Saturday, June 30, 2012

Celebrating Big

Dear Jake,
Your Daddy said to me just the other night, “He’s becoming a little person, you know.”  I do.  I know that with each year that passes I’ll know more and more about what this whole process of becoming a little person with a unique personality entails.  I know quite a bit about you now, but there is so much more I can’t wait to figure out!  Two years ago you were still squished in Momma’s tummy, sick of Lilly’s feet in your face, I’m sure!  That was back when I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with two different people at the same time.  I found out real quick that I was wrong! 

I love who you are, who you are becoming, and who you will become as you grow from a “little person” into a “big person.”  At this age, I already recognize the pride you take in doing your own thing.  When your sister and all of your cousins ran through the park to hunt for Easter eggs, you found absolutely nothing wrong with refusing to get in the wet grass.  Who would want wet grass stuck to their feet?  When Daddy told you and Lilly that you had to wear floaties on your arms before getting in the swimming pool, you were 100% okay sitting on the edge and kicking your feet if it meant getting out of wearing those silly things!  You don’t have any qualms about eating the exact same dinner every single night, even if the rest of the family is enjoying a new dish Momma worked extra hard to prepare.  I could go on and on.

Perhaps the most trying task is getting you to remain unruffled and still for a five minute haircut.  You sat like a little gentleman the first time you got your hair cut.  You cried the second time, and Daddy had to hold you while the sweet lady did her best to groom a moving target.  The third time was embarrassing.  The fourth time brought tears to both your Daddy’s eyes and mine.  When I didn’t think it could get any worse, you initiated one heck of a performance.  I am surprised the glass windows at the front of the barber shop did not shatter with the decibel level you achieved that day.  

I tell you all these things, sweet boy, because this week we are celebrating you!  You will turn two years old in just a few days, but our celebration doesn’t stop there.  Just yesterday, without skipping a beat, you slipped on your arm floaties at the pool like you’d been doing it all summer long.  I couldn’t believe it!  Your Daddy and I thought we had tried everything, and then you just unexpectedly decided that the day had come for you to officially join the “swim club.”  Not only did that make me smile for the rest of the day, it made my summer!  When I sent your Daddy these pictures at work, I know he got up and did the happy dance. (Even though I do not have hard evidence to suggest said dancing took place, this breakthrough was worth every step of a good ol’ happy dance!)

Today your Daddy made a comment about your hair getting kinda long.  With your birthday coming up, I’m sure your picture will be taken a time or two.  When I suggested spontaneously that we take you for a haircut, I was shocked when your Daddy agreed.  We discussed our game plan the entire car ride there, and upon arrival were ready for whatever fit you would most likely throw at us.  But then, something monumental happened!  When we told you that you were going to get a haircut, you reached up, pulled on your hair, and smiled!  You walked in, took a good look at a little girl about year older than you getting her hair trimmed, and you decided you would give it a chance.  When you found out you could watch Mickey Mouse while getting your hair cut, you were hooked.  You sat all by yourself in the little fire truck instead of wriggling around on Daddy’s lap.  You smiled and were pleasant to the lady cutting your hair… the same lady Momma pulled aside and warned about your horrific outburst last time.  The same lady who I’m sure was thinking, “What did I do to get the short end of the stick?”  But, for some reason unbeknownst to us, you decided a hair cut would be fun today.  You sat there like a kid who’s gotten his hair cut a million times, and I think you even enjoyed it.  Your Daddy and I exchanged looks more than once that said, “Oh my goodness, what is this?!”  When the same sweet lady pulled out the buzzer, I thought it was over, but you even tolerated that without a whimper or a frown.  “Unbelievable” is the best word I can come up with to describe our hair-cutting excursion today. 

