1,000 years

Here I am again. Back to sending off a kindergartener, one of my boys who will never be home all day with me again. Perhaps you remember this post from 3 years ago…

I really, really, really didn’t think I would be emotional this time, and honestly I’m not (well, mostly:) ). However, I decided to go in and look at Elliott after he went to sleep on Kindergarten Eve like I did with Trevor. All these images of him flooded my memory like that Father of the Bride scene (which, by the way, my dad swears he still sees when he looks at my sisters and me. :) ) I remember when Elliott was three and I would say, “you’re my boy Elliott!” and he would reply, “you’re my girl Mommy!” I thought about all the times when he all out punches and attacks Michael when he pretends to “get” me. Elliott is my defender, my Knight in shining armor, my true little superhero. He’s passionate, which when he is angry means he is my little ticking time bomb. But I love that about Elliott, and I know God will shape that passion into great things for his future.

There is something bittersweet about Kindergarten. Elliott is an old five- he turns six in a couple weeks, so he and I both have been ready for Kindergarten for a while now. :) But as excited as we both are, there’s still a heart wrenching ache knowing that this is it. He never again will be home with me all day every day. I nurtured him, prepared him, taught him, and helped him grow for nearly six years, and now I send him off with a piece of me.

I am so thankful for the three souls I have been given to nurture. And in all honesty, I find that THEY nurture MY soul. They have made me less selfish. They have made me learn to embrace God’s plan for life instead of my own. They have taught me that life is designed to move along, not stand still, but to run with joy in each new step.

Whenever the song, A Thousand Years, comes on I tell the boys, “This is my song to you! I have loved you for 1,000 years!” To which Trevor replies, “Mom, you haven’t lived 1,000 years.” :)

But it’s true. The love I have for them gives me even just a glimpse of God’s great love for me. It feels like there was no beginning to it and there will be no end.

So here’s to you my Elliott, my kindergartener, my middle medium boy- may you know God’s love deeply and convey His love to others. May you be a light on a lamp stand, and the salt of the earth bringing out the God flavors of this world.

I have loved you for 1,000 years and will love you for 1,000 more. :)

 

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P.S.  These videos might be the death of me someday.  Two computers, 1,000 cables, and my blog host helping me with server issues later- video is up. This is where my stubborn determinedness comes in handy! Plus, it means so much to Christina who kept asking me when I’d have a video made.  Just kidding, I love the finished product too :)

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Christina’s Story

My sister Christina is one of my best friends, and someone I have always admired for her joy, perseverance, loyalty, and overall extroverted-ness (clearly, what I very much lack ;)  This past week she soared to a whole new level in my book.  I stood by and watched her go through one of the most heart-wrenching experiences you can go through as a mom, and I witnessed her come out refined by fire and shinier than gold.  This story may be characterized as Bennett’s story, and really overall it is God’s story of redemption and grace, but I think of it as Christina’s (and Tyler’s) story.  A beautiful picture and example of what it is to fully trust in Him who is able to do  immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…#ephesians3:20

#miracle

(Original Post on Christina’s Blog:

http://chobbspot.blogspot.com/2013/07/miracle.html )

Wednesday night everything was fine. I was enjoying my two boys, Tyler was at his kickball game, and I was just putting Cayden down for bedtime. Bennett and I were just watching some tv as Tyler got home from kickball. Something was bothering me a little bit, Bennett just hadn’t been eating as awesome as he had been since coming home from the hospital. I told Tyler and both of us remembered Cayden having a couple days that he didn’t eat as well when he was a newborn so I said I’d see how he did overnight and then call the pediatrician in the morning if it wasn’t the same still. Well, that night Bennett (who has been waking me up at night, as a newborn should) slept from 10pm to 5am. I woke up at 5 and woke him up and tried feeding him, he still wouldn’t eat a lot, he ate for a few minutes but still not the same. I put him back in bed and woke up at 7 and the same thing…

