Some days are just like that

Dad and daughter drove off to an early morning coffee date on their way to school. I set the two breakfast plates on the table and called for the boy to join me. He hustled in and climbed up the big chair while chattering away, too-long pajama pants dangling to his pudgy toes.

He stopped mid-climb and mid-sentence and made a face. “Just peanut butter? But I wanted jelly. Or Tunella!”  That’s his word for “Nutella,” a once-in-a-while treat that I have forever regretted purchasing.

I calmly sent him to his room, since he knows the rules very well: Complain about what you’re served? Sit on your bed until you have a thankful heart. That may sound harsh to some, but this is an on-going issue with the boy. He has developed a bad habit of this. To your room is now the immediate consequence, with an opportunity to re-enter and join the meal appropriately. And good grief, the kid asks for peanut butter nearly every time I serve him something else. UGH.

A few minutes later, he moped back in. If you’ve ever seen this boy mope, you know he does it well. Face hung, shoulders hung even more, so much so that it looked like he might actually topple forward. Slow walking with shuffling feet. Head swinging from side to side with each step.

He climbed back up in the chair, put his elbows on the table, and dramatically flopped his long-but-adorably-chubby cheeks into his hands with a sigh.

“So?” I asked. “What’s up?”

“I’m trying to decide,” he said with the saddest voice he could muster.

“Trying to decide what?”

“If I’m gonna choose joy or the grumps.”

I tried not to chuckle. “Ah. Looks to me like you’ve chosen already. But the great news is, you can still change your mind.”

He rattled off a few whiny remarks about his food, and how hard it is to choose joy when you really feel frustrated or angry or tired or don’t feel like eating something.

How thankful I am for a boy who can clearly communicate his every thought. Sure, sometimes it’s exhausting, but in moments like this, I so love that he can articulate exactly what he feels. It makes talking through his thoughts and feelings so much easier.

And it usually provides great teaching moments for both of us…

“Yep, I know, Bud. It’s hard to choose joy when you feel all those things. But that’s why joy isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.” He looked up at me but didn’t respond – which is unusual – so I continued. “The Bible says to be joyful always. That means that even when we don’t feel happy, we can choose to be joyful…”

“I don’t want to choose to be joyful,” he interrupted with his down-in-the-dumps-voice. “I choose the grumps.” Without me saying a word, he slid off the chair and headed back to his bed, this time not as a consequence, but because he felt the need to sulk. At least he’s honest, I thought. And I can relate. I don’t always want to choose to be joyful, either. 

I decided to eat my breakfast alone and give him time to think and calm down. After clearing my plate, he came back in, face still hung, shoulders still hung more, feet still shuffling along slowly. “Mommy, I just don’t want a peanut butter sandwich.” His face was pained.

“I know. And so you chose the grumps. What happens when you choose the grumps?”

“You get in trouble.”

“What else?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you get something else for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Did you get to eat with me?”

“No.”

“So you didn’t get what you want. You were just miserable. And now you have to eat alone, so your problem got worse. What happens when you choose joy?”

“I don’t know. Because I still don’t know how to do that when I feel so mad.Have you ever seen someone talk with their whole body? Flailing arms, face, torso all showed me the frustration of this comment. I’m sooo mad, and I have NO IDEA how to be joyful when I feel this way.

We talked about what it meant to choose joy. Be thankful for the many blessings we have. Be thankful for a special time with Mommy. Be thankful for getting your favorite green plate and not having to have eggs. Focus on the things that you can be thankful for, and remember that they are gifts from God. We talked about the rest of that verse. Be joyful always. Pray continuously. Give thanks in all circumstances.

He flashed his wide smile, and for the first time since I made his breakfast, his cheeks looked round again. “YEAH! And know what else I’m thankful for? Behind the man-cave (the play area he loves at the Krause House) there are some blackberry bushes. And when it’s Next-tember, I want to go PICK SOME!”

He chomped into his sandwich and started rattling off a list of things he was thankful for. “Mom, know what? I decided. Today, I’m gonna choose joy.”

And my heart smiled.

Cute story, huh?

Well, too bad it didn’t end there. But this is not Leave it to Beaver, and I am not June Cleaver. This is reality, people.

Maybe – hopefully – some of you can relate to what happened next: He chose the grumps every 2-3 minutes for the rest of the morning. Time to get dressed? I choose grumps. No snack? More grumps. Pick up your toys? Epic-ly grumpy grumps coupled with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And in the meantime, I’m having to choose joy a million times every minute so I don’t lose it. <—– This itself is an absolute miracle right from Heaven, and likely happened only because I was doing my best to teach him about choosing joy, which is kind of hard to do when you’re screaming about it.

