Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Disconnect Breeds Discontent

We’re going on seven weeks of Jon being on-call.  SEVEN WEEKS.  In the eleven years Jon has worked for the state, we have never dealt with such a lengthy on-call schedule.  This has been hard.  Harder than the time he worked 78 hours in one week, harder than the fires that ravaged our state

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On-call requires Jon to be within 20 minutes of his office, which means that I go to many things alone.  If there’s a fatal car accident on any state highway, Jon is the foremen that responds to conduct an investigation, to shut down the road, and assist the first responders in any way.  It means being at the beck and call of the state, at any time of day or night.  We have received calls at midnight, at 2:00am, at 4:00am, ten minutes before we have to be somewhere, or even on our way to church. 

It means that I’m ON twenty-four hours, seven days a week, and the partner that I’m used to sharing the parenting load with is missing.  It means I attend weddings, birthdays, family gatherings, church, bible studies, and parties alone.  It means I rarely get to see my best friend, let alone have any deep, meaningful connection with him.  It means that I’m without a break or time to myself.

It means that I start to believe the lie that I can do this on my own, that perhaps I don’t really need Jon after all and maybe I can even do a better job without him.

This one caught me by surprise.

In our twelve years of marriage, I have always been strong in the face of difficult working circumstances.  “We’re in this together,” I told Jon as he got ready for a twelve-hour snow shift, a toddler hanging on my knee and an infant against my shoulder.  “We’ve got this,” I promised him.

But this time, it was different…

In the little time we DID have together, when he was between snow shifts, answering calls, and sleeping, I wasn’t able to have down time and really connect with him.  I didn’t have a little one who needed to nurse, thus forcing me to stop and connect with Jon.  This time, I was racing around like a crazy person, trying to get the Littles to school or a play date, I was preparing for birthday parties or Christmas, I was too busy to stop.  And instead of being grateful for Jon and the hard work he was putting in, I started nitpicking.

He threw his socks on the floor again… He’s undermining the punishment I’d given a Little… He hasn’t noticed that I cut my hair or have lost a couple of pounds… He hasn’t thanked me for running the house while he’s been absent…  He didn’t do A, B, or C the way I wanted it done… Has he even noticed that we got the closets organized? 

In turn, he responded the only way one can respond in the face of not being able to do anything right, he returned the favor. It became a vicious cycle of complaining and whispering unkind words to each other through clenched teeth.  It meant assuring an upset Little who overheard one of our fights that “No, Mommy and Daddy aren’t getting divorced.  We’re just fighting, married people fight.  Marriage is hard work, my Love, and Mommy and Daddy aren’t always going to agree.  You know how you fight with your brother and sisters because they annoy you, well, Mommy and Daddy annoy each other.  But don’t worry, we’re ok!”

Except that we weren’t and it was time to get to the root of the problem.  That night was a late night, our conversation lasted long after we were usually asleep.  We were both humbled, admitting to hurts and asking forgiveness for the hurts we’d inflicted.  We came away with a renewed decision to fight for each other and for our marriage.  We promised to make real, meaningful conversation a priority because it was in the disconnect that we found discontent.

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Social media can often be misleading.  Social media tends to show only the highlights of our life… the things we’re proud of, the very best moments of our lives.  I’ve written before about sharing the highlight reel of my life, and I’m sure, however unintentionally, that I do just that more often than not.  But let me be real for a moment, marriage is hard, hard work.  We never do it perfectly, and often mess-up more than we don’t. 

I was reminded that every morning, Jon and I have a choice.  We can choose to believe the lies that life would be easier on our own, or we can choose to love.  I’m choosing the latter.  There’s not a question in my mind that currently we’re in a valley of our marriage.  This is real life.  But the mountain top is coming, and I’ll hold on to that promise with everything I have.  And I’m especially thankful that Jon’s on-call will be over in a week.  Eight weeks is entirely too long for me to be without my best friend and partner.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Our Christmas Surprise

This was it, the year we caved and finally became a video game console family.  Let me rewind a bit…

It wasn’t that we were against video games per se, but it wasn’t high on our priority list of things we wanted in the house.  However, as Jon and I were discussing Christmas ideas for the Littles, I blurted out that perhaps we should buy them a video game system.  We just stared at each other for about ten minutes before we both started grinning widely.  It was the perfect gift, and we knew the Littles would flip out on Christmas morning.

