Automatically Get New Posts? Enter Your Email!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Move Over, Billy...

I am a lot of things. 

And before you start name-calling, just know that I have been called worse, okay?

Seriously, though, we all wear a lot of hats. I am wife, friend, mother, singer, writer, plant-killer, baller. And, as a mom, I am (and we all are a) MINISTER.

Do you ever think of yourself as a minister? Or is that a title reserved in your mind for those who hold seminary and divinity degrees, or those who work on the staff of your local church? 

It seems that in our current culture one can’t be called a minister without specific educational or vocational credentials. Most of us think of this when we think of a minister:

Ok, so he is pretty darn great. I mean, he's BILLY GRAHAM! But, how often do we think of this:

Yes, folks, that is me. 
***READER'S NOTE: I am not the most beautiful woman in the world; however, I would like it to be known that when I occasionally shower, put on makeup, and some other-than-gym clothes, I can actually look kind of cute. Also, the hair cut above was a fro-tastic do-over. 
This photo was taken (eye twitch NOT manufactured) after a 15-hour workday as a stay-at-home mom minister. I have no official credentials. I haven’t taken courses on the 12 tribes of Israel or the genealogy of Jesus. I haven’t received a certificate of ordination. But then again, neither had Paul.
One of my favorite sections of Scripture depicts just what it means to have authentic ministry, to be a true minister of the Lord. Paul and Timothy wrote about it in their letter to the church of Corinth:
“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth.  God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
This is a beautiful example of what it means to try to be a minister of the Gospel that mirrors the ministry of Jesus Christ. Living a life that doesn’t cause another to stumble, and striving to have a ministry that none find fault with. Paul, nor Timothy, for that matter, had a Doctorate of Divinity degree plastered to their office wall. They didn’t even have an office! Their very LIVES were their ministry. I believe that there is a great encouragement for mothers to be found in the examples of Paul and Timothy. In times of trial, they persevered. They chose to love in the face of disrespect. They chose patience in times of frustration. Their work was often overlooked in spite of its great importance. Sound familiar?
If you will allow me some creative license, I would love to share 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 with you again, this time in my own words as rewritten for mothers:
“We as mothers live in such a way that our children will not stumble because of us, and they will not find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been whined at, spit up on, faced angry mobs of hungry children, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without *hot* food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth to our children.  God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether our children honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are loving, but they call us mean. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live selflessly, giving ourselves away, but we are still whole. We have been beaten down, but we have not been devoured. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We go without so that we might give spiritual riches to our children. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
2 CORINTHIANS 6:3-10 (a mother’s version)
Let us not forget, even for one moment, that we are ministers with full-time jobs. Our ministry as mothers is a 24/7 affair. There is no PTO, no sick days available for us. Our ministry is continual, and it is deeply, deeply important. We work in a spiritual life-and-death situation. We work to set the example for our children of what it means to look and love like Jesus. We mediate disagreements, all the while ministering the love and grace of God to our kids. We wipe snotty noses and dirty bottoms, all while teaching watchful little ones how to care for others. We organize life, keep a (somewhat) clean living environment, provide meals three times a day, and constantly launder clothing, often unseen and unappreciated but nonetheless teaching what it means to serve through the example of how we serve our very families.
Mom’s don’t get degrees in motherhood, and there is no special class we can take that will make us more skilled as parents. Instead we must immerse ourselves in the Word, pour over our lives and our families in prayer, and most importantly keep in focus our ministries to our families. My prayer is that God would constantly remind us as moms that our daily routines and the ins and outs of regular life are anything but routine or regular; no, they are a ground that is fertile for seeds of Life to be planted, for great ministry to take place, and for beautiful Fruit to be borne in due time. Because, if we’re honest, isn’t that what it’s really all about? 

That, and the satisfaction that comes in knowing that one day our children will have to get to take care of US, clean up OUR messes, and change OUR diapers, and that we will be way less cute than babies. They best get their Billy Graham on by then.

Feel free to laugh!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Like Cats and Dogs...

I was sharing last night with a friend about my aversion to "mom" blogs, which stems from how I often feel lousy and ill-equiped as a mother after reading them. One blog might feature a million and one photos of the perfect family, the compliant kids, the homemade bread they made together with tender loving care. Another blogger might focus on the ways her family does ministry, feeding the homeless and traveling abroad and having the "perfect," meaningful, calm time of family worship every evening. 

These are amazing blogs, and their authors amazing women.

But sometimes, oftentimes, I need a dose of reality. Not THEIR reality, but something that is closer to mine. I need to feel like I am not alone, like other women are dealing with a messy, chaotic life. I need to commune with women who are battling on a daily basis to keep Jesus front-and-center while often wanting to pull their hair out, throw in the proverbial towel, and curl up in fetal position in the dark.

