Sunday, April 29, 2012

Doritos for Dessert

Mealtimes have become increasingly more difficult around my house. Andrew, my 3 year old, is on a food strike from not only the usual toddler dislikes like veggies, but also meat, potatoes and rice. What does that leave you may wonder. I'm wondering the same thing. All he wants to eat are chips, cookies, juice and the occasional apple or handful of blueberries. Aaron, my still malleable 17 month old, has begun to discover the sweet goodness of cookies and become disillusioned with ALL veggies, preferring instead to throw them onto the already stained carpet.

Needless to say, there is usually some type of bribe involved in mealtimes. Shame on me, I know. All the books say you should NEVER do that because that teaches the child to value snacks over the actual substance of a meal. However, I learned a while ago never to say never in parenting. Before I became a mom, I would have never wiped snot with my hands or used my own shirt as a tissue or examine poop/vomit for a lost button or coin. Never. Say. Never.

So back to the heart of the post, my kids are currently eating Doritos. This is after 30 painful minutes spent sitting at the dinner table trying to reach a compromise about the dinner placed in front of them. It's highly frustrating to spend hours cooking only to have 2/3 of my household push it away or yell "I said I don't like it!" Tonight, they managed to eat 2 tablespoons of rice, 2 tablespoons of mixed veggies, a square of cornbread and 1 chicken leg between the both of them. Andrew was promised chips by his aunt earlier in the day, who happened to show up right on cue. The chips sat in front of him on the table, the proverbial carrot hanging from the string.

And it worked. Thank God! Yes, I thank God for small victories such as these. Even if he has cheese flavored tortilla chips in his belly, he also has some protein and vegetables in there to keep them company. And I can sleep soundly tonight on that fact.


Ever since planting a few cucumber, basil, sunflower, and dill seeds in my new "garden" I've become more interested in plant life in general. While my husband drives on the highway, I usually point out the things we're passsing by to my boys. My 3 year old pointed to the "yellow fow-ers" mixed in with the weeds and asked what they were. I differed to my husband, as I definitely do not proclaim to have anywhere near a green thumb. He told us they were dandelions. I asked how they managed to grow intermingled with the weeds and in otherwise desolate areas. He said they were weeds. Weeds?!

Okay, so most people probably already knew that a dandelion was a weed, but I (the person who can't sustain an indoor potted plant) was shocked. How could something so beautiful be considered as undesirable as weed? Then I got to thinking, that's a metaphor for us humans. All of us have been thought of as less than or not good enough by someone at some point in time. None of us are perfect, but most of us do a good job at keeping up appearances otherwise. Our families are perfectly coiffed at church on Sunday, we go to work smelling like designer perfumes and soaps and we cook delicious (or at the very least edible) meals. But, what lurks under that?

Underneath all of our "doings" that we're consumed with daily, we're just a bunch of weeds. A mass of mistakes and missteps and hiccups. God is the only one that can see all of the imperfections, mean-spirited thoughts and fears that we struggle to hide. He hears our pleas for forgiveness, strength and wisdom and He's not afraid to wade through our tangled weeds to get to us. He is awesome. I can't even begin to understand why He loves us in spite of our mess. 

Wikipedia calls dandelions "beneficial weeds". That's probably how God sees us too. We're beneficial to His kingdom in a multitude of ways regardless of our pasts. He's given some of us the gift of song, others dance, others writing or acting or drawing. The ways in which He has blessed us are limitless, but the point is that we are beautiful and special to Him, despite our unkempt roots (inside and out on top of our heads). Just like a gifted dandelion can bring a smile to this mom's face from her dirty toddler (filthy is more like it), our outward expressions of our talents can bring others joy too. 

On the outside we blossom as beautiful flowers, despite all odds. Dandelions are God's grace manifested. On this Sunday, I thank God for all of his grace and mercy and of course for dandelions, who afterall are just like me.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Got A Feeling

For Lent, my family gave up secular music. It was really difficult for my husband, who has never been a fan of Christian music, contemporary or otherwise. For me, it was easier because I've always liked several different genres of music. The hardest part was my son requesting some of his favorites like "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 or Adele's "Someone Like You". He protested the music fast so passionately, I thought I would cave in just to have him stop whining for his favorites. It actually hurt my heart to hear him say "no, not that one" or "I don't like it" about the contemporary Christian songs I was starting to like. I felt like I'd done him a disjustice by not exposing him to enough Godly music (besides the songs we sang at home). Because of his extreme low tolerance for our new music of choice, I was actually even more determined to make it through the 40 days, hoping to change his mind and heart.

