Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Break --- Sunday and Monday


I prayed it would not happen. I went to bed on Saturday night listening to the rain pelt my bedroom windows. It was chilly and the temperatures were falling but because it was so late and because it was STILL rain, I had hope. After all, it was the very end of March. Spring has begun. And the children are on Spring Break...

Sunday morning, I woke to find that the world sounded strangely quiet. Oddly insulated. I got up and slowly pulled back the curtain to look outside. And there it was. Snow. Not a dusting, not a tiny bit... No, we were in the middle of what looked like a full fledged snowstorm. We easily had 4 inches on the ground and the snow was still falling. It was cold and blowy and all I could think about was how badly I wanted to get back into bed and pull the blankets over my head.



About the time the despair of Spring delayed fell fully upon me, I saw Josiah's smile peek around the corner. I smiled back and my 6 year old threw his arms around my waist. We climbed back into bed for a few minutes to start the day snuggling where it was warm. It is his first Spring Break. Even with snow covering the ground, I want him to have fun. It mattered what I did... it mattered what I said.

So, we bundled up in winter clothes and headed off to church. We talked about the beauty of the snow on the trees and I mused aloud that the very thing that is hard to see today is what we hoped for Christmas morning. And yes, I was a little crabby. And yes, it is not what I wanted. But, I don't have a choice and truth be told, it was beautiful.

After church, while I worked on Sunday dinner, the kids hunted for warm clothes and headed outside to play in the thick, wet snow. It was perfect for packing and in short order a snowman grew where it had not been before. Extra clothes kept him warm and I brought out a carrot for a nose and Benjamin built a companion in the form of a dog. Snowballs flew. Angels were made. Giggles floated high into the chilly air. It is not what I hoped for but it was good. And for a little while, the beach would have been second choice.

Here is a glimpse into Sunday of Spring Break...



Today, the snow is melting and a new day begins. We started slow and most of us didn't even get dressed until well after 10:00 AM. Life on a tight budget in an sluggish economy encourages us to find joy in the simple things of life; like an early morning cartoon, sugary cereal, comfy jammies and a relaxing start to weekday morning. I listened to my kids laugh with one another and watched them trash the basement. It is not Disney but it will work for us.

At lunch, we reflected on a program we had seen last week about bread. (Yes, I am one of those moms that will sit and watch a program with my kids... about bread.) We talked about the possibility of catching wild yeast in our house and made a sourdough starter to watch all week. We marked the jar to keep track of any growth and lesson over, went back to some wild game the kids play as they try to capture one another.

So, Spring Break has started and with an eye on the bank account, it will be filled with ordinary moments that become unique because we can share them together. We will not get on a plane or travel far away. We will, however, find something special to do each day. Something fun. Something good. Something cheap.

As I sit here at the computer typing away, laughter is piped into this space through the baby monitor still in Elizabeth's room. And I am reminded that I can plan amazing experiences for my four children and in the end what they will remember best is the time we spent together in the van traveling from one event to the next. It is easier than I think and every minute they spend together laughing and running and making up games helps them see what really matters. They are learning to find value in the things that have the greatest worth in life... and all of it is free.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Break Begins --- Saturday

My boys got off the bus on Friday with an exuberance only seen at this time of year. After weeks of waiting, it had finally come! Spring Break! So, are we off to some tropical paradise to lay in the sun and shake hands with animal characters dancing around a magical castle? Parts of me wish this was a part of our plan but with two houses and two mortgages for over two years, we are staying home. We will make the most of the ten days that are before us and be careful with every dime. But, know this... whatever this week shapes up to be, it will be good.


Saturday, a lot of the day was spent relaxing and while we did do chores, there was time for playing and snacking and being together. We knew the night would hold a fun and tiring experience that we had planned for weeks in advance. With scrimping on our part and the kids adding some allowance to the mix, we had purchased tickets to see Go Fish in concert at Trinity Christian College. Have you heard of them? If not, you have to check them out!


All four kids were amazingly excited as we headed off to Trinity for our first Spring Break experience. Because of some involvements I have long held at Trinity (my alma mater), we were offered great seats and a chance to meet the Go Fish guys at a reception before the concert. Having been at Hearts at Home with Go Fish last year, I knew it was going to be a great night.

Here we are on the way...

Our kids, and our friend Connor, with the Go Fish Guys.

Some of our kids by the stage during the concert...

One of the guys singing "Superstar"... All three of them wandered through the audience for this song. Noah got high-fives from all of them as they sang. : )

Amazing talent, important message... We love Go Fish!

