Craving Control In An Out Of Control World

Do you have friends that can just read you up and down? I do. I’m thankful for them even though at times I wish their truth was a bit less…truthful? The truth can hurt. It can also, however, set you free. This happened for me last week during a particularly rough day. I was talking to a friend on the phone about my struggles with newborn life and how I felt terrible for even complaining about it all. What she said next hit me so hard that I had to stop and marvel at the simple yet profound truth it revealed:

“You’re not a bad person, Lis, you just crave control.”

Ouch. But wow, so true! The thing about life with a newborn baby is that you just can’t control so much of your day. A newborn may have a wonderful day of sleep and behavior on a Wednesday, only to turn around and be constantly fussy and sleep-refusing on a Thursday. It’s just how they are. They’re newborns. You can do the same routine each day and night with completely different results from your baby. And oh, for those of us who fight the need for control, how frustrating that can be to our sense of balance!

Ella has already had such an impact on my life in the 6 weeks that she’s been here. She’s shown me that I have some pretty major control issues that I have to surrender. I won’t be able to tell you exactly what my day will look like right now, and that has to be okay. If you’re like me and you feel off-centered when control seems to slip from your grasp, then let me encourage you today: we can do this! Not only can we do this, but we need to do this. It’s good for us to feel a bit out of control every once in a while. It reminds us that the idea that we can control even the smallest aspects of our lives is laughable. Often the things we find security and stability in are just giving us a false sense of control anyway.

All except one thing.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

- Hebrews 13:8

Is your life feeling out of control? Be encouraged! There is One who never changes. In the midst of the most changing and uncertain of times, He is the same. Isn’t that comforting? There is security! There is constant! There is stability! Find your anchor in Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. For this control-craving mama, that’s like medicine for my soul.

Impressions for the Impressionable

It seems as if the past year or two has been particularly wrought with situations that have raised racial tension in our country. It’s heartbreaking to sit back and watch as some people’s true colors of preconceived prejudice are revealed in the aftermath of such situations. It’s had me thinking about what it will take to eventually eradicate this hateful bias from amongst our culture.

The thing that struck me was that our kids are not born with racial stereotypes and prejudices. I see how my children interact with other children, and it’s as if skin color is a complete non-factor. So where does racism begin?

I don’t think there are many parents who would admit to voluntarily passing racism along to their children. But do we realize the jokes we make or the insinuations we imply when our children are present? Do we do things, even subconsciously, that give strong cues to our children as to who is more worthwhile? What signals are we giving off that we think are meaningless and yet could be shaping our children’s views on race and prejudice even now?

Take stock of your heart and mind. Racism begins in our thoughts. From there, it flows into our attitudes and actions. Our children will catch on to much more than we think they will. The way we think, speak, and act affects them in so many ways, but particularly in the area of racial prejudice. Let’s do our part to put an end to hatred and ignorance. It may be too late for generations long gone in their presuppositions, but we can impact the future by carefully handling the way our children view the world.

And it came to pass…

photoLife with a 19 day old baby is a little intense. Even as I’m writing this, I’m also balancing a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios in one hand so as to ensure I got some breakfast in before Ella wakes and inevitably demands the whole of my attention until her next nap.

Somehow with babies, time becomes everything. You have to be aware of the time that they last ate so you make sure they are getting fed properly (because, you know, unlike my boys, she can’t come up and tell me she’s hungry and request fruit snacks). You have to make sure she’s getting her naps in at certain times in order to ensure that her sleep in the evening is at maximum efficiency. There are certain things she can’t do until a certain amount of time has passed – no baby food until 4 months – and certain things she should be doing by a certain time – is she rolling over by that same time. Time, time, time. Babies and time seem to go hand-in-hand.

There is a temptation with babies to wish for certain times to pass so that other certain times can arrive. You may, like me, have been up in the wee hours of the night/morning, praying with God to miraculously transport you to the first night when your precious bundle sleeps through the whole evening until the morning. Not sleeping can do funny things to the mind, so surely it’s understandable to fantasize about a time when you will once again luxuriate in uninterrupted rest.

The funny thing about time, though, is that it is no respecter of our wishes. While we may want to see time speed up in preparation of an anticipated event, we cannot make the clock move even a second faster through sheer mental force of will. What may be worse, is when we turn around to realize that the clock has moved far ahead of where we would like for it to have gone, and we suddenly want to be able to turn back the hands of time. That’s just as impossible as speeding up life’s timepiece, though, and maybe even more devastating.

The picture above was taken last Sunday. I was still feeling a little shell-shocked at the world-shaking event that was turning our family from a quartet into a five member team. We ventured outside for a walk and I couldn’t help but revel in the scene spread before me: I have three children! Looking at the picture, it was so perfect for capturing the idea of time and how life is just one season after another. I look at 4-year-old Gavin out in the lead, charming and sure and completely endearing to anyone he meets. I see my strong, honest Joey in the middle, now mere days away from his 7th birthday and becoming such an individual each day. And then I see sweet Ella in the stroller, brand new and making discoveries each and every day. Seasons. Time keeps going on and brings new seasons with each beat that passes.

I remember hearing something years ago that struck me as simultaneously funny and profound. Comedian Mark Lowry said that one of the most overlooked yet comforting verses in all of Scripture comes out of the well-known Christmas story found in Luke. Just five words that speak such simple truth.

 

“And it came to pass…

- Luke 2:1

 

It didn’t come to stay, he said, it came to pass! I chuckled then and you may chuckle now, but oh wow, it’s so true! No matter what season of life you’re in – good or bad – it won’t stay for long. It may seem unending in the midst of it, or it may be so glorious that it flies by before you feel you’ve even grasped it, but it will pass!

Whether these words are encouragement today for those facing a trying time that feels like it will never end, or a reminder to those who are in a beautiful season that need to remember to cherish each moment, the truth is the same: it came to pass. The picture above is proof of that. Each one of the boys was once a baby in the place where Ella lays now. Blink, turn around, and suddenly they’re leading the pack and exploring their individuality. Life is just a series of seasons, which one are you in now?

 

She carries my name, she carries my heart.

I am currently writing this with a sleeping baby laying on my chest. She is soft and tiny and precious and rather determined to spend as much time with me as possible – usually between the hours of 8 PM and 8 AM. Our sweet Ella Elisabeth arrived on Sunday, July 13 at 1:07 PM. I woke up at home that morning in some of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt. Within two hours we had dropped our boys off at a friend’s home and were racing to the hospital. We arrived only to be told that I could quite possibly have the baby within the hour – my body was more than ready to go.

It wasn’t within the hour, but a short few hours later, our sweet Ella emerged in all 9 pounds of her glory. Almost immediately, however, we were told something that shocked and amazed us: Upon emerging, it was discovered that Ella’s umbilical cord had a knot in it. This is extremely rare and also something that can be exceedingly dangerous for the baby. For those of you who remember our last pregnancy, you’ll recall how we lost our daughter 24 weeks into the pregnancy, also due to a cord issue. The significance was not lost on us.

Oh, Ella, God’s hand is so evident on your little life already! I look at you and you seem so small, so fragile. Yet I know that within the sleeping baby lies a world-changer. You have already changed my world more than I can even say. You have challenged me to be better as a mom and as a woman. You came in, and with tiny fingers and tiny toes, turned the whole face and reality of our family upside down. You have impact, even at a mere five days old.

I look forward to all the things that Ella will undoubtedly teach me. I hope to share many of them with you here on this blog. Thank you for your prayers and love! I feel every bit of them!

 

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LMKTM: What Makes a Great Day

The other day I made sure to put dinner in the crock pot before taking the boys to a water park for hours of fun, treating them to ice cream, and then enjoying an afternoon movie at home. I was truly patting myself on the back for pulling off what I considered to be a fantastic day. When we sat down for (home-cooked!) dinner that night, my son Joey posed his usual mealtime inquiry of “On a scale of 1 to 10, how was your day?” I smiled and readied myself for their exuberant answers of 10. Imagine my surprise when instead, my oldest child said, “Um, I guess an 8.”

My jaw dropped. Keep in mind, this is the same child who will throw out “10′s” at the slightest drop of a hat – he got a Ring Pop that day, his favorite TV show was on, etc. My exhausted, pregnant self was astounded that all my hard work had amounted to such a meager rating (because on his scale, an 8 might as well be a 2). I huffed in my indignation and sulked in my surety that I had done everything right that day. I mean, I had made dinner! I had taken them to a water park! I even bought them ice cream! Surely they realized the effort it took for me to execute that day?

But the truth is that my kids have vastly different worldviews than I do. They are equally as happy (maybe more!) with pizza night in the living room as they are with nights I sweat and strive and make a from-scratch meal. They like water parks, but they also like running through the sprinkler in our back yard. They like when I spend unreasonable money on ice cream at the specialty stores, but they also like simple jello at home.

My point here is that I stress a lot about what I do for my kids, when in reality, they are easier to please than I realize. All they need is to laugh and to feel love, and their day is a 10! Parents, let’s give ourselves a little grace. Not every day of our children’s’ lives can be a circus of activities and treats, nor should it be! We need to stop feeling as if we’ve failed in some way if we haven’t daily done something exuberant to please our children. Life is always a lot simpler than we make it, and how we parent is no exception.

Keep it simple, have fun, and have a GREAT day today!

A Summer Project for You and Your Kids!

I know I’ve been a little less frequent with my blogs lately, and I can’t promise that you’ll see much improvement on that front in the near future. I’m so close to having this baby girl and I’m also trying to enjoy every moment with my boys that I can while they’re home for the summer. On that note, however, I am here today to bring you a fun and thought-provoking summer project for you and your kids to do together. It’s a great conversation-starter and it’s easy, too!

The boys and I are making homeless bags. What are homeless bags? Large Ziploc bags that we keep in our car and have handy when we see someone on the side of the road asking for help. How many times have we all been out of cash or in a rush and had no time to go back and help someone when our heart really felt as if we should? By keeping these bags handy, you’ll never have to worry about that again!

