Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thankful for friendships

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends,
the old and the new.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Today, on my last day of 30 days of gratitude, I feel so grateful for my friends.

I just came home from my small group with five fantastic ladies where we discussed what it looks like to cultivate a lifestyle of service and how to be intentional in serving in small ways in this season of life.

Last night I was with friends as we got our Christmas cards ready to mail. We talked, laughed, ate sweets and stuffed envelopes.

I have friends I e-mail and ask to pray for me and Ryan as we walk this road of unemployment. And I know they are praying.

Next week I'll get together with friends and we'll talk about our marriages and pray for one another and encourage each other in our relationships with our spouses. We might talk about our marriage book, but most likely we'll just share and be real and authentic and love each other through life's mountain tops and valleys.

I have crafty friends, and wise friends, and funny friends, and go-out-to-breakfast-for-our-birthday-friends, and mom friends, and prayer warrior friends. God has blessed me greatly with many different circles of friends.

And so tonight as I lay my tired head on my pillow, I will offer up a prayer of Thanksgiving for my friends - new and old. You know who you are dear friends, and I am thanking God for you today.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dear Samuel and Lauren

Dear Samuel and Lauren,
It's Sunday night after Thanksgiving weekend. You are both sleeping (finally!) and the house is quiet. It's been a full weekend....with plenty of good moments, and a handful of hard ones.

Tonight as I was shaking a rug outside, I thought, "I'm not sure if I'm cut out for this parenting thing."

I don't know that I've ever thought that before. But tonight I really wondered if I am. Parenting has been difficult recently since we're dealing with colds, teething, a lack of sleep, holiday fun that causes late bedtimes and inconsistent naps....and learning what it means to parent a two-year-old.

I know that mothering is 24/7, but I was reminded of that again this weekend. There are times when I want to check out of parenting. Quit for the night. Clock out.

But that's not how it works. Even in the wee hours of the morning when the monitor tells me one of you is in need, I'm on the clock - with no warning or preparation.

I am so thankful for your dad who allows me to take afternoon naps (even if one of you aren't sleeping!). He is a great team player and parenting partner. You have a fabulous dad.

Samuel and Lauren, I've yelled at you both in the past few days and I'm not proud of myself. Being tired or impatient or frustrated or disappointed or unhappy is no excuse for hollering. Your hearts are so tender and I see the trust and love in your eyes. I don't ever want to hurt you...not with my looks, my tone, my voice, my actions.

But I have. And I will again. And I hope you'll forgive this mama who is learning a little bit more every day what it means to care for her blessings and love them as best as she knows how.

Thanksgiving 2010 I want you to know that I am so grateful for the two of you. My heart is overwhelmed at the depth of how much I love you both. I can't capture the feeling with words, I can only try to show you daily.

I am humbled and grateful to God for the opportunity to be your mom. I'm far from perfect, but we serve a perfect God who walks beside us on this parenting road. And tonight I thank Him for the sweet sweet blessing of being called 'mommy.'

I love you both dearly,
Mom

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Praying with your spouse

In nearly 10 years of marriage, Ryan and I have not figured out a successful way to pray together on a consistent basis. We've tried a variety of t things during different seasons of our marriage...but none of them have led to a successful prayer life with my spouse.

In the marriage books I have read, praying for and with your spouse has been declared vitally important.

Why then, is this such a difficult thing for us to do? Usually our prayer life as a couple involves one of us praying while we lay in bed together before we drift off to sleep. We are weary from a busy day of parenting two little ones, so we pray quickly about whatever comes to mind. If prayer is so valuable to us, and we place a high priority on it, how can this be the extent of our prayer life as a married couple?

Ryan dislikes praying in the dark because he often drifts off to sleep. I, on the other hand, am not necessarily a super happy person in the wee hours of the morning, so the idea of praying together upon waking (before the kids are up) is not appealing...but maybe I just need to suck it up and do it!

If I say prayer is a priority, then it seems I need to come up with a workable, sustainable system. So here is where all of you come in: If you are married, when and where do you pray with your spouse? How frequently? For how long? And what does that prayer time look like with your spouse? One of you prays, both of you pray, from memory or do you pray through a list? How do you keep track of the prayer requests you need to pray through? 

