Rest

For anyone who reads my blog, figuring out those areas of my life with which I struggle probably isn’t too difficult. The longer I have been a Christian, the more I realize how far I am from perfect, and the longer I’ve been a wife, the more I wonder how Matt still wants (or at least commits) to being married to me.

And while I try to work on these many areas of my life that need improving, there is one area in which the guilt I feel for not already doing better gnaws away at me daily. I don’t even have to write it–you know. I want my children to have a better mother.

I pray daily, multiple times a day, for wisdom, patience, and whatever other attribute is needed to successfully raise these precious lives. And I’ll be honest–the last few weeks I confronted God with my frustration: Why don’t I feel like you’re answering my prayers? Why is parenting so hard for me? Why do I actually have to work to enjoy it instead of just enjoying it?!

I’ve already written about the first epiphany I had; I dumped my cleaning schedule. I feel the answer to my prayers is much in the same light as this first epiphany–I need to dump some more. And I need to rest.

There is no reason that I should walk around daily carrying a ball of stress within me. I’m not the CEO of a company, nor do I have major deadlines to meet. I’m a wife and mom, and I like to blog. I enjoy exercising. I try to cook from scratch, and I do my best to provide a healthy environment in which my family lives. All of these passions take time and energy, but they shouldn’t cause stress (or, at least, daily stress).

I had contemplated a few more things that I could do to achieve this rest, but I had to sort through my thoughts. I wanted to make sure fatigue wasn’t causing me to become lazy or apathetic. But I’m sure now.

The next thing I’m dumping, at least for now, is ‘Journeys.’ Let’s be honest; I didn’t have a line of bloggers waiting to link up with me, and that was never the reason I started ‘Journeys’ in the first place. I know if nothing else, God taught me, and I grew through the experience of deliberately writing on what He was showing me every week. And for months, I didn’t have trouble thinking of a topic.

As of late, however, this writing has felt burdensome, and not in a good way. Previously, I dreaded Thursday nights because, typically, the writing was painful for me. Now, however, I just dread having one more thing to do.

I never want my blog to feel that way, especially over a self-imposed goal. I still plan to write regularly, but I want to write with less of an agenda. I want to write because I enjoy writing, not because I have to write.

I may still place the ‘Journeys’ button at the bottom of a piece if I feel God has taken me along a certain path, but I am not going to sponsor a regular Friday link up right now. I may come back to it later, but for now, I want to rest.

I want to rest with my children over this summer break, and I’m going to continue dumping those tasks that are distracting me from focusing on them. I need to simplify, and as much as I hate to confront the facts, simplifying might mean taking a look at my blog habits, as well. I’d love to write as a career someday, and I’ll still work to hone my skill, but today writing is not my career.

I left a career I loved because I felt there is no job more important than that of a parent. My title now is ‘Mommy,’ and these crazy kids need to be my focus. And you guys know they are crazy.

Thank you for walking along with me on my all my journeys. I hope you will continue to do so. Just know that during the summer I have no intention of waking up at five a.m. so that I can tell you about them.

Journeys

A big ‘thank you’ to Michelle and Kendal for consistently linking up on Fridays for ‘Journeys.’ I hope my readers will continue to stop by their sites, as well!

A Mother’s Strength

I often wonder how she did it, how she raised my sister and me states away from her own family, many nights alone while her husband traveled every week. I never felt unloved or neglected by my father, but I know now the added stress for a mother who feels like she is parenting alone.

I never knew she felt tired or lonely; I never knew of her aggravation or frustration. I saw unity from my parents and felt blessed to have a family held tightly together.

It is only now, as she reaches out to me as one who understands, that I understand the strength of my mother.

 

When I look to how I parent, how I love, how I cook, how I clean, I realize the imprint of my mother that I carry over me. I’ve sought her example and advice for issues ranging from fevers to family.

But my mother-in-law didn’t have a mother’s wisdom from which to draw. Having lost her own mother at a young age, she was not afforded the same opportunity to learn as I. Yet when I look at my husband, I marvel at the imprint she left on him. I marvel at the children she raised and the love that she shares.

