Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Let's Read Together: Ragamuffin Gospel Chapter 2

(Need to catch up? I wrote about Chapter 1 here.)

Chapter 2: Magnificent Monotony
Quotes in italics are Brennan Manning's words from the book

This chapter is all about how big God's love is. It begins with a discussion of the perfection and majesty required to create a universe like ours. Looking at the world around us, it is easy to acknowledge that majesty, but Brennan Manning argues that we have a difficulty attributing that same majestic quality to the depth of God's love. We find all sorts of ways and reasons to make His love smaller. This is another thing Brennan (I refer to him by his first name now because I feel like we're friends) talked about in the video I posted with Chapter 1 - the way we allow God's love to become as small and judgmental as we can be.

The God of the legalistic Christian...is often unpredictable, erratic, and capable of all manner of prejudices. When we view God this way, we feel compelled to engage in some sort of magic to appease Him....The struggle itself is exhausting.

I feel like what happened to me when I first really came to know Jesus, and maybe this is familiar to a lot of people, is that I became so caught up on what I should or shouldn't be doing. It was definitely very legalistic. It was exhausting for me and led into my own judgment of others and myself. I remember feeling so happy with the relationship, but at the same time so full of guilt and shame because I couldn't "live up to" this image I had in my head of what a Christian should be. That time in my life led to a time where I was really broken by my own decisions and my own failures and only then did I truly come to know Jesus as He is - so full of grace and love - that I was amazed by it. And not only that, but the people in my life who really knew Him as well, also showed themselves to be so full of that grace and love as well. 

But trust in the God who loves consistently and faithfully nurtures confident, free disciples. A loving God fosters a loving people. The fact that our view of God shapes our lives to a great extent may be one of the reasons Scripture ascribes such importance to seeking to know him.

Seeking to know Him. Really know him. That is something I don't think I've spent enough time really trying to do. This chapter motivated me to learn more about the character of God and the promises He has made about Himself in His word. I recently picked up the book Praying God's Word by Beth Moore. I feel like sometimes I can't find any better words than to just repeat the ones in the Bible when speaking to God. So I'm loving going through the book and finding scripture that speaks directly to what I'm going through. I loved how Brennan also said "The Word we study has to be the Word we pray." And in all of that I need to remember Who it is I'm praying to and what that means for me. There is a section on page 46 of my book that talks about the fact that we can truly know and feel God, that He makes His presence felt. I loved that. I love that truth and that promise.

In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us - that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace. We have that peace when the gracious God is all we seek.

Wow. People for whom God is enough. I wonder if someone would describe me in that way right now. I actually doubt it and that only makes me want to grow closer to Him. To recognize and accept the grace He gives so completely and freely would be truly life-changing for anyone. To truly understand and accept that He accepts us exactly as we are. If we truly understood who He is, His character, His majesty, His grace, His love, then it truly would be enough.

One of my favorite things Brennan says at the end of the chapter is that "love is a far better stimulus than threat or pressure." He says that just because we come to accept the grace of God and understand that we are accepted as we are and can therefore accept ourselves as we are, it doesn't mean we will just become apathetic and lazy about becoming more like Christ. Actually, understanding that love only stimulates us more to want to be more like Him. To be closer to that kind of love and grace is much more motivation to me than fear of being apart from it.

Those are just my thoughts. Is anyone reading this or has read it before? What stuck out to you?

Again, I want to memorize a verse from this chapter. This time I'm going to do...
Galatians 2:21
I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Reading: Cameron Edition

Reached by Ally Condie
This is the 3rd book in the Matched series. I read Matched and Crossed a while ago and finally picked this one up. I had to go back to read a summary of the first 2 so I could remember what happened and it took me a couple chapters to get into it because of that, I think. But by the end, I really enjoyed it! It wasn't my absolute favorite dystopian series, but it was enjoyable!

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
This is the 2nd book in the Delirium series. I read Delirium last year sometime and I remember picking up Pandemonium but not being able to get into it for whatever reason. I think it was during the school year and books are always harder for me to read then. Reading it this summer was perfect because I got into it quickly and really liked it!!

