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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! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Doctor Love

Do you recognize this place?

Most of my disposable time and income are spent here. Maybe yours are too.

Welcome to my home away from home, the pediatrician's office.

Before I make my children sound like complete germ-infested monsters, let me explain. Each of my precious children has had their own health challenges. My first-born dealt with chronic ear infections and severe constipation (there...just getting the inevitable poop reference out of the way early). My middle child dealt with everything from salmonella poisoning as an infant (must've been all that sushi I was feeding him) and terrible acid reflux to chronic ear infections and a bad attitude (that one can't be cured by visiting the pediatrician - just figured I'd lump it in there with the rest of his ailments). My third takes the cake, though, when it comes to pediatrician visits. From an eye infection at 10 days old that landed us in the ER and an infantile fever at seven weeks that earned us four-day admittance to the local children's hospital to severe reflux, a milk protein allergy, constipation, chronic ear infections, and ultimately ear tubes, he has been one expensive gift from God.

Yes, I guess I just made them sound like complete germ-infested monsters.

And no, I don't need your dietary suggestions, and no, we're not going gluten-and-dairy free. More power to you if that's your bag, but it just ain't gonna happen on this shift. 

And yes, they take vitamins and eat lots of vegetables and fruits, and they even take Juice Plus.

And no, I really don't want your holistic practitioner's phone number.

Anyway, back to the pediatrician.

Over the last several years, I have gotten to know our office, the staff, the nurses, and our doctor way too well. They have seen me laugh. They have seen me cry. They have laughed with me. They have shared Starbucks with me, because for a while there I was too busy for friends, and really who needs friends when you have nurses, so I just stopped and picked them up some coffee every time I was on my way in. Also, I am 98% sure they snuck me back to a room faster because of it.

Taking your kids to the pediatrician is no small feat, am I right? I show up, rush to get in on time, and dish out yet ANOTHER copay. The receptionist cheerfully asks me to sign the credit card slip, and I bite my tongue to keep from asking her if she just wants to go ahead and set up a direct deposit from my paycheck into their bank account to cut out the middle man.

I usually find myself presented with a dilemma once I get finished with the check-in process. I usually have one kid that's sick, and two that aren't (or, should I say, two that aren't sick YET). So I send said sick child into the "sick" room, and said well children into the "well" room. Then I run walk back and forth, watching like a hawk to make sure my children don't cross the thresholds into the other room, either contaminating or being contaminated. I often find my children lying on the carpet in these rooms, because why would they want to stand or sit like normal people when they are in the single-most germ-infested place under the sun? Last time I was there I found my two-year-old laying on his stomach underneath some chairs sucking goldfish crumbs off the carpet. I went ahead and penciled in a sick visit for him three days later to treat whatever bacteria he had just sucked off the floor.

Once my nurse, my boo, Jo, calls us back to our room, my kids stop at the scale and for a lollypop. You know which kind - the same ones pediatricians were giving out 30 years ago when we were kids.

There's nothing new under the sun, is there?

And, just for the record, Saf-T-Pops are not SAF. Those suckers (pun intended) come off the saf stick so fast that they might as well not even be included with them. They should just call them Choke-Ing-Pops.

As soon as we reach our room in the back, which is about 3'x3' in size for four people and includes zero toys, one of my children drops their Saf-T-Pop on the ground. One of three things typically happens: 1. I grab it and trash it and get them a new one, 2. It falls and shatters into a million pieces and I "get to" clean that up and THEN get them a new one, or 3. Said child is faster than me, grabs it before I can get to him, and pops it back into his mouth. At which point I schedule a sick appointment for three days later (see the goldfish example above).

At this point my kids are bouncing off the walls, with tears from "he touched me," and "are we done yet's," and "I need to go potty's." By the time the pediatrician makes her way in to see us, it appears that I am a mother who can neither control her children or herself, and that all four of us quite possibly need to be medicated.