So we did our research, we asked for opinions and feedback, and bit the bullet, purchasing our very first video game system.

We threw around a few ideas of how to wrap the gift and present it to them, and finally we decided on doing a scavenger hunt.  I had the best time coming up with and creating clues that would lead the Littles around the house, in search of their big gift.  In fact, I think I had more fun with the scavenger hunt than they did…

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The reaction was exactly what I hoped for, and they’ve absolutely loved their new toy.  Its been such a great motivator with getting ready for school, chores, homework, etc. and Jon and I often wonder why we haven’t done this sooner.  We’re also hyper-vigilant about the time they spend on there, and thankfully there’s been only a few protests when we tell them its time to turn it off.

All in all, a fun Christmas morning., and definitely one for the memory book, er, blog.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Faith Like a Child

Jesus & Children

I often wonder how much a child comprehends and understands about salvation.  There’s so much I want my littles to really GET before they take that step to ask Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of their lives, and yet much of it won’t come until later.  As an adult who was raised in a Christian home and saved at the young age of five, I’m STILL learning…  But in spite of the head knowledge that I want them to possess, I also know we’re called to have the faith of a child.  And no amount of wisdom or knowledge can take the place of pure, unadulterated faith.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith… Ephesians 2:8

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:17

And so it is without qualms and with celebration that I get to share Ashlynn’s salvation story.  I have had the privilege of sharing Devyn, Hudson, and Reagan’s stories, and I’m so thrilled to add the latest installment of our family’s story…

Hudson has a heart for the lost.  He desperately wants everyone to be saved and to believe in God.  It’s a character trait that I deeply admire in my son. 

About two months ago, he started sharing the gospel with Ashlynn.  Its an amazing thing to sit in your children’s room and listen to siblings talk about God, Jesus, and the cross.  I smiled as Hudson would explain how Jesus came to this earth to die on the cross for our sins.  So simple and yet, the truth.  Wise words from a seven-year-old’s perspective.  Every night that I prayed with them and tucked them into bed, I could count on Hudson asking Ashlynn if she was ready to become a Christian yet.  And every time, she shyly shook her head no.

But a mother’s heart knows when the seed has been planted and when its taken root.  The questions from Ashlynn increased as she sought answers and reconciled them in her four-year-old heart.  And it was on the second night of the new year, as I tucked the blankets around Ashlynn’s chin, that she began one of the most important conversations of her young life. 

“Mama?  I’m not a Christian yet,” she stated, matter-of-factly.  I nodded my head in agreement.  “And I need to ask Jesus to live in my heart,” she continued.

Again, I nodded.  “Are you ready, Ashlynn Rose?” I asked.  “Do you want to pray and ask Jesus to become your Savior?”  She smiled and wiggled her arm free of the blanket.  She threw it in the air, as though offering a fist pump, “Yes!”

And so there we sat, Ashlynn and I praying together, thanking God for loving her, for giving us His son, and asked Jesus to become the Lord and Savior of her life.  After our prayer, I held her close and whispered how much I loved her, how much her God loved her, and how thrilled I was at her decision.

It was in the middle of our prayer that Hudson caught on to what was happening and he called to his sisters in the other room, “Ashlynn’s becoming a Christian!  Ashlynn’s becoming a Christian!”  His excitement was palpable, and Reagan and Devyn offered their own cheers from their room down the hall.  And when I finished the bedtime routine with Hudson, it was his prayer that brought me to tears for the second time that night.

“God, thank you for Ashlynn becoming a Christian.  I pray that you and her become closer and closer.  And tell the angels to have a fun time celebrating tonight.  Amen.”  That kid… I tell ya… He has the most amazing relationship with God.  There are no pretenses, no right words; just a real, authentic, and personable relationship his Lord. 

But I digress.

Ashlynn is thrilled to be a Christian and has run to her Nana, Papa, aunties, and cousins, exclaiming, “I’m a Christian now!”  And my favorite, is when she comes up to me, squeezes my side, and looks up into my face, “I’m a Christian now, by the way.”  Its as though she’s sharing a special secret with me and the rest of the world, and I pray she’s always this excited to share her news. 

Ashlynn Rose, we are so thrilled for you and your decision to follow God.  Your earthly family celebrates with you, as does your heavenly Father and the angels.  My prayer is that as you grow, your relationship with God will deepen, that the truth and His words will take root in your life.  He loves you, so much more than your father and I could ever dream of loving.  His plans for your life are good, and I promise that you can trust Him with everything and anything.  Rest in His hands, my love.  There is no safer place for you to stay.  There’s an exciting journey ahead of you, and I can’t wait to see where He takes you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Two Little Words

It never fails.  The minute that the costumes are put away and the candy from trick or treating is hidden, the case of the “I Wants” begin.

Its an incessant mantra, “I want, I want, I want” and with each utterance of the words, I take a deep breath and do my best to quiet the lecture that threatens to burst forth from my mouth.  Those words are like nails on a chalkboard for me, and most times, I give a visible shudder when those words come out of my babies’ mouths.

“I want…”

For me, there’s such a sense of entitlement in those words.  I want, therefore give me.  I want, therefore I deserve to have it.  No.  Just no.

Please don’t hear me wrong.  We do the present giving thing at Christmas time.  I love watching my little ones open a present that I know they’ve longed for and will treasure.  It’s part of the joy of being a parent, getting to share in that special moment with them.  And yes, as their mother, I have a fairly good idea of what will bring a smile to their face.  I look forward to Christmas morning as much as they do.

But its when they’re looking through the big toy catalogue or when we’re walking through a store, and the “I wants” become more about the gimmies than the actual desire for, or love of, a hobby or collection.  Its when they lay their eyes on something that they’ve never seen before, have no idea what it is or what it does, but because its shiny, they want.  It’s the coveting that I dread, and an attitude I want to nip in the bud.

And then today it dawned on me.  What if, instead of focusing on what we think is missing in our life, we start focusing on what’s already there?  And so I started a new game with our LIttles.  The “I Have…” game.

It started out with just Reagan, Ashlynn, and I on our way home from running a few Christmas errands.  The “I Wants” began with a whimper and by the end of our errands, it was a full blown shout.  Enough to give me a headache.  And heartache, if truth be told.

“Hey Reagan, what if we played the “I Have” game?” I countered against a wish for another type of doll.

It made her pause, and I watched as she tilted her head in thoughtfulness.  “What’s that?” she asked.

“Here, how about I go first?” I offered.  I waited for her smile and gave the first answer.  “I have… a warm bed and soft pillow where I can sleep.”

I watched her as the concept of the game sank in and I recognized the glint in her eyes when she caught on.  “I have… crayons and markers to color with,” she offered.  I smiled in the rearview mirror and nodded in encouragement.  “You’re right, Baby!  You do have a ton of crayons and markers and you make beautiful pictures!”  I turned to Ashlynn, “Do you want a turn, Love?”

She wiggled in her car seat and said, “I have… Barbies!”  And I laughed.

The three of us round-robined the rest of the way home, and the suggestions were as silly as being thankful for socks or candy, to the more serious thanks for a roof over our heads and food in our fridge.  It was such a breath of fresh air, and I sighed in relief. 

Perspective.  Its one of the biggest gifts I can give my Littles.  There will always be someone who has more than us, and there will always be someone with less.  Its so easy to get caught up in the things that we don’t have, that we forget about the things that others envy us for having.  Perspective, its something that even I lose sight of more times than I care to admit.

We played the “I Have…” game twice more today.  Once after we picked up Devyn and Hudson from school, and the second as the Littles tried explaining the rules to their daddy.  So far the game is still new and fun and its a novelty, but I pray that it’ll help us remember just how very rich we are without all the “I Wants” that cloud our vision.

Two little words.  Both “I want…” and “I have…” have incredible power to shape our attitudes, but I want our family to focus on the blessings we already have. 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~Melody Beattie

Monday, December 8, 2014

For One Moment, It Did

It’s Monday morning, and the usual list of things to do is running through my mind…
  • Run a load of dishes
  • Transfer the load from the washing machine to the dryer
  • Make sure the card has a stamp on it before I mail it
I had another list for the afternoon when Reagan goes to school and Ashlynn is down for a nap…
  • Finish my homework for Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe study
  • Fold the dry clothes and start a new load
  • Start dinner in the crockpot

Normally these daily chores are done to the background noise of a television show or two sisters fighting over the green crayon, usually in combination with each other. My mind has grown accustomed to the clatter, fading to white noise so that I only register high and low tones. Or shrieks that indicate the fighting has reached the point that I must intervene. But this morning, I put on Pandora and we listened to Christmas music instead. I finished the dishes and was about to run downstairs to change the loads, when I heard a soft whisper.

Stop.

So there, at the top of the stairs, I stopped. I took in the scene sitting before me. The living room was littered with open packages from birthday gifts. There were boots strewn across the floor, and there were random pieces of Legos and dolls and crafts spilling out of boxes. I saw socks I needed to fold and books that needed to be put away.

Then I looked beyond the mess and, in the midst of it all, sat two little girls, side by side, playing contently with new paper dolls. There was no screaming or fighting or demanding that the other share. Instead, by the glow of the Christmas tree and with ‘Where Are You Christmas?’ playing in the background, they were quietly playing make believe. It was serene and peaceful. The moment was rich with emotion and thankfulness.

I felt the familiar lump rise in my throat. Every day I’m growing more aware that this time in my life is coming to an end. I’ve been mourning the fact that next year Reagan will be in school all day, and I’ll no longer have two little girls as my morning companions. And in two short years, Ashlynn will be in school too. The days of little ones being underfoot are drifting away and I find myself wishing that I could make time stop moving.

And for one moment today. It did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Steamboat Springs or Bust

This past weekend we packed up all four children and headed up to the mountain town of Steamboat Springs.  When we went there two years ago for our anniversary trip, Jon and I sat in the hot springs and talked about how we’d love to bring the Littles up there.  And finally… finally… we were able to make that a reality.  It was everything I had hoped for, and more.

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We were joined by our friends Mandy and Derek, and their four little ones.  For those that have children, know how extremely rare it is to find friends where both the women AND the men AND the children all like each other, all get along, and just… click.  I am so thankful for the day that God brought Mandy and I together in a Human Resources Department 12+ years ago.  She is an inspiration to me as a mom, a wife, a Godly woman, and someone whom I can be completely myself and admit all the things without fear that she’ll judge me for it.  And to watch our husbands and our children interact and enjoy each other too… well, its just icing on the cake.

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We originally discussed staying in a hotel, but after weighing the pros and cons and envisioning us adults hanging out in the hallway after bedtime lest we wake the herd, we decided to rent a vacation home instead.  It was the perfect solution.  There were two living rooms, one upstairs and one down, a kitchen, a dining room, and plenty of beds and bathrooms.  After bedtime, in which no child actually stayed in their bed or even pretended to sleep, at least the adults could visit downstairs and yell in the general direction of the stairs to “get back in bed!”

Most importantly was the pool!!  Seriously, that pool was our saving grace for boredom and/or bad attitudes.  Never mind that it was in the fifties and freezing… there was a pool and the children could not be stopped!  They jumped in and out of that thing more times than I could count.

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It was an incredible weekend, and one I definitely want to replicate again.  Between the food, the Corn Hole, the hot springs, the fishing, the visiting, the swimming, and everything in-between, it was good.  So good!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First Day of School 2014

I have been chronicling first days of school for about 5+ years now.  You can view 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 when you click on those dates. 

I’m happy to report that with the exception of Jon throwing his back out, the first day of school went off without a hitch.  At pick-up, Reagan’s teacher mentioned that she was quite upset that it was time to go home.  I feigned surprised.  Reagan?  The girl whose mad at me because I didn’t sign her up for all-day kindergarten, upset that school is over?  Shocking!

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Sigh.  Life continues to fly by us at a rapid pace and I shouldn’t be surprised that we find ourselves parents of a fourth grader, second grader, and kindergartner, but I just don’t feel old enough.  They’re growing into amazing people and I’m so honored to be along for the ride.  Praying this year is great one for my loves.

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