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
This is a chick lit novel about a girl who starts a life-consulting kind of company. She takes men shopping for clothes & teaches them how to behave on a date and stuff like that. She will also pretend to be someone's girlfriend at a family event or something - but no funny business. LOL. I actually enjoyed it a lot! There are 2 more in the series and I have the 2nd one checked out from the library & ready to read!

Trust Me On This by Jennifer Crusie
This book was enjoyable enough and a very quick read, but not very realistic. I was actually kinda annoyed by how totally unrealistic it was for a realistic fiction novel. It's another chick lit book. I've read another Jennifer Crusie novel, The Cinderella Deal, and I liked that one better than this one, although none of hers are really the best in the genre in my mind. (Also, I know this is stupid, but if you have a Goodreads account, the book I read has the cover above, not the one on the Goodreads site. I've said before, I totally judge books by their covers & I must say if the one I'd picked up had the cover on the Goodreads page, I wouldn't have read it.)

Requiem by Lauren Oliver
This is the 3rd book in the Delirium series. I enjoyed it as much as the first 2! Again, not my favorite dystopian series, but it was definitely interesting & enjoyable to read!

Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell
Another chick lit novel, this was my first Jill Mansell book. I enjoyed it enough, but I didn't think it was very good. Now, granted, sometimes I'm not looking for "good." I'm looking for enjoyable & an escape. This was very much both of those. But I didn't feel like the relationship between the characters was very well developed. I didn't really understand what made the narrator all that different to the love interest. Why was she the one who finally got him after all this time of being a bachelor? It just was never really clear to me and therefore lost some of its appeal. I'm going to find some more of hers, though, to see if maybe it was just this book and not the author in general.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
This is a good girl/bad boy young adult novel. It definitely captured my attention from the beginning and I read it quickly & loved it! It's not as good as Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Mcguire, which I read earlier this year, but it's good enough!

A couple I couldn't finish:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
I loved the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver, so I decided to try this one. I got about 5 chapters into it and I just hated the narrator. She's a high schooler with few redeeming qualities & I could tell it was kinda building toward her learning about herself and making some better decisions, but I just couldn't get myself to care about her enough to care if she did figure it all out. Annoying. I didn't finish it.

Forget You by Jennifer Echols
This is another young adult book that I just couldn't get into. I tend to try to read young adult novels because they are less racy and I get less embarrassed reading them, but I have to really get into it by the first 2 chapters or I'll just put it down. Mainly because I'm not in high school anymore and while I can still remember what it was like, I relate more to adult characters. So this one may be okay in the end, but I couldn't really get into it after chapter 2, so I put it down as well.

Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman by Beth Moore
I'm currently going through this bible study with some women from school. I love it!! I did the Daniel study and this one is more practical life application and less history and prophesy. I loved the Daniel study, too, so I recommend both.
Living Free by Beth Moore
This is just a bible study book from Beth Moore, not connected to a video series. I went to a ladies night at church a couple of months ago and they talked about this one and I really love it as well!


The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
I really haven't read many non-fiction Christian books lately and I picked up this one also after that ladies night at church. I'm blogging through my reading of it, so follow along if you're interested!

Do you have a Goodreads account? I'm trying to keep mine up to date with books I want to read, am reading and have read!! Follow me on Goodreads!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Reading: Isis Edition

With our library's summer reading program, we have been finding lots of new books for Isis! Here are some of our favorites!

Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes
I love Kevin Henkes. I love the characters he creates. I love the personalities he gives. I love the way his books always provide such great opportunities to have conversations with kids! I love reading Chrysanthemum to my students at school! Chester's Way is just as adorable and I love how they first are very set in their ways, because Isis can very much have her way of doing things. But then little Lily just switches things up for them! Such a cute book.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
I can do princesses if they're all strong and independent like this one!! I love how she just sticks up for herself! I'm trying to continually find great female role models like this one for Isis!

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela Lavigna Coyle
Again, I just love the idea of introducing Isis to the idea of princesses who don't fit the more traditional stereotype. This book was really cute.

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
This one was such a hit that I went out to find it at Half Price Books! Isis loved it! On top of the fact that she just loves the color pink, she thought it was hilarious that the girl turns pink and then red and she loves repeating the words when I say them. I do tend to read this one with some flair, so she enjoys that as well.

