You Don’t Want To Go To Disney?

 

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Rachael has been waiting for over two weeks for this up-coming Friday. She was invited, with a few other girls, to a friend’s house for a sleep-over, to celebrate the beginning of Christmas break. They each drew Secret Santa names and Rachael immediately wanted to go to the store to pick out the perfect present. It’s been hard for her to keep it a secret. In fact, yesterday she had a friend over, and I heard them whispering about Secret Santas. I have a feeling it might not be so secret anymore. Rachael is more than thrilled about this! She thinks this will be the best way to spend the first day of Christmas Vacation!

Until…I deflated her excitement by telling her she couldn’t sleep-over, nor stay at the party the entire time. For Rachael, this was the worst news ever. Why, wouldn’t I let her stay!!?? It wasn’t fair! I was mean! I ruined everything!

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Rachael’s mad face when she was two

The reason she can’t stay  is that we have a family trip planned. She doesn’t know this. She thinks we are simply going to Indiana to visit her grandma and grandpa. So, Rachael, is upset. She told me she could, “care-less about going to Indiana, we were just there!” “All I want to do is go to the Christmas party!!” “IT’S NOT FAIR!!”

What Rachael doesn’t know, is that we are by-passing Indiana and going to Florida and not only Florida, but to Disney World. The Magic Kingdom. A place were she has begged and begged to visit. A Christmas wish put on her gift list year after year. And this year, it will not only be a wish but a reality. Something far better than a one-night, Christmas party, sleep-over, is waiting in her future. But, she has no idea, so she would rather, without knowing, settle, for the sleepover.

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This made me think, how many times have I had my heart set on something, an athletic dream, the perfect job, a relationship, a new house; there are so many things that can fill-in that blank. I’ve desired them with all my might only to have God close the door on what seemed to be the perfect opportunity. I hear God say, “No, not that!” “Not this time.” And,  I’ve reacted with anger, hurt, sadness, disappointment. I thought that, my plan was the best and that it wasn’t fair that God wasn’t allowing me to take hold of it! I wonder how many times He has had to pry my hands open to get me to let go of a “dream,” because I’m too stubborn to give it up.

Isn’t this what Rachael is doing with the sleep-over. She can only see so much, she only knows so much. She has no idea what’s ahead. If she knew we were going to Disney World, she would easily let-go of the sleepover to grab hold of the “grand-prize.” But, she doesn’t know what’s down the road. So, there’s a battle, a fight, she doesn’t want to give up the party, she wants to win.

How many times do I do this with God?  I don’t know why He closes doors that look like excellent opportunities. I don’t know why He says, “No,” when the situation looks perfect. But, I have to trust Him, because He sees the path ahead. When I let go of what looks like the excellent opportunity, it is only then when He can show me what really is the ULTIMATE opportunity. And it is then, when I realize what I was so stubbornly  holding on to, pales in comparison to what He desires to give me.

I know that Rachael wants to celebrate the start of Christmas vacation with a Christmas party, Secret-Santa sleep-over, but if she lets it go, she will find that there is so much more joy and surprise waiting for her down the road. She will be so thankful that she gave up the party to receive something so much better. I hope that I can learn this lesson in life. I want to be willing to let go of what I want and allow God to lead me on His perfect path!

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

 

Why my kids don’t believe in Santa

Why my kids don’t believe in Santa…

Because one quiet Christmas morning when my sweet and innocent children woke up to open their gifts they realized that Santa had not visited our house on Christmas Eve.

It was not Santa who stuffed his big belly down our chimney and indulged himself with the Christmas cookies and milk that my children had left out for him. It was not Santa that left presents under our tree. No, the gifts my children were tearing into were NOT from Santa at all!!

However, they were from a man who also wears a red-suit, but this man does not have a big round belly, nor does he have a soft white beard, or a deep joyful laugh of “Ho-Ho-Ho.”

Instead, this man, carries a pitch-fork and adornes his head with horns. It was not SANTA who left presents under our tree that year, but it was SATAN, himself!!

You see, I had been up late on Christmas Eve and having three young children at the time, my eyes were heavy with a tiredness only a mother can know. I was quickly  addressing my children’s gift tags, one after another, and in my hurry I signed each one,

MERRY CHRISTMAS, LOVE, SATAN!!

