Stephen and Courtney

Stephen and Courtney

Monday, November 20, 2017

Bountifulness and Waiting

I was reading in the Psalms this morning and was reminded of a sweet verse that the Lord used for me.  Years ago Stephen and I were struggling with infertility, waiting on the Lord, fear, and honestly processing all of it imperfectly and not always in unity.  We walked that road for years and then when I found out we were expecting twins the Lord gave me the verse "Return to rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you" in Psalms 116:7.  I had it painted on the their nursery wall as a great reminder of what the Lord has done. 

If you have waited or are waiting on the Lord you know that is not what it sounds like.  Waiting sounds passive.  Waiting on the Lord is active.  Waiting on the Lord is fraught with prayer, deep anguishing prayers.  Waiting on the Lord is expectant.  It is sitting up and keeping watch and listening for the Lord's direction.  It is daily giving it over to the Lord.  Somehow, I spent every morning giving my desire for children to the Lord but woke up with the desire again the next morning. 

The Lord's bountiful blessings were not solely wrapped up in the twins.  His blessings came as He sustained us through the journey.  He taught me to praise Him in the waiting room.  He gave me the desire to be a saint that perseveres.  He showed me where my hope and home are.  He showed up when my spirit was weak and my stomach was full of tears.  He showed me Himself and allowed His people to minister to me.  In the end His answer to our prayers took our breath away.  But many times in the journey His love, faithfulness, and provision did the same. 

His blessings are bountiful and our souls can find rest in Him.  No matter what you are waiting for today let your soul find peace in Him and His bountifulness. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Walmart Surprise

Have you ever had a blessing and learned a life lesson at Walmart?  Not a life lesson like don't wear nude leggings with a t-shirt but something a little more profound?  There was a day when my twins were about 14 months old that I did.

When my kids were little grocery shopping was hard.  They were too little to walk with me and when I put both in the cart there was no room for groceries.  So my solution was to put the kids in our double stroller and fill the bottom portion with as much groceries as I could.  This particular day I was trying to quickly get through the store and filled the bottom of the stroller.  Suddenly, one of the twins started to cry.  Then it got worse.  The other started to cry as well.  Then it got worse.  They both started to scream.  Red-faced, loud, angry cries were coming from both of my cherubs.  I started to panic.  As a first-time mom I worried a lot about what other people were thinking.  I wanted to run from the store.  However, if I ran out with my stroller full of food it would be stealing.  If I left them and ran out, that is child abandonment.  My only option was to check out as fast as possible.

I ran up to the shortest check out line. As I came up I started to sweat and just knew that the poor cashier was thinking "Why me? Why my line out of these 25 lanes, I know only 3 are open, but why mine".  I waited trying to placate the kids with puffs, happy noises, and promises of ponies.  Nothing was working.  It was finally my turn.  I came up with a sheepish look and started apologizing and simultaneously throwing food on the belt in an effort to get out of there.  As I looked at the cashier she stopped and made eye contact with me and smiled.  I started breathing again.  She smiled bigger and told me "They are such blessings.  You are a special mama.  They are beautiful."  I turned to see what children she was referring to.  Mine.  This amazing lady looked at my red-faced, screaming children at their worse and called them blessings.  She is right.  They are.  It took us 5 years to have them and they are a blessing.  The part that took my breath away was that she looked at my children at a point when they were not lovely at all and saw their value.  Their value is not because of their great behavior, good grades, or manners.  They are valued simply because they are made in the image of God.  They have value because He created and died for them.

The cashier not only extended desperately needed grace to me and my children that day but she taught me something.  She changed the way I view people.  As a teacher, I could look at that little guy that pushed all my buttons and had been to the office on repeat and see a child of value and love him.  As a parent, when it gets hard and I feel like I am dealing with the same character issue for the 1000th time I can look at them as a blessing.  God looks at us in our worse state and sees value in us. Romans 5:8 "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us". The moral of the story is that the Walmart pick up isn't the only blessing there... sometimes it's through a cashier named Triumph.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Post or Ponder

We live in such a strange world today with social media.  Everywhere you look it is a culture of self promotion.  These are new waters to us all and can be hard to navigate as an individual and as a parent. 