Purplicious by Victoria Kann
With the success of Pinkalicious, I just had to continue with the series for Isis! I love that this one sparks some conversation with us about how it's okay if people like things that are different than what she likes and that everyone has different favorite things. She likes when Pinkalicious makes a friend in the end. I plan on finding the rest of the series, although I don't think they are at my library. I may have to order some from Amazon!

Lova-bye Dragon by Barbara Joosse
This book is absolutely adorable!!! I don't remember where I heard about it, but I love that it just gets rid of the fear of dragons for kids & makes it fun! Isis keeps telling me that she wants her own lovabye dragon, that's she's lonely for a dragon! Ha! I love it!

My Daddy is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste
I have started going to yoga at my gym and I really love it! I've done some youtube yoga videos at home, too. Isis loves to watch and do it with me, so I found this book to read with her. We did some yoga together, too. She loves doing "yoga yoga," as she calls it.

I'd love some more recommendations! What have you been reading your kids lately?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Integrating God's Word into my Parenting

Continuing with the scripture memory that I talked about previously, I have been really loving how much it impacts me on a daily basis. Just memorizing a scripture causes me to be thinking about it regularly throughout the day because I repeat it to myself so that I can memorize it. 2 Corinthians 12:9, being about God's grace in my weaknesses, has been particularly helpful because I feel like I am constantly reminded of my weaknesses. Repeating the verse to myself helps me remember His promises.

So I thought maybe I could utilize this strategy with Isis. We've been having trouble lately with her having outbursts of frustration or anger. She's 3 1/2 and she is fiercely independent, which I really believe is a wonderful thing. I am excited to see how this grows in her personality. I think she will be a very confident teenager and adult - at least that is my prayer if we can help her to develop healthy boundaries. 

Lately, we've been really trying to focus with her on the fact that it is okay to have a variety of feelings and emotions. She said something to me the other day about how she went to time out because she got mad. I said, "No, Isis. It is okay to get mad. Mommy gets mad. You went to time out because you screamed at us and then threw your toys because you were mad. It is important to make good choices, even though you are mad." I want her to accept her feelings. I don't want a child that never gets mad or embarrassed or frustrated. That's unrealistic. I just want to teach her how to work through those emotions. We've been focusing on taking a breath. She doesn't want to talk through those things when she's overwhelmed by an emotion and I think that's okay. Sometimes I don't want to talk either when I'm really mad. So we just tell her to pause and take a breath. Sometimes she can and it helps. Sometimes she's too worked up and we have to do time out or allow her to go through the tantrum.

Well, I decided to try using scripture. She's had so many questions lately and we've had so many great conversations about God. She's been going to the preschool program at church and has come home talking to us about how God loves her no matter what and how He made everything. We are able to talk about how God teaches us and says things about how to treat people or how to live and that is how mommy and daddy learn how to treat her. 

So here is what we are trying: James 1:19 says "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

So now when she seems to be escalating, I try to get close to her, on her level and say something like this, "Isis, I can tell you're getting upset. God says 'You  must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.' So let's take a breath." 

It works best when I have caught it before it really escalates to a full tantrum. If it escalates, I wait until her tantrum is over or until she is done with time out and then we talk about it. We always try to have a little debrief with her after she gets in trouble, just telling her that we love her and we do time out so that she learns to make good choices even when she is feeling mad. If we catch it before the tantrum, then the debrief is after she's had time to calm down and we can talk about how it feels better to take a breath and calm down rather than to throw or hit something.

It's not perfect, but it seems to be working well and I love that she is integrating scripture into her life now. I also love that it helps me to remember as well to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry with her.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

