Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter

It has been a long time since I have posted.  We have been "busy" doing life around here...  Running around, digging in dirt, learning new words, learning to write letters, avoiding the cold, wishing for spring, planting stuff, hunting for eggs long before Easter, reading stories and climbing on all things.  And that was just Brad.  (haha)

Life around us continues to move fast, while we move slow.  I am thankful for the slow and simple.  (I am wishing the girls would grow slower.)  Life can be so crazy.  So emotional.  So big.  All around me, babies are being adopted, children are moving out, parents are getting old and sick, babies are being miscarried and born.

This Easter weekend I am thankful.  Thankful for God's perfect plan.  Thankful that our God is not a God of confusion or anxiety.  He is justice and mercy at the same time.  His love is persistent, perfect in its pursuit of us.   The entire Bible speaks to this.  All of history moves towards our redemption in Jesus.  All through the Old Testament - the histories, the Psalms, the prophets - the stories point to Christ.  To the perfect Lamb giving Himself so that we can experience true freedom and joy.  God's people experienced such turmoil and change: hundreds of years in slavery, wandering in the desert, exile, etc.  And most of it (with the exception of Daniel and Job and the like) due to their own sin.  Life in this fallen world will be crazy and uncertain.  It will be joyful and painful.  At times it will not make one bit of sense.  But God is still in pursuit.  Even when He has our heart, the Holy Spirit seeks to have all of it.

We have been reading a lot about the Easter story around here.  One of our children's Bible stories goes into detail about the day Jesus died - the sky grew dark, the ground shook, the earth mourned.  The pictures look dark and scary.  Addison asked why Easter was happy if that day was so scary and sad.  What a good question.  The end is what makes it happy.  What makes it the best.  Just like all the good princess stories (because we have to relate it to a princess in this house I guess).  Sure, Jesus gave himself.  Sure, He paid the penalty for my sins and yours.  That was absolutely a huge deal.  Worth savoring and honoring and considering and dwelling on.  But that was Friday.

Sunday is worth celebrating.  Sunday is worth cheering for.  Jesus rose!  Resurrection.  Life.  The defeat over death.  Freedom from fear and freedom in suffering.  Joy in life, in all circumstances.

He is Risen!  He is risen indeed.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Love 'em right.

This can be so hard!

Don't misunderstand: I knew what we were getting into.  When our big one was an angelic one year old and people would comment on her, I knew it wasn't forever; there were tougher times to come.  I was right.  (It must have been a Tuesday; I have often claimed to be pseudo-psychic on Tuesdays.  Jk.)

All of us deal with it at some point.  Some children act like lunatics who have no parents out in public.  We've all seen the children throwing things in the grocery store, or trying to climb into the elephant exhibit at the zoo.  These are (usually) not my children.  They may be your children; no judgement from me.  I am out in public to escape my house.  My children choose to act out at home.  Whining, crying, crawling, negotiating, whining, sneaking, slamming, whining, running.  Did I mention negotiations?  And whining?  Oh!  It is just blah!  We are choosing to fight the battles - a lot of battles - now when they are little, in hopes that when they're big they know how to act.  (Pipe dream, I know.)  So we ignore the whining and the big one gets nothing "until you can use your big girl words."  This is a sentence I say about 138 times each day.  Last week we were home sick most of the time, so probably more often then.  Perhaps that is why I am feeling all of the annoyances today; all of it built up last week and now I need a long run or a long nap or a good shopping trip to get rid of my parenting self-pity.  

All of us deal with it.  We will deal with children who don't know how to act now, or later, or much later, or (more likely) during several stages of childhood.  (I pray that's when we deal with it, and not when they are grown.  But that's neither here nor there.)

It is so tempting to go it alone.  To not share with your spouse that you totally lost your temper.  To not share that your kids kick and scream at times.  To pretend that your 3 year old did not do time out 4 times before lunch.  To keep it to yourself that you are petrified of losing your kids.  To not tell any other people that your child prefers to be naked in public.  (Ahem.  I may be the mother of the only naked ballerina.)  No one wants to be the mother who fails to do ______.

Parenting is too hard to do alone.  To not share it with others.  To not realize and remember that others' kids try to negotiate their way through bedtime like a seasoned politician through peace talks, just like yours.  Y'all.  We are not alone.  You are not alone.

