About a Puppy

I have missed a few blogging days because of a puppy. He is all paws, ears, curls and is literally love on 4 legs. We drove for nearly 10 hours one way to bring him home and I was stifling the urge to panic whenever I thought about driving those hours home with a rambunctious young canine. But it proved to be the journey we needed as a family and this puppy is proving to be just the addition our family needed too.

People think we are just a smidge crazy to add a puppy into the mix. It really is #5under5! But we view it as an investment into our family. Shaka is bringing our family closer together as we all brought him home, are all training him and are all loving his puppy antics. He has been especially good for our 4-year old who needs projects and active playmates. Shaka is right there, ready to run and chase until they both can’t move anymore. I also love the idea of a 90-pound dog loving our kids and guarding our door.

There is no denying this puppy is a lot of work. He needs potty-training, etiquette lessons and routine so that he will sleep through the night. But these are familiar paths for me and I am noticing that I find puppy-training less intimidating as a mom of four than I did as a middle schooler training a dog for the first time. I also think being a puppy-mom is helping me be more patient and soft-spoken with my 4; I’m also taking notes on how Mochi interacts with him too. If he invades her space or annoys her she puts him in his place and moves on with her plans while he jumps back and waits for her approval. Maybe I could learn from this. I tend to overthink things too much.

I think it’s neat how God never stops finding creative ways to teach us new things. He is the best role model a parent could ask for. It makes me excited to see what other joys and lessons this furry family member is going to share with me in the years to come.

Have you ever learned something from your pets?

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In the Know or Not

My children love their routines and the security they bring. They like knowing that there will be homemade bread with jam, fruit and individual yogurt cups for Sunday breakfast; floor cleaning days mean getting to watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and The Donut Man; they get to pack their own backpacks when we go on outings or road trips; they will get to eat snacks when we go to the park; Friday is Family Fun Night; there is usually popcorn that accompanies Family Book Night; they can shout “Brefaassss!!!” when I carry the breakfast-laden tray to the table as they eagerly watch.

They love their routines but in the process have the false assumption that they know everything since they know their routines so well. This can lead to an offsetting of their equilibrium when something changes, resulting in them lashing out at what they hold most dear: their routine. They will firmly declare, “No Mr. Rogers!” or “No, we’re not going to Costco!” as if this will suddenly make their frustration go away. It’s comical because it is nonsensical but at the same time I inwardly blush for I see myself in their limited knowledge of life. I assume that because nothing has changed in a while that things will always be the same. I get cocky in the familiar or anxious when unexpected change happens. I am confident that my well-laid plans will play out and get angry when they don’t, like today.

Today was supposed to be the first day of preschool. I have been planning it for months and was eagerly anticipating a fun-filled morning started off with a tasty breakfast and deep conversations. Instead, frustration and discouragement greeted me as soon as I woke up. Things went from bad to worse and I knew my heart was not in the correct posture for introducing my little ones to structured learning. With great sorrow I postponed preschool. Inside I felt crushed and kept asking myself what went wrong? What am I supposed to learn from this?

It took me a while to regroup and salvage the day but in the process of cleaning my floors, rescuing laundry from the thunderstorm and helping my kids make birthday and thank you cards I was reminded of why we homeschool. God doesn’t wait for a scheduled time to sit me down and teach me something; instead, He weaves His character-shaping lessons into the course of daily life. That’s exactly what happened today. We read alphabet books on the floor; talked about social etiquette and sentence structure while making cards; practiced forgiveness in sibling squabbles on the couch; and encouraged initiative and helpfulness when one child ran errands with my husband and another helped me get dinner in the crockpot.

Just like I see my children’s immaturity in their assumption that they know it all because they are masters of their routine, I see that I need to trust God with the ins and outs of my own plans. I can prepare for the unexpected when life is going on placidly and when it takes me by surprise I can adapt and embrace the growth it causes. Peace comes in knowing that my understanding is limited and tomorrow will always remain a mystery. I guess preschool happened after all! For me and them!

Have any of your plans been upset recently? Are you satisfied with how you responded to the change?

