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the first six months

For anyone out there who reads this blog (and kudos to you since I haven’t posted one word in over a year), I am going to give you a quick list of the top 10 highlights of the year before I jump into the first six months:

  1. January 2015 – I resigned my position as the Early Childhood Director at our church.
  2. February 2015 – I started compiling a list of all the projects (house and garage), and personal development goals I wanted to start working towards.
  3. April 2015 – SURPRISE! Early spring we found ourselves expecting another Slater, due in December.
  4. April-December 2015 – Morning sickness. Morning sickness.  More morning sickness (add in some heartburn and edema, and VOILA…nine very pregnant months go by).
  5. Dreams placed on the back burner for a while.
  6. July 2015 – Joel started graduate school.
  7. July 2015 – We took our annual trip to North Carolina where I passed out on the beach (oh the drama!), and an OBGYN just happened to be walking by…it’s a whole story…but not for now.
  8. September 2015 – Kids started school – 7th, 5th and 3rd grades.
  9. September 2015 – Joel turned 40
  10. Jasper Sifa Slater was born on December 19, 2015

That about covers it.  There could be much more, but my brain is so foggy.  I can barely remember what we did last week.

The first six months…post-partum…

I thought about blogging something after Jasper was born, but let’s be honest here…for the first two months I sat in the same spot, every. single. day.  And nursed that baby because that was the only thing he wanted to do.  That, and be carried, facing outward, all over the house. He hated the swing.  He hated his car seat.  He hated the swaddle.  He loved to nurse and walk.  Period.

By the time Jasper was three months old we were in full swing with school, sports, and church activities.  And Jasper’s new favorite thing was not sleeping.  Ever.  Naps?  No.  Nighttime?  No.  Thirty minutes here and there?  Yes.  Because that is all a three month old needs, right?  A good thirty minutes of shut-eye and BAM, we’re back in business.  I was a walking zombie by that point, but I wore make-up and did my hair, so I’m pretty sure I hid it well.

I don’t even remember April and May.  I think we were busy.  Sydney turned 13, and I came up with the brilliant idea of throwing her two parties (one for her school friends and one for her church friends) because THIRTEEN.  That’s kind of a big deal.  So I went without sleep (what’s new, right?), baked and cleaned and planned and shopped for the love of my eldest daughter.  And if you are looking for a good definition of insane, I have one for you.  Remember #6 on my list of top ten highlights?  In May Joel graduated with his master’s degree.  Yes.  We are out of our minds.  All the while, Jasper kept nursing (still his favorite) and weighed 19 pounds at his four month check up.  My milk could end world hunger.  I am not kidding.

Here it is, June.  I can’t even.  Where did the past six months go?  I know.  They went with the basketball practices and games, the loading and unloading of a car seat for the daily round trips to and from school, the chorale rehearsals, the weekly ballet practices, the Sunday church services and Wednesday night clubs, a million diaper changes, bath times and family dinners.  The past six months went by with all of the memories and crazy and this-is-our-life-and-it’s-good-so-try-to-enjoy-it-because-time-is-precious-and-fleeting-and-it-never-slows-down.  Whew.

If you were to ask me what I have gained over the first six months of Jasper’s sweet life I would say this:

  1. I have gained an incredible appreciation for this season of my life.  When they say time goes by fast, they aren’t kidding.  It was only yesterday that Sydney was born, and now she’s thirteen.  How in the world?  Time.  That I get to experience the baby kisses and cuddles, soft skin and milky baby breath, and all the firsts one more time is a gift that I do not take for granted.  I am grateful.  I can honestly say that I appreciate all of this so much more this time around.
  2. And the other thing I have gained?  Sleep deprivation.

And that is all I’m going to say about that.

How am I, are we, doing after the first sixth months?

We are doing grateful.

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it’s all under control

“God never fumbles the ball.  If He turns it over to the other side for a few downs, it’s because He knows a better way to win.”  - John Piper

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I like having a plan.  I especially like the good plans.  The kind that took a lot of time and thought and purpose in making.  And I love the control I feel when I’ve put together one of these good plans.

I don’t like to see my plans fall apart.  I am not particularly fond of unforeseen difficulties that interrupt my good plans.  Neither do I enjoy that bitter moment when control slips through my fingers and I am left feeling that my life is at the mercy of someone, or something, else.  I don’t just not like it.  I hate it.

As much as losing control of life’s steering wheel can knock me off balance, it seems to happen a lot.  I make a plan, and then the plan gets derailed.  I used to get all kinds of worried, anxious and ugly when this happened.  And even still I can have some pretty heated discussions with God over  what I consider the injustice of it all: “Why would you let that happen?”  ”What was so wrong with my plan?  You would have gotten plenty of glory out of it.” “Did you really need to allow that detour?  Was it really necessary?”

Can you relate?

