Friday, August 05, 2016

My All Star Team

Most people who know me know I've been a bit frazzled here lately.  Apparently I'm becoming less and less skilled at hiding it too.

Four kids will do that to you.

While recently home for a visit, my uncle said he thought I could use some encouragement because I seem "on edge".

Ahem.  Again.  Four kids.

But what he said has stuck in my mind for some time now.

"Who better equipped to deal with each of your children and their struggles than you?  You have two counseling degrees.  You see potential everywhere and push them to meet it.  You don't let them get off with excuses or use diagnoses for failure.  Who better to coach your team?  God equipped and chose you for each of their struggles."

Truth is, I often feel like I'm just riding their cases all the livelong day.  "Stop whining."  "Leave your brother alone."  "If you're about to tattle, don't.  Walk away."  "No, you cannot eat.  We just ate 30 minutes ago."  "I said clean your room.  What part of that did you not understand?  Get it done."  "Hurry up.  We're running late."  "Why is he still not dressed??!  Gracious, we have to GO!!"  "I already told you to stop whining.  Go sit on the rug."  "Do not hit your brother.  I don't care if you are playing robber-breaks-in-our-house and he's the robber."

It's easy to get caught up in the 'parenting' part and forget the potential part.  Yet each of them are filled to the brim with potential.

As my uncle said, "The difference between a friend and a coach is that a friend loves you for who you are.  A coach sees your potential and pushes you to achieve it.  And you have an All Star Team."

And really, I do.

Anna is our first born.  She's the answer to many many prayers after being told we likely wouldn't be able to have children without extensive medical interventions.  Oh how I've had such dreams for her and she's met and exceeded all of them.  She's our overachiever.... our all A's student, in the Gifted and Talented Program.  Our little Ms. Social.  Never meets a stranger.  Loves playing volleyball and is exceptionally good at it.   She wants to be a doctor when she grows up, an OB/GYN to be exact.  She's thoughtful and goes out of her way to be helpful.  She's an incredible big sister, playing with each of them and helping me on days we're in a rush to get out the door.  She loves to cook and will often get up early to "surprise" me by making breakfast (muffins, eggs, even homemade waffles one day).  She's not only physically beautiful, she has such inward beauty too.  Her compassion for the less fortunate and least of these is inspiring.  And each time I look at her, I'm reminded of just how much potential she has.

Eli is our tender-hearted, camo-loving kiddo.  His mind is like an encyclopedia.  Seriously, do WWII trivia with him and prepare to be blown away.  For years, I thought he was just rambling off made up information until we recently were talking with a Navy vet and they talked about everything you could possibly imagine and ELI KEPT UP- machinery, battleships, dates of certain invasions, the 5 beaches that were invaded in Normandy (yes, he can name them all).  There were times our friend wasn't sure of something Eli was saying so we Googled it and EVERY single time he was right.  I was blown away.  His mind is absolutely incredible.  He's the one I've had to fight for and with the most.  I've refused to let his diagnoses define him - so much so he doesn't even know he has any.  I've gone head to head with him, pushing him to meet his potential, crying because he was failing in school and I didn't know how to help him succeed.  And then so very thankful for his teacher who walked side by side with me and we watched him go from making F's to making the honor roll every.single.year.  He's an avid hunter, killing his first deer at the age of 7, and two more at the age of 8.  He loves animals and tractors and all things outdoors.  And each time I look at him, my heart swells with pride for him wanting to serve in our military and I see just how much potential he has.

Emilee is our free spirited, boisterous, full of life little (almost) 3 year old.  She's our rainbow baby after losing #3 and #4.  I don't know why God saw fit to give us her after losing our other two babies, but I am so very thankful He did.  She's a constant reminder of His faithfulness.  She wakes up ready to go each morning.  She's constantly on the go but also loves to be snuggled and rocked.  She has the most contagious laugh and gracious how it brightens my day.  She's head-strong and determined and while it's my job to keep that in check, I also foresee it being what takes her far in this life.  I hope that determination of hers sees her through all the trials and hard times and keeps her moving forward to meeting all her goals.  She loves her baby named Piggie, not to be mistaken with her self-given nickname of Emi Pig.  She refuses to go to bed without her Care Bears blankie and Piggie beside her.  She loves to talk on the phone and I SO foresee her being the class clown.  She fights with her brother like crazy, but equally loves and adores him.  And each time I look at her, I see potential in so many areas.

