A Virtual Christmas Card

It's totally cheating, I know.  Virtual cards are just that.  Thin air.  Imaginary.  But...

Since I don't have a physical address for all of you dear blog friends of mine, this will have to suffice.  Thin air is what we get our breath from after all.  It's not without value.

If I didn't send you a card this year, please allow this to act as a substitute.  Turns out, homeschooling takes a lot of time.  It's flexible, yes, but I don't get to take off days from work to address cards or bake cookies anymore.  And you would be amazed how much longer it takes to accomplish these tasks when you have 8 helping hands.  The smallest two hands really like to eat paper too.  That doesn't bode well for the cards.  If you did receive a crumpled card in the mail from me, that was just Leah.  Saying hey. 

 (If you look really closely, there's a squinty Abby eye peeking through there too.)

I have the grandest intentions of coming back and blogging before Christmas, but we all know how my intentions go these days... 

Just in case, Merry Christmas to you all.  Have a blessed time with your families.

You Might Be a Sheppard in 2012 if…

…you started the year with more of your belly showing out from the bottom of your shirt than any grown woman should ever bare thanks to the impending download of Shep #4. 
…you willingly, albeit nervously, laid on a table and watched as a laser reshaped your cornea and, as a result, said “good riddance” to your corrective lenses, hopefully forever - because all dads should have the vision of Superman. 
…you welcomed Leah Caroline, a 3rd bouncing baby girl, to the ranks on an awesome day (3-6-12) after a pitocin-induced, epidural-free labor & delivery with busted blood vessels all over your face to prove it.
…you took your 10 day old baby to a homeschooling convention in Spartanburg, SC to test the waters of what could be the biggest adventure of your life.
…as an 8 year old boy, you and your 5 year old kid sister scored your first goals ever, thus promoting soccer to the “favorite sport” slot.
…after spending your entire pregnancy worrying that you would pass a kidney stone, you were blessed to have nine months plus a bonus eight weeks after birth before having to deal with one of those pesky things.
…you and your best friend/big sister took swimming lessons and after watching Abby bravely jump off the high dive on day 2, you shocked everyone by exhibiting fear for the first time ever  and outright refusing to do it. 
…you taught second graders in VBS in the morning for the second consecutive summer, then went to work for a full 8+ hours after lunch.  Sleep is for the weak.
…as an eight year old boy, you accepted Jesus into your heart at VBS and publicly committed your life to Him by being baptized on your daddy’s 30th birthday. 
…you took off your engineer hat and dove headfirst into the world of homeschooling a third grader and kindergartener with a 3 year old and an infant after feeling an undeniable call to teach them at home, and you don’t even wear a denim jumper or grind your own wheat.
…you opted to capitalize on your freedoms as a homeschooling family and took a vacation to Amelia Island, FL in late August after schools were back in – because you could.  Once you go offseason, you never go back.
…you discover that traveling is one of the best ways to imprint history and the beauty of nature on your kids’ hearts and minds, and therefore opt for a three week road trip up the coast and all over New England in late September and early October during peak leaf-turning season.
…you type up your end-of-year newsletter with a reminder from one of your favorite Christmas books, “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father’s face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift. ~John R. Rice 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. ~Isaiah 7:14 

You Know You're a Mom When-sday

Once upon a time, in the same house, with the same family, one or two children ago, I was involved in a weekly posting ritual where I would recount some of the awesome/scary/hilarious/sobering/impressive things my kids did.  "How to Know You're a Mom" or "Mom Things," I called them.  It's been so long since I posted any, I felt the need to explain.  For a short while, I was part of a group of moms who made the weekly list and posted them to a page entitled "You Know You're a Mom Whens-daze" (I think).  Anyway, that fizzled out, and here we are today...

Just me, some serious inspiration in the form of four crazy kids, and an hour left in Wednesday.  I'm going to make this happen.

You Know You're a Mom When...

...you don't believe that humans evolved from apes, but you absolutely cannot deny the ape-like characteristics of your offspring.
 Seriously, if you can't find a Sheppard kid, just look UP.

...you tell your husband to play "spotter" for your maniacal 9-month old as she attempts to climb even higher on the firetruck-with-wheels on the tiled kitchen floor so you can go grab your camera to take a picture.
 (See, Daddy is over there.  Don't worry, nervous photo-lookers.)

...you said, "I don't even want to know what it looks like in your room," to your three year old as you marched her to her bed at naptime and she lawyered you with, "Well...close your eyes."

...your kids are being relatively still in the exam room of the pediatricians office and you feel the need to document it with a picture.  Turns out to be very telling of their personalities - the nine year old is reading War and Peace The Goblet of Fire (again), the six year old is sticking her tongue out, and the three year old is destroying the paper on the exam table.  The nine month old?  She's probably licking the floor.  She is the fourth child, after all.

...you end up having lively chats about the words "commutative" and "associative" laws with your nine year old because his expedient spelling abilities far surpass his math abilities.  It's hard to write sentences about your spelling words when you don't know what they mean.

...you've actually had to install a lock on the closet that your six year old and three year old share because they cannot resist the urge to change their clothes any less than fourteen times per day.  (Listen, kids, there are six people in this house.  I've got enough actual dirty laundry to keep me busy without having to guess which of these 13 shirts and skirts on the floor have been worn for more than 30 seconds.)

