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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Me, God and the Shark Cake

Our oldest child is turning 4 in a couple of weeks. Like any doting parents would, we have been inquiring into his birthday wishes. For his second birthday we surprised him with a cake designed like the trolley on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and ever since he has requested trolley cakes for his birthdays…until a couple of weeks ago when his request was for a shark cake. A shark cake! I’m still not sure if that means a cake shaped like a shark, made out of shark, or with a shark topper. Whatever it is, his little heart is set on it and when he talks about his birthday plans he includes the shark cake as if it’s a done deal. There is no doubt in his mind that it’s going to be there.

His confidence is contagious and before I know it I find my mind perusing all the possible ways I can grant his request. Do I know someone who could make it? Could it be special ordered from the grocery store? Could we get an ice cream shark cake? Should I find a shark cake mold and attempt to make it myself? And then, very quietly, it dawned on me that this is how I should approach the throne of God with my requests. Persistent. Confident. Joyful. Carefree. Exuberant. Faith-filled. There’s that parable that Jesus told about the woman who kept coming to the king with her request. Eventually he granted it because she wouldn’t stop asking. Jesus tells us to be relentless in our prayers because doing so shows our faith in a very real God who loves His children.

My little boy does not filter the requests he makes to us. He just blurts them out. Some are outrageous; some are silly; some are endearing; some are doable. But every time he asks something of us it gives us a glimpse into his heart and mind and helps us to know him a little better. It also draws us into a closer relationship with him since he knows we are tuned in and care about what matters to him. I believe it is similar with Jesus. He wants us to approach Him unfiltered – to tell Him everything that is on our hearts: the outrageous, the troubling, the silly, the heart-wrenching, the impossible. Bringing every aspect of our lives to Him brings us closer to Him and offers more opportunities to see Him move in the smallest details in our lives.

I am going to pray more. And you better believe there will be a shark cake at our boy’s birthday party.

Are there prayers you don’t say because you think Jesus doesn’t care about them?

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Take Time for Tea

I like to brew myself a cup of tea each morning with breakfast. There are times when I hesitate: “It takes so long! I probably won’t get more than one sip while it’s still hot. Why bother?” But I brew one anyway. Taking the time to make my cup of tea assures me that there will be time to sip it, to savor the warmth in my hand and to breathe in and out as I prepare for my day. (Granted, I usually end up gulping the last few tepid swallows as I am clearing the breakfast table, but those are only the last few.)

Taking time for tea causes me to ponder what else benefits from a little extra time. In a given day my spirit flourishes when I:

Take time for conversation: it requires effort to move past routine formalities with friends and family but as Lara Casey (author of Cultivate) recommends, ask the second question. Thinking of follow-up questions or fresh conversation topics to share on Marco Polo, in texts, on the phone or just in little chats with my children causes me to think deeper about the relationships that I treasure.

Take time to cultivate and tend: I’ve added new categories to my daily schedule. Instead of making a long list of must-do’s or want-to-do’s, I now write down a skill that I want to tend each day and a relationship I would like to cultivate a bit more. For example, today I talked to a beloved friend on the phone; this conversation nourished our friendship in a real way. Last Tuesday I enjoyed cross-stitching while listening to a podcast, a skill that I want to tend. The assurance that every day I am touching my priorities provides me with a sense of accomplishment and peace at the end of the day.

Take time to let my children cry: My instinct is to rush to my child’s side the minute a wail begins but taking the time to wait a few extra minutes provides the opportunity for that child to learn how to process emotion and develop problem-solving skills. More often than not if I wait the tears will slow down and the cries will dissipate as something more interesting to do has been discovered. It’s a win-win for child and mother!

Take time to write letters: Letter-writing is an ancient skill that has preserved much of mankind’s history. I have 10 beloved pen-pals and every time I sit down to pen them a missive I am showing that person she matters to me, as Father Tim’s friend and bishop once told him (At Home in Mitford).  It warms my heart to see my children  already developing an interest in correspondence and great interest in the mailbox and raising the flag. There’s just something about filling blank stationery with thoughts that are focused entirely on one special person who will open the envelope and read those thoughts in her home.

And it all starts with taking time to brew, sip and savor that steaming liquid. It’s a reminder that rushing through one’s day only brings one to its end stressed and out of breath. Remember the layers of life that I wrote about a few months ago? I think that sipping and savoring, cultivating and tending, reading and writing, asking and listening help one’s spirit uncover those hidden layers that hold such fulfillment.

Do you take time to drink your tea (or coffee) while it’s hot? How often do you conclude your day with regret because you didn’t do something that mattered to you?

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Reaching for the World

I can’t believe it! For the first time in weeks all 4 of my children are napping AT THE SAME TIME!! Every day I work towards this goal and every day at least one pair of large brown eyes refuses to close or pops open when the other 3 sets gently succumb to the wonder of sleep. God knew I needed a few moments to be still and think and write since it’s been a…hmmm…searching for the perfect word here…a day! Burned fingers, spilled dogfood, bread baking, homemade mac and cheese, baby-wearing, dinosaur roars, sisters screaming, beds not made, cleaned out fridge, unfolded laundry (oh yeah! I forgot about that!), business-building ideas zipping through my mind, preschool planning simmering in my mind, music on from two different sources, HUGE box that somehow ends up in every room I’m in! Ha! I love my life!

