We like ta move it move it

As we enter the month of June, excitement and dread are hovering above me like a swarm of gnats. We close on our new house on June 14th, which means these next two weeks we’ll be packing up everything we own–from Magic Bullets to Magic Fairy wands–only to unpack them two weeks later. We are taking a week in between to remove some crazy kaleidoscope wallpaper and paint as many rooms as possible before we officially move-in to the new house.

Moving in-and-of-itself hasn’t been overly stressful for me–this will be our fifth home in nine years. The most stressful part is not having a “home” for a few weeks. I find it almost therapeutic to sort through every nook and cranny of our home and effectively start with a clean slate. BUT…I’ve never moved with multiple children before. Our last move, I was 7 months pregnant with Ally and Rae was only two years old. Packing was simple…I put her in her play pen as I packed up the whole house in under three days. So I’m already dreading this move–three kids means three times the mess and stress as before.

This past week was supposed to be our last week of relaxing before this house turns from a home into a den of boxes. So wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to have a few days in our “first home” with nothing to do and nowhere to go? Boy was I wrong. Here’s how my relaxing week turned out…

TUESDAY morning–I hopped on facebook while I was drinking my morning cup of coffee around 7 am, listening to the girls play upstairs in their room. After a few minutes, I decided to go check on them. When I got to the top of the stairs, I noticed little tufts of blonde hair floating on top of the hallway’s hardwood…”NO NO NO NONONONO!” I yelled, eyes frantically searching for the scissor-wielding savant. And there, hiding behind the bathroom sink, sat my three year old, whose long, single-length locks were now cut into a perfect…Mullet.

Mullet Mayhem

If you had TRIED to cut a mullet on a child, you couldn’t have done a better job than she did. With nicely shaped bangs (which she did not have before), feathered sides and a long tail trailing down her back, this child looked like the offspring of Joe Dirt and Uncle Jesse. I laughed, took a few pictures, rushed her to the ER (the Emergency Repair at a local salon), and she ended up with a cute stacked bob.

But out the door went one relaxing day–from trips to the salon to sweeping up hair tumbleweeds, Tuesday was not exactly what I’d pictured.

Wednesday After dinner the next night, Hubby and I were in the kitchen catching up on our day, when Rae came running down the stairs laughing and screaming, “Oh no! Wait till you see what Ally did! BaH HahaHaha!” Hubby and I followed her up the stairs only to find Ally sitting on top of her dresser, head-to-toe covered in diaper cream (which if you’ve had any experience with, you know is basically like smearing Crisco all over yourself.) I asked her, “WHY on earth did you do this!!!?” She tearfully replied, “I wannna look like a princess, but me no look like a princess now.” Well she got that right! She looked more like the abominable snowman!

Friday and Saturday were spent OUT of the house, with fun trips to the museum and my parents’. Thankfully, nothing of major consequence occurred. But this afternoon, I heard a knock on the front door. When I answered it, my neighbor timidly pointed upwards and said, “Um, I thought you should know that your girls are crawling around on the porch roof.” Apparently Rae had figured out how to open screen windows, and they decided it would be fun to climb out and say hello to all the passers-by.

So as I enter this crazy week of boxes and packing peanuts, there’s definitely a part of me that would like put my children in one of those boxes. If you think of us, please pray for me. And pray that my kids will be able to breath through cardboard.

Who’s the Boss?

Now that Ally is three and Rae is five, there’s been more sibling rivalry in our house the past few months.  As Ally learns how to better express herself, Rae is resignedly relinquishing more of her throne, bit by bit.  It’s been difficult to watch–and even more difficult to referee.  Both of my girls are bosses. 

“Bosses” have gotten a bad wrap in our society.  They are seen as the scapegoats, the self-righteous, the smug. Part of the damaging effects from our “every-road-is-wide” and “don’t-ever-offend-anyone” culture, is the widespread distrust for those in authority and dislike for anyone who dares to share an opinion that could affront. As the pleasers and appeasers push back on the leaders, Bosses become fearful of being themselves.

This has had a ripple effect on our “don’t-tell-me-what-to-do” society. Parents can no longer define their roles, other than providing food, shelter, and clothing. Children have no idea why they are special or what their place is in the home or the world. The respective roles of husband and wife, male and female, have become so overly blurred that many men and women don’t know how to live fulfilling lives. Chivalry points to chauvinism. Kindness means your nosy. And forget responsibility–that just shows everyone you’re holier than they are. Where or where have all the bosses gone?

