I am moving with Danielle. Well, not exactly. I'm moving to Word Press with Danielle. You can find me at ordinarymother.wordpress.com. Or, just click here. By the way, if you are using bloglines, you will need to add the wordpress account. Can't wait to show you my new place!
I finally tamed the beast...my linen closet. And I will admit to the fact that several times yesterday I opened my organized linen and just stood there admiring it. Sweet order...even if only for a little while. While I was working I remembered one of my favorite organization tips found in one of the many home management books I read during a strange obsession.This obsession was more with the books than the actual organizing, but still, there were a few things I did adapt that have made my life easier. One of them is how to keep your bed linens organized. Fold your fitted sheet, top sheet, and other pillow case (if there are two) , stack them, and put them inside the other pillow case. It's like a little pouch. When you go to make a bed you just pull out the linen pouch and voila! it's all there. It doesn't look perfect, but it sure beats trying to track down the matching miscellaneous linens, and it definitely looks better than my version of folded fitted sheet. Here's what it looks like in real life.
I said I would share a few thoughts from the retreat I attended a couple of weeks ago, but my good intentions were swallowed up by all-things-ankle-surgery. In fact, where last month I had serious blogger’s block, it seems this month I have tons of things I want to write about or pass along. Today’s pearl of wisdom comes from the teaching Dave Harvey gave entitled What Does Women’s Ministry Mean For Me? Though it was directed to pastor’s wives, the first point has universal application to Christian wives and mothers. That point was stated like this: “The primary role of the pastor’s wife is to serve and support her husband and family.” Dave continued to say “Husbands and kids are the first & most important responsibility. Therefore they deserve your first & best effort.” This means the first and best of my time, talent, creativity, and energy should be spent on my husband and children. This means that every other good pursuit (exercise, blogging, entertainment and leisure, even other aspects of ministry)* will have to get second best or lower. Perhaps the most helpful insight was when Dave pointed out that the fatal flaw of feminism is that it assumes women have multiple best efforts. This simply isn’t true. We can buy into the Christian version of this lie and think that we can “have it all”. We can host play groups, make meals for others, go to the gym, decorate the house exquisitely, have a little home industry, etc.* But the truth is, if any of the good things in that list begin to infringe on my first & best effort, I am not effectively doing what is my primary calling: to serve my husband and children. I love how Dave finished this section of the teaching. He said, “Your first and best effort in the home releases him [my husband] into the field in an undistracted way.” My commitment to giving Jason and kids my first & best directly impacts Jason's work, which happens to be ministry. I truly want the best for my husband. At the same time I feel this constant pull to invest my creativity in such a way that others see it and say, “wow, she is really creative!” I want to exert energy on the things I enjoy: writing, cake decorating, hospitality, reading, etc.* In fact, many of these things begin as an attempt to give Jason and the kids my first and best, but they morph into complex and extravagant entities in and of themselves…before I know it, I forgot to feed the kids lunch because I was too busy making a fancy birthday cake for them; or I gave Jason only half of my attention in a conversation because I was really wanting to read this article on being a godly wife. How can I who am constantly bent towards self-orientation – to the point of turning things that seem others oriented into something about me – really give my husband and my family my first and my best? I can only think of one way…because another gave His first and best. The Father gave the Son, a perfect sacrifice, to atone for my sins, and clothe me with Jesus’ righteousness. Because of Jesus’ death my sin which pulls me in to myself, is forgiven. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I can have victory by His grace and strength to serve out of genuine love for others, beginning with my husband and children. *I want to be sure that my readers know that these are my issues. They might not be yours. I would hate for anyone to feel unnecessary guilt if they are pursuing these things. In truth, your husband is the one who could best tell you if certain activities aren't serving him and the family. I only give specifics to help make the abstract more concrete.
...your mother asks you to get her a screw driver and you say, "flat head?" ...you bring your mother a live frog and say, "isn't he cute?" (yeah, no problem kissing frogs for my little princess). ...you come upstairs and calmly tell mommy, "I think I have a bug behind my ear." then proceed to remove a tick and hand it to her. (I have heart palpitations just typing this. I'm okay with all bugs and spiders except for ticks. Ugh!!! and yes, I called the pediatrician about the possibility of lyme's disease and she said because it didn't embed itself -ew!- she should be fine...but I'm still checking her body nightly for a red bull's eye mark). That's my girlie!
I find myself living in the, “someday, when I get my act together I’ll…” mode often. It consists of this little fantasy world with visions of me doing all kinds of stuff that the real me just can’t seem to do. I find it frustrating to not know what the magical catapult to hurl me from here to there is. I was sharing this frustration with my husband who gave me some very wise counsel that I want to pass on. He said something like, “we often want the big grand moment when permanent change will take place and we will have our acts together, but our pride could never handle that. So God gives victory in the little things instead, but we are too often looking for some huge change and don’t notice the grace in ‘little’ victories.” He went on to tell me about something he saw on Antiques Roadshow (we love this show, me for the antiques; Jason for the history as well as the rush from seeing someone’s yard sale bargain turn into a retirement fund). A woman’s mother died leaving her a travel trailer and its contents. The contents included a small, simple painting of a sailboat race. When the appraiser informed the woman that its value was over $100,000 the woman just started crying and said, “if only my poor mother knew what she had…” It wasn’t a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh. Indeed, we don’t even know the author’s name, and certainly had never seen this piece of art before. But it had far more value than the owner realized. This is what our lives are like. There will rarely be “Van Gogh art” moments when we finally have our acts together. If we go through the day looking for Van Gogh, and don’t see the simple work of art hanging in the trailer, we are poorer for it. Father, please help me to see the amazing grace at work in my life and in the lives of those around me each and every day. This grace comes because of the Gospel. Help me not to be ungrateful for the small steps in the right direction, or arrogantly assume they are just me doing what is expected, rather than the Holy Spirit at work in and through me, again, because of the Gospel. Help me to have eyes to see Your artwork in the everyday events of my life, to the praise and glory of Your grace given through the Gospel.
Imagine for a moment that your city were surrounded by enemy forces who aimed to destroy you. And you are aware that enemy sympathizers live and work in the city with a view to undermining the city's defenses. And suppose you discover that there is song which the enemy and their sympathizers cannot tolerate or approach. Whenever they hear it, they pull back and run the other direction. Isn't it certain that you would want to learn this song? And after you learned it you would sing it when you went to bed at night and when you got up in the morning. You would sing it on the way to work, and whenever you were among strangers. And as your confidence grew you would even venture outside the city and sing it as you walked boldly through the enemy lines on your way to another town. The more deeply imbedded in your mind the song became, the more steady and deep and serene and fearless your life would become. Others would see and hear and learn the song from you. And in the end you would conquer the enemy, and there would be no threat at all. Well, we are surrounded by the enemy—namely, Satan and his forces. He is "the father of lies" (John 8:44). His weapons are deceit and delusion. His aim is the destruction of your faith and love. And there are enemy sympathizers inside the city of our own souls—namely, the desires of the old self. And there is a song that Satan and his sympathizers cannot tolerate or approach—namely, the song of thanks to God. –John Piper from Guard Yourself With GratitudeI find the battle raging today. The old self with its tendencies toward grumbling and complaining, self-pity and selfishness conspires with the Enemy who tells me my help comes from a change in circumstances, or escape from my duty here. I am grateful for the reminder that gratitude is a guard for my soul today. Beyond the immediate very tangible and abundant mercies around me, I am grateful for the source from which they come: my Savior, Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life, never grumbling or complaining; never indulging himself rather than doing his Father’s will; always giving pity to others not Himself. He died my death. He took upon Himself the punishment my grumbling, complaining, disobedience, and self-pity deserves. I now stand forgiven, justified, and adopted. I who am weary today come to Him who is gentle and humble in heart. Gentle, humble in heart, and yet ruling and reigning in power and wisdom and authority…seated at the right hand of the Father. Worthy of all glory and honor and praise is He. How grateful my heart is for the beautiful Savior. Ah, sweet peace!
