It Was Our Anniversary

Birthday season for our family will begin in two days, so I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations.  The anniversary of my wedding was a little over a month ago.  The Sunday before my anniversary, God started sending me messages about gratefulness.  First our pastor spoke on how drastically different our outlook would be if we focused our attention on God and all that he has done in our lives, rather than on the things we think we are missing. Later that same week two separate friends called sharing almost identical messages they had received during worship and prayer time.  I knew I should start preparing my spirit  for what was coming because the messages were obviously being confirmed.  I needed to keep gratefulness in the forefront of my mind.

My expectations for the weekend had been building.  This would be our third anniversary in Georgia.  We had not been on a date for our anniversary since the move.  I was determined for this year to not be a repeat.  The weekend before our anniversary we went out on our first date in almost a year.  We had such a great time, I really wanted time alone with my husband again.  I tried desperately to find a babysitter so we could go out for a nice dinner, but had no luck.  I was crushed.

In my prayer time the morning of our anniversary, I asked God to let the focus of the day be on my gratitude for what he has done in our lives, and not on my expectations of what the day should be.  I had spent the day before in a pretty bad funk because of my  realization that we would not have a date for the third year in a row. I didn’t want my attitude to ruin another day.  I asked that my focus be more on him than anything else because I knew I really needed Him.

That morning I prayed for God to help me to release my disappointments so that I may simply enjoy the husband, children, family, and life he’d given me that day. “Today creating time alone together may not include dressing up and going out with just the two of us, but whatever it includes help me to be thankful. Help us to celebrate your work in our lives today.”  I decided I would treat the day like any other day and make the decision to be happy with whatever happened.  I told myself it didn’t matter what we did as long as my attitude was right.

I went to choir rehearsal that morning after cooking and enjoying a  big breakfast with my family. God’s spirit showed up at rehearsal in a powerful way.  It was a wonderful time of praise and worship. I was so thankful God had prepared my heart before I entered the building.  The joy that was in my heart I couldn’t even really describe.  I thought to myself, “This was the gift of me focusing on him.”  My expectations for the day began to grow.

After rehearsal, we all went out for lunch.  We had a great meal, but had to head home because my toddler needed a nap.  Once at home my middle child headed to his room and my husband camped out to watch college football.  My oldest, my sweet sensitive daughter, started asking if this was all we were going to do for the day.  “It’s your anniversary! You can’t just sit around all day.  We have to celebrate!”, she said.  I assured her that we would figure out something else to do after the youngest finished her nap, but I kept telling myself, “Remember this is just another day.”  No expectations, no disappointments.

By the time my toddler woke up from her extra long nap, our day had devolved into a mess.  The older two were at each others throats and I was tired of being asked, “What are WE going to do? Aren’t we at least going to go out to dinner? It’s your anniversary!” The tone was not nice.  I was tired of the arguing. I was tired of the attitude and pouting.  I was tired of the questions. They were seriously messing with my good, low key vibes.  I finally snapped after all the tension and told them to be quiet, and I told her to back off because she didn’t get married that day_ I did.  If anyone was going to be upset about sitting home all afternoon doing nothing it should be me, not her. And yes, now I was upset!

Now I wanted to get out of the house.  I told everyone to get their shoes.  I was planning to take them to McDonald’s so they could run off steam and leave me alone. The grateful attitude I had been trying to hold onto was gone. I was not happy just doing nothing anymore.  I was going to leave without my husband.  He could do whatever he wanted to do and I could breathe for a moment without everyone complaining.  I was no longer thankful for whatever happened that day. Now I was just irritated.

As I tried to usher the little mood killers out the door, the littlest one started whining that she didn’t want to leave.  She was hungry and wanted to eat.  Then the second child started in, “I’m hungry too!  I want to stay if she stays.”  Ugh, really?  I told them they could stay with their dad and eat.  Then the third, “Where are we going anyway?” So, now you care where we’re going?!? “I thought you just wanted out of the house”, I thought to myself. I threw my hands up and let my husband feed them leftovers, while I retreated to the comfort of my KitchenAid.   All of a sudden everyone was calm and they too, wanted to crowd around my mixer.  I didn’t want to let them in on my little party, but everyone became so excited and nice, I relented.

