Up Me, Mommy! / Seven Words of Praise

If you’ve been around little kids at all, you know their neediness can be both heartwarming and overwhelming. But even in the trying moments when you just want to continue the task at hand, it’s hard to refuse the sweet face looking up at you with arms stretched high.

This week Charlie has increased his requests to be held. He charges at me and reaches toward my waist, half appealing and half demanding, “Up me, Mom-my.” If by chance it takes me a moment to respond, he barrels impatiently into my shins with a little whine and grabs behind my legs. “Up me, Mom-my!” I scoop him up for a squeeze and a kiss {my lips are grafted with magnets attracted to every inch of his toddler skin}. The boy thinks he needs me, certainly wants me, and it brings me back to what’s important – my distracted heart is refreshed.

up me arms

Did you know there are seven words the Bible uses which all translate to our one English word “praise”? That’s right, SEVEN. Can you imagine if there were only one Spanish word to translate breakfast, lunch, dinner, meal, dessert, kitchen, and restaurant? Yikes! So when King David wrote that “They who seek the Lord will halel [rave, boast and celebrate] him” (Psalm 22:26), and when he expressed he would “Barak [bless by kneeling or bowing] the Lord” with all his inmost being (Psalm 103:1), I was oblivious to the stark contrast between them – my book says “PRAISE” in both verses. I’m thankful for this message from itown church, “Fresh Air – Get Worship,” that explains how God’s love language (or what we can do that makes him feel loved) is expressed in more than one form.

All of these words are translated to “Praise” in most English versions of the Holy Bible:

  • Halel… to rave, boast, celebrate in a clamorously foolish fashion.
  • Yadah… to acknowledge in public, give a raised hand.
  • Barak… to bless by kneeling or bowing, presenting ourselves to God, perhaps expecting a blessing.
  • Zamar… making music to God with strings, loudly.
  • Shabach… to address in a loud tone, to shout.
  • Towdah… to lift hands in adoration, raise hands to receive.
  • Tehilah… exuberant singing.

As my pastor walked us through these seven words, my heart flip flopped when I heard something that resonated deeply, and I can’t get it off my mind.

Towdah. Not only does this word of praise indicate the raising of hands, but it alludes to a little child approaching a parent with raised arms, expecting.

Oh, my baby boy… How I adore him. How my heart explodes when he reaches for me and physically displays his yearning to be near me. How I cannot resist bending over to embrace him, to satisfy his desire, to comfort him or to share his joy. To lift him into my world and nestle into the wonder of what was made from my very self. I cannot fully express the simultaneous emotion and peace this encounter brings me. I am honored when my son offers me towdah.

And God is honored when we offer this to him. He is enraptured when we surrender ourselves to him. When we reach out for him if our spirit is broken or if it’s soaring high, it shows him that we trust him. When we display that we need him, we desire him, we want to be as close as possible, and show him that we believe he has the power to protect us, and to make everything better. “Oh, my little one, made from my very self, I just can’t get enough of your love.” He is proud, he is captivated, he is inundated by our love for him.

Don’t you know you can’t overwhelm God with your mess? He has time for you, no matter what other miracles he is working on. Lift your eyes and your hands, and reach for him like a little child. “Up me, Daddy.” And he will. Because it’s not just you needing him. It’s you praising him. Honoring him. And his arms are strong to lift you into his world with laughter, comfort, and adoring love.

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How do you love on God? What word for praise resonated in your spirit?

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Bouquets of Looooove

A few weeks ago, my 22 month old son walked in the door carrying a beautiful bouquet of fuchsia flowers. “He ye go, Mom-my.”

HEART. MELT.

I’m telling you, this kid’s smile and dimples will get him a long way in life and spare him many pains (just like his dimpled Dad). Add out-of-the-blue blossoms to his charm and I was a puddle on the floor. This would have been an opportune time to ask Mommy for a cookie, or a Red Ryder BB Gun.

