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Thursday, October 31, 2013

As Seen On TV

I hate commercials. Like, seriously, I loathe them.

I used to think they were cute, funny even. I'd watch things like the Superbowl and the Oscars just to see what hilarious ads marketing execs had come up with that year. I'd tear up at the Publix Christmas know the ones I'm talking about. The family who is baking Christmas cookies and in the door walks Daddy-the-soldier in his fatigues, a true Christmas miracle, or the old-lady-widow who is alone for Christmas and all the neighbors pitch in and decorate her house and invite her to Christmas dinner. All in the world was right for the minute and four seconds that the commercial ran, and everyone who saw it had a case of the warm fuzzies.

Then I had kids.

Nothing irks me more (well, maybe a few things irk me more, but let's go with this for emphasis' sake) than when commercials come on during my kids' TV time.

Now, I know you don't let your kids watch any TV, that they probably spend most of their time exploring the great outdoors, collecting bugs and leaves and eating bark, or maybe they are in kiddie-Crossfit and are getting their active on. Perhaps you are raising the world's next Steve Jobs, creative-genius, and your little inventor just can't get enough of building circuits and blowing things up.

My kids watch TV.

Not all the time; they can play outside with the best of them when I lock them out the weather is nice. But I'd say, for transparency's sake, they watch at least one or two shows per day (please, no one tell Michelle Obama).

It always happens around the same time. 7:00am and my kids are up like little alarm clocks without a snooze button. They get their vitamin water juice and settle in to watch a show while I make breakfast. Power Rangers is their current favorite. I can always tell when the first commercial break hits because of the change of temperature in my home. My kids, who were sitting so quietly and relaxed on the couch imagining themselves morphing just like their Power Ranger friends, sit up straight and lock their eyes on the TV. They start talking amongst themselves excitedly. Foaming at the mouth. Then it starts.
Oh. No.
"MOMMY, you HAVE to come see this RIGHT NOW! Quick, it's gonna go AWAY! MOMMY! Come HERE!"
I walk around the corner from the kitchen.
"Yes, honey, what is it?" 
"MOMMY, it's a STUFFIE! I want one of those for my BIRTHDAY!" (Which I don't even try to explain is ten months from now.) 

"MOM, I NEED ONE 'cause it has SEVEN pockets that keep my TREASURES safe! 
After trying to explain that, no, unfortunately we are not going to be able to call that phone number up there and "buy some money to pay for one," as my daughter so wonderfully puts it, I head back into the kitchen to finish mixing up the pancake batter. Seven minutes later, commercial break number two hits.
"Yes, son?" 
"FLIPEEZ! It's the SUPER FUN action hat that comes alive right before your EYES! MOM, I NEED ONE! You squeeze the puff ball in the tassle and FLIP, FLIP, FLIP YOUR FLIPEEZ!"

"MOMMY! It's a SEAT PET! I REALLY WANT ONE! They make trips more fun to take, and my seatbelt will always be secure! My head won't dangle anymore, and I'll never ask you again if we're "there yet!"


Thank you, my As-Seen-On-TV friends, for nothing.

After explaining to my children that us not purchasing a Stuffie is not cause for weeping and moaning and utter misery, that it's really more of a first-world problem for a kid to have, back into the kitchen I go, back to my happy place away from the infomercials that suck my kids in product by product, enticing them to spend money on more crap they don't need.

It's easy to get on to my kiddos, to correct them as situations like these arise. It's easy to say, 'be thankful for what you have," and, "don't know you know there are starving kids in Africa?"It's easy to be pious, to be the one who, in front of my kids, practices an attitude of thankfulness and contentment.

Then I get alone.

I want stuff. I want trivial, stupid, wasteful stuff I don't need. I am not content. I am rarely satisfied.

Are you?

Maybe it's material stuff. Like, I really, really want a pair of FRYE riding boots, not because they're any better than other leather boots, but because they're FRYEs. I want some Luchesse cowgirl boots, too, you know, for all that cowgirl stuff I do.

I want a new minivan. Let me say, first of all, that yes, I do realize I wrote minivan, and yes, I do realize this officially removes me from the categories of all things cool. However, just being transparent, I want a new minivan. A pimped out Odyssey or Sienna with a DVD system (for my TV-watching kids) and a cool navigation system (even though I rarely get lost) and leather seats.

