Thursday, April 25, 2013

All Dressed Up...

Yesterday, I got all dressed up, which never happens. And by "all dressed up" I mean I had on jeans, a cute shirt, and some great sandals. Not gym shorts and a t-shirt. I even fixed my hair and actually applied makeup to my very pale face. My intention was to run to Target and possibly Hobby Lobby before picking up Brie from school, but the little people in my house had other plans. Like taking a super late nap and waking up in the world's absolute worst mood. When I decided we should run errands, I didn't really plan for the angry "I woke up on the wrong side of the bed so I'm going to kick you in the face while you attempt to put my shoes on" little tantrum courtesy of the two year old.  Needless to say, we picked up Brie and came straight home.

(But on the bright side, I looked really cute when I walked into Brie's school to pick her up. At least the staff there now knows that I do own something other than black shorts and a running shirt.)

This getting all dressed up for nothing thing happened last week too. I was all dressed and ready to go to my MOPS meeting when Vivienne started screaming and blowing humongous snot bubbles. It was lovely, but I didn't think the child care workers would really be able to fully appreciate the talent it takes to blow those bubbles quite like a mom would. So we stayed home.

There are plenty of reasons why I live in gym clothes. (Or pajamas. Whatever.) Here is just one reason. The other day, I had thrown on a pair of black jeans and a fairly nice shirt. I was going about my day being a mom - cleaning, playing with the kids, fixing lunch, blah blah blah - when Jonah decided he needed to watch Mickey Mouse. Well, I didn't really think he needed to be watching tv at that moment so I told him no. Of course he started crying and screaming, and he walked over to me, grabbed my legs, and wiped his nose on my pants. Then he looked at me like, "There, I showed you," and went off to play. Alrighty then. So I just sort of wiped the snot off my pants and kept fixing lunch. Then a couple hours later, the snotty pants forgotten, I was carrying Vivienne around because she wasn't feeling well when she too felt the need to wipe her drippy nose on me, this time on the shoulder of my shirt. Fantastic. I wiped it off and kept going with my day.

Later that afternoon, I went to pick Brienne up from school and as I was walking into the building, I realized that the snot stains on my pants and shirt had resurfaced. Super. I thought I'd wiped them off well enough, but apparently not.

You know, there are times in my life when I feel like I'm doing a really good job at hiding something, whether it's a negative feeling towards someone or some type of sin, when really I'm not hiding anything at all. My favorite is the "Sunday morning everything's great" fake smile. Our family of five can have a knock-down-drag-out fight all the way to church but as soon as those car doors open, it's all "Hi, how are you, isn't it a beautiful day praise the Lord." (Don't tell me y'all don't do the same thing. Because you'd be lying.)

I also sometimes hide anger or resentment or even jealousy in my heart. It may never actually surface for others to see it, but it's there. And Christ sees it. I can't "wipe" those stains off well enough because He sees everything. Everything. Psalm 69:5 says, "O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from You."

Did you catch that? I can not hide my sins from the Lord. I might be able to hide them from Peter, or my friends, or the people I see at church. But Jesus sees right through me to my heart. Yikes! So, my prayer is that He will create in me a clean heart. That He'll cleanse me from all my unrighteousness. If I allow His Presence to permeate me and my life, I will be clean. (Even if I'm covered in snot.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Be Like Jesus

This has been one of those weeks where the constant talking, temper tantrums, 2:00 a.m. feedings, and endless diaper changes haven't bothered me very much. Instead, we've all been glued to the television, horrified by the Boston Marathon bombings and watching the manhunt for the terrorists that destroyed so many people's lives. My emotions have ranged from fear and sadness to anger and hatred. I shouldn't have to explain this insanity to my kids. I feel like a little piece of their childhood gets taken away when they see the world in this way. Will our children grow up in a world where they have to be afraid of crazy extremists?

To be honest, my first thought when I found out about the bombings was that it was done by some radical Muslims. (And by all accounts, this is exactly what happened.) And all I wanted was for these horrible men to be found, tortured for information, and then locked away for life (or worse). I realize this may seem harsh to some people, but it's how I felt. I get so tired of our government pandering to the Muslim world and making excuses for Islam. Those people, the radical Muslims, want to kill us. So my instinct is to hate them.

