Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Five Summers Left

I'm one happy mom. Although it is still technically spring, summer has officially begun at our house.

Last night I watched my kids catch lightening bugs. Such remarkably agreeable little critters (um, the insects, not necessarily the kiddos). My children would reach out and catch them with their cupped hands. The fireflies would continue to light up in their hands till they were released. Then my kids would catch another, delight in its beauty, then release it. The ballet continued with the music of crickets chirping and children laughing. I love summer.

I remember being a little girl catching fireflies. But I would catch them and put them in a canning jar with little air holes poked in the lid for ventilation. I wanted to keep them forever in the little jar. I wanted to take them in my bedroom and watch them light up my room--kind of like nature's nightlight. Surely they would be safer there. But my parents would convince me that their lives would be shorter in that little jar and I would begrudgingly release them convinced that they would have been better off in my care forever.

I'm sorry to say that I haven't matured much over the years. I'm the mother of four precious fireflies who light up my life. I let them out of the jar on occasion as long as they are well within reach of my hands to protect them. But they are growing quickly and I know I will have to begrudgingly release them one at a time.

I'm really struggling that my oldest is officially an eighth grader now. Olivia has just one more year till (big gulp) HIGH SCHOOL. Basically five summers left before she is a high school graduate. How did this happen? Perhaps if I get a bigger jar and start poking holes in the lid now, I can keep her as my little girl forever. But I know for her light to shine, I have to let her go. She isn't truly mine, but was God's gift to me to nurture and love and care for in her first season of life.

Then I realize that I only have five years left to teach her, prepare her, equip her. (And then I start breathing into a paper bag.) Just summers ago my biggest goal was making sure she could swim independently and ride her bike without training wheels. Oh boy, some real life water wings and training wheels are about to come off! Brad and I are praying for God's wisdom and direction as we parent her through the teen years to be a young woman who glorifies God. (Otherwise, she will be attending college in a pickle jar.)

She has a summer reading list for school, but Brad and I have added an extra book to her list. It's called "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper. Everything he writes is such an encouragment (my bedside table looks like a Piper display at our local Christian bookstore), but I think this book is a great one that she can understand and apply even in her young life.

This week's Sunday dinner scripture is:

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. "

I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV

Here's what Piper says in that book about this scripture, "If you are a Christian, you are not your own. Christ has bought you at the price of his own death. You now belong doubly to God: He made you, and he bought you. That means your life is not your own. It is God's. Therefore the Bible says, 'Glorify God with your body.' God made you for this. He bought you for this. This is the meaning of your life."

And truly understanding I Corinthians 6:19-20 enables us to:

"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:16, NIV

If we could have our children understand one thing before we let them out of the jar that is our home, it would be that their lives belong to Him. Then I know that their lights would truly shine in the darkness.

This week's dessert of song is by Leeland called "Enter This Temple." It's a beautiful song for a Sunday as I think about our church as His temple, but also about our bodies and our lives as His temple.

May this be sung within your "canning jar" this summer and may you enjoy this special season with your own fireflies.

More Than Lots,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Report Card

Just one more day till summer break!

Sorry I've been a stinky bloggy friend lately. I plan to keep in touch much better this summer. I'm so excited about having our first summer with Daniel home that I'm just about to pop. I promise to post lots of pics of Daniel's first summer at the pool, first sight of the beach, first 4th of July as an American citizen.

This is the time of year of final exams, end-of-year report cards, and honors day assemblies. As a mom, sometimes I wish I could get some kind of report card on how I'm doing. I wonder what kind of grades my kiddos would give me in how I care for them, serve them, discipline them, and love them.

I know that because of their maturity levels their grading system might be a bit off--deducting points when I don't let them eat candy or make them clean up. And I have those days that I feel I should be in mommy detention for not handling something patiently or reacting to a situation without first covering my words and actions in prayer. Still, it would be nice to have some kind of evaluation for this big job with little recognition.

