“Don’t wake me up”

Last night Elisa was telling me about her psychology class.  At some point this week they got in a conversation about times that people wake up.  The teacher said, “So for school days many of you maybe get up at 6 or 6:30 or for some of you 7 or later.  But we don’t typically get up at 6 on a Saturday. What time do we get up on a Saturday?”  Elisa’s response of “2”not only made the teacher pause but many of her classmates too. But yes, it’s true.  Without anything she has to be up for, 2 p.m. is about the earliest I’ll see my daughter appear from her room.  It can be later.  

You can imagine that this probably doesn’t make school day mornings very easy to get up for her.  Despite many alarms set it’s normally not until we go through a whole routine of things that she actually gets out of bed and out the door.  All with the flip of a switch!

First of all, can we just pause at the irony that her alarm is the chorus of a song that just says “Don’t wake me up” over and over again.  On days like today when it plays for 30 minutes while I’m up getting ready, it cracks me up to hear it over and over and over again.  

When it’s ACTUALLY time that she NEEDS to be out of bed, I become very thankful for our apartment’s entry way light.  Elisa’s bedroom has a window into that entry way which means despite the sun not coming up as early in the morning I can somewhat suddenly simulate that without blinding her so much with her room light that she just hides under the covers and goes back to sleep. 

A few knocks, warnings that Caitlin will be here in 10 minutes, and when necessary standing in the door way until her feet touch the floor, and we’re we’re good to go. Of course many days it’s not that complicated and she actually gets up on her on, but it’s nice to have a plan when we need it! 

Now, off to wake her up for the second time today … 

Senior Night!

More (better) pictures to come once we actually get them from the coach but here are a few from Senior night at Volleyball…

I love this girl so much and have loved watching her play! 

And now… some preparation for the next sports seasons… 

… or maybe she should just do track?!? 

P.S. She told me my Faroese sounded good just now when I told her ‘Goodnight’.  WIN! 

Laundry, Pancake Batter, and a Throne of Grace

The last few days have been tough. Nothing specific has made them such, just the little things of normal life that add up to some frustrating, busy, chaotic, hard, or just random days.  

As I went to bed last night I decided to pick up a book I’m in the middle of to unwind a bit before heading to bed.  When I did, I was met with these beautiful words: 

“Draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Wow… those were the words I needed. As I read on the author of the book continued sharing about this verse and how that plays out on the tough days:

“The writer of Hebrew might as well be saying, ‘Hey fresh-out-of-amazing girl, you are welcome here.’ Do you know what being ‘welcome at this throne’ of God means? We can bring our burdens and busyness, we can lay down our shattered dreams, we can tell God we have never felt amazing, we can pour out all the lies our hearts have been believing, and we can certainly cry the bitter tears stored up in our grieving hearts. Friend, simply put, it is good for us to approach the throne of grace.” – Stacey Thacker, Fresh Out of Amazing (page 178)

Mmmm… that’s some good stuff for the soul!  As I got up this morning I decided I’d start the day at this throne of grace… and wow did God meet me there today.  The busy schedule didn’t get any less busy… the confusing situations didn’t get any less confusing… the hard work is still hard… and there’s still the task of getting your teenager to finish cleaning up the pancake batter that’s still down the front of the kitchen cabinet from Monday’s adventure with her friends… BUT at this Throne of Grace I did receive mercy and was able to find, to search for, to notice grace in time of need. 

Today, that grace just came in wave after wave… “grace upon grace”… as John talks about.  Oh yes, I had to look but once I did, I found grace all over the place today… 

Grace came in gathering with a friend, as we do each Wednesday morning, to pray the things of our hearts together. 

Grace again in praising Jesus while leading preschool chapel… reminding myself as I taught them that God really does have the whole world, including me, in His hands… and the sidewalks and the cows too 😉

Grace found in abundance while listening to the heart of an overwhelmed college student and being able to help her give herself a little grace.

Grace in the crockpot working hard all day making yummy a porkchop dinner for us and grace in a quick 10 minute nap on the couch while waiting for the rice to cook. 

Grace in working together with Elisa to do the dinner dishes (and finish cleaning up the pancake batter) allowing for conversation and connection in the process. 

Grace still crashing in again when Elisa remembered before me that she needed to wash her volleyball uniform, took initiative to do laundry herself, AND stopped to ask me if I needed anything washed while she was doing a load. Oh so many graces there. 

And now, to end the night, putting my laundry away listening to Elisa playing beautiful music on the keyboard which is in my room… 

Yea, there again … grace upon grace upon grace. 

Thank you Jesus for letting us draw near at your Throne… and while at work… and in the car… and while doing housework… thank you for the mercy that we receive there and the grace we find again and again and again.  Keep drawing us near. Amen. 

