Sunday, December 28, 2014

Why I Quit Making New Year's Resolutions

Y'all, I became a Bible Scholar this year. 

But not really. Not even close. However, even still- as I neared the last chapter in Revelation early one morning a few weeks ago, y'all I promise I could hear the distinct beginnings of the sound of the graduation march floating through my living room.  

That's right: It only took me 30 years, but this gal *right here* just read her ENTIRE BIBLE. I started in Genesis and read allllll the way through. Every single page was turned. I wrapped up Revelation at the beginning of December and believe me when I say that nobody's more shocked at that fact than me.  

Before y'all think I'm getting all Pharisaical and all "street corner standing/trumpet tooting" there are some things I have to confess about my recent "Bible-Scholar-Situation". (Other than the fact that reading my entire Bible did not, in fact, miraculously make me a Bible scholar. Like, not even close.

First up: It took me a LONG time to finish. Two Decembers ago (2012) our preacher Wayne Rodgers, taught a Bible class about reading through our Bibles. Specifically, reading it cover-to-cover. He spoke about the importance of daily Bible study and benefits of taking time each day to read and meditate on the scriptures and handed out bookmarks that outlined a 365 day plan to outline how to read through your Bible. (So what if it took me almost two years to finish. Who's counting, amIright??)

2nd confession: I had already attempted reading through my bible. Plenty of times. I can remember being a teenager and spying the little blank boxes next to the passage sections in my old, trusty, pink leather study Bible. I got started reading through them, happily marking off each day's reading and being pleased when I saw the column begin to fill up with all those neat little check marks. It felt good, it felt fulfilling to see my progress, but inevidebly, it would get pushed to the back of my mind, and my daily readings began to be fewer and farther between until one day, I just flat quit. I stopped looking at those blank columns in the back of my Bible and forgot all about that lofty and seemingly unattainable goal I'd set.

I mentioned those blank bookmarks our church passed out a couple of Decembers ago. I took one as the stack was shuffled down the pew and honestly didn't think I would ever really get down to working on it.(Ouch. Sorry, Wayne!) But I came home that next week and spied it sticking out the edge of my Bible. Other than the Holy Spirit's direct leading, I can't really say what pushed me to start. I started the first few day's worth of readings, and proceeded to complete the Creation Story, Adam & Eve, Cain and Abel, and was beginning on the story of Noah when I realized that there was something different happening to me this time. 

I met Noah that day. Like really, really, met him. I was there when he built the ark. And when all.those.animals showed up at his front door asking him for room and board for a while. I sat with him and his family inside the ark as the door shut and the rain started. I heard the cries from his friends and neighbors begging to be let in as the waters started rising. I cried with him as he mourned the losses of every person and place and thing he knew was washed away in that cleansing tide. I got cabin fever with him as he fed and tended and tried not to squabble with his sons while they waited for the Earth to dry out. I was hopeful with him when they released the raven and was disappointed with him when it returned. I was cautiously optimistic with him when he released his dove the first and rejoiced with him when it didn't return on the second attempt. I waited with him. And waited and then waited SOME MORE for the mud to dry. And I was there with them when God spoke and told them that He would never destroy the Earth with a flood again. I loved that promise- just like Noah did. 

And my experience continued that way as I read my way through my Bible. I was reintroduced to people I'd heard stories of my entire life, but had never really known. I got to know men and women who's lives have impacted mine- they have permanently changed the person I am. I knew all about Abraham and Joseph and Moses and Joshua and Saul and David and Solomon and Elijah and Elisha and Daniel. I'd learned all the apostles' names and read all the parables, but never before had I been there. I believe it's that daily, cover-to-cover journey through my Bible that led me to those relationships. 

I didn't get this thing done in 365 days. It took me nearly TWICE THAT LONG to get to the end. And y'all, that is OK. In the middle of my Biblical walkabout, I got pregnant, had a subsequently high-risk pregnancy, birthed a baby and raised that newborn along with a 3 year and an 18 month old. I didn't get to read my Bible every day. There was a season in my life right after the baby was born that I didn't even read it every week. But I missed it. I missed my 5:11am daily coffee date with Jesus. And, as soon as that season passed, and I was able to sacrifice some of those extra hours of sleep that I was no longer using to nurse a screaming baby, I was able to dive back in. 

And that's the beauty of why I believe I was finally successful for the first time ever, to actually complete a New Year's Resolution. Because even though I got derailed sometimes. Even though I had to press 'pause' for a while when my life got crazy- I never quit because it had become a habit. Bingo, y'all: IT HAD BECOME A HABIT. 

And I had a circle of people supporting me. I'd text my husband or my best friend in Japan updates as I completed each book and as I pushed my way through some of the Old Testament. When I got through the prophets, I really began to think that I may actually finish. I propelled myself through the last of the OT and once I started the New Testament, I realized there was no stopping me. 