I have been on a quest to find a really good banana bread recipe. I used to have one that called for cooking oil as opposed to butter that was moist and delicious, but I lost it somehow. Well, yesterday I found a similar recipe online. It's too good not to pass along. Really Moist Banana Bread 3 c. sugar 3 eggs 1/2 tsp. vanilla 3 c. bananas, or more (I use 5-6 bananas) 2 tsp. soda 1 1/2 tsp. salt 3 1/2 c. flour 1/3 c. water 1 c. oil 1 tsp. cinnamon 1 c. nuts (we do chocolate chips instead of nuts) I mixed the wet ingredients first, combined the flour, soda, salt separately. Added dry to wet. Stirred in chocolate chips last. Makes 2 large loaves of bread. Put in 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
I wrote this yesterday... I am sitting in the waiting room of an outpatient surgery center. Jason just left donning his gown, robe, slippers, and fancy hat…no, he would not let me post the picture I took with my camera phone. It occurs to me as I type that in the kindness of God, I am going to have opportunity to grow in the very area I experienced conviction over during one part of Girlie Time last week. Let me give a little bit of background first. I attend a church that teaches, encourages, and affirms biblical womanhood. I can articulate our beliefs about this. I am excited about these beliefs. I aspire to conform more and more to what I believe. This is a work of the grace of God. Given my selfish pride, the fact that I find femininity as biblically defined appealing, beautiful, and desirable is absolute proof that miracles do happen. However, I have noticed that there are inconsistencies between my profession of belief, and how it functions in my life. I know that this will be the case for as long as I live here dragging around a body of flesh, but still – in this particular area it seems easy to look at certain externals and think that I am living this whole complementarian thing, when really in the day to day there are ways I operate as an "equal in function" type wife. One inconsistency I am aware of is a recurring pattern that is perhaps the byproduct of distorting Jason’s call to “servant leadership” in the home. You see, Jason excels in serving, and I excel in being served. What’s the problem?! I remember when it first dawned on me that there was a “problem”. I was in the kitchen at that dreaded hour when the children go bonkers, I make dinner, and Jason runs late at the office, and I caught myself thinking (or perhaps the Holy Spirit helped me to hear my own thinking), “I can’t wait until Jason gets home to help me.” Now even more revealing than the fact that I wasn’t just happy to have him home because I am madly in love with him was the fact that I was functionally viewing him as my helper. The follow up thought was, “well, if my kids weren’t so close in age, and I wasn’t tired and pregnant , I wouldn’t be so dependent on his help…” (These thoughts look rather benign typed neatly in black and white, but were the emotions able to be translated in writing, they would be bold face, red, and all caps.) It is fitting and appropriate for Jason to serve when he comes home. The problem was that I was demanding this and taking advantage of his desire to be a servant leader. God in His mercy continued to bring conviction and clarity. At a marriage conference we sat under a teaching that included the phrase “masculine helpmate”. Ouch. This is what was happening. I am ashamed to say that there were many days in the early years of our parenting when I would call my husband, give him an earful about how hard my life was, manipulate a break from my circumstances, and functionally view him as my helper when he was at home. The difference between my fist twinge of conscience, and this revelation during the teaching was that Jason also heard the latter. What he always thought was simply growing in servanthood, was actually not serving me at all. It was, in fact, confirming the lie I was already believing that grace to serve my husband and family turned off at 5:30 pm. Because of Jason’s courageous leadership (and I use the word courageous for a reason), I have seen change taking place. The phenomenon of counting down the minutes before my helper arrives is not as common. Still, Jason and I find ourselves in this cycle from time to time when he seems to be serving me to the point of indulgence, and I am taking advantage of his willingness to serve me. In this season it is manifested in the realm of him taking on domestic responsibility to fill in the gaps where I'm lacking. So here, in the waiting room, I anticipate what is sure to assist my fresh resolve to give Jason my first and best effort. He takes such good care of me, I am happy to be able to serve him rather extensively for a while, and re-align my heart to be his helper, not the other way around.
Everything went well today. We are grateful to God for His kindness to us. We survived the surgery...and the drive home! We thought it funny (?) that the nurse labeled his ankles "yes" and "no" prior to the surgery. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf.
Basketball and Jason have a rather toxic relationship. Just three years ago, after tearing his ACL and PCL while playing basketball, Jason had knee surgery. Today, he is having ankle surgery to remove a bone chip, re-attach and tighten ligaments, and something else I can't remember. How did he injure his ankle? Basketball, of course. I have to say that I respect my husband's commitment to this sport that has treated him so poorly. Donned in braces and wraps he plays at 6am every Tuesday and Thursday. He loves this sport! I am praying that Jason's surgery would be successful, and the recovery as short as possible. We are both praying that God would be glorified in both of our lives through the process, Jason through the difficulty of not being able to get around easily and all that this involves; and I through the opportunity to serve my husband in a more pronounced way especially over the three or four days he will be completely out of commission. If you have a moment, will you join us in our prayers?
Last week I spent three days in a hotel enjoying a retreat with other pastor’s wives from the region of Sovereign Grace churches Dave Harvey oversees. The kindness of God, expressed in the kindness of the ladies of CFC opening their annual pastor’s wives retreat, was evident in many ways. Slippers. Yes, slippers were one of the creative ways Kimm Harvey sought to bless us and make us feel like this is just one big slumber party. We didn’t call this a conference, or a retreat. We called it “girlie time”…and from the pretty name cards, Victorian centerpieces, gift bag (including chocolate, breath gum, and the sound track from Pride and Prejudice), laughter and tears…girlie time was the perfect name. Kimm Harvey is truly one of the most personable individuals I have ever met. She set the tone, and sustained it with her sincere desire to bless us, as well as her love for a good time. Many thanks to this lady who worked so hard and served us so well! Seriously out of place men. Aron Osborn and Dave Harvey provided the outstanding teaching we received bringing sharper focus to our role as women biblically defined, and more specifically with application to how this looks for pastor’s wives. Small groups. One huge blessing from the retreat was the small group I was blessed to be a part of. Each lady shared insightfully, articulately, and humbly. Wow! Talk about your dream discussion group…anyway, I am so happy to have had the privilege to get to know ladies that I have previously only seen from a distance. Scheduled personal retreat hours. Yep. Two block times were carved out of our schedule just for me, God, and a few good books. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Armed with Carolyn Mahaney's personal retreat outline, much coffee, and a God-given understanding of my desperate need for this time, I received much encouragement, refreshment, and direction for my day to day life. Sharing. Because I wish you could have all been there with me, I am going to hopefully do the next best thing and share some highlights over the next few days. This is to help me as much as you. It is amazing how already, less than one week later, it is already a bit foggy. I look forward to sharing with you what God showed me during those cherished days. Whether it is insights from ladies in my growth group, parts of the teaching that I found helpful, or my personal responses to both of those things, I hope to pass along at least a little bit of the grace imparted to me through this retreat.
Okay, if you haven't been yet, you'll need to read "gentle sobbing" in order to understand this explanatory post. Here are a few facts to consider now that you've heard the story...true story, mind you. First, we laugh about this story with Marilou pretty much at some point during every staff wives growth group. She is a good sport, but thinks we're all crazy, which leads me to my next point. Second, the passengers involved in this story, aside from shotgun riding daughter, are freaks in the car. We are all very nervous drivers, and even more nervous passengers. What Karen so innocently described as "bringing a magazine with her to share for our amusement" is really her coping mechanism when riding in anyone's car. Karen has been known to read grocery receipts in the car to distract herself from even the best of car rides. And I, I mean, Laurin...have posted about my own nervous tendencies to slam an invisible break or gasp out loud spontaneously when riding in cars with other drivers. So keep this in mind as you read Karen's view of the whole thing. Third, we all had a wonderful bonding moment that night...that's what happens when you have a near death experience!
Yahoo! Karen wrote the story about our near death experience on the way to Gaithersburg last year. You can read it right here. Thanks, funny girl. I truly am grateful for a friend who provides "good medicine" to my soul on a regular basis. You will be sorely missed at the retreat this week...and by the way, guess who ISN'T driving us there?!
Two of my favorite things are converging: Girl Talk and reading. Looky here! Maybe this is pushy, but I have a few requests for my bloggin' buddies to write about the following things: 1. Karen Hevesy (who last night described a mullet as "business in the front, party in the back") please blog about our near death experience on the way to the CLC Titus 2 Tuesdays last year. Everyone, leave comments in Karen's blog begging her... 2. Danielle, please write that post about fashion. For those of you who don't know her, Danielle has fantastic taste in all things, including clothing...feminine, stylish, and modest. 3. Any of you homeschooling moms...could you blog about your educational philosophy, curriculum choices, what you've found helpful. I would love to hear all about it!
beginning the day with a little love for Caleb. Sweet Birthday Girl (This cake came together with the combined creativity and brain power of my sister-inlaw, Ab; her mother, my friend Tracey; and me.) cool corn picture My friend Briana introduced us to our new corn on the cob obsession. You peel back the husk, but keep it attached (wrap it with a rubber band). Then, roast the corn on your grill using the husk-handles to turn it (handles are not on the flame), then brush the hot corn with mayonnaise, and then roll it in a mixture of Parmesan cheese, chili powder, and garlic salt. Voila! Amazing corn that looks cool. blowing out the candles. Look how cute Charli looks in the background! Cute cousins! left to right: Daniel, Caleb, Josh, Sierra holding Charli, Maggs, Izzy holding Jack. Maggie on her first big-girl bike My five year old beauty! Thanks to Tracey for taking many of these pictures (any of the cute ones were taken by her...I took that first blurry one :). Coming soon: Party #2 - the Reyes clan. We had to celebrate separately this year because Abuelo and Abuela are in England.