Both Hubby and I are first-borns.  When we were first married we fought tooth-and-nail over every minor decision.  We are both natural leaders–and we are both bossy.  Throughout my childhood, I went to “leadership” camps and started clubs, and sought out volunteer work and ministry, never understanding why people always told me I had the “gift” of leadership.  I did NOT like being a “leader.”  Being a leader meant that in school, the teacher always picked you to organize the group, which meant that you had to listen to everyone’s complaints and try to make the slackers actually do their work. Being a leader meant that in church, the youth pastor always counted on you to organize the elder appreciation dinners and fill in for last minute Sunday school cop-outs.  Being a leader meant that with friends, when no one would speak their mind about where they wanted to go or what they wanted to do, all eyes turned to you to make the call. 

And whenever something went wrong, the “leader” was the one to blame. So I couldn’t understand why people saw leadership as a gift. 

Until I had children. 

I love that Rae marches to the beat of her own drum.  I think it’s marvelous that Ally has opinions about everything.  I want my children to be “bosses” because I want them to stand up for what’s right. I want them to unswervingly defend justice.  I want them to be counted on and be responsible, and when no one else will speak up for truth, I want them to shout their beliefs from the rooftops. Because this world could use a few good bosses.

Now if I could just get these two bosses to share…

Mess or Marvel?

Image

We are trying to sell our house.  The goal is to move to a better school district and hopefully a little bigger of a house as well. 

We had our first showing last night…Have you ever tried to keep a house looking “perfect” for an hour with three children and a dog?  I literally followed the girls around picking up left-behind toys and books and coloring and crumbs only to turn around and find a trail of muddy dog prints on the kitchen floor because someone was “helping” me by letting him in. 

I am stressed by mess.  I wish it weren’t so, but it is what it is.  I wish I was more like the mother of Benjamin West, a painter around the time of the American Revolution.  As the story goes, his mother went out, leaving him in charge of his little sister, Sally.  In his mother’s absence, he happened upon some bottles of ink and began to paint Sally’s portrait.  In doing so, he made quite a mess, spilling ink and leaving blots everywhere.  When his mother came back, she saw the mess, but said nothing.  She walked over to the painting and exclaimed, “Why, it’s Sally!” and stooped to kiss him.  Benjamin West used to say, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.” 

I love Chuck Swindoll’s take on this issue…

“Too many of us parents are far too mess-conscious to see the emerging artist.  All we see are ruined carpets, stained clothes, cluttered desks, sticky fingers–one more unpleasant task added to an already busy day.  We’re so quick to see the depravity that we’re blind to the marvel that God made and put in our care.” 

I pray God would open my eyes to the artist in my child…that the daily mess wouldn’t blind me to the marvel.  Someday I’ll know why Rae doesn’t care if her hands and clothes are a muddy, sticky mess and why Ally stressed about a stuffed animal gone missing.

God is taking these messes and making a marvel.  And I’m so lucky to have a front row seat.

Behold what manner of love…

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the sons of God!

1 Jn 3:1

It’s been three months since she came to live with us.  There are so many things we have thought and felt and changed and mourned since then.  But as so often happens, God takes the things of this world and is using them to shape us and refine us. 

This is the thought that has repeatedly resonated with me:  How could God, righteous and just, pull me, wretched and selfish, out of this life of sin?  And then–and this is what astounds me even more–despite the muck and chaos, He choose me and calls me his daughter!  He loves me.  He revels in me.  He wants me. 

Because the choosing was hard–knowing that our lives would change and her life would change and everything would change–was hard.  And the doing was even harder–mourning the simple life we had and fearing the storms to come.  But the hardest part is exactly where we are right now.  The loving. 

To take in a child who has no one to care for her only requires pity.  To feed and foster that child, clothe and care for her, only requires benevolence.  To discipline that child so that she can be wiser and stronger and someday be an influence for good only requires morality.  But to bestow love on that child?  That’s the work of God.

It is not by chance that the Spirit lead me to re-read Knowing God, by J. I. Paker over these last few months.  This is what I read today…

In the ancient world, adoption was a practice ordinarily confined to the childless well-to-do.  Its subjects were not normally infants, as today, but young adults who had shown themselves fit and able to carry on a family name in a worthy way.  In this case however, God adopts us out of free love, not because our character and record show us worthy to bear his name, but despite the fact that they show the very opposite.  We are not fit for a place in God’s family…

Adoption, by its very nature, is an art of free kindness to the person adopted.  If you become a father by adopting a son or daughter, you do so because you choose to, not because you are bound to. Similarly, God adopts because he chooses to.  He had no duty to do so.  He need not have done anything about our sins except punish us as we deserved.  But he loved us…And throughout our life in this world, and to all eternity beyond, he will constantly be showing us, in one way or another, more and more of his love, and thereby increasing our love to him continually.  The prospect before the adopted children of God is an eternity of love. 

For none of the choosing, the doing, the caring, the disciplining–none of it matters without love.  . 