Parenting is such a place of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  I know as parents we want to share these highs with others.  Sometimes we keep it in the family and text grandma, other times we go live, or post on social media.  None of those things are wrong.  We all enjoy seeing the lives of our “friends” on social media and posting about what we want others to see of our lives.  I think there can be a place for all of that.  I also have been struck by the example that Mary, the mother of Jesus, set.  Albeit she didn’t have the platforms we have today but I believe her heart would remain the same. 

The Bible says in Luke 2
“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart
It continues further down to tell of a man named Simeon..
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;for my eyes have seen your salvationthat you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
I don’t know about you but not even my kids’ grandparents have said such amazing things about my kids.  Kind people have used words like “blessing” but that’s not anywhere close to the same.  For a Godly man to hold your child and call Him “salvation” takes my breath away.  I can’t imagine the emotions that poured over Mary as she listened to the shepherds and held her new baby.  I remember looking into my son’s brand new face with wonder and love and later in the day someone said he was a good eater.  I think I mentioned that to people that came to see me, “the nurse said he’s a good eater”.  Mary nurtured, cared for, and raised her Savior, your Savior, my Savior.  Yet she treasured the knowledge of His calling, and pondered it, and marveled over it. 

Mary pondered these things in her heart.  Now if anyone in all of history had a reason to brag about their kid it was her.  She had promises of who Jesus was.  I love speaking at educational conferences or Women’s retreats but I get uncomfortable speaking to parents because my kids are still young.  I prefer to hear from people who have raised Godly, Christ-focused children and emulate them.  But Mary could have spoken with confidence in the person that Jesus was.  However, in her wisdom she treasured the shepherds’ words in her heart. 

As I read this and consider my parenting I have started to ask myself what the Lord will have me treasure in my heart regarding my kids.  I am a sharer by nature and so I have had to be intentional with this.  As I ask the Lord what I am to share and what to ponder I find that the quiet things are even more special.  I feel the connection that only the Lord can give.  His presence and the knowledge that He sees and cares is so comforting.  He cares way more than a person that clicked like or a heart.  Yet sometimes we seek the comment or the validation from Sarah that we haven’t seen is twenty years, more than the validation that Jesus gives in His still small voice. 

I am not saying social media is bad or being proud of your kid is negative.  I think there is a place for the picture of your son’s first golf tournament and daughter’s braces off.  I also think that sweet note they wrote to you privately may be left treasured in your heart or that character that they showed at recess should be celebrated around the dinner table.  Maybe our question should be… who are we promoting?  This also for the protection of our children’s hearts.  They are humans and the Bible promises us that they will mess up, just like us.  We want to protect them from the fall off a very public pedestal that we put them on.  We want to celebrate, love, encourage, and protect.  Only God can lead us in that.  I have decided before I go public to consider whether to ponder or post. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Who Are You?

Many years ago Stephen and I went through years of infertility.  If you have been through that journey or are in it now I am sorry.  I know the loneliness, fear, and pain that shows up every day.  I know it feels forever.  We went through several doors and then backed up and closed them before the Lord led us to the path that gave us our kids.  After a particularly hard treatment I was waiting to find out if we were pregnant.  I was praying one afternoon... when I say praying I mean pleading with the Lord to give us a baby.  I was reading that the Lord does not give us a spirit of fear.  I was fearing.  So I opened the Greek dictionary to look up fear.  As I searched the page my eyes immediately came to the word grace instead.  I sat reading the definition of grace and thinking about His character.  I saw that the Greek word for grace was Charis.
Short Definition: grace, favor, kindness
Definition: (a) grace, as a gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ, (b) favor, (c) gratitude, thanks, (d) a favor, kindness.

I got up and sent an email to my mom and Stephen's mom asking them to change their prayer.  We prayed that in God's charis he would give us Charis.  

A week later I found out that the Lord had blessed us with a pregnancy.  We rejoiced in His charis.  Fast forward to an 18-week sonogram and I asked the PA to take a guess on the gender of our twins.  She quickly found Drew and told me it was a boy.  Then she moved to the next baby and told me it was another boy.  I timidly responded that I think that is the same baby and she assured me it wasn't.  I knew it was.  I would have been ecstatic to have two boys but I knew that was the same baby.  A few weeks later we saw the doctor and she confirmed a boy... and a girl.  We knew her name would be Charis.  