Five years ago today, we woke up on the Fourth of July with sick boys. Coughs, runny noses, and fevers meant we wouldn’t be going to the annual church picnic at Brian and Tracie Young’s house. Frankly, being uncomfortably pregnant, I was not really in the mood to do heat, humidity, and…a bathing-suit! And just as an aside, how in the world do you preggies do the whole stay skinny except for the belly thing? I fight bitterness when I see how cute Tara and Jessica look. I get pregnant from my nose to my ankles, eat like a linebacker, and deal with the weight loss later. Anyway, back to my story. Even though my due date was July 9th, and my midwife said my cervix hadn’t changed at all, I was determined to do all that was in my power (which, we all know is absolutely nothing) to have another holiday baby. (Izzy was born on Thanksgiving Day – his birth story is the best complete with Jason getting stitches over in the e.r. while I labored in the maternity ward). We decided to take the boys to the mall so that I could walk…and walk…and walk. Nothing happened. We did all of the other things you read about to get labor going. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say mineral oil is best taken with a chaser of orange juice. We even drove on Singer Rd. (which we now call Maggie Singer Rd.) because I always had contractions going over the hills. I did start having contractions, but nothing in a pattern. Time passed and as the evening hours commenced I gave up on a fourth of July baby because I reasoned that even if I went into labor now, I would never have the baby by midnight…I do the whole get an epidural, slow down your labor thing. Then around 7pm I was on the phone with my sister when I had a rather strong contraction. This was random. My other labors were text book beginning with mild contractions for a while, then increasing in intensity and closer together in time. I had other little and big contractions but they were spaced erratically like two minutes apart, twelve minutes apart, etc. so I didn’t think I was in labor. By the time my inlaws came to visit I was contracting really well, and I have fond memories of Emily and Debbie timing contractions while I paced the living room. I told Jason they were five minutes apart and hurt pretty badly so it was time. The car ride to the hospital was crazy. I was having really bad contractions. I called everyone to meet us at labor and delivery because I thought I might be further along than usual upon arriving. We arrived at 9pm at 7 cm. Margaret Olivia Reyes was born at 11:10 pm, 8 lbs. 15oz to parents who had no idea she would be a girl! That was the best surprise of my life. I am so glad we waited to know what we were having (which was really hard for me, especially at the sonogram). I found out with my first three, but for this one – my last (?) – I decided to be surprised. I was overwhelmed at the kindness of God for a great labor and delivery, and a healthy baby girl. I still think it says something of God’s care for the little details that she was born on the fourth of July, less than an hour before midnight. Maggie is the girl of my dreams. She is sparkly, sweet, and feisty (a lot like her aunt Karyn). She is tender hearted, and loves to sing songs about Jesus (that she makes up herself). Panera Bread is her favorite restaurant. What five year old do you know who orders an asiago cheese bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese? She has coffee parties, not tea parties (pretend of course, but if I let her, she’d be a coffee junkie like her mama). Her favorite color is pink. She loves Target, like her mother., and shares my affinity for fun shoes and purses. Maggie is my little helper. She enjoys helping me cook, and sets a beautiful table for tea/coffee parties. She loves getting flowers from daddy and brothers (totally upstages mommy on the ooing and ahhing). All of this, and she can wield a light saber, tackle her brothers, and loves mini-coopers, p.t. cruisers, punch buggies, and jeeps. That’s my girl! Happy Birthday to the princess of the family! Happy Birthday to my little sparkler! Happy Birthday to my Maggie Doodle Dandy! (Party Pics coming soon!!!)
I am not a good legalist, but that doesn’t seem to keep me from trying. Let me explain myself. I am not one of those capable types of gals who got straight A’s in highschool, jogs 5 miles a day, keeps a house that is consistently in order, bakes her own bread, trains her children to read at age 3, and makes her husband’s lunches everyday, complete with heart shaped sandwich and note of encouragement. I know girls like these. They are amazing. I’m not accusing them of legalism, but if they had the inclination to be legalists, it would be understandable – they are good performers; they are achievers. I, on the other hand, consider myself the poster child of mediocrity, and that could be an overestimation. I made average grades, hate jogging, can’t open my linen closet without an over crowded towel or two tumbling off the shelf. My daughter can’t read, but knows her letters and sounds because of a leap frog dvd, the closest thing to homemade bread I make comes in a can, and my husband drinks a slimfast shake for lunch these days sans any little notes of encouragement from his wife. It would seem to me that my mediocrity would set me up nicely to know that I will only be able to do this life in a manner worthy of the gospel by the grace of God at work in me. Even more convincing should be the astounding number of failures I experience each and every day. But still, when I consider the standards of God’s Word with regard to glorifying Him as a woman, rather than consistently cast myself upon the grace and mercy of my Savior and pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, my reaction is often to reduce the standard to something even I, the mediocre poster child, can maintain. I get frustrated by the biblical principle, so I set my eyes on some practice that I can do without the Helper. This is foolishness. I was reminded of this again when I read an article by Paul Tripp.
“The fool doesn’t need grace because he keeps telling himself that he is able. In order to convince himself that he’s able, he erects a human second-best standard that he can meet. That’s what legalism does. Legalism, in rejecting grace, erects a human second-best standard that I can keep.” Paul Tripp Wisdom in Counseling from the Journal of Biblical Counseling Volume 18, No.2; Winter 2001If this is foolishness, what is wisdom? Again, Dr. Tripp is helpful.
“The wise man is not afraid of his inability, because he knows that Christ’s grace is sufficient. However, the wise man is afraid of the delusions of human strength, because those delusions will keep him from seeking the grace of Christ. The wise man can glory in weakness because he knows of the sufficiency of Christ. The wise man is approachable, able to be corrected. The wise man is humble, waking up every morning saying, “I am a person ingreat need. Thank you Lord, that you are in my life. There’s hope for me.” (from the same article)When my capacity collides with my calling as a wife and mother in particular, my reactions can range from self-pity (poor me, I’ll never get this thing right!), anger (why am I not changing!), legalism (hey, I may not be loving my children with a tender affection right now, but I did take them to the pool today) or humility (God, I need You). In other words, I can be a legalistic fool, pursing a pitiful standard that I can keep, or I can be a wise woman casting myself always on the mercy and grace of God. So the next time I try to run with the achievers and end up either crashing and burning, or seriously simplifying the course, may I see my foolishness and run to the throne of grace, boasting in my weakness the entire way.
I’m wrapping up my scheduling posts today because, well, because I’m tired of writing them, and you’re probably tired of reading them. Here are my concluding thoughts: 1. The schedule has helped make sure certain things happen in the Reyes home that wouldn’t otherwise (okay, I’ll admit, brushing teeth was part of our schedule). 2. The schedule was interrupted, changed, and adjusted every single day. This is fine – no nervous twitches from me. 3. Although there has been more order in my home (primarily due to the fact that I am back on schedule) scheduling wasn’t a magic pill that solved all of my children’s discipline issues…or mine. 4. Having said number three, I am amazed at how much boredom plays a role in the arguing that takes place in our home, and the schedule has helped us here. I’m not on the smooth path to scheduling by any means. I want to say that this is a new habit for our family, but it is too early to make that conclusion. Maybe in a month I’ll update to say if I’m really still doing this or not. Thanks for the additional accountability. It was easier to stay on course knowing that I’d be blogging about it at some point! And thank you to anyone who prayed for me, the grace was evident and amazing. Not being one of those orderly, scheduly folks, I can easily attribute any ability to have a schedule to the grace of God alone.
Well, let's just say that the kids weren't exactly thanking God for the schedule yesterday. In fact, several times I was met with complaining as I sought to keep us on track. The rain hasn't helped matters either. In the afternoons they are confined to the house as opposed to pool time or outside time. Though I'm often amazed at how long my kids can keep themselves entertained, this chunk of time just begs to tempt them to boredom (meaning bickering soon to follow). I asked my friend Kathy for any suggestions as to how to fill the time. She reminded me of my own centerpiece idea, doing a craft, writing notes or cards to great grandma who just arrived last week, etc. These are great ideas that I will try to implement. Today we went to my mom's to visit, then came home and made centerpieces for the dinner table out of clay (including a cake, bounty hunter, soccer goalie picture, and lego house with fan on the back). I guess it would have been unrealistic to expect my children to perfectly submit to the discipline of a schedule day after day, but even with the resistence I met today, I will say that they responded quickly to my explanation for why we were doing what we were doing. If you are beginning to schedule, or getting back on a schedule like I am - be encouraged that I still say the benefit is outweighing the challenge. Does anybody have ideas for easy crafts to do with my children? Pleeeeeeeaaaaaase leave them in my comment box, I beg you!
