Celebrating Jesus in Budapest

Posted in Gathering My Thoughts on June 2, 2010 by charleecat

I received the link for this YouTube video showing 1300 people – young and old – dancing in the street in Budapest celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus.  It was so exciting and stirring to me, that I found it through the VieraCast on our TV and watched it again on the big screen.  I could have cried, I could have whooped for joy!  I love to see Jesus worshiped!  I can’t WAIT for heaven!  To have all people from all time dancing and worshiping together… oh the ecstasy!

oh… and I’m absolutely positive there will be drums in heaven. 🙂

Watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5dSIL358NM

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Love is Sad

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 by charleecat

Two days ago, one of our sweet kittens (born to Frog’s cat) had to be put down due to birth defects.  His name was Lucky.  His life was a small miracle, and the message he brought to our family was invaluable.

When Frog got his kitten Lia, he made it very clear that he really, really wanted her to have her own kittens.  He has such a soft spot for baby kittens and frequently has pretended that he is one.  We made it equally clear that Lia wasn’t to be allowed to have kittens because even if she did we’d not be able to keep them.  Still he hoped.  And his parents procrastinated.  And Lia became pregnant.

Watching Lia give birth to her 4 kittens was an amazing thing!  Her kittens were so sweet, and we loved them all.  Lia was immediately a doting and attentive mom.  We were quite proud of her!  One of her babies, though, was born with some problems we could immediately see.  He was born with a lesion on his rump, and his back feet were curled in.  We didn’t know what the problem was, but knew something was wrong.  He had a difficult time figuring out how to suckle, where his brother and sisters latched on right away.  But he fought for life, and made it past the first couple days.  We named him Lucky.  He was always the most vivacious of the 4 kittens.  Ready to tackle his siblings in play.  The first one out of the box to explore.  His heart was made for adventure, and he didn’t seem to realize that his back legs would get all in a tangle.  Our family watched as he struggled with a merry attitude, and admired his tenacity.  Yet we wondered who would love such a crippled kitty.  Because he would need to be cared for as an inside-only kitten, we couldn’t offer a home to him ourselves.

Several days ago, I started to feel like his life would, of necessity, need to be shortened.  I wasn’t sure why I got that feeling… now I believe it was the Holy Spirit preparing me for what lay ahead.  On Wednesday, we had to take him to a vet and found out that the struggle on the outside was only an indicator to his struggle internally.  His organs were not functioning properly.  It was only a matter of time.  The decision was made.  Lucky fell asleep.

Our children understood in various stages.  Frog took it the hardest as his comprehension was the clearest.  Alligator seemed to vary between insensitivity (saying to Frog, “it’s ok.  There are 3 others.”) and sorrow.  Monkey was aware of what was transpiring, but stated everything in fact and void of emotion.  Dove has no clue.

We took the opportunity to teach our children a lesson in the fragility of life, and the responsibility we have to love and care for all living things.  And yet, at the same time, pointed out to them that human life is still more valuable.  I grieved with my children.  Prayed with them.  Prayed for Lucky.  Prayed for my boys’ hearts.

Last night, after burying Lucky next to our other family pets, Frog and Alligator wanted to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s room.  They were so sad and lonely after such a loss.  I sang a special song to Lucky that is a song I sing to each of my children and they are very familiar with the love they feel when I sing it to them.  In fact, it is a song I made up for them.  It is unique to my precious children.  But I wanted to help them mourn and love the memory of their small friend.  That song seemed to really open their hearts to a reality of love and the finality of loss.

Alligator whispered to me, “Mommy, I feel love… but I feel so sad.”   Oh, my precious Alligator!  Your heart is so like mine.  I understand that feeling more than you know.  In fact, it may have been after a loss like this of my own as a child that I decided to forego the feeling of love because the pain accompanying it was too much to bear.  For years, my heart didn’t let anyone in – including the family I trusted.  Until finally, I realized that while I had successfully shut out the pain, I was also shut out from joy.  I only watched as though through a window as everyone I cared about lived in such happiness and cried together in sorrow.  I made the conscious choice after living years in painless emptiness, that to feel the joy of love was worth the grief of love.  And my mom was so relieved to have my heart back.

I prayed for Alligator then that his sensitive heart would not be turned off to love because of its pain.  I don’t want to lose his heart even for a second.

As I left my room, I saw Alligator grieving his loss.  And I saw Frog, in his own sadness, reaching over to comfort his brother.  These brothers will be forever bonded in their love.  I am privileged to be a part.