Perhaps the report card I'd like to see the most is the one from Daniel. He spent the first five years of his life being abused and neglected by his birth mom. (I share a bit about his past here and here.)He spent the next 3 years in an orphanage without a mom. I feel a tremendous responsibility to write a new definition after the word "mother" in Daniel's mental dictionary.

I sometimes envy my husband Brad a bit. Daniel has no memory of his biological father, so Brad is writing the "Story of Dad" on a clean, blank page. Daniel's "Story of Mom" includes a "bad mom" (as he refers to her) and a "good mom." There are five years worth of pages in his heart that record her actions and words. Although we visited him often throughout our two and a half year adoption, I've really only had five months of his life with him completely in my care.

Occasionally I get little "job evaluations" that make my day. He often says, "Mom, you're a genius!" The funniest things impress him--like watching me cook on the grill, or drive the car, or fix a toy that he thought was beyond repair. He's watched me paint backdrops and make costumes, plan birthday parties and bake birthday cakes, clean out closets and host dinner parties, read bedtime stories and sing lullabies. Things that aren't a big deal for my other three, yet leave Daniel watching in awe like I'm putting on a magic show.

He'll often ask: "Who taught you how to do that?" Often I give credit to my parents, a teacher, a friend, to instructions in a manual or on the computer. Often I give credit to God for those things that moms just know how to do because we are made in the image of our Heavenly Father.

The other day he said, "Mom, I don't think anyone taught my 'bad mom' how to be a good mother."

Such a simple statement that broke my heart. It spoke volumes about how he's processing his hurt from the past. I'm so grateful that he recognizes that the problem wasn't him--that he doesn't think the abuse and neglect was because he deserved it or that he was unlovable. I'm glad that he can see that his birth mom was broken--that perhaps this is what she was taught in her own life that most likely included that same kind of abuse and neglect.

I hugged him and told him some day he'd be a great dad. And he piped up, "Because I have a great dad to teach me how."

Oh my--holding back some tears with those words. It looks like Brad and I both got good grades on our report cards from Daniel. I must say, I've never been so proud to have made the honor roll.

More Than Lots,

P.S. I had just finished typing the above post while my kids were cleaning their rooms. They surprised me with made beds, toy/clothing-free carpet, and a huge card shaped like a cross. I think the artwork was inspired by my retelling of the "rowing the boat" story. (This analogy is oh so lovingly told when certain members of my family are expecting mom and dad to do all the work.) I think they could tell I was worn out and not thrilled with the chorus of whining when I asked them to help. They made the below artwork to say sorry and say thanks.

I had to share it. I love Ava's square that says, "Mommy, if it weren't for you we'd be in BIG BIG trouble." And Daniel's square that reads, "We love you the same like Jesus loves you."

I think it's the most beautiful report card ever.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Making Progress

Sorry for not posting much this week. Just busy with life.

My girls have just one more week of school left (they attend a fabulous classical Christian school) and my boys are wrapping things up, too (they attend a fabulous school in our home with a teacher who looks just like their mom).

I don't know about you but by May I'm nauseated by the smell of dry erase markers, have nightmares involving bibliography cards, and can feel a panic attack coming on by simply purchasing poster board. (I think my eldest daughter's science fair project required more planning and money than my wedding.) The only words I dread more than "I don't understand the Pythagorean Theorem" (my thoughts about math are here) would be "Mom, I have a test on the Periodic Table of Elements tomorrow." Let's just say few folks are happier about the end of the school year than this mom.

It has been almost 5 months since our sweet Daniel arrived home on Christmas Eve. He has made such remarkable progress. Things that used to make him scared or anxious no longer do. When he first came home, things as simple as riding in the car or going to a place he'd never been before would cause meltdowns. Bad habits and behaviors are quickly being replaced with wise choices. He looks healthier and is growing like a weed.

