Get Your Warm Fuzzies When You Can

Last night was one of those idyll moments. All the kids were happy. I made supper and everyone ate their food. (Ok, one kid snuck his carrots into the trash can, but he ate everything else on his plate!) We had devotions and, for the most part, everyone sat and listened. Supper was a bit late, so we only had an hour before bedtime and the kids decided they wanted to listen to the Pandora Radio Disney station. So, we had the Disney music blasting. One kid was standing on the coffee table doing a great lip-syncing job, three girls were choreographing their best dances on the other side of the living room, the three youngest were playing some complex game that involved ninja moves and pushing each other around the dining room in a plastic wagon. I was sitting on the couch with my ten and twelve year old boys on either side of me. My husband was sitting on the other couch. I wanted to be sitting next to him, but my boys had voluntarily sat down next to me and it was kind of like one of those Wildlife Adventures, where you stand real still and try not to spook the wildlife. While my twelve year old is still willing to give me brief side-hugs, the ten year old has decided that all physical contact is “gross” and he will run away if you approach him with arms out-stretched. So, I was sitting real still, just enjoying the fact that he was leaning against me. The teenagers fled the scene and were hiding out in their room, but, hey, who needs teenagers? 

 

I was sitting there thinking, this is so wonderful, all of us just hanging out, the kids all happy. And then, I kid you not, the song from Lion King, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” came on. And I got all teary-eyed. My husband raised his eyebrow, his expression saying, “What on earth is wrong with you?” I decided it was too complex an emotion to try and explain to him from one couch to the other while loud music was playing, so I just gave a watery smile. 

 

Ahhh, the Warm Fuzzies. So nice. 

 

A couple hours later, ten o’clock at night, to be precise, when my daughter ran into my room to tell me that the toilet upstairs had flooded and water was now coming down through the floor and into my downstairs hallway….I was not feeling so warm…Or fuzzy. Also throw in the fact that my husband had left after putting kids to bed to go help a friend with a remodeling project, and I was the only adult on the premises…and then when I texted him about the situation and his only response was “Plunge the toilet”, yeah, all the warm fuzzies were gone.

 

This morning, I sat and read my Bible while I cooked oatmeal. All the kids were still asleep. So nice. Just having a little quiet time in the early morning. Warm. Fuzzy. Then I went to get the bowls down from the cupboard and set them out. Hmm. What’s this? Apparently, whatever child had emptied the dishwasher last, had chosen to do so with really dirty hands. Every single bowl had dirty handprints on them. What on earth. Warm fuzzies gone. 

 

I dropped off my middle schoolers at their school and proudly watched them walk down the sidewalk. My eccentric dresser was looking especially eccentrically elegant. I smiled fondly. Instead of driving off, I had to sit where I was because the car in front of me, a tiny, new-looking, cute little car that had “Cooper” written across the back, was not moving. Instead of just ejecting her passenger, the mom was actually exiting her car so she could go open the cute little trunk of her car and remove her child’s band instrument. The mom was wearing this really cute sweater and snug jeans, her hair was done, and you could tell, even through the pre-dawn light, that she had on all her makeup. Then she hopped back into her cute little car and drove off. I was suddenly very aware that I was wearing my slippers, I hadn’t bothered to even put my hair up in a messy bun, I was wearing my three year old cheap Walmart sweater (cause it’s warm, and cozy) and I was driving a humongous 15-passenger van that will never be called cute. Warm fuzzies gone. 

 

So, I’m sure there is something profound in these observations. Not sure what though. 🙂 Warm fuzzies are great. I love them. They also don’t seem to last long. I guess, if I was needing warm fuzzies to get me through life, I’d be in a pretty bad place. But, if you are just letting those warm fuzzies be kind of like the occasional decadent dessert, it’s not a bad thing. Enjoy them when they come, savor them, and just accept that shortly afterward, you might be plunging a toilet. 

 

Woe is Me

A couple days ago I was having a particularly difficult afternoon with a particularly difficult child. In a big fit of frustration, I retreated to my room and collapsed in my chair. I was about to reach for my phone and zone out on FaceBook for a minute, but thought, hmm, I think I would do better to pick up my Bible. I opened the Bible to where I had been reading that morning and I got smacked across the head by these verses:

 

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17: 7-10

 

We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty…I don’t know if any of you can relate, but I was definitely having a Woe Is Me moment. Look at poor Esther. She has to deal with all these problems. Poor, poor me. Does anyone see how self-sacrificing I am being? Look at me! I don’t deserve this kind of treatment! 

 

It kind of reminds me of when my kids pull an attitude.

Me: Please do this chore.

