Sunday, December 31, 2006

Day Six

Maybe it's because the kids are excited about staying up until midnight tonight to watch the ball drop and are, therefore, exceptionally loud and bouncy. Maybe it's because we're all missing Brian since he's been gone for six days. Maybe it's because I really need a break!
Whatever "it" is, I am feeling quite edgy tonight and I think it's a really good thing we're going to my grandmother's house to ring in the new year with other people. The way I'm feeling at the moment, I'm pretty sure I would blow my goal of not blowing it with the kids this week if I had to do tonight alone.
We're taking Family Fun Cranium along to play with my brother, his fiancee, and my nieces, and my brother told me he'll bring some games, too. We have chips & dip, snack mix, and pop. We're going to spend the night, too. I'm sure we're in for a very enjoyable evening. And I'm so glad I'm not doing it alone!
Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Day Five

I have been going through the Gospel of Matthew during my quiet times and just finished chapter 22 this morning. As the Pharisees and Sadducees have been approaching Jesus testing and trying to trap Him, I've wondered, How did You feel about these guys? I know Jesus loved them, but I began to wonder if their behavior might have actually made Him sad.
They just didn't get it! They had the Savior of the world, God Himself, the Lover of their souls, in their midst. They could have worshipped Him up close and personal. They could have spoken with Him, asked Him questions, served him and loved Him. But they didn't understand who He was. Rather than enjoying relationship with Him, they were fighting against Him. Oh, foolish, misguided souls! Yes, I think Jesus may have been sad that these men were missing out on the relationship they could've had.
As I considered Jesus' interactions with these men, I came to the conclusion that He operated through the motivation of love and Truth. He always had the good of mankind in His heart. And so I wrote this prayer: Lord, will You make me wise? Filled with love and motivated by Truth? Will You guide me as I raise my children and help me know how to train them and interact with them? I don't want to be like combatants, but like comrades. We should play together today. Please give me a good idea. And I determined to come up with something to do that they would consider fun.
I sat at the computer and searched numerous community calendars and some Michigan website, but couldn't find anything. Then Brian called. His idea was to go to Caesarland. Oh, but it's Saturday and Caesarland is always chaos on Saturday! But it was a good idea. My kids frequently ask to go to Caesarland, and we almost always say, "No." So, the decision was made. I would take the kids to Caesarland.
Joshua's response was perfect. He said, "Wow! That's cool, Mom! Usually we ask you to take us to Caesarland. But this time you're asking us!" (I'm not keeping score, but someone please put a few points in the "Mom" column.) Of course, I managed to work hair cuts for the boys into the deal. Hey, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
We didn't even have to wait for a table when we got to Caesarland. Surely this was going to be a fun time. I gave each of the kids a dollar for tokens and they enjoyed playing games and climbing on the play structure. They got good and sweaty and after two hours were ready to go home.
After dinner we played "Twenty Questions for Kids," and I read a few chapters out of Joshua's new book Mitt the Michigan Mouse. We definitely had fun together today. Oh, don't be fooled - we had "moments," too. But the good far out-weighed the bad and, for that, I am thankful.
With a busy and active day under our belts, the kids were ready for a reasonable bed time, too. Which is a good thing since we have church tomorrow and they won't be able to sleep in, as they've become accustomed to this week!

Yes, they're getting used to a different sleep pattern, but they aren't adjusting as much to Brian being gone. This morning Elizabeth said she misses him and wants him to come home. (Me, too, honey!) She talked to him on the phone and told him so. I wondered if that made him feel good because he's loved, or bad because he isn't here. Awww, just two more days!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Rounding Second

Well, we've made it to the half way point without Daddy. The kiddos are in bed. We're rounding second base and heading for home! Overall, today was another good day. Though I failed again to know how to best deal with Joshua and I lied to Elizabeth. Let me explain.

One of Joshua's chores is to empty the trash and take the bin to the curb on trash day. And, of course, to bring the bin back to the house once it's been dumped. That should have been done oh, let's see, yesterday. I asked Joshua several times to bring it up to the house yesterday. (Note: I often get accused by Joshua of being bossy because I'm "always" telling him to do things. He doesn't like my reasoning that if he'd do it the first time I ask, I wouldn't have to keep on...) So today when I looked outside and saw the bins on the curb I decided I would try to get him to see for himself that there was still a job for him to do. You know, get him to realize it so I didn't have to be bossy. Good idea, right?
I called him and asked him to come downstairs. When he came I asked him to look outside and see if there was anything he needed to put away. He didn't get it. I said, "Look by the red car." A couple times. He said, "What? Am I in trouble?" I said, "No. You just need to bring the trash bins up to the house." Then he got mad and yelled, "Geesh! Why didn't you just tell me? I thought I was in trouble for something!" And he slammed the door and stormed off to get the bins as I stood dumbfounded, wondering if I'll ever understand him and know how to give him what he needs.

So that's how I failed. Here's how I lied.

I was making bean burritos for dinner, which all my kids love. Sometimes I put a cup of diced chicken in with the beans for a little extra protien, but tonight I thought I'd use leftover turkey from our Christmas dinner. Elizabeth doesn't like turkey, but I didn't expect she'd be able to detect the difference so I wasn't concerned. That is, until she came into the kitchen and asked, "Are we having bean burritos for dinner tonight?" I replied that we were. Then, seeing me cutting up the meat she asked, "Are you putting chicken in them?" I said, "Yes." And she skipped out of the kitchen saying, "Oh, goodie!"
What was I supposed to do? Tell the truth? Then she wouldn't have eaten dinner! As it was, I could definitely taste the turkey and wondered if Elizabeth would pick up on it. But she didn't. In fact, she had seconds. Maybe she likes turkey today. I dunno. I can't keep track of their taste changes.
Fridays are traditionally "Movie Nights" at our house, so after dinner I did the dishes and the kids picked up the house and put on their pajamas. Then we settled down with popcorn (Kettle corn! Which Dad doesn't like, but he isn't home!) and watched Little Ghost. It's a cute show and after it was over the kids had fun fantasizing what it would be like to have a ghost for a friend, or better yet, to be able to turn invisible themselves. They ran around being crazy for awhile, and now they're in bed. Not bad.

I know we're only at the half way point of Brian being gone but, somehow since tomorrow starts the weekend, it seems like we're almost done. Gotta be careful not to get over confident. I think, though, we're going to make it through this time just fine.
I wish I knew how to approach and respond to Joshua in ways that didn't get him angry or flustered. It would be great if Matthew would be consistent with using the bathroom and would stop having accidents. I don't want to tell Elizabeth any more lies. But even with a few bumps in the road, I think we're going to make it "home."

Oh! I learned something today! Bloglines doesn't send e-mails. You have to log into your account and, there on one screen, you will find all the blogs to which you've subscribed and you'll know which ones have unread posts. With just the click of the mouse you are instantly taken to them for your reading and commenting pleasure. It's so cool! Thanks go to MomTeacherFriend for turning me on to Bloglines!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Day Three

Well, in spite of the fact we "slept in" again today, we experienced fall-out throughout the day from last night's late adventures. The fall-out showed up mostly in the form of bad attitudes, though "forcing" the kids to write Thank You notes even on a good day can produce bad attitudes. So, was it foolish for me to assign that task today? I dunno, but the job is finished now.

Finishing Thank You notes was the incentive I gave for enjoying a movie at the community center this afternoon. When the job was completed the kids left the house, leaving me with instructions to meet them there for the movie by 2:15 - so we could get good seats. By 2:30 we were enjoying the movie "Cars." It was my second time seeing it - cute show! I think Matthew slept through parts of it, as he was leaning on me pretty heavily, and Joshua was sprawled out on the floor wrapped up in my coat for portions of the movie, too. In the end, Matthew only had enough energy to hold on to me while I gave him a piggy back ride home.
From about 5:00 on, the fall-out became quite severe, and I announced (though I'd made the decision already this morning) that bedtime was 8:30 tonight. Joshua didn't like that decision at all, and he let me know it. He insisted he wasn't tired and could stay up late again. I knew better than that, especially as he started complainig of physical symptoms like a head ache. Guess what? He was asleep by 8:25!

As I made my way through today, several times I laughed and thought, "I'll have to blog this!" In many ways it seems my life has become one big illustration. It reminded me of when I was writing my book last summer.
One morning during my quiet time I was asking God if there was anything else He wanted me to write. Silly girl!!! Oh, did I have a "morning" that day. One thing after another went wrong. Ordinarily, that series of events would have sent me into an angry tail spin, but in the midst of it I thought, "This is going to make a great illustration!" (It's in chapter four...) And somehow it wasn't so painful.
My point? (Yes, I have one!) Perspective makes a big difference in how I handle hard times. Today I spent a lot of time taking deep breaths and reminding myself, "They're tired." Stepping back to look at things differently, and extending grace, really helped me make it through today.

