Monday, December 31, 2007

Loving Jesus MORE

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! I spent Christmas day and several days surrounding it fighting off a cold, but we managed to make fun memories in spite of the sneezing. *grin*
While I have been on my blogging break, in addition to making the above mentioned memories (BTW, I will blog about some of them soon), I have been feeding a new addiction, i.e. reading Karen Kingsbury books. A few months ago a friend gave me a book by Karen Kingsbury which I simply loved. (Actually it was two books in one - One Tuesday Morning and Beyond Tuesday Morning.) Just as I was about finished with the second book, this same friend sent me another one of Karen's books for Christmas.
This time she sent me Divine. I finished the book I was reading and got started on my new one. And I tore through the new one! The story itself is compelling, and made me do a lot of thinking.
But the thing that really drew me wasn't the fiction - it was the Truth. The Truth about Jesus - His incredible love. His Divine power. His willingness to forgive - everything. His ability to redeem shattered lives.
Our Savior is amazing.
I stayed up too late last night so I could finish reading and as I put the book down I realized I was more drawn to Jesus. More in love with Him. More wanting to be like Him.
If you have a chance to read this book, do it!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas

OK, friends, I am joining many others in the blogosphere who are taking a break from blogging through Christmas.
I pray you will have a blessed time with your family, and even some quite moments to reflect on God's incredible love for you - shown in the coming of His Son!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Memory Verse Monday

Ahhhh, today is bittersweet. It is my last day in Psalm 22 and though I am glad to see where David has ended this particular psalm, I always feel a certain sadness when there isn't a "next verse" for me to anticipate.
But, alas, there is so much more of God's Word for me to dig into, surely He will continue to delight my heart with further study!

For today I want to share with you the verse I memorized and meditated on this morning.

They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn - for he has done it.
Psalm 22:31
As I read over this verse this morning, and as I have continued to ponder it during my day, I am consistently drawn to the last five words.

for he has done it

The reason "they" will proclaim God's righteousness to a people yet unborn is because He has done it.
And what, you may be wondering, has He done? I looked back through Psalm 22 to find the answer to that question. God has delivered (v.4), saved (v.5), given life (v.9), helped (v.10), delivered again (v.20), rescued and saved again (v.21), cared and listened (v.24), and ruled (v.28). He has been perfectly faithful and righteous before David and all His creation, so He will be proclaimed throughout all generations.
But I know the answer to the question What has He done? is not limited to David's experience in Psalm 22. I have also been thinking today about the things God has done in my life - the things which compel me to proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn. (I'm getting a picture in my head of holding my grandchildren on my lap and telling them of the goodness of the Lord!)

* He saved me from stupid things I did as a teenager - before I even knew Him personally.
* He gave me new life through His Son.
* He delivered me from the pit I was in as a mother and gave me hope in the midst of the struggle.
* He brought me through brain surgery and took away my seizure disorder.
* He gave me a story to tell and a platform to share it.
* He convinced me of His love for me and made me secure in it.

God has been so good to me, and I will proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn.

And how about you, my friend? What has He done for you???

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Did You Notice?

OK, I guess my house is in too much disarray this morning. I got up to have my quiet time, and I could not find my Bible. BibleGateway to save the day! I typed in key words from yesterday's verse in Psalm 22 and - Presto! - I found my verse for today. I love it when I can use technology well. *grin*
So, after I memorized my verse for today I was looking around on the BibleGateway site and saw this verse of the day thing. It said I could put it on my own site, and if you look over to the can see I successfully added a verse of the day here at Surviving Motherhood. Yea!

Did you also notice the Survival Supporters? I think these companies would be of particular interest to my UK readers. Please click over and visit them! (By the way, one of the links isn't working properly...we're working on it.)

One more thing. Have you ever used BibleGateway? I discovered it recently and think it is just the coolest tool. It's like having a huge concordance of every Bible translation there is - right at your finger tips.

Tomorrow is looking like it will be a crazy busy day, but I will do my best to post for Memory Verse Monday. Have a great Sunday!

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ever Have One of Those Days?

I Don't Want To

I don't want to play on the sidewalk.
I don't want to sit on the stoop.
I don't want to lick any ice cream.
I don't want to slurp any soup.
I don't want to listen to music.
I don't want to look at cartoons.
I don't want to read any stories.
I don't want to blow up balloons.

I don't want to dig in the garden.
I don't want to roll on the rug.
I don't want to wrestle the puppy.
I don't want to give you a hug.
I don't want to shoot any baskets.
I don't want to bang on my drum.
I don't want to line up my soldiers.
I don't want to whistle or hum.

I don't want to program my robot.
I don't want to strum my guitar.
I don't want to use my computer.
I don't want to wind up my car.
I don't want to color with crayons.
I don't want to model with clay.
I don't want to stop my not wanting...
I'm having that kind of a day.

from I'm Glad I'm Me: Poems About You
by Jack Prelutsky
A few days ago Matthew read this poem to me and we laughed together about what a rotten day this kid must have had that he didn't want to have ice cream, play with his puppy, or even have computer time.
Well, I'm telling you, today Joshua could have been that kid. He came home from school upset about everything. He listed off all the things which had gone wrong today and announced his day had been completely ruined. Things got even worse for him when I told him he was, in fact, going to be joining us at school tonight to watch the second graders program in which Matthew had a part. Joshua yelled about coming along, saying he had seen the program at school today and it was boring.
Once again, Joshua rattled off the terrible things from today and then challenged me, "Is there anything else you want to do to ruin my day???" I almost rose to the occasion and told him I wasn't going to allow him to have the sour cream and onion chips he had gotten out for an after school snack, but I thought better of it and simply put them away.

It was hard for me to see Joshua having these fits today. I knew life wasn't as bad as he was viewing it. I knew he would get his assignment done. I knew today really was not the worst day of Joshua's life. But I also knew there was nothing I could say which would convince him otherwise, so I watched him and prayed - asking God to calm Joshua's spirit, asking Him to love Joshua through me, and asking Him to keep me from yelling right back at Joshua - because that is really what I wanted to do.
In the end, we worked together and Joshua completed his assignment so he was able to have some computer time before dinner. He did go with us to see Matthew's program (as if he had any choice!) and I even caught him saying to Elizabeth,"Watch this part. It's really funny," and scooting on the floor to get a better view. And tonight as I tucked him in to bed we discussed the fact that today wasn't so bad afterall. All's well that ends well, right?

Now, if I can just figure out how to help Joshua avoid those downward spirals in the future...

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Don't Give Up!

This morning I met Jessica at Fitness Together for some more personal torture training. I have said it before, and I'll say it again, I absolutely love working out with a personal trainer! She really pushes me and makes me work hard. Though last week I went in and said, "I'm speaking tomorrow, Jessica. I need to be able to walk. Take it easy on my legs today." This past Monday she said (with a knowing laugh), "You aren't speaking this week, are you?" Hmmm, how can I keep my schedule a secret from her???
One of the reasons I like working out with her so much showed itself again today. We were working my arms and the first time through the circuit wasn't too bad. But then we did the whole thing again. Twice.
The second time through I was getting tired and started complaining. But Jessica kept reassuring and encouraging me. "You can do it, Karen. Keep going." And I did.
It was the third time through when she used a new encouraging phrase. I was struggling to lift my arms, feeling ready to quit, (on about my third or fourth rep!) and Jessica said, "Don't give up, Karen!" I soooooo wanted to give up, but Jessica's words helped me press on. One more. Ooonnee mmmmoore. I didn't think I could do another and Jessica could tell. She came up behind me and said, "I'll help you." She put her hands under my elbows and helped me lift those weights, while she repeated, "Don't give up!"
On my own, I would have given up. A long time ago! But with encouragement and help, I kept going and made it through.

I couldn't help but apply this situation to being a mom. How many times am I in the midst of a struggle, perhaps one I have already gone through a time or two (or three, or four...) before. I wonder when it is going to end. I doubt if I'm going to make it through. I begin to believe I simply don't have what it takes to face this situation. And then a friend comes by my side and speaks some word of encouragement to me, or simply gives me a hug and assures me I will make it through.
We need each other to speak those words when we're at our wits' end, feeling like throwing in the towel one more time. Don't give up!
And sometimes we need each other to give that practical help - that lifting of our arms - so we can get through.
I am so thankful for my friends who encourage me to not give up, and who lend me a hand when they can see I need it.

