Friday, February 12, 2016

Gifts of Grace

Little Jaidyn didn't quite make it in the pic
Tonight Randy and I decided, since Sundays are usually pretty busy for us, that we would take the kiddos out this evening for Valentine’s Day. And since we received a gift card to Panera around Christmas time that’s exactly where we decided to go! We went to the one closest to us and as we were waiting in line, we heard the lady behind the counter say that they were out of bread bowls. Ya’ll, bread bowls are why we go to Panera. So we packed the kids back in the van and drove to the next closest Panera. (Did I mention we like bread bowls?)  We got in line…again, ordered our food and sat down. 
As Hailey and I went to get our drinks, a lady in line commented on our children and asked me how many we had. I told her “four”. Typically when I tell people how many kids I have they comment on how I must have my hands full or how they have NO idea of how I do it. Other times they just smile at me awkwardly and walk away like I’m crazy or something. I don’t think four is that many, but I don't know, maybe it is...who knows!
Anyway, this lady did not do any of those things. Probably because she, too, has four children of her own. She was older than me and has three boys in their twenties and a middle school girl. She told me how much she loved the craziness that a large family brings and how she often misses the noise that used to echo in her halls. We talked a few minutes, I thanked her for the encouragement and we went our separate ways. 
As we were finishing up dinner and while Randy was taking Jaidyn to the restroom, a middle school aged girl walked up to me, handed me an envelope and told me to enjoy my evening. As she walked away, I opened the envelope and there inside was a $100 gift card to Panera. I watched as the girl went to sit down and she sat in the same booth that the lady had sat down in earlier. I was floored. I could not believe someone would spend that much money on us…on me. As we left, we walked by her table as she sat there with her four children and we thanked her for her generosity. She told us to enjoy. She smiled and said she remembers what it was like. 

The funny thing about that gift card is that it is not just a large sum of money to one of my favorite places to eat, but it really is a gift from the Lord. You see, something I have been really struggling with lately is grace. The gift of God’s grace. When I opened that envelope and realized who it was from, my mind immediately began trying to figure out some way I could make it up to this lady…some way I could show her just how thankful I was for what she had given our family. But I really had nothing. I mean seriously, we bought our dinner with a gift card someone else had given us! 

And sometimes when the Lord blesses me with something my mind immediately tries to figure out some way I can repay Him. Just the other day I was sitting in the car thinking about how our house situation has just kind of fallen in to place. We felt the Lord leading us to look in Greensboro even though we had found a house in High Point that we really liked.  Then about a week later He just kind of dropped the opportunity for a house in Greensboro in our laps.  About a week or so later, after we had been looking over our numbers and wondering how it was going to happen, He then dropped a financing option that was going to work perfectly for us right in our laps. 
So there I was, sitting at that red light…thinking, I just don’t understand. I mean, I know God is good. But I also know that I am so not good. Why would He want to give this to me? So often I look at my life and my struggles and the sin that I know that lurks deep within my heart and I think….Why would He do this for me? Why would He be so good to me? Why would He give up His Son for me? Why would He waste His time on me?

But that’s the thing about grace. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s not about what I haven’t done. It’s not reciprocal. It’s not dependent upon what I can do to repay or make it right. It is a gift. A free gift. “For by GRACE have you been saved. It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) And believe me, I would probably be boasting. 

Paul tells us in Romans 3:
“We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in HIs gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing His life for us…Can we boast then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” 

And before I go feeling like I can’t muster up enough faith…Paul tells us in chapter 12 that it is God who gives us the faith. Paul David Tripp reminded me in his devotional book New Morning Mercies (which is what I actually read this morning…another gift), “Not only is your salvation a gift from God, but faith to embrace it is His gift as well. But here is what you need to understand: God not only gives you the faith to believe for salvation, but He also works to enable you to live by faith…You don’t have to hide in guilt when weak faith gets you off the path, because your hope in life isn’t your faithfulness, but His.” 

Just like that lady at Panera looked on me with compassion tonight, our Father looks on us with compassion. He is the Giver of good gifts. And whether or not our house situation works out, He is still good. He has given me so many gifts already and He has given the ultimate Gift in His Son. He gives the gift of freedom from sin and death, both in this life and the life to come…the gift of eternal life with Him…the gift of faith when I’m prone to wander and prone to doubt.  And I’m so thankful for that reminder tonight of the gift that God gives freely to those who put their faith in HIm. And, of course, I’m thankful for the many bread bowls that are to come! :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Day of School 2015

Tomorrow is the first day back to school for these little cuties. 
I am so thankful for the privilege to be able to stay home and homeschool them. 
Best job I could ask for.

