Life Changes

I had five kids in four years.  When our twins were born our oldest child had just turned four.  I was a little crazy.  And by a little I mean a lot. 

I took them all to the store by myself for the first time a little over a month after the twins were born.  I went armed with my double stroller. I didn't have any of those super nifty baby wearing devices that most moms use now...I had my double stroller. And I'm pretty sure that at several points in my early mothering, there were angels holding it up.

Anyway, it was Michael's birthday and I needed to get some things to make his birthday dessert.  So I took all of my five wild indians to the local Walmart.  It seemed a fitting choice.  I got Lilla and the babies into the stroller (a very wise mama had schooled me in the art of getting THREE wild indians into a stroller with only two seats...bless her!) and the two oldest walked holding onto the stroller while I pushed it. About a third of the way into the store, one of the babies started screaming bloody. murder. (as a side note, please allow me to remind you that I was not quite six weeks postpartum...so...HORMONES)

Let me tell you, I was on a mission. If I didn't get my business taken care of, it wasn't going to GET taken care of so I was DETERMINED to make it through (what felt like) the ultimate mothering championship.

So I picked up the screaming baby. And um, pushing a double stroller with one hand is, well, difficult. After a few steps I realized that I was going to have to rethink. And while I was rethinking, the other baby started crying. So I picked that baby up too.

Long story short, I stuck Caleb in the back seat of the stroller, I put Lilla in the front seat and Nathaniel in the basket underneath the stroller. I was literally pushing over a hundred pounds of kid through the grocery store, while holding two babies and shopping for groceries in Supermarket Sweep fashion.

It's a good memory but it was not good at the time. But we all made it through, I got my groceries, annoyed other customers as little as possible and made it out in one piece. I'm pretty sure I cried.

Since then there have been many grocery store experiences. A lot of stressful moments and feeling like I'm going to snap if one more kid picks up one more thing.

Today I was just thinking about how much my life has changed.

We went for toilet paper today. There was not crying, no stroller and no baby to hold. Now they trail behind me like little baby ducks. There is pleasant conversation and...I just enjoy being with them. They're fun. They're weird, too. But they're fun.

I'm sure I'm making a million mistakes in my mothering.  They will have sins and struggles to deal with and I'm sure a good portion of them will be because of MY sins and struggles.  But if I can just get one thing right I hope it's pointing them to Jesus.

Our kids growing up is not the only thing that has changed. Michael and I were just talking last night about how different our conversations and thoughts are. We used to be caught up in things like names and what items of clothing are right to wear and who was in our fellowship and who was not. Lately, our thoughts and conversations are about how we are dealing with our sin and how God is changing and transforming our minds and hearts. I feel like God is totally re-calibrating us.

God is so good. He's amazing. He is patient and I am so thankful because I need so much patience and grace. And the way that He can just change us from the inside out is...well...awesome! It makes me want to break out in song and dance.

I need a lot of changing and I'm so thankful that He's brought us to this place!

No Pain, No Gain

I have a tendency to focus on pain.  When I'm running it's hard to think about anything other than how much it hurts. In labor there came a point when the pain had crossed a threshold and it hurt so bad that I would have done ANYTHING to make it stop. Lately, life has hurt...and I've had trouble seeing or feeling anything else.

When we moved, I am convinced that I was on the verge of some kind of nervous breakdown. Like, for real. We were convinced for this and other reasons that it was clearly time to move on. When we got here I got the rest I needed and things got better. But I have to be honest, a lot of the plans that we had made didn't work out or a wrench was thrown in. To the point that we had started to question ourselves about whether moving was the right choice. And since then we've been forced to face a lot of our demons.

God has been so merciful in helping us deal with those "demons". He has graciously done so much work in us. It's kind of mind boggling that He's already done so much and He's still working!

I personally had felt like I (and we/our marriage) had hit a wall and we just didn't have the tools to scale it, knock it down, go around it or build a door to go through.

Well, God has (once again) graciously provided the help we need.

BUt even through all the positive help I (and we) have been receiving, it still hurts.  Because growth does. And when things hurt, I tend to look for a way out and if I can't get out, I check out mentally. So I've been resorting to all of my self destructive tendencies to cope.

Well the other day a faithful friend recounted to me all of the POSITIVE THINGS that have happened since we've moved here...which helped to kind of turn the tide of my thoughts.

