Leftovers

One evening we decided to take a family walk around our neighborhood.  So all 7 of us, (yes, we’ve become one of those families that includes our dog in the number count) hit the sidewalks to go “exploring” or better known to  mom as “getting out of the house!!”.   The kids were running to keep up with the dog and chattering away.  My husband and I walked behind the brood, making sure no one was running out into the street or messing with someone’s lawn ornaments.  He took my hand and I realized something… when was the last time we held hands??  It actually felt kinda strange.  I’m used to hands in mine that are much smaller and usually pulling me in another direction.  But a hand larger than mine, simply holding mine because they wanted to… what’s this??

As we walked I asked him, “Do you ever feel like we’re just…. “eh” as a couple?  Cause sometimes I feel like I’m so busy wrangling the kids, keeping the house together, I don’t have anything left for anyone else.”  His response, “Yeah, I do.  Let’s face it, we are getting each others leftovers right now.”… I have to honest.  I had two reactions to this response.  First I was frustrated that that’s how it is right now.  Second, I was relieved that I’m not the only one feeling this way.  It was almost like, “Hey, I’m not the only one that’s totally overwhelmed with parenthood and can’t seem to find any energy beyond that!”

It’s amazing to me that ANYONE keeps a marriage together after raising kids!  They take so much out of you!  Life can be full of conversations that start but never get completed because a fight needs broken up,  quiet times that are interrupted by that child coming down the stairs who SHOULD be sleeping,  the date nights that don’t happen because you can’t find a sitter… the list goes on!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband!  But sometimes I can go an entire day or more and not have a complete conversation with him… we wave at each other over the dinner table, bump into each other in the middle of the night or find ourselves prisoners in a mini van with 4 monsters (we created, mind you) in the back!

Like everything, I’m guessing it’s a season.. a time in our life when this is just how it is.  A time when you just pull up your boot straps and keep at it.  Taking those small moments to look at each other and say, ‘What the heck? Are you as exhausted as I am?”…  A wink across the table, holding hands on a walk, a text that says, ‘I love you”,… small things that somehow have a BIG impact in a life overdosed on the every day stuff.  This is the approach I’m taking.  We don’t have money or energy for the BIG stuff unfortunately… But I think we’ll be ok.  I can imagine that  in the next season of life, we’ll look at each other and say, “Hey, you look familiar to me, wanna go out on a date?”… 😉

“Yep, it’s broken!”

When you become a parent, you have no idea what it will involve.  You don’t think that one day you’ll be holding your 8 year old’s hand while his broken wrist is being set.  Or holding his arm in place while he gets an x-ray.  Or crawling in the hospital bed with him so he feels comfort with you being close.  That was my Saturday.

It began like any Saturday.. loudly!.. lol.  Soccer game day for my oldest and dad’s the coach.  We had just gotten to the soccer field and my 8 year old decided to climb a tree.  Now that didn’t really alarm me, he’s a tree climber/ risk taker…. As I was walking back to the van to get another chair, a thought passed through my head, “He is going to fall out of that tree and break his arm!  Wouldn’t that be interesting!”…. Not 1 minute later I see my husband walking him towards me, holding his arm.  “It’s broken isn’t it?!” I say to my husband.. “Yep.”… and it was obvious.  So off to the ER the two of us went.  And I have to say, neither of us were willing participants in this trip.  He was in LOTS of pain and I was dreading what I was going to have to endure.  I’m not good with trauma stuff.

On the way, a dear friend reminded me, “This is a memory maker with your son.  Remember that!  Make it a growing closer time with him.”  What a great reminder! So I took a deep breath and prayed, “Lord, give me the strength to do this.  The ability to comfort and look at the arm if I have to”.. lol

It was quite an experience for us.  Lots of tears, hugging, holding hands and saying it was going to be ok.  He’s in a soft splint now and waiting for a follow up appointment with a Orthopedic Dr today.

Here is what I have learned or relearned.  First, God absolutely gives strength in the moment!  I can’t explain it, but man am I thankful for it!  Second, as much as you hate their hurting, it sure feels good to have your child say, “Mom, I just want you to hold me.”  It reminds you they are just children who still need you.  He said to me this morning, out of the blue, “Mom, thanks for being there when I fell out of the tree.”… =) Love those moments!

