Wednesday, October 31, 2012

before all else fails...

do you ever have these haunting thoughts that maybe you are ruining your kids?  maybe you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.  maybe you have wasted the first four years of her life by parenting her all wrong.  maybe you have ruined his sweet spirit by speaking too harshly to him.  maybe you have completely lost control over their behavior and you will never be able to have any type of positive influence in their lives ever again...

please tell me you find yourself on these downward spirals.  sometimes mine go down way farther than that.

you know that saying - when all else fails...

sometimes i'm afraid that when it comes to motherhood i would fill in that blank with...

when all else fails...pray.

it's all wrong i know.  to wait until the bottom falls out to entrust my family to more capable hands.  to work myself into a tizzy before i drop to my knees and surrender.

if there is one thing i have learned as a mother it is this...

before all else fails - pray.

pray for my own heart to be filled with patience and kindness and love and grace.

pray for their hearts to open up to mine and somehow find Jesus there.

pray for forgiveness for the small missteps and the colossal failures.

pray for joy in serving.

pray that the Holy Spirit would be so present in our hearts and our home that each of our lives would be swept up into a life of eternal promises rather than lives weighed down heavy by the empty promises of this world.

pray that their heavenly Father would do the work in them that I am incapable of.

being a mother is so hard.  i never could have imagined quite how much this role would challenge me, stretch me, pain me, and also bring me the deepest joy i have ever known.

...and so i have learned not to mother alone.  i have learned to parent from a position of dependence on the One who created my children and knows what is best for them {and for me}.  and so i pray.

i love these words from sally clarkson...

how do we make the commitment to give the area of motherhood over to God as a sacrifice of worship to him?  we yield our personal rights into his hands.  we give up our time and expectations to him - and also our fears and worries about how we will manage.  we trust him to take care of us and our family.  we let him redirect our thinking and expectations and adjust our dreams.  and we wait in faith to see the fruit of our hard labor in the lives of our children, knowing that he will be faithful to honor our commitment to him. 
{from the mission of motherhood}

and so the 31 days have come and gone.  thanks for joining me.
tomorrow i take full advantage of my mommy role by packing my kids up and heading south to the magical land of a famous mouse...more on that to come...

Monday, October 29, 2012

love in action

let's be were getting tired of hearing from me 

every. single. day.

weren't you?

on my last post i warned you that i may not be returning the next day {or the next}.  i had to leave a gap in my 31 days of mommyhood to switch to another role.

 the role of sister.
{30+ years ago}
my little brother got married this weekend.  there are too many words and emotions swirling around to explain the magnitude of this event.  

my brother.  my best friend.  married.

it's a precious thing when someone you love deeply marries someone he loves deeply.  it's complete abundance when you love that other someone too.  when she feels like a sister even before it's official.

this weekend i was more sister and less mother.  it was a sweet time for me. know what?  in the midst of all my sisterly duties i was inspired by my brother and his new bride to recommit myself to the most important role i play as a wife and mother...the role of servant.

my eyes well up every time i think of the countless acts of sacrificial love i witnessed between these two in the hours leading up to the "i do's".  and they did it all with joy...

he took trip after trip back and forth between the ceremony and reception sites with his truck loaded full of the things that would make her wedding day dreams come true.

she agreed to only 5 days in her tropical paradise because she knew any more idle time would kill him.

he wore a suit and endured more picture-taking in one day than he has in the last five years.

she went with the bbq and let him prepare all the sides {because anything he didn't grow and cook himself would be inferior}.

he arrived early for the ceremony with a leaf blower on his back to clear the cluttered beach where her bare feet would walk.

she let go of the notion of a formal send-off because...well...he thought they should stick around to help clean up.

and the result?

the most beautiful wedding weekend i have ever been a part of.

{my kids are kind of amazing...wouldn't you agree?}

{the beautiful bride in her vintage gown}
{a perfect windswept day}
{me serving communion to the bride and part for me!}
{the newlyweds!}
{escorted by my daddy}
{how cool is this guest registry?} 
{my wild bunch}
{the kid can flat out break dance}

today i am recommitting myself to sacrificial love and servanthood in my own relationships...and praying it will continue in theirs.
“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”  
Tim Keller

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

when mothers get desperate

It was the last word she wrote.

