Doing What He Loves

It’s not secret (or surprise) that in my marriage, I’m definitely the vocal one. I’m the social secretary, theimg_1727 extrovert, the one with a blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account. Trent has none of those things and checks his personal email about twice a month. But if I’m the mouth, then he’s definitely the hands. He is a such a hard-worker, both in his paid job and in his life. For those of you who don’t know, Trent is a pediatric physical therapist. Although I don’t get to be there for the day-to-day interactions with his patients and their families, I occasionally get a glimpse into how Trent brings his own special strengths (among them being his integrity, work-ethic, and willingness to be super silly with children) to his career.img_0273

But from the very first year of his employment, Trent has dreamed out loud about using his degree and his skills on a short-term mission trip. After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, I had to hold him back from hopping on a plane to Port-au-Prince. Instead, we sent in our adoption application and began another adventure with plenty of fundraising involved.

In April of 2015, Trent got to experience his dream when he was invited to be a part of a team to Ecuador that used his exact skills and strengths to work with children who needed orthopedic medical care, but did not have access or funding.  The trip was immensely fulfilling and powerful for Trent, and as soon as he came home and showed me the photos and I saw his eyes as he told me the stories, I knew it would not be his last.   He has been asked to participate again with the same surgeon and team, and they will be traveling in February.

img_0173My part is to cheer him on, hold down the fort while he’s gone and use my big mouth to help him raise some funds to offset the cost of the trip. Will you please read this letter from my hubby and consider supporting him? It’s never fun to ask for money, but we’ve learned it is part of how God humbles and works through us.

THANK YOU!

Dear family and friends,

In 2015, I had the incredible opportunity to fulfill a long-time desire of mine, which was to use my professional license on a volunteer basis in an underserved and low-income area. My time in Ecuador with Dr. David Shaw, orthopedic surgeon, and the team from from Capital City Medical Teams was life-changing, and I was honored to again be asked to join a medical team led by this godly man.

Our team will be traveling to Peru in early February of 2017.  Dr. Shaw will lead a surgical team and perform dozens of procedures during our time in country. My role is to work with patients and their families after the surgery, as they learn to stand and walk again. I will also be working closely with an orthotics specialist to treat patients who do not need surgery, but need orthotic support, such as braces, crutches or the correct fitting wheel chair.  When I served in Ecuador with Dr. Shaw, I learned to expect long days serving dozens of children, but I’m ready and looking forward to using my skills in this way.

As you can imagine there can be a significant cost associated with a trip like this: approximately $2500. It was definitely a step of faith that I accepted the invitation to be a part of this team. It is very uncomfortable for me to ask for financial support, but at this time our family cannot fully finance this trip. As a result I am humbly reaching out for your assistance of any kind. Tax deductible donations can be made to Capital City Medical Teams with the memo line of the check reading “recommended for Trent Tompkins.”

Donations can also be made online at www.ccmedicalteams.org. I understand that financial contributions are not an option for some, and I would appreciate your prayer support for the trip and my family while I am away. I’m praying that God would use our team in a big way.

Thank you for your support,

Trent Tompkins, PT, DPT, PCS

Jen’s note: To donate at www.ccmedicalteams.org, follow these steps:

  1. On the home page, select “Donations” on the far right.
  2. Click on the first yellow DONATE button. 
  3. If you pay with a card, follow up the donation with a quick email to info@ccmedicalteams.org letting them know your donation is “RECOMMENDED for Trent Tompkins.”
  4. If you pay via Paypal, there is a place for “additional information” right under the USD amount, where you will add “RECOMMENDED for Trent Tompkins.”

Change the Testimony

When I was in a high school, I was big time into “Youth Group.”  That’s what we called church for teenagers back then. Partly because it was expected by my parents and partly because I actually liked it, I attended every Sunday morning worship service, every retreat, every camp.  It was my jam for most of the early-to-mid 90’s.  I remember one year when we went on a mission trip, our youth pastor told us that each of us was going to have to publicly share our “testimony.”  We panicked.  And every time the topic came up, he would break the ice by giving his sample testimony:  “I grew up in a good home, but I started hanging out with the wrong crowd.  I partied too much and drank a lot. Then I got into second grade and Jesus changed my life.”  Haha.  We would laugh and then go back to panicking.

But the truth was that some of my friends did have fairly dramatic stories of how God had turned their life around.  One girl’s dad died when she was in middle school and she fell into a paralyzing depression.  One kid had been arrested for a DUI at age 16, which was pretty hardcore in our sheltered little circle.  Others had been shoplifting, doing drugs, sleeping around.  And of course, they were able to then share about how becoming a Christian provided a stark change to their lives.

img724
My learning has not all been spiritual. I learned that maybe if you didn’t wear athletic socks and jellies you might have better luck in t-ball. And I learned that athletics would not be my calling. Or hats.

