Press on and keep the compassion and grace coming…

Baby Sarah loving on her buddy.  May we always love like this...

Baby Sarah loving on her buddy. May we always love like this…

I think we are all trying to raise our kids right. Are we trying to make perfect kids? I hope not because that is NOT happening. Hopefully our aim is to raise up incredible, God fearing, humble, compassionate and courageous adults. And, we are going to have great successes, along with incredible failures…sometimes daily failures. But, more and more lately I have been convinced that as long as we Moms are still pressing on and allowing Christ to continually shape, convict and CHANGE us; we cannot help but be the best example for our children. Let us not get complacent or satisfied with where we are in our walk. Heaven knows, we are not perfect!! But, His likeness should be our goal!! And, it is up to us to press on.

And, in the process of allowing Him to shape and change us, we will shape and change our children. We don’t need more books or blogs. We just need to have a desire for His word; and He desires our time. We all have the time. It is up to us to prioritize it for Him.

One of the biggest lessons that I have been talking about with our kids lately is compassion and grace. Since we have been home schooling our kids—they are always with me. Always. So, there are plenty of opportunities to have lots of conversations. People can be mean, rude and flat out ugly. And, my kids see it and have asked, “Why were they so mean, Mommy?” or grumpy…we use that word a lot. I am always thankful for those situations. I love explaining to them that yes, they were not the nicest, and perhaps, yes, that was flat out mean. BUT, we have NO idea what is going on in that person’s world right now. NO IDEA.

And, before we get all huffy, let’s make some possible scenarios that might be making them grumpy. Here are some examples we talk about: maybe they are sick, or hungry, or tired. Or worse yet, maybe someone they really love is REALLY sick, or has died. Or their Daddy has lost his job. You get the idea. I am trying so hard to teach our kids to give people the benefit of the doubt—to assume the best in someone, not the worst. It is hard sometimes—like getting cut-off while we are driving…but hey! Maybe they are in labor and NEED to get to the hospital!

I don’t know. But, maybe, just maybe, one child at a time, we could help make a more grace-filled and compassionate world.

Blessings, sweet Mommas.

xo, Lori

Are you spiritually fat? Because I was…and I am still working on it…

James 1:19-23

James 1:19-23

I have not worked out in weeks.  My scale hasn’t gone up, but I’ve noticed.  I’m a little mushier, less energetic and more irritable.  Our bodies need exercise–no matter how or what kind, we need it.  Not to be skinny; because Lord knows THAT isn’t happening, nor do I desire to be “skinny”.  I want to be healthy and feel comfortable in my clothes.  But, if I don’t DO it, no one is going to do it for me, and I’ll keep feeling like crap-o-la.  No thank you.  But, with our new adventure of home schooling, my time is far more limited.  Like everything though, what is my priority?  Because if I can’t find 25 minutes to hang out with my frienemy Jillian Michaels, I NEED to make an adjustment in my day.  So I finally did.  I am squeezing in my work out during “recess.”

What a difference that makes.  And, as I was working out, I reflected on my spiritual life.  And there was a time when I was spiritually void and spiritually obese.    I think there are four places we can be: 1. Spiritually void. 2. Spiritually obese. 3. Spiritually fit. and 4. Spiritually skinny. And, as you can guess, being spiritually fit is our best place to be.

Before I came to know the Lord as I do now, I was spiritually void.  I knew nothing of the Bible, knew nothing of Jesus, really, and I only had religion.  Did you know that Jesus is not at all interested in our religion?  I grew up in the Catholic church.  I hated it.  Dreaded EVERY Sunday.  I hated CCD classes.  But, I was forced to go by my parents, so I did.  Now listen–if you are Catholic reading this–don’t get mad at me.  This is kind of like how we can talk bad about our mothers all we want–but if anyone else says something about our Momma–watch out, because them are fighting words.  I was Catholic–so I know all about it and I believe the root of the church was great.  But, too many people got in the way of God’s beautiful Word.  Anyhow, I had a spiritual hole in my heart.  I knew something was missing, but did not realize it until college that it was Jesus–a relationship with Jesus is what I was missing.  I was spiritually VOID.  If you are spiritually void–don’t be any longer.  Seek The One who gives life–and life more abundantly.

I quickly became spiritually obese.  And I was for YEARS!  If your story is anything like mine, then you discovered a whole new life in the Lord and became hungry for His Word and the truth.  Poured yourself into Bible studies and ate up every message on Sunday and possibly Wednesdays too.  That was me–for YEARS.  But, as we worked through the book of James, I was so convicted–in countless ways.  But most of all I realized just how superficial I was and how spiritually fat I was.  I had been stuffing myself full of His Word daily, studying it intensely, but I was sharing it with no one, really, other than my Bible study girls.  James so badly is trying to have us realize that if we really are His, then there will be tangible evidence of it. And the only real evidence of a life sold out to Christ  is by our works.  What are “works”?  It is righteous behavior that conforms to God’s Word—specifically compassion.  Now, please don’t hear that James is opposing faith.  He isn’t.  What he is saying is that our faith can’t just be intellectual, in our heads—void of any commitment to active obedience.  Let us not be mere “hearers” of the Word, getting fatter every Sunday, but pouring it back out into our community in love, as “doers.”

