Friday, April 18, 2014

Five on Good Friday

Whew… Fridays come around awfully fast! And on this Friday, let's first take a minute to remember that it is Good Friday, the day that we remember Jesus dying on the cross. I grew up remembering and honoring that every year on Good Friday, but in so many ways, I don't think I really got it. It didn't do anything to my heart, and I did not truly recognize this incredible sacrifice He made so that I could live free of all of my guilt, shame, and past (and future) sins. Even though I knew what happened on Good Friday, and even though I knew that He died for me, and even though I knew that He rose from the dead and His spirit could live within me, I carried all of that around for years. Many people have trouble with the logic, as in, did He really raise from the dead? I mean- really?? (which by the way, no remains of Jesus have every been found… and His disciples along with many of His followers were brutally martyred for sharing His story after this death and resurrection, and if they hadn't really witnessed it, I highly doubt someone, much less many someones, would die to pass along that story), but I never questioned it logically. For me, it was more of a matter of handing that guilt and shame and junk over to Him. I know it's not a physical act, but sometimes it's more comfortable to hang onto it. I mean, we deserve to have to carry that around. We deserve a life separate from God's goodness and grace. It's almost as if we can accept that Jesus died for the sins of the world, but not our sins. Nope, our sins we have to live with forever and ever.

Over the past six years, the story of Jesus on the cross has impacted me dramatically. I cannot say that it happened overnight, but over time, the head knowledge I had began to sink into my heart. I was weary from carrying around my past misdoings. I was tired of feeling like I would never get it right. In fact, I felt like I couldn't really go to church until I got my life in order… ever been there? But God is funny that way. He brought a handsome pastor into my life while I was in the midst of really trying to figure out how to get it all right. Truthfully, I tried to say no to our first date, because I knew that I was a mess, carrying around all of this junk, and since he was a pastor, he must not have any of that. God never cared that I was a mess, but He did want me to hand that mess over to Him. In fact, Josh didn't really care that I was a mess either, but He didn't want me to stay there. It's funny that logically His death and even his resurrection made sense to me; I never doubted that. But logically, accepting what He did as a gift of freedom to me, was what didn't make sense. At some point, that head knowledge just has to become heart knowledge. I came to the end of myself, threw up my hands, decided I couldn't stay where I was, and just handed it over. I handed over all that I had done wrong, all of my imperfections, all of my desires to please others, and you know what? When I got rid of that, it made so much more room in my heart for change. I had been so weighed down by it all for all those years that I didn't know how much more capacity I would have to love others if I handed that over. How much more room I'd have for compassion to set in, so I could serve others. How much more room I had for joy to appreciate the little and big things in life, so that I could bless others. And pretty much immediately, He started blessing ME for that one, simple decision. Sure, I still have my days of feeling low every now and then because I am human. Harsh words or actions still sting every now and then, and sometimes I get it wrong, hurting those I love without meaning to. But at the end of every day, I know that it's okay, He reaches down and takes that off my shoulders, He pours out fresh mercy every morning, and I get to try again the next day. Everyday I try to imitate Jesus, and everyday, at some point, I mess up. But I am so incredibly thankful, so much more joyful, and am living a life that I did not earn, nor do I deserve. And that's the whole point of the cross… it really just comes down to whether or not we allow ourselves to accept it for everything that it is.

If you are struggling with past hurts, sins, guilt, shame, and just feel bogged down by the world, I would encourage you to go to church this Easter and listen to your heart, not your head. Let the story of Easter stir your soul, and let His goodness wash over you. If you've never watched Passion of the Christ, check that out, too. It's brutal, but it makes it so real. Nobody would voluntarily go through that if it didn't matter. So this Easter, make it personal, and make it matter.

So finally, as I get to my Five this Friday, this week it's my five greatest blessings since saying "YES" to what a life with Jesus means:

(1) My faith… in good times, in bad times, it is my rock. My roots are deeply rooted in Him so that things of this world cannot rock me. God is my source of hope, strength, and courage. I would be lost without Him.

(2) This man. If I had made a list of everything I could want in a husband, He is that and more. He helped me find my way and encourages me to help others do the same. He challenges me to always be better, always find more ways to serve and bless others, and is a great father and role model. He embodies what it means to be the spiritual head of our household, and my kids are learning to be more like Jesus because they want to be more like daddy. I don't deserve Him, but again, that's how God works. He is far more than I deserve, and I hope I love him in a way that he knows that everyday. 

(3) Our two precious little ones. I always say that if you can witness the miracle of growing a baby and seeing it come into the world, I am not sure how you can doubt that God exists. It was in that moment that they came into the world that I felt the presence of God all around me. They can be a lot of handle sometimes, but they make my heart swell with more love than I thought possible. I definitely don't deserve them, but God blessed me with them anyway, and now I want to do all I can to make sure they grow up not just loving Him, but KNOWING Him. I want it to always be personal for them. These two will surely impact the world in a positive way if I can just get that right.