Maybe it's not material things that lure you away from contentment. For instance, I really want a hot body like _____. After three kids, skin is sagging in places I didn't know possible, my hips are large and in charge, and I'm not content with how I look. I very easily fall into the sin of coveting the way others look in their appearance. I want a magic infomercial to offer me a product to "fix me,' for appearances sake.

Maybe you want the life that other women appear to lead, the wonderful husband that _____ gushes on and on about, or the worlds-most-well-behaved-children just like _____. Maybe you want to be "more spiritual" and sought after for advice like _____. Maybe you still desire, like you did when you were twelve, to be a part of the "it" group.

Whatever your struggle may be, none of us escape this battle between discontentment and being fully satisfied in Christ. It's a war that will rage until the day we're perfected in Christ, and let me tell you, I can't wait for that day! It's exhausting battling with yourself, isn't it?

The Bible calls this attitude and condition of the heart, very simply, coveting.
COVET: yearn to possess or have (something), desire, crave, have one's heart set on, hunger or thirst for. 
Having STUFF isn't bad. We all have to have material things, emotional health, physical health to survive. However, the shift to coveting takes place when we remove the Lord from the throne of our hearts and instead place _____ there. When we yearn to possess _____ more than we yearn for Him. When we have our hearts set on _____ rather than on Him. When we hunger or thirst for _____ instead of hungering and thirsting for the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 16:19-21 
"Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household..." - Proverbs 15:27a 
"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" - Matthew 16:26a 
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." - 1 John 2:15
Contentment comes, not in having everything we want, or even everything we need, but in keeping an eternal perspective on our possessions, our hearts, our bodies, and our spirits. We will never have "enough" to meet the desires of our flesh. But we always, always have enough in Him. My prayer is that, when we stray into the alluring land of discontentment, the magnitude of how wonderful our God is will quickly draw us back to Himself.

This is not to say that I will never want stuff. In fact, right now, I want a Sham-Wow. And maybe a Magic Bullet. And maybe a Snuggie. One can never have too many Snuggies, and besides, it's for the children.

Feel free to laugh!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Legos and Life

It's 8:15am, and while in the middle of watching HGTV and eating bon-bons washing the never-ending supply of dirty dishes left for me in the sink I hear the shriek. You know the sound...the one that escapes a child's mouth and reverberates off the walls of the house for several seconds. The high-pitched, someone-just-gouged-out-my-eyeballs-type scream. I drop what I'm doing and run, soapy hands and all, to my four-year-old son's bedroom, prepared for the worst. I round the corner and find him purple-faced in the middle of his floor, about to pass out from holding his breath for 20 seconds. I run to him and gather him in my arms. I check for blood and teeth fragments (hey, it happens), and when I don't find anything amiss, I try to talk to him.

"Son, what happened? Breathe, baby, and tell Mommy what happened!"

I can't decipher any human language through the blubbering, snotty, hot mess that is happening and so I ask him again.

"What happened, buddy? Answer me!"

This time I gather a bit more information. "Foooooossssssttttteeeeeerrrrrrrrr something-something-something-something! WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Using my best mommy-detective skills, I insightfully gather that my youngest son, Foster, was involved, so I call him into the room.

He enters wide-eyed and angelic, the "what-me?" look plastered on his face.

After everyone (i.e., my spastic son) is calmed down, I ask one final time, "Boys, what in the world happened in here?"

Sutton, still upset, manages to finally get it out. 

"Foster picked up my Lego spaceship and broke the rocket boosters into pieces!"

Oh. My. Gosh.

All of THAT over Legos. That can be put back together. That are MADE to be taken apart.

It takes everything in me not to chastise my son for scaring the you-know-what out of me by reacting like he was being disemboweled. I hold my tongue and hug him for a moment, then I correct the offending party and ask him not to break his brother's Lego space shuttle again. Then back to the dishes I go.

Legos are kind of Sutton's thing. He has ten million of them, and he is forever building airplanes and cars, rockets and castles. He has even has a Lego table in his room with a huge drawer to store the ten million pieces.

In theory.

Ironically, more often than not I find Legos everywhere BUT his Lego table. In the washing machine. In my printer. Inside the travel-size shampoo bottle. The garbage disposal, the driveway, the bathtub, even in his sister's fish tank.


Nothing brings me closer to losing my religion than stepping on one of those little torture devices. If I really wanted to feel that much pain I could just go down to the garage, get a nail, and jam it into the arch of my foot.

