Monday, December 26, 2011

The Gift of Quiet

Sometimes I stay up after everyone else has gone to bed, just to hear it.

Because even though I love the noise and busyness, the buffets and baths, brushing the heads of long, clean, wet hair, the laundry being put away before bedtime, the songs, stories, and prayers, the visits with big kids, episodes of Cake Boss, the starting of the dishwasher and changing the last load from the washer to the dryer, and straightening things up for morning. . .

The quiet calls.

Sometimes I answer it even when I should be answering the wiser sleep.

My brain can focus, my heart can ponder, my spirit feels at rest.

Of course I can hear Him in the noise, too.

In the laughter, the kisses, the smiles, hugs, even tears. . . the basketball game with cousins, the giggling around the fire pit on the back patio in the dark, the trampoline jumping late at night, the movie with Granddad and Grandmother, the Christmas dinner leftovers (someone PLEASE save me from those rice krispy treats!).

But when it's all settled down, the Coach and the eight are sleeping, and I sit.  Finally alone.

The quiet is mine.

Until my eyes won't stay open any longer and my head starts to bob.  And sliding into bed beside my snoring Coach begins to sound even more tempting than the quiet.

The day after Christmas has ended.  So tired.  So blessed.

Sweet Dreams.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

How often does a mother of eight spend Christmas morning alone?  I would be tempted to say, "Never!" but it wouldn't be the truth.
It's actually the second time in my 18 Christmases with my Coach.  The first (several years ago) was because I had strep and could. not. get out of bed.  Ugh.

But today?  It's a funny story that I won't take the time to tell, but the Lord is teaching me flexibility.  (grin) And my sick girl is asleep in her room, leaving me with the empty house and the quiet.

I'm not complaining.

I am missing the chaos and fun of the Coach's family Christmas up the street.  The masses of food and tons of kids everywhere and lots of sisters-in-law to catch up with.

But the quiet is nice, too.

My heart has been pondering Christmas these last few weeks.  Amid the chaos of school activities and family times and shopping and cooking. . . I've been purposing to focus on CHRIST in it all.

Reading through the Christmas story once again, thinking what it means to me.  And to you.  To all of us. . that He came to earth as a baby.

Tell me, WHY did Mary put baby Jesus in the manger when he was born?  Am I missing something? I realize it makes for a lovely creche scene and all, but tell me one thing. . . you who have given birth. . . isn't the baby in your arms after you deliver them?  I'm so confused.  If the manger was the only place to lay Him (our King Savior Baby Lord), why didn't she just keep Him close?

But then I begin to think about Mary, the mother of our Lord. . . giving birth to a baby, not having even known a man, certainly not knowing Joseph well (courtship back then brought about even less contact than the Coach and I had!), in a strange place, a smelly, noisy barn. . .

I remember the birth of our first son.  Child birth takes you out of every comfort zone you've ever known.  And if you are a private person, like I am, it's a little awkward.  Ok.  A LOT awkward.  And here sweet Mary is, we assume without her Mother or anyone familiar to give her comfort (although I suppose we don't really know who else might have been there), doing something completely hard and humbling. . .

Maybe I would have put the baby in the manger, too.

As I learn and grow and mature (hopefully!) and just plain get older, the trials of life, my own inability to do anything on my own. . . it's all drawing me closer and closer to my Savior.  I'm learning to hear Him, to trust Him more deeply, to lean into Him when trials come.  He has become my Comforter, my Strength, MY Faithful Lord.

Why do I still sometimes try to push Him away?  Truthfully?  Life is just messy.  I look at my heart (deceitful above all things and desperately wicked), my motives, my bad attitudes.  I look at my kids, their failings, imperfections, and weaknesses (which I have quite aptly passed along to them).  I look at the Coach and see that he isn't always the perfect husband, leader, father that he should be.  I look at my home, my messy cabinets, unfolded laundry, dirty dishes, sheets that need to be washed, a freezer that needs cleaned out. . . .

And sometimes I hesitate to bring my Faithful Father THERE.

Into the mess of it all.

But isn't that what Christmas is all about?  He "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

The "likeness of men".  We're messy.  He came right into our mess and met us there.  With our insecurities and pride and unforgiveness.  He felt the cold and the heat, the hunger and the pain, the sadness and grief, the joy and companionship, the love and the hate.

