A Story of a Three Year Old

“Tell me a story, Momma.”

There once was a boy named Finn. He was the fastest little boy on wheels. He had the happiest smile and the sweetest voice. He loved his sister, Paisley, even though she took his trains. Chicken nuggets and chocolate milk and puzzles were his favorites.

When he was born, his spine was hurt and it made his legs weak and his brain swell.

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So he stayed in the hospital for 14 days.

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His family and friends prayed a lot.

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Finn was a brave little boy. He had 8 surgeries before his first birthday.

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He learned to use a wheelchair to zoom around the house.

So proud.

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He was not like other kids, but that’s okay; he was unique. God made him so smart. So important. So special.

On Finn’s third birthday, he went with his family in their jammies to get coffee and donuts.

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He ate a chocolate silly face donut.

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Then he went on a scavenger hunt for his birthday gifts.

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He was very lucky: he got a mini iPad from both his Nana’s and Papa’s a couple weekends ago at the Rosells’ house in Arkansas.

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Gigi made him a birthday coffee cake and Poppy made a fishing game for Finn to play.

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On his birthday, Finn found a dinosaur puzzle, a sticker book, some cool jeans and sunglasses, and Batman walkie talkies hidden around the house.

After breakfast, he went with his family to the Oklahoma Aquarium.

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He loved the otter. It was cute and did flips in the water.

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He saw fish and alligators and turtles.

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His sister, Paisley, was amazed by all the sights and sounds.

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Finn’s favorite was the shark tank. He was hesitant at first, but he decided to be brave and zoom through the tunnel with sharks swimming all around him in the blue water.

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He went back and forth through the shark tank, up and down the ramp. His arms were so strong.

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Other kids at the aquarium thought Finn was cool whooshing around in his wheelchair. He cried when it was time to leave.

After a nap, Finn and his family went to Nana and Papa Armstrong’s house for a birthday dinner. Nana helped Finn and Paisley decorate a box to play in.

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We sang “Happy Birthday” and ate Ludger’s cake.

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It was delicious, but Finn’s tummy got upset. He didn’t normally eat that much sugar.

After reading a bedtime story, Finn fell asleep on his Thomas the Tank Engine pillow and dreamed about his happiest third birthday. The End.

Life at Church

Okay; I can’t hold it in any longer. I’m bursting inside…

I LOVE OUR CHURCH!

And I don’t care who knows it. ;)

I feel a little like a teenager, gushing over my newest crush (LifeChurch.tv), but trying to play it cool so as not to run off all my friends. I don’t want to seem obsessed or anything.

But seriously. EVERY Saturday night/Sunday morning/Sunday night I attend or serve at church, I love it more. I find some other nuance, a core belief or one of Pastor Craig’s messages that I can rally behind.

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People from all walks of life are greeted warmly by nearly a dozen people in Host Team t-shirts; they grab a cup of Starbucks coffee, and enter the service. An hour later, they (we) walk out the doors changed.

As a body of believers, we are challenged weekly to live life more like Christ...not to necessarily know more or read more or serve more, but to obey more.

“If you love me, obey my commands.” John 14:15

Pastor Craig’s bold message this weekend really spoke to Joey and I. He spoke about how our learning should not exceed our obeying.

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We can scrutinize Scripture, lead or attend Bible studies, graduate from seminary even, but if this learning does not translate to obeying, it’s for nothing. Am I changed by my faith? Have I grown spiritually since this time last year? Am I allowing God to refine me, stretch me and mold me into His child, no matter how uncomfortable?

The people at LifeChurch.tv are real. The staff are fun and earnestly seeking Christ. The messages challenge me EVERY week. The music is loud and powerful. The ministries at LifeChurch.tv are legit…as volunteers, we “huddle” before each service, praying over it and the people who will attend. Finn asks almost daily if we get to go to church.

Have you downloaded the Bible for Kids for your kiddos yet? Finn loves playing David and Joseph.

Have you downloaded the Bible for Kids app yet? Finn loves playing David and Joseph.

Two weekends ago, 124 people were baptized at just our Broken Arrow location, celebrating new life before their friends and church family.

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The weekend before that, more people attended church at a LifeChurch.tv location than attended the Super Bowl. At the end of each service, people are given an opportunity to respond to the Holy Spirit. In the past 3 months we’ve attended a LifeChurch.tv service, someone has always responded. Usually several.

The Lord is doing big things with LifeChurch.tv. He’s pouring into local communities, reaching people all over the world through church online, healing hurting families, providing community for broken people, and spreading practical truth through Craig’s messages weekly. I am so honored to be a part of this Body. So thankful Joey gets the opportunity to call this “work.”

If you attend a church you love and are challenged to obey Him, I’m so happy for you. If you aren’t, consider attending one of the 20+ locations all over the country or attend church online.

I’ll warn you though…you just might fall in love.

Just a Phase

So here’s the thing:

We’re all struggling in some way. We’re all hurting, healing, hoping, failing.

I’ve had several conversations with clients this week–and it’s only Tuesday–about personal demons they’re wrestling, addictions they’re battling, marriages they’re fighting for; working mothers who are experiencing complete exhaustion, and way too much physical illness. They’re trying but it’s not working. They’re running but their feet are tripping.

Finn’s in this weird clingy, fearful phase. It took us a literal hour to get him to sleep Sunday night. We eventually had to tell him if he didn’t stop crying, we’d take away his trains. It worked. Drop-off at school has been terrible. He bawls as soon as he wheels through the door.

