Thursday, May 31, 2012

Leaving... On A Jet Plane

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
Anxiety sure crept up on me this time, and totally caught me off-guard.  I have been looking forward to our trip to Hawaii since last August when my husband surprised me and told me he had booked a flight to Oahu for a week.  Just the two of us. 

About a week before we were scheduled to leave, uncontrollable anxiety plagued me like never before.  We had planned ahead of time to leave Jake and Lilly with Grammy and Pop, so that was not the source of my worry.  I left both babies when they were just six months old for a girl’s weekend, so it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been away from them.  Cody and I even left them just this past February for a weekend getaway with some friends to Fredericksburg.  So the complete assault of fear and anxiety totally threw me off.  

My mother-in-law was so understanding when I told her that I would be calling her every day right before Jake and Lilly’s bedtime, just to check in.  I know.  I’m usually not like that.  But something was different this time.  Maybe it was the fact that we were leaving for a whole week, and we were putting an entire ocean of distance between us and them.  Cody’s response to my irrational behavior was, “Well, at least you’ll be drinking while we’re there! They’ll be fine!”  

As we waited for our flight to board, Cody pulled me close and we prayed for safe travels, for the kids to behave for their grandparents, and I’m sure he silently asked God to calm his quirky wife’s nerves.  Those words he did not speak aloud, but I’m sure God heard them.  

As our plane took off, I started praying, again.  I had eight hours to cover all of my fears and hand them over, one by one.  I can just hear Him saying the exact same thing my husband says, “Here we go again.  Didn’t we already cover all of this?  Why are we still talking about it?”  But maybe, just maybe, He understood how hard it was for me to leave my precious children while I flew off to a beautiful place so many miles away.  Maybe He knew I would be talking to him most of the way to my destination, and maybe He didn’t mind at all. 

When we were about halfway there, I think I took my first deep breath.  We were hovering over the Pacific Ocean, halfway between California and Hawaii, or at least that’s what the huge screen in front of my seat was telling me.  I’m not sure why anyone needs to know at any given moment while in flight the exact altitude of the aircraft or what body of water you are flying over.  That little monitor full of information did nothing to calm my fears!

As I sat there trying my hardest to relax and trust that God would take care of my family, I realized that this was too big for me.  He would have to help me understand and see it His way.  My biggest fear was that something was going to happen to us or that something was going to happen to them.  That was what I feared.  Not how they would behave.  Not what kind of weather we’d have all week.  Not any of that.  But right in the middle of my restless prayer, God gave me peace.  

I was reading Kay Warren’s new book, Choose Joy, and was about halfway through when I left on this trip.  God knew I would be packing it to take along to read on the plane, and He knew that at the moment I desperately needed Him to take control of my out-of-control fears, I would read a portion of this book where Kay explains a fear of her own.  A specific fear.  A fear of flying on an airplane and leaving her kids and her grandkids miles away.  The exact same situation I was in.  The entire chapter could have been a page out of my own journal.  And she explained the peace God gave to her as this: “Even if it’s not okay, I will be okay.  I will be okay no matter what happens because God is with me and he will be enough.”  Instead of continuing to tell myself it was going to be alright, I decided to listen to what God was telling me… that I would be alright, no matter what happens.

And I was alright. This is the view captured on Cody's phone as we peered out the window of the plane.  I cannot tell you how relieved I was looking down on the first piece of land we'd even had a glimpse of in hours.  I let myself enjoy my husband and the beauty God created in this amazing place.  Due to the five hour time change and the fact that we rented a Jeep and drove everywhere with the top down, I never managed to make a single one of those before-bedtime calls.  It was either too late or too noisy to call while in the car. My mother-in-law sent pictures and text messages which meant so much to me.  In my panic, I guess I forgot that she is a mom too, and she knew exactly what I was feeling.  Grammy’s daily assurances that “everything was going great” helped me relax and enjoy our trip and let my kids enjoy theirs.  Jake and Lilly were on an adventure of their own, and I know they loved their vacation as much as the two of us did!