His Grace is Sufficient: Scripture Memory

I've been memorizing 2 Corinthians 12:9 after reading Chapter 1 of Ragamuffin Gospel. I mentioned before that I haven't memorized scripture like that since high school. I just haven't made it a part of my daily practice. Well, just in the last couple of days, it's made a huge difference! 
First I looked at some strategies for memorization & here are the ones that really stuck out to me:
1 - Memorize the Reference
This way you can go back & look it up if you forget.
2 Corinthians 12:9
2 - Memorize the Theme or Main Idea
This way you know generally what that verse was referring to.
2 Corinthians 12:9 is about God's grace and His power even through my own weaknesses and imperfections.
3 - Focus on the Key Words
Again, just a strategy to remember the overall important points and to help you kinda put it together like a puzzle.
2 Corinthians 12:9 important words: grace, sufficient, power, perfect, weakness, boast, gladly
4 - Put it all Together
I put this in 1 step, but really you could break it down. I just started repeating. I put a screen capture of the verse on my lock screen on my phone. I wrote it down. I kept repeating it to Lewis and Isis. I tried to incorporate it into my activities. I repeated, wrote, recited, etc. 
2 Corinthians 12:9 - But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Another thing I did just to help me wrap my head around what I was memorizing was I looked up some commentaries on the verse. This link was probably the most meaningful one for me. Here are my thoughts on it:
Basically, you could break it down really specific, even to "But He said to me" which is referring to the fact that God answered Paul when he asked God to remove his "thorn in the flesh," which is what this verse is really referring to. Paul had some weakness that he asked God repeatedly to take away, but God didn't. This verse is addressing God's response to him - and the fact that He did respond to him. God didn't just leave it alone for Paul to wonder. What God is saying is that His grace, which is God's acceptance and pleasure in us, was what Paul needed. He could've removed the weakness or He could've made Paul stronger to be able to bear it. Either way, God was demonstrating His power with either choice. Clearly He didn't remove it.
One thing that really stuck out to me that they said was that God's grace is sufficient for ME. And they referred to the humor in that, really. God - all knowing, all powerful, all loving God - whose grace really knows no bounds, has grace sufficient for ME. I'm so small in comparison to how mighty and awesome He is. The idea that His grace wouldn't be sufficient for me is absurd. They used the analogy of it being like a little fish in the ocean worrying that he would drink it dry. There is even more grace available than what I need.
From here, I can be happy about my weaknesses because it gives me an opportunity to show God's power in that He works through someone like me, works for someone like me, and could even change someone like me.
Here are some great links I found for scripture memorization strategies:
Ten Tips for Memorizing Bible Verses
32 Ways to Memorize Scripture
How to Memorize a Bible Verse

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let's Read Together: Ragamuffin Gospel Chapter 1

First of all, watch this video because it is the reason I wanted to read this book...
I am one of those people who tends to put this list before God of all the reasons why He shouldn't really love me the way His word says He does. I have this running tally of reasons why I'm not good enough, why I'm unlovable. Just reading the back of Ragamuffin Gospel was like, "Oh wow! Someone else like me!" It talks about grace and love, even if we are ragamuffins - dirty, bedraggled and beat up. He still smiles at us, still sees us as the object of His "furious love." I need to read more about this.
Chapter 1: Something is Radically Wrong
(quotes from Ragamuffin are in italics)

