Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Our Kids Learn The Last Month of School

I asked Mark to stop and get me some coffee on his way home from work yesterday, because my stash was running low. Me - coffee ='s a national security crisis. Coffee is one of my love languages. I'm not afraid to admit I'd give up food before I'd give up coffee. This is what he delivered.

There is a reason he didn't pick up JUST one or two, but THREE packages of coffee. We are in the final stretch of school. The ninth hour, the ninth month, the ninth inning. However you want to label it, we are nearing the end. Four weeks, and the 6:15 AM alarm goes from green to gray, and the whole house shouts HALLELUJAH! If Lucy's eyes were a downloading ticker, it would indicate she is 99% complete. When Lucy gets tired, she gets crazy delusional. Last week, she walked in the door from school, laid down on the ground with her back pack STILL on, and stared at the ceiling for an hour. God love her. I believe she is ready for the third grade train :)

We've been going to bed earlier and earlier, and waking up later and later, because our bodies are all, "I love this bed! I love this bed! I love this bed! I can't get up! I can't get up! I can't get up! One more snooze! One more snooze! One more snooze!"

Based on rough estimations, I have made and packed 360 lunches and 480 water bottles. At the conclusion of this school year, I hope to pass Kindergarten for the 5th time, 2nd grade for the 4th time, 3rd grade for 3rd time and 6th grade for the 2nd time. I have relearned so much this year; I am a complete wizard with my multiplication math facts. 'Go Dog Go' is STILL a really long book for a new reader. I have totally enjoyed reading Harry Potter through the eyes of my daughter. I increased my historical knowledge of Chinese Emperors. And seriously, I can do a mean Brachiosaurus impression (yes, I had to Google the correct spelling!) I've learned A LOT, and so have my cherubs. But like Lucy, my brain is full, my body is tired and we're all ready for a small fast from school.

But all the the teachers, who feel the exact same way, respond in unison, " DON'T QUIT YET, THERE ARE STILL FOUR WEEKS LEFT!"


While our brains have broken the standard rule, "all things in moderation", and we are teetering on obesity of knowledge; we press on. In between dodging the "can you check us out early?" requests, and "do we have to go?" pleas, I've decided these final weeks of school are SO MAJOR in the lives of our kids.

Major, not because the bulk of their educational foundation is being laid in these final days, or the climax of passing their current grade is at hand, but because their character will be solidified in pushing through the uncomfortable.

Littlejohns don't quit!

So much of life is bearing down and holding on in the uncomfortable. Leaning hard and heavy until the work is done. Be it physical work, spiritual work, martial work, parental work, or just work-work. We don't have the luxury or the permission to walk away when life gets complicated and messy. In real life, you don't get a summer vacation.

My kids are incredibly blessed to watch their dad live out a life of faithful, hard work. Every morning, rain or shine, spring or summer, cold or hot, tired or awake, encouraged or discouraged, excited or bored, bank holiday or not; Mark shows his love to our family by consistently showing up to work. This writes perseverance on the story of our children's hearts.

"Finish well" I've whispered to sleepy, after school eyes.

Or some days, when you turn an olive oil bottle into a weed vase, it's just "Finish, my love! Finish."

Y'all we can do this!
Cheers! *and all the olive oil bottles clank*


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Do You REALLY Want For Your Children?!

Lucy just walked out of the house in purple shorts, a red and white striped shirt, and fake camo Toms. Julia left with her "boy" tennis shoes on that she insisted she get for the school year. Not caring one lick they came from the boys section of the shoe department. Neither one, pausing at all with insecurity and doubt about their wardrobe choices.

I shook my head as my little women exited. I love how incredibly diverse, unique and JUST SO THEM, they have grown to be. I decided a million years ago, that clothing was not going to be battle I fought with my girls (or my son). Obviously, if it was inappropriate or outrageous, we'd have to go to the mattresses, but other than that, 'Shake It Off' mom, 'Shake It Off"......

