Coconut Travels and Noodle Soup

“There is no secret ingredient,” said the wise goose to his adopted panda son of his infamous noodle soup in Kung Fu Panda. Those words came back to my mind at the end of our annual summer trip this year in such a mighty way.

IMG_20170504_114734 Every year we take our kids on a long road trip. Depending on the day of the trip and my mood, some of those trips seem longer than others. This year we traveled from Austin, through Arlington, to St. Louis, Springfield (Illinois), back to Missouri to visit Independence, Branson, and finally back home. We racked up about 2700 miles on the Coconut mobile. It was not as many as some years (last year was a whopping 4600!) but quite an adventure. I know, it seems like insanity. There are times on these trips that I question the soundness of my own mind but the benefits outweigh the momentary lapses of judgment.  IMG_20170504_144116

Our reasoning is simple. First it’s an opportunity for us to disconnect from our normal world. Being self employed means work goes with us, but like hubby says, it’s much nicer to deal with real estate woes with a view of the Ozarks. Although work is our travel companion, we try and keep it to a minimum on these trips. Putting down the phone and computer, connecting with the kids as much as possible. We make memories, make messes, and make connections. Secondly it’s an opportunity for us to expose our kids to the world outside of their safe little bubble. It’s a chance for them to learn, to accept, and many times, to serve outside of our little field here in Texas. Most of road trips involve a stop where we spend some time serving others. Last year it was in LA’s Skid Row, another time it was in inner city Atlanta. The world is full of loud, narcissistic young people who have been catered to, pampered, and have been told that doing what “feels right” is most important. They are swamps without borders. Stagnant ponds where nothing grows but bitter leaves, mold, and algae. We are endeavoring to raise up mighty rivers with banks that channel the strength of the water, bringing life and beauty wherever they flow. Teaching them that is more blessed to give than to receive, that life is not about them feeling good, and that God expects a return on the investment He’s placed in each of us.

And finally, these trips are for fun. And boy did we have lots of that on this trip! Arlington allowed Hubby and the man child to pretend they might have a shot next draft season. I was able to merciless remind them both that they might indeed have a shot, since the Cowboys love to lose. St. Louis was full of adventure from City Museum, where we almost lost the Coconuts in the ball pit and in the various nooks and crannies that defy all safety rules to the Arch, which reminded me how I hate heights and tiny, IMG_20170509_132245confined spaces. Both of which one must conquer to experience the amazing views. Our adventure to Springfield was an educational journey through the Abraham Lincoln museum where I think we learned as much as our kids. Independence, MO allowed us to connect with new friends who became like family, and in Branson we were able to channel our inner child with roller coasters , dinner theater, late nights, and good food. Not to mention the fact that spending time celebrating Hubby’s parents 50th (!!) wedding anniversary was a priceless memory for us and the Coconuts.

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I’m always a little sad and a lot reflective on our trek home from these adventures. And yes, a little weary of being asked, “Are we almost there yet??!!” There are thousands of blog posts out there that give advice on how to be a better parent, a better spouse, a better human.  I admit, I’ve read many of them, while hiding in my pantry, sneaking chocolate to console my guilt over having lost it over that final math problem. But here’s the deal, there is no secret ingredient. That silly goose from Kung Fu Panda that I mentioned earlier got it right. There is none. Not just in noodle soup but in parenting. You can read as many books and blog posts as you’d like for advice but nothing makes up for the time you give your kids. Time that you spend with them and time you spend in prayer for them. Redeem the time.

Our oldest just turned 12. She is tottering on the precipice of womanhood. I allowed her to shave her legs on her birthday this year and cried my eyes out when she politely informed me she didn’t require my informative “how-to” commentary. We have 6 more years before she’s 18. I am committed to redeeming the time I have left with her.

And so these trips we take, although not for the faint of heart, are priceless to us.  We may not live in the fanciest house, drive new cars, or vacation in the Bahamas, but the memories we make together, I would not trade for a million dollars.

