Tuesday, February 28, 2012

bigger than the boogie-man

it's always fascinating to me how my writing comes to being.  sometimes, my writing feels very strategic, like a well planned and executed offensive play on the basketball court. lots of time and effort to take the initial idea and produce a well thought out piece. sometimes, my writing is like a fast break, not planned, but nonetheless must be acted upon with no hesitation. both are very satisfying. at this point in my life most of writing is a fast break. there is very little time to contemplate and let ideas marinate for very long, and that suits me just fine. otherwise, i would never write anything,,,, and well, writing is like breathing to me... so part of me would die if i never wrote.

on to today's topic.  we have this fabulous night time routine in our house that is one of my favorite parts of the WHOLE day. all six of us tromp up the stairs (sometimes, the kids fly on their daddy's shoulders, sometimes they run for fear of their bottoms being pinched, sometimes they crawl because their legs are "broken") once upstairs, the routine is fairly basic; shower (if it's shower night) clean underwear, pj's, teeth, books, and bed. over the course of the week everyone, even anderson, gets to "read" a story. oh, there are favorite ones that are read every, single week... (snuggle puppy, how i feel, goodnight gorilla, etc,etc,) mark uses all different kinds of accents, and we all laugh until we cry. last night he pretended he had a cold... HILARIOUS!

any who, then we tuck each individual person into their beds. given the day, some receive some extra cuddle time, or tickle time, or talking time.. we try and debrief together and met special needs where we can.

lucy has been having some bad dreams upon late, and we have spent time praying with her about this specific area.  last night, as i was getting ready to pray she said, "why do i keep having these bad dreams after we pray, and pray for them to stop?" and herein lies the deepest and most profound spiritual question that many spend their whole lives trying to figure out, "why does God allow bad things happen?"

our whole parenting experience has been about being real, honest, and forthright with our kids. equipping them NOW for so many of the different things they will come across in the future. sometimes, a lot of times, this means answering hard questions. i could have blown past her question and given her an ample "sunday school" reply, but i value each moment God gives me to plant truth in the hearts of my sweet kiddos.

so walk with me, as i try and answer this 4 1/2 year old's question.

"Lucy, we pray and ask God for specific things not because God is a magic genie in a bottle, but because we know that He cares about even the tiniest things in our lives, even our bad dreams. He calls us to give Him all of our worries and all of our fears, even our boogie man fears. sometimes, God does not answer our requests the way we think He should answer our requests. this does not mean that God does not hear us, or care for us. it actually means the exact opposite. God has such a special plan for our lives, that every second of every day He is working in us and on us so that we might become exactly who He wants us to be. He uses every experience to bring us closer to Him. even, and most importantly, He uses really hard stuff, really painful stuff to show us just how much we need Him, and how near and mighty He is. Lucy, first, it is your job to continue to pray that God will remove and use these bad dreams so that you might know Him and trust Him more. And everyday that you don't have bad dreams you are to praise Him and thank Him. Second, you must remember the promises in God's word; He is always with you, He is always good, He is always faithful, He is your Protector, nothing can separate you from Him- even the boogie man. and third, while we wait and hope that these dreams will go away, your Mama and Daddy are here praying with you and for you!"

dealing with the "bad dreams" in life are a given. how to combat them, work through them, struggle, and ask questions, is a MAJOR part of our job. i want to equip my children with every useful and helpful fighting tactic i know of to disarm and persevere under the schemes of the devil.

i want my children to be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus! i want them to bask in the knowledge and understanding that they have ALL they need in their Redeemer, Jesus. sometimes, the mundane of motherhood can squelch the reality of my given tasks... but i am reminded today what an awesome and humbling privilege it is to deliver the gospel to my own flesh and blood; through words, through prayers, through meals, through laundry, and even through fighting off the boogie-man!

here's to defeating all the "boogie-men" in our lives,

Friday, February 24, 2012

come sit for awhile!

it's looking like march and april are going to be two months filled with family and friends coming to visit. we are SO, SO, excited.  my nephew, jaxon, will make his first kansas appearance, (and you'll have to pry him from my cold, dead, hands if you want to hold him) ahem- i mean, i am so excited for everyone to meet him ;)

then mark's parents (whom bought us these gorgeous stools) will come for spring break.

then with much anticipation, the WHOLE bentz family with join us for Easter. our kiddos will not have seen each other in 9 months. i get all teary eyed when i think about them reuniting. it will surely be a week full of hilarity and insanity.

then, in april, one of my bestest friends in the whole world, and her super sweet family, will come to kansas, it will have been almost 2 years since i have seen her, and that gets me all teary eyed also!

you see we needed these stools to cushion some more "pockets"!

mark and i love having people into our home! it is by far one of our favorite things to do together. so come on over and sit for awhile!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

chew on this...