The American Church today accepts grace in theory, but denies it in practice....The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing. 
Right off the bat, he has struck a chord with me in terms of the issues I've always had with the American Church. Too many people being kept out, too many fingers being pointed because of sins that seem so offensive to certain people. We've all got that sin in our mind that seems to be so offensive: homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, etc. I am always sitting there thinking, "Goodness I don't have enough time to sort through my own sins, let alone sit and point fingers at other people's sins. Shouldn't my focus be on me?" Brennan Manning goes on to say that our attempts to impress God, even me trying to "fix" all my sins, is a "flat denial of the gospel of grace." Well, that hits hard.
Where does this leave the church? Who should we be? What should our focus be? He talks about how the Bible talks about God inviting sinners and the self-righteous to His table and the Greek word they use is kalein, which is like inviting an honored guest to dinner. Honored guests? Me? All those other people who the "church" points fingers at? Interesting. 
It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence.
When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don't need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him.
Well that's refreshing. I can approach God - at church or wherever - exactly as I am. And you know what, all those people who are finger-pointing - and better yet, the people they are finger-pointing AT, they can all also approach God exactly as they are. Because He KNOWS them as they are. What a freedom in that. 
One of my absolute favorite quotes he uses in the book is actually being quoted from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, "Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our need, a joy in total dependence. The good man is sorry for the sins which have increased his need. He is not entirely sorry for the fresh  need they have produced."
Now this - I really need to just sit here for a minute. Because this is my life. This is me. Brennan says "to live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means."
Well, in my life, I do have sins. Major ones. About 7 years ago I went through a really tough time and made some really horrible choices. And I have said many times that I wish I could take it back. I'm very sorry for the sin, but at the same time, I am not sorry for what God did with it. He worked with what I gave Him, even if what I gave Him was a total mess. Through that rough time and those horrible decisions, He took the next few years to strengthen me, to change me. And today, my strength of conviction, the strength of my marriage, the conviction in my parenting, the grace with which I am able to love others who are hurting or making terrible choices, are all attributed to that horrible time and those horrible decisions. So while I am sorry for the sin, I am not sorry for the need it produced to depend on God and allow Him to work through my life radically.
Now the problem is that I have worked through the things I've done and I'm left with a struggle because of who I am. I'll never be the quiet woman that I feel like the church feels women should be. I feel like my personality gets in the way of my ability to live as God wants me to live. But reading this chapter, I felt challenged in that. Maybe that isn't true.
You are accepted. Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted...Whatever our failings may be, we need not lower our eyes in the presence of Jesus.
Maybe, just maybe, God created me the way I am for a reason. Maybe even my personality was crafted by Him for a purpose. Even if it wasn't and He still has work to do on it (which really, He will always have work to do on me), I still need not lower my eyes in His presence. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
And neither do you.
How refreshing.
Have you read Ragamuffin Gospel? Read it with me!
I'm also going to start memorizing scripture. This is a practice I have not done since high school, and it's about time I start. I'm going to pick a verse from Ragamuffin Chapter 1.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fear and Faith in the Face of Pain

It's been a rough year for some people around me. I've been thinking a lot about it lately and often find that writing helps me sort through it. I'm not even sure yet if I will post this publicly. 
A good friend of mine lost her dad this year extremely unexpectedly. Another good friend of my family was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Neither of them were prepared for the fight they've been experiencing the last several months. I don't think we're ever ready to fight like that. But they're fighting.

I've been having such a problem with guilt ever since finding out about both of them. How do you do enough for someone you love in those situations? How do you do anything? I feel like I tend to feel so overwhelmed and helpless and I have a tendency to retreat. My friend with pancreatic cancer doesn't live in Lexington, so just finding a way to visit her has been my struggle. I have such guilt for not being there. And then not being there, I tend to retreat from communication, which is so the wrong thing, but I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to be strong in that. Both of them have been so strong. Seeing them fight through this pain has been so humbling for me because I wonder if I would have that kind of fight. I tend to think that I wouldn't.

I also feel that my own pain feels so insignificant in comparison. I'm lying in my bed right now looking out my window and I'm just thinking about the fact that I have both my parents, my husband, my children, my brother. I have my health and so does my family. Part of me feels such a relief to know that's true when I see how quickly it can change. Another part of me feels guilt over the relief. Is that a strange thing to feel? Is it an inappropriate thing to admit?

I prayed last night that Jesus would just come back. I find mysef praying that more and more lately. I get overwhelmed with the world - and as someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, that overwhelming feeling is something I have to fight regularly. There's just so much pain. There's also so many wonderful things that God has given us that can hurt so bad when taken away. It's easy to feel hopeless.

I tend to have a couple of reactions to these feelings. I thought maybe I'd share if others are going through similar experiences. 

I visualize a lot. The verses in the Bible, like Psalm 61:3 that talk about God being a strong tower are always so helpful to me. 

NIV: For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
NLT: For you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
-Psalm 61:3

I also love the ones about the shelter of His wings. 

NLT: He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
-Psalm 91:4
I just have this picture of being hidden in Him. Of this battle going on around me, but it can't reach me because He has me sheltered. I don't know how to explain that. But it's comforting.
I also need music. Oh, I need music so badly in my life. I have to find songs that speak to me, because they tend to do so more than anything else. There are the ones that have been speaking to me in these situations lately...
Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) by Chris Tomlin
 You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still

Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

I love that he talks about the shield and God fighting for us, but that troubles are still there. They don't go away - God just stays with us through them.