He can speak and understand English as if he was born in the US. There's even a bit of a Southern twang mixed with his Spanish accent. (It's very cute.)

He's learning to trust us and respect us. He now understands that his home is a safe place, he will always have plenty to eat, and his family loves him no matter what.

Occasionally, we will see flashbacks of old behaviors. Evidence of old fears. Re-injury of old wounds. Those moments are heartbreaking to watch . . . often hard to handle.

But the remarkable thing is that he sees it as "the old Daniel", too. He realizes it as soon as the words of anger come out of his mouth, or the pouting lips and furrowed brow wrinkle his face, or the fear and anxiety make his little body tremble. Often all it takes is a gentle reminder from Mom and Dad and he is able to pull it together--sometimes more quickly than others--and understand that he isn't that boy anymore.

It makes me think of our adoption as sons and daughters by our Heavenly Father. Our hearts, minds, and actions reflect our new Father. We seek to honor Him, we seek to resemble Him.

Things that used to cause us to be fearful no longer do. Bad habits and behaviors are quickly replaced with wise choices. We learn we can trust Him to provide, protect, and love us. We begin to understand His language and His Word. We become able to share things of our Father with others.

But occasionally, we forget we are the child of a King. Old fears return. Old temptations beckon. Old lies convince us that we are beyond help and unworthy of love. And we act as if we're ungrateful for the gift of grace and loving sacrifice that paid our ransom.

But then our Father reminds us that we are forgiven . . . that we have been chosen . . . that we are forever changed.

And on those days it is hard to parent an adopted child, I remember I'm an adopted child, too.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the miracle of adoption.

Gratefully His,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook Confessions

Okay, I don't have the time to write a Memorial Box Monday this week, but I do have a few minutes to take part in other MckLinky fun.

"Not Me" Monday was started by MckMama. (Click on the bloggy button to read other confessions of things they didn't do." )

Mckmama- Not Me Monday

Today I'm going to share some things that I certainly do NOT think about Facebook and would absolutely NEVER share with my Facebook friends.

I do NOT get frustrated with the creators at Facebook for "improving" the layout and settings as soon as I get used to the current way things are done.

I am NOT going to tell you that if you are depending on me to help you with your Farmville, your livestock and crops are going to die terrible deaths. I'm lucky to keep my real live pets and plants alive over here.

I do NOT freak out every time I am notified that someone has "written on my wall." After 13 years of having real little people write on my real walls, this is not something I can handle, even on a figurative level.

I do NOT get frustrated with people who tag unflattering photos of me and I would NEVER be tempted to tag ugly pics of them in retaliation (a closed eye for a closed eye, a double chin for a double chin).

I do NOT untag bad photos of myself--that would be vain. But if the mouse accidentally clicks on Untag--well, oopsie.

I'm NOT going to warn you that if you post a photo of me in a bathing suit, I have Photoshop and am not afraid to use it.

I do NOT feel guilty that my FB photo albums are as far behind as my real life photo albums.

I do NOT think there should be other options to the "Like" button--perhaps "Too Brain Dead to Comment".
I do NOT have refrain from jealousy after seeing others post amazing pics from exotic trips while the biggest adventure I've been on in the past few months is to the grocery store. (But the view from the produce section was amazing.)

I do NOT need Facebook: Attention Deficit Edition, because I'll see a post or that a friend is having a birthday, plan to return later when I have time to comment, then end up forgetting who I was going to write. (They really should have a belated birthday listing for people like me.)
I do NOT see those who posted their high scores on games with bubbles and jewels and make a mental note that you might have time to watch my kiddos the next time I need to go the dentist.
I am NOT going to admit to being sucked into the Facebook black hole and have lost hours of my life watching videos of kids at their piano recitals and viewing baby/wedding/vacation/holiday pics.

I do NOT wonder about people who take the time to join clubs with names like "I'm a Fan of Navel Lint." (And I do NOT think there should be an "Ummm. You're crazy" button.)

