For me, to live.

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Sometimes I feel as if I am just barely keeping my head above the water.

I feel as if I am completely unequipped to handle my life.

Two kids – and here I am feeling all guilty because I really don’t know if I can ever have anymore and make it while also feeling like a terrible person for being almost completely unwilling to be pregnant again. All the while feeling completely overwhelmed with the life that having even two kids creates. The health issues, the growing four year old attitude, the exhausting fiery personalities, the speech delays, the discipline, the schedules, the laundry, the cooking, the trying-to-go-grocery shopping…the baths, the potty-training, the constantly applying Nantucket Spider Bug Spray.

The decisions- what to do, and when to do it and why to do it. And are you sure that you should do it? But what if this happens instead, what do you do then? And where and why and how all over again. Then the doubt. Oh doubt…

There are so many things. Relationships. Career choices. Friendships. Family. Life.

Life.

Maybe it’s just that I am home for the summer. I sometimes wonder if I am just a better person all together when I am working. But then the guilt sets in and I feel like a terrible mother for even thinking that.

I feel like I am in an endless cycle of waking up, Mr. Aksel waking up ten seconds later and screaching “Mummmmmmaaaaaaaaa”, fighting with my four year old about what to have for breakfast while my two year old is repetitively whining “can-cakes, ‘ausage” and proceeding to scream when I tell him we are having raisin toast.

And I just wonder.

Am I doing something wrong? Am I the only one who wakes up and winds up arguing with my children, even though I began the day with such resolve to be a calm, patient mother who blinks and magically calms her children and bends their will to hers.

It’s just exhausting, you know?

Proceed to finish breakfast when the children run off with sticky hands, drifting them all over your walls and kitchen cabinets as they gleefully run away from you. And before you know it you are wrestling trains and Elsa Barbies from their hands and half carrying them half dragging them up the stairs to brush their teeth and twist some clean clothes on – all the while hoping that you didn’t put someone’s pants on backwards.

And you spend the rest of the morning coaxing them to drink their water.

And there is no joy.

Because as soon as you collect your thoughts and resolve yet again to be a happy, calm person, you hear a fight break out.

And suddenly your life becomes some sort of raging tumult that resembles both screaming fans at a country concert and the crashing and banging of cars at a demolition derby.

So instead of enjoying playing with the trains, you are swiftly plucking them from sticky-again hands before they become catapult ammunition.

And I just wonder.

Why? Why me? Why can’t I have easy going kids? Or is it me? Did I make them like this?

So on a whim in an effort to calm the screaming-demolition-craziness you half begging half bribe them to go outside with you and play. Which is all happy and jolly until someone gets sand stuck between their toes, and the chickens start clucking and the four year old causes the two year old to believe that impending doom is near because the chicken are doing their scared cluck…so Armageddon is near! And everyone is running screaming and crying or semi-evily laughing back into the house and you are just standing there with weeds in your hand wondering….will I ever get anything accomplished EVER in my life?

Before you know it lunch is upon you. And you must know how this goes. It’s like a portal to another dimension – the window of opportunity for lunch time only lasts for a specific amount of time. Miss it – your toast. Try it too soon – you’re still toast.

So you end up bribing little Miss with a penny if she just sits down and eats her Annie’s Shells & Cheddar. And Mr. Aksel ends up sitting on you, spilling his milk down your shorts because  you bumped elbows as you were trying to shovel  your own food into your own mouth while simultaneously giving him a bite of his macaroni. I mean, he’s not going to insist upon sitting with me when he it ten, right? And by insist I mean scream and shout and throw his food and flat out refuse to eat. I can’t wait to tell his girlfriend about his childhood…

And finally, FINALLY rest time is here!

A half an hour, maybe longer if you’re lucky.

But instead of taking a nap or reading a book, there I am. At the computer. Working away on grad-school assignments in record time. I love school. But I’m not going to pretend…it’s downright hard when you have kids. Sometimes I look at other people, and I wish my life was like theirs. Two kids is hard.Two kids and grad-school is like climbing Mt. Everest. I guess we all have things we are called to do, and God allowed grad-school to call my name. So homework during rest time it it.

On a good day, Mr. Aksel wakes up happy as a lark.

Those days are few and far between.

Like maybe once in a blue moon (do we even have those?)

Most of the time when he wakes up from a nap he resembles a mummy emerging from a stasis-pod that he has been in for 20 million years.

If I could, I’d be on Mars.

But I can’t, because I’m his mother, and someone has to help the grumpy mummy.

The short end of the straw.

So then we enter the post-nap phase which is comprised of fussing and whining and trying to crawl inside my skin because I just love mom so much and want her to take away all of my post-nap woes. And I want a cookie, but I don’t want a cookie, and I want a banana, but not that banana…on and on and on.