After much ignoring-with-a-plastered-smile by me and multiple back-and-forth to the bedroom by him (mostly his choice, unless of course “the grumps” resulted in a mini-fit in which case he went by my direction), I decided I’d help distract him…

I attempted a tickle fight, which resulted in a fair amount of giggles. And just for fun, I brought out the big guns… the squirt guns. (This possibly could have been more to get my own aggression out than to make him laugh, but whatever. Two birds, one stone.) After I totally kicked his 4-year-old-sopping-wet-tail, the grumps returned yet again.

Some days are just like that, right? We have to decide to choose joy in each moment. Not just once when we wake up. Not just after the first frustrating moment. But all along the way.

Today, I choose joy. Even though my head hurts. Even though my favorite shirt is dirty and the kitchen is a mess. Even though I’m about to run out of gas on the way to work and then I’m late and then I forgot my lunch in the messy kitchen and then someone makes a rude comment and I can’t find an important document and everything seems to be falling apart. And not to mention, my head still hurts.

I will choose joy. Because in your presence, Oh Lord, there is fullness of joy.

Joy isn’t about the circumstances I hold, but who is holding me in my circumstances.

I guess I just needed that reminder today.

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100

WordPress tells me this will be my 100th post. Woah! I guess I have a lot to say. (No comment from the husband peanut gallery.)

100 seems like a monumental number. Like maybe I should celebrate somehow. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal if you live 100 years or throw a 100 mph fastball. I know, I know, those are actual feats. Writing 100 times and posting for 12 people to read isn’t exactly a noteworthy accomplishment.

Just the same, 100 didn’t seem like a number I could pass by lightly. And this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want, right?

I thought for a while about what I would post for this momentous occasion. 100 pics of the kids? 100 funny comments? (They’ve certainly been providing me with a lot of material lately.) 100 favorite family memories? Whatever it was going to be, it needed to be a celebration.

And then I read this blog post by Ann Voskamp. It’s titled “Why You Really Have to Keep Falling in Love.” (I’d encourage you to click the link and read this short post. Either now or later. It’s a very quick, very powerful read.)  But in case you don’t, here is a summary: Ann writes about a conversation she has with a girl in her twenties who, after telling her to stay in love with Jesus, responds, “I don’t think I’ve ever loved Jesus. So I don’t know what it means to stay in love with Jesus. I thought Christianity was about getting into heaven, getting saved, getting good No one ever told me that Christianity was about staying in love.” Ann’s post is a response to this conversation, where she writes some vitally important truths.

“Looking into the eyes of this hardly twenty-something girl, it’s about as crystal clear as it gets:

Our faith better be deeply connected to our senses and our heart, or a sensual world will destroy our faith and steal our heart.

If Jesus hasnt passionately wooed you the world eventually, definitely will.” ~ Ann Voskamp

As I read, my eyes welled up and spilled over. I’ve been that girl. I know her. I see her now in a thousand different faces. Maybe she’s in you? 

Right around the time I read that post, our pastor challenged us to “Do yourselves a favor. Tell someone how great your God is.”

Also right around that time, my kids got sick, and I stayed home caring for them, which means being secluded from the outside world. I spent a lot of that time thinking. Thinking about an upcoming 4th birthday party (which has since come and gone) and what gift to give. Thinking about being a mom and how important that job is. Thinking about our pastor’s challenge and how little I really do that on a daily basis. Thinking about this 20-something girl who knows that Jesus saves – has saved her – but she doesn’t know what it’s like to be in love with him.

It all struck me so hard. What if my kids grow up and never know? I have to tell them, show them, or the world will tell them something different. Who am I kidding? The world is telling them something different right now. Everywhere they look, they get lies thrown at them as truth. They are already beginning to be inundated with a watered-down version of right and wrong and what it means to be a Christian, and they haven’t even reached double-digits yet.

Annalise and Jacob, listen to me very carefully: Jesus saves, yes. But it’s so much more than that. He isn’t just a way to get to Heaven. You have to seek him, spend time with him, fall in love. And you’ll realize how much more he is.

“Our faith better be deeply connected to our senses and our heart, or a sensual world will destroy our faith and steal our heart. If Jesus hasnt passionately wooed you the world eventually, definitely will.”

Those words keep ringing in my ears.

I can’t make them believe, make them feel. But I can tell them, and I can show them.

I can’t live in fear for them. So I will live on my knees for them.

