Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The legacy we want to leave our daughters...

My stomach flip-flops when people 

ask my girls the question,

 "So WHAT are you going to be when you grow up?" 

Because I've learned the hard way that pursuing the "what" is fine, accomplishment and education are well worth fighting for, but we are neglecting to teach our daughters that true worth comes from pursuing the WHO.

 And WHO do you want to be? 

And WHOM do you want to LOVE?

Those are the questions we 

should be asking our girls. 

And so I daily teach them, attempting to pound out what I've learned through experience and discontent and the laying down of 

"dreams" to chase bigger ones: 

that making the choice to mother, whether through womb or heart, is worth striving toward. 

That God has gifted each of these three daughters of mine a beautiful heart and unique set of gifts which can be poured out as a gift back to Him. 

So girls? 

Dream BIG. 

But LOVE even bigger. 

#passionatemothering #stayawaketolove#teachasyoulive

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Where to go on the days you want to stop being a Mama...

I have a confession. 

When I woke up this morning, I no longer wanted to be a mom. 

I just wanted to be Jodi today. 

A woman. By myself. 

Someone without four, small, human attachments. 

No parenting. No teaching. No cooking. No tidying up legos and playing horses and kicking soccer balls around the backyard. 

Quite frankly, right now? 
I feel done with this whole "Mama Mission" thang.
 I need someone to take over. 

I'm surrounded be littles ALL DAY LONG. 
And I'm wiped. 

Tired of making meals, only to clean up again. Tired of wiping down the high chair and the toilet seat. Tired of teaching kiddos how to treat each other kindly, tired of seeing nerf gun bullets flying by my head as I burn scrambled eggs and tired of helping make pillow forts only to take them down and make them again. I'm tired of cleaning up spilled dog food and patiently helping little hands collect chicken eggs. Sick of laundry and more laundry. Oh, and discovering the "oh I forgot to tell you Mama" wet, muddy clothes in the upstairs bath tub. I'm tired of the mess. 

This morning? I didn't want to be a Mama.

But then I force myself to get up.

I DO make breakfast and we all clean up together. My oldest, she sees I'm tired and offers to wipe down the high chair and I let her help. Even though she doesn't clean it that well, I'm thankful that she sees a need. She hugs me close, "I love helping you Mama, because I'm loving the Lord by serving you." The middle kids and I feed the dog together and Lacey patiently shows Tripp how to handle the kitten. We put on our boots and tromp out to the chicken coop. My littlest squeals with delight as we gather purple and brown chicken eggs. I help her (again) on the potty. She asks me to sit close so I can watch. "Be near me Mama. Stay near me please," she begs. 

And there I sit on the cold tile bathroom floor, watching this little one grow up. It's only 8:30 am and we have already lived a full day. I have HOURS of mothering to go before bedtime. And I start to pray. Telling Him, the One who breathed life into these four littles, that today I just don't have what it takes. That I'm tired. Ready to quit. And that right in this moment, I want out. Out of the responsibility of motherhood. 

And He whispers loud, "It's ok to feel that way, Jo....It's ok.....

And even as I write this, this truth that is so overflowing that I have to write it down, I feel my eyes brim over. Because today? I need to be seen. To be encouraged. To be reminded that this mothering vocation matters. That I belong to the God who SEES ALL and cares about every dish that is washed and every moment I stoop down low to hug a fussy child and every time I run her to the potty again. He sees the hours spent molding children's hearts and the purposefulness in teaching them to how to love each other. He knows just how much work this is. How exhausted I am. He knows what it's like to pour out everything for another. 

He did it for me. Because He loved me THAT much. 

And confessions like mine? 
They don't make me a bad Mama, even though I feel like one today. They make me a Mama who desperately needs Jesus. 
His Grace. His Love. His Patience. His Parenting. 

And so right now, I'm off to put on a movie for the big kids and crawl into my bed with a hot cup of tea. I'm gonna fire up the heating pad and curl up with my favorite book.
 I need to read a love letter this afternoon, and I have one waiting for me from the Heavenly King...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

For The Greater Glory...

I purchased it for one dollar. 

The subtitle caught my eye, 
"What price would you pay for freedom?"  