We left to go get our car from the Ford dealership, as it had been there for two days getting fixed. My pediatrician’s office is literally next door, so I called her and she said yes, bring him in, she had an appointment open right then. We took him to the pediatrician and she is seriously the nicest pediatrician ever. I have been going to her since Cayden was two months old and have seen her when Cayden is sick and healthy, and nothing has ever come close to how I saw her today. I could tell in her eyes and the way she was talking that something was wrong. They had taken his temperature, which was 95.8 (low) and when they took it, some blood was in his stool. Both indicators that something was wrong. [side note: I didn’t know until this whole thing that newborns actually fight infections with a LOW temperature, not necessarily high]. His was extremely low. She immediately said she wanted us to go to Dell Chidlren’s Hospital. She called ahead for us, so when we arrived at the emergency room they knew exactly what was going on. Of course I was a basket case, my baby was going to have to have all of these tests, and I was playing the blame game on myself and how I could have prevented this, etc. etc. Tyler was such a huge support on the car ride over, praying for all of this. It was rush hour traffic (about 9:30 am), but surprisingly, and by God’s grace, we got there in pretty good time.
We called both sets of parents and just to let them know what was going on and they both started praying and telling us to let them know what the ER said. That’s the last info they knew.
Tyler got Cayden out of his car seat, I got Bennett out of his, and we went inside. We thought we may be here a couple of hours because of the tests, so I was deciding who could come get Cayden, but I thought I’d wait until we knew more information regarding Bennett, before we called anyone.
They quickly got us back in triage, where they weighed him (he had lost 1lb since his weight check at the doctor on Monday), and they took his temperature again, it was down to 95.1. They took us down some hallway to a small ER room and we put Bennett in a hospital gown, and answered the many questions the Dr. asked. He was in his residency and told us he wasn’t very confident in what to do for Bennett because his only symptoms were not eating and low temperature, so he went and got his boss, the attending Dr. She was very nice and told us they were going to take a thousand tests to eliminate what it could be. We were perfectly fine with that. One of the tests was a lumbar puncture. They asked Tyler and Cayden to step out of the room and I told them I wanted to stay, so they let me.
The next part of the day is all super slow motion, and somewhat a blur. Unfortunately, I will never get this day out of my head. All I can tell you is while I was a complete mess emotionally, Tyler and I still felt and clung to God’s goodness all around us.
The Dr. and nurses in the room were all around him about to do the lumbar puncture when I saw all of his vitals they were monitoring drop, his arms dropped below his side (the Dr. was holding him up), his face go purple, and the Dr. yell, “Wake up baby, wake up baby,” as she started rececitating him. They got out a child size green bag and started doing CPR on him. I lost it. I was shaking. I was praying. After studying Genesis this year, all I could think about in this instance was Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac, because he knew God loved Isaac even more than he did. God spared Isaac due to Abraham’s faith. All in this 30 seconds of realizing my son was not breathing, I ran through this and I said in my head, “Lord, I am willing to give you Bennett, but please don’t make me do that.” I just kept praying that he would perform a miracle and save Bennett. Save my baby’s life.
The doctors and nurses all ran out of our room with Bennett, still doing CPR. They went to some huge room down the hall. I followed. Tyler saw all of us run out of the room, picked up Cayden, and ran towards me. I yelled down the hall, “Tyler, he stopped breathing!” I see my husband start running as fast as he can, holding Cayden, crying like I have never seen him cry. We are a mess. Cayden, was being so good, realizing something was wrong, and just playing with a toy car and reading a book that the hospital staff had brought him. I wasn’t worried about someone coming to get Cayden at this point, he can stay with us. We needed him. I couldn’t call anyone, I just couldn’t bring to life the fact that one of my sons was literally not breathing. I finally was able to call my dad, who I could tell was fighting back tears as well, and ask him to have all of BSF headquarters just stop and pray. I think my exact words to him on the phone were “Dad, he stopped breathing, please have everyone pray. Please just pray my baby stays alive.” He said he was on his way to Austin, and would get my mom. My mom kept trying to call but too much was going on, her voicemails were really hard to listen to. I couldn’t even understand her, she was a mess too. I had to delete them…I never, ever want to listen to those again. She was crying and praying in the voicemail, but I could tell her heart was not steady. She was afraid too. My mom is one of my solid anchors, and this was even too extreme for her. Next I called my mother in law, she was at a loss for words, and said, “Christina, we’re on our way.”
We were still in the giant surgery room at the end of the hall. There were probably 20 doctors/nurses surround Bennett, we couldn’t see him, we could only hear him. And it was silent. Tyler and I just kept saying, “Come on Bennett, cry, cry, cry….” But still nothing. It had now been, what seemed like a lifetime. I think it had really been 45 minutes of them just trying to save his life. One of the hospital social workers came up to me (just doing her job), and asked, “Do you know what’s going on mommy?” I felt like screaming! Yes I knew what was going on…my baby was not breathing. He was about to die. I just cried and said, “Yes, he stopped breathing.” She nodded and asked how I felt. Again, felt like screaming. But I said, “Well, I’m 8 days post-partum, plus this.” She just sat next to me in silence.
Tyler and I are just interlocked by our arms and interacting with Cayden, and praying out loud for the whole time we’re in that terrible room. Finally, the Dr. comes over to me and says a ton of things (again, such a blur), but I hear, “He is stabilized  for now, so we’re going to have the NICU come get him and take him up there.” Good, I was okay with that. We were at a children’s hospital, but the NICU specifically would know an eight day old baby, and would be taken care of even better (the ER Dr. was fabulous).
The NICU nurse arrived downstairs with the incubator shortly after. Finally I could see Bennett. He looked so grey, so small, and so helpless. A view a mom never wants to see. Tyler, Cayden, and I were able to ride the elevator with the nurses & Bennett, while they continued to bag him with air.
