Good Gifts

She curled up next to me, tightly wound and holding hands, as we finished the movie.  The boys had set off on a new adventure last night and we were having a low key evening all our own.  We had all kissed and hugged goodbyes and said our prayers for safe travels.

As the movie and story time ended, we watched the projected stars twinkle on the ceiling and I slipped away to write a few words.

I’d gone through a few posts for today.  Fashion Friday seemed out of place on such a holy day.  Then I read these words,

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  (Matthew 7)

A picture of a Father full of grace.  Full of love.  He wants to provide and give good gifts.

In that moment last night, cuddled up with one of the four people I love the most in the world, I would have done anything for her.  Anything in my power.  To bring her joy.  To keep her safe.  To show her how to live a full life.

Isn’t that why we recognize Good Friday?  Because our Father did everything in His power, even the most heartbreaking thing by giving His son, to bring us joy, to keep us safe, to show us how to live a full life.

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

I messed up.

Have you ever messed up?  Set a goal and stepped off course?

This is not the first time.  This might be the first time I learned to respond differently.

Because there are a couple of reactions we tend to have when we mess up.  On any number of fronts.  When we say we’re going to work fewer hours but we end up working more.  When we say we’re going to only eat healthy foods but we end up eating dessert.  When we say we won’t raise our voices to our kids but we yell when one levels a punch at the other.  When we say we’re going to step away from cocktail hour but instead we indulge.  When we say we’ll take on less commitments but we say yes to another one.  When we say we’re going to wake up early to run but that snooze button was too tempting.  When we say we’re going to study all night but we slip away to the better alternatives on the computer.

I have previously spent days or weeks beating myself up for the mistake.  For the failure.  If you have any perfectionist in you, then backsliding on a goal can often feel unforgivable.  Beating yourself up does not get you back on track.  It distracts you from the good goal you have set out.

In the alternative, I have allowed the mistake to set a new course.  Well, I messed up once, what’s one more mistake?  And then the journey becomes about the indulgence and lack of responsibility and you just move farther and farther off course.

Well, I messed up this past weekend.  And the next day, I was feeling pretty bad about it.  Until I reminded myself what God offers me and I talked to some wise friends.

God offers mercy.  Mercy is defined as compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power; clemency; or a disposition to be kind and forgiving.  I’ve talked a fair amount about grace, which most simply refers to the unmerited assistance of God’s love.  But when you mess up, I have found that knowing about His mercy can help me walk past the sense of shame or guilt.

This resonated so much with me as we sang an old hymn at my church yesterday by Calvin Hampton.  I normally go in for more contemporary music.  But this, well this knocked me off my feet.  I know I dance around the core message of my faith sometimes because I have every shape, size and background of reader here.  I love that so much.  I love that we can talk fashion and leadership and multiples and careers.  But this is the message that keeps me going every morning, and it lets me stand up even when I fall down.  This keeps me both from beating myself up and also reminds me to step back on track - There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea;

There’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in Heaven;

There is no place where earth’s failings have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good;

There is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in His blood….

For the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind;

And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind….

It is God: His love looks mighty, but is mightier than it seems;

’Tis our Father: and His fondness goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow by false limits of our own;

And we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.

We make His love too narrow.  His love is boundless.  He forgives.  Let’s accept that kindness, treat ourselves with that forgiveness, shake off whatever goal we stepped away from this weekend, and step back on track.  The goal is still ahead, sister, press on.

From Soup to Nuts, Literally

Today is a hodge-podge of collected thoughts from over the weekend, including the yummy soup I made that my kids weren’t adventurous enough to love.

1.  Soup – more specifically, Curried Coconut Soup

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I ripped this page out of a Southern Living magazine in December 2011 that featured a curried coconut soup with shrimp and mushrooms and it was served with a yummy veggie wrap of cucumber, carrot, snap pea and hummus.  I want the kids to like all sorts of flavors and styles of food and with my rush to get dinner on the table on weeknights, I’ve begun to think they’re missing that.

Weekends I try a bit of adventure, with no back up option if they don’t like it.  Well, this soup was yummy.  There’s a link to the full recipe in the title above, but it is quick and easy and calls for some of my favorite ingredients like basil and mushrooms and coconut milk.  Yum!  They weren’t so in love.  Only the baby said it was yummy.  I actually think I got a disgusting (which we reprimand because it’s not kind).  I’m going to keep trying though because what do they say, something like 9 tries to get the palette to like something new???

What adventurous dish do your kids like to eat?

2.  Rodeo Houston

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So for those of you non-Houstonians, we’ve just wrapped the first week of the three week rodeo season.  It’s always busy season for my husband at work, but we try to take the kids to the rodeo.  They loved it last year.  This year we tried it on a SATURDAY!  We arrived at 9:30 before the carnival rides even began so there was lots of space to move, but by 1 pm we were packed in like sardines.  There were yee-haws all around and promises that they were going to be barrel racers or bull riders or mutton busters when they got a bit bigger.

