Friday, January 25, 2013

Elliott Turned 8!

I know you hear every parent say it, but Elliott turning eight years old was so weird.  I, myself, clearly remember being seven, but I don't have much recollection of my eighth year of life.  I feel like Elliott is entering into a mysterious world in which I have no insights or points of reference.  And he's so big.

For Elliott's eighth birthday he had three celebrations.  First, I brought a "rice-crispy-treats" cake to his classroom on Friday at the end of the day where after singing "Happy Birthday" to him, Elliott's classmates gave him birthday wishes.  It was really cute to hear all of the nice things his friends had to say about him to which he replied, "Thank you for telling me that."  

That night, we went out to Elliott's choice of curry for dinner and then came home and celebrated with another "rice-crispy-treats" cake.

On Saturday afternoon, Elliott had some school and church friends over and they celebrated with games, pizza, a piƱata, and cupcakes.  

I don't mind celebrating my little boy so many times.  In fact, I really like it.  We're so blessed to have him in our family.

Looking back on this past year, Elliott is really into reading.  He loves to read "chapter books."  His current favorites are "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl and Dahl's other works of fiction.  He loves playing Lego video games on Wii, playing with real Legos (particularly Star Wars themed Legos), and making lists.  He is very conscientious and works on his homework as soon as he gets into the car on the way home.  He often ponders the negative actions of kids in his class and tries to figure out how to be nice, but not get taken advantage of.  He is very competitive and spends most of his time on the playground playing soccer, wall ball, or being chased.  When people are kind to him it impacts him greatly and deeply.  That also happens when people are unkind.  He worries about his teacher praising him too much in class and doesn't think it is proper, fair, or kind for the other kids.  A lot of Elliott's time this year has been spent independently.  It has been strange to see him growing up and independent.  Instead of him coming to me, I find myself being intentional in drawing him out.  Once he is quiet and undistracted, he has so much in his heart to pour out and ponder with me.  He reads his Bible by himself now and he chews on the things he has read throughout the day.  The other day he told me about how he "tested God" because he had read about Gideon doing that with his fleece (from Judges chapters 6-8).

Feeling nostalgic?  Look back and see Elliott's 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th birthdays, too!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Elliott's First Spelling Bee

Elliott had his first spelling bee tonight!  He was so nervous, but as soon as we arrived he was bombarded with hugs from his buddies at school and immediately felt at ease.

When the judges called his name, he walked up to the front of the auditorium and looked about as white as a sheet.  I thought he might cry.

They gave him his word.  "The word is 'doody,'" the woman said.

"Doody" Elliott repeated. "D O O D Y.... Doody." he blurted out.

"Ding!" went the bell.  "Wrong."

"Wrong?  Wrong?"  I was so mad.  "You said it wrong!" I thought.

The word was "duty" but the lady clearly said, "doody."  I didn't think it was fair and my "Mama Bear" started showing.  I tried to smoosh Mama Bear down inside me and not let her out, but I kept sneaking looks at Elliott and reigniting.  I knew if he saw me he would burst into tears and that wouldn't help his image much.  "Poor guy." I kept thinking.  "That wasn't fair. Can we get a do over?? Grrrr." // "Mama Bear, get back inside of there!  Don't let your animal show!"  It was hard.

Elliott eventually came over and had a good cry on my lap and then we went home and had some ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

We'll get 'em next year, son... So proud of you.

Another Lesson in Faithfulness

When I was younger I learned an invaluable lesson of the Lord's faithfulness.  While my family struggled through a very painful and ugly divorce, I was flung from all I knew; geographically, socially, and emotionally.  I reached out, but no one was there for me.  I felt abandoned by the world--including my parents--forsaken by all.  At that time we were all reeling and I think my parents were just trying to keep their heads above the water.  But in those cold, dark times, I felt the presence and surety of the love of the Lord like I never had before.  Although I was broken inside, I knew He was there, that He heard me, that He cared.  He comforted me.

"When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." Psalm 27:10

He showed me that He is a rock--a constant--that never changes.  Through out all of life's storms and raging weather, He alone never changes, He is a sure foundation.  At 14 years old, I knew this.   I had been learning it all my life up till then, but at 14 I knew this to be true through my personal experience.  I had lived and experienced God's amazing faithfulness to me.

"For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.  Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.  When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek,'" Psalm 27:5-8

And He did hide me.  And I did offer sacrifices of praise. And I did seek His face.  And He was found by me.  Many, many, many a day and night I poured out my heart to the Lord.  My parents, or course, still loved me even if they couldn't give me the kind of home they had before and my mom moved heaven and earth to hoist a baby grand piano into my 2nd story bedroom where I played and sang endlessly to the Lord about all that was on my heart.  It was a sweet time of having no one but Jesus to talk to and seeing Him answer me.  I will never forget the nearness of the Lord during that horrible time of my life.  It is a milestone for me.  A marker of remembrance. Whenever I feel weird or doubtful, I look back and remember the realness of that help I received from the Lord and my faith is renewed.  My love for the Lord stirs within me.

Now I am 28 (almost 29!) years old and those cold, dark, and wretched times are far behind me.  But here I am again being taught about God's faithfulness.  And I do not want to shrink from it, because I want to know Him.  I want to see Him proved faithful to me again, to experience Him in a new way. His faithfulness never falters.  The canvas on which his faithfulness is displayed is different than it was all those years ago, but the lesson is the same. The heartbreak for me this time is due to the fact that we live in a transient town which means that most of the beautiful relationships the Lord has brought into my life are extremely temporary.  As I realize that all the people that I love around me are not mine to keep, it makes my spirit writhe and twist within me.  I panic and want to grasp them tightly like sand I know will just slip away and I realize: He is faithful.  He is my friend.  His faithfulness is from everlasting to everlasting.  I can trust Him with my heart that is being given to so many people that I cannot keep.  I need to cling to Him for my very life and I realize all of a sudden and with that same clarity I received at 14 years old: He is a rock--a constant--that never changes.  Through out all of life's storms and raging weather, He alone never changes, He is a sure foundation.  He is my hope.  He will never fail me. He will never leave me nor forsake me.

And thus, I thank Him and praise Him for the difficulty of living in a place where people are always coming and going and never settling.  I praise Him for my broken heart over losing ones I love, because it teaches me to rely more and more on His faithfulness.  It keeps me seeing my need for Him.  For life.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Love Free STUFF!!!

I get pretty excited about FREE STUFF!  So much so that my friends like to imitate my catch phrase, "free stuff!"  Packets, samples, piles of junk on the side of the road, you name it--its all so exciting!  "Treasure!  We might find treasure!" I often think.

I'm not sure what the intense, magnetic-like pull is all about.  Maybe it is because I like gifts so much.  Don't you love it when people are generous with you?  Maybe not, because it is pretty humbling.  But there is really nothing like it.  Right?  Giving things away for free just doesn't make logical sense to us, but in reality I suppose we are simply imitating our Maker who gave all things to us freely.  (What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31&32)

I never have been able to shake that free stuff obsession and never has it been more obvious of an obsession than it was today.  As we were leaving the library and passing the last of many hand sanitizing stations that are scattered generously throughout the entire 6 floor library, I suddenly realized that an involuntary war had been going on within mind ever since I had seen the first dispenser of free nectar on the Children's Floor.   I realized that on one side of my brain I had been thinking about how I hate hand sanitizer.  I have been repulsed by it completely ever since I heard that it can create "super germs".  Its not even a "love-hate" relationship.  It is simply "hate-hate".  Like, "I hate the fact that they make my kids use it before eating lunch at school."  I always worry that they might ingest a bit of it.  I feel like I don't need the stuff and am better off without it. I also think that I am irrationally convinced that there are many other unknown side-effects the aromatically abrasive and poisonous lotion might contain.

But the other side of my brain had been thinking about how much I LOVE free stuff.  All of those hand sanitizing stations seemed like giant, neon "free stuff stations" that were calling to me like Sirens and I really, really wanted to be the recipient of their overly generous gift.

When I finally realized what was happening within me, I laughed at myself; turned up my nose to the beckoning hand sanitizing station with an imaginary "Pppft!" and an "I don't need you, but I still love that you are free" glance; took a picture of the kids in front of the library; and then purposed to tell you about it.  You know, just to get it off of my chest...

Next time I go to the library, can you please tie me to the mast of a ship so that I'll still be able to hear the call of the Sirens, but not be swept away with my passion for all that is free?  Because that was a close one!  I may need some accountability.

Thanks a bunch!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Elliott's Unlikely Favorite

We kept it simple this Christmas and got the kids just a few practical things.  We gave Elliott a new soccer ball and a new Bible, which he has been devouring.  Caiden got a french rolling pin with her initials in it and a lettuce knife for helping me in the kitchen (which she loves to do).

Even the stocking stuffers I wanted to make practical this year.  Because we have had so many problems with mildew and moisture this winter, we really couldn't afford to have any more random junk lying around that would need to find new homes. So, I filled their stockings with pencils with erasers on them (the erasers always go first!), socks, underwear, a few little candies, new toothbrushes*, things like that.  (Do I sound like a terrible, spoil sport mom???)

Funnily enough, and as always seems to happen (I'm sure you can relate), it was the littlest thing that struck Elliott's fancy.  I had remembered him asking me if we had a calculator some months ago so I picked one up at a dollar store and put it in his stocking thinking, "Eh, it wouldn't hurt.  Maybe he'll like it." And that little black calculator turned out to be the hit of the season!

He brings it with him everywhere declaring, "Its real!  I'm not joking! It really works!" as he pulls the calculator out of his pocket with a proud and excited smile--its really nerdy, but really cute.  When people ask him what he got for Christmas, this is one of the first things he remembers.  He thinks it was an actual gift.  I thought it was just a little stocking stuffer...

I'm thankful for that.  There wasn't a whole lot of hoopla this year with the presents, but the kids never really skipped a beat. They're pretty great.

*In my defense, the toothbrushes were star wars lightsabers that light up.  They were pretty cool!  Its not like I made their Christmas totally lame...