Another thing I did today was learn how to add links to my blog. (Look to your left.) I have included some other blogs I've been visiting and a few of my favorite Christian women and organizations. Just give them a click if you want to visit.
I also signed up to receive e-mail notices for whenever new entries are posted on the blogs I'm following. Someday I'll put a sign-up link to bloglines on here somewhere, but for now I'm too afraid I'll mess things up. If you want to receive notices when I post something here, instead of checking on your own, click here to sign up. It's free!

So, Day Three is done. Matthew must be asleep because it's been over ten minutes since he last came down here and told me he can't sleep. And Elizabeth hasn't called me with a complaint for at least the same amount of time. The mess from last night's festivities is pretty much cleaned up. I learned a few new things today, and have entered a new post. Now, shall I go to bed, or find a new task to accomplish?

Good night!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Day Two

OK, this morning I was seriously thinking I was going to blow that goal of not blowiing up at the kids this week...
We slept in until almost 8:00, which was great because I stayed up way too late last night. Hey, the kids were asleep and Brian was gone - I had to take advantage of the time alone, didn't I? Anyway, I hid out in my bed with my Bible so I could have a real "quiet" time before facing the day. That was good. Then I came downstairs to three kids anxiously awaiting the exciting conclusion to our game of Life. (I convinced them I could eat a bowl of cereal while we played. Their plan was that I'd need to eat after the game, but I was hungry!)
I thought it would be a fun-filled, exciting conclusion. Silly me! Joshua and Matthew seemed more interested in filling the extra cars with "peg people" and driving them all over the board than playing the game, but insisted they wanted to play whenever I suggested they might rather sit out. Then Joshua started getting angry when he had to pay money to other players, and when he couldn't collect a salary for a Pay Day space he didn't really cross. Suddenly, for him, the game was "stupid" and he copped his angry attitude. I told him to get control of himself, and asked/told him to quit crumbling the game pieces. That's when he started in on me, telling me I'm too bossy. (And that's when I started thinking, "Well, if you would just respect me and behave like a mature adult, I wouldn't say the things that make you think I'm 'bossy'!" He's eight, Karen. Breathe!) I did make him sit on the couch for a few minutes to cool off, but he eventually rejoined us to finish the game. In the end, Joshua retired as a millionaire and all was well. But there was a time in there when I was really close to losing it.
I then spent some time on the computer, working on promotional stuff for the Women's Conference with Kathy Troccoli coming up at my home church February 2 & 3. (For details, visit Finally, I showered and we took the promised trip to McDonald's playland. The kids had a good time, I decided the Asian Salad is actually a pretty decent menu option (never thought I'd say that about anything at the Golden Arches!), and I read up on what I need to do to report and pay Michigan sales tax. All in all, it was two hours well spent. And on the way home, they hit me with the next request.
They wanted to go to the Salvation Army Thrift Store to spend some of their Christmas money. One of their friends once told my kids that he bought a stuffed animal there for 80 cents, and when we went to check it out my kids were delighted at what they could get for so little money. So they wanted to do it again. I couldn't think of a reason to say, "No," so I said I would call to be sure they were open and then we'd go.
Matthew needed a bathroom break when we got home and I needed to pick up the neighbor's mail, then we'd be on our way. If only it could have been that easy... With the kids in the van waiting for me, I ran inside to put the mail away and heard...something really strange. I put the mail down and ran into the basement, expecting to find the washer running with the lid open - that's what it sounded like. No, that wasn't it. I went to the corner and saw water pouring from the ceiling all over the furnace. Ahhh! It was from the toilet upstairs!
I went back upstairs quickly and darted into the bathroom. Yup! Water everywhere! I reached back and turned off the water feeding the toilet, and threw down a couple of towels to soak up the mess. Then I wrote, "Do not use," on some masking tape and taped the lid shut. Heading out to the van with a wet sleeve, I figured I'd deal with the toilet later. (That was eight hours ago. I have removed the towels, and Matthew has confessed that he "might" have used too much toilet paper and caused the problem when he repeatedly flushed the toilet. But, unless I get really industrious, I think we'll use the second floor bathroom for the rest of the week, and I'll let Brian play plumber when he gets home.)
So, we made it to the Thrift Store, the kids found some treasures, and Joshua was thrilled to learn that the "little" stuffed animals were only ten cents! What a bargain! His NeoPet collection is growing, and he is pleased. And it dawned on me that going to the Thrift Store was a simple thing to do, didn't require much of me, yet made the kids so happy. Why is it usually my first instinct to say, "No," when they ask me for things? It really made me glad to make them happy. Hmmm. Something to ponder.
Once home, the kids ran off to play at the community center and I worked on conference publicity a little more. Then we had dinner, I washed dishes, and the kids stuffed their shirts with extra clothing and got into a belly-busting match. It was quite humorous. I was thinking they ought to start thinking about bedtime when Elizabeth asked if they could all sleep in the living room tonight. Again, my first instinct was to say, "No." Why is that???? But I paused and said, "OK," instead. You'd have thought I'd just given her the world! She skipped out of the room to tell her brothers the good news. That news motivated them to clean up from the belly-busting match, get themselves showered and ready for bed, and all without me being "bossy"!
For well over an hour now, they have been playing games with each other, reading books together, doing math flash cards, math pages, and language arts stuff. They tell me they're playing "school" and are going to be really smart when real school starts back up in January. But it's almost 11:00. Am I a bad mom for letting them stay up this late? They're having a great time, and day two is almost over. This isn't so bad...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

One Down, Six To Go

Well, they aren't asleep yet, but the kids are all in bed. There now, that wasn't so bad, was it? Today was the first of seven days I'm going "solo" as a parent of three kids at home for Christmas vacation.
My husband is on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Michigan State University and every three years he serves at InterVarsity's Urbana Missions Conference. So this morning at 8:00 he left for Detroit Metro airport and won't return for a full week.
I have been preparing for this adventure mentally for quite awhile, and am determined to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I go through this week. Call me crazy, but I have made it my goal to get through the week without blowing it with my kids. Unrealistic? I dunno. Didn't Someone once say, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"?

I'm not sure, but I think we may have already made it through the most difficult task of the week. I usually do my grocery shopping on Mondays, but since Monday this week was Christmas I went shopping today, with the kids. I have gotten so used to shopping by myself that I really was dreading this trip to the store today - especially since the kids wanted to bring their Christmas spending money and browse the toy section. But we did it. We actually made it through Meijer, toy shopping and grocery shopping, without incident. Amazing!
During the afternoon the kids played (mostly) nicely with each other. (OK, there were one or two "incidents" this afternoon.) After dinner we finished yesterday's cheesecake, and Elizabeth and Joshua washed the dishes. Then we set out to play the new game we got for Christmas, Life. (Yes, I am re-living fond childhood memories through the purchase of that game. Anyone else grow up playing it?) And now the kids are in bed. Like I said, they aren't asleep yet, but for all practical purposes I think it is safe for me to say I've made it through one day and have just six more to go.

We have plans to visit McDonald's playland for lunch tomorrow, take in a movie at the downtown library one afternoon, and play a few times at the community center. Who knows, maybe in the midst of trying to survive this week we'll make some good memories!? I'm open to that! I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, December 25, 2006

My Merry Little Christmas

No alarm clock this morning. We all slept in until a pleasant 7:45. After breakfast we held our own Advent candlelight service and sang Christmas carols before opening gifts. Then I got started on laundry. (Hey, Christmas or not, it's Monday and I am a creature of habit!)
Between loads of wash, I made No-Bake Cheesecake. I'd forgotten to get something for dessert, but found a box of cheesecake mix in the pantry. Whew! Jell-o to my rescue! I put the turkey in the oven and then we all got in the van for a trip to Hawk Island, where we (and a few other rebels who went to the park, even though it was "closed") played hide and seek on the play ground.
Now, we've eaten our Christmas dinner. Left overs have been packaged up and stored in the refrigerator. The dishes are washed, dried and put away. And the kids are enjoying their new toys and treasures. Sounds like a great day, doesn't it?
Really, it was. And I will do my best to remember it as a great day. But it didn't come and go without tears, and moments of feeling like I'll never "get it right" with Joshua.

