Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That hurt my feelings!

Eli didn't want to go to church on Sunday. He had slept in and I figured he was just Christmas jet-lagged. He started crying and not wanting to get to dressed. I kind of knew how he felt, I was feeling a little jet-lagged myself. That was very unusual for him though because he usually loves to go to church. He didn't have a fever or any other signs of illness. I asked him "What hurts?" You'll never guess his answer. He answered in his tearful, pouty lip way, "My feelings!"

Ha! I had to laugh. I also had to admire his honesty. Let's face it, how many times do we want to avoid life because our feelings hurt? I'm still not sure exactly what hurt Eli's feelings except that I told him to get dressed and he was not in the mood. I'm afraid Eli has inherited part of my personality. You see when I was little I was what they called a "sensitive" child. It didn't take much to hurt my feelings or make me cry. I'm afraid I was also a "sensitive" teenager and a "sensitive" young adult. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that is totally a bad thing. I like to think that some of that sensitivity lends itself to compassion for others. As much as I hated to have my feelings hurt, I've always hated to hurt other people too. I see that in Eli. He is very caring and aware of other people's feelings. But that same sensitivity can lead to a lot of uneccessary pain and disappointment. Let me share what I've learned...

A few years back when I was going through my depression God began to show me how much I was in bondage to what other people thought of me. I felt like what other people said about me was always the truth and that I was whatever other people thought I was. It really never occurred to me that someone might say something to me when they were having a bad day that they didn't mean. I would automatically take it as the truth and let if affect me. On the flip side if someone complimented me that would feed my ego and give me a high. My emotions became like a seesaw that other people were controlling.

I came across a verse that spoke freedom to me. 1 John 3:20 says "For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." Let me tell you what this means to me. Feelings are a great thing. I'm a feelings junkie! I love the feeling of being in love, the feeling of loving my little ones, the feeling of being refreshed after a great talk with friends, the feeling of anticipation waiting for Christmas Day! After so many years of depression that left me totally numb, I'm even thankful for the feelings that aren't so pleasant but are necessary. Grieving, disappointment, and anger. God uses them all. But, I've had to learn that sometimes, my feelings betray me. Sometimes I'm sad when I have no reason to be sad. Sometimes I have happiness that isn't real because it is temporary and based on something that isn't real. And sometimes I still let guilt rule my life even though I know that God's Word tells me, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1.

Feelings may lie to us sometimes, but the awesome truth is that God is greater than our hearts. God is not only bigger than our hearts, but He knows EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But He doesn't tell! He doesn't air our dirty laundry for others to gossip about or judge and on the other side He doesn't broadcast our good works for us to be praised and worshipped. That's between us and Him. It has brought such freedom to me to know that I can serve God without an audience. People can say and think whatever they want to about me, but God always knows the truth. I don't have to bend over backwards to impress other people because at the end of the day God is the only one who matters. I don't think this gives us a free ride to ignore people or their thoughts and opinions. It just helped me to realize that I'm not a slave to my feelings or how other people affect them. I'm a child of a King and living for Him is what is important.

I know that Eli is not the only one who struggles with his feelings being hurt. Let's admit it, the older we get the more our feelings get hurt sometimes because we don't let things go the way 3 years old do. I've seen my kids fighting and ready to strangle each other shouting the most treacherous of phrases "Well, I'm not going to play with you ever again!!" only to turn right around and be playing together 10 minutes later. They're very forgiving. Sadly, adults do not forgive and forget so easily. We like to hang onto our hurt feelings and bring them up every chance we get, dont' we? Well, as easily as my feelings have been hurt in the past I've had to learn that I've hurt just as many people in return. That's part of being human. We do that. We are all disappointed when we put our trust in other people instead of God. Every human being is capable of hurting at some point. Only Jesus was perfect and only God "knows all things". Trust Him with your heart.

Friday, December 26, 2008

That wasn't supposed to happen!

You may say I'm a dreamer...and you would be totally right. Despite more days, events, holidays, and get togethers that have gone disasterfully wrong, I still cling to hopes of warm, fuzzy holidays. Christmas Eve this year was no exception.

I had worked extra hard to get all of the shopping, wrapping, visiting, baking, and partying done this year so that we could have Christmas Eve to do NOTHING! I really wanted a quiet day of movie watching and quiet reflection. Ha! Do you remember that I have 3 kids? Apparently I had forgotten.

We went to Movie Gallery the night before and stocked up on movies and I was really excited about a National Geographic movie I got about Polar Bears for the kids. I thought it would be fun to watch and educational. Sarah set up a blanket on the floor for a picnic and I set to making some grilled cheese sandwiches. All was well until Kate grabbed Sarah's tea and Sarah grabbed it back out of Kate's mouth causing her to bite her tongue and bleed everywhere! I got that taken care of and was getting the sandwiches out of the sandwich maker when Sarah said, "Okay, I made room for you. Me and Eli have little spots, but we made a big spot for you since you have a big bottom." Thanks so much Sarah! After several attempts to sit down that included a few trips back to the kitchen for tea and paper towels, we finally started the movie.

Wow, I didn't realize exactly how that movie experience would go. Let me share what I remember; "Mommy, do whales bite?" "Do walruses bite?" "What do whales eat?" "What do fish eat?" "How many whales are in the ocean?" "Do foxes bite?" "Why are they fighting?" All I can say is thank the Lord for Google. Did you know there is a whale called the unicorn of the sea that has a big tusk that grows out of it's head? I do now! :)

About halfway through the movie Kate got choked on her sandwich and threw up on me. Yay. One movie, 900 questions, bleeding and puking. As Eli is famous for saying, "That wasn't supposed to happen!"

