Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mom Set Free


I'm clean today. When I move my hair just a little bit until it falls over my face the result is intoxicating. Soap. I actually smell like soap. It's an amazing feeling-- to be doing my mom thing WHILE also being clean. That's rare. And if you don't know why that's so amazing to me then instead of labeling me a gross individual just be happy for me instead, ok? It's a big day.
My last facial came from the draining of boxed macaroni as the steam hit my face on the heavy pour. I'm painting my nails as I karate kick shoes out of the dog's mouth, attempting to ignore multiple requests for yet MORE snacks, and wondering if my children will ever go to school again (only slightly dramatic on this third day off of the week). It's a crazy house here, but it's good, ya know? I DO like this life. It's hard, but it's amazing to be given the blessing of raising these four individuals. I've really been trying to embrace my role at home and not just thinking of it as temporary. Sometimes I look forward to a time when I'm not changing diapers constantly or adjusting an ill fitting sock before the waterworks start. Again. For the love.
Instead, I'm trying to recognize that my role in servanthood doesn't end when my children are grown. It's a role that God has given to me. I serve Him through it, but I also am able to serve others through it. When my children are grown, I'll have grandchildren to help. There will always be plenty of ways to serve, now and then. But the biggest thing that has plagued me with stepping into (Okay, being thrown into....in the deep end) motherhood was the feeling of not being very good at it. It's true, I'm selfish. I like my alone time to think or shower or run. My mom look lacks much to be desired. My kids don't bat an eye if I tell them to do something in public, knowing full well I'll probably avoid a scene instead of sticking to my guns about what I told them because of my drastically introverted approach to life. I don't always feel like I'm doing much right in parenting my little ones. Still, I've known and tried to focus on the fact that God gifted me with these little loves and therefore gifted me with four huge opportunities for growth in His name.
Just yesterday before the snow started, I took everyone for haircuts. There are many events I try to avoid at all costs, but it has dawned on me lately that I'm not really doing them any favors by not participating in these. The regular service at church. The grocery store. Places like that where they just need to learn how to act. This is why I found myself at the dentist during nap time with my crew just last week. Another big mistake, but that's a story for another day. We were talking about the haircut trip, weren't we? It was nowhere near as bad as the time the three year old sent a gal to the hospital when the scissors slipped and she cut herself, but still it wasn't good. The same darling three year old decided he was not, in fact, getting a haircut that day and was quite rude insisting that he wouldn't do it. I'm all about natural consequences and I knew this would be a good time to let that play out because if he didn't get a haircut, he didn't get a sucker. WoooooWeeee! I ended up dragging him out with the baby on my hip and all eyes on me. Not to mention the two big boys practically pro wrestling in the parking lot with giggles, suckers, and fresh new looks on their precious heads. Before, I would have been mortified.
But lately, I've realized that I am free from all of that. Of course, as parents we are to instruct our children in the way they should go, but ultimately Jesus is the one who saves them from the sin that is rampant in their lives. Nothing I do as a mother (or don't do) makes God love me or them any less. I'm His daughter. He chose me. I delight Him*. Just that little reminder completely changed my afternoon. I no longer cared to be judged by the people who witnessed the Day At The Barber Shop. It didn't matter! God has given me these children and He doesn't make mistakes. He knows me. He loves me. Isn't that an amazing feeling to be known? In the time of superficial connections on Facebook and pseudo mom support groups, it feels so comforting to be seen in my service by the King of Kings.
If you struggle with this topic of not feeling enough, I have many reading suggestions for you, but you should start with this one. I really enjoyed it and it is book one out of twenty I plan on reading this year. Also, those cookies? They were just two out of ten I plan on eating tonight. 
I mean, what else do you do on a snow day?

