Monday, August 27, 2012

One, Two, Nine

In the midst of play-dough, rainbow rice, and washable crayons, Jake and Lilly’s little two-year-old minds are being filled with things like colors, shapes, numbers, and ABC’s.  Jake love, love, loves the color orange, which I’m sure is in direct violation of the Good Aggie Parenting Decree. 

Lilly can’t open a book without counting everything on any given page.  She certainly knows the number “two,” and gets tickled when she spies a pair of anything.  When she counts, though, she is convinced that all she needs to know past “two” is “nine.”

“One, two, nine,” she’ll count, proud as peaches with herself for being such a smarty-pants.  When I try to get her to say “three,” she looks me straight in the eye and says, “No, nine.”  So I guess that settles it, then.  “One, two, nine,” it is.  I’m sure that is in direct violation of the Former Math Teacher Code as well.

I’m sure the day will come when she learns the correct way to count to ten, but today I couldn’t help but think of how I will be counting, “one, two, nine” as I watch them grow up... too quickly.

The first year of my babies’ lives was one I don’t fully remember.  It was one of the most challenging yet sweetest years of my entire life.  There are chunks of time I’ve lost (Cody claims this has happened to him too), I’m sure due to the little sleep we got with two babies who were on different sleep schedules and suffering from acid reflux. 

The second year was a time of independence and milestones, like first steps and first words.  When Jake and Lilly turned two just a couple of months ago, I think it was the first time that I started to feel "it."  Life moving too fast, my babies growing up into little people with completely unique personalities, and the general sense that if I’m not careful, I might miss something as these years start to whiz by me.

One, Two, Nine.

With every new stage, I feel "it."  When everyday seems like a tiny step towards that independence I’ve waited for, I feel "it.When the highchairs get traded in for booster seats, when the diapers get replaced with big boy/ big girl underwear, and the cribs suddenly convert into toddler beds, I’ll feel "it," too.  Sometimes, I want to peak my head into their bedrooms at night and whisper while they sleep, “Slow down, please! 

I realize that it will not stop, nor will it slow down, even if I wish it every day.  There will always be the next stage to contend with.  Tricycles will be swapped for bicycles, and no sooner than sending them to Pre-school, I'll be watching them head off to college.  

But, I'm glad that I have that little tug in my heart, because it is what reminds me to treasure every moment of every day like it's something precious.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Well, this is ironic, I thought, even though it really wasn’t ironic at all.

To fully explain, let me back up to Monday, the day of Messy Closets.  As clearly as God spoke to my heart, gently reminding me that Monday was not the day to be consumed with out of control closets, He clearly gave me the green light on Tuesday.

I was cleaning up after the kids’ breakfast, and I popped my head into the playroom to check on them, where evidence of a reckless tornado left the room in a complete upheaval.  I sighed and actually smiled, thinking to myself, Thank you, Jesus for the strength I need for this day.

As soon as I finished my prayer, my nostrils were attacked by an overwhelmingly foul smell.  Not the smell of poop.  Not the smell of puke.  Not even the smell of soured milk.  This was a strong, musty smell that sometimes lingers in the laundry room where wet towels do not make it to the washing machine quick enough. 

With my nose completely violated by this horrible stench, I began walking around the kitchen sniffing like a crazy person.  It was not the laundry room.  It was not the trash can.  It was not the dishwasher.  It was not the playroom.  I even checked both kids’ diapers just be sure I wasn't confusing this smell.  And then. 

Slowly, I opened the pantry door and was assaulted by the horrible smell.  No, I thought. 

Back in the spring, Henrietta started sleeping on our back porch. I never minded the ducks in the front yard, but the back porch was a different story.  After too many mornings of the kids almost sliding in slimy duck poop, I told Henrietta she needed to find a new place to sleep.  To help her find a new shelter, we decided to stop feeding her every morning. 

I used to keep a basket on the pantry floor, and whenever we came across stale bread, I’d toss it in the basket for the ducks.  When we went to the park, we’d also grab a bag of stale bread to take with us for the ducks that hang around the lake.  I was proud of my organized little bread basket.  I was.  Until, that is, I forgot that we no longer feed the neighborhood ducks, so therefore have no need for the accumulating bread in our pantry. 