I need to know that I am not the only one whose children are fighting like cats and dogs.

Lately, at my house, my children have been at each other. Like, AT EACH OTHER. It doesn't matter what is happening; they seem to have no problem finding something to argue about. 

"But MOM, he wouldn't stop saying "dagummit" to me!" (Emerson, after having thrown a tractor toy at Sutton's head, successfully hitting her intended target)
"But MOM, he wouldn't give me the train he was playing with!" (Sutton, after having bitten Foster, nearly breaking the skin)
"But MOM, he said that I was dead now, and I can't be alive again!" (Emerson, while very much alive, after having slapped her brother in the face)
"But MOM, she kept telling me to look at her drawing and I didn't want to and she kept saying 'look, look, look!'" (Sutton, after having ripped up Emerson's latest piece of art) 

Oh. My. Gosh.

This is all day, every day at my house right now. Peace is a rare commodity. Dissension is brewing, and it literally takes every ounce of energy that I have, most every day, to battle the enemy and his plans to break my family down. I pray. I counsel. I counsel again. I remind my children how Jesus would handle each situation. And I pray some more.

There is no bread baking. There is not family photo time. There is no trip to feed the hungry. I am too busy trying to keep my children from annihilating each other, trying to inject God's truth into my often-unaffected kids.

This is reality. Or, at least, it's my reality. And so I just can't do "perfect" moms at this stage of the parenting game. I can't be made to feel inadequate or less spiritual right now, because I then become too self-focused and distracted from what is happening in my home, right under my nose.

I am a mom who lives most days in the trenches.

Maybe you are too.

Maybe today you just need to be reminded that you're not alone. You're really not. Motherhood is full of ups and downs, and the stark reality is that our job is to raise up little sinners to love and know Jesus, and to love the world for the sake of Jesus. 

Jesus and sin are like oil and water - they just don't mix. Because of this tension, it will always, ALWAYS be hard to avoid life in the trenches. In fact, we are guaranteed trials until the day we are perfected and meet Jesus face to face:

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I [JESUS] have overcome the world." -- John 16:33

When we're weary, when we feel inadequate in light of all of the"Pinterest Moms" that appear to have everything together, we need to remember that even their lives are not perfect, and that we are promised a life that includes trouble. This is not to discount what wonderful mothers they might be, but us moms are on a level playing field, each of us dealing with our own junk and our own imperfect children and our own imperfections. 

I pray that, as I write, I will never convey a perfect, dreamy, unrealistic life, but instead that I always share in transparency the reality of my story so that you, my dear reader, are encouraged and reminded that you are not alone in the trenches. Because you're not. And we women have to stick together if we are going to fight for our families and fight a very real enemy who wants to destroy the family unit. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus already came and paid the price for you, for me, and for our families to have LIFE, and have it to the full. 

When we can't see that fullness of life in our homes, Lord, give us the faith to trust you for it, and to press on in the hope of the work you are doing. You are faithful.

In the meantime, let's turn off our computers for a while and remember who the LORD says we are, not who we think we are in light of the Martha-Stewart mommies out there. Can I get an AMEN?!

Feel free to laugh!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tonight I Turned Into My Mother

Tonight I narked on a bunch of teenagers who snuck into our neighborhood pool.

Let the implications of what I just wrote sink in for a minute. Let my utter uncoolness come into focus. Let the cringing begin.

Picture this, if you will: I am relaxing with my family at the pool, just sitting down to eat a delivered-hot-at-the-pool pizza, when through the gate comes a posse of homies ready to take over the pool. Okay, maybe not so much homies as awkward highschoolers, but you get my drift, right? Or am I just getting less cool by the minute? Anyhow...

I immediately recognize the boy with the key as the same boy who tried to get in a few weeks ago when he "forgot" his key. Our HOA board members told me about him and his friends, mentioned that they have not paid their dues, and asked me to make sure that they don't come and use the pool. Trying not to be a complete fuddy-duddy, I choose to ignore them and pretend like I don't see them.

In a matter of seconds they have commandeered the pool and are doing 20 cannonballs per minute, turning our calm neighborhood swimming hole into the Drake Passage. At this point, I am only slightly irritated, hoping that by the time we finish our butter-soaked bread pizza the novelty will have worn off and they will have calmed down a bit. 

No such luck. As my kids finish up and want to go swim again, I look over at the pool to see waves big enough to scare the crabbers on Deadliest Catch, and I instruct my kids to stay in the shallow end, far away from the giant children. They are good swimmers, but in waves that size I worry a bit, obviously.

About this time, as I am putting on my 4-year-old's swim vest, I hear one of the teenage kids yell, "JESUS!" And no, he wasn't having a moment of worship. There are very few things in this world that truly bother or offend me, but that is one of them. Especially with my kids present.

