Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Turning Mountains into Mole Hills

"What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground."

~Zechariah 4:7

I spent a good amount of time yesterday talking about this verse with the women in my Precepts Bible study. The context is that God is encouraging Zerubbabel that he will, indeed, finish the work of re-building the Temple. Even though the Israelites have been facing opposition in the reconstruction. Even though progress has been stalled for 14 years. And even though Zerubbabel is just a man.
None of that matters because God has promised the completion of the Temple - "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)
Zerubbable faced a mountainous task of leading the recently-back-from-being-exiled-scared-of-their-oppressors-down-hearted-would-like-to-find-a-rock-under-which-to-hide-people of God in the re-building of the LORD's House. It was overwhelming. Certainly too much for a guy like Zerubbabel to handle. Which is probably why the LORD gave Zechariah such a vision of encouragement for his pal.

So, the question for today: As you seek to follow God, are there any great mountains you face?


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Difference Between Toddlers and Teens

Last week I spoke for a group of young moms at a MOPS meeting. And I started off my presentation by answering a question which is often asked of me these days.
Karen, does it get easier when they're older?
(I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a father-of-teenagers many years ago, in which I was told it does get easier. I now feel it is my duty to set the record straight. *ahem*) So, with all the compassion I could muster I gazed out upon that group of mothers and answered, "No. It just gets different."

Now, I am not gonna lie. Parts of life are definitely easier!
I love the freedom of not having to load kids into the car and buckle them into car seats. The ability to simply grab my purse (as opposed to locating the diaper bag and making sure it is adequately supplied with diapers, wipes, cream, snacks, and an extra outfit - just in case) and run out the door with the kids to do something is amazing. I cherish the flexibility of being able to plan things without always having to consider nap time, or how far we'll be from a potty. And being able to go out with my husband without planning for it days in advance, driving to pick up a sitter, and leaving detailed instructions about clean-up, bedtime routines, and how to handle I-can't-fall-asleep delays? Bliss!!!
But, aside from those points, I'd say life doesn't get easier just because your children get older. We still have struggles and "it" sure doesn't feel easy. Indeed, it's just different.

For example, notice these differences:
Toddlers think you know something about everything and will question you incessantly until you're left making things up just to satisfy their curiosity. (Or, until you find yourself answering, "Because that's how God made it," to almost every inquiry.)
Teens think you know nothing about anything and will question your reasons for everything - until you begin to wonder why you're setting a curfew, requiring chores to be done by a given deadline, and restricting screen time. Just to name a few.

Toddlers aren't truly capable of many things, but want to help you with it all.
Teens can do more than they'd like to admit, but pretty much want you to do everything.

Toddlers don't always have the words they need to express themselves and will often throw a fit to get their meaning across.
Teens have plenty of words to express themselves and will often throw a fit - while using all those words - to get their meaning across.

Toddlers need lots of love and will seek it by being cling-y. To the point that some moms feel the need to lock themselves in the bathroom for a respite.
Teens need lots of love but will sometimes withdraw from hugs and kisses. To the point that some moms feel rejected and unnecessary.

Toddlers need a night light in their bedroom because they are usually afraid of the dark.
Teens don't need a night light. The light from the screen of the device on which they are playing games under the covers is adequate. (Remember that limit you wanted to set on screen time? Yeah. Forget about it!)

Toddlers are small enough to be physically carted away if they otherwise refuse to come when called. Even if it means kicking and screaming so as to completely embarrass said toddler's mother.
Teens have much greater staying power. In fact, if the teen is a boy - chances are he can pick his mother up and put her to the side. (Or will be able to in the next year, or so.)

Toddlers are highly possessive individuals and are usually unlikely to share toys, books, or anything else with anyone. Because they're afraid they might never get it back.
Teens have learned to be generous - such that they will freely loan out Dad's tools, Mom's kitchen utensils, and their sibling's calculator. Without much of a concern for ever getting it back.

And, finally...
Toddlers seem to think the world revolves around themselves, their needs, and their desires.
Teens - Oh, wait. This aspect doesn't quite seem to change.

And that's pretty much how it goes. Wherever you are in this journey of parenthood, you're going to face struggles. I'm quite certain none of us is ever going to reach the stage in which we'll proclaim, "Oh. Now it's easy!"
But I have become convinced that "easy" is highly over-rated. Because I don't grow, I don't feel the need to lean into God and trust Him for my every breath, I don't become more of the woman He intends for me to be when life is "easy." No, all those things happen in the struggles. And every time God brings me through another battle I find myself thanking Him. For His power. For His faithfulness. For the amazing way He takes the bad - and makes it good.

And I know, He's gonna keep on doing it - no matter what the age of my children.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Overheard at the Dinner Table

Me: (as Matthew is picking up the fruit bowl for a second serving) Uh, make sure you leave enough for Josh to have some.
Matthew: (groaning) But he isn't here.
Me: Leave enough for Josh.
Matthew: He doesn't even have to know we had any.
Me: Matthew, if you were the one at work and Josh was going for the rest of the fruit, wouldn't you want me to stick up for you?
Brian: Yeah, Matthew. What would Jesus do?
Matthew: (shrugging) Make more fruit?


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Birthday LIES

Today is my birthday!

My "Double Square" birthday.

(Did you do "Square" birthdays when you were a kid? You know, when your age was the same as the date of your birth? Like, when someone turned 10 on the 10th of the month, it was their "Square" birthday. Or, maybe that was just a mid-Michigan thing?) Anyway, today is my Double Square birthday.
Do the math. I'm 44.
And do you want to know what my husband and daughter gave me for my birthday?

Lies, I tell you. LIES!

It started at the beginning of last week.
I had made something to send to Elizabeth at college, and Brian offered to mail it for me. That evening I thanked him for sending it off. It ended up being a super busy day, and I sure appreciated having one less thing to do! He said something about it being no problem, and I thought nothing further of it. Until... a couple days later when I was in his car and saw the package still in the back seat.
I asked Brian about the package that night and he looked a bit sheepish as he confessed he'd forgotten to send it. When I asked why he didn't mention anything the night I thanked him because I thought he'd sent it, he responded, "Would it make you feel better if I told you I felt guilty about not saying anything?" Honestly, I thought it was a bit strange - but I have been known to forget a thing, or two - so I just asked him to send it out the next day.
And the next time I talked to Elizabeth, I told her the package hadn't quite been sent yet.
A day, or so, later I made one more inquiry about the status of the package. Brian looked me straight in the eyes and asked, "Do you trust me?" And I told him I did. Then he asked, "How mad will you be if I haven't mailed it yet?" I probably took a deep breath before responding, "I wouldn't say I'd be mad. Probably more like flabbergasted." He just smiled and said he wasn't going to answer my question. If I trusted him, I didn't need to ask - so he said. While I was tempted to press Brian for an answer, I was so impressed by how masterfully he was dancing around the question, I let it go.
But Saturday morning when I received a text from Elizabeth saying, "I got the jars!" I had the assurance I needed that Brian had sent the package.

So, imagine my confusion when I was sitting in the living room Saturday in the early afternoon and Brian handed me a box saying, "Here's your surprise!" (He had gotten me to clear my Saturday afternoon earlier in the week by telling me he was planning a little surprise for me.) I examined the box, noticing it's weight, and was sure it was the same box I had meant to be sent to Elizabeth. And the text I'd received earlier from her... It just wasn't making any sense to me at all.
Then who should pop around the corner and into the living room but Elizabeth! She was my surprise!
An unannounced (To me. Of course, the rest of the family knew all about it!) visit so we could celebrate my birthday together.

I quickly put together the lies and understood they were just trying to keep the surprise a surprise. But I had to ask Elizabeth, "Why the text this morning???" She said she wanted to make sure I wasn't suspecting anything. Which is also why she lied about told me she was going to be camping with her friends over the weekend. All for the purpose of keeping the trail cold.

Yep. So, I got lies for my birthday. Which led to an afternoon and evening of family fun.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

This Week with Grandma

We had a party.

Because Grandma turned 98 years old on Wednesday!

Family and friends joined together in our living room to visit and share memories. It was such a special time, and it made Grandma feel so loved. I couldn't have asked for anything more. The smile which was continually on her face made me so very, very happy.
(And listening to Grandma talk to a friend on the phone Thursday morning - telling her all about the party and how much she enjoyed herself - had me walking around praying, Thank You, JESUS!)

Here she is showing her joy over some candy she received as a gift.
And this is Grandma with her two children: my aunt and my dad.
Here she is with Melissa - her nurse from Great Lakes Caring Hospice. One of the nicest people we know!
Party guests included friends who have supported Grandma in everything from computer set-up to getting new pj's.
Here's Grandma with Brian's mom, Pat. Another one of the nicest people we know!
This time she's posing with Jenny, a volunteer with Great Lakes Caring. Yet another one of the nicest people we know!
And, finally, here are Grandma and Teresa. Teresa is an aide where Grandma used to live, and Teresa took such good care of her. She is - you guessed it! - one of the nicest people we know.
My conclusion from the whole event?
The way to make it to 98 years old: Surround yourself with wonderful, loving people. That's what my grandma has done. And I am so thankful for each and every one of them!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

HE is Here, too!

I had every intention of sitting down Tuesday afternoon and writing a thoughtful blog post about God's faithfulness. I hoped to share a story about answered prayer and His faithful direction. My objective was to give Him glory and inspire others to trust Him.

I didn't plan on interruptions which would cause me to reallocate my time. Had no idea certain activities would take longer than expected. And I certainly never intended for Mindy to get sprayed by a skunk, resulting in a need for a bath. (Josh took on round-one bathing Monday night. I did rounds one-and-a-half and two Tuesday afternoon.) Indeed, I did not program my day to be rushing around like a crazy woman trying to get things done, giving up on all thoughts of having time to blog.