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.  He freed me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 (NLT)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


It’s good to be home.   

We had an amazing time in Hawaii, and it was a trip I will remember forever.  It involved conversations that actually began and then ended in an organized and sequential method, instead of the start-stop-start-stop system of communication we've adopted since twins entered our crazy lives nearly two years ago. It involved dinner for two, with no special request for a table that would accommodate two high chairs.  We were free to focus on us. It was absolutely wonderful, and I loved every second of it.  Over the course of a week in the most beautiful place I have ever been, I began to grasp how truly blessed I am to be head-over-heels for the same guy I fell in love with over a decade ago.  In fact, I think I'm even more crazy about him now than I was back then.

As we got home and took care of restocking the fridge and tackling piles of laundry, I realized how many things I missed while I was in “paradise” for a week with my guy.  It dawned on me how much I love it here.  I’m not going to go on and on about the beautiful Texas weather, because I just cannot even fake it.  The humidity hit me like a slap in the face as soon as I stepped off that airplane.  I cannot tell you that I inhaled that hot, sticky Texas air without another thought of the absolute paradise I left eight hours prior.  That would not be true.  But it really has nothing to do with where I live my life.  It has everything to do with who I live my life with.  It has to do with family.  This family began ten years ago when I married a guy I couldn’t imagine living without.  Eight years later, two tiny heart beats on an ultrasound screen delivered more joy than we could have ever fathomed.  But family started with the two of us. 

I think we’ve both had that rug-being-pulled-out-from-under-us feeling from time to time over the past two years.  For eight years, we had our routine, and that routine involved just us.  Don’t get me wrong, we waited years and years, longing for children.  In some ways, I think it made our transition to parenthood even tougher than normal, and I know without a doubt that taking home two bundles of joy made it feel like we had just jumped off the side of a ship without life jackets.  But over the past two years, a new routine has emerged.  And it is beautiful.

Oddly enough, I realized today that I really don’t mind having an audience while using the “potty.”  (OK, that might be a little too much information, but if you’re a mom, you know what I’m talking about!) And I actually enjoy the noisy background music of my life these days, which includes but is not limited to the following: streams of incomprehensible babble, all-too-familiar strings of “no”, laughter with spurts of uncontrollable giggling, and the occasional temper tantrum…. or two. It just took a week of peace and quiet, listening to nothing but the sound of the ocean rolling in to realize that I kinda like the sometimes-chaotic-clatter that fills this house. 

 I also decided I really don’t mind peanut butter crackers for lunch.  (Especially when it involves watching my goofy little girl smear it all over her face in pure delight!) Nor do I mind our regular Tuesday pizza night, even though a week ago I was sitting outside with an ocean view sipping a mai-tai and eating fresh seafood.  I'll be honest. I think I get just as excited as the kids when Daddy walks in with that big white box of Palio's pepperoni pizza every Tuesday night after work.  That box means so much more than dinner.  It represents our routine, which some days I know I take for granted.  But those are the moments that truly make my heart smile, over and over again.  The regular, everyday moments.  The usual stuff.  

 I may have enjoyed every blissful moment on a tropical island many, many miles away, but it could never compare to this place…. Home.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Dear Cody,
Ten years ago we said, “I do,” and our adventure began.  If given the chance, I wonder what would I say to twenty-one-year-old me on our wedding day.  First, I think I’d point out how young we were.  Really young.  Some might say, stupid young. But young or not, I’d tell me not to take this man in front of me for granted.  I’d want to make twenty-one-year-old me understand that God chose you just for me.  That He hand-picked you with me in mind.  God chose well.  So well.  I could never have truly comprehended this in that moment standing at the front of the church in my white dress that I had dreamed about since childhood, but I would find out in the years to come.  I would get to see just how blessed that day was, ten years ago.

What I found, in the past decade of my life, was not a perfect husband, but a man who loves me deeply, my flaws and all.  What I found was not someone who could fix all of my problems or heal all of my heartaches.  What I found was a friend, a best friend, who is willing to walk through a fire with me, arm in arm, with eyes fixed on the One who can solve every problem and heal every heartache.  

