Saturday, September 19, 2015

From the Back to the Front

Here we are already in the middle of September.  I feel like I haven't been able to catch my breath since school started.  We have entered the school year full force.  High School is constant work.  I am leaving my Freshman early at school almost every other day just to stay on top of the challenging work load he decided to take this year.  I am glad he is challenging himself this year but I am being challenged as well.  Didn't I already make it through 4 years of HS?  My 5th grader loves school and always has.  Bo is quite the socialite so waking him for school is never an issue.  In fact the boy sets his alarm for way earlier than he needs to get up.  He has to make sure he doesn't miss a thing. 

Growing boys mean this mom also has to grow in her patience and understanding.  I am either a nagging mom asking if they have all their stuff put up.  Or I am the best mom because I washed a shirt at 9:00 at night because one forgot they needed it the next morning.  There is no in between.  Some days I get a load of information and other days I am lucky if I get two words from them.  I am always trying to find that fine line of teaching my boys to be sweet, caring, and compassionate and encouraging them to be strong, courageous, and confident at the same time.  Not a day goes by, that I don't question myself as a mom.

I seem to be on the road a lot these days.  There is the everyday commute to work and then the numerous trips down Eagle drive taking my boys to their activities.  And of course there are the random grocery stops for items I forgot to get on my last grocery store visit.  It is on the road where God has really been making some things clear to me.  Now that my boys are often in different places at the same time, only one is with me in the car at a time.  Four days a week Bo is with me on his own.  We have our normal get-to-practice routine.  I get his jug of water ready for practice and carry it to the car while he grabs his cleats, helmet and shoulder pads.  He piles everything into the back seat and buckles up.  Some days he is quiet and other days he talks my ear off.  I am reminded that I am still in control of his life.  I have the steering wheel.  I am the big person in charge in the front seat.  I am steering the direction of his life most days.  He sits back and enjoys the ride trusting that he is safe in that car with me.  He talks and I listen yet I still know that I am the mom and he is the kid.  The downfall to him being in the backseat is that I often find myself tuning him out.  I am easily distracted by what is ahead of me.  I can sometimes forget that he is back there watching what I am doing.  I get lost in the cares of this world.  What am I cooking for dinner?  What errand do I need to run next?  Conviction has overtaken me recently as I find myself asking him to repeat himself because I wasn't paying attention.  Hope, slow down!!!  He will only be in the backseat for a short period of time.  I can only control the direction he goes in for so long.  I need to remind myself that there is a precious boy behind me who one day will be taller than me and old enough to ride in the front seat.  I will no longer look at him through the rear view mirror.  He will be shoulder to shoulder with me soon enough.  Lord help me to embrace these days with my back seat passenger.  I pray that I steer him in the right direction, the direction that leads to you.  Help me to pay attention to every word he says because there is power in the words we speak.  May I never forget how important it is to lead by example and remember who is following behind me.

Every morning I get to take Christian to school.  Man where did the time go?  He was once in that back seat.  But now this young man with a deep voice is sitting right next to me.  Some mornings are easier than others.  Some mornings I get asked for advice and other mornings I am the mom who obviously knows nothing about life.  I mean seriously, those of you know me know that I have been dancing since I was in diapers.  I am not good at a lot of things but I have some skills on the dance floor.  But I was told that I don't do the whip or the nae nae correctly. My dance moves may have been good for my day but things have changed.  Really?  He is lucky I still let him ride in the car.  So here is this teenager fighting for control at times by changing my favorite song on the radio.  Excuse me, but this is my car.  Go back to the backseat!  But no, there he is right next to me.  It is in those moments, that I get to see his profile.  I get to see how handsome he is and how he looks and acts so much like the love of my life.  I still have control of the steering wheel but he constantly interjects with his opinions of my driving.  Mom why are you waving at that car?  Mom why didn't you go?  Mom, why did you say thank you out loud to that driver?  They can't hear you.  You see even though I still have the keys and I am still driving, he now has an opinion.  He is becoming his own person.  He can now see what is ahead.  Sometimes I still find myself putting my arm on top of his chest if I make a hard stop.  When I can see danger ahead I still want to protect him.  I still want to shelter him.  I can only pray that the Lord shows me when to grasp that steering wheel with tight gripped hands and when to let off some slack.  Lord help me to embrace the days where he is right next to me because soon he will be driving.  He will have to see what is ahead and make a judgement call.  I pray that he sometimes asks "What would mom or Dad do?" I pray he knows which ways to turn, when to put on the gas, and when to slow down.  Lord guide his path.