Malachi is our caboose.  The son for which we prayed God would give us.  Adoption isn't easy.  But everything in me knows it will have been worth it.  Because he's worth it.  And gracious how he's such a smart kid.  Before he even turned two he could sing the entire alphabet and Jesus Loves Me.  He's smart beyond his age and has an extensive vocabulary.  I mean, he already speaks in 7-8 word sentences and he's barely over two.  He loves trucks and Paw Patrol and cuddles up with his stuffed zebra Daddy got him each night.  He loves to eat and be around people.  And someday I see him being a singer.  Oh how he loves to sing.  Every time we go somewhere, he'll be singing parts of all the songs on KLOVE.  I hope he never loses his love for music and singing.  He too is head-strong and while I have to keep his in check just as much as Emilee's, I also foresee that determination taking him far, helping him become whatever he wants to become, with us standing beside him cheering him on.  Because he too has such great potential.

I remember someone saying that Anna has such high goals.  I mean, a doctor!  That's not a small task to undertake.  And for her to be just 10??  Truth is, she's wanted to be an OB/GYN for the past 2 years.  And I don't know if it'll change or not, but here's my point.  This person said "It's not like she has a goal to be a stay-at-home mom.  That's not exactly a lofty goal, but a doctor?!?"

Yes.  I'm a stay-at-home mom.  And perhaps this person had a foot-in-mouth moment that they later realized.  But here's what I'm taking from that.

This stay-at-home momma is raising children who have lofty goals!!

I have one who wants to be a doctor and bring life into this world.

I have one who wants to become a hero and serve our country by joining the military.

And I have two that while they're still toddlers, I have no doubt will make their marks on this world too.

You see, I didn't set out to be a stay-at-home mom.  I mean, shoot, I have two college degrees.  I was a 10 year old kid playing counselor with my friends.  I had my pretend files and my cassette tape recorder so I could record our "sessions", because as a kid, I too had a lofty goal.  To be a counselor.  To make a difference in this world by helping people.

And you know, even though I'm not presently out in the field, I'm still getting to do this every single day.  I get to raise world changers.  Children who will one day be adults making an impact on this world.  And while most kids never sit around dreaming about being a stay-at-home mom, I'm more and more convinced that it's my role as a mom which will make the greatest impact.

I have an All Star Team and I plan on being the best coach I can for them.  And yes, that's hard.  I fail every single day.  But just as I'm convinced that my role as their mom will have the greatest impact, I'm also convinced that it's in my determination to stick with it that more than just them will see the benefits.

Lord willing, may I coach them well.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Fighting my Way Out

I remember being a kid and going to St. Louis to visit my grandparents, aunts and uncles.  My Grandma Hughs was an avid wrestling and boxing fan.  She'd always have one of them on on her little TV and us kids would get such a kick out of watching her get all worked up.  She'd be hollering at the TV and before you knew it, she was up on her feet yelling "Give him the ole one-two."  She was pint-sized and full of life and oh how I miss her.

Truth be told, I've felt like I've been dealt a few blows here lately.  Satan never really plays fair.  He's all about the kidney punches, low blows, and even after the eight count and you're begging to tap out .....he just doesn't stop.  He's low like that.  And as strong as you think you are, I can assure you, you'll never be pound-for-pound in this match.  It seems he'll always have the upper hand.

But just because he may have the upper hand, doesn't mean that we can't beat him at his own game.  Because when we have God in our corner, we can begin to see the lies and the deception, and come out swinging, fighting our way back into the game.

And that's what I've been doing.