Christmas Eve night we had a come and go service at the church for families to come and take the Lord's Supper. I have to be honest, I was a little bit hesitant about this. Since Josh would be performing the Lord's Supper when I took it I was not sure who would be wrangling our children in a sanctuary full of lit candles. This was weighing on me when we began to get ready. I also realized that even though I had carefully planned and shopped for Christmas Day, we had nothing in our house to eat for supper that night. So, I called Pizza Hut. They were closing at 7:00 that night and it was 5:45 when I called. The service started at 6:30. We live 30 minutes from the Pizza Hut and no, they do not deliver to the metropolis of Montrose.

This was starting to feel like one of those math problems on the ACT. If you have 3 kids to dress for a church service and it takes 15 minutes to catch the 1 year old, 45 minutes to find a pair of shoes that match, and you have to make an hour trip to get pizza, what time will you get to the Christmas Eve service? a) 15 minutes after it starts, b) it ain't happening, give it up or c) how much time is alloted for the trip to the institution?

Well, since it was come and go I decided we would get ready, go get the pizza, get back toward the end of the service and that way maybe most people would have already been and my kids could wander without disturbing people.

Sarah got herself dressed and I was very thankful for that. But, once she was dressed she looked at me as serious as a heart attack and asked "Should I wear my Hannah Montana wig?" Now that had me rolling. But it got even better a few minutes later when kicking dress up clothes out of the way on the floor. My mom had given my kids a bag of my old dance costumes and I happened to notice that my pep rally skirt from high school was in there. I picked it up and Sarah asked, again as serious as a heart attack "Are you going to wear that?" First of all, that skirt wouldn't fit around my neck now, much less my "big bottom". Secondly, couldn't you just see us busting up in the church in a Hannah Montana wig and a pep rally skirt!!!! That was a visual that caused me to laugh hysterically everytime I thought of it.

Well, we were finally all dressed (sans wig and sans pep rally skirt) and headed out the door when I heard it. The bottom fell out. It was pouring!! We made our way to Pizza Hut anyway and I was so thankful for a drive through window I could've hugged somebody!

When we did get back to the church no one was there. In spite of the chaos of the day (or the normalcy, depending on if you compare it to my everyday life or someone else who really is normal), the time at church turned into quite a blessing. The sanctuary was completely dark except for the candlelight and that was the first time that I've ever taken the Lord's Supper alone. It was a very special moment especially since it was my husband performing it. Then, to make it even more special Sarah took her first Lord's Supper. It was really awesome being there just as a family and being able to explain everything to Sarah. This Christmas had extra meaning for me to think that God sent His baby to earth so that my baby could accept Him into her heart!

Things didn't go exactly as I had planned that day. Of course, that is how the Isrealites felt wasn't it? Jesus was supposed to be a mighty king and ruler, not a little baby. Things don't always go according to our plan, but we can rest assured that God is always in control and His plan is always best!!!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Overflow

I sat down to eat one night and had to kick a ball out from under my feet and move a Barbie doll to put my plate down. Our dining room floor was covered in blocks, fast food toys and books. I sighed. We had an overflow. You see, we have been very blessed with a good size pastorium that the church has allowed us to live in. We have a den, a good size dining room, and a large room that I had great plans of turning into my formal living room. I had visions of beautiful furniture, drapes, a nice rug and a matching set of end tables, maybe even a coffee table. However, since we did not have those things to furnish another room and since my dreams were always crashed with the reality of brand new furniture stained with juice, trips to the ER due to coffee table concussions and rugs covered in toys, I surrendered and turned it into a playroom. Despite the fact that we have this huge room for nothing but toys, books, and other kid stuff, it still seems to always find it's way into other rooms in the house.

While I sat there eating trying to figure out yet another organizational system for the playroom I realized how much of my life is consumed with stuff. Especially right here at Christmas. We're either trying to figure out what stuff we need, what stuff we can and cannot pay for, what stuff we want, what stuff other people need or want. Then we spend the rest of our time stressing out about what to do with our stuff. I have probably spent an equal amount of money on containers and storage units as I have on the stuff we're putting in them! I realized at that moment 1. I am truly blessed to have so many people who have loved me and my family to give us so much stuff and 2. If God has blessed me so much I am pretty sure that it is so I can bless others as well.

So Josh and I started talking and really started discussing how God has blessed our church financially. We do not have a large congregation compared to many of the mega churches. We run between 60 and 80 most Sundays. But, God has allowed our budget to continue to grow in the last year. Now, I will be the first to admit that you do not want my advice on financial matters. If you give me a dollar I will find a way to spend that dollar. I do understand the importance of saving (believe me we have learned about those "little emergencies" that pop up!). But, I just feel that it is wrong for churches to have huge bank accounts collecting interest when there are so many people in need. I will probably get myself in trouble, but I will also say I think that it is wrong for churches to spend thousands and in some cases millions of dollars on church buildings and STUFF. The same day Josh and I were talking about this we had gotten a catalog with church billboard signs that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Are you kidding me? Why don't we just write on there, "Hey, we don't really care what you're going through, but come check out our pretty new stuff!" Sorry, that's just what I think.