And it is now that I share life with my husband and accept wisdom from her own lips that I understand the strength of his mother.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to my mothers who have taught me more about strength, not with words, but with their lives. I pray that one day my children, too, will see a strong woman when they look into my eyes the way I do when I look into yours.  Love your daughter, Jennifer

Journeys


 

Sleeping Through the Storm

 

I originally started to write this post for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. However, a late night watching the paths of  tornadoes, early risings from the kids, and a canceled kid-swap day due to a stomach bug kept me from getting this post published Thursday morning. After contemplating the topic some more, I decided this post is actually perfect for ‘Journeys,’ but since Mama Kat gave me the inspiration, I’m linking up with her, as well.

3.) What is going on in the bedroom? Describe a memorable sleeper.

 

For the last five years, sleep has been a commodity. With three children came three more reasons that I would never be able to count on a consistent routine of  a solid eight hours. Every night this week, my husband and I have either been stalled in our desire to go to bed or ripped from a deep sleep due to cries in bedrooms down the hall. Last night was different, however. Last night my own worry kept me awake, causing me to grab only a couple of hours here and there.

I had known all day that a storm was coming. The day before our trusty meteorologist warned through the radio that there was a chance we’d wake to thunderstorms, and even though that morning passed without those flashes of lightning, he warned that another system would arrive around eight p.m. I took notice, and I sent my husband an e-mail asking him not to work past six; tornadoes were supposed to accompany this storm, and I wanted him home with us before the fireworks began.

The kids were ready to make their way upstairs as Matt arrived home, and we had everyone tucked into bed by 8:15. I went downstairs to check my phone that had rung while I was rocking my daughter, and I noticed a missed call from my dad. I called him, knowing that he doesn’t usually call me in the evenings.

“I just wanted to make sure that you’re ready for the storm,” he said after I told him I saw I missed his call.

“Umm…no. I mean, we know it’s coming, but we haven’t done anything, yet.”

“Well, if you guys want to come over here and stay in the basement, you’re more than welcome.”

I got a little nervous after his suggestion. After all, Dad had never invited us to share the basement for any other storm. I told Matt the offer, but he didn’t think we needed to make the drive over there. We’d just take the necessary precautions here.

Together we pulled tray-tables and plastic bags full of party decorations out of the downstairs closet. I stacked plastic totes with red lids full of Dr. Seuss hats and paper Thanksgiving turkeys, butterflies and sundry other creations made in preschool. I found small boxes of pictures that had not yet made it to albums, and I retrieved around six blankets that Matt and I cuddled under on those rare nights when we watched a movie. And while I was preparing for the storm, I was performing a mental checklist of the items I would need to organize this closet.

Matt found all the bike helmets from the garage, and I grabbed a football helmet from the playroom. We had four helmets and five of us. I ran upstairs and threw down the massive pillows that adorned our bed and grabbed the flashlight from Matt’s dresser drawer. I remembered seeing Caleb’s little flashlight under his bed when I had hunted down the missing Easter candy earlier, and I got on my stomach, squirming my way under his bed until I could reach the little light. I set the two flashlights next to each other on my nightstand in case the power went out while we were asleep.

We were ready.

While sipping warm soup at the kitchen table, I sent my sister a text asking her to tell Dad that we were prepared now; he didn’t need to worry. She texted me back with Dad’s offer of the basement again and concluded with the words “good luck and god speed” if we decided to stick it out at our house.

Godspeed?

I had never in my life heard my sister or anyone in my family, for that matter, use those words. I reached across the table to show Matt the text, and I admitted that I was officially scared. What kind of storm did we need to expect?

After our quick dinner, I ran upstairs to take a shower before the thunder and lightning began. And as is typical for me, my thoughts took off as soon as I was alone getting ready for that shower. What if we’ve made a mistake and should’ve gone to my parents? What if we went to my parents, but the storm hit there and not here? If we have to take cover, how will I keep the kids calm? What would I do if anything happened to Matt or the kids?

I began to worry. I knew a storm was coming, but I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know exactly where. And while I didn’t want to dwell on morbid thoughts, as I kissed each kid goodnight again, I wondered if I would get the chance to do the same thing in that same room again tomorrow. I was assuming the worst–that the tornadoes would hit us–based on the urgent nature of the newscasters and the number of friends on Facebook heading for their basements. And I found it strange to know a disaster was coming and to have to sit tight and wait. And I found it unnerving to know that what I was waiting for could change my life forever.

