caroline holzberger

Keepin' it real about motherhood, Jesus, life, and everything in between.

Archive for the category “Confessions”

Sheep, Not Ducks

Six months. Two weeks. Two days.

That is how long it’s been, dear friend (if you are still out there??) since I have written a.darn.thing.

Well, technically I have written plenty of stuff in my head. Scary place, my head. Danger, Danger Will Robinson. I simply haven’t written on my computer. I have talked to you, cried with you, confessed to you, and terribly, terribly missed you.

I am back.

I had a bit of a Sovereign Pause on my life the last year. I got a job. Oh sweet baby Jesus. And I kept going. And going. Have you ever heard me say ‘shoveling snow in a blizzard’? Have you ever lived that out? Then you get it. Solidarity, sistas.

But, I feel a peace over my life now. A vivid covering of His Presence. It’s amazing how much closer you feel to Jesus when you actually freaking spend time with Him. Rocket science, it is not. Our relationship was much more superficial this last year. Clearly, my doing. I didn’t make time for it. I chose to be so busy with the job, and the kids, and all of the practices, and the homework, and the reading logs, and the carpool, and the meals I just fed you people yesterday, dangit and the parenting, and the time outs, and the sassy spray, and the sports, and the just doing all of the life. I need a nap just remembering it. But, first I need to return the phone call from The University of Complacency – they have asked me to be their poster child for 2013-2014. Crap.

But, that season of my life is over. Oh how I give Him thanks for it. I give Him thanks for giving me a wonderful job with wonderful people. I miss them already. I had forgotten what it felt like to be a part of a work family. I thank Him for the financial blessing it was. For the time of humility and conviction it was. But, I also now give Him thanks for ending it. I even more so give Him thanks for the door He swung open for a job this year. Oh the blessings!! (details later) And, now, I truly feel that He has pressed Play again on my writing. I know He has made me to do this. I feel blessed by it. Humbled by it. Scared of it. But, mostly just honored that He would ever let me say anything about Him that is of worth to others. How cool is that, friend? That we are His ambassadors? What. An. Honor.

So, welcome back. Thank you SO much for being here. I love you.

And, today, I want to leave you with a picture. You know I am so very visual. And He hit me yesterday, His loving, all to familar, Sovereign 2×4 to my head.

We sort of live in the cit-ountry. Part city. Part country. We are fifteen minutes from any and every and I do mean e.v.e.r.y. shopping luxury you could want. Traffic. Highways. People everywhere. City. But, then again, we live in a quiet part of town. Where you can see the stars more clearly at night and hear the symphony of cicadas lull you to sleep. We are surrounded by trees – thousands of them. Our neighbors are far enough away to feel like country. A place where something like this is normal —

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We had visitors yesterday. In our backyard. Poor little babies. We tried to herd them into our front yard so they would not be trapped by our fence. That was funny to watch. But, watching my children try to be nice, while still being crazy kiddos, that Mama duck was faithfully leading her babies. She wandered all over our yard trying to find solace. And those seven little ducklings followed faithfully. Lined up. In their place. Following their trusted leader.

God told me that’s His plan for me. He said it in my heart of hearts while I watched my babies frantically zip in every stinking direction – quite the opposite of those little ducklings who stayed true to their ‘all in a row’ reputation. I mean, it’s even a saying, people. Do you have all your ducks in a row? Big fat heck to the NO, is the answer by the way.

God doesn’t call us His ducklings in His Word, does He? Nope.

I wonder why?

Gee, give me a nanosecond to think that one over.

Hmm, I wonder if it’s because we do what ducklings do, except for the exact opposite.

We do not follow Him right in a row like we should, do we?

Am I alone here? I sure hope not. We venture off on our own. We trust in our plans. We fill our days. We look up, all of a sudden, and can’t see Him anywhere in sight? Where is that devotional book I have, anyway? Ugh.

He does, however call us His sheep quite often.

Like here. And here. Oh ya, AND HERE!

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I would love to remind you why He calls us that. I wrote a whole blog about it. It’s an old one. Very informal, just sort of the overflowings of my crappy convicted heart. But, I know I needed the reminder.

Boy have I been sheep-ing it up all year. So, I guess I just wanted you to know –

It’s duckling time now.

You with me??

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Five Minute Friday – Broken

(Disclaimer to my readers – Today I link up with fellow writers. This is a challenge. A group to join. A prompting by another woman I like to just.sit.down. every Friday and write for only five minutes. That’s it. Which is roughly how long it takes for me to write my normal first sentence. Ahem. So, lest some of you start dancing joyfully with glee that my post is shorter – it is advised that thy shouldn’t get thyself used to it. In Jesus’ Name.) READ MORE HERE.

Five Minute Friday – BROKEN.

GO.

I have to be honest with you –

I live in a rich, white bubble.

It’s true. And, I don’t mean to sound racist or prejudice or anything else ugly. I’m just saying…it is what it is. If you were to stand on the street corner two miles from my house, at the major intersection of two roads – you would see more luxury cars than five-year-old cars. You would see more educated people than uneducated people. Most of them would be white. ALL of them would be upper class, or at least upper-middle class. Some of them are even in the super dooper upper class.

There is not ‘bad’ area of town. There is no crime. There is no real glimpse into the outside world.

So, unless I am purposeful and drive thirty minutes in any direction – I live my daily commute (aka. to the carpool line, Wal-Mart, preschool and church) then I would never ever see the poor.

But, oh, my friend, how that doesn’t mean I don’t see the broken.

The broken are rich, too.

The broken are white, too.

The broken are everywhere.

Withint the last year, my world got doneflippedupsidedown and I spun out of control. (Thanks a lot Jesus…and Jen Hatmaker)

But once my head leveled off, I found myself. My true self. I found the place God wanted me. Not selling everything I own and moving to the ghetto (my initial response) and also not sluffing it off and calling too radical.

I found the place He would have me be.

And this place is acknowledging the broken everywhere I go. To the salon. To the homeless church. To the elite boutique to use the bathroom, clearly. To the person next to me at church. To the man sweeping the floors at my kid’s overprivleged public school.

Brokenness is everywhere.

This was proven to me today in a large way.

Months ago – amidst my beloved tailspin, I wrote a blog about a man I met named Mr. John Tucker. I hadn’t thought about him in months, so I count today a blessing for the sheer reminder to pray for him. But, today, a man commented on my blog post from last October — and I’ll admit, he was a hata.

He judged me, criticized me, and bashed me for my act of kindness to Mr. John Tucker. Why?

Because Mr. John Tucker is homeless.

Oh ya, did I not mention that?

He was probably on drugs. He smelled of feces. He perhaps conned us out of that $20 that day. And, he may even be into all types of illegal things. But, maybe not. I don’t know. You know Who does? The One who made him.

My Jesus.

The same Jesus who broke His body for me. For Mr. John Tucker. AND for the hata on my blog.

The rage he spoke about this homeless man he’d never met – reminded this rich, white girl of one thing.

Brokenness is everywhere.

You can choose to serve the broken wealthy. You can choose to serve the broken poor. But, choose something.

So, I ask you…

Who is more broken? Who is more poor?

The man with nothing to his name, and no worth to so many people?

Or the man who judges him and casts him aside?

I think I know that answer.

Do you?

Calling It a Spade

I am so fl-ipp-ing tired of hearing story after story after story of people living in fear.

I mean it, y’all. I’m eff-ing over it.

Not because I am a jerk and have no ephathy for people struggling with this issue. Beause, trust me, I do. And then some.

But, wow, you sound pissed!

I am!!

I am sooooo over it because I am tired of the power that fear gives to the enemy. It genuinely pisses. me. off.

So much so, that I have left my completely comfortable, snuggly bed at almost midnight to tell you about it. I have to get all this out of my brain and heart and soul. I need you to know this.

I lived a great deal of my life gripped by fear. And, I don’t just mean an over-protective mother or cautious driver. I mean g-r-i-p-p-e-d by fear.

Terrified someone was about to break into my house.

Imagining, with more details than I’d like to admit, the phone call I’d receive saying Ryan has another wife and family somewhere.