So you will understand why my irritation turns to anger as my son yells out, "JESUS," in true myna-bird fashion. Nice.

I am pretty perturbed at this point, not only over the swearing and the gigantic waves and the rough-housing, but also over the fact that my short-but-sweet family night is disintegrating before my eyes. So what do I do? Only what any patriotic, dues-paying Homeowner's Association member would do if in my shoes - I call the head board member and rat them out.

And in that moment, as though I am Cinderella and my fairy godmother has cast a spell on me, I turn into my mother.

Oh, there have been glimpses of my mother in me for years and years; however, it wasn't until today that it became unofficially official.

There I stood, a 30-year-old mom of three in a one-piece swim dress, calling the pool meister and getting a bunch of teenagers in trouble for doing something I probably did at their age.

And I liked it.

I don't mean that to sound cold or callous, but on some sick and twisted level, I liked narking on those kids.

They were messing with my babies, so when my mama bear instincts kicked in, I reacted. Right or wrong...I don't completely know. But one thing is for sure - I wanted to protect my children.

My mother would have done the same thing.

For years I fought becoming my mother. Although she was, and is, amazing, I think that every young woman fights to be different, somehow desiring her own identity apart from the woman she calls Mother, no matter how great or how awful her mother is.

My mother couldn't bake garlic bread without forgetting about it and burning it to a crisp, resulting in a smoke-filled kitchen and a wailing smoke alarm that probably woke the neighbors. I made it a goal to NEVER be so careless...I mean, how hard could it be?

My mother is was always covered in bruises. Not scary, D-FACS-type bruises, but the kind one gets when missing a step and falling, or running into a light pole. She often talked about what an eyesore they were, so in my mind they were ugly and embarrassing and a physical reminder of clumsiness. I made it a goal to NEVER be so clumsy...I mean, how hard could it be?

My mother kills everything computer-related that she touches. She'll swear that she didn't "do anything," but somehow she has managed to wipe out more hard drives, lose more documents, and attract more viruses than I thought was humanly possible. I can't tell you the number of times I've called her, only to hear her answer my question of "what are you doing" with "I am waiting on a phone call back from a Mac genius to help me fix my ____." I made it a goal to NEVER be so technically-challenged...I mean, how hard could it be?

Now I am thirty. I burn the garlic bread more often than I get it right. There is rarely a time when I am not sporting at least one or two deep-purple bruises on my arms or legs. I recently "synced" my iPhone with my laptop only to somehow lose all of my contact data, leaving me with a thousand random numbers and no names to put with them.

And today I narked on a bunch of teenagers who snuck into our neighborhood pool.

I could not be prouder.

You see, there is no one I'd rather be like than my mother. With every year that passes, and every new stage of life I enter, I realize that becoming like Lindsay Baker is something to strive for, not something to run from. 

She is the godliest woman I have ever known; by the grace of God may the same be said of me one day.

She is the wisest woman I have ever known; by the grace of God may the same be said of me one day.

She is the loveliest woman I have ever known; by the grace of God may the same be said of me one day (although I am going to say that this one will be a reach for me).

She epitomizes the woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31...


To name a few of her incredible traits.

By her example, I have realized what it means to be a Christ-follower, a daughter of the King, and a mother to my three precious children. Now, more than anything, I desire to leave the same legacy of faith, love, and motherhood with my children, because I finally realize just how invaluable a gift that legacy is. My mother fought for me, and still does to this day. And I am beyond thankful.

By the way, my mom also loves to laugh. She can laugh at herself, and, as Proverbs 31 says, at the days to come. I think she's the one who gave me my sense of humor, and it's because of her that I can find humor in the ordinary things of life. I am thankful for a mother I can laugh with. And at.

Tonight I will leave you all with a gift for my mother. Don't ever say I didn't give you anything.

Feel free to laugh!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pushing Buttons

I have been back from vacation for 4 days, 1 hour, and 57 minutes.

Some days I just find myself counting...for instance, if I were to take another vacation next year at the same time, it would mean that I have 360 days, 22 hours, and 3 minutes until I escape leave again. Just saying.

I am finally getting back into the rhythm of life, and I have to say that it's been a bit difficult to adjust to being home. This is not normally the case after we vacation; we are usually back in the groove like we never left at all. This time it's different, though, and it's taking some time to work through re-entry issues. 

I was home no less than five minutes and I had to got to feed all three of my kids and change a nasty diaper. Welcome home, Mommy! My kids have been wired since we got back (I am 98.4% sure that the grandparents got them hopped up on something-that-manifests-itself-like-speed-but-is-probably-just-a-gallon-of-chocolate-milk so that they could laugh maniacally as they pulled out of our driveway to escape go home). I asked my husband on Sunday morning, as we drove to church, "have they ALWAYS talked this loud?" Their voices seem louder and more piercing, their questions seem to have increased ten-fold, and arguing amongst themselves AND with me has become their favorite means of communication.

They are pushing my buttons.

And making me want to push THIS button:

Kids know just how to do it, don't they? They don't have to be taught how to push our buttons - it's just in them. 

One of my biggest pet peeves as a mother, if I can share this even while knowing it's so very trivial, is BABY TALK. Don't ask me why, I know there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to parenting issues. It's just one of those things that drives. me. crazy.

My daughter is a world-class baby talker. She does it well. And often. It comes and goes in stages, but when I got back from my trip I realized that the baby talking has once again reared its ugly head when Emerson said, "Mommy, Emerson need to go pot-pot." TRANSLATION: "Mom, I need to pee." I winced immediately, hoping this was a one-time occurrence, just an accidental blip on the radar. 


The 4 days, 1 hour, and (now) 44 minutes since I have been back have been peppered with fun little ditties like:
"Mama, Emerson hungwy and want snacky-wacky." 
"Mommy, me no want to go to bed. Me stay wakey with da mama." 
"Wook, Emerson can eat her yogurt with no hands." (As she sucked the yogurt off of her dinner plate like an anteater)
Pressing. My. Buttons.

I wanted to respond by saying, after she told me earlier today that "Emerson no likey da mean mommy anymore," that Mommy "wants to go bye-bye on da airpwane again, otay?"

I would hate for you to think that I have forgotten about my 4-year-old in this rundown, so I want to mention that he is also an expert at pushing my buttons. He is a world-class loud talker. Even when there's no need, he finds it necessary to speak significantly louder than anyone else around. The worst is when we are in the van, enclosed and trapped. He loves listening to music and is always the first to ask me to turn on the radio. I do. He asks me to turn it up louder. I do. Just as I start to get into a song, singing along and relaxing now that all the kids are strapped into a moving vehicle and have nowhere to run, -----
I turn the radio down calmly. "Yes, son?"
I breathe slowly and resist the urge to rub my now-damaged ear. "Well, son, it's because the air outside pushes against the rain drops when the car is moving and -----"

"Well, son, because God knew that we needed air to breathe and so he -----"
Needless to say, my nerves are usually fried upon reaching my destination. Wowsers.

Having had eight days away to decompress, eight days of quiet, eight days of intelligent adult conversation, these pet peeves are exacerbated right now to the point of me possibly losing my mind. How do they do it? How do they push my buttons with such precision. How can they be so thoughtless, so annoying?

Can anyone tell my patience is thin?

They are children. It's their job to be immature. And they do it like it's their job. 

They are children. They are supposed to talk loud. Anyone who ever said children are to be seen and not heard obviously never HAD children, because that's just flat-out impossible.

They are children. 

And as their mother, I have a decision to make, a decision with weighty consequences. Am I going to allow my impatience, my petty peeves, to set the tone and the temperature for my life-long relationship with my children? Am I going to major on the minors, picking at my kids? Am I going to allow my selfishness to make mountains out of molehills, exasperating my children in the process? Am I going to belittle them and strip away the CHILD out of their childhood by expecting them to function as tiny little adults?

Or am I going to let them be kids? Am I going to gently guide them, in love? Am I going to make them feel valued and important and wanted in spite of and no matter what they do? Am I going to show them how great I think they are JUST AS THEY ARE? 

Lord help me that I do not ever impose MY standards on my children, man-made standards that will teach them from an early age that they don't quite measure up to all that Mommy wants them to be. I feel like nothing will squash their joy and crush their spirits more than this.

"Fathers Mothers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." -- EPHESIANS 6:4

Notice that this verse does not say, "CHILDREN, do not provoke your PARENTS to anger..." No, it's a directive to parents. God knows that kids will be kids. They will be immature. They will do stupid stuff. And they are somewhat off the hook for that, because they are KIDS. We, though, as parents, are held accountable for how we respond to our children.

This verse says that we are to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. There are times to discipline our kids, most definitely. However, most of the button-pushing in my house is frivolous, silly behavior. Not sinful behavior. I am annoyed. And that is MY problem.

And, by the way, isn't it funny how surprised we can act when our children hit us in our weak spots when we do the very same thing? I know that there are times I pick at my husband, pressing his buttons because I CAN. Because I know him. If I don't always have self-control at 30, how in the WORLD can I expect my children to?

I want to, more than anything, keep my own expectations of my children in check, and instead take on the expectations of the Lord as laid out in Scripture. I pray that, as mothers, we can love our children through the annoyances and the awkwardness that comes with the job description, and that we can see them through the eyes of Jesus. I pray that the Holy Spirit in us, as Christ-followers, will give us wisdom to know when behavior needs to be addressed, when it's a heart issues, and when to just let it go. I pray that we learn to love our children through the challenging moments, following the example set for us by our Heavenly Father who so patiently and tirelessly loves us, His children.

