Archives for category: Harper Rae

Matt and I used to watch Storage Wars every once and awhile. I was struck by how much stuff is packed into those units. Then how many units are on any one storage facility’s property. Then how many storage facilities there are per city, per state, per country, you get the idea. So much stuff. I don’t rent a storage unit but, for all intent and purpose, that’s exactly what our garage is. I’m sure I don’t know half of what’s in there at this point. Boxes that sit untouched for literally years. We recently opened a letter from one of our Compassion kids and read that she sleeps in a hammock in their hut with dirt floors. I thought about what it would be like to try and explain the concept of storage units to little Napthali. The imagined conversation was embarrassing and convicting.

When Christ taught us how to pray he included, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Then of course there’s the Israelites wandering in the desert, eating manna from heaven. Such an interesting story. God commanded them to gather only what they needed for that day, no more. If anyone gathered more than they needed, it would rot by morning. Was God teaching Israel how to need Him? Do we EVER purposely try to need Him? To depend solely on His mercies. To look heavenward and pray that the bread will keep falling. Needing God is really something we only do when we feel we have no other choice. What if I actively pursued being needy with God?

For the Israelites then or for me now, what would that kind of dependency do for my relationship with the Provider? It would keep me from settling too deep into my comfort. It would keep me healthy – just the right amount of full. It would keep me humble for sure. And keep me honest. Keep me from rotting. If I could keep my spirit right, I might even not complain too much about eating the same meal every day for 40 years straight.

I’m finding that I’m in a season of life where I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, so to speak. Too much going on. I know I’m over-doing it because I’m routinely forgetting things, being irritable with my kids, feeling like I’m a step behind, and being resentful about some of the things I’ve committed to. It made me think that perhaps I’ve taken too much manna in my scheduling and when manna is taken in excess, it spoils and sours.

Embracing our need to need God seems to be the goal. Train ourselves to run full speed at life more abundantly in Christ and not even worry about a plan B. We’re America and we believe that being needy is not becoming on us. Actually, while I’m at it, let’s broaden that sweeping generalization to include all of mankind. So we collect things and pad our existence with comfort. Probably it’s our natural instinct…we don’t like to impose on others. Burden them with our pains, be it physical, emotional, spiritual. We like favors owed, a variety of resources at our disposal, and good back-up plans. We value self-sufficiency, promote independence, and applaud individual successes.

All of those are not bad things in themselves. Even with Israel, their sin was not simply having the extra manna. It was the disobedience in gathering more than God told them they could. It seems that we tend to really believe we need the extra manna. To save for a rainy day. Or we just want it because stockpiling feels a little like insurance. We hope we don’t need to use it, but it feels nice to have it there. So how can I resist the excess? Honestly, I don’t know that I’m spiritually mature enough at this point to really answer that. But logic tells me to start with the places where I hoard. That’s different for everyone – those spots could be literal or figurative. Clean it all out, man. Cut stuff out. Get rid of it. Give it away. Free ourselves. Travel lightly through this life. Stop rotting from the inside. And then fill those spaces back up with my need to need God and God alone. Let Him be enough for me and trust that the Spirit does indeed fill all my empty voids, real or imagined.

I’ll start with my schedule: taking on only what’s healthy for me. Some superwomen might be out there doing my life times ten, but I just want to be happy and content while I go about my business, you know? I’m going to take some time to figure out where my limits are and practice the art of saying No. Material things, emotional baggage, social engagements, activities and affiliations, cold hard cash…where do you take on too much instead of letting Christ be enough? Oh, and my garage? I won’t consider that place a war zone until I cannot make my way from one end to the other…

This picture has nothing to do with this post, but I shot it tonight and just think she's so stinkin' cute! I had to share.

This picture has nothing to do with this post, but I shot it tonight and just think she’s so stinkin’ cute! I had to share.

Just one more...