"In times of trouble, say, first, God brought me here.  It is by His will I am in this strait place; in THAT I will rest. Next, God will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.  Then, God will make this trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. And last, in HIS good timing He can bring me out again.  How and when, He knows.  Therefore, say, I am here by God's appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time." Andrew Murray

These are words to live by.  Words to meditate on in the throes of deep frustration and pain.  They have carried me through today.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When I See You Smile

 happy valentine's from grandy and grandma
 playing school outside on a beautiful day!

 my bigs and my littles
 lunch with grams
for all you 80's lovers, this one is for you!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How the Bachelor Almost Runied My Marriage

today, i have been reflecting back to a season in my life which was so, so extremely dark. i don't think i've ever addressed it here on the blog, but over the last couple of weeks i have felt the Lord prompting me to share just a little morsel of some things i learned during those dark days.

i had just turned 21, mark and i had been married for over a year.  we had just made a huge move from kansas, to the middle-of-nowhere, MS. up until this point in my life i had always lived in the same city as my family, and i had always lived IN THE CITY!  florence, ms is far from city living. twin lakes living is even further from city living. i was in the throws of deep, deep depression from losing a life long friend who was really more like a sister than anything else. i was newly pregnant and so unbelievably sick. between the depression and the pregnancy, i slept probably 16 hours a day. we were new residents in the state so i couldn't apply for in state tuition to complete my degree, i wasn't working because no one wanted to hire a pregnant lady who was about to quit, we had not yet formed deep community roots, and it was winter in the south which means endless days of rain.  we had hurricane after hurricane. and in my heart the perfect storm was brewing. i was so, so lonely. lonelier than i even knew.  the "honeymoon" phase of dating, engagement, and newly wed living was over. it wasn't like anything was wrong with our marriage, we were just coming down from the high.    the daily routine was being established and we were finding out what "forever" looked like and felt like with out the endorphins. :)

in my few hours of spare time, while not sleeping and throwing my guts up, i watched an unhealthy amount of television. one of the those shows that i was totally into was the bachelor/bachelorette series. at first, i was just intrigued by all the ridiculous drama and ultimately thrilled by watching the chase and catch game. i could hardly wait til the final show when "true love" was selected and happily ever after was solidified. what i didn't realize at the time was something much deeper and darker was seeping into my heart of hearts. as i watched the flirtatious interactions between the couples i indirectly began to long for that "beginning spark" flirtation in my brand new marriage. "where did those feelings go?" i wondered. i wanted those goose bumps when mark walked into the room, the butterflies when he called.  i began to day dream about how it was when it all began. then, i began to compare my daily interactions with mark to the dreamy interactions of those "so in love" couples. i began to compare my growing baby body, with those on television. i began to wonder why mark didn't chase after me like that any more. all in all, slowly but surely, i let my heart and my thoughts begin to wonder away from my mark, my beloved, my husband. not on a large scale, but on a dreamy, what if, scale.

you have to understand, Satan had me right where he wanted me. i was so weak and so vulnerable. i had isolated myself, i was filling my mind with crap tv shows (convincing myself it was just unrealistic, reality, drama), and was not faithfully filling myself up with Truth. i was an easy target.  at the time, really, there was nothing wrong with our marriage. mark and i were not fighting, arguing, having communication problems... NOTHING! we had been equipped with some of the best marital tools one could ask for. i had no doubts about being married to mark, and knew at the time i loved him with every fiber in my body... but i was doing a really awful job of protecting my heart from the things of this world. a small foothold begin to wiggle it's way into my marriage. thankfully, by the grace of God, one instance in particular woke me up and shined a light onto the private condition of my heart.  i was humbled. i was overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and grief. while, i never did anything to compromise my marriage vows, i saw how my heart had fooled me and i was on the verge of walking down a VERY destructive path.  immediately, i confessed to mark and others in my close circle of friends and family, and begged them to pray for me. one of the decisions mark and i made was to watch less television.  and after a small period of evaluation, i began to see without blinders on what those shows were doing to my heart. then, after realizing my own vulnerability, i began this massive quest to learn how to better protect my heart and my marriage. it was an amazing journey. i read, i read, i read, i interviewed people, i studied TONS of scripture, and the Lord revealed oodles and oodles to me.  i wouldn't trade that season for ANYTHING! i learned that crap shows, crap movies, crap novels, sink into private places in my heart and thought life, and it's a very dangerous place when i allow them in. ultimately, they have no place in my home, in my marriage, and in my relationships. they make me susceptible and they make my husband susceptible.     

while, i am totally responsible for the condition of marriage and the decisions i make, i saw then and there the power of satan and his ploys to destroy my marriage. it was sneaky. it was so under the radar.

that season changed my life forever, because of it, everyday i wake up and intentionally fight to protect my heart, my mind, and my marriage from the schemes around me. i fight isolation with everything in me. i shine the spot light of truth onto my heart constantly to see where my weaknesses are so that i can be aware. i do not ever again want to be in that awful place of vulnerability, where satan can take advantage of me.

my mark, my beloved, my husband, is God's eternal gift to me. it's no wonder that i am a wee bit passionate when it comes to him... when it comes to protecting this covenant marriage.

i encourage you to evaluate the places you are susceptible.  then build walls of protection around your heart, your spouses heart, your children's heart, your families heart's.

scripture gives one anecdote when it comes to battling sexual temptation.. FLEE!!!! run away, don't look back, as fast as you can GET OUT, don't hesitate, don't second guess yourself..... FLEE!!! FLEE!!! FLEE!!!

may we have the courage and strength to do just that!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

participating in public school: who knew?

no one would have guessed it, especially me. i was so internally conflicted. i doubted our decision. i ached all over. i cried.... (no surprise, i know) but here we are about to enter our last 9 weeks of school, and i am as shocked as you are.... we have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED our public school experience. ( insert cold water flushed upon some of my reader's faces!! :)

oh, there have been plenty of bumps a long the way; the fashion bully, the butt slap, some struggles with the math curriculum, multiple direct emails to teachers regarding some hurt feelings, questionable music being played during art..... etc,etc. but you know what? this is real life. real life that EACH of my children will some day, on some level,  have to DIRECTLY address, regardless of our school choice. each opportunity presented to us has been this AMAZING opportunity to grow, to learn, to lean heavy upon each other, to have some serious gut checks, to fill our minds with truth so that we could LOVINGLY approach situations so as not to put teachers and other parents on the defense, rather to deepen relationships and respect.

it has been one of the most unifying experiences that our family has ever walked through. i think that's why i am in awe. it's why i just can't shake this feeling in my heart, that without question, we are doing EXACTLY what the Lord would have us do! we are building relationships with our neighbors whom are also parents of katie's classmates. we get to sit next to some of the teachers in church. we see classmates at the grocery store and teachers at the local mexican restaurant. it is so fun to see a community in action.

we are impressed with the district, the principal, the teachers, the other parents, and the kids.... especially, our kid. :) katie has adjusted beautifully. she grown academically, socially, spiritually, and physically. she has been challenged and encouraged. it is very hard to deny the facts.

one of the BIGGEST sources that helped us through is a book called, "going public" by david and kelli pritchard. READ IT! i don't care if you home school, private school, public school, classical school, traditional school, church school, hate school, been-there-done-that school, pre-school, elderly school, medical school, i went to christian school my whole life-school, school-you-on-the-basketball-court-school, WHATEVER.... READ IT! don't read it with blinders on. don't read it looking to intentionally pull it apart so you can brag. just.read. it. God is working in the public schools just like He works in every facet of our lives! He has not removed Himself from the public schools, His people have removed themselves from the public school.

we are on the verge of already making plans for what next year will look like. remember our rule? "one kid, one year at a time... nothing is for-ever!"  but it is looking more and more like we will have 3 littlejohn ladies enrolled at the local public school. it blows my mind how the Lord so gently moved us to this place. i am so grateful He didn't give up on me...even when i kicked and screamed.. He just spoke in a whisper, until i listened.