He became like us in every way, except remained perfect . . . even though He felt it all.  The good, the bad, the SIN of all mankind.  He felt the guilt of every wickedness ever existing from creation to the end of time.  He bore it all for us.  So we could be forgiven, loved, secure, SAVED.

It wasn't pretty, perfect, or all smiles and flowers.  But I'm eternally grateful He came.

Into our mess.

Into our NEED.

I think He can handle it.

So I'm praying that next time I try to put Him away from me. . .  because I'm feeling unworthy, or embarrassed at my attitude or the ugliness that still creeps out, even after being His child for most of my life. . .

I'm remember that manger.

That He is with me IN it all.  All of the mess that is ME and my life and my family and my circumstances.  It's not as if He's going to say, "Wow!  I never knew it was this bad!"

In fact, I know from experience that He'll just say to me, once again, because I'm so quick to forget. . .

"It's OK.  I came for this.  For YOU."

He can redeem the worst messes for His glory.

May He do so in my heart and yours this (imperfect) Christmas Day, 2012.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What a difference a year (or 17) makes

The Coach reminded me this morning, amid lunch making, coffee drinking, and pony tail fixing. . .
that tomorrow is our 17th anniversary.

I knew that.

I just wasn't thinking about it at 6:30 this morning.

For some odd reason.

But as soon as he said it, my mind started wandering back to THIS day, 17 years ago.  The day before our wedding day.  The bridal luncheon, the rehearsal, the packing, preparing, doing all of those last minute things that needed to be done before I became Mrs. Troop.

What fun memories!

And somehow humorous in a way.  . . to be thinking about that day. . . when I'm surrounded by piles of clean laundry that need to be folded and put away. . . a newly remodeled kitchen full of breakfast dishes and lunch fixings. . . Little Man watching Cat in the Hat beside me. . . my fancy (ha!) stress-fracture boot propped up on the ottoman. . . thinking about getting things in order here this morning so I can make it to my Weight Watchers meeting and on to the mall to see Son's (#4) class sing, have lunch with him, then attempt a Sam's run so we can eat this weekend, before I go pick up the younger kids at school, come home to supervise homework, eat dinner, then head back to Daughter's  (#2) Varsity Basketball game.

On top of a BUSY evening last night with our precious Elementary Christmas Program, hyper kids, and a late night conversation with our teens about the perils of the high school dating scene.

Yes, life is much different than it was 17 years ago for the Coach and I.

But you know what?

I love THIS.

This 17 years later chaos and craziness. . . with three teens, one recently turned 16 year old driver, a Freshman girl who loves basketball, a Jr. High student (who plays basketball. . . and piano, too), a 5th grader who cracks us up when he's not making us insane (and yes, basketball), a sweet, funny, tiny 4th grader, a "praise the Lord for His grace to this child" 3rd grader, a spunky 1st grader and. . . well. . . Little Man.

And my coach.  My amazing, wonderful, Godly, patient, wise, calm, hard-working Coach.  Who still melts my heart when he walks into the room.  I may have thought that I loved him on this day 17 years ago as I prepared to become his wife.  But I really just loved myself.  And maybe the IDEA of marriage and family and commitment.

And God, in His unending grace. . . has given us this precious LIFE together to learn to really love.  Not just each other, but more and more each day. . . HIM.

Thanks for letting me pause just a second to remember that.

Happy Friday!

(And I once again, apologize to our sweet, patient families for getting married one week before Christmas!  Whew!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday

A quick list this morning, since it takes me all morning just to get the house picked up, do the breakfast dishes, start the laundry, and take a shower with this silly boot on my leg.  Grrrr.

1.  Finally getting a clear diagnosis on the pain in my lower leg.  Stress fracture.  And a boot.  For a month.

2.  The opportunity to learn patience.

3.  The gift of something to NOT complain about.

Enough about the leg. . .

4.  Lovely new 12 passenger van.  In silver.  The Coach SUPER DUPER (as Little Man would say) surprised me.  The side pockets aren't even sticky, yet.

5.  New kitchen counters and back splash which (if all goes well) should be finished up today.  Woo hoo!  I know we all want everything NOW, but let me tell you. . . waiting six years for something makes it THAT much more fun! 

6.  Three more days of school until Christmas Break.  So ready for a break.  So.  Ready.

7.  That I've done some of the Christmas shopping.  Please don't laugh.  It's not funny.  I'm doing the best I can!

8.  Christmas cards are ordered.  Should be able to get them mailed before New Years.  Ha!

9.  Our desktop computer is fixed.  And the photos are saved.  Yay!

10.  A chauffeur in the family.  Really nice to be driven places so I can leave the boot on and not have to take it off to drive, then put it on to go in a store, then off to drive, and on to go in. . . you get the idea.

