Fahrvergnugen…time to enjoy the ride

It’s not a common practice…me running into the street (Northwest Highway, to be exact). I tend toward predictable and safe. Taking risks? Not so much.

So when Quade yelled with excitement and pointed out his window toward an object on the ground he wanted, I considered saying, “no” and “I can’t get out of the car and get that”…but instead I chose “yes” and “brave” (secretly knowing the serious mommy points I would earn).

Maybe I’m making this sound more cavalier than it was. I didn’t jump out of a moving car into oncoming traffic or anything. We were at a stop light and the treasured item sat only a few feet away. Checking to make sure no cars were coming down the shoulder, I hopped out of the car and grabbed this:

VW

That’s right…treasured.

You see, for the past week any time one of our clan spotted a Volkswagen, you heard the shout: “Fahrvergnügen”. (German for “driving enjoyment”… remember the VW commercials from back in the 90s?).

Finding VWs has become an obsession a healthy competition. It’s kinda fun to have a “thing” we share as a family…like a secret Fahrvergnugen society.

You know what’s amazing is how many VWs we see now that we are looking for them. I know there hasn’t been a rash purchasing of Volkswagens in the past week. But no joke in a ten minute drive we’ll count like 15!

The counting and searching makes the car rides more enjoyable. There’s something to focus our attention (instead of begging for a different song to be played or whining for a toy someone else has).

The other day I thought about our little game and how it relates to my hard days at home. Those days when the baby unloads every cabinet in the kitchen and the boys can’t seem to remember to sit down at the table to eat. On those days I can’t wait for them to all grow up. Hoping the next stage of development will be better than the one I’m in.

cabinets

I’m just hoping and waiting in the midst of my assumed “suffering” (a comparable ‘breeze’ to 99.5% of the world, mind you…but I digress). In Psalm 130 we read,

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the LORD more than watchman for the morning, more than watchman for the morning.”

So what more can I do than “wait” and “hope” during my long days with little ones? 

The psalmist suggests I act like a watchman. A watchman is diligent, learns, studies people. A watchman is also confident that someone else owns the building he is watching.

Waiting does not mean doing nothing…It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion of fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain.”–Eugene Peterson (“A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”)

Pause before you read this next line:

(Hoping) means a confident alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.” -Eugene Peterson

Confident. Alert. Expectation.

Like the confidence, alertness & expectation my boys have when looking for VW emblems. There is no doubt in their minds they will see one while we are driving. Because every time we drive somewhere we see several.

When I’m home with the boys I need the same confidence, alertness, & expectation, that God will do what he said he will do. There is purpose in this season. And by “wishing” it away, it’s like letting all those precious VWs go by unnoticed. I have to make a conscious choice to see.

I know we’ve heard “sieze the moment” & “they grow up so fast” & “carpe diem”…but if you hear enough older women tell you something, I’m of the mindset that maybe we should listen.

So, for me, confident-alert-expectation means stopping and being present in the middle of a moment. Taking mental pictures. Or actual ones (although sometimes taking the pictures distracts me from really enjoying the moment…you know?).

zoo

checkers

Practically speaking, Instagram has given me eyes for these moments (if you want to keep up with our day-to-day on Instagram…find me here). Even if my past motivation has been social, the habit has been formed. I see life in snapshots (and gifts I count).  I pay attention more to the details and the wonder of these amazing boys…like a watchman waits for morning. 

oldestandyoungest

What are you going to watch for today? 

(perhaps we can coin a new “carpe diem” phrase…”Fahrvergnugen”…enjoy the ride)

Discontent with Discontent

While I was sitting on the toilet, he barged in announcing he just went poop. Since we are potty training I was happy, then horrified. Happy he confidently  “went”. Horrified when I remembered we only have one downstairs bathroom…and I’m using it!

“Where did you go poo-poo?”.

“In the playroom.” I soon discovered, like a dog, my son had left his mark in the backyard of the Little People play house.

