02 Jan

Poppin’ Countdown

poppin countdown 1

Zombies, dancing chickens, cookies, howling and more…our New Year’s Eve was poppin’.

In an attempt to make our New Year’s entertaining and full of fun I took to Pinterest. I found lots of cute ideas, put a few of them together to match what we had available in the house and out popped the “Poppin’ Countdown”.

poppin countdown 1

Balloons were hidden all over the house. Starting at 5 p.m. family members ran around the house to find the balloon marked with the appropriate hour and their name (the one pictured is 11 p.m. for our daughter). When everyone had found their balloon they had to report back to the living room.

Next step: pop your balloon and retrieve the piece of paper with instructions. Not allowed to use anything sharp.

After balloon pieces were picked up (cuz the puppy thought his part of the game was to consume all the lil pieces), you had to follow the instructions. Sometimes the whole group had the same instructions, sometimes they were different. More than once people did theirs and other peoples too…just cuz it was fun.

poppin countdown 2

 6 p.m. – eat a cookie!! (before dinner was ready…everyone quickly complied with this one)

poppin countdown 3

8 p.m. – dance like chickens

poppin countdown 4

10 p.m. – zombie dance

poppin countdown 5

11 p.m. – sparklers (a New Year’s tradition for us)

poppin countdown 6

Midnight – hunky hubby’s special balloon message — the kids had to go on the deck and sing a crazy New Year’s song LOUD

(he said he didn’t need a balloon to tell him to do that!! Smart man.)

We had a blast. We entertained/annoyed our neighbors a few times — howling on the deck, running laps in the driveway singing “We are the Champions” and more. I think we were just two or three hours in when the requests for doing it again began rolling in.

I have to tell you, I think our kids looked forward to each hour more than they did the ball dropping. Join us next year for Poppin’ Countdown?

20 Jun

Love will break you but it is good

storm

In the distance the thunder rolls.

In the house a door slams.

A storm is rolling in…inside and out.

storm

I sat on the edge of the stairs and watched the storm move in.

Slamming doors, banging on walls, a little voice filled with rage and fear.

The storm was picking up steam.

Here, I sat…weary.

Beyond weary….exhausted…drained…broken.

The thunder rolls…the sky gets dark.

Slamming…banging.

Tears build up in my eyes and in that moment I’m not sure how this plays out.

I’ve got nothing left. I whisper. Hoping…praying…that the God who brought the rain will somehow bring the sun.

I begin writing a blog post in my head about what love looks like….

Love whispers when you’d rather yell to be heard.

Love knocks on the door that just slammed again.

Love promises to stay through curses and cussing and being pushed away.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:7

hopes….perseveres….I’ve got nothing left. I whisper again.

Then from the living a song rises that I’ve never heard before.

The storm rages — the wind blows, little feet kick doors, the thunder shakes the house, slamming doors rattle the hallway, the lightening is so bright and close that it is almost blinding, a little voice spews anger at deafening decibels — and here I sit on the stairs. Tears streaming down my cheeks and Jesus singing into my soul from the living room.

“Love’s not safe at all
Love might let you fall
Love’s not easy
But it’s good, it’s good, it’s good
Love will take your time
Love might feel unkind
Love will break you
But it’s good”

It is not my love or my energy or my efforts that will reach our foster peanut…our someday son….it is Jesus. His love pouring through me…and when I’m empty it can only come from Him…that…that is perfect love…love that is kind…love that casts out all fear….love that will always persevere…love that is eternal.

Like all storms, this one passed. The thunder rolled on and a little body grew tired.

The sun shone. A faint rainbow glimmered above. And I rocked a small body in my arms while he cried and let go of all that was battling within him.

This is exhausting work…this work of parenting in the wake of trauma, abuse and neglect….

Love will break you…It’s not easy….but it’s good.

 

 

 

14 Nov

Junk Mail that Changed My World

Compassion junk mail

Any envelope with that logo is met with excitement and anticipation. News from afar. Letters or pictures from our sweet lil Compassion kiddos.

Breathless from her dash back from the mailbox, “Mom, can I open it?” She danced around waving the envelope.