You see, the past several months have been hard.  Adoption isn't easy.  It's beautiful in so many ways.  Goodness, how it's beautiful.  Our love for him.  His love for us.  How he's thriving and growing and happy.  He's absolutely precious.  Yet that doesn't all of a sudden take away the struggles.  There are real battles people who foster and adopt face.  And sometimes, I think the outside world doesn't always see these struggles.  They assume that everything should be perfect.  That everything is perfect.  He's perfect.  We're perfect.  And let's be honest here, no one is perfect.  It's almost as if the standard for adoptive parents is higher than for biological parents and it makes no sense at all to me.  If anything, we should be given more leeway, more understanding and kindness because this is a journey.... a process if you will and sometimes we just need your understanding.

9 months ago as we pulled into the driveway, it was as if Satan himself was sitting on my doorstep waiting for me.  I have been thrown so many low blows, I can't even tell you.  We've been dealing with normal things you deal with when taking in a foster child; things like establishing trust after being the 5th home he's been in, difficulties with eating habits since he'd basically lived on orange Crush, mac and cheese, and ice cream, attention seeking behaviors, adjusting to having another baby in the home, etc.  We've also been having to deal with individuals who have been less than helpful....less than understanding in helping us through these struggles and I'm telling you, it's just been hard.

Bonding doesn't happen immediately in these situations.  It's a process.  I carried our other three kiddos for 9 months, feeling them kick and roll, suck their thumbs, have the hiccups.  Creating hopes and dreams for them.  And then I spent every day, 'round the clock, caring for them.  Feeding them, rocking them, singing to them, loving and kissing them and doing all the things us mommas do.  And all of it created a deeper bond between us.  But I missed that with Chi.  I missed all of it.  I missed carrying him.  I missed giving birth to him.  I missed all the nights of getting up to feed him and rock him (and yes, I'm weird, I loved those nights with our other kiddos).  I missed his first word.  His first time rolling over, sitting up, crawling... even his first steps.  I missed all the formative months of when babies learn to trust and bond.  And that's been hard.  So when I say that bonding is a process, it's just that.  It takes time.  It takes daily working, daily doing the things that seem out of place to do for a 2 year old but that he needs - like rocking him while maintaining eye contact.  That's hard for him.  Truthfully, it's hard for him to be held for any length of time because he was never used to being held.  Most of you saw a picture on Facebook the day the adoption was final of him sleeping in my arms..... it was the first time since we brought him home that that had ever happened.  It's so many things that are worth it but that are also difficult while in the midst of it all.

A few months ago, I found myself in a deep depression, struggling from day to day to do the basic things that need to be done as a mom of 4.  I would go from one extreme of being angry and impatient to the other of crying and feeling hopeless.  I began to question God and His calling us to this.  I began to question my ability to be the mom Chi needed me to be.  And ultimately I began thinking that my family would be better off without me.  That my kids deserved a better mom.  That Mark deserved someone who could handle all of these battles without falling apart.  They simply would be better with me gone.  And that thought led to thoughts of how I could take my own life and make it appear as an accident so they could still get my life insurance.  I spent a lot of time wondering how to do it, all the while Mark telling me he thought I was depressed and needed to go to the doctor.  Then my best friend began saying the same thing and I had to pause and take a close look at what was going on.

Sweet friends, hear me when I say this, Christians and even counselors are not exempt from these struggles.  I wish I could say I was.  I wish I could tell you that these thoughts haven't at one time been in my head.  It's so very hard to be in that spot knowing that you're being irrational, that being gone would cause them more harm than good, yet still simultaneously thinking they're better off without you.  It's such a devastating place to be and my heart goes out to any and every person who's ever been down that road.

Yet through all of this, my Father revealed something to me.

Satan wouldn't be attacking me so hard if there wasn't something glorious on the other side of these struggles.  He called us to this for a purpose.

So, I began calling the doctor's office trying to get an appointment. They weren't accepting new patients.  Our doctor had moved to a different clinic.  Weeks went by and they never would return our calls.  So then I scheduled an appointment with our doctor at his new clinic.  And then had to cancel it.  But through all of that time, God kept reminding me that we face battles every day.  The problem I was facing was in how I was addressing the battles.  God calls us to suit up and fight.  To put on our armor.

And that's what I started doing.

I began swinging and throwing my own combinations.