So this momma saga continues…. who knew it would be so hard sometimes??.. I sure didn’t!  But like my friend reminded me, it’s all a chance to make memories with your child. Years from now, he may not remember the specific details of this situation or how freaked out I was, but if he remembers feeling loved, cared for and comforted, that’s good enough for me!

Those “Van” moments….

We’re running late for school; someone can’t find shoes; I didn’t sign a paper, which was never given to me, but somehow it’s my fault; 2 of the 4 are fighting over something, we’re in the van on our way to school and I’ve had enough!!  “HEY!!”, I yell,  “KNOCK it off!! I’m tired of your fighting, of getting blamed for EVERYTHING that goes wrong in your life and anything else you’ve thrown at me this morning!!”  The van gets quiet.  We pull up to the school, as the kids are getting out I say, “Love you, have a good day.”  (eye roll, nice one mom)  That sinking feeling of, “Well, that went well… NOT!”

Yeah, this is me.  At some point or another I blow it.  BIG time.  And I keep score.  I know all the times I’ve messed up, blown up or sworn in my head at my little angels… I’m the adult here, why can’t I act like it sometimes???

When my Kindergartner started doing kid writing at school (that’s when they begin to write sentences and sound out words) it really frustrated her because she didn’t get it right the first couple times.  She felt stupid and didn’t want to do it anymore. My response to her was, “You’re learning! You’re not going to get it right all the time.  The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.  So keep at it.”  Hum… wonder why this is ok for her and not for ME???

Isn’t this a learning experience for me too?   I’ve never done this parenting thing before.  It’s the only job you’ll have where the past experience line says, “NONE WHATSOEVER” and you get the job anyway! And parenting is always changing depending on the phase you are in.  So why do I hold myself to this “always do it perfect the first time” mentality.   Why do I not allow myself margin for error. Would I allow my kids to keep score of how many times they’ve messed up on math, reading or whatever?  No!  I’d say, “Look, you’re doing better than you were before.  You’re improving!  Fantastic!”

What if I told myself the same thing.  “Go easy on yourself, you’re learning.  You’re not going to get it right all the time.  Always strive for better, but allow yourself the grace to see improvement.  And LET go of the times you’ve gotten it wrong.  Learn from them, but DON’T let it determine your future success.”  Hum..I wonder how that would change not only how I act, but how I feel about myself as a mom?  And in turn, how would that be reflected in those “I’m going to break something!” moments I seem to face on a daily basis?

This parenting thing still seems new to me, even with 4 kids! I feel like I’m always facing something new and unexpected.   So what do I do with it? One word comes to mind.  Grace.  Extend grace to myself.  Allow for failure but don’t expect it.   Look to those who have already “done” this and get advice, ideas, prayer from them!  As a new mom, 10 years ago, I was terrified of asking for advice because I thought it was a sign of, “I can’t handle it”… WRONG!  Asking for help or advice is powerful.  It takes the feeling that you’re in this alone, out of the equation.  We’re not alone!  There are moms everywhere who are feeling the same way.  Reach out! Share your failures, laugh at yourself and pray for each other.  This has been huge in my life! And that one powerful word.  Grace…. be gracious to yourself.  Extend it lavishly.  We’re all students of life.  Learning as we go.  Doing our best and celebrating the small triumphs one moment at a time.

I know I’ll still have those “van” moments when I loose it.  But the HOPE I have is that God is perfecting who he made me to be.  I’m learning as I go.  I’m asking for help when needed.  I’m NOT accepting the lie that I’m a failure.  I’m pushing myself for better.  BUT extending grace to myself… a child of God whose NOT perfect, but learning!

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 ~The Message

Who is God?

We all have those people in our lives we don’t know all that well, but we have an idea of who they are based on others opinions, what we see from the outside or what’s we’ve decided on them based on our own ideas.  I know most times, when I get to know them, my first opinion was wrong.  I realize I didn’t know them as well as I thought.

So lately, I’ve been questioning who God is.  There have been some really tragic, hard stuff happening around me and it leaves me wondering where’s God in all this.  Yeah, we all know bad stuff happens in life but some people, it seems like they get MORE than their share!  So how does this go with who I know God to be?  How could a family lose 3 kids in a car accident? How could a husband and wife lose their brand new baby? How can a wife and her 3 little kids lose their husband/ daddy in an instant?  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  And it messes with my head, “Maybe I’m next!  When is that bomb going to drop?”  How can a loving God allow this stuff to happen?  Why would he allow this to happen?