Redeem the time now. Before this time is a distant memory.

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The Valley Of Grief

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My wedding day – 2003

My mother has been gone out of my life for 5 years today. Some days it feels like it was just yesterday. Grief is the unwanted house guest that has worn out its welcome but it also makes an excellent teacher when used by the Master. And so, I’ve learned much.

When I was a girl, I lived out in the middle of the desert, literally.  Our closest neighbor was 10 miles away and town was 25 miles.  The wilderness was my playground and the mountains, my schoolyard.  My dad was a gold and silver miner. He bought mining claims just on the Arizona/California/Mexico border when I was 2.  The area was once a booming mining community in the late 1800’s, however when we purchased the land, there was nothing there.  Just a vastness of desert that was foreign to the mind.

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Homestead

Our little homestead was located in the center bottom of a mountain range.  Although a relatively small range, the tallest mountain boasted only 2200 ft elevation, they seemed to tower above our little property. Part of the Chocolate Mountain range, and named so because of their dark brown appearance; were stark, especially against the blue sky.  While other kids watched cartoons on Saturday morning I went cave and mine shaft exploring.  While my peers would ride their bikes down the sidewalk to visit their friends, I rode mine throughout the canyons mindful to watch for snakes.  Finally, while my friends explored neighborhood parks, I explored deep valleys and canyons.  And it was to these valley’s that the Lord took me back to as I sat in the ICU with my mother as she was dying.

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Yours truly – circa 1978 ish

There are parts of that time that are seared into my mind and heart. The sound of the ventilator, the various beeps and alarms that went off for any reason.  The horrible sound of her coughing as the techs cleaned out her lungs.  But most vividly, the sound of the curtain pulled back as doctors and nurses came in and out.  All with the sad look on their faces of trained professionals who know the look of death and recognized it on my mother.  I refused to accept it though.   I begged, pleaded, ordered, demanded that God raise her up.  And I believed that He would.  I was desperate for a word from Him.  I scoured the bible, listened closely to the Pastor, and analyzed every word that came out of my husband’s mouth, scanned every text, every email that came from the body of Christ. I was confident that the Lord would send me something.

And then Tuesday night came.  And so did the word I was looking for.  Mom had been in ICU about 36 hours.  I had reached that place in the hospital where time and space all ran together.  I could not have told you what time it was or what day it was.  But I was sitting in the chair next to her reading the bible.  I felt the Lord direct my eyes to Matthew 20:15 – “’Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” And I realized with an awful finality that He was going to take my mother.  He was telling me that my mother ultimately belonged to Him.  And it was time.  I would not hear of it though.  I stubbornly refused to believe it.  When my husband would ask me if God had given me a word that it was her time, I would say, “I don’t know.  I’m too close to the situation.  I can’t feel my faith even.” I just thought my faith was weak. Here’s what I learned though. It takes more faith to let go of someone we love, to completely put them in the Masters hands, trusting that He knows what’s best, then it is to believe for a healing or a miracle.  I heard God asking me:

In whose hand [is] the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?  Job 12:10

He was asking me if I trusted Him.  And I faltered. When the middle of the night came and I sat in that room watching my mother die,  I struggled with my faith.  Ever so softly I heard the Lord whisper the same question He asked me that Tuesday night, “In whose hand is the life of every living thing?” He was gently telling me, “it’s ok, leave her in my hands”.  Finally a few nights later, I picked up the bible and started reading the 23rd Psalm.  I got to the line “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. I tried to move on but I kept feeling impressed that there was something there.  Finally in frustration I mumbled out loud, “Lord!  I get it….the valley of the shadow of death…mom’s dying….what are you telling me??” And the thought that followed immediately behind it was this, “No, this is not her valley, it’s yours. Prepared by me” And followed behind that thought came, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose. The true meaning of that verse is never more evident than when we are in the valley of the shadow of death.