But praying and waiting was all there was left to do. We made the best preparations we could, and now we just needed to see if they were necessary or not.

 

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I pretended to read  on the couch where we continued to listen to the excited weatherman and watch the giant red blob work its way across the screen. I peered over the top of my book as the weatherman gave the countdown for each city in the path of the mile-wide tornado. Floyd, you have two minutes to take cover. Sandy Springs, you have eight minutes to get ready–you are in the direct path of the storm. And I knew I wouldn’t sleep tonight.

But I woke up an hour or so later on the couch to the boom of thunder and sound of rain beating on the windows. I immediately sat up and focused my tired eyes on the T.V., looking for the red blob and the small cities named on the screen. It was almost one a.m., and two different storms were nearer, yet they looked as if they would slide by us, one overhead, one below.

Matt was sound asleep. I tried to wake him, desperate to know if he had a plan for how we would hear if we needed to take cover. All of the preparations would mean nothing if we slept while the storm was knocking at our door. Matt said he’d turn on the radio on his nightstand, but I was not comforted knowing that I woke Matt, not his alarm, most mornings. But, alas, we didn’t have any other options, and from what we could tell, unless the storm turned, we should fare okay.

Good sleep was hard to come by that night. Chloe had acted upset at bedtime and awoke crying again after we had fallen asleep. And at five a.m., I again jerked awake to hear the conversation on the radio that the threat of dangerous weather for our area was now over. I no longer needed to be afraid; we were safe.

Even though I try to wake up at five most mornings, I decided to go back to sleep. I was exhausted. Unfortunately, my kids decided to wake an hour earlier than usual.

As I went about the morning routine of getting the kids ready for school, putting tray-tables and unused helmets back in their places, I thought about the preparations Matt and I made the night before. We didn’t know when or exactly where, but we knew the storm was coming. And while we hoped for the best, we didn’t know if we’d be counted with those who had lost something precious in the storm.

Almost 300 individuals lost their lives as a result of this storm system that swept through the southeast. As I poured milk in cereals bowls, I thought to myself that their end is no different than the one I’m going to face–I will die, too. The only questions are when and how.

And just as I prepared for a tornado last night with pillows and flashlights, there are preparations to be made for that moment when I will cease to exist in this life, that moment that we all know is coming.

I know I have areas in which I need to improve, habits I want to correct so that I’ll leave this Earth with no regrets. But I also believe that when I leave this world, I’ll enter another where I’ll meet my God. And when I see Him face-to-face, I will tell Him, “I tried to prepare, but I have done nothing that can make me worthy to enter into your presence, nothing except for one preparation–to love your Son who thought me worthy to die in my place.”

We all face the same end. The end of the story is not a surprise–it’s just the journey that’s different for all of us. So are you prepared? Do you know what you believe? And if not, when do you plan to prepare? The storm is coming while you sleep, and there is no guarantee that there will be time to get ready when you wake up.

Journeys

Please keep the families devastated by this storm in your thoughts and prayers today. Click here if you’d like to make a donation to the American Red Cross to help these disaster victims.

Have you ever had to prepare for a literal storm coming your way? What thoughts ran through your mind? How much thought have you given to the fact of your own mortality? Are you ready if you died today?

 

 

 

Accepting Simple

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

After years of remembering ‘Good Friday,’ certain aspects of the day can fade from my memory. Yet one scene took a front seat in my mind as I watched a passion play with my in-laws.

While hanging on the cross next to Jesus, one of the criminals is acutely aware of his own depravity in light of the goodness of Jesus. He proceeds to rebuke the other criminal sentenced to die with them for the insults he throws at the Son of God:

“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 40-43, New International Version, 2010)

And I’m struck by the simplicity of the story.

This man didn’t know the doctrine of the Trinity. He didn’t formulate his position on the ideas of predestination versus free will. He didn’t state his preference for infant versus adult baptism. And he didn’t recite an eloquent ‘sinner’s prayer’ highlighting each key tenant of the Christian faith.