I’ve spent time, as many women I know have, keeping record of things that bring me joy each day. (This is also spurred on from Ann Voskamp and her book 1000 gifts.) The lists are just a way to unwrap the gifts God has given, as a way to remind ourselves of His great love for us.

But with a sense of urgency for my kids, for the world that is constantly muddying the waters of truth until there is almost nothing left resembling actual Truth, I wanted to write this: 100 Reasons I’ve Fallen in Love with Jesus.

And so, I am writing to him. And I am writing to my children, to anyone who may not know, or to anyone who just needs a reminder of why they once fell in love with Jesus. Read a little of it or all of it. Or even if you stop reading here and the only one that sees this list is the One I’m writing about, just know that I’m writing it because my God is great. He is personal. He is more than just “a way to get heaven, to get saved, or how to get good.” And I wanted you all to know, He is the best reason – really the ONLY reason – to celebrate.

And because I want to keep falling in love.

100 Reasons Why I Love My Great God

1. You are personal. You are not a distant God. I can come straight to you. There is no middle man that needs to do the work for me.

2. Despite you being perfect and holy and me being incredibly flawed (<— massive understatement), you are not repulsed by me. You do not turn away. In fact, “as I draw near to you, you draw near to me.”

3. You love me enough to die for me and pay the penalty for my sins so that I could come to you blameless and holy. My imperfections are washed away, and I can stand in your holy presence.

4. You are the giver of all good and perfect things. Every. single. thing. that is good in my life is directly from you. Thank you? It just doesn’t seem like enough.

5. Your endless creativity. I mean really, I get a little overwhelmed just going in the produce section. (Starfruit? Kumquats??? Cherimoya for goodness sake!) And then I realize, over 7 BILLION PEOPLEin the world (not even counting all the people that came before us or all those yet to come), and each of them are unique. YOU are AMAZING.

6. My own special people. You made them, and they have filled my heart to the brim.

7. You saved me from total deadness. I am alive because of you.

8. You know exactly what I need, all the time. And you will give me nothing less than that.

9. You know exactly what everyone needs. ALL 7+ BILLION OF US. Not one of us is overlooked. 

10. #9 doesn’t overwhelm you. Nothing overwhelms you.

11. When I am away from the ones I love most, you are not.

12. Your voice is never harsh when you pick me up from sin and despair. You are always gentle and loving. And you are always there to pick me up.

13. No matter how far I have or will run from you, I can never escape your hands.

14. You are patient. With me. With my faults. With this world. Oh so incredibly patient.

15. You are never too busy dealing with “the big stuff” to hear my prayers.

16. You chose to become a human and to come as a baby. You are God, yet you humbled yourself so.

17. You were fully tempted and yet without sin. I tend to gloss over that sometimes, but you could have sinned at any time. You were fully human, after all. And you are the only human who understands the full weight of temptation, since you are the only one who withstood it without ever giving in.

18. You went to Jerusalem, knowing your fate. You ate the Passover meal. You went to the garden, knowing they’d come. You went to the cross. You did not send legions of warrior angels to stop it all. You could have at any time. All you needed to do was speak the word. But you didn’t.

19. Judas. You loved even him. All along, you knew what he would do, and yet you loved him. So much that when the time came, no one knew who it was going to be that would betray you. You didn’t treat him differently than the others. (I can barely fake a smile to someone I think maybe doesn’t like me a little bit possibly. I clearly have a long way to go.)

20. You forgive. And you’ve forgiven me A LOT. (And as I’ve learned, those who are forgiven much, love much. Probably why I love you so much.)

21. When I struggle with forgiving others, I can give it to you.

22. You are just.

23. You are faithful to finish the good work you began in me.

24. I can trust that you will finish the good work you began in others, too. When I’m feeling skeptical of them, I know I can fully trust you.

25. You love children and see their pure faith.

26. You were purposeful in who you spent your time with as you walked this earth. It is so evident: You love all.

27. I love my children so much. I really really do. In fact, I can’t imagine much stronger a love. But I have to admit, when they are being naughty, I mean sooooo naughty it feels like they just gave me the middle finger, I don’t mind the thought of sending them to Grandma’s for a few hours days weeks. Yet you have no desire to leave my presence. And when I am soooooooo very naughty, you reach out your hand and draw me to you.