(4) This ministry… and others I have the privilege of being a part of. Me- a pastor's wife?? Really??? Like everything else, it doesn't make sense. I've grown in this role over time, have become comfortable with it over time, still doubt whether or not I measure up daily, but realize that it's a role that God entrusted me with, so I will do all that I can to treat it as it should be. I get a front row seat to the miracles that God pours out over our church family. I hear stories that not everyone gets to know about marriages that are restored, addictions that are broken, and past hurts that are forgiven as that baggage is handed over. It's not always the easiest role to be in, but I never underestimate what an honor it is to be chosen for it. 

(5) The relationship I have… whether it's through family, ministry, or old friends, I have more friends and people who love me in my life than I know what to do with. I have friends who are mentors, and friends who I mentor. I have friends who know all of my secrets, and friends who entrust me with theirs. Life is all about relationships, and I know without a doubt that I am surrounded by people daily who genuinely love me for me. My acceptance comes through how I please Jesus, so that my friends can come through nothing other than love. 

May the significance of Christ's death and resurrection impact you in a new, fresh way this Easter. May his grace and mercy wash over you, and the past you've been carrying around with you be stripped away so you may start anew and live in freedom. I pray that Easter is the start of a brand new day for you, or a reminder of how free you truly are now that you're living FOR Him. It sounds funny to sign off with Happy Good Friday here, as the day was anything but happy, but the joy is coming in three more days.

Happy Easter to you and your loved ones. I'll get back to my regularly-scheduled Friday Kid-Funnies next week, but this was just too big of a Friday to pass up.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five On Friday: Kids Say the Darndest Things

One of my sorority sisters from my college days writes an incredibly successful and awesome blog called Hello! Happiness. I've been reading it for years now and it's so full of great fashion finds, home decorating, beauty tips, party-planning ideas, and adorable pictures and stories of her cute little family. She is the brain behind the "Five on Friday" link-up that you may have seen on several other blogs, and I have decided to jump on the bandwagon, with a focus on the silly things my kids say. With Jake being 4 and Lilly being a super-chatty 2 1/2-year-old, they are constantly making us laugh. I don't know how many times in a week one of us says, "we need to write that down or we'll forget it." So this is going to be my attempt (and notice I say attempt because I have come to terms with the fact that consistency is not my strong-suit) to document these things that I never want to forget. My "Five on Friday" posts will be about them, their stories and cute phrases, and the ways they make me smile. I hope their antics make you smile, too. 

Here lately, Jake has been on a  bit of a roll with the funny things he says, so this first Five on Friday is dedicated to him:

While in Florida last week, we switched hotels three times. The first hotel was Disney's Art of Animation, so we were pretty sure nothing else would compare. Upon checking into our second hotel, which was an Embassy Suites, Jake put his hands on his hips, looked around the lobby, shook his head, and said (loudly… which is the only volume Jake has), "Wow, Daddy. This joint is nice!" Other guests checking in as well as the staff got a big kick out of it.

Yesterday I told Jake that he could finish his MarioKart race and could race one more, but then he'd have to turn it off. He was trying to talk me into letting him have more then one race, but I told him no, he could only have the one more. I then said, "Show me how it's done, buddy." He took the expression literally and began to show me how to steer, what buttons to push to make the car go, and how to get "questions" that turn into prizes. He then handed me the wheel and said, "now you try." I was the one who taught him how to play MarioKart, and just love that he took what I said so literally!

Jake still does not pronounce L's, and they come out as W's instead. I absolutely love it. It will be a sad day when he calls his sister "Lilly" instead of "Wi-wee," because I know that day is probably coming soon. I am going to miss it. A few weeks ago in the car we were practicing letters and I asked him what "whistle" started with. Fully confident, he answered "L." Well played, son. 

Jake has been watching "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" for awhile now, and so when he plays, he likes to set booby traps, or "movie traps" as he calls them. A couple of days ago, we started correcting him, telling him that it's "booby trap" and not "movie trap." He'd remember for awhile and then later in the day forget again. After correcting him yesterday evening, I heard him repeating the word "booby" under his breath, I guess as a way to remember it. Way to go, Parents, your son is now repetitively saying booby. Awesome.