My infant dying from SIDS in their sleep.

A car wreck taking my entire family at once.

And of course, the coup de gras is the infamous — me dropping dead from a sudden heart attack – oh ya, in front of my kids, too.

My friend, those aren’t examples I read from a book. Those are real live, personal moments of my life I’ve handed over to fear. I’ve hand tied the bow and gifted them to my enemy. Well, that party’s over, satan. No more gifts for you.

I’ve done this time after time after time.

Have you?

For the past decade or so, I’ve been dealing with this off and on. I have roots of mistrust, the need for control, desire for approval, fear of sudden change, etc. that have led me to this. And for years, I tried so many methods of getting rid of it, masking it, and pushing it down deeper into my soul.

Tip for the day: the harder you push something down, the more fiercely it springs back up to the surface. Can I get an witness!?

If I sound a bit more upset than you’re used to, it’s because I am.

I am currently walking through this with someone dear to me. Someone more dear to me than most people. Someone I love and thank God for often. This person is so deeply gripped, they can’t get out from under it. It has affected their family, their job, their health, their everything. Um, been there, done that.

So, my darlings, I just wanted to shed some light into this very dark world. This isn’t a world most Christians like talking about, because clearly if they are afraid, they aren’t faithful. The Bible says that, right? (THey are talking about 1 John 4:18 – Read them. Then read this commentary. You will understand.) But, I believe the Bible is chock full of people who were afriad and still faithful. With one breath they say “I believe’ and in the next breath, they say “Help me in my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

I feel, with 100% certaintly, that fear is one of the most powerful weapons the enemy uses to wage war against us. Why? Because it packs quite a punch.

So, let me go ahead and clear a few things up I’ve learned in my years of fighting this battle.

Ahem.

1. You will die. As my pastor says, “Ain’t none of us getting out of this thing alive.”

2. You neither make the earth spin nor keep it from spinning.

3. Your life is a vapor. (James 4:14)

4. Those around you, whom you love, will die too. (see #1)

5. Planes crash. People get robbed. Guns kill people. Storms come. Hearts stop. It’s just the truth.

Sheesh Caroline, you should really be a motivational speaker.

We live in a completely screwed up world governed by sin and death, and ruled by the prince of this world, not worthy of the title at all. (John 14)

We, as humans, by nature have an insatiable need for control. We must be boss. We need to have it all planned out. We have to have proof. Stats. Verification. Answers. NOW.

And, when that doesn’t come…when we get thrown a wicked curve ball before we realize we’ve even stepped up to the plate – we. freak. out.

We’re pretty good at it, actually.

I know I am, at least. This crap can literally cause physical symtoms in my body that ‘feel’ exactly like, and I do mean exactly like, a heart attack.

You may think this is for people who are mental. You know cuckoo birds? (And my confessions may have just confirmed that to you.) But, it really isn’t just that. I agree that people have chemical imbalances. Actual mental diseases. I believe that science and medicine can understand and help this issue in so many people. And for that, I praise GOD…you know, the One who like invented the concept of our DNA. I thank Him that we know so much about this body or ours. This brain of ours. This heart of ours. But, aside from that – I want to call a spade a spade.

Fear. Is. From. Satan.

Period.

Mental disease isn’t what I’m talking about. I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking professional help for those of you dear ones in this category. But, tonight, I’m talking about the millions of us who suffer – and I mean suffer – from the little fears of life. The ones that, when added up throughout our day, equal a life governed (as in ruled by) by fear.

We know so much about all of those physical parts of us, but we need not forget to focus on knowing SO MUCH MORE about who we are fighting against and why he keeps attacking us.

Here’s the deal. Satan sucks. But, he ain’t dumb. In fact, he is crafty, cunning and persistent. If he kept going after the actual Son of God, then what makes you think you get a Get Out Of Fear Free card?

Satan has nothing else to do with us Christians but make us useless on this earth. He can’t have us for eternity – he knows that. But, he can use all his power to make us completely ineffectual for Christ while we are here. He can keep us quiet, alone, hungry, scared, intimidated, and embarrassed. I know, because he did this to me – for far too long.

So, tonight, I simply want to reassure you that FEAR is not from God. Fear is from our enemy. Every single time. No exceptions. (Romans 8:13, 2 Timothy 1:7)

Prayer is a powerful weapon against this attack…and there is NO better way to pray, than using the Word of God. After all, my friend, it is our only offensive weapon in this spiritual battle. (Eph. 6) And, I’d love to quote my BFF even though she doesn’t know who I am Priscilla Shirer, from the Gideon bible study I’m currently doing (check it out!) — and tell you, “We are not human beings having a brief spiritual experience. No. We are spirtual beings having a brief human experience.”

So here are some real-life valid tips to combat this assault. First, some practical-ish ones for your brain that helped me. Then, some powerful Scripture – without which, I’d be hopeless.

1. Keep your mrain occupied when you can. Down time is devil time when it comes to fear. A trick I used was to sit and do math problems. I would engage my left brain in difficult math problems that I actually had to sit down and figure out. My right brain (emotional side) was on stimulation overload due to fear/anxiety and so I had to wake up the other half. And with a Momof3 brain – math sure does the trick. I started with 2+2.

2. Serve someone. If you are sitting at home alone thinking about how not to think about being afriad. And then getting caught up in the fear that you can’t fight the fear of being afraid, then you lose. If your health permits (which mine did not for so long – half the battle) then please get up and serve someone. So much mental focus is spent on us, our fears, our problems, and it truly does help to get up and do something for someone else. You will be SHOCKED at how engaged your mind can become when you let it. It won’t cure this – but it’ll help fill a fearful afternoon.

3. Tell people. Now, I don’t necessarily mean you have to mention it to the guy at 7/11 when you’re getting a coffee, but if you feel led, go for it. You never know who you might meet at a 7/11. But, truly, tell your loved ones. Confess to a few close friends. Have someone to call in one of ‘those’ moments. Make up a code word (the sillier the better!) which means “My mind if racing with fear! Talk to me about something. Anything but this. Movies. Bra shopping. Royal baby. Anything. Go.” These people will create a special place in your heart like no one else ever will. Thank Jesus for them now.

4. Get help if needed. I did all of the above and then some. I had massages. I changed my diet. I was prayed over. I excersized. And so on and so forth. And then the time came for professional help. I tried meds. I had counseling. It wasn’t easy. Pride is a nasty second cousin of fear. The two are linked by their mutual famly member – control. We need it. We can’t get it. Our pride keeps trying. Our fears sink deeper each time we fail. Then rinse and repeat.

And lastly, BUT NOT AT ALL leastly – pray a lot. Somewhere. Anywhere. Everywhere. Here are some fantastic Scripture bricks to stand upon. I’d have been washed away otherwise. Memorize them. Write and re-write them. Post them all over your house. Tattoo them to your body. This IS my foundation. This IS your foundation. This IS absolutely where I believe you should start. Because even if you have valid reasons for your invalid fears (which most of us truly do!) and even if we have valid excuses for our behaviors – fear is from satan. We are of God. If you belong to him then that’s just it – you belong to Him. You are His. Let’s live like it. Let’s claim the victory Jesus died for. Let’s live our life NOW as Christ desires – free from the grip of fear. Not free from ever being afraid again – but free from it ruling our lives.

I leave you with a lovely quote from my BFF, Priscilla again – this was a perfect way to describe this – (read it twice!)

“Every physical reality contains a spiritual root. So if you deal with only the natural reality, using natural resources, you will never drill down to address the spiritual reality. You may be able to patch up the symptoms for a while, but the real problem will remain unsolved and simmering. That’s the enmy’s plan — to talk you into ignoring the divine reality occuring beneath the surface of your difficulties, leading you to downplay the significance of your spiritual weapons.”

Amen sister, Amen!

