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We are a family of fifteen: eight already with Jesus and seven in desperate need of Him. This is the story God is writing in our lives. Proverbs 16:9

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Prayer for 2015

It began with a real baby.

The set was simple with a few reminders of the setting. A door front and risers welcomed the drama while poinsettias adorned the perimeter. Perfumed air swirled through pews and carried along the anticipation of their occupants. The angel appeared. Teen Mary and Joseph arrived at the inn in costume aside a cute kid dressed as a donkey, trying to balance a large animal mask while situated on all fours. The audience chuckled. The old story was told again and familiar verses, both spoken and sung, fell soft among the candlelight. No room. Mary took her place, center stage at the heart of the nativity. It was the moment every note and word hinged upon.

From a back door, a baby appeared dressed in white, carried by a gal dressed as an angel, and was tenderly placed in the young Mary's arms.

I have been to many Christmas plays, pageants, and the like. I don't remember the last time I saw a real infant play the part of Baby Jesus. Usually it is a doll that may or may not get its head gently whacked on something en route to the manger or threaten to have its real identity exposed as the swaddling clothes partially slide away. It caught me off guard. The sight of the living, breathing little one brought tears to my eyes.

There is Christmas and there is Easter. Then, there were 33 years between. This past year, the part of Jesus' ministry that resonates with added weight is the ministry of His life. There was a day-to-day for him that speaks Hebrews 4:15 in a way that meets me in my day-to-day and year-to-year. I have a clear memory of hearing a favorite author of mine expound this truth highlighting His entire fulfillment of all the law--- law I have such difficulty obeying--- until His death and resurrection on my behalf (Matthew 5, Galatians). The implications of the connection of the God-Man walking this same earth yet without sin are continually astounding. And it isn't only his fulfillment of the law that comforts, but His sympathizing with my weaknesses--- weaknesses that show themselves in more and deeper ways every year that I live.

It is one thing to hear the theology of it and quite another to see the connection to flesh and blood. To know what it is to walk this earth from infancy to adulthood, in a land cursed and in a state of desperation. To experience the thinness of the veil between life and the life to come. To feel the weight of sin and its consequences. To marvel again at the incarnation and see the humanity.

I think as the new year comes, as my thoughts shift toward the months ahead, it would be tempting to consider me and what I want this year to be. Maybe the best hope for me is to consider all that He has done. It is true; The Word became flesh and dwelt among us for us. It is easy enough to focus on all that surrounds Him rather than focusing on Him.

It isn't a new or fancy prayer, but one I need to pray:  Lord God, may I know more of You in 2015. Show Yourself to me that I may see You, looking back so that I may move forward in faith. Make known what You have done and give me anticipation of what You have yet to do. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Piles of Grace

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 5:20-21

As children grow, the number of opportunities to parent in a gospel direction grows. (Duh, you say). It is a little more complicated than that. I guess what I mean is that as my children grow older, I move from giving straightforward, simple commands (like "Don't touch." or "Come here.") to giving directives where a whole counsel of rules take effect. I think of sending my older children outside to play with the admonishments to be respectful of our neighbors' property and show love to them in the process (just to name two). All past simple commands combine and problem solving takes place. The more the rules increase as well as imparted wisdom, the more the opportunity to mess something up, somewhere.

When major messing up occurs, that presents a big opportunity for me as a mom. I realized this the other day as I considered disobedience that carried with it other failures--- like lying and blaming others. The list of wrongs had piled against the child. I could tell that on this day, this particular child was feeling the crushing weight of the list of wrongs against him. The situation had moved from bad to much worse very quickly. Defenses mounted. Fear and shame were visible in his eyes and heard in his words.

Then there was my response. I must admit, many times, when failures and complications land at my feet in a heap, my frustrations pile with it. Instead of speaking life, I get bogged down by the consequences of actions. Even worse, I think of how this situation has affected me and breaks into my day. I get flustered and add my struggles to theirs. To up the ante even more, all the laws that have been written on my soul for 35 years accuse me all the more.

The worse the situation, the more opportunity for grace to be just what it is--- it is and should always be good news. It washes away all the eternal weight of our failures and even makes temporary consequences bearable. In contrast, its beauty is unmatched when held against our worst. We don't pile sins to see grace--- grace is seen most clearly because of our piles of sins.

So if the ultimate goal of parenting from a Romans worldview is to train children who never fail, then I fail. If we fail in order to see grace, then that is a problem. But failure is inevitable. As the law increases, the trespasses increase. But what happens when they fail? Or when I fail? That is a distinctive Christian question.

Our worst is precisely where the gospel operates. There is something bigger than training children to keep rules.  Sure, I want them to stay safe and love their neighbors. I want them to be good citizens and maintain a reputation of a trustworthy person. I want them to not bear hard consequences in the horizontal plain of this earthly domain for bad choices. But the function of the rules that speaks the loudest is the demonstration of how they (and I) need a rule keeper. What a better time when they are experiencing mounting failures to move into, "God has loved you so much that He sent Jesus to do everything all right for you... in your place. You can repent, believe and move on." Even when the situation warrants a good grounding or time out, they will grow to know (by grace) they are safe to bear the consequences. My relationship and posture toward them has not changed nor has their relationship with God. I love them because they are mine. When I am able to speak good news into the situation the load lightens--- every time. When I don't, the gospel brings the good news to me.

Regardless of the failure or the success, our focus is out --- not in --- to the beauty of Jesus. Our sins are great, combined, and complicated, but the One who bore them is greater.