We drove home from the concert listening to a Go Fish CD in the van. It was raining and chilly but we didn't care. We were singing and laughing and remembering a wonderful night. It was the end of the first day of Spring Break and we were off to a really good start.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interruptions


Monday afternoon, Elizabeth seemed listless. Being the only girl in a world of brothers, she can be prone to a bit of drama. When she came up to me and mentioned that her eyes hurt, I chalked it up to an attempt to get out of whatever task she was in the midst of completing. She walked off and the momma voice inside me gave me a little push. Her eyes sting. She is listless. Hmmm... I called her back and planted a kiss on her little forehead. She was burning up. That momma voice is a strong thing.

Since Monday, my own plans have been on hold. I have been home with a warm little preschooler on or near me all day long. My energetic girl has begged for sleep and napped for hours on end. She is frustrated and looks to me to help her settle. The days have been long and I find myself taking a lot of deep breaths in hopes that I might dig a little deeper and find one more bit of patience. Her illness has been an interruption this week... an unintended, unplanned experience that has taken our days in a whole new direction.

When we worked at Trinity Christian College, we lived with 250 freshman and sophomore college students. As they explored their life away from home, there were many knocks on the door to process whatever new lesson had popped into their young lives. There is no planning for that kind of learning. There were students at our door early in the morning and late at night. There were students at our door during dinner, while nursing babies, during our favorite TV shoes, while we argued... all the time. We would answer the door, set aside our busy life, and sit down with the student before us. It may sound crazy to you... and truth be told, it was an unusual life... but it was a wonderful way to live alife that is fully immersed in ministry. That said, there were times though when we WANTED to watch that program, when we were HUNGRY for the warm supper on the table, when the argument needed to find completion. Then, that interruption could be a little bit harder to take. Our attitude could get in the way.

In a meeting one afternoon, my colleague Bryan gave us a new way of looking at it all.

"Interruptions ARE our ministry." Bryan simply stated.

And then it was clear. Each knock on the door was an opportunity for us to extend God's love to people who were struggling to make sense of the world before them. Each lanky, jean-clad 18 year-old that landed on our comfy couch was a dearly loved child of God. They were the reason we were there. We needed to set any hint of frustration or attitude aside and instead see our work as important in building God's kingdom in that little corner of creation.

Look around you. Do you see the amazing work you have been called to do? Somewhere (likely within earshot), is a child who was given to you, entrusted to you. The job is long and hard and full of unplanned moments. Our to-do lists are often interrupted; as are our TV shows, our attempts at cooking, our trips to the store, our endless chores, even our time in the bathroom! But, interruptions ARE our ministry. This is no less true for our work as parents than it was for my work on a college campus. In fact, it may be more so! It is in those moments of interruption that we can extend a bit of grace to our little ones. It is in those unplanned disruptions that we may find chances to show the long, deep, wide, unending love of Christ to our children. Our frustration may rise. Our attitudes may rear up. But, the choice is there if we will just take the time to choose.

My daughter has been sick since Monday afternoon and I am tired. Today, it may seem endless but I know all too well that in the blink of an eye, she will be 16 and I will see less of her sweet face and more of the back of her head as she runs full on into the world awaiting her. So, today I will take the interruption and read another book and watch WordWorld and find still and quiet ways to help her through this difficult time. I will pour more juice, find the Tylenol and take a deep breath as she climbs on me one more time. I will do it today because tomorrow will come soon enough. Today, this is my work. Today, this is my ministry. And simple as it is, there is nothing more important to do.

This illness may be an unplanned event in her week and in mine, but it is a good reminder to me. Interruptions are my ministry. And yours as well. It is a blessing in disguise and one I want to see and honor and embrace.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nurturing their Spirits (and ours as well!)

Last week, I had a chance to speak to a local MOPs Group about the spiritual growth of our children. Together, we chatted about ways we can help our children to understand how very loved they are by The Creator of all things. It is a big and important job.

I think sometimes it is difficult to know just what to do. We know what we want. We know the stories. But, how do we use that desire and those beautiful, Biblical stories to spur on the spiritual growth of the little ones in our homes? How do we help our children to know of and to KNOW the God who loves them very much? Just thinking about it can be overwhelming... but what if it all comes down to what we do on a day to day basis? What if it comes down to little things? What if we tried:

~ to be aware of our example to our children? What do we show them in the car, at meals, during struggle, in times of celebration? Can we live our own faith in real, concrete and gritty ways before our children so they can see that our belief systems take us from Sunday to Monday to Tuesday... and on throughout the week.