My daily Bible study had become transformed from something that I "had" to do into something that I "needed" to do. My behavior, my mindset, my view- had changed. Studying my Bible every morning before the kids woke up had somehow morphed from a resolution I was working to maintain into a habit that I had started to keep without even thinking about it. On the days that I was rushed or tired or hit my iPhone's snooze button 17 times, I could tell. Finding myself through this journey has been something that has changed my life forever. 

If you're looking for a something to challenge and change your life in 2015, let me encourage you to do it by beginning (or strengthening) your daily Bible study. There have been so, so many resolutions that I've started and failed through the years: drinking more water (That's actually a really good one. I really do need to hydrate. I'll probably put this one back on the top of my 2015 list. Especially when you read the next up on my crashed-and-burned list.), drinking less coffee (Before you ask- NO. Not worth it. I need two things to survive: The first is Jesus. The second is COFFEE.), flossing (Sorry! I'll grab a few of the kid's flossers and shove them in my toothpaste drawer tonight.), squats (Does picking up the baby count?), yoga (I reached all the way to my tippy toes to grab a roll of paper towels out the top of the laundry room shelf this morning, does that count?), walking (I run around the house searching for kids and cups and lost LEGO men. I probably clock 20,000 steps before lunchtime.), running (Oh man, WHAT WAS I THINKING), balancing my checkbook (that's one that I really do plan on keeping up with in 2015. It's been balanced to the penny for the last 6 weeks and I'm not gonna drop the ball this time! Huzzah!), washing my face with those 17 step cleansing routines (At the end of the day, y'all, I JUST WANT TO GO TO BED.), and, finally- letting my hair grow (Have y'all seen the micropixie I ended up with recently??!)

Having resolutions is a good thing- I plan on starting 2015 with a few resolutions that I'd like to work on to help me better myself this year. But I don't want to keep seeing them as resolutions because, to me, that makes them seem lofty and somewhat unattainable and easily forgettable. I want to start 2015 by creating new habits in my life. Because habits become part of you. Part of your nature, your personality, your sense of self. If I can figure out a few habits that will help improve something in my life this year, then I am ALL ABOUT THAT. Bring on drinking more water and knowing where every penny Matt makes is actually located. Carpe Diem and all the rest of that good stuff, 2015!! 

IMPORTANT PEP TALK: Don't let yourself become defeated the first time you slip up. Because you will. And I will. We all will. (Let's just agree to blame Eve and get back on the horse, shall we?) For me, I think, to be more successful at drinking more water or keeping my checkbook balanced, I have to stop thinking of those behaviors as resolutions I'm working to keep and turn them into habits I'm training myself to follow. And you can, too! 

Because once you've stopped viewing things like resolutions and start looking at them like habits, you'll realize you've already won the war. You may lose a battle or two along the way, but even still- your journey into 2015 has already become a successful one. 

Happy (almost!) New Year, y'all!  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Deck The Halls With... cans of Lysol??

Because y'all- that has been the general theme of our Christmas this year. 

Last Tuesday night, my oldest son Luke spiked a 102º fever. He had been complaining all afternoon of being "freezing" and spent the entire little's nap time snuggled under the comforter of our queen sized bed. Around 5pm, when he asked me if he could put on a SWEATSHIRT, I decided to check his temperature and sure enough, is was clocking in at a tidy 102.1º. 

I immediately felt awful for ignoring his symptoms earlier that day. (Enter the latest round of Mom guilt to wash over me like the streams of vomit that were awaiting to cover me a mere 5 days in my future.) I dosed him with some Tylenol to help him rest and held him in my arms as he cried himself to sleep- complaining of stomach aches and tummy trouble. It was the sweetest and saddest thing ever, y'all. 

He woke up Wednesday morning, still feverish, but much more like himself. He ran fever just above 100º all day, but that was without meds so I was hopeful that he was on the mend and had just suffered a weird 24 hour fever virus. 

Y'all, I could not have been more wrong because in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Armageddon struck The McReynolds Manor. The righteous fury that unleashed itself onto my household began with alarming pleas from Luke's bed: "Momma! I hadsa accident! My bed is all weaaat!" I rushed into my Big Kid's bedroom to discover that his bed was in fact wet, but that to my 5:30am's disappointed version of myself- IT WAS NOT URINE. 

I sprang into action, stripping sheets and pillowcases. I cleaned up my pitiful 4 year old Luke, and of course inadvertently woke up my sleeping 2.5 year old Josie in the process. I grabbed the spray bottle of rubbing alcohol and Lysol and got to work cleaning and sanitizing all the things and all the places. The big kids were pumped to be up so early, (I, on the other hand, knew what this was going to really mean come 11am.) especially because it meant sippy cups on the couch and early morning Netflix bingeing while I did everything short of dumping gasoline on their room and lighting a match to get it cleaned. 

