Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pulling the Weeds

Tomorrow is Halloween. October has just flown by... Honestly, this year, Liam and I didn't even carve a pumpkin. We painted some, and we spent a day at the pumpkin patch, but Halloween definitely came on quicker than I was ready for. The day that Liam and I went to the patch, it was a rainy morning. I honestly thought that they may turn us away once we got there - and its a good 25 minute drive from our house. God had different plans. 
Upon arrival, the lady at the entrance informed me that due to so many schools having field trips there, they were not closing due to inclement weather. It was lightly sprinkling, but it was bearable. We had hats and sweatshirts. So, first thing, Liam wanted to ride the barrel train. He didn't remember it from last year, but that was his same response even then. He knows what he likes!
At his point, the rain started to pick up just a bit and I was worried we would be too wet and cold to stand it after long so I decided our next activity. We immediately went to the hay-ride and we were the only ones on it! The hay-ride dropped us off at the pumpkin patch, where pumpkins are still growing in wide rows. I snapped some photos of Liam investigating the pumpkins and the mud they were sitting in because of the sprinkling rain. As I watched Liam pull at the giant leaves, and ask me for scissors to cut the stumps of the pumpkins shorter, I found myself thankful that at this patch, pumpkins are there to be picked right off the ground, still connected, still rooted, and still growing.
In this season of life, I have to remind myself that God is growing me. He's preparing me for something big. I do not believe that God orchestrates bad things to happen to his children, but I do know that He uses all things for the good of those who love him. I love the Lord. I get unbelievably frustrated with him, but I love him. I'm learning to trust him even in my chaos, because he isn't a God of chaos, he's the God of order. He has vision. He has plans. He knows. I don't have to.
No more had we finished our pumpkin patch photo ops, the rain had started to pick up and the wind was brutal. I had my photographic proof of our trip, but I was sad that the whole day of fun activities may get passed over. Liam and I quickly got to the red barn so we could step inside for warmth and shelter from the rain. We ordered some hot chocolate and sat down. Once we sat down with our warm cups, a huge downpour started. It was loud on the tin roof of the barn and all the families huddled inside looked a bit discouraged. Our pumpkin patch trip was muddier, colder, and potentially over... But who was going to run to their car in this down pour? So we sat.
Liam sipped his hot chocolate and played with the buckets of squash and tiny ghost pumpkins and I let my mind wander to just how God was growing me. I was reminded of a series the youth pastor of my old church in Arkansas taught. He was teaching on the fruits of the spirit (Galations 5:22-23). I remember him saying how God put those fruits of the spirit in each of us - we already have all we need, but its our life circumstances and experiences that give us a chance to grow them. We all have all the patience we need, but some situations may lead us to think we don't have any (trust me, I have a pre-schooler)... in reality, we just need to grow the patience the Lord already gave us. Growth... 
I often feel like I'm freezing cold, covered in mud, and left out in the middle of nowhere like those pumpkins in the photos. I don't feel like it every day, but its definitely something that's come up a lot over the past 10 months. I didn't choose this heartache. I don't want these challenges. And I know in my heart of hearts that God doesn't want this heartbreak for me either... after all, he catches my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He hears me even in my muddy and cold silence and he's reminding me that I'm not alone. He's growing me right along side the rest of his children.
As you can see, the rain passed after about 10 minutes, the sun came out and warmed everything up. It was a gorgeous day that we packed full of the rest of the pumpkin patch activities. And I walked out of that barn with new perspective.
Its my job to make sure I'm rooted in love (Ephesians 3:17). Its my job to stay connected to godly people so we can sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17). And as I sit connected and rooted, God will grow me (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). You see... God is the ultimate Gardener. He doesn't have green thumbs, he IS green thumbs. At times, I can be rooted and connected, and yet still see it as muddy and cold. But the Lord is working on me even when I'm not. He doesn't need me. He WANTS me. He doesn't leave me. I'm not alone. I'm growing. And I'm going to trust the Gardner to pull the weeds.

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Hero and My Sidekick

This is my hero and my sidekick. He's small but mighty. He's strong and courageous and he loves to tell people so.  Liam has selected his Halloween costume since he was 1. I've seen no reason to argue his decision. I mean, I choose his clothes 90% of the days in a year (sometimes he requests a bow tie or straight tie and I roll with it), so on this holiday, I let him run wild with choice. Year 1, he wanted to be a lion and year 2 he was a fierce dragon. And this year, I had a feeling we'd land on a superhero. I was right - only I would've bet cash money that I would've been painting him green and shredding up an old pair of jeans for this Halloween. Liam LOVES the Hulk.... And I would've lost that bet. He requested to be Robin. And Robin needs a Batman.
However, since Liam is in school this year and he has a "Harvest Party" to attend, that means he has multiple opportunities for costumes! So when we talked about him getting to wear two costumes, his next request was Batman. I was not surprised - his 3 year old brain was locked in on Robin and simple association led him to Batman. And with all the superhero movie hype over the last several years, these costumes were INCREDIBLY easy to find and pretty inexpensive. I spent $23 combined, and he LOVES them. The only thing is, when Batman's off keeping the streets of Overland Park clean from bad guys, he needs a Robin... 
This will by my first year to coordinate a costume with Liam. And you guessed it... When he's Batman, I'll be Robin and when he's Robin, I'll be Batman. Like I said - he's my hero AND my sidekick. 
The last 10 months have not been easy in the Thomas House, but Liam and I have proven ourselves to be quite the dynamic duo. We are teaching each other, helping each other, and watching each other's back. We are both growing. And every single night (as it always has been), it is imperative to me that he know he is loved and protected and you know... He lives in a way that let's me know he believes it. 
Whether Liam is the schemer with a crazy big idea he's telling me about and trying to rope me into, or whether he's following along with some crazy idea of mine, he's all in. And he'll be the first one to say "that's great!" when we've carried out our plan to completion. He's an encourager, this one. This Halloween, at this stage in our life, Batman and Robin are kind of perfect for us to play...  Tragic heroes wounded by life but choosing the highest good for others in the face of the world that hurt them. Plus, if I've learned anything about Batman and Robin throughout the superhero obsession in my #BoyMom life, it's that you don't need super powers to make a difference.
And then there's this... my GQ model. I shot a series of him on these stairs that nearly killed me. He's so handsome, has so much personality, and this particular one is filled with so much swagger that I can barely stand it. He has my heart... and I take great pride in taking care of his. 
"Let the world think your crazy if that's what it takes to be the best you can be." - Batman

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fighter

My knuckles aren't bloodied. I've got no cuts, scraps, bruises or broken bones to prove it. But I'm a fighter. 
In the face of some rough stuff in my life, I've had to toughen up. I've had to get some thicker skin. I've had to find strength in the midst of exhaustion and push through. And you know what? I'm on my feet. I'm standing tall and learning what it takes to be strong and courageous. Learning that it's not really my feet I'm standing on at all. It's not me that has pushed through anything, and it's not by my own accord that I'm standing tall. I have surrendered ... and my God became my shield, my strength, my courage. 
The definition of courage has changed since the word's origin. The word originally meant "to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart," but in today's world, it has much more to do with being brave and heroic, "putting your life on the line.” I’ve been reading The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and I felt she put that most poetically. But, let's stick old school... Courage is "putting our vulnerability on the line" by speaking the truth of our hearts. By admitting the hurts. Exposing the parts of us that are the most vulnerable. By confiding in someone the things that may show weakness. By surrendering the fact that we don't have it all together all the time. Owning our mistakes, our shortcomings, our flaws... Transparency. Authenticity. That is incredible courage. 
I bought a bracelet recently that has the words "be brave" imprinted on a metal plate. It's my reminder. Not a reminder that I'm not yet brave and must attain that state of being, but rather bravery, or courage, is a character trait I must choose in every decision I make. It tells me to be brave this instant and the next. This day and the next, because it's not a static trait like my height or my shoe size. It's ever-changing and entirely reliant on my choices. Entirely dependent on my surrender. Every moment. 
So I'm a fighter. Not because I can last 12 rounds in the ring, but because I waved my white flag. And I must choose to do this every day. Then, my battles, my fights, will be not only fought, but won. Because Exodus 14:14 says "The Lord will fight your battles for you. You need only to be still.” 
You may be asking yourself what this post has to do with an apple orchard. Liam and I spent some time at the orchard today and I kept admiring his choice in apple. At first, I told Liam to really check out the apples, to make sure there aren’t rotten spots, bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes. Only pick the big, smooth and shiny ones, I told him. He followed my direction in filling our bucket, and then he asked if he could eat one. I said yes, of course. He went right over to the tree, grabbed one with some knicks and cuts, brushed it off and said, “this one is still great, momma” and he took a big ol’ bite. I don’t always have external evidence of the battles I fight, but my heart has taken big bumps, bruises and cuts. And in the words of my wise little boy, my heart... “its still great.” The Lord fights for me. He trains me up. He sits ring side, and as soon as I tag Him in, he says, “I’ve got this!” It takes incredible courage to tag Him in. Incredible courage to bear your heart. To surrender. 
Be brave!  

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you where ever you go. - Joshua 1:9 
"Courage is like a muscle. It is strengthened by use." - Ruth Gordon