3 mine siteThere are parts of who I am that need to die and be broken off.  It’s in these deep valleys of sorrow and grief that the Lord does His work if we’ll let him.  I knew that He was there in that valley with me, using this time of sorrow and grief, to do a work in me.  A seed sprouts in the dark, wet, and tilled up soil.  The mighty oaks roots run deep into the ground, plowing through hard rocks below.  In the dark, lonely shadows of our grief, the Lord does His greatest works.  When we ignore Him we circumvent the cure.

God wants to take us THROUGH our valleys,though. If we do not follow the Shepherd out of our valley, we will remain there.  And it’s easy to stay there and even easier to return.  There were many times in the first couple of years after Mom died that I returned back to the depths of the valley.  When I allowed my mind to think, “Should I have made the decision to remove the ventilator?” “Could I have done more to get the staff at Seton to move faster the morning of mom’s stroke?”  I was reminded of when I would go exploring the canyons as a kid. Some were steep, frightening channels carved into the land with the mountains rearing up sharply on both sides.  I remember scraping shins and banging knees as I would climb higher and higher.  And then one of the rocks I was using as leverage to climb would give way and I would slide down.  That’s what our mind does to us.  It slips us back to ‘what ifs” and loosens our hold on the “what are’s.”

It has been a difficult journey.  But I’ve learned priceless life lessons.  I’ve learned that I can’t rely on “feeling” and that faith is doing what you know is right even if you don’t feel like it.  I’ve learned that God’s grace really is sufficient for the moment we are in and that planning for the future is important but living in the moment with Him is paramount.  Those 193 hours spent in ICU and the many hours of sorrow after gave me on the job training in the sufficiency of God’s grace.  ‘My grace is sufficient for right now,” He would whisper into my soul in the days following when I found it hard to put one foot in front of the other.

Jesus was a man of sorrows and I have been comforted knowing that He knows the brokenness of grief and loss.

“Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isa 26:3

From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:25 mom and I

Mourning and grief is part of life but how we respond to it and how we handle it determines its effect on our life. Even after 5 years, I still walk in the grief of losing my mother.  But the canyons are a little less steep, a little less dark these days.  I continue to watch the Lord break things off of me and to prepare me for the next valley.  And one of the few constants that life brings is the valleys.

My mother may be gone physically but her memory burns bright in my heart.  Her voice still rings in my ears with all of the lessons she thought I’d never learn. Thanks Mom. I was listening.

6 Mom

An Open Letter to the New Home School Momma

To the mom hiding behind your computer screen, searching for the next best curriculum….I know you well. You spent months researching different home school programs, curriculum, groups, and how-to’s. You read every blog, article, meme, and Facebook post that had anything to do with homeschooling. You talked to your spouse, to your friends, and to God about this undertaking and you were giddy with the amazing picture of what it would all look like in your head. When UPS arrived with the small fortune of books, materials, and fancy home school planners, you spent hours going through everything, inhaling new text book smells and blank workbook pages that would soon be filled in with your brilliant children’s work.

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Ahhh!! First day glorious expectations!

Speaking of the little Einstein’s, I know them as well. I know all your dreams and thoughts for them. I know how you agonized over taking them out of the school that they (and you) loved because you felt that God was calling you to do a new thing. But they also were excited and begged to get started before their last year at school was up. And their excitement added to your own, making you certain that the decision was the right one.

You had bought into a vision in your mind of how it would look. You’d read plenty about the joys of homeschooling and spending precious time with your children. No more wasted time in a classroom setting! Every second of every day, they would be learning and growing. And loving every minute of it. You saw yourself taking them on amazing outings and using the great outdoors as a classroom and molding your little protégés into independent learners and free thinkers! Your child with the learning/emotional/physical need would be both challenged and allowed to progress at his or her own pace. You had battled self doubt, friends doubt, and family doubt, overcoming every argument. You couldn’t wait until the first day!