I saw this meme the other day and died laughing, because it's true (let's all agree right now, though, to never show this to our children, because in doing so we will be giving them the upper hand):

Ultimately, I put up with the mess, the screaming, the arguing over who made the best Lego-version of Daddy, and more, all because my son loves his creations. They are his masterpieces, and he loves to build. He builds for our affirmation. He builds me Lego flowers. I want to encourage him to build, to be creative, to work hard when he has a vision for something.

So what are we building?

I have been studying the book of Haggai (yes, you read that right). If you're anything like me, I kinda thought Haggai was a big snooze fest, sorta an opportunity to let my eyes gloss over and my mind wander. It's a book full of "the word of the Lord came by Haggai," and "on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king," and "Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel." Even the prophet's name, "Haggai," sounds sort of dweeby. Yes, I know it's in God's Word and is therefore important, but I'm just being honest when I say that I liked to breeze over that book of the Old Testament in the past.

However, a friend has been teaching me some new study methods, and so I decided to dig into Haggai to see what I could learn. And learn, I did!

Here's a synopsis of what happened during the time of Haggai the prophet: After many, many years in Babylonian captivity, God called the Jews to return to Israel to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. Only a remnant of the people obeyed, and upon returning they realized that building the temple was going to be hard. It was a big job, and workers were few. So instead of obeying God, they put off the temple project and instead forcused on building their own homes and families and lives, even going so far as to say, "The time has not come...for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt." Which was untrue, because God had clearly shown them that it was, indeed, the right time. He wanted the temple built for his pleasure and his glory - he does not like the share the spotlight, and rightfully so. So, in order to gain their attention, God allowed a drought on their land, affecting their food sources, their animals, and even the people themselves. God used Haggai to help the people see the error of their ways, and the people ultimately obeyed God and began to build, and they experienced God's presence and his glory as he poured out blessings on them for walking in obedience.

I chewed on this for a while and took in the history. And then I prayed and asked God to show me how this related to me, today, right now, and I believe He spoke.

You see, all of us are building something. We are always building. Some of us are building careers, others families. Some are building stock portfolios and others social status. Maybe we are even building our physical images.

Building is not a bad thing, right? But the question is, who are we building for?

I believe God is calling you and calling me to lay down our own building plans for the blueprints drawn up by the ultimate Architect. I believe he is asking us to build toward something of value that's greater than the things of this world, to build toward something that magnifies his glory and not our ourselves.

Is there something you are sensing that God is calling you to? Maybe he's been nudging you for a long time now.

"Build my temple."

But it's hard. It takes time. Maybe the job seems impossible, too big to take on. Overwhelming.

"Build my temple."

Israel's temple was the place where God's glory was illuminated. What is God calling you to "build" to shine his glory far and wide? And are we so distracted by building for our own temporal gain, like the Jews who returned to their country from Babylon, that we have forgotten the eternal things God has called us to?

Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?" 
"Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified,' says the Lord."
"'You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?' declares the Lord of hosts. 'Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.'"  HAGGAI 1:3-9

Are we so concerned with our own "buildings," like my son and his Lego space shuttle, that they have become everything to us? 

We must repent. Lay down our earthly tools and exchange them for the ever-abundant tools of heaven.

Oh, that we wouldn't miss what he has for us. Not because we need to "do" more for him, but because, like my little one and his Legos, the joy is in the building when we're building for HIM. And our Heavenly Father gives us the chance to be a part of his story, a part of things that last and matter - eternal things

Kind of like Legos. They last.

Last time I checked Legos were not biodegradable. They are the gift that keeps on giving, probably for centuries to come. I find another one every day, usually with my foot, and in those moments I curse the world's Legos and beg the Lord to end my misery and beam me home to him.

Feel free to laugh!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Husband Can Beat Up Your Honor Student

I have to confess something. It might sound bad (well...since when has that stopped me?), but I always hate when people brag about their loved ones in an over-the-top way. Like the little honor-roll decals plastered on the back window of the SUV that really only serve to make the parent feel like less of a failure in comparison to the parents of degenerates, or the name-and-title dropping that occurs when women talk about their husbands' prestigious careers and exotic travel, or even what universities have sent acceptance letters to so-and-so's little pookie-pie genius. It's always such a shame, dahhhling, to have to turn down Yale, isn't it?

All that being said, I am now going to do the very thing I hate. And it's going to be obnoxious, so get ready.

Eleven years, eight months, and twenty-seven days ago, the most amazing thing occurred. 4288 days ago, my life changed for the best. 6,174,720 minutes ago, I said "I DO" to the kindest, gentlest, most servant-hearted man that I have ever known. I became the wife of Brandon Watts, and I count it among the best decisions I have ever made.