Like many of you, I pray for my kids each day.  I pray for their friends too.  Because I want the kids who surround mine to love God.  I want them to be game changers and leaders.  Psalm 91:11 is a scripture I always pray over them.  I want God to command his angels concerning them.  I want them to be covered from the right to the left and from the back to the front.  I can say some serious momma prayers when it comes to my kids and your kids.  I can't lie though, there are days when I doubt and ask for forgiveness for it too.  It seemed the more I prayed for others the more bad things kept happening to my own kid.  We had our year of injury last year with Christian having to have pinky surgery.  We got through that and I was thankful for life lessons we learned through that time.  So honestly I thought we would go into this year fresh and totally prepared.  Then the tough schedule kicked us in the rear and three games into football Christian ends up with a mild concussion.  So yes, this prayer warrior momma did what every momma does.  I had a good cry.  Why is it that I can pray faithfully and am confident that God will hear me, yet mine gets knocked down again?  He has to be still and wait again.  Tell me there has to be a reason.  The truth is, I have boys who choose to play sports and injuries happen in sports.  Accidents will happen.  Adversities will come.  But God is God Almighty.  He sees the bigger picture.  He looks through the windshield and sees what is ahead.  He knows when to step on the gas pedal and He knows when the brakes need to be tapped.  I can picture it in my head.  He was there all along.  He saw what was coming and like the scripture says, He gave his angels charge over my son.  As I sat there waiting for my son to get up from the impact, I closed my eyes and prayed.  Some of my friends put their hands on me as a reassurance that I was not alone.  I spoke God's promise that my kids would be taken care of and that Christian would get up.  You see though my fear may overwhelm me, I know that God is peace.  Be still my heart.  There will always be consequences to our choices and sometimes we share in the consequences of others choices.  No matter the situation, I know God equips us with all that we need to get through anything in this life.

I will never understand why certain things happen.  Why does my mom struggle with her health so much?  Why does my friend have to battle cancer?  Why does a mom have to watch her son spend months in a hospital?  Why do innocent people have to die?  My lack of understanding doesn't change who God is.  His path is the one I choose to follow.  I picture the scene from the Grinch movie when the Grinch steals all the toys and is rejoicing in what he thought was his success of destroying the spirit of the Who people.  They were beyond devastated but in a distance the Grinch hears the rising of their Christmas spirit and the song coming from their mouths.  He shouts "They're relentless!"  This is exactly how I feel.  Life will always have its challenges.  Some will knock you down harder than others.  But I will make a joyful noise because the joy of the Lord is my strength.  I will be relentless.  I will keep singing of His love forever and I will continue to teach my kids to sing also.  God is lighting our path.  He has given me all the wisdom I need to be a good driver for my kids.  Whether they are riding in the front or the back, they are covered by one mightier than me.  Lord, thank you for surrounding my kids on all sides.

Here I am to worship


Friday, July 10, 2015

5 Thoughts on a Waterpark

Since Bo was about two years old, we have been going to Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels.  It has become a family tradition of sorts.  We skipped going there the last two years because of other vacations and busy Summers.  Though we enjoyed the other experiences very much, we realized how much we truly missed going to Schlitterbahn.  Maybe taking a break for the last couple of years helped us enjoy our time there even more this year.  This year I walked away with five personally important thoughts.

1.  I don't have a bikini body...
I dread having to go to a water park in a bathing suit.  I know there are many people who go and could care less about what anyone else is saying about their figure.  I wish I was like that.  Unless everything on my body is still in the shape it is suppose to be in and holding up like it is suppose to be, you won't find me in an itsy bitsy bikini.  Thumbs up to the ladies who can still rock them.  It impresses me to see the 40 year old woman still looking beast mode in one and I truly admire their commitment to staying in shape.  I know as you get older keeping the fat off just gets harder.  So when I see someone older who has an extremely fit figure I can't help but applaud them.  But in saying all of that, I know that my kids don't think any less of me.  There I am in my mom bathing suit top with swim shorts to cover my back side and a visor to top it off.  I make some comment about me being fat and Bo sweetly tells me how beautiful I am.  That gives me the confidence to keep walking around in my mom suit.  But it also makes me want to work harder for the better body.  Overall, I want to just be in shape.  I want a healthy heart.  Since I have been working out again, I realized that walking and climbing stairs is much easier.  I want to be healthy so that I can continue to enjoy the waterpark with my kids for many more years to come.  Yes I want the perfect body but I just can't commit to giving up that chocolate candy I love so much.  Did I mention I had ice cream three nights in a row?  Cheers to mom tops, swim shorts and visors!