And then today while driving Allistair Begg came on the radio talking about how we should take pleasure in the trials of life instead of running from them (huh, what a NOVEL idea! Except we just got done studying that part of James in our grow group...I'm a slow learner apparently!). It was a really good sermon. But it just made me realize that YES, THIS HURTS. But I need to suck it up and be thankful and rejoice in the growth it's going to produce. Instead of focusing on the pain, I should be focusing on God's goodness and faithfulness and letting his grace overflow into the lives of those around me. Because I'm always asking God to change me and make me who He wants me to be, so why am I dragging my feet and pouting and checking out to avoid the process? It's kind of ridiculous.

When I'm running and I focus on the good it's doing instead of how bad it hurts, I run faster and longer. In labor, when I stopped focusing on how bad it hurt and wishing it would just stop and looking for ways to MAKE it stop and just focused on getting through it and yielding to the process...labor progressed faster and my body worked more efficiently.

So, I'm going to practice focusing on being thankful for the process and for the growth it will produce....and yielding to the process so I can get the maximum effect. Because I need this. And God is good.

Helpers

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mr. Rogers. It's about finding hope in the midst of tragedy. 
Photo Credit
I always hear this quoted when major tragedies happen, but the thing is, helpers appear all the time. Not just after major disasters.  The people who will be helping after major disasters are most likely helping before them. 

"Helpers" are people who bring dinner when you're sick, stop and help you change a tire or pay for your drink at Starbucks. "Helpers" are people who open the door when you've got your hands full (or just to be nice when you don't), let you in when you can't find a gap in traffic, or flush the toilet in the stall that everyone is avoiding because the person who used it didn't. "Helpers" are people who are constantly looking for ways to make the world a better place. We can't all discover the vaccine for polio or save thousands of Jews from Hitler's clutches. But we can all do something.
Helpers have a discerning eye, but they aren't critical. You don't see helpers standing on the sidelines telling everyone what they are doing wrong. Helpers actively work to find a solution. They DO something. There is obviously a place for pointing out errors but that can't be the extent of our "help".

I'm so thankful for the helpers in my life.  This week my kids are attending a little backyard VBS. It's super small but I am so thankful for the people who are taking time out of their lives to teach my children about Jesus and helping them to hide God's word in their hearts.  As a mom, I need all of the help I can get and I appreciate every bit of it! 

So my question is...are you a "helper"? :)

Gettin' Real

It's no secret that I was pregnant when I got married (I do want to be clear, getting pregnant was not the sin, the actions that led to it are).  I'm pretty open about it.  Not because I'm proud, I am absolutely NOT proud of it.  But it's my past.  It's my story. It's my mess. It's part of the story of how God has redeemed my life from the pit.

I am saved. My sins are gone, I've been set free.

I'm still learning to live in a constant state of free-ness...I have a tendency to fall under my own condemnation. It's a work in progress! I am a work in progress.

Here's the deal though, I want to speak to those who might find themselves in a cycle of sin similar to the one I found (actually, I didn't FIND anything, I PUT myself there...let's just be honest about it) myself in. I know that the chances of this helping anyone are slim. I'm not eloquent and typically only the people who really love me even read what I write. But I want to say it because I feel lead to. So, at the very least, maybe it'll help ME to write it.

I married the only boy I ever had an intimate relationship with.  But that didn't make it okay.  I have repented of the sin I had allowed to take hold of my life.  But that didn't take away the consequences of my actions.  A large portion of our dating life, our engagement, our wedding day and even a few years of our marriage were tainted by that sin. Our life is still feeling the repercussions of that sin. All of the tenderness and sweetness that should accompany some of the major milestone moments of my life were tainted.

I can barely look at my wedding pictures.  A lot of people worked really hard to make my day special in spite of the glaringly obvious sin I had committed and the damage that I'd done to my relationship with them all. My major memory of my honeymoon is nausea from the scent of the air freshener in the car.

It took years before the full weight of what I had done hit me.  It took years for me to REALLY repent because I was so hardened by the sin I had committed. But the thing is, it wasn't something I just did one day. It was a long process of compromises and going too far.  Slowly I broke every promise I ever made to myself and opposed everything I thought I believed in.  I was unwilling to wait to receive God's blessings, so I took matters into my own hands, did it my way and I could not possibly regret it more.