While trying to speak to the doctor with a semblance of intelligence, the non-sick kids tend to do things like grab the tongue depressors and medical gloves, or knock her costs-thousands-of-dollars otoscope off of the examine table. Or maybe one comes back from the bathroom with a full cup of urine because she "wanted to tinkle in a cup." Not that it's ever happened to me.

We finally prepare to leave and I get the pleasure of trying to herd my crew out of the room, help them make their sticker selection (which can take hours, for reals), pick up any prescriptions, and get back down to the van in the parking garage with the world's slowest elevator.

Then I need a nap.

Now, all of this being said, I must tell you that I am beyond thankful for my pediatrician. She has been a part of the healing process of my children's lives, she has hugged me when I was overwhelmed, she has taken each and every situation to do with my children's health and wellbeing on a case-by-case basis, knowing them by name and not as another number. She knows their bodies. She knows my parenting style. She has cared for my children well, and I am so very grateful.

We invest a lot into our children's physical health, and as we should, because it's worth it.

So what about investing in their spiritual health?

Do I minister love to my children's hearts and attend to their spiritual health as much as I do their physical well being? Am I as in tune with their emotional ups and downs as I am with their coughs and sneezes? Do I labor over what I allow to penetrate their minds and spirits through media, friends, and environments as much as I do over what I allow to nourish (or not) their physical selves?

Do I give them state-of-the-heart checkups? 

Do I give one to myself?

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test." -- 2 Corinthians 13:5

Do I create time to be still, to sit before the Lord and seek His guidance and His equipping as I attempt to raise three little humans, not just into functional adults, but more importantly into passionate pursuers of Jesus Christ?

Some simple questions I might ask in self-examination as I get really honest with myself about my successes and failures as my childrens' mother might be:

  • Do I make it a priority and create a time and space to personally spend time in communion with God?
  • Do I pray for my children? Often?
  • Do I speak words of life and love into my children daily, even when it's not easy?
  • Do I live authentically before my children, sharing with them my own depravity and desperate need for a Savior?
  • Do I discipline and guide my children by dealing with root heart issues and not just the symptoms of their deeper problems?
  • Do I live and breathe God's Word as I communicate with my children, showing them that Scripture is meant to be part of the fabric of who we are as Christ-followers?
  • Do I exemplify a child of God who is desperately in love with her Heavenly Father, a living example of what is means to have relationship with God and not religion?
  • Do I extend the grace of God to my children, the same grace He has extended to me time and again?

There are many, many more questions we can ask ourselves, most definitely. Maybe, though, this is a good place to start. Maybe in the asking we will open ourselves up to the Spirit's prompting to dig deeper, to ask more questions. 

One thing I want to say to all my sisters out there, because I know how we as women are, how we can operate in the impossible realm of perfectionism: asking these questions and realizing we come up short is NOT grounds for taking a battering ram to our hearts and beating ourselves to a bloody pulp. Crushing our own confidence and breaking our own spirits is a complete contradiction to what asking these questions should actually do for us. None of us will answer every question with a "yes," and most of us will find that we fail often. These questions and our answers and shortcomings should not stir up fear or apprehension in us, because our questions are rooted in a deep love for the Lord and for our children. And in love, there is no fear, there is no anxiety.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us." -- 1 John 4:18-19

Will you join me in this self-examination? Will you bring yourself before the Lord without pretense, laying it all out there for Him to sort through, minister to, and, if necessary, even take and break, so that He can heal, fill and rebuild us into mothers who can doctor love to our children?

Here's to being moms, being women, who are real.

Here's to being unwilling to settle for mediocrity when the ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment and equipping has been offered to us by our Father. 

Here's to being moms who want to love our children to the cross.

And here's to all the pediatricians out there. Dr. Mekelburg, I may have paid enough copays to fund your vacation home, but I have to say that you deserve it. For all the times you have been pooped on, I say bravo. For all the times you have been exposed to some disgusting stomach bug that manifested itself in you the next day at 1:00am, I say soldier on. For that time a few weeks ago when my son kicked you in the face, I say sorry. Just sorry.

Feel free to laugh!