This is our little Second Grader. Thoughtful. Helpful. Caring. Meek. Avid-reader and story-teller. Dancer. 
Animal and Music lover. Mother hen to her little siblings.
Loves her Creator and loves to create. 

This is our little Kindergartner. Silly. Creative. Affectionate. Super smart. Energetic.
 Construction worker by day, super hero by night. 
Daddy's little wingman.

This is our little K-3 kiddo. Spunky. Playful. Our spirited child. Very huggable and kissable. 
Always, Always singing. Always making us laugh and keeping us on our toes.
B.F.F to many. 

And we can't forget this little guy. Pouty lips. Pensive eyes. Squishy cheeks. 
Snuggly, handsome little man.
The best little surprise Mommy and daddy could have asked for :) 

A prayer for our kiddos that comes from Psalm 5:11-12...

Father, I pray that our children will recognize their sinfulness and their depravity and that they will take refuge in You. I pray they will be in awe of what You have done for them in Your Son and that they will rejoice in and worship You and You alone. I pray You place a hedge of protection around them so that through their lives You may be glorified. I pray You bless them with a godly life. Give them pure hearts that are fixated on You. Surround them with a shield of love that protects them from the lies of the enemy and reflects Your love to others. 

Thank you for the blessing and the gift that they are. Help us to steward them well.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Oh Praise Him!

One night last week we were having family devotions at dinner (which I really hope becomes more of a routine in our family) and Randy was reading Psalm 104. Verse 1 says, "Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty." If you get a second read through that chapter. It just goes on and on about how big and great God is but it is written with a lot of imagery so we discussed with the kids what they thought the passage was about and what they thought a lot of it meant. We talked about how God made all of the stars, even the ones that are so big and so far away that we will never ever see them and we talked about how God made all the tiny parts of our body and how He made all of the parts work together so we could live. We talked about how God made all of the huge animals and all of the tiny animals. We talked about how God knows what is going on all over the world and how He makes the universe stay in order yet He still cares about each and every one of us and loves us so dearly. I really enjoyed listening to their thoughts and seeing them really think through all of the characteristics and what they thought about them.

After we finished discussing Caleb said "I think we should pray." I told him, "All right buddy, why don't you go ahead and pray." He prayed and I wish I could remember exactly what he said but pretty much he was thanking God for making us and taking care of us and being so big and so good to us. I was almost in tears. I just thought it was so precious that after he had heard and thought about how great our God is that the first thing he would want to do is talk to God and just thank Him for who He is.

It really got me thinking about how often I just take for granted God's greatness in my own life. Do I think to stop and praise Him and thank Him when I recognize His working in my life? Do I thank Him for that His mercies are new every morning? Do I thank Him that even though our world seems to be crumbling, He holds it in His hands? Do I praise Him for the relationships He has placed in my life?

It really blessed this mommy's heart to see God's Word softening my little boy's heart towards Him and how hearing His Word and thinking on it evoked praise from his lips. Verses 33-34 say, "I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord." My prayer going forward from this is that I would constantly be recognizing Him for His works and His worth and that my heart and my lips would be praising Him.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Confession: I Might Be A Little Lazy...Sometimes...

