Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Strongest of Cords

A little boy and his cat--February 2008.
Same boy, same cat--November 2009
Some mothers may fall in love with their babies at first sight. But I didn't. Three short years ago tonight, it was impossible for me to imagine how large a piece of my heart I was about to give away.

In the delivery room, I remember thinking my firstborn son, Wyatt, was beautiful. I remember swelling with happiness as the nurses lay his swollen, pink-faced, swaddled body in my arms for the first time. I remember feeling an irrational first-time mother's possessiveness when someone else held him along with an equally irrational desire to protect him against everyone and everything.

Later, I also remember thinking I might break him, he was so tiny...and that if he didn't stop crying for hours on end and start sleeping for more than two hours at a time, I might have a breakdown.

Those first few days and weeks, my heart did not long to be near him. Love, in the truest dictionary sense, just wasn't an emotion I felt for this squalling figure who demanded everything but was satisfied with nothing.

And yet, my love for him grew each time I held him, each trial we overcame, each milestone we passed--together...from his first words to the paragraphs he rattles off today. From the leaky diapers to the success of being potty trained. From crying each time I left him anywhere to bouncing into a familiar place and saying, "Bye mommy."

Like a tiny morning glory's seed sprouts in the moonlight and its wiry tendrils creep ever so slowly, winding around the fencepost. The plant grows too slow for the naked eye to observe until the entire fence row is seemingly overnight entangled in forever cords of green and brightly colored blossoms that burst open wide with the dawn of each new day.

What once was a single, delicate tendril, easily broken, is now a mass of strong vines unable to easily be separated from the fence.

That is my love for Wyatt.

I don't remember when I started loving him. I just know I do.

Thank you God for three years of being able to love this little boy. On this his third birthday, my prayer is for many more years of love and laughter to come and for him to learn to love my Jesus as I do.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Thought I Knew What "G" Meant

Everywhere I've turned lately, I have heard wonderful things about Disney's new movie, The Princess and the Frog. It has the first African-American princess and is set in New Orleans, which as a Louisiana resident, was a huge selling point.

Since my almost three-year-old had never before gone to the movies, I thought this would be a fun introduction to the world of the big screen.

Boy was I ever wrong.

As usual, we left for the 10 am showing with no extra time to spare...not a great idea in Christmas traffic. Also as usual, Wyatt gave me another backseat lesson on how to drive. Today's lesson concerned what to do with traffic signals.

At one intersection, I was slowing to obey the reduced speed limit when Wyatt suddenly yelled like a cheerleader encouraging a wide receiver, "Green light! Go! Go! Go!" Then, the light ahead turned red. "Stop mommy! Red light means stop!"

(There aren't enough exclamation points for this child's decibel level in enclosed spaces.)

Despite my pathetic driving skills, we made it, got our tickets, and marched to the very top row as the previews were showing.

Wyatt didn't like the fact that the theater was in the dark, something I hadn't even thought to prepare him for. But as long as he was in my lap or my arm was around him, he was fine.

His mommy, on the other hand, was not fine with the movie's content.

The movie was rated G (I made certain of that beforehand) which means "
nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture".

But this Christian mother of a young child was offended.

What the movie reviews don't dwell on is the Satanic evil promoted throughout--the magic of voodoo--and I consider that offensive. Sure, I expected voodoo to be mentioned since it's associated with New Orleans, but I had no idea voodoo would be one of THE central themes of the story.

For example, the main evil character, referred to as the Shadowman, is a evil voodoo magician who turns the Prince into a frog by twice getting the Prince's blood into a voodoo talisman. He makes deals with the black voodoo spirits (his "friends on the other side") and then sends these terrifying-looking black shadowy spirits to hunt down the Prince and the future princess, Tiana. If I were a kid, those shadows would have given me nightmares. And even the fairy godmother-type character, Mama Odie, is connected with voodoo as a white/good priestess.

Oh how dumb, dumb, dumb I feel for not reading more about this movie before we went.
I'm careful about what I allow him to watch on TV. PBS and our DVD collection are the only things he's allowed to watch without first going through the mommy/TiVo commercial censor.

Thankfully, it all seems to have gone totally over Wyatt's head. As we walked from the darkness into the bright sun , all he cared about was lunch, and he hasn't mentioned the movie since.

His innocence shone through when I asked if he'd like to have a roast beef sandwich at Arby's. He misheard me and the entire ride there kept saying "I have a Darby sandwich at Darby's" (Darby is Winnie the Pooh's friend).

It's so hard to keep that innocence. I don't want to let it go any sooner than I have to.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

For Better, For Worse

Nine years ago tonight, we had successfully said our vows, signed the paperwork in front of witnesses, cut the cake, hugged everyone in the receiving line, and taken more pictures than we ever had before. My family laughingly gave this photo the caption, "Doug dragging Jennifer down the aisle."

And he kinda was. After finishing the actual ceremony, which he considered the last marital hoop to reach the finish line, he was ready for the honeymoon suite.

What he didn't know was that the honeymoon suite was an omen of our life to come. The fireplace electric heater was broken. The hotel's staff came in two times to fix it (not quite romantic), but they failed miserably. So, we spent a very frigid night trying to sleep in a ginormous ice-box. Since neither of us sleeps well when cold, we woke up sleepy and grumpy the first day of married life. And by the end of our honeymoon a week later, we both were bedridden with a bad case of the flu.

And there went the honeymoon phase of our marriage.

I'm glad we didn't know what the "for better or worst" vow would mean for the next 9 years.

But through the worst--the loss of two babies, the loss of a job and a career, the almost loss of a limb in the chainsaw accident, the problematic births of all three of our children--through all the worst, we've grown closer. I mean, anybody who helps bathe you when you're wounded and scarred, who shops and cooks for you--those acts of kindness are the ones that make you appreciate each other.

And today it was funny to watch what our anniversary has turned into.

Pre-children, Doug would've sent me a huge arrangement of roses that I'd have to watch with vigilance because the cats like to eat rose leaves. Now? For the first time--no cut roses. Instead, a gift certificate to Jackson & Perkins so I can buy roses to grow at our long-awaited "new house." My heart just melted at this symbolic gift of life and permanence.

Pre-children, we would have dressed up and gone to Melting Pot and spent two, quiet, romantic hours in peace. Now? My shirt had kid snot wiped on it, and somebody's footprint was stamped on my jeans. Instead of dinner, it was a crowded luncheon at La Madelaine's with three children + my mother added to the noisiest table in the room. Three baby birds needing to eat everything on our plates and imitating a monkey's call when our hands didn't work fast enough. One big bird had a squalling meltdown when he discovered we were all "sharing" the one piece of chocolate sacher torte. And then that same bird picked up the plate and licked every last drop of chocolate sauce off. (Yes--it was that good).

My grandmother asked me the other day if I were wearing a new ring. I looked down at it. It did look a lot shinier than normal, but not because it spends most of its life on a shelf.

"No," I said. "Same old wedding ring. I've just been washing sippy cups a lot each day so it stays shinier."