Saturday, a group of men from the church came over to help build our deck. I am overwhelmed at the sacrificial servanthood these men and their wives who released them, displayed. The double blessing was that my boys were able to see biblical manhood in action, not just through daddy, but through a group of other men with skills daddy doesn’t have. How kind of God to provide the church to give more examples of what it means to be a humble servant leader. These guys were amazing with my boys. They let them participate and patiently taught them how to hammer, use cool tools, etc. This was not on our schedule, but it was on God’s schedule, and I am grateful for His provision of role models through a group of hard working, humble men. Thanks to any of the wives who might be reading this. You are my heroes as well. Releasing your husbands on their day off to build a deck is a huge sacrifice, and one I don’t take lightly. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
Friday's theme was definitely fatigue. It isn't that I'm doing anything all that difficult. But in order to keep the kids on a schedule, I have had to get more vigilent with my own schedule (back on track with rising early, getting the housework done as opposed to putting it off like I was before, etc.). So what I'm trying to determine now is if I have been overly ambitious on a few of our days, or if my body is just going through an adjustment period. I'll know more after next week. I was so grateful for the final article Carolyn wrote about scheduling. She quotes D.A. Carson
“So many Christians today identify themselves with some ‘single issue’ (a concept drawn from politics) other than the cross, other than the gospel. It is not that they deny the gospel. If pressed, they will emphatically endorse it. But their point of self-identification, the focus of their minds and hearts, what occupies their interest and energy is something else” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 63).”Sheduling, though it is proving to be a huge blessing, is not my "single issue", and I pray it doesn't become such. I hope that though I have spent time blogging about my adventures into schedule world, that I have not in any way made other moms feel badly if they aren't having a schedule, or feel discouraged because as they've implemented their schedule it hasn't gone as smoothly. Because I am just starting with the schedule, it is requiring a lot of mind-focus and energy, but I anticipate that as it becomes a part of the rhythm of our lives it will be less consuming. The other part of Carolyn's final exhortation that was helpful was that a schedule must be implemented humbly. I don't want to attempt this in my own feeble strength. I can see where in the beginning, I was acutely aware of my need for God's help to do this. Now, even in just a few days, I find myself praying less and less throughout the day for help and stamina. How kind of God to remind me through Carolyn's words, that pride is emerging in the form of self sufficiency, and it will lead to a fall. But grace is near as I humbly remain dependent on Him.
On our schedule in the afternoon is a three hour block time to either run errands or go to our community pool, or do both. The pool is a challenge for me because while I'm there I'm tempted to be thinking about other things I could be doing right now that are more "productive". But I love watching my children enjoy the pool, and one benefit is that it is a block of time when they need little correction, and get along beautifully. Yesterday, however, I wanted to be more intentional about expressing gratitude for the luxury of having a pool in our community. I am grateful that my boys still want to show off for me. They say, "mom, watch this..." a hundred times, and I love it. I am grateful that my girl is really committed to being a good swimmer. I can't believe how hard she works to keep up with the brothers. I am really grateful that yesterday, I was able to meet other moms in the neighborhood. In the past weeks the ladies who were there seemed to be hiding in their magazines, I-pods, or naps, but yesterday there were two other twin moms there (one with 2 year olds looking very frazzled) and one with 12 year olds. There was a mom with three sons really close in age, like mine as well. So God provided many inroads for friendships with ladies who are regulars at the pool. Opportunities for the gospel will abound. So, what does this have to do with my schedule? If there was an area I was tempted to avoid doing, it was this whole pool time. And yet God in His kindness opened my eyes to see that this is about more than providing fun for my children, it is an opportunity to be out in the world among other mothers who may not yet have believed the glorious Gospel of grace. Even my desire to keep a schedule itself must be an outworking of the gospel in my life. By the Holy Spirit's work, I desire to reflect the image of God as a woman. The way I reflect His image is in being a helper to my husband. It helps him to have order in our home. The schedule is a way to keep things orderly and running smoothly. It all really does come back to the gospel. The gospel gives me a new heart that is free to serve others, primarily my husband. The schedule is simply a practical way for me to do this. And sharing the gospel with other women is to be part of my life as well...I just didn't realize how the two (schedule and evangelism) would meet - at the pool.
The theme for today seemed to be that the schedule needs adjusting. For example, today I babysat my niece and nephew as I do every Wednesday. On the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays in the morning we go to playground playgroup. This is the 3rd Wednesday so the kids had a huge block of time that was unscheduled. They play so well together that it’s not a problem, but later in the day we skipped our silent reading because they were enjoying building a tent and making stores in the basement. If I had thought it through better, I could have used part of the morning play time for the reading. I also think I need to schedule in snack times. No sooner do I begin vacuuming a bedroom when one of the kids comes up asking for a snack. By the fourth interruption, I find myself impatient and angry. When they were little I scheduled mid morning snack and late afternoon snack, but once they became more independent and I could just say, “get a granola bar out of the cabinet,” I stopped scheduling them. This will be an adjustment for my boys in particular. One of them is so skinny I hate to not give him food every time he asks, but I’ll be sure the snack in the afternoon is a big one, and maybe make breakfast and lunch bigger as well. My husband was helpful when I was explaining to him that though I am getting things done on the schedule, I’m not always doing them at the times allotted. I think it’s important to stick to the times pretty strictly at first, in order to create a “rut” of habit for the wagon of childhood to roll smoothly in (thank you Charlotte Mason). He said the schedule is supposed to serve you, not you serve the schedule. So, I am still enjoying the schedule and being able to direct the kids as to what is next, but I am seeking wisdom for where to put a few things on days that don’t follow a normal routine, as well as being sure the daily routine stuff is in the right place at the right time. Well, I gotta go...6 minutes til bath/shower time begins. If they go to the pool, do I really have to give them a bath? I'm thinkin' chlorine pretty much takes care of it, don't you?
I fully anticipated today would be our “baptism of fire” in getting into a routine. After all, school is over, and due to putting together a garage sale one week, and my back and shoulder pain the next (thanks to said garage sale) we just came off of two weeks of unlimited play time, more videos than usual, and lower standards for orderliness. Today, however, was not filled with complaints and resistance by the kids. In fact, I am happy to report that they were excited to have a special summer schedule. This never happens to me. I am the one who reads the article written by the mother extraordinaire, think to myself, “hey – that sounds great! I am going to do that!” And then, somewhere between that thought and the execution of that thought I find myself experiencing something so different from what was described in the innocent article. Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, and perhaps its past experience that makes me think of today as a sort of “honeymoon” period. I mean, really, in a brief discussion during dinner of things we were grateful for today one of my children actually said, “I’m grateful for our new schedule!” Okay, It’s only fair to admit that today’s schedule just happens to be the one day of the week that is particularly kid-centered. We went to a free movie at our local cinema, did the dollar menu with friends at McDonalds afterward, hit the pool, and finished the day with going to daddy’s softball game (at Beachmont Christian Camp –a.k.a. little boy heaven). This is an unusually “fun-filled” day, so of course they loved it. But still, they worked on their math facts, did their reading, and even helped with some of my housework. I think my experience tomorrow is going to give us all a better idea of what this whole scheduled life is like. But if it encourages any of you out there to jump in and try, I want you to know that the Girls are right, kids really do thrive on order and routine. What about me? The kids did great, but what about the Mom? Actually, all of my feelings were inclined toward getting some sense of order back in the home – so this helped. As I said before, my two anticipated weaknesses are that when I don’t feel like doing something on the schedule, it will be harder to implement. The area of legalism is also a concern. Today I believe I am truly considering it all grace that things went so well. There was, however, one point during the day when I sinned against one of my children (not schedule related), and detected that my heart felt less guilt than usual and deceitfully reminded me that “at least I have kept my schedule”. In a subtle way, I was using my good work as some sort of conscience anesthetic. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit immediately stopped me in my tracks and I was able to recognize the pride and legalism, confess it, and receive forgiveness. So I end this day full of gratitude for God’s kindness to me and my family in helping us be happy in following a schedule. I am grateful for so many fun things that happened today as well. And most of all I end this day aware that God receives all of the glory for any success we had. Until tomorrow….
