Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It Needs To Be Said

Last week I found myself sitting in an ER waiting room at 11pm.  It wasn't for me.  It wasn't for anyone in my family.  Actually it wasn't even for the patient I was technically there to see.  It was for a mama.

This mama is light years ahead of me in the experience department.  Her children are grown and she's become mama (or should I say grand-mama) to the next generation.  She didn't give birth to all of her brood, but they are all hers, nonetheless.  Her heart knows it.  Her actions speak it.  Her mama scars prove it.

I sat there as she poured out her heart.  The loves.  The hurts.  The joys.  The fears.  Some of the struggles I know all too well, others I hope I never face.  And my heart connected with hers.  After many stories, some laughter, a lot of "I don't knows"…I was able to place my hand on her back and look her in the eyes and utter some VERY. SIMPLE. WORDS.  Words that I meant with every fiber of my being.  Words that, although easy for me to say, were difficult for her to hear and/or accept:


And then tears.

My heart broke to realize how rarely she may hear those words.  Because they are true.  She is a great mom.  But like all moms, she's incredibly hard on herself.  People, even family, have made her feel inferior to the person God ordained her to be. The world has bombarded her with unrealistic expectations, and the discouragement of it all was crushing.  

But the words were so simple.  

Most words are simple.  The kind ones as well as the hateful ones.  The only difference is that one type brings life and love and healing to an already battered soul and the other cuts and wounds and bleeds out pain.  But both are simple to speak.  Sadly, it is often the hurtful words that flow like butter.  The deliverer often feels justified and as though they have an obligation to set a person on the right path.  Somewhere along the line they took it upon themselves to work the Holy Spirit out of His job of lovingly convicting and molding a person's spirit.  

Proverbs 18:21 (The Message) says,

"Words kill, words give life;
they're either poison or fruit -- you choose."

*Note: do not think that I am against correction.  However, loving correction and hateful attacks are two very different things.  And many, MANY people have never learned the difference.   Hateful, harsh criticism (both to a person's face and behind their back) is poison.  It produces hurt and anger.  It destroys trust.  It breeds only bitterness.  No life can flourish in this.  Loving words give life.  Even loving criticism if it is truth, spoken in love, can be fruitful.  Fruit is refreshing.  There is life in it.  It can be taken by the hearer and used to nourish and grow the person in health and wisdom.  

But kind words.  Simple words.  Sometimes they have no greater purpose than to sooth the aching heart and the wavering soul and the hopeless being.  Sometimes they have no greater purpose than to wrap someone in love, and if I'm not mistaken, that's just the greatest commandment God gave to each of us.  To Love.

I know this personally.  Although I did not recognize it immediately.  The Holy Spirit has brought two women into my life in the last few months who have been used to speak words of life into my battered soul.  They do not know each other.  Neither of these ladies even live in Texas.  One I knew from childhood.  Another from a time of transition many years ago.  But they entered my circle, slowly at first.  Cautiously.  A trait that ALL pastor's wives learn painfully from Day 1.    

And they have spoken love.  They have spoken life.  They have spoken encouragement into situations they know very little, if nothing, about.  These women have taken my soul in a season of intense struggle and hurt and have soothed it, nurtured it, tenderly cared for it.  They have prayed for me when my lips had nothing left to utter.  They have extended the love of Jesus even when they didn't know it.  They have done this completely through words.  And prayer.

So what is the point of all of this?  The point is: 

It Needs To Be Said

The compliment about the stranger's cute haircut.  The rallying "you've got this" to the woman questioning her position.  The "you can do its" and the "awesome jobs" and the "you are AMAZINGs" that are whispered into your heart during the day.  It needs to be said.  They need to exit your lips and enter the ears of the unsuspecting child (because aren't we all?) that Jesus wants to hug on today.  These things need to be said.  Be His arms outstretched.  And those arms are to embrace.  To love. To nurture.  Not to hurt and push and wrestle.

We are called to love and our words (and accompanying actions) speak loudly, even when whispered.  It needs to be said.    

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Day I Didn't Like My Daughter for 3 Years

Mommy of the Year.  That was me.  For three straight years.  Don't be jealous.  It was a trophy that I earned well.  Because for one very long day, that lasted roughly 3 years, I did not like my daughter.

Don't misunderstand.  I LOVED her.  Desperately.  My heart could have burst with the tremendous depth of love I had for that child.  At the very moment she exited my body and entered the world, my heart doubled in size…at least.  Love for your child is something that cannot be explained.  It is an ageless feeling that once again proves the existence of an Almighty Creator.  It is not in the human capacity to feel this kind of love.  It can only be explained by something so much Greater than oneself.  It is miraculous.  And until one holds their child in their arms (whether they were birthed from their body or from someone else's) one cannot truly grasp the kind of love I'm talking about. 

Like, however, does not always walk hand-in-hand with love.  And there was a time that I fell out of "like" with my daughter.  

I was recently recalling these years with a friend who is currently not liking her daughter.  I was able to tell her that I've been there, done that.  I am on the tail end of not liking a second daughter.  I am in the throws of not liking a third, and I will not like a fourth someday.  But this season of the mother-daughter dynamic will pass for each one, and I'm sure it will come around again when puberty rushes in.  It is seasonal.  It has an ebb and flow, at least in this house where the estrogen level should have it's own richter scale.

But through the season of loving someone that I felt was unlikeable, God opened my eyes to lessons in motherhood that I would have never learned had I always liked her.  Lessons, that had they waited for teenagedom, would have served me too late.  Lessons that, though difficult and humbling, I wouldn't trade.  But isn't that what the whole of motherhood is?  Ebbs and flows of love and lessons?  For the child AND the mother?  I think so.

