I Can’t Eat Because My Arms Hurt

Literally, I kid you not (no exaggeration), the following are excuses I have recently heard from our 3 year-old in regard to eating.

“I can’t eat anymore, Mommy, because my arms hurt.”

“Mommy, this food hurts my ankles.”

“Ouch! This pepper hurt my tooth!”

“This food is toooo hot!!! I need to get some cold food.”

“I’m just too sleepy for my food.”

“I can’t eat because I haven’t pooped yet.”

On and on the excuses flow. 

And every single time I’m pretty much like, “You’ve got to be kidding me, right?!” The kid who just told me she was “SOOOOOO HUNGRYYYYY,” is now no longer able to raise the spoon to her mouth?!

Folks, it’s maddening.

Literally, I make a meal and place it before her hungry soul and what does she do when she gets to the table?

She makes excuses.

She tells me why it’s hard to eat…why she can’t eat…and why the eating is getting in the way of her comfort and plans.

And it wasn’t until this morning, when she insisted the English Muffin eating was hurting her limbs, that I realized she can sound a whole lot like some of us when we come to HIS TABLE.

Needy, hungry, parched souls that we are, we come.

He has invited us to banquet with Him; He has prepared a table before us; He has graciously laid out a feast for us; and He has encouraged us to taste His goodness. He has commended us to partake of His Word, ask for His daily bread, and drink of His mercies. His ability to feed His sheep is immense, and His harvest is abundant. His bounty never runs out; His well never dries; and He never tires of providing HIMSELF for us. 

And yet…what do we do?

We make excuses about why it’s too hard to sit at His table;

we complain about the effort it takes to feast; and

we whine about the discipline of eating.

Laid out before us, every day, is an opportunity to sit at His feet and feast on the Bread of Life…to hear Him, to learn from Him, and to be filled by Him. 

And what do we do?

We stand in the “kitchens” of our lives, just like Martha, busying ourselves with the world around us. All the while, Jesus is sitting in our “living rooms” waiting to share of His abundance.

“We’ll get to it later,” we say. “We’ll try to squeeze it in,” we promise. All the while, we’re running, rushing, and doing a whole lot of SNACKING.

And just like my daughter, snacking between meals fills her up…just enough…so that she no longer feels the need to FEAST. 

We snack on snippets of Truth we hear on the radio; we do drive-by scrolling from our favorite Christian authors on our feeds; and we snack on a whole lot of other things that do not truly fill.

Our work, our kids, our bank accounts, our appearance, our networks…

Our days are filled, but are WE FILLED? 

We are hungry, and yet we make excuses. We are thirsty, and yet we refuse to drink.

It’s too much work.

I don’t feel like it does anything. 

I don’t feel like I hear Him. 

I don’t have the time. 

You name it, we complain about it. And honestly, if my daughter’s excuses sound ridiculous to me, I can’t imagine how our excuses sound to the Holy One.

So this morning as I urge my daughter to eat the meal before her, laying aside her excuses and complaints, I (too) am urging my soul to feast on the table before me…to taste of His Truth…and to relish in the abundance of His ever-ready, always-filled, super-needed banqueting table.

Friends, we need to FEAST. And not because He needs us to feast and not because we earn His salvation when we feast, but because we’re hungry souls who have a loving God who, daily, wants to feed us…right from His hand. 

With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Solomon 2:3-4

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16 

How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103

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Bottling the Beautiful

I struggled this Thanksgiving.

No, I didn’t struggle with the long travel or the extended visits, and no, it wasn’t packing for 5 people for 7 days, and no, it wasn’t the potato cutting for 31 potato-eating souls, and no, it wasn’t an issue with getting into the thankful spirit, and no, it wasn’t even the balancing of holiday traditions while raising little souls and feeding tiny mouths.

No; it wasn’t any of that.

I struggled this Thanksgiving because I was thinking about the next Thanksgiving.

I struggled as I wondered if those little brown eyes will sparkle in that holiday picture next year and if those little brown arms will rest on mine between the slices of pumpkin, blueberry, and cran-apple pie.

