Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Thirty-something years ago the biggest blessing of my life came into this world.  I had yet to be born and the plan for my life had already begun. The man that would be my husband, my best friend & confidant was beginning his own journey through life on the eve of Christmas. 

I am sure it's because of the season we are in, but when I think of Bonnie bringing her tiny bundle home that night, I always think of Mary. Two women with newborn babies, the futures unknown to them but fully known by the One who ordained them.  Obviously, Christ's life and purpose was vastly different from my husbands, but both births have changed my life forever.  I've often wondered how different life would be if these incredible women hadn't followed God's plan for their own lives.

Mary showed amazing faith and courage in her decision to trust God and bring a baby into the world. To raise and love Him with all her being and yet fully surrender Him at the same time.  To learn of a fate that she had no control over and witness the wrath of God laid upon Him alone in order to save those He  As a mother, this is beyond comprehension for me, but I am thankful for her strength. I am thankful for her obedience, and I am thankful for Christ.

I am sure the last thing on Bonnie's mind that December night was how her life & decisions as a mother would affect Eric's future wife & children.  What I am sure of is that she prayed. She prayed for her children, for her abilities as a mother, for guidance from the Lord, for patience, strength and endurance.  She, like us and all other moms, had moments of weakness, weariness and craziness... and in those times she trusted.  Trusted that God had heard her prayers, was walking with her and that He had a perfect plan for her and her children.  Like Mary, there came a point in the lives of each of her children where she had no control over the decisions they made or the path they would take.  She just had to continue to trust in God's faithfulness, praying for the Truth to be made real in their lives and that all she & Pete had strived to teach them would remain.

Eric- Kindergarten

And remain it has. The loving way Eric interacts with our children, his unwavering faith in Christ & what is right, his commitment to family, the perfect balance of strength and tenderness he offers to me in marriage and his amazing work ethic are the ultimate result of parents that were intentional about the task of raising him and trusting God to guide him.  I pray that I can be that for my own children. That when I talk to them, discipline them and pray for them I would think not only of the here and now, but of the eternal impact.  I am not just molding my own children, but generations of them. What a blessing and what a burden!

Eric, I know that you haven't always liked having a birthday so close to Christmas, but I am so thankful for the very real way it makes me consider Mary and the birth of Jesus.  I am daily challenged by you to be better, not because I am afraid I don't measure up, but because you make me feel confident enough to try. Happy Birthday, Baby. I love you!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Makes a Champion?

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of cheering on our hometown team as they finished off their football season as State Champs. It has been an exciting year with a write up almost daily in the local newspaper detailing their stats, past opponents and undefeated season leading up to the big game.  This season has been especially exciting for me for a few reasons. First, my brother in law, Pete Jr., is one of the coaches and his 2 sons are on the team.  Brad is a Sophomore and Ryan is a Senior.  Second, when I was growing up no one in my family played or even watched sports, so this is a brand new experience for me. Third, I watched these same boys play in the playoff game last year....and lose. 
Photo by Jodi Peck

It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to watch them stand on that field, tears in their eyes, knowing the season was over.  I particularly remember going down onto the field after the game & watching in amazement as my nephew, Ryan, gave a few minutes for an interview with one of the local reporters.  His teammates were huddled around with family and friends, heartbreak written all over their faces while he choked back tears and politely and precisely answered the questions of his interviewer with all the grace and class of a professional.  I wondered then if they would be back next year, fighting for first place once again, but I knew either way that they were champs. He had just proved it. His actions were nothing more than an extension of his team & coaches and the way they approach the game. I believe you could have put any player in his position that day and the same scene would have played out.  Like I said, champs.