I wish I could say that the past ten years have been pure bliss; that we never, ever fight, or say stupid things.  I wish I could say that every year since our wedding day was filled with happiness, but that’s not life.  I have come to realize that life is messy, and it’s OK.  I am not perfect. You are not perfect. But if we trust in Him and His perfect will, He promises to be with us every step of our journey.  

Sometimes I wish we could get a travel itinerary, a schedule of events about to take place, so we could plan accordingly.  But, God does not operate that way.  We are on a need to know basis and some stuff we just don’t need to know right now.  Like where we will be in the next ten years.  What is on the horizon, I wonder?  Maybe if we could see ourselves at year twenty, there would be no need to trust in Him to get us there safely.  Or maybe we’d just jump ship and bail.  I look back on our journey to here and smile, thinking about how much life has taken place since the day we said, “I do.”  

I look forward to the days when the sun is shining on us, but I’ll take the storms as well.   Because it’s in the darkness of the scariest storm that He brings His peace, and reminds me that He’s given you to me for times like these.  He reminds me that we are not alone. That arm in arm, following Him, we can get through anything.  Anything.
I’m just so glad I get to share my messy life with you.   I love you!
Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Balloons in the Bathtub

I would say it had been one of “those days,” but lately, “those days” are starting to become most days.  It was the kind of day that was filled to the brim with tears and tantrums and prayers to Jesus asking us to make better choices.  Let me paint a picture for you.  

It was a day overflowing with lots and lots of tears like these:
 With plenty of grumpiness like this:
And a whole lot of screaming into the wind just like this:

By 8:30 a.m., in between five thousand time-outs and just as many tantrums, Jake discovered how to unlock and open the front door.  Then, as if that inspired him to master more skills, he taught himself how to take his shirt off.  Then he taught Lilly how to take her shirt off.  So, while both of them were sitting side by side in time-out for yet another fist fight that morning, I overheard an echo of “uh-ohs,” which any mom knows is never a good thing.  Never, ever, ever.  

When I walked over to the two of them, who were both holding their shirts in their hands, it was my turn to pray to Jesus and ask Him to help me make a good choice. With lots of deep breaths and intervention from above, I was able to have a calm discussion with Jake and Lilly about how proud I was that they had mastered this very important skill of undressing, but that since we were already late due to the five thousand time-outs, we had to stay dressed for the rest of the day.  Obviously, I didn’t make myself clear, because it happened again.  And again.  And one more time.

 At one point, I considered letting both kids leave the house without their shirts, but because I care way too much about what people think of me and can't stand for anyone to think think that I just might not have it all together, I chased my children around the house and managed to get them dressed again.  The conversation we had was not as calm as the first one, but I am quite confident that I made myself clear the second time.  In the midst of all the chasing, dressing, and discussing, there were more tears.  There was more grumpiness.  There was more shouting into the wind.  There were more prayers from a desperate Momma.  

Trying my hardest to hang onto the thin thread of patience that was left after my morning, I walked out of my closet just in time to witness toys being heaved into the bathtub.  I recognized the looks my children exchanged that said, “Momma’s having a bad day…. Let’s see how quickly we can push her over the edge!”  Cranky tears quickly turned to playful giggles as they took turns launching various items into the bathtub.  

This is normally not allowed.  This usually ends in time-outs for everyone.  But for some reason, instead of screaming at the top of my lungs like I really, really, really wanted to do, I prayed and asked Jesus to help me make a good choice, just like I had led my children to do at least a dozen times already that morning.  And in the middle of my prayer, I sat down in the middle of the bathroom floor and started laughing.  And I couldn’t stop.  This made their giggles come faster and louder.  At one point, Lilly looked at Jake as if to say, “This is SO not the reaction I thought we’d get!”  