This is one way the gospel is relentless in taking hold of me these days.

Friday, October 31, 2014


This month has been Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. While that name seems 50% odd to me, I still appreciate the thoughts behind it. It gives me a place to speak freely (as if I don't anyway;)) and consider again the story God is writing in my life. Those who have had the privilege to have known their little ones for one day or many days bear an indelible mark that signifies the value of life. For me, there isn't a day when I do not anticipate in some way the day when I will behold the face of Jesus, then my eight little ones with Him. Some days, it is more near to my consciousness and others, it remains a lilt in the music that steadily plays in my soul. I daresay it is the experience of others as well. I wait. I remember. I miss them. I am thankful. What gifts they have been to me. They remind me to keep my eyes ahead toward hope.

This particular October day is Reformation Day. In 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg with objections of specific teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism. For more contemporary thoughts about the significance of Reformation Day, you can follow this link. I am thankful for the gift of Martin Luther to the church. Over the past couple of years, Luther's "robust notion of justification by faith" as Justin Holcomb eludes, has become more precious to me. Sola Fide has become hope theologized, and has led me again to the person of Hope, Jesus Christ.

After all this sober contemplation, I have to get back to the people around here beginning to don tutus and suits in anticipation of greeting our neighbors tonight with a big bowl of chocolate and sugar (if I don't eat it all first).

To Him, who is above all Octobers and remembrances alike, be glory and honor today and everyday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Road Bends (again)

I remember so clearly how it felt--- We had three newborns at home, Micah had just undergone back surgery, and we were evicted from our apartment in Louisville for having too many people per bedroom--- just all of the sudden. Little did I know, there was a house right near our church in LaGrange that God had just for us. There would be no more carrying groceries and babies in infant carriers up and down stairs to get from the car to the front door. No more being so far from all the people that were so kind to help us out with our kiddos when we needed a hand. And there were extras, like a yard for the big boys and space for bike rides, a school room, and fantastic neighbors. It had many attributes that provided for needs for which I wasn't even aware when we first learned of our expeditious move. 

A few months ago, Micah and I began to think about buying our own home. We haven't owned a house space in many years. After looking for just a short time, we found it. Actually, at the time, it was a lot with a poured basement surrounded by mud and full of water from spring rains. The boys expressed overwhelming approval of our new pool-home. After dissolving their visions of flips and splashes and a giving a brief speech on how great a house would be that has actual rooms and such, we committed to building and buying. Today, it is a house that we helped design to function in ways that will be useful for our family. In a month, we will move in. It will cut Micah's commute in half and in effect allow him more time at work and more time at home. More time with him is always a good thing:)

There have been so many things about this new home that make it just what we need and anticipate needing for the unforeseeable future. I can't wait to share some of those things with you! But for now, I want to say goodbye. Not goodbye forever, but a proper goodbye to the people of LaGrange (you know who you are) that have made this place home for us. I think particularly of our church family. I remember well how people from LBC helped load and unload, clean and scrub, and even man a grill and buffet on the day we moved in, making sure everyone working was fed. We will be finding a new group of believers closer to us, but will miss our church family. We are so thankful for the tangible and intangible forms of love shown to us during what has proved to be craziest time of our lives (so far anyway). Where ever we are, you are always welcome. 

I also think of my neighbors. We will miss you all. And I know my boys will especially miss the friends they have made. 

So once again, I am packing. I have become an expert at packing. And remembering. And thanking God for our time here and the people around us. He went before us, nestled us in, and now is moving us on again. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014


The sun shown brightly on the face of my daughter. Her eyes met mine and conveyed the delight she felt in her surroundings. Sprinklers are so fun. There was a speck of something on her cheek. I grabbed a baby-wipe ('cause those clean everything) and tried to remove it. It didn't budge or dissolve.

It is a freckle! People in my family don't have freckles! My daughter does. I looked over at the other little ones, and they have a few freckles, too.

I don't have them. I never have.

I do however, have triplets and two pre-adolescents. Sometimes, it is lonely having something about me that is so unlike other mothers. It can be quite polarizing. There are T-shirts that make this realization something I can paste across my chest or ceramically-contain my morning dose of caffeine. The most flamboyant, tongue-in-cheek Mother of Multiples slogan:

I Laugh at your One Baby

I saw it not too long after I brought our triplets home from the hospital and immediately, it met my need to feel validated in middle of realizing the exhaustion of life with three at once. It felt good to know I wasn't alone. Even today as I do everything times three over and over again, it brings me comfort that someone else knows

However, I completely understand if you find it offensive. I am also very aware that by my own admission of chuckling at this slogan, there has been a day that I have laughed at the first-time-mom who is unaware of the changes that come as most mommies have subsequent children. The numbers do relax a person. But I get it. I can remember a time in my life when I would have found it offensive and it is good for me to remember why.

I will tell you how I feel now but first, this is how I might have felt years ago.

In the throws of infertility and secondary infertility, I think I would have first felt like all the people with children just need to be thankful for the ability to mother and stop complaining. I think I would have felt sad that I couldn’t join the club of whatever is so hard about raising children. I think I would have preferred to have any number of children over being childless or struggling to conceive. After having a miscarriage, all of the above would have felt even more pronounced.

When I was a new mom learning how to care for my sweet Andrew, I might have heard this phrase and considered my experience with my one baby and all the days mothering him was over the top hard and felt belittled. 

