So Fresh and So Clean Clean...

You're welcome for that Outkast song stuck in your head now, ha ha!  Anybody else so happy it's Friday night??  Happy to have the weekend ahead?  Happy to be watching all the basketball games?  Happy to be starting Spring Break if you live in Minnesota??  Maybe those things are only making me happy, but I hope you are relaxing with your feet up or enjoying a night out after a long week.  

Today was a soul-refreshing day.  Thank you for the sweet emails and phone calls and FB posts after my last post.  I'm so grateful for the encouragement and the prayers. It's a blessing to be reminded of the support we have and some grace given for the weeks ahead too.  You put some wind back in my sails and I appreciate it! I also got some space to breathe by way of a much, much cleaner house.  We embarked on an "all hands on deck" family cleaning effort this morning and gave every single room in our house some thorough attention.  Floors mopped, carpet vacuumed, furniture dusted, counters disinfected, toys put away, trash know, one of those mornings.  We gave it a good 3.5 hours of effort and I can't even tell you how much lighter my heart and mind feels!  I know there are only 5 love languages but if I could add one more, I'd add a "clean and organized" space to my list!  It just makes all the difference for me.  

Despite the old saying, I don't think cleanliness is next to godliness, in fact I've had to check myself a lot over the years about why I like things to be clean.  Since I've stayed home with the kids in particular, I've had to fight one persistent tendency and that is not letting my home dictate my day.  I constantly have to remind myself that I didn't stay home to be a slave to my house, but to be with my kids.  There will always be a list a mile long of things that "need" to be done but only a short window with kids who "need" their Mom.  So although I often wake up and look around, imagining what projects I could tackle that day, I have learned that I'd rather choose to let stuff go, instead of missing out on what my kiddos have to offer.  But, when the house reaches disaster status or when it's simply time to start fresh again, no one is happier about it than me!!  
 This is my perch of's where I spent most of my time resting.  I've also been sleeping out here lately, trying to improve my chances of falling asleep and staying asleep.  Lately it's been cluttered with my laptop, my Bible, journals, the ipad, phone chargers, and my camera.  I have logged many hours out here and normally my kids like to play all around me when I'm sitting with my feet up.  Makes me so happy to see a clutter free coffee table again!  
 It's embarrassing how deep the layer of dust on that entertainment center was, I am the worst about dusting!  It did feel good to see that go and smell that lemon fresh scent from my dusting spray! 
 My desk has been overcome with paperwork for what feels like forever.  Now that the taxes are over, I finally put things away or just threw away piles and piles of old paperwork.  I hate dealing with paperwork and the mail, it always feels like I'm getting buried.  It's cathartic to throw stuff away, isn't it?? 
 Even vacuum lines in the carpet made me smile today! 
 I brought this little table out in the living room so my craft-loving girl could do her "projects" under my supervision, instead of in her room.  It's so cute out here and I love to see her sitting there coloring and practicing her numbers and letters.  I also love that it's metal and it wipes clean very easily! 
 About a week ago I exchanged the winter bedding for our spring/summer bedding and I'm so glad I did.  Our room looks "happy" to me now, despite the fact that it's generally a mess and our bed is usually full of laundry that needs to be put away :) Of all the rooms in our house, ours was definitely the worst! It's always the place I tackle last or the space Trav and I just run out of steam to address.  I've been trying to do some weeding out in here too, we just have way too much stuff.  I have been in a purging mood for a while now and our room needs a lot more.  I always sleep better when our room is clean, I'm weird like that.  I love the feeling of waking up in the morning to a clean room!!
And also?  I love a clean bathroom.  Mirrors with no splattered water marks and clutter free counters....ahhhhhhh, I can breathe again!!  
 We tackled the kids room, which is something we do at least 3 times a week it seems.  Their room definitely gets the most effort from us, usually due to pure desperation and an inability to walk! 
We made beds, Ava tickled me with her pillow and animal arrangement, and we just generally made everything neat and tidy again.  
We've been trying to instill some sort of cleaning responsibility in Ava and Carter lately.  I don't want them to feel like I'm always on them about their room and I really do want them to play and enjoy their toys as kids should.  But when you have a small space, the trick is that you have to clean up periodically as you go or it goes from fun to disaster zone in the blink of an eye.  
 We've had some tears this week over some cleaning up battle of the wills, but after some hard lessons and some patient explanations, they were great helpers today.  I have to be so careful not to make the state of their room more important than them, but I think Ava is finally catching on about how much easier it is to play when the floor isn't full of toys and you have no space to move.  There are good opportunities to instill good habits when you have small spaces!  
For once their closet floor isn't full of discarded clothes, shoes and toys! 
This area will have to re-worked to make room for Walker down the road, but I do love having all this available space for a big, shared closet!  It is so handy to have right now.  
Is it weird that I love my kids' bathroom??  It's become such a kid space, but it's happy and cleaning it up only takes a few minutes.  It did feel good to steam clean the floors and wipe down everything after all this potty training too!  
Also nice to get all those toothpaste marks off the counters again!
I'm thankful for these little helpers and of course for their Daddy who did so much work this morning.  We all enjoyed a clean house this afternoon and were able to relax because of it.  I know it won't last forever, but for now I'm breathing deep and even opening the windows for some fresh air. 
It's starting to feel like Spring to me!  Can't wait for the days of park playing, bike riding, sidewalk chalk drawing, and everything else we can't do inside.  
Also preaching to myself "people are more important than clean houses" but boy does it feel good to enjoy those people in a clean house!!  

Happy Friday to all of you... 
Hope you have a blessed weekend whether you're cleaning, resting, working, or playing.  Enjoy! 


Pregnancy and Perseverance

It's a rainy, drizzly day here today which always makes me think it's a good day to sit and write a little bit.  Earlier this week I gave you the update on the big kids, but today it's all about baby Walker and his Mama!  Already this little guy is making a big impression in our world and more specifically, in mine.  I've been a little quieter on purpose this last month, not sure if and what I wanted to share about this pregnancy.  Not that I can keep it a secret, but doesn't everyone just prefer to hear all is well and everything is great??  

To be fair, all is well and everything is great with the baby.  He is measuring right on track, doing everything he should be doing and delighting us with each week of development and anticipation.  
HE is great and WE are getting more and more excited to meet him and have him with us! 
 I've slacked a little on the baby profile pics, but here is what this little guy was looking like at week 21, right after we found out HE was in fact a, HE!  
A round little pomegranate to love!  
Well now, a month later, here he is at 25 weeks!  In addition to the length of my hair growing, so has my tummy.  It's starting to feel a little firmer these days and definitely impacting my daily movements.  I'm at that stage now where I can't see something on the ground and therefore I end up stepping on it, kicking it or stubbing my toe!  I've knocked over Carter at least twice now by swinging around quickly and not realizing he was there, my belly at his eye level, bumping him right out of my way!  Poor guy!  I've also begun to put an apron on when I cook now because I keep splattering sauce or oil on my shirts when it dawns on me that my stomach is a lot closer to the stove than I think it is!  Ha ha!  
As of last Friday, Walker is apparently similar in size to a head of cauliflower, which for some reason doesn't sound as sweet as a pomegranate??  He's grown quite a bit in weight over this last month but I'm happy to say from my last appointment that I haven't grown in weight!  It's the little things these days...I'll take the victories where I can get them! 

The baby is great and as I stated earlier, we can't wait for life with Walker "on the outside."  
So then, what's the rest of the story??  

Well friends, no one likes a pregnant woman who is full of complaints, and I  don't want to be that woman.  But as grateful as we are for this third baby and as much as we anticipate his arrival, this pregnancy is about to kill me.  I wish I was exaggerating, but seriously, it's been a pretty rough experience and it's only getting harder for the foreseeable future.  I'm sharing a little more publicly now because it's really impacting my daily life and will only continue to do so.  I have a challenge before me called SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) or sometimes it's also called PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain).  I'll spare you any graphic details, but it's something I had with Ava and yet barely felt with Carter, but as is common in multiple pregnancies, it often comes back earlier and more severe each time.

Unfortunately for me, I began having symptoms back in January, which was very early but they were manageable and not interrupting my routine beyond some discomfort here and there.  Quickly it all began to progress in February and for a few weeks they monitored me closely to make sure I wasn't showing any signs of preterm labor.  Thankfully that concern was taken off the table and not something they felt was happening at this point.  However, the end of February and all of March have been nothing short of difficult, and sometimes excruciating.  The last two weeks in particular have been so hard, I've struggled through the days and barely survived the nights, with Walker getting bigger the pressure is getting more intense and making my comfort level decrease.  When I went in on Friday for my OB appt., my doctor confirmed that we were hoping to avoid is officially happening now.  

Again, I don't want to share more than you want to know, you can google it for your personal education :) One short explanation is that when you are pregnant, your body releases a hormone late in pregnancy called relaxin, that begins softening and helping your pelvis girdle (all the bones, ligaments, joints, etc.) stretch in preparation for labor.  But sometimes in some women that hormone releases too early and in a greater quantity, and as a result the ligaments are too stretchy leaving your entire pelvic area unstable.  That's the very unscientific and PG version :) As a result of that instability, there is a tendency for severe to moderate pain, but it really varies based on each person and depending on many other factors as well.  

For me, it's been a rough experience.  I am in pain when I sit, stand for long periods of time, walk, climb stairs, lay on my back or try to roll over in bed.  I can't really lift anything thats more than a few pounds, getting in and out of the car is difficult and even sitting to drive or ride is painful.  The instability that I am experiencing causes such severe pain when I move suddenly or if my pelvis is not supported, it takes my breath away and makes me cry sometimes.  It started with sciatic like symptoms and I started physical therapy to deal with that but now it's progressed into something more than just hip and leg pain.  The worst and hardest part of my day is at night.  Sleeping has become almost unrealistic as trying to lay down or being on a soft surface causes the instability to worsen. For a certain number of women who have severe pain, this often leads to being a wheelchair by the end of the pregnancy or it necessitates the use of crutches.  Bed rest is not exactly a solution as being in bed feels more like a form of torture, but slowing way down and moving little and less often is more common.  

Really encouraging to read, huh??  So why am I sharing??  This pregnancy has slowed me down from the beginning, it's been my hardest one by a country mile!  As I'm learning, baby #3 is often a really hard pregnancy for lots of Moms, I suddenly have people coming out of the woodwork telling me how hard their third pregnancy was and not at all like their first two.  There is some comfort in knowing this is common, even better to get a hug from someone who understands the struggle of 2 little ones at home while feeling like your body is falling apart before your eyes.  But of course pregnancy is relative, like many things.  Some people have great pregnancies no matter which number of baby they are carrying and cannot understand a difficult pregnancy because they were spared from that.  I share all of this because with the addition of SPD, what has been difficult, now feels insurmountable sometimes.  I am getting a sobering dose of empathy for people who live with chronic pain on a daily basis.  Nothing about that is easy, nor should it be dismissed.  The perseverance and endurance required to face another day is significant.  But what I'm learning is that it's also possible when tackled one day at a time and with the help of the Lord and the prayers of great friends!   
More than anything else, I really would appreciate your prayers for me.  For all of us.  

Really, we are doing just fine around here.  Right now I am just dropping many things and slowing down even more than I have for the last few months.  That's a gift and a benefit of being a stay at home Mom and I've never been more grateful! The kids are handling all of this so well, they are getting very used to spending time with me on the couch or just needing them to get things on their own when I need to rest.  It's not that I can't be up and around, in fact I am up doing as much as I can and trying to stay "active" but as I'm learning, the amount of rest I need to interject in between activities is great and if I overdo it at all, I pay so dearly for it at night with severe pain and little sleep.  So we're sticking to the basics, school and church, and then sticking very close to home.  I've given up grocery shopping by myself now after trying it these last two weeks and consequently taking days to recover.  We go to a Church that is in a huge building and I'm even beginning  to streamline how I get around there, reducing my steps as much as possible.  It feels so silly sometimes or that people will think I'm just being dramatic, but I'm getting over that and just being honest now.  It's hard to walk, hard to be on my feet and I can't afford to spend nights in agony which I've done many, many times.  There really is not anything my doctors can do about this, beyond some ideas to treat symptoms, but they are wonderful and have been very supportive and sympathetic.  It's not new to me, but it is much worse and much sooner than ever before.  It will likely go away after Walker is born, although I'll need to be diligent about rebuilding my core after three full term pregnancies now.  I am doing what I can to manage it and treat it with the very limited doses of ibuprofen I can still safely take for a few more weeks.  I can't let myself think about the road ahead, I still have a lot of pregnancy left and the odds of it getting better are slim.  Right now I'm taking it one day at a time and trusting the Lord to see me through.  
I certainly don't regret being pregnant!  Walker is worth all of this and then some, but that doesn't make it easy.  We are excited for the one more than me!  I am praying and asking the Lord to help me with the pain, but also to help me to CHOOSE JOY in the midst of this.  It's very easy to be negative and want to complain about every struggle of the day.  It's so crazy when even the most basic things like doing the laundry are hard or when grocery shopping for my family becomes too much.  But the Lord knows what I face and He is faithful to meet my needs each day.  I know He's giving me many graces that I don't even realize, things He is working out and ways He's providing.  
Lately I've been thanking Him for the following: 

-Our one-level living condo seems like a gracious gift right now.  Less to clean, easy for me to know what the kids are doing, no stairs to worry about, and fewer steps required to get around.  That's a gift! I'm embracing the simplicity of being here and I have a renewed joy about it.  

-I have a scheduled c-section ahead for Walker.  After Carter's emergency c-section, it was the best and wisest decision for both of us.  With all this pain and pelvic instability, I'm now so thankful that I don't have to deliver a baby on my own!  I can't imagine how hard it would be and what the recovery might be like afterwards.  This is provision I never could have imagined!    