Just one more…

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Ready to roll

Ready to roll

My prayers in anticipation of Harper starting Kindergarten have been both thorough and terribly incomplete. I’ve prayed for safety, for a smooth transition, for good friends, a patient teacher. I’ve prayed that she’ll be kind to the people around her and I’ve prayed that those people will return the favor. I’ve been anxious for several reasons: she’ll be exposed to certain words, attitudes, and behaviors that aren’t okay with us; she’ll be confronted with beliefs, ideas, and value systems that don’t align with what she’s been taught at home; she will at some point be left out, called out, or picked out in ways that make her uncomfortable or embarrassed. At some point last week, I noticed that when I was praying, I was praying from a place of fear and protectiveness, like I was on my heels or backed up against a wall. Fear is not from God and I didn’t want to remain in that place, nor did I want to pass that fear along to her. I started praying differently and it changed my attitude from mournful and leery to hopeful and eager.

I mean, doesn't she look hopeful and eager? ...uhhh

If that face doesn’t scream hopeful and eager, I don’t know what does…

I hadn’t been seeing this new chapter in Harper’s life for the opportunity that it is. In reality, this is where her Beautiful Journey starts. This is her ministry beginning. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY. She’s been safe in the shelter of our home, being nurtured, taught, fiercely loved, and, well, not confronted with serious conflict or challenges. Hers has been a good beginning. A solid foundation that will forever guide her path. We all have come to know Jesus personally in a countless number of ways. That relationship cannot be fabricated and it cannot be forced. If you took a survey of the people around you, I bet you’d find that most people really struggled in their personal journeys to understand and accept Jesus. Wouldn’t it be nice if we might all be able to surrender our lives and fall in love with a Savior without the motivators of tragedy, rock-bottoms, major frustration, helplessness and utter need? The truth is, most of us have to wade through the very worst of ourselves until we’re broken and finally honest in our failure. This slow, steady transition of starting grade school is where Harper steps in to her own faith. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY.

I wonder what Peter’s mother might have been praying or saying had she been in the boat during that storm. Surrounded by choppy water and swirling wind in the middle of the night – truly, a chilling scene. And then a ghostly-looking silhouette on the water. It’s our natural inclination as parents to try and shield our children from danger, hurt, and pain. What if she would have demanded or dissuaded Peter from stepping out into the violent storm? We would all say that reaction is entirely reasonable, intelligent even.  He might have stayed safe, but she would have let fear deny him of the moment when he locked eyes with Jesus himself. Pretend you’re Peter for a sec. Did time stop in those few seconds for him? Did he wonder if he was dreaming? Did the experience feel magical? Was it deafeningly loud or completely silent? Did it feel like immense failure when he started to sink? Was it immediate relief for both his body and his soul when Jesus gripped his arms, along with his heart, and he really knew: surely, this is the Son of God.

Hard times, being broken – those are the moments when we let our hearts be truly gripped by Jesus. I can dedicate all my time, energy, and focus on shielding my girls from danger, but then it’s a real possibility that I’m also standing in their way. I refuse to succumb to fear and so deny my children a moment like Peter had, locking eyes with Jesus. Being gripped by him mind, body, and soul. What I have come to accept is that Harper has her own story in which I am a supporting role. Egocentric, yes, but I tend to forget at times that the world still turns when I’m not masterminding all the twists and turns. Jesus found me – he pursued, was relentless, was patient – and he found me. He’s going to do the same with her. He’s pursuing, relentless, patient, and he’ll find her.

Sister love

Sister love

Over the last five and a half years, we have done our best to instill in Harper the values that we hold true: there is one God, one Savior Jesus. She has a lot of story left and, if we’re being realistic, steps along her journey may embarrass us as parents – may shock us, may scare us, may disappoint us, may hurt us. She won’t choose all the things and ways we would have chosen for her. But we’re in it for the long haul with her, as is the Lord. As hard as it is to just let it happen and not try to meddle or mourn, I do realize that Jesus is there with her, writing her story. I trust that she will take the foundation of faith she’s received and I am one of the lucky ones to have a front row seat to her ministry. It’s exciting, beautiful, and I have great expectations of the big things Christ will do in her. A mighty little light who is piercing the darkness.

PS: It’s okay if you shed tears over the first day of school, whether you have a Kindergartener or a Senior in college, because it’s okay to cry over beautiful things. And today was something beautiful.

Sass

Oh, the sass!

 

My kids were being pretty annoying in the car last week. Cortland has figured out Harper’s annoyance triggers, not that Harper hides them super well, but, in no time at all, Cort has become an expert in exploiting her sister’s weaknesses. Here is how it went: We were driving home from gymnastics and Cortland started saying, “I’m five! I’m five!”. Harper, who actually is five, became quickly agitated and started yelling, “You’re not five! You’re TWO! YOU’RE TWO!!” As any other parent can attest, Harper’s tantrum reaction only served to encourage Cortland’s insistence of being five. “MOM! Are you listening to her? She’s saying she’s five! She’s NOT five! She’s NOT! She’s two! She’s saying she’s FIVE!” Tears. Balled up fists. Screaming. Kicking my seat in frustration.

That's right. These angels.   Photo by Brighten Photography

That’s right. These angels.
Photo by Brighten Photography

I could not believe how ridiculous the scene had become. I talked Harper down eventually and somehow was able to reason with her. We talked about how I am the final authority on how old Cortland is. I was there when she started being a person. She wouldn’t be here without me. Just because Cortland says she’s five doesn’t make her five. She is completely, totally, and helplessly obligated to the same system of time and counting and aging that we are all tied to. She doesn’t get to skip ahead or fall behind. Maybe she wants to be five, but she is two. Maybe she says she is five, but she is two. Maybe she even really believes she is five. Know what? She’s still two. I am the final authority on this topic. I know the real truth, despite what anybody says. So, Harper, trust that what is truth will continue to be.

The whole conversation stuck in my thoughts later for quite some time. I noted that her behavior is not far from lots of adults I know, at times even me. We throw (super annoying) adult sized tantrums (typically on social media) when our feathers get ruffled over something another mere man says or decides. We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. He knows the truth. He was there when this all started and we wouldn’t be here without him. A man saying he’s a woman does not make him a woman. Legislation going into effect governs the law of the land; it does not govern the law written on our hearts. We look ridiculous with balled up fists, screaming, red-faced, kicking the back of God’s seat, “Did you hear that?! Do you hear what they’re saying?? It’s not true! It’s NOT TRUE!”

Maybe you’re not a tantrum thrower (and thank you), but you feel anxiety mounting when you hear unsettling news, whether it’s national news or a disagreeable set of views from someone close to you. Don’t stop after the first verse of John 14, but that’s what I’ll include right here. From Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” I have to include verses 16 and 17 because they’re so interesting: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” My takeaway here? If I’m getting all up in arms or letting worry nag at me and trouble my heart, I’m showing a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a fundamental distrust that Jesus is who he says he is.

Once more: We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. Not the President. Not the Courts. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not even our emotions with all their twists and turns. If you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, ask the One who is Truth to reveal it to you. You will waste a lot of time finding out the Truth if you’re sifting through talk shows and blogs and articles and newsfeeds. Just go straight to the source. God knows the real truth, despite what anybody else says. So, friends, trust that what has always been truth, is yet truth, and will continue to be.

I just read Matt Walsh’s latest blog post, in which he writes a letter to his young daughter to tell her that she’s beautiful; and to warn her that culture will try to tell her otherwise so that it can make money off of her. That is all completely true. To be clear, I would NEVER pick a fight with Matt Walsh because A) He would debate me into a hole, and B) Although he can be quite abrasive, I respect his honesty. I don’t disagree with his message (or the TONS of other writers on this subject) about making sure girls know that the Hollywood standard of beauty is skewed, fake, empty and gross. I do tell my girls they’re beautiful and I talk a lot about finding beauty in our differences. They’re too young to have observed much pressure to be “perfect” via magazines, commercials, etc. I imagine it will be a heartbreaking process to watch them go through when they’re older and wiser; I hope Matt (my husband Matt, that is) and I are guided by God’s hand as we walk with them through that.

