Monday, July 23, 2012

Vacation without the Kids

I know its late to write about, but back in June I had the incredible opportunity and privilege to go on vacation by myself.

And it was so much fun, and so relaxing, and so refreshing, I have to blog about it so I can look back and remember what a true luxury it was.

It all started when a friend mentioned The Gospel Coalition Conference in Orlando, FL coming up in June. Her hubby is deployed and she thought she might leave her kids with her inlaws and go soak in the good news of the gospel at the retreat. The idea sounded so good, I mentioned it to Nick, and he unhesitatingly agreed that I should go.


In fact, he insisted. Despite the $$ cost of the conference, lodging, food, and travel. He wanted me to have the chance to get a away on my own, without the kids, and to renew my faith and outlook on life, and to sit under pure and beautiful preaching of God’s word that I so often miss while keeping kids still in church etc. etc.

And so that settled it. No way was I going to argue. I’d just been handed a 5 day vacation to Orlando, FL with a good friend (we actually invited many more friends to join us, though it ended up just being the two of us). Take it! My hubby arranged to take 5 days off work to stay home with the boys, which was no easy task (both in getting the vacation time, and in surviving three little bundles of energy for 5 days) and sent me on my way.

We drove down to Florida on a Thursday. It was a 9 hour drive, but the time in the car flew by. My friend, Becky, and I talked the entire way. Catching up, sharing life experiences, mulling over deep questions, and meditating on the Lord. And literally the time flew by. We couldn’t believe how fast the trip went. Or how easy it was to make stops. All we had to do was see a Starbucks, run in, get our lattes, hit the bathroom and jump back in the car. None of the unbuckling, rebuckling, “hold my hand,” walk across the parking lot, “no, don’t jump on the chairs,” “please stand still in line,” “oh I wish this Starbucks had a drive thru, and “oh no, this bathroom only has one stall.” Nope. Just in out and in 5 minutes. So easy, I almost felt guilty.


The Women’s Gospel Coalition Conference started on Friday afternoon, so we checked into our Double Tree Resort, and lounged at the pool both Thursday evening and Friday morning. I don’t know that I have ever (???) sat poolside and just relaxed like this. Perhaps I did a few times before kids were born, but just sitting and swimming and reading at the pool, without worrying about anyone of my kids drowning was such a luxury.

After a leisurely morning and an incredible breakfast at the hotels restaurant, we headed off to the conference. And had our hearts willed with gospel message after gospel message. It was incredible. It had been a long time since I’d heard so much uninterrupted solid preaching and teaching. Literally, we attended 18 one hour long sessions filled with the gospel, gospel, gospel in the course of 2 and half days. It was truly incredible. We heard from John Piper, D.A. Carson, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Tim & Kathy Keller, Noel Piper, Paige Brown, Jenny Salt, and many other influential authors, teachers, and preachers.

I think what I was most amazed with, was how solid everything we heard was. For a women’s conference, I had expected there to be more fluff. More touchy feely kind of feministic type stuff to have worked its way into a conference for women. I mean, wouldn’t you? I also kind of expected it to be more light, instead of true solid exposition and profound teaching. And isn’t that the stereotype anyway? That women want to hear about women’s issues (marriage, parenting, homemaking etc) instead of the gospel message and expository preaching? I fell prey to the stereotype and was OVERWHELMED with how good, uplifting, refreshing, and amazing the pure gospel message is. And oh boy, I needed to hear it. I needed to be there, to soak it in, to drink it up, to renew my faith and purpose and reason for living.

No, I do not live for my kids, for homeschooling, for cooking culinary masterpieces, or gardening the best garden, I live for Christ because he died for me. And the gospel needs to be at the center of all and everything that I do. ALL and EVERYTHING.


One of the simplest and best take home messages I received was from Don Carson, the president of the Gospel Coalition. It was just a small part of a large exposition, but it hit home. He said, “People may not remember anything you said, they may not hear your preaching or your sermons etc, but they do remember what you are passionate about—so what are you passionate about? What do you care about most? Is it the gospel? Does it exude from you? Does it influence every statement, comment, Facebook post, and interaction you have with others? Are you known for the gospel? Or are you known for your big house? Your gourmet cooking? Your stories about your kids? Your political views? Your business savvy? Or are you known as one who is passionate about the gospel?”

