New Mercies Every Morning (Part 1)

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Happiness on our wedding day!

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 2:22-23)

My dad has always said that one comes into her own in her thirties.

Maybe that is true.

There I was: Lowe’s parking lot. Though I had finally made it to where I was going, I had no idea where I would end up when I got behind the wheel that afternoon.  Truth is, I couldn’t afford gas to drive any further. I sat in the driver’s seat, weeping, hoping my children in the backseat wouldn’t notice.

I just had to escape.

It was the year and a half that ripped and tore at our souls. The economy had plummeted, and as a home builder’s family, we were hit hard and we were hit first. The dream home Charlie and I had lovingly built together had to be sold. We no longer could afford it. This broke my heart because that home was like a hug that wrapped around me whenever my hubby was away. And he was away a lot.

The thing is, I asked for it. Before we had married, I was always advised to pray specifically for the man I would marry…to think about the characteristics I would want in a man and pray for those things. I prayed that God would give me a man who wasn’t lazy. He answered me with my Charlie. Charlie comes from the hardest working family I’ve ever known. They work hard and long hours and just love doing it. Very soon after our marriage, this became an issue. Charlie was just doing the only thing he knew: working hard and working long. But for this newly-married teenager whose love language was quality time, it caused quite the heartache. I found myself lonely and waiting. Chronically.

Ah, the waiting. Waiting for life to become what it is supposed to be.

Fast forward to the Lowe’s incident. We had been married for 8 years and had just given birth to our third son. Our “plan” had been to build a house for ourselves every two years, build equity, sell for a profit, and accumulate enough to purchase a home with cash by the time Charlie was 30. This was our third home, and I loved it. Charlie (whose love language is acts of service) had put so much heart and soul into this home as a gift to me. He had had a wrap-around driveway placed in the front so that I wouldn’t have to climb stairs with three little ones. Together, we worked our fingers raw cutting, laying, and grouting hundreds of tiles. We had spent hours picking paint colors, and had dreamed together of how our boys would love the “cowboy blue” we had chosen for their room. I wasn’t ready to sell this time.

And yet, during a down economy, God miraculously brought some buyers just weeks after we listed, and we were able to be released from a mortgage we could no longer afford.

Selling the house was hard, but it wasn’t the toughest thing we would endure that year and a half.

Click here to read Part 2: https://jeaniedianne.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/new-mercies-every-morning-part-2/

Taming the Beast of Laundry

I had an epiphany the other day. I realized I had been doing laundry for my family for over 20 years (if you include when I did our family laundry as a teenager), and I was ready for someone else to help me with this beast.

And then I realized that none of my children are “small” anymore (sniff), and that we could radically change the laundry routine to help ease my work load. (And by “routine,” I mean that I do it all and there is always a pile of folded or unfolded clothes growling at me somewhere in the house.) Besides the never-ending chore, our oldest son has feet nearly as large as his dad’s, so socks were getting mixed up.

We came up with a new plan, and it is working swimmingly! Instead of sorting the entire family’s laundry into whites, delicates, jeans, etc., I sort it a different way. Now, I do only mine and my hubby’s laundry, and each child handles his or her own laundry. So, on one day, our oldest will bring up his entire basket of dirty clothes, wash them, dry them, fold them, and put them away. And all of the other’s follow suit.

This is so simple, but it has really made things less busy for me, and less cluttered around the house. No one is finding the wrong person’s clothing in his or her drawer. Socks are staying together. Best of all, no one can blame mom if they have “nothing to wear.”

“Who’s job is it to make sure your clothes are washed?”

“Mine, mom.”

“Then what do you think you should do?”

“Wash them, mom.”

(Insert maniacal laugh here.)

So, there you have it. A tip that might help you tame your laundry beast. And for those of you who are wondering: yes, I do supervise the younger ones. I do monitor how much detergent they use, and remind them to make sure the clothing actually makes it to their drawers. But for the most part, laundry stress has been relieved by a great deal here at our house.

Blessings!

Bedroom Talk

This post is for my married friends.😉

I am praying about starting a small group of married ladies to discuss intimate topics in marriage. I have found a few websites that I think are really good for married women to read. Whether you are the “good girl,” or more adventurous, I think discussing these topics will begin to open your heart to real intimacy in marriage. Once we open our bodies and hearts up to true intimacy, don’t be surprised at how our hearts will be more open to the Lord as well.

Here are two websites I recommend for married folks.

You are welcome.🙂

themarriagebed.com

christiansexclass.org

thegenerouswife.com

thexycode.com

Let me know what you think and if you would be interested in joining a small group of ladies on this topic in a few months. Praying for you!

The Exhaustion of Passion

Writing takes a bit of vulnerability. I can put my heart and soul into a piece, but the real work comes when I put it out there for readers to read. How will I handle the feedback? For there is certain to be both positive and negative feedback when anyone puts an opinion before the public. Every time I put my hands on the keyboard, I question myself and my zeal. Will I sound too passionate? Should I tone it down? And it is difficult to read negativity towards oneself. But it’s worth it. All of us need authenticity. We need to see real, passionate writing coming from people who have a zeal for something. It excites something within our hearts to observe truth and zeal in someone.

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:11 to be passionate. It’s interesting to me that he words it this way: “Never be lacking” and “keep your spiritual fervor,” as if we have some sort of control over our passion and enthusiasm. In the next verse, he continues his encouragement, “Be joyful in hope…” Again, he is implying, no…stating for us to be joyful. So, this tells me that joy, zeal, and fervor are not mere emotions that come and go with the breeze. These are characteristics that we must choose to put into place in our hearts and actions, despite the circumstances in our lives.

But here’s the truth. Zeal is painful. Passion hurts. It is exponentially easier to be numb, laid-back, guarded. We can get up every day, go to work, and see what we have “accomplished,” and begin to pour our entire buckets of energy into tasks. This may take physical or mental exertion, but it is not the most difficult “work” in our lives.

The Hubby and I were recently watching an episode of a popular TV series on how the brain works. On this particular episode, they explained why we as a culture enjoy our cell phones, texting, video games, and other electronic media so much. I like to argue that it’s because they are forms of communication, and I’m a people-person. But, who am I kidding? The reason we love our devices so much is because of two things: first, they are an easy distraction from the “hard” work of passion, which of course would require much more out of our souls than a 30-second text, or 10 minute crush-the-candy session. The second reason is that our brains are hard-wired to send endorphins when we experience pleasure. So, what does that mean? We receive a text – endorphin. We go up a level on tribe wars game – endorphin. And all of a sudden, we find that we are addicted to this silly device that provides us with no eternal value. What’s worse…we’ve lost the precious time we could have utilized working with zeal and passion.

But, alas, this post isn’t about cell phones and social media…

It’s about hard labor. Let’s go back to that work day. Currently, I stay home with our four children. I find that I am decent at feeding, clothing, and educating them. I make sure they are bathed, brushed, lotioned, vitamined (Ha, I like that word!), and get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. I tote them to church and extra-curricular events. And it often exhausts me. But those are not the difficult parts of parenthood.

The tough parts are delving into their lives…Feeling their hurts…Getting down on their level and looking into their souls to see where their hearts are. This takes vulnerability, patience, and self-sacrifice. And it can be quite painful and time consuming. I daily must put aside my agenda and make sure their souls are nurtured. Sometimes that means a 45-minute “time-in” session, in which I calmly nurture and teach a child who is not being calm and nurturing towards me. It means answering questions like, “Was I in your tummy, mommy?” to a child who suffered unimaginably before they came into our family. It means reading that mind-numbing rhyming book for the umpteenth time because the rhythm of the book calms their anxious hearts. And here’s the thing…unlike that “job” we may go to, or the kitchen that can be seen as cleaned…this part of my (our) life will not show immediate (or ever) obvious results for my efforts. Spilling out your soul is like that.

But if I choose to ignore the passion part and to just do my “daily tasks,” because I can be praised for those things…I can appear “successful” in those things…then I am weak indeed. Jesus tells us in Revelation 3 that he requires that passion in our lives. Verses 15-16 say, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The Lord requires our zeal. We must nurture the passion in our hearts in all aspects of our lives. We must be passionate, first and foremost, for the heart of our Father. Seek Him first! And we must have passion for our spouses. Work is not enough. We must look them in the eyes, feel their joy and their pain, and love them more than any other human on this earth. And we must be zealous for the hearts of our children.

For I believe that without zeal, we die.

At least I do. Awake! Awake my soul, awake from slumber. Arise to the hard work of passion and zeal. For you shall never feel so alive.

The Everyday

There’s a lot written about the mundane. I hate the word. It falls into the same category as “wait,” “patience,” and “drudgery.”

For some strange reason, life seems a bit less irritating when there is either a very difficult trial or very exciting new experience. During a very difficult trial, life is exhausting, but there is that element of excitement, purpose, or just survival that at least gives me a goal and purpose to achieve. And of course, when life throws us an exciting new experience, like adding a new family member or moving to a new house, there is again something to shoot for, some goal to achieve. Faith is fun during these times, as we watch to see what miracle God will do for us.

But the “every day” will wear me down every time. It sucks the very life out of me. Some mornings the thought of figuring out what to make for dinner for the 5,475th time (I did the math) will make me want to crawl under the covers and not come out. Or anticipating cleaning up dog pee, or refereeing an altercation between siblings, or trying to make learning actually successful to a house full of high-energy-low-attention children will make me search every vacation option I can find on the interwebs.😉 Going back to school and using parts of my brain that seem to have been dormant for years seems so glamorous I can almost taste it.

Some days I just don’t want to do it.

There. I said it.

Yes, I love my precious family. Of course, I thank my Savior for giving me all of these little lives to love. I am so blessed, and I never want to take that for granted. And we made the decision to live our lives this way, so there’s no blaming anyone else.

I know there is so much noise out there about stay-home moms and working moms, etc. I’ve done both. What I think is so difficult about staying home is not the physical labor. All moms have laundry, dishes, dirty diapers, etc., to deal with. But when a mother chooses to stay home, she can lose that feeling of actually accomplishing something each day. It’s the mundane, mind-numbing, never-ending endurance that must be given at all times. Add in any child with any kind of special need, and burn-out is bound to occur on a regular basis.

But, in the midst of an especially trying few months, something has occurred to me. It’s that word I just mentioned: “endurance.” It’s “Never give up. Never surrender!” And I begin to realize that it was designed to be this way. That our children need to know that I will never quit, never give up on them even when they push all of my buttons. It’s a tiny illustration of God’s grace and mercy to each of us. And each day that I choose to smile instead of hide behind my bed, each time I tuck a child into bed with kisses when I’m tempted to mention to them how much their behavior really stunk that day, each time I drive 45 minutes away and sit behind a window in a tiny, dark room for an hour listening to a child work on their “r” sounds, I am showing them an (albeit imperfect) bit of that Love in the form of endurance.

God, help me to be a good example of your grace and mercy when I am weak. I am encouraged by 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” And when I dwell on this verse, I realize that I am weak even when I think I am strong. That there hasn’t been one day in my parenting journey that I have ever done it on my own.

Moms, you are not alone. Motherhood is miraculously impossible. Let’s journey together.

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When you realize that the “perfect” Easter photo is not going to happen, and you just let it go and enjoy the breeze…

The Time of Temptation and Distress Is No Time to Make Decisions

I read this today, and though I am not in a time such as this now, truly we all go through them. Wise words to remember for many stages on our lives. Enjoy!

Learning To Be Full Of Grace And Truth.

It’s Fénelon Friday!

LETTER 27: The Time of Temptation and Distress Is No Time to Make Decisions

The overflowing distresses you are going through right now are like the rivers of water that run through the streets after a sudden storm. The only thing you can do is wait until the waters drain away. This is a time of great confusion for you, and nothing seems to make any sense. You are imagining things which aren’t true at all. But this is the ordinary reaction to great suffering. Even though you have such a keen mind, God is permitting mitting you to be blind to what lies immediately before you, and he is allowing you to think that you see clearly, when actually, you are only having spiritual mirages. Now I know you want to do the will of God and God will certainly be glorified if you are faithful…

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All Creation Teaches

It’s 7:40 AM as I write this short post. I’ve been up since 5-ish, taking care of the newest little lives in our house: Panzer and Chewie. The two miniature Schnauzer puppies came to us because our precious daughter pleaded for a pet of her own.

“Me pet, no!” She would whine as she saw that the boys had guinea pigs, fish, and a cat. Daddy to the rescue: not one but two puppies are now a part of our never-dull lives.image

Never the best dog-person, I am determined to do right by these puppies. Cesar Milan is now a good friend of the family 😉. YouTube has become our go-to resource for house training, crate training, and overall puppy-care education.

Along with canine behavior, I am finding that I am learning much about grace and love. These puppies have discovered who “mama” is in our house, much to our daughter’s shagrin. If I’m in the room, the puppies will seek my lap out.

Early this morning, when the temperature was still in the teens and the sun had not risen, the puppies began loudly demanding out of their crate. Concerned about the young canines’ blood sugar, or that they would soil their kennel, I waited a few minutes for their cries to pause, and got them out. I had prepared a warm meal for them, and took them outside to do their business.

To my surprise, they were little interested in the food or potty time. They just wanted to be close to me. Climbing into my lap, they snuggled contentedly.

Who could resist puppy snuggles, right? My heart pondered this behavior and of course I thought of both my God and my children. Just like Mary was praised for stopping her busyness and sitting at the feet of Christ, I must remember to stop. Of course my children crave my time. More than physical needs, they thirst for my affection, attention, and time. How often I overlook their felt needs while trying to meet the physical needs I perceive that they have.

And my Jesus. My Savior. The One who created this dust of a person with His own hands just because He loved me and desired my company. I’m. So. Busy. Laundry, dishes, teaching, planning, cleaning, therapy appointments…

And what He wants from me is my presence. So, as I am enjoying the sunrises again, I am so grateful for two small fur balls who can teach me the wisdom of being present for my God and my family.

New Mercies Every Morning, Part 3

“Why can’t I get it right? Why can’t I just fix myself?” I’d read book after book on how to be a godly wife and mother, and all I seemed to reap from them was guilt, rules, and 7-step programs. Why was I the only one who struggled so much?

Wiping the tears from my cheeks, I look up. Someone is walking towards our SUV, and I don’t want them to see me crying. As the blur clears, I recognize the visitor: my husband. On the random day that I fasten the kiddos into the car and drive to escape the basement, I end up parking at Lowe’s to have a good cry. And my husband is there in the parking lot.

Simultaneously relieved and embarrassed, I open the driver’s door and greet him. Bless him: he has no idea what to say to his pitiful wife. But his embrace and his presence brought relief to me, even for just a moment’s time.

God sees.

The basement days didn’t last forever, thank you Jesus. Though tremendously grateful for their hospitality, we were happy to have found a place for our family: an unfinished home that a builder (who had “gone under” in the economy) had abandoned. A few weeks of Charlie’s professional talents and one short-sale later, we moved into a modest home with a level backyard. Finally. Things could get back to normal.

Two blue lines changed those plans. Yep, Baby Number 4 was coming, ready or not! We took a deep breath at this surprise, and thanked God that he had that much faith in us. We prepared to welcome another little one into our crazy world.

Until 3:00 AM on June 5th, 2010. I woke up to a pool of blood and knew, approximately 4.5 months into our pregnancy, that the baby was being lost. Tiny kicks and punches were her last “goodbye” to me, as my abdomen went into full labor contractions. Charlie was heroic. Tenderly, he helped me to the car and drove us to the hospital. He lovingly cleaned up the puddles in the car after I was admitted, without saying a word.

A few minutes later, our baby was born sleeping. They called it a “miscarriage,” a term I fully despise. We went into full labor and delivered a perfect little baby, just too soon. I remember how my hubby held my hand the entire time. His tenderness during such a painful loss is something I think of often. He was there for me.

Far from over, our ordeal continued into the morning, as I lost pint after pint of blood and eventually fainted. Considering a blood transfusion, they finally decided to do a D&C to bring the blood loss to an end. Swollen and weak, we returned home the next afternoon.

Though I knew that God’s Spirit was the only way we survived those 18 months, I also learned that I handled stress poorly. In fact, I found myself “stuck” in survival mode for months after that. Grieving, exhausted, lonely, I just wanted to make it through the day. Looking back, I see now that I was afraid to appear vulnerable to anyone, so I didn’t ask for help. I suffered in silence, and my family suffered for it. Not wanting to be “needy” I thought I could just do it on my own, waiting for life to improve.

Thank you, Father, for new mercies every morning. Thank you for dozens of prayers from our church and loved ones. Thank you for those who “intruded” into my life, to make sure I was OK.

So that’s what this blog is all about. It’s a real look at motherhood from the perspective of a fire fighter’s wife, a mother of four, a mother who has an adopted child (you can read about that here: http://www.crazyadoptiondreamer.wordpress.com), a mother who has dealt with special needs, and a mother who has a multi-cultural family. Truth is, every mother struggles. By relying on God’s new mercies every day and understanding that I walk by His grace, I am learning that He is my joy and that I (we) need community. Join me on this motherhood journey and we will walk together, knowing His mercies are new every morning.

I guess my dad was right. I’m finally realizing who I am in Christ in my thirties. Let’s walk together!

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Fourteen years of marriage to this dashing fire fighter! (Photo taken by our eldest.)