Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Homestretch....Summer's Coming

This morning finds me, not at Panera with the anticipation of Maria’s mocha, but at the end of my dining room table surrounded by, well, not junk, but it looks pretty war torn-- as far as dining room tables go.  Magazine clippings, scraps of paper with musicians I want to download, paint swatches, Julia’s unfinished breakfast from the car, glue stick, stapler, scissors, loose papers with dates that need to be put in the computer, lists that need to be simplified, a site plot for the house, articles I want to read {Piper and Ali-- THANK YOU for sharing your story!}, the infamous to do list -- and sadly, no coffee yet.  I keep telling myself-- in a minute.  It won’t be created by Maria but the consolation?  It’s free.  Kind of.  So my mind is a bit like how my table looks.  Scattered-- and loose things everywhere.  Nothing nailed down.  Things that need to be settled, “framed”, but I can’t seem to do it.

I have confessed a few times, I don’t multi-task well.  I feel almost like I am admitting to some crime because the ability to M-T is so greatly valued in our world.  Like you, I am forced to, but I don’t like it.  For a few days, my brain has been going from one end of the “matter” spectrum to the other-- from exterior home colors to how can I make the most of the kid’s summer, from where in the world are the kid’s summer clothes to planning several significant talks/dates with Julia over the next few months, from which cabinetry can I do without to training and disciplining Brighton in a way that reaches his heart-- not just his behavior, from Charles Martin's new book coming out just in time for summer to my place at our new church.  Oh, and what’s for dinner?  Yes, and when is that date night with Jeff?  Only after we feel like we’ve had enough family time this week-- and when will that be because it’s baseball season and extra ballet rehearsals for my little munchkin in the Wizard of Oz?  And we want to finish school strong and that clever book we started after Christmas.  And I don’t want to lose touch with people because people are what make this life matter.  This list could go on and on but my niece, Hunter, comes to mind at the moment, ending her time of high school with significant weekends to finish out her month of May.  And I am a thousand miles away.

You feel it, too.  It’s the end of April......heading into the home stretch of May..... and into the summer months which we all feel will bring us the margin we need.  White spaces on the calendar.  Mornings to sleep in.  Time to read great books.  Dinner around the table-- all of us.  Hot days to make popsicles.  Time to ENJOY our kids.  But come August, we are all scratching our heads wondering where did the summer go?  Exactly the same place August through May goes.

Brighton is all about the schedule, time, beginnings and endings {Actually, thinking about eternity in heaven “creeps [him] out” -- and I know just the reason-- there is no “end” and that does not compute in his mind.  He does not get the point if there is no goal, no finish line.}  Well, my time guy has already asked enough questions this month to figure out how many days off from school he has in his near future.  88 days.

As I said I am not a multi-tasker, but I am a planner.  I’ve had enough summers with my kids now to know that all my grandiose ideas and all my good intentions go nowhere without a plan.  So that’s what I do now-- I will pick the 3 most important things to happen with the kids this summer and figure out a way to make those happen.  First, I begin by taking that 88 days and whittling it down to how many we will actually be at home without an agenda.  Subtract vacations, summer camps, VBS’s, out of town company.... and whoa, there are only a few weeks left without a serious schedule.    Knowing this helps me keep things do-able.

This will shock you, I know, but we always have reading incentives in the summer.  When the kids get out of school in a few weeks, I will take them to 2 or 3 places, like the library, Half Price Books, Barnes & Nobles, and have the employee explain the program to Julia and Brighton-- to issue the challenge. This seems to be more effective..... for one of my children.  Because Brighton is Brighton, I will offer the extra incentive to double the reward of the place of business. ex-- like if B&N offers a free book, I will purchase him a second one of his choosing or if HPB is offering a gift card, I will double it and he can spend it on whatever he chooses at HPB.  Julia, on the other end of the reading spectrum, is thrilled to be rewarded for doing something she loves.  I also set up a “bonus reading” chart.  I have them set a goal over the business’ programs and if they meet that goal, they end the summer with a special friend over to spend the night.  And just for fun, my kids still love picture books so I am committing to having new ones from the library all summer.  I will mostly choose non-fiction historical books but will certainly throw in some fictional fun.  A simple breakfast {muffins, bagels, fruit etc} on the couch with picture books is a favorite reading time for us.