As all parents do, I wanted to get gifts for my kids that would light up their faces and bring them joy. And I thought I had made the right choices. They all seemed cool to me! As gifts were unwrapped, the squeals of delight indicated all was well. That is, until Joshua decided his air gun wasn't as cool as Matthew's disc shooter. In fact, Joshua thought his new toy was stupid (never mind the fact he'd been all smiles just minutes before as he was opening other gifts) and now his attitude toward life was decidedly grim.
I tried to reason with him and coach him in gift receiving etiquette. Elizabeth chimed in and said she thought the air gun was neat, and even played with it to try to convince him further. I told Joshua he could use some of his Christmas money to buy a disc shooter just like Matthew's if he wanted. (It was only $5!) Nothing was helping.
In time, Joshua and I were both upstairs and he brought up the subject of his "stupid" gift again. Joshua essentially said I must think he is dumb because I got him such a dumb gift. He really knows how to push me! I told him I was doing my best to pick nice gifts, and if he didn't like what I picked, maybe I just wouldn't buy him gifts anymore. (Admittedly, not one of my more mature comments.)
Joshua stormed off and Elizabeth approached me saying, "I know you're doing your best, Mom." I thought, "Yes, but sometimes my best just isn't good enough!" And I went to my room to have a few minutes alone when I could cry and talk with God. I told Him, though this moment was hard, I know He didn't make a mistake in giving me children. I said I know I can't do this mothering thing without His help. My best isn't good enough. I need Him. I refocused my eyes on Him, and went out to face the day again. (And many times found myself singing the chorus about turning my eyes upon Jesus...)

Ahhh, but now the dust has settled and I am able to see God's hand in the day's events. Isn't what I went through - rememebering my best isn't good enough, and that I need Him - what today is all about? Originally, I thought the lesson was all about mothering, but was it?
Christmas is all about celebrating Jesus coming to earth - God becoming man, and why? Because our best isn't good enough. We need Him! How amazing that Jesus would choose to leave the glory of heaven, to set aside His rights as God and live as a man, ultimately enduring death on the cross! And all because our best isn't good enough. We need His best, and He was willing to give it. All because He loves us. Wow!
I hope your Christmas was a merry one, and that you will take some time to reflect on God's incredible love for you today.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Shoes

Have you heard the song "Christmas Shoes"? It's about a little boy out shopping for a gift for his sick mother on Christmas Eve. He finds a pair of shoes that are her size and he is sure she will love them. He wants to buy them for her so she'll look beautiful if she "meets Jesus tonight." Apparently, she is that sick. When it comes time to pay, the boy doesn't have enough money and is frantic because he so desperately wants to get these shoes for his mother.

The love of this boy for his mother is beautifully portrayed in the lyric and expressed by the artist. (I don't know who sings it...) It is a precious song, and nearly brings me to tears each time I hear it. Though I'm often in a hurry running around in the van, this is one song I'll sit in the drive way or parking lot listening to until it's over.

I heard "Christmas Shoes" today as I was coming home from the store, having just bought new shoes for Joshua. (And I sat in the drive way until it was over!) Sitting there, listening to the words and thinking about the "shoe" ordeals I go through with Joshua, I realized why that song is so precious to me. In spite of the time a month or two ago when Joshua "hated" me because he didn't like the play shoes I bought for him, and even though he was intensely angry with me today because I wouldn't let him go out and play in the mud since he only had his "good" shoes with him, I know he loves me.

Joshua (as you may have picked up from these blogs) is, for me, the most difficult of my three children. We clash over many things. Sometimes I must make a very deliberate choice to love him. And I often wonder if he is more sincere when he says he loves me or hates me. Yet, when we get beyond our battles, I can see he has a very tender heart, and it is full of love.

To me, "Christmas Shoes" is a beautiful picture of a little boy's love for his mother. It reminds me my own son does love me, and gives me hope. I don't know if that was the intent of the song writer, but that's how God uses the song for me.

What reminds you of your kids' love for you?

Friday, December 15, 2006


It's ten days before Christmas, but the way the family caledars work out, my family and I are in Gaylord this weekend to celebrate Christmas with my parents. That means after school today the kids had to clean their rooms, pack their things, and pile into the van for the trip up north. We've all been looking forward to this weekend with Grandma and Grandpa Sheaffer but, honestly, I was not looking forward to the drive. As our time for departure drew nearer, my disdain for the drive grew stronger.
To begin, last week the kids were told they would be in snow up to their belly buttons when they arrived in Gaylord, and that made them very excited. Today I had to break the news that all the snow had melted (this is Michigan!!!) and their disappointment was evident.
When we were packing, Joshua was in one of his "moods," which colored his world very dark. He couldn't find his boots and stomped around the house, angry that they were missing. He didn't like that I told him to get his coat and accused me of being too bossy. Matthew had left his gloves at school and was insisting that we had to go back and get them. He was sure his mittens simply wouldn't suffice. And he was mad at me for not letting him bring his comforter -his bed cover, not the Spirit!- along for the ride. So I had an angry boy and a grumpy one, and I was not wanting to road trip with either one of them. However, since leaving them behind was not an option (I'm sure it wouldn't turn out as charming as Home Alone), we piled into the van and began the trek up north.
I entered the adventure with fear and trembling and was surprised at what happened. There was the usual barrage of, "Are we there yet?" "How much longer?" "Would you cut that out?!" "Mom, make him stop touching me!" And it was peeking with Joshua's stomach ache and his inability to get comfortable in the front seat. (Riding "shot gun" had originally been a good thing. Now the seat was "stupid.") We still had nearly an hour to go and I was wondering if I was going to be able to make it through while maintaining any sense of peace or self-control.
Joshua and Elizabeth were trying to figure out how they could rework seating arrangements so Joshua could lay flat, which is when I had my good idea. (Or was it God's good idea?) We pulled over, Elizabeth took over shotgun, and Joshua came back with me so he could lay his head down on my lap.

As Joshua lay there, I rubbed his head and scratched his back. (He loves this kind of touch). I sang some of my favorite praise songs. I prayed for Joshua. I thought about how God is using my children to shape me and make me who He wants me to be.
Several times today as I was going through little battles with the kids I had the thought, "If I didn't have kids, things would be so much easier." For a moment I had a twinge of jealousy toward those who don't have children, or whose children are already grown. (I realize this confession doesn't make me sound very loving...) But in this moment of quiet, when I turned my eyes toward Jesus and thought about what is True, I remembered how precious my family is to me, and how very much I do treasure them - each one of them. I considered with joy the ways God has been refining my character as I go through trials with my kids. I have sooooo much growing to do, so much more refining that needs to happen, but He has been working in me. I really believe I am a more patient and kind person now than I was just a year ago.
In these moments of peace and reflection, God gives me hope.

How about you? How have you seen God working in your life?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm a mess

In the end of October I heard Julie Barnhill speak at a church here in Lansing, MI. One phrase she repeated over and over, and encouraged her audience to embrace was, "I'm a mess." Well, Julie, I'm admitting it to all of cyberspace tonight - I'm a mess!

I was a substitute teacher this afternoon, and that wore me out physically. My kids were quite needy after school, we got home late because of my subbing, I needed to get dinner ready early, and take the kids to church for a dress rehearsal for a Christmas program that’s happening this weekend. Of course things didn’t go smoothly getting out the door on time, there was fussing about getting costumes on, and once we were in the woods the boys didn’t want to listen to me or follow my direction. Climbing on logs and throwing rocks through the ice was much more interesting. It didn’t take long for me to become worn out emotionally.

It also didn’t take long for me to realize that having them participate in this program was a stupid idea. They’re boys! They don’t want to act like townspeople in Bethlehem. They want to act like boys in the woods! Armed with this realization, I battled with myself over calling it quits and sticking it out, trying to get the boys to "act" like townspeople and letting them be boys, maintaining some form of self-control and screaming at the top of my lungs. Only by the grace of God, we made it through our portion of the rehearsal and were dismissed. Of course we still had the task of getting back into the church, hanging costumes and finding our way back to the van, but surely the worst was over. HA!

Once we were safely in the privacy of our own van, my tears started flowing. I wished I was safely in the privacy of my own room, but I just couldn't hold them back any longer. When Elizabeth saw me, she got mad at the boys for “making” me cry. Joshua started calling himself “stupid” for “making” me cry. Through my tears I was trying to tell him it wasn’t his fault – that I was feeling bad anyway. (How do you explain hormones to an eight-year-old boy???) Finally, I asked if we could have a silent ride home - no one yelling at anyone else or blaming each other for things that aren't their fault anyway. Fortunately they complied.

The peace was good, as it gave me opportunity to pray and to remind myself of what is True. Yet I kept on crying, thinking, "I'm such a mess!" I was realizing again how desperately I need God. On my own I cannot manage mothering, a household, my sanity and PMS. What would I do without Him???

So, I reminded myself that He is good and all His ways are perfect. Though the evening was rough, my tears were plentiful, and I kept on thinking, "I'm a mess!" I have chosen to trust that God is fully in control and that He's using all these things to refine me. It hurts sometimes, but I know He is caring for me perfectly.

