Gentle reminders from the God of Easter

Isn’t it funny the ways in which God talks to us? Sometimes I wonder if he wants to just spell out in the stars what he wants me to learn, or maybe it sometimes it would take a cosmic explosion to get my attention. He could do that, I know. He could use any means imaginable or even unfathomable to communicate with me. Yet sometimes he chooses the seemingly smallest ways to carry big pieces of heart information.

Today it came in waves.

The first wave came when I was explaining substitutionary atonement and the redemptive story of Easter in a way that I thought my four year old and two year old might understand. I was stumbling along and then I hit my stride. “This is going really well” I thought. “They are paying attention. They might even be really understanding this!” Then Braxton, my sweet, spunky, Braxton who is never one to not express exactly what he is thinking or feeling says something profound, dare I say even spirit driven: “My put peanut butter up mine nose!”

Hayleigh instantly burst out laughing and suddenly beating the deep meaning of the story of Easter into their kiddie brains didn’t seem so crucial. I might have thought this moment called for a re-direction, maybe it called for a reminder that peanut butter belongs on bread and not bodily oraphus, maybe a wipe? Instead the moment called for nothing more than laughter, and yes, a wipe.

I have been praying and seeking out to understand the gentleness of God more. I mentioned before how this was an attribute of God that seemed so distant to me. God has been revealing scripture that speaks to his tenderness, gentleness and patience as he parents me and I have been trying to apply that as I parent my babies. In that moment, as we laughed about the peanut butter in the nostrils, God sent me a thought: As Jesus called the little children to come to him and as they sat on his lap and as he talked with them and loved on them I wonder if one of them was like my Braxton. I wonder if one of them spoke whatever was on his mind, even when it had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of conversation. I am sure one of them did. Oh, how I would love to see the creator and sustainer of the universe throw his head back and laugh at this spunky kid’s musings. I bet all the kids would have joined in laughing. What a beautiful chorus of kids laughing with innocent silliness with the master.

The next wave came in the form of this article from Desiring God. This is a lovely and poignant reminder of what really matters as we parent. As I was convicted that I need to avoid parental amnesia and keep my sights set on tomorrow (tomorrow being my kids’ adulthood) and eternity as the article points out God stuck me yet again with a nugget of truth.

Our children are not mindful of eternity, but we need to be. This does not mean that every moment is structured and a teachable moment as I would tend towards in my intentionality. In fact, the opposite might be more important in the little years. Sometimes, as I fix my sights on tomorrow and the eternal I need to take more moments to just laugh with my kids. I need to take more time to just let them be kids and love them where they are. They don’t need to be enraptured by the story of the cross yet. They don’t need to have a spiritual “aha” moment But I can show them the unconditional love of Christ just the same. I can create pathways in their brains and in their hearts now so that someday they can fully embrace and understand the life changing love of God. Whether that means holding my Roycie Girl longer than is convenient, or stroking the face of my sometimes belligerent boy in the midst of his mood swings, or cuddling on the couch watching a “rest-time show”  during the middle of the afternoon while my to-do list sits on hold-I can try to show the gentle sacrificial love of Christ to my kids now. I can prepare them so that someday the story of the love that made Easter makes some sense.

Sometimes lessons come in big packages from behind pulpits or from the worn pages of a favorite Bible passage. But sometimes God speaks in the everyday.  I am so grateful for a God who loves me and my kids with a passionate and gentle love-so much so that he would love all of us to spend some time sitting on his lap laughing and learning together.

First Official Day of Spring Ramblings and Roycie Girl

Well, today officially marks the first day of Spring! Here at our house we have all come down with a severe case of cabin fever and are more than ready for the snow to finally melt and it to feel like Spring! The sun was pouring in the windows today, which I love, but it is also quite a tease since it is still only about 30 degrees outside. Soon. Soon.

In the meantime I have been trying to spruce things up around the house. We had hoped to be house hunting by now, but that will have to wait indefinitely. As long as I am “stuck” in this house I figure I might as well make it pretty as I strive to be content. I have been buying, making, arranging things here and there when I can find time, nothing too elaborate, but enough to make me a bit giddy!  I haven’t taken any pictures yet except this one of our new coffee table from West Elm. Its kind of my new crush. More pictures of the small changes will be coming soon…once I hang and few things… and oh yeah actually clean my house.