I scrolled back up through the text and read it a second time - a prayer for peace and trust and encouragement.  Then, the final word from a friend who’s been here…


One of the most important tools I have as a mother is the ability to call on friends in my weak moments.  One such friend mothers twice as many kids as me and we have an understanding that if our days dip too low we will send out a mommy 9-1-1 alert.  If one of us receives the alert we get on our knees.  We pray from a place of knowing and understanding - a place in which it is easy to plead for another because we’ve been in the pleading place ourselves.   

Thankfully we have yet to have simultaneous mommy 9-1-1 days.  If that every happened I think we might just ball ourselves up together behind a locked door and cry for hours.  If you’re a mom, you know what I mean.  You need people to cry with you sometimes.

There are weeks like these when life has worn me so bare that I can’t even muster up enough strength to make it through the next 5 minutes.  
A week that contains both a funeral and a wedding.  
A leak in the kitchen ceiling.  
A child who has decided to regress in his toileting. 

I know I need God.  I know he is here.  But sometimes I have trouble uncovering him under the hot, heavy blanket of responsibility and frustration and fatigue that is draped all around me.  In those moments we need the calm, fresh hand of another to gently pull the cloth back off of our heads and lovingly place truth in front of our face. 

We mothers need mothering too. 

And sometimes friends who are in the same season of life are the best people to do that for us.

I am clinging to her words today.  She draws them from the well of living water.  Her Savior is my Savior, and so I keep going back to that word.


It means to hand something over. 

In this case it’s my life I’m handing over.  It’s God I’m handing it over to.  I’ve done it a million times before and will do it a million times again.  Why can’t i keep my own controlling hands off of it? 

On days like today I can only see my own to-do list and the obstacles getting in the way of it.  When that happens I grab my life back and squeeze it tight, so tight that it takes the breath right out of it.  Takes the breath right out of me.

One by one I am prying my fingers back and peeling them off of every piece of life that is burdening me right now.  I'm flattening my hand until every piece lays there ready to be swept back into Him - where they lose their weight and their darkness and instead regain their bright, floating beauty that gives life instead of stifling it.

You’re not getting the post I promised yesterday.  I don’t know what {if anything} you will get tomorrow.

All I have to offer today is the reality of motherhood.  
The reality that sometimes plans have to change.  
The reality that sometimes we bite off more than we can chew.  
The reality that living under the expectations of others can crush us.  T
he reality that sometimes the sweetest words we can utter are these...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

words to reflect them

the things i learn about my kids day by day, month by month, year by year, astonish me.  there is something sacred about being the person who catches the very first glimpses into who they are becoming.  i want to tuck away every little piece of them that reveals itself to me...because i know they won't be exactly the same person tomorrow that they are today.

each year around their birthday i take time to record some words that reflect what i see in them.  today i wanted to share the words that reflected a 4 year old lucy on her birthday this year.
tomorrow you'll get oliver's...

Monday, October 22, 2012

the pains of motherhood

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did - that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that - a parent's heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” Debra Ginsberg

Sunday, October 21, 2012

creative mama

every mama needs a creative outlet.  
most of the time mine is it was this...
 i spent some time this afternoon working on some items for my family's store - the farmhouse.

one of the pieces i did was a custom order for another mommy...i hope she likes it...

what's your creative outlet?

to read the rest of 31 days begin here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

undivided attention

being a mother of more than one child means that your attention is typically divided.  
but not today.  
as oliver and joey walked out of the door this morning on their way to the golf course lucy jumped up, grabbed my hand and said - ' it's just you and me sister!'

and so it was...for nearly the entire day.
with my focus all in one place i was able to see her better.  her whole big grown-up 4-year-old self.  when did the last traces of toddlerhood fall away?  when did she learn how to carry a full tray of food to the table without spilling anything?   when did her reasoning skills lead her to ask really good questions about God {and a million other things}?  and since when does she know every. single. word. to 'knick knack paddy whack'?

as fast as our lives move...the gradual growing up gets woven into the fibers of each busy day almost unnoticed.  we call all these developmental achievements 'baby steps' but then i turn around and it seems she's been leaping tall buildings in a single bound.  

sometimes i miss the baby steps. 

but most of the time i feel myself cheering on the inside as her strides get longer and longer...

