December 24, 2013

Little Children. Big God.

I used to be torn on the issue of real vs make believe. My four year old is just entering the age of asking really good (read: really HARD) questions and learning to make his faith his own. Do I teach him that Santa and Batman are make believe? Or am I just ruining the innocence of child's play? Am I making him grow up too fast?  Several months ago, I woke up to his cries from the other room.  Danny had had a nightmare.  As I crawled into his bed to snuggle with him, the conclusion that I came to at 6am that morning is that, in order to equip him to fight spiritual warfare from a very young age, he must understand what a truth is and what a lie is, and he must understand the difference between real super powers and pretend ones. 

For the first time, not only had he had a nightmare, nut he had the ability to recognize that that's what it was. As I crawled into his bed, I asked, ”Did you have a bad dream?” ”Yes,” he whimpered. When I asked him to tell me about it, that was too much. When I asked him specific yes and no questions, he confirmed that it was scary, that he was alone, and that he was hurt. And then the Holy Spirit took over and out of my mouth came the question: ”Do you think that dream was of Jesus or do you think that dream was of the enemy?” With zero hesitation, despite his half-awake state of mind, he said, ”The enemy.”

Here's the thing: I have never before taught him who our real enemy is. What dawned on me in that moment is that (especially to little boys) the idea of good guys and bad guys is totally innate. I used to think about (and fear the day) I'd have to explain that we have a real formidable enemy, and the thought of explaining that there is a really real, really bad guy out there did not sound appealing to me. I was not excited about instilling more fear in him. But in reality, I never had to explain that fact at all. He has known it with every fiber of his being. This is why Superman is such an easy hero to love. All I have to explain is which enemies are real and which are pretend. And I have to give him real weapons to fight with. Not guns or swords, but the real Sword of Truth (the very Word of God) and the Shield of Faith. [Ephesians 6:10-18]

I prayed with him and asked that he be filled with peace and courage and love. Then I started to teach him spiritual warfare:

“Did you know that you can tell the enemy to go away? You have the real power of Jesus inside of you and when you tell the enemy to go away, he has to obey you. He HAS to leave! Come on, let's tell him together.”

But no dice. I'd skipped the most important part. He wasn't ready to fight the enemy until he had gone to the feet of Jesus Himself. “Buddy, I can't make the enemy go away for you. He's in YOUR heart and YOU have to make him leave.” I may be able to kick him out temporarily, as the spiritual authority in my son’s life, but that provides no lasting victory, and does not equip him to fight his own battles.

So, as Ruach gently led me down the path of teaching this to my son for the first time, I tried again. My sweet boy repeated after me, willingly, as though he was verbally crawling into his heavenly Papa's lap:  “God come be in my heart. Give me peace so I won't be afraid anymore.” And THEN he could speak without fear or hesitation, from my physical arms and Abba's heavenly arms, “Enemy, go away. I command you to leave in Jesus name.”

I've never been so proud of him in the dark morning hours! The peace that filled him in the next moment was almost tangible. “Good job, little warrior! Good job!” I thought. With the knowledge of real Truth, he used real weapons to fight a real battle, and with the real supernatural strength of Yahweh, he won.

I know without a doubt that my conversation with Danny that morning was directly inspired by the conversations my sweet friend, Sarah, has had with her kids, and which she has chronicled in her new book Little Children. Big God. 

You don't want to miss this one, folks.  If you have kids.  Or if you have grandkids.  Or if you breathe air and live on planet earth, this book is for you.  So hurry up and go get it!  She will bless your life.

December 23, 2013

Frost

I love a good frost.  When temps drop into single digits and snow just sprays lightly all day long and clings to every surface.  The whole world looks magical afterward.  Last week when this happened, I couldn't resist grabbing my camera and heading outside to take some photos.  Then I promptly came back in to defrost my fingers.  Here's what I got. Not quite in focus... my lens is wobbly and in need of repair.  But still a good reminder of the breathtaking splendor that happened outside our house.  







