Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Remembering

I took part in a bridal extravaganza event on this past weekend. As a vendor, not a participant. Been there. Done that. Don't plan to do it again.

During my time at the event, I had plenty of time to observe the brides-to-be, the mothers of the brides-to-be, and all the other various folks the brides drug to this event. And in these observations, I thought of several things.

First of all, as the saying goes, it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round. I saw everything from girls with their "Bride" nametags on that made me question whether they were even of legal age, let alone old enough to marry, to a "Bride" that could have passed for a grandmother. And she seemed just as innocent and giddy and excited as those who were of the "usual" marrying age (if there is a "usual"). I love that. My husband was 38 when we married--never married before. So I have a soft spot in my heart for those who have to wait a little longer than others to meet their "perfect match." Of course, Mark says his excuse is that he had to wait for me to grow up (he's 13 years older than me!!).

I was also reminded that some brides and grooms enter marriage with so much more to deal with than which way the toilet paper hangs or what is the right way to dispense toothpaste. I saw so many brides-to-be pushing strollers and feeding babies while deciding which photographer to use or what they wanted their flowers to be like. My heart breaks for these girls. I know several ladies who began their married life that way and now have a great marriage and are wonderful moms, but I know that is more the exception than the rule. The three years that Mark and I had together before children were such fun, and I wouldn't trade that time for the world.

More than anything, though, I was reminded of what a special time in life that is. How exciting it is to see that engagement ring on your finger and to be willing to get frostbite in your fingers before putting on gloves in the winter just so that no one will miss seeing it. How fun it is to try on so many beautiful gowns that make you feel like a princess--and to be treated like one in the process. How blessed it is to have treasured friends and family by your side during one of the most special times in your life. And how overwhelmingly blessed it is to begin walking down that aisle, towards your Prince Charming, and to realize that all those little girl dreams are finally coming true and that all those prayers are indeed being answered.

God is so good.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday Morning Tradition

I grew up in a church-going home. Not a "we all go to the same church" church-going home, mind you. But we all went. Every Sunday. Unless sick or snowed in. It was not an option.

I am thankful for that.

My dad grew up in the Catholic church, and my mom grew up a Baptist preacher's kid, now turned Methodist. So when they married, I guess they made the decision to "agree to disagree" and continued going to their own churches. (Though that is a story I've never heard--I'll have to ask about that!) I knew from early on that that was not what I wanted for my family one day, but it worked for them, and I don't think any of us are any worse off for it. At least we grew up knowing that church was where you were supposed to be on Sunday mornings.

Even when I went off to college, I don't remember very many Sundays of not being in church. College introduced me to the heartaches of "real life" very quickly, so my faith began growing roots of its own about the time that some kids begin rebelling against the religion they were raised with. So, though it took some "church hunting" to find the place I felt comfortable in to worship, I think I was in church most Sundays, even in those days.

What I didn't know during all of this was that God was molding me to be a preacher's wife--a privilege and joy that comes only after that of being a wife and a mother. At our wedding, the pastor, who is a good friend to us both, said these words to me:


"Karen, God has called you to share in a very special way in ministry, and your job is just as important as that which Mark is doing in his ministry. And the gift that God has given you--the talents, the joy, the love--will go a long way in completing his ministry and building a marriage that will be an inspiration to others..."

I very humbly took these words seriously and keep them on a notecard inside my Bible as a reminder to me of what God has called me to as a preacher's wife. Being in church every Sunday took on a new role and responsibility when I married Mark--that of encourager and cheerleader in addition to what you usually go to church for. It is a great blessing for me to sit in just the right pew so that whether he's sitting down or standing in the pulpit, I can catch his eye and give him a smile of encouragement and love.

It is because of this that I miss it even more when I can't be in church on a Sunday like today. I miss that "filling up" that we all need each week to keep our spiritual tanks full in order to get us through our week. But I also miss getting to be my husband's supporter and biggest fan--you need one of those as a preacher, you know. So I just have to know that I'm here at home this morning, rocking and doctoring sick babies, where I need to be. This is where my encouragement and love need to be today. And I know Mark understands. And I know He understands.

