Today, I am thankful for the tremendous grace God gives each and every one of us. This morning in church, we got to hear the story of a girl who accepted Christ just a few months before her life was ended in a car accident a couple months before she graduated from college. She came to know Christ when she unexpectedly found herself needing a roommate her last semester and God placed a Christian who walked out her faith every day and was everything this girl needed at that time. Though this girl assumed she was too much of a screw up, her new roommate helped her come to know His grace. And now, her story continues to be told because she wrote it all down and her family chose to share it. It brought tears to my eyes this morning as I listened and again as I write about it now. God loves us and he pursues us despite all we do and have done and we are forgiven through Christ all because of grace. Amazing, indeed.
Today, I am thankful for the joy that only comes from being a child of God. It's been a long week (despite having Monday off of work). Dr. D has had midterms every week for the last few weeks and this week was no different. Basil is sleeping even less well than usual. Two old aches/injuries that flare up from time to time are both making an appearance this week. And this whole day I felt just a little out of sync, a half step off of where I needed to be. And there are times when that would have all piled up and I would have found myself snapping at the kids, getting frustrated over the smallest of things, feeling worse and worse. But this morning when I could already tell it might be one of "those" days; I chose to focus on the joy that comes from Him. And though I am still tired and sore and not feeling even close to my best, I am thankful for that joy.
Today, I'm thankful for impromptu mini adventures. We drive by this train almost every day and Basil ask if we can stop most of those days. We're always rushing home or to somewhere else or it's raining or it's been raining and it's too wet or...there's always a reason. But today, as we approached the train again, I felt a nudge to stop. Basil didn't even ask today, probably because it's been deferred so many times before. And despite the big to-do list waiting at home, I decided to embrace the beautiful fall day and answer that nudge. Moments later, we were out of the car and the kids were joyously running though the leaves to explore the train. It was still wet from yesterday's rain, but that didn't dampen the fun in the least. They loved walking all around the train and happily posed for pictures at every side. It was the best kind of adventure, unplanned and full of joy!
As I mentioned on Friday, I am very thankful for my church family. Moving is stressful in so many ways, but one of my biggest worries when we moved last year was finding a new church home that we'd love as much as the one we were in before. Looking back, I realize I had no reason to worry because God has a plan and knows where He wants us to be. We visited our church on a recommendation from our pastor at our previous church. It's much smaller than we were used to but it immediately felt like just the right fit! We were welcomed and quickly connected with others and in church ministries. In what felt like no time, all of us had built relationships there and had connections outside the four walls of the church as well. A couple weeks ago Basil needed boots for a field trip and I couldn't find any (apparently those go out of season early!). I immediately thought of one of her friends from church, connected with them and had boots for Basil to wear on the field trip. It's the little things. It's a great group of people to worship with, grow with, be supported by, and celebrate with!
My husband is the best partner. Whether it's trading off on getting up with a restless preschooler who still isn't a great sleeper or sharing the household chores, I always know that we are living our life together side by side. I am thankful for the incredibly hard working man that he is as he studies hard for classes and works to do his best, but also makes time for our kids and me. I love that he recognizes what I need, sometimes even before I do, and then supports me in meeting that need. Sometimes that looks like time together and some times it's taking care of the kids so that I can do something on my own.
And in addition to the team work and the support, I am thankful for the great conversations, the fun times we have together as a couple and as a family, and dozens of other ways that he is the best partner. God has truly blessed me with him.
Today, I am thankful to be able to connect with other Christians. We are so blessed in this country to be able to go to church publicly and have Bible studies in our homes that aren't held in secret. Dr. D is part of a Christian veterinary fellowship and they have a weekly Bible study meeting that is open to spouses as well. It's so fun and filling to get together every week with this group, hang out, and spend time in the Word. We have an awesome church family as well, but that's another post. :)
I try to encourage thankfulness in our home all the time, and most days end with a recognition of something we are thankful for. But it's also fun to take the month of November to be specific and purposeful about it. So today on this first day of November, I am thankful for the compassion I see in my kids. Today, when they saw I was sad about something, both stopped what they were doing and gave me great big, sweet hugs. Those hugs are wonderful comfort and the fact that they responded so quickly and thought nothing of walking away from their play made them even sweeter.