Until the first day comes. And expectation meets reality. Your once excited pupils suddenly realize that schooling at home doesn’t mean we just do whatever we want, but that reading, writing, and arithmetic are still a vital part of their day. Their little dream of sleeping in every day and living in our jammies is just that. A dream. Between the two year old toddler vying for attention, the phone that won’t stop ringing, the dishes piling up, and the laundry pulling at you, and worst of all, your once excited students have now become whining and griping monsters, the weight of the decision hits you. And in that moment where the fantasy meets the reality, you feel yourself wilting inside. “Wait just a minute, here!” Your inner voice screams. “This is not what I signed up for!” “Where’s the joy? The excitement of learning?”

And then, almost immediately the guilt sets in and the lies bombard your mind as your inner voice begins to runs down the List of Things You Didn’t Do Right:

~Lie 1. “It’s because I’m not doing enough.” Our best is all we can do. Enough is a pipe dream.

~Lie 2. ”They’re bored! They’re supposed to be loving this! I didn’t get the right curriculum.” They’re kids. They’ll get bored a theme park eventually. And home school still has the word “school” in it. It does require work. Contrary to what some people think.

~ Lie 3.“I’m not equipped to teach them.” They are YOUR children. You are the best equipped to teach the little buggers.

~ Lie 4. “This is supposed to be fun.” Says who? That mom who writes blog posts for a living and only posts the cute/fun/perfect pictures? Show up at her house unannounced at about 4:15 pm any week day and I think you’ll see a different picture.

~ Lie 5. “I’m not crafty/smart/creative enough” Here’s the thing, we need to realize and teach our kids that learning is an ongoing process. We are always learning. The joy in homeschooling comes when you figure out that you are learning with your kids. You are  teaching them to love learning! Eventually. The day we think we’ve arrived and that there is no more to learn, is the day we die. Remember that the next time you talk to some “expert” who refuses to acknowledge that we are all life-long learners and acts as if he/she has it all figured out. They are dead inside. Move along.

~ Lie 6. “I didn’t pray over them enough.” Really? God keeps a score card? I missed that in the Bible. And there’s that word again. Enough.

~ Lie 7. “I shouldn’t have nursed them to sleep when they were babies.” Just. Stop. It.

~ Lie 8. “I shouldn’t have co-slept/let them cry it out/given them vaccinations/not given them vaccinations.” No, really. Stop.

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I saw this on a museum tour this summer and realized it’s what my laundry room looks like. Everyday.

And on and on until you are a blubbering, guilt ridden mess hiding in your pantry, sneaking chocolate while your children are watching TV because you could not handle small, whiny voices interrupting each other with, “What’s 8 x 8?” “How do you spell arachnid?” “Why do I have to write my name on this paper?” You have simply given up. And it’s only 10am. On the first day. (See? I do know you.) Just stop. Put down the chocolate. It’s not you. It’s not them. It’s life. I’m going to tell you a secret I wish I would have embraced when I first started. Are you ready?? Here it is: It’s ok for them to be bored. As a matter of fact, it’s good for them to do some monotonous things. Your job is to prepare them for life. Not to entertain them. It’s ok for it not all to be fun. It’s ok for them to do things they don’t want to do. It’s called character building. Your job is to pour more than just the multiplication table, English grammar, and history lessons into them. What would it matter if our kids mastered all of the laws of physics and mathematics but failed the simple assignments of kindness, compassion, discipline? Andrew Kern said it best when he said, “Children are souls to be nurtured, not products to be measured.”

So give yourself some grace. It’s ok for you to bumble through that first year or so trying to find your own personal rhythm, because that’s what it’s about. You’ve got to find YOUR family’s tempo because no two are the same. You’re learning something you were probably never taught unless you were home schooled yourself. Stop comparing yourself. Pour into your children. The most important lessons they will learn will come from watching you. Breathe deeply. Let them see you struggle and lean on Jesus to get you through. Prepare them to live radically for Christ first and they will be prepared for college.