7 – But not perfect

Posted in Gathering My Thoughts on May 8, 2010 by charleecat

Today, my first baby turned 7.  What a big number!  At least, for me.  As I’ve considered for the past 4 months the fact that my eldest would be turning seven, I’ve realized that I’m not a mom of babies anymore.  Of course, I still have my babies, but a 7 year old is NOT a baby.  Nope.  My little Frog will never be a baby again.  He has assured me countless times, however, (when I’ve threatened to keep him small by putting a brick on his head – as my mother always threatened me… or when Mike and I said we decided to not let him have a birthday this year so he can’t get older) that no matter how big he gets, he will always be my baby.  “Not a real baby, but your baby.”  Sigh.  Still, it’s not quite the same.  He can’t understand that.  I didn’t when I promised my mom I’d always cuddle with her – which, I may add, I have stayed true to!

I’m excited for him to grow up.  Just as he’s excited to get bigger, older, and become more of a man.  I’m excited to relate to him in new ways that I couldn’t before because he was too young.  I’m excited to see him become everything God has destined for him to be.  But a part of me mourns that baby he’ll never be again.  His wide open-mouthed baby kisses (that earned him the name “Froggie-Baby”).  His baby giggles.  His baby logic that was so ridiculous, and yet made enough sense to create a lot of laughter and give us lots of stories.  His baby cheeks that squished up into his big blue baby eyes.  His skinny baby legs.

True, most of that he grew out of long ago.  But I could still see it when I looked at him.  He’s starting to develop so much into a young man that it’s getting hard to see my little baby there anymore.  Instead, I see someone who can understand that other people have feelings, too.  Someone who is learning to sacrifice his own time to care for someone else, and help them feel better.  I am now seeing a boy who yearns to flex some muscle in independence because to him those muscles feel strong enough now to be able to be used.  He is a boy who has an amazing smile, but frequently chooses to hide it.  A boy who loves to have fun, but seems intent to put on a melancholy attitude.  A boy who can be so sensitive to what I’m going through, and then later can’t seem to hear my voice anymore.  He is becoming someone I can count on more and more to be helpful.  And he loves/accepts the responsiblities of his age.  He is my son.  My sweet, baby boy that I used to cuddle with as an infant.  Now my big boy that I can look at and have understanding simply from the meeting of our eyes.  He isn’t perfect, but he’s wonderful.

Today, I had to discipline him again for lying.  He cried and said, “I”m not 7… I’m still 6.”  He thought that by turning one year older, he would somehow reach that age of perfection and no longer make any mistakes.  Poor baby!  What a let-down!  As I explained to him that no one reaches that perfection while on earth, I thought of how I can tend to put similar expectations on myself.  And my husband.  And my kids.  I don’t expect perfection-perfection.  But I guess I expect some measure of it, because I don’t seem to have the patience to let things work out at the pace they do.  Faster.  Quicker.  Now!  Hopefully, I conveyed something that made sense to his newly-turned-7-year-old brain that let him know he will always be a work-in-progress; and that I love him and respect him continually through that process.  He deserves that knowledge.  Not because I’m a biased mom (though I am that).  Definitely not because he’s reached perfection.  But because God has set him apart to be loved and respected.  And that’s more than enough.  His identity is already defined by his Father.  He’s not perfect at 7.  Would you expect him to be?  Do you love him, enjoy him, or respect him less because of his imperfection?  Hardly.  That must be how God sees me, too.  I’m not perfect at 31, either.

Happy Birthday, my little Frog!

What’s in your Deck?

Posted in Growing Leaders, Parenting on April 29, 2010 by charleecat

I have often been plagued with feelings of not measuring up…in so many areas of life.  Mostly, it was in my looks as a teenager… and lack of friends… and lack of pop culture knowledge.  Later it was in my finances… and ability to be a wife… and how good of an example of Christ I was…. But the most painfully obvious one at present, is parenting.  I tend to feel like I must be failing as a parent as I see my kids having the same issues over and over and over.  And my response is far from perfect most of the time.  Sometimes, I’ll have bright moments where I feel like I am walking in obedience, and if I fail, God’s grace covers it and it’ll all work out in the end.  Then typically, I’ll hear another mom or dad talk about their kids and what they’re doing in the training process, or they’ll give me a piece of their experienced mind (in a sincere intention of love) that ends up making me feel like my parenting is… less than it should be.  And that perhaps they are looking at my kids and wondering if Mike and I are really doing what we should be doing.  And that if they were raising my kids, they would probably have better behaved children.  Usually, I don’t think these things in full thoughts, but just general impressions that make me want to get out of the situation, hide away from the world and try to bring things up to everyone else’s (or at least everyone that I respect) perceived expectations and then on that illusive day when everything is perfect… then we can show our faces to those people again.  But I don’t actually act on those feelings.  I just…want to.