Today I am thankful for a God who loves us so much that He's willing to just keep reminding me how much He loves me and that He will always provide. Today I am also thankful that my kids got to see exactly what we mean when we tell them that God always provides.
The week started out a bit rough. Dr. D's bike was stolen from our front yard. Since it's his primary mode of transportation to school, it was felt in so many ways. There was the feeling of vulnerability that comes with something being taken from our front yard and the frustration of someone making the choice to take something from someone else. And quickly there was the reality that replacing the bike also meant replacing the many accessories that had been on the bike for keeping him safe on his daily commute. As we started to add it up, the number could have quickly become overwhelming. Instead, I chose to trust. And very quickly, things fell in to place.
And when my son asked why we were taking Daddy to school on Wednesday morning, I reminded him what had happened to Daddy's bike and then told him that we trusted that God would provide. Then I went to work and while I told a coworker the story of what had happened the evening before, she shared that her husband had a bike that he didn't ride anymore and they'd be happy to give to Dr. D. A good tune up and he'll be riding to school again in no time.
We've been talking about touchstones in church recently -- holding on to and sharing those times in life that remind us again of God's faithfulness. This week is definitely one of those for us.
And in the spirit of not growing weary while doing the great work of raising my children, today I celebrate that after the battle that bedtime often is, we've had two nights in a row of a much smoother, more peaceful experience!
It's amazing what happens when I let go of my stubborn self and seek God's guidance in even the little things and then listen and act. He reminded me once again that the to-do list might seem gigantic, but spending time with Him needs to be at the top every day. And doing too many things on it at one time doesn't lead to things being done faster, just everything taking longer and leading to more frustration for all involved.
This was the chorus of one of the songs we sung in worship yesterday and replayed over and over in my head this evening. Bedtime is rarely a smooth affair in my house and tonight was one of the rough ones. I was frustrated-- trying to do to many things at one time, asking too much of my kids, and had reached the end of what I felt I had to give to the whole situation. So I stopped right in the middle of it all to take a deep breath and realized I needed much more than that.
Standing in the living room, I closed my eyes and prayed hard in my head. "Lord, I can't find more patience at the moment, I don't have what I need to give to the kids right now. I need you. Please replace the frustration with peace." And then I was able to take that deep breath and finish bed time without raising my voice, without hurtful words, without anger. I slowed down and took the time to give Basil the one on one cuddle time that she needed from me and I think we were both blessed. I stopped trying to do too many things and spent focused time with Bug, ending the whole process much more positively than it began. I expected to get both kids to bed and collapse feeling completely drained; instead, I feel and full to the brim, even overflowing with peace that only comes from Jesus. I am so appreciative again of my Lord who meets me right where I am, just when I call.
And the highlight of that experience was hearing my son tell my husband, "She was praying, Dad." shortly after I walked away to help Basil get pajamas on for bed. I didn't hear what was said first so I don't know the context, but I LOVE that Bug recognized what I was doing. We talk a lot about stepping back when you are frustrated and praying when you need help, but I know that actions speak volumes more. So, while teaching my son wasn't my intent in the moment, it fills me up even more to know that he immediately thought that's what I would be doing when I was clearly overwhelmed. It's a beautiful reminder of what we teach our kids in our actions and an encouragement all in one.
Be still is a reminder that I get a lot. That's probably because I need to hear it a lot. When things get stressful, my first instinct is to try to do things to help with the situation that's causing the stress. And there are time when I need to keep doing my part in the situation and let God do His part, but there are also times when what I need to do most is to be still and listen. And I'm learning that to being still isn't only something I need to do when I'm stressed - it's just more urgent then. But though life feels fairly calm at the moment, I was reminded again this week of the importance of listening.
