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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