I’m Taller in the Fall, and Other Confessions for the Season

It’s so exciting to feel the beginnings of fall weather. Just when I’m about to convince myself to go against my better judgement and buy new clothes because I’m so completely OVER these four shirts, two shorts, and two pairs of flops, we start getting highs in the 80s. This isn’t quite cool enough to pull out the jeans just yet, but it’s a promise of cooler tomorrows. Soon it will be highs in the 60s and 70s, and boy is that jeans and boots weather! No need to go shopping. I forgot how much I grew to hate these four sweaters last February, so they’re all new to me now! And besides, I’m noticeably taller in boots (probably only to myself), and therefore I feel prettier. You have to be tall to be a model, and now by being a couple of inches closer to “tall,” I am noticeably prettier (probably only to myself).

As much as I love this change of seasons — which is only 16% less than I love the transition from winter to spring — fall always brings with it some anxiety about the days to come. So, confession time. I’m going to start slow.

I love pumpkins. However, I stopped buying them because I’m the only one who enjoys carving them, and carving while others watch TV is lame. I also stopped buying them because it seems to be a little bit of a waste… “Hey, let’s buy a few large vegetables and put them on our porch until they rot. Yeah!!!” Doesn’t make sense, even though they’re adorable and I love them. Strangely enough, I did end up buying one just today simply because it’s in my homeschool curriculum to carve a pumpkin next week. Did someone say gross motor skills? Oh yeah, let’s carve that pumpkin and make a big mess! (And don’t forget about counting seeds and working on fine motor skills as we pick them up.)

I hate decorating. I suck at it. While I truly have appreciations when others do it well — it’s truly a reflection of God’s creativity at work in people who do — I don’t really value it enough to stress myself out over it in my own home. And so the holidays, with all their extensive decorating expectations, make me feel incredibly awkward, inadequate, and dull. If I try, it looks like a toddler did it. If I don’t, I’m a Scrooge. So last year, I just did the tree and the nativity. I LOVED that. Just enough festivity to make me smile, and completely within my abilities. (Oh yeah, the tree was definitely pre-lit!)

I don’t really know what to do about Halloween. It’s on the edges of my conscience that maybe I shouldn’t participate because it’s evil, but then it’s also on the edges that there’s nothing wrong with dressing your kid like a dragon (A DRAGON! HE’S A DRAGON THIS YEAR!) and actually interacting with neighbors who are not usually willing to talk to you. But, I’m just not into it. I read about some families just doing a movie night and having junk food and lots of fun together with their kids, and I LOVE that idea, but tragically, my husband is not as lame as I am and would never go for this.

I’m not into Santa. Speaking of ruining my kid’s childhood — because I’m obviously dancing on that line due to my reservations about Halloween — let’s just move right on into the biggest holiday of the season. I have a major problem with lying to my kid, so I have thus far not done the Santa thing. (Before you get defensive about the “lying” part — it IS lying. It is. Even if it’s “just for fun.”) Anyway, so I obviously take a lot of flack for this. Every year. I’m the bad mom for not lying. I’m stealing the magic from Christmas because I focus on the God who grew in a human woman’s womb and entered our world to rescue us from eternity apart from Him, even when that’s all in the world any of us deserved. Right, that’s less amazing than the myth of Santa.

Shopping for Christmas presents makes me cry every year. Every year at some point in December in some store, I just stop and let the tears fall because I am at a total loss. By Christmas, I’ve made it through 14 family birthdays in the fall alone, and now it’s time to get another something for all of these people again, and then some. I don’t dislike giving gifts; in fact, I love it. It’s so exciting to see someone open something you just know they’ll love! The problem is that I rarely experience this elation, despite the myriad of opportunities I have this time of year. I just don’t have very good gift-buying skills or intuition, and I desperately don’t want to give people crap wrapped in paper just so they have something to open. I experience such anxiety over this every year that I always reach the end of my rope and confess to my husband that I wish I could withdraw from all gift giving and receiving for the rest of my life! It’s so sad, and I feel like the worst person in the world for saying this, but it’s true. I want to be good at this. I want to enjoy it. I decide every year that this year will be better, that I will shop early, that I will do great research on family members about what they want, and that I, too, will experience Christmas cheer as I shop for the perfect gift. But try as I might, I still end up I tears every year because I have no idea what anybody wants, or, if I do, I can’t find it or can’t afford it. This is my saddest and most embarrassing confession, so let’s end with something happier!

Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year. No, it isn’t as important as Christmas or Easter, obviously, but as far as enjoyment level, it’s tops! No presents! No lies! It’s not usually too cold! DELICIOUS food! Oooh and pumpkin cheesecake pie, amen. Love.

To sum up, aside from pumpkin carving and pumpkin cheesecake pie, I just kinda have my sights on January. Cold, quiet January. Silence retreat, anyone? Oh yeah.

What about you? Any confessions? This is a safe space. :)

Year Two Birthday Letter

Bennett and mom easter 2014Dear Bennett,

You are two today! Can you show me with your fingers? How many is two? We’ve been working on it, so now we have an easy answer any time someone asks us how old you are. How exciting!

This year has been such a blast! You’ve learned so much and grown so big, and you have become such a little man. You’re speaking in two- and three-word sentences now, and you’re becoming very polite with your pleases, thank yous, and bugbees. (“Bugbee,” of course, means “excuse me.”) And over this past year, you’ve gotten your first two freckles: one on your left hand between your first two knuckles, and one on your left cheek. I love your freckles! They’re a special gift from me.

This year has also been the year of favorites. Your favorite animal is the rhino, and your favorite food is hamburgers. You love guitars, cars and trucks, lawnmowers, weed eaters, baseball, fireworks, the park, the gym, the library, singing, doing jigsaw puzzles, naming all the letters and their sounds, and so much more! Even better, you love to pray about these things at every opportunity.

One of the best things about you is that you are teaching me so much. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from you this year is to see the whole world as divided into two types of people: Friends and Fixin’-to-be-Friends. You’ve never met a person, animal, or vehicle that you haven’t tried to befriend. I love that about you.  Your delighted smile and enthusiastic greeting for every passerby reminds me every day that the first order of business should be to show Jesus’ love.

100_4099[1] My kind-hearted, funny, brave, joyful, prayerful, outgoing, strong, sensitive, brilliant, adventurous little outdoorsman, you make your mommy’s heart sing every day a million times a day. Being your mommy is my favorite job God ever gave me. I’m so excited to see what the next year holds! Happy birthday! I love you SO much.

Love,
Mommy

 

Imitation

(Handwritten in my journal on July 18, 2014)

I just had a profound experience reading a blog post entitled, “To My Future Daughter-in-Law.” In it, the author refers to her own infant son as the future daughter-in-law’s husband. I have prayed for my son’s future wife, but I have never considered it in those terms, that he is her husband. Of course, I tell God all the time that I know Bennett is not really mine, but His. This is hard enough. I must confess my immaturity and jealousy here when I consider that another woman will take him from me!

Of course, I know this will happen. I just don’t want to think about those chubby cheeks giving way to rough stubble, or that poochy belly slimming and revealing lean muscle, or his eyes sparkling for any girl besides myself. These things are good and God-ordained, but it hurts to think about it. I need to pray more intentionally that God readies my heart, for this boy is someone’s husband. 

But, this was not the main part of the post that affected me so profoundly. It was this prayer: 

Lord, make him a man among men. A leader among leaders. Make him strong, resilient, brave, loving, and humble. Make him a good man in a storm.

That’s where I totally lost it. I want all these things for my Bennett, and it’s my responsibility to teach him all of it in between shoe-tying and counting. How can I teach these things if I am none of them myself?

I blend in with the crowd, but you, Son, go and lead. 

I am weak, easily beaten down, fearful, selfish, and prideful. I’m panicky in a storm. But you, Son, do as I say, not as I do. 

I totally lost it when I read this prayer, because I know I can’t do it. I went into the shower and nearly choked on the water, I was sobbing so hard. A tearful, snotty, soaking wet mess, I stood naked before God and lamented the irony that I want more children when I am so woefully inadequate in shepherding this one. I cried in fear because I cannot control who my son becomes, even if I WERE strong, resilient, brave, loving, and humble. And God’s answer?