Will we be packing her little clothes and carrying her little, wiggly body within our arms?

Will we hear that deep-happy giggle and will we feel those dimpled hands grabbing for our noses, glasses, and dangled earrings?

Will we be passing her around, sharing stories of her growth, and joking about the days when she soaked four bibs in an hour?

Will we be uttering her name and admiring her tightly-wound curls?

Will she still be with us, or will she be gathered around another Thanksgiving table? 

Will we remember her presence as we cut the turkey and sip on champagne?

Will we think about her, miss her, and even mourn her empty space as we serve up the pie and stir our coffee?

Will we remember her little, happy soul on her very 1st Thanksgiving Day?

Will we feel the hole of her presence, grieve the joy of her spirit?

Oh, what will the next Thanksgiving hold? 

And as I thought and reflected in the quietness of my heart this past Thursday, I couldn’t help but think of Mary.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

I truly have no clue what Mary was pondering as the shepherds shared about the angels in the field and the heavenly proclamation they had heard in the presence of their woolly sheep; I truly have no clue. But I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Greek word for “treasured” gives us a tiny hint about the thoughts treasured and pondered by this newly-minted mom.

Treasured (syntereo): to preserve a thing from perishing or being lost; to keep in mind lest it be forgotten; to mentally remember and conserve.

And as I read those definitions, and as I thought about Mary, and as I thought about Thanksgiving 2017 and the little girl with brown, creamy skin, I was challenged to “treasure.”

To treasure the happiness of our memories;

To preserve the pictures in my mind;

To conserve those moments in my heart; and

To bottle up all the beauty of all the memories we made this Thanksgiving.

See, we have no clue what is coming down the road for us and our sweet girl, but neither did Mary. 

I wonder if Mary stood at the foot of the cross and reflected upon that moment in the barn with her swaddled baby boy? I wonder as the tears streamed down her face if she thought back to those sweet and tender moments as the shepherds gathered ’round? I wonder if she took all those treasured, preserved, and conserved moments from her bottle of beautiful memories and gently dumped them as balm on her heart-broken soul?

I wonder.

Friends, I don’t know where you are and what you’re facing as you gather around your tables and trees this year, but I pray that as you move into this holiday season, you will bottle up the joy, remember the beautiful, and generously and intentionally conserve the present moments for ALL the moments to come.

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Our Little Girl, The Hair Debacle, and My Covet Closets

She was an absolute mess of emotion this morning.

Tears were running down her face and at one point, she was on the floor in a fit of absolute frustration.

I couldn’t understand her; I didn’t know what she needed; and I was at an absolute loss as to how to stop the tears, make sense of her chaos, and get us herded out the door and into the church by 10:30 AM.

Again, she repeated the words.

“I want my hair to look like Leah’s.” 

What?

“I want my hair to be twisted down!”

Twisted down?!? 

“I want my hair on the side and down!!!”

Oh my heavens! What is she talking about and why in the world can’t I remember what Leah’s hair looks like?!?! 

“I want a tie with a twist!!!”

So…

I attempted a clip on the side, with a small twist, and with hair falling down. That’s what she said, right?!?!

“NOOOOOOOO!!!” she wailed.

At this point, she was in absolute tears, and mama was semi close to a “Sunday Smackdown.”

You’ve had those, right? Those moments when you scream something holy like, “GET IN THE CAR!!! We’re going to WORSHIP!!! STOP YOUR WHINING and PUT ON YOUR BLESSED SHOES!!! You’re gonna make us late!!!”

But for some reason, we’ll chalk it up to the Spirit in all of His graciousness and patience with my impatience, I remained calm.

“How about this?”

I attempted a small braid on the side of her head…with a tie…falling to the side with her other hair.

Immediately, she beamed.

“That’s it, Mommy! That’s how her hair looks!”