I dug deeper into His word.  I prayed harder.  I spent more time with Chi reading and playing and singing to him.  I started focusing on Christ's promises and less on my problems and the depression began to slowly lift.

We were making incredible progress.  We were growing and bonding and loving more and more deeply.

I had fought my way out.

And yes, I realize this isn't possible for everyone.  There are those who need to see their doctor.  Who need medication.  And honestly, I believe I was one of them.  Yet God, in His kindness, helped me work my way out of it all.

But hear me when I say this.  Satan is relentless.  And it's how I know that God has something incredible in store for our family and our sweet Chi.

Because through all the battles and struggles I had faced, just as I was standing back up I was side-swiped, knocked to the ground flat on my face.  And having endured all that I already had, this was an all out low blow, cutting me to the core.  Someone had sent DHS a message saying I didn't love Chi.  The message was full of lies and hatred and I was absolutely heartbroken.  I had the wind knocked out of me.  And I don't even know that that fully explains how hurt I've been.  Particularly given where I had been and all the fighting I had done for him.  The fighting to love him beyond measure, not just as someone loving a child, but as me loving MY child.  Yet learning that it was someone within our circle (yet not a close friend) was all the more heartbreaking. Our worker visited with us and let us know that she had no concerns whatsoever, that the message had no foundation for several reasons.  We then had to jump through some more hoops as protocol and had another meeting with more people who all said the same thing.  The message had no credibility, complete with them not even getting our last name correct.  Our workers have been in our home for months.  They've seen us interact, love each other, give hugs and kisses.  They've gotten the pictures I sent them of him being the sweetest little cow in the Christmas play, and pictures of the zoo and playground and trips we've taken.  They knew these were lies and it felt good to have that validated.

But you know what?  Having them believe and see my love for my son didn't take away the hurt.  It didn't take away that someone lied about me.  Because, that's what this was.  It was a personal attack on me.  And as a result, a lot of things changed in our lives.

Yet one thing remained.  God was faithful. In the weeks leading up to this, I'd been learning about putting on my armor.  I had been fighting my way out of depression.  I was fighting.  But this ...  this made me a fighter.

There's a difference in fighting - just haphazardly swinging and throwing punches.  But a fighter.... she's not just armed, she knows how to use her armor and use it wisely.  It's not just about swinging here and there, it's about trusting The Teacher, following His instructions, and making each punch count for His glory and honor.

And I was able to do that.  I was able to fight well and honorably.

I wish I could say that takes away the hurt.  It doesn't.  But it does give me peace in how I handled myself.

I've cried a lot of tears over the past 9 months.  Battling myself.  Struggling to be the best mommy I can be to all of our kiddos.  Fighting depression and trying to figure out how to work my way out of it.  Dealing with hurtful comments from people.  Knowing people are talking behind my back about our struggles instead of just taking them to the foot of the Father on our behalf..  Dealing with thoughts I wouldn't wish on anyone.  That's why this came as such a shock to me.  But you know, it didn't catch God off guard one bit.  He knew.  Sweet friends, He knew.  And He'd already gone ahead of us preparing the way.  What this person meant for harm, God used for good.  He used it to validate us as parents.  To remind us that Satan attacks when the Father has something great in store.  And you know, as a result of all of this, Chi's lawyer pushed even harder to get us a court date, which led to us officially being his parents last Monday!

Christ has done so much for us here lately that when I step back and look at it all, I'm in awe.  Just having everything finalized has done so much in the way of letting go and being able to fully embrace and love without fear of losing him.  We're so much closer today than a week ago and leaps and bounds from where we were 9 months ago.  And I can only look up and thank the Father for that.  It's His working in and through me and gracious, it's been hard, but oh how different I am than just 9 short (long) months ago and it's been worth every battle I've had to fight.

God works through the storms.  And oh that I could always remember that.

That I would remember to put on the full armor of God.  Remember that attacks often are a reflection of just how great His promises are on the other side.  And remember that in order to fight well, it means suiting up.

I'm fighting my way out.  Following the Master.  And most importantly, loving my family.  Soaking up our time together.  Praising Him for all His provision.  Giving Him all honor and glory for pulling me up out of the pit.  For showing me how to fight well and honorably.  For His peace.  For our sweet son.

