Thursday, August 26, 2010

SCHOOL DAYS

I know a LOT of people have already started back to school, so this is a moot post for most, but for my Benito, school starts on Tuesday (which we are both SOOOO excited about!). I found this ADORABLE teacher gift and knew I had to make it. I'm usually not crafty at all, but one of my friends and several of the blogs she visits has inspired me!


We went to Bennett's "Meet the Teacher" today, and these will be their beginning of the year gifts. They're easy to make and you can get most of your supplies at the dollar store. The link for the tutorial can be found HERE.

Our family is really excited about Bennett's school year. I've prayed a LOT about whether to keep him home with me, put him somewhere, where to put him, etc. I want the Lord's direct hand in his education and raising, and I want him to be somewhere he can flourish and thrive and feel proud of who he is and who God is molding him to be. When we went to his little meeting today, I felt such peace and joy about his teachers and his class and the experience he will have there this year. He's going two days a week from 9am-12pm, which is just enough time for him to learn new things and socially interact, and to give me a small break and some one-on-one time for Jasper, but it doesn't eat up our whole week. I believe this will richly bless our family, and Bennett already talks all the time about his teachers and the things he's seen and done up there on our visits. Watching him get excited is so exciting! Greater things have yet to come!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

BENDS AND FORKS IN THE ROAD

This post will be horribly, terribly cryptic and short (fair warning). I confess I don't really have words for what I want to say right now. First I'll say it's amazing how you can feel high as a kite for a short spell, and just as quickly plunge down into discouragement and frustration. I know without a doubt that I am being attacked. A lot of things swirling around in my life right now that are unsettling and hard, and in true fashion, they've all come up at once. It's at times like these that I'm thankful to be a follower of Christ. His ways are perfect. When I'm not sure which way to turn next, He takes such good care of me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

THE LORD'S TABLE

For 53 days now, I have been doing a study called "The Lord's Table." It is a 60-day bible study found on settingcaptivesfree.com, and is centered around becoming free from the sin of gluttony. I can't say it any more bluntly than that. This is the study I've referred to in a couple of blog entries. It has truly, completely changed my life.


First, for the superficial, fleshly, selfish benefits of this study. I've lost 10 lbs. and will continue to lose weight without a doubt, until I reach whatever weight it is that's ideal for my height/body type because of the way this has changed my outlook and relationship with food. I have more energy. I can eat whatever I want, within the godly, controlled boundaries that are biblical and right. The weight will stay off. I don't have to worry about that anymore.

And the spiritual, in depth, lasting benefits: I have a thirst and a desire for the Word of God that I have NEVER experienced in my life before. Ever. I am closer to God, and He speaks to me clearly more often than He ever has (because I'm finally listening!). I have rid myself of the idol of food. I am working on ridding myself of other things that take up too much time and space in my life, and God is working on me in other specific areas of my attitude/spirit as well. I have never understood more clearly what Jesus did for me, and what He still does for me, how alive He is, and how potent His words are. I never knew how alive and active the Word of God is until now. I never knew how to humble myself and lean on God's strength and provision as He is teaching me now. I have never prayed for others and had a heart for others as I do now. And with all I have learned, I am THRILLED to know that my journey of learning will never end! God teaches me new things each and every day I commit my life to Him, and that will go on and on, and this is exciting to me. All of these things are gifts from the Lord, fruits of the Spirit that have come from ridding my life of habitual sin, from the grace and mercy of God, and from focusing on and persevering in the Lord Jesus Christ.

All of that said, here is why I began this study, and why it has taken me so long to write this post.