Remember mommas, we CAN do all things through Christ which strengthens us. Even educate our kids. If you get nothing else out of this rambling post, just remember, with Him, you, imperfect, curriculum changing, chocolate eating, grammar diagramming nazi (or not), Pinterest fail queen, are ENOUGH.I’m off to the store to finish the last of my school supply shopping. Notebooks, pens, and chocolate for the pantry.

 

The Coconut Chronicles: Lessons from Kids Camp

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Kids Camp Bound!

The month of July is all but gone and we are bearing down on the insanity of back to school planning.  I can hardly believe it.  This summer has been full of fun. So much fun in fact, that Hubby and I decided that the Coconut’s desperately needed some spiritual vegetables to counter act all the candy their little flesh was getting. So last week our two big kids went off to kid’s camp. Which means Hubby and I went to kids camp.

Growing up I had never experienced summer church camps before.  I was a ballerina.  I went to ballet camps where the ballet Nazis where so hardcore and mean you fell into your bed every night too exhausted to even think about expanding the energy to move your mouth enough to talk to your dorm mate.  Fast forward to 30 years and I am thrown into a room with 6 giggly, crazy girls for 4 days. I got the easy end of the deal though. Hubby found out when we arrived that they needed him to head up the new dorm with 37 wacky boys and 3 other deans. Good luck with that. I’ll take my giggle boxes.

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Our adventure started with a 3 hour check in process and the always popular, “Lice Hunt”
that makes me a little nauseous. I think it’s because I was scarred a couple of years ago when, during this process, one of the charges I had brought had head lice. It was terrible. She became quarantined in the lice concentration camp/cubicle area while I tried to get someone to answer their blasted phone to drive 2 hours to pick her up. Anyway, memories of that little incident were still obviously fresh in my mind because I chewed on my finger nails the entire time we waited. Coconut #1 did not help matters as she was, of course, asking a million questions. “Are we all going to get lice?” “Of course not.” I answered matter of factly as I began to rigorously scratch my head.  “Can we go over there??” “How about over there?”  “Where’s the lake?”  “Where’s the pool?”  “Where’s our dorm?”  Meanwhile I’m thinking, “Where’s the Valium??”

For 4 days we chased after kids from sun up to sun down. From morning rally to power packed church services to water slides, we ran with the masses. It was exhausting. It was manic. It was life changing. I had gotten so wrapped up in the negativity of the world I’d lost sight of some things. Apparently I just needed a few days with a bunch of kids and sleep deprivation to get re-aligned.

The kids that come to this camp come from all different backgrounds. Some are bus route kids. Some have been raised in church all their lives. Some are just families that are new to Christianity. But they were all there to have some fun and an encounter with God. It was amazing to see these kids praying and seeking God at the altar, some for over an hour.  I watched in amazement as they exampled the scripture in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Never before have we needed grace and mercy as we do in this time we’re living in. But somewhere we’ve lost our childlike faith. We’ve become so wrapped up in the affairs and cares of the world we’ve lost sight of the One who holds all of our futures in His hands. We’ve allowed social media and biased journalism to fuel our emotions. We sign petitions, tell people who to vote for, point out the wrongs of those that do not agree with us and feel justified. Don’t get me wrong. I agree with doing our civic duty but if we think posting another insulting meme or video is what’s going to change the world, we are hopelessly deceived. Jesus is our only hope. Prayer is our only refuge. Love is our only solution. Agape love. The kind that caused our savior to hang on a cross for the very people that we judge and condemn with our words and thoughts.

In a world of violence and death, this year’s camp couldn’t have come at a better time for us because it made us focus on what’s really important. I was reminded by these kids not to become entangled with the things of this world. To stay the course that my Captain has set for me no matter the storms that rage around me. It was a memorial to draw near to the sacred and holy in the midst of depravity.   I went to minister to children but in all reality, they ministered to me.

So post your opinions on social media and sign your petitions but most importantly I would respectfully ask, are you a born again believer? If so, then it’s time to pray. Ask God to give you His eyes to see, to pour out His mercy, and to fill your heart with His love. You’ll reach far more people with the love of God than the opinions of men. And then once He’s filled you up, GO because the fields are white with the harvest. The hour is late and the laborers are few.