-Travis.  He is and has been, amazing.  He's working double right now, putting in a full day at work and then coming home to a wife who needs lots of help and kids who are ready to play! He has taken on so many things to help me and make this as easy as possible for me.  I'm good until about dinner time and then I'm on the couch with ice for most of the night.  The poor guy has about a sliver of our bed to himself at night and he's put up with 9,000+ configurations of pillows and mattress hacks in an attempt for me to try and sleep.  He hears my moaning and groaning and occasional crying and helps me as much as he can.  The nights are just so hard and he is the one who endures them with me.  He's grocery shopping with all of us after work, or picking up dinner on the way home, or getting Ava from preschool so I can stay in the car and take her home.  It's a lot and he's been amazing, he's got the heart of a servant and such a gentle way of letting me feel free to get nothing done, even if it means the house is not in order or the laundry always caught up.  
I'm so grateful for him.

 We were with some friends in our small group, all of us with multiple little kids and many challenges, and we talked about the way these years deepen and strengthen marriage even when you feel like you're drowning with kids pulling you under!  Ha!  I know this will be a season we look back on, Lord willing, and marvel at how hard it was physically and yet we get to see the fruit of holding tight to Jesus and one another and laughing our way through the chaos!   Hard times draw you together or pull you apart and I'm praising the Lord that this season is giving us an opportunity to draw close and fight for the longterm gain of our marriage as we show grace to one another.  Lots and lots of grace! 

I've not done any shopping for Walker or even thought too much about what I need yet, it's not a lot since I have all of Carter's stuff.  However I did see this soft blankie at the store the other day and picked it up.  I'm a sucker for baby blankets and I use them a lot in that first year!  It's so sweet in person and made me excited for the day I'm holding him in it!  I just can't wait for that little face and that new baby smell and those tiny fingers and reward for sure!  

I'm so glad pregnancy is temporary and the reward at the end is oh so worth it.  I've got a bumpy road ahead of me and I'd covet your prayers.  Specifically for my attitude, some days it's hard to be very positive when everything feels painful and overwhelming.  My biggest request is for the Lord to help me CHOOSE JOY every day!  This is hard, but it will only get as hard as I allow it to be.  I can endure and persevere with joy because of the Gospel and what that means for me on a daily basis.  Everything about life on earth wasn't easy for Jesus and there was a real, physical, excruciating and undeserved cross He bore.  But when all seemed lost and the outcome was overwhelmingly bleak, He rose from the grave and overcame the pain, the darkness, sin and death!  The joy and the miracle of the resurrection reminds me that He's got the same resurrection power available for me too.  As his child, I get to access his power and his strength.  But that's not all that I have through Him, I also have Hope!  His ascension back to Heaven reminds me that this life is temporary and fleeting.  Our pain and our joys won't last forever here, but when we get to Heaven with Him, we have an Eternity waiting for us that far outweighs anything we experience here and is more than we could ask or imagine.  That is REAL to me and that is GOOD NEWS, even on painful days.  It gets me out of bed (or the couch) and helps me put one foot in front of the other, which is a big accomplishment these days.  It gives me a real Savior I can receive comfort from and draw strength from every hour of the day.  

That's what life is like right now, it's why I'm not doing a whole lot and why being at home is where I need to be most days.  And that's ok.  I'd love your prayers though!  We don't need anything else right now, and I've got a good handle on what's available to try for pain relief.  I will be dancing from the rooftops when Walker is here and my SPD is gone!  Until then, I'm kicking back with my little family and watching other people dance instead while a certain little boy dances inside me   :)  
Tomorrow I'll be 26 weeks, which means only 13 to go!!
One day at a time...


Lately, in our Neck of the Woods...

Happy Tuesday, friends! 
I decided to post some updates today, I'm well overdue for some of those and today is the day.  I have been working on a writing project that has consumed my time lately and my brain is fried in a big way.   I've been thinking about and writing about theology for hours every day and this mama needs some rest from heavy subjects!  

 I am really enjoying the discipline of writing about the names of Jesus and I will continue to do that, but I'm giving myself some additional freedom there to post those as they come for the foreseeable future and not just in time for Easter.  Surprise, surprise, it turns out I have lots to say about each name and I want to take the appropriate time to think through those posts and give them the research they are due.  It's not possible for me to crank those out everyday in this season of life so I'm taking the pressure off myself!  That's personal growth, people.  The Stephanie of 5 years ago would have killed myself to make it happen simply because I committed to it.  The Stephanie of today is taking the personal grace route instead!   Plus, I miss writing about my kiddos and some other things happening in our world.  I love that this blog has become our family scrapbook/journal, so to speak, and I don't want to skip over things happening in our daily lives.  

So, having said that, here are a few things going on with our kids as of late...
Ava is just killing us these days, in the best possible way.  She is weeks away from turning 5 and we are just enjoying her so much.  This is a great age and she keeps us laughing from the minute she wakes up until bedtime.  She is DYING for summer around here and has continued her love for wearing dresses, but she's officially made the switch from long sleeved dresses to summer sun dresses, whenever we're at home.  This girl can't wait for the sun and heat and we are right there with her.  It's not unusual for her to be running around in a sun dress or even a swimming suit most days and after this long, historically cold winter, we just can't blame her!  She is sunshine to her Daddy and I and we just can't believe we are already here, staring at 5 and talking about Kindergarten all the time now.  
Preschool has been a wonderful thing for her this year, she loves every single second of being at school and can't wait to go each day.  I love to hear her take on the day and what she's learned, we are also amazed at how much we've seen her grow over the year.  Her MOST favorite thing about school is the daily selection of a "line leader."  For some reason that floats her boat and whenever I pick her up or she gets home from our carpool, I immediately hear "So and so was the line leader today and I'm happy for them, but I hope I'm the line leader tomorrow!" She plays school all afternoon most days, roping Carter into it sometimes but she's good to play on her own too.  She has a bag of slips of paper and popsicle sticks that we've painstakingly written every name she can think of on, so that while she is playing she can pick her own line leaders too!  It's so funny to us and so much fun to her.  

She is growing up and continuing to amaze us with what she understands now and wants to talk about. She misses NOTHING that we say around here and I often catch her just a few feet from Trav and I, trying to hear every word between us.  Oh my!   She is still a crazy good eater, both in quantity and variety.  She took over my Thai Bangkok Curry at Noodles, twice recently!  She's a salad lover, wants a fried egg with cheese most mornings and has fallen in love with soup this winter.  Lately we've noticed she's had another growth spurt and many of her leggings and sleeves are a little shorter now.  
Recently I pulled out her baby books in a final attempt to fill in the blank journaling spaces and call them done!  She just pours through them, yes she has 2 from her 1st year, and loves to see so many faces she recognizes and tells me which blankets and outfits she loves too!  She is really processing all that is ahead with baby Walker and her new cousin Sawyer.  It's fun for her to look at these pictures and put the pieces together.  I'm so glad I did these books and I pulled them back out because my goal is to finish Carter's book too before Walker is born.  I made myself finish our taxes before I would let myself do fun projects, but now I've got the green light and I'm attempting to crank his book out.  
These two are continuing to strengthen their little bond together and they are such good playmates.  They have their moments for sure when the accusations fly and the tears too, but lately I've just been thanking the Lord and praising them for the way they play together.  It cracks us up when their worlds of imaginations collide.  For instance, the other day Carter was playing with his train table at home and Ava was lining up all her little princess figurines along the tracks because they were having a parade!  Ha ha!  I heard Carter say, "Ok Princesses!  You need to watch out for the mighty machines coming by!"  They make huge messes these days but it's a small price to pay for the time they have together and the ways they are learning to share and flex with each other.  I'm so thankful now, a few years into this, that their "18 months apart relationship" has turned into a great thing.  We have many seasons ahead I know, but right now we're enjoying a sweet one before the winds of change blow through our family again! 
I've got a great little helper who is SO excited about having another baby around here.  I recently told her she will be like Wendy, from Peter Pan, with two younger brothers.  That resonated with her because they love that movie and she has begun embracing the role of the only girl.  I've noticed she is playing a lot more with her baby dolls now, mothering "her baby Emma" in anticipation of our baby.  She's always three steps behind me when it's time for a meal, wondering if she can help me cook.  I'm letting her take a pretty active role now and taking the opportunity to show her how to do a few things that will be helpful for her to take on when I have a newborn.  She's greatly anticipating her birthday and the promise of a party with her friends.  Preschool uncovered the once hidden world of birthday parties for her and now she is ALL ABOUT them!!  We are making plans and doing our best to keep her expectations in check...oh the dreams of an almost 5 year old girl!  Everything right now is "maybe we can do that for my birthday??"  At this rate we'll be celebrating for a month!  Of course I have loved her from the moment I knew God gave her to us, but I am really enjoying this stage and season of her life.  The Lord has created such a sweet spirit in her and a nurturing heart, I can't wait to watch her continue to grow.  
And speaking of growing, this little guy is just something else right now too!  I am cherishing my Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings with him while Ava is at school.  He is my carpool buddy, my movie on the couch buddy, my coffee shop buddy and the source of much laughter.  His personality is getting revealed more and more these days and I am laughing often at how much he is like his Daddy!  Carter is 3.5, although mistaken constantly for Ava's twin.  He's very tall and he's talking so much more now and in pretty articulate ways.  The things that come out of his mouth have Trav and I barely holding it together, he's got opinions now and demands he doesn't hesitate to share, but we're also working through the right/wrong ways to handle his disappointment and regret.  

One of his latest things is that after he's done something he realizes he wasn't supposed to, his panic begins to set in about the consequences and he is extremely to quick to say "I apologies Mom, I just apologies.  And I want to turn my attitude around!  I just apologies so much!"  It is so hilarious and so sweet and also a little too late sometimes, but it's giving me ample opportunities to teach him about grace and justice :) We are feeling like we're turning a corner with him right now and seeing some great fruit from all the instructing and reminding we seem to do all day, everyday.  He is really understanding more and more and processing right, wrong and possible consequences before he makes certain choices.  Sometimes I hear him tell Ava, "Ava, remember what Mom said??"  It doesn't mean he still isn't a 3 year old boy with impulses that take over, but we are loving the tender heart God has given him and the way he wants to obey, even if he just can't quite get there all the time.  He is precious to his Daddy and I and we just love him like crazy!  
 He also never stops moving, is always jumping, wants to sword fight everything and makes a million noises when he plays.  He loves to say "Blast you Captain Hook!  or "Take dat and dat and dat!"  when he's playing with his toys.  He's allllllll boy for sure!  His Daddy is the apple of his eye, they are wrestling partners and hide and seek gamers and sword fighters and runners.  It's fun to see different sides of Carter but I have to admit when he is engaging in all things boy, it's a delight to see the grin on his face and the twinkle in his eye.  Carter is a helper to the core.  He is often asking if he can help me with the laundry, the dishwasher, vacuuming, and of course cooking too.  "Can I help ya Mom?  I just love to help ya, I'm a great helper!"  is what I hear from him all the time.  Truly, his help is not always that helpful, but his heart is right and I have to remind myself to cultivate that in him and not squash it, even if it's 10 times easier and faster to do it myself.  I hope he's always this eager to jump in and I'm trying to praise him for it as often as I can.   We are seeing such a huge leap in development and growth in Carter.  We keep telling him he is our big boy now and he loves to hear that.  
I am so, so happy to say that potty training is going SO great!  He is just amazing us at the progress he's made and I am very thankful to have him in undies and clothes again, as opposed to him being naked as a jaybird all the time!  His accidents have been so minimal, most just a moment of being absent minded or not quick enough.  He is very proud of himself and we are testing him in public more and more with lots of success.  It definitely paid off to wait until he was ready because it has been almost dreamy to go through this with a kid who is eager and able to tackle it.  He's even been dry overnight for several nights now so I have high hopes that we are in the home stretch.  Seeing him run around in the cutest little undies really grows him up in our eyes.  No more little toddler, he is shooting up and with another baby on the way, we are not mourning that!  We are embracing it and celebrating it.  
Carter's go-to toys are his garbage trucks, his trains, his cars, his pirate ship, and his golf clubs.  He loves watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse the most and is into Disney Planes right now too.  He has an old school, low budget DVD on John Deere Tractors that he just LOVES and he is a big fan of any book with a vehicle in it.  He loves to play Star Wars Angry Birds or Kung Fu Panda on the ipad and it's a always a big treat for him to watch an episode of "Mighty Machines."  We will be MOST excited for it to be warm outside again because the best activity of all for this guy is running free!  I have a feeling the parks will be his oyster this summer and I can't wait to watch him conquer the slides and the swings and everything available to climb.  I have a feeling we'll be logging many hours there this summer! 
Like most of America it seems, Frozen took over our house last week.  We have been waiting and waiting for it to be released and we surprised the kids with it after they cleaned their disaster of a room last Tuesday night.  
They were both thrilled and we watched it 4 days in a row!  We all know the songs and we saw it together twice in the theater.  It's really fun when a movie captures everybody's attention and this has been a fun one to enjoy together.  After watching it a few times, we overheard them playing "Frozen" together and Carter say, "Elsa, Elsa!  Why did you froze my heart??"  He also said, "Elsa, why do you shut me out??"  Ha ha ha ha ha!!!  That one had us cracking up!  
As you all know it was basketball Heaven last weekend with the dawn of the Big Dance.  Oh what a drama filled season my Hawkeyes have had...the last few weeks have not been kind of us at all and we were going into our play-in game with zero expectation of what might happen.  
Because the game was late on Wednesday night, I took my troops to Church with me, decked out in our best fan gear!  Aren't they the cutest things you've ever seen??  Unfortunately it wasn't enough and we didn't pull a win off in overtime, but as it turned out our coach was faced with a cancer diagnosis for his teenage son last week and I've thought several times since then, it's probably a blessing for him to have basketball off of his mind right now.  I'd love to be cheering for the Hawks, but things like cancer put games and winning and losing into perspective.  We did thoroughly enjoy 4 days of non-stop college basketball around here!  Trav and I watched tons of games, watched our brackets get destroyed and endured way too many nail biters.  It's been such a crazy tournament, but I LOVE this time of year and I love having games on all the time.  It's an easy, family friendly event and fun to hear all the backstories and watch the rivalries and crazy upsets go down.  It's killing me that our rivals, the Cyclones, are still playing.  I can't get on board the fan bus, it just goes against everything in me and I don't expect you to understand unless you are from Iowa and have the slightest bit of competitive juices running through your veins.  I would never expect an Iowa State fan to support us so please don't give me the song and dance about "we're all from Iowa, we should support each other..."  LAME!!!  Can't we just pick our teams and all live with our choices???  They are playing well and have earned some big victories, I'll give them that, but I won't be wearing any crimson and gold or singing the fight song anytime soon!  Ha! 