Where are you today? Are you in need of those words?

Don't give up, my friend!

Or perhaps you have seen someone around you (a mom, or otherwise!) to whom you can speak those words and offer that help. We need each other, and we're better together. Let's be lifters!

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Memory Verse Monday

Oh, good!!! It's Monday and that means I get to share with you the verse I memorized this morning and more about David in Psalm 22. Truly, I think of you during my week as God is speaking to me through His Word, and I look forward to Memory Verse Monday and my opportunity to share. Thanks, Karen at Karen's Ramblings, for coming up with MVM!

Well, the good news is David has not slipped back into despair this week! Though he has still been aware of his circumstances, David has kept his focus on God. (I feel like cheering for him!) And today he is (and therefore I am, too) reflecting on how God has handled his trials. Verse 24 says,

For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
One of the things I do when I am meditating on verses in the Psalms is look up words to which I do not know the definition. Well, even though I know what despise means, I looked it up today and I simply love what I found there. It said, "to regard as beneath one's notice and unworthy of consideration or interest." I love it because Psalm 22:24 says that is what God does not do in regards to our suffering. God does not regard our suffering as beneath His notice. He does not see our suffering as unworthy of His consideration or interest.
Rather, God listens to our cry for help. I looked up listen, too, and loved what I found. "To hear with thoughtful attention." How about reading it this way? With thoughtful attention He heard his cry for help. Those words create a picture in my mind of God leaning in toward David, giving David His undivided attention. I imagine Him fully aware of David's situation, truly compassionate for what David is enduring, and perfectly able to help.

As I thought about this verse today and considered God's care for David in his trials - and the way He handles mine - I was encouraged to realize how much He cares. The things we are facing are not "beneath" Him. Our struggles are not "unworthy" of God's attention. I thought about the times I have cried out to Him in desperation, focused on my circumstances and feeling like I would never make it through. I realized I have never thought God doesn't care, but sometimes I have forgotten that He does. How wonderful to be reminded of this Truth in this verse today.

Whew! David has been through quite a bit in Psalm 22. Last week I summarized verses 12-18 this way: I am intimidated. I am threatened. I am completely spent. I am utterly hopeless. I might as well be dead. I am pitiful. I am humiliated. Can you relate to him? Been through some rough times recently? I pray you will find hope in and be encouraged by his thoughts in verse 24 today.
For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
I am carrying that verse in my pocket today, and God is carrying me.
If you cry for help, He will carry you, too, my friend!

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Friday, December 07, 2007

got grace?

Thanks for all the nice comments about my new template. I'm glad you like it! *grin*

This week I have had a couple of opportunities to share a certain entry from my next book with women who were feeling bad about things they had forgotten to do. Since I haven't posted any of those entries here in awhile, I decided this morning I would share it with all of you, too. Especially with Christmas on the horizon and the extra stress we often feel at this time to "get everything done, and done right," I have a feeling our need for God's grace is particularly high.
I pray you'll be blessed!

What’s for dinner?

If it’s Sunday, the answer to the question, What’s for dinner? is always the same. Sunday dinner at my house always consists of frozen pizza - the self-rising kind - one cheese, and one pepperoni. Except for those occasions when one of the yummier varieties is on sale. And except for the other occasions, when I go to the freezer and realize I forgot to buy pizza at the store last Monday.
I remember one Sunday evening when the boys were going outside to play. As I was heading downstairs to get the pizzas out of the freezer, they were asking when to be home for dinner. I was opening my mouth to say, “Be home in half an hour,” when I changed my response to, “Awwww! I forgot to get pizza.” I turned to go back upstairs 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!” While I appreciated his efforts to cheer me up, I still felt like a dummy. I thought, C’mon, Karen. You do the same thing every week. How could you forget such a simple thing? What are you going to forget next week? Milk?
This private berating had ended by the time I got to the bottom of the stairs. When I looked up I saw Matthew standing with his arms open toward me, and heard the most precious words come out of his mouth. “You're not a dummy, Mom. You just forgot. Everyone does that sometimes!” Then he smothered me with hugs and kisses.
His words were so simple, and so full of grace. I was angry with myself for a small oversight – already blowing it out of proportion – and Matthew was reminding me it really was not a big deal. You just forgot. Everyone does that sometimes. Such wisdom, flowing from the mouth of a six-year-old.
God used the words Matthew spoke to remind me of my need to receive and live in His grace every day. He showed me His grace abounds around me all the time.
*I am covered by the blood of Jesus and by His grace my sins are forgiven.
*He extends grace to me in the form of patience, as He gently and persistently speaks to me about something until I “get it.”
*I see God’s grace to me when I find the strength to make it through a situation which seemed impossible.
*His grace comes to me in the form of a friend who hugs me and speaks words of life to my weary soul.
*And I see God’s grace when someone recognizes my limitations and offers to help me out.
I have a tendency toward perfectionism - I want to do everything just right. But I am not perfect, and God knows it. He knows I will never get everything right. He knows I cannot do all things. And He still has not fired me as wife to Brian and mother to Elizabeth, Joshua and Matthew.
We’re in this thing together, God and I are! I am doing my best, but God is the best. Every day I am learning a little bit more what it means to trust Him. I am believing - by His grace - He will catch me when I fall and He will supply what I lack. The truth of the matter is I will never be perfect this side of heaven and, because of God’s grace, I don’t have to be!

I can still hear Matthew’s words echo in my mind. You’re not a dummy, Mom. You just forgot. Everyone does that sometimes. When it came to getting something on the table that night, Little Caesar’s came through for me. But the best part of dinner was the grace God poured out on me through Matthew.

Your Turn: Do you have a tendency to expect perfection from yourself, even though you may be able to extend grace to other people? Do you sometimes beat yourself up because of the “simple things” you forgot? In what areas of your life do you particularly need God’s grace today? Get a paper and pen and write those things down, then present it to God. You can come to Him – broken, overwhelmed, and feeling hopeless – admitting your need, and receive His grace.
God knows you cannot do and be everything. Only He is Almighty. Spend time in prayer praising God for Who He Is, and thanking Him for the grace He so freely gives.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Soooooo, What Do You Think?

OK. Here it is!

What do you think?

Do you like my "new look"?

In getting ready for this makeover, I did quite a bit of intentional blog visiting - looking for things I like which I wanted to include here.
Like the divider between posts. Do you like the little train?
And the "wall paper" for the border...
And a softer, more customized header...
And a little more organization in the sidebar...
Someone suggested I should have a way to order my book directly from my blog, so Linda did that for me, too. Now you can just click on the image of my book in the sidebar and be transported magically to the book page of my website.
In the next week or so I am going to be adding another section in the sidebar for sponsors, and you may notice a few other subtle changes here and there.

This is so much fun, like going shopping for new clothes. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to it. I'm a little slow sometimes...
Anyway, I am eager to know what you think. That is, if you like it. If you don't like it, you have my permission to lie and just tell me, It looks nice, Karen. *grin*

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pictures Made Easy!

A few weeks ago I received a wonderful email. No, it wasn't from a mom who wanted to tell me how God is giving her hope in the midst of her mothering struggles. (Though I absolutely love, love, love those emails!) It was from someone who wanted to give me something so I could share about it here on my blog.
A gift? For me? Oh, yes!
And what a perfect gift it was.
Ben, from ImageKind wrote to tell me about a product his company offers. He said, "I work for an art/framing site online, that mostly is about independent artists selling their work, but we also have a collage frame that I thought would be a big relief for a lot of mothers out there. A mother comes to our site, uploads her favorite pictures of her kids, and then her frame type, and we send out the finished product. It can be a relief to get something together that seems like a gift that has taken thought, but it's real simple."

When I told Ben I would love to receive this collage frame with my kids' pictures in it, he graciously offered to have me call him and said he would walk me through the process in a matter of minutes. But I told him I wanted to see if I could do it myself. I said most of the moms who read my blog are at least slightly familiar with my fear of all things technical technical challenges, and if I could manage putting together and ordering this frame all by myself, you would all probably believe you could manage it, too.
Well, I did it! And it was simple.