I'll move on. Anyway, Josh talked with our church and they agreed to the Overflow where we would buy groceries to make 150 bags and we would have everyone bring in clothes, toys, shoes, and other things that were overflowing in their houses. I'm not talking about shoes with holes or t-shirts with stains. We had some very nice things brought in. I was praying specifically for a little girl who wears a size 6 because we had some really cute dresses brought in! We also had some people bring in new toys which was very exciting. I was thrilled when Josh called me on the Thursday before the Overflow and told me that we had come in $350 under budget on the groceries and I got to go shopping for toys!!!!! You should've seen some of the looks I got at Wal-Mart! Somebody asked me if I had twins! They probably thought I had a few set of twins with the full buggy that I had. :)

I really do not share this to brag on our church. Believe me, this wasn't done to get any applause or awards. I have just been so excited about every aspect of it and wanted to share what God allowed us to do. I feel very strongly that the church as a whole has really lost focus of what our original purpose was. We have forgotten about loving people, even people who are not socially important or financially profitable for the church. We have become self-obsessed with our "stuff" and spend all of our time trying to figure out what is going with us and how exactly we can get God to bless what we are doing. We forget to be thankful for the things we have been given and we don't have good things to overflow to other people because we are running so low on them ourselves.

I preach to myself when I write this. In the last couple of months I have been so upset with myself and the bad attitude I've had, some of the anger and meaness that has overflowed from me. I know that those things don't come from nowhere, that they are the things I've chosen to let build up and overflow in my life. So, as I approach a new year I am so thankful to serve a loving God who gives second chances, not just every new year, but every second when we confess and repent. It is my goal to pursue Ephesians 4:23-24 to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." I will meditate on these things, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is anything is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." And, I want to practice what I've been taught. "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins'. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1Peter 4:7-9

You see, I am fully convinced that when we get this right, when we've been renewed by God, we meditate on the things He's told us to mediate on, and when we do the things He has asked us to do, we won't need million dollar signs. We are the signs. What overflows from God's people can either drown non-believers with insincerity and bitterness or we have the power to offer life, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." John 7:38.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's the thought that counts?

I know that I've been talking about Sarah a lot, but she continues to provide stories for me on a daily basis.

Yesterday was her Christmas party with her dance class and her teacher was so sweet. She gave all of the girls a present. They practiced for their upcoming Christmas recital and then pigged out and opened their presents. I went over to take Sarah her plate and reminded her to thank her teacher for her gift. Ms.Dana had given all the girls a Hannah Montana diary. Sarah smiled and nodded and said excitedly, "I got a diarrhea!"

Oh dear. I guess it's the thought that counts? :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is why I should never leave the house......

Can I just start this by saying, I'm exhausted!!! I pretty much stay that way, but I'm a little more so because I am in recovery mode after two back to back trips out of town. We went to Panama City for Thanksgiving, stayed 5 days, came home, then I packed up with my 3 kids by myself and headed back just 5 days later. We stayed 7 days and drove home in the storm of the century. Okay, that's a little bit exaggerated, but I only got 45 minutes of sleep the night before I drove home so it all seemed a little crazier. Somehow, despite the fact that it was mostly 70 degrees while we were in P.C. I drove home to a winter wonderland. We got 4 inches of snow!!

After a great visit with my family we got back in time for the Bay Springs Christmas parade. Sarah was in it with her dance class so we had to go. Do you sense my excitement? We actually ended up having a good time and it only lasted about 15 minutes. :) I kept going on and on about it being Kate's first Christmas parade and then I realized that it was all of my kids first Christmas parade!! Can you believe that? I've never taken my kids to a Christmas parade. I honestly don't know if I had been to one since me and Josh got married!

On Saturday we headed to Meridian to price some groceries for an event we're having at church. When we got there I realized that I had left my wallet in my purse which I didn't bring b/c I had the diaper bag. Then Josh couldn't find his when we were unloading the kids. I happened to look back in the front seat and saw it lying on the console. It was a good thing I looked because the keys were still in the ignition too!! While Josh was talking to the manager I pushed the kids in an old buggy that didn't roll properly and we got some apple juice, diet cokes, and cream filled cookies. (You know, the staples. ). Sarah also picked up some Pringles. We got ready to check out and Josh had to head back to the jeep to get some paper to write our order on. He handed me his wallet and we got in line. Before I realized it Sarah already had her Pringles rung up and she was getting a dollar out of her wallet. (It was a gift from Aunt Jenny and the best gift ever, she loves paying for her own stuff now!) She seems to be the only one who can keep up with a wallet! Anyway, while she was attempting to pay Eli was trying to put the other things on the belt and Kate was proceeding to pull 85 bags of candy off a display at the checkout. By the time I picked all of the candy up (3 times) the cashier had everything rung up. I opened Josh's wallet and there wasn't enough cash!! I had just assumed he had some in there. (We all know what happens when we assume, right?) I couldn't find our debit card and I kept looking for him to come back inside. But he didn't! Finally, I did find the debit card, thankfully and we got out of the store as fast as the messed up buggy that wouldn't roll would go.

We then went to Lifeway where we spent most of the time in the bathroom. I'm just curious, do most people have to go to the bathroom twice in a 20 minute shopping outing? My people do. That night we were home for about an hour then headed down to the city hall for the city Christmas party. We always get to go eat steaks becasue they ask Josh to come and pray. Then me and Cortnee tried to stay awake while Matt and Josh played football on the playstation until 11:30. Of course, it didn't matter what time we went to sleep because it wasn't long before Sarah and Eli were in our bed and I was posed in my totally uncomfortable, trying to not smother my children sleeping pose.