I kept those flowers for probably 10 days, hauling them to work (so our kitty cats wouldn’t eat them), hauling them back home for the weekend, and hauling them back to the office on Monday, carefully balancing the vase-half-full in the passenger seat and driving with one hand. Everytime someone noticed them, mentioned them, breathed in their aroma, or just anytime I caught them in my glance, a feeling of being sweetly-loved welled up in me. I’m a sucker for thoughtful gestures and anything beautiful.

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Central Indiana is GORGEOUS this time of year. Have you noticed all the trees blooming? White ones, red-violet ones, barely pink ones… Fluffy trees, trees that snow petals, mossy-looking redbuds…

I have never seen a larger bouquet than a tree in bloom. And when I walk outside, surrounded by budding tree bouquets, created and given by God after the most ridiculous winter IN THE HISTORY OF FISHERS INDIANA, that feeling of being loved is even more intense. It bubbles up and pours out of me. Only a big, big God could hand over bouquet after bouquet of this magnitude. I absolutely can’t keep myself from grinning – and I look like a fool in love.

But I’m no fool.

Because His is the best love ever given.

“Now I am going to pursue her, lead her out into the wild openness, speak tenderly to her heart, and win it.” (My own paraphrase of Hosea 2:14)

HEART. MELT.

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Seven Year Itch

Lyle and I have been married 7 years (ok, almost 8). I wish this were a sitcom so I could flash back for you 30 Rock style, but it’s just a blog, so allow me to summarize our married life in 10 sentences or less…

Year 1 – The honeymoon. Woo hoo!
Year 2 – Goodbye college, hello big city!
Year 3 – The death of a parent, job disappointments, and onset of depression for a jobless and motherless young man.
Year 4 – Breadwinning wife is FRUSTRATED. Credit card balance up, bank account balance down (like, way down).
Year 5 – Dual income again, but with a price – coworkers who negatively influence and SO MUCH PRESSURE to keep them happy.
Year 6 – New home, new (better) job, and pregnant – full of joy, and also every possible mood without any warning (Thank you, Little Macaroni in my womb).
Year 7 – Parenthood, postpartum depression due to both the wild hormone fluxes associated with breastfeeding, and finding I am the working mother I never ever planned to be. Yipes.

But this year feels different… We are changing. We are maturing. We are learning, with more perspective and grace. And instead of a “seven year itch,” we are experiencing the surprising bliss of a new honeymoon phase.

The world would like you to believe that your first year together is the most romantic and exciting time you’ll ever experience, and that it’s all downhill from there. Honestly, it has taken me by surprise how “in love” I’ve been feeling lately. I’m a teenager again, infatuated with my crush (who, by the way, I remember as a blue-haired, bass-playing teenager*), and I just want to spend every moment I can snuggling up to him.

Just like yours, our life has taken some rough turns (not as rough as many, but they were rough for us), and just like you, we have each had periods of being selfish jerks along the way. So where did this 7 year crush come from?

I think it was a choice. First to survive, then to thrive.

TO SURVIVE, we made these preliminary decisions as husband and wife:

  1. To never, ever, EVER use the 7-letter D-word, in speech or thought. Til death do us part, baby, whether you like it or not. Once, years ago, I nearly failed at this. I remember explaining to my husband that “most women wouldn’t stay through this.” I instantly regretted it 100% and decided I would never even imply it ever again.
  2. To prrrrrraaaaay, pray, pray… and ask others to pray… and not to pray for your spouse to do what you want him to do, because he’s likely praying for what he wants you to do too, and chances are good that neither of you have a clue what you really, truly need the way God does.
  3. To seek counsel and knowledge and wisdom about glorious relationships from the Bible, books, mentors, pastors (like our pastor in his Love Song series at itown church), and other happily married people seeking God.