And then there was me.  I was a habitual rule-following, compliant child who asked Jesus into my heart at age 8 and had such an annoyingly strong conscience that I once lied to my 7th grade homeroom teacher’s face and later that day I vomited in the bathroom.  Goody Two-Shoes to the core.  When it was my turn to tell my testimony, I felt like I could hear the eye-rolls (yes, hear them) and yawns from around the room. BO-RING.

Earlier this week I was talking with some friends about this very topic.  Those of us who accepted the Lord at a young age don’t necessarily have exciting conversion stories of who we were “before Jesus” and “after Jesus.”  All of our drama has come in the after.  But who says that means it is less powerful of a story?

I think we are quick to negate how much change God will do in the life of a person who already knows Him.  We celebrate at the sinner who repents and finds the amazing gift of grace, and we forget that WE ARE SINNERS who need to repent and we still have access to that amazing gift of grace.  And instead of poo-pooing our testimony because we were already “pretty good” at the time we accepted salvation, we should be shouting from the rooftops how God has worked in our lives and how He is STILL working in our lives to change us and mold us.  Sometimes it is an internal change over time, and sometimes it is harsh and quick and due to life circumstances that we never anticipated. (Can I get an AMEN?)

I want to be the type of Christian that can quickly identify that I am continually CHANGED by the love of Christ!  The change began in my youth but it continues to this very morning!

Baby Jen (17 years old) on my first trip to Haiti.
Baby Jen (17 years old) on my first trip to Haiti.

I personally want to tell you that knowing Jesus has changed the desires of my heart.  The things I used to long for and crave have been replaced by new longings that are more in line with Him.  More and more I see that the things that break His heart are breaking mine.  I know without a doubt that being loved by the Lord has made me LOVE people more, especially people who are not exactly like me. This does not come naturally for me, so I know this is supernatural.  His love has softened me, and at times it has broken me.   In the best possible way.

He has given me a hunger for His Word.  An affection for it that brings me to tears.  I’ll be brutally honest and admit that this is a longing that has only been truly evident in the last few years. That means for much of my Christian life, I knew and read Scripture with quite a bit of apathy and definitely inconsistency.  But this is a change in my heart that I know is from Him!  And the more I study, the more I want to study. It’s funny like that.

Learning more about who I am in Christ has simultaneously humbled me and filled me with confidence.  I don’t know if that even makes sense, but I feel it in my core.  I am humbled by how flawed and in need of grace I am.  I fall on my knees and admit that I have so, so much to learn and so far to go in being like Christ. But I am filled with confidence that the God of the universe adores me and believes in me and gives me a fresh start every. Single. Day.  He thinks I’m worthy of deep, deep love.

Those are just a few examples of how I have been changed by accepting the grace of God.  And just because those changes happened after I said a prayer and asked Jesus into my heart does not make them less important for me to acknowledge or to share with others.  I think maybe this is what Paul was getting at when he encouraged the Philippians that “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 1:6.)  We continue to pursue and recognize change in our hearts and lives, not because it is required to keep our salvation, but because He delights in continuing to make us more like Him.  And the more we are changed, the more we long for it. It’s funny like that.

Also back in the 90’s we used to sing a song with the words “I will never be the same again.”  I sincerely hope that is true of myself 30 years ago.  But I pray it is also true of myself 10 years ago and 10 hours ago.

A testimony is the story of how Jesus has changed a person’s life.  And that will never, ever get boring.

I really want to know: how has the grace of God changed you?

Where have you been?!

I’ve been having so much fun writing for the Portland Moms Blog!  In case you missed it, here are a few of my favorite articles that I wrote this summer:

Why I Won’t Tell You About My Son’s Real Mom

28 Signs You May be a BOY Mom

Nine Steps to a Child-Free Vacation

You’re a Good Mama

Boogrs, Barf and the Baptism of Motherhood

A Letter to my Pregnant Self (10 years later)

Unfortunately, all my creative juices have been used to be a contributor for this fun new community, so my own personal blog has been sorely ignored.  Thank you for checking in!  I hope to be back to writing sporadically and without warning or consistency.  You’re welcome!

 

Friday Favorites: Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

I haven’t done a book review for Friday Favorites since last fall, and I’ve got a GOOD one!   I’ve been writing the review up in my head since the first few pages, and I devoured the rest of the book in just a few sittings.  I like it so much that I’m giving away a copy!  (Details at the bottom of the post.)  Now, before I tell you about it, I need to give a disclaimer that I realize this is not going to be in everyone’s wheelhouse.  I’ve been having so much fun writing for The Portland Moms Blog (check out one of my articles here), where my job is to write about things that matter to a majority of mamas, especially in the Portland area.  But it’s not the place where I can write about my faith, which is what matters most to ME!   This new book I love is definitely aimed at women who have a relationship with Jesus and want to study the Bible better.  If that is not you, and this post is not for you, I love you anyway!  And if you are at all curious about Jesus or the Bible or this book, I would LOVE to talk to you!  Email, comment or message me anytime.

