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With everything in me, I wish I had asked more questions. I didn’t though, so this is all I have to go on. One of the most incredible moments of my life happened with my five year old son just a few days before the drowning accident that claimed his precious, short life. Without a doubt, it was a tangible, God moment that left me so stunned I couldn’t speak to ask the three million questions that ran through my mind a few minutes after I left James’ bedroom.

On Mother’s Day 2009 I took a home pregnancy test and discovered I was expecting our fifth child, just nine months after our fourth child was born.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled at first simply because I was still up all night with that nursing nine month old and didn’t feel I was physically able to deliver another child. However, ‘it is what it is’ has always been my philosophy and I was going to do my best to power through and trust God. We prayed with James and all his sisters that this baby would be a boy and James would finally have the brother I knew he wanted so badly! Every night from Mother’s Day until the last night I tucked him in to bed he told me, “Don’t forget, that’s my brother in your tummy and he’s gonna come play with me.”  I would kiss him, nuzzle his nose with mine, tussle his hair and nod in agreement.  One night though, just a few days before the worst day of my life, James said a little bit more, just this once and never again, “Don’t forget, that’s my brother in your tummy and he’s gonna come play with me and his name’s gonna be John!”  I was very surprised! John was a fine name but not one we have ever considered or discussed and I couldn’t figure out where James had heard this name to even guess such a thing! So, I asked him, “Who told you that?” He answered simply, “A angel.” I felt the air turn to ice in my lungs as my whole chest seemed to freeze instantly. I was nervous about feeding him information so I asked, “Who’s Angel?” just in case he had made a new friend of whom I was unaware. James didn’t say much. He was a boy of very few words and always had been so for him to speak anything was a rare treat indeed. Finally, he gave me my answer, “You know …. GOD!” I backed out of the room and I never asked James any questions about the Angel.

Well, that’s all it took for the ice in my chest to hit my blood stream and circulate my entire body in that moment. I don’t know why. I have always been a Christian. I’ve always believed in God and Angels and even that people have encounters with them. Just a couple hours before our family walked next door to the home of my parents-in-law James came running from his room where he had been playing quietly. He had his “My first Bible” he received for Easter that very year and was looking at it. He had it open to the first page but, mind you, he couldn’t read yet.  It was the very beginning, Genesis; and there was a picture of the Earth in space with clouds, stars and a moon. James exclaimed excitedly, showing me the picture, “Mu-yer, Mu-yer (Mother), Look!” His tone turned more inquisitive and he asked me, “God made the Earth?”

I said, “He sure did!”

So he asked further, “And he made the moon and the stars?”

“He sure did Buddy! And guess what? He made YOU too!”

“HE DID?!” James asked with curious elation before running back to his room, I presume to read more. I praise God for these and so many other special moments with James. These two moments help me when the waves of grief come crashing down, seeking to drown me too.

I just can’t bring myself to enjoy this Independence Day holiday anymore. I’m glad my ancestors fought and died to liberate this wonderful country from England so many years ago and I’m still proud of them and grateful for their sacrifice. This used to be my favorite time of summer; My Christmas in July so to speak. Now it’s just the day that James gained his Independence from me.  I’ve been surprised by this under lying anger I feel at the rest of the world for enjoying the holiday but I’m consciously releasing it. I know I am supposed to be conscious of the blessings that come from every bad situation; every silver lining in the dark cloud.  I guess it just doesn’t happen often that something so obviously from God is hand delivered to us.  These moments, while shocking, are the very anchors that keep me grounded. I wonder what more I would’ve learned if only I had asked more questions. I wish with everything in me that I had.

Seventh Birthday

Recently we ‘celebrated’ my first son James’ seventh birthday.  It’s been a little more than twenty three months since a drowning accident took him to live in heaven.  There’s so much anxiety leading up to special occasions that are markedly missing your departed loved one but none such like their birthday. It’s the day reserved to celebrate the day that precious being took its first breath and began life outside the womb; The beginning of something wonderful.  When that spark of life is extinguished before it ever really began it leaves a certain kind void, unlike any other.  We took balloons to James’ grave and told him how much we loved and missed him.  The day went much like any other and I even noted to myself how well I was taking each emotion in stride and letting it go again and not letting sadness over come me; Until I woke up the next morning.