~to see God's amazingly powerful and exceedingly gentile hand working in the world all around us. Do you have flowers blooming in your yard? Buds coming on your trees? God is active all around us and in the change of seasons, we do not have to look far to see His incredible creativity. Show your children! Wonder with them at it all...


~to use church seasons, like Lent, to support what we want to teach them? Can we make Easter real to our children? Can we give them the lessons found in the truth of these stories and help them to see how this relates to them right now? Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? But, Lent is a great place to start because the focus of Lent is on God's deep love for his children. His love for YOUR children. His love for YOU. We rely heavily on Lent and Advent in our home to teach our children some incredibly important Biblical stories. These stories tell them how deeply them are adored by the Creator of all things. Not sure where to start? I have created a set of easy to use devotions to help you teach your kids a little bit each day from Palm Sunday through Easter. These devotional sets are on sale right now on my website. Click here for more information. Order quickly to be sure to have them in time for use on Palm Sunday!


There are so many details to be tended to as we parent our children. I know it can be overwhelming. But, what if it is really about the small things? What if working to be intentional in our day to day lives with our little ones can really make all the difference in the world? Today, look for something small; a tiny observation to share with your children that will help them to move forward in their own spiritual journeys. And while you do that one small thing... be sure to see it yourself, as well. God created us to need Him, to love Him, to look for Him. Even in this busy season of hands-on-parenting, that need lives on in us. He sits near you today, wherever you are, waiting to shower you with His love.

"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tweaking

Good morning! Perhaps you have wandered in from Facebook or through Blogspot or clicked over from CWO Blogroll and suddenly feel that you may be in the wrong spot. Things just do not look the same. No fear, my friends! I spent some time tweaking my blog last night and moving some things around. A little Spring cleaning, perhaps...

There are a couple of things you may want to check out while you are here.

1. Did you know you can get this blog emailed directly to you? Check for the box on the right and add your email address. You will get a notification that you must answer and then, whenever I write a new post, it will come right to you.

2. I moved old posts up to an easier to find spot. There are several posts that have gotten a lot of traffic... Check out "Blog Rewind: Boots to Sandals" and "Josiah in the Tub". The archive is there for you to peruse so feel free to wander on through. : )

3. I have updated my Blog List... There are some amazing blogs out there written by amazing folks. Take a look, when you get a chance. New to that list is Caryn Rivadeneira who has a brand new book out that sounds like a great read. Also, there is a another new addition to help you save money! Check the list on the right.

4. As always, you can click through to my website from this page, too. If you are looking for a speaker for your group, conference or retreat, be sure to check to see if my topics might fit the bill. I frequently add new topics to my speaking list and would love to work with you to meet the goals and dreams you have for your event.

So, you are not lost. This is the same blog! : ) There are things to check out and stuff to read. I hope you like the changes.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reflecting on Autumn at the Beginning of Spring


Autumn is hard for me. I try to stay optimistic and I try to see what God is doing in the colors and the beauty and the predictability of it all... but in the end, I look around and all of creation looks as though it has died. Anticipating this annual "death" causes me to watch the end of summer with a great vigilance. In August, the bright green glory of the lush forest all around me changes in a tiny, subtle way. A dullness invades. The green changes imperceptibly and I know it has begun... shorter days, bare trees, a long season of cold. There is something inside me that wants to gather all that green up into my arms and hold tightly to it in hopes that it might stay.

You may wonder why I stay here then... in the middle of the country... where I will face this loss each year, no matter what I want. There is a flip-side to this coin that is comforting and holds me tightly to this place. There is a wonder in being able to see God's hand all around me, doing amazingly artistic things in a new and glorious ways, throughout each unique season. The rhythm of it gives a structure to my life and helps me to remember that my Heavenly Father is never far away, never uninvolved, never boring, never idle... Always Good.

So, why think through Autumn on our first truly Spring-like day? Months ago, I said good-bye to all that green and today I am greeted with something new. Today, I can see how the loss of one well-loved season can usher in a new beginning. And the wait is worth it, even when the winter is so long.

Last night, we were taking prayer requests at dinner and I told my family that I am so grateful that Spring is coming. I mentioned that I love the way God will take his very own finger and gently push my flowers up out of the thawing earth.

Benjamin looked over at me and said, "That's a pretty cool image, Mom."

The cool part is it's true. Look around today. Look at what He is doing in creation... tiny flowers, baby leaves, warmer temperatures! With a loving hand, God is having a wonderful time bringing the next season to pass. We have waited a long time to see the glory of it... but we can be sure it is worth the wait.


