Friday, December 9, 2016

Why You Need To Stop Christmas Shopping Right Now...And Read This First.

So before you label me a grinch...hear this Mama out.

This Christmas? 
Your kids and my kids?
They simply do NOT need any more presents. 

So stop shopping....NOW.

The rushing and calculating and stress that periodically creeps up in your gut during this season of Advent? That pit in your stomach that you are feeling in this very moment because you are wondering how you are going to get it all done? And if you have the right toy for this kid? And enough presents for that one? 

Mamas, you are bringing this torture upon yourselves.

It's time to stop the madness and enjoy Advent. 

I've fallen prey to this cycle of 
Christmas Craziness some years past. 

And that nasty shopping shenanigans? 

Girls, that ain't NO WAY TO DO CHRISTMAS. 

You can go rogue this year...and actually enjoy ALL of Advent. 

How? (I didn't think you'd ask!)

Here are my SEVEN Advent guidelines that can change your December from CRAZY to INCREDIBLE...

1. Go against the grain (and all of modern society) and discourage your kids from making Christmas lists. I know. I know. This sounds ALMOST "anti-Christmas" and you may get some rolled eyes from relatives. But around here? We scrapped the list-making last year and it has made Christmas an entirely new experience. We're teaching our kiddos that when someone asks them what they "want", to politely smile and say, "Any gift is a great gift! Give whatever your like." Now, of course our crew has toys and gifts they are hoping and wishing to unwrap this December 25th. But nixing the list-making has made our kiddos so much more appreciative of any and all gifts they do receive. It's also done something else. It's created more opportunities for our family members to spend special time with each other, trying to find out gifts might be the biggest blessing.

I inwardly cringe when someone asks our kids to make a Christmas list. Because it unintentionally centers Christmas on self and not on Christ.  And the list making? It also creates a lot of stress on you Mamas! The other big payoff of NOT making Christmas lists? There is NOT masssive dissapointment on Christmas morn when your kiddo doesn't receive a drum set or a four-wheeler or a trip to Disney World - just because he scribbled it on a list. The joy in scrapping the Christmas list? Any present is a welcomed one. Because there is no expectation on "getting", just celebrating. 
Any present become a cherished present.    

2. Kiddos only need one present for each year they are old, up until age 5. You read that right. This isn't cruel and unusual punishment. This is called sanity. I can not tell you how many times I have stayed up late wrapping multiple gifts when my kids were two or three-year-old, only to find that he or she only had the patience to unwrap one or two gifts. And guess what? If you think back to Christmas' past...I'll bet that your kiddos only typically focused on one or two gifts that they instantly LOVED and wanted to immediately play with too! The saddest thing to witness on Christmas morn is when a kid is excited about a new present and wants to actually explore and enjoy it, but we parents insist she MUST FIRST opens up all of her other gifts. Now THAT is cruel and unusual Christmas punishment!

Have a four-year-old daughter? Purposefully select and wrap four gifts. You. Can. Do. This. You will not be handcuffed and turned into the North Pole for killing Christmas. Ok, so let's get real. The first year you try this, it will feel WRONG. On Christmas Eve when you assess her small pile of presents under the tree and you will temporarily freak out. This too shall pass. Spread her gifts around with the rest and she will have NO IDEA how many presents she received compared to her siblings. You are the one keeping track, not her. Trust me on this. You will thank me later. (And so will your bank account).

3. From an early age, have siblings make/buy/give presents to gift to each other. One of our family's greatest joys has been watching our kids unwrap gifts from each other. Priceless. We make this time a priority on Christmas morning as we take turns giving out our family gifts. We all ohh and ahh over what the kids give each other. 

We keep this simple. This could mean a trip to the dollar store (I often do this with my 5-year-old boy because I'm teaching him all about money) where your child gets to select one gift for each brother or sister. It could mean your 10-year-old wrapping up her favorite classical novel and writing a special note to gift it to her younger sister. We use this as a beautiful way to talk about the generiousity of St. Nicholas and keep our hearts focused on giving rather than receiving. 

4. Give "family"and "sibling" gifts that the kids have to share. Does giving one gift to a crew of four crazy kids sound like a nightmare? Before you think I am completely off of my Christmas rocker, hear me out. Teaching siblings to share a gift is one of the BEST WAYS you can grow your children's love for each other and foster a sense of family unity. This could be as simple as gifting a set of Saint books or a few family DVD's with a big bag of popcorn and M and M's to eat together. The goal? We, as a family, SHARE this gift. Everyone together. This year our kids are getting a really neat outdoor mesh swing to use together. Have them unwrap these items together and then talk about how to share them (and no, the family gifts do not count toward your individual tallly!)

