Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Traveling Pants...

A long time ago I saw The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I don't remember much, but I appreciated the message of the bond between girls.

From the time I was in high school I have needed, longed for, and thrived from women's bibles studies. When I had 3 kids 3 and under I was in two women's bible studies and a MOPS group. It was how I survived the long, tedious, tiresome days of infant-hood /toddler-hood.

I can not even begin to describe the influence other women have had on my heart. To walk with, to do life with, to study the word of God together, to weep together, to rejoice together, to boldly approach the throne of God together as a group of needy, seeking-women, is absolutely astounding. Week after week, month after month, year after year the transforming power of the sisterhood has been my life line.

Before the world began God saw fit to place me in each group, "For such a time as this!". Each study providing guidance, safety, and LIFE for each unique stage I was in. I just smile so big when I think of ways He has revealed Himself to me in cozy living rooms of fellow sojourners.

I am so grateful that God does not intend for us to journey alone, but rather He intentionally surrounds us with people who sharpen us, inspire us, uphold us,.... "Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!"

So this is for all the women I've done life with, I am doing life with, and will do life with. You have blessed me, you have been used to fill the broken, undone places of my heart. You have been honest, helpful, hilarious, wise, (oh, so beautifully wise), vulnerable, and you have faithfully pointed me to Jesus.

Now everybody, go find you a group of people to share your pants with ;)!

Thank you,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Littlejohns Live With Open Palms

Ah, sharing. I am the youngest of five children and I am raising four children. Sharing has been and continues to be a very common topic in our household. At least several times a day my children hear me say, "We ALWAYS share good things! And you must share because you will be sharing for the rest of your life!!" Because we do not have four of everything, sharing is required and expected in our house. Growing up we had 24 hours after we received a gift to exclusively play with it and call it "ours", after 24 hours it was fair game. Clint and Val taught us, and lived before us, a life that did not hold tightly to materialistic things.

For Mark and I, teaching our children to share is a heart issue. It is acknowledging on a daily basis that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Nothing, not one thing, is "ours". The excruciating process of a selfish person teaching other selfish persons to not be selfish, is just that...excruciating.

I believe when we intentionally hold onto our things with a death grip the depths of our hearts are clearly revealed, and it communicates that our "thing" is of more value than our relationship. And if you haven't picked up on it by now, relationships are everything to this family!

In the safe haven of our home, if we refuse to do the tedious and exhausting work of teaching our children to let go of their "stuff" and unreservedly run after their relationships with their siblings by placing them above their Polly Pockets, Discovery animal farm set, clock radios, and Lala Loopsies, then honestly, what are we doing?

I want to leave the legacy that Littlejohns live with open palms. WHATEVER we have is not ours; our money, our home, our stuff, our cars, (even the dead one) our education, our savings, our retirement, our jobs, our health, our time, our talents, and our precious children are all good and unspeakable gifts from our good and gracious God. . When we refuse to share good things because we are distracted by our love of things, we lose. We lose the ability to have meaningful and unconditional relationships. And above all else in this world I want my children to have meaningful and unconditional relationships. So that is why we will spend one more day doing the seemingly impossible, and we will strive to teach our children to share good things!!

Here is to sharing!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

*Mother of the Year*

Yesterday was a particularly intense afternoon around the Littlejohn house. Most days before my feet ever hit the floor I am already giving out instructions, dolling out information regarding "the plan" for the day, and answering some questions being asked of me, "Mom, can you open this? Mom, can you pour me some juice? Mom, what are we doing today? What's for breakfast? What's for lunch? What's for dinner? What time is it? Can you read this for me? Has Daddy left for work yet? Can I have some candy for breakfast? "Mom!!!! can you come wipe me?!!!!" Yelled from the bathroom. All before I even have my first sip of coffee ;)

However, yesterday afternoon during "rest time" the unending questions and the particular tone in which things were being done sent me over the edge. I was trying to talk to Jesus, for the love! So in a very non-angelic, non-Jesus like way, I slowly spoke, *ahem* yelled, the following words to my unsuspecting children, " the miracle of miracles if someday when I give instructions no one pouts, whines, cries, back talks, barters, throws a fit, or generally just does what is asked of them! dear children!"