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I was also really challenged by the sermon this past Sunday that I am (still) not making spending time in God’s word a priority. I am too quick to make excuses or allow the distractions and demands of the day prevent me from spending quality time. Peter and I started a new reading plan with You Version this week, Soul Detox. The reading the past couple days, along with reading Desperate are really allowing God to encourage, uplift and change me. I am so excited! Since I am reading Desperate so slowly (both out of necessity and also out of the desire to really internalize as much as possible), I am going to be peppering in another book or two as I savor reading each page and chapter of Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson’s wondrous, life-giving book.  A few on my “to read soon list” are “The Ministry of Motherhood”, I am finally going to read “Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches” , “Crazy Love”,  Peter and I are also going to read “Heartfelt Discipline” and “Gospel Powered Parenting” and maybe I will finally finish “Instruments in the Redeemers Hands.” Hmmm…maybe the “soon” part of the reading list will have to be used liberally!

March Madness starts tomorrow and Peter took the next couple days off of work. I am preparing to make our annual March Madness Nachos which will certainly wreck havoc on our digestive tracks. Oh what we do for the sake of tradition! hehe I love that this is a passion we both share! The potential problem is this year our teams may meet and play one another in the Sweet Sixteen…not good people. Please pray for us, and recommend any good marriage counselors you may know. ;)

And because it seems no post is complete without too many mentions and photos of my kids here are some pictures of my sweet Roycie Girl enjoying the sun shining through our windows today. There is not a doubt in me how much I love this girlie and how excited I am to grow to love her more and more. Although it can be challenging how much she needs to be held it is so sweet and a privledge to see how much comfort she finds in my arms. God is also using it to teach me to run to His arms to find my comfort and rest.

  The many faces of Royce:


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Happy (kind of almost) Spring!

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  There is nothing in this world like a little girl..no one in this world like my little girl.
 
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She is the perfect combination of sweet and sassy, self-aware and lost in her own little world.

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She hums and twirls her way through the day and every day she dances her way into my heart.


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She is motherhood dragging a doll by her hair, royalty with her shoes on the wrong feet, dignity who wants a bathroom buddy, elegance with peanut butter on her face. She is pigtails and tattered tulle, a mommy-child with the wisest but silliest words.

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She scolds and bosses, sings and story tells, whispers secret words meant only for her to hear, and is always ready to either ask or answer “why?”. And oh, when she giggles and smiles, my heart lightens and swells and sighs a deep sigh. She makes me remember and forget.   

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She is squeals and glitter and happy endings. She is ponies and princesses and giggly glee. She is temper and tenderness and tears. She is thought provoking questions and utter goofiness.   


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She puts her hands on her hips and tilts her head and tells us she knows all about it. She wakes up in the night and her tear-filled eyes  say “I need you.”
 
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Even when her mouth talks of grown up plans with vocabulary far beyond her years, her eyes tell of a little girl still fascinated with pink and paste and pretend. A little girl whose greatest comfort is still her mommy’s chest and her daddy’s arms. I think I will always see her as she is now-this mix of big and little girl , so wise and graceful in her own eyes, yet still so innocent of the blemishes of time.   

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When I look at her I see a crown that glitters with the brightest jewels made of who she is. A crystal for her sensitivity, and an emerald for her compassion, a ruby for her silliness and one for her smarts. Two diamonds for her loving heart, an amethyst for her imagination, one opal for her tenderness and a topaz for her desire to please. Her crown proves she is a princess. It starts in her heart and radiates from her hair to her feet. I see a princess that sparkles and shines, even though sometimes the crown is cock-eyed and crooked as she runs and plays and stretches and grows. Other people may not see it, but I am pretty sure that as I look at my girl there will always be a crown on her head. 
 
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Orange Party

Every year my mom, dad sisters and I pick a game during the Syracuse Men’s basketball season and have a corny little orange party…for ourselves. This year we hadn’t found a good time to do it yet so we did it during the Big East Tournament Semi-Finals. And how fitting to be playing our biggest rivals-Georgetown…and beating them in overtime! It was a bit sentimental because this is the last Big East Tournament ever as the conference is dissolving.  It doesn’t mean much to most people but it is pretty sad for us. Actually tonight marks the last Big East Basketball game ever-the tournament finals and Syracuse will be playing (and hopefully winning!) Last year my mom and I went to NYC for the tournament-a fulfillment of a lifelong dream/plan,  but this Orange Party was the closest we got this year. Man, I wish we could pack up our things and be there tonight to witness history for the last time in the Big East! If only money and logistics weren’t issues!