The moments when we come across someone in need are great teaching moments for our kids. Do we impact them by turning our head the other way and ignoring the problem altogether? Do we make snide remarks about how they should get a “real job”? Or do we take that moment to instill in our children a worldview that includes those less fortunate and shows them that we can make a difference one small step at a time?

The bags are really easy to make! All you need to do it pick up 1-gallon or 2-gallon size Ziploc bags as well as the items to go in them. Here are a few suggestions, but feel freedom to add whatever you think will help!

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • A comb
  • A gift card for a fast food restaurant or super market
  • deodorant
  • A small Bible or book
  • Napkins, tissues, and/or wet wipes
  • A water bottle
  • A granola bar

I have watched my boys absolutely light up in excitement when we go to pick out the items for our bags. It is fun, it helps them think past themselves, and it may just change someone’s life! Feel free to share your own bag suggestions or stories below!

Today is one of those days…

That blows your mind with its significance. This morning we went to my 36-week ultrasound. We got to see our sweet baby Ella and were told that she is plump and healthy and soon-coming our way! I don’t think I’ll ever take for granted how amazing the miracle of birth is. To see that there is a living, breathing baby inside of me? I still can hardly believe it! Yes, I’ve done this before, but each time it is still miraculous. Today was a day of joy and celebration and good news.

But on this very same day 9 years ago, I was getting much different news. It was June 24, 2005 when I got the call diagnosing me with cancer. It was a chilling, surreal moment. I don’t think I will ever be able to forget all I felt as I received that call. I know exactly where I was, who I was with, and what went through my mind as the doctor’s words resonated throughout my understanding.

That’s quite a dichotomy of events all taking place on the same date. And what’s the point of noticing this? To show that life is just a series of seasons. God can restore your worst day and replace it with a day of beauty and joy. He’s done it for me and I believe the same for you.

Who are you listening to?

Lately, I’ve been feeling anxious. There’s no other real way to describe it, I just plain feel anxious. I think a lot can be attributed to being at the end of my pregnancy and looking forward to the impending arrival of my precious daughter. But there are parts of this emotional spectrum that are not new to me at all. They are sadly downright familiar, in fact. I know the tingling of anxiety all too well, so it is simple to recognize when I am being encroached upon by these unwelcome emotions.

No matter how heavy the anxiety gets, though, there are always tools we have with which to fight back. Just feeling the anxiety does not mean that I have to accept the anxiety. Believe me, it took me a long time to realize that. I used to be a veritable slave to my emotions. I thought because I felt something it had to become my reality. But over the years, the Lord has shown me that I have a choice whether to accept those emotions as truth or not.

When I start to feel anxious, I need to immediately do some mind-sifting and try to recognize where all the voices are coming from. Do my anxious thoughts sound like something God would say to me? If not, then I can choose to disregard them – yes, even if they feel like the realist reality of them all! I need to be very careful and make a conscious effort to only let The Voice of Truth permeate my life and reality. If not, the anxiety will only give way to more anxiety and leave me feeling weak, helpless, and hopeless.

Today, whose voice are you listening to? The influences we allow in our lives will impact and shape our day-to-day existence, so choose wisely!

Reflections of Another Year

Tomorrow is my 32nd birthday. There, I’ve said it. I know women around my age will start to flib and flob when it comes to admitting the exact numeric value of their candle count, but I can’t say I relate to that just yet. I think because life is so rich and full and I want to celebrate the fact that it’s been 32 years of an incredibly fun, twisty, unpredictable journey.

This is the year that I will become a mom to a daughter! Talk about life-changing. I will also go from being a mother of 2 to a mother of 3. Our family will expand from 4 to 5 members. So many changes! Knowing me, you can look forward to lots of reflective, revelation-type posts concerning the new things that have become clear to me in this new season of life.

Each year gives us a new chance to have a starting point. Tomorrow, as the calendar tells me that I am another year older, I can seize the opportunity and make it a brand new beginning. What am I going to do with my new year? What changes will I make? Whose lives will I impact? How will I grow as a mother, a wife, and a child of God? I don’t know what the future holds, but the good news is that I do know WHO holds the future. That’s enough for me to be excited and look forward with anticipation to the year to come!

Scar Stories: Part II

On Tuesday, I shared the importance of recognizing our scars and realizing how not all of them will be on the outside of our being. Many of us bare invisible scars that are still as real as any of those that mar the physical, outward appearance. I think we tend to view these scars in an incredibly negative light many times. But today, I want to suggest a change in perception.

Instead of our scars reminding us of past pain, let’s allow them to be a reminder of victory!

Yes, our scars, physical or not, have left marks on us and may have come from a time of great pain. But they also represent the fact that we are past that point of pain and have made it out to the other side alive and well! Scars can be celebrated and even seen as beautiful, because more than the pain that caused them, they show the strength of the person baring them.

Let’s change the way we look at scars. Don’t despise them. Embrace them and bare them proudly. They have a story to tell, and so do you!

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