...your nap-resisting three year old finally crashes on the floor after a long day of clothing changes and VHS tape watching.  I truly love that Sleeping Beauty is propped up behind her.  I swear I didn't stage that.  (And if you've been reading the Mom Things all along, yes, this is the same toddler that refused to nap...some things never change.)

...your six year old will do anything to get her picture taken too, even if it means pretending to be asleep on the floor.

...you now know not to let your six year old taste your soup because she will not have the foresight to leave the bowl somewhere that the nine month old cannot reach it in her walker during the 45 seconds it takes for you to walk to the mailbox and return.  Turns out, lil' Leah really likes vegetable beef soup.

...you ask your nine year old which movie "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is and, though he's never seen it, he gives you a completely comprehensive plot synopsis of it beginning with "There's this couple who is barren..." that he has pieced together from trailers alone.  Whoa.  And what nine year old uses the word "barren?"

...you absolutely relish in outdoor playtime on cold days because you get to watch the kids come inside and make and sip hot tea together.

...it makes you a little sad to see your nine month old peeping out of the blinds at her big sisters and brother.  Soon enough, little one, soon enough.

...you've figured out the perfect "punishment" for your nine year old's misbehavior - 30 seconds worth of hugs from his little sisters.  That ought to straighten him right up.

And with that, I missed Wednesday by 4 minutes.  Hey, beats not doing it at all!  Enjoy!  And, you know, I think we're about halfway through December - it's probably about time I start posting some of that Christmas-related stuff.  I know better than to make promises I can't keep, so until next time, be blessed!


Testimony of The Weary Mom

Yesterday, Sam and I attended a class at church during which we learned a straight-forward way to write our testimony.  I confess that I have always felt mine to be mostly boring.  I was born and raised in a Christian home.  I was brought up knowing about and learning about and loving Jesus.  People don't want to hear that story.  Snoozefest, right?

Maybe so.

This is not all there is to my testimony, of course.  There are the "spicier" sections, like how I went to college and did some "living."  How I got pregnant when I was 19, got married and became a mom at 20, got through engineering school with a toddler, and ended up with a career and two kids by age 23.  Then there's the part about how I got laid off, cried a lot, feared being home with my kids, grew to love being home with my kids, and took a step of faith into the adventures of homeschooling.

That's where I am now.  That boring mom stuff. 

In a separate, unrelated event last night, I was lying in bed reading a book that I "purchased" on my Kindle.  (This means it was a Kindle freebie thanks to one of half a dozen blogs I read advertising said free e-books.  Because I'm cheap.  Have I mentioned that before?  I almost never buy books for my Kindle.)  The book is called Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess.  Am I a weary mom?  Not always. On occasion?  Most definitely.  At least once daily?  Probably.  But at least I'm not chronically weary...  Okay, actually, I might be.

I got to a quote that I absolutely loved, attributed in the book to author Emily P. Freeman,
I believe women need to talk about the ways we hide, the longing to be known, the fear in the knowing.  Beyond that, I believe in the life-giving power of story, in the beauty of vulnerability, and in the strength that is found in weakness.
Mom stuff isn't just boring.  It's life.  These things we hide from our FB wall posts, our insecurities, our real lives - these are other mom's experiences too.

Other moms have poop-smeared toilet rugs and shattered piggy banks dropped from the top bunk at 11pm and a 9-month old with a mouth full of Goldfish thanks to a generous older sister. Okay, maybe not exactly, but close.  This is real life and when we fool ourselves into thinking that the mom with well-done hair, cute heels, homemade goodies, and a clean minivan actually has it as together as it seems, we are only hurting ourselves.  Here's a secret, she's just really good at faking it.  And that's fine.  We just need to remember that before we use her as our standard.

I have met some incredible people in my lifetime, and even more so in recent years.  These people are the ones who aren't afraid to be honest.  The ones who share their vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  The ones who know that God's strength is made perfect in their weakness.  These are the women who make me feel normal.  These are the women who admit things like the fact that their kids miss the toilet when they pee, and that they are a terrible cook, and that they yell at their kids all the time.  These women know the need for grace and forgiveness.  These women know that without God's provisions the boring task of motherhood would be just about insurmountable otherwise.

God doesn't call us to be perfect.  In fact, He relishes in using the imperfect and unlikely to accomplish His purposes.  When things seems impossible for us to handle on our own, that's our cue to fully rely on God. 

Let me be the first to tell you, I am imperfect.  I am not the mom with well-done hair, cute shoes, and a clean minivan.  I lose my temper.  I yell.  I'm endlessly impatient and only slightly less sarcastic.  I pitch fits that make my 3 year old's tantrums look like the work of an amateur.  My kids act up too.  They climb things.  They chase and touch each other incessantly in public places.  They are not boring.  Neither is motherhood.

The story of my mundane life as a mom has life-giving power.  Vulnerability is beautiful.  Christ's strength is made perfect in my weakness.  He is strong when I am weak.  My imperfection requires grace.  Thank God He provides me an endless supply of it.

That is my testimony.

(From the book...)
We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah
Better Than A Hallelujah, by Amy Grant

When we pour out our miseries, He hears a melody of us needing and desiring what only He can give. Our honest cries and breaking hearts are ripe for Him to do a hallelujah kind of work.
But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:9-10
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