“Heeeeeeelp!”

“Mama, heeeeeeeeeelp!”

My reaction? Depends on the tone of voice. Parents know. Some cries, you come running. Others, you calmly stroll, because perhaps your little one can resolve his problem by the time you get there. And yet even others – you roll your eyes. Maybe even stop to take a picture! The predicaments that kid gets into! He’s too quick to ask for help – he could totally handle it himself. Or couldn’t he just have the better judgment not to get into that mess in the first place?

And then, as what often happens, the parenting predicament causes my mind to flash to my father. My heavenly Father.

How quick am I to yell, “Abba, heeeeeeelp!” Probably not quick enough.

What do you suppose his reaction is? Quick to run? Waiting for me to solve it on my own? Rolling his eyes? Sighing because I landed myself in trouble…. AGAIN.

The book of Jonah has come up in various ways in my life this summer. And I think of it again. It really cracks me up that Jonah – after being called as a prophet to go to Ninevah – basically whined to God, telling him he didn’t want to go, because he KNEW God was gracious and compassionate, and there was NO WAY ON EARTH Jonah wanted to see God relent and not give Ninevah the big shove-off they deserved. So he ran.

Do I run? Do I whine? (Ha!)

And when I run, do I run TO God, or FROM him?

And when I whine, do I stop and listen for the gentle rebuke, or do I pridefully ignore him, not wanting my Father’s help, even though I desperately need it.

Praise be to God! Who as my Father, graciously gives me all good things. Who listens to my cries for help, and does not turn a deaf ear (or roll his eyes) but helps and disciplines me with patience.

He is God my Helper.


Writing with the fantastic Five Minute Friday community, who spend 5 minutes writing once a week (when we can!) on a one-word prompt. This week’s prompt: “help.”

dreaming…

Lately I have been sensing a call, a change in direction for my life. So I have been asking God a lot of questions, doing a lot of pondering, and attempting to listen best I can. Here are some of my ramblings, and then God’s answer to me, inspired by the Five Minute Friday prompt, “protect.”

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I try to sit in contentment, which is hard, because my heart is a dreamer, made for a longer journey – eyes on the final prize and never completely comfortable in a world that is not my home.

I love the Church. It is beautiful. God’s people are beautiful. And yet we are so broken. God’s kingdom is so much greater, his vision so much beyond what the church looks like in America in 2016. My dreams for it are so much bigger. So great that trying to make a chip in that iceberg seems like an effort in futility. Foolish. Not worth my time, money, energy. I am just one person, and the cynicism (wisdom?) of my 32 years has left some naivety (optimism?) of youth behind.

Can I dream again? Can my heart stay whole, knowing now that “chasing a dream” of obedience to God is right and good, though it may be hard, difficult, confusing, and still leaving me feeling incomplete in this world? Knowing I will still be broken, still dealing with anger, depression, jealousy, pride & selfishness, because I’m human and those things in me won’t completely die until I’m resurrected?

Can I rest in Christ and run his race at the same time?

He says to me,

I will protect you my child. I am your strong tower. You may run to me and be saved. I give you the shield of faith, to extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy. I give you my Word, to be your weapon and sword. I give you the gospel of peace, which lets you rest in the middle of war. I have fitted you with what you need – my Spirit, a helper. I am your shepherd, so you have everything you need. You can run your race. The path will include some still waters. You can climb mountains, because I will make them low for you. I will straighten your path, not let your foot stumble. You will fly on eagle’s wings, just as I shelter you with mine. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart – I have overcome the world.

Amen.

I pray you may know God’s protection as you let him fashion your dreams.

losing my life

Joining Five Minute Friday, where we write freely for 5 minutes without second guesses and encourage one another. This week’s prompt: “lose.”

GO

“I don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul,” sings Toby Mac, the old song reverberating through my head.

But I do want SOME of the world. Can I keep some of the world without losing my soul?

I want to take hold of all God wants for my life. All he wants for me. But that is scary, because it means surrendering everything. All my will. All my desires. Emptying myself of the things that I think will fill me up – and trusting that he will instead.