Often times, as new believers we can be fearful that we don’t know enough to serve, etc. That, sweet sister, is the enemy whispering to you to keep your light from shining for all to see.   Do not listen to his lies and step out there and get serving. Don’t be like I was and make excuses…I don’t have enough time, we are too busy. We are all busy. Do you think the people out there living it out for Christ have a life less busy than you and me? Hardly. They are making Christ and sharing His love a PRIORITY.  And we all need to do the same.  There are countless ways to serve – anyone can be a greeter at church, well, maybe not Oscar the Grouch, but any else.  Let us not just donate the cans of food that have been in our pantry for too long once or twice a year and check it off our “good person check list.” Let us talk to our church—and see where there is a need and pray about filling it. I was so desperate to serve after our James study and my church was so full of healthy servants they didn’t have a place for me! Ahhhh! I was so sad—so I went to Saturday church cleaning days with Hannah and we cleaned our church! Let me tell you–we know how to make a water fountain SHINE!  I wanted more, but I took what I could get.  And, that was the start of my spiritual weight loss program.

We want to incorporate more serving into our family life, but for now, my husband and I teach the youth on Wednesday nights, sponsor our Compassion sweetie Vivian and try our hardest to love people with everything we have by ministering to whomever and however we can.  And, for us right now with 5 children ages 8 and under, this is a full load. But, we are looking to pump up a bit by serving in our community once a month. Just like our physical health—there is always room for growth.  I am going to be so bold to say, if you are not serving in some capacity you most likely have to shed a few pounds, spiritually speaking of course.  Do it.  Because chances are, you know your Spirit has been crying to serve for a long time, but you’ve put other things ahead of it.  There is no joy quite like the feeling of loving others when you know they can give you nothing in return.

Jesus told a parable that also illustrates how true faith reveals itself through doing good to others. Here is Matthew 25:31-46.

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats,

And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;
I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”

Then they also will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?”

Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Powerful words spoken by our Savior.  One of the most important lessons I have learned is that God isn’t kidding about what He says in His Word.  Do be careful not to take Scripture out of context and jump to conclusions about anything.  And pretty please do not look to Christians instead of Jesus.  So many people yell “hypocrite” when they see a Christian fall from their view that we are perfect.  We are not!  We are ALL sinners!  We ALL blow it!  Why are people so surprised when we mess up?  We are not trying to fall on our faces–most of us.  We are not trying to misrepresent our Savior Jesus.  But good grief–look to Him and His words–not us, mere humans.  We are not holy.  He is.

Oh, how I long to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant” when I see my Savior someday face to face. I do not want to hang my head, thinking about all the things I put before His service. Again, this is not a “work your way into heaven thing.” We are saved by His grace ALONE. There is nothing we can do to inherit heaven. Christ did it all. But, if we are claiming to be His followers, there should be tangible evidence of that.

I am hoping that as the years of my life press on, I become more and more spiritually fit. Right now, we have a house full of children who need our time, love and attention. But, I STILL need to make time to serve. I didn’t for a long time, and I regret it. I did not grow up serving—I was served. I want my kids to grow up serving—it is just what we do; not this foreign thing that we have to relearn. I pray I am never spiritually fat ever again. Let’s get out there sisters and tend to the needy, love the hurting and feed the hungry. There are countless ways to do it. Do not stress over which one or which way – just DO IT.

But, as much as we can be spiritually void, obese and fit, we can be spiritually skinny too. And just like being too skinny physically—it is not healthy. This is when we have overcommitted ourselves. Now, if the Lord is calling you to a life like Paul—and ministry is every breath you take and every word you utter—you do it and press on! I am praying for you! But, be careful to heed the Holy Spirit. There are tons of great causes and ministries out there-and they all want you and your time. But, just because something is good, does not mean it is what God has for you to do. Pray about what the Lord would have you do. So many families in ministry struggle and have trouble because they are spiritually skinny. They are unhealthy, pouring out too much, and have lost the balance. It is okay to say no. Make sure you are saying yes to some area of service, but be careful not to say yes to everything.

Press on sweet sisters!!  And get spiritually fit if you are not already!

Blessings Mamas,

Lori

If a picture is worth 1,000 words–then role playing is worth a million!

With every child born into our family, I become a better mother.  Not just a better mother to my children, but to other kids too.  I am SUCH a more compassionate, sympathetic, caring, and understanding Mommy–that I definitely was not before.  I simply could not understand other children’s behavior, actions, etc.  AND, some of the things their parents did and more importantly did not do left me scratching my head all the time.  But, as our family has grown–I’ve grown.  Thank heavens.  Because you know what?  Some kids take a lot longer to be potty trained than others–no matter what you do.  Some kids are just more aggressive than other kids and it takes a LOT more effort to teach them self control than other children.  Some kids will do the opposite of what you ask of them every. time.  While others jump to obey.  And with each of these differences, we as parents have to adjust our parenting style.  Lucky you if all your kids are the same and what you do for one works for all of them!  But chances are, if you have more than 3 kids, your armor has softened, your heart is a bit more tender and you are a little more sympathetic…at least I am.