We were at the beach this weekend for a wedding and two of our kiddos had pretty major falls. Jaidyn fell off of a picnic table bench right on her head. The sound that was made when her head hit the ground was quite a melon falling on the ground and cracking open. She was apparently fine though. She cried pretty hard for a few minutes and then wanted me to put her down so she could get back up on the bench. Caleb also had a nasty fall that I really expected teeth to be missing afterward. Poor kid...we were heading back to the car from the beach and he stepped off the edge of the sidewalk, lost his balance, and with his towel wrapped around him like a burrito he could't catch himself from falling and his chin met the sidewalk with yet another melon cracking sound. Geez Louise! It's been enough to make me want to somehow strap all three of them in my ergo baby and permanently attach them to myself.
Now let me back up a second and say that I am by no means a "helicopter parent." I very much believe in giving my kids space to learn and explore and kind of figure out things without me hovering over them. Like Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus says, "Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy." I would say that's kind of our mantra. But I'm laying in bed tonite thinking about my kiddos, trying not to worry about them making it to their next birthdays. I know it's a mom thing. Once you have kids you never stop worrying about them.  I don't worry as much about my eldest because she is an overly cautious individual, but my son is very accident prone, and my youngest is a wanderer. I have lost her more than once I hate to admit.
I am mulling through in my head about trusting God for the safety of our children He has blessed us with and trusting our kids with the their own abilities.  But then there's this thought of...what if I am just lazy sometimes? Now, in my defense, taking three young children to the beach or the pool or the playground can be an exhausting task. I'm not complaining. I love taking my children places. I love them being with me. But that doesn't make it any less exhausting. And with each child I have had I am positive I have lost brain cells. My mind just doesn't work the way it used to. I'm thinking it may come back eventually. I'm hoping... So I feel overwhelmingly scatterbrained at times. But am I lazy sometimes? I have to confess that I think I am. I guess this is another one of those balancing acts as a parent...trying to find the balance between me hovering over them and protecting them from every little boo-boo that may come their way and me sitting back and letting them just totally do their own thing.
I know, or I think, this gets easier the older they get. I believe two of the most important things you can teach your child right out of the womb are obedience and self-control. If they can get a grasp on those two things they will be able to handle freedoms and responsibilities a lot easier, they will be able to adapt to new surroundings a lot easier, and they will just be a joy to be around. It takes time and a lot of energy to instill these in them but it is worth it. All that to say, our children are a work in progress. I am a work in progress. I am still learning obedience and self-control. Obedience in things like putting God first in my life, disciplining my children, and being content with what God has given me. Self-control in things like spending, and my thoughts, and my tongue. 
I have no intentions of becoming a "helicopter mom" when my kids get up in the morning, but I am going to work on being a better protector and guide to them. That's my job...or at least two of my jobs. I am going to give my worries for their safety over to God and trust Him because He is our Protector and our Guide, our Jehovah-Raah (The Lord is my Shepherd.) I am going to be thankful for the grace He extends to me in my shortcomings and be gracious to my children in theirs. And maybe I'll go do a few sudoku puzzles in an effort to boost brain cell power. But for now, at 3am...I'm going to bed!

I just love my little family!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Balancing Act

So our family just got over a stomach bug...yeah... It actually was not as terrible as ones we've had in the past. So far Hailey is the only one that has not gotten it and hopefully it will stay that way.
With the time I've had away from schooling the last couple of days I've really had a chance to sit back and mull over how homeschooling is going for us.

In the homeschooling community, I feel like there are two extremes. On one end you have the idea that homeschooling should look and feel exactly like a regular school with the pledge of allegiance, seat work, and so on. On the other end you have the "unschooling" philosophy which essentially is strictly interest-based learning...throw the curriculum out the window and see where the day takes you. I'm trying to figure out where the pendulum falls for us as a family. The last several weeks I have really struggled with balance. Most of life is a balancing act so homeschooling really isn't any different.

Fortunately, with homeschooling, you can kind of make it look like what you want it to look like. Initially I would say if traditional school at home were 0 and "unschooling" were 10, I would land somewhere around 7. I like the idea of interest-based learning. It makes
sense and I think it works with our personalities and the phase of life we are in. However, I need structure. I need a lesson plan for the day. I need curriculum. I like being creative but I do need an idea of what to teach the kids. I also need an idea of what the day is going to look like. We have always worked off of a schedule and it's what our kids are used to...and it works for us.
That being said, I need to figure out how to make this work. Seriously. It's not that it isn't working for me at all. Some days are great. I feel like we accomplished things. Other days...not so much.

I've done quite a bit of research and here are some things I am working on right now to try to make this work better...
-Establishing a rhythm- I know that the times homeschooling has worked the best for us have been when we had a rhythm to the day. Not necessarily a schedule...just a rhythm. This is a struggle for the phase of life we are in with an almost 2-year-old (enough said!) But I do know it is very important for me and the kids to have some consistencies to our days.
-Planning, Planning, Planning- I really need to do a better job of reviewing the curriculum a couple of weeks ahead of time. If I know what is coming up I can do a better job of  "going with the flow." I'm a big picture person so if I know what the big picture is I can plan our days and weeks around what we are to learn- I say we because I have actually learned a lot this year =)
-Incorporating the younger two- (Instead of just trying to preoccupy them) Some days this is easier, some days not so much. Most days Caleb just wants to go outside and play (Me too, me too!)) and Jaidyn usually just likes to destroy things =) But I know it is doable. So if I plan better I can plan things that all three can do. Yesterday I worked with Hailey on math using unifix cubes. Caleb and Jaidyn started off counting with us but then Caleb started making a race track with them and Jaidyn took some and started stacking them over and over again. So it was a win for today. I need to try to incorporate them in at least one activity a day.