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The Shark Cake

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The Clock

I find myself glancing frequently at the clock throughout my day. It tells me when to gather everyone for the next meal (if their tummies haven’t already brought them to the table); it reminds me to start prepping dinner once everyone is settled for naps; it cautions me to not spend too much time working at my desk since life consists of other things besides blogs and my Thirty-One business; it encourages me to put my feet up for the last 15 minutes of nap time so that I can catch a second wind; soon it will send me outdoors every two hours or so once our new puppy has joined the family; it reassures me that there is always a little extra time for snuggling with my husband before the day bids us goodnight. But there is something the clock never tells me.

It never warns me of how quickly time passes despite never changing its pace; it never reminds me that I too often take time for granted, always assuming that tomorrow it will be there; it never cautions me to spend my minutes like I would one hundred dollar bills rather than pennies in my pocket; it never prompts me to bite my tongue when I say I want those hands to move a little faster. Instead, it keeps ticking the minutes away, one at a time, just as it has done for millenia. And as it ticks…

Hurricanes blow by

Nations rise and fall

Presidents come and go

Possessions shine and crumble

Loved ones breathe for the first and last time

Friendships fade and renew

Ideas flourish and wilt

And tomorrow my oldest son turns 4 years old! There is something about this age that makes my chin tremble with emotion. Perhaps it’s because I remember my fourth birthday party. It was held in the doctor’s office who saved my life by accurately diagnosing the leukemia I had and connecting me to the best doctors in the country. Now my son is at the age of one of my earliest memories. That seems significant to me. Perhaps this birthday is also significant because of how fast it seemed to arrive. I so clearly remember those two pink lines declaring his presence and now he and I share the most heartfelt conversations about dragons and pirates and Jesus and fire trucks and missionaries and Europe and the States of America…

In one breath this baby I held in my arms is now holding the door open for me while I squeeze the stroller through the doorway. As a baby he crawled up onto the open dishwasher door and sat on it; now he is unloading it without being reminded. As a toddler he enjoyed sitting on the dog and now he can let her out when she needs to use the bathroom. He would tear up paper as a little guy but now I entrust him with putting the mail in the mailbox and making sure the flag is up. And that’s merely a brief glimpse of all he does which amazes me.

As often as I can I try to put my ear on his chest when I kiss him goodnight so that I can hear his steady heartbeat. It always takes me back to the first time I heard it. The sound never ceases to fill me with wonder that God would favor me with this child. This child who can’t hug his baby brother enough; who stood outside with our old dog while she ate this morning because it was still dark and he didn’t want her to be scared; this boy who ponders and reflects and declares and hugs with an energy that is unstoppable.

Ah, the clock is telling me I must conclude. A baby is stirring and I have a few pictures to frame. Time slows for no one – not even a busy mom who must set aside reflecting just long enough to prepare for a birthday party.

Is there anything about this blog post that most resonated with you? Please share in the comments below! I would love to hear from you.

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Second Nature

In the past couple of weeks there have been several shootings in the area where I live. Many people would argue that guns are the problem: “we need stricter gun laws! We need to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of those who would use them to harm others! We need people in office who will protect the people at home!”

The same people arguing against guns might also argue in favor of the goodness in people: “people are basically good. We are all born good. It’s the environment that taints us and causes us to do bad things.”

But is it possible for good people to do bad things? I don’t know about you, but I do not have to be intentional about being unkind or lazy or selfish or mean-spirited or angry. I do not have to remind myself to put myself first. Rather, it’s quite the opposite. I DO have to seek Christ to help me live for Him and put others first.  I do have to be intentional about cultivating patience, biting my tongue, swallowing my pride, and seeking others’ good before my own. Christ-likeness has become my second nature now because my first nature was all about me, myself and I.

Those in our world who argue for man’s innate goodness do so because they want to have no need for God. This in and of itself is further evidence of man’s rebellion against God. But we need look no further than the issue of gun control to see that man on his own is dangerous at his best, evil at his worst. We cannot pick and choose who is good and who is not for if we look deeply into our hearts we will find the seeds for the worst crimes against humanity: hate, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, deceit, jealousy, addiction, envy, adultery, rage and so much more.  The crimes that make the headlines are mere symptoms of a greater disease: hearts sickened by sin and in need of healing repentance before a Holy God.

