Hello 2017. God is Good, All The Time.

Two weeks ago, if you asked me what I planned to write in the first blog post of 2017, this was not it. What I planned, was to summarize 2016 and about hopes, dreams and goals for 2017.

But that is not what I’m writing today.

No, I want to just talk about the past two, life-changing weeks. One week in 2016, one in 2017.

During the last week of 2016, my husband’s beloved grandma unexpectedly began her hospice journey following a heart attack. She later died on New Year’s Eve and began 2017  and the rest of eternity in the arms of her loving savior, Jesus Christ.

Another day I’d like to write a post honoring this special woman but I haven’t gathered my thoughts coherently to do so today. What I do want to say today is this – God was ever-present in her hospice room, cradling grandma in His good, sovereign hands. He was present in the condolences, encouragement, prayers and help of family and friends who supported our family. God was present and tangible as my mother-in-law and her sisters walked through the process of saying goodbye to their mom. Without question, they relied on God’s strength to support and love their parents well.

I saw God’s goodness in action as I watched my husband try to balance being a dad, husband, son, uncle, brother, nephew and grandson as he grieved and ran back and forth between the airport, home, and hospital. He was able to be present in each relationship and to rely on God’s strength to be ‘all things’ to each of us. I saw God as my husband grieved, loved and supported others while remaining steady, eyes fixed on Jesus.

Perhaps most remarkably, God was powerfully present in my husband’s grandpa who freely and deeply grieved as he said goodbye to his bride of 69 years. Despite deep pain and sadness, he was grateful and overjoyed by each visitor and family member who came to the hospital. He took time to pray for us as we dealt with a separate issue in the middle of his own grieving. He modeled beautifully what it looks like to truly walk with Jesus – to rely on His strength, to have deep-rooted joy in salvation, and to have a personal, real relationship with Him.

Watching faith of those in this family in a painful circumstance as they experienced the comfort and peace of Jesus personally testified to the compassion, faithfulness and goodness of the God we serve. And in my own life, I felt the prayers and support of many and His energy as I supported the family as best I could – in prayer, by taking care of our kids so my husband could be fully present for his family, and making our home available and comfortable to the influx of family from out-of-town.

One of the greatest joys of celebrating the life of a loved one is that family comes together, from all over. We had the joy of having our niece and her husband stay with us for almost a week, and our nephew, my sister and brother-in-law stay some as well. We spent New Year’s Eve playing games and enjoying quality time with family we would not have seen otherwise. The time spent with family during this process has been a priceless gift as relationships are deepened and strengthened in mourning together and in lifting each other up.

On New Year’s Day, the entire family went to accompany and support grandpa at his church. We saw his church family greet him, offering condolences and sharing in tears. The body of Christ is such a gift. As the service began, the family filled several rows in the front and began singing O Come All Ye Faithful.

As our 3-year-old daughter joined in and I listened to her and our family, worshiping in the midst of mourning, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of joy through sorrow. My eyes were glistening with tears as we sang, experiencing the welcome relief of worship and just being in the presence of God.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Just as we were finishing the final verse, we heard a loud noise and turned. The beautiful moment of worship was cut short. The noise was a woman collapsing in one of the back rows. 911 was called and she later passed away in the church sanctuary.

We took our kids out to the lobby as many rushed to assist her. Members of our family responded and administered CPR until the EMTs arrived. The pastor who had loved our family well during the previous week began to comfort and support a member of his congregation as she passed away, and then her family as they arrived to begin their grieving. God’s love and strength were clearly lived out in the pastor, yet again.

While our children were too young to fully comprehend the situation in church, our nieces and nephews are older and did understand. I spent much of the day praying for them and all involved. The day was heavy. This seemed to just pile mourning upon mourning and I left feeling numb. After all our family had been through, this seemed like a kick in the teeth for all for this happen on the day after grandma died, in her church, and when we’d come together in worship, seeking the solace and comfort of God.

And yet, the unmistakable solace and comfort of God were there. God’s presence was unmistakable and thick. Literally, God and the comfort of being together as family was all we could cling to at this point. The church was singing, ‘O Come let us adore Him’ just before she passed away – I believe that as a follower of Jesus she woke in His presence where she will praise and adore Him forevermore.

We returned home and had a ‘normal’ relaxing day running errands, watching football and spending time together as family, while trying to process everything that had happened. The next day was Monday and the plan was to attend grandma’s visitation in the afternoon and have a big family pizza dinner at grandpa’s house before the funeral on Tuesday.

In the morning, I was on my way back from buying mixes to make brownies to serve at the funeral when I walked in the door to our son holding my cell phone.

Mom, your phone is ringing.’

It was my sister, I picked it up and prepared myself to catch up. Instead, what I heard stoppped me in my tracks.

‘Dad is having a heart attack. They are transporting him to St. Josephs now.’

All I could muster was to say that I was coming, NOW.

The next moments are a blur – yelling to my husband what was happening and running out the door. I left so fast, I left my husband behind with no car. He called me as I left our neighborhood, right about the moment when I realized I shouldn’t be driving myself. I turned around and he took over driving as I called and texted dear friends who began praying. SO MANY prayed. THANK YOU.

Because of the circumstances with grandma, our niece and her husband were at our house and stayed with our kids. We never have people at our house. And my husband isn’t usually home but since it was a holiday, he was. In fact, it was why my dad was with my mom when it happened, and why my each of my siblings were with their significant others and no one was alone. We were so blessed to know the kids were in such loving and capable hands.  God’s timing is always perfect. There is never a good time for a crisis, but He always provides.

My husband and I held hands and prayed in the car as I choked back tears of emotion I just couldn’t keep in.

I was scared.

But, oh, how we felt those prayers. Still scared, but trusting God would walk us all through whatever may come, we made our way to the hospital, joining my siblings and my mom. And, oh, how I saw the presence of God in my mom as she drove herself to the hospital and remained calm and focused on God as we waited.

Waiting is not fun. It was over 45 minutes before we heard anything from anyone about how my dad was doing. To make a long story short(er), my dad had a minor heart attack for an unknown reason. We praise the God who hears our prayers that my dad’s heart did not suffer damage and he is doing well.  Now we just need to move forward trusting the God who has already protected my dad to protect him going forward.

Assured he was stable and my sister and brother staying with my mom the next day, my husband and I went to the funeral for his grandma. A funeral for a believer in Christ is full of mourning and sorrow but also full of hope, celebration and joy of a life well-lived for Jesus. Family members participated by singing, reading and speaking of her impact on their lives and of her faith. It was one of the most beautiful and meaningful funerals I have attended and I left feeling sad and a deep sense of loss, but also filled with peace.

A friend who prayed for my dad volunteered to watch our kids. She showed up promptly at 8am and stayed not only during the funeral, but also all afternoon so my husband and I could return to the hospital. It was a long, but good day. This friend served our family and loved us well. We are so grateful and recognize the provision of God through her. We were able to be fully present for all in our family who needed us, we were able to grieve without being brave for our kids, and our kids were poured into by her.

My dad is home and recovering well. Grandma is being missed but in light of the truth that she lives in eternity. Our out-of-town family has returned home. I still cannot believe all that happened in just under 2 weeks. We are all trying to get some rest and I am spending today reflecting on what has transpired.

I pray the rest of this year is filled with life and is less eventful than it has begun. But, I can tell you with confidence that the past two weeks have deepened my faith, my trust and my reliance on God. He showed up in mighty ways and these are just the tip of those ways that I could put into words. In truth, it’s all much deeper than all this.

I’ll leave you with this – God is good, all the time.

 

On Our Son’s Sixth Birthday – What I Love About You!

Today our son Aiden turns SIX.

Somehow, six years have passed since we first saw his sweet face. Time is a strange thing – it seems like he has always been, yet it seems like I blinked because he was just born! And now I can hardly pick him up.

How. Did. That. Happen?

While I may not understand how time can fly and go slowly at the same time, I DO know this – we are SO proud of him.

We love him more than we can ever express.

And we are so grateful to be his parents.

I’ve spent the past few days savoring his birthday celebrations with friends and family. It has been so fun to watch him be the center of attention, and to see him laughing and enjoy being blessed by those who love him.

Today I want to celebrate his special day by expressing how grateful we are for who he is, and the way God made him.

Aiden, this post is just for you.

Love, Mom.

 

Six things I love about YOU & the way God made you

  • Cautiously Brave and Wise
    • I love to watch you make wise decisions. You have amazing, God-given discernment for a six year old! This is something you were created with. Since you were small, you have removed yourself when uncomfortable or afraid. You willingly step back from activities or situations you know you should not participate in, and you do it while still being kind to your friends or whoever you are around. You turn off TV shows that are not nice or are frightening without a second thought. ‘Be careful little eyes what you see’ is something you’ve always inherently known and acted on. While being naturally cautious, you bravely take calculated risks. You have regularly, bravely faced and accepted medical treatments that scare you because you understand you need them. And we have watched you excitedly try new things and boldly go new places while joyfully meeting and making new friends.
  • Puzzle-Loving, Problem-Solver
    • Not many six year olds I know get excited about doing a 1500 piece puzzle with their parents, especially when they know it will take a week or more to complete. It is fun to see how you approach problems and puzzles alike with determination and follow-through. You are great at following instructions and sticking with something until it is finished. You were building Lego sets unassisted so early, we were amazed at your ability to focus for long periods and to complete complex projects. It would not surprise me if you become an engineer some day. Certainly God has blessed you with attention to detail and a joy of taking on and completing challenges.
  • Lover of God’s Word
    • It was fun to help you fill in your ‘About Me’ book to bring back to school and share with your class today. My heart swelled with joy when you chose the Bible as your favorite book. And you know what? I believe it really is your favorite book. It amazes me how much you know about the Bible. We have read every night since you were a baby and you have absorbed so much from church and BSF. It is our privilege to read the Bible with you at night and to see how you apply what you learn from it to your life. You ask thoughtful questions that show you ponder what it says and take these things to heart. Some of the content in there has been concerning to your cautious mind, and yet you keep coming back to God’s word to learn more about who God is, and what the Bible has to say. I love how God is drawing you closer to Himself as we read.
  • Kind and Empathetic
    • At your school conference, your kindergarten teacher told us you are a good friend to others, and are always looking out for others. We nodded our heads proudly because we see this in you at home. You love others well and treat them with freely given kindness, compassion and respect. When you were three, we learned Ephesians 4:32 which states: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. We see you living this out daily in the way you treat family and friends. It doesn’t mean you don’t have conflict with others – you do, just like the rest of us. What it does mean is that we see you being quick to forgive others and to move on after conflict has happened. You are also really good at stepping back to see the perspective of others in the situation, and are quick to say you are sorry. It also makes me so proud to hear your concern for others who are struggling and to see how you extend help to those you know you can help.
  • Big Brother
    • Being a big brother to two little sisters is a BIG job. And it is a job you did not get to choose. But you are a big brother and I am so proud of you in this role. You are so sweet and gentle with your baby sister Audra. She lights up when she sees you because she loves you as much as you love her. And it is no secret that Adelyn feels the same way. I love how you spend time with her, playing with her and hugging her when she is hurt or sad. You are thoughtful and considerate to include Adelyn in what you are doing and in playing with your friends. It makes me so proud when you encourage your little sister to follow rules or obey mom and dad, and to demonstrate how to do so with your own behavior. I love the excitement you have every morning about seeing both of them. Thank you for loving your sisters so much and for being the loving, protecting and kind big brother that you are.
  • Uniquely Aiden
    • There is no one on this earth who is just like you. YOU were knit together with care and love by the God who created the entire world and all the people and things in it. God made no mistakes and did nothing carelessly when He created you. I love who you are and who God made you to be. It is our prayer that you will see yourself as God sees you and that you will know HE loves you even more than we can, with His perfect love. We pray that you will continue to grow in faith and confidence in who God made you to be, that the most important identity you have is in Christ Jesus

Today, and every day, I am grateful for YOU.

oct-16

A Letter To Our Son, Who Just Broke His Arm

Aiden sling

My son, you amaze me.

This week you broke your arm jumping off a swing. It is thankfully not a bad break, but painful nonetheless.

Always the cautious child, I was surprised the first time you showed me your new swing-jumping skill. I was so proud of you for trying something new, and a little riskier than I expected from you.

And you jumped SO HIGH!

And stuck the landing.

WOW!

I considered the risk and whether I should ask you to not do it again. But your dad and I want you to be free to be a KID. Plus, I jumped off of many swings and monkey bars when I was your age.

And sometimes I fell too.

Many jumps later, you got off balance and broke your fall with your wrist. On the grass. Who knew a bone could break from something simple like that?

I knew you were really hurt when you were hoarse from screaming before you could even tell me what happened as a neighbor walked you to the front yard.

Even then. In your tears. You were so brave.

Many tears, deep breaths, an ice pack, and a root beer float later, you actually decided you’d rather play than go home.

It’s OK that after a few minutes you came back in tears, ready to go.

It really hurt. And you were brave for trying., and wise to know when it was time to stop.

That night, we iced it, and you went to sleep with nothing more than Tylenol in your system. It’s OK that you woke up several times in tears.

Knowing what we know now, I’m surprised you slept at all.

In the morning, you woke bright-eyed and said you thought it felt a little better. I watched you all morning, playing, but careful not to move it up and down.

When I asked, you were willing to try moving it. You winced in pain, but tried anyway. You were adamant that you could go and play with friends that morning.

You played all morning long and had a blast, arm cradled close to your body. After seeing you cradle it all morning, we headed to the doctor.

The doctor isn’t your favorite place, but you are always willing to go and to do what they ask of you.

Even when you’re terrified.

Through the years you have battled some serious woes – reflux, repeated pneumonia, ear infections, allergy skin and blood testing, wheezing and asthma, and more. Many kids don’t know the doctors as well as you do. But they also don’t have to be truly brave because they haven’t experienced the things you have as you head into the office.

I am always amazed that even though you are afraid there, you understand that they are going to help you and that we need to be there. You don’t fight me as we go in the door, and you accept that some of what may happen might not be fun.

I promise to always be honest with you about what will happen there – I know you can handle it, and will always be right there with you.

As we waited to see if we needed an x-ray, you asked all kinds of questions. I love your curiosity and how you carefully listen to understand. I love watching you quietly process the words and to hear the next question.

You are incredibly smart. A wise soul in the body of a 5.5 year old.

As the doctor asked you to move your wrist, you knew it was going to hurt, but you did everything she asked you to do. You held still as she gently examined your arm.

I was so proud as I heard you thank her before she left the room. And then you thanked the nurses and x-ray technician, too, as we saw them one by one.

You weren’t so sure about that huge x-ray machine, but you sat still, and watched with cautious curiosity as they prepped everything. Even though the position for each x-ray wasn’t comfortable, and I had to leave your side to stand behind the wall, you sat still. You anxiously looked for my face in the window, but did exactly as they asked.

When we told you ‘good job’, I saw you light up. You knew you did it just right.

Then it was fun to see your face light up when they showed you your x-rays and you saw your bones.

You were so excited! It isn’t every day you get to see a picture of your bones! Although a broken bone isn’t fun, you still emanate joy despite your circumstances.

Tired of waiting, I could see that deep down, you just wanted to know what came next – even if it meant the bone was broken.

As with so many other doctor’s visits in the past, you are always willing to hear the hard news – sometimes more than I am.

You meet these battles head-on.

When the doctor returned, I could see on her face that the bone was broken. She soberly explained what happened to your bone to cause a buckle fracture in the radius.

You listened carefully. You asked a couple of questions.

Then you quietly accepted the truth, turning to tell me it was broken, just in case I didn’t understand.

You held very still as they prepared the splint and wrapped your arm, even as your arm got tired from holding it out and above your head. I could see the fascination on your face as you watched what they were doing. Even though the splint and sling were uncomfortable, you were willing to wear them.

No fuss.

And when the doctor explained how we couldn’t take the splint off, you quietly nodded.

Always willing to do as they ask, even when it may mean the end of summer water fun.

Walking to the car, you kindly asked for help with your seat belt, offering suggestions for how the sling could go on top of the belt.

My little troubleshooter. If you want to, you will make a brilliant engineer one day.

And as the sling belt dug into your neck, you told ME it was OK, you were going to be fine. You were so sweet, thanking me as I placed a soft towel underneath to make it more comfortable.

You are one tough, thoughtful and grateful kid.

It was surely disappointing when we came home and all your friends were outside playing but we had to go inside because the temporary sling wasn’t dry or set yet.

And as you asked me questions about playing in water, riding your scooter, and bike, and more that wouldn’t be a good idea right now, I saw the sadness in your eyes.

But then you took a deep breath and again, reassured ME, saying…’It’s OK mom. I don’t care if I broke my arm. I’ll be OK’. And, even better, ‘I’m glad God made our body so it can heal’ (be still my heart!).

What more could we ask of you?

Easy going. Brave. Calm.

With a good attitude even with a broken bone in the middle of summer.

We get the cast on Monday. It wont’ be fun wearing it for the rest of the summer, but I know you are going to be OK, just like you told me. There will be disappointment, but I can already tell you are going to make the most of this.

This morning you made me laugh as you asked me to put your eye patch on you so you could play pirate with your sister.

pirate

A broken arm cannot touch your imagination, sweet pirate.

Today I’m writing this because I see you. I am proud of you. I am grateful for your positive attitude and joyful heart. I see your childlike faith and trust that God will heal you.

Today, you have encouraged ME, your mom – and I’m not the one with the broken arm.

Thank you.

I love you.

I promise you I will find fun activities for you to do with a cast and your one arm.

And to tell you just how much I love you and just how proud of you I am – today, and every day.

Hands FULL. My Cup Runneth Over

Well hello there. Wonder where I’ve been these past months?

On May 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm, we were blessed by the arrival of our daughter Audra Grace at 7 pounds 9 ounces.

Audra Grace

To say things have been busy…is an understatement. In fact, I don’t have time to be writing this now, but my soul and my brain are in serious need of writing therapy.

While I expected an adjustment period, I was unprepared for what a third child adds to the mix. Our hands are FULL.

One month in, I was just starting to get used to three children. We started getting out of the house on time, and figured out how to grocery shop with a baby and toddler in the cart, and 5 year old in tow…

But when silent reflux showed up at 4 weeks, it threw me for a loop and I’m still playing catch-up.

Many days are a blur. In some ways it seems like we’ve had this baby forever, and in other ways I feel like I blinked and she’s 7 weeks old.

How can that be? The newborn period is so very short.

My hands are literally FULL. Most everything is done with one hand. The other is holding a baby… shopping, cooking, cleaning, reading to the kids while they hold the book…

At times I feel like everyone needs a piece of me, and there aren’t enough pieces to go around.

I feel worn out, and fear I am not giving the older two enough attention. I am grateful  as they throw their arms around me without judgement or resentment. But as my 3 year old snuggles in with me at night and says, “I need you, I miss you”, I feel the pang of mama-guilt mixed with the joy of being loved unconditionally by our children.

And so we snuggle tighter, and a little longer.

Despite challenges, what I see looking back on the past 7 weeks is  an abundance of blessings.

A big brother and big sister falling in love with their baby sister is one of the most precious things I have ever witnessed. I love how they are ready and willing to help grab diapers, pacifiers, and burp rags, or to just sit and talk to her. They are my second set of eyes, alerting me when she spits up, is crying, or needs something. This baby is VERY well tended to! It is fun to watch the older kids play together more than ever because their parents hands are often full. I am grateful to see how easy going they have become and how they are growing in responsibility and love.

And then there’s my husband. My hero, yet again. My rock through pregnancy and delivery. My encourager. The tenderness he has shown as he cared for me and our family after delivery is inexpressible.

Selfless. Persistent. Loving. Enduring.

This man took over so much around the house and with our kids. He entertains and plays with our kids, filling our home with giggles and squeals of delight. He brings me beverages and snacks while I feed the baby. He cooks, cleans and runs errands, all while working full time. Thoughtfully, he recruited help for me when he had to go out of town on a work trip so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. He is a full time, hands-on daddy and husband.

When we’re having a rough reflux-day, he comes home from work early to give me a break.  In the middle of the night, he takes over rocking the baby when she can’t fall back asleep. And he encourages and compliments, while graciously biting his tongue when I’m not doing the same. I am so grateful for his faithful, patient, selfless service to me and our family as he loves us through actions.

Words can simply not express just how grateful I am for him. Words fail me.

Our family and friends have blessed us beyond measure. Gifts, meals, visits with helping hands and loving arms have been given in abundance. We have been so generously cared for, the thank you card list keeps getting longer an longer (some day they will actually get written and be mailed!).

I feel the prayers of many lifting our family up as we adjust to being a family of five, and as we pray for Audra to feel better. We are so well loved, cared for, and covered in prayer. When I think I’m at my limit holding this sweet, crying child, a phone call or text message comes through checking in on us, or to tell me they are praying for us – always in perfect timing, bringing tears of joy and the feeling of being known.

And I feel no doubt that the Lord who created these precious children sees me, knows our struggles, and is carrying us through. We trust in his healing of Audra’s reflux, and that it will happen in HIS perfect timing. We trust that any present suffering is being used for good, and we expectantly wait on Him to show us exactly what He is doing here. I feel his loving, comforting arms as others selflessly step in to serve us and to lift us up.

He withholds no good thing from us.

We just have so much to be grateful for. I refuse to wish these days away, reflux or not. So we focus on gratitude, on our family, and keep our gaze on Jesus. Time is flying by, and we commit to soak it all in, no matter how busy or exhausted we are, or how much this sweet hurting baby cries.

Our hands may be full with these three precious children, but our life, and hearts are overflowing.

My cup runneth over.

 

 

Just Once More…

Just Once More

I love being pregnant. Some people think that is weird, and I’m ok with it. I don’t love the nausea, aches and pains, or interrupted sleep, but there is just something incredibly special and sweet that words cannot quite describe.

At first, despite the sickness, I love the knowledge that a little someone is being knit together inside of me. There is simply nothing that compares to the truth that God, Himself, is creating and carefully making a person with their own unique features and personality. A miracle within. It is the knowledge that He chose me to be this child’s mom, my husband to be her dad, and that this baby is the perfect addition to our family.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)

At first, our pregnancy was a secret shared with few. Then we had the privilege of sharing our special, joyful secret. We have lived in hope for months, preparing for the arrival of a little person who has already changed our heart and made us love them more than we ever thought we could.

I don’t love that I’m on round 3 of gestational diabetes. I don’t love the carb counting and finger poking. And I certainly didn’t love the 1 hour and 3 hour glucose tests that I simply cannot pass in any pregnancy. But I am grateful the condition has been managed with diet and exercise. Not using insulin has been a effort of discipline and self control, and has been a very tangible answer to many, many prayers.

The more pregnant I get, the more others ask if I’m ready to be done. They expect that I am. They figure I’m fed up with this this and ready to get the show on the road. My doctor has commented on how the third trimester for many third time moms feels like eternity. And yet…it doesn’t. Not to me.

Here I am in the final weeks of this third pregnancy. I am very emotional and feel like I can’t get a handle on this roller coaster. While I’m excited to meet this little one, I’m not ready to be done either.

This will most likely be our last pregnancy. My husband and I have been in agreement on the number 3 since we started talking about kids. And while it is hard to admit this magical time may be the last time, unless God has other plans, this will probably be our last one.

So during this pregnancy, I’ve been quietly enjoying even the struggles – finding myself grateful for the chance to do this one last time.

This pregnancy has been my most challenging. Blood sugar issues showed up earlier, and were harder to manage. This is my first pregnancy as a stay-at-home mom and I found the days chasing little ones to be harder than sitting in a laboratory or desk during the day.Plus, I’m 6 years older than when I began my first pregnancy, our evening activity schedule is busier, and I have found it harder to juggle everything effectively without getting overwhelmed and emotional.

And yet…

There has been such a sweetness in feeling the baby kick, squirm and hiccup. Day or night. Strangely, this time, even those pummeling bladder kicks haven’t frustrated me as much although they have certainly kept me on my toes.

Keeping the secret about this pregnancy was just as special as the first two times, even though we’d done it before. And this time around because our other kids are old enough to have an opinion about the baby’s gender, we did our first and only gender reveal party with family. It did end with a 5 year old in tears, but he’s coming around. This baby girl will be VERY well loved.

There is a special contentment in just being pregnant. I’m not in a rush to get past it or to just be done. This is the last time I’ll be unable to see my toes because of a baby in the way. The last use of maternity pants and shirts that never seem long enough. And the last time I’ll wonder how my stomach could possibly get any bigger. Knowing this labor and delivery thing is also just once more makes it less scary, less of a hurtle, and the start of a whole new stage that will also be full of last moments.

Once more will we see a baby’s face for the very first time. And just once more will we have that first special moment holding her. Just once more will we carefully pick a name and hope it suits her. And just once more we will hear that first cry.

Just once more we will watch our children meet their sibling. And introduce the baby to great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. We will see that joy and wonder on their faces as they meet our baby that first time, just once more.

And just once more will we bring a baby home and feel that exhaustion and sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn. And we will feel again the fierce love and joy of this little life that makes it all worthwhile. We will be faced with the realization that we somehow are responsible for now 3 little lives – to love, tickle, discipline, feed, snuggle, raise and introduce to Jesus Christ.

The truth is, this baby is no more special than the first, or second. They are all equally miracles created by God, and entrusted to us. But I do find myself treasuring the moments leading up to those precious firsts because they will also be last. Instead of being swept up in the busy-ness of life, I’ve been fighting to just experience what is happening NOW.

Life is speeding up all around us, with sports, and school wrapping up and staying busy outside because the weather is so nice. And yet…I am ready for it to SLOW down. To take time to treasure the time that is left before the baby is born. To spend quality time as a family of FOUR. To snuggle up and read more books and play harder with the two children that are here now. And to pour love into them because they are just so very precious. And together, as a family, to anticipate the moment when we will joyfully welcome the arrival of this sweet new baby. And become a family of 5.

But time isn’t slowing down. It will not wait for my nostalgia or for me to be ‘ready’ to be done being pregnant for the last time. This baby is coming. And very soon. Only God knows the exact moment and as with the other two babies, I can trust His perfect timing to be exactly what this baby and family needs.

I cannot wait…but will relish these last days or weeks of knowing her by her movements as I wonder what she will be like. Even in those nighttime hours as she does acrobatics and interrupts my sleep.

So today I find myself grateful. Hopeful. Not in a rush, but surrendered to God’s perfect timing.

And I remember that all that is to come in the next busy stage of life is just once more.

You Know What Takes CHRIST Out Of Christmas? Complaining Over A Red Cup.

Is anyone else confused by the hype over the Starbucks red cup? When I first saw the image of the 2015 cup, I thought it looked nice. Simple and a clever use of the Starbucks green logo on the red background.

No problem right?

Well, I guess not. It seems that some people are upset over the cups and think they do not stand for Christmas.  I don’t usually pay attention to these things but the articles that kept popping up specifically mention that Christians are the people making the fuss. I like to know what I’m being associated with.

SO, I looked at the last 6 years of cups that TIME put together for easy viewing. Do you know what I see? Nothing that says “Merry Christmas” or any mention of Jesus. In fact, the apparent change that makes people upset is the lack of a snow flake.

A snow flake?

Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ – since when is a snowman, snow flake or a person sledding on a coffee cup a symbol of Christmas? I don’t remember seeing any mention of these things in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. Haven’t read it? Check it out for yourself in Luke Chapter 1. These symbols are completely and totally unrelated to Jesus Christ.

I can see how this may sound harsh, but it needs to be said. You know what takes the CHRISTmas out of Christmas? Complaining, slander, and overly vocal disgust at red cups. Beloved of Jesus – there are so many more important issues to take a stand on. This distraction does not draw unbelievers to know and love Jesus. If anything, it makes Him less appealing because those who claim to follow and love Him are preoccupied with coffee cups.