I logged on to ImageKind's website, chose the layout I wanted, uploaded three pictures of my kids, selected the frame I wanted (That part was really cool. You can click on the frames to see what they look like up close and I was able to choose one that looks great with our furniture.), chose my matting, and that was it. Seriously. It was that easy.
Then I just sat back and waited a few days for it to be delivered. And this is what came to my doorstep yesterday:It came ready to hang, with the hook on the back, and even has little pads on the bottom corners so it won't scratch the walls. (Don't know if that's standard practice, or if they put them on because they saw the kids in the pictures and figured the frame might get bumped around by some boys who never throw anything in the house...)
I love it because I have nicely framed pictures of my kids which perfectly capture their personalities. The picture of Joshua with the praying mantis on his cheek is one I have had in the camera for a couple months now, but the pictures of Elizabeth and Matthew are ones I snapped on the spur of the moment just to upload for this frame. Elizabeth almost always has her nose in a book, so that was easy to capture. And Matthew will do anything with SpiderMan, including standing still for five seconds for a photo shoot. I am waaaaaay behind on my scrapbooks, but now I have a great picture of my kids to hang up - which everyone who comes into my house will see.

Ben said frames like this one typically range from $40-60 and if you order by mid-December you can probably have it in time for Christmas. If you have some digital pictures ready to go, you can click here and get started at ImageKind.
Please let me know if you get one of these frames, as a gift, or for yourself. I'd love to know what you think about it!

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Things Are About to Change!

Oh, I am so excited!

Remember the Fall Y'all Blog Giveaway Party? I registered for a customized blog header and...didn't win. But I decided at that time I wanted my very own customized "look" here at Surviving Motherhood. I contacted R S Designs and Linda has been working on a blog make-over for me. I just saw her first design and I LOVE IT!!!
I am not sure how long it will be until we "go live" with the new design, but I was so excited I just had to tell you about it.
Also, I have to update my Blogger template and save a copy to my hard drive, blah, blah, blah, so in case I mess things up and disappear for a little while, I thought I'd give you advanced notice. Of course, you know by now I am all but inept slightly challenged when it comes to technical things but I am told I can do this back-up thing on my own. In fact, Linda sent me step by step instructions. (Yeah, so I'll feel really stupid if I mess it up!)
But what's that thing I say to moms when I'm speaking? Something about growing through the hard times? Right! I can grow through this experience. *grin*
And very soon I'll have a lovely new look here. Stay tuned!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Memory Verse Monday

It's Monday, and that means I get to share about the verses I am memorizing. I am so glad Karen at Karen's Ramblings has started this weekly time for sharing because I absolutley love passing on what I am learning in God's Word, and in the time I spend with Him.
Last week I told you I am going through Psalm 22 - one verse at a time, one day at a time. I will tell you about the verse I meorized and am meditating on today, but first I want to bring you up to speed on what transpired in David's life since last Monday. I would invite you to get your Bible out and read these verses yourself, as I am going to be sharing the way I have summarized each of them. (Call it the NKV - New Karen Version!)
12 - I am intimidated.
13 - I am threatened.
14 - I am completely spent.
15 - I am utterly hopeless.
16 - I might as well be dead.
17 - I am pitiful.
18 - I am humiliated.
Sounds very uplifting, doesn't it?
But today I got to verse 19.

But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
See? In the midst of incredible despair, when everything around him looks like it is crashing in and is going to overtake him, David remembers Who God Is. I like the way the New Living Translation says it, "O Lord, do not stay far away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!"
Did you hear that? David said, "You are my strength!"
I cannot count how many times I have felt completely overwhelmed - by children, commitments, house work, homework (my kids' homework!), even other people's burdens - and I have thought, There is no way I can handle all of this. I'm sinking!
Based upon the intensity of David's words in the previous seven verses, I think whatever he was facing far surpasses any of the stresses I have faced, yet in verse 19 he remembered Who God Is. You are my strength.
So today I have Psalm 22:19 written on a piece of paper and I am carrying it with me in my pocket. I have taken it out a few times and read it over, and I have recited it in my head several times, as well. It has become my prayer today, as I remember God is my strength and He is able to care for me and accomplish what needs to be done in my life.
How are you doing today? Are you feeling a little bit like David - overwhelmed and despairing? Please know - God is not far off, and He will be your strength. Just call upon Him, my friend.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

And There Were TWO!

Elizabeth may be a happy girl that I didn't read my email before we left the house this morning. Some of your comments might have talked sense into me changed my mind. As it is, though, we went to Petco and are now the owners of pet rats.
Yes. Rats. As in, not one, but two!
We learned at the pet store that rats are very intelligent animals. The clerk told us about the adventures he had with his roommate's rat - the tricks they taught it, etc. - and he helped get me more excited about adding this critter to our family. He said it would be OK to buy a single rat, but the rats would probably like having a companion. I thought, If we're getting one, why not two??? So we got a new cage and two rats.
Maybe you think I'm crazy - I hope you will still be my friend. But I'm telling you, the joy on Elizabeth's face and in her voice as she looked at me and said, "Thank you so much, Mommy!" would get me to buy her just about anything. (Don't you dare tell her I just said that!!!)
I am not kidding. There was an amazing thrill that came over my heart as I realized just how happy it made Elizabeth to receive these pets. (And I hope the joy lasts a long time, because this was "Christmas" for her! She knows it, and was totally agreeable.) I know I cannot, nor do I want to, buy her love. But seeing her joy and imagining the memories she is storing up through situations like this one simply delights me.
So, there you have it. We have two pet rats now. Allison and Lacey. They are shy and a little nervous at the moment, as they are getting used to their new home. But I did manage to get a half-way decent picture of one of them.In a couple weeks, when they are feeling more "at home" I will be sure to post a better picture. (Yeah, because I have a new computer which has a place for the camera disc, and Brian showed me how to get pictures off of it, and I can do it all myself now. And I am so proud of me!!! *grin*)


Friday, November 30, 2007

What Can I Say to This???

If you have been reading here for awhile, you may recall my daughter's intense desire to have a pet rat. Well, for the past several weeks Elizabeth's pet mouse, Kloie, has been threatening to die, and Sunday she finally did it. When Elizabeth told me about Kloie's death I wondered, Hmmmm, how long will it be until she starts asking for a pet rat?
It took about two hours. (She mourns quickly!)

All week long Elizabeth has been relentlessly pursuing asking me if I have made up my mind about whether or not she can get a pet rat. Honestly, I have been thinking about it. I thought it would be something I could get her for Christmas. Maybe. I mean, if I actually decide I am going to let her have one of those creepy little things with snake-like tails a pet rat.
So, today she came home from school like this:

She also had a sign on her back which simply said, Rat. And she wants it this weekend.
I asked her this afternoon, "Elizabeth,if you were thinking about getting something for someone but you wanted it to be kind of a surprise, and they kept asking you about it and they just wouldn't stop, and you really were considering it, but you didn't want them to know you might do it, what would you do?"
She said, with a big smile, "I'd give it to them."

What can I say? Besides the fact she is so darn cute and I love her to pieces, I am also presently very proud of Elizabeth. Yesterday we received two tickets in the mail for an MSU Women's Basketball game because one of Elizabeth's teachers had given her an Excellence in Effort award. I don't know which teacher it was, the one who asked me at parent/teacher conferences if she could adopt Elizabeth or one of the others who only said they absolutely love having her in class.
This young lady brings delight wherever she goes, and I really want to delight her heart, too. So what do I say?
I guess, if Brian agrees, I say, Yes.
(And I either don't tell my mom we have a pet rat, or take the chance she'll never set foot in my house again!)
Anyone care to try talking me out of this decision before it's too late??? *grin*


What Remains

A friend of mine found this piece in the Focus on the Family magazine and forwarded it to me. It speaks to where I am at right now. How about you???

“What Remains”
The Love Chapter for Parents by Cindy Dagnan

If I spend my days building skyscrapers with blocks, assembling cool stuff out of legos, and creating relationships with other moms at Starbucks, but I have not love, I am only the siren of the kids’ ride-on firetruck, annoyingly stuck on hold.

If I have the gift of knowing which child attempted to flush the Hot Wheels down the toilet and which one pushed her sister, and if I have faith that somehow we’ll survive life’s emergencies, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I save all my box tops for school and give outgrown clothing to the local shelter, and if I surrender my body to stretch marks and under eye circles, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient when someone isn’t ready to use the big-girl potty. It is kind when my husband has a hard day. It doesn’t envy my neighbor who drives the new sport utility vehicle I can’t afford.

