Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Purest Relief

It’s a fact.  Women like to hear when other women “lose it”-- you know, like when we yell at our kids, say something terribly regretful, or do something humiliating while parenting.   I am one of those women and I wonder, is there something wrong with me?  That I like to hear when other women derail.  Why would someone else’s sin bring me so much comfort? Or worse, happiness?  What IS it I feel when I hear or read of such episodes?  Right or wrong, I think it’s relief.  Relief that I am not the only person that can love their children to pieces, but say some of the most absurd things to them.  Relief that my struggle is not specific to me and that my friends, even my most mild mannered ones, navigate the same circumstances and experience the same emotions that I do on a DAILY basis.  Relief that I am not alone.  Relief that I am not the only one who wonders where all those words and all that intensity came from.  Relief that I am not a weirdo.  Because I fall asleep many a night feeling like one.

I got to meet with my Mom’s group last night and I must say, I am blessed to know these women.  Our once a month meetings would be time wasters for all of us if when we got together we came with our cute masks fastened on with a fancy ribbon-- you know the ones that say, “My month has been super terrific, my marriage is great, my kids didn’t fight once, I’ve been in the Word and prayed for 2 hours every day, I’ve exercised four times a week, and before I came here, I fed my family a nutritional dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, assisted both kids with science fair projects, had bedtime devotionals before I tucked the kids, straightened the house and whispered secret plans for later to my husband on the way out the door!”  Time. Waster. These gals have outgrown any mask if they ever had one and it makes for a very refreshing night that I look forward to every month.  We confessed our loose tongues during homework time, get dressed time, fixing hair moments, meal time, chore time, bedtime -- the dailies of our lives.  Derailed.  I’ve been off the tracks more times than I can count and this verse is the one He brings to mind the most,  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” {Psalm 73:26} Just taking the verse at face value without picking it apart-- I expect my flesh to fail-- it’s rotting away, it exists to please me, yet I still choose to function out of that all too often.  And as for my heart?  I think of how I feel-- my emotions dictated by my circumstances and of course that will fail me too.  “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  He’s the boost AND the sustainer, the “enough” through the details of my day.

We ALL have our consistent failings and our regrets and we have to take them to Him.  We have to or we just wallow in guilt and condemnation- which only adds to the difficulty of parenting well.  And I bet you know Romans 8:1 by heart-- “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”  But have you noticed verse 2 lately? “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”  Just ponder your little mind on that for a bit.  Spirit of LIFE.  Set me FREE.  Why in the world do I stop at verse 1?  No, I don’t want the condemnation, of course, but I want the LIFE and the FREEDOM.  If my kids were describing our home, those are two words I’d like to hear.  Yes?

When I hear of similar struggles from my sisters, I want my feelings of relief to be tied to His forgiveness- that we all can experience it.  When I choose to be ridiculous in front of my family- towards my family, I know He is enough to cover it all. My portion.  He is enough to sustain me as I move towards obedience.  My strength.  As I ask for forgiveness from Him and from the ones I have hurt, we all get to experience the life and the freedom.  That’s the purest relief.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rare and Beautiful

I would consider us settled into the rental-- with only 2 boxes behind the swing on the porch... which now I doubt we need since I really don’t know what’s in them.


Check..... with my eyes on future blueprints.   A new nest without one piece of straw.

Over Christmas, I reacquainted myself with Pinterest..... a.k.a. time sucker, day waster, creativity charger.  Oh my.  The ingenuity of people is stunning.  So I began what I call virtual nesting---pinning realistic ideas, fat chance, but good ideas, and practical ideas.   Nesting.... virtually. And all the while trying to keep it all in perspective.

First house

Anyone who has done it before knows it’s a job-- building a house.  Decisions abound-- some I love to make and some I could care less about.  With gazillions of incredible ideas available at your fingertips, you’d think it’d make it easier.  Walls, floors, trim, tile, grout, backsplash, appliances, appliance arrangements, plugs, switches, interior doors, exterior doors, windows, tubs, showers, faucets, fixtures and lighting, exterior materials, porches, doorknobs, pulls, hinges, cabinetry, closets, fireplace placement, TV placement, colors-- OH SO MANY COLORS-- and so many places to put them.  Right now, so much of it is on paper, on my computer screen and it won’t be real for several months.  So we create a home, virtually, with dreams of it being a reality.