Oh, He’s all grace on this one. I may have no control, but I am far from powerless. I may be weak, but I am not alone: 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
(Joshua 1:9)

Lord, make me a woman among women. A leader among leaders. Make me strong, resilient, brave, loving, and humble. Make me a good woman in a storm, a sincere and sold-out follower of Christ, and a leader of others into Your Kingdom. Make me all of these things so that I might be able to say to my children with confidence in You, 

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1)

And thank You, Lord, for Your grace and wisdom in giving my children an amazing father who is all the things I am not. I am not alone!

~Amen and Maranatha~







I am on a one-year journey through the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. This month, I am practicing the discipline of Christian meditation, and the experience related in this journal entry came out of meditation on the truths shared in the above-linked post and, most especially, on Joshua 1:9. He’s had me meditating on that verse for days. I hope to share more from my experiences as I journey through the spiritual disciplines over this next year. 

A Prayer for America, for Her Birthday

(a reinterpretation of a famed and beloved anthem by Katharine Lee Bates)

Purple Mountains Inadvertent Majesty

Oh it is so beautiful! You, Lord, have given us spacious skies and majestic mountains overlooking abundant fruitfulness. Oh America, my country! Lord God, shed Your grace on her — grace that opens her heart to You — and crown that heavenly good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

America is beautiful because You still lead pilgrims’ feet marching for true freedom through dark wildernesses thick with evil. Oh America, my country! Lord God, you are the Great Physician; mend her many flaws. Teach her self-control, that her freedoms may be validated. Rein in wanton liberties with truly just laws made and kept by just leaders.

What beauty surrounds me because You inspire heroes to die to self and to fight for liberty. Oh America, my country! God, refine our riches until all of our success — our treasure — is only nobleness. Help any gain that we enjoy be truly divine.

I see eternal beauty in my country because of the Patriots who have the wisdom to look beyond this earth. Thank You, God, for the leaders who truly see their citizenship as in that eternal city, and who lead us to look past earthly woes and to that glorious Day when You will fully awaken Your faithful ones. Oh America, my country! Lord God, shed Your grace of a repentant heart on her, and crown that heavenly good with true and holy brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

Make America beautiful in Your sight.

Amen

 

After the Retreat

Thank you so much to those of you who prayed for me this past weekend. Your prayers were powerful and effective! All in all, the retreat was a success.

We hit a little road block at the beginning with some major technical issues that delayed our start time about 20 minutes. (At a four-hour event, this is a big delay!) Because of this, we ran out of time at the end. However, we had some great people and some powerful prayers, and everything got mostly back on track. I said half jokingly to our tech support guy that the enemy was working to derail our event, but I actually completely meant it. The devil is in the details, right? The way it got back on track suddenly was a small miracle, so that just confirmed it.

At the retreat, I taught two 45-minute sessions, complete with face mic and PowerPoint. (Pretty slick, huh? I was waiting for someone to come in at any moment and call me out as a poser!) Anyway, all nervousness had already slipped away, and I felt completely confident in what God had laid on my heart to share. After hours upon hours of preparation, multiple confirmations through prayer, Scripture, and God’s people, there was simply nothing left to be nervous about. I knew God had it.

Of course, I already have a few things in mind that I would change for next time. I’m young-ish and fairly inexperienced at this type of thing, so of course that’s going to be the case.

In the end, however, I felt satisfied that I had been faithful to the message that God put on my heart to share. I received such kind feedback from the ladies, and I feel very blessed and even more confident that I was obeying God’s call in speaking at this retreat. I look forward to more opportunities in the future to do this type of thing, but in the meantime I have a kid to raise! I’m not so great at balancing two jobs, anyway. However, this experience will be tucked away into my “Confirmations of What God Wants Me to Do with My Life After Kids” file. (It’s getting chubby, but I’m so grateful for dreams, direction, and a destination!)

My Heart’s Prayer Song

Some of you know that today I’m speaking at a women’s retreat. It’s not much different from what I’ve done before, but I’m nervous. Friends have been asking me for days and weeks if I was nervous, and my honest answer was, “No.” I simply wasn’t. I have had clear leading from God on the topic, and I’ve had so much support and prayers from friends through the planning stages of this event. Excitement, not nervousness, has filled my heart.