When the Girls Talk, I listen. And the routine talk resonated with me because even before the first outstanding article Nicole wrote on the topic, I was beginning to see the need for the day to be better scheduled especially in light of school being over. I am going to do something brave this week. I am going to try to blog about my journey in implementing the Reyes Family Schedule. Why is this brave? Well, it’s brave because I’m determined to be honest about the process which for me and my children is going to be challenging. I decided to this for two reasons: first, for a bit of added accountability. My mom and a friend of mine named Kathy (extremely organized kind of gal) are my real life accountability partners here, but I can’t help but think that if I’m going to have to write a little something at the end of the day for my bloggin’ buddies to read there will be additional incentive to stick to the schedule. Second, I think it might help some others who are interested in the suggestion to schedule their children’s lives. Something about hearing another person trying, failing, and trying again helps. And third, I'm in need of a little inspiration for writing lately...this will provide plenty - perhaps more than you're willing to read :)! Mondays are my husband’s day off, so the schedule will begin tomorrow. I am making a few adjustments to it today, thanks to Kathy’s helpful questions. The primary challenges I anticipate encountering will be my “feelings”. If I don’t “feel” like doing the schedule, or if I don’t “feel” like tackling the potential discipline issues that will come up this first week, it will be hard for me to overcome those feelings or lack thereof and actually do what I planned. I also know my tendencies toward legalism and believe that I could turn this blessing of a schedule into a means for self-righteousness, or condemnation. This morning in Charles Spurgeon’s devotional, Morning and Evening, I was kindly reminded by God that the source for living a life that honors and glorifies Him is always the Holy Spirit. “Rich were the blessings of this day if all of us were filled with the Holy Ghost. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul it would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit's benign presence. As sacred oil, He anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his office aright. As the only truly purifying water He cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord's good pleasure.” So today, as I prepare to put my schedule into practice, I pray that the Holy Spirit would “anoint” my head and give me the “grace to execute [my] office aright.” I pray I would be dependent on Him (not my ability to implement a schedule) for purifying, sanctifying, and working in me to will and to do His good pleasure.
We were walking by an arcade in the mall and Caleb saw a lady with a feather duster cleaning one of the games and he said with great enthusiasm, “look mom, a cleaning game!” The funny thing is that he thought I’d just love playing something like that. We were listening to a Sovereign Grace worship cd in the car and one of the vocalists does a worshipful embellishment singing, “He washes me clean” referring to Jesus. Maggie said after hearing the line, “He watches me clean?” I thought to myself, “well, yeah, that too.”
Kenneth Maresco recently did a short series on training younger children called Nourish, Instruct, Discipline. The MP3 files are now available here. I am certain, based on teaching he has done in the past on the topic as well as the brief summaries given on the married life blog, that this is going to be extremely helpful to all who listen and seek to apply. And by the way, if you don't have children yet, or you have big kids - I encourage you to listen as well so that you may come alongside others who are in this season.
I have been a huge fan of skin-exfoliating salt scrubs for years now. They can be a bit pricey, so I was delighted when a friend of mine gave me a homemade salt scrub as a gift last year. I've been making my own ever since. It's really inexpensive and easy. Just in case you are not familiar with how to use a salt scrub, I'll give you the instructions for use before I give you the instructions for making it. Basically salt scrub is a moisturizing exfoliant. You use it all over your body (or just arms and legs if other skin is sensitive...definitely not face) in the shower, then rinse with water (or if you feel too oily, wash with soap afterward). Your skin will feel fantastic, I promise! Two things to remember, first, this isn't bath salt. You use it in the shower as a scrub. Use it before you shave, not after. That would sting like crazy. Used before hand will help give you a great shave. And if you're a self-tanning cream girl, the exfoliant is perfect to use before you slather that stuff on. 1. Find a suitable container. I use an empty container from a Bath & Body scrub I used before I started making my own. 2. Take Epsom salt (less than $2) and pour it in almost to the top. 3. Pour baby oil (less than $2) in with the espsom salt until the mixture looks like slushy snow. I add oil, mix, add oil, mix...until it's the slushy consistency I want it to be. (I use the end of an old toothbrush to mix) If you want, you can make this fancier like my friend and add color and fragrance. I have tried adding a bit of mineral oil in with the baby oil during the winter because my skin was so dry. I store the epsom salt and baby oil under the sink in my bathroom and use it whenever (I can make about 4 pots of scrub with one bag of salt, and one bottle of oil). Also, I stick to baby oil because the fragrance doesn't compete with my perfume. Enjoy!
I am so excited about this little series Girl Talk is doing on scheduling/routine. I don't know how I would have made it through the baby/toddler years without a rather detailed schedule. Interestingly, as the kids have grown older and are able to entertain themselves better, I have used scheduling outside of meals, school, and my beloved blanket time (which is erratic of late)rather less. After reading Nicole's post today, I am thinking about devising a "big kid" schedule. This is our first week off from schooling, and I already have that miserable aimless feeling - I think my kids do as well. For their sake, and my own I think a summer routine is in order! Thanks again to the ladies at Girl Talk.
Ahhh, the Israelites. Just when I’m tempted to judge them for their chronic complaining, unbelief, and idolatry, I see my own face among the masses. Today I read Deuteronomy 11 where they are told to obey the command “to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (vs. 13). They are told that obedience to this command will result in God’s provision in watering their land, keeping it fertile, as well as military protection and victory. They are warned about the curse that will result from idolatry and disobedience. Like the Israelites, I am commanded to love God and serve Him today. It might look a bit different in my 21st century home. It may look like unloading and loading a dishwasher, or reading the last two chapters of The Matchlock Gun to the boys. It might look like praying for my grandmother, or inviting a baseball mom to church on Sunday. How amazing that these ordinary little acts can be expressions of love for God and service to Him today. Like the Israelites, I am tempted to be deceived by the lure of idolatry. It is more dangerous than setting up a little golden something or other in the kitchen because these idols are invisible and harder to detect. I can be cleaning a room of my house and be serving the idol of “order” and “productivity”, all the while neglecting the children I’m called to train. I can serve the idol of “comfort” and “ease” when I choose to read blogs over reading The Matchlock Gun. Idolatry is always at the door of my heart. This makes obedience to the command to love and to serve the Lord with all my heart and my soul very difficult…impossible except for the fact that… Unlike the Israelites, I can obey. Because God so loved the world, that He gave Jesus, His son, to die on the cross for my sins, I can now obey the command to love and serve Him. It is because Jesus loved and served first that we can now love and serve Him. What better catalyst to obedience is there than pondering the obedience of the Savior? What better motivation to love than beholding what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God! And what fuel for service surpasses considering the Son of Man not coming to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Yes, my face is in the crowd of Israelites listening to the command to love and serve the Lord. But my face is also turned to my Savior today as I seek to obey Him here in 21st century Abingdon, MD. It is by His obedience to the command to love and serve the Father perfectly that I have hope today to seek to do the same.
A pattern emerged when our children were younger. I would be with the kids all day. Jason would come home and play with them while I finished dinner. After dinner one of us would do baths while the other did some other thing, and then before we knew it - bedtime. It dawned on me one day how little time we all spent together during this season of our lives. It was like we were constantly giving each other a break due to the intensity of the season. So, before I give a few ideas about what to do with the little guys for family night, you must know that our family did these things more sporadically and spontaneously...not every week on a certain night. I would never want to portray myself as some sort of super-mama, when I know all too well that family night in the early years could range from chaotic to sanctifying for all involved. Therefore, it was inconsistent. A few ground rules: 1. Have reasonable expectations. Fun family night playing bingo or having a dippin' dinner is just around the corner, but with little ones you need to remember that their attention span is short, frustration level high, and capacity to just do stuff is limited. 2. Keep it short. A few ideas: 1. Family coloring. My kids just love it when Jason and I sit at the table and color with them. If they are still at the scribbling age, that's okay. We found that the boys liked the velvet poster things because it looked good no matter what the coloring abilities were. 2. For the brave: family playdough night. Same as family coloring, but with playdough. Just so you know, homemade playdough is much better because it doesn't break up into a million little crumbs (how do kids manage to make such a crumby mess with playdough, anyway?!) 3. Dippin' dinner variation: any meal on a picnic blanket watching a video is cool to little guys. It can be a happy meal, or pbj...if the entire family is sitting on a blanket calling it an indoor picnic, it will feel special.(even if your 2 yr. old can't sit still for five minutes :)). 4. A few fun games we played: Hide The Object: Make sure you have something (stuffed animal worked for us) for each child to find, then your older one won't keep winning. Make it really obvious so they don't get frustrated. You can do this fifty times and they won't get bored. Dance: Get out some funky dance music and dance with your kids. They'll love it. I explain our version (freeze dance) here. My kids love seeing us get down and boogie, though I assure you, it isn't a pretty sight. Simon Says without anything tricky. Just have them follow the orders. Sometimes just hopping on one foot can be a huge victory for the little ones. Bucking Bronco on daddy's back. I would count to see how long they could stay on Jason's back while he pretended to be the bucking bronco. Yes, everyone ends up hurt....but it's worth it. (Toughens up the boys! They beg for more.) The main thing is to just be together with your little guys. Even if you're doing something completely ordinary, just doing it together as a family, laughing and enjoying each other, is a culture you will build on. It seems obvious enough, but sometimes in the craziness of caring for their physical needs it is easy to really not spend a lot of time together as a family until they are older and more manageable. Even though it is different when they're toddlers and pre-schoolers, it is still so much fun...if you keep your expectations low, and time short! Hope that's helpful! Anybody else want to chime in?
