Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Love Lustres at Calvary!

My Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,
      open my lips,
   supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres
     at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them
     on thy Son,
   made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man,
     thy fellow;
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
   and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
   and infinite punishment was endured.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
   cast off that I might be brought in,
   trodden down as an enemy
     that I might be welcomed as a friend,
   surrendered to hell’s worst
     that I might attain heaven’s best,
   stripped that I might be clothed,
   wounded that I might be healed,
   athirst that I might drink,
   tormented that I might be comforted,
   made a shame that I might inherit glory,
   entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped
     from my eyes,
   groaned that I might have endless song,
   endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
   bore a thorny crown that I might have
     a glory-diadem,
   bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
   experienced reproach that I might receive
   closed his eyes in death that I might gaze
     on unclouded brightness,
   expired that I might for ever live.
O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou
     mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
   my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my
     enemies crushed,
   Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
   sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
   hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me
   the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

Valley of Vision

Friday, March 22, 2013

Passion, Pinatas, and the Media Fast

Julia. *sigh* Julia.

From the tiniest of ages I have adored. adored her passion. Ok, so maybe not so much between the ages of 18 months and 36 months when her passion was leading her down the road of stubborn and ugly strong will, but as of recent, I just am enamored by her. She is not as boisterous as Katie, not as witty as Lucy, and naturally not the youngest. She is in this precarious position of "second born". But this girl has more passion rolled up in her heart than all 3 of the others combined.

Example: Sunday was Anderson's birthday party and we had a pinata. Each child received three attempts at whacking the birthday hat pinata. Julia steps up, and I so wish I would have had a video because with each whack her passion just overflowed from her body. On her second hit her strength rocked the bat and pinata so much that the bat rebounded back and clocked her in the nose... And then there was blood. For real? Who gets a bloody nose from a bat rebounding because it was used with too much passion on a pinata? My Julia!

I have had a lot of "stepping back" moments recently. Stepping back and seeing reality through a stilled lens. A lot of those stilled shots focus on my kids, and it chokes me up every time.

When I saw Julia whack that pinata it dawned on me, she is so like me it's scary. She has a really hard time accepting anything less than the standard she has set out for herself. Her frustration with projects, school, and other people is they nullify, stump, or dismiss her passion. I know that because those are the EXACT things that cause me deep frustration. Others look on and see what appears to be emotional highs and lows changing like the weather.. The songs "Hot and Cold" was written for personalities like mine and Julia's. We get to play the Marianne's, from Sense and Sensibility, wherever we go.  But let me tell you folks, that passion cannot be contained. When shaped and pointed in the right direction, with healthy boundaries and healthy expressions! WHOA! We've got a hot one, Simon!! 

This week has been our fast from media. It has been extremely difficult for me. Not because I miss my technology, but because I have had to make exceptions to my original goals and use more media than I intended to this week. For instance, the kids were rocking the media fast, they were more hard core than I was, then Anderson showed up with the stomach bug just hours before I was to be in full preparation for our cross country vacation. *major ugh!* So we had to allow more screen time than originally called for so that Anderson could rest while I packed. And other things popped up that required me to use my email, facebook, and texting. Really important things, really good things!! Things worthy of dropping the fast over. But herein lies the difficult part; I am passionate *jaw dropping around the world, right?* No really, when I believe in something, when I am committed to something, it's all or nothing for me. It's easier, far easier for me to go cold turkey on something than make small allowances, because I do not exist in gray areas. I know, SHOCKING to all my faithful readers :) Having to deviate from my plan felt like my passion for this fast was nullified, stumped, and dismissed. I would have rather suffered a bloody nose then only go part way.

In that moment with the pinata, a still shot of Julia was taken that will exist in my memory forever. It will be something I return to time and time again as I desperately try to learn about her, help her in the way she should go, and beg the Lord in prayer to help us raise her well. It was also serve as a reminder that she and I are more alike than maybe I ever thought.

Now to go find me a pinata to beat :)


B.I.I. Part 5: Possessions

So I abbreviated the title to this series because it was overwhelming me. For those of you who are a little slow on the uptake B.I.I. stands for "Because It's Important." This is a continuation of the things I am learning in my bible study, "The 7 Experiment" by Jen Hatmaker.

