What a ride.

We learned a few things during our recent visit to Seattle:

1.  We would have been amazing parents if we’d only had two children.  We would have totally nailed it.  Of course I can say such a tongue in cheek comment from my little corner of the world where I actually have four children and run from fire to fire.  Maybe like most things, we’re doing better than we think.   But to spend a day with just William and Caroline was a real treat and a great reminder to schedule more one on one or two on two-time with our kiddos.

2.  After more blood work our delightful doctor confirmed that there is no indication that William has cancer or any other major blood disorder.  And while some of the pieces of the puzzle still don’t entirely make sense, what we do know is that William is healthy.  Whew.  Amen.  Alleluia.  Praise Jesus.

Of course I don’t mean to sound so casual about it all, but I honestly hadn’t even allowed myself to think such thoughts {though duh, we had an appointment at the Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood disorder clinic} because quite honestly I might have officially lost it.

We’re still standing. Praise God He doesn’t give up on us.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my children and all of the little details that make them who they are, aren’t going to necessarily fit the mold that I’d so {foolishly} dreamed and planned for them {me}.  I’m sometimes reluctant to admit that our Creator, the King of the Universe knows so much more than this suburban mother ever could imagine.  Of course He hasn’t missed a single detail when crafting their personalities, dividing cells and designing each fingerprint.

Perspective

Leading up to our weekend away I’m certain that had my head not been attached to my body I probably would have forgotten to pack it.  Just days ago all I could see was where things were going wrong.  God seemed far off and while all I wanted to do was feel His peace, I was also wishing He would just cut me some slack already.  It’s sort of embarrassing to admit to such icky feelings now.

Which is probably why the timing was perfect for a getaway to one of my favorite places with some of my favorite gals – my mom, Caroline, and Aunts Maribeth and Kimberly – to help gather some perspective and get my wits about me.

It was such a blessing to just be.  To be taken care of and to be heard.  To listen to others and to offer support and encouragement.  To feel like your head is screwed on just a wee bit tighter.  Of course my mom spoiled us with her hospitality and ability to always have a meal ready and a bottle of wine open.

somebody got new cozy boots…somebody else got a cozy stripy sweatshirt…sue me, we’re predictable.

p.s. Coco you are a dream baby.

And while all of this restorative and life-giving magic was taking place, back on the home front, Super Dad pretty much earned lifetime superhero status.  In between, loving, feeding, and shuttling them to and fro, he took the boys bowling, to the movies, to church and to a friend’s house for a game of apple baseball.  He navigated playdates and handled bedtime like an old pro.  And not only did the boys have an amazing weekend with their super dad, but my hubby who knows me oh so well and gave his wife the welcome home gift of a spotless house, a freshly mowed yard, a garage cleaned out and – for the win – all the laundry was done.  Amazing!

My only complaint* is that now mom is going to seem super lame.

But really, I’m OK with that.

*really I’m not complaining…remember I keep the bar set very low. Free suckers at the bank and the kiddos think I’m a rock-star.  And if I use that sucky, tube-y thing to make a deposit?  Well then I’m just too cool for words.

Anyhow.  Life is good.  Mama’s refreshed and I even have a handful of grainy pictures of me with my baby girl.  How could things get any better than that?

PS – Somehow I don’t have any close-up photos of mom or Kim…perhaps they planned it that way?  No matter I’m sneaky, see that pretty picture up there with two people walking in the distance?  There they are!

My brain is nesting.

Lately I’ve been re-energized and refreshed as a mama.   This hardly means that our days are always smooth sailing or that I’m calm and patient all the time.  Let’s just clear that up right away.  It probably doesn’t hurt that I’ve stumbled across some great reads that have not only encouraged me, but given me some fresh perspective.  Or that I’m finally putting some things that I’ve long known about my children and myself as a mother into action:

We thrive on routine.  We need lots of margin.  However, life gets busy and some days our schedule is jam-packed.  I need to just get over this, and set a positive tone as we bounce from one activity to another because they always, always take their cues from me.  However, as the mama I also have the privilege of protecting our down-time.  Yes, it’s hard to say no to so many *good* activities but it’s necessary for our crew.  The best way to *fill-up* and show my kiddos love includes reading lots of stories, snuggles, time spent just listening and especially when I get down on the floor and play.  {Ugg.}  Remember to look directly into their eyes when speaking to them.  They notice.

I’m doing my best to savor each day with our three little ones, filling them up with an abundance of love and patience and just-being time before baby.  Maybe I could chalk it all up to pregnancy hormones, but whatever the reason it’s working for our family and I want to remember this.

It’s sort of like my brain is nesting and storing up nuggets of information and good reminders before this new little one comes.  My nightstand is overflowing with parenting books mixed in with all of the “how to have a baby books”  {which Alex teases me about…shouldn’t I be familiar with all that by now…?}  Ha.  I’m diligently making my way through each one, but here are a couple of faves:

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys

And here are a few encouraging blog posts on mothering that I’ve stumbled across lately:

Having babies in opposite world.  This article struck a chord with me.  I think you’ll see why.