Our Menu:
Orange Glazed Turkey Meatballs
Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce
Orange Glazed Carrots
Orange Pepper Bruschetta
Pasta Salad (made out of orange and white “s” and Syracuse Mascot pasta)
Carrots and Dip
Cantaloupe balls
Pumpkin Pudding
Orange Whoopie Pies
Sunkist Soda

This probably only means something to us, but I wanted to document it anyway! Oh, disclaimer: we DID allow one Indiana Fan into our party, but he was cute so we made an exception! :) (The boys are Indiana Hoosier Fans in our “split marriage” and the girls are SU fans according to the pre-nup.) Hayleigh is wearing the shirt or “dress” that I wore as a kid. I love the tradition of it all, except Hayleigh is much more clueless about what is happening than I was at her age…and much more excited by cheerleaders. Oh well. Sorry mom. :)

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Desperate-chapter 1 (some quick thoughts)


I started reading "Desperate: Hope for for the Mom who needs to breathe” by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. I ordered it after hearing from a few friends that this book was a must read for someone in the little years. One of my dearest friends and I are going to read it together and talk about it. Normally I like to devour a good book but I am going to be disciplined to actually read this slowly so it soaks in. That might not be a problem (the reading slowly part because when I started it today I didn’t get too far. I sobbed through the forward by Anne Voskamp, was interrupted by an poopy diaper explosion and struggled through chapter one while Hayleigh asked me lots of questions (about Rapunzel’s hair and if bad guys can do good things and good guys can do bad things.) But yes, all the reviews are true. It is a-maz-ing…already. This book was written for me. I am convinced.

I think the best part so far has been the overwhelming feeling of companionship. I am not alone. Other people feel what I feel, do what I do, are living through the same things, and in fact have already on numerous occasions made me feel as if the words on the page came directly out of my own head. Despite being surrounded by little people, and despite having friends in the same stage of life, I often struggle with feeling lonely. I often tend, in moments of weakness and struggle, to pull back inside myself, to hide, to escape, to surrender to the inevitable failure I am sure is coming. To read that other women I have never even met feel the same way has already given my heart such encouragement and hope. I am already thankful that these women were brave enough to be so candid and write such an important book.

I was struck by the ideals that I have put on myself with regards to motherhood. Sarah talked about how she went into motherhood thinking she could “wrap (her)self up in an image” of what mother she would be. I realize how much I do that. And when I cannot live up to the ideals I have in my head I feel as if I have failed miserably. When motherhood itself does not live up to all it “should” be, I feel completely disillusioned and let down…and then guilty for feeling that way. Where did these ideals come from? From my upbringing? From those around me? From parenting books? From sermons? From television? From seemingly source-less ideas floating around my head? Yes. I was struck when Sarah said this:

I didn’t purpose to be Sarah Mae, a unique individual with gifts and talents from God. I didn’t even purpose to be who God wanted me to be. Without a realistic vision, I was crushed before the season of motherhood even began.” (p.5)

I, too, was crushed to realize this is also descriptive of me and the ideals I had set up for myself. I was not only unrealistic, I was cutting myself completely out of the picture and trying to be something I was not. I meant well. I wanted to give my kids the best I could. I guess I wanted to give them perfection. And then when that didn’t happen I have been left feeling as if I have failed my kids and failed God. I need to take into consideration who God made me to be when determining what I look like as a mom. And perfect is certainly not part of that description.

I also realized that I have set idealistic standards for my kids as well. This saddened me. I don’t want to raise my kids to be moralists. I want to raise hopelessly flawed kids who love the Lord and look to Him for salvation for eternity and for the day to day. Yet, as I parent I am grieved to say that my interactions with my kids often does not reflect this. Why? Why am I so hard on the myself and my kids?

Something Sally said in a note to Sarah to begin chapter one completely took me aback. She said “Jesus is so very gentle.” I read that sentence nestled in between longer, wordier ones and I stopped.  In fact I read it again, as if stunned to see this word there: gentle. I do not think of the God of the universe as gentle. Powerful? yes. Sovereign? yes. Big? of coarse, big. Loving? yes, although I don’t really live in a way that shows I really grasp this. I have long known my view of God is warped and small. But I guess I didn’t realize just how mangled and teeny it is until Jesus being described as gentle rocked my world. I put unrealistic expectations on myself (and now also my kids) because I am always trying to please a God who I have set up in my mind as unappeasable and angry and a watchdog. No wonder I have spent years living in fear and guilt. No wonder I am raising little moralist (or not) kids. How deeply saddening. Yet how deeply freeing. Thank you God, for proving your gentleness by so gently giving me such a large revelation. Not until I truly grasp the gentle and powerful, loving nature of our God can I free myself to be myself or release myself and my kids from my joy sucking ideals.