So I scooped it up and threw in it the cart, piled high with dollar-store tooth brushes and packages of colored construction paper. 
It sat, wedged there between the cans of cheap, smelly kitten food. 

I thought it was a cowboy movie. 
Something mind-numbing to watch. 

Best dollar I've ever spent.

The drama follows a group of impassioned Christian men and women fighting against the Mexican government who is persecuting the Catholic Church, causing a violent civil war.  It chronicles the Cristeros War (1926-1929); a war by the people of Mexico against the atheistic Mexican government. 
It's a gripping tale of the people who rebel 
against the anti-clerical laws. 

To squash the outcry, the Mexican military moves through the countryside, arresting those who will not swear allegiance to the country. Slaughtering priests who still insist on saying Mass.  

A few nights ago, my hubby and I sat with a big bowl of buttery popcorn on our lap, as we watched the true story of the Cristero War, the daring people's revolt that rocked 20th Century America. 

We were glued from the opening scenes. 

A young, troubled teenage boy, Jose, is taunting a priest, Father Christoph, by throwing fruit at his head. 

His consequence for disrespecting a priest? 

The boy is required to spend time at the Church, serving Father. This elderly American priest takes this boy under his wing and does something so simple, so profound, that it changes this young man's life and his eternity: Father Christoph loves him, messiness and all.  Jose's heart starts to melt under this kind of affection. True love has that affect doesn't it? Love like that walks side by side, not to condemn or berate, but to witness. To lift up. Pure love believes the best. Sees the best. And inevitably, this kind of love cracks open heart to surrender to the soul of our One True Lover, Jesus Christ.

Even amidst the persecution, Jose begins to train as an altar boy. Understanding the danger, Jose gives his life to Jesus Christ. 

But his joy is short lived. Militants ride in, searching for the priest. Jose begs Father Christoph to save himself. He finds Father kneeling. His face turned toward the Eucharist. 

"Padre, the military is coming. Please Father, you must hide.
 Come with me. Please."  

Understanding the danger, Father Christoph remains eerily calm. 
He takes the boy's face in his trembling hands. 

"Hide? I'm too old to hide. Will I hide from God? 
This is my home. I am safe here. 
Who are you if you don't stand up for what you believe? 
There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ." 

Father Christoph places his rosary around the boy's neck. 

Embracing and kissing him.  Blessing him. 

He commands Jose to run.

Jose weeps and hides, watching in horror as his beloved mentor is marched outside of the Church and bound in front of a stone wall. Although Jose is hidden from the guards, he looks on the scene from above. The two friends lock eyes. Together, they whisper the rosary as the elderly priest is executed at gunpoint. With the priests words ringing in his heart, Father Christoph's protege will never again be the same. And neither will history.

Jose runs off to join the Cristiada, a renegade group of men who are determined to regain their religious liberty to worship their Catholic faith again.   Led by General Gorostieta, an atheist, civilian military leader, the Cristiada stratigically fight back against the persecution. Gorostieta is mesmerized by Jose's faith. The boy's dedication to the Catholic sacraments makes a tremendous impact on the General who has never believed in God. 

Jose is captured. Tortured. Promised to be released if he will simply denounce his Catholic faith. I had to shield my eyes as this brave 15-year-old boy lay strapped down, feet and hands bound, at the mercy of an evil military officer slowly slicing open the bottom of his feet so that he would turn his back on The Church. 

Still, Jose did not give in. 

Feet dripping with blood, a band of Mexican military mane march Jose to the center of town, stand him next to a shallow grave. 

With his parents looking on, Jose has one more chance to save his life by denouncing the Church. He chooses eternity instead.  

Gorostieta's life is transformed as he witnesses the faithfulness of Catholics in the face of persecution. Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio was declared a martyr by Pope John Paul II and beautified by Pope Benedict XVI in November of 2005. In January, Pope Francis attributed a miracle to him, blessed Jose will become a saint on October 16th of this year. 

"You know what's amazing?" My hubby whispers as the credit rolls. "Is that this could somehow start to happen again, this type of persecution against Christians could happen around our World, during our lifetime." 

I nod my head, too stunned to say anything. 

Certainly this...
THIS type of Christian persecution could not happen in 2016...
I have been praying that very line ever since.  