Moments later my almost 7-year-old son started crying because his size 4/5 underwear was cutting into his side. Unfortunately, my oldest doesn’t have “hand-me-downs” to put on. I’m the mom and in charge of buying him new ones. But he is on the “skinny” side and the underwear was from Gap so they appeared to fit well. And it’s been a busy season of life, meaning we all have had to make sacrifices, right?

His tantrum lead to my tantrum

Given the justified tears over too-small underwear I announced we were going to Kohls. I asked everyone to get their shoes on. My simple request launched my 2-year-old into Croc-coveting (his brother has new Avenger Crocs) and a full-on tantrum.

I asked him to join me in the bathroom (our family “discussion” room). I attempted to reason with him… explained how he had his own Crocs…those were his brother’s shoes…one day they would be his…the shoes are too big now…

He persisted.

I cried.

Seriously.

Why would a grown 35-year-old woman cry when her son threw a tantrum over Crocs?

I’ll tell you why. In my head I pictured “them”. The two sweet girls. The ones who obediently get their shoes on. The ones who compliment their mom’s fingernail polish. The ones who quietly put together 300 piece puzzles (true story).

I want them. Not my tantruming, poop-on-the-floor boy who wants his brother’s crocs. Not my almost 7-year-old who complains about too small underwear (although I understand he was uncomfortable).

I began to lecture my boys about their discontent. Can’t he be happy with the shoes he has? Shouldn’t he be grateful he even has underwear?

And I stop myself.

Who’s really being the ungrateful one? I’m the adult crying because I want different children. The greatest gifts God has given me and I’m upset at His choice. 

I apologize…

Again.

The rational side of me knows I’m being unfair. I’m comparing the worst versions of my boys to the best versions of girls. In glorifying a fantasy of perfect girls, I’m missing the wonder and joy of my boys. 

Later in the afternoon, while encouraging a group of new moms, I’m the one who left encouraged. One of the mentor moms shared how when she would allow fear, guilt, discontent to discourage her, a close friend would remind her to “Look Up!”.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

In the busyness of a new baby I’ve neglected my gifts list. When I stopped counting, I stopped enjoying and I started comparing.

I grabbed a large piece of white paper. With a red sharpie wrote “1,000 gifts” across the top and hung it on our living room wall. Now the list is clearly visible, and not ignored. And the boys can join me in counting His gifts of grace instead of grumbling.

We’ll attempt to look up more than we look around. When we do look around it will be to count our gifts.

Do you struggle with looking around instead of looking up? How do you combat discontent in your home?

**You will be happy to know, we “successfully” survived a trip to Kohls and purchased Hanes underwear (comfort guaranteed) in size 6-7. Of course, there were multiple requests for stuffed animals, mickey mouse pjs, a book. Then a tantrum while in the check out line. While holding my 2-year-old as he hit me repeatedly, the cashier commented, “You have four boys? Wow. How do you do it?”. I tilted my head sideways (to avoid another punch), questioningly squinted my eyes and said, “Does it look Iike I’m ‘doing it’?”. Just another day. Thankfully (counting my gifts) I walked out only having purchased underwear and with all 4 boys healthy and somewhat happy.

Life: Unmasked

When you think you can’t handle one. more. thing.

You know what sounds easy now? Taking care of 4 boys.

A little over four months ago taking care of 3 boys while pregnant was my limit.

Then meeting the needs of 3 boys while caring for a newborn became my challenge.

Then I asked for help from friends while my husband travelled and I cared for 4 boys.

THEN a stress fracture while caring for 4 boys. And my husband travelled. Seriously God?

When my 2 1/2-year-old got a stomach bug the morning I was trying to get the boys off to school, with a stress fracture and my husband out-of-town, I snapped. “I SURRENDER!”

Only three days before my foot x-ray I had written in my journal, “Just when I feel comfortable parenting 4 kids something happens to bring me back down.”

Then I read in “Jesus Calling”:

“Thank me for difficulties in your life since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance.”

Some encouraged me & said, “I can’t wait to see what God will teach you through all this.”