This is the true beginning point-God. He is the one who created babies bursting with life and the mamas who love to care and watch over them. He brought forth from His imagination  the most beautiful of gardens, threw galaxies  of stars into orbit, and painted our world with color. In keeping with His character, He must have intended something beautiful in creating a woman with this ability to give life, nurture with love, and cultivate the soul of a precious human being entrusted into her hands.” (p.9)

I realize I often choose between loving and discipline my kids, as if the two are separate things. I see myself as two mommies-each with something good and necessary: the fun, loving, engaging, gentle mommy and the mommy who disciplines naughty behavior. I feel pulled by what I “know” of God to be both mommies but yet I cannot reconcile the two in practice. Obviously I am going about it all wrong, as if patience and discipline do not go hand in hand. I know I need to address the bad behavior but what I want more than anything is to penetrate and reach their souls.  It is as if I struggle to separate my kids’ behavior from who they are. I don’t need more to do, more advice or techniques. I am always bogged down by what I should be doing differently or what the “formula” is for a certain situation. It really just leaves me tired and drained. What I need more of is God. I need Him to fill me up.

“My kids don’t need supermama. They need to see a mama who needs a super God. That maybe being the mama I wanted to wasn’t so much about being more as about believing more, believing and trusting more in the God of Hagar and Ruth and Hannah, The God who sees me, who nourishes me, who hears me and answers.” (Anne Voskamp, forward)

Maybe I need to see myself more as a child of God. Maybe that will help me see myself as He sees me. I look at my children, my babies and I my heart aches with love for them. I would do anything to protect them. I would only do what is best for them. I love them, flaws and all. I see the quirks and uniqueness of them as assets to be appreciated. I see their strengths as things to be sharpened and their weaknesses as areas of opportunity for growth the glory of God. I love to give them good gifts. I love to see them enjoying life, smiling, happy. And although it pains me, I love to comfort them in times of pain disappointment or fear. Maybe if I can see God as my parent and myself as His beloved child I will see God in a more gentle and loving light. Maybe I will see God less as someone who has set me up and is waiting for me to fail, again, and more as someone who is cheering me on and wants to see me succeed. And when I do fall down ,as someone who is waiting to dust me off, give me a hug, a word of wisdom and a hold my hand as I start off again. This is not at all my present picture of God and maybe that is why I struggle to be that for my kids, why I struggle with a split mommy personality and with unrealistic ideals.

And above all I need to remember that “good” motherliness has nothing to do with how God sees me. Nothing. I am pleasing to Him on my good days and my bad days. His love for me never wavers…and never will. Because I am His.” (p.6)

Oh, God, help me to know you more, to breathe you in and out. YHWH, I cannot do this alone. I need to immerse myself in who you are. I cannot give my kids something I do not know myself.

I am so excited about what God will say to me though these two wise and brave women. I am ready for a change, ready to be changed, Maybe even a little desperate.

3 months

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You continue to be incredibly interactive for your age. You remain pretty content as long you can observe all that is going on around you. You love to be part of the action, although I have gotten you to nap better upstairs. You are “enjoying” tummy time more, as in you aren’t screaming your head off the whole time.
 
I just love to see you smile and giggle. Sometimes all I have to do is look at you and you burst into a laugh that shakes your whole body. You are so cheerful and I love how you soak up all the love and attention you can get. As much as a three month old can, you return our love. I love to kiss your delicate little lips and nose and I love your little alfalfa hair that that we can’t get to stay down.
 
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You definitely resemble your brother and sister but I am noticing more and more that you have your own look. I wonder if you will look more like me. Sometimes I see so much of Daddy or Omi or Papa in you, but other days I think you look nothing like them. Funny how you change your look so much!
 
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Something that hasn’t changed (still!) is Hayleigh and Braxton’s obsession with you. I honestly (still!) spend so much of my time policing them from squashing you with love. It really is sweet, (and a little scary). I have always hoped for siblings that are close knit and each other's best friends. Hopefully you all continue to have a mutual love and admiration for one another as the years go by.
 
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I love you so much, my sweet girl! I am loving this crazy, challenging, rewarding time in my life, and I love having you in it! It warms my heart and fulfills me to see the comfort you find in my arms. I can’t wait to see you develop more into the little person God made you to be! As the next chapters of our love story come, I hope that I can be a mommy who recognizes who you are, points you in that direction and sharpens you to be more like Christ.

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