Give It Up

Give It Up

A few months ago, I wrote about how I was tired of needing help from so many people. I was tired of relying on others to support my family, even though my husband and I were trying our best. I was tired of explaining our “situation” and feeling the need to justify our financial status to other people. Mostly I was just tired.

But as I shared these feelings with a friend recently, he said some wise words that made me think. I do not have permission to share them, but it was over Facebook and we all know that’s a gray area, so I’m sharing it anyway. I will keep him anonymous, unless you have something really good to bribe me with.

My friend said that, as Christians, none of our burdens are our own. Our financial difficulties do not just belong to ourselves. Our worries are not only ours to fret over. We are part of something larger, a body of believers that can share our troubles and each take a little piece, so that no one has to carry it all. My children are not just my children – they are part of a community of Christ-seeking individuals who have taken them in as their own.

What a relief. Just like that, a weight lifted off of me. Not just because of what my friend said, but because of the bigger truths it revealed to me.

There is no way for me to carry any of my burdens on my own. If I had a million dollars, if I ruled the world, if I had a magic lamp – none of it would work. Nothing would be able to take those burdens from me. They could certainly help, and they aren’t bad things. They just wouldn’t be the true answer.

So what is the true answer? What will take away our burdens, what will give us peace, what will guide us through a time of darkness where we dare not take another step?

Spoiler alert: It’s not a “what.” It’s a Who.

Jesus.

Jesus is who takes my burdens on Himself and carries them. Jesus is who gives me strength to lift my head when I am sure I cannot. Jesus is who died for my sins and your sins and gave us the ability to be part of something bigger than ourselves, bigger than anything we can imagine. We can’t pay Him back; we can’t work off our debt. We just accept His grace and mercy, knowing we are undeserving, and grateful that He loves us anyway.

Jesus paid it all.

And so, knowing that there is no way I could ever really repay all my debts, no way I could really be the only one who provides for myself, no way I could ever truly be in a position to totally take care of my family…I am free.

I am free of the burden of my burdens. I am free of the guilt I feel over needing help from others. I am free from the worry over whether my kids will have enough. Jesus died for me and set me free.

I don’t know if we will ever be in a position to give to others financially the way people have given to us. And that’s okay, because now I think we are meant to give in another way. There are all kinds of burdens out there – some need financial support, some need a listening ear, some need advice from an expert. Not having much doesn’t mean I can’t give freely of what I do have. Prayer, compassion, understanding, grace – these are the most valuable gifts. I have all of those to give. And you do, too.

The holiday season is over, but for me, the giving season is just beginning. I want to make 2016 a year of giving my prayers, my time, my friendship to anyone in need. I want to make sure that I never forget the valuable lesson I have learned, and I want to share it with anyone who is struggling, in the hopes that maybe I can help ease their burdens. Mostly I want to make 2016 the year that I no longer regret the necessity to rely on someone besides myself for help – I want to celebrate that I have a Savior who invites me to rely on Him for everything.

Happy New Year, friends and family. May the next year be a generous one.

 

Josh-to-English Dictionary

Josh-to-English Dictionary

I have a confession: I have no idea what kids are saying, like, 99% of the time. Even older kids. I pay attention and concentrate really hard, but usually I just wind up nodding and smiling and hoping I didn’t just give a kindergartner permission to cut her own bangs (don’t worry, that hasn’t happened yet).

The one child I do understand is my two-year-old son, Joshua. It takes a little bit of guessing sometimes, but usually I can figure out what he means. However, out of sympathy to those who suffer from my affliction and have no idea what he is talking about, I present to you the Official Josh-to-English Dictionary, Copyright 2015. Read more

It’s Totally Different

It’s Totally Different

I recently acquired a second child. I know. I also questioned the wisdom of letting me raise a second child but it’s too late now. Plus she is really cute and smells like strawberries so I want to keep her. And sniff her. All the time.

What were we talking about? Oh, right. Children.

In a true representation of my attitude about parenting, I was not that excited to find out I was having a second child. I wasn’t sad or mad. Mostly surprised. And panicked. So, so panicked. The kind of panic you feel when you realize you have to make a sacrifice to the porcelain throne while you’re in the middle of the check-out lane at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food and a child who is trying to eat the handle of the buggy.

