Christmas Past

Its a very first world problem, but Christmas makes me extra sensitive to what I've been going through all year. You know kind of like God should miraculously make up for all the trials I endured by dropping off a large sack of gifts. Oh wait that's Santa. But I still tend to feel that way, rational or no. I was reminded by Facebook a couple of days ago about a Christmas our family went through a few years ago and I had somehow forgotten. Other than last year's holiday, this one was definitely a tough one.

It was December 2009. We had just planted a church and had a baby. Our family car, the only one that could fit all eight of us, had broken down and we couldn't afford the repairs. All of our family was out of town for the holidays and we didn't have any money for gifts. Nada dinero. My in laws had blessed us with a trip to the beach for Christmas so we packed up the borrowed church van and filled it up with the kids and their stuff and the food we bought with my husband's bonus from work. I prayed in a pitiful way that God would provide some means for me to buy just a few gifts for my babies and set my mind and heart to looking for ways that God had blessed us throughout the year.

We ended up receiving a $75 gift card for the mall in Myrtle Beach that somehow miraculously stretched into enough gifts for 6 kids and filled stockings. We made our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, walked on the beach, and just enjoyed one another's company. Our apartment was located on the 12th floor and unit 25, room 1225. God's gift to us, this simple Christmas. One where He showed us that it wasn't about the stuff. One where He taught this momma that He cared about her desires for her children.


A Year

It is amazing the difference one year can make. Things are always going wrong and going right and surprising us and boring us to tears. But, there are those times where its as if the clouds part and the sun shines through and the spotlight is centered on my heart and it all blurs. I become oh so reminiscent and gloppy. Last year this Christmas was one of the hardest and loneliest we've ever had. We had won some fights and lost a few and all just felt so raw and exposed. Even the little ones felt it and none of the family was in town so it was unsettlingly quiet and even though we pushed through the old family traditions we just felt hollow.

This year has been a rough one and we've grown a lot and moved forward but this Christmas its gonna be different. My house is gonna be full of loud, full of running kids and laughing grandparents and mommies just trying to keep track of everybody's shoes and socks. Its gonna be crazy and messy and so wonderfully the opposite of last year's solemnity.

Christmas is one of those parts of the year where the regular motions of life make a side step and we intentionally glance around and look closer at what we hold right here in our two hands. Mountain tops or valley lows we are in this together and it feels like family.


A Rare Vintage

A good marriage is a lot of work. When I was first married, I had my list of things I wanted my marriage to look like, things I wasn't ever going to do, and things I wanted to make sure and invest in. The crazy thing is that I thought that if I did this and that and this, that somehow things would be smooth sailing, cuz, hey we were in Love. For the most part, I knew that it was going to be work, but work that I was going to enjoy doing. You know like that chore that you just love and its not really a hardship. I never knew that at times it was going to be more like chopping onions. No matter what tricks you try out, there's still gonna be some tears.

The result that I'm looking at today still blows my mind. I love this man more than I ever thought was possible. There have been some major detours on the way. There have been buckets of tears. There have been angry nights with our backs to each other. But the cool thing is that we have shaped each other. We have bumped up against one another enough times to have rubbed off a little bit. We are not who we were, forever contaminated by living and loving all these years.

So many people stop working when they encounter resistance. Instead of pushing harder, they give up. You can't go through life quitting and expect to have anything of value to show for your years of work. Hard work isn't bad work, its something to be proud of.


Take it Easy...

Knowing that I'm not the only one, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the things that really matter. You know, like how many presents I put under the tree, how immaculately decorated my house is for Christmas, how many new cookie recipes I can try.

Between Pinterest and all the decorating, cooking, parenting, good wife advice, etc. blogs out there I get lost. There is always something out there that can leave me feeling like I haven't done enough. Make your own laundry detergent and give your family a natural way to clean clothes while saving money on the budget. Bake cookies for my children's lunches. Sew my own curtains. Raise chickens. Create memories with my children through awesome read aloud times. The list is endless.

