Friday, December 16, 2011

Tis the Season

And the time is upon us. I have to say that despite the hectic schedule, the money going out to buy presents, the INSANE traffic and planning for nearly everyone we're related to be in our house for Christmas I'm having a blast!! I love Christmas.
But it wasn't always that way. Growing up Christmas was not always the "season to be jolly" at my house. For one thing, it seemed that the pressure of having the "perfect Christmas" drove my mother to distraction and her edginess put my Dad in a dither. And then, when I was 15, my mother left at Christmas, marring the potential joy of the season for many years. Charlie Brown had nothing on the pathetic Christmases that ensued for a few years. We even went tree-less for awhile, not being able to muster the gumption to dig the fake, dilapadated tree out of the storage shed.
However, as the years passed, I slowly grew a fondness for cold weather and the general busyness of the holidays, was well as a sense of relief and rest that followed the flurry and headache of finals at college. There was nothing like making that drive home from Abilene on a chilly afternoon, knowing I had finished another semester and would get nearly 4 weeks with my family and high school friends. I learned to enjoy New Year's Eve and began listening to winter music, if not Christmas music: Baby It's Cold Outside, Winter Wonderland, What are You Doing New Year's.
Then I met Jonathan one summer while interning in Colorado. We immediately fell in like and began dating and had the most fun fall semester. The church I had worked at in Colorado had a winter camp between Christmas and New Years, so to see Jonathan and see my youth group kids, I bought a ticket and flew up to see him. That first dating Christmas, and being in Colorado for the holidays was magic. It was truly a white Christmas, and Jonathan bought me gifts and we were googly-eyed at each other. All of a sudden Christmas began to look more and more enjoyable.
Every year after that it got better. The next Christmas he proposed and we spent the winter camp enjoying planning a spring wedding. Our first married Christmas I was actually in Colorado on Christmas morning and got to wake up to a White Christmas and the joy of his HUGE family and all their chaos. Four of his five siblings were there and his 4 nieces and nephews made a raucous that rivaled an Avalanche game. It was pure bliss for me.That was the year I fell back in like with Christmas. I realized that Christmas is wonderful when you are in love, but it's magical when there are kids.
From the first Christmas we had Judah, everything changed. I wanted to make memories. I wanted to take pictures. I wanted to decorate! It was so much fun. And it just gets better with every kid we add. We have never been rich. Christmas has never been a blow out event. We stay reasonable, make a lot of gifts by hand, and don't allow the "I want I want" attitude. We don't do Santa Claus, but we try to protect the truth from our friends who do. We focus on family and time together more than any particular tradition. But watching my children grow into an understanding of the Greatest Gift we get, Christ in us, the hope of Glory has been the biggest blessing.
I love Christmas. My husband taught me to like Christmas again. My children taught me to enjoy Christmas again. Jesus taught me to love Him again at Christmas as I come to understand the Gospel through the story of His birth.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Can't we all just get along?

Growing up, I was one of those girls that had a hard time making friends with other girls. I would have a few close pals, but the majority of females were a clique I could not break into. I always seemed a step behind the fashion, out of touch with modern hairstyles, and of course there was my bad habit of always having my nose in a book. That never goes over well with social circles. High school was better, but I dreaded college. I went to a private Christian school with single gender dorms and a curfew. Yes, the dark ages. I shuddered at the idea of getting locked up every night in a building with 600 other girls doing their nails, putting on facial masks and flipping through Cosmo.

Turned out college wasn't the slow torture chamber I had imagined, and I ended up making some life-long friends there. I found that I wasn't the only woman who doesn't get an adrenaline rush from shopping, getting a manicure or perusing the latest Bride magazine (the most popular magazine on campus of course "Ring by spring or your money back"). I also managed to get a little style, figure out how to fix my hair and learn an appreciation for female companionship. My circle was still small, and I had more guy friends than gal pals, but my closest friends, the ones who knew my heart and loved me anyway, were women.

When I got married, I was sure that the circle that always seemed to close me out from the thriving mass of women-friends would magically open, I would be warmly accepted and we would drink hot tea and chat in the afternoons together. That was not reality. I realized with marriage, making friends became exponentially harder. Now I had to find a woman that I liked, we had a few things in common and could talk. Then we had to test and see if my husband liked her husband, and that's always tricky because most men can fake it for one dinner or game of bowling, but do they really enjoy each others company. Then the final straw was whether I liked her husband and she liked mine. Only when all 4 had connections that worked did the friendship have a chance of truly blossoming. Sigh...this was a long process.

Then came children. The golden key to the inner sanctum of women friends. Finally, I had found what would bond all of us in mutual respect and love, or at least survival: babies. However, this also proved unreliable at best and at times flat out untrue. And here is what I really want to discuss. Why can't mother's get along? Ultimately I think the answer lies in pride. Let me back up and explain:  mothering is not one long stream of continuous process that you put your raft in and float, as I had imagined, where you might bump into others with rafts and chat as you attempted to remain upright and safe. Oh no! Mothering is a series of yes or no questions and each answer puts you into a steadily diminishing circle or an ever widening circle. Our choices that we make as mothers determine who we can be friends with because whatever choice we make must be the right and the only right one. Otherwise we would not have made that choice! Right? Wrong. I think this attitude ends up shooting us in the foot and leaving us lonely and distraught.

I think I have a particular empathy for this situation because my choices have ended up being a mixed bag that has left me out of most circles. If I had chosen to go completely with one set or another, I would know who my assigned group of friends are. However, I chose to passionately and thoroughly research each and every choice that came my way, reading articles, books, blogs and quizzing my mom friends for their experiences. This led me to make multiple different choices. Everyone of them was right. Right for ME! That's the conclusion of all my research, all my effort, all my thought and prayer. There is no one right answer for everyone, every family, every mother. There's only what works for YOU, YOUR family, YOUR baby. Our pride tells us that what we chose is right for everyone, but that's false.

I chose to have my babies at home with a midwife. Not because I'm a huge rebel or have anything political to prove (those tendencies came after--when I got so much grief) but because I am TERRIFIED of anasthesia and hospitals and I'm really healthy with no complications. I can only relax at home. But I would never think that was for everyone. I know LOTS of moms who would be out of their minds with worry at home and never be able to relax, or who really need that epidural to cope with labor, or want experts 2 feet away if something goes wrong with baby. Or even more, have complications and MUST be at a hospital. They should go to the hospital. No judgment. Just love.

But that doesn't mean I fit in with the crunchy moms either. I don't co-sleep (my husband nearly suffocated my first son by rolling over on him--plus I find it very stifling to our love life to have a baby in bed!). I don't practice Attachment Parenting. I don't do extended nursing or EC potting training. And I did Babywise! Big NO-NO with crunch moms!

Yes, I chose to Babywise my baby. Not because I think that's the only way to do it, but because it kept me sane and my baby fed. Before a mom put Babywise in my hand, some loving old ladies had told me that babies eat every 4 hours. Judah was starving! Babywise told me to feed my baby every 2.5-3.5 hours and to measure that by his hunger. It taught me to trust my instincts about what was really going on with my baby and not to assume it was hunger. It might be a wet diaper or being really tired. I learned to read my children; and they learned to sleep! But I know lots of parents who are the opposite. Babywise made them feel forced to hyper-schedule and distance themselves from their child. Or they are very pasionate about on-demand feeding. So, don't Babywise! I'm okay with that. I don't have to wake up every 3 hours for two years, so it doesn't bother me what you do!

And the list goes on...

I think it's perfectly acceptable to make choices based on parenting style and children's needs, and still respect each others choices. What I don't understand is the militant attitudes. I'm not campaigning to get you on my side. I don't need you to be a Cry-it-out mom like me to have a play-date with you or invite you to my book club. But can I not be an attachment parent and you not call CPS on me? I just find a lot of moms feel isolated, lonely and desperate, but they can't find a friend because they do things a bit differently. Or maybe a lot differently. Are their kids healthy? Are they loved? Are they developing, showing empathy, hitting their marks (or close)? Then let it go! Maybe your ways wouldn't have worked at all for that mom. You can still be friends! You can still learn from each other.