(* see Ephesians 1:4-5, Galatians 4:5, Zephaniah 3:17)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Perfecting Tools

Gatlinburg Fire 2016

Sometimes...MOST times God doesn't come to us in a way we'd expect. I know that some people appear to have been on the same pew at church since the day they were born. It may seem as if God speaks to them in quiet Bible studies with friends at a local coffee shop or during major milestones in their lives, the happy ones. I know that He can and often does bend down to us in those ways, but I just want to encourage you today if that's not exactly how you've felt His presence lately. It's only just dawned on me recently that this is not how my story is going, either. I think that's okay.
I was not a good mother today. I wasn't even a good person. 
Before you say, "Oh, she's just being hard on herself", please let it sink in that I was demonstrating all of the behaviors I try so hard to prune out of my children. I was easily angered. Shouting over trivial things. Honestly, whole-heartedly annoyed at our home life. Typing all of these, convicts me yet again. To reset, I had to just get outside and see the beauty of His creation and remember what I was trying to accomplish in bringing up my children.
When we think of Jesus, thoughts often drift toward the healer that He was- how He made the lame to walk and the blind see. We know that He could just speak and problems would fade away. What we don't always remember is that Jesus didn't always work in that way. We don't have to look far to know that He doesn't always work in that way now, either.
Do you remember the story of Paul when he was stoned, beaten half to death, but he marched back into town to share God's word (see Acts 14)? What about the story of the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace because of their faith (see Daniel 3)? These people went through the fire. Some literally, some figuratively.
James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." I don't really think that James is asking us to be joyful all the time about our sufferings, but to instead to be joyful in the hope and promise of what those trials will bring later. Paul talks about it in Romans 5, too. We have hope.
As mothers we have hope. Our kids can have hope.
Today my fire came in the form of wild little boys who are much louder than their mama. It blazed in my heart when x, y, and z didn't go as planned. The fire raged on in the words that were said. And it hurt. It's not always as simple as Him parting the waters. Sometimes, it needs to hurt a little. I don't always feel Him the most when I've sat down in my comfortable chair by the fire with my five trillion pretty colored markers to write down all that I'm learning in my studies. He speaks to me in other ways, too. Often, He speaks to me through the good and perfect gifts He sent me in Kinley, Abel, Merit, and Saylor. Wendy Speake co-authored a great book that I recommend called Triggers and in it, she wrote "That perfect gift, swaddled, is the perfecting tool that will bring us to maturity."
There are no perfect kids, perfect homes, perfect mornings. But our Heavenly Father IS perfecting us.
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12
I'm so grateful for these little perfecting tools that are my children. God has used them in so many ways already and I know that He will continue to help us help each other. 
So here's to you, whoever you are that is reading this now. Your life isn't perfect, but God has a perfect plan for it. Perfecting insinuates action. He's working on you through your trial at work, at home, or wherever. Right now. He hasn't abandoned you. He's in the fire, too.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye 2017, Hello New Year

Every year there's this hope involved with the beginning of a new year. It's the feeling of one year accomplished, another gained. The possibilities seem new and fresh. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't. This year feels like another one that I get to love my family and so I'm grateful, but I've not created too many grandiose ideas of what I might do in the upcoming year. I think it's great to have goals, but I plan to keep mine simple and to keep loving my family purposely in thought and action. I don't think that I've got it all figured out, but I can rest in knowing that God has gone before me and his will is mine. I started thinking about writing this post. I love a good recap of a year passed. But when I started thinking about what we've gone through this year, I was drawing a blank. Our kids grew so much this year and that was the focus that came to mind. Our focus is them. Less of us. More of them because our Heavenly Father has called us to them. If I'm being totally transparent, sometimes that is very hard. We wish we could do all the things we want to do while still doing what is best for our children and those two things are not always positively correlated. So, 2017 was about our little family of six and that's alright by me.
We celebrated a risen Savior and possibly took the first ever photo of all the children looking in the same(ish) direction. That was big.
 Then I took a solo trip to Savannah, GA with the Six Pence Posse (my OG family) leaving my kiddos for the first time ever with their daddy for a few days.