You see, he is, quite simply put, the best husband there is. And, for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure he can beat up your honor student.

I loved him more than words can say the day I became his wife, but I found an even deeper level of love and respect for him on October 9, 2007. That's the day our daughter, our first-born, arrived, and that's the day my husband became a father.

For anyone who knows Brandon, you know that he is the quintessential daddy. He loves his children well. He plays well. He disciplines well. He prays for them well. He cleans up after them well. (well, you can't win 'em all, can you?)

I will never forget the times I found him, shirtless, laying on the sofa with our newborn baby girl, giving her the desperately-needed skin-to-skin contact while they both dozed. The times he rushed home from work to help me when our son was so ill as a young baby. The countless instances when he rushed home from a full day at work to take over for me so I could go and sing, stepping seamlessly from the role of businessman and provider to father and caretaker.

His patience is astounding. Many times when I'd want to give up and throw in the towel in a hard parenting situation, he'd tough it out, stand his ground, and dig in his heels for the long-haul, determined to be consistent and determined to win. Because we, as parents, have to win. And win, he does. 

He is a creative disciplinarian...from picking up acorns and pinecones in the pitch dark and scrubbing the already-clean kitchen floor, to standing with noses on the wall and arms extended for minutes on end, he knows just what to do to speak to our children's misbehavior. And he loves them all the while.

The time he pours into shaping and molding our children's hearts moves me, makes me want to be better. He plops down next to them on the floor, and instead of a simple, "you did ____, don't do it again, and here's your punishment," he gets on their level, lays in their beds with them, and talks. And listens. He gets to the heart of the matter and doesn't just address the symptoms. He is interested in the root cause.

He demands his children's respect, and he in turn he has earned it. They love him. They adore him. And they fear him, in a very healthy way.

He demands that his children respect ME. This speaks volumes about his love for me. He will not tolerate hearing our kids back-talk me or lie to me. He requires my sons to stand at the dinner table until I'm seated.

He loves me.

And what's more, he loves his God. He wakes at 5:00am every day, goes to his office early, finds a quiet place, and prays. Prays for his family, prays for his wife, prays for himself. He prays for others, for wisdom, for direction. He is a praying husband, and often I wake up to find an email from him telling me the things he's brought before the Lord on my behalf that particular day.

My husband makes me want to be better. He has already made me better. He is the clearest, most consistent example of Jesus in my life, and truly fulfills the directive in Ephesians 5:25:
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her..."
He is the kind of father you read about in Ephesians 6:4:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
He lives out daily the examples of love outlined in 1 Corinthians 13: 
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
Thank you, LORD, for my sweet husband's tireless example of love. What a beautiful picture of You he has painted for me to see every single day!

And, because he is so wonderful, I won't mention that time when this ever-attentive father left the ladder up on the back deck (which he had used to clean the gutters) and didn't realize that our 3-year-old and 1-year-old had both escaped to the backyard during nap time. He soon discovered them, to his great horror, walking the peak of our roof like a tightrope, waving down at him on the ground yelling "hi, Daddy" in sheer delight. Mommy wasn't home for this little event. Naturally.

Feel free to laugh!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Hula-Hoop Space

So....newsflash: moms have no personal space.

The end.

I know this is shocking, and right now you’re reeling as you begin to comprehend the undiscovered truth of this statement.

Kidding. Right now, as you read this, your kids are probably hanging on your leg, lifting your dress over their heads, and touching your butt.

Or maybe that’s just what my kids are doing as I write.

My four-year-old perverted son has been enjoying his newest pastime, which I affectionately refer to as “pillow punching.” He loves to come at me when I least expect it, fooling me into letting my guard down by wanting to give me a “hug.” Then, when I spread my arms wide to lovingly embrace my little cherub, he sticks out his pointer fingers and pokes me full on in the breasts. Hard.

As of today, he is still a living, breathing member of our family. I cannot guarantee that this will be the case if the pillow punching continues.

My two-year-old constantly wants to “sit you lap.” I love, love, love to cuddle with my little fuzzy-headed munchkin, and enjoy nothing more than curling up with him in the rocking chair and tickling his arm as he chills in my lap. However, most of the time what he means by “sit” in my lap means, climb up in order to slide back down my legs and climb up again. And slide down again. And again. And again. I have a constant line of bruises on my shins from his “sit-you-lap.” My only defense against this fun activity is to not shave my legs for days on end, therefore leaving them too spikey to slide on. However, this is also punishment for me as my porcupine-quill leg hair wakes me at night when my legs rub together and stab each other to shreds.