Now, on to the juice.  Recently my friend Chris posted a pic on Instagram of a new book called Women of the Word: How to study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds by Jen Wilkin.   I was intrigued, especially by the second part, so I ordered a copy.  I have been a Christian for 30-ish years, but only in the last seven or eight have I begun to pursue true study of God’s Word.  I’m horrified when I think back at my college years at a Christian university, attending multiple semesters of Bible classes with incredibly wise professors, and I couldn’t wait for class to be over so I could go lay out by the pool and flirt with boys.  [face palm]

But as I have (hopefully) matured in life and in faith, and now that I’m out of the baby and toddler years of parenting, I’ve found my desire to 51LColNJw-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_be in the Word increases with the amount of time I spend in the Word.  Make sense?  The more I learn, the more I realize how very little I actually know, and I crave to know more.  Having had the occasional opportunity to teach from Scripture has excited me even more! And I can honestly say that Jen Wilkin’s book has challenged me as a lover of Jesus and student of the Gospel more than I have been in years.

I want you all to go buy this book and read it, so I won’t give away all the awesome nuggets of wisdom and encouragement. First, this book is not a “Bible Study.”  It is a resource. I want to paraphrase in my own words one of the concepts that resonated with me.  The subtitle of the book is “How to study the Bible with both our hearts and our minds.”  Jen points out that, especially as women, the emotional part of faith and Scripture often comes naturally to us.   We love to find a Scripture that just speaks to our hearts and brings tears to our eyes.  We enjoy singing worship songs that express our hearts and our love for the Lord.  We willingly pray and weep with others over their sorrow and joy.  And Jen asserts many times in the book that there is nothing wrong with experiencing faith with our hearts.  God created us to be emotional beings with FEELINGS, and we would be robots if we were not to acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives!

But sometimes we allow the “heart” part of our faith to stand alone, especially when it comes to studying Scripture.   Wilkin challenges us to take our Bible study to the next level–to do some research, answer a few questions and be a little more thorough.  For instance, many of us have a favorite verse or two, and we use it to encourage and comfort.  But do we know who wrote the book this verse comes from?  Do we know the context of the situation and who the author is writing to?  What did the author mean?  Are there other verses in Scripture that can help me understand this verse better?  Very often we are quick to take a verse out of context and just ask, what does this mean to ME?  Jen’s challenge is to remember that the Bible is a book about GOD.  It is not a book about ME.  The more I study this God book, the more I learn about the nature and character of God.  And as I grow in that knowledge, then I can ask: how should this change me?  How should I respond to this understanding of WHO God is? Her proposition is that the more we study the Bible with our minds, the more it enhances the faith of our hearts.

I am often the first to get defensive when an author is challenging my status quo, but I felt that Jen handled her “arguments” graciously and without insulting me.  I may not have completely seen eye to eye on every little detail, but what I took away from the book was an inspiration to pull her concepts into any Bible study I’m doing, whether it is a pre-packaged topical study, or a verse by verse inductive study I do on my own.   I was actually so fired up about the book that I went to Jen’s website (www.jenwilkin.net) and found out that she has taught several Bible studies that are free on podcast, and include a PDF study guide that can be downloaded.  I’m working my way through the Abide 123 John study this summer and I’m loving it.

Whether a newish Christian or an oldish Christian, I think we can all learn and improve on our study of the Bible.   His Word is powerful and will never return void, and the more we invest in our understanding of it, the more we stand to gain.  Wherever you are in your walk with the Lord, this relatively short resource (152 pages) will kindle your love for Scripture and help you become a better student of it.

If you would like to be entered to WIN A COPY of Jen Wilkin’s book, leave a comment on the blog or on facebook answering the question: what book have you read recently that you would recommend?  (It can be fiction or non-fiction.)  I’ll do a drawing on Sunday night!

 

Five Stages of Summer Vacation Acceptance

As a mostly stay-at-home-mom with two kids in school, I have mixed feelings about summer vacation.  I adore my kids, and love spending time with them.  They are three of the most funny, creative and energetic people in earth.  But during the hours and hours of unstructured free time at home from mid-June to the beginning of September, a mystical fog descends upon our home, and it has a bewitching influence.  The symptoms of the fog-induced behavior include excessive whining, heightened sibling rivalry, loss of creativity and constant requests for snacks.   I’ve had a front row seat to this summer show for a few years now, and I’ve noticed a progression of emotions in myself and other moms as June rolls around.

The Five Stages of Summer Vacation Acceptance*

(*Any similarity to the five stages of grief are merely coincidental.)