Through the fast, I grew to love new artists I'd never heard of, like Brandon Heath (my favorite is "Your Love") and rekindled my love for those I already knew, like rockstar TobyMac. Even with my newfound appreciation for positive, uplifting music, it was difficult to get my favorite secular tunes out of my head and even those that weren't my favorite, but I found myself singing anyway. It was around week 4 when I would hear myself humming a song from 104.7 The Fish (the station which suggested the music challenge) and actually turn it on to listen for specific songs I'd begun to really enjoy. My 3 year old was still not a happy camper about the challenge, but he was more receptive to the songs.

By the end of the music challenge, I no longer had a craving for the newest Beyonce song, although I did hum it when I heard it. When my husband came home from work, the usual profane and sex laden lyrics he use to spew were replaced by Kirk Franklin and holy hip hop artist Canton Jones. He even went so far as to change his ringtone and download Christian songs onto both of our phones for anytime listening! I am truly amazed and awed by this small, yet massive transformation in him. I feel the positive music has seeped into our thirsty souls and stirred up something in us. Now, weeks past the end of Lent, we're still listening primarily to Christian music and loving it.

And my opinionated little one? He recognizes the music change and even knows which songs are "mommy's song". He is much more open-minded towards the music and has even been spotted bobbing his head and humming along to the spiritual music.

Surrounding ourselves with lyrics that uplifted God, reminded us of his grace, love and hope, and encouraged us to press on has really made a difference in our home. It feels so good to have positive words floating through my head, rather than those of heartbroken or angry lovers. Of course, I'm still a fan of lots of neo soul musicians, like Maxwell (my wedding song is courtesy of him) and some pop artists too (hence the Black Eyed Peas post title), but my enjoyment of Christian music has been increased tremendously. Variety is the spice of life, right? Secular music isn't extinct for our family, but if we can serve God in as small a way as listening to different music and delight in it, we are willing to try.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peace and Gratitude

In my quest to read through and understand the New Testament, I've finished the book of Colossians. Though not a long book at all (4 chapters), it took me quite some time to work my way through it. Compared to a novel of over 400 pages that I started and completed this past weekend, this chapter took forever! With much reading and study guide reading and highlighting and rereading, I can honestly say that while it's not my favorite chapter (that would be Romans, James or one of the "love letters") it definitely had some bright spots.

Verse 3:15 emerged as my favorite in the whole book. "Let the peace of God rule your hearts, since as members of a body, you were called to peace. And be thankful." Of course, there is lots of historical context as to why Paul would be telling the Colossian people this, but it spoke directly to me. And that's what's so awesome about the Bible! I have been struggling with feeling peaceful, with 2 toddlers and a husband that works 60-70 hours a week. This verse made it clear that regardless of my current station in life, God's peace should reign over me. It should rule me, not vice versa. There should be no struggle. Just think of how different life would be if we were the calm beings God intended us to be. I shudder as I imagine how different I am from that design He had for me.

Every morning when I wake up to an empty side of the bed, the cries of my young toddler and the demands of my older one, I should be thankul. Thankful that my husband desires to provide for his family and gets up to do so even before the sun does. Thankful that my children are alive, healthy and in need and want of me. Peaceful because God is in control, now and always. My noisy home may not always be the picture of serenity (ok, honestly it NEVER is) but my heart can be. It's a daily journey, but it's a decision I commit to making. This memory verse is starting out as my mantra for the week, but I hope it can become the story of my life.

Colossians behind me (good riddens and I hope to only ever see you again in church with an educated leader telling me what it all means), 1 Thessalonians here I come!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is It Possible?

