Anniversary Thoughts

Hello there.

We’ve been married 13 years tomorrow, and we are celebrating tonight with a date. Let’s see what the numbers say about our lives.

36. Thirty-six year’s alive on this Earth. Glad for it.

17. Seventeen years since my father passed through Heaven’s gates. Miss him.

13. Thirteen years married, and more in love than when we began.

20. Twenty years with Ian… a boyfriend turned into a partner in the purest and most whole sense of the word.

4. Four years away from Atlanta. Still miss it dearly.

3. Three beautiful children to love. My heart is full.

2. There are at least 2 more children waiting to be born into our lives in some way or another, whether by our own genes or adoption.

2. Twice we have moved since marriage.

Endless. The number of times we’ve said sorry and forgiven each other.

The recipe for marital bliss is simple. Serve the other person. Say sorry and mean it. Say I love you through your actions. In a book I’ve read, the authors suggested it takes 11 years to BEGIN being LESS selfish – I’ve quoted them before – “Real Marriage”, by Mark Driscoll and his wife, is the book. I think the authors are right. It’s easy to do things that make you happy. It’s harder to do things out of bringing joy ONLY to the other person in your life, and making their joy enough to elicit your own joy.

My hair dresser, whom I adore, was saying she gets bored after 3 years of dating someone. She says she gets restless. She was asking me questions about marriage. I assured her that, at least in my case, I’m more enamored than when we started. But  it’s the product of work. And it’s the product of the Holy Spirit working in my husband’s life to make him more like Jesus, and therefore, even better than better (in my eyes).

Ladies, what I think we are missing in our culture is a desire to serve our spouses. We are told we should be waited on hand and foot. I’m sorry to say this, but we don’t live in a fairy tale. There’s no Cinderella servant who is going to come into your life and sweep your floors in most people’s homes (at least in my circle of friends). So, guess who does the sweeping? You do. There’s no Dr. Phil who is going to talk sense into your spouse when you’re angry, and who is going to talk you off a ledge. Guess who’s going to soften his reply with a kinder response, an understanding reply, and a gentle consideration of his dreams and thoughts and feelings? You are. Guess who’s going to have to learn to bite her tongue? You are. And when you can remember to brighten your smile and put a little effort into your appearance (not superficially, but come on, act like you’re dating sometimes), you will remind him of why he works so hard for your family. When you can demonstrate graciousness, and gratitude, guess who wants to come home from work as soon as possible? While you can’t be perfect, and no one can… and while you can’t shelter him from the stress of his work or life in general… you can be his wife… the one he desires to come home to after a hard day. And there’s much to be said for that. There’s much to be said for the couple who still choose each other.

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The Stress of Moms

I know why moms are stressed. I use the term ‘multiplier effect’ in other areas of life – mainly positive ones. But this time, I’m going to use it in a way that describes the frustration of children. Children multiply things. They multiply the fun, they multiply the laughter, they multiply the interest of the things you are doing together. But they also multiply the volume, the questions, the dirt, the crumbs, the trash, and the need to clean the bathroom. My children even multiply the number of times I need to make my bed in a day, because they jump on it. Even. If. I. Tell. Them. Not. To. Jump. Or. Else. This is why moms are stressed.

I never thought of myself as a sensory-sensitive person. However, put me in a room with many children talking to me (or should I say “at me”) simultaneously, and I realize I’m overloaded.

I get to see friends, but have to leave early because of a discipline issue. I’m punished with my kids, because I’m training them.

I get frustrated about my home. And then I realize why I’m frustrated. The baby finds an apple. She eats it. But at this age, more goes out than in. My toddler tries to put part of an elastic band over a cup. It spills. He goes to the bathroom, partly misses, and comes out pants-less. My 6 year old doesn’t want to finish lunch, which means he’s going to become hangry around 3pm, and little brother will copy him. There’s a fine line between I’m-setting-a-boundary-it’s-not-time-to-eat AND I-have-a-hangry-three-year-old-to-deal-with-and-everyone-is-less-happy-because-he-needs-a-snack. Because of the apple, I realize I’m stepping on wet food with my socks on. So I go through an extra pair of socks that day. More laundry.

My husband will come home later and we will have leftovers if I’ve gotten the timing decently okay with the baby. I will feel badly that the house isn’t cleaner than it is.

My own creative juices are frustrated because who has time for detailed crafts with kids?

The one and only moms-only Christmas party I get to attend, my husband said no to keeping the baby. She wailed and almost threw up three times all the way home. Am I being selfish? Or was it his turn to be selfless?