Then after Elijah was born, when all things mothering are exponential, I might have felt like it didn’t matter how hard the days of negotiating two littles, it wasn’t as difficult as raising a larger family--- let alone more than one baby at a time. I couldn't compete with those numbers.

But now, it feels like a disservice to those I know (including myself) to discredit just how difficult it is to raise multiples. It is different than one at a time and hard, too. 

The continuum of Easy – Hard – Harder – Hardest only exists in the world of comparison. It may seem satisfying to find someone who can share our experience as a means to relate to each other. Groups are created around shared experiences and Facebook is full of them. But even in our similarities and in our attempts at comparisons, we all have unique stories. Even when there is commonality I still feel unsatisfied which sometimes leads to more complex feelings of disconnectedness and isolation. There are moments in a conversation that I sense that the mama with whom I am speaking would not ---in a billion years--- say what is really on her mind for fear that her experience will pale in comparison to mine. I will confess, I have been so guarded toward others. Then sometimes, another mama will make a statement that tries to level the playing field. I have done this as well. More times than I can count someone will tell me, "My children were 18 months apart. That is just like having twins." Um, no it is not. And that is OK. It does not mean she hasn't had her share of difficult days. 

Romans 12-16 describes those who are free to love God and love their neighbors in the grace and mercy afforded them by Jesus. I read through the lines, I am led to repent of all the ways I have valued finding similarity over showing love in due season. There are no comparisons here, simply speaking, only many exhortations to do and be and love. I think particularly of the call to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice and feel the weight of loving well. Over the last two weeks, there have been so many things in the headlines and in the lives of people I love dearly running the gamut of the experience of life. There were joys and there were deep sorrows. Thinking about navigating such contrasting experiences and the emotions that flow out of them feels overwhelming. How is it even possible to gravitate from pain to delight and everywhere in between?For me, bent on playing by the rules, it can me dangerous to live out of the laws in these chapters without a connection to why these chapters come at the end of Romans.

I would argue that there is only one way to even think about doing such a thing... loving each other well with or without shared experiences. In order to go there, we first have to huddle under the umbrella of Romans 1-8. This week, I finished listening to Tullian Tchivijian's sermons through the book of Romans and once again I was astounded at the good news and unifying nature of the gospel.  After the consolidation of people and peoples under the weight of our biggest problem, being separate from God by sin, Paul announces that God has now met both Jew and Gentile with the kiss of grace.  Once again and in this area of life, Jesus calls me to lean in toward the gospel as my only hope in all things.

Loving my neighbor flows out the remarkable truth that in Christ, everything I need I already have ---including compassion, unfailing love, and a sympathizing in my weaknesses that is unmatched by other human form. But I must confess, I don't always do that very well. Even more than a person who identifies in my experience, I need people around me that remind me, "And to the one who does not work but believes in Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness".  Regardless of my current circumstances, I was once as Romans 3 describes and yet now, I am loved and identified as a daughter of the Most High God. That is the beauty of grace, it stands ready to move in and level every playing field. When I remember that my individual struggles and differences are only secondary to my biggest struggle, remembering the good news that honors that this life is hard and looks outward to Hope and gives space for lasting love and community. Seems like that theme is found in scripture as well.  

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  Having three, two-year-olds is really hard.  It is a different kind of hard. They are precious.  It is still hard work. That doesn't make your experience where ever you are invalid. Denying my own experience for fear of belittling yours is exhausting. Yes, I look to ridiculous T-Shirts and Pinterest posters sometimes that remind me that someone somewhere might get it somewhat, but even in the most similar aspects of our lives, we will find variations too precious to ignore. When I fail to see the beauty in our diversity, my lawless deeds are forgiven, my sins are covered. Regardless of my current circumstances, we all have the same big problem. Help me sisters, to remember.

In the world of compassion, everyone has valid experiences. The expanse of experience is covered in the grace reserved for individuals loved by God. I need to learn from you and in the gospel, it is safe to do it. It is good for me to remember the seasons of my life and their respective, defining truths. Knowing you helps me to do that. I cannot walk in a thousand shoes, but I can see you standing in yours.

I am getting to know my three littles differently than I have gotten to know my big boys. They are no less individuals with their own places in the world but they are bringing whole new sets of DNA to the table. With Andrew and Elijah, people have said, "He looks just like his father," or "He has his mother's ability to turn a phrase." Although some have tried--- you have no idea the comments that try to link our littles with us physically. It is hysterical. I digress.  ---we are learning about a whole new family through them. They will be very different from me. I can sit and try to figure them out by matching them to what is most experientially comfortable or I can let them be who they are and marvel at whatever that is, similar or not.

In relation to my friends and neighbors, I want to study your face. It may or may not resemble mine. Allow me to stare into the beauty of who God has made you to be as I lean in to the person God is making me. If in the end you look nothing like me then let us wonder at Him more. We will have our differences and our similarities, but the one we can always count on is the fact that we are loved and known perfectly by our Father. I don't want to miss even the smallest freckle.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Wrap Up

In the last two months

Andrew completed 4th grade and Elijah, 2nd.

Tiffany packed a van full of all kinds of stuff

left all the children (including three extremely active two-year-olds) with Daddy, Mimi, and company

and then rode a horse named Lady that acted like a two-year-old through the NC mountains.

After stringing lights, decorating pews and tables, and experiencing many -everyone is exhausted,

emotional, and on the verge of a breakdown-  pre-matrimony moments

we saw Chelsea marry her Parker.

Isabella danced at the wedding reception with her Papa

and the transformed wedding space went back to its original form.