On the way home, your Momma and Daddy were beaming!  The funny thing is neither of us can take credit for your recent accomplishments!  It was 100% you!  I am realizing that you like to celebrate big, with plenty of clapping, high-fives, singing, and dancing!  Life has been unpredictable and thrilling since you invaded our hearts two years ago!  While at times it is tough on your Momma and Daddy, I know that strong will of yours will help shape who you become.  God made you just the way you are so that you (and only you) can handle whatever important business He has in store for you.  I hope you never lose your determination, and that as you grow, you stand firm in what you believe.  
I love you, kid!
Love, Momma

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Song For Lilly

Dear Lilly Grace, 

I cannot believe that next week we will celebrate your second birthday!  When people warned your Momma that it would go by in a flash, they knew what they were talking about!  It is such a blessing and an honor to be your Momma!  I have loved every minute of the last two years of your itty-bitty life.  I hope you keep your fierceness and use it to do whatever God has planned for you. He made you YOU for a special purpose and gave you your fiery spirit. I hope you never lose sight of it. I pray that you will live boldly and out loud, and never play it safe when it comes to doing what God created you to accomplish!

I came across this entry in a journal Momma has not written in for months. My goal was to write to you each month.  I did pretty good your first year, but then our crazy life got the best of me. When you have kids of your own one day, you’ll understand that I had the best of intentions!  When I snapped this picture of you this week in all your “bling,” I couldn’t help but remember "your song!"  Here’s the story of how it came to be your favorite, and the words that just might develop some meaning as you grow in your walk with Jesus!   
I love you so much, Stink Bug!
Love, Momma

October 13, 2011
You are such a little firecracker, Lilly Grace!  Sometimes, you can give me such grief getting ready to go somewhere, chasing me around the house with your shoes hours before we are ready to leave, throwing a full blown temper tantrum when I tell you that no, I cannot hold you while I'm curling my hair.  You can make me downright weak some days!  But amidst the tears that fall when you don't get your way, I see a bright, beaming heart exploding with joy!  After one such morning last week, where I found it almost impossible to get you and your brother ready and in the car, I turned around as I backed out of our driveway and saw you dancing like crazy to this song that is an absolute favorite of mine.  You were bobbing your head, kicking your feet, and clapping your hands, a beautiful, crazy grin plastered all over your face.  Today we were in the car and this song came on.  Again, you started dancing like a crazy girl, nutty head-bob and all!  I decided that when we got home, I'd sit down and write out the words to this song that has obviously become your favorite.  (You certainly don't dance to any other song quite like this one!)  So here are the beautiful words that maybe one day might mean more to you than just a catchy beat:

Hello my friend!
I remember when you were
So alive with your wide eyes
"Til the light that you had in your heart was stolen
Now you say that it ain't worth staying
You wanna run but you're hesitating
I'm talking to me 

Don't let your lights go down
Don't let your fire burn out
"Cause somewhere somebody needs
A reason to believe
Why don't you rise up now 
Don't be afraid to stand out
That's how the lost get found
The lost get found 

So when you get the chance
Are you gonna take it
There's a really big world at your fingertips
And you know you have the chance to change it 
There's a girl on the street she's crying
There's a man whose faith is dying
Love is calling you  
 Why do we go with the flow
Why take the easier road
Why are we playing it safe
Love came to show us the way
Love is a chance we should take
I'm moving out of the gray  
So when you get the chance
Are you gonna take it
There's a really big world at your fingertips
And you know you have the chance to change it
{Brit Nicole: The Lost Get Found}

Monday, June 25, 2012

Special Things

“Special things” is a phrase we use in our house to describe the stuff we don’t want the kids to touch.  My mom laughs every time she hears me say this phrase to my kids, but let me tell you, it has served its purpose well.  When Jake and Lilly started walking about a year ago, we had to figure out which things had to be moved out of their reach and which things we were going to keep where they were, even though there was a certain risk involved as two toddling adventurers anxiously set out to explore.  My reasoning was this: If it can hurt them, let’s move it, but everything else stays put. 

When Jake developed a fascination for remotes, we gave him one without batteries.  When that did not go over well with Jake, we adopted the phrase “special things.”  The six other remotes in our house were referred to as “Daddy’s special things,” and deemed off-limits.  It was a stretch to have faith that this could work, but, surprisingly, with lots and lots of repetition, it did!  Both kids leave my books next to my bed alone, even though the basket is well within their reach, because they understand that those are “Momma’s special things.”  When we go to my Noni and Poppy's house, Lilly and Jake both know not to touch the two glass candle holders on the coffee table, because those are “Noni’s special things.”  At Grammy and Pop’s house, the bright blue buttons on the TV are at just the right height for two little fingers, but once we established that area as “Pop’s special things,” it was no longer an issue. 