Let's give peas a chance!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Creative Outlet

I think part of being a stay-at-home-homeschooling-mom/planter's-wife means that you have a lot of creativity that longs to come out in new and unusual ways. I end up doing massive projects for homeschooling with the kids, most of which do not turn out exactly how I envisioned but we enjoy the journey. I also read and research a lot of DIY stuff and am now making my own bread, pizza crust, power muffins and such. I used to have a sewing machine and made my own hooter hider (or udder cover if you'd rather). I have patterns and material packed up in boxes and crates awaiting a new sewing machine, hopefully with a serger as well!!! But that's a long time off. So I've been contenting myself with my hot-glue gun. Lately my passion has been book wreaths. I made one out of old hymnals for my dear friend Joanne who's family moved to Nacogdoches for a ministry position. But that just whetted my appetite. Today, I made one for my sis-in-law who is a AP English teacher in Midland. I used Margaret Atwood and Shakespeare books and this was what I created:
I added the used book binding from the Margaret Atwood book and glued in a quote:

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.  ~Edward P. Morgan

I LOVE how it turned out. I think next I'm making myself one 

Next stop: Etsy! But how would I ever ship these?!?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Handful...of blessings

These are my precious boys. It's always superhero day at our house, and occassionaly we all go as the same superhero. They are all 3 characters with enough personality in each one individually to flatten you, but put together they can be a tornado. The most often comment I get when we come waltzing into stores, restaurants or the mall is, "Whoa! You've got your hands full!"

And yes I do. In fact I could use a third hand most of the time, especially crossing the street or parking lot. But we figure it out. Usually, I hold Elijah's hand, he hold's Gideon's, Gideon holds Judahs and we quack as we walk since we look like a line of little ducks.

They can be pills too. They fight over who gets to be which superhero and who has which power. Sometimes feelings get hurt when Judah makes an air castle and Gideon doesn't have a flying buffalo to get up to it. One time, Gideon punched Judah in the face for arguign about Captain America's benefits and flaws. So I had to literally carry out the Gospel on him, and take away his privledge of using his hand for an hour:

 (I'll post later about the many uses of duct tape in discipline ;))

However, mostly, they are just precious. THey run up out of nowhere to hug me tight and say, "I love you, Momma!" They fill up my water bottle for me when it's low. They say, "Yes, ma'am" when I ask them to do something (most of the time). They play with each other so sweetly, even if it's rough and tumble. They love their brothers. They love their parents. They love Jesus.

So when someome says to me, "Whoa! You've got your hands full!" I say, "Absolutely! Full of Blessings!"

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Psalm 127:3

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roll the Gospel Chariot Along

So, it's been awhile. Mainly because the Life of a Planters Wife is unpredictable as weather! We've had our house on the market for 5 1/2 LONG months. We have had a stream of picky and ecstatic potential buyers flowing through the doors at all hours of the day, nap-time not held sacred by the real estate agencies. We've had 4 offers, 2 contracts and not 1 closing day! We prayed; we fasted; we lowered prices; we packed up everything and we waited. My dad got married and moved out; we moved everyone downstairs; we had a garage sale. Nothing doing.

One night I was reading through my Bible study from The Upper Room I came upon a promise from Isaiah 45:2,
"I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,"
I was immediately struck that this was still God's Word to us. That whatever was keeping us from where He had us going, He was also perfectly sovereign over and capable of overcoming. So I wrote the verse on a piece of paper, and then wrote all over it the things keeping us from moving to Madison: selling the house, jobs in Madison, supporters, a place to live, etc. I then cut the paper in half, broke bread over it and took communion with my Lord over His Gospel being sufficient for even me. I felt secure it was in His hands.

That was 3 months ago.

Two weeks ago, things changed again. It became obvious that there was a blessed opportunity for my husband to finish a certification that he has been working on for a few years. Finishing this certification would open up some lucrative and less-time consuming work opportunities. Finishing this certification means staying here. But at the same time I remembered the verse, communion and the peace I had experienced. I felt the same overwhelming message, "God is sovereign over this and perfectly capable of overcoming any obstacles." I have often said it is difficult to tell the difference between a roadblock from Satan and a closed door from God--they feel the same. The difference, I've discovered, is that a closed door WILL NOT open, but a roadblock WILL NOT remain. So, I told my husband, "If God wanted us to sell the house, He could have done it 5 months ago. We would have been in Madison before the ink was dry. If it's not selling, it's because God has something else in mind right now. I don't hear 'No', just 'Not yet'. Let's be faithful and wait on God until strength rises."

So that's what we're doing. We're following God still. He's driving this crazy train and I'm just sitting back eating my popcorn. Until May, the Hartnagles are in Temple, TX. Was that our plan? Nope. Was it God's? Apparently! So here we are doing the only thing HE has ever asked of us: being obedient. Not through our strength or from our motives or for our glory but His. And as long as we're here, we're going to love on people, get to know our neighbors more, bless our city, live out the Gospel.

We're rolling with the Gospel, and that's how we roll!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rules of Engagement--Part 1

My husband has always said that my red hair is just a symptom of my being a red head. My fiery temper and feisty spirit are the true causes behind it, and I believe that his smirk as he says it belies his attempts at acting put out. He wouldn't want a wimpy woman standing by him, and, quite frankly a eye-lash-lowering gal wouldn't make it as Jonathan's wife! I needed a backbone!

But there's a flip-side to that light joke. James says that our tongues are not set on fire by our feisty spirits but by hell itself, and if you've ever experienced a season of contention in your marriage, or even just had a fight (and if you've been married for more than a week you have--or your a liar), you'll know exactly what he means.

Listening to Mark Driscoll's podcast a few months ago, Marriage, Ministry and Mistakes, he said that if you're entering the ministry and especially church planting, when it comes to spiritual attacks, you better buckle up. Even if you've experienced some attacks on your marriage before, you haven't seen anything yet compared to what you will experience when you accept a call to ministry or church planting. I remembering chuckling at that (I usually chuckle at Mark), and wondering exactly how that might be playing out in our lives.

Boy, was he right!

I don't know where you stand on spiritual attack, but I'm sold that it happens. I'm convinced it happens regularly to Christ-followers. I'm assured that it happens daily or even hourly to ministers, their wives and their families. We are certainly experiencing it in our home. There are many different ways I see it playing out, both at home personally, and in the lives of other Christ-followers and ministers I know. Here are a few ways I see it happening.

1. Health--what is normally a healthy family with just a few regular illness a year, suddenly can't seem to get on top of the health cycle. Before they are fully recovered from one virus or infection, another one sets in, or they pass it around endlessly never having the whole family well at the same time. Sometimes, and I'm thinking of the Village here, there are HUGE diseases that, for no apparent reason and against all odds spread like wildfire among a church, staff or family unit. The enemy loves to attack our health and our children's health. It keeps us on our heals, at our lowest resistance, prone to feeling overwhelmed, scared and sorry for ourselves. The last thing we're interested in when our kids are running 102 or we have cancer is making sure that our discipling is going well. Illness is an excellent distraction.

2. Finances--if mammon is our most sought after idol, then this is the easiest thing to attack. Suddenly, the numbers don't add up anymore, there's a layoff, a cut back, business drops or drys up. The car breaks, the taxes are due, the roof leaks. We have no padding or maybe we can't even pay the bills. We are walking to the grocery store, sewing up holes in jeans cause we can't buy new ones and politely excusing ourselves from play-dates at the zoo cause we just can't afford the gas or price of admission. This is a great tactic for the enemy with me because fear is my weak point, my button. I start panicking and racing around, selling the kids toys and trying to drum up ways to pay people. We become stalwarted in our efforts because we can't afford to go out to dinner with other families or send flowers to the sick. We want to hide in our houses. Especially when this attack comes through layoffs, we are embarrassed and hear the enemy whisper, "If a man cannot manage his own household, how can he manage the household of God?