We had to make sure our marriage SURVIVED to even get to a place where we could BEGIN to thrive… And recently, life has become even richer. I blame it on two tweaks:

He has been more intentional about caring for me.
About 6 months ago, Lyle started sharing thoughts about why he loved me, how he appreciates this and that about me, or what I do or even try to do… he’s been very specific, and also enduring in this practice. He offers me written words I can keep from an email or handwritten card mailed to my office… and even once displayed on Facebook for all to see (his sweet message of gratitude got him record likes!) He knows my love language is snuggling, holding hands, and any kind of tender touch – and he does that for me. He even offered me a back rub last week (whaaaaaat????) I could go on about how amazing he is with the baby kiddo, and around the house… It all seems so very intentional. Most people complain about things, but don’t point out when things are good – Lyle does.

I have been more intentional about appreciating him.
Also about 6 months ago (maybe a correlation?), I had a question on my mind: “How much should I expect from my husband?” I had some expectations that I knew he could meet, so I automatically believed he should meet them!  I began reading The Power of a Praying Wife. The author, Stormie Omartian, directly addressed my concern before Chapter 1 was over. In a nutshell, her answer was “Expect as little as possible.” This is really less about where the bar is set, and more about a heart of entitlement vs. gratitude. As Lyle’s wife, I’m not entitled to anything except what God commands of him as a husband! Anything beyond that is an overflow of surprise blessings that bring true joy. Once I realized this, the blessings my husband offered became overwhelmingly clear.

Now that I look at these… they are really the same. It’s intentional gratitude.

I want you to know that I’m not bragging about a perfect life. My life will never be perfect and neither will yours. I know that I will need to re-read this message many times in my future, but while I’m in a place of peace and joy, I desperately wanted to use it to offer you some hope – that’s my only goal in writing this week. Let’s just be honest, sometimes it feels nearly impossible to find even one reason to be grateful toward your spouse. But the more you do it, the more obvious it becomes, and the more you default to a positive marriage.

Are you missing the happy in your marriage? Got a 7 year itch you need to scratch out before you lose something you can’t replace? The solution isn’t in demanding what we “deserve.” It has to be about our lover. I’m so grateful that our family is experiencing a season of (relative) calm this year, but your life can be drama-free and still not be filled with romance that you could be having if you would be intentional. I know, it’s not always this simple, but often it is. Could it be up to you to start?

What can you find to praise about your spouse? How can you be intentional today?

*I know, you want to see it, but unfortunately, no suitable photograph of my blue-haired hunk could be located. Maybe someone can convince him that his non-profit colleagues would accept a 2014 replay of 2002. Yes?

 

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The Life of Jesus Starring Charlie (2013)

Don’t you wonder how Jesus behaved as a toddler? (See my post from Christmas 2012 to see why I reflect on this.) Since the Bible is blank on the childhood of Jesus, and I’m no expert in child-rearing culture of the day, I don’t know if Jesus did the same things Charlie has done this year at the same age… like climbing out of a shopping cart, swinging at the park, rocking his rocking horse, or going to a zoo. I’m pretty positive he didn’t ride in a police car to go to a Memorial Day parade with ginormous floating character balloons in downtown Indianapolis. And while he didn’t take a 152(ish) hour car trip to Georgia through the mountains, I know he traveled to Egypt and Nazareth and other places as a child with some form of mammalian transportation (Impala? Just kidding).

As Charlie is learning about obedience and manners (or rather I should say, as we are trying to teach Charlie about obedience and manners), I have to ask, Did Jesus act out as a toddler? The guy never sinned, and disobedience to parents is a sin, right? So when he was 1 and a half, did he stop throwing food when Mary said “no”? Did Jesus have tantrums when he was tired and needed a nappy or did he control himself?  We have to correct Charlie everyday in some form or fashion, but what about Jesus?