28. You don’t condemn me, but you do correct. It’s an important part of love, and you do it lovingly.

29. You are merciful. Thanks for not giving me what I deserve.

30. Your endless grace, which is greater than all my sin.

31. You fill my heart with joy.

32. You are my only hope.

33. You always keep your promises.

34. Any battle I face, I know I will not face alone.

35. You acknowledge those who are poor in spirit, and give them hope of Heaven.

36. You have not forgotten those who weep, and you give them comfort.

37. You recognize the meek, and you’ve promised them reward.

38. You have promised to fill those who hunger and thirst for you.

39. You promise mercy to those who are merciful.

40. To the pure in heart, peacemakers, and those who have been persecuted because of righteousness, you give a promise none other can fulfill. You give eternal hope.

41. When I was in my weakest state, you held me tightest.

42. When I couldn’t pray and had no desire to go on, you interceded on my behalf. YOU prayed for ME.

43. You are compassionate to all.

44. You aren’t a wallflower or door mat…. when tables need turning, you do it.

45. When lepers had to call out to let others know “what” they were so they could stay far away, you came to them. You touched them. You showed them love that no one else ever would.

46. You have authority over all. You are the God of angel armies, dominions of this world and all else.

47. The wind and waves must obey you. Even death is under your rule.

48. Even in your full authority and power, you allow us to make our own decisions.

49. You love us enough to let us choose you.

50. In all circumstances, you know all. You know best and I know little.

51. You didn’t just go to the cross. You asked your Father to forgive those who put you there while you were there. And that includes me.

52. You defeated death and the grave. The battle has already been won for us all. We just have to claim it.

53. Seasons. You made them. I love them.

54. You are funny. How do I know? Because we are made in your image – including Matt –  and Matt is definitely funny. And also, because of this guy:

The Tarsier. Funniest looking animal ever. Made by you.
(The Tarsier is actually tied for funniest with that monkey you made… the one with
dark fur everywhere except it’s pink inflamed rear. That is, tied for first except to boys
within the age range of 4-39. Then naked butt-monkey wins every time.)

55. You made funny people. Like my kids. They crack me up on a daily basis.

56. You are the source of all joy.

57. You have created breathtaking views, many of which I’m blessed to see in this county.

58. Pleasure was your idea. YOU created it. But may I not settle for pitiful pleasures that lead to emptiness.

59. You came that I may have abundant life – life to the full.

60. I have lost a great deal, but I know because of you, my loss is only temporary. I will get to see my girls again someday.

61. You are good. Always and only.

62. You don’t ask me to do anything you haven’t already done. Obey? Love? Live selflessly? Yep, you’re an expert at it. You lived it every second.

63. Chocolate and coffee. ‘Nuff said.

64. You know a woman’s heart. I love that when Mary found out she was going to have you – a miracle baby – she ran to her old cousin Elizabeth, who was also going to have a miracle baby. You knew she needed someone to share in her miracle. She would not feel alone. (And – maybe also somewhat conveniently – you kept Zachariah from speaking during this time. They could share without interruption. Like I said, you know a woman’s heart.)

65. You will never leave me nor forsake me. Ever. Not even for a second. Not even when I’m tired, grumpy, or really angry at you and throwing a massive tantrum. In my head, obviously. Because I’d never do such a childish thing out loud. Um…

66. Have I mentioned you’re funny? Not just because of the hilarious creatures you’ve created, but because you created man and woman. And then ask them to join together in holy matrimony. And it’s all very hysterical, when you really think about it. Because we couldn’t be more different.

67. Music. While the world does their best to corrupt it, you invented it. It’s powerful, moving, beautiful, and I love it. Especially when I get the privilege of using it to worship you.

68. You rejoice over me with singing. What??? YOU rejoice over ME with singing!!

69. When I am anxious, worn, weary, or riled up, you quiet me with your love.

70. You have promised me victory over sin. It does not have dominion over me. For I am under your grace, and I am a new creation.

71. You desire reconciliation and restored relationships. And you give us all the tools to do it. We are a stubborn, prideful people.

72. Your countless wonders, deeds, and miracles. They are not fairy tales.

73. You give strength to those whose hearts are fully committed to you.

74. Even though there are times I think I have a better way, your ways are always higher than mine. And your thoughts are higher than mine. Thank GOD.

75. You do not want me to live in fear. You take hold of my hand and say to me, “Do not fear; I will help you.”

76. You are a shield about me.

77. You only speak truth. You cannot lie. I can fully trust you.

78. Day AND night. You made them both. I love them both. Sometimes one more than the other. Like day, when the littlest people in the house fill the air with laughter and singing. And like night, when the littlest people in the house are finally quiet.

79. You are my refuge.

80. You have plans for me and my life. Plans to prosper me, not harm me. Plans to give me hope and a future.

81. I give you my requests/prayers/wishes. They are not all granted, for you are not a genie. Yet, you do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine. And your plans are always better than mine.