It seems that sometimes the day after these milestone markers can have a bigger toll on us than the actual event.  I may have thought I was processing and letting go those rough emotions but instead I was just hiding them behind activities, conversations and general business! The day after his birthday seemed to be full of unexpected emotions that I was sure I would not have to encounter, seeing as how the bid day had passed and all. No, instead they seemed to be a little bigger, a little stronger and brought a few friends along for the ride! Needless to say, not much got accomplished that day! I ate ice cream with the kids and watched silly movies with them, when I could pull myself from hiding to cry in the washroom.  My husband came in and barely spoke to me before I burst in to tears again!  He hugged me, loved me and comforted me until finally I felt some relief; like I had finally cried away every bit of sadness, guilt, misery and loneliness that had tried to come on me. It was so refreshing and such a relief! Then I remembered how Our Father must’ve felt watching His son die on the cross and how His word says He collects all our tears. One day He will make right all the wrongs in our lives; we will be whole and complete and there will be no more tears for all eternity!

Photo Credit: Meshele Makin

 

I know a certain ogre who likes to say that there are many layers to people, just like onions! That always seemed a bit smelly of a description to me and didn’t completely match up with the image God has given me about who I am in him. All of Earth’s possessions are here to show us the many different aspects of God Himself as well as His precious Son; however, there is one thing found in the deepest parts of the Earth’s crust that show us a glimmering example of ourselves and how God sees US – the diamond.  

First of all, you have this nasty, smelly, black lump of coal that’s only good for one thing – setting it on fire! Take that same lump of potential fuel, break it open and you may discover a new treasure. At first glance this new material may seem like any other piece of glass or clear rock. I wonder how many primitive humans tossed these ‘worthless diamonds’ into oceans, volcanoes or other fire pits? Can you imagine what fortunes that might have been squandered by today’s standards? 

Now take that same clear, worthless rock and hold it up to the light, what do ya see?  A myriad of colors, right! A diamond is a prism and reflects ever possible color there is! There are many, many colors and each of them are beautiful in their own unique way; each providing its own hue and definition to the overall diamond, not dominating or overwhelming the diamond as a whole. 

So we are, before God. We are all diamonds hidden beneath the dirty exterior of sin. Some of us choose to shake off the exterior definition of coal and be called diamonds before God. Make no mistake, it is IN you to be a diamond but you have to choose to see yourself that way.  Still though, many diamonds remain defined by their once-black exterior, even after it has been shaken loose. Diamonds though they are, they remain clouded, their colors muted and their full potential never fulfilled.  When you hold yourself up to the Light of Jesus Christ, let His light define you, He will illuminate the colors of your soul and bring them to their full potential.  

Every day we choose what music plays on our radio, what movies or shows play on our TV, what information we choose to look at or read and the company we keep (be they friends ,teachers or even false prophets). Those choices become our thoughts; thoughts become words. It’s through our choices in thought and word that we achieve the only effort required of us in shaking off the coal and lifting ourselves up to the Light of Jesus. The choice is yours and you have the opportunity to make that choice with each thought that crosses your mind each and every day. Remember: You can’t stop the bird from flying by but you can stop it from building a nest! So tell me, will you choose to leave your colors muted? Or let the Light Shine?

 

Photo Credit: Meshele Tomplait

In the journey of motherhood there are many things that you will encounter that will take you by surprise; some pleasantly and some not so much.  I’m not sure how other mother’s feel but I expected that as time went on and the more children I had I would get stronger in my mommy skills and be confident and secure in the decisions I made regarding their future. You could say this was one of the not so pleasant surprises I’ve uncovered along the way!  As it turns out, since I am still learning and growing in the Word and as a person it reflects in my parenting process as well. I had to be willing to be flexible and bend my mothering tactics around the new growth I had achieved.  You could say I find myself at one of those places now.