I recently was faced with something that made me realize we don’t, and shouldn’t – I mean really shouldn’t, not just theoretically shouldn’t- try to raise our kids to someone else’s standards, or expectations, or hopes, or beliefs.  God did not give our kids to anyone but us.  Yeah, I’ve had that thought multiple times, but it hasn’t helped me feel any better about things.  But here’s the reality: our kids need us to raise them the way God is leading us for them.  If we were to raise our kids to a stricter, or looser standard because of the way He may be directing someone else to train up their kids… it could potentially damage our own kids, and the specific destiny He has purposed for them!

So here’s the picture I got.  It really helped me to see things differently.  I don’t know if it’ll make sense for you, but it is helping me derail my comparison mentality.

Each person is dealt a different hand of cards.  You may be playing the same game, but you weren’t dealt the same hand.  Each hand must, by nature of the cards, be uniquely different.  And to win the game, you must work with the hand you have.  If you are dealt cards that lend themselves to be a Full House, you could lose out on a great Full House if you try to rip it apart to try to build a Large Straight.  If your hand is nearly a Straight, you would be foolish to look at your neighbor’s confidence in their Full House, and split apart your hand to play a meager Full House.  You cannot try to play your hand like someone else’s hand.  If you do, you will lose.  You must play your hand to the best advantage of what you were dealt.  Play it right, and you win.

Alright, so a very simplified explanation of parenting, but it made sense to me.  And suddenly, it’s ok if I choose to do something that’s very different from those people I most respect.  If I know we are obeying God to our best knowledge (after all, I will be giving account to Him for my actions anyway, and telling Him that I trained my kids like So-And-So was training hers isn’t going to be a very strong answer), then it doesn’t matter if it “measures up” to what they are doing.  I’m not playing their hand.  I’m playing mine.

How are you playing your hand?

Angry Brother vs. Strong Champion

Posted in Growing Leaders, Parenting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2010 by charleecat

The conversation with my son “Frog” started with intense frustration, desperation, and a good amount of anger.  Yes, I know… a key indicator that you are not in a place to handle a situation with your kid is when you are angry.  The thought did, in fact, cross my mind that I should have him sit down somewhere and I go somewhere else and calm down and pray.  But I didn’t.  And while he explained his reasoning for why he hit his brother (again), I was so incredibly frustrated because we’ve had this converation over and over and over and over!

GOD!  WHAT IS WRONG?  WHY ISN’T HE GETTING IT?  WHAT DO I SAY TO HIM TO MAKE HIM SEE THE NEED TO CHANGE, AND THEN REMEMBER IT WHEN HE’S IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS OWN FRUSTRATION??? HELP!!

Barely holding on to my ability to listen to him, I try to also have the ability to listen to the Holy Spirit so I can catch on to any new idea He brings my way (don’t tell me you don’t have those days that you have been pushed so far you can hardly even think anymore… nothing seems to work anyway!)  HELP, GOD!  HELP!  My prayers were not well thought out… nothing super-spiritual about it.  But He heard my heart, and the inner groaning of a mother’s despair at getting through to her treasured child.  And unaware that He was already at work, I started explaining to Frog that he and his brother “Monkey” are different.

I’ve never had this conversation with any of my kids before.  I don’t know why… I guess it’s just never come up.  But I visually explained to him with gestures, big facial expressions that made him laugh, and words that he apparently understood that Monkey’s feelings are a lot bigger than his.  Monkey’s feelings are so big, in fact, that it’s hard for him to contain them in his little body.  He has been learning his whole life to have some measure of control, but when his feelings get too strong, he can hardly contain them within his frame and they start shooting out in ways he doesn’t probably even intend.  Monkey has been learning so much in the last few months, and is really doing so much better at trying to communicate with reasonable conversation.  But I tell you what, you ignore him, and those emotions go into hyper-overload.  I am not exaggerating.  HYPER-overload.

Monkey is the sweetest, most lovable little guy you could meet.  My little cuddle-bear!  His love drips from his lips as he compliments and esteems us all day long.  But you cross that little boy, and tell him something that he doesn’t want to hear and his little Me-Monster jumps into overdrive and he can barrel down almost any unsuspecting adult.  He brings one of the greatest adventures to our lives!

Frog has a tendency to feel like he can always do what he wants.  Many times, his ideas are the most fun, and with his persuasive personality he typically finds it easy to direct the flow of events.  Monkey, however, sometimes has a mind of his own and when Frog tries to manipulate by ignoring little Monkey and proceeding with his plans… well… you can imagine the fallout.

So back to my conversation… I explained to Frog how God made no mistake by putting such a capable, understanding loving boy as the oldest of our troup.  God knew that Frog would be fully able to come alongside Monkey and help him.  Help Monkey learn to control his feelings and to channel them in a productive way.  The ways he can help, are to listen to Monkey;  let Monkey know that his feelings are important;  look for ways to teach him new things;  include him.  Frog seemed to understand.  If my brain was not too addled at the time, I believe I even remember Frog thanking me for explaining all this to him.  So after instructing him to go apologize to  Monkey for ignoring him, Frog spent the rest of the day bringing peace to our home.