11.  School Christmas program tonight.  One of my all time favorite things.  Ever. 

12.  Two kids in the High School choir this year.  I'd join them if I could.

13.  Online Christmas Shopping (for the things I HAVE crossed off the list)

14.  Cinnamon candles

15.  Cookies baking in the oven

16.  Starbucks dates with my Chauffeur in his awesome new red truck 

17.  Chick-fil-A lunches with my parents

18.  Wedding anniversaries

19.  Family pictures through the years. . . Biggest Loser finales (I haven't finished watching it all on Hulu, so don't spoil it for me!). . . Christmas cards in the mail. . . Cousins to play with. . . Cafe' Mocha coffee creamer. . . Kids with sensitive consciences. . . Lunch with girlfriends. . . Hugs and goodnight kisses times 8. . . Getting text messages from the Coach during the day. . .

Really?  I could go on and on.

But like I said. . . it takes me awhile to, well, to do pretty much anything. . .

So I should get started.

Happy Thursday!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pondering Praise

It's a lovely, quiet, Saturday afternoon at the troops.  The Coach and Son #1 are off enjoying the 16th birthday gift. . . a doe hunt.

Thanks to the miracles of texting, we know he got his two does.  We've even seen pictures.

Here's where this mom has to swallow and pause and remind myself that he's ALL BOY and it's ALL GOOD.

Because I'm not fond of the dead deer photos.  Not fond.

Thinking so much lately about thankfulness and praise. . . I'm sure you get tired of hearing me!  Ha!  I'm learning, eversoslowly, to praise HIM in all things.  ALL things.  Even the hard ones.

But when things are good?

When it seems too easy to whisper, "Thank you, Jesus!"

I'm struggling.

We've been so abundantly blessed, lately.  Things getting done around the house. . . exciting vehicle provisions. . . health (when HAVE we had a Fall without sick kids?). . . precious times alone with the Coach. . . wonderful family time with our troops. . . basketball season for three. . . kids old enough to babysit (we have FOUR in-house sitters, now!). . .and a kid old enough to chauffeur me on my Christmas errands.

I'm feeling spoiled.

And guilty.

Sometimes too guilty at how easy life seems to be. . . not regarding our schedule (which is insane). . . but our comfort.  Even though recognize it as His blessing, His grace.

But I also realize that so many around me are hurting, sick, in pain. . . families coming apart and kids rebelling and children NOT getting well.

How DO I acknowledge all of that pain. . . and still give thanks for the gifts He's given us?

I'm not sure.

But the Holy Spirit keeps bringing to mind the words of Paul,

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Even when things abound and we are full. . . to be content.  Knowing that if we are abased, hungry, and needy. . . we can be content then, too.  Because Jesus is enough.

So, yes.  Praising Him for His goodness to us.

But really it's all His goodness. It's all His Grace.  The "good" times and the "bad" ones.  Praising Him in all things.  ALL things.

Maybe it's time for some pictures?

Happy Saturday!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Home is good.

We pulled in from our weekend away, last night, bundled up the kids in their warmest clothes, and headed out to one of our favorite Christmas traditions - the Journey to Bethlehem.  Live camels and all.

Nothing like going from one extreme to the other.

From a lovely, clean, quiet, cozy hotel room with the Coach, to. . .

Well. . .

It IS cozy here.


As we wrapped up the trip to Dallas and pulled into the driveway, I found myself taking a deep breath, psyching myself up for whatever was waiting beyond the garage door, and the Coach said,

"Either embrace the chaos, or it will make you crazy."

He's right, you know (he usually is).

Because in spite of the no-less-than-three serious meltdowns, the laundry everywhere, the morning busyness, the noise, the dishes, the MESS (not when we got home, thanks to the ever-so-amazing cousin/sitters, but once we started to DO things). . .

Home is good.




But good.

I think I'll stay.

For now.

Drinking coffee in my own kitchen, after sleeping in my own bed (ahhhhhh), remembering the fabulous time with the Coach.  We are rather fond of each other, it turns out, when we can hear each other talk.

How blessed we are.  How much we love these crazy troops.  How much fun THEY had this weekend with their cousins.

Choosing to embrace it.