WHEW. We all sighed a sigh of “hair relief” and made our way to church. I was still not convinced that this was how “Leah’s hair looks,” but apparently it had hushed the angst of our 3 year-old.

And to be honest, until we had exited from church almost two hours later, I had completely forgotten about the hair debacle. UNTIL…we ran into our dear friends and sweet Leah. Immediately, I glanced at Leah’s hair and made eyes with my husband.

Sure enough, off to the side of her beautiful, thick, ginger hair, she had a small braid on the side of her hair…”falling down.”

I couldn’t believe it.

We shared the story with Leah’s parents; laughed; and moved on with the rest of our Sabbath.

But as we got ready for bed tonight, our little girl looked at me and said, “I was so beautiful today because I had hair like Leah.”

My heart did a bit of a sink.

Getting on my knees, I reminded her that she was beautiful because she was HIS CREATION; I reminded her that she didn’t need a braid to be a beautiful; and I suggested that she not worry so much about being and having “just like Leah.”

She nodded her head in agreement (I never have any clue what stays and what sticks in their little hearts), and we moved on with removing the Sunday, side braid.

But as I tucked her in bed tonight, I couldn’t help but continue to dwell on my own words.

See, though I’m not 3 and I don’t want a “falling down, side braid,” sometimes I want what others have too. 

Sometimes I want their pant size and their fashion sense. Sometimes I want their easy-going spirit and their worry-free attitude. Sometimes I want their big home, and their trendy decor, and their minimalist-looking-like-living room. Sometimes I want their boldness and their fearlessness, their freedom and their flexibility. Sometimes I want their vacations, their big kitchen counters, their beautiful family pictures, and their adopted children.

Yes, sometimes I want what others have, too and truth be told, I wrestle with Commandment #10 more than I’d care to admit. 

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbors. Exodus 20:17

The Lord outlines a pretty extensive list on those stone tablets, making sure His people know that coveting corrupts our holiness. In fact, as commandment #1 and #2 outlines, the Lord knows our hearts are prone to wander in our worship…casting our eyes and our hearts on the things of this world that are not Him.

And for our God who is both jealous and holy, He cannot and will not tolerate a coveting heart that sets up other idols and bows to other images.

Now hear me, I’m not suggesting that our little girl’s desire to have “hair like Leah’s” is a heart violation of Commandment #10; however, I am suggesting that this is where it begins and this is how it grows.

We see what they have, and we want it. And when we do not get what we want, we get angry (James 4:2-4). And when we become angry with what we do not have, our hearts become fixated and our minds become consumed with getting their stuff and having their blessings. And when we become consumed by these things, idols get put in place and images get hung. And when those idols are hung and those images are set in place, we find ourselves bowing at altars that are not holy and are not His.

So tonight, as I sip my hot tea and reflect on the day (hair debacle and all), I am asking the Lord to reveal my sin, clean my “covet closets,” and to remove the high places and graven images that my heart is so easily inclined to worship.

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This Mama’s Halloween No’No’s: 41 Things