And this morning, I'm breathing heavy on the treadmill, when my eyes scan over the huge TV screens hung nearby. The headline must be a sick joke. I almost forget to keep running. 
Because there it is, there bold across the screen. 

"Breaking News: ISIS Opens New Front of War on Christians. Is attack on a Catholic French Church, 
slitting the throat on elderly priest the first step in 
fulfilling terrifying barbaric plague?" 

And this afternoon, I read how it happened. 
My eyes blur wet as I scan the account of how this 85-year-old French priest is forced to fall to his knees in front of ISIS. 
How he is executed at the hand of Islamic extremists. 
Killed because of His allegiance to our Holy God and His Church. 

And how the last words Jacques Hamel heard before his throat 
was slit were, "Allahu Akbar". 

"For two years, the black-clad jihadist army has called for attacks on Christians in Rome, throughout Europe and across the world. It has even called for the assassination of Pope Francis. The attack -- which the knife-wielding ISIS killers reportedly videotaped -- in the northern French town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray shows Islamist killers have heeded the call."
And I'm writing this today as a reminder of truth:
that yes there seem to be shootings everywhere lately, 
and yes ISIS is real, 
and yes there are evil people out there who want to wipe Christians off the face of this Earth...

But do you want to know the real truth? 



Because we trust in the One who has already won the war. 

So these little battles, yes, they break our hearts. 
We weep for the slain priest and the young boy who was murdered because of faith and the men and women who bravely serve their Church in midst of persceution. We continue to fight for our religious liberty and for the Catholic faith. 
We will not hide and we will not run.  

But today, as you see what's happening around the world,
you dare to whisper the doubt you hear down deep...
"Do I REALLY believe in Jesus Christ if I admit I am scared that my faith may lead to persecution? 
Is my walk with God strong enough that if I was faced with the choice to defend my life or lie and save my life, 
I would the One who has already saved my life?"

Yes, my friends. And yes again.

Because even Blessed Jose was scared too. 
He whispered it several times to those around him.
But admitting his fear didn't make him cower. 
It made him a vessel. 

And his fear? 
Yes, it was frightening. 
But it took a backseat to his LOVE FOR CHRIST. 

Because Blessed Jose knew he was redeemed. 
Already saved by the One who gave his life on the Cross to so that he, and we, might have the security of knowing eternal rest. 

So on the days you feel scared to be a Christ follower? 
Take those moments to our Lord. 
Because He promises His perfect love casts out fear.
ALL fear. 

Our fears are diminished in the shadow of the Cross. 

The truth we have been promised by the Creator of the Universe? 


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Our July memory verse...for the ENTIRE family...


Now, THIS is going up right now, taped to the fridge. 

We desperately need this WORD today. 

Because it's hot and we are "searching" for things to do and we have so much to learn about love in this house. 

And daily reciting and memorizing this command into our hearts? 

Yep, THIS is what can give us the motivation we need to "outdo" when we'd rather undo. 

Amen? Amen. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

What to do when you want to take on the world...

I'm a big picture girl. A dreamer.  

I've always been the one to get things rolling. Certain, solid foot pressed down hard on the gas petal, when others are hitting the brake.  My eyelids open in the morning and I'm ready to go. Ready to move. Itching to get out of the house and get "living"...

And so Sister-Mamas, please know as I write this, that it is coming from a heart who is constantly trying to reign her ambition in...That what I am learning, what I am about to share is not written from a high pulpit but from a lowly perch.

In truth, I’m struggling today with my calling. 

I'm writing this right now. 

Because I need to read this right now.

I was on a run last summer, (no, for the sake of depicting the scene accurately, let me rephrase that and try again…) I was on a "shuffle" a few nights ago (my lame attempt at exercise) and the Lord whispered something so mighty deep to my soul that I looked down and had actual chill bumps cascading down my sweaty and mosquito-bitten arms. He was sending me a heavenly reminder. Maybe you need that same one right now? 

I had my worship music turned up loud in my ear phones. His Word was penetrating loud, drowning out my noisy panting for clean, night air. It was late, after 9 pm, I think when I left the house, the puppy teetered to my side (yes, I was that desperate to get the heck of out my house and have some alone time that I went running). I was finally by myself and pouring my heart out to the Lord in desperate prayer. Drowning in the housework and the heart-training and the high-chair cleaning and the play-doh mess, I felt like my soul was screaming.

