Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Where to begin

The last time I posted something I wrote was nearly nine months ago. That's an entire fetal lifetime. I don't think it's that I haven't had anything to say, I just haven't know how to say it, or more likely I just don't know how to get it all from my heart and onto "paper".  And I'm finding I am becoming a very mean spirited person. I keep starting lots of posts, but there is nothing gracious about them.

Like, accepting your age and being happy about it. I just had my 39th birthday, and I am good with that. I like that I'm nearly 40.  Most days. But then somehow the post turns into a rant about body image, dressing the part, and not trying to be your teens' best friend so you can continue to relive your youth. Cut that one.

Then there is the post about dealing with your first born child's senior year and preparing to move off to college within the year. In the middle of all the memories, the accomplishments, feelings of pride, I get off course. And out comes my frustrations with the college application process, the constant pressure to perform, and well wishers adding to the pressure with the constant questions of "what is he going to DO?". Needless to say, it's in the trash as well.

I've had posts on the struggles of motherhood, homeschooling, juggling time and schedules. But somehow, my husband comes off as uncaring and uninvolved.  That poor man has spent weeks fixing things around the house, sorting through junk, and he has had cleaning and putting together our library. And instead of seeing that as the blessing and act of love that it is, I'm writing about how alone I feel. Another post bites the dust.

But the worst post of them all has been the one I want to write the most. This winter has been such a struggle for me. It started with a sick baby, and probably an innocent question, "Are you pregnant?" The nicest part of the whole post (I've deleted it and started again about 20 times), has been the title, "It's Never Anything but Hateful to ask a Woman if she is Pregnant". The post just becomes nasty from that point on.  I'd like to say I was being sarcastic and punny, but my heart was really dripping with the bitterness that shows in the posts. And with each post that hit the cutting room floor, more of my heart was consumed with the anger that was taking over. Truth be told, I liked being mad. Sitting in the filth of self-righteousness. The question was asked over and over all winter. Week after week, I added the names to my list of people who were rude and uncaring. When I did find out that our eleventh child was indeed on the way, I added to the list all the people who said I knew you were, or It's about time you figured it out.  And with each name I added (seriously, in bright red ink), a little more of my heart turned to stone.

Y'all, I'm tired of being this person. My entire life, outlook, and person is being consumed.  I'm tired of not enjoying my day. Of not being thrilled to raise my children, or seeing the best in my husband. I'm tired of feeling used, taken for granted, and brushed aside. When I step back to see life as it is truly being played out, I'm being unfair and judgmental. I'm condescending, ugly, and everything I'm mad at others for being. And it's just not who I am, nor what I should be. I'm a child of God, and there are standards!

So here I am, beginning to sweep out my trash bin. I've shredded my list of names.
 And asking God to sweep out my heart that has become a nasty trash heap itself. I am looking to find joy again. To be understanding and loving to those whom God has blessed me to walk through life again. And most of all, I'm asking God to quiet my desire to put others opinions first.  To look to Him to be the only thing that matters to me.

I'm praying He will capture my thoughts.

God, here I am. Demolish these strongholds. Do Your work on me. Destroy any false or proud thoughts I have; anything that is not in sync with Your Word. I cannot take this apart on my own, I need the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Renew a right spirit within me. (Paraphrasing from 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Psalm 51:10)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Changing my Quiet Time Forever

I have been reading my Bible for years now.  Like 30 or more years. Not cover to cover every year; in fact that has only been done a few handful of times. Though I have worked hard to read from God's Word nearly everyday, there are plenty of times I have not. But even with all this "experience", I've never mastered the art of Bible Study.

Oh, I've tried over the years. I have all the sad attempts at taking notes from what I've read. There have been countless store bought helps, downloaded outlines, and numerous blog suggestions tried. And I still have struggled. In fact, it became just a task to check of my to-do list; something my quiet time should never be. And at this point, I seem to avoid actual Bible Study. I just don't know how, and it is so frustrating.

I stare at that blank journal page, and the sweat begins to form. Thoughts of failure, and doubt start whispering to me.  I begin by reading the passage of scripture, and try to start answering questions about it.  How does this apply to my life? What is God wanting me to learn?  What verse sticks out to me? What is this saying to me? What about me? Me. me. me. me. By this point, I'm struggling to breathe, and think I might be having an anxiety attack. So I put it all away, and try to ignore the elephant that lives on my nightstand. I was defeated before I ever began.

