Monday, February 20, 2012

Without Sugar.

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It is the start of Lent (Latin for 40). It is to bring to mind Jesus' fast for 40 days and temptation in the desert. Lent is a time before Easter (46 days) in which some choose to fast and abstain from certain luxuries.

Wikipedia says that "The traditional purpose of Lent is penitential preparation of the believer – through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week,  marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday which then culminates in Easter Sunday, marking the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ."

I grew up with a Mom who would continually give up sugar year after year for Lent. I was always impressed and amazed by her discipline. Sometimes I tried to do it... but I never could keep it up. I would slip back into the habits.

Bye-Bye Sugar.
But this year I have felt God impress on me to be without white sugar during Lent... avoiding soda, brownies, candy, chocolate, cake, etc. And also fried food: burgers, fries, etc. Now for some of you this might be an easy thing. But I have a serious sweet tooth and fast food addiction because it's easier to get something from a dollar menu than prepare food for all my kids while we're running errands, going to medical appointments, etc. And we live so far away from everything we can't just run home for lunch and then go back out again.

I'm hoping though that by setting an example for my kids that I can help influence their lifestyle habits and choices. Finding healthier ways to replace sweets with fruit. Eating whole grains instead of white flour and eating REAL foods instead of processed foods.

I'm excited to turn to God for help in my time of need. To be reminded why I am abstaining. To prepare my heart for repentance, self-denial and to feel much better. I know at first I will feel rough and yucky but hopefully after the first four days my energy will increase... and I will feel good.

So the reason I'm telling you is that there is something powerful in telling people about things you are choosing to do or adhere to. It provides accountability. Also, hopefully support. So please pray for me and cheer me on as I give up sugar this season of Lent...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bumps and Bruises

So today Michael took a tumble down the front porch stairs. It's not a far fall (about 4 steps) but it's brick. He ended up with a huge egg on his forehead. He wasn't unconscious and wasn't vomiting but I still wasn't sure if he needed to be checked out.

Michael's Icepack
So we went to the doctor's. I love that they're available Saturdays for emergency/sick appt. It's wonderful. One of my favorite CNP's saw him. He's supposed to have ibuprofen every 6 hours and ice for the swelling. They also wrote us a script for x-rays if he were to get worse... start acting loopy, vomiting, etc.

Yay. I'm so thankful that even in the midst of unplanned events that things can come together. I'm glad I could take him to the doctor. Glad he's alright. Glad we have a back-up plan in our back pocket if something changes.

Look forward to showing you a picture of his head soon. I was told it's going to bruise bad and turn every color.

At least I had a "cool" icepack on hand.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Death of a Dictator.

I was realizing recently that at times I feel more like a dictator than a mother. I'm shouting commands and giving orders like a drill sergeant:

"Eat your food."
"Put on your shoes."
"What do you want?" (often said from the bathroom )
"Don't hit your brother."
"Brush your teeth."
"Wash your hands."
"Don't shout." (said while shouting myself)
"Go potty."
"Time for homework!"
"Not so fast."
"Not so loud."
"I can't hear you."
"You can't wear that."
"Buckle up."
"Don't move."
"Quiet Please!"
"Who did that?"
"Stay RIGHT here!"
"Slow down."
and my favorite...
             "Hurry Up or We Will Be Late!!!"

It seems ridiculous now that I'm typing this out. But the question then arises: How do you manage a home and children without becoming a yelling, crazy mess? Where is the balance between getting much needed things done and creating a peaceful environment? I don't want to be a push-over but I also don't want my kids to fear me.

Look Lord, I laid 2 eggs today!
One of my children is a pleaser. This child strives to make me happy. They believe that by doing things I want done they will receive my favor. Oh what a dangerous thing. It's so easy to wrap up your identity in what you do. To equate a good day as a productive day.

Sound like anyone you've read before? Yeah, me.

I'm so quick to want to create order and in particular, perfection... and I also want to please people and make them happy. I do the same thing with God.

I see myself  as a little hen puffing my chest out with pride. Fluffing out my feathers. "Yeah, look at me. Do you see what I've done Lord? Aren't you pleased with me God? Don't you love me more now?"

my good works
And God the Father sees the crap I've done. Isaiah 64:6 compares my good works as filthy rags KJV compares our good works to dung! Yep, crap. I've been cleaning a lot of it lately because of our puppy. It's yucky and smells so AWFUL!!!! That's the best of the good I do. BUT- My worth isn't from myself... it's found in Christ. His righteousness is what makes me so valuable. His work is counted as mine. His purity is counted as mine. What I do on my own is rubbish. But His work changes everything!

(Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (bold emphasis mine)

So I hope and pray that I put the dictator in me to death and that I can lovingly encourage and guide and train my children in the way God wants them to go. This time in life is crazy but I want to do more than survive these years... I want to thrive.

