Sunday, May 26, 2013

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Unexpected blessings...

It was a beautiful morning for watering flowers.  Children were busy all around.  Two in the hammock giggling, one strategically building roads in the sandbox, and one on the deck beside me, plucking the last bit of color off of my favorite rhododendron bush.  Just as I was considering suggesting that the dying flowers stay on the plant so we could enjoy them just one more day, my newly-turned six year old placed another petal into his bowl and said, "I'm making a salad for Mrs. Robertson."

Now, young imaginations are hard at work most days at my house, so hearing make-believe lines peppered into daily conversation is nothing unusual around here.  But this comment was different.

Chase and I had just visited the Robertson house together.  They're a couple from our church in their mid-eighties, and Mrs. Robertson is sick.  She has been battling cancer for some time, and is quickly running out of treatment options.

Two weeks earlier...

It had  been awhile since I'd talked to her.  I'm a busy lady at church, you know.   There are children to deliver to classrooms (and you'd better believe, if we're running even slightly late, someone will surely need to use the potty!), nursery duty to tend to, and if I don't speed walk through the foyer, someone might occupy our favorite pew before we can get to it first.  I'm a mom on a mission to sit down before the music starts, and I remind myself that if I make eye contact for too long, I might just get stuck in a conversation that I didn't have penciled into my agenda for the morning.

So I snuck - or so I thought - through the back, less traveled  halls of the church to retrieve the boys for the service that was about to begin.  And there she stood, reaching out for my arm as I began to pass.  Her body was frail, but her eyes - bright and hopeful - drew me in.  In an instant, the Lord refocused my agenda, and we talked until my children were the last ones to be picked up.  I left the conversation blessed by her quick wit, optimistic spirit, and full trust in a good God.  Before we parted, I leaned into her face until our noses almost touched, and made her promise me that if she needed something, that she'd be sure to call.

A week and a half later the phone rang.  I didn't think she'd do it, but it was Mrs. Robertson on the other end.  She hated to be a bother, but I had insisted that she call.  It had been a rough week.  Chemo was taking it's toll on her tired body, and she was devastated over the fact that she wasn't able to muster up a good meal for her husband in days.  "Tell me his favorites," I said, "and I'll be there tomorrow."

Little did I know what a treat Chase and I were in for!  While the women talked about food and children, Chase toured their home with Mr. Robertson, admiring trinkets that they had collected over the years.  Chase was especially fond of a little wooden snake, a souvenir from a visit with their missionary daughter.  We listened to their stories from years ago, intrigued by their many adventures, laughing often.  I shared that baseball season was in full swing for our boys, and found a common connection from their child-raising years.  If Mrs. Robertson was feeling up to it, they would try to make a game.

Our visit ended much too soon, but with a full heart, I promised that we'd be back.  I left with the same feeling you get when you go on a mission trip with the best intentions of blessing others, and you return only to realize...

... you instead are the one being blessed.

I try not to take those back hallways any more on Sunday mornings.  And now, I allow a little extra time for some intentional eye contact, praying that God would help my eyes to connect with just the one that He has planned for me that day.

Because you never know when you're about to be blessed.

"She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy."
~Proverbs 31:20

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Beginning Well to Finish Well...

It's officially summer break around here.

How do I know? Because the fourth grade class science experiment (also known as Maisy, the friendliest albino rat you'll ever wanna meet) has now taken up permanent residence in our home. Tyler may or may not have reassured me just a couple of nights ago that really, there was no one breaking into our house at 2am. Apparently when you're half asleep, an excitable rat (who, in my groggy half-slumber, I had forgotten really does now live in our upstairs... and on purpose, no less) sounds an awful lot like a burglar when she creatively redecorates her cage in the middle of the night.

And here I thought we had agreed to stick to raising children. Ha.

I also know it's summertime because after spending much of the day on Monday clearing fallen sticks from our back yard, I peered out my kitchen window on Tuesday morning to find three imaginative boys dragging every last stick back into our yard so they could build their first fort of the season.