He simply knew that he deserved death for his sins, and he turned to Jesus.

And thankfully, that story is just as simple for me.
Remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Remember me, a sinner. You didn’t deserve death, but you died so that I wouldn’t have to.

It’s that simple.

Journeys

What strikes you about ‘Good Friday’? Share in the comments below, or link your own post describing a spiritual journey. And have a Happy Easter!

 

When I Don’t Know W.W.J.D.

Two days ago, I had a blasphemous thought: Would Jesus have remained sinless if he had had to parent my kids? And while I know that that thought shouldn’t have crossed my mind, it did. And, truthfully, on this particular night, I was convinced that even Jesus would’ve lost his cool when He saw his little kids lying amidst papers and toys strewn across the playroom floor after two weeks of ordering them to clean up. I was convinced that the sounds of whining and crying from his oldest and the touch of toddlers clinging to His leg while having tantrums would’ve had Him calling one of the disciples to come babysit so He could head to Starbucks, hiding from the sight of any people three feet tall and under.

After a miserable previous week, I had started this week off fresh. With a new idea tucked away in my brain, I loaded up the girls and headed to Target for some incentive stickers. And even though the Disney princess stickers cost $6 when a pack of butterfly and flower stickers cost half that amount for twice the number, I went through the check-out line with the princesses and a pack of Star Wars stickers for Caleb. After all, for the incentive to work, the kids had to be excited about their prize. I was sure they would pick up their toys for a sticker.

 

So when we reached the end of the week with two barren charts except for a few stickers awarded ( one sticker stolen, not earned) merely for the kids to realize that they could, in fact, earn stickers, I threw up my hands in desperation. And as I hung my head in defeat and contemplated if Jesus would, in fact, sin, I also thought about a question that I was first asked my senior year in high school.

My mom had come home from the Christian book store one day with a handful of bracelets.

“What are these?” I asked.

I looked over the letters ‘W.W.J.D’ embroidered on the cloth.

“It stands for ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and when someone asks you what it means, you’re supposed to give them the bracelet.

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I remember giving some to my boyfriend and hearing his experience having given his away to a girl in his math class:

“She told me it was really hard to smoke wearing that bracelet!”

In high school, when I asked the question ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ I knew the answer. He wouldn’t want me to rebel against my parents by smoking. He wouldn’t want me to cheat on tests or make fun of the awkward boy in my math class. He would want me to try my hardest, act respectfully to my teachers, love my neighbors.

But the other day, as I stood in my kitchen and asked myself that question again, I answered honestly I don’t know.

I thought about the life of Jesus, and since he was not a human parent to any children, I could only look to how he treated those he encountered.

I considered the option of teaching my children in parables:

There once was a mother Wolf spider. She had three children who crawled around under her legs and wouldn’t grow up fast enough. So she ate them.

I wasn’t sure that parables would be the most effective method for my young audience.

And I wasn’t sure what method to use instead. I didn’t know if Jesus would praise the ‘Naughty Step’ or give a swift spanking. I wasn’t sure if He would hand out stars on chore charts or box up toys that had littered the floor one day too many. I wasn’t sure of much other than that He would love.

He would teach them in a way that they would know their sins without feeling the weight of condemnation, being clothed in forgiveness instead.

And they would know love.

And it is this love that would compel them to obedience, to following the One who called.

I find the job of ‘mother’ extremely frustrating sometimes. I have more questions than answers, and I feel the weight of my responsibility to these three precious lives. And most mornings, I wake up not knowing how to discipline a child who isn’t motivated by punishment or reward.

But I can start with love.

And while I don’t know how to do it as perfectly as Jesus, I do have that motherly instinct. And I know the love Jesus has bestowed on me.

So I start there. With love. Some days it’s all I have.

Journeys

Have you ever pictured Jesus as a parent to your children? How do you think He would respond? Join in the conversation below, or add your own post describing a spiritual journey you are currently taking.

And for those wanting to embark on a different kind of journey, Nikki invited me to share my thoughts on potty-training. I find the timing of these two posts ironic, the one where I say I don’t know how to parent and the next where I give out advice! I’d love for you to check out her site and add any other tips on potty-training that you can offer.