As a Christian home schooling mother I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve had the wrong focus and have not given adequate attention to training my children in the Word.  Yes, we have a Bible lesson and read from a little devotional but outside of those few minutes, how did the rest of our day reflect the Jesus that we claimed to live inside us? I have neglected my true priority as a mother: to disciple my children.  When Jesus walked this Earth, He spent three full years training His disciples to emulate Him after He returned to the Father. Not only should this be closely examined as a pattern for our own lives but also a pattern for parenting. As parents our only priority is to train our children as Disciples of Christ, first and foremost, and the details in life like food, clothing, education, luxuries will come as a consequence or direct result of that action.

 “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”   — Matthew 6:33

I just finished the most amazing book, Disciple Like Jesus for Parents, that really put my responsibility into perspective for me. It spoke to that part of me that knows I should be training my children better but feels so incredibly inadequate that failure seemed imminent.  After all, I’ve never been to seminary, what do I REALLY know about God? As it turns out, I know plenty! I know the most important thing – to look in my Bible! I learned that it’s ok to not know everything, have every answer or even ANY answers! What’s important is that we never stop learning. It’s the most incredibly rewarding experience to learn alongside your children. As you dig deeper into the Word, God is able to reveal things to you in ways he couldn’t otherwise because nothing speaks to a Mamma’s heart quite like tending the heart of her own children.  

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding”; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:2

So what am I doing different now? Instead of treating the Word of God like another subject in school to get through, it’s become the main theme of the day. When we studied the Parable of the Sower, for example, it was the main project of day and we spent the most time discussing it and working crafts. In science we planted seeds in starter cups, weeded the garden and worked math problems w/ the general theme or tackled them together as they came up in our day.  My girls are older so I also tied in the Parable of the Tares and the Wheat with this lesson since they seemed to build upon each other, cultivating the soil of our heart, guiding the seed to fertile soil, digging out rocks or thorns and to be sure it doesn’t grow a crop of weeds instead of wheat. Numerous times throughout the day we found examples of how these parables applied in our daily lives. Now as future situations occur we have a solid memory of an entire day of examples of this parable to draw back on, instead of ‘that story we read one time’.

Do you see the difference? I sure did, and I was shocked! Here I had spent many countless hours stressing over lesson plans or finding interesting content for each subject when I should’ve been building my day around a single Bible concept.  I’m just getting started too; this is our first week attempting a new approach! I have a lot of ideas of how I would like to see this go, but I know the most important thing is to spark as many conversations a day as I can with my children about our Daddy God, His Word, and how it applies to our everyday lives because that’s the biggest challenge we face in our faith at any age.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”Deuteronomy 6:7

 This is just one of many examples of how we are here to learn how to build every detail of our lives around Daddy God, instead of the world’s system.  In doing so we discover that all the wrinkles in our fabric of life just seem to iron themselves right out!

Photo Credit: Meshele Tomplait

Mary Golds and Hibiscus

Have you ever given much thought to your thoughts? Do you control your thoughts or do they control you? Consider this – You are a Spirit Being. You live in a physical body. You have a soul. What is your soul, exactly? It’s your mind, will and emotions. A Spirit possesses a soul, not the other way around. It belongs to you to manipulate and control to your Spirit’s desire. The problems begin when we fail to maintain control of our mind and our emotions.

Have you ever been ‘lost in a daydream’? Were they more like ‘day-mares’? Do you think it’s possible to decide what you think about? Of course it is! Your mind my present many suggestions but only you can decide which thoughts to indulge yourself in. Remember, you can’t stop the bird from flying by but you can stop it from building a nest. What you’re thinking about becomes a fabric that is placed on a loom and the more indulgence you give the idea the longer it is woven into a garment in which to clothe your Spirit. An idea or memory may cross your mind but you don’t have to pick it up and clothe yourself in it.

Psalms 109:18 He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil.

The fabric you weave on the loom of your mind is sent to the manufacturer – your heart! There the material is molded and shaped into your vocabulary. These are the words that your mind recalls at a moment’s notice when we encounter joy, love, peace, fear, pain, doubt and stress.

Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Imagine your heart is like your bedroom closet. When it’s time to speak, the words you have to choose from are like the clothes already hanging in your closet. They have been made from the fabric you have weaved with your thoughts. You will clothe yourself in either rags or riches. Material that is woven with fear, anger, doubt, worry, stubbornness, selfishness and hatred will produce material that is dirty, weak, brittle, thick and frayed. Wearing these clothes will make you feel depressed, vulnerable and exposed because they offer no protection from the storms of life. What little material there is will be eaten away by the moths of doubt.