Ok, rant over...trying to control my blood pressure these days :) 

Life with Ava and Carter is fun right now.  Full of excitement, never dull and always exhausting.  They are busy, busy and growing by the minute.  This has been a looooooooonnnnnggggg winter and yet we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Our kids have been real troopers through it all, I can't believe how much we've been confined inside and that we've not had bigger meltdowns over it.  It's been a snuggly, movie watching, game playing, imagination driven winter and that's fine and good with us.  
We're slowly emerging from the cave of hibernation and ready for the newness of Spring and the promise of Summer!  I'm grateful for life with Ava and Carter and can't wait to add another little blessing to the mix, as crazy as life may get.  Parenting is quite a ride and I don't think you can survive without a healthy sense of humor and wisdom from the Lord!  Every day is challenging and every day I wonder if I'm doing the right thing or making the best decisions for them.  I've accepted that I can't always get it right but I'm also resting in the grace of God and his new mercies for all of us each day.  

In the words of Al Roker, "That's what's happening in our neck of the woods..."  


Day 8- The Cornerstone

 This picture is one of my favorites from our trip to Charleston a few years ago.  I was an Interior Design major in college and I spent a lot of time studying architecture and building structure.  Because the exterior of a building is often an influencer of the interior, all the details of architecture help tell the story of a particular style or time period.  The style of building is almost always taken into consideration when designing an interior, and to a design student like me, each aspect is to be considered and studied.  You can imagine then, how I soaked up the abundant and rich architecture of Charleston, South Carolina!!  It was completely overwhelming to walk down those old cobblestone roads from centuries past and to take in all the amazing architecture of the historic city.  The moldings, the materials, the intricate carvings, the grand columns and sweeping porches of old plantation style homes; such beauty and so reminiscent of an era gone by.  I don't know which building this is, I'm certain my Charleston-expert brother in law could tell you, but I love the majesty of it against that amazing blue sky. You can see the incredible detail and artistry with which it was built.  Just by this shot, we can deduct that this building was built with intention, to reflect something grand.  To make a statement in its' size and stature and impressive intricacies.  If I had to guess, I'd guess this is some sort of government building.  

The name I am writing about today, fits in beautifully with this building.  In 1 Peter 2, we hear Peter refer to Jesus with a construction term, when he calls Him the living Stone, a precious and chosen cornerstone.  

The term cornerstone means: a stone at the corner of a wall, uniting two intersecting walls; a stone placed at the corner of a building during a ceremony to mark the start of construction; a person or thing of prime importance; the basis or foundation.  

A cornerstone is crucial in construction and as this name refers to Jesus Christ, we can also imply the same importance.  Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith; He is the foundation upon which everything is built in Christianity and the One who both unifies and sustains, holding everything together.  There is so much meaning packed into this one name of Jesus and as we look at some of that meaning, the question I want to pose to you of greatest importance is, "Who do YOU say He is?"  What you think of Jesus and what you do with Him is critical.  If He is the cornerstone as God's Word says He is, then to reject Him is to build your own thing on a foundation that is not eternal or solid.  To accept Him as cornerstone is to rely on Him as the foundation of your faith and to find your place in the building of living stones that GOD is building.  Let me unpack that a little bit...

"As you come to him, the living Stone- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For in Scripture it says: 

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone. and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.  But to those who do not believe, 

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone and 
A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.

The stumble because they disobey the message- which is also what they were destined for.  
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."  1 Peter 2:4-10

This is a rich passage written by Peter in a letter to the early Church.  At the time Christians were being persecuted and suffering for their faith in Jesus.  Both by the Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah and self-proclaimed Son of God, and by the Romans who were threatened by Jesus as a King.  Those who believed in Jesus were facing opposition from every side and they were being scattered all over the region, being forced to flee out of fear for their lives.  So Peter, as a disciple of Jesus and a leader in the Early Church, is writing to them to encourage them and also to remind them of truth so that they could stand strong in the face of all this persecution.  He gave them comfort and hope and urged them to remember who Jesus is and to remain loyal to their faith in Him.  That's the context for this beautiful name of Jesus and for the many significant truths from this passage.  

Peter uses the imagery of a building to describe the Church and our role as believers, and also to make very clear who the foundation of the Church truly is.  

-He tells us that believers (those who have been redeemed and saved by Jesus Christ alone, through faith alone) are like living stones.  Every new believer is like a new stone that is laid in the master plan.  We are likened to a building material, because that is exactly what God is doing with us.  He is building His Church and each one of us has a place in that building.  We were made to reflect the glory of God and when we come together in community, and like a building being built, the world can see the glory of our Lord and Savior in us.  Just as we were created in His image, if we function as one body and stay focused on our role within the body, we display a beautiful picture of Christ to the world.  

Think of the picture above.  As it stands today, that building is a beautiful monument made of stones, each one in their proper place and staying true to the role for which it was created.  And the end result??  A strong, sturdy, timeless display of craftsmanship and artistry.  Now imagine if even one of those stones, had decided to go rogue.  If a column decided, "I'm done bearing this much weight.  I'm over it and I'm out of here", what would happen??  The roof would sag and eventually collapse without something to bear that weight.  What about the stones that are pretty ordinary, but are wrapped around the middle of the building, one after another in a very uniform pattern.  What if one of them decided to "flee the ship" so to speak and pulled itself out of the stack?  Suddenly the interior of the building would be exposed, the structural integrity of the building compromised, and the beauty of the building marred because of the gaping hole now clearly seen.  Just like a building needs each stone to be complete, we each have a role to play in the Church.  When we do our part, the body functions as it was intended.  We were made to be in community, to be built into the master blueprint of the Church.    Because we serve a 3 in 1 God, and we were made to reflect the image of our God, all of His creation finds its' meaning and purpose in Him, including us.  We can't reflect His image if we stand alone.  A pile of stones says nothing of it's builder.  But stones that come together and are laid with care, build something worth seeing.  

-The second thing and most important truth that Peter lays out in this passage, is that Jesus is THE Living Stone and the Cornerstone.  We have a role as believers in Him, but HE is the foundation of it all.  HE is the one we are built around.  HE is the one who brings it all together.  Because that's what cornerstones do.  That's why they exist and are named as such.  God clearly intended to build around His Son.  I heard this passage explained in this way: 

"The Bible is not a collection of precepts and moral principles, or only a code to be followed.  It's about JESUS.  He is the definition of everything.  The Cornerstone, the One through whom all things are made and by whom all things hold together.  (Col. 1:15-18)  Don't be too busy adhering to a code and miss Jesus, the person!"  

In other words, as Christians we aren't all about rules, we're all about a relationship with a person.  We are followers of Christ, not followers of a law.  And it's not any person either, he is The LIVING stone.  Because any religion or group can be centered around their own cornerstone.  That's a common way to build.  But what makes our community and our faith so different than any other??  JESUS!!!!!  He is unlike anyone who has ever lived or ever will.  He is transcendent.  He is eternal.  He is God.  He is creator.  He is before all things.  He is the fulfillment of the law.  He is the promised Messiah.  He is the Resurrection and Life!!!  He is the Cornerstone, the one who holds it (our faith) all together.  