Thy will be done

With adoption continuing to move forward and fears continuing to loom, I still find myself questioning “Is this really what God wants for our family?” “Is this really His will for us?” For it’s certainly not what I had planned out.
Most of us would say we want God’s will for our lives. But what if that will is to take us through tragedy to gain our trust? Or what if it means walking through pain to get closer to His heart? Would we really want that…Really?

Last night I was talking with a friend about some of my fears and questions about this thing God has asked us to do, she was so kind, listening and working through it all with me. Then she said, “It’s just so hard because first and foremost you’re a mom to the two children He’s already given you.”
And the words came tumbling out, aching but firm, and I couldn’t have grabbed them even if I’d wanted to because they weren’t my own…
“No. That’s not true,” I said (heart breaking, hands hurting from grasping for control of my own life, which is not my own), “I am and always will be, first and foremost, a child of God. He always comes first. Before I’m a mother or a wife or a sister or a daughter or a friend–I am a child of the King. And I’m called to obey. So if he asks me to do something, what else can I say but ‘Yes’?”

The words of the hymn “In the Garden,”echo in my head strong and pure…

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”

So today, as I prayed, asking God for wisdom and a word of encouragement, I should not have been surprised when He gave me Colossians 3:23. Because when I looked it up, I was humbled when I saw the words…

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

When you enter this the world, it’s you and Him. When you depart, it’s you and Him. And when you fold shirts and make meals and buy milk and drive and shower and talk and breath…it’s still ultimately about you and Him.
Because if it’s not, then why are you doing it at all?

Thou Shalt not Covet

The look in her eyes was devious. She bent low towards her friend, formed her hand into a fist and seethed, “You’d better give me that purple cat or else…”

Yes. Apparently this is how my daughter reacts when coveting. She wanted to borrow her little friend’s toy and when she was told she couldn’t, she turned into a little green monster. After warning her through clenched teeth that she’d better not threaten anyone ever again and forcing an apology from an ungrateful heart, we trudged to the van and drove home.

“Rae, do you know what coveting is?” I asked, glancing back in the rear-view mirror.
“No,” she replied, arms crossed,, face fuming, heart unsatisfied.
“It’s when we want something that someone else has. Like when you wanted that toy your friend had—that’s called coveting. And the Bible tells us we should not covet, but instead we should be thankful.”
“But I really, really wanted it, Mom!” she broke down (and I’m amazed that a child sees sin so quickly.)
“I know. But you have been given so many wonderful things, and by wanting something you don’t have, you’re not honoring God. Why don’t you pray now and ask God to forgive you and then let’s name some things we’re thankful for, okay?”
“Dear God,” she whispered out the window from the back seat, “Please forgive me for coveting. And thank you for my family and thank you that I’m not an orphan. And thank you, Father, for apple trees and that we get to eat apples from them….”

Thou shalt not covet.

Our family’s been on a “Little House on the Prairie” kick lately. In the episode we watched just days after the coveting incident, little Laura thinks she has stumbled upon a river flowing with gold, and dreaming of all the things she could buy, she asks her father, “Pa, if you had all the money in the world, what would you buy?”
Pa, lighting his pipe, laughs and says, “Half-Pint, I don’t even think I can think of anything! All I could ever want is right here in this room.”

That slammed me in the gut. Because, let me tell you, if Laura had asked me that question, I could think of probably 100 things right off the bat that I’d be on my way to purchasing had I found a river of gold….(a charming little house in the wide, open country, a new van that starts every time, a new wardrobe, complete with shoes and jewelry, dance lessons for my girls, piano lessons for myself, a weekly massage…need I go on or have you seen the depths of my depravity?)

Sometimes I fear my list of wants is greater than my list of thanks. So here I am, teaching my child not to covet, when I myself am guilty of the exact same thing. Perhaps I hide my sin better in that I don’t directly threaten God (“You’d better give that to me, or else”) but it’s the same sin. Every time I notice things I’d like to change in my house, or check off things I’d like to buy, or gripe about what’s not working now, I’m essentially saying, “What you’ve given me is not enough.”

Please forgive me, Father. Help me to be thankful for the here and now and for all the blessings you give each day. Help me add to my list of thanks and subtract from my list of wants. Thank you for my family and my friends and my church and my home…and for apple trees.

Expecting a teenager (Part II)

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator in all I have not seen.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to wash my hands of it.

The what-if’s and worries reel and whirl in my head and settle in my stomach and I think I just don’t want to do this. The unknowns, the fears, the possibilities and probable failures wrestle me till I’m weary and worn out.  Oh, how I want more faith! How I want to be like David, who trusted God with everything, even his very life!