It isn’t rude, snapping at my spouse or my children when things don’t go my way. It is not easily angered at real or perceived injustices.

It always protects the smallest, sweetest family confidences; always trusts God to provide my children’s needs; always hopes in the freshness of tomorrow and the bright future of family; always perserveres amid hardship and doubt.

Where there are sleepless nights, they shall end. Where there are diapers, little league, and dioramas built from shoeboxes, they will cease. Where there is knowledge of baby care trends, discipline strategies, and boy-girl problems, it will pass away.

Now these three remain: faith, lived out in my daily circumstances and instilled in my children; hope, of one day rejoicing with my family in heaven; and love, which covers over a multitude of less- than-perfect moments.

But the greatest of these is love. It is what remains… long after I am gone.
Let these thoughts carry you through the weekend.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Again!" Is What I Enjoyed Most

I recently filled out a questionnaire for a MOPS group to whom I will be speaking in April. The last question was, What do (or did) you enjoy most about being a mother of a preschooler? and today I realized I wrote the wrong answer.

I volunteer for MOPPETS at my church (For those of you in the non-MOPS crowd, MOPPETS are the children of the women who attend MOPS meetings.) and it was as I spent time with the kids this morning that I realized my error on the questionnaire. In my room, (I am with the 17-24 month old kids) we often have criers and in an effort to calm the sobs today, I started playing "All Around the Mulberry Bush."
I took "A" upon my lap and started bouncing my knees as I sang, "All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought 'twas all in fun. Pop! goes the weasel."
The way I play the game is this: I hold my hands under the knees of the child on my lap and bounce them while I sing. When I say, "Pop!" I open my knees so the child falls down several inches. (That's why I have my hands under their knees - so I can catch them.) "Pop" always gets a good giggle and a cry of, "Again!" So I do it again.
And again.
Usually the third time through, I allow a pause before I say "Pop!" just to keep them on their toes. From there on out, sometimes I pause and other times I don't. It seems the anticipation makes the game even more fun for the young rider.
As A and I played today, I noticed M watching with interest and invited her to take a turn. She said, "Again!" too. I am honestly not sure who had more fun - the kids, or me!
Playing with the kids this way today reminded me how much I enjoyed playing "All Around the Mulberry Bush" with my kids when they were preschoolers. The giggles and the enthusiastic cries of, "Again!" were a joy to hear. (OK, at the time I may have tired of hearing, "Again!" so much. But time seems to make those feelings fade.) I think I can safely say - with the help of time - "Again!" is what I enjoyed most about being a mother of preschoolers.

Actually, my kids still like to sit on my lap and play this game with me. The problem is, Matthew is the only one who is still significantly smaller than me. Playing it with Elizabeth and Joshua is much more difficult.
Well, at least I can get my fix every other Wednesday at MOPPETS!

How about you? What do (or did) you enjoy most about being the mother of a preschooler?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Memory Verse Monday

Karen over at Karen's Ramblings has started Memory Verse Monday for the purpose of our mutual encouragement here in blogland. She says the aim of Memory Verse Monday is to:
1. Memorize a passage (or passages) of scripture.
2. Share why you have chosen the verse (or verses) that you have.
3. Encourage one another with what God has been saying to you through this verse.
4. Share the ways in which you find remembering verses works for you.

I love the idea of sharing with one another the ways in which we are experiencing God in His Word, so today I decided to join in for Memory Verse Monday.

I am currently going through Psalm 22. I read and meditate on one verse at a time, one day at a time. Today's verse, and the ones leading up to it may not seem very encouraging at first glance, but I assure you, God's Word is good.

(12)Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. (13)Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. And today's verse (14)I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
I have gone through several other psalms in this same fashion (one verse per day) and believe it or not, I chose Psalm 22 because it seemed so encouraging. One day I was reading Stephanie's blog and I saw verses 4 and 5: In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. I read those words and thought, Yes, I want to do that one next!

What I have found in Psalm 22 is a bit of a yo-yo effect. One moment David is despairing, and the next he is trusting God. Then he is back to despairing again. (Obviously he is in the despairing mode in today's verse!)
The thing God is showing me as I memorize and meditate on these verses is the same thing He's been repeating to me over the past several weeks. It is vital that we rehearse the Truth. The times in Psalm 22 when David is despairing are the times when he is focusing on his circumstances. He does well, however, when he is looking to God and remembering Who God Is.
When I read today's verse I thought, David sounds like a mother here! He sounds totally spent and worn out. I think I could relate to his frame of mind! Yes, there are times when I feel like I am poured out like water - like there is nothing left in me to give.
But then God reminded me David is focusing on his circumstance in this verse, as he has been for the past few verses. He sees only what is around him, and thinks only about what he is feeling. (I have read ahead, and I know David is going to come around to focusing on God again!) David's circumstances (like ours) are true, with a lowercase "t," but God reminded me what really matters is Truth, with a capital "T."
That is, God is eternal and my situation is temporary.
God is sovereign and my circumstance - while it seems to have great influence over me - is under His control.
God is completely faithful and I can trust Him, while my feelings are fickle and cannot be trusted.

So I was encouraged through this despairing verse today - to rehearse the Truth.

My habit in memorizing and meditating on these verses is to sit on my couch with my Bible and read over the verse several times. I pray and ask God what He wants to say to me through this particular verse. I also write it on a piece of paper, which then goes into my pocket so I can refer to it throughout the day.
Sometimes I take the paper out of my pocket on purpose and read it. Other times I feel the paper because I have put my hand in my pocket, or because I am brushing crumbs off my lap and, being reminded of the verse, I take it out to review it again. I love carrying my daily verse with me because of the constant reminder it is to me of the time I spent with God that morning. In one sense, it is almost like my time of meditation continues through the entire day.

God has blessed me and covered me with His love as I have spent time in the psalms this way. If you've never done anything like it, I would encourage you to give it a try!

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Loving Every Moment?

You may recall earlier this week when I sent Matthew to his room to memorize scripture rather than having his typical "time out." Since that day he has been coming up to me throughout the day saying, "Mommy, guess what? The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." He is very proud of knowing this verse and I am delighted to know God is writing on his heart. It has been precious for me to see Matthew's joy in knowing God's word. I have loved these moments.

Last night Matthew afforded me another moment to love. I was saying goodnight to him and he was hugging my neck tightly. (A little background: Matthew has a tendency to draw out bedtime, particularly by hanging onto my neck and not letting go. I used to have to literally pry his hands apart so I could leave his room. Then one night I decided instead of being impatient and trying to "get away," I would take that time while he has hanging onto my neck to pray for him. On one such occasion he let go a little sooner than I expected him to, at which point I said, "Hey. I wasn't finished praying for you!" I went on to tell him I pray for him every time he holds onto me like that.) So last night as he was holding on, I was praying, and when he let go I said out loud, "Amen."
Then he wrapped his arms around my neck again and, although I couldn't make out the words, I could hear whispers coming from Matthew and I knew he was praying for me. After a minute or so he let go and said, "Amen."
How sweet it was to have my little guy praying for me!

Fast forward several hours to this morning...I was sitting in my living room having my quiet time, thinking about these moments of delight I have had with Matthew over the past couple days. I prayed and thanked God for them. I told God how much I loved moments like those and how glad I was for the HOPE He gives me in them. And then I did a strange thing.
I asked God to help me love all the moments with my kids, not just the good ones.

Fast forward another hour or so...I was in my bathroom brushing my teeth when I heard a thud and,"What the heck???!!!" (It drives me nuts when they use that phrase!) It was Joshua and Matthew in their bathroom - fighting. I went out to see what was going on, only to get the usual, He did this. No, he did that. It isn't my fault. He's the one in the wrong. Blah, blah, blah. I didn't really settle anything, except that I sent Joshua to his room to wait until Matthew was finished in the bathroom before I would allow him to return to finish getting ready.
At that point I went back to my own bathroom and gave Brian an I am so tired of this kind of look. He looked back at me and simply said, "What?" I told him about my time with God this morning, and my prayer that I might love all moments with my kids. I said, "Am I supposed to love these moments, too?"

Well, am I?