I spent the evening of my anniversary without dinner, baking a cake, and watching American Sniper with my husband after the kids went to bed.  Not at all how envisioned the day_not even my worst version of it.  But after all it was just another day, right? The next morning I woke up irritated with my husband.  I was also irritated with my oldest for not allowing me to go along with my “No expectations” attitude.   “Why did she have to make such a big deal about the day?”, I thought.  I was doing fine without her pouting and disappointment.  When I woke up I went straight to my prayer closet.  My heart was so heavy about my irritation.  “Why am I so bothered by her attitude from yesterday?”, I asked.  As I sat in his presence, he revealed to me that I couldn’t appreciate her disappointment because my life experience was so different from hers.

My parents were not together when I was growing up.  It was just me and my mother.  There were no anniversaries to celebrate, or anything about marriage to get excited about. He reminded me that for my children it’s a completely different reality.  I spend time telling my children how fortunate they are to have two parents.  I spend lots of time talking to them about God’s order, design, and plan for marriage. We talk about the beauty of marriage and the blessing of family.   Our family started the day God joined their dad and I in marriage all those years ago.  Of course they would want to celebrate marriage.  I should not have been upset with her, but with myself for trying to say it was just another day.

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of marriages fall by the wayside, yet by God’s grace we are still together.  My oldest was right. We should have been celebrating.  Maybe we couldn’t celebrate the day with grand romantic gestures, but to try to pretend the day God joined us was not important was wrong.  It wasn’t just about celebrating us.  It was about acknowledging and celebrating what God has done.

Through this union God has been working to draw out our selfishness and refine the selflessness.  He is trying to make us holy, instead of us always focusing on happy.  I want the work he is doing in us to all be for his glory.  We are far from where we should be, but by his might and grace he has sustained us for 17 years and he’s far from finished with us. There is a legacy my children will inherit from seeing us value and appreciate marriage. But they have to see us value and appreciate our marriage.  I was wrong.  That is reason to rejoice!

Yes, that time in God’s presence turned my attitude around.  I had a new appreciation for my daughter’s sensitive spirit and a renewed thankfulness in my heart for our marriage Sunday morning.  We enjoyed a great service, a great lunch, a great afternoon with the kids, and in the end great time alone with my husband reflecting on all God has done over the years.  That day 17 years ago we made a promise to God.  We walk in covenant with Him and He continues to keep and guide us through all our human mess.

It will never cease to amaze me how much God teaches me through these amazing little people he’s placed in my charge. Our Anniversary is not any ordinary day.  It is a day to rejoice.  So grateful she and God reminded me what it really meant to celebrate OUR anniversary.

“…She is your companion and wife by covenant.” Malachi 2:14

“A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span.” Sirach 30:22

Psalm 95:1-7

A dear friend of mine shared this great “Thanksgiving 30 Day Scripture Writing Plan” on her page.  It’s a pdf file found at http://www.swtblessings.com. Our family already has a few traditions for my favorite time of year, but I loved the idea of purposely copying what God’s word has to say about thankfulness. I saw the post yesterday and my original desire was for us as a family to copy the verses together before starting our regular homeschool work.  Sometimes plans work and sometimes they don’t.  Yesterday they didn’t.

This morning during my devotional time I decided to copy the verse myself from day one.  I’m already 4 days behind, but I didn’t think God would mind.  I just had this desire to start because I did not know what this morning would hold.

O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;  let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.  The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.  O come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  O that today you would listen to his voice!

There is so much truth beauty and truth in this passage!  What a wonderful praise to our Lord. But the part that particularly spoke to my spirit this morning was the last line, “O that today you would listen to his voice!”

