Friday, November 16, 2012

Fall Back Into Faith Fridays - Part 10 Fun

I can't believe our fall study is almost over!  We've tackled Faith, Family, Fortune, and now, in the last part of Fall Back Into Faith, we take these final weeks to tackle FUN!  What fun!  Also, drum roll please, my new website goes live Monday.  There will be some fun giveaways and some series I'm rolling out, so I will try to make sure this redirects to what will be www.gindivincent.com next week!

I think a lot of folks, even those that have had a longstanding relationship with God, disassociate their faith and fun.  That's a shame because they should work hand in hand and your faith should inform the decisions you make in the "fun" aspects of your life. 

Today we're going to look at some Christianity misconceptions about what a faith-filled life looks like.  Next week we'll take a look at things to consider when you're having "fun," and our last week will focus on friendships, one of my favorite topics!

Here are Two Common Myths About Christianity: 

(1) If you’re a Christian, then life will be all suffering (using scripture like II Timothy 1:8 in a silo);

(2) If you’re a Christian, then life will be all blessings (using scripture like I Chronicles 4:10 in a silo).
 
God gives us extraordinary joy that could not come outside of following Him   Did you know that there are 72 references to suffering and 242 references to joy in scripture?  God is a fan of fun.  I want everyone just to hear that statement.  My grandaddy minister, who was one of the funniest people I've ever known, always gave great examples of God's sense of humor that started with the duck-billed platypus and ended with his hair loss!  However, the road is not joy-filled all the time.  The really key thing to remember is that if you are living in a time of blessing or of suffering neither, that fact alone does not reflect the depth (or lack thereof) of your walk with God. 
 
So today, let's just look at what Scripture shares about God's love of fun, and remember that Jesus' first miracle was performed at a wedding feast!  Talk about fun!
 
Zechariah 8 - This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there….” This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
 
Ecclesiastes 8 - So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun….

Nehemiah 12 - At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem.

Esther 8 - And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.

Deuteronomy 16 - Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

Psalm 149 - Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.
 
{See also the Parable of the Lost Son, Luke 15 (when he came near the house, he heard music and dancing);  and Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, John 2 (the wedding feast!).}

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Change of Plans

I had this great post planned for today - the final installment of my big decision series.  It went the way of all of my meetings and plans for today: out the window. 

I had late meetings last night so, despite a few runny noses and innocuous cough when I left yesterday morning, I expected nothing out of the ordinary when I got home and the kids were in bed.  I think that is why I am still stunned as I sit and type this.  I've been up since 2:30 am today (it's 8 pm now and Bray's putting the kids down after my extended shift).  The baby has asthma.  I will never adjust to how a little cold turns into a croup and then into a battle for him to breath.  When morning officially dawned, I'd been up for hours with the baby and our albuterol inhaler ticking down the moments til the doctor's office opened.  As the sun peaked out, all three kids had coughs and fevers. 

My nanny had the day off due to a death in the family.  Bray and I had cobbled together coverage so we could make the umpteen meetings we both had at work today - school covered us in the morning, he'd do drop off, I'd do pick up, and we'd have a sitter cover the afternoon til my mom could come after work.  That all went out the window because you can't leave really sick kids with someone who doesn't know them and you certainly don't go to school.  Bray stayed with two while I rushed the baby into the first appointment of the morning.  Dropping oxygen, tight chest, breathless, speechless.  I cried as I asked the doctor if this was going to be a forever thing because I never get used to it.  She entertained him while I composed myself.  (She's awesome by the way.  She said, no, it's not forever, and you haven't had any sleep.)

I cancelled all my meetings and left my iPhone, that I delusionally thought I'd use to check in with work, somewhere between the bathroom and the kitchen as we ran between fevers, vomiting, coughing, shaking, crying, and utter exhaustion.  Me and the kids.  I wondered if I'd ever had all three this sick on the same day.  I remember a particularly excruciating bout with a stomach virus we all five had but even that unfolded over about five days.  Today, I'd successfully get one fever under control only to have another spike.  I'd get lunch made only to have one cough so violently that it was all lost. 