In the end, He used my daughter to speak Love to me. I was laying on my bed with the light off - trying to gain some composure before I went out and faced the kids again. Elizabeth came in, turned on the light and sat beside me. She started reading the "Love Passage for Kids" (1 Corinthians 13 - kid style) and when she finished she simply said, "They love you, Mom. They just aren't showing it very well right now." So much for gaining composure! But this time I was shedding "happy tears."

Isn't it good to know God loves us, even in our mess?

Friday, December 01, 2006

The roller coaster

This week at school has been dedicated to the Scholastic Book Fair, and last night I went up to volunteer. Before I left the house, the kids were describing the books they wanted and I said I would look for them and maybe buy them for Christmas gifts. (Don't you always want to be a little vauge - for the "surprise factor"?)

At the Fair I looked, with little success, for the book Joshua wanted. Not to worry...It was so heavy on his mind that he called me to see if I had found it. We spent several minutes on the phone, Joshua describing the book and its location on the book shelf in relation to the main entrance, and me walking all around looking and asking one of the librarians if she knew anything about this particular book. Finally we discovered it - in the hands of one of Joshua's buddies. James had the last copy at the Fair and when he learned Joshua wanted it, he gave it to me to buy for Joshua. What a nice kid!

Upon arriving home, I was bombarded with, "Did you get me...?" questions. I answered vaugely (that "surprise" thing), but Joshua pressed me so I said I did get the book he'd wanted. Then he said he wanted it now and I reminded him it was for Christmas. Oh - that didn't go over well! At all!!!! Joshua started crying and yelled that he wanted it now, and if he'd known it was for Christmas he wouldn't have asked for it. He started tearing paper up. He ranted about "wasting" a Christmas gift. He said he would do anything to have the book now - even offered to give me his pet mice.

Joshua has never handled disappointment well, and this display was a reminder to me he still has a lot of growing up to do. I talked about disappointment with him and tried to help him understand that he needed to get control of himself. Attempting to reason with him is often futile, but I thought pointing out that his mice really are much more important to him than this book would help him see how outrageous he was being. I'm not sure what it was, but something helped him calm down.

He came up with the idea that he could buy the book from me. He asked, "If I give you the money, could I buy the book? Just like I was buying it from the Book Fair?" I agreed to that request because if he'd given me the money beforehand, I would've bought it for him when I was at the Fair. "Ahhh," I thought, "it's settled then." But then I asked him how much money he had. Not enough. And then despair hit again as he considered it would take him "forever" to earn the money. (He gets irrational very quickly!) Surely Christmas would be here before he earned the money and, well, that's just too long to wait! I said good night, kissed him and came downstairs.

Moments later, Joshua came down, plopped $5.20 by my side and asked for the book. Elizabeth had loaned him the money he was short. OK. So I gave him the book and he went upstairs. Happy. And once again I thought, "So it's settled then."

Moments later, again, Joshua came back down as "buyer's remorse" had settled in. He was wondering if he could keep the book for a week or two, give it back for a full refund, and then accept it on Christmas as a gift. I told him, "No." He could buy it now or wait 25 days and have it as a gift. That was my "final answer." I could see the pondering going on in him. What is more important? How can I make up my mind? Can I really wait that long? Do I really want to spend my money? Finally he handed me the book, I refunded the money, and I was certain the issue was settled. Joshua went to bed and stayed there.

So I got off the roller coaster and wondered, "Did he learn anything tonight?" Times like this one make me wish for perfect wisdom, or at least a parenting manual that tells me what to do in every situation. I want to train my children in self control, help them learn how to handle disappointment, teach them to make wise decisions. And I realize I'm still working on those very things for myself. I am reminded once again of my desperate need for God and am so thankful for His grace and patience with me.

Has anyone else been riding roller coasters?

Friday, November 24, 2006


Somebody, help!!!!

I woke up this morning to the sound of invaders in my house. When I came downstairs I found the invaders had strewn Cheerios all over the dining room table and chairs, and on the floor. They scattered my daughter's stuffed animals around the living room and left socks and other unmentionables laying around. Then they escaped out the front door, leaving it wide open so the cold November air could invade the house as well.

When I was in my office checking e-mail I think they revisited because I heard dramatic screams of, "Stop touching me!" and, "Leave me alone!" They even went upstairs and turned the lights on in my kids' bedrooms - and left them on. Although the perpetrators' voices sounded like my own kids, I know we were invaded because my children have emphatically professed their innocence in this case.

So, if you're in the Lansing, Michigan area, be on the look out for these invaders. I'm quite sure there are three of them. They sounded like two males and a female to me. It appears they will eat Cheerios and favor the Apple Cinnamon variety over Honey Nut. Chances are they are running around barefoot, yes, even in this cool weather. In fact, I think they like the cold - perhaps that's why they have an aversion to closing doors. These invaders don't appear to be dangerous, so don't be alarmed if you see them. Just offer them a toasted bagel and then send them my way to close the doors and turn off the lights.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Who's hungry?

I have been going through the book of Matthew during my quiet times. This morning I read Matthew 15: 29-39, when Jesus fed four thousand men and their families with seven loaves of bread and a couple of fish. As always, I was impressed with His compassion for the people and His graciousness in healing the crowds that came to Him. It was a little phrase in verse 32 that really stood out to me, though. "I do not want to send them away hungry."

Thinking about this statement reminded me about something I read in Kathy Troccoli's book Live Like You Mean It. One of her "celebrations of the soul" is to Stay Ripe for the Picking. That is, to be so full of God and His love that other's can recieve His love from you. Picture yourself as a tree bursting with the fruit of God's love, that is ripe and ready to be picked, and everyone around you can benefit because of God's love - alive and well in you!

I considered that statement, "I do not want to send them away hungry," and thought about the people I encounter each day. It may be my kids, my husband, my second grade girls in Sunday School, teachers at my kids' school, moms at a MOPS group, the cashier at Meijer, or a stranger in line at the post office. All of these people are hungry for the love of God, and I don't want to send them away hungry! I want to be so full of the love of God that He is bubbling up and overflowing from me. I want each person I encounter to see Him in me. My prayer is that He'll make me sensitive to the look, touch, or word of compassion that each person needs and that He'll move in me to deliver it.

May I encourage you to consider this statement with your kids, too? As they press in on you - your own small crowd - look to Jesus and know that He can take what you have (even when you don't think it's enough), bless it, and feed them. Tired and weary mother, Jesus can fill you up and use whatever you have to give, so that your children will not be hungry. Rest in Him today!

By the way...I mentioned Kathy Troccoli's book above. Well, she's coming to Trinity Church in Lansing, MI on Feb. 2 & 3, 2007. She'll be doing a concert Friday night and a conference Saturday, during which time she'll be talking about the Seven Celebrations of the Soul. Details will be available soon at Mark your calendar. You don't want to miss this conference!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What's for dinner?

What did you have for dinner tonight?

It's Sunday and, in the Hossink household, that means pizza! I'm very predictable, a creature of habit. Sunday dinner consists of frozen pizza - the self-rising kind - one cheese, and one pepperoni. Except for those occassions when one of the yummier kinds is on sale. And except for the other occassions like tonight, when I go to the freezer and realize I forgot to buy pizza at the store last Monday.

The boys were going outside to play and were asking when to be home, as I was heading downstairs to get the pizzas. As I was opening my mouth to say, "Be home in half an hour," I changed my response to, "Awwww! I forgot to get pizza." I turned to go back up and muttered, "I'm such a dummy sometimes." Joshua chimed in, "Just go to Little Caesars and get the Hot & Ready pizza. I like that kind better anyway!"

I looked to the top of the stairs to see Matthew standing with his arms open towards me, and heard the most precious words. "You're not a dummy, Mom. You just forgot. Everyone does that sometimes!" Then he smothered me with hugs and kisses.

His words and love were so precious to me! Little Caesars came through for me tonight, but the best part of dinner was the grace that Matthew poured on me.

Have you had grace poured out on you?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Am I normal?

OK, I'm having "a moment," and I need to vent to someone who I know will understand. So, I'm turning to you. (Yes, I've already prayed!)

I laugh when I consider my last blog - how I considered the night to be so strange because it went incredibly smoothly. Tonight was much more "normal." There was arguing, complaining, procrastinating, blaming, threatening, and disobeying. Right about now, I'd like to get used to "abnormal."

I was feeling so discouraged tonight. Though I was still loving my kids, I wasn't liking them much at all. All the petty bickering and mindless complaining they were doing had me at my wits' end. I began to imagine life without them and wondered, "What if?"

