Sunday, March 31, 2013

Intentionality/Easter Week

I'm learning a lot about intentionality these days, that is, the importance of intentionally investing myself in the things that matter most. We live in a crazy, busy world with SO much at our finger tips. But, the question I'm asking myself is: truly, what am I giving my time to? 

My goal for this week with the kids was to intentionally teach them the Easter story. Now, in the days of Pintrest, there are probably a million creative, cute ways to do this. Well, I didn't prepare in advance, so we kept it plain and simple. We read their Bibles. I did manage one craft (only because the idea was spelled out for me in their Awana books), but we mostly just read again and again the events that led up to Jesus' death on the cross, His death, and His resurrection. 

And honestly, they feasted on it (especially Judah). If you have kids, you know as well as I do, repetition is not a bad thing for them. They love to do the same things over and over, listen to the same songs over and over, and read the same books over and over. So though this seems potentially boring to us as parents, and most likely didn't make a Pintrest board, it was an awesome thing to commit ourselves to reading these stories again and again (by the way, I do really like Pintrest...maybe too much:)). 

And I have to share, some neat things that resulted:

  • The boys usually both want to place their most beloved toy of the day/week by their beds at each sleep time. This week, their prized possessions were their Bibles and their Jesus puppet. Seriously. They get how cool He is.
  • Judah declared to me at breakfast this morning, "Mom, I want to be Jesus when I grow up." Now, obviously the boy cannot become God, but how cool that his heart is excited to be like our Jesus.
  • And probably the coolest thing, was this special song that I caught Judah singing on his own one day in the kitchen. It's his own tune, his own words, straight from his heart. He agreeably sang it again for me as I videoed it. View video here.
    I was so amazed! He's hearing the Word and he knows it!! (Interpretation may be needed for his passionate singing voice: he goes from the Last Supper Meal "this is my body, this is my blood!", to going to pray in the Garden, to "and the soldiers got Him", to carrying the cross "and he fell down!", to Jesus' death "and the people said 'wah-wah!'", to Joseph providing Jesus' tomb, to Him rising again & the disciples seeing Him, and finally to Him going back to Heaven.)

I'm so encouraged. Though they are just kids, the same holds true: the Bible is powerful and effective in their lives, period. Even without all the glitz and glam and creative spins I can feel pressured to put on it for them to understand it or think it's cool, these stories hold words of life.

"How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare all the just decrees of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." 
Pslam 119: 9-16

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Testimony Time

As a mom, I long to see my kids to follow Jesus. Yet they have to make that decision. I can teach, lead, point to Jesus, and pray, but ultimately, they have their own will, their own spirit. 