Until suddenly a switch flips.

Was it something I said? Something that I did?

Am I the only one with kids like this?!

And off he goes, running with his excavator in one hand and green blanket in another to join his sister.

But little Miss is NOT okay with this, because she has happily been playing peacefully without him and really, if you were her would you want some clumsy two year old brother stumbling into the playroom and knocking over your train bridge?

Nope. Not me.

Take another nap, Bud.

So that screaming concert demolition derby thing starts happening all over again.

Sometimes I just get so tired of being a referee that I just stop.

Barely keeping my head above the water.

On top of all the other demands of life. On top of all the stresses that life brings. On top of all the things that need doing…sometimes it just all seems like too much. Too much.

And I just can’t help but wonder…why? Why me?

There I am again. Fighting through dinner time. Because Mr. Aksel is going through this phase where we won’t eat unless he is sitting with me.

And that alone brings so much stress. Am I doing this wrong? Should I just not let him sit with me? But then he won’t eat? People must think I am an awful parent – letting my two year old win the battle.They must think that I’ve allowed him to be like this, that somehow, it is all my fault.

But he’s not going to sit with me forever. So for now, let’s just get through dinner.

After dinner is probably the best part of the day. For some reason every one is generally very calm.

Maybe they just got tired from the drama of the day.

Until bed time. And I literally have to say to myself over and over…be patient, be patient, be patient.

The trying to brush teeth and floss but he just spit his toothpaste out on my face! And she took my blanket and put it on her bed. And I don’t want my diaper but I don’t want to use the toilet, and not those pajamas I really just have to have the ones that are in the washing machine!

And the thousand and one kisses that I love to give but really, who has energy for a thousand kisses? Mr. Aksel, that’s who. Because mommy, I just want to be awake with you forever.

And little Miss who likes to relive the entire day just as you are about the walk out her bedroom door. And yes, it’s just easier to pretend to listen as you rattle off the post-bedtime to do list in you head.

Just keeping my head above the water.

Or can my feet really actually touch the bottom?

Maybe I’ve had it wrong this whole time.

Perhaps instead of floating along struggling to keep my head up, the bottom has been there all along.

Yet I’ve allowed my perspective to overwhelm me and failed to see the truth that all I needed to to was stretch out my legs and sink my feet into the sandy bottom of water that is actually calm, but became rough when I began to struggle in my effort to survive.

 

Wilt the seeds of wanting more
Rippin’ pride out by the roots
And if I’m still, let me hear You speak
Not the tone of my transgressions,
But the song of the Redeemed

Because perspective can make or break life. And wanting more than the life you have is a dangerous path to travel. Sometimes you just need to be still, and in those moments allow your spirit to be refreshed by the simple fact that no matter how awful your day was, not matter how much you struggled as a mother, the song that is your life is one of redemption.

My great desire is to be with You
But this is the place you chose for me
This is the place you chose for me
To lift my cross and give everything
This is the time you gave to me
This is the time you gave to me

Because let’s face it, heaven would be amazing. I don’t think it is possible for my kids to fight with each other there. But there is a time for everything. And now is my time to be a mother. And even when I feel completely unequipped and unworthy…this is place He chose for me. No matter how exhausting, how messy, how stressful and overwhelming.

This is the time He gave to me.

I’ll never be the same, I’ll never be the same
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain

So let my dreams of perfect parenting die as I strive to pour my heart and soul into the life that He designed for me and the time He has given me to live.

Yep, that’s me.

I just stuck out my legs and my feet hit bottom.

I’m not struggling to keep my head above water.

I’m living.

 

 

For By Grace

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Your grace, let it surround me,
Let faith change the atmosphere. – Remember, The Passion

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

2 Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Some days I find myself counting time relative to Kreade outgrowing his colic. Today I know so much more about why that first year of his life was so hard. More than a physical ailment, infant colic is often linked to temperament. Do I think that he suffered from tummy aches and discomfort for 11 months? Maybe. Do I think that his inherent personality contributed to his symptoms? For sure. Because most days even now Kreade can be difficult to live with.

Those days of waking up every 2-3 hours to nurse him  morning and night for eleven months straight seem so long ago. But I can never forget them. Those days of crying and bouncing and attempting to soothe will always stay with me. When Kreade cries now, at two years of age, all of the memories come flooding back.

And he is still so passionate in everything he does. Instead of tantruming because he wants to nurse, he tantrums in the grocery store when he has to sit in the shopping cart. Instead of crying because he couldn’t communicate what he needed or wanted as an infant, he still cries because language has been slow to come for him and we still don’t know what he needs or wants.

