Inquiring minds want to know...

Dear friends,

Thank you a million times over for every Spirit-prompted recollection and inquiry about our soon-to-be growing family. I am so sorry for the lack of details. This Christmas has been wonderful for us as Cooper and Dylan participated like never before in celebrating the birth of our Savior. Which basically means they ate cookies, wrote out lists for Santa and anxiously awaited Christmas morning and the great unwrapping event of 2008. We did manage a brief reading of the Christmas story, decorating a birthday cake for Jesus and displaying the nativity scene. They played with it just like thier figurines from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I hope reverence will be a learned trait. Then again, child-like affection for the wisemen, shepherds and baby Jesus was just too sweet to correct. I tell myself there will be time for that.

So all that to say we spent a lot of this Christmas in the here and now enjoying the newness of the season when seen through the eyes of a three and almost two-year old. It really was magical. Ryder was the ever-present gift of the advent season reminding us not-so-gently that he would be making his entrance soon. I've been contracting pretty regularly for more than three weeks now. We were able to get the contractions to slow, but not stop completely. I spent most of the week of Christmas on semi-induced bed rest. Our goal was to make it past Christmas day...and we did. According to the doctors my body is simply ready (likely due to the fact that this is my third pregnancy in four years) even if Ryder is not. As of Sunday we were at 37 weeks so there won't be any need to stop labor now should it progress on its own. So now we wait.

All of this is made increasingly difficult by the fact that Dylan came three weeks early in very quick fashion, roughly three hours of labor and twenty minutes of pushing. Also we now have two children to make accommodations for while we are in the hospital so we can't exactly dart out the door unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Finally, we are about 40 minutes from the hospital with no traffic. So it would be awesome if we had a little head's up that Ryder is ready to join the world. But that's all the bad news.

Here's the good news. We are all healthy. According to all ultrasounds, Ryder is perfect. I feel 37 weeks pregnant which is to say not great, but not terrible. The boys are excited and ready. And Chad...well he has been simply more than I could ask or imagine. He spent four hours at Wal-Mart the other night stocking up on groceries. He even went so far as to ask for the brand of popcorn I was looking for and searched out the exact kind of mushrooms I needed. He has done laundry, cleaned the kitchen, honored every silly craving and request, tucked me in at night and gotten up with the kiddos so I can sleep in a little late. And he tells me regularly how beautiful he thinks I am. How ridiculously blessed am I?

So sweet friends that is our long belated update. After two trips to the hospital only to be sent home we now wait for baby Ryder to join our little family. My heart leaps at the thought. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights. I am a woman overwhelmingly blessed.

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P31 12 Days of Christmas!

If you are dropping by from Karen's blog party...welcome!! Isn't Karen the best?! I just love her, and the twelve days of CHRISTmas is such a wonderful idea. If you haven't been to Karen's blog follow my link at the right to Karen Ehman's blog. She's one of the amazing P31 speakers I aspire to emulate. She is hosting an interview with each of us over the next couple of weeks. Best of all each interview features a great opportunity to win a fun Christmas prize.

So I meant to post last night, but a severe case of indigestion and Braxton Hix hit. I was relegated to a heating pad with Tums in hand for most of the night (and early morning!) Yikes. What can I say? I'm 34 weeks prego. One question, do you remember each pregnancy getting progressively worse? It seems my body is taking a beating this time. Is it because I'm taking care of a three and two year-old? Or is it that I am now older...even if only by a couple of years? Any advice from you seasoned vets out there?

Okay, I'll be back with more updates and Christmas fun tomorrow. I'm still a little out of it. I didn't get to sleep until about 4 a.m. Here's hoping the boys nap for a while today so Mom can too!

Blessings sweet bloggy friends!

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Bringing up boys...

If you are dropping by today from the Proverbs 31 devotions, welcome. As you may have read, The CEO and I will be welcoming our third son in the coming weeks. I can tell you now that I can hardly wait. Had you asked me how I felt several months ago my answer might have been different. 

At the onset of the pregnancy I was hoping for a girl. I'll be honest though. It wasn't so much that I was hoping for a little girl. No, in truth most of my dreams revolved around the joy of a friendship of an adult daughter. My Mom is one of my best friends. I looked forward to the days of spending time as allies, peers and accountability partners. Those days would be far into the future, but I dreamt of them nonetheless. So to discover that I will never have that kind of friendship (and all the wonderful memories in between) with a daughter brought some feelings of sadness.