A couple of days ago, however, I did tell a friend that I knew I would be nervous on that day. Well, that day is today, and here I am! (A little nervous.) But I’m still so excited and ready to share what God has placed on my heart over these last few months!

This morning at the gym, I had a song on repeat, and it became my heart’s prayer song. My nervousness turned to a profound sense of humility (me, Lord? Are you sure?), to gratitude, to peace. Here is the prayer — would you pray it with me and for me today?

Love you!

“Jesus, Use Me, I’m Yours”
By Jason Gray

I bend my knee
This song my plea
Jesus, use me, I’m yours.
My dreams, my plans
My heart, my hands
Jesus, use me, I’m yours.

I am desperately wanting
To please you
With all that I am
And I know that you don’t need me
But if you want me, I’m yours

My will, my voice
Each word, each choice
Jesus, use me, I’m yours.
My blood, my breath,
My life, my death
Jesus, use me, I’m yours

I am desperately wanting
To please you
With all that I am
And I know that you don’t need me
But if you want me, I’m yours

If you would choose to use me, my Savior
In spite of my fears and all of my failures
I’m not much to look at
But whatever I am, I’m yours

I am desperately wanting
To please you
With all that I am
And I know that you don’t need me
But if you want me, I’m yours

…because you want me, I’m yours

Homemaking: Goals for Year Three

Now that you know how I did on last year’s goals, it’s time to share my objectives for this new year!

Homeschooling
While I am not currently planning to homeschool long-term, I do want to be more intentional with instructional opportunities now. Bennett is at a really sponge-y and eager age, and I want to make sure I don’t miss this window! A dear friend shared with me a preschool curriculum called ABC Jesus Loves Me, and it has a tw2 Imageo-year-old curriculum! I plan to do it just a few days a week, and we will be learning about God, listening to Bible stories, and memorizing simple verses in addition to academic work. We will be beginning in August when all the other kids start school. (Whoa. What a big boy!) This is going to be a BIG change. I have a great schedule going right now that I love, with library visits, exercise, parks, play dates, etc., on various days of the week. I’ll have to do some shifting around to make this happen, while still prioritizing outside play and peer interaction. Homeschooling is probably my biggest undertaking for this year, but I’m very excited about it!

Potty Training
Okay, so those of you ahead of me on this journey might say that THIS will be my biggest undertaking for this year! I certainly don’t have a specific timeline on this as far as when to start, because my boy is definitely not currently ready. However, he is beginning to show some signs, and so I’m hoping that by this time next year, he will be all Superman underoos and no diapers! Woo!

Balance
This past year, and really just specifically in the past few months, I have definitely felt God leading me in certain areas of service that utilize my spiritual gifts. It has been a really amazing journey full of confirmations through Scripture, prayer, sermons, friends, books… and I don’t even remember what else, but it has been really encouraging and empowering to receive the same message from multiple, unrelated sources. That being said, I definitely still need to grow in balancing what I believe to be this calling on my life with the more immediate and higher calling to be a godly, intentional, and very present wife and mother. In trying to figure out this journey, I have struggled with how to continue prioritizing homemaking and how not to put unfair stress on my family because “I just need some time to finish this!” Basically, I need to be creative with finding time, and I need to learn when to say no for the good of my family. I’m already growing in this area, but I still have a lot to learn!

Vegetables
I need to eat more of them and feed my family more of them. I’ve made great strides; really, I have. If you knew what I ate on a regular basis even just a few years ago, you would be amazed at how far I’ve come! I’m far from being an organic, whole-foods guru — and I doubt I ever will be — but I am fairly regularly serving green beans, broccoli, sweet potato wedges (okay, fries — but they’re baked!), peas, corn, or beans at dinner. This is a major accomplishment, but I definitely need to prioritize expanding my culinary skills and my palate’s tolerance level for vegetables. Recipes, anyone? (Easy ones?)

I’m sure if I kept thinking, I could easily come up with more things I need to improve. However, I found success last year with a list of four things, so I’m going with that same approach this time around! Thoughts and ideas are welcome! Also, I’d love to hear about any goals you have for this next year! (Thinking in academic years can work well for many of us with kids, so I feel comfortable asking you even though it’s not January! :) )