"If I didn't have kids..." Wouldn't life be easier if I was alone? If there were no one at my feet saying, "That isn't fair!" If no one splashed water out of the bath tub onto the floor for me to clean up. If no one asked me to do things I don't want to do. Wouldn't life be easier then?

I just spoke to a wonderful group of ladies at a MOPS meeting last night. Tonight, as I was going through this thought process, I rememered sharing with these women about another time when I went through a similar "What if?" series. My conclusion that time was, "If I didn't have kids...I wouldn't be changing." I know God is using them to make me into the woman He wants me to be. I know there is a reason for these trials I face. I know God is good, and all this stuff is for my ultimate good.

But tonight I was feeling rotten. I just sat there thinking about how "easy" it would be if I didn't have kids, and I prayed, "Lord, please remind me how precious these children are. Remind me how much I love them. Remind me how much You love them. Remind that I am blessed to have them and to be their mother. Remind me how empty my life would be without them."

When they were finally all in bed and my husband asked me, "So, what do you want to do now?" I answered him with a simple statement, "I want to cry." And I told him about my thoughts, and I did cry.

I don't want to wish these days away. I don't want to spend my days waiting for the time when raising my children will be "easy." (My mom says that day will never come, anyway!) I want to live each day to it's fullest, and love my kids to the fullest in every day. God knows just what I need in my life to make me holy. I don't like that I struggle with my kids, but I have confidence God knows what He's doing.

I'm not the only mother who feels this way, am I? I'm not the only one who feels a little crazy sometimes, am I? - Waffling between, "These kids are driving me nuts!" and "My life wouldn't be complete without them!" Please, someone tell me I'm normal!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The test

I've been thinking a lot today about living in God's grace, and having hope in the hard times of motherhood. Those are two of the points I'm sharing in a MOPS talk tomorrow, and I spent significant time today rehearsing that talk. Good thing - I needed to put those ideas into practice tonight!

My husband is out of town for a couple of days. Need I say more???

After repeating to myself all afternoon that I want to be refined like silver, and that I want the impurities within me to be "burned away," I should've known there would be testing tonight! It started after school with arguments about friends coming over, getting homework done, and having TV time. Hamburger Helper was on the menu for dinner (I always go easy on myself when Brian's gone!) and, although this is usually a big hit with the kids, tonight it just made the arguing drag on.

Joshua wanted pancakes! "Hamburger Helper is gross!" (Since when???) It didn't matter how much I reminded him he liked it last time. Tonight it simply wouldn't do. We got into other minor battles until Joshua thought the entire world was against him and began mumbling that, "No one even gives him what he likes to eat."

Throughout the entire process, I was praying - Asking God to help me love my kids, asking Him to help me keep self-controlled, asking Him to fill me with compassion. Somewhere in the midst of it all, God must have been working because He got me to have compassion on Joshua. Really, it had to be God, because it was so not me!

I went over to the freezer and grabbed two pancakes and popped them in the toaster. When I brought them out to the table and sat them in front of Joshua, his eyes lit up and he let out a little gasp. (What a simple thing to do to make him feel special!) I thought, "Yes! I finally did something right!"

...Until Matthew (who, moments before, had been cheering for Hamburger Helper) started to cry. Then I thought, "Ugh! I can't do anything right!" Elizabeth looked at me with compassion and said what I was thinking, "Is this why you didn't want to make something different for Joshua?" But Joshua said I just needed to give Matthew time and he'd get over it. I knew what I really needed to do was pray, and remember God is good - all the time - and ask Him to lead me through this fire.

Matthew did get over it. He even had seconds of Hamburger Helper.

After dinner the kids cleared the table, and washed and dried the dishes - all without much prodding on my part. For a moment, I wondered who these strangers were in my kitchen, and what they did with my children! But as I looked at them closely, I determined they really were my kids. Weird!

Then, Joshua and Matthew wanted to play "Tickle Wrestle." The object of this game is for them to run around me on the floor, where I am supposed to sit in one spot - keeping one "cheek" on the floor at all times - trying to catch them as they run past and tickle them until they beg for mercy. I had other things to do, but agreed to play - with joy, even - and this time wondered who the stranger was who'd invaded my body. Was that really me being unselfish? Weird!!

When it was time for bed, of course there were some problems - water all over the bathroom counter and floor, and a very un-focused child - but overall it was a peaceful bedtime. We gathered in my room to read the Bible and pray, and Joshua even begged to do some of the reading. Weird!!! Elizabeth didn't object to him reading. Weirder, still!!!!

This is where it really gets strange. They're all in bed asleep!!! Just like I told them to do!!!

Wait a minute. Is it really me who's sleeping? Is this just a dream?? Where am I???

No, I'm awake. Sitting here at my computer, smiling.

When this evening began, I was afraid for what I was going to face. I was imagining getting angry with my kids when things weren't going well - and I was not wanting that image to become reality. But I chose to live in God's grace tonight - fully depending on Him to work in and through me. Yes, I believe I was tested tonight. For once, I feel like I passed!

Now, I think I'll go over that talk one more time before I go to bed.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I Understand

The kids were happy today. No school. None tomorrow, either. A four day weekend. Great - for them!

I was noticing my irritablity and impatience today, and not liking it! I was thinking, "Why do I get irritated so quickly? Why am I impatient? I don't like this!" My heart's desire is to reflect the love of Jesus to my children. I understand that I'm in a refining process right now. I understand that God is using my children to make me into the woman He wants me to be. I am confident that He is good - all the time. And I do have hope because of who He is and what He's doing. But I was quite discouraged with myself today.

Then came bed time, and I had to sing to the kids. If you've read Confessions of an Irritable Mother, you know I can't sing when I'm emotional without crying, too. And so it was tonight. I sat on the edge of Elizabeth's bed, a mess of emotion inside, and couldn't hide the tears any longer. I said, "I'm sorry, honey. I don't mean to cry in front of you." And she replied, "That's OK, Mommy. I understand. That's how I was feeling at dinner tonight." (And I recalled that she was teary at dinner - I thought it was just because she didn't like what I made!)

I hugged Elizabeth, and thanked her for understanding. Yes, she's growing up, and getting hormonal and emotional just like me. My precious little girl - no, big girl! And how sweet are those words, "I understand."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Love you again

How can one person frustrate me so much and yet fill me to overflowing with genuine love?

Joshua, my middle child, can bring me to my wit's end. (I'm trying to understand the "middle child" phenomenon - being a "baby" myself, I can't really relate though.) I think he lives on a roller coaster. He can go from the "best day ever" to the "worst day ever" in a matter of seconds. He gets in fits when he thinks the whole world is "stupid" and he hates everything. I try to reason with him, try to speak calmly, try to be rational, and all to no avail. He remains angry, and I get frustrated. At times like this, I have to rely on God to remind me that love is a choice, not a feeling. I know I am called to love my son, even when he seems unlovable. But, honestly, sometimes it's really hard.

Then there are times like this morning. The carpool had arrived and the kids were rushing around to get coats and backpacks and get out the door. I wished the kids a "Good day," and as Joshua ran out, he turned and called, "Love you!" Those departing words from him always warm my heart...enough to make me forget the frustrating moments. Within seconds, Joshua was back inside - forgot something upstairs - and as he ran back outside he called over his shoulder, "Love you again!" I sat there smiling and wondering, "How could I ever get angry with that child? He is so precious!"

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Goodbye, Cinnamon

Why do difficult things happen on Sunday mornings, right before church? I was in the bathroom getting ready, singing along with the praise CD, thinking life was grand, when Joshua came running up the stairs in tears with a nearly lifeless mouse in his hand.

The kids had gotten out of bed and were playing with their pet mice when the accident occurred. Apparently Cinnamon and Squeaker were running around on the floor when Matthew tripped over the cage and ended up sitting on it - and Cinnamon, who happened to be located underneath the cage. Elizabeth and Joshua yelled for Matthew to get up, but it was too late. By the time they rescued her, Cinnamon wasn't doing so well.

Joshua got some tissue, wrapped up his beloved, and held her until she died. He cried and needed comforting. Matthew was crying, feeling remorse for being the one who "caused" the untimely death, and needed comforting, too. I was only half ready myself, and wondering how to manage through the morning ahead. Between Brian and I, we managed to offer condolences and encourage the kids to move on with the morning.

But Joshua's mind was still with his precious Cinnamon. He had no appetite, didn't want to get dressed, didn't want to go to church, and...wondered if we could go to Petco and get a new mouse yet today. Somehow he made it past the tears, ate and got dressed, and we went to church. During WOW (Wonder of Worship - kid's church) we sang one of Joshua's favorite songs, which I thought was a nice touch from God, and he seemed to be doing OK.