Of course they did. And it's a great one, at that. (For the record, I have an engineer, a laborer, a narrator and a clear Miss bossy pants on my hands. A well rounded crew, I tell ya.)

By Wednesday morning, the four had barely swallowed the last bites of their breakfasts before collaborating in the kitchen for a family science experiment. While I really don't wish for their little minds to shut off completely during summer break, I would settle for a couple of hours each morning so I can catch up with their growing intellects. Call me crazy, but I can't seem to effectively answer physics questions about momentum, vortexes and inertia before 7:00am. Go brush your teeth, please, and let me Google it think about it for a second.

One boy needs me upstairs while another pair needs an intervention downstairs, and the girl needs me in the same room as her always, don't you know. The phone rings, ironically always at the exact same moment that someone needs me in the potty. And while it would be a whole lot faster to sort the laundry myself, teaching is absolutely more necessary than efficiency. The gaps are filled in with everything from neighbor kids to baby dolls, important Lego repairs to grocery store runs, baseball games galore and questions of all kinds, with barely a down moment from the minute my feet hit the floor in the morning until I sink into bed each night.

In my own strength, I'm always a step behind. It's four to one after all, and clearly they won't be sleeping in anytime soon. While the surface things may (or may not) get accomplished, if I'm not careful, their impressionable hearts might not be any more nourished by the end of the day than when we started. 

Join me over at Good Morning Girls today, where I finish this story and share how I'll be starting my days this summer... 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Home Sweet Home

One morning last week each boy trickled down one-by-one from his night’s sleep – about fifteen minutes apart, enabling me to spend some rare one-on-one time with each of them. My husband told me once that even when he was old enough to want a little space (ok, a lot of space) from his mom, he would always let her get close to scratch his back. Even though they still want me around every minute of their awake lives, point well taken and tucked down deep in my heart.

So I scratched each back, and prayed for the young girls who will one day marry Jack Tyler, Trey Andrew and Chase Dylan. I prayed specifically, keeping in mind the personality of each boy. Each gift, and each quirk. The evident charming qualities, and, yes, the characteristics that will require much patience and forgiveness from a spouse. And I prayed that they would not take this decision lightly… the biggest decision they will make in their lifetimes, next to surrendering their lives to Jesus.

 “A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.”
~Proverbs 31:10-12

Prayer is powerful, but talk can be cheap.

You see, I wonder if many of you, like me, are often guilty of living double lives.  While we pray and plead with our sons to one day chase after – and our daughters to one day become – wives of noble character, we often live quite another version of that woman in front of them

Funny how we can always seem to pull off a cheery smile and a kind word to an acquaintance in the church lobby, yet we’re quick to be impatient and critical of the ones we love the most in the car on the way home.  We’re getting good at spending hours creating impressive five course meals to deliver to other families in need, only to rush home, exhausted and grumpy, with barely enough energy to warm up leftovers for our own husbands and children. Some of us busy ourselves, generously serving the church and our communities, volunteering our time to hosts of worthy causes, all the while neglecting the ministry God has given us right in our very own homes.

Is it wrong to bless our neighbors or engage in activities outside of our homes in an effort to be the hands and feet of Christ?  Of course not.  In fact, God’s Word commands it!  But if those activities leave us empty and unable to serve our own families well, then our priorities are going to have trouble lining up with Scripture.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be found faithful to the call God has placed on my life to be a wife that my husband can have full confidence in.  I want my children to experience a living example of a wife of noble character – right before their eyes – so that they can not only hear my words, but see Jesus in my ways, and witness the fullness of joy that comes as a result of a life lived in complete obedience to Him.

I want to turn my eyes away from the distractions of this world, and turn my heart towards my home.  

Oh friends, do you know today that your home is a powerful place of influence that God can use to further His Kingdom through you and me?!  You can make a difference right where you are!

Sound like an impossible task?   

“Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible.”
~Matthew 19:26

Monday, April 30, 2012

What one does when avoiding the laundry...