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He covers his ears every time Paisley (or any other kid) cries–and it’s not an ear issue. He won’t let me go through the garage door before him; worried I’ll leave him behind. I have to take deeper breaths and pray for more energy, more creativity and more patience to be his mom lately. It’s just a phase. He’s a kid.

Maybe you’re in a “phase” yourself. Maybe you need an extra dose of grace and love from your Father lately.

We are such broken people, so hourly in need of our Savior, Redeemer, Friend.

Sunrise at the lake this weekend

Sunrise at the lake this weekend

I cling to this passage:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Write this on your mirror. Tattoo it with ballpoint to your palm. Post-it-note-it to your dashboard. Text it to yourself. My natural tendency is to try and try and try until I stop failing. This is futile. I’m so thankful for His invitation to come to Him, to breathe deeply, inhaling His peace and exhaling our stress and pain. Heal us, Lord.

Chicken Nugget Theology

It looks like mustard yellow scribbles to you and I, but when Finn’s teacher asked what he was drawing, he swiftly responded, “Chicken nuggets.” Duh.

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My imperfect life may look like a mess to you and I, but to my Father, there’s beauty in progress. A tapestry unfinished. Despite many mistakes, my faith is increasing; my character is building. He is strong where I am weak. The Holy Spirit has made me soft to Him over time; open to constructive criticism and self-reflection. But I still fight the tendency to throw a pity party. Instead, I can recognize my failure as discipline…because He loves me.

I opened my Bible a couple nights ago, slid out the silk bookmark that was holding my place in Hebrews 12–the chapter on “God Disciplin[ing] His Sons.” God does these things, you know–leads you to the exact verse you were thinking about just moments ago. It’s not coincidence. It’s divine. It’s Him.

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline…No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:5-7; 11).

Finn’s yellow scrawl is actually his most favorite food.

My mess is actually Jesus’ refinement, making me more like Him and less like me.

One Last Ride

I held back tears a few times this Thursday morning sitting on the saddle of a Schwinn indoor cycling bike. Tom was teaching his last, “retirement ride” on his 79th birthday. SEVENTY-NINTH!

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Lesli, one of my bosses, had decorated the room with such detailed festivity, the way only a seasoned mom of three boys can. There was coffee, homemade protein bars, fruit and fun donuts.

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Halfway through the ride, Tom told stories of all the jobs he’d held in the last few decades, and said this one–teaching indoor cycling–was his favorite because he got to hang out with pretty ladies. ;) I suspect it’s for reasons far deeper than the ladies.

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His wife is a marathon runner (also in her seventies). She and their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were there to cheer him on for his last ride. It was beautiful to watch them all interact. So proud of him; as they should be. His granddaughter took a picture beside him on stage and I thought about how she’ll have that photo framed somewhere special the rest of her life. Her papa taught cycling until he was almost 80 years old and inspired others to get off their bottoms and move.

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Tom’s last song was “How Great Thou Art” and I thought I was going to lose it…yes; how great He is. He gives us breath and health and inspiring people like Tom to push us along in life. To nudge us toward the right decisions.

Lesli presented him with a t-shirt that read, “Most Inspirational Instructor  Just Keep Spinning.”

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I’ll be taking over Tom’s cycling class next Thursday at 7:45am if you want to join me. I won’t do him justice, but I’ll try.

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Peace

LifeChurch.tv’s staff and attenders are challenged yearly to choose one word–just one–to focus on, strive toward and pray for. I like words; they are important to me, so this was a difficult task. I wanted to choose just the right one.

After thought, prayer and following a reading plan on YouVersion Bible, I came up with the word

PEACE.

2014 was a year of unrest for me; mostly because Paisley was a discontent baby, difficult to soothe and unhappy most waking hours. As a result, I felt frantic, exhausted and irritable. Our recent move to Tulsa was not an easy transition for many reasons and I felt anxiety creeping into my spirit, my personality and even my dreams.

 

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I want to be unruffled by my kids’ tantrums and messy playroom. I want to be at peace financially, confident in my Provider. I want to be able to really rest when a client cancels or while the kids are napping. I want to be a woman who trusts God.

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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Here’s to a more peaceful, calm 2015.

The Game

The kids joined me at the gym on Wednesday for my staff meeting. We were late and I cursed under my breath at our broken van door, juggling a wheelchair, diaper bag, my purse, and a car seat (with Paisley in it) in bitterly cold weather. I returned to SkyKids (my gym’s child care center) after the meeting and was told that Finn had been ramming the gate to Paisley’s section of the nursery because he wanted to see her, as well as ramming a worker in the shins because he didn’t want to share. I was so embarrassed.

We navigated our way through various other toddler tantrums that afternoon. Paisley had a couple blow outs, and I lost the fight for vegetable consumption at dinnertime.

The cutest little toot you ever saw...

The cutest little toot you ever saw…

It felt like motherhood failure.

Finn cried the next morning as I dropped him off at school. I turned my back on his pouted lip and walked away, so as not to prolong the protest. It’s sometimes hard to be a working mom–hard to trust someone else to parent your children, especially when they’re “atypical.”

But as I approached his classroom for pick up at the end of the day, I saw this:

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we need a haircut…

He was happily and imaginatively playing alone. I wish there had been other kids around him, but whatever. He saw me and beamed; asking, “You play cars with Finny, momma?” We sat together zooming wooden race cars and flying airplanes for about 10 minutes. He and his teacher told me about their day…he went to bowling class (and apparently would only use the green ball)

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and he made shape tarts in cooking class. Such a cool place!

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As I was putting him into his car seat, he asked for a hug and a kiss and said, “Momma, you’re sweet.”

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Motherhood success.

Some days I win and some days I lose, but this game is the most important one I’ll ever play.