3. Bickering and arguing--suddenly everything is annoying. Everyone is on everyone else's nerves. The least thing grows to hurricane proportions in 2.5 seconds and then you want to run away or scream or runaway AND scream. You read ulterior motives into everything your spouse or children or parents or friends say. You take everything personally. There is absolutely no grace given, no room for "Seeing the other side". You dig in your heels and defend to the death whatever point you are making.

4. Doubt--you begin to wonder, "Did God really call us to do this, or did He call someone else and we just answered the phone?". It seems overwhelming and impossible, the task set before you. You seem like the absolute worst pick for the job (by the way you ARE and there's a reason for that), and God must be crazy to choose you for this (He is--and I can defend that biblically). It's going to fail miserably and you're going to fall on your face and all the "I told you so"s will gather around you and wag their heads.

5. Discouragement--those that are closest to you, whom you love dearly, who you were SURE would support you, question everything you say about what you're doing. They come up with brilliant arguments about why you absolutely should not pursue this course of action and even seem spiritually aware that God is NOT calling you to do THIS. They point out all the flaws in your plan and are the first to raise their eyebrows when the money gets tight, or disappears and the first to jump on the bandwagon when you voice doubts.

There are a "legion" of other ways that the enemy attacks. He is insidious and sly and he is NOT by any stretch of the imagination a gentleman. He wants to mess with you and the last thing on earth he wants is an effective minister and family. The problem with these things are that they all deal in lies. He is the father of lies and the accuser. He whispers a lie, you buy it and then he immediately accuses you of believing the lie and how horrible you are for thinking this.

I've been going through this and more. I've been walloped a lot, and I'd like to think I've dealt a few blows myself. What I'd like to do is discuss spiritual warfare, especially in regards to the areas mentioned above and I'd like to share my experience, my beliefs and most importantly (perhaps the only one of real importance anyway) the Biblical response to these.

I'm going to be real and honest here. If that makes you uncomfortable that a minister and his wife fight or yell or sin, then please don't read on. But I am a firm believer that "the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." 1 Timothy 1:15-16

So come along. Watch Jesus display his perfect patience in me. Put on the armor and get ready to strap on your piece and do business with our enemy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

As we approached the summer (other wise known as "birthday season) with the intent to move in June, we realized we had a problem. Judah's birthday is June 1st. No problem there, we would almost certainly still be in Texas for that. He would get to, in effect, have his cake and eat it to, with having a birthday here where all his friends could attend. But Gideon was a different matter. His birthday is August 1 (no, I didn't purposely plan that, though it helps on remembering birthdays!). We fully planned on being in Wisconsin by August 1. That would be great for heat index, but not so great for Gideon's birthday bash. None of his long time friends would be able to make the drive! It might be a lonely and rather sparse 4th birthday.

So, being the creative and extraordinary mom that I am, I decided to do a combined birthday in the middle. I hadn't really factored all the issues in while making this decision: agreeing on a theme, agreeing on a place, agreeing on an invite list. But, as luck would have it, Judah is very persuasive and Gideon is fairly agreeable, and we got over each issue with minimal damage done.

Our Green Lantern fiesta was planned and invitations divvied out accordingly. In brightest day in darkest night, no detail did escape my sight. We were at a splash pad in our town and we had so much fun! Some of our very best friends were there (Judah, Gideon and Momma's!). And I loved watching them run and play with their besties for what may be one of the few times left this summer. I decided that the least messy version of birthday bliss was Cake Pops!! I was ecstatic to make these. The only problem being that I took the advice of the author of the book Cake Pops, whom I had assumed had actually made cake pops before. Boy was that a silly assumption!

THe actually cake ball forming went just fine. I have a plan in place for making them more round and less...lumpy next time, but the taste was excellent and I already have recipes in my head for better versions. But the real problem came when I began to coat them. The recipe told me to put the pop sticks in FIRST and let them set, then to coat the rest with chocolate. Bad idea, Indie! It did not work out well. I had half coated cake pops, or cake pops dripping on the floor. When I attempted to fix them, the affixed themselves to my cooling tray and I lost 4 in the battle! I nearly went all Kings Speech on them, but I refrained.

I am proud of my display method though. I needed foam to stick them in at the party. So I bought a wreath form and two rectangles and made the Green Lantern symbol. I painted it all green and coated the cake pops with white chocolate, so it was color-correct.

I do wish that someone had warned me I needed to be Super-hero knowledgeable to raise 3 boys! I had to answer the question, "If Superman and Flash ran a race, who would win?" I have no flipping clue!! But I honestly love that they like super heroes. I think it's an easy transition to Bible stories and the ultimate Super Hero.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let all who worship evil's might
beware my power, Green Lantern's Light!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Maelstroms and Mayhem

Elijah has become a walking maelstrom in our house.

If you're not wanting to open your Webster app, the definition is: a powerful often violent whirlpool sucking in objects within a given radius

That's Elijah!

Each of my kids demonstrated a particular ability early and earlier than their brothers. Judah was fine motor skills. His pincer grasp came very early and he could feed himself before he could even sit up alone. Gideon was verbal skills. He was imitating sounds at 2 months and hasn't shut up since! Elijah is my gross motor skills. He rolled over early, crawled early, walked early. He could climb our spiral stairs before he could even stand unassisted. He has a desperate need to keep up with his two older brothers and that keeps him in band-aids and us in constant motion.

Thus his maelstrom-like tendencies. Only mayhem follows a child that is physically ahead of his mental development. When they walk before they understand "no" sufficiently, there's going to be disaster.

Last Wednesday, Elijah was showering in the upstairs shower. He put his hands on the glass door to tell Daddy he was all done. Jonathan, not used to Elijah in the shower, swung the door open. HOwever, Elijah was pushing on the door. When Daddy opened it, all of Elijah's weight fell out through the open door, his wet feet slipped on the shower floor and he fell. Luckily, he caught himself...with his front tooth! Knocked it loose. Blood everywhere.

At first we couldn't tell what exactly was wrong, the lip and gum were swollen. But as the swelling went down, we could tell that the tooth wasn't really that loose anymore. We hoped that it would firm back up and he could keep it.

But accident prone as he is, that was a silly wish. Sure as the dawn, 3 days ago, he tripped again (this time on dry land) and hit his face right on that tooth, knocking it loose again. If he'd just have the good grace to knock it all the way out, we'd be done with the drama. I'm not really concerned about him losing a baby tooth. He'll grow another one in a few years. But what I don't like is his little snaggle tooth (he looks like Nanny McPhee...before the kids like her) that he keeps biting his lip with.

So, we gave in and called an old family friend, Dr. Boyd, today. He is the best. So gentle with kids and so sweet. He told us it would probably come out on its own, but since we're moving, he doesn't want us to have to try and find a dentist in Madison to pull it if something goes wrong.

So, next Thursday our already goofy child will get some laughing gas and be even sillier. Jonathan is dying to video tape it and put him on YouTube. Something like David after the Dentist is what he's hoping to achieve I think. Since it's Elijah and not Gideon, that might be a long shot. Maybe we can get some laughing gas for Gideon too!

Keep Elijah in your prayers. He doesn't like people messing with this mouth!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

He Gave me You!

Mother's Day has such a mixed message for me. My mother left when I was 16. Actually left on my birthday to go off and find her true happiness (which, by the way, wasn't us). I hated Mother's Day for years. Then I got pregnant. I wasn't even thinking of Mother's Day; my baby wasn't due until June 27th, but my MIL sent me a Mother's Day card, and all of a sudden it struck me that I was becoming what I didn't know how to be.

Looking back that's laughable. Whether your mom was wonderful, terrible or not even there, you have no idea how to be a mom! It doesn't come with instruction booklets or a return policy or a website of FAQ's. There's books, sure. Too many actually. I have a sweet friend that would get an A+ on mothering research if we were handing those out, but still felt inadequate to care for her baby.

I hated Mother's Day from the time my mother left until I became a mother. I thought Mother's Day was about honoring moms, and it definitely is. But now, with my sweet first born turning 6 soon, and 2 more blessings as well, Mother's day has taken on a different meaning to me, or at very least a dual meaning.