Got Stains?

The other day I bathed 5 children and a dog in 20 minutes. That may not sound impressive to you but everyone's body and hair was washed and for me that's a small miracle.

The next morning was my son Samuel's 6th birthday and I got donuts as a surprise for breakfast. Everyone enjoyed the frosting and sprinkles and gooeyness. I got the kids ready for school and out the door and on the bus and was getting ready to drive Ian to school when I noticed something. I noticed Penny, our new puppy, had some  fur in sticky clumps. I couldn't figure out what happened. I touched the fur where it was matted. Aaagh, the donuts. The kids had been eating their donuts and instead of washing their hands had been petting the dog. So much for a clean dog.

Keeping children "clean" is a difficult task. It can be the yogurt or oatmeal spilled or sloshed onto their shirt, pants, or rubbing something from their fingers into their hair. It can be something they did or something done to them. Recently I was dealing with a child with a bloody nose on Valentine's Day. Their shirt got all "red"... yay. And it's bad enough when they have stains and smears on their clothes or cheeks or hands or hair.... but they love to "share" it with me.

My days are so busy that I don't often look at myself in the mirror... literally, all day. So when I do I'm always shocked to find that I'm covered in something. Sometimes it's my fault- coffee stains. Often though it's applesauce or mashed graham cracker or Peter's sloppy kisses that made it to my shirt instead of my lips.

So yeah, I'm not much of a dresser. Which is probably a good thing. Because it doesn't bother me terribly that my clothes get destroyed. That's why jeans and a shirt or sweater are my go to outfit. They're kid friendly apparel.

Some day my appearance will matter more. Someday I will look decent. And if you see a brown stain on my clothes... it's not from changing my child's diaper... it's chocolate.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Officially Crazy.

Mike and I went away for an impromptu overnight on Friday. We drove a little over an hour away to Edenton, North Carolina. Libby and Samuel spent the night at their grandparents and the twins and Peter were home with Rebecca.

It was nice to just get away. To not need to do any lifting and being able to baby my back. Being able to sleep without someone saying "Mama and Papa" a dozen times was a miracle.

Late Saturday morning we went to our favorite place in Edenton, The Garden of Readin', a fun place to look at books, read, write and drink coffee. And apparently a great place to get a new addition to our family.

I was thirsty and I had water bottles in the car so I went to the car and as I was about to re-enter the store I stopped. Just outside the door was a friendly looking couple. They had a laundry basket with them. A basket of puppies, 4 little black lab/terrier mix pups to be exact. They were all adorable. One struck my fancy immediately.

She was all black with a little white on her paws and her neck... and on the very tip of her tail. She was gentle and let me hold her without wriggling away. She licked my neck and stared at me with somber chocolate eyes and I fell in love.

Recently I had a conversation with Mike about how I hadn't let myself give my heart to a dog since Sophie. Sophie was a gorgeous basset hound that I had when I was a young teen. She was hit by a car the first day of summer vacation a few years after having her. I told myself, never again. Never again would I give my heart away.

And so here I am staring into the chocolate eyes of this little puppy and I couldn't help myself. I gave her my heart. I knew she was supposed to be our dog.

A month ago my parents and brother had to take our dog of 12 years, Allie, to the vet's to be put down. It was really sad. She was such a good and faithful dog. And as much as I cared about her and was sad for her to go... I felt more sad that I never let have her truly have my heart.

The puppy nuzzled into my neck and made sounds of contentment. I sighed. How would I get Mike on my team? and my parents?

So we left early from our get away because we no longer had a puppy with us. We bought puppy food on the way home and a nylabone for her to chew on. We had a cardboard box with us but I held her wrapped in a towel the entire trip home.

Several years ago I had friends outright tell me "do not get a dog" but it's been a few years now... so maybe it's okay. When I sent a picture of the dog to a friend she sweetly replied back, "You are crazy... officially".

So yeah, I am crazy. But like you didn't already know that. And now for a name. Mike and I talked about names the entire ride home. He asked what about white and black animal names just to be ironic. Joking around I said, "Yeah, let's call her penguin". He revised it with "what if we called her 'Penny' short for 'Penny Gwenn'". I liked it.

And so, Penny is now a part of our home and our life as a family. The kids love her and have had fun picking her up, carrying her around, letting her chase them. Feeding her.

We're only two days in. It might be crazy to add another person in this house... but I see it as more to love and more joy to share.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


It's interesting how easy it is to forget what physical pain feels like. It was a while... probably 15 months ago when I had felt serious, intense physical pain... giving birth to Peter... you know the whole contraction thing. It hurts.

So I guess I was taken aback (excuse the pun) when I hurt my back on Tuesday morning. I was in agony. I couldn't get comfortable. I couldn't forget I was in pain. I couldn't distract myself. My doctor prescribed an opiate to help with pain relief. It didn't touch it. I was miserable.