Andrew drove the golf cart on the farm all by himself whilst spotting black snakes

as Elijah laughed and swatted an over sized volleyball.

Eliana and Isabella began speaking in sentences.

Isaac continues to be fascinated by bees and bugs and such.

Later, upon returning to KY

Elijah got a 20" bike to fit his 4'3" frame for his 8th birthday.

The day before, Tiffany saw the beginning of year 35.

We celebrated Independence Day with first fireworks for the three littles.

Andrew and Elijah went to camp and did all manner of campy things.

Swimming finally just made sense to Andrew.  Others stay in the sprinklers.

Our new house was framed, wired, plumbed, bricked, and the drive poured, all before our eyes (yes, we are moving).

With the littles still singing "Happy Birthday to you!" weeks after May-July birthdays

we end the summer and begin a new school year.

With all that is changing and moving in life, news that makes us smile

and news that makes us writhe and spin,

we look ahead, move, and breathe, believing in the Hope that lies ahead, unchanged and sure as each passing day.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Elijah, Age 8

The last month has flown by.  With a long/short visit to NC for my sister Chelsea's wedding and all the festivities around it then a couple of weeks trying to get back into the swing of things at home, I have not had a minute to sit down and write!

However, it is a very special boy's 8th Birthday!  Without further ado, I present Elijah Haddon, Age 8.

This is a short interview I did with the big fella today.

Elijah, what is your name?
A:  (laughs) Elijah!  I wish my name was John.  No... Elijah.

How old are you?
A:  Eight!  ---billion!

What is your favorite thing to do?
A:  Play Wii U.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A:  A Chick-fil-a worker with my Dad and maybe a Worship Pastor.

What is your favorite food?
A:  A Royal Red Robin Cheeseburger.

Who do you like to spend time with?
A:  Family and friends like Jude, Conlan, and Andrew.  Andrew stinks on Mario Kart!  Hahahahaha!!!  (Andrew is right beside him protesting)

What do you do really well?
A:  Latin (it is my favorite subject) and ride a bike.

What makes you laugh?
A:  Anything that has to do with -poop- and sarcasm.  (He then gives me a lengthy example of sarcasm.  It was funny... and sarcastic;)).

What is the best time of the day?
A:  Breakfast.  'Cause I love eating breakfast.

What are you afraid of?
A:  Sometimes the dark.

Who is your best friend?
A:  Jude.

What do you like to do with your family?
A:  Play board games, help make cake, and have a dance party.

What do you like to learn about?
A:  Latin.

Where do you like to go?
A:  Holiday World.

What is your favorite book?
A: The Panda Puzzle

If you had one wish what would it be?
A:  For a gazillion more wishes!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Photos ~ Spring 2014

Back in February, our friend Kevin Bradley attempted to take a few pictures of everyone outside however not everyone here was excited about the white stuff.  Since the weather has been so lovely the past couple of months, we have had our pick of days that have given such a beautiful backdrop to the little and bigger, growing people living here.

Andrew loves sports.  He and his Dad have bonded over college basketball this past year.  He is the epitome of a first born~  caring for his other siblings, helping in so many ways, and leading and planning as opportunities arise.  I watch him mow the grass, this time with the real lawn mower (instead of the bubble one) and feel like I am privy to moments of impending manliness with every pass.  Our conversations are more meaningful and mature and I love that.

Elijah is still our storyteller.  His use of adjectives and illusions to parallel experiences make mundane situations lots of fun.  He continues to be very passionate and curious.  He and I share an enthusiasm for Iron Chef America and Chopped on the Food Network.  He has recently been making me "courses" of snacks throughout the days.  My favorite so far is vanilla wafers on a heart plate.  

Isaac is such a boy.  He can do chin ups on various pieces of furniture, run fast, and jump high.  He knows how to escape and find stuff---  I honestly never know what he is going to do next!  His voice is the sweetest sound.  His natural inflection melts his Mama's heart!  If he catches me sleeping, I awaken to gentle Isaac kisses.  He is just precious.

Eliana is still a dainty little lady.  Her distinctiveness is an attribute most distinguishable in such a petite person.  She loves to be held and tuck in her arms when she is feeling vulnerable, which is such a welcomed posture for a two-year-old, so desiring independence.  She speaks softly and laughs with intention.  Isabella has started calling her "Ana" (like Ana from Frozen;)).

Isabella is a dancer, smiler, amicable, and such a delight.  To say she loves her Daddy is an understatement.  They have a fun loving relationship.  Bella will periodically point to him until they make eye contact and smile!  She also gives him love taps--- really it is more like love whacks.  She and her Ana love to sing.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Today, if I don't write, I may cry.

Last Monday, I decided to join a theater troupe focused solely on the horror genre.  It has always been a dream of mine.  I was so drawn to the story---  A housewife begins her quest to rid her children of alien invaders that crawl and creep in the night.  She spends her waking hours ridding the home of everything that might invite them in.  She toils in the recesses of every hidden place, making sure not a spot is left unattended should they be hiding in their pre-adult, microscopic form.  She researches their kind and learns their weaknesses.

In one scene, she goes to the local health food store determined to fight these things from all sides employing all avenues of substances with medicinal value.  One of the items on her list, she learns, is a controlled substance (thanks, Dr. Oz, for the recommendation).  Just the thought of her home being surrounded by ATF officers makes her chuckle.  She imagines herself shouting, "Come any closer and they will get you too!" as they approach and then retreat in fear.

Armed with papaya seeds, pumpkin seeds, honey, banana liquid, pineapple, pickles, and garlic, she fights them relentlessly.  I was a bit disappointed in her costuming.  It more resembles a HAZMAT suit, rather than the likes of Prada, Versace, or Ralph Lauren.  It is a species battle of epic proportions.

She plans and prays, attacks, and retreats.  It seems they might get the upper hand when...  (I still don't know the ending).

I sure wish I could say that it was all fiction... however, it is the absolute, parasite-crawling-world-we-live-in truth.  We have been battling pinworms.  I know what I am saying.  Parasites people.  G-r-o-s-s.

***leaving space for you to shudder***

And just so you know, you could have them too.  Comforting isn't it?

Did you know that these things are living in millions of Americans?  Most people are asymptomatic.  Children are the most likely to carry them in their intestines.  If your kiddos are waking at night and irritable, pinworms may be to blame.  I had always heard of these things and I clearly remember a time when I was sure Andrew had them.  He didn't.  Now that there are seven of us to make the odds of reinfection soar higher and higher, he does (along with almost everyone else).

Then on top of it all, all the boys have had strep throat and the girls, ear infections.

So pray for us.  And if you ever need support from someone who has been in the trenches with these things, I am your girl.

One day, the real-life creatures that stalk us will be defeated and it will all be like a bad dream.  ~ see Rev. 21

~My next post should have cute pictures, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Top Ten Reasons Having a Bunch of Children Can Be Better Than a Security System

10.  A person screeching on the stair as his (or her) feet are impaled by Legos, Lincoln Logs, and matchbox cars is better than any buzzing alarm.

9.  The smell of poop deters anyone within 10 feet of our house.

8.  Everything we have that might have been valuable at one time is now covered in peanut butter, snot, or is irreparably broken.

7.  Most of the -at one time- valuables have now been displaced all over the house.  Once you think you have found something fantastic, it will probably turn out to be one of those tiny, clear Legos that double as "treasure".

6.  Most nights, someone is awake at all hours doing one of the following things:
     ~Trying to find the toy that just won't die (the basement?  the garage?  the bottom of the toy bin?  where is it!!!)
     ~Trying to get people back to sleep who have awakened and are in the process of handing the baton to the person on the next -keep the parents awake at all hours- shift.
     ~Dismantling every alarm clock that I didn't even know we owned but has magically made its way into the hands of a toddler who knows how to set it at something:something early A.M.  

5.  My older children have been practicing pseudo-taekwondo, sword-fighting, and wrestling since birth.  Their secret weapon is ~shhhhhhhhh~ stinky feet.

4.  I have six toddler feet and six toddler elbows and I know how to use them.

3.  If any of the cabinets or closets are opened, the contents may crush you.  Then there are the hidden, half-eaten sandwiches stashed away for a rainy day...

2.  There are (fake) enormous insects everywhere and they come alive in the dark.

1.  Even after you think you have located them all, there is still another child somewhere who will give you a run for your money.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tan-tu, Mama

When my babies are small, I start teaching baby signs to help them communicate before they can talk.  I don't teach them very many words... just mainly "more", "please", "thank you", and "sorry".  It wasn't too difficult to connect words with meanings during the boys infancy, especially when I was parenting one-on-one.  This time around, there has been less of that--- and by that, I mean the whole thing.  I did try and teach signs, but going from child to child to child in everything changes the landscape of parenting.  I have done more in a group and less individually just for the sake of expediting things before complete chaos ensues.

I did work on it some.  There are battles I pick and others I do not.  The baby signs (sometimes) battle hasn't always been on the top of the priority list.  I know, I know.  Maybe they will never be polite or ask for more juice.  I gave it an effort anyway.

I have had one child that has pretty much always refused to say, "thank you".  On a few occasions, I have forced it, taking her hands in mine, mimicking the motion.  However, clenched fists, immovable elbows, and scowl doesn't communicate gratitude no matter how precise the motion.

The other day, I fixed cups of juice and proceeded to hand them out to the thirsty people.  Then, a tiny voice cut through all the normal noise of mid-day activity.  The clouds parted, skies opened, and beams of light accompanied the sound of pianissimo, soprano ahhhhhhhs as I heard the words,

"Tan-tu, mama." i.e. "Thank you, mama."

It came directly from the usually-protesting little one, with eyes that lifted up to meet mine.  It broke through to the part of my heart reserved for precious, I-don't-ever-want-to-forget-this things.

It made me think---  I have forced thankfulness.  But have I really?  I have taught the words in sign or speech and the concept.  I can certainly call it out when I think I don't see it, and that seems pretty obvious.  Ok, sometimes really obvious.  Conversely, a response that I know I have not elicited is more pure and beautiful.  But how do I know what appears pleasant and compliant is true thanksgiving?  Is it expressed transference of a soul trajectory?  Or is it obedience?  I know it is what I have told them to say or even be, so in part, I have commanded it.  But is it truly a biblical kind of gratitude; one that would give thanks in all circumstances, juice or no juice?  As a mother of five, I can confidently say, I don't really know.  I know not one of my children has ever said, "Thanks Mom for correcting me," or "I really appreciate you doing what is best," when it feels painful to them.  They obviously like when I give them stuff.  So the answer is, definitely not always.  Maybe sometimes like this time.  How can I know?  Should I scrutinize what I don't know?  Should I discipline to correct what is only to be perceived in the heart?

I know if you are a mommy who has heard any sort of talk of parenting from a Christian worldview, you know what I am speaking about here.  And maybe like me, you feel exhausted and overwhelmed ---even by this conversation and the above line of questioning.  Or maybe you are a bit suspicious of trying to "train" the inner places that only God sees.