We arrive on the NICU floor and they run him into his hospital room. There are already three doctors in there waiting, along with about ten nurses. [Later on we found out that there are NEVER three doctors in one room. Bennett was in bad shape.] The doctors immediately start asking us a ton of questions, the same ones that we answered in the ER. I am trying to dig in my mind for the answers. At this point, I have no memory, no words. My mind is just clouded with thoughts of “what if my baby dies?” The doctors asked us to take Cayden out to the family room while they stabilize Bennett and start some tests (they still had to get the lumbar puncture). We took Cayden out to the family room where there were toys and books and balls.
Both Tyler and I have decided this was one of the worst parts of the whole day. The last time we were in a family room, was when our good friend Dr. Chuck died. We did not have good memories in the family room. Not only that, we were now going to have to entertain Cayden with the books and balls while in our heads we were unsure if our newborn was going to survive, and with both of us feeling like we just wanted to vomit.
We made a few calls while in the family room. We called a couple from our small group (as we were supposed to host small group that night…and wouldn’t be), and we called Tyler’s best friend at work so his work would be updated on why he wouldn’t be returning as soon as we thought, and I called one of our neighbors to update all our neighbors, as they wouldn’t see us home in awhile. We still held off on telling everyone because we just didn’t have an answer to anything yet, and also, we just couldn’t do it. The five phone calls we had made at this point were the hardest thing and the people we talked to could barely understand either of us.
I did get one phone call while I was in the family room. I didn’t talk, I just nodded, and she knew what I was saying without me even talking. My sister Jenni, who was in complete tears called. I picked up and said nothing, she said, “Elli and I are buying tickets and we’re on our way.” I said nothing in response but a head nod. But she knew I heard. I said, “I love you.” We hung up. I will forever remember that phone call.
Tyler and I kept glancing at the clock. Still playing with Cayden, we were wondering how much longer. We were preparing for someone to come in and say he didn’t make it. We were praying for the best. We were praying we would get to hold our baby. We just wanted to see him. We wanted him to be okay.
Finally, about an hour later (again, felt like a lifetime), someone came to get us. They taught us all the ins and outs of the NICU, and prepared us for a long stay here. But I didn’t care, I would be here a year, if it meant my baby was alive. We scrubbed in and were able to go into Bennett’s room. There he was. Laying in an incubator with an oxygen mask, chords, wires, pumps, monitors, a breathing tube. He did not look like Bennett, but he was alive. Praise Jesus, he had saved Bennett. We found out once they stabilized him that he had stopped breathing five times. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. But I knew Jesus had saved him. He spared his life.
I immediately ran to Bennett’s side and held his IV’d hand, just sobbing. I had no words except, “Hi buddy. Mommy loves you, daddy loves you, and Jesus loves you. He is holding you in his hands.” I think everyone in the room started crying.
The worst part was not being able to hold him. That’s why I had to comfort myself, knowing that Jesus was holding him. He felt the presence of someone holding him…he wasn’t just laying in an incubator.
Cayden kept pointing at Bennett, saying, “Baby?” I hated the question mark. You could tell he was confused. At this point I knew Cayden had to leave. Thankfully, my parents arrived shortly after. They got into the room, also in tears, and just hugged me. They talked to Bennett, and then grabbed Cayden (we tried to make it a fun big deal that he got to go be with Grandma and Grandpa). The three of them left for our house. We still didn’t have any answers.
Tyler and I just sat in Bennett’s room. All we could hear were the monitors beeping and oxygen pumping. We just cried. I’m running scenarios in my head. What could this be? Did I cause it? Is Bennett going to live? What the heck is going on?
Tyler and I listen to Matt Chandler (an amazing pastor from Dallas), and he has said before, “I have brain cancer and God is good. And those things can’t be in conflict.” I thought to myself, “Bennett is laying in the NICU and God is good. These things can’t be in conflict.”  If I learned one thing from my study of Genesis last year, it is that God is sovereign. Knowing this characteristic of him, I never doubted his goodness. Yes I was scared. Yes I was a terrible mess. But I never once doubted God’s goodness in and through the situation. He wasn’t punishing me, he wasn’t punishing Tyler. He had purpose in this “not to harm us, but give us a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
While we were just sitting and staring at our sweet little boy, Tyler’s parents arrived from Katy. Again, huge relief. Having all of our parents there was just what we needed. We were not alone. At this point, the only answer we had was that he definitely had an infection. And due to that infection, his body responded by dropping his temperature and becoming very lethargic. Lethargic to the point where, due to his age, he just wasn’t remembering to breathe. Now they just wanted to figure out what the infection was so that they could help him fight it. Our doctors were very up front with us (they were amazing) and told us it could be days before we knew what was going on.
About an hour later, they already knew the culprit. The lumbar puncture came back positive for meningitis. We were thrilled we at least knew what was wrong. But now we wait. We wait to find out if it is bacterial or viral. After Jenni had it a few years ago, I knew we needed to pray for viral. Bacterial could have permanent life injury, and would have at least a 3 week NICU stay, viral would be about a week NICU stay (or until Bennett was doing everything on his own 100 percent–breathing, eating, pooping, & sleeping), and would not cause permanent damage. The Dr. said we would know in three days, after the cultures grew, if it was bacterial or viral.
We began to pray this was viral. We didn’t wait three days. We waited three hours. AMAZING. According to his glucose, protein, and other levels everything was pointing to viral. Praise Jesus. And finally, a test they received late that night, confirmed it was indeed viral. They still kept him on the antibiotics, just in case any bacteria grew over the next three days, but they said very rarely do bacterial and viral co-exist. Thank you Jesus for giving us such a clear answer so much sooner than we thought. Of course, I was playing the blame game. How did my eight day old get meningitis? They assured me there wasn’t anything I could’ve done or couldn’t have done that would have mattered. That they believe he was born with it, as some babies are born with certain spores on their mouths that can either get certain viruses or can’t. Bennett’s could. [Remember everything was still a blur at this point so all I heard was birth, spores, blah blah blah–so I’m not 100 percent sure what exactly they said!]