It was during this period of mourning the loss of those dreams that a dear friend called to offer encouragement. Mindy said she was certain that God was blessing our lives with another little boy because the CEO and I can be trusted to raise godly men of faith, character and integrity-men who will make a difference for the Kingdom. I was in tears, speechless and terrified. What an honorable calling! (It's no different than raising daughters who will gladly submit and serve certainly, but daunting nonetheless.)

I have prayed regularly since that conversation that I will in fact be worthy of the call. The CEO and I have been blessed to have amazing earthly Fathers who have set the bar high. Their strength of character and tenderness of heart warmed our affections toward our Heavenly Father at young ages.  I will admit that in the chain of faith I am the weakest link for our boys. My beloved seeks the Lord, serves Him faithfully and models that for our boys. He loves me second and demonstrates it on a regular basis. I am not worthy of him. 

For my part I am endeavoring to show that in our home Daddy is in charge. First is God; second is Daddy. We all (including Mommy) love and obey Daddy. I want our boys to value their Dad as head of our home, a capable and devoted leader. I want them to aspire to be men like him. 

Things were going well until one day a couple of months ago. Our family had just enjoyed a week of vacation at the beach. Trying to get everything packed up, keeping two toddlers entertained and getting ready for a six hour car ride had left us a little stressed.  We had managed to get most of the car packed and the boys strapped in their seats when a slight disagreement erupted. After several minutes of "discussion" I got in the front seat while the CEO finished loading the car. I was rather frustrated when a sweet voice from the back said words I will never forget.

"Mommy, did you disobey Daddy? We don't disobey Daddy. We all obey Daddy."

I was in tears, speechless and terrified.

So when the CEO got back in the car I apologized, and we headed on our merry way.  Several minutes down the road I confessed the impetus for my sudden broken and contrite heart. He was impressed and amused, and he has yet to let me live it down. I don't know that this is the kind of parenting Mindy had in mind when she said we were raising godly boys. I guess my parents were right, good parenting sometimes happens in spite of ourselves.

I can't say yet if this is a lesson my boys will remember, but it's one I will never forget.

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The Proverbs 31 Woman

Have you ever taken the opportunity to read Proverbs 31, particularly verses 10-31? It can be a rather intimidating experience. On any given perusal I can close the passage feeling encouraged, convicted, overwhelmed, frustrated, defeated, movitvated or some combination of both. Consider just a few of her noteworthy characteristics.

"She is a woman of noble character." Is that how friends and family would describe me? I'd say I often act like nobility or maybe just a diva. I can be demanding and dramatic. I'm not sure that was the biblical mandate.

"She does not eat the bread of idleness." Is reading blog after blog or spending unconfessed hours on facebook considered idle? What about the fact that I can recite full episodes of Friends, give you an up-to-date state of affairs between Jim and Pam or McDreamy and Meradith? Idle?
Now I don't watch any of these until after the kiddos are in the bed so can I take credit for the "her lamp does not go out at night" endorsment?

Seriously this gal rocks and I am just barely rocking along. So why am I a part of a ministry called Proverbs 31? Our ministry endeavors to bring "God's peace, perspective and purpose to today's busy woman." We are a group of women who don't profess to adequately represenet the P31 Woman, but we have hearts that desire God's best for our husbands, our children and our communities. To that end we wake everyday seeking to submit to this Biblical call and serve with a passion beyond ourselves.

Women who have been touched by this ministry have had abortions, are dealing with the shame of rape, rising above abusive relationships, helping hurting children, surviving job layoffs, enduring cancer treatments, mourning the loss of a parent or a child or a spouse. If we serve the lighten their load, spur them on or turn their faces to a Loving Father then I am more like the Proverbs 31 woman in that moment than maybe during any other part of my day. Maybe I am not always the perfect Proverbs 31 woman, but there is a ministry helping other women become what sometimes we only long to be.

Why am I telling you all this? Because this ministry needs support from people who believe in a vision of helping women live beyond themselves. Don't feel pressured, and don't feel obligated. We trust the Holy Spirit to do what He alone can-prompt hearts to follow obediently to places of faith that stretch them beyond themselves. Maybe supporting Proverbs 31 would stretch you. Listen to the Spirit and then respond in obedience.

To God be the Glory.

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"See just how snake-like I can be..."

One of my favorite books is Roy Hession’s Calvary Road. If you’ve never had the opportunity to read it I highly recommend picking up a copy. It is a classic that I reference and read often.

I’ve thought in the last few days about one of my most well-read, regularly-visited passages.