 We went back to our favorite stomping grounds in St. George Island, FL for a beach vacation that they still ask to repeat almost every day.


I had a great summer with the boys and little lady and felt as if I finally was validated as a mother. Doing everything by myself, day in and day out, for four little people showed me I was strong, capable, and it didn't matter if I was alone. It was a difficult and fun summer and I treasure it now in my memory.
We traveled lots of miles on foot this year, some with the kiddos and others by ourselves running and tackling our fitness goals. The hike pictured above was their longest and it poured rain on us. We just tried to keep smiling. That's life!
We were in the path of totality for the solar eclipse and that was a once in a lifetime experience (probably anyway) and a spiritual event. Wow. Indescribable. 
We went camping in the fall and it was such a treat.
We continued our Halloween tradition of dressing up in group costumes. The theme? Game of Thrones
 We reached the summit of Mt. LeConte together.
 We added to our family by four little paws. Meet Player.
Then we had a beautiful, simple Christmas and I got to bake with many of the women in my life.
And now we're to New Year's Eve and Jordan's family is on their way over to celebrate...but just until about 9 because we can't hang. I hope you have a fun, safe evening. I'll leave you with some alternative lyrics to a favorite song this time of year...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fullness

Grief is annoying. Just when you think you can breathe again and things are going a little better, seemingly out of left field you're hit again. BAM.
That's what happened today at just before 8am this morning. I start my day at 5:30, slowly waking to have my coffee, let the dog out (yes, we got a dog), and try to pry open my eyes from yet another night of sporadic sleep. Every morning, I try to cling to that joy that's there (Psalm 30:5). The little people do not yet grasp this joy and so they very begrudgingly and painfully slowly rise up and start their day. I try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it does. Sometimes I herd them into school like cats and wish the other two that are clinging to my legs and hips could stay, too. Other days, I want to keep every single one of my arrows (Psalm 127:4) home with me so we can sit on Chip and JoJo chairs in our hypothetical library with the puppy in our laps and learn Spanish like all those perfect homeschool mamas on Instagram. But this is real life and we're late.
I buckle my little loves into their chairs and hand them an array of breakfast items that will inevitably end up on the floorboards and in their ears. I don't know why either. 
Abel got a new ear two weeks ago. I don't think I've talked about it here, but it's not a new processor per se; there was not another surgery. Instead, his cochlear implant company came out with a device called the CROS link system that takes sound information gathered from his unimplanted side and sends it to the implanted side so he has access to more language and sound. It's about the size of a hearing aid so it's tiny and made for adults primarily. In other words, it's not Abel proof. In two weeks, he has already broken it once. Yesterday, he didn't want to wear it after school so I put it in a very specific spot in my car so that I would know exactly where it was this morning for school. He goes in waves. Sometimes he wants to wear it all the time. Other times, he doesn't want to wear it at all. After testing in the sound booth on Monday, we know it is helping his hearing tremendously so obviously we want him to bond with it and become responsible with it like he is with his processor. But with all things new, it's a process. I went to grab his CROS link this morning and it was gone. It's not about the money. It's a two thousand dollar device once you pay for it and all the appointments that are required to program and set it up. Most insurance companies consider hearing devices a cosmetic expense and won't pay anything on them. So we put two thousand of our eggs into this basket, but who's counting? Anyway, I just want him to have the best opportunities he can. I don't want him to cry in gym because it's too loud and the language isn't clear. I don't want him to sign "mama" in large crowds. I don't want him to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to hear a fire alarm like his siblings. I don't want him to have to rely on power, a charger, just to be able to use a sense that most of us take for granted every hour. I don't want him to have this deafness. I want it. I want to take it from him.