As I grow older, I discover there are layers to my surrender. I use to think that as I grew older as a Christian, I would become stronger, “better,” more faithful, perhaps finally reaching the next “level” of maturity in my faith. Because of course I want to be the best, excellent in all things, especially my faith!

But as God calls me, as he leads me forward, as he gives me hints as to what surrendering to him might really mean for my life, I am terrified.

What if I lose it?

What if I lose what I want? What if I am not happy? What if it’s hard? What if it’s painful? What if it means financial insecurity? What if it means personal insecurity? What if it means sacrifice? Brokenness? Exposure?

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. ~Matthew 10:39

It’s such an upside down kingdom. God leads me by the hand, beckoning forward, asking him to trust him yet again for just the next step ahead. I trust him. He’s led me this far. His dreams for me thus far have been greater than I have imagined. Rather than being a “giant” I am now just more aware of my self-righteous pride and deep need for my Savior. Feeling so inadequate, he calls me forward, to lose my life.

So I might find it. In Him.

STOP

surrendering the pacifiers

Anxiety! I am having anxiety. Why this anxiety?  You’re going to laugh.

We had Levi throw away his pacifiers today.

Bwahahahaha, right? Celebrate the milestone, right?!

Then why this anxiety?!

Levi’s “paci’s” have been his life line. His source of comfort. He lived one whole week before Grandma gave him a “Nuk” to suck on and he’s been hooked ever since. It’s been fabulous. For a while we didn’t know what to call it – “Nuk,” “Binky,” “pacifier.”  We landed on “paci.” Sometime after he turned two we finally got him weaned down to only using it to fall asleep, or when he was really sick. It was my sure fire method of offering him a way to calm himself down. And if you know Levi, you understand he is a very emotional boy, to all wonderful extremes. Most people say, “Oh, what a happy, enthusiastic, charming boy!” Which he is! All of those. But in a bad mood, when he’s in a safe space at home with mom and dad, not getting what he wants, frustrated, tired, or angry…. Look out. He is all of those extremes, too. So pacifier…. Bless it! For quite a while now – maybe a year or more – he’s had three pacifiers. One red, two blue. The red one goes in his mouth. The two blue ones in each hand. Losing one in the middle of the night sometimes necessitates a trip to mom and dad’s bedroom to find the poor lost paci. In the morning, once it’s time to eat breakfast, the paci’s go on the fridge until the appointed time before nap time, when he gets them back and sucking during our bedtime routine slowly calms and soothes him. So, as I mentioned….

We had Levi throw away his pacifiers today.

The garbage “monster” was hungry, so he fed his paci’s to the kitchen trash. What fun! And then he burst into tears. For maybe 30 seconds. And then we were off playing cars and the pacifiers were forgotten. But my heart still constricted. My shoulders were tense. My mind was bracing for a possible tantrum at nap time, when the reality of not having paci’s sets in. But still…. We’ve hit milestones before. A tantrum at nap time has happened for many reasons, and I have handled them all. What is going on in me?

And then my mind identified the issue. I was losing control. An apron string cut, if you will. I controlled his paci’s, and in my hand they were a very effective tool for soothing my child. Not only that, but yesterday Esther cut her own (GIANT) apron string…. On the day her brother turned three and she turned 13 months, she quit nursing.  The night before she had nipped me at her bedtime feed, so I ended the session. Then yesterday she wanted nothing to do with nursing.  I was an emotional mess last night after I laid her down for bed, because she had gone all day refusing my breast. She chose her thumb and lovie instead of me (she gave up a pacifier LOOOOONG ago).

Am I really that much of a control freak, that I’m having anxiety over losing control of what my kids suck on?  Or do I just need to accept the incredible emotional bond that exists between me and them? From the get-go, a baby’s cries cause mom anxiety, and her instinct is to soothe, however she can. Breastfeeding has been a huge part of that, especially for Esther. It was for Levi, too, but after weaning he had his paci’s. And I could provide that comfort.

I can no longer offer those to my children. I guess I feel powerless.