A few of my friends have recently built or remodeled and I remember one in particular telling me how tired she was of looking at all the design possibilities.  For one, it just gets overwhelming but the other reason was the weight of spending all that time on  temporary things when she knew there were more valuable ways to spend her hours.  I went into this process remembering her words.

Now I love stuff as much as the next person. Maybe more. I want a lovely home that reflects our family’s personality.  I’d like it to be a unique place {hardly likely since what I like doesn’t stray far from what’s so popular right now!}.  Of course I want it to be welcoming and comfortable for people to visit but especially for my family.  I could spend hours on end searching for ways to accomplish this and in all likelihood I will, but what if I miss the point?  When I read thoughts and quotes about home, of course, they are NEVER about the paint colors, the furniture, or the little things that sit around them.  It’s all about the things that hold the heartstrings tight.  Yes?

2nd house-- canNOT find a picture of the THIRD!!

I love this quote by Gladys Hunt,  “What is home? My favorite definition is "a safe place," a place where one is free from attack, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It's a place where people share and understand each other. Its relationships are nurturing. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable.”

What child wouldn’t long for this place?

So there is perspective to keep in this process.  I can fill our home with beautiful things and welcoming colors, try my best at making it homey and comfy, but if my mind is not ready to engage with their many words or my to do’s are not held loosely or my mouth is not full of encouragement or my heart is not fully invested in theirs, the surroundings, despite the appearance, are cool, stiff, and suffocating.

And that’s with any house.

Even a rental.  I can’t forget that.

We prayed this verse as we built our last home:

By wisdom a house is built,
 and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
 with rare and beautiful treasures.
Proverbs 24:3-4


Today, when I read “rare and beautiful treasures”, I think of three things:   two children growing up to bring glory to God in the unique way for which He created them, a marriage holding together joyfully by the grace of God praying to reflect his image as husband and wife, and a family fulfilling the mission God gave them in this short life.

Those are the treasures.  Rare and Beautiful.

Really?  A home can do that?  I am hanging on ~by faith~ to YES!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

LOVE: B's Way

Brand new friends, the adventure of first time parenting, the unknown of newborns and the Ezzos....  Baby Wise, Growing Kids God’s Way.  Who knew Gary and Anne-Marie in her big Batten-burg lace collar would be the platform for making lasting friendships and helping us create a little order for our sweet babies?  Those are precious memories and we are blessed forever by the friends we made and by what the Ezzos taught us.

Both of my children did great on the BabyWise schedules sleeping through the night at 6&1/2 and 8 weeks.  We kept them on napping, waking, and eating schedules as best we could.  As Julia got older, she took to pack-n-play time beautifully and matured into room time as her naps shortened.  Most days, that happy little girl gave me 3 hours of uninterrupted time in the afternoons.  Shocking, I know, but it made me such a better mommy.  I was practically as entertaining as Charlie and Lola and Dora the Explorer~ combined~ after that break.

And then came Brighton..... our bright light...... who wanted to shine all the time.  He put a few wrinkles in my BabyWise plan.

Oh, he slept through the night great and he napped fine... most days, but when the naps started to shorten and on the sad day he began dropping them, he wanted NOTHING to do with playing in his crib much less his room.  As soon as his eyelids were open, he was ready to be seen.  I tried the pack-n-play and I tried baby gates on his bedroom for “room time” and he would have none of it.  Well, then his crawling, cruising, and walking was delayed so I would feel mommy guilt for putting him in a pack-n-play when he needed to be practicing and exploring, so I simply gave up on trying to teach him to entertain himself.

And now he’s nine.

More company at bedtime
Now I can say, it has nothing to do with the Ezzo’s, my training or lack of, it’s just our Brighton.  He loves being with people. He loves interacting with you.  Being by himself never crosses his mind and now in our rental, sharing a room with Julia, sharing a bedroom door with Jeff and me, his life is good.  All is well in his “be with me” world.  It’s endearing most of the time, but exhausting some of the time and my sweet husband opens his arms to it.  Well.

