Friday, July 29, 2016

Freestyle Friday - One for the Books

By the time this posts it will have been a couple of weeks, but I'm sitting down to type it the day it happened so I can remember all the details.

Let me tell you a story ...

If you've read much of my blog, you know that I have two young children. You also know that I workout 5-6 days a week, and that I usually do it in the wee hours of the morning before the girls get up.

While Tim was gone with our church's youth group on a mission trip, I wasn't sleeping as well as I usually do. So a few mornings I chose not to get up and work out since I figured I could do it during the girls nap. Turns out - it isn't all that bad to work out while they're up from time-to-time either! So that's what I did this morning ... I stayed in bed till Tori wandered in, and we cuddled and she asked questions and listed the people in our family who have eyes ("GiGi have eyes?" Yep. "Dude have eyes?" Yep, he does. "Daddy have eyes?" Yes ma'am.)

The first issue came when Shelby reminded me I had told her I owe her a sticker for her chart (she's been on a "good attitude" chart and it was her last sticker). Before I could even get the stickers out she was asking for a movie. Uh oh.

You see, we only have one television. I have no plans to change that no matter how irritating it becomes. But my plan to work out after they got up, but still in the morning, was starting to look rocky. I needed to get that workout in so I could shower and get gussied up for Daddy's return! And I owed Shelby a cookie baking session ... that wasn't going to happen if I had to wait to workout till they had watched a movie.

So we began the morning with tears. Eventually she was playing happily. Victoria, however, wanted to sit on the couch and watch. Awesome! Except that she really wanted to watch Autumn Calabrese, not Mommy. And Mommy was in her way. So I had to workout behind the couch - no biggie.

As I got warmed up I turned on the fan ... another big nope. I was making Tori cold. Ok, that's fine ... Mommy isn't afraid to sweat over here behind the couch. One plus was that I didn't turn the music off like I usually do, and just having had my Shakeology made with coffee instead of water ... I was dancing around between sets. Being excited to get Tim back probably contributed too.

All in all, after everyone was placated, my workout went very well. Shelby was exuberant when I told her they could watch a movie while I took my shower, then we'd make the cookies I had promised. So off I go to take an extra-clean shower ... with Daddy coming home I was pulling out all the stops ... shaving my legs, washing and drying my hair ... these things are a big deal when you have two children under 4. The girls sat down to watch "Home" with little Corelle bowls of cereal and I bopped off to un-sweat-ify myself.

My shower is going fine, I've got my hair up slathered with conditioner ... kinda letting it do a deep-treatment thing. I've shaved one leg with a brand new blade, ran out of shaving gel, but thankfully had another bottle waiting in the cabinet. Then I hear them calling my name and banging on the door (what? I lock it if I'm in the shower ... there are things in there they don't need to be getting into).

It goes something like a 911 call ...

Shelby: "Mommy there is a PROBLEM!"

Mommy: "Is anyone hurt?"

Shelby: "Maybe I don't think so probably not."


Mommy: "Is anyone bleeding or unconscious or crying?"

Shelby: "Nooooo ... but it's BROKEN."

Well, that's enough to get Mommy out of the shower in a hurry. I grab my towel and stop worrying about what wet feet do to the concrete floor. I open the door and find Tori standing in the middle of a minefield mess of broken Corelle.

The thing about Corelle is, the kids can use "real" plates and bowls that are harder to break. I KNOW they aren't unbreakable. I know that. I only gave them those bowls so they could each have their own little identical kingdom of cereal to eat without fighting. But apparently when Corelle DOES break, it shatters into a million jagged pieces and a dusting of fine powder.

Shelby: "Mommy her THROW it cause she's DONE." (Ahem, Uncle Nathan ...)

So I scoop up a protesting two-year-old so she doesn't lacerate her precious little feet and plop her on the couch. Wrapped precariously in my towel, wet and cold, with my one smooth leg and conditioner oozing down my back I proceed to clean up the razor-strewn floor.

Eventually I managed to get ready for the day and even to show my hubby I'm excited that he is home (and not just for reinforcements or as a sleep aid). We managed a batch of cookies (though they were clean-eating/paleo/gluten free and the only thing Shelby liked about them was the chocolate chips). But now I remember why I usually try to get in a workout and get showered before the little minions are up.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - A Birthday Prayer

Today is Shelby's 4th birthday. There are days that she seems frozen in time, like a music-box ballerina ... like my mind and the world around us just slow to a crawl and that mess of curls unfurls like spun honey around her. Her eyes, twinkling innocence and smiles, dance around to see if I'm watching.

