Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Prayerfulness

Standing at the glass door, Lydia clings to my leg.  With her free hand she scribbles in the mist forming on the inside of the glass.  An arctic gust whistles under the door.

"What are you doing, Mommy?"

"I'm waiting for the kids to head off to school."

Our neighbors are this morning's "bus" to school.  I can't see them loading up in the driveway next door, but I haven't seen them leave the culdesac, so I know they're still there.

"What are we going to do now?"

My mind flitters back to the kitchen and the sink full of breakfast dishes.  The thump-thump-thump from the dryer reminds me I am 1/5 of the way through my loads of laundry.  Baby S squeals from her spot on her pink, fleecy blanket.  It's a happy sound ... with a touch of the fussies coming on.  It's almost time for her nap.  I look down at Liddy, still in her pj's, and with one hand still clutching my work-out pants.  A shower is a must this morning.

"Uhm ... first we're going to pray."


"Let's pray for the kids.  Want to?  Just a quick blessing.  Dear Jesus ..."


"I pray!  I pray, too.  Thank you, Jesus, for today.  People not sad.  Amen."

"Amen.  Oh ... there they go.  Wave!  Love you, kiddos!  Now it's time to get you into some clothes!"

There is great comfort knowing that as my kids head off, whether it's to school, gymnastics, a friend's house or just out to the front yard, that Jesus is with them.  These few moments, standing at the front door, help me to remember that promise ... and help me to entrust them to His care.

Little popcorn prayers throughout the day are a simple way for me to acknowledge the sovereign hand of God in our lives.  And they are the little BIG ways to instill in my kids an understanding of the comfort and power of prayer.

Because God is listening.

"Grant, Lord, that my children's lives may be marked by 
prayerfulness, that they may learn to pray in the Spirit 
on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." 
 Ephesians 6:18

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Self-Discipline

Last week I shared about the growing desire of my kids to be the bosses of this house ... and the plan I have in place to cure them of their bossy pants-itis.

Today is about my own problem with bossing.

Last week during my Bible study, I experienced a bit of an epiphany.  And it didn't even hurt.  The topic was concerning our tendency to be control freaks.  As a recovering C.F., I thought that I had this all under control (ba dump bump!), only to discover that I didn't.

I too have the propensity to pull on my bossy pants in the morning and go about my day making sure everybody (mainly my kids) are playing by my rules.  This could also be called "nagging" but that is such an unfortunate word.  Let's call it "gentle guiding".  Or "repetitive reminding".  Or, we could just call it as it truly is ... "bossing".

When Aaron doesn't get off the iPod within 2.4 seconds of my request for him to do so, I ask again.  And then again until he finally switches of.  Bossy.

When Norah fails to get all her clothes in the laundry at the end of the day, I point it out to her.  And sometimes without using my magic words.  Bossy.

When Ashley gets caught up in talking to Baby S and doesn't put her coloring books and markers away, I reminder her.  And then remind her again a bit more gruffly.  Bossy.

When Lydia is slow in getting her shoes and coat on, I say, "Chop, chop, hop to it!" and give her my grumpiest look.  Bossy.

There is a fine line between training and bossing and I think these past several weeks I've been tip-toeing across to the dark side.  Rather than nagging, uh, that is, repetitively reminding my kids to do what is asked of them, it would be more effective for me to say it once and then allow natural consequences to follow.

Let's see how that would be played out in the above scenarios:

Instead of bossing Aaron regarding his need to get off the iPod, I could ask him to shut it down and then begin keeping track of the amount of time that he continues to care for his Tap Zoo creatures.  This time would be subtracted from the next time he asks for screen time.  "Sure ... you can do some Wii.  I would say you have 45 minutes, but since you stayed on the iPod for an extra 15 minutes this morning, you can play for 30 minutes."  Let the groaning begin.  And the learning.

Instead of bossing Norah to pick up her clothes, I could ask her once and then whatever is left out after she heads to bed would go in the Bummer Bin to be earned back with chores later on.  "Where's your purple leotard?  Hmmm ... have you checked the Bummer Bin?  I think it was laying on the bathroom floor last night.  Sorry."  Let the moaning begin.  And the learning.

Instead of bossing Ashley when she forgets to clean up the kitchen table, I could remind her once and then when I'm setting the table, all the markers, stickers and books can be deposited in the Bummer Bin.  "Oh ... your coloring book?  I think it's in the Bummer Bin.  You can spot clean the floor for me if you'd like to have it back."  Let the grumbling begin.  And, you got it, the learning.

Instead of bossing Lydia to get her shoes and coat on, I can inform her that we are leaving and then head to the van.  I might add something like, "When you get your parts together and get buckled up, I'd love to give you a little treat."  When she fails to be quick and snappy, she will be terribly disappointed that she didn't get her little goodie.  "Sorry, Sweetie.  I hope you can do better next time."  Let the wailing begin.  And the, yes indeed, the learning.

Lots of lessons learned for the kids and me.  They are learning to be the bosses of themselves and the importance of responsibility.  I'm learning to let go of my kids and allow them to accept responsibility for themselves ... and spending my energy on enjoying my kids instead of bossing them.

Is this easy?  No. Way.  This requires huge amounts of self-discipline from me.  Keeping my mouth shut and allowing my kids to learn from experience.  Keeping my attitude positive and not turning a teachable moment into a I-told-you-so moment.  Keeping my eyes focused on the goal ... growing up responsible and respectful kids.

