Saturday, January 14, 2017

Real Life

I have severely neglected this little blog of mine. I've always said it's for me to capture my thoughts and if someone wants to share in that then I'm happy to bring you along for the ride. It's a crazy one, though, and I decided to make today's post an ode to that specifically.

Halfway into the new month and I admit it's thrown me for a loop. It started out somber, celebrating the life of our beloved Poppy and now trying to figure out how to do life without him. We came home to snow - 8 inches to be exact - and the kids have been out of school for days. We're in the middle of a four-day holiday weekend so at this point we have yet to establish our new year routine.

We enjoyed snow cream and coloring in the snow with "snow markers." Eli had cousin time and Nana time along with plenty of hot chocolate. But if I'm being honest, we didn't spend much time outside nor did we fill our snow days with activity and mind-provoking projects. I admit to being a wimp when it came to playing in the snow although my excuse at the time was the baby would be too cold and was far too busy (lazy?) inside to plan out fun-filled days.

The one day that Eli had school this week was actually the hardest. Trying to entertain a very active and precocious 14 month old has proven to be one of my greatest challenges. (It's also made me extremely grateful for the bond and relationship she has with her brother who keeps her thoroughly entertained.) We read every book on her bookshelf, played motor skill games, went outside, took a walk around the neighborhood, played puzzles (well, she mostly threw the pieces while I put them back neatly), and made imaginative food in her play kitchen. All of that happened before lunch time and we still had the afternoon to figure out how to keep each other entertained. We went inside and outside and upstairs and downstairs and did the whole rotation again. One of us was ready for a nap and I'll just give you a hint that it was NOT the little person!

She learned the color purple and yellow. Okay, let's be honest. She learned to say the color purple and yellow. Whether or not she'll actually remember and associate the names with their respective colors has yet to be determined. But our little mimic repeats everything we say and for this particular day she proved she could say two of my most favorite colors.

I couldn't have been prouder of my sweet little daughter and was feeling somewhat accomplished for teaching her something. We came back inside and washed our hands and I went to make her lunch. I thought she was playing in her own kitchen until I heard water sloshing. Puzzled I called her name only to come around the corner and see her playing in the toilet. So much for washed hands. In case you're wondering, I didn't overreact. Mostly because this wasn't the first time and I'm nearly certain it won't be her last. I'm thinking we'll need to invest in a water table for the spring...

Snack time after lunch and I allowed her to be in the bonus room because I was in the middle of laundry. She was also not right by my side digging into the laundry baskets like usual. So I peeked around the corner and found her "painting" with her food pouch as she squeezed its orange contents all over the floor then smeared it in for good measure. Of course it was on the carpet and couch. Why wouldn't it be?! Those make much better canvases than bare floors let alone the artwork of pureed baby food is nearly a lost talent considering us parents want our children to EAT it instead!

I'm happy to report we all survived the day. Even Eli who fell in gym class and busted his lip. The nurse called me before 9:30 a.m. on his one and only school day the entire week.

I had big plans for us on our Friday off, none of which were able to happen because of an unexpected and crippling migraine. I don't know what I'd do without my mama who came over to take care of the kids while I spent the day sleeping it off.

A best friend camp out in the basement turned into two boys bounding up the stairs multiple times then finally again at 1 a.m. saying they were hungry and ready to wake up. Mama bear was not so anxious to see them and sent them to separate beds to finally fall let us all sleep. It's 10 a.m. and they're still sleeping.

This is real life. I share it because I don't ever want anyone to get the wrong idea about me or what I post on Facebook. Oh yes, I love posting the sweet and funny images of my children, their smiles and cute antics. But I know all too well the jealousy and judgment that can come when we see the picture perfect life that is really just a snapshot of the full story. So here's the full story. At least for this week. Filled with snow days and way too much screen time, three meals in a row eaten out, play-time in the potty (not really) and one tired mama just leisurely sipping her coffee as if I didn't have a care in the world (or unfolded laundry in the dryer, bathrooms to clean, meals to plan and prep, groceries to buy, sheets to change, you get the picture...). This is real life. My life. Don't be jealous and don't judge. (Please don't laugh either!)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hello 2017

I didn't watch the ball drop. I didn't see the disastrous performance everyone's talking about today. I didn't stay up and kiss my sweetheart (he was sound asleep an hour before me) and I didn't make any resolutions. The celebration of New Year's Eve has never been a big deal for me. I've usually spent it with family, maybe a few friends, there's a low-key dinner, sparkling cider, games, and it's been rare if we all stay together for the ball dropping. The only true NYE tradition I have is reflecting on the previous year and planning for the new one to come.