The “special things” phrase has stuck.  As they approach two, Jake and Lilly are now very aware of what their special things are.  For Lilly, it’s pretty much any kind of animal… stuffed animals, plastic animals, pictures of animals, or the real deal.  But, make no mistake: Lilly’s special things are not Jake’s special things, and vice versa.  To make this point crystal clear, let me tell you about our little outing to the Dallas Aquarium last week. 

Poppy and Lilly saw so many different creatures up close and personal as they stopped to admire each and every one.  Lilly was thrilled when an enormous manatee swam by to greet us!  A few days later, Lilly found one in her coloring book!  She was so proud to show me her new special friend.

While they were interacting with the wildlife, Jake and I were scouting out all of the computers stationed in front of each exhibit.  He couldn’t have cared less about the animals, birds, or marine life.  All he wanted to do was push the buttons on the touch screen, then rush to find the next one!  Perfect example of how different these two are!

So, today Jake and Lilly were doing what they love to do:  gathering all of their “special things” and putting them in their own buckets (AKA Easter baskets from Grammy) to haul around the house.  They take theirs buckets to different rooms, empty them out, examine each "special thing" ever so carefully, then gather them up and deposit them back in their buckets again.  Sometimes, we play a game and I ask, "What special things are in your bucket?"  They love to take each thing out and tell me what it is.

 I was not at all surprised to find animals in Lilly’s bucket- a zebra (‘bra,’ she calls it), a tiger, and a horse.  In Jake’s bucket were a set of completely different things, distinctly special to him.  He had sunglasses (not his, but an old, cheap pair of mine), an empty facial cream container (again, mine), a set of spare car keys that belong to a vehicle we no longer own, and Cody’s old cell phone cover. 

I chuckled when I peeked inside Jake’s bucket of “special things.”  All of the things he cherishes are items that he sees Cody and I walking around with every day…. Things he must perceive as being our “special things” as well.  It made me smile to think that our special things are his special things.  He loves us so much that he loves what we love.  (OK, I don’t know if I can say I really “love” my car keys, phone, and sunglasses, but they are pretty important on a daily basis, and I do not leave the house without any of them!)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

God led me to a passage in 1 Peter this week, and as I read this phrase, “God’s special possession,” I couldn’t help but think about “special things.”  We are God’s special things, the ones He has chosen as precious in His sight.  And as His children who belong to Him, we should love what He loves.  And what does He place above all of creation?  People.  If people are His most “special things,” then they should be ours as well.  We were made to be in tune with our Father, to love what He loves, to hate what He hates.  And the Bible is crystal clear:  “God’s special possessions” are His people.

I love Jesus with all of my heart, but when I think about all I consider to be my “special things,” I can’t help but feel like maybe I’ve missed some of the important ones.  God makes no exceptions or excuses.  He sent his Son, who was more precious than any, to die for every person on this planet, whether they know Him yet or not.  All of the people I cross paths with on a daily basis match that description.  Even the people who are so, so hard to love.  Jesus died for them, too.
We all have them - difficult people in our lives who’ve hurt us or let us down, or maybe they just drive us absolutely crazy.  Whoever “those” people are in your life, they are “special” to Him.  They are “His chosen ones.”  He loves them the same way He loves you.  I heard someone recently say that it is impossible to love Jesus and not love people.  Why?  Because when our hearts beat with our Father's, His special things become our special things. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


“I don’t want to. Let’s get on with it,” I keep saying, but even though there are days I pretend not to hear it, Jesus keeps putting his hand on my shoulder, and saying, “Be still. For just a minute, I want you to stay right where you are.  I will tell you when we’re done here.” 

I’ve been here before, so I should know not to complain.  I’ve walked down a vaguely familiar road, but perhaps not with the same insight that I have now.  I have grown since then, at least I hope so.

Back then, you would have seen me, struggling and flailing, as I tried with all of my strength to keep going.   It was not graceful, and it was definitely not pretty.  And the worst part was that it took so stinking long for me to realize that God did not want this for me.  He never intended for me to be smacking my head against a wall all by myself, crippled by fear.  He had a purpose, but to be brutally honest, I did not trust Him.  That sounds so harsh, even as I type that phrase, but it’s the truth.  I was afraid, because I really did not trust God’s plan.  I believed mine was better, and I fought hard to hold on to it.

Somewhere along the way, with tears streaming down my face, I looked around and realized that God gave me something to focus on in the waiting.  Him.  It was pretty convenient, because He was the only one there with me.  Once I quit trying to force something that had always been out of my control, I sat down next to Him, got comfortable, and discovered so much.  Security, identity, joy- these were just a few of the treasures I found.  When He was sure that I had set down all the extra stuff I was trying to haul with me, He was ready to lead me on in this journey.  And as I took His hand, I was surprised when that urge to dig my heels just a little bit deeper into the ground had vanished.

This afternoon, as I walked my kids up the stairs for nap time, I had such a moment with God.  He speaks to us every single day in so many creative ways, and we get to hear from Him if we’re paying attention.  As Jake and Lilly approach two, they are now walking up the stairs with lots of assistance from a nervous, nail biting Momma.  Lilly, who thinks she needs absolutely no help whatsoever with anything, was the first to start her ascent.  Jake was having a hard time parting with his new, special toy (an apple juice container I fished out of the trash), so he was behind in his climb.  Lilly continued on quickly up the stairs, without my help.

When she reached the landing, about six stairs from where Jake was, I asked her to wait.  Usually when we hike up the stairs, I have one on either side of me and I walk holding each one’s hand or sometimes I walk directly behind them.  Neither one is ready to climb independently, or maybe it’s just me who’s not quite there yet.  Since Jake took a tumble down the bottom three when he was younger, stairs make me sweat.    I don't allow them to drag blankets behind them or anything else that could trip them up.  I always make sure that they each have two empty hands.  When their hands are empty, they are able to hold on to me with one and the banister with the other.  We travel light, I guess you could say!

As I watched my daughter on the landing, her reaction surprised me at first.  But then, I recognized the tears.  She did not understand why I told her to wait.  I tried to explain that she could continue on once Jake and I caught up to her.  I tried to tell her that I was looking out for her safety.  She didn’t understand why she had to wait for us to catch up, since she was clearly ready to go all by herself.  When I say that she did not grasp any of these concepts, what I really mean is she lost it.  She didn’t just whine.  She didn’t just sniffle.  She engaged in the most desperate sob-fest I have ever witnessed.  All because I asked her to wait. 

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  During a past season of waiting on God, this verse became my anchor. I purchased a wooden plaque several years ago with these sweet words painted across it to help me to remember to do exactly what it says.  It sits on the top shelf of the bookcase in our living room.  When I read this simple, brief verse, I can’t help but exhale. 

Today, I still struggle with waiting.  I want to be moving, not standing still.  The word “still” means motionless or tranquil. Stillness is peacefulness.  It means to possess a quiet knowing as we humbly focus on God, not ourselves or the situation we're facing.  It means acknowledging who He is and who we are not.  What strikes me as ironic, though, is that the state of being still only seems like the absence of action.  To remain still and wait on the Lord requires tremendous work.  It takes concentrating on His goodness, even when life is not good.

As I scooped up my daughter and wiped away her tears, I realized that even if I have no clue why God is telling me today to be still and wait, His reasons are good enough for me.  And I am willingly emptying my hands so that I can hold onto Him and His promise that He will tell me when to take the next step and that He will walk with me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Look At Me

I have sought your face with all my heart;  be gracious to me according to your promise.  Psalm 119:58 (NIV)

On Sunday afternoon, we were heading home from a long afternoon of swimming.  It’s what we do in Texas to survive the long, hot summers, and all you have to do is walk outside and watch your glasses fog up to know without a doubt that summer is indeed here!   I have shared in the past that my daughter is the opposite of graceful.  Her middle name may be "Grace," but only because God has a sense of humor.  Lilly is constantly falling down and bumping into things.  I have kissed more "ouchies" in her short two years than I can count.