My friend Denise is the best.  She thinks she is silly and flippant, but she is so wise.  She says we need to quit worrying about when the days are nightmare days and we are so worried about "raising them right."  Sometimes we just need to love our kids right.  To parent with grace and love, and make sure our discipline, when needed, comes out of that.  

In this era of such crazy nonsense as Pinterest Envy, Mommy Wars and Parenting Righteousness, let's come alongside one another and lose the judgement.  Not just of one another, but of ourselves.  And our kids.  Who cares what your kid is wearing, or mine?  I don't care if your table cloth matches the plates and balloons at little Sally's birthday party.  Did you make a cake that can barely stand up?  Serve it proudly! Who cares if my little has a third bruise on her forehead and she dislocated her elbow yesterday?  (True story, by the way.)  Give yourself and your neighbor a little slack.  Did your little decide to wear rain boots to church and you showed up 30 minutes late with peanut butter on your shirt?  Good job; you got into the car in one piece and with everyone fed.  Sometimes that just deserves a medal.  At the end of the day, this is my dream job that I never even dreamed of having.  In the hardest of moments, I am still living out the biggest of blessings.  When all the battles are over (or at least on hiatus until tomorrow), we are building / rearing / raising a person.  It's okay that this is hard.  I think it's supposed to be.  I am fighting for my children's hearts.

We are not just fighting for our family.  We are fighting for our group's, for our people.  So let's fight.  Let me fight for you, and you for me when I need it.  When I am tempted to stand in the middle of my mess of laundry and cry hot tears of frustration because I just screwed up the parenting job again, I will remind myself of who's I am.  Let us remind ourselves and each other that Jesus already won the good fight - the one that matters.  That because of His great goodness and mercy and grace, we can be called God's precious children.  On the days that we are awesome at what we do, and on the days when we are not so awesome.  He is faithful when we are failing and not so faithful.  When I gave my heart to Him, He made it new, and that's what He sees.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Merry Christmas & The End of Another Year

How is 2013 almost over?  How is it December 15th already???  Not like I-have-no-presents-bought so it snuck up on me, just how it is the end of another year?  I am overwhelmed by the blessings around me.  It seems as though I blinked and found that my children had grown.
See what I mean???  Three going on 13.
This Christmas we are growing and learning and changing, then growing some more.  Addison knows all the words to what seems like every Christmas song and would rather sing them for us than listen to carols.  Audrey repeats everything you say, but in one or two word increments, and primarily using vowels, so everything sounds adorable.  "Miih peas." (Milk please.)  "Thah ooo." (Thank you.)  "euh Auduh?"  (Where's Audrey?")  "buuh buuh Dah-eh" (Bye bye DeLaune)  There are lots of confusing conversations happening in my house!

We made a fun attempt at celebrating advent, using a combination of the advent book our preschool minister put together, and our elf on the shelf, Merry.  We have been good about reading the advent scripture every day and the story from the Jesus Storybook Bible, but I ran out of new places for that sweet "Advent Elf" several days ago, and we don't do all of the daily activities.  I am completely okay with that, though.  (How unlike me!)  And here's why: My kids are three and one.  I desperately want to teach them that Christmas is about Jesus, and that all the fun stuff is just extra.  We talk about that, and reiterate that, and I even told Addison about who the real St. Nick was, and turned it into a magical story about someone who loves sharing the joy of Jesus with children and now lives forever...  But they are so young!  I am not going to drive everyone bananas trying to do everything perfect and Pinterest-y.  I have done that before and no one was okay with that.  Some people can do that and not be insane.  I am not some people.  I want to enjoy their moments, and be in the moment with them, more than make everything a lesson.

Besides that, if you want to analyze everything in your day, just let me send Addison to your house...

Why do you read your Bible?  
But why do you do it every day?  
Why do you want to learn more?
Why is red a Christmas color?
Why did Jesus have to be born?
Why do we give presents?
But why does Santa give presents?
Why do we show love and kindness?

...and on and on.  Y'all this is constant.  She just wants to know everything!  I find that if I am too concerned with keeping my agenda - even things like decorate cookies, wrap presents, go to the zoo, etc.- I miss sweet opportunities to teach.  To love on her with truth.  To learn with her.  To show her, and one day Audrey too, that I make mistakes all the time, and Jesus seeks me anyway.

Recently I have heard and read several lessons/sermons on God's presence and whether or not He still speaks.  It seems like such a simple answer, yet so many miss it.  There have been times in my life that I would have answered "of course God still speaks," but then been too busy or involved or un-receptive to hear Him.  Our pastor gave a beautiful Advent sermon on this today, based on the Christmas story of the shepherds, in Luke 2:8-18.  Here was the gist:
We experience the presence of God when
1) we are receptive to His voice, however He chooses to speak, and to what He has to say
2) we humbly place ourselves under His authority
3) we are willing to turn around and be His messenger for others.

At first glance, it seems that #2 is the doozy.  We are not exactly living in a time or culture that celebrates living under anyone's authority.  But the fact of the matter is that God continues to pursue us, to seek us out in spite of ourselves.  To stretch us and pull us to be more than we thought we would be, often in a way that looks completely different than how we thought it would.

I have a story about this.  It is pretty personal and sounds silly, but I figure if you've read this much you may not judge, or perhaps you need to hear it...

When Brad and I had been married almost a year, I was invited to a Beth Moore conference.  I was not in a place where I thought I needed to learn anything.  I wasn't prepared to be challenged, and frankly I was a little annoyed to be there.  (Sorry Missy, if you're reading this.  Just being honest.)  Brad had started looking into other jobs at other churches and was interested in moving.  I had a job that I loved, was getting used to our life together, and I thought we were doing okay, and I did not want to move.  I was pretty adamant about it.  I was basically a jerk about the idea.  I loved Birmingham and absolutely did not want go anywhere.  For most of this conference I was focused on me and what I thought I needed from our marriage, and was in no way interested in hearing otherwise through scripture, wise counsel from speakers, or otherwise.

Have you ever been to a conference like this?  The BJCC was packed, and in the last few minutes the place slowly began to clear as women tried to beat the crowd to the parking lot.  I remember a large group of women to my right stepped past us to leave just before the last song.  My mother in law and I also began to gather our things and a woman I had not seen before tapped me on the shoulder.  She said, "I think you need this," and she handed me a small card with the words "Just Go!" and "Joshua 1:9" scribbled on it.  Then she walked away.

Let me tell you that I think I stopped breathing for a few minutes.  Nothing in the conference had been on "going."  No song, no session.  How completely random for her to do that.  How would this stranger have known to say that to me?  I hadn't told anyone that Brad was feeling led toward change, or that I was hesitant to go.  I just was angry about it.  Until then.

God showed me just how He would pursue me if need be.  In that clear, audible voice and scribbled note, He gave me a clear answer to a question that I had refused to even ask Him.  My heart broke and changed and softened all at the same time.  Funny how God can do that.  I bawled like a baby the whole way to the car and the entire drive home.  (Want to instantly be closer to your brand new mother in law?  Awkwardly cry in her presence for 40+ minutes and admit all kinds of ugly things about yourself.  Awesome.)
I went home and apologized to Brad and committed to being open to change.  What I thought had been a good marriage changed pretty quickly into an awesome one.  Brad stopped looking to leave Birmingham, and five months later an even better opportunity came looking for Brad.  I love how God works.

Want to know if He still speaks?  Be ready to hear Him.
Want to know if He still speaks?  Be willing to submit yourself to what He says.
Want to know if He still speaks?  Be ready to be the messenger for someone else.

(Can you imagine that other woman?  The conversation she must have had silently with God before walking up to me?  Why do you want me to write this verse on a card?  Who needs to go where?  This is just silly.  Who am I even supposed to give this to?  She is going to think I am crazy!)

I am so thankful that God still speaks.  I am so thankful that when we are hard-headed and hard-hearted He takes drastic measures and uses usable people.  I am so grateful He has a plan that is so much cooler than my own.  I am so thankful He sent His son.

"God loved us and sent His son."  (1John 4:10)

"Come Thou Long Expected Jesus..."
Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  (Joshua 1:9)

This Christmas season, I pray you are brave enough to want to hear God speak.  In the new year, I pray you are willing to be submissive to His authority.  It is so much better than our own.

(I pray I am too, because if another woman approaches me like that again I may have a heart attack.)

Merry Christmas!
This is my youngest nephew and niece with our two gals.
Merry Christmas from them, too!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Armistice Day

Happy Veterans Day.

Or, as I still like to call it, Happy Armistice Day.  I will celebrate my own moment of silence at the eleventh hour today on this eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the fighting in Great War stopped.  (Whatever; I am a nerd and I own it.)  Today I am thankful we don't speak German.  Or Hungarian.  Or Italian I guess.  Or, since I just watched "Killing Kennedy" on National Geographic channel... I am super glad we don't speak Russian.  (Can you imagine?)  But that's a different matter all together.

I am abundantly thankful today for the veterans that I know and love.  And so many others.  That put your safety and mine, and the welfare of our country above their own.  For their families.  For their wives.  Bless them.  For their mamas.  Give them peace.  For their kids.  Give them strength.  (I saw a YouTube thing of a middle school kid giving a speech or something and his dad, who had been serving overseas, came in and surprised him in front of the whole school.  I bawled like a baby.  I am crying right now just thinking about it.)  

My dad is retired Army, having served more than 20 years.  My baby brother carried on the tradition and is a Lieutenant in the Army, serving in the armpit of America.  (Sorry Ft. Polk.)  Both of my grandfathers served.  Brad's grandfather was a cook for the Army.  Our nation has so much to be thankful for, largely due to men and women who committed to serve their country in ways that most of us are unwilling to.  Who fought in so many ways to protect rights and privileges that we enjoy, but would have no idea about if we lived in any other country.  I am thankful.  In the midst of political strife and awful decisions made by our leaders and scandals and drama, I am thankful.  I hope you are too.

In another matter all together, this morning my three year old asked what God's hair looks like.  I can't even make this up, y'all.

Happy Armistice Day.  Give a Veteran a hug or a handshake today.  I'm too far away to hug any of my Vets.  


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My hopes for our gals

Any parent hopes.  Along with love and hugs and exhaustion and fear, comes hope.
I hope she comes quickly.  
I hope she sleeps through the night soon.  
I hope she hurries up and cuts this tooth.  
I hope she's not sick.  
I hope she grows out of this stage quickly.  
I hope she always wants to snuggle.

My baby girl turns one today.  And my sweet husby celebrates his 93rd 33rd birthday this Thursday.  I am not organized, relaxed or timely enough to write two entries to honor them both, so I am killing two blogs with the proverbial stone.  (Or something like that.)



As my baby becomes less and less baby-like every day, I have been thinking a lot about what is in store. That always leads me to prayer.  And gratitude.  And hope.

I hope.  I pray.  For my girls.  For our family.  For our future.  For theirs.  My heart longs for the day when Jesus returns.  And in the meantime I hope.

I pray for the day each of them becomes a follower of Christ.

I hope it is early in their lives.  I hope they have a love for His word.  I hope God reveals Himself to each of them often, reminding them of what Scripture (and their Mama) says.  I pray for this all the time.

I pray for their future families.  I hope they meet a man early in adulthood and fall in love.  Not the romantic-comedy type of falling in love; the non-dramatic, low-key, Brad Gowing certainty kind of love.  The content, calm kind of love.  I hope they are patient until that time comes.  Patient and understanding and not consumed with the desire to be with someone, to have that type of relationship.  I hope they each remember to be concerned with the stuff that truly matters, not the stuff that matters in our culture.

I hope they find someone who is willing to tell the hard truths.  Who leads boldly.  Who helps them take themselves less seriously.  Who loves Jesus first and her next.  Who (only every once in a while) has trouble keeping priorities in line because he is so busy caring about people.  Who is satisfied and content.  These are the things that have and do bless my life every day.

I hope they get the joy of being someone's mama.  I hope they discover how different two kids can be from each other at such an early age.  I hope they find a career they love and that meets their needs, even if it may not last as long as they imagine.  That they are open to change and welcome new seasons.

I hope they will be best friends.  Probably not any time soon, but one day.  My sister and best friend had her baby girl Sunday and the only thing that would thrill me more is if I could be there.  I hope my girls will love on each other and protect each other and speak truth and grace and hope into each other's lives for as long as they are here on Earth.

I hope they know every day how much we love them.  I hope their Daddy and I are around for a really long time to be part of them.

I hope they always want to snuggle.

Happiest of days and weeks, to my baby girl.  And to my sweet husby.

How about you?  What do you hope for your family?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thoughts on a Sabbath

Lately I have been thinking a lot about God's timing.  The "providential" plan and how it works together.  It is easy for me to dwell on how good God is, from this mostly comfortable place in my life.  It hasn't always been easy to remember God's goodness and faithfulness.  We have several friends in the middle of those types of times.  The out-of-a-job times.  The in-between-jobs, and is-this-the-right-thing-for-us times.  The why-can't-we-start-a-family times.  The money-is-tight times.  The if-I-am-in-God's-will-then-why-I-am-so-stressed-out times.  The I-am-afraid-of-what's-going-to-happen times.

If you are right there, let me offer you some encouragement.  It gets better.  What is happening right now is not IT.  There is a future.  By all means, plan, and prepare, and work hard, and follow doctors and family and boss' advice.  But take a rest.  Give yourself and those around you a break.  And remember that there is also a past.

I heard a really great sermon today from a guest preacher at our church.  He had some different things to say about the Sabbath, and used some different scripture references than I had heard referenced for discussing the Sabbath, but it was such an important message.  Using verses in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Hebrews, he boiled it down to two points:

1-The Sabbath is not only holy because God declared it to be holy.  It is holy because that is the day to set aside from the toil and daily work of our lives.  Just as God worked at creation and then rested, allowing all of creation to reflect His glory and point us back to Him, so we are to work and then rest, getting rejuvenated so that we can rejoice in and reflect Him.

2-The Sabbath (or whenever we take our rest) is for reflecting.  Only as we look back properly (remembering all that God has done) and look forward properly (faithfully anticipating His future), can we live fully in today.

Living "fully in today" can be a challenge!  When we are stuck in the tough times, we get anxious to get out.  But remember.
Remember that the God who created the universe also created today.
The God who parted the sea and saved His people will redeem you.
The same God who knit you together in the womb has a plan and a purpose for you and your family.
God knows the desires of your heart; He put them there.  Relish in Him today and thank Him.

Take a breath and set aside a Sabbath.  Enjoy something today.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

You've been a mom for how long???

I just realized I haven't written anything on this silly blog since February.  A special day brought me back here.  My big gal turned three today.  I cannot believe it.  I sincerely cannot wrap my brain around it.  Will every year, every milestone be this way?  Will every significant event illicit such an "OH MY GOODNESS! WHY IS TIME SPEEDING BY SO FAST?" type of response?  Probably.

It is 2:56 right now.  Three years ago at this point I was still in the recovery room after surgery, staring at my beautiful baby girl who looked like an exact replica of my baby pictures.  I was in awe of the amazing, gorgeous, real-live, breathing, whimpering, little bit of a thing who slept on my chest.  Let's face it: I still am.  Y'all.  God is simply so good.

I have my regular afternoon episode of "Friends" on right now.  It's the one where Ross' son is born.  I am not exaggerating when I say I cried.  It's just whatever.  I am one blobbery mess today.

Have you ever heard someone say that having kids taught them what it means to have their heart walking outside of their body?  I had read that somewhere, before having children, and I thought it sounded so hokey.  And awkward.  And dumb.  Like, "of course you love your kid; you'd be a monster if you didn't."  But it is so true.  Not only that - mixed with amazement that God has allowed this miraculous, energetic, girly, silly little person to bless your heart each day - but having children has also given me a much deeper understanding of the Father's love for me.  For you.  For us.  How His faithfulness and love and grace and judgment and discipline all coexist.  Perhaps that is why God invented parenthood.

Here are some pictures of what we have been up to the last few months. They sort of highlight her crazy, silly personality.

at my brother's wedding

Yes, she is wearing lipgloss. 
Holding Audrey's hand and telling her to sit still.

Telling Audrey "practice your walking by pushing me in this wheelchair!"  Awesome.

The girls love reading  and snuggling with Daddy
Fourth of July love

"I love the beach! And Pinkalicious! And dancing! And tutus!"

"Mom! Enough with the pictures!"