So, I leave for a few days and my kids are these little people I’ve never met before! Is this possible? Yes, of course it is! My 17-month-old is now saying 2 new words- cat and car. And by saying I mean screaming them about and at everything. It’s quite cute and only slightly annoying. I’m sure by next week it will be overly annoying because of the amount of times I will have said “No, it’s not a cat, it’s your shoe” or something to that effect. He knows lots of words but is only choosing to say a select few and use them for several items. Again, cute, even if only temporarily.

My newly 3-year-old was overheard telling his younger brother that he was “E-dic-ur-lus” in complete exasperation over him climbing on the table. Ridiculous is a word I use to describe him very often, so he knows exactly how to use it, but never has before. My hysterical laughter only prompted him to continue using the word throughout the day, much to my amusement. His enthusiasm towards making me laugh was proof of him missing me.

Their faces even look older! Like they learned so much about life by being away from me. A crazy thought, but perhaps it holds some truth. They learned what it was like to have daddy be in charge. If walls could talk, I would pay good money to hear what the ones in my house would say about their weekend. Though I was pleasantly surprised by the clean children that greeted me at the airport and the even cleaner house when I got home, I’m sure there were some moments that mommy wouldn’t condone. I actually found a plate underneath the sofa cushions last night!

Overall, I’m glad I took my mommy vacation. I enjoyed adult conversation, bought a few new goodies for myself and didn’t have to play referee in any toddler fights. I would definitely do it again, but next time I think I would actually like to have my 3 guys with me J

My camera-shy baby, Aaron

Always the comedian for mommy, Andrew

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Few Things About Vacations...Flying

April 17, 2012
As a mom, I was always told that we need breaks away from our children from time to time. What I wasn’t told was how much I’d miss them. When I saw those little faces greet me from the back seat of the car at the airport, I was so fulfilled. All of the drinks and sleep and unedited adult conversation I’d had couldn’t even compare to the feelings my little guys gave me. Pathetic, right? I’d been itching to get away from them, but seeing them was actually the bright spot of my trip.

Anyway, I learned lots of things on this trip; some good, some bad and all unforgettable. First things, I am not a calm passenger on a plane. I mean, I’m not afraid to fly, like some I know, but as soon as the plane takes off, so do my senses. Immediately, I felt like I needed a ginger ale, Prozac, and my pillow all very different items, but for the same reasons—comfort. My stomach was doing cartwheels (and not in a good way) and my head was suddenly pounding. I felt nauseous and scared, the same feeling I get when I’m forced to ride roller coasters. I fiddled with the window shade, pulling it down as if the sun was causing my distress. However, upon doing so, the darkness lead to a whole other set of emotions, compelling me to push it back up again. The passenger beside me stared politely (whatever that means) causing me to try to get myself together. I took deep breaths, prayed, and tried not to look at the omnipresent fluffy white clouds we were sailing by.

Then it dawned on me that the notion of thousands of pounds of machinery, luggage and people “flying” so near to the imagined location of Heaven, without dropping quickly and painfully to the now distant water and green Earth below was quite ridiculous to me—surreal. I’ve flown several times, but had never felt this way. Closing my eyes made the nausea worse, so I stared wide eyed at the seat in front of me and prayed and judging by my seatmate’s reaction, some segments were probably aloud. I tried not to picture the jovial pilot (he’d made many jokes before takeoff) as a multi-tasking alcoholic or absent minded, avid social networker who had his phone right beside him, but nothing helped. Every routine bump of turbulence, had me scanning the aisle for the emergency exit and wishing I’d been listening to the flight attendant’s safety instructions and also convinced me that the pilot was losing control of the plane and that I was going to a watery grave (dramatic but true). I was relieved when the –DING- signaled that I could pick up my Kindle and bury myself into "Baby Brother's Blues" by Pearl Cleage (a very good urban/educated read by the way).

I dreaded the flight back without some kind of sedative. But, God always knows what we need, even if we don’t ask. When I arrived to my gate, I was surprised by a complimentary upgrade to “business class”, which seated me in the second row of the airplane. The seats were bigger and cozier. I started to feel relaxed and even a little giddy about my blessing. As I was settling in, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted something to drink. So, let’s just say, I found my sedative. And though I wasn’t sure if I should thank God for the complimentary alcohol, I did because He is the provider of all things. I had a wonderful flight back home, with Milano cookies, kettle chips and chilled Chardonnay. There was still some uneasiness at takeoff, but by landing, I was engrossed in “Gathering Waters” by Bernice McFadden (awesome, slightly historical novel that I can’t wait to finish) and eager to see my family, with no thoughts of the pilot or crashing to my death.  

