When You Don't See the Fruit Right Away...

I don't know about you, but aren't there times in your life (my life) when we are just so caught up in the mundane that we lose sight of the bigger picture? When the dishes stack up in the sink you just emptied and the mail comes again to sit in the same spot you just cleared off...on those days in particular, doesn't it just seem like you cannot win?? Like no matter how many times you pick those toys up or clean that room, it's only a matter of minutes before it's a disaster again and was your faithful work really worth the effort?

There have been seasons of ministry that have taught us (me) some very valuable lessons in some very dry and seemingly fruitless days. Days when the critics are many and the complaints numerous. Days when you show up, you excute a plan you prayed and labored over and as you watch the madness unfold around you, you have to wonder if anyone heard a single word of the message that the Lord so clearly asked you to bring? We've been there. Travis especially has shouldered days like that, seasons that we begged the Lord to end. When you work with people for a living and when those people are under the age of 18, there are many times when you question what you do. Because let's be honest, there aren't too many teenagers (although there are some) who are jumping at the chance to thank you for the hours you spent in prayer and in the Word or who are dying to tell you how much the Lord has been working in their lives and using you to show them some things they needed to hear. And consequently, there also aren't too many parents who are willing to put aside the preferences of their own kids to thank you for staying true to how the Lord is asking you to lead, not how they wish their son/daughter's needs were being met.

If we were fueled simply by compliments and affirmation of men, we'd never show up for another Sunday.

But as we've learned over the years, we aren't. And quite simply, those two things have nothing to do with why you do or do not serve.

You serve because the Lord is worthy of it. He deserves our best effort, our faithfulness in the Word, our conviction to pray and not just because we want Him to bless our efforts so we can achieve "success" but because He died to give us (me) a new life, to provide us (me) with hope that is rooted in Him and to secure a future that is kept by Him, for us (me). Because of Him, we are compelled to serve. As He laid down His life for us, we can lay down our lives for others too. Not because we're selfless or love to take a beating or have no self-esteem, but because He enables us to take the gifts and blessings He's given us and He asks us to give them back to others. To Him. To each other. To our kids. To our families, to our friends, and to students. He loved, so we love. He gave, so we give. He died to self, so we do too. All of it, humbly. To the best of our ability. With frail, flawed human hearts. With or without thanks. (1 John 3:16)

I share all of this because I think parenting is a lot like this. Maybe even mothering in particular. If we do it soley to hear a "thanks Mom" or to see our kids immediately and without fail heed our every instruction, we'd burn out in about 30 minutes. The fact is, it just may take years and years of faithfully serving and loving our kids before we see the real fruit of what we do. I might change a thousand diapers, wipe sticky messes clean for years to come, repeat myself a million times and not ever feel like I'm making much of a difference. Because the kids still fight, no one picks up their clothes and our natural reaction is always going to be to yell "Mine!" when we are threatened.

But that's not why we do it. It's not why we take a deep breath, patiently explain the same thing 20 more times, or commit ourselves to praying for our child's future spouse when that seems like a lightyear away. We do it because He's worthy of it. The Lord, not our kids. We don't serve them because they've "earned it", they'll never earn it. Just like He doesn't serve us because we've earned it. We never will. He CHOSE to love and serve us, WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, not after we got all cleaned up and acceptable in His sight (Romans 5:8). He CHOSE to give up His very life before He saw any fruit in us, knowing that it was His will and part of His rescue plan for His people. And even more amazing, knowing that even in our rescued state, even as His adopted children, we'd still fail Him. We'd still sin, we'd still try to hide from Him or eat of that forbidden fruit...not from all that He provided for us but from the one thing He tried to keep us safe from. And yet, knowing all of that, He still CHOSE to love us first. (1 John 4:19)
So what does that mean for me? It means that no matter if my kids obey or don't, I have a choice to serve and love them every day. To be faithful to them, to keep doing the things I know I'm called to, regardless of the fruit it produces. Chances are, the fruit that is rotten now will one day become sweet. The little decisions that seem just that, little, will lead to bigger decisions down the road that will pay off. So if I CHOOSE to stay faithful in God's Word everyday now, it will pay off immensely in the present and in the future. If I CHOOSE to help them understand their need for boundaries now, it will pay off in the future. It may seem like it's falling on deaf ears now, but it's not. They just need time and lots of repetition for it to sink in...but they deserve the same patience and consistency and grace from their Mom, that she receives daily from Her Savior.