Yes, peace.  My sweet Frog now had a motivation for being a true friend and brother to Monkey, because the Holy Spirit revealed to him that his brother is not only different than himself, but also containing extreme emotions that neither he nor I fully understand.  But it is what it is.  And as Frog has been championing Monkey (and even helping me to deal with him better), Monkey has started championing Frog.  What a delight for this Mommy to see!

And I have to admit – the visual explanation I gave Frog has also been helping me to see Monkey differently as well.  But having Frog on my side has been the most tremendous help of all.

THANK YOU, GOD!  I REALLY NEEDED YOU TODAY.

Treasure in the Mail

Posted in Gathering My Thoughts, Uncategorized with tags on April 13, 2010 by charleecat

I was so excited that I actually checked the mail!  Two days earlier, I received word from Christa (designer and seamstress of Amazing Gracie) that she had finished my Dove’s new designer outfit and it was in the mail!  I had a feeling it would arrive that day, and no sooner had the mailman stopped at our box, I was out there with 3 of my kids trailing me and Voila!  the beautiful outfit had arrived!

Excitedly, I unwrapped the parcel and was initially in love – well, admittedly I had fallen in love on the website.  (Yes, I was so entranced, I had to take pictures of each stage of the process.  Bear with me, as I take you with  me reliving the fun!)

First, I donned the underdress on my baby girl.   Next, she modeled the adorable checkered pants.


I realized that this precious outfit is reminiscent of the dresses of old that seem so modestly becoming.  Yet, Amazing Gracie takes the antique and Naartjie-fies it!  So sweet!  Not all of Amazing Gracie’s outfits have the old-fashioned apron, but I have a weakness for such things.

And the finished product:

Yes, “cute” hardly does justice to my little Dove!

The size I requested was 18-24 months, which is right where my Dove is: 18 months.  The pants seemed a tad snug in the rear with her diaper, and the bodice was snug as well.  My hope, is that with the elastic fittings, the snugness won’t become too tight for her to wear all summer and into fall.

(The beautiful “pretties” in her hair are by Violets in Bloom!)

I also love the fact that there are different variations I can use with this outfit (though I didn’t put her through all the changes for pictures – she was more in the mood to play!).  I can remove the underdress for a sleeveless, tank-top type version, or keep the underdress and rid the pants for a cool summer dress look.  If I had other AG apron tops, I could vary those over the underdress (but I might be able to use current stuff for that, as well… maybe a sweet sweater for the spring).  And if I have a dress or shirt that is cute enough, I could match it with the pants.  Versatility!  Right up my alley.

Having a girl is…addicting.

My Husband Cooked ALL Weekend!

Posted in Industrious on March 31, 2010 by charleecat

This past weekend, my husband blessed me in a way I think only a full-time stay at home and homeschooling mom, with the top “love language” of Acts of Service, can fully appreciate.

Friday night, after some friends left our house, I asked Mike to do breakfast in the morning so I could sleep in.  This is not something unheard of, but admittedly infrequent in my house.  My throat was starting to hurt, and I wanted to do what I could to ward off sickness by getting some extra sleep.  Though I was unable to sleep in (I guess my body is too used to getting up early), Mike still  let me lie in bed while he took care of breakfast.  Later, he offered to make lunch before we hustled our children up to my parent’s house for a sleepover (YAY!).  I wasn’t about to pass up on that offer.

We came back home after dropping our children off and… fell asleep on the couch!  So much for going and doing as we usually take such opportunities to do!  But while I continued to doze on the couch, coming in and out of consciousness, I realized my sweet husband was getting stuff ready for dinner.  And not just any dinner of heated up chicken nuggets (which I would have appreciated nonetheless) but he remembered I had suggested us working together to cook a semi-gourmet dinner at home – and he decided to give it a shot on his own!  He is NOT a regular cook, mind you, and typically gets flustered by some of the most basic meals when it falls to his responsibility.  So I was exceptionally blessed and feeling loved when he went to all that effort to make a fabulous meal!

Needless to say, he was scoring points big time that day, and reaped the benefits of my adoration! 🙂

The next day, he continued his pattern and made a special breakfast for the two of us.  Lunch was leftovers, and dinner was served at my mom’s house.  A solid of weekend of not cooking!

And not only did he MAKE the meals; he CLEANED the kitchen spotlessly afterwards! (With one exception of the evening meal… he got his mom to clean up after that one!)

This was one of the best weekends of my YEAR!  On par with our getaway to Santa Cruz in January.

You are such a blessing in my life, Mike!  I love you!