I don't know if I am going to be able to love every moment. Some of them are so hard, so frustrating, or so tiresome I just can't imagine loving them - or even missing them, as some "seasoned" women have told me I will.
What I do know is this: I need to love my children in every moment. So my prayer will continue to be, Lord, I know you love this child and although he/she is driving me crazy right now please help me to love him/her in this moment.
By the grace of God, we will make it through this season of life. Our children will grow and we, too, will be changed - made more into the likeness of Christ. And maybe, just maybe, God will do something to our memories which will allow us to forget how tiring and frustrating these days have sometimes been, and we will actually say we miss them.
Maybe. *wink*

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Smart or Stupid?

OK, so Wednesday morning I went into Fitness Together to work out with Jessica at 6:00. When I was leaving we agreed we would do it again Friday at the same time. At that moment I thought maybe I would shower after my workout Friday morning and join the other crazy people who got up early to shop. Sounded like a smart idea to me.
This morning when my alarm went off, I thought it was stupid a good thing Jessica was there to hold me accountable, otherwise I would roll over and go back to sleep.
When I got home and was showered, I got started on laundry. Since I had no particular plans for the day I decided to strip all the beds so I could wash all the sheets with the clothes, and figured I ought to throw in all the towels, too. I thought it would be smart to get it all done today. When I finished collecting and sorting all the laundry, I thought my ambitions were stupid a bit high for the day.
As I was putting clean sheets on my bed, Joshua came into my room and suggested it would be a great idea for me to take the kids to Caesarland. He said they could run around and get out all of their energy (The kid knows what motivates me!) and that I wouldn't need to give them any money for tokens because last time they went they found a whole bunch of them on the floor under machines. (He also knows how cheap I am.)
While my natural tendency to such requests is to say, No, today I thought it would be a smart move to say, Yes. So I did.
And smart it was.
*I had instant motivation to get Matthew to do his daily reading. We can't go to Caesarland until you've done your reading.
*Joshua's chores were a snap. You need to unload the dishwasher and strip your bed before we go to Caesarland.
*Even running an errand became easier. After we stop at the store, we'll go to Caesarland.

We arrived at Caesarland ten minutes before they opened and the kids waited anxiously for the doors to open. Once inside they began their search for tokens. (And I was fully intending to buy some for them!) I couldn't believe it. While Matthew only found one token, Elizabeth and Joshua found about 10 each. I think half their fun was accomplished in finding free tokens. They kept running over to me showing me what they'd found, and once Joshua led me around the game area to demonstrate for me his token-seeking skills.
When the kids got hungry I discovered an awesome deal of pizza and crazy bread, four drinks, and fifteen tokens. The kids were having a blast and I was so glad I had agreed to take them. This was definitely a smart move.

I had brought a book along to read while the kids were playing. A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of Karen Kingsbury's book One Tuesday Morning and last night I picked it up after not having read it for a while. I had gotten to a really good part but had to go to bed (because I was getting up at 5:35 to go work out - you know, smart idea...) so I thought it would be smart to bring it with me to Caesarland. So I sat in the middle of the restaurant pouring over the book, crying like a baby as I read about Jamie helping Eric find his way back home, trying to wipe my tears away quickly enough so anyone passing by wouldn't stop and stare. I thought, Well, this was stupid a great opportunity for me to finish reading this book.

OK, so I was crying in the middle of Caesarland. But the kids had a great time. In fact, Matthew just ran up to me a couple sentences ago and said, "Mom, thanks again for taking us today!" I'd say, overall, the smart decisions out-weighed the stupid ones today!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Creative Correction?

A few weeks ago I spoke for a MOPS group and during the meeting one of the moms talked about Lisa Welchel's book Creative Correction. (Remember Blair, from The Facts of Life? That's Lisa!) One of the things this mom talked about that she had learned from Lisa is an alternative way of giving kids a "time out." Rather than just sending them to their room to "think about it," she suggested having them memorize a Bible verse. Since I have never been entirely convinced "time outs" have been effective in my house, I was eager to try this new idea.
This afternoon, Matthew became my guinea pig.
He was causing problems with Joshua in various ways and was generally out of control. I was ready to send him to his room, knowing he would say, "For how loooong???" and decided now would be a good time to try some creative correction. I have spoken with Matthew frequently about his need to work on self-control, and today he was certainly displaying a lack of kindness and peace toward his brother, so I decided I was going to have him memorize Galatians 5:22-23a, The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I went into his room with him, looked the verse up in his Bible, and told him when he had this verse memorized and could recite it for me, he could come out of his room. Well, that pronouncement went over like a lead balloon. Matthew fussed about my requirement but I told him that was my decision, and I left his room.

When I heard about this idea of creative correction, in my imagination I thought the offending child would sit in his room and pour over the verse, if only to shorten his "time out." I thought the child would be glad he wasn't getting sentenced to five minutes in solitary confinement. I thought...I am such an idealist! It didn't work that way in my house.
The way it happened here is Matthew argued about having to memorize the verse. When I was sitting outside of his room he cried and complained, then threw something and hit the wall. I went back into his room deal with that little outburst and felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall - telling Matthew I love him too much to let him behave this way, reminding my son he really is a good kid but he is making bad decisions. I believe he needs to hear this stuff, but don't know how to best communicate it.
At one point I just stood looking at him laying on the floor with his blanket wrapped over his ears. I prayed, Lord, please help me know how to get through to this boy. I wish I knew how to handle him. I wish this wasn't so hard...But if it wasn't, if I felt like I really knew what to do, maybe I wouldn't think I need to depend on You so much...God, I promise - I'll keep depending on You. Please let this become easier. (Yes, I try to bargain with Him sometimes.)
I had gone back and forth into Matthew's room several times to find the verse for him again, and was beginning to wonder if the effort was ever going to be "worth it." I don't know how much time had lapsed from the onset of this scene when Matthew finally came out and said, "I think I have it, Mom." He then recited the verse for me - not perfectly, but he was very close - and we hugged.
As I held him I prayed aloud for him, asking God to help Matthew grow and to produce in him the fruit of the spirit. I know Matthew loves it when I pray for him, especially when I pray aloud, and I could feel his whole body relax in my arms. For an instant I forgot how frustrated I had been with this child just moments before, and I was thankful once again for the hope God manages to give me in the midst of motherhood.

As for this new form of "time out," though it didn't go perfectly this time I am not ready to throw out the idea. It had a rough start, but a good end, and I will keep on trying it.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mean Mom is a Ray of Sunshine!

Last month held a writing contest to search out who is the Meanest Mom. Though I enjoyed reading the entries of various Mean Moms in blogland, I did not enter the contest. (Well, because my kids have convinced me I truly am the Meanest Mom, and I wanted everyone else to have a fair chance. LOL!!!) Yesterday was a perfect example of how mean I am, and I thought it would be fun to share with you, now that the contest is over. *grin*

I went up to school yesterday to meet the boys and walk home with them, and met a very tired Matthew. He was soooo tired (or so dramatic) he could barely stand up. Honestly, he must have fallen down three or four times before we even got to the edge of the school property. I kept telling him if he asked me nicely, I would give him a piggy-back ride. (See how mean I am??!!) Finally, I asked him, "Matthew, do you want me to give you a piggy-back ride?" He agreed, and climbed aboard.
As I was walking home with Matthew on my back, I started thinking about what was going to happen when we arrived. I always go grocery shopping on Mondays and buy a doughnut for the kids to have as an after-school treat, (See? I am sooooo mean!) and I was imagining this tired child on my back ingesting all that refined sugar. Not a good plan! I thought a moment and came up with another plan.
By this time, Matthew had gotten tired of hanging on around my neck and was walking. (OK by me, since we were now going uphill!) So I looked at him and said, "Matthew, I am going to tell you something and I don't want you to yell at me about it, OK?" Then I told him I had gotten him a doughnut, as usual, but when we got home I was going to fix him an egg to eat first and then he could have half of the doughnut. I told him he could save the other half for Tuesday.
In spite of the fact I had tried to prepare him for not liking what I was going to say, he was mad at me and cried about me being so mean. I knew there was really no point in trying to have a discussion about the stupidity of stuffing his tired body full of refined sugars and then expecting him to perform well on homework. He didn't want to listen to me talk about protein being a much better energy option. So he cried and ranted, and I walked behind him reminding myself, He's tired and disappointed. And you love him.
When we got home, I made two eggs (Oh, I am a meanie!) and watched Matthew eat them before I gave him half of his doughnut. Then he complained he was still hungry and as I opened my mouth to speak, Matthew said, "I don't want a glass of water!" (He obviously knew what I was going to say.)
So I came over to my computer and Googled, "Why is it important to drink water?" I called Matthew over, sat him on my lap, and asked him to read the information on my computer screen. (And I told him this time would count toward his reading goal for the day. I'm mean, but I can be reasonable!)
Satisfied with what he learned, Matthew got down and drank his water.
AND, I made him take an early shower and have an early bedtime last night.
So there you have it:
* I made Matthew eat more protein than sugar.
* I made him learn why water is important, and made him drink it.
* I made him go to bed early.
I am so mean!
But you know what? He didn't even fuss when it was time to get up and ready for school this morning!