Have you played 20 Questions with God when your plan fell apart?

This morning I was reminded, once again, that no matter what happens (the good, the bad, or the unexpected), there is absolutely nothing that can interfere with God’s purpose for my life.  Nothing.

And the same goes for you.

Proverbs 21:30 says: “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”

God’s plans can not be thwarted.  There is no wisdom higher than his wisdom and no insight deeper than his insight.  As much as I love to control my start to my finish, I will never put together a plan as perfect as God’s.  And while I may wrestle with the interruption, I can rest in the knowledge that no matter what happens, it’s all under control.  His control.  There is something reassuring in knowing that nothing can succeed against the Lord.

While releasing our grip from our plans can cause us to feel vulnerable and uncertain, we can trust the one who has it under control.  There is no greater joy, and there is no peace as perfect as trusting in the plans of the Lord.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

the cross

And then…the cross. All of our ideologies, politics, platforms & preferences must surrender themselves to the work that was done on the cross. We recognize that suffering is a part of Christ’s sacrifice, and so we should not be surprised when life is not always easy or hard things come our way. When we think we are more, or when difficulties & pain are all we see…then the cross. We cannot truly appreciate the resurrection and the hope until we have acknowledged the cross. And we cannot comprehend a perfect love until the cross.

Pause for a moment with me.

Psalms 113-118 are the Passover Psalms.  The first two are sung before the Passover meal, and the last three are sung after.  The Jews call them “The Hallel (Praise)”.  It is quite possible that Jesus sang “The Hallel” following the Passover meal he shared with his disciples before his death.  The “Hallel” is named this because this grouping of Scriptures are Psalms of praise.

Before Christ suffered…Christ praised.

There are no words.  I am speechless.

When I reflect on all of the pain and suffering of this world, and when I watch humanity fight and bicker and tear each other apart, I then find myself frozen at the cross.

The cross.

Praise before, or perhaps for, the sacrifice.

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-4

He can not hold on to anything when we encounter the cross.  We can only cling to Jesus, and recognize that while this earth is something we can not always understand or control, whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, we too can glory.  We can boast.  We can praise.

As we enter into this Holy moment, let us enter in as Christ did.  With praise.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; he love endures forever.” Psalm 118:29

enjoy this moment

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We all know how quickly the sands of time slip away from us.  We are all very much aware that childhood is fleeting.  We hear it from older and wiser parents: “Before you know it, they’ll be off to college, getting married, starting a family.”  Yes.  We hear it all the time.  I have even heard myself say words like that to moms with little ones.  It’s just what we do.

And yet, those days in between those years can seem like an eternity.  The diapers.  The nap schedules.  The 2 AM feedings.  The homework.  The dioramas.  The lunches and meal planning.  The trips all over town for basketball, ballet, library time.  You name it.  The day in, day out part of life can feel like a never ending hamster wheel.  And we wonder if we are making a difference.  We stress about BPA’s and GMO’s and fear that we may have inadvertently poisoned our precious babies, and the reason they are struggling with their sixth grade math is because our sleep deprived eyes never read the labels when they were six months old.  O my, how we stress.  Those “short years” are a joke to those of us swimming in a sea of seemingly endless activity and worry.

Our days are long.

And yet, I have to agree with the older and wiser mom who tells me this time will fly by; to cherish and enjoy this moment.

Because the years truly are short.

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Today, in the rush of morning checklists and weighted down backpacks heaved upon forgiving shoulders, I found myself holding on to that moment with clenched fists.  This typical and unassuming morning was precious to me.  Why?  Because I could see those tiny grains of sand rushing through my fingertips, and I have decided that I don’t want to miss out on the everyday moments of these very long days.  It doesn’t make the long days easier, and it doesn’t miraculously infuse me with more energy, but it does remind me that I can enjoy this moment – this very long moment – so that I don’t wake up with any regret after the very short years have passed.

Enjoy this moment.

You don’t have to love it, especially when you are neck deep in tantrums and poopie diapers.

But, enjoy this moment for the character it is shaping both inside of you, and inside of your child.

You are becoming just as much as the little ones you raise.  Become your best, and enjoy the process.  Enjoy the moments.  They are remarkable.  And if you get the chance to catch a glimpse of the trickling sands of time, relish in the gift that this miraculous opportunity is giving you.  Reach out and grab it.  Embrace it.  Let it remind you that while the years are short, we have long days to hold on to.

Enjoy this moment.  For everything that it is, and for everything that it isn’t. Simply enjoy it.  These long days are making you.

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it’s a crumby battle

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So many crumbs.  So little time.

I find myself more irritated by the amount of crumbs I find scattered all over the kitchen counter and floor than I am by the big messes around my house.  It seems that no matter how many times I swipe down the counters with a cleaning rag, there are still crumbs that I miss!  I am convinced they reproduce and multiply when I’m not looking.