Like most of my ideas for the kiddos, this is borrowed from a number of moms I know who do some variation of Dippin' Dinners. For family night sometimes we spread a picnic blanket (vinyl top) on the floor; put small bowls for the dippin' (ketchup, honey mustard, bar-b-que, and ranch dressing) in the middle of the blanket; arrange the various finger foods around the dips; give each person a paper plate, juice pouch, and napkins, napkins,& more napkins; put on a movie and voila! We have Dippin' Dinner! Our favorite menu includes the following: pizza bites, corn dog nuggets, chicken nuggets, baby carrots, cucumbers, and green peppers. I'm sure there is a healthier variation. My sister does fancier appetizers with her kids who are older. Also, if we weren't so messy, we'd play a game instead of watch a movie. At our season, we can't dip and do a game at the same time. Some time I want to do a dippin' dessert with marshmallowshmellows, and pound cake. What do you do for family night?
Two men. Two boats. Two different kinds of tired. I have often considered these two men sleeping in boats when I come to the end of my day and find myself exhausted. We find Jonah asleep in the boat as he tries to run from God’s will for his life. “But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.” Jonah 1:5 I have been like Jonah, trying to take the socially acceptable “boat” away from what God has called me to in the home. Maybe it is the S.S. Blogger, or the S.S. Book, or the S.S. Target, or the S.S. Telephone. Maybe it simply laziness, or doing what I feel like doing as opposed to doing what needs to get done. Even though blogging, reading, shopping, and talking on the phone are as innocent as a boat ride in and of themselves, I know in my heart when I am using them to escape God’s will for my life. It is strangely fatiguing. In striking similarity and contrast we see Jesus asleep in a boat. “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.” (Matt 8:24) He was tired for the opposite reason Jonah was asleep: He completely obeyed the will of His Father. I obviously can’t claim to be like Jesus here. But, by His grace, there are days when I am completely exhausted for very different reasons. I remember Douglas Wilson saying something to the effect that mothers of young children should feel tired each day, it means they’re doing their job right (does anybody have this quote?). Indeed, when I do my job (calling/ministry) over here, it is very tiring. There is nothing wrong with being really, really tired at the end of the day. It could be an indication that I am doing what God has called me to do. But when I come to the end of my day, what brings rest to my soul is the same regardless of my performance: Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father, and His perfect obedience has been accredited to me. It is in His righteousness that I go to bed each night…not my own. Ahhh, such peace and rest is found here. The One who could say to the raging seas, “peace, be still” has said these words to my heart on my best day, and my worst. The Prince of Glory, who had no need to ever sleep or slumber, humbled Himself to be clothed in human frailty and as we see here, feel exhausted. Astounding! Why would He do this? Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father in his life, and in His death on the cross in order to save us from our sins, and bring us to God to the praise of His glory alone. Now, because of His work on my behalf, I can climb into the boat of obedience today. And when I lay my head down tonight, hopefully exhausted in the right way, I will find my rest in His work, not my own.
With all of the rubbish you find on the world wide web, it is always nice to be able to pass on something that is helpful. I recently began using my laptop for my quiet time journal, and now Bible reading. I thought I would never give up my fancy journals and pens - but it is so much more practical to keep one place for everything. I can cut and paste verses and quotes into my to-do list (I think I got that idea from Carolyn Mahaney, but i'm not sure). Or if I'm e-mailing somebody, I can insert scripture more readily to encourage that individual. This year I am using D.A. Carson's For the Love of God companion book in order to read through the Bible in a year. I am loving this! He uses the M'Cheyenne schedule of reading. I found the ESV online has the M'Cheyenne readings here. I put it in my favorites and go there each morning. I never thought I would be able to read my Bible on a computer screen, but I've adjusted, and love being able to cut and paste sections of scripture into my journal for the day. Just thought I'd pass it along, I'm sure many of you already know about it. Also, I just subrscribed to bloglines. By subscribing to various blog feeds I am able to check my blogs much faster because bloglines tells me which ones have been updated. So now I'm not checking my favorite blog each day to see if they posted, bloglines does that for me. It's hard to explain, just go there, and trust me it will save you time on your blog reading. I also find myself spending measured time on blogs rather than clicking aimlessly here and there. I know some of you already use this and if you can explain it better, please do so in my comment box.
What makes homeschool day different from other days at Six Flags? What other day do you see more yamikas and Mennonite head coverings than baseball caps? What other day do I feel like we have a relatively small family? What day at the amusement park do you see more ankle length denim skirts than bikini clad teenagers? While we're on the topic of homeschool fashion, let me just say that I have never seen more color coordinated families in my life donning t-shirts saying things like (Bev, where's yours? :) ) Only at homeschool day would such things happen! All this to say, we had a fantastic time! We will do it again next year, Lord willing! BTW, how do you spell yamika? (hey, I wasn't homeschooled, what can I say?)
There is a rock gushing with water in my kitchen today. Actually, it is in every room of my home, in my mini van, even at Target, the library, and the doctor’s office. I was reminded of this rock reading Psalm 73 this morning. In verses 19-20 Asaph is telling a younger generation about the wickedness of their forefathers when they questioned the more-than-proven power of God to provide for them. 19 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. It is easy to look at the Israelites and think, “how could they…” And yet if I am honest, I struggle with the very same unbelief. Do I really believe that God has provided everything I need to live for His glory? Do I believe that God is able to change me, and my children to look more like Jesus? Do I believe that all that my heart craves can really be satisfied in Him? I say with man in Mark 9:24 “I believe, help my unbelief.” The hope for the Israelites and for me is found later in the psalm. Verse 35 says, they remembered that God was their rock. The Rock of my salvation is Jesus. Because He was struck, on the cross, living water flows to me. It cleanses me from my sin. It satisfies my thirst. I want to go there all day long. I want to bring my children there. I want to bring others I am in contact with there. God, please help me to remember the Rock gushing with living water today whether it is at a table in the wilderness, or the table in the homeschool room.
If you haven't read his book, When I Don't Desire God: How To Fight For Joy, you might consider listening to a series John Piper taught on the the same subject back in April. For whatever reason I can't get the archives to pull part one, but this link is for part two. You can find the parts at Desiring God Ministries Radio in the archives section. I highly recommend this book. It is one of my all time favorite Piper books (very readable!). But, if you have small children at home, don't prefer reading, or just don't have the time to read...consider listening to these teachings online instead.
I attempted the topsy turvy cake for Abby's surprise party yesterday. This time I didn't cover the entire cake in fondant because buttercream tastes better. But still, the fondant would have given a much smoother finish to the cake. I found a recipe for fondant that some people at the party actually liked. That makes it much less expensive to make these cakes as well. I used it for the bow and accent pieces.(Sorry the picture is fuzzy. I don't know why that happened!)
I wanted to publish the comment Briana left on my last post. It is evidence of the beautiful work of grace I have witnessed in my dear friend's life.
Laurie, Thanks for posting this. How true this is, and while my faith falters (you are well acquainted with what that looks like for me), I do stand back at times amazed at the good work God's doing in me and those around me through Judah's suffering. A while back I came across this quote from Spurgeon. It was short enough to remember, and its truth has never been more felt than in the last several days: "Happy is the suffering that loosens our grip on earth." When we came back from the opthamologist on Wednesday night and began to grow more acquainted with the intensity these last couple days were going to hold for us, I went to my book shelf and pulled out, "In Light of Eternity". It is clear that God has written eternity on our hearts. It is what we long for, and one of my prayers is that those who encounter us at Hopkins will get a taste of the longing in their own hearts for God and for Heaven by interacting with us.Bri, we will all be praying for you. Thank you for your example to us all.