2.  I still have maternal instincts...
I can honestly say that each year as my boys get older, the waterpark has gotten easier.  When we started Bo was still in a pull up.  Now that both of my boys can ride every ride and can swim with ease, things are much more enjoyable.  Several years ago we had a scare with Bo.  He had learned to swim but wasn't a strong swimmer.  We were at the 3rd park in Schlitterbahn which has a fast flowing river.  He was in a tube and I held on to his tube.  Bryan convinced me to let Bo go and that he would be fine.  So I let go.  I got turned around for a second and Bryan had his eyes solely on Christian.  In a flash we couldn't find Bo.  I don't usually panic but a rush of emotions came over me.  Bryan went around the river and I was frantically swimming towards the entrance of the river.  I finally see Bo and noticed he had jumped out of his tube and was headed towards the entrance so he could get out.  But since he wasn't a strong swimmer and the current was swift, he was going under.  I yelled to a lady to help him and she grabbed him for me.  After chewing him out, I remember being overcome with relief and thankfulness that he was ok.  This year he was fully capable of going without a tube on the same torrent river.  So we let him go around with Christian while Bryan and I took our time going around.  After the first lap, I asked Bryan if he saw them.  He hadn't seen them. So I stopped where I was and waited until they came around in my eye sight.  Something in me, something maternal just comes out.  I wanted to know that Bo was ok.  I knew he had his older brother with him but I wanted to put my eyes on him.  I wasn't moving forward until I knew things were under control.  I can't help but think this is how God is with us.  He lets us go into tough currents at times.  He knows we can swim but His eye never leaves us.  He is watching and if we need help he will be there to lift us up.  He is our Father.  And mothers and fathers always look out for their kids.

3.  There is still a chance you will get burned...
With all of the increase in cases of skin cancer, we know that it is necessary to apply sunscreen.  Christian and I have a brown layer already so we don't normally burn in the sun.  We just keep getting darker.  Bo is light skinned but will get a bronze color in the Summer.  And then there is Bryan. He is the pale one in the family.  We all made sure that we applied sun screen.  Though I have never had a sun burn, I have seen Bryan and Bo both in that state and we didn't want that to happen again.  The first day at the park was overcast so our skin survived with little sun.  The second day the sun was fierce.  We reapplied a few times to ensure we were all protected.  When we got back to the hotel, Bryan knew that he was burned.  Sure enough he was red all over.  He took every precaution to prevent it and yet it still happened.  Did we not re apply often enough?  Did we not use a good brand of sun screen?  Who knows?  Bottom line is he is dealing with a sun burn.  Thank God for Aloe Vera!  As silly as it may seem, I can't help but relate it to life.  Sometimes you can do everything to prepare.  Sometimes you will take every step to make sure things turn out right.  And even though you do what you can you still may get burned.  People will hurt you.  You won't get the promotion or the position you want.  You will be taken advantage of and feel unappreciated.  But again thank God that He can soothe the burn.  He will give you the courage to forgive.  He will open other doors that no one else can.  He will show you how special you are and will encourage you to step out again. The burn is only temporary.  Take time to soothe the burn but then get back out and enjoy the sun again.