While I cleaned, Luke began to really get sick. I mean like the unavoidable, uncontainable, indescribable kind of sick that you hear Moms tell stories about but you doubt can really exist because it's just.that.horrific. The Brown Death had invaded, y'all. I was completely unprepared. Between trips to the bathroom (Which is a whole other sanitization process ENTIRELY: All the edges and lids and sides and bowls and floors and sinks and towels and hands. And it was happened.) and outfit changes- the laundry pile really started growing. I was developing my very own Mt. Washmore and I began to worry that I wasn't going to be able to conquer it. 

That's when, in true life/real world fashion, I was dealt another card because: THE BABY WOKE UP. And he was crying. Loudly. I walked down the hall, opened the nursery door, and before I even flipped on the overhead light- I KNEW. I knew that my life had just gone from 'bad' to 'worse' because as I innocently opened the nursery door the odiferous, wafting wall of the smell of baby dirt hit me so hard I'm surprised I didn't get a black eye. Before I'd even laid my eyes on the "situation" that awaited me in Nathan's nursery I knew it had to be BAD. And, sure enough, once my shaking hands managed to flip the light switch on, I beheld the carnage that awaited me. 

It was as if The Apocalypse had occurred sometime in the night, and my sweet baby Nathan was the only survivor left. The state of his crib was so unbelievable that, for about :17 seconds, I was paralyzed. My feet were literally frozen to the carpet. I could view the scene before me, but it was as if my brain was not able to compute what my eyes were seeing. Baby dirt had exploded onto every surface and blanket and crib slat and sheet that was within a 45 ft. radius of the bed. Nathan was crying pitifully, covered in the same Brown Death as he stood there on that brown battlefield, crying for me, his Mom, to come rescue him from the carnage that had become his bedroom. 

After my arms and hands and feet and brain began working again, I did the only thing I knew to do: I picked up my crying baby and brought him, fully dressed, to the bathtub. I took out all the tub toys and cups and wet washrags that were lying in the bottom of the tub from the previous night's bath with the only 3 fingers I still had that weren't defiled with the Brown Death. I plunked my pitiful boy in there while I undressed him and began to try to rinse out the jammie pants and top that would probably never be clean enough to be able to see the light of day again. 

After I'd cleaned him up (And myself. Again.), I returned to the Apoloyptic scene waiting for me in his nursery. I repeated all the steps I'd completed in the Big Kid's bedroom while praying fervently that I had enough laundry soap to wash every blanket and towel and set of sheets in our house. The room was restored to order and sanitized- as was the rest of the house- and I began to leave the "Clean Up" phase of this saga and progressed to the "Virus Containment" section. 

My sister-in-love and niece sprang into action, retrieving a long list of necessary supplies for me from the store: new bottles of rubbing alcohol and cans of Lysol and 561 bananas and 28 boxes of Saltines and economy sized boxes of diapers and wipes and a huge tube of Boudreaux's Butt Paste. They rolled into my driveway like a SWAT team, practically threw the supplies into my garage while holding their breath, grabbed the check to pay for all the groceries and were gone, all in less than 4 minutes. They were like angels sent straight from Heaven, ready to replenish my depleted pantry and help me stock my icebox with all the things that you need when you're doing battle and waging war against the Brown Death. 

In the following days, we stayed home. We ate a million bananas and drank 48 gallons of Orange Gatorade. (Mom tip: Buy a can of the powdered Gatorade concentrate for just this reason. When my kids get sick, my number one concern is to keep them hydrated, especially when they're battling such a strong virus like this one. Bottles of Gatorade are bulky and take up lots of pantry/icebox space to store. A can of Gatorade is small, contains enough powder to make a small swimming pool full of electrolyte goodness and doesn't expire.) We developed a bathroom sanitation routine that we followed every.single.time we used the commode. We washed our hands like Pharisees. We went through paper towels and cans of Lysol and laundry soap like we were The Duggars and prayed that the Brown Death would pass soon. 

Mercifully, Josie never succumbed to the Brown Death. Nathan fought it for a few days, but then emerged victorious. Luke, however, was not as fortunate. He waged war against the virus for almost a week, with no real improvement in sight.

I called our pediatrician's office on the morning of Day Five. She assured me that there was nothing else I could be doing or should be doing to help the virus end sooner. She said it was a particularly strong strain (She wasn't lying. I caught a stream of Gatorade and animal cracker vomit in my BARE HANDS not an hour prior to our phone call that morning.) that was taking 3-5 days to cycle through their systems. I had another angelic WalMart supply delivery from my other niece and I began pumping Luke full of Kefir and probiotics and bananas and smoothies. And by the end of Day 5, he was so.much.better. Hallelujah, y'all. 