And in the midst of this cacophony of life a picture keeps coming to my mind. It’s of my son in pale green overalls studying a globe. He wants to know the name of every country on that sphere; he wants to know why it turns; he wants to know how we can “get there” (wherever his finger happens to be touching).  And my heart falls and lifts at the same moment:  how I want to protect him and his siblings from the sinister motives of evil lurking in our midst. To shield them from all that will taint their innocence, lure their hearts away from what is good and pure, deceive their minds with lies and harm their bodies. And how I want this young boy to love people! To ache when he sees the sorrow in our midst. To yearn to share with them that he serves a risen Savior! To strive to be a surrendered vessel in His Master’s scarred hands. One day this young boy will be a man and he will step out into the world. Will he be ready?

It’s a question that never leaves my heart. There are times when I watch him and his siblings at play, at mealtime, or sleeping peacefully at night and I try to envision them in 10 or 15 years. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to see past the reminders to go potty, or the kisses on owies or how easily fussiness dissipates when I sit down to read them a story. I know a time will come when today will be yesterday and I’ll be saying, “Remember when you sucked your thumb?” or “Remember when you would play with your cars and trucks for hours and you built a Costco out of blocks?” or “Remember when we played pirates together?” In the midst of these busy moments of care-giving, how do I prepare my little boys and girls to reach the world without it consuming their identities and changing who they intrinsically are?

Home. This is the place where they can safely become the men and women God has designed them to be. This is where character is molded and refined in relationship with their family members and intentional encounters with the outside world. This is where they learn what it means to serve and sacrifice because you love someone. This is where they know they are loved for who they are and not what they do. This is where they can come with all of their questions and fears, mistakes and milestones, triumphs and tragedies and know that their emotions will be shared by all who are a part of this family. This place called home will hold a significant place in their hearts and be a constant reminder of their beginning, their purpose, and their destination. My prayer is that wherever they go and with whomever they meet, they’ll be talking about home.

Do you have a placed called home?

[Author’s note: In the time it took me to write this post, a certain baby boy ended up in my lap]

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Brain Power

This weekend was an opportunity for me to catch up with myself after walking through a valley period for the past few weeks. My mind felt saturated with thoughts and experiences and my heart needed time to sift through all of the emotions. One thing I did was to withdraw from social media; I hopped on strictly for business purposes and then hopped right back off.  I did not check notifications or scroll news feeds; I was pleasantly surprised by the effect this small change had on my state of mind.

My reflex in quiet moments was to reach for my phone; my thumb got into scrolling posture and I had to actively seek an alternative. Instead of perusing the happenings of others, I listened to podcasts and learned some incredible facts about how to cultivate a healthy mindset. I read several chapters in a beloved book and was reminded of how much rich information my mind can absorb from real pages in a relatively short amount of time. I carried on longer conversations with my husband and we covered some new topics. I observed my children at play and realized how unconcerned they are with what the happenings on Facebook and Instagram.

As Sunday drew to a close, I reflected on my weekend without social media. One truth I gained was that I enjoyed my own life more without the subtle pressure of feeling that it is only good if it can be shared in some way with other people. I was subconsciously measuring the quality of my life by the number of ‘likes’ my status updates received. I discovered that I interactions with individuals can be more meaningful than mass approval or generic comments. More than anything, my mind felt renewed.

2 Corinthians 10:5 declares, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Nobody can deny the power of the mind. Our lives are controlled by it. The Bible also commands that we should not be “conformed…but transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Immersion in social media consumed my thoughts: “What am I going to post next?” “This picture is Instagram worthy.” ” Will people agree with me?” “Ooo, how many likes did that post get? Did anyone comment?” And then there is all the trending gossip that quickly idle away hours of my time – time that could have been spent filling my mind with life-changing knowledge, interacting with real life, or joining in with the imaginings of my children.

There is an almost 4-year old in our house who is experiencing a surge in brain power. He questions concepts and challenges ideas all throughout the day. It’s exhausting! It’s also a reminder to me that I need to be engaged with my world at all times; I cannot zone out or allow my own mind to slip into stagnancy.  There are answers to his questions and fresh problems and puzzles for him to solve. As long as I am feeding my mind with rich knowledge and listening for God to speak His wisdom and truth into my life, I can do the same for my boy. Social media may just have to take a back seat in my day.

What percentage of your day is influenced by social media? Are you willing to take on the challenge of a day without it? What are some things that you would like to do but feel like you don’t have enough time for them?

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A Not-So-Typical, Typical Day

It’s not been an easy few weeks for me. It all started when our third child fell and fractured her ankle. My husband left a couple days after that which required me to take all 4 kids to get her cast put on…thankfully only one partial meltdown occurred just before leaving the doctor’s office. The day after my husband returned we made an unplanned trip to Texas for a week for a funeral and only a couple of days after we returned I had to go to the hospital for some unexpected medical concerns which are still not completely resolved. In the midst of all of this, I’m dealing with a friendship gone south after an unresolved misunderstanding that transpired nearly a year ago. I provided all of these details to set the stage for today’s adventure.