Isa 61:3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” 

When we renew our minds daily in the Word of God, it’s almost like running the fabric through a wash cycle before you begin to weave material on your loom. You rinse away yesterday’s sins with a washing of the Word. You put fresh words of Life into the front of your mind and weave them into the fabric of your thoughts. The results will be beautiful clothing to dress yourself in; Strong fabric that covers you from head to toe, protecting from the roughest of life’s elements but nimble enough to keep you light-hearted. You will be radiant, resilient, and full of life, love and grace.

Proverbs 23:7 For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.

 

Homework in Heaven

Photo Credit: Meshele Makin

There is a song called “God of This City” by Christian worship band Blue Tree. The chorus repeats, “Greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to be done here.” During the few days that James was kept on life support that one line continued to repeat in my head. No matter what else was going on it just kept repeating and I couldn’t make it stop. I even bought the CD along with a portable CD player during a rare moment I left the hospital to clear my head. I couldn’t let go of this song. It became my power song. I was sure this was my message from God that James would have a turn around and wake up. As the days slipped through my fingers like butter in a hot skillet, I had to face the reality that I wasn’t getting the message I wanted to hear. After that just thinking about that song was too painful, much less listening to it.

 

In my grief, I felt deceived. The song struck the chord of deception in my heart because I felt that God was telling me that ‘greater things were yet to come’ for James but that wasn’t true because he died. Even as a Christian, believing James was in heaven, I still couldn’t find any hope in “things yet to come.” I guess I had this idea that heaven is a place we go to sit around and enjoy the afterlife; A kind of retirement home for the eternal. As the months went by God slowly began to try to change that image for me because, quite frankly, it’s false. Heaven isn’t the endgame, it’s just the beginning! We are eternal, immortal beings traveling in a fragile, temporal body having an Earth experience. We are driven by our passion for love and our passion for creating, accomplishing and producing results. Those qualities came from the One who created us because those qualities are in Him!  It goes against everything we were created to be to expect to ‘retire’ in heaven!

 

As this image began to take its new form in my mind, I went through a very dark time where I was tormented by (what some might call) irrational thoughts on what heaven might be like. I began to think, “What if heaven is nothing like we’ve been taught? What if it’s another world with horrible situations just like this one?  What if, there, James is some kind of orphan, abandoned to the streets because he died here so young?” I know it might seem a little silly but these thoughts sunk so deep inside me that I couldn’t shake them. I cried uncontrollably for days. John was only a few weeks old at that time, still attempting to nurse and it wasn’t working out. I hid in the bathroom, washroom, bedroom – anywhere I could to keep the big kids from seeing anything. I would pull myself together enough to stop crying if Tim or anyone else was around. I was trying hard to fight against these ideas and felt that if I didn’t talk about them then maybe they would go away. They didn’t. I ended up on the bathroom floor spilling heart out before God, disclosing my doubt and begging Him for answers.

 One night after crying myself to sleep again I had the first dream of James I had (that wasn’t a nonsensical nightmare) since the funeral when James came to say goodbye – but that’s another story. I am standing in a kind of nothingness and even though I don’t hear anyone actually speak to me, I have the understanding that I am about to get to visit with James but there are some rules. I have to stay calm and not allow extreme emotions to take control and I’m not allowed to touch him. I’m supposed to stay cool, calm & collected and the ‘connection’ will hold. Suddenly I see his beautiful face come in to focus and he is wearing his BEST smile!  I took my time and I looked James up and down and took in every detail I could from his feet to his honey colored hair. Immediately I noticed he seemed just a little bit older with his hair well groomed. He was wearing a nice button down shirt, slacks and dress shoes but I was surprised to see a stack of books in his hand. I looked back into his beautiful blue eyes and told him how handsome he was and how he had grown. The mother in me acted without thinking and I reached out and brushed his hair back above his ear. That was it. Dream over. You might think I would be disappointed and I was on some levels but the comfort I received from what I consider a real visit with James is more than I could have ever hoped for! Seeing him well dressed reassured me that someone was surely taking care of him! Seeing books in his hand showed me he is learning. And why wouldn’t he be? We’re created to do just that – create! If this world is just a pale version of what is to come then surely we will be learning, creating and accomplishing goals throughout eternity!