But, alas. I found myself living in the midst of crazy, anyway.

And while I was there, I discovered something wonderful. God hangs out in the midst of crazy, too!
I was walking Mindy (Not because I had the time, but because she needed to dry off. And she wasn't content to do it on the deck, rather she was barking and whining - letting it be known that she wanted IN. And who could blame her? After all, she was right by the deck when the stupid skunk sprayed her. I wouldn't want to be out there alone, either!) and decided to take the time to pray. I began praying for a friend who simply has more on her plate right now anyone could ever hope to manage. And I was asking God to remind her that HE is in the midst of her details. That HE can handle what's going on. That HE sees, and HE knows how everything is going to work out.
I was asking Him to be present in her crazy.
And that's when it occurred to me: HE is in the midst of my crazy, too.

I was so encouraged by God's loving reminder to me that I am not alone here in my crazy, I immediately began composing this blog post in my head to share with you today. Because I have a suspicion my friend and I are not the only ones dealing with crazy at the moment.
Might you find yourself in this camp, also?
Be encouraged. God hangs out in the midst of crazy, too!

For the record, I still have hopes of sharing my story about answered prayer and God's faithful direction.
Some day.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to switch over the laundry, and get started on dinner, and run Matthew to the dentist, and ...


Monday, September 14, 2015

Amazing Grace

If you have questions about Jesus, or how you can be forgiven, please email me at karen(at)irritablemother(dot)com. I would love to talk with you about HIM!


Friday, September 11, 2015

This Week with Grandma

OK. Honestly?

This week has been a hard one.

I've spent time in tears. I have felt like I can't do things "right." And I have become fully aware (Again!) that I am not enough. Never have been. Never will be.

However, this week has also been a good time.
That is, it has been a good time for me to remember that when a person is discouraged or hurting or tired or lonely (or ALL FOUR) nothing is going to seem right to them. And they're likely going to respond in ways which are less than cheerful. In fact, they might seem rather ornery at times.
Because they're discouraged that they can't do the things they want to do, their body is aching in more ways than they can count, even though they're in bed a lot of the time they aren't sleeping well and are feeling exhausted, and they miss friends and family. (Note: The last item is often enhanced when a family member has just gotten married and the person for whom you are caring was unable to attend the wedding...)
Yeah. So, in the midst of my "hard" this week I have been repeatedly reminding myself that Grandma is having a hard time, herself. And while I can go on a walk, or fall in a heap and cry to get away from my "hard," she is stuck with hers.
So I pray for God's grace to fill me - that I may be strengthened by it, and extend it to Grandma.

Are you having a hard time with someone, too? Perhaps this would be a good time to consider things from their perspective...


Thursday, September 10, 2015

These Precious Children Need Sponsors

This is Eca.
Her birthday is November 25, 2010 and she lives in Indonesia with her mother, father, and one sibling.
Eca's father is sometimes employed as a laborer and her mother maintains the home.
Eca is not presently attending school. Singing and playing with dolls are her favorite activities. She also attends church activities and Bible class regularly.
This is Joshua.
Joshua's birthday is May 25, 2011. He lives in Uganda with his father and aunt and two other children. (Not sure if they are siblings or cousins...) Both Joshua's father and aunt are sometimes employed as laborers.
Joshua is in primary school where his performance is average, and he participates in church activities through the Compassion ministry. He enjoys ping pong, soccer, and playing with cars.
This is Luis.
He just turned 11 on September 5th. Luis lives in Peru with his mother and stepfather. His father is in prison. Luis's stepfather is sometimes employed as a laborer, and his mother is sometimes employed as a project worker.
Soccer, bicycling and playing group games are Luis's favorite activities. In primary school his performance is average and he also regularly attends church activities.

Eca, Joshua, and Luis are such precious children and I count it a privilege to be the one praying and seeking sponsors for them. I want to ask you - yes, YOU! - to look at the pictures of these children and ask God if He is moving you to be the one to answer the call.
Sponsorship through Compassion involves a $38/month commitment, as well as a promise to pray for your child and opportunities to correspond with them via letters. And I can tell you, the blessing of watching your Compassion child grow is amazing. When I first started sponsoring Noemi from Ecuador she was too young even to write. Now I have the delight of reading letters written by her own hand. And our little guy, Muthiani from Kenya, received a goat as a Christmas gift from the money we sent. I can't wait to hear stories about how he grows and uses that goat to help provide for his family.
I realize I may never meet my sponsored children this side of heaven (Though I am praying God would afford me the opportunity!!!) but knowing God is using me and my family to affect a child's life who lives "a world away" absolutely delights my heart.
If you feel led to sponsor Eca, Joshua, or Luis please email me at karen(at)irritablemother(dot)com and I will send your sponsor packet to you.
Thank you for praying and considering.