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But I do it anyway.

After mentioning the fact that I get up before my kids in this post, a few people asked me about it, so I thought I’d talk about why I do it.

Around the time I had Reagan, I read the book Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters.  Now, I don’t always like these sorts of books, because I’m cynical and obnoxious, but this was a really good one. It’s got all the expected tips for being a more organized and effective wife and mom, BUT it begins with the gospel. It’s who we are in Christ that drives our obedience, and not the other way around.

Anyway, one of the big things they talk about in this book is rising early. As in, REALLY early. 5am early. With the express purpose of communion with God being the first thing that happens in your day. A side benefit of this rising early being that you are up and alert and ready to love and care for the rest of your family when THEY get up.

This all seemed like a brilliant idea. So I spent the next 5 years trying and failing miserably at it. I went in and out of seasons of thinking it was a good idea and trying to make it happen, and thinking it’s legalistic and excusing myself from it.

So why do I do it now? Well, I think there are 2 reasons.

1) I finally got to a point where I started to GET that it’s about being with God. I think that deep down there has always a been a desire to do it for ME. I wanted to feel like I’d checked my “quiet time” or whatever you want to call it, off the list. I wanted to the benefits of time with God, but not necessarily God Himself. Plus, I wanted to have some peace and quiet and drink my coffee and get the laundry started and dishwasher emptied without interruption. But only recently have I begun to simply long for the time to commune with my heavenly Father and acknowledge His presence and control before the day begins. What does the Psalmist say? “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” And, simply put, I’ve begun to taste this longing.

2) The second reason is not quite as pretty as the first. I obeyed. I disciplined myself to do it. The idea of being up before my family, drinking my coffee and drinking from the well of God’s Word was a beautiful picture in my head. But, in the end, the alarm was still going to go off when it was still dark out and I was NOT GOING TO WANT TO GET OUT OF BED. I had to say, OK God, I need to meet with you. Help me. Here we go. 1-2-3 GO.

The discipline involved in developing this habit has been 2-fold. Getting up when the alarm goes off is a big part of it for me, but more importantly, I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour so I’m able to do it. Let’s face it, when you are at home with children all. day. long. and said chidlren have been touching/talking to you for 12 hours straight, the moment they are in bed feels like a glorious release. FREEDOM. And the later I stay up, the longer that freedom lasts. But it is for the true freedom to know God and serve Him rightly that I have been set free (Galatians 5:1). Not for a freedom to enjoy being my own master for a couple hours.

I know all of what I just said sounds super legalistic, so let me elaborate on it a bit.

While I do believe that there is much in the Word of God that points to the value communing with the Lord BEFORE the day begins (Proverbs 31:15, 20:13, Psalm 5:3, 88:13, 119:147, Mark 1:35), there are no express commands to do so. For me, this has been a matter of conviction that coincides with this value I see in Scripture. The reason I had to do it is because God wanted me to and He made it clear to me. I need it, and He knew I needed it, and I couldn’t get away from it.

However, this is a grace-filled activity.

When I do it, it’s by God’s grace. He graciously enables me to obey. Sometimes, He wakes me up with a cough from a child when I’ve forgotten to set my alarm (this has seriously happened). And sometimes He just gives me the strength to sit up instead of hit snooze. Either way, it’s all Him.

When I don’t do it, I am under grace. This is a great day for me to write this because I actually haven’t gotten up early in days. I have a bad cold and I’m having trouble sleeping. Grace. Sleep, Katie. I’m with you always. Not just when you meet me in the morning. Or when there is a crying newborn in the next room. For heaven’s sake, don’t even think about it then. That’s crazy. Or sometimes my husband and I need time together and we stay up late talking and hanging out. That’s better. That’s from the Lord. Grace.

So, if you feel yourself longing for that uninterrupted morning time with God, then by all means, pursue it. By His grace. And if you have children, like I do, who like to get up before the dawn, get this clock and force them to stay in bed. And if you’re in a season of life where it’s just not practical or possible, then don’t do it. By His grace.

Rest in God

Nov
2013
14

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So this weekend Josh and I got to go away. To Sandestin. FOR THREE DAYS.

I can’t even describe how amazing this was.

First of all, everything you read about adoption makes you feel like you won’t be able to leave your children alone for like a year after getting them or you’ll give them a complex. So it was pretty unexpected to get to go rest up after such a short period of time. As with all literature about marriage/child-rearing, there was much to gain from all the adoption books we read, but one has to take these things with a grain of salt. We did not give them a complex. Instead they gladly shooed us out the door because Mimi is here and who needs you guys anyway?!