What I do know, if I am honest, is that I am not always thankful and not ever perfectly thankful.  I know it as quickly as words leave my mouth with a request of my children.  Almost immediately, my admonitions to them remind me of what I many times struggle to do.  I know because as the Bible reads me, the standard of living a life characterized by thankfulness is made clear and exposes my own heart.  Sometimes, I just forget, especially when God is so generously providing all my felt needs.  I remember days when the brokenness of this life is visceral and factually provable that gratitude isn't what I naturally feel.  And then, sometimes I do feel thankful.

So how thankful is thankful enough?  All of the scriptures present lives that have been changed by the good news of Jesus as characterized by gratitude among other things.  It pours out of God's chosen, holy, and beloved ones in song like in Psalm 100 and Colossians 3:16.  And don't I know the consequences of an unthankful heart.  Bitterness, envy, and complacency come to mind as well as impatience with everyone else and their seeming or real thankfulness (including my children's).  Then there is the gospel on the whole.  I cannot imagine a clear understanding of the redemption story in the work and person of Jesus without it.  Where does all that go when life is pressing in?  Do I put before me what I should be doing?  Well, maybe it is in what Jesus has done.

I think specifically of Jesus right before His death.  He served the bread and the cup of the new covenant for the forgiveness of sins with thanks (Matt. 26, Mark 14, Luke 22) to His disciples with the full knowledge that the cup that would be served to Him by His Father would be one of wrath.  It would then be filled with His own blood.  He participated in something we see as symbolic.  For Him, the breaking and pouring was literal.  When I align this one display of Jesus perfect thankfulness as a precursor to what it would then mean for Him, it proves His fulfillment of this law.  Of course, there are more examples in His life and in His character, but this is the most compelling given the magnitude of the symbolism. He expresses gratitude for the meal that demonstrates His sacrifice for sinners such as me.   In the face of death for His friends, Jesus is thankful.

As I go back to my thoughts about my children, I want them to be thankful---and not just thankful, but thankful to God.  But that isn't up to me or something I can evoke.  There is no recipe for it, no system to guarantee it.  I can remind them of blessings in abundance.  I can ask them to say "thank you" to those who help them as an act of love.  I can teach them what God-honoring thankfulness looks like.  But that only emphasizes what we--- they and I ---fail to do.  We can talk together about how we aren't thankful. Then, I can tell them the story of Jesus and how He gave thanks in all circumstances and lived in perfect gratitude.

I can say lots of things.  I may or may not be clear enough to meet them where they are on a given day.  As I think of what I may say, I remember again what God has done.  When I am not thankful, Jesus also passed the cup of forgiveness to me.  And now, I am His.

Something else is more important than obedience or thankfulness.  They are mine.  They always will be my sons and daughters no matter their perceived? levels of thankfulness.  Their position overshadows their compliance.

There are days when "Tane-tu, Mama" warms my heart.  I thank God for it, give hugs, and a "You're welcome."  I am reminded again of the gift of my children and what they teach me about my Father and His love for me.  I pray I know more of His love so that I may accept them and give them what they need in love, even when soprano ahhs cease.  I desire to be delighted in them and not in what they do.  This is hard for me, y'all.  It is all too easy to freak out and overemphasize behavior that makes me feel more successful as a mother.  Sure, there are consequences when unthankfulness overflows into some action I can correct.  But I pray that grace is a better teacher where commands fall short.  True thankfulness is born of grace and of that, I am only a witness.  The Spirit is capable and the Shepherd gentle and kind to hold their tender hearts as He is surely holding mine.  We are all on this journey together learning more of God and His love for us.  Grace is seeking us, friends and as the scripture reminds us, fruits follow.

Counting blessings is a good thing.  Being thankful is what it right.  But the grandest blessing is acceptance even when I am not thankful, clench-fisted, and partially immovable.  Do you know this?  If you are in Christ, wavering thankfulness is covered?  That is something for which to be truly thankful.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

Mother's Day is always a day that reminds me that I live a world that exists between the cross and the grave.  I simultaneously hold on to realities too wonderful and too painful.  The promise of the future supplies immense hope, even for today.  These faces sure make me smile.

I have been so blessed by my mom.  Being a mom is teaching me more about her love for me.  I, in later years, have been blessed by Micah's mother as well.  I am thankful for my grandmothers and great-grandmothers and miss the ones no longer here with me.  I am also thankful for my spiritual mothers and aunt-mothers.  

And I am thankful for those little ones that call me mom.  I am thankful for my eight children who are already with Jesus and will one day be a part of my introduction into eternity. I am thankful to the Giver of every good gift who accepts my thanksgiving in Jesus as perfect, even when I fail to be.  He is so good to me.  

Where ever you are today, in joy or in pain, may God be near to you.

And for those waiting with a desire to mother, I see you too.  But most importantly, so does He.  

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


This child.  In my mind's eye, I see her little face and big blue eyes in their 2 pound, 4 oz. form.  I remember her flipping about in scant amounts of amniotic fluid, astounding even the most stoic of a sonogram technician.  And then, I see her now.  There is one thing about her particular personality that moves me ~ when she smiles, she really smiles.  When she disagrees, I know it.  When she laughs or speaks, it is intentional.  And when she runs, she runs like this.