My daughter, who is almost six, is in a rough-and-rowdy phase, and she just loves to come up behind me and jump on my back or grab me around the neck when I’m doing fun things like changing a poopy diaper or cleaning up spilled juice on the kitchen floor. If I’m crouched down, trying to pick up one of the million toys or Legos off of our living room floor, she does what any sane person would do and runs full-speed into me, knocking me over like a bowling pin.

Some days I am covered in snot and poop and germs and slobber. And it’s gross.

Some days I can laugh through the pain, the touching, and the poking, the drool.

Other days, I need my hula-hoop space.

My question, therefore, is: how do I continue to love on and engage my children using one of the most important of the physical senses (touch) when I am completely depleted in the area of personal space?

How do I push through my occasional aversion to being touched at all, by anyone, anywhere, so that I can engage with my husband on an intimate level?

How do I extend grace and operate with a heart of patience toward my children and my husband when all I want is to lash out verbally and physically and to defend my “right” to my alone time and my hula-hoop space?

Only by the grace, power, and strength of a Holy God who gives me endurance and stamina to keep on keepin’ on when I feel like I have nothing left to give.

Only by allowing the Holy Spirit to infiltrate the most selfish, hard parts of my heart, which requires confession of my selfishness and hardness, and subsequent breaking of those strongholds in my life.

Only by remembering that Jesus Himself died to His rights (and His rights were actual rights, not perceived rights like mine) in order to elevate His Father’s cause, giving up His personal space to the ultimate end, the cross.

There’s no better example to follow than that of Jesus. He left His rightful place, His heavenly throne, to come and touch, both spiritually and physically, the lowest of the low, the dirtiest of the dirty, the roughest of the rough, in order to love and lead them to Jesus. He humbled Himself, died to His rights, and fully engaged.

I can imagine sometimes He felt like His personal space was invaded. I can imagine that sometimes, in the crowds and throngs of followers, believers, mockers, and gawkers, He wished He could escape. I bet He tired of people tugging at His robe. I am sure He felt depleted and like He had nothing left to give as people poured into towns and cities to see this “Jesus,” to ask Him for miracles and for favors and for advice. I bet He felt claustrophobic and wanted to run and curl up in fetal position in a dark room where no one was touching Him or asking Him for things.

But He kept on. He sacrificed His own desires, His own will, for the will and ultimate purposes of His Father. He counted the salvation and redemption of others as more important than His preferences.

Philippians 2 describes Christ’s heart of sacrifice more beautifully than I ever could:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 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.”

Will I sacrifice my desire for hula-hoop space in order to love and lead my little ones to the cross? Will I push through my exhaustion and my aversion to giving one single ounce more of myself in order to love my husband well and intimately, as a reflection of how the bride of Christ loves her groom?

I can’t do this alone. Neither can you. We can’t run on empty. We must, absolutely must, be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. My flesh is sinful and selfish. In my own power I can only desire sinful and selfish things. But by the power of the Spirit of God in me, I can desire Spirit things, Godly things.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

I want to be the person, the mother, the wife, the Christ-follower, who gives of herself past the point of hurting. I want to trust my God to fill my tank and then give some more. I want to lay my hula-hoop down for hugs. I want to hold those around me close, not at an arm’s length. This is my prayer for myself, and for you. That God would raise up an army of selfless, broken mothers to love our children, our husbands, and our communities to Jesus.

Who’s with me?

And, to be completely honest, I am terrible at hula-hooping anyway. I always tried as a kid and never succeeded in doing much of anything other than looking a fool. The only thing I was super-good at was swinging the hula-hoop around my neck. You know what I mean, cuz you did it do. I could swing that hoop with the best of them. I am also 98% sure I looked like a chicken. That’s all.

Feel free to laugh!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Purple Unicorns

Several weeks ago, while getting the kids secured in my minivan, I saw a flash of purple shine from my daughter's hand.

"What is that, Emerson?" I asked.

"Nothing," said Emerson.

Every mom out there knows what "nothing" means, right? Nothing means everything. Like when you hear a shriek from the other end of the house and one kid starts wailing like a siren and you ask the other kid, "kid, what happened?" And then they answer, "nothing." 

Nothing, my foot.