This is Easter week. The pinnacle, truly, in our Christian faith. God's love for us revealed in Jesus taking our sin on the cross and proving His power and victory in raising from the dead. What a wonderful thing to continually ponder. 
And, bummer, but I have not yet prepared for Easter. I want to lead my kids in some great Easter activities that really point to Jesus, the cross, and His victory. Any ideas you already have going? Please share!!
We did begin reading the story of Mary going to the tomb last night and I led them in a rhyming tune of their verse for the week for Awana, complete with motions. Today our goal is craft time to practice our verse while creating a banner that proclaims it: "He is not here; He has risen, just as He said..." Matthew 28:6.
I love that even though I can feel like I've dropped the ball in not yet being prepared for Easter, God is showing me He has gone before me and is working in their hearts. Really the pressure I can put on myself is silly. It is an important week, that is so worth celebrating. Yet, even more is the life I'm living before them and the moments I'm seizing with my kids everyday. How am I pointing them to the cross and Jesus' victory over sin and death everyday? Well, praise God, Levi & I shared the most tender moment talking about all of this last night.
Judah was scared at bedtime last night before they had both fallen asleep. I came in to pray for him and talk it through. As I was talking about God being bigger than anything, Levi interrupted, with, "Mom! I thought of something!!" I asked him what it was. He said, "If the sky and the clouds went away, we could see God in Heaven!" He was excited. I told him he was right.
Well this dialogue continued with us talking about being able to pray that God would show us in our dreams more of what Heaven looks like now. I then was able to share with them that before I was following Jesus, He gave me a dream that let me know that I wasn't obeying God.
Levi was so present in our conversation, eager to understand, and asking questions like crazy. "You mean you used to not obey God?" Ha! Yes, Levi, thanks for thinking your mother is so saintly :) Yet it was a glorious moment of getting to share my specific sins that I walked in before I followed Jesus: disrespect to my parents, pride, wanting my way and not God's. He was hanging onto every word. 
We then got to talk about the role of the Holy Spirit, coming as a helper to us once we begin to follow Jesus. He thought that was cool. He really did.
Then he said, "Mom, I want to follow Jesus." 
I said, "That is the biggest and best decision you could ever make, Levi. And it's not a small one. You can pray to God about it and let Him know."
We didn't go any further than that last night. He's 3.5. Though I believe his heart was sincere, I didn't want to rush in proclaiming, "Great! Now you're a follower of Jesus!" I'm trusting and praying that God is doing this work and will continue to teach and show him more.
I went over to Levi and gave him one last kiss before leaving. I said to him, "Levi, I think that you wanting to follow Jesus is awesome."
He smiled, and said, "Thank you, Mommy."

What a glorious thing that God rescued us from sin and death! Grateful, so grateful, for His work in Levi's heart and the testimony He has given me to share. He's gone before me to make this week of celebrating Easter awesome.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekend Update

This weekend, the kids and I took a trip to Ohio, to my hometown, while Waylon stayed back home to work on some projects in the house. We got to enjoy a car trip with my mom and visiting my dad and family, as well as my grandparents. 

Some highlights were: making memories with my kids in my favorite place growing up (my grandparent's house); hearing Judah make up songs in the car about all modes of transportation; seeing Clara giggle as she found out she could chew on her toes on the ride home; and watching Levi's love bank get full in quality time with grandpa working on puzzles (a cool wood one that grandpa made, no less.) I loved seeing family, and loved longing to be reunited with my husband and settle back into the comforts of our home. 

Some pics from the Ohio end:

And pics on the Kentucky end....Rearranging/organizing the kitchen:

 Painting Clara's Room:

Grateful for my hardworking husband and time with family.

Friday, March 22, 2013

31 Days of Praying for your Husband Conclusion/Sanity Manifesto

Ever feel like your days control you, instead of you controlling your days? Like you're often in "response mode"? I raise both hands.

Proof: Life happens with kids. Saying "cheese" for a picture can warrant sudden explosive crying :)

In a good way, this commitment to pray for my husband for 31 days has kicked my butt into gear (see article here.) I've needed this accountability of a vision set before me to remain consistent to the things that matter. Oh, I'm learning so much about myself.

Prayer matters. We should be consistent in prayer.

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops." -James 5:16-18

Now, I'm not trying to put a weight that doesn't need to be there for busy moms. Our times with God, in the Word and in prayer, look different once kids arrive, plain and simple.

[A little inside scope....Oh, this was a harsh reality for me as a new mom! I had such a hard time feeling the grace of God and not getting pounded by lies of being a failure to God when I couldn't spend my neat, set apart, long amounts of time with God...not going there. Moms, He knows our situation. His love never fails, never runs out for us. But I laid defeated for so long, listening to the lies that I had disappointed God, and in turn, just kinda gave up on time with Him for a season. He was not shaking His finger at me, as I assumed, but instead, asking me to get back up, and come to Him again.]

But now I'm in a new position. Thank God, I feel and know His grace for me to a greater measure. I'm more firmly footed in His unfailing love. Yet, I won't be stuck feeling defeated and letting my time pass me by. I'm learning, especially as the kids increase in number, I have to make some changes. Applying this to praying for our husbands, I have to set a vision before me. 