It's a doozy, for sure!

"Father, I pray that my children {and I} 
may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, 
doing what is right and just and fair."  
Proverbs 1:3

Monday, February 27, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Passion for God

Somehow our kids have all ended up with a little red-headedness in them.  This sneaky, recessive gene passed over a generation or two and showed up in my kids' freckles, follicles and frame of mind.

Some more than others.

Aaron's hair is significantly more red than the girls'.  Norah and Ashley have the fairest skin of all.  And Lydia is our red-headed feisty one.  (Also known as pure stubbornness.)

During moments of frustration with my kids (mine and theirs), I have been known to refer my kids' tempers and tempests as evidence of their passion.  A much nicer word than orneriness or strong-willed!

When Lydia digs in her heels and absolutely, hands-down, I-won't-be-swayed refuses to walk her own little self up the stairs to nap-time, she is sharing a bit of her I Do It My Way Passion.

When Ashley mothers the other kids, reminding them to not bring toys to the table, to wash their hands with soap and to not snitch any chips, she is revealing her I Want You to Listen to Me Passion.

When Norah juts out her chin, squints her eyes and looks away after being corrected for something, she is standing firm on her I Don't Want You to Be the Boss of Me Passion.

When Aaron retells with intricate detail the last Speed Racer game he enjoyed while half-heartedly putting away dishes, he is disclosing his I Want to Do What I Want to Do Passion.

As much as it all makes my head hurt, there is a smidgen of comfort in all this.

It's tough to remember when I'm in the midst of a "red-headed" interaction with my kids, but if they are this strong and passionate about these little bits of life, I can hope and trust that they will be equally passionate and strong in other areas down the road.

Resisting drugs.  Sex.  Peer pressure.

And ...

Loyalty to friends.  School.  Work.

And ...

Embracing truth.  Justice.  Faith.

I pray that their passion for being too big for a nap, their passion for being the bossy-pants, their passion for being too grown up for a correction and their passion for playing and re-playing will prepare them to follow equally passionately after God.

"Lord, please instill in my children a soul 
that 'followeth hard after thee' 
one that clings passionately to You."  
Psalm 63:8

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Willingness & Ability to Work

My husband and I have a very mature and practical way to share the work load around the house.

Rock. Paper. Scissors.

(Insert the Bluth brothers and their giant rock and scissors here.)

Dirty Diaper?  Rock. Paper. Scissors.

Tantruming three-year old?  Rock. Paper. Scissors.

Yucky-mucky crock-pot to scrub?  Rock. Paper. Scissors.

.... Uh ... best of three?

The kids have another method that is not nearly as effective, but it sure is cute.

Eemy Meemy Miney Mo.  Ketch a Pider.  Meeney Mo!

Being willing to do a job is wonderful.  Actually doing the job well is fantastic.

And happily doing a job 100% with enthusiasm?  That's awesome!

How do you get your kiddos (or you or your spouse) to get jobs done around the house?
How do you inspire having a good work ethic ... in the area of homework, chores and special tasks?
How do you communicate the value of a job well done?

"Teach my children, Lord, to value work 
and to work at it with all their heart, 
as working for the Lord, not for men."  
Colossians 3:23

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Hope

My big kids both recently finished an intensive study of poetry in their classes.  For several months they were submerged in the world of poetry - both reading it and writing it.  I have been astounded by their creativity and my mommy-heart has been touched by their words.  Here are my two favorites poems by my two favorite poets.

This first one is called a "Bio Poem".  Each line follows a template that the kids filled in with their own personal details.  I love how these few phrases truly capture my boy.  A snapshot of his heart.

Nice, smart, strong, red-head
Sibling of three sisters
Who cares about the safety of the U.S.A.
Who feels good about his friends
Who needs good friends
Who gives support to his two gymnasts
Who fears blackouts
Who would like to see Alcatraz
Resident of Grand Junction, Colorado

In particular, I am a little partial to his description of being nice ... he IS a nice boy.  He doesn't have a mean bone in his body!  I also love his nod to his sisters ... he is one of their most enthusiastic cheerleaders!  He is our social kid which is revealed in the lines about his friends and he is currently in the trenches of learning about the importance of being a good friend and choosing good friends.  As for the Alcatraz bit ... can you guess what books he's brought home from his most recent library trips?  You got it.  

I hope that he will always see his life through these few words:  nice, smart, strong, supportive, a friend, caring and authentic.

This next one is from Norah and it brought tears to my eyes when I read it.  Sitting there in the midst of her fall parent/teacher conference.  In front of her teacher.  Whew!  My little girl is significantly older than her mere 8 years.  I love how this poem taps into the depth of her heart and gives us a little snapshot of her spirit.

The Hawk

I feel so high
I'm a hawk in the sky
Over a world of green
The grass is sweeping
The willow trees weeping
As the bees bring honey to me

My heart full of rapture
My voice full of joy
I need nothing but the sky
I need grass and trees
And honey bees
But mostly I need
The sky

I have so many hopes and dreams for my baby girl ... but they don't even begin to compare with what God has in store for her!  It is a privilege to watch my girl take flight and soar.

And here are my two cents about hope ...

Hanging on to what we know of God.
Overcoming fears and doubt.
Patiently waiting for promises fulfilled.
Experiencing His pleasure as we seek Him.

"May the God of hope grant that my children may 
overflow with hope and hopefulness 
by the power of the Holy Spirit."  
Romans 15:13

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ A Servant's Heart

A servant's heart.  

