Friday, December 13, 2013

Something Right

Hit the snooze button...  not once, but three times.
Forgot that I'd made myself coffee.
Realized that I had no house key.
Left the house unlocked all day.
Failed to brush the boys' teeth.
Fussed at the boys for being slow.
Said "no" twenty times before we even got to school, 
   less than a mile from our house.
Arrived late...  on "Breakfast with Santa" day.
Locked myself out of the building.
Realized my zipper was broken.
Hadn't stopped to pray...  

However, school had started, and my class was bustling with excitement after having had breakfast with Santa and were ready to party and open gifts!  Nine of my eleven students (1 of them being Daniel) sat down at their desks with their journals opened to the heading, "What I Want for Christmas," and their mouths couldn't quiet enough for their fingers to even begin drawing.  I was rather hurried myself, getting things ready for crafts and ensuring that each child had brought a gift for the book exchange later in the day...  but that is when I overheard it... 

The phrase I wasn't really ready to hear come out of MY child's mouth:

"Santa isn't even real."

The little girls at his table all gasped.  He repeated it over again.  My heart became a bit overwhelmed, yet I felt the sweetest urge to let the conversation continue.  Daniel tried explaining the best he could.  "He's just a man who gets dressed up.  You know, like a Halloween costume, and he listens to you, but he really doesn't know what you need."  To be honest, he was telling these little ones the truth, but I knew these girls' hearts were breaking.  "We just have a lot of baby Jesus at our house and we read about when he was born and we get presents like him."

That's the moment I remember distinctly asking God to lead me.  

I stepped in, with the Lord's guidance, and began to give details about Daniel's bold statements.  I said, "I realize that Santa comes to your houses, but Santa Claus doesn't come to Daniel's house."  They were shocked.  "Daniel's Daddy and I love him and his brothers so much that we want to take care of giving them gifts at Christmas.  We've instructed Santa that we will take care of them, so he doesn't need to come to our home."  One precious girl asked, "How do you know what they want?  Like, what presents do they get on Christmas if Santa doesn't come?"  I continued, "I'm Daniel's Mommy, and to be honest, I think I know him better than most anyone!  (The girls laughed!)  I know what he needs and what he wants, and his Dad and I choose things we feel are best for him.  But, that isn't the only reason Santa doesn't come to our house..."

They all were listening so intently at this point, you could have heard a pin drop.  "Daniel, Samuel, and Elias are precious gifts to us, and they each get three gifts on Christmas.  Only three.  Sometimes you will get much more than that, but not at our house.  You see, the very first Christmas, a baby was born.  He wasn't just any baby; he was a gift to the world from God.  Wise men came to celebrate his birthday by bringing him three gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They brought him exactly what he needed and much more.  I know this is hard to understand, but we feel like our boys only need three because that is all that Jesus received.  We do that because we want to remember Jesus at Christmas, not Santa.  Does that make sense?"

They all shook their heads, but I realized questions were filling their minds...  

"I love Jesus, too, but is it okay if Santa still comes to my house?"

Daniel quickly responds, "SURE!  Just not me because I like baby Jesus more than Santa."  I agreed with him.  I went on further to say that there was nothing wrong with Santa, and it is wonderful if he comes to their homes.  I finished by saying that when they receive gifts from Santa to remember and be thankful for the best gift of all, JESUS!  All was well after this, and nothing else was really mentioned about it.

It was a moment I'll never forget for many reasons.  However, looking back at it tonight, God filled my heart with such joy as I thought about what Daniel had said.  His boldness in speaking truth, his relentless fervor for being right, and his unbridled spirit and love for the Lord have blessed me.  If it weren't for him, I would have never spoken so directly about Santa or Christ!  In a day when the morning had gone so wrong in so many different ways, God reminded me that I am doing something right.  

Daniel wasn't upset about being different.  He wasn't bothered that "Santa" isn't coming to his house.  He was intent on telling the truth and sharing what he felt was important.  God showed me, through the actions of our four-year-old, that being a child of God is being different.  It is doing things a bit peculiarly.  It is speaking truth and sharing His message when the opportunity arises.  It is all that I want to be found doing...  something right for the Lord.  