There have been times I have wanted to run like her, but I have no strength to do it.  I have no energy to get the heck up and go--- or press on when the weights of this temporal, unredeemed life press in and hold me down.  Even my exercise induced asthma gives me a physical reminder of what may hold me back.  Most of the time though, I stall because I am trying to run with my eyes focused on the spot where I stand.  It may be fear, guilt, regret, sin, pride, or numbers of things that keep my eyes turned down or even closed.  When I want to go somewhere, that is never helpful to me.  It just isn't.  I need to see what is ahead to run ahead.

At this moment, little Miss was heading toward the bubble maker.  It was scattering bubbles in the air, and it made her so excited.  She had been on the slide, but the bubble contraption got her attention and it, coupled with the newness of discovering something fantastic, made her take off in a clear direction.  And as she ran, bubbles flew in the air, kissed her face, and floated away into the blues of the sky.

When I run, it greatly depends on what I am running toward that changes the way that I run ~ or if I run at all.  Let's say I was running toward a big, hairy spider.  Well, I just wouldn't move.  I would back up, actually.  If it was something good, like chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and ganache, I would run.  If it was in the direction of the above little girl smiling back at me, I could  really move.

These days, that are shorter than I'd like but longer than I can handle sometimes force me to remember why and to where I am running.  It used to be that I would dangle in front of me lists of things to do.  They were good things, mind you.  Even kind, loving things.  I used to think of myself in terms of what I would complete in a day.  All of those things are important and I certainly feel the consequences sometimes of my incompleteness.  But all of those things are far less important than what they imply about life and the purposes behind them.

What really matters is the Person at the end of the road that smiles when He sees me coming.  I know myself and I know He knows me, and that makes me marvel at the way He loves me.  He has loved me so much that He would finish the race for me and bid me come and walk in the way paved for me.  That is the only way He could say that His yolk is easy and His burden is light to weary travelers.  Like my last post said, I have to rest to see Him and be reminded of these truths.  As He said, "It is Finished†".  I want to know more of what this means.  And the more I believe this is true, I hope to run with endurance.  I can look at my Ellie and the way she laughs and plays and be inspired by her childlike joy.

Today, I confess I am frozen.  But I am compelled to submit myself again to repent of the sin that clings so closely, rest, and ask God to lift my head to the truth ~looking to Jesus~ at the end of the road that will keep me moving (see Hebrews 12:1-2).  I am thankful for the cloud of witnesses that cheers me on, for teaching that grounds me in grace, and fellow sojourners (and Ellie) that join me on the way.

Restoration and Rest

There are not that many places to attempt such a thing in a house with five, active kiddos.  Yet, I have been determined to make our bedroom a much needed retreat for both Micah and me.  I seem to always be moving.  A friend of mine asked me recently if I exercise.  My answer, I never stop exercising!  It is resting, that I find most difficult.

I have always had an easier time adding personal touches to the other rooms in my house but my bedroom seems to always be on the back burner.  It is the room everything is stored when company comes over and I run out of time to de-clutter, store properly, or organize.

As a starting point, I took inventory of what I have on hand.  Then, I brought in a few things from other rooms to see if they'd work better.  At the end of the evaluation, I decided I need to make the furniture pieces more cohesive.  I really like an overall, dichromatic look.  It is less complicated to my brain and makes me able to appreciate one or two colors as they stand out against each other.

I have several pieces that are more ~espresso~ in color.  Then, I have the pieces below:

These are my dresser and one of the nightstands.  They were my aunt's from back when she was in college.  They have beautiful design, strong bones, and ample storage.  Their finish was nice; like a dark, honey oak but again, I was hoping to unify the color palatte.  It came from American Drew in my hometown.  As a young girl, I remember passing the factory building many times a week as it sat almost directly across from my 1st-4th Grade school.  Let's be honest, they just don't make furniture like they used to.  A vintage aesthetic is one I really gravitate to with all the beveling, detail, and such.  I could get a piece like this new-ish, but it would cost $$$.  I also really like breathing new life into old pieces anyway and that feeds the artist in me.

I have painted several pieces of furniture over the years with varying results.  Clearly, painted furniture can be precarious.  There is a lot of sanding that needs to take place in order to make the wood more suited to hold paint well and not chip.  I have tried to simply paint a piece but it does chip.  Last fall, I started a piece using an oil based primer.  That worked really well and so far, the finish has held up against lots of bangs and bumps, crayons and cleanings.

I had heard several comments about chalk paint over social internet sites.  I had tried to make chalk paint using non-sanded grout mixed with acrylic paint on a wood surface for the big boys' rooms.  That was a no-go for me.  The finish isn't great and the paint comes off every time I clean it.  But then, I stumbled across Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  First of all, the gal who invented it is just fascinating to watch.  And by the way, it isn't really chalk paint, like chalk-board paint.  There are several instructional videos on youtube that she hosts, highlighting the use of her paints and soft waxes.  She is an artist in her own right.  Y'all watch her and you'll see.

After enjoying her tutorials so much and appreciating her "get on with it" attitude about painting, I decided it was worth a try.  There are only a few business in the US that carry her paints.  I found a local gal that sells it, loaded everyone up in the van, and ventured there last week.  Her shop displayed the paint and pieces she had done in Annie Sloan style.  I was so impressed by the finish.  The pieces felt velvety--- and seemed to hold up well.  Many times, when I see distressed furniture particularly, it has a rough, chipped feel.  This wasn't true at all with the furniture on display.  Even the distressed areas are finished and maintain smoothness.