This is why moms are stressed.

Taken by surprise

I’ve gotten good at anticipating sorrow over my father but today I was taken by surprise. Maybe it’s the holiday season… I don’t know. But if I could call him, this is what I’d say.

Daddy, you were a fiercely loving man. Thank you for loving me wholly and unconditionally. I miss you. My kids would love you – they would run and jump up on your lap and kiss your face all over. They would ask you questions and ask you to read them books, and show you things in the world. They would laugh at all your silly jokes and marvel at your fun hand tricks. You are never far from my heart and my thoughts.

Ian and I would ask your advice and tell you all the things God is showing us. I would ask you to write down your family history for me. I would ask you for your prayers. I would tell you about your children and grandchildren, all 7 of them, and how I want to give you more of them too.

Many people my age haven’t understood what it’s like to have this kind of hole in their hearts. Mostly I can smile and tell them what a great job you did. But the hole will always be there as a shallow mirror of the love we still share. And I flood that hole with tears every now and again. I’m glad God is there to catch them.

I long for a hug. Heck, I’ll even take the way you used to say my name with a warning when I was doing something wrong. Thank you for teaching me right from wrong, and dealing gracefully with all my teenage angst.

I thank the Lord that He allowed my husband to know you for three years before He took you. God’s design has mercy woven throughout it in small details like these, too. Thank you for loving Ian, even as a child, too!

What’s it like in front of Jesus? What do the angels sound like when they are worshipping? Does God let you peer down over us and watch? What family members have you rejoined with there? Would you tell me how short this life really is, while we are waiting for Jesus to come back? What does your spirit look like without a body?

I’d love to buy you a cheesy necktie for Christmas and mix a cd of music for you. I’d love to bake you a cake and sing happy birthday. And I’d love to plop one of my babies into your lap and watch you bob them up and down on your knee.

Anyhow, I miss you and I love you.

A Year in Review

Here goes my reflection time. Last year was another season of huge changes. We moved across the country last year, and between my last birthday and this birthday, we invited our first girl into our home, and our third child. If I had to name three words that describe last year, it would be humbling, opening, and exploring.

My husband would say, this was a continuation of a work God was doing to humble us. I agree. It was opening, because I feel like God opened the doors to show me more and more about warfare. And it was exploring, because my family literally took up exploring this new part of United States with great enthusiasm.

God has been showing me areas of sin. While I won’t name them publicly, if you’re one of my prayer partners, then I have been transparent in sharing them, because I covet and need your prayer covering. He is merciful. I am grateful. God has been showing me where I am naive. One of these areas is to learn how truly hard it is to travel across country with three small children. It is just physically difficult to have small children, and to uproot them for a vacation is hard work. It’s worth it, but it’s expensive and it’s hard work. I am also naive to the juggling act of educating more than one child at a time. I’d say I have it easy, because my second one is young, and his education is not too demanding yet. Actually, my first one is young, and his education is also not too demanding yet. I just imagine what it’s going to be like in 3 to 5 years from now, when I can see myself with another baby or two, plus the others, who really require more rigor. It will be an awesome journey.

I’ve also decided that motherhood is somewhat of a blind faith journey. You trust what your mother said. You find mentors. You read the Bible. You reflect on your own childhood and life lessons. You pray. But literally, only God knows how it is all going to turn out. When you are a mother, you know your children are your life’s most prolific work. Your children will spin out whatever you teach them. But they are not a perfect product. There’s so much out of your control. My mom is in a Bible study right now, where everyone there seems to be preaching that your children will walk with the Lord if you do everything right. Can I get a “no” button? As mothers, we cannot control our children as adults, as teenagers, and even as young children. The way God designed us, is to have free will. Discipline is from the inside out. We are handicapped as humans, because we can really only work from the outside in, meaning we can only read our children based on their behavior. Then we fumble and strive first to know, and then to address the heart issue. Only with God’s mercy and help will we ever get this right. And even then, our children only turn out walking with the Lord by God’s own mercy. I digress.

God has shown up big in so many areas of my life this past year. I have been keeping a bullet journal. In it, I have a miracles page. He’s filling the page. This year, we had our first “Family Day” in April. It was truly beautiful to recount God’s blessings with my family that way. Amazing.

Although there is always room for improvement, I feel like I’m keeping things in balance in our homeschool. Like I said, there are many things I’d like to add that I consistently think of doing. But when we get down to the brass tacks of a first grade education, we’re hanging in there. I think this is largely because my Micah memorizes well, and he likes learning. Micah does a rock star job memorizing his Bible scriptures for Awana. To me, this is more important memory work than CC, but he memorizes that like a champ too. I just started reading lessons with Kade… as in M says mmmmm and S says sssssss. I also focus on songs with Kade, and we pick out different letters while we are reading books together. We also work on our speech skills when I notice he says a word incorrectly, like any word that starts in S… he usually needs repeating practice. And Hope, well, she’s in baby school, just learning how to eat food and use some sign language. I’m trying to teach her “milk”, and “more”. All this to say, what I’m really focusing my children on at these ages is to know and love the Lord, be kind and considerate with others and each other, have a cheerful and helpful attitude, and be responsible with their things. I’m really working on the tone of my home being cheerful and giving.

I need to make improvements in many areas in my 36th year however.

  • Keep better track of what we’re actually doing in homeschool. I need to improve my system of tracking things.
  • Do a better job of slowing down before I say yes to things, including saying yes to myself. I am an idea machine. My latest thing is I want to write and speak and produce a “wisdom series” for children. I had better ask God about all these ideas!
  • I could do a better job of keeping the clutter down in our home, and do more cleaning. This is a constant battle. I’m really trying to get my kids to do chores.
  • I need to work on hygiene and organization with my kids – this means I need to really have them work with me. When they have a stain in their shirts, they will need to spray them down and scrub them. When they are done with food, they need to clear their plates, and then wash their mouths and hands.
  • I need to do a better job of juggling the various hats I wear so I don’t drop balls. And God is taking different balls out of the loop anyhow.
  • My mind races. I need to do a better job of slowing my mind down. Lists help. But lists can also be the enemy.
  • I’m still chronically behind birthdays, and although I was doing a good job of being on time places, I’m starting to slip.
  • Spend more time organizing on the weekends.
  • Cook more for the family.

The best books I’ve either read, or revisited, for personal enrichment in my 35th year have been:

  • Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare Manual by John Eckhardt

  • Different by Sally Clarkson
  • Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend
  • The Core by Leigh Bortins
  • The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Raising Your High-Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcina
  • The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • Strongman’s His Name… What’s His Game by Jerry and Carol Robeson
  • Childbirth Without Fear by Grant Dickey-Read
  • The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
  • The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson (and the Life Giving Home Experience) <– I’ll probably use this one every month of every year if I’m smart
  • Expand, Grow, Thrive by Pete Canalichio

I’ve enjoyed being a Support Representative with Classical Conversations this year as well, as well as working with Pete Canalichio.

I hope in my 36th year I’ll see revival, family growth, and more self-discipline.

Balance

I find myself in the space between a wind tunnel and a vacuum. There is so much life happening, represented by air waves flowing through the sieve.

The deep cavern in my heart is longing to be filled more and more, and to belong. I’m celebrating my oldest son’s sixth birthday today and tomorrow. I gave him some screen time while my husband and I were prepping things for his party tomorrow. He chose to listen to some worship music. I am grateful the seeds I’m quietly sowing are bearing some fruit. I’m not bragging. Daily, I’m brought to my knees for some reason or another in motherhood. This same child asks me, every night, to worship God with him.

God has used this time to hold me accountable to praising Him. He also gives me a chance to speak into Micah’s life. We can have deep and uninterrupted conversations. Micah has been wanting to listen to the names of God lately. So we do. But then I get to remind Micah that the same God created him. I asked Micah if he knew what God thought of him. He said “He thinks I’m sick.” I asked Micah, “Sick as in awesome, or sick as in blechhh?” He giggled and said “the first one!” I hope my children feel this way their whole lives.

We don’t win God’s approval by being right, or perfect. We talk a lot in our home about being righteous before God, meaning that we are won over to His ways, wanting to be like Him, and repenting of our sins. When we pray at night, I ask God to forgive me for my sins. I ask God to forgive my children for their sins.

My son is still learning how to pray. I help him by talking him through a framework. You can use it too. It goes like this “Praise God – tell Him what you think of Him. Tell God what you’re thankful for. (Pause for your child to answer in-between each thing). Is there anything you need to say sorry about? (Pause.) Do you need God’s help for anything? (Pause.) Who else needs some prayer?” (Pause.) NOTE: When I’m praying out loud with my oldest son, my prayer follows the same framework so he can hear it too.

When my kids are two, they repeat after me “Dear Jesus, thank you for today. Help me love you and other people better. Amen.”

At three, they are saying what they are thankful for also. And we build from there.

I was talking with a neighbor yesterday about how I want my kids used to a pace of life in which they can accomplish much, but also stop to smell the roses, so to speak. I don’t want us running. I want us to sit down to family meals together. And have time to clean up after dinner, to soak in good books, and have time to pray and worship at night without hurry to get to sleep to meet a super-early next day. I want my children to soak in the Word and to find truth beyond the world, to be able to slice through modern philosophy and know reality based on what they can’t see with their eyes.

So now let me come back to the cavern in my heart. As a non-native Californian who is far in distance from family, birthdays have a sadness to them for me. For my son, I hope he’s filled to the brim with love. But I know who he misses too. And I’m not lacking love whatsoever, but I definitely know who I’m missing.

But in that space between a vacuum and a wind tunnel, the Almighty is calling my name. And I feel the greatest depth of belonging there. There is no cavern He leaves empty. There is no hole He doesn’t fill. I have deep and eternal significance with my Creator. And I hope this is the same endless acceptance and approval my children and husband and family and friends feel their whole lives too. There is no greater feeling than that. And this love exists beyond death. Love is stronger than death.

When you’re still homesick

I’ve lived in this place now since last June, so I’ve been here a year and a quarter. Though now I’m just beginning to find a sense of belonging, I am still homesick.

When I’m homesick I get a little restless. I wonder if I’ll ever have friends like I did in Atlanta. I wonder if I’ll find camaraderie in a group like I had in Rochester.

And then I look at what the Lord is doing and I’m grateful.

Meanwhile, He’s taken me to a place where we might be the most unchurched in America. I heard this Sunday, that this city has the highest percent of people who followed God and then left. Wow.

We all strive for a feeling of belonging. We want to be known and to know others.

Today I was privileged to have a dear woman share with me her plight with cancer and how delicately and intricately God planned her rescue. A year that felt like one hit after another, lined up opportunities and circumstance that allowed for her care. She was so vulnerable. I cried with her, even if only on the inside. She is amazing. She is stronger. God has a future for her. He’s not done crafting the quilt of her life.

I’m completely taken by this God who cares so deeply and perfectly for our needs.

And I know He sees mine.

So while I spend my days trying to be less selfish and focus on learning about others, I remember my own heart cries out to Abba Father, and says “see my need”.

By the way, this post is not a ding on any of my friends here. You’re doing a fine job. It takes time to build intimacy. And one year doesn’t equal 25 years in another city. I’m not comparing you as friends. I’m considering my own sense of belonging. That’s all. And I figure, since I have lots of friends who are new to this town too, that you can probably relate. So, I send my love to you too! It’s okay to be vulnerable.

The Most Amazing Visual Bible Memory Tool You’ll Ever Meet, for Visual Learners (duh!)

I have just outlined the most jaw dropping mnemonic tool for VISUAL Learners related to studying and memorizing scripture.

Here’s the major premise of the mnemonic for you.

By the way, in this Visual Bible Memory World, here’s what the continents are:

  • The Land of Law (North America)
  • The Land of History (Europe)
  • The Land of Poetry (Asia)
  • The Land of Prophets (South America)
  • The Land of Gospels (Africa)
  • The Land of Letters (Australia)
  • The Land of Prophesy (Antarctica)

I’m telling you this, because it’s hard to see in the way that Prezi moves so quickly. But if you label your contents the way I listen, then you could draw a fake equator, almost right across the globe where the top half is the Old Testament, and the bottom half of the globe is the New Testament. Except that you have to put South America above this fake equator. Still, for a visual learner, this works just fine.

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 8.19.36 PM

Here’s the second example for you.Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 8.19.50 PM

There. I hope you start using this mnemonic devise for you and your kids, and share it with any other visual learners you know. If you went through both slide shows then you will earnestly understand the value of that kind of visualization.

P.S. If you have an auditory learner, they might learn this by repeating after you and hearing you say it. You can also ascribe a quick theme songs to Lands, and Towns if that would help them with the association. Maybe the Land of History uses a Super Hero theme, and each Town uses a different super hero’s theme song. Hear what I’m singing?

If you have a kinesthetic learner, you could build a model world, and a model town as you’re studying. Or, you could make lift-the-door flaps for one chapter you’re memorizing and put a picture behind each door to trigger your memory about that verse, like a lap book. You could associate a certain smell with each Land. Maybe the Land of Revelation smells like peppermint (because we need to wake up when we read Revelation!). Or maybe the the Land of Letters feels like sand (touch some sand because Australia is a huge island), while the Land of Poetry feels like rice (touch some rice because it’s in Asia and Chinese food comes with rice). Can you feel what I’m pushing?

Have fun getting the Word in you!,

Robyn Cooper