Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ava's Spy Birthday

Ava turned 9!  She really wanted to Spy birthday party this year.  Initially she picked that theme thinking it could include boys and girls but as we set out a guest list, I quickly realized to have fun, we needed to pare things down.  She agonized over having to chose classmates, but alas, we need to start realizing we can't have 40 kids at every birthday party;)  With a guest list of 10 finalized, I had a blast putting together a Spy Mission thanks to some great ideas on pinterest and a little of my own imagination.

While my sister usually designs my invitations, I went with an ETSY shop this year because she already did such a fun job of putting this spy party package together.  The invitations were personalized for each girl.  I had such a fun time coming up with every one's spy name and a secret password for entry.

The kids had to say the secret password (Ava is a Spy Kid) that they had deciphered from the invitation.  Then we used a hand scanning app and had then state their spy name.  The app can be set to say "truth" or "lie" we had it confirm "true" that they were who they said they were.  We made sure to have it say "lie" with my parents and sister, which the girls enjoyed watching;)

Once confirmed, each girl was given their lanyard with name tag and had their finger prints taken.  They then sat down at the table at Mission Headquarters and I had Spy Themed Mad Libs for them to work on until everyone arrived.  I don't think anyone of them had done Mad Libs before, but once they figured it out, we had some pretty hilarious Spy stories to share with one another.

I then explained pulled out a file marked Confidential and read our Mission to them:  "Last night a top secret love potion was stolen from a science lab in Washington DC.  This potion makes boys girl crazy and girls boy crazy.  Our intelligence indicates that the criminals currently in possession of this potion intend to begin making large quantities of it and plan to give it to girls everywhere, age 8-10, to make them boy crazy.  We mus find the vial of love potion and destroy it so girls everywhere can just enjoy being little girls.  You will be trained especially for this mission."

They all agreed to accept the mission so we went into the "outfitting room" to dress up in our spy attire.  I had a black T-shirt, black hat, and black sun glasses for each girl.

They were informed that their training would be done by expert field agents Marc (code name: Mr. X) and myself (codename: BigMama).  We went outside for step 1: Physical Training and Agility

They were deemed able to successfully disarm their opponent physically and agile enough to maneuver around lasers.  They were ready for Step 2: weapons training.
They had to first learn weapon assembly.  You cannot travel around the world with a weapon after all!  They needed to assemble them and personalize them according the the instructions.
Once assembled they received their bag of ammunition (mini marshmallows)

We went over how to use the gun and we received our next piece of intelligence. "Headquarters has received intelligence indicating that the suspects have hidden the love serum near this very headquarters.  The suspects believe we will look around the world, so they chose to hide it close by in effort to deceive us.  You have been well trained for today's mission.
Our sources tell us there is a young weapons dealer with information as to the serum whereabouts.  We are told he plays regularly in the yard in front of headquarters.  Bring your weapons loaded and ready for battle.  He will not give up information easily and is never found alone."

 Phin, Christian and some younger brothers of other party attenders were waiting and ready for the marshmallow battle.

I think I saw as many marshmallows consumed as were shot...

Turns out the young weapons dealer was just protecting his grandfather, who had the clue we were looking for!  "The serum may be found underground.  Access to this area is through a door said to be located near an electric piano.  Be prepared to disarm a body guard and navigate lasers and bombs. Rumor is that a bomb guards the details of the serums secure location.  Birthday Girl (Ava's codename) will be beneficial in deciphering this clue because of her in depth knowledge of the area surrounding headquarters.  Be safe and Good luck"

 Because of his vast experience with explosives, Mr. X accompanied them on this part of the mission.  

They each had to give two punches or one punch and one kick to this robotic body guard (otherwise known as a stationary punching bag that Marc uses for his morning work outs;)

The laser maze was a git.  Marc and I used white yarn and black lights that they had to navigate to get through to a ton of bombs.

The black balloon bombs had to be popped to be disabled.  All of the contained red foil shreds except one, which contained the final clue.

The final clue red.  "The serum is blanketed where Old Money sleeps."

 It took Ava a minute but she figured out the "Old Money" was indeed referring to our dog.  When we rescued him last may his name was "Money" and we changed it to Ollie.  She got to excited and up the stairs our little spys ran.

Indeed, the serum was confiscated from where it was hidden in the blanket within our dog's crate.