I have struggled my whole life with reading, spelling and math. I had to receive significant help from a tutor just to pass the second grade. School was never just 'natural' for me. Every grade, every course I had to work my bootie off. Therefore, my heart is INCREDIBLY tender to anyone who struggles with these areas. I want my children to champion these subjects because pain was stirred into the paint can of that canvas for me. I want confidence and victory to be their paint brush.

Spelling and reading out loud, has not come as naturally for my Julia, as it has for my other two girls. Every week, we spend hours, HOURS, working on spelling words. I know that my motivation to help Julia conquer every spelling list, oozes out of my own insecurity.

So often, the nudge we give to the rudder of our children's lives, comes from the very deep waters of our own weaknesses, strengths, failures, hurts, victories, challenges and experiences.

You were an athlete and benefited from kind coaches, the physical challenge and the comradery of being on a team. Therefore, there is a high emphasis on sports in your home.

Athletes were cruel and unkind to you. You were cut from the basketball team in the 7th grade, and have loathed all things sports since that day. Therefore, you do whatever it takes to steer your children in the opposite direction of sports.

You quit piano at age 11, and have regretted it everyday since then. Therefore, all of our children are enrolled in piano lessons somewhere..... And BY GOLLY, they aren't quitting :)

The stress of performing a piano piece in front someone, almost sent you to an early grave. Therefore, you are completely ok if your children NEVER play the piano.

You were a complete book worm, and spent your childhood traveling from adventure to adventure between the covers of a book. Therefore, books are valued and encouraged in your home.

You struggled with reading and were laughed at when you read out-loud. You never received a stupid Book-It prize from Pizza Hut, and never once attended an AR party. You could care less if your kids love books.

OR.... You are hell bent on every single one of them living on Pizza Hut pizza for the rest of their lives, and you read like ninny to them every day.

You see, our children can become the sum of our own, personal equations, unless we are VERY, VERY careful.

I've not been a Mama for long, but I feel like 12 years and 4 children later, I have a better understanding, a clearer viewpoint. It is SO incredibly important to know in your gut your personal equation. Walking THROUGH and not AROUND your own childhood, will enable you to sift through why certain things light you up more than others.

In my insecurity about spelling, there are times I have pushed and pushed Julia, and sometimes I've gone too far. If I didn't know WHY I did that, it would be VERY difficult for me to back off and see the harm I could be causing. Even more important, I might create a whole different can of pain for Julia, by being blinded to my motivation for her success. Julia is NOT ME! Julia is apart of a whole new equation that does not have to be tainted and stained by my own.

On the flip side, there are BEAUTIFUL and DELICIOUS lessons we can pass on to our kiddos because of our own equations. Finding this balance is the journey of parenthood.

One such delightful moment happened for me last week. I am kind of in love with words, and have made no bones about passing down my love to my children. They have heard me say countless times, "UGH! Find a different word, that one is so tired!" Now, altogether, we roll our eyes when any Duggar uses the word 'surreal', because they've said it like 345,755 times.... (More money to the counseling fund!)

Any way, Lucy wrote us a song. I love when my kids write anything.... But a song. I used to write songs when I was little. There are many of you who had to suffer through my songs, I'm just so.sorry. But suffer we did not, when Lucy sang this piece for us. I did not take a video, but I have one in my head. And maybe someday she'll sing it for me again. In the meantime, here are the precious, precious words my SEVEN year old penned.

What Happened To This World?
By Lucy Littlejohn

What happened to this world, or did I become evil?
What happened to this world, but did you know that I'm ashamed?
Did you know that I'm loved.
Did you know that I'm saved.

I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord.

What happened to this world, or did I die?
You gave me yours, I gave you mine.
You're my God, You're my God, You're my God.

I trust you!
I trust you!
I trust you!
You're my God!  