Part of me wants everything to stop right here. Lets just stay like this. But I know the whole point of being her parents is that we're raising her ... we're lifting her up to help her soar, the Holy Spirit under her wings ... I don't want to see her crash as she learns to fly, but I know she will. And momma will be right there to help her learn from the fall.

Y'all, I don't know if I can write this. My baby is four today. It has been four years since the best friends anyone could have stocked up our freezer, loaded up our apartment, and filled our waiting home. Since my doctor told us I was running out of time. Since my greatest fear in childbirth, being separated from Tim, came to be.

Sweet Shelby, we've been praying for you since before you were born and I'm not about to stop now.

Father, oh Father ...

You who understand a mother's heart better than any other ... thank You for entrusting this amazing spirit to our care. My greatest prayer for Shelby in these formative years is that You speak to her heart. Send your Holy Spirit to knock, to whisper, and give her the ears to hear You. I pray that she comes to know You early in life.

And Father, I don't just want her to know You as one passing through the flames. Please, even though it may take losses and hardships that break the mother's heart in me, teach her to trust You. Only You. Always You. That when we fail her, when the world betrays her, when the enemy lies to her, You are always there, always good, always loving.

Lord, I cry out that You will help her see that obeying You is the only way to love you and the best way to live. She's so independent ... I pray that independence will be utilized as a tool for your kingdom, a light in the darkness, and not a rebel flag in the desert.

Abba! Guard her heart. Set up a wall around her. I beg you to protect her innocence as long as possible. Protect her sweet, carefree, nurturing, loving, including, vibrant heart. Not encased in a bubble Lord ... but free to share Your light with an untaintable, tarnish-proof shine that knocks the enemies flaming arrows right out of their trajectories, smoking and broken, nothing but burnt-up sticks.

Give her hands that serve You and serve others. Feet that are swift to run to You, and swift to spread Your great news, Your rescue plan. Let her heart continue to grow in the love of Your praises, to sing to You without shame and without fear.

Father I have no idea how this swirling, whirling world around her is going to change. But I know that You are steadfast and true. You won't change. Let her see that. Let her make You her compass and happy place, her true North.

And if she is meant to marry ... Lord Lord, I pray these same things for him. Give him a fierce love for You. Protect him for her. Teach him all he needs to know to be the match for her. As much as I want to tell you know one will be good enough for her, I know You know better ... and that his momma would probably disagree.

For now, I thank You for providing for her - her family, our home, our provisions, our church family, our friends. I thank You for her light in our home and our lives. I think You for her health. I thank you for her sisterhood with Victoria.

Thank You for this undeserved blessing of being Shelby's momma.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - White Bear

Somehow, both of my children have latched on to white stuffed animals as "security" objects. For some reason, at some point in my life, I determined that I didn't like that concept ... this "thing" a child HAS to have at bedtime.

Then along came Shelby. Fairly early on, she developed something of a relationship with this one stuffed animal. White Bear (that's her name ... and she's a GIRL, though sometimes I constantly find myself calling her "he" for some reason; Shelby is quick to correct me) has become like a member of the family. Because I love Shelby, and Shelby loves White Bear, we will go to some surprising lengths to protect/find/retrieve/take care of that thing.

Like when she somehow fell out of the car and into a storm drain ...
This little bear doesn't necessarily go everywhere with Shelby. Sometimes she's being babysat by pretend Grandma when we're away from the house. Sometimes she comes along but stays in the car. When Shelby had to have her tooth pulled, White Bear was right there with her.

And got left. What? It was a crazy day. Aunt Andrea and Caleb took amazing care of White Bear for us, and Shelby's patience with these kinds of situations requiring a certain kind of endurance amaze me.

Caleb "gets it" ... McQueen there is pretty important to him ...
"Reunited ... and it feels so good!"

White Bear has been through a lot ... I mean, have you seen Toy Story 3? Toddlers are brutal, and she has been with Shelby from the time Shelby was a baby. White Bear used to have a music box. I actually forget what it played ... because of the necessity of repeated washing and drying, the mechanism stopped playing properly around the time Shelby was still not really old enough to pull the chord herself.