And praying that whatever battles you may be facing, that He'll show you just how to suit up and fight well too.

Stay strong friends.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Letting them Go

Sometimes parenting feels like a tight-rope act.  Wobbling all around, trying to put one foot in front of the other.  Deciphering what the best words are for a particular moment.

The past few days have been like that.  You see, Anna misses our sweet #3 and #4.  She ventures off into the front yard to sit at their tree and talk to them, sing them songs.....  I've tried explaining to her that they're not there.  She knows this.  Yet she continues to do it.  And I do realize that it's a bit different when you lose a baby via miscarriage, because there's no body, no ceremony, no cemetery.... no headstone.  So I get how the tree has become to her what a grave would to others.

Today she wrote them a song.  She asked me how she should go about writing it and I told her to just think of what she'd have liked to do if they were here.  I began giving her ideas by saying things like: "If you were here, I'd read you bedtime stories and sing you lullabies.  I'd braid your hair and paint your little toenails.  I'd play tractors and trucks and Legos.  I'd push you on the swing.  I'd find your lost blankie...."

I found myself chin quivering, eyes filling up with tears, and I had to walk away.

You see, it's easy to focus on what I've lost.  It's easy to go back to those initial days of pain and loss and re-live it.  To see what's not instead of what is.

So when she came out of her room and sang me her sweet song, I must admit, it got me.  The part where she sang so innocently "Why did you go?  Why did you leave me?"

Whew.  It gets me even now.

The reality is that I've often viewed losing #3 and #4 as my loss.  I  lost them.  But I know good and well that Mark did too.  That Anna and Eli did.  That our parents lost grandbabies.  That our siblings lost nieces and/or nephews.  I know this.  But maybe I didn't allow her to grieve her loss like I should have, because all these years later, and she still cries for them.

She kept on all afternoon talking about them until I found myself saying: "Anna, you have to let them go."

Even as I type that, the lump is once again forming in my throat.

"Sweetie, even their best day here wouldn't have ever compared to what they're enjoying in Heaven.  I mean, they've met Jesus.  Can you imagine that!?  They've met Jesus!!  They're up there talking with Jonah about what it was like to be in the belly of that fish.  They're talking with Daniel about the lions.  And you know, I'm certain they've met Jackson and they're all up there playing together."

She just nodded her head.

"It's hard.  But we have to let them go.  Listen to me.  I want you to know this and remember it the rest of your life.  Despite how hard losing them was, God was faithful through it all.  He's been good to us.  Don't ever question that."

Again, the nod.

One foot in front of the other, leaning to the left, then the right, trying to walk this fine line.

Should I have told her to let them go?

I believe it was the right answer.  Because I find myself having to do the same thing.  Having to let go of the hurt and the pain.  The disappointment.  The feelings of loss for all the hopes and dreams we had for our babies.

Yet holding on to all the love.  Always holding on to all the love we had for them.

We may not have held them, but oh how they were loved.

And maybe that's the point.  Our love is why we can let go.  Because they were loved and because of Christ's love for us we know they're far better off.

So piece by piece, I'm teaching her to let go, relinquishing all the what ifs and hurt, because as she lets go, it's just the reminder I need that God can be faithful to redeem what we turn over to Him.

Sweet friends, I don't know what you might need to let go of tonight, but know that He can be trusted.

Holding on the the love and piece by piece giving Him the rest,


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Why Valentine's Day is Overrated

He met me in the bathroom this morning, him coming in from working all night long.  He was cute in his blue hoodie and jeans.  He wrapped me up in his arms and just held me for awhile and whispered "Happy Valentine's Day. I have a surprise for you."

He walked me to the kitchen where a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a card were waiting on me.  He leaned back against the counter and I leaned back against him, reading my card, willing the tears welling up in my eyes to go away.

Later in the day I gave him his card and his 2 Payday candy bars.  He was excited.

We're really pretty simple people.  Yet we love deeply.

He spent the rest of the day sleeping, getting ready to go back in and work another night shift.  And I spent the rest of the day taking the kids to church and napping with my favorite little 2 year old.  I swept floors.  Painted fingernails.  And ended up making a two dollar and fifty cent little package of soup for dinner that I had picked up at Aldis.

It's not very romantic.  But here's why it's okay.

I don't need a special day for me to know I'm loved.

He shows me every day.

It's the way he walks into the kitchen, comes up behind me, and nuzzles my neck, turning me around to steal a kiss or two.

It's the way he holds me when I've had a rough day, and here lately that's been often.

It's the way he says "Let's sneak away for a few minutes."

It's the way he faithfully goes to work to provide for our family.

The way I'll find him sitting on the loveseat playing the Wii with Eli, or find him in a match of Chess with Anna.

The way he asks Emi if she's Daddy's girl and how she always says "No.  I mommy's girl."  Then laughs and laughs and says "I Daddy's girl.  I Mommy-Daddy-Sissy-Bubba's girl."  And how regardless of what her answer is (because, let's just be honest here, we all know she's really my girl ;) ) he always tickles her and gives her kisses.

The way he's taken on loving another man's son.  How he treats him the same as our other three.  How he engages him, shows him grace, and loves that he's called "Daddy" by a little boy soon to carry our last name.

And what better way for a man to show you love than to also love his children?  It's a blessing to watch and be a part of.

He's picked me up off the floor after we lost our babies, brushed me off, and just let me be until I could re-gain my footing, all while simultaneously never leaving my side.

He's always seeking and pursuing me - even on the days when I'm resisting and pushing away.  He loves me like Christ, forgiving and encouraging me.  He cheers me on, truthfully when I just wish he'd let me fail, but because he loves me so much, he pushes me towards growth.  And I have no doubt that his prayers are part of what has sustained me on some incredibly dark and difficult days.  He's a praying man and ladies, there's nothing greater.

So, was this Valentine's Day romantic by society's standards?  Probably not.

But by my standards?  You betcha.  Because I'm thankful today and every day for a husband who pursues me and seeks my heart.

As I sent him off to work, he hugged me and whispered the sweetest words.  Then I stood in the doorway waving goodbye to him, thankful for a husband willing to sacrifice so much for me.

So ladies, if you have a husband who loves you, seeks and pursues you as Christ does, who prays for you and cheers you on - you're blessed.  You don't need everything that society says you do.  All you need is what's right in front of you.  Him.

And I'm so very thankful I have him.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Standing Guard

"...guard what has been entrusted to your care."
I Timothy 6:20

Sometimes I liken parenting to being in the trenches of a battlefield.

Really, let's just be honest here.  That's how it feels at times.  And it doesn't really matter if your kids are still in your arms, hanging on your pant legs, running laps around you, or tuning you out with their ipods and headphones.

Parenting is just plain hard.

Last night my best friend sent me a reference and simply said "Put your name in there."  I was intrigued.  So I went and got my Bible, flipped to I Timothy 6:20 and read "Phoebe, guard what has been entrusted to your care".

Guard what has been entrusted to me.


Sometimes I don't really think of parenting like that.  I just think of things like, "Well crap, it's Friday and I forgot to work on spelling words with Eli all week.  I sure hope he knows them.  'ELI!!!  Do you know your spelling words?'"  And then I have them in the seat beside me as I drive them to school and quiz him all of the 2 minutes it takes to get them there.

Or the ritualistic chant that sometimes plays in my head: "Is it bedtime yet?  Is it bedtime yet?  Is it bedtime yet?"

You know how it goes.  Someone can't find their shoes.  Now a coat is missing.  One's out of jeans and the cat is meowing and hissing again because one of the toddlers is pulling his tail.  Another is yelling through the house "My field trip money is due today."  Someone hit their sibling and someone else is crying because they didn't get their way.  And the two year old is constantly calling someone a "booby trap", thinking she's just epically made fun of them.  She's so proud of herself.

Some days I just stand there shaking my head.

Trenches, y'all.  Trenches.

There are times I wonder if I have taught them anything at all, other than to say "stupid" and "daggum it".

