Conquered from a Rabbit Trail

This morning I was listening to a message by Jon Courson as I was getting ready for church.  In his message he said something that really struck me and led me down a rabbit trail of more thoughts.  He said that a lot of well-meaning preachers and teachers use the story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter joining him (Matthew 14:22-33) to encourage everyone to “get out of the boat” and choose to “walk on the water” in various areas of our lives.  They say things like, “Get out of the boat” or “Why haven’t you stepped out of the boat” or “What is keeping you from walking on the water with Jesus?”.  Jon says that, while this is all well-meaning and has a lot of really good practical application, that he believes we are missing the point of the story.

In the story Peter says, “if it is really you, then command me to come out on the water with you.”  Jesus says, “come” or, more accurately, “YOU come.”  He didn’t say, “Sure!  What don’t y’all come on out here!”  He says, “YOU, come, Peter.”  We aren’t all called to “step out of the boat” and “walk on the water” in this way.  We aren’t all called to the same life and acts of faith as each other.

See, my theory here is, and this really is just my supposition, that Peter needed this.  This was something that Jesus wanted to do with Peter specifically.  Jesus saw the big picture of Peter’s life and this particular event was important for him.

If you spent much time reading through the gospels you can figure out quickly that Peter was a pretty, well, outspoken kind of guy.  His emotions were always bubbling at the surface.  He seemed, to me, to be a bit arrogant at times and wasn’t always willing to truly submit to the will of God.  A few examples that come to mind in this are when Jesus foretells of his death on the cross, Peter freaks out and says, “No way, Jose!” (I’m paraphrasing, of course) “I will never let that happen!” Jesus responds, “Get behind me, Satan!..You aren’t worried about what God wants but about what you want!” (Matthew 16:21-23)

Another instance is when Peter asks Jesus about how many times he is supposed to forgive his brother who has wronged him.  He offers up, “seven times?”  Jesus responds, “7 times 77 times.”  Peter thought he was being pretty liberal with 7 times.  In that day you were to forgive 3 times for an offense and after that you could write the person off (I believe it was 3 but I can’t remember where I learned that).  Peter was trying to be all awesome and cool.  Jesus settled him back and said, “No, man.  You are missing the point” and he goes on to tell the parable of the unforgiving servant.  Peter didn’t realize how much he had been forgiven and, therefore, how unqualified he was to judge and hold sins against other people.  (Matthew 18:21-35)

Peter opens his big mouth again when Jesus says, on the mount of olives after the Passover supper, that they will all be scattered like sheep once he is killed.  Peter says, “Surely not I!  I would NEVER fall away from you!  I’d rather die!  I’d rather die with you than ever leave you!”  Jesus says, “You will deny me 3 times before the rooster crows.”  Peter insists (as do the rest) that he will not do it. (Mark 14:26-31)

Yet again, Peter shows his passion when the soldiers have come to the garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus.  Peter draws out a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the soldiers.  Jesus says, “put the sword down, Peter.  I’m going to do this because this is what God wants me to do.” (again, I’m paraphrasing).  (John 18:10-11)

Jesus knew Peter well.  He knew how Peter was.  Jesus knew in advance that Peter would start to sink and need to rely on him in order to stay above the waves.  Jesus knew this.  Peter needed this.  When Jesus says to Peter, “Oh you of little faith, Why did you doubt?” I bet Peter was struck.  I bet he felt a bit humiliated, really.  I doubt that he would ever have described himself as someone of “little faith.”  Peter needed to be humbled, but to be shown all at the same time what he was capable of when he depended on Jesus.  He needed to be shown that he wasn’t always right.  He had passion, and that is great!  It would come in handy!  But he needed to be reigned in like a strong, powerful horse who, when trained properly, can is capable of being incredibly useful and productive.  Peter needed to be trained because after all of these events, after Jesus died and rose again, Peter changes.

Peter doesn’t sprint, like John, to see the empty tomb.  Would you?  Would you sprint to see the guy whom you had just denied a few days before?  Or would you be a little unsure and embarrassed?  When Jesus addresses him on the beach while eating breakfast he asks, “Peter, do you love me?” (love=agape)  Peter says, “You know I love you.” (love=phileo)  Peter was humbled.  He knew he couldn’t truly say that he had perfect, undying love for Jesus.  He had come face-to-face with his imperfection and could no longer deny it.

You see, in order for us to be useful to God we need to come face-to-face with our imperfections.  We need to see them clearly and admit that we are far from perfect and recognize how much we have been forgiven.  If we don’t then we cannot possibly understand the depth and width and height of the love, kindness, and grace of God.  It isn’t until we see ourselves for who we really are that we are inspired to accept that forgiveness and seek to become the new creation that God has created us to be.

This is where the rabbit trail began.  My husband and I were talking about this and he said, “I wonder if they really used the words ‘phileo’ and ‘agape.”  I said, “Well, I imagine that they did…I mean, that’s what the words are in the Bible and the Romans loved the Greeks so I bet there was some kind of law or something about speaking in Greek.”  Josh said, “Maybe they spoke in Aramaic.”  I said, “maybe, but it is specified when Jesus says, ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ that he says it in Aramaic.  I mean, it would be weird if they took the time to specify that that particular phrase was in Aramaic if they always spoke in Aramaic.”

That lead me to think about how they would not have been speaking Greek had it not been for the Romans conquering Israel.  It also got me to thinking about all of the things that had to happen in order to fulfill prophecy and how the Romans had played such a key role.  The Romans conquered Jerusalem 63 years before Jesus came on the scene as a little bitty baby.  Only 63 years.  The Israelites would have been pretty upset about this, of course, so they were waiting for the Messiah to come and free them from Roman power.  Had the Romans not come on the scene then Mary and Joseph never would have had to go to Bethlehem for the census.  According to the prophecies, the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem.  Had the Romans not conquered Israel then Jesus’ family would not have had to flee to Egypt, as the prophecies foretold.  Had the Romans not conquered, Jesus would not have been hung on a cross, as the prophecies predicted.  There are many others, but you get it, right?  The point is, the Romans had to conquer Israel in order for God’s plan to come to fruition.  

