Wednesday, October 23, 2013

unless I say no...

As I'm typing and banging away on my ancient desktop and sipping away on my [tepid] coffee I have the glorious sound of worship music and toddler tantrum playing in the background.

It has been a long night. A long week really, but specifically a long night... and morning. Like I said, a long week and it's only Wednesday.  My now 16 month old son has taken to screaming his head off to nap, sleep, anything really. Cue in amazing toddler season.  Yeah, he is now screaming in the middle of the night for no real reason other than wanting what he wants-- which is to not be in bed, to not be sleeping and to be held all.the.time.

I mean... how could you not snuggle with this face?
Listen. I'm all about snuggles.  I have no problem holding my babies and loving on them and snuggling them.  I by no means deprive my children of being held, loved on, snuggled on, etc.  You're talking to the Mom who wore her 3 year old. That's right... Me, my daughter in our Moby.  And I loved it. And so did she.  My prescription to a bad day is forgetting everything and snuggling on the couch and watching a movie, listening to music, reading a book, etc. So, clearly, I don't have any problems holding or snuggling my children.
So when my son wakes up at 2am to be held, it sure in heck is not because he lacked it during the day.  I mean, and that's the only reasonable reason why my child would scream to be held in the middle of the night.  I thought it was teething at some point. But no.  Our teething remedies do nothing for this screaming toddler.  And he doesn't scream like that at any other time of the day...

Unless I say no.

"Justice, no! Don't climb the shelf. Not safe." [enter screams]
"Please get down from the toilet!" [enter screams]
"Hey bud, let's have chicken instead of cereal for lunch" [enter screams]
"Justice, share with your sister please. Nice." [enter screams]
[enter Mommy's internal scream]

I'm no professional on parenting. That's no secret.  But my suspicion is that this little boy is bent on getting his way and he has a Jesus lovin' Mama who loves him to much to let him get away with that.  So, he screams.  And he throws whatever he has in his hands in anger just to drive the point home. And then he's still screaming. And even after Mama has written a full five paragraphs, he keeps screaming.


And then the thought occurs to me as I try to bury myself in the Word of Jesus, frantically searching for some form of encouragement and reinforcement that I'm not the World's Worst Mother and that He values my very very weak and fragile efforts, that we are just like my 16 month old son who screams and throws because he has to be put down to nap instead of running around like he wants.

I wonder how many times my Perfect Father has sat next to me, listening to me scream and rant in my heart because I wanted what I wanted and I thought I knew best. Of course my son needs rest. It's the right and healthy thing.  He needs rest more than he needs happiness.  And so does my heart, Beloved. 

As the Perfect Father, my God knows overwhelmingly more than I do (both as the mother and the daughter) what my heart needs to grow roots and flourish.  He knows the lessons I must learn to master obedience and perfect love. He knows.  And sometimes (okay, let's face it, all the time) those lessons and His perfect execution of those lessons go against the grain of what we want.  And sometimes (or if you're me, most of the time) our hearts throw tantrums. Much like my 16 month old son.  And in His patience, the Lord listens and speaks encouragement to our hearts-- whether through silence or Word, He is a continual being of encouragement, patience and mercy.

I am unbelievably thankful for His perfect example and His Grace. He has yet to abandon me and I love Him for that.  I am blessed that through the brokenness of this season, He whispers nuggets of mercy throughout, molding and shaping me to be His Bride. A Shulamite Mom indeed.

I think I'll go finish my cold coffee now and bask in His mercies...
while my son continues to scream in the background.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Trusting Jesus with our children

The same sentence had been whispered in my heart over and over and over again.

"Trust Me with you children Nicole. Hand them over to me. Give them to me. Trust Me with them."

It struck me as odd because I feel like I do. At least I felt like I did. Now, I'm not so sure. I mean, I dedicated my children to the Lord when they were newborns.  Our entire Church Family has been witness to both. I meant it then.  I still do.  But somewhere along the line of parenting, as my love grows for them, I've also allowed fear to grip my heart.

Haven Justice being dedicated to Jesus. 
"It's amazing how we think we trust God in an area, and then He's like... 'Yah, no kiddo. Sorry.' Haha. I love it though! Praise God that He loves me enough to call my bluff."
-- text sent to a friend of mine, confessing my lack of trust. 

Aaliya Liberty being dedicated to Jesus. 
We live in dark, dark world and I never want anything to happen to my children.  My mother's heart wants to shield them from all pain, suffering.  I want to create the perfect circumstance so that my children will come to know Jesus... without pain. I want to be there every second of every day.

Truth is, I believe in homeschooling and staying home and being my children's main teacher in life. I believe that 100%.  I know my most important ministry (besides to the Lord and to my husband) is tending the hearts of my children.  But I believe that, in part*, it is because fear reigns my heart when it comes to my children.  I am depending on my own efforts to raise my children and protect them. I am depending on my own efforts to bring them to the foot of the cross.  I am fearful that if I let them out of my sight, the world will swallow them whole and they will be ruined forever.

But what a silly notion! I am not the author of protection. God is!

"Yes, our protection comes from the LORD, and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king." 

--Psalms 89:18

Did I not give them to the Lord? Do they not belong to the Almighty God who makes Heaven His throne and earth His footstool? Do they not belong to the God who promises that if God is for us (and I am convinced He is for my children) then who or what can stand against us?  It doesn't matter if I homeschool or send them to private or public school. Truth is, my job as a parent is not to choose the schooling I feel most comfortable with.  It isn't to keep them in a bubble tightly wrapped, it isn't even to stay home so they can see me more and I can see them more. It isn't even to bring them to the foot of the cross. My job is to pray and ask Him what method of schooling is best for my children and trust that He knows best.  My job as a parent is to show them the way to the cross and pray the Holy Spirit leads them there.  My job as a parent is to demonstrate obeying Jesus, whatever that may look like.  And my job as a parent is to hold on to them, with open hands, remembering they do not belong to me. Jesus has reign over my children, however He sees fit. He knows their heart even better than I.  He knows the circumstances and the events that must take place in their life to prepare their hearts to receive Him.  I cannot and must not stand in the way of that by allowing fear to reign.  Our God has their days numbered and we should make the most of their days by trusting Him with them every single minute of the day. Our God is a good God, a merciful God who causes all things to come together for the good of those who love Him.  I know my babies love Him.  I know by the way they want to worship Him without fully understanding what it is they're doing.  I know my babies love Him by the way they hunger for Bible Stories at dinner time and devotional time.  They always want to know more.  I know my babies love Jesus because the first response to a boo-boo isn't a kiss from Mommy's lips (though a very integral part of our making the boo-boo better routine), it is prayer.  I know they love Him because they are seeking to know Him more and obey. So I know that God will cause all things to work together for the good of my babies. More than I ever could.  My resources are limited, His are unlimited.  He is the author and created of the resources.

I am writing this, not as though I've achieved the fullness of this.  But as one who is wrestling with God, begging Him to give her grace to fully trust without doubt or fear.  I know I haven't achieved it, but I want to. I know my God is good and He loves my babies beyond what I ever could (and that's a whole lot, trust me). And my prayer for you is that you would wrestle with Him the same way I am. We cannot afford NOT to have this conversation and wrestle match with God. The days are short and getting darker by the moment.  And we ourselves will not be able to keep our children, only He will be able to sustain and protect them in the face of whatever comes...

Agape Friends,

* for me-- this is my journey ya'll, I'm not saying everyone who home schools is gripped with fear or that all stay at home mommies fear for their children. I am only wanting to exhort us all to full faith, even as mothers. I encourage every mommy, homeschooling or not, stay at home or not, to ask Jesus the condition of their hearts-- whether gripped by fear or not.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

for when we want to complain

I am not a happy pregnant person. Never. I've been pregnant twice and twice I have been jipped of that "glow and joy" women feel when they're pregnant.  I mean, halfway through my pregnancy, I am done being pregnant.  Really, really done. Shoot, by the time 36 weeks come I am bribing the doctor to just move the C-Section date up a week or three. I hate the nausea, and the hormone insanity that rushes through my body.  I hate the discomfort and the aches and pains. I hate blowing up like a balloon and always feeling tired. It's just not my favorite season of life.  Some women love being pregnant and others, like me, hate it.

But then....

Then I remember my amazing friend who wants a baby so so bad but has miscarried three times.  She would give anything to *not* complain about her pregnancy. Then, I find that an old friend DID have her baby halfway through her pregnancy and he went to be with Jesus an hour after being born.  Suddenly, I am reminded of a dear friend who tried and tried and tried to get pregnant for four years.  They were years filled with tears, a fight to keep the faith and hope deferred.

And suddenly, complaining about cankles and some weight gain, just seems super silly. Actually, complaining about any of the hard parts of mothering seem silly in comparison to the pain some women feel when they are unable (even if for a season) to conceive, carry and deliver babies.

I am not pregnant. And I have no plans of becoming pregnant anytime soon. And this post isn't about a desire or anything of the sort.  But it is a post that I pray will raise awareness. Mommies, we know this job is hard work.  I mean, really hard work. And it is so very easy to fall into the trap of complaining about how very hard our job is.  But I am begging you Mommy, in that moment when you want to give in to complaining, to think about my friend who wants a baby but has miscarried three times. I dare you to think about my friend who can no longer hold her son because he was born so incredibly premature and think about the four long years of trying my other friend endured.  Seriously.  Pregnancy, mothering. It's all hard.  But I am now convinced, after walking the path with several friends of mine, that harder is the path of hope deferred than the path we walk on dear Mommy Friends. 

Let's make a deal that we won't complain about our toddlers' tantrums or sleepless nights or achy backs. Let's instead walk gratefully at the gifts we've been given and marvel in their little hearts and little feet.  Let's pray for our sisters who ache for children they once had but didn't get to hold.  Let's pray for our sisters who ache for children they will one day have... or not.  Let's just walk in thankfulness and bear our sisters' burdens.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Psalms 61:2

I think I finally understand what that verse means...