My patience wanes.  I find myself wanting to retreat.  To run away hide.

And then I remember.

Guard what has been entrusted to you.

And suddenly this warrior begins to stand a little taller.  Because while these all seem like trivial matters, they're really spiritual battles.  Battles of teaching responsibility, patience, kindness, and watching what comes out of our mouths.

Sometimes it's guarding them against others.  Like saying no to sleepovers and then having to explain to them that it's for their best interest.  I mean, I don't know everyone.  And I don't know who else they might have over.  And I don't know what other kids might be there that have been exposed to some pretty horrible things that they might want to try or experiment with with my kids.  And so no.  The answer to sleepovers is always no.  I'm guarding what's been entrusted to me.  And it's hard.  So very hard because I know all, well, a lot of, their friends are having sleepovers.  But their safety is more important to me than hurting their feelings.  They'll understand one day.  Now isn't that day and that's okay.

Sometimes it's guarding them against an over-crowded schedule.  It's saying yes, you can play volleyball, but not volleyball, basketball, and soccer.  It's guarding our family time with a vengeance and showing them to value what's really important....what will remain after they're out of school.  It's saying yes, your friend can come over today.... but not today, tomorrow, and the next 3 days.  It's allowing time for homework and reading.  Time to sit down as a family and eat dinner together every night.  Time for movie nights and popcorn, family game nights.  Because those things are what will matter in the years to come.  Is there anything wrong with sports? Absolutely, unequivocally NO.  We love to watch our kids play.  But the problem happens when it becomes what dictates your schedule and multiply any sport times 4 kiddos and it can happen easily.  It's my job to guard what has been entrusted to me.  And an overcrowded schedule isn't guarding them well.

Sometimes it's guarding what they're allowed to watch.  Or how much time they're allowed to have on the Internet, if any.  It's standing over them when they do earn Internet time to play games.  It's having their Kindles set to only allow them access to age appropriate, educational websites.  It's not caring when they get mad because you give them the "you're not allowed anywhere except, do you understand me?" lecture every time they do get to play on the computer. And for those of you with older kiddos, it's blocking the Internet on cell phones or having access to their phone every single day to see what they've been looking at, texting, etc.  It only takes one misguided search for an addiction to form.  And I'll take them being mad at me any day rather than them having to possibly deal with an addiction.

It's saying no to parties and yes to modesty.  It's saying no to certain friends and yes to those that have proven themselves responsible and that are following after Christ.  It's saying no to TV and yes to family devotions.

But here's the one that always gets me.

Sometimes I have to guard them against what comes out of my mouth.  My impatience.  My tone.  My snide remarks.  The "What were you thinking?" comments.  The "Use your brain." or "I can't stand one more minute of the whining."  Sometimes it's me.  And that's hard.

I want to faithfully guard what has been entrusted to me.  And often that means constantly working on myself, ensuring that I'm not ever what hinders or causes them to trip up.

Recently amidst all the snow storms, pictures of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier have been surfacing.  These men are dedicated.  It doesn't matter if there's a hurricane, snowstorm, or if it's 100 degrees, they are there and committed to fulfilling their duties ....they're faithful no matter what's going on around them.  I've even seen videos of them commanding respect from those there to watch the changing of the guards that were being less than respectful.  Their courage and dedication is inspiring.

And oh that I could be like them.  That I could stand in the face of whatever life throws my way and guard what has been entrusted to my care.  When it's hard.  When it's painful.  When it's me.  When I'm having to take a look at myself.  When they're mad.  When they're hurt.  When they don't understand.  When I want to give up.

Oh that I could be the guard they need me to be.

Because sweet mommas and daddies.... here me in this.  We only have them for a short while.  I know when they're little that seems like an eternity.  Like you'll never have them raised and out of the house only to miss having them there.  But I can look back 15 years ago when I got married and it only seems like a few short months ago.  And I'm sure you can look back to when you had your babies and think, "No.  Really.  There's no way almost 10 years have passed."

So stand strong.

Stand firm.

Stand ready.

Because He has entrusted to us the most precious, invaluable little people to guard.

May we be found standing guard, faithfully and courageously.