All this fitting in to my 24 hours. I have a full time job outside of my home. I have six children, two are in college which is actually more work than I thought it would be, two are teenage girls, I don't even have to explain what work is entailed in that, and two are under 10 years old. Between reminding people to brush their teeth and hair and making sure homework is done, I feel like there are few times I'm not ordering people around. Its like being the captain of a ship in a storm, "You there, look lively and batten down those hatches! You, strike the mainsail!" And then it all ends with a story, and a prayer, and a kiss good night as we all separate for a good nights sleep to get up and do it all over again.

I lay in bed many a night thinking about all the things we're not doing and I'm gonna go ahead and blame it on what I let influence me. The requirements of a mommy are enough without adding in structured play time and a reading list for the next 12 years of development. Its a battle to not feel guilty.

So, I'm trying hard to let things go. Relax. Breathe. Take a step back and think, is this really important? Would anybody notice if I didn't do it that way? Instead of gulping up life and running off to the next event, I'm gonna take my time and chew for a minute, savoring the day that has been gifted to me.



I'm not a stranger to grief, or the unhappy surprises that life brings. But what I truly am struck by is the way that I approach it. Something happens, sickness, an accident, a death, a betrayal, and while I'm raw and torn apart on the inside, the rest of me keeps up with the motions of life. I don't run off crying or gasping for breath. Instead I find myself riding out the shock that swells up like waves and threatens to knock me off my feet. I keep going. The casual observer, aka anyone other than my mom, would think I was just fine and yet, no.

This Monday, my littlest girl was on her way to visit the Battleship North Carolina on a field trip with her class when the van she was traveling in hydroplaned and they ended up in a ditch. None of the children were hurt seriously, and they were calmed by kind people stopping and covering them with blankets and coats and umbrellas before being whisked off to the emergency room in a nearby hospital.

My baby was fine. A bump on the head and a sore back, that's all...

And when I got word of the accident, I didn't freak, I didn't scream or gasp or run to my car to rescue her. I absorbed. I went numb and my heart did somersaults and I pictured my sweet girl scared and yet miraculously unharmed. When I was finally able to make it to see her, the tears broke through and my relief poured out as I held my girl in my arms and saw her with my own eyes and heard her laugh full of childish joy. My mind struggles to not stray into thoughts of what could have happened and truly embrace the miracle that is right now.

So while I hate the way my "self" responds to these traumas and bumps on the road, I must acknowledge that there is a peace that passes all understanding that my spirit is tapping into. And at the same time respecting the fragility of the lives that meander past me all day. The monotony of everyday life that when threatened becomes so much sweeter.




Absolutely nothing was going right...

The kids were fighting in a silent, sullen, obnoxious kind of way. It was warm outside and we were trying to pick out a Christmas tree. Flip flops and shorts were the attire of choice. But here we were traipsing through the forest of trees, carrying this fog of dissatisfaction and regret around with us like a sweatshirt tied around our waists. My babies, some still lost in the moment oblivious to the strife and others making the most of it because that's their nature. And then there's me and dad. We know what's going on and we're so sad and angry and disappointed all at the same time. But we agreed on a beautiful evergreen and brought it home and made it our own. It stands proudly covered with memories of all the Christmases before.

Sometimes I get weary in building toward this goal, this vision we have had for all these many moons since we fell in love and started a family. Sometimes I wish life wasn't so stinking hard most of the time. I wish that the amount of effort we've put into this thing would show up every once in awhile. And it spreads out beyond my house, to my job and my church and my life in general.

This flip flops and shorts in winter just seems trying to me. It feels out of sorts and a lot like my heart right now. I'm oh so tired of the complaints, the disappointed people, myself included,  and I'm searching for the center of "what really matters." Christmas trees and complainers aside, what remains? There's no gimmick, no trick to this. Its heart centered and its important.