Let me tell you about my oldest.  You see, I never envisioned having a daughter.  Not at first.  (God is HILARIOUS!) I had two brothers growing up, no sisters.  I knew about boys.  They stink.  They're rough.  They make a lot of noise, both vocally and bodily.  But for the most part, they have good hearts, and they love their mamas!  So that was my plan.  My firstborn was going to be a boy.  (A GIANT eye roll to all those mothers who say they knew from the moment of conception what they were going to have.  Whatever.  If that intuition is a real thing, mine is broken.)  When the ultrasound technician told us we were having a girl, I was floored.  So surprised.  I realized that I hadn't even thought about having a girl.  But what fun!  A little angel to mimic her mother.  We would wear matching outfits and frolic through fields of flowers.  Everyday would be a picnic.  We'd bake and laugh and snuggle and play with dolls.  My very own mini-me.  Bliss.

I should have known when my little blond-haired, Daddy-clone came out, that my ideals of what a daughter would be, should have been thrown out with the bath water.  Live and learn.  She was a mama's girl though, from the very beginning.  Lots of snuggles.  Lots of clinging.  She was my first-born and possessed the stubborn-streak of BOTH of her first-born parents.  We had three "oldests" living under one roof.  Stubbornality was the family personality.

Fast forward five years and two little sisters (did I mention that God is HILARIOUS?!?!) Miss Stubbornality had also taken on Opinionality.  About ALL THE THINGS.  And the problem?  Her opinions and my opinions did not understand each other. No comprende.  If math is a universal concept, then I suppose our relationship equation would have looked something like this:

Stubbornality + Opinonality + No Comprende = Yelling + Fighting + 0 Likes

We fought about everything, but clothing won first prize.  How was it possible that a teeny-tiny, American child who had never seen anything beyond a PG movie, whose most regular outing was church and who hadn't even started school, was determined to dress like a miniature hooker?  Why were t-shirts with ice cream cones and kitties so appalling?  After all, she liked ice cream cones and kitties!  Why were all things short, tight and sparkly worth a battle to the death?  Sunday mornings were their very own WWF around our house.  Preacher Daddy was at work, but Control-Freak Mommy and #1 would duke it out (figuratively speaking) week after week while #2 and #3 quietly complied and wore whatever sweet little dress I picked out.  

Of course it wasn't only clothing.  It was tv.  It was food.  It was chores.  It was friends.  It was books.  It was nail polish.  You name it.  If it could be discussed between two human beings, we were going to argue about it.  She was trying to exert her control, and I was determined to keep mine.  We were at a crossroads, and I realized one day, with terrible mommy guilt, that I did not like my first born child.  I hadn't liked her for a while, in fact.  And that broke my heart.  How could I not like this child that I created in my very own body, the first person to teach me what a mother's love really was?  I was tired of pretending in the rare moments of peace that I truly enjoyed her, because I was always on guard that the next moment would be a fight.  A battle of the wills.   

So I prayed about it.  I asked God to help me like the child that I loved so much.  It was not an elaborate prayer, but I know He knew my heart.  And He answered.  Slowly.  The first lesson He taught me came through the words of a very wise pastor's wife/friend.  She has raised two daughters and as I poured out my mommy guilt, she looked at me and said, "what if the person God has created her to be, can't dress the way you think she should?  What if she's called to reach people that wouldn't give her the time of day if she was wearing cutsie clothes or acting just so?" 

Jesus + Pastor's Wives + Wisdom = Lessons + Lightbulbs + Aha Moments

Through the course of weeks/months and a great deal of thinking on this, I realized that God created my daughter to be HER, not ME. I was trying to shape her into the miniature version of me, the "her" I THOUGHT she needed to be. God had His very own plan, His very own destiny for the child He entrusted to me. He gave her opinions and taste and choice and freewill just like the rest of us. I was called to shape her, to guide her, to protect her, to raise her…not to control her.  

God changed my mommy prescription that day. I no longer saw my daughter through the lenses of my expectation but through the lenses of God's loving plan for her. And that changed everything. Controlling my child with a vice grip was a lot harder than molding her with a loving hand. 

I don't know how she'll turn out. But you know what? I don't know how I'll turn out either? Each day that she grows and changes, so do I.  That is one thing that will remain the same: we will both be constantly changing and evolving into who God created us to be.  We have many lessons ahead of us.  Many mistakes. Many aha moments.  But I wouldn't trade the ones we've been through or the ones that are to come.  And with three more daughters after her, I'm learning more and more to relax and enjoy the ride.  Who they are now is not who they will be tomorrow.  And if I keep viewing each of them through the lenses of God's prescription the math works out for itself:

Jesus' Guidance + Mommy's Willingness to Learn & Lead + Love = Jesus' Plan + Daughter's Molding + Lots of Likes  

Friday, May 16, 2014

40 Days of Stati

40 Days.  That is the number of days I am unplugged from the attention-sucking, child-ignoring, time-consuming media that is Facebook.  40 Days.  For someone with an addiction to status updates, this feels like an eternity.  Like Jesus will come back and I will be raptured up to Heaven and join the celestial choir all before I can update everyone about the events that led up to said supernatural activity.

So for the sake of my brain and my need to release all the pent-up activity floating around in it, I offer you 40 Days of Stati (that is what I'm calling the plural of status…leave me alone.)  Please note that some days have more stati than other days.  Day One was particularly hard as I was detoxing…laying on the bed with my stati-updating digits in full-out convulsions while my brain came up with half a dozen bits of information that if unshared would cause the Earth to stop orbiting the sun.  I need to find a Stati-holics Anonymous group.

Day 1: Wednesday, May 14

I live in a world in which breaking up fights over who has more chocolate chips in their toaster waffles actually happens.  There are tears.  Referees are called in.  It is traumatic.  And then the girls wake up and Russ and I have to stop.  (Ahem, I won.)

19 more days of school.  39 more lunches.  I'm so over this.

Potty training is for the birds.  No, for real.  They let their young pee on the ground (wait, do birds pee?) and poop on cars.  Can anyone say, role model?

ENORMOUS announcement!!!!!  Today I unpacked my suitcase.  On the FIRST DAY I WAS HOME!!!!!  And no one has even delivered my trophy yet.  Apparently they are not as "on top of life" as I am today!  Take that, trophy deliverers!

I stick my kid in front of Frozen at least twice a day.  I'm being serious.  She won't move for 102 minutes.  Times two.  And I'm still obsessed with the songs.  And I still sing them loudly.  Don't judge…just Let It Go…see what I did there?

Day 2: Thursday, May 15

To all of you overachieving school parents: please stop.  When I get emails from not one of my kids teachers but BOTH of them in the same week talking about homework that is due and websites that are supposed to be logged into and spelling words that need to be memorized and then they BOTH mention that only 2 or 3 students in the class have done these things, I begin to wonder if you missed the memo.  The STARR tests are over.  And though we certainly don't want the teachers teaching to said tests, it's important for you to understand that we all have to slack off TOGETHER when these tests are over.  It's parental solidarity.  And you're ruining it.  I realize that you were probably the head cheerleader and captain of the football team in high school and you're used to everyone following you, but let me be the first to tell you, we stopped following you.  Now is the time that some of us need you to underachieve just a bit.  Please.  For the sake of the children.  For the sake of the sanity of mothers with toddlers and preschoolers and elementary students everywhere.  Please.  Join our cause.  Let us all unite with one voice to tell the school districts that we are done.  That school needs to end before June.  If you will join us, there will surely be victory.  Stop the madness.

My tupperware cabinet is possessed by demons.  They throw round lids and square containers at me when I open the door.  And they unstack ALL THE THINGS.  And it is making me weep.

Day 3: Friday, May 16

Field Day at the Elementary School.  4 hours of putt-putt golf with hundreds of students who think golf clubs and baseball bats are the same thing.  I am not called to be a teacher.  They need raises.  Tell the government to give them all the money.

Day 4: Saturday, May 17

Today I decided to COOK breakfast.  The unfortunate part is that my cooking spray decided to take the day off.  The amazing part is that Scrambled Pancakes are now a thing.  Don't envy my culinary skills.  It's an art form.

Day 6: Monday, May 19

What a difference 48 hours makes.
On Saturday I gardened.  If you know me at all, you know that the state of my children still being alive is miraculous as my greatest gifting is making living things die.  Watering plant life is too overwhelming and requires routine.  Silk flowers are a pure act of genius.  So the simple act of gardening usually involves me propping a rake up against a tree so that when people drive by they can think, "Oh look!  The lady who lives there must be working in her yard.  She gardens." And then there is jealousy.  But on Saturday, I actually did things.  I planted things…that will in fact require water…which means they were so pretty on Saturday and they won't look like that again next Saturday, but it was $35 well spent to be pretty 2 days ago.  I also sweated.  That's a big deal worth it's own status.  I cleared away dead things (they must have been under and/or over watered) and even found an Earth worm which was cause for screaming and ewwwing because they are small snakes.  But the whole day (for real…I was out there all day) my mind was so clear.  And Jesus spoke to me about some things through the the dirt.  It's no wonder that Adam and Eve could hear God so clearly.  After all they were in a Garden!  God likes gardens.  And it was such a peaceful, productive, message-developing, lesson-learning day.
I decided that the Earth is amazing and we should grow our own food.
Fast-forward to today.
Today I went to Hell.  Some people call it the grocery store at 3 pm with 4 children.  Tomato, Tomato.  I would like to request any and all video footage from this particular location.  I will take it in the form of security footage and/or cell phone footage as people were surely recording the madness.  Turning aisles in busy stores causes my children to disperse so quickly, and with such force, that you may wonder if a bomb has actually exploded them.  Every. Single. Aisle.  This was the reason that the only words uttered for one full hour were "get back here," "what are you thinking," "I don't care just put it in the cart" and "here eat this." The first 15 minutes of our shopping disaster acquired: grapes, apples, blackberries, cabbage, organic grape tomatoes, pistachios, almond milk and free range chicken cutlets.  The last 45 minutes brought on pop-tarts, chocolate chip cookie cereal, granola bars, fruit snacks, Twinkies, cupcakes, potato chips and the need to drown myself in a Diet Coke and pray to God that brain cells would not burn and for divine protection against aspartame-induced cancer cells.
So today I think back to the bliss of 48 hours ago and have decided that my plan to grow our own food is indeed inspired.  Now I just need to find pop tart seeds.

Day 8: Wednesday, May 21

I went in to wake up my 8 year old this morning and she was missing.  Her bed was made, her school clothes were gone and there was kitchen racket downstairs.  I found her all ready for school (VERY chipper and chatty!), making her breakfast, her lunch AND 1/2 of her sister's lunch…which means I'm down to 24.5 more lunches as opposed to 26.  If ever there was a running for favorite child, it's today.  She put spinach on her sandwich, y' can't even blame me.

Dilema #492 of a Facebook fast: I know nothing about the season finales of all the shows I don't watch.  How on Earth am I supposed to make semi-informed small talk?!?  This is a vital part of ministry!  I can't even believe Jesus would be willing to let His church suffer like this!

Day 10: Friday, May 23rd

I'm not typically a "Name It and Claim It" kind of Christian, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.  That being said…In the name of Jesus, the One Who can heal the sick, raise the dead and save man's souls, I proclaim that TODAY was the day that I bought my last package of diapers.  There will be potty training power in this house like we've never seen before and our last dime has been given to Huggies and Costco.  Amen and Amen.  Let it be done.

Day 16: Thursday, May 29

Sometimes the most precious conversations of the day cannot go undocumented.

  • Hailee (8 years): "Mom, ya know the black licorice jelly beans?  Well I don't really like them but I eat them anyway because I don't want them to feel left out."  My child.  We will spike our blood sugar and go up a pant size all for the comfort of inanimate food.  Classy.
  • Ethnee (9 years) during a tearful conversation about the fact that I'm going out of town this weekend: "I don't want you to go!  When you're gone it's like a rainy day without the clouds."  Ummmm…ok??  "It's like pancakes without syrup.  It's just not the same when you're not here." Brownie points all around.  I didn't tell her about the times I wrote my mother pleading notes of desperation to get her to stay home when she would go out of town.  I also didn't tell her how I would cry just enough so that my tears would fall on the page and the ink would smear and I would draw a circle around the smear and point with an arrow to the words "sorry…that was a tear."  She's my child.  She doesn't need this kind of training.  It comes naturally.

Day 18: Saturday, May 31

MAJOR SPIRITUAL REVELATION: The day that Eve ate the unidentified fruit of the Old Testament, laundry was created.  Theology just came full circle.  So much makes sense now.

Day 22: Wednesday, June 4

When you are fasting certain things and one of those things happens to be unnecessary shopping, you shouldn't even pretend that you can shop.  Just don't do it.  Because if you do, you will find yourself in a large, handicap dressing room with two small people who you originally entered the store to find swimming suits for but somehow wandered by the women's swim attire and found a suit that made you think, "Hmmm…I wonder how effectively that would hide my ________" (insert loathed body part here.)  So you decide to try it on…even though you won't buy it…or if you decide that you look like the latest Sports Illustrated swim suit model, you and Jesus may have a talk about the actual guidelines of the fast.  So you find yourself in the dressing room.  Your children are both adorably attired in swimming suits which apparently make them more flexible and energetic.  You "slip" your cute little piece of elastic on with enough grunting and wiggling that you really could count it as your workout for the day.  As you're tucking and moving body parts where they're SUPPOSED to go in the swimming suit, your two little darlings decide to play tag…your legs are the only obstacle in the oversized box you're standing in so the race begins with you as the pole.  There is running and "I'm gonna get you's" from the 5 year old and ear-splitting shrieks and giggles from the 2 year old and you finally snap.  You're standing in front of the mirror, looking NOT like the swimsuit model that you had in your brain because your body parts have, in fact, learned about gravity and you're feeling like a run through Wendy's for a Frosty might be your next stop.  And you snap.  You raise your voice to control your rambunctious offspring, but you raise it louder than you intended to forgetting that dressing rooms actually echo.  Half of the store has probably heard you, and your children are looking wide-eyed and frightened by the large woman in the purple bathing suit with weird, un-humanlike body ripples in odd places.  They sit against the wall.  You begin part two of today's workout (getting OUT of the hellish stretch suit you thought was cute 5 minutes ago but now realize Satan created it just to laugh at you) only to hear this on the other side of the dressing room door, "Hi, Miss Jaci!"  And this is a church voice.  Someone from your church has recognized you through the door.  And pastor's wife mode kicks in…the one in which you smile anyway and speak in your nice voice and under normal circumstances you open the door that is between you to offer a hug because it's not polite to talk through closed doors (but of course you skip that part because you are not exactly even close to appropriately attired right now!)  Your children look at you confused because they can not figure out what just happened that caused you to transform from a raging, purple monster to a half-naked, smiling saint.  You whisper-yell that they better start behaving or so help you…
You exit the dressing room with smiles and quickly throw the demonic swimming suit on the return rack only to see your Associate Pastor's family strolling toward you.  Well, praise God.  It's just them.  They already know you're un-normal and that half the time you're fake smiling so they don't think less of you.  You are able to give genuine hugs because you love them for their acceptance of your crazy and you can thank God that He taught you this little lesson with good ol' church staff instead of the new family that just got saved and still thinks you're nice.
And He has effectively solidified the actual guidelines of your 40 days.  Don't even pretend to shop.

Day 23: Thursday, June 5

You know you're a mom when you no longer dream shop online for fantastic shoes or clothes or amazing vacation destinations.  You're most frivolous online dream browsing consists of minivans you can't possibly afford.  You look at all of the amazing specs and storage spaces and you drool a little bit and wonder what it must be like to have a new car that doesn't smell like kid funk and pee.  You get so into the shopping high that you even research the laser-made plastic floor mats that you also can't afford.  You may even put things into your virtual shopping cart just because you like to feel like you could totally do this.  You pretend that the $35,000 price tag matches the $12 in your wallet.  And then you giggle a little and remind yourself that even Cinderella's beautiful coach turned back into a pumpkin at midnight.  And you're thankful you don't drive a pumpkin (unless it smelled like pie.)

Day 24: Friday, June 6

Do you hear the celestial choir?  They are singing the hallelujah chorus but it sounds more like: "SCHOOL IS OUT! PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY! NO MORE LUNCHES TO PREPARE UNTIL AUGUST 25 FOR THE LAMBERT CHILDREN WILL LEARN ABOUT FASTING THIS SUMMER! GLORY BE TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE TO ALL MOMS WHO DONT HAVE TO WAKE UP AT 6:30!!!!!"  Did you hear it too.  It's so pretty.

Day 26: Sunday, June 8

I just poured apple juice on my kid's cereal. I can see that I will be ROCKIN' the Mommyhood today. ROCKIN' IT!  Awesome.

Day 29: Wednesday, June 11

District Council this week (for those of you non-AG minister people, that's our annual minister's conference.)  Two important things to note today:
1. In 12 years of pastoral ministry, I have NEVER been so proud to be a part of this amazing group of men and women called by God to serve North Texas.  The District leadership knocked this conference out of the park and I feel honored to have participated.  Wow.  Just Wow.
2. They gave me a mic.  For the reals.  One of the AMAZING PW's who heads up a segment solely focused on the women in ministry, asked me to MC the banquet.  Ya'll they put a mic in my hand and let my jabbery little mouth talk into it.  The mic was so fancy and I named her Charlemagne (because that's a fancy name) and gave her all of my slobber.  She is my new BFF.