Dell Childrens allows families to stay with the baby 24/7. Tyler and I were planning on staying in the recliners in the room with Bennett, but they actually had a “family room” open to stay in, with a double bed and a bathroom. We were able to stay in that room the whole time we were there and be with Bennett at any time. We were so thankful for that accommodation. I still wanted someone in the room with Bennett at night, though, and everyone wouldn’t let me (they all said I needed “quality” sleep…like that would happen after a day like today), so my mom & mother in law offered to switch out who was in the room every two hours overnight. What fabulous grandmas ;) Tyler and I were able to get some sleep, but I still woke up at 5am.
I woke up thinking maybe, just maybe, this had all just been a bad dream. But there I was, laying in mine and Tyler’s NICU bedroom. Not a dream at all, but at least Bennett was alive.
I went into Bennett’s room and my mom & Rose were sitting in there talking. I walked in and just cried. They both comforted me. I hated seeing Bennett in the condition he was in, and hated that I still couldn’t hold him. He could hear my voice, but he couldn’t feel my touch. He had gone 9 months hearing my voice right next to him, and then bam, he was all alone in this incubator. He looked so uncomfortable. He had wires coming out of his mouth, that made him look like he couldn’t move his tongue. He had oxygen over his nose which made it look like he was constantly struggling; and he had monitors all over his body which made him look all tangled. I just hated that he looked in pain and uncomfortable.
I think the nurse could tell I needed to hold him. She got him out of the incubator and asked if I wanted to. UMMMMM YEAH!!! I finally got to hold my baby. I just cried. I just held him and thanked God for him and just talked to him. He wasn’t opening his eyes but I know he knew I was there. I told him how much I loved him.
Since the meningitis was viral, they told us they were going to let Bennett determine all the action. If he looked like he could be off oxygen, they’d try it. If he seemed like he could eat, they’d try it. But they still prepared us for a long journey in the NICU. Less than 24 hours in the NICU and they said they were going to take off his oxygen. I was very excited but at the same time worried…what if it didn’t work. Tyler assured me if it’s not going to work, he’s exactly where we want him if he stopped breathing again. So true. They took him off of it around 8 am Friday. He stayed exactly where he needed to be for 24 hours! After the 24 hours, they took the oxygen completely out of the room!!!! My fighter had passed step 1 and my God had proved to everyone how sovereign and good he truly is.
While he was hooked up to the oxygen they would feed him my breast milk through a feeding tube through his nose. When he got off the oxygen they said we think he’s ready to eat! I tried breastfeeding but he was just so tired still. He’d latch and just fall asleep. So we did a bottle and he drank so much like a champ! Finally, Saturday morning, he was breastfeeding like normal again!
Little by little, Bennett was acting normal again. The doctors were amazed, we were amazed, and specifically his nurse was amazed. She had admitted him on Thursday and she told us much later (after he was almost 100 percent) that when they got him on Thursday the whole NICU floor didn’t think he was going to make it.
What a mighty God I serve.
By Saturday afternoon, Bennett had almost every pump, wire, chord, mask, and IV out! The only ones left were the heart monitors. The doctors did their rounds and said as long as nothing happened overnight, Bennett could go home in the morning. I know they were amazed at their answer as much as we were. We were thinking we’d be here much longer, but we were covered in prayer, literally around the world, and God heard, and not only answered, but went above and beyond. I am not surprised.
Sunday morning, we loaded Bennett in the car and got to go home. Finally, our family of 4 was together again. Cayden is so happy and we are thrilled to get back to “normal”.
I’m sure I forgot a lot of detail in the days he was at the NICU. Again, it was a blur. We are so thankful for our family who got to Austin as soon as they could. Our parents, Brandon & Rachel, and Jenni and Elli were here in a heartbeat. Our friends sent messages, posted on facebook, we received phone calls, our small group helped so much, as well as our neighbors! We were just smothered in love and prayers. Thank you for every prayer you prayed and any word of encouragement you sent. I could feel the presence of Jesus all around us and know that it is because of the prayers from all of you for peace.
As I look back I can see God’s hand in so many ways. His grace was surrounding the whole situation. Thursday morning, I didn’t shower. That saved us 30 minutes of time (He stopped breathing about 20 minutes after we arrived at the ER). We were already in Austin when we had to go to the hospital, if we were in Leander, he could’ve stopped breathing while we were in the car, depending on traffic. He didn’t stop breathing overnight, or even in the car where we wouldn’t necessarily notice. He stopped breathing with a ton of medical professionals surrounding him. By God’s grace, he was where he needed to be, when he needed to be there. God had everything orchestrated perfectly. I am both thankful and in awe.
I hope that through this terrible situation, Jesus’ light shined. I hope that he was glorified through little Bennett’s eight day old life. May he continue to be glorified the rest of Bennett’s life.
[These are hard and terrible pictures, but I feel like I need to post them to show how truly his life is a miracle that only God could do.]
In the ER before he stopped breathing:
All of the doctors and nurses around Bennett trying to get him to breathe again:
How Bennett was when they had him stabilized:
The first time I got to hold him. Does a Mama’s heart good:
Talking to him, telling him I love him:
Holding him for the first time:
Oxygen free!!!!!:
Taking his IV’s out!!!!:
Only a couple of monitors left!!
 Upgraded to a crib from a warmer (he was maintaining his own temperature):
First time breastfeeding again! Milk drunk :)
His fabulous day nurse he had all 3 days.
They think we’ll go home on Sunday!!!
No more monitors! Ready to go home!!!
The sign they made for his door :) We would rather not be in the NICU but they really do make you feel at “home” and special there!
Ready to go home…waiting to be discharged:
Home at last! All together :)