But I had a good reason. Most people who read my posts know that my first child (the afore-mentioned buggy-eater) was born very early at 26 weeks and spent a long time in the hospital fighting for his life. My husband and I had decided to wait for several years to even discuss a second child. Except then God was all “LOL you guys are totes hilarious” and we found out we were going to be parents for the second time in as many years. Cue the panic.

Everyone said the same thing: “It will be totally different.” The odds of the same thing happening with this pregnancy that had happened the first time were probably pretty low. The doctors, friends, family members – they all repeated that to me over and over. It will be totally different. And as things progressed and continued to go well, I believed it. This time would be totally different. None of the fear, no NICU stay, no wondering when my baby would be home, no driving back and forth to the hospital every day. This time, I promised myself, would be great.

And then I realized that I didn’t like that attitude very much. Not that I wanted this baby to stay in the NICU or have any problems, but I was starting to look at my experience with Josh as a bad thing. Slowly but surely I had separated the birth experiences of my children into Things You Never Ever Want To Happen and The Super Best Thing Ever Yay For My Baby. You can guess which one goes in which category. And I really started to hate that distinction.

I get asked all the time if I would change Josh’s circumstances at the time of his birth and during his hospital stay. I always answer no, and that is the honest truth. But over the last few months I began to realize that not only would I not change it; I want to celebrate it. I want to shout from the rooftops that while it didn’t go the way I had planned, I still got to meet my beautiful baby boy and fell in love with him from the get-go. I want to be just as thrilled over his birthday as I am with Jenna’s. When people ask me his age, I want to give his real one, the one that goes with the birthday we will celebrate for years to come as we remember what a blessing he is. I want him to know that even though it was hard, the day he was born was one of the best of my life, right up there with my wedding day and the day Gilmore Girls premiered.

It doesn’t bother me that people remind me how different the experience with each of my children was. It was my own attitude about the situation that bothered me the most. Was it different this time? Yes, so incredibly different. Was it better this time? Not even a little. It was just as exciting, just as amazing, and just as incredible the second time around. Because the thing about having kids is that there are ups and downs and everything in between, and you never really know what lies ahead of you. And at the end of the day none of that matters anyway. All that matters is that on your child’s birthday, whether he celebrates it in the NICU or asleep in your arms, you have something so fantastic that the rest just kind of fades away. That’s is what I want to remember about both of my children. I never want to forget the rest because it’s important, too. But the most important thing I can ever take away from both of my experiences is how amazing it was to see them with my own eyes for the first time and feel a love so deep and immeasurable that I knew I was a goner from the very first seconds of their lives.

So, yes. This time around it has been totally different. I wouldn’t have it any other way…except for how it was the first time.

Life Lessons from Disney

Life Lessons from Disney

I love Disney movies. I really do. I love them so much I have a whole playlist on my iPod that is dedicated to Disney and BFF Jen and I jam out to it on every road trip we take.  

But the last time I listened to my Disney playlist, I started thinking of how all of these Disney characters are, in theory, role models for children. Follow your dreams. Believe in yourself. Talk to animals and see if they talk back. And after some thought I realized that most of these Disney characters are complete morons. 

Just look at Pocahontas, for instance. She wants more in her life instead of the hum-drum marriage to Kocuom. Fair enough. And to show us just how excited she is, she sings to us about going around the river bend. Beautiful. Be free, Pocahontas. 

Then she literally gets to a river bend where she has to make a choice: Go the smooth route (aka, marry the dull guy) or fly like a bird in the wind. Except this is no longer a metaphor – she is literally deciding between taking the smooth route around the river or the terrifying, rock-filled, Native American-killing death route. Go the smooth route, you idiot. Is this really a consideration for you? You’re so caught up in your desire for a super-cool life that you want to brave the rapids in your little cardboard canoe? Negative. You make bad choices. 

Totally worth the thrill. 


So let’s move on to one of my favorite characters: Mulan. Oh, Mulan, you ignorant fool.  You are clearly intelligent. You are clearly clever. So why, WHY did you think that cross-dressing was your best option? Let’s reason this out for a moment: You become a man. This is the first warning sign. It was way too easy for you to make that transition. To each his or her own. But seriously, girl, go talk to your school counselor. 

ANYway, you become a man, and then you join the army. I’m sorry; how is this supposed to work out? Do you think that cutting your hair and not showering also gives you the ability to fight a battle? Pumpkin, you’re going to get killed. And then your dad is going to have to fight anyway. So maybe next time work on a new plan that involves accepting that life can be hard and talking dragons rarely have pure motives. 