Character is a BIG deal for our family.  So much more important than being a reading wiz or math genius–we want our kids to love Jesus and love people.  And for us that starts with their character.  But, besides telling them what they should/shouldn’t do, or expecting them to just know what to do, we’ve begun modeling it through acting and story telling.  And, so far this has been the most effective tool for our family.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and we were running late (SHOCKER!!) for Hannah’s ballet class.  I let Hannah out first, telling her to run to class (not wise), as I shuffled the other kids out.  And as we entered the building, I saw Hannah tearing down the hall to get to class on time.  And after she turned the corner, I heard it.  THUMP!  Waaahhh!!  Oh dear…

I rushed to see what had happened.  A little tyke was toddling around the church hallway and Hannah flattened him.  5 year old vs. 1 year old never ends well.  The Mom was super gracious, telling me “it’s ok–he’s got lots of older siblings and is used to it,” but I felt TERRIBLE!  I ran over to Hannah and told her she had to apologize to the little guy.  She flat out refused.  Oh, if there is one thing that gets this Mommy flat out angry–it is an ill mannered child–especially MY CHILD!  Oh, if you could picture it…me death gripping her arm, speaking slowly and lowly into her ear with that deep down, through gritted teeth talk “you’d better go over there and tell him you are sorry Hannah Elizabeth Benjamin, or we are going to have SERIOUS words when we get home” kind of voice.  Didn’t matter.  She refused.  And apart from me hog tying her and moving her mouth and lips for her, there was no way an apology was going to happen.  So, I profusely apologized for my child flattening her sweet boy (ugh), and went home hot with frustration at her behavior.

What in the world?  What is so hard about apologizing?  I know she didn’t mean to run him over…just say SORRY!!!  Then, in honor of Despicable Me 2, a “light bulb” moment occurred.  She was embarrassed.  Completely mortified to the point of hardly being able to stop crying and hiding in my legs.  And after I realized that, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, if I show her what to do, it won’t feel so foreign.  So when the time comes again, she will know exactly what to do and why she must do it.

So, after ballet that day, we talked about what had happened.  Sure enough, she felt terrible and couldn’t face the boy or the Mommy to apologize because she was so embarrassed.  But, I explained to her that even when we hurt someone on accident, an apology is necessary to show you care.  No need to ask for forgiveness–that is for intentional hurt.  But, saying sorry–yes.  So, we re-enacted the whole scene again at home.  Everyone played a role: we had Hannah–the running maniac child, little dude–the sweet boy who was flattened, and Mommy to little dude.  And, can I tell you–they had SO much fun!  And, I could see in all their little faces that they “got it.”  Now understanding that no one is mad at you in such an instance, but that an apology is showing care, concern and love to whomever was hurt accidentally.  Hence the birth of the Benjamin acting school.  Now, we act out everything we can.  The sky is the limit!  We do Bible stories to bring them to life and every kind of social situation I can think of.  We act out what a bully looks like and what to do if you see it happening– if a child “looks different,” and other kids are making fun or being rude.  We tell them “exactly” what to do and say.  I am talking VERBATIM.

This may sound crazy, but again I will go back to coaching–I cannot help it; it is what I know.  As a player, my coach could tell me over and over how to adjust my arm swing or correct my platform for passing, and I understood a little.  But, if he actually showed me or had someone else show me–ah-hah!!  Yes!  I can copy that.  We are visual; kids are visual.  Give them something tangible to copy.  And as you can imagine, I didn’t get it right the first time I tried to adjust my arm swing.  But after practicing it over and over and over and over the RIGHT way, it was second nature.  I no longer had to think about it.  It was what I did.

So yes, we parents need to be examples to our kids in our own behavior.  But, I believe we need to do more than that.  We need to act scenarios out, make up stories and have our child be the hero in it–oh how my kids LOVE those stories.  And not the typical hero saving the damsel in distress…no, simple, everyday heroes–like talking to the new student who is sitting all alone, asking the teacher if they can help clean her classroom,  or be kind to the girl who just spoke ugly to you, tell someone to STOP if they are talking ugly about another child, offer to go last instead of pushing your way to be first (unless of course we are playing a sport), you get the idea.

Are my kids perfect?  Heavens NO!!  But, goodness they are sweet and they are making improvements daily.  And, at the end of the year awards for Hannah’s class a week ago, she was not the top reader or the math or science wiz, but she did receive something far greater in our economy–the “Hero Award.”  Her teacher went on and on about this “special friend” in her class, who had great integrity, honesty, kindness, perseverance, etc.–I was tearing up for whoever this child was–and then she said it was Hannah Benjamin.  Proud Mommy moment?  You bet!  Now, I am fully aware that my girl is VERY capable of behaving totally opposite to all her teacher was saying.  But, the fact that she’s working on it at home and doing a pretty good job of it at school…I will take that.  Yes, I will most definitely take that–and celebrate it!!  And, if you are in the middle of training your children like I am and your child has a moment like my Hannah did (plowing over a kid and refusing to apologize).  Don’t fret.  Just politely tell the other Mother/Father : “Sorry, we are currently working on that character trait.”  And leave it at that.  Then work on it at home.  They will improve and most assuredly do better the next time.  I am wholly committed to train this next generation of kids on how to LOVE in both words and actions.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

Receiving the “Hero Award” from her teacher.