Friday, October 19, 2012

the smell of tea olives {a tribute to my aunt linda}

i will never smell a tea olive tree without thinking of my aunt linda.
the older i get the more i experience death...but that doesn't make it any easier.

for years my aunt linda has been battling cancer...and most of those years in great victory.  last night the cancer finally took her body.  but i know her soul is more alive than ever.

one of the hardest things for me about death is all the things i wish i had said.  you would think that i would have learned by now to say what i need to say and not wait around.  but somehow i always end up crying my biggest tears over the things left unspoken.  maybe when it comes to those you love the words are never enough.

my aunt linda had a deep and wide faith.  she also had a green thumb.  i think gardening was part of her worship.  the way that she cared for and enjoyed every flower, plant, and tree that surrounded her house in the woods...  

she planted two tea olive trees right outside of her garage many years ago.  they grew and grew but never bloomed...never produced that lovely fragrance...until a year ago.  one day when i was walking up to her back door i breathed in a sweetness that i didn't recognize.  when i asked aunt linda about it she told me the story of the tea olive trees.  how she had wondered after 5 and then 6 and then 7 years why they weren't blooming.  someone had suggested that maybe she had planted two male trees so they were unable to cross-pollinate.  after all those years, she assumed they would never bloom.  but then one day they just did.  as we stood there breathing them in she smiled and said...just one more gift God has kept me alive to receive.

my aunt linda knew how to receive what God gave...the good and the bad.  she received them both with grace.  it's one of the many things i always admired about her.  one of the ways that she influenced me to be a better person...a better mother.

i will miss my aunt linda.  we all will.  there will be a hole in our family without her.  already this morning i cried when lucy cuddled up under the quilt that her great aunt lovingly made for her. 

{every one of her great nieces and nephews have one}.
i know all of heaven is celebrating today as linda harris mccorkle is welcomed into her eternal home...completely cancer-free.  knowing that brings my heart comfort.  more tears of grief and sorrow will be cried by those of us who knew her but with all that we are losing there is also so much left behind...

there are some people who, like those tea olives, produce such a beautiful fragrance in their lifetime that there is always a sweet part of them that lingers here with us.

for we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing...
2 corinthians 2:15

Thursday, October 18, 2012

nurturing or vacuuming :: what do you choose?

sometimes the mess starts to swallow me.  

there are weeks that are so full that i step into the house and put blinders on so that i can walk straight past the piles on the counter and and dried up food on the floor.  i have to walk straight to the things that are farther up the priority list than 'cleaning'.

before i was a mother i had no idea how quickly kids could trash a house.  i had no idea i would be so busy that i couldn't take time to get a broom and dustpan every time there was a spill.  i've never been the most neat and orderly person but as a mom i have taken that to a whole new level.

lately the piles have grown higher than usual...i felt them looming...and then there was yesterday...
i have 2 new friends.  they are sisters.  they are so warm and kind that i feel like i am related to them too.  our kids go to preschool together.  
i don't care how young my kids are...i already pray for good friends for them.  this family has 'good friend' kind of kids and it makes me happy that my kids love them and they love my kids back.
after school yesterday one of my new friends spontaneously invited my gang over to her house for a playdate...i love spontaneous friends.  i especially love spontaneous friends whose houses are not perfect.  i don't think this friend would mind me telling you that her house was not spotless.  i can say that because my house currently looks like this...

my friend may have made some brief allusion to the fact that she hadn't cleaned up for us but as we walked through her back door she was completely comfortable welcoming me into her home...just the way it was.

and welcomed i felt...

welcomed into a real home...where real people live.  a home with colorful bible verses taped up on the walls written by kindergarten hands.  a home where my kids felt comfortable enough to play and laugh and dress-up without their mama hovering over hoping they wouldn't break something.  a home full of warmth and comfort and kindness.  a home where people and conversation were valued over material possessions and their appearance.   it was a beautiful home.

i want my home to feel that way to others...and to me.  i want to see past the the dishes piled in the sink and the dirty clothes on the couch.  i want my focus instead to be on the souls of family and friends that are nurtured here.  