Every other religion has a cornerstone who has died or who will die.  Jesus is the ONLY GOD and the ONLY ONE who has ever been resurrected and who lives today.  He sets us in place as it pleases Him, as members of His Church and as part of the building HE is building (1 Cor. 12:18).  Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 3:11, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."  He is the foundation of everything regarding Christianity and if He's not regarded as the foundation or the Cornerstone, than it's not Christianity.  

And so we circle back to that question I asked earlier, "Who do YOU say Jesus is?"  Peter reminds us that if He is our Cornerstone, than He is precious to us.  But if we reject him, we are also rejecting the  capstone.  And what's a capstone?  It's the highest point, a rock on top of a wall, the crowning achievement.  The cornerstone is the foundation and the capstone is the pinnacle.  To accept Him is to accept the most important part of Christianity.  Some people may not say they reject Him, they just don't really believe everything He said.  He may be admired by them, but His true purpose is dismissed and not regarded. He is rejected as God and simply becomes "just another stone" that causes people to stumble, to trip up.  He's the rock that causes their fall.  Many, many people admire Jesus and credit Him with miracles and morality.  They see the good things He did and that's as far as they're willing to go.  They deny or reject Him as anyone more than a good person or a prophet.  They might accept Him as the Son of God but refuse to believe that He and the Father are One, that He is GOD made flesh.  When that happens, they are knowingly or unknowingly, tripping on the foundation of Christianity.  They are stumbling over Jesus and it's a stumble they can't recover from until they are willing to accept Him as Cornerstone and Capstone.  As the foundation, the only way through which they can access the Father and be saved (John 14:6) and as the highest pinnacle, the most important belief in our faith (Psalm 2:12).  You can't believe in God and reject His Son at the same time.  To reject the Son is to reject the Father.  To kiss the Son, is to kiss the Father.  

So Jesus as Cornerstone, has huge implications for each one of us.  Either we look to Him for everything and we find our place in Him, or He's just another stone to us and we reject the One that God the Father chose to send as the Savior of the World.  Isn't it amazing the power of a name?  The depths of understanding God gives us and paints for us, just by way of the names He chose to reveal for His Son.  Our Cornerstone and our Capstone is Jesus!  

So maybe some questions to ask yourself...

Who do I say that He is?  

Is He my foundation?  Do I believe that all of Christianity is built on the person and work of Jesus Christ? 

Is my faith and my claim of Christianity, built on the truth of Jesus Christ?  Or am I simply claiming to be a part of something that I don't really believe to be true? 

What is my role in the Church?  Am I delighting in the place where God set me in His building?  Or am I fighting my role and trying to break free, distracting and marring the beauty and reflection of Christ to a watching world? 

With my kids today...

I've always been a kid who loved to build.  I liked Lego's, I liked Lincoln logs and as I grew older I loved to draw houses and floor plans.  It's just the way God made me!  This is a great way to teach this name of Jesus to your kids.  With little ones, building towers is always a fun thing because what do they love to do with a tower??  Knock it over!!  That's a perfect way to explain the concept of a foundation and to name Jesus as the foundation of the Bible, of what we believe.  When the foundation is solid, the building (or tower) stands.  One thing I really love about my Carter (and I'm sure I'll love it about Walker too) is his LOVE and AWE for construction sites and vehicles.  He's all about the excavators, the diggers, the dump trucks, the loaders, etc., etc.  Because he cares and notices, Trav and I have had to get some knowledge about all these vehicles too! He can spot a truck from a mile away and it wasn't long before he began asking us what it was??  We used his books to teach ourselves what all of those vehicles are called so that we could answer his questions.  As my son(s) grow up (and Ava too!)  I look forward to stopping to watch construction unfold with them.  I love watching a home being built or seeing a building go up.  I can take those opportunities now and in the future to marvel at construction with them and explain Jesus as our Cornerstone and our role in and as the Church He is building.  There are so many opportunities on a daily basis to weave theology in with our kids, we've just got to open our eyes a little bit and help them connect the dots!  So you Mamas of little ones who love trucks, teach your vehicle loving kids that God is all about construction too.  He's the Master Builder and He's given us a solid foundation to build upon.   

Happy Saturday, friends! 


Day 7- The Gate

 Today I have a little treat for you, and for me.  
I've got a guest posting today and he happens to be my favorite Pastor!  I am handing over the reigns to him, to explain this next name. I hope you enjoy Trav's thoughts on the significance of Jesus as The Gate!

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."  Matthew 7:13-14

One of the more curious names for Jesus is "The Gate." It conjures up an image in my mind of an old, wooden door leading to a barn, or an opening in a fence leading to a lush pasture.  Either way, it represents the opening that one must pass through to go from one place to another.  This analogy makes "the gate" an excellent reference to the name of Jesus, because we know that in order to pass from this life into eternity, we cannot go through anyone or anything but Jesus.

The passage above, Matthew 7:13-14, speaks to a common thread that runs through the entire Bible: people, paths, and ultimate destinations.  At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes the distinction between two different gates. Both gates are assumed to provide entrance into the Kingdom of God, but ultimately only one leads to that Kingdom.  One is described as the "broad gate" and the other as the "narrow gate."  

In order to grasp the significance of Jesus as the Gate, we must look at both descriptions.  First, let's begin with the broad gate or the wide gate.  What makes this path attractive is that there are many people traveling on it.  It is essentially the path filled with "the crowd."  How many of us growing up were convinced to follow the crowd into trouble because of the sheer number of people doing it?  Why do you suppose that is?  I would guess it's because the broad gate represents the easy gate.  It is a gate that provides the path of least resistance or the path with the least amount of questioning.  While that seems enticing and certainly less of a hassle, we must be very careful to remember who controls the path through the wide gate.  

Second Corinthians 4:4 tells us that the god of this world, Satan, is blinding the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel.  Satan will use the ideas, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of this world to blind people to the truth and appeal to the depravity of man.  Our fallen nature is drawn to the world through the lust of the flesh and eyes and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:15).

A good biblical example of being led astray by a majority of people comes from Abraham's nephew, Lot.  Genesis 13:10-11 says, 
"Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward..."  

Lot looked toward the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and saw the great multitude of people living in abundance and the well cultivated land, yet failed to recognize that "the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners agains the Lord (Gen. 13:13)."  I'm convinced that Lot chose the broad road because he was so easily persuaded by a great majority of people who lived there.  

Second Peter 2:7 reveals the deluding influence of such an evil atmosphere on Lot and his family, as they were oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men.  The Greek definition for oppressed is "to be deeply tormented and tortured in your heart and mind."  The truth of God was suppressed (Romans 1:18) in such a vile place where immorality reigned, and it's effects on Lot and his family were nothing short of devastating.  Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she disobeyed the  angelic command to not look back; his daughters survived but the immoral philosophy they learned in the city led them to incest with their father.  And Lot, as a result of his stay in Sodom and Gomorrah, had several weaknesses in his character, including drunkenness and immorality.  From Lot's life alone we see that truly the broad road leads to destruction...and many find it.  