I can’t help but suspect that Jesus was just like each of us and had to learn all that stuff too, and that Mary and Joseph had to ask for just as much wisdom in how to raise their child as Lyle and I do. Now, I’m just speculating, but don’t you think Jesus liked to be chased, and thought it was a fun game when he ran from his mother (who would try desperately to catch him) in the market? I can see her getting exasperated, taking a deep breath… and then finding herself shaking her head with a laugh as Jesus stopped running and spread the biggest, funniest, toothy toddler grin. She just couldn’t help it. “The Savior of the World,” she would say to herself, in awe.

So much to wonder. If Jesus did anything between 6 and 18 months like Charlie has this year, here are some things that might have gone down. Imagine Jesus and his family experiencing these things, though some would look different in a culture 2,000 years removed from ours.

Putting everything in his mouth, to test it out – from toys to mulch to sunshine spots on the floor

Daddy makes him giggle unstoppably

 (watch the video—>) 2013.06 Swinging Laughing Charlie and Dad

Learning to walk

First pair of shoes

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Walking just fine by first birthday, running within another month or two.

Went from sitting in the shopping cart, to standing in the shopping cart, to climbing out of the shopping cart, to being (relatively) trustworthy in the shopping cart

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Learned to whistle… dance… and even sing (“ooh ooh ooh ooh”)

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Went from eating bananas only to anything and everything

Gives Raspberries

 (watch the video—>) 2013.10 Charlie Raspberries Daddy

Riding Dad

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Likes books and toys that make noise

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Running

Pulling everything out of my bathroom drawers – he loves hairbrushes and toe separators

Before learning to kiss cheeks, he would poke your cheek with his finger and make a kiss face (like you did to ask for the kiss)

Little bits of curls in back…First hair cut (and 2nd)

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Learning to brush teeth (aka chew on the toothbrush and eat the fruit flavored paste off)

14 teeth by 18 months

Wants whatever YOU are eating

Climbs into chairs

“Hi hi hi hi hi” – there’s a new friend around every corner

Helps change his own clothes

Learned to “Cheese”

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Climbs the stairs with no hands

Tries to hug the cats

Plays every instrument he sees (piano, guitar, kazoo…)

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Starting to use words to communicate. Says: “(Where’d it) Go?,” “up,”  “mow” (what a cat says), “moo” (what a cow says), “Deet doo” (thank you), “peas” (please), “day go” (There you go), “choo choo,” “wow,” “whoa,” “bite,” “heyo” (hello), “mommy,” “daddy” and more…

A paper plate… a pacifier… your spoon… they are all hats when you put them on your head and say “hat”

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Innocently saying “hug?” with open arms… to get you to pick him up for one reason or another, not always for a hug.

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And of course, there’s this beautiful chorus:

 (watch the video—>) 2013.05.04 Bbbbb with Dad SOOOO CUTE!

C’mon, you know Jesus did that.

I fall  in love with Jesus in a new way when I think about his sweet toddler heart. I can’t wait to watch Charlie grow into a big boy, a teenager, and a (handsome) young man to understand more of who Jesus was.

Luke 2:40 “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.”

I know I’m a little late, but Merry Christmas to you all,

Love,

Carolyn (like singin’ at Christmastime!)

 

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Mother’s Day / Treasure Your Season

I’m certain your joy was unfurled
When they said, “It’s a Boy!” or “a Girl!”
Now dream sweetly of
Grown or Little One’s love,
And today, know that YOU are their pearl.

That’s the cheesy limerick I wrote in the notes I gave to all my friends and clients for Mother’s Day (well, only the mothers). Except I accidentally wrote “know that you are their world” in a few of them, which I actually like better. I don’t know what it means to be someone’s pearl, but it sounded like something pretty that you treasure, and it rhymed. I don’t know why I didn’t think of “world.” Maybe I’d rather be a pearl. Sounds like a lot less pressure.

Anyways, I’ll come back to that.

Lyle and I are a part of this absolutely amazing church called itown. Had the church-planters been Indianapolis natives, they probably would have known we call this place Naptown instead, but nonetheless, itown it is, and it’s a body of God’s kids who are seeking Him and striving to mold their lives to His Will and Word. Like, they really are. Isn’t that a novel idea…

This weekend at itown church, we learned about Hannah, who desired children more than anything else. Her husband, Elkanah thought that having him should satisfy her; it was “better than having ten sons.” (What a man.)  Elkanah’s other wife was a fertile Myrtle who teased Hannah endlessly.

As our pastor spoke, he reminded me of so much I already knew deep down, like I should trust what God has promised and I should give grace to people when they act like stupid idiots. (I think the message notes actually say “give grace when you are misunderstood…”). But there was another tidbit tucked away in this story that I needed, and I needed it right now.

Treasure each season of life.

Hannah did it in her own way – you can hear about it here and/or read about it in 1 Samuel chapter 1. And you will need to do it in your own way as well.

Enter my creative writing.

Do you “dream sweetly of Grown or Little One’s love”? Or are your dreams more that Little One would be Grown One already? Maybe they’re not dreams, but nightmares. Maybe they’re neither because your teething infant hasn’t let you sleep in 86 straight hours… Do you wish Grown One would SLOW DOWN and Middle One would be as mature as Oldest One? Do you crave the time that Grown One will finally settle down and make new Little Ones? Maybe all you want is a Little One to dream of in the first place.

Should I go on? If you insist. You might be thinking…

When I get promoted, I’ll be happy.

When I own a home, I’ll be happy.

When I find someone who wants to marry me, I’ll be happy.

When I move to the big city, I’ll be happy.

When I graduate, I’ll be happy.

When I find a publisher for my book, I’ll be happy.

When the adoption goes through, I’ll be happy.

When my kids move out, I’ll be happy.

If I can just make it to the weekend, I’ll be happy.

When fill-in-your-own-blank happens, you’ll be happy.

What is that really saying? “Until ____________ happens, I’ll just go ahead and be miserable.”

You know what? Yes, you should dream of the future, and imagine the big things God has in store! See yourself in New York! See yourself with a family of 15! (Too much?) See yourself in your new career! You were made to thrive and grow and BECOME!

But don’t be deceived. You’re wasting time. Don’t you know this is a season you will never experience again? Don’t you know you’re gaining wisdom and perspective? Don’t you know there are people who need you where you are right in this moment? Stop wallowing, wishing for a different season. You may want to fast forward your life, but some things cannot be skipped – like the disciplined work it takes to become successful, or those awkward middle school years.  Treasure each season of life.

Do you want to know what mine has been?

When I can be a full-time Mom, I’ll be happy.

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(Photos of Charlie I missed while I was at work).

There. I said it.  I never wanted to be a working mother. I have wrestled that disgusting monster that shouts, “but it’s not fair!” for just about a year now. And I’m ready to kick him through a bedroom door to Siberia (that is a Disney Pixar “Monsters, Inc.” reference for all you who didn’t catch it…) A mentor of mine always says, “If everyone you know wrote down their worst problem and threw it in a hat, and we all drew out a slip of paper, you would probably be asking if you could have your problem back.”

And he’s right. I know that my family is a blessing. I know that my job is a blessing. And I refuse to accept that my blessings are stressing me out. This is the Season of the Working Mom. It won’t last forever. While I’m in it, I’m going to enjoy encouraging my co-workers. I’m going to enjoy the walking trail on my lunch hour. I’m going to appreciate that someone else changes a few diapers for me everyday. And I’m going to embrace that for 50 hours a week, absence is making my heart grow fonder of my family.

Look to the future. Imagine it. Work for your dreams. But don’t be miserable about them. Misery makes today drag on longer and pushes your dreams farther off.  So don’t wish away your Little Ones or any other challenge you face. Treasure your season.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

What season are you in? How will you treasure it?

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My Superpower

WonderWomanDid you know I’m a superhero with secret powers?

Ok, maybe just a few.

Well… ok I have one superpower.