So we came home and had lunch, then had a little funeral for Cinnamon. Joshua prepared a macaroni and cheese box for her casket, picked some flowers from outside, and we all stood in a circle and said nice things about her. After our eulogy, Joshua took her out back and buried her with all the other mice we've said "Goodbye" to over the past years.

Then it was time to make a trip to Petco. The choice of a new mouse was an easy one - an adorable cinnamon and white colored one with little black eyes. She's a fast little critter and we laughed as the store employee tried to catch her to put her in the box for us to take home. But, alas, she got hold of the tail and now Joshua has a new mouse.

As we were riding home Joshua declared, "This is going to be the best day ever! Well, it's bad because Cinnamon died...But..." Kids are resiliant, aren't they?

I wish I could say goodbye to hurts that quickly. Too often I stew over things that I really should just let go. It might be something someone said or did to me. It might be my own failings as a mother that get me down and cause me to grumble and mope. I wonder how many times I've failed to see the things that could make this the "best day ever" because I'm focusing on the dead thing that needs to be let go?

Is there a Cinnamon in your life to whom you need to say "Goodbye"?


Friday, October 20, 2006

That was fun!

OK, Mrs. Griffin really played up that a "real" author came in to talk with the kids. It didn't hurt that they were expecting to have a test, and instead they got to sit and ask me questions about writing my book. And the fact they know my daughter seemed to be a bonus. Some combination of these factors made the fifth graders at Windemere Park excited to have me as a guest in their classroom yesterday.

I sat in a chair and the kids gathered around me on the floor. They asked me questions which they'd written the day before: What made me decide to write a book? How did I come up with the beginning and the end? Did I use a computer, or paper and pencil? Do I want to write another one? What was it like working with an editor?... And I read a passage or two from my book. One of the classes even talked me in to singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to them. (You'll have to read Confessions of an Irritable Mother to understand the significance of that song.) At the end of each class, I gave the kids bookmarks I'd brought along. That's when the fun really began...

They took their bookmarks and lined up for my autograph. It was so cute! One little girl told me she was moving to a new school, so I wrote, "I hope you love your new school." The next little girl asked me to write a note to her, too. So I looked at her and wrote, "You have beautiful eyes." That delighted her! Several of them asked me to sign "To" them. A couple of boys just asked if they could shake my hand, and when I shook their hands they got big smiles and skipped away. These interactions were all sweet. But the thing that warmed my heart the most wasn't their response to me; it was their thoughts for their own moms.

Several of the kids were asking me how they could get a copy of the book. They said they wanted to give it to their mom. Sometimes it was in response to moms being irritable. But more often I sensed these kids really loved their mom and wanted to get her the book because they thought it would be helpful to her. So often, we think ten and eleven year old kids are pretty much only thinking about themselves (and sometimes that's true!), but these kids seemed to really love their moms and I loved seeing it. I hope somehow one of my books finds its way into the hands of these mothers, bringing them hope in their irritable moments.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm an Author!

When I was in high school and had to write papers, I always wished I would write something "good enough" for my teacher to pick to read to the class. I never did. Once, I was sure what I'd written would catch my teacher's eye, and the next day I waited eagerly as she read several papers to the class. Mine wasn't one of them. For a time, I resigned myself to the fact that I would simply never be "good enough."

I remember English 105, my freshman year at Western Michigan University...I finally wrote a paper good enough to be read to the class. I nearly floated back to my dorm that day, telling anyone who would listen, "My professor read my paper in class today!" And another time I had a paper returned to me with this note, "I kept a copy of your paper to use as a 'How To' example for future classes." It felt so good to be validated in my efforts. But as I've thought about what may have made the difference, I've realized it wasn't until I'd given my heart to God that my writing got noticed. Perhaps once He had a hold on me, I finally had something of worth to say.

I have now taken one more BIG step...I took delivery of my books Tuesday. This is so exciting!

And in about an hour I'm going into my daughter's fifth grade writing class to talk with the kids about the things I went through in writing my book. They are working on their own stories, and their teacher thought it would be inspiring to them to hear from a "real author." When I was in fifth grade, I don't think I was very interested in writing. Now I love it. I'm hoping I can be an encouragement to these kids and plant some seeds in a couple future authors.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One More Thing

Whew! I just got all the kids in bed and made it downstairs. Wasn't sure that was going to happen tonight...

Our bedtime routine is for everyone to get their backpack ready for the morning, lay out school clothes, get showered and teeth brushed, and then gather for Bible time and prayer. And it almost never goes smoothly, so tonight was on par with what I expected. When we're finished praying, the kids go to their beds and Brian and I say good night to and kiss each one. Part of my saying good night involves singing a song to them, and sometimes I'm amazed at how long they can drag out choosing a song. But tonight they out-did themselves.

It started with Joshua. I talked with him a bit and then asked him what song he wanted. He said, "Oh, just one more thing. You know those juice machines like they have at school? Are there sirens that go off if someone tries to break into one?" I simply replied that I'd never heard any. "But remember when we saw that guy at school open it up? How do you think he did that?" I said he probably had a key. I just wanted to sing the song and move on. This "one more thing" was becoming more than one thing. Finally, he let me choose a song to sing, I sang, and kissed him goodnight.

Then it was Matthew's turn. I asked, "Do you want a song tonight?" And he said, "Yes, but, one thing. Do we have any live plants in the house?" (I have no idea where that question came from!) "Uh, yes, there's a flower in the kitchen." "And the bamboo plant!" Joshua chimed in. "Right. Now, about that song, Matthew?" He was being very charming, offering lots of kisses as some kind of clue to the song he wanted, but it went right over my head. I really just wanted to say good night and move on. Finally, he chose "The Matthew Song," sung to the tune of Chile's baby back ribs commercial, and I said good night.

Upon entering Elizabeth's room, I could see she had "one more thing," too. She was making some trading cards and had to tell me all about how she was going about the project. Did I like it? Did I think she would do a good job? Would this color look right? She was full of questions. I tried to encourage her that I thought she would do well. She is very creative and was putting a lot of effort into her work. Still, I was looking at the clock thinking, "How long is this good night process going to take tonight?"

And then God brought a wonderful thought to me. He never gets tired of our "one more thing." He never looks at His clock wondering when we're going to stop asking Him things, when we're going to stop wanting Him to be with us, when we're going to let Him get back to running the universe. In fact, he loves for us to ask Him things - for us to recognize we need Him. He loves to be with us and wants us to want to be with Him. And He is perfectly able to manage the universe while He is also listening to our concerns.

I love when God uses my imperfections and short comings to show me how great He is. I get tired of my kids sometimes. Do you? I get selfish sometimes and want to do my own thing, not listen to more of their questions and babbling. What about you? Even though I love my children like crazy, sometimes I just want to get away. Can you relate?

But God never tires of us. His love is perfect and He always wants to be with us. Yes, He loves us so much He was willing to suffer and die a death we deserve, not Him, so we could be with Him for eternity. And He never grows weary of our "one more thing." How wonderful is that?!

Friday, October 06, 2006

It's a book!

Last April my family and I took a trip to Chicago for spring break. Upon arriving home, our answering machine was full of messages - one of which was a last minute request for me to speak to a MOPS group. Apparently the speaker they thought they'd had lined up was never given the date of the meeting, and she had another obligation. I was available and happy to fill in. And it was clear that God was in control of the situation when many moms told me they had really needed to hear what I had to say that day. I was thrilled to see God working!

But He didn't just bring me there to speak. After the meeting I was talking with one of the mentor moms and she mentioned that she'd written a couple of books. I said, "No kidding?! I've had an interest in writing, too." We talked a little and she gave me her contact information so we could talk more later. Time went on, I thought more about writing and publishing, and eventually Christine and I connected again and she agreed to be my editor and book coach and walk me through the process of publishing a book. I remember the end of that conversation. Christine said, "You've conceived the idea. It's going to grow in you over the next several months. And in the fall you'll give birth to a book!"

It has been a wonderful journey. Christine has often referred to herself as my mid-wife and I've gained so much from her wisdom and experience. She has been invaluable to me through this "pregnancy." It's been a running joke between the two of us, that I'm having another baby. Last week I got the news that printing was underway, and the end was in sight. I sent Christine a message, "Someone get the hot water! I think we're going to have a baby here!"

Well, this evening I was in the kitchen and my husband came in with a large envelope. He said, "You have a package. It's from Data Reproductions!" And when I opened it, I found two copies of my book! The baby's here and I didn't even have to push! I don't know if it's a boy or a girl, but it's beautiful.

These two will be followed by lots more next week, and then they'll be available to you! So far they're easy to care for. They don't eat or wear diapers and I haven't heard a peep out of either one. They're just sitting quietly on my shelf, and I'm smiling at them just like I did my first babies. My dream for them is that God will use them to speak His love to you and bring hope to your lives!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

To Tell the Truth

I can't believe it! Someone finally told me the truth today!