Honestly learning a lesson was the farthest thing from my mind. Obviously I had not learned the “humility” lesson yet. I continued to “relentlessly replace ‘me’ with ‘He'”. (Remember I am NOT the God-Centered Mom. I am the self-centered mom. Being God-centered is an aspiration, not a reality.)

My mind was consumed with survival, not growth. How was I going to be the mom I want to be when I couldn’t even walk? How was I going to manage the behavior of my boys when I couldn’t administer consequences?

Since others said God taught them big things when they went through trials, my eyes slowly turned outward from me & began to look for the lesson. Here are a few things I learned:

-I am a “doer”. I do. I act. If something seems wrong, I fix it. Not being able to jump up and fix things right away, I was forced to be patient & allow them to fix themselves. What I learned…I don’t have to “do” everything.

-My way is not the “right way”. If someone else is willing to help, then their way is the right way. Otherwise it wouldn’t get done. Learning to let go of the frustration when things aren’t done “my way” was a huge relief.

-My boys need me to sit with them. In doing things my way I miss spending time with my boys. Just sitting. Realistically food has to be cooked, clothes cleaned, dishes washed, but souls need to be filled. Bodies need to be hugged. Moments need to be shared. I have been only meeting physical not emotional needs.

-Even when I could literally not survive on my own efforts. God provided. Even when I was determined to remain self-centered in the midst of this trial. He pursued my heart.

He repeated, “I’ve got this. What are you so upset about? The things you view as sooo important…they do not matter. See my gifts in this:”

  • A generous, helpful mother-in-law and time to bond with her
  • Quiet moments with each son
  • Focused time in the Word
  • A week of breakfasts in bed
  • A day connecting with my sister
  • Boys taking on more responsibility

I opened the mail.

Those boys mirror the ages of my boys. I imagine their mom’s thoughts read: “You think you have reached your limit? I’m living in a cave with my 4 children. My ‘home’ is being bombed. I have no clue where my next meal will come from.”

*if you want to learn more about this woman & her boys in South Sudan read here at Samaritan’s Purse.*

It was as if my heavenly Father sent a version of the cliché message, “There are children starving in Africa.”

He said, “Eat of this life. Others are starving. Eat of my body which was broken. Drink the living water. Yes, you have challenges, but you have so, so many blessings! Even if everything in this life was stripped from you. You have me. What matters most.”

When you think you can’t handle one. more. thing., He whispers, “You CAN’T…but I can. Trust me!”

“…We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

And…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Few Favorites Friday: Home Alone edition

On Monday I shared that my husband Bruce would soon be going out of town…the truth is he had already left that Sunday afternoon and was gone this week. Fortunately, he arrived back safely last night. Whew. We survived. There were definitely moments that I hope my children block from their memories (don’t know if I will ever forgive forget them myself).

One lesson I learned this week is the value of community & allowing community to step in and help. A few gifts of grace:

  • Phone call from my mentor reminding me: “This is the day the Lord has made…” Which helped me focus on seeing the positive in my day.
  • Offers to have us over for dinner or bring us dinner.
  • Enough food from one friend that fed me for 6 meals!
  • A kind dad at Pump it Up who included my boys while he played with his own child (they needed some big jumping, wild, fun).
  • The worker at Pump it Up who let me slide down the big slide with my boys without wearing the required socks.
  • New exhibit at the Nature & Science Museum…great conversations with the boys about weather.
  • A sister who came over…held Knox while I put the boys to bed, then folded laundry for me.
  • Knowing all the people who I could call and they would help me in a heartbeat.

Here are a few more specific favorites:

1. Frito Salad:

My friend Kari brought us a yummy salad this week. I thought I would share it with y’all because it’s pretty simple, delicious…& just a little naughty. 😉

2. Pizza Making {Mommy Break}

This week I got a text from one of our babysitters. She asked if she and her fiance could come over and make pizza with the boys for dinner. I answered with a: “Um, yes! Yes you can!”

She texted me the day before asking what kind of pizza they liked. When they arrived she looked at me and said, “We’ve got this, you can go do whatever you need to do….even if it’s just sit down & breathe.” <—an angel in disguise, right?