(Speaking of Mimi, good grief. My husband’s mom watched ALL FOUR of our children while we were gone (with some help from my sister-in-law). The woman is a saint. And will probably have to sleep for a week to recover. And has an extra jewel in her crown in heaven for this weekend.)

Second, we got to go to a conference with Douglas and Nancy Wilson as guest speakers and if we didn’t already love them we love them now. They talked about pride and forgiveness and child-rearing and godliness and it was just so good (in case you have no clue who I’m talking about, you can read some stuff they’ve written here and here).

Side Note: This was a conference for the Presbyterian churches in our region. And we totally crashed it to hear these people speak. Which makes us complete weirdos.

Third, did I mention it was in SANDESTIN??

We went with our friends who also have a brood of small children and she just kept turning to me all weekend and going “It’s so quiet…IT’S SO QUIET” It was, indeed, SO QUIET. We lead very LOUD lives, with small voices interrupting nearly every moment with questions, cries, laughs and questions (yes, I just said questions twice. YOU know why, young moms). So to have thoughts and conversations that were completed without interruption for 3 days was straight up glorious.

The second morning we were there we were sitting out on the porch reading our Bibles and sipping our coffee. Blue skies, crisp air, warm sun. Eating breakfast slowly, drinking coffee while it’s still hot, concentrating on what I’m reading. It felt perfect. And I had this thought, I wish I could freeze this moment. But I think the thought behind the thought was, I wish it could always be like this.

But that is not real life, people. I sometimes find myself, in the midst of the very hectic days, with all the needs to be met and tasks to be completed, longing for moments like that one. If only I were sitting in a quiet place, able to actually think and read and consider and BE. But to long for only that is, in essence, to say that God is only really a part of those moments. When, in fact, I am much more apt to feel my deep need for him in the daily madness.

Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to enjoy those moments. I’m incredibly grateful that we had this weekend. We so needed it, a breath of fresh air in the midst of an intensely busy ministry and family season. But there is a difference between feeling grateful for moments of rest and idolizing them. And I don’t know about you, but I can very easily idolize rest.

This is actually a very dangerous place to live. The aforementioned Nancy Wilson says in her most recent blog post, “Restlessness, dissatisfaction, and discontent can keep us from glorifying God right where we are.” It is very easy to feel discontented with life until we get to take a break and rest. But, the very essence of our relationship with God is that he comes to us when we are at our very poorest and neediest and ugliest and dirtiest and covers us with the blood of Christ and gives us faith and belief. And so we ought to continue in this as we know Him more deeply. Colossians 2:6 says, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

So in the moments when I’m tempted to think, If only I were back in that quiet place, instead I ought to remember that this is the best place to meet with God, for He is our real rest. When my kids are screaming and I’m exhausted and I forgot to buy milk and I can’t even remember what I read in the Word of God this morning, He is my rest. And when we can rest in Him we can serve Him. I’m not working toward my next moment of rest. Instead I’m working as I rest, and I can be content right where I am.

 

I Need…

Nov
2013
01

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Several mornings ago, Charlie came downstairs and the first words out of her mouth were, “I need.”

I was doing something – flipping pancakes or loading the dishwasher or something – so I didn’t see her, just heard her lispy voice, “I need…I need…I need…I neeeeed…I neeeeeeeeeed…”

I turned around to find her wandering around the kitchen, searching for something, and I realized she didn’t have any idea what she needed, just that she needed something. She finally landed on something she spotted on the counter – a toy maybe? I can’t remember – and said, “I need THAT.”

As I watched her do this, I thought, Is that what I look like to you, God?”

When I wander through my day, dissatisfied, grumbling, easily irritated, looking for something, anything to satisfy, do I look like a 3 year old saying, “I neeeeeeeed…”

Isn’t that what we do sometimes? This, God, this isn’t enough. I don’t know what it is I need, but it’s something more than this. Then we allow our eyes to wander around and we fix them on some temporary thing that we think will meet the undefined need. If I could just have a little more time to myself. If I could just have a vacation. If I could just have that food I don’t need. If I could only have my pre-baby body back. If I could just have that new clothing item or decorate my house a little more nicely or whatever. In the end the thing itself doesn’t matter because all it’s doing is pointing to the condition of the heart. I need something more than you, God.