This is the weirdest thing.  I never screamed.  I never lost my temper.  I never regretted not being at work.  I never felt frustrated this was the day the nanny ended up gone.  I felt relieved to be the one here.  I felt this immeasurable surge of love and protection and compassion for these beautiful sick people that laid on my lap all day and held my hand.  I felt like a mom.  And only a mom.  I felt no tug of multiple commitments today.  I did no multi-tasking.  I just fixed kids. 

The other post will come.  The meetings will occur tomorrow (regardless of if I get any sleep tonight).  But today I am reminded that sometimes a change of plans can be a gift.  Even under upsetting circumstances, God works wonders.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Big Decisions - Part 2

I wrote yesterday about this season of big decisions.  I crave not only security in my life, but I also crave KNOWING.  I want to know the outcome.  I want to plan it and plan for it.  The interlude period, when I know decisions must be made but I don't know what awaits across the threshhold, drives me crazy.  No matter what it is.  Sometimes the decision doesn't even directly affect me, but I have to help make it.  It's the decision making, that will it be yes or no, that unsettles me. 

The other problem is that, at times, I doubt God despite my best efforts not to.  I think sometimes people of faith, or even people of no faith, think that if you follow where God leads you won't be as happy if you walked your own path.  Can I just say, that's insane.  This amazing, full of grace, loving, faithful, patient God is not going to take you down a path that will depress you. 

So how to pray in this interim period.  I keep praying those prayers for wisdom and for discernment and for stillness that I prayed yesterday. I am also praying for a recognition of how much BIGGER He is than me and how He craves to lead me into a good land.

Ephesians 1, one of my favorite passages, says, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. "  (Don't you love that Paul says, "I keep asking?"  It's always been a process.)

I know I shared Psalm 37 yesterday, but doesn't it fit everyday as we pray for God to lead us and to act? "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this...Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." 

And then this:

For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,   
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 64)

Thursday I'm going to share the final portion of my prayers and really focus on the "hopes and dreams" part of it all.  This book called Circle Makers by Mark Batterson is building on so much of what I'm seeing partially revealed on God's bigger plan.  Bigger than a single yes or no decision.  Because all of this, it's all bigger than one decision.  It's building to a crescendo. 

And I know this one thing, when I don't have any words to pray, when the wisdom seems a distant prize, I still can pray and trust His wisdom to find the right words: 

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed....We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Big Decisions - Part 1

We have some big decisions to make.  Bigger than normal.  I'm not always a fan of big decisions.  They are hard.  Even the good ones.  I worry I will make the wrong decision.  I often pray God will close all the doors except the one I am supposed to walk through so I don't make a mistake. 

But here's the thing:  that's a cop out.  That route allows me to avoid responsibility.  That "only one door" prayer doesn't require me to sit still and listen for God's voice.  If there's no "choice," then I don't have to read the Bible or pray hard or seek the Godly counsel of others because everything is done for me. 

The other problem with that is maybe the answer is stay put.  Maybe I should not select the one available option because I might be required to wait.  The decision might be no decision, for now. 

As I face these big decisions, I think of all the life decisions that I have been confronted with or my friends and family have had to face.  I remember my mother having to make a decision about maintaining life sustaining treatments for my end-stage Alzheimer's grandmother.  She is possibly the most amazing person that I have ever encountered in my entire life and, had it been up to me, I probably would have made a different decision because I would have been unable to let go.  Selfishly, and without God's guidance, I would have just kept her here with me, even though I knew she was already gone.  One of my dearest friends had to make the choice to stay in her marriage after one of the most trust-breaking, heart-aching breaches of a marriage I have encountered.  Selfishly, and without God's guidance, I would have run for the hills without praying and understanding that redemption for him and my family was even an option.  She made the better choice and her life and their family stands in testament to her allowing God to make the choice.  I moved cities, and left a wonderful life behind me, including a person I thought I would marry, because God essentially picked my resistant butt up and relocated me because He KNEW this was His plan for me.  And I have known so much more fulfillment, from finding the real man God had for me to marry to job success I couldn't have fathomed, because I let God do the decision making. 

So this week I am praying.  I am studying what God has to say about all of this, stuff like His direction for wisdom and peace, and I am sitting quietly to know better what I should decide in the months ahead. 