I gave her the nod and she shredded the envelope with more excitement than “the winner is”.

Inside was a plea to help support children without a sponsor for a short-term sponsorship (just a month). While it was a great idea and we do love supporting Compassion there wasn’t another dime in the budget this month, so I told her no.

“What should I do with the pictures inside?” she asked.

Compassion junk mail

I shrugged it off. “Throw them away,” I guess. I dismissed it as junk mail. Well-meaning, yes, but junk mail nonetheless.

And I moved on.

Hours later when it was time to pull up covers and kiss little foreheads, her hands were folded in prayer with a picture clutched between them.

“We need to pray for his family mom….”

There were the pictures.

The junk mail.

The junk.

What seemed like clutter to me and was so quickly dismissed was clutched like treasure in her hands. Her heart beating for the needs of another a world away.

My heart swells with love for our baby girl. I don’t give her enough credit for her heart for others. I amazed that in one day she can push hard against our rules, nearly explode with tween drama and attitude and then breathe such grace and compassion over a picture. Under her mismatched socks and chatty exterior, beats a heart after God’s.

We join her in her prayer. A small voice with big requests — a sponsor, above all. Because God can do these things if we ask Him.

As we close her door I can barely breathe in the hallway.

I miss so much.

It was junk mail to me. It was life changing for her.

Father, open my eyes to your opportunities.

She carries those pictures around. Praying. Talking about them. Those children are real to her — real needs, real families, real dreams. They are important to her.

Are they important to me? Are they important to you?

We see so much need and sometimes that just paralyzes us. Where to begin. How do you start a problem that it seems you can’t fix?

But, really, it all begins quite simply…with the faith of a child really.

Isabel took what God gave her (a few little pictures) and what she could do (pray). And she did it. Who knows what God will do in answer to those prayers? What she might be praying them through or into? What provision of heaven was unlocked when that little blonde head bowed in faith?

So what is God giving you today? More importantly who is God giving you today? If we enter each day…every moment…with a longing to see what God has set before us…who God has set before us…how will that change the world?

Being a parent challenges me. Every. Day. But more than anything else my children help me to see God. To look for God. There is so much of this world that I overlook on my way to appointments, in an attempt to clean the house or just because it wasn’t on my to do list. Our children make me look around…show me these moments of God that I miss. They challenge me to see Him. To grow in Him. To believe…really, whole-heartedly, just believe.

Take a page from an 8 year olds playbook today — take what is right in front of you and go to God with it. Believe…ask…Because God can do these things if we ask Him.

{Take a moment today. Visit Compassion (<<— click there). Sign up to sponsor a child…make an eternal difference one life at a time. Can’t afford to sponsor today? Well visit Compassion anyway, pick a child to pray for…go to God on their behalf! If you do these things could you comment below? I will share them with Isabel so she can see how her mustard seed is inspiring and teaching us all.}

05 Nov

I’ll Always Come Back to You

come back to you

It seemed we were walking in a painting. Leaves of every color swirled in the air all around us as the gentle autumn breeze spread fall colors like a smooth water-color brush.

We had explored briar-guarded hollows, walked along barbed-wire fences, collected a delightful spectrum of fall glory in our little basket. Standing on the top of the hill overlooking our back yard and house I wanted to freeze the moment. To always remember their delighted giggles as they chased each other through twirling leaves. To remember the questions they asked and the answers I sometimes feel ill-equipped to give. To freeze childhood…to linger in these moments of falling glory.

Before I could find life’s pause button it moved on without me. She shot down the hill in a hurry to run free and explore. And as so often happens when you are the one with the littlest legs he was left there with me on the edge of adventure. Hesitating he smiled up at me, “Mom, I’m going to put my stick in your basket. Okay? Cuz I don’t want to lose it, but I want to run. I’ll always come back to you so I can leave it here.”

Clumisly knocking and twisting he shoved his stick in the basket and he was gone. Running on after her….into adventure.

come back to you 2

And there I stood autumn dancing on the breeze around me…..

I want to run…I’ll always come back to you….

Life became a blurry mix of colors as my eyes teared up and I was lost for a moment.

He’s six.