I was at the grocery store with my kids. There were two strikes going against this shopping trip right off the bat. Not only did I have to take all three kids with me, but it was Saturday morning. That pairing just isn't a winning combination. But it was necessary, so I did it.

Our first task was to select a birthday present for one of Matthew's friends. Matthew's indecision and his incredible inability to stay focused made this task a very long one. Eventually we settled on a Superman doll that comes with Clark Kent clothes, hair and glasses. I'm not sure how excited his friend is going to be, but Matthew sure likes it!

Having spent a good half hour in the toy section, I was ready to move on. The only other thing we needed to do was get a few groceries and make our way home. In theory, this portion of the trip could have been accomplished in 15 minutes or less. But we live in reality, not theory(Does anyone know where "Theory" is? Things seem so much easier there. I think I'd like to visit sometime!), and in reality Matthew was insisting that I let him push the grocery cart. Remember, I said this was Saturday morning. The store was crowded. Matthew isn't tall enough to see over the top of the cart. I really didn't want him plowing into other shoppers, so I said, "No." He started making a fuss, I started feeling like I was making a big deal out of nothing, and he said, "Can't you just hold on to the cart with your hand?" That sounded reasonable to me, so I agreed. Even with my hand on the cart, he was a wreckless driver and that idea, which probably would've worked in Theory didn't go over so well in reality.

Then Matthew and Joshua got into an argument in the middle of the store about whether or not Matthew owed Joshua 50 cents for the candy bar Joshua gave him a couple weeks ago. With a little assistance, they reached a resolution and Joshua ran off with Elizabeth to spend that 50 cents. Matthew suddenly became too tired to walk, so I hoisted him up into the cart and we went on our way. Moments later Elizabeth and Joshua returned and Matthew had enough energy to walk again, so I got him down. My mistake. The boys started in on the fighting again, complete with shoving and tripping. Joshua is too big to sit in the cart, and since Matthew seemed to be the instigator I swooped him up and put him back in the cart. Silly me to think that would keep them from bothering each other. It just kept going.

Certainly the fact that I was tired didn't help my attitude about this little trip to the store, but I couldn't help but wonder why I didn't try harder to find a way to come by myself. But I hadn't, and I needed to get through it. Honestly, I began to think, "Who am I to be talking to women about God using the hard times in our lives to transform us? Look at me, so bent out of shape by a simple trip to the store!" He is so gracious, using an otherwise self-condemning thought to remind me to trust Him. So I began to pray - for my own growth in holiness, and for my kids. And for a few minutes, I was peaceful.

Then we got to the check out line, and the, "Can I have...?" questions started flying. But we made it through without adding anything to the cart. Making our way out to the van, we had to stop so everyone could ride the penny horse. It was there standing in the entrance to the store, saying "no" to gumballs and candy, that an older woman finally told me the truth!

As we were waiting for Matthew to finish his ride, two women walked into the store - I'm guessing a woman and her mother, probably in their 50's and 70's. They looked at me kindly and I just smiled my weary smile and admitted, "I'm so tired." The younger of the two said, in a sympathetic tone, "Ah yes, I remember those days." I looked at her and said, "Really? Most women tell me I'm going to miss these days!" She just gave me a knowing smile and repeated, "Oh, no. I remember those days."

I'll probably never see that woman again. Truthfully, I probably wouldn't recognize her if I did see her. But in that brief exchange, God used a total stranger to bring comfort to my weary soul. He sent someone to say, "I understand. You aren't alone. I've been there and made it through, and you will, too." And I put the groceries into the van with a smile on my face, thinking, "Yes, these are difficult days, and I will make it through them, and thank God He's using them to make me into the woman He wants me to be!"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ice Cream Anyone?

My small group Bible study has been studying the book of Matthew. Last week we covered chapters five and six, so I spent time reading, "If somenone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:39-41) This passage is a familiar one, but not an easy one. I thought, "Are we really supposed to respond like this?"

I was forced to think of the interactions I'd had with my kids, and wrote this in my journal: "This kind of reminds me of my struggle with the kids. If they rip their homework, what do I do? Sing while I tape it up? If they're rude to me and make demands, do I kiss them as I respond? If they beg mercilessly to go to the Children's Gardens, do I take them to get ice cream, too? Yikes! This seems backwards and chaotic and out of control to me. It doesn't seem like good training. But this very passage of scripture seems backwards. I don't want to raise selfish, bratty children, Lord. Please direct me clearly in how I am to raise them. Specifically to these issues I've raised ~ Lord, I want to get this right and I need Your guidance. I am a desperate and broken woman. I need You, Lord!"

This "backwards" way of doing things really struck me. It doesn't make sense to a "controller" like me. When my kids speak rudely to me, I don't want to respond. I want to ignore them until they start speaking politely and with respect! But how does that fit in with what Jesus says in this Matthew passage??? And what about the begging to go to the Children's Garden? Well, last week and weekend Joshua was asking over and over, and Sunday I was finally able to say, "Yes." I took my children and our neighbor kids to the Garden. It was almost as though someone had been reading my journal, because after we got to the garden the question came up..."Can we go get ice cream, too?" What could I say?

Ice cream for everyone!!!!!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy Birthday

I just put a load of wash into the dryer on my way up to bed, and decided to take a quick detour into my new "office" to tell you about my day today.

It started off like any other day, the alarm sounding at 6:00 a.m., except this time my waking thought was, "Hey! It's my birthday today. Happy Birthday, Me!" The kids reminded each other that today was my special day, and aimed to have excellent behavior. They were even fairly successful. After our family prayer time, my husband and children sang me a lovely rendition of "Happy Birthday." And as they headed out the door, the kids reminded me that after school I would not be allowed to enter the "play room," for they were going to have a surprise for me there. What fun!

With that, it was time to get started on my Friday chores - laundry. All I did was pick up the basket, the empty basket, but it was enough to really mess up my back. I haven't been able to stand straight, walk normal, or sit without pain in my back today. I don't remember asking for a back ache for my birthday! But it was with me all day.

Christine, my editor, called me with Happy Birthday wishes this morning. I got to have lunch with a friend and then spend the afternoon visiting with my grandparents. (Grandma just turned 89 last Saturday, Grandpa is 90 and they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last month!) Those were "easy on the back" activities and I enjoyed both of them. From my grandparents' house I went to school to pick up the kids, to the movie store to get our "movie night" selection, and back home where my husband was waiting with the finished "surprise" about which the kids were so excited...On one wall of the play room, conveniently located right under the light, there is now a desk with my computer, complete with storage for all my "stuff"! They gave me an office for my birthday!!!! The kids and I have even agreed that I won't put my books, folders and papers on their table, book shelves, or toy box, and they won't cover my desk with their toys. Sounds like a plan.

So then there was dinner and we said "Good-bye" to Dad - He has an overnight activity for work. We popped pop corn, put the movie in the DVD player, and settled down to watch Christopher Reeve save the world in SuperMan IV. Truthfully, I took a little snooze through part of the show. When it was over, Joshua and I opted for an early bed time. Seems like the perfect end to my birthday, right? Oh...It wasn't over!

I was laying in bed with a heating pad on my back, trying to get comfortable when I heard Joshua start coughing. Yes, it was that kind of cough. I got out of bed to have my fears confirmed. He had thrown up. All over the place. So I helped him clean up and sent him downstairs so I could work on the beds and floor. I won't give you the details. Just use your imagination - and double it! I was scrubbing and vaccuuming and changing sheets. And the boys have a large set of bunk beds - there is no way to not use your back when you're changing those sheets.

When I was finished I came downstairs to tell Joshua he could go back to bed. He said he felt better, and I told him that usually when you're sick and throw up, you start to feel better. Well, we made it upstairs and he stopped in the bathroom...and got sick again. I held the bucket for him and he observed that I was probably getting sick of him getting sick. I smiled and told him this was all part of my job as his mom. I remembered aloud that my mom did the same thing for me when I was a kid. That seemed to satisfy him. Then he climbed into bed and I reminded him I love him.

One more trip to the basement to put the sheets and other victims of the sickness into the dryer, a stop into my office to share with you, and now I think I'll go turn that heating pad on again and see if I can get some relief for my back. Ugh, I feel like I'm getting old! Oh, yea, it's my birthday! :)


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Get Well Soon!

Wow, I had a really long day today!