Who is God really?  Maybe my knowledge of God’s character is not really based on who he is.  Maybe it’s based on what I’ve learned in church, what I’ve heard other people say or what my OWN idea of who I think God should be.  What if my idea of God is not who he really is. What if I only have a small picture of him when he’s SO much more than I ever imagined?  Who is God?

In an effort to remedy this issue, my first thought was, “There’s got to be a book out there that deals with this issue!!”.. Of course there’s a book out there!  It’s called the BIBLE!  (Christian education at it’s finest!..lol) His character is ALL through that book.  His story of who he is, was and will be.  It’s all in there!  So that’s where I’m going.  I’m starting there.  And asking God to show me who he is.  To break down all the preconceived ideas, to show me the truth.   I want to know who God is and I want HIM to show me. He’s promised to reveal who he is when we search.  I’m relying on that promise.   Am I excited about this? Yes!  Am I nervous about what I’ll find? Yes! Will I find that I didn’t really know who God was? Sadly, most likely, yes…  But I’m tired of relying on what I know.  I want to see Him though HIS eyes.   And I want his words to reveal to me who he really is, was and will be.

“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” Jeremiah 29:13 ~The Message.

The battlefield…

Ephesians 6:12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places

It was a typical Saturday afternoon.  The kids had been getting tired of being inside and wanted to just run around somewhere.  So my husband took them to the park to run around while I stayed at home and took a nap (yeah, I married a good man!!)  After I got up, no one was home so I came down to the computer to check Facebook, email…  As I sat there, this thought came into my head.  “What would my family do if I just left? I could pack a bag, call a cab, and just leave… where would I go?  I’ could leave a note saying that I was going away for a while.. ”   Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my family.  I have been blessed beyond measure.  I have good kids, a great husband, we’re all healthy.. but my mind.. it betrays me.  It becomes unsatisfied, lost and feeling like there should be more.. WHY???

I’ve been reading a book called, “The Influence” by Matthew John Slick.  It’s a supernatural thriller about spiritual warfare.  If you don’t think the supernatural realm has anything to do with you, think again!  In the Bible God TELLS us that there is a battle unseen to our eyes, that happens continually.  A battle for our minds, souls, thoughts, hearts… and it is happening all around us.

I am not one to see the devil in everything, but here is what I know.  My thoughts are my biggest weakness.   That thought I had, “Just walk away”.. I could think, ” eh, I was just having an off day.”…. no, I don’t think so.  There’s more to it.   I am a thinker, a feeler… Those thoughts  in my head, are so dangerous.   And they come in all forms… “I can’t do this parenting thing.”… “I’m a failure.”   “No one appreciates me”  “Is this really ALL there is to life”…  and I’ve had ALL these thoughts at one time or another.

I’ve tried to make it a practice to PRAY against these thoughts!  “Lord, I know these thoughts are NOT from you.  Replace them with YOUR truth!”.  There is POWER in acknowledging we are in a spiritual battle.  A battle for our very sanity.  If we can become consumed with our thoughts of inadequacy or of being unsatisfied, then we will be completely ineffective as a person and miserable to boot!   I don’t know about you, but I hate being miserable.  The enemy KNOWS what will distract me.  What will get me down, what will make me question myself and God.  As a friend of mine said, “He doesn’t play fair.”

The verses before the verse above says, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil”.  We are not fighting alone!  God has provided us with protection… HIS truth that shatters the lies that my mind so willingly believes sometimes.  And let me tell you, it isn’t easy by any means!  It’s hard, it’s a battle!  And some days, I don’t feel like fighting. I buy into the lies that look good, but leave me still feeling empty and unsatisfied … But when I call upon the name of the Lord, pick up the sword of truth (The Bible)  and drive those thoughts out with God’s words of love, hope, encouragement, significance… the demons MUST flee.  And make NO mistake, it’s NO power of our own, but HIS power through us!.

So I encourage you, call upon the Lord with me! Pick up the sword of truth and drive back those thoughts that try to consume, devour, discourage us.   Fight!  Fight hard, fight well, and with consistency.  Lift each other up in prayer as we fight together through this life.

1 John 4:4“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

I just don’t know.

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  So much going on here between Christmas, a family wedding and the death of one of my 10 year old’s classmates… yeah, that last one was quite a shocker.