Then I threw a little fit myself and stomped back to my room and slammed the door!

After several minutes spent regrouping in my bedroom I reemerged to apologize to my children for my loss of patience and lack of self control.

I couldn't help but think a sweet little Mama face was watching from above, holding a warm cup of coffee between her palms, sitting in the presence of the Almighty, smiling and giggling a bit.

So this is for all of you moms out there today; tired, worn, weary, frustrated, overwhelmed, contemplating throwing the towel in, or at least or over the heads of your children, and being done with this whole "motherhood" thing. We get this once in a life time opportunity to make our children real by loving their hair off ( velveteen rabbit quote, thanks for the reminder Andrew ;) Sometimes, a lot of times, we want to pull our hair out along the way, but the road less traveled is NOT the easy road.

Hang in there moms!!

*small clause* 
Our family sarcastically tosses the phrase around, "mother of the year" when we do something unusually  un-mother like. So in no way am I calling myself  *mother of the year* ;) Just to clarify.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Living In The Storm: The Great Exchange

"Even though I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me!"
Psalm 23:4

It was a gorgeous fall day, unusually warm for November 21st.  We had been holding sweet vigil for 48 hours when Mama's blood pressure and pulse began to rapidly decline. With all of the books I had read, with all the online research I had conducted, no one could have prepared me for the agony of waiting on death. While 55 hours may seem like nothing, when you are holding your breath, pacing hall ways, running to the bathroom quickly in fear you might miss the "moment", and preparing yourself to encounter to the divine transition, it can be more exhausting than you could EVER imagine.

The little I did know about the death process included an idea of giving a person permission to let go.  If you are a mom it might give you some insight into how hard this might have been for our Mom. Moms make sure everything is in it's place, they make sure everyone is where they are suppose to be, they make sure that everyone is doing what they are suppose to be doing. Moms are the nucleus of their families.  And as Mom's room filled with more familiar voices then she had heard in ages, part of me believes she wanted to soak in all the glorious fellowship one more time before a long drought of being without us. The seven of us Hall's had not all been in the same room together since March. Since, things began to down spiral this summer, since, saying goodbye had become imminent. In between the tears we laughed, we told stories, we ate the amazing food the staff at Evergreen tirelessly prepared for us, we giggled about which good looking angel would come and beckon Mom home, we listened to the therapeutic voice of a fisherman read  his favorite fishing story from the Bible, we sang silly children's song because we were too emotional to sing anything serious or spiritual, at one point her room resembled much more of a party then it did a vigil and we were encouraged that mom was hanging around because we were too much fun (in other words we were ssshhh'ed... imagine that :) We held her hands, we brushed her hair, we moistened her dry mouth, we thanked her, we kissed her face, we all told her over and over again that she could go. We made promises to take care of Daddy,  to take care of each other, to raise strong and courageous children just like she had done, and we promised that she would be apart of us as long as we had breath. Hour by hour we walked together thru the valley of the shadow of death, and inch by inch we watched death consume her frail body.

Our family has walked through many, many things together, but I can say that this was the most hallowed ground we had ever walked, and undoubtedly our souls will never be the same because of the journey.

That day I witnessed the great exchange; my Mom's diseased, broken body and mind appeared as if that was all she had to offer on her death bed. But when the sickness was pulled back a heart that believed in Jesus Christ and was consumed by Him was lifted up, and in return she received an inheritance fit for a queen bought by the precious blood of the Lamb. A crowd of thousands and thousands erupted in loud applause as her King ushered her into her eternal home. And a small crowd of a dozen were left on this side of glory with a small taste of the eternal spread all over their hearts.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Please Flush Your Poop

I am not sure what it is about my children and having a bowel movement, but for some reason everyone forgets to flush their poop. In our house we have a toilet rule (mainly stemming from our desire to curb the outrageous water bills we received in King George), "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down!" For realz, I do not under any situation want to enter the bathroom and find your marinated bowels. So if you come to visit and you hear me yelling, "please flush your poop!" you will have a little insight into the particulars of our home.

