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Sometimes ignorance is bliss…
I never agree with that statement more than when I sit in church. It’s no secret to those I’m closest to (and hopefully even those I’m not as close to) that my faith is important to me. I grew up in church, and I saw the good, bad and ugly. I know the church is filled with people and people aren’t perfect thus the church isn’t perfect. I was ok with that, seeing as I am one of those imperfect people. I was one of those who nodded my head when pastor’s would preach about complainers in the church, standing in the way of “God’s Will” and hindering others from coming to Christ.
But as motherhood has done so many times before, it opened my eyes to things I had never even thought about before. What do I want to teach my children? Who is this Jesus that I am introducing them to, earnestly praying they fall in love with, just as I have? How do I want them to treat others? In what kind of “church” do I want them, us, to be involved?
And this is where I am now…. Answering these questions and finding out that with every answer comes ten new questions.
But there are a few answers I want to share, and I hope they will encourage others who may feel stuck in the same place I’ve been in for quite some time.
1. Following Christ is the easiest yet the hardest thing to do. Jesus summed it up so simply, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s it. Love. But man is that hard. We will spend our entire life trying to love like Christ… Showing kindness, patience, self-control, gentleness and humbleness. But I want them to know that if they are ever wondering if they are doing what’s right all they have to do is ask themselves, “Am I loving God? Am I loving others?”
2. Questioning someone, anyone, is not ungodly. I will actually encourage it! Teachers, pastors, friends, family…. They are not perfect. Some are misinformed, some misinterpret, and some are downright malicious. Disrespectful behavior is never appropriate, but blindly following anyone and everyone that calls themselves a believer is not a good idea. Your faith will not be made stronger for it. And in my experience, it will usually be weakened. Sometimes these people are easy to spot, and other times they’re not. But you won’t be able to tell the difference if you yourself are not seeking God and studying His Word.
3. You don’t need to spend $19.99 to “find God’s truths”. And I actually think you’ll find just the opposite most of the time. Anyone who tells you they have a special word from God but you’ll need to pay to hear it… Just Say No. I don’t remember Jesus ever charging a cover for his sermons on the hillsides, and He never charged a fee for any of those miracles He performed. God sent His spirit to guide and direct us. He gave us His word, and He often does place friends, teachers and leaders in our lives to help us in our walk with Him. But they are not the for-profit church gurus we often look to for that emotional mountain-top experience.
4. You WILL find that church and Christ are often at odds. Be prepared for it. And do NOT let it ruin your relationship with Him! I’ve been in churches where politicians were paraded through during election season, churches that actually wouldn’t let us in, churches misusing funds for extravagant frivolous purchases, churches making fun of transgenders, and churches who promoted racism. None of those things are godly. All of those things have left me feeling depressed, helpless and isolated. But in every circumstance I’ve been reminded that my salvation does not come from those churches. My salvation comes from Christ. My relationship with Him has suffered, though, every time I begin to focus on all that I find detestable with many “churches” instead of all that I find beautiful about Christ.
And lastly, I want my kids to know…
5. I don’t know it all. No one does, and no one ever will. We should never become so confident in our own knowledge and wisdom about Him that we stop seeking.

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Am I the Only One???