This week Jason and I have been eyewitness observers of an extraordinary range of life experiences. Tuesday we visited our friends the Brittons who just had their first baby, a beautiful little boy named William. This Saturday we will attend the wedding of two young people from our church. On the other end of the spectrum, yesterday we went to a memorial service for a young man who died tragically last week. We also have been praying for our dear friends the Almengors who have been practically living at the hospital with their baby, Judah, due to unexpected elevated pressure on his optic nerve, causing a great deal of frustrating uncertainty as to why this is happening, and how to treat it. On the car ride between the memorial service and luncheon that followed, Jason and I were talking about the amazing fact that the joy of gifts like a child or a spouse, and the pain of severe trial like death or disease can have the same end: greater longing for God in Heaven. If we receive gifts and blessings and fall in love with the blessing itself, not looking to the hand of Love from which they come, we are more tied to this earth. Gifts are intended to increase our affection for the Giver, and thus increase our longing for Him. The ultimate blessing will be an eternity in His presence in Heaven. All of the good things we encounter here on earth are mere foretastes of what awaits us in Heaven. Pain and suffering also potentially create a longing for God. This world is fallen and full of trouble. Tragic events like the pain of losing a beloved son remind us that we are not home. We long for a better place where there will be no more tears of sorrow. We long for Heaven, not just from the relief of suffering, but for the joy of living in God’s presence. Trials and suffering wean us from this world, and help us to long for our true home: Heaven where the Prince of Glory dwells. I am well acquainted with the blessings of life. I pray that I will remember the Giver of the gift, and grow in love and longing for Him. Profound suffering is still foreign to me. Yet I know that if I live long enough, hardship will come my way. I pray I will be like Sandy and Sal Barranco, Lawrence and Briana Almengor, and so many others I have watched long for God more in the midst of suffering. May our hearts echo what we sang at Tim’s memorial service yesterday: You give and take away My heart will choose to say Lord, blessed be Your name.
I find myself putting her at the center of my life. I go to great lengths to see that she is comfortable and her life as easy as possible. When someone exposes her sin, I sometimes make her feel better by comparing her with others, or making an excuse for why she did what she did. I think she should be revered at times, even though she proves herself unworthy so often. Who is this mother I love most…ME, of course! I don’t want to love myself so much. Life goes spiraling out of control when I try to be at the center of it. Selfishness makes wife and motherhood a virtual impossibility. Yet I find the battle for my heart to be always raging. Many times I begin my day with prayers such as, “O God, please help me to live for You today. Help me to love Your glory more than anything else. Satisfy my soul in You that I might not look for inferior things to indulge myself with.” Then it happens. Life begins. One of the children wakes up early and my quiet time (you know, the time when I’m praying to die to myself, and live for God’s glory) gets interrupted, and immediately I am confronted with the choice between living for my favorite mother, or living for the glory of God. It is here, in the minutia of life, that I choose whom to live for everyday. Augustine said, “Every moment in every circumstance, we stand on the brink between the lure of idolatry and the delight of seeing and knowing God.” In circumstances such as, overhearing the children arguing in the basement I can either serve the idol of comfort and pretend I don’t hear anything, or see that God is in this opportunity and I (and my children) have a chance to know Him better because of it. It means that when my husband goes to play golf this afternoon, I either worship the idol of me, and make him feel he owes me something because he was gone for so long, or I find my delight in God and release him to enjoy the time with his friends. It means that choosing things that at times confront the “golden me” like doing the laundry, training the children, making my husband’s favorite dinner, can be opportunities to enjoy seeing and knowing God more. How is this possible? I know that the One who is truly at the center of the entire universe, the giver and sustainer of life, the only glorious One, came to earth in the form of a man. “and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:8-11 Because of His death on the cross, I am now set free to worship Him with my life, and love others instead of myself. Today, in the so-called minutia of life, I will stand on that brink between idolatry and the delight of seeing and knowing God. May I choose over and over to dive into that for which I was created: the joy of living for God’s glory alone.
She loved him first. She loves him deeply. She is my mother in law. I can’t say how many times I have thanked God for the faithfulness of this godly mother. Every time I see her influence in my husband’s life I truly have heart felt gratitude for Debbie Reyes. In His sovereignty, God graciously used the example and training of his mother (and father, but hey…we’re talking moms right now) to lead my husband to Christ at an early age, and train him in the way he should go. He was raised in a godly environment from birth, and claims to have been born on Saturday, in church on Sunday. His love for the church, and passion for God are the continuing legacy that started many generations ago, passed on to him by his parents. I have undoubtedly, the best husband I personally know of – don’t roll your eyes - it’s true! I attribute this to God’s grace at work through the influence of Jason’s mother. There are some things that I directly see evidence of Debbie’s influence on the leader of our home. I am grateful that Debbie taught my husband how to communicate with a woman. He never gives the one word answer or grunt as is so often portrayed in male stereotypes. He gives details, he asks questions. I know he learned this through consistent communication with his mother. I am grateful that Debbie taught my husband how to be a gentleman. He always holds the door open, and pulls out the chair. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to express gratitude for any way that I serve him. He keeps my gas tank full so that I don’t have to pump gas. He carries in the groceries if he’s around when we go shopping. He brings home flowers spontaneously, and goes antiquing with me (his love for history helps us here, but still his mother has always loved antiques). More than what she has taught Jason with regard to how to “treat a girl”, is what he has learned from her by example and training spiritually. I am grateful that: Jason is tender hearted, like his mother. Jason seeks God daily through His Word and prayer, like his mother. Jason is a servant, like his mother. Jason works hard, like his mother. Jason loves excellence, like his mother. My husband has learned much through the faithful example and training of his mother. I am blessed to be learning from her as well. How kind of God to provide another amazing example of a Titus 2 woman in my life. What a privilege it is to have lengthy conversations of great depth with my mother in law. What a blessing to observe up close her walk with the Lord. She is an amazing lady, and I am truly grateful for her. I love and respect you so much, Debbie. Happy Mother’s Day
If you didn't catch it on Girl Talk, this is what I wrote to honor my Mom this year. This year, I don’t honor my mother for how she has served those who come behind her; I honor her for serving those who have gone before her. My mother’s world changed dramatically last year. My parents flew back and forth to Las Vegas and New Orleans many times to attend to ill parents. In April of 2005, my mother’s mom died and three days later my father’s dad died. Just four months after that, the flood in New Orleans resulted in my parents taking in my grandmother Cannon as well as my severely mentally handicapped Aunt. My mother was to be the primary caregiver for both. Yet in a whirlwind of airplanes, memorial services, floods, and hospitals my mother stayed the course of humble servant-hood. The day before my grandmother arrived I remember my mother looking shocked and numb. We were packing away her dining room in order to make room for two beds and a dresser. The table where we had so many Sunday dinners was disassembled. The beloved Turkey dishes for thanksgiving were put away. Every piece of silver and crystal was wrapped in paper and stored in the garage. My mom would tell you that she mourned the loss of part of her life that day. My mother was weak, but this positioned her to receive power from God like I have never seen demonstrated in her life. My mom fed, clothed, bathed, and cared for my 54 year old aunt with the tenderness she had for her own babies. This was amazing to behold. To compare the fear and anxiety of the day before Aunt Cathy arrived to the grace that caused my mother to truly view it as a privilege to serve this way has affected me more profoundly than my mother’s example in any other area. My mother says over and over that God did this. She takes no credit, and stands amazed at the grace in her life. Part of the means of that grace was her unwavering commitment to study God’s Word and pray, something my mother has faithfully modeled in every season of her life since her conversion. Sadly, my aunt died just months later after succumbing to a battle with pneumonia. My grandmother moved back to New Orleans recently, but has decided she will eventually live in Maryland. Even as I type my mother sits in a hospital room in New Orleans caring for my grandmother as she recovers from back surgery. My mom doesn’t know how long she will be in New Orleans, but once again God is giving her power and strength to serve her mother-in-law. My sister and I have always called my mother a steel magnolia. She is from the south, and her favorite tree is the magnolia tree. Images of magnolias are sprinkled throughout her house as a reminder of her southern heritage. They are reminders to me of my mother. In the midst of intense heat, she stays strong like a magnolia. The source of her strength is not the bloom itself, but the roots of faith that dig deep to reach the streams of living water that are her source of life. I miss you mom. Thank you for your faithful example of humble servant-hood, perseverance, and pursuit of the means of grace. Truly words will always fall short for how much I love and respect you. The Magnolia Tree For my mom on mother’s day By Laurie Reyes The Magnolia tree in New Orleans Lifted up her limbs Toward the heat of summer sun Drinking daylight in. Never do the steel blooms wither Never do they fade Even through the fearful flood Her blossoms show their grace. Her source of beauty does not lie Within her hearty flower But the root that reaches For deep waters is her power So whether the day brings blessed rain Or blazing summer heat The steel magnolia thrives and drinks From a Fountain hid beneath. Such glory does the tree display In blossom laden bower Passersby can’t help admire Strength with Beauty’s power.