December 16, 2013

When Disappointment Happens

Mary Kay Ash (the woman) said that if you can control your emotions, you can control your paycheck.  I'd say, with regards to entrepreneurs and business, that's largely true.  I've received a LOT of training on emotional management over the years, and it has really served me.  What has surprised me is that it serves me, not only in my business, but also in my personal life.  How often do we find our whole day derailed because something upset us emotionally?  If your answer is, "not often," then either you are not a woman, or you already know what I'm about to share and you can stop reading.

I was recently at a business retreat in which the speaker asked the following question:  What do you do to keep yourself on track emotionally?

I've learned to have a number of habits in place in order to be proactive about my emotional and spiritual state of mind.  It's important to spend time in Scripture, to surrounding myself with uplifting and encouraging people, to have a plan and work the plan rather than leaving my day to chance.  It's been said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  I've learned to spend time adding to a gratitude journal every day and to memorize scripture so that, in difficult moments, the Spirit can bring to mind the Truth I've committed to memory and encourage me.

But I've also learned that it's important to have a fall-back plan as well.  The best planning still can't prevent life - or other negative people, or tragedy, or disappointment, or messy kids, or accidents, or whatever else derails me in a day - from happening.  So I have a little thing I do when disappointment hits, in order to keep it from ruining the rest of my day.  Or week. Or month.  Whatever.

It goes like this:

First I stop and I have a fall-apart-moment.  I give time to the feeling.  I allow myself to get upset and to be mad or sad about whatever it is.  Sometimes I cry in the shower.  Sometimes I turn on loud music and sing.  Sometimes I go find chocolate in my kitchen.  Or coffee. But whatever it is... I just give myself time to fall apart...  for a moment.  Or maybe 20 minutes.  Not an hour.  Not an afternoon.  Not a week.  A moment.  
Next, I pray.  'Cuz here's what I know. Yahweh DOES have a plan for the day.  Even a plan to use whatever went wrong.  He is not surprised by whatever happened and in no way does it remove any part of His omniscience.  I may have no idea what He's doing with the day, but I know that he IS doing something.  Sometimes I pray for perspective.  (Be careful with that.  Last time I did that, Yahweh put a homeless man riding a bike, with all of his packs and bags and earthly possessions tied to said bike, with every piece of clothing he owned on his body, pedaling his way across the street in front of me, in ... wait for it ... 8 degree weather, while I sat in my cozy car mad about being inconvenienced that afternoon.  Yeah. Thanks for that, God.) Sometimes I say thanks out of discipline and I will myself to put the situation in His hands.  But bottom line: I talk to Him about it.

After that, I pick up the phone. In Mary Kay, we have a little phrase we use often.  Call up.  It means, we call our mentor, not our peers.  If I'm frustrated about business, I do not call my girlfriend who is at the same level of business that I am.  I call my business coach and ask her expert advice.  If I'm frustrated about marriage, I do not call my whiny girlfriend who is miserable in her marriage. I call my marriage counselor, or my elder friend who's been married 35 years. Or I call my friend whose marriage is great. If I'm frustrated about money, I'm not going to call my broke neighbor. I'm going to call my financial advisor.  Make sense?  Call up.  Get some good advice.  Go into solution mode, not whiny mode.

And last:  I do something productive or proactive. I take a look at my plan for the day and pick one or two things I can do in the next 20 minutes which will move me forward. Sometimes it takes time for the person I've called to call me back, so instead of wallowing or just waiting, instead, I choose to work. Often, this little step pulls me halfway out of the hole I'm in before my mentor can even call me back.

So there you go.  Have a fall apart moment. Pray. Call up. And then do something proactive with the next 20 minutes.  The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy the life-giving kingdom-building work we are putting our hands to, so next time he tries to derail you, I encourage you to try this.  I'm praying that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19
 

December 10, 2013

November 29, 2013

The Undoing of Forgiveness

There's something that happens sometimes in the process of healing.  I've seen it happen in the hearts and lives of my girlfriends and I've seen it happen in my own heart and in my husband's heart, in my mom's heart, my dad's heart, and in the hearts of many others.