5. Be honest with your extended family about gift-giving. This one is the HARDEST one for me because I never want to hurt anyone's feelings! But the more Christmas Craziness I have endured, the easier it has become! Ideally, aunts and uncles and in-laws will take the time to ask you (and not your kid) if it's appropriate to give certain gifts to your crew, particularly to help avoid giving duplicate gifts. And because your family rules on what types of gifts may be acceptable could be different than the givers, it's always best to ask first. This eliminates a world of stress.
But if they don't? No reason to sweat. The standing Christmas rule for most extended family gatherings? Your kiddos will almost always leave with a boat-load of gifts. This is a blessing. Do not fight this! Which is also the reason for Christmas rule #2! 

6. Gifts do not need to be expensive to be super special. My husband and I do not spend a large amount of money on Christmas gifts for our kids. In fact, during the past few years we have been giving less and less. But with the less we give, Christmas has become even more enjoyable. Decreasing the number of gifts and increasing the time spent opening and enjoying each present has become a win-win for everyone.

7. Take a household inventory BEFORE you shop. Do I have any gifts I've already purchased and hidden away? What toys are my kids currently playing with and which ones have they been ignoring.

Our rule at this house? Before we ADD, we RELEASE. 
We give many unused and tossed-aside things and clothes away in the weeks leading up until Christmas. Mamas, have your kids pitch in on this task. Don't go it alone. Releasing what we don't need provides space in our homes and hearts to help us get ready for the birth of our Heavenly King.

Because household clutter? 

My friends, in our shopping and decorating and wrapping, 
we do NOT want to miss Jesus this Christmas.

So this weekend? Instead of hitting Target (again) searching for that perfect present? Choose instead to focus on giving the gifts that are priceless. That have meaning for your children's heart. 

The best gift you can give your children this Christmas? 
Your lap. 

Put your feet up and call the little ones around to climb warm and close as you open the Holy Scripture and share the story of our Savior's coming. 

Because the gift of salvation? 
My friends, if we take the time to share that present now...
our children could be unwrapping that gift for all of eternity. 

May God Bless. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

When Jesus Asks Us To Trust Him With Our Children...And Why We Should.

It was Day 13 of fever. 
High fever. 

I tip-toed out of her room and quietly shut the door. It was afternoon and I hadn't yet showered much less barely eaten. I was wearing my husband's sweatpants. Days old mascara and brown eyeliner crusted in the corners of my eyes.

 It was Day 13 and in that very moment, heat flushed across my face because I knew that this had become something serious. 

I walked across the hall to Lacey's room. Threw open her second floor balcony door and felt the fresh November air beckoning outside. I ventured out. Slid my back down the white rails and plopped down on the dirty decking, feeling the sunlight hit my face. I looked straight up to see the wind rustling through the big oak trees surrounding our back yard. I felt the weight of this un-named diagnosis, this mysterious "thing" that was wrecking heavy on my tiny daughter's body, sitting heavy on my shoulders. 

And then I closed my eyes and started to pray. Started to petition. Asking for wisdom. And like a dam, my heart gave way. And even though I knew that every symptom and troubling blood-work marker and growing rash and persisting high fever was pointing down a scary road, I was not afraid. 

But the unnamed needed to be named. 
The pediatrician had already sent us to the Emergency Room once. There we found infection, but no cause. An ultrasound revealed a swollen abdominal mass, but no definitive diagnosis. With no real answers, we were sent home to wait.  And everyone around me was troubled, but I had this ridiculous peace. 
But now, in this serene moment on the back porch, 
I knew that this unnamed illness had to be discovered.

She could not continue another day like this. 

And that's when God's whisper swooped in. 
On that balcony, I was reminded yet again of the truth that this mothering journey has most taught me. That this child is a gift. That God is in control. 

And that yes, even though it feels impossible, 
He loves her even more than I do.

And if we as mothers really believe that? It changes everything doesn't it? The truth in believing that the Creator of the Universe is holding my daughter's life in His very hands. That He knew the very second she would be conceived and formed her in my womb and orchestrated the very moment of her birth and holds the secret of the day she will leave here to be forever with Him. 

There in that moment, I gave him Annabelle yet again. 
Holding up my hands, with my palms wide open, holding her loosely. Remembering that I am not in control. Receiving great comfort in knowing that my Heavenly Father is the master of the sea and the sky and of my girl's very heartbeat. 
Master of the disease taking life away from her. 

And I rocked and cried. And rocked and cried. And repeated, "Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, my Redeemer, I trust in You." 