82. You do not change. Yet you change everything. (And it is always for good.)

83. When I abide in you, I can bear much fruit. You change me.

84. You are slow to anger but rich in love.

85. Others will fail me, break promises, hurt me, put themselves before me, make me feel unloved. But you never will. You cannot.

86. You made a day for rest. You knew we’d need it. It is my favorite day.

87. You want me to have fun. You do not want me to be bored or boring. You created fun, you gave me the desire for fun, and you are the source of joy.

88. I love your creations. The scenery, the animals, the plants, the people… Just not the bugs. I could do without the bugs.

89. You have defeated Satan. He is on a short leash, but he has not authority over me.

90. One day, you will permanently strip Satan of all power and throw him into the abyss. I long for this day. Until then, you have a greater purpose in mind, and you love all enough that you want no one to perish.

91. You do not become tired or weary.

92. You have made me your treasure. And you treat me as such.

93. You are everywhere at all times. Nothing is out of your reach or beyond your view.

94. You are holy. Perfect.

95. You are a father to the fatherless.

96. You have made yourself available to dwell in anyone who chooses to accept you.

97. While you were still God, you humbled yourself to become a man. You came to be an example for us, to point us to the father, and to save us. You have rescued me.

98. You look beyond the external and judge the heart.

99. You were God with skin, and you prayed to God the Father. You were the perfect example of what a prayer life should look like. You lived fully dependent on God the Father.

100. You loved me first and forever. Before I was born. When I was dead. When I denied you.
Now and forevermore.

I got this…

I’m convinced God created children for parents just exactly so we could see a glimpse of how we are to Him. (And maybe also to teach us a tremendous amount of patience, self-control, and humility. Not to mention so our lives would be filled with joy and laughter…)

But really, they need us so badly. Sometimes they are just so helpless. And despite all their mistakes, constant questions, and totally un-funny-but-never-ending knock-knock jokes, we can’t help but love them more than words could ever describe.

It is really all a wonderful picture of our relationship with God, isn’t it?  How much we need Him, how much He loves us despite our sins. (And let’s just be honest here. Bad knock-knock jokes might as well be a sin.)

Yesterday, God used Annalise – yet again – to paint this picture for me…

It all started the Friday before Christmas break. It was supposed to be a fun dress-up day at school – Pajama Day. Annalise had been looking forward to it all week. Instead, we got a snow day, and vacation started early. (No complaints from me.)

Now, it was the first day back to school. We were back home, and I was in the kitchen, mind wandering to stresses and anxieties. Grown-up things. “God? What do I do about this? How do I handle this?”  I somehow felt like I wasn’t being heard. I felt like I bring the same stresses and questions to Him, and I get no response. My eyes started to well up, just as Annalise walked in the room with a nervous and stressed look on her face.

I could tell something was bothering her. “Mommy?” She spoke slowly and nervously. “I don’t know what to do. I know you aren’t going to let me, but I’m supposed to wear make-up to school. They told us we have to.”

Huh?

Really, Mom! They did! What am I supposed to do? They said we have to wear it, and I don’t even have any, and you probably won’t even buy me some because you don’t want me wearing it yet and…”

I stopped her and asked her what she was talking about. I work at her school, and I’m pretty positive no one is requiring make-up.

“It’s true, Mom! They said this Friday is make-up Pajama Day.”  Ahh. Don’t you just love how literal 6-year-olds are?

Doing my best to hide my laughter, I leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “Oh sweet girl. Don’t worry. I got this.”

It was in that moment, as I started to explain to her that she had misunderstood what they meant by “make-up,” I realized that this was a perfect picture of how I must be to God.

Annalise’s 6-year-old worries were real to her. They seemed so big and impossible. Yet, to me, they were no big deal. In actuality, they weren’t a problem at all. She just didn’t fully understand. How many of my problems – my real human 35-year-old problems that seem so big and impossible are no big deal for God? How many of my problems aren’t even problems at all? How many of my worries and anxieties are wasted worries and anxieties, because in actuality, I just don’t see the big picture.

It was as if in that moment, when I was kissing my girl’s head and saying “Don’t worry, sweet girl. I got this.” God was doing the exact same thing to me.

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Don’t worry, sweet girl. I got this… (Jeremiah 32:27)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Don’t worry, sweet girl. I got this… (Isaiah 41:10)

In fact, He says it all the time. It’s found all throughout the Bible. Jeremiah 29:11. Joshuah 1:9. Romans 8:28. Matthew 19:26. Just to name a few.