Just like my marriage--more work I put into it, the shinier it gets. Now, it does make it easier to see the defects. But it also makes it easier to see the beauty of the whole.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nothing Like the Picture on the Box

When my almost 3-year-old isn't disparaging my driving skills, he uses the time he's strapped in the van's back seat to pepper me with out-of-the-blue statements that leave me wondering what book he has secretly stowed back there to spark such a wild imagination.

This week's hit-the-brake moment was Wyatt's declaration that he wanted to make a gingerbread house.

I'm sure my mother made more than one gingerbread house during my childhood, but in my mind, I remember only one such creation that sat on the hallway table. I can envision its rock hard royal icing, cardboard base, and candies that looked good enough to eat but were off limits. I also remember it taking her forever to decorate.

This memory was enough for me to know a house was not something I really wanted to undertake until all three of my children were old enough to actually remember and appreciate my labors.

This Grinch of a mommy said "no." The next day when we visited my parents, his very first words were, "Ma-ma! I want to make a gingerbread house!"

A $10 donation to Wilton and Wal-mart later by those same grandparents, and his house was more than just a pipe dream.

The everything-in-a-box kit pictured a snow-covered house with beautifully drawn straight lines making a criss-cross pattern on the roof, perfectly spaced icicles dangling from the eaves, identically-sized windows, and full evergreen trees crafted from shredded gum drops.

By the time we finished, ours looked nothing like the box.

For starters, this house wasn't up to code. It came pre-built with a slight lean. Then came Wyatt's concept of decorating--every last piece of candy that came with the kit had to go on the house. My attempt at straight lines and uniformly-sized windows also failed because Wyatt kept bumping my arm or turning the house. And I'm still scratching my head over how Wilton's decorators got their gum drop trees to look like pine feathered limbs versus my mini cubes stuck together.

Nothing like the box.But it made a little boy happy. And I must admit it was fun.

And yet it made me think about the Christmas story, how the reality of the nativity is nothing like what's pictured on our cards, ornaments, and framed art.

You've seen the pictures--sweet, beautiful Mary without a crease in her brow as she watches over her never-crying baby sleeping in a manger lined with perfectly spaced, clean straw. Surrounding her is a pristine stable full of perfectly-groomed animals as spotlessly-clothed, well-manicured shepherds kneel quietly before Jesus.

Yeah right. Let's face it--childbirth is a messy, sweaty, exhausting ordeal. If Mary's labor was anything like mine, she looked pretty haggard. And if Joseph stuck around through the entire ordeal, I'm guessing he didn't look too hot either.

And then there's the stable. Ever been in one? They stink. They're dirty. And if this stable was actually a cave as modern scholars have suggested, it was damp, too. Damp + animal poop = really stinky.

The manger? Imagine a feed trough, a crude, wooden box coated with years of caked-on slobbery cow spit and slimy pig snot.

Finally, consider the shepherds--in reality, these were extremely low-class people, not exactly accepted in polite society. They may not have had a bath in weeks, and I'm thinking Mary probably raised more than one protective new-mother eyebrow at several strange, drunk-sounding men bursting into the stable telling a wild story of angels.

Not the sanitized nativity picture we see this time of year.

But the reality of Christ's birth just makes it that much more amazing that He would leave heaven for someone like me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God Shops Wal-Mart's Clearance Aisles Too

A few weeks ago, Jennifer @ Getting Down with Jesus published a post about starting a Prayer Shawl Ministry . I love this woman more than should be possible since we've never actually met. Her heart note resounds a perfect C in Christ, so when I read her words, I listen for God to speak to me.

Two weeks later, the prayer shawl ministry was still in the forefront of my mind as something God was prompting me to do, but the online pattern looked a bit more intense, meaning "too many places for me to screw up!" since I have little time to crochet without the the three children demanding my attention.

If it's not a pattern I can easily do while both twins cry about something and my other 3-year-old son sings in a not-so-inside voice...well, then it just won't get done.

So, I did what many daughters do--I went and asked my mother if she could simplify the pattern for me, and she did.

A day later,I opened my closet and unveiled part of my "stash" of yarn, and her mouth just dropped open. "You know what this means, don't you? You know why God gave you this yarn?" As I handed her a few skeins, I answered. "Yes, I do."

Three or four years ago, Wal-mart put on clearance for $1 or $2.50 a skein (reg. $4.50 each) all their homespun Lion Brand yarns. Beautiful teals and eggplant purples, waterfall blues and quartz beige/browns--I didn't know what I'd ever do with that much yarn, but I felt compelled to buy it all. With my husband's eyes rolling heavenward at what would his nutty wife possibly want next, he agreed, and I brought 3 huge boxes to our home where I promptly tucked them away in closets...for years.

But I've been so excited lately about this yarn. It's proof that God has been at work in my life in different areas I hadn't even thought would be an area where God would work! He is the one who prompted my heart all those years ago to buy the yarn. But it took this many years to conform my heart and spirit into a humble attitude of service where I would be willing to spend my personal time making this gift for someone not in my family. It took this long for me to not just hear another's need, but to feel it, to grieve over it.

God has given me a heart transplant, replacing a stoic one with a heart so tender, I can't wear mascara anymore unless it's waterproof. He's given me a heart for this ministry. In one week's time, the ministry has taken off. I am a few rows from finishing a prayer shawl for a lady whose husband will pass away soon from liver disease. And I'm halfway through another one for a good friend who's having a rough time with her insecure job situation. My mother, as well, has finished one prayer shawl for a woman whose husband just lost his job. And she's now making one for her mother in law who is nearly always in pain because of her physical condition. All of these shawls came from "THAT" yarn.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out that God stocks Wal-Mart's clearance aisle with other surprises that can be used for His kingdom work, if we're paying attention.

Thank you God for being patient with me. Thank you for not just finding somebody else for the ministry. Your patience, your waiting--they humble me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"THE Talk"

"How do you tell your children about this? Don't you just dread that talk?" she asked.

I flinched at the questions. "No," I replied quickly, only to hear my heart whispering, "and yes, too."

A week ago, a simple white envelope in the mailbox gave my husband and me an evening where we paused in sadness, lowering our shoulders in defeat yet again. Because of one woman's lie to protect herself almost five years ago, my husband permanently lost his Louisiana law license earlier this year. And now, the other state where he practiced law, Mississippi, has done the same.

There went Plan B for his career and our family's future. But this time, there were no tears, no feeling of brokenness inside. Most days, we accept that God has caused this to happen for our eternal good. Most days, this catastrophic event is just something else to tuck away in our hearts as we move forward in a renewed life full of God's grace and blessings.

But my mother was right--he and I will need to sit the children down one day all too soon and tell them their daddy's story, a story any child can relate to of someone not telling the truth because she didn't want to get in trouble.

Since the Internet makes history permanently visible for public consumption, I don't want them relying on a google search for a definition of their father's character.

Google doesn't even tell a tenth of who he is.

It doesn't show a man who refused to lie when offered the deal to sell out somebody else in order to save himself and his family from this shame.

It doesn't tell of a man so generous with his money and time that the thought of him trying to defraud anybody is laughable.