When things have been wrong for a very long time, a woman steels herself.  (Perhaps a man too, but I only know how it works for a woman.) She buckles down and seeks God's strength and sacrifices and gives even though she knows she shouldn't have to. She does it for the sake of her relationships. For the sake of her marriage. For the sake of her family. For the sake of whoever might be involved.  She gets a quiet determination about her and a willingness to endure what she wouldn't otherwise, in order to just get through and to pursue restoration, health and healing in the long run.  She finds what she's made of and she realizes that indeed, with the strength and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, she can set aside herself, submit to Yahweh's plan and lay her life down for others. There is an incredible sense of gratification in enduring something like that, looking back, and realizing that she was obedient to His call for the long hard season.

Somewhere in the long season, she forgives.  Her heart is clean. She lets go and bitterness is eradicated. Her heart is whole, she realizes that she doesn't have to choose to forgive each and every moment of every day, and she is ready for the reward:  restoration and healing.

And then there's the day that restoration and healing starts to be realized, and I've discovered that sometimes there's an un-doing that the enemy manages to sneak in and unravel in our hearts. After steeling herself for so long against the storm, when suddenly the quiet comes and she can start to let down, sometimes the forgiveness unravels a bit, as her emotions take over and she begins to feel again.  When wrongs are righted, and something in her is touched deeply that hasn't been touched in a long time, the emotions of anger and bitterness that she's disciplined her spirit to reject for so long, start to creep back in.  Suddenly, when she experiences relief and being cared for well, once again, and things are made right, she is blind-sided by a tsunami of tired. A flood of emotional exhaustion. A wall of this-is-what-it's-supposed-to-feel-like-and-now-I-remember-how-much-it-hurt-not-to-have-this.

In those moments, tears flood, anger returns and the forgiveness - the willingness to let go of the necessity for the guilty party to understand what she was made to feel like - has to be chosen all over again.  It's an ugly feeling. It feels like a dark spot rotting in the far corner of her heart, begging to be forgotten and ignored. But if it is, it only grows. It feels like I-don't-like-myself and I-thought-I-was-past-this. It feels like why-am-I-suddenly-so-angry-when-I-should-be-rejoicing. It feels like why-do-I-keep-expecting-the-enemy-to-play-fair. It feels like a low blow. It feels like death.

And in that moment, there are two choices.  She can ignore it.  But beware. She may be able to shove it off for a time. She may be able to turn her back, face the lighted living room of her heart, and only pay attention to the warm delicious smells of what's growing and cooking in the kitchen of her heart.  But what's rotting behind her will only worsen and the stench will grow until finally, it's permeated the whole heart and can be ignored no longer.

Or... she can turn around, grab the bleach and mop, and clean it out. It means interrupting everything to kneel before the cross and confess it all over again. It means a little bit of heart-surgery. But if she faces it right away - really faces it - and give the enemy no room, time or space to let the rot spread, the Spirit can clean that corner literally instantaneously.  It feels like I-won't-let-everything-I've-worked-for-go-undone. It feels like get-out-Satan-and take-your-stink-with-you. It feels like this-is-not-my-heart-that-feels-ugly-but-rather-the-work-of-the-father-of-lies. It feels like this-has-already-been-redeemed-and-I'm-already-healed. It feels like victory. It feels like life. 

The un-doing of forgiveness... It can happen.  It can sneak up on you.  But it doesn't have to win. Christ died so it doesn't have to. If you are there, as I have been so many times, I encourage you to give it back to Him one more time.  Lay it at His feet and walk away once again.  You are a child of the King.  You are loved. In Him, you are loving. White as snow, by His blood, you are lovely. **



**Quoted and inspired by 31 Days to Lovely, by Sarah Valente

November 18, 2013

The Story of Mr. Awkward and the Plane Flight

Making plans to travel on an airplane alone with an infant is practically begging for something hysterically funny (or hysterically awkward) to happen.  This weekend was no exception.  I'm still nursing Gianni, and Mary Kay's philosophy is God first, family second, career third.  So bringing along nursing babies is not only accepted, but encouraged. In fact, I heard someone say that if you bring a nursing baby to a retreat or conference, you're guaranteed to become a national director.  Ha!  I don't know if that's true, but it sounds good to me! Gianni is pretty easy-going, but he's still 6 months old, so I did bring him along, but I was super grateful when my mom said she'd come along too and hang out with him at the hotel. It was a win win for everyone.  She got to have some grand-baby time, I didn't have to mess with pumping, Alejandro got some one-on-one time with Danny for the weekend, and I got to enjoy the conference to the fullest, without walking out each time he fussed. It was great! Once we got there, that is.