Week 3 was possessions week. The fast in and of itself included giving our earthly possessions away, but it was so much deeper than claiming some itemized line on our tax returns, or muting the guilt of our overindulgence. It ultimately allowed us to begin to peel back the layers of entitlement and comfort we find in our things.

Two sections of scripture have not left me alone during these past few weeks. Matthew 6:19-24. Which after learning a little greek and doing some research (thanks to Jen) the message is this in my own "Sara-isms"

"Do not, as in STOP filling your houses with junk. Junk from Walmart, Target, Trader Joe's, the mall, the outlets,  garage sales, Savers, and TJ Max. Whether or not you are trying to impress the next person who walks into your house, or satisfy your own wants, STOP IT! Your stuff can be burned by fire, be destroyed by dusty moths, and possibly a thug on the street will gank it. For real, it ain't coming with you. But spend your time, money, talents, and tithes, investing in something that is so jaw dropping and life changing it makes you want to dance. Because where our time, money, talents, and tithes, are invested, there you will be able to clearly see your heart, your motivations, what you really care about, the REAL YOU! When you are "obscenely generous" (isn't the combination of those two words juicy?) you are filled with a light that is contagious. But if you are stingy and hold tightly to your glorified junk and keep adding more, you will live in darkness that is heavy and binding. You cannot serve God AND serve the insatiable entitlement stigma in your soul. You cannot serve God and play the "keeping up with the Jones'" game. You cannot serve God and wealth. PERIOD" Take that King James ;)! *karate chop inserted*

Often times in christian circles we hear a lot about avoiding certain "sin areas". The biggies are; lying, cheating, stealing, slander, etc. I am not trying to minimize in anyway the seriousness of the above, but it just struck me that the passage in Matthew is as clear as a commandment as any, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth!" It makes me uncomfortable that for so long I have been totally comfortable with storing up for MYSELF! A little happy from Hallmark here, a little throw pillow from the Max there.... Items purchased to store up stuff for ME!

In Isaiah 58:7.. Talking in regards to the purpose of a fast, "Is this not the fast which I choose... to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see him naked to cover him and to not hide yourself from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard"

And I have come across so many other different passages that command us to clothe the naked, take care of the widows and the orphans,  and to help the poor. And I was stopped dead in my tracks.. When was the last time that I did this? ME! Not someone else that I supported with my money, or some ministry that I prayed for... But when I have literally placed a piece of clothing on someone who is helpless in their nakedness? When I have used my own two hands to sacrificially help a widow? When I have I sat in the company of an orphan? When have I assisted the  poor? When? When? When?

These thoughts will not leave me alone.

It has been weeks since I have slept through the night without waking up mulling over these heart pricking revelations. These very concepts and scriptures are changing me to the core.

A lot came full circle for me on Sunday when our very anglo pastor preached in our very non-anglo church about these very same thoughts. Thankfully, 18 months ago God placed us in a church exactly where He wanted us, so that all these heart changing moments could connect. We are in a church full of poor, widowed, sojourned, immigrants, that are naked in so many ways, and God had to be giggling a little when He said to my heart, "Here they are my beloved, GO!"

I want it to be known of me and my family that we are "obscenely generous!" Obscenely generous with our possessions, our money, our tithes, our time, our talents, our home, and our love. Not so that we can be puffed up and self righteous, but rather it would be a small reflection of the obscenely generous God we serve!

People, things are happening in the Littlejohn house. Hearts are changing. Motivations are being called into check. Possessions are being purged. We aren't sleeping a lot because there is too much to talk about. A lot of dreaming and planning. A lot of thanksgiving being lifted to our sweet Savior who is calling us out of complacency and comfortableness.

Here is to being obscenely generous!!

Happy Birthday, Little Man

March 18th, 2013


I was terrified when the sonographer told us we were having a boy. Like cry yourself to sleep, "I am not sure I can do this" terrified.

I didn't know what my role would be in raising a boy who would someday be a man.
I clearly saw my role in raising girls.
But a man? What did I have to contribute to the growing heart, body and soul of a man?