As Shelby has grown, and the strength of her arms has increased, and the presence of a little sister eventually necessitated, the useless heavy metal and plastic box had to go. So not long ago White Bear had a little "music box ectomy" and re-stuffing. Shelby was awesome about it - she even picked the color of thread for stitching her back together. At first the new stuffing made White Bear's tummy "too full" but she quickly settled in to the "new" White Bear feeling.

I thought she'd pick pink, but she surprised me by going for bright "boo-doo"
I no longer worry that she'll require counseling the rest of her life because she was attached to this little ball of stuffing. Perhaps it is part of what develops her sweet, nurturing personality. White Bear has certainly served as a object lesson for empathy. Sure, she may take White Bear off to college, tucked away inside her pillow like a comforting secret. I'm ok with that now. And if she doesn't ... it's probably one of those things that we'll hang on to to remind us of a more innocent time.

She requested White Bear be included in our annual bluebonnet photos

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Recipe Review, Fixate Cookies

While Tim was gone on the mission trip a couple of weeks ago, Shelby completed a "good attitude" chart. I basically print a generic chart with spots for stickers, and we pick a good behavior that needs some encouraging. When the chart got filled up with stickers for "Whoa, hey that was an awesome attitude!" she had chosen baking cookies together as a reward.

Now, I can't be having any fresh-baked, sugar filled, "real" cookies in the house. Not a whole batch. But I couldn't make a batch with her then turn around and give them all away either. So I decided to try a clean chocolate chip cookie recipe from my Fixate Cookbook. Seriously - we have loved pretty much everything we've made from this book!!

Fixate Chocolate Chip Cookies (the way I made them, had to make a few substitutions):

2 3/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour (I ran out of almond)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup raw honey
1 large egg (yes, of course it was a duck egg!)
2 large egg whites (also duck)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper
3. Combine flours, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix well.
4. Beat oil and honey in a large mixer bowl until creamy (about 5 minutes)
5. Add egg, egg whites, vanilla extract; beat for 2 additional minutes.
6. Slowly add flour mixture; mix until blended.
7. Stir in chocolate chips.
8. Drop by rounded TBSP onto baking sheets.
9. Bake 14-16 minutes (mine were a little over-done at 14)
10. Store in an airtight container (I think this part is important).

They ARE costly even though they aren't cheating ... 1.5 yellows each, OUCH! For anyone out there not doing the portion fix:
126 calories, 10g of fat, 3g sat fat, 7mg cholesterol, 78mg sodium, 8g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 3g protein (per cookie)

The first day, I thought they were pretty amazing.  Being pretty-well sugar-detoxed makes anything sweet taste like an ooey gooey explosion in your mouth. The girls, who may have been expecting something more like Oreos, were unimpressed. In fact, Shelby said "Maybe you can't make these again. We make cookies like grandma next time."

The NEXT day, and following days, they were much improved! The girls aren't clamoring over them like they do Oreos ... but I think that's in part because they don't induce those "more ... more! ... MORE!" cravings. They DO like them though! Tim does too. As of my writing this (less than a week after he got back) there are only two left. Shelby later said "These are good now! And they're HEALTHY! Mommy you can make healthy cookies!"

So ... I'd say they are a win! I don't have to cheat ... woo hoo! The kids appreciate them! WOO HOO! If you take them to a pot-luck you won't have people knocking themselves over asking you to write down the recipe, but hey ... they won't be falling over in a diabetic coma next to you after eating a couple either.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Rooted - Soil

You can't be a gardener without dirt. Well ... with hydroponics you can, but I'm going to ignore that for now.

Have you ever spent much time looking at soil?

I haven't really either ... but I DO know there is a big difference between potting soil, sand, clay ... One summer I worked at a big-box home improvement store. They had a return policy on all perennial plants. As I said, it was summer ... one of those summers where the sagey smoke from Central America was thick and it didn't rain. I worked in the garden area, and it rained once the entire summer that I was there.

A woman came huffing in, dragging a cart behind her filled with about a dozen dead azaleas. Their roots were in clumps of dry red clay. It almost was as if they'd been baked in a kiln. I'm glad I didn't work in customer service where they processed the return ... really lady?