This morning was exciting as Sarah went forward to let the church know that she asked Jesus into her heart! It was great too because one of our church members kept Kate and Eli in the nursery so I actually got to know what was going on in church. I was not so lucky tonight. I was teaching the ladies discipleship training class tonight and had no one to watch my kids. I got to retrieve Kate from the piano several times as she attempted choir practice during my lesson. At one point while I was teaching she just took off out of the room I'm sure everyone learned so much as I stopped every 3 seconds to chase her! Then it was time for big church. Me and the 3 of them sat in the back pew. You know those toys where you hit a monkey or something and another one pops up? That is totally what church with my kids is like. I get one of them content and another one acts up. Tonight I was holding Kate while she flipped through the hymnal, Sarah was laid on me wanting her back scratched and Eli was in Kate's face kissing on her and saying "Hey babygirl! Hey babygirl!" I always feel bad because I feel like I'm supposed to be there to support Josh and pray for him, but most of the time I'm just praying that it will be over soon. A while back we were doing a study on Revelation and I told Josh that there was nobody in there praying for Jesus to come back sooner than me!!

Well, Jesus hasn't come back yet so I guess we'll keep pressing on. Just in case any of you have visions of glamourous preacher's wives who are dressed in beautiful skirt suits smiling and saying "Praise the Lord" I'm sorry to burst your bubble. I'm in the back wearing pants (because with my kids dresses have a way of getting pulled up to places preacher's wives dresses should not be) covered in apple juice, snot, and soggy goldfish crumbs, giving Josh the LOOK that says, "They're yours when we get home!!", and praying that we will make it through without any destruction of property. Oh well, this is why I should never leave the house!!!!!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

How do you know?

A little known fact about myself is that I went to college on a forensics scholarship. No, it so didn't pay for all of the private school tuition, and no forensics is not CSI. It is speech and debate. Don't ask me how after 16 years of dance training I did not make the Dixie Darlings, my original plan, but instead ended up with a scholarship in speech and debate, something I had little to no experience in. It's like all of my life, a loooong story. Anyway, I've recently been reminded of those days after coming across a group of the people I debated with on Facebook.

Again, I have no idea how I ended up doing debate. I am the most non-debating person you will ever meet. I hate conflict and avoid arguments like the plague. I could give a mean informative speech and my college roomate/best friend Karen can still quote the introduction to my speech on the hydrogen car (I was so ahead of my time!) from 9 years ago. Somehow quiet, daydreaming, balleting Emily fell into a world of 24 news watching, news article downloading, and hanging out with boys (and a few girls) who spent hours arguing (and that inlcuded arguing about the directions on how to get to tournaments) and discussing foreign policy and utilitarianism. If I don't have anything else to show for my college degree, I can tell you about utilitarianism!! By the way, as an 18 year old freshman can I just tell you that my knowledge on foreign policy probably made Paris Hilton seem educated!

I was only at William Carey for a year and one trimester. I decided to change my major and they didn't offer it. I often think back on that time and wonder exactly what God had me there for. I got my best friend out of the deal, and that totally makes my million dollars of student loan debt and the tortuous weekends when EVERYBODY on campus got to home except for me and handful of other kids worth it. But recently I have decided that there was another purpose not only in me being at William Carey, but also for putting me on the debate team. Her name is Sarah.

I've talked about Sarah before and her strong will. Did I also mention she likes to debate? I've decided recently that saying she likes to debate sounds better than arguing or talking back. I am fully convinced that one day Sarah will be a national champion debater. And...if it pays for her college education I will feel that it is my reward for our daily "debates". Bless her heart, Sarah is one of those people who could argue with a wall. She's so much smarter and more curious than I ever was. When I was little and asked why the sky was blue, my mom could say "God made it that way" and I would say, "Oh, okay, that's cool". When Sarah asks that question I need to be prepared with a flow chart and multiple sources to explain precipitation.

While there are times when I just want to scream "Can't we all just get along?", I am also challenged and excited by Sarah's debating abilities. While my feeble little mind is so easily swayed by whatever people may tell me, Sarah never takes anything at face value. Today on the way home from school we were talking to her friend Brittany about how Josh's uncle was going to bring his plane to take us flying, but the weather was too bad. Brittany said that airplanes scared her and I got scared that Sarah would decide she was scared too. I shared that I have never been flying and Brittany said that she hasn't either, but it just scares her. Without skipping a beat Sarah asked, "How do you know? How do you know it's scary?"

You see, that's my Sarah. She's not going to let someone decide how she should feel about something. She has to experience it. How many times have I been too scared to try something new because someone else told me it was scary? How many times have I taken someone else's word about a person without taking the time to get to know them myself? How many times have I accepted the boring, short response instead of delving into the detailed, complex, but so much more interesting answer?

I feel challenged. When I am tempted to shy away from a new experience I hope I'll be brave enough to ask myself "how do you know". I might find something I really like!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A little peace and quiet

It's so funny how life changes you. Last night the music awards were on and that used to be one of my favorite things. Seeing the performances, what people are wearing, the whole thing. But last night I really could've cared less. One, I am getting old and I don't even know who a lot of the people are anymore. And two, I was so distracted by my excitement that I'm getting a new stove today!! Please, someone tell me, when did stoves become exciting?
Anyway, on the same note, I just realized that Kate and Eli are both napping, Sarah is at a friend's house, my kitchen is clean (like the counters have been bleached down clean), and I've already done a load of laundry. And I...am thrilled by all of this. Again, I'm not sure when a clean kitchen and sleeping children became the goal of my life but I'm enjoying it!