We are currently waiting with baited breath to leave Florida and visit our families for Christmas. While we don't want to be without our Louisiana relatives at Christmastime, we most certainly don't want to be those people who gave everyone The Brown Death that one year at Christmas. We've pushed our departure back 24 hours to give us an extra day to make sure everyone is healthy and happy and it looks like we just may make it. 

I hope that you and your's are experiencing a healthy and happy Christmas season. And, if you're not- just know that you're not alone. This year, I've decked my halls with cans of Lysol. Instead of the smell of fresh baked cookies wafting through my house, it's been the antiseptic scent of diluted rubbing alcohol. 

Despite these unwelcome circumstances, there have still been good times: We've watched Christmas movies and played with our white board Nativity pieces. We've read Luke Chapter 2 and made paper plate glittered angels. There are handprint Christmas trees hanging on our walls and our amaryllis bulb is finally blooming perfectly on top of our icebox. We've survived this less than perfect lead up to our Christmas season, knowing that as long as the five of us are together, despite our inabilities to fully digest solid food, we will still have all the Christmas spirit we need. 

That said, we are still praying to close the 24 hour symptom free window in about an hour so that tomorrow we can leave to visit our families in Louisiana with clear consciences. Because, while The Brown Death is certainly the gift that keeps on giving, it's not one that we'd ever want to share this holiday season. 

I pray that y'all have a blessed Christmas with y'all's family and friends. And, if there's a lagniappe piece of pecan pie at y'all's house- feel free to eat it for me!

Merry Christmas, y'all! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bring 'Em When They're Little: a post about football games and family worship

As I drink my coffee this morning and prepare myself for attending church with my brood of littles, I'm thinking about all the other Moms who are gearing up to do the same thing. 

{Sunday morning pep talk, y'all}: We can do this, ladies! 

We can pack all the crayons and stuff our church bags with quiet toys and find that missing socks' mate with grit and determination because we know that by enduring the craziness that comes along with 2.5 hours of Bible class and worship we are installing an example of our priorities in our children. We may miss most of the sermon, our blood pressure may be peaking by the last song and at the end of worship our pew may look like a tsunami hit it, BUT WE WERE THERE with our families, attending and showing them that there's no place we'd rather be on the first day of the week than with our church family worshipping Christ who saved dirty, rotten sinners like us. 

My most important job is to point my kids to Heaven, and in my opinion, it's never too early to start showing them the roadmap to get there. 

People sometimes comment that bringing small children to worship is pointless because they are "too young" to understand it. They say that they'll bring their kids to church when they're old enough to sit still or tall enough to see the song leader or smart enough to read their own bulletins. 

But I want to challenge that message with this thought: Do they watch sports with their young kids? Because I know we do. We're huge football fans and there are plenty of times that we watch games as a family- even with our brood of three littles who are 4, 2, and 1 years old. 

They can't comprehend the in's and out's of trick plays and quarterbacks and defensive linemen, but we don't shoo them out the room to other places because they're "too young" to understand it all. We explain it to them- sometimes more than once each game. (And by we, I really mean my husband, Matt. Because until we got married almost 10 years ago I was still pretty foggy on the whole offense vs. defense thing. True story, y'all. I am a football newbie.) We don't make them go into another room to play until they're old enough to discuss BCS rankings or the fine art of a perfectly executed onsides kick. We pull them into our laps and teach them while we watch. We pause the game to explain field goals and point out the path of a flying football. We talk about the separate teams' colors and discuss who our players are and how to spot them on the field. 

And y'all, that's what we do during worship, too. 

We whisper in our big kid's ears every Sunday about communion and song leading and baptisms and responses for prayer. We show them how to flip through song books and our Bibles to find our places. They get to look through our bulletins and Bible class handouts during the sermons while we attempt to focus on the lesson because we are TEACHING them how to worship. 

And while parts of the services will surely fly right over my youngest's head, I can know assuredly that even so, he's young enough to recognize our love for Jesus through our efforts. We may have to take turns escaping out the back doors with that fussy 1 year old, but even so, he will grow up understanding where we placed priority because we sacrificed our schedules and our social events and sometimes our sanity to put the effort into our church attendance and participation every week. And that's what makes all the blood, sweat, and tears that can be will be shed while we attend worship and Bible classes and song services and prayer meetings with our kids worth it. 

So the next time you're hesitant to pile the kids in your van and take up pew space for a couple of hours because they're "too young" to understand, think about football- and your priorities- and focus on The One that won't be over at the end of 4 Quarters. Worship gives our kids access to Christ for eternity. And there's no better overtime than that.

"I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." - John  (3 John 1:4)