I write this because maybe you have a big decision too.  Maybe you would rather skip out on the hard decisions than fully participate with the leading of God's guidance and revelation.  I know how nerve-wracking it can be.  As a girl who is a huge lover of security and stability, change decisions can unnerve me.  But they can also unleash me.  These choices can untie me from the sameness of my safety zone and release me to do what God has planned.  They can wake me up from the coma of continuity.  They drive me to know God more and to listen constantly and intently to what He calls me to do. 

I pray for wisdomGod gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.  (I Kings 4)
I pray for discernment:   Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king...But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong." (I Kings 3)
I pray for stillnessTrust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this...Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.  (Psalm 37)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Back Into Faith Fridays - Part 9 Fortune

Happy Friday and welcome back to our ninth installment of Fall Back Into Faith and final look at the third topic, "fortune" (for those of you new to us, you can check out three weeks of faith and family in past posts). This week, we are looking at God's call for us to be generous, after now having acknowledged Him in our work, doing what we are called to, and working hard!

I struggle with what generosity looks like in my life.  My husband and I make a comfortable living.  I live a very different life than I did growing up.  And I love giving.  I have no problem donating to World Vision or supporting hurricane relief or giving clothes and furniture away to those in need or writing a check out to my church.  But if I don't have to give anything up, is it really generous?  If there is no sacrifice and I still buy the new shoes and go out for a tasty lunch at work and buy the kids a room full of birthday toys, is it generous?  I don't know. 

Here are three things the Bible says about generosity, among many, and the rest I think is a personal decision between you (or me) and God:

1.  Don't just give generously, do it JOYFULLY! 
"Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward [the] poor and needy in your land."  (Deut. 15)

2.  If you have, then share.  And don't get caught up in what you have. 
"Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." (I Tim. 6)
"Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." (John 6)

3.  The more He has entrusted you with, the more He expects. 
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."  (See Matthew 25 - see also II Corinthians 9 below)


Further Reading:  Deuteronomy 12; II Corinthians 9, Luke 19, I Timothy 6

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy Two Year Blog!

I just realized this week that I had MISSED the two year anniversary of my blog in October.  It has grown so much this past year that I feel tremendously blessed.  Even more exciting, this month I will launch the blog on a new site, gindivincent.com, so stay tuned for some really fun details and give aways as that happens. 

Last year, I celebrated my top five blog posts of the year.  This is so hard because I've written over 400 blog posts which means I'm writing about 200 posts a year.......how to pick!?!?  But in keeping with my tradition, here's my favorite posts from Year Two - cannot wait to see how year three unfolds:

5.  Losing Mothering - This post resonated so much in my own life, and then I found it resonated with other moms too who feel often like they just can't keep up with all that spins around us.  A theme in many of my posts is that mothering is hard but such a gift from God.  (Also, if you missed it, I got some great tips from moms on how to manage the coming home from work chaos in Triplet Tot Two-Step!)

4.  Clutching v. Releasing - I still struggle with this.  I realize that I can be such a control freak that reading this post helped me to go back and remind myself I need to let God stay in control. 

3.  Easter Madness, Part 1 and Part 2 - This is just so funny to me.  Easter - the celebration of our Risen Lord or...the way for commercial ventures to milk you dry.  I became overwhelmed with all there was to do for two year old triplets at Easter.  Hopefully, I will "check out" of the madness next year and really focus the kids on the sacrifice of our Lord. 

2.  The Night Before Nightmare - Okay y'all, this and its follow up post (Insert Expletive Here - which everyone remembers because of the poop-smearing) totally crack me up now because we're still dealing with this nuttiness.  It's so weird to think that this was the year they learned to scale their cribs (which I wrote about last November) and that we converted to toddler beds, back to cribs, and back to toddler beds.  There is no keeping them in.  They scale the gate every night still to this day and wander around the house.  It's nuts.  I need to separate them. 

1.  39 Things - This was interesting because I actually got traffic from NYTimes Money blog which inspired the article, so this was my second most read blog post. This post impacted me tremendously because of what it taught me about living in, and not above, the excess. I did follow up posts over that three week challenge of reducing the glut of overspending and over-acquiring - the Second Part showed me how much I needed to get rid of, the Third Part resulted in me being stuck having eliminated the low hanging fruit, and the Finale had me outraged at how susceptible I'd become to it all.   I want to teach my children differently. 