 

 

my girls

Two years ago, my friend Valerie called me exploring childcare possibilities for her two young girls. I had just finished up two years of childcare with a wonderful family whose children were going off to school, and I was looking for a new job myself.  What I got in return from that one phone call was so much more.

The school year began and I had five little ducks following me now. :)  We got Trevor off on the bus together, we played play dough, we went on bike rides to the park, we baked cookies, we did our “workbooks”, we “painted the bricks” with water, we went to Bible Study Playtime (BSF) on Tuesdays, and Bible Study Class Time (BSF) on Wednesdays.  We laughed together, cried together, and ultimately fell in love with each other as a special second family.

I love the verse Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I believe our cloud of witnesses are those that have had some part in our spiritual journey and forever cheer us on like those on the sidelines of a marathon.  Not only those here, but our cloud of witnesses that have gone on to heaven as well- the whole physical and spiritual realm.  For me to have even a small part in these young girls spiritual journey makes my heart full.  I love them and will cheer them on the rest of their beautiful lives as a part of their cloud of witnesses.

Something God is constantly teaching me is that life is designed to move, everything is a season, and life is filled with endings and beginnings.  So while our regular time together came to a close at the end of this school year, I rejoice in knowing that I invested some of myself in Brooke and Ashley, and hope that I in some part contributed to their life long spiritual journey.

They left me with this precious gift of roses on our last day, and each rose had one of “a dozen reasons we will miss you” attached.  As I read each one, my heart filled and I thanked God for my girls. 

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You are always so happy to see us…Helping you pick out your necklaces…We love Lily and that ‘crazy’ Link!…You love Jesus and teach us about Him…Having rest time in your bed…We love your hugs…Bringing you coffee to learn about serving others…You teach us fun new songs…Picking DVDs on ‘our’ day of the week…Bike rides…Pizza and Breadsticks…Going to BSF.  

A second blessing to me the last two years has been my friend Valerie.  While we were friends before, she has become one of my closest friends the past two years.  We have walked through everything from sickness to heartbreak together, and I wouldn’t pick another mom to co-mother with.  She is a woman of strength, courage, and humility, and I admire her greatly.  Thank you Valerie, for entrusting me with your children, and for becoming like a sister to me.  I love you, and your whole family, deeply. :)

The boys and I made this video to commemorate our time with the girls and Elliott said, “This video makes me cry in my head.”  My thoughts exactly, Elliott ;)

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fickle

Oh, summer.  I get so excited for you and I daydream about the endless days of sleeping in, not having to go anywhere and just lounging around the house.  I keep telling myself,  “Just wait, it’s almost summer break!” to get through each day of May.  Then, summer, you come and I almost feel like I missed something.  I still get up early with a wide awake 2 year old, and I putz around doing laundry and making meals and cleaning up dishes and putting away toys and running to doctor appointments.  Then I get in bed at night and think to myself, “Why aren’t you more excited?!? Why aren’t you more joyful!?! It’s summer break- what you’ve been WAITING for!” And my self says back, “Oh, but Fall will be better- two kids in school. ” :)

Oh just be still for a minute, my fickle, fickle heart.  I have a history of ALWAYS wanting the next thing, never living in the moment. I find myself with a serious case of permanent, the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side reasoning.  My poor boyfriends in Jr. High.. I would “go out” with them 1st period, and then “dump” them by 7th period.  :)  My heart always seems restless.  I have  a hard time just being still.  And maybe, just maybe, God is trying to teach me to be still?  Maybe He is trying to get me to realize that satisfaction doesn’t come through things or even life, but satisfaction come from abiding in Him.  When I’m not looking for satisfaction in the world, and just focused on Him, then I find more enjoyment in the little things.  The moment by moment things, not the big picture things and milestones.

Today I got up and instead of starting to clean the kitchen, I sat on the patio.  I talked to God while looking at the trees and the sky.  I watched the boys, while still in my pajamas, splash around in the inflatable pool (yes, it was only 7 am) and I just SAT.  I didn’t do anything- no chores, no magazine reading, no DVR watching.  Nothing.  When they ran up to talk to me, I looked in their eyes and enjoyed them.  I listened about nonsense things like bugs, farts, and dandelions, and talked WITH them not at them.  Does that make me seem like a horrible mom? :)  I mean I love them, but how often do I just go through life with each of them, not really just stopping to “be”.  Let me tell you its hard.  There are times I don’t want to sing the ABCs, or read Horton Hears a Who (that dang book is GIGANTIC), or play grocery store.  And I don’t think its necessary to do that ALL the time.  But, for me, I am trying to be more mindful to take time to do those little things, to enjoy them, and to savor each little part of the shared moment. Simon won’t always have the cute little voice  where his T’s sound like D’s, Elliott won’t always do his “pretty girl face” when he gets nervous and shy (well, maybe!), and Trevor won’t always tell super corny jokes that he thinks are hilarious. :)  I don’t want to miss all those “littles”!

So I guess what it all boils down to is that I’m selfish and I’m fickle, always looking to the next thing. :)  But my hope is in the Lord, who never gives up on me!  I’m thankful He will continue to do a good work in me ’til the day I die… #philipians1:6

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom…” Psalm 90:12

Here’s to you, summer.

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the winds are changing

The winds are changing, but I’m not exactly sure where yet!  My mind is racing, and I’ve had many failed blog attempts in the past few months.  I just don’t know what to say! :)

My heart is stirring.  It has been for a while now.  I’ve been in the restless-what-is-the-next-step-for-me stage for about the past year.  My kids are getting older.  Two will be in school full time next year.  I feel the season of change winds blowing! :)

I say this time and time again, but my passion is children.  I love their open hearts and vividness in life.  I appreciate that they say it like it is and they aren’t hardened by the world yet.  I feel like I have appointed myself as their advocate in many ways and I make it my chief mission to make sure adults don’t “snuff out their joy”- (I always say that too)

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood, and I knew I liked children back then, but I had no idea all God would do in my heart later in life.  About five years ago, God began showing me His love for people “not like me”, mostly spurred on by Scott Hodge at The Orchard (see: Not Simply Heart Tuggings…) my passion became Aurora children (I’m still intensely passionate for all children though, I just want to make that clear!)

Long story short, I’m learning Spanish, getting my Masters in Teaching in the Fall, and pursuing my Bilingual/ESL certification!  I can’t wait.