One whopping blog post this whole month?  Wow, that's lame.  Even so, my intentions on the computer tonight had nothing to do with blogging.  Even lamer (is that even a word?).  How I ended up here I don't even know.  In the last thirty minutes on the computer I've:

... checked the weather hour-by-hour for the next two days to see if, in fact, we'll get all three of Trey's baseball games in without being rained out.  Pray that the three year old can endure.  Seriously.

... noted the weather again, not because I'm a complete weather geek (although that is partially true), but because Trey Andrew will wake up tomorrow morning and ask me if he has to wear a jacket to the bus stop.  I like to be confident in my demands, especially to the boy who swears he never needs a jacket.

... emailed a friend to arrange drop-off of a fruit centerpiece for her running-for-state-representative husband's meet-and greet at the library tomorrow night.

... emailed two other friends who are helping with kids and rides this week where we are double-booked.

... Googled "Night Terrors" on behalf of one really sweet, newly turned six year old boy.

... emailed my old neighbor to check on him after his surgery last week.

... popped in on a local Crisis Pregnancy Center's website to get details for this Thursday's fundraiser banquet.

... looked over Tyler's work schedule for May.

... printed off more letters to local businesses to solicit donations for an adoption fundraiser this weekend.

... read up on the chemical processes of rotting apples, thanks to one fourth grader and one Science Fair project due next week (and here's a good one for you:  Why does fruit rot like the speed of lightning when you don't want it to, but never rots fast enough the one time you need it to?  Time to find some fungus around here, which shouldn't be all that hard to do... heh.).  Jealous, aren't you?

... checked my friend's Caring Bridge site to see if there was an update after her double mastectomy today.

... looked up directions for a church where I am speaking at a moms' group brunch this week (How in the world do I get myself into these things anyway?!  Nevertheless... excited!).

... looked up what day Mother's Day is, just so I'm not late.  Again.

... checked the weather again for later in the week, so I could mentally schedule a day to trim the bushes in the front landscaping.  Yes, apparently I need a intervention.

So that's my Monday night prep-for-the-week computer time impromptu blog summary (otherwise known as my brilliant distraction tactic for "Can I please avoid the laundry just one more day?"), which makes me kind of want to hide behind a houseplant and pretend like no one can see me...

But wait, that spot's already taken by the three year old, who's communicating that she'd rather not take her nap today.  :)  

Never a dull moment.

Wouldn't have it any other way...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Suit Up. There's a battle going on...

I'm a mom to three boys. You know what that means, don't you? No matter how often I remind them to be gentle and compassionate, they always find a way to remind me that God made them ALL boy. In their world, sticks become swords. Chopsticks become wands. Peanut butter sandwiches become guns. And no one had to teach them how to make those awesome sound effects either. It's like they were born with it. Be warned, friends: if you stop by our house unannounced, there's a pretty high chance you'll walk into a living room full of pushed back furniture to make room for a night of "college wrestling", and it doesn't even have to be the weekend.

Somebody please tell me you can relate. Geesh.

The theme is always the same. There's a dark side and a light side. Good versus evil. And on a good night - if I'm lucky- true heroism shines through, and they rescue their little sister from the bad guys. They've figured out that she can play a pretty good little Tinkerbell when she puts her mind to it.

It's crazy, but they never seem to run out of stories to act out. Even if the bad guys were defeated the night before, another villain inevitably arrives to take the last one's place. But somehow they're ready. They know there will be a struggle, but they're determined to stand their ground. And without fail?

The good guys always win.

There's a huge contrast between those boys and this lone girl of mine. If given the option, she prefers to "mommy" her baby dolls all day, every day. She's a born nurturer, and she doesn't need prompted to love and sway and sing and pat until the cows come home.

But every so often, if the cast needs another player, she puts on her cape and joins forces with the boys. It may not seem as natural to her as playing babies, but she doesn't let that stop her. She's tough and determined and focused when she needs to be, and when summoned, she'll rise to the occasion.

Join me over at Good Morning Girls today where I finish my thoughts on another battle that's currently raging, except for this one's not make-believe...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

You know you have good neighbors when...