This past week has been off for us because of sickness, but I hope to start implementing these things in the weeks to come. I keep reminding myself that this is a phase. The ages our kids are now are fun ages, but they have their challenges and it will (hopefully) get easier as they get a little older. I think the important thing for me to remember is my kids are a gift and the ability to homeschool them is a gift and and I need to cherish them and daily ask God to help me walk through that day with love and grace and wisdom. And take one day at a time...

Monday, August 19, 2013

A letter to my firstborn on your first day of Kindergarten:

This morning my beautiful baby girl will start Kindergarten. Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday we were meeting you in the hospital for the first time. I think back to when it was just me and you and Daddy and we would pick "wowies" together and eat "molt and mutties" for breakfast and watch "meemos" in Mommy and Daddy's bed together.
I know you have told me at times that you really want to go to school. And to be honest, sometimes, as a mom, I feel guilty that you won't get to do a Kindergarten graduation and you won't get to do class field trips and you won't get to do stations and have art class and all the other fun things that go along with "going" to school.
But, I want you to know that Mommy and Daddy have prayed very hard about this and we really feel like homeschooling is what God has for you and for our family right now and, honestly, I am excited about it! I am looking forward to spending time with you.'s a precious commodity these days. And I am looking forward to seeing each milestone you pass. I am looking forward to taking you and your brother and sister on field trips. I am looking forward to seeing how your relationship with them grows. I am looking forward to getting up in the morning and seeing what new adventures the day holds.
I know you are nervous about learning to read. Don't be. You will be a great reader. You are already an avid storyteller and I look forward to you learning how to put your stories on paper. You are going to learn so much this year and you are really going to do great. Your Mommy and Daddy believe in you. Trust God to carry you through the days that are hard. Look for beauty in the things around you. Be positive. Be confident in who God has made you. Know that your Mommy and daddy are praying for you on a daily basis. We love you so very much and we know that God has a special plan for your life.

Your BIGGEST fan 

"And I am sure that God, who began the good work in you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again." Philippians 1:6
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him." Philippians 2:13
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can comprehend. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Our community group this past year was a pretty close group. Close...and talkative. Through the course of the year, we came up with a system for bringing us back into focus or bringing us back to the topic at hand when we would inevitably hop on the rabbit trail. I cannot remember this signal's origin, but whenever we veered too far off the main track someone would put their hand vertically on their forehead as if splitting it in half and say, "RUDDER!" This, of course, symbolized a ship's rudder and how the rudder is what keeps the ship going in the right direction. We used this signal many, many times.

As I was having my quiet time this morning, I was just thanking God for how He has always provided for us and was asking Him to give our family direction and I felt Him whisper to me,

"Let me be the rudder of your heart." 

I love the Psalms and I have been reading through them lately and time and time again God has told me through His Word that He is our hope. That He gives direction to those who follow Him.

"Psalm 39:7 "And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you."

Psalm 37:23-24 "The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights (He DELIGHTS!) in every detail of our lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand."
 (When I read this verse, I envision Jaidyn toddling around. She is doing well walking, but she still gets off balance and ahead of herself sometimes so I hold her hand, and that keeps her from falling over when she stumbles.)

Psalm 32: 7-8 "For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The Lord says, 'I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.'"

Psalm 37:4-5 "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you."  
(A good friend of ours explained this passage that God does not give us everything our heart desires, but rather He changes our heart so that it matches His desires. So that He literally gives us our heart's desires.)

What comfort we have in knowing that He delights in the the small things...and big things in our lives. He cares for us, and if we allow Him to direct us...allow Him to be our rudder...we need not worry about what tomorrow holds. So when my heart gets anxious. When I find myself on the rabbit trails of fear and doubt and confusion, I can mentally, and sometimes if necessary...physically, put my hand on my forehead and shout, "RUDDER!"