There it sat- a lovely little science experiment right on the floor of my pantry.  The same pantry I had blogged about the day before.  Ugh.  When I picked up the bag that no longer held traces of bread, but an awful, smelly, green fungus instead, I nearly gagged.  It was then that I thought I heard a quiet little chuckle, followed by these words from above, Go ahead and knock yourself out, child.  Today is your day to clean the pantry. And I'll give you all the strength you need to accomplish it.

Now by “clean” I want to be clear… my pantry still looks nothing like the one in my dreams.  There are still no labeled canisters of flour and sugar.  Nothing is straight and lined up just so.  Not a single canned good or spice container is in alphabetical order, or in any kind of order for that matter.  There are still corners of my pantry that are far from tidy, but there is no question about this: Mold will no longer be invading my space. 

The only reason I am even sharing this unflattering little story is because I fear that if my husband gets his hands on this computer, he will share it and put all kinds of exaggerated spins on it, further bringing to light my “messy” life.  

So there you have it.  I shared. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Messy Closets

I had a chance to visit with Cody’s mom this weekend, and I got to see her new pantry shelves that are this organizational queen’s dream come true!  I sat down with a sigh next to her on the couch and started talking about my pantry and how it looked nothing like hers.  In place of labeled jars of flour and sugar are haphazardly strewn Ziploc bags full of stuff I’m sure expired four years ago.  Her pantry was glorious, absolutely glorious!  Every single item could be easily found in a matter of a few short seconds.  My eyes scanned the rows of perfectly lined up boxes and canisters; I marveled at the spices and fully expected the cans of food to be in alphabetical order.  If you opened the door to my pantry, you’d have to roll up your sleeves before you could ever start searching.  It’s quite honestly a mess! 

“And the thing that bugs me most is that I used to be organized!” I said to my mother-in-law, jokingly.  “How does that happen?”

Just about that time Jake and Lilly came tearing around the corner.  Oh yeah, that’s how, I thought.

This morning I woke to two sick kids, one of whom was extremely cranky.  We won’t name names here but the girl was laying the whining on pretty thick at six o’clock am.  I knew I was about to need an extra dose of strength and patience this morning, so before I even finished my not-quite-strong-enough coffee, I started making my requests known:

Jesus, please give me enough strength to be a good mom today, because I feel like I might struggle with that.

Jesus, please give me enough strength to not allow the constant whining to chip away at me and cause me to make poor choices a good mom would never make.

Jesus, please give me enough strength to not lose it completely today.

I knew I was starting this day already behind.  I knew that I couldn’t face it alone.  In between suctioning snotty noses, taking temperatures, and making doctor appointments, I tried to locate my stash of old magazines, determined to find an article I remember reading several months ago.  I looked in the hall closet and was horrified at all the stuff I had crammed in there over the past couple of years.  Next, I checked the cabinets underneath the TV in the living room.  When books piled dangerously high threatened to topple over on me, I slammed the cabinet door in frustration, calling off my search.  Not only was my pantry a disaster, but apparently my closets and cabinets were no better.  

Right about then, I heard a whispering in my soul that said, You have what you need for today.  
I sometimes wonder why Jesus taught us to request our “daily bread” instead of a weekly supply.  How inconvenient it would be to run to the grocery store every day to get what I needed for that day alone! When I take two toddlers to the grocery store, we stock up on as many items as possible in order to prevent unnecessary return trips!  But, clearly, Jesus was not talking about food. 

He was referring to our daily provisions, including the strength I so desperately needed this morning to do what today required of me: caring for two sick little ones.  Organizing and cleaning out closets was not on my to-do list today, but I let it torment me for half the morning.

Cody often reminds me of my flaws… why is it that husbands get to do that?  He always tells me I’m an all-or-nothing girl. It’s true.  I am.  Instead of looking around and accepting that my life is so full of purpose in loving my precious children, whether they are sick or well, whiny or obedient, I get stuck when I buy into the lies that say,  

If my closets are a mess, then I must be a mess, too.  

If this one little part of my life starts to spin out of control, then the whole thing's bound to come crashing down on me!