So, that is my goal this week - to be still and really listen during my time with God.
1. Bug is such an amazing thinker! I love listening to him tell me about how he figured something out - it's fascinating.
2. Basil has such a darling heart for others. When someone is sad, she always moves to comfort. And her little hugs are magic.
3. Bug is strong willed. Sometimes that's very challenging when what he's passionate about something that conflicts with that we as his parents are telling him needs to happen, but I know that strength can lead to him doing great things for God one day.
4. Basil is a snuggler. She loves to curl up and read stories with me.
5. Bug is a reader like me. We both love just hanging out on the couch enjoying our books.
6. Basil acts out the cutest stories with her stuffed animals. She can build elaborate "picnics" complete with food, stories, and bedtime (not sure how those come together), it's so much fun to just sit back and watch.
7. Bug is constantly in motion. Ok, not constantly, but some days it feels like it. I admit that this frustrates me more often than not, but it's also really cool to me when I see so many kids who spend far too much time in front of TV or gaming devices.
8. Basil is also very strong willed. I don't like it when it comes out as defiance, but like her brother, I know she's going to do great things with that passion some day.
9. Bug has the cutest grin. He's missing his two front teeth right now and it's even cuter.
10. Basil loves to sing. She makes up songs and she sings along with the stereo in the car.
My sweet Bug has never been one of those "easy" kids. He's a lot of fun and a joy to be around, but definitely not easy. We've learned a lot as he's grown about what makes him tick - what's almost guaranteed to be challenged, what's likely to go somewhat smoothly. But, for a while there, it felt like most of our daily routine was in the almost guaranteed to be challenged category, whether it was food, speaking at a reasonable volume level, or any number of other things throughout the day. It was exhausting! The good news is that it drove to my knees seeking God's wisdom because I could not figure it out and I was so discouraged and worried about discouraging him in my frustration. Some days it felt like we'd never get to the point where our days were not made up of a series of mini battles. But, there is always HOPE. The past couple of months have been calmer. It felt like it just happened one day, though I realize that it was actually small improvements day by day. While I was marveling over this a few weeks ago, God so kindly told me to remember this. I know that it's a season and not a permanent change and that it is an answer to so many prayers and a reminder of the incredible hope that we find in the Lord.
One thing that really encouraged me last winter was reading the e-book Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin and participating in some great discussion with others moms during a study they hosted on Facebook. It's time for 7 More Days of Hope and this time it's being hosted by a range of different blogs and I'm so excited to join in again at Blessedtobeblessings.com with other mamas who work outside the home. Check out M.O.B. Society or MODsquad to find the right group for you.
Bug is so creative! He has been amazing us with his stories and elaborate "pretend that..." games for over year, but now he's starting to write some of them down for school and it's been so fun to see his growth from just pictures to labels to full stories like the one that came home this week. I just had to share and link up with MOB Society's Let's Hear it for the Boys even though I'm a couple days late.
A lot of what he writes are about events in his life, but his teacher
has been giving him some prompts to challenge him a little and here's
his made up story from this week -
Title: Mr. Mouse
Text: Miss & Mr. Human took mouse's food so the mouse took it away. Yummy.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord for it is right. Ephesians 6:1
The verse above is Bug's memory verse from church last night. They read it with the kids once or twice and they usually get a small card with the verse on it so parents can practice with them that week. I didn't even see the card last night when Bug and Dad got home. But, he could already say it to me this morning and he just repeated it for me now as I started to write this post. His memory never ceases to amaze me! We joke that he's part elephant some times (the memory and how much he eats :)). I love that he's building his knowledge of the Word and hiding it in his heart for when he'll need it most. And I'm so proud that he can remember it, tell me what it means, and share it with others.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1b-2
That's the first verse I learned in AWANA when my friend invited me to church in middle school. It's the first of many memory verses, but one that continues to stick and God brings back to me at many different times in my life. I believe I learned the King James Version that uses the word patience instead of perseverance, but as I've grown, I find the word perseverance helps the message stick better :).