How hideous. That I would look at an all-knowing, saving God and say this isn’t enough.

But I am Charlie’s mom and I know what she needs and know more than she does and have patience with her (sometimes) when she thinks she needs more than I’ve given her. And though it is indeed hideous that I would look to God with anything but gratitude, He patiently shows me that He is more than enough. Always. Over and over.

Let’s take this out of the abstract and talk about real life for a minute. I was a rather unpleasant wife and mother today. And that’s putting it rather mildly. I met the endless questions of my children at the breakfast table with something less than joy (again, to put it rather mildly). Josh literally woke up to the sound of me shouting down the stairs at Charlie. I had let him sleep in but I was being a huge martyr about it, which completely defeated the purpose of doing something nice for him. He tried to be nice to me and joke around and get me out of my funk, but oh no, I was staying in it. Friday morning is our date morning, and I look forward to it ALL WEEK, but then I ruined it with my bad attitude. And I just continued in this vein for the rest of the day. My husband even let me take a nap this afternoon and I was still snippy and irritable when I woke up.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Well, I’m an idolater and I think I need more than I have. Today was no different from any other day except that I said yes to sin and no to God. I wandered through my day with that “I need” feeling and refused to allow Him to satisfy it. Even typing this I cringe to think of it. In Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic says that sometimes you want to spank all your kids but you know deep down you’re the one who needs the spanking, and that sure was the truth today.

So what do I do when Charlie professes to need things she doesn’t actually need? Well, she’s 3, so obviously I’m not going to go into some deep theological lesson about it, BUT, it is my job to teach her that there is only one thing she needs. This means that sometimes I let her have the thing and sometimes I don’t and have to deal with a tantrum, but always I am teaching her, you don’t need this, honey.

And God, my Father, He is teaching me the same thing. I read His Word and I see it everywhere, that He has met every single need I could possibly have from now until the end of time in Jesus. And He won’t let me stay in a day like today, and He let’s me come crying repentance to Him and to my husband and my children because of Jesus. Even that need to make the wrong of a day like today right is met in Jesus. He is more than enough, when we obey, when we sin, more than enough.

 

 

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On September 11, 2001, I was 17, a senior in high school. That morning all 950 or so of us seniors were herded into the gym to take our class picture. We were all crammed onto the bleachers, making jokes, rolling eyes, acting like teenagers, as some poor photographer tried to get at least one where no one was making a crude gesture or doing something idiotic. I vaguely remember walking back toward my Latin class with my best friend Carrie, probably laughing, we were always laughing. We parted ways and I entered my class to find Mr. Rohleder and all my classmates completely silent, eyes fixated on the TV. I sank into my desk and joined them in their shock, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. I remember going to a couple of more periods, finding that one teacher’s son worked near the pentagon and he hadn’t heard from him and didn’t know anything yet. Eventually a voice on the PA system informed us that if we had access to a car, we could go home. What was the point in staying? No one was teaching.

I spent the rest of the day staring at the news. I was a silly teenage girl and I never watched the news but it was all I could do that day. I remember the looks on my parents faces. They were afraid. My dad had served in the Gulf War and they were no strangers to this growing conflict in the Middle East. And that it had come to U.S. Soil? Terrifying. I remember the horrific death toll. I remember that while many died without any possibility of escape, many chose death in the hope of saving just a few. I remember the look on our President’s face as the news was whispered in his ear. I remember the images of death and smoke and rubble and mourning. I remember. I haven’t forgotten.

And we all have that story. Not that one exactly, of course, but everyone I talk to remembers it in detail. Where they were, who they were with, what they were doing. It’s impossible to forget. But as I scrolled through my Facebook timeline today, seeing post after post reminding me, “Never Forget,” I suddenly realized, this will be forgotten. Now I don’t mean that there will be a time in the future that people don’t know this happened. That’s not possible. But this remembering for those of us who lived that day will one day be gone. I thought of my children, born 7-10 years after that day. This will be a fact in a history book to them. Just as the Challenger explosion is a fact to me, but a very real memory for my mother, who has told me in great detail about that day. Just as the attack on Normandy is a fact to me, but a very real memory for my grandmother, whose husband was not on those boats that day because he had been sent home with Rheumatic Fever. Our children and our children’s children will study September 11 in school. And though it may move them, they will not remember as we do.

That’s such an interesting word, remember. Because, try as we might, we will never remember perfectly. And even if we did, our children certainly wouldn’t be able to carry our memories for us in the same way. And we know that with the passage of time our remembrances will fade into nothingness. That’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?