The most recent mass shooting occurred because the shooter had lost a video game. What does that tell us about the state of that man’s heart? What does drug addiction tell us about the human heart? What about abortion? Sex-trafficking?   I know that I was not born “good,” but I was born “for good,” and that good is to be a surrendered vessel in my Maker’s hands. We have all been created for a purpose; we have all been designed for relationship with the Almighty God.

What is your second nature?

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Today’s Prayer

I am in the trenches today. Much of it is of my own doing and while I can come up with a list of reasons for why I am feeling and reacting the way I am, there is still no legitimate excuse for it.  I am just as much a sinner in need of a Savior today as I was yesterday and the day before that.  I truly am thankful that I am not doomed to lean on my own strength to get back on track; there is clear evidence showing me that Jesus has gone before me and is right by my side at the same time. One of these signs is the verse I focused on in my morning devotions: 1 John 3:18. It states that we are to love in deed and in truth instead of just through words. I am falling VERY short in the love department today, but that verse is echoing in my heart almost constantly, and I am thankful for that.

Another sign of His presence is the prayer He laid on my heart a few days ago. This prayer has been resonating in my mind throughout my day and is helping me to hug and smile and converse even when I really don’t feel like doing any of that. I would like to share it with all of you:

“Jesus, help me to live with arms open wide and ready to embrace, to carry, to draw close the little bodies that are mine for the moment. 

Help me to live with a ready heart to accept the challenges to my instructions and the interruptions to my plans.

Refresh my mind with new ways to encourage obedience and ignite an interest in learning your ways.

Refresh my vocabulary in a way that inspires little tongues to speak gently and with kindness to one another.

Dear Jesus, please walk with me today and be a tangible presence in my thoughts, in my actions, in my words and in my demeanor. May all who encounter me encounter you.”

Normally I would blog in hindsight but it didn’t work out that way today. I am still struggling and ashamed; but I am certain that I am not the only one in the trenches today and I want to encourage you – whoever and wherever you are.  Jesus is a merciful Savior to all who come to Him on bended knee and repentant heart. He makes all things new – which reminds me of something my oldest daughter said today.  She misbehaved this morning and the consequences of her disobedience were the removal of some of her favorite toys for the rest of the day.  We talked and reconciled and then she said (with a huge smile on her face), “I won’t do that anymore and I will get them back tomorrow.” It was said with such joy and confidence that revived my heart. Today might be rough, really rough, and entirely my fault, but tomorrow holds undiscovered joy.

Would you like prayer today? What burdens are you carrying that could be laid at Jesus’ feet right now?

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The Eternal Source

I withdrew over the weekend. I was worn and weary and needed some time to be entirely alone. My husband graciously took all of the children to church so that I could have a block of time by myself without any possibility of emotion. I soaked in that time like parched ground in a gentle rain. I read my Bible and journaled for nearly an hour. One short verse in particular arrested my attention: “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:11

I run dry and wear out. My energy is limited. My ideas hit roadblocks. My patience gets spent. The future intimidated me because I know I have limitations. BUT GOD DOESN’T! He supplies the resources for the responsibilities He calls me to fulfill. If it is a relationship then He will provide the grace; if it’s writing then He will provide the words; if it’s parenting then He will provide the wisdom; if it’s teaching then He will provide the creativity; if it’s a physical or material need then He will provide the funds. But it starts with the surrender of my pride, my will and my determination to everything on my own strength. And for the surrender He will provide the faith.

It takes faith to act on the knowledge that God WILL provide. Time and again I have witnessed His provision in remarkable ways but time and again I still need my faith renewed on a daily basis. The answer to a simple life is relying on God for each day’s needs and being content with how and when He provides for them. Rather than being self-reliant I need to become Christ-reliant. To Him be the dominion forever! AMEN!

What do you need faith for today? How did God provide for you yesterday?

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