I knew about a year ago that I had a real problem. I'd eat when I wasn't hungry, when I was sad, mad, stressed, bored, excited, celebrating, in a social situation, etc. etc. I'd eat because I was out and about with the boys and something just sounded good. I'd eat because I "deserved" it after the day I'd had. I'd eat to reward myself, I'd eat to punish myself. Pretty much, I turned to food for all the answers. And last fall (almost a year ago) God began showing me this. I was convicted, and I felt like God was telling me something big would have to happen to change this. I had been stagnant and slow in my spiritual life for far longer than I want to admit, and this, along with my sin, was painful to acknowledge, especially when coupled with my pride. But I researched online and found a book about an abstinence diet. Pretty much it talked about how scientifically, some people have chemicals in their brains that react more strongly and make you addicted to food. Like you can't help yourself or have self-control if you eat certain foods. I thought, "That's me!" So I stringently, faithfully began the diet, which meant NO fats, sugars or wheat of ANY kind. You also had to weigh and measure EVERYthing. This led to a very time consuming, very money consuming way of life, and after a month, I just couldn't keep it up anymore. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. Besides that, I was literally, LITERALLY gagging down my food. It was miserable. So after that flopped completely, I decided to try a website called sparkpeople.com, which is very similar to Weight Watchers, but it's counting actual calories, rather than points that represent calories. You plug in everything - your food, your exercise, etc. etc., and when your balance is what it should be, you lose weight. That didn't really get off the ground either. Because my problem wasn't with my weight. My problem - as God so mercifully revealed to me this summer - was a sin problem with food. Amazingly, God has even used the book He gave me the ideas and material to write, to keep a firm grip on me, and continue reminding me that I had a big problem, and that He is the only answer.

This summer I was shown the website settingcaptivesfree.com and looked at The Lord's Table study. It made me nervous, but I took the plunge and started it, desperate to really be free from my unhealthy relationship with food. Even as I began, I thought, this is going to be yet another gimmick, another disappointment, and I'm going to come out of it even more miserable than before. So I was shocked and WONDERFULLY surprised when I did my first day's study, and it was completely, utterly centered around the glory of the Lord, and made it clear that it's not about me, and I can't overcome habitual sin on my own strength or will power, but I can do it with Jesus Christ. I was immediately relieved. From there, it taught about the power and potency of the Word of God in a way I've never heard or experienced before, and that is what has changed my life.

It has taken me a while to write this, because I'm still flawed, I'm still a human of the flesh who messes up, makes mistakes, etc., and I don't want to boast in myself in ANY way. I am also not pointing fingers or sitting in judgment of anyone. I am writing this to boast in Jesus Christ, and the way He, in His loving kindness, healing grace, and the power of His blood, has truly set me free from a lifetime of the habitual sin of gluttony. He has done this, and is continuing this good work in me, and I write this to glorify His name for setting me free and righting my priorities. The idol of food has been crushed in my life, and it's yet another miraculous healing in my life that I give praise to God for.

I write this to say, if you struggle with food, if you have a relationship with food, if you are dependent on food in any way (or anything else, for that matter), if you eat in excess habitually (which is the definition of gluttony), I encourage you to check out this website. It's Christ-centered, bible based, and God is using it as His tool to set free thousands of people from the things in life that bind and trap them.

I have lost weight and am continuing to do so, and yes, this is a wonderful by-product, but even more than that, I am face to face with Jesus, and He is doing a great work in my life, all thanks to Him!

I'll end this post with several scriptures and several quotes that I've saved from the study:

1 Corinthians 6:12

For all things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.


Psalm 73:25-26

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


Psalm 23:1-6

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.



When we truly believe in Jesus, we are essentially saying ‘Jesus, I believe you will give me food which will satisfy me eternally, and I do not need to overeat to be satisfied.’" --The Lord's Table Study


“Fasting is not a no to the goodness of food or the generosity of God in providing it. Rather, it is a way of saying, from time to time, that having more of the Giver surpasses having the gift. Food is good. But God is better.” -John Piper, A Hunger for God


“Let us note another one of Satan's goals in tempting us. He wants us to doubt our relationship with God, and to focus on meeting our own needs without Him. The devil hates anything requiring humility and dependence upon God, and loves to tell us of our own self-sufficiency. Satan's goal in tempting a Christian is to overthrow his relationship to God and to cut off his dependence on the Lord.” --The Lord's Table Study


"Feeding on Jesus Christ is the way out of slavery to sinful habits! As we become full of Him, through meditating on the Bible and living it out, we discover our freedom. Freedom follows fullness."

--The Lord's Table Study


"Here is a truth to memorize: To truly stop overeating habits, ongoing intimacy with God is required."