On our walk from the pool to the car, Lilly, holding my hand, suddenly tripped over her own feet and scraped her knee on the sidewalk.  When I helped her back up, she looked down at her knee, horrified by the trickle of blood that ran down her leg.  Immediately, she began crying and pointing at her newly incurred injury.  We were so close to the car, and I did not have anything in my pool bag to help clean her up.  Everything was in the car.  I knew she was not really hurt, but the thought of blood gushing out of her knee was just too much for her to bear.  I knew that in the car, ten feet away, I had wipes, band-aids and everything else necessary to treat the damage caused by clumsy genes. 

As I walked towards the parking lot, holding my screaming daughter, I kept telling her, “Look at Momma!  Don’t look at your knee… Look at me.  Look at Momma!”  I realized that she was getting more and more upset as she stared at the blood on her knee.  I wanted her to focus on me instead.  I wanted to tell her that I knew she was hurt.  I wanted her to hear me say that I would make it all better. Momma would clean it up, kiss it, and dry her tears.  But, she was too consumed with the problem: her bloody knee. 

I think David was a man who understood that he was better off staring into the face of God, who could save him, rather than focusing on all the danger lurking around him.  In Psalm 119:123, he writes, "My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled." (NLT) 

I've been where my daughter's been.  Staring at my own hurt, completely oblivious to the fact that Jesus was waiting for me to look at Him instead of at myself.  Concentrating on the immense size of my crisis, I lost sight of how big my God is.  Whatever I am facing, He is always bigger.  Always.

I wonder what would happen if we all started looking into the face of our Maker instead of all the troubles we are in "knee-deep."  I wonder what would happen if we quit staring at the horror of our own wounds and let Him heal us the way He intends to.  I wonder what would happen if we truly trusted Him, let go of our fears, and believed that He is able to work all things for good.  I bet, maybe, just maybe, those mountains we stand before might start to appear as little hills instead.  When we start putting one foot in front of the other, looking up to Him, He promises to get us where He's leading us, safely.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.  Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Learning To Say No

My friend Charla, (Granny-3 or G3 for short) offered to play with one of my kids while I ran errands with the other today.  I am amazed at how much I can get done with a single toddler.  She made this sweet offer to me about a week ago, only requesting one thing from me:  I would have to choose the kid that got to stay at her house, not her.  She urged me to take advantage of her offer, then said, “But I know you’ll never ask.”  So, not wanting to rob her of the opportunity to do something so sweet for me, ask I did.  And it was wonderful, for all of us.  

Earlier this morning I was thinking about Jake and Lilly’s birthday party coming up in July. (Don’t even get me going about the fact that they are turning two… that’s another post).  I needed to go to Hobby Lobby, but the first signs of a migraine started creeping in when I thought about our last Hobby Lobby experience just last month. The trip that ended with a cart full of stuff being haphazardly thrown back onto the shelf and an embarrassed Momma dragging two screaming toddlers out to the car was one I was still trying to erase form my memory.

Lilly is my Question-Asker.  “What’s that?” “And that?” “And that?”  (Although it sounds more like, “Dat?”)  Taking Lilly to Hobby Lobby is like trying to count to one hundred while a crowd of people are shouting different numbers at the top of their lungs.  There is so much to look at and inquire about, but usually Momma goes there to gather supplies, not to leisurely stroll through the store and look at all the pretty things. 

Whatever I am buying at this favorite store of mine typically involves some kind of measuring that I never take care of beforehand.  If I am buying ribbon for some project, it’s calculating how many feet are in a yard, then how many yards I’ll need, so I don’t have to make a return trip.  If it’s paint, it’s which one of fifteen is the perfect shade of blue.  If I am purchasing party supplies, it’s which combination of items will save me the most money and the most time.  So when the cart stops for Momma to think and then follow-up with a decision, the natives get restless.  Jake hates stopping and Lilly, who doesn’t mind the frequent pauses, fills that time with questions.  So many questions!  And if she is not answered the first time, she increases her volume and decreases the distance between her face and mine.  Over and over, she’ll ask, “Dat? DAT? DAAAAAAAAAAAT?” 