Parenting is like this too, my friends. We revel in the glory of a baby in our arms, those sweet, long moments of rocking and gazing and singing when all seems right with the world. It is what our little-girl-hearts dreamed of decades before. Then suddenly, that bundle of joy scrambles to get down and crawls away. It can feel like Autumn as we say good-bye to the stillness of a newborn and nervously step into the busyness of a toddler. And then, a tiny hand slips into ours and pulls us over to see a flower, a brother, a tower of blocks. It is Spring again at that very moment, as we discover the things that our child values... the experiences and sights and sounds that make their eyes light up and their giggles erupt. Being a mom to our children is full of seasons and while the end of one may feel like a loss to us, the next season will bring moments of joy and newness and beauty, if we take the time to celebrate the change along the way.

So, as parents, we continue the journey. We walk. We wait. We watch. We gather them up in our arms... but we cannot keep them in the place they sit today. We can journey with them and rejoice with them as the people we love best leave one short season to grow into the next. This I know for sure: It is the hand of our Creator that brings that something new. He is with them. He is working. And all of us will be blessed by His labor of joy as the glory of His new creation becomes abundantly clear.

I love Spring. I love the newness. I love the hope. I love the reminder that God is in and through it all. If He can create a masterpiece in nature all around us, what wonder will He work in us, the ones that He loves best?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Home from Hearts at Home

I got home last night from two amazing days at Hearts at Home. I had a wonderful time laughing and learning with friends and was eager to see my family again. My kids were in bed when I got in, so I kissed them goodnight on their sweet little faces, but we did not really talk and reconnect until this morning. Josiah awoke first. I felt him climbing into bed with me around 6:45 AM. He snuggled in close and I was glad to feel him in my arms.

"Momma," he began, "Momma, you smell like fresh perfume."

I kissed his cheek and pulled him in tighter.

"Momma," he continued, "I think the three bears are supposed to live in our woods but they died."

I tried not to chuckle and smoothed his hair.

"Momma, I missed you when you were at Hearts at Home. I missed you because I couldn't lay with you in the morning. And, I am glad you are home."

I am, too. I really am.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Needing Time Away... A Present to Ourselves

I woke up this morning feeling sorely behind. There are a million tasks that must be done and a firm deadline. 5:15 PM. I must be done. The effort will be worth it but the list is overwhelming. Would you like to take a peek?

1. Straighten house (notice this does not say "clean"... just straighten!).
2. Pull together dinner.
3. Shop for weekend groceries.
4. Do laundry... some of it should be mine.
5. Run errands for things that are needed right now.
6. Do Elizabeth's hair.
7. Lay out clothes for Elizabeth for 2 days.
8. Clean out the fridge.
9. Write schedule notes for Mark for the weekend.
10. Find my cel-phone charger.
11. Pack my laptop.

The list itself is not overwhelming. Instead, it is the many sub-points under each of these that begins to eat me alive. It is the tiny details and the countless interruptions that make it hard to see the list accomplished. And I have deadline. 5:15 PM.

Today, I leave for Hearts at Home. Sitting here this morning, I remember last year so clearly. The list was different. The deadline was different. I was speaking then and was full of excitement and nervousness and joy. Last year, my bags were packed and I spent this day relaxing, praying, getting my nails done, checking my list. This year, I am heading off with friends who feel like family to listen and sing and learn and though the weekend will hold a different pace for me, I so believe in the work they are doing I am glad to be able to be there as a speaker or as an attendee. It will be good and I cannot wait.

It is amazing to me, though, how hard it can be to step out of our busy roles for even a couple of days. Swirling in my head are thoughts of things that I must do before I leave... and things that will not be done until I return. Mark is a fully capable and loving daddy to our four children... but the hair on a little girl is fully befuddling to him and I know my precious daughter will look less like a princess and more like a... I don't even want to finish that sentence. The details of our daily life, the strict schedule that gets us in and out of every day, will fall away some while I am out... as will fruits and veggies and balanced meals. And it is hard to release these little things. It is hard let go of the details that I hold tightly to when I am with my babies. Yet, this I know... not only will my children be fine but they will be better than that... they will have a great time with their daddy. They will laugh and do things that they never get to do with me. They will make memories and run late and wear comfy clothes that may not match and they will eat fun food and it will be good. If I am lucky, he will slip them a Flintstones vitamin along the way and they will be no worse for the wear... they will, in fact, be better.

Us mommas are a funny bunch. We are used to being the sun and moon to those we love best. It can be hard to step away, not only because things go undone, but because there is something pretty wonderful about so important to someone else. But, the weight of that importance can take it's toll and for that reason, we must, WE MUST find a way to catch a minute for ourselves. We have to find a way to recharge our own batteries or truly, my dear friends, they will run out. We need those minutes, those days, those experiences that wind us up and make us laugh or give us the space and time to release the tension in our shoulders and take a nice deep breath. It matters. I know that full well. So do you.