It's easy to see that some soil is easy for plants to grow in. Some soil holds water well, some lets it drain away as soon as it falls. Some soil provides a soft bed for roots to push through, while some entraps them in a sticky, hard mess.

Right now our yard is so hard that when staking out a potential fence-line my husband and father-in-law were using a masonry bit on a drill to get the stakes started. We're talking a stake about the size of a pencil, by the way. The learned this trick in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin.

One of Jesus more memorable parables was about soil, and He compared the soil to the hearts of men. He even went on to explain the parable to His disciples:

This type of soil probably resides in a well educated person - to them, the gospel message is foolishness. (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

This type of soil is within a person who is likely quick to grab on to lots of things. Christianity, the life of freedom offered that costs you nothing, sounds FANTASTIC! Count me in! But when their faith is tested it fails; they are eager to deny Christ when proclaiming Him might cost something.

This one breaks my heart, because I think this is what happens in America. We have so much that we have a lot to worry about. Instead of opening our hands and letting God provide, we cling to what we have and worry about how to keep it. We can't grow as His children that way, too afraid of losing our precious weeds to cut them down even as they keep us in the dark.

I won't pretend I know exactly what this looks like. But I can tell you that Jesus told us that "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." This understanding the word doesn't mean we have to attend a seminary or have giant volumes lining our shelves explaining every word of the gospel. We just have to joyfully accept it, like children do any gift, and trust Him.

Last week my husband gave his testimony to the youth group at our church. He was worried about his delivery ... did he use the right words ... did he say too much; too little?

The thing is, when we go out into the world with what the seeds the Holy Spirit has given us, we have to remember that the soil has to be ready ... in the end something only He can do, but something we can work toward and be aware of instead of being so bent on "spreading the gospel" without listening; listening to His Spirit's leading, and listening to the soil around us (because in the end we are all made of dirt). I've always had a guttural disdain for door-to-door evangelism in part because I feel like that is the equivalent to me going out into my yard, announcing that I'm going to plan a garden, then just tossing seeds off the edge of the porch.

Instead we should be developing relationships, meeting needs ... tilling the soil if you will ... being intentional with our plantings. Weeding our gardens. Tending the young plants and protecting them, feeding them. If a person comes to a decision to follow Christ with you, you don't just air-high five God and move on to your next prospect without care being provided, even if not by you.

Yes, there will be some with hearts of stone who will never receive the word, and that doesn't mean you ignore them thinking you know that. But isn't part of our work here to prepare the way? To feed the spiritually immature?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Freestyle Friday: Husband Material

Several weeks ago I wrote about expectation. Since then I have told my wife on two separate occasions that I would be ready to submit my follow up for her to post on the upcoming Friday and two Fridays have gone by without me following through. Needless to say, I did not meet her, or my own, expectation. The list is long of reasons why.... but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what the reason(s) were.

Picking up where I left off, uncovering both human and Godly expectation, I will tackle Godly expectation first. What does our Creator expect of us? Well, He uses Moses in the book of Deuteronomy to give us some insight. Moses has gone up Mount Sinai bringing with 2 stone tablets on which the Lord wrote the 10 Commandments.

Upon Moses' decent from the mountain top, he saw the Hebrew people, the very people he was intervening for, defying the God that had delivered them out of slavery, had provided for their needs in the desert and shown them His mighty power. In his anger, Moses threw down the stone tablets, breaking them into pieces. In Deuteronomy 10 we find the Lord instructing Moses to once again chisel out 2 more tablets from stone that He would again write His commandments on, replacing the first set that were broken. Then Moses sums up what God requires starting in verse 12:

"And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, might and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

He continues in chapter 11, verse 1 with: Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always. 

It would seem that God's expectation of his people is to love Him, obey Him and serve Him. The last one rings clear for most of us. We want to be served. When we go to a restaurant we expect to be served, to have our needs/wants fulfilled. The Lord is much the same way, He desires for His children to serve Him; however, unlike us, He is exceedingly patient.