It goes against almost every chromosome in our human DNA.  

Upon being asked to vacuum, my 9 year old rolls his eyes back in his head and grumbles, "It's the worst part of my day.  Vacuuming.  Ugh."

Upon being asked to unload the dishwasher, my 8 year old slumps over the kitchen table and mumbles something about, "so tired ... too many forks ... takes forever ...".

Upon being asked to match socks, my 5 year old loses her ability to find similar colors and patterns and claims to be unable to, "make those parts twist together.  I can't do it!"

Upon being asked to carry Baby S's polka-dot bag, my 3 year old crumbles to the floor and moans, "I not do it.  I too little."

What my sweet kids are learning as they vacuum the stairs, stack plates and bowls, partner socks and lug miniature backpacks is that there is a double-blessing nestled in each act of service.  We experience the joy that comes with giving of ourselves for the benefit of another.  And better yet - when we give of ourselves, our human DNA is transformed just a smidgen ... to make us look a bit more like Jesus.  

Serving you means I'm blessed, too!

"God, please help my children develop servants' hearts, 
that they may serve wholeheartedly, 
as if they were serving the Lord, not men."  
Ephesians 6:7

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Faith

I wish I could ...

... assure my babies that every story has a happy ending.

... protect my children from the sharp words and barbed actions of others.

... shield my kids from the realities of this falling-apart world.

... promise my little ones that only good things will come their way.

But I can't.

The truth is that life is hard.  But it's harder without Jesus.

So, while I can't guard my sweet ones against all the tough stuff that comes with growing up ...

making friends and losing friends,
falling short and trying again,
experiencing joy and crying your eyes out,
having a plan and flying blind ...

I can remind them that Jesus is with them every moment of every day.  I can listen to their triumphs and their disasters.  I can assure them that they are growing up to be little people who bring smiles to our faces.  I can point out the ways that I see God growing their faith.

And I can pray for them to be rooted in Jesus, bearing fruit and never withering. (Psalm 1)

"I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children's hearts, 
that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them."  
Luke 17:5-6 & Hebrews 11:1-40 

Prompt #4 ~ I wish I could ...

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Contentment

February 22, 2011

Dear Mr. Lego,

I just wanted to thank you for the most recent Lego Catalogue that my son received in the mail.  Included within the pages of this tome are all the latest and greatest Lego creations, kits and action figures.

My boy is super excited about the new Harry Potter sets and he hopes to save up enough for "Diagon Alley".  He loves the Hagrid mini-figure and the Gringotts building.  He ought to have enough of his allowance saved up to make this purchase in about 5 years.

But then again, he hopes to complete his Hero Factory army and so perhaps his funds might go toward "Rocka" and "Toxic Reapa".  With those purchases he will have completed the Hero Factory 4.0 collection.  Just in time for the 5.0 collection to arrive on the shelves, no doubt.

However, he did recently spend a small fortune on "Jay ZX", "Kendo Cole" and "Lloyd Garmadon" of the Ninjago Series.  (Lloyd?  Really?  Lloyd the Ninja?)  In order for them to become Spinjitzu masters, he might need to purchase the "Training Set".  Then he will be able to go head to head with the dark forces in the "Fire Temple".  If he had it, which he doesn't.  Yet.

And then, of course, there are the multitude of Star Wars sets.  He already has a number of these sets unassembled and pollinated about his room, but there are always new sets to be bought and built!  He talks about saving up his money to purchase the "TIE Fighter" or the "Millennium Falcon", but he would also love to have the "Clone Turbo Tank".  Or in a perfect world, the "Death Star".  Usually his allowance is burning an actual hole in his pants and so he only saves up enough money for smaller Battle Packs.  Fortunately there appears to be an unlimited supply of theses mini-sets so he is never lacking way to spend his money.  And to save his pants from ignition.

As a mom, I am grateful for all the hours that my boy spends building with Legos and acting out battles with his creations.  But I'm less that thrilled with the hours that my boy spends pouring over the new catalogues that arrive in the mail - memorizing every detail, every title and the number of pieces in each set.  Every price tag.

And so I arrive at the purpose of this letter.

Please do not send a new Lego Catalogue to our address.  Please just send the same one as last time.  It would go a long way toward my boy's contentment if he was unaware of the amazing and astounding new sets that are waiting in your warehouses for him to desire and dream about.

A Mom of a Boy Suffering from Lego-Discontent

And so began the Lego-Addiction ...

"Father, teach my children the secret of being 
content in any and every situation, 
through Him who gives them strength."  
Philippians 4:12-13

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Responsibility

We seem to be experiencing a bit of a Bossy Pants Invasion here in our home.

At any given moment of the day, you can hear a chorus of, "You should's", "You better's" or "You have to's" as my children attempt to boss each other.  It would appear that each of my kiddos are determined to be in charge of everybody and everything ... except for their own bodies and their own things.

Here are a few examples ... I'm sure they will be familiar to you:

Ashley standing with her hands on her hips reprimanding Aaron for using too much milk for his cereal ... mainly because she is overly worried that he might possibly use the last of the 3/4 gallon of milk.  Oh my head.

Or Norah correcting Lydia's use of the gymnastic mat ... but only because she wants to use the mat and her not-quite-cartwheeling sissy isn't moving off to the side quickly enough.  It makes my ears hurt.