Why be all alone in one chair?
Just this morning, as I was reading, Jeff came and sat across from me while he waited on Brighton to get ready to go out for their once a week breakfast before school.  He said, “We were together all weekend- did all kinds of things, and yesterday we played ping pong in the morning and fished and played Madden Football in the evening and last night B said, ‘We get our breakfast time in the morning, Daddy!’”  Jeff’s not complaining, just taking it in.  Surprised maybe, a little tired probably, but grateful that his boy wants to be with him.  Brighton loves his daddy for sure, but in general, he prefers being with people.  Solitude is a wasted word in his world.  His ability to engage with others- and his love for it- is the endearing part.  The exhausting part is when he can think of nothing to do and no one is available to play.... which comes around quite often in a 14 hour day.

I think it was James Dobson that I heard say our kids come “pre-programmed” and no amount of training will change some things.  As a new parent, I didn’t like hearing that for some reason, but now, I get it.  He’s right.  And thank goodness we aren’t all products of our environments!  God’s hand is upon us in the womb, making us special and unique and no amount of good parenting can change how God intended our children to live out their lives in this world.  God has an incredible agenda that will use every ounce of B’s personality, his bent, his ways of expressing love, his desire to be with people.  I am realizing as God naturally matures Brighton over the years, my job is to cheer on his “pre-programmed” ways with the goal of his bright light shining “that they may see [his] good deeds and glorify [his] Father in heaven.”  {Matthew 5:16}  Glorifying the Father.... now that’s the ticket.

Brighton.  Endearing, yes.  Kisses from under a baseball hat every time I turn around.  Solemn declarations of his undying love for me in the kitchen.  Requests to be with him all my waking moments.  I can take exhausted for that any day.

Oh, Mommas--- it goes by faster than you can ever imagine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Made My Day

Big brown eyes.  Shy smiles.  Exaggerated waves.  Big smiles.  Honest yawns.  Loose or missing front teeth.  School uniforms.  First graders.  Learning to read.  Thursdays are fun.  Roman is my shy one and Haley, well, she may be the President one day. If not, her kids will beg her to read them books at night because she can make a primer riveting.  

After I drop off my kids at school on Thursday mornings, I head to the northside to Manual Jara Elementary School, check in with Miss Espinosa in the office, and head down the first grade hall to Mrs. Guidry’s class.  Mrs. Guidry can be in the middle of administering a test and she is ALWAYS happy to see me.  I am never an interruption to her.  Before she can remember my name, Roman is scrambling out of his seat grabbing his library book to come out in the hall with me.  To read.  Simple?  Yes.  Life changing? Certainly.  

Tarrant NET through the Read2Win initiative and the FWISD are working together to eradicate illiteracy in our school system.  Churches in Fort Worth are partnering with elementary schools in their neighborhoods and providing Reading Coaches to work with first graders all across the city.  Our prayer is that as this partnership turns into a vibrant relationship between these two long standing entities of our communities, lives and families will be changed.  Helping first graders get over the hump in reading is just a starting place. 

Roman is quiet, kind and awfully handsome.  He has the sweetest way of saying “um-hmm” that doesn’t make me wish he was saying “Yes, ma’am.”  I ask him “yes” questions all the time just to hear him do it.  He knows almost all of his sight words and I know the ones he has trouble with like “where” and “were”, “bought” and “thought”, and “enough” and “though”.   He’s patient, never seems bored and LOVES when it is his turn to read his library book to me.  The last time I was there, they were in the middle of standardized testing and I felt led to give him a little pep talk before he went back in, so I knelt down and put my hands on his arms and looked him in the eye.  He didn’t flinch.  And he listened intently.  When I finished, he blushed, looked down and smiled.  I had earned that privilege.  Made my day. 

Haley is bubbly, sweet and off the charts cute.  By the time, I bring my first student back to the door, she has her library book in her hand skipping my way.  Her voice is indescribable.  What adds to the precious factor is that her front teeth are busy making a new home and the “ch” sound always comes out as “sh”.  She zooms through her sight words-- preferring to do everything fast-- and she’s gone on to three more words before I can tell her she missed one and needs to go back.  She just smiles wide and tries and speeds off again. She has kindly made it clear that she doesn’t want my finger following along under the words and that she wants to be the card and page flipper.  I have a hard time making myself go through the phonogram cards because I am so anxious to hear her read.  She reads with such expression, making dry simple sentences something you want to hear again as long as she’s the one reading.  She flies reading her books which makes for interesting story changes as she makes up her own words instead of sounding out unfamiliar ones.  This little gal is delightful. One day I worked with her just up until the lunch hour and she asked me to walk with her to her class.  She grabbed my hand and led me there.  Once in the lunchroom, she started pulling me away from her class and towards the back where an elderly man and woman were sitting.  Then she announced, “These are my grandparents!”  Made my day.   