It doesn't show the long days and nights he works to support his family only to come home and put in more hours playing with his children, changing diapers, and helping out with supper.

It doesn't tell of the humble spirit, the many hours he spends in God's word, the heart that loves Jesus.

No, Google doesn't show any of that.

And that's what I'll tell my children...when they're ready.

(Photo: My man, home from work and arms already full before the tie comes off.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An I.Q. of Zero

Newsflash! I am now officially the dumbest mommy in the world...or at least that's what my almost three-year-old would have me believe.

It's amazing that I've spent 30+ years without questioning my ability to function in the world, only to learn I've been wrong, wrong, wrong the entire time.

For starters, I have no idea what the weather is really like outside. It doesn't matter if I've consulted the local meteorologist's report or if I've merely watched with my own eyes the dark clouds barrel closer towards us. Whatever--I'm wrong.

If I say, "It's too cold to go outside," Wyatt says, "It not too cold outside!" If I say it's nice weather, he says, "No. It hot out here." If I hear thunder in the distance and say it's going to rain, he retorts, "It no rain." And even when the rain is pouring like a waterfall off our roof, he has to actually look out the window and see it before he believes me...and sometimes not even then.

Next, I don't know how to feed my child a decent meal. I'm not talking about his holding the party line with the phrase "I no love broccoli" each time I put broccoli on my plate. No. The food I put on his plate is always wrong. It's too hot, too cold, too yucky, too "slip-per-y" to stay his fork. But put tomatoes, croutons, pasta, carrot sticks or anything else on my plate, and even if the same exact thing is on his plate, too, it's suddenly better. My plate, my spoon, my fork, my glass--somehow, they make the meal palatable.

And finally, I don't know how to drive. I haven't had a wreck that was my fault since my first year of college, and yet with Wyatt in the backseat, I'm a car racing maniac ready to plow into someone around the next curve. With each bump in the pavement, he screams, "Be more careful, mommy!" If I hit the brake a little harder than usual, he frantically asks, "What happened? Are you ok, mommy?" With each curve taken over 5 mph, he yells, "You turnin' me over like a tow truck!" And even when I'm not driving the speed limit, he's yelling, "Woah! Slow down! You going to get a ticket!"

And these stories don't even mention my awful taste in music ("I no like that!"), my poor taste in clothes ("But I no need to wear pants!"), my radical views about nap-taking for mommy's sanity ("But I not sleepy!"), my dangerous views about invisible scratches not being a big deal ("I need a band-aid!") , or my ridiculous ideas about saying "I'm sorry" even if it was an accident (Silence).

Who knew I couldn't read a weather map, couldn't cook, couldn't commandeer a van with power steering...couldn't be a good mother?

Whatever happened to that bedtime story where young children idolize their parents and think their parents are perfect?

I'm not sure who made up that lie, but they never met my Wyatt.

Photo: Wyatt at the twins' 1st b-day, after eating ice cream and expressing his view that cutlery is just for table decoration.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Removing Blood Stains

The cozy sanctuary of this morning's Bible study was interrupted by my father opening the door. His serious eyes searched for mine as he beckoned me to come.

"It's Amelia. She's hurt herself."

A mommy's heart sinks at those words.

Then I learned the facts: the twins had sneakily gone cabinet shopping while Oma took a quick phone call. Butter-fingered Emerson then let an unopened jar of jelly drop two feet onto Amelia's hand. And now her finger was cut, bleeding, and swelling.

In seconds, I had gone from the quiet serenity of understanding God's word with my ladies to the anxiousness of not knowing how serious my daughter's condition was.

The adrenaline of a mother called into action surged through me. Hazard lights flashing, I drove as fast as I thought wouldn't get me killed on empty back country roads. Visions of stitches and surgery roared through my head as I spun into the gravel drive, seat belt off before the van was even in park.

And there she sat on the rug with Oma--not crying, not even caring that she was bleeding on everything. Her shoes, her outfit, her cheek--smeared with blood.

So much blood from such a small finger--steadily painting everything it touched with deep crimson drops.

At the pediatrician's office, the lady doctor smashed the finger again, making it bleed all the more. Her instructions: watch for increased swelling and come back in tomorrow to drill a hole in the nail if it is worse.

In the meantime, no band aids because she might swallow them and choke. Just let it bleed and keep it clean with antibacterial soap and ointment. Easy instructions from someone not having to clean up the bloody mess.

Two pair of shoes, two outfits, bedclothes and blanket, my shirt, Emerson's clothes, the linoleum tile, the stuffed rocking dog--and that's just to name a few on my list to clean. At one point this afternoon after Amelia tripped and caught herself with her hurt hand, I held her crying form as blood dripped down my neck.

I've washed my hands until they're dry and begging for a drink of lotion. But they still have that metallic smell.

As I stood at the washer to scrub the blood stains out of my shirt this evening, my mind went back to Mary. I know we remember Jesus' birth this time of year, but the events of today have reminded me of the cross, of the sacrificial blood Jesus shed.

Scripture tells us Mary stood beneath that cross. As the blood streamed down my Savior's body and gravity brought the drops to the foot of the cross, it's likely her clothes were stained with that precious blood. In her poverty, she probably just couldn't throw those clothes away.

It's not found in Scripture, but I still wonder if she stood, like me, scrubbing the life blood of her child from her garments.

My mother's heart pains with that thought. And it wonders.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Taking Pictures with My Heart

The word "ponder" means "to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply," or so says old Mr. Webster.

On this cold, rainy day, God has continuously brought to my mind a single verse: "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."(Luke 2:19).

In a world before Kodak and Nikon, every picture Mary took was stored away in her heart. Only a mother could take some of those shots. Only a mother's heart would be pierced by the small things that others would just ignore.

And so I've been quietly treasuring some recent special moments that make motherhood worthwhile:

Afternoon open-mouthed kisses from the twins.

Wyatt asking me to pick him up so he could see himself in the mirror and then smiling as he said, "Heh heh heh. I'm beau-ti-ful."

Three sets of eyes lighting up after being away from mommy for a few hours.

Wyatt scribbling "letters" on a paper, which he gave me as he said, "This is for you, mommy. For my BEST friend mommy."

And just the other day, Wyatt sitting on top of the picnic table (a "no-no") and putting his hand out to keep Amelia from falling. Already protecting his little sister.
My heart is full tonight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just Get It Over With

My family didn't get dressed up. We didn't frantically clean house to ensure no relative would find a surface harboring dust. And there was no bird to carve at our table.

But we still ate too much, enjoyed family time, and took an afternoon nap.

Turkey and andouille gumbo, homemade rolls, fried shrimp and oysters--it may not sound like Thanksgiving fare to you, but that's the meal our kitchen turned out today.

Before all the food made it to the table, Wyatt wandered into the kitchen to discover his Grandmama frying shrimp. Since this is one of his favorites, he quickly scaled rungs to sit atop the bar stool and somehow convinced MaMa that he needed a shrimp now. A short prayer later, that shrimp was history.

Moments later, I saw him take another shrimp from the bowl, bow his head a second time and repeat his meal-time prayer again.

I held my breath as I listened, making sure I could understand the words.