Our kitchen was quite bare since we still hadn’t restocked upon returning from our trip – nearly 5 days ago. I knew my husband had some long work days coming up and I didn’t want our entire Saturday to be spent in Costco so last night I dared myself to go by myself with the kids. “All right,” I replied, “I accept your dare.”  The first thing I determined in preparation for this adventure was to not rush the kids AT ALL when they got up. The minute I put the pressure on them they dig in their heels and move even slower than normal. So I acted as if it was business as usual but mentioned we would go to Costco once morning chores were done. “Costco?” they squealed. “Maybe there will be samples!” They moved a bit faster after that but not much.

Morning chores consist of clearing the table, sweeping, unloading the dishwasher, pet care, time on the potty, getting dressed and brushing teeth, and making the beds. The kids help with pretty much all of it in some way.  I left them cleaning up their rooms when I took the dog out; as I was approaching the house (after having walked about 30 steps away) I look up to see my bare-naked son standing in the driveway with a shocked look on his face as he declared, “Mom! You left without me!” He was quickly joined by his younger sister who was only wearing a T-shirt and the child with the bright pink cast was not far behind. “Oh goodness,” I thought, “this is only supposed to happen to other people!” I shooed my bare-bottomed offspring back into the house and reviewed their instructions from only 3 minutes ago. Instruction number one: get dressed.

An hour later, give or take 30 minutes, we were finally in the car and on our way to Costco. Everybody was very excited, including me. I had packed ample snacks and prayed that it had been a wise decision to pack lightly by only taking 2 diapers and a pull-up instead of the whole diaper bag. I also prayed that my mostly potty-trained two-year old would not need to go pee at all in Costco and that I wasn’t being naive to have left her in panties instead of putting a pull-up on her as a precaution.  Upon arriving at the store, I loaded the two girls in the cart, put the baby’s seat in the Snap and Go stroller, and assigned Makoa to push the stroller (after all, he turns 4 this month). I held my breath as we navigated that huge parking lot. I told him to stay close to me and to look at the baby while I watched for cars.  He froze mid-lot a couple of times because he thought cars were coming but gained confidence as we got closer to the entrance.

I lost count of how many times I heard, “You have your hands full” and the looks of pity that accompanied those comments. One open-mouthed lady asked, “Are they all yours?” One Costco employee stopped in his tracks to watch Makoa pushing the stroller and said, “You must really trust him! My son would have tipped the stroller over by now.” I replied, “I really do trust him. He is a good boy.”  The refrigerated rooms made us all laugh. The kids would cry out, “Coldee! Coldee” and then giggle incessantly. As we walked along, completing our list, I doled out snacks as needed.   My fantastic stroller-pusher would shout out, “Samples! I see samples, Mom!” and we would work our way over to them as quickly as possible. Then he would say, “I think we should pause,” since he couldn’t eat and push at the same time. So we would pause and it would give me time to think.

I thought about how I felt with all the stares, the looks of wonder and the looks of pity. I wondered how I would handle it if everyone chose to fall apart at the same time. I encouraged myself to relax my shoulders and just enjoy the moment. I chatted with my children and savored the samples and rather liked not having to worry about lunch today.

We had made it through the check out and were headed to the exit with receipt in hand when Little Miss Pink Cast decided it was time to stand up in the cart. In the process, her cast got stuck. So there we were – in the middle of the lane – trying to maneuver her immobile foot while she got madder and madder. I finally got her seated again but by this time she was very upset. She decided to vent loudly and viciously whacked the cart, something that did not make her feel any better. I chose to not take a quick survey of the audience I knew we had.

We made it out of the store and the change of scenery soothed the melting down toddler. I instructed my son to “Watch Kealoha and watch me and I’ll watch for cars.” Then my darling two-year old said, “And I’ll watch Kale’a and I’ll watch me.” She really wanted to feel like she had a job too. When we arrived at our van, I breathed a sigh of victory.  I looked at Makoa and said, “You made me so proud today. You did such a good job pushing that stroller and helping me.” He got a sheepish grin and slightly shrugged his shoulders, “Yeah, I did.” I scooped him up in a big bear hug.  Kalena said, “I did a good job too, Mommy, and you did a good job.”

Sitting here reflecting about my day and all that I’ve experienced recently I have come to the conclusion that I can walk in confidence. My fear and anxieties mostly come from wondering how I’ll handle unknown situations – bad ones, painful ones, humiliating ones. And even deeper down I’m worried that how I handle it will prove me inadequate at best, a failure at worst. Now I see that I don’t have to be ashamed of my imperfections, of having my own opinions and perspectives, or of making choices of which others may disapprove. I can even have people dislike me and I’m okay. I’m okay because I know that God’s got me. In the throes of sorrow, in the hurt of rejection, in the humiliation of toddler tantrums in public, He’s got me and He provides a way to survive. He allows all things for my good and His glory. It may sound simplistic to say this but all I’m really called to do in this life is believe Him.

How has God proven Himself faithful to you today?

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