Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seeing a More Complete Picture

It seems this year I've been asking a lot of "Why" questions of God. I love Him, I love His Word and my brain understands that He is sovereign, unfailing and always right and true. But then things happen - either to our family, a loved one, or even to a complete stranger on the news - that make me stop and ask, "Really, God? Why did You allow that to happen? And why like that? I don't understand, Lord..."

I admit my shield of faith has taken some dangerously large hits as I've been trying to reconcile the idea of our free will with God's sovereignty. As in: He can stop something awful from happening, but He doesn't always choose to. And while I also know that my lack of understanding does not negate the perfection of God's will and plan for our lives, sometimes it's just plain hard living in a fallen world's imperfection.

However, a friend's recent Facebook status opened my eyes to another side of this story: the times when we are not left asking "Why?", when God does NOT allow tragedy to occur. The times when His plan includes merciful rescue or protection. My friend was visiting the home of a friend that happened to have a pool. Read this in awe: (my friend's daughter, Jenna, is about 2 years old)...

I am very grateful that the Lord was watching over Jenna today. She snuck outside, stripped down naked and jumped in the pool. She does not swim yet. A wonderfully protective black lab named Olivia pulled her out by her hair. Needless to say, she was pretty scared and has no desire to go outside or in the pool now! Thank you Lord for keeping my baby safe!

After reading this with goosebumps and tears, realizing how very close my friend's world had come to complete tragedy, I suddenly felt very foolish before the Lord. As I was praising and thanking Him for saving sweet little Jenna, it occurred to me that I don't thank and praise Him enough for His mercies - known or unknown. I have become so wrapped up with why He didn't act in some situations that I totally missed all the times that He DID. I have been so myopic that I've ignored the bigger of picture of WHO God is rather than what His hand is or is not doing.

I asked my friend's permission to post her story for two reasons:

1) God deserves the highest and utmost praise just because of who He is, but it is right and good to praise and thank Him for saving Jenna! More people that read the story = more praise and glory to God!!! As a mother, especially of a little girl the same age, I literally cannot stop thanking God for allowing the story to end as it did. The alternative is unthinkable. Thank you, Lord!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

2) It really boosted my faith to realize all the good that God is working - in my life, in others' lives and in this world - and I'm sure I don't even know a fraction of it. Just waking up in the morning and taking a breath is something to thank Him for! Maybe someone else out there needed a faith-boost as well, to see beyond the things that make us cry out "Why?" and know that things are happening all day long - whether we're aware of them or not - that require our praise and thanksgiving with just as much passion.

Lord, forgive my near-sightedness! Help me to have eyes that see and ears that hear all the ways you work in and around us!

(By the way, I love how God used a sweet doggie to accomplish His purpose! I'm pretty sure Olivia the Super Black Lab deserves all the belly rubs and doggie treats her little heart desires!!!)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Can Somebody Hold My Hand?

I wrote this last week before Kindergarten actually started, but am just now getting it posted. Read on for an update at the end on how the first week went :-)


My name is Leilanni.

And Kindergarten makes me cry.

Tomorrow, I will be sending our precious firstborn out into the world of "real" school. Granted, we've done Preschool, but Kindergarten is different. They go every day. There's homework. They keep records for goodness sakes!

I was honestly doing just fine, resolved NOT to be a blubbery mess over my sweet girl going to school. However, this changed about a week ago . . .

The baby was asleep upstairs and the other two girls were running around the house like they do every morning - playing princess, chase or whatever the game of the morning was - with a trail of giggles following them.

And suddenly it hit me - hard - that these days, these mornings of play-dough, silly songs and construction paper flurries, of playing in a cardboard box "submarine", choosing to be Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, deciding on markers or crayons or both . . . these days were coming to an end. My "baby" was going to school. I guess I had never really considered what it would be like around here while she's gone half the day, five days a week.

And cue the waterworks . . . (they haven't stopped since).