I came upon an article today about real life moms who confess to some of their unshared thoughts and parenting behaviors… many of which I could identify with…
As I am typing this I am eating mint oreos, and my children are watching Sprout in a room full of toys that they mostly just throw around instead of actually playing with. Anyway, the article really made me feel better today about myself as a mom, but it made me wonder if the things I feel are actually shared by my mommy friends… or do these women just exist somewhere in a land far far away.
So I thought, even if no one reads this, I would feel better if I just got some of MY deepest secrets out there, and if someone does read this, then maybe you feel the same way and it will be nice to know you arent’ alone.
1. My kids definitely watch more than the 30 minutes of t.v. I always said I would allow them. Did you read above where my kids are watching Sprout? Well, it’s been on pretty much since they woke up this morning. I truly don’t know how I would get anything done around my house if I DIDN’T let my kids watch t.v. And they actually do learn a lot from Sprout.
2. I love my children, but I really don’t get a thrill out of playing tea party and pirates.
Don’t get me wrong. I think my children are the most adorable little things I’ve ever seen. I love watching them grow and learn new things, really. They make me laugh so hard I’m crying most days. I just don’t really like spending an hour pretending to drink tea and hoping over the area rugs in the house because they are full of man eating crocodiles. Now before you feel sorry for my children, don’t worry, I do these things with them; I just don’t love doing it.
3. Letting my children “cry it out” as infants wasn’t that hard for me.
I waited the four months that the pediatrician recommended before starting this form of sleep training, but the day they turned four months it was off to bed without being rocked to sleep, and the crying for ten minutes wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be for me. I wondered if it would be hard, how could I let them be so sad, knowing I could cuddle them and make them feel better. But you know what, after breastfeeding, staying at home with them all day, and sleeping in the rocker in their nursery many nights prior; it felt good to lay in my bed with the hope that in a few days my kids would start putting themselves to sleep and I could take a bubble bath in the peace and quiet.
4. Yes, I do want to tag out at five.
Brian has on several (okay MANY) ocassions come home, and after I greet him with a kiss, I run to my room to take a hot bath or watch my favorite tv show I DVRd the night before. To which he usually doesn’t put up a fuss, but after several consecutive days of this, he has told me, “I feel like you think when I get home you can just tag out and be done for the day.” Well, I wish I could honestly say that’s not true, but it just is most days. After eight hours of being mommy, referee, chef (I use that term loosely), entertainer, and much much more, I am just DONE for the day. And on the days he comes home and I don’t try to “tag out” it’s because I abandoned my chores for the day and sat on the couch watching t.v. and watched the kids drag out every toy they own…. which brings me to my last confession..
5. I don’t do “HOMEMAKER” everyday! Yes, I am a stay at home mommy, but do I clean, cook, and entertain or teach my children 24/7? Uh, I wish I had that kind of energy. But no, I do not. There are days, yes DAYS in the week that I don’t wash clothes, sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, or pick up toys. Some days I like to just relax, never get out of my pj’s and just do nothing. Well, by nothing, I mean, housework wise, obviously I do not leave my children to tend to themselves. They require so much of time and attention as it is that I often feel like on the days I choose to do abandon chores are the days I spend the most time with them.
So there you have it… if you don’t relate to any of these things, then good for you. You can feel awesome about yourself! And if you do feel the way I do at times, then good for you too; at least you know you’re not alone.
I know I’m not perfect. I wasn’t before I became a mommy, so I’m sure not now. And even though there may be other mothers who look down on me for letting my kids watch t.v. or failing to serve them a vegetable with every meal, I am ok with that. I pray every day for my children to love God and serve Him. I look for ways to teach them new things everyday, and as an adult, I have never wanted to beat up a five year old until I saw one shove my toddler off of a slide at the playground. I am truly one of those moms that think everything their child does is adorable and wants to share the stories with complete strangers. My family is my life, and even though I may not get a thrill out of barbies and tea parties, I let my children watch more t.v. than recommended, I take breaks at times, and I don’t keep a spotless house, I do love my kids with the kind of unconditional love only a parent can know. And THAT’S what matters most.

Five years ago today I spent my afternoon working with a guy that I didn’t know then would be my best friend for life… After work he asked me if I wanted to go with him to help him pick out a Valentine’s gift for his mom from his dad.  His dad, seventy something years old, was not well enough to get out on his own and gave Brian five dollars with instructions to get his mom something nice.  I still smile every time I think of that sweet gesture.

Well of course, where else do you go to get an awesome $5 Valentine’s day gift but Wal-Mart?  As we walked the aisles of that crowded store full of others getting a last minute gift or card, I started letting myself feel what I’d been trying to deny for quite a while… I was falling for this sweet, funny, charming, smart wonderful man!  I know, every romantic fairy tale begins with a trip to Wal-Mart, right!?!

So our journey didn’t begin with a candlelight dinner or flowers or chocolates; it was just a simple night, spent helping my future husband pick out a gift that his dad could proudly give to his Valentine.  (That’s Brian, always doing for others.)

Now five years later, we have built a family together, made a home together, and this Valentine’s Day we decided we wanted to start sharing this holiday with our children… making it a family celebration of our love for each other, but more importantly God’s love for us!  I pray that as they grow they will see through their dad and me that God loves them more than anybody else, and that more importantly than receiving a box of chocolates from that Valentine, they will feel the love of God that satisfies all their deepest desires.

I know there are many people on Valentine’s day who don’t have a date, are still grieving over a lost loved one, or may be spending the day away from your family because of work or some other reason.  I pray that God will fill each of your hearts with peace and love, and that each of us, no matter what our circumstances today, can celebrate the unconditional love that is available to us everyday that we open our hearts to accept it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Home for the Holidays.