Again, like the mess on my table, I have many more ideas floating around I am trying to choose from to nail down as my next 2 goals for the summer.  I am praying that He will show me what is most important.  I will have a personal goal for each child-- how I want to engage with them individually and I will talk to them about things they’d like to do or accomplish and go from there.  

As I think and pray through this for another 3-4 weeks, I’d love to hear some of your plans-- how you engage your kids in the summer, fun traditions, goals for your time with them.  I hope to let you know my plans as they come.

Sidenote 1 {I feel this whole post is a sidenote.}: The Anderson kids were with us last weekend and the oldest, Atlee, saw me swatting the fruit flies and told me that her mom, Nikki, had made this:

Of course she did.

A fruit fly trap----Just put a small piece of fruit at the bottom and some rolled up paper in the spout and somehow, they don't know how to get back out.

I am sure Nik’s was way cuter- as everything she owns is, but it works!  You probably have seen it on Pinterest, but in case you haven’t and in case you hate those pesky little flies, you should try it!

Sidenote 2:  As for the music I wanted to download-- if you care-- so far, I chose Christa Wells’ {BIG fan!!}  collaboration with Nicole Witt called “More Than Rubies” and JJ Heller’s new release “Loved”.  Wonderful gals, lovely lyrics.

And if you made it to here--  thanks for hanging with me.  I can’t believe I just wrote two pages from this discombobulated mind of mine....

And by the way, that is the first time I have ever typed “discombobulated”.

All done, but it made this mess in front of me MUCH more bearable.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Barren and Blessed

{I am celebrating adoption this morning at Gladney Adoption Agency’s 49th annual Blossoms in the Dust luncheon with some of my favorite people.  ~Thanks, Ali!~ Gladney announced their 30,000th placement this year!  Amazing.  Julia is a “Gladney baby” and Brighton was adopted through a private agency.  I will always be thankful for Gladney and the whole adoption process.}

The farther I get from those precious days when I was handed my sweet babies, the fact Julia and Brighton are indeed adopted slips my mind.  I have these passing thoughts of hereditary or genetic issues and then remember, oh, they have a whole other genetic make up!  I guess biological parents hear how much their children look like them, but I am still surprised how often we get it.  From complete strangers-- that make an effort to tell us.  It’s sweet, though not important, but it lends to my forgetting at times they weren’t born from my barren womb.  They grew in two selfless young women whose hearts had been turned by God to release the babe in their womb to waiting, prayerful parents.  I find it impossible to use our earthly language to express the depth of my gratefulness.  Maybe in heaven I will be able to put words to all that stirs in my heart when I think of those two women.

You’ve heard me say it before-- I PRAISE GOD for my barrenness.  I’ve written before all that God did in those years of waiting for Julia and I wouldn’t trade that time for ANYTHING.  I told Him then I didn’t want to miss Him --or anything He wanted to do-- in that desperate time and He was faithful to answer my prayer.  He was FULL to brimming around me and in me-- maybe to the point that I haven’t experienced since.

One morning years ago in the midst of all the waiting, Psalm 136 did a little dance on the page.  It’s that Psalm where it starts with “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” and every other line is “and His love endures forever”.  And with resignation-- and hope, I wrote this on an index card because this is where my heart was,  “We may never have close friends, but His love endures forever. We may never be financially comfortable, but His love endures forever.  We may never have a great church, but His love endures forever.  {And this one the hardest to write-- I remember oh so clearly the morning I did it.}  We may never have children, but His love endures forever.”   I wrote it down-- in black and white.  And posted it up.  That was where I needed to rest.  There is where I needed to abide.  All of these things I wanted, but He needed me to BELIEVE that if none of this ever happened, that He’d be enough and I’d be satisfied.  And that I wouldn’t be disappointed.  Ultimately.