Here’s the context-I’m struggling right now. For the last few days Satan has had a field day with me. My emotions are raw. My responses are harsh. My patience is tested, and I am tired. Relationships that should bring comfort are bringing conflict and criticism. My flesh wants to plead my innocence. I want to call into account the circumstances as justification for my actions. My will protests. I will not bend “the proud, stiff-necked I,” as Hession would say.

In Calvary Road, Hession talks a lot about brokenness. God is beckoning me back to one particular passage where Hession asks the reader to consider Christ. Here’s an excerpt:

“For this reason we are not likely to be broken except at the cross of Jesus. The willingness of Jesus to be broken for us is the all-compelling motive in our being broken too. We see Him, who is in the form of God, counting not equality with God a prize to be grasped at and hung on to, but letting it go for us and taking upon Him the form of a Servant-God’s Servant, man’s Servant. We see Him willing to have not rights of His own, willing to let men revile Him and not revile again, willing to let men tread on Him and not retaliate or defend Himself. Above all, we see Him broken as He meekly goes to Calvary to become men’s scapegoat by bearing their sins in His own body on the Tree. In a pathetic passage in a prophetic psalm, He says, “I am a worm, and no man.” (Psalm 22:6) Those who have been in tropical lands tell us that there is a big difference between a snake and a worm, when you attempt to strike at them. The snake rears itself up and hisses and tries to strike back-a true picture of self. But a worm offers no resistance, it allows you to do what you like with it, kick it or squash it under your heel-a picture of true brokenness. And Jesus was willing to become just that for us-a worm and no man.”

I am not fond of this passage. I have struggled for years with the idea of Jesus as a worm. I prefer to think of Him as a valiant yet obedient victor even in death. I struggle with the picture of my crowned King as one of a worm. I even told God so. I argued with Him about the accuracy of such a portrayal of Jesus. I suggested that Hession had overstepped and not balanced the greater message of the Word that ascribes Jesus the glory, honor and power due His Name.

In the midst of my brave and heart-felt defense of my Savior, the Risen One interrupted my thoughts and asked simply, “Do you defend my character or your arrogance?”

“My darling daughter you rail against the idea of Me as a selfless worm while resting on my provision as a spotless lamb. Is it because you hate the idea that I ask you to be just as selfless, just as broken?”

It was true. I don’t hate the idea that Jesus is a worm; I hate the conviction that I must become one as well. This dialogue with the Lord occurred nearly nine years ago during my first reading of Calvary Road. The Spirit brought it to my mind again today.

So if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go dig out my copy and walk the path of brokenness. It’s time to bend that“proud, stiff-necked I.”

P.S.-Extra credit for those of you who know which movie today's post title was quoted from.

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My start value

Hi, ya'll. If you're coming by from the Proverbs 31 devotion, welcome. I'm so glad you stopped by.

I'm just sitting here paralyzed on my sofa mesmerized by the discipline, skill and thrill of men's Olympic gymnastics. This is quite addicting. Really why else would a tired, anemic 18-weeks-pregnant mother of a three year old and eighteen month old still be awake at nearly midnight?Curses you Olympic coverage broadcasters! You are now my enemy.

I know it's really my own fault; so I'm desperately trying to justify my new addiction. I'm turning this into an educational experience. You see I just learned that each man's routine has a unique start value based on the difficulty of the tricks and choreography planned for a particular apparatus. One gymnast's start score on vault may be a 7.5 while another gymnast may begin with only a start value of 6.25. This start value caps how high a gymnast's potential score can go. The start value is then combined with a score for an athlete's execution of choreographed skills.

Now I know you don't really know me, but please don't judge me too harshly for what I'm about to tell you. Here's what I've been thinking-what is my start value spiritually? Sure I'm not always the most consistent athlete, but where's my baseline? What's my contribution to the team? Here's what I came up with:

Daughter of a world-class preacher: 1.725
Lifetime church membership and involvement: 1.25
Wife of deacon: .5
Children's worship leader: .5
Proverbs 31 Speaker: 1.00
Small group leader: .75

I wasn't even done mentally totaling my score when the Spirit whispered, "Whitney, your start value is 0.00. All the credit for a perfect score was in the execution of a perfect life." He didn't need to say anymore. I knew immediately how foolish and fleshly I had been.

I wish I could tell you that I don't normally assess my spiritual life quite so legalistically, but I think I do.

Many nights I have fallen asleep while mentally sizing up my day. How many times was I short with my children? Did I spend time alone with the Lord? How long? Was I gracious and loving toward Chad? Did I spend enough time in preparation for leading bible study? How does this compare with the amount of time I spent reading blogs and watching television?

So tell me, am I the only one?