One that didn't make my list, but received the most "hits" because it was a link up to my friend Kelly's blog, was a post entitled Triplet Nursery - it was fun to go back and see how orderly that room was with babies!  That post, and the posts about our trip to Disney, were the most read but aren't my favorites (it's my earlier posts that practically only family read that I love the most).  I had five honorable mentions last year, so I'll do it again:  These remind me of how far we've com - The Terrible Triplet Twos (and The Sticker in My Panties); This one summarizes how so much of my life is about the amazing women in it - Four Friendships You Gotta Have;  I don't write about marriage much but I love this because I still struggle with telling my husband "how" to do things - How To Get to San Antonio; This one just shows how much God reveals to me through the actions of my kids - Smiling Defiance.  Oh, and this one explains why I keep doing all this, I really think I'm being called to some God-space I've not yet seen......Through The Tears, The Vision Reappears.

I hope you all will hang in there in the next couple months as I do some more growing with you and even grow on over to a new platform.  Your words of empathy and encouragement have made me love writing/blogging even more - thank you for sharing my life. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote America and Table Grace

I had planned on writing this post about voting because I actually love politics and have voted in every election since I could (which happened to be 1992 - yikes!).  And I still do want to mention it because I think it is such a valuable part of being an American.  But I also have to mention the amazing gift that was Table Grace last night as well.

Little bit and I voted together weekend before last when the boys were gone.  Early voting has been nuts here in Texas, lines every single day, but luckily we only had to wait about 20 minutes to vote.  I talked to her about what voting is and how everyone has different opinions but that is what makes our country great and everyone should vote.  Little bit took baby and proudly displayed our voting slip on the way out: 
I love what Beth Moore wrote on her blog yesterday - I love that it wasn't about a candidate but rather but what we, as God's people, could pray for the candidates.  I encourage you to read some of the scriptures and prayers that were left.  There's a hymn that I can still hear my Grandaddy and Mimi singing at the piano, harmonizing their voices.  Those words are looping through my head today:
 
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand
.
 
No matter who you support, I hope you take this as encouragement - our hope is only in one man.  By way of transition from Vote America to Table Grace, check this out:

This is one of the AMAZING tables at Crosspoint Church's Table Grace last night.  I desperately wanted to go because Jen Hatmaker was serving as the keynote speaker, but they were SOLD OUT!  A darling friend of mine that I met in North Carolina at SheSpeaks! (of all places) had an extra ticket last minute, and called yesterday morning to invite me.  As fate would have it, I had dinner already in the crock pot before I left for work and Bray said he could manage so I went.  Before Jen spoke, we had dinner and the folks all decorated tables.  Talk about a million ideas for you Pinterest-ers.  The above table's theme featured "Vote America," but the over 50 tables featured themes from tea time to adoption.  Y'all, these ladies brought everything from the linens to the tableware, glassware, place cards, and favors!  Here's some of the really cool ideas.
 
A"camping" theme with a backpack centerpiece and the cute "favors" were the ingredients for s'mores in a jar, adorable!
 
A "French" picnic theme but the place cards were written into the napkin rings with a sprig and the favors were take home TREES!
 
 
There was a lot of Christmas, which I loved!  Here's two - the first one had flocked trees as the centerpiece with Christmas china and the favors were mini Christmas snow globes in tea cups!  The second theme was "presents" and had gorgeous presents as centerpieces with a Christmas frame in an open "present" as favors/place cards. 
 
 
 
 
Here's a few more for your viewing pleasure, I wish I could post ALL 58!


(From top to bottom:  Beach theme with shells on the plates and burlap covered chairs, Jesus "Saves" themes with coupons as chargers and place cards and a grocery basket full as a centerpiece, Princess theme with castle centerpieces and place cards on napkins, ice cream cone theme with precious felt ice cream scoops as favors and ice cream tubs/cones/toppings in jars as a centerpiece, Thanksgiving theme with these pretty wicker chairs with the "place cards" as names strung on the back of the chair, and Christmas china theme all with reds and golds which I love!)
 