So, in an attempt to prevent havoc from invading my morning outing, I remembered my sweet friend’s offer, and I took her up on it.  Lilly went to G3’s house for an hour or so while Jake and I navigated the aisles of Hobby Lobby in search for the perfect favor bags for their Zoo party coming up this summer.  

Upon returning to pick up Lilly, Jake and I heard all about her adventure with Chops, the dog, Rocket, the cat, and three fish in the pond out back.  My little girl loves animals, even if they don’t always love her back.  I received an email from Charla later that afternoon, complete with pictures of Lilly in action.  I’ll let you read what my dear friend had to say about her adventure with Lilly.

Learning to Say No
Written by Charla Lindsey (used with permission)

How is it that sweet, young, innocent children love to use that word "No" once they learn it?  Why is it that we, as adults, have a hard time saying “No,” (like children)?  Sometimes,  it's OK to say “No.”  Especially, if it's an honest answer.  But, often, we try to say "Yes," to too many "other things," and we run from God saying "No" - just like his children that we are.

 I learned a "Lesson from Lilly" today as she came to G3's house to play for a bit.  I learned that my cat tried to say "No," but Lilly was determined to play with the cat.  “Meow, meow,” as Lilly would say, practically crawling under the bed with the cat to seek him out.   When I thought about putting that cat back outside, and Lilly told me, "No,”  she was honest!  And, that was OK. She really wanted to play with the cat.   Does God seek us out to find us when we hide under our "bed”?  Does He constantly seek us even when we try to say "No"?  Yes, He does.  He is faithful, and He allows us to say "No," but never gives up on us! 

Thank you, Lilly, for telling me "No" and for teaching me a lesson about God's unending, unconditional love today. I'm grateful God patiently lets us say "No," but never gives up on us! 

  Lilly was finally successful, and Rocket, the cat, said "Yes!”

  Lilly and her new friend, Chops

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Time To Clean Up

I hate a mess.  It drives me crazy.  I wish it did not bother me, but it does.  I cannot work with distraction.  I can’t think in chaos, and I certainly get past a messy playroom.  As much as I dislike a mess, my kids can’t stand to clean up.  There was a time, back when they were sweet and innocent, when clean up time was fun.  It involved a fun little song and two happy babies merrily hurling toys into bins and laughing all the while.  Now, it involves two very independent toddlers who’ve perfected the word, “No.”  They don’t care to clean up.  A mess doesn’t bother them one bit.  Both are both oblivious to the utter destruction they can wreak on a room in ten seconds flat.  To them, right now, it’s just a way of life.

In our house, we do massive clean up twice a day: before naps and before bedtime.  This morning, we played outside, had a picnic lunch, and then marched right upstairs to the bathtub for a quick rinse before naptime.  Lilly and Jake are both obsessed with bubbles, yet tend to wear more of the soapy solution these days.  Today, there was no way around a mid-day dip in the tub.

When I came downstairs to enjoy “naptime,” which never seems to involve a nap for me, I was horrified at the sight of the playroom.  I had forgotten to get them to clean up before I whisked them upstairs, red-faced and sweaty, dripping wet with soap. 

I should know better than to do what I did.  Against all rational thoughts, I began to pick up their toys- the toys they had pulled out this morning and strewn all over the house.  Halfway through, I heard a voice in my head say, “If you do it for them, they’ll never learn.”  Another voice replied, “But I can do it so much quicker.”  And then, “Yeah, but it’s their mess.  They need to clean it up.”  Back and forth we went.  

“But they hate to clean up.  It’s such a struggle these days.”
“They hate it, but you need to teach them to do it anyway.”
“I can’t stand looking at the mess, so I’m doing it myself.”

(Please don’t send me to the looney bin for admitting I hear voices.  There is always a voice of reason somewhere inside this head of mine.  It’s just that I choose not to listen to her nearly as much as I should.) 

Today I should have left the mess and let my kids clean up later. But I could not resist the urge to do it for them.  It bugs me to have the front room of my house a complete and utter disaster.  I don’t mind it when they are awake and running about; in fact, I expect it.  But during the two silent and peaceful times this house experiences in a day (during naptime and bedtime), I want my house looking peaceful as well.  Messes stress me out!  Plus, I know where everything goes.  Not only can I clean it up quicker than the two of them, I can do it better.

As I continued my clean-up process, God put this teeny, tiny thought in my head, and it quickly went straight to my heart.  “I could clean up your messes, too.”

I may be an organized and tidy person, but I am a mess on the inside.  In fact, I’ve often wondered if my perfectionism on the outside is an attempt to cover up the fact that I know I am not that way on the inside.  Perfectionism is honestly my biggest flaw.  It is something that God continually prompts me to give to Him.  As I got still and listened, here’s what I heard:

"I could clean up your messes, too, but I won’t.  I want to teach you how to clean up your own messes.  You can learn from Me, because I know how to do it better than you could ever imagine.  I know where everything goes.  You can try to do it without Me, but it will take a long, long time, and it still won't be right. I promise to teach you;  but I won’t do it for you.  You have to learn how to clean up for yourself, with My help.  I want to heal you and wash all the yuck away.  I want to get rid of what stands in the way of Me.  I will wait, even though it drives Me crazy to see you trying to live in the midst of the mess you’ve created.  I will wait until you are ready to take my hand and let Me help clean up your mess.”

God always has a way of using my kids and my own parenting skills (or lack thereof) to deliver these kind of jaw-dropping reminders that completely catch me off-guard.  He waits so patiently.  Sometimes, when it feels like I am the one waiting on Him, He’s the one who’s patiently waiting on me.  I am notorious for taking something God has placed on my heart, and running like wild with it.  But often, when I look up, I am by myself.  I am where He never intended for me to be…. Alone. 

Jesus wants to walk with us.  He made us to have a relationship with Him.  He knows every emotion, every struggle, every single way a heart can break, because He lived here on this Earth and felt all the things we feel.  Yet He was perfect.  He didn’t try to be perfect, and fall short every time, like me.  He was perfect.  He is Perfect.  And sometimes, what He calls us to do begins in dealing with our very own mess.  The mess within us.  And He is the only One who can heal our heartaches, fix our broken dreams, give us life and purpose, and free us from ourselves.  He is the Only One who truly knows how to clean up our mess, perfectly.

I run for dear life to God, I'll never live to regret it.
   Do what you do so well:
      get me out of this mess and up on my feet.
   Put your ear to the ground and listen,
      give me space for salvation.
   Be a guest room where I can retreat;
      you said your door was always open!
   You're my salvation—my vast, granite fortress.

Psalm 71:1-3 (The Message)

Saturday, June 2, 2012


On our second day in Hawaii, decked out in snorkel gear, we set out on a boat with two marine biologists, a captain, and two other couples, with high hopes to see some dolphins.   

I was excited.  But I could not have prepared myself for what I was about to experience, since I had never been close to dolphins that were not in aquariums at Sea World.  This was the real deal.  We were taught how to correctly use our snorkel gear, a lesson I know Cody wishes he had heard on our honeymoon when he ended up with a leaky mask for half of our underwater excursion.   We learned how to swim with the dolphins, rather than at them.  We were told to swim shoulder to shoulder, mimicking the way the dolphins swim fin to fin in their pods, in an attempt to get them to accept us.

Two things have stuck with me since this experience.  First, I found it way more than ironic that we were instructed to imitate the dolphins so that they would accept us.  We, as humans, are constantly working to gain acceptance.  We do things that we think others will perceive as cool or smart or noble or whatever.  We spend so much of our time here on Earth trying to get people to like us.  To accept us into their circle.  And there we were, in the middle of an ocean, trying to gain the acceptance of a pod of dolphins.  And it was such a huge victory when they circled back around to us again and again, declaring that they had indeed accepted us.  They were comfortable, because we were trying so hard to look like them, swim like them, and behave like them.  

I was amazed as we watched from the surface, looking down on this underwater world that was so foreign to me.  I was completely captivated.  An overwhelming urge to become part of this that world of fins and flippers consumed me.  I wanted to be accepted.

The second thing that left a huge impact on me was the peacefulness that rushed my soul as soon as I stuck my head underwater.  I was nervous, since I had not snorkeled since our honeymoon, and I was a little leery of what else besides dolphins might be lurking in the water below.  But something seemed to change when I was underwater.  My heart continued to race, but my mind quickly abandoned those anxious thoughts as I became surrounded with silence and stillness.  Even the way the dolphins swam was calm and relaxing.  It might have something to do with the fact that we were observing them during their resting time.  Swimming in circles and figure-eights is their method of rest or “sleep,” as we call it.  I kept thinking over and over how much more peaceful I’d be if this was what I did at night instead of tossing and turning, caught up with the thousands of thoughts racing through my exhausted mind.  Everything about them exuded peacefulness.  What’s funny is that as soon as I pulled my head out of the water, that feeling was gone.  As the morning continued, I started to crave the silence and that peaceful feeling I got when I was observing this underwater world that was so different from mine. 

It wasn’t all silence, though.  The same pod that kept coming around to us had a baby in their pod.  And boy, were they chatty!  We heard them squeaking back and forth, and I couldn’t help but wonder if one of them was talking in his sleep.  Or maybe it was a Momma and Daddy discussing who would be responsible for coaxing the baby back to sleep.  Or maybe they were looking up at us, chatting about the strange intruders lurking in their bedroom.  Who knows, but it was awesome to be that close and to hear them communicating, even if we couldn’t understand what they were saying!

After swimming with the dolphins, we rode out to what the marine biologists call the “Turtle Cleaning Station.”  The turtles swim to this large rock where a certain type of fish hangs out.  These fish clean off the turtles’ shells, hence the name “Cleaning Station.”  We saw six turtles and none were too small.  They were not shy either, and it sort of freaked me out how comfortable some of them were with us.  


I was truly in awe of this world that exists under the water.  So much is still unknown to me, and I think that it what is so intriguing.  I learned so much about these creatures and how they live, and became extremely conscious of how my carelessness can affect them in all kinds of ways.  I left that day with a renewed responsibility to make wiser choices about how I live, in order to protect the world God has created and the fascinating creatures that live in it.


One of the things that Cody loves about vacation is getting to explore.  He hates to read tourists flyers that suggest the hot spots every traveler from out of town should visit.  He would rather ask the locals where they eat dinner, and find the hidden gems on his own.  He really should have been more open with me about his expectations back when we were dating.  You see, I think he thought he’d be getting a co-pilot when chose me to be his wife.  He got a wife, all right, but I am not the person you want sitting next to you telling you which way to turn.  Even if I am holding a map, and a GPS device, and the directions are already loaded into that GPS device.  I’m just not wired that way.  I still joke that sometimes I get lost in our subdivision.  I only wish it were just a joke.  I might be able to get you from Point A to Point B, but I cannot promise we won’t take a back road or two, and I can almost guarantee that we will get lost at least once on our journey.  It’s cute that my husband stills thinks I have potential.  It’s amusing that he still thinks that one day, one day I might learn how to read a map or get my bearings without having to study one for half an hour.  

In spite of my navigation incompetency, we had a blast exploring Oahu.  We drove all the way around the island in our little white Jeep, and were truly amazed at how much beauty could exist in one small place.

We hiked up Diamond Head and imagined what it would have been like to look out over the top of the crater, searching for incoming ships, ready to defend our land. 

We were literally blown away by the wind tunnel at Nu’anu Pali Look-out.

In awe, we looked out over the city of Honolulu.

I was weak in the knees as I stood on the shore and watched my husband lunge off 
"Jump Rock" at North Shore. 

 After he jumped, I read this sign.  Then he jumped again.

We were deeply moved when we visited Pearl Harbor and looked down on the sunken Arizona, and all who were buried underwater that fateful day. 
 We snorkeled and swam through the coral reef at Hanauma Bay.  
I kept joking with Cody that I was swimming with my dinner.  
I know.  Kinda creepy.

We covered a lot of ground in our little two-door Jeep.  We left no corner undiscovered, and thoroughly enjoyed each mile we drove, each step we hiked, and every memory we took with us when we left.