so, that's our journey in the public schools for today. it has been eye opening and very telling!

i can't wait to see what's next!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Living in the Storm: The Valentine's Table Cloth

for as long as i can remember my mom and dad had such a special way of included us kiddo's on valentine's day. they didn't desert us with a cranky babysitter, they didn't exclude us from the day's events b/c it was "their" holiday... instead, they set their own agenda's aside and made the whole day about us.

the house was decorated to the nines. little baskets full of "happies" were placed around the old dining room table. steaks (bought only once a year in our home), were purchased. some classic love songs played on the tape player, the kids were all busy up stairs, "dressing up" for the big dinner. loads of candles around the house were burning. the heart brownie cake with cherries and whipped cream was chilling, and mom, mom was ironing the table cloth.

the dinner was an ever evolving event. as we grew, special someone's were invited... and then uninvited the next year. ;) sometimes b/c of living far apart we all couldn't always be around the table together. but that never stopped mom and dad. whoever was here, whoever was available, were always welcomed.

i am pretty sure my last valentine's dinner was 2005, the year Joanna and Matt were married. i was home for the event, and i have clear pictures in my mind sitting around the gillette street dining room, laughing and laughing as the bride and groom stared dreamily at each other...

it goes without saying, that this year i was home for the valentine's dinner. the menu was the same; steaks and the heart brownie with cherries and whipped cream. the table was mine. the guests were as pleasant, and as many as ever (minus 3 bostonian's of course...) the only music we listened to was the chorus of 6 children under 8 talking, (ok, bossing a little), we all "dressed" up in our reds and pinks. only two candles were lit on the table so that anderson didn't burn the house down. and the table cloth, oh the table cloth, it was ironed...

valentine's day is not just a day about romantic love, but really it's about all the different and important types of love relationships we have with a multitude of people. my mom and dad have done an amazing job teaching us that loving others is the most important characteristic to possess. b/c without love, we are nothing. it only takes a glimpse of my parent's life to see that love has moved them to do things, to be things, to sacrifice time and hours of emotional energy, to lay down their lives over and over again, all in the name of love. love for their children (all 8 of them), their grandchildren, their families, their friends, their neighbors, their congregation, and each other.

mom, i ironed the table cloth out of love for you, and you alone. i know details aren't your thing right now, but as you touched the table cloth the other night, i couldn't help but think you noticed, some where in the tunnels of your mind, you noticed.

i hope each of you can find a way to celebrate love today. i hope that no matter your marital status, relational status, familial status, that you uncover love; show love, receive love.

"God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life, REAL LIFE, through him. " 1 John 4:9

Happy Valentine's Day,

Friday, February 10, 2012

a MUST read!

since the title of this blog is lj life and LITERATURE, today i am going to highly recommend two books we have been reading, applying, and LOVING the results! these two books have contributed to some MAJOR life changes for us. the plan is really so simple; eat fruits, vegetables, meat, and small amounts of dairy. no wheat, no grains, no oats, no pasta, no rice, nothing processed, nothing that comes out of a can or a plastic wrapping. everything in it's most natural state... and organic when the budget allows. ;)

the author's approach is not crazy or super stringent. we "cheat" in moderation. we eat A LOT of food. we don't feel neglected or wanting in ANY WAY!! this morning we had eggs, bacon, and avocados for breakfast. last night for dinner we had coconut chicken strips, parmesan asparagus, and tons of veggies. and this weekend we will feast on some of our 153 pounds of grass fed cow.

we don't work out 6 days a week. we walk, we sprint once a week, we lift heavy things, (like our 30 pound son), and we have fun wrestling with our children on the living room floor.

we are loving seeing the physical changes, but more so, we love seeing an overhaul in the way we feel, think,  and approach food.

what do you have to lose? just read the book and give it a try!

the first book is "The Primal Blue Print" by Mark Sission. (Disclaimer, we aren't in total agreement with Mark on his view of how the world came into being, but if you know us, you knew that!)

the second is a recipe book written by a friend of Andrew's, Diane Frampton. i actually met diane while in boston. she's fantastic! (from the 30 seconds i spent with her ;) her recipes are super easy to follow and DELISH!

both books can be found on amazon.
so here's to trying something different! you are worth it!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

everything is not as it seems....