As much as this all made my little Martha Stewart heart swoon, nothing prepared me for the absolutely mind blowing message Jen Hatmaker brought.  She has an incredible ability to be funny and relatable and yet totally grounded in the Bible and the message Jesus has to offer.  As many times as I have heard a sermon on the Samaritan woman, I had never heard it taught like this.  One of the many things that really stuck with me was her discussion of the woman's reaction after Jesus acknowledged that she had been married five times and was yet living with a sixth man.  Jen said, Jesus did not overlook her sin, but neither did He overreact.  As a result, instead of her hiding in shame, do you know what she did?  She ran and told the village, which clearly had ostracized her for her wanton-ness, that this MUST BE THE SAVIOUR.  And because of that, Jesus stayed for two days, despite all social conventions which demanded He stay away from Samaria, and many came to know Him.  He used a woman, with a immoral background, as a mighty tool and also lavished on her grace to know redemption and acceptance.  Such a powerful story.  If you ever have a chance to hear her teach, you must go.  


Monday, November 5, 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences

I wanted to record this for posterity.  I had parent-teacher conferences for the kids on Thursday.  This year they have two amazing teachers.  The whole family adores them and it has been such an incredible learning environment. 

However, as you may have read from time to time, the terrible twos did not magically disappear on the triplets third birthday.  In fact, while there is less running off willy nilly into danger, there is more defiance and boundary testing which Bray and I are befuddled on how to manage.  We want respectful kind children that are independent but also obedient. 

Apparently, that's what we have.  The teachers regaled me in nothing short of glowing terms of the children and their manners and their learning.  They said they were the only kids that clean up their snacks and cups after snack time without being asked and then go back to help the other children.  They said they are confident and smart.  They showed me the numbers games they play with everyone to teach them number associations and described how the kids have it mastered.  They said the trio read all the time, especially the baby, and all listen attentively during story time.  The kids even all play well with others and are obedient and each have their own group of friends. 

I am not sharing this to say my kids rock.  Well, my kids rock, but that's totally not the point.  I have felt like the biggest failure of a mother lately.  Our house is complete bedlam.  Table manners are abysmal.  When Bray told the eldest he couldn't sit at the table with a ball cap on, you would have think we murdered his pet.  When we put the baby in time out because he wouldn't sit down at the dinner table, he burst into the most insane temper fit you've ever seen and I thought he was going to hyperventilate.  We all tried to go to the grocery story yesterday, but they would not sit in the cart and grabbed everything out of the vegetable bins.  Bray had to take the eldest out to the car meanwhile I was inside with the other two and the little lady was pulling my hair out and knocking things off the shelf.  As we loaded the car up, the three simultaneously wailed like we were beating them and I looked around to make sure no one was calling the cops.  It is warfare people. 

Yet on Thursday afternoon, I sat with these amazing women who teach my children every day, and they said, "Whatever you are doing, it is working.  Your kids are such a delight to have in our class every day."  One particularly precious gift was how they went on and on about the little lady.  Sometimes I worry because I feel like she doesn't have as big of a champion as the boys.  Bray and I love the kids equally but the eldest has an incredibly close relationship with Bray's father, which I love watching grow, and the baby has an incredibly close relationship with my mother, in part because he reminds her so much of me, but the little lady doesn't really have that.  I think some of that stems from the fact that she IS so independent and fearless and dances to her own beat, literally and figuratively.  But the teachers shared how loving and bright and joyful she is.  They shared that when they do the alphabet song with the phonetics on the wall board, she stands up and "teaches" the class.  They said she is so incredibly confident presenting and she loves to serve as a teacher.  They talked about music class and how our little bit dances with every ounce of energy in her body - from her toes all the way up to dancing with her eyes.  They said her face exudes this joyous passion. 

There is so much that we don't see at home as parents.  There is so much of what we pour into our children that they pour right back out into those they encounter and we never know.  Except for parent teacher conferences and grandparent reports and friends' moms sharing. 

I want them to know, if they read these post twenty years from now, that from an early age they had such passion and strength and courage and self-initiative and intellect and humor and joy and curiosity and compassion and fortitude.  I want them to know that even on the hard days they were so so so loved.  And I want to remind myself of what a gift this whole chaotic journey is. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall Back Into Faith - Part 8 Fortune

Happy Friday and welcome back to our eighth installment of Fall Back Into Faith, our fall bible study for working women.  We have wrapped up looking at faith and family and are in the middle of "fortune."  Last week, we looked at doing what God has called you to do and acknowledging Him in what you do.  This week, we are looking at God's instruction to WORK HARD!  And next week we will look at God's call for us to be generous - with our money but also with our time and talent which certainly are part of our "fortune." 