"I have so many dreams dear Jesus. Things I want to do for you and for your kingdom...but I have such little time and absolutely zero energy at the end of each day. I'm frustrated Lord! So confused as to why you would give me these passions and yet no space to answer their call. What are you asking me to do Lord? Where shall I serve? Guide me Lord. Speak to me...."

Days prior, we had just moved into a "new" property. We’d poured our sweat and money into an old farmhouse that took nearly six months to gut and renovate. Our stuff was everywhere. Boxes piled high in every room, random picture frames stashed in piles, toys unorganized cascaded the floor and bright, colored beach towels temporarily covered every dirty historic windowpane until we could fine the right type of window treatments for every room. I had half-organized our kitchen supplies, we were eating off of Happy Birthday paper-plates (again) because we hadn't yet unpacked the dinnerware. My (first-ever) pantry was screaming to be organized, full of snacks and half-eaten cereal boxes and spices and cake mixes somewhere squeezed in-between the bandaids and coconut oil. I felt chaos in my gut and in my home. Whoever said "moving is fun" (my words) was smokin' crack (my words and yes, I am married to a real estate agent and we flip houses together).

My days were so full. But I felt a constant tug away from where I was needed most.  My husband was busy building and training a real estate team, and asked for my help. I was also serving as a ministry coach for parish programs around the nation and there were so many women who were on my heart. Women who I desperately wanted to "pour" into. 

My email inbox was overflowing full with invitations to speak at various churches to share my testimony.  I was excited at the possibility of each ministry “yes”, that would take me to churches around the east coast, but struck sharp with the reality of what those yeses would mean for my family. 

My "tribe" of 6, four kids under the age of 9, was requiring a lot right now. Like, an around-the-clock-and-sometimes-all-night-lot-and-I-barely-am-keeping-my-head-above-water a lot.  I had one kiddo with head to toe poison ivy (yes, the "upside" of buying three acres!), one teething and dripping with beautiful snot, one with a bull eye's rash on an antibiotic with suspected Lyme disease and another - well, another simply age 7 and super needy with two loose bottom teeth (which required constant wiggling and examining). You catch my drift. 

My hubby and I had skipped our (mandatory!) Friday-night date night for the past few weeks because we had used every free minute to pack and move. Those missed times of connection were taking a toll.

But on my night run, I wasn't praying about THOSE things.

Instead, my list rattled on as I told God each dream and each goal and each piece I wanted to write and talks I wanted to give and the Bible study I wanted to compose to share the news of Jesus. I told him how desperately I wanted to have more hours to pour into women-leaders around the country who are shouldering the "holy discontent" of bringing Bible Study into the Catholic Church. I had scribbled down notes on a brainstorm I had earlier in the week to write and host a gathering for Mama-Daughters, as we studied the Saints and applied their life lessons to our own hearts. I was brimming with ideas, restless with creativity, and feeling trapped in the monotonous activity that was needing attention in our home. I was bombarding God with my frustrations that my gifts were going unseen and my dreams unmet. 

And that's when God whispered it. 

Whispered. It. Loud.

“Want to know your mission right now? Get your household in order Jodi. Take. Care. Of. Your. Tribe.

And let me take care of the rest.

I need you to serve here, at 101 Somerset Rd, and get things in order, before you can serve out there. And THIS WORK is just as important.”

It was the honestly one of the most audible times I have ever heard the Lord speak to me. 

And I don’t always have a stellar tract record of obedience, but in this case I did. I turned my body back toward home. 

But first, I had a good, long cry. 

This was not the answer I was hoping to hear. 

But after the run, I broke-through our red front door re-energized because I knew what I needed to do. I returned a kind “No” to each speaking invitation and then quietly crept upstairs to sit by each of my sleeping children, kissing their warm foreheads and covering them in prayer. For this past year, I have continued saying “No” as each new “ask” has filed in, knowing every "No", however painful, is a "Yes" to my family. 

And peace has abounded. 

Most of the time. 