I did not realize my mistake until half-way through the presents when my husband said, “Suzanne, stop for a second, and SLOWLY read the gift tags, are you dyslexic!? Are they all suppose to say Satan or did you mean to write Santa?” My poor children were opening gifts delivered from Satan!? What kind of mother secretly puts presents under the tree and pretends that Satan was the generous gift giver!?

It’s amazing how one can mix up a couple of letters and change the entire mystery of the Christmas experience.

However, like a good parent, I have worked this mistake into my favor! For now, when the Holiday season rolls around I can tell my children that, “they better not shout, they better not pout, they better watch out, I’m telling you why, Satan…will surely come back to town!

Disclaimer – Satan did not really visit our house and no children were hurt or have experienced emotional long term effects by this mistake.

“Mom, Who Do I Look Like?”

“There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

This is Rachael, my ten year old, blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl. She has one of the biggest smiles and personalities I know. She wears her heart on her sleeve and it’s never hard to figure out what she’s thinking or feeling. And if you can’t figure it out, she’s sure to tell you in her sweet and kind ten year old voice, or her madder than mad, you better get out of my way or you’ll end up hurt, voice. (We are working on the latter aspect of her personality) There’s never a dull moment with this child and she’s never afraid to speak exactly what’s on her mind. In fact, just the other day, after making her lunch she told me, “Mom, you should try out for that show, “Worst cooks in America, you’d have a good chance of winning $25,000 and a new kitchen set from Kohls!” I couldn’t help but laugh because she was one-hundred percent, sweetly serious.

A few years ago, in the morning, while I was blow-drying her hair to get her ready for pre-school, she stood in front of the mirror, studying herself, and said to me, “Mom, who do you think I look like?” Instead of responding I decided to ask her the rhetorical question, “Rachael, who do you think you look like?” Without a moment of hesitation, she simply stated, “Well, mom, I think I look exactly like George Washington!”

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Ok, I’m going to admit that kind of took me by surprise!? I knew for certain she wasn’t going to say she looked like me. But George Washington was the last person I would have considered. I thought she would state the obvious, that with her blue-eyes and blond-hair she looked just like her dad. Or maybe even her older brother, Steven, who has the same color hair and eyes, but I definitely wasn’t expecting George!!?

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This conversation still makes me laugh today and I like to tease Rachael and ask her if she still thinks she looks like the Father of her country. But this conversation also makes me think, who do I want Rachael to look like? Who do I want people to see when they look at Rachael, and not only Rachael, but my other kids, and myself included. Wouldn’t it be great if they could look at us and say, they look like their Father, they have His eyes…

“Eyes that find the good in things
When good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help
When help just can’t be found
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain
Knowin’ what you’re going through,
and feeling it the same…”
(Amy Grant – “Father’s Eyes”)

Rachael, I think it’s great that at one point in your life you thought you resembled George Washington. I don’t think there are too many little girls who have stood in front of the mirror and announced, “I look just like George!”  It made me laugh. You make me laugh. And I pray that as you grow in your relationship with the Lord that you will desire to strive to look just like your Father in heaven.

The Sunflower

Every day God is so good to give us reminders of who He is and who we are as His children. I’m learning that if I’m actively looking for Him, He is there! Always ready to reveal Himself. This afternoon when I was driving Leah and Rachael home from school we drove past two giant sunflowers. They were absolutely beautiful. To my surprise, Leah, didn’t share my same point of view and voiced her opinion about the sunflower. She told me she thought they were ugly. “What!?”  I said, “Leah, do you know why I think the sunflower is so cool?” Without getting too scientific, (re-calling what I learned as a little girl, and not what I can find on the internet about “solar-tracking” and the misconception of sunflowers), I told her how the sunflower follows the sun.

As soon as the morning breaks, the sunflower is basking in the warmth of the sun. Throughout the day it moves with the sun. From sunrise to sunset, it is always facing the sun. It doesn’t leave the sun’s presence. What happens to the flower if it doesn’t follow the sun? It won’t thrive. It will start to fall over, slump, droop. If the flower is deprived from the sun, its beauty will start to fade. Without the sun there is no flourishing flower.

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And it took just a moment, for God to whisper to me, “This is how I want you to live.” Whether it’s myth or legend, the sunflower reminds me of the perfect example, the exact visual of what God desires His children to do with His Son. We are to be Son followers. In the morning hours we should wake with the Son. We should Seek His presence and soak up His rays. From sunrise to sunset, our “eyes should be fixed on the Author and Perfecter” of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) In the warmth of the Son we will find great pleasure and satisfaction. “Planted in the House of the Lord, we will flourish.” (Psalm 92:13)

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the LIGHT of His glory and Grace.”

Tommy’s Surgery

“When everything seems to be going wrong, refuse to get discouraged. Remember that I am a God of surprises; I am not limited by the way things are or by the paltry possibilities you can see. I am infinitely creative and powerful.” (Jesus Today)

I know there are far worse things Tommy could be going through than a second knee surgery. But, to a 17 year old, who just, eleven months earlier endured the pain of an ACL injury, reconstructive surgery, and months of physical therapy in order to get back on the football field, it is frustrating.

As I sat in the waiting room, the same waiting room I was in less than a year ago, I knew the procedure was turning out to be more than just his meniscus. The minutes dragged on, and soon a half hour became an hour, and an hour became two, and when it came close to three hours my heart was hurting for my son. A three hour knee surgery isn’t a good sign.

Finally, the procedure was over and while we were waiting for Tommy to “wake-up,” the doctor told us that he had found and repaired small tears in both of Tommy’s menisci. He also had to revise the ACL with a cadaver graft and remove the previous screw from his tibia. Thankfully, he was able to work around the screw in his femur, and now Tommy has a few more screws and a washer to hold his ACL firmly in place. We were also told his cartilage is already showing signs of arthritis.

As the doctor was talking I was thinking about Tommy, and how, right before he went into surgery he said to me, “When you find out it’s just my meniscus will you please text coach and let him know.” I was worried how he would mentally feel when he found out that this was not the surgery he wanted. We had prayed over and over again that when the doctor operated he would find Tommy’s ACL perfectly intact and only have to fix a small tear in his meniscus. We wanted a simple surgery and a short recovery process. I was worried that Tommy was going to feel discouraged and disappointed not only with the outcome, but with God. Wondering why, after we had prayed so hard for different results, He would allow Tommy to go through this again. Another extensive surgery. Months of physical therapy. And another football season lost. It was hard not to feel disappointed for Tommy. Defeat was written all over his face.

It’s tempting to ask God the question, “Why?” But, we don’t. We haven’t questioned His plan, because when this injury first occurred we knew the outcome was already in God’s hands. So yes, of course we prayed it would be a simple surgery, but we also knew we were praying with tunnel vision. God’s plan would come to be, not our simple plan. We can’t even began to grasp the mind of Christ and the plans He has for us and for Tommy. But we are certain they are “plans for good,” (Jeremiah 29:11) even when we don’t understand the path He is leading us down. We trust He is a loving and faithful God. Always present. Always waiting for us to seek Him. To find Him. And when we look, He is there. Waiting with His surprises, creativity, and power. So, instead of asking why, we wait. We wait with thanksgiving, with anticipation, knowing that God can use Tommy’s disappointment to reveal God’s glory in a way that we can’t even fathom or imagine.

Thanks to all who prayed, texted, or emailed before, during, and after Tommy’s surgery.

Waiting, Patiently Waiting Part I

“Wait patiently for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

Wait patiently? That seems like an oxymoron!? I don’t like to wait. In fact, I don’t know many people who enjoy waiting. Waiting is the last thing we seem to have time for when immediate gratification is at our fingertips. But yet, God instructs us to wait, and not only wait, but wait patiently.

Recently, I’ve been reminded just how much of life consists of waiting. Every day, every week, every month, every year we are left waiting. Waiting for a new promotion, waiting for health to be restored, waiting for a second chance, waiting for reconciliation in a relationship, waiting for test results, waiting to overcome hardships, struggles, addictions, and so on and so on. How do we find the strength to wait patiently for the Lord?

I was given the perfect imagery for this waiting process when I went out to water our little herb plants. (How they’ve survived under my care is a great mystery. I wasn’t given a green thumb and my kids are convinced that I can kill a plant just by looking at it!) But on this day, camouflaged in the parsley, I found this little creature nibbling it’s way up the herb. How Beautiful! He was perfect! Stunning! I was amazed at God’s handiwork and the intrinsic designs on this caterpillar.

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 When I showed him to my girls, of course, they wanted to put him in a jar and create the ideal habitat for him to wrap himself into a cocoon.

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We watched as he scarfed down the parsley and climbed his way to the perfect spot on the twig. We even noticed as he maneuvered into an awkward position and spun his first piece of silk.

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Within the next few hours we saw him transform from a remarkable caterpillar into a cocoon.

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A cocoon that is now far from beautiful. It appears ugly and worn. Where is the artistry, the elegance, the grace?  This is the waiting. The point in which life is put on hold. Limbo. Knowing what once was, but not sure of what’s to come. The waiting. A hard stop in life. Waiting.

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“What will it look like? What will it be like? When my world turns out like you planned. When will I get there? Feels like I’m nowhere. My dreams are like dust in my hand. But I know, this is the waiting. I anxiously wait, as I hold on to love that won’t ever let go, and in these times when my patience is tested, won’t you remind me that I’m not alone, here in the waiting.” (Jamie Grace)

Waiting, Waiting Patiently for Part II

So this is Christmas…

This year has gone by way too fast.  When Thanksgiving rolled around, I was still trying to get used to the fact that we weren’t spending our days at the pool anymore. And now, Christmas is right around the corner.  Wouldn’t it be nice to stop the clock and the deadlines in the business of this season and think about all the events that were taking place so many years ago…

Crimson shades of tattered white, a moonless night yet all is bright.

An ordinary man who had a dream, of impossible things, or so it seemed.

A child bride, a mere servant girl, carrying a baby that would change the world.

Two relatives startling an unborn Son, only to prove what had actually begun.

A cousin, set apart to lead the King’s way, to turn back hearts that have gone astray.

An order to travel to one’s own town, a difficult journey with a belly so round.

They could stay in the stable or so they were told, each innkeeper said all the rooms had been sold.

Shepherds and wise man each brought a gift, to lay at His feet our sins He would lift.

The King of all kings was born in a manger, humbled and quiet did his parents realize the danger?

A king afraid of losing reign, a baby born to carry the pain.

A spirit of death upon the earth, what Man has come with second birth?

A Godly man holds The Christ, warning Mary that there will be a price.

A prophetess sees God’s Salvation, and spreads the hope to a desperate nation.

A mother pondering all things in her heart, God’s Son would bring joy, but first torn apart.

His life lived for only one reason, He’s why we celebrate this Christmas season.

A baby born, to live to die, it’s tempting to ask the question why?

His story doesn’t stop at His birth, He died on the cross to give our lives worth.

But our story doesn’t end at His grave, He’s risen again our souls He can save.

So let us bow down our lives to give, we need to die to fully live.

 

Ruth Bell Graham says it well, “This is Christmas – the real meaning of it. God loving, searching; giving Himself – to us. Man needing; receiving, giving himself – to God. Redemption’s glorious exchange of gifts! Without which we cannot live; Without which we cannot give to those we love anything of lasting value.  This is the meaning of Christmas – the wonder and the glory of it.”

 

 

 

Don’t Ignore The Rooster!

The alarm goes off at 5:30 and I don’t even give it a second thought.  There’s NO way I’m getting up and going for a run that early. I’ll wait, set the alarm for 6am and get up then. 6am comes too soon. I’m too tired. I’ll try 6:15. Nope, that’s not going to work either. Now, after hitting the snooze button for the third time, I’m awake enough to think about my day. I decide I’d rather sleep! After all, I am pretty tired, and I only have 8 miles on my training schedule.  I’ll certainly be able to carve out an hour later in the day to get it done.

However, also at this point, I’m tossing and turning, feeling kind of guilty for not getting up early and realizing how busy NOT running, (before the kids wake up) is going to make my day. Well, now it’s 7:02, I might as well get up, make coffee, and get the day started. And, then I realize I just don’t have an hour of running today, I also have an hour of strength training. Hmmm…great, this is now going to be more of a challenge than I thought.

By 8:15 I have my two girls up, showered, dressed and ready to go. My 3 year old niece slept-over so she is also up and ready to go home. My boys, moving a bit slower, are at least up and fed. I really need to leave the house at 8:30 so I can be at my first store visit (for Saucony) by 9:00…

So here’s how the rest of the day goes…

8:37 – Left the house

9:02 – Dropped Emma off at my Brother’s house in Wheaton.

9:20 – Arrive at Dick’s Sporting Goods Store in Lombard – store visit complete. Drive to DSG store in Oswego – complete. Drive to DSG store in Yorkville – complete. Drive to DSG store in Geneva – complete.

12:12 – Racing home in order to get Tommy to an orthodontist appointment in Wheaton at 12:30. Never going to make it on time! Why did I think a 12:30 appointment would fit into our schedule today?

12:35 – Arrive at the orthodontist, ONLY  5 minutes late. Man, I’m good! (I’ve always prided myself on being an “on-time” person. Even with three kids I never arrived late to anything! However, after having my 4th child, my thoughts of “on-time” meant that  I had a buffer of 5-10 minutes.) It’s so hard to get anywhere “on-time” anymore.

12:36 – Walking to the door of the office, wondering why all the lights are off!? Hmmm….odd. Turning the door handle to the office and finding it LOCKED!? Are you kidding me!?  I know his appointment was today.

12:37 – Oh well, I’ll get in the car, call the office, re-schedule the appointment.  Now, time has just opened up for me to get my run in when I get home! Sweet! ( :

12:39 – In the car, cell phone rings, it’s the orthodontist asking if I’m bringing Tommy in for his appointment today? What!? I was just at your office and YOU’RE not there. Oh, that’s because the Dr. is working out of the Woodridge office today!? I didn’t realize there were two offices. How far is it from the Wheaton office? “15 minutes.” Ok, I can probably do that, but I have to get my daughter to gymnastics by 2:30. “That’s no problem, once you get here it will only take a few minutes.” Ok, we’ll be there by 1!

1:05 – Arrive at orthodontist…

1:25 – Still at orthodontist

1:44 – Waiting…..at orthodontist

1:57 – STILL waiting at orthodontist…I guess I have a different concept of exactly what a FEW minutes means. UGH!

2:00 – REALLY TRYING HARD TO FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE! Finally, I have to give in and call Chris and ask him if he can get Leah to gymnastics.

2:03 – Receive phone call from Leah. She is crying. Why? Well of course, her gymnastics’ bag and grips are in the trunk of my car. “I promise you, honey, I will have it to practice before you are done warming-up!”

2:18 – FINALLY, leave the orthodontist office. Next appointment is scheduled for this Thursday at 2pm – I was told it will take an hour. Hmmmm…..

2:44 – Arrive home, Chris kindly offers to drive Leah’s bag to gymnastics for me. Thank you!! Feed the kids a quick lunch! Yes, I know it’s a little past the traditional lunch hour…my bad!

2:49 – I have 61 minutes to complete a 60 minute strength workout. No problem.

3:45 – Drive Rachael to gymnastics – arrive ON-TIME! (Although, I’m still wearing workout clothes and sweating from the strength workout…haha)

4:15 – Again 65 minutes to squeeze in a 60 minute run – Yep, No problem!

5:20 – Get boys ready for football practice, arrive at practice ON-TIME! Amazing!

6:00 – Pick up Leah from gymnastics…wait until 6:15 when Rachael’s finished with practice.

6:30 – Back to football practice – to actually watch the boys on their first night to see how it goes.

8:00 – Home, dinner, get kids ready for bed.

8:55 – Thinking tomorrow will be more of the same. However, this time when the alarm goes off,  there is No question that I’m swinging my tired legs out of bed and getting my workout done early!

People always wonder how I run when I have four kids. Well, I guess this is how a mother of four, trying to train and race at her best gets it done.