But I AM grateful that Facebook has helped me reconnect with old friends, meet new friends, and stay in touch with many dear friends.

Logging Off,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Divine 911

I first have to say that the comments you guys leave are better than the actual posts. Thanks for taking the time to write!
It's Sunday dinner time again. For any new readers, the inspiration behind it is here. But in a nutshell, it's a dinner of scripture with a dessert of song.

I must share a little story before I serve "dinner". The other day, I was reviewing personal info. with the boys to make sure they knew their phone number, address, etc. I told them about 911 and explained that if there was ever an emergency, that was the number to call. Their eyes grew bigger as I explained that by just dialing those 3 numbers, they could have a fire truck, an ambulance, and a police car at our house in minutes. They both responded with "cool".

A couple days later, Brady hurt his leg when he was skipping through the kitchen and hit it on the corner of the opened dishwasher door. He moaned and rolled on the floor in agony. Daniel and I came to his aid and Daniel asked, "Mom, do you want me to call 911?!" I tried not too laugh. His concern for his brother was so sweet. I also knew he was just itching to summons every emergency vehicle within a ten mile radius.

Once Brady's injury stopped hurting, I thought it best to clarify with the boys about WHEN we might need to call 911. I explained that, yes, Brady was hurt, but it was an injury that didn't need a doctor's help. I also reminded Daniel that when he broke his arm, it was an emergency so we took him to the ER. But since it wasn't life-threatening, Daddy was able to drive him and we didn't need an ambulance.

Thus started the quizzing of what would classify as necessary for a 911 call. Daniel asked, "If someone hits me in the head with a baseball bat and my head splits open and one eye is hanging out . . . would we call 911?"

I answered yes and let him know that someone would also need to request help for Mom who would certainly be out cold.

Brady didn't want to be outdone so he piped up with, "Okay, what if I'm carrying something really heavy, and my arms rip right off my body and they are gushing out blood . . . would we call 911?"
Oh goodness, my boys are going to grow up to either create horror movies or cartoons.

This really disgusting lunchtime conversation went on for a few minutes . . . each time they were so pleased to come up with a scenario worthy of emergency care. They egged each other on with, "Ooooo, that's a good one!"

Then it got me thinking. I asked the boys, "What kind of emergency do you need to have to call on God for help?" Long pause with tune from "Jeopardy" playing in the background. (Apparently this game wasn't as fun.)
They finally answered with "Anything!" I reminded with, "There is no request too big or too small. We can ask God for help any time."

This week's dinner of scripture is:

"In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me."

Psalm 86:7, NIV

"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "

Isaiah 58:9, NIV

There are many great verses on calling on God and calling out His name, but these are two of my favorites. I've called out God's name a lot this weekend. We have dear friends, the Montes family, who left this morning for Guatemala to try to convince a government to let them complete their adoption of a little boy who has been their son in their hearts for almost 3 years. I've been calling God's name for a bloggy friend Linny, as her husband has gotten terribly sick while on a mission trip to Uganda. And we attended a prayer time tonight for a dear man named Tony battling cancer.

And in the midst of these "emergencies", I've prayed that God would soften my children's hearts this morning at church to hear the message being shared. I've prayed that God would help me to have wisdom and patience through this busy weekend. Don't we have a good God who can listen to the urgent and not-so-urgent at the same time? He never has to put our requests on hold because someone else has a greater need. We don't have to reach a level of emergency for God to care. I'm going to have to borrow my sons' comment and just say "cool".

This week's dessert of song is "Your Name"--this version is sung by two of my favorite artists, Phil Wickham and Paul Baloche. As you go about your week, may you remember that you can call His name for any need and He will answer.

More Than Lots,

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I can't find my Supermom cape anywhere. You know, the one they give you when you become a mom.