I started journaling earlier this year at the suggestion of Larry Boatright, and I must say its rather therapeutic.  I love to go back and see what I’ve written to God and how He has answered and where He has been silent.  I thought I’d share this little excerpt with you…I’ve covered up some things I’m not ready to share yet, but you get the gist. :)  I’m just trying to take one step at a time (a MAJOR area I need to grow in if you know me at all…)

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Dad

I am at a loss for words to explain how thankful I am for my two parents.  I have truly been blessed with a phenomenal pair.

I was the only (and best of course) child for 4 years.  I have such fond memories with both my parents.  I would snuggle with my dad and watch all the Chicago sports, and once he even fed me Kool-aid as an infant because I was hungry. :)  My mom would take me to Mommy and Me classes and would form playgroups so we could make new friends and learn new things. I remember we would go on adventures together during the day and dance around our living room in the evenings.  We would talk to our basset hound like he was the fourth member of the family, and I’d sit with my Sharp microphone singing along while my dad played the guitar and my mom lovingly cheered along. The three of us were best friends and I never doubted their intense love for me, which I’m finding out as I get older is a rare thing to find.

Having two sisters come along only made things all the better though.  We were now this tightly knit family of five.

And I love it.

My dad has always been musical.  When Christina, Elli & I were little he would often sing to us at night and play original songs he wrote from his huge plaid “Binder” that originated in his early teens.  We would happily sing along and giggle during ‘Turkey Strut” and “The Jewel Osco Song” and then have nightmares after “Who Took the Butter?” :)  We just thought my dad was amazing, he was our hero.

My dad loves to write songs.  I remember watching him write and perform his songs for weddings, for anniversary parties, for church events, even for funerals.  He would sing them with proud joy, but then they’d get tucked away in his Binder.  My dad poured out everything for the four women in his life for as long as I can remember. He took our dreams on as his own and sacrificed everything he is to make our lives better.

This Thanksgiving my dad shared with us that someone in Nashville sparked interest in one of his wedding songs, We Are One.  They wanted to produce a track to promote for vocalists/instrumentalists to use in weddings.  This afternoon he emailed me a track that they have produced and I can’t help but cry tears of joy.  I love my dad.  I am so proud to be his daughter.  His dreams are becoming realized and I can’t think of anyone more deserving!  I feel like it’s MY turn to pour into his life now, so I wanted to share this song file with all of you and tell him what a truly wonderful legacy he has left in mine, Christina’s, Elli’s, and my mom’s life- simply for being him.

I love you, Dad!

Love,

Your Proud Daughter :)

Listen to We Are One:

we-are-one

answer

Oh, “thefacebook.com”.  (haha, Tyler…)

How fickle I am with you.  I love you and your skill at keeping me up to date on what people are cooking in their crockpots and what they are washing their floors with, but I hate you for the competitive spirit you grow within me that I try so desperately to snuff out.

I love you for showing me pictures of my long lost friends, but I hate you for making me feel like I have to keep up with the Joneses.

I could go on.

But, in all seriousness, I like when I find serious and thoughtful questions posted by my friends. Larry, who I respect greatly, posted this question and I _seriously_ thought about it for hours and hours because I wanted to answer it just right.  Answer it just exactly how my heart really felt, but yet was so hard to put into words.

“What do you wish someone told you about being a parent?”

Oh my.

I knew I would love my child.  I knew being a parent would be ‘great’.  I knew that it would be sad when they left home forever.

But I didn’t know how deep my love for my child would actually be.  How my whole heart would ache for them to be strong, healthy, and happy.  How I would willingly sacrifice my whole self in any way possible to help them.  That I would conquer all my fears so that they would feel safe and secure.

I didn’t know that I would check to see if my sleeping newborn was still breathing multiple times a night.  Then still keep checking when he turned 1…and 7.  I didn’t know that I could jump out of bed to the smallest cry to soothe him, while only going on 1 hour of sleep myself.

I didn’t know just how unchanging my love would be for him. I would be spit on, hit by, yelled at, told NO by, talked disrespectfully to, and told I wasn’t their friend.  I would be cuddled with, slimily kissed, and told they loved me to the moon and back.  And the same hands that pushed me away, would reach up for me saying, “Mama, hold me?” and my love would grow even deeper.

I didn’t know that I would take on all their passions as my own, fighting in their corner, ready to “mother bear” anyone that tried to mess with them.  How I would launch into attack mode when anyone or anything tried to snuff out their Joy.

I didn’t know that my favorite Willow House hurricane would get shattered and my nicest Express shirt would get cut during their “art” project cutting phase, and that I would just think: “Eh, I’ll just go to Goodwill and find something new.”

I didn’t’ know that I would never _feel_ like I great Mom, that I would constantly be praying for God to grow me and keep enabling me to choose humility and extend grace.  That I would reach for every parenting book (albeit, not usually finishing them all) and research each new parenting craze.

But most heart wrenching yet heart thrilling to me: I didn’t know how desperately I would want them to know and love the Lord and bring Him glory in all that they do.  How I would regularly cry out to God to draw them to Himself and to meet them right where they are.  How I would pray that the Lord would enable me to hold them with open hands to Him and trust that He is sovereign, all the while knowing most of their growth will come from pain.

See, here’s the thing.  My love fails.  Yet, it is one of the deepest loves I know, the love I have for my sons. God’s love is unfailing.  For this beautiful relationship between a parent and child to even give us a glimpse of God’s perfect love for us makes me love Him, revere Him, and be overwhelmingly humbled by His faithfulness to me all the more.

Thank you, Larry. ;)

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despair

I have so many joyful post titles lately. ;)

Last week when I first heard the news break of this story, I responded as most people- in shock and utter dismay of the evil in this world.  I started crying hysterically as it sunk in- that this REALLY happened, and not far from my home.