I feel honored as a mom, but I also feel honored to BE a mom. I have become more aware than ever of the high calling of motherhood, the depth of dependancy on Jesus it requires and the level of submission it demands. I am in awe of the scope of the task that is placed before me, not for now, or for 18 years a pop, but for eternity. Every moment of every day for the rest of my life, I will be their mom! I will be guiding them, training them, teaching them and most importantly Gospeling them. I know it will look different as they age, but I will always be their mom. The weight of that floors me sometimes. These little men are my calling, my highest calling, and my very great responsibility. They are not my possessions, my keepsakes, my trophies. They are on loan to me, stewarded out to me, to point them back to their Daddy, their BIG DADDY, and be molded and formed in His image. I am not worthy of this!

I often get overwhelmed and bogged down in the mundane tasks of motherhood: make your bed, brush your teeth, do your homework, eat your food, ALL your food, not too much TV, play fair, go to sleep. And that can whittle your life down to where it's ALL The mothering I do if I don't watch myself. But mothering is so much bigger. I am literally molding their hearts, training their minds, setting their footsteps.

I find myself constantly in prayer, asking God to make me worthy of Him, of His calling on my life to be a mother. I ask Him to parent through me. To move me out of His way, and love my boys in the perfect way that I cannot. I realize that they make me more vulnerable to hurts and fear than anything else ever can. They could wrench my heart in ways not even my husband has the power to do. To scratch them is to cut me; to bruise their hearts is to pulverize mine. There is so much out there to injure them and so much at stake for them. I have been brought to my knees, interceding for them that they follow Christ, that His plans for their future are to prosper them and not to harm them to give them hope. I am beginning to understand that I can truly have, "no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth."

That is my prayer this Mother's Day, that my boys may know and be known fully in Jesus. That I may live a life worthy of the calling of the Gospel in their lives. That I may daily, hourly, repent of where I am falling short and surrender to Him loving them through me. And that I may ever be blessed to be called, "Momma".

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More than Able

Since I have been open to and aware of it, I found that very often God orchestrates multiple areas of my life to coincide. I say "very often" instead of "always" because I believe I interfere, resist or try to orchestrate this myself and end up missing His beautiful invitation to come and be Mary at his feet instead of Martha in the kitchen. I also say "since I've been aware of it" because I think our self-awareness is so great until about 20 that we cannot even hear other flesh and blood people when they talk to us over the incessant self-chatter going on in our souls and brains. But, maybe that's just me.

At any rate, I remember first being acutely aware of the aligning of what had previously seemed incongruous pieces of my life into a beautiful "whole picture" my sophomore year of college (okay, I wasn't quite 20, but I also didn't acknowledge that the revelation wasn't all about me for years either). I was taking British Lit, World History and Old Testament that semester (along with other non-relevant classes). One week, my world history class ended up discussing the exact same time frame that pertained the book of the Bible we were covering in Old Testament and the over arching themes from both of those related to the essay assignment from Brit Lit. It was like waking up and realizing that the whole world had an order and I was just beginning to catch on. It was intoxicating! I began looking for interrelations between all of my classes every semester, and usually they did pertain to each other. Besides helping my be more witty and poignant on my essays in each class (I'm sure my Bible Prof is still confused about me quoting Beowulf in relation to Daniel facing Lions), I'm not sure I learned a lot of deep spiritual truths from creating my own "classical education model" of my classes. However, the trend has held true as God has spoken to me (not out-loud! for Heaven's sake! I would pass out) over the years since then.

This jaunt down memory lane does have a point.

God has done it again.

But this time He's coordinating efforts between Jonathan and I to save time. I came back from our Madison visit 3 days before Jonathan. Partly because I couldn't bear to be away from my babies any more and partly because he needed to be able to focus at the conference he was attending. He went to Basic Training for Church Planters put on by the SWBA (I think...or maybe some other acronym I haven't learned yet). At the conference he had to develop and present a Vision and Core Values Statement for our church planting effort to Madison. We've been working on Mission Statement and Vision Statement over the last year, so I didn't expect a huge flux from those basic tenets. However, he came back all jazzed up about his class and vision statement and core values and the process by which he wants to plant get the idea. (I know some reading this have never and will never meet Jonathan, but take my word for it, I married the one man on the planet who talks more than I do! He uses up his alotted word quota for the day and launches into mine!)

This was exciting and inspirational and I wanted to take notes and make a slide show for him. The problem was that he flew in at 10:00 Wednesday night and left for a 76 hour shift at work at 8:00 Thursday morning. So, between kissing his boys goodnight, unpacking and re-packing his bag and letting him get a few hours of sleep, he didn't really get the time to sell me on the vision God gave him. He left with, "Tell you everything when I get back..." floating back to me from the receding Jeep.

But God knows that we need to be on the same page. From (nearly) the start, we have been equally excited about and committed to this calling on our family. For that's what it is: a calling to our whole family. There is no such thing as the solitary church planter (unless he's single). The whole family plants. We all give til it hurts when it comes to Jesus. And that's how we want to be as a family. But there's only so many hours in a week and we run out of them before we run out things to do to reunite and revamp and re-energize (Mark Driscoll at Re:Surgence would be so proud of all my "re"s). So, God took matters into His own hands (where they should have been all along) and gave me my own crash course in vision.

While we were in Wisconsin, Mark Millman had given us Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer. I flew home with it and started reading it on the plane. Immediately I was gripped by the ideas presented and the passion displayed through their research of churches that are actually out there living the Gospel. Their emphasis on "heart for the community" really echoed with me. They talked about "relational intentionality" that had already been circling in my head. And their chapter on transformational leaders convicted and inspired me. I was so excited to share with Jonathan when we had a minute (haha).

Well, we finally got that 15 minute window between sending the boys to play and someone crying and we sat down to talk. Jonathan launched into his pitch and it was eerie to me as I began hearing all the things that had stirred my heart over the last week. He showed me the diagram and shared the core values and they resonated with what all God had led me too from reading Transformational Church. I felt such peace from knowing that we were already on the same track, already sharing the same brokenness and vision for Madison.

On top of the book, my ladies Bible study has been going through 1 Peter and it landed squarely with what we are experiencing and praying for. We are being dispersed to go and spread the Gospel to the outer areas, way out of the Bible belt. And there will be trials and hardships and persecutions. But when we truly love Jesus and live out of that love, our love for the city of Madison will explode and our prayerful dependence on Him will lead us on the adventure of a lifetime. I'm so excited to walk with my husband, chasing Jesus down this path.

Now, if we could just sell our house...Actually, it makes all the mundane stuff fall into perspective too. If I believe that "He who has called [us] is faithful" enough to implant the identical vision in Jonathan and I from 1700 miles apart, then I believe "he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion".

"He makes my feet like hinds feet and makes me walk on my high places"

Monday, April 18, 2011


Waves of Mercy
Waves of Grace...
Doing the Wave...
Turns out lots of things come in waves.


Keeps hitting me between the eyes that we are moving. Soon. 1700 miles away. I get overwhelmed and exhausted thinking about it. And silly us, we think we can plant a church! What if no one comes? What if we screw up royally? What if we fail? What if we make fools of ourselves? What if we make fools of God?

The what if game sucks. And is futile.

But you know what also comes in waves?


That keeps hitting me in the spirit. As the whatifs are washing over me getting higher and higher and I start thinking that it all depends on me and someone made a huge mistake... here comes the faith. Not from me! ha! I don't have the faith of a mustard seed. But the "author and perfecter of my faith" sends out another wave and it lifts me up instead of drowning me. Or maybe it's that I let go and drown in it? I'm not sure which. I'll readily admit that "surrender" is not on my list of spiritual gifts. "Stubbornness" or maybe it was "mule-headed" came up at the top though.

So, if you can wade through all my analogies, I'm experiencing the back-and-forth of freak-out vs. faith. I start thinking that I am the least likely person for this job. And God reminds me that He is the most likely person for the job, and He's doing it, not me. I realize that we are not independently wealthy and cannot afford to run off to Madison, WI to plant a church. God reminds me that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and is funding this operation. I start thinking that no one in Madison will listen, no one will come. God reminds me that His sheep hear His voice.

