Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quotes from my child...

Currently, I laugh a lot about the things that pop out of Ava's mouth...I don't want to forget them, so I blog them...

After her best friend Zachary moved to a new class, we were driving to school and Ava says "Mom, I don't think I want to go to school today...I am not in the mood to make new friends today."  This was said just like a 13 year old girl would say it. 

"Oh my gosh mom, seriously!  Do you really think that shirt matches those pants." 

"Mom, I have NOTHING cute in my dresser to wear."

"Mom, you are talking loud to daddy...ok, you say "daddy, I am sorry for talking loud" and daddy you say "It's problem." 

Ava heard me giving my dad a hard time for getting old.  She said "On no mommy...pops is old?!  Does that mean he is going to heaven?!  Who would Nana live with?  That would not be good." 

Currently she also loves to tell me on a daily basis "Mommy, I have a really good idea..." Which usually ends with a visit to a friends house or a trip to Target.

I need to write them down when they happen...I already forget ones from last week!

Parenting moments...

The day each of my children came into my life is permanently etched in my mind.  I can remember each detail and the moment I held both of them for the first time.  I remember thinking about the things I was excited about for each of dreams and hopes and expectations.  Ava was a very peaceful infant.  She didn't cry much...she ate, she slept, she cuddled.  She was pretty easy...until age 2.  The year from age 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 was my hardest year as a parent so far.  We struggled with attitudes, fits, complete melt downs, and tears (on both our parts).  I constantly questioned (and continue to question) what we are doing as parents and how to raise this strong-willed, confident, and opinionated child well.  This past week we had another complete child-parent melt down moment.  Ava was being incredibly selfish and I was about at the end of my rope...did I mention she had been screaming for about 20 minutes at this point?  One of those dreams I talked about is that my kids would be willing to hold their "stuff" loosely and willing to give freely...super easy, right?:)  I have noticed lately that Ava is very concerned about getting "stuff."  I know we have perpetuated this and I wanted to figure out how to end it.  I told her that she had to go home and pick something out and give it away to someone...I don't care what it is, but you have to give it away.  She said to me "Maybe I can pick out something I don't like and never use."  Wow.  Our sin nature is rough even as kids!  She was pretty mad at me and told me for the first time that I was a bad mommy.  Yikes.  After about 20 minutes she apologized and said that maybe we could start over (this is what she says when she knows she is in trouble for a bad attitude).  She went into time out and I went and prayed that I would survive until Caleb got home.  After a few minutes I went to check on her and asked what she was doing.  She told me "I am asking Jesus to come into my heart."  I asked her what she meant and then we got to talk about Jesus being the Savior of her life.  We prayed together for Jesus to forgive her of sin and for Him to be with her each day.  This will just be one moment in Ava's spiritual journey but it was a huge moment in mine.  To be able to pray with my almost 4 year old and have her aware that God loved her so much that he sent Jesus to die to take away her sin was a priceless moment.  We will keep talking.  We will keep praying...she will keep asking questions but I am grateful to get to be a part of the amazing journey she is on.  The next day she asked if she was being a good listener.  I told her yes and she said "It's because Jesus lives in my heart and I am trying to be a good listener."  My prayer for you dearest you read this many years from that you are still making decisions and looking at life through the lense of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Girls Night...

I was super girly as a kid.  I hated to get dirty.  I would make other people put my bike chain on my bike because it was gross.  I did my hair for fun.  I wanted to shave my legs when I was 9.  I begged to get my ears pierced for a year!  I wore fake finger nails that I would bite off and then put in my desk at school (so gross and weird).  I planned out my outfits a month at a time and read incredibly girly books.  I liked boys and always had a "camp boyfriend" each summer.  One day...I guess sometime in Junior High when all things go a little cooky, I stopped.  I never wanted to shower.  I wore my hair in a wet pony tail to school every day.  I organized sporting events in the mud.  I broke up with my junior high boyfriend because I didn't want to "settle down."  I was allowed to shave my legs but decided it was all of a sudden "unnecessary."  Early high school was a great time of building confidence in who I was in Jesus and how God has made me.  Then, late high school hit and I got a boyfriend.  I let this become a huge part of my identity.  I lost so much of who I was and lost site of the things that I valued about myself.  Through a lot of prayer, this relationship ended by early college.  By mid college I was back to normal Ashlee but with a new passion to talk to girls about being free to be who they are!  When I was pregnant with Ava and we found out she was going to be a girl, I started to pray that she would know God and also have confidence in who she is as a beautiful creation of Him.  If any of you know Ava, at this point, my prayer was answered.  As a parent though, I pray that we can shape her confidence into a humble knowledge that she is made by God and that He has a great plan for her life.  This then leads me into girls night.  Like I said in the beginning...I do love girly things.  I was talking to several of the girls from our neighborhood about having a girls night.  We decided we would watch High School Musical, eat snacks, paint nails, talk about girl stuff, and play games.  I want to celebrate with them the things that make them unique as women.  The beautiful things about being a little girl that obviously go far beyond watching girl movies and doing hair/nails.  About 17 girls showed up.  We had a question box where they could write down questions.  I was not expecting the heaviness of the questions being asked.  Many we didn't read out loud because it wasn't the setting.  It was a reminder to me about how much women need each other.  How much we want to know that other people are thinking and feeling something similar to what we are thinking.  We want to know that we aren't alone.  I love girls nights.  I love the talking and sharing that comes from them.  I pray for the girls in my neighborhood.  I pray for their innocence.  I pray that we get to keep having these beautiful times together to know each other more. 