If we have unmet expectation at a restaurant we do things like leave a lousy tip or complaint to a manager, maybe even swear to never patronize that establishment again. But if we don't met God's expectations, what does He do? He makes a way. From the beginning God knew that man would rebel against his Creator. He knew that we would not be able to "live up to" His expectations. He knew it and He loved His creation anyways. That's a far cry from throwing a hissy over unmet earthly expectations, isn't it? I purpose that we all would be a lot better off if we were able to look at expectation from the lens of our Lord. Perhaps we would find a bit of grace and mercy and maybe even no expectation at all.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday: The Real Enemy

Lets get something straight. I do not want to write about recent current events. I don't. Even as my fingers rattle this out my eyes are teared up because I don't want to say anything more than what I've already said.

But I feel lead to say something. Especially after God gave me one of those "in your face" object lessons.
"Our" Orb Weaver garden spider, July 1
All summer, we've been watching a couple of garden spiders on our bedroom windows. We've also been watching a tenacious group of wasps repeatedly build nest on the ceiling fan on the porch. While it is turning. Even on that string you pull to change the speed. Really.

If you've never heard a young child struck mercilessly by an angry wasp, you might not understand my disdain for them. I myself even have a scar smack in the middle of my forehead thanks to an encounter when I was about the girls' ages.

So one afternoon instead of my usual "throw a jar of soapy water at them and run" routine (seriously, it does kill most wasps!) ... I got one of those cans of death. 27 foot jet? Knockdown foam? Yes please.

Well, it was a bit more powerful than I anticipated, and although I read the instructions didn't really pay much attention to the wind that day. Some of the overspray landed in the area of our bedroom window. Globs of the sticky toxic foam clung in a few places to the garden spider's beautiful web. Oops.

I felt terrible. I kept an eye on the spider, even though there wasn't a thing I could do but apologize. Sure enough, it began acting sickly. But it didn't die. I was beating myself up inside; what kind of cruel monster was I? Oh Lord, what a crappy steward of Your creatures I'm turning out to be.

July 8, about 7:30am
Then one morning the girls and I had breakfast on the front porch. Yes, they're eating Ritz crackers with peanut butter for breakfast. YOU try to get a 3-almost-4-year-old and a 2 year old to eat clean all the time and get back to me with what you learn, K?

Anyways. We ate breakfast outside. On the porch. Just a few feet from where the ailing spider had been hanging on, quite literally, by a thread ... it's poor web in tatters.

Less than an hour from when I snapped that photo of the girls sitting to eat, I discovered the true source of the garden spider's woes. Unmistakable, a cannibalizing black widow. Deadly even to humans, I had fed my girls, carefree and enjoying the sunrise, maybe 6 feet from her nest.

For those untrained in the deadly spiders of Texas ... that is a Black Widow (a rather large one)

How does that relate to current events? Let me tell you. I thought I had done something wrong to that spider, and felt guilty. Meanwhile under the edge of the window, where my children play on a daily basis, a sinister venom was at work. I could have been killing the poisonous spider instead of worrying that I had hurt the helpful spider.

The words of our own President. Spoken at the funeral of white police officers, condemn us white-skinned folks for events in the history that were deplorable, but that we have come past. He gave our country no credit for how far we've come. He gave Americans, no matter their skin color, no confidence in being something beyond the sum of our past. He gave no hope for us to work together but used divisive language to try place blame.

Our true enemy would have us shying into the dark of silence, afraid to voice ... much of anything. Because we are being falsely condemned. Much of the populace of this great country is under a suffocating blanket of condemnation. Jesus didn't come to condemn us and the founding fathers didn't declare, structure, and FIGHT for shackles of shame for the generations to come.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. - John 3:17

Freedom. Lets start living and talking like we're free. Lets stop beating ourselves up for something we didn't do. Lets stop listening to rhetoric of divisiveness hiding under the eaves, waiting for us to tear one another apart.

America is something good. I may not agree with everything any single candidate in as long as I have been a voter says, but I DO agree that America CAN be great again. Not because of who we elect, but because of who we are. Christian brothers and sisters, we have got to stop throwing darts at one another, at non-Christians, and get on our knees and do battle with the REAL ENEMY. That is where we have to start or all else is for naught.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas

In order to live in victory, you must call the enemy's bluff, pull the curtain back, open up your spiritual eyes, and remain continually aware of the one who's truly behind a lot of the stuff you're always blaming on your circumstances, your upbringing, your boyfriend, or whoever. Even on yourself. - Priscilla Shirer, Fervent (pg. 43)

Be on the alert! Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8