Where can you find that gift? Today, how will you make space and time for yourself? What do you need? It is okay for you to think in those terms... even when your whole life can seem like it is all about thinking through and planning for the needs of someone else. If you cannot step away for a day or two, how can you honor your work, your sacrifice, your very self on this one day? It needn't cost money and you do not have to go away... but taking care of you in some small way will make a world of difference as you seek to be the momma you want to be.

I am leaving for Hearts at Home today. I will sit with friends and share a meal, reconnect with people I love and miss. I will laugh and cry and learn and at the end I will fall exhausted into my bed at home, my head full of ideas and plans to support this work that I do each and every day. And it will be good. And it is necessary and I honestly cannot wait.

School just called. My list grows longer. My kindergarten son has centers today and a volunteer is needed to help. Time to get dressed, go to school, help a bit and kiss my son. It is one more thing... but I gratefully said yes to this added task because I am thankful for a few more minutes before I step out for a couple of days.

Our work is never done... but on this day... I know a chance to catch my breath is coming. When will that come for you?

Monday, March 2, 2009

An Interview for Today.... Meet Jill Savage!



Today I’d like to welcome author and speaker, Jill Savage. Jill’s recent book Real Moms…Real Jesus, just released, and I wanted to ask her about her real mom moments..

Jill, tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
Mark and I have been married 25 years and we have five children. Anne is 24 and married to our wonderful son-in-love, Matt. Evan is 21 and married to our beautiful daughter-in-love, Julie. Erica is 18 and a college student at Heartland Community College. Kolya is 15 and in the 8th grade. We adopted Kolya at the age of 9 from Russia---the God story about his adoption is included in the Real Moms…Real Jesus book. And Austin is 12 and in the 7th grade.

Tell us about your newest book Real Moms...Real Jesus?
Real Moms…Real Jesus is a book designed to help moms understand that when Jesus lived on this earth he was fully God, yet fully man. We don’t often think about the fact that he was a human being and he lived the full human experience: pain, hunger, fatigue, frustration, betrayal, disappointment. He experienced it all!

There’s one verse in the Bible about Jesus that simply says “large crowds followed him everywhere he went.” Well, isn’t that the life of a mom? Large crowds follow her to the bathroom. They follow her to the kitchen. To the grocery store. She’s in high demand! And when Jesus lived on this earth, He was in high demand, too.

Why did you want to write this book?
Most of us long for a friend who understands. Yes, we need girlfriends who understand what our life is like. But we also need to understand that we have a friend who understands in Jesus. Too many of us think of God as being distant and unable to relate to our daily struggles. But nothing could be further from the truth! He understands and he wants us to build our friendship with Him. He wants to not only be our Savior, but also our Friend.

What do you hope your readers will gain from this book?
I hope that readers will gain a new perspective about their relationship with Jesus. I also hope to weave God’s truth into the daily life of a mom.

What unique elements will the reader find in Real Moms…Real Jesus?
Each chapter looks at some character trait in Jesus’ life that can help us in our life as a mom. In between the chapters are interactive vignettes that provide brief, refreshing glimpses into our real, messy, busy lives.

There are also questions at the end of the chapter for further consideration and suggested Bible reading in the book of Matthew. If the reader chooses to pursue the suggested reading, she will have read the book of Matthew completely by the end of the book!

There is also a leader’s guide in the back of the book so it can be used in a group setting.

This is a Hearts at Home book. What is Hearts at Home?
Hearts at Home is an organization that encourages, educates, and equips women in the profession of motherhood. Hearts at Home encourages moms through annual conferences, our extensive website (
www.hearts-at-home.org), a free bi-weekly electronic newsletter, a radio program, and an entire line of books designed to meet the needs of moms all over the world!


Any closing thoughts?
I am very excited about this book! I believe that if a mom can strengthen her relationship with Jesus Christ, she will feel more equipped to be the mom she wants to be. I’m also offering an online book discussion on my blog beginning Tuesday, April 7. If you’d like to join us, you can subscribe to my blog at
www.jillsavage.org.

I’d love to hear a reader’s thoughts after they read the book, too! You can connect to me through my blog at
www.jillsavage.org.

Thanks, Jill, for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your real mom, real Jesus moments with us.

You can purchase your own copy of Real Moms…Real Jesus by clicking here.

And be sure to check out Hearts at Home, their conferences for moms, and all their online resources
here.

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