I'm sure it's under a pile of laundry or was used as a drop cloth for a quick painting project. I don't think I've worn it in years. To be honest, I feel ridiculous walking around with a big "S" on my back when most days I feel like I'm barely getting by.

(Here's a photo taken spring break at Six Flags of my kiddos and their superhero capes.)

I became keenly aware early in my parenting that I was issued the regular style while everyone else got the deluxe. I remember one of my daughters coming home from Kindergarten announcing she was the "snack cowgirl" and needed to bring something yummy for the class the next day.

"How about grapes and cheese cubes?" I suggested.

"Hmmm. James' mom sent muffins and everyone loved them," she countered.

"Okay, I can pick up some muffins" I offered.

"No, Mom, these were HOMEMADE muffins," she informed.

Remembering I had a friend named Betty Crocker, I replied, "Yes, I can send HOMEMADE muffins, too."

My delighted daughter added, "Oh wonderful! And don't forget the cream cheese icing that James' mom put on the top. And she squirt it for each student in the shape of their initial."

Okay, I'm out. We sent in grapes and cheese.

Yep. Just like the superheros of the comics have their superhuman specialties of spinning webs and turning things to ice, the supermommies I encounter have super strengths. These hand-smocking, birthday-party throwing, bread-baking, home- organizing, coupon-clipping, interior-decorating moms can make me feel like I will never even attain sidekick status.

But the past few years have changed me and changed what inspires me. There's a new group of supermoms that humble me. They are serving on the mission field--leaving their world of comfort and convenience to care for those who are physically and spiritually starving. They are adopting children--doing so out of great sacrifice of time and money. Forfeiting easy for days that are hard--parenting children with major medical, developmental, and emotional needs. They are starting businesses to raise funds to care for orphans. They are writing and speaking out for those who have no voice. They are raising families that glorify God in a world that is all about glorifying self. I know many of these moms personally and have met many through their blogs. I hope to introduce you to some in the coming months.

I'm not the only one influenced by superheroes. My kids are watching, learning from, and imitating those they admire. It starts young with princesses and caped crusaders, but quickly changes to entertainers and athletes. I think it's fine for them to have people they look up to, but critical that admiration doesn't turn into idolatry. Because these people are human, even those who are Christians (or claim to be) are sinners in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world. We should never put people on a pedestal that should only be occupied by One.

A few years ago, my girls and I loved to watch "John and Kate Plus Eight." I guess in a way they were "heroes." A sweet family that valued life and seemed to be doing so much right. What has happened to them is so sad, especially for those children. It was difficult to address the questions as my girls saw tabloid headlines at the grocery check-out. Their family was a sobering reminder that we need to guard our marriages and families with diligence. But it also made us careful about what "superheroes" we invite into our home. Too many "wholesome" pop stars have gone from singing about butterflies to posing provocatively for magazine covers and being arrested for DUIs.

Sometimes it's not about choosing between good and bad, but good and best. I remember a line in the movie "Superman" where he catches Lois Lane falling from a skyscraper. She says, "You've got me, but who's got you?!" I guess that's what it comes down to. Who is the source of that person's strength? If it doesn't match the source of your strength, that's not a "hero" you want in your home.

We try to read books as a family about missionaries, people of faith who have made a difference, families who are currently serving in their daily lives and on the mission field. We need to find "heroes" that not only encourage us, but challenge us. If you have a favorite book, movie, or person that has inspired you or your family, I'd love for you to mention it in the comments.

And for all those supermoms out there making a difference for eternity . . . thank you. You not only humble me, but inspire me. I look at your faithfulness and it makes think, "Now that's even better than homemade muffins with cream cheese icing."

More Than Lots,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Happy Mother's Day

I hope you all had a blessed Mother's Day--whether you are celebrating being a mom, having a mom, or both.

I'm so grateful this year to share this day with all my kids. Last year, I spent "the day of the mother" (as Daniel calls it), with Daniel in Guatemala. Today, I got an assortment of cards and hugs and kisses from four precious children. My cup (that reads "World's Greatest Mom") overflows.

It's Sunday dinner time (the idea behind Sunday dinner is here). The scripture for this week is probably pretty easy to guess:

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord
is to be praised. "

Proverbs 31:25-30

That's just part of the infamous Proverbs 31 passage that I've always found intimidating. It's verse 28 that I truly long for: "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her."

That's perhaps why I love Mother's Day. It's that time of the year where my husband and children "arise and call me blessed." But every day, I strive to be worthy of this privilege of being a mom. I guess it all starts with being a "woman who fears the Lord."

Although today was such a gift just to be surrounded by all four children, I was also missing my mom who died six years ago. But her legacy lives on because she was a woman who feared the Lord--we still rise and call her blessed.

Today's song of dessert is John Waller's "The Blessing." If you ever need a "fight song" for your family to rally together and do something for God's glory--this is it. It's true that each day we can choose words and actions that build up or tear down. We can spend our time and money on things that are worthless or things for eternity. We can choose to serve ourselves or serve others. It's these daily choices that make up who we are, how we affect others, and what legacy we leave behind. Not a day goes by that I don't question how I'm living my life.

As I end my day, I'm going to look through the handmade cards one more time and remember the words of a little boy who just 5 months ago was considered an orphan: "I'm glad you're my mom. You are the best mom ever." Yes, I'm truly blessed.

Happy Mother's Day,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Building Trust

Ahhh, May.

May always seems to be one of those months that chews me up and spits me out. Still doesn't compare to December--in which I'm like a bad science experiment and turn from a solid to a liquid. Let's just say partially eaten and decomposing aren't good looks for me.

This is just a crazy theory, but perhaps because this month is so challenging for moms is the reason why someone chose to celebrate Mother's Day in May. I must admit, it keeps me from going on strike.

Probably like many of you, I'm busy helping the girls finish their school year with tests and projects, music programs and ballet recitals. I'm also helping the boys finish their homeschooling year so we don't have as much to do this summer. This week has been so crazy that even Princess Leah and Luke Skywalker (our goldfish) are starting to complain about the condition of the house. I've got a pile of laundry that might be eligible for some kind of Guinness Book of World Records and a bathroom that looks like it belongs in a gas station. Since I don't want a rep from the Health Department to visit, this will be a quick post between loads of laundry and toilet scrubbing.

We had another "getting to know you" encounter with Daniel the other day. Even before Daniel came home, our hope was that we would be able to earn his trust. He has experienced a lifetime of disappointment and neglect. We soon realized that his level of trust was in negative numbers.

He needs to trust that there will always be enough food. To trust that we won't abuse him. To trust that we know what is best for him. To trust that he is safe. To trust that he is just as loved and part of the family as our other children. To trust that we won't abandon him. We are still trying to earn that trust a little at a time.

What I didn't consider was that he would also have to earn our trust. Trust that he would be honest. Trust that he would be respectful of our home. Trust that he wouldn't harm his siblings or pets. Trust that he would be a loving member of our family. He has earned that trust quickly but the other day I realized that he hadn't yet earned it completely.

We had embarked on a quick trip to the grocery store and had actually made it to the check-out without too many, "Mom, can I have . . . " episodes. But there we were at the register--I was eyeing the home and garden magazines and the boys were eyeing the gum. The boys asked if they could have some, I remembered a cup holder in my van that had become the final resting place for gum that had lost its flavor, and felt certain I had made the right decision by saying no. To my surprise, they took it really well and just replied with "Okay, mom."

I proceeded to unload my groceries onto the check-out counter feeling good about life, then out of the corner of my eye I saw Daniel fiddling with something in his pocket. My thoughts exploded into a dialogue of "Did he steal some gum?" to "No, I really don't think he would take something."

As the check-out lady chatted with me about Daniel's cast and shared about the time her granddaughter broke her arm, I smiled and nodded hiding the fact that my blood pressure was rising and my stomach was churning. I debated whether I should ask Daniel what was in his pocket or head home to confront him there. I didn't want to falsely accuse him, yet it was a real possibility that he had stolen something. That was his old way of life. That was how he survived.

I finally leaned over, pointed to his shorts and whispered, "What's in your pocket?" I don't think he fully heard me, but looked down, discovered his fly was open, turned red (okay, with his beautifully pigmented skin he doesn't really turn red but he looked embarrassed), zipped up and said, "Thanks, Mom." Oh great. Not only am I the driver of the get-away car, I've been letting my possible felon walk around showing London, France, and Batman underpants.

By this time I could see that, without question, he had something in his pocket. Ugh! What should I do? I wished I was on one of those game shows that let you phone a friend. Or if I could just quickly Google "Adopted son. Stealing. Mom freaking out."

I didn't want to overreact. I know many people have stolen things or "permanently borrowed" items when they were younger and they aren't currently members of the mafia. Still, Daniel knows he has a clean slate and a fresh start. He has such good character and a strong conscience and I was sad that his old temptations might have such a hold on him. I knew this small incident could tear down the trust that had been built--I would later wonder what else he might steal. That I would question his future words and actions.

I could almost hear the theme song from "Cops" playing ("bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do . . . ). I leaned over one more time and asked, "Hey, buddy, what's in your pocket?"

He looked at me with those big eyes and slowly pulled from his pocket a handful of . . . Nerf gun bullets. That were his! That he brought from home! Oh, praise God! I hoped he didn't know that I hadn't trusted him--that my mind had already had him convicted him as a Bubble Yum thief. I tried to contain my elation and nonchalantly said, "Yep. That's what I thought you had in there. Be sure to take them out of your pocket before I wash your shorts cause they might melt in the dryer."

My check-out lady has never had a customer so giddy in answering that I didn't have coupons and preferred plastic to paper. I skipped out the store with my heart rejoicing.

That night when I tucked him in, I told him that one of the things I loved about him was that I could trust him. I asked if he trusted me. He sweetly nodded. When we said bedtime prayers, he grabbed my hand and held it tightly. I was grateful for one more brick laid on that wall of trust--a brick that we put there together.

More Than Lots,

Monday, May 3, 2010

Climbing Mountains

First, thanks to you guys for your kind comments on my post last Monday about the "flowers" blooming in my garden. I'm glad that my experience has encouraged others going through the same parenting challenges. God is good to give us a variety of flowers in our family gardens. Many of you also made me laugh with your responses to my post about math homework. Seems I'm not the only right-brained mommy out there!

Just when I think I'm going to run out of Memorial Box Monday stories, God brings another to mind. By the way, Memorial Box Mondays were started by Linny from A Place Called Simplicity. Click the bloggy button below to read her amazing stories and to link to others.

I'm tickled that my own box of items that remind me of God's faithfulness is filling up quickly.

This story takes place June of 2004. We had just months before lost a full-term baby boy then weeks later lost my mom to cancer. (For new readers, that story is here.) I was about 8 weeks pregnant with God's blessing of a new baby and was experiencing morning/noon/night sickness, so Brad had picked up dinner. I munched on crackers while the rest ate and I debated whether or not I was going to attend a summer Bible study that started that evening. Every day was hard as we grieved the loss of our son and my mom . . . as we looked ahead hoping for our goodness and mercy to follow.

Grief is a hard place to live in. One minute you just want to be alone with God--the next you need the comfort of friends and family. One day you want everyone to treat you like life is normal--the next you want others to understand what it is like to live in your brokenness. It was hard to expect others to "get it" when I wasn't understanding my own needs and thoughts.