I get it. Important things for women to know TRUTH about: Real beauty (IE: inner beauty, lovely character, pure hearts), modesty (IE: bikinis, short shorts, cleavage), dangers of vanity (IE: needless plastic surgery, too much makeup, overspending on stuff), and pressure (IE: purity, dating, not being taken advantage of). YES. Teach the truth about these things. They’re real and important and hold value to women and girls.

Let me just ask a serious question, though: Is this ALL we think being a female boils down to?

Because these are the themes I see impressed on girls over and over again. My frustration is this: We say we need to tell girls that they’re bigger and better than the way they look and then we only talk about the way they look. Even if we’re saying “love yourself as you are” when we talk about bodies (which is positive), we are totally neglecting the depth and complexity and wealth of wonderful that comprises a woman (which is a CRYING SHAME).

This is maybe the easiest way for me to express this: I want my girls to know that WHO they are is powerful. They can lead others because of their ideas, their skills, their words, their brains. They can serve others because they are kind, compassionate, empathetic, selfless, joyful, healthy, and hard-working. And they can shine a light on God because they can do all these things FOR HIS GLORY. Their faces and bodies are only the vessel through which they do all of these ACTUALLY IMPORTANT things.

You know the Dove ads and that recent Always commercial? Oh man. So good. So real. I bawl like a baby because I see exactly where the women in our culture have wandered in our perception of who we are as a gender. I LOVE how the young girls in that Always ad are FREE and they’re happy and they’re confident. It’s so sad that, as we grow, we learn that we’re judged for just about everything we are and so we shrink into tiny, intimidated robot people. Confined little boxes that squelch LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY. We aren’t meant to live like that, friends!

You’re BIGGER and BETTER than your body or face. You have more to offer than that. Parents, teachers, ministers: Let’s all stop concentrating solely on the physical and superficial when we talk about girls and start emphasizing the real, complex, magical traits that make us who we are. Stop discussing whether or not wearing makeup makes us “holy” and start talking about the ways we are improving our families, schools, friends, and communities. Please stop harping about clothes and promote bigger ideas about what we should be PURSUING instead of the shorts and swimsuits we should be avoiding. I want my girls to FIRST RUN TOWARD the good things instead of always RUNNING AWAY from bad things. If the only thing I do is warn them that the world is going to judge the way they look, I’m not only minimizing their complete, whole, AMAZING person-hood, I’m pointing them in the wrong direction of where I hope they end up; they’ll forever be running scared instead of running their race of FAITH.

I’m telling you, these two…they’re the BEST! I hope they never grow up. But, when they inevitably do, I hope they understand that they have SO MUCH to share with the world around them and that their flesh is simply their working resource with which to do it.

Harper on the 4th of July

Harper on the 4th of July

Cortland's first lake experience

Cortland’s first lake experience

I fell off the blog-wagon there for awhile and it’s because I was spending every free the-girls-are-finally-asleep minute making this:

Harper's Dollhouse

Harper’s Dollhouse

I’m not even going to pretend that I don’t think it’s that cool because I’m really quite pleased. Harper has been into dollhouses since her cousin Ava shared hers one afternoon a few months back while we were at their house. Matt and I decided that we’d give Harper a dollhouse for her 4th birthday (which was earlier this month). We are both partial to the wooden, realistic-looking variety of dollhouses, but have you priced those things out recently?? Holy cow. Finished for youKit that you put together. Soooooo…Matt and I did what we usually do when we want something that is too expensive. We tried to make it ourselves. Every DIY attempt doesn’t always end up looking right, but this one did.

Matt found a big, deep drawer at ReStore for 97 cents. That became the main structure. He then went to Home Depot and found a nice big piece of scraped (clearanced) plywood for about $9. After that, he used his man-intuition (along with a tape measure and saw) to build floor levels (which he also stained), room dividers, and a pitched roof (also, the little front door porch). After that, I added the color and detail. I used scrap book paper (plus modge podge to seal it on) and paint for the walls. On the outside, I hot glued popsicle sticks and used more scrap book paper to make windows/embellishments. Oh – I also had wallet sized family pictures printed, which I “framed” and modge-podged to the walls. We bought little roof shingles at Hobby Lobby, which I hot glued to the plywood. Including supplies that I already had at home, we did not spend more than $25 to build this thing and it is S.T.U.R.D.Y. This last weekend, we had a “house-warming” party for Harper with family and everyone contributed to furnish rooms in the house. Harper was totally surprised and, I mean, LOVES the dollhouse. And I quote, “I love it! Thank you, everyone! You guys are the BEST!” We still have a couple more rooms to put furniture in, but she’s having a blast with her little family and their space. And now, a picture tour of the process.