One of the sweetest blessings in student ministry is to taste the fruit of faithfulness, years later. It has amazed us to hear from students at 18, 19, or 20 that we (all too often) wrote off as troublemakers or disinterested or indifferent as junior highers. To receive an email or a phone call from a kid who tells us that something he/she remembers from junior high, or that they learned on a retreat, has impacted them or changed their lives all these years later is one of the highest honors of ministry. Not because it's a pat on our backs but because it's proof that when we were sure they weren't getting it or didn't like us or hated being there, God was still working. In ways we didn't know, in spite of us and maybe just through us. It never feels like "Finally, a thank you!" opportunity but instead a divine privilege to say "Thank you Lord for reminding us that YOU are the one who does the work and YOU are the one who calls us to stay faithful. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into YOUR plan and reminding us that our ways are not always your ways."

As I've remembered some of those students lately, their stories reminded me to stay faithful and look forward to the day when I have those same moments with my own kids.  When I can see good things in them that we've been working on, affirm them and then tell the Lord, "Thank you!!  Thank you for showing me this fruit NOW and for helping me stay faithful then, when I couldn't see it and I was sure they weren't getting it."  Because raising kids is hard.  Staying the course is exhausting and as the Bible tells us, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)  There is reason it's literally sickening when you don't see the fruit.  BUT, when you see it and when you can finally taste it, it's like a divine feast from a life-giving tree.

For you, this post might not be about mothering.  Maybe for you, it's about a marriage that you are fighting for, or a job that you know you've been called to, or a ministry that you serve in.  Maybe the days are long and the critics are many and you are heart sick because you don't see any hope, or any future.  It's my prayer for you and for me to remember that in those dry seasons the Lord is still working.  If you are His child, He may be quietly establishing your steps or moving mountains behind the scenes or teaching you to be faithful in the wait.  You may never know the "why" of this season, but you can rest in the designer of this season.  Whatever your circumstance, don't wait for the fruit to stay faithful.  Someday you'll see the fruit, on this side of Heaven or the other.  It will come.  But in the mean time, keep getting out of bed and doing what you know is right.  Stay faithful in the Word and rest in the knowledge that He chose YOU first.  He loved YOU first.  He is fighting for YOU.  And He will stay faithful to YOU, regardless of whether you stay faithful to Him.  But oh that we WOULD stay faithful to Him!!  Our obedience is always His choice for our good and His glory...

Some truth to chew on today...