So again I asked her what she had in her hand. This time, she opened her hand and showed me as she said, "Oh, it's just this purple unicorn, mommy."

We don't buy a lot of toys in my house, and when we do they are typically not two-inch-long purple glass unicorns, so I was racking my brain as to where in the world she had gotten this lovely creature. 

"Where did you get that, Em?"

Her face gave it away before she even spoke a word. A look of guilt crossed her face as she said, "Oh, I took it from Avery's house."

Took it? As in...stole it? 

"Did she give it to you, Emerson?"

"Nope, I just took it cuz I liked it."

Well, okay then. So I now I have a daughter who steals stuff. Awesome.

After thinking for several seconds, I turned to look at her.

"Emerson, I don't know what to say. You know that we don't take things from other people without being offered them. You know that this is called stealing. How would you feel if Avery took something from you without permission?"

She didn't say much, but I could tell she was upset.

"Emerson, I know this is going to be difficult, but you are going to have to go to Avery's house and take this purple unicorn back to her, and apologize and confess to her that you took it without her knowing."

Emerson didn't miss a beat. "I know, Mom."

In that moment, I was proud of her. She didn't buck her responsibility. She didn't beg and plead with me to cut her some slack, to pretty-please not make her do the embarrassing deed of taking it back to her friend. She immediately embraced the idea of confession, and simply asked, "Mom, will you go with me, because I'll be a little scared to tell her what I did?"

My sweet girl. I assured her that I would, indeed, go with her, and that I'd be right by her side while she did what was needed to make restitution for her sin.

I called Avery's mom, who happens to be a good friend. They weren't home so we couldn't go over at that moment. Then, the next day I called again, but again they weren't there and we couldn't go and make things right. This process went on for several days, and I am embarrassed to tell you that four weeks later we STILL have not gone to return the unicorn. Mom fail.

However, my reason for sharing this story is this: Though I haven't followed through yet on returning the toy, Emerson has not forgotten. She reminds me on an almost-daily basis that we still need to go and return the cheap, chintzy purple unicorn. It still scares her. She's still embarrassed. But she is convicted and won't let me forget to take her to Avery's house to make things right.

This is the Holy Spirit working in my almost-six-year-old.

Do I allow Him to work in me the same way? Am I sensitive enough to my own sin that I will do what it takes, as long as it takes, to address it and find freedom from it? Will I do the hard work to make things right, confessing my sin, asking for forgiveness from my Heavenly Father (and maybe even others), and turning from it once and for all?

I could stand to learn a lesson or two from my daughter. Once she was found out, she didn't deny her sin, or try to justify it. She humbly embraced it, recognized her own depravity, and won't stop until she has fully repaired what she has broken.

It's easy to sweep sin under the rug. It's easy to pretend like it's "no big deal," because, let's be honest, others around me sin much more severely. Right? 


Doing the hard work of self-examination, and the ultimate turning from our sins is what is required and necessary in order for us to look more and more like Jesus. If that's what we say we want, they it's time for Christ-followers, starting with me, to put our spiritual money where our mouth is by actively and routinely searching our own hearts for sin and then humbly and brokenly asking for and receiving forgiveness from the Lord and others. And then TURNING from that sin, to be slave to it no more.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

Confessing it. Turning from it. Walking away. Cutting all ties with it. Easier said than done, right?

We all have purple unicorns.

God's been at work in my heart lately on some issues that I have been unwilling to completely turn over to Him. Some areas of disobedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And I have to say, the example my daughter has set for me has been a huge catalyst for me to address my own sin, and to choose full obedience to my Heavenly Father, even when it's hard. Confession is key to receiving new life and freedom in Christ.

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed..." James 5:16

May we all live with a mindset of active confession, and the turning away from our sins. May every purple unicorn convict us and spur us on to look more and more like Christ.

And now, in writing about this, I am reminded YET again that the Watts family needs to take a trip to the Casey's house to return a certain, infamous purple unicorn. Kim, watch out, 'cause we're coming. By the time my tribe leaves your house, you might be wishing we had just kept the daggum thing and saved you the trouble privilege of having us in your home.

Feel free to laugh!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tooday I Startd Homskooling

August 20 is a day that will live in infamy.

Ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but I will say that today is the day I started doing the thing I told God I'd "never" do.