But today? I am restless again. I've found my heart dreaming big. And on the home front? Yes, there is still much to be done. Laundry to fold. A sticky fridge to wipe down. Birthday presents to wrap and floors to be moped (does a quick vacuum-through count for this? I say yes!) I have one kid recovering from a broken ankle and another on antibiotics. A contractor is banging outside, busy replacing two of our old, dilapidated windows. 

3 pm school pick-up time is coming quickly and the Lord is reminding me that yes, those chores are important and they will get done. But most important? That my heart is in the right place when my kids come running in to my arms after school. And the only way to do that, is not to get too irritated and discouraged that I am “stuck” here? It’s to fall at the feet of Jesus. Again. Right. Now.

And those dreams? I take heart in believing His Word that they will come to fruition. In HIS time and not my own. 

So again today, I offer Him my heart. As I ask for His love to fill my soul, as I kneel on the smudged, kitchen floor. (and also, it would't hurt if He'd send me a cleaning lady!?) 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why pictures remind me...

Remind me dear sisters...remind me when, and if, I make it to be "old and gray", remind me of this one glorious and wonderful life which I have been gifted. Remind me of the fullness and joy of mothering a small tribe. 

Because I am busting-at-the-seams-thankful for my vocation today.

I believe that the pains of every child's pregnancy and labor and the warmth of each smile has been well worth the sacrifice of giving up things out "there" to serve "in here".

But on those days I forget? 

May pictures like these, of a day like today, remind me of my mission...that choosing LOVE has eternal value.

Amen? Amen. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

When you have the fullest day...and where to get your strength.

Today has been so full for me. 

And my confession?  

The amount of mothering required
around here today is busting well over what I alone am capable to give. 

I'm flat out spent and brimming over with invitations to serve.
My house, and my heart, is full.

Full of runny noses and hacky coughs. Of doctor visits. Of measuring out equal shares of Motrin and more motrin. And rubbing the head of a sick husband. And "emergency" runs back to school to pick up a(nother) sick kid during lunch (after I had just put the toddler down to nap). 

Today there was a special ankle doctor appointment for a limping kid. And frantically making dinner and burning vegetables for my hungry tribe. There was cleaning up fallen spaghetti noodles and spilled ginger ale, and warming up gallons of chicken noodle soup. There was uncompleted math sheets and squeaky recorders and dogs who ran wild and muddy over our clean, hardwood floors. 

Today, I have not had one moment to myself. 
Not one stinkin' minute to pause and think any adult thoughts, much less use the bathroom without someone wanting to sit on my lap. 

Today has been one of my fullest days in so long. 

But the best thing? 

In the midst of this chaos even though I haven't been able to pick up the Holy Scriptures or steal away to silently pray? 

Today has been so full of Jesus. 

Because I’ve needed Him at every turn. Needed his patience with a 2-year-old, as she took off her pants and underwear again and again (hope this isn't a sign of what's to come). I've been desperate for His kind voice, to replace my own, as I cared for a feverish husband (honestly, these men are worse than the kids!). Today, remembering that my face does not belong to me but to my Creator, I asked for His smile to replace my own, as I cuddled an complaining, ankle-braced kid. I needed His grace to love-on a daughter who insisted she and her crutches stay within an 18-inch radius of me ALL DAY LONG. I relied on His strength when my body felt so tired and sore from bending and cleaning and being up all night with sick kids. 

"I am the vine, you are the branches. 
Whoever remains in me and I in Him will bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5 

And when I've needed Him most? Jesus has shown up today. When I fail so often as a mother and wife?  Praise God, when I invite Him into the mess, He never lets me down. 

"The one who is in you is greater than the 
one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4 

And as I sit here briefly to write...I get the chills remembering something I just read yesterday. This blessed saint's words come flooding back to soothe my soul. 

Because that's what purposeful, daily time away with our Lord does for days like today...Carving out that effort to study and spiritually grow, fuels our hearts with Living Water when the fire comes. 
"Real prayer is union with God, a union as vital as that of the vine to the branch, which is the illustration Jesus gives us in the Gospel of John. We need prayer. We need that union to produce good fruit. The fruit is what we produce with our hands, whether it be food, clothing, money or something else. All of this is the fruit of our oneness with God. We need a life of prayer, of poverty, and of sacrifice to do it with love.  