Most days, I see the blessing of his deafness. I see the incredible opportunity Abe has to work hard and defy statistics. I dream of him being an interpreter, trilingual, an etymologist, in communications, a musician, or anything his heart desires. I can also recognize all the amazing people that were brought into our lives with his diagnosis years ago. I see how it's molding my other kids and how I hope they'll be more accepting of differences in their classmates because of it. Just the other day, they were playing that they met a kid on the playground who was deaf and they began signing to one another and purposing to "help" him find his mom. I mean, there are endless things to be thankful for.
But for five minutes in the car, I let myself be sad again. I think that's okay. 
The truth is that he is deaf and THRIVING.
HE CAN DO ANYTHING.
Even teach his old mom to ponder on that joy that comes in the morning. To soak it in. To remember that the God in Heaven made all things, to include my sweet second born, and he made them perfectly. He is in the details of our lives. He loves us unconditionally, perfectly, wholly, supernaturally.

"And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:17-19

Abel is full. I'm full. Through HIM, we are full. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chickamauga Battlefield Half

I know a lot of people run and I know that a lot of people aren't really impressed by a half marathon. I get it. But today I'm reminded more than ever why running has become such a motivator for me. I know it's hard for people to understand--so you went for a run and you feel better, good for you. Yes, endorphins probably play a huge role for me, but that's not quite it. You know what I think it is more than anything else? I think it's that I finished something. I'm home with our children, day in and day out. My job is never done. I'm never done parenting. I'm never done with the laundry no matter how hard I may try. You know what else I'm also never done with? Cleaning floors. I mean, it's just every little thing that I do throughout the day is never done. It's never done because I'll have to do it a few more times again in the very near future. But somehow when I lace up my shoes and set a goal of running some miles, I do finish that. I complete something I set out to do. It feels finished.

I set a goal a few months ago to run another half marathon. The last time I ran one was a few years ago. I wanted to officially beat that time, but I also wanted to run for thirteen point one miles straight without slowing to walk, something I had never done. Every other half marathon I've done before (3 others), I did not train for. I just winged it...and it showed. For this one, I purposed to train for it a few months in advance. I was ready. But then I fell ill a week before the race and I began to feel very discouraged. Hoping my symptoms would go away, I largely ignored them as best I could. I ended up at the doctor a day before the race and she told me that I had an ear infection and a sinus infection. I was determined to still race. It would have killed me to not get to finish. I trained and trained. Miraculously, we arranged an overnight babysitter. That in itself felt like a lot of work that would go wasted if I did not get to run that day. Nope. No way was I missing this race. Hopped up on an antibiotic and lots of prayers, I set off for our old Chattanooga stomping grounds for a night at a hotel near the race.
I woke up feeling pretty good. Jordan signed up for the race, too and decided to pace me. Because I felt myself getting faster, I began to create a goal in my mind that I wanted to finish around two hours, a twenty one minute improvement over the last half I completed. Honestly, I felt like two hours was a big stretch for me, especially being sick. But I would finish and I would beat my previous time. I was certain of that!
The Chickamauga Battlefield was a place we had visited a time or two before. It was lovely to experience it running on two feet, though. By mile two, we were running by deer meandering through the trees. We started off pretty fast in spurts, but it was difficult to get through the initial crowd of runners so we were nearing nine minutes for the first few miles. Miles 3-5 were the fastest and were closer to eight minutes. I was feeling amazing. I think I was surprising myself that I could keep up with that pace for five miles thus far, but I was also aware that I should probably slow down so I didn't run out of gas since really the race had just begun.

Miles 6-8 I started to settle into my typically comfortable pace around eight and a half minutes. The elevation gain of the following miles slowed me down considerably and for miles 9-13, I was closer to nine minutes. I was keeping a close eye on my watch, paying attention to the time and around mile eleven I realized I was definitely going to meet my goal of two hours if I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I felt myself getting a little emotional thinking about how God had brought me so far and how blessed I was that my health would allow all of it. At mile twelve, Jordan said, "You are going to hit your goal, but you have to turn it up." He kept pointing on me to run right beside him, but I felt smoked every time I caught up to him that I would slack off again. We were wearing shirts that matched and said we were doing this together so that was motivating for me to stay as close as possible to him. I had never run that many consecutive miles so my pace was slowing. My ankle had pain shooting through it and I felt like I was barely moving and limping at that! Still, I managed to hold under a nine minute pace and finished the race at 1:55:10 with an overall pace of 8'48. FIVE WHOLE MINUTES UNDER MY GOAL. Twenty six minutes better than the last half marathon I did. I felt great.