Although this is supposed to be a week of thanks, two days ago, Wyatt decided he could rush through his mealtime prayer. In his impatience to start eating, he decided expediting the prayer would be ok.

It started on Tuesday when Wyatt forgot to pray at lunch. Hungry from three hours of running around outside, he didn't have to be told twice to get in his chair. Two little hands grabbed the peanut butter and honey sandwich as he opened his mouth as wide as it could go, ready to take a huge bite.

He was mid-bite when I yelled, "Wait! You forgot to thank God for the food!"

He removed the sandwich from his mouth, but didn't drop it as he bowed the head.

"God is great. God is good. Letusthankhimforthefoodamen."

I had to make him repeat it twice before he got it right. But then he did the same thing for supper that night and then again lunch the next day.

Mommy's authority was failing to stop this new speedy prayer. So, I tried the "blame it on God" tactic. "You need to say your prayers slowly. God can't understand you when you talk so fast."

Wyatt grinned that "mommy is so stupid" grin and in his silly voice said, "God can understand ME."

Ok, got me there--dumb mommy.

So then I explained that maybe God liked it when he said the prayer slow because it sounds more like he really is thankful and it makes God feel special.

Surprise, surprise--that worked. No more just-get-it-over-with prayers in the last 24 hours.

The sad part? I know where he gets it from. I've caught myself with the same attitude about prayer.

I know the role it should play in a Christian's life. I have lived the results of its power. And yet, all too often, I rush through a prayer so I can get on to something else. Even at night when I sit down to do an hour or more of in-depth Bible study, I find myself praying all too quickly so I can get to the "good part."

Maybe I'm the only one who has this problem.

But I want my prayer life to be more than just me repeating my prayer-list back to God. I want it to be more than just the sentence prayers of thanks and requests that I offer up all throughout the day.

I want to enjoy an unrushed two-way prayer exchange between me and God just like my Bible study has become.

I want to consider prayer the "good part," too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Destination Nowhere

My shoulders stiff from hours stooped over student papers last night, I take hold of the handle and begin pulling 50+pounds of twins in the red wagon.

Wyatt knows what it means when I click the blue straps around two little waists. And he responds as only he can--skipping, jumping up and down, running in excited jubilation.

But even though he knows what's happening, he still asks the same question each day. "We go on a nature walk!?"

He and I march through thick grass, wet from Sunday's showers; through clean packed dirt marked with fresh deer tracks at the edge of the fallow field; and through crawfish hole territory where a village of towering mud homes makes easy targets for small feet to kick over.

As we make our way around the yard, Wyatt kicks at each ant pile to reveal an underground network filled with white baby ants. He adds one more small stick to the towering pile of limbs needing to be burned. He picks me blue weed blossoms to wear in my hair or put in the back porch vase.

The point isn't to get exercise, although that's a side benefit. It isn't to go fast and get the journey over with.
No, in this case, the journey is the destination.

For a few minutes, we stop our individual labors and join together, this mommy and her children, to notice God's creation changing around us.

We marvel over the single pear blossom, open out of season. The pink toadstool near the back "hill". Stiff moss growing on a rotten tree branch. Tire tracks from daddy's lawnmower labors. A woolly bear caterpillar that, as Wyatt put it, curled up into a "prick-i-ly ball."
Thanksgiving isn't one day a year at our house. God's creation gives a new reason to be thankful every day...if we just take the time to really look around us.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Living in the Outtakes

A three-year old and one-year-old twins walk into a portrait studio.

The newly-walking 1-year-old girl says, "Wide open space!" and refuses to sit still unless bribed with animal cookies.

The 1-year-old boy says, "No, I'm not going to smile" and proceeds to look bored in all the shots.

The three year old says, "I don't want to take pictures!" and does everything he can to prove his point.

He says "cheese!" and grins like a goofball.
He sticks his hands in his pants and then hides behind mommy when told to stop it.

He pulls his pants up to his knees.

And when he finally cooperates, the twins start crying.
The final picture we'll send to family and friends (none of these here) just doesn't tell the real story.

It doesn't show the night before preparations--six pairs of brown and black shoes lined up across daddy's desk. Six little pairs of socks laid out with six precious outfits.

It doesn't show a devoted pair of grandparents waving feather boas and musical Santa dolls in the air behind the camera to try and get three independent children to cooperate. Or those same grandparents helping dress and redress squirming arms and legs.

It doesn't show a mother's prayer for just one decent shot of everybody looking at the camera...and for her to maybe look halfway pretty, too.

But these pictures that didn't quite make the cut...they're where my life truly is. My life definitely isn't found in three perfectly behaved angels or in perfect hair days.

It's found in loud shrieks of laughter, boo-boo tears, and many a child's pant-less (and shoe-less) afternoon on the farm. It's lived in tousled hair, dirt-streaked faces , and truck races to the back pine tree.

No studio portrait can show all that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Upside Down Christmas

Each time we visit the mall, my almost three-year-old is drawn to the cow hide ottoman and zebra hide chair. Textures interest him. But lately, his interest has shifted to this upside down Christmas tree.

I initially thought it was some stock boy's idea of a joke. But another upside-down tree is in the same major department store at the other mall across town. It's intentional, obviously a decision from corporate headquarters.

Whether or not it's intended to serve as a statement on what Christmas has become, that's what it says to me.

Surrounded by evidences of a celebration of hope turned into a celebration of commercialism, this tree shimmers as a reminder that this is not how it is supposed to be.

The store ads keep emphasizing that Black Friday is coming.

But so is the birth of my Savior.

And He bled drops of red for me.

(Many thanks for the kind prayers you sent me--I am doing much better and the children are perfectly healed. My hubby is still suffering some, but he, too, is starting to recover.)

[Update: I googled the phenomenon today and discovered upside down Christmas trees are the newest fad. Moms like them because they can keep more ornaments away from small children and pets; retailers like them because they allow for more ornaments at eye level, which encourages people to buy more; kids like them because there's more room for presents beneath them. USA Today reports they're selling like hotcakes. Does no one but me see the terrifying irony in buying a tree that points to hell?]

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Pause Button

"Dinner and a movie" just hasn't been penciled in on my calendar since the twins were born. If anything, "dinner and grocery shopping" is more like it. Any movies I see have long ceased to be the topics of blogs and coffee house discussions. Now I know why my parents were clueless about pop culture--raising me and my brother took all their free time.

Through the miracle of TiVo, though, I can watch commercial-free movies once they hit TV. It's a good distraction when I'm folding clothes at night. A few months ago, I had the displeasure of watching Click as I worked through another overloaded basket of laundry.

If you missed this pretty lame flick, the premise is that Adam Sandler's character, Michael, is so focused on getting ahead at work that he has no time for his family. Then one fateful night at Bed Bath and Beyond, he runs into this eccentric guy named Morty who gives him a "life remote control." If you don't want to endure another fight with your wife--hit the fast forward button. If you want to experience something over again--hit the rewind or slow motion buttons.

Cute. But then I realized the remote control obviously had no "pause" button. Huh? Why fast forward through a rotten weekend spent working? Why not just hit the pause button, get all your work done while life is waiting for you, and then start your life again?