Oh man, it was a beautiful convicting thought provoking message that I hope I’ll always carry with me. I thought about my day to day interactions, how I talk and speak with my kids, friends, husband and family, and how they are so rarely filled with the gospel. Do my children know me as one who loves the gospel? Or do they think I’m most passionate about them sitting still in church or putting their shoes on the right feet? What comes out of my lips more? What do I teach and discuss and tell them about all day? Is it how to be obedient (law) or is it that Jesus saves sinners (grace)? Of course they need the law, they need to learn to obey, but they need the gospel more. They need to know that Jesus died for sinners like them, for children who can’t obey. That there is hope and redemption in Christ for lost and foolish people like us.


I could go on and on. It was such a good conference and time away.

I sure missed my hubby and kids though. It was so sweet to come home, refreshed and renewed and to be greeted at the door by my four favorite men. Praise God!

After we ate dinner together and relaxed a bit, I poured out my heart and experiences and learning to Nick. I told him I didn’t realize how tired and apathetic I had become, how lazy and disheartened I was, or how much I needed The Word of God to dwell in me richly. And by contrast, how uplifted and encouraged and zealous I was again for the Lord and for His work after hearing God’s word preached so faithfully.

Nick was so delighted by the new light in my eyes and the encouragement I received, he told me he thought I should get away every year for something like this. And what am I, crazy? I didn’t argue!!! I just gave him a big huge kiss. I don’t know about every year, but just that he wanted to give me this opportunity again was an incredible thought. Especially because my next getaway will involve him watching 4 little boys on his own.

Brave and wonderful man of mine.


* you can listen to all the lectures from the conference online at The Gospel Coalition

Friday, July 20, 2012

Baby of the House

Noah has been the baby of the house for 2+ years now, and let me tell you, he loves his baby status. Loves it.


He loves climbing (and fitting!) on mommy and daddy’s laps. He loves snuggling and being held. He loves holding hands. And he LOVES asking for help with everything… even if it’s a skill or a task that he can accomplish on his own.

And of course, he’s so darn cute, and he’s only 2, and he’s THE BABY, we’ve let him get away with the extra neediness. But the reality of having another baby has hit us this past week. The pregnancy has flown by and my due date is coming up quickly. And our dear Noah is in for a shot of cold water, as the painful “dethroning” process will hit before we know it.

So we’re working at preparing him, gradually, and a little more each week.


We’ve done lots of little things the past few months… like making him walk and instead of being carried. Training him to sleep in a big boy bed instead of his crib (this was actually an effortless transition!!!!!! We can’t believe how well he did. I don’t think he EVER got out of bed, and still doesn’t get out of bed until I come open his door in the morning). Having him sit on his own (instead of on our laps) during church. Encouraging the older two boys to include him in their play (Noah is often left out, since he can’t build with small Legos etc)

We’ve also been working at different little skills. Taking off his own shoes and socks (yes, he “really” can’t do that on his own). Cleaning up his toys as part of the routine, instead of “only if the bigger brothers aren’t doing it fast enough.”


This past week, I started showing him lots of pictures of baby’s and pointing at my tummy and telling him that we’re having another baby soon. I show him pictures of his brothers as infants, pictures of other baby’s, pictures in books and magazines etc. And do you know what this little bugger says every time he sees a picture of a baby?

“That’s Noah!!!”

With as much delight and joy over seeing “himself” (not really himself, just a cute little swaddled bundle of baby in the pictures), as you can imagine.


Haha! This kid is so stinking smart he KNOWS he’s the baby. And oh my goodness, isn’t that cute? Just makes me want to coddle and cuddle him all the more. So anyway, pray for Noah, and pray for us, that we’ll help prepare him and ease the transition. And that he’ll love his new little brother and that it’ll be a happy occasion when “big” baby meets “little” baby.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

30 weeks!

So here we are! Thirty weeks into the pregnancy! Woot woot!


This pregnancy has been really hard on my body and given me more weird symptoms and discomforts than I’ve ever had before. Nausea. Digestion issues. Spider veins. Varicose veins. Mood swings. Splitting fingernails. Insomnia. Curly curly hair. Unwanted weight gain. Extreme exhaustion. Hormone headaches. Irritability.