And in case I do forget, He’ll gently use my own sweet girl to help me remember. Maybe you need the reminder, too. Maybe He’s saying it to you right now…

“Don’t worry, kiddo. I got this.”

I love you more than that

MY GIRL:
Annalise has had a prayer for as long as I can remember her talking… She has prayed for her cousins to live by her. Sometimes it makes her so sad that she cries. “Mommy, I just don’t understand. Why do some kids have their cousins live in the very same town, and my cousins live in another state and on the other side of the world?!? I might never even get to go to their house ever!”

It breaks my heart when her little heart is broken.

We’ve had discussions about it. God sent her Uncle John and Auntie Ko-Ko and her same-age cousin Ellia that she loves just so much, and Jacob’s same-age cousin Alyssa, all the way to Indonesia for a purpose. He has them there to do the job He wants them to do. So we pray for the job they’re doing there, reaching unreached people, building churches in jungles where people have never heard of a savior, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a land we’ve never seen.

And right now, God has her Uncle Ryan and Auntie Ky-Ky and cousins Riley and Mason in Nevada. And she loves them so much, too. So we talk about that God has a plan for them, and right now the plan is to be where they are. And that even though we miss them, too, we’ve been blessed to get to visit their house every once-in-a-while.

And we talk about how blessed we really are, that even though her cousins are so far away, we’ve been able to see them lots. And sometimes we get to Skype with them when they’re home. But right now, they’re here! And they even get to come to Annalise’s 6th birthday party, the first one since she turned one!

Just the same, Annalise still prays that she’ll get to have her cousins live here, just like other kids. And I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t think that’s going to happen, to just give up on that big request of hers, because God has Ellia in Indonesia. That is where they live now.

The truth is, some days it breaks my heart, too. Because while I didn’t always grow up with my cousins in the same town, we were just on the other side of the Cascades, and we got to see them often. They were a big part of my life, and one day, my prayer was answered to live by my cousins. We lived in the same town and went to school together for the last 5 years.  I even lived in their house for a while during college. God answered my prayer in a bigger way than I could imagine. I loved the blessing of them in my life, and I have longed for Annalise and Ellia to have a similar experience.

Well, it just so happens that one of the cousins that I prayed to live by and graduated from high school with and lived with in college, moved last year from Eastern Washington back to Whatcom County.

And it just so happens that a week ago, he became the head pastor at the church he grew up in right here in Ferndale.

And it just so happens that his middle child is Jilly, another same-age-girl-cousin that Annalise loves.

And it just so happens that when that cousin of mine got his new job as a pastor, they moved into the church parsonage in Ferndale. Which meant Jilly and her big brother Josiah got moved to a new school this week, which just-so-happens to be the same school I teach at, and more importantly, the same school Annalise attends.

Annalise was already bursting with excitement when she found out Jilly would be at her same school. And then, the unimaginable happened. Josiah was put in my class, and Jilly was placed in the same kindergarten class as Annalise.

Leading up to Jilly’s first day, it suddenly hit Annalise exactly what was happening, that this was not an “it-just-so-happens” event. “Mommy! Do you know that God is answering my prayer? I prayed for a cousin to live here. I really meant Ellia, but God answered my prayer in just a different way. And I never even thought about having a cousin in my school or especially in my class. God answered my prayer, but even better than I thought, because I get to have a cousin with me every day!”

And then, Annalise became sad again. Because, “What about Ellia, Mommy?” Ellia has the same prayer. She loves her cousins just so much. She wants to live in America, to be by her cousins, too.

God has not forgotten Ellia. Several weeks ago, He answered her prayer, too, also in a different way. First, He brought her here for 5 whole months, enough time to make lots of American memories, from the Northwest Washington Fair, to cousin’s birthday parties, to starting kindergarten, and she’ll even be here for Thanksgiving. But there’s more. While she has been living here, God called her aunt and uncle and a same-age-cousin for both her and her sister to Indonesia, to the same church she is a part of, in the very same city. She will likely attend school with her other same-age cousin.

God couldn’t move Ellia here to Annalise. But He gave Annalise and Ellia different same-aged cousins to not just live close by, but to be in their same school and same class. At the same time He did this, God brought two churches a new pastor, one in Ferndale, one in Indonesia. (And by the way, that church in Ferndale was in need of a pastor because the former pastor  had moved with his family to a place God had put on their heart… Indonesia.)

Answered prayer… Two little girls pray for a cousin. Two churches pray for pastors. Two families pray for guidance on where the Lord wants them. 

Strengthened faith… An impossible prayer answered. All those prayers answered, all at once.

God’s word lived out…  He who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine… I could have never imagined.

Here is what I’ve been reminded of:
1. Ellia and Annalise, your prayers have been answered, and God has big plans for you.
2. Pastor Elis and Pastor Andy and your families, your prayers have been answered and you have followed the Lord’s leading, and God has big plans for you.
3. Whatcom New Life Assembly, you have been given a new pastor, one you poured into as a child, and God has big plans for you all.
4. Indonesia, you are a land being blessed by two more wonderful families, and God has big plans for you, too.
5. God has not forgotten this land, or these families, or even the hearts of two almost-6-year-old girls. And God has not forgotten you or me, either. He knows the desires of our our hearts, and He knows our greatest needs. He has big plans for us, too.

MY BOY:
Jacob has this little saying that melts my heart. Whenever I say “I love you,” he responds with, “I love you more than that.”

“Jacob, I love you more than the moon and stars.”
“Mommy, I love you more than that.”

“Buddy, do you know I love you more than all the waves in the ocean? And farther than from here to Indonesia and all the way back?”
“Yep. And I love you more than that.”

“Hey kiddo! Come here. I love you so much!”
“I love you too, Mama. I love you more than that.”

I love that boy so much more than I can describe. But even if I could, he’d just say with his joy-inducing, heart-melting, God-awing smile, “I love you more than that.”

MY GOD:
He still answers prayer. Even prayers of little girls.
He still amazes with his creativity. Two girls, impossible prayers, answered in ways I never imagined. One boy, with a big smile, and even bigger words that melt every time.
He still can do and does immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

And when His plans are carried out, and are far beyond what we could imagine, it’s almost like He is saying, right to the heart of my almost 6-year-old girl,  “I love you so much Annalise. But I have different plans. I need your cousin where she is.  I’m not going to give you just exactly what you ask for. I’m going to give you more. Because I love you all more than that.

Remember His promises. Pray big prayers for His purpose and glory. But keep in mind, His plans might be a bit different, because He loves you more than that!

“14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 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, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” ~ Ephesians 3:14-21

Week 1

After lying dormant for a full week and a half as we all began the school routine, it appears every toy in the house has now awoken and burst forth in one fell swoop onto the living room floor. I can not walk through, which is totally fine with me, because I am wiped, I tell you. Wiped. Spent lots of Saturday and Sunday recouping from the first full week at a new school and the first full week as a mom to a school-age kid.

It is done. The first full week of the first year of the rest of her life. Yes, it may also just be kindergarten, and yes, she may just be down the hall from me, but I cried every day at least once. This parenting stuff is EMOTIONAL. Here’s a summary:

Day One:
Dropped off the eldest for her first full day. Waited at the bottom of the few stairs next to her room and watched as she quietly followed her teacher’s directions and found her place in line. Listened to the clicking of the camera next to me and the pounding of my own heart, waiting for her to turn and say “Bye, Mom! I love you!” Waited and breathed. Breathed and waited. She never turned. She filed right into her classroom without a hug, a kiss, a good-bye, or even a smile. The teacher poked her head out and said cheerfully, “Ok, you can all go and cry now.” Oh boy, did I. The whole way home. “Matt, I didn’t even tell her I love her! I thought we’d have a chance to give her a kiss! I didn’t give her a kiss!” I sobbed. He comforted, or tried to. I just kept crying.
Cried off and on the rest of the day while trying to stay in the moment with my boy. Posted this very true notice on Facebook:

GIRL NEWS: Dropped her off for her first full day of Kindergarten. This time, we didn’t get to stay. Cried like a baby on the way home. Why did the first day have to be on my day OFF? There will be no checking in on her. Although, I may or may not have texted some staff members to peek in and/or stand guard over her. Just one question: HOW DO YOU PEOPLE DO THIS EVERY SCHOOL DAY ALL YEAR FOR THIRTEEN YEARS? I will now hug each parent as they leave my classroom. I’m with you. Solidarity. You are the bravest of soldiers to have a little bit of your heart rip out each day.

BOY NEWS: In the meantime, I’m having a day with my boy. We’ve played cars, 4 wheelers, and Batman. He took me on a date to Woods. Opened doors, ordered for both of us, and paid with his very own Woods Card he got for being an awesome ring bearer. Total Stud.

And also, this: If you don’t hear Jacob talk for the rest of the year, it might be because he’s used up all his words in the last 3 hours. How thankful I am for Mommy Mondays. But if you notice I’m in a daze on Tuesdays, just know it’s likely because my ears are grossly overworked and shut themselves right down somewhere around 2pm the day before.