If some frazzle haired dude gave me a remote control for my life, that is the first button I'd be looking for!

Just imagine!

I could pause the setting sun and see my husband during the daylight hours...while three, quiet, "paused" children let us catch up on the day together.

I could pause my babies when they put their head on my shoulder for an all-too-quick snuggle.

I could pause the few remaining moments Wyatt and his "Uncle Johnathan" have together before he heads off into a life of military service as a chaplain.
I feel like I've lost a week with the children being sick and another week with me being sick.

I have so little time left with them before they're gone.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Comfort in Consistency

The basket in our one and only bathroom is over-stuffed with a wide variety magazines--Texas, Parents, Men's Health, Prevention, American Baby. Unlike the men in my household, I'm not allowed the luxury of reading an entire book or magazine while I sit on the throne. The three shadows that follow me everywhere consider reading to be something I'm only supposed to do for them.

But I still enjoy keeping up with the world, and I do somewhat. Most nights, my fabulous husband watches the kids while I relax in a hot bath...with a magazine perched on the side of the tub. Wet fingers turn pages leaving them badly crinkled and sometimes stuck together for the next reader.

In these coveted, quasi-quiet moments, one thing I've noticed is all the parenting magazines say the same thing--children thrive on routine and consistency. You'd think this would be such a "duh" concept that researchers wouldn't have to waste time on studies to prove it. But if they're looking for photos of routine-driven children, mine should be on the front cover of their report.

It's so amazing to me how quickly those routines get established. Do an activity one day--no big deal. Do the same activity two days in a row and I've just instituted a new routine without even knowing it.

But lack of routine has been a problem over the past few days. By Tuesday afternoon, I had succumbed to the cold the children have had for the past week and a half. I hate when God chooses personal illness to remind me of how pathetically inadequate I am and how I should reconsider my attitude when complaining about my children getting sick because it could be worse--I could be sick.

But children don't understand mommy being sick. Even though Wyatt is the only one who can vocalize it, they all understand routine, and they want to stick to it no matter what.

Mommy's throat hurts? "Can you read this book, mommy...and that one, too?"

Mommy's body hurts from the fever? "Want to play soccer?"

Mommy's has a cough? "Want to go outside?" (in the wind)

Mommy has a fever and wants a nap? "No! I don't want to take a nap!"

I might as well be speaking a foreign language. The "Mommy-has-needs-too" language just can't be interpreted by three little would-be tyrants. No Rosetta stone around to help out.

But I take comfort in routines, too.

Mommy's head hurts? Wyatt says, "I kiss it and make it all better"

Daddy says time for bed? Wyatt puckers up for a kiss and says, "I love you mommy."

Mommy rakes up a leaf pile. Wyatt runs and jumps in. Joyous laughter.

Please pray for my health and healing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nobody Told Me

Nobody ever told me about the dangerous situations mothers put themselves in everyday. No, I'm not talking about some quiet-mom-by-day, vicious-roller-derby-viking by night routine.

I'm talking about sitting on the floor to read a book. Making the bed. Walking across a room.

All are dangerous activities.

For the past few months, my body has been a constantly changing canvas of cuts and bruises. It's like I'm one of those art shows that changes every week.

This week, I've swapped out the bite mark on my shoulder for a cut over my eye from razor-like little fingernails exploring my face. My feet. My legs. My arms. Even my fingers are decorated with a rainbow of browns, yellows, and dark purples.

Wyatt has been warned several times: "Mommy is a unicorn, not a horse! Be gentle!" But look at his face in the photo, and you can guess how long he remembers that instruction. Even the 1-year-old twins view me as a mountain to climb over, a trampoline to bounce on, a pillow to slam into, and just another object in their way to step on.

And that's just a few of the physical dangers of being a hands-on mother who gets asked to hold, hug, kiss, and snuggle their squiggly little forms several times each hour of the day.

But what's really making me struggle lately is the mental danger of motherhood called lack of sleep.

Our house has been struck by some mystery virus that depletes every Kleenex box in the house and leaves glistening wet patches on all my shirts where little noses have rested for comfort.

This time around, there has been no fever. Just runny noses...and a cough.

But if I didn't know any better, I'd think my children developed that hacky, dry-throat cough on purpose. Call it their own little version of Chinese water torture. They wait until the fuzzy moments when I'm just beginning to float into the peaceful arms of sleep.

And then one of the three torturers coughs.

I startle awake. Listen for sounds that nurse mommy is needed. Wait. Nothing. Convince myself it must have been an isolated incident. And I begin to drift again.

Cough. Cough.

For eight days, I haven't slept soundly. I try. Yet my God-given mommy radar keeps being tripped throughout the night.

Between the bruises and the sleep-interrupted nights, I am learning the cost of love. And I learn it's a price I'm willing to pay 100 times over.

Love that costs me nothing is not love. I only need to look at my God to see that.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son..."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tunnel Vision

Snot, Kleenex, and a seasonal cold do not necessarily lend themselves to hearing God's still, small voice, or so I've learned.

For the past few days, I've only managed to hear God's voice in Scripture during the dark hours after the children are in bed. And that's just not enough of God in a day filled with three young children fussing at me for not having having six hands and me saying, "Blow. Blow again. Wipe your nose. No, you missed some. Come here."

By the time last night came around, more than anything, I craved some Christian fellowship, just being in God's house, the atmosphere of worship, the unity of corporate prayer...and we've been doing a series on witnessing that I didn't want to miss.

As usual, we didn't have any extra time to spare. And I had told Doug to stay home since he was feeling more than a few effects of the mystery cold.

I need a strong super-hero name here for moments like these--my arms full of 46 squiggling, uncooperative pounds of babies, and Wyatt...all of us just trying to make that short walk from the van to the church building.

Well, I was trying. Wyatt? He was trying to enjoy God's creation. "Look at all the big stars, mommy! They're BEAU-ti-ful!"

I quickly glanced up, noting the sky was clear and the stars were bright. But that was beside the point. "Yes, I see. Now come on."

As I left church, the nursery coordinator asked if I had seen the gorgeous moon last night. Yes, my husband had asked me the same question the night before.

It had been quite a sight, a perfect, glowing full moon in a pitch black sky. But in a parking lot surrounded by trees, the full moon now only peeked not-too-spectacularly through the trees. And besides, I was in a hurry to get home in time for the kids' bath time.

Hours later, I sat down to catch up on reading a few blog postings, one of which "just happened" to be about seeing the fullness of God in the stars.

My heart fell. I felt like such a failure. God had been speaking all week, using others to remind me that even if I couldn't see beyond the runny noses, He was still with me. All I needed to do was just STOP and look at His creation.

And worst of all, when I basically ignored my son's wonder at the stars, I passed up a precious chance to show him the God who created them.

What would it have mattered if I had stopped, just for a minute, knelt down on the asphalt with him to look at the stars? Sometimes, my tunnel-vision doesn't make room for an opportunity like this one to teach my children about God.