Daniel standing beside one of our "Names of Jesus" trees

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

16th-18th Months

In Elias' 16th through 18th months, he:

Wore size 18 and 18-24 month clothes.
Wore a size 5 1/2 wide or extra wide shoe.
Weighed 29 lbs.
Still loves to wear shoes and always says, "Shoe."
Sleeps 11 hours a night.
Takes one nap a day.
Sleeps with his blanket and monkey.
Hasn't been too sick.  Until November.
Ran a 104.5 fever for 3 days.
Broke out in a rash on his face...
Which brought out his eczema all over his face.
Is very curious.
Favorite things are the grill and plastic food, balls, and Elmo.
Was put on a strict diet, but wouldn't eat.
Pediatrician decided to put him on coconut milk.
Allergies and issues have somewhat ceased since then.
Will be seeing the allergist on December 2nd for testing.
Favorite foods are veggie straws, applesauce, and broccoli.
Was the best eater in the family!
Likes to always use utensils when eating.
OH, and he loves ketchup on everything.
Eats ketchup with a spoon.  No joke.
Enjoys baths!
Has a mouth full of teeth.
Gives hugs and kisses.
Hits and is quite rough.
Is a momma's boy, but always looks for Da-da while he's at work.
Picked out his very first pumpkin, calls it a "ball".
Starting to talk and say a lot of words!
List of words:

  • ma-ma
  • da-da
  • ball
  • more
  • yeah
  • no-no
  • please
  • see
  • go
  • shoe
  • hi
  • bye-bye
  • Mimi
  • Pa (for Grandpa)
  • Nat Nat (his cousin Natalie)
  • Dan-yule (big brother)
  • Sam-yule (big brother)
  • dog
  • cat
  • bird
  • Cheese!
  • "wook" (look)
  • peek-boo (leaves out the -a-)

First Day of Mother's Day Out in August

Eating his favorite fruit - strawberries!

Laughing with Daddy

Went to a petting zoo in Indiana with the Shives - 
really enjoyed the goats.

Swimming in the tub

He's all about some spaghetti sauce.

Loves to "toast" with his brother!

Bath tub fun with Brothers!

Having a bath time blast!

"Cheesing" while eating rice at Taco Bell

Being big, eating with a spoon

At his GI appointment...  Playing peek-a-boo! 
Rather typical with one shoe on, 
and one shoe off.

His busted lip, but I can't remember how he got it.

Showing what he wants for Christmas.

Celebrating Pa's birthday

In his pumpkin shirt his Mom made him...
Showing off a nice rash from Ranch dressing.
Being the Lion from Wizard of Oz

Someone loves cupcakes.

Showing off his John Deere skills...
He's too little to drive.  Right?!

Eating with Mom on vacation.

Fall usually means lots of albuterol for this little buddy,
but our little buddy isn't so little anymore.
He holds his own mask.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


People don't actually know how well our 3 year old talks.  In fact, they believe he doesn't talk at all.  He's quite shy and quiet in crowds and classrooms, but get him alone and he'll amaze you with his words.

After getting off the phone with his Mimi, Samuel turns around and tells Daniel,
"Mimi's busy right now.  We can't go there.  She's going to the firecracker.  Okay, Daniel?!"
Firecracker = Chiropractor

Speaking with his Daddy on the phone,
"Daddy, is Mema gone to Heaven yet?"
Daddy is staying in West TN with Mema until she passes.  Prayers appreciated.

Explaining what he'd like to do,
"Can I color?  I mean, with a marker.  That would be good."

Telling Daddy about his day,
"Daddy, Mills and Rowdy and Henry came to play, and I shared."

After tracing his letter Ff's, he decided to draw on the back of the sheet (with a marker), and this is what he said,
"Hmmm, what did I forget?  Oh, I see.  Ears.  (draws them)
Earrings too.  (draws them)  Hmmm, what else did I forget?  The sun.  I'll give the sun eyes and a mouth, and now, it can talk."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dear Mema

I can remember the first time I met you, Mema (pronounced mee-maw).  It was in February of 2007, and you were celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary to Granddaddy.  You weren't too sure of me, and understandably so, seeing as your grandson had told you just three weeks prior that he'd become engaged to a young woman at church who happened to be me.  We hadn't dated, and I'm sure your had your thoughts and opinions on that.  However, in our first meeting, I could tell you were an incredible woman.

As years passed, you proved my first thoughts on you to be true.  Whenever we visited home, you made sure to have breakfast on the table, clean sheets on the beds, and fresh linens ready for use.  You didn't talk much, but when you did, your opinion was blunt, honest, and sometimes, a little uncanny.  I learned that you liked things the way they are, didn't need anything new, and preferred your old bathrobe to any fancy, new one that we could purchase for you.  You liked pictures around your house, coffee in the pot, and your television always on.  You kept the house warm (almost blazing at times) and the stove full.  You said, "Hello," louder than I'd ever heard anyone over the phone, and you loved to talk about the rain, your crops, and whether or not we would be home soon.

Over time, I grew on you.  You became more excited to see us come, especially when we first learned we were pregnant just months after Granddaddy passed away.  You were anticipating that baby as much as we were, and when we lost it, I believe you hurt some too.  When I became pregnant again, you were ready, both in word and deed.  Your comments about my weight gain were hurtful and hilarious.  I could have lost a pound, and you would say I had gained ten.  You made me laugh by cooking my favorite foods, after learning that, although a country girl, I had no taste for beans, greens, or cornbread.  I could expect a full pot of mashed potatoes, a blue bowl full of green beans, and a dish full of sweet potatoes, fixed better than anyone could ever fix them.  You loved me in ways I didn't realize then.  When Daniel was finally born, I can remember you coming to visit just three weeks after he was born.  I was pretty "hefty" as you said, but you were smitten over Daniel.  I watched as you beamed with joy leaning over his baby swing.

You are a grandmother in every sense of the word.  You love your grandbabies and great-grandbabies with all you have in you.  You provide for them in every way you can.  You fix them their favorite waffles with tons of butter and syrup then make chocolate milk and keep it coming all day long.  You always have animal crackers and Cheerios for the little ones, and your closet is full of old toys to keep them entertained, although they are the same toys that have been there since I joined the family.  The old John Deere four-wheeler toy you have is a favorite of the boys (where is it as of lately?!), and you laugh so hard watching Daniel, Samuel, and Elias attempt to ride it around the house.  You love them, and they love you.

Mema, I realize that it's almost time for you to go home yourself.  You've proven yourself determined and strong over the past three weeks.  You suffered a stroke, were paralyzed on your left side, and were not swallowing, and yet, a week later, you decided you didn't want a feeding tube by ripping it out and then showed you were strong enough to go home by beginning to eat and respond.  You've been at home for a week and have done really well, so well in fact, that the boys and I came to visit you!  Daniel and Samuel had made you cards, and you thanked them for them!  The boys couldn't understand why you weren't able to get up, and Mema, I wish we knew for sure.

However, I know that God is getting ready to call you home.  I don't want you to go, but I don't want you to stay.  I hope you see Granddaddy, Thomas (your son), and Cindy (your daughter-in-law).  I want you to see the babies that we never got to meet here on Earth.  I want you to walk again.  I want you to smile and talk again.  I want you to be the wonderful woman I met 6 years ago on your 50th anniversary.  I want you to get to be YOU again, but in Heaven, you'll be an even better you, and I couldn't ask for anything more!

The memories I hold in my heart of you are precious, but knowing you'll soon be seeing Jesus makes me so excited I can hardly stand it.  Please, please, don't worry about us.  We'll be okay; you've raised your family in such a way that there's no way they wouldn't be.  They are strong, determined, and grounded in Christ.  Go home to Him.  Until we meet again...