Or Aaron informing Ashley that she needs to get her shoes on and go to the van, but he's lounging on the ottoman with his newest Bionicle in his hands and nary a shoe to be found on his foot.  My right eye starts twitching.

Or Lydia declaring with all her might that Ashley's choice to sit in her chosen spot on the couch is, "That not awesome!"  That passionate proclamation is accompanied by a thump on Ashley's back with a giant Curious George.  My shoulders tense up.

Because of this propensity to of my kids to pull on their bossy pants in the morning, we have a new saying in our home.

"Who are you the boss of?"

The correct answer, of course, is "Me."

As you can imagine we've been hearing this new chorus a lot.  That's what happens when you start a new training regimen with kids ... you have to be prepared to see it through until they get it.  Even if you flirt with a little insanity from the broken record effects of repeating the same phrase over and over and over ... and over and over again.

This gentle reminder of self-control is coupled with a few encouraging words to please allow Mommy to boss that other little person.  In severe cases of bossy pants-itis, I have also been known to send the bossy one off to do a job from The Great Learning Box.

"It would appear that you have a lot of energy and time right now.  Let's put that to some good use.  It looks like you get to wipe down the bannisters.  Thanks!"

Then I can address the recipient of the bossiness ...

"Why do you think So-and-so felt the need to boss you?  Are you doing something that needs correcting?  What can you do to be responsible for yourself?"

And then perhaps there is a little activity (read: chore) that they can do while they think about their own actions.  Which results in some other part of my house getting clean as well!  Bonus!

The hope, of course, is that each of these little people will be responsible for their own sweet little selves and eliminate the need for anyone else to boss them, er ... remind them of what is expected of them.

We all struggle with issues of self-control and a persistent desire to control those around us.  And when I say "we" I, of course, mean "me".

But that's an entire post for another day!

"Grant that my children may learn responsibility, 
for each one should care his own load."  
Galatians 6:5

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Compassion

A few weeks ago, my little canary, Petey, let out one sad little squawk and fell to the bottom of his cage with a feathery thud.

First we were stunned.

Then we were sad.

That was a tough morning for everybody.  Poor Brett had the job of taking care of his little feathered remains and stashing his cage in the garage.  I pulled my parts together and did my best to comfort the wailing and howling, little girls as we got ready for church.  Dear Aaron sat, hunched over his dot-to-dot book, sniffling.  Later on it was my turn to cry and my kiddos sniffled with me.

"It's okay, Mommy."

Our first loss to experience as a family.

We're better now.  The kids have stopped lamenting the loss of Petey.  Lydia hasn't said, "Mommy, Petey not moving.  He not has his eyes open," in several days.  His place on the bookcase has begun to accumulate the odds and ends that empty spaces seem to attract.  I've gotten used to not hearing him scratching around in his food tray.  But every now and then, it still catches my heart.

Just the other day, I was putting together a burrito sans tortilla for lunch.  As I spooned some brown rice into the bottom of the bowl, I told myself, "Don't forget to set some of that aside for Petey."  gasp.

Last week I had the windows open, airing out some of our germs, and I heard the birds singing in the trees outside.  Instinctively, I turned to where his cage used to be and said, "Do you hear that? ..." sigh.

Recently, Ashley walked into my room and declared, "I miss Petey."  sniff.

Me, too, Sweetie.  Me, too.

It's good to let our hearts feel.  And it's good to sit with others as they gasp and sigh and sniff.

It's not easy.  But it's good.

"Lord, please clothe my children 
with the virtue of compassion."  
Colossians 3:12

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Humility

Humility is not our native tongue.

No.  We speak, Whataboutme-nese and Memyselfni-hili.  When something doesn't quite go our way, our Itsnotfair-ian dialect sneaks in.  And when we do something we're proud of, a little Yepitsallme-ish colors our words.

Our words and our actions all point back to us.

"That's mine."

"Please don't touch my stuff."

"Don't waste my time."

"I did it."

"My day was a disaster."

"Where's my candy?"

"I want my alone time."

Me. Mine. I.

What if we took a day and didn't use those words?
What if we changed our language to instead be other-focused?
What if we altered our speech to point back to God and His goodness?
What would happen to our attitudes and our relationships?

I can only imagine that we would be transformed ...

"What do you need right now?"

"Tell me about your morning."

"Do you want to share this treat?"

"You are so important."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Here's to speaking more like Jesus.  Words filled with humbleness, meekness and modesty.

"God, please cultivate in my children 
the ability to show true humility toward all." 
Titus 3:2

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Perseverance

A little show of hands from you Moms who have experienced/endured this:

Yep.  Me, too.

While my kids need no encouragement in their perseverance to get my attention, there are still areas of their sweet little lives that need a shot of stamina.  A commitment to endure.  A tenacity to see things through.

It is our human nature to throw in the towel when faced with challenges and my kids are no different.  Sometimes growing up, establishing good habits and learning new skills is overwhelming.  Sometimes we need someone to cheer us on.

As a mom, I find myself filling that role of cheerleader on a daily basis.

"You can do it!  Finish that job 100%!"

"Go team!  Let's get into the van with our shoes on but without any tears!"

"A-W-E-S-O-M-E!  Awesome, Awesome is what you are!
Please get a chore from the Bummer Jar!"

"D! D! Defense!  Don't go on the defense!
Just hang up your backpack!"

There are many, many areas of life in which I am hoping and praying that my children will persevere.