I saw my Chiropractor on Wednesday morning. She said my lower lumbar had completely gone out of alignment and my hips were also out of alignment and I was pinching nerves that created the shooting pains, numbness and tingling in my legs to my toes.

After the adjustment I felt so much better. I still feel sore. It hurts. But nothing like it did on Tuesday. I barely use pain medicine. I'm trying to take it easy. I can't lift over 20 pounds. But I feel like a different human being.

I no longer am asking someone to put me out of my misery. I am no longer the lame horse that needs to be put down. And as awful as physical pain is I was thankful to be reminded to pray for those I know who suffer chronic pain. My heart has grown in compassion for those who have physical pain and suffering. How gracious of the Lord to remind me that there are more people than me. Oh yeah. Imagine that.

It's amazing what a difference an adjustment makes. How often in my life do things get out of sorts. My heart. My emotions. My marriage. My parenting. My friendships. My attitude. My perspective. My soul. I need a regular adjustment. A daily adjustment. I have to align myself to God and stop looking to myself and to that which is in front of me. I need to look up. Hold onto Him and know that He is sustaining me. He will continue adjusting me. He will continue transforming me.

(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

"Back" to Bed.

I was getting dressed this morning when I experienced a  weird pop that then traveled down my spine. I was in so much pain I could hardly catch my breath. All I could do was yell for Mike. I couldn't move. I felt like I was going to fall down but I could tell that would feel painful as well, instead of relief.

I have pain shooting down my legs as well as numbness and tingling all the way to my toes. Needless to say this experience has been anything but pleasant and our plans for the day have all been put on hold.

The plan was for me to take Ian to school this morning and then proceed to work on my writing til noon. That changed so Mike was going to take Ian to school this morning but because of my "back event" there were serious delays getting out the door and he was caring for Michael as well. It made no sense to take Ian to school and then come home and then have to go back out again.

Then factor in Michael.

Michael has been sick since Friday. This week-end he complained about his left ear. I took him to the doctor yesterday and he has a pretty bad ear infection. He's on antibiotics. He's staying home today but he's definitely on the mend.

When my back began to hurt the first thing I thought of was my dear friend Jessica. Jessica has experienced years and years of back pain. I don't know how she has coped through it. The pain I've been in for a little over an hour has left me feeling undone and she has had to bear this type of pain for a huge part of her life.

About a week ago I had this fantasy of being on bed-rest again. I thought, "oh wow... if I could just lay in bed and read my books or watch movies and just chill out". But this was NOT what I had in mind. I forget when you're in pain like this or when I was on bed-rest during my pregnancies that you're not really in a place to enjoy being in bed... you're miserable.

I hope to get to a chiropractor if Mike can take me... if someone can watch the kids.

I hear Peter babbling on the monitor... glad he's happy because I can't pick him up if he starts yelling. Mike will be home in a half hour with medicine and what-not.

It really sucks to be in pain but I'm thankful to be reminded that this has not been my daily lot... and to remember that so many people suffer. I'm blessed to know that if not today then tomorrow I can go to the chiropractor. And I can start feeling a little of the strong pain reliever I'm on. And God willing this too shall pass.

Monday, February 06, 2012

True Rest

I was having breakfast last week with a group of women and I shared with them something God was saying to me. "True rest is revealed by a deep belief in God's sovereignty and His goodness."

It takes both of those things... God's sovereignty and His goodness. It would be imbalanced to have one without the other. It's not enough to just know God is sovereign. And it's not enough to know that He is good.

And it's believing in both of those things that allows you to cast your cares on Him. It allows you to know that He is in control of everything that happens to you and to others and that His plan is for ultimate good. He sees the big picture.

Sometimes I struggle with thinking God is malicious, hard-hearted or "out to get me." But this is not true. At other times I think, well God is good but He can't be in control or this or that wouldn't happen. Although I can't say that I understand why things happen the way they do or have an ultimate answer to all suffering... I know that He knows. I know that my mind is finite and God's is infinite.

And so I trust in His goodness and His Sovereignty and I can be at peace. At rest. 

Like one of my children's favorite songs, He truly does have the whole world in His hands.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

What do I really own?

"You can't receive if your fist is clenched closed."

This was what I felt God whisper to me. I was driving on the highway and this thought jumped in my head.

I realize I need to open my hand. It's the only way I can receive. True it means that things can be taken from me. But my ownership of those things are the illusion. I don't really have anything. Not really anyway.

I was listening to a song by Dido called "Life for Rent." Now mind you I'm taking these lyrics out of context but they struck me. The song is about love and allowing someone to really have your heart. But these particular lyrics made me think....

"I haven't ever really found a place that I call home
I never stick around quite long enough to make it"

"But if my life is for rent and I don't learn to buy
Well I deserve nothing more than I get
Cos nothing I have is truly mine"

I haven't found a place I call home because I'm not home yet. It's not til I'm with Jesus that I'll be home.