Then a friend of mine on Facebook that I greatly respect posted something to this effect: We should stop trying these men in the media, and we should pray that "suspect #2" finds Jesus. Whoa. I can't say that this line of thinking was anywhere on my radar. But shouldn't it be? At least the "finding Jesus" part? The Muslim world and those who are followers of Islam and Muhammad are lost. They are being led by satan. The only way that their lives are going to change and the terrorism is going to stop is if they come to know the One True God, my Savior Jesus Christ.

Have I explained to Brienne that, yes, these bombers have committed evil acts, but we need to pray for their salvation? No, I haven't. Instead, I keep harping on the fact that they are Muslim terrorists and that they want to kill Americans. But Jesus commanded us in Matthew 5:44 to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

I read a devotion yesterday that said we should love those around us - everyone - and our entire mission is to be like Jesus. Jesus Himself prayed for those who were crucifying Him, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." He loved the men who were killing Him and He wanted grace for them. Wow.

I'm not sure I'm ready to pray for grace, forgiveness, and salvation for these two extremist brothers, but I know that The Lord would want me to do exactly that. How do I reconcile my Christianity with my patriotism and my love for America? How can I teach my children to love and pray for their enemies when I don't? If my main reason for being on this earth is to glorify The Lord and to be like Christ, then I have to let Him shape me into His image. Even if He tells me to do the exact opposite thing from what I want to do. Even if it means praying for a terrorist who killed a little boy who was the same age as Brienne. That's hard to accept.

But I am called to be like Jesus. All of us who claim Christ as our Savior are called to be like Jesus. How will we respond?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Torture Chamber

Putting kids in carseats is so much fun. I live for it. 

We just recently moved Vivienne out of her infant carrier into a convertible carseat. It was time because she was really starting to get heavy in that baby seat. But once we switched her to the "big girl" carseat, I realized I would face a dilemma every time I tried to go anywhere - Do I put Vivienne in her seat first and pray that Jonah stays nearby or do I put Jonah in his seat first? And if I put Jonah in first, what am I supposed to do with Vivienne? I know it's not rocket science, but these are things a mom of two little ones must consider.

First of all, there is absolutely no way (no way! do you hear me?) that Jonah would stay near the van while I got Vivi buckled. I mean, who am I kidding? If we are in a public setting, he makes it his business to sprint in the complete opposite direction from me as fast as he can. A couple days ago, he wriggled his hand free from mine and ran toward the parking lot at my gym. I'm sure everyone in the gym was laughing at me (or judging me) as I awkwardly ran after him while toting Vivienne on my hip. It was super fun. Who needs a treadmill when you have a two-year old? 

So... Guess who gets in his carseat first now?

Here is the sequence of events that must take place every time we go for a ride.  Every. Time. I open the van door and tell Jonah to climb in. While he's climbing in, I put Vivienne down in the floorboard with one of her toys (or a shoe or a dirty towel or whatever happens to be down there). (Yes, she's the third kid. Don't judge me.) When I look up, I see that Jonah has bypassed his seat, naturally, and has taken over the backseat. First he sits all the way to the left and I say, "Jonah, come get in your seat." He then moves to the middle and I repeat my command a little more forcefully. He then moves all the way to the right, and by this time I am climbing over the middle seats, reaching for the little turkey, all the while making sure Vivienne isn't tumbling backwards out of the van or eating leftover goldfish crackers off the floor. I can usually wrestle Jonah into the second row area of the van but occasionally he gets by me (he's like a ninja!) and he makes it all the way to the front seat. And he does all this while sporting a great big grin. Gracious, he wears me out!

Anyway, eventually I get him into the seat but apparently carseats are now a new form of torture because he then starts crying. And flailing his arms and legs. And then he stiffens his whole body. Seriously, little man? It's ridiculous. And by the way, it's impossible to put a 35 pound child who is practically half my height into a carseat when he won't bend. I really don't understand what the big deal is. He used to love going for rides. And actually, he still does love riding in the car. I guess it's just the process that he despises. Why won't he realize that I use this carseat "torture" because I love him and want to protect him?