Now, where was I before that rabbit trail...  Oh yes.  Traveling with an infant on an airplane. ...I've done it half a dozen times now, so I've got my systems down and I'm a pro-packer. I can get through security (from loading everything ON the scanner belt to getting everything OFF of the scanner belt, shoes back on and on my way) in 5 minutes flat.  I might be sort of proud of that. Ahem.

I've also learned that if you're a mom with your hands full of baby, stroller, car seat, diaper bag, second bag, and carry-on suitcase, they'll gate check your carry-on suitcase for free just to keep you from holding up all the other passengers. True story! I just saved you $25 bucks. You're welcome.

Anyway, Friday morning after making it all the way onto the plane with my little one, I found my seat and plopped myself down. put the baby on the seat, took out half a dozen things from the second bag, stowed it up above, stowed the baby carrier up above, set the baby on the seat, took half a dozen things out of the diaper bag, got the bag from the upper bin down and put those things in it, caught Gianni before he toppled off the seat, stowed the bag in the upper bin for the second time, adjusted my already-stretched-out-clothes, picked up the baby, and climbed into my seat.

Phew! I was tired already.

Then I turned to my seat-mates. I was on the aisle seat and to my right were two men.  First I said hello to the most uncomfortably awkward, very tall man in his mid 20's, seated in the middle seat, that I've ever met. Then the cool, well-adjusted but definitely not small man in his mid-30's who sat at the window said hello and that I had a cute baby. I accommodated a few more items and made a mental game for the next 20 minutes.

Breakfast time and take-off were going to happen at the same time. Perfect!  Because Gianni's ear-infection-induced fever had broken not 10 hours before and I was not confident about how well take-off was going to go. I needed to keep his mouth working.

"Ok, guys," I started, taking a confident deep breath and speaking loudly enough for everyone around me to hear. (I had decided that being direct and warning everyone ahead of time would be the best policy.) "There's only one way to keep this little guy from screaming. I'm going to have to nurse him and I'm going to try my best not to flash y'all, okay?"  I have never in my life heard a plane quiet enough to hear crickets (if they were there) before that moment, but I guess there's a first time for everything.  Inwardly, I cracked up. Hey, there's gotta be some consolation for mommies on airplanes with babies, right?!?  Right.

They started pressurizing the cabin so I pulled out my nursing cover and got Gianni started. Mr. Awkward sighed deeply, leaned forward and placed his head on the seat back in front of him, covering his face with his hands.

Um... well, that was a little dramatic, I thought. But, so far, so good, except that Gianni likes to "jump" (kick his legs) while he nurses (yes, it's phenomenally annoying), so he was kicking Mr. Awkward for the next 10 minutes through take-off and Gianni's first course of breakfast. I could tell Mr. Awkward was annoyed. Really annoyed.

Next it was time to switch sides.  No flashing so far, and I succesfully got Gianni turned around. Mr. Awkward was relieved to not be kicked anymore, and apparently part of his crankiness was due to lack of sleep, because as Gianni nursed with his legs hanging into the aisle, Mr. Awkward dozed off, leaning toward me and practically laying his head on my shoulder each time he dozed. The awkwardness of the situation was increasing by the moment. Gianni finished and fell asleep, with his legs hanging into the aisle. For the next 10 minutes I breathed sighs of relief while Gianni and Mr. Awkward both slept. Mr. Cool was reading and looking out the window, and the snack lady flight attendant with refreshments was on her way.

After a bit, I realized that the refreshments cart could not fit past Gianni's legs and he kept getting kicked by passengers walking by anyway, so I needed to turn him around. I tried--oh how I tried--to turn him around without waking him, but no such luck.  He woke up, and after his little snooze, he was perky as ever.

