Friday, February 28, 2014

The books that didn't make the list

We are book people.  If you had looked in our house a few weeks ago you would have seen piles of books in our bedroom, bins of books in the garage, and bookshelves full of them.

We've moved five times in our seven and a half years of marriage, and each time we go through our books, get rid of some, and pack away the others to save for another time.  Some have been read multiple times, others are still collecting dust for that perfect rainy day when we have time to sit and read {I think that might not come until our children are grown}.

As we've been preparing to put our house on the market, we went through the books yet again.  I took out a few that are on my list for 2014; I was trying to be realistic this year and not tackle more than I thought possible, so I think I started with maybe eight.  And, while I'm making good progress on those books, I was struck one day while reading to my kids:

How many books am I going to read this year that didn't make the list?

Books like Green Eggs and Ham, Biscuit's Snowy Day, The Little Engine that Could, and countless others that my children will hand to me as they climb on my lap to read and snuggle.

Could it be that some of my greatest reading accomplishments this year will be board books, paperbacks, and other children's classics that we read over and over again?  Not because they challenge my thinking or help me to grow in my knowledge of God, but because by reading them I'm spending time with my kids and instilling in them a love for reading.

And what about all of those goals?  Maybe some of the greatest goals we meet this year will be ones that we didn't plan.  Because we can plan and prepare and strive toward something, but in the end it's about what God has in store, His plans, His goals, His purposes.

God is at work in us, and if we desire to truly be sanctified, we will embrace those things that didn't make the list, but that come into our lives because God wants to make us more like Him.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A lesson learned through spaghetti

We were driving to the beach for a week of vacation with my husband's family.  Our oldest two girls had left home earlier that morning with their grandparents, so the car was quiet with just my husband, our 17 month old son and our 9 week old daughter.  The quiet was a nice break--no questions, no complaining, no bickering--a nice respite.

For, I don't know, maybe the millionth time, I handed a graham cracker to my son.

Maybe this time he'll actually put it in his mouth.  

I turned back around in my seat to continue the conversation with my husband.  And a few seconds later I heard it.

"Crunch.  Crunch crunch crunch."

Never before had the sound of crunching crackers made me cry.  But it did that day.

You see, for months we had been trying to get Mason to pick up food, or at the very least chew something with his teeth.  He refused to eat anything that wasn't pureed and fed to him on a spoon.  If we tried to put a piece of food in his mouth, he would just push it out with his tongue.  And, if we placed something on the tray of his highchair, he would throw his hands up in the air and literally freak out.

And I was tired of it.  Tired of pulling out the food processor for every meal to try and come up with something creative and nutritious for this little guy.

His inability and refusal to eat solid foods made me angry, sad, frustrated, and discouraged.  I felt like life was so challenging because I had to work hard to get food into him.

For five months, Mason continued to eat graham crackers and would occasionally pick up a Ritz.  Everything else was a no go.  Then, about three weeks ago, for the first time, Mason picked up pieces of pumpkin bread, put them in his mouth, and chewed them with his teeth.

It was a glorious day!

We've been slowly giving him more finger foods and watching as he figures out how to get them in his mouth.

Last week, we put spaghetti on his tray and he went. to. town.

I've never seen a kid more excited about eating spaghetti than he was that night.  He could not get it in his mouth fast enough.  He kept smiling, giggling, and kicking his feet with joy.

It was then that I realized I had made his eating an issue about me.  The time it took, the mental energy to think through every meal, the emotional struggle wishing he was different.  Never once had I considered how he must feel.

As I watched him chow down and become a messy glob of noodles and spaghetti sauce I saw my son experience a freedom that delighted his heart.

Mason is going to experience challenges of many kinds throughout his life, eating is just one of them.  And, as his mother, I'm going to walk through those challenges with him.  But I don't want to make those challenges about me.  I want to look at them through the eyes of my son.

I want to push him to work hard at what's challenging.

I want to rejoice in the little victories, that really aren't so small for him.

I want to be sad, not because I'm tired of him struggling, but because I hurt for him.

I want to look forward to his accomplishments, not because it will make life easier for me, but because his life will be much more full as a result.

I want to love him, and each of my children, in a selfless way, exemplifying to them the selfless love of Christ.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

During the winter months there's not much better to me for dinner than a warm bowl of soup with a slice of freshly baked bread.   Soups are fairly easy to make, they're relatively inexpensive, and almost always delicious.

We visited my sister in law and her family right after New Year's, and she made an amazing sausage and tortellini soup.  I knew we needed to add this to our menu, so I tried to copy it the other night.  This soup is hearty, and yet there are lots of veggies in it that also make it pretty healthy.  For an extra kick, you can use hot sausage instead of the mild version that I chose, or add a few crushed red pepper flakes.  We like a heartier soup, but you could certainly add more liquid to this to stretch it out a bit more.

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

1 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 cups beef broth
1 {15 oz} can diced tomatoes, drained
1  {6 oz} can tomato paste
1 1/2 cans of water {use empty tomato paste can}
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup diced carrots
1 green pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
16 oz. bag of frozen cheese filled tortellini
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot brown sausage, crumbling it with the backside of a spoon until cooked through {no longer pink}.  Remove sausage from pot and drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Cook onion and garlic in same pot, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add broth, tomato paste, water, seasoning, and carrots.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, add sausage back to the pot, and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.