4.  Compromise for those you love...
I am so relieved that we are past all of the kiddie park areas.  Yes the little toddlers are so cute in their little diapers and swim suits.  But come on!  How many times can you sit there and watch them go down the same little mushroom slide?  Ok maybe some of you can but I don't have that much patience.  We had done just about every ride in all three parks and were ready to call it a day.  Bo wanted to go and do the little rope obstacle course in one of the small kid areas.  Reluctantly we all went and sat in the 3 ft. deep water and waited for him to have his turn.  He had about five kids in front of him.  It seemed like the line took forever but we all made sure we kept our eye on Bo.  He was checking to see if all three of us were watching.  It was his moment.  It is what he wanted to do.  He is the youngest and he gets pulled everywhere we want to go.  We owed it to him to do what he wanted to do.  So there we all three sat amongst all the little kids waiting for our boy to get his turn.  When he was done we all smiled and complimented him.  His smile was enough for me.  When you love someone, you have to compromise.  It isn't all about you.  What makes them happy?  It may be small to you but it could mean the world to them.  We often get caught up in leading our lives that we forget there is someone there following.  Though they may not complain and follow contently, stop and ask where they want to go.  They may just take you on a journey that you have never been on.  Get a glimpse into their dreams.  See what makes them smile.  Their smile could bless you in so many ways.  A little bit of compromise can lead to a whole lot of blessing.

5.  Embrace the moment...
Bryan and I gave the kids a choice this year of taking one friend each on the trip or just going as a family.  To our surprise they chose for us to just go as a family.  Bryan and I embraced the fact that this may be the last time they like hanging out with just us.  It was so refreshing just having our two boys with us.  We talked, we laughed, and we argued like a family.  We talked about how it won't be like this forever.  Friends and girlfriends will probably tag along at some point.  Don't get me wrong, I love having people with us.  But I cherished the fact that we could still enjoy our time together as a family of four.  My boys actually got along for the most part.  They acted like brothers.  Every ride was a competition.  Who would finish first?  Whose tube could get in front of the other?  I know girls will come a long at some point and that is perfectly fine.  Although I can't imagine Bryan around a girl.  He is way too protective and just looking at all the young girls in their bathing suits at the water park, I am afraid Bryan would want to completely keep her locked up and covered up.  Only time will tell.  I think Bryan and I smiled the whole time because this trip was refreshing.  Our heart is just so full of love for our two boys.  When I sit back and watch them I can see myself and Bryan in them.  Each night we ate dinner we prayed as usual over our meal.  I couldn't help but give thanks to God for giving us this time together.  This is time we won't get back.  All through the park I saw people with phones, go pros and selfie sticks.  Though I thought it would be cool to capture some pictures, I was glad to be able to have the memories embedded in my heart and soul.  Embrace the moment.

You may think it is silly that I got all of this from a waterpark.  But I like learning life lessons through experiences.  I can't help but smile and be thankful that we were able to take time out and enjoy each other with no distractions.  I love seeing God in everything.  I love knowing that He is with us wherever we go.  Now it is back to work and back to schedules.  Bills are still coming in and responsibilities still have to be fulfilled.  For a moment though, we were able to laugh, lay back on a tube, and just enjoy the ride.

"My head is under water but I am breathing fine"

Thank you Lord!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Perfect

In my last blog I talked about trying to simplify my life.  So you may be wondering how that is going.  Truth is, I don't know that I have slowed down enough to know if I have simplified things or not.  I have tried not to post as much on social media.  Our Pastor hit on social media a bit in his message.  He was encouraging us to not get caught up in other people's lives.  Sometimes we get a false sense of who people really are because they post what they want you to see.  I try to post mostly positive things and that is truly a direct reflection of who I am.  I definitely don't want people to think my life is perfect though.  Only with God's help am I able to stay grounded in the midst of this crazy world.

My marriage is wonderful but not perfect.  Bryan and I went out on our first date 18 years ago on Valentines Day.  People always told me the first 5 years of marriage would be rough.  But I didn't think those years were all that bad.  We really have grown up together.  I do remember a time when we argued over something stupid and I threatened to leave him.  We were newly married and I thought I would say that to him and he would come running after me and profess his undying love for me.  I remember he looked at me and sternly said "Hope, if you walk out that door don't come back.  I am not going to spend the rest of my life playing games like this.  I am not coming after you."  Somehow I knew he was serious and I stayed.  That was the best thing he could have said in that moment.  We laugh about that argument still till this day.  I have never attempted that threat again.  We have laughed so much throughout our marriage.  We have both cried.  We have both had moments where life has taken a toll.  But neither of us has ever quit giving our all.  I am sure there are times when he wants to get away from me because I am nagging.  And there are times I could hit him.  But there are more days when I look at him and know that my life doesn't work without him.  He is my best friend.  If people ever ask me for marriage advice, I always tell them to put God first, laugh a lot, don't go home crying to momma and don't sweat the small stuff.  My mom told me something that has always stuck with me.  Sometimes you just want to scream because he leaves his underwear or shoes on the floor.  But it is just as easy at times to just pick them up, smile and go on about your business.  I believe life can be hard but loving my husband is easy.