But a few weeks ago, I was looking through some stuff on Bible Study on Pinterest, trying to find the "system" that was going to cure me. And as I was reading through a blog post that really had nothing to do with Bible study, a sentence jumped off the page and seemed to scream at me. It was quietly tucked in a lengthy post, and was not the focus of even the paragraph it was in. It was just fulfilling its role as a place holder from one thought to the next. But it was there that God spoke.
I stared at the screen as the sentence reverberated through my thoughts. "What does this say about God?" It just echoed over and over all day.

And I've been testing it out. And thinking on that statement more and more. It is unbelievably freeing to view the scriptures this way. My focus is no longer on me. Let's face it, the Bible isn't all about me. So why should I be making it that way? And no wonder I was panicky trying to read it when the main goal was to insert myself into it. That's just overwhelming. Instead, I'm beginning to read this Text to see who my Creator really is. And what a difference! I am falling in love all over again with the One who called me out of darkness and gave me Life. I am seeing new attributes of Him, wanting to read more to discover more. And there is a desire to emulate what I read. Think about it. When you see all these attributes of God listed on a page, its a beautiful list of perfection. Who wouldn't want to be like that?

So I'm quietly learning to study my Bible. Taking small steps each day; discovering a little more than I knew the day before. And expecting this to become my norm. With just one simple question.

What does this say about God?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

5 Truths to Thriving with a Newborn

Our family ushered our newest member into this world at the beginning of February. Lucy Jo is our tenth addition, and is absolutely precious. She is a great baby, with typical needs. And while I wish I could tell you our life has been magazine perfect this last month, it has been textbook crazy.  I lovingly call it a time of Newbornitis. And even with the best of babies, there are days you wonder if you and your household will ever be normal again!

So, as an experienced Mom (that's code for the OLD mom), I've come up with 5 essential truths to thriving through the Newbornitis.

Truth 1:Plan expecting the unexpected.  
Babies can't read a clock, nor your handwriting. Sometimes, they need to eat every hour. Or maybe sleep longer and go five hours between feedings. They can be known to cry for no reason. Or maybe its just that they need to hear Momma's heartbeat. So when you make plans, whether for a day outing, pictures, school for the older children, or time with big siblings, hold to those plans LOOSELY. Know ahead of time, your plans will be prone to change. Be flexible so you don't break. And remember, Babies are more important than a to-do list. It will be there tomorrow. Or the next day. There's no rush.

Truth 2:Now is the time to try something new.
I can hear many of you screaming, "WHAT?!". Trust me on this one. You know all those cute crafts on Pinterest you've pinned to do with your toddler? Now is a great time to do a couple of those! That 20 minute catnap your baby is taking is the perfect amount of time to color a picture with the toddler, paint a pet rock, or blow bubbles on the front porch. I've watched YouTube with my bigs, learned new braided hairstyles, and was the guinea pig for new card trick ideas. And you don't need to do this EVERY nap, just once or twice over the course of the next few weeks. But remember Truth #1, and be ready to drop plans quickly!

Truth 3:Forget previous opinions.
For nine months, you have been planning and dreaming about life with your newborn. Friends and family have added in their thoughts and stories along the way. You have an expectation of how life is going to look, how it is going to be. But in the midst of spit up, cries, sore nipples, sleep deprived motions, and dirty diapers, you will wonder what you were thinking! I swore I'd never leave the house without socks and shoes on my baby, coordinated outfit, and matching hat donned on his precious little head. Then I had to let it go, and go with what worked. It's okay to re-evaluate your thoughts, change your position, and break your own rules. And your baby can go to the store in a onesie and blanket. You've maybe never done this before. I've had a newborn 10 times, and I STILL change how I do things. What works with one baby, doesn't always work with another! And that being said...

Truth 4:The T.V. is an OK ally.
I know. This may cost me my image. But seriously? When you haven't slept for 36 hours, only eaten the left over cold eggs your toddler refused to eat, and cannot remember your last shower? If that precious bundle finally falls asleep, set that toddler on the couch or in your bed, and put on an age appropriate movie! Trust me, it won't happen all that often. But even if it does, you aren't going to ruin your child.