more time nurturing...less time vacuuming.  that's what i'm going for.

this is day 18 of 31 days...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

letters to oliver

one of my earlier 31 days posts included excerpts from my letters to lucy.  

now it's oliver's turn.
on a side i was looking back through oliver's journal i noticed two things:
#1 - the poor kid has way less entries than his big sister {and it's not because she is way older and i've had more time to work on hers...they are 17 months apart...the bulk of lucy's letters were written in those 17 months before i began juggling life with two}
#2 - many of oliver's letters contain a reference to lucy.  it reminded me of how often they are a 'package deal'...never really knowing life without one another.  i love that.  i also need to be aware of that.  i need to be more intentional about celebrating each of their individuality.

{september 11 2009}
tiny oliver ~
i have yet to hold you in my arms but already my love for you as my son overflows in my heart.  i have a few quiet moments here at our family's farmhouse to share just a few of the countless thoughts and feelings i have as your birth draws near.  your big sister lucy is upstairs napping - something that is much needed for her because she plays so hard!  i know that she is going to love including you in all of her adventures...and you will love her funny, sweet spirit...
your daddy is just through the woods at our house working hard to get some things ready before you are born.  i feel so blessed that we will be able to bring you from the hospital to a cozy home, nestled in the woods, filled with warmth and love, and surrounded by a community of family and friends.  God has been so faithful in providing above and beyond what we could ever hope or imagine...
anxiously awaiting your first breath in this world and your precious life that will follow...
{july 9 2010}
i planned to take some time this morning while our house is still sleepy and quiet to write in your journal.  i got caught up in a book i've been reading and an hour slipped by.  now i hear you happily 'talking' upstairs in your crib...always happy...that's you.  my eyes brim with tears as i think of the gift of peace and joy you are to me.  i can hardly wait to get upstairs to behold your tiny grinning face and cuddle your soft little body.  the writing will have to wait yet again...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

heart battles {part 2}

{click HERE to read part 1 of this post}
in all this heart-digging i keep hearing the same sweet truth whispered in my ear.  the words i want whispered in my children's a thousand different ways.

this life of walking with jesus is not easy.  we are called to a life of sacrificial love but something dark inside of us tells us that it is our needs that should be met first...not the needs of others...that pretzel that someone else is about to savor should really be ours.  and so that battle rages.

the good news is this.  sin is not our identity.  we are not children of darkness.  as my pastor reminded us of at church this week - we are not just sinners saved by grace.  we are co-heirs with Christ.  we are children of God and entitled to all the benefits of that sonship {or 'daughtership'} along with Jesus. 

so this is love...the ultimate demonstration of sacrificial love.  not just that God sent his son to die for our sins but that he offers us the gift of eternity and all the infinite benefits of a relationship with him.  

so there is the saving...but there is also the giving.  

he saved us so that we would be in the position to receive the gift.  and how can we not receive a gift that required that kind of sacrifice to give.  that kind of love.

i so desperately want to teach this truth to my children.  without it...nothing else in this life matters.  

i have gotten in the habit of randomly telling my kids throughout the day - i love you everyday, all the time, no matter what.  at night when i put them to bed i ask the question - when do i love you?  they grin and repeat the words they have learned by heart.  i want them to know that i love them in that way and...that God loves them in an even bigger way - a 100% spiritual {not a single ounce of flesh} kind of love.  he loves them...he loves us...everyday, all the time, no matter what and infinitely more than any love we have ever experienced on this earth.

this is the truth i want whispered over and over again in their ears until they experience it in their hearts and then are sealed in its truth.

i created you and i know you...better than you know yourself.  my love for you is deep and wide and without is a sacrificial love.  everything that you are and that you are not is completely covered by my grace so live boldly in the freedom of knowing that - for by grace you have been saved through faith...and this is not your own is my gift to you.  live with open hands so that you may more easily receive my gifts and more easily give them back to others.

in the battle for their hearts i want my kids to know the importance of this.

open your hands.  stop grasping for pretzels that are not yours.  open your hands.  stop reaching for the next rung on the ladder you believe you must climb.  open your hands.  stop clinging to some false identity that this world is giving you.  open your give and receive.