  1. Denial. 

Denial occurs after spring break in the weeks leading up to summer vacation.  By April, mothers have become very accustomed to the routine of dropping off one or more children at the local school in the morning and trusting their well-being to other professional adults for 3-7 hours.   During this time we accomplish many tasks, from caring for younger siblings to running errands, working part-time, preparing meals, making necessary phone calls, cleaning houses and checking our Instagram feed.  We fully realize that ALL of these tasks are much more difficult when the children are home all day long, but we are not yet ready to face reality.  We barely acknowledge that this structured schedule will abruptly come to an end in mere weeks.  We definitely do not think about mothers who work full-time AND do all of these tasks or the homeschooling mothers.   We’re in denial.

  1. Excitement

In late May, denial gives way for excitement.  We have one or two really warm days in a row, and the kids play together happily in the sprinkler for hours, while we sit on the porch watching with a smile on our face and an iced coffee in our hands.  They really are great kids.  Maybe we find our plastic popsicle mold and have visions of making fresh, healthy all-fruit popsicles for our wonderful kids and their friends.  The evenings get longer and warmer, and deck furniture comes out of hibernation.  When the first wonderful backyard dinner from the grill fills my nostrils with happy smells, I am really coming around to the whole “summer” idea.   It’s gonna be awesome.IMG_4908

The stage of excitement is spurred on not merely by the positive aspects of summer, but also by the increasingly annoying aspects of the daily school grind.  Everyone is staying up later during those warm evenings, so getting the whole crew up, fed, dressed and out the door in time for school becomes increasingly difficult.  Homework gets forgotten much more often, permission slips get lost and I’m counting down with irritation how many more times I have to fill a little snack baggie with small items that begin with letters of the alphabet, because now we are down to U, Q and X and no one remembers they are due on Wednesday morning until Wednesday morning.   We haven’t filled out a second grade reading log since Valentine’s Day, and haven’t bothered to feel guilty about it since Easter.   Lazy mornings with nowhere to be and nothing to remember are starting to sound very, very nice.  OK, summer, I permit you to approach.

  1. Bargaining/Scheduling

IMG_5273As the inevitable LDOS (last day of school) approaches, we make unspoken deals with our children.  In our family, the kids know that I will allow a little more screen time than usual, they’ll get to stay up late playing in the yard and will eat their weight in Otter Pops. I expect that by loosening the reins a bit, we’ll have a rip-roaring great time and all get along.   We also begin planning how we will keep busy, which we proclaim is for their benefit, but it’s really to preserve our own sanity.  We get the calendars out and mark them up the ying-yang.  Swimming lessons, playdates, VBS and sports camps.  You name it, we’re signing up for it.  The bargaining comes when we have too many empty weeks, but the budget is gone and something FREE comes along.  “Soccer camp!  You LOVE soccer!  It’s so fun!  You’ll love it.  Please love it.  Please try it.  I’ll find a friend to go with you.  Well, WE’RE DOING IT. Get your shin guards.“golf boys

Now, I know what you are thinking.   Don’t overschedule your children!  Give them lots of free time to just PLAY and be children!  They need to build up their imagination and creativity.  I know, I read those articles too.  That is such a great parenting method IN THEORY.  Or maybe it’s perfect for your family.  In our family, if we don’t have anything planned at all, by 8:15 am the children are destroying the house and each other.   We need a reason to get out of the house each day.  Each of these events is a mere 1-2 hours, which leaves PLENTY of unstructured boredom–I mean playtime.   Believe me, we’ve tried both and in this family?  Some structure > no structure.

  1. Panic

Just as we’re starting to really look forward to being with these precious angels all the livelong day, and we’re so excited about the warm weather and laid-back mornings, inevitably we’ll have what I like to call a “summer preview” day.  This is often the last early release school day of the year, when the kids and neighbors are all home by 12:30 pm, and I assume they will frolic in the sun with their like-minded playmates.  But then, by 12:55, someone has clocked someone else in the face with a light saber, the brand-new sprinkler is broken because of rough play, the bickering and tattling can clearly be heard two streets over and when I offer some ideas for re-direct, the only response I get is constant complaints of boredom and our lack of exciting yard toys.   And it’s only 1:15.   Summer now scares me.

This loud drama of ONE AFTERNOON sends my blood pressure through the roof, and when I think of repeating this scenario for 91 days, I go into a slight panic.  I DO want my kids to learn how to deal with their boredom.  I DO want my kids to be forced to be creative.  I DO want them to have fun experiences at home and not remember summer as the time mom was such a grouch.   But how can I give them freedom and not give myself a stress-induced heart-acarwashattack?  In my panic, I go to the wise source of parenting knowledge that has all the answers for new millennium moms: Pinterest.

c9799c6fc947fb50f8344ba18f588ddcknow I’m not alone in this.  We stay up late to scour all pins associated with “summer fun activities” or “summer crafts” or “summer boredom busters.”  In a matter of moments we can be convinced that the salvation for summer
chaos will be provided by the perfect backyard activity.  All you need is some PVC pipe, pool noodles, windmills, drill bits, a saw, a tarp and a general contractor at your disposal.  According to Pinterest, in order to keep my kids occupied, I will also need to be fully stocked with glow sticks, chalk paint, mural-sized butcher paper,  mason jars and burlap.  And outdoor movie screen and projector with a hanging pallet loveseat would also be helpful.  But then it’s midnight, and I’m depressed and go cry myself to sleep, because I know I’ll never get that crap together, and my poor kids will have to suffice with bubbles and an old swing set.

  1. Acceptance

The first few days of summer are usually a little rocky as we adjust to the constant presence of each other.  For instance, maybe you take your kids to the library on the first day of summer and after breaking up a huge fight between your kids at the self-check-out machine, you find out you have to go to the big check out desk in the middle of the quiet grown-up section because you owe THIRTY EIGHT DOLLARS in late fees, and as you are trying to quietly check out, your youngest child throws a massive kicking-and-screaming meltdown, pees his pants (even though you were in the restroom with him three minutes earlier) and the librarian tells you he needs to be quiet.  (So helpful.) Or maybe that was just me last Friday.

But other things happen too.  Maybe a middle child sets up a very creative stuffed-animal kennel in her room, and the other children kindly drop off and pick up multiple animals.  Or an older brother plays basketball with a younger IMG_3379brother without being asked and without causing physical injury.  Or everyone sits around playing Battleship and no one accuses anyone of cheating.  Or we find the perfect u-pick cherry place 10 minutes away or have a rocking playdate.  Or free soccer camp turns out to be a huge hit.  And somewhere in June, the panic fades and a mostly-contented exhaustion sets in.   We accept the summer season and all it has to offer.  The sibling rivalry and emotional meltdowns still exist, but we learn to CO-exist for those 14 waking hours.  Yes, it’s a LOT more work having three little bodies desiring entertainment and engagement allstinkingday, but it can also be a lot of fun.   So we banish the bewitching fog and re-claim our backyards, where bubbles and an old school swing set really are enough.

Flashback: Potty Training

So, I’ve been having a blast writing for Portland Moms Blog (check out my latest post about whether or not I let my daughter be a princess), but it does seem that I do not have the bandwidth to write for my own blog at the same time.  So, please forgive the silence on this site and also enjoy this re-run.  It is from 7 years ago, so maybe some of you missed it.  This is the diary of my very first time ever potty-training a toddler, and I happened to be 38 weeks pregnant at the time.  SUCH FUN!  I want to give a big shout out to all of you toddler mamas.  It’s a special kind of crazytown, that season.  You WILL survive. I promise.

I WILL SURVIVE: POTTY TRAINING D-DAY

June 2008

6:50 am. The subject wakes up in a good mood. Excellent sign. Go straight to the bathroom, take off diaper and PJ’s; sit on 06-12 003potty. Success! Continue the routine introduced last night: sit on potty for a minute = one sticker on the chart. Produce visible matter in potty = one peanut M’n M. So the child has a piece of chocolate to start his breakfast. Small sacrifice in nutrition for lifetime of social toileting appropriateness. Put on “big boy underwear” with great excitement and flair. Dramatic tones about the seriousness of losing the diaper in exchange for these. Set the timer for 20 minutes, at which time subject has to try again.

7:20 am. Timer goes off, we head down the hall. Success again! Hoorah! Can’t believe how well this is going. Wash hands, undies back on, sticker and candy. Subject as excited as trainer. Set time again.

7:28 am. Subject claims he needs to go again. Trainer suspicious. In bathroom, subject claims that 1/8 tsp of fluid in the toddler pot is human pee. Trainer thinks is it residue of tap water left over from last rinse. Subject strongly requests/demands sticker and candy. Trainer agrees to sticker but no candy. Decide to set the timer for 30 minutes this time, as subject is obviously gaining master control over bodily functions, clearly due to brilliance of trainer. Trainer even decides to squeeze in a quick shower.

8:21 am. Shower over, trainer sifts through the three remaining maternity outfits that still fit and gets dressed while subject happily plays on the computer in same room. About to brush hair when struck with Odor. Quickly knocked out of autopilot mode and brought back into the reality of D-DAY and the task at hand; beginning to think she could possibly have gotten a little over confident.

8:22 am. CRAP. Substantial set back in the form of large quantity of loose stools, which subject clearly does not have under muscle control. Trainer looses calm, cool and collected mode for several minutes. Must triage the damage and prioritize most demanding clean up necessary. Subject says, “Change my diaper.” Trainer explains (again) that underpants are NOT a diaper, and convinces self to resist the temptation to GET a diaper and/or use the changing table, reasoning that we must convey to subject that diapers are a thing of the past. But this is new territory for trainer. Have not had to clean up messy poop from big boy unders. Have not actually had child’s poop on fingers in about 2 years. Have never had poop on bathroom floor or computer chair. Instantly regret trying to wash BB unders in bathroom sink—drain not big enough, and just seems extra gross, so toss them in bathtub to clean later. Go through about 20 wipes trying to get sticky feces from subject’s bottom and legs and toilet seat.