Truth5:Rest really is important.
The doctor has told you to sleep when your baby sleeps. Your Mom has told you to take a nap. Your body is crying out for rest. Get some! This is probably the most important Truth, and hardest one to come by. So I'm going to let you in on the secret to getting rest. Stay home. It's really that simple. I know you want to show the world your precious blessing. You have errands to run, people to see, places to visit. But your health, both physical and mental are more important. The best thing that happened to us this go around was a sudden break out of strep throat or flu or something. Everyone but two of us didn't get sick. We slept often, played games together as a family, and spent time with each other. And after two weeks (one of sickness, one of making sure the contamination period was over), I felt wonderful! I wasn't snapping at everyone. I felt as if I could handle anything that came my way, and I was ready to face life at a little bit faster pace. People who were brave visited us at our home a couple of times during that time. And we did go to my parents' house a few times after the first week. But we were just able to unwind and adjust for a bit. And after you take your infant out for the first time, you will remember how exhausting that is! And will appreciate your need for rest.

Congratulations on your new baby.  I can't tell you how much I love new Mommas and their little ones. Be good to yourself, and give yourself all kinds of grace. And know this, I have prayed for you today! Some days you won't be sure you can make it through. Just take it from diaper to diaper. One feeding at a time. And you will see you are the BEST Momma to that baby!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Advent Adventures

*Disclaimer: Links in this post are affiliate links. I will receive a small monetary compensation for anything ordered through those links. Thank you!
Christmas is on its way, whether we are ready or not! And I know, many of us still have Thanksgiving on our minds, and we want to celebrate it before we crowd our lives with Christmas.  But there is a little preparing that needs to be done, and I would like to suggest one quick purchase to help your family prepare itself for Christmas.
Our family began seven years ago reading a book for Christmas.  Actually, it was for the Advent season. We begin reading right around Thanksgiving, and read a bit of the story each day afterwards, ending the story on Christmas morning. But we don't read just any old book. We were introduced to Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent, and began a journey ourselves.  We had never really celebrated Advent before, and this became a very special part of our holiday season. The children, Heath and I could not wait to get evening chores done, get home if we were out, or be ready for bed so we could start our time of reading together.  We usually sing a song or two together, but the purpose of those moments was to read the story. 
Jotham is a 10 year old boy shepherd boy in biblical times, who finds himself in great trouble.  The story twists and turns, is full of suspense, and keeps you wanting more. Jotham finds himself face to face with legendary thieves, slave dealers, robbers and more. He also finds scribes, other children, wise men, and a tiny baby. To be fair, when we started reading this story, my children were nine and under.  If your oldest is preschool aged, I'm not sure these are the stories to fit your family yet.  Unless your child is used to sitting for 15-20 minutes listening to you read. I often have color sheets for my littlest ones to work on while we read so their hands stay busy and they stay engaged. 
The biggest bonus is that Jotham's Journey is just the first in a series! We rotate through the years and follow with Tabitha's Travels, and Bartholomew's Passage. Both of these stories are woven into the original story, but follow a different child. Our children are already looking forward to this year's adventure, Bartholomew's Passage!
This year's Advent story is set to begin on November 30, so you still have time to get your own copy of this book.  And if you are an Amazon Prime member, it will come to you in a couple of days, at no extra cost for shipping! I know that this has almost sounded like a Reading Rainbow book report, but I'm just giving you our family's honest opinion about the books.  I get nothing in return (unless, of course the affiliate links), and was not asked to give my opinion. I'm just the kind of person that likes to give her opinions to others for the fun of it!
Whatever you do this season, remember to prepare your hearts, and the heart of your family. Don't get caught up in the rush and noise of the season.  Instead, find yourself resting quietly at a manger stall, learning from the miracle that was and is Jesus. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Marriage and Anniversaries

Heath and I celebrated our eighteenth wedding anniversary this week. And by celebrated, I mean we woke up, said happy anniversary to each other, posted something on social media about it, and got everyone put together and to church on time. It's the first time in 18 years we didn't get away for a few hours by ourselves. I thought I was going to be sad about it. It just couldn't be helped.  When the coffers are empty, there's not much to be done. But instead of sadness, I have been very reflective.

I was only 19 when we wed. Heath was a whopping 21. We stood there on the stage of our church and made promises we had no idea how to keep, nor what the cost would be to keep them. We said "I do", and could only see how that affected our here and now. We were ready to conquer the world, because together, we could do anything.

Fast forward over the years, and trust me, they do go by at lightening speed, and we have learned a few lessons.  See, we knew things were not going to be easy. We knew times would be good and times would be hard. There would be ups and downs. We knew all that in our heads. Life had already shown us that. We just didn't know it in our hearts how we would be stretched, intertwined, hurt, broken, and brought together. I'll never forget our first fight. Scared me to death. Heath walked out, and left me in our apartment alone. I just knew I had blown it only a few weeks into our marriage. There was so much to learn. Those first few years were filled with multiple address changes, family moving in with us, us moving in with family, job changes, poor financial choices, and the births of babies. Lots of finding our way. We weathered the ups with the downs fairly well.