A few times, when my regulars have been absent, I’ve worked with another little boy.  He’s doesn’t always seem happy to see me.  Right off the bat, he wants to know how long he will be with me, how many flash cards we are going to do and if he will have to read to me.  And five minutes in, he says he’s bored.  So I talk to him.  After a few minutes, I find out a few things about this little guy that help me understand.  He seems embarrassed telling me how he plays video games with his cousins that maybe he shouldn’t be playing.  He doesn’t know that I am not a big fan of those but deep down he knows something isn’t right.  Can a first grade level book compete with HD video games?  I pull a Dr. Seuss book off the library shelf and just like another little boy I know, he immediately turns to the back of the book to see how many pages there are and he rolls his eyes.  “72 pages?!? I’ve got to read the whole thing?!”  “No. Just 10 pages today.  You’ll love it.  Just try.”  The first few pages fueled his confidence and the interlude of the dog with all the crazy hats every 10 or so pages pulled him in.  He read the whole book, with a GRIN on his face, jumped up from the table and ran to tell Mrs. Guidry.  Made my day.  Stinker.  

I see huge potential in this whole program. We have already seen MANY kids move up to their grade level reading level and beyond.  I have been nothing but impressed with the people working within our FWISD.  I know they aren’t perfect but the ones I have met have our children’s best interest in mind.  They seem to genuinely love the kids in our city.  And that will go a long way.    

When someone asks me why I became a Reading Coach, I could tell them several reasons but the one I think that drives me most is that I’d hate for a child to miss out on one of the most special parts of childhood-- exploring history, places, people, amazing stories through reading .... and ultimately, the life changing words of the Bible.  If you can spare an hour and a half {drive time plus 25 minutes with 2 kids}, you should do it.  Really.  You should.  It will make your day. 

I'm not numbering my thankful list anymore....  I am always happy when I just write something down.  Some days, I don't even think about it-- even with the pages on my one kitchen counter.  Other days, seeing the gifts come easily and that day is always better.  

rainy days and nowhere to go

park with friends..... LOTS of friends

the available basketball goal next door

B inviting our lady neighbor to tea

passing the time like this

an empty day to fill

being invited to lunch, bundling up and walking there

the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit

Being surprised by this crew at my window at the pharmacy-- {These four and Alyssa make my night!}

a really good heater in the old, old house

blue prints {!!!}

reading with the kids at Manual Jara Elementary School {You kiddos make my Thursday!}

riding bikes to play dates

 extra kids who are extra fun around my table and in my kitchen

for their parents, this family, making sacrifices for foster children

for school days that allow time for this

beauty..... just for us

slumber party with the kids at Jeff's office

taking a wrong turn and ending up at Stir Crazy Bakery! YUM!  {and being able to buy the produce I needed at the grocery store!}

family dinner with the Cheeks

shopping with Emily

Mr. Cole who always gets Julia's sewing machine up to par and give great tips while he works

time to play rummy with B

getting these things under my pillow

Tarrant NET luncheon- pastors leading us in prayer

 Finding treats like this {Snickers} in my lab coat pocket from B to cheer me through my night at work

Having FOUR technicians behind the counter all at the same time!!!! This crew "techs" better than I will ever "pharmacy"-- could NOT get through 8 hours without them. Bring on the straight jacket.

Birthday surprises-- getting to be with friends and opening up a new headband!

And having DOUGHNUTS in the MIDDLE of a school day with the Cheeks.... {Thank you, girls!}

And the beautiful yellow roses from Uncle Blake a day late {His card said something like "Even awesome uncles can forget a birthday from time to time!"}  I hate to admit it, Blake, but you really are an awesome uncle.  But I can still beat your tail at rummy- -leaving you with a handFUL of cards.

the people of ACF and Jeff getting to preach there

getting these two boys together again after church

Father, I continue to ask you, help this to become my life-- giving thanks.  Not once a month or once a week but daily, in the moments while I am doing what you have called me to do.