But I still miss being there.

(For the record, I've missed more Sundays at church since having kids than I've ever missed in my whole life!!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine Tribute

She was born on Valentine's Day, so hearts and love are always a part of her.

When we were little and shared a room, she never liked for me to snuggle with her at night--much to my disappointment. She wanted her space to sleep. She outgrew her love for dolls and Barbies long before I did--again, much to my disappointment. Our gifts from Mom and Dad often were the same or very similar, but of a different color. Most of the time hers was pink or purple and mine was blue or green.

When we were in junior high and high school, we didn't know it was okay to like each other. We spent more time fighting over who was going to wear what or arguing over what time was the right time to leave for school. I guess you could say we couldn't live with each other, but probably thought we could have lived without each other.

When she moved off to college and we didn't live with each other, we had a hard time living without each other. We discovered beneath all the arguing and fighting that there was a friendship just waiting to be given a chance. We quickly became best friends during long phone conversations and my visits to campus on weekends to stay in the dorm with her. The only time she didn't like me then was when people mistook me for her older sister just because I was several inches taller than she was.

When I stood beside her at the altar as she married the love of her life, I could not have been more proud, and it had nothing to do with the hours I spent sewing six bridesmaid dresses. I was beside her as her dream came true, and her gain was my gain as well--I now had a new friend in the process and had two people to love instead of just one.

When I visited her kindergarten classroom for the day, I realized that she not only found a place for her education to be used, but she had found the ministry God had for her. Those little 5-year-olds were more than just her students to teach; they were "her" babies to love and to kiss their boo boos and to let them know they were special, even though they may not have had another person in their life to tell them so.

When I received the phone call that she was suddenly very, very sick, I didn't think my heart could hurt more. When the doctors said there was nothing more they could do, I realized it not only hurt, it was broken.

When I stood at the altar beside the love of my life, tears of sadness mixed with my tears of joy because she wasn't there beside me, sharing in my dream come true, gaining a new friend of her own.

When my babies breathed their first breaths and cried their first cries, I cried because they would be missing out on knowing Aunt Susan. This side of heaven anyway.

She's been with Jesus for over eight years now, and I miss her. When it's my turn to meet Jesus, it will be her face that I anxiously seek out in that "great cloud of witnesses."




Monday, February 12, 2007

Take Care of You!

I attended a women's conference over the weekend where Lisa Whelchel was the speaker. I'm sure most of you know who Lisa is, but for those who don't, Lisa began her acting career as a mousketeer in the 70's and then played "Blair" on the hit TV series "The Facts of Life." As a young girl, I admired Lisa as someone famous that I liked to watch on TV. But now, as a wife and mother, I admire and respect Lisa for the ministry that God has given her in these areas.

One thing I took away from the conference and that I have tried to emphasize in my life recently is the importance of taking care of myself as a mommy and doing things to "refuel" me so that I can do a better job of taking care of my children and my husband. Lisa has written a book that is entitled "Taking Care of the Me in Mommy" that I thoroughly enjoyed reading because it gives wonderful advice in this area. Since reading this book, I have tried to do a better job of setting aside a little bit of time each day just for me in order to recharge myself. I don't always do a good job of it, but I try and am better for it when I do.

I also recently read an article in my "Today's Christian Woman" magazine about practical, inexpensive ways to pamper yourself. Here are some of my favorites:
  1. get a manicure at a local beauty school
  2. take a 20-minute nap under your softest blanket
  3. buy a fresh-cut flower arrangement to display in your home
  4. give yourself a foot massage and then paint your toenails hot pink--even though it is the middle of winter
  5. relish a pint of expensive ice cream from your grocer's freezer (I can't WAIT to try this one!!)
  6. start a journal of blessings--write down something every day you are thankful for
  7. spend some time in prayer with the One who loves you best

If you are in need of a "re-charge", give one of these a try, or use one of your own ideas. But don't forget to take care of YOU--your children and your husband will thank you for it. And if you don't have children or a husband, I'm quite certain that someone special in your life will be glad you did!!