“The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)

If faith is “trust in things unseen,” then can’t what we have seen certainly increase our faith? David had seen God defeat the lion and the bear, and so he trusted him to defeat his enemy. But we have to force ourselves to remember what God has done, because we “have spiritual Alzheimer’s, always forgetting.”(Voskamp)

I think, instead, that I’m more like Hagar in the desert, who although she had seen God face-to-face, had accepted his promise and named him “the God who sees me”—still forgot. Years later, when she thirsted in the desert, she forgot the God who saw her, and she wept for her fate.

But God did not forget her. And he will not forget me.

I can say with certainty that God will not be mocked, and when he calls us to obedience, he will deliver. Just like with David—he will win the battle.

So I force myself to remember. When I want to run, I force myself to remember. When I want to give up, I force myself to remember. When things do not make sense, I force myself to remember. For the God who sees me is the God who “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…what is weak in the world to shame the strong…what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

He sees me. He sees you. And he knows how the story ends. Remember…

Try, try again

So many times I feel caught in failure’s fist.  Stuck in self-saturated sin, unrighteous to my core, and wanting to reject the cross because I just. don’t. deserve it.   

I think am like the Israelites.  This special, chosen people rejected God to worship fake, unworthy heaps of metal. They forgot the God who rescued them out of Egypt and saved them from slavery. They followed other nations’ ideals instead of obeying the Word of the Lord.  And then–oh, how it broke God’s heart!–they removed Yahweh from their throne and replaced him with a king made of bones and blood. 

But there is a part of this story I just don’t understand–instead of cursing them, instead of writing them off and picking another people to cherish–God shows grace.  When they come to ask for redemption, admitting that they deserve death (1 Sam. 12:19), God’s reply through the prophet Samuel is this:

“For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” (1 Sam. 12:22)

So this is grace.  Not forsaken.  Not because of who we are, but because of who HE is.  He shows grace because it pleases Him.

But I love that God knows humanity’s nature, knows that grace is complicated and messy, knows that we want to both accept it and reject it.  So he says:

 “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things he has done for you.” (I Sam. 12:24)

And this too is grace.  These commands to fear the Lord, serve him faithfully, give thanks for what He has done…all grace.  Because he knows we’ll want to….we need to.  So not only does he allow us to try, try again, he asks us to! 

It’s his grace that redeems, and it’s his grace that lets me wake each morning to try again.  And so I do.

We’re Expecting!…..a Teenager

So here’s the story.
Ever since Hubby and I were dating, we’ve talked about adopting “someday.” But when we had our first child, the thought got pushed into the background, replaced by the constant onslaught of diapers, sippy cups, and sleepless nights.

Last year, however, Hubby came to me and quietly asked, “What do you think about adopting…now?” My response was of course humble and gentle. “WHAT?” I snapped, “Are you crazy? Two little kids is enough right now. Why would you even ask me that?” But in spite of my response, what God laid on his heart was not to be denied, so he began praying (unbeknownst to me) that if this was truly what we were called to do, God would change my heart and align it with his.

Then last September, out of nowhere, I had this recurring, nagging thought that I needed to at least look into adopting. So I talked with friends who’d done it, researched online until my eyes burned…and prayed. After a few weeks I went to Hubby and said, “Uh, so…what do you think about adopting a teenager?”
With tear-strained voice he replied, “Funny–I’d been praying you would ask me that.”

We love teenagers. We enjoy spending time with them, we cherish their stage of life, the questions, the conversations, even the heartache of poor decisions made and regrets formed. And when we visited various websites and saw the great need for adopting older children through the foster care system, our hearts broke. Who will guide these kids as they begin making the tough decisions of adulthood? Who will fight alongside them as they face the challenges of growing up? And once they graduate high school, where will they return “home” for holidays? When they have kids of their own, who will they call “Grandma and Grandpa?”

We’ve done hours and hours of training and reading and talking and praying. We know there will be challenges. We are aware of the risks. And yet, we cannot deny God’s moving in our hearts and his calling on our lives. Will you pray with us as we enter this new stage of life? As the young Samuel said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (1 Sam. 3:18)

Grace to a Four Year Old

Today you pushed your baby sister, your face flashing in indignation, and while she fell, betrayed and crying, your self-righteousness suddenly faded to sorrow. Realizing what you’d done–seeing the soul-crushing weight of your sin–you sobbed, “I should get hurt too!”

Punishment is right and just. It’s what makes sense. We should be punished–for every surge of anger, every smug thought, every cruel and taunting word, every pride-filled motive and self-centered motion. HURT is what we deserve.

But then comes grace.

So my reply to you, sweet girl, as you whimpered, seeing yourself as you truly are:

“I know, Rae. But that’s why Jesus died. He took all the pain and punishment, all the hurt that we deserve and he bore it upon himself. That’s called grace.”

I don’t deserve it. And neither do you. And so it remains–amazing (overwhelming) grace.