Blessings Sweet Mamas,

xo Lori

For more on saying “sorry” vs. “asking for forgiveness” check this out :

https://onesurrenderedmommy.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/the-lost-art-of-forgiveness-lets-bring-it-back-because-it-is-beautiful/

 

Why Mother’s Day is the Most Stressful Day of the Year for Men–and why it should be.

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Mother’s Day Picture Attempt from 2012. Classic.

 

I actually always feel a little bad for my husband on Mother’s Day.  Knowing him—I know he wants me to feel super special, spoiled, etc.  But what can he or any man for that matter, ever say or do to truly make us women feel like what we know we are worth?  Sure, we don’t feel like we are worth much many days as we plow through them, working—either at home or at an actual job.  Doing life, caring for our kids by feeding them, clothing them, doing endless laundry, packing lunches, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, prepping for spelling tests, signing folders, sending in snacks, reading with them every night, feeding them, playing with them, wiping them, cleaning up yet another spill, kissing another boo-boo, finding the oh so important missing accessory for a certain toy, brushing hair (BRUSHING HAIR!!!  If you have lots of girls like me—you totally get this!), comforting them after a bad dream, answering endless random questions, being the social coordinator for everyone, doctor visits–planned and sick visits, ER trips, refereeing “heated fellowship” between them, disciplining them, discipling  them, praying with and for them, bathing them, feeding them (not a typo–we are constantly feeding them!!), brushing their teeth, then, rocking and singing to them and tucking them in.  And then wake up to do all of that again.  Every.  Day.

I used to get frustrated often times watching baseball games.  If I ever saw a player not give his all for EVERY play, I would yell at him through my TV, telling him to HUSTLE!  “Come on!”  So aggravating as a former coach to see that.  But, I’ve eased up a bit.  Petersen used to play baseball.  He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and played in their farm league for two years, before he killed his shoulder and had to go to plan B and become an engineer.  And, he reminded me of just HOW many games they played. And that though they get paid A LOT of money, it is still A LOT of games.  Seriously—have you ever looked at a baseball schedule?  So, if a player didn’t lay out for EVERY play, I gave him a break.  Because my screams were really hurting their feelings…

But I think as Moms, we can get the same way.  We LOVE our jobs.  Best job in the world.  But, day after day, year after year, sometimes we can lose the pep in our step.  And it is OK.  And, I am sure glad I don’t have some crazy lady yelling at me—”Hustle up, would ya?  Hup hup hup!!  Mop that floor with some more pep!  Scrub that toilet like you mean it!!  Put your back into it!!  I don’t care if this is the best job ever—show it with some hustle and endless enthusiasm!!”

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The picture I wanted. From 2013. Only took 6 tries to get this.

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Here’s me losing it after a few attempts last year. Nice.

I loved seeing via Facebook the many different ways that my Mom friends celebrated their Mother’s Day.  So many were out and about at brunches, parks, dinner, movies, etc.  It put a HUGE smile on my face seeing them spoiled and loving every second.  Me?  Um, all I wanted to do was sleep.  Is that bad?  And, honestly, I just wanted to be alone.  If you know me at all—you know I ADORE my children.  ADORE them!!  But when, I ask you—other than Mother’s Day OR if you are having a baby in the hospital do you get a “Get out of doing anything/everything for one day” card?  …Maybe that is why we have five kids…for those two glorious days in the hospital of someone else taking care of me…hmmmm…

Ahhhh!  Back on track.  So, how can any husband make a Mom—either the Mother of their children or their Mom (now that they KNOW all that they did for them) feel like they should?  Serious pressure.  There is no breakfast that can make up for the hours and hours spent hovering over a toilet puking our guts out while we were pregnant.  No piece of jewelry that can EVER amount to the PAIN of childbirth.  What’s that—a 10 carat diamond?  Can I remind you that an ENTIRE baby came OUT of me!?!  Big bouquet of flowers?  Awwww, those are pretty, but they cannot make up for the buckets of tears that we Moms have cried over our children.  Either the agony of waiting while trying to get pregnant, the hormonal tears DURING pregnancy, the abundant tears of losing our baby while developing, the tears of joy at their birth, or the years and years of tears to come.  Either from realizing JUST how hard this job is—or crying with our kids when they are hurt.  Nothing.  There is NO THING in this world that can or could ever be an adequate gift for any Mom.  But, can I say.  We sure do appreciate your attempts.

Hearing the muffled giggles of my children Sunday morning was priceless and their squeals of delight when they “surprised” me with breakfast in bed were perfect.  Oooohing and aahhhhing over their homemade Mother’s Day creations brought ginormous smiles to their precious faces.  Telling me OVER and OVER how I didn’t have to help with ANYTHING was darling.  They were SO serious about that in fact—that they even opened my gifts for me.

So, no matter what your Mother’s Day looked like—either out and about, or more like mine (lots of sleeping and napping), I hope you were blessed and honored.  As I think we ALL know just how blessed we are to be called Mothers.

Blessings Sweet Mamas.

xo, Lori

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The only Mother’s Day picture I took this year. Our sweet blessing #5, Sarah Noelle. Sleepy baby and Happy Mommy.