Isn’t that kind of like life?  We prepare ourselves for the BIG stuff that comes our way, but those little irritations and frustrations can send us right off the edge.  We think, perhaps, that faith and trust and obedience are characteristics that we need only to pull out and exercise for the major life changes and catastrophes that come our way.  However, faith, trust and obedience can only mature and develop if we will simply persevere through the crumby battles of life.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Don’t let the crumbs take you down.  Yes, dealing with the little things can be so hard, but it is through perseverance that our faith, trust and ability to obey grows deeper…stronger.  I don’t know about you, but I really want to face the hard stuff with maturity of faith…and pure joy.

It may be a crumby battle, but those crumbs don’t have to win.

Take each mundane frustration, and trust God to see you through it, even if it is simply wiping down your counters for the um-teenth time.

And when the BIG stuff comes your way, because it will, consider it joy.  You have persevered.  You will be made complete.

set free

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“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

My kids are not exactly fans of household responsibilities and chores.  It is not uncommon to hear groaning when they are asked to clean their rooms, pick up their toys, and contribute to the overall upkeep of our home.  They don’t like my “commands”.  They don’t always feel so “free” while doing homework.  Yet, left to their own devices, with the freedom to run their lives, they would probably end up feeling more out of control and insecure.  They love the idea of freedom, but they just can’t handle the immense responsibility that comes with it.

We love freedom, don’t we?  There is something empowering about having the freedom to choose how we live our lives, where we live, what we eat, and who we want to be. Equally, there is something imposing and stifling to imagine someone taking away that freedom and control.

We are a lot like my kids, actually.  We want control.  We want to call the shots on our lives.  We don’t want anyone telling us what we can and cannot do.

And yet, we don’t always do such a great job when left to our own devices.

God has given us great freedom.  And I, honestly, can not find anywhere in the Bible where he invites us to a life of gloom and doom and drudgery.  However, he has given us guidelines for living- not guidelines that will take away our joy and pleasure in life, but guidelines that will enhance and protect our lives.  These commands, if we set our hearts on obedience, will truly set us free.

Our hearts long to pump hope, joy, peace and freedom through every vein of our being.  We long to shed insecurity, fears, burdens and the consequences of our mistakes.

We long to be set free.  But in order to taste the sweetness of freedom, we must surrender.  We must submit to God’s commands.  Obey and trust.  Live honestly and humbly, patient and respectfully.

A heart that is truly surrendered is a heart that is truly set free.

don’t look down

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Peter was a water walker.  He was the kind of guy that wanted to take advantage of any and every experience with Jesus – even to the extreme of walking on water.

Matthew 14:22-32 gives the account of Peter’s famous water-walking moment.  In summary, Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat.  Jesus took some time alone to pray.  When he was done, it was late and the boat had drifted quite a ways out due to the wind.  So, Jesus began walking on the water towards the boat.  The disciples saw him and thought he was a ghost.  Peter, our bold and daring disciple, challenged the “being” on the water saying, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus invited him to join, and the next thing Peter knew, he was walking on water, too!  Then the wind picked up, struck fear in Peter, and he began to sink.  Jesus took him by the hand and led him to the boat.

When Jesus reached out and caught Peter, he said one thing to him, “You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?”

Has God called you to get out of the boat and walk on water?  Or, has God called you to move out of your comfort zone and to step into something that seems completely impossible?  Has God called you to greater faith?  Greater responsibility?  Greater things?  When those moments come, and they do, and they will, it can be both exciting and scary all at the same time.

We ask ourselves: “Can I do this?”  ”Is this really God?”  ”What if I mess up?”  ”Will God be there to catch me?”

The lesson here is: don’t look down.  When God calls you out of the boat, don’t look down.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  The wind will blow and work hard at distracting you, but you must never turn your eyes away from Jesus.

Don’t look down.

When we look down, we doubt that God will be faithful.  We doubt that God will see us through.  We doubt that his initial invitation to step out of the boat was real.  We begin to doubt everything that led us to that moment.

If we would just hang in there, set our eyes on Jesus, and walk forward, we will not just walk on water, but we will find our way to the perfect place of peace, fulfillment, and reward.

Don’t look down.  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  Take courage…Jesus is right out in front of you!

when reason fails

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“Lord, how great is our dilemma!  In Thy Presence silence best becomes us, but love inflames our hearts and constrains us to speak.  Were we to hold our peace the stones would cry out; yet if we speak, what shall we say?  Teach us to know that we cannot know, for the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Let faith support us where reason fails, and we shall think because we believe, not in order that we may believe.” – A.W. Tozer

Have you ever tried to figure God out?  Have you ever found yourself right on the brink of something new, but the uncertainty of it all began to overwhelm you?  And the only truth you could hold on to was trust?

Sometimes my grasp of God is so very small.  I forget how marvelous and all-powerful he is.  I find myself working hard in my own strength because I can’t truly believe that God is bigger than my problem, holier than my behavior, and deeply invested in my future, even more so than I.  I forget that God is God.

In the book of Zechariah a problem arose while building the temple.  The word of the Lord came to the prophet with a promise that the temple would be completed, and additionally, a reminder that, in his own strength, Zerubbabel would not be able to accomplish this task.  It could only be done through the power of the Spirit.

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.  Who are you, O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel  you shall become a plain.  And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of  ’Grace! Grace to it!’”

Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands will also complete it.  Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.  For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” Zechariah 4:6-10

When God lays ahold of your heart, calls you to deeper purpose and greater things, it may feel as though you have been called to build a temple out of rubble.  But if God has truly called, then God will truly lay the foundation.

God is God, far greater and far more incomprehensible than any person we could ever know.  And when reason fails, may we lean more deeply into faith.  May we trust that God will complete the very thing he started in our lives.

And it is not in our might.  It will not be through our power, but it will be through the Spirit which cannot be hindered.

“Our power is not in our numbers.  Our power is not in ourselves.  Our power is in the simplicity of Jesus.” - Dick Brogden, LiveDead

look

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I accidentally dropped the belt to my jacket in the toilet at work yesterday.  Joel’s car was in the shop, my head was throbbing, and a difficult conversation from the evening before was still very fresh on my mind.  It was a struggle to stay focussed and productive amidst all of the distractions pulling for my attention.  I am not very good at compartmentalizing my life.  If one thing starts to unravel relationally, professionally, or personally, you can be sure it will be felt everywhere else, too.

I guess that’s why my Bible reading this morning hit me in such a profound way.

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4

It is so easy to lose focus.  We can start the day off on the right foot (hopefully), and then the kids start to squabble, or there’s an unflattering e-mail waiting for us at work, or we trip and fall as we’re trying to get out the door.  Those seemingly insignificant things that pop up can play a very significant role in how the rest of our day goes.  I don’t know about you, but when I find myself sinking further and further into life’s unforgiving mess, my focus quickly moves from God to me.

This verse in Psalms is a wonderful reminder to look to God, and then keep on looking to Him.  When I spill coffee on my white pants, keep looking to God.  When I’m stuck in traffic and I have to get Sydney to ballet, keep looking to God.  When the pantry is bare and I need to get dinner on the table, keep looking to God.  These temporary challenges are not the end of the world.  It’s just life.  Sure, there are frustrations, but in light of the big picture, they are really nothing but small speed bumps along the way.

I am challenged today to seek his face always…to keep my focus on what is eternal…hopeful…true.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2,3

Remember the Author.  Remember the cross.  Remember the joy.

He did it all, so that we would not grow weary and lose heart…

But we must keep looking to Jesus.

stuck in the mud

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Growing up in Africa, Sundays meant long, bumpy trips off the beaten path to get to church.  During the rainy season, heaps of red clay and dirt roads would turn into miles of thick, muddy paths.  On one particular Sunday, our car got stuck in the mud.  We were out in the middle of nowhere, and our car would not budge.  We began to pray.  My dad tried to push it out all by himself, but the mud was so thick, and our car was so deep, that it was no use.  Suddenly, children started running toward our car.  We had no idea where they came from, but they kept coming.  Dozens of them.  With gigantic grins and bare, dirty feet, they gathered around us and started to help push.   Little by little, the car slowly inched its way out of the mud until we were free and clear.

There are a couple of things I have learned from this experience that have helped me navigate through those times when I feel stuck in the “mud of life”:

1. Pray. Getting “unstuck” should always begin with prayer.  I realize my better judgement can be skewed by my emotions, so rather than try to figure it all out or sit and stress over the situation, I have learned to go to God in prayer first.

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it.  Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed…” 2 Kings 19:14,15

2. Get out of the car and change perspective. When I am stuck in the mud, all I can see, feel, hear, and touch is my stuckness.  Getting out of the car allows me to pull away and look at the mud from a different perspective.  A new vantage point can also help me see some practical changes that I may need to make that will help pull me out of the mud.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

3. Seek support from trusted friends. There is nothing worse than pushing out of the mud alone.  In fact, you probably won’t get very far with that method.  Seek out loyal friends, invite them into your life, and allow them to help you through the process.  Working your way out of the mud will be far more successful with the support, encouragement, and strength from a true friend.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The mud you’re in doesn’t own your life.  If you’re stuck because of poor choices, stop agonizing over it, repent, and then move on.  If you’re stuck simply because of the circumstances in your life right now, don’t fret.  God is in complete control.  Rainy seasons don’t last forever, and God never intends to keep us stuck when we are willing to follow him.

Keep pushing on.

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