The Wonder of a Little Girl

DSC_0017 (2)

My Annalise is quite a special little girl.  She has bright blue eyes that sparkle with life.  She has cute little dimples in the corners of her mouth when she smiles and one on her right cheek as well.

DSC_0035 (2)

She loves to run around the house in bouncy, toddler circles.  She loves to run on the sidewalk outside our home, her small arms pumping with the joy of childhood.

I am certain that she must be one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe.  There is no sound more beautiful than her high-pitched voice exclaiming, “Mama!”  when she sees me.  There is no feeling more wonderful than when she puts her chubby, little arms around my neck and rubs her soft cheek against my cheek, slowly and lovingly.  I can feel her long, dark eyelashes brush my skin.  She snuggles in and expresses her joy by sighing, “Ohhhh, ohhhh,” like we do when we hug her.

Throughout the day, I will call out to her for fun, “Lisie, Lisie!” which is her nickname.  She responds, “Mommy, Ahmmy!”  I can’t hide my absolute delight in her.  I smile wide and my eyes tell her that she is the light of my life.  She smiles back with those dimples and a look that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

DSC_0032 (3)

Recently I gathered some pictures to decorate my mother’s new room.  She just moved to an assisted living home in March.  Now when I visit my mom, my attention is always drawn to a particular picture on her bookshelf.  It is an old photo of me.  I look to be about three, just a little older than Annalise.  I have noticed that I have the same bright blue eyes.  I have those cute mouth dimples.  And there it is, the smile that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

DSC_0059

My mom had told me many times that Annalise looks very much like I did at her age.  Mom also says that she acts a lot like me, sweet and kind but also feisty.  I wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t until I saw that picture did I begin to think, “I was just as precious and marvelous as Annalise.  I was loved and cherished just as Annalise is.”

I don’t know why I had forgotten that.  Somehow the years and my life experiences had told me a different story; that I wasn’t that special, that I had to work really hard to get people to like me, and that I had to worry about losing that approval.

God is taking me back to that little girl.  The one who was the most beautiful creature in the universe.  The one who captured her Father’s heart with one glance of her eyes.

DSC_0027 (4)

The one who already had the perfect love that could never be earned, the love that could never be diminished, the love that could never be lost.  That little girl is me… and I really AM something, aren’t I?

A Bedroom Makeover that took 18 years (and a Mother’s thoughts on the graduation of her firstborn)

I have been dreaming about decorating a little girl’s room for some time now…18 years to be exact.  When I was pregnant with my first child, we didn’t know the gender of the baby.  We chose a neutral Noah’s Ark bedroom set to put on our baby registry.  Our baby girl seemed to be delighted with her bedroom.  This also worked for our next baby, a boy who was born 18 months later.  Areli and Cole shared a room and the animals in muted colors worked great for them.

However, when Areli turned three she became a big girl almost overnight.  She was totally potty-trained and moved into a big bed.  As I searched for the perfect comforter set, I began to dream of decorating a room for her.  Perhaps soon we would move to a bigger home and Areli could have her own room, a GIRL’S room!

I found a lovely comforter and sheet set called, “Mariposa.”  It had butterflies on a purple and yellow back ground.  For the next few years I played with decorating ideas.  I would paint imaginary walls in my mind, first bright yellow, then lavender.  I would experiment with different colors of curtains.  I decided that I would frame the adorable Anne Geddes baby butterflies in white frames and put them up all over the walls.   The most beautiful little girl’s room began to take shape, and I was so proud of myself.  Areli was going to be thrilled!

The years passed and we never did get a home big enough to give Areli her own room.  We never had the time or money to paint walls and decorate, and then we rented for several years.  Boring white walls became the norm for us.

Finally we moved into our own home and Areli got the largest bedroom…to share with two brothers.  Eventually the brothers moved out and a sister moved in.  There was even a baby in there a few times.  Yet we never seemed able to patch the cracking walls and paint over the dull and faded yellow.

DSC_0449DSC_0444

I still held on to my dream of a purple and yellow room for Areli.  However, Areli was now growing up and developing her own dreams.  I realized that purple, yellow, and butterflies had nothing to do with her dreams.  She preferred green, blue, horses, football, and photography.  She had developed tastes that were totally different from mine!  How did this happen?

This is all that is left of my dreams.

DSC_0175

A picture that is being stored in the attic and faded old sheets that used to be purple.

This year Areli turned 18.  She has grown into a beautiful and capable young woman.  She is so very like me, yet so totally different.

DSC_0155 (2)

She has different tastes in books, movies, clothes, and interior decorating.  She still loves green and blue and football and photography.  She helps so much around our home.  She loves and serves her family everyday with grace and endurance.

It was finally time for a bedroom makeover – ARELI STYLE!

Chris had a week off of work right around Areli’s 18th birthday.  He spent much of it fixing her walls, painting, and hanging window treatments and decorations.

DSC_0168

Areli picked the color “Electric Lime.”  When I saw it on the wall for the first time I thought, “Oh my!  Was that really what Areli wanted?”

DSC_0166

SHE LOVES IT!  Her dream had become a reality!  Now she has the perfect girl’s room in which to do her school work, hang out, and rest.  She still has to share it with a younger sister, but I think she feels like it is finally truly a room for HER, designed by her.

Areli graduates from High School in less than two weeks.  She has worked ahead and has already finished all of her classes with straight As.  She is going to work on her photography over the summer and get a job in the fall.  Her plan is to attend a Discipleship Training School with Youth With a Mission the following year.  I am excited for her!  The sky is the limit and the possibilities are endless.  With all the missions organizations all over the world, she could do anything and go anywhere.  Her future potential is boundless!

DSC_0167

However, all this is very sad for a mom.  When I think about my home without Areli in it, I just want to cry.  How will I make it without her?  She helps me so much with all the household duties and taking care of the younger children.  More importantly, she is a wonderful friend, an oasis of womanly wisdom in a sea of boys.  She is the person who always understands me.  She is my companion when Chris is working long hours.

DSC_0170

The other day I had a precious hour of free time before bed.  I decided to spend it connecting with God, sitting on the love-seat in my bedroom.  I was going to read and pray and write in my journal.  When I entered, I found Areli sitting on my love seat, reading a book that I had always loved, and taking notes in her journal.  I felt my heart swell with joy as I realized something.  Areli had fully absorbed all I have tried to teach her.  She has heeded my instruction, and she has also watched my life and followed my example.  She has taken ownership of her faith and she deliberately seeks out truth.  She has worked to learn and remember what is important.

DSC_0169

She is so much like me yet so different from me…and so much better.  My ceiling is her foundation.  She is strong and mature…and almost ready to fly.

I want to whoop and holler in excitement for Areli…the successful efforts of my mothering!  I want to curl up in a ball and sob for the same reason…for the beautiful “Electric Lime” room that will soon be half-way empty and for the vacant place in my heart.

DSC_0178 (2)

I am so glad that we finally gave Areli that bedroom makeover that I had always been planning…even if it did take 18 years.  Secretly I am hoping it might help her to stay a little longer, and beckon her to return to this safe haven again and again and again.

 

Reasons Why I NEED a Master Bathroom

I found myself cold, wet, wrapped in a towel and crammed into the bathroom closet.

“I NEED a master bathroom!” I yelled out in desperation to God, the universe and anyone who would listen.

How did I end up here, sandwiched between the drawers full of toiletries and the rack of hanging clothes, wishing I could dry off and just GET DRESSED IN PEACE?!!  I made the fatal mistake that many moms make…I unlocked the door.