Child: Why should I have to do that chore??

Me: Umm, excuse me, did you get crowned Queen/King when I wasn’t looking? Why shouldn’t you have to do this chore? You live here. You do chores. 

 

While I am all about focusing on how we are children of God, God loves us so much, Jesus has given us worth because he died on the cross for us…we are also God’s servants. We are his creation. He created us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). And Jesus himself called us to be servants (Matthew 20:26). We are in the Kingdom of God, and it’s a kingdom of servants. Jesus being the number one example of servanthood (Phillipians 2:8).

 

Feeling sorry for myself because serving people can sometimes be irritating…this is not an emotion I need to be wallering in. I am just doing my duty. It’s what I’ve been called to do. Serve others. And yes, there is a place for setting boundaries and not being a doormat, but I think I can admit that most of the time that I’m feeling sorry for myself, it’s just because I’m feeling resentful about having to serve. I’d much rather be wearing the crown and be Queen for the day. 

 

There is a song I learned when I was kid, back in the 80’s when Psalty the Singing Psalm Book was a thing. (Look it up if you’ve never heard of him.) The lyrics to the song go like this:

Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord let me lift up, those who are weak, and may the prayer of my heart always be, make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.

So, that is my prayer for today, May I be a servant, content to do my duty. Knowing that when I do, I am simply following the example of Jesus. 

 

How to Love Your Neighbor

Hello Internet World. Hope you all are well. I am doing pretty good right now. Feeling rather mellow actually. I’m currently sitting at a Panera with my oldest daughter who is home to visit this week. We both have our computers out…writing. It runs in the family. It is my treasured night off that I get once a week and I am feeling pretty peaceful. 

 

I would have to say this a leftover from this past weekend where my husband and I were able to go have a weekend away while my parents watched the kids. It was a much needed break and even though I got thrown right back into the melee when I got home, I am feeling a lot more relaxed about life. 

 

This is having positive effects all around. I’m not feeling on edge, so when the kids are being crazy, I don’t react crazy. I stay calm and that helps everyone else get calm. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, Self-Care, take care of yourself…Here’s the weird thing. When you take care of yourself, it helps you to take care of everyone else better. 

 

That verse in the Bible, the Ultimate Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself…it’s hard to love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself. 

 

As a mom, it is so hard to prioritize taking care of myself. It’s my job to be self-sacrificing, the kids come first, my needs aren’t as important. Which is true to an extent, but if I don’t find a healthy balance of taking care of me and taking care of them, if things get out of balance, I end up not being able to take care of them after all. 

 

I know this. I completely burnt out on life several years back and went through a couple years of deep depression. Coming out of that depression took time, and I had to learn some new skills. Here are some things I learned in no particular order.

 

  1. Deal with the inner emotional issues. Get some counseling, therapy, whatever you need, to start digging out the root of your unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns.
  2. Cultivate some outside interests.
  3. Start using your talents that you have allowed to go dormant. 
  4. Speak up. Give honest answers instead of pretending everything is fine. 
  5. Be daring and allow yourself to open up to some trusted friends, show them the real you. 
  6. Prioritize getting regular breaks. Even if they are just a short hour here and there. 
  7. Keep talking to God. Even if you are too tired to read your Bible or listen to a sermon, keep talking to him. He’s the best friend you can ever have. 

 

This is not a complete list, but these are what come to mind when I think back on how God has been teaching me over the years to love myself. And loving myself has made it so much easier to love others. Funny how that works. 

 

And Today’s Awesome Award Goes to….

Today, this weekend, this week, this month, this year…the Awesome Heroes Award goes to my parents. YAY!! Who paid for a romantic weekend getaway for my husband and I in the mountains while they came and took care of the kids all weekend. 

 

Yeah. Try and top that!

 

The purpose was for Andy and I to be able to get away, reconnect, rest, and de-stress. 

 

It worked. 

 

I left Friday afternoon, literally running to get in the car and drive away before the kids got home from school. I came back today, ready to push my sleeves up and get back to work. 

 

We stayed at Jonathan Creek Inn at Maggie Valley and had a room with a Jacuzzi. Which is kind of a funny story in itself. My husband and I have been trying to stay in a room with a jacuzzi since our honeymoon, and then for our following anniversaries, and we have been thwarted every time. On our honeymoon, because we were in Wisconsin, and we are not planners, and thought we’d just drive till we felt like stopping and then get a hotel room, with a jacuzzi…except unbeknownst to us, our wedding day fell on the day of a Green Bay Packers Game and every hotel in the entire state was booked up. Then on the next anniversary, we were all set to go have a romantic getaway, but then a close friend was in a tragic accident and we were at the hospital on our anniversary. And then, we had a lot of kids and gave up trying to do stuff like that. Until a couple years ago, when I finally had a room booked and a babysitter lined up. Then I got appendicitis and ended up spending my anniversary recovering from an appendectomy. 