**If you have a favorite way of your own for taking care of yourself, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, February 5, 2007

"Come to me..."

Do you ever wonder why life has to be so hard sometimes?

I do.

It's so much easier when my day goes as I planned it to. It's so much easier when everything works out my way. It's so much easier when the kids are healthy, this month's paycheck lasts through the whole month, everyone gets along, and the sun is shining outside.

But you know what I've realized? When things are easy, I don't seem to think I need God as much. Or maybe I just forget to take time for Him, because I'm so busy doing things my way. It's when things start to fall apart, or something happens that I can't fix, or I can't find the sunshine for the clouds, or I simply am too tired to do all I need to do, that I have to fall on my knees and cry, "God, I can't do this without you!!"

And you know what I hear in return? "I never intended for you to."

Matthew 11.28 says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." God reminded me of this verse last night. I need this reminder often. Better yet, read it the way the Message version puts it: "Are you tired? Worn out?...Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

When I look back at my life, it's the times that seemed the hardest, the times when I wondered if I could really make it through, that my relationship with my Father has grown the most. I can look back and see that my life is so much richer now than it was before those times--not because it's easier, but because I've learned what a real relationship with the Father is all about. That I don't have to do it all by myself and that He is patiently waiting--and waiting--for me to realize that and lay it all down at His feet.

Many things that I face in life are way too big for me.

Nothing that I face in life is too big for Him.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Sweet Moments

Some days I think I am an expert, "I can handle this gig" kind of mom, and then there are days when I wonder if I will survive (or rather if my children will survive) to see another day. Yesterday was just kind of average, but certainly had some of those high-stress, "Oops, I said that a few decibels too loudly" kind of moments. On days like that, naptime becomes sacred recovery ground for this Mommy. And when naptime ends sooner than I think it should, well, that's not a good thing.

So yesterday, Hannah wakes up way too early from her nap, for no apparent reason. After resigning myself to the fact that she was not going to calm down or go back to sleep, I sigh and go into her room and pick her up from her crib. We get her blankie and sit down in the rocking chair to cuddle for a minute before I go back to what I was doing. After a few rocks, I realize, "Hmmm...she's not moving much...she's making that sound with her mouth that she makes when she's going to sleep...I think this little darling is asleep again!" Now, this is my child who has never been much of a cuddler--at least not for any length of time--and has never really liked to be rocked that much. So when I get the rare privilege of getting to hold her and rock her while she sleeps, I know it is a direct gift from the hand of God, and I have to take advantage of it. So I make myself forget how much more I still have on my to do list for the day, take a deep breath, and sit and think to myself, okay, we will ALL live through this day after all...and just because Hannah flung her plate off of her high chair at lunch, promptly spreading carrots, ketchup and mustard from here to kingdom come on my floors that had been thoroughly cleaned the day before...she really can be sweet...and I will survive this day and the ones to come...and...and...and then I'm dozing!! Wow! God is good! I not only get some precious rocking time with my little girl, I get a little nap in the process!! We stayed that way for about 45 minutes and both woke up better for it!

The icing on the cake came after I had the kids bathed and dressed in their pajamas and was ready to read to Hannah from her Bible story book and put her to bed. Sometimes Benjamin will come in and stand by my chair and listen in on Hannah's bedtime story. But last night, he walked in and said, "Can I sit in your lap, too?" Like I'm going to say "no???" So he crawls up in my lap, and I read to both of them, my arms wrapped around my two babies, savoring the moment. We finished the story, and because I didn't want to put them down just yet, I started singing "Jesus Loves Me." Benjamin and Hannah promptly joined in to sing with me, and if hearing a 3 1/2 year old and a 21-month-old sing "Jesus Loves Me" doesn't just melt your heart, I don't know what does.

It is at moments like that when I am reminded that being a mommy is the best job in the world, hands down, and I would never trade it for any amount of money, not matter how many times I have to clean smooshed carrots and ketchup off my floors.

"My cup runneth over."