Mema and Granddaddy on their 50th Anniversary
February 2007

Mema, Brian, and I at our wedding shower
March 2007

Our Wedding and Both Sides of the Families
March 31, 2007 

Holding Daniel for the first time
May 2009

Sweet Mema
May 2009

Meeting Elias
May 2012

Mema with all 7 of her great-grandchildren
July 2012

Brian and his Mema at his Master's Degree Ceremony
December 2012

Daniel loves his Mema!
Visiting May 2013

Brian, Samuel, and Mema
May 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Do You Do It?

I have been asked this question three times in the last twenty-four hours, and I've given three different answers.  However, the truth is that why and how I do it is all of grace.

You see, I've been the recipient of grace more times than I recount.  I received grace from my little sister when I repeatedly stole the spotlight.  I got grace from my momma when I wasn't willing to clean my room, fold my laundry, or do anything in a timely manner.  I found grace in the sight of my daddy when I came home late almost every single night.  I was given grace as a ten-year-old girl by my Lord and Savior when I begged Him to save me from my sins.  I found grace 14 months after I had miscarried our first child and held our first born son in my arms.  I am completely familiar with what grace is.

It is how I live each day being the mother of three small boys.  It is grace that gets me through our crazy breakfast routine which consists of making three different meals.  It is grace that reminds me that the messes they make are temporary.  It is grace that beckons me when I've reached my patience limit at only 9 o'clock.  It is grace that helps me tie every shoe, wipe every nose, change every diaper, clean every spill, correct every disobedient heart, prepare every specific meal, fight for every minute of nap time, spank for every sinful action, and wash every single load of laundry.  Grace is how I do it.

But, there are moments when, in my sin-filled, human heart, grace doesn't seem to be enough, and I throw my own little fits.  You see, I'm imperfect.  I don't always "grin and bear it."  I tend to play the part that I have it altogether, but I don't.  I'm as flawed as they come.  I once cried out to God to bless me with children, and now I'm blessed with three of them and still begging God for help.  I expected my children to be exactly as I had envisioned them...  obedient, quiet, clean, mild-mannered, and perfect.  I wanted their clothes to match, their mouths to be filled with kind words, their manners to be inherent, their hair to lay flat and always be brushed, their hearts to be full of love for those around them, and all of these other things that were dreams I thought needed to be fulfilled when I had each of them.

I learned quickly that my visions of perfection weren't going to come true.  Perfect isn't possible in this life, and yet I pushed it on each of our boys.  I push hard.  I cry.  I act like a child.  I yell.  I criticize.  And, when I finally have their attention and my own way, I realize how ridiculously sinful I have been.

It's through these precious boys that I have seen my sinful actions and faults, and I'm constantly running to my Father and begging for just a little bit more of HIS grace.  What I do isn't easy.  I don't always have it together.  I get really stressed and frustrated, and I usually take it out on my children.  But, I don't ever want them to think that grace isn't enough.  Because it is.  I'm learning that it's okay to apologize to a four-year-old for not trusting him (when I assumed he'd climbed the counter for another snack when he hadn't).  I'm seeing that it's necessary to ask my three-year-old for forgiveness when I've yelled a little too loudly.  I'm teaching my sixteen-month-old to say "sorry" by saying it to him when my frustration peaks at his need for being right under my feet.

If I don't teach these boys what grace is by showing it to them, I'm afraid they'll never know what God meant when He said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)."  Year from now, when they wonder how their mom did it, I want them to know the answer.  Grace, God's glorious, unmerited favor, freely given to me.

How do I do it, friends?  It's only by HIS grace...  and these sweet faces are worth it.

Post-bath crazy hair

Toasting their ice cream cups

Playing in baby brother's crib

Proudly wearing his mommy's Alaska shirt

Full bath of boys = Full heart for Mom

Cheesy grin

Mischievous smirk

Happy boy

Eating "curly" chips at Taco Bell

Smitten with Taco Bell's rice

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sweet, Smiling Boy

He's always been the "shy" one.  He's very timid and cautious in most every situation.  He isn't quite sure about being left by mom even if it's with someone he knows very well.  He often cries when mom isn't the one putting him into bed.  He wants mom to pour his chocolate milk, mom to make his sam-wich, mom to brush his teeth, mom to change his clothes, and mom to hug him every morning.  He's particular and needs a routine.  He likes his sports blanket and has it with him whenever we are at home.  He usually has his drink in his left arm.  He likes to wear comfortable shorts and prefers crocs over any other type of shoe.  He can usually be found holding a book and pretending to be at church.  He sings all of the time and learns all of his older brother's lessons from school.  He knows sight words and letters.  He wants to be left alone while he's in the bathroom.  He is who he is, and I like it.

My favorite thing about him, though, is when he opens up.  When he comes out of his "shyness" and shows who he truly is.  He is really smart and recalls way too much.  His vocabulary is astounding considering his age, though most people have never heard him speak!  He's precious and funny and blunt.  He notices everything.  He calls you out if you're not doing something right.  He tells you not to say "gosh" because "it sounds like God."  He laughs with his eyes closed.  He makes his own jokes and writes his own lyrics to almost every song, then sings them in whatever tune he chooses.  He also tends to sing his thoughts to us.  He's genuine and honest most of the time.

Tonight, I watched as he cried being taken into his Wednesday night bible class at church.  I had to walk away knowing it was best for him.  I honestly sat in my study, wondering how he was, if he was comfortable yet, if he was missing me.  However, as class ended, I walked out the door to a surprise sighting of him, laughing with the other boys in his class as they walked back to the classroom hand in hand.  His smile was as big as I'd seen it in a while, and he was happy.  It was the most precious thing I'd seen him do in a while, and while I don't have it in pictures, I'll always cherish Samuel's sweet smile.

Pretending to be a soldier

Nervous about the chickens at the Apple Orchard

Happy to be celebrating Mimi's birthday

SUPER happy to be eating Mimi's birthday strawberry shortcake

Thrilled to have strawberries with his leftovers

Hilariously smiling for Mom after school one day

Excited to have dinner with Mom and Dad...
all to his sweet self!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to School

I was intrigued when I read her response to my email concerning my son entering his final year of Mother's Day Out before Kindergarten.

"I think I'm going to need another PreK teacher...let me know if you know any one interested in a part-time job (wink wink)."

I knew she meant me.  I quickly forwarded the email to my husband, and instead of a response, he texted, "WHOA?!"  I wasn't sure if I'd be going back to teaching or not, but the idea was so intriguing.  I love to teach.  I love the opportunity to create in a classroom setting.  I love watching little eyes light up when they've realized something they didn't see before.  

But, God had called me 5 years ago away from the classroom.  He was clear.  So clear that I almost fought His directions to me.  God wanted me at home.  He wanted me to heal from my miscarriage.  He needed me to enjoy my second pregnancy and the birth of our first born without any distractions.  He also wanted me home when I quickly learned I was pregnant for a third time when Daniel was only 3 months old.  He knew I needed to stay within these four walls with sweet Samuel and his energetic, big toddler brother.  He had me here during the days of my 4th pregnancy which ended in a miscarriage, and He was ready for me to rejoice when becoming pregnant a fifth time.  He allowed me to watch Elias through all of his doctor visits, hospital stays, and procedures.  I have no questions NOW about why God called me out of teaching then.

It didn't take us but a day to prayerfully consider this new offer.  It was perfect for me and our little family.  I would teach at the Mother's Day Out program where our boys attend.  I would get paid for doing something I was trained by a university and gifted by God to do.  It was pretty clear to us that evening that I was going to be going back to teach Pre-K in the Fall of 2013.

Here I am.  

13 students (one of them is my own, Daniel), and I couldn't be more thrilled with what God and this program are allowing me to do each Tuesday and Thursday!  It's truly been so much fun and exciting going back to school, and I can't thank God enough for the opportunity to do so!

Our Carpet Area

The Wall of Art

Birthday Bulletin

Daniel was excited to find his name on the wall!
Oh, and to get his treat from his teacher, Mom.

Treat Bags for Students

Mine and Daniel's 1st Day of Pre-K