And, yes, I know she did succeed. But only barely. And she had a lot of help. A lot. 

I rest my case. 


And last, but not least, Belle. Girl, you have got to stop going into strangers’ houses. Who taught you that that was a good a idea? I know your mama didn’t. It must be that fool of a father you have because he did the exact. same. thing. Seriously, don’t go into strangers’ houses. Definitely don’t go into strangers’ castles. And, for the love of Nancy, don’t go into strangers’ castles when it’s dark and stormy outside.

And don’t go into the West Wing, either! You clearly have some boundary issues. Yes, you’re a prisoner due to a selfless sacrifice you made for your father. Cry me a river, build me a bridge, and get over it. IN YOUR OWN SPACE. Just because you get rewarded for your shenanigans by getting to marry a sexy prince does not make it okay. 


Seriously, why would you want to go here anyway? You also have some thrill issues that concern me. 


Crazy broads, all of them. 

The Wife of Noble Character

The Wife of Noble Character

One of my best skills is debating – I can win an argument and make you cry in ten minutes flat. Useful for debating in college. Not so useful in arguments with people that I would prefer not to make cry if at all possible.

Today I was arguing with Daniel about something silly: French fries. Yes, French fries. It started out silly and escalated. I don’t do well in “losing” arguments. Anyway, to skip to the good stuff, I was angry and saying angry things. I am really not proud of myself for how I acted.

However, during our argument, it was Daniel who said the most shocking thing of all (prepare yourself): He said that when he finds something annoying, he makes a choice to let it go. He said that if I hurt his feelings, whether I know it or not, he stops and thinks of all the reasons he loves me instead of hurting me back. He said that if he feels unappreciated or disrespected, he runs through all of the times he and I have laughed over something that no one else in the world would find funny.

Some people, huh?

So, as you can see, he is a husband of noble character. And when he said that to me, it stopped me in my tracks. I had no response. No argument. Nothing. And I as reflected on myself and the things I had said, these verses from Proverbs 31 popped into my head – they describe “The Wife of Noble Character.” It’s long but worth the read.

An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(Q)”>jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    

all the days of her life.
13 She <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(R)”>seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
15 She <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(S)”>rises while it is yet night
    and <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(T)”>provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(U)”>dresses herself with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(V)”>opens her hand to <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(W)”>the poor
    and reaches out her hands to <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(X)”>the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(Y)”>scarlet.
22 She makes <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(Z)”>bed coverings for herself;
    her clothing is <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AA)”>fine linen and <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AB)”>purple.
23 Her husband is known in <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AC)”>the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AD)”>linen garments and sells them;
    she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AE)”>Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AF)”>women have done <sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AG)”>excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 <sup class="crossreference" style="vertical-align: top;" value="(AH)”>Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.


Wow. If I could be half of what this woman is, I would feel pretty successful. I mean, what a standard. This woman is taking care of business, giving wise advice to the neighbors – even her kids think she’s awesome. I want to be this kind of wife so badly. 

Read carefully – nowhere does it say that this woman is perfect, that she never makes mistakes, that she doesn’t occasionally freak out when her husband puts a red sock in with her load of whites. But she makes a concentrated, sincere effort to be patient, loving, and joyful. She fears the Lord and that directs all that she does. 


So I am taking a vow. And I hope you consider taking it, too, whether you’re a wife, mother, or will one day be both. 


I vow to give my husband more grace and to remember that a vacuumed floor is not as important as telling my husband hello when I get home from work. 


I vow to listen when my husband speaks to me, regardless of whether it’s my favorite topic. 


I vow to remember that for every long work day I have, my husband has one, too. 


I vow to let the little things go. A light left on, garbage not taken out, laundry not finished – these are not the things that make a marriage. 


I vow to respect my husband as the leader of our house and for the hard work he does. 


I vow to remember my husband’s insecurities; not for me to use against him, but to build him up instead. 


I vow to remember that my husband does everything for me and nothing for himself, and I vow to be more grateful for this. 


I vow to remember my love for my husband, day in and day out, and to show him how very much I care about him. 


I vow to treat my husband like my best friend, because he really is the best friend I’ve ever had. 


I encourage you, wives, to reflect on these verses. Not to compare yourself, but to see how a godly woman lives. And I encourage you to find your husband and tell him you love him. I am blessed, so blessed, to have found a husband of noble character, and I love him with all of my heart. 


March 19, 2011