There is so much life to live. Roads to run, hills to roll down, adventures to be had. For this breath, for this moment he is still our little boy.

But I know how life moves (how that pause button eludes) and in a breath…the ragged breath of a life loved at full speed…he’ll be a man. Always a little boy to my heart.

Let it be so, Father.

I barely breathe the prayer…a whisper from my heart.

How I long to be a mother that helps him find his wings. A mother that helps him develop roots. The place he calls home (no matter where we are) and the place that he will return to when his life is bigger than our back yard.

My hunky hubby and I speak often about making our house the “soft place” for our children to fall (really for all the children in our lives). As they grow and learn, push against boundaries and lean hard into life, we will want to be that place even more so. A place where love meets you at the door — offering a full fridge, stuff to do, life to be lived out loud full of honesty and a healthy dose of sarcasm, where questions are encouraged, laughter is in full supply, and there are dogs to warm your feet and lick your face.

We talk about it now. We plan it for someday. And I realize we live it everyday…because tomorrow will be today. And tomorrow that sweet boy with the knobby knees who looks up at me with such an impish grin will be the man who looks down at his short lil mom as he hugs her goodbye.

Our hill spread out before him, he pumped his skinny legs as fast as they would go. I just watched him go.

come back to you

I carried the basket full of leaves and the precious stick cargo down the hill. Smiling as I heard them laughing and playing.

“Hello, mom!” A cheery little voice greeted me as a sweet lil face popped over the back fence. Our monkey man has been very proud of his new ability to scale fences and avoid gates. My heart skipped a beat…a whole lifetime of dreams and adventure await him. But today, while his hands are still small I get to be his mama.

In a flash he was down from the fence and opening the back gate for me. “Mom, come watch….” he hollered as he shot off towards the monkey bars.

The gate clicked behind me. The back yard a brilliant world alive with green grass, falling reds and yellows, dogs wrestling for a ball, and two sets of bright blue eyes twinkling at me from the swing set.

Here surrounded by Autumn in its full glory I breathe it all in. The colors, the smell, the sound of the breeze through the changing trees. And I whisper a short prayer as I watch my sweet peanuts play….

…Father, please help me always see the glory that falls around us….

I linger there.

12 Aug

I’m a Super(hero) Mom

Last year I had big plans.

Summer reading.

Field trips.

Playdates.

A summer full of fun and memory making.

Two surgeries, a family emergency and a death in the family most assuredly took the wind out of all those sails. The kids watched movies all summer.

They were bored. I was bored and summer crawled by at a lame snail’s pace. (upside we ALL looked forward to school starting)

So this year, I was determined to do better. For summer to be better!

With my calendar by my side and all my ideas rushing around in my head I did what any woman who needs direction and inspiration does.

I took to Pinterest.

And inspired I did get. Overwhelmed too. (oh and a little distracted cuz there are some killer desserts and some super cute outfits on there too!!)

So I pinned.

And planned.

And before long there were three weeks of “Summer Camp at Home” on the calendar.

(the first two weeks were themed for animals and water. We played some games, ate some snacks and did some crafts. They were good weeks, but the third week was blog worthy!!)

The third week (drum roll please) was Superhero Week.

The weekend before the camp started I gave the kids homework. Think up a superhero  identity.

Monday morning found us bound for Wal-Mart on a mission to get costume supplies.

superhero supplies

Hours later, covered in glitter, hot glue on my finger tips, we had reinvented ourselves….

superhero mama cape

…my cape…

superhero gear

 

Jester Man (our son) and Water Cheetah Archery Girl (our daughter) – gear is set out for Tuesday’s activity

While the peanuts slept on Monday night, hunky hubby and I decorated the house with lots of inflated villains. Tuesday was Superheroes and Villains day. Armed with nerf guns the kids hunted down and shot bad guys all over the house.

superhero villain balloons

superhero shooting villians

And then…Wednesday was Superhero Olympics. We invited some friends over, set up some games, and played.

superhero beanbag toss

beanbag toss

superhero obstacles

obstacle course

superhero medals

superhero medals

superhero league

elite league of superheroes

It was an incredible week and we ended it by making a movie. Yes, a movie!!