So bring it on. Bring on the baby talk because there are worse daughter could not talk to me at all. Bring on the loud talking, because at least I can always hear my boy's heart loud and clear. Bring it on.

Lastly, if you talk to me soon and notice that I am regressing in my speech and grammar, just know that me no likey da talk like a wittle baby but if me cannot beat Emerson, me might just join her.

Feel free to laugh!

Sunday, June 16, 2013


I am currently settled on my favorite striped chair, ready to call it a day after successfully navigating my first 24 hours home from paradise. Re-entry was a bit of a challenge for my hubby and me; as my sweet friend so insightfully said on our first day in the British Virgin Islands, as we were sitting with our faces to the wind while sailing on a beautiful 50-foot catamaran, "I didn't think it would be this easy to forget about the children."

Kidding. But seriously.

I left the country with a bit of apprehension. I was leaving my itty-bitty munchkins with extremely capable parents (shout out to the most awesome moms and dads in the world), but I knew that it would be an exercise in relinquishing my sense of control as a mother. I left not knowing how much cell access I'd have in the middle of the ocean, and that sense of being unreachable did not sit well with me. Turns out we were very reachable, as there are probably cell towers every five feet even at the North Pole by now, but after we arrived and began to relax, there were very few times that I wanted to know what was going on at home.

Quite simply, I began to...

In our crazy-paced, constantly on-the-go society, I think I had forgotten what it means to unplug. It's virtually impossible to escape cell phones and the steady stream of 24-hour news updates, isn't it? Even third-world countries have cell towers peppering their landscapes nowadays, and it's not unusual to find locals who live in utter poverty walking around with iPhones. Mud homes. No car. Little to eat. And an iPhone. Suffice it to say, we have a hard time unplugging.

If there is one thing I walked away with from what was easily the most amazing trip of my life, it is how important, how crucial it is for us as moms to unplug every once and a while. I quickly fell into a rhythm of rest and relaxation, and the stresses of life literally vanished as I enjoyed my husband, good friends, and God's amazing creation.

I am not suggesting that the only way to unplug is to leave the country and take an extravagant vacation. It's actually quite the opposite! I realized the importance of getting away and becoming somewhat unreachable here

My husband and I went to the beach in March for a few days. It was beautiful and restful. However, we were unable to unplug. My laptop was on, my email was checked often, my phone was next to me at all times. I called home to check on the kids multiple times each day. I did not unplug; I was actually trying to control parent remotely instead of trusting my parents with the children and using the time I had to be still.

Brandon and I made a commitment to each other early on in parenthood to take one week each year to unplug together. Alone. This is for the betterment of our family, for the sake of intentionally strengthening our marriage, and for our general sanity. After our trip to the islands, I have realized that I want to add to that commitment. I want to not only get away together, but to purposely unplug while we are gone.

It's important, and it's harder to do each and every day. We have obligations. We have worries. We have important things to do, God-sized things. 

But sometimes, those things need to wait.

Sometimes we need to press the pause button on our lives.

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him..." Psalm 37:7a 

So easy to say, yet so hard to do. 

However, this is the key to the renewing of our souls. If we do not make it a priority to get away and to be still before Him, we will be more drained, more depleted, until we have nothing left to give our children, our husbands, our friends, and our ministries. 

It's as though we are batteries. We are somewhat of a power source to many around us. We give until it hurts. We serve our families. We volunteer. We work. At some point, our energy begins to near empty, and we have little left to give. And we have a choice. We can burn out or we can refuel. We can plug into our life-giving, refueling power source, our Heavenly Father, and be renewed to start afresh, or we can fizzle out until the joy and the purpose is zapped from our lives. 

Unplugging doesn't even have to happen on vacation. We can work hard to take time to unplug in the here and now. We can choose to fast from our computers for a day, realizing that being still before the Lord is a necessity and that email and social media can wait. We can *gasp* turn our phones off and choose to be unreachable for a few hours. We can turn off the television at night and enjoy the sound of silence before the Lord.

That's what I find myself doing tonight. Enjoying the quiet. The boys are in bed, Brandon is tucking Emerson in, and I find myself sitting here, writing down my thoughts in the hopes of encouraging you, my friend, to find time to unplug. You need it and you deserve it. 

If you're in a position where you find it hard to have time to yourself, either due to being a single mom or due to finances making it hard to truly get away, please know that I am praying especially for you. The need to unplug is great for you, I know, and I believe the Lord understands this and wants to bring you refreshment even in the face of those obstacles.

Now, as I say goodnight, I'd like to give you a mental picture of what is currently transpiring in my daughter's room. My husband is sitting on her floor, shirtless, while she stands behind him and peels off his sunburned skin, one shred at a time. This is her new favorite hobby. Now, before you say "gross" and click to exit this page, know that they are having very meaningful daddy/daughter conversation while this is happening. Don't ever say the Watts family doesn't know how to have fun!

Feel free to laugh!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Don't Be (Too) Jealous!

Hello, my friends in the blogosphere! Free To Laugh will be radio silent for the next seven days, only because my hubby and I are taking a MUCH needed break from reality and traveling to the British Virgin Islands. We will be spending seven glorious days and nights aboard something like this:

We will be sailing with some of our dearest friends, traveling to uninhabited islands, snorkeling and cave diving - does life get any better? 

The kids will be fine here...we left them plenty of bread and peanut butter, so I think with Emerson in charge they should get along just fine.

KIDDING (before you call D-FACS)! Our sweet parents are tag-teaming staying here with our precious kiddos, and we are beyond thankful. 

If you think about me and my main only squeeze while we're away, would you join us in praying that, along with some serious R&R, the Lord would give us a fabulous time together as we focus on each other, and that He would reveal Himself to us and His plans for our family in a huge way? Also, as we leave our children and do not expect any communication with them for seven days due to the nature of our trip, would you join me in praying for their safety and ours? Join me in praying Matthew 11:28, if you feel led:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
I expect nothing less than an encounter with the most-high God as we take the time to be quiet in His presence, and I covet your prayers!

And while I'm gone, please, feel free to laugh!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Glimpses of Hope

Do you ever feel as though, no matter how hard you work to teach your children about the goodness of God and the work of Jesus on the cross, they just don't get it? I have to admit that I do. 

Yes, I am aware that my children are only five, four, and two years old. However, there is enormous pressure on Christ-following parents to raise up little saints, is there not? I feel like many of us live under the weight of man-made expectations when it comes to raising our children, operating by a set of unspoken rules that we are "supposed" to follow, rules like:
  • Teach your children one Bible verse per week, also reviewing every prior verse to make sure that if they were to get the call to audition for America's Got Talent, they would be able to recite the entire New Testament without error, winning the viewing audience for Jesus and a million dollars for your family.
  • Make sure that every evening before bed your family gathers together for Family Time, a time of worship and reading of the Word of God, and a time of bonding together over the opportunities for discipline and spankings that arise as your children won't stop touching each other.
  • Listen to the latest worship records at all times in your vehicle, ensuring that your children know the words to the most current worship songs so that when they go to church with you and stand on the chair next to you during the service, they can sing every word for all to see, looking angelic and adorable.
These are just a few. And maybe it's just me. But somehow I don't think so.

Don't get me wrong, I think all of these are good things to do; it's more about the legalism involved, almost a superstition of sorts that I think Christian parents live under when it comes to raising their kids to love Jesus. If my kid can't win the award for reciting verses, I'm a failure. If we miss an evening (or evenings) of family prayer time, the Spirit of God is sucked right out of our homes. If our kids don't know every lyric on the new Tomlin record, it probably means they are going to grow up and listen to Korn. Is Korn still in existence? I don't know, but you catch my drift.

Add to these pressures the fact that we are raising, well, KIDS, and it's easy to feel like you have failed before you have even started. How dare they be so immature? How dare they roughhouse and interrupt and pick at each other during our prayer time? How dare they ask me to turn off 104.7 the Fish to listen to Katy Perry's "Firework," their favorite song from the movie Madagascar 3? Which of course they have never seen, because we only watch Bibleman and Antiques Roadshow in our house.

I do not want to sound jaded here, but moms, we have GOT to cut ourselves some slack. We have got to be freed up. We have got to learn to listen to the voice of God through the Holy Spirit in us instead of the man-made pressures and expectations of this world.

The privilege of winning our kids to Jesus belongs to the Lord. HE changes hearts, but He is good enough to allow us to be involved. We must take the focus off of being super-moms and off of making them love Jesus; instead we must instead love Jesus ourselves and live it daily in our homes, letting the Spirit guide us as we interact with our children.

What if, instead of just praying with our children before bed, we pray with our children anytime, anywhere, as the need arises, teaching them that a relationship with the Lord is 24/7? What if, instead of drilling random Bible verses into their heads, WE live in God's Word and know it so well that when circumstances arise in our children's lives that are teaching opportunities, we work with them on learning a portion of God's Word that directly corresponds to what they are dealing with so that the Bible comes to life for them? What if we teach our children that to LIVE is to worship the Lord, and that we can worship Him anywhere, anytime, not just when a song is playing.