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We rode rides, ate junk food, watched the ranch rodeo, delighted in the petting zoo, and went to the main rodeo.  But the latter didn’t start til 3:45 so we were there from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.  That’s right!  NINE hours with four year old triplets.  We will chalk this up to a learning lesson, but no more Saturdays or nine hour marathon rodeo outings in the near future.  (The kids asked to go back the next day though so their memories are happy!)

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What marathon adventure have you endured with any success?

3.  The weekend in Twitter-ese

The kids are singing Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me in the back seat.  #nextgenerationofneilyounglovers

Friday night family movie night – they’ve got hot cocoa, popcorn and M&Ms – hmmmm? #mistakemaybe #funthough

Can someone explain to me the appeal of Hello Kitty?  Because little bit wants all this HK stuff – does she even have a show?

Y’all, Sam is preaching to us tonight out of The Purpose Drive Life in a deep Southern accent. #crackingup #preschoolpreacher

Spring forward?  More like fall forward since I am SLEEPY!

Is it really cold again?!?!? #mercy #willbewishingforthisinaugust

Weave It Together

tapestry

My mind has been muddled.

I went to a remarkable conference this weekend, and as powerful as the words of the five speakers were, it left me incredibly perplexed.

I am a Type A, big fan of control, super scheduley-planner gal.

What if, in the middle of your big master plan for your life, you were asked to do something different?  Or asked to be willing to do something different?  Or to be willing to not know what was going to come?

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you’d selected Door Number 1 over Door Number 4?

Do you feel incredibly gifted at something you’re not really using much right now?

Did you ever think you would be great at five careers – maybe a doctor AND a party planner AND a therapist AND a President AND a hair stylist?

So I’ve wondered that too.  Not those particular professions exactly but this internal struggle that I want to build water wells in Africa and serve as a corporate executive and write six books.

What if God planned to use all of that?  What if He already has a way to work all of those gifts and talents and desires into concert with each other?  To weave it all together?

One of my dearest friends left me this message in response to my commentary on this weekend and how confused I was about a number of things:

I just know, and it boggles my mind, but I know that God can weave all of that together.  I can not imagine how, but I know He can. 

Romans 8:28:  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord.

Philippians 3:12:   Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Mary’s Mommy Moments

We sat on the third to the last pew in the crowded Christmas Eve service.  The first time we’d ever all five been to the evening service together.  Bray held the eldest as Christmas carols rang out as he was the most unruly, and I stood between the little lady and the baby holding their hands and swaying in time to the music.

Noel, Noel,

Noel, Noel

Born is the King of Israel

I don’t know that I have a favorite Christmas carol, but this is amongst my top five.

As I looked back and forth between my three four-year-olds, I heard those words differently.

This year I have resisted the kids growing up.  I know, I know, it’s a good thing, but I’ve been nostalgic for those helpless little babies more and more.

And on this Christmas Eve night, I wondered how much harder it must have been for Mary.

Of course Mary was nostalgic as each Christmas Eve passed and they celebrated Jesus next birthday just as any mother would be.  But don’t you imagine those birthdays were even more bittersweet for her than the average mom?

She didn’t know exactly what was to come, but she had to have known it would have been hard.

She accepted the word of the angel and rejoiced during her pregnancy to have been chosen.  She treasured all the offerings and accolades from the shepherds and wise men when Jesus was a baby.  But she also know he was God’s son sent to fulfill prophesy.  In fact, when she brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him as custom demanded, she heard this from a Godly man named Simeon:

 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother,

“Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against

(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2)

A sword will pierce through your own soul.

She knew it wouldn’t be innocent baby time with kisses and cuddles for much longer.  She knew he wouldn’t always be hers for safekeeping.

I imagined all she must have struggled with to be chosen as the mother of the King of Israel.

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A blessing, without a doubt.  But the heartache that accompanied it.  The worry, the sleepless nights.  Oh, she knew what we mothers go through more than we could even understand.

As I stood there, drinking in their little voices singing out Away in a Manger and The First Noel, I also stood grateful to have this time with them.  This slow walk through their preschool years.  With all the frustrations and messes that accompany it.

I stood grateful to know that they have a hope and a promise of a future relationship with God the Father because He sent His Son all those years ago and Mary bravely raised Him knowing that soon enough she wouldn’t be able to keep Him safe.  With each birthday celebration, she must have hugged Him even harder and kissed Him even longer as she tucked Him in and told Him how happy she was to be His mommy.

So I’ll do the same.  Hug them and kiss them and appreciate them still crawling into bed in the middle of the night or asking to be carried to the table.  Appreciating Christmas in a way I hadn’t done before.