I was also a little reluctant because of the price.  One quart was around $35 and the soft wax, $26.  The saleslady assured me that it would go a long way.  I know a good primer can be upwards of $30 and paint has greatly increased in price over the last several years, but I still wasn't sure the coverage would be good enough to not warrant another trip and another quart.  Then if it didn't live up to the hype, I would have to spend more on products to fix what hadn't worked (I speak here from previous failure and experience;)).  I was willing to give it a chance, though.

I started by cleaning the pieces.  I decided to do both the dresser and nightstand.  I used dish soap and water to scrub it down and make sure no oils were left on the surfaces.

I did not sand it.  Not one bit.  I did remove the drawers and pull the pieces out from the walls.  With low VOC, I did not even take them out of my bedroom.  An open window and the cool, spring-like air did absolutely suffice.

At the suggestion of dear Annie herself, I left all the hardware.  Then, the painting began.  I did the bazillion drawers first.  I purchased an Annie brush for the painting with an oval design that cut down on the work.  It was well worth the money.  The first coat covered well but I did decide to add a second.  Handles and all, it took about two-and-a-half hours to cover both pieces.  I only used just over half a quart for everything.  That was amazing to me.

After letting everything dry for 24 hours, I put on the first layer of soft wax.  I had watched several info-videos about exactly how to go about this.  There is a Annie Sloan brand of brushes that will apply a thin coat but they are pricey.  They say (whoever they are) you can also apply it with a cloth.  I found an old paint brush in good shape in my garage and decided to give it a whirl.  It did just fine.  After brushing on a small amount of the wax, I worked it into the paint and hardware.  A lint-free cloth was suggested for smoothing it in, but I had trouble finding such a thing in the varnish aisle.  Cheesecloth was too thin and the other alternative did shed.  I had recently cut up some old undershirts and those worked just perfectly for me.  This was the most time consuming part of the whole process.

Another 24 hours later, I began to distress the piece.  I sanded some of the edges, detail, and parts of the handles where some of the metal could show through.  I did minimal distressing.  Then, I vacuumed to remove any paint dust, and re-applied the wax.  After another good buff with a cloth, I was finished!  Even the clean-up was easy.  Both the paint and the wax cleaned out of the brushes beautifully with warm water and dish soap.

The next day, I could tell where I needed to buff more as places on both the wood and hardware felt just a bit gummy.  But as I had been assured, the piece was lovely!  Both to the touch and to the eye.

It is amazing to me what a fresh finish can do to the look and feel of something.  There is something calming to me about purposeful color, especially in the room where I get some much needed R&R with Micah.

Speaking of a place to rest, Micah and I attended the Liberate Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in February.  It was three days of just he and I, being fed and surrounded by teachers proclaiming Good News.  When we weren't at the conference, we got to visit with friends who were gracious enough to allow us to stay in their home.  It was such a blessing.  It takes getting away sometimes to adequately reflect and relax.  I was reminded how good it is for me to "Be still" as the Psalms often exhort.  I am a bit of a melancholy, writer, introvert anyway (if you haven't already noticed) and I really need the time to refocus;)  With my bedroom complete for the most part, I am thankful for a space that expresses my desire to unwind in such a lovely way away from the Florida sunshine.

These days, it is a blessing to have a space conducive to resting.  Life is so so busy.  The bottom line for me, if I am to run about in any direction, I need to first rest.  When I sit and remember what is real, what is true, what is finished, the realities of why I move again make sense.

Now, if I can just keep the laundry in my bedroom put away...

FYI... I recently read an article that discouraged the use of alliteration.  I don't care.  So there.  Now I am rhyming.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Another Day at the Races! And Other Sports Stars

With the sun shining and the air warm and crisp, it was a great day for a race!  Ok, ok.  It was me.  I set them up.  First, it was crawling down the hallway.  Today, it is racing motorcycles down the driveway.  What can I say?  I was born and raised in North Wilkesboro, NC!  

On your mark!  (Isabella looks excited, and yes, everyone is on their mark)...  Get Set!  (Isaac doesn't look set for anything except for playing with the buttons on his motorcycle... Eliana is also distracted by Isaac's buttons)...
And GO!!!
Isabella is off to a great start!  Eliana kicks it into gear and uses the incline to her advantage!  Her seeming distractedness was just a brilliant fake-out!  Isaac is glad the girls are having so much fun but has no idea why~
There seems to be some confusion as to the direction of the finish line...  Isaac is glad he stayed behind to play the trance-inducing, "I got to move it, move it" on his Playskool motorcycle-music-maker.  
The girls are going with their individual ideas about how this race is actually won.  Way to be independent, girlies.  Isaac is on to Smashmouth, "Walking on the Sun".  
Ellie tries to cajole Bella into heading this way.  
Bella thinks about it for a moment, but is not convinced to veer off her selected course.
See!  This is a nice spot to stop and glance back at Mommy.
This boy just couldn't get his head in the game today.  Maybe next time, bud.
This girl is not only convinced she has won, but she doesn't even stop for victory photo.  

Maybe something different to pass the time.  In Bubbles, everyone wins!
But it doesn't last for long...

You may be enjoying college basketball right now, but around here the real stars of the court have been none other than Andrew-aka-Lebrondrew James and Elijah-aka-Chrijah Paul.  They had a great first ever season of YMCA Basketball.

This boy can post up like a boss.  He was the second-highest scorer on his team with the best shooting percentage.   Way to go Andrew!

See this kid?  He plays smart, scrappy defense.  And he celebrates every basket- his teams' or the others'- with an excitement that is contagious.  Yay Elijah!