Conversely, we need to examine the other gate, described in this passage as the narrow way or the small gate that leads to life.   In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes 7 "I Am" statements.  The third "I AM" statement is found in John 10:9 and says: 
"I am the door, if anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."  

Jesus paints a beautiful picture for us by calling himself "the Good Shepherd" who calls His sheep to Himself.  What is significant about the sheep entering the pasture is the way in which they must pass.  John 14:6 reminds us that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and therefore the only gate or door that we must pass through.  Tragically, not everyone will heed the call of God through the narrow gate, but many will go their own way, following and listening to their own desires, often through the broad gate of this world (Ephesians 2:3).  

Jesus did not say it would be easy to receive His Word; and in fact, many of His own followers turned back from following Him, claiming His teaching was difficult to accept (John 6:60).  However difficult as it may seem, the way promised by Jesus is certainly more fruitful than the way promised by man.  Proverbs 14:12 says: 
"There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death." 

It has been said of sheep that they follow their shepherd so closely because they know and recognize the shepherd's voice.  If we are to find eternal life, we must follow our Savior closely, and we must know his voice.  However, we must know that His voice will never lead us through the broad gate, but rather always through the narrow gate.  

Aren't you glad we have a "gate-keeper" who has promised life rather than death??  

"My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."  John 10:27-28

With my kids...
This is the perfect name to set up some kind of obstacle course/maze for little ones to figure out, so that they can understand the concept of only one way.  It reminds me a little bit of those activity books for kids, filled with mazes that you have to try and trace your way through to the end?  This is not a difficult concept to teach, but it's a critical one to accept.  I want my kids to hear this message over and over, that Jesus is the only way to the Father.  This world is so opposed to that message and will do everything it can to fill their minds with the lie that there are many ways.  There aren't.  God's Word tells us repeatedly that only through faith in Jesus Christ alone, can we accept his free gift of salvation.  One way and one Jesus.  If we don't take the time to intentionally plant that truth in their hearts and minds, someone else will try to replace it with a lie.  I can't control what they choose to believe, but I certainly can control what I do to teach them God's Word while they are under my roof and our influence!  This is so much more valuable than any sport we put them in or any homework assignment we prioritize.  I love this name for Jesus and I'm so grateful that He's made the way to Eternal Life known in His Word! 


If at First You Don't Succeed...

Oh, the fun we're having around here!  I've been quiet on the blog for a few days because my life has taken a not-so-quiet turn for the last week while we've been navigating the waters of potty training.  I think it's quite fitting to now ask you to observe a moment of silence, in honor of my dying sanity. If there's one stage of parenthood that I mostly loathe so far, it is hands down, this one.  I would rather be up at night, rather deal with a thousand messes, or answer unlimited questions than go through the training process of learning to go potty like a big boy.  I realize that sounds dramatic, but I am not exaggerating.  My feelings towards this roller coaster are in fact, dramatic.  
If I could hire this out, send them to "potty camp 101" or get out of this somehow, I would.  
 It all begins so wonderfully and neat.  
The chart...
The jelly beans...
 ...and the stickers for rewards.  It's all fun and games at the start and everybody is on board.  We learned a thing or two from enduring this phase with Ava and this time we waited much, much later to begin.  That seemed to be a very good decision for everyone.
 We eased into it slowly and carefully, not sure how Carter was going to respond and to our great surprise, he made the transition beautifully.  Acted like he'd been going in the potty his whole life.  It was amazing!  No tears, barely any accidents and total joy for all of us.  
That little surprise??  That's called false hope.  
And we bought it.
For the last week, we've been filling this chart up and we're almost out of jelly beans.  That chart is bursting with stickers now and we've still had very few accidents.  Staying dry overnight is not going to happen for awhile, and we're still getting the hang of actually wearing undies and keeping them dry all day...BUT, overall this has been very successful and as I uploaded these pictures this morning, I was all prepared to say he's doing so well!  I've grown so used to a certain little someone running around here all footloose and fancy free, no clothes to hinder him.  Apparently that's the best way boys learn and I'm doing my best to embrace it, we have a 99.9% success rate with no clothes on, but I won't lie it's still a little shocking for this girl who grew up with sisters!  

However, wouldn't you know that just this afternoon we had multiple accidents, including the granddaddy of them epic disaster in the kitchen of all places!!!!  It began in the kitchen (unbeknownst to me) and in what I assume was a well-intentioned move, it was soon tracked down the hallway, into a bedroom, a closet and a bathroom.  It ended with a crime-scene like toilet and lots of toilet paper in an effort to "clean up."  It was enough to throw this Mama right on over the cliff of despair.  The regressions, oh how I forgot about the regressions!!  There is something so disappointing about thinking they've got it and then realizing, nope, not quite yet.  It's called training for a reason and yeah I get that, but oh how I wish we could just skip go and collect $200, you know??  
 I've resorted to treats and rewards, and I don't mean for Carter, but for me.  
If I survive the day, or just the next 5 minutes, than chocolate it is.    
The good news is, he will get this.  No 18 year old is still wearing pull-ups, right??  The real question now is will I survive this?  Or better yet, will my hips survive the extra rewards?  

I told Travis today this will likely be the death of me, the way I finally go.  I am certain I don't get paid enough for this part of the job, but then again, I do get to see the cutest little grin on the face of a little guy who makes it to the bathroom in time.  I get to dish out jelly beans and help choose stickers all day, every day.  I get to watch my baby grow up and master this very big boy skill and I get to cheer him on along the way.  It's not glamourous and it's definitely not any fun, but I am glad I'm the one he can celebrate with and I'm thankful he gets to learn at home, with no pressure or with someone who didn't bring him into this world and would resent cleaning him up or assuring him "it's just an accident" when he fails.  Everything in me wants to complain and wish this away, but when this phase passes, we'll be able to say we did it.  And yes, I do mean we.  I want some credit!  Ha ha!  

I'd like to just relax and not think twice about who needs to go potty and when the last time certain events occurred, but we're not out of the woods yet and for now I've got one eye on whatever I'm doing and the other eye following some cute, naked buns around the house!  
I'd be thrilled at how close we are to victory if I didn't have a baby dancing around inside my tummy, constantly reminding me that I get to do this allllllll over again, in just a few more years...Oh boy!!  

Oh well, at least it's an eternal winter around here and we've got nowhere to be... 
This too shall pass I know, but in my opinion, it won't be a moment too soon!  
I think I need a brownie...

Days 5 & 6- Son of God and Son of Man

I am chiming in today with several names of Jesus in an effort to catch up a little bit.  These two names for Jesus are often used together and they represent such important meaning and depth about the complex nature of who Jesus is.  I love pairing them together because I think in explaining each, they help to only broaden our understanding.  There is no one else who bears this distinction and no one else who can claim either name.  

As Son of God, Jesus is set apart from all of humanity for all time, because in this name we learn that He is God and He is equal with God.  His deity is affirmed and pronounced in this name and his place in the Trinity is also made clear.  