Today I started homeschooling my oldest child, simultaneously entering the worlds of "no-time-for-myself" and "where-are-my-denim-coolots-when-i-need-them." (Said no one, ever)

It's a funny thing - I have always been a huge proponent of homeschooling; I just never thought I'd actually do it. I was taught at home by my awesome mother from third grade through seventh, and it was a fabulous experience. I learned a ton, I had free time and an escape from busy work, and I developed a tight-knit relationship with my mother. She was so good at homeschooling, in fact, that I think part of the reason I thought I'd never do it is because I can't measure up to her. It's impossible.

And now, here I am.

God's funny with these ultimatums we give Him, isn't he? Suffice it to say, I will never say "never" to God again, except to say that I will NEVER be extremely rich and fabulously thin without trying (thanks to my friend, Kim Casey, for that little nugget of hilarity).

And today, after I dropped my boys off for their first day of preschool, I found myself at home with my kindergartener, facing off at the kitchen table. She sat on one side, I on the other, and she stared at me with excitement and a zeal to learn something.

It was then, I think, that I fully realized that I had to teach something. Anything.

Then it hit me. All those years ago in my own life, when I was in my daughter's place and was staring at my mother with excitement and awe and a you-can-do-no-wrong respect, she was quaking in her white homeschool-mom tennis shoes. I thought she knew everything. She thought she knew nothing.

So she did what any warm-blooded homeschool mom would do in her situation, the very same thing I did today.

She faked it.

She faked having it all together. She faked the laid-back-mom routine. She faked confidence.

And she taught me. Oh, she taught me well.

I think, if I were to ask her, that after time passed by, she started to gain a confidence in the calling God had placed on her as a mother and a teacher. But in the beginning, she was scared blank-less (this is a G-rated blog, but you know what I'm saying).

And so, today at around 10:00am, I found myself in her shoes. I swallowed. I prayed. And then I dove in.

Now, I know that my daughter is only in kindergarten, okay? I know that kindergarten is easy. But I just want you to know that I gave that kindergartener the business when it came to her day-one lesson. I showed that teacher's-guide who was boss. I taught like no one has ever been taught before.

Then, at the end of our first day of school, she said, "Mom, I already know all that stuff. I don't know why you're telling me again."


In all seriousness, I am entering a season of my life when I know I will need the equipping and guiding of the Holy Spirit like never before. I so badly want to not screw my kid up. I so badly want to model for her by example what it means to be a godly woman. I so want to make sure I teach her to use proper grammar, because let's face it, there is nothing more annoying than bad grammar.

I want the Lord to use me in spite of me to lead my daughter into a walk that is closer with Him.

I find great comfort in Romans 8:26-28:

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

I know this verse can be dissected in so many ways, and interpreted in many as well. For me, though, today, I am holding fast to the knowledge that the Holy Spirit helps me in my weakness. The Spirit intercedes for me in accordance with God's will. God works ALL things for the good of those who love him and whom he has called.

I know that he has called me to this.

So I trust him today. And tomorrow, when my heart rate rises and I stare my daughter down once again, I will trust him once more. And the day after that. And the day after that. get the idea.

I will leave you today with three things I realized today as a homeschool mom:

1. I really need to order some of those cool ankle-length denim skirts.

2. I really need to get a 12-passenger van.
3. I really need to cut off our cable TV.

Okay, these were tongue-in-cheek, but that last one might not be such a bad idea...

Feel free to laugh!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pain In the Neck

I just read a Facebook post by a friend that detailed the 57 tasks that she has checked off her to-do list today, along with a picture of her little ones all cuddled up together on the sofa, holding each other lovingly. Little angels.

And I'm like, "um, yeah, so today I kept the kids alive, let them watch entirely too much TV, and didn't even get my one load of laundry folded because I basically laid on the sofa all day long."

No, I'm not that lazy (usually). I woke up this morning from what was a terrible night's sleep to one of the worst pinched nerves in my neck that I have ever experienced. Ever. My sweet husband just arrived home from a nine-hour workday, found me on the couch, and offered to take the kids out of the remainder of the evening. After I prayed about it, I said, "yes, please."

And, if it is any consolation to him, if I didn't have such wicked neck pain, he would so be getting lucky tonight.

So here I lie with my head immobilized and my laptop propped up on my chest, enjoying the solitude and quiet and taking a few minutes to write.

Pain can be all consuming, can't it? It's pretty amazing, if you think about it, how pain, even a small amount, can vie for our attention. We never think of how good it feels to feel, well, good until we feel pain. Then, all we can think about is alleviating said pain and getting back to normal.