To be honest, my life is a bit messy right now.  It is chock full of runaway Cheerios, misplaced keys, and soured milk that didn’t make it back to the fridge in time.  But I found my confidence inside Psalm 84 this morning: 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
They go from strength to strength, til each appears before God in Zion.
(Psalm 84:5,7 NIV)

God never promises that every day will be easy.  Sometimes, I'd like to know why not.  Sometimes I pray really, really hard for a day that is absolutely perfect.  I pray that I would be a flawless mother with no bags under her eyes or wrinkles on her face, who never, ever raises her voice or gets overwhelmed, who has tidy closets and cooperative children who never, ever look me in the eye and defiantly shout, “No!” 

Every time I pray that prayer, He reminds me that those days don’t exist here on this earth.  He also helps me remember that no matter what I face each day, He wants me to be completely, utterly dependent upon His strength, not my own. And with Him, I will go from strength to strength, tackling each day, one at a time.  God does not promise to give us our weekly allotment of strength, but instead, He renews us and provides us with exactly what we'll need to face the day before us.  

And the strength He gives will always be enough for whatever today holds. 

At nap time, still bothered slightly by my closet conundrum, I crashed on the couch for some time with my nose in my new book, Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued. As if God wanted to make sure to drive this point home, low and behold, right there on the fifth page or so were these precious words that I let wash all over me:

“A messy closet does not make me a mess.  It makes me a child of God who has a messy closet.”

He never intended for me to deal with closets today.  This day was about caring for my kids and appreciating the stage of life I’m in right now, even if at times I struggle just to keep my head above water.  And when the day comes for me to clean out all of the closets in this house, I know He will give me all the strength I need to tackle each of them, one at a time.  Today happened to not be that day.   

Saturday, August 11, 2012


The answer to almost every question I ask my kids these days is, “No.”  

“Are we going to have a fun day today?”

“Are you ready for breakfast?”

“Will you come here so I can help you get dressed?”

The response to any statement I make towards my kids these days is, “No.”

“It’s time to get shoes on and get in the car.”

“Please pick up your toys before dinner.”

And my all-time favorite:  “It’s time to take a ‘night-night rest’ (AKA nap).”

Just a minute ago, in the middle of typing this, I headed upstairs to Lilly’s room to reassure her that I had not lost my mind and yes, she really does need to take a rest.   Last week, I chuckled as I watched her on the monitor reconstruct her bed into a bouncing arena.  She took all of the stuffed animals (which had to be close to ten) and shoved them all to one corner of her crib.  I do not know how the child has any room with all those “friends,” but she insists on having them all close and tucked under her arm as she drifts off to sleep.  Or in this case, to be the soft padding of her landing as she ran across her crib and then jumped playfully into the middle of the pile of cherish “friends.”  She did this over and over again, and I couldn’t help but think of the Olympic pole vaulting I had watched the night before. 

Rest, in a physical sense, is something I welcome with two two-year-olds whose favorite word is “no.”  But when it comes to other areas of my life, resting is something I have a hard time doing.  You see, resting is just like waiting, and I don’t do it well.  Just last night, my husband (who does not struggle in this area the way that I do), shared with me the solution to all my troubles: 

“You gotta get out of the gerbil wheel.” 

“Huh?” I replied.

He explained, “You don’t let your mind rest.  You spin things around and around in your mind and so there is no rest, like a gerbil running constantly in an endless wheel.  You have to get out of the gerbil wheel.  Trust me,” he said, “life is so much better outside of the wheel.”

I hate it when he’s right.  Even more than that, I hate having to tell him he’s right.  But he is.  This all-heart girl married the most logical thinker out there, and I am constantly reminded that God picked him for me for that very reason.  When my emotions start to escape me, this tall, smart, six-foot-five voice of reason lifts up his super long arm and yanks them back down within my reach. 

The answer to almost every question I ask God these days is,“Wait.”  

His response to many of the statements I’ve been whispering in my heart these days is,“Rest.”

And just like my Lilly Grace, who also struggles with resting and waiting, I make up my mind that I’ll just get up and run in circles, bouncing here and there instead of doing what I’m told to do. 

Wait. Rest.

But maybe, just maybe God knows me better than I know me, and He knows it's good for me to rest.

During a particularly difficult season of waiting, one that seemed it would last an eternity, I discovered this beautiful poem.  It became a great comfort to me then, but it is exactly what I needed to hear today, all these years later.