So if you find yourself waiting for your first baby, your second or third-- or even a husband to begin this whole process, I encourage you to put your fears in black and white and surround them, top and bottom, side to side with the Truth of “His love endures forever”.  Or with any Truth that soothes your soul.  Some other ones I held onto were Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the God of all mankind.  Is anything too hard for me?”  Psalm 31:1 “Lord, I trust in You alone. You are the God who always does what is right!”  If I didn’t believe He always did the right thing, what did I have?  I would only have my guessing, my wondering, my what ifs.  And that’s a miserable place to be.  

Last thing--press into Him.  And that’s not just some spiritual cliche-- if you are barren, you know what I mean. PRESS. You need Him.  And He wants you.  All of you. He wants your heart, your emotions, your desperation, your grief, your anger, your disappointment, your confusion, your depression, your broken heart...... If you can’t do anything else, HOLD ON to the FACT that God is good and that HE always has your best in mind.  Take a walk through the Psalms- “He is good and His love endures forever.”  He says it over and over and over.  Because, I think, He wanted us to be SURE of that because He knew our present realities would try to convince us otherwise.

 He. Is. Good.

Press in and give thanks for your barrenness.  Let Him fill it with Himself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Family Talk {A little update on B}

Before school this morning, Brighton was on the couch with one of these.  The orange one, in fact, flipping through the pages of 2010-2011. Our family’s 2010-2011. I sat down beside him and he said, “I like looking at the pictures.”  He pointed at a few and laughed and as he saw a couple of his 3-D art creations, he promptly asked, “Where is that?”  I had to laugh and change the subject by pointing at a different picture wondering what wonderful new recycled life his Dallas Cowboy Stadium was enjoying.

I am so grateful for the technology that allows us to have those little books-- to be able to bind together stories and pictures and memories that we can thumb through from time to time and remember.  I forget so much.  And it’s all happening so fast.  Yesterday, Jeff was out of town so instead of dropping B by Jeff’s office at the end of his work day, he had to make a grocery run with me.  I only had a quick stop to make at Central Market to get tortillas.  If you know CM’s tortillas, you understand.  If you don’t, trust me.  It’s worth one stop for one thing.  And at that time of day they are usually warm.  And they were.  As soon as we got to the car, we opened up the little plastic bag and we watched the steam rise.  You have to have one while they are warm.  As B bit into his, he said something like, “What would this world be without warm tortillas?”  It may have been the only good moment we had together yesterday.  Seriously.  But you know, I’ll take it and I don’t want to forget it.  Yesterday, I was thankful for a rare common thought.

Both of the kids are really changing.... growing up is what I need to call it.  And face it.  Brighton, at 9, craves time with Jeff.  In fact, B thinks every second Jeff has off should revolve around him and what “fun” they are going to have together.  He cannot get enough of his dad.  They enjoy skeet shooting, the batting cages, fishing, eating breakfast out, getting hair cuts, throwing the baseball, playing PIG {short game of HORSE},  and baseball {or anything} on the Wii. We are thankful but at the same time trying to find a balance of Brighton simply joining in what Jeff is doing and doing the “fun” things Brighton wants to do-- and dealing with the responses that go along with that.  Our discussions with him are a little more involved because he so emotionally in tune that he asks about things are hard to explain or things that require a little more digging.  As he matures, he understands more and can put better words to how he sees things and feels things-- which can be really neat or really draining.  We must be firing on all cylinders to stay in it with him.  He’s good for us.

He dreams big.  His latest thing is, “I think God made me for football.”  I just love this about our boy.  He’s never played a day in his life, but he keeps saying this.  I see what’s coming.  He will play football because he is determined, just like a month ago when he was determined to sell lemonade.  We had flown in from Atlanta early one Wednesday morning and I needed to sleep before I left for work.  So while I slept, he sold $12 worth of lemonade in our front yard on a fairly busy street.  I knew nothing until I woke up.  As he gets older, I see him thinking up all sorts of opportunities, focusing on one and diving in.  And then another.  And then another.  His plans and dreams will only get bigger, possibly more disappointing or more successful.  As his parents we need to teach and model what it looks like to delight in the Lord, so B’s dreams line up with God’s dreams and so he gets to experience the desires of his heart.   {Delight yourselves in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4}

When I woke him up this morning, I noticed how his pajamas were too snug.  His bed even looked too small.  He is wider than he used to be-- and taller.  He needs new school pants but I am holding out to the end of May, hoping his shorts from the fall can still be buttoned... comfortably.  He’s a perfect size but I am amazed at times, this big, heavy boy is mine.

And time is moving much too fast.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Learning a New Language......Still

We all have so much, yes?  In every way.  I don’t give thanks near enough.  The pretty notebook sits on my kitchen counter begging to be tickled by pencil or pen, calling me to write the gifts down before they are forgotten, -- the dryer buzzer goes off, a child needs help with a math problem, a text comes in, my coffee is hot in the microwave... again... and I forget.  I’ve been encouraged for years by Jeff to seek out the good things in my life, my kids, my home, my marriage and when Ann Voskamp’s book came out a couple of years ago, it was just the final push I needed.  Because of what I know about giving thanks and the joy it brings, I have thought about it a lot as I have enjoyed this discipling relationship with Mrs. Horton.  One of the first ways I was challenged by the material was the question, “If I live today in obedience to this biblical truth {whatever I have read that day, or what I know to be true}, how will my life be different?”  Don’t read Philippians if you want to keep coasting-- or just don’t ask yourself that question.  Anyway.... just to take one verse.... I thought, if I take Philippians 2:14 seriously,  how would my life be different?  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”  Really?  That sounds awfully harsh.  I mean, I've got two kids and a dog and cooler sitting in my dining room because we really don't know where else to put it.  It’s fun to whine just a little bit, but it says “without”.  This won’t surprise you at all, but I haven’t talked near as much as I normally would have over these last few weeks.  I’ve certainly complained recently but I am much more aware of my sin {and the wisdom in asking forgiveness immediately} and how it affects anyone who hears and how it disrupts my own contentment.  Today, I feel the need to document some gratefulness.  I’ve got words stored up I haven’t used!


Words seem shallow to express my thankfulness to have a church home now.  When a form asks me "church home", I can answer with confidence. Thrilled to be a part of the body of Christ in Fort Worth.  Watermark -- joining great churches in our city in order to share the gospel.  There can never be too many avenues for that.

 I love it when we get to spend time with family in Georgia.  The kids love their cousins.

I was so glad to see RJ had HAIR again when he took off his batting helmet during his game!  They are showing off "hat hair".

That we got to see RJ's college apartment-- love being able to picture where he is

Love Julia's face

my kids experiencing the thrill of the catch-- and RJ's patience

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That these girls {cousins} enjoy each other SO much

Fred Cauble's vision for the Tarrant NET banquet-- wow -- the cake was only the beginning of creativity

"Miss H"-- my first Read 2 Win student.  She TOTALLY stole the show!!!

That I've known this girl long enough to be embarrassed of my hair style when we came across this old picture!!  I have no idea.

That we were able to SQUEEZE the piano in  -- and practicing piano can be scary and dangerous, thus the stuffed animal and batting helmet....

That Jeff makes sure this always gets done

He's always so proud of his eggs.

 This girl in my kitchen--- three of us were cooking and we all had about 2 feet of counter/table to ourselves.

Annual Easter pictures- NO RAIN!!!

I had to include this one from just a few years ago... the passed their roles to the little girls this year.

A zillion thanks over these few pictures-- sweet friends, something to truly celebrate, kids having a ball enjoying each other, traditions, fellowship, and memory after memory

Julia's heart to bless these girls with little homemade gifts

"Mr. R" who steals my heart every week-- he is doing SUPER.

FOUR Read2Win reading coaches in the hall at the school I help in

And a few more.....marriage conferences, Valentines from kids, Jessica's God stories and how I am challenged, inspired and encouraged by them, ice skating with the Andersons just because we can, no homework weekends, “favorite things”, laughing SO hard with good friends- husbands and wives, cooking with TJ, Seder Meal, Mrs. Horton, study halls with friends, track time/river time with the Cheeks, birds splashing in the sunshine, breakfast with Kathie, weekend with Julia, better school days, new music,  the privilege of encouraging someone, Craig's List date nights (yes, you read that right), Nik's Greek meal, Leslie's stories-- especially about a pig named Tocina, and baseball season and so much more...

I want to change my language.  With the Holy Spirit empowering me, I pray thankfulness is spoken more than anything else.  It's the language I want to pass down to my kids.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Homemaker? Yes, I Am.