Jonah has also become a backseat driver. Now, when he isn't really thrilled with the direction we're going, he points to a different road and yells, "That way!" What the heck? The first time he did this, it just so happened that I needed to turn down the road he pointed to. So he thought he was big stuff. And I may have reinforced his pride just a bit by telling him "how smart!" he is and "what a good boy!" he is. Sometimes I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Because the next time he yelled "That way!" I didn't need to go "that way." He was devastated and proceeded to cry uncontrollably. Really, I never know what will set him off. It keeps life interesting.

To be honest, Jonah reminds me a lot of myself. There are plenty of times when I want to sit in everyone's seat but mine. How often do I judge others? "I could teach those third graders better than Brie's teacher." "This Bible study facilitator doesn't know what she's talking about." "If only Peter would do this my way, our household would run more smoothly." But in reality, I was not put on this earth to be those other people. I was put here to be me and to take care of my family all while hopefully bringing glory to the Lord.

I also must admit that there have been times when I wanted to go one direction but the Lord had different plans for me. And He had to drag me, kicking and screaming, to the place where He wanted me to be. He often says to me, "If you will just bend My way, this will be a whole lot easier."

I am constantly amazed by the things the Lord teaches me through my children and their little personalities. And obviously He's not finished teaching me since we now have three little people at our house. But I'll be thankful for every moment that He uses to mold me to be more like Christ. I'll even be thankful for the carseat torture chamber battle. I think...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Crinkles and Worship

Today I walked by the mirror in my bedroom and had to do a double-take. Whoa! My first thought was, "Who is that old lady and how did she get in my house?" I'm in desperate need of some hair color to cover the grays that are popping out and some eye cream to reduce all these wrinkles. Or Botox would be even better. And I'm only halfway kidding.

I remember sitting in Sunday School when I was about sixteen and one of the girls mentioned that she used eye cream to prevent wrinkles. (Yes, we often discussed very spiritual things like wrinkle prevention and acne medication.) Anyway, I was horrified at the thought of her, a beautiful 15-year old girl (with perfect skin, by the way), using eye cream. What in the world did she need that for? And her mom gave it to her? How vain is that!

Now as I study my own late-30-something face, I'm thinking I could've benefitted from some wrinkle prevention during my high school years. My first clue that I needed to take some action came a few years ago. Brienne (who was six years old at the time) and I were having a sweet mother-daughter moment. We were laying on her bed, staring into each other's faces, having a deep conversation about Junie B. Jones or why orange shoes wouldn't match her navy dress (or some other equally important topic), when she reached up, put her little hand on my cheek, and started rubbing my face. "Isn't this just the perfect moment?" I thought. Then she said this:

"Mom, why do you have crinkles by your eyes?"

What??? Crinkles? Oh my word! I ran to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and gasp! Crinkles! When had that happened?

If these "crinkles" are genetic, I think I know what Brienne will be getting for her Sweet Sixteen birthday. A tub of eye cream. Yes, you read correctly. Not a tube of eye cream, but a tub. As in, a vat of eye cream. My motto has become, "One can never have too much anti-wrinkle retinol." (It's kind of a weird motto, but it is what it is.)

I keep trying to remind myself that Scripture tells us "Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old," but honestly I sometimes wonder who really wrote things like that. I'm pretty sure it was written by an almost 40-year old woman who saw her reflection in her polished brass plate and was horrified by the wrinkles and gray hair. Her husband had probably started thinking she was looking old and worn out so she decided to feed him some baloney about how she was getting wiser as she got older. I wonder if he bought it... Anyway...

Despite what you may think, I'm not altogether disgusted with getting older. I do feel like I've learned a few things during my thirty-seven years on earth. But I also realize I have a lot left to learn. A lot. And before someone fusses, I do realize that thirty-seven is not very old in the grand scheme of things. But it's also not twenty-two either. And it doesn't seem to matter how old I get, there are still some things (my autocorrect just changed things to thongs and amazingly both words are applicable here) that just plain unnerve me and reveal my insecurities.

This afternoon I had an "assessment" of my piano and vocal skills by our worship leader and a worship intern. Apparently this is also known as an audition. It went okay, I guess, and we'll see what happens from here. But for some reason, I was so intimidated. Obviously I don't have a lot of self-confidence because we're new to the church and the whole "band thing" is still a little bit out of my comfort zone. But mostly I'm intimidated by those young whipper-snappers (see how old I am?) who are on stage every week singing and playing. Every week as I stand to worship with the congregation I can't help but think that I could be their mom. And unfortunately I'm not exaggerating. They're all under the age of twenty-two, I'm sure of it. Except for our worship leader, who may possibly be twenty-nine. Not that age matters but if you factor in their youth and their amazing talent level, well, I just feel old.  And not cool. 