Totally the highlight of the week. I grabbed my camera and the kids and I invented scenes as we went along. When hunky hubby got home he dawned his best bad guy costume (complete with cape that we made) and we shot the “Bad Guy” (that was his name) scenes. After some editing (read hours and hours of me trying to figure out how to add music and make it cool), we sat down to the premiere on Friday night (complete with movie snacks and orange soda). It was a blast.

So, despite some diva moments (mine and theirs) and glitter on every surface of the house (even days later) summer camp at home was a smashing success. At the very least we made some awesome family memories….and a movie. (hey remember that time I produced a movie!)

30 Jul

We WILL have fun

Sometimes I get it right. Like today.

Sometimes, I don’t. Like yesterday. {plastic pool + ice cold water from the hose = fun afternoon, right?? Add a bee sting on a tiny foot, a little girl attitude and a deflated momma ego and it becomes a fail. Fail.}

Today, I awoke with new resolve. We will have fun today. We will get it right. This summer camp at home thing will produce smiles and fun. It will.

An hour into filling water balloons I was smiling to myself. Oh, they are going to love this! Buckets full of birdie balloons at the ready. Just a few more to fill, some green pigs to draw on the driveway and we’d be ready to play.

A balloon springs a leak. I get wet.

Our son discovers the bucket full of balloons and gets excited about throwing them at his sister. When I try to explain we are going to play a game and if there are some left over they can have a war, he bursts into tears.

A balloon pops off the faucet spraying the kitchen and me. Mostly me. I get soaked.

Small boy continues to cry.

I fill another balloon, dry it off and draw a face on it.

IMG_7154

If we survive to play the game. We will have fun.

I give our son a choice. Calm down and play, and maybe have some fun or stay inside and be angry.

He opts for maybe having fun. Maybe.

Off to the driveway we go. Buckets of balloons loaded and ready.

IMG_7028

IMG_7022

 

I grab the sidewalk chalk. I begin sketching boxes and round things.

I’ve got the lil man’s attention.

“Mom, that looks like a pig.”

“A green pig, mom.”

“Mom, are we playing Angry Birds?”

{if only I could insert the delighted squeals}

Now we’re all drawing pigs and scenes.

IMG_7039

 

IMG_7059

 

IMG_7062

 

IMG_7070

 

And then it is time to play…

IMG_7219

 

{in order for a pig to “fall” it has to be completely wet….here the sun was a pig}

IMG_7183

{oh yeah, and some of the “birds” were real balloons filled with water…and sometimes they bounce}

IMG_7241{the final battle required team work and lots of balloons…and yes, the boy did play in his socks}

IMG_7242

{it took more of the actual water balloons then I thought it would so we took a break after level 2 and filled up a more balloons and re-hydrated the players}

Some days I get it right. And I just wanted to share {and well, maybe, brag a little too!}. But we had a great time…Daddy is jealous at work and the kids are ready to play again soon.

Summer camp at home is now 1-1. Never one who likes ties I’ll have to try again tomorrow. More water balloons (after all this week’s theme is water) and more games. I’m hoping for smiles, not perfection, and some fun memories along the way. {oh, and maybe, just maybe, a little family therapy session with balloons!}

{btw, we had lots of balloons left over and the lil man was able to get everyone soaking wet!}

04 Jun

Planning to be Obedient

IMG_7263

To the crowd she likely seems just a sweet, impulsive child as she wades into the water. One that makes you say, “aw.”

She is sweet.

She is impulsive.

She is a child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this moment is so much more.

This is God leading her. Her teaching me.

As we walked up next to the pool (late for the baptisms), we walked up just in time to hear the Pastor asking if anyone else wanted to be baptized.

I was just setting down my camera bag (luckily the camera was around my neck) and my husband hadn’t even made it to where we were standing…yet a little voice answered “yes.”

For nearly a year we have been saying we would plan for Isabel to be baptized. Weather, schedules and life seemed to get in the way, with promises of this summer. We would plan for her to be obedient.

And then there in this moment with a church we are new to, with people we barely know, with no grandparents or godparents, no plans, no towels or extra clothes. There in that moment the opportunity to follow God was presented, and Isabel understood.