Beautiful song words that I had memorized came deep and slow, 
"You are bigger than all my fears. God of love. God my love. 
You are bigger than my dreams. God my hope. God my peace. 
Whatever will come my way, through each day, I will say. 
God I trust you."

And then He told me gently, 
"It's time to go, Jodi. You've waited it out long enough. 
Trust me. It's time to go. Now." 

And I got up and wiped my face and took a deep breath, knowing even though I was exhausted, I was ready to do what the pediatrician had asked us over and over for the past three days. Asked us after another round of blood tests showed a scary high white blood count and high platlet markers and disturbing liver  numbers. Asked us when she had stopped putting weight on her legs as warm rash ascended on her limbs. 

It was time to take her up to the Johns Hopkins Emergency Room. Time to discover, like the labs suggested, it was cancer. 

I crept back inside and checked on our two-year-old miracle. The baby I was never supposed to have. The one I call "grace". I have come closest to our Lord since her birth because I've needed Him so desperately to mother this tribe of four. And she's asleep, but her face is the color of a white sheet. The fever and sleepless nights and lack of nourishment have taken a toll on this 28-pound body. 

I silently walk downstairs. My eyes feel so weary. I think about what to pack and how to make arrangements (again) for the other three kids knowing the hospital can be a black-hole, a time-warp. 

And right then. 

My phone rings loud. 

It startles me. 

And I see her doctor's number and I suck in a quick breath. 
But I'm not prepared for what he wants to tell me. 

"Jodi, have you left yet for Hopkins?" 

I whisper no. 

"Good. Because we have news."

"That baby is fighting an infectious disease. But we know what it is.  Her Lyme Titer was positive."

And I hit my knees. The phone is still in my hand, but I use the other hand to cover my mouth. To fight back the sobs. 

"Annabelle has a pretty severe case Jodi. But I'm glad that Lyme Disease is what she has. It's not cancer. And the best part? If we get the medication into her right away, she will make a full recovery." 

And I have not cried that hard in years. 

Tears of joy and tears of thanks and tears of gratitude for God's picture-perfect timing. Tears, thankful that we found out what she was fighting at home before we headed up to the hospital again, 
be poked and prodded yet again. 
Tears that my child will find some relief from fever and rash. 
That she would walk again. 

Relief flooded my heart.  

Tears of gratitude that the unnamed, had a name.

"You are able to provide. You are faithful in perfect time.
Your goodness overwhelms. I am held.

Through the fire, you're my shield. 
Your protection never fails.
No power can separate. I am saved. 

You are bigger than all my fears. God of love. God my love. 
You are bigger than my dreams. God my hope. God my peace. 
Whatever will come my way, through each day, I will say. 
God I trust you.

I am yours. Use me Lord. 

You are the God who always sees us. Even in bare and desperate seasons. You are rock on which I stand."

Monday, October 24, 2016

When your kid(s) need you - and you have other things you (really) want to do....

I'm writing this today...because I need to read THIS today. 

I was looking forward to this morning, Monday morning, all weekend long. Mondays are my favorites. Back to routine, back to school, and I get to regroup and reorganize and hear myself think for a few quiet hours in the afternoon when the littlest naps. Mondays are almost like this Mama's "weekend". After the morning rush to school, it gets a lot quieter around here. Just one kiddo in tow, my pace can slow. 

But this morning, my daughter needed me. Her heavy, leg cast was making her knee throb and her little eyes looked tired from getting fitful sleep. "Can you keep me home, Mama? Please? I just want to be around you. School is so uncomfortable." 

And she's never asked this before and I know the answer already that yes, I should let her and her broken ankle stay home (again), but I pause because this is MY MONDAY. I feel like I have nothing left to give. So spent from the weekend and so behind on the things I want to get done. Little, stupid things. But things that matter to me. Things that I like to do. 

I walk into the mudroom. Get down on my knees. My hubby is loading the other kids in the car. The toddler is feeding our dog her oatmeal. Lacey is crying softly in the other room. And I ask the Lord for wisdom and patience and love that I just don't seem to have in my own soul. And I hear His Word of redemption and grace flood warm over me. And I remember, on a whim, what I had taped to our fridge just a few days prior. 

Reminding myself that the Church doesn't teach we should pray to the Saints, but petition them on our behalf. That in the same way those of us living are bonded by the blood of Christ, so too our bond will not be broken in death. Just as I would and do ask you to pray for me here on earth, I have the blessing of asking God's beloved in heaven to pray for me too. To take my requests and offer them up our Lord, as they sit at His feet in eternity. 


"Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought they intercession, was left unaided. 
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins my Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. 
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, 
but in they mercy hear and answer me. Amen." 

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