Monday, December 10, 2012

Snow, Snow...Sand?!

White Christmas is my favorite holiday movie, but I'm not dreaming of snow in Vermont.  

It's December- fifteen days until Christmas.

But yesterday, this is where we were:
Playing at the beach.

Digging in the sand.
Tip-toeing in the waves.
Taking our lunch to the beach.
I'm sure we'll eventually wish for a real winter with mountains and the white stuff...maybe :-)

But I never did like skiing.

Friday, December 07, 2012

It's Just a Season

There is a time for everything,
 and a season for every activity under the heavens... 
-Ecclesiastes 3.3 

One of the best pieces of mom advice I have received is, "This is just a season."  Whatever you are going through will not last forever.

Every time I brought a newborn home from the hospital, I remember feeling like time draaaaaaagged.  It wasn't just the baby's nights and days that got mixed up.  I, the mom, was stealing winks whenever I could- sun up or sun down.  After the excitement and magic of this new life started to wear off, I began thinking,  
When am I ever going to sleep again?! 
This is it.  I have officially lost my sense of style- destined to live in sweat pants and ponytails forevermore. 
HOW do moms keep their house clean, get dressed, take care of the kids, AND manage to sit down for a meal every day?

The truth is, that this time will pass.  

Babies learn to sleep through the night, which means you start to regain some energy for doing other things besides washing bottles and changing diapers.  After some weeks, you wake up one day, out of the fog, and find an extra minute to fix your hair.  Mommy gets baby on a predictable routine and realizes how much she can accomplish during the morning nap time. Your old clothes start to fit, and you can smile at yourself in the mirror again.

As my friend, Karen says, "There is light at the end of the tunnel."  

This is not just advice for parents of newborns.  There are so many phases we and our kids go through.  I, myself, am watching another tough season end with my youngest son (almost 2 years old).  The flowers are pushing through the snow, and I am thrilled to see hope blooming in me again. 

He isn't screaming much anymore.
More importantly,
He loves me!  He really loves me!

By far, my most difficult child to parent, as friends already know, God gave me a son with one heckuva strong will.  Unlike me, he likes a good fight.  I have felt like a failure and wished for easier days.  I have learned to trust God in ways I never have before.  I had toWhile at one time, patience came easy to me, for months and months I couldn't find a morsel left without some supernatural help.  I felt like I had to get my helmet on and hunker down every single day.  My resolve and spirit felt battered and weak.

Then all of a sudden, a new season begins.  I see the sun peeping over the horizon, shining down to reveal the positives of my son's budding personality. God is graciously showing me the wonderful qualities He created in my toddler.

He is SO smart!  Already recognizing letters and numbers faster than my older kids.  Trying to use the potty like everyone else does.  When he tries something new and doesn't succeed, he keeps trying.  This little guy is on the fast track and unfazed by obstacles.  

Okay, these are things I can work with.

I am so thankful that each day is new and seasons come and go.  Sometimes they're extremely tough and discouraging and exhausting.  Other times they're exhilarating, hopeful, and filled with content.  If we didn't have to travel through some valleys and hike a few rocky cliffs, the mountain top view  wouldn't be nearly as impressive, would it? 

We learn so much in the middle of those dark, tunnel experiences:
  • That God never expected us to do it alone.  
  • We are more than we think we are.  
  • Not to give up, because you are doing a great work (even if you can't see it right now).
  • And that God will introduce every opportunity to bring us growth and community during these times.
 From one mom to another, here is a glimmer of hope to hold onto: You can do it.  This is just a season.

Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.
-Psalm 31.24
I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
-Psalm 27.13-14

Thursday, December 06, 2012

When You Think You Have Nothing to Offer

Do you remember the holiday classic, The Little Drummer Boy
The wise men bring gifts to the baby Jesus, and there's a moment in the story, when the little boy realizes he has nothing to give to the newborn king.  Then, someone reminds him that he has a drum, his only possession.  So the little drummer boy offers all that he has, and plays a song for his holy audience.

I have often felt that I have little to offer.  When I compare my skills and talents to others, I doubt my own ability to help someone.  In a new town, I don't know many people, so how could I possibly gather a group of volunteers to bring about a Christmas miracle?

About a week ago, God reminded me that He can use the little bit we are faithful with.

We had been promising the older kids that we would take them to see a movie over Thanksgiving break after our vacation plans were cancelled.  And since they cleaned their rooms and had an early release day one Monday, I managed to make good on that promise :-)  

On our way home, we noticed a giant plume of dark smoke behind the trees nearby.  We wondered what would have caused so much smoke.  Then, we watched as rescue vehicles zipped by with sirens and lights alerting us to the emergency.  At least a dozen screamed past us, and I suggested that maybe we should say a little prayer for anyone involved in the fire.  

My daughter replied, "I already did."

That evening, after the kids were in bed, I looked up the local news and found that an apartment building had went up in flames, and at least nine families had been effected. So that's what happened, I thought.  Curiosity satisfied, I went to bed.

The next morning, an acquaintance, posted a need on facebook for her friend who had lost her home in a fire.  Coincidence?  I asked her for confirmation, and found out that a single mom of three was indeed involved in the fire my family noticed after a trip to the movies and in the news article I researched the night before.  

God had placed all this at my attention on purpose.

Immediately, I felt involved.  Not because I knew anyone, but because my heart was somehow invested.  What could I do?  My connections are a state away.  I have very little to donate, since we had purged so much during our move.

It didn't seem like much, but I had a voice and a few new friends nearby. 

Turns out it was all God needed.  I mean, seriously, he's God.  Why did I even pause?

In four days, a band of moms I know, gathered up household items, food, and clothes for a stranger.  And another family happened to be moving away, leaving behind furniture to donate.  A moving truck was offered, as well as, volunteers with muscles and time to carry couches and tables up a flight of stairs to a mom's new apartment.  Every couple of hours a new detail fell into place, right up until she scraped up enough money for her first month's rent, and a group of unrelated people blessed an unsuspecting family just weeks before Christmas.

As I peeked through garbage bags and bins of donations before we left, I couldn't believe how the little things people had given were just what she needed: a shower curtain, lamps, a broom, toys for the kids, pots and pans, towels, sheets, Christmas stockings...God had known the needs and alerted a few hearts to offer whatever they had.

And just like that, a miracle happened.

It only took a few open hearts, open hands, and a little mustard seed of brave faith.