I am still on a sharp learning curve when it comes to understanding men. And I have 3 brothers, been married 11 and a half years, and now I've intimately seen the first four years of a little boy's life...

I am less terrified than I once was, but still I have tons of insecurities and questions about how my relationship with Anderson continues to morph into a healthy and sustainable mother/son relationship in the years to come.

Before Anderson ever entered the world I sat down with a woman who I just LOVED! She had raised three girls and a boy with a level of grace rarely seen. Their family birth order was identical to ours. I had watched this woman and her teenage son interact and it was just the sweetest, most gentle, most life giving, mother/son relationship I had ever seen exhibited. I wept as I confessed my fears to her, and she poured out some sweet wisdom that til this day I will NEVER forget. After I left our conversation I had goals in mind that I have sought to implement in my forever relationship with Anderson.

1. I will be Anderson's biggest cheerleader, PERIOD! Anderson will not learn how to be a man from watching me. He will not learn how to fight the battle to which men are called from me. That's not my job. He and Mark will dig through that together. I will encourage, assure, use my words to build him up at every turn, in a way that he will NEVER doubt who he is in our eyes, and in His Savior's eyes. I can be the secure voice that whispers to him everyday, "You have what it takes!" When he and I do not see eye to eye (which WILL happen) I will not demean his core and I will not compare him to others. I will let him transition into manhood and not confuse him by coddling him, nagging him, or lording over him. I will use the power of my respect to grow him into the man he will be.  ( That's a long number one I know :)

2. One day, when I was prematurely stewing about my future daughter in law, it dawned on me that I have a choice to live a life before my son that will lay the foundation for the type of woman his heart desires. The interactions between my husband and I will forever be etched into his mind. If my own ugliness and nagging seeps out into my relationship with Mark (or anyone for that matter), then Anderson will become comfortable with women who have a heart of ugliness and a habit of nagging. He will not recognize red flags in women when he has seen those characteristics exhibited in me and is numb to them. Bottom line, men often marry women like their mother, for better or for worse. I am to love and treat Mark the way I want some girl (in approx 50 years) to love and treat my Anderson. WAKE UP CALL TO MU-AH!!

Anderson Joshua, I am not really sure why our relationship is so intimidating and full of unknowns to me, but please know that I am trying with every ounce of energy to find a way to YOU, right now and for the "forever" of our relationship.

You are a light in my heart!
You are a light in our home!
I love being your Mama!

I want to eat your cheeks and pinch your bottom, like all the time ( I know this will have to stop eventually!)

No matter what comes, I am so humbled, so grateful, so overwhelmed by the unique and delicate relationship I get to share with you!

I love you, boogie bear!!

~ Mama

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Frozen Frogs

This week in fourth grade science we learned about the wood frog.

The North American wood frog is the only frog that is found above the Arctic Circle. This animal has a particularly unique way of hibernating in the winter. Most frogs plunge to the bottom of a pond and burrow a tunnel into the mud to survive. But not the wood frog. All he needs is some wood or a few leaves to hibernate. How does this frog survive you ask? How does he keep from freezing into frog legs? Well, this is what I kind of am loving about this frog..

He DOES freeze into frog legs...literally. He is only one of a few species that can survive after being frozen. Nearly 65 percent of its body is totally frozen for the winter. Once temperatures break freezing, VIOLA! He awakens and goes about his business.

When temperatures drop below freezing the wood frog survives by "flooding his cells with sugar, which acts like a natural antifreeze." (Nature's Way, Webcrafters, Inc.) The sugar protects his innards and neutralizes the water in his body so they don't explode during old man winter.

I feel like I have spent my winter like a wood frog.

When Mama went to Jesus, it felt as if the temperature of my heart dipped below freezing. I was forever altered that day standing by her bedside letting her go. The permanency of her absence still startles me when I least expect. While, we in fact lost Mama in small, painful, increments, for many years; the gravity of our loss did not come full circle until November 21st, 2012.

And my heart froze.

How does one survive the long winter with a frozen heart? My cells were flooded with the sweetest balm of healing sugar one could ever predict. And with that balm my innards were protected from bursting into a million pieces and down spiraling into a pit of hopelessness.