From the post:

Opposite World says if you do have children, 1 or 2 is a nice number…and a family with  3 or 4 children is considered a large family.  And goodness, if you are pregnant with your fifth, you can expect the snide remarks like “you know what causes that, right?” or “Is this an oops?”  I mean why on earth would women want to have lots of babies?

But OH – this is not how God sees children.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from Him. ~ Psalm 127:3

Rachael Janokovic wrote a profound post over at Desiring God Ministries about motherhood – here’s an excerpt:

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

If you are a pregnant woman, boldly declare your excitement for your baby bump!

When you are in the midst of bottles and binkies and spit up and tantrums and sleepless nights – do not let the enemy whisper in your ear – “this is too much.”  Lean on Jesus and thank God for giving you SO much!

When the world says, you are too young. Remember Mary was young.

When the world says, you are too old. Remember Sarah was old.

When the world says, you don’t know what you are doing. Remember Eve – who had no role models at all…she just walked with the King.

We must shut out the voices of Opposite World and listen to the maker of this world

—————-

And one more good read:

Sarah, writes about distracted Parenting.  Basically this…as parents we have become so easily distracted by those darn little iphones that we all carry around.  And while trying to keep up with *everything* and *everyone* via our phones we are not only missing out on the real life going on around us, but researchers have “observed a dimming of the child’s internal light, a lessening of the connection between parent and child” when parents are distracted by their phones, ipads, etc.

My family gives me a hard time for being the world’s worst phone call returner, or texter, but honestly this is why.  And yes, I’m guilty sometimes too, but when it comes down to it, I don’t want my kids to have a constant image of their mom always looking at a phone.  They are more important.  Period.  Plus, as another wise woman, has said, Life is not an Emergency.  No text or phone call needs to be responded to right this very minute.  Remember the good ol’ days when people left messages and patiently waited for a response?  Might be another lesson in there somewhere…

Happy Day

Our Easter weekend was the perfect combination of family, fun, work, play and celebration.  This Easter was a first for us – we were on our own – just our little family of five.  It felt both exciting and strange.  Growing up it wasn’t a real holiday without a large gathering of family members.  I have to admit a part of me still feels the same way and I realize that now Alex and the kids do too.  At the same time I knew that this Easter weekend was a wonderful opportunity for our little family to forge ahead and establish our own traditions.  We read about the death and resurrection of Jesus from the Jesus Storybook Bible.  We dyed eggs, held our own egg hunt.  We dressed up and went to church.  Together we proclaimed that He is Risen!  And thankfully, Grammy and Gigi dropped by for a visit and my brother Andy came over for Easter dinner.  Which pretty much sealed the deal – it was indeed an official holiday in the eyes of my children.  We had company.  Whew.

Easter is one of my favorites though I’m certain I probably say something pretty similar at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  During this season of Lent we are called to feel, to remember the weight of the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  And yet all too often instead of turning my focus to Him I easily turn that focus inward.  The heaviness of my sin, my selfishness and my pride weigh heavily on me.  Yet because of the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord Jesus – because of His great love for us – I’m able to repent of all these burdens and sins and be forgiven.  And just as He lives we too are once again made new.

Again and again.

Oh happy day!

He is risen.

Alleluia!

Redeemed

Today we woke up to our valley covered in both snow and sunshine.

We had a quiet {for us} morning and together walked Henry to school.

I’d pay big money to freeze moments like this in time.

We came back home and I did my domestic-y tasks while the little ones happily played with their new Christmas goodies.  {There is certainly something to be said about spreading out the family celebrations, each gift really gets its due.}

Being home with my little guys just feels right.  Surely it has something to do with the magic of the Christmas season, but I can’t help but cherish this quiet, unhurried morning time together.

It’s too easy to get lost in the glare all around us.  But in this season, and more than ever, I don’t want to forget that Emmanuel came. He came to live with us in this very broken world. He came to earth to redeem it and to redeem us.  And yes, sometimes it feels like He left us.  But He didn’t.

Emmanuel, God is with us.

Was, is, and always will be.

Thankfuls

via

Before every meal and at bedtime we have established a routine of saying our *thankfuls.*  It is a little bit of goodness that has easily become a favorite part of our day.

William is always the first to rattle off his list, Charlie a close second, Henry waits patiently.  I am so thankful for this glimpse into our youngest child’s heart, because if I’m being honest William can be extremely exhausting and certainly keeps me humble. Just when I think I have him figured out, I make one wrong move and everything is despair and heartbreak. When he is happy, he’s the most fun kiddo around, but when he’s not, he’s really not.

Anyway, this month we’ve tried to focus even more on giving thanks for all of our blessings – big and little.  Giving thanks for good health, happy memories and even challenges.  For our family and friends.  For all of the time we enjoy together.

My thankfuls have been simple for our mealtime and bedtime routine, but there is so much my heart longs to give thanks for.  More often than not I find myself thankful for the silly stuff.  That my little guys are homebodies just like their mother.  Because being at home with my children is such a blessing to me.  It is far from easy, but I am thankful for this time in my life.