 

So, we finally got our jacuzzi suite.  Yay!

 

We took a drive around the mountains and went on a hike through the woods. We watched sappy Hallmark movies in our room (another first, we don’t have cable and have never seen a Hallmark movie, it was hilarious making commentary with my husband). 

 

And we talked. We talked a lot about our new living situation. With three new children, we are having to make a lot of adjustments. And we are getting tired. It’s one of those things where you know that you can do this, but you’re going to have to be smart about how you go about it. 

 

We talked about how we can pace ourselves and make sure that we are getting the breaks that we need. Talked about how we need to keep some strong boundaries in some different situations. We plotted and planned. 

 

And we just enjoyed being out in nature and being together. I enjoyed not having to cook any meals or do any chores. 

We especially enjoyed saying, Hey, Let’s go do this! And then we would just walk out the door and go do it. Amazing. No thirty minutes of getting everyone ready to go. We just Walked. Out. The. Door. 

 

I’m going to be honest. Taking on new family members is hard. Really hard. But, God has been faithful. He has provided: everything we physically need, and even a mental and emotional break. And he is continuing to provide wisdom as we learn how to walk this path. And it’s worth it. It was great to come home to a house full of smiling, happy children. Each one beautiful and amazing in their own way. 

 

Renewing My Mind

It’s been a long day. I’ve been up since 6:30 am. The kids were home today on their fourth day of “flood-cation”. Today we cleaned bedrooms, had devotions, played scrabble, read science books, watched educational tv shows, went to the Children’s museum, did laundry, washed dishes, cleaned up the house, drove my daughter to work,  made supper, cleaned up from supper, finished getting the laundry (including the socks!) folded and put away, dealt with numerous discipline issues, comforted crying babies, resolved fights, and now, I am trying to get everyone to sleep. (Did I mention somewhere in that list, breaking up a spontaneous rollerskating party that occurred inside the house while I was in the shower?)

 

Despite all the chaos and busyness, and despite the fact that there were numerous times when I felt the need to mutter under my breath, “Lord, I can’t do this!!” , it still felt like a good day. I think that has to do with some changes that have been going on in my thought process. 

 

As God has walked me through a healing process over the last couple years, I have been noticing the difference that it has had on how I think and what I think about. When I try to revisit old thought patterns, I find that they no longer satisfy me, they no longer hold my attention. When I try to revisit old stories that I used to weave in my mind, I now find that these stories no longer hold any interest for me. It’s like, they served a purpose, that purpose is no longer needed, and so they are useless. It’s almost been a bit comical. I will be sitting quietly and my thoughts will start to wander and then suddenly it’s like I’ve hit a brick wall. I don’t know what to think about. While it’s bewildering, it’s also freeing. Looking back, I can see how the things I used to occupy my mind with were simply coping mechanisms for dealing with deep wounds. As those wounds have been exposed to light and have begun healing instead of festering, those coping mechanisms no longer have a hold on me either. 

 

And I have literally had to ask God, Ok, what do you want me to think about now? And he was faithful to answer. I mentioned in my last blog that I have been thinking about heaven. I’ve read several books about heaven (I forgot to mention in the last blog that I also read “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis). And now, when I find my mind at rest for a moment, my thoughts wandering, I find myself settling into curiosity. Curiosity about heaven and Jesus and the scriptures I’ve been reading. 

 

It has been a true “Renewing of the Mind”. And the awesome part is, I know that it’s not me that has been doing it. It’s been all God. I don’t have the power in myself to break off these old patterns. I don’t have the power to heal myself. I don’t have the power to change lifetime habits of thought overnight. It has truly been a miracle to watch what God has been doing in my life and my mind. 

 

All of this to say, when I have crazy days that push me to my Patience Limit and wear me out from rushing from one thing to the next, it’s still a good day. A day of thinking about God, pondering his word, feeling his presence as I go about the day. Romans 12:2 says:

 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

 

I am basking in the wonder of being transformed by the renewing of my mind. 

 

And that’s made it a good day. 

 

Good Things to Think About

Heaven has been on my mind again. The bible verses we are learning on our drive to school have to do with Jesus going to prepare a place for us. When you say a passage of scripture every day, it starts to permeate your thoughts. 

 

I picked up C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle” which is all about heaven. Then I checked out Randy Alcorn’s book, “In Light of Eternity”. The main emphasis I came away with is heaven is an amazing place that we should be excited about going to. Like, Really Excited. Both Lewis and Alcorn talk about how heaven will have the best things of earth. It made me start thinking about things that I love about earth. Mountains. I love mountains. Forests. Rushing rivers. Waterfalls. In my imagination, heaven would be kind of like being in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park without all the tourists or paved roads, and I’d have all the energy to run and climb and hike without ever getting sore feet or sore muscles. And there would be more wildlife that weren’t scared of me. 

 

And then there would be the people. It really hit me that all the people at my church that I worship with every week…we’re going to be seeing each other throughout all eternity! In a place where all our superficialness will be stripped away. And all our sin will be gone. We will be ourselves in the way that Jesus originally intended us to be. And not just my church or my generation, but people from all over the world, all generations. 

 

Then of course, there is Jesus. The main event. The Reason. It’s hard to imagine being able to live by sight instead of by faith. While I hear Jesus’ voice quietly on occasion, while I see his hand working in my life, while I read his words in the Bible, while I speak to him all the time…it’s all by faith. Can you imagine seeing him Face to Face??

 

It reminds me of a vision I had once. It was over fifteen years ago. I was just pregnant with my third child, though I didn’t know it yet at the time. We had just left Chile after living there about a year and half. We had stopped in Tennessee for a month so that Andy could work and earn us enough money to continue our road trip North. We were very much in limbo at the moment, trying to figure out where we were going to settle. Our old friends allowed us to stay in their empty rental property, the house we had lived in when we first got married. The house was in a quiet neighborhood, lots of old trees hanging over the road, offering shade. It was summer. I was determined to get in shape and I had started jogging in the mornings. I was probably only jogging two miles max. If that. But, for my level of ability, that was a big deal. I didn’t have any way of listening to music, no walkmans, discmans, mp3s, iphones etc. It was just me. I was really missing music to help me keep a steady rhythm. So, I started singing in my head a song I had recently learned at church: Jesus, All for Jesus by Anna Warner and William Bradbury. These are the lyrics:

 

Jesus, all for Jesus

All I am and have and ever hope to be

Jesus, all for Jesus

All I am and have and ever hope to be

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans

I surrender these into your hands

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans

I surrender these into your hands

For it’s only in your will that I am free

For it’s only in your will that I am free

Jesus, all for Jesus

All I am and have and ever hope to be

 

As I was running the words became a rhythm to keep my feet moving forward. I made my way down one street and then another, trying to find the balance of making the run long enough to get a good workout but not making it so I killed myself. As I ran, my brain focused more and more on the words and I felt my hands opening in a gesture of worship as I purposefully sang the words in my head as a prayer. I started climbing up a hill and saw that I was in the last stretch before I got back to my own driveway. I picked up the pace a bit to try and end strong. And suddenly I wasn’t in a quiet little neighborhood, instead I was a on a race track and there were people lining both sides of the race track and they were cheering for me, and I looked more closely and I saw my Grandfather Rigby and my husbands’ Grandma Ivah and they were standing there waving and cheering, and I remember feeling surprise. Why were they cheering for me? I really didn’t know them that well. And then I looked up and at the finish line was Jesus and he had this big grin on his face and he was just waiting for me with his arms open wide. And I found myself running harder and faster, sprinting towards him and I could hear my ragged breaths and I could taste metal in my mouth as I ran as fast as I could. And then, the race was over. I was in my driveway. Collapsed on the ground as the vision slowly faded away. My face splotched not only from heat and running but from tears. 

 

Not the most original vision. I have heard the analogy of our life being a race many times in the scriptures. I remember there was an awesome song by Steve Taylor called “The Finish Line” that I listened to as a teen, all about running the race of life. Not an original vision. But, I was in it. I was living it. I was actually running it and I could feel the physical effort and exhaustion and exhilaration. 

 

It has stayed with me over the years. When I’m feeling weary and I have to start whispering to myself, “Just keep moving, just keep moving…” I sometimes remember that vision and the fact that people were cheering for me, rooting for me, and then also the fact that there is a prize at the end of the race. Jesus. Heaven. Paradise. 

 

These are good things to think about. 

 

Love in a Bag of Socks

Do you ever feel like the whole universe is against you, and everything that can go wrong is going wrong, and WHY ME?? And all that? And then, there is just this moment right in the middle when you suddenly realize that God is still in control and He still loves you, and it’s going to be ok.

 

My story begins with socks. Let’s talk about socks. 

 

Yesterday, Monday morning, as I’m trying to herd a bunch of kids out the door to school, the recurring theme I’m hearing from each child walking down the steps is, I’M OUT OF SOCKS!! I NEED SOCKS!! 

 

Oh no. I forgot to do laundry this Saturday and it sounds like the kids aren’t going to make it to my next laundry day on Tuesday. I direct all the kids to go hunt out my Odd Sock Basket and just find anything that will fit. And if they find some that are kind of the same color or style, that would be great. I mentally add to my TO DO list, wash socks tonight. Which kind of makes me shudder cause that means I will need to go and gather laundry from all the bedrooms upstairs and try and find socks and it’s going to be complicated. Also complicated is the fact that it is Monday, the one day I go to a homeschooling co-op and teach piano lessons and my little boys attend preschool. Andy and I are also supposed to meet some friends of ours at a restaurant that evening. Hmm. Sock washing is not going to be an easy task. 

 

The day is busy. I finish at co-op and then take my tired little boys to the eyeglass place to pick up some replacement glasses we’d ordered. While I’m at the eyeglass place I get a call from the school asking me to come for an emergency meeting. I load up my boys who are starting to get fussy now and we rush over to the school. Have the meeting, during which my three year old loses it completely and goes into full-meltdown mode. We quickly finish the meeting then I have to run out to the car with the screaming three year old and the four year old so we can get in the car and quickly get into the end of the car line to pick up the kids. Three year old has gone insane by this time and I am ignoring all looks from other parents while I bodily carry him to the car while he makes as much noise as possible. I am stepping off the curb and somehow mess it up and completely and turn my ankle, almost dropping the screaming child. I am now standing there gasping in pain, trying not to swear too loudly, three year old is still screaming and I don’t know how I’m going to walk the rest of the way to the car. 

 

A teacher who was getting into her car witnesses the whole thing and she gets out of her car and grabs hold of the screaming child and helps me walk him to the car while I limp along. By the time I get to the car, the initial pain has worn off, and I can move my ankle around. Ok. This is going to be alright. I get in the car, buckle the writhing child (I don’t know what happened, I have never had this particular child meltdown in such a spectacular manner), and drive over to pick up my kids. 

 

The next couple hours are filled with talking to kids, dealing with some annoying mail, and trying to get supper cooked so I can feed the kids and go out with my husband. While I’m cooking supper I suddenly realize that I never washed the stupid socks. I ponder how expensive it would be to just go to the store and buy new socks. It seems like it might be the only solution. Ok, I don’t have time to think about this problem. I continue to limp along while I get the meal served. My ankle feels sore, but not enough to slow me down. 

 

We run out the door, just making it to the restaurant in time. I limp carefully to our booth, the ankle is noticeable, but still not bad. 

 

And then suddenly it’s bad. I’m just sitting there quietly in my seat and my ankle announces it’s presence, loud and clear. I AM HERE, I AM HERE, I AM HERE. 

 

I shift in my seat, trying to find a better position. Nothing seems to be working. We chat and order our food. My face is starting to look strained, my husband asks what’s wrong. I whisper that my ankle is hurting. He lets me put my foot up in his lap. It doesn’t help. 

 

As the evening progresses, my pain level goes from a 2 to a full blown 10. We cut the evening short and my husband and the husband of the other couple help me hobble out of the restaurant. By now I am employing my lamaze-breathing methods to deal with the pain. I can’t wait to just get home and put my foot up with some ice. 

 

Unfortunately, elevating, icing, and dosing up with a bunch of ibuprofen does nothing to ease the pain. I’m now crying. 

 

You have to understand, I have an extremely high tolerance for pain. This is off the charts. 

 

My husband finally says, that’s it, I’m taking you to the hospital. And the whole time, I’m thinking, Why me? I have so much to do. I cannot afford to be out of commision. Everyone is depending on me. And I still haven’t washed the socks. And now I can’t even go to the store to buy socks. And all the kids will be going to school tomorrow sock-less. 

 

We pull up to the hospital and Andy gets out to find a wheelchair. He stops and I hear him open the trunk of the car. The trunk opens and closes and then he walks over to my door, opens the door and dumps a bag in my lap, then heads off again. I look at the bag, puzzled, and open it up. 

 

It’s full of socks. Kids’ socks. Different sizes. And I remember about a month ago, my husband telling me there was a bag of socks in his car, he didn’t know where they came from, did I want them? And I said yes, but never followed through and they had just been sitting in his car. 

 

I burst into tears. This time just because I’m feeling overwhelmed with love. 

 

It’s ok. God’s got this. He sees me. He knows. It’s love in a bag of socks. 

 

(P.S. Ankle isn’t broken, just a bad sprain, and I got a boot to help me hobble around.)