milk... A LOT. It's been an ongoing love affair since I was a wee one. I drink a glass every morning and often have another glass later on in the day. I needed to go to the grocery store badly last week and you know what made me finally get out with both the boys and do it? I ran out of chocolate syrup. True story. 2. I LOVE my husband. He's my best friend and though it's not ALWAYS hunky-dory... it's more hunky-dory than it's not. :) 3. I adore my boys. Sometimes I think God has given me boys because he's knows I'll do a better job of raising them than girls. We'll see, but for now, I LOVE having only boys (except for the clothing part.... little girls' clothes are WAAAAYY cuter).
4. I am so thankful for my parents. They invested their minds, hearts and finances into my sisters and me and raised us in a way that honored God. They have taught me so much. 5. I think my sisters are fantastic! They both live on my street (in separate houses, by themselves... funny girls! :)) I get to see them quite a bit and am so thankful that I can call my sisters my friends. They are wondeful aunts and so much fun to have around! 6. I am blessed by amazing in-laws. Matt's parents watch the boys every Tuesday night so we can have a little date. His siblings and their spouses are wonderful aunts and uncles. They are truly enjoyable people to be around and I look forward to Sunday evenings with them and any other time we get to hang out. 7. I guess you could say I spend a lot of time with my family and I like them all a lot. 8. I'm pretty open-minded about a lot of things. I think I get it from my dad. I tend to see everyone's point of view on issues and can't always make up my mind about things. 9. Matt's pretty narrow minded. He's got opinions about EVERYTHING and he's usually pretty set in his ways. I think he gets that from his dad. Anyway, it makes for pretty interesting conversations between us and I kinda like it that way.... most times (unless I'm not getting my way:)). 10. I am "narrow-minded" in one area and that's my faith. As a general rule I don't like to offend people, but if it's the glory of my Savior and the eternal destiny of your soul, I tend to get a little "intolerant." Jesus Christ is the THE way, THE truth, and THE life and no one comes to the Father, but through him. I know from an outsiders perspective that can be very offensive, but really it's the most loving way I know how to be. 11. I have several pet peeves: (am I allowed to do sub-points?) a. Women who complain about being a stay-at-home mom. b. Women who complain about their husbands. I understand an occasional vent or a need for advice or prayer, but if it's a habit, I get annoyed and start defending the husband and that usually isn't good for anyone. c. Negativity in general. I love to leave conversations happy and refreshed and excited about life. I have a hard time knowing what to say to negativity and find it draining to combat. I know I can't avoid it completely, but I try to avoid people who seem to carry it around a little more than others. 12. I have been guilty of all of the above at some point or another. 13. Chirstmas is my absolute favorite holiday season. Of course I love the spiritual significance of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us, but I also love everything else that comes during this time. I love the music and the decor and the food and the presents and the traditions and the warm, cozy, fuzzy feeling I get starting with Thanksgiving weekend that lasts until Christmas day. 14. I don't like coffee, but I love tea and hot chocolate. I love sitting by a fire sipping on something warm and playing a game, reading a book or just hanging out with people I love. 15. I'm a big time procrastinator. I've gotten slightly better with time, but I usually pull things together last minute. I'd like to say it's because I work well under pressure, but really it's because I lack discipline. 16. I like running and I wish I were in shape right now. I'm kind of competitive and I get a major rush from running in races. Having chldren...especially nursing ones has put a damper on my fitness routine. My plan is to run another half marathon in March. Yikes! 17. I would like to adopt a little boy from Africa... not a specific one, just any little boy would do. :) 18. I cut my spaghetti... you know, like the way a toddler gets it cut so it won't get all over them. I don't do it in public because I hear it's insulting to the chef, but from the comfort of my own home, you'll find my spaghetti cut into 1 inch pieces and scooped, not twirled, onto my fork. 19. I'm reformed. If you dont know what that means, you probably don't want to. If you do, you either think a lot less of me right now, or that we'd have a lot in common. :) 20. I hate all cleaning that involves water. I could dust and vacuum all day long, but I hate doing dishes, laundry, mopping, cleaning counters, toilets, bathtubs, etc. It's unfortunate really, for me and my house. 21. I have developed two new obsessions over the last year. Burning candles and couponing. Something about having my house smell good makes me feel cozy and saving money has been a huge blessing to our family. Sometimes I burn a candle while I coupon... I don't do it often because it's almost too much excitement for me to handle! ;) 22. I think I have a little ADD. I have the shortest attention span ever and I'm growing weary of writing this list, so I'm going to cut it off at 22 things. I had originally planned on doing 25, but boredom has set in and I just saw something shiny... See ya later!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Take a deep breath!

I have a lot of inner chaos. I want to be the best mom ever and spend lots of time with my kids, but feel guilty that I'm ignoring the loads of laundry, cooking and cleaning that needs to be done. SO... I try to be an awesome housewife and have a relaxing "haven" for Matt to come home to, but I feel guilty that the boys are entertaining themselves while I try to get everything done. I want to have a servant's heart and help those in my church and community when they have a need. I want to go with the flow and be available at a moment's notice to help them unpack, keep them company, bring them a meal. But I feel like my family suffers when I do it. They don't get enough attention from me and my house falls apart. SO... I try to fully invest myself in my family first. Of all the people God has placed in my life, I want to show them that they are the most important to me. But, they're a full time job and after a (short) while I start to feel disconnected from my friends and like I'm not involved in what's going on around me. I begin to think maybe I'm being selfish to be so inwardly focused that I can't see past these four walls. SO... I get antsy to be more involved at our church... do community groups, women's Bible study, hang out with the couples we're getting to know more. Get to know some of the girls I hang out with on a deeper, more spiritual level. BUT... I long for more quality time with Matt and the boys... just us... as a family. It seems like the moments we have together to just relax and enjoy each other are rare. BUT... I want to spend time with our extended families... both sides... I think all of the above are good things and if I could accomplish all of them, maybe I could near pefection! Perhaps I could write a book and become a millionaire. Ahh... but wait, I forgot to add that to my above list of things to accomplish. That might cause a glitch... Breathe in... breathe out. There's this impossible word always looming over my head: BALANCE. It seems impossible to me because I don't do it well. At all. I've said before... I tend to be extreme. When I get one thing figured out, I give it my all and everything else suffers. I thought women were supposed to be good at multi-tasking!?!? I have wild swings to correct problems and end up creating new ones. How do I get the pendulum to slow down and dangle somewhere gently in the middle? How am I supposed to be the perfect, well-balanced person that I want to be? I should probably start by realizing I'll never be perfect. Gulp! Realizing I'll always be sub-par is a little hard for me to swallow. Ah, but wait! I can get around this one! I AM perfect and not sub-par at all... well, at least when you bring Christ into the equation. I am covered in his blood and stand before him spotless. Really? Spotless? Like totally acceptable to God? I've always struggled with this one. I'm always trying to earn God's love... even though I've always been taught that salvation can never be earned and is by grace through faith alone. It's hard for me to swallow that I don't have to pay the consequences for my sin. Tit for tat, ya know? I do something wrong, something bad happens. That's how it works. I do something good, something good happens. I read my Bible, pray, etc... God loves me more. Horrible theology. I would put anyone in there place who came up and tried to pass this rubbish off as truth, yet I live it all the time. No wonder the Gospel isn't just for the unsaved. I need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ everyday. I need to proclaim the gift of salvation to myself all the time. I am in constant need of a reminder of who I am without Christ and who I am with him. Thank goodness I can dwell on the latter part. I am blameless and pure because of what he did for me. My good friend Katie and I just had a conversation last week about how we used to think of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) as more of an elementary part of our Christian walk. We thought of them as the outline to salvation... the story behind the cross. As we "matured" we moved on to Paul and his writings. More and more lately we've been brought back to Christ. Not just the Gospel message, but the teachings from the son of God himself. Why do we tend to look past them? So, another baby step in my Christian walk. I'm finishing up studying Proverbs and then it's back to the basics. The basics are essential and foundational... not just something to address and move on from. I want to immerse myself in the Gospels for a while. Remind myself of the teachings of the Master. Delight myself in the mystery, beauty and power of the Good News. Whoa! Major rabbit trail... but maybe there' s something to all of it. Can the Gospel help me be more balanced? Well, maybe. One thing I've noticed is that when I'm thinking more frequently on what Christ did for me, I tend to see things a little differently. Like... "Holy cow! I'm a really bad person and I can't believe he chose to save me from eternal damnation. He is so generous! He is so loving! He is so merciful! Wow! I didn't deserve it and now I stand before him as his beloved, blameless child." Now THAT is a gift from someone I can trust and love in return. And I begin to lean more on him. I pray more. I keep life in perspective more. I notice he's guiding my steps. Hmm... that might be a good way to approach balance. Have God help me make my decisions. That's a brilliant thought! :) So what would that look like? I don't know. Maybe I'll listen to the Holy Spirit and some things on my "good list" will happen and some won't. Maybe he'll guide me as he faithfully does when I seek him and I'll choose the right things to say yes and no to and the best way to use my time. I've always kind of lived with this unspoken motto guding the way I live: The Gospel... BUT life still happens. I think it's time to rearrange my thinking and my motto: Life happens... BUT the Gospel!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Losing Steam...

For the last few months, I've been so excited about life in general. I've enjoyed motherhood, my marriage and my relationship with God. It's been one of those rare times in my life when things just flowed naturally. I read the Bible just because I wanted to, not because I knew I needed to. I walked around the house with a spring in my step, whistling as I did laundry, changed diapers and cooked dinner. I found myself not getting frustrated with Matt very often (I love him with all of my heart, but he wakes up so stinkin' perky, that I usually have to try to balance him out with some grumpiness. :)) Over the last few weeks I've felt this surreal feeling begin to fade. I've tried grasping at the few straws that remain in hopes of holding on to this feeling forever, but, alas, I think I grasp in vain. As I laid in bed last night thinking, I told Matt that I needed something to write about. I actually have a million things I want to write about right now... things that I'm learning, but I have nothing conclusive or worthwhile to say about them yet. I'm at the beginning stages and I think it's going to be a while before I've got anything figured out enough to put pen to paper and make any sort of sense of what God's teaching me. But I want to be learning. I told God this morning that I want PASSION and PRODUCTIVITY. I feel like if I had those two things, I would get back most of what I feel like I'm losing right now. But how? My old method was to try harder. Set up a time for daily Bible study and prayer that became less and less passionate and turned out to be the exact opposite of what I was going for. My heart becomes disconnected and legalism sets in. Not really up for that right now... But, I'm not really willing to just sit back and watch all that the Lord has done in me recently fizzle out... So, I got up a little earlier this morning. Had some time to get prepared for the day. Showered, sorted dirty laundry, read a chapter in Proverbs, checked my e-mail and facebook, and now I'm writing. I like feeling like I get a chance to breathe before the boys wake up. When the Lord first revived my heart, I was staying up after Silas' early morning feeding and getting ready, working out, and just getting prepared for my day. Now, I usually get up in time to get ready, but it leaves me feeling like I'm playing catch up all day. I have a hard time accomplishing anything but taking care of the boys. No laundry, cleaning, errands, food... and then the house starts to feel chaotic because I'm always two steps behind. You can only ignore the mountains of laundry and lack of food for so long... When I get to this point, sitting down to read my Bible becomes low on the priority list because I'm barely keeping my head above water. That's been the last few weeks in a nutshell. So maybe my passion for God would get a boost if I actually had time to think clearly instead of "trying harder." I thought I'd never say this... but maybe cleanliness really IS next to godliness. (If you saw my home even on it's "clean" days, you'd understand that I'm using the word cleanliness very loosely here.) But I'm thinking maybe there's something to having my life organized enough that I'm able to have some still, quiet moments before the Lord. So maybe "Organization is next to godliness" is a better phrase or maybe even "Organization provides time for godlinesss" in my case. And maybe if I'm organized I can take better care of my family too. I know no other way to do this than to get up a little earlier. Sigh! So... less snoozing it is! This is my first attempt at getting back on track. We'll see how it goes... I'm only one day in and already I'm feeling more refreshed and excited about what the day has in store! Here's to learning and growing more!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So I must not be the only one...

In response to my recent post on prayer, my childhood friend, Amanda, recommended a book called, A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. You know he's gotta have something semi-intelligent and engaging to say with a last name like that! :) So, I've been reading it lately and let me just tell you, I like it! It's fresh and real and could actually help me overcome some of my many prayer "issues." I don't agree with everything he says, but um... I'm kind of hard to get along with. I rarely agree with everything anyone says. ;) I'm going to write several posts about various things that have been eye-opening to me, but I wanted to begin with an excerpt that stated much more eloquently what I was trying to put into words in my last post. He begins his book with story about his teenage daughter who had lost her contact in the forest floor on a family camping trip. He said, "Let's pray," and her bitter response was, "What good does it do? I've been praying for Kim to speak, and she still isn't speaking." Kim is her younger sister who has autism and is unable to speak. He goes on to say this: Prayer was no mere formality for Ashley. She had taken God at his word and asked that he would let Kim speak. But nothing happened. Kim's muteness was testimony to a silent God. Prayer, it seemed, doesn't work. Few of us have Ashley's courage to articulate the quiet cynicism or spiritual weariness that develops in us when heartfelt prayer goes unanswered. We keep our doubts hidden even from ourselves because we don't want to sound like bad Christians. No reason to add shame to our cynicism. So our hearts shut down... The most common frustration is the activity of praying itself. We last for about fifteen seconds....and our minds are off on a tangent. We catch ourselves and, by sheer force of the will, go back to praying. Before we know it, it has happened again...Then guilt sets in. Something must be wrong with me. Other Christians don't seem to have this trouble praying. After five minutes we give up... Something is wrong with us. Our natural desire to pray comes from Creation. We are made in the image of God. Our inabilityh to pray comes from the Fall. Evil has marred the image. We want to talk to God but can't. The friction of our desire to pray, combined with or badly damaged prayer antaennae, leads to constant frustration. Complicating this is the enormous confusion about what makes for good prayer. We vaguely snese that we should begin by focusing on God, not on ourselves. So when we start to pray, we try to worship. That works for a minute, but it feels contrived; then guilt sets in again. In a burst of spiritual enthusiasm we put together a prayer list, but praying through the list gets dull, and nothing seems to happen. The list gets long and cumbersome; we lose touch with many of the needs. Praying feels like whistling in the wind. When someone is healed or helped, we wonder if it would have happened anyway. Then we misplace the list. Praying exposes how self-preoccupied we are and uncovers our doubts. It was easier on our faith not to pray. After only a few minutes, our prayer is in shambles. Barely out of the starting gate, we collapse on the sidelines --cynical, guilty, and hopeless. I could go on and type out the rest of the chapter to show how well he articulates how I fell (but I think even what I've already done is copyright infringement so I should probably stop :)) . If you connect with this, seriously, buy the book. If you don't, seriously, help me out! :) I'm about half way done with the book and am excited to write about what God has been teaching me about himself and me. I've got a long way to go, but I'm determined to not let this area of my life just slide anymore. Please pray for me... then maybe if I have a breakthrough in this area I can attribute my praying life to prayer itself! :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Can't make the play...

I used to play basketball in elementary and middle school. I had everything going for me. I was pretty tall for my age. I actually enjoyed practicing. I would shoot 1000 shots a day (and keep track of my percentages) during the summer to get ready for the start of the season. I watched basketball. I checked books out from the library about basketball. I would eat, sleep and breathe basketball. I dreamed of being the first woman in the NBA (this was in the pre-WNBA days). I was gonna be an all-star. There was one problem. Everything changed when I got out on the court. I KNEW what to do, but I couldn't make myself do it no matter how hard I tried. My coaches would go over plays with me and tell me exactly what I needed to do. I was focused and determined until it was time to perform. Everything would quickly unravel as I clumsily tried to shoot an easy lay-up or foul some poor girl as I was trying to set a pick or worst of all just stand there with my arms in the air hoping that they would magically block a shot or score a winning basket. Needless to say, I moved on to track in high school because I found staying in one lane to be much less overwhelming.

That's how I've been feeling about my theology lately. I am a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. He is in control of all things. Nothing takes him by surprise. He predestined everything before the foundation of the world. He can look into the future and know exactly what lies ahead. I find such joy and peace in knowing that my God is powerful enough to do ANYTHING. He can heal or bring comfort. He can remove trials or allow them in order to help us grow. He works all things together for good... so I know that whatever he has planned, however hard it may be to accept at the time, is ultimately for his glory and my good. The bottom line: He is a good God who is in control and knows what lies ahead.

Beautiful theology. It brings a smile to my face and reassurance to my soul and... a mighty blow to my prayer life. Seriously, it's been pierced by the dagger of this truth and I fear that if it is not resolved soon, the wound may be mortal. I am haunted by the fact that I've taken this wonderful truth and used it to justify my sin. I have somehow chosen to emphasize the sovereignty of God in my life to the point that I feel prayer is useless. I use the word feel purposefully. I KNOW that that's not true. God's Word tells us otherwise repeatedly. But when it comes down to it, I haven't really internalized the idea that prayer is powerful. I WANT to. Oh how I want to! But, time and time again I sit down to talk with the Lord and I feel paralyzed and overwhelmed by it. I start out okay. You know, follow the ACTS model because that's the good Christian way to pray. A little praise here, a little adoration there. Yep. That's good. A little confession. Well, you know I stink at life in general, but you've saved me and wiped my slate clean. A little thanksgiving for that. Then some supplication. Ah yes, (crack knuckles) on to the good part. I get to ask for all my "stuff." I'll use a recent example:

"I pray for Mom to get this teaching job." (Wait! What if that's not God's will? How am I supposed to pray in God's will if I don't know what it is? Okay, revise statement.)

"I pray, that if it is your will, Mom will get this teaching job." (And then it all starts to go down hill. What was the point of that prayer? Well, I guess Jesus prayed that way. Okay, then. But we're also supposed to pray in faith, not double-mindedly according to James. Okay, revise again.)

"Lord, I pray for Mom trusting that you will open the eyes of the hiring staff to her abilities and provide this teaching job for her." (But what if she doesn't get it? Then I've prayed in faith in vain and that makes it look like God's Word isn't true. Hmm... better go back to the "if it's your will" clause... that's a little safer.)

"I pray, that if it's your will, Mom will get this teaching job." (Okay, on to the next thing.)

Repeat the above scenario, insert new request. And I'm bored. And God doesn't need me to do this. He knows what I need before I ask it. Does he really want me to go over the bagillion things that the world and I need physically and spiritually?

Ahhhhh!!! It's driving me crazy! I'm simplifying what goes on in my head probably more than I should, but the point is, I'm frustrated. I've tried having an organized time of prayer with lists. Boring. I've tried journaling. My hand can't keep up with my thoughts. I've tried spontaneity. I become extremely inconsistent.

Once again, I know that prayer is what God commands. But I'm tired of "willing" myself to do it. It's forced. Lifeless. I always think that when/if I grow in my walk with him, it will get better. And it does. A little. It's not that I don't ever pray or that I don't ever "feel" like doing it. It's just it often feels like more of a drudgery and less like I'm drawing near to my Savior and my God.

So, in light of my last post (that I'm coming to a point in my life where I realize I don't have all the answers and advice is a good thing), please help! I would love to hear how you pray and what motivates that prayer. I could use some encouragement and maybe some (gentle, please) reproof. If you have any insight or wisdom, please comment or send me a message. I would greatly appreciate it! This is not over and I plan to write more as the Lord works in my life in this area.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Did I ask for your opinion?

I'm getting into taking advice lately. This is a new thing for me. I'm a pretty proud person and I usually think I have it figured out. If I don't, well, then YOU certainly aren't the person to help me. (Sometimes I'm embarrassed when I re-read the things that pop into my head and realize how arrogant I sound.) So, I tend to try to figure things out on my own by over analyzing every single aspect of my life. (True story, ask Matt.) I figure out the best way to approach babies' sleeping schedules, how to make my hair look "fuller" without buying expensive product, how to do the least amount of cooking possible and still technically have a home cooked meal when Matt gets home. And the list goes on and on and on. I spend hours trying to solve mine and the world's problems. Now that I'm convinced Isaac is smart, my recent OBSESSION has been his schooling. Yes, I now find myself constantly mulling over the best way to approach his education. I agonize over public schooling, gifted programs, private schooling and home schooling. It's not a bad thing to think through, but the child is only 21 months old and I act as if he's entering Kindergarten this fall. Matt says I should focus on teaching him to poop in the toilet first, but, you know, that's how I roll. So, back to taking advice. The Lord has really convicted me of my arrogance and know-it-all attitude recently. Got advice on parenting? That won't work for my children because, well, they're special, and the typical answers don't work for them. Got advice on how to get my pregnancy weight off? Um, cutting calories and excercise won't work for me because my body mutates extra effort into extra fat. It's a bummer, really. Got advice on following the Lord? Well, that's nice. You do know I have a degree in Bible theology, right? Okay, so those might be slightly exaggerated, but I'm definitely not good at humbling myself and admitting that someone else (perhaps even someone my age or younger *GASP*) might lead me to the answers I desperately need. I've been reading through Proverbs lately and have been struck over and over again by how often the idea of wisdom and heeding advice or instruction go hand in hand. I've also been humbled as I've been reminded that being foolish and wise in your own eyes go hand in hand. I desperately want to be wise as I parent and live my life, but I'm going to have to get over myself and realize that God has the wisdom I need and sometimes he uses others to direct me to it. So, next time you have some insight into my situation, yes, I'm asking for you opinion!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jonah Day!

A while back I posted about doing Bible theme days with Isaac to teach the Bible in a fun and age-appropriate way. We just finished our first one and I think it was a success! We had so much fun! My mom was there to share in the adventure with us and between the two of us we took about a bazillion pictures. I tried to condense it WAY down and just show the highlights. I worked during the boys' naps a couple of days this week to get things prepared for the day. Here is a whale I made from a milk carton. I got the idea from www.familyfun.go.com/crafts/whale-water-scoop-663745/: I also prepared a craft ahead of time, which was a whale with a hole for the mouth for Jonah to go in and out of:
One of my favorite last minute additions was a giant whale in our living room made from a blue sheet, paper and our coffee table:
I couldn't wait for Isaac to wake up. I was like a kid at Christmas! When he came out to the living room, he pointed to the coffee table and said, "Whale!" (Whew! I was so glad he knew what it was). We had breakfast and stayed in our pjs because one of our first activities included the bathtub.
After breakfast we read the story of Jonah out of one of our children's Bibles. After that we played in the whale and acted out the story. He loved being swallowed and spit out by the whale! We read another Jonah story out of a different book and then it was off to the tub!
First, we painted the "water" on our posterboard with Crayola washable paint for our craft later.
Looks good!
After we painted it was time to clean up and take a bath. I'm going to take a moment to brag on my little genius. He knows all of the letters of the alphabet and their phonetic sounds already, so of course, we had to spell out Jonah with the foam bath letters we have. Okay, moving on before my pride causeth me to stumbleth anymoreth...
Isaac was amazed at how the captain and Jonah (really he's supposed to be Noah from our Little People Ark set, but we pretended) braved the storm for a while.
But eventually, Jonah was thrown overboard and the giant fish scooped him up in one big gulp!
Isaac's turn to practice acting out the story:
He totally got it. I was thrilled!
Silas got in on the action too by wearing my favorite outfit: an adorable whale ensemble! He was so good all morning as usual.
Next we read the story again from a different toddler Bible and then had some down time with the VeggieTales Jonah movie. He was mesmerized because we haven't been watching much TV lately. (I will say that I have a few issues with the presentation in a few areas and thought some things were disprespectul about the movie -like calling God the Big Man- but I think that as a whole it was an entertaining way to present the story and know that the "issues" I have will provide for good conversation when the boys are older.)
Next we sang a song about Jonah to the tune of London Bridges. I found it here: www.dltk-bible.com/jonah_and_the_whale2.htm. (Scroll to the bottom for the version I used. It was the one submitted by a girl named Amber.)
Time to move outside! This was actually a spontaneous portion of the morning. My mom suggested sidewalk chalk to retell the story since he was getting antsy to play outdoors. He enjoyed it a lot!
His slide has a steering wheel on it that we pretended it was the wheel on a boat. He was screaming in delight here because I was shaking the whole toy to make a storm. Next he slid down the slide (Jonah being thrown overboard), and ran around in the grass (swimming in the water), until Mommy attacked (being swallowed by a big fish).
On to lunch! We had fish sticks (gag!), goldfish and Swedish fish. Looks appetizing, right? It was fun, but I don't think it really did that much to reinforce the story. I had all of the "supplies" except the Swedish fish, so it really wasn't that big of a deal, but in the future, I probably won't worry about lunch lining up with our theme too much. (Oh yeah, the "W" was for whale. I know, I know, it was a "great fish," but I didn't have enough fish sticks to make a "GF." ;) Plus, I think there's logical evidence to conclude that it was probably a whale.)
After lunch our water background we had painted earlier was dry and it was time to complete our craft. He loves being independent!
Next, he colored a Jonah figure that had a "frowny face" on one side and a "smiley face" on the other. We put Jonah through the fish's mouth sad-side-up and after he had stayed in there for "3 days and 3 nights and prayed" he came out with a smile. (Okay, probably not in real life, but he got the point that it's better to obey than disobey.)
Isaac's turn to try!
We had so much fun and it made me so excited to plan another one! By the way, one website that pointed me in the direction of many of the other ones was: http://www.mssscrafts.com/. (Go to the Bible Lessons over on the right hand side.) I'm hoping I can do them all so inexpensively in the future. I already had everything I used lying around the house except for the Swedish fish. Please let me know if you've done anything with your kids that you think we could do in the future. I'm really looking forward to reviewing what we learned today over the next few days and weeks!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Africa or bust!

Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of living in a hut in the bush of Africa. I would live like the people and tell them of Christ. When I was in middle school my best friend and I mapped out a course over the continent to reach all of the major areas in Africa during what we estimated would be our lifetime. (Go ahead, chuckle, I was in 8th grade.) The dream lived on and when I graduated from high school, I spent a summer in Tanzania. When I went to college, I began as a Linguistics major in order to begin learning how to do Bible translation. After a couple of years I realized that I have a really short attention span and am not really cut our for translation work, so I switched to Biblical Languages, but the goal was still misssions and Africa. I wanted to reach the unreached. I prayed about working with Muslims in northern Africa and prayed about working in the more remote, animistic tribal areas. There was no stopping me... Well, here I am, 5 years after graduating from a Bible school with the intention of doing full time ministry and what am I? A stay at home mommy! To tell the truth, sometimes it makes me cringe. My pride gets in the way and I get embarassed. I didn't hide the fact from ANYONE that I fully intended to be living overseas for the better part of my adult life. I can feel the blood rush to my face when I talk with someone who knew those intentions full well and then asks what I'm up to these days. I look at my amazing girlfriends from college and see how God is using them in ministry and I start to question if I'm doing what I'm supposed to. I don't feel like I'm doing anything too impressive for God. And therein lies the problem. My desire to be involved in Christian ministry over the years has not been wrong, but I do believe on some levels it was rooted in a desire to earn God's love and impress him. I'm a one extreme or another kind of person and so my natural tendency when I began to live my life for the Lord was to do the biggest, best thing I thought a woman could do for the Lord and I was convinced that was becoming a missionary. Surely if I were a missionary God would love me because you HAVE to be a good Christian to be a missionary. They're "super-Christians" and I wanted to be one of them. When I became less Africa-focused and more as-God-leads focused I began to think that perhaps children's ministry whether in the inner-city or the local church might be a good fit if I didn't end up overseas. I did just that for a while in college and for a couple of years after Matt and I moved back to Springfield. Then we began talking family and the possibility of me staying home. At first I panicked. What would people think? What would GOD think? I had never been too keen on the idea and was not sure that changing dirty diapers would fulfill my need to do something over-the-top and absolutely amazing for God. I knew he would not be impressed with my ability to juggle two children while cooking dinner, but he would have been floored by my ability to touch the hearts of unreached people in the bush. That would have blown him away, I'm sure! My fear had been that in doing the mundane, I would be a lesser Christian. So, what's a girl to do? I'm going to be at home for the forseeable future depending on how many children we have. I'm just an "normal" person. (Okay, I suppose that depends on who you ask.) We make enough money to have a home and nice vehicles but not so much that we don't have to pinch and go without the extras sometimes. My boys are both healthy and happy. I like my family (even my in-laws! :)). I have a wonderful marriage with a godly husband. All I need is the white picket fence and I'm set. This is NOT what I imagined for myself. Where's the adventure? Where's the amazing testimony? Where's the stuff that will really impress God? I've been coming to a place of peace for a while, but even more so in the past few months. Instead of half-heartedly parenting my kids all the while looking for some great ministry to be involved in, I've been trying to focus on the task that the Lord has put before me. Showing my family and those I come in contact with the love of Christ and praying that he will use me in their lives. Do I still hope that I can be involved in "official" ministry? Sure. Will I ever end up doing it as my vocation? Who knows. Will I board the first plane to Africa when I "retire"? Maybe. Here's to hoping! But for now, I need to quit mourning the adventures I'm missing abroad when I've got a whole realm of God-honoring adventures awaiting me within these four walls. Lord, grant me the grace to keep this perspective!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Confessions of a Cartoon Addict

Okay, so I've been dreading posting this. Mostly because I'm afraid you'll judge me. I really like people to like me... and I'm pretty sure that, well, you'll think I'm less cool after reading this. I keep reminding myself that the reason I started this blog is to help me grow. Step one of resolving an issue is admitting there's a problem. So, let me introduce myself. Hello. My name is Desiré and I'm a cartoon addict. I am not personally addicted to the cartoons, but I am addicted to using them to make my day easier. I've struggled off and on with using it too much since Isaac was born. It seemed to peak when he was sick and I was gigantically pregnant. Then came Silas, and well, let's just say, I am able to "justify" lots of TV time now. My list of excuses goes soemthing like this: "I need to get a load of laundry in and the dishes done." "I need to feed Silas." "He needs to wind down before his nap/bedtime." "I need to get dinner going." "I need 5 minutes to myself (well, I may as well let him finish this show)." "It's too hot/cold/rainy outside and we've played with every toy he has."
I've always hated the TV. The main reason: it's almost always a waste of time! I don't think in and of itself the television is evil (though there is a LOT of sin portrayed on almost all adult shows and I'm finding more and more on kids' shows as well.) But let's say I have the self-control to only watch stuff that is not full of filth. Fine. But is it really a good usage of my time? Sure, it's fun to watch a movie every once in a while or catch a funny sitcom or game show here and there, but at the end of the day, I'm no better off for it. Even with the amount of TV I've watched to this point in my life, I'm embarrassed to be held accountable for it. What a shame to stand before the Lord someday and say, "Well, I watched 36,298 hours of television (almost 2 hrs. a day for 50 years) in my life, but I tried to do volunteer work once or twice a year." How many times have I used the excuse that I don't have time to do things, but sat on my butt and watched TV? What could I do for the Lord in my lifetime with 36,000 extra hours?!?

So, how did I get to this point with Isaac? When Matt and I first got married we owned a television, but had it in the closet and only got it out and plugged it in when there was severe weather. When we moved to Springfield, we set it up, but in our spare bedroom and tried to limit it to watching movies and 2 or 3 shows during the week that we enjoyed. When we found out we were pregnant with Isaac, much to my dismay, it moved into the living room. (Don't be impressed, it was mostly because I thought it looked tacky.) We invested in a nice flatscreen so that it wasn't such an eye sore, but I was none too excited about it. We watched it a little more then, but then Isaac was born and shortly thereafter we discovered his love for animation. Those of you who know much about my beloved son know that he was less than pleasant on many occasion when he was a wee one. We fell in love with the fact that a bright screen could save our ears and our sanity. He became hooked and so did we. Since then it's been a struggle to keep the amount of TV we watch in check. Matt and I watch NONE. (Well, sometimes he manages to squeeze a ball game in on the weekend during their naps, but that's about it.) Isaac on the other hand, is pulled by the magnetic forces that our TV apparantly has every time he walks by it. Seriously, the kid can't get near it without pointing to it and saying in his super cute toddler voice, "Pea, Mommy." (His way of saying please.) I've created an adorable monster! I've "weaned" him down to one show in the morning and one show in the afternoon on several occasions, but since Silas' birth, we've come undone.

Okay, so I'm not wasting my life away sitting in front of the tube, but my child is. (This gives me a lump in my throat and brings tears to my eyes as I type it.) I'm develping a horrible habit in him that will be very hard to break unless I help him get it under control. I was going to post this with my hands thrown in the air and desperately ask for your advice on what I should do. I thought, "I can't make it through a day right now without him watching TV." Then I was convicted. Can't or won't? Ouch. "Okay, Holy Spirit, I'll admit it, won't. I like how the TV makes my day easier, so right now I won't make it through a day without it, but I suppose there's a small possibility that I could. " Thus began Operation TV Detox. The television has not been on in our home since Thursday, July 15 at 9:30am other than to watch the Cardinals play on Sunday afternoon (through which we slept most of). And to my amazement, we're surviving!

Please don't think I am some holier-than-thou super woman. I don't judge you if you watch TV. I assure you that at some point (probably in the very near future) it will be watched again in our home. In moderation, I think the television can be relaxing, entertaining, and educational. We have gone to the extreme in order to reprioritze in our house. I'm pretty sure I can't do a great job of parenting biblically if Isaac is glued to Elmo, Superwhy!, and Curious George all day. I'm not going to lie, there have been a lot of meltdowns over the last week. I've been very tempted on several occasions to just give in and let him watch a show. We've read lots and lots and lots of books and played until my imagination has run dry. I've worked a lot harder than normal, but when I fall into bed at night exhausted I have a sense of joy and peace and accomplishment with how I spent my day with the boys. I'm not sure where this will all go and I think I need to decide before the TV comes back. For my sake, I need clear guidelines in place before I turn it back on. Does anyone have some standards in place that work well for your family? I would love to hear your input as our family continues on this journey of making wise usage of our time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Would you like a little cheese with that whine?

Stop me in the grocery store or at the park and I'll proudly tell you that I get to stay home with my boys. Ask my husband, and some days I sound as if I've been handed a death sentence. He often hears about the "torture" I've endured throughout the day and it's not uncommon for him to be greeted after a long days' work with:
"You don't understand how hard this is. I don't talk to adults all day loooooong." (insert whiny tone here)
(I usually fail to mention the hour long phone conversation with my mom or the playdate I had earlier that morning.)
"It must be nice to get a lunch break!" (insert sarcastic tone here)
(The naps the boys take DON'T count)
"A mother's work is never done! I'm so tired!" (insert exasperated tone here)
(True, but when I worked outside the home, I had to figure out how to do laundry, go grocery shopping, cook, run errands and keep the house clean AFTER I'd put in my 40+ hrs.)
"I'd like to see you keep up with laundry with two crying kids at your feet all day!" after a completely innocent, "I'm out of clean socks." (insert haughty tone here)
(Um... did I mention that he was COMPLETELY innocent and only making a statement? He regularly helps me with the laundry without being asked.)

Needless to say, my pity parties are even starting to get on MY nerves! Seriously, I don't know what I try to accomplish with them. It doesn't make me feel better and it certainly doesn't do much to strengthen the bond between Matt and I that I claim holds such importance.

I've been working on having a better attitude about life the last few weeks. I've been sending Matt short e-mails about exciting, cute or funny things the boys do. That way, it's harder for me to convince him when he gets home how horrible my day was. :) The interesting thing is, that while I tell him these little stories, it makes me excited to look for another fun thing to tell him. I enjoy my day more! I also send him a quick e-mail when a day starts getting rough and ask for prayer. It's nice to know that he's going to my Father for me throughout the day and helps me feel like I have a partner helping from afar rather than going it alone all day.

Contentment is a major issue for me. I'm always thinking I'll be happy when (fill in the blank - the baby's born, Isaac can tell me what he needs, I'm done nursing, Friday gets here, I can fit back into my clothes, etc., etc., etc.) So, my resolve has been simple. "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Ps. 118:24) I like the song by FFH that says "Say hey, it's a good day, even if things aren't going my way. Jesus is Lord and I am saved, so, say hey, it's a good day." So true. Puts things in perspective for me. Toddlers and babies might be a lot of work, but who cares? I'm saved! I know it's not always that easy. Sometimes there are difficulties in life that instill agony and grief, but taking care of my two little boys is not one of them. In fact, it's a blessing!

My goal: Instead of having a pity party every time things don't go smoothly and posting a pitiful status on Facebook, I'm going to try and have a good attitude. I want to have an impact on the Kingdom, starting with my kids who see my every grumpy, whiny move I make. I'd like to show them what the power of Christ in me can do and pray that by having a good attitude in less that ideal situations they will know first hand that he's more than just a story, but a living God who changes lives. So, next time you talk to me and hear me being negative, I give you permission to say, "Would you like a little cheese with that whine?"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Extreme Home Makeover

I've just re-decorated our house and it only cost me $1.24! Thanks to my new mission to make Scripture memorization and usage a little easier on me, I now have multi-colored index cards plastered all over my house! I've placed them strategically. I have "Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" above the crib in Silas' nursery so whether I'm standing there rocking him to sleep for 20 minutes or 2 hours, my chances of surviving without a Mommy tantrum greatly increase. I have the fruits of the Spirit posted on the wall in Isaac's room to help me remember to encourage and correct him with them. I have "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother" on the cabinet above the dishwasher to help put in perspective the consequences of letting Isaac's misbehaviors slide (even when I'd rather pretend that I didn't just see him push the books in on the bookcase that he knows he's not allowed to touch.) I have "Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!" posted above the light switch in my living room to remind me that it's okay to smile and be happy as I go about my day! I probably have around 10 of them now beautifully gracing the walls of our house and it has been WONDERFUL! On several occasions already I've been tired or frustrated or busy and a verse I've read while changing Silas' diaper or rinsing lunch dishes or putting Isaac down for a nap has helped me re-focus. Amazing what God's living Word can do, huh? Okay, so I'm not gonna lie, I don't like the index card in my living room. It's tacky. But, I have a solution thanks to my friend, Jen! She is super creative and took a decorative block of wood and covered it in chalkboard paint and put it on a cute stand to display a verse. So, I'm going to be a copy-cat and I'm buying all the supplies (one 40% off coupon at Michaels at a time). It's painful, considering I wanted it done yesterday, but in a couple of weeks, I'll have my own chalkboard that matches my decor on an end table with the verse of my choice on it. I can't wait! I grew up in a great Christian home, participated in AWANA, and memorized verses in college to earn my theology degree. I have memorized many verses over the years, but I've struggled with actually USING them in everyday life. I don't know how many times I've put a Bible verse on the mirror in my bathroom to help me memorize it or made flashcards to study in my free moments. Strangely enough, even with all the Scripture I've put to memory, this is one of the first times I've memorized with such a practical purpose. Everywhere I turn there's godly advice staring me in the face. Not the cutest thing I've ever done for my house, but totally worth it!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Replacing the Explicits

Isaac is now trying to repeat almost everything we say, so naturally it is time to remove the explicit language from our vocabulary. You know, 'c%&p,' 's#%ks,' 'st%#id,' and worst of all, 'f#t.' All the things you don't want your toddler going up and saying to a complete stranger. It may be fine for adults in some instances, but its less than cute in a 2 year old. So as we've tried to oust the bad, I've worked on replacing it with something good. One of my goals lately has been using Scripture to correct and discipline Isaac. It's been great and so far has been working out well for both of us. I'm calmer when I administer the punishment, so he's more responsive and I leave feeling okay with how it happened. My biggest concern with using Scripture to aid in his punishments though is that he'll become bitter toward God and His Word because he sees Him as the reason he's always getting in trouble. So, now I'm working on phase 2 of this process: Encouragement. Even as adults, we love to be praised and often love the people from whom the praise is coming. What a great way to help him fall in love with his God! The Bible can just as easily be used as a means of encouragement as it can for correction. A lot of times the same verses can be used both ways. So, I've been looking for opportunities to encourage Isaac lately. Just last week, he provided a perfect opportunity. He's been into puzzles lately. For a few days last week, he wanted to do them for a while right after he woke up from his nap. Though I enjoy helping him and watching him try to put the pieces in, it's often a short-lived activity that quickly turns into a meltdown. He usually lasts anywhere from 30 sec-5 min before he gets super frustrated that a piece is not cooperating and he can't get it in. He squeals with annoyance and throws the piece or knocks all of the pieces that he's already done out. On this particular occasion, he did every puzzle he had (about 5 or 6) without incident. He worked patiently and diligently until he'd done them all. The opportunity almost passed me by. I was sitting there thinking, "Wow! I can't believe he hasn't flipped out yet! He's being so patient. Good. Maybe he'll be in a good mood this afternoon." (Sigh of relief and contentment). And then it hit me, or probably more likely, the Holy Spirit did. PATIENCE! Oooh! Oooh! Here's my chance! So I said, "Isaac, you are doing such a good job of being patient with your puzzles! Did you know you honor God when you're patient? That's one of the fruits of the Spirit! Good job! Mommy is so pleased when you show patience!" And he beamed. I'm sure he didn't understand it all, but he got the idea that the way he was playing was a good way to play and the right way to play. Since then, I've been looking for opportunities to compliment him when he's displaying a behavior or attitude that is pleasing to the Lord. He loves my praise, and when it's Scripturally based, I love giving it! I've been able to find instances where he's shown almost all of the fruits of the Spirit and have used more general verses like Ephesians 6:1 to thank him for being obedient to me. Once again, it's been a huge blessing to me as I parent and gives me more peace when I have to correct a behavior as well. Replacing the explicits in our home has been one of the most enjoyable parenting processes yet!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To die is gain...

I've been thinking about death a lot this past week. It seems to have surrounded me.
Friday marked the three year anniversary of my uncle's death (who often felt more like my big brother). He was killed in a car accident on his way home from work the day after Father's Day. I think it was the worst day of my life.
This week also marks the two year annivesary of when I was the sole witness of a horrific motorcycle accident and the young man did not survive. It still haunts me when I sleep.
Wednesday, Matt's great granmother passed away at the age of 104. Though she had lived a long life, it was still hard to see my family members grieve the loss of someone they loved.
On the three year anniversary of my uncle's death, some friends of the family lost their newborn baby girl who was only a few weeks older than Silas. I have wept for her mother and at the thought of what she must be going through.
Needless to say, I've had a knot in my stomach most of the past week. Death makes me sick! I hate it! As I've contemplated over it the last few days I've thought about how death came about as a result of the Fall. I know I would have done the same thing too, but I might have a hard time being nice to Adam and Eve when I get to heaven. We could have lived forever in perfect harmony with God had it not been for sin! (At least until we made it to 1983, when I was born and screwed the whole thing up!) :)
So then I started thinking about how great it must have been in the Garden of Eden. No sin. No death. Walking with God in the Garden. That would be awesome. And it makes me wish that I could experience something like that.
Then I think, I'm going to get to experience something even better. Heaven! And now I've come full circle. The only way to experience life without death, sin and perfect communion with God is to die! (Unless of course Jesus returns during my lifetime.) Now, I don't have a death wish or anything, but today I think I related with Paul better than I ever have before when he says, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). Serious gain. I can't wait to be with Him one day!
Though it doesn't necessarily make it easier, I know that those who are in Christ and have gone before aren't sad at all! They get to worship at the feet of Jesus. These aren't new things I've learned, but it helps for me to think about them again in light of my week. I'm so thankful that I don't have to dread death and can be excited about what awaits me when God has fulfilled His purpose with me here on earth.