As Christians, let us instead CHOOSE to celebrate Jesus, despite what is happening around us in our culture. Regardless of who says “Happy Holidays” and who says “Merry Christmas”, the culture does NOT decide the status of our hearts. We choose who we worship and what our focus is on.

It is either the world or Jesus. He longs for us to choose the latter.

So, as His chosen, and beloved people, CHOOSE to set your eyes on Jesus. Then CHOOSE now to let the rest of it roll off of you. All season long. Spending our precious time boycotting coffee cups is simply a distraction that takes our eyes off of HIM – All God’s grace in one tiny face.

How do we focus on Him?

  • Tell others you are grateful for them.
  • Tell GOD you are grateful for Him and spend some extra time with Him in prayer.
  • Set your grateful hearts on Jesus – on how He loved us and came to DIE for us so we could be saved. And how we can never deserve such a sacrifice and gift of grace.
  • Be grateful that in the United States you can speak the name of Jesus out loud without being tortured, exiled or killed.
  • Pray for those who are dying for their faith and have life and death concerns that make a preoccupation with coffee cups look foolish and careless.
  • Go out and treat others with kindness, respect, and love.
  • Tell others WHO Jesus is and WHY you love Him.
  • Intentionally spread some joy and cheer.
  • Find someone to help, serve or surprise.
  • Let Christians be known for spreading good will among men instead of complaining about things that have no eternal value.
  • Choose Jesus and show others WHO HE IS by sharing His LOVE.
  • Show the world that His love reigns in the hearts of Christians and speak well of others, regardless of where they buy their coffee. Or what color the cup is.

It’s a paper cup, people. We put coffee in it and then throw it away.

Doesn’t CHRISTmas mean more to us than that?

It’s the second week of November. There will be plenty more things this year that do not include Christ. There will surely be over-saturation of Santa, Happy Holidays and commercialization of the season.

Will you choose to allow those things to take your eyes off of Jesus?

Grateful.

Grateful | thisgratefulmama.com

It’s Monday.

Before jumping headfirst into the week, why don’t we just take a moment to be joyful in this moment?

As I consider all that is before me, and all behind me, I am left with one simple yet profound word.

Grateful.

The weekend did not go as planned. A little one had a fever so instead of a weekend packed with activities and friends, it was packed with…us. Just our little family. And it was lovely. I am grateful for moments of extra snuggles, silliness, quiet, and even the tears.

After a month filled with researching and wrestling with a large decision, today I find myself feeling that peace that transcends all understanding. Not ‘peace and quiet’, but that deep peace and rest that comes only when I realize that God has me exactly where He wants me to be.

Right here.

This is where I belong. I am doing what He has called me to do.

What more could a girl want?

As I look back on the past month, I see God’s handiwork in my relationships and circumstances. Woven into daily life, sometimes into the tiniest of details. I see how the challenges of the past month have deepened my relationship with God, with loved family and friends. Challenge has a way of penetrating your soul, requiring and releasing new levels of authenticity in relationships.

The result has been the rich blessing of stronger faith, and stronger, more authentic relationships.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose – Romans 8:28

What. A. Promise.

As I start this Monday. This week. I am grateful for so much:

My Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Who loves me. Died for me. And lives so that I may find life abundant.

My husband and best friend who provides for this family selflessly and generously. He is my favorite person on this planet and I am so grateful I get to live out my days with him.

These sweet children. Their smiles, curiosity, playful joy and even their testing of boundaries as they learn about life. I am grateful for the way their eyes shine when we tell them of Jesus. And for their hugs as their little arms squeeze as tight as they can when they greet me each morning – It doesn’t get much better than this.

Our family. Parents and grandparents who want the best for our family and are helping hands, wise counsel, and listening ears. Siblings who listen and speak truth into situations in ways only they can. And who provide support, encouragement, and who check in often. Family who choose to be more involved than just the occasional family get-together.

Friends. Neighbors. Church. O my.

We are so blessed. People we can be ourselves with. Who know and see us as we are, and still love us.

My friends, this is a beautiful life.

Today is a new day.

A new week.

Let it begin with JOY.

Grateful.