But I'm thankful that my God keeps on speaking, allows me the privilege of repentance, of learning from my mistakes, and offers His forgiveness.

As I write this, I'm waiting for the moon to come up so I can have a do-over with my son. I can't wait to take him outside and enjoy the magnificence of God's moon and stars.

"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Psalm 19:1).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marriage Wasn't Meant to Be Easy

As I thumbed through a catalog at my mom's house, the title caught my eye: Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

Woah. What a different concept. I knew I had to read this book.

This book is not a "10 steps to a better marriage" reading. I've read several of them and rolled my eyes at the "duh" concepts they said I should apply to my marriage.

One of this book's main concepts is that we seek to fill spiritual voids in our lives by making our spouse the center of our everything instead of God: "We need to remind ourselves the ridiculousness of looking for something from other humans that only God can provide" (25). Oops--that's me, Ms. Ridiculous.

For me, the book's most groundbreaking concept is the thought that God did not intend my relationship with my spouse to be easy--instead, marriage can be considered as a "spiritual discipline," as a relationship intended to help develop Christ-like values within me--values such as forgiveness, selflessness, perseverance, holiness, persistent righteousness, love, and sacrifice. In short, marriage is "an entryway into sanctification--as a relationship that will reveal your sinful behaviors and attitudes and give you the opportunity to address them before the Lord" (97).

Thomas' other interesting point is that marriage models Christ's work of reconciling God with sinful man: "Everything I am to say and do in my life is to be supportive of this gospel ministry of reconciliation, and that commitment begins by displaying reconciliation in my personal relationships, especially in my marriage" (34).

Over the past month of reading this book, my view of my husband and my marriage has changed. He's still not perfect...and neither am I. But my perspective has made a difference.

I wish someone had handed me this book before I got married.

Like many couples, Doug and I struggled through the early years of our marriage. For the first three years, he was in school and I was working two jobs to keep him there with as few student loans as possible, so we many times only saw each other over the dinner table. He spent evenings studying at the coffee house next door, and I spent most Saturdays at home with my parents so he could study more. The result? We kept pushing aside the big issues we would have to reconcile to make our marriage work.

Then, once he graduated and had a good job, the dynamics of our relationship had to change--and that was more than a little difficult. No longer was I the main breadwinner in the household. No longer were my Saturdays "mine." And no longer was there an excuse of "no time" to resolve some important issues.

It was a pretty low point in our marriage--months of having the same argument over and over with neither of us seeing any way to a solution. What made it worse was that our relations with some family members were strained because of this issue. And on top of that, we were failing to conceive a child. It was a recipe for disaster.

I remember curling up on the floor at the far end of the house and feeling such despair. But I also remember my husband telling me we would get through this somehow. He believed even in those moments when I did not. And I will love him forever for that.

I don't recommend many books. And like most authors, Gary Thomas is long-winded. But to reframe marriage as not something for me but something to make me more like Christ--it makes me perceive picking up Coke cans and dirty socks a little differently.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lap Time

Amelia crawls up and sits in the center of my lap. I belong to her. Emerson grabs hold of my PJ's and puts one leg over mine, pushing Amelia with his foot and fussing at her for taking his space.

Then Wyatt comes in: "Can I sit in your lap, mommy?"

What else can a mother say but "yes" and "Daddy, get the camera"?

No makeup. No hair fixed. PJ top and bottoms don't even match because I can't find where one of the children took the pink pants.

But this is what real, everyday life looks like around here--three children meeting with mommy on the kitchen floor.

This lap has enough love for all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Celebrating Fall

You can call it celebrating Halloween if you'd like--I'm not offended. But I don't consider October 31 to be the huge holiday that it seems to have become. To me, Halloween is just merely one day in my family's celebration of fall.

This celebration starts in early September and goes through Thanksgiving when my mind turns to celebrating Christmas. Pulling out a stack of fall-themed children's books is the first hint that I've had enough with the heat of summer. Then comes decorating the house as I long for the beauty of fall days spent outdoors.

With the first hints of cooler weather, Wyatt's mini Christmas tree sheds its summer sunflower garland and adorns itself with mottled red, orange, and yellow leaves, dried mini corn with the husks still attached, and a plush turkey that rests precariously on top. On the end tables, toddler-sized plush Pilgrims and Indians surround an overflowing cornucopia for little hands to sneakily touch when mommy isn't looking.

Then come the vases full of little-boy-picked yellow daisies that grow wild at the edge of our hay fields. And the tulip-poplar leaf piles that make the perfect crunching sound for jumping in (and that my poor husband has finally learned to mow around).
With Wyatt growing up, this year, we added some new aspects to our celebration of the season: Pumpkin decorating at the library.
Visiting a pumpkin patch with some friends from church.And attending our church's Fall Festival (yes, that's my little daredevil atop the huge inflatable slide).
As we celebrate the transition from summer to fall and from fall to winter, I am reminded that God alone effects all these changes in the world around me--breathtaking, beautiful changes to prepare the earth for the blossoms of spring to come:

"He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning" (Daniel 2:21).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Calgon, Take Me Away !!

Today was one of those days where I wished God had granted me the ability to split myself into two separate mommies. Not forever, but just for a few moments each day, having my own clone would come in handy.

My mom always comes along to help me out with the 3 children on doctor-visit days. But somehow, the twins' one-year-checkup didn't make it on her calendar, so I flew solo this morning.

The stress headache started the moment I hit the interstate and found 9:30 am traffic at a total standstill. As usual when the wheels stop turning, Amelia loudly let her displeasure be known.

75 minutes after we left home (for a 40 minute trip), we wheeled into the parking lot...late. And then the fun really began.

Back in the room, I undressed two squirmy munchkins so the nurse could weigh and measure them. No surprises there--all three of my children are going to be taller than their 5'3" mommy. Emerson is continuing to measure in the 90th percentile for height, and even Amelia is measuring in the 74th percentile for height.

As the twins impatiently waited on the paper-clad examination table for the doctor, Wyatt discovered they had a window view of a train track. So he, too, joined them on the table for a paper-shredding good time.

Then, "I need to pee pee, mommy."

Oh no. Not now. "Can you wait a few minutes?"

"I need to pee pee."

I took that as a "no."

What could I do? The twins were merely clad in diapers. And I could just envision the stares of the other mothers with their cute, single babies dressed to the nines for a simple doctor visit. So, I did the only thing I knew how--I strapped two naked babies back in their stroller, told the nurse my predicament, and marched Wyatt down the hall to the potty while the babies sat alone in the exam room.

Minutes later when it was time for the shots, I comforted one baby in my left arm while holding still the other baby's flailing hands with my right arm. By this time, my headache was full-blown and I fussed a bit at Wyatt's incessant mouth and at the twins' squirminess as I tried to redress them.

It seemed longer than an hour and a half when I dropped into the lobby chair to wait the required 15 minutes after the shots. Then Wyatt upped the ante once again: "My hiney hurts."

My lips tightened into a line and my brow furrowed in irritation. Why couldn't he have done all his business 20 minutes ago!? I'm still not sure how a double stroller fit in that one-person bathroom, but it did.