It's a good thing it's Spring Break around here, because multiplication facts have a way of sneaking onto the back burner with happy little distractions like sun and 80 degrees on unsuspecting March days.

We're pretty much cool with distractions like that.

We've accepted our momentary academic lapse, and in it's place have welcomed to our backyard loads of the friendliest, most well-mannered neighborhood kids on the planet. I tried to keep the girl out of the mix for as long as possible so: 1. the boys could actually pull off an organized game of soccer, and 2. So she wouldn't get run over by a herd of hyper children who just woke from their Winter slumber. The trampoline held her off for a while, and then there was no use... But she didn't head out all on her own. I had to confirm that my ears had heard correctly. Did those boys just invite her to play? I couldn't believe it. Two middle school boys from down the street had just offered a free kick to my three year old girl. You'd better believe that she didn't even look over to check with me first. The game continued with her now in it, and the look of pure bliss on her face was priceless. I'm not sure if that was the best part, or if it was when Chase kept saying to the neighbor kids, "That's my sister, you know," as he looked back to check on her. She ran like a maniac, trying to keep up. And after she snuck in one last kick and made a wide-open-on-purpose goal, she danced some crazy celebration dance while chanting, "Uh huh, oh yeah, uh huh, oh yeah..."

Junior high boys are officially cool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Resetting the Cycle...

In my arms was a humongous pile of filthy laundry; an all too fresh reminder of the stomach flu that had just invaded our house. As I walked I asked God for more grace than I felt at that moment, since I had just pulled an all-nighter with two very sick, needy little ones. Without even thinking (really, who could put together any coherent thought after the night that I had just had...), I made eye contact with this picture as I quickly passed through our bedroom on my way to the laundry room...

I let out a nervous laugh so I wouldn't fall onto the floor in a heap of tears and exhaustion. Boy, did life at that moment look very different from the future of bliss that I had pictured on my wedding day. Truth is, between work and school and responsibilities and sickness and all-nighters and life, I hadn't had one complete conversation with Tyler in days. I missed my husband. And I was frustrated with the wife I had become in the midst of the stress.

You see, I can answer the phone in a fake happy tone. I can choose to write positive facebook posts and even pull off a smile for the Schwann's Man when he shows up at my door at the most inconvenient times. But there's no faking it with Tyler. He knows the real me, for better and for worse. And if I'm not careful, the one who I pledged all of those heartfelt vows to on my wedding day can get the last and the least of what I have to give at the end of a long, hard day.

I looked at that picture that day longer than I had in years. I'll never forget our photographer saying that the shots right after the ceremony always turn out the best because they capture the emotion and joy of the day. He even shared a story of one couple who reported to him that their wedding photographs had saved their marriage. In a time when their relationship was in turmoil, they looked back to pictures from their wedding day and remembered how it all started. The look in their eyes. The vows before God. The commitment. The hope. The excitement and somewhat naive invincibility of facing a new life together.

In an instant, I studied our cheeks pressed together... my cheesy smile... Tyler's bloodshot eyes from his tears that flowed throughout the ceremony...

...and I made a choice to go back. Back to the "vicious cycle".

Much of our wedding day is a blur, but one thing I'll never forget is our pastor friend speaking of the "vicious cycle" of love and respect that day. Since then it has become a popular term that Tyler and I refer to often in our marriage. It's the "vicious cycle" that's explained in Ephesians 5: when I respect and submit to Tyler out of obedience to God, then it prompts him to respond in love. And when he loves me as Christ loved the church, I want to respect and submit all the more. And the cycle continues.

Unless life gets messy, and then it doesn't.

The challenge? Choosing to be the one to reset the cycle when it's broken. Not because it's easy. Or fair. Or because I feel like doing it. But because there is joy and freedom when I follow God and His design for marriage.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" ~Ephesians 5:21

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

And the winner is....

Congratulations to sbowe (thanks to for winning our Easter giveaway!! I am thrilled to be sending this Family Life Resurrection Egg set to her lovely family this week. If you have young children and don't already own these eggs, you still have time to incorporate them into your Easter traditions this year!