 

 

Warm, Sunny Days

Matt took the week off from work to coincide with the kids’ Spring Break from preschool. He never said so, but I think he took the time off for me as much as for him. And it’s been wonderful.

Watching the kids look in pure wonder at a part of God’s creation that they never see, and seeing the whole family smiling together–I couldn’t ask for anything more.

And, yet, I want to ask for a little more; I want to know how to keep this joy even when Matt goes back to work.

I know part of the answer. When we work together and play together and choose to experience our days together, even if we’re not doing the same thing…

…life runs a little smoother, time-outs and the need for discipline a little more rare.

And so we spent our day outside, each engaged in a different task beneath the warm sunshine, amidst a butterfly or two who would dance its way across our backyard proclaiming to us that spring is here. Picking the black soil out of our fingernails or green Play-doh out of its little cylinder–we were free to make messes and revel in their goodness.

And as I walk this journey in a quest for joy, a peace and contentment with my children every day, I can’t help but ask God one more question:

Is there any way you could make it warm and sunny every day?

Journeys

What journey are you taking? Leave a comment below, or link up with your own post!

Excuses, Excuses

I sat in the middle of the floor fuming, absolutely fuming, as I picked up each card and slid it into the appropriate box. The anger burned inside my chest, radiating heat all the way up to my cheeks. My brow was permanently furrowed, my lips pursed as tight as I could hold them together, my jaw beginning to ache from clenching my teeth.

Every time I felt the first cleansing effects of a deep breath, all I had to do was look around me to find my fury. After all, everyone knows the expression: “Hell hath no fury like a mother left to clean up others’ messes” (Or something like that). And what a mess I was left!

I only have a picture because I wanted evidence of my rotten week for my husband, my husband who was out-of-town for the majority of the nightmare.

We had already cleaned up half of this mess once before. When I caught my son taking down his father and my games, I quickly admonished him to put them away. Of course he didn’t, as his little body was overtaken by a demon the moment his father walked out the door and headed to the airport, and his curious sister got into some of the cards from the various boxes. At this point, I joined them on the floor and began cleaning up the mess with them, lest things got too out-of-hand.

We stopped only to eat dinner, and as I packed away leftovers, they were to resume where we had left off. Apparently, my instructions were not clear, and they resumed where they had left off before I had intervened.

Every. single. card. of every. single. game. was on the floor.

Normally, I leave my kids’ messes for them to clean up, but this mess was too overwhelming, too vast, and I had to rid all evidence of this day before I tried to manage another day alone with them.

As I followed the kids upstairs, the anger burned inside me. And while I didn’t lose my temper, I definitely used it, reminding my son a half a dozen times how furious I was at him for his behavior this week, threatening the other two if they didn’t move quickly. I wanted them to go to bed and not talk to me until the morning. Of course, they didn’t comply with that request, either. We went upstairs at 6:30, and it was 8:30 before my kids were finished ‘getting ready’ for bed and another half an hour before the first fell asleep. My son decided that 10:30 would work for his bedtime that night.

And in the meantime, I sat in the middle of the floor putting card after card in its appropriate box, all the while fuming and steaming over all the reasons this mess was my husband’s, the man who had not been at our home for the last three days, fault. After all, who better to blame than the man who is out-of-town?

I had completely convinced myself that Matt was to blame for this mess, and as I sat for an hour and 15 minutes cleaning up these games, I decided that I no longer liked him.

Whenever Matt’s away, the kids act like monsters. Or if one of them is good (thank you, sweet Hannah Grace) the others make up for it. Who wouldn’t get angry at kids who behave this way?

I had enough sense to text Matt: “You know when I try to go to bed. Don’t call me.” Even though I wasn’t in bed, I didn’t think I should talk to Matt. Remember, I didn’t like him anymore, and I didn’t think I should tell him that.

So, of course, Matt called me. And I wasn’t nice.

But in my defense, I warned him not to call! I knew I was angry and couldn’t be nice, so he can’t really blame me for my less-than-loving tone.

As I lay in bed that night, I thought about how I allowed a mess of cards (albeit the worst mess of cards I’d ever seen) to create enough rage in me to kill a man. I allowed my fatigue and frustration to cloud my mind into thinking I disliked my husband. And I had created enough excuses to prove I was right.

In that moment, I had my first glimpse into how self-control really works.

Self-control isn’t just making good choices; self-control is eliminating excuses.

I lost my temper because my kids were out-of-control.

I’m so weary because my husband is out-of-town.

I’m having a cheat day today, but I’ll get back on my diet tomorrow.

These shoes were on sale, so it’s okay that I bought them (even though I already own 100 pairs).

And pretty soon, we believe the excuses and justify our behavior.

I lay in bed that night, nauseous and tired, holding on to my last thread of anger for one more moment. I thought about my husband whom I wanted to blame, my kids who were at fault for a mess (a huge one) but not for my anger, and I released them. If I wanted control of myself in the morning, I had to own up to myself that night.

I closed my eyes and said ‘goodnight’ to a horrible day and ‘goodnight’ to my excuses. And I drifted off to (a very short) sleep.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine

Journeys

What are your go-to excuses for bad behavior? Leave a comment below, or link up your own post on ‘self-control!’ Thank you for joining me over the last few weeks as we explored the different fruits of the Spirit. I am worn out from God’s conviction! Stay tuned for more details as to what we’ll contemplate next in ‘Journeys’!

Shamrocks and Late Nights

I had every intention of taking on the role of that mother, you know, the one who anticipates every holiday and presents her kids with an appropriate craft and history lesson on its origin. I know my limitations, so I planned to make simple shamrocks with the kids and Google search St. Patrick to provide just enough basic details about the man for whom this holiday is named.

photo via photobucket.com

Yeah, it didn’t happen.

Instead, at 8:50, when we are typically heading out the door for preschool which is five minutes away, we were all still in the kitchen. I realized the date and looked in horror at my three perfectly well-dressed children in the clothes they had laid out the night before–none of which had any green.

Because my priorities were in order, I made a mad-dash up the stairs, ripping through my son’s t-shirt drawer, pushing clothes out of the way in my daughter’s closet, finding completely new outfits for them down to the little green hair clip to adorn my daughter’s strawberry-blonde locks. I threw my son’s shirt over the bannister knowing that if I saved him the 30 seconds it took me to get his sister’s clothes and walk down the stairs, they both would arrive miraculously on time for carpool.

Hannah Grace, excited to change and put on more clothes, followed me up the stairs. Moving faster than she had in at least a week, she helped me whip off her shirt and pants and donned an outfit that said she was proud of that eighth of Irish blood in her.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I looked in horror at my son who had not performed the Jedi mind-trick of removing his first shirt without actually using his arms and replacing it with the one I threw down the stairs.

“Caleb! Why haven’t you changed?”

“This shirt isn’t green.”

“But it has green on it!”

My voice was getting a little shrieky. Clearly, Caleb didn’t understand the sense of urgency I was going for, as it was now 8:55. Clearly, he didn’t understand that the only reason I got him a new shirt was to prevent him from possibly getting pinched. It could happen. Preschoolers can be mean.

Caleb walked away as I began grabbing an assortment of bags of the book and diaper variety that I had previously piled up at the door. I unbuckled Chloe who had been sitting in her booster seat at the kitchen table while I had run from one room to the other. And, suddenly, Caleb emerged from the laundry room.

“I’m going to wear this one.”

In his hand was a beautifully green t-shirt. Perfect.

“Did you get that shirt from the laundry basket?” I asked suspiciously.

“No.”

“But you just came from the laundry room, and that shirt wasn’t in your drawer upstairs.”

“I got it from here.”

Caleb took me into the laundry room and pointed to a small pile of clothes on the floor that weren’t even good enough to make it into a basket.

Hmm. Even better.

I snatched the shirt out of his hands, gave it a quick look-over, smelled it, and tossed it back to him.

“Okay,” I agreed.

Caleb pulled the new shirt over his head, and we made our way out the door at 9:00 for the preschool carpool that was now just beginning. I ushered the older two into the van and ran to the other side with Chloe, who, of course, decided now was the perfect time to start the I-can-arch-my-back-so-far-you’re-going-to-drop-me routine. Once she was buckled, I started to run back to my seat when I noticed Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum staring at butterflies and rainbows in the air.

“Get buckled!” I insisted.

And for a moment, I started to panic. But then I remembered who caused this fiasco. I remembered the two times I hit snooze this morning, and I remembered how I chose ‘green’ as more important than ‘on time’. And as we headed toward the school, I relaxed as I remembered that carpool runs until 9:10, and if we arrived later, I’d simply walk the kids inside.

Every week since I started writing on the fruits of the Spirit, I’ve been tested. In fact, I can honestly say that I can’t wait until this study is over. I don’t like being tested, and I don’t like seeing how much I need to improve. Prior to having kids, I was gentle. I was kind and patient. After having three kids, my impulse is to freak out and speak harshly when things get chaotic.

And I know now that being gentle isn’t about cooing at a little baby or about how to handle china. It’s about my response to my daughter who stared at the garbage men in a comatose-like state for three full minutes in the middle of the driveway while everyone else was buckled in the van. It’s about the words that I held back when I found a mysterious wax-like substance melted into our newly cleaned carpets. It’s about the temper that I contained when my kids had their own St. Patrick’s Day parade in my bedroom with every gift bag and piece of tissue paper they could find. And it’s about my attitude when I was rocking my daughter to sleep at 10:10 p.m. while her daddy was out with his friend, and I had spent the last two hours trying to get her to stay in her room. ‘Gentle’ truly is a gift from God.

And ‘gentle’ is hard, but I’m getting better. I’m trying to look at life logically and see that the craziness of every day isn’t really all that big of a deal, but the tone of my voice when I speak to my children is.

I’m trusting that He will see this change through and am clinging to the promise that “he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

And until that day I’ll keep practicing my deep breaths and counting to ten as I watch the applesauce hit the floor for the fourteenth time.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine

Journeys

Now it’s your turn! Link up with your own post on ‘gentleness!’

Faithfulness

Every Sunday afternoon, I would rush into church, typically with one child hanging off of me, another sprinting ahead, and one more holding my hand, trying to break free. I’d rush over to the computers to print my children’s name tags, hating that I was always late, trying to contain the three that wanted to take off as soon as I let go.

Mr. Michael witnessed this routine every week, and, eventually, he began to look for us. As Caleb walked with me hand-in-hand to the four-year-old room, Mr. Michael would open the door to take him from me before I even had him signed in. And when I’d pick up the pen to write Caleb’s name, it was already there.

Every week, like clockwork.

When Matt stepped down from leading the tech team so that I could try going to church without arriving in a bad mood, we decided to go to the 9:00 service instead of the one I had been attending at 12:30 (and, yes, I was still late every week when I went at 12:30). When we first made the decision, I was reluctant to give up the afternoon service. After all, Caleb wouldn’t have Mr. Michael as a teacher, anymore.

Normally, Caleb looked forward to church, but there were those occasions when he cried. But Mr. Michael had the key to Caleb’s heart–he’d whip out his phone and let Caleb play games until it was time for the kids to put away the toys and learn the lesson. Caleb expected Mr. Michael every week, and I took comfort in the fact that every week at least one of the volunteers was the same, someone who was actually growing to love and care for my son.

And then my admiration for Mr. Michael grew. That first Sunday that we attended the 9:00 service and walked up to the four-year-old class, who was there to meet us? None other but Mr. Michael.

Yes, there are many individuals who volunteer every Sunday, giving their hearts and time to our precious children. For all of them, I am so thankful. Crouching down on the floor with a bunch of preschoolers every week, dealing with crying and elusive attention spans from toddlers, changing poopie diapers so that Daddy and Mommy can attend church–these men and women truly are special people.

Yes, there are many individuals who volunteer every Sunday…

…but not many are only 17.

I remember when I was 17. I was a good kid, and I loved to help others, but you wouldn’t find me arriving early for a 9:00 service so that I could care for kids every week. And you definitely wouldn’t find me spending my entire Sunday at church, volunteering for two services and attending a third. I wasn’t immune to the narcissism that tends to run through the veins of many teenagers.

But, apparently, Mr. Michael is.