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Hiding my junk

My husband and I put our house on the market this week.  We've been prayerfully considering moving back closer to our families, but couldn't settle in our hearts the ideal timing for such a change. On Mother's Day God answered our prayers for clarification when we discovered that we are pregnant with our third child.  For those of you keeping count, that's three babies, three pregnancies, three varied and growing sets of stretch marks in less than four years. God has been so faithful and gracious.  So we are moving closer to home. Here we grow...

Anyway we spent all of Memorial Day cleaning our house to get it ready to show. It's amazing how much more junk I notice when I think about perfect strangers walking through and critiquing our home.  It was a full day's work. We cleaned out, threw away and hid an obscene amount of really unnecessary stuff (i.e. junk).  I have watched enough HGTV to make this process a little bit easier.  I knew ahead of time that less stuff equals more open space. Without the visual interruption of clutter the eye can take in the full size of the room, the bones and beauty of the space.  We all know that buyers appreciate a clean slate.  It's easier to see the good stuff without all the junk. I know this, but in the midst of all the cleaning out I still questioned if people really care.

Let me be a little more specific. Could a buyer overlook the winter coats and hats dropped in the bottom of my pantry floor?  Would they mind the empty video game boxes stacked neatly in the corner? I know they'll look in my junk drawer to see empty medicine bottles, matches, broken sunglasses, playing cards and takeout menu's. But doesn't everyone have a junk drawer? Surely visitors won't mind tubs of the boy's winter clothes clogging up the closet space.

During the process I couldn't help but wonder if it was time for a spiritual open house. I sense that I've been storing unsightly clutter for far too long. It's a lot of junk really. I think I could make a better use of the space if I'd just let some things go. I'm afraid when people look at my life they see spiritual clutter (i.e. sin). Can they appreciate the bones and beauty of the work of God in my life or does their eye stop on all the junk? Do they see an overcrowded life that squeezes out the space the God longs to fill with His peace, presence and holiness. Will they notice good but unnecessary things that fill the void? 

Let me be a little more specific. Could someone look past my too-often indulged habit of gossip? Will they really mind the irritability I often display with my husband, and what about the petty jokes made at his expense? I know they will look at me and see gluttony, pride, a love of television and a lack of discipline. But doesn't everyone have stuff they struggle with? Do they wonder about a woman who leads small group, teaches women's conferences and disciples youth but can't regularly sit and be still before the Lord?

My personal challenge for the next few days is to look at my life not the way a perfect stranger would, but the way a Perfect Saviour would.  It's unlikely He will look past the things that I'm far too complacent about. Once I've taken a spiritual inventory I'm not going to just hide the junk. I don't know about you, but that junk always seems to reappear and at the worst possible time. No I'm going to do my best to let my junk go.  Friends I'm moving closer to my Father. Here I grow...

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Perfection Paralysis-an ode to my favorite bloggers

To the two of you who have checked my blog over the last several months only to find that nothing new has been added, I apologize.

But I've been sucked into this universe of blogs, and I have loved every minute of it. I have bookmarked more favorites that I can possibly read in a day-believe me I've tried. Blogging, or at least reading others' blogs is truly addicting. Unfortunately I don't need another distraction to feed my procrastination. I am not a disciplined person, and my new blog obsession isn't helping me be productive.

I'll tell you though it's not the vaccuum of time reading that annoys me. I've been thoroughly blessed by the journey of so many amazing women, mothers and families. The most debilitating part of this new addiction is what it does to my good intentions and self-esteem. And I have had good intentions, really good intentions. I even have several entries written and ready to post. Here's my dilemma-I now know the landscape of the world around me.

Now I'm not just the new girl who doesn't know anyone. I know who the cool gals are. I know better than to try and mingle or sit with them. They are too perfect, too polished, too poised for the likes of me. And lest they turn a critical eye my way I'd like to remain as inconspicuous as possible. posting. (I know what you're thinking, "No one reads this blog anyway. Why do you care?" I know you are right, but did you ever have trouble walking down the hall in ninth grade because you just knew all those seniors would stop their very important conversations to notice and make fun of you? Of course they never did. They were too busy with their lives to care, but the anxiety weighted heavy on your ninth grade psyche didn't it? That's how I feel.

Great writers must find their voice. That's what I love about the bloggers I read. Lysa is witty and warm with a passion for Scripture that comes through when you least expect it. Marybeth is as real as a cup of coffee and writes in a way that makes me think she could be my friend. Renee's life with two boys helps me dream about my future. BigMama is hilarious yet poignant-sometimes in the same sentence! The Nester is so perfectly imperfect that I'm jealous. She writes her passion with such humor and wisdom that I know she is who she says she is. It's too good to be fake. Lots of Scotts reminds me to see Jesus in everything...what perspective she has, and she's a mother of triplets!