So I will leave you with a little conversation I am about to have out loud on your behalf. Ok, now she’s really lost it  I love you, friend. You can do this. Ok, lie. You can’t. But, HE CAN.

satan,

You suck. I hate you. You are a loser and you know it. May I be the first to remind you that you will never, and I mean never be in heaven. You will never have the power of God. You will be forever, for all eternity in hell, where you belong. As long as I have breath, I will tell people of your schemes. I will share every gory detail of my past with you and your stupid weapon of fear. Because, I know that with every breath of my praise of God and hatred of you, your power weakens. And I gotta tell ya, I love that!  You know I am sealed by the Holy Spirit and you. can’t. have. me. I’ve been bought. It’s a done deal. I belong to God. For all time. I can’t wait to see your worldy ways demoted and His lifted up. I can’t wait to see all the abundant and remarkable glory God receives because you have lost some of your pwoer over His people. I choose faith. Not your stupid fear. So take your demons and hit the road. In Jesus’ Name, be gone. In fact, GO TO HELL! It is where you belong and where you will forever be. Oh, and while you’re there, mention the Name of my Jesus – it’ll make your demons shudder. (James 2:19) Ha. Ha. Ha. Take that.

Forever His,

Me

[6] Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [7] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phl 4:6-7 NIV)
[6] Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. [7] Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1Pe 5:6-7 NIV)
[5] We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2Cr 10:5 NIV)
[1] For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. [2] Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (Psa 46:1-2 NIV)
[6] Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deu 31:6 NIV)
[9] Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Jos 1:9 NIV)
[4] I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psa 34:4 NIV)
[4] Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psa 23:4 NIV)
[27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jhn 14:27 NIV)
[13] For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. (Rom 8:13 NIV)
[7] For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2Ti 1:7 NIV)
[7] They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD. (Psa 112:7 NIV)
[8] In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psa 4:8 NIV)
[3] When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. [4] In God, whose word I praise– in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Psa 56:3-4 NIV)
[23] Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. [24] See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psa 139:23-24 NIV)

Five Minute Friday – Present

(Disclaimer to my readers – Today I link up with fellow writers. This is a challenge. A group to join. A prompting by another woman I like to just.sit.down. every Friday and write for only five minutes. That’s it. Which is roughly how long it takes for me to write my normal first sentence. Ahem. So, lest some of you start dancing joyfully with glee that my post is shorter – it is advised that thy shouldn’t get thyself used to it. In Jesus’ Name.) READ MORE HERE.

This week’s word – Present

GO.

Dear Present,

Where have you been, dear friend? You seem like the firefly during the heat of summer sunsets – always just.out.of.reach.

I dwell on your 2nd cousin, Past, and often fear your wicked Step-mother, Present.

My Past haunts me, guilts me, condemns me and brings me further from you, Beloved.

Your wicked Step-mother, my Future, sets my mind on controlling things, planning things, predicting things – always pushing you out of the way and making me a slave to Her demands.

I want to be here with You now, dear friend, oh my dear Present.

Here. Where her big girl winks aimed at me, cause my breath to catch in my throat.

Here. Where his innocent heart still brings me such joy, with questions like “Why do my socks have to match?” No, baby, they don’t. I love you so. and “Do I really have to wear underwear, Mama?”

Here. Where his dance between indepedence and still needing Mommy keeps my heart close, ever so close.

Here. Where you have me serving my man, or at least desperately trying serving me kids, and serving the least of these. Tired, am I? Yes. But, help me not be so busy, so consumed that I miss the gifts You give me here – every.single.day.

Oh, dear Present, stay with me a while.

Cling to me now. Do not leave.

Do not tease me with the flicker of your ever-fleeting light, only to fly away with another summer sunset.

Keep me here with you, dear flirefly.

I love you. I thank My Creator for you. For the blessings He has for me here with You.

For now, for our Present together, and for always,

Bless you, dear Present.

Love, Me (Your New BFF)

STOP.

Pity Party

During all those weeks and months of couch time, a wise friend once told me, “It’s ok to throw yourself a pity party if you need one occasionally. Just don’t decorate and hire a band.” Well said.

So, dear friend. Welcome to my pity party, today. Sorry, no streamers or live band, but I’m here. And, as I’ve shown you in the past, I have no problem just.being.real.with.you.

I guess this has slowly creeped up on me. It could probably be traced to what has thus far been notsoaffectionately called The Summer of Suck.

Summer is sacrilege for Team Holzberger. And, for so many others, as well. This is because my husband is in public education. You know, the career also known as, the one you do not go into for the money. Sweet, well-meaning yet ignorant people in the business world often comment “Ya, but I’d give anything to get eight weeks off in the summer.” Oh ya, anything? Even your amazing health insurance and your six figure salary? No? Oh, ok then.

Needless to say, this summer was going to be awesome. I am healthy (praise GOD!), neither of us is teaching a full load of summer school. (praise GOD!) Not because of our grandious vacation plans..ya, good one. But, solely, because it will be eight weeks of Team Holzberger time. Camping. Swimming. Rangers games. Sleeping in late. Hawaiian Falls waterpark every few days. And deer frolicking in the forest with butterflies on the tips of their noses.

Or not.

Week One, I’ve lovingly entitled – Don’t Tap This

My eldest (and then subsequently, my youngest) child gets an awful virus. Like, bad. Poor Jacob had a fever of at least 104.7 for three nights straight. We finally were advised by our doctor to take him to Cooks Children’s Hospital (Oh how I sing your praises, you people are saints!) and have him checked over, blood taken, and possibly a spinal tap to verify he doesn’t have viral meningitis. You.Must.Be.Freak-ing.Kidding.Me.

Sola Deo Gloria – my precious boy did not have to be tested for that. His spine was not tapped. So truly thankful. But, we did spend six days with very sick children. One of whom, remarkably got better, and had his fever break the morning after the ER. What an expensive check-up that will turn out to be.

Week Two, we will affectionately call – Don’t Eat Mor Chikin

Food poisoning. That’s right, food posioning. If you have never experienced that, I give you leave to stop reading this blog to immediately get on your knees and thank our Jesus in heaven. I’ll wait…

We went to Chick-Fil-A with my Mom and Step-Dad after a two day fun-filled time with them. We went to their church, Hawaiian Falls, the new and amazing Perot Museum in Dallas, and just had good ol’ fun with Mimi and Papaw. But, then we concluded our little visit with a late night run through Chick-Fil-A before we headed home. Foul.

Fortunately I got it the worst. (words only a mother could say) Two out of three kids got it. Along with myself and my step-dad. I couldn’t stop throwing up, like dry-heaving. So badly, in fact, that I passed out and almost was rushed by my dear husband to the ER myself. I say with a sheer geniune heart , “Lord, thank you.” that didn’t happen. Two ER visits in one week would be too much.

Week Three, can be referred to as no less than Brokeback Mama

In what was supposed to be our first and fun casual Team Holzberger trip to Hawaiian Falls. Well, I ain’t Hawaiian, but I did fall. In an attempt to ride down a certain slide my husband said ‘was awesome’ dang that man I tried to grab the handle to shoot myself down like a twenty year old rocket, I lost grip, and as-if-in-slow-motion, my feet flew out from under me, and I landed directly on my hiney. And, no not on flat ground, but on the edge of a stair, right on the crease of the netherregions. This resulted in a broken tailbone. Not. Cool.

So, here we are. Week Four. As I live and breathe, I am sitting upright, for only the third day out of the last eight. I am typing to you, whilst sitting atop a Boppy, with an well-placed ice pack in the middle. Glory.

And there goes June.

So, when you compile the entirety of those four weeks, and a complete bathroom remodel (done com-plete-ly by yours truly and my man over the last flippin’ year) and the strain therein caused by said remodel…and throw in a little visit from Aunt Flo, (click here for hil-ar-ious if not mildly inappropriate (meaning three curse words) Aunt Flo reading) I am left to one conclusion –

Pfpppffffft. (That was my kazoo sound. No, I didn’t decorate the pity party, but c’mon, every party needs a kazoo.)

I’ve also allowed myself to briefly be brought down by the reality that is our current life. My dear husband works 60-70 hours a week all school year long. Summer is supposed to be fun, happy family time. I hate this for him too. Notsomuch when I was hugging the toilet, but now, yes.