However, the more I pondered this little statement the more and more I realized that this is the exact problem with the American church, Christians in general, who am I kidding? the problem with ME!  We,(I) run around insisting thru legalism and traditionalism that people please flush their poop before they come into relationship with me. We,(I)  ask them to dress up their weaknesses with religious costumes hidden behind the acceptable, "I've got it altogether and I am just fine" Sunday School answers. It is been ingrained in us to deflect and run from the uncomfortable and painful stench of brokenness. Rather, we want to embrace the false advertising of the church well dressed. Jerry Bridges says in book, Respectable Sins, that the American church looks way too good to be real. We like our congregations to look well kept, smelling good, full of quietly behaved children, collard shirts tucked in and everything. But who are we kidding? Underneath the disguise of the perfume we are all marinated bowel movements putting off such a wretched stench that only a Redeemer with the perfect, cleansing, power of the blood He shed on the cross can make all things new.

So here is to teaching my children to literally flush their poop
And for me, learning not to run from my own!


Friday, January 4, 2013

Our Kids

I've known it all along, but sometimes we all need reminders. My reminder came in the middle of a two week roller coaster ride. When sweet Mama slipped into a coma of course we went to be by her side. And our kiddos went to be in the care of some of the most amazing friends EVER! From day to day, hour to hour, our kids switched hands, houses, and company. Looking back, we asked a lot of them. Nothing about our lives was familiar. Most unfamiliar; watching those you love the most and find the most stability in, mourn.

In the midst of the sacred journey of sorrow, I am reminded of just how stunning our children are. I am reminded of the depth of my love for them that will never waiver. Not because they are especially well behaved, or magically obedient, or superior in the moral department, or successful in the worlds eyes; no, they are intimately and precisely loved because they are MINE, OURS! It has nothing to do with them.

With tear stung eyes, and a heart over flowing with pride, I watched my kids bravely stand in front of hundreds of people and lift their voices in memory of their Grammy. No one whined, no one hesitated, (not even my Julia) they just sang.... oh, so beautifully.

Each day when I wake up I try to realize that I am raising my children to leave, to grow them up to permanently release them.  The things I instill in them, (or desperately desire to instill in them) the areas where I am shamefully weak, and the foundation from which they will spring from (our home) will follow them wherever they go. Yes, I cook, clean, do the laundry, grocery shop, meal plan, pay the bills, run the errands, teach 3 grades simultaneously, maintain relationships and community, but ultimately I invest in the forever of my children's hearts. Stamping in their memories; Truth, life, security, skills above and beyond academia, deep love and concern for OTHERS, awareness of the world they live in, and gently drawing back the curtain of reality so that they can see themselves for who they really are; the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful, so that they might be given the tools to tame their wild hearts.

I love my kids. I enjoy my kids. I like my kids. I am proud of who they are and I am baffled by who they are becoming. They love well, they live well, and I am reminded that I get to adventure thru this Mom thing once.

Not every day do I have the perspective that I have today, a lot of days I want to put ear plugs in, throw the towel in, and fast forward to 15 years from now. Not everyday do I let the little things slide and intentionally pursue my child's heart more than pursuing my child's "correct" response.

Just like yesterday, just like tomorrow, and just like today, I have an opportunity to above all else love my Katie, Julia, Lucy and Anderson with a love that reflects something far more precious than my earthly love, but rather the love that their Savior has for them. If they can't see Jesus in my day to day love for them, then seeing Jesus might get really complicated and blurry.

 So here is to THIS DAY, remembering just how incredibly blessed I am to love the children I do, and to be loved back!