Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Girls' Day Out

Last weekend Chloe and I had a special girls' day out... Greg and I decided we'd like to do something small with each one of the kids before the baby comes, and last Saturday was Miss Chloe's turn to spend a special afternoon with Mommy. She was allowed to have some input, and of course, the first words out of her mouth were "I'd like to go to the butterfly salon."

The "butterfly salon" is just our local nail place, but they have special seats in the shapes of butterflies for the little girls that Chloe finds absolutely irresistible. It's always interesting for me, because I was such a tomboy when I was her age. I had a CHIPS bigwheel that I tore down the street with behind my best friend David, and about 200 Star Wars men that I alternately played with and categorized into neat little plastic cases with something bordering on obsession. Chloe is all long blond curls, pedicures, ballet class, and dresses... I almost have to bribe the kid to get her to wear a pair of pants.

I have to admit, I am so glad she is who she is. When I was pregnant with her we didn't find out what we were having, but I was absolutely convinced she was a boy. And it's not that I felt disappointment about that, exactly - I actually love being a mommy to boys and hoped I would have one someday - but thinking she was a boy placed a certain amount of "pressure" on me, because I absolutely knew that I had to have a girl at some point in the Smith family progeny. What if the next one was a boy too, and then the next one, and then the next?  My goodness, I could have a whole herd, with not a sweet little pigtailed princess among them! Who would I bake with and have spa days with and read Anne of Green Gables to?

When I gave that final push and she was born and the doctor announced, "It's a perfect baby girl!!!" it was one of the most profound and exciting surprises of my life. Since that morning in July, almost seven years ago, I have watched with joy as she has grown into such a darling little girl. Last Saturday we engaged in one of my all-time favorite little luxuries - pedicures - and then went to Starbucks for girltalk and cupcakes. Out of the blue as she slurped her chocolate milk she asked me, "Mom, when you were a little girl, what were your favorite books?"

I spent the next fifteen minutes telling her all about a little girl named Anne with an "e," who had red hair and the most fantastic imagination, who was orphaned as a baby but then went to live on a beautiful farm on Prince Edward Island and had the most fantastic adventures.

"When we get home, do you want me to find my copy of the book that Nana gave me when I was little? We can start reading it if you want - it has fantastic pictures."

She took a big bite of cupcake and nodded happily.

Thank you, God. From the depths of my soul, thank You. You and You alone are the giver of all good things.

"God is good to one and all;
      everything he does is suffused with grace."
Psalm 145:9

Monday, May 23, 2011

Field Trip Friday: The Passavent Retirement Center

Since late last Fall we'd been discussing the desire to start serving somewhere with a small group of our homeschool friends. For me at least, the desire was initially borne out of selfishness... I wanted to teach my kids the importance of being dedicated to serving in our community, because that's what I'm supposed to do as a mother, right? My friend Melissa arranged for us to start going monthly to a local retirement home, just to spend a little time with the residents there and try to brighten their days.

We've been going for several months now and not surprisingly, it has turned out to be a source of joy not only for the residents, but for us as well.  There are certainly inherent challenges. Keeping the boys quiet and well-behaved for the duration of the visit leaves me pretty exhausted. But the sweet elderly women we've met are so grateful just to see young children and sit and talk for a few minutes that it almost breaks your heart.

It's also so gratifying for us to see our older children beginning to understand that they can have an impact on other people's lives by giving up their time to do something meaningful for someone else. Chloe, Megan, Ryan, and Andy have made us so proud with their willingness to introduce themselves, dance and sing and pass out snacks, and engage politely with these sweet old ladies.

I took a few pictures of our first visit, and unfortunately, my camera battery died before we got inside! These are a few memories of our group that day, playing joyfully and getting a little silly before we went in to meet our new friends.

Chloe and Ryan, never missing an opportunity to dissolve into kindergarten hysterics.

Chloe and Megan, who have become sweet friends this year.

The whole gang. Unbelievably, I think every one of the kids is actually looking in the basic direction of the camera and smiling. A keeper for sure.

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."
1 John 3:18

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Am I a Christian?

A few weeks ago, I was working in our classroom and Chloe was drawing a picture at her little desk next to me. Out of nowhere, she asked, "Mom, am I a Christian?"

I paused.

"Well, what do you think?" I asked.

"I draw a lot of pictures, and I read a lot of books," she offered.

"True," I said, "But those aren't things that make you a Christian. Lots of people do those types of things and aren't Christians."

On and off for the past few months, we've been reading a book that a friend of mine recommended called I Believe in Jesus by John MacArthur. It's a children's book he wrote with his daughter that walks a child through an understanding of the salvation process. I reminded Chloe of what we read in the book and all that we've been talking about, and that those who are Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. They believe that He is the son of God, and that He died for all of mankind so that we can be redeemed and spend eternity in heaven with Him.