I went upstairs to fold laundry (which did require me to sit down & rest). A few times I snuck downstairs to snap some pictures of their work in progress:

Making Dough

Spreading the Sauce

Voila! Mac Brothers’ Pizza (coming to a street near you!)

Our sweet sitter (& fiance) also completely cleaned the kitchen & took the trash out to the alley! Truly gave me the boost of energy I needed. Amazing.

3. Hot Chocolate & God

During the #hellomornings* Spreecast (basically a video conference call with 78 other women!), Kat Lee ( from inspiredtoaction.com) shared a super idea. One of the participants asked: what should she to do if her child wakes up while she is  having her early morning quiet time? (remember #hellomornings is waking up FOR my kids, not TO my kids).

Kat shared how when that happens she makes her kiddos hot chocolate. They grab a Bible/books to read through. Then they chose a name written on a stick of someone they will pray for.

Well, on Wednesday I told my boys about this idea and they loved it. We wrote names on popsicle sticks and placed them in a jar labeled “prayer”. The next morning, since Bruce was out-of-town, we all sat at the table. They had their hot chocolate and Bibles, I had my tea and Bible. For about 5 minutes we sat and focused our hearts on God.

To be honest I didn’t think such a thing would be possible with 3 boys. However, they proved me wrong. It wasn’t the deepest, most meaningful quiet time I’ve ever had. But it was the sweetest. I will treasure these pictures…

*If you are curious about #hellomornings…check it out here or the link on my side-bar. Sign-ups for the Summer Session are going on now. Session runs from May 14th thru July 8th.

4. Little Lights Missionary Biographies” by Catherine MacKenzie–Ashley

 My friend Ashley (who has 3 adorable little girls) sent me this favorite. I definitely want to check them out & buy some for our “hot chocolate hellomornings”.

“These biographies are sold separately. There are eight books in the series, including biographies about: Amy Carmichael, George Muller, Corrie Ten Boom, David Livingston, and Hudson Taylor. I would recommend them for ages 4 and up. Each book is about 24 pages long and presents the gospel beautifully. I adore children’s books and have many favorites on our bookshelf. I love how these tell true stories about brave men and women who gave so much of themselves in order to further the Kingdom. Good for kids to read some nonfiction!”

What were some of your favorites this week? What are your survival strategies when your husband travels?

They DO grow up

My first little guy was a challenge. He was cute & chunky, but cried a lot. He ended up having severe reflux & gas issues for his entire first year…crying for hours and hours at night. We swaddled, patted, paced, swung, shushed…with no luck.

This past Sunday night we sat at the dinner table…my husband, eldest son & myself. I watched my son devouring yummy lasagna a friend brought us. After dinner he walked into the kitchen & returned with a pie for us to share. Then he suggested we play a game of Uno…just the three of us (I snagged this pic real quick on my phone).

I NEVER would have guessed 6 1/2 years ago that this would be the same son. I really thought he would be challenge forever. That he would need consoling for a lifetime.

Was this the same boy almost kicked out of a church program when he was two years old for biting? The one who I was told by his preschool teacher had “difficulties paying attention & most likely always would.”

Yet here he sits with my husband and I enjoying an adult meal & playing a fun game. Loving each others’ company, laughing at jokes & talking strategy.

What the older moms tell you is true. They DO grow up.

So if you are in a hard season (talking to myself too!) remember this will pass. It WILL. Eventually. Pass.

If your baby is crying ALL. THE. TIME. That baby will stop crying eventually. He will grow up. He will laugh a lot more than he cries. You will have lots of fun with him. Some day.

I know that when days are long that perspective doesn’t always help. So just take today. Be fully present and think of 3 things to be thankful for (join Ann in her Joy Dare). Perhaps that will change our hearts from frustration to gratitude to joy (again giving myself a pep-talk!).

Let’s enjoy today because sadly they DO grow up.

Love one another…

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!!

I wanted to share a couple things with you this Valentines Day.