And nothing I have is truly mine. 

My kids aren't mine, my husband isn't mine, my clothes, my house, my car, my computer, my camera- none of it is really mine. It's all the Lord's! The sooner I can get that through my thick head the better. 

So I'm continuing to surrender and say, Okay God this is yours. This child. This relationship. This dream. This brokeness. This hope. This home. This book I'm writing. This friendship. 

Trying to keep my hands open....

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Beyond the Roadkill.

I live in the country. Yep, I have huge ditches on both sides of the road. And there is plenty of wooded, foresty areas. So, as you can imagine there is roadkill. And last night I was a contributor to the death of a opossum.  But let's just call him posse. No I don't normally name my roadkill. As many years as I've lived in the country I've only killed about 3 animals, at most. But each time it makes me sad. I mean it. It's not like I loved posse. It's just that I value life.

It was dark and Ian was in the car with me. I saw posse run into the road. She turned to look at me. And all I could think was "No, no, no!" I slowed down, but it was too late. It was as though she purposefully maneuvered in a way that I couldn't avoid hitting her. I heard the buh-bump.

I'm Sorry Posse!
"Oh no," I said.
"What's wrong Mom?" says Ian from his car seat.
"I just hit an animal."
"Why did you that?"
"I didn't do it on purpose buddy, it was an accident."

Unlike the accident of hitting posse there are somethings I do kill on purpose: Flies. I don't like flies. I'm not scared of them I just don't like them. They gross me out. All I can think of is dirty germs. I don't know if it's true but all I can think of is being told as a child, "every time a fly land it vomits". That was enough for me. True or not... I'm ruined.

Ian's "Little Friends"

We have recently been getting these big flies. They're huge and slow and are very satisfying to kill because I almost always kill them with the first swat and they don't try to get up again or twitch. One hit and they're down for the count. Unlike those tinier house flies where you have to be Mr. Miyagi to catch them they're so fast. But they had been coming in droves.

So it was unfortunate for me that Ian has decided to call flies his "little friends". What the heck? Great so now I'm killing off Ian's friends. I'd even taken to hiding it. I don't pull out the fly swatter unless I know he's not around. I make sure he's at school or outside or asleep in bed. Yeah, I'm weird. But I don't want my son to think I'm killing his little friends.

So, I was relieved when Ian told me the other day, "Mommy, get the flies."

I was thinking, "I thought they were your friends."

He continued, "They gotta die."

Phew. I pulled out the fly swatter.

(Much gagging and revulsion occurred during creation of this post while obtaining appropriate images... I think I'm going to be sick.)

Friday, February 03, 2012

24 Hours.

So last week-end I had the privilege of getting away for a few days. I got to hang out with some members of my writer's group. They reminded we started in 2005. Wow. That's a long time. This was our first retreat and it was a pleasure to laugh, eat good food and talk about writing. We talked about article ideas, publishing, writing books, etc. And boy was I inspired. I ended up writing 20,000 words. And did I mention the yummy food. I'm so thankful they have such an appreciation for GOOD food...

But prior to their coming down I had 24 hours by myself. I drove down by myself and slept alone... and enjoyed peace and quiet... and music... I lit candles and read a novel (Agatha Christie). I took an hour long bubble bath... and I do not exaggerate... okay, it might have been longer than an hour. I don't know. I went to bed early and woke up too early so I let myself go back to sleep... just because I could.

This had been the first time, literally, in YEARS that I spent 24 hours by myself. Yes, I've had breaks but they have always involved being with Mike or being with friends... never just me. Always with someone I know. But it felt good to be me without anyone. To eat when and what I wanted. I didn't even have a proper dinner just a PB&J and yogurt. :) I kept the place tidy and clean and there was no one there to mess things up but me. It was kind of a shocking surprise. Oh yeah, I guess 5 kids do affect your living space!

I somehow, don't ask me how exactly, forgot my pants. I drove down in sweatpants and I had packed TWO pairs of pajama pants but I didn't have any other pants- no jeans, khakis- nothing. Awkward, especially because they weren't cute sweats... they were, well, something to wear when I didn't care how anyone saw me. My jeans (my favorite go-to wear) were left neatly folded by my bed. Mike told me to go get some pants. You don't have to ask me twice. I went to the Gap outlet (again, by myself) and found a cute pair of jeans for a good price. I then also found a black skirt and a cute denim skirt ($7.99- yeah, baby). What a treat. I left the store wearing my new jeans.

All in all, what a great reminder what 24 hours can do for someone. Make them feel alive and like a person. And kind of remember who they are. I've also recently come across some revelations about my identity... but I'll save that for another post but I'll leave it at this... it's been so good of God to remind me of who I am... I am His and that makes all the difference.