I’m continually giving thanks for patience.  Not always for me, but for a very patient God.  For the longest time, I’ve tried to do this thing or that thing, you know, all the stuff all the real *godly* people seem to be doing. I worry that I don’t read the bible enough and worry that my prayers aren’t quite right.  Truth is, I watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, can be quick to judge and swear more than I probably should.  I worry that my little mustard seed of faith is not enough.  And yet the truth is I’ve felt more alive and far more sure of things in the last few weeks than I ever have.  I’m more aware than ever of my un-holiness, yet my faith is somehow stronger.  Even in the midst of uncertainty.

In this season of giving thanks, my prayers have been for God to work a miracle through me, to meet me in my weakness.  That the Lord would give me the peace, calm and clarity that I so desperately needed.

I am so needy for His guidance and strength.  My heart begs for the energy, heart and spirit to be the mother our three little boys need.  I have learned through much trial and mostly error that I alone am not enough.

We are so blessed, even as we are stretched and tired.  Yet this much I know, those moments in time when we are worn thin are sacred.  When we come to the end of ourselves, we begin to understand the strength of our Savior.

I pray that my actions, not just my words show my husband a wife, and my children a mother who lives out a life surrendered so that they may clearly see His face, in this and many seasons to come.

No matter what.

As I watched the election results last night, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged.  I know that many won’t understand my feelings, but there was no ignoring the pit in my stomach.

My mom reminded me of a simple solution.  To count my blessings.  To remember that no matter what, we are together, and our little family is growing and thriving.  That even though I may feel discouraged, now is not the time to shrink back on my beliefs.  That who I choose to spend eternity with – by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – is much more important than any candidate or issue on the ballot.

God has placed me right here, right now for a reason.  The harvest is ripe, and the harvest is now.  And so I will choose to focus on what I know the Lord has called me to do.  Serve Him.  Know Him.  Love Him.

And so today, I am so thankful for this little family of mine. Together, we can weather whatever this life brings.  I know in my heart that we will be alright. {Though I might circle the wagons even closer.}

We will be happy, life will go on, and we will seek joy.

After all, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  For these are the things that matter.

It’s how He made me.

I’ve made a recent discovery: I require copious amounts of silence or near silence each day in order to function on three out of four cylinders.

Going and doing all the time just isn’t me.  Yet I have three busy boys, a husband, a household and plain ‘ol life to keep me moving at a pretty darn fast pace.

You see my dilemma.

Perhaps the most crazy thing to come from this recent discovery is my willingness to finally accept my reality.  Why it has taken me all these years to figure out such a simple thing like *I need quiet time?*

Looking back this solution seems so obvious.  Quiet time = calm happy Libby.  Yet most of the time the equation looked like this: jam-packed schedule = crazy Libby.  What’s my problem?  Maybe it’s because I’m a people pleasing, rule-following, type-A personality?  And if everyone else around me can live at break-neck speed then why shouldn’t I?

Certainly this life of mine has doled out its fair share of head-scratchers.

My weekly bible study got me thinking about spiritual gifts and how we can use our own God-given talents to be ambassadors of the Lord.  And what might you ask does this have to do with my time management skills and need for alone time?  There actually is a strong connection.  Oddly enough my spiritual gift is not to run around town like a chicken with my head cut off.  And yet what do I do most days?  You guessed it, I spend way too much time acting like a crazy chicken.

So then what are my spiritual gifts?

Not knowing where to start I began to take note of specific times during my day when I am able to lovingly serve as an encouragement to others.  Basically, when did it come naturally?  Some opportunities were obvious.  While with my children, setting the tone for our household and leading by example.  At school pick-up and drop-off; how do I reach out to others in spite of our morning and afternoon rush?  In the evening, creating a calm {ish} setting for Alex to come home to and for our family to reconnect at the end of the day.

There was one opportunity that was especially obvious, yet I was hesitant to claim it.  I’ve always been wary to call myself a writer, but in the last week it has been pressed upon my heart that this is a very specific spiritual gift the Lord has given me.  By not fully accepting this gift then I’m not fully accepting how he made me.

Interestingly enough, most writers need periods of quiet to craft their words.  This means that God gave me a spiritual gift that practically demands quiet time.  Ironic, no?

OK, so I’m a writer.  But what is the point of my writing?  And how can my words be used to glorify Him?

Again, this was a challenge for me.  Of course this answer is also obvious, but sometimes the truth can seem so harsh.  So here goes nothing…as a mother I have experienced what many would claim as their greatest fear: raising a child with special needs.  And yet here I am, living out what most assume be *the worst case scenario* and I remain hopeful and joyful.  Not only that, but I believe more than ever that God is King and I lovingly serve Him by sharing our story.

I understand now that it’s vital for me to take the time to sit quietly and pour out my heart through words.  My Creator knows me well.  He created me with a talent that fits me perfectly.  This gift not only allows me to live joyfully and weightlessly, but allows me to serve as an encourager to others, writing as an ambassador of hope.

It’s how He made me.

How did he make YOU?