I must find a way to surrender some of my power. I am raising children to be independent adults, not grown-up people who still need mommy. Yes, they are a long, long way from adults. They still depend on me for almost all of their needs, and I have a lot of comfort to still offer them. And I would argue that as adults, we all still need our mom in some way. But they are not my children. They belong to the Lord. And this is just one small step of letting go and letting God. All I have to do is glance at my News Feed to know what is ahead…. Kindergarten graduation. Summer camp. High school graduation. Moving to college. Getting married. Letting go, all of it.

But Jesus gives me such calm and peace… because they are his children, for him to call to himself, for him to watch over. They are in my care for just a short time. So now my heart is humming the melody of a soothing hymn…

All to Jesus, I surrender, all to him I freely give.

I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all.

All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

We surrendered the paci’s. And my boobs hurt. But it’s alright. My kids are His.  🙂

this stage

Yeah, I’m making time to write a Five Minute Friday post today! If you need a few minutes to process your week, I highly recommend joining us for this encouraging, fun exercise!

This week’s prompt: “miss”

Disclaimer: If you don’t want to read about a momma venting/boasting/processing life regarding her 2 year old, stop reading now.


I miss ordinary tasks taking an ordinary amount of time, without interruption. Holy cow.

In the process of just sitting down to write this (in which I THOUGHT my toddler was occupied with Curious George), he politely asked me for the fifth time this morning if he could have more raspberries. I cut him off at breakfast, hoping to prevent stomach cramps and diaper rash. But I finally said yes, and before I could get to the fridge to help him, he had taken the half-full gallon of milk out of the fridge and dropped it, in a valiant effort to be independent and reach the raspberries that I had “hidden” behind said milk. SO. He calmly grabbed a towel (I grabbed 3), and we sopped up the milk and he proceeded to delight in some fresh raspberries. Once we started Curious George again with raspberries in hand, I went back and wiped up the sticky mess with a soapy rag, and then started a laundry load of kitchen towels, because low and behold they have all gotten dirty in the past 3 days cleaning up liquid spills of some sort!

So, 10 minutes later, let’s get back to what I was trying to do, which was… I don’t remember…. Thinking….

“Mom! More raspberries please?” We get more raspberries.

Thinking again… oh yes, I should do some writing… Go to my computer…

“Mom! More raspberries please?” Oh for heaven’s sake. We negotiate for crackers and cheese this time. Another Curious George episode.

And yeah, I’m writing! So yes, I miss ordinary tasks taking an ordinary amount of time, without interruption.

But I am also going to miss this stage, I know I am. Everyone tells me so. You know what I’ll miss? Our conversation at lunch yesterday, a rare moment when it was just him and me chowing down on our grilled cheese together.

“God changed my heart!”

“He did?”

“Yeah, he gave me a new one. A small one!”

“Yes, God can change our hearts, can’t he?” (Context: I recently made up a song about how Jesus changed Saul’s heart and he became Paul. So he’s on a Saul-became-Paul kick.)

“God is big!” (in a voice of wonderment.)

“Yes, buddy, God is big.”

“I love God, Mom.” (insert heart-melt-all-this-parenting-stuff-is-worth-it-the-mind-of-a-child-rocks moment)

Yep. I will miss this.

My friend Rachel shared a great reminder on Facebook yesterday… that as parents it’s so easy to fall into the trap of wishing for the next stage. I easily think, “Oh, I can’t wait until he’s potty trained,” or “I can’t wait until the baby can walk.” And doing that, I fail to see how they have grown, what they have accomplished, realizing that not too long ago, I was wishing for THIS stage. So my resolve for the near future is to be content with THIS stage. When they leave this nest I want to say (like the wise Angie Schmitt commented once) – EVERY stage was my favorite. 🙂

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Levi snapped this portrait of me writing during Curious George.

 

“somebody to divide it with…”

“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” –Mark Twain

I know that having community and bearing pain with another at your side is helpful. Beneficial. Healthy. But I love this quote. Because it is true at least for me, that in my dark moments, my instinct is to bury my head in my pillow and throw the covers over myself in tears. But when there is joy…. I just gotta tell someone! Share it!