a few weeks ago joey and i sat across from a very different lucy than the one i described at the beginning of this post.  {remember the pretzel incident?}  this time we were having a family dinner on the back porch together.  oliver was in a 'mood'.  he kept being disruptive and we watched as lucy was surprisingly patient and helpful with him.  at one point joey had to correct oliver for throwing food on the floor {or something like that}.  he instantly broke down into sobs of sadness mixed with defiance.  we watched him turn and run into the house to escape the situation.  joey and i looked at each other but it was lucy who spoke up - 'don't worry.  i will go and talk to him.'  

and there she went.  she didn't have to.  she could have stayed in her seat, enjoying her meal, and having mommy and daddy all to herself.  but something inside of her prompted her to sacrifice all of that and demonstrate love to her little brother.

two minutes later they both walked out holding hands and smiling.  lucy escorted oliver to his seat, got him situated and asked - 'are you okay now buddy?'  he nodded and went back to eating his dinner.  joey and i looked wide-eyed at each other.  there it was...that beautiful part of her...the light.  

and that, my friends, is the good news.

the hearts of our children {like our own} will always have dark corners but for those of us who belong to jesus there is light.  and when his light shines in the hearts of our children...well...i don't think there is anything in this world that takes my breath away like that.
this is day 16 of 31 days...

Monday, October 15, 2012

heart battles {part 1}

sin.  battle of the flesh.  whatever you want to call it...there is a dark and tainted part in all of us that we must confront.  it keeps returning to my own heart...the ugly, dirty filth of it.  

i wonder when it first showed its face in mine.  i wonder did my mother notice - the way i notice.  you close eyes tight and hope so hard that your mistakes will not be theirs.  that their path will be straight and they would walk it with ease.  but deep down you know they will get caught up in thickets and strain up the side of mountains.  but on that precarious journey their faith will be born...and raised.
several weeks ago lucy stole a pretzel out of oliver's bowl and then bit him when he tried to take it back.  thankfully i was so appalled that i was literally speechless and could only stomp my foot and point hard to the door {which meant - you better get in your room before i find the words that are churning up inside of me}.  her senses must have returned because she quickly followed my nonverbal cues and excused herself...still chewing up that pretzel.

after consoling oliver and convincing him that he would in fact survive and actually didn't even need a bandaid, i confronted the attacker.  as i sat on the floor cross-legged with her mirrored in front of me i saw it...that ugly side.  that deep-rooted creature that tries to fight it's way to the front.  i saw the war that was already being waged for her heart...and it broke mine.

lucy - i can not believe that you just did that.  you know that we never bite and we show kindness and gentleness to each other.  why in the world did you do that?

{looking me dead-on with a straight face}  because i wanted it.

wow...really?  just 4 years old and this battle has already begun.  and over a pretzel?

lucy - repeat after's never ok - to hurt someone - to get what you want.  {repeat 10x}  

i wanted to open her chest and carve it inside of her.  it's never ok - to hurt someone - to get what you want.  i wanted to pour out example after example of the times in my own life and the lives of others that this one simple thing had caused such catastrophic damage.  

you's ok to get things that you want when they are given to you.  and believe me...God does give good things...very good things.  it's when you take something that you want at another's expense that the trouble ensues.  you might receive momentary satisfaction but there are always consequences for these types of behaviors.

the bottom line is this...behaviors like those are the opposite of love.

i've spent a lot of time lately rereading the prodigal god by tim keller and examining the parable from luke 15 of the father and his two sons.  there is so much to be learned in those verses.  one thing that has haunted me is the realization that both brothers had a one track mind focused on getting what they wanted.  the younger brother went about it through rebellion and disobedience.  the older brother went about it with a self-righteous spirit of doing everything 'right'.  their methods were different but their goal was the same...get what i want whatever the cost.

ultimately they both hurt the father by their actions.  the younger brother broke his father's heart when he asked for his inheritance and chose a life apart from him.  the older brother revealed his true colors by turning on his father and brother when his own inheritance and his own favor was jeopardized...equally as heart-breaking for a parent.

i've been examining my own heart...digging around for the places where selfish motives lie.  the ways that i am probably breaking the father's heart by my actions.  they are there...those ugly all of us.  some of them have become such a part of our character and personality that it's hard to see them for what they are...sin...darkness...a hindrance to our own spiritual well-being and the well-being of those around us.

being a mother has exposed my weaknesses.

little mirrors everywhere.

in all this heart-digging i keep hearing the same sweet truth whispered in my ear.  the words i want whispered in my children's a thousand different ways.

a few weeks ago joey and i sat across from a very different lucy than the one i described at the beginning of this post...

{we can't stop here...please join me tomorrow for the 2nd part of this post}
{this is day 15 of 31 days}

Sunday, October 14, 2012

the mother of all playlists

every family needs some good music to inspire, encourage, and live life to the tune of.  today i am sharing my kids' playlist {the one we sing along to in the minivan and use for dance parties on rainy days}.

i really believe that music is a great way to connect to the hearts of our kids.  just think of how music moves's the same for our little ones.  

i decided early on that i would be intentional about providing my kids with songs that were fun and that also imprinted important messages on their hearts.  whether or not they fully understand all of these lyrics, they have memorized so many beautiful truths that i hope they will carry with them forever.  it's just one little easy way that we can plant seeds in the hearts of our kids.  i hope they will always remember the stories that go with so many of these songs...they are our stories.

and y'all...there is something about hearing my 2 and 4 year old proclaim with great joy at the top of their lungs that 'my God is so big, so strong, and so mighty.  there's nothing my God can not do!'.  i hope they live their lives believing that to be true.  i hope you do too. is a sampling of their favorites {i have to admit...i really love some of these too...i may or may not listen to them when i am by myself}.  i hope you and your kids have fun with them!

{1} shout :: yancy {so - we love yancy...especially her little praise party album but check out all of her stuff...the kids love singing along with her}
{2} brand new day :: yancy
{3} my god is so big :: amber sky {amber sky produces all the music we use with our kids at church...tons of great stuff}
{4} better than the best thing :: amber sky
{5} our great god :: amber sky
{6} i know he loves me :: amber sky
{7} i can see :: amber sky
{8} supercalifragilisticexpialidocious {yes...i spelled that from memory} :: mary poppins
{9} upside down :: jack johnson {this whole album is worth a listen}
{10} pollywog in a bog :: barenaked ladies {this is from their snacktime album which is fun...but they have other kids stuff too}
{11} hakuna matata :: the lion king {we have fun with a lot of the disney songs.  here is a list of the top 10 of all time}
{12} just the way you are :: bruno mars {had to include this one for oliver.  i spontaneously started singing this for him the first time he went poop on the potty and it became somewhat of a we all love to sing it to each other...i do want them to know that they are amazing...just the way they are}

what music inspires you and your kids?  would you share some of your songs and the stories that go with them?

{this is day 14 of 31 days...}

Saturday, October 13, 2012

the one word for moms...

if i could only give one word of advice for moms it would be this...
i have it hanging on my kitchen cabinet...the center of my home...not because it is something i strongly identify with but because i so often need the reminder.

today i spent the entire day with my kids...just me and the kids.  no agenda.  no to-do list.  no time constraints.  just the loose plan that we would go to our local amusement park whenever we were dressed and ready and then depending on how everyone was doing we would get lunch together somewhere and then cuddle up together and rest when rest was needed.

it was a good day.  from start to finish.

there was less whining, bickering, backtalk, impatience, disobedience...and more


i laughed at every silly little thing they did and watched them mirror my expression.  i laughed at the priceless comments and the inconsequential mishaps...and i filled with joy when they followed my lead.

this weekend i hope you make a point to do this one thing.  


do it when you are feeling free and wild and full of joy.  and do it {especially} when your face feels tight and your heart even tighter.  when you are dragging and weary and burdened into darkness.  trust that the Creator of joy can give you a laughing spirit even when you are feeling the absolute opposite.


it is the 'expression of lively amusement' and don't we all want to feel alive?  we all want to give life and share it with each other.  let your giggles and snorts and deep belly chuckles jolt your heart and the hearts of those you love back to life.  

this is day 13 of 31 days...