For me, New Year's isn't about a celebration of a date on a calendar. It takes on such different meaning when I ask myself what is it the Lord has for me this year. Did I accomplish what He wanted from me this past year? Have I lived my life fully for Him and His glory? What is His plan and will for me as I face a new year? 

2017 is no different. I've spent a lot of time the last two days reflecting and praying, seeking the Lord and asking for His guidance for me as I enter this new year. Call is tradition, but each year I seem to land on a verse or word that becomes my anchor. 2015 was hope, for which Violet has her middle name. 2016 was joy and as I wrote my reflection of the year yesterday, I can honestly say that was my anthem. Now as I press forward, I feel the Lord impressing upon my heart a few things.

The first is prayer. I love the image below because it encapsulates the heart of what I'm supposed to be praying about and for. My children and their hearts. My role as their mom. My priorities to my family. Making the most of everyday and every opportunity as I am reminded of my prayer to be a mother and the answer God gave me with these two precious lives. Lives given to me to shape, mold, mend, guide and direct. Lives I'm allowed to borrow for the sake of living out what He means in my own life. Prayer isn't something to take lightly. It's so often tossed around as a sentiment when we say we'll be praying for someone or something. I'm committing this year to not just say it but to pray it. We face BIG challenges but we have an even BIGGER God and the power of prayer is mine to claim on their behalf. 

The second word or phrase that I'm claiming for this year is "bless." You know it well from our Christmas card, from what I shared yesterday. Now it comes to take on a new meaning as I embrace the idea of bless, be a blessing, and live blessed. To live a life worthy of the calling for which Christ has given me. To give thanks in all things. To display sincere gratitude. To seek to bless those around me. To embrace the blessings God has so abundantly given and to live that out as a testament of His goodness and grace. I'm not overly filled with compassion naturally but I want to learn to bless and be a blessing. I admit this will require some soul searching. Maybe it will be through prayer that I can learn to bless. However the Lord leads me, I am committing to proclaim His blessings, to live as one blessed, and to seek to bless others.
This morning He led me to this passage in Psalm 19:7-9,

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

Perfect. Refreshing. Trustworthy. Right. Joy. Radiant. Enduring. Firm. Righteous. So many amazing thoughts as the Lord stirs my heart. Each one of them could be used to describe Who He is. There's so much to know of Him. I can't wait to see what this year holds and how He teaches me more about Himself.

He gave me one other verse today. Psalm 28:7,

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.

I can't deny how my heart has leapt for joy at His blessings, His insights, His promises. It is my joy and privilege to praise Him with my song - with this blog - with my life. My heart trusts Him. Not knowing anything about what this year will hold yet knowing He's got each day already planned. I love a new year, fresh perspective, new insight. And with that, I welcome 2017. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Review

If not for anyone other than myself, I like to reflect on the previous year. I spent some time this morning looking back at my recaps from the past few years. Michael and I often say we've packed a lot of life into just a few years. The front of our Christmas card this year had the word "Blessed" across our most recent family photo. It wasn't meant to proclaim abundance, wealth or any type of prideful expression. In fact, it is meant to stand as a testament of the blessed redemption our lives represent. Our smiles are genuine. The photo shoot was the second attempt at getting that one amazing shot I had been hoping for. It represents truth and reality, just the way our lives bear testimony of the good, the bad, the painful, the hilarious and everything in between.
We started 2016 with a one month old baby and the year that has unfolded for us as parents has been nothing short of chaotic and amazing. We were blessed to stand before our church with family by our side to dedicate our sweet daughter to the Lord, our commitment to raise her with an understanding and knowledge of the Lord. I can't help but pray over her heart and ask for her to know the amazing love of our Savior and how He's orchestrated our family.

This year can be summed up with two words for Violet: milestones and moments. She's had a big brother to keep up with so she crawled at five months, walked at 10 months and has been on the go most of her life. She chose me and only me which drastically altered my original plan to go back to work after 12 weeks off. Instead, I would find myself working three hour stints and racing to get back to nurse my daughter. To this day she still won't take a bottle, despite being able to drink from a straw for months, and she won't have anything to do with any kind of milk in a cup of any sort. And yet, these moments mark the memories of this year. The times I've held her, consoled her, rocked her, watched her explore, witnessed her affection for her brother... Oh the bond they have! These two are simply inseparable and the feeling it mutual. My heart could nearly explode at their relationship, her "bubby" as she calls him. Life with two kids has certainly been challenging and exhausting and yet our family feels all the more fuller and complete. 