Sacrifice and prayer complement each other. There is no prayer without sacrifice, and there is no sacrifice without prayer. Jesus' life was spent in intimate union with His Father as He passed through this world. We need to do the same. Let's walk by His side. We need to give Christ a chance to make use of us, to be His word and His work, to share His food and His clothing in the world today. " (Mother Teresa "No Greater Love" Pg. 11 and 12)

So, my dear Mama-Sisters, I want to quickly steal away to write something down for you and me to read when we are in the thick of it, one days like today. I'm writing to you, the one opening this up on her I-phone or hiding out under the covers, reading late at night on her laptop. A mother, whose children may be 2 or 22, just so tired from what you've faced today and so longing for encouragement. 


He's a gentleman. And He's waiting for you to ask. 

And I share this, because this truth has changed this girls life. You have been right by my side through all of this. This hard everyday loving when we feel like we have nothing left. And I am so glad it will be you, next to me and my sister Diana, up sitting all comfy in big ol’ rocking chairs, next to our own Mamas, whole and without blemish, as we rock and sing in eternity together at the feet of Christ. (PS- We will be able to take long bathroom breaks up there. I promise.) 

 "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you,rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me."
Philippians 2:12-18 

Today has just been one of those days. 

One I NEVER want to forget because 
I have experienced Jesus so deeply

And my dear friends...I want to remind you just how MUCH Jesus loves you today. You are His beloved daughter. Marinate in that truth right now, 
just as I am in this quiet moment. 

And now I'm off....because a sick kid is calling my name from the other room! 

In His Grace and Protection, Jodi 

Monday, April 4, 2016

A(nother) note to myself...Never. Ever. Will. I. Do. This. Again.

Dear Self,

1. Please NEVER, ever drive your kids to school dressed only in your PJ's. It's simply a bad idea. One you will regret. Forever. You will swear that nobody will ever see you and that it doesn't matter that you didn't take the time to put on a bra or that no one will notice that you are wearing your husband's sweat pants. Do not believe the lie. This is simply not a good idea. You will arrive to school and upon opening the back tailgate of the vehicle will hear screeching and screaming as your kids' book bags, lunch boxes and water bottles fall out. They will thud unto the asphalt. The avalanche will nearly take out your five-year-old. Your kids will yell for help. Your help. But you will look down and remember you are dressed like a homeless person and so you will pretend you don't hear them. Like the star mother you are, you will crouch down in the front seat on the Denali praying back-up help will arrive (which it won't), as the carpool line backs up behind you. You will then feel like crying as you look in the rear view mirror as a dozen basketballs and loads of coloring books (that you meant to bring inside last night), birthday wrapping paper (emergency roll), two potty seats (on their way to Consignment) and a slew of talking Transformers (now the kids know that THOSE are heading to consignment) also fall to the street. You will realize you have no choice. You will have to get out of the car. The whole world will see your pathetic PJ's (way to go Jo!). Parents will start to (nicely?) honk as you hold up the carpool line. When in doubt next time, please at least just throw on a pair of workout leggings and a sports bra. Trust me.  This memory is now worse than the day your Mom allowed you to wear your Dad's tie to middle school with a buttoned down shirt (while telling you what a wonderful trend-setter you were. God bless my Mom's heart...) Please change out of your PJ's next time.

2. If you are going to drive your kids to school dressed like a homeless person, NEVER stay in the regular drop-off line. Get off the beaten path and be incognito. Park as far away from the school as you can and make the kids walk. This is not cruel. It is called wardrobe survival. Because if you don't, you'll end up in front of that cute Mom of two, who is dressed for the gym, with gorgeous blonde highlights and a sparkly clean car. It will be inevitable that she is the one who pulls up in the drop-off line behind you and witnesses what a hot mess you really are (when you sometimes hope to fake it in front of her, at least every once in a while). To the Mama reading this, you know who you are, and yes, I still love you and your manicured hands! 