I see this all the time in my 2 year old. “Mom, come and see!” “Mom, watch this!” “Mom, oooh, look at that!” My Levi is a constant sharer of joy. He and his buddy Henry cause each other some tears… but even more beautiful is the laughter and good times they share.

We have to teach our kids to share their toys. To share their space. To share their life,  their will, their priorities. But joy… it is freely given. And then multiplied! I cannot begin to tell you how many times my kids make me laugh during the day. Many times when I shouldn’t be! But I love this reflection of God in us.

There was a season, just a few short months ago as my postpartum depression kicked in, when my laughter was harder to come by. And so these days I am so grateful for the easy laughter that comes to my lips, shared with my son and daughter. And especially those grins and snickers shared through meaningful eyes with my hubby-love 🙂

I praise God for his word in Job 8:21 –

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.”

Here is to laughter and joy, easily shared!

(Written as a part of Five Minute Friday, this week’s prompt: share.)

We are not to forget

It’s the weekend! It’s the middle of February and we had the windows open today, played with sidewalk chalk, and went to the store without coats! We all seem to be healthy today… Woohoo! Praising the Lord for the hope of health and spring. In the meantime, here’s my five minute free write on the prompt “forget.” See a bunch more at the Five Minute Friday link-up.


 

“Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten… After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:8, 10

This passage came up in our family devotional reading the other day, and it was another reminder to me of one of my favorite passages in the Bible. No, it’s not a happy one. It’s a sad one. But it serves as I reminder so that I do not forget…

My mom sent me an encouraging note a few weeks ago, at a moment she knew I needed it. It says “Motherhood is not for wimps… You are making a difference every day.” She added her emphasis afterwards, “You are! You are!” She did not want me to forget.

Our pastor is challenging us with fasting from various things in our life that keep our attention away from focusing on God. When we have desire to go do that thing, we are to remember Jesus, and what he did for us. We are not to forget.

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” Luke 22:19

We are not to forget. Not to forget our God, and the ways he taught us.

We are not to forget. Not to forget the huge cost to save us, because of the Father’s even greater love for us.

We are not to forget. Not to forget to teach our children about the Lord and what he has done for us. Teaching them by being an example, by demonstrating his love, by disciplining as he does for us, and by extending grace and unconditional affection, so that the next generation may not forget.

We are not to forget. We are not to forget that our life and our meaning are significant. Not because of what we’ve done or our great strength, but because he has called us to BE A PART OF HIS STORY… and if we are not, then the world might forget.

Mommy’s first day of Lent

Sigh. Oh my. Today! Yikes, today. Today was ordinary and yet extraordinary in its own ways and I’m going to go bananas if I don’t sit down and spew some words at ya. Whew.

Today included:

Repeated lessons to Levi about why we don’t hit. No hitting. Stop hitting. Don’t throw things at Henry. Don’t tackle him. Stop, Levi. Be gentle, Levi. If you do that again you’re going in timeout. If you don’t stay in time out, you are getting a spanking. Timeout. Spanking. Levi. LEVI. LEVI JOSEPH HATTING……

Contrast that scene with ¾ of the way through lunch….. “Mama! Pray first!” “Okay, Levi, go ahead, you can pray. You say the words.” (We bow our heads and fold hands.) “Dear Jesus… Thank you. Thank you for food. For food on table. Thank you, milk. Sandwich. Thank you (for) baby Esther, Henry, Mommy. Dear Jesus. Thank you. Daddy… safe… house. Amen.” And my heart is melting. That is the first time I’ve heard him pray. Usually we prompt him and he repeats after us, or refuses to pray at all and asks us to pray. But here he was. Reminding me to pray and be thankful. Praying at the beginning of lunch wouldn’t have worked, since I had three little ones on my hands who were “hangry”, two of them literally doing a constant cry/whine until they had a piece of food in their mouth, and the other who was “helping” make his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for the sandwich.