I can too easily give myself to the things that are "good," but not "best." I need goals or I lose focus. Other things beckon, fine things, and I answer. But then there are even greater things I can't give myself to because there is nothing left to give.

"So be careful how you live. Don't act like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do...And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." -Ephesians 5:15-17, 20.

Prayer for my husband is one of those things that I don't give myself to often enough. And so I must be intentional to invest myself in this thing that matters a great deal. I want my husband to be covered in prayer. He needs prayer. And I walk intimately alongside him and have been provided as his helpmate. I don't want to let this role pass me by, but chose to embrace it. 

I plan to do this practically, in the area of praying for my husband, and in life by creating my own "Sanity Manifesto." Ann Voskamp introduces this idea here. She has 6 kids, loves Jesus, and seeks to walk intentionally in the things God has for her. I love her wisdom. And the way she strings words together almost always stirs my heart. Check. Her. Out. (If you haven't already :)). So, this "Sanity Manifesto" is not a law or a checklist to live by, but a vision to keep before us, catered to our own life, to intentionally embrace what God has given us. I'm excited. More to come on this later....

Please send me a note, or drop a comment on how this commitment of prayer went if you joined me. I'd love to hear what the Lord took you through in this month! And if you haven't quite finished yet, get back up, and march forward. He knows you, your situation, and His love is not withheld. Love to you, friends :)

And for laughter, here is Judah's "Photo Shoot" of Levi & I this month...

Treasures forever :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Faithfulness/Praying for Our Husbands, Pt. 3

"Random acts of greatness pale in comparison to habitual acts of faithfulness. It’s not what you do every now and then, but what you do everyday, that changes everything." -Ann Voskamp

Faithfulness. I want this.

This is one of the things I'm taking baby steps in working towards as I commit to praying for my husband for 31 days. I see, faithfulness matters. 

Faithfulness matters as I set the example with my children. Faithful to follow through with my promises, faithful to give my myself to the things that will make forever deposits into their lives. They need consistency. They need me to be slow and steady to win the race, not fast and furious and frazzled. 

Faithfulness matters as I am a helpmate to my husband. I wondered if this faithfulness in prayer for my husband was bearing fruit in his eyes. His response? "I feel like I've had greater clarity as you've been praying for me." Wow. This is huge, especially considering the season we're in. 

I think it was on day 2 or 3 of my prayer commitment, we made the decision for Waylon to step away from his job, with no back-up plan. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But sometimes obeying God does. (I will say that we do have savings that gives us a buffer....but nothing guaranteed for beyond this.) This decision, this choosing to "step out of the boat" and walk in faith, was urgent to us because it meant embracing the calling on my husband's life and saying "yes, we want your ways for us, God, and trust if we seek you first, you will give us everything we need." There are still a lot of unanswered questions. But our needs are taken care of and we have so much more peace in walking in obedience than we had before. 

So, anyway, this testimony of "greater clarity" is a precious thing in a season of waiting and trusting. What an awesome fruit to see so shortly into this. 

Please share any fruit you have been seeing if you're journeying along :) I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Naming Our Son

And so it is another season of getting to give a new life a name. What a wonderful thing, really. Linking a name to a person for the rest of their life--this is an honor. I remember beginning to think about how important the meaning or story behind a name is while I spent a summer in Central Asia in college. It seemed almost everyone I met there would introduce themselves something like this, "My name is Ferengeza, which means 'wild flower.'" I loved the idea of their names feeling fond to them and having a story.

So each time we have the honor of naming a child we take it seriously. We want them to know something about themselves from their name. Each of our children's names, and their meanings, have been a direction of prayer for them over and over. Judah Daniel, we pray would be a man of praise with great integrity. Levi David, we pray would be like the Levites, fearing God above all else, turning others from sin, and becoming a man after God's own heart. Clara Grace, we ask that she would be a bright light for Jesus, knowing the empowerment of His grace and extending it to others around her. It amazes me, that even though none of my kids are following Jesus at this point, I already see some of these things taking root in their lives. 