Well, here’s where I find my hope. See, that word appears a lot in the Bible. Remember. Primarily, it appears when God tells His people to remember, and when God’s people ask HIM to remember.

Over and over and over again in the Old Testament God’s people are told to remember that God delivered them from slavery. “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you from there.” Remember, remember, remember. But what do they do? They forget. I’m sure they said to one another, “Never forget!” But those who were there grew old and died, and their children’s children knew they should remember, but their remembrances faded with the passage of time, just as ours do. Each command to remember is like that…impossible to obey. Impossible without a God who never forgets.

But this God I worship, He really does remember. He remembers everything. He remembers all that has taken place and knows all that is happening now and sees all that is coming. Most importantly, He remembers that which His people have begged Him to remember since the beginning. His promises.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people…as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies…to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant.”

These are the words of Zechariah, a priest of God’s people and a prophet. Jesus is coming. God hasn’t forgotten. He’s remembered. And He has become God with us.

What does all this have to do with remembering September 11? Well, nothing, at first glance. But as I remember the tragic events of that day, the lives lost, the fear, the destruction, the evil, the bravery, I also want remember that all the tragedies we face in this life are – whether huge, significant, and terrifying, like September 11, or small, but deep and personal, like the loss of a parent or the failure of a marriage or living with a chronic illness – these are not missed by our God.

He is not far from us. He is with us. And He has remembered His promises. We find our hope in Him.

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One of the things I just LOVE about Eva is that her face is ridiculously expressive. You guys, you don’t even know. If you spent even 10 minutes with her, you would be dying over all the expressions she makes. Of course, corresponding to all the faces are all the feelings. ALL THE FEELINGS. About all the things. When she’s happy, she’s ecstatic. When she’s sad, the world is coming to an end. I don’t even want to think about the teen years.

The point is, she makes the best faces. And I felt that I should share them with you. Eva, please forgive me in those teen years when you have ALL THE FEELINGS X 1000 and you hate me for posting these pictures.

There’s laughing face…

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(That’s my dad, who picked both children up upside down the moment he met them and now they are in love with him forever.)

And then there’s “Oh my gosh I’m going to pee myself I’m laughing so hard” face…

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(This laugh got us through a long hard day of waiting at the Ugandan passport office)

Oh, and speaking of laughing face, This post is about Eva, but here’s Titus tickling his own feet and laughing hysterically about it. You’re welcome.

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Then there’s this face, which is reserved for things she’s never seen before or things she finds yucky…

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This particular face is for that big thing in the movie Cars that repaves the streets or something. Some little boy somewhere knows the name of that thing. Anyway, she told me it was yucky. And she’s correct about that.

She made that face a lot while watching popcorn pop for the first time. And if you haven’t seen that, stop what you’re doing right now and watch it and then walk around with a stupid grin on your face for the rest of the day because it makes you feel like a little kid again.

Then there’s angry/sad/pout face, which we are all familiar with, because every child alive has perfected it (and quite frankly, I make a pretty good angry/sad/pout face myself)…

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She’s got nothing on Charlotte, though

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She has a face she makes when she’s concerned about something or afraid that Titus will get in trouble (I knooooow. Cue the waterworks. She is so protective of her brother and it’s heartbreaking).

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And finally, there’s this face, which she makes most often when I point a camera at her, and which I can only describe as her “Why, yes, I AM so gorgeous!” face…

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Take some time to delight in your children today! Even if they’re making “angry/sad/pout” face. They might just need mama to laugh at them to get them out of their funk.

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I’m bone-tired y’all.

I never really understood that expression until now. But it literally feels like my bones are tired.

And it’s not the newborn kind of tired (which is the worst kind of tired if you ask me). That’s a sleep-deprived tired. This is a I-haven’t-stopped-moving-since-I-woke-up-this-morning kind of tired.

And I love it.

I don’t love it because it feels good or because I’m one of those people who looks at the world through rose-colored glasses. I love it because it’s bringing me to the end of myself and I’ve never depended upon God more. To be honest, my flesh doesn’t love it so much. It’d kind of been crying out against it. But the renewed me knows that when Christ is all and in all in my life there is lasting joy. That me is loving it.

Every day this week I’ve come to the end of myself and said, “OK God, you’ve got to strengthen me.” I think of 1 Thessalonians 5, where Paul says “He who called you is faithful, He will surely do it.” Or of when he says in Colossians 2 that he is “struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within.”