So, everyday I'm seeking Him. I'm learning that painful art of surrender and trust. I'm failing a lot and flailing a lot, and He keeps whispering, "My Grace is Sufficient for you, too Jennifer."

So, bring on the waves!

The Glory of it all is He came here
For the rescue of us all that we may live
For the Glory of it all!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mad about Madison!

Well, it finally happened: I went to Madison.

I know, I know. I've already packed my house and put it on the market; told all my friends, family and supporters we are going. We have already had one fund-raising campaign and are working on a second and I had NEVER EVEN SEEN THE PLACE!!!

For one thing, I needed to wait til the snow melted! Didn't want to psyche myself out by going in 10 degree (or colder) weather for my first visit when I am definitely not prepared for that yet. Secondly, and I know this sounds Christian cheesy, but I really am following God on this one and not hunting for "America's Best Town to Live In". I went through a "God wants us to plant in New Zealand" stage. I was going to hike the road to Mordor for Jesus ;), but at this point, I was totally willing to move without ever visiting. But, alas, Jonathan said "No!" to that. Good husband.

I fell in love the minute we stepped off the plane. It helped that it was 90 in Texas and 53 in Madison! Ha! However, Madison felt like coming home. It is this great mix of Boulder and Denver with a side of Golden thrown in. It's granola crunchy and high-end; it's University and Government; it's crunched housing and wide-open spaces; crazy traffic and Botanical Gardens. If you're a Texan it must sound just like Austin to you, but cooler (degree wise, not popularity--don't pull out your revolvers). But to be fair, it's totally it's own place. It's all Wisconsin and completely not Wisconsin (which we learned from the hard-working people of everywhere else in Wisconsin who said, "Madison, that's where the fruits and flakes live!").

We landed at noon on Wednesday and got to have lunch at the Church Key Pub off State Street. To translate: We had lunch at a bar on 6th Street in Austin. Then we tooled around State street, went farther out on the Peninsula and looked at the city, drove up on campus and admired the architecture (to 2 grads of ACU that was pretty amazing. our Alma mater thought that architecture consisted of stacking several blocks on top of each other with a roof and calling it good). The stateliness of UW was breathtaking. However, on campus we ran into the Madison Welcoming Committee, aka the horn-honking sophomore in Daddy's graduation present for whom we were driving entirely too slow, and he introduced us to what appeared to be the state word, yelling it from his window at the top is his lungs. Later we saw it written on bumper stickers on the back of all the cars near the University! ;)

Thursday we got to see more of Madison. We walked the Botanical Gardens, chatted with mom's on Willy Street near the co-op (think Vitamin Cottage or Sprouts or Trader Joe's), and visited the East Town Lake Mall. Out that far, you wouldn't know you weren't in Temple. Middle class is middle class pretty much everywhere. The difference being that "beg" here in Texas is when you ask for money and there it's something to put your groceries in ;)

Friday we met with the Elders of River of Life and discussed our internship and got to view Portage a little more. That night I got to go to the ROL chicks retreat. I finally got to meet my Facebook friends face-to-face. It was great. Those women are wonderful and I am so excited and blessed to be getting to be a part of their lives soon!

Saturday we had a SWBA meeting. If you don't know what that means, it's really just code for "other Jesus followers in Wisconsin". I met some wonderful men and women who are truly passionate about spreading the Gospel and equipping pastors to reach Wisconsin for Jesus. It was such a blessing to network there, not politically but passionately. We are NOT lone wolves in trying to plant the Gospel in Madison. We need support, supporters and a support network. Church planting is a team sport! And we are blessed!

Then we got to party for Bob's birthday Saturday night! Cookout and family fun with some of ROL and the Turners. They are so warm and loving. I have to admit, this was when it was nearly physically painful for me to be away from my boys. I missed them so badly. Everyone else at the party had kids and I only had to fix a plate for me! It was surreal! ha!

Sunday was breath-taking. We worshipped with ROL. When I say that I mean it in all it's glory. The people at that church know what it means to "glorify God and enjoy Him". They sang with all their hearts, some songs I had never heard and some I hadn't sung since college. The children danced for joy and participated in worship. Bob spoke the Gospel in a way that really connected with my heart and it was so nurturing to be a part of that body of Christ.

Returning home was bittersweet. I really have begun to love Wisconsin. I am entranced with the idea of beginning to meet people and build relationships there. I can't wait to visit story-time at their library, take my kids to the Botanical Gardens, join a good homeschooling co-op and begin to do life with the people of Madison. But I also realized the reality of leaving. I am truly going to be 1700 miles away from all I've ever known. I'm going to be leaving my best friends (all by my very bestest, Jonathan). I'm going to be out of my comfort zone. I don't even know what the major grocery chain is there! But God really placed Romans 12:1-2 on my heart.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
I realize that living out this calling IS offering my body as a living sacrifice. I am sacrificing what I WANT for what I NEED, which is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever". Even when it doesn't feel very enjoyable at times. Even when I know I'm going to be horribly lonely for awhile. Even when I know my kiddos are going to cry and mourn for their far-away family and friends. Even though I have no idea if/when my house will sell, we will raise enough support or Jonathan will get a good bi-vocational job. I am letting my mind be renewed by the truth that this is God's calling, God's planing, God's watering, and God's growth. He will do His good and perfect will. His heart is for Madison. He is calling His sheep there.

Please pray for us and for Madison on this journey. And pray for the other pastors already there fighting the good fight, enduring suffering, doing the work of evangelists and fulfilling their ministry. It's not sexy and glorious. It's "living sacrifice". And it's totally worth it!

PS. Big shout out thanks to Bob and Alisha (but especially Alisha) Turner for hosting us in their home. They were amazing and generous and their girls are AWESOME!! Can't wait to see them every week and do life together!

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I'm going through a prayer guide that Jonathan bought in college: Guide To Prayer put out by Reflective reading for today from Prayers for the Christian Year by William Barclay:
O God, our Father, we know our own weakness.
Our minds are darkened,
and by ourselves we cannot find and know the truth. Our wills are weak,
and by ourselves we cannot resist temptation, or bring to its completion that which we resolve to do.
Our hearts are fickle,
and by ourselves we cannot give to you the loyalty which is your due.
Our steps are faltering,
and by ourselves we cannot walk in your straight way.
So this day we ask you,
To enlighten us,
To strengthen us,
To guide us,
That we may know you, and love you, and follow you all the days of our life.
Give to your church your blessing and your protection.
Guide her in her thinking,
that she may be saved from the heresies
which destroy the faith.
Strengthen her witness,
that she may bring no discredit on the name she bears.
Inspire her in her fellowship,
that those who enter her may find within her your friendship and the friendship of their fellow men.

This really spoke to my heart.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Packing up the Dreams God Planted

Ha! I couldn't resist a good Michael W. Smith lyric. I am indeed packing. Yes already. I only have 4 months til "Move Day" and we have a LARGE house full of STUFF! What's interesting is how much I'm giving away.

I come from a family of nearly diagnosable "hoarders". My father is certifiable. Not only does he hoard is own stuff on grounds of: it might be useful someday, I paid good money for it 20 years ago, what if I run out of ______ and need to use parts from this to fix it, hey it was on sale, and it was perfectly good still. You can imagine what a catastrophe my house was growing up. We had 2, two, sheds in our yard to hold all the junk we couldn't hold in our house. However, his hoarding doesn't stop there. He is also the last of his immediate and even mostly extended family. So he is now the designated hoarder of all of their stuff too. It may be true that you can't take it with you when you go, but you can certainly leave it to someone reliable who will put it in excellent cardboard boxes and keep it til Jesus comes back for it.

Why does this affect me? Two reasons: one, I'm related to him, so I have a hard time throwing anything away; two, he lives with us (til May 21st). So, I've been sorting, purging, dumping, giving and labeling. I'm proud to announce I have given away at least as much as I have kept which is a huge step for me. It's freeing to realize, if I don't love it enough to haul it to Madison, I don't love it. It's also freeing to realize that I can always buy another if I ever need it again.