Some of us may have seen the words of Proverbs 31 more times that we can count - other may never have read it.  Let's just say this chapter describes one busy busy woman:  "She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night."

Don't you love this?  I think sometimes we see push back from some corners of the faith based community about working women, but this "ideal" woman described by the Bible is working full time.  SHE provides food for her family.  SHE buys a field.  SHE plants the vineyard.  SHE makes sure her trading is profitable.  Is this a crazy busy business woman or what?  

There are over 500 references to work in the Bible - that is a book that tackles work.  The one thing we learn from all corners of the Bible though is that you must work hard.  Be diligent.  Don't give up.  Stay faithful. 

But those of you overwhelmed by all of this work and life spinning around you, I have encouraging words of action for you.  Rest.  God also commands us to rest.  Maybe we're so frantic because we haven't taken a moment off in three years. 

So today, work hard when you work, take some time to rest, and give Him the glory. 

Work Hard:  2 Chronicles 24 - The men in charge of the work were diligent, and the repairs progressed under them; 2 Chronicles 15 - But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded; 2 Chronicles 31 - This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.; 2 Chronicles 34 - The workers labored faithfully.; I Chronicles 28 - And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you…Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.

Rest:  Genesis 2 - By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (See also Hebrews 4)

Give Him The Glory: Colossians 3 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.; I Corinthians 10 - Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Further Reading:  2 Timothy 2, Colossians 3, 2 Thessalonians 3, all of 2 Chronicles

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 4.0

Okay, so I realize that most of you saw our precious Halloween theme this year in yesterday's Wordless Wednesday.  However, now that I have started the tradition (see last year's Halloween 3.0 post for the recap), I have to keep it going.

This year was a little odd because all the parties at school and in the neighborhood were last week so we had days of dead time before the trio donned their costumes again.  They had already done the school parade and and bounce house parties and could not quite figure out when Halloween actually starts and stops. 
Does this crack you up?  He wasn't even trying and looks like an evil Pirate!
I think they were a little baffled, but we hyped up the fact that this year they could TRICK OR TREAT which is brand new to us.  We kicked off the morning with their Halloween, not costume, outfits as they headed off to school and I almost passed out from how cute they were:

I got home before 5:30 so Bray and I could feed the kids a little early in order to "suit up" for the neighborhood candy hawking.  Luckily, in Houston it warmed up enough that little bit did not FREEZE in her Tinkerbell costume.  We started shortly after 6:30 with several of our neighborhood friends and it was fun (and funny!).  We practiced our "trick or treat" yells before heading out to a super kid friendly street with virtually no cars. 

However, taking three year old triplets trick-or-treating feels like taking octuplets.  Seriously.  I was wiped.  Bray was not quite as beaten down as me by the end of it, but still that process can knock you out.  Door-to-door-to-door.  Tinkerbell shedding wings and wand.  Captain Hook shedding hat and hook.  Peter Pan shedding bow and arrows.

The eldest got the hang of it quick.  He stopped waiting for people to hand him the candy, and instead sent double fists into the candy bowl to maximize his haul.  Clearly they figured out Halloween in a nano-second.  (Much like the way they took to hunting Easter eggs - the baby told me at bedtime that after breakfast this morning he was going back out trick-or-treating - he was sad to hear that was not an option.)
Bray led the multi-kid procession with our choo-choo wagon

The baby says, "hey mom" check this out

The little lady says, "really, I can knock on a stranger's door?"

A neighbor brought his guitar out and played for the kids

Yes, these are 3 full buckets of non-Weight Watcher friendly candy
It really was fun though to be a part of the neighborhood and the tradition Bray and I had as kids.  I'm wiped out this morning, but loved seeing their excitement.  Here's a little snippet of our practice round before approaching our first door: 


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Life Is Good

In the midst of all the news of weather storms assailing our coast and news of political storms battling our country, I wanted to write of thankfulness in a season.  Nothing deep.  Nothing earth-shattering.  But the little things that brought me joy today.