 

The lost art of Forgiveness…let’s bring it back, because it is Beautiful.

Asking for forgiveness is a lost art, I think.  Though it is something we all know about–how rare it is these days.  Sure, we say ‘sorry’ all the time, or at least we should be.  But, when was the last time you actually asked someone, “Will you forgive me?”  And then waited to hear the verdict…”yes” or “no.”  I’m sure the last time I did was in conversation with Petersen, but that was a while ago, and besides him, I can’t think of another time.  It is a hard thing, this “asking for forgiveness.”  But, there is a very real, and very big difference between the two, and  I think it is something worth teaching to our children and perhaps refreshing on ourselves–myself included.

Why is it so hard?  Because we are prideful–I am prideful.  And saying “sorry” is pretty easy–it is one sided.  We can say it, move on, and tell ourselves, “ah, I said sorry, so they should be ok with it and I’ve done my part.”  But there really is something so beautiful in asking for forgiveness.  When you do it, and you put your heart out there to someone else to either accept or deny–talk about being humble and feeling meek.  But, when that someone says “yes, I forgive you,” — wow, there is this relief that happens in my heart.  And, I don’t feel the same when I just say “sorry,” because I wonder if they are forgiving me, like really forgiving me–meaning it is over, it is done.  And, similarly, when Petersen has done something that intentionally hurt me and he just says “I’m sorry,” I may smile, say “ok” and we hug, but a lot of times I still am hurt and a bit mad.  But, when he genuinely humbles himself and asks for forgiveness, I almost feel bad answering “yes” because what was the offense that he’s apologizing and asking forgiveness for, really?  Probably something pretty minor and petty.  But, hurtful nonetheless.  And when this whole exchange of asking and answering happens, our hearts are refreshed and healing starts.

Now, I am not saying that the hurtful thing disappears instantly.  Words and actions hurt, and they can leave deep deep scars.  But, healing can start when forgiveness is involved.

Now, teaching this to our kids can be tricky and takes more effort for sure.  But I truly think it is worth it–oh so worth it.  Because when you start to witness your children asking their siblings for forgiveness on their own–you just might tear up.  Again, I have 5 kids, so I am still teaching this, and will be for a while now.  But, I think my older three (ages 7, 6 and 4) actually understand it.  And, I want them to grow up doing this, so that it is normal and common for them to do–not something foreign; which is how it feels to me, still.  I feel awkward asking for forgiveness and there’s a pit in my stomach.  I was taught to say “sorry,” but I do not remember being taught to actually utter the words, “Will you forgive me?”  What a head start we will give our children for their future spouses!

Saying Sorry vs. Asking for Forgiveness

Saying “I’m sorry” is important.  But this is for accidental hurts, like the other day Lucy threw a ball and it hit Bethany directly in the head.  Made her cry, etc.  Lucy had to say “sorry” to Bethany, no big deal.  They hugged and started playing again.  Or if I bump into someone or step on your foot–“ahh I’m so sorry!”  But, when the hurt to someone else is intentional, there needs to be forgiveness.  Like when Lucy hits Bethany on the head on purpose out of frustration, or when Hannah *gasp* does not get her way and speaks ugly to Mommy or one of her siblings, or when Mommy loses her cool and yells at her children in anger…forgiveness is needed.

Again, this is going to take work and effort on your part, as making your kid just say “sorry” is the quicker and easier way out.  But just last week, Hannah mentioned to me that Bethany was not being very nice to her and was hurting her feelings by the things she was saying.  So, while giving Bethany a bath, I asked her about this and she confessed to me that she had in fact been a little mean to Hannah.  This was SHOCKING to me–as Bethany is my sweet as pie, easy kid.  And I honestly thought Hannah was just trying to get her sister into trouble.  Nope.  Bethany told me, “Yeah, I have been kind of not nice to Hannah lately Mommy.”  We talked through it some more and I mentioned to her that she needed to ask Hannah for forgiveness and she said “yes Mommy, I know.”

Then at dinner that night, while Hannah was helping me with dishes Bethany out of the blue said “Hannah, I am sorry for being not nice to you–you know, the other day?  Will you forgive me?”  I nearly cried as I watched this exchange happen.  You could just see the love oozing out of their hearts as they hugged and Hannah answered her sister with “yes.”

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that this is how it always goes down.  It doesn’t.  Sometimes, they are asking for forgiveness through gritted teeth.  In which case they are clearly not ready, and they are sent to “think” about it some more.  Sometimes, the asking for forgiveness is a few days away.  Because we are trying to teach them that when the asking and receiving of forgiveness happens, it is over and done with, truly.  No more anger, no hanging on to bitterness.  Really truly done.  Ahhhh, yes!  Such freedom in it.  And trust me–these little people can feel it, you can see it.  And it. is. beautiful.  Just like our Savior intended.

Blessings Friends.

 

 

Can we PLEASE stop it Moms? Seriously, grow up.