Since I only work in the pharmacy one day week, I get questions about that.....but only at work.  I’m not sure how it happens each time but it gets out in my conversations with other pharmacists that I only work on Wednesdays. A couple of weeks ago, a pharmacist on the line caught wind of it.  I hear him say, “What do you do the rest of the week?”   In the pharmacy, for a suspended moment in time when you could have heard a nitroglycerin tablet shift places in its bottle on the back shelf, I heard myself say, “I am a homemaker.”  Silence.  Everywhere.  I feel like my answer echoed to Dallas.  Maybe we have been watching too much Leave It to Beaver but, in that second, it’s the word I chose.  I think I usually say, “I stay at home with my kids,” or something like that but they’ve been school age for years, so I guess there have been times I said, “I teach my children at home.” I don’t know but “homemaker” came out this time and it felt funny.  The awkward silence that followed made me self conscious so I’ve been thinking about that.

I am so very grateful to work as a pharmacist only eight hours a week.  By God’s grace, Jeff works hard and is an excellent provider for our family.  He values immensely my desire to be at home with Julia and Brighton and thanks me often.  It is what I do.  I appreciate my education {the one my parents paid dearly for} and my job at Walgreens but for the eight hours I am there, hardly a minute passes without my thinking through where Jeff and the kids are in their day, what the kids need to finish, how they need to get ready for the next day, what they will eat for supper {did I leave something easy for Jeff to whip up/warm up} and on a really bad day, what time Brighton needs to be at the ball field for his game.  {Bad because I cannot be there}  It’s official-- and has been since the first day I went back to work after Julia was born-- my heart is at home.

Of course I always had fresh camellia buds on my kitchen table.....

However, I need to be reminded of this almost daily-- home is foremost people and then a place.  Let me say it again-- people first, a place second.  Unfortunately, I get this mixed up.... often.  If the place isn’t just so, I tend to forget about the people and dive in to get the house "just so” or I get frustrated with the people because of the condition of the place.  I have to realign all the time.

Many things that have been a part of our home life are packed up.  My goal was to simplify what we were unpacking and repacking in a matter of months but my kids are missing what they remember what makes our home, home to them.  Some Christmas traditions were put on hold while we were trying to get our bearings within the first few weeks of our move.  Valentines came and went without one familiar thing- not unnoticed by Julia and Brighton and by Easter, the kids took it upon themselves to bring in the familiar.  They prepared the Easter Garden in my largest piece of kitchen Rubbermaid.  Rocks from the yard lined the path to the tomb.  Green weeds were replenished every day keeping it looking nice and fresh.  They found broken white bricks to make the tomb.  Good Friday night, we lit the candles and listened to our songs and stories and it was as meaningful as it ever had been. Jeff emptied it before I took a picture of it and if that’s not bad enough, on Easter morning, I forgot to open the tomb and empty the white cloth.  These things were important to my little people and I hadn’t even thought to ask them.   How I have “made their home” so far for them, means something.  When I don’t do it, they miss it.  Enough to do it themselves.  Easter was a good reminder for me.

Whether it’s holiday traditions, the quirky way you cut their sandwiches, the way you treat their daddy or the prayers you pray throughout the day, homemaking is feeding your children’s souls.  Just the fact that we want to be with them, make things special for them and be available for them before, during and after school provides security in their little young hearts-- something they don’t even understand, much less appreciate yet.

So everyday, you are making home.  You are a homemaker and the Lord is pleased with your decision.  You bless Him by loving your family like that.  He is delighted by you and your choice to invest your days as a homemaker.

So hug them, make them cookies, discipline them, fold their laundry, give them chores, celebrate things worth celebrating, help with homework, smile at them, take their temperature, let them make messes, go on dates with their daddy, teach them to clean up messes, take them to museums, pray with them, teach them manners, keep a tidy home, referee their arguments, read them books, make them hot chocolate, cheer them on, make their favorite meal, correct them, be the first to ask for forgiveness, create traditions, listen to them, tickle them and watch them flourish.

Homemaking.  Homemaker.

Give yourself to it.  They won’t forget it.