I guess tonight I'm just feeling the need to vent about some of my insecurities in hopes that someone else can identify with me. Maybe I just don't want to feel alone as I get older. Maybe I want to know other people get intimidated by little things too. 

And maybe now I'll go slather eye cream on these crinkles. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Even In The Dark

Our little family of five just got home from a mini-vacation. I keep calling it a "week" ("the kids were good this week;" "that was a fun week"), but actually it was only two nights. And to be honest, I'm not quite sure I could've made it a whole week in one hotel room with all three children. Don't get me wrong - they were all very well-behaved, but it's true that when you're a parent, vacations are tiring and hard, and frankly, I now feel the need to have a vacation from my vacation.

We really did have a good time though. We were able to get some beach time and stick our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Literally, my toes were the only things I could stand to put in the water. It was freezing! The temperature was about 68 degrees so we were able to sit on the beach and not feel like we were burning to death, but the water temps were ridiculously cold. Brienne was the only one of us who ventured in and actually played in the water. Jonah was content to play in the sand and Vivienne had fun watching everyone.

We also went to the Jacksonville Zoo which was very nice. Jonah had the best time seeing all the animals. It's so much fun to watch his little face when he sees something for the first time. And Vivienne was the happiest I've ever seen her. At times, we even forgot she was in the stroller. She didn't cry one time the entire day; she was content to people watch. A girl after my own heart.

Nighttime in the hotel room was a whole other adventure, however. We all went to bed around 8:30 both nights because the two little ones were exhausted. Vivi slept in a pack-and-play by me and Peter while Jonah and Brie slept in the other bed. The first night, we just kept waiting for some disastrous scene to play out, but everybody slept pretty well. I remember the next morning Peter and I even made the comment that Jonah slept so well in the big bed and maybe he's ready to move out of his crib, yada, yada, yada. Oh how naive and stupid we were!

The second night, everything was going smoothly until about 2:00 a.m. when Jonah decided to wake up and give us a two hour recap of our "week." "I see a e-pant (elephant). Where the gunkey (monkey)? Dis is pun (fun), sissy. What hippo make?" And on. And on. And on. He seriously didn't stop for two hours. If it hadn't been the middle of the night, it would've been hilarious. But I'm here to tell you, it really wasn't all that funny. We can laugh about it now, but that night I just wanted to muzzle him. (I'm wondering if I should've just written that.)

But what really caused a panic was hearing Brienne say, "Daddy, Jonah's not in the bed." Now obviously, he couldn't get out of the hotel room, but remember how we had said we thought Jonah was ready to move to a big boy bed? Well, hearing "Jonah's not in the bed" caused me to have visions of him wandering the house at night, opening cabinets, finding knives, pulling down shelves. You get the picture. Anyway, Peter and I both jumped out of the bed to try and find Jonah. He had been wandering in the dark and was now standing at the foot of our bed. When he saw Peter, he said, "Hey! It's Daddy!" Sort of like he'd been looking for him all night. I then promptly scooped him up, snuggled him, and tucked him back into bed.

How many times do we find ourselves wandering around in the midst of complete darkness? I think about our friends who lost their sweet baby boy at the tender age of four months. The darkness they've felt. The wandering they've done. When we moved here to Valdosta just seven weeks after having Vivienne, I found myself wandering in the dark. Hormones, sleep deprivation, the sadness of leaving friends that I loved, the unknown of a new place all led to a depression of sorts and I couldn't really see my way out. For some, it may be a stronghold that won't let go - a recurring sin, anger, alcoholism - whatever causes you to wander in the darkness. The only way to walk out of the darkness is to keep searching for Christ. He is always there but sometimes it's difficult to see Him. When we are finally able to see the Father, we can say, "Hey! It's Abba!" and He will come scoop us up and hold us close. I'm thankful that He is always beside me, carrying me even when I can't see or feel Him. Even in the dark.