Fast forward to 2011, the season went by in a blur of shut-outs and running clocks. The excitement of playoffs grew after every game.  Before I knew it, we were standing at a football field in Cottage Grove getting ready to watch Ryan, a Senior, play his last High School football game ever.  I felt silly that day, being so emotional but I remembered. I remembered last year. I knew these kids were champions and I wanted them to have the trophy to prove it.  I wanted Pete to share the thrill of victory with his 2 boys. You see, the last time The Hornets won a State Championship game was in 1990 and he was on that team.  So, I watched and I cheered. I sat freezing cold, surrounded by friends & family and watched as our team finished the game 66-22 and were told something I already knew, they were Champions. 
Brad & Pete Jr.
Photo by Jodi Peck

It was an incredible season and I am so thankful that I was part of it.  I have thought a lot about that game this week.  Remembering the emotions of the day, the pride I saw on the faces of fathers & grandfathers.  The tears of a mother realizing that this was just another 'last' for her oldest son.  A grandmother wondering out loud how she will ever make it through the graduation of her oldest grandchild.  Brothers celebrating together in victory. It was a beautiful day, one I think I will always remember.  But it got me thinking.....what makes a champion?  Is it just the winning, or is it the way we win? Or is it really about winning at all?

The conclusion I have come to is that, in the game of life at least, a champ is made by the way he plays.  Brad and Ryan are champs because their dad is. Not because he won a championship, but because everyday he lives his life for Christ. He isn't a preacher. He has no soapbox or sermon for you, but he lives what he believes and he teaches his sons how to be champions as well. He loves their mother, he works hard, he honors his parents, he is honest and steadfast.  He reflects the life of his earthly father (My amazing father-in-law) & the love of his Heavenly Father.  These boys are champions alright, it's in their blood.  So while I am thankful they were able to walk away with a win and some great memories, I am even more excited to see all the 'Championship' moments they will live out in the future. 
Left: Pete Jr. with his sons, Brad & Ryan
Center: Pete Sr.'s uncle, Jerry
Right: Pete Sr. with sons Scott & Eric (My Champion)
Photo by Darla Foster

I have been blessed to witness some already during these past 5 years.  I have seen Ryan ask his parents for advice and truly consider it, even if he doesn't agree. He trusts them.  He sees the beauty in the Christ-like attributes of his mother and desires them in a future wife.  Brad is humble in his accomplishments, determined, resourceful and talented. He works hard and his hands are rarely idle.  I was honored to be at his baptism this summer, the humility and maturity he showed that day were incomparable.  I am excited to see these boys continue to grow and be leaders for their own families some day. Until then, I pray that they will follow Christ and the example set by their father.  I know that if they do, December 3, 2011 will be just one of the many moments in their lives that they are reminded of what I already know....they are Champions.
Photo by Jodi Peck

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Remind Me

I heard this song sometime ago and I literally pray it every time it comes on. I pray for the words to sink in deep and penetrate every fiber of my being so that I will not forget them when the music stops. There is something about music that moves me....deeply. Maybe it's because it moves me physically, too. You see, I am a Dancer by name but I was a dancer by trade first! I have danced since I was about 6 or 8 years old. You name it, I took it. Tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, swing, etc. I even took and taught a worship dance class for a while.

There is something about that time of communion and fellowship with the Lord that is unexplainable, but when I am dancing, I am near to Him.  I know for some that closeness comes by the raising of arms or the bending of knees, but for me it is dancing before Him as He sings over me and I worship....truly and deeply worship the One that I adore.  It is such a freeing time for me and is most often while the kids are napping and I am alone in my living room. When I can move and pray and sing and be free. This song reminds me that I need that closeness, it draws me in and I can't help but move. It reminds me that I am just one of many trying to navigate my way through this fallen world.  I pray that I will truly understand His love and grace this side of Heaven, but I've got to be is hard for me.

The perfectionist that I am, I have zero tolerance for my own failures. (Rest assured, I am nowhere near this critical of everyone else and I don't look at YOU this way!) I need to learn to accept His grace regardless of whether I ever come to understand it. I see my shortcomings and I feel disqualified.  I feel that I am not even worthy to run the race, let alone finish it. I know, it's not a fair statement...but it is an honest one. I pray daily for growth in this area. I pray for those in my life that will speak truth to me and that I will have ears to hear. I am thankful for my husband and others who have been willing to fill that role. I thank God for placing them in my life and I thank Him for amazing, talented writers and singers like this one that share His truth in such a beautiful way.

 One of the worship teams at our church has started playing this song during our regular services and it blesses me beyond measure to pray this with and for my brothers & sisters on Sunday mornings. I hope it blesses you, too!

If you like this song, check out my What Moves Me tab for more of my favorites.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making Time

"I can't mom, I'm too busy."  This is the current favorite phrase of my 3 year old, Logan.  Now, I would love to pass the buck on this one as I have when he says things like, "stupid", idiot" or "whatever", but I can't. He has most definitely heard it from me...probably 100 times today already. 

Being the micro-manager, perfectionist, organizer that I am, I live off of my to-do lists and calendar just to survive the day-to-day.  I have a need to stay on top of things.  I wouldn't say it's a healthy need, as a matter of fact a lot of times it is just plain sin.  I confess that I often treat my husband and children like just another item on my list. "Here's your milk, breakfast, newspaper, fill-in-the-blank" and move on. Missing the opportunity for fellowship, potential memories and essential bonding moments.  I am with them, but not present for them.  I treat loved ones as distractions rather than blessings. Ouch.

You see, my life seems to be running at warp speed these days. Max will be 9 soon, Logan is a busy 3 year old and Maggie is already 7.5 months. Her first birthday is right around the corner and most of the last year has been a blur. I don't feel like I can stop or slow down. I just know that as soon as I do the wheels are going to fall off the wagon.  I have got to stay on top of what I can control.  The problem with this theory is that it assumes I am in control. I am not. God is the author and creator of my life and I am just along for the ride, so why don't I just sit back & enjoy it already!?!  I know, I know. Asking you isn't really going to help, but it was rhetorical anyway.

I have, however, been asking the One who has all the answers. Praying for guidance and wisdom to see when I fail in this area and to help me get better everyday. He has been faithful. He shows me how to slow down and live for each moment in things my children say, songs on the radio, books, blogs, chats with friends...the list is endless. He is so good to me and I am learning. It may be slow, but I am growing and my family is thriving. I am learning to be present and intentional. To count my blessings and savor each one. 

So today as I make beds, make excuses, make plans, make mistakes and make dinner I also resolve to make time. To slow down and be intentional about the things that fill my time and demand my attention.  I hope you will, too!

Please check out the blog A Holy Experience  by Ann Voskamp. She is an amazing writer and I am blessed beyond words by the honesty I find there.  She has also written a book titled, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are that touches on this issue.  How to really slow down and enjoy the gifts in everyday.  To seek out the beautiful in the mundane, You will not be sorry.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Apples & Oranges

It has been a long day and a long few nights. I have been meaning to log in here and post about our first Veteran's Day Parade experience, but time just seems to elude me.  It is almost 10:00pm and I am finally sitting down to the computer for some 'me' time and to catch up on some computer work.  As often happens when I turn on my computer, I mindlessly open Facebook first to see what has happened with my friends and family over the past 24 hours and post my Thankful Thought for the day. (Starting the first of November through Thanksgiving, I am posting what I am thankful for each day as a way to prepare my heart for the coming season and keep in mind what the Reason really is.)

As I scrolled through the status updates from tonight I see that not one, but two of my friends has started a blog.  Now, this shouldn't affect me. I know a lot of people who currently blog and I enjoy them immensely.  I am no writer and certainly in no competition. As a matter of fact, at this point only about two people even know I have a blog! I started this project as a way to get my thoughts out and sorted and as an outlet for all the things swirling around in my head. If it gets read, great! If not, no problem. So why do I instantly feel insecure?

Why do I feel the need to pour over their effortlessly beautiful writings and endlessly critique my own? The need to compare and find that I come up short of my own expectations?  I only end up feeling 'less than' and not enough. Not spiritual enough, smart enough, eloquent enough...take your pick.  Why do I waste time trying to determine how I measure up to their skills as a mother, communicator, wife or scholar. The whole process is completely maddening! It is a mindset that I fall into almost unwillingly. It is a mindset that I am working hard to overcome.  

The truth is, we all compare at times and it only causes frustration, depression and despair. But the most beautiful truth is, there is no comparison for you! God made you (and me) perfectly imperfect in our own skin. He made us all messy and all beautiful...all together.  He made us flawed and wonderful, different and the same, strong and weak and with a plan for each of us. I may not have the same skills or talents as you, but that doesn't mean that I have nothing to offer.  So I will keep writing, maybe someday someone will read and hopefully we'll both grow.  You & me together...the apple and the orange.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Sinner Like Me

" Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

My oldest son, Max, had to memorize this verse for Good News Club this week.  What a great verse for the month of November! A reminder to be thankful, to not covet, that God will supply all our needs and never leave us.  Not only did it bless me beyond belief to see and hear my son work so hard to memorize this verse, but we were able to have a great conversation about what it actually meant.  I am so thankful that, at least this time, I chose to put aside my to-do list and join in fellowship with my child.  I so often get caught up in what I "need" to do, that I often overlook what I actually should be doing.   I talked with Max about what covetousness meant and he immediately grew sheepish at the realization. "You mean like me?" he said. "Like how I want everything I see on TV for Christmas?"  "Like all of us", I said. I was able to re-assure him that we all sin, we all struggle, we all times.  And that Jesus died for us anyway. He knew we would sin and struggle. He knew it would be messy. He knew we needed Him, even when we didn't. 

As I tucked Him in that night, I thanked God for Max's love for others, his passion for The Word, his longing to understand it and the ability that I have as his mom to help him.  I prayed that this Truth would be hidden in his heart for all time and that he could share it with others. 

I was able to approach the subject again the next night after we packed shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. I was able to remind him that there are people in this world that are less fortunate than we are. Children whose only Christmas gifts were what we packed in that little box. I am thankful we have been able to participate in this ministry and I would encourage you to do the same. It has been a blessing to our entire family and an amazing opportunity to share the love of Christ with children around the world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Who's failing who?

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness Oh Lord, Great is Thy faithfulness."

I went to bed mad. I hoped I would wake up mad. I was in a bad mood and I didn't care. I had been let down, wronged & hurt by a loved one....again. I felt I was justified in my anger and I was going to hold onto it and wallow in it as long as I could. "Hurt me, and you'll pay. You'll see. You won't get close anymore, I won't let you." That doesn't sound very much like Christ does it? I didn't think so, either. But those were the thoughts swirling in my mind as I fell asleep, refusing to pray, refusing to be humbled and not exactly sure what today would bring.

Well, wouldn't you know it, I did wake up mad. Not mad at the other person or the situation or the wound left behind. I was mad at me. This song was on my heart and in my mouth as soon as I woke up this morning. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases..." and I was convicted. I knew I had been so hurt by the situation I was in because I had put my hope in another, and they failed me. Not because I am not loved, not because they are a failure, but because I failed to put my trust in the One who will never let me down. I have looked to my husband, children, parents, friends, siblings and others in my life to fulfill this need from time to time and I always end up hurt, vowing never to let them in, never to be set up for such a disappointment again. And I am wrong every time. I am in fact the one who is failing. Failing to give grace and mercy, failing to have appropriate expectations of others and ultimately failing to go to my Father first and failing to ask Him to fill me up.

And so, I will ask for forgiveness from my Father, receive His love & grace and then pour it out onto others. I will work to keep my expectations in line with reality and I will walk through today knowing that I am a daughter of the King. I am cherished, loved & precious in His sight....and so are you!