Wait, by Russell Kelfer 

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, "Wait."

"Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.

"My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign,
Or even a 'no' to which I can resign.

"You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?"

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.

"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

"You'd never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

"The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.

"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."

The part that caught my attention as I read these words this morning was:
“You’d not know the joy of resting in Me when darkness and silence are all you can see.”

I know darkness.  I know joy.  It was in the middle of my darkest days that I discovered what true joy, complete joy, perfect joy really was. 

I know about waiting.  Even though it’s hard, I know it’s all part of His plan, and that it is such a beautiful thing.  It’s the resting part that I needed to be reminded of today.  Joy exists in those seasons of sorrow and grief, but also during the silent seasons.  The days when I feel like I should be hearing a different answer than the one I’m receiving.  Days like today.

Isaiah 30:15 says, “Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me.”(MSG) In the same way that I remind my daughter to settle down and take her rest, this daughter of the King is getting a similar message.  How I respond is my choice.

As I kept reading in Isaiah, I landed here: 
So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for his help.  Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

I realized that while it may seem that I am waiting on Jesus, He’s the one who is waiting on me.  He’s waiting on me to sit down, settle down, and listen, so that He can teach me how to rest.  Then I will be ready and prepared when He says, "Go."

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

The word used for rest here is the Greek word, anapausis, which denotes a temporary rest or intermission, like a pause.  In Hebrews, we read of another kind of rest:

God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we'll surely rest with God.  Hebrews 4:10 (MSG)

This word, rest, is the Greek word, katapausis, which indicates a putting to rest, a final destination, a heavenly resting place.

If this life is a race and heaven is where I finish, then it makes sense to take a break and catch my breath along the way.  One of the Olympians shared the other night how he got ready to run his race.  He told of his plan to focus on his weaknesses instead of his strengths, and in doing so he improved his overall time.  Another runner shared how he got his mind ready for the race.  He told the reporter that he treats every race as a practice, so that he does not get caught up with anxiety. 

I am not good at resting.  I am not good at waiting.  If this life is a practice for what I will spend eternity doing- resting with God- then it makes sense that He would rehearse it with me while I’m giving it everything I’ve got, heading for that finish line.  When He asks me to wait and rest, He truly has my best in mind.  And when we do cross that finish line and enter into eternity, we will continue doing what He created us to do: praising Him forever.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Creepy Crawlies

In the past two weeks, I have discovered that my dare-devil-daughter is afraid of something.  It actually relieves me that I can no longer call Lilly “fearless.”  A little fear is a good thing, right?  Caution is maybe a better word.  I would never wish fear on my child, but a little caution on her part would do wonders to clear up some fears on my end!

Last week was one of those in-and-out-of-the-house kind of weeks.  The kind that involves lots of shouting, "Close that door!" and yelling, "Come in or stay out!"  The kind of week where we kiss bundles of cash away as the air-conditioning we pay good money for gets sucked out into the hot, sticky air that is Texas Summer. It was the kind of week that demanded I get out my beloved fly swatter.  I am usually a pretty good aim and a fly’s worst nightmare, but there was this fly in our kitchen for four days straight that would not die!  I must have hit it at least five times, but it was a determined little bug!

This fly-that-would-not-die never failed to come around buzzing during lunch time, especially interested in the fruit heaped onto Lilly’s plate.  (I really don’t want to get into the fact that Jake still will not eat fruit. Another post for another day!)  I turned around one day to wash some dishes at the kitchen sink and all of a sudden, I heard blood-curdling screams coming from my teeny, tiny daughter.  I cannot tell you the panic that shot through my spine as I dropped the plate I was scrubbing and ran over to her in her highchair.  I knew she was safe where she was sitting and that none of the food I had given her could have burnt her tongue, so I was terrified to find out what caused her piercing shrills. 

When I saw that pesky little fly perched on the edge of her tray, I nearly lost it!  She was shrinking back in her chair, both hands covering eyes, as if she couldn’t bear to look at the monstrous thing!  Jake sat calmly next to her and yelled in an authoritative tone, “Shoo! Shoo!”  Then he got his little finger going back and forth, telling that fly, “No-No! No-No!”  I was in tears! 

This would happen every day at lunchtime for the next few days.  Each time the fly showed up, Lilly would sit there, hiding and screaming at the top of her tiny lungs!  I shared this story with my mother-in-law over breakfast last Saturday.  We were both laughing hysterically at our brave little Lilly getting all worked up over a fly.  Of all things, a fly!

This week that story is still fresh on my mind.  Maybe it's because I've had my own shrieking moments, too.  When my husband was urgently summoned to retrieve a gecko from behind the bathroom trashcan, I jumped up onto the ledge of the bathtub, just in case he was looking for a foot to crawl over.  Another one darted across the living room and disappeared into the TV cabinet, which I swore I would never open again.  As I sit here typing this post, I am very conscious that there is yet another gecko somewhere underneath the desk where I am sitting.  Which is why I put on my tennis shoes at 11:00 p.m!  I know that geckos are harmless, but they scare me just as much as flies scare my daughter.  Apparently.

But there are other "creepy crawlies" that make me shrink back, cover my eyes and make me feel completely defeated.   Pesky things like insecurity, disappointment, and doubt.  These are the things that creep their way into my heart and cause all kinds of trouble.  Doubt is the “creepy crawly” that gives me the most grief day to day.  Some days, it takes me a while to figure out that it is the sole culprit for my less than cheerful mood.  When I step back and realize what I’m dealing with, the source of all the questioning and second guessing going on in my mind leads me to the same place almost every time: Doubt.

When I open my Bible, it is such a relief to find out that I am not the only one who fights a daily battle against doubt.  Here are just a few:

Jesus tells Peter to walk on the water:  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:30-32 ESV)

A storm comes up on the lake while Jesus is sleeping:  And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”  And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:25-26 ESV)

The disciples miss the warning and confuse the message: And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, "O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:7-9, 11 ESV)

Jesus, risen from the dead, appears to the disciples: And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. (Luke 24:38-39 ESV)

Doubt comes disguised as a lot of different things: questions I entertain even though I know the answers, thoughts that get muddled with reasoning, distractions that take my eyes off Jesus.  In each one of these stories, Jesus points out the disciples’ lack of faith, then immediately turns their attention back on Him. 

The wind ceased, and those in the boat worshiped Jesus.

Jesus rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Jesus says, “Do you not remember what I did?”

Jesus shows them his hands and feet saying, “Touch me, and see.”

Doubt is not unbelief; it’s a wavering in my faith, a forgetting who is in control.  After scouring my Bible for verses describing a steady and confident faith, this is what I discovered:  Faith alone comes from hearing through the Word of God (see Romans 10:17).   God filled every page of scripture with truths that my faith is built upon.  Those very words are also what build up my faith when I feel it start to falter. 

James does a pretty good job describing exactly how I feel on those days I let doubt creep in.  He says that “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6)  When I let the questions start covering up what I know to be true, it is exactly like being tossed around on the open sea.  Doubt, though it seems like such a harmless little thing, can turn into a storm that is out of control in a hurry.  But that’s when I need my Jesus to show up and calm the storm I’ve created and remind me that I am His.  If I am determined to keep doubt from creeping its way into my mind, I have to recognize it when it comes around, and then bury my head in scripture, where the roots of my faith lie.
1 Corinthians 2:5 tells me that my faith should “not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  There are times when I want to rush to my phone, pick it up and call for help, for advice, for an answer to a question rolling around in my head.  God calls us to encourage each other in our faith, but I know that God wants me to run to Him first.  He is where my faith rests.  The King James Version uses the word “stand” instead of rest.  I love the idea of standing and resting simultaneously.  When I rest in His power, He gives me the strength I need to stand in confidence, determined and unafraid.

Though I did not catch the priceless face Lilly made the first time that fly stared her down, the next time we spotted that fly, I was ready with camera in hand.

God does not want me to walk around with a face like this when the “creepy crawlies” of life invade my space.  He doesn't want me to shrink back, covering my face in defeat.  Instead, He wants me to start each day with confidence in His power, trusting that He is always in control, focusing on what He says about me in His word.  He wants me to clothe myself with dignity and strength (see Proverbs 31:25), and reveal a face that beams with beauty, certainty, and assurance. Just like this….