We enjoyed a visit from Poppy for several weeks in April. We didn't know then that it would be our last. Just three days shy of the new year, the Lord would call him home. Looking back at these pictures and the times we had with him those weeks are now precious memories. 

We were yet again blessed to visit Michael's parents in Florida and spend a fun and very hot week in Orlando during the summer. It was just the beginning of "Mom's Summer Camp of Fun & Learning" where my best laid plans to fill my children's summer with activity, learning and fun proved to be quite a challenge with two kids at such different stages. It was, however, one of the most wonderful opportunities for me to spend quality time with my E, learning, studying, and entering his world. It was ground-breaking for us both. 

Eli turned 8 in May and started 3rd grade in August. It turned into a turning point for his education with new accommodations and breakthroughs that have proven to be helpful for him both at school and home. So many of you have offered prayers, support, encouragement and advice and for those of you who know what it's like to advocate on your child's behalf, I simply couldn't be prouder of how far he's come and the progress he's displaying. He is a caretaker of his sister, an inventor of all things, creator, lover of outdoors and master negotiator. This year has shown so much of these qualities as his personality and God-given talents continue to develop and emerge. 

As I've gradually stepped back into work, my role changed with the addition of my mom taking on the Marketing at Chick-fil-A. If I can camp here for a moment, this is yet another example of God's redeeming work in my life. When I hesitantly but willingly stepped out on faith to walk away from leading the Career Center, I knew the Lord was leading me yet I felt as if I was leaving my true "niche." God has abundantly provided for me to fulfill this role now working for Chick-fil-A by providing professional development, career training and strategic planning for our leadership team - all while allowing me to maintain my priority as wife and mom. I simply stand in awe of Him and how He's provided!

We celebrated Violet's first birthday, we've enjoyed the wonder of our children at Christmas and even now as we still grieve the loss of Poppy, I cannot deny the outpouring of God's grace on us this year.

It's been a year of firsts, a year of blessings, a year full of family and memories, and now a year of saying goodbye. I'm turning the page on 2016 and excited to share (later) how I feel the Lord leading me for the new year to come. 

For Poppy

April 14, 1934 - December 28, 2016

They say it's what happens in between the dash that counts and for Anthony Frederick Laurie, better known as Poppy to me and many, the in between is certainly what is remembered. 

It's been a week filled with loss as the country mourns the death of super stars. For our family, we've only been concerned with the loss of one man who never had his name in lights but certainly was the light for all of us.

How do you recount the 82 years one man has lived? It adds up to the memories, the moments, and the impact he has had on all of us.

I often think about how different my life and upbringing would have been had both sets of grandparents not given their lives to the Lord as married adults. For Poppy, it was a transformation that altered the trajectory of him and his family. It now stands as the testament of who he was and is to our family. Our fervent prayer warrior, seen every morning at the kitchen table with his open bible and prayer list. For the past eight years, he's kept a picture of Nanny, his beloved bride of more than 50 years, as his bookmark. How he missed her so but how strong he was to carry on for eight more years after she went ahead of him. His faith has never wavered. His devotion to prayer stands as a pillar of strength to those of us who know all too well that his countless prayers on our behalf have provided answers and miracles we may never know this side of eternity.

It's hard to watch any loved one go, knowing each of our days are numbered, yet selfishly desiring to continue the memory-making and time together here on earth. We had planned to share Christmas with him. It was something our family here had been planning and looking forward to for months. Instead we're now honoring his life, recounting the memories and celebrating the amazing man we still hold dear. 

He was a dedicated and devoted husband. Oh how he loved Nanny, treating her as a queen and serving her in every way imaginable. He was the baby brother and youngest son of five and proud of his Italian heritage. The father to three, grandfather to four and an honorary grandson, plus eight great grandchildren, we're all grieved by the gaping hole he's left behind. Yet we do not mourn as those who have no hope because we know his eternity was secure. As a young married husband and father he met the Lord and gave his heart and life to Christ. He spent the rest of his years living out that commitment and allowing us to be a part of his legacy. 