Today also included my 9 month old (9!) getting into everything. And asking to nurse every 30 minutes, then barely eating at all… because she’s congested? Teething? So distracted by the toys in the living room she just wants to get down as soon as she’s on my lap? Who knows.

Contrast that with her huge, 2-tooth smile that breaks out as soon as she sees the camera and knows it’s awesome if she turns on the charm. 🙂

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Levi’s portrait of his sister

And hallelujah, I did get an hour nap today! Bliss. I woke up as Levi quietly entered my bedroom with his blond bed head and paci’s. He joined me in bed to snuggle- “rub my back Mom?” – and watch Thomas. Sigh. I love him.

It is now 5:02 pm, and I just changed out of my sweats 15 minutes ago so I won’t feel like an unsexy slob when Chad comes home. (He wouldn’t necessarily care, but I do). The mess from lunch is still on the table and the counter, the washer and dryer are full and need to be switched, and there are 3 baskets of wrinkly clean laundry that need attention. My living room is full of today’s toy disaster behind me, with Curious George on the TV so I can vent some sanity into my day.

This is hard. This is so hard. But it is so good. Is this how God feels? ALL THE TIME?

“My children are so difficult, but damn, I love them so much! They are so wonderful!”

The thing with God, though…. Pretty sure his patience lasts a little longer than mine. His love is fiercer than mine. His compassion hits “refresh” instantaneously. His wisdom in fatherhood is perfect. His being, wholly holy. His lap, always open and welcoming. His anger, always righteous. His jealousy, full of passionate love for his own. I am so glad he is infinite. That he carries me. Always. Because man, his job. Running the whole world. Being creator of everything. Loving everything. Judging everything, just in all his ways. That is mighty. Do you think it’s a crazy hard job? Or easy, because he is God, and so powerful, that everything in his nature comes freely, like breathing?

Today is the first day of Lent. Jesus, wash my soul. Father, make me like you. Spirit, bear me up so I might carry my cross. And maybe a baby on my hip while I’m at it.

Pizza Ranch for supper it is.

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Levi’s portrait of Mommy

Winter, head colds & finding God in the doldrums

Oh my word. This month. (As in, this last month). Horrendous! One month of winter colds, during which there has not been a day that someone in our house has not been sick. Really, it’s been most of us. Most of the time. Including me. I shouldn’t complain. I shouldn’t. I am grateful for the pediatrician, health insurance, a home with a heater, food, and ibuprofen. But a month requiring 4 trips to the pediatrician is stressful, so share in literary form I must.

I was taking a lovely siesta on the couch just now (Thursday afternoon), when THUD, CRY…. I race upstairs, glad to find Levi has already put himself back into bed. I hand him his pacifiers (one for the mouth, one for each hand) and he rolls back over, “Thank you mama…” closing his eyes. Sigh. Awesome. Going back to bed during a nap. Glorious. The nice thing is, I had my good “Kat nap” (haha!), so I feel refreshed enough to stay awake. This is the best part of any day, if it happens. When I have satisfactorily had my nap, and the kids are still sleeping. I could be spending this time vacuuming up the shredded paper that is all over the living room floor from Levi’s morning escapades, but writing is so much more therapeutic. And it’s good practice for Esther’s digestive system if she eats some, right?

Except now I hear Esther coughing and stirring through the baby monitor, so I might have to pause and be right back… in like 3 hours. Or tomorrow. Or next week…..

 

…I’m back. It’s now Sunday (three days later). Not bad. I’m having time and space and good creative thought because Esther is home sick with a cold and fever (it’s her turn again), taking her morning nap while the guys are worshiping and eating chili at church. But I’ve just had a fresh shower and leg shave, so I am good! And so is God.

Here are my thoughts.

I was showering and thinking, I should really have “church” here at home since I’m missing out on the worship and word with my congregation this morning. But honestly, the thought of cracking open my Bible and finding a Scripture passage to read and study did not feel appealing. Instant guilt at that feeling followed. *sigh* With the onset of January, I had the desire to get back into regularly studying Scripture, since that area of my spiritual life has been lacking lately. The best time of day for me to do that is in the morning over breakfast, before my children wake up. Well, since we’ve been sick since the new year, I have lacked that time either because I myself needed rest, or my children were waking up early and demanding immediate attention. I had planned to start some reading in Hosea and Psalm 119, since the two women’s groups I’m a part of were going to start diving into those together. I have been to ONE gathering of those two groups in 2016. *double sigh* So goes another futile attempt at “quiet time” since becoming a mother.

