“All of God’s grace in one little face”

It’s kind of a hackneyed saying used for christening greeting cards and nursery wall decor, but I think the quote aptly encapsulates Zeke’s baptism. He truly understands the grace, love, and forgiveness that comes from being a Christ follower, so he wanted to proclaim publicly his faith in this Good News.

In the fall, Zeke stopped one of his Sunday school teachers, telling her that he wanted to get baptized — something that our church leaders didn’t think he and Gabriel were ready for when they had previously asked a year ago. Neither of them quite got the simple, but transformational power and freedom of the Gospel at that point.

Zeke takes the plunge on January 31: Pastor Jeremy talks to the congregation about how discipleship begins & ends in the home as Zeke prepares to get baptized by Daddy!

But this time, our sometimes quick-to-temper, often-comedic, and always-passionate son took it upon himself to get the baptismal ball rolling. He knew he wanted tell the world that he loves Jesus and was able to convey that it’s not through works or goodness that a person is saved. Rather, it is through Christ alone.

It’s so cool to see the Holy Spirit working in people, even small ones! And this radical grace is evident in Zeke by his growing faith, as well as his excitement, joy, and pride about taking the plunge. Thank you, God, for welcoming my sweet boy into the body of Christ! You can check out the awesome video here.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” — Proverbs 3:6

Thanks too to Granny, and Gramsey and Papa for coming to town for the monumental occasion. Your presence here for the main event meant the world to Stephen and me, as well as Zeke. Y’all rock!

We’ve had our fair share of snow so far in 2016, including a minor dusting early in the year, the big “Snow-mageddon” in late January, and then another snowfall on Valentine’s Day. What all the white stuff has made me realize is that there’s a beautiful human corollary to blustery storms that I like to call “snow anarchy.”

Good friends, like Dixie, are so kind to always share their sledding equipment w/ the 3 Amigos.

But I’m referring to anarchy in the positive, voluntarism kind of way, where people help people, even breaking the laws when necessary, just doing what they have to do in a nonaggressive way just to survive the elements and/or celebrate the snow.

You know what I mean … like folks parking cars at stop signs just because that seemed like a good place to plant your icy vehicle. Or people on foot taking over a roadway just because it happens to be a good sledding hill. Or adults walking the streets with open containers of alcohol just ’cause “Hey, it’s snowing, and I don’t have to work!”

Snow brings communities together and bonds people in a way that they aren’t pushed into doing in mild weather. In fact, these latest storms have given us the opportunity to really bond with some of our newer neighbors, whom we are so fortunate to have met.

Houston & Matthew sled w/ new buddies, Jacob & Nick 2 (called that since there’s already another Nick in the neighborhood), during Snow-mageddon.

I suppose these relationships may have unfolded eventually, but nature instead propelled them in such a speedy, yet genuine way. It’s like snow is God’s means of coaxing this mad-dashed world into slowing down, relaxing with a cup of hot cocoa, sharing a cold beer, warming up in your skivvies by the fire, and being jolly!

Sometimes the snow causes otherwise smart people to turn do stupid things, though. Like when we were driving home after a Valentines dinner, cars were littering the roadsides, hazards flashing, rear bumpers poking out of ditches. There were even some folks stopped in the middle of the street.

Of course, I took advantage of the lawlessness, waiting as patiently as possible on a bridge at the bottom of an icy hill till just enough room opened up on the steep slope ahead. When we saw a small clearing among the chaos, I went for it, building my momentum steadily.

The 3 Amigos enjoy an afternoon of hardcore Nerf gun battles w/ old & new pals, Nick 1, Gavin, Matthew & Jacob, while Mommy burns yard trimmings in the nearby fire ring. Ah, the freedom of childhood is indeed a blissful thing.

We cruised on through anxiously but successfully, passing a slew of cars, including stuck trucks and SUVs. We trekked on along the darkened, icy, nearly abandoned roads. By the time we arrived at the grocery store near our house, our adrenaline levels were sky high. It was a tad stressful, but more an incredible adventure really!

We’ve been increasing our pool of friends these days … not just the boys, who have made buddies with our new neighbors, Nick 2 and Jacob, but also Stephen and I, who have bonded with their cool parents, Shannon and Sam, and Geoff and Jessica respectively.

We’ve also had some success in growing our relationships with some of our no-so-new friends. For instance:

  • We finally getting together with my pal, Pam, who I met in my recovery class years ago, and her daughter, Jess. Sure the impetus for hanging out was that she lent us a keyboard for our CC family presentation. But we made a fun afternoon out of it, and then caught Kung Fu Panda 3 with them a few weeks later to return the instrument.

It’s a bit fuzzy, but still the best pic of Stephen & me hanging out w/ our good pals, Jim & Penny … salt-of-the-earth peeps for sure!