The balm has come at different times, and in specific and generic ways.

*The days getting longer by one minute each evening gives me hope that darkness cannot last forever.
*The song "Worn" by Tenth Avenue gives me permission to admit how worn and fragile I feel.
*Hearing laughter (specifically my own).
*My dad saying the family prayer at our Valentine's dinner.
*Replaying the voice mail one of my best friends left for me the day of mom's memorial service. While she was not here physically, her tears and her voice lives on in my phone.
*The steadfast love of my husband holding me in the dark of night.
*So many, many text messages saying, "thinking of you!"
*The sweet gift of dreaming about my mom; ALIVE, WHOLE! Hearing her voice between her echoing laughter. And desperately trying to go back to sleep to find her again.
*The book "The Healing Path" by Dan Allender
*Talking to my Aunt Lindsey on the phone this week and instantly feeling closer to my mom.
*Crying so hard that my emotions are flooded and I feel purged and renewed.
*Any time one of my kids or nieces say the word, "Grammy"
*Knowing, while it is invisible to the world, there are 5 permanent fixtures walking hand in hand with me on this road of grief. And their bravery to get up every morning and face the world with a hole in their hearts, motivates me to press on.

And last, but certainly not least, this verse has sustained me. I have said with conviction, I have said it in hopelessness, I have said it in anger, I have said it through tears, I have screamed it to myself persuading my heart to believe...

*Psalm 26:11
I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord!

And that is truth.

I am seeing the goodness of the Lord. It has always been there. Now that the fog is lifting the goodness is easier to see.

Spring is coming.

Temperatures are rising.

And bit by bit my heart is thawing. Smiling and laughing are on an increase. Everyday tasks seem less daunting. New ideas are being born. New dreams are being explored.

Am I done grieving? Not even close.
Am I "over" my mom's death? Never.
Do I miss her less? Hardly.
It's just the frog in me is waking up.

Friends, you have been a sweet, sugary mix of natural antifreeze!! You have stormed the gates of freezing explosions on our behalf through prayers, meals, hams, starbucks deliveries, cards, babysitting help, wine deliveries, and overall support from near and far. "Thank you" feels entirely inadequate. But "thank you" from the bottom of our hearts will have to do.

Happy Hopping,

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Walking on Broken Glass

Confession: I have become quite jaded in my nine and a half years of motherhood, I rarely respond to crying. I have these two secret signals that I wait for.

1. Another child rushing to tell me that another child is hurt. This indicates that the child who is hurt cannot come get me themselves ='s PROBLEM!

2.The shattering of glass.

Nothing makes me move faster than that chilling sound. Before I even get to the scene I am screaming, "NO ONE MOVE! NO ONE MOVE!"

This morning I was listening to Julia read out loud to me and I heard that awful sound of glass shattering coming from the "little's" (Anderson and Lucy) room.

From there I just went down my check list of  'glass cleaning procedures'; grab trash can, broom, dust mop and vacuum. Remove large pieces, sweep left overs into dust mop, vacuum. Get down on hands and knees and tilt my head so the light reflects differently so I can see hidden pieces, then carefully sweep my hands over the area where the glass shattered to see if I feel any pricks. Then last but not least take off socks and walk around, seeing if the area clears the "barefoot standard."

Today, when I was walking around barefoot at the scene, cringing with each step, I thought, "Why am I doing this? What on earth compels me to take my socks off and intentionally put myself on the receiving end of potential pain?

It didn't take long for the answer to come, because I would rather shoulder the pain of a piece of glass going into the bottom of my foot then let one of my children get hurt!

So much of parenthood is leading your child to life giving situations. Every child is going to make mistakes. Repeat: every child is going to make mistakes!! Immaturity, youth, stupidity, and naivety being the root cause.

But one of the high privileges of parenting is going before our children and clearing the path so that their pain can be minimized. (i.e. don't touch the hot burner, don't run in the street, buckle up in the car, etc..etc) This isn't our forever role. Sometimes we over reach as parents and try to maintain this role for far too long. It's actually only our role for a very short period of time. And it isn't just isolated to helping them avoid physical pain, but spiritual, mental, emotional, and sexual.