By the time everybody was loaded back into the safety of the car seats, my head was throbbing. My neck hurt. I wanted to go home. But I went, instead, to the mall to meet my parents for lunch....and to let the children run off some steam at the playground.

And what a joy it was. Really. Truly. Joyful.
Listening to Amelia and Emerson squeal with delight as they crawled through the tunnels; listening to Wyatt bark like a dog as he jumped off the top of the alligator--my headache just disappeared. Yes, I was still exhausted. But I was able to enjoy my children playing together.
And I got to watch as Emerson took his first two steps and as Amelia started to really walk. She took 18 steps to her Grandmama and has been doing the Frankenstein walk the rest of the day.Happy giggles and laughter--the best medicine for this mommy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Surprise in the Mailbox

Every semester in my freshman composition classes, I have students write an essay about the culture of American advertising. While the magazine advertisements constantly change, they all still seek to manipulate consumers into buying not merely the product or service, but also the dream or desire portrayed in the ad.

I tell my students I've seen it all...but that doesn't mean my jaw still doesn't drop in outrage when I see an ad laced with sexual imagery that has been placed in a magazine for teenage girls.

And this week, it happened again, although this jaw-dropping moment came courtesy of a weekly circular placed in my own mailbox rather than of a student's paper.

Tucked inconspicuously between the Dollar Tree and Winn Dixie circulars was an over sized ad for Halloween costumes..an ad that just so happened to unfold like a Playboy centerfold. But this fold-out didn't show merely one scantily clad woman. Instead, it was covered with row upon row of 2" rectangle photos containing women who were modeling the various costumes one could buy.

Sexy Witch. Sexy Bar Maid. Sexy Indian Princess. Sexy Nurse. Sexy Woman Firefighter. Sexy Woman Gangster.

Sexy Little Bo Peep!?

The outfits for children were cute. Most of the outfits for men were not worthy of comment. But for women, there was not one outfit that wasn't skin-tight or that didn't have a plunging neckline and a skirt well-suited for the days preceding Noah's flood!

Honestly, if it weren't for the children and men pictured in the ad, too, I might have thought I had just received an advertisement from a sex fantasies shop where a wife could buy sexy little outfits to fulfill her husband's dreams behind closed doors!

But there's obviously nothing private about going to a costume party in one of these costumes.

I know I've been out of the loop for the last year while raising the twins, but I don't think I've had my head buried that deep in a hole.

When did this happen? When did Halloween become equated with demeaning women by flaunting their anatomy about in jest?

Or is this another stab at female empowerment? If so, then where are the costumes that empower me as a woman to keep my secrets that God says are for my husband's eyes only?

Yes, the costumes appall me. But I'm more appalled that I've heard nobody say anything about this trend! And I'm even more appalled that just this week, I've seen Halloween party photos of women I know, women who didn't balk at this sexy dress code.

Oh for a little modesty. For a little more respect for our husbands, letting some parts of our female bodies belong to our men and to them only.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Made It !!!

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:3-5).

Although we celebrated on Sunday, today is Amelia and Emerson's first birthday. The biggest deal about any party in our family isn't activities or location--it's all about the cake. And like my mother before me, I make the cake, myself, as a way to express my love. But this time, I was crazy enough to undertake the behemoth task of transforming two sheet cakes into two 3-D block cakes myself, a task that has permanently cured me of any desire to be a professional cake decorator.

Looking back, many of the last 365 days haven't felt "blessed" while I lived through the chaos that is raising twin babies and a two-year-old. But I know in my heart that each day has been a blessing because I was allowed the chance to live and watch my little babies grow into little people. One year ago today, I didn't know if I would get that chance.

My quiver is full...and when all three arrows are placed inside, it's too heavy to carry anymore.

When I look past the diapers, the crying, the poo, the laundry, the arguments, the lack of sleep and the rock-eating, I know for sure--I am blessed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Determining True Value

Any silence for more than a few minutes sets my mommy radar to flashing. I've learned the hard way. Usually, silence means somebody is eating something she shouldn't or going somewhere he knows I've already labelled as forbidden.

With twins clawing at my legs, I peek around the corner, sure Wyatt is getting into mischief in the green barn. Instead, I find him skipping from one spot to another in the grass, stooping down at seemingly random intervals to pluck another onion flower and add it to his growing handful. His face reflects the seriousness of his task.

Sometimes, stooping isn't sufficient, and blue jean knees kneel on wet earth to give him a better grasp of another slender stem.

I understand his serious contemplation. These are springtime flowers who are not supposed to be peeking their heads through the soil until next year. A humid, hot, and wet October has seemingly confused even God's creation as to what season it is.

Suddenly, Wyatt's head pops up and he barrels towards the house, obviously content with the size of his small bouquet.

"Mommy! I brought you some flowers!! I brought you flowers, mommy!! You put them in a vase?"

That excited face. How could this mother not smile in returned excitement?

He watches me put the flowers in an old cup, making certain that I'm not discarding his offering. And as I sit the "vase" atop the back bench, he comes closer to hug me and raise his face for a kiss. "I love you mommy." Then, off he runs to find more flowers.

To him, these are not just worthless onion flowers that most city folk would seek to eliminate from their lawns with weed killer. In his eyes, he's just brought me a handful of precious jewels.

And in a way, he has.

The value isn't in the object itself but in his giving heart and sacrificial attitude. The knees bent, giving his full attention to the task as he labours to offer the best he can find.

It's a lesson my Father has been trying to teach me this past week as I've been putting together the packets to hand out to the needy at red lights--the monetary value of the sacrifice isn't the point. Neither are any other tangible results that I will probably never see from my sacrifice.

It's the heart and attitude that matter the most. It's my knees bent in prayer, my heart bent in submissive obedience to His Word.

It's my love for God as the answer to the "why" of my everyday actions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Loving the Unwanted

Even before he was born, I didn't want him.

His mother kept him hidden at the neighbor's workshop, far away from the love of human hands. She was barely social herself, wandering in and out of our lives, sometimes disappearing for days at a time before materializing on the back steps. Just another pregnant unwanted one that someone had made my problem instead of theirs. And as expected, her son was wild, untouchable, unlovable.

With a 6-month-old son, myself, I didn't have any time to spare on a cat like that.

And so when we moved up to the family farm, I left him, his two siblings, and his mother to swipe a meal from other neighborhood food bowls.

But a month later, I still felt remorse for leaving them to struggle, so I returned to catch the mother and bring her to our new home. And he was there--one son sticking close to his mother's side. Lanky. Colored like an orange and cream dreamsicle. Too many ribs showing.

Just one month of August heat and irregular meals had taken its toll in another way, too. This time, he accepted a hand of kindness stroking his head and back. This time, he purred as he ate. Hunger had made him docile, even clingy.

I promised to return for him next. And I did.

Only then did we name him Jonah, after the reluctant Biblical prophet, because he was quite reluctant to stay in a cage during the 30 minute ride to a better life.

Now? I can't imagine my son without this cat. They're inseparable. We laughingly refer to Jonah as our cat-dog because he acts more canine than feline. If I "lose" Wyatt, I look for the pumpkin-colored splotch on the green landscape of our backyard.