Which leads me to the other great stressor the enemy uses to occassionally bring me down. My man is a very hard working man. He puts more time, effort and integrity into his work that almost anyone else I know. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a Chemistry minor. He has a Masters degree in Education. Yet, after insurance is taken out, he makes a mere $500 a month above U.S. standard poverty level for a family of five. That’s right. We pay almost $1,000 a month for awful health insurance. After which it is barely fesible to have a family of five on an Asst. Principal’s salary. What is that about?

I run away with questions like that sometimes.

Why do we live in a country that pays educators, policemen, firemen and the military for crying out loud so very little, yet can afford to pay people who sell legal drugs, build custom homes, or hit the ball out of the park ten or twenty times that?

What truly breaks my heart is that Ryan misses the classroom. He misses loving on the kids, interacting with them, and building them up. But, if he wanted to go back to the classroom, we would choose to cut our income by yet another $700 a month, making that poverty level our reality.

“Well why don’t you just go to work?” so many would say. Well, friend, it looks like I may have to. I’ve been otherwise detained on my couch for the better part of the last five years. But, now, I am healthy. I could work. Of course, we were committed to me being a stay-at-home Mom, because we both strongly believe in the impact it has on our family. A luxury, I guess.

And before you get run away with judgement, as I do sometimes. Let me assure you, we are not spenders. Anyone who knows me knows how crazy frugal we are. I’d be happy to send you our monthly budget in case you do need encouragement on how we (He) make it work. We use cash envelopes. (Dave Ramsey rules!) We have no debt besides our home. Of course, we have no savings, either.

Now, I realize there are plenty of intrinsic benefits from being in education. I know, I taught too. And those are blessings, for sure. Ryan laps those up like water in a dry and parched land to get him through Monday through Friday. And, while treasures themselves, intrinsic rewards do not pay the bills. So, as you could imagine, when we do not benefit from other perks of the job, like others do; winning trips for vacation, and this other myth they call a “bonus” (For all my educator readers, a ‘bonus’ is when one periodically makes more money on top on one’s salary, based on good performance, tenure, or goals reached. Just didn’t want you to be confused.) Ryan will make $300 less this school year than he did last year.

But, honestly, it isn’t just about the money. Money WILL NOT buy us happiness. And, friend, it will not buy you happiness either. I do not want to mislead you. It is about the stress that comes from not having it. The feeling of always shoveling snow in a blizzard. The salt in the wound of living in the 4th wealthiest area of the country where most good friends around me spend more on vacations than Ryan makes in six months. And, also the sad but true fact that our first thought after the doctor says “your son needs to go to the hospital” is, “Oh, God, protect him!’ alltooquickly followed by “Oh Lord, we can’t afford that!”

So many people know exactly what this is like. Others don’t. We do.

God has showered His blessings on us in spades. How else can we explain the six figures of medical bills HE paid off in the last five years? The, not one, but two trips (in one month)to The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota paid for solely by friends and family. How else can we explain that we are still married and fairly happy when statistics of families dealing with severe chronic illness are dismal. How else can we explain how God handed us our dream home at $100K less than any of our neighbors, and enough savings to put 20% down, making our house payments barely above our brand new home we sold. And how else can I explain that despite the facts that our home is old, outdated, and yes, just funky in places, He has given us our yard as our home. Our trees, as His shelter around us. How else could I explain to you the hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve heard that have prayed faithfully for us for all these years and been strengthened in their faith by His story lived out through me?

By no other way, but our God.

And, I guess that’s the point of this rambling and less-than-upbeat blog. I just so strongly desire to keep it real with you lovely folks. I have lways been perceived in my life as ‘happy’ and ‘chipper’. I am always fun at parties and have a great personality. But, not always, my friend. Sometimes me and God have some words. He loves me enough to put up with the rawness of my heart. And yours too, dear one.

So, in keeping with the desire of my heart and the hope of His calling on my life, I wanted to invite you to this pity party – just to make sure you know I have them too. Mine may be brought on by issues vastly different than yours. And lest you and I forget that if we are sitting in an air conditioned home, reading this on our computer on iDevice…then all of these problems are first world problems. We really have no.idea.

But, the enemy would love to shower guilt over us for even feeling them. After all, good Christians can always keep perspective. Good Christians don’t complain, and they definetly don’t admit to having actual problems.

Well, then I guess I am one crappy Christian.

But, I am real. And, friend, so is my Jesus.

The One who can lift me up out of this miry clay. The One who can set my feet upon a rock and give me a new song in my heart. A song, once heard, that can bring many to Him, to see His goodness and give Him due glory.

And, if you’ve ever read the Bible, you will meet people, who, like me, have moments of weakness where the pity party planner (i.e. – yourself) calls and schedules an event. So, be encouraged, friends. Pity parties aren’t permanent. Aunt Flo will leave the building. The sun will shine again.

Until then, do what I do. Surround yourself with praise and orship music. (I’ve been listening to it this whole time and I’m already in a better place than I was an hour ago)

Read the promises in His Word. There are so many. Find a few that speak to your heart and write them down, carry them with you. Commit them to memory and sing them out loud in times like this. See, who needs a live band, huh?

Last, but not least – GO SERVE SOMEONE. I mean it! It is virtually impossible to stay in your pity party mindset when you are handing cold gatorade to hard-working men who works fifteen hours a day outdoors, building homes bigger than they could ever dream of. Pity parties dimish at the hand of a tray of food to the homeless. At the smile of the elderly when you bring them a hand-drawn card from your babies, into their forgotten world. When you give a pregnant teen value and worth in the form of a smile and hug. When you speak to the man delivering the Pepsi at 7-11, you just never know how God will bless your life. He may not only bring you out of your pity party. Like me, He may just do so much more.

Sister friend has now waked up and wants to play babies with me. Done. (Also a known remedy.)

Pffffpfpfttttt. (one last time for good measure)

Love, love.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to ME, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

John 16:33 ” I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God. Know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength, and my shield. I trust in Him and I am helped.”

1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him – because He cares for you.”

He’s Just Not That Into Me

It’s official – my oldest kid doesn’t like me anymore.

Those of you with older kids are laughing at me and reminiscing of the time you first entered this phase of parenthood. Your kids began the dance of separation too – and maybe they broke your heart as well. They pull away, you pull them in…they need you so they push back toward you…but you know you must pull away sometimes. It’s delicate. It’s terrifying. And friend, it is now, my reality.

My pal, Thing One wrote about this same type of dance she recently began with her teenage daughter.

But, here’s the deal – my kid is not even NINE years old yet!

I know for little boys it is crucial and natural for them to begin to pull away from Mommy sooner. Ps. not. cool.

And, I do want this for Jacob. I do want him to begin the lean towards independence. I do want him to attach to Daddy and separate from Mommy. It sounds all well and good and natural on paper. But, then your kid does it. Your kid that you birthed from your own body after four freaking days of labor gives you that look. The one that proves he tolerates you but no longer likes you. Your heart catches in your throat. Then shatters at the bottom of your stomach.

Are we really there?

Is my ‘baby boy’ officially gone?

I didn’t want this. I want him to grow up but, this!?

His sullen attitude sometimes.

His quiet lack of response that fills the void of sound where details of his day used to linger.

His slight but noticeable pull away when I hug or kiss on him in public. And (sniff, sniff) sometimes even in private.

I guess there are times, he just isn’t feelin’ it.

But, I’m the MAMA!!!!! I want to shout from the top of my lungs.

I birthed you! I nursed you for a year because that’s what I was told was best for you – despite your fourteen teeth! I cared for you when you were sick. And, not from afar, either. I’ve had your throw up on my bare skin, kiddo. Take that! And, I supported you through sadness. And I helped you deal with hurt feelings. And, most of all – I didn’t sell for ten bucks you when you turned into a terrible three-yearold. (Whoever deemed the phrase ‘terrible twos’ clearly had not yet had a three year old!) I kissed your boo-boos, fanned your confidence, reassured your self-worth more times than I could count. And you can’t give me a freaking hug!?!

What the !?!

Clearly, this has hit me pretty hard, I guess because I wasn’t expecting it to begin so early. But, it has. It’s official. Like the trendy movie a few years back about daft girls who were unaware when dudes didn’t like them anymore – my firstborn “is just not that into me.”

We were sitting at the doctor’s office the other day because I (being the always-on-top-of-things type of Mom that I am. Ahem.), knew he had an ear infection. I re-ar-ranged my already nutso day to get him to an appointment that worked well for my day, and assured that he didn’t miss recess. (You’re welcome, son.)

We were sitting in the room, waiting on the doctor, and Jacob was reading his book. He does that a lot.

He loves to read. I can’t relate to it, at all. But, I support it. Apparently, it’s a good habit to have. But, I would rather sit and talk, and talk, and talk.

Jacob? Notsomuch. And, I get that.

1) He’s a boy.

2) He’s eight.

3) He’s a boy.

4) He’s a private kid, like his Dad. He likes to be quiet and still and read. Like, with no words. Weird.

I tried to love on him. I tried to engage him in conversation.

(crickets.)

Finally, I found myself checking facebook on my phone and checking out.

Then, I remembered Thing One’s post (read it here!) about disengaging with your kids and really knowing when they want you to dig into their lives more.

So, I decided to ask him some easy questions, like about how he was feeling.

“Hey buddy, do both ears hurt?”

No.

“Does the left one still hurt?”

No.

(Ok, Jacob. Nice talk.)

By the way, you better have a dang ear infection kid, or you own me $150 for this office visit.

“Well, does your head feel stuffy, or full?”

I’m thinking like congestion. Maybe sinus pressure.

And, then he floored me –

“Yah I guess.”

“Oh really? It feels full?” (still thinking, like congested)

“Yes, Mom. I just have a lot on my mind.”

BAM! (sound of my jaw hitting the floor)

First reaction (thank God I didn’t say it out loud!!) You’re eight. What could you possibly have on your mind!?! It don’t get easier than eight, kid.

Second reaction quick to follow: Oh my goodness gracious, my fleshandblood kid has a lot on his mind and I had NO idea!?! What the heck? I am a horrible Mom.

So, in the name of blessing all of you people, I proceeded to do all of the WRONG things in that moment so that I could compile a list of things NOT to do when talking to your eight-year-old son – (I am but a slave to my readers)

1. Do not call him a nickname like “Baby”, “Buggy”, “Boo-Boo” or anything similar. Eyes will roll.

2. Do not offer to ‘cuggle’ with him or have him sit in your lap. Especially when he weighs over sixty pounds, that’s what we call a lose-lose.

3. Do not insist over and over that he put the book down and talk about his ‘feelings’

4. Do not ask him question after question until he looks longingly at the exit, hoping someone will walk in the door and give him a vaccine or something to stop his Mom’s interrogation, er, I mean discussion.

5. Do not complain or whine about how he won’t talk to you and share his heart with you.

6. Do not, I repeat NOT lament about how your baby is all grown up and gone now.

Sheesh. Get a clue, Caroline.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

I know there are plenty of you right now with kids maybe in their teens or older who are trying not to spit your latte from your lips at the ignorance I’m describing. It would be like me listening to a Mom who is frantic about her baby not potty training by age two. Hahahaha! Been there done that. Got the t-shirt. But, then kid pooped on the t-shirt in Target. Threw away the t-shirt.

But, for me, this is an entirely new phase we are entering.

My kid doesn’t like me. Me!?! Um, in case you didn’t notice, Jacob, I’m like a super fun person! I’ve been told I’m Fun At Parties, have a heart of gold and am great with kids. Ahem. Listen up, kid, you are lucky you have such a cool Mom. I’m the funniest person you will ever meet – EVER. You got that, Mr. CoolMan??

My Jacob is a good kid, and he does love me. But he’s just not that into me anymore. And you know what, friend!? That needs to be ok with me.

I’ve heard people say “If your kids like you all the time, you must be doing something wrong.”

Ok, that’s encouraging. But, now what?

I am still hurt. I have the warped personality type that desires everyone to like me…and everyone to like everyone else too, for that matter.  I, being an emotional basketcase person – took this personally at first. I figured I had done something wrong. So, I reacted like a toddler – and I put my walls up. My instinct was to disengage. If you won’t love on me like you used to, Jacob, then I’ll just sit here. Take that. I’m sorry, who is the parent here? Glory.

But, I’ve learned a lot from that office visit.

Lesson One: I should have bought an otoscope eight years ago and googled how to tell if your kid has an ear infection. Then, maybe my kids would have a college fund.

Lesson Two: I will not disengage with my kids.

I can’t. You can’t. We honestly just can’t, friends.

That is how a generation is raised with no empathy. No people skills. With selfishness and self-centeredness. Never learning disappointment. Never learning from their own mistakes. Only hearing ‘Yes.” Because let’s be honest, sometimes it is SO much easier to just say “Yes.” and avoid the argument.

But, we can do this! We will resolve to be good parents.

I will learn from my mistakes and try to do better next time. I will remember that my value as a mother is NOT dependent on the way my kids “feel” toward me at the moment. They will not like me all the time. In fact, if one of them isn’t mad at me at any given moment, I may need to check the clouds for Jesus’ return.

Older kids need to separate. They need to grow up and move on. My job is to help them do that, while keeping them safe from others, and more importantly, themselves.

My job is to love, even when they’re ugly.

To support, even when they ‘say’ they don’t need it.

To affirm, even when I want to smack them over their head.

To value their feelings, even if I know they’re ridiculous.

To honor the person God made them to be, and not try to turn them into anyone else.

To teach them to obey me ONLY because it will help them learn to obey God.

To let them fail and suffer natural consequences, yes, even when it hurts me as much as it hurts them.

To let them learn from their own mistakes, not just mine.

But, dude, this job is hard.

I have to let go of this precious baby boy, who isn’t a baby boy, but will always be my baby boy – I raise him then I let him go. There’s a lot of stuff that happens in between, but that’s a fairly good summation.

I will cling to those moments when he still needs me and wants me.

I will desperately search for ways he does show his love for me – they are different now, but they are there.

I will soak up his smiles and hugs when he gives them freely.

I will tell other people of his kind and pure moments of goodness, so that when I feel like trading him in for an entirely different kid, they can remind me of those stories before I ship him to China, Third Class mail.

Moms, this deal is tough.

Each stage, tough in different ways – but all tough.

I will choose to embrace the good with the bad.

I will rely on God’s strength and guidance from His Word – without which, I’d fail even worse than I am.

I will pray for my kids.

I will love on my kids.

And, for now, I will still sneak into their rooms at night while they sleep, to steal just one. more. sweet. kiss.

I love you, Jacob. And I will always be into you.

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Oh Mutt Fun

Hey, friend! Remember that time I was blogging consistently? Ya, good times.

Then, December happened.

Enough said.

Statements like that used to annoy the fire out of me when I was flat on the couch. I would have given anything to have been able to complain about all I had to do around Christmastime. Instead, for the last three Christmases, I have been flat on my back, while everyone Tra La La La Las all around me. But, I am upright now, PRAISE GOD ALONE, and December did hit like a hundred tons of bricks. I was unprepared. But, it is what it is. Or should I say, it was what it was. December came and went.

I must extend me-the writer some grace as me-the wife/Mom/chauffeur/volunteer/friend/neighbor/daughter etc overdid it a bit this month. It wasn’t bad stuff either. Lots of it was Jesus stuff. But, regardless, it was a lot of stuff. And none of that stuff had anything to do with typing words down.

Not sure about you, but i kinda roll like this — grace flows freely from God, through me, to others. But often grace gets stopped up somewhere when it is supposed to go from God, through me to me. I am by far my own worst critic. All I can say is I’m working on it.

Moving on.

During this blessed holiday season (and it really was a precious time!) my darling Abigail delighted us with numerous moment of hilariousness, as only she can

None quite as funny as the video I am about to ask you to watch. This is classic Abigail. Click to watch sister friend teach her Daddy something new.

That’s right ladies and gents… “Oh Mutt fun it is to ride on a one horse open sleigh. Hey.”

That’s my girl.

I must commend my best girl for her dedication. Her confidence. Her joyful ignorance. She gets that from her father. But, clearly she was wrong. Like, com-plete-ly wrong.