Karyn and I joke that I am her first born child. She says she still has a hard time believing that mom and dad didn't bring me home just for her. Karyn was four when I was born and pretty much, has loved me passionately from that time forward. I am grateful to be so loved! Even more than being the recipient of strong maternal love from Karyn, I am grateful for the example she is to me as a mother. It is hard to narrow down what I appreciate most about my sister as a mom, but probably the three biggest things Karyn excels in are how she enjoys her children, her laser sharp perception into their hearts, and her humble refusal to take any credit for her kids being so good. Karyn and Dan say that Sierra, 13, and Daniel, 10, are the other couple they do things with. Truly they would rather be with their kids than anyone else. From family game night to spontaneous trips to Ritas, Karyn and Dan are all about spending quality time with their children. This is not some compulsive duty that they read about in a parenting book. It is truly the result of not just loving her children, but really liking them. No one makes her laugh harder than her kids. The result is a family with extremely close family ties. Karyn, as the mother, has been the primary facilitator of the relationships this family enjoys. No one has taught me more about getting to the heart of a matter than my sister (who learned from my mother). Karyn is an astute observer of individuals. She never takes behavior at face value. From the beginning of mothering, Karyn has been diligent to discern the heart behind the issue. It is one thing to read about "shepherding a child's heart" in a book, it is another to watch it in action. I am grateful for Karyn's discernment, and counsel for my own heart as well as my children's. Probably the most important thing about Karyn as a mother is that even though she has really good kids (and believe me, they are amazing!), she always gives God glory for it, and sincerely believes it is only because He has been merciful in spite of her weakness. Now, I have just cited two strengths in Karyn's mothering, which I know are evidences of grace, but still - she appropriates this grace. She will be extremely uncomfortable being commended, because she is truly humble and counts it all grace. I want to be like her in this above all things. I want to humbly acknowledge that any success in parenting is the mercy and grace of God, not my ability to apply a few principles here and there. Thanks Karyn. I love you and am glad Mom and Dad brought me home for you!
Two of my favorite moms are my sister-in-laws, Abby and Emily. These ladies are part of my life by their connection to my brother and my husband, but I am happy to say they are part of my life as two of my closest friends. It is a joy to watch these young moms in action. And even though I walk a little bit before them in terms of life experience, in many ways they are walking ahead of me in character as mothers especially. Emily is Jason's younger sister. She has Iris, 3 (turning four in October), and Asher who just turned 1 last March (on Emily's birthday!). I have known Emily since she was 13, and what a delight to watch her walk through various seasons of life with such grace and dignity. She is walking in motherhood similarly. When I think of Em as a mom, two evidences of grace come to mind. First, Emily enjoys her children. She is always laughing at their latest antics, and has that sparkle in her eye anytime she sees, or speaks of her kiddos. It began in the hospital with IrisÂs birth. I have never seen a mother so euphoric! It will remain a precious memory for me seeing Emily rejoice profoundly, not just in her new role, but in her new baby. The second evidence of grace I see in Emily is that she has maintained an outward focus during the season of life that is accompanied by a temptation to be consumed with only "me and mine". She organizes special "girls' night out" throughout the year. She plans for close friends' birthdays. When our friend Beth lived in Boston, Emily would coordinate a gathering of friends to greet her when she came back for a visit. Even just in normal conversation, Emily will focus on the other person by drawing them out and showing interest in their life, rather than make herself or her kids the centerpiece for discussion. I want to be like Emily in these things. I am grateful to God for her example. Abby is my little brother's wife, and mother to Jack, who just turned three, and Charli, who is one (just three weeks older than Asher). If I could use one defining word for Ab as a mother it would be contentment. Abby is the most content individual I have personally ever known. This results in a peace and rest of soul that is a comfort to be around. There have been numerous times when this contentment has shined through. When Jack was born, Ab had a c-section that didn't heal properly. This made recovery much longer, and yet Ab did not complain at all. She graciously embraced the season with contentment and trust in God. After Charli was born, Ab and Jim were packing a house to move in with my parents while Jim worked very long hours on their newly purchased fixer-upper. Rather than grumble and complain, Abby did what needed to be done. She was content to move in with her in-laws, and continues to wait patiently for her own house, truly with no complaint. The reason the house has taken so long to fix-up has been due to the interruption of schedule by my grandmother and aunt coming from New Orleans last fall. My brother flew down several times to either get my grandmother, work on the house, or serve in various other ways that my parents were unable, taking him away from work on his own house (which was impossible to work on during winter months due to frozen ground). Abby did not complain about this shift of plans, but was fully supportive of Jimmy putting his efforts into serving my mom and dad, grandmother and aunt. More than not demand he work on her house, more than release him to do these things, Ab herself cared heroically for my grandmother in particular while my mom was caring for Aunt Cathy. Truly I am grateful for my precious sister in law who laid aside her life to serve others, in this case not just Jimmy, Jack, and Charli, but my grandmother as well. All of this with no complaint, but with peaceful contentment. I love you little mammas! What a joy to watch and learn from you both.
In light of Mother's Day I wanted to post a few things to honor some of my favorite moms. I wrote this post in January of '05, but hope it encourages all of the ladies out there who are heroically serving their families. It is an impressive group...including the likes of Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Scott Stam, and Gladys Aylward. These were the heroes of my single years. I dreamed of being like these ladies. I imagined myself in various scenarios like jungle huts, orphan asylums, ministry to other women, and maybe even writing a book to chronicle my adventures. These women made a difference in the world, an obvious difference. Echoes of their lives lived in consecration to God still ring in the hearts of many. Something happened, however, after I was married with children. My heroes changed. I don't know when exactly, but at some point I began to look around me at women in my church. Women whom I would have respected, but not thought of as "heroic". But now, now that I am doing what I am doing, and realizing how hard it is to do well, I view them differently. At the top of my list is my mother. Now I know how she laid down her life for our family each and every day for many years. My new heroes are my friend Kathleen who with three children three years old and younger, patiently cared for them day and night for years while her husband finished an advanced degree. She did it with little complaint. She did it well. Then there is my other friend Kathy who with as much savvy as any CEO creatively runs her house on a limited budget to release her husband to pursue full-time ministry even though it meant a cut in pay. There are other friends who live with chronic aches and pains, yet still do housework and care for their toddler in spite of the pain. The newest additions to my list of heroes are the homeschool moms. One of them homeschools children in high school, junior high, and elementary school, with a toddler under foot as well. Another has homeschooled long enough to graduate two children. The list of heroes is ever growing. What I find heroic about these women is that their lives are composed of hundreds of choices to either obey God and glorify Him, in the mundane, or live life for themselves. These are simple choices in most cases, but hard choices, redundant choices, and unappreciated choices. They don't make one huge grand decision that lands them in a hut in Africa, they choose to get up and make breakfast. They choose to do laundry. They choose to lovingly correct a child. They choose to give baths before bedtime, tell a story, sing a song. They choose to teach a disrespectful 15 year old who would rather go to school. They live their lives primarily for others. This is not to say that the heroes of my single years have become any less heroic. But it is to say that I now understand that even their lives that seemed so deliciously radical were composed of the mundane choices of life as well. They were able to do big things well because they faithfully did the little things well. Perhaps this is not a redefining of heroes as much as it is the redefining of heroic. To all of you ordinary heroes out there, I want you to know I think you are extraordinary! Oh how the grace of God is exquisitely displayed in your lives. I also want to remind you that even though what you do is done in complete anonymity, there is One who sees it all. How pleased He must be.
I found this post by Nicole Whitacre from Girl Talk to be extremely relevant for my life. She says,
After I’ve done a good work, I want to add it to my collection. I put it on my soul’s mantle and I polish it and step back to admire it. What a godly woman I am for doing such a good work! How nice it was to receive the thanks and appreciation of others! What a noble, self-sacrificing person I am! When I’m thinking like this, I’ve so missed the point. Good works are not an occasion for self-congratulation. They are a reason to marvel, once again, at my Savior. Only because of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross are my sins forgiven--not because of any good work I have done or will do. Only His grace motivates me to a life of good works. Only because of Christ’s mercy are my good works pleasing to the Father. Only His power sustains me for a lifetime of good works to His glory.On this day, I pray that as I begin to walk in those good works God has ordained for me, that I will be quick to understand their source - the Savior, not me; and their purpose - His glory, not my own.