And so, drum roll, please....our newest son is:

Samuel Justus.

Samuel means "heard of God". Our son has been a true miracle to us. Every child is a miracle, yet his story is unique in our hearts. Samuel began with a twin. We learned early on, at about 9 weeks, that his sibling was going to be with Jesus. Yet his life remained, so graciously willed by God. We faced a season of several scares and ER visits. We prayed, if God would, to please allow us to receive this life. And He has. He has heard. 

Justus was a believer and companion to Paul mentioned in the book of Colossians. Paul called Justus (meaning "just") "a comfort unto me." Comfort, to soothe in time of affliction or distress....this has been the story of our son thus far. He has brought us comfort already in his 21 weeks of life. 

So, we are happy to announce, our son, Samuel Justus Clemmons. May he be tender to the voice of God, as Samuel was, and bring comfort to many.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kids Growing Up, Big Decisions Being Made

Today felt BIG. 

I took Judah to a Homeschool Open House. What? When did he grow up? Somewhere in the midst of birthing 2 other babies, living in 3 different states, and readjusting life several times. Oh. Life happens so quickly sometimes.

Look at him...little charmer on our "Date Night" this past weekend.

We have been reading, discussing, and praying about our approach to schooling for awhile. And we've landed here: we strongly desire and feel we should homeschool our kids. Forever? I don't know. But we're here now, and I think unless something shifts down the road, it's where we'll stay. I've been through a gamete of feelings and thoughts about this idea: sheer fear, feelings of insufficiency, overwhelmed by all the options, and more recently (thankfully!) empowerment, conviction, and excitement. 

Any Classical Conversations (CC) families out there? This is the approach we're looking into the most seriously. It is a Classical Christian model with the mission to know God and to make Him known. Bottom line, this is what I want my children to excel in above all. So, naturally, I love the thread of a Biblical world-view being woven into their education and the heart of the approach. The model divides learning into 3 stages:

  • grammar stage (4-12): memorizing facts (knowledge)
  • dialectic stage (13-17): discovering how the facts relate (understanding)
  • rhetoric stage (16ish-beyond): applying the facts (wisdom)

This is based upon Proverbs 24:3-4: "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures."

The approach meets children where they are developmentally and works with them. For example, and I know this and see this now, kids are sponges from birth to twelve (well, I know they are to 4.5). So for the grammar stage, this is used as a time to fill their heads with knowledge that they need for the future. I love the creative ways they use to get the information into their heads. Songs, motions, hands-on activities, repetition....Judah joined in eagerly and was begging for more. The little I've learned through working on Scripture memorization is that if I can put their verse of the week to a tune and/or create motions for it, they've got it. And I marvel at how I still to this day can sing the "Presidents Song", reciting the names of the Presidents in order, because my 5th grade teacher taught me. Today we learned songs GALORE on every subject covered. 

So today was big, and fun, and important for our family. We're making big decisions here. How will we approach education? I want to do well with my kids. I want them to know God and follow Him. I want them to see through His lens when they view the world around them. And I have much to say about all of this. For our family, I believe it means committing to Homeschooling. Though I realize this is not the "only way"'s what we feel led to do, and so, we should obey. Time to take a humility pill, hold firm to our convictions, and trust Him even more. Yep, prayers welcomed :)

And...for your listening pleasure, this is one of the kids favorite ways to learn the story about Daniel in the lions den. Even if you think you're not a Bluegrass music fan, please give this a try. It's so catchy, so faith-fueling, and makes you want to dance. FUN! 

**edit: This song is NOT about Daniel and the Lion's Den, but the fiery furnace in the book of Daniel. Excuse my pregnancy brain. :) Geez! But, it's still all those cool things, so take a listen!