I was so proud. It wasn't because I think I'm a great runner or because I think this is some big feat. No, I was proud because I set a goal and I knocked it out of the park. I finished something for ME and I didn't have to stop to change a diaper. If I had written down my goal, I could have crossed it off my list. I was done...and it felt so good.

(Big thanks to my sister for watching the kids so we could make this happen. Plus, I am grateful to my husband for pushing me to finish fast and for all the hours he watched the kids while I was out running with my girlfriends to prepare. I was so thankful to him on Saturday. It was Veteran's Day and my veteran was sacrificing his own goals to run alongside me instead...and he looked great doing it! )


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Isn't This A Lovely Day

The sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday are on a continuous flow through the thin walls of my home tonight. I have poured myself a glass of white and there are no harsh overhead lights glaring on me, instead soft light twinkles from strings and lamps. The rain has ended. It's almost bedtime and it's the first time today that I've allowed the t.v. to be turned on so the boys are huddled around it. In other words, I finally have a chance to sit. It has been a full five minutes since anyone has asked me for anything and I've done nothing with that time except stare at this screen, begging for a place for my creativity and emotion to end up. It's a beautiful night here. I have mostly silence, a place to write, old enchanting music, and my husband is on his way home from his business trip. A girl can't want for much more.

Earlier today, I didn't feel as optimistic. Do you ever wonder what your children will remember? About their childhoods, I mean. When I think back on my own, I see that I have nothing but good thoughts and it scares me. It makes me wonder why I can't just get it together. The best I do every day is show my kids my own need for a savior. They see how selfish I am- daily, hourly. I'm exhausted by endless demands and even though I know I'm called to a life of service to them and others, it's often the very last thing I want to do.
Yet...
There's nothing else I want to do in the world. I get to be here to wash four curly heads at night and watch strong sibling bonds develop over belly laughs and wrestling matches. I don't have to miss them because I'm always right there by their sides. When I feel the walls of this small house closing in on me the more the children grow, I remember that one day our house will feel hopelessly quiet and empty. Soon enough, Merit won't grab my hand and kiss it, telling me "I like you so much, Mom." No, they'll all leave this little nest I've worked so hard to create and I'm afraid I'll be empty, too.
I'll mentally try to capture this fleeting moment with Merit dancing to early jazz with a mouth full of peanut butter he helped himself to. Abel is also enthralled with the music as he curls his cold toes underneath the quilt with me. He is spelling out his name with the letters on this keyboard and bobbing his head softly to the music. My deaf child! Saylor is sleeping sweetly in her pink polka dot pjs and Kinley wouldn't dare look away from some coveted screen time. It's business as usual here, but it's nice. I want for nothing.
It's just another simple night on the chestnut farm. Not much to write home about.
"Let the rain pitter patter
But it really doesn't matter
If the skies are gray
Long as I can be with you it's a lovely day"

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Arrows

"We don't become capable of developing the necessary strength in ourselves. The problem is with the placement of our eyes. When we believe we are enough-even when we feel Jesus's enough makes us enough-we're placing our eyes on ourselves, as if our abilities are top priority. On the other hand, when we acknowledge our constant need for and dependence on Him, our eyes are placed on Him, and His priorities take over." --Brooke McGlothlin (Gospel Centered Mom)

If any one picture could describe "Back to School" it's this one. We are tired. We decided to send the older boys to a school quite a bit farther away and the new routine has us a bit delirious. Motherhood is tiring any which way you spin it, though. For me, this week brought more time with my two babies. We've been to parks, read more books, cooked together, snuggled, and actually had a designated (double) nap time work out a time or two. I really like it. I just wish we were a bit closer to the school, but that's okay. We are getting into a new groove.

I'm proud of my school aged boys, too. I have a Kindergartner and a Pre-K student. Our goals for mainstreaming Abel have been set into place and we are hoping he flourishes in this environment with his typically developing peers. There have been some struggles with dragging boys out of beds in the morning, but other than that the challenges have been minimal.

I'm truly trying to remember as I cart my kiddos here and there that it's okay that I'm not a perfect mom. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you've read the inner anxiety I have about feeling as if I'm enough for these kids. We've heard people tell us and even encourage us to repeat it mantra style, "You are enough"/"I am enough". The book I'm reading now says to look at it in a different light. I'll never be enough. I need Jesus for that. And boy, do I! The summer started out strong and I was mommin' like crazy. We went to pools, we hiked, and we played sun up to sun down. But as summers do, ungratefulness and hatefulness bred within us as we took the ability to get out for granted and brotherly rivalry turned into all out brawls over the silliest things. The summer drew to an epic close when on the very last day of summer break, I decided with the help of another questionably sane friend to load up seven of our kids (under 7) and take them to the aquarium two hours away. The day made for a cute picture or ten, but it was also another reality check-
I need Jesus. THEY need Jesus, too. In every moment. With every breath.

It's ten o'clock at night and do you know how many times I've put my three and four year old back to bed? Me either. Lost count. It's helping to write this so I can truly focus on not absolutely losing it. 

But sometimes I lose it. Sometimes I have the facade of having it all together, but underneath it's just ugly and sinful--in need of a cleansing Savior.

People give you funny looks when you take that many children that close in age to a place like that. In the kids' defense, they were pretty stinkin' good that day, really. Anyway, I had four or five of the boys at an interactive part of an exhibit and they were taking turns among one another pretty pleasantly when another child walked up with three (yes, THREE) adults with her. They stood there as the boys each got a chance to play with the submarine viewer. When the last boy was looking (in a timely matter I might add), the woman said "All she wants to do is have a turn looking at this thing, but this lady has too many kids!" 

There are moments in life where you chew on what you should have said or would have said, but all you can do is think about it because the moment has passed. With just a hint of snark in my voice, I will tell you that I said exactly what I wanted to say in that moment-"Okay boys, let's move on. This little girl's mommy wants a turn at the submarine."

I've giggled at the look on her face a time or two since then.

But when I think about that moment, my thoughts are drawn to sin and how it so easily entangles us. My reaction to her was not love, but an immediate desire to make her feel small while I held my tongue to what I really wanted to say. I mean, why would anyone want to make a child feel unwanted? Don't you dare let my kids or any kids in my care hear you say anything about how you wish there were less of them. These kids are arrows (Psalm 127:3-5). They are His handiwork. They will be His messengers, His disciples. The God of the Universe gave them to me. He doesn't make mistakes. Back off, lady.

So, it's okay. To the world, I'm definitely definitely not enough. Far from perfect. My lot is one long crazy train most days. But I get to raise these kids. Me. This selfish, prideful, tired mom was chosen for them. They are prayed over and diligently loved and corrected. And I will continue to seek God's help in doing so. What a magnificent role I have here and I thank God for it.

But if I'm truly introspective, I can see that so many times it's not the behaviors, attitudes or personality characteristics of my kids' that need attention. Instead, it's my own. These boys (and girl) were given their attributes specifically and He is making them to work for good. I can't stomp on their independence now and expect them to feel confident in themselves in other ways down the road. My job is to make them into the individuals God made them to be, not who I want them to be.

People tell me often, "I don't know how you do it."

I don't either, but I know it's by the grace of God that we get through each new week. It's an exhausting, beautifully chaotic, messy life but it's an incredible one, too. I'm thankful for a Savior who doesn't leave us, ever.

 
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