I don't know your sweet equation. I don't know you child's sweet equation. But I know everyday, we have an opportunity to evaluate our equations, learn from them, decipher where errors were made, and write and rewrite until a more tender and gracious balance is reached.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How To Help Children Who Are Fearful

All 16 of us waited in a room just beyond the sanctuary. Together, we were all going to enter the celebration of Mama's life. Together, we had walked the long road of Alzheimer's. Together, we would now walk the long aisle of goodbye. I clutched Mark's hand as the ushers pulled open the sanctuary doors. My legs shaking, my heart aching, and my mind unsure I could take another step. The congregation rose, daddy took the first step down the aisle and we followed his lead, like we always had done.

Her fingers pressed boldly upon the piano keys. She did not play from a place of loss and weakness, bur rather a place of sweet victory and blessed assurance. She played from a place of complete confidence and bravery. She gave our family, our Mama, and our Great God a love offering like no other. As one of my mom's nearest and dearest friends, Ms. Janice played, "Because He Lives!" It was as if the sermon of her fingers said, "Walk on dear ones, walk on!"

Mark and I desperately desire for our kids to know their God as the God of the WHOLE WORLD, not just the God of the United States of America. We want them to know the grandeur and majesty of a God who is NOT just the God of the American-Caucasian, middle-class, but the God of all created things. In order to push the boundaries of their boxes, we do not "hide" world wide conflict from them. We do not hush their age appropriate questions about ISIS, terrorism, persecution, torture and death. Naturally, when tackling such weighty topics, we then have to be ready to combat some heavy fears. 

Fear held my heart in captivity for so long, that every alarm goes off in my body when one of my children say. "I am afraid!" I learned from my own story, that fear is a VERY real and a VERY fierce emotion, that when unchecked can paralyze and control every aspect of our lives. 

1. When working with children who are struggling with fear, NEVER EVER ignore the emotion.

Over the weekend, we had SUCH a tender conversation with our kids about fear. One of them shared, "I am afraid ISIS will come to French Camp and hurt us!" Both Mark and I acknowledged the fear, validated how we can TOTALLY understand why this child might be fearful of such a thing, and then we did the ONLY thing we can do as parents;

2. We DID NOT offer false hope!
"Oh baby! ISIS is NEVER coming to French Camp, MS!" 
"Oh baby! We will NEVER be harmed by terrorists!"
"Oh come on, statistically you'll die in a car accident long before you die by the hand of ISIS!"


What we DID try and express to our kids was this, "Kiddos, we have something FAR GREATER, FAR DEEPER, FAR LONGER, and FAR MORE SECURE than a make believe promise. We can only offer you the same thing our parents offered us, and it's the BEST OFFERING EVER. The only sure thing we have for you is this; JESUS! His presence and the promises in His word, are the firm foundations we have stood on our whole lives, and we want you to stand on them also. Mama and Daddy have faced MANY sorrows and fears, we too had NO IDEA how we were going to survive some days, but God's grace covered us. God's grace was sufficient and went before us, behind us and all around us. It sustained us. There are little girls and little boys on the other side of the world, sitting in living rooms and expressing the same fear you are expressing tonight, and their Mamas and Daddies CANNOT offer them any type of circumstantial relief with, "Oh kids, ISIS isn't in this part of the world!" Imminent danger DOES surround them in a way it doesn't surround us today, and their Mamas and Daddies are offering their kids the EXACT SAME HOPE we are speaking over you, JESUS! 

3. Jesus is the only kryptonite to fearful bondage!

Positive thoughts pitter-out, numbing tools leave us naked, reality returns, and we face our fears again. Until we give Jesus access into all the shaking and uneasy parts of our fear, fear will be our master. Fear will boss us, control us, paralyze us, motivate us and make us its slave, and then we poison others with our contagious fear.

One of mine and Mark's prayers is, that we will have the clarity to call out and tear down generational sin that has been allowed to seep through. Fear is one of those struggles we have called out. And ONLY through the grace and power of our living God, we plan to help our children tear down fear.

On Sunday, "Because He Lives" was pinged out on an old, out of tune piano, that sits in a dusty Delta church, way beyond her prime. But nothing old and out of tune was shared in the sacred place of those tired walls.