It felt good laughing as I watched my two little messes hurl random objects into the tub.  I may or may not have joined in.  Some might call this bad parenting,  but sometimes there are just “those days.”  Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes there is grumpiness.  Sometimes there is shouting into the wind.  Sometimes there are prayers every hour on the hour.  Sometimes it just feels good to throw our junk in the tub and laugh about it.  

That night, after putting Jake and Lilly to bed, I took a long, deep breath and decided I needed a long, relaxing bath.  All I wanted was some peace and quiet after a very loud and chaotic day.  What I found, as I reached over to turn on the water, made me giggle.

I had hosted a baby shower for a sweet friend of mine the week before, and the remnants of the pink and blue decorations still lingered in corners of the house.  (Confession: There is still one blue balloon wrapped around our living room fan after Jake experimented with helium and a high ceiling.)  In spite of all the frustration that had filled my day, I couldn’t help but smile at the site of balloons in my bathtub.  Two little some-bodies must have snuck in the bathroom before bedtime and left Momma a little surprise.  I took this picture because older, wiser, more experienced moms tell me I will miss these days. These days of tears and tantrums and prayers to Jesus begging for patience.  

Proverbs 31:10-31 paints a portrait of a virtuous woman.  She is strong, dignified, loving, and caring.  She is a wife, and she is a mother.  She serves God with a cheerful heart. She keeps the perfect balance and manages her household graciously.  Verse 25 says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”  I came across this verse and wondered if this woman, the perfect model of a Momma who has it all together, ever had a day like mine.  I wonder how many times she prayed to God asking Him to renew her strength.  I wonder how often she begged Him to give her patience.  I wonder if she ever laughed about balloons in the bathtub, because she knew that eventually her kids would grow up.  And that one day, she’d miss “those days.”

In an attempt to balance out the grouchiness, I am sharing the "smiling versions" of my little ones as well.  Seeing their cheerful faces helps me to take every day in stride... the good days, the bad days, the ugly days, and the days of balloons in the bathtub.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

PART 4: A Safe Journey

Do not work for food that spoils, but food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  John 6:27

The story in the bible that tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand has really come alive for me lately.  This story can be found in John Chapter 6.  I have heard it told so many times, but am now beginning to see new truths in the same verses I read over and over again as a little girl. 

This story is about feeding a crowd of people who had a need.  A need to be fed.  Jesus had compassion on them and told his disciples to feed them.  The disciples, who were extremely uncomfortable and very unprepared, focused on their limitations, rather than on His power. 

“This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late.” 
“We don’t have enough money… it would take more than half a year’s wages to feed this crowd.”

Jesus, knowing in advance what he was going to do, told the disciples to bring to Him what they had.  And all they had were five loaves of bread and two fish.  The disciples were so focused on what they lacked, that they forgot they were with Jesus, the One who can take anything, even our inadequacies, and use them to do mighty things. 

Jesus not only fed the five thousand with the bread and the fish, but he also taught them, nourishing their souls.  In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” While reading this story of a beautiful miracle, I realized that there is so much more He wants me to give.

One morning, not that long ago, I woke up and knew that there was another step in loving this group of people God has put on my heart.  Completely 100% out of my comfort zone, I hesitantly asked God that morning, “You want me to pass out bibles, too?”  And the answer that my heart received was, “Yes.  Tell them about me.”

My sister-in-law, Bri, shared with me that many of the local Dollar Stores carry bibles.  So, that day, the kids and I went to the Dollar Store and bought a stack of bibles. 

The very next morning, I met Frank.  Very conscious that the bag of bibles was still in the backseat, I panicked for a second.  Passing out bibles and sharing my faith with complete strangers is extremely new territory for me.  I admire people who can do so without any fear.  I am not one of those people.  What this man said to me will stay with me forever.  It reminded me in such a mighty way that I have to be willing to say yes completely and trust that God will lead me in the direction He wants me to go. 