(although it may be too late for the "crazy" part)

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hope Deferred

I'm still reeling with joy for my first-born son and the "gift of all gifts" we were able to give him last night.  My mind took a snap shot of the light in his eyes and I won't forget it (how I wish I'd taken a picture!).

Because even though for months we'd been telling him NOT to expect a car for his birthday, NOT to think too much about the possibility, NOT to waste time looking for something we/he could afford. . .

The Lord provided something above and beyond all we could ask or think.

He has a way of doing that.

And even though we had planned on getting him a car sometime before next Summer (so he could drive to and from work), we had no intention of doing it any sooner.

And even though he knew any car we were able to find (and afford!) wouldn't be "his", but rather the "kids" car (like the one cell phone they share), we had no plan to have said car ON his birthday.

But God is a God of miracles.  And surprises.

I can still see my boy's face.

The awe.  Wonder.  Joy.  Delight.  SURPRISE.

In God's provision of something he hadn't expected.  Hadn't thought would happen for a long time (let's admit it, six months IS a long time when you are 16).

I went to bed last night, filled with the JOY it gave my heart to make HIS heart so happy.

Isn't that how God is with us?

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

I'm not stupid enough to think this verse is talking about cars.  Or trucks, as the case may be.

But it DOES show us our Heavenly Father's JOY in giving us what we ask for.  What we need.  In this passage, specifically, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I had been trying for months to defer Son #1's hope.  Because Proverbs says, "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick:"  I didn't want him to be disappointed when his birthday gift wasn't a set of keys.  I wanted to protect him from that heart sickness.

Life is full of too much of that, as it is. . . at least in my mother-heart's perspective.

Because sometimes that hope deferred is God's perfect will.  I don't understand it, but I trust it.  Or I try to.

I don't understand why our plans for running my 4th half-marathon were ended by a leg injury.  Don't understand it, don't like it.

I had hopes.  I had trained.  I was excited, looking forward to it, SO wanting to feel that rush that comes at the finish line (OK, I'm romanticizing - there is serious pain, too!).

And then hopes that I could recover and still compete in the race at a slower pace.

Hopes that the first doctor's appointment would reveal a solution.

Hopes that the second doctor's appointment and x-rays would show what was wrong (and maybe that I could still run?)

But all of that has past and I still have no answers.  Heart.  Sick.

Then seeing my man-child last night, when we gave him that AWESOME gift, his eyes, his hesitancy to actually BELIEVE that the truck sitting there would be HIS to drive. . .

It reminded me that my Heavenly Father only gives good gifts.

Sometimes they LOOK good to me.

Sometimes they don't.

My dad's cancer sure didn't seem like a good gift (and I still don't understand fully that it was), but I will never forget hearing him SAY the words.  "God gives good gifts.  My cancer is a good gift."  Sure, I've seen blessings from the experience.  And years down the road (6, I think?) I can look back on it without the sick feeling in my gut.  God healed him.  And has used him mightily to encourage others.

I could give you many examples of "good gifts" that sure don't seem good to me.  My dad still lives with MS each and every day.  We still lost a baby 6 years ago (that was a rough year!).  Bad things still happen.  And will continue to.

I guess it comes back to TRUSTing the giver.

 "But when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life."

So far I have learned some things, I suppose.  I love to run.  Even when it hurts.  I love training with my Coach, even when he runs two feet ahead of me for 10 miles (grin).  I love setting a goal and accomplishing it. I love ANY excuse to get away with my favorite-person-in-the-world/husband-of-(almost)-17-years for the weekend.  And I may be just a TAD bit stubborn.  Maybe.

But when I CAN run, again?  I am telling you I will be GRATEFUL that I can.  Remind me of that next time I whine, OK?

For now, I'm going to smile just thinking about how happy my boy is.  And I'm going to let myself be silly-excited about the weekend away.  And I'm going to clean and launder and cook and get this house presentable so our sweet cousin-babysitters don't faint dead away when they walk in the door.  They will need all of their strength just to survive a weekend with the troops!  HA!

A good gift.

No, not the one I was hoping for.

But a good gift.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, that I can trust the gifts you give.  Most of all, the gift of salvation, eternal life, and hope in this life.  Your Holy Spirit, Your promise of the resurrection, the gifts of your Spirit, Your character. .  for giving us YOU . . . Baby Jesus, God-Man, sent to save the souls of mankind.

The best gift of all.

Happy Thursday!