Yesterday, I realized that my house is calmer. The volume is definitely down :). It's no less busy and there are still plenty of loud moments, but I'm finding that more of them are joyful. Yes, there are still moments where my children aren't doing what's asked or bickering. But they are less often and generally quieter. And when it does come up, I am making a point to go to them and get down on my knee and talk to them face to face and it's working! Now, I must remember this and not go back to those lazy habits of projecting my voice across a room or down the hall.
Some days, it feels like the volume of my house is permanently set on LOUD. And it's not that we're screaming at each other or anything like that. Conversations are just happening across rooms instead of next to each other. Reminders and announcements (time to clean your room, almost time to go, use kind words...) are being called down the hall instead of being delivered face to face. And when my son or daughter shouts at us from another room rather than coming to get one of us for help, it drives me crazy. And then of course came the moment earlier this week when I realized just how often I do the opposite of what I repeatedly ask the kids to do. I will never forget my frustration as a kid being told to "Do as I say, not as I do" by an adult. And now I catch myself doing those same things that used to make me so frustrated in my home growing up. Those generational things can really sneak up on you!
And I see the volume spreading from those things to how the kids react when they disagree or Bug trying to argue with me or his dad. I know that my reactions are a huge part of either helping lessen the problem or making it worse and have been praying about how to have a quieter house. Or to be more accurate, a home where the loudest noises are the joyful noises.
Then today I had one of those light bulb moments where something I've known before and heard in various ways just clicked. God reminded me that when He really wants my attention, He calls me to be still and whispers into my heart what it was that I needed from Him in that moment. Be it encouragement or gentle reminders, I hear the whispers. And that's a way that I think I can make a big impact in the volume in this house. When I need the kids to hear me, I need to wade into whatever the situation is and get down to their level (something I generally do eventually, but not as a first response) and speak quietly into the moment. It can be inconvenient (especially at those moments when dinner is on the stove and there's a very smart hound lurking around waiting for me to walk away from the kitchen), but I know that it will be worth it in the long run. My goal this week is to resist that urge to raise my voice to be heard in another room whenever possible and just go to who I need to talk to instead. And I know it won't be an instant change and I'll have to be persistent to see results...but I have faith that with God's help, I can start to change this particular legacy this week. Here's looking forward to joyful noises!
I prayed hard for Bug's kindergarten teacher. He's all boy -- rough and tumble, perpetual motion, and more. And he's advanced academically. As a teacher, I have seen this combination in various forms. And while I enjoyed those students, I also knew the challenges of teaching them. So I prayed for someone with understanding and wisdom. And when I knew we'd be moving before his kindergarten year, I added prayers for a neighborhood with kids his age for him to play with. I'd also hoped for a place centrally located for church, school, and work. I was asking for a lot! And while I know God can do it, I also recognize that the heart, I want my prayers to be about His will, not mine.
In the end, our house is a farther from work, school and church than we'd really like. But, Bug is in a great school with a great teacher who values who he is and is working to challenge him where he's beyond his classmates and support him where he needs the extra. And he has not one, but three buddies from his class that live within two blocks of the house. Combine that with a preschool that's exactly what we wanted for Basil directly on the way from home to work (that we might have missed if we'd lived somewhere else). It all came together so beautifully. As I have been thinking of all these things in the last few days, I am reminded that I am so thankful for God's control instead of my own.