We each have our stories. We all have different memories of him. The dash in between the years God has given him goes down as the irrevocable tribute to a life committed to his Savior, his selfless love and service of his family (even in his dying breath), his dedicated work ethic, and his gift of music. We're celebrating through our tears, knowing he has met his Savior face-to-face, singing about the joy that comes in the morning - the joy we have despite our mourning - because of the life he lived, the love he's given each of us, and the hope of his eternal rejoicing.

We love you, Poppy. We miss you more than words can explain but we will find peace in knowing you now have eternal joy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After

What happened? There's shock and awe across the country. A lot of people woke up in fear today. Others couldn't sleep because of the events unfolding. Today carries mixed emotions from polarized people. And yet it is as I said days ago ... God is Sovereign and reigns supreme over any man and all people. 

It's been reported that we saw the highest evangelical voter turnout in decades. Our rights and privileges and responsibilities as Christians and Americans do not end with yesterday's vote. Now we must remain poised in prayer, rooted in faith, and grounded in our belief that God is in control. The voices of the unborn, the working class, those hoping for change must continue to be lifted in prayer to God. Let's not forget that how we got here has much to do with the power of prayer and the showing of our faith in the Lord, not a man, to restore us.

Can we the people restore our faith in humanity? Can we the people give each other credit for desiring the best for one another? Can we the people join together to stand united regardless of how we cast our ballots, voting not for a person but voting for each other? Voting for the inalienable rights of all people, even those not yet born, that we hold to Truth, not just constitutionally what we believe we deserve but biblically what we are bound to.  

Yesterday America's voice was heard. From sea to shining sea the map is colored in, lots of red, a little blue. But this is not about a color or party or an affiliation or even a candidate. Yesterday America voted for America. We voted for each other. We voted for our faith that not only our country can be good but that we can be good together. Stronger. Empowered. United. We didn't vote for one person and against another. We voted for the things we know are right. The things we know require our stance. The lives who cannot voice their own vote. Those struggling to make ends meet. Those compounded by problems because of where they live or the color of their skin. 

I take back what I said. This is not about the lesser of two evils, this is about the greater good of all people. This is about instilling American pride in the fact that we can believe not in a person but in a platform that will ignite us and unite us in prayer and hope. This is not about my believe or hope that one person might affect change but that we would be infected by the graciousness and goodness of what we deserve to give to each other, regardless of the color of our skin or the religion we claim or the party we voted for.

I'm not living in fear today but I'm not throwing a victory party because of one man. I'm celebrating the fact that we the people have spoken for the change and charge we hope will come. We weren't bound by polls and politically infused news coverage. We didn't let our social media obsession dictate our devotion to the heart of humanity. Now we must cross party lines and continue to pray, not just for God to guide the man in office but for His will to be done in our divided country. We have humbled ourselves and sought His face, now we must continue on bended knee as we seek to serve one another in love. 

Beloved, let us love one another. We're not with her or Him, we're with the Lord. Let everyone know we are HIS disciples by loving each other.  This is so much bigger than the Supreme Court. This is about the One who reigns Supreme. This isn't about defeat or victory. This is about the Lord who fights for us, the Victor and Champion who came to save us all. 

So today I extend my olive branch. I reach my hand across the divided lines that have so deeply wounded us. I share this message and implore you as Christians, just as I asked you all to vote, to now stand together and share and show Love the way it has been first shown to us. This, the day after such a chaotic political season, now marks the day we look to each other to begin the healing process. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

I need you to understand something. This isn't a secret and I don't make any apologies for it. I'm a born again Christ-following believer. My faith and relationship with Jesus Christ is everything to me. It is the core of my very being. My belief is in Christ, my Risen Savior, who saved me from my sinful state of separation so I can have the gift of eternal life with God in Heaven. This is who I am.

If you are like me, you find yourself rocked by the compounding election madness. And make no mistake, it's been nothing short of a circus. I don't have to recall it for you. Videos, emails, scandals, lies, mud slinging, name calling, Twitter wars, media coverage...we've endured it all for nearly two years. As it all comes to a head today, there's a cloud of doubt cast over the outcome. Choosing how to vote became a tumultuous battle of "the lesser of two evils." I've heard it, felt it, said it. I know.

This is why I'm writing today. It's so heavy on my heart. What this election means to me, to us as Christians, is more than one person can do or be in four years time. It will in fact tell us the state of our union, the pulse check of our country. As Christians we'll get the very clear picture of where things stand to protect the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, the biblical truths we hold to. This isn't about one man or one woman. This isn't about being stronger as a nation or making our country great. This is about the true state of who we are and where we stand. It's not about my candidate of "choice" winning today. It becomes the bigger issue of awareness of the state of our divided United States.