Of course, life is not all rainbows and butterflies around here with three young girls - some days are extremely difficult, some days I want to pull my hair out. But I love being a stay-at-home mom. I love hearing the sounds of giggly girls all over the house. And ever since our oldest was born, since I do stay at home, she has been right by my side. Grocery shopping, playdates, family visits, roadtrips, cleaning, cooking, driving, doctor visits, window shopping - I've always taken her everywhere with me.

Call me sappy, but when she goes to Kindergarten I'll miss her.

I'm not sure I'm ready for this. Ever since my revelation that these care-free BK (Before Kindergarten) days are disappearing, I am having the hardest time thinking about this new phase we're entering into. Not just Kindergarten, but what it represents: another small step in the gradual letting-go process. Parenthood is the only job where slowly working yourself out of the job, creating independence in your child, is the measure of success.

Right about now is when my husband would remind me of a certain pattern he's picked up on in the 14 years he's known me. He likes to call it my "beginning of semester syndrome".

Let me explain. We were both in college when we met and began dating. At the beginning of each semester, after receiving all my course syllabi, I would call my very patient then-boyfriend and practically hyperventilate over the amount of papers due, the difficulty of the projects and the extremity of hands-on activities expected outside of class.

(Allow me to chase this bunny path for a moment . . .I was an education major so we were constantly doing classroom visits, diagnostics, evaluations, volunteering, etc. In one class relating to teaching Science in the school, this involved leading elementary age girls in dissecting a cow eyeball without retching and with a lovely smile on my face. Far be it for me to wreck a budding young scientist's career by implying taking apart an animal's organ is in some way completely disgusting. "See girls?! It just seems like the eyeball is relentlessly staring at you asking, 'Why? Why?!' I promise Bessie can't feel a thing..." Um, yeah. That didn't scar me or anything.)

Anyway. Stepping away from the bunny path and back to the story of my predictable pre-semester break-downs: My now-husband would patiently listen to my ranting and then oh so sweetly encourage me that I could do it. And at the end of every semester, when I once again succeeded, he somehow avoided saying "I told you so."

Toward the end of my Senior year, and during my traditional course-load anxiety session, my then-fiancee had the gall to say, "Do you realize that you do this at the beginning of every single semester? And you always do just fine?"

"What are you talking about?! I do NOT always . . .[enter flash of reality] Oh. You're right. Dang."

I really, truly had not realized my pattern!! Since then it's become something of a joke between us. At the beginning of any new venture I tend to spill out all the reasons it's scary, why it won't work, why I can't do it. And, with a cute little smirk that only he can get away with, my husband says, "Is this your beginning-of-semester-syndrome again?"

"NO. (yes.)"

So, yesterday I found myself driving home from a rare solo shopping trip, wondering how in the world our sweet girl was old enough to be in Kindergarten. When all of the sudden I realized I was doing it yet again. Here comes another new chapter in our lives and here I am wondering if I'm up to it (Can I actually get her to school on time? What if I forget to remind her about Show and Tell? What if a friend hurts her feelings? Girls can be so mean. What if the teacher doesn't understand her and her quirkiness? What if the teacher doesn't understand me? I do not want to be THAT parent. I know. So sad. Just bein' honest here, folks. And as a former teacher, it is VERY weird to be on this end.)

I'm more than confident I would have fit right in with those Old Testament Israelites. I seem to share a certain part of their DNA: They worried about enslavement. God set them free. They worried about being trapped by the Egyptians. God parted the river. They worried about food. God made bread rain down from Heaven. They worried about their enemies. God defeated them without a weapon being raised. Are we seeing a pattern here? Hmmm. It sounds suspiciously like mine! Worry. God provides. Worry. God provides . . .

Why do I have such a short spiritual memory? At every turn, every new venture, God has more than provided. I never saw it coming, the "how" of His provision, but it has always come. I would think that by now, with all that I have seen Him do in our lives, that I would be so over this "worrying" thing and so into this "trusting" thing.

But is anything harder than trusting someone else with your child? Is anything more difficult than letting go and letting them learn to fly?

Sigh. Right now, my answer is "no".

But, I still have to let her go. I will confidently take the "First Day of School" picture, reassure her that she will not get lost and smile and wave as I pull away from the carpool line.

And then like so many other moms, I will pull away a safe distance before dissolving in tears. And then I will probably call my husband and wait for his reminder that all is well. It's just another semester.

Okay. Since writing this, my girl has been in Kinder for a week now. And I survived! Actually, it was nowhere near as traumatic as I thought it would be. Did not even cry! Seriously! I still miss her during the day, but the excitement I hear in her voice every day at pick-up is so worth it. What really threw me for a loop? When I went to drop off our 2 year old for pre-school the next day. I figured I made it through the big-bad-Kindergarten first day . . . what's preschool for 2 mornings a week? Um, but guess who dropped off her middle "baby" and then pulled a safe distance away before bawling all the way home? Sigh. Just another semester . . .

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Brain Cells, I Miss You. XOXOXO

After long writing hiatuses (is that even a word? spell check didn't fuss at me, but it still looks strange. anyway.), I usually pop on here and say something like, "Wow, can't believe how long it's been, going to try to write more, blah, blah, blah."

And then 4 more months pass. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So. No more of those delusional statements. With three children ages 5, 2 and almost 1 I have come to peace with a crazy radical idea: I will write when I have time. And be okay with that.

Wow. Did that blow your socks off or what?

Take a moment and collect yourselves.

Alrighty then, moving on. I really have nothing deep to share today. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've been wading in the shallow end all week. Case in point? So far this week I have learned the following:

-When making coffee, it seems to work better to add water to the coffee maker. It makes it, um, more liquidy;

-Sewing machines will not run without electricity. Therefore, it might be helpful to actually remove the plug from the packaging before tossing the box into the garage for trash day;

-If confounded why your fabric is wet and cold during ironing,as opposed to warm and steamy, it is a generally accepted practice to plug the iron into the wall. See sewing machine example.

-Before deciding that your vacuum cleaner must be on the fritz since it is not actually sucking up any dirt, it would be a good idea to turn the switch from "hose" to "floor". Especially before "vacuuming" half a room until noticing this.

Seriously, people!! What is wrong with me this week?? These aren't exactly difficult tasks!

Please make me feel better and tell me you've been there, too. And if you haven't, at least make up something really good...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Peace That Passes Understanding

We're on the brink of a new little adventure around our household. New leadership in my husband’s company brought reorganization and his job, along with many others, was eliminated. As of Saturday, my husband will no longer be employed and we enter the now common world of a gazillion other people in this country.

We've known about this for about a month now, and honestly, we are at peace and just fine. Really. Don't mistake that for a peace that comes from knowing what is coming next because we have NO IDEA on that front. This could be a short season or a long drought - Christians are by no means exempt from the trials of this world. (Click here for a post I did recently on that very topic.)

No, this peace we have comes only from knowing WHO is writing the manuscript rather than what's on the next page. This has been a lesson l-o-n-g in the making for me. In fact, I think the biggest evidence of Christ in my life is the change in my thinking over the last 5 years or so and how He has chiseled away at my anxiety and worry.

Although there have been many lessons along the way, there was a clear, defining moment in my journey to full trust in Christ. Can I share?

About 3 1/2 years ago, our oldest daughter was about 18 months old and we joyfully discovered we were expecting again. Since we had struggled with infertility for 2 years prior to our daughter's birth, this was a surprising and welcome event! And although I was beside myself with giddiness, I could not shake a nagging feeling that something was not quite right. (Looking back, I know without a doubt now it was the Spirit preparing my heart.)

At 7 weeks I started having symptoms that alarmed me, but I was assured that I had probably overexerted myself somehow and I should just take it easy for a few days.

Again, I had a restless feeling that I just could not shake. I awoke one night so anxious in my soul that I knew trying to sleep was useless. In the still, quiet darkness I sat on our living room couch and talked with God. Really, I talked at Him, asking Him over and over for peace, for healing, for safety for the baby. No matter what I said, my soul felt like I was grasping at spiritual straws, but coming up empty-handed.

I then realized what I had to do, and as much as I did NOT want to say those words for fear of what it could mean, I told God that I surrendered the situation, and our baby, to Him. That only He knew what was happening and I would trust in Him. Peace immediately flooded my soul and I was able to sleep soundly the rest of the night.

A few days later, I miscarried and lost the baby.

Grief and sadness does not even begin to describe the depth of my despair. Even at 7 1/2 weeks pregnant, I loved that baby as much as if I had held it in my arms. And even though I believe God prepared my heart for the loss before it happened, I struggled so much with understanding why He would allow such a thing. Why allow me to carry a precious little one only to have it taken away? Why us, who loved and wanted this baby so much?

In the following days I continued really struggling with God over why He allowed this to happen. I eventually came to a spiritual fork in the road. I realized I now had two choices: 1) Throw up my hands and walk away from God or 2) Choose to stay with Him and trust Him even though I was angry, sad and confused.

That’s it. There was no more gray area and I felt a very tangible pressing to make a conscious decision. Because I really could not imagine not having God in my life – even in my anger, grief and confusion – I chose to take the path that included Him in the picture. And believe me, it was a choice not a feeling. I didn’t feel like praying. I didn’t want to sing. I didn’t even want to crack open my Bible most days. But when I did, it was out of obedience and He showed me things and grew me in ways I never could have imagined. I can honestly say that my faith today is infinitely stronger because of the deep waters I waded through with God during this time.

It’s not to garner sympathy that I wanted to share this story. I know many of you have walked or are walking difficult paths – it’s part of being human. I wanted to share this to point to the unforgettable lesson God taught me:

I came to learn that when nothing makes sense, when it is unfathomable why God has allowed something catastrophic to happen, it is best to step away from the questions and make the conscious choice to trust in WHO God is: From His Word we know without a doubt that He is faithful, purposeful and the author of unfailing love. That He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. That He knits each of us together in our mother’s womb and knows every hair on our head. His thoughts toward each of us outnumber the grains of sand. (See Lamentations 3:22-23, Isaiah 46:10, Psalm 138:8, Psalm 13:5, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 139:13, 17-18, Matthew 10:30)

It was this lesson that ushered me into the ability to be at peace in spite of whatever circumstance I find myself in. (And read “ability” as “able to be reminded by the Spirit to pray for the strength to remember and act on this lesson”!)

Which brings me back to this season our family is about to enter. Like I said earlier, I have no idea what is coming next, how long it will last or what the final outcome of this situation will be. But what I DO know now, thanks to a lesson I never would have asked for but couldn’t live without, is that I can trust God 100% because of WHO He is.

And that, my friends, delivers an unshakeable peace in a very shaky world.

P.S. In case you missed it, we have a winner from my last post! Actually, two winners because there were really two big mistakes (Um, yeah. Totally did that on purpose . . .) The "a baby changes everything" slogan is from Johnson & Johnson, not Gerber and I should have written "kryptonite" instead of "Krypton" at the end. Apparently I need to brush up on my Superman knowledge. Yay for Diana and Kimberly!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Random Reward

First of all, I have to say that y'all's responses to my last post cracked me up! Who knew anyone but me would find my random thoughts entertaining? (By the way, as a Texas girl living in Georgia I have double rights to use "y'all".)

Second of all, I made a HUGE mistake in that post and I cannot believe no one has called me on it yet! Or maybe you noticed and were too kind to point it out. At any rate, I'm not 'fessing up as to what it was. You know you want to go look now.

Tell you what. (Wow, I'm really breaking out the Texan-ese today.) The first person who catches this particular mistake and leaves it in a comment on this post deserves something. I haven't quite decided what yet, but I'm thinking along the lines of chocolate since that clearly consumed most of my post. ;-)

So: Find my mistake. Leave a comment. If you're the first correct one I will reward you with something yummilicious.

I make a pretty mean chocolate chip cookie, if I do say so myself. Or maybe I should send those Thin Mints that caused me so much trouble in the first place. Oops - did I really type that last sentence? Temporary insanity. I mean, y'all are awesome and all, but really. Who gives away Thin Mints?

I digress.

Where was I? Oh, right. Mistake, comment, reward. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh, The Randomness

Well, here it is. Six a.m., everyone is still asleep and I actually have time to sit and write a post. There's only one problem: The coffee has not made it's way to my brain quite yet and I cannot think of a decent post topic to save my life!

It would be shameful to let this perfect writing environment slip away in vain. Nevermind the fact that I have nothing to write about. Beside the point.

So to be a good steward of an absolutely quiet house I now present to you my list of completely random thoughts. And they are, oh, so random.

Sometimes my husband will look at a quiet me and ask, "What are you thinking about?" After 10 years of marriage you think he would have learned by now. I let him in to my deeply analytical mind and spend the next 5 minutes explaining how I was contemplating, let's say, chocolate. That would not surprise most of you that know me.

But not just the yumminess of my favorite food (Yes, food. Not favorite dessert, but favorite food. If you know me, you get this.) Who in the world was this first person who looked at the cacao plant and thought, "Hmmm. I bet if I pick that bean, grind it up and add some stuff it would be incredibly delicious." Did they try this with other beans? Did we almost end up with black-eyed pea fudge or pinto bean cake?

Oh, yes. That is the tip of the iceberg. About a nanosecond into said conversation I'm pretty sure hubby is making a mental note not to ask me what I'm thinking. Ever.

So, although you didn't ask, this is my blog and I can ramble on, pretending that you are still reading and that you are still highly interested in my list of randomalities:

1. You've seen the Gerber commercials that proclaim, "A baby changes everything."? So true. I never thought I'd see the day when, after a major coffee disaster, I would lament the lost coffee more than the stain it caused on the floor.

2. Considering my apparent love of chocolate, you may find this next statement odd: I have given up sweets for a week. That is painful to write. Let's just say it had something to do with a eating a shameful amount of Thin Mints. And when you look forward to the children waking up at night so you have an excuse to sneak downstairs for more, well, there might just be a problem. I actually put all sweets into a bag and had my husband hide them while I wasn't home. It took exactly 2 hours for me to decide this was a stupid idea. Super. Only 166 hours to go.

3. However, this is nothing compared to my all-or-nothing hubby. He once gave up fried foods for a year (and you bet we headed to Jack in the Box at 12:01 a.m. for french fries when it was over). That man of mine has really topped himself this time. He has also given up sweets. For a YEAR. No birthday cakes, no Ben & Jerry's movie night, no Hot Tamales. This is the man who, when we were dating, literally ate a package of Skittles and a Slurpee every single day. He is awesome.

4. It now occurs to me that my first three randomalities were all about food. Yikes. Moving on . . .

5. I never thought I would like an e-reader. But I am now officially hooked on my Nook - love it, love it, love it. The only downside is that it is WAY too easy to buy new books on that thing. Very dangerous for an avid reader. "What honey? There was a $483.21 charge to Barnes & Noble? Um, hey, look over there! Is that a huge box of Skittles?!" Exit stage left.

6. Kids are hilarious. For the longest time our almost-five-year-old has said that Acts was her favorite book of the Bible. A friend of mine asked her why and she replied, "Because an ax is an old-time tool and I like to play with my tools so that's why I like Acts." Love that girl.

7. The same daughter usually loves to have everyone go around the table at dinner and tell about their day. One night she was in a mood and wouldn't talk. So I decided to pretend I was her and told all about her day in my best imitation of her. She cracked up and then decided to tell about MY day in her best mommy voice. Want a fresh perspective on your day? Ask a preschooler. What I got was, "I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, took care of sisters, cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, took care of sisters..."