The book of John was written with this very idea in mind, to prove the deity of Jesus.  John elevates Him as the Son of God from the first verse to the last, and he reminds us that Jesus the Son of God, became the Son of Man to redeem us and reveal the Father's glory to us.  I know this is all very theological and hard to wrap our minds around, but I believe strongly that we are to take God at His Word, not trying to explain it in a way that makes us feel better or adding to it so that it's more "logical" or whatever we want it to be.  There is faith required to believe and a required trust in God's Word when it comes to things we don't understand.  

Jesus himself claimed to be God and while that declaration incited the Jews' hatred of Him, the same thing still happens today. 

"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, Son also does.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.  Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.  Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him."  John 5:19-23

At first glance this passage can seem confusing or overwhelming, but Jesus is painting a picture for us of the intimacy between the Father and the Son.  He was standing before them, daring to put Himself on an equal plane with God, which they considered blasphemous and made them furious.  The Jews implied he had no right to make that claim, but in this answer Jesus gave, He is showing them that actually He has every right.  

He takes great care to compare the Father and the Son: 
-What the Father does, the Son does.  
-What the Father sees, the Son sees.
-What the Father knows, the Son knows.

He helps us see that He is indeed equal with the Father and they are in fact one.  He is God, but this would be only one of many times He had to make this claim because so many doubted Him then, just as they doubt Him today.  He did not come after God, because he is not created remember, He is Creator and has always been.  (Colossians 1:15-17, John 1)  

From this passage in John 5, we see that as the Son of God, he has been given certain jobs to do.   

-He will judge all men.  Those who have accepted Him as their Savior will not stand in judgement before Him because their sins have already been judged and paid for on the cross, but for those who reject Him, He will cast a final judgement on their soul.  

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man."  John 5:24-27  

-He has the power to give life, because He is the Son of God.  He is life.  

-He has the power to raise the dead, because He is the Son of God and He alone has conquered death.  

As the Son of God, he is equal in His blamelessness and perfection with the Father.  He is the only Righteous one, the sinless and perfect lamb of God.  Because of that, He is also the only one who can satisfy the wrath of God towards sin (Heb. 2:17) and meet the requirement for holiness.  He paid the required penalty (death-Matt. 5:17) and therefore is the only one who can redeem us.  If He was simply a man or a prophet or a good person, none of this could have been accomplished and our salvation in Him would be invalid.  But as the Son of God, equal with God, He chose to save us and He is able to save us.  

In His great mercy, he is also the Son of Man, capable of standing in our place as a perfect substitute for the human race.  The name "Son of Man" is used in the Old Testament by Ezekiel, who referred to himself as a son of man (a "son of Adam" as it is translated) simply referencing his role of a human prophet on a prophetic mission from God.  It's also used by Daniel, in another prophetic passage, referring to the vision Daniel had of a coming Messiah.  

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."  Daniel 7:13-14

Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man, more than any other name.  We don't know why that was his favorite title, but perhaps it has something to do with the previous ways this title was used.  Like Ezekiel, He was also on a mission from God and was the fulfillment of many prophecies.  Like the vision from Daniel, Jesus was that Messiah, the promised one who was given all authority, expressing the glory of God and reigning forever in power.  Another purpose could be that the name, Son of Man, both reveals and conceals the great mystery of who He was (Colossians 1:24-2:5).  He came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it and while the Jews were waiting on an earthly King to conquer and destroy their enemies, God chose to wrap Himself in flesh and come as Savior and King, destroying forever their greater enemies like sin and death and Satan.  He clearly stated who He was and why He came, but He looked nothing like what they were expecting.  Finally, maybe the most obvious explanation for this name, is that Jesus identifies with us in our humanity by calling himself the Son of Man.  

Although He was always fully God, he also became fully man,  holding back his Deity to embrace his humanity.  It's not that he wasn't God, he was, but he chose to reveal himself in a way that we could see and feel and touch and know.  He restrained His power for the sake of his mission, to seek and save the lost.  John 1:14 tells us that Jesus Christ became flesh, the Son of God became a man and lived among us.  He "made his dwelling among us" by very literally pitching a tent in human flesh.  He became one of us.  Isn't that amazing??  

So the names Son of God and Son of Man really do go hand in hand.  

He stood in our place, as the Son of Man.  
He sacrificed and paid the penalty for our sin, as the Son of God.  

In both cases He didn't have to do what He did and He didn't owe us anything.  But He loves us and even while we were still sinners, He chose us.  He came, He endured, He sacrificed, and He died unjustly for a crime he didn't commit, so that He could complete the mission given to Him by the Father, saving those who would believe.  

It's not easy to explain and it's not easy to understand.  But it's exactly what He said He came to do and it answers every need we have.  It takes faith, but praise the Lord that's all it takes!  We don't pay him back, we don't earn it, we don't perform to keep it, and we don't add to it.  It is the freest gift of all time, and there is nothing cheap about it.  Salvation wasn't cheap to the Father and it wasn't cheap to the Son.  A real price was paid, real blood was shed, and a real exchange is made when we accept it and believe.  

The Son of God became the Son of Man.    
And because of that, He did what Adam (humanity) could not do.  

Instead of questions to think about, I want to leave you with a beautiful list from a message our Senior Pastor preached on Matthew 4:1-11.  I think it captures beautifully why it's important that Jesus is both the Son of God and became the Son of Man.  It compares the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 with the sin of Adam in Genesis 3.   Maybe one of the greatest scenes where we see Jesus' deity and his humanity in tandem and we realize how much greater He is, the answer to what we truly need.  

Adam                     Jesus
          -We see how it all went south in Gen. 3    -We see how Jesus got the victory in Matt. 4
   -Adam failed         -Jesus prevailed 
  -Adam sinned           -Jesus was sinless
-Adam brought death      -Jesus defeated death 
-Adam unleashed destruction      -Jesus unleashed redemption
-Adam was under the curse    -Jesus reversed the curse
         -Sin entered through Adam       -Salvation entered through Jesus
-Adam experienced death through sin    -Jesus crushed sin, death and Hell 
            -Adam was in paradise with a full stomach      -Jesus was in the desert with a shrunken stomach
-Adam had a wife and was overcome   -Jesus was alone and overcame

What Adam couldn't do, Jesus did!!  We worship and adore Jesus because He is the Only One who does what we cannot do for ourselves and He does it as both the Son of God and the Son of Man.  

With My Kids...

This is not an easy concept to try and explain to little minds, but I think there is great value in simply stating truth to them, even if they don't understand.  Jesus is the Son of God and He became human like us.  He understands what it's like to be little, like them.  He knows what it's like to grow up and we can look to Him to be our example.  Making Jesus personal to our kids is sweet.  It's important too.  Helping them see that He cares about every aspect of our lives, from our earliest days to our last, helps them know his care and his love.  He welcomed the little children and we can and should help our kids learn to come to Him uninhibited.  Today I'm pulling out the Children's Bibles that we have, to re-read with our kiddos the account of the incarnation.  Jesus wrapped in flesh, a king who came dressed as a baby, hidden and concealed only from those who wouldn't believe Him.  I pray that they will choose to believe Jesus and His Word above all, for all of their days!    

Happy Tuesday, friends!