For me there is a huge difference in hearing and listening.  I know I have this discussion with my children often.  To hear means 1) to perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something). 2) be told or informed of. 3) be aware of; know of the existence of.  To listen is defined as to give one’s attention to a sound.  Lord, let me not only hear from you, but obey your voice when I listen.

I don’t want to just perceive you saying something to me.  Let me listen and give my full attention to your voice.  Let me worship you with my whole being and heed what you are telling me.  Let my focus today be squarely where it should be_on you.  Let me yield myself to your voice and follow your will for me today.  I want to listen to your voice as you guide my interactions with my husband, my children, and anyone you choose to allow to cross my path.  I want to surrender myself to the blessing of your voice.

Amen.

7/26

Today is my birthday!  All week, as the day drew nearer, my mind was focused more on what happened on this day two years ago than on this being my birthday. Two years ago today our lives changed.

Two years ago movers packed us up and moved us out of the home we had lived in for 12 and a half years.

The home we bought when we dreamed of starting a family.

The home with the empty rooms when we thought that dream wouldn’t come true.

The home whose rooms filled with and sheltered family after Hurricane Katrina.

The home where I brought my 3 unexpected blessings from the hospital.

The home where I cried for the one that didn’t.

The home I had lived in longer than any other place in my life…HOME

Who would have thought so much could have been wrapped up in a building?

But luckily God reminded me that 7/26 wasn’t just moving day.  It was “Promise Day”. We were leaving our home, moving to another career and state, and making changes that some of our friends and family thought were crazy.  Looking with the eyes of the world I might have to agree.  Add a baby. Cut a salary.  Usually the two don’t voluntarily go hand in hand.  But God had promised some things if we would obey. This was our chance to not just talk faith.  We were going to have to walk this thing out.

Today at church when the pastor’s sermon was titled “The Work of Faith”, I wasn’t surprised.  My heart had been expecting a word especially tailored for “Promise Day” and I gladly received it.

Faith is not an option. (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith has to be a lifestyle. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Faith requires action. (ex. Noah, Abraham, Jericho)

As I celebrate another year by God’s grace, I look forward to walking hand in hand with this amazing man with an amazing faith.  I look forward to seeing God’s promises revealed.  I look  forward to the legacy this faith walk will produce for my children.

Our HOME is in the Lord.  He provides room where my family can grow.  He provides shelter. He provides comfort. And his promises are always true.

Happy Promise Day!  Happy Birthday to me!

Today I Thank God for Daddy

Today has been one of those days with too many tears.  Unbelievably, none of them were my own.  I felt like the kids were simply tag teaming and trying to see who would finish me off first.

I am an only child who now has three.  I guess I should be used to the days when I feel like an alien in my own home.  There’s the bickering, the competition with each other about nothing, the constant thought that things are not fair, and that I’m favoring one over the other when I thought I did the same thing for everyone.  There are times I feel like I’m floating in the Twilight Zone and today was one of them.

I’m sure many mothers feel the same way, but I am convinced only children are at a significant disadvantage in handling this insanity. At least that’s what I try to tell myself when I’m feeling completely unglued.  All of it is completely unfamiliar. I observed this strange phenomenon at the houses of friends and cousins occasionally, but the escape to my house generally shielded me from this terror.

All the lies that live buried in my head decided they would make a grand appearance today.

“3 kids…you really are crazy!”

“You’re a horrible mother.  Your have no idea what you’re doing.”_(That second part isn’t really a lie I guess)

“No child with a decent upbringing would speak to their mother that way.” i.e.  You’re a horrible mother.

“You are so obviously unfit to parent.”

“And you decided to homeschool too?!? You’re a horrible teacher! Pure craziness!”

We met with friends and received a bit of a reprieve, but not nearly enough to not get public school out of my mind, and then I heard the sweetest words I had heard all day, “Daddy’s home!”  What?!?  Really?  It’s early. Don’t toy with my emotions.  But it was true, Daddy really was home!  And it became pretty clear to Daddy that Mommy had reached her limit.  I am so thankful to God that he gave me a break exactly when He knew I needed it.  He didn’t want my children sitting out on the sidewalk anymore than I did.