In spite of how mean I am as a mom, other moms have seen fit to encourage me with a blogging award. Karen at Karen's Ramblings created this Ray of Sunshine award for the bloggers in her blog roll because she says we share God in our everyday lives, struggles, triumphs and joys, and at other times flow with encouraging words through humour, testimony and experience. Then Maria at Free To Fly decided to pass the award on to me, too. So to both of you, I wish to say, Thank you! I joke about being the Meanest Mom, but my true desire is to love my kids and to be an encouragement to other moms. We are all traveling similar roads and I do hope I can be a Ray of Sunshine to you as we journey together!

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

*Words of Affirmation*

Have you been put through the same School of Thought as me? The one that tells you to catch your kids doing things well, and affirm them for it?
I have observed other parents making these remarks to their children. "Honey, you did such a good job cleaning your room today!"
I have seen teachers doing it, too. "Billy, I really like it when you raise your hand when you have a question."
I think these words of affirmation are a great idea. Since I want to do everything I can to shape my kids' behavior, and since I would rather they remember me saying kind words than yelling, I try to bring these words forth as much as possible. (Granted, some days it is much easier than others!)
Well, this morning Matthew gave them right back to me.

We were getting ready to go to my mil's house to celebrate the "Hossink Thanksgiving." The kids always look forward to this particular celebration because the Hossinks are a very big family and we rent a school gymnasium where the whole family gathers for a feast, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. There are basketballs to shoot, scooters to ride, and bars on the walls to climb. My kids have been counting down to this day for at least a month now.
So this morning Matthew got his suit case out of his closet and was gathering things to pack. I was baking apple pies in the kitchen so he brought all his things in there for me to check out - to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything.
It all looked good to me and I said, "Matthew, you're doing a great job packing your stuff to go to Grandma's house."
He looked over it once more and said, "Oh! I need underwear!"
"You're right, Matthew! You're so smart!"
And off he ran to get some undies.
When he got back I got his fiber tablets out of the cabinet and sat them in his suit case. I said, "They fit perfectly right there, don't they?" and I turned around to work on the pies some more. After a minute, Matthew laid the container of tablets on its side and said, "I am going to lay them down like this, because if I swing my suit case around they might fall over anyway. But, Mommy, it was good that you noticed they fit perfectly in my suitcase!"
Matthew had such an encouraging tone in his voice when he affirmed me for noticing how well the container fit, and the smile that went along with it was priceless.

Yep, this is a moment I need to store in my memory banks for the next time he grunts at me and stomps away when I tell him it's time to clean up!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

In His Time

Last February I was scheduled to speak for a MOPS group on the west side of the state. When I was about 15 miles away from the church I found out there was a "snow day" in the city and MOPS had been cancelled. You can read my post from that day to get the full spectrum of my thoughts, but one thing I wondered was whether the timing wasn't right. I considered the possibility there may be a mom who needed to hear my talk but wouldn't have been present that day. Or, maybe God knew someone was going to be at the right place in their life to hear my message at a future time, and He was rearranging the schedule to what He knew was best.
Ultimately, I was choosing to trust God's perfect timing.

A couple of months ago I rescheduled with that group for today, and this time there was no snow. This morning God showed me once again - He knows what He is doing.
Before the meeting began, I gathered with the Mentor Moms for prayer and we asked God to reach out to the hearts of the moms present. As I was speaking I could tell He was touching to them. (Red noses and wet cheeks are always a good indication of that connection!) But after the meeting I believe I met the woman for whom God had rescheduled things. She walked up to me and simply said, "I have had a really bad two weeks," and she let her tears flow. I prayed for her and we hugged. As we talked, I silently thanked God for working things out so this young mom could be encouraged today, after her very difficult couple of weeks.

Very often I feel like I don't know why God does the things He does. I wish I knew, but mostly I just have to trust. Today I believe He let me in on the secret, and I couldn't be happier.
If you are going through something right now which is causing you to wonder, God, do You really know what You're doing? I hope you will find encouragement from my experience with this MOPS group. He does know what He is doing, my friend. Just trust in Him.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Not THAT Cool!

My boys recently decided they wanted to walk home from school sometimes, so we made a deal that three days a week I would walk up to school at the end of the day and bring them home. The other two days, they ride the bus.
The first time I walked up to meet them, I noticed lots and lots of grass hoppers and crickets along the edge of the sidewalk. Since Ring was still alive and I knew Joshua would love to feed her one of the grass hoppers, I caught one! I was so proud of myself as I walked the rest of the way to school, cupping the grass hopper in my hand. I couldn't wait to see Joshua and show him the bug I had caught. I thought, He is going to be so pleased! What I didn't anticipate was the response I would get from Joshua's friend - who thought I was totally cool for catching bugs. Oh yeah!
So, catching bugs for Ring became part of our walking home routine. And I really did have fun with it.
Well, Ring breathed her last breath a few days ago, and the grass hoppers and crickets have all but disappeared on the path to school. So today when I walked along the sidewalk, I wasn't expecting to see anything interesting. But much to my surprise, I saw a frog.
It was green and looked like a bull frog, only it wasn't big enough to be one. The frog was sitting perfectly still on the sidewalk and I was sure I could grab it and take it to school to show Joshua. In a split second I thought about it, took half a step back as if to capture the little guy, and quickly considered what it would be like to carry him all the way to school. It didn't take me more than a second to realize I am simply not THAT cool!

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sooooo Much Better than "Good"

On Wednesday I posted about my very bad day and my confidence the weekend was going to be good. I was shooting too low with my expectations. The retreat this weekend was sooooo much better than "good".
I went to the retreat with a couple of friends and we stopped to do some shopping on the way. Just as we were getting started, a phone call came saying they wanted all speakers at the conference center ASAP, so we had to cut the shopping short. My friends said this is the last time they're traveling with a speaker! LOL
As it turned out, the keynote speaker was stuck in Atlanta until 8:30 so they wanted to have workshop speakers present once Friday night and again Saturday afternoon (rather than twice Saturday). This change was fine with me because it meant I had a full hour to present Friday night and I wouldn't need to cut anything from the presentation. However, it was what happened after I spoke that really delighted my heart.
A woman who had been in my workshop approached me and asked if I had time to talk with her, then she began to pour her heart out to me. She told me about her struggles, which were huge, and that she simply didn't know how to pray anymore. As I listened to her, I was praying God would make me wise and give me the words to say to encourage my new friend. I had my Bible in the room and we sat down to look at a passage, then something she said reminded me of what I had been reading in Psalm 30, so I flipped to it.
I told her about the time God had encouraged me with verse 11, "You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy," and we talked about having confidence He would do the same thing for her. I told her about the way I read through a psalm one verse at a time, one day at a time, and encouraged her to give it a try. Then I read the entire psalm for her, while I held her hand and she sobbed. She said those words completely described where she's been. I squeezed her hand and suggested she start with Psalm 30. I think she's going to.
We prayed and we hugged, and I was overjoyed at God's goodness in bringing the two of us together that night.

In all, we probably spent 20-30 minutes together Friday night. The guys who were setting the room for Saturday graciously worked around us.
Reflecting back, I realize how significant the schedule change was. If we had done both workshops Saturday, there is no way we would have been able to have that conversation. Workshops had been scheduled with only fifteen minutes between them, so I would not have had much time to talk with her, and she would probably have been wanting to hurry to her next station. But Friday the workshop was the last scheduled activity so we had all the time we needed.
I am sure there were other amazing God appointments which occurred as a result of the changed plans - I doubt ours was the only reason He grounded Lori in Atlanta - but even if it was just for us I am so thankful God arranged things just as they needed to be.