I am so excited right now because I feel like I am coming out of a funk. Do you ever get in those? I don't think I realized how long it would take me to transition from working full time to being at home full time. It is really a big change, but I now feel ready to embrace it full on! I decided that a lot of my funk was trying desperately to live up to standards set too high. Believe me, that is my specialty, setting standards too high. Don't get me wrong, I still believe in high standards, I've just learned that when you have 3 kids under the age of 6 sometimes you gotta let some things go!

Here are some things I've decided for me:

It is more important to me that my kids are compassionate, caring, thoughtful people than that they are overacheiving, robots. So that means that it's okay to make mistakes as long as we grow from them and people are more important than activities or chores. It's important to keep things clean and to be involved in certain activities, but sometimes these things need to take a backseat to rocking the baby time or reading with the big kids time.

I'm the boss. I'm the one in charge of running my house and that means that I have to have a plan and goals just like I did with my job. This isn't a time to be lazy or lose my brain, but rather a time when I need the organizational skills of a CEO and the creativity of Picasso!

I'm the teacher. That is scary! But God has given me the job of teaching my kids everything from how to tie their shoes to why the grass is green to the Ten Commandments. But I know that my biggest lessons are the ones that are observed like bacteria under a microscope. Those are the lessons I teach in how I react under pressure, how I show love to strangers (and the people I know who are sometimes the hardest to love!), how I treat their daddy, and how I spend my time. That's the scary part to me because I know I've set some bad examples. Those are the times I pray a lot for opportunities to teach little ones about grace and forgiveness!

The most important thing I have decided is that I have to be the wife and mom that God made Emily to be, and that is not always the one I want to be!! But while I may admire and learn from other moms, I have to use my strengths and skills instead of living in a pity party about all of my weaknesses and lack of skills. I've also learned that being a home is probably more for me than my kids. There are other people who could teach my kids many of life's lessons. But I don't think any other experience could teach me the lessons of patience, humility, and prayer that I'm still learning.

Finally, I am learning the tools needed for this job. As a social worker I was equipped with pens, paperwork, referrals, phone numbers, and bug spray. (Don't ask). Now, as a mom I pack an arsenal of baby wipes, sippy cups, cheerios, and crayons. In addition to those tangible tools I am working on adding patience, grace, a sense of humor, and prayer, prayer, and more prayer!!! Most importantly I am learning the priceless value of a little peace and quiet!
Currently reading : Becoming a Chief Home Officer By Allie Pleiter

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Parenting is Not for Wimps

I feel that I can confidently say, "Parenting is not for wimps" from great personal experience. I am the parent of a "strong-willed" child. The fact that Josh and I could give life to a strong-willed child came as a shock to all who knew us, including us! You see, Josh and I are about the most passive, go with the flow people you will ever meet. We both have the kind of personality that you can look at us mean or tell us you are disappointed and we will burst into tears and feel like we have received the greatest punishment ever. I always assumed our children would be the same. Boy was I wrong!

On July 15, 2002 God brought Sarah Elizabeth Fidler into our lives. I was 21 years old and totally clueless. Yes, I had read books and watched all of the labor and delivery shows. I was totally prepared to give birth and it was a fairly easy labor. It was the part after labor that I had really never considered. How the heck do you raise a kid? And not just any kid, a strong-willed kid? You see, it started in the hospital. The nurse taught me how to swaddle Sarah and I had it perfected. I would wrap her up in that blanket so tight I thought Houdini couldn't haven't gotten out. Two seconds later she would have it kicked off. I didn't understand it at the time, but she was already showing us her personality, the part that says I'm probably going to do things just because it's exactly what you don't want me to do.

I can honestly say that the first year after Sarah was born was the most miserable of my life. I feel so terrible saying that. I wanted desperately to be one of the mom's who was always glowing, dressed to the nines, holding a homemade pie in one hand and a happy, content baby in the other and telling everyone how being a mom was the best thing that ever happend to me. It just wasn't meant to be for me. I had postpartum bleeding that they finally caught two months after the delivery. It left me completely exhausted and prone to every kind of cold and infection there was. I was also clinically depressed and had gallbladder disease that took 8 months after Sarah was born to be diagnosed. I also lost my papaw that year. Sarah had a blocked tear duct, colic, and kidney reflux that made her prone to kidney infections. And Josh...he had to live with us. The fact that we survived that first year is a testament to the amazing goodness and grace of God.

I was very blessed to have a couple of older mom's who I consider mom mentors. They were old enough to have gained some experience and wisdom, but not so old that they had totally forgotten what it was like to have little ones. Nothing drives me crazier than old women who say things like, "My child never cried, threw a fit, whined, pouted, or even had a dirty diaper." The only hope they give me is that as you get older God completely erases all bad memories of motherhood and fills your head with complete visions of grandeur. :) But back to my mom mentors, one was a lady I worked in the nursery with at our church. She too had a strong-willed child. She felt my pain. She knew what it was like to not be able to go out to eat because even a 6 month old would refuse to sit in the high chair. She understood that getting ready to go somewhere required an extra hour of preparation because a strong-willed child's wardrobe is a great area of emotional breakdown. I'll never forget a day that I decided to put Sarah in the stroller and walk to church. (We lived that close to the church even before we were the preacher's family!) All was well until it was time to go home. Sarah would not go back into the stroller. We had a knock-down dragout and my mentor mom stood patiently holding the diaper bag for me while my child kicked and screamed and probably had everybody else convinced that I was killing her. But my mentor mom understood.