  • Our CC/Mercy Hill pals, Jim and Penny, invited the clan to dinner at their house. Their kid, Tyrnan, is tight with the 3 Amigos, and Stephen and I have a lot of beliefs, opinions, and even politics in common with his parents. So, it was an evening of good eats and riveting conversation.
  • Jim, Penny, and Tyrnan also went out to dinner with the extended family after Zeke’s baptism. It was so nice of them to help celebrate Zeke’s big day!
  • My cool neighbor, Stacey, had us over for a small Super Bowl party. Per my request, Stacey also invited Jessica, whose husband was actually at the game in San Fran, so she and Jacob were missing him/jealous. Even though the Panthers lost, it was a wonderful time of getting to know these fine ladies better.
  • My CC pal, Adair, invited the boys and I to her house today, so her son, Will, and Houston could work on Memory Master. She’s such a neat, authentic person, so I always thoroughly enjoy my time with her. The dudes really get along with her entire brood, which also includes daughter Daiah, and sons Wright and Pearce.
  • I got to spend a little chit-chat time with Tricia and Jeremy when I picked up Houston after Bret’s birthday sleepover. Eventually, we will have some quality time with these ultra-cool folks, who also share many of our beliefs and principles. Who knew there were so many libertarian-leaning Christians out there?!

The 3 Amigos & Tyrnan exhibit their NY pizza high after Zeke’s post-baptism dinner celebration. What goofballs!

Speaking of Bret’s birthday, Houston was invited to the sleepover, and the twins got jealous. We explained to them that Bret is 11, and even though he truly likes both Gabriel and Zeke, he just chooses to hang with older boys sometimes, especially when he’s limited to a three-friend party.

I understand that it bums them out. And I know that it stings even more ’cause Bret was one of the two friends that Gabriel and Zeke invited to their birthday sleepover.

But I think another part of it is that Houston is particularly mature, and Gabe and Zeke … well, not so much, at least not on a consistent basis. Truly, they have the ability to be way more mature than they often choose to be.

I see it all the time, one or both of them behaving like such big boys, exhibiting great self-control, and being cool in the face of adversity. Then — poof! — it’s gone, and they’re back to the old ways, whining, screeching, disrespecting Mommy and Daddy, and even having a not-as-rare-as-it-should-be tantrum. Sigh.

Although the Panthers lost the big game, we ladies (L to R: Jessica, Michelle, Stacey, & yours truly) & our six wild boys sure had a blast @ the Super Bowl party!

I can’t say that I blame any boy who chooses to play with a more even-temper kid over a more spastic, prone-to-meltdown one. Makes perfect sense to me.

So, Stephen and I are simply trying to instill this truth in los gemelos without damaging their fragile little egos. I think they’re slowly, but surely catching on that even at 7 years old, a boy cannot cry about everything. The phrase “man up” exists for a reason, even if it is politically incorrect in our zany post-modern world.

Now, let me take this opportunity to say that, yes, of course Houston is sometimes the culprit, dishing a bad ‘tude, going wild physically, or (the worst case scenario) picking relentlessly on his bros. But his dalliances with misdeeds are pretty sparse these days, with the exception of the latter. But even that has shown improvement.

Granny helps Houston bake brownies for a math lesson (measurements & all that), which helps me w/ school, & then helps the lot of us stuff our faces w/ chocolate goodness. Thanks for paying it forward, Granny!

I must emphasize that we do empathize and certainly don’t expect perfection. After all, everyone has a meltdown every now and again. I tell all the boys that the aim really is to use the Fruits of the Holy Spirit to make our misconduct as infrequent a thing possible, while using that God-given strength to handle trials in a much calmer manner.

“Obedience to God leads to blessing; disobedience leads to burden.” — Max Lucado

Ain’t that quote the truth?! Poor Zeke broke an XBox controller in a fit of anger last month, and had to buy a replacement, which ran the kid $50! And then Gabriel broke the kids’ nice headphones (among a few other cheaper items) due to over-the-top hyperactivity and carelessness, and then had shell out $20 for a new pair!

Truly, time is the biggest casualty of all the misbehavior. It affects our school day dramatically, which in turn limits our opportunities to do anything else, whether it be me exercising, the boys hanging with friends, extracurricular outings, playdates, housework, chilling out at home … you name it!

Gabriel & Zeke are hard @ work during an art lesson @ CC. They are SUCH big boys when they want to be … what a heart-warming & satisfying thing to behold.

It was this scarce resource of time that pushed me into saying no to tutoring Challenge B at CC next year. A lot of the mamas were urging me to take the job because this 8th-grade-level class focuses on current events, rhetoric, and logic, which they think happen to be some of my strong suits. Neat, huh?!

“Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.” — Bilbo Baggins, “Lord of the Rings”

Alas, it was not in the cards at this juncture. Sure, we’ve made progress with our time management over the years, but truly not enough to where I feel I could honestly devote ample time to my B students, my kids, my husband, and my household duties all while maintaining a semblance of peace in my life.

Or maybe drumming is another key to having attaining more self-control. Hmmmmm.

So, here’s to my kids learning to control themselves more consistently, not me trying to control them. I know we have extremely blessed lives, that cannot be denied, but this simple yet seemingly overwhelming step could lead to even more fulfillment and joy, as well as a saner, simpler, less tiring home.

“Making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” — Ephesians 5:16, ESV

I’ll keep giving my best effort at my own self-control, too, like offering grace, listening, encouraging, and leading by example even when I want to blow my top — an imperfect but godly undertaking for sure. And Lord willing, I’ll have some refinements and betterments to report on in the next blog. Let’s get to it, fellas!