  1. Did you just give my kid a handful of loose candy corn?! No, no!
  2. 16 steps to your front door!! No, no!
  3. Glitter tulle. No, no!
  4. Large spider that moves and hisses…before you get to the bowl of candy?!?! No, no!
  5. Taking pictures of our kids with your camera??? No, no!
  6. Asking us where we live. No, no!
  7. Assuming that your kids will want to pose for pre-candy pictures. No, no!
  8. Handing out peppermints. No, no!
  9. Drinking beer on your front porch while simultaneously slurring, “Step on up!” No, no!
  10. Doing trick-or-treat without a cup of coffee in your hand. No, no!
  11. Giving one kid 1 piece of candy and the other kid 7 pieces because “she’s just tooooo cute!!!” Heck, no!
  12. Lining your small sidewalk with flammable lanterns!!! No, no!
  13. Leaving a bowl of candy on a folding chair and assuming that your sweet sign of “Help Yourself,” will actually ensure that you have enough candy for more than 3 kids.
  14. Halloween Hook Up?! This is NOT friend-dating for parents, so please understand when I slowly walk away from you and your really long, unrelated conversation about your personal life that I’m just here to help my kids get some sugar. No, no!
  15. Asking for a hug. No, no!
  16. Assuming that your kid will be okay with emptying some of their CANDY LOOT into another bag in order to provide an easier bucket carry. No, no!
  17. Asking if the 7 month old would like an Air Head?!?! No, no!
  18. Glitter tulle! Ohhhhhhh, no!
  19. Large troll hair and rose bush. No, no!
  20. Small, running child with a bucket…on concrete. No, no!
  21. Bloody lips in between stops? No, no!
  22. Telling a small child with an undeveloped pre-frontal cortex to take as much as they want. No, no!
  23. Attempting to talk to your spouse while herding small children from porch to porch. No, no!
  24. Asking children to wear gloves so their fingers don’t fall off. No, no!
  25. Thinking your child won’t see you sneak their snack-size bag of Doritos. Oh no you didn’t!!!
  26. A skeleton wielding a knife near your candy bowl. No, no!
  27. A bonfire that is blaze-balls hot and shooting flames a good 5 feet into the air near your candy bowl?!?!? No, no!
  28. Creepy voices when talking to small children. No, no!
  29. Tears and face paint?? Noooooo.
  30. Success rate at keeping child from choosing the small box of Nerds??? No, no!
  31. Sour Cream and Onion chips????? NO WAY!!!
  32. Letting your teenager, wielding the pillow case, topple my 3 year-old on the way to the storm door for a mini Kit-Kat?! Ain’t doin’ it!
  33. Attempting to bathe kids after post-candy game? Nope!
  34. Gobstoppers the size of my infant’s head? No, no!
  35. Gobstoppers the size of my 3 year-old’s windpipe? NADA!
  36. Allowing small child to make the independent decision about which pieces of candy they will eat before bed…when 137 pieces lie before them? No, no!
  37. Glitter tulle. NOOOOOOOO!
  38. Bent Pixie Sticks? No, no!
  39. Putting make-up on a child who has allergies and incessantly rubs their nose? No, no!
  40. Thinking that it’s cheaper to make costumes, rather than buy them. Ummmm, no!
  41. Contemplating if the $9.00 bucket of candy is actually worth all the effort? Maybe a little bit, but not really! 🙂

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Confidence Shoes

He was up before his alarm, finished his breakfast without prodding, initiated brushing his teeth without a battle, and had his backpack, lunch, and jacket secured by the time the clock donned 7:53 (mind you, he usually leaves at 8:00).

Seriously, it was one of the smoothest mornings we’ve had since the first week of school, and the parents were loving it.

LOVE-ing IT.

And because I would absolutely love to have a repeat morning like the one we were having, I found myself racking my mama-brain, trying to figure out what positive triggers led to such a positive start to the morning.

Was it because we picked his clothes out the night before? 

Was it because we gave him a banana instead of oranges with “white stringy things on them?” 

Was it because his sister didn’t eat breakfast at the same time, serving as a distraction? 

Was it because he went to bed right on time the night before? 

What were the variables that were contributing to this very-awesome, super-great Monday morning???

Not gonna lie, this mama is prone to liking formulas that go something like this:

Mama does A + Daddy does B= Kid does C with a happy heart, no whining, and little to no drama

The variables were numerous, making the exercise rather futile…but this mama was still on a hunt for any and all insight that could help replicate the “dream morning.”

But as our son tied his new shoes and headed out the door, the hunt came to a screeching halt. All of a sudden it all made sense (and was only further confirmed) when our beaming son said, “I LOVE my new shoes. I’m going to call them my ‘confident shoes’ because they make me feel soooo confident.”

It. was. the. stinkin’. shoes. 

The gray high tops with the new laces. The Target $24.99 special. This was the swag that was makin’ our morning smooth.

Unbelievable.

Had I known this would be the key to our school-morning success, mama would have laid down the $24.99 sooner!

But as our boy literally jumped from the porch onto the sidewalk (remember, these were ‘confidence shoes’ he was wearing!) and made his way to school, I found myself thinking about what he said and why he was feeling the way he was feeling.

For him, putting on those shoes gave him confidence. And though there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a pair of shoes, a friend, a skirt, a home, a hair cut, or an infinity scarf that brings a pep of confidence to your step, I found myself  reaching into the depths of my heart where those ugly idols lie…the parts of me that maybe put a little too much confidence in the things that rust and rot.

And as I pondered, I started asking myself some soul-assessing questions about the things and roles I “put on.”

Do I find my confidence in my ability to help others, my counseling hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my children, my mothering hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my home, my nesting hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my relationships, my friend hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my blogging, my writing hat? 

Do I find my confidence in the mirror, my appearance hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my intellect…my wardrobe…my bank account…or my ability to communicate, multi-task, understand Scripture, or balance the household tasks of cooking, cleaning, and caring for little people? 

I didn’t have to think very long or very hard to come up with the simple answer of, “Yes to all.” Because the reality is, I have and I do.

Everyday we are faced with opportunities to “put on” and “have.” Everyday we have a myriad of possessions, roles and responsibilities in front of us that can easily entangle us in webs of distorted beliefs and misguided trust. Everyday we are faced with all kinds of idols that compete for our time, attention, hope, and worship.

Again, I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong to be confident about the gifts we’ve been given, the things we own, the talents bestowed upon us, and the roles asked of us. I’m truly not. But I am suggesting that maybe we go a little too far in finding our identity, our confidence, and our hope in the things that aren’t eternal…that aren’t HIM.

So what would happen if I woke up tomorrow and was no longer a wife? No longer a counselor? No longer a mother? Or no longer had the opportunity to write, the ability to multi-task, and the bank account to pay for the wardrobe I like and the things I have?

Would I still have hope? Would I still have confidence? And if not, why?

And that is where I was yesterday…where I am today—re-arranging, re-prioritizing, and re-penting of some of the things I have and do that have given me more confidence than they should.

Because in all reality, I have some “$24.99 shoe-like things” in my life and maybe you do, too. 

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Bottles, Wanderers, and The God Who Fills

I wish I could catch it on camera.

That contented smile…

that deep baby sigh…

the limp arms…

those sparkly eyes…

that little (and 4

sometimes not so little) burp…

and those little lips with the leftover milk.

When baby girl finishes that last drop of milk, that last gulp of goodness, it’s obvious that her thirst has been quenched and her hunger has been satisfied.

No more crying. No more yearning. No more wanting.

In those few, short moments, those 7 ounces fill her in a way that nothing else can.

At peace. At rest. Content.

And as I held her this afternoon, watching her bask in the sun and finding fulfillment in that bottle, I remembered the words of Psalm 107:4-9 I had read earlier this morning.

Some wandered in desert wastelands finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. 

Literally, these people described in this Psalm are lost, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and distressed.

They are wandering in hot, arid places, and they are in need of water, bread, and relief from their hardships.

The psalmist doesn’t explain why they are lost and what their struggles are, but he does paint a picture of a group of needy people.

And what does God do for them?

He leads them to a city where they can dwell; He quenches their thirst; and He fills their hungry bellies. 

Does He bring them to a booming metropolis, a calming oasis? Does He do it with honey and grapes, wine and water?

We don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.

All we know is that these people have been found, filled, and satisfied. 

And as I sat with my cup of pumpkin coffee this morning, I found myself thinking through the deserts I’ve wandered, the times I’ve thirsted, and the times I’ve hungered.

I’ve wandered in the desert of people pleasing, thirsting for approval and hungering for affirmation.

I’ve wandered in the desert of performance, thirsting for competency and hungering for success.

I’ve wandered in the desert of doubt, thirsting for certainty and hungering for assurance.

I’ve wandered in the desert of comparison, thirsting for confidence and hungering for esteem.