Last week I was in the throws of a crazy-chaotic day. I was taking my two-year-old from the pediatrician's office to the hospital for some blood work, and in my hurrying I accidentally slammed my pointer finger in the car door.

Now, this wasn't an "ow" kind of a moment. This was a "I-have-to-reach-over-with-my-other-hand-and-open-the-car-door-to-get-my-finger-out-because-it's-actually-closed-in-there" moment. Within seconds the nerves in my finger registered with my brain, and I am pretty sure I said a few inappropriate things while I fell on the ground of the parking garage writhing around in pain.

Finally, I jumped up and got in the car and set out out for the hospital. By the time we arrived there, my fingernail was completely black and my finger was so swollen that I couldn't bend it. You know it's bad when the staff at the local children's hospital is more concerned about you, the adult, than they are your child who is actually the patient.

By the end of the afternoon, my finger hurt so bad that I thought I was gonna die. I finally decided to take the hot mess that is myself to the nearby Urgent Care facility in hopes that they could help me. Help me, they did. After an x-ray to ensure that I hadn't fractured the bone (which I hadn't), the doctor said he could help me by reliving the pressure of all the blood that was pooled under my fingernail. "All" I had to do was to sit still and allow him to use a little heat wand to burn a hole in my fingernail, thus allowing the blood to escape.

It was about as fun as it sounds.

When we are in intense physical pain, though, there's really nothing we wouldn't do to find relief, is there? In actuality, we run from pain. We have our remedies and medicines and holistic approaches down pat, and all to find escape from the pain (I should own stock in ibuprofen, because that stuff is the business when it comes to pain management).

But what about when our hearts ache? What about when our hearts break? 

No one likes to feel pain, but I think that even the biggest wimp would admit that physical pain is often easier to endure than emotional, heart-ravaging hurt. We try to build walls to keep others out of our pain because it's too tender a subject to broach with them. We pretend like we don't hurt. We numb our pain in many different ways. We stuff our feelings and the things that are uncomfortable to think about under the proverbial rug, and we move on in our daily routines like nothing has changed.

But what if, when our hearts hurt, instead of trying to escape the pain and the hurt, we embrace it and allow it to transform our very beings? What if the pain points us to Him, and we miss Him when we hide our pain? What if bearing the load of heartache is part of what it means in Scripture when Paul writes about knowing, truly knowing Christ, by sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10)?

What if, when friends or loved ones hurt us, we process through the pain and allow the Lord to change our character and refine us in the process, making us look more like Jesus? What if, instead of hiding our shame and our sin, we shine light on it and live transparent lives that, while messy and sometimes sad, point people to their need for a gracious, loving God?

What if we don't sit idly by as we see injustice around us, injustice that wrecks our hearts? What if, instead of just being sad because of the AIDS epidemic in Africa and finding ways to distract our minds from having to dwell on such a depressing issue, we embrace the sadness and allow it to ignite in us a passion to do something? What if, instead of feeling sad that my own city, the city of Atlanta, GA, is the largest haven for sex traffickers, and trying not to think about it because it disturbs my "happy" reality, I allow it to penetrate the thick walls I've built around my heart and realize, "I am NOT okay with this."

What if the only way to wholly heal is to embrace our pain, allowing our Heavenly Father to break us down so that we might be rebuilt into versions of ourselves that look an awful lot more like Jesus?

One of my favorite worship tunes of all time is a song by Hillsong United called "Hosanna." The bridge of the song is the cry of my heart, and I pray that I wouldn't miss this. 
"Heal my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen, show me how to love like you have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your kingdom's cause, as I walk from earth into eternity." 
Healing my heart often means that God must break my heart first. Am I okay with that? Are you?

What if...

Just what if, instead of living our perfectly-scripted lives as perfect little Christians, we allowed the ugly and the messy out, and we decided to live like Jesus? What if we would actually DO something about it? Do you think the world would look different? Because I do.

One of my favorite books is titled "Radical," by Dr. David Platt. I'd encourage any of you who aren't satisfied with the status-quo, those of you who feel like there's something more to following Christ than the drive-through Sunday morning church services and the occasional daily devotional, to read this book. Soak it in. And let me know what you think.

On a positive note, my smashed finger is doing significantly better. I am now sporting a hole in my fingernail, and it's still oozing some kind of weird clear liquid. But, now when my finger hits something accidentally, instead of feeling like someone just stabbed me in the arm, it just feels like a tiny electrical shock in my hand. Always look at the bright side of your life, right?

Feel free to laugh!