House Gatherings...

I think I have already mentioned our Wednesday night house gatherings.  I love them.  Each Wednesday night we have anywhere for 5-25 people show up at our house from our neighborhood.  It's a time for neighbors to get to know each other and come together to share a meal.  This past week we had a full house.  Our house is not so big.  The three rooms of living space that we have max out pretty quickly.  We also aren't very clean people so Ava and Jay's room/playroom was a disaster!  There was an extra mattress on the floor, toys everywhere, and about 8 kids.  But, the beautiful part is that they didn't one cared about the lack of space or mess of dishes or that we ran out of dishes and started using kids plates.  We were all just there...present...a part of the conversation.  I loved watching our older neighbors interact and encourage the teenagers.  I laughed listening to Shaqwanda (who I met during my first month in Atlanta during Mission Year) "jones" with Angleo, our friend that often stops by to chat, grab a snack, and keep an eye on things for us.  I loved hearing Ms. Betty passionately share from her heart of her experiences with faith and church and how God is so personal and real to her.  I REALLY loved that Karim made us all buffalo chicken tenders!  They were incredible.  I love that Annia and I get to cook together every Wednesday night.  I share these things to remember them.  Many times I have been discouraged that we bought our house right before the housing market crashed.  I have wanted more space to be able to host gatherings of people.  I have wanted more space for people to be able to have a place to stay if they needed it.  This week has been a good reminder to me that this space that we do have, can still be used.  We prayed the first night that we moved into this house that we would see it not as "our" house, but as an open place where people could gather.  I guess that's still my prayer. 

Solitude and My Life...

Last weekend I was able to attend the Mission Year solitude retreat with our team.  I was looking forward to this time because I rarely have moments alone.  In my head I know that solitude is important for all people and that includes me and my somewhat extroverted self (hehe).  The problem is that I don't make time for it.  We have some really great things going on in life right now and I am excited about all those things so I just keep going.  I don't stop, I don't reflect.  Don't get me wrong...I am thinking ALL THE TIME!  Caleb and I have a joke that I am always thinking and processing and analyzing and dreaming about something.   He on the other hand can be still...both in body and in mind.  We also read The Way of the Heart this past month by Henry Nouwen.  He says the following:
"In order to understand the meaning of solitude, we must first unmask the way in which the idea of solitude has been distorted by our world.  We say to each other that we need some solitude in our lives.  What we are really thinking of, however, is a time and place for ourselves in which we are not bothered by other people, can think our own thoughts, express our own complaints, and do our own thing, whatever it may be.  For us, solitude most often means privacy."
I realized that this was very much my idea of what I wanted out of solitude...just moments alone.  He goes on to talk about solitude being vulnerability...a nakedness before God.  He says,
"In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: No friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me-naked,vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken-nothing."
It hit me so clearly my need for this.  I desire quiet time with the Lord but most often this is done around something else...squeezed in among the business of life.  My heart longs to love the people around me.  I feel a burden to love and be loved.  I am filling my schedule not with things but with people.  Nouwen then draws us back to what he calls "The compassionate ministry."  Thomas Merton describes a group of monks who spent much time in isolation in the following way as he describes there quest not to drown in the sinking ship of their society:
"They knew they were helpless to do any good for otherse as long as they floundered about in the wreckage.  But once they got a foothold on solid ground, things were different.  Then they had not only the power but even the obligation to pull the whole world to safety after them." 
My mind was drawn to line...On Christ the solid rock I stand!  As much as I love to be engaged with friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, etc, I will drown without Jesus.  The people I love with drown without Jesus.  I want to know more of Him, I want to share more about Him, and I want to see Him more through those in my life.  Since I so easily forget the lessons God is teaching me and so easily start to flounder, I wanted to get these things written down...