Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

I found myself with big tears running down my face this morning when John climbed up into my lap for an extended morning hug. I think I could have held on forever. As his sweet little hands patted me on the back again and again, my mind was turning over and over again of the realness and magnitude of God's grace and His expression of it  in everyday life.

Not every day is exciting and some are just plain hard. Not every struggle or conflict is instantaneously overcome, most are, in fact, painful. Not every moment is full of success, but time marches on and there's another opportunity to try it yet again.  In the midst of all that can be tiring and rigorous and stretching in the dailiness of life, grace does abound.

God is at work.  He gives comfort, companionship, answers, endurance, provision, direction....His presence.

He's given us a table and food for it day by day.

He's given me these seven children, each individual, each with their own unique lives, to teach me more about how to serve and pour out unconditional love.  And when I think I have nothing left to give, God supplies what is needed for me to be their mom. Each day with them is a gift.

He's given me a soul mate who loves me through each day and never stops leading even when it's tough.

He's given me support through my big crazy family who are always there to help at a moment's notice offering a prayer, a practical help, a cup of tea or just a word of encouragement.

He's given me parents who continue to love and support me even at age 40 and He's provided them a home now in their semi-retirement only 10 minutes away.

He's given me life long friends and special times away to reconnect and be refreshed.

He's given me Christian fellowship and the faithful teaching of His Word week by week which remind me and teach me again the sure promise of salvation.

He's given me health and time to enjoy to the beauty found even in the smallest things.

With the abundance of His Grace I am overwhelmed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not about me

Okay, seriously?  Where did this school year go?  It's been a busy and full nine months.  Two kids in school.  Five kids in homeschool.  Deadlines.  Activities.  Games.  Projects.  Successes.  Disappointments.  Failures.  Frustrations.  Firsts. Transparency. Breakthroughs.  Laughter.  Secrets.  Togetherness.  Tension.  Hugs.  Life. 

There is not one word that could sum all that I've learned this school year.  Yes, I did finally master all of the states and capitals and can now diagram about any sentence you put in front of me.  (Even homeschool moms have a lot to learn.)  My real growth, however,  has been in  realizing that being a mom isn't all about me. 

I've spent many hours on my knees these past months just begging the Lord for wisdom.  Where do we set the boundaries?  How can I respond in love, yet with the truth?  What do I do with my own fears of failure? How do I  face of the reality of the fragility of our teens?  

In a few short years, they will be out on their own.   What will our relationship be when that day comes?  

I believe that the answer to that questions has to do with my responses, words and actions towards them today.  They aren't young children to be micromanaged, dressed up in matching clothes, scolded and set aside for bad behavior, expected to silently nod or perform for others at a moment's notice. 

No, they are young women.  Thinking, growing, ever changing young women who are formulating their beliefs about who they are, what they believe and who the will ultimately love and serve.  Their journey is their own.  

Though, their struggles and triumphs really aren't a reflection of me as a mom,  I've come to realize that I still play an important role.  I'm neither in the center of it, nor am I a just on the sidelines.  My position is precarious and confusing.   I have learned (by default, I might add) that my slightest reactions, words, or actions speak volumes into their lives.  My availability to listen empathetically when I'm tired or frustrated,  my willingness to engage them through conversation when I would rather lecture, my commitment to follow through with discipline with a heart of discipleship.... these will cultivate the young women emerging before my eyes. 

God, give me the grace to realize every day that it's not about me. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reflections on 40 Days of Juicing

I set out the day after my 40th birthday on a journey of unexpected consequences. I determined to juice for 40 days. Many people asked me what program I was following. Well, in typical Monica style, I was developing my own along the way. I had watched several documentaries about the positive effects of juicing and read a few books. I thought that it would be a reasonable way to take hold of some less than desirable eating habits, clear my thoughts and initiate my way into the next phase of life.

I exclusively juiced for the first 10 days and drank only water ( and chewed on a lot of ice chips). The next 10 days I added a green smoothie that included at times greek yogurt. I also allowed myself protein in the form of eggs or raw peanut butter each day. The last 20 days I juiced two meals a day and ate raw foods for the last meal.

Was this a waste of time? No.
Was it hard? At first, yes.
Was it expensive? No, in fact I saved money.
Do I regret it? Not at all.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.

I'm still digesting (ha!) all that I've learned, but here are a few of my reflections:

1) Food is overrated. Juicing made my mind so much clearer and the energy I received from juicing went a lot farther. I had no afternoon sugar slumps or stomach aches that I often get from eating food or difficulty falling asleep at night.

2) I realized that I had some sort of weird addiction to food when I woke up the second night after juicing and had a panic attack. The fact that I had not eaten (though I had ingested plenty of calories for the day) just about sent me over the edge. Weird.

3) There is nothing sweeter and more satisfying than natural fruit juice. After having real apple juice, a candy bar seems sickening.

4) The flavor and satisfaction of the taste of fresh vegetables and herbs is beyond anything I've ever experienced from food. My mouth is watering right now thinking about it.

5) I can prepare food for my family and sit down with them and enjoy a meal even if I'm enjoying something different. (There goes that excuse.)

6) Food has had the wrong place in my life. I've known this, but it became much clearer when I was unable to manipulate my diet to meet my emotional needs. These past forty days have been a particularly stretching time for me. Because I was not able to eat away my cares, I found myself running to the only One who could truly help me.

7) Despite popular opinion, there is a difference between eating 1400 of "whatever I want" and 1400 of juice or raw foods. In the last 40 days I've dropped 11 pounds without exercise or starving myself. Obviously, the composition of food is a huge factor in health and weight loss. It's like my body is saying, "Thank you for caring."

