Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Faith and Hearing God

My faith is pretty much the core of who I am. I love knowing I am loved by a God who knows everything about me. The older I recognize the importance of having an intimate relationship with Him. I love to teach my kids about it at a young age and seeing the effect of their understanding of loving Christ and others as Christ has on the way they live.

There are many things that I love about loving Jesus. There’s the peace. It was a time that I was struggling to find joy and peace. Although my marriage was falling apart, I still had so many blessings constantly pouring into my life. I was just so so sad. I started reading my Bible more and having late night talks with my Papa. I wanted so bad to be fulfilled, but my spirit and hope was utterly broken. I still remember vividly being in my office at work crying and my dad called me to check in. I vented a little and he encouraged me to read the Book of Esther. So I did. I read it a lot. The truth in those few pages pretty much got me through my divorce. It really opened my eyes to my self-worth.   My heart was slowly being filled up with love and peace that only God could give.

Another reason I love serving God is the joy. I grew up as a Christian and was so grateful that He died to save me. I’m not the best person and ultra-flawed in many ways.  But, I was a fun and happy person. That was always part of who I was; however, the past few years when my life kind of fell apart from underneath me, I really pressed into that relationship deeper than I had before.  I always felt I was a pretty happy person, but when all the crap hit the fan, I was not a fun person to be around. I was still praying and having this quiet intimate time daily, but just couldn’t find my joy. Finally, I figured out I needed to quit telling God what I needed to be happy. My prayer and worship time became very simple after that. I just decided that my current approach was really getting me nowhere. I started just thanking God and instead of focusing on these specific prayer requests, I just loved Him and felt Him love on me. After a while of shifting my focus on what (I thought I needed to be happy), to just loving Jesus and loving people I experienced a joy and fulfillment I never even knew existed. Now that’s not saying I don’t get down in the dumps from time to time, I promise I do; however, now I understand how to find it back again. I guess I kind of view it like when my kids ask to do things that I know as a father would be bad for them. They keep asking and I keep trying to explain that I have something better. At times, their minds seem so caught up with doing and obtaining this particular thing that they are so distracted from me trying to explain how those won’t result in anything good. Also, they miss out on the fun things I have planned for them. They are so busy being upset; they aren’t paying attention to what I’m trying to tell them.

One of my favorite things about having an intimate relationship with God is hearing Him speak to me. I hear and learn things from reading, prayer, and worship. My favorite though is when I just feel something in my heart randomly click and make sense. Normally, they are just little, ordinary things. They just blow my mind when they happen. I seriously love the idea of God talking to me through everyday activities and people. I want to describe two of these little moments.

The first happened a few months ago. I was a bit upset about how certain things were happening in my life. In my heart I knew I wanted to be a husband again almost more than anything. I was just stuck in this single dad stage and getting a little tired of it to be quite honest… So we were at a local park. The kids were just running around playing. While this was going on I was just sitting on a bench watching them. My mind was racing with thoughts about our future as a family. Suddenly, I look over and I see this elderly gentlemen just sitting on a park bench. For some reason, my eyes just fixated on him. He was smiling just looking off into space. I started to wonder what he might be thinking about to give such a big, peaceful smile. While I was just sitting their observing Him, I felt God speak to me. It was a really strong rush of emotions. He said “Seth when you are an old man sitting on a park bench, what will thoughts and memories will you be thinking about ?” The question made me think. I’m sure I will smile and think of good times growing up. I started to wonder though, will I be thinking about good times I had with Crissy or will it be with my next wife? Then God nailed me with His Answer. He told me, “This season of your life is a rare gift. Enjoy it. Yes, you had a wonderful marriage with Crissy and I’m preparing such a wonderful bride for you, but you will never experience another time in your life like this.” Suddenly, I snapped back into reality. He was right (duh Seth). I have an amazing gift given to me. I’m never going to get this true experience again. Just me and my four babes living life together. Ever since that day, I quit focusing on getting remarried. I truly try to cherish this time. Being able to just enjoy this experience fills me with such peace. When I’m an old man sitting on a park bench, I’m sure I will think back on these few years and have the big wide grin.

The second thing happened in Wal-Mart. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I decided to go grocery shopping. I was just walking around with all four kids loaded up in the shopping cart. We were just chatting and shopping when I walked by the jewelry counter. I immediately stopped and was glued to this little family picking out jewelry. It was clear they didn’t have much money, but they all seemed to wearing their nicest clothes. Honestly, to most of us the jewelry at Walmart is simple as that, Walmart Jewelry. Just cheap jewelry of no real value. This family though was so dramatically excited about the experience. The man was talking to the associate behind the counter and having her pull various earrings out to inspect. Every pair that was laid on the counter, he picked up carefully and inspected thoroughly before showing each pair to his kids to get their opinion. So it hit me, he was buying his wife a new pair of earrings. There seemed to be no buggy, nor anything else they had shopped for in the store. This was evidently a very special event for their family. I see by the look on his face the pride of being able to select and buy his wife this little set of earrings. It was clearly something he had worked so hard to afford. Finally, he and his kids picked a pair. He paid for them and handed them to his wife. She put them in her ears and instantly broke out into the most enormous smile. I began looking at her examine the earrings she had just received in the jewelry counter mirror. I could see how valuable she felt to receive them. She looked as if she felt like the most cherished person in the world. The wife then looked at her husband, burst out crying, and threw her arms around his neck. Their kids were just saying over and over how beautiful their mom looked. Then they all just walked out of the store with such joy.

I just stood there thinking about what I just witnessed. Suddenly, I felt God chime in. He told me “What you just saw was true love in its purest form.” I realized how much work that man had put in and money he saved, only to just give it away. But the result of giving and blessing his wife resulted in the most unbridled joy I had even seen a human experience in every single member of their family. I felt God saying, “That’s how much I want you to love others. Don’t worry about how others view the quality of your gift. I want you to work hard and give it your best. People aren’t concerned with your gift being ‘Walmart Jewelry’, they are looking at your personal sacrifice. Give the best you can give. Try the hardest you can try. I want you to spread joy. Also, I am so proud of you.”  Needless to say I started balling in the middle of the store. Actually, I tear up every time I think of that moment (which is quite often). God isn’t looking for me to do these miraculous things on a daily basis. He wants me to give everything I have. Knowing that my Papa is proud of me is pretty much the best feeling I know.

God loves the person He made and is so very proud of you. J

Be Blessed,

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The "Stages" of Parenting

I have had quite a few people ask how I can handle four kids by myself and not be ultra stressed all the time. Honestly in some ways it's a lot less stressful than just having one. The things you worry about changes as the number of children increase. See for yourself...

One Child

Buying the name brand diapers and wipes

“Your Baby Can Read” and teaching sign language 

Stevie had this down son.

Stroller color coordinating with the car seat and diaper bag

Portable diaper changing mat 
Hahahaha. I was so naive. 
Now I know that's what God invented "the ground" for

Worrying about people holding the baby

Wireless Video/Audio Baby Monitor with dual receivers

The age suggestions on toys 

The box says ages "6 months and up".
She's only 5 months old and I'm scared she will get her eyeball sucked out
by the gently powered baby toy fan

Bath water being the perfect temperature on the brand new baby bathtub

Monthly Milestones

Well planned wake/eat/play scheduling

Buying “baby” laundry detergent

Educational television shows

Child perfectly dressed and clean

Washing a dropped pacifier 

The nipple touched the ground. 
I guess we should just throw it away.

Choosing a theme for the nursery that included matching crib sheets, crib bumper, wall art, and area rug

Hand sanitizer

Height/Weight Percentages

Cloth Diapers

“Well Visits” at the doctor’s office

Making sure the crib has a “diaper changing station” attached

Baby proofing every. single. object. in the house 

As an adult, I couldn't even figure out how to bypass the cabinet locks we installed.

Two Children

Clean clothes

A packed diaper bag 

"Don't worry, I brought the aloe and the flushable baby wipes... 
Just in case."

Snacks in said diaper bag.

Well rounded diet 

Structured play time

Picking the perfect preschool

Season themed photo shoots 

We need to build this by the 4th for our Patriotic Portrait Session 

Daily reading time

Choosing the safest outside riding toys

Socializing with other children

"Wait... did that boy just take our son's block?!! I'm about to go talk to his parents."

Target brand diapers are now acceptable

Close monitoring of snack foods

Assuring ourselves that both children are treated equal and making sure we finish up that second child’s baby scrapbook

Three Children

Making sure clothes don’t have large stains

Limiting screen time

Avoiding other families that have sick children 

Casually making our way to the car at our friends' house after discovering their child has pink eye

Bathing regularly

Getting a good spot in the car drop off line to beat the tardy bell at school

Matching socks

Family bike/stroller rides

"I don't care if you don't like peeing outside. 
You can pee in the woods or hold it while we pedal down this bumpy gravel road."

One annual family portrait session resulting in one perfect picture

Finishing up all of the suggested school take home activities

Matching Easter outfits

Arriving to events on time

Visiting relatives

Wal-mart brand diapers are now an option 

Parent's Choice parents represent! :D

Four Children
Clothes that don’t smell like hot dogs

Does the dollar store sell diapers?

Making sure the coffee maker is programmed for in the morning 

On second thought, just give me the whole pot and a straw

Avoiding potty accidents

Wasps on the back porch

Convincing one of your older children to push the baby in the stroller 

"I bet you can't push your sister all the way back to the house.
Wow!! Look how strong you are!!
 I bet you can't unload all of these groceries..."

Inflated tires on bikes

Having milk in the fridge

Snakes from the ditch

“What’s a well visit at the doctor?”

Simply arriving at events regardless of the time 

"Sorry we are late.
Oh, is it over?
Well, can we just sit on your floor and eat the leftover cake?"

Running shampoo out to the kids while in they are in backyard plastic pool to avoid a bath

Figuring out which children’s tv show has the least annoying songs and characters and convincing your children to watch it

Pooping in private 

Four Children (as a single parent)

Clothes that fit (any condition will do)

Will it rain soon, I need my car washed. 

Cleanse us of our pollen

Keeping Phenergan in mass supply within the medicine cabinet

Hoping the parent sitting next to you has diapers because your child just pooped and all you brought was a bag of pretzels and sidewalk chalk

Having to piece together a dinner meal while simultaneously going over homework and sweeping the floor

Finding a good hiding spot for my Oreos

Poisonous snakes from the ditch

Having A LOT of milk in the fridge

Teaching your child to vomit on a hardwood surface rather than carpet when sick

Accidentally leaving your van door open so the neighborhood animals will clean up the crumbs on the floorboard

"Hello Human. Do you have anymore of those crushed up Frosted Flakes"

Hoping to take a quick snapshot of children to frame and give to your grandmother as a Christmas present. (Smiles optional, we are mostly focused on simply looking at the camera.

Be Blessed, 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Nature Treasure Hunt

Each weekend, I try to do something fun and creative with the kiddos. We've done scavenger hunts, treasure hunts, clue hunts, bug hunts, frog hunts, etc. Do you see a pattern ;) ? They love the idea of finding things. The weather was supposed to be so pretty, so I wanted to do something outside. But wanted to do something we'd never done before. I ran across this and thought it would be a fun idea so I planned it out.

However one thing about me is I go full in on pretty much everything I think is fun or interesting. Whether it be birthday party planning, some kids' crafts, or costumes, I just feel the need to go all out. One time I was making a costume and I needed some type of color fabric, so I just cut up and used my favorite shirt since it was the color I was looking for. Hahaha. It's not always the best trait. So I was reading the little sheet I found online and I was kind of driving me crazy how plain and pixelated it looked. So I stayed up the night before redoing the sheet in Photoshop. Here's the one we used (full resolution) in case anyone wants to print and use it for yourself.

Feel free to share it as well. I like when people are outside :)
Also, I know this is a scavenger hunt not a treasure hunt. 
I'm normally very particular about the names of activities, but I thought this just sounded funner.

So I didn't tell my kids what we were doing. I just told them we had a surprise activity we would be doing Saturday. Clearly Olive was too excited because she woke up first thing that morning. 

In case you didn't know, 
Minnie Mouse stickers are the best type of alarm clock

Also, that morning I was a message from a friend that they wanted to treat my kids to lunch. This isn't the first time they've blessed us. They would probably kill me for mentioning them publicly but wanted to say thank you to Michael and Kori Smith. 

So we went to Cici's Pizza for lunch before we went out on the hunt. The kids still didn't know, so the whole meal, they were guessing what the activity was going to be. I jotted some of my favorite guesses:

Tie a rope to the fan and fly around the living room?
Meet the president?
Eat so much ice cream I throw up?
Buy a Daisy Duck face?

Since we live in the city, my friend said we could come out to their land and do it out there. When we got there, we got a surprise and got to have a friend come with us. Neela of course so pumped that we were doing something with "Nature" in the title.  So we all looked over the list and headed off on the hunt. 

The crew 

Something fuzzy

A bug chewed leaf

Exploring a deer stand


And... his shirt comes off (just like his daddy)

Small red leaf

Big green leaf

A puddle of water

Something smooth 
Also, don't love when kids have dirty little hands :)

An old toilet (not on the list :D )

Stick shaped like a letter

Big and small acorns

Plant with thorns

Something slimy

Creepy Crawly (she named the worm Sparkles)

Giant tree
Took a break to play at the river

Three colors of dirt

A plant with thorns

Plant with berries

Circle shaped rock


"Daddy, wanna meet Hampton?"

We found a cocoon.


It was really such a fun little day. Plus, the kids were pretty worn out and super dirty by the end of it all. That's kind of how I gauge the success of a Saturday activity. :)

Be Blessed,