Being a boy in school is tough. Of course I don't know this from
personal experience, but from many years of teaching and seeing first
hand that our school system isn't designed for rough and tumble boys who
need to be in motion large portions of his day. The really great
teachers engage that and use it for learning, but it can still be
challenging. We expected those challenges for him and haven't been
surprised when it's come up. I've sent up a lot of prayers for wisdom
in how to guide him in how to meet school expectations without telling
him that he can't be himself. This week was a bit discouraging as I had
multiple e-mails from his teacher about disruptive behaviors. I so
appreciate her and know she's works really hard to redirect and teach
him in an encouraging way, but it's still hard, even when you expect
it. So, today was a perfect time to join in with M.O.B. Society's Let's Hear It for the Boys and brag on my boy!
He is a reader! My kinder is reading Magic School Bus and chapter books and telling me what they are about! He's been
reading for over a year and was one of those kids that just started
asking questions and figuring it out on his own. People ask me what I
did and all I can say is I read to him and when he wanted to know what
words were, I told him...he took it from there. He loves trying new
books, loves going to the library and book store as much as I do, reads
to his sister, reads to us, and wows us every day. I am one proud Mama!
Oh, the power of prayer (and listening when God answers)! Getting either of my sweet children to do anything on a timeline other than their own is an event. So much so, that I've come to dread it which I know affects how I approach things (cleaning up, in particular) making it all harder. And so I've been praying - for wisdom in how to approach these challenges, for ways to build my children up and encourage them while helping them learn the necessity of cleaning up, getting ready in a timely way, doing things they don't want to do with a positive attitude. And this week, the Lord has really been helping me recognize ways to use Bug's strengths to make clean up a much smoother experience and to recognize where he specifically needs encouragement in the process. He is easily distracted (not entirely unlike his Mama) and so I thought earlier in the week that a checklist might help him for some of the routine things he needs to do within time constraints. I mentioned it to Dr. D a few days ago and then forgot about it (I need checklists of my own :)). Tonight, he remembered and created one with Bug for clean up time and it was a hit! He did everything on the list without complaining and without bogging down. It wasn't all done fully the first time so we needed to walk him through that, but it was most definitely a step in the right direction. And when I made a point to tell Bug what he'd done well in the process, he finished the items on the list without complaint and seemed encouraged as he did so. It was one of the most peaceful clean ups in this house in the last month!
And in true New Year's Resolutions, they've already started to slip. My three times a week of writing has already turned into once every couple of weeks and seeking direction daily is more like an every few days kind of things. But when I reflect on the heart of the resolutions, it's still there. So, I've decided not to stress so much on the timelines and stick to what mattered most in both of them - writing more often and being more intentional about seeking God's direction. And so I make it a point to pray for Bug and for Basil and how to best raise them to who God wants to be anytime the thought crosses my mind. And already, I've recognized some things in my son that I don't know how I missed before that have made interactions that would normally be...challenging, play out much calmer and with him being encouraged and me as well.
As for the the writing...it's harder than I remembered. But, I've come to the conclusion that I'm thinking about it too much. So, next step in that goal - just get back to words on the page. That was the advice of my seventh grade English teacher and it still sticks (and I've now passed it on to many a student staring at a blank piece of paper). Tomorrow. Or maybe next week...
New Years Day - that kick off of new goals. My two biggest this year are to write at least three times a week (I really want daily, but if a goal isn't realistic, it's useless...) and to be seeking God's direction with the kids each day. I've learned to lean in to Him a lot in the last couple of years and to cry out for help when I am at a loss. As I've thought a lot about how I can best be an instrument in my children growing into God's plans for them, I've realized that I need to ask Him for guidance in that. Who better to show me how to help them than the one who can see it all. And it makes so much more sense to ask before I'm lost - rather than when I already feel off track. My big challenge in that particular goal is going to be seeing progress. It's important for me to see that what I'm doing is working in some small way. I don't need dramatic changes, baby steps are fine, but I know that that even the baby steps in this goal won't be really tangible. So, that's where the writing comes in. I'm hoping that if I'm consistent about writing things down, I'll be able to see the baby steps and the progress. Especially on the days where I feel lost again. I've been praying a lot about this in the past week, though, and I know God is meeting me where I am so I'm excited to see where He'll take all of us.