1) Love in Action

Yesterday I received a package from a sweet girl I met at the Relevant Conference last October. I opened it to find this:

She had read about the robbery in our home & how the thieves had taken the necklace I had received at Relevant. She sent me hers. Amazing. Selfless. Tender Generosity.

Do you know what John 13:35 says (the verse on the necklace)?:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Today {and everyday} let us love one another so ALL men may know that we are Christ’s disciples. Thank you Alle!!! You are a treasure in so many ways!

2) Sweet Valentine Poem

The other night my eldest son shared a poem with us that he had learned in his class.  Hope it warms your heart and puts a smile on your face today (love the Star Wars fighter who joins in at the end…)!

Gift of Theft

Last Tuesday our home was broken into…yet I was given so much more than they stole.

The night before “the event” I was at my Momheart meeting. My heart was heavy that night. Tears & frustrations poured out to my mentor in her kitchen. “Why was it so hard to parent my 4-year-old right now? I’ve been trying everything and he is so challenging”. She gave me comfort and wisdom.

We discussed the last chapter of Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”. Focusing on God being a gift-giver, who desires to love us intimately. But I was just not in the mood. I realized I viewed God as needing me to earn His love. Love freely given? Undeserved? How could that be? Especially imagining Him loving me in this depressed, anti-social, funk.

On Tuesday, while all the boys were at school I came home to eat lunch after running some errands. After eating my lunch, I wrote a quick post for the blog, then made peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses on them for an after-school treat for the boys. 

Realizing I was going to be late for carpool pickup I left my new Macbook laptop on the kitchen counter. I turned on the alarm. Locked the door and headed for the boys’ school.

30 minutes later someone broke into our home.

They took the laptop on the counter. Went upstairs and opened the drawer of my bedside table, pulled out a bin of maternity clothes from under my bed, went through the drawers in my area of the bathroom, stole my costume jewelry and a jewelry box, went through our closet. Stole a pillowcase to carry out all the loot.

I’ve had a week to process what happened. I have had countless conversations with friends and family. I’ve received wonderful words of comfort & encouragement. I have also been asked multiple times, “Do you feel violated? Are you scared?”

It’s caused me to stop and think, why don’t I feel fear? Why don’t I feel violated?

I replay my comments to others about “the event”:

  • I am so grateful we were not home.
  • I am grateful it wasn’t a day where we would normally be home for naps at that exact time, with my 6-year-old often downstairs playing by that backdoor that was broken into.
  • I am so grateful they didn’t take any of my husband or particularly the boys’ things.
  • I am grateful that my camera, only 2 ft away from my laptop on the same kitchen counter, was not stolen.
  • I am grateful that all the pictures on the stolen laptop are still on my camera…since I haven’t taken the time to delete them yet.
  • I am grateful that the laptop they stole had Scripture as the screen saver and folders labeled “God Centered Mom” & “Do Not Depart”.
  • I am extremely grateful that my wedding rings (that I’m not currently wearing in my extreme pregnant state) were just moved and hidden 2 days prior to the break-in (hiding them from the toddler & preschooler) and therefore were not stolen!!
  • I am grateful that my current favorite pieces of costume jewelry were not taken.
  • I am grateful for a working alarm & responsive police.
  • I am so grateful for a husband who came home from work immediately to clean everything up and fix the door.

There it is…without realizing it I had created a gratitude list. With each conversation I had been counting my gifts.

This is why fear had no place. It had been pushed out by gratitude.

Ann Voskamp wrote in her book, “We can only experience one emotion at a time.”

Not only had the theft given me a heart of gratitude that pushed out fear…that gratitude had pushed out the parenting frustrations I had been feeling. I saw my life with new eyes. It also pushed aside the depression that had been hovering, as I was reminded of the importance of friendships & how blessed I am.

This past week I realized they may have broken in our home & taken some of my things, but God’s power is greater. Nothing can separate us from His love.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?…

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

Romans 8:28, 31, 35, 38-39

Linking up with:

A Holy Experience: Multitude on Mondays