I've seen Wyatt cover this poor cat with rocks and leaves, try to open the cat's mouth and insert some cat food because "he need some food." And still, Jonah sticks closer than a brother.

The cat I did not want has turned into a most faithful companion for a little boy who needs just that kind of friend.

Jonah is just one of the many things has God sent to my life that I didn't think I needed at the time. But now? I can't imagine life without any of them: My husband. The twins. Living a stone's throw from my mother in law.

I am thankful God knows my every need far in advance of my knowing it myself.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn's Arrival

This past weekend, autumn finally arrived to south Louisiana. My house smelled the burn of dust on heaters unused since last year. The bed rested again beneath the heat of an electric blanket. And my mother's potted plants moved to their winter resting place. With what our friends in the midwest and north have been experiencing, a frost could be right around the corner.

But today, we did not think of the winter to come, of the preparations that still need to be made. We simply enjoyed the wonders of autumn God had displayed before us. We supped at His table and were filled by his beautiful creation. The beauty.

Of running in the warm afternoon sun without breaking a sweat. Of moss hanging from the evergreen tree.Of the first chrysanthemum blossom opening its petals.Of summer's promised fruit turning from solid green to hues of orange. Of seeds forming new life within for the spring to come."He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Face Behind the Cardboard

Since my family expanded from 2 to 5 members, it seems my watch has started to run faster. What used to be one 2-minute bathroom break per weekly shopping trip has turned into at least one 15-minute detour, sometimes two. And whereas I used to skip lunch, now the brood insists taking time for food is mandatory.

Each time I venture into town, I struggle to get the children home for 2:00 nap time. Sometimes on the 30 minute drive home, I sing loud, goofy songs with Wyatt or reach back to shake little legs and feet in hopes of keeping the twins awake just a few more minutes.

Yesterday was no different. But traffic wasn't cooperating, and the twins had already drifted off. If I didn't get them home soon, there would be no napping in cribs, no quiet time for me to decompress.

As I drove at full speed onto the exit ramp, I saw it 100 yards in front of me--a green light. I pushed down the gas pedal.

And then I saw her--a woman standing with a cardboard sign beside the white line that told cars where to stop. I sighed. It seems there's always someone at this particular intersection...and it seems the light always turns red so I have to sit there as I face stoically forward, pretending to ignore the person's sign, the shabby clothes, the weather-worn face, the need.

As I drove, I kept my eyes firmly on the light, as if my willing it to stay green would do just that. And this time, it did.

But as I whizzed toward the intersection, I glanced her way and gasped. It wasn't her sign that said "Traveling. Need Help. God Bless."

It was the knowledge that this wasn't an anonymous face. I knew this woman's name. I knew part of her story. I knew she had family.

My heart immediately felt the crush of God's convicting Spirit. I was shamed by my own rush to get through the green light just so I could avoid her.

Could I change my mind? Stop to offer help? No. The light remained bright green. And traffic behind me wasn't too thrilled that my sudden braking might make them have to sit at a red light and avoid her silent request for help.

Each time I ignore the anonymous face, my conscience burns within me. When with my husband, I will sometimes give a ready-to-eat food item to ensure they at least have something to eat. But most of the time, I do nothing.

Each weekend, I have a "to do" list. Since I know it's just a matter of days before I see another face behind the cardboard, this weekend's list includes a plan to create small packages that will minister to the body and soul of those I encounter at red lights.

My Lord and Savior said, "For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes" (Matt. 25:35).

Without the help of others and God's grace, I could be the one standing there feeling others' disdain and scorn.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Divided Heart

Do you know what it's like to speak out for a cause even when it means standing against friends and loved-ones?

To speak your heart, knowing those words will divide you from another and quite possibly will draw hatred and resentment toward you?

I do.

In the wee hours of Monday morning while the whole house slept, God spoke to me. He told me I must stand and speak even though He knew I would rather sit in silence. But He also warned the consequences of standing for His Word: "They hate him who reproves in the gate, And they abhor him who speaks with integrity" (Amos 5:10).

I must stand. But obedience would have a cost.

This is the reason my blog this week has been uncommonly silent. My spiritual family has been heavy on my heart. Several times throughout each day, only tears would come along with halting prayers to God for my family's healing.

I've been waiting for words. Waiting for God to speak. And grieving the heartache within my spiritual family.

I spent my today fasting and praying intermixed with my duties as a mother. Only tonight did God give me the words. I spoke. And in doing so, I have probably permanently severed at least one relationship.

Tonight, my spiritual family divided. It breaks me to think of the loss.

Women and men who have rocked my babies and kissed their little foreheads. Women whom I have held hands with and prayed in small, intimate circles of fellowship. Women whom I looked up to for mature spiritual leadership.

Unreconciled. Angry. Hurt, themselves. Believing in their hearts that they had the best interests of the spiritual family in mind.

My spiritual family needs healing. I need healing.

This road my Savior asks me to walk is not an easy one. It requires me to give without reservation my heart in loving relationships and in friendships. And then it requires me to choose to honor Scripture over my heart and those relationships when the two are in conflict.

A grieving, tender heart...one that hopefully my Savior can use as He heals my brokenness.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Mouth

This precious little boy who loves the comfort of a blanket even in 101 degree heat, who adores "nature walks," and who doesn't think flowers are too girly to be fascinated by their petals or to carry in a bouquet back to the house so he can put them in a peanut butter jar vase
This same beautiful boy is going through a phase that is trying his mommy's patience. It started with the crocodile tears over everything, and I do mean everything: my sweeping his newest "special" rocks back in the driveway, Amelia pulling one of his puzzles off the shelf, Jonah the cat playing with his blanket.

I have become one of those mothers I never before understood--you know, the ones who totally ignore their children's tears in the checkout line at Wal-mart? The ones whose faces show serene calm as if they're listening to a calming Mozart piece rather than the fevered-pitch of an angry child in their buggy?

Wyatt knows I refuse to watch a tantrum. It's a well-defined rule--if you want to cry, pitch a fit, or yell, that's perfectly fine....in your room. Mommy has sent herself to her room more than once over the past three years. And sometimes, Wyatt sends himself to his room, too, before I even have to say a word.

But now the phase has morphed again. To keep my cool, it is taking everything I have in me (and then some Godly grace along with many, many sentence prayers sent heavenward). Along with the tears, Wyatt has added what I call "the mouth."

It's not like I didn't expect this. With his love of books, he has unusual control of an expansive vocabulary for a child his age. The problem is that same vocabulary is exploding into out-loud, powerful words of defiance.

Tonight, he spent over an hour in his room because, as he put it, "I not sorry! I not sorry!" And later, when daddy told him to pick up his toys, he said, "I not have to listen!" a stance he quickly changed to "I not have time to!" when he saw me enter the room.

And yet, as aggravated as I was with him this evening, moments before his defiant hiney stomped down the hall for the night, he redeemed himself. As his daddy sat down to read Amelia her night time book, he walked over and started reciting it to her. So precious. Such an expression of brotherly love.

There's hope for him yet.