Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goodmorning Mercy!

But this I call to my mind, therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23

Earlier in the year I had a friend who was in between day cares for her 5 year old son, so I agreed to keep him until she was able to find something suitable for him. We are going to call this 5 year old Steve.* Steve is a delightful child with an extremely strong will. With most children that come into my home, whether they have a strong will or not doesn't affect me. They are usually there for a few hours, or overnight at most, and they are sent back to their parents for them to deal with. However, when you open your home on a daily basis to the same child I feel that he needs to follow the same rules as everyone else. It keeps order and peace, and it keeps mommy sane and sober. It took Steve a few weeks to adjust to the Mabry government: This is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship, and I am your fearless leader. But adjust he did, and quite marvelously, I might add. (I am patting myself on the back now.)

One of the rules of my house is you have to TRY whatever food I put on the table. If I spend time to prepare you a meal, you can have enough gratitude to put it in your mouth and proceed to make all of the vomiting faces you can come up with. One bite is all I require. If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it. I will NOT, however, make you any thing else to eat. You eat what I make, or you don't' eat anything until the next meal. Now hear me. I don't make disgusting meals for my family. I'm not cooking up fried pig intestines with a side of dog foot sprinkled with slivered toenails. It's good normal food. (With the exception of the time I made some sort of fish concoction that made my son and my husband vomit. I feel kinda bad about that.) Anyway...this particular day I made some delicious fried rice with chicken. I sit everyone down to eat and Steve looks at his plate and says, in the MOST SOUTHERN accent possible, (this is only important because it makes all my stories funnier when you picture a 5 year old boy sounding like Scarlett O'Hara)

"I hate fried rice."
"Really, Steve? You hate it?"
"I do. I hate fried rice. I want a piece of bread."

Because Steve doesn't belong to me, I wasn't going to be as harsh with him as I would my own children. I told him he just had to try the rice and then I would be happy to get him a piece of bread if he didn't like it. No deal. He actually said, no deal to me. At the time he was obsessed with Deal or No deal. If he agreed he said, "Deal." If not, it was "No deal". This was a "no deal" moment. Remember to insert southern belle accent where appropriate.

"Steve," I said, "You know my rule. You have to try the rice. There is no way around this."

"I hate your rice," he says.

"But you've never even had my rice."

"I hate your rice. I only like mall rice."

"You only like WHAT rice??"

"Mall rice. You know, the kind you get at the mall."

This to me was hysterical. What kid says they only like mall rice? What kid knows what mall rice is? I thought lying to him was a great way to get him to eat the rice, so I told him I actually got the rice from the mall. No dice. He didn't fall for it. He just looked at me and said, "I'm not going to try your rice."

At that moment, it no longer became about food but about wills, and I was fairly certain mine was stronger. Steve sat at my table for FIVE HOURS! He had no food, no toys, no TV. He got up once to use the restroom, (yes, DHS, I allowed him water). He even took a nap in the chair at the table! I was stunned. I still am stunned, to be honest with you. As time went on I made his bite of rice smaller and smaller. Eventually it was nothing more than 3 grains on a spoon, and still he refused. I bribed him with ice cream, Mc Donalds, mall rice. Anything to not have to tell his momma I made him sit at my table for 5 hours over 3 grains of rice. But he refused to budge, and so did I. It's funny now..heck, it was funny then, but I really took no pleasure in this day. I felt bad for him. I wanted to give him a piece of wonder bread and tell him good job for being so stubborn, but I knew if I did then the hours he had just spent in the chair would have been for nothing. I loved him too much for that. So, he sat. And sat. And sat. Finally at 5:00, it was time to go. I was taking him to meet his mother. He was free. I didn't really know who won that day, if anyone did. All I knew was that we both had met our match. Being one who hates to lose, (yes, even to a 5 year old rice hater) I had a thought flutter through my head. I was going to leave those 3 grains of rice on the table. When he came the next morning, he was getting nothing to eat until he TRIED my stinkin rice! As quickly as I thought that another thought came into my head. It was that quiet still voice that likes to interrupt my evil plans.

"My mercies are new every morning."

Excuse me?

"My mercies are new every morning."

But, Steve needs to be taught a lesson. I can't let him think that he has won this battle. What will that do to my reputation?

"My mercies are new every morning."

And then the weight of that word hit me, and I all I could say was, "Thank you, Father." Without question, His mercy is there each morning, ready to wash over me and give me another shot to get it right today. And if I don't get it right...if I come up short again, there is always tomorrow. There is always the morning, there is always His mercy.

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My laptop is down. As much as I would love to type out an entire blog on my phone, my thumb arthrietis is acting up again, so we'll all have to until my computer guru works his magic (no pressure, Brian). I'm sure you are on pins and needles awaiting words of faux wisdom. Never fear, if you need any misdirection or bad advice I'm only a phone call away. Except I never answer my phone, in which case I'm only a text away.

In the future, I'll be posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Yesterday I was doing school with elaina. I handed her a picture and told her the directions said for her to circle all of the things wrong with the picture. She pointed to a little girl with jump rope handles in her hand but no rope. I said, "Yes. There is something wrong there. What is it?". She said, "That little girl should be wearing pink leggings."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Play to Win

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Romans 5:3-5

I have been an avid gym goer my entire life. My parents were gym rats who raised gym rats and now I'm raising my own little rats..gym rats that is. No matter what your philosophy in the gym is, there is one universal truth: The greatest gains are made when the muscle is exhausted. You can pump out 25 reps with 5 lb. dumbbells and never see a change in your strength. Or, you can take 40 lb. dumbbells, knock out 8 reps, because 8 is all you can muster, and in a matter of weeks you will see noticeable change in your strength. Most people don't want to lift the 40 pounders. To them the gain is not worth the cost. Eventually they stop going altogether because they are seeing no change, no difference. They aren't getting better, they're simply wasting their time.No one walks into a gym able to lift the heaviest weight, but if they are committed, over time and training, they will be able to lift more than they ever thought possible. It's many small victories that will eventually win the war, if they don't give up.

I woke up this morning struggling. I woke up this morning overwhelmed. I woke up this morning wanting to quit. But the Lord says, "Now is when it counts. Now is when the greatest gains in your faith are being made. It's hard and it sucks (I'm certain God said "sucks" to me today) but if you quit now then all of your work will have been in vain. This is only a small battle in the midst of a great war for your soul, but it is a battle that MUST BE WON in order for you to be a conqueror!"

I don't go to the gym to waste time, I go to get results. I'm not walking out my faith because I have nothing else to do, I'm walking it out because I have a hope of something greater. In humility I stand before my Father and I say, "Lord, I'm so tired. I don't know if I can take another step." And in mercy He replies, "My strength is made perfect in your weakness. Rejoice in it, rejoice in Me.*" And so I do. I rejoice in a God who loves me too much to see me stay the same. I rejoice in a God perfects Himself in me, in the midst of my pitifulness. I rejoice in a God is able to do abundantly above and beyond anything I could ever hope for or even imagine.** IF, I don't lose faith. IF I don't give up. IF I choose to look at that 40 lb. dumbbell and say, "I may not lift you today, but day by day I am getting stronger. Soon I will."

* II Corinthians 12:9

** Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lessons in the Shower

....I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to Heaven, you are there. If I go to the place of the dead, you are there. Psalm 139:7,8 NLT

This scripture came to my mind this morning as I was attempting some deeply philosophical quiet time with the Lord. It was not, however, applied to the omnipresence of God Almighty, but to the omnipresence of the Mabry children. No matter where I go, there they are! If not all, then at least one. It's like they have gotten together to conspire an evil plan never ever to leave their mother alone, least she regain some sort of sanity. It's working brilliantly.

I have spent the majority of my Saturday morning irritated. All I wanted was to be left alone, to pray, to write, to seek the Lord. But from the second my feet hit the floor it has been one constant thing after the next. Chocolate milk, Dora, cereal, cinnamon rolls, chocolate milk, cuddling, breaking up fights, cleaning up spilled skittles, lunch, more chocolate milk and countless questions needing answers RIGHT NOW! After the last time being interrupted I went to hide in the shower. Not that me showering ever stops anyone from busting through my doors, but at least the fear of seeing their mother in her natural state keeps them at a distance. It was in the shower that I started to whine. "Lord", I said, "All I wanted to do was spend time with you this morning. To sit at Your feet and soak up Your Glory. But these kids you gave me won't let that happen! It's their fault!" Hahaha! I am a 33 year old woman who sounded an awful lot like my 3 year old son. But it was the way I felt, so it was what I said. The Lord, in all of His wisdom and simplicity answered me. He said, "So get up earlier." Really, Lord? That's all You've got? Get up earlier? Silence. I guess that's all He had, but it got me to thinking. And that's what He wanted all along. Me, thinking.

I started thinking about how I have made my children feel all morning. Every time they would approach me I would cringe. Not because I don't love them, but because I just didn't want them there at that particular moment. The thing is, they didn't know the reason why. They simply saw the cringe. I started thinking about the times my husband would try to talk to me and I would look at him with a look that said, "Hello, don't you know I'm trying be spiritual right now?" I'm sure he was thinking he liked me better before my quest for glory began. I was thinking that I am beginning to understand what Paul meant when he wrote I Corinthians 7.

God made Eve for Adam and He said, "That is good". God made me for Russ and He said, "That is good". I Corinthians 7 isn't at all about the the displeasure that comes from the Lord when we marry and our hearts are indeed divided. It's the Lord saying to us, "Look, this is going to happen, and it's ok!" As wholly as I am a daughter of the Most High, I too am a wife to my husband and a mother to my children. Not only is it impossible for me to separate these aspects of my life from each other, but it has also never been required of me to do so! God, in all of His unending grace, provides a way for a longing heart to find Him in the midst of the chaos. He says simply, "Wake up earlier." You see, unlike my children, God really is omnipresent. Whenever we seek, He is there waiting. It's ok to set my bible down for the sake of chocolate milk because when my responsibilities are done, He is still there. God does His part by always being available. I have to do my part by waking up early enough to meet Him.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rainy Day Blues

I have the kids write journal entries in school most mornings. It's a great way to teach proper grammar, creative writing and practice their handwriting skills all at one time. Plus, it's nice to have them occupied while I surf facebook, but I digress. This morning we awoke to the third rainy day in a row. Because I am on a quest for spiritual fulfillment, I want my kids to take part as well. Nothing overwhelming, just a little something to get them to think outside of themselves and their circumstances. This morning I was inspired. The title of their entry was to be, "What I like about rainy days." The point was to take what is perceived by most kids as a bad day and have them realize the good things in it. Yes, I impress myself with my wisdom. What is to follow is my sons take on rainy days.

What I like about rainy days is nothing. You have to sit inside all day, and it's so boring. I mean, when is the last time you thought, "I can't wait until tomorrow" and then you wake up and it's raining. So your day is ruined. That is why I hate rainy days.

As much as we want to see the good in all things, sometimes we just can't. I wasn't angry that he couldn't find any joy in the rain. I laughed at his honesty, and then it occurred to me that God laughs at ours. Not in a mocking way, but in a refreshing way. A heart that is honest is a heart that is open. All the Lord needs to move in our lives is a heart that is open to Him. It's not Ethan's job to find the joy in the rain, it is his job to have an open heart so that I can teach him the joy of the rain. That's what I did. We went outside, in the downpour, and we played. We played, we laughed, and his eyes were opened to the joys in the midst of the storm.

Lord, keep my heart honest, keep my heart open, so that you can teach me the joys of the rain.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the Beginning

I Corinthians 7 has been a thorn in my flesh for these past 13 years. The entire chapter is about how great it would be if we stayed single and never married, because then our hearts and minds would be solely focused on the things of God. This scripture bothered me even before I married, but yet I KNEW that marrying my husband was not only a desire of my heart, but the will of the Lord. It's been over 13 years, and it bothers me still.

I became a true believer at the age of 15. Two years later I came face to Face with my Creator and I feel in love with Who I met. It was my greatest joy to sit at the feet of Jesus and worship. To show my adoration for the one Who saved my soul. I was single-minded in my life's mission, just like Paul. But unlike Paul, a few years later the Lord gave me someone to share this journey with. I never hesitated, because I knew as clearly as I know my name that marrying my husband was the Lord's plan for my life. I remember reading I Corinthians 7 around this time, thinking that would never happen to me. My heart would never be divided between God and others. I was solely His and always would be. Did I mention I was also 20 years old? Ha! I really did think I knew it all!

What happened after our wedding was exactly what Paul said would happen in I Corinthians. My heart became divided. My attentions became divided. My energies became divided. I tended to ignore it at first, thinking it was only for a "season". Once I got good and settled things would be back to normal, right? They perhaps would have, but I became pregnant 6 months later. In my 20 year old head, that meant that me staying home would give me more time with the Lord. Again, Ha! Mothers world-wide know that babies rarely afford you the time for sleep and showering, much less your much coveted "quiet" time! I was young, remember?

I remember a moment about 8 years ago, sitting at my computer and thinking, "Lord, I'm desperate. I feel like I'm sinking into an abyss and I don't know how to get out. I love my family. I would gladly lay down my life for theirs, but until that is required of me, how do I live this life you have given me?" I was lost and I was desperate. I would love to tell you that at the moment a shining light came down from Heaven and led me into the way of Everlasting. But instead my 2 year old threw the remote control at my 3 year old because he wanted to watch Barney while she wanted to watch Arthur. Needless to say, my moment was over. The thought has never left my mind, but 2 more children soon followed and with them less and less time to find my answer.

8 years later, I'm still here, and I'm still desperate. I'm not desperate for time away. I'm not desperate for my kids to be grown and gone. I'm desperate for an abundant life the Word talks about it. One filled with things of the Lord while still enjoying the things of the world. God has given me a husband to love and children to teach, but he has also given me a heart that longs to see Him. I am desperate for both, and I'm sad to say that after 13 years I still haven't learned how to have them. Don't judge...the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40!

I decided to chronicle my journey for the entire world to see for one reason. Ok, two reasons. Make that three. The first one is, accountability. I can write in my journal, or not and no one will ever know the difference. I can seek the Lord this morning, or not and no one will ever know the difference. I need the pressure of knowing someone will know the difference. I need accountability. The second reason is, I know I'm not alone. My struggle is not a rare one, but it is rare that anyone talks about it. No one wants to be that woman, or that man who says, "My family is not enough." But folks, it's not. It isn't meant to be. There is no shame in admitting that, but there is bondage in believing that. The last reason I have decided to chronicle my journey is that the chances are slim that anyone will actually read it, so what have I got to lose?

Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart." This is my seeking, and I invite you along my journey. I have no idea what this will look like, but I do know what to expect. I expect God to show up. Why? Because He just promised He would.

So here I am. A mother. Desperate for more. And this is my journey.