So what does this mean? We're waiting, holding out hope for a "miracle" and even that seems disappointing at best. Maybe we'll end up shocked. Maybe we'll shrug and sigh, knowing we did our best. Our best. Our human best. No, I don't believe our best representatives were on the ballot but it's no longer about choices and candidates. It's about the heart of the matter and the millions of souls being deceived and led astray. Not by men or women but by the Enemy who prowls and seeks whom he may destroy. It's absolute war but not in the flesh and blood. It's the spiritual warfare that creeps in and wreaks havoc on our minds, our hearts, our families, our homes, our beliefs and our way of life.

Today is Election Day, tomorrow the new President will be decided (hopefully), and the day after that we'll be settling in to accepting the bitter outcome. And therein lies the problem. What should happen now is a wake up call, a call to action, an active voice that goes beyond the ballot to speak the Truth in love. The Truth of God's saving redeeming love. The Love that came to each and every man and woman to save us from this world. What today means for Christians is the reminder that this world is not our home. We are but strangers here, yet not without hope. Our Hope is in the one Man who can and did save us. The one who came wrapped in flesh with all His God-ness to offer us hope. Eternal hope. So I'm holding onto that today. No matter what the outcome of this election. No matter who wins. No matter what man says (or woman). I'm trusting in my Sovereign Savior who not only holds the future, He raises up leaders, but more importantly is preparing a place for me where the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will reign Supreme.

That's what Election Day means to me. The very real reminder that Heaven is waiting. Lord, come soon. My hope, my eternal hope, is in Him.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Here It Is

Here it is. The eve of the election; one of the most talked about, contested, debated and dividing elections our nation has ever seen. The blessed curse of social media and an overabundance of news coverage makes a news story out of everything. Nothing is sacred. Not an email, not a video. Make no mistake, wherever you go, whatever you do, someone is watching, documenting and taking note and it can and will be used against you, no matter how much time has passed. There's a lesson in and of itself but that's not my point here. At least not right now.

Here it is. Here's my point. I'm voting tomorrow. On the eve of this election I feel a lot of mixed emotions. I'm thankful that it's almost...over... I'm excited for the possibility. I'm nervous for the outcome.  I'm disgusted by the way the media has dictated the coverage to us. I am determined that nothing will stop me from casting my ballot tomorrow and like millions of others, I will be glued to Fox News all day long. I'm praying for the Lord to have His way. I get the human obligation and privilege - that we have the right to choose and let our voices be heard. I also understand the Sovereignty of God and His ability to raise up leaders. I don't know what His will is for this election but I know He's the only one of us who won't be surprised by the outcome. He doesn't need the media's predictions. He is Omniscient over all.

Here it is. I'm calling on you. Pleading. Imploring. I'm not ashamed to beg. PLEASE. Please, with all that is within me, I am asking for you to get out and vote tomorrow. Please don't sit at home. Please don't be passive about this one. Please don't overlook your role, your right, your privilege. I hope you'll count it as such. There's a certain American pride that comes with knowing you've done your part - even if your candidate of choice doesn't win, isn't projected to win, or isn't really your first choice. I get it. I understand. I've felt the same. I've questioned what to do and yet I've determined the cost is too great for me to do nothing. Take ownership of that pride and your role in voicing your vote tomorrow.

Here it is. I've done my best not to be divisive, not to cross lines or offend. But I can't keep silent any longer. There is too much at stake. Too much to risk. I'm voting to make America great again, and not because I believe one man can do that job. Truly because I am scared to death of what the alternative might be. I'm not swayed by scandal. I'm not voting for or against emails or videos. I'm voting with my Christian values as my guide. I'm voting to protect LIFE. I'm voting to protect my FAITH. I'm voting to stand in the gap for those who have fought, those who weren't even given a chance. I'm voting to defend the freedoms of speech that allow my Bible to be the inerrant Word of God preached freely every Sunday. We've already lost so much when it comes to our values, morals and beliefs. It's time. It's here. It's now. It's already too late to reverse some of the lasting effects of the Supreme Court and the constitutional rights meant to protect us. Now we must stand. Now we must act. Now we must not be idle or ignorant. Now we must vote.

So here it is. The eve before the 2016 Presidential Election. Here is my plea to you to vote tomorrow. Make the time. Make a plan. Make a decision to stand for your beliefs and to stand in the gap for our future that depends on you, me, all of us to get out and vote!