We live in a house built in 1924.  It is lovely and full of character.  We only have one full bathroom for the 11 of us as well as one half-bath.  The full bath is extremely large for an older home…but it is only ONE bathroom for the 11 of us.  The door only locks with a skeleton key just like all the other doors in the house.  When we moved into the house in 2007, we noticed an entire cabinet built just to hold all the skeleton keys, 55 hooks in all.  There were only a fraction of the keys left, maybe 15.  Now we only have 6, some of which are probably for doors that are no longer hanging.  That leaves 2 skeleton keys left to lock the bathroom, our bedroom, and the attic door.  Therefore the children no longer have access to said Keys.

That day I had taken the Key out of hiding and locked the door.

Ahhhhhh!  Peace!  I turned the worship music on high and enjoyed my alone time as I took a shower.  I was just drying off when my husband knocked on the door.

“Yes?” I asked, trying not to sound annoyed at the intrusion.

“Can I come in?” he asked.

I usually open the door for my husband, so against my better judgement I turned that key in the lock.  The door opened a crack.

“Quick, get into the closet!” my husband said with urgency.  “Calvin really has to go and someone is in the downstairs bathroom.”

“WHAT!”

“Come on!  It will just take him a minute.  Get in the closet,” Chris told me.  Calvin is seven and bathroom needs can be fairly urgent at that age.

So there I was in the closet – cold, wet, and crammed…and wondering what was taking so long.

“Oh, you don’t just have to go pee Calvin?” I heard Chris say.  “Come on, Calvin! Hurry!”

I began to feel panic rising in my throat.  I was stuck in there while Calvin was…you know!

“I should have never unlocked that door!” I yelled out to Chris and to myself and to all the mothers of the world –

“ DON’T UNLOCK THAT DOOR!”

I began that moment to compile a list of reasons why I NEED a master bathroom.

1. My husband and I could use the privacy!

2.I don’t want my toddlers and young children to have access to my rather expensive toiletries.

This is the reason for numbers 2, 3, and 4. Courage was trying to use my Miracle Skin Salve (it is the only thing that will help heal Ashlyn’s outbreaks of psoriasis and costs $30 for a small jar).  He dropped the entire thing in the toilet.  I have resorted to storing that replacement jar among other precious items in the “feminine drawer” in the bathroom closet.  So far, so good.  It remains unmolested.

3.I would like to maintain the integrity of  my medications.

I have a natural throat spray that is a life saver during a bad sore throat. I used it several times before I realized that the taste was really off.  I finally deduced that Courage had poured out most of the throat pray and then had added tap water.  Cadin told me later that Courage had also spit in it.  Why he didn’t think that information was important to tell me immediately, I do not know.  The new throat spray is now stored in the box of nursing pads.  So far so good.

4. I don’t want to “share” my hair products with a three-year-old.

My almost full bottle of Shine Serum  went missing. Weeks later Courage told me that he had poured it all out into the trash.  The new bottle in now being stored in the “feminine drawer”, fingers crossed.

5. I no longer want to unsuccessfully scour the entire house to find important items that should be right where I left them, such as the tweezers, fingernail clippers, hair accessories, and even toilet paper.

6. I don’t want to wonder what has touched my towel during the course of the day.

7. I could offer my children more bathroom time.

I noticed a water bottle in my teenage son’s room. It contained a yellow liquid I found very suspect.  When I asked Cole about it, he replied, “What do you expect me to do when you girls are in the bathroom?”

“Wait!” came my indignant reply.

“Sometimes there is someone in the downstairs bathroom, and I just can’t wait.”

“Well, you can at least empty the bottle!”

“Why?  It is not full yet,” Cole said matter-of-factly.

I would wager to say that Cole could benefit from me having a master bathroom, and I could stop becoming slightly nauseated whenever I pass his room.

  1. I could avoid stepping in a pee puddle when using the toilet in the middle of the night.

  2. I could save my daughter from the horror.

    I already told my sweet teenage daughter that if we got a master bathroom, she could use it and escape the jungle that is our current bathroom –the inevitable misses from six boys who like to pee all over the place and also don’t feel the need to flush down ANYTHING!

  3. Most importantly, I don’t ever want to be naked in the closet again while my son goes poop!

Chris has already come up with an ingenious plan to get us that master bathroom.  Our bedroom has a door that leads to an outside porch that already has a roof on it.  He just needs to enclose the porch and bring up the water from the laundry room below.  Of course there will be a million other details to consider and the expense of doing all of that.  So I have decided to start a Go Fund Me Account. If you would like to donate to our very worthy cause, just look up “Pooping in Peace for Every Brandenburg.”

capture

Found this lovely bathroom on Love of Family and Home , and look!  No pee puddles on the floor.  I am in love!

Just kidding! This article was written for the pure entertainment value….but if you should feel a burden for our family and want to give us a brand new master bathroom….we wouldn’t turn you down.

One Woman’s Stand : March for Life 2017 by Patricia Leach

I am so excited to introduce my second guest blogger, Patricia Leach.  She was one of the first to show love to a scared and shy teenager when I first visited Life Center (Word Fellowship at that time) back in 1989.  She became my pastor and my role model as I watched her live a life of integrity and compassion.  Now I am honored to call her my dear, dear friend!  She participated in the March for Life on January 27th and here is her story. 

Many years ago I walked with my eldest son, then only four years old, in a local pro-life parade sponsored by one of our community’s pregnancy centers. David’s tiny hands clenched the cardboard sign that together we had crayoned in shades of blue and pink. He was focused on our course and held his Walk for Life placard with bold resolve. Beside us, my husband with baby #2 in tow added the exclamation point that we are a family who stand for life.

In preparation for the event and in the simplest of terms, I had explained to David what it meant for a woman to choose to have an abortion. His cherubic face tightened in disbelief that such a procedure could be performed upon a baby living inside its mommy’s ‘tummy’. Far too young to grasp the issue’s many ramifications, his incredulous expression still captured the dreadfulness of this senseless practice.

What began as an impulse born from such a conviction became a reality when I decided to attend the 44th March for Life in Washington, D.C. My involvement in the pro-life movement has included stints of red-taped-LIFE silent protests on the state capitol stairs, an annual Mother’s Day fundraiser – the Baby Bottle Blast – and for many years, our own personal monthly contribution to the same local pregnancy center. But to join the national gathering? I often watched the previous marches from the comfort of my home, admiring those braving the elements while adding my amen to impassioned speeches and faith-filled prayers. Somehow this year was different. I had to go.

life-8

Maybe, too, it was the recent footage of an earlier march that week that motivated me. Other women had descended on Washington for what appeared to be a variety of causes. And though I support their cry for equal and respectful treatment, much of the rhetoric fell flat to me against the backdrop of anger and vulgarity. Their assembling also included an unwillingness to embrace women with my pro-life viewpoint. What was deemed ‘The Women’s March’ lacked the very openness and acceptance they purported. In many ways, they did not stand for me. So early the day of the March for Life, I headed south with a friend to join what turned out to be hundreds of thousands and show my support. In going, I didn’t need anyone to stand for me;

I wanted to make a stand.

Upon arriving at the National Mall, we caught our first glimpses of the day. The crispness in the air hinted to the clarity of vision we would share with fellow marchers. Unfurled in the distance surrounding the Washington Monument, a circle of Stars and Stripes silently witnessed a cause rallying with pride.

life-7

Our feet fell in step upon well-manicured grounds, as slowly we made our way through the security checkpoint and secured a spot to hear the presentations. Chants of ‘We are the pro-life generation’ earmarked this vocal vigil which earlier began with songs of worship, The National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. Lawmakers who have challenged the status quo of Roe v. Wade rallied the crowd with hopes of legislative strides. Each succeeding speaker’s message, though all passionate, was distinctly set within parameters of compassion and civility, as if the movement itself had matured and wrapped its arms around the many casualties – yes, the babies, but mothers and fathers, too – that such a history of atrocities had produced. In the press of humanity we stood, fully aware that we were partaking in a moment.

life-6

And then the trek began – about a mile and a half journey up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and Capitol Building. A sea of people – some reports 600,000 strong – formed a wave of movement deep and wide.