3. After you drop the kids off at school, NEVER allow your just-turned-two-year-old to sit just "ONE TIME" in her big brother's booster seat "for the fun of it" as you run errands. This spontaneity will sound like a great idea at the time, until you look back in the rear view mirror to see her sliding horizontally, all tangled up in the seat belt. Because she is three rows back (also NOT a good idea) you will attempt to reach her but will feel miles away. She will wait until you merge unto a major highway to quickly learn how to unbuckle herself. You will panic and politely ask her to sit down still. She will scream back a lovely "NO!". You will pull off into the nearest WaWa parking lot to save her life. Getting her strapped back into the regular car seat will NOT be as fun as it was putting her in the booster and she will scream and flail like she is being locked up as you patiently try to explain that this is HER seat and the booster was just for one time, to which she has no idea what you are saying (because for crying out loud she is only 2!) and becomes even more irate.  Just because she's your fourth kid, doesn't mean you have lost your mind (even though it feels like it most days). Get control of yourself Mama. Never again let her sit in the booster until she's ready for the booster seat. Nough said.  

4. For the love of mothering ....NEVER EVER pull into your home driveway after school, look at the pile of junk sitting next to you in the passenger seat that has accumulated throughout the day and think, "I'll clean this up tomorrow." Tomorrow will come in the blink of an eye and the stash will take on a life of its own. Please take the time, right there, to clean your car out. If you need a reminder why to follow this rule, please reread number one. Right now.

5. NEVER think it's silly to take the time to teach your kids, especially your second child, WHY and HOW to use the new family trash can (I know, yes I'm type A and this might sound extreme but girls, some car changes MUST be made around here). Today, as you are cleaning all the crap out of the back of the car (to avoid this morning's debacle of ever happening again) you will find the following "treasures" tucked away, back by said child's corner of the vehicle; a wad of chewed chewing gum, a half-eaten yogurt with dried up granola (enter gag reflex here), a rock hard string cheese, an assortment of small rocks (obviously gathered, aka "stolen", from various parking lots around the tri-county area) and finally, four perfectly sculpted swans made from tin-foil courtesy of school lunches (am I a bad Mom if I throw these away? Because they were actually quite good. And what if one day she becomes a famous artist and this was the evidence of the beginning? Don't worry. I took a picture and then in the trash bin they went!). 

6. NEVER, ever assume dropping off the kids at school will go smoothly. Someone will spill their water bottle. Someone else will complain that you forgot to sign their Tuesday folder and will shove 47 unsigned papers in you face as they exit the car, while another will peak inside of their lunch bag to learn they don't have roast beef on their sandwich but instead dreaded "disgusting" turkey (hence the new "fun" rule that I made up this morning that we do not, under any circumstances check-out the contents of our lunches before lunchtime in the cafeteria. Isn't it fun to be surprised anyway?) Everyone will arrive singing and laughing as we pull into the school parking lot, but as they open the door, it never fails that one child will trip or fall or get knocked on the head by the door and end up crying. Someone will say "unkind" words to someone else. Hair ties will come undone. Shoe laces untied and you'll realize that one kid escaped the house without matching shoes. Never think morning drop-off will be easy and then you won't be disappointed. Just prepare for the worst. Give up all hope of a seamless drop-off and you'll be much happier.

7. NEVER take for granted the gift of having a live-in morning school chauffeur (aka-your husband). Thank God in heaven that your dear husband drives the kiddos to school everyday. And after you've thanked him once? Thank him again. Because after driving the crew to school just one morning this week, you will realize what a good man you married (and also remind him just how lucky he is that he never has to remember to put on a bra...)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Storm. Sand. And unlimited Sammy Sosa's...

Our flight was canceled. 
The one we were supposed to take ALONE on Sunday, 
out of the country to our tropical get-away.

We rescheduled. 

Then that flight was canceled too.

The snow was on its way, in a just a few days, 
 and the state of Maryland was in a pending panic. 

Skim milk was no where to be found. 
Only whole-wheat bagels were left on the barren grocery shelf. 
The local airports shut down DAYS IN ADVANCE.
But yet not one snow flake had fallen from the sky yet...

I had spent the last two weeks getting ready. 

Cooking double meals. Making sure every drop of laundry was done. Toilets scrubbed. Drafting carpool lists. Praying I wouldn't be an emotional wreck leaving my littles as we headed out to the Dominican Republic. I cleaned out a part of my closet so she put her clothes away for the week she was staying here with our tribe. Of course, in my vacation prep, I found myself cleaning out every drawer, because what if, just what if, she needed a pencil sharpener or a razor or a battery or a swiss army knife (back story there) and couldn't find one (enter counseling here...) 