When everything seems topsy turvy and the waves are crashing overhead and I'm not even sure what I'm doing right now is gonna matter in eternity I have to cling to Him. He sets things right and gives me a center and a focus and a place to set my gaze to walk the rest of this craziness out.


Parenting Debrief

Raising kids is tough work. Nobody has ever told me anything different. I love it and I hate it. It makes me crazy and it brings me life.

But right now, the man and I are in this crazy in between where we have a couple of adults, still depending on us. Fledglings, if you will, in this world. Then there are a couple of teenaged girls right at their heels, God help us. And finally, we have two tiny people who we are learning more and more about how we still don't know all there is to know about this whole parenting thing.

The older ones are at that place where they want to "help" us to be better parents. You know, giving us advice and constructive criticism. I cannot lie, it hurts. I remember doing the same thing to my own momma and if you're reading this mom, hear me, "I'm sorry." They only mean well as they reflect back on their own childhoods and through the lens of their own perception, point out what has produced the person they are now. The crazy thing that I didn't realize when I was sitting in their place, and what they don't even glimpse now is this: I'm still growing too. Until I die, I plan on growing and maturing and trying new things. There were even nights when I couldn't sleep and they were sleeping on the couch or at a friend's house and I would go and lay in each of their beds and pray that God would show me what it was like to be a kid in "my" house. That He would help me to be the kind of momma that they needed.

I realize that as parents we have an enormous responsibility to help to mold these individuals that God has placed in our care. I'm having to learn to give myself a break. Pray and work is an awesome motto when it comes to raising babies up. There will always be critics, there will also be kudos.

At the end, its not gonna really matter if we made it to Disney World, or made from scratch every one of their birthday cakes, or regulated their screen time properly. If they fear God and seek to do His Will, that's all this mom could possibly ask for.


Great - ful

When I was a little girl we always had a huge Thanksgiving Day feast at my grandparent's house. There are a few years tucked in here and there in my memory when I celebrated at my dad's house or what have you but basically, every year has melded into one huge memory of turkey dinner with Papa Ivan and Grandma Johnnie. The cousins would be there and everybody would crowd around the table and my mom would try to snap a picture of Papa bent down pulling the humongous turkey out of the oven. I'm not kidding, and I'm sure your family has some quirky family traditions too...This same woman would try to get us all to share something we were thankful for.

I remember there was this moment when as I was looking around at all of us stuffing our faces and laughing and creating crazy memories and it hit me like a load of bricks, "Its not always gonna be this way."

And its true, oh so true. The cousins and me, we grew up and had kids and stuff. Parents got older and grandparents go on. Just this past year, we lost a dear cousin and uncle. Things change.

Here in my own house its happening. I sit around with my babies and think, "Its not always gonna be this way." They are all growing up way too fast and meeting new people to bring home to my table and I've become the old parent. Josh and I became the "responsible" ones somehow. He cooks the turkey and I never try to snap a picture of him taking it out of the oven. Sometimes we fight at the table and act all ungrateful and junk. Feelings get hurt and mean things are said. But at the same time, we're making memories here. We are filling bellies and hearts and loving real life people.

So just for my momma, who would ask me if she were here to celebrate with me today, I'm so thankful for this life I've been given. The crazy people God picked to put around me, the road I get to walk. Because even on the worst days, it is still so Great.


Listen, Mom

Child of mine, do you realize that I've been listening since I knew of your existence?

I knew you were there by the sheer fact of what you took from me, my very blood which you stock piled for yourself. With every heave of nausea. Lying in bed with daddy asleep while your jellyfish flutters let me know you were still there. When you grew hands and feet and pummeled my insides like you were training for a title match. You stretched me and grew me and pushed me to limits I didn't know existed. Then when you were done with me you broke out and rushed into this world squalling and bloody and needy.

Demanding, so demanding. And forcing me to listen...

Sleepless nights, listening when you cried, listening when you breathed. Listening as you grew and learned to tell me, "No," and "Momma," and "Love you."

Do you know I could pick your cry out from all of the other babies? Your laugh, your hiccup, all unique to you and recognizable to me as your own.

Then school and friends and more listening. And one day you bought into the lie that is crammed down your throat by tv and books and music and peers, that this is how it has to be. This not understanding and not listening to you. You believe them when they say that we can't possibly get along. You wait for that moment when the music gets sappy and we sit on the couch and talk it all out and you get your way.

You don't realize that I've been where you are. That you're more like me than either of us wants to admit. That I'm not trying to get you to see things my way, but His Way. That I haven't stopped living and making mistakes and learning.

And I'm still listening.


Who's the Head Honcho Around Here?

Last night, I was blessedly able to use a gift certificate for a Swedish massage that had been in my possession for almost a year. You know things are hectic in your life when somebody gives you a free massage and you can't make the time to use it...

Anyways, there I was wrapped up in a luxurious robe sipping on cucumber infused water and staring absently into a faux fireplace, with my stomach in knots. I think I may be the only person in this great grand world who gets nervous going to the spa. I'm really such a dork and I know that my appearance is screaming, "She doesn't belong here!" and I run to the bathroom like three times before my session because I'm mortified that I'll have to pee during my massage.

But again, I digress. So here I am with the low lights, the ambient music, the aromatherapy going on and oh so trying to relax. I felt victorious when I caught myself falling asleep, yay! Then at the very end of the sixty minute session, the therapist went to work on my neck.

This professional lifted up my head in her hands and said oh so sweetly, "Now, Ms. Goodman, I really need you to relax..."

But I thought I was and I promise I'm not fighting it, I really want to....

"Take some deep, slow breaths."
"Do you grind your teeth at night?"
"Do you clench your jaw?"
"Are you stressed Ms. Goodman?"

There you have it, hit the nail right on the head. I just returned from a three week cross country trip with my family. Why should I be stressed? I was on vacation! Yet, somewhere on the trip my aunt took me aside and began telling me how she and my late uncle talked about me before he died and how proud they both have been of me and so many beautiful, wonderful, personal things and inside I just broke to pieces.

I forget or maybe just get used to how much I take on myself, and how much is expected of me or perceived to be expected of me and I just put it into gear. After some time that takes its toll on a person and you just have to take a step back and hear what somebody else has to say about the situation. Like my aunt telling me how steadfast I am, and my momma telling me how much she misses me across the miles, and my dad hating to see me leave, the guest speaker saying that I carry a heavy burden, even the massage therapist telling me that I'm stressed and she can literally feel it with her two hands.

When I was a little girl and I would get upset about stuff, my Grandpa would always ask me, "Hey, who's the head honcho around here?" The answer was always the same for me, "You are, Papa!" That was always the reminder I needed to get things back in sight.

Today, I hear my Heavenly Father calling out to me with the same question. The answer remains the same...and once more the realization brings peace.


Your Momma's Music

I've found myself over the past couple of weeks thinking about my mom a lot. Sometimes its when I'm kissing my babies and hugging on them and remembering how very much I loved all of my mom's hugs even when I didn't act like it.

Something I have especially been remembering lately is the music in our house. She would wake us up with a song.
"Good morning to you, good morning to you, we're all in our places, with sunshiney faces, now this is the way to start a new day!"
I've never been a morning person, but that song still rings in my head with all the inflections of her voice. When we were sad there was,
"Jesus takes a frown and He turns is upside down and whoops here comes a smile!" 
She would clean the house with the Imperials and Carmen and Amy Grant and more than pine sol and Comet would permeate our home. Ron Kenoli on the the way to church and Smokey Robinson or Lionel Richie on a rainy day. My grandma has it too, this gift. I can still hear her standing at the sink singing Jesus, Name Above All Names.

Music is so very powerful! You don't have to have an amazing voice to create an atmosphere of love and hope and joy in your home. Memories are held in song, stories are passed down from generation to generation. My momma taught that to me maybe without her even knowing it.



Every year as the new one is ushered in, I ask the Lord for a "word" for my year....for 2015 I was given the word, "determination." I took that one and ran with it. Working out, losing weight, eating right, prayer life, worship, community involvement, the whole gambit has come under some tightening up. In my personal life, as a result of this determination to do things differently and well, I have seen a lot of change already.

As I shared in my last post, Joshua always issues a challenge for the new year. This year he actually divided his challenge into 4 quarters, which is a new thing for me. When the quarter switched the challenge adjusted slightly and so did my "word" from God. Part of our challenge was to read a Christian book and I had picked up the book, Fringe Hours. It is an amazing read, by the way. Anyways, within its pages I found the challenge to look for deliberate moments with God. "Oh that's cool..." I thought to myself and shelved it for later thought. However, God began whispering it to me every chance I would give Him and I soon realized that determination had morphed into deliberation.

You see, in all of my other relationships, its not enough to just catch stolen moments with someone. A strong relationship is not built haphazardly. I have to deliberately walk up to my kids and put my arms around them. I set time aside to help with homework and talk over dishes and snuggle on the couch while watching a movie or reading a book together. It is not cool to be catching up on my Facebook while my kiddo is relaying the news of their day. Why do I think that my relationship with God could be any different? Sure, its cool to pray while driving to work, or folding clothes, but what about getting up early to talk to Him, just me and God?

To do this I must be deliberate. I have to set my mind to it, with Determination, and Deliberately spend time in His presence. The cool thing is that I can only be improved by doing so. I stand to lose absolutely nothing.

Deliberate spills over to everything else in my life as well. I must deliberately seek to help others, not wait to stumble across an opportunity. Deliberately choose to be a loving and understanding mommy, wife, sister, friend. No more happenstance, no more wait to see what someone else does about the situation. Step in, step up, make the effort to be the instigator in my own life.


Love Notes

So, my pastor husband really loves challenges. He loves to issue them and he loves to rise up to meet them too. It has always been in his blood to push further and harder and do more, but one summer we went to a youth conference that literally changed the scope of our lives and we came back to our little youth group here and issued our first challenge. He's been lifting up challenges to the people ever since.

This year, he presented the challenge to our congregation to Fight for Fifteen. He got the knack for the catchy yearly slogan from his very own pastor daddy and I absolutely love it. Part of the push is to pray for 30 minutes, exercise for 30 minutes, read through our Bibles, 1 up in our activity within the church, and more that I can't remember right now, but its good stuff... The point is to reach out, stretch, move, in every part of ourselves, spirit, soul and body, culminating in advancing God's kingdom here on earth. We want to reach the lost, retrieve them from the enemy and see them gain a true and lasting relationship with our Savior.

Now I'm good with it all, determined to reach further and all, but the part that really challenges me honestly is the 1 up portion. I mean, I'm the pastor's wife...I can't move up another level of ministry. So as I was praying over it I felt the Lord leading me to spread out. Extend.

I made up my mind to increase my vision in panoramic detail. No more looking through the keyhole. I wanted to see the big picture. There is so much more to experience when you change your vantage point. In this exercise, I find myself looking for little ways to make people feel special and in doing so I am more sensitive to the power of the note. Little words with big impact. A hug, a smile, a note left on the desk to encourage someone in their day. It can be a text message or a Facebook comment. As I'm looking for opportunities I am experiencing more people returning the favor. Compliments are so underrated.

God gave us a whole Book chock full of notes expressing His love for us, you have only to look and there they are. God is a God of love, extreme, wild, ferocious love. His love for us never ends and there is nothing that we can do to stop it or hinder it in any way. He calls us to love others as He has loved us. What does your love look like?


Book Review: The Unveiled Wife by Jennifer Smith

In her book, The Unveiled Wife, Jennifer Smith has aimed a flashlight into the darker reaches of Christian marriage. By throwing back the covers on previously hidden topics, she provides an outlet for other women who may have been buying into the lie of, “I’m the only one….” She courageously reveals her own struggles with insecurity, sex and hidden sins in a valiant effort to help to free other women engaged in the same bondages.

I have been married for almost 20 years, and have a successful, though hard-fought marriage. Had I had this book even 5 years ago, my load would have been lighter. Reading through this book, I found myself time and time again in Jennifer’s shoes. As a young bride, I felt let down by both God and my husband and engaged in a battle I didn’t think I’d have to fight. Jennifer successfully navigated the troubling waters and found her anchor in God’s love for her and His ideas for her marriage and life.

I highly encourage all married women, newlyweds or “old married ladies” like me to read this book through in its entirety. It has age-old truths, time tested realities that all marriages can benefit from. You can pick up a copy of the book here.


Book Review: If God is Good by Randy Alcorn

When I first picked up this book in August, I honestly thought it would be the typical Christian paperback book, 150-200 pages. An easy read, despite the subtitle: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. Boy was I wrong.

First of all, the book weighs in at a hefty 500 pages and instead of being a taste test of ways of addressing suffering in our personal life, is a painstakingly detailed overview of everything from the reality of God to the reality of our own deaths complete with Scriptural back up and real life experiences.

This is not a book to be taken lightly. It delves in and takes no prisoners. There were times that I was encouraged in my own beliefs, times that I was challenged in them and times that it made me angry with the truths it contained. God used this book to change some things in my heart and the fact that it took me a long time to read was initiated by His hands. From the time I picked it up to the time I closed its covers in completion, my family went through many of the things that were detailed in the book. I had questions for God that I wanted answers for. Questions about His allowing things in my life and the lives of my loved ones. Questions about how He could possibly turn this tragedy around for the good. This book helped me weather through and there would have been no better time in my life to read it.

The author shares personal stories from his own life as well as those from others giving their lives in service to the Lord. These serve to encourage the reader in our own suffering and realizing that God uses it for His own glory.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Here's to the Nitpickers

You know who I'm talking about...

Those people who when you're dressed to the nines and lookin' sharp, will point out the scuff on your shoe that you got walking in the door. The person who will let you know that your slip is showing, there's something in your teeth or a booger in your nose. They are not afraid to call your attention to the fact that your form is slipping in sacrifice of efficiency of movement. They ask questions about your "well thought out plans." They remind you of your past attempts and not so successful ventures. They call your bluff, and name potholes in your theology for what they really are.

Admittedly, it feels good to be surrounded with people who compliment you and encourage you. We all hunger for approval. We enjoy hanging around with people who like us and esteem who we are and what we think we stand for. Momma's are really good at that. Nurturing us and loving on us even when we are ugly. You know the saying, "a face only a mama could love." We flourish in a loving environment, or so we think.

Let me point out that its healthy to have a few people in your life who not only notice your flaws and love you through them, but who are brave enough to call your attention to them as well. Don't scorn correction. Don't avoid people who call it as they see it in your life. That's food for growth. How will I know if you don't tell me? How can I change or make adjustments if everybody tells me I'm just fine the way I am?

Rise to the challenge, accept loving criticism, make the necessary adjustments, and drive on.



It might be this side of forty. It might be two kids in college and four more at home. It might be 20 years with the same man. It might be that for the first time in my life I received a letter of rejection. Or it might just be God....

I'm feeling a new wind blowing in my life and it feels refreshing, different, new. My life has always been one of determination, I like things to get done and done well. I like to stick with things. I hate having to stop and go another way. Right now though I feel this newness in a new determination. One that tells me that all that has gone before is past. Don't cling to the old accomplishments. There are bigger and better and more challenging things ahead, but somehow instead of being afraid, or cautious even, I'm pumped.

Last year was tough. The tail end of it was almost unbearable. My father in law and two close friends were in a terrible car accident and then in December we lost a very close and dearly loved family member unexpectedly. We hung on to God and each other and we made it through the storms. This year feels like a fight I'm ready to battle through and win.
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