I had never been kicked out of a place until Sarah was born. I had lived a pretty calm, clean life. :) But sure enough we had gone to check on my friend Kim at the hospital and Sarah started crying and we got kicked out. Just a few weeks later (Sarah was about 11 months) we attended the wedding of one of Josh's good friends. Now, let me stop here and say that I do not recommend taking an 11 month old to a wedding at all! But Josh was in the wedding and it was in South Carolina and there was no one we knew to baby-sit. If I could do it all over, I would have stayed at the house with Sarah and heard about it later. But, I was still clueless. Anyway, we sat up in the balcony which I thought would be safe. However, the beautiful sanctuary had old wooden pews and floors which Sarah instantly decided would be great fun to beat her legs on and make as much noise as possible. I decided we would make our escape during the prayer so no one would see us getting up to leave. Of course with my luck, they had a section for deaf people in the balcony and they didn't bow their heads during the prayer because they were watching someone sign the prayer. I had to walk right in front of the translator with my kicking, screaming baby. Oh, the joys of motherhood!

I wish I could say that it gets easier once you are past the toddler years. In some ways, it has. The battles are less frequent, but when they occur they are so much more intense. I used to think 'There is no such thing as a strong-willed child, their parent's just don't know how to discipline them!' Can I just testify to the fact that there is such a thing as a strong-willed child!!! I've since had two more children. They both have their moments of meltdowns and disobedience, but it just doesn't even register on the same scale. They would sit for hours in the car seat or stroller. They would sleep. I feel that I have an appreciation for them that a lot of moms with "good" babies just don't understand.

I don't write this to talk bad about my firstborn. She is truly a special, caring, giving, thoughtful, and bright little girl. While she has provided some of the most challenging, embarrassing, and down-right painful times of my life, she has also provided life-changing, tender, special, and amazing moments of my life. You see, that strong-willed tempermant that makes me feel like I am going to lose my mind sometimes, also causes me to stand in awe. I am absolutely astounded by her ability to stand up to people in a way that I have never had the courage. I am overwhelmed at her persistence and know that she has what it takes to accomplish whatever it is that she is passionate about. I love that little strong-willed girl and I know that God has amazing plans for her. It takes strong-willed people to stay faithful when the going gets tough. It takes strong-willed people to stand up for what they know is right when all of us passive people take a backseat. And I have to say this, having a strong-willed child has taught me that I'm a little more strong-willed than I knew!

So many families have a wild child, black sheep, troublemaker, or whatever they choose to call them. I believe that each of my 3 kids are specially created by God with a unique personality and purpose. It is exhausting raising a strong-willed child. Sometimes it would be so easy to give into all the fits and tantrums. But I know that God has entrusted each of my children to me and that I have the equal responsibilty to discipline, teach, and love my children until they become people He can use in His kingdom. Parenting is definitely not for wimps!!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Still haven't found what I'm looking for...

A few months ago when I was still working I got paperwork to see a new patient. After two years in Mississippi with a job that took me through 3 counties and living in another county, I felt like I no longer had to worry about getting lost. Wrong! You have to understand that with our company when you get directions they usually include looking for the gray mailbox, the chicken houses, or the dirt road with no street sign.

My first mistake was that I started from my house because I thought it would be closer, but that meant that I had to reverse all of the directions! Needless to say, that was a bad idea. After driving around lost for an hour I decided to just head on to see some more patients. I had a full day that day and about 6 hours later I was headed back to find that patient. As I turned onto the road I had spent most of the morning on, a song came on the radio. It was a U2 song, y'know, the one that says, "but I still haven't found what I'm looking for". I had to laugh.

I eventually did find the house with the gray mailbox and the chicken houses on the dirt road with no street name. I was reminded of that day yesterday helping Sarah get ready for her costume contest at school. We've had activities all week long and my kids had already worn their costumes every night of the week and on the morning of the costume contest Sarah's genie hat was nowhere to be found. I knew that I had laid it on the couch the night before with the rest of her costume so it would be ready to go in the morning, but I couldn't find it anywhere! Finally Josh found it. Eli had fallen asleep on the couch the night before holding onto his spiderman costume and had apparently grabbed Sarah's hat as well.

Anway, thinking about that made me wonder how many times in life we all feel that way. That we still haven't found what we're looking for. I could tell a thousand stories of lost and found (I've threatened to pin the keys to Josh's shirt so he can keep up with them!), but I'm not just talking about physical items or places we are searching for. I am talking about the peace of mind, the purpose in life, the reason for living that everyone is searching for.

I teach a discipleship training class on Sunday nights. It was supposed to be a women's Bible study, but then some of the men needed a class and then some of the youth started coming. So, I've nicknamed it the "crockpot class". We have a little bit of everybody in it. I've shared with them that my greatest desire is to see real, sincere, genuine growth in their lives. It bothers me so much that so many people are in churches, and yet they seem so unfulfilled in their lives. But I have never believed that church is the answer. I believe that so many Christians are just as unhappy, discontent, and in a sense, lost, as anyone else because they still haven't found what they're looking for. And as a church, have we helped? Or have we created programs and activities to keep us all busy and able to say we are active in church, yet have no time to actually find what we're looking for, a relationship with Jesus?