Donning colored caps, individual groups could be identified more easily, and it soon became evident we owed a debt of gratitude to our Catholic brothers and sisters for their belief in the sanctity of life. Priests, nuns and parochial students comprised a large constituency, their prayers petitions in the walk to the legislature.

life-3

Other faces, too, formed this underpinning of a movement more energized than ever before. The trio of grandmother-daughter-granddaughter marching together and the countless smiles of so many, many young people, all spoke to the generational value now placed on the pro-life message.

life-2

The faces of black, white, Hispanic and others – women AND men – holding signs, walking arm-in-arm, united for the unborn, for those individuals from a variety of backgrounds too young to stand for themselves.

The exception-to-the-rule faces, courageous mothers and children holding pink placards stating ‘My mom was conceived in rape – I love our lives’ caught my breath and filled my eyes with tears.

life

The ‘quitters’, professed former medical personnel who once assisted with abortions – their lives now redeemed by a message of forgiveness – boldly proclaimed the Gospel of peace.

And mostly, the victims, the 58 million sacrificed in our national holocaust, whose voices will never be heard and whose lives will always be missed. Their absence was the most prominent, yet their unseen faces the most cherished.

My son David is now a father. As daddy to our first grand baby, he understands fully what words failed to explain those many years ago. His very hands were the first to greet her as a thriving unborn, she crossed the threshold into this side of living. Someday I will tell her of my impulse escapade and the day I marched for life.

life-9

But that is not what is noteworthy. If my influence has merit, then may I be a role model to how a strong woman stands – for the unborn yes, but also in the many arenas where life is not deemed as precious. She stands for her convictions, and she stands with character. She may stand with others, yet she may stand alone. Ultimately, it is to God she must answer and from Him, she is graced to stand.

 

I Want My Life to Mean Something

photo toilet

I just had to go to the bathroom!  However, on my way there I needed to yell out the window at a boy chasing a ball into the street.

“Calvin, I told you that you are not allowed in the street.  You have to play inside now!”

Then I had to stop to referee a fight between two other children.

“If this is Courage’s toy, you have to ask him before you take it!  And Courage, do not scream and cry.  Just say, ‘This is my toy.  Give it back to me please.’  You don’t get anything you want when you scream and cry.”

I feel like I have given this little lesson about five hundred and sixty-four times.  Why don’t they remember! I still need to use the restroom (it is getting quite urgent!) yet I cannot stop myself from picking the kitchen towel off the floor which I had already done twice that morning.

“We dry our dishes with this towel, people!” I think to myself.  I notice peanut butter on the otherwise white cabinet door.  I encounter shoes and the grungiest socks known to man thrown about the living room floor.

“Cooper!  Put these in the laundry room!” I call out in desperation, knowing that I will probably have to hunt him down and ask him again later.

I pass Ashlyn’s walking track.  She is supposed to be doing her walking exercises right now; building her muscles, organizing her brain, and increasing her balance.  She is laying on the sofa, nursing some sores on her feet.  I wonder to myself if all the therapy that I have done with her was in vain.  She can’t wear her braces if the skin on her feet break down.  And she can’t walk if she doesn’t wear her braces.

I get into the bathroom and shut and lock the door.  A moment of peace.  A quiet space.  Ahhhhhh…I can sit down for a moment.  WHAT IS THIS!!!!! PEE ON THE TOILET AGAIN!! I just wiped this toilet one hour ago, and the hour before that!

In the relative quiet of my stinky, dirty bathroom I am close to tears.

“Is this my life?  Working hard to clean a house that never stays that way?  Toiling to teach my children lessons that they never seem to learn.  Worried about not doing enough therapy with Ashlyn while simultaneously worrying about doing TOO MUCH therapy with Ashlyn.  I want my life to mean something,” I pray to God. “How can I know if my life is making a difference when I see so little good fruit?”

I just love it when I have a really productive day; wrote a blog article, organized an entire room, cleaned out the attic, or created a delicious meal with an abundance of bright colors and fresh ingredients.  But what happens when day after day goes by with no real progress of any kind.  Moms deal with this phenomena all the time.  We pour ourselves out, go to bed late, get up early, work hard; and when we stop to look around…it appears as though we have gotten absolutely nothing accomplished whatsoever!

I have been feeling the frustration and discontent that thousands of women have experienced.  We feel unnoticed, unimportant, and meaningless.  This has pushed many women to abandon their high calling as a wife and mother to pour themselves into other pursuits…just to feel worthy and fulfilled.

I KNOW that I have the most important career in the world.  I KNOW that my life is making a difference in this life and in the next.

It just doesn’t FEEL that way most of the time.

“God, help me to see things the way you do.  I need some encouragement here!”  I have prayed.

God is answering as He always does.  It may take a lifetime to understand all that He is saying and to unravel my own thoughts and ideas.  But I think I am making some progress.

I have been listening to the Bible on CD.  Listening to a cast of characters reading the Bible as though it were actually happening has helped me to see the stories in a different light.  It seems more real and more relevant.  Plus it is a different version than what I have read before, and it brings a new dimension to many verses.

As I look at the Bible as a whole; the story of God’s relationship with mankind, there is a common thread that I hadn’t noticed before.  God always had a plan.  He was always confident that this plan would work.  Very few humans actually understood His plan or knowingly helped God work out His plan.  The major events in the Bible were orchestrated and accomplished by God, not man.  Many times God worked through people and with people but most of the time He moved DESPITE people.

All the amazing events in Acts happened because of God.  The disciples didn’t get together after the resurrection and have an intensive strategic planning meeting to figure out how they would acquire the Holy Spirit or how they would add 3,000 people to their number in one day.  They didn’t go to college to learn the cutting edge strategies for converting the Jews and then the Gentiles to the Way.  (They didn’t even know that the Gentiles COULD be saved until God showed them.)

All the disciples did was wait on God and obey whatever He told them to do.  Many times they saw miracles, but more often they encountered opposition and persecution.  Often it appeared as though they were accomplishing nothing at all as the churches they planted fell into deceptions and wrong teachings.  Yet look at how their lives have affected the entire world!

When I look across all of human history, the person who had the most powerful participation in bringing God’s salvation to the earth was Mary.  This is just my opinion but you have to admit, she played a pretty big role.

But what did she actually do?

She BELIEVED what the Angel told her was true.

She SUBMITTED to God’s wonderful plan.

She MOTHERED Jesus.

Could I be as powerful in the course of human history as Mary if I just believe, submit, and mother?

If I could just BELIEVE every word God tells me.

If I could just joyfully SUBMIT, YEILD, and SURRENDER to God’s best for me.

If I could just MOTHER – love, nourish, carry, teach, serve, and protect each child God gives to me.

DSC_0080

Even Mary lost her most influential place of mothering for a while.  Maybe she didn’t agree with what Jesus was doing because it seemed too controversial or too dangerous.  Perhaps she was too weighed down with the concerns of her other children and life in general.  When she and her other sons went to see Jesus while He was teaching a large group, He didn’t go out to them.

He said, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  He pointed to His disciples and said, “These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever hears the words of God and does them is my mother and brothers.”