--The Lord's Table Study



There may be a whole bunch of you who read this and think, "What on earth?!" and don't understand what I'm talking about, or have never had a serious struggle like this. Praise God that you haven't! But I'm writing this as a testimony to encourage anyone else who has been through this as well, and for anyone who has been waiting to find the answer to their problem: the answer is God - His Word, His Truth, His freedom. And this study I've done focuses on all of this specifically. If you need help with something that has way too much control in your life, I encourage you to check out the website. It calls for biblical radical change, and rightly so, because God has used this study to radically change thousands of lives, and I will be thankful for the rest of my life that I'm one of them.


P.S. If you have any questions or want to know more, feel free to ask. I'm not ashamed to share where I've been because it's part of my testimony, and it reveals how real and true God's glory and power are, all the more.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

LAST DAY

This past Thursday was our last day this summer to go to the water park. Bennett would rather be there than anywhere else, and by the end of the summer, Jasper really enjoyed it, too. On Tuesdays, me and Bennett went by ourselves while my mom watched Jasper (thanks, Mom!), and we did pretty much whatever B wanted to do. On Thursdays we went again, but Jasper and Mimi came too. This last week, we ended the trip with the much anticipated (and highly overrated) trip to the Dippin' Dots ice cream parlor within the water park (can you say "yuck"?). Bennett and Jasper both loved the ice cream, so me and my mom just smiled and watched them enjoy themselves. I'm looking forward to next summer when both my boys are thrilled to be there and running all over the place like lunatics :) Here are some pictures of our last day:









Thursday, August 19, 2010

A RUDE AWAKENING

A horrific thing happened to me this morning upon waking, possibly even worse than the time I woke up to the feeling of a MOUSE biting my finger (for more on that, read THIS).


This morning, at the crack of dawn, I woke up to a tickling sensation on my shoulder. I scratched, and the feeling promptly moved down to my collarbone. So I move my hand again, and touched a COCKROACH. Oh. My. GROSS!!! I screamed, squished, and tossed it across the room, all at about the same time.

The funny thing about it (once I calmed down, of course), was that when I looked at the clock, it read 6:30am. And the funny thing about THAT is that God has been waking me up at 6:30am for a couple of weeks now, prompting me plain as day to get up and read His Word and spend more time with Him. But I kept putting Him off because I'm already doing a bible study each morning (at 7:00am) that has truly changed my life (more about that very soon), and when the boys nap each day, I spend my time feeding on the Word and praying. So I felt like I was already doing what I needed to do....

Needless to say, I had a wonderful time with the Lord this morning...at 6:30am. :) God is good to be so persistent and to insist on what He knows is best for us, even if it does take a neck-crawling cockroach to get my attention (though the beauty of God's goodness doesn't lessen the horrific nature of the experience one bit).

Note to self: Do not ever tell God that you're doing enough and that where you're at is just fine, thank you very much, because that's when Mr. Cockroach (or some other rude awakening) comes to call. And also, I'm not above learning from past experiences. I'm thinking maybe Michael and I should switch the sides of the bed we sleep on. Then he can get nibbled on by vermin and visited by the world's most disgusting bugs :).


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER

God just keeps the blessings coming, so I keep on posting. Our family has been drenched in a downpour of wonderful things lately.


First up, JASPER TOOK HIS FIRST STEPS TODAY!!
A baby's first steps are always a big, exciting deal, but for this little guy, it's especially momentous. I've been praying for about two weeks specifically that God would strengthen his little legs and give him the desire to walk. And today HE DID IT!! I clapped and hollered and danced with him, but he didn't look at me like I was crazy one time (the boy LOVES verbal praise) - he basked in it and loved it so much, he repeated his little performance over and over again (always one to two steps, but it's HUGE progress!). I almost cried because I've been waiting so long for this day, and feared it wouldn't come without another trip to the doctor and being told he needs physical therapy along with the rest of the laundry list of work we're doing with our little dude. But God answered my prayers, and I really think He did it just cause He loves me. Thanks, God! I needed the encouragement!

Next up, just a precious thing that happened with my Bennett this evening. I've had a headache most of the afternoon/evening, and was laying down on our bed when B came in and asked what was wrong. I told him I had a headache and he said, "It's okay, Mom. God will take care of you. He will help you when you pray to him." I asked Bennett if he wanted to pray to God about it for me, and he said, "Yes, I've been learning how to pray." Then he proceeded with this: "Dear God, please help Mommy to feel better, and no dreams, and please heal her headache, God. In Jesus' name, amen." The dreams part is in reference to about a week-long phase he went through when he was having bad dreams every night, and we told him that he can pray to God and ask Him to take away the dreams, and God will do that for him. Ever since then, it hasn't been a problem at all. There is nothing more beautiful than hearing a prayer from a child's heart, and my heart is full of the knowledge that my sweet boy is learning to love the Lord.

Finally, I've got a couple of cute videos to share. The first is some play time with Michael and Bennett (pardon Michael's shirtlessness - ninjas can't be bothered with such things, ya know), and the second is Bennett reciting the three Rules of Respect with hand motions that Michael created, which have worked fabulously.

Ninjas
video


R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to B
(love me some Aretha!)
video


Monday, August 9, 2010

LOVE

Those of you who know the history of Michael and I's relationship, know just how far we've come, and that our journey truly is miraculous. God took us out of a dark, bottomless pit and set our feet on the Rock. His tender mercies served as a mirror to reflect the work that needed to be done, and His strength and power and love for us has brought us to where we are today. Our marriage would not be intact without God's miraculous intervention, and without a LOT (I repeat, a LOT) of hard work on our parts as individuals and as a couple. But because of all this, on our 7th anniversary, we are in a sweet, sweet place.


My husband is the most patient, hard-working, gentle, helpful man I know. And my heart overflows with thankfulness for him and the man God has made him on an almost daily basis. Especially today. (got those barf bags ready?)

This is a list of seven things I absolutely adore, admire, respect and love about my husband (there are more, but we've stuck with sevens all weekend, so I'll continue today :) ):

1. Michael is so FUNNY. He has this goofy, charming sense of humor that keeps us both feeling young, and helps me see the bright, ridiculous side of just about any situation. He can cheer me up and lift me up SO quickly, and his desire to entertain fits my love for laughing perfectly. Our kids love it, too. His silliness provides hours of entertainment for the whole family. :)

2. He takes care of me. I feel secure, provided for, and safe with this man - emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually. He is an excellent provider, and it's easy to trust him to take good care of me and our family.

3. He is a naturally gifted Daddy. This might be one of the most amazing, admirable things to me about him. He is such a strong presence in the lives of our boys. He loves them so deeply, plays with them so hard, disciplines them so well, guides them spiritually, and teaches them important things about what it means to be a man, to name a few. I've come to believe that we have two boys because he is such an unbelievable "boy daddy." No doubt that he would be excellent with a little girl as well, but he truly is gifted with Bennett and Jasper. I sit back and watch Michael with them and again feel my heart fill up on a regular basis. On the technical aspect, some of the things he does that I know not all daddies do include: giving a nightly bath, taking over with the boys 2-3 times a week (sometimes more!) when I go out with my friends, or exercise, or need a break, etc, plays with the boys (especially Bennett) from the minute he gets home from work, takes them on outings unexpectedly and without being asked, shows Bennett how to use tools, how to mow, how to play certain sports, etc.

4. He's got my back. We're partners, and we help each other out. When I'm dragging, or really tired, or just need a break from the craziness of mommyhood, Michael is so quick to suggest I take a few hours or an afternoon to myself. And he thinks nothing of it. It's important to him because he wants me to be in a good place.

5. He lets me be the barometer of our relationship. If I say something is off, or something is hurtful, or something needs to be worked on, he validates my feelings and takes me seriously. We talk about it, we work it out, we form a plan, and things get dealt with. He cares about the things I care about.

6. I say this a LOT, but it's SO true. My husband is such a HARD worker! In the past several years, he has worn 4-5 hats at the school he teaches at: teaching 2-3 preps, in charge of chapel every day, running tech support for the ENTIRE campus, doing his principal internship this year, etc. And besides that, he has always had a part-time job in the summer, or taken hours and hours of grad classes, or BOTH. He has also been taking grad classes throughout the school year for several years. He has his masters of education, and is working on certification in 2-3 other areas, as well as finishing up his principal's certification this year, all to provide, all to help our family grow.

7. We share the same dreams. Which I've realized over the years in talking with other couples, is a pretty amazing thing. We both have a heart for children. We both want to adopt, and possibly foster someday. We both want to help children who are not as fortunate, who need love and a home. We both desire a home with a lot of kids (4+). And this is completely doable and realistic for our family because he is so involved and so helpful and sacrificial. We have the same goals, spiritually, financially, in disciplining our children, for the future, etc.

Thank you, Lord, for this man I love - for making him my husband, and for guiding my choice before I really even understood what I was choosing. Thank you for the way you have molded and shaped us to be two parts of a whole that is made more like you because we have each other. Thank you for these seven years, and I ask that the next seven will bring us even closer to you and closer together.

Friday, August 6, 2010

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

Our seventh wedding anniversary is on Monday, the 9th, but we've been celebrating this weekend. My parents took the boys Friday night (THANKS, Mom and Dad!), and we won't be picking them up until Sunday morning at church. HOLLA!! So what have we been up to?

A little bit of this...


And some of this....


And this, too....


And of course, a whole lotta this....

It's amazing how QUIET things are around here. I have to confess, I'm LOVING the time with my husband, and the break from motherly duties, but it's funny how much I miss my rascally boys at the same time!

The mushy-gushy post about how much I love and adore my husband (seriously) is coming Monday, on our actual anniversary. Don't forget your barf bag. I won't hold back.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

SAND-EATING PIRATE

Sand-eating

Pirate.

Arrrggh.


SWEET SEASON

Our family has entered a very sweet stretch of time that I've been soaking up and enjoying for the past couple of weeks.

Jasper is growing up and becoming more independent. I have a great deal of peace about his upcoming eye surgery (Sept. 22nd), and he is SO CLOSE to walking. He stands independently without hanging on to anything and thinks it's a great trick (Mommy agrees!). When we go to the church playscape or bounce house, he thinks he's as big as his brother and climbs up and in and through things. He is a lot more curious and exploratory than Bennett ever was. I also discipline him when he fusses/whines at me (by saying "No fussing," in a firm voice, and if he's still out of control about it after that, he goes to bed for a short "rest out," which calms him down pretty quick). This has REALLY helped around our house. I'm no longer chased after with crocodile tears and I'm not fussed at half as much as I was. He's now using his words to communicate a LOT more, which has also greatly increased his vocabulary (yay!).

Michael came up with a three-step rule system of respect that Bennett recites, complete with hand motions, and it has made a wonderful difference in his whining and occasional tantrums as well. I'll try to get a video of it and post it soon. He holds himself in check most of the time, even in difficult, tired situations. I'm SO proud of him. We've also been having some intense theological discussions over the past couple of weeks (for a three-year-old) about the devil and heaven and hell, and why Satan chose to be evil, what he tries to do to hurt us, etc. etc. It still amazes me how MY faith is always stretched in these conversations, and how much my Benito gleans from our talks. He is also fascinated by baptism (ever since my twin 13-year-old cousins were baptized several weeks ago) and cheers on people at church when they make the decision to do it. It brings me so much joy to watch and be a part of my little boy's growing heart for the Lord.

Together the boys play more easily and have fun together as a little team. In the early mornings when they both get up, we all go outside and play for a while, then come back in to eat breakfast, and then we take turns playing in each of their rooms. Bennett and Jasper play hide and seek, peek-a-boo, take rides on Bennett's riding horse, play with Bennett's cars and car garage, do puzzles, stack and knock down blocks, wrestle, etc. etc. And they both LOVE it, which I love, of course.

(taking a little "nap" together - they do this every afternoon, silly boys)


(outside in the morning...before things get messy)

In general, going out in public is easy now, and even fun (imagine that!). And beyond that I'm delighting in watching the way my boys interact. Riding home from our play date this morning, I watched them in the rearview mirror as they shared a frosty from Wendy's. They were both grinning and laughing at each other, and loving being buddies. Not all seasons are like this, that's for sure, but I'm taking this one in and enjoying every bit of it. I am so very thankful.