I’ve wandered in the desert of pride, thirsting for acknowledgment and hungering for achievement.

I’ve wandered in the desert of fear, thirsting for answers and hungering for control.

I’ve wandered in the desert of bitterness, thirsting for repentance and hungering for justice.

I’ve wandered. Oh, have I wandered do I wander.

And when I wander from my TRUE home, I get lost. And when I get lost, I find trouble. And when I find trouble, I get thirsty and hungry. And when I get in that broken-needy-place, I need someone to rescue my desert-wandering self.

Praise be to God!

For He is that ever-loving, desert rescuer.

For He is the one who leads His wandering people to His home.

For He is the one who satisfies our needs with His holy self and His all-fulfilling presence. 

For He is the one works on our behalf, wielding His deed-working arm. 

For when we are dwelling in His home, resisting the urge to wander the dry and barren deserts of this life, He satisfies us with His “good things.” 

Praise be to God! 

O, Lord, help me to bask in your LIGHT, finding fulfillment in YOU and YOU ALONE!

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The Day You Paid for a Stamp and Wrote an Apology

Caden,

I don’t know if you’ll ever read the stuff I’ve written, but maybe just maybe…you will. And if you do, I want these memories and anecdotes (both happy and hard) to serve as sweet reminders of our love for you–reminders of our commitment to raising and training you to be a young man who walks in integrity, lives in love, and follows hard after Jesus.

So today, I’m writing you a letter about the day we made you pay for a stamp and write your grandmother an apology letter.

The details of your behavior aren’t important (sin is sin, and sin is never okay), but we want you to know that because we love you and care about your character, there are several reasons why we chose this specific punishment for your six year-old self.

  1. We wanted you to take ownership for your behavior. Though you may have been triggered or hurt by someone or something else, your behaviors are always and will always be your behaviors.
  2. We wanted you to take the time to acknowledge to someone else (even after the fact) that your behavior was not acceptable. Hopefully, taking the time to acknowledge your wrong, not only gives you an opportunity to reflect on the offense, but it also gives you some extra time to search your heart and allow for a soft and remorseful heart.
  3. We wanted the apology to take some effort. Because apologies can be easily uttered and moved on from, we wanted you to take the time to offer a heartfelt apology that required something from you. And for you, writing involves some effort, so you penned your apology with ink and a few tears.
  4. We wanted you to realize that your actions, though forgiven, can be hurtful and affect others. People are made in His image and because they were made in His image, they have value. And because they have value, we want you to realize that your actions should be ones that honor the value of the creation. And when they don’t, we need to confess and repent.
  5. We wanted you to know that though it’s good to accept the apology of another and move forward, it’s also okay to sit with your sin (a bit) and acknowledge it. Too many times, we want to ask for forgiveness without feeling the weight of our sin. We want to move on, and we want to move on in a hurry. Why? Because we don’t like our sin, and we don’t want to sit with our brokenness. But when we sit with it (for a bit), we realize our need for both earthly and heavenly forgiveness.
  6. We wanted you to realize that your sin (though not always immediate) has consequences, and sometimes those consequences “hit” us in places that are dear to us. Because of that, we asked you to use your own money to pay for the stamp to send the apology. We know that was hard for you, and we’re okay with it; sin hurts us, too.
  7. We wanted to teach you humility, helping you acknowledge that your imperfections and sins can only be made right by the ONE who is perfectly sinless. If we can’t acknowledge our imperfections to finite souls, how will we ever acknowledge them to our infinite Creator?
  8. We wanted you to know that because we love and care about your heart, we were willing to take the time to address your behavior in a tangible and intentional way. We were willing to help you invest in your apology because we have a vested interest in stewarding your soul.

Son, we love you and are crazy proud of you. Truly, you are all kinds of special and all kinds of wonderful to us. And because we love you (imperfections and all) and because we believe you and others have value, we asked you to spend your money, time, and effort on writing an apology letter to your grandmother on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017.

Love,

Your grace-needing, mercy-dependent parents

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