If I had been Mary, I would have been devastated by His words.  Then I would have gotten really mad!  “Listen mister, I said yes to carrying you in my womb even though it sullied my reputation and messed up my life.  I gave birth to you and nursed you and took care of you during all the hard times!  None of these guys here know what the angel said to me.  They don’t know what Anna or Simeon said about you.  They didn’t see you take your first steps or nurse you through sickness.  How could you say that they are your mother!”

Yet she must have realized that Jesus was never wrong.  He was never disrespectful or vengeful or mean for meanness sake.  All His words were true…every time. Mary must have repented before God for not hearing His words and obeying them during this crucial time in Jesus’ ministry, because she was there with disciples in the upper room.

What this story tells me is that anyone, anywhere at anytime can have Mary’s impact if they simply hear God’s voice and obey.  To hear God’s voice we must love Him, wait on Him, spend time with Him, read His words over and over.  To obey Him is always to love because He is love.

In essence – to BELIEVE

TO SUBMIT

TO MOTHER

To live this kind of life takes faith to believe without seeing.

To live this kind of life is so much harder than just checking items off a to-do list.

To live this kind of life is something I am sure that I can’t do on my own.

To live this kind of life is the POWER and GLORY of my motherhood; to watch God take my little, seemingly insignificant acts of love and obedience and turn them into something

EARTH SHAKING

ETERNITY CHANGING

BEYOND MY IMAGINATION IMPORTANT

What is the Glory of Motherhood?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

I keep hearing the Holy Spirit asking me that question.  And I have to answer with a question of my own.

“What is the glory of my calling?”

Honestly, I am having trouble seeing it in the midst of one big mess after another.  Courage’s birthday was a perfect example of this.

DSC_0139 (2)

It had been a pretty peaceful day.  I had time to get the house cleaned and ready for the party celebrating our fiery three-year old.  All of his presents were wrapped.  The supper was prepared in advance.  I had gathered the ingredients for Courage’s heart’s desire; a chocolate dirt cake with gummy bears.  I had also made two additional desserts with special ingredients to accommodate the more delicate members of our family.

I was sitting on the sofa, waiting for dinner time.  “This is an important part of motherhood right here,” I thought.  Celebrating my children and creating happy birthday memories for them.  I was hoping that Courage would feel loved and special and that the entire family would have fun.

DSC_0143 (2)

I started setting the table and getting the food ready when my perfectly planned birthday celebration began to unravel.

“Chai just threw up on the carpet!!!” I heard an excited child yell.  At first I tried to ignore it and continued the dinner preparations.  Maybe they were exaggerating as children are prone to do, or maybe someone else would take care of it.  No such luck.

I went from working with food in the kitchen to scraping stinky puke off the living room carpet.  Chai had suddenly gotten sick and ended up sleeping in his bed for the entire birthday party. The smell and the germs were not what I had planned.  Thank goodness my mom was the only guest, and we didn’t have a house full of people!

As I began scrubbing the carpet with cleanser, I heard the sound of some sort of ball hitting the side of the house.  This didn’t go on for long before I heard Chris yell out the window, “Cole, stop kicking the soccer ball against the house!”

Did Cole heed his father’s wise advice?  No, the banging continued once more, twice more, and then…the sickening sound of shattering glass!  Cole had just broken our living room window.  Thankfully, it was the storm window so none of the glass came into the house.  But there was glass all over the back patio.

“Oh well, I can’t worry about that right now,” I thought to myself.  “I have to throw in some laundry, get the boys to take out this trash, scrub my hands about fifty times in hot water, and then finish putting the food on the table.”

Back into the kitchen I went.  Then Areli came to me holding the cup used to measure the laundry detergent.

“Courage just handed this to me… filled with his pee!” she told me.

“Of course he did,” I thought. I was bracing myself for the next catastrophe that was sure to come.

Amazingly, the rest of the evening went just fine.  We all sang “Happy Birthday” very loudly.  Cake was eaten.  Presents were opened and played with.

March and Courage's birthday 2016 054

We made a big mess and cleaned up a big mess.  We put all the children to bed and prayed that no one else would throw up during the night.  We got into bed late to get up early and do it all over again.  Doesn’t seem very glorious, does it?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

Rick Joyner heard a great Queen ask him this very question in a vision that he wrote about in The Torch and the Sword.  He said that she was astonishingly beautiful and seemed to be motherhood in all of its glory.  She explained that she was Jerusalem above, the mother of all who worship in Spirit and truth, the church as it was called to be.

She asked Rick, “Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords and torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

DSC_0001 (3)

Perhaps to see a bit of the glory of my calling, I should find out what these swords and torches are all about.  Here are a few excerpts from the book and I hope it is encouraging to you!

The Lord handed Rick a torch and told him, “This is the light of My presence.  If I was not close to you, you could not hold it.  If you drift from My presence, it will become heavy.  If you drift very far from Me, you will have to lay it down…It is yours to carry for as long as you stay close to Me…No power on earth can put it out if the torchbearer walks with Me in this realm. Its brightness and power depend on the life of the torch-bearer, and on how close he stays to Me.”

Then Rick met Tomas a Kempis who told him, “You can set people, cities, and even nations free with the light of this torch…The torch you carry has been the source of every true movement of the Spirit.  The leaders of these movements were all torchbearers…If you are going to endure to the end, you must stay close to the Source of this light and fire.”

The Lord spoke about Thomas, “Men thought of Thomas as a humble laborer, one to cook, wash dishes, and weed gardens [sounds a lot like a mom’s job!], but he, too, carried this torch.  From his post of washing dishes, he became more powerful than kings or emperors.  He prophesied to millions over generations.  Even today My message goes forth from his writings to help prepare the coming ones.  You can be more powerful washing dishes and staying close to Me than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

I need to read that again!

“YOU CAN BE MORE POWERFUL WASHING DISHES AND STAYING CLOSE TO ME than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

To be torchbearers, to carry this fire that brings life rather than destroys, we must abide in Jesus.

Rick met Enoch who had so much of this life flowing through him that he never died.  Enoch said, “The Lord makes His messengers flames of fire.  You cannot walk with God, or fulfill His purpose for you on the earth, unless you keep this fire burning in your heart.  Lukewarmness is your deadly enemy.”

Lukewarmness can easily creep into the mind numbing daily grind of a mother.  It is the overwhelming hardships and challenges of motherhood that push us into his presence!  How I want to be one of the chosen torchbearers!

Jesus told Rick, “You will know these chosen ones by the fire that already burns in them.  They will never be content with religious practices, for they yearn for Me and the reality of this realm.  Because they seek Me, I will be found by them.  I will give them their heart’s desire – My fellowship.  I will be their inheritance.”

Later in the vision, Rick found himself preparing for a battle.  The only other warriors with him were a young girl and John Wesley.  Wesley told him, “The Lord called a dozen men.  He changed them and then they changed the world.  In your time He is going to do the same with the children.  It is also the time of the lioness.  Great are the company of women who will preach the gospel.  There will be many great men of God in your time – but the great marvel and great honor will be for the women and children who walk in the ways of the Lord.”

Later the Lord gave Rick a sword and said, “It will only become heavy if you wield it in your own strength.  This is my Word of redemption.  It cannot be destroyed, but will stand forever…No power on the earth is stronger than my redemption…This is the sword of the Spirit…You are holding my living Word…to receive my word into your heart must be your quest every day.  Then you will begin to see.  Then you will have understanding.

                “It was by my Word that the universe was created, and it is by My Word that it is held together.  My Word is the answer to every human problem…The sword that is being given to my messengers in the last days can break any yoke, and cut through any chain.”