In John 12:35 we're told, "Then Jesus said to them, 'A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of life.' "

It's my belief that so many people haven't found what they are looking for because they don't even know what they are looking for or where to look. Jesus wants to be the light that shines on our path and leads us to what we're looking for. I know there have been numerous times that I have questioned what I wanted out of life or just felt like something was missing. I know now that those were times when I allowed darkness to overtake me.

When I was younger I took an Experiencing God study that truly changed my life. I'm amazed when I look at my life and see how God has spoken and I realize that I first learned to listen God at the age of 15 completing this study with a few of my friends. We learned that some of the ways God speaks is through circumstances, His Word, the church, and prayer. Those are His directions to help us find what we are looking for. And they are so much better than mailboxes and chicken houses!!!

Bring the Rain

Last night I had the privilege of hearing my husband sing. He has the sweetest voice. I tease him because I can alway tell who he's on the phone with by the tone of his voice. He talks real deep when it's his dad and real sweet and well mannered when it's his mom. I always know when it is a church member because of the businesslike concern in his voice. For 10 years it has amazed me the power that his voice holds. I've seen him transformed as he steps into the pulpit and the Holy Spirit speaks boldy through his softspoken voice. I've heard the daddy voice as he sternly disciplines our kids and tenderly encourages them.

But my favorite is when he calls me babydoll and speaks words of love and adoration to me. For 10 years his voice has had the power to calm me in a way that nothing else can. The world could be falling down around me (and believe me, there have been plenty of times I thought it was) but as soon as I hear him say, "Hey babydoll" it is all better. I can't explain it, but listening to him sing last night I felt such pride in him. Not in his singing ability, even though he can sing. But I felt pride in who he is. He sang a song called "Bring the Rain" by MercyMe. It talks about the things we experience and asks that no matter what happens it would all be used to glorify God. It says, "Bring me joy, bring me peace, bring the chance to be free, bring me anything that brings you glory. And I know there'll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that's what it takes to praise you, Jesus bring the rain." There are a lot of Christian songs that express that same idea, but watching Josh sing those words means so much to me becuase I know that those are not just words, but his life.

I am continually disgusted to hear about scandals and controversy surrounding popular preachers, and while I know that all people are only human and prone to weakness and failures, I long to see more. I have such a desire to see people who have higher standards and expectations. More than anything, I want to see the real deal. I feel so blessed that God has chosen to bless my life with someone who is the real deal. I continue to stand in awe at Josh's ability to trust God and give Him the praise in all situations.

Lately, it has felt like God is not just bringing the rain into our lives, but there may be tropical storms on the horizon. I'm thankful that Josh's faith is able to encourage mine. When I'm ready to evacuate, Josh is always strong enough to say "Bring on the rain!"
I just felt like I should write this that maybe your faith would be encouraged as well. It's so tempting to get on here and blog about all of the people who drive me crazy or make me mad. But I feel like too often we overlook the people who are there to make things good. So... here's to Josh and all of you who choose to find the good in all things, offer encouragement instead of criticism, and love instead of judgement. God bless you!


It's never good when someone calls and asks how you're doing and you have to answer, "I'm just stting on the side of the road crying." I didn't add that I was praying that no truck driver would be having a bad day and swerve even an inch as there was no margin of error where I was parked.

This day started as a normal Saturday. I needed to go grocery shopping. We had to make an unexpected trip out of town the weekend before and we were getting down to our last saltine. But, being the true diva that I have become I decided I needed to make the 45 minute trip into Meridian. You see, our Wal-Mart does not carry the South Beach Diet Pizzas and for some reason I have become totally addicted to them. Anyway, I got to Wal-Mart and was sitting in the jeep looking through my coupons (my small attempt to save money) when out of nowhere there was a loud sound that sounded just like someone had hit me. (I know that sound too well-see previous blogs). I looked up and realized I hadn't felt anybody hit me and that is when the smoke began rising. My heart sank and my mind raced. This had happened to me before. I started to panic but I thought that maybe if I went inside to shop by the time I came out it would have cooled down enough to drive.

When I got out I was disheartened to see a green liquid all over the ground. I couldn't remember what that meant, but I knew it wasn't good. A man came over and said, "Something broke". I don't know what it is about me that I always come across the most helpful people. He told me that it should cool down while I was shopping so I was glad that I had figured that much on my own.

I did my shopping and it took quite awhile. Now that I am at home I am determined to try new recipes and check labels to see how healthy the food is. I'm still learning though. One of my recipes called for parsley and I realizedt that I didn't know if it meant real parsley or the kind in the seasoning section. So, I got both. I did decide that if we could learn to live off of real parsley then we could fit our groceries into our budget and I could fit into my clothes. So, now I'm trying to switch to an all parsley diet. Um, yeah right. Oh well. I also got the anti-freeze that Josh had instructed me to get to refill whatever had just blown up in the jeep.

When I got back to the parking lot I loaded the bomb shelter quantity of food I had bought into the jeep. Then, I had to figure out where to put that anti-freeze stuff. So, there I was on the phone trying to hold up the hood of the jeep and open the anti-freeze bottle. As I opened the hood and asked Josh where it was supposed to go I saw a cap that said "Anti-freeze". That was very helpful. I've decided I'm going to create a girl friendly car with pretty colors and big letters and arrows showing where everything goes. I'm pretty sure I spilled more anti-freeze than I actually got into the thing (that's technical mechanical talk), but the jeep started and seemed to be doing ok for a little while.

Once I was on the interstate it started overheating again, but Josh was on the phone telling me that it should be okay once I got out of town. Just as I passed the exit I was going to stop at the jeep started slowing down. No matter how hard I pressed on the accelerator the speed was dropping. I kept hearing this noise but I was driving past the airport and I thought it was a plane or something. Then I noticed it would go away when I took my foot off the accelerator. I was making that noise!! I pulled off on the side of the road. This was not a good situation. Josh was at home with all three kids and had no way to come get me as his car is still not running. I called Karen who will probably start blocking my calls from now on and she said she could come and take me and my groceries home.

It was at that point my friend Brandi called. She had been to a ladie's retreat and was excited to tell me about it. That was when I shared my predicament with her. I was, in fact, sitting on the side of the road crying. I told her Karen was on her way and she told me that she could talk to me while I waited. It was good to hear how her weekend had been and think about something besides the fact I had blown up the motor in the only running vehicle we have and that I just got my last paycheck two weeks ago. When my phone first rang I thought it was the worst timing possible. But after we talked I realized that God was so good to send me encouraging words in my time of distress. Proverbs 16:24 says, "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones."

On the way home (after we had unloaded all of the groceries and reloaded them into Karen's car) I shared my idea about the parsley diet. As I did I was reminded about a Beth Moore conference I had gone to a few years ago. She shared how she was making homemade soup with her daughter when she realized she didn't have any parsley. (I suppose she knew what kind she was supposed to have). She said she went into panic mode and was having a nervous breakdown about the parsley. She said finally her daughter looked at her and said, "It's just parsley". It was so funny that I remembered that story at that moment because I knew God was trying to tell me "This is just parsley". In the big recipe of life broken down cars are really not the end of the world.

Josh called yesterday to tell me the quote from the mechanic. He asked if I was sitting down. He told me the quote. I really should have been laying down in the fetal position. We are starting the parsley diet tonight!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Domestic Diva Dropout

Okay, I've been home for two months now and I just have to be honest. I totally stink at being a domestic diva. All dreams and hopes I had of 8 course fresh from scratch meals, spotless floors and volumes of scrapbooks have been dashed. Kate was just walking through the living room with an empty pizza hut box, a testament to the fact that I have not been cooking every meal. As I write there is a hugh shop vac we borrowed from the church that I've just decided to leave in the dining room as it is the most efficient way to clean up after meals where most of the food ends up on the floor. As for scrapbooking...doesn't that require sitting down? :)
So, needless to say I do not feel that I have accomplished my goals. I will definitely not be asked to write any articles for the Ladies Home Journal or appear on tv morning shows sharing my great housekeeping secrets. In fact, you may see me on an upcoming episode of SuperNanny. :) Oh well.
Here are some of the things I am experiencing:

Kate is into EVERYTHING!!!! She walks around with purses and babydolls and has created her own language. She also has curls! She is a cuddler, but I have also seen her grab Eli by the shirt and take him down. She loves music and can't help but dance to anything that comes on.

Sarah is doing really well in 1st grade. She already has 15 spelling words every week and more homework than I think I had in middle school! As always with Sarah, life is a big social event. She has started taking dance and loves it. She always asks me if she has to go to school or if she can just do dance. That's my girl!

Eli has become quite the little dude.He asked me the other day "Do I look cool or do I look awesome?" To have the self-esteem of a 3 year old! He loves cars, and balls and dressing himself. I'm still trying to figure out the statistical odds of putting your pants on backwards every single time, but I was never good at math. :) He has it rough right now surrounded by so many girls, but it will work out for him one day!

Despite the fact that I made chicken and chip casserole the other night and forgot the chicken (seriously), I have high hopes for the future. At least I have plenty of time to save for my children's therapy! :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Speaking the Truth

Maybe it's just me, but the truth seems hard to come by these days. Beyond the normal deceit of politicians or the "little white lie" about our dress size, the truth appears to be as rare and elusive as a Saturday afternoon nap. I'm talking about real truth. The painful kind. The kind that makes you think. The kind of truth that makes your heart do that flip flop thing.

Too often we are all running from the truth. If we can get one more credit card we can pretend that we can actually afford a lifestyle we've created for ourselves. If we wear the right clothes and get the right hairstyle we can convince those around us that we are confident and self-assured. If we go back to our class reunion with a thriving career it's ok if we omit the miserable failings in our relationships. And if we can pat people who are going through a hard time on the back and say "It will all be alright" then surely it will, right?

Well, I'm a recovering people pleaser, preacher's wife, hospice social worker, and mother of three. Unfortunately, most of the times when the truth has hurt me it has been because it's been handed to me in basket of anger, bitterness, jealousy,or carelessness. Despite my unfortunate run ins with the truth, I've learned something else about it along the way. It's necessary. In the same way I need to know if I have lettuce in my teeth or my jeans are too tight, I also need to know when I have areas to grow in. We all do. We could all wander around with food in our teeth and we could all continue to roam around acting immature, thoughtless, selfish, or a million other shortcomings we possess. But... here's the good news.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ".

Ephesians 4:11-15

Isn't that wonderful? Speaking the truth in love is how we grow. It's how we become more like Christ. The same truth that bites and tears at us when spoken out of meaness, can encourage growth when spoken in love. That's what this page will be about. Everyday, the Truth changes my life and I hope to be an encourager to others who are seeking to "grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ."