Thursday, January 20, 2011

it's really not a four-letter-word

so...for all the parents out there, i assume you have noticed what i have noticed once i was blessed with the title of mama....once you have kids...your perspective changes A LOT on a lot of different things. A LOT. (understatement of the century, eh?)

for shows that you used to think were "pretty much ok" are all of a sudden ridiculous and you cannot even believe they put this junk on tv nowadays. "you know, when i was a kid, there wasn't that kind of trash on television..." (thought a rant fit well there :)

clothing that didn't used to bother you that causes you to shriek, your jaw drop, and makes you want to sign your baby girl up for an all girl's school NOW on some remote island somewhere. i mean the kind of island where you have to take a ferry to get there. that's right, only girls on the ferry to the island, only girls on the ferry from the island. and the ferry driver is a sweet older woman who loves Jesus and hates boys as well. all this when she is only 22 months old, too! goodness gracious.

not sure why that is really, that we change so drastically. i guess it is blessing. actually, i am sure it is. our level of morals need to change. they need to get quite a bit tighter and stricter because, we are, after all, raising this next generation. and we have, after all, seen how quickly the world's slide toward the complete lack of morals has happened. it's a very fast slide. and a very slippery one. and i don't know about you, but i don't want my kids on that slide. nope. no thanks. ya know kids, let's just go to the park, instead, ok? and we'll even get ice cream after.

well, the same is true about our speech. i mean, once i grew up a bit, got past high school and stopped cussing every once and a while, because it was "cool". seriously, that was dumb. anyway...even when my personal relationship with God wasn't at its closest, per say, i still wasn't dropping the f-bomb ever or taking the Lord's name in vain. so actual "cursing" hasn't been a big struggle for me really. but, once you have kids, it is funny, that certain things that aren't "really" four-letter-words...sort of become like four-letter-words, at least, once you have little people in your house.

our sweet benjamin is our very own resident "bad word police" monitor. if you say something that is "bad", he will call you on it, every.single.time. which, is funny, because not only is the kiddo a people pleaser, so you would think he wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings...but even more hilarious about his "police" role in the house is that the kid is sooooo easily distracted. i mean it. he is his mother's child. wait...what were we talking about, again?? :)

we will tell our two boys to clean up the toys in the living room before they're allowed to have dessert and while our sweet, methodical (yes, like his daddy:) eldest child, jacob, is obediently cleaning up... in a very orderly fashion, i might add...benjamin is rolling around on the ground stuffing toys down his pajamas and singing a silly song to his baby sister, who is, by the way, is loving every single minute of it.

me: "benjamin - buddy, what are you supposed to be doing???"
benjamin: "ummm...helping jacob clean up toys?!?"
me: "that's right dude, better hurry, now!"
benjamin: joyfully responds, "ok mama!"
(short pause)
abigail: "ben-na-men, silly, sing!"
benjamin: plops back on the ground and joyfully begins verse two
jacob: has cleaned up the entire living room and is looking at benjamin like "gee, a little help would have been nice, little brother!"
daddy: looks at me and then at jacob and then back at me with the look on his face like "ya, i know exactly how the kid feels!" :)

the point of that story is that benjamin gets pretty easily distracted most of the time. but no matter what he is doing, where he is in the house, or who you are talking to....if you say a "bad word"...the kid will call you on it. right away.

i will be having a conversation with ryan and say something like (this is a purely hypothetical scenario, of course) "i can't believe that the cowboys were knocked out of the stupid playoffs by like the sixth game of the season....." and i won't even finish the sentence before we hear a little voice from somewhere in the house saying "don't say stupid, mama!"

"oh ya, that's right, buddy! sorry!"

ya see, in our house...stupid is a four-letter word.

or...i will be saying something (again purely hypothetical) "ok, so i was watching the cake boss again, and oh my gosh, you would not believe the amazing, beautiful cake...." and there he is again, that little voice coming from somewhere afar..."mama, don't say oh my gosh!"

"oh, that's right, sorry buddy, thank you!"

ya see, in our house...oh my gosh is a four-letter-word. (for the record, we prefer oh my goodness)

i'm not sure who ever sat down and coined the phrase "four-letter-word" as referencing the fact that something is a curse word, but it is true. if you actually stop and think about the worst ones, most of them do actually have four letters. odd, isn't it? but, just so you know, in our house, in case you haven't noticed, you have to be careful of some six-letter-words and even, the occasional three-word, eight-letter-phrases. it can get very tricky.

in my reading, studying, and listening to some great teaching lately, i have come across another word that, unfortunately, a lot of women in our society have deemed as a "four-letter-word" as well. you ready for it???


(silence.) (insert cricket chirps here.) (yet, ironically i have caught the attention of all the men reading! hmmm, interesting.) :)

well, i sat here for a decent amount of time and i didn't hear benjamin pipe in, so it must be an ok word to say! :)

hey girls....are you still here?? still wanna keep reading? (men: "yes!" women: "not so much") :) but, i do hope so. this is big stuff, friend. this topic has helped my heart tremendously and i know it could help your heart in more ways than you could possibly imagine.

for me, it all started when i read titus 2:3-5, like i brought up in a recent post titled "i've got no pearls and i've got no lace apron". i have loved getting to learn more about the wife that God wants me to be. well, to be honest, i enjoyed it just fine until i got to the part about being "subject to my husband". ya, that part didn't sound like very much fun to me. and generally, i'm all about fun.

so, i will admit that this subject has "felt" like a four-letter-word to me for a very long time. this is not something that comes naturally to me at all. seriously, not at all. and for the record, i am not one of those people who is simply saying that they have a hard time with this to make their message more effective to you. i flat out have a very hard time with this. don't believe me?? feel free to ask my dear, sweet ryan. in fact, you should have asked him just recently. why recently, you ask? well, i'll get to that in a minute...

first...did you know that God commands us to submit to our husbands? He doesn't suggest it or whisper it cautiously and if we don't hear it, then it's ok with Him. nope. it is a command. don't believe me? or maybe you don't want to believe me? i get that. i didn't want to believe it much either, when i heard this years ago...or again months ago...or yet again this morning on a wonderful cd i received from a friend over Biblical teaching from Titus 2 from Christown ministries.

but, is the cold, hard truth. divorce is out there. and even scarier than that...divorce is around HERE!! look at you and your closest "couple friend" that you and your spouse enjoy hanging out with. picture y'all out enjoying yourselves on a double date. well, statistics say that one of you eventually will be divorced. there's a 50/50 shot. (and if you admire them for their strong marriage, then that leaves you. scary.) "oh, no, not us...but we are Christians. we go to church. oh...well, that is a good, ok then...let's look at those statistics, shall we?? oh wait... they...are...the...very...same. that's right. no different from the world. sad, isn't it? i don't know about you...but i want to be different from the world. (romans 12:2) i want to protect my marriage. ryan and i both come from divorced families. ryan doesn't know his biological father, had his first step-dad for less than a year but, thank the Lord, now has an amazing step-father. my folks divorced when i was five. i have not one solid memory of them together. well, aside from the day they told us that dad was moving out. i remember that day vividly. and yes, i am very blessed to have two step-parents who love my brother and i as if we were their own. but, friend...this is still not God's design. the Bible says it pretty clearly in the book of malachi that God hates divorce. now, let me be clear...He does not hate those people who are divorced. He loves all His kids. you, me, your neighbor, your step-dad, and your ex-husband....we are all His. but, maybe you are divorced right now. or maybe you are remarried. maybe you are happily married. maybe you are have been married for thirty years, but have been "roommates" for most of that time. i don't know. but, what i do know is that no one says "i do" and then assumes it will end up as "i won't". i will venture to say that if you have been divorced, i am pretty sure you don't want to be divorced again, right?? ryan and i have always said that the legacy of divorce in our family ends right here. with us.  i love (and have copied) what my pastor says... "cindy knows she's stuck with me, cause i've told her if she ever leaves me, i'm just gonna follow her!" amen pastor bill, amen!" but, oh my goodness (not oh my gosh :) we cannot do this alone!! we have to rely on God and His Word to get us through. do i think that by doing this one thing, by submitting to your husband, that it will save your marraige? i don't know. but, i can say it will help. and, let's get real here, friend, i do know that this is a HEART issue. and i also know God honors you and i every single time we try to yield our own desires to allow Him to transform our sinful heart to be more like His perfect heart. so, i don't know about you...but anything God commands me to do, i'm thinking i should be doing!!! and if it helps my marriage out too, more praise to Him! so, let's look at this thing, shall we??

eph 5:21-25 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her"

some of you are soooo happy because you read that first verse and took a big sigh of relief. "oh good, it says, submit to one another!! see? my husband's gotta submit to me too! so there! ha. :)" (did i just read your thoughts? nope, just typed out my own, that's all) oh sweet friend, that would be nice wouldn't it? well, actually no, it wouldn't. i mentioned in another post that i've heard it said "that a house with two heads is just ugly, it's a ugly "two-headed" monster." not sure about you, but i know i don't want to raise my kids around that! you thought they'd have nightmares about seeing the commercials for the latest harry potter movie, nope. this would be worse for them, trust me, way worse! that first verse is referring to all of us as a church body. we are all supposed to be willing to serve each other, submit to each other. it is about having a humble heart. i actually LOVE that God addresses us wives next. right after that. almost as if He KNEW we'd read that first verse wrong. He knows us so well, doesn't He? this is pretty clear that there is an order to this. the church is not to be the head of Christ is it? no - that is not His design. just like we are not to be the head of our husbands. not His design. and please take note, it does say, in everything. again...i think God just wanted to make sure we knew He meant it. in finances. in decision making. in everything.

"but i refuse to be a doormat!"

good. because nowhere in God's Word does it say "and the two shall become one and then the woman shall become the place the man shall wipeth his sandals."

c'mon girls. let's all (myself included) check our hearts about this. let's stop and think about our God. why in the world would He make me the way i am...outgoing, funny, vivacious, witty, intelligent, strong-willed, opinionated, creative, selfish, friendly, lazy, devoted, romantic.....if His plan was to just have me drop all that and become a wife-robot the day i changed my name to holzberger?? (it was sanders, by the that is true love for you!!) please hear me when is say this, friend... i do not at all believe that God wants you or i to cease being ourselves. i think maybe, just maybe, He wants us to cease being all about ourselves!!

"but i don't feel like it!" well, i get that too! trust me, i do. ryan is a good man, but he isn't perfect, of course. he hurts my feelings. he says things he shouldn't. and he for sure isn't the guy who compliments me all the time and comes home with roses, singing ballads. which, honestly, is fine, he ain't that great at singing. :) but, really, i do understand that feeling. i understand it because i have felt it. the difference is, that i am choosing not to be led by it anymore. truly...i don't always (ok, often) feel like submitting. but, recently i heard joyce meyer say something that really hit me. she said, "the sooner you do the things that you know are right, even when you don't "feel" like it, the sooner you will truly grow spiritually." so true, friend, so true. therefore, i'm thinkin' i need to put my big girl panties on and just deal with the fact that sometimes i don't feel like submitting to my husband. how 'bout you? you with me?

titus 2:5 "Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

these verses are where it all started for me. well, maybe i should say where it all ended for me. :) all my old life ended, i guess. once i read this...once i saw so very clearly what God has TOLD each of us women to be....i couldn't pretend anymore that i didn't know. i couldn't play dumb anymore. (darnit) :) (insert benjamin: "mama, don't say darnit!") i couldn't just go through life anymore doing what i "feel" like doing. i couldn't just always have fun....stuffing toys down my pajamas and singing along to entertain people. i needed to clean up my toys in the living room. i needed to step up.

but, i gotta admit. i don't like the phrase "be subject to their husbands". it makes me think of cinderella and that time period. of nobles having "subjects" and once again my knee-jerk reaction (i always say they don't call it a knee-JERK reaction for nothing!!) is to say, "nope, not me, i am nobody's subject!" then i heard on these cds this verse... 1 cor 11:3 "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." and then the teacher said "if Jesus, being completely equal to God, can be humble enough to subject Himself to God, why in the world can't i be humble enough to subject myself to my husband?" ouch. and then she reminded me of philippians 2:5-7 "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." double ouch.

why is it that i grasp for equality with ryan? i feel so much the NEED to be heard. to be right. to be better. to be smarter. to be more spiritual. and friend....i may actually be one or two of those things, i don't know. but, it doesn't matter. because God doesn't say "wives, submit to your husbands only if he is right and a Christian and smarter than you. if he's not, don't worry about it." i have to trust that God will lead me through ryan. i have to trust that God will lead ryan. and boy oh boy can i pray for ryan and follow God!!

1 peter 3:1-2 "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the Word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."

this verse is amazing. it is powerful, actually. what power there is in this verse for us, girls!! God is telling us here that we are to be submissive to our husbands, even if they are not believers. i would imagine that would not be easy. i am blessed that my husband is a Christian, but i will be honest and say that there have been many times in the last 9 1/2 years  that we have been married, that his behavior, his speech, his choices and the way he has treated me, hasn't displayed that relationship. do i get to choose to not submit then? no, i do not. now...did i submit then? most likely, no i did not. but, thank God, i have grown a lot in these last 9 1/2 years. and thank God, so has ryan. we are both grateful for all God has done. but, i can honestly say that there have been many times where i have "told" ryan how i thought things should be handled. how he needed to change. how i had things figured out. did that work? absolutely not. was this last week? possibly. but, i can honestly say that the few times i really have tried to do things God's way and simply LIVE the way God wants me to live, that my actions have spoken much louder than my words. this verse confirms that. may we win them over with our joyful and humble behavior. that is power, friend. that is power.

colossians 3:18-19 "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

i mentioned above that this subject of being a "subject" to ryan isn't easy for me. i mentioned that if you don't believe me, you should really just ask ryan about it. especially recently. well, not too many weeks ago, ryan and i had the opportunity to have...shall we say...a "discussion" about a few "issues" that had been going on in the team holzberger household lately. now, i honestly have been trying to focus more on being the kind of wife (and mom and woman and friend and homemaker) that God wants me to be. i really have. i have been trying to be kind, polite, patient, loving, gracious, not quick tempered...etc. i really have. by the way....all of these character traits aren't exactly easy for me either. but i have been praying for God to help me. and i believe He has. anyway...ryan and i were "discussing" things and he was voicing his "opinion" about a few issues. and i honestly was trying to make sure he knew i heard him. i was validating his statements. i was trying to affirm his words. i was working REAL hard not to "buck the system" or "rebuttal"...which is, unfortunately, what i am known for doing when we argue. so...later...when we were still "talking this out" and ryan said something that really hurt my feelings i asked him "why did you feel the need to talk to me like that? what have i done to you that is so bad?" he said "i am so tired of the fact that you always rebuttal everything i say" i asked him how i had done that. and he proceeded to try and think. we took a few minutes to go back over the conversation. and honestly, i don't think he could remember anything specific. that is because i hadn't done it. for once. (literally) and it was shocking. but, here's the thing..he has gotten SO used to me coming back at him, that his heart is just accustomed to his wife bucking the system. sad, huh? well, for me it is. sad, but true.

this verse in colossians talks to husbands about not being harsh with their wives. i believe this is partly what it is talking about. we, as women have such a crucial role in our husband's lives. don't you see how for years now i have rebuttaled what ryan has said. i have often felt like i had "good reason" to make myself heard. (don't we always have a "good reason" though?) he has become so used to his wife going against him that his heart has become harsh toward me about it. sad, huh? well, to me, it is not only sad, but tragic. but it is me, the offender, that i am referring to, after all. what do you think would happen if i started answering ryan like this...

"i trust you babe, i know you will make a great decision!"

"whatever you want to do is fine, i'm good either way!"

"sure thing, baby, i appreciate all you do for our family!"

"ok, and what can i do to help make your world easier?"

these could be life giving words, friend. these words, when said over and over to your man could rejuvenate his harsh heart that has been beaten down for years. now, i love ryan. i really do. that man has held  my heart since the day we met when i was 18 years old. my heart was sold on him on day one and i haven't looked back since. but, sometimes, the man flat drives me bonkers. i mean it. we are so opposite in some ways, that oil and water doesn't really quite cover it. and it doesn't help that i am selfish, prideful, independent, stubborn, and altogether a big, fat baby who likes to get her own way. therefore, i haven't, in the past, been willing to lay down my own desires in order to put his first. isn't that awful? (the answer is yes.)

fortunately, it is not too late. it really isn't. for me and ryan, or for you and your man. thanks to the fact that God loves us and gives us His grace fresh and new each day, (psalm 30:5) we can start each new day with a heart to serve. with the heart to be subject to the husband God has given us. with the heart to submit.



(insert long quiet pause)

see? benjamin still isn't chiming in, isn't a four-letter-word. i think we are good to go! :) let's do this thing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

shut de do' keep out the toddler any of you know that fun song that i reference in this title???

(insert reggae vibe) "shut de do', keep out the devil. shut de do' - keep the devil in the night. shut de do', (de do') keep out the devil, light the candle, everything's alright, light the candle everything's alright."

such a F-U-N song. it makes me shake my hiney around right now in my recliner just typing it. and it is one of those tunes that, if you do know it, gets stuck in your head forever. and ever and ever, amen. but, hey...if you are going to get a song stuck in your head, it might as well be about shutting the devil out, right? can't hurt.

well, in my world, lately i have been humming that tune as we are shutting doors all over this sweet home of ours to - "keep out the toddler". go ahead, sing with me..."shut de do', keep out the toddler. shut de do' keep the toddler within sight. shut de do' (de do') keep out the toddler. throw out the candles, everything's alright, once she's five, everything's alright." :)

and that's right...for those of you who think that God doesn't have a sense of humor, you honestly haven't known me long enough and heard my story. and clearly you haven't ever had a child that is just. like. you.

God so blessed our family about 22 months ago with a beautiful baby girl. i mean was singlehandedly one of the most joyFULL days of my life. after having two precious baby boys...and no epidural this third time (ooouucch!!)...when that doctor held up that beautiful newborn baby and said "it's a GIRL!" ...ryan and i looked at each other and simultaneously said "are you sure!?!" then we saw her. our precious baby girl, our abigail. and friend, we lost it. we. flat. out. lost it. the moment was beyond wonderful for us. and i believe that God enjoyed that moment every bit as much as we did. i also believe that He has enjoyed many, many moments after that, often giggling at me as i parent this little darling. (yes, i think God giggles) ya see...she is her mother's child. i mean, we thought benjamin was like me, but whoa nelly, we had no idea. now...don't get me wrong, she looks exactly like her daddy. (of course) if you ask me, it's not quite fair that i have three children and every single one of them looks like their daddy. and they do, for real. we have actually had complete strangers stop us in public to tell us just how much these kids do NOT look like me! nice. but, don't get me wrong, i think my sweet husband is HOT! (he'll kill me for typing that - he is painfully modest) but, c'mon, God, all these stretch marks, all the saggy skin...couldn't i have gotten just one kiddo that made people say "oh my goodness, you look just like your mama!" well, apparently not.

our baby girl, is named abigail caroline. trust me, i earned getting to name this kid after me. (did i mention no epidural? ok, just making sure.) but...i gotta be honest, she is a mess. a sweet, blue-eyed, curly blonde-haired, strong-willed, hilarious, dramatic, precious, little rascally mess. and she has partly for her middle name to thank for it. when i was a toddler, as the story goes, i would say "NO!" to my mom and she would quickly say "don't you tell me no!"...which, i soon adopted as my very own favorite phrase. i would ask for a cookie for breakfast or something completely reasonable in my little two-year-old brain, and my mom would say "No". to which i would quickly reply, "don't you tell me no!" ha. nowadays it is one of the great family jokes. back then, i am thinking it wasn't very funny.

i'm thinking that because our sweet little abigail (who, by the way, even as we speak is clanging something against the wall in her crib, a noise i am choosing to ignore) spoke her first full sentence all on her own just a couple months ago. such a special time when your children begin to speak in sentences. in general. so...for abigail...

was it..."i love Jesus!"?? um, nope.

was it..."i clean up!"?? nope. (remember, she is like her mother, not her father, people)

she looked right at me when i told her that we had to clean up the blocks and go night-night and she said with every fiber of her being "i NO want to!" sigh. i just sat there looking at her...thinking to myself...hmm, she just said her first sentence! and then quickly followed by the thought...that's funny...i don't remember asking her if she wanted to. and now, months later, if i had a dollar for every time i have heard "i NO want to!" i could not only retire, friend...but i could retire very well.

so, at this level of parenting, (my third child), you would think i'd have this down by now. my boys are out of this toddler stage (with no stitches, or major catastrophes, i might add, we consider ourselves 2 for 2 there) and yet sometimes i feel like a new mom all over again. all thanks to my darling baby girl. the thing is...i was spoiled. i admit it. my first two children really did very little to actually prepare me for parenting. truly, those two sweet boys didn't get into that much toddler mischief. jacob, our firstborn, would wander around the house sometimes full of toddler curiosity, but when we would find him, he would literally be reorganizing the shoes in the closet by size and color. no kidding, we have what we call "jacob was here" pictures from when he was only like 18 months old and we'd find the bathroom cabinet, closet floor and other areas "re-done" by our sweet, little, methodical baby boy. then came benjamin, our sweet "joy boy". he was much busier that jacob was, and much more active...but still, he didn't cause much mischief. he did learn to climb early on, which scared me. i'd walk into the kitchen and he'd be trying with all his might to climb up onto the kitchen chairs, and i'd have to stop him. but, he loved receiving praise so much, even at an early age, (like his mama) that he did NOT like getting in trouble, so he stopped climbing pretty early on. (by the way, all the while his 3 year old older brother would be looking at him, like, "hmm..i never even thought to climb up there, whatd'ya know!?") and benjamin disliked conflict so much that most times when jacob would come at him, if benjamin had a toy in his hand, he'd just throw it on the ground, and put his hands in the air, almost like a peace offering, "here, take it! let's be friends, don't hurt me big brother!" poor thing.

and then, there's abigail. God bless her. in one week ALONE, (and i am not exaggerating or kidding at all) she got into the vaseline and rubbed it all over her baby doll - "mama, i change baby!" and then the very next day, i found her with the container of cornstarch dumped all over her baby doll, same excuse - "mama, i change baby!" (she is, apparently, very concerned about her babies having clean diapers!) she then dunked her baby doll into the toilet, (that's right, the toilet! ugh.) her excuse - "i clean baby". she soaked the bathroom floor while she and i were taking a bath together, right before she smiled and looked at me, all covered in bubbles and said "mama, i poopy!" friend, this is soooo not what you want to hear when you are taking a bath with your kid. also that week, she stood up in her high chair. she stood up on top of the boy's train table and flipped off of it... and had the bruise on her sweet cheek to prove it. she shoved the cordless home phone into the hole on the front of sub-woofer. (yes, the boys shoved blocks in there, but only abigail would find another electronic device that we actually need to shove inside. sigh.) she threw away pieces to one of the boy's board games - "mama, i go trash!" she also threw a ball into the diaper champ - "mama, ball yucky! ewww!" well sure kid, it is now.

i'm sure i'm forgetting stuff. but, honestly, i'm a little distracted, because our darling is awake now and walking around. danger! danger, will robinson. i wonder what will happen while i'm typing this to you. sigh. i am sure some of my friends are laughing their heads off at me right now (melissa and shelley- you know you are!) and i know my parents are, i am sure of that! my dad calls it "payin' for your raisin'!" gee, daddy, thanks.

so, even though the girl can technically open doors, we still go around closing them, just to slow her down a bit. ya, just a bit. the boys are used to it. they know that as soon as they are done in their room or the bathroom, they have to shut the door "to keep abigail out, right mommy?" that's exactly right. it just makes it a little easier on me if she can't get into every single room. it's safer for me. i get to not work as hard. and it's all about me, right? um, no. (by the way, she just walked in with her big brother's star wars light saber in hand, grinning from ear to ear. ha! may the force be with you baby girl!)

well, i was thinking about this lately when i was reminded of one of my favorite songs. it is a bit older song called "welcome home" and it is all about our heart. i have been thinking a lot about my heart these last months. i want it to be pure...but, is it? sometimes yes. sometimes no. but, God is working on it, i assure you that. not sure about you, but i am such a incredibly visual person that when i first heard this amazing song, it hit me square in my nose. in fact, i wonder if you can still see the mark.

so....for the first time, i am going to attempt to link the song onto my blog, that is how much i want you to hear it. so, please read these lyrics below as you listen and enjoy this amazing song by shaun groves. he is a funny guy and it is neat to listen to him describe the meaning behind the song, before he begins to sing. too cool. enjoy...(but, if the link doesn't work, (hey, i tried!) you can find it on youtube. search for "shaun groves welcome home (live)"

shaun groves - "welcome home"

take me, make me all you want me to be. that's all i'm asking, that's all i'm asking.
welcome to this heart of mine, i've buried under prideful vines
grown to hide the mess i've made, inside of me, come decorate
Lord, open up the creaking door, walk upon the dusty floor
scrape away the guilty stains, until no sin or shame remain
spread your love upon the walls, and occupy the empty halls
until the man i am has faded, no more doors are barricaded

come inside this heart of mine,
it's not my own
make it home
come and take this heart and make it
all your own
welcome home

take a seat, pull up a chair, forgive me for the disrepair
all the souvenirs from floor to ceiling, gathered on my search for meaning
every closet's filled with clutter, messes yet to be discovered
i'm overwhelmed, i understand, i can't make this place all that you can

repeat chorus

i took this space that you placed in me, redecorated in shades of greed
and i made sure every door was locked, every window blocked, and still you knocked

repeat chorus

take me, make me all you want me to be, that's all i'm asking, that's all i'm asking.

wow. is that song perfectly visual or what!?! maybe not for you. maybe you don't do this in your relationship with God. but, friend...i do. i walk around my heart and try to "shut de do, keep out my Savior".


in the past, i have had certain areas of my life that i haven't wanted to give completely to Him. could i really trust Him with it? or really, did i want to? well, the answer to that was often, "i NO want to!" (i told you she was her mother's child.) in my heart, i have a precious door labeled "ryan"...ooohh, that was (and is) one of my most special doors. and for soooo long, i didn't feel like i could trust God with it. i remember when ryan and i were dating or engaged or even first married, i used to lie around at night and pray "God, i will do anything...anything at all, just please don't ever take ryan away from me. ever." and then we were blessed with a door labeled "kiddos", and oh man, talk about fear. same prayer, just fill in the blank with each of their sweet little names. and add a few more "please, God, pleases!" to the end. i would prefer to stay in control of that area, thank you very much. it means too much to me, Jesus. i can't give that one up. i just can't do it. "i NO want to!"

ironic that the God of the universe (genesis 1:1), the God that breathed man into existence (genesis 2:7), the God that has known me since before i was born (psalm 139:13) and has secured my eternal salvation (acts 4:12)..that i couldn't trust that same God with my most precious loved ones and their safety. ironic? well, not as much ironic, as it is sad.

and there are other times when i will try to shut de do' labeled "motives"...oh man i NOT want Him to go in there!?! i figured that people who knew me, thought i was a fairly decent person. and really, i think i am....i guess. but, trust me...behind that "motives" door, i had decorated that room with so much pride and judgmental thoughts that there's no way you could see the nice shade of humility that He had painted in there before. and yes, selfishness and envy was strung from wall to wall.

and then, there were other times, i shut de do' labeled "future". ugh. i had in mind what i wanted. what i had planned. what i felt i deserved. it might as well have been an optometrist's office for all the "i's" in there. (sorry, i couldn't resist) but really...i really didn't want to fully give God freedom to roam around in there and do what He wanted. because, if i did, what if He didn't let me become a writer or speaker? what if He allowed me to "just" be a homemaker for the rest of my life. basically, it came down the fear of "what if i didn't like what He'd done with the place?" it was something i could risk. wouldn't risk. once again, "i NO want to!"

lately, the door labeled "health" has been shut tight as well. i've been leaning against that one with all my might...and i even tried to shove the dresser in front as well. a lot of good that did me.

a lot of good any of that did me. why is that i assume the God of the universe isn't a good decorator? i mean, c'mon, seriously? have i never seen the sunset over the ocean. He's come up with every color there. have i never looked around in nature and seen the beauty all around me? ya, He made that too. talk about the ultimate decorator. who was i kidding by thinking i could do better than that? well, i was kidding me, that's who.

but, lately, out of His great love for me...He has divinely spoken to this ol' heart of mine. He has sat there and knocked and knocked, and knocked and knocked on each of those doors, and finally, i have let Him in.

friend, have you?

what are you keeping from Him? i hate to spoil it for you, by the way, but you really aren't keeping anything from Him, you just think you are and maybe hope you are. (john 21:17) which door have you had shut for so long, you kinda forget what's behind it. or worse, maybe you remember exactly what's behind it, but you aren't willing to admit that it's there. friend, i pray that you open them up. every last one of them.

so, is it easy??? absolutely not. in fact, it's just plain hard and not a lot of fun. i still find myself sometimes in a panic, trying to hurry Him out again, so i can take back control of a room or two. oh, how patient He is. and oh, how grateful i am. 

but, is it worth it??? absolutely yes. and here's the secret, friend. are you ready?? you don't really own the house, your heart, so what makes you think you own each room? friend, if you have accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, then your heart is not your own at all. (ezekial 36:26)

in fact, if you think about is the ultimate extreme home makeover. and, friend, you won! amazing isn't it?! a couple years ago, a sweet lady i know did actually win. she and her amazing family were nominated and made it on the tv show. ty pennington and his team showed up on her doorstep and knocked. and i think she would say to anyone that that knock changed everything. they took her old, run down house and built something in it's place that you can't help but stare at when you drive by, it is that beautiful! now, could you imagine if she had heard "good morning augustin family!" and instead of running outside and bombarding the extreme home makeover team with hugs of gratitude, she just poked her head out the door and said, "no thanks guys, we don't want this blessing. try the neighbors, i think they're home."

we would all have slapped her silly, for sure. :)

that is what Jesus has done, friends. and that's what He will continue to do. He will stand and knock. and knock and knock and get the idea. (revelation 3:20) He wants to take our old, run down heart and exchange it for a heart like His.(ez. 36:26  jeremiah 24:7)

so, please friend. have faith in Him. know that His perfect goodness is just that...perfect and good. His decorating plan for your heart is a good one. the Perfect one, actually. no fear of outdated wallpaper or olive green appliances here. :) read His Word. daily. spend time with Him. daily. the more you get to know Him, the more you'll trust in His entire design scheme. and my prayer is that we each embrace His promise... "I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart."(jeremiah 24:7)

so sing with me a new song, will you??

"open de do' welcome your Savior. open the do' let Him reign inside your heart. open de do' (de do') welcome your Savior. you don't need a candle, now, cause He is the light. so throw out the candle, He is the light."

and...for the record, knowing my sweet abigail, she will be dancing along joyfully to our new song. she may be dancing on top of the kitchen table, perhaps... but she will be dancing. :)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

what do you mean the weatherman's WRONG??

my sweet oldest child is such a blessing to me. he looks like his daddy. acts like his daddy. organizes like his daddy. cleans like his daddy. plays in a methodical manner, like his daddy. maybe that's one reason why i am so crazy about the kid, because i am so crazy about the man he reminds me of.

well, the other night my darling six-year-old jacob (who would want me to tell you that he is almost six and a half, for the record) was sitting with his daddy on the couch watching tv...a weather update came on and the weatherman said "ok all you kids out there, prepare for some fun in the snow tomorrow, our area should see about 3-5 inches tomorrow afternoon."

jacob's mouth dropped and his eyes widened like it was Christmas morning. he grinned really big and looked at his daddy - "did you hear that!?! we get to play in the snow tomorrow!" ooohh he was SO excited. ya see, jacob has been waiting for snow for months. literally, months. it has been a topic of conversation at least a couple times a week since the first brisk wind we got back in october.

"mama, i wonder when it's going to snow?"
"i know buddy, i wonder too!"
"do you think it will be this weekend?" (this is october, mind texas)
(thinking to myself - was 62 today, and it should be 82 tomorrow...) "probably not bud, but who knows?"
"well, God knows, mama."
"that's right buddy, He sure does."

poor kid hasn't fully grasped that he lives in north texas. a place that truly doesn't have four seasons, or a real winter, for that matter. if i started to claim that we did have a "true" winter, i think that people from about 42 of the 47 states located north of us would laugh at me - continuously. i was just talking about this yesterday actually, with some family members of a friend of mine, who were here visiting from kansas. now, i will be honest and tell you that i could absolutely, positively NOT point kansas out on a map. my geography is atrocious. i mean it. most 1st graders could kick my hiney in geography, no problem. but, being that i am from texas, i can wager, with a good amount of certainty, that it is north of us. (right?) (ok, i'm confessing here that i just googled it and found out that it is in fact, north of us...two states directly north, actually. it took me a minute to find it because i was looking over to the....(Never Eat Soggy Waffles), west of us.) anyway...i digress.....i was talking to these nice people about "winter" as we know it in the fine Lone Star state and how mild it has been this year. but, that last year was pretty fierce. "fierce?" they said. and then these sweet, kindhearted, Jesus-loving, out-of-towners all laughed at me. they really did. they sat there and just laughed at me. in my defense (and in the defense of all my fellow countrymen) i tried to talk about how we got about 10 inches of snow in one day. i told them about how that freaked everyone in this area out and 'bout shut down the town for days. (insert more kansas-ians laughing at me) but i must say, now that i have actually seen the U.S. map...they really don't have that much to laugh at. i mean, c'mon, they border oklahoma too! it's not like i was talking to people from....(checking the map again to ensure accuracy for my punchline)...montana or something. now, those people could laugh at me. oh, and by the way, i plan on calling these people mid-july and asking if it is "hot" there. oh, ya think so?? ha. ya right people. you don't know hot! (i would say with love and in Jesus Name :)

anyway, back to my jacob's short six and (almost) half years (he would want me to clarify that he is not quite six and a half. he is all about accuracy...again, just like his daddy) he has seen more snow that i saw for the first 20 years of my life growing up in this fine state. i mean it. it really has snowed every year at least once, for the past few years. whereas, i think when i was growing up it only snowed like three times from age 3 to age 18. (these kids nowadays, get everything they, cell phones, snowy greedy these kids......just pretending to rant there, i kind felt it fit.:)

so, in my sweet methodical son's mind, because the weatherman said what he said, it is supposed to snow soon. he has planned for it. and so, since the weatherman said it out loud, jacob took it as gospel truth. ya see, (like his daddy) jacob is a die-hard rule-follower. do you know anyone like that? are you like that? i wish i could say i was. but it wouldn't be true, which, of course, would break a rule. (see, i'm getting there. :) he is honest, he is trustworthy, he says what he means and he means what he says. and of course, he expects everyone else to do the same. some of jacob's most disappointing moments in life have resulted in the fact that someone couldn't or wouldn't follow through with something they said they would do. and, as it turns out... this was one of those times.

poor jacob woke up early the next morning, and before he even rubbed his sweet eyes and fully waked up, he stumbled directly to the coat closet...

(eyes still half closed) "mama, i know that it isn't going to snow until this afternoon, but can i go ahead and lay out my coat, gloves, hat, and boots? i already know what i want to wear. i think i should wear my pajamas under my snow clothes because they are warm. should i wear a sweatshirt too? i think so. can i put it all on right now, except for my coat, gloves, hat and boots?"

he was sleepy. but he had a plan. it was precious. there was no way i could say no to this, he was just so cute. but, daddy stopped him briefly and asked him to come "cuggle" with him on the couch for a minute and "say good morning to daddy." jacob gladly climbed up into ryan's lap as he was flipping through the channels to look for the weather report. and then, he found it. the weatherman blurted out, "looks like our area has seen all it is going to get today, folks, the biggest flurries will hit further east of the metroplex."

ryan and i just looked at each other. oh no.

"mama, wait a minute...what does that mean?"

ryan and i are looking at that ol' weatherman and his fancy map that could not be clearer over our part of the city, and i 'bout wanted to jump through that screen and shake the man for lying to my baby. yes, i know he wasn't technically lying to him, but it felt that way, because i knew what was coming...

"well buddy, i think their weather guesses were wrong, i don't think we are going to get any snow after all."

"yes we are. we are going to get 3-5 inches this afternoon. the weatherman yesterday said so."

"well, i know buddy, but they were wrong. i'm so sorry"

i'm telling you friend, the look on his face was just heartbreaking. flat. out. heartbreaking. honestly, it just killed me. i know there were a heap of kids that were disappointed that morning, but i'm not sure that many of them were as disappointed as my sweet jacob. remember?? he'd been looking forward to it for months....asking every week....and now, had finally gotten confirmation...only to be severely disappointed.

"but mama, why would God let that happen if He knew how much i wanted it to snow?" whew. that was a tough one. we talked it out and i assured him that God does know that and does care about that...but that we don't always get what we want and we need to be careful not to "blame" God when we are disappointed. i told him that we need to be thankful for the good things instead.

then it hit me.

where was i when i needed to hear this for the last year?? well, to be honest, i was actually in the loving words of so many friends and family.

have you ever been let down? if you answer no, i can't say i believe you.

life is tough. it is hard and Jesus guaranteed us that it would always be that way. (john 10:10) but isn't it even worse when we, the little bitty controllers of our own little worlds here, get into a rhythm and think we have it all figured out.

i am going to finish college in four years and then get a great paying job. but, then the economy tanks and instead you dropped out of junior college and are working a crap job that you hate.

i am going to be married by the time i'm 25 and have two girls and a boy. but, then your 30th birthday rolls around and you start entertaining the idea that maybe your mate doesn't have to be a strong Christian.

after i work at this lower level for the company, they will promote me to management and i will retire well. but, then the company downsizes and your name was at the top of the list.

i'm going to be healthy...and thin...and active...and athletic because that's who i am. but, then the doctor gives you news that you never thought you'd hear, and you look down at your own body and don't even recognize it.

we've all been disappointed. in big ways and small ways. if we are honest, the big ways have probably outnumbered the small...or at least it feels that way. maybe for you, this hasn't been an issue. but for surely has. i have, what some might say, a somewhat controlling personality. i like to think that i'm not too overbearing and unbearable to be around. but i am well aware that i like to be a strong contributor to...well, everything. i have always been a bit strong-willed, outspoken, precocious, hard-headed and opinionated. (don't worry, i'm getting abigail is her mother's daughter) and while i would not describe myself as a "type-A" person at all, i do like some things a certain way. and when i get something set in my head...well, actually, mainly in my heart...i can be devastated if things change. in fact, i have noticed (in my wise old age :) that i'm not a huge fan of change. at least, not the bad kind. i'm completely fine with the good kind of changes. seems fair doesn't it? ya, not so much.

over these last months and months and months, i have very much had to just sit back (ok, lie back) and trust. and more than anything, i have had to just...let...go.  sounds easy, those three little words. but, oh, my friend, they carry more weight than i was prepared for.

let go. really? of everything?? my health? my family's future? my finances? my children? my self-image? my dreams? my hobbies? my household normalcy? my marriage? my independence? my pride? my expectations? my feelings? my routine? my waistline? ;)

the answer is clear...yes.

jeremiah 29:11 "for i know the plans i have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." that's right. it is more than just a popular verse to hang up in your home. it is His promise to us.

exodus 20:3 "you shall have no other gods before me." this is not a suggestion. and, my friend, it is not limited to little golden calves that you might think about. your work can be your god. your children can be your god. your pastor can be your god. your plans for your future (or my plans for my future) can be your god. but He makes it clear that only your God should be your god. and this one, friend, was written in stone. (ex. 20)

isaiah 55:8 "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord." i have heard it said that "He wants for you what you would want for you, if you knew what He knows." He knows the end from the beginning. (isaiah 46:10) in a very ridiculous would be like seeing a movie that has a very tough plot...maybe a spouse dies, or a child is hurt...something very hard to watch, hard to take in. but, once you have seen the movie...then, the next time you see it, that "bad" part would be much easier to sit through. not because it still isn't awful - it is. then why? because you know the end from the beginning. you know how it all works out. you've seen the credits and you can rest in that. well, friend...He wrote the credits. and He gets the credit. He can be trusted. and not just because He knows the end from the beginning, but because He is the End and the Beginning. (rev. 22:13)

hebrews 10:23 "let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." i have clung to this Truth like i have have clung to my hope. the king jimmy version of this says to "hold fast" to the hope we profess. hold fast. this is good stuff. part of that definition refers to "taking possession of and to keep possession of"...oohh, i love that! friend, that is what we have to do with our hope. possess it. and act that way. we own it. it is ours. and He is faithful. (deut. 7:9 - deut. 32:4 - 1 cor. 1:9)

hebrews 11:1 "now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." i have not seen God. i mean, i should say, i have never literally seen i see my recliner right now. and, i can't tell you exactly how or why or when...but i can say i have seen His work this last year in my heart of hearts. i have seen the hope i have in Him grow, and i have seen how He has used this whole ordeal for good, (romans 8:28) i have seen my faith in Him grow, i have seen  this impact so many lives in a positive, maybe i have seen Him, after all.

i do not want to diminish any of your pain, your fears, your disappoinments, or your heartaches. but i would rather do that than diminish what God has planned for you because of them and through them.

all my sweet jacob wanted was to play in the snow. doesn't sound like too much to ask, right? but, he doesn't make the snow. and so, he couldn't control the snow. and therefore, he was least for a little while.

about three hours later, when we least expected it...we looked outside and there it was....snow!! big, fluffy, wonderful flakes...everywhere. we played, we caught flakes on our tongues, we threw snowballs, we built a snowman...we had a blast!! and then that night, before bed, we thanked God for the wonderful surprise of snow. and then later i thanked God for the look on jacob's face when he saw happy and so thankful. so much what i want my face to and every day. whether rain, sun, sleet...and of course, snow. :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

ah...there's nothing like the smell of lysol in the morning...

(the following blog is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach - its content may be gross and uncouth - friend, consider yourself warned!) :)

so the title of my blog this time was actually my facebook status the other day. after this statement i also said " that the title of a country song?" i think it should be. country songs are so often about sad, lonely, depressing and unfortunate life events. and my house has been full of those over the past five days.

my sweet, adorable, yet very precocious baby girl went to church last saturday night and brought home a smile, some love from God and His servants, and last but not least...a stomach virus. lovely.

now, before i begin, i must say that ryan and i have been very blessed in our six years of being parents. we have never, and i mean never, had a stomach virus rip through our house like this one. we now know how blessed we were. notice i said were. don't get me wrong...we have had our fair share of scary and disgusting childhood illness moments - jacob's (at 13 months old) asthma type symptoms getting so scary that his lips and hands were turning blue because his sweet little body wasn't getting enough oxygen....benjamin (at age 18 months) getting a hold of the wrong sippy cup and drinking five ounces of regular milk, despite his severe dairy allergy. yes, we called 911 and yes his face was so swollen it barely looked like him....and i won't even try to count the number of pooping episodes my kids have done in a bathtub full of toys....not cool.

now, we have had a stomach bug or two (or five) in our home over the years. abigail just had a bad one on halloween of this year and missed trick or treating. (such a shame, she was a sweet little lamb) and i managed to get one with every single pregnancy. yep, every single one. there's nothing quite like hugging that porcelain throne with a big ol' preggo belly.

but nothing, and i mean nothing could have prepared us for this. like i mentioned before, our sweet abigail brought it home. and whether she did or not, we can blame it on her because she's the baby and doesn't know any better. :) but, she really did bring it home and whoa nelly, it hit her sunday afternoon when we tried to put her down for her nap. she was in there for a while and was a little mad about missing out on the party. often the girl goes down without a hitch, but then there are sometimes when she is just plain mad about having to leave everyone to go do this nap thing...and she lets us hear it. and then again, there is this time, when she was simply covered in throw up.

poor baby. poor daddy. let me tell you...i am married to one amazing man. things like this don't phase him near like they do me. i can just about barely handle it. barely. i take kid duty and he has clean up. he totally drew the short straw on this one, trust me. i honestly thank God that a major "incident" like this hasn't happened when he was out of town or something. not sure what i'd do. actually, i have a pretty good idea. i'm pretty sure i'd consider closing the room up, locking it and just selling the house. honey - i'll forward you our new address.

so, we cleaned the sweet girl up and i loved on her for a while. she was pretty traumatized by the whole thing. poor baby, she's not even two years old yet and so she doesn't understand at all when her body does this to her. she looks at us with the most pitiful look. you know the look. the one that says "mama, what is going on? why is this happening? make it stop!"

but, stop it did not. in fact, we had round two just a couple hours later. repeat clean up roles. repeat loving on her sweet self. only now, we are down to only one clean crib sheet. mayday, mayday, mayday.

so, that was sunday. and then monday came and thankfully, it was fairly tolerable. we stuck to the whole BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) and things went pretty well. jacob was at school all day and my folks came to get benjamin to play at their house for a while, so he wouldn't get "infected". so, sweet sister friend and i got a lot of "cuggle" time. i hate to say it, but that is a perk. (if someone was looking for a silver lining here, which sometimes as a parent, you just kinda need) at least with our kids...when they get sick, they sure are super cuddly. so, abigail and i snuggled up under a blanket (to be burned at a later date) and watched tv together. that is, until she fell asleep on me...for three and a half hours. that's right. poor thing. and poor mama. when she woke up, i had a serious cramp in my shoulder, couldn't feel my left arm and was about to pee my pants.

then came tuesday and things were beginning to look up. i was starting to think we were in the clear. (ha.) but, after naptime, our sweet benjamin, who is usually only sitting still when eating a snack or zoned in on a favorite show...sluggishly slumped down on the couch and said "mama, my belly hurts." uh oh.

within hours, he was pale as a sheet and sprawled out on the couch not moving at all. he just flat out looked awful. i tried to make him as comfortable as i could. i sat next to him and stroked his sweet hair and thought about how sad it is when our "joy boy" is sick. the whole mood of the house changes. i thought also about how i'd hoped he and jacob hadn't played too closely together that afternoon after school. darn me for wanting them to share. then, a whole 'nother thought crossed my mind. oh no...the kid had spaghetti for lunch. uugghh. that was not going to be pretty. but, i must say, in true "middle child" fashion...our sweet benjamin was the only child to neither throw up nor "throw down" ( i despise the "d" word). isn't that sweet of him? always wanting to please everyone. never wanting to put anyone out. i sure thought so.

especially since that same tuesday evening after benjamin had so sweetly crashed on the couch, ryan and i were watching a little tv together and we heard that all too familiar sound coming from abigail's bed...again. you know the sound. and ryan and i just looked at each other... again? really?!? yes, friends, again. (and again and again actually) poor sister friend was back in it for round three (and ultimately, rounds four and five). i guess she is a lot like her mother - anything worth doin' is worth over-doin'.

so, now here we are to wednesday morning. i had been up with a dry-heavin' miss abigail until almost 1am. and then come about 2:30am, sweet benjamin called for me and just needed me to love on him. he kept saying "i'm sorry mama, i just love you so much. i don't want to be sick anymore. i don't like this." poor thing. so, when 7am rolled around, i sleepily shuffled into the living room to see how ryan was doing with getting jacob ready for school. i came in, only to find pale little jacob, my darling oldest child...tucked up in a ball on the couch. not dressed for school. not eating his breakfast. not looking like himself at all. "what's wrong, buddy?" "mama, i don't feel good, my belly hurts." now, in my head i am screaming..."noooooooooo!!!!!"

i took abigail to the doctor at 9am and ryan stayed back with the boys - benjamin, who hadn't emerged from his bed yet, and jacob who just lied there motionless and pale on the couch. when abigail and i returned home at 10:45 or so, we found that benjamin had awakened and was feeling "fine, mama!!" (thank you my sweet middle child) and jacob literally had not moved. i rubbed his head for a bit and then tried to strategize on how we could best rope off this entire half of the house for fumigation. and then it happened. jacob joined his sister he loves so dear in the throw up club. ugh, no secret handshake or password to get in for this club. anyone's invited. especially if your last name is holzberger, apparently. so...once again, i took kid duty and ryan tried to salvage what was left of our couch. fortunately, he is nothing if not a great cleaner.

wednesday wound down with jacob still looking like death warmed over...benjamin asking for spaghetti again (ya right, kid...fat chance) and abigail seeming to become a bit more like herself. bedtime came and we all went to our own beds. the day was done. or so we thought. i will spare you the details, but let me just say that ryan and i have always allowed our kids the occassional "special night" if they are scared or sick or something and just need a night in our bed. it doesn't happen that often, hence the name "special night". this night, however turned out to be not so special. well, at least it wasn't throw up. but, it was throw down. will our mattress ever be the same, we wonder? only time will tell.

so, that brings us to thursday. d-day. the "d" of course stands for disinfect. my sweet parents went to the store for me and got more hand sanitizer, a bottle of bleach, clorox wipes, lysol spray and more trash bags. trash bags, you ask? trust me, you do not want to know. and i, not being the "clean" one in our marriage, by nature, became one that day. i was systematic. i was organized. i was thorough. i was borderline fanatical. i wiped everything down. and i mean everything. the light switches, the door knobs, the remotes, the phones, the popular places to grab every single drawer in every single room, the toys...shoot, even the children if they stayed still long enough...everything.  i quarantined the kids to the living room with hardly any toys but an endless supply of dora, diego and tom and jerry on tv. all the while, i think my poor washer was conspiring with the dryer to start a coo and give up on me out of sheer exhaustion. at one point i actually wondered if there was enough lysol spray in the greater dallas/fort worth area to rid my house of the puke/poop smell.

if anyone had eavesdropped on my conversation with my kids that day, they might have thought i was some kind of weirdo mom...

"do not hug your sister!"
"NO sharing!!"
"mama isn't making anyone lunch today! you only get crackers!"
"are you sure you haven't touched anyone?!"
"no mama kisses, baby, sorry!"
"no, you may not have any vegetables!"
"no playing with toys, we are watching tv all day!"
"no one is allowed to help mama clean up these toys!"
"no, you may NOT help your sister get up!"
"yes, yes...we can watch this movie over...again!"
"nobody touches anybody!!!!!"
"i told you yesterday and i'll tell you today, your only choice for food is crackers!"
and after all that..."trust me, kids...mama knows what's best for you!"

lovely isn't it?? boy, i sure would have been sorry if there had been a CPS person listening in through the windows. although if they touched those windows before the "big clean" at 2pm thursday, they'd have been sorry too!

isn't it amazing how all bets are off in certain situations? like kids watched more tv today alone than they have all week combined. i was encouraging absolutely NO displays of affection toward their siblings. and, to top it all off...i did all the picking up of toys for them! mother of the year right here ladies and gents. :)

but, i was honestly in survival mode. i knew we were approaching the 48 hour mark with abigail, again. which is when we thought we were home free on tuesday. ha.

at all costs today, i was determined to get all these "yuckies" out of my house. was i beyond tired? yes. do my hands need a healing lotion like never before thanks to all the hand sanitizer? yes. have i thrown away clothing this week that could very well have been used again by someone. yes, yes and yes again. but, it doesn't matter...

i want my house clean. i want my kids well.

the more i've thought about it (and i say this humbly - but even more so, teasingly)...i don't ever think i've been more like Jesus than i was that day. i mean it. He takes up residence in our hearts, and maybe this isn't true for you, but for me...when He got here, i'm thinking He looked around a bit and wished He would have bought stock in lysol. trust me, was a dirty place. full of greed, and selfishness...dripping with pride, fear and materialism and there was some funky anger, self-pity, and insecurity breeding under the furniture. and don't even ask where the carpet stains came from, they've been there since college. and no matter how hard i tried to clean it matter how hard i still try to clean it myself...i don't have the right supplies. i'm wiping counters with a dirty, dry rag and i'm just spraying air freshener all around. i may be able to mask the smell for a little while with some annoyingly named scent like vanilla blossom fields (c'mon, seriously?), but trust me, i ain't killing the germs.

again, this just may not apply to you, but, for me, i know that Jesus has been forced to use more severe tactics in cleaning up my heart at times. i'm convinced that for a while there, He had a HAZMAT suit with my name on it. i also believe that He has allowed the enemy a visit or two. ya see...the enemy pretends to want to clean, but all the while, trudging in sin on his shoes and leaving a trail of mucky worldliness behind him. i also believe that He has allowed me to let a few rooms get quite a bit dirtier than He would have preferred. why would He do that? in order to show me just how amazing He is at cleaning. and then there have been times, like this past year...when He has just flat out allowed for scary things like black mold to grow so i could see how by Him ripping out the carpet and stripping the wallpaper, He alone could make this place even more beautiful than i had ever imagined.

the thing is...i can relate to my kids. every one of them, actually. like jacob, sometimes i just feel like lying still, not moving at all, and wait for this thing to pass. i tell myself it will, and i'm in complete denial that this will hit me hard. other times, i feel like benjamin and cry out to God, "i'm sorry Daddy, i love you so much, but i don't want this anymore! i don't like this!"...feeling like i want to be strong, but i am not quite sure how to be. and surely i have felt like miss abigail - scared, confused, and not at all sure what is happening to me, over and over and over. i look up to heaven with that same scared look and say "please, Daddy, just make it stop!"

sin is dirty. and the thing is, Jesus is perfect. so, can you imagine what He thinks each day when He looks at His dwelling place, our hearts? i'm thinking it ain't pretty. but, He gets to work. and although it may sound harsh, He is being a great parent...

"NO sharing with the world and its ways!"
"no, you can't clean this up on your own!"
"your only choice for food is me - the Bread of life"

He has our best interest at heart. and while we may not understand it, we, too, can trust that our Father knows what's best for us. He wants us to be well more than we know. but He knows we can't do it on our own, try as we might.

but, friend, the great news is that we daily have the opportunity to offer up to Him a willing heart. it is always easier to give a patient their medicine when they are willing to take it. i want to be willing. don't you?

was this last year of my medical drama fun? did i "deserve" to have to live that way? do i know why i had to have such extensive "cleaning" done? no, no and no.

but...did He know the best way for my heart to get a bit cleaner? was this time worth it, sitting back and trusting in His cleaning products? has He shown Himself faithful to stick by me when i keep dirtying His place up? yes, yes and yes.

friend, it's simple...

He wants His house clean. He wants His kids well.

how do i know?? well, He told me....

proverbs 18:12 "before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor."

psalm 86:11 "teach me your way, O Lord, and i will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that i may fear your name."

proverbs 14:30 "a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."

psalm 139:23 "search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."

psalm 51:10  "create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

proverbs 15:14"the discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly."

proverbs 3:3 "let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."

psalm 40:8 "i desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."

proverbs 16:9 "in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

proverbs 4:23 "above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

psalm 73:1  "surely God is good to israel, to those who are pure in heart."

psalm 51:17 "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
proverbs 20:9 "who can say, "i have kept my heart pure; i am clean and without sin"?"

not me, friend...not me. so, offer yourself up to Him. do it today. do it tomorrow. do it again the day after that. then repeat. He will never tire of cleaning. which is good, because we will never be fully clean, until we see Him face to face. until thankful for the smell of lysol in your life.

and for the record...we have a couch for sale and also a queen mattress, if you're interested. anyone? anyone? ya, i didn't think so.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

this is the day...

have you ever had a very pleasant surprise? i mean it. stop and think about your life. i have, for sure, had a few times in my life where i have been very joyfully surprised. and before i share, i want to make sure and be clear to you that i LOVE surprises! i love being a part of them, i love receiving them...i just love them! my hubby and i were blessed to be a part of a surprise proposal once. we got to help set up the site, shop for the ring...and i was so giddy, you would have thought i was getting engaged all over again. but, i don't even have to know the people involved, i still get super excited. in fact, recently a dear friend of mine was planning a birthday surprise for her friend, (who i don't really know that well) and i still got so super excited about it. i wanted to invite myself to the shin-dig and just sit back in the corner and watch it all unfold. but, the surprise was in las vegas, so that would have been a bit much. but, really, friend... i...just...loooove...surprises!!

i often tell people that when my sweet ryan proposed to me, i was so surprised....really, outright shocked is a better word...that i 'bout peed my pants. honest. and he did it at the Christian camp we were working at together, in front of about 300, clearly, that would have been fairly embarrassing. the thing is, he had spent the entire summer saying "oh, you are still too really need to finish college before we get married...i need to save up for a nice ring....we still have plenty of time...blah, blah, blah" and me, at the wise ol' age of 21 was in love...and also in complete disagreement...and would say something like, "dude, we've been dating for like three years....i'm a year behind in college because i transferred and followed you out to the middle of nowhere to go to college (go tech!) otherwise i would be graduating this year....go spend $60 bucks at james avery and get me a gold band, i don't care at all...let's just do this thing" (loosely translated :) this loving banter went back and forth quite a bit over that summer. but then, on august 1st of the year 2000, in the middle of a skit that we had done a hundred times that summer, my whole life changed. and i had NO idea. you could tell i was unprepared, because the camp photographer captured the "moment" in a single shot - ryan kneeling and smiling, me gasping with my hands over my mouth in complete and utter shock, (speechless for the first, ever) and wearing a lovely rainbow-colored moo moo. yup, you read that right. a moo moo. it's every girl's dream to get engaged in a moo moo. it was from the skit box, and it was funny looking, so i wore it for the skit. and it is forever embedded in our history, thanks to that photo. (ps. my darling camp director who i love like a dad gave me that moo moo as a wedding present, "here..." he said, " something special for the wedding night." ha. such a joker that one.) but, on that day, in that skit - everything changed. and it didn't go as planned - at least, not by my plan. we knew that skit backwards and forwards. in fact, we could do that skit in our sleep. i knew my lines. he knew his lines. and trust me, friend, "will you marry me?" was not one of the lines before that day. but, i was SO happy that it was part of the skit on this go 'round. so. very. surprised. and SO. very. happy!! best. surprise. ever.

fast forward almost ten years and my man got me again. i was hitting a milestone birthday that, to be honest, i wasn't that excited about, i guess you could say. but, really, most everyone dreads it a bit, i think. turning the big 3-0. ugh, could i really be thirty!?! or, as i called it, "twenty-ten" (i was twenty-eight and then twenty-nine and so, i thought "twenty-ten" sounded a bit younger that the guttural sound of "thuurty") and just to make matters more "fun" with hitting this milestone, i was about eight months pregnant at the time. lovely. let's document this all we can, shall we? and friend, i am not exaggerating when i say that i know how to put on the baby weight. let me be clear - i am not one of those girls who says the gain a lot and then you see them pregnant and can hardly tell at all. nope, not me. i gained at least 60 lovely pounds with each of my three pregnancies, and being that this was my third, i had that down pat. i was, on staff at our wonderful church and thinking that this day, my birthday, was just like any other sunday. i knew my folks were coming to meet us for a special lunch, but that was about it. or not. :) little did i know that when i walked into the youth area that i would get hit in the face with a joyful "surprise!!" from like a hundred people. maybe more, i don't know for sure. what i do know is that this time, being so far along in my pregnancy, i for real 'bout peed my pants. and i mean, for real, this time. but, potty talk aside...i was sooo shocked. i think i was speechless for like the second time in my whole life. (those who know me well, are laughing because they know this is not an exaggeration!) sooo much planning...sooo many smiling faces staring at me...soooo much fun. such a wonderful surprise. (such a wonderful husband!) although...for the record, i hope to relive this at maybe my 35th birthday or something, and enjoy it a smidge more since i won't be a waddling cow. vain? yes, but only sometimes. :)

but, i must tell you...that after this last year, after literally hundreds of doctor visits and phone calls and unsure diagnosis after unsure diagnosis...i am being flat out honest here when i say that i was feeling like i was due for a good surprise. and, friend...i got one. (thank you, God!) now, my medical knowledge is quite limited (understatement of the century) so i will keep this as free of medical jargon as i can and still make an impact. i had emailed my current endocrinologist (two had come and gone before her) because i needed a refill of the steroid that i had been taking for the past year. awful stuff, those steroids. as if my body wasn't dealing with enough junk this past year with all the spinal fluid leaks and terrible side effects from that alone, but i also had been on a wicked amount of steroids, thanks to poor medical advice. (don't get me started on this weight gain, for real. ugh.) and unfortunately, that stuff is pretty hard core, so i couldn't just say "oh, that doctor really messed up, so i won't take that drug anymore!" nope, instead i got to say "oh, that doctor really messed up, so now i get to spend the next year of my life trying to very carefully taper down my dosage, so i don't go into crisis and end up in the ER!" (which i did, three times by the way, along the way) so, needless to say, this day...this wonderful and glorious day after i had blood work done was a big day. you see, this entire time, the doctors weren't sure if my adrenal glands would ever rebound from this high dose of steroids that first doc put me on. they hoped it would. i prayed it would. but, for the last year, we just weren't sure. and so, on this day, when she called me back in regards to my refill request, i was given a glorious surprise. her exact words to me were "i'm looking at your blood work results right here and your levels look great! you don't need to refill that prescription at all, your adrenal glands are working just fine on their own!" (insert looong pause) WHAT!?! bladder control in tact, i finally answered, "are you sure!?!" she assured me that blood work doesn't lie and that i should be fine. wow. fine? me?? i haven't been "fine" in so very long, i hardly remember what that looks like. but here i was, given the best and most joyful surprise i've had in a loooong time, and i was overwhelmed with gratitude, and complete and utter shock. when i hung up the phone and looked at ryan, my sweet man who has loved me since i was 18, he knew the look in my eyes. it was the look of joyful surprise. something i hadn't felt in a long while after getting off the phone with a doctor, that's for sure. and he smiled, too. it was a great moment. but even he didn't know just how good the news was. i think his exact response when i actually explained it to him was "what? no more steroids at all?!? no way!" i hear ya, babe, almost seems too good to be true. but it was true. and it was good.

ya know what friend? God has held on very tightly to me this past year. i have wriggled around in His hand, stomped my feet in anger all around the Hand, drenched it with tears, and flat out wanted to jump out a time or two. but His grip has not wavered. not once. and i couldn't be more thankful. because now that i seem to be on "this" side of things...and things are, for the first time in a year, really starting to "look up" for me...i don't hardly know what to do with myself. since i received this news, this wonderful and joyful surprise, i have had many moments where i have sat around and wondered "is this for real!?!" am i really entering into a time of healing and restoration? could it be true? fear has flashed by a time or two, but i'm getting better (thank you, God!) at flat out ignoring that stupid thing. fear kills faith, friend. kills it dead.

and, let me tell is for real, friend. i mean...i have always had faith, kinda like i have always had thick hair. but, over this last year i feel as though God taken this "faith" and asked me to sit my hiney down in the beauty shop chair, close my eyes and say "do whatever you want to God, i trust you." ladies, i know you especially get this analogy because i know that you, like me, have sat many times in those little black chairs and been pumped up, and up, and up as you list off exactly what you have in mind. "not as blonde this time, maybe a little more bangs, and let's not go quite as short this time, ok?" some of us have actually brought a picture from a magazine (not a hair magazine, because those people look flat out ridiculous) and showed exactly what we've had in mind. this is what i want you to do with my 'do, alright? that was me too, trust me. but, over this last year, i've had no choice. God has taken my scrawny neck and plopped me into that chair and told me that i better just close my eyes and trust that He wants to make me beautiful.

do you believe that? that He really wants what is best for you. i always kinda doubted it. in fact, i still struggle with it. i mean, c'mon, He knows me. He knows every judgmental thought, hateful word, prideful dream, and selfish motive i've had - and that's all just in the last twenty minutes. does He really want what's best for me? or is He really just waiting...wanting to give me what i deserve? i heard it said once that when a group of Christians were complaining about their "tough" lives and how entitled they they deserved to be healthy, wealthy and wise...that some kid piped in and said "ya know what? what we all deserve is death. that's it. we all sin so much that every single one of us deserves an eternity in the pits of hell...that's what you and i deserve, ok? so, anything that is better than that, i say we should be thankful for." well said, kid, well said.

and oh friend, He wants so much more for us than we can imagine. how do i know? He tells us so. and He shows us so.

in matthew 14 when He had just performed a miracle of feeding probably 20,000 people (yes, we know the story as "feeding the 5,000" but that was just the men, that didn't even count the women and kids and their full bellies. i'm all about giving him credit for the full 20K) and what did the disciples do? they collected the "extras" and filled 12 baskets full. seriously? yep. they started out in desperate need, and ended up with leftovers. Jesus made sure everyone had what they wanted....not needed, but wanted...and then He allowed for an abundance more. isn't that just like Him?

in luke 15 when the prodigal son comes to his senses after gallivanting around being a disgrace...he returns home to his father (representing God in this parable) and is welcomed with open arms. his father had been waiting anxiously and watching for him. and he is given his father's ring and his robe. this signified him regaining his inheritance and rightful status in the family again. and, on top of all that...his father throws him a party. a big, huge feast in his honor. now, c'mon, that wasn't necessary, was it? the father could have just put his arm around his long lost son and walked back home, for a nice goat meal. it still would have been a good story. but, no - once again, that is God showing His abundant love for us. He breaks out the fattened calf and invites the whole neighborhood. He wants to go overboard for you and for me. and i am personally quite sure that He'd out-do any ridiculous "sweet sixteen" nonsense you see on tv, too, for the record.

and then there was the wedding. who doesn't love a good wedding celebration? i know i sure do. and in john, chapter 2, we find Jesus enjoying himself at a grand wedding feast. picture the gorgeous decorations. hear the joyful music playing. i bet it was a blast! but, then the unthinkable happened; the host ran out of wine. for us, it is different nowadays. this was bigger than just the closing early of an open bar. this would have caused humiliation for the family and haunted the newly married couple for years in the social circles of Jesus' day. so, Jesus performed the first of His miracles. He had the servants bring him six huge jugs and then He proceeded to turn about 150 gallons of water into wine. talk about abundance. (and no, i'm not referring to drinking in abundance, thank you very much, the Bible is pretty clear on that! see eph. 5:18..and nice try, though) and then, in true humility, Jesus didn't even take credit for it. but others sure noticed. His disciples saw this miracle up close. they saw the care Jesus had for the host's reputation. they saw that He provided more than enough for everyone. and (i love this part!) He didn't scrimp on the quality of the wine, either. in fact, in true Jesus form, He provided them with the best wine of the entire evening. ya know, friend, He always provides the best, whether we acknowledge it or not.

i could go on and on, friend. and sometimes, i feel i need to. i am writing this just as much for me as i am for you. sometimes, it is hard to just sit back and enjoy the "surprise" we receive, isn't it? we doubt we deserve it. we are convinced it won't last long. we fear what "bad" must be coming since we seem to be happy now. we look at others and wish our surprise was as big as theirs. we can't just sit and be still and enjoy His favor, His love, His blessings. i say "we" - but i mean me. maybe not you, but for sure me.

i am trying to do just that. i am waking up every day and not taking any more steroids. (can i get an amen!?!) i praise Him for that. as the saying goes, " i do not know what the future holds, but i know Who holds the future." oh friend, i encourage you to do the same. eat up the bread and fish. have your fill. enjoy that comfort of your Father's robe. have fun at the feast in your honor. and by all means, have a drink of the best in life. He does desire good for you. and He does desire good for me. it is no "surprise" that He came to earth for you. and He came that we may have an abundant life...not just trudge through. (john 10:10) has this last year been ridiculously tough? um....ya. i'm not sugarcoating that one at all! life is tough - mine and yours. Jesus promised us that. (john 16:33) but, He loves you. so, enjoy it. you are worth it, friend. and you know am i.

psalm 118:24 "this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."