06-12 005Finally, trainer gets situation under control. All hands are washed, new undies. As suggested by “Potty Whisperer” on the Today Show (no joke) trainer has subject help clean up the spot on the computer chair, telling him gently that this is what has to happen when we have an accident, and that it is his responsibility to help with the clean up. Mental note to trainer self: feed subject more bananas, rice and toast. Less grapes and strawberries. At least during these few crucial days. Also, timer goes back to 20 minute increments.

8:50, 9:15, 9:45 and 10:30 am. Timer goes off, subject has successful drainage each time, even though it is only about a tablespoon or less of liquid. But underpants are dry. Hands washed, undies back on, sticker and candy provided. Feeling back on track. Try to encourage more drinking.  (For the subject, that is.  Trainer also tempted to drink a different type of liquid, but remembers that intoxicated parenting is frowned upon in most circles.)

9:45 am. Wonderful surprise! Grandpa Tompkins stops by, bringing the special lovey we left at Gma and Gpa’s house yesterday. This generous gesture saves subject and trainer (and spouse) from another rough night (and surely nap) of separation anxiety from said item. Morale continues to lift in both training participants.

10:58 am. 2 minutes before the timer goes off, subject informs trainer that he needs to pee. Improvement! Hesitant excitement and hope that subject will be allowed into preschool someday.

11:13 am. Call from subject’s bedroom: “MOM! I have a problem!” Trainer runs in. Subject has had small (liquid) accident in BB unders. Quickly clean up, sit on toddler pot again, and both parties help clean up small mess on carpet. However, this accident is followed by two quick successes of subject voluntarily acknowledging need for potty and producing pee. Sticker chart looks overly full, but trainer suspicion does not outweigh determination to persevere!

First I was afraid.
I was petrified.
Kept thinking I could live without you diaper-fied.
Now we’ve spent so many hours, singing you the potty song,
And I grew strong.
And we’ve learned how to get along.

Refined in the fire with every poopy diaper.

This weekend Trent and I were able to join over 1,000 adoptive and foster parents at the Refresh conference near Seattle.  It was a great weekend, spending time together with no kids, connecting with other adoptive parents, and seeing lots of my Called to Love girls again.  We also attended several great seminars and sessions full of practical suggestions and encouragement in our parenting journey.

One of the biggest concepts I brought home from the entire weekend actually has little to do with adoption.  And I can’t stop thinking about it.  The question was proposed:  how do you measure your success as a parent?  IMG_1229

Will you take a moment to answer that question?  Like, honestly.  When do you feel like “I’m nailing this!” or when do you feel like a failure?  What will success look like when your child is 22 and out of the house?

For me, my brutally honest answer revolved around who my children turn out to be, whether or not they love and serve Jesus, if they are respectful and hard working, can do their own laundry, etc, etc.  In other words, I feel like MY success as a parent is entirely based on the behaviors and actions of my children.  It’s about the results.  And this is not a ridiculous concept.  Of course my parenting has a direct relation to how my kids behave.

But, what if I do everything “right” and my kid doesn’t turn out the way I had hoped?  What if I give my absolute best, day in and day out, and my young adult chooses a bad path?  Does that mean I’m a failure as a parent?  That it was all for naught?

Or, let’s make this less big picture and more real life.  What if my 9 year old gets sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior?  What if my 6 year old has such a sassy mouth that it makes my jaw drop?  What if I’m out in public with my 4 year old and he is so wild and out of control that we draw stares and unsolicited advice from perfect strangers?  Do these things mean that I am a bad parent?  That I have not “succeeded” in parenting?  Or does it just mean I’m a failure for THAT particular day?IMG_0177

I’m hoping that you are thinking “No, of course not!” because those kind of things happen to me all the stinking time.  Using the results of my kids’ behavior as my measure of parenting success is a recipe for failure.  They are hopelessly flawed, just like their mama.  This is especially dangerous for those of us who are parenting kids who have any kind of trauma in their background, or those parenting a child with any unique behavioral or emotional needs.

And throughout this weekend, I just kept sitting in this thought:

What if this parenting journey is so much less about how I am molding my kids, and WAY more about how Jesus is molding me?    

MIND. BLOWN.  Maybe you’re way ahead of me and have thought this for years, but it is just now sinking in for me.  All this time, over the last 10 years, I’ve had it backwards.  I’ve been working under the theory that I’m doing this for THEM.  That God gave them to me because He has big plans for them, and somehow he wants to use my imperfections to do a miraculous work in them and make them into world changers for Jesus.

IMG_0343And, oh, how I still pray that is true!  Lord, use my imperfections to make them into world changers for Jesus!  But guess what?  He could make them whatever He wants them to be, with or without my help.  Now I’m realizing that maybe he gave them to me, because he also has big plans and wants to do a miraculous work in ME!  What if he is refining my imperfections to make ME into a world changer for Jesus?

What if every massive tantrum, every exhausting and never-ending argument, every moment spent crying in the bathroom with the door locked is not a detour from my plan to churn out perfect little Tompkins, but RIGHT SMACK DAB in the center of God’s plan to chisel me down into a beautiful work of art that He created me to be?

The fancy theological word that keeps coming to mind is “sanctification.”  It’s the process of becoming holy.  And it’s not supposed to be easy.  To become holy is to become more like God.  Parenting is the ultimate process of sanctification–or at least, it CAN be, if we let it.  Nothing in my life has dug up my ugliness and brought it to the surface like parenting.  Nothing has broken me like parenting.   But how can God cleanse me if I’m hiding the ugly?  How can he truly seep into me until I’m broken?IMG_0164

The more I surrender to this idea, the more it makes sense.  Our God is a perfect parent, full of love and understanding.  He is doing a work in me that is so far from completion, and I want my ultimate goal not to be about my kids’ results, but about my heart.  As I keep my kids accountable, I need to keep myself accountable.  Asking: do I show love and understanding?  Is the fruit of the spirit seen in my life…not just when I’m at church on my best behavior, but when I’m behind closed doors with my people?  Am I relying on my own knowledge and wisdom, or am I going to the SOURCE of knowledge and wisdom?

I will never, EVER give up fighting for my children, teaching them, disciplining them and praying for God to make them into the best versions of themselves.  But as I endeavor to develop their character, may I first endeavor to develop my own character.   I will celebrate victories when I see them behaving with love and respect, but I will also celebrate my own victories of daily dying to myself, receiving and showing grace.  As my friend Missy says, I’m a sinner raising a sinner.  Thank God for his grace.

I have a feeling that my measure of parenting success will be ever-changing.  But I also have a feeling that the more I have my eyes fixed on Jesus and how I allow this parenting thing to make me more like Him, the better we’ll all be in the end. 

 

Confession du jour: I’m that mom

My oldest (aka: PFB, or Precious FirstBorn) is smart and sassy.  He loves cracking jokes and making his friends laugh, but doesn’t always have a good read on the room as far as the grown-ups are concerned.  If a wise-crack comes into his mind, it comes out of his mouth, and not always at the most appropriate times.  This has led to numerous memos home from his longsuffering third grade teacher, some reward and consequence charts, as well as some come-to-Jesus moment with him in our own kitchen.   We’re all agreed on the same thing: he’s a good kid who WANTS to be a good student and do the right thing, but he has some impulse control issues, particular when it comes to his mouth.  And so many times I’ve expressed my incredulous frustration that he can’t just CLOSE HIS MOUTH.

And then….

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I attend a few sporting events in which my children are participating.  And suddenly, I’m a GOOD mom who wants to be a GOOD spectator and do the right thing, but I have some impulse control issues, particularly when it comes to my mouth.  “Hello, Pot?  This is the kettle.  You’re black.”

You guys, I’m telling you.  My kids are YOUNG.  The stakes are not even high.  You wanna know what is high?  My BLOOD PRESSURE.   It’s not even about winning or losing.  I don’t feel especially upset after we lose, I just feel especially compelled to call out to the players non-stop for every minute of play. I can’t explain it!

Football was bad enough.  I mean, I have a voice on me, and it can carry, but at least we were outdoors and it was spread out over an entire field.

IMG_1356But now we’re in basketball season, and we’re crammed like sardines into these little church gyms, and I feel like I need to bring a written apology to any parent within a 30 foot radius who is taking video and will have to edit out that loud woman’s voice shouting “DEFENSE, BLUE!  DEFENSE!”

Speaking of defense, in my own, may I say that 99% of the time, I am yelling encouraging things.  I don’t yell at refs, I don’t say rude things about kids on the other team.  I *may* slip into some instruction cheering, especially when watching the first and second grade girls team, because: YOU GUYS.   It’s like watching little baby deer in matching jerseys staring into headlights.  OK, that’s mainly my beautiful redhead, but generally there’s just a lot of glassy-eyed girls who worked really hard in practice, but completely FREEZE when it gets real.  So I find myself hollering out helpful things, you know, like “THAT’S THE WRONG BASKET!  GO THE OTHER W….never mind.”  (True story.)

IMG_1355And it’s possible that I may be a little out of control.  This weekend, in particular, apparently I was extra….intense.  I got some stares from strangers, and a scolding look from my husband (who happens to be the coach) from across the gym.   My sister-in-law pretty much distanced herself completely from me and denied any relation to the loud lady.