I'm also employing a "Duggar" technique to my packing. I'm numbering every box, then on a likewise numbered index card, I'm listing the contents. That way, if between now and June, I need to read one of my 20 Stephen King books, I can easily find them.

What's been harder is sorting the books and clothes. I hold onto everything. I still have my college class notes. From. Every. Class. I'm just sure I'll need to see the number of vertebrae a sea otter has again at some point. I held onto them initially because, by George, they stood for a lot of work! A simply GPA on a transcript did not account for all the information I had systematically written down, taken in and regurgitated on countless tests. Later, I held on to them (and moved them to several different locales) because I intend on homeschooling. So they are a great resource, right? Maybe not. Maybe there's this little thing called the internet, and a big thing called a library where I can look up any info I happen to need. And most likely more accurate being that my college notes are now (ahem) over 10 years old. So, out with the notebooks.

Baby clothes have proven equally has difficult. I have 3 boys, and it has already been a blessing to keep clothes as hand-me-downs. I haven't had to buy hardly any clothes for any of boys. However, I do not want to move boxes and boxes of little boy clothes to Madison. So, I'm sorting. I'm purging what is not REALLY special, or in GREAT condition. And onesies don't count. I can buy a 10 pack at Walmart, so I give away, give away, give away. Pray for my purging~

However, in direct contrast to purging and packing, I went to the $5 bag sale at Salvation Army today. All the clothes that will fit in a bag for only $5! And guess what I found....SNOW PANTS!! I'm so excited! They are little big for Judah, but hey, he'll grow into them and have PLENTY of opportunity to wear them in the years to come. What a great find!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Becoming my Mother-In-Law; Or How the Master of the Universe taught me to Follow the Leader

So, I have a mother-in-law. I'm sure you figured that out by me being married. And for the most part, I don't necessarily want to emulate her. It's nothing personal; I don't want to emulate my own mother. If you know my background, that is no surprise, so let me say that I further do not want to emulate my Daddy or father-in-law, as great as they are. I really want to strive to only emulate Christ in my parenting (ironic, since He was never a parent, but you get the picture). There was plenty that my parents and my husband's parents did right: they loved me, they fed me, they clothed and educated me, they supported my dreams, set boundaries, took me to church. However, there was a lot left to be desired in their parenting approach as well. Let me explain.

I was born in 1981. Go ahead and laugh. I'm either "so young" or "so old" depending on which side of my facebook friends you are on. But those are the facts, ma'am. I'm an 80's baby. Which means, I was born into a very unique generation. We were essentially the first (of a long line) of babies raised by proxy. I was a daycare baby and my family was duel-income. Women's lib had won one for the team, though I feel like the only thing they really got liberated from was their kids. It was definitely a "ME" generation: Have babies to feel good about yourself, then stick them in daycare so you can go back to your career climbing to feel good about yourself. And there was born the daycare-latchkey generation. And really, that set the pace for women for the last 30 years because now, you nearly can't afford to NOT be duel income. There's very little choice left. The cost of living has sky-rocketed and now women who long to be home, have to go to work. So, I have very distinct memories of daycare (good and terrible) and very few memories of home.

The 80's are also the "Self-Esteem" era. Our precious self views had to be protected at all costs. There was very little reprimand that addressed the person cause we might injure the psyche. So, I grew up being told constantly that I was wonderful, smart, beautiful and a treasure. Don't get me wrong. I tell my kids all the same stuff. But I don't cushion the blow when they have reveal their selfish ugly inner self and we have to deal with it. We keep a sharp perspective on their depravity and the fact that they can't clean themselves up or will themselves better. They need Jesus. But my parents both grew up in a Self-Righteousness Gospel background where you earn your way up, and God is lucky to have you on His team.

However, my mother-in-law was different. She was a nurse, but she worked nights and was at home during the day. And she had two "sets" of kids about 10 years apart. So my husband was never in daycare. Either his mom was there or he was working on the farm with his dad or his older brother and sister were there. And whatever might have come later, my mother-in-law was an excellent disciplinarian. Not only did she make them toe the line, but she was creative. One time my brother-in-law flipped her off, so she duct-taped his hands (both of them) to where the middle finger was the only one he could use for a whole day. I don't think my brother-in-law has ever given the bird again. Another time my husband and his little sister were fighting, so she duct-taped them together (she liked duct tape) and they had to learn to get along before they could be apart. Believe me, I'm taking notes!

But I think one my husbands most distinct memories is of watching Saturday morning cartoons, and his mother "ruining" them for him. He LOVED He-man! Loved Him. Had the Grayskull castle and all the action figures. When it came on, he and Michael (older brother) would race to the TV and chant the theme. "By the Power of Grayskull...He-man, and the Master of the Universe" And every time, without fail, his mother would holler from the kitchen, "Jonnie, who's the real Master of the Universe?" Jonathan would roll his little eyes and yell, "God, mom!" in an annoyed tone of voice.

I cannot tell you how many times we have laughed about that over the years. It's an inside joke for us and we have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then Jonathan found the Full Gospel and became a church planter. Part of having our eyes opened to the depth of our depravity and the greater depth of the Father's Love for us, by no merit of our own, is that the Bible has changed. It's not a bunch of individual stories that lead up to or away from a defining moment of Jesus. Every story is Jesus. Every story is the Redemption story. And not just in the Bible. Every story everywhere tells the Gospel. There is always a protagonist, an antagonist and something gone terribly awry that must be set right. It has made Bible reading way more fun, but it has also caused us to find whispers of Jesus everywhere. And our kids books, stories and movies are not exempt from this.

So, last night I was tucking my boys into bed, kissing, praying, and singing. The lights were out, final good-nights said, and I go back to my room. They of course were not asleep, but talking and singing still. Currently my boys are obsessed with Peter Pan. They discovered Hook and can't get enough. So they are signing, "We're Following the Leader, the leader, the leader, we're following the leader wherever he may go," from the Disney movie. At the top of their lungs. Non-stop. For Five Minutes. I finally went in there and called time. Judah says, "But mom! We're just singing Peter Pan Song: Following the Leader!" I told him, "I know, but it's time to go to sleep now. Besides, who is our real leader?" Judah and Gideon know this cue by now and say, "Jesus!" I said, "That's right, and we will follow Him wherever He may go! Goodnight!"

Then I turned around and laughed out-loud that I had turned into my mother-in-law. She may not have had all the theology books to back it up, but she knew how to Gospel her kids and protect them from false doctrine in TV shows. Bravo Mom!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Jonathan and I were standing in the kitchen the other night talking about selling our house. We are selling our house because we are moving in 4 months (4 months!!! Oh my goodness!) to Madison Wisconsin to plant a church. Now, if we'd known we were going to be church planters, we wouldn't have...well, we wouldn't have a lot of things: quit our job before raising support, bought a project house to only keep for 3 years, gotten so attached to this place! But alas, God uses the ordinary lives of his ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary purposes, and here we are.

So, back on track, we're chatting house presentation: let's paint the kitchen, but not worry about the bathroom; we should level the house, but not replace that terrible chandelier in the entryway, etc. We bought this house for its potential, potential that we will not realize fully before we sell it to someone else. I was glancing at the living room, thinking how lovely it will look when someone knocks out that extra wall, puts in an island, makes it into one large "multi-purpose" room and it hit me: WE ARE INSANE!!!

We own a home. We have friends. We have TWO life groups that we like. Our kids have friends. We like Judah's school. We have dreams for our house. Jonathan likes his job. I like staying home. We have struggled and striven to get where we are: the middle of the "American Dream" and now we are chucking it all to move to Madison Wisconsin and try to tell some people about Jesus. Ha! That's crazy talk! .

I laughed and told Jonathan we are crazy. He said, "Yes Ma'am. This is definitely for love of the Gospel. This makes no sense by earthly standards and we are going to get hit by the people who love us the most who are afraid that we are losing our minds or being reckless. We have to be all in!" I'm reminded of a (semi-cheesy) Steven Curtis Chapman song (I'm nearly always reminded of a song):

We will abandon it all
For the sake of the Call
No other reason at all
But the sake of the Call
Wholly devoted to live and to die
For the sake of the Call

The fact that I wrote that entirely from memory should be a good indication of how that has been impressed upon my brain.