8. Which is ironic because I really hate to clean. Company must have been coming.

9. I recently took up running again which I really do love. Except the last time I seriously ran consistently was when we lived in Texas. Where it is flat - like land should be - and I could go a decent distance before tuckering out. Georgia, um, not so flat. Hills make for gorgeous scenery but awful running!

10. Is anyone still actually reading this?? I'm impressed. Thanks, Mom.

This concludes my list of randomness. Not because I'm out of random thoughts. Oh, no, dear friends. That is impossible. But because my quiet, sleepy house is about to burst into action and I still have to do grown-up things like make breakfast and dress children.

Maybe my next post will have more coherent thoughts. Instead of just, well, thoughts. But no guarantees. Depends on how soon I get the coffee in my system and if I'm detoxed from the sweets yet. Hey, maybe the sugar is actually the secret to my writing. You know, kind of like Krypton to Superman. But opposite. Nevermind.

Did I mention there's no end to my random thoughts?? :-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Foundation Check

It's been some time since I've been able to post regularly. In fact, it's quite possible there was an audible creaking noise as the browser pulled up my site...

I happened to take a glance at one of the sidebars and noticed this fun little stat regarding the number of posts by year:

2009 - 123

2010 - 12

Um, is there a digit missing there or something??

That is so sad.

So here's my feeble attempt at trying to post more often, mostly because I really do enjoy writing and it's nice to have a hobby besides changing diapers.

With that said, this little post has been rattling around in my head for quite some time now. Actually, after the past 5ish weeks we've had around here the rattle became more like a jackhammer as God reminded me of a very important truth.

You see, I've had a bad case of Jobitis. Never heard of it? Symptoms include whining, crying and incessantly asking God to explain Himself. This often leads to a big ol' pity party and wondering why God is picking on you. (See the book of Job in the Bible for the case study.)

Compared to many problems around the world, like, um, having enough food or clean water, my problems are nothing. And I know that.

But in MY world it has been week upon week of challenging situations that have me literally pulling the covers up over my head every morning wondering if anyone would notice if I didn't crawl out of bed that day. I cannot count how many mornings I looked at my husband and said, "I can't do this today."

Of course, the Lord sustained me each and every day. But does anyone else just get tired of it being hard? I pray, read my Bible and love the Lord. We teach our children how to love God and try our best to serve others. And, still this barrage of difficulties day after day?

In other words: WHY ME?

Enter a little story Jesus told in Matthew 7:24-27 about a wise man and a foolish man who both built houses with very different foundations.

("Ohhhh, the rains came down and the floods came up..." If you spent any time in Sunday school this song is going to be in your head all day now. You're welcome.)

I've heard the story, sung the song and read the passage countless times. But something different stuck out to me recently. Look:

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Notice anything about the situation of the wise man and the foolish man? Look again:

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (emphasis mine)

Not only did they both experience a storm, but the storms were exactly the same.

As a follower of Jesus I find myself unconsciously engaging God in an unspoken contract. You know, I follow You and You spare me situations that become too uncomfortable or too difficult. K? Thanks.

The tiny little problem with that is God doesn't make contracts and never promises anything of the sort. In fact, Jesus said quite the opposite:

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b

We live in a fallen world and the storms of life come -and come hard - whether you are a believer or not. So what's a person to do?

Check your foundation.

In the story of the wise and foolish man both built houses, both underwent the exact same great storm. But only one house stood because its foundation was on the rock.

Or rather, on the Rock.

And what happened to the foolish man's house? It didn't just fall, it fell with a "great crash". Been there, done that. The last thing anyone needs after a great storm is a great crash.

So if the storms of life come no matter what, the only thing we can do is to make sure our foundation is strong. My prayer this morning changed from "Lord, please change _____" to "Lord, whatever happens today, please be my foundation."

Just because I'm a believer does not mean I'm exempt from the storms of life (as much as I wish that I were). So unless I want my "house" to go "splat", I need to put the Word into practice and daily build my life on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Which sounds suspiciously like a little Sunday school song I used to sing.

(It's still in your head isn't it? Muah-ha-ha!)