After introducing myself and offering Frank a bag of food and toiletries, I asked if I could pray for him.  With such a sincere look in his eyes, he said, “Oh, yes, please pray for me.”  When I asked him what I could pray for specifically, his reply was, “a safe journey.”  He had been on the road for eleven days, on his way from Michigan to San Diego, and he was tired.  He could have asked for a lot of things.  But all he asked for was prayer that he would get to where he was going safely.  All of us journey through this life.  And isn't that what all of us want? To be safe.  To be secure.  To be loved. 

Sometimes the journey we face is hard.  Sometimes the journey is lonely.  Sometimes we get tired along the way.  But Jesus is waiting on the side of the road, ready to walk with us and hold our hand.

Before I drove away, I asked Frank if he had a bible.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to share one since God had obviously already planned this in advance.  Then he said to me, “No, Ma’am.  That is the only thing I do not have.”  With tears in my eyes, I handed him a bible, and he was so grateful.  So very, very grateful. 

When I turned my car around and headed the opposite way, I saw him from a distance, standing there by the side of the highway, under a truck stop sign that vaguely resembled a cross, reading his very own bible.  I love being able to hand a bag of food to someone that is hungry.  But it will never compare to the feeling I had that day as I helped to feed a hungry soul. 

Jake and Lilly clasped their hands together and helped say a prayer for Frank that night.  I want to teach my kids to love like Jesus did.  God is showing me that if my prayer for my children is sincere, then I must love like Him too. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.“  I am beginning to see that what I do speaks volumes louder than what I say. 

My story is a very ordinary one.  I am just a stay-at-home mom with two kids who has fears and struggles and needs to be reminded constantly that God loves me.  But I believe that God has given me this story to tell.  My prayer is that this very ordinary story (which is continuing to unfold) will encourage you to ask God how you can reach out to the hopeless and the forgotten, the “least” in your life.  I pray that our children will be involved, either in filling bags with food for the hungry or watching us love on strangers.  If He can use me, He can use you.  God takes the simple things, the inexperienced things, and the weak things of this world and uses them in a way so that He is known.  So that He receives all the glory.  All He needs is a yes.  As my friend Jackie told me recently, “God can do anything with a yes, and absolutely nothing with a no.”

 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

PART 3: A New Command

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34

A few years ago, I had a conversation with my sweet friend, Charla, who loves Jesus dearly.  We were talking about the best way to help the homeless in our community.  We shared how skeptical we both were about just giving money to anyone on the street corner.  She came up with this idea to keep non-perishable food items and other necessities in bags in her car.  Then when she saw a need, she’d be prepared.  Back then it was just a good idea, something I intended to do. 

In February, the month of LOVE, I followed through on that good intention, and put together bags to keep in the backseat of my car. 

Here are some items I included in each bag:
cereal or fruit bars
peanut butter crackers
fruit cups
dried fruit
beef jerky
plastic utensils
Kleenex or wipes
feminine products
bug spray

I printed scripture verses on labels and stuck them to the inside of each bag.  I like having a bunch of different ones, and always pray that the person receiving the bag gets just the right verse God wants them to hear. All of these reveal God’s promises.  

The Lord your God LOVES you. Deuteronomy 23:5
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11  
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.  Job 37:5
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.  Isaiah 49:16
The Lord your God will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.  Isaiah 33:6
Wait patiently for the Lord.  Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.  Psalm 27:14
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in LOVE, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the LOVE of Christ for you.  Ephesians 3:18
God’s promises aren’t just for some of us.  They are for you.  They are for me.  They are for those without hope. 

I used to pass out judgment.  “He could get a job.”  “She’s probably an addict.”  And you know what? I am learning that God is the Ultimate Judge.  God judges based on truth.  I don’t get to be the judge of everybody else, because I don’t know the whole story.  He knows the whole story because He’s writing the story.  He knows that the man I pass judgment on just lost his job and can’t pay his bills.  He knows that the woman I notice hitchhiking has left everything to escape an abusive relationship, choosing to live on the streets rather than living in bondage another day.  

So, in an incredibly humbling way, God has forever changed my heart.  I no longer pass out judgment.  I pass out LOVE.  Jesus’ LOVE.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35