Today, I am grateful for: Time with my boy. Mommy Mondays are the best, even if my ears do get tired!

Day 2:
Drop off was a little easier. Teared up a bit, but not as bad. Made for darn sure I gave her a kiss and hug good-bye. Geesh. Told her I love her, and reminded her who walks the halls with her. Headed home for a bit, then back to school for my Tuesday afternoon shift. Ran into her in the hall as I was headed to the art room. Busted my buttons with pride when she waved and hollered from her class line, “Hi, Mommy! I love you!” Am I the only teacher-parent who dreamed of this moment? Cried happy tears walking back to my classroom.

Today, I am grateful for: The dream come true of having my girl in my own school, the security of having her down the hall, of knowing her teachers and the staff, of opportunities to see her throughout the day.

Day 3:
Drop off was the hardest this day. Not because of my own heart, but because of her tender little brother’s. In the car on the way, the sweet boy next to her got an overwhelming sad face (if you know him, you know his emotions are perfectly expressed in his face.) I was already sad seeing his look in the rear view mirror even before he’s said a word. Then he looked at his big sis and said, “Sissy. I dist miss you so much when you’re gone. I don’t want you to go to school!” His eyes filled with tears, and he squeaked out, “Will you dist hold my hand on da way?” Heart Break City. Massive tears and an even more massive lump in my throat. Spent much of the rest of my day wondering if I should be homeschooling just so as not to break my youngest boy’s heart each day.

Today, I am grateful for: Kids who love each other so much! They really, really do! Even if I did need to remind them of this later in the day when they fought over which My Little Pony shoes they got to play with and where to sit at the dinner table.

Day 4:
It was only day 4, and we already had a minor emergency causing her to be late for school. She has a pretty big plantar wart on her foot, and when she went to bed, we noticed redness around it and red streaking across her foot. Up and to the doctor instead of to school. She was so afraid she would miss something very important, “like song time, or dancing, or… or… recess!” No worries. Doc dug through the wart a bit to release any puss, (fun, right?), prescribed an antibiotic, and she was back to school just an hour late. Not as many tears from me this time. But there were more from me than from her when the doc mauled her foot. (I had no idea that girl could be so tough! She didn’t shed a single tear while the tender infected area was being poked, prodded, and squeezed. Interesting, considering she nearly faints – or at least cries and throws herself to the counter sobbing – whenever I have to brush her hair. Hmmm….) Once home after dropping her off, Jacob and I had this conversation:

Jacob: Mom! Here’s the plan. We are gonna play trains, then have lunch and cookies, then play trains some MORE.
Me: Nope. Sorry, Bud. The plan is we are gonna eat lunch, take you to the babysitter’s, and I’m headed to work.
Jacob: Sorry, Mom. I got bad news for ya. The plan is off!

Today, I am thankful for: Modern medicine! Antibiotics! Working half-time so I could take my daughter to the doctor without writing sub plans! A boy who knows what he wants – play time with mom – and makes me smile all the time.

Day 5:
My full day at work. We started the morning saying good-bye to Daddy, because he was headed out of town overnight for a wedding in Bellevue. Tears from both kids in the car as we drove toward Jacob’s babysitter. More tears on the way to school as she cried for her Daddy. Spent the morning trying to work in my classroom with a 4 foot leech attached to my side and standing on my feet. Suddenly, I wasn’t as sappy and sad as I was irritated and impatient. Funny how that can turn so quickly.

After a great but long full day, we left at 5:00 to pick up the boy. I was too tired to cook, or really to even think. Headed to Milt’s for pizza, then home, then back to the babysitter’s to pick up his blankie that I forgot, then home again. Noticed a nice note from my husband on the counter, and was so tired that I picked up a pen and wrote my response on the paper as though he was going to get it instantaneously. Modern technology has melted my brain. (C’mon. You know you’ve had the urge to rewind something that happened in real life, just like you do with the DVR, right???)

We got in our PJs and climbed into my bed, all 3 of us. I sat up in the middle with a little angel leaning on me on either side. “Momma, will you sing us a song?” she asked. I quietly sang the first song that came to my mind: Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee…

I choked up as I thought about the words I was singing at the end of quite a big week for me…

…Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be!…

I looked over at each of my babies.

…Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!…

The one on the right, already sound asleep. It had been an awfully big week for her, too. But each day, we had so much to be thankful for…

…Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided…

The one on the left, doesn’t move but quietly whispers, “Momma, when you’re done with this one, will you sing Jesus Loves Me?

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Bellingham Photographer -1

Bellingham Photographer -2