But this pregnancy has also been such a blessing and encouragement and sanctifying event for me. As always, I hope that I’m growing in grace and truth and strength every day, but as often seems the case during pregnancy or other challenging times of the month (eh hem), I put my spiritual walk on hold and say, “I’ll strive be more like Christ when I’m feeling better… or when I lose the extra weight, or when the children are out of the house, or when I’m not so busy and exhausted, or when my husband has made our fortune and we don’t have to work hard for every dollar. Then… then that’s when I’ll really grow in grace, that’s when I’ll put the effort in, but now, during this hard bit of hormones and physical discomfort, let me just give in to the moodiness, the cravings, the irritability, and the desire to NOT. DO. ANYTHING.”


And truth be told, I think many of my pregnancy’s (and monthly cycles!) have been that way. I’ve used them as an excuse to be lazy in both my spiritual and physical health, and to backslide just a weeeeeee bit.

So I’m thankful, truly truly thankful for the work that God is doing in me. He hasn’t given me an easy road of effortless pregnancy, or perfect children who sit angelically still and fold the laundry. He hasn’t given me buckets of money, or a husband that doesn’t have to work hard. He hasn’t given me extra hours in my day so that I can “easily” fit in my personal devotions. Instead, he’s given me this.

He’s given me challenges and heartaches and physical discomfort. He’s given me sinful children. He’s given me uncertainty. He’s given Nick 80 hours of work each week. He’s given me intense Southern summer heat. He’s given me friends who’ve failed and disappointed. He’s given me stress, burdens, and tears.

But He’s also given me joy.


True, deep, beautiful unspeakable joy in my life and circumstances. Its not a perfect life. Nor are my dealing and contentment in it. But still. I’m learning. I’m growing. And I’ve seen the Lord do a miraculous work in me, saving me and conforming me to His image—in circumstances that make taking a step back soooo much easier than a step forward.

He has forced deeper self examination than I ever wanted or thought I needed, and has helped me come to grips with many hidden sins of my heart. He has poured out grace and mercy and forgiven me when I’ve failed time and time again. He’s given me a husband who’s been incredibly patient, and children who forgive and forget perhaps a bit too quickly. He’s given me sweet baby kicks in utero to mingle with the stretch marks and weight gain. He has given me his sufficient grace.

And truly his grace is sufficient. It is all we need to resist, to stand firm on His word, to run the race. And so, I’m running. Running hard… but running on His strength that is made perfect in my weakness.




*a few thoughts on 30 weeks. I’m still gaining more weight that I would like, but because I’m also exercising 4 or 5 days a week, I think I’m staying toned and maybe I don’t look as heavy as the scale indicates?? Not sure, but I’m hopeful. wink wink. I’m measuring 2 weeks bigger (by fundal height) than I am by LMP, so this baby is looking to be another big guy just like his brothers. He is moving and kicking up a storm, making my stomach lurch and causing people to laugh. The boys love feeling him kick. Joshua kisses my tummy before bed each night. We still haven’t decided on a name, but received the advice that we should always name our children something that ends with a vowel, so that the name will carry when we yell. Haha.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hot. Hot. Hot.

For the past two weeks, its been over 100 degrees almost every single day. I know the summer time is filled with complaints about the weather, “its so hot”, or “its not hot enough” or whatever. So I won’t sit here and complain about it. The weather is the weather, and God ordains it all, so take it to the Lord if you’ve got a problem.


Haha. Its probably good for me to preface this post with the above reality check. God is sovereign. And sovereignly determined that our AC would go out during those weeks of intense heat.


At first we thought it was just that the AC couldn’t keep up with the hot temperatures outside. I mean, its hard to keep a big house cool when its 109 or 105 or 102 outside. Not to mention when you have frequent visitors and the house doors are being opened and closed all day long.


Then I thought I was just pregnant. I mean, when you are pregnant you are just hot. It’s hot. Everything is hot. Your body is working 20% harder than any average person, and your thermostat is 20% higher too. (true fact). So when the house just seemed hot, I passed it off as pregnancy woes, and tried to grin and bear it.


Nick was the dutiful husband and replaced the air filters, checked for air duct leaks, and even crawled under the house to check the AC units. Our landlord was unfazed by our plight, and reminded us of how hot its been and told us not to worry.


So we did our best. And truly, we were getting a long rather well, keeping the fans running, eating cool meals, and even plugging the crockpot in in the garage instead of the kitchen. We started doing almost all the cooking on the grill and enjoyed lots of cold and refreshing beverages, salads, and sandwiches for dinners. Some of the recipes I tried these past weeks were… oh man, incredible. Grilled pizza with spinach and feta. Mediterranean BBQ chicken salad. Chicken salad sandwiches with sun dried tomatoes and crumbled bacon. Yep, some good stuff.


But then this last weekend, after having a houseful of guests Sat and Sun, we couldn’t get the house to get below 88 degrees. Monday morning when we woke up, it must have been pushing 90 degrees. In. The. House. So the AC repair man came out, fixed us up, and within the course of 2 hours, our house had dropped 14 degrees. And boy oh boy, does 76 degrees without humidity feel amazing. Oh my word, it feels so good.


I hadn’t realized how much the heat had been weighing me down. But it was just exhausting to live in a hot house. And the heat inside brought on all these lovely pregnancy symptoms like swollen ankles and fingers, that wasn’t too cool. I did keep drinking and keep exercising though, and pulled through. And now, in our cool air conditioned house, not a swollen ankle or finger in sight. No sweating just walking around this place. No avoiding coffee because even running the coffee maker in the house made it too hot. And energy!!! Wow!! I have so much more energy. I feel so good and industrious and uplifted. God is good.


We’re really thankful for these modern conveniences. God is so good, and we have a new appreciation for air conditioning to say the least. I also have a new appreciation for this enormous wading pool in the back yard. It takes about 2 hours to blow up… okay so it just feels that when you’re standing out in 100+ degree weather blowing your lungs out because you loaned your air pump to someone months ago. It really only took about 20 minutes… with both Nick and I blowing. Haha.

After blowing it up, I told the boys I was going to get in the pool too. Josh about started crying, “There will be NO room left if you sit in there!!!”

Yes. I guess I’m that big already. 30 week pregnancy pictures to come. I think.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Long Forgotten

Perhaps you’ve already figured out that I’ve forgotten how to blog.

Forgotten how to write. Forgotten how to take pictures. Forgotten how to capture memories and moments and all the things in between.

I’ve forgotten how to think and process… and worse still… how to collect my thoughts and put them on paper.

Blogging was, and has always been, a great avenue for me to meditate and process life. It’s helped me work through the jumbled events and activities around me and to sort, sift, and plunge through the minutes and hours that make up my day. It helped me to make sense, to think BIG, and to wonder out loud about how each moment fits into eternity.

A few months ago (okay, so maybe its been more than a few months since I’ve really sat down and blogged), I would have told you about my day today. About how I woke up to my alarm at 6am… and then proceeded to hit snooze 5 times just because I could. Just because I didn’t have to get up early, because today was a day off from providing childcare for two little boys of a single dad in our church.

I would have told you that I began my day, as I’ve begun almost every day for the last 18 months, by exercising to provide the needed energy and strength to chase, discipline, train, and love my boys. Not to mention the strength needed for a very draining pregnancy, during a very busy stage in life.


I might even have bragged about the fact that I’m still exercising at least 4 days a week (and mowing the lawn on the 5th day!!), despite the fact that I’m round and pregnant and in the last trimester. I know, can you believe that? It seems like that would be something worth bragging about a long time ago, certainly something to write a lengthy blog post about. Only, I haven’t even had the desire to brag to blogdom about such things. But if I did, I’d tell you about Jillian Michaels and her Ripped in 30 program that includes circuit training with strength/weight lifting, cardio, and abs. And how its brutal, but wonderful. How it works every muscle group in my body, but still only takes 30 minutes a day. And I’d stress the fact that I’m still doing lunges, push ups, and high knee running in my third trimester!!! Okay, so I really am bragging now and just casually managed to sneak that in to a blog post about my inability to blog. Nice work, Kath.


Anyway… in addition to my morning work outs, I’d tell you how I manage to keep the kids quiet so I can work out. How I put my exercise DVD in the computer, and put in a movie for the boys on the TV behind me. My boys are early risers since we started watching the extra little boys, so there’s no more exercising in peace and quite before the kids get up. Which is sort of a bummer, but sort of good too. The early bird gets the worm, right? This morning, the kids chose Sid the Science kid from the stack of library DVD’s that we checked out this week. While I exercised, they learned about friction, drag, and force… and loved it. Nice work, Kids.