Before I start,  I just want to say, this is by no means meant to hurt feelings, etc.  There are just a few things I’d like us all to consider before we roll our eyes, write a blog post, share a blog post or applaud a blog post that is dealing with this “over celebrating” issue. –Even saying that, I know I’m not going to make any friends with this post…

I wrote about this issue over a month ago, but it is sitting in my “draft” section because I know what a touchy subject it is.  But after I started seeing yet again sweet friends of mine applauding and hailing a recent rant by a Mom about “over celebrating,” alas,  I cannot wait any longer.  As with any post, I hope to convey my two cents in honest love.  If you are on any type of social media, I am sure you at least saw this latest blog post.  Basically, it is yet another Mom ranting about the over celebrating of holidays–especially made up ones or minor ones, like “100 days of school”, “Dr. Seuss’s birthday” and the latest, St. Patrick’s Day.  I hope to add just a little perspective here and maybe a little self reflection to follow.

As your children grow, you change as a Mom.  You may not think that you will, but I assure you, you will.  Many of you young Moms won’t understand this now, but in a few years, you will.  I know, because I was just like you.  Not condemning or belittling here, because again, I was the same way.  I have changed over the years as a Mom–hopefully a bit wiser.  And, now having 5 children–even things that I thought when I had 3 kids has changed.  Recent example:  I SWORE I would never use a pull-up to potty train a child and I would potty train them on MY TIME–not when they were ready.  Well, guess what?  I was VERY pregnant with my fifth child AND moving to another state when I “should’ve been potty training Lucy.”  Then the onslaught of our family’s fall birthdays happened–along with everything else that happens in the fall, and then we had our sweet Sarah Noelle on December 8th.

Our Lucy turned 2 on October 2.  And with our life right now, I knew it would make me a stressful lunatic to try and train her in big girl panties like I did with my other girls.  So, she was trained in pull-ups.  She’s still wearing them.  She has not had an accident in over 2 weeks, AND she has kept her diaper dry through the night for the past week.  We are about ready to ditch all diaper related things for her, as she’s clearly got this.  But, had this been a former child, there is NO WAY I would have done it this way.  Yay for me–I am growing wiser.  Because really, who cares?  I mean really.  I have a potty trained 2+ year old.  You do it your way if it works for you, I’ll do it mine.  And, so far, I’ve potty trained each child differently.  And all are thriving, happy kids who can all “wipe their own…”  If you’ve seen Big Daddy, insert proper ending.

All that to say, stop it.  Seriously Moms, stop it!  Good grief.  I am going out on a limb here–but to me, these Moms who are ranting about other Moms “over celebrating” holidays (made up or real) have some self evaluating to do.  They talk about pressure, expectations, being overwhelmed, and competition.  Um, who’s competing?  May I submit this is perhaps your own insecurity?  Listen, I have 5 children ages 7 and under–it is physically impossible for me to do everything all out.  So, guess what?  I DON’T!!  And, when I see other Moms going all out, I think “Aww that is super fun and cute!  Yay for you!!”  I don’t roll my eyes and make comments to discourage their efforts.

I have a few friends who are these Moms–they go all out for birthdays, etc.  And, sure, there are probably Moms out there who go all out to “show off,” but not the girls I know.  They are creative beauties at heart, and to them, big, all out parties are fun and it helps them express their creativity while celebrating their children.  And, may I be so bold to ask this pointed question?  Would you judge a Mom who went all out if their child was sick, like really sick?  Or, if their child was sick and was miraculously healed?  Somehow, I don’t think you would.  So, why can’t a Mom go all out in celebration over the precious child God has blessed them with and celebrate that they are healthy?

Our family suffered a devastating loss last year.  We lost our baby nephew Dalton to Mitochondrial disease.  If by some miracle he had survived, um, can I tell you, I myself would have called Mac Powell from Third Day to come sing at his next birthday party and if my sister-in-law would have allowed me–it would’ve been the biggest bash EVER!  One more pointed question–would you roll your eyes or judge someone’s efforts if it was a party for YOU?  “How dare you make this party so darling for ME!!  You just went too far–you crossed the line.  This baby shower is ridiculous, too much, you should not have made such a fuss.”  Yes, I am being extremely sarcastic, but I really want us to stop and think for a minute about this.  Who doesn’t want to feel like they are worth being fussed over?  Heaven knows there is enough darkness in this world, can’t a Mom or a teacher shine a little light or spread a little joy?  And, if you are a teacher and you don’t want to fuss–don’t!  My kid will be just fine.

Why do we go to birthday parties?  To celebrate life.  Think it is wasteful?  Look in the Old Testament.  Talk about festivals!!  Our God is OK with celebrating!  If you don’t have time to go all out–or simply don’t want to, it is OK!!  Your child will love whatever you do.  You know your child the best, do what they want.  Sometimes I go all out–because I LOVE it.  But remember, I am a girl who loves to scrapbook (never does anymore, because I have no time to) and I love hosting parties.  So, for me, it is win win. I get to spoil and celebrate my precious child and make them feel super special AND love on and serve my family and friends.  Do I do this for every birthday?  NO.  As with every season in life, sometimes I can do it, other times, it is just too much and we go store bought.  Thank you Party City.  Either way, my kids feel special and the friends I have don’t care.  Hopefully, they are there to celebrate with me the joy of children, just like when I attend their kids’ party.  I am there for them, not judging their party décor.  Sheesh, how did we get so judgmental and self absorbed as Moms?