Thank you for taking over the screaming toddler’s bath.  Thank you for putting on my favorite Pandora station because you know how much music soothes my soul.  Thank you for taking over the big kids’ night routine so I could have a moment to myself.  Thank you for coming in with your calm and not making me feel like the voices in my head were true.  Thank you God for this man you sent to share this craziness with me.

Playing in the Park-Two Different Worlds

I wrote this on my Facebook page on December 6, 2014.  My heart was so broken that day I could not contain my feelings of hurt, disappointment, and sadness.  It started a dialogue with many friends and for that I am grateful. With everything else that has been going on the last months and now the massacre in South Carolina that heartache is just as real as ever.

I am again having more difficult conversations with my children that I just don’t have the answers for, but I am willing to dialogue. I can’t live in denial and pretend it’s not there.  My reality stares me in the face every time I look in the mirror.  I leave my children vulnerable if I’m not willing to face these events.

Tonight, while looking at my Facebook feed, I was surprised shocked by how many of my Christian Facebook friends had posted articles on how to deal with the Supreme Court decision about gay marriage, but how many seemed to stay silent in response to the events in South Carolina last week. I am not saying South Carolina didn’t receive any commentary, but it was usually a quick caption, “Pray for South Carolina”.  It was nothing that addressed the hate that led to the killings or anything that talked about how to deal with healing our country of the hate that pervades it.

Last night, I listened to a video of a pastor who was not afraid to try and begin to process these things out loud.  It was a white pastor who stated a friend of his told him, the silence of his Christian friends was deafening about the things going on in this country.  I understood what he was saying, but today that silence grew even louder for me. I believe silence comes many times because people don’t know what to say or do, but sometimes not saying anything feels like you’re accepting things as the way of the world. I’m a talker and think it can always be a first step.

I’m including the post from December because unfortunately, that hurt is still fresh.  I hope someone else can benefit from the raw emotions I felt that day and be brave enough to try to learn about the experiences of someone living in a world different from their own.

On my way home just now, I saw 3 boys in the park playing.My oldest from the backseat says, “Mommy those boys have a rifle”. I replied, “I know. It’s a toy”.  Her response, “That looks dangerous.” I said, “It would be more dangerous for you and your brother.”

She and her brother obviously had no idea what I meant. So, I told them the story of the 12 year old boy shot by police officers while playing with a toy gun. I explained the phone call to the police and tried to answer as many of their confused questions as I could. But in the end I had to be completely honest and tell my 8 year old and my soon to be 6 year old that this country, this world, will always be a lot more dangerous for them than it is for many of their friends because of the color of their skin. I told them there are things I will have to teach them to keep them as safe as possible that many of their friends will never have to learn. I did not cry outwardly, but inside I am sobbing!

There is a serious disconnect that needs to be fixed in this country. No one can understand what it’s like to walk in this skin unless you’ve had to do it. No one can understand the heartache and the fear for your children many African American parents deal with each and every day, but you can try to understand if you are willing to hear things that may make you uncomfortable.

If you are my friend and I am the only African American you know, I am opening the floor for questions. Ask me about my experiences with racism. Ask me how old I was when I had to learn things were different for me. Ask me about the culture shock I experienced when I went away to college. Ask me what is was like to be forced to have a conversation with my children about their skin. I am not an expert on African Americans in this country, but I have a lot of personal experiences that may add a face to the indignities that you’ve been hearing about and I’m willing to share because this is just becoming too much. We have to talk about this stuff for the sake of my children and yours. Ask the difficult questions.

God uses those difficult situations to help us grow.

Trust and Obey

A little over a week ago, on what is typically our busiest day, the kids and I had a few adjustments to our schedule.  It was Monday, the day we normally meet our Classical Conversations group and have gymnastics class.  We also needed to fit in a trip to the store and a visit to the library.  In the hustle and bustle of the morning I forgot to give my son his allergy medications and by mid-day he had a headache and was developing a rash. I made a decision to ditch the plans for the store and to head home to give him meds and let him and my toddler rest for a little while.

