>Go Play

>Twas the day after Christmas, and in New Orleans,
My family and I awoke from sweet dreams.
A mommy, a daddy, a sister, two brothers,
All happy just to be with one another.

We had a great Christmas and I just want to say…
I hope you did too! Now I’m gonna go PLAY!!

Hee hee! Seriously. I officially have my own Wii character now. I’m gonna go play.

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>Christmas Eve Eve

>It’s Christmas Eve Eve. Tonight I am making a decision. I’ve decided to rise above the exhausted mommy fog, clear the no-sleep-for-over-a-year haze, shake off the mental and emotional cramps that come with juggling mommyhood, marriage, career, home, and life for an extended period of time. The Christmas Celebration at our house has officially begun.

All stress set aside, all duties can wait. All worries are on the back burner. Christmas is here, I’m off for the weekend, and my family and I are going to treasure every moment!!

Here we go!

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>Inclusion Illusion

>I’ve been reflecting on my own need to be included. I’ve been thinking about this need and how it affects my self confidence, my ability to adapt socially, and most of all, the practice of my faith.

As I’ve mentioned, my husband and I have chosen to practice our faith in a very organic way, through a house church. This avenue works well for us, since we come from vastly different religious backgrounds. All our “traditions” are kind of stripped away, and we focus on the important things: you know… Jesus, Him being the Son of God, the Way, the Truth, the Life. That kind of stuff.

Anyway, by choosing to practice my faith outside the traditional church building, (notice I did NOT say outside the church), I’m left without something I had no idea I had relied so heavily upon: The approval of men. I don’t mean men in general. I mean people who run the traditional church building. I had, I now know, become very accustomed to hearing, perceiving, and basking in the approval and/or praise of other church members, especially leaders. I relied upon this approval and the myriad of duties and responsibilities that came along with it in order to feel “included.” Thus, being passed over for a leadership opportunity, even one I didn’t have time for, or being frowned upon for a personal decision meant I was not included, or at least not AS included as I could or should have been. This translated into hurt feelings, lower self esteem, and even envy of those who had more “inclusion” than I, even though their lives were less “fit” by most standards.

I’ve been pondering a great deal on the idea that meeting my need for inclusion this way has perhaps paralyzed me spiritually. I wouldn’t call myself a spiritual invalid. Not by any means. But I have to wonder if looking to the church leaders for inclusion has numbed me in some places. I have to wonder if a great deal of church members are paralyzed in a similar way.

It occurs to me that looking to a human to place a stamp of approval upon my life and my spiritual maturity as he or she perceives it, is a bit of a slap in Jesus’ face. He paid such a high, high price to declare me INCLUDED in his family once and for all. He gave his life so that I could have God’s approval. Why then, do I need the approval of other humans in addition to the glorious gift He gave me?

Why have I wasted my time trying to earn the favor of church leaders, especially even after becoming very acquainted with the corruptness of such leaders? Why have I looked to another human to tell me what God wants me to do? Why have I allowed other people to make up rules that limit God’s ability to work in me and with me? Where might I be now if I had spent as much time exploring what GOD truly made me to be and do rather than worrying about if I were in my proper place according to the opinion of church leaders? I don’t mean where, as in perhaps I would be more “accomplished.” Since I also am sickened at the time I spent trying to “move up” in the circles of a denomination, when most of such movement is based solely on politics. I mean where, as in would I be closer to God had I simply learned to cling to Him alone?

I return again to a thought. A truth, really. God Himself, through His only Son, Jesus, declared me INCLUDED. He declared me precious, worthy, righteous, and one of His very own children. I AM included. Now and forever. This is the truth I will teach to our children, and pass along to those He brings my way. Goodbye to days of stunted spiritual growth due to restraints placed upon me by the ideas of men. Hello to days of letting God lead me and show me. I no longer need the illusion of inclusion. I have the real deal, straight from God.

Guess what?? YOU DO TOO!!!

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>A Letter to my TEENAGER

>Dear Teenager,

I can’t believe you are thirteen years old. We both sure have come a long way! Just 21 when you were born, I gotta tell you, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. You were my first baby, and now you are my first teenager. And guess what… I’m still not sure I know what I’m doing.

I know I’ve messed up on some things. I wish I had let you believe in Santa. I wish I had been a little more fun and a little less worried about getting everything right. I wish things with me and your dad hadn’t meant you had to deal with grown-up stuff sooner than you should have. I wish we hadn’t had to move so many times and I could have given you a childhood home to always remember.

But there are some things I’m happy about. Remember when we had “the talk?” You wer SOOOOO embarrassed and so was I, but we did it! It was the first of many embarrassing talks for us both, but we’re still talkin’! Remember when you first saw your baby brother Levi? We got you a baby boy doll and you and I took care of our “babies” together. I remember one time you were in a musical at church. You came down the aisle with the rest of the kids and you were so happy and excited. I realized then that seeing you happy is just about the most amazing experience I get to have. Remember homemade waffles on Saturday mornings? Remember playing in the rain on Upstream Street and splashing like crazy in the puddles? Remember “Soap skating?” Remember when you had to be in the hospital? I would have given anything to get you better. Remember your second grade year that we homeschooled? I loved all our fun field trips, and getting to teach you myself. Remember how we had to get through Hurricane Katrina together? Remember “WINN DIXIE!!!”?? I love hearing you laugh. I’m glad we spent time with your Granny Great, and even though you might not remember it all, you got to know her and she got to know you.

You were the most beautiful baby in the world. You were the most adorable little girl ever. Your smile and your laugh could keep me going for days. When you were born I was scared to death. I had this little person and any mistake I made might hurt her for life!! I didn’t want to make ANY mistakes.

We were inseparable for the first couple of years of your life. We did just about everything and went just about everywhere together. I wanted so much to be a good mommy. These days you are almost as tall as me. We don’t shop in the children’s department anymore, and your bedroom door is closed more often than it’s open. Some days I’m scared that there are some things you may never learn if I haven’t taught them to you by now. Some days I’m scared that since I DO make some mistakes you might be hurt forever.

Then I realize that you are becoming a wonderful young lady in spite of my mess-ups. You are an amazing person because GOD made you that way,and my silly mistakes can’t undo HIS great work in you. I’m SO proud of who you are, and so excited about who you will be.

I used to rock you to sleep every night, but can’t rock you anymore. I’m rocking your baby brother, Caleb, while you are texting or talking on your phone in your room. I’m learning to be a more grown-up mom to a more grown-up girl. We still have a long way to go together and I know we might have some tough times ahead. But we’ll get through that too, just like the tough times we’ve put behind us.

You were my “Christmas present from God.” You still are. You always will be.

Happy Birthday, my Mackenzie!!

Love,
Mommy

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>Eatin’ Healthy

>It’s official. The kids and I decided on the way to school this morning. Here’s how it went down:

Me: (Handing the kids their on-the-run breakfast of chocolate muffins) “It’s not exactly a nutritious breakfast, but it IS a delicious one!”

Kids: Yeah!

Levi: Wellllll… I think chocolate is healthy. I mean it has milk in it, right?

Mackenzie: Yeah, and it comes from a plant.

Me: Well you’re right. Chocolate’s practically a VEGETABLE!!!

We all laughed like crazy and it was unanimous! Eatin’ chocolate IS eatin’ healthy!!

Any kid of mine has a sweet tooth inherited directly from me. And now that chocolate is a healthy food… well…

Hee hee! Maybe I won’t get mother of the year for this morning’s breakfast, but it was SO worth the moment of crazy laughter with my awesome children. Even my little one-toothed guy was giggling! I’ll be treasuring that moment all day.

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>Kickoff

>I have a few quiet moments this morning. The last few, I’m sure, until after Thanksgiving festivities and the trip to pick up my big kids.

It occurs to me that Thanksgiving is the perfect kickoff to the holiday season. Who is there to thank but God? The day of thanksgiving to Him kind of calls my attention to His work in my life and begins a time of reflection upon what He has done for us all by sending His son, the birth we celebrate at Christmas.

So this year, I’m determined to see Thanksgiving as simply the beginning of a season of celebrating God’s blessings to me. Our Thanksgiving day will be full of commotion, food, laughter, noise, and fun…and of course Saints football. And I will celebrate the way God has lavished me with wonderful people, beautiful babies, happy moments, an amazing family, and so much more. I’ll kick it off on Thanksgiving day with a bang and continue to celebrate throughout the holidays.

I have so much joy, how can it all be properly celebrated in one day alone, or even two? It deserves a month or more, and so it will be.

Amen.

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>Letting Go

>After a lot of thought and consideration, the choice was made to open my hands and open my heart and let it go. As of now, I no longer play keys at Riverside. I’ve learned so much there. I’ve learned that real love is possible, grace is for all of us, and that sometimes God’s people DO come through. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s just plain time to let go. I’m learning that sometimes it’s just plain ok to let go and walk away, regardless of what people think or whether the true situation will come to light or whether everyone will know my side of the story. Not always, mind you. There are times and places to stand firm no matter what may come. But there are times when the best thing for all involved is to release things before they become a total heartbreak. I let go of wanting everyone to think I’m right.

I let go of something today. It’s something that was once precious to me, and I’ve long wrestled with the guilt of not enjoying it as much as I once did. I’ve long wondered what’s wrong with me and what to do about it. It’s grown into one big sticky emotional tangle in my life. And today I let it go. No more trying to untangle the strings. No more trying to make myself fit in a place where I don’t fit anymore. I let go of my need to fit in.

I had a LOT to say about it. I had plenty of feelings to express. I wrote them in a long email and then deleted the whole thing. I realized that voicing my feelings would not bring a result and it would be more painful to communicate those feelings and then realize… nobody cared, than it would be to leave them unsaid. So I let go of what I had to say. And it’s interesting how those negative feelings didn’t really see the need to stick around once I let go of them.

And so I say only a fond farewell to my Riverside family. To those of you who know me, you know it’s also a farewell to the last bit of a tattered and torn security blanket of all I once knew and believed about following God. I let go of my need for other people to approve of the way I worship. Perhaps now I’m ready to really worship for the first time in a long time.

Now I’m following God to entirely new places and it’s good. He’s taking me even further out to the edge, and, breathing freer and moving faster due to my lighter load, I’m ready.

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>All His

>This is my Father’s World
Oh let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.

Sometimes the wrong does indeed seem so very strong. Sometimes it’s easy to get so irritated by the inconsiderate people in life, especially ones I feel should know better. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the disappointments, the heartbreaks, the stresses in life. Sometimes I forget whose world this really is after all.

It’s my Father’s world. It’s His. It’ doesn’t belong to the people who hurt me. It doesn’t belong to the rat race and its delirium. It doesn’t belong to the tragedies, the evils, the stressors. It belongs to the One who loves me and my family and gave His life to buy my freedom. It belongs to my Father… it’s all His and He’s going to have the final say.

That’s a peaceful thought in the middle of my crazy life. Wanted to share it with you.

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>Veteran’s Day

>It’s Veteran’s Day, a special day at St. Francis Villa Assisted Living. It always makes me kind of emotional to think of it. I spend each day in the company of several veterans of World War II, a brave group of individuals, living historians who are fast disappearing from our country.

I wrote a little diddy for our ceremony today and thought I’d share it here too…

Hope you enjoy it, and find time to honor a veteran today.

On Veteran’s day we pause a while to think of those who died
We honor those who worked so hard, our freedom to provide
We tell the stories once again of soldiers brave and true
We think of those they left at home, the trials they went through

In times like these our hearts are heavy with the loss we feel
But then in spite of heaviness, hope rises true and real
We celebrate the courage had that no war could destroy
Each time we throw back our heads and laugh with freedom’s joy

Our very way of life each day gives merit to the fact
That our soldiers are the ones who keep our freedom here intact.
We pray, we vote, we work our jobs, we stand up for our rights
All because of work well done by those who had to fight.

In sounds of children laughing, even shouts of strong debate
We hear echoes of freedom soldiers gave all to create.
So out of sadness we will rise to celebrate and live
Lives that treasure freedom that our soldiers died to give.

By Rebecca Jeffries-Hyman

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>Re-groups and Rewards

>OK, so I couldn’t let the Devil’s Jukebox be the last word. Not that I’ve sorted it all out or anything. I have come to one small conclusion. I see my over-obsessing drive for perfection as just one more flaw and obstacle to overcome in my quest for perfection. Wanting too much to be perfect is something else to work on that keeps me from being perfect.

Is that sick or what?

Other than that, I’ve simply had to table this. Some tangled emotional messes just can’t be untangled all at once. Sometimes like a jigsaw puzzle, you just have to come back to it later and you’ll see it differently and maybe find a piece that fits.

So in the meantime…

My big boy is EIGHT! Can you believe it?? We had a marvelous time at Chuck E Cheese after all. Levi continues to be an absolute joy to be around. He’s INEFFABLE in his charm, his wit, and his zest for life. I love that kid. One of my favorite glimpses into his heart as of late:

Levi (in the car on the way to Chic Fil A for lunch on Saturday): “What’s Caleb gonna eat there?”
Me: “Well, I brought him some baby food.”
Levi: “What if he’s still hungry and wants something else?”
Me: “Well, I guess I could find a little something there he could eat. Maybe they’ll have applesauce or something.”
Levi: “Mom, when YOU eat does it make more milk?” (taps me on the arm to make sure I know he’s talking about my body’s milk making processes)
Me: “Ummm Yes, when I eat, my body uses the vitamins to make the milk for Caleb.”
Levi: “So maybe you could go and get charged up on the chicken and then if he’s still hungry you can feed him some milk.”

And that settles that. I did indeed get charged up on the chicken by the way!

Can’t stay down for long when God has blessed me in this way. If children are a reward from Him, then He has chosen to reward me indeed.

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