(Side note, if you're dragging your feet on cleaning and organizing your home? Just invite your Mother-in-law to babysit for a week and suddenly you will sort out your underwear drawer (cause she will certainly need to look in there...enter sarcasm and also more counseling here), label the pantry snack bins, and clean under bookcases that have never been cleaned before.)

"We're going on vacation, Jo. You aren't dying here. Just going away for one week," my hubby teased.  The men? They just don't understand what we go through! Amen? 

But I know you Sister-Mamas get it. Because if you have ever left little ones at home to get away for a day or a weekend or (gasp here) even one whole week, then you know it takes HOURS of preparation to leave our kiddos in the care of someone else. In fact, my first thought when I heard both of our flights were canceled was to think, "Well after all this work I've done to get the house ready, now I want to stay home and relax next week!" 

But my husband was going. 
Dead set on getting the heck out of dodge. 

No two-foot snow storm was going to keep him from warm sand and an all-inclusive tiki-bar. Normally I have been the one to insist we go but this time he was on a mission. I knew he was serious and desperate to get away from here when I overheard him securing a rental car and back-up plan that had us driving 15 hours to Miami to catch an international flight out there. It all seemed a like a little too much to me, which is why I gently suggested we rebook our trip or just wait to go another year. 

But that's why I'm writing today. 

To remind myself that the next time I have an opportunity to go somewhere, ALONE, with him, no matter how stressful or busy or snowy it is...I SHOULD GO. And should your husband plan a trip for the just the two of you? And you are faced with obstacles that seem to come out of left field too? Overcome my sister-Mamas! You should go too! The health of your marriage depends on it. 

We hurriedly packed our bags that evening. Our "DeeDee" gave up sleep and drove over here around midnight so we could head out, days before our scheduled trip. We didn't sleep at all that night.  Drove the 2 and a half hours to catch the last flight out of Philadelphia, direct to Punta Cana. We barely beat the blizzard. I had no idea what I had even packed in my suitcase, it was such a whirlwind. 

What an adventure! It was stressful. 
And it was pure heaven. 

As soon as we landed, the warm sun hit our faces and I was so grateful he insisted we still come. Within days, it felt like we were back to being 15 years old again. Back to when we laughed at each other's jokes and kissed long and held hands all day. Responsibility seemed to melt away and we clung to each other like we haven't in years. No kids. No jobs. No women's ministry. Just us and unlimited refills of our new favorite drink, the "Sammy Sosa". We swam and ate. We took really long, beach walks. Played tennis. We drank. We ate more. And read. And ate again. And drank more. And....did many other things that helped us feel 15 again! 

The time away was such a blessing. When we landed on the Dominican Republic, my husband grabbed my hand and asked if he could lead us in prayer. My heart beat fast in my chest. 

"Dear Lord, help us do two things on this trip. Help Jodi and I to be individually refreshed. Give us good sleep. Help us recover. But also help us reconnect with each other. Show us how to love each other better. Amen." 

On our trip, I was really convicted of how much care and energy our marriages require if they are to flourish. Ours had hit a dead spot, not because we didn't care anymore, but because there were (and are) so many things fighting for our attention. All noble things. Board positions and basketball coaching jobs and Bible study leader and field trip organizer. At the end of each day, we seemed to have nothing left for each other. 

I'm praying that I can be purposeful in making sure my husband no longer get my "left-overs". Our vacation reminded me of a quote I heard recently saying, "Action Expresses Priorities". 


Where is your husband on your priority list? He is buried at the bottom under the laundry and the kids homework and shuttling kiddos to and from rec ball practice and piano lessons? Is your husband getting your "best" today? Is he getting anything positive from you? I know that often my answer is NO! I am too tired, too frazzled, or just too distracted to really give him the attention he needs. 

But most of us, God willing, will only have ONE HUSBAND in this lifetime. In what other life will we go ALL OUT in loving him? 

And so if you have the chance, get away with your man. Pronto. Start planning. Start dreaming together. An overnight at a local dive hotel can work wonders if a week away is just impossible right now.  

Be intentional. But make the effort. 

The priority of your marriage? 
It's worth taking action on today 
(and maybe even getting a little sunburned!)