I've been fighting a cold for the past several days, and when the call came at 7:15 this morning that there was a need for a substitute teacher at school, I probably should've said, "No." But I'm not very good at saying, "No," so I jumped into the shower and was on my way. I spent my day as a seventh grade language arts teacher, trying to share my love of writing with the students, and trying to love the kids for the Lord. At the end of the day my kids came down the the room in which I was subbing, along with our little car pooling buddy, and the five of us headed out to the van to head home. I was nearly falling asleep by this time, my nerves were short, and I didn't want to listen to the kids arguing about who gets to sit where. My mind was focused on getting home and resting.

But resting was not to be part of the agenda. I forgot, Matthew had soccer practice this evening. So I got home with the kids at 4:oo, looked at the schedule and saw practice was from 5-6:30. Oh, when will we eat dinner? What am I going to fix? Where is practice anyway? I'm feeling stress tears coming on! So I called the coach's house to find out the location of practice, and his dear wife offered to pick Matthew up and take him. With a simple kind gesture on her part I had a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. (Thank you, Kathryn!!!)

As I dragged through the afternoon, helping the kids with homework and getting Matthew ready for practice, I noticed Joshua taking on a concern for me. He said, "Mom, are you still feeling sick?" I answered, "Honey, I'm very tired, but I'll be OK." And I pressed on to get dinner ready.

The kids were getting the table set and I noticed Joshua getting out our "Special plate." My birthday isn't until Friday (a typical occasion for use of the Special plate) but Joshua put it at my place. Then I noticed him getting a piece of paper, writing a note, and gathering signatures from the rest of the family. When I sat down to dinner there was an envelope at my plate which Joshua told me to read after we prayed. He said he didn't want me to cry until after prayer time. I said, "Cry?!" He assured me they would be "happy tears." So I waited.

When I was given the OK, I opened the envelope and inside was a note that read, "Get well soon!" with a smiley face and the signatures of all my family. Joshua has such a tender heart. Honestly, for all the times I feel like I'm at my wits' end with him, the times when he displays his tender, caring heart gives me hope. Lord, thank You for this precious boy!

I'm very sleepy! Good night!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

TimeOut for Women!

I got to take a TimeOut today! No, not for bad behavior, and not for a mere five minutes. I spent the entire day in a sanctuary full of women who all needed a TimeOut. If you read Confessions of an Irritable Mother, you'll understand why this event is such a good thing.

Every September since 1997 has found my mother-in-law and I at the TimeOut for Women! conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And every time I've gone, God has met me there. Today was no different. I love that I can be in a room overflowing with women, each one with her own unique needs, and God can be personally present to each one. For that matter, I love that even when I am on an emotional roller coaster (call it PMS, call it being a woman, maybe publishing a book, I don't know...) God understands me perfectly and is able to speak to me right where I am. Though I've been over several ups and downs lately, God knows my heart and He found it and spoke to it today through the wonderful speakers at TimeOut. Kathy Troccoli closed the conference with a concert and a time of sharing her heart. As I approached the altar to pour out my own heart to God, I was full of joy again as I sensed His closeness to me. I didn't want Kathy to stop singing; didn't want the conference to end. I would've loved to have stayed there with those women, basking in the presence of God.

But the conference did end, and I left with a little pink piece of paper upon which I'd written the statements God laid on my heart today:
I want to display God's glory.
I want a river of life flowing out of me.
I want to ooze the life and love of God.
I don't want to hold back the well of God bubbling up inside of me.
I must keep my eyes on Jesus and not worry about what others think.
I want to be who I say I am.

My desire is to please Him and to be an instrument He uses for His glory. If the hard times I have as a mother is what God is going to use to bring that all about, then bring it on! (I can't believe I just said that!!!) Seriously, I recently heard someone say, "You go through what you go through, so you can help other people go through what you went through." Well, I have been invited to do a workshop at the TimeOut conference next year, in which I'll be able to share about my journey and offer hope and encouragement to other women. My calendar is also quite full right now with MOPS groups to whom I'll be speaking from now until May, where I'll also have the opportunity to bring hope to overwhelmed moms. As I consider the statements I took from the conference today in light of the opportunities God is laying before me, I am hopeful He will work them all together for His glory.
Father, I pray You'll use me to speak words of hope and life - to my children, my husband, and the mothers in front of whom You place me. I want Your life and love to flow through me in my words and in my actions. Please help me to be real. I want to be authentic before You and my audiences, not trying to be who I think others expect me to be or who they may want me to be. I only want to be the woman You are shaping. Lord, please make me an instrument You use for Your glory. Amen and amen!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

He loves me

God was speaking again this morning.

We’re starting a new series at church – four weeks about recovery from our hurts, habits and hang-ups – and today was the first sermon. As my pastor pointed out, we all have need of recovery in some way and if we think otherwise, we’re probably in “denial.” And he was quick to point out “denial” isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Anyway, there were post-it notes in our bulletins which we were to use to write down whatever God may lay on our heart as something from which we need to “recover.” We were instructed that at the end of the service we could put our note on the windows in the atrium, along with the hundreds of others (thereby remaining annonymous). So I started thinking, “What, Lord? What do you want to lay on my heart?” And then there was a drama presentation in which people spoke, either out of a state of acceptance or denial, of their “issue.” While the ones in denial sometimes made me laugh (because their issue and denial of it was so obvious!), they also made me do some self-evaluation.

Yes, I have my own “issues” and need for recovery. As I listened to the character on stage getting frustrated and yelling, I recalled the past few days around my house. I wrote down on my post-it note, “I don’t want to be so up-tight and controlling.” (So much for annonimity! Oh well, I’m willing to be open with you in the hopes it will encourage you to know you aren’t alone in your struggles.)

After the sermon we celebrated Communion together. As I held the bread and the cup in my hand and listened to the band, I thought about the times this week I’ve blown it and yelled. I recalled the times I have not been the woman and mother I know He wants me to be. And I sat amazed and thankful that He loves me anyway. Jesus died so I could be forgiven for each time I fail, for each time I let selfish, self-centered me take over and rule my day. With tears in my eyes I thanked Him again for His unfailing love.

Do you realize this love is for you, too? No matter how many times you’ve blown it. No matter how many times you’ve said, “I’m sorry. I’ll never do that again,” and turned around and blown it again. God still loves you. How wonderful is that?!

I pray He’ll speak His love to you through these words today.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

There is still hope

Last night was a terrible night!

I’ve been feeling edgy and irritable for the past few days, with the kids being crazy, disobedient, disrespectful, and generally out of control. Maybe their behavior wasn’t as bad as I was perceiving it…I don’t know, but it hasn’t been good - For sure!

Anyway, last night my husband was gone and the kids were giving me trouble before dinner. Joshua and Elizabeth were fighting in the kitchen and I went in to break things up. Matthew came in and started scrapping too and I reacted without thinking and slapped his hand – which sent him upstairs crying. I followed him up, my own tears flowing as I apologized, told him I was wrong and asked for his forgiveness. I kneeled by his bed as he lay under his covers repeating, “Matthew, I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have slapped you. Please forgive me.” Oh, I hate when I react out of anger!

Wanting to get in the habit of reading nightly, I told Joshua he needed to read me a short story, but he insisted otherwise. When I told him it was going to happen regardless, he “ran away.” (Which always amounts to riding his bike around the block.) We argued during dinner – Matthew didn’t like the chicken, Joshua was still stewing about my requirement that he read – and after dinner we argued more and Joshua “ran away” again.

I was trying to understand, trying to believe that God is refining me, but I just couldn’t see. I ran up to my room crying, closed my door and fell to my knees by my bed as I sobbed, “I don’t see the point, God! I don’t understand! Why does this have to be so hard? I don’t see the point!!!!!”

I felt utterly broken. I hated myself for lashing out at the kids. I didn’t want to lose my composure in front of them and have them see me crying. I was disappointed in myself for not being completely pliable and flowing into God’s will for me. My greatest desire is to please Him, but I was confident I wasn’t presently pleasing.

God has shown me before, and I believe it’s true, He is using my children and my struggles as a mother to make me into the woman He wants me to be. Yet, last night I just couldn’t see it. I tried to remind myself of what is true – God is good. Always. His ways are perfect. All of them. But in the middle of my fire (and it was HOT) I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t embrace it. Lord, forgive me!

Yet, He is not only my Refiner. He is also my Redeemer. In spite of a few more outbursts by Joshua, he eventually calmed down (as did I), and was even helpful in getting ready for bed. We gathered in the boys’ room to pray and I prayed for each of my kids individually, specifically thanking God for the things I love most about each one. I sang to each of them and truly loved them. All the while I was mindful of God’s redeeming power – how He transformed the night from what it had been into a loving, peaceful time.

I still can’t say I understand the point of these intensely hard times. But I know without a doubt God is good, His ways are perfect, and nothing will change those facts.

Thank You, Lord, for hope that never ends, for grace that knows no bounds, and for love that never fails!