Moving on.  School stuff.  Again, you might not get this until your children are in school and are old enough to get excited about these little celebrations.  But, mine are–some of them.  I have a 2nd grader and a Kindergartener. We just recently celebrated the 100th day of school, Dr. Seuss’s birthday and yes, St. Patrick’s Day.  They came home telling me silly stories of what their leprechaun did in their classroom with such giggles, it melted my heart.  What did I do for St. Patrick’s Day?  Um, nothing.  I didn’t even wear green. *gasp* Thankfully Petersen remembered the morning of to have them change their shirts to have something green on.  But that’s it.  No leprechaun trap, no Lucky Charms–shoot, we had to drop off our car to be fixed and eat at Moe’s for dinner.  No corned beef and cabbage here–happy early Cinco de Mayo!  Ha!  Did I stress out and feel like an awful Mom because I didn’t do all that stuff?  NO.  Not. Even. A Little.  Grow up people, seriously.  Sorry, I am really not trying to offend or be mean, but seriously, grow up.

The only competition is self inflicted.  Nobody cares what you do or don’t do with your kid–so back off the Moms who want to go all out.  Our kids are little for a short time, and if seeing them giggle in delight over green eggs and ham, a little green glitter on the floor from their naughty leprechaun fills them with joy–let them!  Applaud them.  Doing stuff like this for your kids should not be overwhelming or a burden; if it is, don’t do it.  If I feel like doing fun extra “over-achieving” stuff, I do.  If I don’t, I don’t.  If my kids whine that I didn’t “do something” (which they have not), I will tell them oh so sweetly, “Oh wow Honey!  Your friend’s Mom did what?  That is super fun.”  And, we move on.

Having some fun at school is great–even welcomed by me!  I did not have homework in Kindergarten, mine son does.  These kids work hard at school.  I HATE, yes HATE that they have homework.  I want them outside playing when they get home from school, not doing more school work!  Didn’t they do enough in the 6+ hours that they were there?  So again, for me, I appreciate my kids’ teachers and the little bits of fun they sneak in every month.

Whew, sorry…but this whole Moms judging Moms thing REALLY BUGS ME!  Can we just stop it?  Accept who we are or who we are not?  Build each other up and encourage each other in what we are gifted or talented in?  Bottom line…LOVE one another.

Blessings Friends.

*In case you are looking to go all out or just some simple, custom things, check out two of my friends’ Holly and Marcy’s Etsy sites:

www.etsy.com/shop/PreppyLaneBoutique

http://www.etsy.com/shop/magicbymarcy

You want me to love like what? Like that? Yes.

I have always loved the Greeks.  Their intriguing myths, their grand architecture and sculpture, their delicious food—and, I happen to know a few Greeks, and they are quite something!  But, one of the things that I appreciate more than all of those is their language.  A simple word for us in our English dictionary is just that, simple.  But, for them, they have separate words for each subtle difference.  It is beautiful.

The Greek word that I really wrestled with last week was agape.  Now, this is most likely old news to you if you are a Bible nerd like me…but in case you didn’t know…can I tell you something really cool??  Our word love, in Greek has multiple meanings?  And when we read the word love in the Bible, we really should know which love it actually is referring to.

Here are  few:  First, we have agape.  This is spiritual love, truly unconditional love, completely selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return; whether the love given is returned or not, the person continues to love.  Wow.  Yep, that is agape love, and that is God’s love for us—everyone, believer or not.  You all know the verse John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,…… See the ‘loved’ in that verse?  In the original language, that is agape.  He loves us all, whether or not we love Him back, spit in His face, use His name in vain or crucify His Son.  He. Still. Loves.  You and me.   Again, old news to most of you.  But, what hit me so hard this past week was realizing that I am supposed to love like that too.  Before I get ahead of myself let’s be sure to refresh ourselves on the other “love” definitions.

Next up is eros.  This, as you can probably guess is physical and romantic love; dating, marriage, more than friends.  You get the picture.  But, again, in the Bible, this would just say love.

Third is phileo. I like this one; this is “mental” love, brotherly love.  This is love that has a give and take relationship.  Think Philadelphia—city of what?  Yes, brotherly love.  This is for most of our friend relationships I imagine.  Or at least it is for me.

Then there is storge.  This one means “affection.”  Natural affection—like the love we have for our children.  It is innate, we love our children before they are even born, it is completely amazing and we feel it with no effort on either side.

So, as I was preparing my lesson for my sweet middle school and high school girls last week, Paul, in his letter to the church at Colossae wrote of their “love for all the saints. (Colossians 1:4)”  Ok, what kind of love are we talking about and who are ‘the saints?’   Well, it is agape love here and the saints are ‘holy people, who are set apart,’ meaning believers.  Now, hear me—NOT perfect people, but people who belong to God.  These are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  So Lord, You are telling me that I am supposed to love, like agape love my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?  Ummmm, I am not sure I can do that.  Because when I really think about that, like really meditate on that, who can I say in my life that I love like that?  I mean, let’s start with the easiest people, my husband and kids.  Of course I love Petersen more than any other person on the planet, and my children are next.  But, they love me back; therefore that is easy love; hard at times, but really, easy.  Ok next, friends and family.  I LOVE, like LOVE my girlfriends and my big extended family; but, they love me back too, it is reciprocal.  This is phileo love.  I wish I could say it was agape love, but I am not sure I would be great friends with someone who I kept pouring out to and pouring out to and received no love back in return.  This is not agape love because it is conditional.  Ugh, no bueno.