Our little spies had worked up their appetites so we ate;)

Our water was "truth serum", we had magnifying glasses made from round cheese slices and pretzel sticks, baby bombs made from mini donuts and Twizzlers, detective dogs (mini pigs in the blanket), energizers (fruit and veggie trays), explosives (Cheetos), on the Trail Mix, Invisibility tablets (Mike n Ike's), and secret messages hidden in Jello (girl power messages like "Be yourself, no body does it better", "You are beautiful", "Kindness is what makes one beautiful", "Be your adventurous, courageous, wonderful self every single day"  cuz these little girls get enough negative messages;)

Then was the cake.  Ava wanted Ice cream cake and I wanted to do a miraculously it worked!  I lined a bowl in saran wrap and layered in an ice cream cake.  When well frozen in the bowl, I turned it out and set it on my cooling wrack.  I took three bottles of Magic Shell and emptied them into a smaller bowl and then dumped it all on the cake at once.  I had a mess under my cooling wrack as expected but it worked!  I had my bomb!  I froze giant marshmallow and dipped it in magic shell for the top of the bomb and then instead of a candle we used a sparkler! (Thanks, Bobbi, for having sparklers around your house in March!:)

Full disclosure...this beast was hard to cut, had to get out the electric knife and use my husbands muscles;)  But it tasted AWESOME;)  Cookie dought ice cream, then layer of fudge, then chocolate cupcake ice cream, then layer of Oreo Crumbs mixed with chocolate syrup, then vanilla ice cream...I mean it was "DA BOMB" (I am so punny!)

 Our little spies are a great group of girls from different walks in Ava's life and they blended together with ease.  They are all a bunch of sweethearts and I feel grateful they are in her life.

Mission Completed: 9th birthday of my sweet girl celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed.  Her heart was full and that makes this mama smile.  She is the most grateful little gem and I am so proud of her and honored that she is mine.

Happy Birthday to the little girl who made me a mama and brightens each and everyday of our lives with love, creativity, and intelligence.  I don't know what you'll grow up to be...but I know you'll only continue to brighten the world.

*Thanks to Roxanne Engstrom for some of these pic's (probably everyone you think has good lighting is hers;)

My Outrageous Courageous

We started a new video series in my Tuesday morning bible study called Outrageous.  The first week's subject was on Outrageous Courage and the subject was Esther.

I love the story of Esther: love that God put her in a place of influence for the perfect time, love how her femininity is an important part of her role, love her faith and obedience despite her fear, love that despite what she did or did not consider qualifications, God used her "for such a time as this."  I also love that when she expresses fear upon initially being called to speak up, Mordecci (her cousin) reminds her that if she doesn't, God will use someone else to do his will, but she won't escape the fate of the rest of the Jews just because she is sitting in her ivory tower (my own description- I actually have no idea if there was a tower;).

God uses us and that is a gift, he doesn't NEED us to do his will.  I find that a profound and humbling privilege and it grieves my heart to think of times I've squandered opportunities because of fear and missed out on experiencing God's glory being revealed in my weakness.  But alas, that wasn't the focus of this week's study.  The focus was on stepping out of our comfort zone and being outrageously courageous.  It was also our assignment and we have to email a courageous act we do this week to a partner in the group.

Can I just say this is a terrible week for this assignment?!  Isn't it funny how that happens?  I don't have any exciting stories to share.  For me, I've been in a real funk much of the week- I've not mustered the courage to tackle my life responsibilities let alone do anything outrageous.  My laundry is piled up, we've had more than our normal consumption of restaurant food or frozen entrees.  I just don't "feel" like doing much of anything except maybe take a vacation and that isn't on the agenda!  I certainly wouldn't call taking naps every day very courageous!

I don't have great reasons for this.  I have a good life and I know it.  I am just in a funk.  Perhaps is simply the let down after running on adrenaline for 6 weeks with sickness cycling through our children and then my sweet Ava turning 9.

My hubs has also been extremely stretched thin and stressed with work and it's taking it's toll on me.  Initially I was geared up to serve him, but being the "only one serving" (from my perspective) I kind of petered out.  I kind of reached a low on Wednesday.  I felt empty, unhappy with him for not being enough to meet my needs.  I felt like my love tank was empty.  I decided to "get over it" and mustered up my strength to plan a fun evening and low and behold he didn't exactly handle things the way I expected and I became angry, sad and withdrawn.  I went to bed so disappointed in him and the lies about what a horrible person he was and how unattractive and unlikable I must be were swirling.

I spent Thursday sad.  Amidst the sadness, I also struggled because I know I am more fortunate than most.  I know Marc is a good husband.  But he wasn't enough...and I was disappointed. I didn't call a friend cuz I didn't want everyone to tell me how wonderful he was; I was ticked that he was a jerk sometimes.  I didn't want to hear about all the times he isn't! I struggled with whether I was having a pity party or whether my concerns were legitimate and valid.  We've gone round and round with this same scenario over the years.  The same conversation seems to happen in times he's stressed and I feel he becomes self absorbed and feel neglected.  I struggled with if I'd truly been giving grace in the past and should I now or should I be angry and make him realize how he was failing me.  I was feeling hurt so part of me want to say something to hurt him to his core too...and part of me knew I'd regret that forever.

It was admittedly hard to process throughout the day with kiddos around my ankles so he came home and I, obviously down in the dumps, told him almost immediately I was going off duty and went in my room to journal.

Have you ever not wanted to pray cuz you don't really want God to change your heart?  I was there.  I wanted to sit in my anger, defend my rights to be taken care of and poured into and defended and pampered and adored.  I just knew God would call me to lay down my life and I just didn't want to.  Ever been there?  "I just don't feel like laying down my life today, Lord.  I don't want to pick up my cross.  I want to sit here and be mad.  I want to make my husband be who I want him to be.  I want him to grovel and apologize for failing me."  Except the truth is, I knew even if he apologized I would say something really wonderful to him, like, "If you are really sorry, you'd have changed and you are still self-absorbed." cuz I am a super gracious wife.

So I just told God how I felt.  He can handle those things.  Quickly, God showed me my hubs wasn't self-absorbed.  He was work absorbed because he has a ton on his plate and these seasons pass.  Quickly, I was reminded of the dishes he'd done over the week and the fact that he hasn't complained about the  Trader Joe's frozen meals I've served him for dinner or the McDonald's receipts that have popped up in our budget.  He hasn't complained that his clean laundry has been sitting in laundry baskets all week because I hate putting laundry away.  No complaints.  No judgement.  Sure, he said the wrong thing on Wednesday.  He didn't meet my expectations.  He failed me just like he's done hundreds of time in our marriage and just like he'll do hundreds more.  He'll fail cuz he's just Marc.  I didn't need to start recalling my failings...the are numerous this week alone.  What I needed to confront is would I live the wisdom I would pass off to anyone else in this situation?  Would I put my money where my mouth would be? Ugh, how many times have I told others that we cannot rely on our spouse to be God.  Our spouse isn't supposed to meet 100% of our needs, only God can do that.

Would I accept and surrender my rights?  Would I just let myself mourn the fact that my dreams might never be 100% fulfilled this side of earth?  Would I just accept my husband for who he is, weaknesses as well as strengths?   Will I continue to set a bar higher than a human can go because I've read too many romance novels or will accept that my Knight has fought in some battles and his armor has some dents?  Will I accept that not all the battles he has to fight are for me?  Will I accept that I am his priority but not his only one?  Will I surrender my needs and wants and release him to be broken and make mistakes?  Will I chose to forgive even when I may not be 100% understood?  Will I surrender my "need" to be RIGHT?

On paper the answers are easy....but in my heart they are not.  I struggle.  I struggle with unreal expectations and pride.  I struggle.

I realized sitting in my chair that my outrageous courageous this week wouldn't been seen or recognized by anyone else but the One I am supposed to please.  My outrageous courageous was surrendering and remembering that God alone can meet all my needs.  My outrageous courageous was telling my husband of my struggle with unmet needs, but instead of making him feel guilty, I would be confessing and releasing him from unfair expectations.  My outrageous courageous was admitting to myself and to him that I may not be right and my feelings are not always fact.  My outrageous courageous was from this day forward putting a stake in the ground that I will accept that my husband doesn't always handle life well when stressed and it is not up to me to fix that.  My outrageous courageous was choosing to keep pouring into my husband even if work stress continues (to be fair, I know it won't, but in emotional moments these things become mountains instead of mole hills;).  My outrageous courageous was recognizing that the role God has called me to isn't one others will write books about.  Most people won't recognize or see it.  But I have been placed in this marriage with this man for such a time as this....for stressful times when my husband is stretched thin and exhausted.  I have been placed here to pray for him and hold him up.  To make home and my arms a soft place to fall....not a place that stretches him even more.  I have been placed here to lay down my life and love.

I am married to an amazing man.  This post in no way is meant to indict or tear him down.  This post is about me.  I had to decide anew that whether my husband is wearing his superhero cape or seems weighed down with kryptonite, I will lay down my life and love.  I won't just stay and mope and manipulate to get things to go my way...I will love and give.  When I muster up my own strength, as I did on Wednesday, with my own "good ideas" that are really round about ways for me to get my own needs met....I will fail, be disappointed and quickly find myself weakened.  When my needs are met by the One who Satisfies, the stores of strength are unending.

In my pity party, I didn't feel very outrageous and certainly not courageous, but God met me and reminded me that he didn't call me to risk death by going before a king.  He called me to lay my life before the King of all Kings, whose assignment is to daily lay down my life for those around me.  My actions will likely never save an entire race of people, but they might save my husbands day and bolster his heart.  In a world that screams for us to put ourselves first, this surrender was hard fought.

My outrageous courageous is small, but my God is big and the work he did in my selfish heart is one he and I know is miraculous.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Chasing Time

I am preparing for Ava's ninth birthday party.  She picked a spy theme and I am having so much fun planning this one (do I say that every party?;).

Her turning nine is really hitting me as I plan.  She is half way to 18; half way to being an adult.  How is that even possible?  So many of my friends with teenagers or college age people remind me to savor the days for time is short.  I am really feeling the shortness of time this week.  I look at this beautiful little girl who is quickly becoming a young lady and it seems like just yesterday that I was dreaming of who she'd be as I felt the flutters of her first movements in my womb.

I think when I was in the throws of baby and toddler years, people telling me to savor the days felt frustrating.  I was exhausted and just wanted to get to place of sanity and sleep.  To savor hard days feels insane.  But I feel like Ava's age now is a sweet spot for me.  She still looks up to me, she admires me, she cares deeply for my opinions and teachings.  She has a soft heart.  I am in a sweet spot of being able to parent and not simply keep her alive and teach her not to stick her fingers in the light socket.  I am in a sweet spot of being able to reach her heart and teach her truth of who God is and who he wants her to be.  I am in a sweet spot of seeing a beautiful young person really emerging.  I get to see the way her heart is growing in her love for other people, the way she desperately wants to do the right thing, they way she loves her siblings and us.  I get to see a humble heart that apologizes easily.  I get to see the creativity of her mind go to new places in writing and art.  I get to see so many glimpses of good things coming for her!

  But in that sweet spot, I also see her flaws, her insecurities, her hurts.  I see the way she has a tendency toward anxiety, toward people pleasing, toward perfectionism.  Right now, she wants my voice to help her grow in these areas, but I am painfully aware that there just isn't enough time.  I see her struggle and I am desperate for her to "get it" so she doesn't have to learn the hard way that perfectionism slowly kills our souls.   I feel like she is at a crossroads in life and the parenting we are doing now is vitally important.  I LOVE parenting her and yet I realize yet again as she approaches nine that we are not enough.

I realize my own fears are creeping back into my heart and mind.  The what ifs loom as I see her human fragility.  I am painfully aware of lost opportunities; I am painfully aware of times I was so exhausted I didn't seize an opportunity for bedtime conversation, or couldn't handle one more question.  The fear of those lost moments affecting her entire life can loom large.  I realize my own perfectionism is reeling it's ugly head yet again.  I realize no matter how deeply I love her, she is going to have struggles in life that I have to watch her hurt through.  It is infinitely harder to watch emotional hurts than physical ones; they tear at my heart in ways I couldn't have imagined and I appreciate my own mama all the more.

I have to once again take my daughter to the foot of the cross and surrender her there.  She is not mine and I realize in loving this sweet spot I have begun to cling too tightly, to hold desperately trying to capture the time that is fleeting.  I have to confess, I have not just savored these days, I have attached to them.  Oh how I need Jesus!  How my sweet girl needs Jesus!  I realize anew that I desperately want to save her from hurt and yet in doing so I would rob her from the absolute comfort that I myself have found in Jesus.  I cherish every painful moment in life because they have been the sweetest times with my Savior.  Above all, that is what I want for her- to know how desperately he loves and delights in her.

I am so proud of Ava and I am so thankful for the relationship I have for her.  I want to savor, to dance, to laugh through this stage as long as I am here, but I also want to release her to the next stage when the time comes.  I want to love her enough to release her to whatever God has for her ahead.  I want to release her to be human and make mistakes; I want to love her enough to accept those mistakes and not make her feel like a failure when she makes them.  I want to love her like God does and I am not enough.  I can only do that through Jesus.

Lord, help me parent not on my own ability and power, but through you.  Holy Spirit guide me.  Let me know when to speak and when to shut up and let you speak to her in different ways.  Oh, Lord she is yours.  Help me be faithful in praying for her and listening to you and obeying YOU in how I should parents her.  I don't want to be a good parent, I want to be a godly one.  She sees my imperfections Jesus, but help her not just to see those imperfections, but to see you at work in them.  Help her to see you in me.  Fill me daily so that I can love and guide her in your ways.  Thank you for this beautiful little girl with a soft heart.  Lord, give me what tools I need to guard that heart.  Give me wisdom and peace.  I pray that she would never go a day in her life questioning if she is loved by us or by you.  Thank you that YOU are the Potter and help me to leave the clay of Ava's life on your wheel.  Thank you that you know her completely and love her and me more than I can even imagine.  Thank you for the gift of each day that I have with her and for the profound honor it is to call her daughter.  I praise you for all you are doing in each of us.  May our lives glorify you.