I know that my daughter can stop sucking her thumb.

I know that my baby can head to nap-time without daily going head-to-head with her Mommy.

I know that my boy can stay focused long enough to put allll the dishes away.

I know that my big girl can use a respectful tone of voice.  Even when she's frustrated.

I know that my daughter is going to be a great reader.

I know that my baby is going to be a great toy-putter-awayer.

I know that my boy is going to find his niche.

I know that my big girl is going to get her back hand-spring.

So many challenges to face.
So many opportunities to cheer.
So many choices to persevere.

"Go Team, Go!"

"Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, 
and help them especially to run with 
perseverance the race marked out for them."  
Hebrews 12:1

Friday, February 17, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Joy

I've heard happiness and joy compared and contrasted in a number of ways.

Some say that happiness is dependent on the circumstances around you, while joy is dependent on your contentment in spite of your circumstances.  Others describe happiness as an outward expression when good things happen, while joy is a steady state of our spirits whether good things or not-so-good things happen.  Or we could say that happiness is having our eyes focused on ourselves while joy is having our hearts focused on Jesus.

This has been a good week for me to cling to joy in the midst of a number of happenings that had the potential to squelch my happiness.  Sick kids, interrupted nights, busy schedules, looming responsibilities ... all with the capacity to turn my days upside down.

But knowing that Jesus was present in the midst of all that stuff ... well, that made smiling possible.

Even if I had someone else's snot on my shirt.

Joy.  Smiling while swamped in Blurgland.

A nod to Ms. Liz Lemon for her linguistically packed word for all things unfortunate.

"May my children be filled with the 
joy given by the Holy Spirit."  
1 Thessalonians 1:6

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Peace-Loving

Ah, siblings ... the relationship that experiences the most fire and sparks.

My kids actually really like each other, but there are still fireworks from time to time.  Not of the, "Oooh! Aaah!" type, but of the "Eeek.  That sulphur makes my eyes water.  And the noise makes my ears hurt." type.

More often than not, the blaze begins burning when one kiddo provokes the other.  Lying under the surface of this friendship is a smoldering desire for life to be fair ("If he gets screen time, I want screen time, too."), a quest to be significant ("She always gets to sit next to you at dinner.") and a fear of being left out ("They're playing and they said I couldn't.")  All it takes is one well-aimed poke with a stick and the flames lick up and sparks fly.

Gratefully, I am able to recognize that this is a natural part of growing up, living in close quarters and sharing a life together.  With gentle shepherding and a lot of grace they will survive this season of life and their friendships will be stronger for it.

Kinda like these two little girls:

If you can imagine, my sister and I had some rather explosive interactions with each other as kids.  Don't let those sweet smiles and freckled noses fool you.  While we loved to play together, be it Barbies or Time-Travelling Hula-Hoops, we also knew how best to stoke up one another's insecurities.  I, for one, remember a few heated arguments in which there was a mutual desire to hurt one another's feelings and fingers, if we could time the slamming door just right.  No, indeed.  There were times when the word, "peace-loving" would not have described our sibling-hood.

There is one incident in particular that I have yet to live down ... one afternoon when I definitely took advantage of my big-sister-ness and stoked the fire.

We had been sent to clean up our room.  I'm sure it was in dire straights as we were both organizationally challenged as kids.  One of us still is.  (That would be me.)  I'm sure that working was the absolute last thing that I would rather have been doing, so as I surveyed the mess before me, I came up with a game.

"Let's play Cinderella, Allie."

"Okay.  What do we do?"

"Well, say like you're the princess, Cinderella.  And I'm the wicked step-sister."


"As the wicked step-sister, I command you to clean up all the clothes on the floor."

"Yes, Sister."

"Okay.  Now I command you to put all the books back on the shelf."

"Okay.  What are you going to do?"

"I'm the wicked step-sister.  I just have to sit here and tell you what to do."

"Oh.  Okay."

"Good.  Now it's time for you to make the beds.  Except for this one I'm laying on.  Do this one last."

"This is a lot of work."

"Yep.  Being Cinderella is a hard job.  But you're doing great."

"Can you help me with this comforter?"

"Nope.  That's Cinderella's job."

"I think I'm done playing."

"Almost.  All you need to do is clean up all the stuff on the closet floor.  Get to it, Cinderella!"

"It's really messy in here."

"Yeah.  Being a princess is hard work."

knock, knock, knock ...

"Hi, girls.  How's it coming along?  Your room looks pretty good."

"Thanks, Mommy!  We're playing Cinderella!  I'm Cinderella and Morgan's the wicked step-sister.  She sits over there and tells me what to do.  And I get to clean!"

"Excuse me?  Uh, Morgan ... may I speak to you please?"


Not a shining moment as a big sister.

I'm so thankful that my baby sister has not held this against me (all these many years...) and that we enjoy a close friendship now.  A friendship in which we don't stoke up hurts and sparks, but enjoy the warmth and peacefulness of sisterhood.

I love you, Sissy!

"Father, let my children make every 
effort to do what leads to peace."  
Romans 14:19

Prompt #5 ~ Share a story about a sibling.  Joshua ... I guess you're off the hook.  This week. :)

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Generosity

Think back to the last time you experienced an act of generosity.  An over-flowing, running-over, sweet-to-the-soul act of generosity.

Maybe it was someone volunteering to take your kids for a spell so you could have a break.  Maybe it was a trip out to dinner and not being responsible for the bill.  Perhaps it was when you added an extra dollop of whipped cream to your kid's mug of hot cocoa.  Or perhaps it was sending a special surprise in the mail to a loved one.

Sometimes we have the opportunity to be the generous ones.  Sometimes we are blessed to be on the receiving end.  And sometimes we simple get to witness the joy on the faces of those caught in the act!

Yesterday was a generous day.  Generously sugared.  At the end of the day, this was the sweet haul that sat upon my kitchen table:

I am particularly endeared to the Perry found there among the loot.  That was one ambitious mom!

These pink and red packages are chock-a-block full of little love notes, a few like notes and no-small amount of fully processed, white sugar.  I get a twitch just thinking about my kids consuming half of this treasure trove of sweetness.

But this isn't actually the act of generosity that caught my heart yesterday.

Just after lunch - the lunch of non-carbohydrates that I forced upon my little girls - Ashley started asking if she could have something from her stash.  Lydia was still nursing her cheddar cheese (a little protein to offset the sweet treats) when Ashley reached in her pink lacy pouch and pulled out a Tootsie Pop.

"Can I have this?"

"Sure.  But you have to sit here and eat it."


And then before her baby sister could make one cheese-muffled protest or whine, she reached back into that magically sugared envelope and produced a second Tootsie Pop.

"Here, Liddy.  Now we match."

Joyful, sticky-faced three-year old sissy.
Gleeful, lollipop-licking five-year old sister.
Teary-eyed, happy-hearted Mommy.

Generosity is sweet.

"Grant that my children may be generous and 
willing to share, and so lay up treasure for themselves 
as a firm foundation for the coming age." 
 1 Timothy 6:18-19

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Kindness

Junie B. Jones is my favorite literary heroine.  At least in the category of "under the age of six."

Picture from Squidoo.

I love following this little spit fire along in her quest to grow up.  And my kids enjoy it, too.  Any book that makes both Mom and Kid laugh out-loud together is win!

One of my favorite Junie B. adventures is "The Mushy Gushy Valentine."  Followed rather quickly by, "Peep in Her Pocket", "Aloha-ha-ha!", "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells", "One-Man Band", and, uh, "Captain Field Day."  And, "Beauty Shop Guy".  And, "Party Animal."  Yeah ... I pretty much love them all.

In this particular favorite, Junie B. is super-duper excited to celebrate Valentime's Day (as both she and my Ashley say it) and as the book progresses, the suspense builds ... speedy quick!  The author, Barbara Park, accurately and authentically retells the search for the perfect valentime cards, the dilemmas over choosing just the right card for each friend and the anxious anticipation for that long-awaited party!  No doubt Park has endured many a Valentime's Day with her own kids.

The story climaxes when sweet Junie B. discovers that she is short one Valentime's card in her decorated box.  Who could be so cruel as to leave her out?!?  Quite quickly she points the finger at her arch-nemesis That Meany Jim.  As expected, Jim defends himself and shouts back equally hurtful words and things get ugly very quickly.  Just as quickly their teacher steps in to halt this Valentime Altercation.

***spoiler alert*** :)

As it turns out, That Meany Jim didn't skip Junie B. In reality, stuck down in the bottom of her decorated box is a large, fancy, lacy, hearty card.  (Not a meatball as Junie B. first supposes when her teacher points out that there was something still stuck in her "mail box".)  Much to everyone's surprise, this card is from Jim.  And he likes her.  A lot.

What follows is a sweet first-grader conversation that rings true with this Mommy-heart.  Jim, of course, is embarrassed and unsure of how to show his true feelings without being teased.  "I guess I have a crush on you."  Junie B. is dumbfounded regarding this new development.  "But, why are you always so mean to me?"

How often do I hurt the ones I love with unkind words and actions?  Including this morning? ... sigh ...  

As they head out to the playground, they decide that they can be friends and they both make little decisions to treat one another with more kindness.

Kindness.  It's what makes all our friendships work.  Be it child, spouse, parent, sibling.  As well as co-worker, teacher, neighbor, grocery checker-outer.

Kindness is key.  On Valentime's Day ... and the other 364 days of the year.

"Lord, may my children always try to be 
kind to each other and to everyone else."  
1 Thessalonians 5:15

Monday, February 13, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Purity

Every now and then, when my older kids finish their shower and later pass me on the stairs, I get a whiff that causes me to pause and think, "Did they use soap?"  It seems like a given that a shower would involved soap and shampoo, but apparently not.  Glad I don't spend more money on fancy shampoo and conditioner.  We just need to work on letting Suave have an opportunity to do the job.

On the other hand, when I finish scrubbing all the little parts of my baby girls, their pink little cheeks and ears tell me that they're clean.  Unfortunately, even with Mommy buffing their little bodies with Johnson & Johnson Baby Wash, it doesn't take long for the peanut butter, syrup, grime and dog hair of this world to get them dirty again.

I even find myself dreaming of the days when a shower was the typical start of my day.  In spite of my own personal hygiene routine, I know that I could be cleaner.  In fact, I recently tried one of those Bioré Pore Strips and I experienced a mixture of horror, astonishment and glee at what was apparently hiding under my skin.  Eww.  Wow.  Yeah! ... And back to ewwww.

Clean, fresh, scrubbed.  How wonderful it is to be clean!

But God wants us to go even deeper.  Past the skin, past the pores, past what even Bioré strips can get to. God wants to clean our hearts.

Purity.  Goodness.  Innocence.

We are rather helpless to achieve this righteousness on our own.  We desperately need God's help.  And gratefully He is ready and willing to hep us get clean.  As He creates in us a clean heart, our actions will reflect this purity.

Deep down clean ... more effective than Suave, J&J and Bioré combined.  And no coupons necessary.

"Create in them a pure heart, O God, 
and let that purity of heart be shown in their actions."  
Psalm 51:10

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Courage

Courage can be described in any number of ways.  In the Bible, God partners the words, "be strong and courageous," in Joshua 1:9, giving us the sense that courage is something physical that we muster up.  But courage is also strength of our hearts, our spirits and our minds.

We all have to summon courage in our lives.  Whether it is the courage to walk across the threshold into toddler church without your mom or standing up for a friend who is being teased about her height.  Or lack thereof.

As a mom, I find myself daily tapping into God's promise to be with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:10) and mustering up courage to face the tasks at hand ... parenting with consistency, saying "no" to E10+ video games, holding my tantruming three-year old, training my kids up to be nice.  This challenging adventure called parenting demands more courage than I have within me ... but God's Spirit fills in the gaps.

Here are a few encouraging words regarding courage to build you up in your courageousness!

Courage is being scared to death ... and saddling up anyway.
John Wayne

Failure is unimportant.  It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.
Charlie Chaplin

Courage is the bravery to do new things.
Norah Kellum

All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage.
Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.
Erma Bombeck

When going into battle, you don't run away.
You persevere.
Aaron Kellum

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.
Robert Louis Stevenson

If there's something that you don't know [what to do],
but you know Jesus is with you.
Ashley Kellum

Courage is found in unlikely places.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Taking action when you don't think you can, but it needs to be done.
Brett Kellum

Courage is not simply one of the virtues,
but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
C.S. Lewis

"May my children always be strong and courageous 
in their character and in their actions."  
Deuteronomy 31:6

Today's quotes by famous people are from BrainyQuotes.  
The quotes by those amazing Kellums are from our kitchen table. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Faithfulness

Faithfulness is ...

Saying, "Yes, Mom.  I'll pick up my backpack."  And then doing it.
Saying, "I'll play a game with you as soon as I get finished with the dishes."  And then doing it.

Faithfulness is ...

Giving a high-five to your little sister on the playground.  In front of the guys.
Giving your boy the head-nod as he passes you on the playground.  In front of the guys.

Faithfulness is ...

Being the same kid with your friends that you are at home.  Silly, but in control.
Being at relaxed enough to play with your kids when you are home.  Silly, but in control.

Faithfulness is ...

Discovering that snuggled on the couch with Mom is still a safe place to be.  Even if you're a big kid.
Discovering that your Mom and Dad snuggled on the couch means security.  Even if you're a big kid.

Faithfulness is ...

Taking the time to pack another meat and cheese sandwich with chips, yogurt and grapes for school lunch.  For the 164th day of school.
Taking the time to say, "Thank you," for the meat and cheese sandwich with chips, yogurt and grapes school lunch.  For the 164th day of school.

Faithfulness is ...

Not growling at your mom when she reminds you to, "Take your thumb out of your mouth, please."  For the fourth time in the last 30 seconds.

Not growling at your little person as you reminder her to take her thumb out of her mouth.  Please.  For the fourth time in the last 30 seconds.

Faithfulness is ...

Accepting the responsibility for your actions and tackling the "Bummer Dude" chore from the Great Learning Box.  Learning while you work.
Accepting the responsibility for training up your child and tackling the tough job of discipline and consistency.  Learning while you work.

Faithfulness is ...

Being loyal.
Being constant.
Being true.
Being devoted.
Being steadfast.
Being dedicated.
Being committed.
Being trustworthy.
Being dependable.

Faithfulness is ...

Tough.  But, oh so worth it.

"Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, 
but bind these twin virtues around their necks 
and write them on the tablet of their hearts. "  
Proverbs 3:3

Friday, February 10, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Biblical Self-Esteem

Growing up, my sister and I had an amazing collection of Barbie stuff.  We had a large number of dolls (all with varying lengths of hair), a diverse wardrobe, a pink convertible and, for good measure, a Ken doll that could ride a horse.  We would transform our bunk bed into a mansion worthy of Barbie and spend hours changing clothes, playing, changing clothes, styling hair and ... changing clothes.  It was fun, but inevitably, I found myself comparing my pre-teen body to that of Barbie.

And sometimes, in spite of all my grown up insight, I still do.

There have been plenty of studies done to remind us that Barbie is just a toy.  Here is one where a college student built a doll using Barbie's dimensions ... not so pretty.  Here is another one where someone computer graphically morphed someone to have Barbie's waist size and leg length.  Awkward.

The truth is that Barbie is a proportionally impossible piece of plastic and I am an actual human being made by God.

I'd rather be God's workmanship.  Not Mattel's.
And I'll be reminding my kids of that fact, too.

'Cause not even Barbie is perfect.

"Help my children develop a strong self-esteem 
that is rooted in the realization that they 
are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus."  
Ephesians 2:10

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Respect

A few weeks ago I had one of those unpleasant "only as a mom" moments.  Let's just say that it involved waiting in the van, an emergency potty break and a plastic bag.  Good times.

Following this less-than-pleasant experience, I wanted nothing more to vent and hopefully garner a little sympathy from a fellow mom or my husband.  What an, "Oh, blurg" sort of story to share!

But one look at the face of my little person stopped me in my tracks.  Those eyes that said, "Sorry, Mommy", also said, "I'm so ashamed."  That sweet turned-down mouth silently begged me to guard against any further embarrassment.  The word, "respect" fluttered in my mind.

I patted my kiddo's back, smooched a forehead and decided to keep my mouth shut.

This was an opportunity to show my child respect and to extend an extra dollop of grace.  A teachable moment for both of us.

I could readily identify with the the fear and dread that accompany these sorts of situations. I, too, have found myself in uncomfortable circumstances.  Moments when I wished the earth would open wide and swallow me whole.  Sometimes there was someone there to shield me from that plight while other times someone else's hurtful words heaped coals of shame on my head.

The relief was palatable when my little friend realized that the predicament was over.  There would be no more discussion, no whispered giggles, no head-shaking or tsking, no "did you hear?" or "can you believe?", no grumbling and no additional humiliation.  Yes, we had learned a lesson, but, no, we would not be scarred by it.

Our hearts are delicate creations.  Within them we carry both the memories of joy and the wounds of shame.  And as a mom, I have the power to either guard my child's heart and instill a sense of security or to inflict more pain with my words and actions.

And it all seems to boil down to respect - treating others as you would like to be treated.

I don't want to be teased about my short-comings.  I don't want my mistakes to be the subject of someone else's conversation.  I don't want to be laughed at or laughed about.

And neither do my kids.

The next time one of my kids pulls a doozy (which they will!), I hope Jesus will bring this episode freshly to my mind.  And I hope I'll remember to keep my mouth shut and shower them in love and respect instead.

"Father, grant that my children may 
show proper respect to everyone, 
as Your Word commands."  
1 Peter 2:17

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Mercy


It's one of those ideas that is hard to grasp and even harder to convey to our kids.  Kind of like  "station wagons", "record players" and "rotary phones".

We recently watched a Cosby Show episode in which Cliff is in the market for a new station wagon.  As the episode unfolded, Brett and I were at a loss as to how to adequately describe this type of car.

"Like our van, only low to the ground.  Large and long.  Kinda like a boat on wheels."

Over the course of the following week, the kids pointed out cars as we drove around town.

"Is that a station wagon?"
"Nope.  It needs to be wider, lower and longer."
"Is that a station wagon?"
"No.  Not boat-like enough."

Quite the automobile enigma!

If we were to pull out the dictionary, we would read that "mercy" means:  compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.

You might notice that "grace" is not included in this definition, and rightly so.  Even though we sometimes use "grace" and "mercy" interchangeably, they are two different concepts, woven tightly together.

In our house we describe is like this:

Mercy is not getting what you deserve.  If you do something wrong, you should be punished, but you are not.

Grace is getting more than you deserve.  In your wrong-doing, not only are you forgiven, but you are also smothered in love.

When we are wronged, we have two options.  We can hang on to the hurt and make the other person pay or we can extend mercy and release the wrong-doer from judgement.  The first makes a prisoner of us both while the second makes us free.  It doesn't mean that we don't feel the pain of that wrong-doing and it doesn't mean that there isn't a consequence for the wrong.  But we are allowing God to be just and, as we learned yesterday, He will make every wrong right.

There is great, transforming power when we extend mercy to those around us.  And we have an amazing role model in the person of Jesus.  His death on the cross was the greatest act of mercy ... freedom from death and eternal life for those who believe.  True mercy.

"May my children always be merciful, 
just as their Father is merciful."  
Luke 6:36

I wrote a post last Fall about the power of mercy and I invite you to take a peek at it:  Mercy Me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Snapshots of the Heart ~ Justice

As moms, we face any number of challenges during the day:

How to gently but thoroughly comb out hair that has been accidentally toothpasted.  Or honeyed.  Or both.

How to make nutritious lunches on Sunday evening when all that's left in the fridge is a tortilla, some grapes and a jar of left-over pasta sauce.

How to help a three-year old backtrack the last 26 minutes in order to find the missing puzzle piece she misplaced.  Somewhere.  In the house.

How to divide up the remaining piece of pizza so that each child gets an equal sized piece.

How to make certain that each child is getting equal screen-time opportunities.

How to make sure that no child feels left out regarding play-dates scheduled for the week.

Do you see a trend there on those last ones?

... A little issue of fairness and justice.

It's an exhausting aspect of mothering.

Throughout each and everyday, I juggle the scales of making sure that no one is getting the short end of the stick.  Or at least, not consistently.  I can't make everything fair, but I do my best to level out the unfairness that is inevitable!

When I consider the challenge it is to keep the scales for my little people balanced, I swoon at the thought of what God faces as He metes out justice for all of mankind.  Can you imagine?!

And yet, He does.  He is just; it is part of His character, a part of Who He is.

I read an excerpt from a devotional by Joyce Meyers recently and she had this to say about our just God:
"God is a God of Justice.  That word justice is so awesome because it means that He will always make anything that's wrong right.  This helps me to not worry when I am mistreated because I know God will bring justice.  It's Who He is."*

There is great comfort in knowing God's character, but it is also an inspiration after which to model our own lives.

Do I love justice like God does?
Do I act justly?
Do I seek justice for others?

"God, help my children to love justice as 
You do and act justly in all they do."  
Psalm 11:7 & Micah 6:8

*Promises for your Everyday Live - a Daily Devotional {day 40}