I’ve discovered that it is a serious impulse control thing.  If I want to stop yelling, I literally have to chew on my lip or look away from the action of the game.  I don’t usually think of myself as very competitive, but apparently I’m in huge denial.  And the biggest irony of the entire situation is that I’m surely the least athletically gifted parent in the building.  But I know my touchdowns from my lay-ups, offense from defense, so I feel qualified to holler out.  Besides, my babies are out there!

Speaking of, I asked the babies this week if they ever hear me cheering for them.  (That’s what I like to call it.  “Cheering.”)  They said no.   Pfft.  I think they’re lying.  EVERYONE can hear me.

The good news is, basketball is soon going to be over, so my weekly routine of embarrassing my family members will take a break until the next sports season.  And maybe by the time football starts up again, Carson and I will both have made some progress on our vocal self-control.  Either that or I will be the one with some rewards/consequence charts.

*If anyone spots the FRIENDS quote in this blog post, you get an extra gold star on your chart.

Support for my hubs

It’s not secret (or surprise) that in my marriage, I’m definitely the vocal one.  I’m the social secretary, the extrovert, the one with a blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account.  Trent has none of those things and checks his personal email about twice a month.  But if I’m the mouth, then he’s definitely the hands.  He is a such a hard-worker, both in his paid job and in his life.  For those of you who don’t know, Trent is a pediatric physical therapist.   Although I don’t get to be there for the day-to-day interactions with his patients and their families, I occasionally get a glimpse into how Trent brings his own special strengths (among them being his integrity, work-ethic, and willingness to be super silly with children) to his career.

Some of you remember that in 2009, Trent ran the Portland marathon with a very special patient of his.  Sarah had always wanted to be in a race, but her diagnosis and life in a wheelchair limited her options.  So Trent and Sarah’s uncle took turns pushing her on the 26.2 mile course, and she cheered in victory as they crossed the finish line!  You can read my full blog post about it here.  He was given an award for that race, and he dedicated it to Sarah.  02-28-10 048 Trent loves his job.  He is so committed to his patients and their families. The fact that he is so fulfilled in his career is an enormous source of joy for our whole family.

But from the very first year of his employment, Trent has dreamed out loud about using his degree and his skills on a short-term mission trip.  A few times it almost worked out, but finances and life changes usually got in the way.   After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, I had to hold him back from hopping on a plane to Port-au-Prince.  Instead, we sent in our adoption application and began IMG_2907another adventure with plenty of fundraising involved.

Well, his time has finally come.  Trent has been invited to be a part of a team that will use his exact skills and strengths with colleagues he knows and trusts.  And my part is to cheer him on,  hold down the fort while he’s gone and use my big mouth to help him raise some funds to offset the cost of the trip.  Will you please read this letter from my hubby and consider supporting him?  It’s never fun to ask for money, but we’ve learned it is part of how God humbles and works through us.

THANK YOU!

Dear family and friends,

For many years I have desired to use my professional license on a volunteer basis in an underserved area.  A few months ago, I was asked by Dr. David Shaw, orthopedic surgeon, if I would be interested in traveling to Ecuador with a medical team from Capital City Medical Teams.  This is an exciting opportunity for me and one that will be achieving spiritual and professional goals for myself.

Our team will be traveling to Ecuador April 8th to the 18th of this year.  We will be serving between 500 and 800 children.  Dr. Shaw will lead a surgical team and will perform dozens of procedures during our time in country.  My role will be to work with patients and their families after the surgery, as they learn to stand and walk again.  I will also be working closely with an orthotics specialist to treat patients who do not need surgery, but need orthotic support, such as braces, crutches or the correct fitting wheel chair.  We have been told to expect long days serving hundreds of children, but I’m ready and looking forward to using my skills in this way.

As you can imagine there can be a significant cost associated with a trip like this: between $2500-3000.  It was definitely a step of faith that I accepted the invitation to be a part of this team. It is very uncomfortable for me to ask for financial support, but at this time our family cannot fully finance this trip.  As a result I am humbly reaching out for your assistance of any kind.  Tax deductible donations can be made to Capital City Medical Teams with the memo line of the check reading “recommended for Trent Tompkins.”

Donations can also be made online at www.ccmedicalteams.org.   In order for the gift to be designated towards my trip, you will choose an option for “additional information” that allows the donor to write my name for “recommended donation.” I understand that financial contributions are not an option for some, and I would appreciate your prayer support for the trip and my family while I am away.   I’m praying that God would use our team in a big way.

Thank you for your support,

Trent Tompkins, PT, DPT, PCS

Jen’s note: to donate on the Capital City Medical Teams site, you will select the FIRST yellow donate button, and then will be directed to paypal. Let us know if you have any questions! Thank you!