The other day, as I was rounding the corner of the Chick-Fil-A drive thru, I saw a young man coming out the back doors with a huge trash can heading for the dumpster. It was Michael.

“Hi, Michael!” I yelled through my open window. “I didn’t realize you worked here!”

“Hi! Who else do you have in there?” he asked smiling, trying to peer through the windows to see what kids filled the car seats.

“Just Chloe. Caleb and Hannah Grace are in preschool.” “You know,” I went on to add, “Caleb is really going to miss you. We just started attending the Saturday night service.”

Michael went on to explain that he actually wasn’t helping anymore. He had started working with another church plant in the community. But he promised he’d visit one Saturday night to see Caleb.

As a teenager, Michael had probably spent more hours volunteering in church, sharing his time, effort, and heart for the glory of God, than most adults. And now he was helping with a church-plant in the hopes of teaching another community about the love of Jesus.

I’m so proud of him, but, selfishly, I wish I were going to see him every weekend, walking alongside us as we teach Caleb our faith. But I realize that just as I’m watching my own son grow, over the past two or so years I’ve watched Michael grow from a teenage boy of 17 into a young man. And this young man’s path is taking him in another direction.

As I’ve walked my own journey, I’ve learned that many people have great intentions but few follow through. Witnessing the faithful example of Michael has been refreshing, and he’s shown me that when a heart is turned toward God and filled with His love, commitment to His work is a natural result.

Michael during Superhero Sunday

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine

JourneysWhat examples of faithfulness have you witnessed in others? How have you seen the Spirit of God working in young people in your own church?

I’d love for you to join me in this week’s journey on ‘faithfulness.’ If you have a post that relates to this topic, enter the link below. Thanks for joining me this week!

He’s Just That Good

While I typically can write a blog post with relative ease, I struggle every Thursday night like my former high school students, not knowing where to start, not able to hit that first key on the laptop, staring at a blinking cursor. The past few weeks I struggled because I knew what I was lacking, and it’s hard to write about my own spiritual failings. However, this week I struggle because I know I haven’t done my subject justice.

I really had hoped to encounter the perfect story of goodness, perhaps an unexpected moment at the grocery store, or a random phone call from a far away friend. Instead, one person entered my mind from the first moment I contemplated this fruit of the Spirit. But I didn’t want to write about him.

I prayed to God for examples of goodness, hoping there was someone I was forgetting. I searched my memory bank for anecdotes involving loved ones and relatives whom I haven’t seen in years. I even looked up the definition of ‘goodness’ in the dictionary, hoping some word in the definition would trigger the inspiration I needed to write a different story than the one in my head.

But it was always him.

And I really didn’t want to admit that fact because I’ve been mad at him for the last week.

But if I’m truly to write on goodness, there’s only one person I know who is this good.

I wish I could say that I’ve never uttered an unkind word about another, but I can’t. I wish I could say that when I fight, I always fight fair, not hitting below the belt with careless words or rubbing salt in the wounds with a stone-cold silence. But I can’t.

And he can.

He doesn’t offend easily, and he is slow to anger.

He doesn’t choose jealousy as a garment but instead clothes himself in trust.

And he trusts with the words I type across the screen, even when they’re not pretty.

He isn’t perfect, but he does walk a righteous path.

And his heart is good.

And when he knows that I’m frustrated, that after nine years we’re still not on the same page, his heart hurts as he searches for ways to find common ground. Whether through a cup of hot tea, a cannoli on a Friday night, or a kiss sending me to bed amidst the clanging of dishes in the sink.

He’s just that good. In the little things. In the big things. All the time.

And even when we’re not on the same page, I know we’re in the same story, fighting for the same things, just focusing on different battles.

His goodness sets my heart at ease, my mind at rest, and when I see the goodness of my loving husband, I taste the goodness of our perfect Father.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine.
Journeys

When you think of goodness, is there one person who comes to mind? How do you see goodness in your own life?

Link up your own post on goodness below, and please link back to my post with either a hyperlink or my button (grab the code off the sidebar). Be sure to read some of the other posts who have joined us, and show some kindness by leaving comments on the other blogs! Thank you for taking this journey with us!