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords ad torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

                “I am a woman.  I am a mother.  I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth.  Heaven stands in honor of my mission.  No one else can carry my call.  I am the daughter of Eve.  Eve has been redeemed.  I am the opposition of death.  I am a woman.” – Christianna Reed Maas

The reality is, we can carry the living fire of His presence and the powerful Word of redemption into every part of our day – the fun celebrations and the puking parties, the playtime and the hard work.  That is glorious even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.  We don’t need any special skills or qualifications.  All that is required is that we seek Him first, abide in Him, and receive His words into our hearts every day.

How Does God Feel About Mothers?

 

bc2I never considered it a sacrifice to be a mother.  I have always thought it was a privilege and the most amazing calling.  It is powerful and world-changing to be a mother, to grow and nourish the next generation.

Yet, now that I have been a mother for 17 years, I am getting a bit weary.  I have realized that I really don’t have my own life.  My days are filled with the needs of my husband and children.  I find myself daydreaming about what it would be like to be alone in the house with nothing to do except exactly what I WANTED to do.

Most of the time, I enjoy being at home with my children.  It is my favorite place to be.  I just assumed that it was my children’s favorite place to be as well.  One night Chris was working late and I was sitting at the dinner table with all of my nine children.  A peaceful meal is so refreshing to the soul; enjoying the smells and flavors, exchanging stimulating conversation.

A meal is never a peaceful affair at my house.  That night the children were all so loud, I couldn’t follow any one conversation.  Several of the boys were discussing topics not appropriate for the table.  The three-year old kept getting up and wandering around, and the 6-year-old kept standing up on the bench.  In an attempt to regain control, I lifted my voice and shouted above the noise, “Everyone be quiet!  We are going around the table and I want each one of you to tell me your favorite part of the day.  The rest of you just listen!”

The chaos quieted to a dull roar, and the children shared with me what they most enjoyed about their day.  The elementary school boys all enjoyed playing kickball at recess.  Cadin, who is fifteen, just started Cyber School after being homeschooled.  He had to go take the PSSAs for the first time.  He had never had to sit for 7 hours in a classroom before, and I thought he would hate it.  Yet, when it was his turn to share, Cadin said, “My favorite part of the day was taking the PSSAs.”

“Really?! Why is that?”  I asked.

“Because I didn’t have to be at home,” he answered.

“You don’t like being at home?” I asked, feeling very hurt.

“Well,” Cadin started with an apologetic voice, “I got to get a break and I didn’t have to do any chores.”

“I understand how he feels,” said Areli, my 17-year-old daughter.  “My favorite part of the day is when I do school, alone in my room.”

Now the small ache in my heart was growing.  “Well, I never actually get to be alone,” I said.  “Except maybe when I am in the bathroom.”

“You do get a nap every day,” Areli countered.

“That is true, and I so appreciate that nap!  But I am still not alone.  I have to share the room with the baby and wake up when she wakes up.  I am really never alone.”  I said.

Cole, the 15-year-old cynic, chimed in, “That’s your own fault for having so many children.  You and Dad went a little crazy,” he pointed out.

I felt the wind go out of my sails.  My own children didn’t even appreciate my willingness to carry them, give birth to them; give up sleep and privacy and alone time for them.  They couldn’t see the purpose in this crazy, loud, mess that is the Brandenburg household.  Sometimes I lose sight of it too.

When I look down the corridors of history, I don’t see the stories full of mothers heroically laying their lives down for their children.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and enslave.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and set free.  I see stories of kings and rulers.

When I turn on the TV, I don’t see news stories about the amazing mom who changed 24 diapers in the last 24 hours with only 3 hours of sleep the night before.  I see lawmakers and lawbreakers, politicians and rebels.

When I watch an awards show, I never see a mom who looks like me get up on stage and accept a prestigious award for her amazing ability to check items off a to do list and keep 9 children clothed and feed.  That is for the talented artists who receive the praise of millions of adoring fans.

What I thought was my little fan club was now telling me that they would rather be out of the house or alone instead of spending time with me.

I turned to a book that always helps me gain an eternal perspective, The Final Quest by Rick Joyner.  He shares a prophetic experience he had when he was in the throne room of heaven. He started in the very back of the room.  On his long walk to the front where the Lord was, he passed crowds of believers who had already died.  The multitudes standing at the back were more glorious than Rick had imagined people could ever be.  He was shocked to find out that these were in the very lowest rank in heaven.

One man he had known on earth explained it to him this way, “There is an aristocracy of sorts here.  The rewards for our earthly lives are the eternal positions that we will have forever.  This great multitude are those whom the Lord called ‘foolish virgins.’ We knew the Lord and trusted in His cross for salvation, but we lived for ourselves more than we really lived for him…there is no greater folly than to know the great salvation of God, but then go on living for yourself.”

This man was still more glorious and full of joy and peace than Rick had ever imagined possible.  It was simply because even a moment in the lowest part of heaven is much greater than a thousand years in the highest life on earth, and every person there had received so much more than they actually deserved.  As Rick moved toward the throne, he learned from the mistakes of those in the lowest ranks, and discovered that those same mistakes resided in his own life.

A great Christian leader during his life on earth told him, “What looks good on earth looks very different here.  What will make you a king on earth will often be a stumbling block to keep you from being a king here.  What will make you a king here is lowly and unclaimed on earth.”

Later, a famous reformer stepped forward and Rick couldn’t believe that he was in the lowest rank. The reformer told him, “God does have a different set of history books than those on the earth.  You have had a glimpse of this but you do not yet know how different they are.  Earthly histories will pass away, but the books that are kept here will last forever.  If you can rejoice in what heaven is recording about your life, you are blessed indeed.”

Then the reformer gave Rick some advice, “The high calling is not out of reach for anyone that the Lord has called.  I will tell you what will keep you on the path of life – love the Savior and seek His glory alone.  Everything you do to exalt yourself will one day bring you the most terrible humiliation.  Everything you do out of genuine love for the Savior, to glorify His name, will extend the limits of His eternal kingdom and ultimately result in a much higher place for yourself.  Live for what is recorded here.  Care nothing for what is recorded on earth.”

As Rick continued walking towards the glory of Jesus, he saw that each rank was many times greater than the previous one.  He described it like this, “When I was still not even halfway to the throne, what had been the indescribable glory of the first rank now seemed to be outer darkness in comparison to the glory of those I was now passing.  The greatest beauty on earth would not qualify to be found anywhere in heaven.  And I was told that this room was just the threshold of indescribable realms of glory!”

Rick learned from those who had fallen short of their destinies and also learned from those who had overcome and remained faithful to Jesus.  “Those who stumbled did so in many different ways.  But those who prevailed all did it the same way: They did not deviate from their devotion to the first and greatest commandment – loving the Lord.  In this way, their service was done unto Him, not to men. These were the ones who worshipped the Lamb and followed him wherever He went.”

Finally after what seemed like years of traveling, Rick reached the throne.  “Near the judgement seat of Christ, those in the highest ranks were sitting on thrones that were all a part of His throne.  Even the least of these thrones was many times more glorious than any earthly throne.  Some of those on the thrones were rulers over cities on earth and would soon take their places.  Others were rulers over the affairs of heaven, and still others ruled over the affairs of the physical creation, such as star systems and galaxies.

“It was apparent that those who were given authority over cities were esteemed even above those who had been given authority over galaxies.  The value OF A SINGLE CHILD (emphasis added) surpassed that of a galaxy of stars because the Lord has chosen men as His eternal dwelling place…

“At one point the Lord looked toward the galleries of thrones around Him.  Many were occupied, but many were empty.  He then said, ‘These thrones are for the overcomers who have served Me faithfully in every generation.  My Father and I prepared them before the foundation of the world.  Are you worthy to sit on one of these?’