Lori Salierno was the keynote speaker for the weekend and she arrived late Friday night, still able to give all of her talks with the changed schedule Saturday. She had a lot to say which I needed to hear, but there is one thing in particular I want to bring before you. She talked about how important it is to have people praying for us, especially in our area of ministry. I know many of you were praying for me, and the women to whom I was speaking, and I want to Thank you!
For those of you who may be willing to pray for me regularly, I want to invite you to join my prayer team. I have a group of women who pray for me now, and to whom I send monthly emails containing my schedule for that month and specific requests. If you would like to be a part of this team, please email me and I will joyfully and gratefully add you to the list.
Once again, Thank you to each of you who prayed for me this weekend. God's presence and grace was so obvious and I am so glad to have been a part of it.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Encourgement in spite of Despair

Thank you so much - each one of you! I am tremendously encouraged by your kind words and the prayers you are offering for me. Yesterday was a much better day. And in spite of the fact I spent about an hour on the phone this morning (twice with the long distance carrier, twice with the local phone company, and once with a third party billing company) trying to figure out WHO is charging me these outrageous prices (I am not kidding. Got the phone bill yesterday. Average cost per minute? $1.53!!! Sorry. I am not paying that!) today is shaping up to be a great one.
I started the day off on verse two of Psalm 22.

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
Yesterday I studied verse one, and at first glance it didn't seem much more uplifting.
My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
I read those words and thought, OK, God, what are you possibly going to show me in this scripture to carry me through this day? I figured He was up for the challenge and, of course, He was.
Over and over the past few weeks God has been impressing upon me the importance of rehearsing the Truth, and that is how He encouraged me through both of these verses from Psalm 22. I read these words of David's and think, Man, he was really despairing. He was feeling totally alone and without hope. (Have you been there?)But I know he wasn't alone. I know God didn't forsake him, He wasn't far away. I know the Truth and I wanted to shout it out to David.
Yet, I realized David's feelings were real. They were true, with a lowercase "t." I thought about how I was feeling Wednesday - overwhelmed and hopeless - and I believed I could understand David's cries.
Even so, something in me kept wanting to fight for the Truth to be revealed. In fact this morning as I was reading verse two I kept changing the words. I said, O my God, I cry out by day, and I know you are with me, by night, and you are there.

Yes, even in the despair, He speaks.

I have been blessed beyond measure by our great God. He gives me such hope and encouragement, even in the dark times. I just need to remember what is True.
I count it a blessing, too, to receive comments and emails from so many of you who read here. You share your hearts with me, your struggles and your aches, the hope God is giving you through my words, and I am encouraged to press on. Thank you.
I pray you will know the Truth and the One from whom it comes. He is good, my friend. He is not far. He loves you more than you'll ever know. And He will lead you through this lonely, difficult time.

And now I am off to finish packing for this weekend. Trusting God to speak through me!

Loving Jesus,

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Been so Bad, It's Gotta be Good!

Oh. my. word.
This has been an awful, terrible, I-want-to-quit-being-a-mother day.
It started with the boys messing around when I was telling them to get ready for school. Once we were out the door Matthew was yelling at Joshua repeatedly, in spite of my instruction to stop. Finally, I told Matthew if he said one more thing to Joshua I was going to take him right back into the house and spank him. Then he yelled at me. That was all I was going to take.
I told Joshua to go on to the bus stop without us, and I told Matthew if he didn't come in with me now, he was going to get two spankings. So I walked back to the house with my son following me crying out, "NO, mom!!!" Hmmmm, what must the neighbors think? Yes, sign me up for Mother of the Year.
After Matthew's spanking we got into the van and I drove him to the bus stop - no way we were going to make it if we walked. Somehow he managed to smile and wave good-bye to me. But my stellar mothering was not yet finished.

This afternoon I was going to walk up to meet the boys at school and walk them home. Joshua even reminded me about it this morning so I wouldn't forget. And, technically, I didn't forget. I just lost track of time. So, four minutes after school got out I looked at the clock and realized my mistake. I got my shoes and coat on quickly and walked to school as fast as I could.
The boys weren't concerned that I was late, but I felt terrible for not being there on time and giving the boys the impression I had forgotten. Bad mom moment number two for the day.

When we got home I tried to get the boys started on their homework, and it just wasn't going well. Joshua needed help, but wouldn't accept my help, except that when I began to walk away he would cry out, "Mom, I need help!" I wanted to yell back, "Then why won't you listen to what I'm saying???" I was doing a lot of deep breathing and he looked at me is if to say, "What's going on with you?" I simply said, "I am trying not to yell at you."
While all this was going on with Joshua I was also making trips into the other room, trying to keep Matthew on task with his homework, answering his complaints, and on the verge of insanity. Thoughts of hopelessness and failure were rampant in my mind as I wondered how second and fourth grade homework could cause me so much grief. Bad mom moments three and four.

Before I knew it, it was time to get dinner ready, and I added that to the mix of things I was juggling. So when Brian called and asked "How's it going?" and I burst into tears, I knew I had reached my limit.
Shortly after Brian called, my phone rang again but since I didn't recognize the phone number, and I was already overwhelmed with everything going on, I let it go to voice mail. (This decision would lead to bad mom moment number five.)

Although the chaos continued, somehow we managed to make our way through dinner. With the table cleared, the boys sat down to finish homework. (I was so glad Brian was home to help me!) And I finally had a moment to listen to that voice mail...It was someone calling to remind Elizabeth about an activity at Impact tonight - yeah, the junior high youth group meeting that happens every Wednesday night at church, which was already half over, and which I totally forgot about tonight. Bad mom moment number five. Thankfully my daughter is full of grace and said she had forgotten about it, too.
Even with Elizabeth's graciousness, though, there was nothing I could do to hold back more tears. I felt just awful. Failure Mom was the label I had on today.

Yes, this has been such a bad, yucky, rotten day, I just know this weekend is going to be good. I am doing a couple workshops at a women's retreat - giving the talk I present to moms' groups - and I know, from past experience, the days before an event like this are usually pretty bad.
So I am making a decision - here and now. I will not take an attack like this one lying down. I'm taking it on my knees! The more my enemy throws at me, the more I am going to my Father for strength and courage. The more my enemy tells me I am a Failure Mom, the more I am going to seek my Father and remember from where my hope comes. The more my enemy tells me I have no place speaking to women about motherhood, the more I am going to ask my Father to speak to them through me!
God is bigger than my struggles.
He is stronger than my weakness.
I can trust Him fully - for the days and weeks and years to come.
And if you think of me this weekend (especially Saturday between 12 and 2 EST) would you pray for me and the women to whom I will be speaking? Thank you, friend. You are a blessing to me!

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Need a Personal Trainer?

Two weeks ago my husband opened a personal training studio. Because his trainers needed "guinea pigs" to run through programs and get used to the equipment, I volunteered for a session. Prior to that time I had never worked with a personal trainer and, let me tell you, it was a great experience. I liked it so much that when Brian asked me if I would like to work out regularly with Jessica, I jumped at the chance. (Yes, there are perks to being the business owner's wife!)
So yesterday at 6:00 AM I met Jessica at the studio and she worked me hard. Seriously, I think about her every time I stand up, climb the stairs, reach over my head...If I really pay attention I can even feel my aching muscles when I'm sitting still. The aches are OK with me because they remind me I worked hard and am going to get fit.
The thing I love about a personal trainer is I know I would not do this on my own. I might give it a shot, but I would quit when it got too hard. However, when Jessica is standing by me showing me the right form, counting down reps for me, and saying, "You're doing a great job, Karen. Keep it up. Just three more," I press on.