That was a week ago and I still feel completely distraught by it.  Even to the point where I was unable to fall asleep for several hours last night, replaying in my head this young boy’s cries to spare his life and that he loved his mom, to please not do this.  I’d go back and forth between heart-wrench- mode and angry- revenge- mode where I envisioned myself in the neighboring house hearing the cries, and breaking into the house and attacking the mother and saving the young children from their brutal death.

This tragedy has me despaired, my heart cut to the core.

Maybe its because I have a 7 year old son.  I know his joy and his creativity and unbridled passion for the simple things in life.  This is the first year I see he is starting to figure out the hardships in the real world, and at the end of the day he finds refuge in me, his mom, who he knows would do anything to defend and protect him.  He finds comfort in knowing he has a loving, safe and secure family that loves him and supports him and that hovers over him in danger.

Maybe its because I am a mom.  My mother’s heart would give anything for my sons- anything they needed.  I feel defeated, beaten, drained, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the rest of them, but at the end of my hardest days as a mom, I would still lay down my life for one of my sons in a heartbeat.

But probably it is because of the reality of the presence of evil in this world. Murder, fallen economy, broken families, innocent bloodshed, war, sex trafficking, poverty, kidnapping, political corruption, starvation, disease, natural disasters, death.

But, my GOD is GOOD.

I feel like a lot of the time, I put God in a box.  I  start to think He thinks like I do, and is in control of my own little world.  But more than ever this year I am experiencing God’s power and might and how He is SO much BIGGER than me and my own worldview. I love how this commentary (on Genesis 6) says it:

“How great is God’s grace and patience with people, in Noah’s time and now!  Why does God not crush the ‘fool’ who denies His reality (Psalm 14:1)? Why does God wait patiently for the person who ignores Christ’s suffering and death to deliver him from sins of emptiness, and says he has no time for Him or His word? Christ said that the first and all-important commandment is to love God with all your heart, strength, and mind, and the second, to love your neighbor (Matthew 22: 37-39) The universal sins of continued, blatant indifference to God, of hate and murder, of sexual immorality, all demand God’s judgement.  Surely God should immediately act in His authority and justice by wiping out such personal ingratitude to Him that pollutes His world today.  Yet, God waits in grace, giving men, women, and children and opportunity to repent, or turn from their indifference, to believe in Him.  Have you pushed God to the margins of your life?  This is an illusion.  God is central in everything and will fulfill everything He has said.” (Bible Study Fellowship, Study of Genesis)

This was the charge given to a National Geographic photographer- “Celebrate what is right with the world, rather than wallow what is wrong with it.” (Thanks, Scott Hodge)

I find great purpose is that statement! The world is pretty terrible right now, but there are so many things that represent goodness and beauty! Michael’s devotion to me, Trevor’s passion in creating art, Elliott’s joy and loyalty, Simon’s decision to obey when he is told no :), my friend that builds me up and encourages me when I feel like I’m going to explode, the laughter between my children and their friends, the colorful sunset, a steaming hot cup of coffee (1st or 8th of the day…), a warm fire in a quiet napping house, whole, healthy foods to eat, a smile from a stranger, and the beautiful autumn trees.

I already feel better.  Something I learned a few years ago was that FEAR cannot co-exist with THANKFULNESS.  Now when I think of the two precious lives taken last week, I thank God that He is in control, and I am not.  He is good when the world is evil.  He loves those two children more completely and wholly than I can imagine and is making all things new.

So I am going to do as Christ said and love God with my whole heart and live a life of love.  With His power in me, I can breathe life, joy, and love into the broken world around me and reflect His glory and Hope for humanity.

 

 

 

dark

You know those days where your dogs dig up the backyard, but its so early in the morning that its too dark for you to see they did and when you let them inside all your white carpet gets covered in mud?  Or when you arrive home after a Target trip and realize they charged you twice for something, so you get in the car to head back to have it fixed only to back over the scooters your kids left in the driveway (while pedestrians happen to be crossing your sidewalk)?  Or when you’re upstairs with five children and you come downstairs to find your dog has burst through the screen door and bitten someone? Or when your job is draining you more than it once did? Or when your toddler hangs on your legs and cries while you make dinner?  Or when your friends leave you out?  Or when you clean up the kitchen for the thousandth time in one hour?  Or when you try all day to be a better helpmate to your spouse but fail miserably with one nasty remark?  Or when you forget all FIVE pre-story steps before telling the children’s story at BSF?  Or when someone runs a red light and hits your car with children in it (disturbing nap time besides)?  Or when that surprise bill comes in just as you thought you were all caught up? Or when your child decides to cut up their bedsheets and bedskirt with scissors and write all over things in his room with permanent marker?

I say all this (half) jokingly- I know others have much harder trials to walk through than me.  But I do believe life is hard for everyone is some way.  When everything just seems so overwhelming and you sit and stare at the wall trying to hold back tears (like I am currently).

My heart feels dark and gloomy.

But I KNOW God is faithful, and is the same and unchanging- regardless if I’m having a bad day or a good day.

I am studying Genesis this year, and even in just a couple months I have learned so much.  In Genesis 1 (creation of the world) the Hebrew word for God is Elohim- it describes God’s power and authority.  But in chapter 2 (creation of man) the Hebrew word used is Yahweh Elohim- it describes God as a person and His personal revelation of Himself to humanity.   I LOVE this.  Though I’m in such a gloomy season in my  heart and emotions right now, my faith is stronger than ever, and I yearn to know Him more deeply each day.  “Satisfaction and joy must be found in our Creator and His purpose for our lives.” (P.S…..All of this was from Bible Study Fellowship, study of Genesis)

So, I trust Yahweh Elohim, Lord God.  I know that not every day is going to be ideal. But I know the Lord never leaves me to do it on my own.

 

Stacy Leigh Lisi

I know I say this whole song and dance every time, but, Stacy is my mom’s college roommate Cindy’s (lovingly known as Cinne Binne) daughter.  So we have -actually- been friends since the womb.  And she just got married, to a great guy, Andrew Lisi.  So now her name rhymes. :)

Stacy is one of those friends that you can go a whole year without seeing (or even talking to  because of both of your phone phobias), but pick up right where you left off when you see each other again.  Like no time or distance ever separated you.

I have so many fun memories with Stacy it is hard to even count.  When we were 3 & 4 years old we decided it would be a good idea to paint my Grandpa Al’s work van.  It was dark brown so obviously we thought it would be best to use white shoe polish.  And once I even convinced her to get IN the van with me and I pulled the gear shift down and we started rolling down the driveway.

Also that year we made a guest appearance in my dad’s and her mom’s musical show at the retirement home.  We cried and pouted because we wanted the dress up clothes the other one was wearing while singing Ain’t We Sweet, though we were being anything but sweet.

At age 9 & 10 we started going downstate together.  Downstate was one of the coolest Daddy/Daughter activities in the Birkeneder family.  When you turned 10 you got to go with Dad and Grandpa (and any other poor male soul of our relatives that wanted to go once us girls started going) to the Illinois High School Boys’ Basketball Tournaments in Campaign (later Peoria).  Being the eldest in our families, Stacy and I were the first girls to go on this all male weekend.  I think we forever changed “downstate”.  Instead of watching the games, we bought nachos, then ice cream, then hot dogs, then Pepsi, then cotton candy, then threw up all over the taxi.  We would drag Dad & Grandpa Al to the nearby mall to take pictures in the overpriced photo booth while sporting our huge gaudy basketball earrings. We spent all our money from the winning pools (don’t tell our moms or anyone else for that matter that we were underage gamblers) buying stickers from the sticker machine at Pizza Hut (smartly thinking we would sell them for profit when we got home).  And then we fought with each other and cried when one would win a pool and the other wouldn’t. One year we fell madly (seriously, it was obsessive) in love with one of the high school players- Alfredo Jimenez from Maine West.  We even stalked out where he would be after the game to get his autograph while we hysterically sobbed.

When we were 10 & 11 we started spending some of our summers at Camp Timberlee in Wisconsin.  We carefully shopped for matching outfits for every day of the week, including our denim ruffle shorts and side ponytails.  We would always room together and never leave each other sides and make sure everyone in the cabin knew WE were best friends so they wouldn’t infringe upon us.  In the middle of the night we would crawl into our bunks together and worry that we were blind because we couldn’t see anything, and nervously search for a flashlight just to make sure.

When we were in our teens we shared a profound love for all things Hanson and JTT .  We convinced ourselves we were marrying one of them and lovingly agreed upon who got which one (Stacy: Zac and Me: Taylor…Jonathan Taylor Thomas dropped out of the running when Hanson came along).  We decided the best way possible to make this dream a reality would be to form an all girl band ourselves.  So we reigned in our sisters and we became: Purple Daizee.  We co-wrote many one hit wonders and videotaped ourselves singing/dancing to them in the basement so we could send our videos to the Hanson brothers.  Making them fall in love with us, of course.

Stacy and I laugh about all these episodes and more whenever we get together. But there’s a distinct, life altering memory I have with Stacy that I don’t even know if she recalls.

My freshman year in college was rough. We had just moved to Texas and even more life shattering than that to me was that Michael and I broke up.  I started a new life in Texas, a double life.  I was good at playing the part of “good Jenni” when I needed to, but with my new friends I partied.  Hard.  And I got myself stuck in a web of alcohol, drugs, and sex.

At the end of the summer, right before I was going to start my sophomore year, Stacy came to visit.  She was getting ready to start her freshman year at University of Illinois.  While Stacy was there I tried to hide my “bad Jenni” side, though I’m sure she knew.  She met all my friends and was incredibly gracious to them all.  She was relevant, but unchanging and never wavered from who she was in Christ.  She was real.  When I was with Stacy that week, I felt my old self start to emerge…my real self that I had shoved away that year. I remember feeling God awake my soul again.

Stacy’s flight left early one morning before I was awake, but she left me a note on my pillow.  I remember finding it and getting up to read it before it was even light out.  In it she thanked me for spending time with her, told me she was thankful for our friendship, and that she was praying for me and all that God would do through me that year.  I broke down and cried.  I laid on the floor and just cried and cried.

God had been working in my heart that whole year, but He used Stacy in a major way to bring His prodigal daughter back.  She was the vessel that saved me from a life of destruction and despair.  I firmly believe God used Stacy to redirect my life.  She was loyal, faithful, loving, and gracious.  She didn’t judge me or correct me, she just loved me and prayed for me.  I will never forget what she did for me that summer.

And actually, if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have gotten back together with Michael that year, married him that next summer, had 3 beautiful boys years later.  So Stace, you’re the reason my family exists. :)

I have a love/hate relationship with the journey we are all on in life.  I love the mystery of God and the excitement of seeking Him and joy in knowing Him.  Obviously life has some rough places, a lot of mine have been self inflicting, but I’m thankful for a God who redeems.  He is faithful, loving, and gracious and waits for me.  Thank you Stacy Leigh Lisi for being such a beautiful living example of Christ.