This is one of the great lessons of our trip to Uganda, and it is the enduring lesson thus far. God’s in control, He’s acting, and He’s sustaining whether we acknowledge it or not. In the month that Josh and I were in Uganda, not knowing how long we would be there or whether or not the kids what get their passports approved or if the U.S. embassy would approve them for travel, we were really faced with the fact that we are literally in God’s hands.

I thought often of that old song that I sang as a child and that my own children now sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Yeah, He really really does.

We have very nice organized lives here. We plan out our days and our lives and like to live according to our schedules. We say with our mouths, “God is in control,” but we live out our lives substituting “I am” for “God is” in that sentence.

It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but oh how sweet it is to be humbled and then see Jesus, whose blood covers our sin. Yes, I said it. Sin. Trying to take control from our creator God is definitely sin. But that’s what makes His forgiveness and His sustaining grace that much sweeter.

So in these beginning days of being a mom of 4, I’m exhausted, but there’s Jesus, that great Savior and friend of mine, carrying me through. I look at the 2 who I still barely know, whose language I don’t speak, and I say, “Jesus, carry me through.” I look at the 2 who I’ve known since birth, whose demanding language I understand perfectly well, and I say, “Jesus, carry me through.” I look at all 4, clamoring for attention and affection and food (always food), and when I think I don’t have enough in me, I say, “Jesus, I know you will carry me through.”

 

 

 

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So, Josh and I try to have family worship pretty regularly in our house. Of course we, like most people who try to do this, go in and out of seasons of consistency. But on the whole it’s a goal that we strive toward and we think it’s important.

If the term “family worship” is foreign to you, all I mean by that is regular time spent reading the Bible, praying and singing as a family. Josh has preached about the importance of this before and if you’re interested, you can check it out here.

Anyhow, sometimes it’s awesome and we feel like our kids are really getting it.  They listen well, ask questions, pray and then grab shakers and sing and dance while Josh plays the piano. Aw, what a nice image you have of our family, now, right?

But most of the time it’s just complete bedlam and we both look at each other thinking, “what the heck just happened??” once it’s over.

And usually I just laugh uncontrollably the whole time because I love it when kids say ridiculous things. And kids almost always say ridiculous things.

One time Reagan pointed at this picture of Gabriel visiting Mary from The Jesus Storybook Bible, and said, “Mary is really afraid of that chicken, isn’t she?”

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Or one time Josh, after listing some of God’s attributes, said, “God is…”

And after a long pause, Charlotte replied, “A bear!”

You get the gist.

Well, tonight was just such a night. Typically we read a story out of the aforementioned Bible, go over memory verses, do a catechism and sing. Tonight we started with the catechism. We never got past it because I couldn’t take anything seriously after it. I wish I had gotten this on video, but I was too busy laughing to think of that, so I’ll just try to give you a transcript of our conversation.

(Note, we had this conversation after eating dinner, and neither of our children were wearing clothes. ‘Cause that’s how we roll)

Me: Reagan, who made you?

Reagan: God did.

Me: What else did God make?

Reagan: God made everything!

(so far so good, right?)

Me: Charlotte, why did God make you and all things?

Charlotte: For his gwowy! (We are going to have to spend so much money on speech therapy for this kid…)

Me: And how do we give God glory?

Charlotte: By wuving Him and He takes cawe of me!

Me: Actually, it’s by loving Him and doing what He commands.

Charlotte: Wight, He takes cawe of me and doing what He commands.

(time to move on, we’re clearly not getting that one)

Josh: Reagan, why should you give God glory?

Reagan: Because He made me and He takes care of me.

Josh: Charlotte, Is there more than one God?

Charlotte: Noooooooooo. (Holds up 5 fingers) There are TWO powsons.

Me: (laughing too hard to talk)

Reagan: Charlotte, there is only one true God. (In that big sister tone. You know the tone I’m talking about)

Josh: How many persons in the one true God?

Charlotte: (counting down like a space shuttle is about to take off) 5! 4! 3! 2! 1 powsons!

Reagan: (sighing) I’ll answer this one. 3 persons. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Then we started the whole thing all over again and the answers got progressively more ridiculous.

Now our kids are watching Caillou, quite possibly the worst children’s show on television, while I type this. Oh well, tomorrow is another day!

Keep at it, people! Even when it’s crazy, we know that it honors God when we heed this command.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)