This is where I landed.  The Israelites wanted to get rid of the Romans.  Of course they did.  The Romans were taking their money, killing their people, stepping on their toes…  Israel wanted to be in charge of itself.  They wanted to be free.  But they were missing the big picture.  They didn’t see everything from the perfect perspective of God.

They were a lot like I am.  Often, things invade my life and I want to get rid of them.  Whether it is a person, an illness, a job, or some other circumstance, it is something I don’t like and I want it out of my life…STAT!  I pray and I beg and I plead with God to send in the cavalry to get rid of this thing in my life and get pretty upset when He doesn’t.  “WHY AREN’T YOU HEALING ME!?  WHY AREN’T YOU GIVING ME WHAT I WANT…THIS GOOD THING THAT I WANT!  DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY!  I THOUGHT YOU CAME TO SET ME FREE!  I THOUGHT I WAS YOUR DAUGHTER AND THAT YOU LOVED ME!  WHY ARE YOU ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN?!”  I forget that there’s a bigger picture here and other lives are at stake.  I forget that God’s plan is much bigger than me and that, if I want His plan to ultimately be fulfilled, then I may have to be conquered from time to time by a foreign invader to continue on with what He wants.   I need to be reminded that God can work in and through me and grow me in a way I could never have imagined when I’m invaded.  My life can become a light to others when I am enslaved and willingly work with God to see His plans come to fulfillment.

So what is my Roman invasion?  What has come into my life that I don’t like, don’t understand, don’t want, and want out yesterday?  Will I choose to ask God, “What are you doing?  What are You trying to teach me?  How would You have me respond in this situation?  How can I be used in this circumstance to bring You glory and fulfill Your plans?  I can think of a few things in my life.  Now, I just have to choose.  Will I avoid the big picture?  Will I look away from what God is trying to teach me? OR Will I submit it to God and submit to His will and recognize that He has placed me in this time in this place to do some kind of work?

Finding Hope

**Forewarning: This isn’t as fun or happy a post as I wish it was…but it is me.  It is me right now.**

 

If you’ve been following the goings on of my family you know that we picked up and moved 2,272 miles across the country at the beginning of August.  What. A. Trip.  My dad and step-mom came to Southern California to help us pack up and make the drive.  Without delving into all the details, I have to say that this move was the most stressful move in the history of the universe.  Ok.  So that may not be 100% true since I don’t know what moving has been like for everyone in history, but it was certainly the most stressful move we have ever made.  Since our marriage nearly 7 years ago, my husband and I have lived in 4 different apartments, 1 rental house, house sat long-term for a friend while we tried to find our own place, and have lived with our parents twice.  So when I say that this was the most stressful move ever, it isn’t because we don’t have experience with moving or even moving across the country.  This is our second cross-country move.

We had issues with our moving company, Josh did not join us right away, and I got really sick on the second evening of our 4 day trip.  It was miserable.  I just could not wait to get to our destination so we could settle in, get well, and start exploring our new home.  Things didn’t quite work out like that, though.  Instead, I stayed feeling pretty yucky for a good week.  I finally started feeling better only to get sick again just another week or so after that.  I thought that I must have a horrible bug or something.  But then I got sick again (same symptoms all three times) a few weeks after that!  So, since our move at the beginning of August I have felt crummy pretty much every morning I’ve woken up and then on-and-off every day.  I’ve done lots of lab work and it all comes back normal.  My symptoms aren’t considered diagnostic and the 3 doctors I had seen have had no clue what to tell me aside from saying that maybe they were episodes of hypoglycemia…which didn’t leave me feeling very confident or satisfied.

Finally, I went to see a naturopathic doctor to get his take on my symptoms.  I’ve never been to a naturopathic doctor before because they’re generally expensive and we are a single-income family of 5.  We don’t have much disposable income, but I’m at my wits end at this point.  I just want to get well.  I cannot describe how desperately I want to wake up feeling healthy rather than nauseated.  Being sick like this has turned me into an emotional wreck.  I don’t feel like myself at all.  I feel frustrated, tired, and really miss doing the things I enjoy the most like playing with my kids, exercising, going for coffee, going on walks, exploring… I just don’t feel like I have the freedom to go anywhere or do anything because I run the risk of getting sick.  Well, this naturopathic doctor actually treated me like a human being.  I’m not saying the other doctors weren’t nice, it’s just that I felt like, because my lab work returned with normal results, that they felt like I was making it up or it was all in my head.  Because I didn’t have a diagnosis, clearly my symptoms were really not important or couldn’t be that bad.  It is so frustrating to feel like you’re not being heard.  So finally, when someone spent 2 HOURS asking questions about me as a person, my whole health history from birth to now, my personality, my family, and my symptoms, it felt really good.  What felt great?  That he was not at all stumped or confused by my symptoms.  In fact, he said that lots of people go through what I’m going through.  Better yet, he believes that,not only can we treat the symptoms, but that we can get my body back to normal without having to treat symptoms all the time.

SO, why is this titled “Finding Hope.”  Is it because I’ve found hope for what’s wrong with me in a naturopathic doctor?  No.  That is true, but no.  Is it because I’ve found hope in leaving California and moving here?  No.  It’s because that, even in the midst of feeling horrible, God has shown Himself to me in new ways.

You see, at first when I started having these episodes I thought, “The timing could not be worse!”  In some ways, the timing couldn’t be worse.  Who wants to be sick when they’re stuck in hotel rooms and day-long car rides?  Not me.  It’s horrible to not be able to be comfortable in your own bed or in your own home.  It’s horrible when you can’t just get rid of whatever it is that is ailing you.  The second episode, though, came on right after I picked up my husband from the airport.  He has been working from home.  I can’t tell how much help he has been to me.  He has been able to adjust his schedule and work later or on the weekends so I can go to doctor appointments.  He has been supportive of me and comforting.  If we had been back in Southern California, he would be working 40 minutes away from home.  I would be on my own each day when I’m feeling crummy.  On top of that, we have been staying with my parents and not having to pay a bunch of rent.  That has freed me up to be able to do many trips to the doctor, lab work…etc.  Somehow, as crummy as it all is, God has put this in a time when it’s going to be OK.