After working out, I’d tell you that we all get dressed and fresh and ready for the day. No small (or short!!) feat when you’re dealing with 5 little boys under the age of 5. Only of course, this morning it was only 3 little boys which is sooooo much easier. (wink wink). I’d tell you how we sit down for breakfast, usually cereal and milk with assorted fresh fruit. I’d tell you how I made my own vanilla latte (okay, a poor mans latte, with strong coffee and steamed milk sweetened with vanilla syrup) and you’d smile because you’d know that for the first 5 months of this pregnancy I couldn’t drink coffee without being sick. I’d describe the joy and pleasure I feel to be able to enjoy a bit of coffee now and then, and you’d laugh at how I enjoyed a steaming cup of joe even with the temperature being 95 degrees. Because I’d also tell you, that after the heat wave this past week of 105-109 degrees every day, that a mere 95 degrees feels like a reprieve. And it really does. Maybe you have to live in the South, or round and pregnant, to understand that, but its true.


I’d probably tell you how I eat shredded wheat or some other high fiber cereal for most breakfasts (granola etc), and how yesterday I worked out really hard, drank my homemade latte, and forgot to eat breakfast and ended up nearly passing out while grocery shopping at the commissary. Low blood sugar no doubt after not eating anything substantial for 4 hours even with a workout. I’d tell you that I needed to hold onto the shopping cart to stand up, and that my arms were shaking and my face was flushed, but even still I refused to open the container of roasted almonds and carton of chocolate milk (that I decided where the best food choices to right my blurry vision)until we’d paid for them. And you’d cringe and console and remind me “EAT YOUR BREAKFAST, PREGNANT LADY!!” And I’d agree. Because it was really scary. What if I’d been driving? Snacks are now in my purse.


As a result, I’d make a point of telling you that I ate a good breakfast this morning so as not to have a repeat of yesterday. I’d have told you that I was distracted from food yesterday because I was so focused on our “morning devotions with mom” (i.e. me). I’d tell you that the boys and I had previously been reading through Catherine Vos’s A Childs Story Book, but needed a change of pace (and perhaps a shorter lesson so as to keep the attention spans of the extra little boys I watch who aren’t used to sitting still for long periods) so we switched to reading 365 Great Bible Stories: The Good News of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, by Carine McKenzie. Even though we just started it, I’d tell you how much I like this book already-- it has no pictures of Christ in it, which is hard to come by for the Reformed people like me who prefer children’s books that way.

I’d tell you about our morning devotions with mom routine, and how we’re working on the Children’s Catechism, and that Noah (2 years old) can answer the first 10 questions with minimal assistance. I’d tell you about the lazy rut we got stuck in, and how we’re breaking out of it to memorize Scripture verses each morning again. Today we are memorizing John 1:1, and the kids can already rattle it off. Minds like sponges, I’d tell you, so don’t waste these early years.IMG_8440

After breakfast and before the kids run off, I’d tell you about our library book reading time on the couch each morning. About how each child picks a few books from the library basket and how we all snuggle together to read. I’d tell you, how we read half fiction and half non-fiction and how I’ve discovered that my boys prefer non-fiction to anything else. They want and like to hear about what’s real. Oh sure, they love a good fairy tale, but they’d almost always choose a book about steam engines or space craft or tornadoes or firefighters over “something that’s not even true, Mom” (to quote Isaiah). I’d probably tell you how Noah took a fancy to a fictional book about a scary snorklum, and now runs around screaming about being scared, and about the snorklum coming to get him. Silly kid.


I’d tell you how the boys are loving our library’s summer reading program and how they run to keep track of each 20 minutes of reading they either do themselves or have read to them. I’d tell you how Joshua loves reading, and how Isaiah loves flash cards. And how Noah just likes snuggling, pointing, and shouting about different things on the pages.


And that’s probably all I would tell you about in a real blog post, but I’m sure I’d have some fitting stories and anecdotes, some nice pictures and some brilliant insights. Or at least I’d write it beautifully, with the words that captivated and inspired so that you felt like you were really there.

Not like this blog post.

Which is a cheap shot sort of blog post.

But even still, its my weak attempt at getting back to blogging.


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