I was tucking away our djembe and just asking God for help.  I knew I needed it.  It had been one of those days where I wasn't fully engaging with anything or anyone because I felt I had failed once again.  I'd expected to take the kids for a park, play in the rain, deep clean my house and sip on a cup of coffee during their nice long nap... [Yeah, I know. No wonder I failed.] Nevertheless I'd screamed at my children one too many times on this particular rainy icky day and everything they did was cumbersome to me in some way or form. Maybe it was the weather, or the fact that I knew I didn't have a car all day and I desperately wanted to avoid the house.  Maybe it was that the house was destroyed (again) or that I felt not good enough as a mom (again).  Maybe it was that I hadn't spent purposeful time with the Lord or that it was just a Thursday. Who knows.

But at that very moment, my heart screamed wildly; "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."  It's no secret that I make buckets and buckets of mistakes, specifically for our purposes, in parenting (though trust me, my severe mistake-making is clear across the board).  I yell more than I should.  I have to work really hard at disciplining without anger and most of the time, I lay my kids down 15 minutes earlier than I should to simply savor a little bit of uninterrupted time.  But I think the worst part is that I tend to be overwhelmed most days. The burden of this God-given responsibility to train up children in the way they should go is overwhelming enough, add to that missions, housework, personal and internal battles, marriage, a side couple of side businesses and my heart is beyond overwhelmed.  I am a wreck day in and day out.  I am not one of the moms that sail throughout the day with a smile on her face and her cape safely tucked under her gourmet apron.  I struggle through this thing all the time. And most of the time I feel overwhelmed.  I still can't get over the fact that God trusted me with two lives to lead in the way they should go.

Nevertheless, in that overwhelm, my heart cries out.. "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." I've said it once, twice, three times.  Motherhood, I'm convinced, is designed to lead us to the truth of the Gospel and the foot of the cross.  Every bit of weakness and overwhelm on our part gets to scream out and demonstrate who Jesus is.  He is the rock that is higher than I.  He is the standard and the truth. In my overwhelmed state, I get to meet the God Who is strong, the God I build my life upon and therefore need not worry about the coming storms.  In my overwhelm, I get to meet the God is sure and keeps me and my children safe. In my overwhelm I get the opportunity to be led by Jesus to pastures besides still waters. I am truly terrified at how people do this without Jesus.  We cannot mother without Him. If your heart is overwhelmed today friend, be led to the sturdy, stead, trustworthy rock who is Jesus.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The illusion of the well-oiled machine

I may or may have mentioned the last few posts how we have transitioned into a new season of life and how I may or may not be having a hard time adjusting.

I started my evening's conversation with the Lord something like this;

"I'm so weak in parenting Lord. I lack follow through and then I'm too strict. I yell and lose my patience. I can't get it right... God please-- how do I do this? How do I get it together and do it all?"

There are so many things wrong with that sentence, I'll go ahead and let you dissect it. Nevertheless, God interrupted me mid-sentence and really began to talk to me about this. 

See, as you may or may not know, I have been in a season of sitting since my daughter was born. Sitting is a relative term, but God had our family focused on our family for those first two years of full time parenting. They have been a magnificent season because through it we have been purged and brought low and I am so thankful. Seriously. 

But then, now... we have transitioned.  And we're back to serving and ministering on a consistent basis (still being purged and still being brought low-- trust me. That will never change by the grace of Jesus.)  And truthfully... I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to work part-time from home and keep a tidy house and parent my children properly and date my husband regularly and spend time in prayer and the Word and somehow in there remember to take care of myself. I just don't. 

And right before God interrupted me I was asking Him to show me a formula for how the heck to get it all done. Surely, He must know.

This was His response; 

"Nicole, you're looking to live in a well-oiled machine that gives you a sense of independence and satisfaction in your own organized efforts.  It leans on me, but minimally. I don't work like that. Your mess and chaos screams My Glory.  The order you're looking for won't come, because it's based on managing yourself rather than trusting me."


Got it Jesus. Loud and clear. 

Our God is a God of order, but His order is not of this world.  It doesn't make sense to those without the indwelling Holy Spirit and that's okay.  It shouldn't.  I'm not vouching for a messy house in the name of ministry and I'm not vouching for an immaculate house and unhappy babies.  
I'm saying life will probably never be the well-oiled machine I think it should be.  And that's okay.  If life was a well-oiled machine, I wouldn't have very much room to allow the grace and glory of Jesus Christ to sustain me and shine on to the world. And at the end of the day, the glory of God is all we really live for.  It's all we really should live for and all we can really count on being eternal. 

So be encouraged today friend.  If it seems like life is not totally and completely making sense, and if it seems like that routine you're looking for doesn't set well and like you're always having to ask Jesus to come help you, know that you are exactly where God wants you to be.  Totally relying on His mercy to get you through.  When you're having to beg God to sustain you every second of the day, You are fulfilling Matthew 5 and are shining the light of Christ on to the world.  

Just, don't forget to do the laundry while you're at it.