Stephen and Courtney

Stephen and Courtney

Sunday, December 31, 2017

I Do It Myself

At church our worship leader always leads us in a time of confession and I was convicted that I often try to do things on my own.  I have never been a big resolution setter for the New Year.  Probably just because by January 2nd I get busy and forget about what was so important to me on December 31st.  However, this year I would like to be aware of how dependent I am on the Lord for everything and not strive in my own meek efforts. That will mean that I spend time with Him, listen to His Spirit, and seek His will over my comfort.  I desire to step out of my comfort zone and follow His lead.  

I was reminded of when my kids were little and I would try to dress them.  At about 3 years old they went through the common “I do it myself” phase.  Which to them was an effort to exert some independence but as a mom meant that I had to wait while they put their shoes on (the wrong feet), stood in the rain or cold while they attempted to buckle their car seat, and let all my pride go as I took my son to Bible study in a random assortment of clothes that he chose.  I thought back to that 3 year old standing there looking ridiculous in mismatched clothes, some on backwards, and not weather appropriate.  I think that I look like that to God at times.  He has a way that is good and best for me but, I “do it myself” and in the end stand there like that 3 year old.  I may be dressed but it could have been so much better had I listened to and depended on the Lord.   Maybe I parented, worked, and was a wife that day… but had I done those things in His Strength and not my own how much better could I have done?

I want a heart that acknowledges that I am not self-sufficient.  I am dependent on the Lord.  When the kids were little Stephen told them one night that we were not going to ask the Lord for anything, just thank Him for what we have.  I was on board and see lots of value in taking time to thank and praise God.  That night Drew started crying and asking “what if I need something?”.  I thought it was comical at the time because he missed the point but after he went to bed I realized that Drew had a great mindset.  He was scared of going through a day of not being able to ask God for what he needed.  I was not.  The little boy knew who to go to and that He was all we need.  I want a heart that is so dependent on Him that I can’t imagine not seeking His guidance, fruits, or heart for a day. 

My resolution is to walk in His Strength and depend on the Lord for all.  I hope that at the end of 2018 I can stand appropriately dressed and not like that willful 3-year-old in red shorts, an orange tank top, boots on the wrong feet, and a snow cap. 

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.

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.