I would love to hear what has worked in your family (or what you saw your parents do when you were growing up).

It seems like our passion for the Lord should compel us to set aside time every day to pray as a couple. I want that to be true of us.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Growing Grateful Kids

Today I read a chapter from Growing Grateful Kids titled Embrace Contentment. I'd like to share with you some of my take-aways from this chapter. They are applicable to so many of us, in so many different life situations...

"Contentment (or lack thereof) has little to do with our circumstances and everything to do with what we tell ourselves about those circumstances."

"Jesus wants us to spend most of our time looking up. He is writing a beautiful story with our lives. His will for us is our best-case scenario. He doesn't want us to want someone else's story...because ours fits us perfectly. What a shame to throw the book across the room because we don't like the chapter we're living at the moment! To be content is to trust that God is great and that He is always up to something good."

"God says, "Be thankful in the moment. Come and spend some time with Me, and I will give you peace."  What is the opposite of such God-responses? Whining. Complaining. Grumbling. Comparing. Buying. Eating. Spending. Charging. Striving. Stressing. Buying more. Eating more. Charging more. Stressing more. More. More. More. And the result? Less peace. Less joy. Less perspective. Less generosity. Less conviction. And less of a sense that God is good."

"Cultivating a lifestyle of contentment is simply about walking through every season with a core value of gratitude and trust and a heart that declares: "God has been good to us and He'll come through for us again. At this very moment I possess more than I can comprehend and I'm more blessed than I know. I embrace what I have today and I'll trust God for the desires of my heart. Right now, He's more than enough for me."

Parental application: Every day, point out to your child the countless ways that you are truly rich. Help them to learn at a young age that every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Psalm 34

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
Psalm 34:1-3

Extol means to praise highly, to bless, to glorify, exalt or celebrate.

The Message version of the Bible records verse 1 this way: "I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise."

I found an online commentary that made three points about what David is doing in this passage.

He is:
Resolving to praise God constantly   (I will bless the Lord at all times)
Committing to praise God openly    (his praise will always be on my lips)
Desiring to praise God heartily   (my soul will boast in the Lord)

As you know, I have been listening to my friend Beth Moore quite a bit lately. This quote struck me because of what I read in Psalm 34:
"We are going to most believe what we most rehearse. There is power in the words coming out of our mouth. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. It is the bread of life. Lets change our complaints to praise."
Oh friends, how convicting these words are. I will most believe what comes out of my mouth most often. If I follow Psalm 34, what comes out of my mouth should be praises to God and glory to Him.

Do I bless God every chance I get?
Do my lungs expand with his praise?
Do I praise him constantly, heartily and openly? 

There is power in our words. The Word of God is the bread of life and if we speak the Word, we are speaking life, truth, praises and blessings. We are bringing glory to God and growing our faith - all at the same time.

In this month of Thanksgiving, may I cease striving more, and instead strive to praise, bless and bring glory to my God.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grateful

Today I am grateful that I got to:

Eat the homemade french toast my husband made for breakfast.

Drink pretend tea with my son over and over and over again (using his sister's tea set).

Go for a walk with my entire family. It doesn't matter that the walk lasted only 15 minutes and it took as long (or longer) to get everyone dressed to go for the walk. We all enjoyed the crisp Minnesota air.

Hear Lauren say "Elmo!" at least 30 times as she happily carried a little Elmo toy all around the house. Each time she said it she was as happy - and as proud - as the first.

Have Samuel 'help me' cook in the kitchen. This involved us making Chunky Applesauce together. And ended with Samuel unexpectedly eating one of the apples rather than me cooking it for the applesauce :)

Read books before bed while rocking and holding both of my babies in my arms.

Play in the snow with Samuel. Since Samuel's snow recollection is limited to the last 72 hours, everything involving snow is absolutely fascinating to him right now.

Work at my church today and help support my family.

Hear my son sing, "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me."
Read a card found on my pillow from my husband telling me that he loves me and just wanted me to know.

Smell clean hair after bath time - one of my absolute favorite smells in the entire world.

Teach my son to answer the question, "Who loves you?" with "Mommy loves me!" (and daddy loves me and Jesus loves me).

Today I am grateful for so very many things.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

S & L

Today I put a pair of 18-month leggings on Lauren. They fit her great because she has long legs.

Today my son is wearing a pair of 18-month jeans.

It has happened.

My children, who are 11 months apart, are wearing the same size clothes.

And, my children, who are 11 months apart, are quickly becoming the best of friends.

This makes my heart so very happy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

He's a "Yes" God

I listed to a great talk on motherhood by Beth Moore recently. Her message included some powerful reminders about being a mom that I hope to share at some point. 

Part of her message spoke to me personally about how we serve a "Yes" God.

Here is her direct quote:
"Jesus is the yes and amen to the promises of God. He is a yes God. The only time God ever says no to us is if we did that thing it would cheat us of our yes. Every no is to get us to an oncoming yes. If we take the no, we're going to miss us a yes."

I feel like there are so many times in my past when I would have taken a no from God simply because I didn't want to wait for His yes. But I completely agree with Beth when she says that we are cheating ourselves of a yes, if we take the no.

God says no, not yet.

No not this one. 

No not him or no not her.

No not now.

No not today.

He has a yes in store. He is waiting to show us His yes. He is waiting to give us our yes.

God doesn't say no, just for the sake of saying no. He loves us and He wants to say yes to us. But he doesn't want to cheat us of the wonderful yes he has waiting for us.

Every no is to get us to a yes.

Every single no.

Relationship. House. Job. Dream. Family.

no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, YES!

Oh Lord I've experienced a big, beautiful YES from you before. I know that enduring the no's from you is so that I can experience another YES. Help me to wait in patience. Help me to wait in faith. Help me to trust that I won't miss the YES you have waiting for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dear Samantha

Dear Sam,
Happy 22nd birthday!

During this month I am choosing to have a heart of gratitude everyday. Today I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for you - the birthmother of my son. 

If I think too hard about the fact that you are Samuel's birth mom, there is an ache in my heart. To be honest, sometimes it hurts when I remember that he is not my biological son.

But when I think about the fact that you carried him for nine months and then gave him to Ryan and I, my heart aches in a way that leaves me breathless - because I cannot imagine the sacrifice of handing your baby boy over to a stranger to love and raise.

Sam we are continually grateful beyond words that you made the decision to find adoptive parents for your baby. When I look back at Samuel as an infant, I didn't know how completely crazy I would be about that kid. He has changed my life. You have changed my life. Your decision, and our story, have changed many lives.

Please know that Samuel will always hear your name spoken in this household - and he will hear it used along with words such as gift, sacrifice, blessing, love, and thankful.

Today we wish you a happy birthday. Our family will pray together today that you would experience God's presence and blessings in your life this coming year.

We send you hugs. We send you love. We send you hearts of gratitude.

Have a wonderful 22nd birthday.

Love, 
Ryan, Stacy, Samuel and Lauren

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Childhood chores

I came across this article not too long ago, and it got me thinking about chores. The article makes a connection between household chores and marriage, empathy and volunteering. Children who do childhood chores are more likely to volunteer or do community work as an adult. And children who have regular chores just might find themselves in a happier marriage.

Is that a stretch? I don't know but it has given me something to ponder.

Love and Logic Parenting teaches that children should have chores beginning at age 3. Chores such as feeding family pets, helping set the table, etc. These chores should not be paid.
I believe that chores can be a teaching tool to learn responsibility, learn about meeting expectations and preparing for life as an adult.

Currently, at the age of 2, Samuel does not have any assigned chores at home. But it might be good for us to start getting into the routine of some small daily chores that I can help him with (beyond picking up and putting away toys). He is still in a crib so he doesn't have a bed to make.

What are your thoughts and experiences on chores? As a parent, teacher, grandparent, or someone who had chores when you grew up....I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I am not alone

These were the words impressed upon my heart today.

Clearly, gently, firmly, God impressed upon my heart that I am not alone.

While it is true that God is always with us, and therefore we are never alone, I don't think that is what He meant to tell me today.

I think God was reminding me that we are not alone in our trial. He was reminding me that others have walked this road, are currently walking this road and will walk this road after we are finished.

Sometimes our journey in life feels so isolating and unique. But as we face our trials and hardships, it is critical to remember that we are not alone.

There are others without work.

Others who are facing broken relationships.

Others who have too much to do, and not enough time to do it.

Others who long to sit at the feet of Jesus, but guilt and shame holds them back.

Others who long for a baby (or another baby).

Others who wait for a loved one to be healed.

Others who are in bondage to anxiety or depression or perfectionism.

Others who seek help for their marriage.

Others who are overcome with pain. Or grief. Or sadness.

Others who struggle to pay their bills.

Others who give of themselves endlessly, with little thanks.

Others who face addictions.

Others who desire to be married.

Others who are suffering the consequences of people's choices.

Others who are walking the same road, facing the same challenges and asking the same questions.

I just came downstairs from rocking my daughter to sleep. She is teething and has been up 3 out of the last 4 nights. But I am not alone on this road of motherhood. There are many others who are up with their little ones long after the sun has set.

And sometimes I need to be reminded that I am not alone.

Dear friends, we are not alone. You are not alone. Whatever your journey. Whatever your hope. Whatever your burden. Whatever your trial. Whatever your longing. Whatever your story.

You are not alone. 

May these words of truth resonate in your heart and in your mind today.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NOT being in control

Thus far, for our 30 days of gratitude, I've written what I'm thankful for or what I think we, as a family, are thankful for.

Today I asked Ryan specifically what he is thankful for.

His response? "I'm thankful that I'm not in control."

My response: "Are you really thankful that you're not in control?"

Ryan: "Yes. Because if I was in control we wouldn't have Samuel."

Whew.

His statement made me reflect on the wisdom that comes with age and life experience. 

Not everyone gains wisdom with age and life experience. But I truly believe that those who trust God with their future - and relinquish control of the how, when, where and why of that future -  will come out on the other side a wiser person.

Because trusting God and relinquishing control changes a person. It changes thought-processes, changes beliefs, and changes how we view God.

For Ryan, he views giving up control of our family and the awesome, unexpected gift of a son as going hand in hand.

So as Ryan now waits on God again, he doesn't question His faithfulness. He doesn't strive to control the situation. He's just thankful that the future of our family is not reliant upon him.

Now that's something to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

30 days of gratitude

This month, in addition to my gratitude journal where I am writing down ways we are blessed during this season of unemployment, I have decided to do a November scrapbook album. I am taking one picture a day (or sometimes many pictures a day because my kids are too cute!) to chronicle our life as a family of four with a one and two-year-old.

A couple years ago I did this during the month of March when Ryan and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. I took pictures every day during the month and called the album our "7 year itch" album. I love it because it shows who we hung out with, what we did in our free time, where we worked, and what life was like before having kids. I highly encourage you to do this if you haven't!

I haven't done this since children entered our family, so I decided this would be the month. I'm trying to write down a couple things we do each day and take at least one picture a day. I also decided since it is the month of Thanksgiving, that as a family, we would come up with one thing we are thankful for each day and I will include that in the album. This will truly help us to have an attitude of gratitude. 

While I think that my kids will love to look at this album someday and see what our everyday life was like when they were little, I also think this will help me to stay focused on the small joys in life and the many ways I am blessed.
We are seven days in, but if anyone wants to join me in doing 30 days of gratitude I would love it. Here are some ideas:
  • Take a picture every day of things you are thankful for
  • Write down one thing daily you are thankful for
  • Find a book that helps you focus on living a life of gratitude (here's a book on kids and gratitude)
  • Meditate daily on a verse that reminds you to give thanks (such as Colossians 3:15 "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.")
Here's to 30 days (or even 23 days if you start today!) of gratitude.....
P.S. Will someone please ask me in February if I actually completed my album? I am really good at starting projects and not finishing them...!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Definition of a boy

These pictures are a little old, but I've been meaning to post this quote for awhile. It fits Samuel perfectly. Some children don't like anything messy...that's definitely not the case with my son. And I am in awe of all the boy sounds that come from his mouth. Man I love my boy!


Boy, n: a noise with dirt on it.