This wasn’t about plans or the crowd. This was about a little girl and her Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were planning for obedience. She seized the opportunity to be obedient.

And as I stared teary eyed at my baby girl boldly declaring her life for Jesus, I knew deep in my heart that once again God was teaching me through my peanut.

To get out of my own way and follow Him. Tune my ears and heart to the sound of His whisper. To walk in His footsteps. That there is a time for planning and there is a time for doing. And doing is what touches hearts, changes live.

Isn’t that the moniker of Jesus’ ministry? Doing. Healing, teaching, loving. Heart tuned to God, eyes on His people, hands open to life…to love.

The water was cold. She didn’t turn back.

A pastor she barely knows held her hand. She didn’t flinch.

Her parents were caught of guard. She knew what she was doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isabel was baptized exactly when she was supposed to be. Following her Jesus when the whisper moved her soul.

This morning I awoke with teary smile remembering yesterday. Thanking God for the lessons He is teaching me. My prayer breathed before my feet touched the floor, “help me follow You like that.”

I urge you, today, to turn your heart toward Jesus. Listen for those whispers. Don’t miss the opportunity to follow Him. Even if the water is cold. Even if you don’t know the people or you aren’t prepared.

…even if you haven’t finished planning….

01 Feb

Whose Child is She?

“Whose child is she?”
A question jokingly asked in our house frequently. Whether it is the “concerts” with complete with microphone & guitar, a fashion show or the occasional meltdown with screaming and carrying on, I often look at my daughter and wonder. Whose child is she?

Lately I have noticed something different in the way Isabel plays and how she speaks about when she’s older (or how she says it…”old and married”). She has decided when she gets married they will adopt orphans so she can be their mom. A tender heart has emerged with a passion I am floored by.
I stood in the hallway the other day listening to Isabel “teach” the imaginary orphans at the school she runs in her bedroom. I was floored by her patience and laughter with the game. I listened as she taught them of God’s love and her love for them. I listened as she sang to them and cuddled them. (Okay, yes I do know they are invisible, but in her game, in her head, they are not).
Then last week as the kids’ quiet time was wrapping up I walked by her bedroom and saw all her play money spread all over her bed in piles. “Whatcha playing?” I asked. “Well, mom,” insert flash of a dimpled grin here, “I am selling things with my princess cash register to get money for the people who don’t have any. Then they can come to me and I’ll give them money to get what they need.”
I cried. Right there leaning on her door jam, I cried big, overwhelmed tears. Whose child is this?

When I regained my composure I hugged her and explained that I am amazed by her love for people and just in awe of the heart that God gave her.
Moved, I was today. (and apparently channeling Yoda in my writing)
I went in search of a project our family could do. Something to help Isabel take her heart and really touch people for Jesus. Something that would allow her to do something for these orphans that she loves in her heart and in her imaginary world.
Soon into my online research I found myself getting discouraged. Everything I found was about giving money. Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to supporting organizations but this was about more than a check. This was about making service real for Isabel, for our family.
On a whim I submitted a form asking an organization called Orphan’s Lifeline International explaining a bit about Isabel’s heart and what I was searching for. Within minutes I had an answer back that we could make blankets, hats and clothing for orphans right here in the U.S..
When I told Isabel she covered her mouth in shock and then she cried. Big, overwhelmed tears. With tears still on her cheeks she began to smile, “Okay, we’ll start with a blanket and clothes. When can we get to the store, mom?”
Whose child is she?

God’s.
And if He is moving the heart of a five-year-old to provide for His children imagine what He’ll do with her life. Imagine what He could do with our family.
So this afternoon’s homeschooling is cut short. We’re off to put our shoes on and go to the store. After all, there are orphans to be clothed and blankets that need to stitched together with love. And there is a 5 year old whose view of Jesus and the world is about to get a whole lot bigger.
One last thought, as I read James 1:27 (look after orphans and widows in their distress) to Isabel over her snack today. I said, “See how your games and desires are matching up with God’s word.”

“Yep,” she said. “Cuz that’s why God made us. To love. So when are we going to the store?”

(right now, baby girl, right now)
%d bloggers like this: