Learning to lean on God

Giving up your worries, fears and anxieties to God should be easy for a Christian, right? Well, this is something I have to constantly work on. I don’t know if it’s because I’m stubborn and type-A or if it’s because I was an atheist for so long, but I’m constantly stumbling on this spiritual journey of mine.

I suppose learning to lean on God full-heartedly for safety and comfort, especially during tribulation, will come with time. I have made great strides recently, but as they say, baby steps.

Jack, Houston, Gabriel, Willie & Lettie ride the Halloween Train (click pic to see the full gallery).

Learning & growing Mommy style

The last MOPS meeting on 1/10 marked a kind of epiphany for me. Miss Jessie wasn’t around much early that week, Daddy had been out of town on business for a couple of days, I was already dealing with the guilt of having a mommy-meltdown the previous week, and by that Tuesday, I just felt like the world’s worst mother and a pretty crappy person to boot.

I almost blew off the meeting, but God had big plans for me that day. First, my friend, Travita, greeted the gloomy me with “Jesus Calling,” a daily-devotional book I had mentioned wanting to borrow from her last fall. Her remembering the book and then saying I could have it was just what I needed to start pulling myself out of this woe-is-me state.

Then Lawrie, a mentor mom, gave a devotional about how we have to remember to always have a central place for God in our lives. Somehow we manage to make time for many of the non-essentials, yet God so often gets pushed to the side or forgotten about altogether. Her words were simple, but they also spoke a profound truth to my heart.

Zeke didn’t get to ride the train, but he still had a blast.

Our guest that day was bigwig speaker/author Angela Thomas, who happens to be local, attend Westover and be super-Southern — all very cool things, in my opinion. Her motto is “ordinary women become extraordinary in the arms of God.” Just a like a good sermon when you feel like the preacher is speaking directly to you, Angela’s storytelling hit home, specifically in two things she said:

  1. I have to care for my heart and soul, and do whatever it takes to become a healthy woman. To do this, I must choose to trust and walk with the Lord, or He will show me how. The latter is what I had been experiencing, but opening up my heart to God as comforter and sustainer is such the easier option. After all, this world doesn’t own me.
  2. Mamas set the tone in the home, both spiritually and emotionally. A godly Mama and Daddy are at the center and the kids are under their umbrella, reaping the benefits of their love, safety and grace. This was the necessary reminder that I had faltered on my path and needed to get back to the essentials of what a blessing it is to be a mother.

After the meeting adjourned, my gals spent their precious time consoling and counseling a teary-eyed me. What an incredible gesture. And then my pal, Kelly, bought me Angela Thomas’ newest book, “52 Things Kids Need From Their Mom.” Obviously, this morning at MOPS was pivotal in getting me back on track.

The cutie pies depart the train @ the NC Transportation Museum.

Discipline w/ grace

About a week before Christmas, I administered my last spankings ever … or so I hoped. I’m not against corporal punishment if it works for your kids, but I felt I had to break away from it because:

  1. It was morphing into my go-to discipline method.
  2. It was making me sad. “This hurts me more than it hurts you” really is true.
  3. And it wasn’t effective; you know this to be the case when your kid is grinning or giggling by the end of the wallop.

Sure, spanking can be a quick fix, but if it’s overused, the positive ramifications are fleeting. The more potent types of punishment for my boys seem to be time outs, taking away toys and other favorite items, and suspending privileges. Of course, these methods of discipline take huge amounts of time, tons of creativity and major stick-to-it-iveness, but they are so worth the effort in the long run.

I made it exactly one month when I found it necessary to give a round of spankings during a lengthy nap-time battle. However, I was good with the decision because I felt confident that I had exhausted all my other options, and more importantly, I did it calmly and judiciously. Only God could have given me the strength to do this.

Houston (background), Jack & Gabriel work the controls.

And then by continuing to lean on Him, I was able to keep my emotions in check, cover the kids up and coolly exit their room. Instead of seeing an angry, scowling face just before they drifted off to sleep, they saw a loving, in-control Mommy. Within five minutes, they were totally zonked out.

We have gone through some exhausting bedtime struggles since then, but I haven’t yet felt the need to spank in those instances. I guess spanking will just be my ace in the hole, a last-resort measure used on a case-by-case basis.

I’m also trying to empathize with the boys even more than usual. I mean, Daddy doesn’t work from home anymore and has been working longer hours (although, fewer days a week) at his new job. That has got to be hard for them. Plus, Miss Jessie is working more hours, but at drastically different times due to her spring semester classes. That’s a good thing, but again, it’s another change.

Boys-only Saturdays

To make the transition easier, Stephen is trying to make the most of his long weekends. In fact, Saturdays feature some boys-only fun, when Stephen takes the kids out for 3-4 hours, giving them their Daddy fix and me a much-needed break.

Lettie & Zeke check out a passenger car.

Last Saturday, they trekked to the Natural Science Center (NSC). Granny and Grumps got us a membership for Christmas, so Stephen decided to take advantage and attend the 19th birthday party of Bertha, a massive Burmese Python. Upon entry, the twins decided they were massively afraid of the dinosaur replica near check-in, although they weren’t phased by it in the least when I had taken them to NSC earlier in the week.

Gabriel and Zeke screamed and cried, while Houston surprisingly remained claim. See, he was the one who decided he was terrified of the dinosaur exhibit (specifically, the loud-roaring tyrannosaurus rex) on a previous trip there, so I think big bro’s apprehensions definitely played a part in shaping the twins’ newfound fear.

Daddy powered through, taking them to a nearby park in an effort to calm them down and allay their concerns before returning to NSC for one more try. “God bless you,” said the female greeter to Stephen, for she had witnessed the previous crack-up. And lo and behold, the Dillingham dudes made it to Bertha’s bash.

Today, Daddy took the boys swimming at the Y. Pool time was fine, but things got a bit prickly in the locker room. First, Gabriel peed all over the floor. In his defense, he said he had to go when he got out of the pool, but Stephen just couldn’t lug the posse into the bathroom fast enough. Then Zeke announced, “That man’s butt is in our face,” quite accurately, yet rudely describing a man seen au naturel.

Mommies & the kids take a ride on the turntable.

Ever vigilant, Stephen pressed on and took the kids to Chick-fil-A for lunch. Overall, it was a nice dining experience. There was even another kid in the play area named Zeke (short for Ezekiel and everything). However, Daddy rightly decided to pack it up when Gabriel stuck his hand down his poopy pants. Kudos to Daddy, the fatherhood warrior!

Playdates & outings

Stephen also took part in a Moms Club playgroup yesterday. He and Houston met all the mommies and kiddos at NSC, while I took Gabriel and Zeke to their asthma check-up.

We caught up with the gang not too late and continued the adventure outdoors, since we were treated to a brief stint of warmth that morning. What a grand time seeing the monkeys, tigers, wallabies, maned wolves, ant eaters, meerkats, lemurs and Tom the turkey basking in the sunlight.

Some other recent outings include:

  • a highly attended Moms Club playgroup at Backyard Paradise on 1/13;
  • a MOPS playdate at “Asher’s house,” one of Houston’s best buddies, on 1/18;
  • and Zeke’s kicking-his-thumb-sucking-habit celebration on 1/16. Miss Jessie and her little sister, Kaylee, were in attendance, making the frozen-yogurt feast even that much more special.

 Restore America Now: www.ronpaul2012.com.

A few 3-Amigo sayings

“I like God,” Houston declared. “If you don’t (like Him), he’ll punch you in the face.”

“He hit me three times,” Gabriel said of a bro. “One, three, four!” he continued, holding up fingers for dramatic effect.

A Veggie Tales show talked about Psalm 139:13, which then inspired conversation about the boys being in my belly. Houston announced, “If I had a TV in your belly, I would play video games,” to which Zeke added, “You have a clown in your belly.” Honestly, I think I had three clowns in my belly.

“Lighten up, Rebecca!”

That was the friendly advice that Dixie’s daddy, Mr. Milt, gave me when he encountered me rushing around one night like a chicken with my head cut off. In my defense, it was a pretty hectic week, but still, good advice shouldn’t be ignored.

Miss Jessie w/ the 3 Amigos before the Moms Club Halloween party.

Here’s the deal: Stephen has a new job. This is a good thing overall: it’s a challenging gig with a highly respected company, and it’s meeting his goal of learning new technologies. And as a consequence, it’s (hopefully) a more stable and secure place to be as the sole provider of a large family in a turbulent economy.

It does often require long hours and some travel, so Stephen wasn’t around much last week + the family was fighting nasty colds + the kids were exhibiting post-holiday hyperactivity + I was solo since Miss Jessie was at the beach = tough times for mama.

We all survived, though, and I eventually heeded Milt’s advice, ending the week on a strong and positive note!

One of the only pics of Zeke as a cute pumpkin for Halloween 2011.

Getting back into the swing of things has helped. My family craves structure and routine, so doing our first Moms Club playgroup in weeks was cathartic for both the boys and me.

The Friday fun was at Miss Amy’s house and, despite the shenanigans that had taken place at home earlier in the week, the 3 Amigos had excellent manners while eating, shared their toys, didn’t obsess over trains, and just played great with Daniel, Andrew and all the kiddies.

Christmas @ Clan Dillingham

  • My three newly appreciated Christmas songs: “Do You Hear What I Hear,” by Whitney Houston, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” by Mariah Carey, and George Michael’s “Last Christmas.” I’m not normally a fan of any of these artists, but these ditties just fostered good, solid merriment throughout the holidays.
  • The twins found great amusement in “Feliz Navidad.” Every time we heard the song on the continuous Christmas station we jammed all December, they burst into hysterics, giggling like droll little elves.

Darth Vader, Wicked Witch & Spooky Ghost get ready to trick-or-treat, while Zeke stays home 🙁

  • Miss Jessie’s lessons on the Nativity culminated with a Christmas story reenactment, which included the boys using their homemade “three wise man” puppets and other props from Jessie’s church. I think the hands-on activity was effective in helping the kids understand and appreciate the true reason for the season.
  • We spent an evening at Miss Beth’s for some more pre-Christmas fun. The boys decorated gingerbread cookies and watched “Frosty the Snowman” with Matthew and Jonathan.
  • We then took off to the Festival of Lights and sung Christmas carols while biding our time in the long line entering the park. We were awestruck by the spectacular display of more than a million lights, making the wait well worth the effort.
  • While at Wal-Mart picking up a few stocking stuffers, an elderly man in the checkout line saw my purchases and asked, “Are you a teacher?” At first I said, “No,” but then I clarified, “Well, yeah, I homeschool my kids.” So, I guess I am a teacher, even if it is at what we jokingly refer to as Mommy & Miss Jessie’s Pre-School of Hard Knocks!

Two of the 3 Amigos hang w/ neighbors on Halloween.

  • On Christmas Eve, we attended service at church; the boys wrestled on our tumbling mat while Daddy refereed, trying to contain the excitement of Santa’s impending visit (all while watching “The Sound of Music”); Granny and Grumps arrived; and we tracked St. Nick’s progress on the NORAD website.
  • Zeke’s poignant statement on the big day: “Mommy, mommy, this is the best Christmas ever!” he exclaimed with a colossal smile and a gleam in his eye. The blissful proclamation surely makes all the shopping, price comparisons, budget crunching and inevitable stress so worthwhile.
  • We went out to dinner (saw Daniel and Andrew there) and then did some shopping for discount ornaments the day after Christmas. I picked out a few fancy ornaments from Pier 1, and Daddy and the boys got some silly ones from Hallmark for the now three-year accidental family tradition.

Click this shot of the posse to view all the Halloween pics.

  • We headed up to Gramsey and Papa’s from 12/30 through 1/2, tying up the Christmas season and ringing in 2012. The boys got plenty of time with Cousin Kara, who spent the night for the duration of our stay, and we got to see most of the rest of the fam at a huge feast on Sunday afternoon.

The “fancy meal” reward system

Miss Jessie came up with the idea, wherein the kids can earn individual recognition for polite mealtime behavior and get to sign their names on a scroll made to look like “parchment” (i.e., Jessie distressed by burning the edges).

The reward area also displays a feather pen, three champagne flutes, and an ornate box full of shiny things. Once the kids receive the agreed upon number of signatures, we will dress up and eat a posh meal at a nicely set table by candlelight. Yep, Miss J rocks!