After my toddler fell fast asleep, I decided not try to wake her to rush off to gymnastics, but instead take it as a sign that maybe we all needed to take a breather. The extra time allowed me to make a few necessary phone calls, but they seemed to suck some of the life out of me in the end.  When my son emerged feeling better, I decided I wanted to get out of the house, so we would make our trip to the library when my toddler finished her nap.  I wanted a change of scenery and a treat.

Normally, we have a snack after my toddler’s nap.  My son seems to have an internal timer that will not allow him to miss it.  He started asking for something to eat at 3 o’clock as he always does.  I told him I would rather just head out the door as soon as possible because we needed to get to the library.  They were instructed to pack their library bags and get ready to go.  He whined.  We left anyway. You would have thought I hadn’t fed the kid in days!  I refused to let that deter me from my plan for the afternoon.

There is a Starbuck’s located close to the library branch we use and when I pulled into the parking lot, my oldest two were so surprised and excited I thought they were going to jump out of their seats! Heading to Starbuck’s was out of the ordinary and a splurge for us.  They both started saying at the same time, “That’s why you said we couldn’t have a snack…you knew you were going to surprise us!…You knew…you knew you had planned something special!”.

Once inside they couldn’t stop talking about how I wouldn’t let them have a snack at home because I knew I had something better planned.  My son then said, “Why didn’t you just tell us Mommy? I wouldn’t have whined about a snack”.  I responded by saying, “I shouldn’t have to tell you.  Sometimes I just want to surprise you and bless you. That’s why you should simply trust Mommy and obey.  You never know what I might have for you”.  When I said those words they fell so heavy on my own heart I didn’t know what to do. I find myself whining about different situations far too often and God’s saying just trust me and obey. I know what I have planned for you (Jeremiah 29:11).  He does things I simply don’t understand and I wasn’t made to understand.  Sometimes He simply wants us to trust what He says we should do (Proverbs 3:5-6).

My big kids told me the snack I had chosen was so much better than what they would have chosen for themselves at home.  Wow! My heart was hit again.  What God chooses for me is always better than what I could choose for myself.  I know this.  My life looks nothing like the neat little plan I had.  I have proof of His faithfulness in so many areas of my life and still I fight to obey, just like my children.  How many times has my Heavenly Father had to drag me along while I whined saying, “No, I don’t want to go!” and he was thinking, “Just get your stuff together and do as I say?”   How many times has he wanted to bless me, but I refused to simply obey because I couldn’t see what he was doing?  How many times has said to me you only need to trust me and obey, but I’ve been too stubborn or scared.  I wanted to surprise my kids with warm milk for the afternoon.  God wants to bless me with life!(John10:10) How much more does He have for me or you if we would simply follow wherever He leads? Sometimes He is just waiting for us to stop talking or doing what we’re doing and OBEY.  If we don’t listen and go along we might miss our blessing.

When I shared my thoughts with my children, my oldest commented how it was like the time they lost an opportunity to go to one of their favorite places_ the bookstore.  My son heard me say, “Get dressed so we can go to the store.”  He pitched a fit because he thought we were going to the grocery store or shopping somewhere he didn’t want to go.  He didn’t realize I was trying to take them to a place they love.  Because of his bad attitude, the treat or blessing I had planned was taken away.  How many times have I stomped my feet at God and said, “Lord, I don’t want to go there or do what you’re asking not knowing the “surprise” God has waiting for me? I’m still kicking and screaming about my move to Georgia even though I know He wants to bless me in ways I cannot imagine.

God, forgive me. Thank you for the ways you use my time with my children to remind me of your love for me. I want to abide in you and walk in obedience (John 15:7). Let me obey you the way I want my children to obey me.  Strike that.  How much more should I obey you? You do much more for me than I can ever do for my children.  You are calling me to train my children to walk in obedience to your voice and mine. In order to do that, they must see my life as a living testimony.  As the song says, “Trust and obey, there’s no other way…”