1.  Cold weather.  I know that Houston cold is relative, but I do get to put us all in sweaters and little bit even asked me to buy her boots.  I love the cool snap in the air and the pumpkins on the doorsteps and the fact that Thanksgiving isn't even a month away. 


2.  Glasses.  As in eye wear, not drinking.  Little bit poured my contacts out in her midnight runnings, and yesterday morning I didn't have it in me to pull out new ones, so I donned spectacles.  New glasses that I love but rarely wear because the kids will destroy them.  Everywhere people told me how pretty I looked.  I know it was the glasses because I didn't have time to shower.

3.  Homecoming.  The boys are all home!  You may have read yesterday about the girls weekend being fun but a little bit lonely.  So my whole crew was home last night and eating the very complex crockpot recipe I made for dinner that I pulled together yesterday morning that made me late and ended up in the aforementioned showerless-condition wearing glasses.  The Moroccan turkey stew was too spicy for the kids and I yelled when they spilled milk and "helped" by smearing it all over the kitchen in an attempt to clean it up, but still everyone was home and the chaos was back. 

4.  Power. This morning, millions of Americans are waking up without an electricity and may not have it for days. I remember being in the same situation in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. This morning I used lights, heat, a microwave, a coffee pot, a hair dryer, a phone charger, a radio, and more that all required power to keep it functioning. What an efficiency gift. 

5.  Kisses.  I am a kissy girl.  I smother all my kids in kisses, and they yell "ONE kiss mommy," and I yell back, "no, LOTS of kisses."  But my favorite kisses are from my husband, and I got to kiss him a lot last night and that makes me happy. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Solo

I had little bit this weekend while Bray took the boys to the farm.  We had a wonderful time.  It is amazing what you can accomplish when you have only one child in tow.  We went for our first pedicure together, we ran errands, we went to church, we voted, we visited the Aquarium and rode all the rides, we had cupcakes at the nearby bakery before shopping for shoes and groceries.  All in all, it was a blast.


But it was also a little lonely.  My mom was out of town visiting my brother.  Bray was gone with the boys.  My best friend went out of town to see her mother.  I visited a new church.  I did not see any family members or friends over the weekend except for little bit. 

I also noticed something.  There were several daddy-daughter combos at the Aquarium on Sunday.  The men did not wear wedding rings, and I assumed, possibly incorrectly in some cases, that this was "their" weekend with their daughter according to the final divorce decree. 

My heart ached.  Physically ached.  I thought how bittersweet the time must be knowing that they would be separated at the end of the day. 

I know divorce.  My parents divorced when I was 12, just as my seventh grade year wrapped up.  We moved to Texas, my father moved around, and I didn't see him for years.  I know that sometimes divorces are beyond the control of one of the spouses.  So if you are divorced and have been through that, I am so sorry, I really do understand, and this post is not for you. 

But sometimes divorces are not beyond our control.  Sometimes there is no massive abuse or abandonment.  Sometimes, the divorce is entirely within the couple's control. 

Marriage is hard.  My marriage is hard.  We have times of being madly in love and crazy about the other person, and then we have times of just being mad and crazy.  I saw part of Oprah's Life Class last night with Joel and Victoria Osteen and Oprah asked them if they had experienced hard times in their marriage.  They said no.  They said they had experienced "growth" times when his father passed away and when they had babies, but no struggles.  I do not know them and that may be entirely true, but I have had hard times.  There has never been abuse or infidelity or abandonment or anything even close to that, but we have struggled.  We have fought.  Then we got through it. 

I love my husband.  Can I encourage you today if you are struggling in your marriage to make a renewed investment in it?  Would you for a moment envision one weekend after another without your kids or your husband sitting alone with children over Sunday lunch only to have to return them to you at dinner time?  Would you please picture Christmases and birthdays?  Then redouble your efforts to make it work. 

You only have control over you, but you can make a difference in relationship of two.  Pray for your husband today.  Tell him you love him.  Tell him how important your marriage is to you.  Go see someone that has counseled Christian marriages together if you need some perspective. 

But make it work.  For you.  For him.  For your kids.  Solo is okay for a day, but not for a lifetime.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Back Into Faith Fridays - Part 7 Fortune

Well friends, we're half way through our Fall Back Into Faith study.  We have covered faith and family and now we're moving on to fortune.  If faith is our foundation, and family is our cornerstone, fortune is essentially what we do.  By fortune, I mean what we do to make money and what we do with our money. 