Honestly, I still wonder if he will ever make it one whole day without crying. It’s almost like his preferred method of communication. Like his emotions are just so overwhelming for things big and things that I perceive as small he just handles them by crying. He is all in or all out. Either screaming “Bye! Love you!” at the top of his lungs and being heard two miles away, or screaming “Nooooooooooo!” because he doesn’t want to leave and being heard four miles away.

It’s either Kreade’s way or no way. I wish that I could describe to you the volume, passion, and intensity of his tantrums. Which happen probably at least every hour that he is awake. And then there are his snuggles and hugs and kisses. He hugs with such effort and passion – you never want him to stop. He is the best hugger I know (except maybe for his Pa, could be that’s where he gets it from).

Some days he won’t eat because, well, because he doesn’t want to. Or because you gave him the wrong fork, not his Lightning McQueen fork. And he is so totally thrown off by this poor choice on your end he can’t calm down enough to even realize you quickly washed the Lightning fork and put it in his hand. Instead, he just keeps screaming and you skip straight to nap time and save lunch for when he wakes up.

I’ve never met a child like Kreade. And I have met a lot of children. I don’t think that there are many children out there like him. And he is already so misunderstood. I’ve gotten some nasty stares in the grocery store. And I’m sure that there are family and friends that think we are “spoiling” him. After all, he is two and really shouldn’t be crying so much all of the time. And while I’m sure that there are some things we could do better with him, I’d invite anyone who thinks we have created a naughty kid to spend a day with him. It’s not always that he means to be troublesome (although sometimes his intent is clear), he just is so different. Again, I wish that I could explain it. But those of you who have children who are passionate, spirited, and high-needs know exactly what I am talking about. Normal kids function on 100% and spirited kids function on 500%. No kidding.

And I refuse to completely break that spirit, because someday it is going to be such a good trait. He’ll go far, that boy, and do great things. Because he doesn’t take no for an answer and has the passion of probably a thousand suns, literally pouring his heart into everything he does. If you stop for a minute and block out the screams and tears and difficulty of the situation, your heart will realize the beauty of spirited children.

I wish that I was better at realizing the beauty in it all. But most days I still feel like I’m hanging on by a thread.

Parenting any child is hard and tiring. Parenting a spirited child is exhausting. EXHAUSTING! Exhausting!

Yesterday was a particularly rough day. it was rainy, and I was busy, and Kreade was extra loud and passionate (as in, running around with the slats I was trying to paint for his toddler bed hitting his sister on the head and laughing like he was at a Broadway show). I yelled and threatened and was so frustrated with him I almost cried.

Somedays, Kreade leaves me feeling like I’ll never be good enough.

I’ve been reading this book that my father in law let me borrow. I personally think that everyone should read it. I’ve been in tears through most of it. The stories of redemption and being saved from drug and other addictions by the love of Jesus are nothing short of a miracle. And they are beautiful, beautiful stories. The work that Teen Challenge does is amazing. I became interested in the subject of addiction after learning in one of my secular psychology classes that religious based addiction programs are significantly more effective than any other secular programs. Since then, this topic has really been on my heart.

And I love the stories.

These people have led hard lives. Lives fraught with doubt, anger, hardship, hopelessness, fear, regret… But it’s the hopelessness that stands out to me. And yet, one by one they finish their stories with voices that exude hope. As a reader, you can’t help but wonder how such an adverse life experience can end with a life full of hope.

It’s because of grace.

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their sanctification :  a virtue coming from God :  a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace : approval, favor, mercy, pardon.

I often wish that I had more of a ‘story’ to narrate my own life. It’s not that I am jealous of the hardship and heartbreak that these recovered addicts experienced. But I have often wished that I really knew just what I was saved from.

I don’t believe there is any greater way to understand and comprehend grace and forgiveness than to recover from addiction because of Jesus. Reading their stories causes me to look at Him with such awe for the exceptional act that grace in their lives is.

Approved of. Favored by. Extended mercy. Pardoned by God.

And while I do not have the experiences of an addict, I think that parenting might be the runner up when it comes to understanding and comprehending grace.

Not only do we, as Christian parents, have the privilege to extend grace to our children, we do so knowing that we ourselves have been covered in His grace.

Tried really hard but still had a bad day? Ended up yelling at your kids? Feeling exhausted and unworthy to be a parent? Feeling overwhelmed? Want to give up? Feeling bad that a choice or action or something you should have done but forgot to do is going to result in something catastrophic happening to your child as in maybe he will get chicken pox because I scheduled his immunization a month after the recommended time-frame or maybe she is going to catch a cold because I didn’t use the shopping cart cover in the grocery store and I really just feel like I suck at this whole parenting thing.

Grace.

No matter how much we mess up. No matter how much of a failure we think we are. No matter how inadequate we view ourselves as.

Grace.

Because He knows we are doing the best that we can.

You are favored by Him. You are approved of by Him. Mercy is extended to you by Him.