"How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy He gives;
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days

My fake tattooed body just received a new print. Just the last 3 lines. I'm not excessive you know :) 
I'm going to place these words, painted on a plaque (made by one of my artsy friends) by my front door. As my children's souls come in and out, I'll see those words and my fear will fade, my faith will rise, and I will not be enslaved and held in captivity.....BECAUSE HE LIVES!



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Midlife-Crisis Meltdown

"Discontentment is holy when it compels us to dream of redemption"

I've been pacing the floors of my soul; slow, methodic steps. Allowing my inhales to give me a spiritual high and my exhales to hang in the pollen filled air. 

Somewhere between having tasted and seen the absolute power and sweetness of an abandoned life, and living in a culture of the gross excessiveness, I stand bewildered today. Has the persistent call on my heart that says, "follow me, and I will turn you into a fisher of people" led me astray? Or has the trap of indifference captured my heart? Has the repeated, overemphasized, frozen teaching of,  'faith is not a feeling', caused me to compartmentalize and twist goodness, telling myself, 'faith feels nothing.' If so, I am a betrayer of true faith. Because if anything, at the name of Jesus, I feel. I feel some bat-shit passionate things. Shocking. I know :)

In my discontentment, my desire is NOT to do 'more' for Jesus because some guilt-ridden inspiration has led me to an altar call of doing more. My discontentment does not stem as an attempt to earn God's love and favor with a gold star. I OWN His love already. His love is written on my heart, and is the cover story of my life. His favor pours from His eyes when He looks at me, because He sees the cross. My discontentment doesn't come from a yelp that says, "Be radical! Be EXTRA-ordinary!" In and of myself, I'm just a radical sinner in need of an extraordinary Savior. That's all the radical and extraordinary I have to offer. But for the first time EVER in my life, I pace into my inner chambers and whisper in my holy of holies, " Lord Jesus, this cannot be it! Throwing all my energy, wealth, and gifting behind building the 'American Dream' for myself and my family cannot possibly be the 'good works' you have set apart for me. It feels completely contradictory to everything I know about You." 

I've been contemplating this week before Easter, how Jesus EMPTIED Himself, and I sit here like Gus-Gus, stuffing my mousy pockets and running budget numbers and complaining, "if we only had more!" I CANNOT think of a more disgusting picture. He emptied Himself, so that I can have a buffet of the "American Dream??!!!" It's not sitting right, folks. It's just not!

When I snucked (how AJ says the past tense of the word 'sneak') home, I was able to sit and marvel and the endless,  :) ENDLESS :) stories my dad was able to share with me about his current work at  The Sending Project. My innards woke up.  My dad is writing the final chapters of his life (no dad, I'm not killing you off!:) and it could NOT be more Christ-centered and selfless. I WANT THAT with an absolute, scandalous passion!

I do not have a very clear idea why I'm so unsettled right now. Why such a discontentment is stirring in my gut. But I can tell you it has something to do with redemption. His redemption. 

Acts 2:24 "But God raised Jesus up, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held by death's power!"


When I survey the littered roads of so much secret brokenness and pain, pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night and won't let you go, I cannot sit here and ask someone to pass the popcorn while it all unfolds on the screen of life before me. I want in on this. Whatever this IS! 

I cannot think of one person who doesn't need this message engraved on their heart today;

The agony of death is OVER!
Death could not hold Him!
The grave could not keep Him!
And the beautiful, messy consequence of His death? Our eternal LIVING!! 

I don't know what is God is up too. Maybe it's a bad case of gas, or a midlife-crisis meltdown, but y'all God is moving in this home. He has ALWAYS been moving, but this time I'm putting on my dance shoes, grabbing my handsome hunk of a husband and my gaggle of geese, and I'm beginning to sway to the music.....

Here is my cry;
Come Lord Jesus, come into this place.
Undo us, renew us, and have your mighty way with us!  

He is RISEN!
He is RISEN, indeed!

With much Easter love,