You know, its’ hard for me to even write that right now.  Right in this very moment I’m feeling pretty crummy.  In this very moment I want to burst into tears and ask God, “Why!?!?!  Why is this happening!?!?  I am so sick of feeling sick!  It is so hard to do my job when I feel like this!  Don’t you want me to be a good mom!?”  But that’s faulty thinking.  God didn’t cause this.  I know He is capable of healing me without any thought at all. I know He can do it.  For some reason, though, He is choosing not to.  He is trying to do something in my life.  He didn’t make any promises that I’d have a healthy, happy life without pain.  He promised the opposite, really.  He forewarned me that I will have troubles in this world, but that I can take heart knowing that He has overcome them and that this is all temporary.  His priority isn’t my comfort as much as it is my character.  Even though I believe these words, it still hurts.  I don’t even know if I can go on typing.  It hurts and I’m frustrated.  I know that God is near me.  I know He is here and sees what is going on.  I even have moments when I feel that He is comforting me and speaking to my heart.  Then I have moments of hopelessness when I fear that this will never end.  I have moments of doubt that I will ever get my life back to normal.

This morning I listened to a message by Jon Courson about the promise of God’s presence and it brought me so much comfort.  God is there.  He goes before me.  You see, part of me wondered if we misread what God was saying when we moved out here.  Part of me thought that maybe I’m being punished or something…like a Jonah situation (he went somewhere else instead of where God called him and God sent a storm and a fish to turn him around).  Is this my storm?  Is this sickness sent to swallow me up until I am forced to admit my mistake only to be spat out back where I should have been in the first place?  Is this my warning signal that I’ve gone the wrong way?  We prayed ardently before moving and everything seemed to fall into place to allow it and make it work.  We really genuinely believed we were doing the right thing…I still think we did, but I can’t help but wonder, at times, if this is a sign that we didn’t.  In Jon Courson’s message he talks about how God has our backs.  God goes before us, and he comes behind.  He knows where we are going and wants us to follow Him, and if we move forward with a decision and we have sought Him and believe we are doing the right thing, then God will honor that and He will help us figure things out.  He protects us.

Right now I’m sure not feeling particularly protected.  I’m waiting for God to step in and save the day.

I have considered driving up to the church and asking for prayer.  We have found an awesome church.  We love the community of people and the small group we have joined.  You see, my husband and I have been praying for the church and specific small group that we knew God had in mind for us since May.  We prayed that He would make it clear quickly where He wanted us.  We prayed for the small group we would become a part of and that God would prepare us to bless them and open their hearts to welcome us as friends.  We have been so blessed.  We LOVE our church and small group.  We have made our friends quickly and enjoy them so much.  We look forward to what else God has in store for us and for them.  The Bible says to bring the sick to the elders of the church and to pray for healing.  There’s a part of me, though, that feels unworthy to even ask.  There’s a part of me that says, “I’m not dying.  I don’t have cancer.  I haven’t had a horrible accident.  I would just be wasting their time.  They don’t want to hear from me about something that is so insignificant in comparison to what it could be…what others have.”  But is it?  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  Maybe I don’t have enough faith to do it.  Maybe the reason I really haven’t gone is because I’m afraid.  Maybe I’m afraid that I will go and it won’t work.  Maybe I’m afraid of going and praying and feeling the same way tomorrow as I feel today.

However I feel, whatever my emotions are telling me, I need to cling to what I know to be true.  I need to remember all that God has provided, all He has promised, and cling to that as true.  What I am feeling now is not eternal.  It is not the final word on who I am or what God has planned for me. God has plans to prosper and not to harm me.  All things work out for my good because I love him.  One way or another I am going to have to choose to remember what I know to be true.  I’m going to have to choose God’s promises for my life.  I’m going to have to choose to be thankful for all He has done.  I’m going to have to choose to allow him to develop character and hope in me.  I will find hope.  God is my hope.

Why was I born?

Today is my 29th birthday.  I am just 1 year shy of reaching a whole new decade.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think 30 is old by any means.  It’s just that I remember being 20.  I remember being 18 and feeling like 30 was so far away…that I’d never be a grown up.  Truly, I never thought I was going to live to be even 18.  When I was 14 years old I lost a very dear friend.  She died in a motorcycle accident and it was at that moment that I realized that life here on earth is temporary.  My body is not immortal.  No matter how old or young I am, there’s never a guarantee of tomorrow.  I remember the night before leaving for a long weekend leadership conference in 8th grade that I spent the entire evening crying and in a panic because I was just sure that I was going to die while I was there or on my way.  It sure didn’t help that a little girl I babysat told me I was going to die in a car.  Where that came from, I don’t know, but in my young Christian mind I believed that she, as a child, was privy to information I didn’t know and was just revealing some prophecy to me.  Needless to say, I survived the weekend.

As I continued to watch friends pass away over the next years I became even more keenly aware that my best friend’s death was not anything extraordinary.  Death, I realized, was one of the only things we all have in common.  We will all die someday.  No matter who you are, where you live, how old you are, how much money you have, your educational background, or what kind of car you drive…You will die.  I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you will die someday.  And I, at the age of 14, knew this.  I spent a few years being absolutely convinced that I was not going to make it to graduation.  Once graduation came, though, I just couldn’t believe I’d make it to college.  Surely I was going to die that summer.  But the first day of school came and went.  Then I wasn’t going to live to get married…or have babies…and now I just don’t think that death is imminent and I try not to spend too much time wondering about which milestone I will or will not live to see.

Now that it is my birthday, though, I’ve gotten a chance to reflect on the last 29 years.  Why am I here?  Why was I born?  As someone who believes in God, I believe that He created me out of His own image because He loves and delights in me.  I believe that God has a plan for my life.  He has plans to “prosper and not to harm [me,] plans to give [me] a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  I believe that God had a special plan in mind for me before I was born.  I believe He knew me and “knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13).  I believe this for all people.  I believe that God created each and every single human being on this earth for a purpose.  It is our choice, then, to go forward with that purpose in our hearts and minds, or to go forward with our own purposes and desires.  We can either live to glorify God and find joy in Him as we do.  Or we can live to glorify ourselves or whatever else it is that we love so much.

So what is my purpose?  I don’t mean some kind of broad purpose like being created to glorify God or to show others kindness or something like that.  I want specifics.  Who is it that God created me to be?  Who is Kristin?

Well, first and foremost, I believe wholeheartedly and passionately, as I said, that God had a plan for me and my soul.  When I was born my parents didn’t know what to name me.  Had I been a boy, I would have been named Timothy.  But I wasn’t Timothy…and it wasn’t particularly popular at the time to name a girl with a boy’s name.  Nowadays, anything goes!  But I digress.  So I wasn’t Timothy.  The names Molly and Danielle were both thrown out there and rejected.  The only name they could agree on was Kristin.  So I was named Kristin Renee.  I’ve always felt like this was a pretty boring name.  So clearly, a boring name warrants a boring life without any special purpose or plan, right?  Nope.  God had other thoughts for me.  My name, unbeknownst to my parents, means “Christian reborn.”  Now, if you’re not a Christian you may not understand the significance.  You may not understand why, when I first learned this, that it took my breath away and gave me hope.  In John 3, Jesus says that we must be “born again.”  This was an awfully confusing concept, but what he meant was that we needed to die to ourselves…our sinful nature and its desire to glorify the self…and start a new life as a new person who loves God and loves others and lives to fulfill that end.  A new life.  A new start.  Reborn.

So I was named “Christian Reborn.”  God knew this.  I didn’t.  My mom didn’t.  My dad didn’t.  But God did.  God had that plan for me from before I was born.  He knew I wasn’t a Danielle or a Molly.  He had other Danielles and Mollys in mind and great plans for their lives.  So I am here.  Here to live a life reborn.  Here to run a race with my back toward the past and my eyes on the prize.  I am here to live each and every day with the mindset of: God, what would you have me do today?  Who would you have me meet?  Who needs your love the most right now?  Who is hurting? What would you teach me?  How can I glorify you?

Sadly, I have to say that most days I wake up with questions and prayers that sound a lot more like, “What are you going to do for me today, God?”  I forget that God tells us to delight ourselves in Him and that He will give us the desires of our hearts.  (Psalm 37:4)  He doesn’t mean that He will answer our prayers when we ask for a million dollars or a new Jaguar.  He says, “If you fix your eyes on me…find your joy in me…live your life through me…walk alongside me, your heart will change.  Your heart will become more and more like mine.”  See, sometimes we get it backwards.  We think he is saying, “If you fix your eyes on me…find your joy in me…live your life through me…walk alongside me, then my heart will change.  My heart will soften to your desires and I will start to bless you financially and otherwise.  Your life will be perfect. Your children will be perfect.  Your marriage will be perfect.  No more struggles.  No more trials.”  It’s funny how we do this.  We wish He would do that.  But Jesus says just the opposite.  In John 16 Jesus says flat out that we will have trials.  He also says that if the world rejected Him, the Son of God, doer of miracles, lover of all people, then why on earth would we think they won’t reject us?  No.  Being reborn doesn’t promise a life of happiness and bliss.  It does promise, though, that God will walk it with you and give you the strength, joy, and peace we need along the way.

But I forget these things, you know.  I forget that it isn’t about me.  I forget that, even on my birthday, my life isn’t about me.  It isn’t about what I want, when I want it, how I want it, who I want to spend it with…  It isn’t about that.  God has other plans.  And today was just that.

I woke up this morning and knew I had a short list of things that I needed to get done.  My plan was to accomplish my tasks and then enjoy the afternoon reading a book or watching Murder She Wrote episodes on Netflix (I love Angela Lansbury…LOVE).  My plans were soon thwarted by my big man saying that he felt freezing…and felt like his heart was beating really fast…then his tummy hurt…then he was laying on the bathroom floor throwing up.  Now, Big Man has something called CVS (Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome).  His is really really mild compared to what most others experience.  Essentially, he wakes up every 2-3 months, throws up for a while, and is fine for the rest of the day.  Maybe tired, but fine.  He isn’t contagious. He has had this for a few years now and is a pro.  He can pretty much take care of himself.  In fact, he could probably take better care of me when I’m sick.  He is such a trooper.  He made me nervous, though, because he said his heart was beating so fast.  I was concerned and called the on-call nurse.  She told me to bring him to the ER for an EKG just to be safe.  So, I loaded up Big Man and Middle Man in the van, dropped of Middle Man at school, and took Big Man to the ER.  We spent about an hour and a half there to hear that he was just fine.  While we were there I decided to tell Big Man a story to take his mind off of the pulse monitor on his thumb and the beeping machines.  I told him the story about how daddy and I met to the day he was born.  I loved telling him of the joy I experienced when I first held him, and I just hoped that he could hear how much I love him…even when he is sick.  That when I found out I was pregnant with him, I forever was willing to give myself to him how he needed and do what was best for him.

Once we were discharged I rushed home to drop off Big Man and  pick up Little Man (so daddy could concentrate more on work) and rush to a nearby hospital to drop off some lab work.  I had been planning to do this right after bringing Middle Man to school, but it was pushed back, of course, due to our eventful morning.  It was imperative to me that I got this sample in to this lab, though.  I’ve been having some unusual-for-me symptoms over the last couple of months and this particular test is going to rule out some pretty nasty things that would change everything.  I needed to get that in.  I only had so much time, though, because Middle Man would be done with school in just one short hour and I’d have to pick him up.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it…But I did.

So I picked up Middle Man in the pouring rain and brought my men home for lunch.  I made frozen chicken nuggets, because it was simple, and we sat and ate chicken nuggets and honey for lunch.  Not a super extravagant lunch for a birthday, but it fit the bill of EASY and made the kids happy.  After that I rushed to make the beds (we wash all blankets and the sheets after Emery’s episodes), pick up toys, change diapers, do dishes, and get the two boys down for a nap.  Then Big Man wanted to play Nintendo.  So I played Nintendo.  I read about 10 pages of my book and didn’t watch any Murder She Wrote.

My day didn’t go as planned.  Not even close.  But, it reminded me of one of the greatest plans God had for me the day I was born.  Big Man, Middle Man, and Little Man.  I am their mommy.  What better way to celebrate the day I was born than to use that day to help, love, and cherish the lives I was allowed to bring into this world. What a gift.  It may  not be how I planned.  It may not have been fun. But it was a reminder to me, on my birthday, of why I am here in the first place.  It isn’t about me.

 

How Social Media is Ruining Parenting

You know how it goes. You find yourself at some point in the day with a few minutes of free time and start cruising Facebook to see what everyone is up to or if the latest Buzzfeed Quiz can correctly determine which 80’s teen movie best represents your life. Pretty soon you’ve wasted an hour of time on pretty much nothing productive and you feel like a total idiot.

To make yourself feel better you quickly do a Google search to find some really fun activities you can do with your kids today to make up for that lost hour on Facebook. You’re met with thousands of blog posts written by moms all over the world. Pictures of happy children, beautiful art projects, pristine homes, intricate games made of marbles, strings, and straws to turn your little one into a baby genius flood your screen. “Wow! Well, if she can do it, so can I,” you tell yourself with as much enthusiasm as you can muster! So you try to get started. You begin to search your house for all the great paints, brushes, smocks, strings, straws, and marbles. But all you have on hand is some sidewalk chalk, lotion, food coloring, crayons, and some computer scrap paper. Then you remember you saw something on Pinterest about making your own paint! So you quickly look that up and get discouraged by the amount of ingredients it will take and decide to just put food coloring in some lotion and see what happens. It is just lotion, so you decide finger painting will work best…have fun and moisturize your little ones’ hands all at the same time! Great! Super mom!

You throw your husband’s old oversized t-shirts onto your kids as a smock and get started. Before you know it your once yellow lotion is now a lovely shade of brown and the “paintings” the kids made are a little bit more like soggy paper that will just get really crusty when it dries next week. There’s colored lotion all over your floor and walls, their faces and hair. You go to wash them off, but remember that food coloring has a tendency to stain their hair, nails, and skin. So now your kids have fun shades of red, blue, green, yellow, purple, orange and pink all over their faces and it isn’t coming out. (Can’t wait to see what you find in their diapers later…) And now they’re crying because you’ve scrubbed their skin so hard that it hurts. You then remember that you have family pictures scheduled for tomorrow night and say a silent prayer that the food coloring will disappear in time.

Your master plan to turn your babies into happy little geniuses who go on to win the Nobel Prize and dedicate it to you just went up in smoke. Poof. Gone. You know, now, that they’re going to turn into serial killers and will blame you for this moment and ruining their lives. Fail.

Ok so maybe your day doesn’t really look like that. Maybe it isn’t that dramatic. But all of us moms have read hundreds of blog posts about the joys of motherhood, and there are so many countless joys, to be sure! The blogs are filled with great ideas for activities and games for your kids. Mom always looks clean and well-rested, the house always seems to look picked up and bright. Even their messes look organized! How can they do this? How does she manage to do all of this and not lose it?

Let’s face it. In real life it doesn’t work like that. In real life the blogger mom was probably tossing every extraneous item she owns into a laundry basket and stuffing it in the garage so she could take a picture of a house that looked emaculate. She probably used some special filter on Instagram to blur out any stains or dirt and make her house look *extra shiny*. The kids were probably behind her punching each other in the face fighting over who got to use the blue paint first. She’s probably screaming at them, “knock it off or I will put all of this away right now!” as she is taking the picture. The truth is, that mom on all the blog posts is just like all the rest of us. She is normal. She doesn’t have it all together. She is having the same kind of fun that all the rest of us have with our kids. Or maybe she really is supermom…I don’t know.

Really, in the end, we end up comparing our stories to the other ones we read on Facebook, blogs, twitter…etc. We read a beautiful, peaceful birth story and compare it to our hectic one and feel like losers…feel gypped. You were satisfied with it until you read someone else’s and now feel like you messed up. You were ok with your house and the stained carpet because kids will be kids…until you saw the post about how many chemicals are in carpet that are going to kill your family. You were ok with feeding your kids a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with apple slices for lunch…until you saw the super duper organic, whole, homemade, free-range chicken and rice lunch with peas, carrots, and even spinach hidden inside (only took 3 hours and $100 to make! But what is time and money when it comes to the health of your child?!).

Suddenly you realized that your worst fears have come true. You’ve failed…and you didn’t even know it. You start driving yourself nuts trying to keep up…trying to hold it together…trying to keep a happy face all the time to be that mom. But even that mom isn’t that mom. We all have issues. We all have bad days. We all have those moments with our tiny crying human when we just don’t know what to do. All we can do is make sure no one dies so we put the tearful baby in a pack n play and slowly walk away to take some deep breaths. We all find ourselves yelling the same things at our kids that our grandparents did our our parents: “don’t make me come over there!” “If I have to tell you one more time…” “I’m gonna knock your heads together if you don’t stop fighting!”

We have our moments of exhasution. We have our moments of weakness. We find ourselves deep in the trenches of parenthood and all we can do is get into fetal position and hope none of the flaming arrows hits a vital organ. We are exhausted from the fight. We are tired of feeling alone. We are tired of pretending like everything is going smoothly to put on a face for Facebook. The goal is no longer to have a baby genius but to just successfully remain off of the 5:00 news for the next 18 years.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we play the comparing game? Why don’t we, instead, come alongside each other and support one another? Why can’t we just be honest when things are great AND when they’re tough? What are we so afraid of? Are we afraid of being judged? Are we afraid of proving to everyone, including ourselves, that we just weren’t cut out for this??

We aren’t alone! Every mom has her bad days…even rough years (terrible two’s…three’s?). I swear, things are so crazy in my house that if my kids aren’t screaming at me, running around, making a mess, and demanding food like a medieval beast-man then I get worried. I start feeling their foreheads and saying, “are you ok? Are you feeling alright?” They’ve gotta be getting sick because quiet cuddly mornings are a thing of the distant past. Scary.

No one ever said being a parent would be easy. You cannot possibly “enjoy every moment” like every grandma demands of you. The years fly by, but the days can drag on. But it is so worth it, right? We all have that in common! We are doing this incredibly difficult job, but it is so worth it! We all know that! Sure, we may need some reminding now and again, but if we can give each other the freedom to talk about the good, bad, and the ugly, then we can lift each other up when we are feeling down. We can shine some light when someone feels like she’s in a dark place. We can provide the box of Kleenex and the listening ear when she feels like she’s failed. We can jump up and down when something amazing has happened! We can laugh together about the hard times when they’ve become a “remember when…???”.

So, let’s not be spoiled by the mom-blogs. We are all different, and yet the same! We are in this together! You’re not a failure just because your house doesn’t look like Better Homes and Gardens and your 5 year old isn’t doing calculus. You’re a good mom! You can do this! No judgement here!

The Big Move

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So we made an announcement a few weeks ago to our friends and family that we are moving from Southern California to North Carolina.  (Just in time for the hottest month of the year!)  While we waited until about a month before our move to make an “official” announcement on Facebook (because we all know that nothing is official until it’s on Facebook), we had told our parents and siblings back at the end of May.  There were so many unknowns back in May that we just knew there was no way we could answer the influx of questions we were bound to receive upon making our announcement.

Well, it’s funny because even though we have everything mostly planned with the big move only a couple weeks away, we still lack answers to many questions that people have asked.  Now, I have to clarify that neither Josh nor I believe we “owe” anyone an “explanation” as to why we are moving, but we feel that we can provide some information to avoid any speculation as to why we are leaving.

“Why?” is such a difficult question for me.  I am more the, “why not?” type of person, myself.  I should say that it was never my intention to spend the rest of my life in Southern California.  If you wonder why, just read this post that I wrote back in April of 2012.  I think that will answer a lot of the “why” questions about leaving Southern California.  Ultimately, I think it is most simple to say that Southern California is not for me.  Josh and I even had a conversation once that included something along the lines of, “Even if we had unlimited funds and could afford to buy our own home here and do all of the things we would want to do, I still wouldn’t want to live here.  The things that make me not like Southern California are things that money cannot change.”  Southern California makes about as much sense for me as a hairless dog living in Alaska.  We don’t fit.

That being said, I LOVE our friends and family here (And Disneyland).  Our choice to move has only been delayed because of our friends and family.  Nothing happened.  There was no falling out.  There isn’t a big fight or argument or underlying issue going on here.  We LOVE our friends and family.  We are so thankful for all of the support, encouragement, and love that they’ve given us over the last 5 years of living here.  It took me a long time to make the friends whom I have here and I am going to miss them all desperately.  We love our church family…I just pray that we find one where we can fit and feel as welcome as we do here.  We have shed many tears as we anticipate our last days with our friends and family here, but take comfort knowing that, without a doubt, we will be back to visit.  It also makes us more thankful than ever for social media so we can stay connected on Facebook and Instagram.

So, why North Carolina?  Well, we spent a lot of time (probably a good part of the last 4 years) talking about moving and WHERE to move was by far the most simple and most complicated question of them all.  It was simple because we had already determined in our minds that we didn’t want to be somewhere without one of our sets of parents within an hour of wherever we would live.  That left us with 3 options: California, Wisconsin, or North Carolina.  That was the simple part.  Of all the places in the country where we would have maybe wanted to live, they were all narrowed down to just 3 options.  Now, we have already made it clear that California wasn’t at the top of my list.  Wisconsin, while it is a state I love and feel attached to, isn’t really at the top of Josh’s list.  While his reasons are his own and I don’t necessarily share his feelings, I can completely understand them and would never want him to live somewhere where he would be unhappy.  I know that he has nothing against my friends and family there and I know that he recognizes the pros and cons and, for him, the cons just outweigh the pros.  It makes sense to me and I am on board!  So, that left North Carolina.  We had been, for a while, a bit hesitant to move to North Carolina because neither of us have any roots there.  We were concerned that, after the novelty of our closeness wore off, my dad & step-mom would become weighed down with being the sole people we could depend on for tangible help and support as we raise our 3 children.  We would hate to destroy a relationship with our parents because they feel used and abused.  We realized, though, that while Josh’s parents are the only two family members who have been very close and capable of babysitting or sharing in meals with us, we have made friends here in Southern California who have become like family to us.  They have given us an infinite amount of love and support, babysitting, listening ears, hugs, encouragement, advice, truth, grace…the list goes on.  Our friends have turned into an amazing support system and there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to find some amazing friends who will be dear to us in North Carolina as well.

Now that we had all of our logistics cleared up (the “where” we would move and “why”) we wanted, ultimately, to be sure that we would be within the will of God.  Regardless of the logistics we didn’t want to go if God wasn’t at the forefront of everything.  Was God blessing the idea or closing the door?  So we began to pray for wisdom and clarity about if and when we actually took the plunge.  The best counsel we remember receiving was, “Is God using you here?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Will He use you in North Carolina?  Yes!  Absolutely!”  I think God cares a lot less about where live than how we live and who we are living for.  We can live anywhere and live with love, compassion, grace, truth, and serve God and our community wherever we are!

So when we started to look at our options God opened doors.  We went through them and here we are: 2 weeks away from our move to North Carolina. We are so excited and so overwhelmed all at the same time.  So much is yet to be done, and yet so much cannot be done right at this moment.  So many dates and appointments with friends and family, and yet none would be enough to prepare us to say, “see you soon,” to any of them.  I don’t know that I will ever be ready to say “goodbye” so I am glad that I won’t have to.  I’m glad to know that we will be back for visits.

What it boils down to is that we feel that this is the best decision for our family.  We know that some friends and family are very excited for us and have been really encouraging and supportive with comments of how beautiful it is in North Carolina and how some of their favorite cities and restaurants are there.  We also know that others are left feeling lonely, hurt, and just plain don’t understand.  We respect that.  I can see, I suppose, how it may seem like the move is coming out of left field even though we have talked about moving someday in our home and with our closest friends for a long time.  No amount of “talk” can really prepare one for the day when the “talk” becomes the “walk.”