I often tell Charis the origin of her name in Greek and that she is our "gift from the Giver".  She loves that part of who she is.  One day when she was little she sat in a box and yelled "Look, I am a gift from the Giver"!  The other day I was putting something on her desk and saw her name tag.  She had written her name and then "gift from the giver".  I pray she remembers who she is as she gets older.  When the world, classmates, boys, or circumstances tell her something else I pray she is rooted in Jesus and remember that she is always our Gift from the Giver.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Last Spring Break my family went on a trip to Ruidoso, NM.  It was beautiful and we went for a hike one day in an isolated area.  As we walked we noticed that we were by the stream and had heard that bears were waking up so Stephen would call out every few feet so that we wouldn’t scare a bear.  Even though we were all alone in the woods I felt awkward with him yelling out.  You know that embarrassed feeling you get for other people sometimes?  As we came around a cluster of trees Stephen yelled out and we were answered by a low growl.  We stopped and he yelled and the growl came again.  At this time we looked at each other with hearts pounding and I thought maybe the yells were worth my awkward feeling, put the kids between us, and turned around to hurry out of there.  This bear was nice enough to give us a warning.  However, this experience reminded me about our Mama hearts and the fierce love we have for our children.  We have all heard about the Mama Bear tendency to fiercely protect our children.  When someone messes with our kid we have a primal response to react. 

This Mama Bear response, while innate in us all, needs to be tempered.  That is the hard part. The part goes against nature.  We get this term Mama Bear because we mimic the response of a real bear protecting her cubs.  Mama bears often attack out of a perceived threat.  She sees a human and out of fear that he will hurt her cub attacks him.  Maybe the humans were ignorant city folks like us out for a stroll, but the Mama Bear attacks without knowledge.  We as Moms often have that same reaction out of fear.  We perceive a threat… whether it be another child, a teacher, a parent, culture and react aggressively without all the information and taking the time to pray through our response.   Maybe there is a better way.  Let us consider the actions of the Mama Bird.

The Mama bird loves, comforts, and cares for her young.  However, she also teaches them to fly on their own.  I have to teach my children how to tell others how they want to be treated, how to solve conflict, how to speak up, how to love and forgive others, and how to pray and not react.  Both care deeply, love, and protect their children. The difference comes in how that is played out.  The Mama Bird gently even nudges her babies out of the nest when she knows they are ready.  We must encourage our children to step out and try new ideas and experiences.  This will build their character, independence, and responsibility. The nudge can be hard for us moms at times.  We may have to give the nudge with a brave face and then go text our friends for support and prayer.  I have many seen schools offer a “Tears and Cheers Coffee” for kindergarten parents after they drop their child off for their first day of kindergarten.  We put on a brave face and tell our children how wonderful school will be and then retreat to the school cafeteria for camaraderie, support, or a big high 5 depending on your emotions.  As they learn to step out in these small ways with our encouragement then, they will be confident and be able to step out in Faith one day as the Lord leads.  Our job is to prepare them for what the Lord calls them to.  We love, pray, release, and watch.  

When we mimic the bear we damage relationships, hurt people, and teach our children that they are not safe with out us.  There will be times for us to step in and protect our children but we must do so in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.  Often times the threat that we perceived was actually an opportunity to teach, model grace, show forgiveness, or train our children how to deal with conflict.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 says “Do not be provoked in your spirit, anger resides in the lap of fools”.  We should stop and ask ourselves first what the Lord would have us to do, what can our child learn from this, can we overlook the offense, or what our response should be.  Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion”.  Let’s stop and consider the intentions or position from someone that we are tempted to “go Mama Bear” on.  The Word tells us that by tempering this desire to attack and praying through our response we will avoid being a “fool”.  Parenting is hard and we will make mistakes in handling issues that arise but we can reach out to reconcile and try again.   Our relationships will stay intake, our children will learn life skills, and we will honor the Lord when we step out of attack mode.  Let us remember the bird and the bravery and strength she shows as she gently leads, encourages, and even nudges her babies.    

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sleeping in My Play Clothes

As Drew was showering, Stephen and I were in his room and Stephen laughed that Drew had laid out his play clothes to sleep in. This has been a new habit he has gotten into this summer.  He likes to get up and be ready for play!  Stephen was smiling and I said, “You like that he does that.  Why?”  Stephen replied, “Shouldn’t we all be that way?”  I thought, “Hmmm, I missed something.”  I mean I wear a T-shirt to bed and that’s pretty unexciting.  Stephen pointed out that Drew goes to bed every night in anticipation of a great day tomorrow. In his mind, it’s going to be so great that he doesn’t want to waste any time in the morning getting dressed…he just wants to get to it!

Stephen is right…Shouldn’t we all be that way?  As adults we go to bed thinking, “Uh, I have to go to work tomorrow” and “there will be traffic on Monday morning.”  Or, “I have to get three loads of laundry done and go grocery shopping WITH kids in the morning.” We forget about the joy that we can have in the seemingly mundane things we do each day.

I am going to choose to go to bed like Drew does. I’m going to close my eyes in anticipation of what God will do the next day or in thankfulness for what He has already done.  The three loads of laundry means that I have a house full of people I love.  And, let us all go to bed in thankfulness of Wal-Mart’s grocery pick-up.

Let’s all sleep in our play clothes in anticipation of how great tomorrow will be!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Disciples Among Us

I was reading this morning in John about when Jesus called a few of the disciples that had been listening to John the Baptist to follow Him.  One of these young men was named Andrew. I was drawn to him because my son is named Andrew.  It hit me that my Andrew and the disciple had a lot in common… they are both very social and a natural networkers. 

My son was called a “communicator” by his sweet teacher.  As a former teacher I can translate… that means he talks a lot.  It’s true.  We recently moved into a new neighborhood.  When we moved we thought there was only one boy on our street.  Somehow, without leaving the confines of our yard, my child has brought children from the far corners of the earth to our home.  Any given day we will have between 7-10 kids in our yard.  We love it because he brought us a whole mission field that we didn’t know existed. 

Jesus called Andrew to follow Him and he came and saw where Jesus was staying, listened to His preaching, and then immediately went and got his friends to bring them to Jesus.  In John 1:40-42 says, “the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.”

My Andrew has yelled out to the yard full of kids sitting eating popsicles  “Who here believes in Jesus?” (we are working on his delivery).   God has created him this way.  He networks and shares his passions with others… whether it be about the Aggies, hunting, or Jesus. 

As I was laughing that morning that Drew is like his namesake.  I realized that often times the thing that we work on to reign in with our children is the very thing God uses for His kingdom.  Andrew’s mom may have been exasperated by the boys he brought over all the time or been frustrated as she tried to get through the marketplace with him as he stopped to talk to everyone. 

God used this trait in Andrew to draw Peter (whom he chose as the Rock to build His church on) and others to Himself.  Andrew was also the disciple that found the boy with the fish and loaves that God multiplied to feed the crowd.  He was passionate about people and Jesus.    

As I looked at the disciples that Jesus chose to spread His Gospel and be martyred for Him I realized that they are like the children we all know.  The disciples were most likely between 18-20 years old. They were not young boys but were still not grown men.  They were normal humans like us.  Andrew would have been the boy at school that is constantly in trouble for talking.  He is the one that goes to school for recess. 

Peter is the impulsive one.  He is the kid you discuss self-control with everyday.  The one that has big reactions and then feels bad. 

Thomas is the kid that always wants to know “why”.  He will question you and keep you on your toes to explain what you are telling him. 

James and John… they had the helicopter mom asking for her boys to sit at Jesus’ right hand.  These boys had a competitive spirit.  John at first bragged about getting to Jesus’ empty tomb first but then allowed Peter to enter first. 

Philip was ever practical.  He may be like the kid that has a hard time letting loose or thinking outside the box.  Philip was in charge of supplies.  He was responsible and predictable. 

The Lord uses these normal young men to do great things.  He even used the character traits that as mom or teachers can drive us crazy.  My husband and I have told our son to eat and that it was time to stop talking at dinner repeatedly.  We have had to train him that he can’t ask if the stranger at the store can come over for dinner.  The traits in our children that want to make us face palm can be used for His glory.  As parents we have to train and disciple them in how to use these traits in a productive way.  How they can be who God created them to be but honor Him with their personality.  We still have to put in the time training them how to use their gifts and personalities to His glory.  But, we can laugh to ourselves and pray that God will use this child to do big things for the kingdom in the unique way they were created. 

My point is… Parents/ Teachers when you want to put your head in your hands and you feel frustration that your kid is not getting it… just remember that the disciples all had flaws, were human, and God used them in mighty ways.  He may choose to use the thing that drives us the most crazy to bring others to Himself.