My kids are great but not perfect either.  Christian was the horrible baby.  There were times when I was like please just make this baby stop crying.  He cried at every Christmas performance through his years at daycare.  He ended up going to school without all of that crying mess and has turned out to be an excellent student.  But I remember the time in 3rd grade when he forged our signature because the teacher caught him writing down a word that was in his library book about a female dog.  I was in disbelief but I am not one to assume that my kids won't mess up.  Bryan was working loss prevention at the time and had to interrogate people who were stealing or being dishonest at their job.  So Bryan came home and sat Christian down, and basically interrogated him like a criminal.  Christian finally broke and came clean.  I think there was spanking, grounding and apologizing and a whole lot of crying involved in all of that.  Since then he really hasn't had any other mishaps at school.  Sure we are getting into the teenage years.  Every time I try to tell him something he replies quickly with the "I already know mom" line.  Of course I won't be outdone so I am sure to get the last word every time. 
Bo, on the other hand, was an easy baby but ever so hard to potty train.  He is Mr. Social but that has gotten him in trouble several times.  His teacher last year called me into a conference and spent fifteen minutes telling he how wonderful my son is but that he was beginning to talk a little too much in class.  She told me how she didn't want me to go home and get on to him.  I told her that I would address it and that if I didn't address things like this then she wouldn't be complimenting my child as much as she had.  My kids know that if you get in trouble at school you are going to get it at home too.  I have prayed so much for them but I have found myself praying even more lately.  I have asked God for guidance so many times.  They are growing up, growing up fast and in a world full of chaos.  I know they are just one choice away from making a mistake.  I know that things I thought they may never do, they just might.  I pray that I am making the right decisions for them and for their future.  Am I pushing too hard or not enough?  Do I give them enough responsibilities?  Do I let them fall or do I do my best to protect them?  Do I say no when everyone else is saying yes?  Is saying no my need for control or is it truly what is best for them?  Do I say yes when everyone else is saying no because it is what is right for my son?  These are all questions that play over and over in my mind.  And I know I have to seek God for the answers. A mom's heart is forever longing for her kids to feel loved and secure and to always know that she will be there through it all.

My life is so worth living but definitely not perfect.  My house has torn up carpet from my goofy dog that hasn't been repaired.  I have debt that I need to pay off.  My garage is a tripping hazard right now.  We get it all cleaned and then something happens and it ends up back in the same messed up shape.  My car hasn't been washed in a month.  I have relationships that have gone sour and I honestly don't know how to fix them other than through prayer.  I have gone off on my kids because I was just having a bad day.  I have let people down.  I have opened my mouth when I shouldn't have.  I have lost my cool at a sporting event.  I have a crooked face still from bells palsy but I am more than healed.  I have been angry at God.  The truth is I am pretty messed up.

But I do know that God is perfect.  And He perfectly pursues us.  I don't believe in karma.  Yes, I believe that you reap what you sow.  But I don't believe that every mistake you make or everything you do wrong will haunt you forever.  I believe in God's grace and forgiveness.  He never gives me exactly what I deserve.  I have messed up plenty and His grace has been right there to scoop me back up and help me get on the right path.  See as humans we aren't perfect and that is ok.  We will hold each other to standards sometimes that are unfair.  People will let you down and hurt your feelings.  But people can't satisfy all of your needs or desires.  There is only One who can do that.  We forget to let God handle all the things that we can't. 

I say all of this to show that sometimes I don't want to put myself out there because I never want to paint a false picture of who I am.  I am a child of God and at times I act just like a child, a selfish brat to be exact.  God is with me each and every day.   Many times He has to step in and perfect all of the imperfections.  My life is not perfect.  Just like you, I am constantly seeking His guidance and perfect will for my life.

May you rest in His perfect word and know that His love is perfect!