I LOVE Christmas!  I anticipate it all year-long!  I bought my first Christmas present for this year on December 26th of last year (couldn’t pass up an after Christmas sale).  I love decorating the tree, wrapping the presents, baking cookies and covering anything in my pantry with almond bark.  I love watching all the Christmas movies, all the old classics and all the new corny made for t.v. ones. It doesn’t matter, if it’s about Christmas, we’re watching it.   For me, it really is “the most wonderful time of the year” (did you hear the music in your head as you read that?).   

For a girl who changed schools nine times before high school and doesn’t really have a place she calls “home”, tradition and stability has become very important to me for my children.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had a great childhood, amazing Christmas memories, and I never minded all the moving around.  But after I married Brian he would point out things and places in his hometown that brought back so many memories for him; he would constantly run in to people he had known forever, and it was something I realized I want for my children.  

Well this Christmas has brought me to a place in life and location that has completely thrown my whole heart’s desire on that issue into a whirlwind.  We are currently in St. Louis and could be here for quite sometime.  I’m not even going to try to say that I’ve been the perfect supportive wife about the issue.  I’ll just go with the honesty approach and say that I am a bit selfish and stubborn which, I’m sure you can imagine, is a bad combination.  Thankfully I have a saint for a husband, and his kindness, selflessness and compassion makes me want to be the same for him (the rest of you family and friends, sorry, you’re stuck with selfish, stubborn Ashley).  Years ago he took a job mostly for me to stay at home with our children, and even though he likes it, I have always known the reason he did it was for me.  He moved from that hometown he loved so much and left his family he had always lived near to do something for our new family we were starting at that time.  All of this to say, I have found myself in a strange city during this holiday season, and I’ve been feeling a little down about the circumstances until today. …

Today I got out of bed and headed for the grocery store to get milk.  I cursed the cold weather while I spent thirty minutes clothing and coating my kids, and then prayed we didn’t follow in daddy’s footsteps, or lack there of,  by slipping on iced sidewalks on our way (that story will have to wait for another time) .  When I got to the store I saw the gingerbread houses and thought, “Why can’t we do all our usual Christmas activities here?”  So I loaded up my buggy and headed home with cookies to bake, a gingerbread house to decorate and a Christmas movie to watch.  And it’s been a great day!  We made our gingerbread house, watched our movie, and when I put the kids down for a nap I sat on my bed to just relax for a minute.  I started thinking about next weekend and all the things I still have left on my to do list, one of those things being to get a birthday cake for our “Happy Birthday Jesus” party on Christmas day.  Then it sort of hit me… like a light bulb I thought about Mary on that first Christmas.  She was a scared teenage girl who was also away from home and much more unsure about her future than I am right now.  Yet, as she cradled the King of Kings in her arms, soothing His first cries, I’m certain she was no longer concerned with where she was… She was in the presence of her maker, how could she feel anything but pure joy as she looked into the tiny face that would grow to save us all. 

I suddenly became overwhelmed with a feeling of shallowness.  Who cares if I’m not in my own little house right now?  No matter where I am during the holiday season or anytime of the year I am with the Lord.  He is as near to me as He was to Mary that day in Bethlehem, and that is all that matters.   

I know that the Christmas season can be a difficult time for many people,whether it’s the distance you are from family and friends, the loss of a loved one, or a maybe you are dealing with a sick child, spouse or parent; I hope that knowing that Jesus is always with you will be a comfort to you in this season and all year-long. 

For those of you who are happily celebrating this Christmas with everyone you love, please remember that we are celebrating the birth of a wonderful Savior who never forgets us or our needs! 

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Most simple things for us usually turn into a much bigger ordeal; the chaos has pretty much become our norm.  And of course as we’re trying to get on the road yesterday for Brian’s work detail in St. Louis it was no different. After a major time set back at the U-Haul place to rent our trailer and some admitted procrastination (on both our parts) to pack and clean up, our original leave time of 9:00 am became 3:30 pm… Not too bad for us.   And no 6 hour drive would be complete without a sick child running fever and wimpering the entire ride.  At one time this sort of chaos and stress would have sent me into gripe mode, but over time Brian and I (or should I just say I, Brian is ALWAYS calm)  have learned to stay pretty calm through these very usual circumstances. 

But even though the chaos has all become very normal for us, I am really looking forward to our extended stay here.  We will have a little apartment with few toys (which means not much for me to clean) and  nothing we MUST do everyday.  Don’t get me wrong… I love my life!  I love our friends, I love where we live, I love Carter’s preschool, his teachers, our church, all of it.  But I am really looking forward to taking these weeks to focus on my family, spend quality time with them and have no schedule.     As of right now Brian is scheduled to be here until the last week of December, so I plan on taking these weeks to rest, relax, refocus, and start the new year with a new rejuvenation and some wonderful memories of a great time together with my family!

There are a lot of things we do together as a family… take trips, go to the park, play in the backyard, watch movies.. the list goes on.  One of the things on the list, though not quite as exciting as some of the others, is grocery shopping.  Now, since Abbey was born I do a lot more of this by myself, but we still go sometimes as a family… This happens for several reasons but the most popular one is because on those odd Saturdays when we’ve run out of food in the house nobody wants to be left alone with both kids.  Once we get there our usual routine is as follows: 

Get in, put Carter and Abbey in the cart…Head toward the back of the store to work our way forward…. put Carter back in cart about five times along the way…grab milk, yogurt and cheese , putting Carter BACK in the cart between each of these stops…

I’m sure you can use your imagination to see how the rest of our shopping adventure goes.  When we finally get done Brian takes both the kids to the car while I check out… And this is the best part of the whole trip for me!  As I unload all my items, I silently pray that the cashier’s register will malfunction in some way that will cause her to flip that flashing light, summoning an ever so slow manager to fix whatever has gone awry. You see, this is my time to relax, unwind if you will… The closest thing I get to alone time some days… The steady beeping of the other registers around me is my soothing music and as I watch the pile of stuff add up I think, yes.. It’s all definitely worth the money we’re spending… nourishment for our family’s body and for this mother’s soul!  On those blessed occasions that something DOES happen to the register, the lady checking me out always apologizes for the inconvenience, and my response is always the same, “Oh it’s fine.. No problem!  I’m just enjoying my quiet time!”  My unusual response always brings a question to her face and I simply reply, “I have a two year old and an infant waiting in the car with my husband.”  To which she always smiles and gives a knowing nod.  

When I finally get to the car and Brian steps out to put the groceries in he is puzzled when I give him a kiss and exclaim, “Well that was fun!”  Maybe one of these days I’ll let him stay and pay for the groceries…………..

Act Your Age

Yesterday I had several errands to run, and I felt like I had enough energy to takle them with both little ones by my side… Only a few minutes into the first stop I was wondering if I was right.  Home Depot was my first stop, and from the time we walked in the door Carter did not want to sit in the cart, which means he WILL find a way out and he WILL kick and scream if I try to contain him.  So after about the fifteenth try to get him to sit still I picked him back up off the floor and said to him, “Son, you are acting like a two year old!”   Then immediately said, “well of course you are!  You ARE two!”  I had to stop in the store and just laugh out loud at myself… which the gentleman working there I’m sure thought was insane since Carter was again running off while I was standing in the middle of the aisle laughing. 

I really have to work hard at patience… I even stopped praying for it for a while because everytime I did it seemed like God just loaded me down with opportunities to “practice” the virtue I sought after… I’m sure He was laughing with me  yesterday : )   I think we all get caught up in trying to get our children to “act OUR age” instead of the age they are, and rather we realize it or not most everything (not all things, but a lot of them) they do when they are driving us crazy is simply out of their God given curiousity and wonder for this world that we have already become accustomed to. 

When we go on vacation somewhere for the first time, Brian always drives a little bit slower and we are both glaring out the window at our new surroundings, taking it all in. We are way more relaxed without the stress of our daily chores and work nagging at us.  I realized yesterday that this is more than likely how my little guy is feeling most all the time. He has no stress, no chores to do, no deadlines to meet… He’s just a little boy, seeing a lot of stuff for the first time, and enjoying every minute of it… trying to figure out what’s what and admiring things in this world I’ve already seen a million times.  He’s walking slowly to watch his shadow move along beside him, observing a tiny rock on the sidewalk, discovering how the mud squishes in his hand when he closes it tight.  No wonder it takes us 20 minutes to get from the car to the inside of the store!  That’s a lot to explore and figure out!  And how fun and exciting to have so many discoveries ahead of you in life!  So from now on I’m going to try to cut him a little slack, and Carter, you go right ahead:  Act like a two year old!