"But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8

"...Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love."
Ephesians 1:4

"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
1 John 3:16

"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."
Exodus 14:14

"Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

"We love Him because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19


10 (.75) Months

Oh Carter, I'm really behind this month in posting your 10 month update...You are just a week or so away from turning 11 months so this morning I am getting this up fast and furiously! 
This has been a VERY big month for you!
I just love this picture of you buddy!  It's very fitting because in general you are just one happy, little guy.  As you've grown up and are starting to understand more and more, you have begun to get really excited or really mad :) Your emotions are in working order!
Here are some stats about you...
-You are sleeping better this month, we put you to bed around 8pm and you sleep til 6:30 or 7:00. We feed you and then you go back to sleep for another hour or so.  You usually nap for 1-2 hours in the morning and another 2-3 in the afternoon. 
-You are wearing 9-12 mo clothes, but more 12 mo than anything.  I don't know how much you weigh but you sure are solid!  You are getting very heavy for me to hold and I'm pretty sure you've passed your sister up in weight this month!
-You are still in a size 4 diaper
-You LOVE to eat, but only a few things :) I don't want to call you *picky* yet but you definitely know what you want and what you DON'T want.  You love carbs, i.e. bread, crackers, puffs, cereal, pasta etc.  You also love yogurt, applesauce, pears, peaches, and mandarin oranges.  What I can't get you to eat is a vegetable of any kind or much protein.  I just keep putting it in front of you, hoping you'll decide one day that you like it. 
-You are still drinking formula several times a day but you're really beginning to wean yourself off of it.  You drink a 6oz bottle in the morning and before bed, but during the day it's kind of a take it or leave it scenario.  That's ok though because we're very close to switching you over to whole milk completely, so I'm glad you are losing interest in formula.
The big news of the month is that you are crawling!!!  For the last few weeks you've been army crawling everywhere but on Friday, August 12th, we put you down for an afternoon nap and when you woke up I set you on the ground and watched while you got right up on your knees and just started cruising!  The best part was that Texie, Daddy and I all got to witness it firsthand and we just couldn't believe it.  It was like a switch flipped while you were sleeping and you just "got it."  Thankfully I also got it on video as it was unfolding, which is the kind of thing that keeps your Mom awake at night asking the Lord to grant us that grace to capture as many firsts on video as we can, especially for you :) The "second" child!  Ha ha! 
Since that day, you are now Carter the explorer!  You have been in every nook and cranny of our house, opening cupboards and drawers, finding all kinds of "treasures" on the floor and following your sister everywhere she goes.  It's a whole new world for you buddy and I love to watch you discover it!
As I mentioned earlier, you got to see your Texie this month and get lots of extra love from her :)
Now that you are on the move, I find you doing lots of this...self entertainment.
It's great watching you play with the things that interest you and knowing that you can get them out anytime you want!
I don't know if it's the crawling or what, but you've started to look so much older to us this month! 
So much like a little boy now :)
As you've started crawling you've also started pulling up on anything you can.
Which is exciting for this big sister! 
But also a little dicey when she realizes that you're now capable of reaching "her stuff!"
I think you are very happy with yourself this month Carter!  I can tell you've been wanting to do these things for awhile and now that you can, you are very happy about it :)
One thing that makes me laugh is to watch you discover any kind of soft blanket or toy.  You immediately dive bomb it and rub your face in it or roll around on it!  You love this stuffed horse because it's very soft and when you see it, you make a bee line for it to do this.  Makes us laugh every time!
You also love the plastic golf clubs.  Occasionally they become a weapon and I have to intervene, but mostly you just love to wave them around and put them in your mouth.  I hope this is the first chapter of your love for the game of golf!
You and Ava are becoming quite the pair.
We love to watch you "play" together and I can even let you guys be in another room without me, as long as I can hear you.  I can always tell trouble is coming when I hear..."NO Carty, dats MINES!"  I know to start running when those words come out :)
Mostly though, your big sister is thrilled about you.  She loves to make sure you have your blankie at all times and she has become the keeper of your pacis.  It makes our hearts glad to hear her say, "Come here buddy, be careful!"  or "Ohhhh Carty, do you love it?" or "Sooo cute Carty, Mommy look, so cute!
You guys are becoming fast friends and we are thankful.  When you're napping Carter, Ava asks me a thousands times if she can "go get um?" or "check um Momma?" or "See Carty??"  Even though she may take toys away from you or try to protect her treasures from you, she truly loves you and her little mothering instincts kick in when you are in trouble or crying or trying to do something.
Our big adventure this month was to take you camping!  Someday I'll realize how crazy that was, considering how little you are, but honestly you were so good!  And you loved the freedom to crawl all over the place and play in the dirt.  I wonder why??
At home you have become my little "helper" too.
Whenever you hear that dishwasher open, you come as fast as you can so you can get your little hands in there!
I have to move quickly, but I love this little face staring up at me.
I love you so much Carter.  It's such a joy to watch you develop and grow into the little boy that you are. 
Your Daddy and I wouldn't change anything about you.  We know the Lord has created every aspect of who you are and we are honored to train you up and guide you to know and love Him in return. 
We love you Carty!!
You bring laughter and more JOY to our home and we cannot imagine life without YOU!
Happy 10 months sweet boy!


A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That...

