Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grace for gluttony

Gluttony comes to mind when imagining how many other populations in the world view the American lifestyle, especially around the holidays. The over indulgence of food, excess of waste, and piles of material gifts can seem a bit ridiculous when juxtaposed with those "less fortunate" whom we strive to "help" around the holiday season.
However, the trend to purge, cutback, fast, and give up after January 1 tells of our subconscious recognition of the problem. I hear statistics of stress, anxiety, and depression during and after the holidays, and I can only imagine that we as a culture have strayed unintentionally from purpose and truth.
Why do we want to engage in constant gift-giving, treat-eating, and slander-speaking around a time meant for peace, joy, and love? Well, because if we are honest, none of those previous gerunds (grammatical term- a form derived from a verb but functions as a noun, ending in -ing) are meant to insight gluttony. We desire to spread love by gifting, baking, celebrating, and catching up with loved ones. This is a beautiful thing! Christmas really is one of "the most wonderful times of the year" (despite what you may have assumed based on everything preciously stated here. Why, then, when it arrives do we lose sight of our initial intentions? Because, we all want to be the ones who give the best present, see children light up, and create magical memories by reminiscing on past ones. We hold flawed expectations. We can't desire simplicity, peace, and joy if we also secretly desire a "Griswold Family Christmas."
The problem of trying to shield my children from excess and instill a counter-cultural Christmas is a "rich man's problem." A rich man's problem is a bit ridiculous when compared to those of the rest of the world. I should be so grateful to be loved and have my children loved so much. GRACE.  Grace is the missing antidote to a disappointing or frustrating holiday. Grace for others. Grace for ourselves. And a true silence to see the Grace of God in Christ Jesus coming to Earth for our flawed nature. In those quiet moments, we can whisper truth and pray for hearts to live out peace, joy, and love the whole rest of the New Year. Let go of expectations and live simply each moment.











A rare family photo with 3 states and three generations represented. Levi apparently saw a better picture behind us! :)
Thank you Jesus for helping us celebrate your birth this year!

~Glutton Buster

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Early Christmas Present

We preach that it's not about "getting" but "giving" because God gave His son, and Jesus gave his whole life, but I feel like I already "got" the best Christmas present this year:  Levi starting to walk! At almost two years old, Levi mentally understands the dangers of falling, so I believe he could be cruising around if he had more confidence, but I'll take what I can get! He's growing, and I am just grateful to see my boys growing together! No matter how many hours of sleep escape us this Christmas, I am so excited to relive the joy and excitement of the season through their sweet, young eyes.

The classic (and perfect rainy day) activity, Levi enjoyed some gumdrops and M&Ms this year too!

Roe's favorite position- one hand on his cheek. Silas says he's always thinking!
Fun to have a winter baby this time. No fans, just bundles and blankets!

Boys can't stay inside, no matter how wet or cold!


Haven't been able to go on a real date with my BFF in a while (understandably), but I was happy to enjoy a date with my big man here. He keeps his requests simple- Fresh Market cookie tasting and galloping through Target together (literally).

Roman's first Bumbo experience lasted a couple minutes!


The tinsel was actually purchased for a "science experiment"

But who knew that playing in it would be way more fun!


Thank you Levi for my early present! Love my boys!

~Present Buster

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Classic Lessons

My daily hours are consumed with repetitious tasks, such as wiping the bottoms of three small boys, wiping sticky fingers and sticky floors, and wiping a nose, a scraped toe, or the a occasional tear from an angry eye. Despite the fact that these seem mentally monotonous, by the grace of God, my love of learning hasn't been stifled. My children continue to teach me so much more than a book ever could.

If you've ever seen Home Alone (my favorite Christmas classic), you have seen a snapshot of my soon-to-be four year-old. The scene with the neighborhood kid who bombards the airport van driver with unrelated and irrelevant questions, and later causes the entire confusion of the large-family headcount by sitting in the family's rented vehicle is literally the comical doppelganger of my sweet Silas. The constant stream of questioning can be hysterical if I sit back and listen, but too often I lose my sense of humor and lash out with impatient frustration. Silas certainly helps reveal my lack of patience, as well as my need to slow down in life.

I could write an entire book on the lessons that Levi continues to teach me. I am always humbled by his ability to figure things out in his own way and his own timing. In an era with abundant resources documented benchmarks, red flags, and preemptive preparedness, Levi serves as the poster-child for loosening our tied shoes, letting go of comparisons, and throwing out manuals. Not only is he laid-back in personality, but also in developmental timelines. Couldn't we all stand to gain a little more "Levi-life" in our personal milestones?

Finally, even my tiniest son has lessons to bestow on my life. While Levi could not ever be swaddled due to his leg casts, I remember the swaddle struggles we had with Silas years ago. Roman likewise, reminds me of our own love-hate relationship with boundaries. We want God to hold us tightly in His loving arms, keeping us safe, secure, and warm. Yet we also want to break away in rebellion, fighting His authoritative grip. Once we begin to flail about independently, we scratch, hurt, and scare ourselves to tears. If we'd wait on his perfect-timing to show us a new way to rest, we'd save ourselves a lot of sleepless nights. We have to realize we can't have it both ways-- we can't want His loving guidance leading us if we want to be the leader too. He is the Father, after all, and much more experienced at the job.

This season of learning can't be rushed or rescheduled. It shows sign of exhaustion at times, but it is essential for eternity.

Some sweet moments from our start to the Christmas season, which I won't always have when I'm not wiping something in future years...


The candy cane helped with the tears, but Levi still wasn't so sure about this guy.



We love the one-stop shop and family-friendly Hunters Farm!

Back in my tractor-driving days... I love to give driving advice! :)
Check out that right hand grip!

Free hot chocolate makes any weather worth it!

First viewing of Polar Express proved fun at the time, but like most movies, Silas is not a fan of any sad/angry/scary/unfortunate turn of events, (even if the outcome is happily ever after), so he was sure to tell me what he did NOT like about this movie.  Bah Humbug Silas!

So thankful for our beautiful tree that reminds me of the light and life this season!

No wonder this boy has a sweet tooth with all our cookie decorating!

This boy doesn't have all his teeth, but he sure gives me a sweet tooth!

One of my favorite spots this season.
~Learning Buster

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Listen

I saw an advertisement yesterday for a new "smart" something, and while I don't remember the details of the actual product, I distinctly recall the irony of the ad: "If you have something to say, this is all you need..." Without any hesitation, I can assure you that three minutes with my three year-old, and you will disagree with the advertisement. Most people don't need anything to encourage them to say something. In fact, we all have too many outlets for our opinions right now. (I'm calling my coffee kettle black right now as blogs are the perfect example.) Social media has afforded a huge canvas for monologues. I do not mean to always bash social media, but I would love to see a better tech tool designed to facilitate true dialogue. I think we are missing that "smart" thing that will encourage us to listen to one another instead of simply talking until we are too blue to see our own faces in the script.
As the only female among a four male household, I'm realizing that I speak way too much, and everyone else listens way too little- a terrible combination. Trying to teach my sons to listen is a monumental task in and of itself, but aren't we all guilty of forgetting the difference between "hearing" and "listening." I'll be first to admit that I was that student who was anxiously holding up my hand thinking about my amazing question, and I forgot to listen to the person right before me asking the same question.
Silas recently said that it'd be "really cool if we could hear God's voice." When I tried explaining that we can, I began to see the difficulty in this dialogue. The root of the problem is that if we can't listen to one another well, how on Earth could we possibly know how to be still and silent long enough to hear a still, small voice from Heaven. I recall having the same desire to hear my maker's words aloud, but over the years, God has given me ample and beautiful opportunities to learn how to hear Him. Now, I want to learn to not only hear, but truly listen and obey Him (another lesson I'm hoping my children will learn to do not only with God, but with their parents too!).
Listening, like humility, is a lost art that we all, especially me, need to rekindle and renew. I pray that the quickness of the Christmas season will be replaced with quietness this year. Unlike the Grinch, I love me some noise, noise, noise, especially when it involves, music and dancing. But every day should also involve sweet, silent stillness so that we can learn to listen to our Maker whom we are celebrating this season.