“…I looked at those who were now seated on the thrones.  I could recognize most of those seated had not even been well-known on earth.

“Many of those on the thrones had been missionaries who expended their lives in obscurity.  They had never cared to be remembered on earth, but wanted only to be remembered by Him.  I was a bit surprised to see some who had been wealthy, and rulers who had been faithful with what they had been given.  However, it seemed that faithful, praying women and mothers occupied more thrones than any other single group.”

I have read this passage many times and every time my eyes flood with tears and my heart swells like it will burst!  My Lord has so honored mothers that many sit with him on the highest thrones in heaven!  My Lord so honors mothers that he allowed Rick Joyner to write down the revelation so that we could read it and be encouraged.

Mothers, let’s receive His grace to walk this path like eternity depends on it.  Jesus gave Rick this wisdom, “Those empty seats could have been filled in any generation.  I gave the invitation to sit here to everyone who has called upon My name.  The seats are still available.  Now the last battle has come, and many who are last shall be first.  These seats will be filled before the battle is over.  Those who sit here will be known by two things: They will wear the mantle of humility, and they will have my likeness.”

I am right where God wants me to be.  I am in the perfect place to love Him and to serve Him.  I don’t need to be famous or acclaimed or recognized or talented.  I just need to be who He has made me to be.

Amy Devita Photography 043

I don’t need the world to understand the importance of what I am doing.  I don’t even need my children to understand and appreciate me.  I know that Jesus understands and he sees.

I don’t feel at all able to walk this path perfectly.  I am full of selfishness and I get off track so easily.  I realize that I can’t even do the basics, loving my husband and children, on my own.  I need His great grace!  But I am in the perfect place to receive His Grace…every…single…day!

An Answer for the Guilt of Motherhood

Ashlyn at the Hope Center 036

I think most mothers feel some level of guilt every single day.  I know that I do.  I have heard it said that guilt is just part of the job description.  Should it be? Surely God doesn’t intend for us to carry this heavy load.  Wouldn’t we be much better mothers if we were free from guilt?

But I have so many opportunities to feel remorse!

When my third grader can’t read. (I am a horrible homeschool teacher!)

When my baby wakes up and I can’t calm him. (Surely I should understand a baby’s needs by this time!)

When I yell at my eight year old and he hides in the linen closet and cries. (I am so mean.)

When my teenager yells at ME for outlawing the indiscriminate consumption of sugar. (I am so unreasonable and extreme.)

When my oldest daughter is stressed out because of the amount of house work she has to do. (I should be doing more of the work myself.)

When my special needs girl is crying because I am forcing her to do therapy (what kind of monster am I?)

When my two year old screams so the entire grocery store can hear. (I have failed at disciplining him and instilling a sweet and joyful personality.)

I have realized that all moms have times like these.  So if we are all universally dealing with the guilt of our motherhood failures, THERE MUST BE AN ANSWER!!!!

Let me take you on a journey of extreme guilt and perhaps you will recognize your own journey.  I have a daughter who was born after a more difficult birth requiring Pitocin.  I wrote all about it in my article,  “Birth Story, Part 3.” She looked perfect and beautiful to me, but the hospital staff was convinced that there was something wrong with her.  She had unusual facial features and two toes on each foot were partially webbed.  They continued to “find” more and more abnormalities in her internal organs that could have had serious consequences.  Yet in just two days, she went home with me; a healthy, happy and totally normal baby!

Or so I thought…until I received a call when Ashlyn was 6 weeks old. The chromosome analyses revealed that she was missing a piece of her 6th chromosome.  No one had ever heard of such a thing and no one knew what this might mean.

Chris and I were convinced that our daughter would be just fine.  She could grow up without physical or mental handicaps because God would show us exactly what to do.  I read and researched and read and researched some more.  Other children like her had been able to maintain higher than average intelligence when put on an intensive therapy program developed by the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential.  I opted to enroll Ashlyn in a similar program at the Family Hope Center. 

It required taking Ashlyn to the center every six months for an evaluation and to learn the home treatment plan.  Each trip would cost $5,000.  We weren’t able to take her until she was three or four years old.  I felt terrible about losing those valuable first years, even though I tried to institute the therapies at home that I had taught myself by reading their books.  We were able to raise and save the money to go to the Family Hope Center a total of three times in the 12 years of her life.  Each time the Family Hope Center infused me with great ideas and many wonderful therapies.

But there was a problem.  How could I possibly accomplish 6 hours of therapy with Ashlyn each day?  I found it a struggle to devote even two hours to her with all the needs of my other children, the house, and my husband.  Many times Ashlyn would be very uncooperative or sick, and we got nothing accomplished at all.  I watched the years pass by and her developmental delays became more and more pronounced.  The gap between her actual age and her neurological age grew wider and wider.

I took some comfort in the fact that all the crawling around on the floor she was doing was organizing her brain, and that someday she would eventually walk.  When that day came, her intelligence would be much higher because of the abundance of cross pattern crawling she had done.

What I didn’t know was that she was developing a progressive club foot deformity.  Perhaps it was because of her chromosomes, perhaps it was because of the lack of weight bearing on her feet, perhaps it was because of the poor position of her legs and feet while crawling.  Her large shoes created a crawling form never taken by a normal baby.  The handicap crept up on me and all of her healthcare providers until…her muscles and bones formed abnormally.

Ashlyn at the Hope Center 072

She became unable to stand up or walk normally and may never be able to.

I felt like this, along with all of her other physical and emotional issues, were my fault.  Whenever I looked at her twisted and painful feet, I would feel deep sorrow and crushing guilt.  God had given her to me, and surely he had given me the tools to help her, but I had failed.  Failed not just in a little thing but in something that will greatly impact the quality of her life…her entire life.

Everyone who saw Ashlyn would always comment on how well she was doing, how much progress she was making, and what an amazing job I was doing.

But I never believed them.

Chris was always saying that Ashlyn WAS doing so well because of all the time I spent with her and all the good things I have done with her.  Without my intervention, he said, she would still be lying like a blob on the floor.

But I never believed him.

I continued to blame myself for her every deficiency.  Therapy was a chore, and Ashlyn was very often unhappy.  How happy could you be when the sight of you reminded your mother of her guilt?

OK, this is an extreme case of guilt, but I am sure all of you mothers (and fathers) out there can relate to some degree.  Does my guilt sound reasonable and rational to you?  Have I been a horrible mother?  Does God want me to carry this burden?

Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

And he doesn’t want you to carry it either!

So let’s clear up a few things, mothers and fathers out there.  I am going to tell you some truth, and I want to open up your ears and hearts and BELIEVE ME!

When something goes wrong…it is not your fault!

When your child is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When the world around you is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When you are not perfect…well, that may be your fault, but it is ok!

God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that you would not be perfect, yet he gave you that child anyway.  He knew that you were the very best parent for that child.

You cannot save your child from their sin, their bad habits, or their circumstances.

You cannot heal your child; not their bodies or their souls or their spirits.

You cannot mold them and shape them into the person you think they should be.

ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT!

Sometimes God does those things THROUGH you in his time and his way and you may be totally unaware that he is doing it.  The closer we are to God, the more our minds are filled with his wisdom, the more attuned we are to his voice, the more he can flow through us to our children.

Ashlyn at the Hope Center 009

The vague feeling of failure that most of us moms carry around is not from God!  The thought that if we were better parents our children wouldn’t be so….whatever it is that they are…doesn’t come from God.  It comes from the Enemy of our souls.  He knows that we are the perfect parent for our child and that God is using us in amazing ways.  He wants to make us ineffective in this most important calling.