But as life goes on, it just seems to get more complicated. Much like the ever growing clutter and stuff that tends to collect in our homes, our lives were collecting "stuff" and it was getting harder to wade through. The mountains were getting bigger. Which meant that the good times were even sweeter, with abundant happiness. But the flip side meant that the valleys were getting deeper, darker, full of heartache.

We now have nine children. With the tenth child expected to be born in February. And life has never been harder. And just as we have welcomed life to this world, we have watched it leave. Have said hard good-byes. We are struggling more now than ever. Most days, I feel like I'm drowning. It wasn't supposed to be this hard. Those young newlyweds? They just knew that by the time they were nearly 40, they would have "arrived". With success clearly written all over their lives. It's not happened that way. We are basically starting over.

And here's the deal.  I'm not that young, na├»ve girl anymore that worried over little things. I have grown up. MUCH. I have a history, a story. And I can tell you this. 
If I could go back, do it all over again, I would still choose to say "I DO".

In fact, I say I do every morning. I get up everyday and choose to love my husband. I say "I Do" to the good times and bad times. Marriage is not a life full of that mushy, giggly love. Full of sunlight, fluffy goodness, and smooth roads. It gets ugly. You get dirty in the process.  Storms come, and leave their mark. What I have learned is that you can't hang all your hopes on the fairytale. The best parts of marriage are what come from the ashes. I made a promise eighteen years ago, and since I better understand what that promise truly was asking of me, I can better fulfill said promise. Would I change anything? Do something different? I can honestly say no. From our mistakes, we are growing. We have learned to love each other more than we ever could have imagined. We also have learned that our idea of success has changed. Sure, it would be nice to have a little more financial success. But we are STILL married, eighteen years later, and there isn't any doubt this will be the way it is for our life times. And we are able to conquer anything, still, because we have each other. We have learned to CHOOSE. And we choose each other. We may make the wrong choices in many aspects of our life, but this is the one thing I know we will always choose. We choose each other, our marriage, our life built together. It's not always pretty, and there may be days we don't like it, but we haven't let feelings get in the way. So to my husband I say, "I love you. It has always been you, and always will be you. I can no longer see where I end and you start. You are forever my choice, I still do."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Five Gifts for Fathers that Would Meet Cliff Huxtible's Approvel

When I think of Father's Day Gifts, the first thing I think of is the episode of The Cosby Show where Cliff has had enough of the bad gifts. His chest of gifts is so funny! Soap on a Rope. How does one use it? Light up ties, hats, belts, and suspenders.  So for all the Dad's that don't promote themselves, here are five quick, simple ideas that are sure to be useful to the Father in your life!

  1. MOVIES~ I don't know of a single guy that doesn't love movies.  Whether your guy likes action and adventure, Sci-Fi, or classics, there are plenty of options for him.  Some of the favorites for my guys are, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug , Star Trek: Stardate Collection , and the John Wayne Film Collection. The possibilities are endless!
  2. Kreg K4MS Jig Master System~ My guys all love to get dirty, make big messes, and have something they have made with their own hands.  And this system has been at the top of the wish/want list for quite some time.  As an added bonus? You can start adding handmade furniture and home storage to your wish lists! It's a win-win situation!
  3. Bird Feeders~ Seriously.  Guys really seem to like them! Anything that has to do with birding is our go-to gift for my Dad, but there is something to be said about providing for the sparrows I guess.  I've known many men who LOVE having bird feeders!
  4. Books~ The guys in my life are AVID readers. So try picking out favorite genres or authors like David McCullough, Zane Grey, or their favorite thriller author.
  5. Sports~ No list would be complete without mentioning sports.  Our guys like to move. They love to compete, get sweaty, and hang out with their pals.  So whether your guy likes to tailgate, follow his favorite team, or gear up, this is always a good way to go!
Whatever you get the fathers in your life, remember that they love you. They are part of you, and you are a part of them. They will love what you get them. As long as it's not a light up, hula girl tie!

Oh, and just in case you are wondering? We did get something from this list for my husband! But since he is reading this and giving his stamp of approval, I can't tell you which one!

Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I do receive a small amount of earnings based on the referral links.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Broken Hearts

Sunday was an unreal day for us.  It was one of those days that nearly every minute was planned, without any leeway for mistakes or delays.  I hate Sundays like that. I am a Sabbath Sunday kind of person. You fellowship with your church, enjoy the company, take a nap, reconnect with your family again. In general, easy going, full of REST.

Well, to be honest, (sorry Bro. Mark), as soon as the sermon was being wrapped up, I was checking things off in my mental list, already moving on to the next thing. Yeah, yeah, while singing in the choir.  It happens sometimes. Then, the unbelievable happened. My husband started leading my six year old daughter down the aisle. WHAT?! I was NOT expecting that. In fact, we always are prepared for this. With days and weeks of talks, family discussions, and such at home. I didn't know what either one of them were thinking.

Fast forward past lunch, scary phone calls (I'll get to those), a Bible Drill competition, and we arrive home for an hour or two to regroup before church. Heath and Paulee do some talking, Daddy to little girl. I then take my precious Paulee Rea by the hand, and we sneak off to my room for some girl talk.  She begins to tell me about the things her and her sweet Daddy have talked about, and so I ask her if she is ready to talk with God about her heart.  Y'all I was NOT prepared for this. "Yes Momma. But you need to leave." My heart constricted. How was I to know if she prayed right? What if she got it all mixed up? Could I really know she was "saved"? And then I remember thousands of times these words have come out of my mouth, "It's not about a prayer. There are no magical words that POOF, make you worthy of God." I did the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I walked out of that room and shut the door. Nearly all the way.

What I saw next was a little girl lay down prostrate on my bed and begin to talk with her Jesus. It was holy. And private. I was intruding. It sent me to my knees. Again, I was being shown I had to trust the One I claim as my Savior, with these that are most precious to me. Because no matter their worth to me, it doesn't hold a candle to their worth to the Creator.

"Oh Lord, I really do have to trust her to You. She isn't mine to begin with! Set your flame in her heart, consume her, and let that fire be unquenchable. Change her, and through her, set the world on fire. And give me Lord, just a touch of her faith and trust in You. There is no compromise in her eyes. No questions. Just pure faith in You."

I have no idea how long she prayed, or I. But when she walked out, she was determined. I said, "So?",
"So what?"
"What happened?"
"Well Mom, don't you know? The wages of sin is death. I have sin Mom. I have said things, thought things, and done things that make God sad.  I have a payment. Dad showed me in the Bible.  But Jesus gives a gift of eternal life. Its why he lived here. And was perfect. And died on the cross. And rose on the third day. So I asked Him to give me His gift".
"Mom, don't you know? The Bible says if you ask God for something, He gives it to you."
"I see. So now what?"
"Well, the Bible also says that 'if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.' So that's what I am doing. Momma, don't you know these things?! (she was looking very worried about the condition of my heart) Every Sparkie knows these things. It's basic Bible truth!"

So black and white.  She told me that the next thing she needed to do would be to "get baptized". Because that is what Jesus did. And she wants to be just like Jesus. But since she has to wait for that, she needed to find a Bible to read. Because if she is going to act like Jesus, and be like Jesus, she probably should read about what he did and how he acted. I am not making this up!  So this precious little girl went and found this Bible that Heath's grandparents sent to us, and began reading Psalms. Chapter 23 to be exact. Because she has it memorized and so it wouldn't be too hard to read.  And this little girl, who isn't a ferocious reader, and has just an average six year old reading level, has proceeded to read chapter after chapter in Psalms. And today, she informed me that the Psalms were great, although she didn't understand them well, but they weren't telling her what her Jesus did every day. So I suggested she start reading the Gospels. We looked at John. It was too long. Luke, too wordy (her description, not mine). Matthew, well, she's tried it before, but the names just get to be too much. So we flipped to Mark. And on the title page, it bold print in the margin, it said, "MARK IS THE GOSPEL THAT SHOWS US HOW TO PUT OUR FAITH IN JESUS INTO ACTION". She squealed. "This is it Momma!! Now I will know how to act! It has to be different than I have before I surrendered my heart to God!"

I asked her that now that she is my sister, if she would stop calling me Mom. I got the eye roll, and "MOM!!" Good to know she is still my little girl. With a passion fresh, new, and bold.

And, to hear what else was going on that day, and to see a sweet video from Paulee Rea herself, visit my sister, Teri Lynne. There stories will forever be intertwined.