Blessings by Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Aw man, this song. She goes on to talk about doubt and anger when we don't feel God near us, when we don't understand. And I have to admit so many times this year I've been angry and I've been confused and had so many questions for God! Why?? But this song kinda sets my thinking on a different path.
Your Hands by JJ Heller
I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That you would take my pain away
You would take my pain away
... When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands
I went to a ladies night at church a while ago and the speaker told this story that I won't go into here, but the final word of it was "He never leaves me" and with the whole thing, it just stuck with me. It's stayed on my  mind ever since then. He never leaves me. 
I think my conclusion in these situations is that the biggest thing I can do for anyone I love is just be there. Is just say I love you & lift them up daily to the only One who really can do anything for them. It takes such faith to release my worry, anxiety, pain and fear to Him. But He really is the only true source of peace. I have to believe that He has a plan and that no matter how ill-equipped I may be to speak on His behalf to those I love when they are hurting, I also can take comfort in the fact that my inexperience cannot get in the way of His plan and His peace.

What does your family do well?

First of all, let me tell you, there are lots of things my family is working on. There are lots of things my family doesn't do well. There will always be something that I can find to improve on, but lately I've been feeling the need to just sit back and appreciate the things that we have done well. To celebrate and emphasize the positive as I continue to seek to improve.

My family does well at serving each other.

I think every family tends to emphasize some aspect of life, discipline or behavior. Every family has their language they use with each other, whether spoken or unspoken. For us, it's service. My husband is the pillar of this in our family. I truly am blessed by his serving heart with me and my girls. He is actively serving us in love the whole day. He just tends to find whatever way he can to do things for us to demonstrate his love. No one would question the love he has for his family because if you walk into our home, you'll watch him demonstrate it in almost every move he makes. 

As modeling is probably the largest teacher of our children, I'm starting to see Isis doing some of the same things Lewis does. Whether it's her words or her touch, she is looking for ways to serve, to comfort, to love with such intensity and such grace. I've never had someone get right at my eye level (climbing up on the couch to do so many times), look me right in the eyes for a few seconds before putting their hand on my cheek and say, "Do you know how much I love you?" But that's how she does it. And she does it to all of us and she does it because she's seen it, because we've demonstrated it. 

The other day we get in the car & Isis had packed her own little backpack to bring with her. As we start driving, she starts pulling out different toys, trinkets and things she's found around the house, but I quickly realize as she starts passing them out, that she specifically went around and picked up items for each of us in the car. She had a toy for Lux, a bracelet for me, a pen for Lewis. The fact that she walked around the house before leaving gathering items for us just struck me as so intuitive for a child her age. She amazes me.

I left the other day for lunch and Lewis was home with the girls. He needed to vacuum downstairs, and while the vacuum was on, he didn't hear that Lux had started crying because she was scared. When he turned it off, he found Isis holding Lux as best she could and just saying to her, "It's okay. Don't be scared. I'm here. It's won't hurt you. I love you, girly." Again, just the most genuine display of love.

In the car many times, Isis will reach over for Lux to hold her hand and Lux will reach back and Isis will just say, "Mommy, look! She's holdin' my hand! She loves me!"

I think we've done well at fostering a relationship between the two of them. It's been important to us that they both feel confident in our love for them - that they don't need to compete for it. I think it allows them the freedom to love each other fully. I know there will be competition and arguments as they get older. It's inevitable, but I don't want that competition to be over our approval or our love. I can't even count how many times I've pointed out something I love about Isis to her and then pointed out something different about Lux that I love about her and told Isis how neat it is that they are different from each other. Isis will repeat many of those things back to me. "Mommy, we're different!" like it's such a wonderful thing. And it really is. Their similarities and differences are still emerging for me, but I love all of it.

And as this has turned into a flow of thought post, I have to also say with all of this that I am so thankful for my friends. I don't know if it's my generation or just my friends in particular, but I have such wonderful friends who are parents who are so thoughtful and intentional about their parenting. Even though we don't all do things the same, I find such encouragement and guidance from their words and our conversations. I love the transparency with which many of my friends parent - and the transparency with which they share their experiences with me, both good and bad. What a blessing to have that kind of community. I think that's yet another reason why my family does some things so well - because we've had that community of people talking to us and encouraging us along the way.
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