Even when your spirited two year old is screaming in the grocery store because you didn’t get to the race car shopping cart fast enough.

You are pardoned by Him.

All because of Grace.

So let’s remember that His grace is sufficient for us tired and weary parents. And that His strength is made perfect in our weakest moments – the ones where we just want to throw in the towel (or leave the grocery store crying along with our tantruming child).

And let’s remember that the POWER of Christs rests upon us.

And we can do this parenting thing!

Romans 5:19-21 NKJV

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Perfection & Professional Burnout

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
― Immanuel Kant

“The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.”
― Oscar Wilde

I had a very successful day at work on Monday. After two years of partnering with the family of one of my students, we finally got him to receive the services that he needs. Speech, integrated pre-k placement, the whole nine-yards. I was so happy. So relieved. And so excited that this little boy who, crazy as he is I totally love, will finally be given the chance that he needs to be successful in life. It was definitely a professional high. We fought long and hard for this to happen.

And then today rolls around. Even though the sun was shining as I drove in to work…I felt so burdened. This has been a really rough year. We had a training last week on Secondary Trauma. That pretty much sums up my school-year. So exhausted by the problems of everyone else, and so frustrated that there is only so much that I can do to help.

No matter how hard I try…it’s never enough.

And what about all those people out there? The ones who have suffered domestic violence. The children who are challenged by developmental delays and parents who possess limited skills and knowledge too.

We had a parent express her desire to become a lobotomist. From the bottom of her sweet, sincere heart she meant phlebotomist.

And I just feel so heartbroken for her. She has just beautiful dreams, but only time will tell if she possesses the ability to actually see them fulfilled. Though I doubt that they ever will. I guess we can’t all be rocket-scientists. And some of us can’t all be phlembotomists either. To each his own. And we all possess varying degrees of skills and abilities.

As I drove to work, I found myself wondering about the brokenness and lack of perfection in this world. It really is just not fair when you think about it. My heart started spontaneously communicating with The God Who Sees Me…me as I’m driving to work, surrounded by my own problems and worries. And I started asking why some have nothing and others have everything. Why I have hope while others have none. Why my dreams might come true, but theirs will not. Why God? Why can’t You just perfect the life of everyone around me?

And the truth always has a way of just staring you right in your face.

I already have.

I have already made a way. I am already making a place. And sometime soon, I will come and perfection will be once more.

Those truths that you have heard over and over again suddenly come flooding back to you. And it all starts to make sense. There will come a day. 

Maybe it’s not so much about attaining perfection here in this world. And maybe it is more about preparing to live in perfection in the world to come.

Maybe it’s not about helping others achieve a sense of perfection here and now, as it is about showing them the way to perfection that will last forever.

Still, there is only so much that I can do. I can’t force people to believe. But I certainly will alter the way that I pray.

Instead of praying that they will succeed in this world, I will also pray that their hearts will be willing to believe and that they will know the eternal perfection that only He can provide.

And I really hope to see the faces of these sweet people and their children that I work for alongside me in heaven someday soon.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

Ellie and Kreade, I want you always to remember that you can only do so much on this earth. Your heart has to do the rest. I pray that your hearts too will grow in faith so that you also will be perfected through His love. And as you learn to understand this, know too that you can only do so much for those around you. Their hearts have to do the rest also. So pray. Pray that they will know Him. So that one day we will be surrounded by the lives that we have touched during our imperfect life here on earth as we stand in awe of the One who has perfected eternity for us.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Adventure All The Way

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I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put the time in. -Roger Clemens

With self-discipline most anything is possible. -Theodore Roosevelt

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Oh my dear little Ellie girl. Only you are not so little anymore. Four years old now, and getting bigger and smarter every day!

In January we celebrated your Four-Years-Of-Amazing-Life on this earth.

In true Ellie fashion you planned an amazing birthday party that was anything but that which a stereotypical girl would want – Miles From Tomorrowland, space theme. We had planets and stars on the table. Planets and space-age shapes hanging from the ceiling. A rocket ship, pin the feathers on Merc, and Cosmic Cocoa. We had outerspace treats – Laserangs, Saturn’s Rings, Rocket Fuel…you get the picture.

And you were so happy. So very happy in your black leggings, bright orange Converse, and little boys size 5 Miles From Tomorrowland t-shirt.With braided pig-tails of course. And all your little friends running around with you.

I love how much you love space. Maybe you have the mind of a dreamer, just like your mama. You see the potential in people and things, and dream of all that can be. Adventure and excitement call your name.

As the song goes…Never could I go too far
Never could I fly too high
It’s all inside of me
Living out the dream
With my family

Adventure all the way
New places every day
Oh yeah, we’re going to zip
Gonna take a trip
In a rocket ship

We’re counting down
The engines on
The time is now to rocket!
Rocket!
Rocket!
Rocket!

Woa oh, I’m a hero to the core
And I’m going to explore
Way out!
Woa oh, No where ever is too far
I’m shooting through the stars
Way out!

Yes. Maybe you will be a dreamer too. Maybe your heart will long for adventure and excitement, for challenges and the sheer joy that follows with success. I see your beautiful little mind working even now, trying to figure out what life is, what your purpose in life is, and what to expect from life, what you can do in life.

“Why do you go to work, mommy?” Because that is what God has called me to do.

“Why does daddy go to work?” Because that is what God has called him to do.

“What is my job then?” Your job is to play and have fun. And to go to school and be kind and show God’s love to the kids there.

Your little wheels are turning, and even so young I see you yearning to know why. What? What am I here for? What do I do? What do I expect? 

But that’s the adventure my dear. You never know what to expect.

Life is the greatest adventure of them all.

And even I don’t know what life holds for you.

But never doubt, dearest, that you can go on that adventure. It is truly all inside of you – and you never can fly too high. You are a hero to the core – and you’re shooting to the stars.

So go explore. Go on some blastastic adventures. Live, and love, and fly, and dream. Because dreamers see where they want to go in life, and do everything they can to get there.

Always hold on to your dreams.

And no matter where your adventures take you, always know that you are never alone. For the One who has placed those dreams in your heart, and designed those adventures for you to experience, who sees you and loves you and knows you…will be there with you through it all.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

Superheros and Villains: In Which I Consider Good vs. Evil and How To Explain It To A Four-Year-Old

“In each of us, two natures are at war – the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose – what we want most to be we are.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

While watching the Bruins game with Klayton the other night a commercial for the new ‘Batman vs. Superman’ came on. 

Really? Come on.

I just find this whole notion completely ridiculous.

Superman is a hero. A super-hero. Literally, the definition of a superhero is ‘a very heroic person’. It implies all of the things that we secretly wish we could be – brave, strong, amazing, possessing supernatural powers, full of never-ending goodness, and a life-long devotion to protect the weak.

Superman can’t be evil.

He is a superhero. He is good.

This is like saying that a red car is blue, and continuing to insist that it is blue when it is really red.

I will never willingly watch this movie. The whole notion is absurd.

But I haven’t been able to get this whole topic of good and evil out of my head.

Good and evil surround us every day.

The other day in Hannaford’s we had the unfortunate experience of not getting one of the three Race Car shopping carts that both fit and entertain Ellie and Kreade. So, Kreade ended up riding solo in the ‘old fashioned’ shopping cart while Ellie had to tag along beside me. Ellie is a very cautious child, and she almost always follows the rules to a perfect T. She helped me fill the cart with bananas, lettuce, carrots, rice, and all of the other things that we needed. What a helpful little dear. But as we were nearing the end of one aisle and preparing to move on the the next she ran ahead of me, out of the aisle, and into the great unknown beyond the reach of my hand.

I had a moment of panic.

Yes, we live in a small town. But you just never know. 

You never know if the other people in the grocery store are truly good, or truly evil. And while you certainly hope and pray that they are all truly good, you really just never know…there could always be that one who is truly evil.

Good and evil surround us every day.

With Ellie now holding on the the shopping cart, and my mind racing all I can think is: how do you explain to a four year old that not everyone in the world is good?

Parenting is hard. It is really very hard. You never think about all of these conversations that you will have to have with your children when you are holding their sweet, tiny bodies in the hospital.

You are responsible for your child’s perception of the world around them. You are responsible for the way that they view people. Their mind is yours, and the stories that you write in it will be with them forever.

Of course, you could simply just avoid these conversations with the age-old “I told you so.” Why can’t I run three aisles down from you?” “Because I told you so.”

But they never really understand.

And as my college professor always said  “they’re short, not stupid”. They will know that you aren’t being honest with them.

We have the opportunity to take these moments up, and not let them pass us by. We have the opportunity to teach our children, and begin to shape and form their hearts.

Yes, parenting is the greatest adventure of them all.

The greatest and the most difficult.

But what do you say?

What a difficult balance between instilling a sense of caution without causing fear. So I do my best to explain to my four year old darling that not everyone in the world has her best interest at heart. Not everyone can be trusted – and some people might even hurt you. So it is very important to stay with mommy so that she can make sure you are safe.

Kids don’t need to be lied to. They need to understand. And the lesson of good and evil begins when they are young – though I wish it didn’t have to be so at all.

But I don’t want to leave her with the caution only. I also want her to be confident. Most people are good. Most people can be trusted. You can smile at people. You can say “hello”. And so much of teaching children to distinguish between good and evil is to talk about things constantly. Teach them to identify good – acts of kindness, reaching out to the shy kid at preschool, staying with mommy in the grocery store. If they know what good is, they won’t have to wonder what evil is.

Give them the confidence to know what good is, and then to go out into the world and BE good.

Because good and evil are everywhere. We cannot escape the darkness that tries to surround. The fear sits there, like eyes peering at you out of the shadows. And your heart begins to ache with the burden of protecting your children from this. From anything that could take the form of evil.

And you fear.

How do you really teach your baby that the world is full of anything less than good?

Because it’s not. And this is our reality.

So, my dear Ellie and Kreade, I want you to know that this world is full of evil. It is full of things that can harm you. Full of people who are anything but good. It is full of heartbreak and heartache and pain. It is a world that is broken, angry, and selfish. And evil is almost everywhere you turn.

I want you to know that evil is there.

But in knowing this, don’t let fear fill your heart.

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Because as long as evil exists in this world, good exists too. You can’t have one without the other.

So, my beautiful babies, I want you to go out into the world and BE good.

This is what God calls us to do in the face of evil. Not to fear. Not to hide. Not to be swallowed up in wishing that evil does not exist.

Overcome evil with good.

Fight for truth and justice.

Though I wish I could always be there to protect you, an imposibility this remains. But God is. Trust your heart.

And always know that I love you more than anything.

And yet He loves you so much more.

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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A Christmas Letter ~ 2015

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O little town of Bethlehem,
    How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
    The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
    Are met in thee to-night.

And what a year it has been. So much hope. So much fear. Dreamless sleep and all.

January always begins with Azrielle beginning a new chapter in her life. It also met us with the closing of the book regarding her wierd episodes that later that month we determined were seizures…likely caused by the UTI that she had experienced in her second year of life. Infection can cause all sorts of long-term issues – seizures being one of them. If you ever need to get to UMass Worcester, we can show you the way! So many specialist, so many appointments…ruling one thing out and then another. We had an in-hopsital EEG done, and then an at home “walking EEG’. Both tests came back showing no signs of seizure activity. As long as she made is 6 months without experiencing another seizure, she should be fine. The human body is an amazing work of art that God created. And finally this medical chapter in our life was closed.

February and March dragged on as winter did not want to leave us this year. March also met us with a new milestone – Kreade sleeping through the night! And finally the happy boy we always dreamed was inside him began to emerge.

O morning stars, together
    Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
    And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary
    And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the Angels keep
    Their watch of wondering love.

And there was peace in our corner of the earth. And finally some sleep. April rolled around and the emerging happy boy turned 1. We celebrated with family and moved on to enjoy Easter. With Kreade becoming increasingly happy, I began to start thinking about graduate programs. Something just kept tugging on my heart to continue my seemingly life-long college journey. But God puts dreams in our hearts for  a reason, and after a few months of trying to ignore the longing, I gave in to the dream and began searching out colleges and programs. Graduate programs are  hard to nail down! Perhaps it’s just that my undergrad work is in psychology – which offers a variety of graduate options. I prayed everyday that God would help me to know which program was “the one”. My mind kept going back to one: Southern New Hampshire University offers and online program specializing in Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology. Yep. Right up my alley. So I applied, and was accepted, and we began to plan for the start of my first course.

May began with the ending of my school year and the beginning of our camping year. Both of the kids just really LOVE camping. We are so happy to have our camper, and thankfully God allowed us the use of a truck as we had sold Klayton’s earlier in the year. Yes, May was good.

How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.

But alas, the goodness never seems to last. Towards the end of the month, Kreade caught a mild cold. Well, that mild cold turned into something much worse: croup. Which apparently is common in kids his age, Ellie never really even had a cold, so I never imagined. We were on the phone with the doctor in the middle of the night, in the office the next morning, beginning a steroid that same day. Spent a night and a day at home, and ended up in the ER on Friday afternoon. Meanwhile the chickens were getting huge and needed to be moved to their coup, which still needed renovations, spring yard work was piling up since winter had lingered so long, and the to-do list was mounting in its usual fashion. About a minute after walking in to the ER we were quickly given a room. About a minute later there were 2 doctors, 2 nurses, and a respiratory specialist in the room with us. Poor buddy boy was having great difficulty breathing, had chest retractions, and was a congested croupy mess. We ended up staying the night in the hospital. Another kind of steroid later, home we went. It took about a week for the croup to completely go away…and we were very tired of ER trips and doctors appointments and worrying about sick kids.

And then one morning Kreade woke up crankier than ever. He began vomiting and had a diarrhea diaper just about every hour. I took his temp and it was 104.5. Yep. Time to freak out. The doctor didn’t even give me an appointment. They said to just go. Go now. A dose of Tylenol and ibuprofen later his fever came down to around 101. We spent a few hours just sitting at the doctors office…watching. During that time we noticed there was blood in the diarrhea. Great. Well, lets run some tests and see what could be up. Home we went. Only to end up the the ER the next afternoon because buddy boy was crying and no tears were coming out of his sad little eyes. He was so dehydrated! But we just couldn’t get him to drink anything; never mind eat. He slowly began to improve. The ER trip was on Wednesday. I remember where we parked. On Sunday, we got a call from the doctor. Kreade had salmonella. All I could think was: how?! We were at the doctor the next morning.

The following Friday, Ellie had an interesting bowel movement. Black and sticky. We didn’t think much of it until we noticed blood in her stool the very next day. She had a low temp on Sunday, and we debated another trip to the ER. Our doctor advised us to monitor her, and told us to come in first thing Monday. I love our doctor. As my sister says, she is seriously the bomb.com.

More appointments. More blood-work. More tests.

By July we had met with a pediatric GI. Ellie did  a clean out, and we began a maintenance dose of Miralax. Thank God, she was finally passing her stools without pain, and we didn’t notice any more blood. After a couple more appointments with the specialist, she felt confident that Chron’s or colitis were unlikely. Finally, nothing but well-child checks for 6 months.

In between doctor appointments, we went camping. I think it worked out something like ER one weekend, camping the next. And we camped about every two to three weekends. We so enjoyed these trips! My mom and sisters were even able to come along to Cape Cod with us. We traveled to the White Mountains, to Old Orchard Beach, and several other lovely places.

Where children pure and happy
    Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee,
    Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching
    And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
    And Christmas comes once more.

Meanwhile, I had begun my first graduate course. It felt so good to resume learning. I so just love school. And thank God for Klayton’s job. Seriously. I don’t know what we would’ve done without it. So many times when I needed to get to the ER, Klayton was only five minutes away and able to come with me. Other times when I had to take one kid for a last minute appointment, the other kid was able to go and hang out with daddy at work. We prayed a really long time that God would show Klayton what he was supposed to do for the rest of his life, for a job that was family friendly, and something that Klayton enjoyed. Well, I guess good things really do come to those who wait. Klayton is going on a year and a half at Triumph Interiors, and neither of us could be happier. We are really both so grateful for his job, and the Christ-centered workplace that it is.

Finally, around September, Kreade’s bowel movements resumed normal toddler consistency. We had been having him tested routinely to monitor the salmonella levels, as it can be carried in the gut and stool for a month to a year. He carried the bacteria for a good four and a half months. And finally it was gone! Truly, the dark night wakes and glory breaks.

I went back to work just before Labor Day, and began what has turned out to be a rough year. So much heartache and so much pain – the world is just so full of hurting people and children. It feels like whatever I do, it is never enough.

Klayton has been oh so busy. We really fell behind with the to-do list that life produces with so many sick kids and ER visits. And then the engine on the new-to-us truck went in July. On 495. On our way home from the Cape. Extra bills means extra work, and poor Klayton has been so busy. We just kept trying to remind ourselves that God has a plan, amidst the sickness, and with the truck.

After Thanksgiving, Ellie had another x-ray just to make sure that her bowels were working the way they should. Well, they weren’t. In fact, her colon was so full of fecal matter that there was no room for free air. I almost cried when the doctor called me to let me know. She had been having a bowel movement every day! Why, why, why? We did another clean out and see the GI in January again.

And here we are.

December. Christmas.

I love looking back.

I did one of those “your most used words” on Facebook. You might have guessed, it was DOCTOR. It seems like the story of our year. Literally, I don’t think a month went by, never mind a week where we weren’t at the doctor.  From seizures, to salmonella, and digestive issues – we’ve done it all.

And yet, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Well, maybe the salmonella. That was horrific.

Life is hard people. Life is really hard. It’s stressful. There never seems to be enough money. Trucks break. Kids get sick. The to-do list never gets done. You forget to have your car inspected. Forget to pay the cell phone bill. Don’t remember the milk when you go grocery shopping. I guess life is just full of crap sometimes – in our case, one of us is literally full of crap. Yes, life is hard.

But it’s when you’re in the depths of despair, when you think that you can’t handle one more doctor appointment, one more bill, one more trip to the grocery store…and God finds you.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in,
    Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels,
    The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel!

This year, looking back, I am struck by His faithfulness. His provision. His deliverance. And even though life is hard, our hearts know the love that was born in us. Today, and everyday, we live in the promise that the Christmas angels told…He has come to us, he abides in us, our Lord Emmanuel.

Yes. God is with us. Everyday. Through it all. And He always will be.

And even though it has been a hard, hard year…we know that He was with us, and will be forevermore.

Praying that your hearts accept the holy Child, and allow Him to cast out all sin and enter in so that He can abide with you too. And if your heart already knows the faithfulness of our savior, remember, the great glad tidings tell. 

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Klayton, Alicia, Azrielle, and Kreade

In Which I Compare My Life to ‘The Mindy Project’ And Realize Just How Awesome My Husband Really Is

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“It makes me cry because it means that fewer and fewer people are believing it’s cool to want what I want, which is to be married and have kids and love each other in a monogamous, long-lasting relationship.”
― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Danny: The thing that’s most beautiful about you is your confidence.
Mindy: Really? Because people say that is the most annoying part about me.-The Mindy Project, Season 4

The Mindy Project. It’s all I ever want to watch at the end of a long hard day of work, school, kids & life in general…cuz I know it will make me laugh – probably harder than I should – and take the edge off of, well, off of life.

But lately, the show has been tackling an issue that is really quite close to my heart. You know the topic – that one that everyone wants to avoid and no one wants to address but that really should be talked about more.

Working moms.

Yep. Leave it to Mindy Kaling to take this less-than-popular topic head on in her Hulu Original Series. And as hard as it is to watch, as much as I just want to yell at Danny every time he says something so heartless…I am interested to see just where she goes with it all. And I really can’t wait – because my life is like a mini version of this season’s plot.

I’m that woman. Just like Mindy Lahiri. The one who starts her career…cuz, you know, starting a career is just so awful and heinous when you’re a women. Then there I go…I get pregnant and horror of all horrors: I don’t quit my job. Cuz where I’m from, women kind of just are expected to be moms. And nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way diminishing motherhood and the calling that it is. But if you can have it your way, why can’t I have it mine?

And then baby number two. So of course, you’re quitting your job now, right? How can you work and have two kids?

How can I not?

Some days, I wish that I could be nothing more than a stay at home mom. But God has created two types of women to ride the tides of Western Society; and I fall into the non-traditional category.

I used to be self-conscious about the fact that I am a working mom (try to explain to people that I also am a Grad-student and just imagine the looks on their faces). When we first got married, I thought that this was how my life would be. Eh, might as well work for a bit and then when we decide to have a baby -poof – God will make sure I can stay at home.

It’s amazing how God works.

I never would have imagined being anything but at stay at home mom at one point in my life. Looking back, I lacked so much self-confidence, and that “dream” of being a stay at home mom was born out of insecurity and self-doubt, lack of worth and lack of allowing God to use me as He would.

Financially, I have to work.

Mentally, I have to work too.

Spiritually, I need to work.

Because now I know that this is what God has called me to do. Now I am full of confidence – not my own, but the confidence that only God could have filled me with. I have self-worth, because in the depths of my heart, I know I am fulfilling my purpose here on this earth. And now I am totally secure in the knowledge that even though this full time job-grad student-mommy-wife thing is exhausting, it’s what I was born to do.

And I just feel so bad for Mindy Lahiri.

I get how she’s feeling. You love your babies. You love them so much. You love them so much that you know you will go completely insane if you are home all the time, so instead you hire someone who doesn’t go insane and go to work for some of the day.

You love your babies. But you love your job too. You love the platform that your job is – how it allows you to make a difference in other people’s lives. How you can experience the joy of bringing a smile to a child’s face, helping them learn and grow, and supporting their family through so many things. How your job makes you feel so fulfilled, and you know that for some of the day, this is just what you are meant to do with  your life.

Because some of us have bigger hearts – hearts that can hold both love for our children and husbands and love for our careers.

And we are enough.

But where I’m at in this series,  it’s not enough for Danny. And my heart breaks a little, I kind of don’t want to watch the show.

Because I can’t imagine if my Babe told me that I wasn’t a good mother to our children unless I stayed at home.

And I realize just how awesome my husband is.

There should probably be more Christian guys like him out there.

Truth is, if he said I should stay home, I would. It would break my heart (and I’d probably literally go crazy), but I would do it. I know that God asks that wives follow their husbands lead.

But marriage is a beautiful thing.

And when you love someone, and allow God to fill you up, it’s amazing how dreams align.

And I’m just so thankful for all that my husband is for me. Because I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it without him. And on my hardest days, when I’m totally stressing out about all I need to do at work, or the assignment I think might be a ‘B’, there he is…supporting me.

Cleaning up after dinner, playing with the kids while I finish writing my paper, making dinner, going in late so I can go in early and catch up on PTC’s, sitting next to me watching hockey while I’m frantically answering discussion board posts…quietly supporting. Cheering me on.

And I just know that he is my biggest fan.

And every woman who has a heart for family and work deserves someone who will cheer them on.

Because for some of us, God is calling us to both home and workplace. And it’s hard enough to follow this non-traditional path without the support of the one we love most.

So thank you Babe.

Thank you for how awesome you are. Thank you for supporting me, building up my confidence, encouraging my dreams, and letting me fly. I couldn’t do it without you.

So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28