Day 31: Friday, June 13

It's Friday the 13th.  That obviously explains why I was woken up at 4 am by a 5 year old who was convinced that she was being attacked by chickens.  Yes.  That happened.

Day 33: Sunday, June 15

Today I talked at church.  Into a microphone.  On purpose.  And I had things to say.  I told you Charlemagne was my new BFF.  Watch out, World!  I'm married to a guy with access to voice projecting equipment and I may just start to use it!

Day 35: Tuesday, June 17

There are days that your to do list is so intimidating and your mind is so seized by fear because of all that must be done that the only logical thing to do is lay down on the couch and take a nap.  You then dream about the days when you had half as many children and you were 4.5% competent to accomplish anything successfully. And you wake up and eat cookies. And Tuesday is over.

Day 36: Wednesday, June 18

So let's be real.  My brain tends to be self-centered.  And it's usually WAY more concerned about me and my needs/problems/drama than anyone else's, so it doesn't often come up with AMAZING outreach ideas because sometimes I feel like I have NOTHING. LEFT. TO. GIVE.  But today my brain thought outside of itself for a minuscule minute and it came up with the BEST OUTREACH IDEA EVER!  We should totally reach out to the moms at the grocery store.  Ya know, the mom with littles hanging out of her cart and throwing things in her cart.  The mom that looks like she's just done battle (but maybe didn't win) as she is walking to her car.  The mom with 4 daughters perhaps (ahem) or the mom with a new, teeny, tiny, hungry baby or the mom with a screaming toddler who gets to eat an entire bag of powder sugar donuts before check-out and candy after check-out (and she may or may not share with the toddler.)  Or the mom with 9 perfectly behaved, homeschooled children who are all walking in a row.  Or the mom with teenage boys at home who is making her 74th trip to the store since yesterday because she can't keep food in her house.  Or the mom whose husband just left and she's not sure how she's going to buy the Ramen noodles in her cart.  Or the mom who has two fairly well-behaved children (a boy and a girl because that's what this society thinks is perfect) and doesn't have too much trauma going on in her life but could just use some encouragement because everyone assumes she's got it together.
And we could stand by the exits of the store when they are leaving and hand them a bag of chocolate and an invitation to church.   Then we could give them a hug and say these very, simple words: "You're doing a great job."  And moms everywhere would bawl their eyes out and we would clear the grocery store of all their Kleenex's.  We could even go a step further.  What if we walked around the store and pin-pointed a few of these moms to love on and then quietly slipped in line next to them at check-out and handed them $50 toward their grocery bill?!?!  Or heck!  Paid for their groceries!!!  But more importantly, told them: "You're doing a great job."  That's the most important part.  Moms need to be told that they are doing a great job.  Every. Day.  And given chocolate.  That's important too.    

Day 40: Sunday, June 22

Today I bought diapers. My faith is so weak.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Loading the Car and Jesus' Track Record

With five females living in the same house, it can often take some serious effort and a few miracles from Heaven to get out the door on time.  There is often juggling and yelling and gnashing of teeth, but eventually we are all buckled in and on our way.  Everyone may or may not have matching shoes.  Everyone may or may not have shoes at all.  But I have learned that in order to get everyone out to the Mom-Mobile, it often requires sending them out one at a time, as they are ready.  Here's what happens if I do not take the "You're Ready, Get In The Car NOW" approach:

#1, #2 and #3 are ready and waiting in the vicinity of the front door.  I finally wrangle #4, sit on her and velcro her shoes.  I look up to find that #2 has forgotten an overly-loved stuffed animal that MUST go with us or it's feelings will be hurt and has gone upstairs to get it.  I walk into the laundry room to grab my purse and keys, yelling to #2 to "Get down here!  We have to go!" and return to find that #3 has disappeared to fill a bag with Barbies and Littlest Pet Shops and any other plastic treasures that will make me scream the next time I clean out my car.  #2 returns.  #4 walks up to me whining of "poo" and smells like something has died. I lay her down.  Take her shoes off.  Change her diaper, alligator-style.  #1 has decided that she hasn't eaten in 16 years and has gone to get a snack.  Wrangling shoes back on #4, I see #3 come down with a suitcase and 2 backpacks because this trip to the bank may take the rest of her life.  #1 comes out of the pantry, everyone complains that they are STARVING and I am now shoving multiple, pre-packaged, high-fructose corn syrup snacks into my purse just to shut them up.  #2 complains that #3 has one of her My Littlest Petshop puppies, #1 decides that it's not fair that she doesn't have luggage, I lose my will to live, threaten to sell everything we own at the next church garage sale and promise that we'll all move to Haiti next week if they don't get in the car.  #4 hands me her shoes again.  I crumble into a ball of tears.

*Note: This is just to run to the bank, grocery store, Walgreens, etc.  Getting out the door for church is a whole different ballgame as I have to look half-way presentable, not because anyone cares, but because I'm totally prideful that way and occasionally the guy who preaches talks about me, and everyone looks and it's best if I found makeup that day.  Going to the grandparents requires it's own blog.  Going on vacation takes weeks of everyone standing by the door being "ready."

I hope this effectively explains 2 things:
1. Why I'm late to EVERYTHING (Husband and Grandmothers, please take special note.)
2. Why I have implemented the "You're Ready, Get In The Car NOW" approach to car loading.

Recently, as I was implementing said approach, I walked outside to buckle in an ever-wriggly, patience-draining toddler.  Her oldest two sisters were already in the car and that left #3 in the house gathering the last of everything she owns.  I came back in the house after what was apparently a 45 second eternity to find her hysterical.  In the short time that I had been out at the car, she had convinced her little 5 year old brain that I had left her, forgotten about her, that she was all alone in a big, empty house with nothing to keep her company but the dog and the kidnapper that was going to abduct her while I was on my cross-country trip to the post office.  With a great amount of frustrated compassion (a particular emotion that only mothers can understand) I knelt down and hugged her.  As she sobbed into my shoulder, my words of comfort went something like this:

"Rhylee, have I ever left you?"
"Have I ever forgotten you?"
"Have I ever lost you?"
"Rhylee, I'm not going to forget you.  I wouldn't leave without you.  I won't ever leave you alone."

Did my 5 year track record mean nothing to her?  Did the fact that I had NEVER left her alone, forgotten her or lost her count for anything?  Apparently not during that tiny window of time that she had convinced herself otherwise.

(Here is where I will mention that I will NOT be able to use this line of defense with #4 as she has INDEED been forgotten at church before.  Luckily, she was still a baby and her dad was there, so really, I was just taking a little road trip without her.  And my sight-seeing adventure only lasted 1/4 mile before I realized my car was too quiet and went back to get her.)

Sometimes I think we as adults are a lot like my 5 year old.  We panic.  We have certain expectations of how the Lord will answer us when we have a need.  We have expectations of when He will do it or where He will come through, and sometimes we're wrong.  You see, Rhylee was expecting that I would be waiting at the bottom of the stairs for her so that she could see me when she rounded the staircase.  She expected that I would take her hand and walk her to the car and buckle her in and all would be right in her world.  What she expected didn't happen.  Not because I wasn't going to come through but because that's not how I chose to get her to the car.

I think the disciples felt one of those moments of panic at this time of year.  Their Messiah was crucified.  He died.  He was buried and everything they had put their trust in seemed to have disappeared.  Their hope was lost.  Their faith was wavering.  For 3 days.  And what a long, agonizing three days those must have been!  Can you imagine?  "But, Lord, you said you would never leave us or forsake us, but you died!  You're gone!  We trusted you!  You left us!  What are we going to do now?"  And then Jesus walked through the door.  He told them to touch His hands, His feet, His side.  He was there.  He hadn't left them after all, but He also didn't fulfill His promises the way they had expected Him to.  It only took a few events, it only took a few days for all of the credibility He had built over years to come into question.

What does God's track record count for for you?  Has He ever NOT come through for you?  When did He ever REALLY leave you?  He may not have answered how or when or where you thought He would, but He always answers.  He never leaves.  He never forsakes.  If your faith is wavering this Easter season, reach out to Him.  Touch His hands, feel His sides.  Let His track record, His perfect ability to follow through, count for something.  Trust His timing.  Trust His way.

And by all means, don't leave your 5 year old in the house for 45 seconds or you may have to trust Him for therapy down the road!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why I Write: The In-Between of Jesus and Chocolate

I don't drink.  I write.  It is my own personal form of escape.  My nightcap.  My outlet to quiet the demands of the day, the helps and hugs and holds of little girls and bigger girls and changing girls.  Writing stills my mind and quiets my soul and takes me to a euphoric place that a small glass of fermented grapes or malt or grains never will.  Or even a large glass.  In my world, writing can only be matched by Jesus.  And chocolate.  Jesus and writing and chocolate.  In that order.

And some days the blessed escape of blogging and writing and grammatically vomiting on paper is necessary.  Some days the need for escape is great.  It is not needed because my reality is so lacking.  It is needed because my reality is so full.  My mind is overwhelmed by little voices and crazy needs and endless opinions and extravagant love.  And that is just at home.  Before I walk down the staircase in the morning.  And a thousand times before I climb it to go to bed at night.

A life so full requires a place to lay it all down.  The Cross.  Paper and pen.  A place to thank my Jesus for a life so blessed, so undeserved.  A place to ask Him for his grace.  A place to beg Him for his help.

I write because there is no other way to articulate the love I have for the four lives entrusted to me, the pressure that exists to transform small, innocent girls into strong, fierce, Kingdom-warring women. And such a short couple of decades to do it in.  Days count, minutes count, words count.

That is why I need Jesus so desperately.

But the days of growing them, of raising them, are often so compounded by the frustrations and arguments and desperate need to make it to bedtime, the need for one solitary hour of silence which of course is never silent, but filled with a hundred things of washing and sorting and scrubbing and doing.  And then to close my eyes for not long enough only to wake up and do my blessed crazy all over again.  The life I wouldn't trade for a thousand others, but the life that exhausts me every second of every day.

That is why I write.

I write because the small people that fill my mind and take my breath away from the first moment that the sun rises are the same tiny creatures that make me want to hide away by midday and resign by nighttime.  They are the reason that I begin the day so full and end it so completely and utterly empty.  They are the depiction of God's grace being new every morning.  The grace of mothers is much the same, but not nearly as great.  The ebb and flow, the training and scolding, the loving and fighting.

That is why I need chocolate.

But writing is my in-between.  It is what fills the middle of my need for Jesus, who fills my soul, and my need for chocolate, which fills my craving for escape.  It dulls the senses of stress and strain and struggle.  It documents it.  Stores if for history.  Reminds me of the Jesus who hears me, the One who sustains me, the Love that fills me back up so that I can pour out once again.  When the sun rises.

That is why I write.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Heart-Floaty, Twitterpated and Legacy Changish

Every once in a great while, our house quiets down just enough for The Hubs and I to have an entire conversation from beginning to end (the children go outside, we bribe them with tv, put their mouths in timeout, pawn them off on the get the idea).  It's rare.  I can actually count on my two hands the number of uninterrupted conversations we've had in the last 9 years.  These conversations usually involve the honey-do list I am reciting from memory (often the same list I recited the week before) or what we have going on for the weekend, a quick rundown of who said what this week or who needs us where.  But every once in a while, the stars align and Heaven itself shines down on us and we can have a conversation about what the Lord has been showing us in His Word.  I'd love to say we have these conversations after our quite times every single day, but let's be honest, my quiet time usually involves hiding with my devotional in my closet while I'm supposed to be getting dressed, my prayer time is most often done in the parent pick-up line of the elementary school, and I get the best praise on while listening to my iPod and scrubbing my dishes.  Don't judge.  It is what it is right now.

So this past week The Hubs and I spent some time in the book of Ruth.  We actually never made it past the first half of the first chapter.  There is just so much to be learned from this book.  So many important lessons. We talked and shared and insighted and got some serious God-revelation…all while our children were awake, not in trouble and playing peacefully outside.  (The little one may or may not have had clothes on…but that's beside the point.)  Needless to say, this conversation just felt anointed.

 There was one lesson that stuck out to me in particular.  Well, there were actually three, but we'll start with one.  My whole life I've heard the story of Ruth and admired her, gleaned from her story, but this particular day it was Naomi's story that struck me…that really made me think.  Naomi endured some crazy tragedies, y’all!  

Mini-recap…Jaci style: Naomi's husband moved her away from her home to a foreign land where she eventually watched him die.  Then after some time passed, this widow lost, not one of her sons, but both of them.  It would be at this point that I would tell the Lord to just go ahead and take me home.  And I don’t mean back to Bethlehem.  I mean I’d be ready to see some pearly gates!  This momma would be ready to throw in the towel!

Naomi packed up what little she had left on this Earth and decided to return to her homeland…to the one thing that was still familiar to her.  And her amazing daughter-in-law, Ruth, selflessly followed her.  

Here's where we usually follow Ruth's story as she works in the field and eventually catches the eye of Boaz.  Butterflies flutter in bellies, hearts float out of heads, everybody gets all twitterpated and lovey-dovey.  Boaz thinks Ruth is hot.  Ruth falls head over heals for Boaz.  "Will you take this kinsman redeemer to be your husband for as long as you both shall live?" "Yes!" (Batting eyelashes)  And they live happily ever after.  The end.  And all the good 'ol Christian single ladies sigh and say, "Lord, bring me my Boaz…"

But the love story isn't where I went that day.  Because we didn't get out of the first chapter, remember?  And because I was getting all this Jesus goodness with The Hubs which means none of that mooshy-gooshy nonsense!  So here’s what I want you to see.  To remember.  

Naomi was being watched. (Not is a creepy way, just go with me here!) 

Ruth had watched Naomi go through the hardest trials that any mother should ever have to experience.  She watched as Naomi lost her husband.  She grieved alongside her when Naomi's sons died.  She stood by while Naomi decided that she had had enough of Moab and was going back home, packing up and hauling butt back to Bethlehem.  Through all of that.  Through the worst that life can throw at a woman, Ruth watched Naomi.  And after watching her, Ruth was willing to leave everything for whatever it was that Naomi possessed that got her through Hell on Earth.  Ruth wanted the God that Naomi had.

Here’s where I get super excited.  If you know the story of Ruth (and you may need to know it better than my snazzy little recap above) you know that marrying Boaz put Ruth in the ancestry of Christ Himself.  Because of the way Naomi reacted to trials, to tragedy, the course of history shifted for Ruth.  Ruth’s present didn’t just change.  Her LEGACY changed. One more time, now: by following Naomi, Ruth became an ancestor of Christ.  The way Naomi handled adversity affected the course of history for all mankind.  Are y'all getting this?  Ruth could have gone back to her people, to her gods,  but she was watching Naomi.  And history shifted.

Ruth has a squishy little baby, and she named him Obed.
Obed grew up, and his wife had Jesse.
Jesse grew up, and his wife had David.
God loved David. 
Goliath died.
David gets a crown.  
Lots of scandal.
More twitterpatedness.
Lots more weddings.
Lots more babies.
A virgin.
An angel.
A barn.

"So where are you going with all of this?  Jesus was already born so no matter how many squishy babies I have, the Savior of the world isn't gonna be in my family line."  You're right.  But that's not where I'm going with this.  The point I'm trying to make in my very long-winded way is this:

You're being watched. (Quit imagining a stalker!) 

Lord willing, none of us will ever have to endure “Naomi sized” trails.  But I promise you there are those who are watching you, watching your faith.  They may be watching your world fall apart.  They may be watching you as you lose loved ones.  They may be watching you as you deal with health scares and challenges.  Rebellious teenagers.  Moral dilemmas.  Financial struggle.  Whether or not your going to leave your screaming toddler in the candy aisle at the grocery store and pretend she isn't yours.  Ahem.

There are people that are watching you because they know that you believe in a God that they aren't familiar with.  You believe in a God that created the heavens and the Earth and all of humanity with a  word.  There are people watching your faith.  YOU COULD BE THE TOOL THAT WILL SHIFT A LEGACY.  Your reaction to trials can shift history not just for you and your family, but for people that you may not even know yet.  So my challenge to you, God's challenge to me: Be a legacy changer.  (And don't leave your toddler in the candy aisle of the store.  They have security cameras.  They will find you.  Just sayin'.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Let's talk for a moment about the 5 senses, shall we?  These are a human being's God-given abilities to perceive information.  That's my very own definition.  I could practically be wikipedia, but let's keep my brilliance to ourselves for now.

The 5 senses include:


I will even go so far as to say that I have a favorite.  My sense of smell.  Not to brag, but it's acute.  It's very, very perceptive.  I can associate all kinds of things with smell.  Smells warp me back in time to happy memories or sad ones.  A certain smell can trigger a wide range of emotions for me.  For example, I love the smell of Scotch tape.  I love it.  My friends and I call this one of my quarks.  The smell of Scotch tape reminds me of teenage Christmases and staying up into the wee hours of the morning wrapping presents with my family.  (Realness Alert: I may or may not have been known to stick a piece to the end of my nose while wrapping presents just because it makes me so darn happy.  It's like my little Christmassy drug.) Example #2: I once burned a particular Scentsy fragrance for the first time on the same day that Hubs and I got into an argument.  Now every time I smell that particular scent, I get a little knot in my stomach, not because the fight was so terrible (and it was long ago resolved), but because it takes me back to a not so happy day.  Which is a bummer…because it's a great scent!  #3: It makes me thankful for Hubs' addiction to cologne.  We were obviously meant to be.  Smell is my favorite, and he smells GOOD! ;)

Moving on.

Then came children.  And I was a mom.  And low and behold, THE super-power sense was born.  I now have Momsense.  If I may become your personal, imaginary wikipedia again, Momsense is a mother's God-given ability to perceive information with a heightened sense of awareness.  It is almost supernatural and has the potential to cause awe and fear from children and husbands alike.  Momsense is a super power.  Momsense is awesome.  (Sidenote: Momsense is one of the many reasons that all mothers should be allowed to wear their superhero capes in public.  Because it gets annoying stuffing them under our shirts.)

Momsense applies to all of the 5 senses.  It is technically not a 6th sense.  It is more like a component that puts all of the 5 senses into hyperdrive.  Let me offer some examples:

Sight: We've all heard the phrase "moms have eyes in the back of their heads."  Enter Momsense.  This is the ability to see your kids with freakish peripheral vision that may possibly wrap around your entire body.  It is the ability to see who stuck who's tongue out at who and who pulled who's hair from the driver's seat while driving down I35 at 75 mph.  It is the ability to see the 386th drawing on a  piece of notebook paper without even looking up from the dinner you're preparing.  It's the ability to see your child fall down the stairs 3 steps before it happens (and you may or may not actually do anything about it.)

Hearing: This Momsense is particularly awesome as it can be turned on or off at will.  This super power occurs when 4 voices are speaking, whining, crying and/or laughing, a dog is barking and the phone is ringing all at the same time, and you're still able to read a book or take a nap.  It is the ability to hear even the faintest whisper of evil scheming going on upstairs and can often be amplified with a properly placed baby monitor (that's not actually part of Momsense…it's just smart.)  It is the ability to hear the faintest "clicking whirry" sound coming from the engine of the mini-van (too bad Momsense doesn't come with a Mechanics degree!) and the ability to know if your child is the one crying in a park full of children from 30 yards away.  This Momsense also includes the ability to hear tiny tipping toes sneaking down the carpeted hallway in the middle of the night while dead asleep.  It can hear an infant cry 5 seconds before it actually happens and can pick up exactly when lack of noise = disaster.

*Sidenote to husbands: if your wife is juggling 12 tasks and you're trying to tell her something, she is probably taking in every single word you're saying and could repeat it to you verbatim even though she hasn't glanced up at you yet.  Wives: stop what you're doing and look at the man.  He doesn't understand this super power and most likely never will.  And don't look annoyed when you do it.

Smell: This Momsense may be most commonly employed in the diaper years.  It is the ability to know if a diaper needs to be changed, when baby is actually finished and how many wipes will be needed.  It is the sense that takes away the embarrassment that SHOULD accompany the fact that you just picked your child up by the leg and sniffed an area that should not EVER have such close contact with your nose.  It is the ability to recognize when a flat iron has been left on upstairs or dirty socks are SOMEWHERE IN THIS ROOM!  It is the ability to overlook the smell of the mom-mobile, otherwise known as the Minivan Funk, and the ability to recognize when your child has eaten one more Skittle after she's already brushed her teeth.  It is the ability to overlook morning breath when they're little and demand better dental hygiene when they're older.  It is the gift you get when you're still using Baby Magic or Johnsons and Johnsons, because oh they just smell so yummy!

*Sidenote: the lack of this particular Momsense can occur when you are dealing with allergies…let's say Cedar allergies.  Be aware that this can be a fairly life-threatening Momsense to lose if you depend on it regularly as it may cause you to leave your gas stove burner on for 4 or 5 hours.  Since the Momsense is diminished, you may not notice the food permanently bonding to your saucepan until it's time to make dinner at which time you thank the Lord up in Heaven that you have not all died from carbon monoxide poisoning or just plain fire.

Taste: This Momsense gives you the ability to tolerate years worth of eating at McDonalds for the sake of the playground.  Although you do not personally consider the meat-like products at this establishment to be actual food, you are willing to defile your body and choke down soy something for the peace and diminished whining that may accompany it.  It is the ability to overlook the fact that your child's runny nose may or may not have left residue on your fork and the ability to realize that food no longer needs to be hot or your own as every meal of every day will be shared with at least one other mouth.  It's the ability to sample anything to test it's temperature or level of spiciness no matter how odd or unappetizing it may look.  It's the ability to be satisfied even though your breakfast, lunch and/or dinner may consist solely of the leftovers on your children's plates.

Touch:  This Momsense is the ability to recognize the mere touch of your own child's skin when you're not looking versus that of a child that does not belong to you.  It is the ability to realize that you have picked up the wrong baby tugging at your pant leg in the church nursery before your actually nurse him but not before you've done everything in preparation to. (Yeah, this actually happened.)  It is the ability to feel pain when your child falls down and scrapes his or her knee and the indescribable ability to feel peace in an embrace.  It is the ability to be the ONLY one who's "cushiness" is just right for snuggling and who's mommy sway is just what the doctor ordered on sick nights.  It's the ability to take a temperature with your lips on a forehead and know exactly which child just walked up next to you simply by feeling a hand on your arm.

Although every mother is aware of Momsense, I felt it was my duty to educate the rest of humanity.  So the next time you see a mom using her super powers, just let her know that her cape is showing.  And, Dad's, download a theme song…she should have one of those too!