Alrighty. Now for solid foods. On the menu:  rice cereal mixed with goats milk. Now because I was attempting to minimize the number of liquids that the people in security would have to examine and test, I brought breakfast in powder form and requested a room-temperature bottle of water. Next, I managed my 6-month old who had suddenly developed octopus arms as he whacked a package of pretzels on the table, mixed water with the powdered goats milk I'd brought, mixed the newly-mixed milk with the powdered rice-cereal I'd brought, kept the 2 snack bars and package of wipes from falling on the floor, protected the hot cup of coffee which I desperately needed but ended up throwing away because no amount of sugar in the world could make that coffee taste good, and tried not to bother Mr. Awkward.  All in 2 square feet between me and the seat in front of me. ...I think I'll re-consider that menu choice next time I fly. By the time we'd finished, I had rice cereal in my hair, spit up on my shirt, abs of steel from picking an item up every 30 seconds and sticky fingers.

We did manage to survive the flight, although I had sweat rings under my arms by the time I got off the plane and I'm pretty sure I passed off my 6 month old to a 16 year old stranger at least twice before the flight was over, just so I could put everything away.

Gianni did eventually fall asleep.  Ten minutes before we landed.  :-|

When it came time to de-plane, I stood up and stretched, ready to gather everything.  I laid my sleeping cherubim on the seat, precariously balancing him so his legs didn't make him slide off. Have I mentioned my baby is HUGE?  He doesn't exactly fit on a seat laying down. In that moment, Mr. Awkward suddenly developed a streak of friendliness and he said, "Oh I'll hold him!" while reaching for Gianni.

I think I actually yelled, "No, no! That's ok! Don't touch him!!" in a frazzled fit of motherly panic that he might wake up. "Don't touch my baby!" definitely ran through my mind, but fortunately some small shred of filter was still in place between my brain and my mouth. Oh, that poor man. That poor poor man. But then, who knows.  Maybe one day, long ago, he was that baby, giving his mother grief on an airplane.  Maybe this is just payback.

A mother can only hope.

November 11, 2013

Danny's School Pictures


Oh gracious.


I just love him so much it hurts. 

October 16, 2013

Dear Director Of My Son's Preschool,

I just want to take a moment and thank you for hearing  me the other day when you asked how I was, as I hurried down the hall (running late to get him into class) and I said, "ok." You were really listening, not just asking to ask, and the fact that you said you'd pray for me turned my entire day around.  I know that you actually did pray. You have no idea how much that 30-second exchange impacted me. Thank you! And thank you for what you do for all of our kiddos! :)

With Love in Christ,

October 14, 2013

Amor de Tita




No hay nada semejante.

September 29, 2013

A Day at the Zoo

Yesterday, Danny's preschool class took a field trip to the zoo. went to the zoo together. went to the zoo all at the same time, was given a scavenger hunt and then went on a free-for-all to find all the animals. At first I was annoyed at the total lack of organization and the fact that this would NOT, in fact, be a guided tour, but that actually, we as parents would be on our own to get our kids through the zoo, seeing all of the animals.  At least Danny did get to sit with his friend and eat lunch together. But actually, by the end of the day, I was really glad for the way it turned out. In the end, it was a day of a whole lot of 1-on-1 momma attention for a certain four-year-old boy who spends much of his life these days waiting while I take care of his little brother. At the zoo, however, Gianni was just along for the ride and Danny got to call all the shots. :) I decided I need to make outings like this a more regular occasion.

There was a momma and a baby orangutang.





They were SO much fun to watch!






Danny was enthralled with the peacocks. 


We all went on the carousel. Danny remembered going on it with his Grandpa Shaun and couldn't wait to go again.


He was totally enthralled with the python! He went back to watch it half a dozen times!




This toad was about 10 inches in diameter!





On the way out of the building where the naked mole rats were, a kid said to his mom, "Let's go see the naked moldy rats!!




We ended the day feeding the giraffes.  Danny calls them giraffe-es. 





It was a great day at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo!