caroline holzberger

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

Archive for the category “Finding God In That”

I’m Neither Dead Nor In a Cult

Hello my beloved friends. My name is Caroline. Do you, perchance, remember me!?!

If so…do you still want to be my friend?

I haven’t posted a single word in almost two months. Like, not. a. word.

I’ve wanted to.

I’ve thought about it.

Sure have intended to.

But, alas, nada.

Here’s the deal. Brace yourself –

I

got

a

job.

I know, I know, that’s nuts, right? The more I work, the more I agree with that statement.

I have always held firmly to my support of being a homemaker and stay at home Mom. I have even received criticism for it. Maybe lost a friend or two?

But, for this year, for reasons I will briefly explain, I’ve jumped back in…a bit.

Disclaimer: Some of you Moms who’ve been working and raising your kids all this time are about to fall out laughing at me. Or perhaps, comment on my blog with some nastiness. I hope for the first. But, for those of you who have worked full time and raised your kids, I think you should be commended, and then committed. Seriously. This. Is. For. The. Birds. Unless your family like genuinely needs the income and no, not for hand scraped floors and Disney vacations I don’t know how why you do it!? I only work until 1:00pm and I feel like my life is in shambles. Passionate about your work? Sure. I love my work. But, dude – this is hard. The homework, the errands, the running around to every extra curricular thing, the church, the friends (nevermind, I have no friends anymore, no time) , the cleaning, the groceries, the laundry that never ends – whatintheworld!?! Why, oh why? And some of you have like, real-life, stressful, grown-up, corporate jobs. Not me. I am blessed to love on preschoolers, watch them on the playground, and give them snack. Yes, ladies in gentlemen, my folks paid for five years of college for me to be the playground and snack girl. Rock on! And I have no take home work, no stress from work, no deadlines at work, no dress code at work, nada. It is all good. All joy. All fun. All casual dress. All people I adore. All good. No travel. No traffic. No politics. Such a blessing!!! And still, this new life of mine, is haaaaaaard.

Disclaimer about my disclaimer: I loooooove my job. Like, for real. I love the people. Truly the salt of the earth. I love the environment. I love the hours. I love the company I’m with (meaning I get to see my baby girl all day!) I love the school, and I believe passionately about the work they do there. I love that I get paid. Holla. I really do love working at this job. It’s the whole working part I’m still adjusting to. But, unless I’m able to interview for a job that pays me to stay in my jamis while I clean my house and care for my kids – then I am happily pick this one.

So, here’s the skinny – I was approached by a precious friend about working at my children’s preschool. All three of my kids have gone through this fine establishment and I swear to you people, any smarts they have (especially in reading!) it comes from this school. I promise, y’all. I looked up one day and said “Wait a minute, you can read!?!” Momoftheyear crown is mine once again. Anyway, it is my baby girl’s last year before kindergarten (do.not.get.me.started.) and then I will have no little people at my home at all for seven hours a day. Not one. I have no flipping idea what that will even feel like, but at this particular moment I think it will resemble heaven. So, when she approached me, Ryan and I prayed about it, weighed pros and cons, etc. and made our choice. After all, I was very open to helping my one-educator-income family out financially. Educators get paid crap. Period. And, get this, I get to work with people I adore, with kiddos I adore, and see my baby girl more during the day than if I stayed home with her. That, my friends, is a win-win. It had Jesus written all over it.

But, I repeat – working is for the birds.

I haven’t had to get up and go to work every day in NINE YEARS, people. Are you good at anything you did nine years ago?!? Didn’t think so. So…dear ones, if you have seen me in the last five weeks you may think I seemed more scattered, distracted, stressed, aloof, annoyed, crazy, hostile or indifferent. It’s only because I have been more scattered, distracted, stressed, aloof, annoyed, crazy, hostile and indifferent. But, I’m coming out of it. God is using this as a HUUUUUGE teaching tool about where my heart lies. What are my priorities? Are they in order? For the record – they are crazy whacked out currently, but unwrinkling slowly.

So. I just wanted to say “Hello!” and “I love you!” and “I still love Jesus and talk to Him all the time!” and “Praise God ‘The Middle’ and ‘Parenthood’ are back on!” and “Shoot, I think I’ve gained ten pounds!” and some other things that I can’t remember. I’ve missed you. And, I hope you’ve missed me. I have actually had quite a few meaning more than three people come up to me and ask where I have been with my blog. They’ve commented, somewhat sadly, that I haven’t posted anything in forever. My first thought has been “Hey. I have a job now and I’ve bathed this week. Cut me some friggin’ slack.” Quickly followed by “Ya, you’re right. Could you just go ahead and do that for me?” and then once again followed by “Wait. You noticed? You actually missed the ramblings I throw up onto  you via my keyboard?! Wow.” (sniff, sniff)

So, I decided, that although I have no profound insight about my precious Jesus today, I will say this – I’ve had to lean more into Him these last five weeks than I have since my couch. When I have, He has been there faithfully – to give me Peace, stretch my time, bless my marriage, give me a special moment with my kiddos, and so on and so on. But, ohhhh when I haven’t, I have crashed and burned and been selfish and grumpy. It’s ugly, dude. I mean it.

My life has changed. I have a job now. But, that’s not it.

I am married.

I have three kids.

Two of them are in public school, which, bytheway should come with a free secretary for each child to singlehandedly manage the tonnage of paperwork coming home and lists oh the freaking lists! of things to turn in, donate, create, and sign up for. Shoot me now! And do it before the fall carnival so I don’t have to do the temporary tattoo booth, please.

I also go to church.

I also have to clean my own home and run my own errands and do my own laundry. Sucks out my very soul.

I also have each kid in one count it, ONE extra curricular activity. And I coach one of them. And yes, they’re only in one thing each – but ‘they’ equal three. Me and hubs equal two. You do that Math. I can’t. I’m too tired. I have a job now.

Dear Lord,

I have blown it big time lately in my deep study of your Word. Please forgive me. And thank you, thank you. thank you for your saturation of Truth in my heart and mind exactly when I needed it via an email devotional or song lyric. Thank you for providing for our family in each and every way. And specifically for this job. What a show off you can be, by giving me something so ab.so.lute.ly perfect for our family. Oh that you would continue to mold me and shape me into the person you want me to be. I do not envy the work you have ahead of you. But, I praise you in advance for the glory you will receive through it. May I become more disciplined, in Your Name. May I become more empathetic, in Your Name. May I become less judgmental, in Your Name. May I be light in this dark world – a true, honest, transparent person, willing to show their flaws in order to shine your perfection. And, now Jesus, please extend my sleep. Oh, I beg you. I obeyed your calling to finally sit down and write – I know this is what you have called me to do in this life. So please, Jesus, pleeeease take these seven hours until my alarm goes off  and make them feel like twelve. Or thirteen? I know you can do it. You’ve held me every day these last few weeks. I am so thankful for it. I need it now more than ever. ‘Cause, you know, Lord, I have a job now.

Thank so much you for Jesus, Amen.

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Wholey, Holey, Holy

My life has been a bit tough lately.

Not lately, meaning this week. I’m talking lately, like the last five years.

And, in case you are new here (Welcome! So happy you’ve joined us!) and wonder what in the heck I am talking about, feel free to detour a bit and read the facts or the drama. It well help you “get it.”

As for the rest of you faithful followers, you know about my medical roller coaster. You know about my high times and my low times and lower times. You laughed at my Nut to the Head and laughed harder at my Happy Wetpants … and God bless you, you even cried at my Déjà vu and “Seriously!?” moments.

So, this news will be big to you. Maybe even as big to you as it is to me…

You ready??

We. Went Camping.

Like, me, my man, and my kiddos piled in the Gracevan, just us Team Holzberger, and we got away from it all. It was absolutely the most amazing two days!

If you would have told me eight months ago, that if I’d just hold on for a little bit longer, if I’d just keep believing, keep trying, keep getting stronger, that I’d get to go camping with my kids, I’d have probably shook my head, burst into tears and ugly-cried snot all over your new Gap sweater.

But, we did.

I speak the beloved truth when I tell you that my man and I packed up our three sweet little babies and drove an hour north to a local state park and did this thing up right.

We had a tent. (borrowed)

We had bikes to ride the trails. (mine was borrowed)

We had sleeping bags, a lantern, a Dutch oven for cooking, and two blow-up mattresses. (Borrowed, borrowed, borrowed, borrowed. Man, our friends aren’t bright have blind faith, don’t they?!)

With hardly anything that actually belonged to us, we still felt fairly prepared for the life outdoors.

And, this life was beyond what we could have imagined.

I will not paint you a picture of camping utopia and mislead you greatly. Not enough foooood! Where’s the first aid kit!? I can’t feel my legs! But, I will say that this was one of my favorite weekends, ever. Like, in. my. entire. stinkin’. life.

Modern mathematics cannot count the number of breaths of thanksgiving I gave to God on this trip.

Thank you, God for their wonder of your creation.

Thank you, God, for this family hike.

My God, thank you for this sleeping bag laughter…music to my ears.

Oh Lord, what a breathtaking sunset you painted for us.

God, this moment, right now, is perfection on earth.

Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times over.

As I sit here tonight, in my jamis, listening to my Pandora radio, I am unable to restrain the tears, as I try to find the vocabulary to encompass these moments of pure, unadulterated joy.

Then, I realize there are none.

Me — the one who never ever, ever, ever shuts up — cannot think of a way to describe to you how special this trip was.

I guess I could try to tell you a story of someone who was bedridden, alone, in pain, feeling destitute and outcast from normal society. Someone, who day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, suffered from pain, stress, fear, seclusion, unanswered questions – all the while watching as the world spun around just fine without her a part of it. I could tell you that this same girl, alone every day, was poured out completely in every single way — empty, broken, alone, desperate. This same girl no longer allowed herself to picture a healthy life. Because…what if? What if God would be glorified more by her living her life just this way? What if?

But, then it happened. In God’s perfect timing  and not a moment earlier there was a phone call to a friend, an acorn to the head and that was that. This same girl, who’d had her faith stretched further than she ever thought it could go…finally had physical hope. She had, by the grace of God alone, maintained her spiritual hope, her emotional hope…but now…this was act-tu-ally happening. She. Was. Getting. Better.

Four years. Four years – the better part of it spent alone, staring at ceilings, in and out of hospitals, unable to live a normal life, with no answers in sight. This girl was actually now getting stronger. Mentally stronger. Spiritually stronger. And finally, physically stronger. She delicately and slowly began to believe that maybe God could be glorified through her healthy body again. So, stronger she got.

That was my life. Always flat on the couch, always with an ice pack strapped to my head.

But now, by God’s grace, this is my life.

Because that same girl, who watched her babies grow up in front of her eyes, yet beyond her reach from the couch, was now packing a bag. Setting up a tent. Leading a hike.

There really are no words.

At one point, as we were walking along the shore of the lake, the kids giggling and throwing rocks into the water, it hit me. — when God worked His mighty way in the Bible, the overly grateful people almost always built an altar.

Moses. Jacob. Isaac. Abraham. Daniel. The list goes on.

As I remembered these stories of great faith,  I looked along the shore, at my feet, and noticed the rocks I walked upon.

I whispered to myself…Well, wouldja  look at that. All of these rocks are holey.

In my head, I’d simply noticed the rocks all had holes worn into them from the waves crashing over them time and time again. But, as the words came from my mouth, I didn’t hear the word holey meaning, “filled with holes”…all I heard was holy…as in holy.

This is holy ground.

Whoa.

At that moment, God so clearly spoke in my spirit that this.was.holy.ground.

I just kept grinning like an idiot, whispering it over and over as tears filled my eyes,

Holy. Holy. Holy.

Then, God spoke this blog into my heart in such a complete way. Not just Holy, Holy, Holy is this ground. But, look, my beloved…

Wholey, holey, holy.

These rocks, were a perfect representation of me and my couch time with God.

They were completely (wholey) filled with holes (holey) because of the Sovereign, divine (holy) waves who were permitted to crash upon them time, and time, and time again.

They were wholey, holey, holy.

Did she just call herself holy? No, I’m not calling myself holy. Although the Bible says I am set apart for His purposes, (Jer. 1:5, Gal. 1:15) a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2), but it still sounds pretty cocky to call yourself holy. Especially if the you, is me, and I know how unholy this holy can get.

I do not believe God caused all I’ve been through, yet I most certainly am confident He allowed it. And while I am beyond thrilled to be off my couch, I wouldn’t give up that time with Jesus for anything. He met me on that couch. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. When I felt alone and afraid, confused and angered, disappointed and depressed…Jesus joined me in that moment. He joined me in my trial. He joined me on my couch.

How could I not build an altar of praise?

So, I bent down, as I walked, and began to collect these wholey, holey, holy rocks. One by one, I scooped them up into my shirt, smiling from ear to ear.

Forever, will I look at them and be reminded of this camping trip. Not the coyotes. Not the injuries. Not the lack of food. But, of my rocks. Of my altar.

Of my Sovereign, trustworthy, holy God.

Who captured my heart wholey.

And allowed a holey four years to strip my life of so much.

To make me a little bit more like His holy Son.

I stand before Him now wholey, holey thankful for His holy couch and this beloved weekend.

Amen and amen.

Ps. After sharing the less serious and more funny camping stories with my family at Thanksgiving, my brother chimed in. In the spirit of sarcasm and silliness, i.e. my two shining qualities I feel I must share my big brother’s views (via a comedian) of camping. It’ll make you laugh, I promise.

When It Rains…

It.

Pours.

God is doing something big in me. Through me. To me. At me. However you want to put it. Big. And then some.

There is a Sovereign earthquake rustling going on in my heart and in my soul.

And Satan is pissed off.

My dear friend and partner in writing crime and I have been separated for a couple weeks now. She went on vacation – and this was her stinking view

Don’t even get me started.

And then God dropped the bomb on me in the form of a book. God’s bombs are good bombs. Not always my favorite, but always good.

So, my dear partner in writing crime, let’s call her Thing One, (because yes, I am Thing Two. She’s first cause she’s, like, waaaay older. Hehehe. Can’t wait ‘til she reads that!) She fairly casually recommended for me to read this Interrupted book. Knowing I am such an avid reader somebody just spewed coffee from their mouth, she let me borrow hers.

Then she went out of town for two weeks.

Not. Cool.

God had Sovereignly brought the 2×4 to end all 2×4’s upside my head. And she was in flippin’ Ohio.

Now I know my geography is atrocious but I’m fairly certain that is way far north. And maybe west? So, all Thing One and I could do was text each other.

So, txt we did. Understatement of the century.

I would send her a quote from the book that the Holy Spirit used to cut me to my core. She would send me a quote so funny, I darn near had tears running down my legs. Back and forth, me sending funny quotes, then her sending heart conviction quotes, me sending thisauthorknowsmysecretthoughts quotes and her sending don’thavefoodinyourmouthwhenyoureadthis quotes. It was quite an interesting couple weeks of txting.

But, we couldn’t wait to actually get together, face to face and TALK about all God is saying/doing/leading/prompting/hittingusovertheheadconvicting/humbling/calling us to do.

Did I mention this kind of thing pisses Satan off? The thought of two people with a call from God to write a bunch of words that bring Jesus honor, and who are actually desperately trying to pursue a true live-like-Jesus-did-dangit type of mission…makes Satan furious. And boy did he show it.

We planned a meetingbeforethemeeting so we could get all the initial stuff thrown up out of our mouths. Then, we would have our FPT (Front Porch Time with her beloved rocking chairs) and then, once we’d gotten all our first few annoying and jumbled and rambling and baffled rounds out, we would invite our men to a meeting of the four of us.

Schedule was set. Confirmation was complete. It was done.

Satan was not.

My sweet Jacob got sick. Like, bad sick. Who gets sick in the summer in Texas? My kid does, that’s who. High fever out of nowhere. Not acting like himself. Sluggish. Weird croupy cough. In stinkin’ August, people. Not fun!

This could pose a problem for our first meetingbeforethemeeting so that we could then get ready for our FPT and then our meeting with our men. (I know, we’re bonkers)

But, it’s early. We still have a couple days, Jacob could bounce back.

Or not.

In the wee hours of the night, some eight years ago, I will never forget the very millisecond Jacob breathed his first breath. I was forever changed.

But, now, in the wee hours of this night, I will never forget the sound of my eight-year-old baby as he tried to whisper/wheeze/gasp the words “Mama…I.…..can’t………breathe.”

It was true. Jacob was hardly gettig any air in. Old enough to be fully aware that this was serious, he was doing all he could. But, he just.couldn’t.breathe. After trying an initial breathing treatment, he still seemed about ready to pass out and unable to get good air in. (Confirmation this night: I do not belong in emergency situation) This is when my husband who never freaks out about anything, ever – we make a lovely pair, don’t we? – looked at me with a smidge of freak out in his eyes. This ‘bout sent me over the edge.

Enter 9-1-1.

Riding in the ambulance with your child is unlike anything I’ve ever done. It is surreal. It is unnatural. It is scary.

My precious baby boy, whose thousands of tiny freckles take my breath away, and whose feet come far too close to being as big as mine – my baby with the curly, red hair – my toddler with the cutest ‘muscles’ face you’ve ever seen – my brilliant preschooler – my firstborn child – lay in that stretcher with a look on his face that pleaded “Mama, I’m going to be ok, right?”

He was.

Sola Deo Gloria.

To God’s glory, the amazing doctors and nursing staff at Cooks Children’s Hospital were able to open his airway and steady his breathing.

After three hours of treatments and tests, they released us to come home. No pneumonia. No bronchitis. Only croup. Very scary, but manageable.

Take that Satan! Booyah!

(T-minus eight hours until our meetingbeforethemeeting)

We all got home, and rested most of the day. i.e. Mama passed out in bed and wasn’t aware of what any of her other offspring were doing, only the one whose chest lay under her hand as they slept.

Because our meetingbeforethemeeting was technically at a kid function we both planned to attend and then subsequently isolate ourselves from the other Moms so we could talk about this big God thing – I couldn’t very well show up without my kid. “Don’t mind me, I’m just here to chat with her.” Nice.

Our first meetingbeforethemeeting now cancelled. FPT is all we had.

But, first, it’s church day.

We attend Saturday night service for many reasons. It began as a way for my lying-flat-all-day-long self to be able to attend church at all. The service was less crowded, so I could bring a pillow and take up four chairs without looking too much like a selfish lazy bumb. Then, it became a habit. (The Saturday night part, not the pillow-bringing, lazy bumb-looking part, praise God!) It also became a catalyst in our family’s enjoyment of our sacred Sundays. No plans. No ‘outsiders’. No errands. Just us. Team Holzberger sabbathing together.

But, tonight, our whole team couldn’t go.

Daddy would (ahem.) sacrifice and stay home with sweet recovering Jacob and I would take the other two rascals to church. Lord knows we all needed it.

Did I mention it was raining?

Rain? Ha! That won’t keep us away from church!

And it didn’t.

Although, for the record, the pounding thunder sounds fairly intense coming through the roof of a huge concrete and steel building.

Surely it’s not really that bad outside. I repeatedly thought allthewhile fully paying attention to the sermon.

Surely it’s not really that bad outside.

Surely it’s not really that bad outside.

Oh, but it ‘twas.

For those of you who don’t live in Texas, I am so sorry! we are an ‘anything worth doin’ is worth overdoin’ kind of state. I fit in quite nicely. You know what they say about everything being bigger here? That includes rainstorms. In the region of this fine state where I live, we generally get two types of rainstorms; light-and-annoying-but-just-enough-to-mess-up-your-fresh-car-wash-but-ain’t-gonna-do-a-dang-thing-for-your-dried-burnt-grass kind of storms, and then there’s the somebody-go-find-any-guy-named-Noah-cause-I-think-God-changed-His-mind-and-is-wiping-us-all-out-again kind of storms.

This was the latter.

Somehow the three kids and I got to my blessed Grace (the van) without being washed away. Did I mention Ryan was home? As in, inside and dry? Like, not at church this time? During the flood? Ok…just checking.

So, me and my two younger chicks get safely inside Grace, wring out our clothes, and laugh about how we…um, er, gracefully ran there all huddled up together. It was quite a sight to see.

Quick time check – 6:17pm. (Actually clock said 6:29pm but as all my friends know, that’s just ‘Holzberger time’)

T-minus two hours until FPT.

Ok, Drive home. Get kids fed something that resembles nutrition. Oh yeah! We got drenched in the rain…bath time = check. Cuggle. Sing songs. Say prayers. Tell them they ‘must go to sleep or else’ about six times. Then drive to Thing One’s house and finally talk about this God stuff. I can do this. I can do this. I can do hard things!!

We begin down our normal route home. In hindsight, I should have taken the major roads and not the back roads during a monsoon. Note to self. But, then we’d have missed all this…

As we approach what I’m fairly certain is slower moving cars ahead, I brace for delay. Literally not being able to see a car lengths past my Grace, I sloooow to a crawl. (They really should have a warp speed option for Texan’s windshield wipers. And while I love Grace dearly, windshield wiping is not her finest feature.)

Then I see what looks like two cars who’ve gone off into the ditch.

Oh no! Poor things! Then I see white lights. Blurred lights through all the rain. But, I’m certain they are white.

Wait a minute, don’t the white lights on the back of a car mean reverse!?!

Shootamonkey! Those people are driving backwards.

My brilliantandnotatallstuntedbybirthingandraisingthreechildren brain deduced that the road is so flooded up ahead that people are turning back…as in, backwards to avoid being ditch-dwellers like the other cars.

So, in my true nature of following everyone else’s lead (ahem.) I assure myself I can do this better. She said humbly.

Oh this is good! I should have gone the main roads anyway. In fact, I can do one better. I don’t want to just drive backwards. Instead, I’ll back up into one of these driveways that I can barely see off the side of the road and then turn around and drive safely going forwards in the other direction. Brilliant plan, self. Why, thank you, self.

May I introduce you to ditch-dweller #3? Me.

I would love to say the rapids swept me up into the ditch. And I very well may change my story to that someday, be prepared. But, really, I just made a false move, couldn’t see a bloomin’ thing, and slid in the mud perhaps? down into the ditch.

This would be an appropriate time to interlude a story of my incredible backwards driving history. Me and Tow-Mater are ranked nationally. I may or may not have bragged on num-er-ous occasions to my husband that I can back out of anywhere. I drove camp vans for goodness sakes.

A story for another time.

Anyway, there we sat. Me, and two of my children with Grace’s butt in a ditch rising with water. I didn’t panic at first. At first it was more like –

Crap! Ryan’s gonna kill me then tease me forever. This cannot cost us more money on top of Jacob’s ambulance ride and ER visit from THIS MORNING! Ugggghhhhh.

Oh no! What if I broke Grace? I can’t break Grace – not after all God did to get her to us. (LINK)]

Holy cow! How will we get out of here. Ryan can’t pack sick Jacob up and come get us. Oh no!!

Ok, STOP! Assess the situation. A – open the airway. B – check for breathing. No wait…that’s not right.

Then my precious baby girl interrupted my panic thoughts with “Maaaammaaaa, what did you do to our van!?!”

Nice. Thanks, only daughter of mine.

After about ten minutes (and four frantic phone calls) this lovely vision of a car pulled up to me. A gorgeous (and I do mean gorgeous) woman rolled down her window and yelled “Do you need help!?!”

I was on the phone with Ryan at the time trying to calmly get his advice without having to recount every single stinking detail to my methodical man about how the heck I did this. “Can I just explain it to you later, DEAR ONE, I am stuck in a ditch!”

I yelled back to this precious woman, “I don’t think so. Thanks!”

As if someone was trying to help me pick up dropped groceries. Or tie my freaking shoe. No, no…says the-woman-in-a-ditch-with-her-two-small-children-in-the-middle-of-a-flood….I’m good. I got this. Oh pride, be gone.

Then, reason, in the form of my husband’s voice came yelling through the phone “TAKE THE HELP!! CARRIE – TAKE THE HELP!!!!”

So, in true me fashion (Ahem. Ahem. Aheeeemmm.) I submitted to his advice and took the help.

Enter my rescuers.

This well dressed and handsome Knight-in-shining-prep-clothes rushed to my door with his umbrella. He calmly reassured my kids that everything was going to be ok. Abigail is screaming now cause “I DOOON’T WAAAANNNAA LEEEAVE MY VAAAAN, MAAAMMMAA!” Thanks, Abigail. You’re right. Let’s just hang out here in the van for a while. Wanna play Angry Birds on my phone? Sigh.

I scooped her up, trudged through the pouring rain while the Knight grabbed Benjamin and put our soaked, muddy, hysterical selves into their luxury SUV. Leather. Little TVs. Screen in the front for the GPS thingy. Grown-up wood paneling. I am fairly certain there was a mini-fridge somewhere. I immediately wanted to scream to my children, “If you put your muddy shoes all over these beautiful seats, sohelpme, I will send you back into the pouring rain!” Thankfully, for once, I refrained.

I.was.too.frazzled.

Me, frazzled? I know, shocker, huh?

I am a spazz when I am rested, prepared, ironed and freshly highlighted. So, God bless the poor unsuspecting people who pulled me outta a ditch. They did NOT know what they were getting themselves into. Fo’ sho’.

You know how you picture what it would be like to meet a famous person and you, unlike all the other losers, would completely hold it together and not slobber all over them and throw yourselves at their feet in a mess of snotty tears? You are bigger than that. But, then you see Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre (from NKOTB, like duh) at a table having lunch and you shriek so only dogs can hear, trip over your oversized jellies and MC Hammer pant’s cuffs, flinging a plate of spaghetti into Jordan’s face and landing your face dead square into Joey’s crotch.

Ya, it was pretty much like that. Only worse.

No, these people weren’t famous. But, oh what a fool I was.

I was nervous. Embarrassed. Frazzled. Confused. Scared. Sostinkingmadatmyself. Oh ya, and I looked like a wet poodle. Ps. I went suuuuper casual to church that night so I was wearing black yoga pants, a t-shirt, and sketchers.

Nice.

I talked too much. Overcompensated even more. And basically blabbered all over these poor unsuspecting people who had just rescued me and my babies.

It went something like this –

“I am so sorry. I promise I’m a very good driver and also a very responsible Mom. I love Jesus and everything. In fact, we were coming back from church, where we go almost every single week. I even used to be on staff. (See? That’ll show them I’m not messed up! Ha!) And I am super cautious about driving, especially in the rain and especially with my babies in the van. I used to drive camp vans, and I’m actually very good at backing up! Goodness gracious. I don’t even know what happened to the road. It must have moved or something. I hope my van isn’t broken. God like gave us that van, you should hear the story. And just so you know, my husband is amazing and would be here in a heartbeat but he is at home with my son who was rushed to the emergency room at 3am this morning because he was not breathing! And although this is all so crazy, oh I am just so thankful I can even drive, I’ve been sick for the better part of the last five years and I just can’t even tell you how faithful God is. I couldn’t even sit up, ya know? Man, Satan is trying to kick me down today, specifically today, because he knows how much I wanna talk about this book. Oh you should totally read it! It’s changed my life for Jesus in such an amazing way. The enemy isn’t going to win tonight, though! In fact, he can Go To Hell! (Yes I said that in front of their precious two little girls in the back who most assuredly were going to have nightmares tonight, not about being washed away in a flood but about the crazy lady who jumped into their car. Sigh)

I may or may not have also mentioned my extreme labor with Abigail, being named after a country song, and my husband’s recent vasectomy. For the love of Pete, we were only about five miles from my house. Those poor people.

God, could you please bless my dear rescuers for A: picking us up, and more importantly for B: not throwing me back out after mile two.

We arrive home and then to top it all off, I cry. (Again, shocker.)

I hugged her neck (way longer than you should with a stranger) and whispered (not in a creepy way, but in a sincere way…I think.) “Thank you so much for helping me and my kids. It has been such a tough week. I honestly don’t know how to thank you.” I think she saw it in my eyes. Behind the fear, the frazzlement and the obvious insanity – I tell myself that she saw the glimpse of Mama desperation and gratitude I was trying so hard to display.

Then I cried and hugged her Knight and thanked him again and again.

I was quite certain they couldn’t back out of my driveway fast enough. They avoided the ditch on either side of my driveway just fine, for the record.

I watched them drive away and made the kids wave and wave. Ok well, I hope I don’t bump into them in the Target line. Her kids may start sucking their thumb and rocking back and forth while pointing at me.

We were home.

Soggy, but safe.

My Knight rushed out with my sweet Dad and off they went into the rain to rescue our Grace. With them, our dear friend who is a wicked strong guy with an ever bigger heart. These three men braved the elements, arrived at the ditch, on a mission to save my sweet van. It took them about three minutes. Dangit.

When Ryan sent this picture, my first thought was, Huh. I remember it being much scarier looking and

the raging rapids being a lot deeper than that.

Ryan and Dad and sweet James all got to their respective houses safely.

All was well.

T-plus 23 minutes past FPT. (Insert sad face.)

My repetitive thought – But what about FPT time? God, I know you wanted us to do this.

I txted Thing One to see what she thought. We went back and forth about what kind of crazy person rushes with her kid to the ER in an ambulance, then drives her van into a ditch and still gets back out into the rain.

Knowing Ryan would deny my request to take our only other vehicle out in this weather, I only asked because I told Thing One I still wanted to come. She and I are selfish and a little nuts right now, with this intense desire to know what God is trying to do in us, through us, at us, etc.

She asked her man. I asked mine.

Her man always has others best interest at heart. “She’s had a long weekend. I think she needs to rest.”

Ryan’s response – “Sure! Go.”

With all due respect to her man, who was technically probably wiser at the moment…we picked Ryan’s answer.

He knew how long we’d talked about this. He knew how desperately we needed to get phase one of this out of our mouths. He knew God was working. And Satan was working too.

God won.

I drove to her house, only thirty minutes later than we had planned, days and days ago. Before the ambulance. Before the ER. Before the flood. Before the ditch.

As I drove to Thing One’s house in what had now become the other type of Texas wimpy drizzly rainstorm…I could help but smile. God totally won.

I have no idea what He is going to do with me. I’m fairly certain He feels the same way always sometimes.

But, FPT happened.

It was precious. It was all about Jesus. To Him be the glory.

As far as what we discussed…you will have to wait ‘til tomorrow.

But, know this friend…when you are trying to do good for God – Satan will come. He fights mean. He fights dirty. He fights hard. You will lose if you fight back on your own. Guaranteed.

May I humbly encourage you to do the thing God’s called you to do.

Don’t waiver in doubt.

Don’t shrink back in fear.

Don’t get caught up in the complacent, self-serving, too-busy-with-soccer-and-and-school-and-work-and-errands-to-do-good-for-God cycle. I know that cycle well. It is a cycle that brings Satan pleasure. Flee from it with me.

Get back out in the rain and drive.

And tell Satan to GO TO HELL! (Please not in front of my rescuers children.) It is where he belongs and will be for all eternity. Amen.

But, for now, one more gigantic THANK YOU to the adorable family who rescued us. I promise, I really am completely normal. Which I know is what not normal people say, but I really do mean it. 🙂

Ps. Praise God from whom all blessings flow that the NKOTB story was purely hypothetical, yet completely possible in my world.

I’m Just Gonna…

I love my three year old. Really, I do.

She is precious, hilarious, loveable, and expressive. She brings our world a lot of sunshine.

But occasionally she brings a Category 5 hurricane as well.

Not only is she is the baby of our family but she also has two big brothers. As soon as the doctor held her up and said “It’s a girl!” – we knew our lives would never be the same. It became evident very quickly that she would be spoiled. That is hard to avoid. Her big brothers literally adore her. And she loves to be adored. It’s a win-win.

But, we were determined she would not be spoiled rotten. There is a big difference between spoiled and spoiled rotten.

But, as the baby of my own family, I will admit things sometimes come to us fairly easily. We charm those around us to get our way. We pout and act mistreated, causing parents, and especially grandparents to give in. Plus, we are notorious manipulators. Abigail is already blooming into a nice little baby of our family.

What she doesn’t know is that Mama invented stubborn.

Lately, my darling girl’s had an awful case of the “I’m just gonna…”’s.

“Abigail, get your shoes on, we’ve got to go!”

“I’m just gonna wear these slippers.”

“Abigail, pick up your babies before we go to bed.”

“I’m just gonna let them sleep out here for night-night.”

“Abigail, do not get up from that table again until you have eaten your breakfast.”

“I’m just gonna eat three bites and then I be all done, ok?”

It started in a subtle way, but then the more I paid attention, the more I realized that this stinkin’ child was answering every single command with I’m just gonna…

It pissed me off.

How had I let this slip by?

Often, the thing she’s ‘just gonna’ do isn’t a big deal. I decide that ain’t the hill I’m gonna die on today. But, then it hit me that she was telling me how things were going to go, instead of the other way around.

Is it a big deal that she’s ‘just gonna’ put her shoes on in the van instead of right now when I asked her to? No. As a Mom of three small kids, I’m thrilled when we all get to the van with shoes that actually belong to us.

But that isn’t the point.

Is it a big deal that she’s ‘just gonna’ hang up her bathing suit after she cleans up her swim toys, even though I asked her to do it the reverse order? No. It’s all getting cleaned up, right?

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that she is in charge. She calls the shots. She’s. just. gonna.

No more.

How could she treat me this way when I am her mother? Pretty darn easy, apparently.

But man, oh man, do I do the same thing with my Father.

Commit to me one tenth of your income and then the rest is at your disposal.

“I’m just gonna make sure the bills are paid first and then give you my tithe.”

Do not have a love of money, but instead love your enemies and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

“I’m just gonna buy this one more thing for me – I deserve it! Those poor people aren’t even American citizens. I’ll go take my old stuff to Good Will next weekend.”

Submit. Be humble. Serve others.

“I’m just gonna take a ‘me day’ – retail therapy is good for me. I work hard – I deserve another massage.”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I throw up a bit in my mouth at the thought of it.

The audacity it takes for someone (me!) to look at the God of the Universe in the face and assume they (I!) have a better plan is down-right disgusting.

When God tells you to do something. Do it.

Do it fully. Do it with a pure heart. Do it immediately. Do it His way, not your own.

By the way, I’m writing this to myself, just so you know.

Now…’I’m just gonna’ go back and read it again. And again. And again…

Blue Bell On the Pie

Disclaimer: this post may be very painful for some people to read. For all of my friends that live in my general Texas area  i.e. God’s country, I am saddened to inform you that there are, right now, parts of this country of ours that do not have Blue Bell ice cream. I’ll give you a minute to take in that tragic news.

Deep breaths. Ok. We want ya’ll to know that we are sorry. I am, in no way, trying to rub it in your face the fact that our area is better than yours blessed with something you don’t have. I do however invite you to come to your senses and move here. But, if you don’t, fear not, you can still go to heaven. It’ll be close, but you can. 🙂

Ok, now we can begin.

Have you ever heard the phrase “icing on the cake”? No, Caroline I’ve been living in a hole for forty years .Basically, it means an extra enhancement to what you already were pleased with. That phrase is pretty common, but to me, not very impactful. This is because I’m not much of a cake person. I don’t hate it. If it is the only dessert offered at a party, then I may eat some, but then again, maybe not. And if I do, I will most definitely not eat the icing. I really don’t like icing.

I know, I know, I’m such a weirdo. Shocker. But, I just don’t like cake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fun at parties, I just won’t eat the cake at them. See, that’s good, right? More for you! J

So, as I was growing up, my Mom began to notice that her darling stubborn, strong-willed and charming daughter was not really a big fan of the cake at her own party. Wanting to please her, and not waste money on stinkin’ cake my Mom asked what my favorite dessert was, because I could have that instead.

Done. That’s easy!

Apple pie with vanilla Blue Bell ice cream with it. Not on top, mind you, but with it. And, by “with it”, I mean in a completely separate bowl/plate to be eaten one a time. Yes, I have a lot more than just food issues.

So, there you have it. That is how the tradition began. Every year after that, I was presented with exactly what I wanted and then some. Not just my favorite, apple pie. And not just vanilla ice cream with it. But, Blue Bell ice cream! If left to my own devices, I could easily clean out a half-gallon of that stuff in half of a week! Happy Birthday to me!

Mind you, the other guests were often wondering who took the cake? Yes, pun completely intended. The answer was me. I took it away, that is. While I am a pleaser by nature, on this day, with this issue, it didn’t matter, really. It was my birthday, so apple pie it is. You can have cake on your birthday, cool? Cool.

So, when I think of something being way, super, more amazing than I could have thought, and then adding an extra bonus on top…I don’t think icing on the cake… I think Blue Bell on the pie.

Today, was a Blue Bell on the pie kind of day.

I have, the last day or so, been happily recovering from a “dark time”. I had a tough few days last week that were filled with self-pity, moments of fear and worry, envy of others’ “easy” lives, and shocker! very wimpy quiet times. Gee, I wonder if any of that correlates? DUH!

So, I have spent some time on my face before God, apologizing, confessing, crying  that ugly sort of snot in the carpet type of cry, and just letting Him deal with some junk of mine. You may be thinking to yourself, Gee, you would think she would pretty much be done with that after all God has done for her lately.

Maybe you’re right. I should be. And, honestly friend, I am, for the most part. If you could see inside my head you’d laugh at its emptiness and my heart you’d be shocked by some of its hardness, you would ultimately see restoration. God has been working harder than those people do on Extreme Home Makeover to rebuild His home in my heart the last few years. He has cleaned out enough worry and fear to load a few truck-fulls headed for the dump. He’s removed quite a bit of pride and has rewired my controlling nature. He has been busy. But, I just can’t sit here and pretend to you that I still don’t have my moments of weakness sometimes.

Sorry. If you would prefer to think of me as only a strong, wise, godly woman, then I will let you down. I sin. I am selfish. I throw myself the occasional pity party. I raise my voice at my kids and lose all patience in the blink of a baggy, tired eye. But, friend, I love Jesus. I have been working daily to allow Him to work more and more in me. More of that in a later post. I gotta stay focused here.

So, yesterday was rockin’. And I closed my eyes last night at peace with whatever God wanted to do regarding this whole Mayo trip #2. Today was superb and I spent quite a bit of great time praising and writing and keeping my thoughts on His will.

I did have a few practical things I had to get taken care of today, though, amongst my God-stuff. Turns out, all this stuff was God-stuff. He showed up in all of it. The one thing I have been putting off for weeks a few days was the phone call to the insurance company to find out how much this most recent spinal fluid leaking would cost us. I know God has done amazing things through all of this, but we do live in the real world. And, I can’t send them a piece of paper with God’s wisdom on it. They need a payment. Period.  I had to make the call. I had no choice. So, I put my big girl panties on and did it. (Dun, dun, duuuun.)

After playing the automated phone person game for a few minutes, my clearly spoken for the love of God I said “Claim Questions”, directed me to an actual human. And, not just any human, but the one He picked for me. I was delighted to hear a very friendly, and very Southern accent on the other end of the phone. She sounded precious! God connected me with a lovely lady name Kyle. She was a peach.

We talked a bit about my seven million claimsand how it all was looking. She directed me as to how to go online and take a look at all of this clearly. Then, she looked at one of my claims that was labeled “out of network.” She said “Uh, oh darlin’, that’s not good.” Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Abort! Abort! I briefly contemplated acting like I was driving through a tunnel, cutting the phone call off, throwing the phone into the pool and running into my closet to hide in the fetal position. But, I didn’t. Instead, I took a deep breath and explained what happened with that doctor. I asked if I needed to call them and straighten this out. She quickly said “No, sweetie, you just give me a minute and I’m gonna get this all taken care of right now.”

So, I gave her a minute. Actually, I gave her about twenty minutes. I placed my phone on speaker and turned on a movie. You’ve Got Mail. A classic.

Eventually she came back on the phone,

“Caroline?!”

“Yes, ma’am, I’m here!”

“Well, that claim just gave me a fit! I mean it, I’m sorry to be so blunt, but it did! It gave me a fit! But, don’t you worry, I’m not done. I’ve got it all worked out and I will get it all straightened out right away, but I didn’t want you to have to sit on hold anymore!”

I thanked her for being so helpful and caring. Then, we talked about the $22,000 bill I received from the Mayo clinic. I knew we wouldn’t have to pay all of it. But, to be honest, I didn’t want to even have to pay even one eighth half of it.

She researched all 128 (I kid you not!) claims from the Mayo clinic and spent forever adding them up for me, adjusting them, and came up with a number that didn’t stop my heart. So, I was pleased. I felt like I actually had good-ish news to tell Ryan. God had taken that number down a bunch and I was pretty happy about it! This was just about the last piece to make the whole apple pie of my last day or so. It was good stuff! After close to an hour on the phone with this sweet woman, I had all my bills lowered and my questions answered. I thanked her for her time and efforts. And then it happened.

God busted out the Blue Bell.

Kyle said “Oh darlin’, I’m looking at your history here and you do look like you’ve been through quite a bit these last few years. I’m so sorry about that!”

“Thank you ma’am! I have been through a lot, but you know, God is good! And, I’m…”

I didn’t even get to finish my sentence before she screeched,

“YES HE IS GOOD! ALL THE TIME!! I am SO thrilled that you know that too! He showed me that so clearly this morning! I mean just right smack dab in the middle of my face, He just showed me how good He is!”

And of course, I said, “ME TOO!”

I was beaming!!

Then, my insurance company lady and I spent the next few minutes talking all about how good God is, how He has been with me on this couch and with her in her life. I told her about how He has blessed me with time to write my blog. I told her how I was “praising God from my couch”, to which she replied

“Oh darlin’ I just love that you are doing that! I want that website ‘cause I have two people I know right now who really need to read all about that!”

After a few more minutes. I thanked her for her time and her joy. She said, through tears “You have blessed my day so much! I can’t wait to read your story! Thank you for sharing with me!” to which I replied, through tears, “Thank you! It gets pretty lonely on this couch sometimes, and you have made my whole day!”

We blessed each other and hung up the phone.

I lost it.

I mean it. Flat out, blubbered like an idiot and cried out to God, out loud, “Thank you, God! Thank you for loving me enough to do that for me today! Thank you!”

Can you even believe it!?!

I know, me neither.

I mean, seriously, who gets to have a call like that with their stinkin’ insurance company? No one. Well, apparently, me.

Friend, God loves you that much too! I don’t know if you are like me, but I think my mind forgets that sometimes. I can often remember His holiness, His sovereignty, His beautiful creations. But, for some reason, I forget sometimes that, like my pastor says, “He doesn’t just love all of us. He loves each of us.”

Do you feel that? Do you feel that the God of the universe knows you that well and loves you that much? I hope you do, friend. But, if you don’t. May I please encourage you with some Truth?

Luke 12:7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Wow. You get that? Your hairs are like, actually numbered. Not only does He know that you have 6,438,819 hairs on your head, but He knows that if you pluck one out, that it was number 124. Who else in your life would love you enough to sit and count your hairs? To number them? To know them each individually and be aware if one is gone? My husband loves me. But, the sweet man has to sometimes take a double-take to realize that ALL of the hairs on my head have been cut and colored. Don’t judge, I look good blonde. If God loves you enough to number your hairs, I think that says quite a bit.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,”

Wow. Can you wrap your mind around the fact that before any pregnancy test said positive, God already knew you? He knew you first because He made you. To know someone is to know about them. And you don’t want to know about someone unless you care enough about them. He cares about you. He knows you!

Psalm 139:2 “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

Wow. He knows every time I sit and every time I lie down. This, of course, is super special to me since I have been doing a lot of lying down lately, and not a whole lot of rising up or going out. He knows that. He sees that. He cares about that. And, friend, this goes for you too! He cares enough to know every single time you get up and down each day. That says a lot.

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” –which means, “God with us.”

Wow. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the “Anointed One”, the Savior, was also called Immanuel. The angel of the Lord told Joseph that his bouncing baby boy, would be God with us. God with Joseph. God with me. God with you. All the time. He loves us that much that He actually allowed one of His names to be Him with us. A few years ago, there was a huge ridiculous craze about naming celebrity couples by combining their names into one. Angelina and Brad were Brangelina. Jennifer and Ben were Bennifer.  But, that stuff is retarded doesn’t really matter. This is our God, choosing to name Himself “Me with You”. Like, not Hollywood forever, but literally forever.

I kinda had a plan in my mind of what I would choose if He allowed a door #1 or door #2 game show moment for this second Mayo trip. I would have probably chosen door #2. Turns out, He picked door #1. Go figure.

So, here I am, still bathing in my Blue Bell and pie moments He has given me the last couple days. I only told you one big one. I have had A LOT of little ones, some medium sized ones and another big ‘un or two. I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the last few days from all the Blue Bell and pie moments, friend. And you know what, God knows I need it. I need these reminders of His goodness and His faithfulness and His direction. I needed it when I tucked my sweet babies into bed tonight and had each of them cry and be sad that we are leaving them again tomorrow. I will need it in heaps tomorrow as we say goodbye and drive away.

Friend, I get it. I see the big picture. I am BEYOND thankful for this Mayo trip #2. But, my babies are 7, 5 and 2 years old; they just see their sick Mama leaving again. So, here’s the beauty of it…He will serve them up their own big ol’ batch of Blue Bell and pie as well. They are His. Like my pastor always says, “God doesn’t have any grandkids.” So true.

You are His, too. Open your heart to receive your own blessings upon blessings. He wants to do it. He is capable of it. Just believe it. And dig in…it really is that good!

Ephesians 3:16-21 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

I Am Diarrhea

Before I go any further, I have to tell you that it took absolutely everything in me to type that title. I cannot stand the word diarrhea. I can’t ever spell it right, they way it sounds out loud is completely awful; I just don’t like it at all. I am, however, typing, so that makes it a little better. Please don’t read this out loud; or, at least, not in front of me.

In fact, whenever someone gets a stomach bug, I try to avoid the word all together. I simply ask if they were throwing up or throwing down. J

Recently, my family passed around a little stomach bug. This was, thankfully, not near as bad as last time. But, we did have a few kids and a grown up throwing down for a few days in the Holzberger house. Not fun.

It is so hard to explain to a 2 ½ year old why you can’t kiss her on the mouth. Why she can’t “cuggle” with her “brudas” and watch a movie. Why Mama screams “Noooooo!!!” and dives, as if in slow-motion, as she takes a sip from her brother’s thermos. It just does not compute in her sweet little brain.

So, inevitably, when someone is throwing up or down in our home, that is when Abigail loses her thermos. Without fail, every single time. We only do water in thermoses around our house. I was a nanny in college and found a sippy cup with milk under the backseat of my car once, after an entire hot weekend. That’s all it took. We only drink milk at the table. Period.

So, here is my sweet middle son, Benjamin, throwing down like a champ. Poor baby. He is so precious and tender-hearted. He kept apologizing for being sick. Sweet boy. He is five years old, so he’s fairly competent in his potty-ing skills. But, something about being sick always makes them revert back to being three. He whines about how his hiney hurts, he needs help wiping, wants “a little cream like when I was a baby, Mama” to make it feel better. Poor thing.

Then, Abigail got it. She has only been potty trained for about five months, two weeks and a day or so. Trust me, when your house is diaper free for the first time in seven years, you remember! In fact, you celebrate! There are streamers and confetti, all paid for out of the raise your family just got from not spending heaps of money on diapers each month! But, the road to get here wasn’t easy. We’ve made it though. She rarely has an accident. She still isn’t totally self-sufficient but overall, things are pretty easy.

Until a stomach bug. Poor thing, she just can’t seem to get to the potty fast enough. I get it. It is hard when grown-ups have to get up quick and make like a cheetah to the potty. Little ones aren’t that refined with all of that yet.

So, we did a lot of extra laundry. We used a lot of extra Spray’N Wash. We threw away a lot of panties. Sometimes you just gotta cut your losses.

But, my extremely precocious and verbal daughter, she is a mini-me! who is always listening to everyone, then repeating and reusing phrases correctly, had overheard a lot of talk about the “d’ word lately. I can’t seem to get my boys to say throwing down. They’re boys. They like the “d” word. In fact, they like every version of that word, and any other word that involves bodily functions, for that matter. I don’t get boys ever sometimes!  So, sister friend knew that Benjamin had been sick. And now she knew she was sick. So, in true Abigail fashion, she put two and two together.

She was sitting on the potty for about the ninth time that day it was 10am and she was, well, throwing down. And, I said,

“Oh baby, I’m so sorry your belly doesn’t feel good. I bet it will feel better tomorrow, sweet girl!”

She sighed. Looked at me with such a grown up face that showed almost a disappointment with herself, slunked her shoulders, scrunched up her brow, and said “Mama…I am diarrhea??”

It was cute, in a sort of sad kind of way.

“No baby, you’re Abigail. You have diarrhea, you aren’t diarrhea.”

She kind of nodded her head and we took care of the rest of the business. Then, we washed hands for the hundredth time that day and went back to her quarantined area “special chair” to sit in and watch a show. Shortly after, Daddy and “the brudas” came home. She was fairly happy and smiley, but then it dawned on her that she had bad news to tell. And sure enough, she scowled her little face, sunk her sweet baby shoulders, almost as if she was about to admit to stealing their candy, and announced to the room, “Hey brudas, hey Dada…I am diarrhea.”

“No baby girl, remember what Mama said, you’re Abigail. You aren’t diarrhea, you have diarrhea.”

Clearly, I had already said the “d” word way more times than I’d wanted to in such a short time. But, in true God fashion, He still found a way to hit me

Oh man, that is exactly what I do.

I sin. Like, all the time. And then I choose to attach it to myself. I bear it. I wear it. And, I sometimes even name myself after it.

Friend, this is not God’s plan for me, or for you!

Psalm 103: 10-11 “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him;”

We do not “deserve” a happy, wealthy, skinny, popular life. The darkness of our sinful hearts deserves death. Period. (Rom. 6:23) So, the fact that God gives us the opportunity to have an abundant life on earth and eternity with Him is flat out remarkable. The fact that we can be His kid and belong to Him, to be covered by Jesus’ blood, is cause for some serious praise!

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

You get that? We were and are still sinners and He died for us. He knew how often we would blow it, just today, not to mention our entire lives here. Ok, some of you are totally sitting there thinking…

But I am not that bad. I don’t cheat on my spouse. I don’t beat my kids.  I don’t break the law. I’m a good person. I’ve got it together, Caroline.

Well, then maybe, like me, pride is your thing. I’m just sayin’. We are all in this sin-boat together. Friend, you will stop sinning when you stop breathing.

But, I love the last part of the Psalm I started to quote above: (v.12) “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

I heard it said once that the direction of this verse is crucial. He chose to tell us that our sins were as far as the east is from the west. Not north and south, but east and west. Ever think about that? I think it’s because north and south aren’t “far” apart enough for Him. Picture a globe.  If you travel around our world going directly north, you will, at some point, get to the other side, and at some point, start going south. It’s inevitable. They aren’t that “far” apart. But, if you think about traveling east…you keep going…and going…you won’t ever be going west, unless you turn around. You won’t hit a point at the other side of the globe where you will then be going west. It doesn’t happen.  That’s far apart. That’s powerful stuff.

Especially, if you are, like me, and have a zillion moments where you totally blow it. It stinks. It is a tough weight to bear. But, that doesn’t keep us from trying to bear it, does it? I recently blew it in a big way, a couple times. Like, completely, wholeheartedly, 110%, no excuses, flat out, just blew it. I had the opportunity to say and do things that were unselfish, loving, and Christ-like. However, I chose to be selfish, whiney, and satan-like (prideful!). I responded to my husband and my best friend, two of the people who know me best and for some reason still love me most, with an ugly heart. And, this didn’t even happen at one time. I know, I’m awful. This was two completely different instances on two completely different days. That makes it even worse, of course, because I didn’t learn from the first one. Please still be my friend. I chose to have a selfish, “woe is me” attitude, instead of an “I love you” attitude. Once the words were out of my mouth; that was it. You can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube, friend. Ever.

I feel like, even now, telling it all of you people, that I have a weight sitting on my chest. The weight of sin is great, friend.  It’s no wonder it weighs us down, makes us forlorn and depressed; our bodies weren’t designed for it. We. Can’t. Handle. It.

And that’s the beauty of it, God doesn’t WANT us to.

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God chose His One and only Son to die a humiliating and excruciating death and bear the weight of all our sin. You think you feel a “heavy” burden sometimes? Jesus, the Son of God, was separated from His Father for the first time EVER, when He chose to put on our sin. What a long afternoon that must have been for Him!! He even cried out during His excruciating crucifixion “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) God could not look at His Son, because of our sin. Every moment of envy. Every jealous word we’ve spoken. Every lustful thought. Every juicy gossip we’ve spread. Every judgmental thought. Every selfish deed. All of it. God made Jesus become sin for you and for me.

Why? Read the last half of the verse, friend! “So that we might become the righteousness of God.” Not that we will. Not that we are guaranteed to. But, that we may. God didn’t make robots. We have choice. We have to choose Christ and to love Him with our thoughts, our motives, our actions, our lives, our entire hearts! Clearly put, God gave us the exchange of a lifetime: He put our sins on Jesus, and He put Jesus’ righteousness on us.  Righteousness is a big word. The definition is not perfection. It is closer to the idea of being “made right” in integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting. And trust me, this is not something we are born with. “As Christ was not made sin by any sin inherent in him, so neither are we made righteous by any righteousness inherent in us, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.” (Poole)

And now, for some great news!!

1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

Treat God truthfully, and he will treat you truthfully. Make no pretensions before God, but lay bare your soul, let him see it as it is, and then he will be faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” (Spurgeon)

He forgives us.

He purifies us.

But, purifying is a process. My wonderful pastor describes this concept here as that of what a refiner does to purify metals. Malachi 3:3 “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.”  So, in order for this to take place, first the minerals must be placed under extreme heat. Been there, done that! Once under this heat, the impurities would rise to the top. The patient refiner, God, would ‘sit over’ the precious minerals as they boiled over the fire, and skim off the top, all the impurities. It me! must be placed under this heat so that all of the impurities may be taken away. Don’t you know, friend, that when I am in the hottest places of life, is when I sin the most! Is that true for you? I will spare you some stories here.  Then…hear me, friend…the refiner, our Great God, knew the mineral  was pure once he could see His reflection on the surface. Wow. I want people to look at me and see Jesus. But, even more so, I want Jesus to look at me and see Jesus.

Be encouraged, friend, that if you have a heart to serve Him, love Him and act like Him, then His process will continue. He will stick by you. He will faithfully allow heat to come into your life to refine you. To make your sin rise to the top, so it can be removed.

Righteousness seems, to me, to sometimes be a daunting goal. Be encouraged by this…

Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter (finisher) of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus is not only the author of our faith; He is the finisher of it also. The idea of “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6) is comforting indeed to  discouraged Christians, like me. And maybe like you.

He endured the cross not because it was joyful. That is not the joy this verse talks about. He endured the cross, for the joy set before him, meaning what would happen because of his endurance on the cross = the chance for us to be with Him in heaven someday. That is joy.

So, join me. Let’s accept that fact that we are not our sin. We are not diarrhea. We are His creation. And, if you are a Christian, then you are His kid. He will be faithful to forgive you, just as He was faithful to provide a way for you to have eternal forgiveness.

“I AM NOT DIARRHEA!”

I am Caroline.

And, I am His.

Thank God!

Don’t Blow Kisses To Your Poopy

Ok, perhaps I may have repeatedly mentioned lately that we are done potty training. Like, for real done! Ok, so maybe I wrote an entire blog about it – “The Girl Who Cried Poopy”, but hey, this is a big deal. When you’ve been clipping Huggies coupons and lugging multiple kids up on top of a changing table two, or three, or ten times a day for seven years, and then all of a sudden you aren’t anymore, it’s a big deal! But, let me be clear that our potty drama isn’t over.
Kids still have accidents.
A couple of mine haven’t been, how shall I say, the most proficient wipers. God bless Spray “N Wash.
My sons get to pee in the grass outside (in our own huge, treed, private backyard, calm down people, it’s not like I let them do it in the Target parking lot), therefore my daughter is convinced she should get to as well. So, she tries. Often.
Our drama will continue, I am convinced, until the potty drama is replaced with puberty drama. God help me.
So here I was barely sitting on the seven inch by seven inch plastic Dora stool in the kids bathroom (where I belong, apparently) as my darling baby girl was going potty. Sort of. She still hasn’t fully recovered from the “crying potty” tendencies mentioned above, but she has gotten a lot better. Sometimes she still insists she’s gotta go – but we go, we sit, and she’d don’t go.
This was one of those times.
So, I am sitting there balancing on one hiney cheek watching her flail her arms around like a symphony conductor as she sings her own little mixture of “Jingle Bells” and “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag” at the top of her lungs. Sometimes you can’t help but just look at her and laugh.
This was not one of those times.
I was ready to get back to the Rangers playoff game that the three men in my life were not pausing for me. For the record, they had paused it the other hundred times she “had” to go. They were done.
So was I.
So, I am trying to lovingly encourage her to speed this potty train up, but she was happy to just sit and sing. Once I was convinced she wasn’t going to go, I told her Mama was going to go watch the game and I’d come back and check on her in a minute. Right then, she pooped. I swear the girl can do it on command any hour of the day, when she wants to – and not a second before.
I cheered, made silly faces and generally made a spectacle of myself praising her for her “accomplishment”. Then, I was ready to wipe and go. Not Abigail.
Abigail: “Mama, look at all that poopy! WOW!”
Me: “I know big girl, you did a great job! C’mon, let’s go…”
Abigail: “It’s gigantic!”
Me: (Ok, how do I answer this one?) “Um, yes it is darling, it sure is. Ok, let’s wipe and be all done.”
Abigail: “Can I just touch it first?”
Me: “The poopy?!? NO! Absolutely not! It’s yucky! C’mon we are all done.”
Abigail: “Ok. (sad face)”
Me: “Abigail, its poopy darling, we are supposed to flush it.”
Abigail: “Ok. (sad face)”
Then, my sometimes sweet 2 ½ year old baby girl leans waaaay over with her face toward the potty and waves her sweet chubby hand,
Abigail: “Bye poopy!! BYYYYYEEEE!!!” As she waves and blows kisses to the poopy.
Me: “Abigail, don’t blow kisses to your poopy. It’s gross. Just let it go, and let’s go wash our hands.”
This is where God hit me. I totally blow kisses to my poopy.
I mean, obviously, I don’t literally blow kisses to the toilet; that would be weird. But I sometimes act like I miss the sin in my life – same thing, different name.
Philippians 3:8 tells us “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (NIV)
Do you know that the Greek word for “rubbish” in that verse is skybalon, meaning “any refuse, as the excrement of animals, rubbish, dregs, all things worthless and detestable” and further research found that “this word is often used to describe the remnants of menstrual rags”.
I could not possibly make that up.
Friend, we are to count it all as rubbish, except for knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord.
And while, I personally feel tempted to stop a bloke at the diner and request a scone and a spot o’ tea after typing that, let’s try to focus.
Hebrews 12:1 helps us Ok, me to focus – “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
It, too, tells us to get rid of our sin. But, take note, it also tells us to get rid of every encumbrance as well. An encumbrance for those of you Ok, me who don’t know exactly what that means, is defined as “something burdensome, useless, or superfluous” (Fyi, I got tickled at the fact that this word can also mean “a dependant person, especially a child”, but no, for the record, you may not throw them out!)
And in case you got stuck like I did at what exactly  the word superfluous means –  it is “being more than is sufficient or required, excessive, unnecessary or needless”
Wow. I would say there are quite a few things out there that fall into these categories that aren’t really sin. I mean, I doubt you and I are robbing banks, smoking crack, or cheating on our spouses – or I sure hope not! But, there are plenty of sins that are entangling – envy, pride, worry, jealousy, self-righteousness, just to name a few. So, here we are being asked to throw aside every sin and ALSO every other thing that is excessive, useless, or that hinders us. Hinders us from what, you may ask? From following hard and fast after Jesus, friend, that is what.
I have to be honest and say that I am getting pretty tired of how muddled it all is getting. Christians are starting to look a lot more like the world – and I’m over it.
I am in NO way saying that I am perfect. Trust me. In fact, don’t trust me. Just sit with me for two minutes a little while and you will absolutely realize that for yourself. But, I am saying that the One I serve is perfect, and He does want us to be like Him. Right now, uh, oh confession time, I am struggling with my childish behavior I display in the carpool line. I will not even get started about the entitlement so many luxury SUVs, and crazy minivans have in my kid’s school parking lot. They cut you off, won’t let you in, break the traffic laws, and the completely ignore the school’s pick-up procedures. It irks me to no end. And I don’t deal with it well most of the time. I make snarky remarks to my friends about them. I judge. I get upset at these people I don’t even know. But, I admit, I’m feeling convicted about it. So, this is an announcement to my two buddies who share this struggle with me. For me, it stops here.
So, how does this apply to you, friend? Well, that is between you and God.
You know the TV shows you watch. So does God. In fact, He watches them with you!
You know the thoughts you have. So does God. In fact, He knew you’d have them before you did.
You know the music you listen to. So does God. Once again, He hears it with ya.
You know the motives you have. So does God. You can’t fool Him, friend.
“But that is my guilty pleasure!” I hear so many people say. Ok fine, it’s your choice to feel pleasure, as long as you accept the guilty verdict as well.
Aw, c’mon Caroline, say something funny, would ya? Don’t get all up in my business about this stuff. Friend, if you are feeling convicted, it sure ain’t me. I promise. I’m just writing a blog. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict. (John 16:7-8) You can ignore me and click off this page. I wouldn’t ignore Him, though. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I had a friend once tell me that God told her to give up Diet Coke. I giggled, as I sipped my Route 44 Diet Coke. Then I looked at her. She was serious. “Why would God care if you drank Diet Coke?” I asked her. “He wants me to put Him first and be willing to give up anything. That includes my caffeine I think I need to get through a day.” Hmmm….I guess, for her, this was something of excess, something unnecessary. And God had made it clear to her.
Now, friend, before you go start a picket-line at Starbucks, please hear me, that aside from sin laid out in the Bible, the other stuff, the ‘grey stuff” (meaning, neither black or white) is between you and God. He flat told me to give up my favorite TV show. Did I obey immediately? Nope. But, eventually I couldn’t shake the feeling that every time I was watching it, I was hurting God because I was choosing my happiness over His holiness. I haven’t seen an episode in over a year. I’ve missed it. I’ve blown kisses to that poopy, for sure. I hear others talk about it and I remember how funny it was and how much I enjoyed quoting all the re-runs. Then I remember how it felt to know I was honoring God. That’s all I needed.
Friend, I hope that’s all you need too.
Flush that junk down. Be done with it. Don’t be sad to see it go. Wash your hands and move on.

Kitchen Sink Smoothie

So, there are many things that make my marriage interesting, frustrating, enjoyable and maddening fun. I have loved Ryan since I was eighteen years old, so it is fun to get to reminisce about the good ol’ days of youthful, skinny, ignorant, love-is-blind bliss. Another fun feature of my marriage to Ryan is the fact that we are just about 100% polar opposites. No, really, I mean it. Our core values are the same, and we generally like to do some of the same things, but personality-wise, I am California and he is Madagascar – totally opposite sides of the world from each other. Yes, I just googled that.  Duh, my geography stinks!
My idea of a fun night = having 8-10 people over to the house (or better yet, someone else’s house so I don’t have to clean! Can I get an Amen!?) and eating, hanging out, and playing silly board games
Ryan’s idea of a fun night = Me and him. (Perhaps the kiddos too) Alone. At home. Doing nothing. Just hanging out. (Did I mention we are alone, like with no other people there but us? Ok, just checking.)
My idea of a clean house = nothing is growing in the bathtubs, the floors don’t stick to your socks, dishes are clean, and you can walk clearly all over the carpet areas without stepping on a Lego or Little People
Ryan’s idea of a clean house = you can eat off the floor, all and I repeat ALL surfaces are clutter-free, all miscellaneous items are in their correct place, and let’s be honest, the pantry is alphabetized
My idea of a healthy lunch = ham and cheese sandwich and chips
Ryan’s idea of a healthy lunch = package of tuna, organic apple, scoop of natural peanut butter, raw carrots grown from his own garden, and tree bark (sorry, I had to include that last one!)
So, as you can see…these differences, over the last ten years of marriage, while funny, have caused us to have, how shall I say, a “discussion” or two thousand. Here’s the problem. I generally need to be right. And he generally is right. Those two don’t mesh well ever sometimes. By the grace of God we are still married and are working very hard in building the type of marriage we always dreamed of. For the record, God’s doing the building, we are just hanging on for dear life.
I have explained all of this to you, dear friend, so that you can have a background as to what just happened the other night. It all started when my dear sweet husband decided to go by Sprouts on his way home. Danger, danger Will Robinson! This usually doesn’t work out well for me. Especially when it is the first of the month and our grocery envelope has just been re-filled with cash. If we had no budget, Ryan would have a field day in Sprouts. Better yet, he would practically live at Central Market. We can’t go there during this current phase in our lives because that store and its 23 different types of organic apples simply taunt him. Therefore, we stay away. Far, far, away.
So, Ryan came home with a few more bags items than I expected. Quick, somebody run for the door! Abort! Abort! And then he said the dreaded words: “Hey babe, I made you a shake.” This is the point where a smart woman would sprint in the other direction. But, I can’t remember the last time I sprinted, so sit still I did. Then, my darling husband brought over to me a cup o’ somethin’. I kid you not that there was something floating on top. Like a chunk of something. Seriously. A chunk. Oh my goodness I can hardly type about it!
As I tried to avoid doing my Mommy-is-totally-faking-it face, I said to my children “Oh look, this is going to be so good for our bodies and help us all grow big and strong and healthy.” At that very moment I was trying to predict how many sips I would force upon give my three kids so that, Oh darn, there was none left for Mommy. Didn’t work. Friend, I have a question. Why is it that when I have a chocolate milkshake, there is never any left for Mommy? Ever. Huh? Huh? Anyone? Bueller?
I kicked and screamed put my big girl britches on and took a itty bitty, teeny tiny sip of the shake. It took everything in me to do that. For real. After recovering from the gag reflex, I stupidly asked my man, “What’s in this thing, baby?”
He proceeded to list off the following items that no sane person has ever grouped together. Ever.
Grapes, carrots, apple juice, orange juice, milk, buttermilk, and (brace yourself) quite a bit of kale. (by the way…kale: A hardy cabbage of a variety that produces erect stems with large leaves and no compact head) And yep, I had to google that one too.
I promise he loves me, please don’t report him to the authorities. Ignore that, report the man for healthiness abuse. Oh wait, I made that up. Darn.
He basically included everything but the kitchen sink. Trust me, if it had any nutritional value, he’d have figured out a way. So, when the list was finished, I couldn’t help but say “Baby, this tastes awful, why in the world would I drink this!?”
He looked at me square in the eye and said “It isn’t supposed to taste good, it is purely for nutritional purposes.”
And just as He always does, God lovingly hit me over the head with His Truth.
Over the past few years I have experienced more medical drama than most thirty-year-olds ever face in their entire lives. I have been in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. And my poor mailbox is so tired of receiving statements from Blue Cross Blue Shield, it just flat stopped opening. As I have gone through all of this, I have diligently tried to keep my head on straight. Reminding myself that God is good and He knows best. But, friend, I’m being honest when I say there were days ok, weeks where I was D-O-N-E, done with it all. I was fairly sure that ANY of my various plans for my life would be better than whatever plan God seemed to be allowing.
This reminds me all too much of the dear ol’ Israelites on their dirt-road trip away from Egypt. I am smack dab in the middle of an amazing Bible study by Priscilla Shirer called “One in a Million” – seriously, go buy it. It is powerful.
I have been studying all about the Israelites and, among other things, their continued lack of trust in what God was doing. But, God knew them. And, friend, He knows you and I as well.
Exodus 13:17-18 “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.”
God knew them better than they knew themselves. He knew that it didn’t matter that He just performed multiple miraculous signs in their plain sight. He knew that if they started walking away from that Red Sea dry land and saw the Philistine country, they would tuck their tails and run back to that shoreline and jump in head first trying to swim back to slavery in Egypt.
Man, I swear my maiden name should have been Israelite.
Can you relate, friend? Have you been through a time in your life that you were darn near positive you would NOT choose for yourself? Do you find yourself looking around at this life and wondering “Why, God? Why?”
Well then, welcome to the club. We should totally get tshirts.

Can I offer some practical advice for you and for me? Read Exodus. I know it sounds about as exciting as The Weather Channel, but trust me; it is a powerful book of the Bible. You will see how God provided for the Israelites time and time and time again. You will read of His power. You will respect His holiness. You will learn the perfect, loving, and trustworthy character of our God. And friend, you will be changed.
My feet are so stinkin’ tired of walking around this desert. I mean it. I’m ready for some lush Saint-Augustine-grass-kind-of-barefoot walking, if you know what I mean. But, friend, please hear me – I TRUST GOD. I haven’t always wanted to. I don’t always “feel” like I do. But, I wake up each morning and purposely focus my thoughts on the FACT that He can be trusted.
Through financial ruin.
Through hopeless relationships.
Through complacent Christian living.
Through singleness you didn’t choose.
Through depression.
Through layoffs and demotions.
Through an empty nest that feels much emptier than you ever imagined.
Through medical drama you seriously.did.not.ask. for.
Through all of it.
He can be trusted.
Period.
This time in your life may very well not be intended to “taste” good. It may be solely for nutritional purposes only. You may need nutrients only God and His Word can provide. Oh how I pray that you don’t try to fill up on the junk food this world tries to offer you. It’s just that; junk.
Let’s do this together, shall we? Let’s put our big girl (or boy!) britches on and drink this all gone. Let’s trust God and His will for our lives. You game? Well then grab a cup and tip that thing back. We can do this! If you need to hold your nose, that is totally ok with me! J

The Girl Who Cried Poopy

Do you have childhood memories of your parents giving you “friendly reminders” of how you should behave?  I sure do. Some of them were biblical – “Adam and Eve thought they could hide from God, but they couldn’t, and neither can you. He knows everything.” Some of them were not biblical – “Don’t you forget about the boy who cried wolf, he lied so much that people just stopped believing him!” Well, I have spent my fair share of time trying to hide things from God and crying out to people over and over for un-needed attention. And now, years later, I am, as my Dad says it, absolutely getting “paying for your raisin”, that’s for sure.
This summer we decided to potty train our lovely baby girl. “We” I didn’t give my man a choice decided this would be a good time because my darling husband would be off from work and I would have some help. Let’s put it this way: we knew this particular child wouldn’t be, how shall I say, easy to train. To do anything.
As we had with our two previous children, we talked it up big time before it was go-time. “Oh no, you’re not a big girl yet, but next week, you get to wear big girl panties!” “Only babies go in the potty” “Potty training is going to be so much fun, you’ll get stickers and M&M’s – it’s going to be great!”
You know how they say you should never lie to your children (or anyone, really)? Obey that one. It pretty much always backfires. That darling husband of mine, that I mentioned earlier, was now reminding me daily more like hourly of how my daughter reminded him so much of me. Gee thanks, babe. Apparently, it is true that out of our three children, it is amazing that they inherited every single negative trait from their mother, and not a single one from dear ol’ Dad. Team Holzberger has defied genetics. Remarkable.
Anyway, Miss Abigail was all excited about this new adventure, mainly due to the mention of “N&M’s” (as she calls them) and stickers. Isn’t it amazing what we can get our kids to do with a sheet of stickers from the dollar store? That is, for a day or two. After two weeks of talking up “potty train-ing and only two days of actually doing it, Ms. Independent informed us that “I all done ride the potty train, Mama.”
Ya girl, Mama’s all done too. I vaguely remember only because I’ve tried to block these months out completely debating with myself how important this whole potty training thing really is. I mean, let’s be honest, you don’t see too many eight-year-olds out there in diapers. At some point, she would become socially embarrassed and figure it out for herself, right? Sounded like a plan to me.
I regained my brainpower and we pushed on towards the goal. No. More. Diapers. But I’ll be darned if those diapers didn’t hold in the nastiness for us. What ignorant bliss we lived in during the diaper time. I think it is similar to childbirth – if women truly remembered how painful it was, each family would only have one kid. The same is true with potty training, somehow you are able to forget the seven thousand trips to the potty each day…the smell of fresh pee in the carpet and the uncertainty of where it is…the loads and loads of laundry that is done in such a short amount of time because you refuse to spend fifty bucks buying the kid thirty pairs of panties.  Somehow you block it all out. That is, until it is time to ride the potty train again.
The worst part of this precious baby girl’s potty training experience was that she turned into an attention addict. I have absolutely no idea where she gets that from. She quickly figured this whole deal out. Hmmm…if I say “I gotta go poopy!”, every grown up in the room immediately stops what they’re doing, jumps up, and rushes me away from what I’m doing. That’s right, it didn’t take long. Anytime she would be close to getting in trouble, I’d be walking toward her to spank her hiney discipline her and she’d cry out, “I gotta go poopy!” If there was something on her plate at dinner that she didn’t care to eat, she’d eat all the rest and then amazingly she’d say,“I gotta go poopy!” If we were at a store and she was tired of being in the cart, despite the fact that it was F-U-L-L of perishables…that’s right, “I gotta go poopy!” at the end of every stinkin’ aisle.  I kid you not, we probably jumped up and rushed her in there forty times a day – at least! All for nothing. She flat out wouldn’t go.  Oh no, she would always wait until we had gotten about six feet away from the bathroom before just pooping in her panties. “Mama, I poop on Dora” she’d tell us.  She absolutely knew what she was doing. She just wanted the attention.  The girl is smart, I’ll give her that. But, what she hasn’t yet figured out during her brief two-and-a-half years on planet earth, is that her Mama invented stubborn. She wasn’t winning this one.
After a day or two, Ryan and I had some time to reconvene and discuss our new plan of attack. There was no going back, we had to make this thing work. Both of our boys were fully potty trained, even at bedtime, within 2 weeks. Oh man I love those boys for that – I think I’ll go buy them a toy. But not sister friend. We were pretty convinced that she was perfectly content to “poop on Dora” until she was in middle school. Our strategy had to change. And it did. No more stickers for pee-pee, she had that down. If she did have an accident, she didn’t get to pick out her next pair of panties. I swear half the time she just felt like a wardrobe change. She’d be barely done pooping and shed smile and say “I want Princess panties now, Mama!” And most importantly, if she said she had to go, she went – and stayed forever, whether it meant missing dessert, or a TV show, or finishing a game. We had to make sure she knew how important it was to “say what she means and mean what she says”. Now, before you report us to CPS, please know how bright this little girl is. She has two big brothers who adore her, she talks like a four-year-old, and can flat out manipulate just about anyone with her charm. This had to stop.
And it did. Within a couple days of us really cracking down on her, she stopped “crying wolf” on us and started really telling us when she had to go. Don’t worry – there were still accidents, and we were fine with that. She is only two-and-a-half, after all. But she was actually being honest and not manipulating the situation every stinkin’ chance she got. It was great! She was proud of herself. We praised her like crazy. And, I got to retract my thoughts of dipping into her college fund to buy stock in Spray n’ Wash. All was well.
But, in the midst of it…when I and when I say “I”, I mean Ryan was cleaning out bath tubs of poop, it wasn’t fun. Not one bit. I remember telling a friend, “I know she’s only two, but why can’t she just say something and mean it! We’re her parents for goodness sake!” This wise friend said “Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t always say what I mean and I’m a grown up.”
Dangit.
She had me. Immediately I knew what God was telling me through all of this. And it stung to even think about it.
How many times have I cried out to Him, “God, if you will please just make me well, or get Ryan this new job, or keep us safe, or fill-in-the-stinkin’-blank…then, Lord, then I will follow you wholeheartedly.” Or maybe when things are tough, I cry out “Lord, I promise I’ll change, I promise!” But, do I? Do you?
I cannot count the number of times I have cried out to God from this stinkin’ couch. Honestly, modern mathematics cannot display a number that high. I’ve begged God. I’ve bargained with God. I’ve tried so hard to please God. I’ve vented anger at God. I’ve ignored God. That’s right, friend, God and I have been through a lot on this piece of furniture. But, still, He is with me. He doesn’t give up on me and He will not give up on you.
We all have a warped sense of who God really is. All of us. I’m pretty sure that even Billy Graham, or Beth Moore, or your own pastor will admit to the fact they can’t fully understand God. He is perfect and we haven’t ever seen anything close to that in our lives. We all come with baggage. Some of our baggage might be designer and others of us may have hand-me-downs, it doesn’t matter. It all affects how we see our God.
For me, I tend to think that I haven’t done something right. When this most recent spinal fluid leak happened, it was very easy for me to slip into the thinking that I hadn’t “appreciated” the health that I had this summer enough. I hadn’t served God enough with my time. I hadn’t been thankful and humble enough. And you know what, it’s probably  true. I am grateful for the amazing gift of perspective God has given me through all of this, but I would be lying if I said that once I was feeling better, that I didn’t rely much more on myself than on God, like I had from the couch.
I’ve had way beyond a freakish amount of a lot of time to think about this. And I have come to this conclusion: I think God cares more about our hearts that our actions. What I mean is…if I “cry wolf” a hundred times, I know He’ll be there for me and never leave me, but I think He cares more about why I’m crying to Him in the first place. For me, is it just that I want to be well? Once that happens, I won’t need Him anymore? For you it may be something else? Maybe you just want to get married…or have a better job…or lose weight…or have a baby? I don’t know. But He does. He knows the desire of your heart and He knows your motive of crying out to Him.
It boils down to the answer that the very wise Kay Arthur said when confronted with a difficult question of God’s sovereignty. She was asked how do you handle the extremely tough situations like a mother burying her child? How can that God be a good God? What she said was both simple and profound. “You either trust God, or you don’t.” Period.
So true.
I either trust Him or I don’t. Whether I get well or get worse. Whether you get a job or food stamps. Whether you get married or get left at the altar. You either trust God or you don’t.
I heard it said once that “God wants for you what you would want for you if you knew what He knows.” Please take a minute and read that again, friend. It is profound.  He knows the end from the beginning. He knows the names of your great-grandparents and your great-great grandchildren. He can be trusted.
But please hear me when I say this: that doesn’t make this thing easy. Trust me, it aint. In fact, sometimes it is pretty unbearably hard. I often feel like the world is passing me and my couch by. It is going around in circles just fine without me, thank you very much. Not true. I am still breathing in and out, friend and if you are reading this, I assume you are to. God is not done with us yet.
So, when you cry out to Him, mean it. Have the right heart about it. And if you don’t have the right heart about it, then pray for it. He is faithful to answer the prayers of his kids. Trust Him.
Now I want to leave you with some TRUTH to soak on. I have commented on what these verses mean to me. So many of them are crucial to trusting Him. Get to know His character and you will get to know His heart. It can only do you and me some good. Some wonderful, amazing, blessing kind-of-good. Not sure about you, but I could use a healthy dose of that, friend.
Ps. My daughter is amazing, by the way. Independent? Yes. Stubborn? Yes. Strong-willed? Yes and yes again. But, I thank God in advance for the numerous counts of joy she has already brought and will continue to bring us in years to come. I also thank Him for the even more numerous days we will fall to our knees talking to our God about her. Pray for us now. She will be a teenager in 10 ½ short years!! J And I am happy to announce that, for the first time in seven years, the Holzberger house is a diaper-free-zone, friend. Wahoo! The potty train ain’t stopping here no more. Thank you Lord!
Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
Whether we “feel” that or not, Scripture says it is true, so we believe it. He is not a mean-spirited God eagerly waiting to strike you down when you screw up. He is righteous (right, just, correct, lawful) and kind (faithful, godly, holy one). He is near to you. Please friend, call upon Him.
Psalm 145:8-9 “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all, He has compassion on all he has made.”
Ok, so far we have been told that our God is gracious. He’s full of compassion. He’s slow to anger. He’s of great mercy. He’s good to all. His tender mercies are over all of His works. And, He is righteous in all He does. I don’t know about you, friend, but that sounds like a pretty amazing God. One who is worthy of our praise and honor, whether things are going the way we would like for them or not.
(Basically you could read all of Psalm 145 for some great insight as to how wonderful our God is and how we should, in return, continually praise His Name.)
Deut. 32:4 “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
This foundation, our God, is the only foundation worth standing upon. All others will crumble. Including our flawed view of God, that will crumble too. What will stand is Him and Him alone. He is the Rock, the perfect place to put my trust.
Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you.”
This was a fascinating verse to study! I am ill-equipped to translate it all to you, but I will tell you this: Jeremiah was in a very difficult state of being here. He had prophesied something to the King of Judah that upset him and so he threw him in jail. Even there, God spoke to him about all that would happen regarding the attack that was imminent from the Babylonians. This was the real deal here. Jeremiah began this prayer to God in verse 17 that exalted who God was. It most assuredly reminded Jeremiah of who exactly was in control here: the God that never, not once, ever faced anything at all too difficult for Him. Like Jeremiah, may we be reminded of the sheer awesome power of our God. No matter what we face, it is NEVER too difficult for Him.
And this one is just perfect to end with:
Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him, who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!”
Oh friend, this is a good one. Please indulge me while I share a couple more translations of a portion of this verse. I often get a kick out of seeing what other adjectives and word choices these brilliant scholars decided upon when making these different translations.
Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV) “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…”
Ephesians 3:20 (NASB) “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…”
Ephesians 3:20 (AMP) “Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—
And although I believe The Message Bible to be more of a commentary that actual Biblically accurate Scripture, I often love how it words things for me.
Ephesians 3:20 (MSG) “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
Do you get it friend? He is able. He is more than able. And His desire is to bless us. But, be aware, that in his perfection, His righteousness, His sovereignty, His will – He knows what would bless us most. That is often hard for controlling, prideful people like myself to accept. But, it is a pill I’m wanting to swallow.
Believe in His goodness. Believe in his desire to want good for you. Far more than we can even dare to dream about. His desires for us are beyond that. For all my girls out there, I want to share a story that the wise Priscilla Shirer shared about how God wants to go above and beyond. This hit home to me and I hope it will for you too. She described a sweet friend of hers who was married to a wonderful man. And while wonderful, he wasn’t much of a romantic. He often forgot important dates, rarely brought flowers, and pretty much never planned romantic events for the two of them. So, as her birthday approached, she didn’t hold much hope of him going above and beyond. She honestly would have been happy if he just remembered. When she got home, she went into their bedroom and as she entered, she was shocked! Her footsteps were lined with rose petals and there was a card on her bed. Whoa. Do you see how he had already gone way beyond her expectations? Then, she opened the card and instead of him just signing his name, like usual, she read all about his love for her and how much she meant to him. My goodness, now he had absolutely gone way beyond her way beyond. And then it directed her to find a gift for her. A gift? She must be dreaming!? She went to open the gift and inside the beautifully wrapped box was…an umbrella. An umbrella!?! Ok, now this was much more like the practical man she married. But, then she opened the note taped to the umbrella and read “Thought you might need this. I hear it rains a lot in Paris.”
This, friend, is how God desires to go way beyond our way beyond. This woman just wanted her man to remember her birthday. But, she a card, roses, a love note, and a trip to Paris! That is just a glimpse of how beyond God wants to go.
So, please walk this road with me. I am talking to myself every bit as much as I am talking to you. Do not cry wolf anymore to our great God. Say what you mean to Him and mean what you say. Cry out to him with a pure heart, in praise and thankfulness and humility. He is there for you and for me.

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