"Right," she said and shrugged, indicating that this was a no-brainer.

"Remember that when you are ready to become a Christian, it's nice to pray a special prayer to Jesus," I said.  "You tell Him that you know you are a sinner and can never be perfect like He is, but that you gratefully accept His sacrifice on your behalf and want to follow Him. It's really the most important decision you will make in your whole life, and Daddy and I are going to be really, really excited for you when you feel you're ready to make it," I said.

She nodded solemnly but then we got distracted by some disaster up in the playroom, and that was that. By 4:00 that afternoon, this 33-weeks-pregnant momma had had it. It had been a long day, we still had several activities to attend that night, and my back was killing me. My mom came to pick up Chloe to take her to ballet class, and I practically shoved her out the door with her dance bag and an artificially enthusiastic "Have fun!"

Two minutes later my phone started ringing off the hook - it was my mom, calling from her car. Oh great, I thought, Chloe's forgotten her tap shoes.  Instead, my mom announced, "I heard the news!!! That is SO exciting!"

"Ummm, what news?" I asked, wondering if she was referring to the fact that I had just stabbed one of the boys' inflatable hammers with a kitchen knife right in front of them and hurled it into the garbage in a fit because one had hit the other one over the head with it - again - and now both were crying.

"Chloe's news!!!" she said.

"What is Chloe's news?" I asked, confused. Chloe's a pretty quirky kid... quite frankly, this could be anything.

"She became a Christian today!!!!" My mom announced joyfully. "That is SO exciting!"

"Huh???" I said. "Oh, ummm, well, we talked about it, but... " My voice trailed off as I explained that in my mind, technically speaking, she had not yet officially become a Christian. I had always pictured Greg and I kneeling with her beside her bed in some holy moment, praying this perfect little prayer and then tucking her in and writing in our journals about the day our daughter became a Christian. Instead, I seemingly had missed the whole thing. Like so many other milestone moments in parenting, this was not how I pictured it.

As I threw a load of laundry into the dryer, I started thinking... How often do I get so caught up in the idea of being a Christian - the doctrine, the theology, the getting to church on time on Sundays, the serving because I'm supposed to- that I abdicate the most simple fundamentals of following Christ? Jesus went to the poor and the dirty and sinful, society's outcasts, and took care of them. He befriended them, loved them, invited them to eat with Him and His friends. He was always patient, always kind, always honest. He stood for truth when the situation warranted it, regardless of how it made Him look. He knew the Word of God and spent time every day in fellowship with His Father. He sought and obediently followed His Father's will for His life, even when it meant a horrific death on a cross between two criminals. He forgave every one of His enemies.

Being a Christian isn't just accepting Christ; it's becoming the image of Christ.

Chloe's voice from that morning reverberated in my head - "Mom, am I a Christian?"

And I found myself thinking, "Am I?" 

Of course, I have accepted Christ. But too often, I fear, I forget about the simple things He longs for me to remember about Him.

I can truthfully say that I long to chase after the Lord with my life, and I want to lead my children to have the same desire. Some days this comes more naturally than others. Some days I'm an utter failure and find myself broken, begging for forgiveness and help as I'm tucking the kids into bed. It's these days of failure that I'm most aware of the incredible gift that salvation truly is. No matter how hard I try, I will always fail. I can never be good enough. I can never earn it. It's mine simply because He loves me - and that is worth celebrating.

So celebrate we did. We invited over Nana and Pop and Aunt Cici and our cousins. We baked a chocolate cake and Daddy decorated a special chair for God's newest little princess. The boys became so excited at the prospect of the celebration that every morning since they have insisted they're ready to accept Christ.  We try to chill them out by explaining that we want them to really understand what it means before they do it; at the same time we're secretly thrilled that the idea of becoming a Christian has become more exciting to our four year olds than Christmas or their birthdays.

Each year we're going to celebrate Chloe's spiritual birthday - Monday, April 22 - as the gift that it truly is. Soon, we'll joyfully add the boys' spiritual birthdays to our calendar as well. But I hope that in some way, every day I can silently celebrate my own spiritual birthday, acknowledging the gift of my salvation and becoming, more and more, an image of Christ to my husband, my children, and the world.

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[a] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10: 9-13 

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! "
2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Working Girl

Last Thursday Chloe had the opportunity to go to work with Greg for "Bring Your Son or Daughter to Work Day," and clearly, she had a blast:

She made new friends...

Brainstormed a few new ideas...

Tried out some new things...

(by the way... can you believe her Daddy has a swinging couch and a two-story twisty slide in his office??? And he calls it going to work??? )

Got a little adventurous...

And saw things from a new perspective.

 And if that wasn't enough, she made the local paper too!

Chloe and her new friend made the Pittsburgh Business Times!