If you haven’t met Jesus yet, then I would humbly suggest you start seeking Him with all you have. These are perilous times but we have a hope. We do not have to walk in fear, because no matter who becomes the next president, the King has already overcome the world.

The Coconut Chronicles: The Death of Empathy

“Hi! My name’s Isabelle! Do you wanna be my friend?”

I heard this sentence offered up by each of the Coconuts countless times during our monster road trip last month to a plethora of different kids they met. And no matter the size, age, gender, religious background, family party persuasion, every one of the kids asked, cheerfully said, “Yes!” And off they would run together to play, laugh, whisper secrets, and become new best friends. I was continually amazed as I watched these kiddos without walls around their hearts and fences around their minds act as though they had all known each other since birth.

“Oh they’re so cute!” The adults would casually say to each other all the while sizing each other up, peeking over our own walls and carefully constructed fences that time and past hurts had deeply embedded. Then we would go about taking pictures, posting to social media, all the while making careful small talk about the weather. We certainly wouldn’t want to have a meaningful conversation. We might have to give something of ourselves.

A society of islands. That’s what we’ve become. Amazon, Wal-Mart, and food delivery services have replaced the need to leave the house for any reason. Technology has killed the days of long front porch talks. Now we communicate through text and emoticons. Modern day cave dwellers pecking out cliff drawings. If someone happens to ring the doorbell and it’s not UPS or FEDEX we peer warily through the blinds, annoyed that another human being might actually need something. I watched my kids play. Uninhibited. Full of joy. Wild abandon. But most of all, simply engaging in each other.

20160430_114224Over the course of our trip we spent four days in Skid Row in Los Angeles with a man whose desire to reach the lost supersedes the inconvenience of unwashed bodies and addictions that others run from. The Asuza  Lighthouse Mission is a beacon in the darkness there. Pastor Gabe Wang and his wife are sold out, taking the mantle of his mother who started the mission and carrying the burden for those people. You can learn more about them and the work they do here:  http://azusalighthousemission.org/

Skid Row is 7 miles from the lights of Hollywood but it might as well be 7,000 miles. Although progressives love to talk about helping the needy, most of the Hollywood crowd wouldn’t be caught dead near this place. A more important question however is, where is the church?  Where are the “called out ones?” The hands and feet of Jesus?

 

 

My kids wanted to help in every way possible. They wanted to talk to the people and serve them. I watched rough men and women soften and melt when a little hand pressed a sandwich into theirs and a little voice said, “Jesus loves you. I’m going to pray for you.” As we ministered there I watched the people respond to love and to connection with another human being. I’m not naïve enough to believe that if we would just put down our phones we could end homelessness, but I do believe we could make a difference. Many of the people out there just need to know that someone cares. I wonder where some of them would be today if someone would have noticed their depression, their hurt, and done something. I was reminded that these people were once someone’s baby girl or boy. Someone’s friend and someone’s neighbor.

Maybe I’m being unfair. After all, many out there on the streets are the hardest type of addicts filling a void with drugs and alcohol. But don’t we all have a void we’re filling? Whether someone is an alcoholic or a workaholic there’s a deeper issue being masked. Without Christ we are all headed for a Skid Row. Either in this life or the one to come. So back to my question. Where is the church? We don’t have to get on a plane to LA or even drive downtown to find someone to reach. There’s probably someone just a short walk or drive away. Perhaps it’s a neighbor or the checker at the grocery store that needs a touch from a real person. Aren’t we our brother’s keeper?

Technology is emotionally crippling us. Tiny little screens and selfie sticks, have taught us that we don’t really need each other and is simply furthering the selfishness that is today’s humanity. It is killing our empathy. Oh yeah, we’ll “share” that moving Twitter quote or Facebook post from a popular pastor or celebrity but won’t open our front door when our neighbor comes knocking with needs. Matthew 18:2-4 says, “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t care how much scripture you know, where you preached your last conference, or how saved and sanctified you think you are, if you don’t have this down then you ain’t getting’ in. Because little children just love and believe. They don’t have an agenda. They just want to be friends. Our kids don’t need any more gadgets and neither do we. We just need to care about the person next to us.

