Thursday, November 2, 2017

Be Survivors!

I have a question for you: if you have kids, do they yell at you? 

I used to believe that all kids yell (because mine do), but when I was talking to my friend recently, I discovered not all kids yell at their parents. I was giving this friend an illustration, and I started, “It’s kind of like when your kids yell at you . . .”

My friend looked at me with bewilderment, “Your kids yell at you?”

I looked back at him with more bewilderment, “Your kids don’t yell at you?” 

He just shook his head. I went on with my illustration, but I’m not sure it was impactful. Now, I’m not saying there are not consequences in our house for yelling. I’m just saying we have yet to find the secret one that stops it. Because, I got yelled at this morning. Two times in fact!

The first time it was because apparently last night, I mentioned that I might make eggs in the morning. Instead, this morning, I served oatmeal. 

“How can I trust you?! How can I trust you if you don’t do what you say you will do?!” was shouted at me.

Brian got a big kick out this, so he jumped in too (totally tongue-in-cheek), “I mean really, Mommy! How could you?! You say you’re making eggs, and then, you make oatmeal?! I just cannot believe you would do this!” (We’re trying a humor parenting strategy this week.)

Later, I was walking out the door to walk the twins, who were running late, to school. Alex suddenly decided he needed something, and he ran back in the house. Well, if Gabe and I didn’t get started walking, Gabe was going to be late, so off we went. Once Alex came back out of the house and didn’t see us waiting, he started yelling at me. Now, all our neighbors now know that some kids yell at their parents. 

I was reading in Matthew 10 this morning out the The Message version of the bible. Several of the things that Jesus says there really struck me. 

The first was from verses 29-31, “. . . don’t be intimated by all this bully talk.” 

That was a good reminder for me this morning after being yelled at. Now, of course, Jesus was not talking about the Stephens kids. However, it requires a lot of staying grounded in my identity in Christ to not yell back at my kids or to not take their anger personally. The calmer I am in those situations, the better it is for my kids. I realize more and more how much I need that posture in life, in ministry, and in being on mission. 

I need to be so rooted in Christ that what others think does not rattle me. That doesn’t mean that we are not supposed to have emotion. But Christ was basically telling his disciples that people were not going to like them! 

“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors!"

I hope that’s an encouragement to you today. In whatever you are facing, don’t focus so much on your’s or other's ideas of success. Be survivors! 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Miracle Morning?

I realized recently that I have only blogged once since this guy was born. He's almost one.

Last night, I was reading through past blog posts, and I started to get a little sad that I haven't been documenting our life, for my own sake. It was so fun to go back and read little stories (mostly about the kids). So I said to myself, "Self, it's time to start blogging again."

Here goes. This morning I was doing some menu planning and was surfing Pinterest for inspiration. I came across a pin that said-the perfect college morning, with a link to an article: "Miracle Morning". I actually clicked on it because I could use some miracle mornings. I'm not bothering to link the article because it was kind of silly and not that profound. 

That got me thinking about my morning, and what defines a miracle morning for me. For my own record, so I can read this post in a few years and chuckle, this was my morning:

5:30am: Alarm goes off. I am trying folks. The hope is that I wake up before all the kids, shower, get dressed, put on my make-up, get breakfast ready for the kids, and then sit in a chair with a cup of coffee, read my bible, and journal for just a few minutes before the crazy starts. Reality, this morning? I hit snooze until 6:20am!

6:20am: Pop out of bed, throw on clothes, put hair back into a ponytail, start the coffeemaker, get breakfast ready.

6:40am: Go into Cece's room, turn on lamp, rub her back (a new strategy that seems to soften the wake-up blow).

6:45am: Big boys wake up on their own. The one morning this week that they could sleep until 7:15am, they are up. Alex is complaining already, and he tries to go eat breakfast without getting dressed first.

7:00am: Alex and Gabe are wrestling in their bedroom. I tell them it is time to get dressed.

7:05am: Alex is not happy about the pants that he chose the night before. I make a fatal (I mean fatal) tactical error and tell him he can choose a different pair of pants. 

7:10am: Gabe is still trying to wrestle with Alex. I institute a new system. Gabe does not get to watch the Friday night movie unless her earns 5 points.

7:12am: I am answering way too many questions about the new point system!

7:15am: Cece is heating up her second muffin in the microwave, but I tell her she doesn't have time to eat it.

7:16am: Alex wants Cece to pass him a knife; Cece freaks out! The new 5 point system now includes Cece. In order for her to earn a point, she has to do something nice for her brothers. She does two things immediately following the institution of the system that do not earn her points.

7:20am: Alex is cold. I tell him that perhaps he should choose long-sleeve shirts instead of t-shirts, and then he might not be so cold. He decides he wants a long-sleeve shirt right then. I think to myself that I shouldn't talk so much.

7:25am: Cece and I go outside to wait for her ride. (Bless our friends who carpool with us.)

7:26am: Cece reminds me that she needs money for her lunch. I run inside grab my wallet and run back out with money.

7:30am: Gabe has brushed his teeth and is reading books because he wants a point.

7:40am: Alex has not brushed his teeth, and he is now wearing his third shirt of the morning.

7:43am: I tell Alex enough is enough, and that he must choose between the two shirts he was already wearing.

7:45am: Our babysitter arrives. Eli is still sleeping despite the previous Cece freakout.

7:46am: Alex is still wearing the third shirt. I skip all point systems and just tell him that he will not watch a movie tonight if it is that important to him to wear the third shirt.

7:47am: Alex is still whining. I just repeat the same words more slowly and more clearly. He cries, but says he wants to watch the movie, so he goes to change his shirt.

7:50am: Gabe is outside with his jacket, hat, gloves, and backpack because he wants a point.

7:52am: Alex is still whining, but he has on a different shirt, and I am helping him put his two sweatshirts on. Yep, he chooses to wear two sweatshirts instead of a jacket. 

7:55am: Alex suddenly stops whining and says, "I'm sorry mommy." We walk to the garage together.

Miracle morning? I think so!

(This is Alex a few weeks ago. No pics of him this morning. Never occurred to me to take one.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

the fourth child

In the first 21 days of Cece's life, we posted 20 times on this blog!! Eli is three months old, and I haven't posted one photo of him. When he was a few weeks old, Daniel, who serves on the JV creative communications team came over to take some family photos, and he also took some pics of Eli.

Sweet boy is the fourth child, so he doesn't get 20 posts, but he sure is cute!

Friday, October 31, 2014

ready (or not) for baby number four

I am 37 weeks pregnant with our baby boy (yep, it's a boy). Our twins were born at 34 weeks, so we are happy to have made it this far. Much of our weekends these past two months was spent painting rooms, refinishing furniture, and moving stuff around our house to get ready for this little guy's arrival. I think we're ready.
To be honest, I have had fear that Number Four (we'll give him a name when he arrives) will limit my capacity. When our boys started preschool last January, I began to increase my involvement and expand the ways I serve in JV and in our community. A few months later, I found out I was pregnant. The truth is, my capacity will be limited, for awhile. However, this week, Brian and I had dinner with Dave and Connie Patty, and they helped us to think practically about ways I can be involved, use my gifts, and serve JV in the next few years. This conversation meant a ton to me personally.

Also, I recently finished reading The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis. After finishing the book, I began to pray and share with God all the emotions I was feeling, a lot regarding having four kids. As I was praying, I got a picture in my mind of our family of six standing on the edge of heaven (much of the imagery came from the book). I saw Brian, myself, Cece, Gabe, Alex, and this little toddler boy bounding through a field toward these mountains where heaven awaited. Then, I heard the Spirit say, "This baby is eternal."

In these next few months, I so desire to keep eternity and Christ's Kingdom in mind.

fall conference

This year was JV's biggest fall conference ever, with close to 300 young leaders attending from 13 different European countries. I still remember when Brian told me, "I think there are going to be 300 people at this conference!" Because he carries a lot of details, he had excitement and a little fear in his eyes as he said it!

The first challenge was figuring out where they would even put 300 people for the sessions. The solution was a semi-permanent tent that our conference center added to their facility a few weeks before the conference started. 
300 young leaders gathered in what ended up being a pretty sweet tent to receive training on how Christ modeled discipleship and how to multiply your ministry.

One of the first times I was trained in this material, ministry according to the life of Christ, was by Dan Hash in 2002 at JV intern training. I remember thinking:this is so good; why don't all ministries just study Christ and how he did ministry? 

Amy Nickerson did a great job of blogging on the JV website about the conference. Check out her Now That the Conference is Over blog for a great summary.

JV's 20th anniversary

This year, JV is celebrating its 20th anniversary. During Fall Conference, one of the evenings was dedicated to a celebration of all that God has done in Central and Eastern Europe through JV in these past 20 years. (Read more about it on Connie's blog.)

While I wasn't apart of JV 20 years ago, I did start serving short-term with JV in 1998. I also lived with the Hashes in the summers of 2002 and 2003 where I had the privilege of hearing a lot of stories from those early years.

20 years ago, two families, the Pattys and the Hashes, took a step through an open door to do Kingdom work in a part of the world where the church was almost dead. They just came. They didn't always know exactly what they were doing, but they did one of the most brave things that anyone I know has ever done. I'm just walking in the path they paved.

Here's a video that shows the fruit of that bold beginning. More people in this part of the world now know Jesus. To be even a small part of that is truly an honor.