we are in process of weaning Anderson from the pacifier. on March 18th, they will be tied to green balloons and flown to the moon. it will be a production. a cold turkey process. we have to get rid of them more for my sake than his, because if any are still around i will be tempted to give him one, because i am persuaded pretty easily by him.

today, anderson was standing by the front door holding something very tightly across his toddler belly, with this incredibly adorable grin on his face. i just titled my head at him and started to crawl towards him like a mischievous cat. he just took that tilt of the head and he died in laughter, " i am not holding the pacifier! i am not holding the pacifier!" the closer i crept the louder we both started laughing. both knowing full well behind his chunky little paws was indeed the pacifier. once i pounced on him and started gnawing on his ticklish cheeks, i asked him what he was holding... though squealing laughter he said, " a pooper swicky" (because everything in an almost three year old boys mind is related to poop and pee b/c it's so irresistibly funny ;) he asked me if i wanted to eat it, i eagerly agreed. he thought it was too much that i was willing to eat something with "poop" in the title! little did he know when the pooper swicky hit my mouth it disappeared into the unknowns of my hoody sweatshirt! one point given to mom and the "pooper swicky eating" trick :0

this week i've been holding onto something in my heart, my 30 year old paws tightly gripped about it. it just took a "titled head" of the spirit to convict my heart. through lots of tears i tried to convince my spirit i wasn't really holding on to bitterness and anger..... i was holding on to a "pooper swicky!" bitterness and anger can poison my heart and my life quicker than any other emotion. and once it settles in the bowels of my soul it takes much, much prayer and intentional release and forgiveness to combat the damage. the longer i go between gut checks, the more damage is done.

i don't want to be angry. i don't want my children to remember me as moody and living on a short fuse. i want to possess this long suffering spirit intertwined with a forever patient spirit. the ONLY way for this to be possible is to daily abide, to be attached deeply and intimately with my Savior. if I neglect Him, i neglect the all that i need to reflect Him.

today, is a new day! thank goodness!

here is to calling our "pooper swicky" what it truly is, and abiding in a life that is already ours!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Will They Come Home?

We have been a bit under the weather here in the LJ House. Well, everyone except me. Yesterday, the 3 littles just laid around the house ALL day long. I did in fact enjoy their lethargic moods, as it proved to be a great day to cuddle. It was so fun to just hold them...

It made me begin to think about the future and stop and evaluate some things like:

When our kids grow up, put feet on the life we have talked to them about for so long, leave our home and go and embrace all the things that living has to offer, will there be a desire, a longing, to come home? Home to me, to their dad?

Will the house that we have called a home, provided them with such abundant love and life that they just can't stand the thought of being away?

Will our home be thought of as a place where they were imprisoned by law and random rules, or a place overflowing with forgiveness and GRACE?

Will coming home be hard for them because we have allowed bitterness to go unresolved? Or will they always seek to mend and maintain open relationship with us because that is the standard we set?

Will secrets of the past break our foundation of trust?  Or because we have chosen to keep nothing from our children, will they bask in honest, secure, knowledge that nothing is hidden from them?

Will failure keep them from coming home because we ignorantly placed an overemphasis on what they did and not WHO they were?

Will poor choices keep them from home because they think our love for them is dependent on their actions? Will we have we conveyed through our words, thoughts and deeds that no matter what they do our love for them is unchanging simply because they are ours; our daughters and our only son?!

Will insecurity keep them from coming home because we have failed to tell them through quality time that they are valuable, and that being with them is of the up most importance to us?

Will anger keep them from coming home because our house was not viewed as a safe place to express one's feelings?

Will independence keep them from coming home because we allowed them to buy into the "self inflated, I am all I need" theory?

Will they bring anyone with them when they come home because they know from experience that ALL are welcome in our home? Or will they run into someone else's home looking for something there that we failed to offer them under our roof?

Will coming home for them feel as if it does for me, a place of solace, rest, and a sweet haven that no place on this earth can offer?

The greatest gift our children can ever give me is the gift of intentionally coming home. It does not have to be permanent, or crazy frequent, it just has to be them expressing their desire to be in this place:
Because it was a place of joy!
Because it was a place where love reigned.
Because it was a place their broken hearts found mending.
Because it was a place where they knew they belonged.
Because it was a place where sacrifices were made so that we could be a family!!!

So here is to the long journey of making our home that place!!