It's Friday and I'm home for the night with the kiddos.  We had a VERY successful day today, mostly because I finally got through our closet (Trav and I) and got it cleaned and organized.  Ahhhhh, I've been meaning to get that done all summer but I just never had a chunk of time to do it.  Carter took a monster nap and Trav took Ava fishing so I jumped at the chance to sort and discard :) Travis is serving downtown tonight at a shelter so I took the chance to load him up with bags of clothes and shoes to give out.  The ONE positive thing about us giving up our walk in closet and sharing a small one is that it forces me to stay on top of our clothes and weed them out every few months.  We also spent a little time in the sun today at a new splash park so now both kids are sleeping and I've got a few minutes to update the blog.  So, this is random, but I'll start with the most important thing first: dessert!
We've been stuck on a little treat this summer that involves these two things plus some brown sugar and cinnamon.
Slice the bananas, sprinkle them with brown sugar and cinnamon, place under the broiler for 4-5 minutes and wait until the sugar begins carmelizing on the bananas...
Take them out of the oven and immediately scoop them over some vanilla bean ice-cream.
And I'm not even a banana fan usually, but this is soooo worth it!

Secondly, I could write a novel about all the *challenges* we are going through with a certain 2 year old but one of the funniest is her obsession with gathering all of her most important things to bring with us EVERY TIME WE GO ANYWHERE.  It's cute, but let me tell you, unless we also bring a u-haul for just Ava's stuff, it's exhausting.  I'm getting a good excercise in "choosing my battles" and just letting the rest go...
This was on our way to the waterpark.
It was essential that Ava bring her purse, her baby Stella and Stella's blankie.
Thankfully this guy travels light right now :)
He'll go anywhere without anything. 
Thanks buddy, I'm enjoying the break!
We went to the Water Park of America with the junior highers and boy did my kids LOVE it!!
Carter was beside himself the whole time, just splashing and clapping his hands and scooting all over the place.
It goes without saying that Ava was also thrilled!
Carter enjoyed his first water slide...
Is that little belly not the best???
This is an accurate depiction of how Ava spent the 2 hours we were there.
She basically RAN from one thing to the next. 
She was a wild woman.
This is Ava asking Travis if she could go down the slide "a little bit?"  "Maybe?"  She likes to tack those two phrases on the end of every request these days.  It always makes me laugh.
Clearly he said yes! 
We had so much fun that both kids were out cold 5 minutes after we pulled out of the parking lot :)

Thirdly, this has nothing to do with anything but in case you're wondering what I do all day?  And really, who isn't captivated by that thought...Here is how I spend half of my day.
Watching these two pull out every movie from that drawer...
...over and over and over...
Sometimes I can distact them and stop it before it happens, but often I look at them happily chatting and giggling and then I realize, it's at least 15 minutes of peace.  And that usually wins.

Remember my quest to redeem the fleeting weeks of summer and make the most of them? 
Well this is me making the most of them.  Dragging some food and toys outside for a little picnic with the kids.
Ava was on the hunt for some cheez-its...
And Carter was just on the hunt.
Ava explored the back yard and the woods behind us, but she really got a kick out of watching Carter.
He tried to eat grass, crawled in the mud and just generally did everything a little boy should.
Much to his Soccer Coach Daddy's delight, he also took to the soccer ball.
Yep, doesn't he just look like a little player already??? 
He also kept an eye out for Stella, I think Ava asked him to babysit.
She needed some alone time??

After a dinner time disaster last night (that ended with Travis and I eating in the bathroom while the kids took a bath) we got jammies on and headed out for a Dairy Queen run.
I think we earned it.
We put Carty in the stroller first, and then Ava hopped in...
...But not before she made sure that Carter also had a baby to take with him.
Because it would be wrong to just go anywhere without 15 things to bring with us...
And clearly, she is the boss.
Finally, I never got a picture up from Texie's visit a few weeks ago.  She came and spent a week with us and we had a great time with her.  Carter even crawled for the first time in front of Texie, Travis and I one afternoon!  Thanks for loving on us Texie and stocking the kids' wardrobes with lots of new things!  We're so glad you came :)  

So there you have it.  Lots of random things to ponder :)
Hope you have a great weekend and if you're on the East Coast stay safe!!  Praying for my sister and brother in law to be spared in South Carolina and also for all of our North Carolina friends who will be directly affected.  I hate to think of the damage that's about to unfold on some of my favorite beaches out there...Come quickly Lord Jesus!   With all of these natural disasters lately, it seems like He just might come sooner than later, doesn't it? 

Happy weekend friends!