This fall, Mark and I began what we anticipate to be a LOOONNNNGGG series of conversations with Katie about womanhood, puberty, her body, and yes, SEX!! And you DID you read that correctly when I said MARK AND I!  We had been advised by several couples we highly respect to include both Mark and me on this fragile conversation. Mark still has full access to Katie. She is not awkward around him AT ALL. So we figured we would benefit from that sweet innocence as long as we could.

I cannot do the conversation justice on paper. I just can't. It's much more believable when Mark and I tell it together, (just like our honeymoon from hell story! :) It was HILARIOUS, enlightening, awkward, but by far the one of the SWEETEST conversations we have EVER had with Katie.

For months leading up to this precious conversation we prayed, we sought advice, and prayed some more. I didn't want it to be a flippant conversation, but a conversation spring boarding these kinds of talks for the rest of Katie's life.

God answered our prayers.

It was not the easiest conversation we had ever had, at some points I would have rather been stepping on glass, :) but we did it for HER! To help lay a foundation that will enable her to avoid shattered glass situations in the broken world that is all around her, by educating her with full disclosure, by giving her the right to approach us whenever she wanted regarding these issues, and to be guaranteed she had our undivided attention and our honesty.

The pay off?

I woke up the other morning and found a love note from Katie.

Parts of it read,
"Dear Mom, I don't know what I would do without you. I am so glad to have a mom like you. I think it is cool that we are girls. When you guys told me about periods and stuff, it was kind of.....well....embarrassing or maybe even weird, but the more I have learned about growing up I just think it is awesome! Mama you are the best! I love you with all my heart!"

For real people, walk on broken glass for your kids!! Make the hard decisions. Have the awkward and difficult conversations for the safety of your children. Take the time to KNOW them, to learn about them, to explore the delicate places of their hearts. It's so, so worth it!

Happy Walking!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Because It's Important Part 4

My husband was severely disappointed when he realized our clothes fast did not mean the absence of clothing for seven days. I.love.him. :)

To be honest, I would have been happy to live in my bath robe this week if it meant I could have coffee when I woke up; wonderful, delicious, smooth, and satisfying coffee!! Thank you Jesus for coffee!!

This week we have limited the number of clothes we are wearing. Some of us have selected 7 articles of clothing, (not counting under garments) and some are working from a small sack of clothing. Some are only using 7 toiletries, (shampoo, conditioner, deo, tooth paste, base, mascara, and blush) and some are getting ready for the day in 7 minutes. Again, the particulars of each fast is really not what we are going after, rather digging into what scripture has to say about clothing. And surprisingly for this christian educated school girl, it says a heck of a lot more than just, "be modest!" :)

Bottom line, God is very interested in getting to the compass of our hearts regarding the what in our closets, and why is it in our closets. And again, Jen isn't talking about whether or not your daisy dukes are too short or whether your skinny jeans are too skinny. It's much richer than that. Why do we have so much in our closets? How much weight do we put on what people think about our clothing? What insecurities are we masking and satisfying with our clothes? What do our closets say about our hearts? (ouch!)

A good exercise is to stop right now and go and count every item of clothing in your closet. You might be surprised at the number. Now think about the percentage of clothing you have worn in the last year. Now calculate that each item has cost you twenty dollars (we all know most items probably cost more than that) and see what the grand total is glaring you in the face.


While this fast physically is not as hard for me as the food fast, the content of this particular chapter and the corresponding verses is magnifying some entitlement areas in my thinking and it HURTS!

Here are some fantastic thoughts from Jen to carry you through the rest of the week.

"I imagine standing in front of Ethiopian families, who are too poor and sick to raise their own babies, and as I glaze upon their hopelessness I imagine them calculating what I've spent on clothing alone, realizing that same amount would've kept their family fed and healthy for 30 years."

"Very few spiritual leaders seem concerned over how much we spend on fashion, or the bondage we are in to public opinion, or how many of our clothes are made by the hands of children and slaves, or how fashion is a trite, insulting topic globally, or how Jesus told us to clothe the naked and quit showing favoritism to the well-heeled and clean the inside rather than spit-polish the outside. It is reduced to a moral issue, excused from being an injustice issue."

Happy Clothing,