So here we go: Burn the Ships!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lessons Learned in the Snow

So, we have snow here in Temple Texas. I know that shouldn't be headline news, but when "snow" and "Texas" come in the same sentence, it usually is. And I feel like God is giving us a little preview, "warming us up" if you'll allow the completely inappropriate use of that saying. And in the process, I have learned some very valuable lessons from these snow days.

1. Mittens prefer the single life. No matter how well you pack them away in pairs, they get divorced in the summer and one of them wanders away. So, in the flurry of getting everybody bundled up to go play in the one and only snow of the year, somebody ends up with mismatched mitten hands. Luckily Gideon didn't mind having one black and one blue mitten as long as he got to make snowballs and a snow man.

2. Mom should always put on her gloves LAST! Trying to zip zippers, tie ties, button buttons, evenly distribute tiny fingers inside of tiny gloves and buckle shoes on with gloves on is nearly impossible and will most likely result in some of your glove getting zipped into their coat. Much better to just wait until you are walking out the door to don your own hand warmers.

3. Those cute crocheted or knitted cotton mittens are only cute inside the house. Outside, in the snow, they morph from "mittens" into "moisture catchers". They are also magnetic to snow, where they accumulate it en mass and your hand actually becomes a snowball. They are slightly warmer than barehands in the snow, but perhaps less helpful than say, socks pulled over your hands. Thank heavens next year we will be in a place with a larger selection of water-proof hand coverings

4. Snow Play is a 1:3 ratio for energy output. Don't give in to cabin fever. Release the hounds to play in the snow. One hour of snow play in the back yard or driveway building a very sad, pathetic snowman, no taller than Gideon, was the same as spending 3 hours at a park or playground. Once we returned to the warm indoors all of my kids (and my husband) passed out on couches and had a good nap. As long as you are bundled up well enough, snow play is aerobic!

5. Stock up on Coffee Supplies!! This is an important one that goes overlooked I fear. Everyone knows to stock up on food and milk. But we often overlook the very necessary staple of caffeine for snow days. And remember that each child you have present will increase the amount of coffee needed exponentially. So, don't forget the beans, cream and honey before the next snowflake falls!

6. There's no shame in Movie Madness Day! When the weather is blustery and the natives get restless, there's nothing like some Peter Pan or Larry Boy to bring the energy down a notch and keep the house livable! I try not to plug my children in, but once I got tired of bundling them up only to take it all off for a bathroom break, I called upon the awesome power of Larry Boy and his super suction ears!

7. The beauty of my small children experiencing the wonder and magic of God's beauty takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes. EVERY TIME.

And of course, as I type this, it's mostly melted and we're back to soggy, Texas winter. But this day has been a blessing and a much needed rest for my over-worked Kindergartner and my overworked husband. Thank you God for snow!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cupcakes, Cupcakes, Cupcakes

Judah's school had the 100th day celebration today where they released 100 balloons and ate 100 cupcakes. Now, I was laughing at myself, because my hippie side says, "That's not green living! All that sugar and all that litter when those balloons pop!" But Judah was excited about it. [
]Who wasn't excited? ME! Why? Because I'm room mom for Kindergarten and room mom for Kindergarten is in charge of baking all 100 cupcakes! Yikes!

When Judah's teacher emailed me that we would be doing this, I said, "This sounds like hazing! I have to bake 100 cupcakes?" Luckily, God only gives us what we can not handle and then steps in to provide for us. So, naturally, when I felt completely overwhelmed, God sent Celeste! I love Celeste. She's another Kindergarten mom who called and said, "You are NOT allowed to bake 100 cupcakes yourself! I'm helping!"

So, only 50 cupcakes later, I have now developed diabetes from licking the icing off of my fingers, am completely out of flour and if I never see another bag of powdered sugar it will be too soon! But I also am beginning to learn a few things about God and about me.

1) God loves to put me in places where I have to give up and admit total reliance on Him because I am stubborn and still steeped in "Self-Reliant Sanctification" false theology. The Holy Spirit has been gently teaching me true doctrine and true Gospel, but when "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is built into your DNA, living from those truths takes extreme circumstances. Despite being "born in a pew" I only came to the realization that the Gospel alone saved me in college. However, I still believed I was responsible for my sanctification until probably 2 years ago, and it's been a long slow road of surrender and constantly allowing my mind to be transformed and renewed.

2) I have too much on my plate for this season of my life! It's great to realize that God will sustain you when the load seems to large or the road too long. It's another altogether to heap extra burdens on your back during a time of transition. God has been teaching me about seasons since my first child was born. I want to do all things right NOW! Always have. And having children has taught me that some things (like my Masters, my midwife certification, training for a marathon, learning how to ice cupcakes right) may have to wait until a different season. So, right now, we are in the "Moving to Wisconsin in 5 months to plant the Gospel" season. Which means I don't need to be in the "Building New Communities in Temple" season or the "Over-Acheiving Room Mom" season or the "Learning New Hobbies" season. That's difficult for me. I love to fill my time. When I start having regular open spaces of time, I figure I'm getting lazy and need to sign up for something. But I'm realizing that I may need to take a break, pack a box, read a book, take a nap, write a blog and wait on God to show me what that time is for.

3) I must let God order my time, my days. There is a very popular theme going through Christian circles that you have to take "Me time" and I am really uncomfortable with that logic. None of the time is "My Time". It is all God's time. Every second. And when I over-schedule or under-schedule or schedule by myself at all, I am not surrendering to His divine purpose in my life. Now, I do believe that He loves me and that He will create times to bless me with good coffee, good books, good rest, good exercise, good chats and good movies. But when those times are numbing instead of nourishing I am not tuned in to Him. I find myself overwhelmed and undernourished and I start tuning out of life, stressing out, getting frustrated and then I turn to mind numbing pastimes from which I derive no encouragement and from which I return more cranky than I started. I must learn to give my day-timer to God and pursue Him ALL of the time, trusting Him to pursue me through work and rest.

So, there are my "Lessons Learned in the Cupcake Tray" thoughts. I'm ready for this week to be over and for Jonathan to come home. I'm ready for my one-year-old to get his molars already and stop waking up at 3 crying. And I'm ready for this period of in-between to be over!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


So, this is another aspect of a church planter's wife: never seeing my husband! To support our church planting habit, my husband has to work another job. He works 72 on and 72 off. On his 72 on, he's completely off the grid. I can text him and he occasionally receives them, but the signal is so bad he can rarely text back. He doesn't receive emails or phone calls at all. That's bad enough. But then, when he is home, he is preparing to plant a church. He is either doing home repairs to get our house sell-able, looking for jobs in Madison, reading church planter prep material, or communicating with his mentors/supporters/trainers. I feel like I never see him.

Usually, I handle it well, but this last 4 rotations (2 home, 2 away) have been really rough on us. My son broke his nose 2 weeks ago, and I had to handle it all on my own, which I'm totally up to. But I felt like collapsing when Jonathan got home and handing it all over to him and taking a break. But that wasn't really an option: he had work to do. Then this time home, I just missed him. I just wanted to cuddle with him, play with the kids together, talk. But he had so much work to do, that was also not an option. I realize that lots of moms do this ALL THE TIME. Either as single moms or military wives or railroad wives or doctors wives. There's plenty of careers out there perfectly happy to take husbands away from their families for days or weeks or years at a time. What I don't want is to wallow in self-pity. What I do want is coping techniques. The last thing I want to be is another check-mark for my husband, or worse, a burden.

As I was praying about it I realized a lot of it is my idolizing my husband. Not thinking he's perfect but making a heart idol out of him. I expect him to meet my needs. All of them. I want him to provide, to protect, to console, to guide, to give companionship, to give rest, to uplift, to Gospel me. I believe that God is teaching me to look to Him for those things and take the burden off of Jonathan to be my all in all. I'm not silly or stupid. I've known in my head that God is those things for a long time. But I think I forget sometimes. Jonathan has been my best friend for so long, I have forgotten what it means.

This is my depressed entry. I'm struggling.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Panic vs. Peace

My son has his first broken...well, anything...but this happens to be a broken nose.
Poor kid. We went to the park on a play date with friends. There's a huge fallen tree there that had been struck by lightening, and the city of Belton decided it was safe and left it laying there. It forms a big arch and is begging to be climbed on. In the past when visiting, Judah has been allowed to climb it with a parent (usually Jonathan)'s supervision. However, yesterday, he did not ask for help. I was carrying Elijah, diaper bag, sippy cups, holding Gideons hand and about 20 yards away when I saw him slip and fall off the highest point, about 5 1/2 feet up. He looked like he was sky diving or belly flopping and I saw him bounce his face. My heart immediately clenched, but I've been a mom for 5 1/2 years, and I know to wait before I bounce!

This was not a bounce. When he popped back up, screaming and clutching his nose, blood was pouring from his fingers. That mom instinct that says, "Drop everything and get to your hurt child" kicked in and I nearly chunked Elijah in an effort to run to Judah. Luckily my friend Leslie was right behind me and a threw Elijah at her and sprinted towards Judah.

I hate that my fear makes me go into lecture mode! I started in on, "Judah Cecil! Why were you climbing that tree! You know not to climb that tree without me or Daddy with you. You didn't even ask me!" I had to tell my fear to shut up and let my Momma love take over with compassion. I ran/marched him to the bathroom where of course there was no lights, no towels, no mirror, no toilet paper and only a push button sink, the kind that slowly comes back up turning the water off. I would shove it down, splash water on his face and wipe blood away. By the time I reached back to rinse my hand off, the water was already off. I couldn't see anything and he was crying and writhing. I just picked him up and headed for the car. I asked Leslie if we could just follow her home and use her bathroom and some ice.

I threw kids in carseats, not even buckling Judah (I didn't know that at the time, I was just in a rush), threw the car in drive and punched #1 on the speed dial: Jonathan. I was shaking and on the verge of freaking out, so I started talking out loud to myself, "Calm down! It's ok. Jesus is here and He's in charge. Jesus, please give me peace and wisdom. Please help me see what to do." About that time Jonathan picked up and as calmly as I could I related the events. I told him I didn't think (in my head) that I should take Judah to the ER. His nose wasn't crooked, the bleeding had already basically stopped and aside from charging me $400 to stuff cotton up his nose, I don't know what they could do. He agreed and told me to keep him on the phone until I got to Leslie's and could assess the damage.

At Leslie's Judah had calmed down immensely. We washed the dried blood off his face and gave him an icepack which his nose was nearly too tender to handle at first. I looked and it seemed to be your basic bridge-of-the-nose crack (that's where the blue bruising line was) with no sideways cant to it. The part that looked the worst was that tip of his nose and right under where it connected to his lip that had gotten really badly scraped. He is quite literally a brown-noser right now! Ha!

What amazed me was that it took all my conscious effort to keep trusting Jesus. I kept having to "preach" myself back down from panic and tell myself to seek Him and His peace. I kept asking Him to show me the way and wisdom. I want to be that carefree scrapes-are-what-make-em-boys mom, but I'm really a quivering, shaking, that's-my-baby-who's-hurting mom.

He was so brave. So stoic. So tough. He kept saying, "I'm ok mom. I'm tough. I'm being tough. Right mom?" It was precious. I just wanted to cuddle him and let him sleep with me (though I probably would have bumped his nose 20 times). I kept him up later watching movies to avoid danger with a concussion and when I put him to bed he slept soundly and woke up fine.

A Doc friend of mine at church told me there was nothing they would have done in the ER, he probably had a mild concussion and he'd be fine with rest. That was nice to hear.

But what really got me was imagining what could have happened. It could have been his arm, his leg, a rib, his cheekbone, an ankle. He could have knocked himself out. Gotten a major concussion. Broken his neck! What I keep seeing, in my minds eye, is Jesus holding him in the palms of His hands and setting him down on the ground virtually unscathed for falling 6 feet. Bless His holy Name!

I told Judah that. I told Him that Jesus had protected him. I knew his nose hurt (to which he said, "Not much anymore Mom! You gave me ice cream and it feels better! Jesus healed my broken nose with ice cream!"), but it could have been so much worse. Jesus had held him in his hands when he fell and protected him.

When he prayed tonight, Judah said, "Thank you Jesus for holding me in Your hands and protecting me. You are good. I love you. Please heal my nose. And help me do my work fast at school so I can have recess." Makes me tear up just typing it. I love that boy. And I long for him to fall more and more in love with Jesus every day. He's been struggling with liking Jesus lately. Jesus makes him go to school. Jesus makes me obey. Jesus makes me discipline him when he's naughty. Jesus can be a real drag sometimes to a 5 year old. It was breaking my heart to watch him struggle, because he had been so passionate about Jesus a few months ago. I had prayed for Jesus to be real, show Judah tangible ways He loved him. This is not necessarily what I meant, but it sure was tangible to Judah.

Thank You for Your Love and Mercy, new every morning!

Friday, January 7, 2011


This is an interesting time of year for me. Not only is it the new year, but it's also my birthday. I turned 30 yesterday (yes, happy birthday to me) and it is such an odd feeling. On the one hand, I'm delighted to be older, to be maturing, to be growing out of some of my baggage and selfishness and silliness (my closest friends might beg to differ, but this is my blog and I can make whatever outrageous claims I want to). On the other hand, it's completely unbelievable to me that I'm 30. I really still feel 24. Not that I don't notice the energy slump, the extra time it requires to recover from my New Year's Eve party, the extra ache in my knees after a run. But when someone says, "Oh, her daughter's about 24," I think, "Oh, my age!" I have to stop and correct myself that 24 is NOT my age. It's over half a decade younger than me. And that's an odd feeling.

But this morning in the quiet before my boys started stirring and the day exploded around me, as I sat with my Bible and my holy cup of coffee, I thought back over this last year (which has been crazy) and over as much of the last 30 as I could remember, focusing on the last 10. What do I see? I see God's faithfulness. He has been so faithful. I have been through a lot of ups and downs and challenges. I have struggled; I have wept; I have fought and kicked against the goads. I have doubted and questioned and thrown fits. But God has not. God has kept steady and solid and sure. God has tirelessly pressed on, pressed upward, pressed into me. I distinctly remember times when I was sure He was on vacation or at the very least on the other line! But when I look back I see the refinement, the prodding, the gentle, or at times not-so-gentle pressure. I see times when I felt like I was going through hell only to look back now and see His mercy. His tender, terrible mercy.

And I'm reminded of Israel. They have no king, just judges. Lines and lines of judges, some of whom have done well; some not so well. And here they are, under Samuel. Not only a judge but a godly prophet. They have finally gotten the ark back. They made a muddle of things there, bringing the ark to a fight that God had not picked, but they have rectified the situation, gotten the ark back and want a new beginning. They ask Samuel what to do and in the midst of the altar call, here come the Philistines again. They obviously hadn't learned their lesson from all the tumors and rats that God inflicted them with and they think they'll have the same result as last time when they captured the ark. But this time, Samuel is there. Samuel cries out to the Lord and asks for His mercy, His might, His will. And God answers with a whopper of a thunder storm, knocks the Philistines silly and Israel has the victory. So this time, they did it right. For now, they are following the God of All Creation.

In a humble spirit and totally surrendered, Samuel sets up a stone of remembrance and calls it Ebenezer: Thus far as the Lord been faithful. Up til now, things have been crazy. We've been running things our way some and God's way some. Sometimes we're surrendered; sometimes we're stubborn. But so far, no matter what we do, God is faithful. So far, we cannot look back and pinpoint one time that God has not done exactly what God said He would do. Right now, and there is no evidence to the contrary, He is a faithful and good God.

That's where I am this January. This 30th birthday. Thus far has the Lord been faithful to me. Thus far He has accomplished His will and purpose through me and for me. Thus far, His Name has been glorified and my good has happened, even in spite of me sometimes. Thus far, He has been the author and perfecter of my faith. Thus far I have not gone without food or shelter or friends or family or love. Thus far...