Hi! My name’s Katherine. Do you wanna be my friend?

 

The Tragedy of Last Firsts

PicMonkey Collage Final

The other night as I lay with Coconut number 4, I was hit with overwhelming sadness. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep over the course of the past several nights as we have begun the weaning process of our littlest Coconut. At least weaning from night nursing that is. She’s turned me into a pacifier and since I have 3 other Coconuts and a husband that require my attention, I’ve got to get more sleep than 2 hour stretches. I digress though…More than likely my sadness came from the realization that with this one comes all of the last firsts. The last first look on a little face that I spent 9 months imagining. The last first breath. Last first bath, smile, tooth, steps, words.  Last first Christmas’s and first birthdays. Although I realize that there will be other firsts, like cars, jobs, loves, apartments, etc, the season of baby’s firsts is coming to an end for us.

As I snuggled my last born, feeling her small, warm body, I thought back to my first, second, and third born and all their firsts. All important and embedded in my mind and in my heart. I could instantly tell you about their first steps, words, teeth, but something about knowing that this one yields the end of “baby’s first” brought a lump to my throat. Nostalgia rolled over me as I thought back over the past 11 years and how fast it really goes. The throes of parenting with sleep deprivation and the daily repetition of the word “no”, along with the constant search for all things tiny, had masked the speed of it all. How many nights had I just fallen into bed, exhausted and thankful that another day was over and we were closer to….what? The kids being grown?

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My first and last Coconut

I began to think about seasons and how the bible admonishes us to “redeem the time.” My mind started sorting through the catalogs of time that I spend with them. Redeeming the time. It’s easy to become caught up in the daily grind, but every moment I am teaching them something. Good or bad. So I am trying to worry less about whether I’ve taught them how to correctly handle laundry and more about how I’m teaching them to handle life. Less about how to approach the art of homemaking, more about the art of building relationships with others. Less about what to do in an emergency situation, more about WHO to run to in a crisis and how to approach the King of Kings in time of need. Our lives have become a balancing act of family, ministry, work – a little like a three-legged stool that is constantly in danger of tipping over. There is only One who keeps it balanced. Is that what I’m teaching them?

Redeeming the time.

Someday the last firsts will become the last of the lasts. The very last of the bedtime stories, drinks of water, diaper changes, early morning snuggles. Last shoes to be tied, sandwiches to make. Last boo boos that only my kisses make better. I remember vividly the first nursing session that felt like an awkward and painful tango danced with a complete stranger. But now here we are close to the last where our “nummie” sessions have become a smooth pas de deux. Our bodies are so connected that I can’t tell anymore were baby begins and my body ends.

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Redeeming the time.

I silently pondered, if I would have known with the other Coconuts when the last time we nursed was going to be, would I have tried to make the moment last just a little longer? Or the last time my oldest needed her hair washed, wouldn’t I have just enjoyed the moment instead of being in a hurry to get her into jammies, teeth brushed and into bed? I will redeem the time I have left. In this moment in which whatever I say is taken without doubt or question. I will speak life, plant truth, and cultivate beauty into their little hearts.

I lay in bed that night, watching the moonlight stream through the window, snuggling my last baby as she struggled to go to sleep without nursing. In this magical age between baby and little girl we find ourselves. Oh soul! Soak up every moment. The smell of her baby skin. The feel of soft hair on my arm. I am burying it deep in my memory so that when the last Coconut tumbles from the tree and into their own lives I can embrace these times. For now, I am redeeming the time. Breathing in every last first. Savoring every last, last.