But, oh she was cute. And, she was having fun. C’mon, people it wasn’t that far off, right? Still the same song overall, yes?

Um, sure, I guess. But, still…flat. out. wrong.

Lately, as I have been recovering from a world doneflippedupsidedown I kinda feel I’ve been doing the same. I’ve been singing Jingle Bells in my Christian life, but still Oh Mutt Fun-ing myself away from the true heart of the His song – my life.

And yes, God and I have chatted quite a bit regarding What in the heck does all this mean?!? Or something like that.

What now? What am I supposed to do with all this!?

My post-couch life?

My blog?

Publishing a book? Becoming a speaker? Writing a Bible study?

My heart for the needy.

His love for the poor He’s poured over me.

The three Hatmaker books he used to divinely screw up my life. Darn those Hatmakers

My burden for complacent Christians to wake up.

My heart breaking for those who are missing the boat.

The record player in my head of Beth Moore describing the book of James – “James won’t let you grace yourself out of obedience.”

Whoa, that’s a lot. Trust me, dude. I agree.

You mix all that together and toss in a few baaad cases of writer’s block and twelve hundred pounds of chocolate-holiday-eating…and you have the current status of my brain.

It ain’t been pretty.

Let’s be honest — my brain has never been super normal…but lately, it’s been down right trippin’.

No, not weirdo, un-Biblical, outlandish, losing my religion type of trippin’.

But, trippin’ all the same.

But then, this weekend I was doubly blessed.

My friend and pastor of my church, Bill Ramsey spoke this weekend about one of my favorite new verses of Scripture. Obviously the verse isn’t new…just my affection for it.

Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Pastor Bill (aka P.Bill – that’s my ‘street’ name for him. Which, if you knew him at all would make you laugh hysterically, because he couldn’t be more down-home-country.) spoke about being “On Target”. He asked us to stop and prayerfully evaluate if our lives were on target with God’s plan, His will for our lives? Do our choices line up with Scripture? How about our priorities? Our intentions? Our desires?

What I loooved about this sermon was that P.Bill was speaking to us just like Micah was speaking to the people of God a few thousand years ago. Micah was speaking to God’s people, who’d just enjoyed about forty years of peace and prosperity. They enjoyed God’s blessings but weren’t necessarily engaged with Him. They had a connection with Him, but were not living ‘on target’.

“Um, hello pot, I’m kettle, you’re looking black today.”

Does this not perfectly describe most of us me! me! me! Christianfolk nowadays? (ps. The answer is yes!)

We enjoy the blessings of a life with eternal security, but are we living the days we’ve been given with spiritual purpose? Are we doing these three simple requirements God spoke through Micah to His chosen people?

  1. Act justly
  2. Love mercy
  3. Walk humbly with your God

Friend, please note these aren’t suggestions or favors. They are not options or electives. They are requirements. Period.

If, in this life of abundance, we fail to complete His requirements, He will deal with that disobedience. It won’t go overlooked.

Panic begins.

Ok, so should I join a Bible study?

I wonder if I could still find that devotional book someone gave me last year!?!

Ummm, Maybe I should give money to church? Ooooh! And to the poor. Ya, ya, the poor too!

Ironically, in the two verses just prior, God’s people frantically ran through questions similar to these.

v.6-7 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Whoa. That’s intense. They were so desperate to rectify this situation, they were willing to kill animals and even sacrifice their own firstborn. Ok, they win.

Oh wait. Nevermind, we both lose.

Micah’s simple answer so purely displays the heart of God, I can hardly stand it.

If it were me as God we’d all be screwed, I would have said “Stop it already! Quit trying to do, do, do as empty acts of nothingness. Instead…line your heart up with Mine, you fools. Love what I love. Serve who I served. If I can be humble on earth, you darn well should be humble too. It really ain’t rocket science, people. Which, by the way, I invented also.”

But, thankfully, it wasn’t me. It was God. And His direction was very simple.

Dear My darling stiff-necked people,

Act justly = Act in a just, righteous, fair way towards others. Not simply others who look like you, live like you or vote like you. (although act justly towards them too!) But to others, as in all others. Treat them (yea even them!) the way you want to be treated.

Love mercy = Don’t just show mercy, but love to show mercy. It isn’t an obligation. It is your honor to do this for Me. Give others the same measure of mercy you want to receive from Me. And trust me, you need a lot!

Walk humbly with your God = Remember who I am – your God. Supremely perfect but surprisingly personal. I am your God. If you keep that in mind, you will walk humbly before Me because you will see who you are in light of Who I Am.

Love,

The One Who Saved Your Scrawny Stiff-Neck For All Eternity

What God required of them was not mysterious or too difficult – they simply did not do it.

They were paralyzed in their obedience because of their greatest weakness – their own spiritual pride. Oh that we would not make that same mistake my friend!

I beg of you to stop seeing church as a place to serve you, please you, and tend to your needs.

I beg you to jump off the revolving door of worldliness that has blurred your Vision of what your life should stand for. it REALLY isn’t about all the crap that surrounds us.

I beg you to step out of your comfort zone and serve others who could never repay you. And those who wouldn’t even try. Like my friend and I say…we will serve those in need because Jesus told us to. We will do it if we get a “Thank you!” or an “F— you!”.

The very wise Charles Spurgeon said, “Humility must be in the heart, and then it will come out spontaneously as the outflow of life in every act that a man performs.

It is one thing to dip your heart and your mind down low for a moment, to serve someone…only to return back up high where you ‘belong’. That is just charity. Jesus wasn’t about charity. He was about humility. In fact, He still is.

Instead of dipping your heart down low to serve others with mercy…it is when you realize you too, are just as lowly…that is when true humility is born.

We, as Christians have come so far off target, we forgot which direction we were even shooting in. Micah reminds us exactly what aims directly at the heart of God. And if you are reading these words right now, you may no longer Oh Mutt Fun yourself through life, claiming ignorance.

You been done told, my friend.

So what the heck are you going to do now!?!

What the heck am I going to do now!?!

I have no stinkin’ clue.

But I do know this. The second blessing of my weekend was sharing a beloved fajita plate and a margarita didn’t share that part, she’s on her own there with a dear friend of mine.

She was the first person I ever told God had called me to write. She was the first person I told was supposed to write a blog. And a book. And a Bible study. She has lovingly sat by and strategically asked me “So…how’s it going?” for a few years now. She walked alongside me during the couch time — faithful and true. And the other night, she sat across the table from me, where I mayormaynot have completely hogged the chips and queso, as she gave me ‘the look’ and basically told me to get my butt in gear. In Jesus’ Name, of course.

She cautioned me to keep my priorities true. My God. My man. My kids. Then everything else.

But, she knows I’m lazy. She knows I’m undisciplined. She loves me in spite of my flakiness. She has seen my procrastination at its worst. And yet, she remarkably still believes I have a gift to share God’s truth. She has a way of building me up without puffing me up. That’s crucial in my world. And mostly, she knew I needed this loving kick in the hiney.

I am grateful for my friend. I am grateful for my pastor. Most of all, I am grateful for Micah for loving God’s holiness more than his own happiness. Micah desired His purpose, His calling, His Truth and His heart above the adoration of others. I am thankful He was willing to speak up to his fellow ‘Christ-followers’ to encourage them to, Oh I don’t know, actually follow Christ.

I only pray to do the same.

With my words.

With my actions.

With my heart.

Let me prepare you now that I will fail miserably quite a bit sometimes. Let grace abound in this place. Lord knows I need it! Ps. so do you. 🙂

Anything Worth Doin’…

I don’t know about you, my friend, but I have found it quite maddening humbling to parent a kid who is just. like. me.

No, seriously. It’s been an eye-opener, for sure. Understatement of the century.

Do you know what I mean, dear friend? Did our Sovereign God curse bless you with a kiddo so much like you that your very own parents, the ones that raised you, clothed you, and cared for you, can now only laugh at you? They sit back in their happy-retired-pants and don’t even try to force back a smile, at the reality of their prayers sent up during your childhood, have finally been answered. Gee, thanks Mom and Dad! Although part of me suddenly feels the need to buy you a new car.

May I introduce to you Abigail Caroline Holzberger.

She comes by the middle name honestly, I can tell you that for sure.

She is strong-willed.

She is charming. And she knows it.

She loves people and is always making them laugh.

She never stops talking. Yes, often to herself, and even in her sleep.

She is a methodical mess; surrounded by clutter she doesn’t even see, yet particular and organized about crap that doesn’t matter.

It is her world, and we are just lucky to be living in it.

Her strong-willed spirit was the first clue that this was going to be a bumpy ride. Poor Ryan.

But, coming in as a close second was the philosophy I inadvertently but apparently live by – Anything worth doin’ is worth overdoin’.

Oh, how my close friends could vouch for this time and time again.

She first showed us this trait as an infant with her pacifier issues.

Jacob, my oldest, wouldn’t take a pacifier. No bottle. Nothing. I was a new Mom and was a huge proponent of nursing so I took the La Leche chick’s advice as gospel truth. Then, I didn’t get to go on an evening date with my man for over a year. Live and learn.

With Benjamin, it was different. I was a nursing pro, still very much on board with it, so I knew – I could do this. The doctor said “It’s a boy!” to which I replied, “Praise God! Give that boy a paci.” orsomethinglikethat. So, precious BenBen was fairly dependent on his ‘night-night’ anytime he went to sleep. As the year or two went on, I mayormaynot have put an extra one in there in hopes of him not being able to knock both out of the crib within the same twelve-minute time period.

Then there was sister friend. Lord, help us. There was something about the fact that she was a baby girl, and I had a very traumatic labor No drugs! @#!*! leading to emergency surgery for me, coupled with the fact that her jaundice was so scary bad there for a while, I remember the words “possible brain damage” accidentally being said within my ear shot. Needless to say, she got whatever she wanted for the first few months. And what she wanted was her ‘night-night’. It wasn’t long before it became, not one, but four. That’s right. Somehow, that rascal girl managed to get one into her mouth, while clutching the other three firmly in her chubby little hands just in case one fell through the crib slats.

Look at this sweet girl one day before she left her crib and went to her big girl bed where “big girls don’t get ‘night-nights’.” Poor thing.

But, check her chubby little hands…like I said…Anything worth doin’…

Add some highlights, a few stretch marks, and thirty years to her and you have me.

Same song, different verse.

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been reading a book lately. No, Caroline…you don’t say? I had no idea. Would you mind telling me about it?

Ha.

Well, friend this book is case in point.

I have posted six or seven times in the last month or so and they have all been pretty much about this book. I tried to warn you people.

Because this book is magic? No.

Because this book is the best thing ever written? No.

Maybe it’s because this book is the answer to everything. No again.

But I do know The Book that is the answer to everything, by the way, in case you are interested.

Here’s the deal. When I loved NKOTB, I loved them big. Like, I had posters on the ceilings, doodled their names on my Trapper Keeper and wore the eight-inch Joey and Jordan buttons on my acid-washed denim jacket. I was sold out.

When I went to college, I had the double-T silver decal on my car, wore the t-shirts all the time, bought the University spirals even though they cost more, (Ok, my folks bought them!) and cheered for their sports teams, despite unending ridicule from, well, pretty much everyone I knew.

Anything worth doin’ is worth overdoin’.

Some people may say I have been overdoin’ the Jen Hatmaker thing. And those some people may be right. I don’t know.

What I do know is this – I can’t un-know what I know. I can’t un-learn what I’ve learned. And any work done in my spirit regarding any of this stuff has been done by the Holy Spirit of My Living God and no one else. Period.

Could I temper my zeal? Maybe. Although I kinda don’t know that for certain. Not sure I’ve ever tried. At least, not about anything that truly mattered.

Should I leave people the heck alone when they ask a simple question like “How’ve you been?” Maybe. Once again, debatable.

I just haven’t ever really had the capacity to like something a ‘little bit’.

Camp. Don’t get me started about camp. I was sold out for a decade and tried to convince everyone I knew they had to come work there for the summer. I still have so many people who know with certainty I won’t answer to anything but Pele.

And that was just three months out of the year.

First time at Joe’s Pizza and Pasta – I was in love. I told anyone who would listen, “Oh my goodness, you have to go there and get the fettucine alfredo and lasagna plate and let the sauces ooze together into a blissful Italian masterpiece! It will seriously change your world. Like, go there today!” Oh how I miss that gluten-filled lunch time blessing.

And y’all, that was pasta. C’mon now.

Do you truly expect ME to read a book that turns out to be a complete game-changer and not be super pumped to include everyone I meet and especially those I love most dear?

Could I be less of a bull in a china shop? Yes. But that’s been true of me since 1979. I like to think I’m better than I was as a toddler.

Could I try my best to have greater finesse than a Mack truck? Absolutely. But, you should have seen me during the couple-skate song at Jamie’s Skating rink in the late ‘80s. Finesse ain’t never been my thang.

But there’s one thing I can be, and that’s authentic. What you see is ab-so-lute-ly what you get with me. Like it or not. And I guess, for now, I would just like to humbly and truly apologize to those people whose feelings I’ve hurt during this journey. I mean it – I never meant to hurt anyone.

I was raised with the truth that “if an apology is followed by a ‘but’, it is not a genuine apology.” So, I just want to be clear here; I am absolutely apologizing for hurting/alienating/offending anyone. I assure you it was not my intent. I am not apologizing for the change of mind-set I’ve had. For the passion He has placed within me. For the enthusiasm with which I want you to jump on board.

Please know…

It’s not like you aren’t going to heaven if you don’t read this book. Duh.

It’s not like if you read it and don’t like it, I can no longer be your friend. Duh.

I was still friends when my Lindsay went to be a missionary in Mexico and not ever come work at camp. I was still friends with my husband who never really loved Joe’s Pasta and Pizza. “It’s alright, babe. I’ve had better.” Communist. Sorry he said that, Joe, but he’s my husband! And I’m still friends with my brother even though he bleeds burnt orange. 2008 season. 39-33. Ahem.

But, the fact that I feel like I was asleep and am now wide awake; had blurred vision and then done got Lasik for free…forgive me for the added dose of zeal.

I believe God will have far easier work ahead of Him to curb my refreshed zeal for Him, than He ever did trying to spark my complacent heart for Him. I know He will do a far greater work through my outspokenness than He has ever done with me biting my lip to ensure I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, ever.

I hope when I err on the side of overzealousness, He will grant me extra grace, knowing my heart is zealous for Him, not for me, and it’s just about as pure as physically possible for my ol’ heart. If you know me at all, you should know I haven’t all of a sudden gone off the deep end. Shoot, I fell off years and years ago…just been flat for a while and forgot how to do this Christian life big.

May I be able to adequately hear what He wants me to hear.

May I be prayerfully careful and unashamedly brave as I speak what He wants me to speak.

May I be discerning as to who He wants me to love on, not who others suggest are safer or more worthy to love on.

And most of all, may He receive every ounce of glory, fame, honor and credit if even one good thing comes out of any of this. I want none. Not a drop.

Amen and amen.

Ps. I kid you not, this is the picture of my daughter in her bed right now as I type this post. Anyone counting? Yep. That’s right, there are thirteen ‘babies’ in bed with her tonight. Thirteen. Sometimes it’s one. Other times it’s none, but she has on three pair of panties. You just never know with this one. Ah well. You go, girl! And at least it isn’t still ‘night-nights’ –  this stuff isn’t messing up her overbite! J

Old Dogs, New Tricks

I was never a girly girl.

In fact, I was basically a little boy until womanhood hit me over the head at the ungodly early age of eleven. Not cool, God.

I liked getting dirty.

I love, love, loved sports.

I loved building and inventing.

I didn’t play with dolls.

I didn’t have an Easy-Bake oven.

And I certainly didn’t knit or crochet.

Until now.

Now, as a Mom of Miss Priss, I love playing dolls.

I love cooking and baking in my big girl oven.

And last night (dun da da duuuuun!) I bravely embarked on the world of knitting.

I mean, crocheting. Which, apparently is not the same thing.

Super Neighbor learned how to shocker! and she’s now a crochet extraordinaire. If she starts making her own bath soap or candles, I’ve told her I’m moving.

As soon as I took this picture of what she made my baby girl and her ‘best baby’, I knew I had to learn. I am aware ‘best baby’ needs a bath. Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t get me started on the adorable one she made for me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OR her sweet baby boy…

 

 

 

 

 

I know, I know. Ridiculously cute, huh?!

Anyway…I had to be able to tell my little girl, “Mama made that for you!” someday. And not be lying through my teeth.

I want to learn teach her about make-up.

I want to learn how to French braid.

I want to paint her sweet little toes.

Not because i think she has to do this stuff to be a ‘real girl”. That’s dumb. But I want to be into what she is into. And she is into that stuff. Along with bugs, dirt and trying to pee on a tree like her brothers. Don’t get me started. But, these girl things may be easier than learning French without Rosetta Stone. At least, for me. But, God can teach an old dog new tricks. He can. And He’s gonna have to.

So, Super neighbor threw a little crochet girl’s night, which, a few years ago I would have laughed at, politely declined, and then teased my friends that did go. While I stayed home and watched SportsCenter.

Now, however, I am much more mature. So, I accepted the invitation, arrived, and then made fun of all of us while eating chips and queso and chocolate. I love you queso!

I generally don’t like to do things I’m not good at. It’s one of my finer qualities, of course. In some cases, I keep trying, so that once I become good at it, then and only then I enjoy it. Then, all is well. After all, my kids gotta eat. The ‘learning to cook’ stages of my life have been darn near hilarious. But, that’s for another time.

So, some of my dear friends and I sat around trying to not get kicked out of the party pay attention as Super neighbor’s sister-in-law, Anna, with the patience of a saint, explained everything. Again and again and again. Undeterred by our rascally attitudes – “I teach high school Spanish, I can handle you girls.” – Anna stayed the course. God bless her.

Let me tell you something. Crocheting is not easy. At all.

It takes patience. Discipline. Precision. Consistency.

In case you didn’t know, no one has ever described me in that way. Quite the opposite actually.

But, I am convinced that God can teach an old dog can new tricks. Eventually.

There’s something peaceful about crocheting. It is adorably mind-numbing. I appreciate that.

This hobby has been enjoyed for decades centuries? I have no clue. and has brought women together for a purposeful gathering.

To laugh. To listen. To share life. To be productive.

I kinda love that I actually sat there and tried but failed miserably to do something that generations before me have done.

A hundred years ago, women didn’t txt each other.

They didn’t blog, or post on facebook.

They gathered around and quitled, or knitted, or crocheted.

I am not saying that those two things are next on my list, Lord, help me but God once again didn’t cease to amaze me as I reflected on my attempt at this time honored tradition. He assured me that old school isn’t bad. Getting back the basics can be a beautiful thing. Pure. Lovely. Good.

I’m kinda over the whole fast-paced and culture-driven life everyone (including me!) has fallen victim to. I don’t have any desire to be a part of any rat race. I don’t know the Joneses and therefore don’t’ feel like I want to try and keep up with them. Been there, done that. Got the materialistic closet full o’ junk to prove it.

Last month, Anna lost her husband to cancer. She is thirty-nine years old. She crochets these hats for cancer patients. She gives back. She serves. She takes this beautiful trade and blesses others.

I want to do that too.

Winter is coming and God has already told me that I can be praying for some people who will need warm scarves and hats this winter. People with no heater to keep them warm and no roof to keep them protected.

So, I will keep practicing. I will make it past the eight inch straight line I made last night. Frustrated, I cried out to my friends for reassurance – “Homeless people need yarn-snake-bracelets, too, don’t they?!”

They didn’t comply.

Darn those old dogs.

I sure do love them though.

 

 

 

 

 

Ps. Look what I taught myself how to do today. Girliness, here I come.

Too bad sister friend will never sit still that long again!

Stuck

I was stuck on Ryan from the day we met. Poor guy, he didn’t stand a chance.

That was almost fifteen years ago.Sheesh, that man is getting old.

This past weekend we celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary of being stuck for good. Like, legally, and before God and everything.

Eleven years ago Saturday, we joyfully said I do and whooshed away for the honeymoon aka. thenicestvacationwewilleverhaveinourlives.

Then, we came back home to do life together. Then, I blinked. And it’s been eleven years, three moves, seven hundred hospitalizations, and three kids later.

Thankfully (and by the grace of God and the wisdom of our marriage counselor!)

We are still stuck on each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, isn’t it miraculous awesome how he never, ever gets tired of doing ‘silly pictures’ with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love that man.

And boy, are we stuck on our kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are pretty stinkin’ amazing.

Some things we get stuck with are good. Others…notsomuch.

Bad: Ice cream at night before bad. It happens every 28 days or so when I simply must have it. Or someone will die.

Good: Seeing your kiddo get a super cool Christian song stuck in their head all day and getting to hear them in the other room singing “All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I beloooong…”

Sometimes you’re not sure if it’s good or bad: A friend you love comes over, but she brings her kids who always trash your house.

I’ve had a quote stuck in my head since the instant I read it. I literally lost sleep over this thing. And I love sleep. A lot.

This book I’m reading is life-changing. I’m not sure if I’ll have any friends left after I read it, which is like a death sentence for a true sanguine like me. But, really, it calls one to truly think about how they are living out this whole Christian life thing. Basically, what the heck are you doing that looks like Jesus? What am I doing? Not praying about. Not seeking wisdom for. Not convicted about. I’m talking about what is your hiney actually getting up and moving toward in an active way that looks like Jesus.

As you may or may not know, I haven’t been ‘doing’ a lot the last five years, as far as physical activity. Unless you count getting up off the couch to go pee. In that case, I’ve done a lot.

So, from someone who loves to do and didn’t get to do, now that I’m helthy, I’ve been doing a lot. But, how much of it has been for me and how much of it has been for Jesus?

In response to me being so busy this summer, or slacking on writing, or taking a break from the Blessing Bunch, people have kindly coddled me “Oh but you deserve it! You have been through so much. You deserve to be super busy enjoying your family.”

I appreciate their willingness to encourage me, but I am bummed that I agreed with them.

I don’t deserve much.

I didn’t go through that much, really. I mean, yes, it was very tough…but c’mon now, don’t give me too much credit.

I definitely don’t get a free pass from serving like Jesus just so I can catch up on field trips and movie dates with my family.

Balance.

My life has been so swung in one direction or the other, that now I am seeking discipline. I am seeking balance.

Then I read this quote and it ‘bout knocked me flat on my face. (Thanks, once again, Jen Hatmaker! You owe me an ice cream treat by now.) In talking about the role of the body of Christ in our world today, it seems most Christians have become glitzier and happier about their faith, but not any more humble or active or servant-like. So many of us get stuck in the Pharisee role and not in the Jesus-imitator role – it’s awful.

Jen said –

“We’ve made it acceptable for people to do nothing and still call themselves Christians.”

Stuck.on.these.words.

What am I doing? Like, really doing to better those around me less fortunate. I bless blessed people often. But, those hurting? Those lonely? Those homeless or abandoned or widowed? What am I physically doing for them? Easy –

Not a dang thing.

I donate clothes I don’t want or can’t re-sell. Whoopty-freakin-doo.

We live on a budget and tithe, but I am typing with freshly highlighted hair and about to let me kids watch a show on the DVR I recorded.

I volunteer in different ways each month (before summer hit) for a couple hours. So, that’s roughly 2 hours a month I serve others. Oh ya, and 718 hours I don’t.

Congratu-stinkin-lations.

Am I the only one who is appalled at the thought that the body of Christ may becoming more concerned about making those who are already saved happy than serving the least of these?

Do we care more about who we get to sit by at Bible study than we do about those many people who would love a Bible if only they could afford one?

The other day I had an old 90’s song stuck in my head. Today it is this quote –

“We’ve made it acceptable for people to do nothing and still call themselves Christians.”

I hope, for the sake of Jesus, that this stays stuck in my head longer than Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Lord, help me.

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