I told my husband Brad that I felt like I was climbing a mountain. (My mind understands things better in the context of an analogy. Perhaps that's why I love Jesus' parables.) I wasn't talking about a gradual hike, but the kind that you scale holding on with your fingernails, with your feet carefully searching for just enough of a ledge to provide footing to carry you one more step.

As I talked with him, I could almost see my mountain. I've never been mountain climbing in real life, yet as I talked to him I could imagine what it would feel like to hang on by my fingertips. How scary it must be to climb alone with no wires and no net as back up.

I explained that as I climbed this mountain, I couldn't look down. If I looked down at where I had been, it would be so frightening that I would certainly fall. If I looked up at where I still had to go, it would be so overwhelming I wouldn't have the strength to continue. So I just needed to keep my eyes on the One who gives me strength, on the One who sustains me. My prayer each minute, each hour, each day, was simply that God would give me enough wisdom, courage, and peace to make it another inch up that mountain. I was not going to dwell on what happened yesterday or worry about what might happen tomorrow. I was truly surrendered to His will and I clung to my Savior on the side of that figurative mountain.

After talking with Brad I decided to attend the study that night thinking it would help me conquer one more inch of my imaginary mountain. We had only told a handful of people that I was pregnant again, but I'm sure I looked as green as Kermit the Frog as I sat waiting for our Bible study leader to pass out our new books. I knew nothing about the study except it was called "Extreme Love."

A stack of books made it to my hands. As I took one and passed the rest to the next person, I looked at the cover. I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. The photo on that book was just like the mountain I had pictured in my mind. It was only about an hour after describing this mountain to Brad in great detail.

And then it made me think that perhaps this wasn't MY analogy, but God's. I was stunned because not only did God give me the thoughts that would teach me a lesson I so greatly needed, He actually gave me a picture to go with it! What an arrogant ding-a-ling I had been to think that I was just making these analogies up, when all along my Heavenly Father was taking His God-sized thoughts and translating them into a language that I could understand. (It reminds me a daddy bird chewing up the worm before feeding his baby birds.)

This book remained on my bedside table (and now it is in my Memorial Box) and this visual image remained in my mind. It was a constant reminder not to dwell on the pain of the past or worry about what challenges I might encounter in the future, but instead to surrender this journey to Him.

I made it to the top of that mountain by God's grace and the view was spectacular. I've climbed other mountains since then, and although the mountains have been smaller, I still remember to keep my eyes only on Him.

So whatever mountain you might be climbing, remember not to look down at what you have been through or look up at where you still have to go, but just keep your eyes on your Heavenly Father. And know that you never climb alone.

More Than Lots,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Romans 12:12, 15:13/"Our Hope Endures"

Some weeks my "Sunday dinner" becomes a midnight snack. And other weeks, it becomes leftovers reheated the next morning. Due to technical difficulties, this is one of those weeks.
But I don't want to start a week without posting a "dinner" of scripture to meditate on and a "dessert" of song to share.

There are many wonderful scriptures about hope. In fact 1 Corinthians 13 lists hope right up there with faith and love. They are a beautiful trio, although love will always get top billing. Two scriptures about hope that I love are:

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
Romans 12:12
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13
One of the greatest gifts God can give us is the hope that can only be found in Him. During my darkest valleys, I clung to the hope and faith that my story wouldn't end in the valley of death, but in the goodness and mercy that followed. Even now, we are facing a situation that looks hopeless, yet we don't feel despair. For we know that whatever the outcome, our hope is in a Father who can work all things for good.
I remember when we first met Daniel in his orphanage. That first trip he wouldn't smile for the camera. By my last day, he finally cracked a little smile. Over the next two and a half years of visiting, his smile grew to one that started at one ear and ended at the other. Full showing of teeth and gums. What transformed his smile was hope.
The song for this week is Natalie Grant's "Our Hope Endures." It's a song about hope that is rooted in a Father that carries us through the darkest valleys and worst storms. This week, may you have hope that can only be found in Him.
More Than Lots,