8) I think I've finally found a way of eating that make sense to me, is truly healthy and sustainable.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter Wrap Up

I've been without a computer to download pictures for a few months, so here's my attempt to catch up on life at our house this winter.

Our first and only pet, Samoa, celebrated her first birthday with a "carrot" cake and all.

Making Valentine's and Cookies

A warm fire and a little imagination. Rebekah and John are always making up games.

An indoor campout with neighbor friends

We've had hardly any snow, but I think Betsy gathered every last scrap from the yard to make these guys.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Remembering Grandpa

Just two short weeks ago, we were saddened by the news of Sean's grandpa's passing. Though he had been ill for some time, his death was nonetheless a shock. I'm so grateful that myself and my children got to know him well through the years. We each have special memories of our own and it was such a delight to be able to share those together. I'll especially cherish the hours I spent being his "nurse" on various occasions, especially my last visit a few weeks ago that stretched into hours as I introduced him to the card game, Kings in the Corner, that I used to play with my grandpa. I think we played it for three hours. I grew up very close to my grandfather, who left a big void when he died when I was about 10. When I got married to Sean, Grandpa Ahart immediately adopted me as his own and always called me his granddaughter like I'd always been in the family. He will be missed.
Though it's been a sad at times, tears have been mixed with a lot of laughter and hugs as the family has gathered around the memories.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Turning Forty

Today I turned forty.

In many ways it has been just like any other day: school, housework, grocery, dinner, a DVD....

In many ways it has been special: kind words from friends, a chocolate cake from my sister, little notes, big hugs....

I suppose for some that turning forty marks the half way point, so it must be all downhill from here. I see it differently. I've been blessed remembering all the many, many people that God has placed in my path along the way. There is much lifeyet to be lived and so many that I pray God will use me to bless in the coming years. More of Him. Less of me.

A dear friend reminded me of this song today. I think Keith Green's lyrics sum up what turning forty has meant to me.

Make my life a prayer to you
I wanna do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise

I wanna shine the light you gave
Thru your son you sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair
It comforts me to know you're really there
[ Lyrics from: ]
Well I wanna thank you now
For being patient with me
Oh it's so hard to see
When my eyes are on me
I guess I'll have to trust
And just believe what you say
Oh you're coming again
Coming to take me away

I wanna die and let you give
Your life to me so I might live
And share the hope you gave me
The love that set me free

I wanna tell the world out there
You're not some fable or fairy tale
That I've made up inside my head
You're God the son and you've risen from the dead

I wanna die and let you give
Your life to me so I might live
And share the hope you gave me
The love that set me free

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Part of Me

My kids have been reading through my blog this past week and enjoying themselves immensely. It's brought up a lot of memories, howling laughter and conversations between them. This is the first time ever that they've been independently interested in what I've written, yet I've been hit with a twinge of guilt. "Mom, why did you stop writing? You should have told about that one time.... I like hearing your voice on paper."

I know. I know.

I am a bit inspired, though, that this little blog is serving the purpose for which it was composed- to give our children a bit of insight into our lives, relationships and history together while passing along my own thoughts and perspectives as God is changing me day by day. It makes me smile to think of the seven of them ten, twenty, even thirty years from now having these writings and pictures in a permanent record and at their disposal at any time. My smile grows even bigger when I imagine my grandchildren learning about their own parents as little boys or girls.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a co-worker who is an author. She was sharing about her passion for writing and how she answers the question, "What do you do?" Though she is a full time NICU nurse, she always responds, "I'm a writer." Writing is what flows naturally for her It is what she must do. It is what she most loves.

I found myself tearing up as I told her about how I have written since I was a child and used to enjoying keeping up a blog. My emotions surprised me. It was much the same feeling that comes over me when I think about playing the piano.

We live in a soundbite kind of world. Little bits of information here or there fill our days. No stories. No details. No time to put it down or take it in.

Perhaps it's time for that to change.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Learning to Be Mom

I am currently reading Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller and in just one chapter I've been majorly convicted on many levels.

Perhaps one of my biggest challenges of the past year has been in how to parent our teenagers. I found myself in a cycle of frustration, disappointment and anger as we worked through some new and challenging issues.

Instead of dealing with the heart issues, I spent a lot of time asking questions like, "Don't you know better and this? You were not raised this way, were you?" I think that having homeschooled our children for so many years I (wrongly, I might add) feel responsible for and entitled to children who would 99% of the time do the right thing.

When things weren't going "my" way, too many times I responded hastily and in sin. I'm thankful for the grace we can give to one another, because we have ultimately been given grace by God.

As the conflicts have faded into the past, I have been reflecting on what I've learned about myself as not just a mom, but as a child of God. Just as I'm still learning what it means to be God's child, I have so much more to learn about what it means to love the children God has entrusted me to mother.

The book's chapter was about the idols in Abraham's life and his willing sacrifice of Isaac. Here are some excerpts from the book that specifically challenged me:

"I must be able to say, 'My desire for completely successful and happy children is selfish. It's all about my need to feel worthwhile and valuable. If I really know God's love- then I could accept less-than-perfect kids and wouldn't be crushing them. If God's love meant more to me than my children, I could love my children less selfishly and more truly.'"

When a child is an idol a parent:
  • Overdisciplines them/ Needs them to be "perfect"
  • Underdisciplines them / Can't bear their displeasure
Then the child fails to meet expectations the parent becomes angry, cruel or violent because of their disappointment.

"God's rough treatment of Abraham was merciful- until Abraham had to choose between his son and his God he could not see that his love was becoming idolatrous."

"If anyone puts a child in the place of the true God, it creates an idolatrous love that will smother the child and strangle the relationship. "