I remember being little and dreaming of growing older.  Dreaming  of being BIG and able to do “whatever I wanted”.   Of being able to stay up late, drive, be on my own, not make my bed if I didn’t want to.. lol…  What I never expected was life to get harder, to be faced with situations that took my breath away, to have to explain to MY little one’s about things I don’t even understand.

My children have experiences loss before.  Their great grandfather passed away last January and they knew him well.  We all attended his funeral and it was a moving experience for ALL of us.  But the death of a classmate?  There is NO way to prepare for this one.  Not only, as a mom, do you suddenly put yourself in those shoes.  “What would I do?  How would I respond?  How would I go on?”, but you also begin the process of answering the questions like, “Mom, why would something like this happen?”….or the questions about heaven and hell.  Life suddenly begins to feel like an hour glass… and it’s uncertainty stares you in the face.

I’ve had some really good conversations with my son about all this.  And to be completely honest, some of those conversations have had included the words, “I just don’t know.”    I just DON’T know.  Kids know when you’re making stuff up and he’d know if I was faking it.

Here’s what I do know:   God loves us.

38 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39.

Even though I don’t get it, I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it…. there’s POWER in knowing NOTHING can separate me from God’s love.  NOTHING!  I know this is NOT how he meant life to be.  And I explain that to my questioning 10 year old.  THIS is NOT what we were created for.  There is more!  And there will come a day when ALL tears will be erased, ALL sorrow will be gone, there will be NO more “I don’t know’s”… BUT until that time… we trust.  And man, that’s so  hard!…

I am trying to prepare myself and my son to go to her funeral this week.  I don’t know how to prepare, honestly.   I pray for wisdom to know how to answer questions, the honesty to say, “I just don’t know”, and the boldness to hold on to my belief in God’s unrelenting sovereignty.   And to cling to this truth:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” -Revelation 21:4

Guard your Heart and Mind

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last couple years.  Life has a way of bringing out stuff you need to learn.  One thing I’ve found is that I feel things very deeply.  When I hear about something tragic, sad, awful.. I feel it on a very personal level, even if I don’t know who the people are it happened to.  I immerse myself in it and it consumes my thoughts, feelings.. everything.  I find myself depressed and disengaged in my own life.

For a long time, I couldn’t put a name to it.  I just thought I obsessed about stuff, which on a certain level,  I do.   A good friend said to me, “Jodi, there’s nothing wrong with you, you just feel things very deeply.”   It was like a light bulb went on.  YES that explains it perfectly!!  So now what? How do I keep myself from going down this path of emotional empathy?  Some people can see, hear about things and shut it off… I can’t… I’ve never been able to.

There was a lady I knew through a friend whose son was dying of cancer.  She would send email updates and we had been praying for him for a while.  I asked my friend if she had gotten email updates lately and she said yes.  So I wondered why I hadn’t been getting them.  She said, “I didn’t forward them to you.  I know your tender heart wouldn’t  need to be filled with those details.”  Again, a light bulb moment.  It was ok if I don’t know the details.   It doesn’t make me any less concerned, empathetic, loving.. whatever.  It makes me smart.  I KNOW myself, I know what I can handle and what I can’t.

Last Friday’s events were horrific.  I heard the news on the radio in the afternoon and I just cried.  Having 3 Elementary school age kids (4th, 2nd and Kindergarten), it really struck home.  Picking them up from school was emotional.   My mind couldn’t comprehend such an awful act.  I knew I was going to have to really protect my heart and mind with this.  I could really emotionally go down hill very fast.  So I limited watching internet updates on it.  I didn’t watch TV specials about it.  I can’t.  I won’t.  If for a minute I let my mind be consumed, I’ll be wrapped in a well of deep empathetic grief.   Does my heart  ache when I think about it… absolutely.  I don’t know any mom who ISN’T effected.  But I know my limits, I know what I can handle.  And my responsibility to myself and my family is to guard my heart and mind so that I can engage in the life God’s gifted ME with.  We pray for the families.  As mom’s we mourn with them.  But it’s ok if we disengage ourselves from the details.  Yes, it really is ok.  In fact as a mom, I think it’s essential. And with God’s help, I’m doing my best to remain engaged in my own life while still grieving with mom’s all around the world.

Proverbs 4.23 “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.”  The Message Bible