So over the course of the next three weeks we will focus on three areas God instructs us: Do What God Has Called You/Gifted You To Do and Acknowledge It Comes From Him; Work Hard and In a Manner Reflecting Him; and, Be Generous With What God Has Given You

Today is a hard topic for me to tackle.  Sometimes we work at a job because it pays the bills but not because we feel "called" to work there.  While we certainly should not work somewhere that God clearly does not want us to work, we also need to realize that we may have been placed in the position we are in because God has a very specific purpose for us to impact the lives of those we encounter. 

Pray about where you need to be, where God is calling you, but simultaneously pray over where you are today.  The steps you take and the paths you cross are ordained by God to do a work for His kingdom.  You can be a positive force where you sit today.  I constantly catch myself trying to figure out what my life, and my family's life, will look like two, five, ten years from now.  I make these plans and forget to include God. 

If you are a planner, you may be able to identify.  What if instead of looking ten years out we did this:  (1) pray that God would direct our paths today and in the days to come so that we could follow where He leads, and then (2) look at the next ten HOURS instead.  What does God have for me today?  How can I be a blessing?  How can I work to best reflect HIM?

We are told from the beginning to the end of the Bible that God has prepared us to do good work and he will establish the work of our hands, but we must at all times acknowledge that it is He at work in us.  Ephesians 2 says, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do," and Jeremiah 29 shares, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…'"

The plans should be God's.  We have to spend time listening so we can participate in His work.  Then, remember that all we have comes from God and the work, and relative wealth it creates, is ultimately His.  Deuteronomy 8 cautions,  "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.  And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day."
My prayer for me, and for you, today is that of David's in Psalm 90:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
 
Further Reading:  Deuteronomy 8; Psalm 90; Colossians 3; Deuteronomy 30

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Girlfriends Rock

First of all let me say thanks to the amazing women over at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard for allowing me the opportunity to Guest Post today - y'all head over there and check it out. 

Next up let me say how fun yesterday was.  One of my most precious friends is turning 40 and I had the wonderful opportunity to bring some of her friends together for lunch.  I posted a few pics of the fun outing yesterday, but I have to say what an incredible time it was to gather all these busy working women together to celebrate.  That is ultimately what I want this blog to be about and why I'm so excited about the new website launching next month.  It will really give us busy working women a way to connect when we can't sneak away from the office for an hour and a half lunch.  Let's just recreate it in cyberspace here until we can connect in person again, which is always the best way to connect. 

This is my best friend in the wide world - don't know what I would do without her.  What a treat to get to see her at a party on Saturday and then again at this lunch.  We've been through all sorts of crazy stuff together and I can't imagine getting through the nuttiness of life without her.  She's like the sister I never had. 

This is the birthday girl.  We've been friends for nearly a decade and in 2003 we took a trip to Italy together.  The last guy I kissed before I met Bray was on my last night on that Italy trip with Julie.  We've been to each other's weddings, we've been to funerals, we've been to baby showers, and clearly we've been across the ocean.  She has to brush her teeth all the time and I can't stand to hear people brush their teeth - it was a funny trip.  We both get grumpy when we're hungry.  Her son and my kids are a month apart.  We're both "hunting widows" this season.  What a darling friend. 

I interviewed several women for my book yesterday and, as they shared their tips on the best leadership skills, one woman's piece of advice really struck me.  She said the leadership quality she admired most was the ability to really listen.  To sit still and listen to what the other person has to say.  Don't sit there thinking of your witty reply or persuasive rebuttal while they're still talking.  Take in what they have to say.  I loved this.  I sat at a table full of those kinds of listeners yesterday. What a rare gift. 

I also can't finish today's post without mentioning we went to take our annual pumpkin patch pictures yesterday morning.  Y'all it is 85 degrees in Texas and we were in sweaters to pretend we actually lived somewhere in October where pumpkin patches required sweaters.  We do this every October to capture how the kids grow.  Before the photographer arrived, I snapped a couple of iPhone shots of the kids and when I said I was going to get a few "shots," the baby ask me what we were shooting?  He was very concerned there would be guns involved.  Clearly his father is a hunter. 

 What a gift yesterday was.  I'm so thankful.