For a long period of time we had a period of family time together before bed. It looked a lot like this:

Or not.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I am not slamming people who do this. Every family needs it in some form, and it can be a really special time. However, my children were so young when we tried that literally every other sentence was, "sit down and BE REVERENT!" Usually someone received a spanking. There was always someone singing stream-of-consciousness songs during our prayers. And looking back, I realize that we set them up to fail, having expectations that were not in line with our reality, as they were...wait for it...toddlers!

Sometimes I worry because my four-year-old son doesn't "get" spiritual things. Sometimes I feel like he is destined for a life of pain because of his separation from God. Then I remember that he's four. And as you're smiling right now and thinking, "oh that neurotic mom," you realize that you have worried about it, too. Now, could it be that he will walk through his life without knowing and loving the Lord? Absolutely. But I don't think so. I think he will grow up seeing a father and mother who are desperately in love with Jesus and will want the same thing. But I think that, for right now, he's four.

Before he went to bed a couple of weeks ago, I asked him, "Sutton, do you know how you can have a relationship with Jesus?"

"Yes, ma'am."

SCORE! I think, "he gets it!" This was the moment we had been praying for. He finally understands! I asked him, "Can you tell me how?"

He thought for a minute, and then replied, "you throw a big stick out there to him and then you see if he catches it."

In case you're wondering, that's my balloon bursting.

He is FOUR, people! And still I was disappointed!

My prayers lately have been less about them and more about me. Prayers for realistic expectations of my children. Prayers that they will know and love Jesus because HE compels them to, not because I pressure them into some guilt-based relationship with the Lord that they struggle with throughout their entire lives. Prayers that I can shut up and pray for my children instead of feeling the need to be the Holy Spirit in their lives at every turn.

And in doing this, I see glimpses of hope. I see God working in my children. I see my son come to me and confess some dishonesty without my prompting and because of his conviction. I see my daughter spending time in her room "writing" her own worship songs, singing with joy and abandon and creativity that is born out of her own relationship with God, not mine. And I am humbled.

Last night as I was putting my five-year-old daughter to bed, I told her the same thing I do every night. I said, "Emerson, God loves you and make you so unique. He has big plans for your life - don't miss them!"

She looked at me and said, "Mom, you know how you said that when I get big I can go anywhere in the whole earth and tell people about Jesus? Well, I didn't even have to go anywhere far away to do that. A few weeks ago at school my friend Abby told me that she didn't know Jesus, and I told her that I did, and then I asked her if she wanted to have Jesus in her heart like me. She said she did, so I told her how to pray and ask Jesus to forgive her bad choices and to live in her heart forever. She prayed and now Abby's a Christian just like me!"

This rocked me. Here I have been worrying away about the state of her heart and her understanding of the Gospel because she acts like the sinful five-year-old child that she is, and all the while she is winning her friends to Jesus at preschool. 

Lord, forgive me for doubting that you are big enough for her. Please forgive me.

She told me before I left her room, "Mom, I do want to go out in the world and tell people about Jesus when I'm a big girl. I think I will need a map, though." I promised her I would get her a map.

Matthew 5 tells us:
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in their house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Moms, we need to let our lights shine for our children. We need to worry about the state of our hearts, the candles burning in us, before we can begin to concern ourselves with our children's understanding of God's grace. We need to trust that our God is capable of revealing Himself to our children, and that in turn they will love Him, know Him, and light up their worlds for Christ. He is capable, we are not. Our jobs as mothers is to continually point our children back to their need for Jesus, and to share with them our need for Him as well. He does the heart-changing, and He is enough.

Lastly, if you decide to brave family time with toddler-aged kids, I would suggest that you hand out Tootsie-Pops at the beginning of each session. The candy may rot their teeth, but it sure does keep them quiet, and what are rotten teeth in exchange for time with the Lord, anyhow?

Feel free to laugh!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Very Patient...Otherwise Known As That Time We Scarred Our Daughter For Life

If you are anything like me (and by now you're probably hoping you're not), you probably utter the phrase "BE PATIENT" about 57 times per day. To your kids, to the dog, to your husband, maybe even to yourself. 

"Son, if you interrupt me one more time while I am on the phone with the bank, I promise you things will not go well for you. BE PATIENT!"

"Sweetie, I know your brother stuck his finger on his bottom and then told you to smell it, but that's no excuse to hit him in the face. BE PATIENT!"

"Self, I know you want to punch a hole in the sheet rock right now and that there is an intense rage inside you that is aching to be released, but BE PATIENT!"

Be patient.

Easier said than done. It's funny sad, I often become impatient while disciplining my own children because they were impatient. Another irony of motherhood. 

All that having been said, I have to brag on Emerson right now. A few months back she had a great triumph over impatience. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong place, and at the wrong time. Let me explain. 


It's about 9:30pm, and in our home that means that the kids have been asleep for about two hours. Brandon and I had been doing our Bible study watching Survivor on TiVo, and when it was finished I suggested that we, ah...take a shower. Together. Hey, people, we are married, and married people have shower prayer time every night, right?

Anyway, we went in our bathroom, closed the door, and commenced to...showering. For a long time. Lots and lots of showering.

After we showered, we actually showered, and then we finally cut the water off. I opened my side of the shower curtain to lean out and get my towel, and I almost. had. a. heart. attack. Seriously, I almost fell on my back in the shower.

Seated DIRECTLY outside the shower, on her itty-bitty "Emerson" stool, was my five-year-old, with elbows on knees and chin in hands, staring. Just staring. Kind of like this kid:

I screamed. Loud. "EMERSON!"

I yanked the shower curtain closed and burst into nervous laughter. At this point my husband is laughing so hard he can't breathe.

I try to compose myself (as if that's possible as I am naked and in the shower with her father), and I pull the curtain back and poke my face out. "Um, sweetie, ahhh, what are you doing?"

"Well, I woke up and I needed to talk to you, so I came to find you. I heard you and Daddy in the shower, and you said it's rude to interrupt adults when they're talking, so I just sat on my stool. Aren't you proud of me, Mommy? I was VERY, VERY patient."

At this point my husband's not bothering to hide his laughter, and I am on the brink of hysteria, thinking that I have now scarred my daughter for life.

"Well, how long do you think you were sitting out there, honey?"

She thought hard for a minute, then answered, "I don't know, Mom. I'd say 10 minutes. You guys were in there a LONG time. And you were talking VERY loud."

Yes, yes we were. Talking. Very loud. Too loud, obviously, when there are children in the house and our...talking...might wake them.

Then she asked me, "Mommy, why were you and Daddy getting a shower at the very same time?"

"Because...Mommy and Daddy were very, very...dirty, Emerson. That's why. Now why don't you go in your room and get in bed and I'll be there in a minute."

"Okay. But I sure was patient, Mom! That was real good!" She hopped off her stool and trotted back into her room.

I turned and stared at my husband. He laughed. I worried. I worried that the next time in preschool her teachers asked her to fill in one of those "my parents are..." surveys, hers was gonna say something like, "My Mommy's favorite thing to do get in the shower with Daddy when they are very, very dirty."

She, of course, forgot and hasn't mentioned it since. Either that or the story is now stored in her arsenal for use at the perfect future time.


In all seriousness, though, if that's even possible now, we try to focus on creating a patient atmosphere in our home. We encourage our children to be long-suffering. We try to teach them that what is immediate is not always what is best, that sometimes we have to be patient in order to really get what we want. We have a long hallway, and in that hallway is a tree that I painted. Let me say, off the bat, that it is fairly unattractive. I am not a painter. However, we wanted a fruit-of-the-spirit tree in our hallway, so paint I did. Patience is one of the fruit of the spirit, and my husband and I actually try to reinforce its importance every chance we get with our children. The problem is that, when showing it to my children, they get stuck on the fact that "patience" is a bunch of grapes, and that grapes don't grow on trees. Yeah, well neither do watermelon, but mama couldn't think of enough tree-producing fruit due to the stress of the painting looking janky.

Because I know somebody's gonna ask:

Anyhow, all of that is a long way of saying we value patience.

The problem is, with three small kiddos, patience is often hard to come by. It's easily taught but not easily retained. They struggle with it. I struggle with it. It's a daily battle. 

God's Word encourages us all, young and old, to practice patience in all that we do. God sets the example for us:
"The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression..." Num. 14:18
"But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." Psalm 86:15
He is so good and is 100% consistent in His patience with us. Then it's our turn to learn from Him and to exhibit his qualities as a child does his father. The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:12-13:
"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and PATIENCE, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (emphasis mine)
I can't expect my children to be patient all the time. I guess I CAN expect them to be patient in the inopportune times, though! But, our job as mothers is to seek a heart of patience for ourselves so that we are living testimonies of God's character to our children. That is how they learn. That is how they grow in maturity and in self control. That is how they look more like Jesus.

It's a tall order. It's a lot of work. It's not, by any stretch of the imagination, easy. But, imagine how our children might grasp the power of patience if they were to watch you and me treat others with the very same attitude, extending grace to others and loving them with Jesus' love. It's a challenge, and one that I believe we can and should accept. So, who's with me? If you desire to see patience and peace reign in your home, I'd encourage you to pray right now that the Lord will start the heart-change with you and your husband. Go ahead, feel free to pray.

One more thing. I would recommend, very highly, that all doors be locked and all fart-fans turned on to drown out the "talking" next time you and your husband decide to "shower" together. You're welcome.

Feel free to laugh!