It IS a Good Friday

**April 9th post that I'm just getting around to uploading**

Good Friday is a big deal in my faith. It marks the day when Jesus, in human form, willingly let himself be crucified as an eternal sacrifice for all sinners. It was a day He always knew was coming; a day he could have gotten out of, if He wanted to. Instead, he chose to be lead up that hill at Calvary, spit on, beaten, ridiculed, mocked and generally debased on every level.

Why would He do such a thing? Why would anyone? I don’t believe “anyone” else would have, even if they could. Self-sacrifice is difficult enough as a parent or spouse, yet required. Jesus’s sacrifice for people He hadn’t even met yet, for people He knew would continually let him down can only be seen as insane. But, I’m sure we can all attest to a point in time, when momentarily we were “crazy in love” and willing to (or actually did do) something utterly ridiculous for a particular person. That person is me. I mean, literally, I was that person that caused Jesus to give His life. You are that person too. If you choose to accept the love, its power is limitless.

For some, accepting love is harder than giving love away. It’s like “why do I deserve this?” The truthful answer is “you don’t and you never will.” We like to think that we’re worth so much as individuals. But, honestly, could anything we’ve done be worthy of a sacrifice on a cross? If your answer is yes, then on the other hand is there anything t0hat you’ve done that could have warranted that gift being taken away? I’m sure that answer was a little different. The fantastic thing is that we never have to worry about the latter. Our salvation will never be taken away. Once God gives it, He lets us have it forever (whether we do right by Him or not). How is that possible?

 I think that’s where the beauty of grace comes in. Grace is God’s favor on us, “just because”. It’s like buying your kid an ice cream cone even when they haven’t been on their best behavior (or have in fact been quite awful) just because he/she is yours and you love him. Because He loves us, He allows us certain liberties that we could never earn and He doesn’t want us to. All He asks is that we love him back. Do things with Him in mind.

Getting ready to curse somebody out? Wait, what would Jesus think about that? “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, only what is good, necessary for edification that it may impart grace to the hearer”-Ephesians 5:29.

Getting ready to lie to your boss about your timesheet? What would Jesus think? “Therefore, put away lying, let each on speak the truth…” -Ephesians 4:25

It’s not always easy, but it’s so worth it. Ok, but wait, what is this salvation and how do I get it? Once we accept that we are all sinners, no matter how good we try to be and profess with our mouths that God is Lord in our lives, we are saved. It’s known as the sinner’s prayer and it’s as simple as saying (and really meaning) a few simple words. That’s it! Then, we have the gift of salvation forever. God is truly awesome and the display on the cross on that “good Friday” is that awesomeness personified.

An example of a sinner’s prayer: “Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of my motherhood J I was forever changed that day, in ways I expected and ways I couldn’t even imagine. My son, my little prince Andrew, has opened my eyes to the reality of the world that I’ve always lived in, but never really saw. Through him, I view my own mother differently, as well as the young women I pass on the street, thinking one of them could be my future daughter-in-law. My mother was made human through him. Her struggles as a working woman, wife, daughter, sister, individual and mother, were now transparent to me. As a result of loving him, I love her more fiercely. She is truly superwoman and I am barely touching the hem of her cape, a mere three years into this.

Enough motherly musings and back to my son. His first name means, “strong, brave, manly”. Chosen in part as dedication to the most important man in my childhood—my dad, his name is extremely special to our family. He personifies these qualities every time he tries to pick up his younger brother (who only weighs 6 pounds less than him), when he runs onto the sidewalk after a ball, not looking for cars or rocks he could slip on and of course when he pulls out my chair at mealtimes.

 His middle name, Noah, means “peaceful, comforter”. Pains me to say this, but ever since the day he was born, he has not had any connection to that name! He was colicky and had acid reflux as an infant and to this day, he has tantrums that are loud and overly dramatic. Peaceful would definitely NOT be the first (or second or third) word I would use to describe him.

 However, also since the day he was born, I have had comfort.  From the time I held him, 7 hours after his birth (yes a whole 7 hours due to a medical emergency I had), I knew God had a plan for both of us. He wasn’t a planned addition to my life at that particular point in time, but seeing him made me realize God’s plan for my life— well, a small part of the plan. I had family that wanted to be parents, but never had that work out for them. I had friends that had lost babies either in utero or after painful, emotional deliveries. And as I looked at my tiny (5.9 pounds) baby boy, with his straight black hair and eerie, non-genetic green-blue eyes, I knew I had been blessed because my baby had survived. Forgetting the 17 hours of active labor, 3 hours of pushing and eventual surgery needed to actually get him here, I felt like my life was going into another dimension, one that I was totally unprepared for, yet excited to undertake. I was a mother. I was chosen by God to be a steward of another fragile, important life. That must make me special and worthy in my heavenly Father’s eyes.

Fast forward 3 years. My son is a replica of his father on the outside, but undeniably me on the inside, personality wise (God has a funny sense of humor). He is super inquisitive, observant, clever, perceptive, bossy, and as mentioned earlier, overly dramatic. He loves to make people laugh and tells the best stories this side of preschool. During particularly rough moments, I cling to his slightly gap toothed smile to help me to remember my life’s purpose. I am the bearer of life, but God is the sustainer of life. My purpose is to ensure that my sons and all those in contact with me know that fact. I eagerly accept the challenge and thank God daily (and especially today) for the miracle of birth and the privilege of life.       

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On this day in 2009

So the minute I decide to continue the healthy eating that my fast started, I’m consumed by fast food cravings! For today I was able to resist and only eat the fast approved foods that I’d been eating for the past 2 weeks. I keep reminding myself that I’ll probably be pigging out on the weekend and then again next weekend when I hit the Big Apple!

Today marks the day that I was admitted to the hospital to have my labor induced. Even then, he was stubborn and refused to emerge into the world on anyone’s schedule but his own.This weekend, my oldest turns 3 years old! He seems to already be wise beyond that age and he’s quite the handful. We “argue” every day. What I mean by that is, he constantly tests my set boundaries and tries to weasel his way around time-outs and veggies. He challenges me beyond anything I could have predicted and wears me down more times than I’d like to admit. My love for him has evolved from his birth to now. I can’t imagine how our relationship will change as he does. I love his spirit. He is fearless and inquisitive. He is observant and imaginative. I love him to the moon and back times infinity.

I have never prophesied in my life, but with this child of mine, I see specific things happening in his future. In addition, I see our emotional battles and personality clashes, but mostly I see our relationship as one to behold. There’s a bond between a first born child and a mom that is indescribable, confusing and wholly satisfying. I love what I’ve created and love the moments when he shows he loves me back J

Recent Revelations

I’m trying to challenge myself to write something every day (even if it is about mundane daily life). Writing has always been my passion, but lately the flame has been extinguished by motherhood and wife duties. I find I’m losing a lot of what made me special, what made me feel important and unique. How can I teach my children to set goals and believe in themselves if I let the monumental blessing of running a household squash my own? My biggest fear is screwing my kids up. Like literally. It’s amazing how priorities change. I used to worry about my own career and health and future, but now my longest prayers are for my two precious boys.

That being said, I hope I do get accepted into the grad school program I applied for last month. I’ve been telling myself that it didn’t matter if I was accepted or not because I was proud of myself for even completing the grueling process (which I am), but more truthfully, I want to get in. I want to show my babies (who won’t be babies forever), that their mommy was a woman too. A person with desires and dreams and the courage to follow them. I want to have my identity back. And let’s be honest, I want to have something to throw myself into when they inevitably throw me out of their room during those dreaded teenage years.

As a child of God, I know that I have a purpose in this world. It’s obvious to me that one of those purposes is building up these boys that I’ve birthed into the men that will prayerfully run successful families and businesses. But, I’m also on a mission to discover what my other possible purposes could be. I’m excited as I await a letter from Valdosta State University, in the hopes that they saw the awesomeness that is me!