What being a mom has taught me about serving others

One of the greatest joys of this whole host family process has been the chance to serve someone else daily, perhaps multiple times a day.  For example, while Elisa is perfectly capable of packing her own lunch, and some days does, I enjoy serving her in this small way.  

It also is a way I actually can help toward the process of getting a teenager out the door halfway on time in the morning.  I can’t control the rest of her rushed morning routine, but I can make her lunch.   This is just one of many ways being “mom” has taught me about serving others: I can’t do everything but I can figure out what my role is and serve wholeheartedly there, doing my small part. 

Also, parent to a teenager provides an everconstant reminder that servants are often overlooked and undervalued.  While we all experience this ourselves in different ways, it’s a great reminder to be more grateful for the people who serve ME and to keep my eyes open for what others do that may often go unnoticed.  

It’s also a great mirror for my motive behind serving and an attitude check in the midst of it.  I have a few choices when serving someone doesn’t go as I planned.  I may go out of my way to make sure dinner is waiting for her when she home from a volleyball game on a day I won’t be there to make something.  Then, instead of eating what I make she invites friends over, makes pancakes (along with a big mess in the kitchen).  I have some choices to make… I can either let myself get worked up or frustrated that my efforts were in vain and seemingly unnoticed. OR I can be grateful that she seems to understand the value of having people over… that she IS self-sufficient enough to make dinner… that she did promise before I even got home that she’d clean everything up… that she feels comfortable enough here to invite people into our home. (…and that’s she’s okay with leftovers and I don’t have to think about what to cook for tomorrow night🙂 ). I can get frustrated or I can get grateful.   

As I mentioned before, it shines a light on my motives and expectations… why was I making her dinner in the first place… was I doing it simply out of love and care for her or was I doing it to gain some kind of approval or affirmation. (Most likely in this case I was doing it because providing food for my kid is kind of important haha).  But in the bigger picture of serving anyone, when I’m left frustrated often I can trace it back more to my own unrealistic expectations or motivations, more so than anything someone else did or didn’t do. 

I’m sure Jesus felt unnoticed and undervalued all the time as He served people all around Him.  He would do great things for them… even miraculous things, and they’d forget a few days later.  If nothing else, there’s the whole fact we often forget that, well, He DIED for us.  How quickly we forget that huge, ultimate act of service.  Not being noticed is part of the deal in serving, I think.  But Jesus kept focused on His purpose.   God’s Word even tells us that serving people WAS his whole purpose in coming… that He didn’t come to be served but to serve and give His life.  When we can keep our purpose in view as we serve, we are able to leave the frustration and bitterness out of the picture. 
Serving someone in the role of mom has also taught me so much about developing others in servanthood.  While Elisa’s parents already did all the hard work on this part, I get to continue to help build on what they’ve done to grow her into someone with a heart to serve others. I pray that if I have more children of my own in the future what I’m learning now will help me in the early stages as well.  

Above all, serving Elisa has reminded me of the sacrificial and unconditional love of Jesus for me.  In the end, I love and care for Elisa.  No matter what happened yesterday, I can joyfully get up and serve her today because of that love.  Even greater is the love of Jesus and even more perfect.  As humans it’s easy for us to carry around a list of past offenses, to let things build up overtime and become more and more bitter and frustrated. But Jesus, His mercies never come to an end, they new every morning. His faithfulness is great and His love is steadfast (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

Jesus as we serve others, in whatever role we may serve them, may our mercy and compassion be new this day.  Free us from any frustration of past days and set our hearts on love.  May you give us opportunities to serve out of that love with no other motives.  May we be faithful to the places you’ve called us to serve even on the days it gets hard.  May we seek to glorify you and not worry about being noticed or appreciated by anyone else.  Show us the purpose you have for our lives and use that to joyfully prompt acts of service in our lives out of your grace. Above all, thank you for serving us, each and every day, and ultimately in the giving of your life. What great love!  Help us rest in and live out of that love today. In Jesus’ name, Amen

On Plants and Parenting

At our host family orientation for AFS, one of the activities involved looking at a bunch of small plants and describing all the difference.  The cacti ware different than the leafy plants different still from the flowering ones. And even within a variety of categories each plant on the table was still unique… different colors, shapes, etc.  

We used these plants to discuss difference in the teenagers who would be coming to join each of our homes.  Even putting aside the fact that they’re coming from different cultures and countries, each student is already unique with their own personality, experiences, and outlook on life.  

While some common things are needed to help plants grow… water, light, air, etc… each plant is unique.  Some plants need direct sunlight while others need shade. Something like grass needs water multiple times a day when it first starts growing from seeds. while other plants… well let’s just say I might have killed a few plants with too much water.  Different temperatures and climates also help various plants thrive. 

Once again, the same is true of the students who came through AFS this year.  All need attention, love, food, support, shelter, encouragement, and more. But it’s not a one-size-fits all thing.  What works for one student doesn’t work for others.  The key is paying attention and being intentional.

Throughout this year my little plant on the kitchen counter, taken home from that first host parent orientation, has reminded me of that.  

Thankfully it’s a pretty forgiving plant.  It needs attention but seems to bounce back pretty well if it gets neglected.  However not without a few lost leaves.  Like my relationship with Elisa I must pay attention to it, watching for signs when more care is necessary.  I must be intentional about not letting things go on auto-pilot as we go through the year and find some routines. I must take time each day to water our relationship.  I must be attentive to areas in her life where a little extra care and attention would be helpful.  I must help get rid of any “dead leaves” between us so new ones can thrive. 

I can’t help but think this morning about how God does the same with his children.  Each of us are created in His image, yet unique.  He doesn’t treat us all with cookie cutter responses.  Rather, He carefully tends our hearts and minds with intentionality based upon what He knows we each need.  He gives a little more water or a little less sun; He prunes when necessary even if it hurts Him to see us Hurt.  The Master Gardener knows exactly what we need today. Not only does He know what we need, He will provide.

So many great reminders to start a new week all from one little plant on the kitchen counter. 

Parenting is Hard. 

At the church where I work, we strongly believe that children and youth ministry is not just for children and youth, but also about equipping parents.  At the top of our resource page online we simply have these words: 

Parenting is Hard. 

For years I have known this fact.  I truly respect parents for all the hard work they do day in and day out trying to raise up children to be respected and respectful human beings, to give them a clear picture of their identity and purpose. (That’s not to mention the huge task of being the primary faith nurturer in their child, whether they want that role or not.) 

Yes… Parenting is Hard. 

There’s all the logistics of balancing all the activities and events, schedules and “who needs to be where, when.” There’s figuring out boundaries and figuring out how to, over the course of about 18 years, gradually give them more and more independence.  There’s the practical struggles of the sleepless newborn months and the helping with homework when 5 x 5 somehow isn’t so easy as it just simply being 25 anymore. 

The logistics and everyday “stuff” of parenting is hard.  

But then there’s the heart stuff… the character building … the teaching a 2 year old “let’s learn how to share” that somehow, perhaps overnight it seems, turns into discussions about bullying and breakups, sex and suicide, driving cars and deciding on colleges. 

Parenting is hard. 

This is nothing new to me. As I said before, I completely recognized this fact and try to be the biggest cheerleader I can be for the parents I see around me… friends with kids, the parents of students in our ministries, strangers on the street. Nothing I’ve learned so far as an AFS mom (which has been a lot) has been things I didn’t already know on some level. However, I pray that as I experience some of these things first hand, I’ll be an even better cheerleader moving forward.

So parents out there, you’re doing a great job. Even when it feels like this is the craziest job you’ve ever had, even when you mess things up, even when you’re not sure how in the world to handle a situations… yep, even then, you’re doing awesome.  Parenting is hard, but you’re not alone… look around you… MILLIONS of other people are doing it right alongside you.  It may FEEL like you’re alone, but you’re not. Reach out, encourage each other, walk with each other.  We need each other! And above all, lean into Jesus.  He’s got energy when we’re weary, wisdom for the tough decisions, grace when we feel like we’ve messed, and love. Yea, he’s got a lot of love… an abundance actually. And he wants to pour it all over our lives so that we can pour it out into our children.  Lean in, parenting may be hard, but it’s also amazing!

On Mom Time – Efficency 

I’m all for being as efficient as possible and often think through a day or tasks to see what might be the best game plan for getting everything done.  This skill has become extremely useful as a mom and I’ve even managed to be even more resourceful with my time.  An example was Wednesday night.  I went straight from my work at the university and timed it right to get to the high school with about 2 minutes until Elisa’s game started.  I was originally just planning to hang around after the game before her Homecoming Powderpuff game, but then realized I had a whole hour.  Instead of sitting on uncomfortable bleachers for an unnecessary hour I instead went and got gas, picked up the groceries I needed for tomorrow, dropped the perishables back off at home and made it back in time for kick-off.  Not only that, but I actually remembered some shopping I needed to do for work at the grocery store and got it all done in one trip instead of having to go out tomorrow during work to pick it all up.  Yay for efficency!  Yay for a Tonawanda win for the volleyball game!  And yay for a senior win at the Powderpuff game. 

Now if only my daughter could remember everything she needs on any given day and prevent extra trips to home…