But guess what DID happen this month? I received a request from my dear cousin, Leah Everson, to join a Facebook group she started called “Mama’s Soul Group.” This group is “an online community of Christian mamas who explore ancient and new spiritual practices in order to connect with God.” Leah is a mom of young kids, like me, who is also a writer, and God is leading her through the awesome calling of ministering to women through exploring ways to (re)connect with God once the dynamics of motherhood take hold, when we find it difficult to connect with him in ways we previously had. She is encouraging us each week with a spiritual practice other than the traditional “quiet time” of Bible study and prayer. This week was “breath prayers.” We picked a prayer to say repeatedly throughout our days – the same words, as we breathe in and breathe out. My prayer was, “Abba Father” (breathe in), “You carry me” (breathe out). Over. And over. And over again. Let me tell you. It made a difference! The acknowledgement of my Lord through the stress of my day added so much peace and awareness of his presence. I was more conscious of the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, and his Word more easily came to memory so I could meditate on it as needed.

Wonderful! So through understanding that perhaps I don’t need to meet with God in the same way all the time – or have “church” this Sunday morning in the traditional sense – the Holy Spirit revealed something to me. Being a mother of small children is not a season of life to just spiritually endure. But rather, an opportunity from God to grow closer to him than ever before, because it pushes me to deepen my relationship with him in other ways – ways that will serve me even AFTER my kids are grown – by practicing his presence, worshiping, and meditating on his word in various ways through my busy day. Because from what I’ve heard, busy days don’t end when your kids are out of diapers 🙂

So…. This morning I am worshiping through writing. Worshiping by enjoying God’s presence as the water of my shower cleanses me and his mercy washes my soul. Fellowshipping with him by breathe prayers, acknowledging through them that he is God, I am not, and therefore I do not carry the world and need to shed the mantel of my god complex.

Phew. Can I get an Amen???!!!

If you are also a mother and your heart aches for a closer walk with God, I invite you to check out Leah’s blog The Toothless Grin and the Facebook group “Mama’s Soul Group.” You are most welcome and we would love to encourage you. You are in good company!

“Time”

After a much too long hiatus from blogging over the holidays, it’s time to get back to the routine of joining the Five Minute Friday gang, writing every week for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt.

This week’s prompt: “Time”

5 minutes, ready, GO.

Ah, “time.” Such a loaded word in our day and age, is it not?

“Not enough time.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Couldn’t make time.”

Time goes so fast!”

All things you hear, way too much of the time. (haha)

But there is time for everything, “a season for everything under the sun,” Solomon wrote.

Have you ever stopped to ponder that if our planet didn’t revolve around the sun, we might not have a concept of time?

It occurred to me yesterday how God set up our world to go through routine.

As a mom of young kids, you get to be an expert on routine. Routine is helpful, and feels so familiar to little kids, that they seem happier and healthier when there is an expected routine. More compliant, too!

Did you realize God made our world (and us) that way? Think about it. The earth revolves around the sun, and also spins on an axis. That creates a predictable routine of seasons, and 24 hour days. We have a routine of being awake during the day and asleep at night. Most of us have a routine of breakfast, lunch, and supper. We have created a routine of the business world functioning in our country from approximately 8am-5pm for 5 days a week. We still take a “Sabbath” as a nation, with a weekend of some fashion every week. Even annually, we have a routine of when our routine is disrupted, for holidays and vacations.

God gave us a way to mark the time.

I guess all that to say, I should embrace God’s marking of time. It’s not going too fast, or too slow. He designed time to go just as fast as it should, with the right amount each day as it marches along. So I don’t need to wish for it to be any different.

I’m so glad he’s in charge and I’m not.

STOP.