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The Coconut Chronicles and The Great Camping Escapade

There are moments in life that are so sacred, so intimate; we are possessive with whom we will share them with. Yet at the same time, because they are so meaningful to us we desire to share the memories with many as to offer a glimpse of the divine. The moment each of my children were laid upon my chest, warm and wet and full of life; When the words “I do” on my wedding day tumbled from nervous yet joyful lips, and even the final minutes with my mother as she took her last breath were all such times in my life.

And then sometimes it’s something that appears simple but it’s perfection is hidden in that simplicity.

A New Adventure…

Coconut #1 was excited
Coconut #1 was excited

Ready for a new adventure!

Let the adventure begin!
Let the adventure begin!

 

 

This past week we took the Coconut’s camping. I know what you are thinking. “Camping with 4 kids, sacred? More like insane.” I thought the same thing the first day as we traveled the 3 hours in a 30 foot RV with a cranky husband, a skittish dog, and 4 kids who, between the three that could talk, must have asked a bazillion questions. We were pressed for time, trying to make it to Garner State Park before dark because backing a vehicle almost the size of an 18 wheeler into a campsite was not on Hubby’s list of Things That Sounded Like Fun. But God is gracious and we made it with a little day light to spare. That first night consisted of us just doing our best not to scar the kids (or the dog) for life and passing out from the shear stress exhaustion of it all.

Coffee in hand, let the adventure begin.
Coffee in hand, let the adventure begin.

Since we had arrived so late the night before, poor Hubby had to ride his bike back up to the front that first morning to actually check us in. Thankfully, another camper had pity on him, having passed him on the way up to the front as Hubs was huffing and puffing it on his bike, and brought him back to our campsite. With coffee in hand, we were now ready to explore our surroundings. And it was simply amazing. The Coconuts were overwhelmed by nature. Everywhere we looked we were drowning the in the beauty of His creation. We wandered the banks of the Frio, the kids splashing each other in water correctly named! We discovered we were the proud owners of a true water dog as Asa bravely followed the kids on their adventures, half swimming, and half plowing through rapids with his solid body. We even played put-put golf at the camp course. Later that night s’mores and glow stick games completed a perfect day. I couldn’t have scripted anything more amazing.

Everyone was excited. Even Asa.
Everyone was excited. Even Asa.
My Tom Sawyer.
My Tom Sawyer.
Coconut #4 loves to pose.
Coconut #4 loves to pose.

Put-put golf anyone?More S'mores!This girl loves any adventure!

Never mind Coconut #4 has been in her swimsuit all day.
Never mind Coconut #4 has been in her swimsuit all day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Selfie!

Day two we decided to take an “easy, little hike” but alas, leave it to the Coconut Family, we found ourselves on a trail that led us up 500 feet of elevation in half a mile. We literally scaled the side of a mountain with four kids, one of which was strapped to one of our backs, and the dog. At one point I felt like the Von Trapp family escaping the Nazi’s by fleeing over the Swiss Alps. I would have burst out with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” Julie Andrews style if I hadn’t been so focused on keeping my kids from sliding off the face of the mountain we were on.

It's hard to tell but to the left of us was a canyon!

 

Hike

The view was worth the climb!
The view was worth the climb!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back at camp Coconut #2 tried to give instructions to a belligerent 5 year old.
Back at camp Coconut #2 tried to give instructions to a belligerent 5 year old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But as I watched my kids soak in the beauty that was around them, as my two oldest would spontaneously burst into prayers of thanksgiving to our God and tell me how grateful they were, I knew I was witnessing the sacred. The moments that technology and modern conveniences not only cannot give us but in all actuality detract and distract us from the divine. We had absolutely no cell or wifi service and it was so liberating. We spent every moment just re-connecting with each other. Listening, talking, hearing, and seeing. Although we are now back to reality, the memories we made will be the ones that we will look back on as a family and wish we could freeze in time. My heart is full.

It's hard to see here but this was Coconut #4's drawing. It says, "I love my family."
It’s hard to see here but this was Coconut #4’s drawing. It says, “I love my family.”

Selfie with my love

Monkeys in the tree