No one likes his first bath, but the warm towel afterwards is the best part.


I really wish I could have nose-dived into the end of this fall goodness.

But I was holding this sweet munchkin.

Painting cookies is always in-door fun!

But when you need to get out, just pack light.

Silas asks to "make slime" practically once a week.

Levi was really jealous cause he loves to get messy, but I knew he'd eat the toxic mess, so...

we didn't tell Silas that we were messing with cool whip!

Don't be sad Roman, you'll get to eat cool whip one day too!
Quick note on my boys for those of you who sweetly pray for our little family:

Despite my knock on him struggling to listen, Silas has been a great help with both my little ones. I couldn't be more grateful for him.
God has graciously given us a new baby that sleeps and eats well. While, babies change with the wind, transitioning into three hasn't really caused much of a blip on our radar. The crazy life of boys feels relatively similar to what it was before Roman came home. Thank you for praying for him. He is doing wonderfully, and we thank God daily for his sweet, sleepy life right now.
Levi is back to his weekly therapies, and I am thankful that most of them come straight to our home! He's been eating his purees and taking on the additional pediasure calories well! Since we have a break this month from most doctors, I'm excited to pray for his progress before we return to them all next month. Levi is handling more and more "crumbs" of solid food when he doesn't have a cold, so that's encouraging. The boy LOVES to eat, so I pray one day soon he'll be able to eat everything! He is back up in the 18 pound region, so we are gaining again instead of losing weight. However, the last cold he had lasted almost three weeks, and he threw up at least one meal a day, so please pray that whatever mucus he maintains this season wouldn't affect his ability to swallow and keep his food down. Also, he's very close to walking, but we, along with his PT, have noticed how much his feet turn out when he takes steps. The over-correction due to his leg braces (which he still wears at night and during nap) is suppose to help "club-footed kids" from turning back inward, but we need to chat with his orthopeadic doc in January to see if he needs any sort of new foot gear.

As always, we are beyond grateful for your prayers, and we are so very grateful for growth this season. God bless you!

~Listening Buster

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thankful doesn't cut it

You know those moments when thank you or gratitude does not seem to capture the essence of your heart. The words seem trite compared to the indescribable fullness that your cup of life contains. You are overflowing with true appreciation, but there aren't any words besides thank you, thankful, or thanksgiving readily available. Well, I feel as though I have more to be thankful for this year than most. We've had our share of familial setbacks and uncertainties lately, but to have all three of our children home, free of a hospital setting, and continuing to grow is a gift beyond words. Not to mention we maintain blessings others never enjoy, such as shelter, warmth, full bellies, and all our daily needs met. It gives me a saddened heart for those sitting in hospital beds this year, or those lost in the cold, those bitter with rage or disillusioned with society, or those simply apathetic and alone. May we reach out in love to everyone we encounter this season. Instead of our shortcomings, our judgements, our comparisons, or our self-righteous advice, may we see the goodness that abounds with plenty wherever we look.

My three turkeys (along with my main man) made my thanksgiving what it was- beautiful.






Love that this boy loves to bake with his mama! (I'm sure the chocolate helps!)

He may not be able to swallow all the components, but liquid chocolate goes down easy! Praying you can eat it all next year bubba!

This boy is proving to be an easy Smith baby! What a gift!

I think they are learning a good habit from mommy and daddy: it's always coffee time.

The Smith family new baby tradition- cardboard rocketship!

Both big boys have been so sweet to new baby Ro Bo.

A solo park trip with three little boys empowered me to take on the world!

Roman's first Thanksgiving was a success!

He wasn't phased by the loud balloon-popping tradition.

Who can find their thankful notes inside!?

Such a reason to give thanks!

Thank you Lord for a sweet Thanksgiving!

~Thankful Buster