Hence, my struggle.  I realized that I don’t even love my family and friends with this thing called agape love, yet my Savior wants me to love my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with this kind of love!?!  Lord, how do I do that?  Like really, how do I do that?  I am a mother of five children who are little and very needy!!  But, my heart truly truly desires to obey His Word, because I know He means what He says.  So, sponsor a Compassion child?  Sure, we do that.  But, we get sweet notes and pictures from our girl Vivian and it fills my heart.  Bring a meal to someone in need?  Sure, I do that whenever I can; but I get a huge hug and a ‘thank you.’  Again, fills my heart right up.  Everywhere I looked, I was receiving back.  And I really truly want to do this thing, but how?  It was weighing heavy on my heart, because I was convinced I could not do it.

As my study continued, the dagger dug deeper.  “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.  The one who loves (agape) his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”  1 John 2:9-10

And “If someone says, ‘I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love (agape) his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  1 John 4:20-21

Here are a few more you can look up;  1 John 3:14-15 and 1 John 3:10

And every time love is used in those verses, it is agape love.  I began to feel sad, burdened and like an utter failure to my King.  Then I was reminded of the fact that Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30.  Agape love should not be a burden if it is real and genuine.

As I prayed through this, He gently spoke to me in church on Sunday.  This thing called agape love—it is the church—His church.  Not just the physical place where we congregate and worship.  It is the church—the family of Believers all over the world.  And we can show real agape love in tons of different ways from serving at our local church to supporting missionaries on the other side of the earth.

Our church here in north Georgia is small—like super small.  Think church plant; and that is our church.  Our children alone make up half of the entire children’s ministry, and we all know if someone is new on Sunday or Wednesday.  Small church.  We came from a mega church—Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale, then to one quite a bit smaller, Calvary Chapel Tallahassee; but never to one this small.  We know this is where we are supposed to be though, no doubt.

I often wondered why God moved us to Tallahassee; because when we prayed about moving out of south Florida, it was to be up here–in north Georgia.  Not Tallahassee.  Why the pit stop Lord?  We loved our time there and we made the most amazing friends there; some lifelong friends.  But, I still wondered why.  I will ask Him when I see Him.  But now, I think I know why.  It was a time of growth for us.  There’s so much more to it, but in trying not to be too long-winded, I will just say that.  Had we come straight here from Ft. Lauderdale, I would have been far too immature of a Christian to stay at this church.  I would have wanted more programs for my kids, a Bible study up and running, VBS, a borderline professional band on stage for worship and the most eloquent and seasoned teacher.  I hate admitting this now because it is so shallow and selfish.  But, true none the less.   That is not my church, yet.  All of those things are great—wonderful things for churches!!  We hope to get there as soon as possible, so please don’t mishear me.  Big churches have great benefits, but there is something precious and beautiful about a small church.

My husband and I recently started serving our church on Wednesday nights.  Our kids go to bed at 7:30ish; church starts at 7.  Huh.  How is this going to work?  Doesn’t matter; we knew it was our time to serve, and He would work out the details.  But, with us serving, they needed someone to watch our kids so we could teach the bigger kids.  Geez, are we helping or are we a burden?  And this is what God so sweetly showed me, the beautiful picture of the church (or at least this small aspect of it).

Stay with me here;  I serve the middle/high school girls, women rotate through and serve my children, Petersen serves the semi-bigger boys, our pastor serves the high school boys, our parstor’s wife serves the ladies, and more women serve on Sunday mornings so I can be served in service.  Get that?  If we all, as a church just give and serve where there is a need—may I submit that that is agape love?  Because what is our greatest possession to give?  Our time; we can never get it back, ever.  I would argue money is second.  But, I am not going there today.  If you think there are no needs at your church, you are wrong—ask.  There’s always a need.  The question is, are you willing to do what they need?  What if they need someone to clean the bathrooms after service?  Or help out in the toddler room?  NO!  Anything but the toddler room!!!

So, are we willing?  Are we willing to inconvenience our lives for the sake of others?  For the sake of His church?  Are we willing to do what no one else wants to do.  AND, after we do it; expect nothing in return—and be ok with that?  No pat on the back, no service hours to check off, no certificate of appreciation, no article in the newspaper applauding your service, no one highlighting what you did in the bulletin?  Just serving, purely out of the need in our heart to do so—stemming from our thankfulness for the cross.  And when it is rooted in thanksgiving, it doesn’t feel like serving, it is not a burden—Lord knows He doesn’t want us serving if we are dreading it, or begrudgingly doing it.  And this is NOT a “earning our way into heaven thing.”  Or “trying to be a good person thing.”  Both are impossible.  We all fall short, and faith alone secures our eternal residence.

I know I have a long way to go to be able to love with the agape type love that He requires, but one day at a time, I am hoping He refines me more and more, so that loving like that comes easy.  He alone can make that change in me; and I am trusting Him to do it.  One surrendered day after another.

Blessings Friends.