It is true that sometimes we do things wrong and we need to ask forgiveness from God and our children.  If we are listening to the Holy Spirit, he will show us when these times occur.  He will convict us in a very specific way and give us hope that there is forgiveness and healing through him.

Here is an example:

Condemnation from the Enemy: If you were smarter, more organized, and more loving, your daughter would have walked years ago.

Conviction from the Holy Spirit: When Ashlyn was crying during her walking therapy today, you continued to push her.  You should have slowed down, looked her in the eyes, and talked to her gently.  You could have showed her that you saw and acknowledged her pain.  You could have investigated the specific location of her pain and asked me for wisdom as to whether she was just whining out of childish self-pity, or whether she had a real injury.

Condemnation must be answered with the truth.  Conviction must be answered with saying you are sorry and changing your behavior.

What is the truth?  You can find it in the pages of your Bible.  You can find it in the eyes of your Savior.  You can find it in the voice of your Father.  In his presence there is fullness of joy.  Joy because in his presence he tells you how beloved you are.  He shows you how in control he is, and how your little mistakes can’t derail his plan.  I have found that conviction is a rather small part of what the Father does.  The large part is lavishing his praises and love and encouragement on us!  Being in his presence makes me a much better mother than guilt and self-criticism ever did.  I wrote about how I try to get into his presence during a hectic mommy day in my article, “Grumpy Mommy Morning.”

Have you ever had this experience in worship?  Your heart is bursting with love for God.  Your gratitude is so deep that you can’t express it in words.  You have so many things to thank God for that you are glad you have an eternity, because that is how long it will take! You wish you could do something worthy of your wonderful God; singing, dancing, painting a beautiful picture, writing a 300 page masterpiece…yet all you can do is just stand there and let the overwhelming joy wash over you.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to feel that way all the time?  To mother our children out of that kind of joy?  Someday, maybe we will.

Have you ever thought that maybe God feels that way about you?  That being with you brings him overflowing joy that will last forever.  That he is so thankful for you and your life!

Blows your mind!!!  That’s what happens when you start listening to God’s voice.  He blows your mind with a new perspective that sends the guilt and shame packing.

Once I was sitting on my sofa, miserable with morning sickness and feeling like an awful mom.  God broke into my despair and said to me, “Thank you!  Thank you for being available to carry this child.  Without you, I couldn’t have brought this child of destiny into the world.”

THAT is the truth.

You may feel very imperfect.  You may be sure that you are messing up your sweet innocent child, and that they will need inner healing as a result of your poor parenting techniques.  But without you, they would never have been born.  They would have never had the chance to experience life, love, laughter, and sorrow.  They would never get to see the sights of this earth or heard the sounds.  They would never have gotten the chance to choose right from wrong.  They would never have the opportunity to try and fail and try again.  They would have never had the opportunity to be messed up and then healed!

So thank you mom!  Let me say a big “thank you” to you from God, your child, and the world!  Thank you for giving your child life.  Thank you for doing your best.  Your best is a wondrous reality full of deeply textured experiences.  It is not all sunshine and roses, but even the chance to experience sadness and suffering is a gift.  Thank you mom for that gift.

Did you know that God uses motherhood as a picture of abundant prosperity?  Is 66:10-12 compares the prosperity of Jerusalem to nursing and being satisfied at a mother’s breast and drinking deeply in her overflowing abundance.  Then verses 12-13 says, “I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”

God compares himself to a mother!  God is going to comfort us like a mother!  Ahhhh, what a wonderful, peaceful image that is.  Mothers – God is using you to show himself to your children.  Your nursing and cuddling and soothing is revealing to your child what God is like.  You may not do it 100% perfect all the time, but there you are, doing it and giving your child a frame of reference for the love of God!

This world is not perfect.  You may think you are doing a very poor job of protecting your child from the toxins in our food, the poisons on TV, and the bullies at school. Let me remind you that this world is not our home.  It is a hostile warzone, full of danger.  It is hard to see the warzone because it is disguised by the white picket fences and flower boxes of suburbia, but it is a warzone, nonetheless.  We are living here as missionaries, trying to show the love of God to those who will violently oppose us even as we love them.  We were created for a place much more beautiful and holy and perfect than this. But we are here because God has a wondrous plan.  To raise children in the muddy trenches of this harsh environment is difficult.

No, it is downright COUREGEOUS! 

Mother, you are a mighty and strong warrior!  If you and your family are splattered with grime, fight bravely on!  Your Champion has already won this war, and soon his victory will be evident to all.  He is able to keep your children safe.

Ashlyn at the Hope Center 005

All of these pictures were taken on a trip to the Family Hope Center we took with Ashlyn in 2010. Here is an old cemetery seeming to encroach into the sacred boundary of a park for children. Yet joy and sorrow, life and death dwell together in surreal beauty. Joy that Ashlyn is alive and healthy. Sorrow because of the realization that all my best efforts cannot heal her.

And in the midst of this war zone, God gives us a little piece of heaven, our own paradise… if we can learn to abide in him and open our eyes to the beauty in the brokenness.

A few months ago I was talking with a woman whose sister was a teacher for 35 years.  She taught at an institution for severely handicapped and damaged children.  She told me that most of the children had been abandoned by their parents.  She would prepare classes for the children, because they were eligible for free education until the age of 21.  She would stand at the front of the class room and teach letters, numbers, days of the week, etc. to a room full of wheelchair bound children who couldn’t talk.  Some would never interact or show any evidence of learning anything at all.  She would try to organize fun activities and field trips for them since they rarely had visitors.  She would put on a parent’s nights to highlight what their children had been learning and usually, no parent came.

I marveled at the love and special grace this woman had to continually pour into these children and young adults with very little encouraging results.  It took me months of pondering this before I realized…this could have been Ashlyn.  If she had never had me as her mother or Chris as her father, if she had been taken care of by a collection of paid state workers, what would she be like right now?  Was Chris right in saying what he had said many times before?

“Without all that you have done for her, Anne, she would still be laying like a blob on the floor.”

Ashlyn is a unique treasure that God has given me.  And I am a gift to her; a loving mother who shows her how much God loves her.

Ashlyn at the Hope Center 025

A new perspective sure does a lot.  In fact, that is the answer to the guilt of motherhood.  Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Jesus.

Why don’t you put on some worship music like David Leach Worship or Bethel Music and seek God for his perspective on your mothering career.  Let that guilt just walk out the door!

Special note to mothers who may have legitimate guilt over huge mistake that you have made in the past.  You may have killed your child, mistreated him badly, or abandoned him.  These are serious offenses, but not unforgivable.  Most of the major players in the Bible had grievous sins and were very bad parents!  Yet God forgave them and loved them and used them to bring untold numbers of people to himself.  Guilt is God’s mercy to bring you to him.  Seek God for that kind of forgiveness and transformation in your life.  Once you lay your guilt down at the cross, don’t ever let the Devil convince to pick it up again.  Jesus signed his name to your sin and died as the punishment for it.  It is finished!  You are loved and you have a future full of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

Tell Me a Gummy Bear Sto-whee!

 

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 144Bed time is such an important time for young children.  Over the years, our good-night routine has evolved and changed.  I started by singing songs to Areli, Cole, and Cadin as they lay in their beds in their darkened room.  I think I enjoyed the peaceful melodies even more than they did.

Then I heard that if you read poetry to young children, they will grow up to be poets.  Who was I to hinder their writing careers, so poetry reading became the norm.  My favorites were always from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I must admit that none of them enjoy writing poetry now as teenagers, but perhaps someday they will hear one of those familiar rhymes and be taken back to a sweet childhood memory.