I cannot fly faster than a speeding bullet or zap instant doors into the wall with my laser-beam eyes, but let me tell you what’s even better…

I can make my baby stop crying, with a single song. That’s right, my voice is my superpower. I call it super-instant-hypnotic-infant-vocalizer. Yeah baby.

Singing. “Lame” says you. You may be happy with a pacifier {and I have no bad bubby vibes, trust me}. But here’s a little history  about my Glory Days. We all have Glory Days, don’t we?

Once upon a time, I was a musician. In high school, my passion was show choir, marching band (where I met Mr. Nelson), performing in churches across the town, and tickling the ivory keys of any piano around. I played the flute, alto sax, tenor sax, percussion, and even tried my hand at acoustic guitar. I traveled with a group in college across the Midwest that gave pastors a break for a weekend by being their “guest church servers.” Music was my greatest fun and represents a huge investment of my time.

And then I grew up. And I got a job. And other things began to fill my life. And I missed music. If I had time to play you the tiniest violin right now, I would do it in a heartbeat.

But God gave me a gift in 2012 – a little baby boy. My Charlie.

No, I wont stay still.

And Charlie is my new favorite audience. He loves it when I sing “Cheer Up Charlie” from the old Willy Wonka film, or a favorite of mine, “Count Your Blessings” from Bing Crosby’s White Christmas movie. Before Charlie was even born, I was singing him the song my Momma taught me growing up, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.”

And he becomes peaceful. He quiets to my voice.

This private performance is just as satisfying as any song I ever sang to a crowded sanctuary or concert hall.

My superpower is a gift from my God. He knew what I missed and what I needed that puts life in my spirit. He made it a blessing to my boy and to me. I’m so grateful.

Two notes here –

1) There are Glory Days in my future as well. I hate it when people live for the past. When you pursue your dreams, you always get them back. They may look different than they did before, but I’ve heard you should make your dreams bigger than your memories (thanks Terri Savelle Foy) and my dreams are within my grasp because I refuse to quit on them. When I grasp them, maybe I’ll invite you to my home or my church where I will be playing my piano and singing about God’s love, because I’ll have created the time in my life to pursue that passion.

2) My super-instant-hypnotic-infant-vocalizer superpower is awesome. But there is a kryptonite. It’s called teething. Ahhhh!!!!! Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

What’s your superpower?

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Hi Ho Apple-O!

After a brief blogging hiatus, I had hoped my return to your eyeballs would be profound and revelational {Lyle says that if you can spell it, then it’s a word… and I can spell revelational}.

Good idea. I’ll have to use that one another time.

Instead, how about an apple-icious anecdote!

Set the scene: It’s dinner time. Baby Charlie boy is not interested in green bean puree tonight, so Mom and Dad occupy him with those little cheerio-shaped apple snacks that dissolve in your mouth {or stick to your chin, cheeks, and fingers}. Charlie is making the most of his edible entertainment, and we draw it out by retrieving lost apple-o’s from the crevices of the high chair again and again.

Fast forward: Charlie and I have just gone through our nightly bedtime ritual. I changed his diaper {I’m getting better at doing this when he’s rolling over and crawling across the changing table}, we got into the footie jammies, I reminded him that God has plans to give him hope and a future while we nursed, and he laid down in his crib snuggling a little lamb and sucking on a bubby. Zonk. He’s out. Zzzzzzz….

However, a some point during this process I discover a foreign object in the nursery… an apple-o! I head downstairs to show Lyle.

“You’ll never guess where I found this!”

And pop! Into hubby’s mouth it goes. I think he thought he was being funny — til he saw the laughter on my face.

Lyle asks hopefully, “Not in his diaper, right?

Yes… that’s exactly where I found it.

Hi Ho Apple-O!  And….. I’m back!

***Disclaimer: Names have not been changed to protect the parties involved, nor was permission requested to divulge apple-icious anecdotes noted above. :)

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