This morning I was thinking about how great it would be if there were such a thing as a personal trainer for moms. Wouldn't you love to have someone by your side throughout the day showing you exactly how to balance all the things you need to do for your kids, reminding you to breathe deeply when the work is stressful, explaining how the weight you are bearing is strengthening your character, and encouraging you to press on by telling you, "You're doing a great job. Keep it up!"? I know I would!
Because the truth is, this mothering thing is too hard for me and sometimes I just want to quit. I am so glad I do not have to do this on my own.
* I have been blessed by several other moms who are willing to call me "friend," who share their struggles with me and allow me to share mine with them. Together, we encourage one another to press on and seek Hope.
* Several years ago God brought a woman into my life who has been my mentor and He uses her to encourage me, to help me see things clearly, and to grow my faith.
* And I have become increasingly aware of God's presence in every aspect of my life. More and more I realize He didn't just give my kids to me and turn His back, leaving me to figure it all out on my own. I know He is with me every moment of every day, growing me and shaping me as He leads me down this road called Motherhood.

It may be true I do not have a physical body beside me serving as a Mommy personal trainer, but as I reflect on what I do have, I realize God has given me everything I need.

How about you, my friend? Are you receiving support from the people God has placed around you? From God, Himself? Or are you trying to make it on your own? I confidently believe if we are going to survive motherhood (And how I want to do so much more than just survive. I want to thrive!) we need to support one another.
Are you in need of help today? Let it be known.
Are you aware of another mom who needs a boost? Reach out and encourage her.

Truly, we are better together.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

And the Winners are...

Yes, I said Winners.
So many mothers left comments letting me know how much they would like to read my book, and as I read them I thought about how much I want to give a book to everyone. I cannot give away that many books though. I can, however, give away more than one. So I chose three winners.
The winners are anonymous, Qtpies7, and Heather. Congratulations, ladies!
For those of you whose name I did not draw, but who really want the book, I have decided to extend you a discount. If you enrolled for the drawing by leaving a comment on the Fall Y'all post, I will send you the book for $10 - to cover shipping and part of the cost of the book. There is no special code to enter on my website to get this discount. You will need to email me directly at Karen(at)IrritableMother(dot)com. I will check to be sure you were entered in the contest and we can work out the shipping details.
Congrats, again, to the three winners. And thanks to everyone for playing along!

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Another Giveaway

Well, this sure seems to be the season for giving things away in blogland. I love it! Sue over at Praise and Coffee is giving away music and warmth. Two things I really enjoy. And she is so kind, too. Know why I think so? Because I do not like coffee, and Sue said she will send cocoa to the winner if they prefer. See? Isn't she kind?
So, go on over and sign up to win...and be prepared to tell her something for which you are thankful!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Should We Respond?

Yesterday I wrote about Psalm 30:11, and God turning my wailing into dancing. This morning I read verse 12:

that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.
There is a song in my heart and as I consider what the Lord has done for me I want to sing!
I read that verse aloud a few times and lingered on the phrase and not be silent. After all God has done for me, when I consider who He Is, I know I must not be silent.
As I read over the entire Psalm I recognized once more how much of "me" there is in those words.
*being lifted out of the depths
*calling for help
*having confidence when I feel secure
*being dismayed when I feel insecure
*crying out for mercy
*being redeemed
*recognizing the goodness of the Lord and rejoicing in Him

My friends, God is good. Whatever your situation is today, He knows it and He can handle it. I believe He will use our sorrows and hard times for our good and His glory in His perfect time. And when He turns our wailing into dancing, when He removes our sackcloth and clothes us with joy, may we each respond by singing and not being silent - giving thanks to Him forever!

I finished my time of meditation by creating a "Thank You for..." list in my journal. What a great exercise. May I recommend it to you?

Finally, if you have never meditated through a psalm before, may I suggest giving it a try? The way I do it is I pick a psalm and read just one verse per day. I read it several times, look up any words I don't know (Like pestilence in Psalm 91 - what a lovely word. Eewww!) and spend time praying asking God what He wants to say to me through that verse. I write the verse on a piece of paper and carry it in my pocket to refer back to throughout the day.
I am so thankful for the ways God has loved me through the psalms in this time of meditation. The psalms become much more personal and I believe my relationship with God has grown stronger. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

He Turned My Wailing Into Dancing!

This morning I read Psalm 30:11.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
I read this verse out loud a few times and I smiled as I recalled the events of this morning:
* Watching Joshua read Mitt, the Michigan Mouse and smiling in amazement as I heard him say, "I don't want to stop reading." (Yes, God still does perform miracles! This statement came from the same boy who usually fights me when it comes to reading.)
* Accompanying the boys to the bus stop and receiving bountiful hugs, kisses and "I love you. You rock!" statements before they boarded the bus.
* Walking home full of love for my kids and joy in my role as their mom.

So I sat on my couch with my Bible on my lap and I read Psalm 30:11 aloud. I remembered the wailing I have done. I thought about the times I have been flat out on my bed in tears, at my wits' end, wondering how I will ever survive motherhood. There have been days when I simply didn't know what to do and I just wanted to run away. I am sure I will never forget the day I sat on the step outside my kitchen, crying out to God, honestly (and with all due respect!) questioning His wisdom in giving me children.

But He turned my wailing into dancing!

Although on occasion I still wander back to those moments of despair, though sometimes I still wonder if I am going to make it through these days, I can truly say He has turned my wailing into dancing. Besides giving me hope that He is using my children and my struggles as a mother to make me into the woman He wants me to be, God sprinkles joy on me in the form of events like the ones which occurred this morning.
Yes, He has removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

As I sat on the couch loving God and my children this morning, I began to think about other moms. I know there are so many who are wailing and who are still wearing sackcloth. Sometimes I receive emails from them, and my heart breaks as I get a glimpse of their despair. How I long for each one to know Hope!
This coming Thursday and Friday I am going to be speaking for MOPS groups and I realized this morning, God knows which of those women are wailing right now. He knows which ones will come to the meetings in sackcloth. My prayer is for God to give them hope, and turn their wailing into dancing.

How are you doing today, friend? Have you got your dancing shoes on? I know God is in the business of redemption, of turning wailing into dancing. Get ready!

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Fall Y'all Giveaway Time!

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It's here! It's here! It's finally here!
Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer is hosting a blog giveaway carnival, so I am going to give away a copy of my book, Confessions of an Irritable Mother.
I want to thank my kind friend, Annie, for making this button for me to help with my giveaway.Isn't it cute? If you will grab this button and put it on your blog with a post about my giveaway and leave me a comment saying you would like to be included in the drawing, I will "put your name in the hat" for my book. If you are technologically challenged, like me, and you can't grab the button just give me your email address and I will send you the code.
If you do not have a blog, you may still enter the drawing. Just leave a comment, or email me telling me you would like to be included.
If you live outside the US, you may still enter the drawing. I am willing to pay the shipping charges. If you want the book, go ahead and enter!

For a very long time, I really did despair of motherhood. I thought my kids were ruining me - that they were preventing me from becoming the woman God wants me to be. How wonderful it was for me to discover God is actually using my children and my struggles as a mother to make me into that woman. This journey, the hope I have in it, and the hope I believe you can have, too, is what I have written about in Confessions of an Irritable Mother. Want to read more? Enter to win!
I will be announcing the winner Sunday, November 4, so enter by midnight on the third to be sure you make it in.
Please be sure to leave your email address in your comment if it isn't available on your blog. Thanks!!!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Psalm 30:9

In my quiet times with God I am currently going through Psalm 30, one verse at a time. Today I was on verse nine.

What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Though this verse sounds rather despairing, I assure you the psalm is extremely uplifting. This verse comes from David recalling a time when he was dismayed, but is surrounded by recollections of God's faithfulness and calls to praise.
However, as I considered these words this morning I had to ask myself, Am I any better than dust? If I were destroyed or lost in a pit, would the dust make up for my absence? In other words, would anyone - specifically God - notice I was gone? (Of course I know God and others would notice. I ask these questions to make my point.)
I thought about this verse and these questions, and grew in my resolve to to be a faithful witness to the goodness of God. I want to live a life which gives Him praise. Every day, I want to proclaim His faithfulness. I don't ever want it to be said of me that, if I was destroyed, the dust would give praise to God as much as I ever did. I want to be better than dust.

This morning in church our pastor spoke about the holiness of God. He is majestic. He is perfect. He is set apart from us, and yet He loves us. I have said it before: I do not understand why He loves me. As I consider in my puny little mind how great God is, I cannot fathom why He would want anything to do with me, but I trust He does and I am so thankful. So, until I breathe my last breath on this earth and then on into eternity, I will proclaim the goodness of our God!

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