Add peppers, zucchini, and tortellini, and cook for 10 more minutes, or until tortellini are tender.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's never too late for a post about love

The internet was bursting with posts last week about love, relationships, romance, and sacrifice.  I enjoy reading different perspectives on love and how it impacts our lives.  We were created to love and be loved and yet this is one of the most challenging concepts to flesh out in daily life.

Why is it so hard?  How can we lose sight so quickly of the importance of love?  What stands in the way of impacting our friends, our family, our world with the deep love of God?


I stand in the way.  My desires, my time, my important stuff, my to-do list, my feelings, my will.

And before we know it 'me' has become so important that the only thing capable of impacting is self.  And if all we impact is self, we lose out on the love that God designed.

When I get out of the way and begin thinking of the desires of others, the needs of others, and the wants of others, I begin to understand how to love.

When I get out of the way and truly dwell on God's character and His great love demonstrated  in Christ's sacrificial death on the cross, I won't be able to stop myself from loving.

Valentine's Day may be over, but love is never over.

It should be beginning and growing every moment of every day.

Tim Kimmel, in his book Grace Based Parenting, shares an excellent definition of love.  My husband asked me to write it on our kitchen chalkboard so we can be reminded of this throughout the day.

Instead of standing in the way of impacting others with love, I want to commit myself to striving for what is best in others, loving them in the same way that God loves me.

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." -1 John 4:9-12

Let's get out of the way today and love.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Seven months and my fears are lifted

When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child I was scared.  Our son was just six months old and we were still adjusting to the fact that he had Down Syndrome.

Would this child also have some sort of special need?  How would I be able to truly care for both of them?  Surely someone is going to be neglected.  Will I love another child more or less?  

We had talked about having more children, but it was always way down the road, like after Mason learned to walk, and maybe once he was potty trained.  But here we were with a baby who still couldn't roll over at six months, and another one on the way.

That pregnancy was filled with ups and downs emotionally as I anticipated the arrival of that little girl.  There was relief when we found out all the prenatal testing came back negative.  But, then there was also guilt over feeling relieved.

When I arrived at the hospital on the day I was to be induced, they admitted me to the same room where Mason had been born.  All the memories came flooding back, and when the doctors arrived for the delivery, I made sure they knew to examine my daughter closely for any signs of anything that might not be normal.

And then that moment came when we welcomed our baby girl into the world.

It was just as wonderful and exciting as the previous three times.  We loved her with the same love, rejoiced in her precious life, and waited excitedly for the day we could bring her home.

Today our baby girl is seven months old.

 We've had seven precious months of watching another life grow and develop.  Seven months of watching our oldest girls wonder and exclaim over her.  Seven months of watching our son with Down Syndrome adore his baby sister.

My fears have been lifted.

Mason is quick to comfort Jennavieve when she cries.  He scoots himself over to her and carefully lays his head on her tummy.  He brings her toys when she has none.  They have started 'talking' to one another, copying sounds and squeals.

Yes, it's challenging having two babies who can't walk and some days I grow sad over the developmental delays in Mason when I see his younger sister quickly catching up.

I wouldn't want it any other way.

My children are learning to love and serve others.

I am learning to love and serve and to rejoice in the little achievements of my children.

Most importantly, I'm learning to desperately depend on God.

And as I depend on Him, I find joy and wonder even in my most challenging moments.  Not because it's easier, but because He is becoming greater and more precious to me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Unknown is a Gift: Our First Home

We've been talking a lot lately about our future.  I guess I thought that by the time I hit my 30's, life would be figured out and the course would be set.

I'm glad I was wrong.

This life of not knowing has been a gift.  Living in different places, making new friends, dreaming about where me might end up next--I have learned to treasure these steps on our journey.

This summer will mark six years of Bradley being in the Navy, the last three of which have been in our home in Georgia.  And as I anticipate moving again this summer, I can't help but think back and reflect.  For some reason, much of my reflecting has been on our first home.

As we approached our first year of marriage Bradley began to seriously pursue his career in the Navy.  In prayer and boldness, we asked if both of us could keep our jobs and work from home, allowing us to move away from Pennsylvania, to Greenville, SC.  Our company said yes, and within one month we had found a home, signed a contract, and moved in.

We only lived in that home for 11 months before the Navy became a reality, but it was wonderful.  Our marriage grew, we learned things like how to tile floors, pay a mortgage, paint walls, resolve conflict with both of us working from home, and we found out we were expecting our first child that year.

I look back and think how seemingly crazy it was, or how crazy we were, and yet God used that little unknown twist to grow us in Him.

We still own this home, and by God's grace, we've been able to rent it for the past six years.  Maybe we'll move back one day, we'll stack up some bunk beds to fit all the kids, and I'll change up the colors a bit.  But if we don't, I'll always look back and remember with thankfulness the ways that God used that home to make me a different person.

And, I pray that whatever unknowns we are given, even this summer, I will receive with an open heart and open arms, knowing that they are a gift from God.