Recently I read a book titled Heaven is for Real’ about a remarkable little boy named Colton Burpo. When Colton was three years old his appendix ruptured and during his surgery Colton was given the honor of waiting in heaven until it was time to wake up again. Colton has some amazing things to share about his trip including telling his parents about meeting his sister who was miscarried very early on in Mrs.Burpo’s pregnancy.  They never knew if they had a son or daughter until then. Colton said she didn’t have a name because her parents never gave her one. I was inspired to choose names for two children I lost through miscarriage over the years and I said a prayer to let God know what their names are! I don’t know if it works this way but it made me feel more at peace. Without giving away too much more about the book, I have to mention another detail that touched my heart so deeply. In the book, when Colton is asked what he did while in heaven he answered, “Homework!” I almost fell over when I read that! Here it is a year after the dream I had of James holding books and learning and this is the first I’ve ever heard of homework in heaven! It confirmed everything I knew in my Spirit to be true and all that God has been trying to show me these long nineteen months. Now I understand why the Holy Spirit continued to remind me those dark days in the ICU when time was standing still that ‘Greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to be done.’

 

Competitive Mothering

Photo Credit: Meshele Tomplait

 

                Do you remember the precious moment you discovered you were pregnant with your first child? I’m sure that a flood of thoughts and emotions came pouring in. Happiness. Fear.  Excitement. Insecurity. Will it be a boy? A girl? Will it be healthy? Happy? Become a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant or athlete? Will I drive a mini van to soccer practice or cry on their first day of school? You probably felt excited to see their eyes, feel their touch, hear their laughter and rock them to sleep. I wonder, did you ever once think, “I’m ready to compete against every single mother on the planet to prove I am the ULTIMATE MOTHERING CHAMPION!! Bring it on, Moms!”

                Exactly. Neither did I. In fact, until all of this ‘Tiger Mom Controversy’ I wasn’t fully aware there was a competition going on. Anyone else feel that way? Sure, there have been times and certain conversations with the occasional acquaintance that I felt a competitive vibe and I usually distance myself from that type of personality. I can not seem to comprehend why women feel the need to be competitive of one another.  I didn’t understand it when I was a teenager and I don’t understand it now. I’ve always been a jeans & t-shirt kind of girl and never saw the sense of make up. It’s false. You’re pretending to be something you’re not. I have always felt like a person needs to accept me for me, just the way I am or move along. I’m not going to pretend. I’m not going to play games or put on a front.  Now, I’m not saying I’m against make up and if there were a special occasion I might wear it. I’m just saying it doesn’t seem to be beneficial to hide behind it. 

                In the same way, I don’t see the benefit in hiding behind false confidences in ones own abilities. The simple truth is, we’re all wrong; At some point, some days, about some things and even ‘our greatest medical minds’ seem to waver constantly on what qualifies as healthy, safe and good for you. How many different opinions are there about the benefits and consequences of eggs? How many pharmaceuticals have been promoted to be a solution, only to cause more problems? Everyone is wrong. Why? Because life is a learning experience. You do the best you can with the information you have at the time.  Our lives, personalities, situations and the people in them are unique and the variables are as numerous as the stars in the sky.  There is no one right answer for everyone.  You can’t assume that your ways, thoughts and ideas are superior to someone else’s simply because they are different from your own. The only exception might be if someone else’s beliefs and practices inflict actual pain and physical conflict with other people. You’re rights end where someone else’s rights begin.  So what if Mom 1 expects her daughter to practice piano for hours or forbids television or if Mom 2 likes the liberal approach of letting her child express themselves at their own whim.  Neither is right or wrong. Neither is superior or inferior. They are simply different. It is our differences that give life flavor.  Why can’t we embrace the ‘to each his own’ philosophy among mothers? Isn’t it hard enough just getting through the day without attacking each other too? Where is that ‘sisterhood’ women are supposed to be bonded by? These days it seems more like a lynch mob.

                I welcome any thoughts if you would like to share them and please pass this along!

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