Me? Well I'm still looking for my voice. And I kind of hate to do that in front of all you nice people. But saving my thoughts under file and folder sort of defeats the purpose of having a voice at all. So bear with me. I'm trying to overcome the paralysis of perfection.

We'll chat tomorrow, I promise.
Oh, but make sure you check out Lysa's blog. She's doing a Mr. Linky for all the chicas headed to the SheSpeaks conference in a few weeks. Oh the pressure meeting most of these gals live and in person. I'm sure to have pimple explosion from all the anxiety. And oh heavens, what on earth am I going to wear? I don't have to be perfect; I dont' have to be perfect; I don't have to be perfect.

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To Steal, Kill and Destroy

I have never hated Satan more than I do tonight.  If I am completely honest I am not sure I have ever hated Satan at all.  I think more than anything I have dismissed him as a defeated, diminished figure whose influence over my life died at Calvary.  I am learning that while this statement is true theologically, practically speaking to dismiss Satan is a danger of monumental proportions.  He is not a laughable caricature in red; he is a thief bent on heartache, submission and destruction.

Recently I have had the heart-wrenching opportunity to weep with friends who are experiencing the devastating consequences of ignoring Satan.  One innocuous decision, one tiny step away from the gracious watch of the Lord, one day spent outside the wisdom of the Word thrust them into a world of spiritual warfare that produced some catastrophic casualties.  The details of their story don't matter-not because what happened doesn't matter but because it is the same story line of deception and betrayal that Satan has been perpetrating since the Garden.  Sure the characters' names, the object of idolatry and the scenery all change, but the story is the same.  And the details don't matter because my point is the same-don't dismiss Satan.  Don't fixate on him.  Don't fear him, but in the Name of God, don't dismiss him.

He is real.  He attacks.  He loathes holy things and is hungry for destruction.  Praise God my eternal security is assured, but my temporary peace and happiness can be snatched away by this defeated but defiant enemy of God.  John 10:10 alludes that that this thief comes to steal , kill and destroy.   As a follower of Christ he can neither kill nor destroy me.  

But I wonder if stealing is still an active part of his arsenal for attacks on the believer.  I live this side of eternity in a fallen, dark world.   Satan desires to make it as attractive as possible, and he will rob me of all that is really beautiful to make this dull, dingy, disgusting world seem lovely.  I have decided I will not submit to his sweet, gentle persuasion that wants to harden my heart to "small" sins, dull my conscious to the Spirit's conviction, distract my mind from the wisdom of the Word.  There is too much at stake, and I can tell you that God does not tolerate a forked tongue or a divided heart.  

"Oh Abba,
Protect my wretched heart.  I am too dull of mind to fight this battle.  Enlighten me to the darkness in this world and in my own heart.  May I hate Satan and sin with a renewed vigor. Father make me vigilant for holiness that You may be fully glorified in me.  I pray Lord that the Holy Spirit would have full sway over my too-often defiant will.  Burn away the callouses of my conscience.  Prick my heart and oh dear God I hope I bleed."

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The new girl.

Hi new bloggie friends. Sorry if I seem a little shy and awkward. I feel a bit like the new girl who just walked into a very crowded cafeteria on the first day of eighth grade. Everyone just stopped to check me out and a hush falls over the room. I sense a collective eye roll as they all go back to their trays or corn dogs, pizza and cinnamon rolls. I don't know anyone. I'm not sure where the line starts. I don't have anywhere to sit. I can sense that there is clearly a hierarcy, a pecking order, an unspoken lay of the land. It may take me some time to see where I fit in. I'm still trying to figure this thing out.

I'm not quite as nervous as I was just six hours ago, however. What changed? Well I had a makeover. I mean a makeover that most nervous eighth graders would kill for. Did you see my new look? I, uh my blog, got an eyebrow wax, new makeup, color and highlights and I think we look about twenty pounds lighter. Oh I'm still a little self-conscious, but I so love my new look, don't you? (By the by go see my "stylist" Jennisa if you, I mean your blog, needs a little work done.)

Now with the vast wisdom of a nearly thirty-year-old, I know that the bloggie universe has not stopped to acknowledge my entrance into this brave new world. And I know that it's just in my head. I know that this moment isn't really monumental to anyone but me. But it's a big day, so enough lurking in the doorway.

I'm grabbing a tray. Can I sit with you?

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