More babies came and Areli, Cole, and Cadin didn’t command as much of my attention at bed time anymore.  They would read to themselves in their beds, followed by music or books on CD.  Sometimes this was great!  Other times, not so much.  I would find out later that a particular child would be frightened by a certain story, usually something that I wouldn’t have expected.  Other times, Cole would be bothered by the noise while he was trying to sleep.  Areli was such a creature of habit, that she couldn’t fall asleep without the tape or CD on.  She would pull the tape player over to her bed, turn the volume down, and listen to it under her pillow.

Once Areli came to me late in the evening.  I had put a lullaby CD on for her at bedtime and thought she was sleeping.  She was crying and shaking and said that the songs made her sad.  She has no idea why, but she dislikes lullabies to this day.  I discontinued the practice of leaving them alone with a CD at night and favored listening to stories all together at lunchtime.  Then I could talk about the story with the children and understand how each one felt about each book.  We had some wonderful times listening to all the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and even Jane Eyre.

Areli, Cole, and Cadin grew big enough that they didn’t need someone to tuck them in at night.  It was now Ashlyn, Chai, Cooper, and Calvin’s turn. I found Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime stories published in 1951.  This book was full of short stories; each one was true and contained an important life lesson or moral.  I loved these stories!

Other times I would ask them to share what they enjoyed most about their day.  Then we would take turns praying.

I am a natural storyteller, so it is funny that it took me 17 years into my mothering career before I started telling bedtime stories.  In fact, storytelling is in my blood.  My Papa used to delight my brother and I with his bedtime stories about a tiny but feisty girl named Squeegee.  She was so little that she could crawl through a Cheerio.  She had a pet mosquito name Quito who she rode like a horse.  I always begged Papa for Indian stories. His voice would transport us to a remote Indian village where I was transformed into an Indian princess and my brother, Jason was a young brave.  Of course, Squeegee was always there too.

I loved those stories, and we still have some of them preserved on cassette tapes.  It is strange that I never thought of telling bedtime stories of my own…until now.

It was Courage Justice who started it.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 140

He wanted a bedtime story, so I began a yarn about the first thing that popped into my head…gummy bears.  More and more details spilled out of my mouth until I had a whole cast of characters (four special gummy bears and their friends, Cooper, Calvin, and Courage).  The adventures would be something little boys would enjoy, and I received plenty of suggestions and help from the three young boys themselves.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 149

They would take trips to Venice in a rocket ship.  They would visit their grandparents in Colorado where they splashed in Uncle Wilber (those of you from Colorado Springs will understand), climb mountains, and parachute from planes.  The gummy bears found tiny sombreros and toured the southwest with a Mariachi band.  This led to an appearance on Good Morning America and a trip to Walt Disney World where the gummy bears and the boys dressed up as dwarfs and took part in a parade.

We just finished talking about the summer they all spent in Texas on Hank’s Cattle Ranch learning to be Cowboys.  The four gummy bears spent most of their time enjoying the view from Courage’s cowboy hat.  Sometimes they had to take it easy UNDER Courage’s cowboy hat because they realized that too much sun made them squishy and too much rain made them melt.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 151

The five-day cattle drive was hard, but they met a lot of new friends along the way.  Who could forget the turquoise lizard that wanted to travel along in Cooper’s saddle bag or the dragonfly, Zip who became Calvin’s pet? They also enjoyed a pow-wow at an Indian village and had quite a shopping spree with all the money they earned after the cattle were auctioned off.  Each boy had to buy their mom a special present, of course.  I must admit, I was hoping for some Native American jewelry or maybe even my own horse.  Courage was quite proud when he announced that he had purchased for me… a toothbrush.  Oh well!  I do love to brush my teeth!

Courage enjoyed these nighttime stories so much, that he began coming to me many times a day.

“Tell me a gummy bear sto-whee!” he would say.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 152

I wasn’t always available to snuggle with him and tell a story, so the older children would begin to continue the adventure with their own stories.

It is amazing how these stories take on a life of their own and transport all who listen to a magical place.  I enjoy all the adventures that I have had with Cooper, Calvin, Courage, and the gummy bears.

I do not recommend that you allow your children to eat gummy bears. They are bad for you in about 10 different ways.  But they are also our friends, and we do not eat our friends, do we?

I do highly recommend them as traveling companions into the imagination of a child…and then into peaceful landscape of dreamland.  If all the gummy bears are unavailable, you could try looking up a tiny woman who is known for her courageous spirit.  She is in her 40s now, but still young at heart and up for a good bedtime adventure!

 

A Photo Shoot with All Boys

I had gotten a lovely picture of my girls for our Christmas card.  Each girl had a sweet, picture-perfect smile.  All I needed was an equally good picture of my six boys.  I could imagine the stunning photo in my mind.  Six fine boys, all with distinct features yet all of them with the similar Brandenburg look – a winning smile and handsome eyes.  They would look like an ad for some designer label.

I put my daughter on the job with high expectations.  Then  reality hit!  Here is the adventure that she had, trying to get that perfect shot.

Ok, let’s get all the boys into bright, simple shirts and line them up together on the porch.

Boys, you have to get closer together.  Smoosh!  Good, now smile!

The boys-november 2015 014

Boys, nice smiles!!!

The boys-november 2015 017

Look at the camera BOYS!!

The boys-november 2015 027

I see that your collective attention span has reached its limit.  Let’s take a walk in the woods and look for a scenic spot to take a picture.

Alright, this place is nice.  Now all get together and smile.  Look handsome! (You think you have the perfect shot and then, in the blink of an eye – a squirrel up in a tree becomes quite fascinating!)

The boys-november 2015 062

Look at the camera boys!

The boys-november 2015 052

Well, this is getting better!  This is a good one…wait…where is the little cutie?  The star of any photo shoot is always the littlest one with the cubby cheeks, but where is he?

The boys-november 2015 057

Courage was mad that he couldn’t have a “nola” bar, and decided that he was done with pictures.

Courage, Come Back Here!!!

The boys-november 2015 058

There it is, little Courage making his way in the lonely wilderness.

We might as well take a break for a little fun.

The boys-november 2015 108

That photo shoot turned out to be less than what I was envisioning, so I got the boys dressed up again in special, matching outfits.  We all tromped outside to try again.

Ok, boys.  Lay down in the grass and put your heads together in the middle.

november-december 033

Pandemonium ensued.  Apparently boys consider it very uncool to lay down in the grass, especially with EACH OTHER.

Areli and I tried to get some pictures amidst the arguing, complaining, rough housing, and shrieking…but alas.  Every single picture showed Courage’s once handsome face contoured into a grimace.  He cried the entire photo shoot.

november-december 048

That was the end!  The boys were free from their torture and I was mad!  Where was my perfect picture of my dashing young men for my epic Christmas card?

This is a lot like life.  We have expectations of perfection. We make excellent plans.  Give straightforward instructions. Yet everything happens except perfection.  Disappointment is guaranteed. What is a mom to do?

I looked through the photos to see what I could salvage.  I actually found a few good ones mixed in.

The boys-november 2015 003There are my handsome boys!  The moment was so fleeting, I almost missed it.

The boys-november 2015 060

This photo was my favorite.  They don’t all have perfect smiles but I can appreciate each boy in his uniqueness and I LOVE them!

Life never gives us what we expect and it is never our version of perfect.  But if you pay attention and look closely enough, you can find the gems hidden in the dirt.

november-december 052

Or in this case, the little boy smiling in the tree. (Smiling because the photo shoot was over and he was free to climb!)