Jake's has two favorite "naughty" words right now. The first is "underpants," which I am totally okay with. And the other? Well, I can't really explain it… it's "tutu"… or more like "tooo-toooo" (said in a crazy Jake voice). He loves to call people "too-too" or say, "Haha- you're just a too-toooo!" Yeah, I totally don't get it. Last week he was saying that over and over again and so I finally stopped him and asked, "Jake, what exactly is a too-too?" He thought for a second and then explained quite simply that "it's when there's a lion in your underpants and it roars."                       Well, there you have it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Missing Disney

Let's just call this winter a huge loss in terms of this blog. It was a long, cold, icy, snowy winter, and we'll just blame it on that. But seeing that spring has finally decided to make an appearance, and this family took their very first Disney trip, it would be a tragedy if those photos did not make it onto the page. I for one am still in a depression… and the kids ask at least once a day if we are going to Disney World. Just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about how we should just hop in the car and drive back down there. I mean, we're grown adults, we can do what we want, right?? And then our responsible mom/wife-brains turned back on and we decided that we'd probably rather send our kids to college rather than blow it all on a spontaneous trip. Probably

But anyhow… enough rambling. Disney needs zero explanation. I'll just let the magic speak for itself (with a few thoughts thrown in):

First up - the hotel. We stayed at the Art of Animation Hotel and it was so awesome that Lilly cried when we tried to leave to go to Disney World. Her response was, "But this IS Disney World!" We stayed in the Cars section of the hotel, which is set up just like Radiator Springs, complete with the Cozy Cone Hotel and life-sized characters. There is also a Little Mermaid, Lion King, and Finding Nemo section. I wish I had taken a picture of the huge Nemo pool, but we spent most of our time at the splash pad. This mama (and her kids) love a good "sprayground." Lexington, get with the program and put one here already!

We were going to spend two days at the parks, but after seeing the kids enjoy the hotel so much, we opted to just do one day and an extra pool day instead. Good call. And then there was Disney… oh how I have missed the Mouse! After years of many girls' weekends there, it was so great to meet up with one of those girls and be there with our kids! Which of course called for the traditional matchy-matchy Disney gear. Some things never change.

Our Mini-Me's… my goodness I could just eat them up!

For having one day at the park, we sure managed to do a lot… we met Buzz, Mickey (the highlight of the day), Minnie, Daisy, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Belle. We rode just about everything in Fantasyland. We visited the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and saw Disney's Phil-har-magic (a must!). Jake took off with Daddy and rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (he's our little thrill-seeker). We saw the new parade (the Festival of Fantasy)  complete with Ana and Elsa, much to Miss Lil's delight! And we spent time with old friends and new friends, creating memories that will last a lifetime. It sounds cheesy, but it's true. The kids did not melt down once, probably due to the short naps they both took in the strollers. We left after dark, ordered a fantastically delicious pizza back at the hotel, and went to bed around eleven. Our kids are troopers. They constantly surprise me and often surpass my expectations. And more than anything, they're the ones who make me want to go back… like now. 

We opted to treat our babysitter-extrodonaire to her very first trip to Disney, too! This gal is so special… she loves our kids as if they were her own family, never expects to be paid (although we throw her a little something every now and then), cleans our house while we're out (priceless), is the baby whisperer who can get any child to sleep (even mine who refuse to nap lately), and has now told us that after this trip she would hope that we'd never pay her again! Haha! She is serious when she says that her best friends are a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old and my kids love her tremendously. We loved getting to bless her this way, and now that we know how amazing it is to have her on trips with us, she may just have to tag along on future vacations! She was a huge help during the entire trip and we just love having her around!

Here are some scenes from our day:

This is on the tram ride back to the car. I am still this sad.

And as a last little side note… well done, Disney, for coming up with this Magic Band idea! Best. Thing. Ever. And yes, I still wear it even though we're home. I keep trying to use it at the grocery store, but so far no dice. I also sometimes check the Disney wait times for rides on the app on my phone. I may have a problem.

I was already a Disney fanatic. I went to Disney when I was little, didn't remember it, and begged for a trip until my mom finally took me back in 8th grade. And then again in college. I grew up watching Pooh's Corner and Dumbo's Circus (talk about old school) on the Disney Channel and then grew into Kids Incorporated and the new! Mickey Mouse Club. In my twenties I lived in Florida and got an annual pass every year, even though it was three hours away. I took countless girls' weekend trips to the parks. I've run the Disney Half and Full Marathon as well as the Goofy Challenge, where you do both of those races in one weekend, and some of their other races such as the Everest Challenge and Minnie Mouse Mini Marathon. Josh and I spent a day hobbling around the parks after a marathon with family and friends back when we were engaged. I love the world that Mr. Disney created, the magic and happiness associated with it, and the happiness it brings...

But NOTHING compares to seeing that magic come alive on the faces of your children. I will forever treasure this trip, because I saw them experience the wonder of it all.  I think Lilly says it best here:

Thanks for the good times. Until next time!