The drawer on Day 1

The drawer on Day 1

Starting on the rooms

Starting on the rooms

With Matt's roof attached

With Matt’s roof attached

All the rooms "colored"

All the rooms “colored”

With shingles ... this step made a world of difference!

With shingles … this step made a world of difference!

Resting between windows

Resting between windows

Views from the outside

Views from the outside

finished 004 finished 005

finished 007

Views from the inside

Views from the inside

finished 016 finished 015

Harper's Dollhouse

Harper’s Dollhouse

Harper has quite a few red letter days on her social agenda coming up. Not the least of which is the Princess Ball this Friday. If you live in the Dallas area and know a father/daughter duo who would enjoy an evening of dancing, dessert and just making little girls feel awesome about life, it’s not too late to RSVP! Our church is hosting. Go here for further details and/or to save your spot.

Starting January 1st, and for every night since then, Harper and her Papa have been practicing their box step (complete with dips even!). Although Harper is definitely more expressive (her first sentence to me every morning, “Is the Princess Ball this day yet?”), I think they’re both looking forward to it.

This is likely the first and last time this will happen on my blog. Where I make up my own recipe. Maybe there’s this exact recipe floating around out there somewhere and I just have no idea – I haven’t looked. Feel free to tell me I inadvertently copied someone if that’s the case. Much like composing original music or painting beautiful abstract art, making up recipes seems impossible to my brain. If you are able to do one of those things, know that you have reached genius status in my opinion. I guess you can hone that talent and develop it; all I know is that I don’t have a knack. So, when I say “made up my own recipe”, it would be more accurate to say that I used years of following other peoples’ recipes to put together some ingredients that ended up tasting delicious to me.

I love sweet potatoes. They’re healthy and they’re on the clean 15 list. We eat them regularly in various forms (Matt prefers this application). For a not-so-sweet recipe, we’ll make a variation of this hash, usually adding something spicy. The other night I was in the mood for sweet potato casserole, but the recipes I’ve previously used were typically heavy on the sugar and butter. And then I saw a vanilla pudding mix in my cupboard. From there, a wonderful thing was born.

In case you've never seen a sweet potato before.

In case you’ve never seen a sweet potato before.

Heads up, this is a sweet potato casserole. In fact, I would call it a dessert, as opposed to a side dish. My tolerance for sweet things has no maximum so I loved it. Matt, on the other hand, definitely liked it. But he’s more a savory kinda guy. Here’s what I did.

Ingredients

Casserole:
3 medium sized sweet potatoes (cooked, skinned, and smashed)
3 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 stick melted butter
1 T vanilla
1 package vanilla instant pudding mix (3.4 oz)
Pinch of salt
 
Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 T cinnamon
4 T solid coconut oil (you can use butter if you don’t have coconut oil; the CO is just healthier)
 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8X8 baking dish. Combine all the “casserole” ingredients and pour into the baking dish. Combine the brown sugar, oats and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of casserole. Crumble coconut oil (or butter) over the topping so that, when it melts, it will coat evenly. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes and then leave it under the broiler (on low) for 5 minutes so the topping crisps up.

That’s that. Sorry no pictures of the dish. It was devoured long before I thought I’d be writing about it on here. However, I do have a couple pictures of the can opener I rolled over on in the middle of the night, hidden in the cargo pocket of my sweatpants. Also pictured, the culprit who likes to hide things in there while I’m cooking. I know, I know. My bad for still wearing pants with cargo pockets. You won’t be sorry for following that link.

Looks nice and sharp, doesn't it?

Looks nice and sharp, doesn’t it?

Blaming it on Minnie.

Blaming it on Minnie.