If you are doing this same thing, I totally know where you are. Believe me, I get it. But please stop. Stop RIGHT now.  Tell someone.  Ask for help.  It will be hard, but it will be worth the effort. I promise. Even if you are planning to marry the person you have an inappropriate relationship with, you will regret it and all of the special moments that you should cherish, will be tainted by the memory of your actions.  God has an amazing plan for your life, do it HIS way.

The thing is, I don't want to be negative or make you think my life is awful.  Because it's absolutely not.  I've written a lot of other posts about how good God has been to me and how He has plucked me from the clutches of sin and the amazing effect it's had on my marriage. It's all because of Jesus. I am forgiven. I have been set free.  I am covered by Jesus' blood. And no matter where you are, you can be too.  Even if you did everything wrong like I did.  There's nothing the blood of Jesus won't cover.

My sin, o the bliss of the glorious tho't,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul!







The Buddy System

The first time I heard about the buddy system was during a TV special about the Duggars...before they had their own show, back when they only had 13 or 14 kids.  It is the one and only show of theirs I've ever watched. I have nothing against them, I'm just not into reality TV.

Their buddy system is a lot more involved than ours.  We don't expect our kids to bathe or dress one another (but then we only have five kids...if I had 13 or 14 I'm sure I'd change my tune).

Basically, we implemented this system because there are only two of us and there are five of them and we can't be everywhere all the time.  So when we go out into public, our kids know that if they have to use the restroom, or be separated from us for any reason, they take a 'buddy' (ie, another wild indian). I love it because it gives them a lot more freedom but also keeps them safe.

The number one rule of the buddy system is...use it. Duh. The number two rule of the buddy system is...you never leave your buddy behind. YOU STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY.

It's not always fun and it's not always easy.  Sometimes one kid wants to run faster than the other one...so either the kid going fast has to slow down or the kid going slow has to run faster...or a little of both. But one of those things HAS to happen. Because YOU STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY.

Sometimes it means going places you don't want to or are afraid to go. But you go anyway because YOU STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY.  Sometimes it means NOT going somewhere you want to go because your buddy has something else in mind and YOU HAVE TO STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY.

Sometimes it means watching while your buddy does something that they might get into trouble for but insist on doing. It doesn't mean you participate or approve...but you stick around in case they need help.

The only time it's okay to leave your buddy is if they are hurt or in trouble and it is beyond your ability to help them (which would include destructive behavior that they refuse to stop).  This scenario is one of our biggest reasons for implementing the buddy system in the first place. Someone knows where you are, knows what you're going through, can advise/warn you when needed and find and direct help your way.

It's a good system. It's not an easy system. It doesn't work if the buddies both demand their own way all the time.  It's a miserable system in that case. I ask my kids this question a lot "is getting your way worth being miserable over?" or "do you want to get your way or do you want to have fun?" Because it IS a choice. And most of the time they decide they'd rather come to some sort of compromise or give up their way all together rather than keep arguing.

The buddy system is a thing of beauty when both buddies work hard to make it work. There is so much fun to be had!

Being an adult isn't much different than being a kid and being married is a lot like the buddy system. It's not always fun and it's not always easy. Sometimes you have to slow down or run faster or go places you'd rather not but YOU STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY.  It requires a lot of dying to self and looking out for the interests of the other one and sometimes deciding that getting our way isn't worth being miserable. But when we treat it properly...it gives us freedom and safety and fun...and it's a beautiful thing.

Philippians 2:3,4
1 John 3:18

On Having a Perfect Marriage

It all started when I was an adolescent.

I started reading books about how to find the perfect husband and have the perfect marriage. Because I wanted both. I also wanted to be the perfect wife whose husband would adore me 24/7.

Since I've been married, I've read MORE books about how to have the perfect marriage. Because I didn't have one.

I read these books and implement what they say expecting that if I do I will have the perfect marriage I've always dreamed of. And then I mess up. Or he messes up. And just like that my hopes of having a perfect marriage are dashed again and I move on to the next book.  

Even though in my head I've always known it would NEVER be perfect, because we're not, I go around feeling like a complete loser because we're not. I compare the dirt under the foundation of our house to everyone else's hardwood floors that they've prepped for me to see.

Books are great. Everyone should read books. Blogs are great. Everyone should read blogs. Seminars are great. Everyone should go to seminars. But we also have to remember that even if we read all the books and blogs and go to all of the seminars...we cannot perfectly implement all of the good information all of the time. The people who write the books and blogs and host the seminars don't have perfect marriages or lives.

And guess what?! It doesn't mean we've failed. It means we're human. It means we need Jesus.

It doesn't matter how much you have in common with someone, they are eventually going to get on your nerves.  And you might find out things about each other that neither one of you ever wanted any other human being to know about you. And if you truly invest in the level of intimacy that God intended for marriages to have...there will probably be conflict.

I've never been able to implement all the stuff in all the books I've read. But each book has spurred me on to love and good works. And some area of my marriage has improved because of it. And the thing is, small changes over time make a big difference.

I don't have a perfect marriage. But I do have a redeemed one. And the really awesome thing is...the only explanation for the difference is Jesus. Left to our own devices our marriage would be...well...what it was for a long time and worse. He has made all the difference.


I got this photo here.


Making Cannolis

My children have apparently inherited my husbands affinity for trying new foods, because my son asked me to make cannolis for his birthday.  None of us has ever had them before...so I didn't even know what to look for in a recipe. I just found one with a lot of reviews that were mostly good and went for it.

I don't cook with wine a lot because we're not big drinkers and I don't keep wine around the house.  But all the recipes I found called for dry white wine in the shell. I didn't even know what a dry white wine is. Google is my friend. I was actually pretty skeptical about the need for wine in the shell. The dough didn't smell particularly good and I even considered skipping the wine and using a more desirable ingredient. But I ended up sticking to the recipe in the end.

Get this though, the girl at the checkout counter didn't card me. I mean, she didn't even bat an eye, she just rang me up. My life flashed before my eyes. Really?! I'm old enough to not be carded? I totally felt like those women in sitcoms who flip out and demand to show their ID anyway. I didn't. But I felt like it.

So anyway, I dug into the cannoli making process.

So technically you're supposed to use forms during the frying process to create the cannoli shape but I didn't want to buy them until I knew whether or not cannolis would be a repeat item in our food repretoire. So I "made do". Just in case you ever wondered, the handles of whisks are not cannoli forms, although they look like they are and perform decently (except when water got lodged inside the handle and I didn't realize it and created some fireworks when I put it in the hot oil!) in the absence of real cannoli forms.

The actual process of forming and frying the cannolis was an awkward and not very successful endeavor at first. But with every cannoli I was able to identify a problem and solve it with the next one and within a few rounds, I was able to make perfectly formed and perfectly crisp cannolis shells.

It kind of struck me how similar life is to my cannoli experience.  We don't come into this life with the ability to make perfect decisions every time. We try, we mess up and we try again with a better idea of how to get it right. If I had decided that making cannolis was too hard after the first one, or if I had not actively learned from every mistake and worked to correct it, our cannoli experience would have been a lot less pleasant.

I get so tired of making mistakes and not getting things right. It's not always about a lack of knowledge, sometimes it's just a lack of implementing that knowledge. I've heard people say things like "if you want to know how to eat healthy or exercise effectively, ask an overweight person" and sadly, that is very much the case in a lot of circumstances...at least in my life.

The thing is though, sometimes I'm too dense to learn whatever it is that God is trying to teach me. So much of what I always assumed about God and my relationship with Him is either totally false or completely misunderstood.

I always thought that as I got older that I would FEEL wiser, but to be honest, while I can SEE growth in my life, I feel more ignorant and flawed than ever. And as silly as it sounds, I feel like God has totally broken down my old preconceptions about Him and is teaching me what's real. And so much of the time I read the "recipe" and decide that the ingredients or process called for isn't really necessary so I skip it or substitute and then completely miss out on the delicious result to be disappointed by my own creation. I'm trying so hard that I miss out on what God has for me. Instead of being still and seeing His glory, I try to create it on my own.

Doesn't work.

God's plan is beautiful and perfect. His thoughts and ways are infinitely above my own, so even when it doesn't make sense or doesn't feel like I think it should, I have to learn to be still. To trust Him and rely on His goodness instead of trying to help Him out.

Cannoli verdict? The shells were amazing. I'll definitely make them again (and I'm so glad I went with the wine!). The cream filling? Eh. We'll have to tweak that a bit.