What we really want everyone to know, though, is that it isn’t personal.  This was a decision that Josh and I made together for our family because we believe it is the absolute best thing.  We believe that North Carolina offers both of us what we are seeking: clear seasons that aren’t extreme, affordability, friendly atmosphere, plenty of green space, lots of variations in the weather, big cities nearby, recreational activities, proximity to family, small towns, career opportunities, family friendly…etc.  We would appreciate your prayers, love, and encouragement.  We pray that you would keep in touch with us on Facebook and Instagram and let us hang out with you when we come back to visit!  We love you all! :-)

Today’s In-Flight Entertainment:

About four years go I hopped on a plane from Wisconsin, visiting my family, to California, back to my husband.  Actually, I hopped on a couple planes.  My oldest son was 18 months old.  I was traveling alone with him because my husband had to work.  The first flight went pretty well and was really short.  Our second flight would be about 3 hours long.  I brought food and toys and games and anything else I could to occupy my son on the plane.  He just wasn’t having it.  He was tired, his ears hurt, we were crammed in a window seat on a completely booked flight.  My poor little guy cried for a solid 2 1/2 hours of this 3 hour flight.  The flight attendants would not let me get up to walk him up and down the aisles to help him get rid of some excess energy because it isn’t considered safe and they had to deliver beverages to other passengers.  So we were stuck.  

 

As he sat their crying, I kept looking up, tears in my eyes, apologizing to my neighbors.  They simply smiled and said, “We know how this goes.  Our 2-year old is at home.”  They were so patient and gracious to me.  They understood how hard it can be to travel with children.  They understood that it was embarrassing, difficult, painful…Traveling with children is not for the faint of heart.

 

After about 2 hours of his crying, which is, I understand, a long time, a woman a few rows ahead of me had had enough.  She pushed the button for the flight attendant and very loudly asked him to have “that crying baby move” because his crying was just “ridiculous” and I needed to “get him under control.”  What she didn’t realize is that I had also had enough after 2 hours of painstakingly trying to appease him with everything I could possibly do to get him to quiet down.  What she didn’t know is that my exhausted, embarrassed, burned-out self really did not need to hear her words in that moment.  I didn’t need her opinion.  I quickly, and probably to the surprise of my gracious neighbors, tossed my son into the lap of the woman next to me, jumped up and marched the couple rows up to that woman and gave her a piece of my mind.  I don’t remember exactly what I said but it included something like, “Either you’ve never traveled with children or you’re too old to remember what it’s like” and “you know what?  I’ve gotten to listen to his crying for 2 hours too!  Now I have to deal with people like you on top of it” and it definitely ended with, “It is a full flight!  I have nowhere to go.  If you don’t like his crying then go jump off the plane!”  Seriously, I’m so thankful that I didn’t get arrested or something after getting off the plane…

I burst into tears and went back to my seat.  The nasty lady huffed and puffed in disbelief and the neighbors around me gave me looks of pity and told me that it was OK and she had no right to do that.  I’m sure she wasn’t the only one on the plane thinking that, though. I’m sure that she had silent supporters who just didn’t want to be chewed out by the tired, young mom on the plane.  I had more support than I knew, though, as I received apologies from people on my flight all the way back to the parking garage at LAX.  Random people would keep stopping me to tell me how sorry they were and that I was doing the best I could and that his ears probably hurt or that he was tired…etc.  They had all kinds of reasons for why he was in such a bad mood.  And, while it wasn’t fun, they knew I was doing what I could and I didn’t like it anymore than they did.

You may be wondering why I am sharing this story.  The short answer is that I’ve had just about enough of people and their comments about children and their behavior in public places, but especially planes.  I recently saw someone on Facebook post something to the effect of, “Dear people in the seats next to me, thanks for not letting your kids be complete a$$holes on the plane!”  I had a friend come to visit me with her 15 month old son about a week ago and she had some incredibly rude people on the plane next to her…even though her son was being a perfect angel and slept most of the flight!  She seriously looked at his sweet, smiling face when he offered her a toy and said, “I’m not taking that from you.”  What the heck is wrong with people?!  

OK.  I get it.  You’re on a plane.  Traveling is stressful…or can be.  You want to take this time to relax and talk to your traveling companions, listen to your iPod, watch a movie, read a book…and BAM!  You see you’re stuck next to a snot-nosed brat on the plane! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  The next 5 hours of your life are officially ruined!  Your whole entire vacation/business trip/flight home is completely ruined!  Ok, so I’m being a bit dramatic.  But that’s what you look like to us moms/dads who had to get up 5 hours before our early morning flight, were up late last night packing up our children’s things, had to somehow manage to get through security by breaking down our strollers, carseats, emptying our luggage and diaper bags onto a conveyer belt, and somehow get it all put back together only to get to the plane and have to disassemble everything again…all while holding the baby!  Then we get seated next to baby-hating people like you and get to enjoy your dirty looks, sassy remarks, super fun Facebook statuses and Tweets about the #crabbybaby #ruiningyourflight #horriblemom #neverhavingkids #mykidswillbeamazing #nextalberteinstien #imseriouslythesonofgodhimself.  Not helpful.

You have no clue what that family is going through.  You don’t know why they’re on that plane.  They may be traveling to the funeral of a loved one.  They may be making a painful move across the country.  They may be a military family who has been flying across the world for 2 days straight without any breaks or sleep.  They may have had cancelled flights, long delays, sick children, or just a string of bad luck.  My son had always been an awesome little traveler.  This was the one time he went ballistic.  It came out of nowhere and I didn’t like it anymore than the people sitting next to me…probably less since I was the one getting the blame for the noise.  

So, the next time you’re on a flight and see a mom who is beaming up at you, eyes full of hope and a child full of energy, know that we understand that this isn’t how you planned your flight.  We want to listen to our iPods, watch movies, and read books and the in-flight Sky Mall magazine too.  We would love nothing more than a relaxing, quiet flight.  Our odds of having that happen are much higher if you can cooperate with us.  We didn’t have babies to ruin your lives.  If you didn’t want to fly with babies then you should have paid for a 1st Class ticket or early boarding so you could select your seat.  Hey, I’m all for adult-only flights!  I support that completely!  Maybe you’re not a “kid person” but if we can endure you politely for the next few hours of our lives, then you can politely endure our children for the next few hours of your life.  I promise you that it won’t make you pregnant just by looking at them or by entertaining their desire to give you their toy phone.  It isn’t going to kill you and baby drool is not made of acid, promise!  I promise that my child won’t poop, pee or puke all over you…but if he happens to do that, I will pay for you to get new clothes.  To add, our children aren’t “a$$holes.”  They’re tired.  They’re CHILDREN.  We are on a plane with little space to move and run, which is what children do.  Deal with it and keep your feelings to yourself.

To moms who travel with kids–I get it.  It can be so hard.  Even when your child(ren) is a perfect angel you still get dirty looks.  It is tough.  You can do this, though!  Try not to let those other negative people get you down!  Just take a deep breath and get through the next few hours.  For the families who travel around the world and go for 48 hours without sleep with your kids, I am so sorry.  I have no clue what that is like.  I imagine it is so hard.  Of course your babies are tired!  You’re exhausted too!  You’re doing your best!  

And, finally, to all the people who are so awesome with our kids: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!  You bring your puppies on board and let our kids pet them.  You share your little snacks.  You offer to hold them so we can take naps (yes! I HAVE HAD THAT HAPPEN–sweet angel in the first row you are so precious to me!).  The middle-aged men who always seem to be the ones to offer to help carry my luggage, fold up my stroller, get me to my seat: I don’t care if you do it just so you can board early with the families…it is beyond helpful!  There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to express our gratitude for your willingness to inconvenience yourself to help when you see that it is tough.  We need people like you.  You lift our spirits and make our day just that much easier!

 

No B’s

I’ve been debating whether or not is should write this post. I’ve gone back and forth with all the reasons I should or shouldn’t. I’ve been worried partly because I don’t want to offend anyone, and partly because writing this will automatically put me under a microscope just begging for people to call me out.

I should probably start off by saying that I don’t think I am better than anyone else. I don’t think I am stronger, smarter, more mature, or wiser. I am beyond normal and exceedingly flawed. I long to be loved and beautiful just as much as, if not more than, the next person. Looking in the mirror is a daily struggle to be content with, or even love, my body. I can’t remember a day in my life when I looked in the mirror and thought, “I’ve got a rockin’ bod! Woot! Go me!” I can think of pictures I have stashed away in the garage and I’ve thought, “wow! I thought I looked so horrible. I wish I looked like that again!” It is moments like those that remind me that my brain is so messed up and vision is totally flawed.

It could be those insecurities that lead me to this very post.

Women, what you wear matters. It matters to men. It matters to women. It matters to your children. You may say, “my children!? You pervert!” Hear me out. Just this week I was laughing with a friend about our boys. She was changing in her room and her 9 year old son walked in. He could not stop staring at her boobs. Yep. A 9 year old boy was enamored with the female body…it just happened to be his mom. It sounds funny! It is funny! We joked about it and I said, “guess he has hit the age when he isn’t allowed around when you’re changing anymore huh?” Boobs weren’t always a distraction. He…well…grew into it. So, just keep that in mind when you’re dressing. Will a 9-year old boy not be able to take his eyes off of your chest?

What you wear matters. During this last t-ball season a woman kept coming to the games and practices wearing really revealing clothing. She would come wearing crop tops without a bra, super tight and low skinny jeans, maxi dresses with a deep v neck and plenty of side-boob, and super short shorts…It was so distracting. I am a girl…who is attracted to men…and I found it horribly distracting. I kept thinking, “if I can complete the picture, so can my husband…and every other person here.” Now, the practices were held at an elementary school, and the games at a church. So before you go defending the clothing, just think about how you’d feel walking into church and seeing boobs and bellies in your face. Super distracting.

Here’s the most tragic thing, though: I don’t know if she was a parent or sister or who she was for the little boy who played on the team. I never was able to get enough courage to talk to her. I was so immobilized by my own insecurity that I couldn’t even talk to this woman. I don’t know if anyone did the entire season! Wow. It is embarrassing. I am totally ashamed of myself. I let my preconceived ideas of what someone should wear at church or other childrens’ events get me so wound up that I couldn’t even walk over to her and introduce myself. And my husband and father in law were the coaches. I, of all people, should have been the most friendly, outgoing, welcoming person there, right? Wrong. I was not who I should have been. I wish I had a do-over.

Do I take back what I said about wearing immodest clothing? No. I really think it is distracting and inappropriate. But should that strike fear and insecurity so deeply in my heart that lose all courage to say, “hello”?

When I was working on campus in college we had a “No B’s” rule. It was great. “No boobs, no butts, no bellies.” I loved that rule! Could it be any clearer? I would venture to say that would be a great rule continuing on through life…not just in my campus bookstore. Why do we need to walk around showing off our boobs, butts, and bellies for everyone to see? It is not necessary. You don’t need to show that much to get attention.

When I was in high school a speaker said that if we thought of ourselves as cars, and clothing as advertisement, it would say a lot about how we can portray ourselves…without even realizing it! She said that Lamborghinis are cars that everyone wants. They don’t have to advertise. Fords and Chevys have more advertisements than you can imagine. She said we should see ourselves as valuable, high-quality, important, wanted…even without advertising our goods.

Have I been perfect in my dress? No. Is clothing the only way you can choose to be modest or immodest? No. Does being immodest mean you have to look matronly? No way! (Although I don’t suggest taking fashion advice from me…I don’t even take fashion advice from me). But I never want to be the woman who walks into church, the grocery store, the school, or the playground and every man has to turn and walk in the opposite direction because what I’m wearing is too much (or too little) for them.

I am trying to say these things because I love women and I want them to be cherished for who they are. I want the clothing on the outside to reveal the beautiful, loving, kind, energetic person on the inside. I also love men…my father, husband, brother, uncles, cousins, grandfather, and my sons. I want their eyes to be guarded. I don’t want to walk into church, or to t-ball games and see beach-appropriate clothing. It’s awkward. It’s distracting.

I don’t think that women are responsible for all the thoughts of men. That is ridiculous. But I think we do what we can, as much as it is up to us, out of love and respect. Think of it this way: if I suddenly became allergic to chocolate, I would hope that my husband would not eat it around me. I wouldn’t want it in the house. Would it be his fault if I ate it? No. But it sure would be a lot less tempting if it wasn’t in my cupboard calling my name.

Am I ever going to go out and start a little modesty crusade expecting to win battles here and there? No. My hope is that maybe a few hearts will be changed, and maybe I will have the courage to look past my own insecurities and discomfort and reach out and befriend people who maybe don’t fit the mold I want them to. I bet I will be surprised at what I might learn and the new friends I can make.