The Chaos

The Chaos

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A family that prays together....

This year will be incredible.
Mark my words.

I have made resolutions.
None of the "normal" ones. No weight loss resolutions. No workout resolutions.
No money or success resolutions.

I resolve to enjoy life.
I resolve to make 2013 a year worth remembering.

Over the holidays, our family made a commitment to a nightly Bible study and prayer time. We started with the purpose of advent preparations. Every night we looked up a different name of Jesus in the Bible and read a page from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Following our prayer time we prayed, popcorn style. Which means everyone gets a chance to pray and the coolest thing happened. They all prayed. From the youngest to the oldest, even little Alena would get down on the ground and babble from the floor. It became such an impactful time in that month that we knew it would continue into the new year. We are not trying to meet some Bible study quota or even to paint the little Christian family picture. We truly are finding ourselves blessed from the time in the Word and prayer. Well, I know that at least I am. And when the kids come running from all areas of the house to the living room for "Bible study" time... well, you can't help but smile.

Tonight, my husband led us in our time of prayer and Bible study using a children's devotional giving to us by my best friend Sundi Jordan, called "Jesus Calling". And following that time, Michael felt the guidance for us to write our own version of the Lord's Prayer. Granted, the littlest of the chaos weren't particularly interested, as they rolled on the floor and giggled and one another. But Tyler and Sierra contributed to the process and the prayer that we came up with (with the Lord's Prayer as our model) is perfect for our family. Dean said, "I like that prayer". Which means a lot if you ask me.

Life is busy folks.
And 2013 will prove to be just as busy as any other year. There will be birthdays, holidays, sicknesses, celebrations, sadness, pain, schoolwork, housework, relationship issues, death, new life, and the list goes on and on and on. Often we find ourselves caught in the vicious cycle of life so much so that we forget that taking small moments to stop and pray with our families is much more important than any and all of the other life events. In December when we started our advent readings, there was at least one week when Michael was out of town. So our crew gathered around my cell phone and we called him on speakerphone as we read the Bible and prayed as a family. And somehow it helped connect us across the miles. Later when Christmas approached and our house exploded with the visits of family members, we gathered around the Bible and all prayed as a family. And it was wonderful and reminded me that these are the moments that matter. I know my kids will look back and be thankful for the gifts they received, for the trips we made, for the special events we planned. But I hope that the moments that we are making now, the moments gathered around the Bible praying as a family. I hope those are the moments that bring smiles to their faces as they grow and mature.

A family that prays together.... does more than stay together, it grows together, learns togethers, serves together, loves together.

2013 is going to be amazing.
I resolve to spend more time in prayer with my chaos.
Chaos needs prayer. ;)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Planned to Unplanned

I haven't given up on this blog.
Nor have I given up on the notion of writing a book.

Things have just been put on "hold" with the business of life. And that's okay.
And that's the lesson I want to teach you today.

As moms, we spend so much of our day running from chore to chore. We write a to do list in the morning and we busy ourselves through the moments of the day, anxious to scratch off each item in sequence. We rattle over our children's pleas and laughter. We fret over schedules that are ruined. We refuse to sit idly because there is always something that needs to be done. Well maybe I shouldn't use the pronoun "we". Maybe you have never felt those things but I know that "I" have, or at least I did.

There were days that I would spend eyeing the clock with each passing hour, stressing over the moments that had passed that were unproductive and longing for the moments that were yet to come. My life has always been about the next big thing. When I was a kid it was all about looking forward to birthdays, holidays, trips, and summer vacation. When I got married and started having kids it was about due dates, birthdays, family trips, school events, and church activities. My calendar has never been empty and each Monday would begin with one thought on my mind "what do we have planned this week". My life has been one gigantic countdown to the next thing. Just like a to do list, I check off the events and look for the next one to occupy my thoughts and preparations.

All the while, I have had so many amazing moments pass right before my preoccupied eyes.
And therein lies the lesson.

I began working outside of the home and my perspective took a hard punch to the gut. But in a good way, if there is a good way to be punched in the stomach that is.

I began looking at my "to do" list in a different way. Instead of what I can get done, it was what I can enjoy. I have found myself looking forward to the down time, the moments in the morning spent in jammies with my youngest two kids. The evenings spent on the couch with my husband. The afternoons spent in transit to and from activities that have sparked amazing conversations and laughter with my school children. I have found myself taking time to stop looking for the next thing and instead enjoying the time that is now.

I think that I have always had that realization that my kids will only be young once and that I should enjoy each moment. My overall personality has never allowed me to forget that simple truth. But life has a way of making you so busy that it's hard to see past the haze of the weekly schedule. But we cannot allow the events and chores of life to hinder our participation in all that IS life. Because life isn't what will happen next week. Life isn't what will be crossed off on your to-do list. Life is what's happening right now. And our children deserve our nows, not our laters. When my children are grown I want them to have memories of time spent laughing, talking, and hugging. If I keep scheduling life away, all we will have to show for our time together is a crumpled old calendar with smeared ink and good intentions.

That's not to say that we don't have plans and that we don't have routines. Because we do, we thrive on them in our busy house. But what I am saying is that my life doesn't have to revolve around them. If the laundry doesn't get done, if we don't make it to every party, the world will not come to a stop. In fact our world, our family, will be a better place because we didn't take ourselves so seriously because we allowed life to happen and didn't attempt to schedule it instead.

I guess becoming a working mother has lightened up my perspective on this life as a mom and wife. And I'm enjoying the moments that are off-schedule as much as the moments that are on.

And speaking of "on schedule". Look for a post coming soon about 30 scheduled acts of kindness. I know that seems contradictory to everything I just wrote. But it isn't. Because even though I might make a schedule, I won't fall apart if it doesn't all happen according to plan. I have learned that the beauty of a plan is the fun that happens when it doesn't work out quite as... well quite as planned.

Join me as we live through all the planned and unplanned life moments.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Little Fair Perspective

My husband accuses me of never being able to just sit still.
I plan activities for our family weekends.
I have visions of the perfect day at the perfect place with the perfect pictures.
But things don't always work out quite as I planned.

A week and a half ago the fair came to town. I planned our excursion down to the minute from rides to grandstand events to food. What I didn't plan for, was the unrelenting downpour of rain. I checked the weather report every 30 minutes and there appeared to be no way that the cloud cover would move and no way that we could attend the fair as planned. I was devastated. The kids were fine. Michael did his best to lift my spirits with an evening of "plan B". But I was just plain bummed. I wanted to go to the fair and I wanted to go the way that we had planned, or at least the way that I had planned.

The week after the great fair disappointment, I encountered trouble after trouble after trouble. The rent for the month before had bounced unintentionally and before I could get to the property company, we had hundreds of dollars in extra fees and the next months rent to pay as well. I was driving home worrying about our bank account and hoping things would not bounce. As I drove and fretted and tried to figure out the whats and the hows, I prayed. By the time I got home I was completely relieved to find an unexpected check in the mail, an amount that covered the exact dollar needed. That type of unexpected blessing became the theme of the week.

By Friday afternoon, I was busily completing some tasks for work when I received a phone call from our neighbor. I met her outside in the yard where she presented me with free tickets to the fair.

I came back in the house completely astonished.
The weekend before as we watched the rain puddle and ruin our fair excitement, I wondered why things just never work out the way I want them to. Of course had I known that a week later we would be given free tickets that would save us money, well then I probably wouldn't have been so bummed. I guess that's the story of my life. I make plans, they don't work out the way I intend for them to, and lo and behold.... something better happens.

I spent all week worrying, fretting, and anxiously concerning myself with every detail of the day and as each day passed with all troubles resolved, all anxieties hushed, and new blessings each morning... I realized how much I have limited myself and our lives with my carefully thought out plans but limited abilities.

As our laughing crew of chaos entered the fairgrounds using our gifted admission tickets, we were prepared for fun completely equipped with rides, food, and smiles. And even though I found fun and excitement just as I had hoped. I also found perspective, the realization that I don't have to plan all things, and usually the things that I don't over plan and over analyze workout better than the things that I do. Ah yes, perspective. Found from the top of the Ferris Wheel.

Stay tuned

It has been far too long since I last blogged.
I make this excuse often, but I am forced to make it again.
Life just gets in the way.
Especially lately.

But excuses aside, it is my goal to revamp this blog.
I started with updating some pictures.

And I have new ideas coming soon.
Stay tuned.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Three years come, Ninety more to go

I remember the moment like it was yesterday.
Hard at work as a youth minister for over a year, I picked up a second job in the summer of 2008. I started teaching at a local preschool in Danville, Virginia. Dean was almost 2. Sierra was almost 4. And Tyler was 10. Our family had moved from one side of Danville to the other and were living in a tiny 1000 square foot double wide trailer in the middle of nowhere.

Our life was "perfect" by our standards.Michael had a new job with Sears as an auto center manager. We were busy but we were settled. And then one day while on a lunch break trip to Target, I decided it was possibly time to pick up a pregnancy test (for all obvious reasons why one might suspect a pregnancy test is needed).

I must break for a second. For some people, buying a pregnancy test is a moment of awe and anxiety. I did it often. We have never been prone to "preventing" pregnancy. I bought tests often and usually did so without hesitation or anxiety.

This day, however, as I purchased the test, I became instantly nervous. When the test came back as a positive, I began to cry. I am not sure why. I shouldn't have been surprised. Maybe it was just the hormones, or feeling overwhelmed with having just started a new job. Or maybe I just wasn't sure I wanted to grow our family from 5 to 6. Either way, I made an instant call to my Pastor's wife at the time and cried on the phone with her. She smiled through the phone and reminded me of the blessing of new life. By the time I made it to her house that afternoon I was feeling those tinges of excitement.

I was going to be a new mom. Again.

As with our pregnancies with Sierra and Dean, we chose not to find out the sex. But I think I knew all along that it was another boy. In that 9 months of pregnancy, I continued my job as a youth minister (quit the 2nd job), and suffered through the trials and tribulations of any pregnant mother who also had two babies at home, plus a kiddo in elementary school. We had stomach bugs, the flu, and the stress of normal life. And when the day finally came to be induced (yes, none of my children like to come naturally or on time), I remember feeling completely in shock at the realization that I would soon be mommy to four.

On May 1st, 2009, Christopher Warren Gaffner entered the world around 6:45pm. He came quickly and without pain for his mommy. He was heavy and long and healthy. His brother Dean was amazed at the discovery of a new boy in the house and quickly asked for evidence that he was in fact a male. The girls happily jumped into their role as big sisters once again. We celebrated with many wonderful visitors both in the hospital and at home. And we were in love.

Christopher was his own man right from the start. He ate on his schedule, and he ate a lot. Sometimes he would breastfeed for 30 minutes and still want more. He never slept in the same bed with us. He demanded his bassinet or pack and play. By seven weeks old, he slept through the night. He was content to sit in his bouncy seat for hours and watch his siblings. And once he was mobile, you could find him playing independently most anytime of the day. He has always been an observer, a serious thinker, and a sweet talker.

When I watched him over this weekend and today, realizing that he would be 3 years old as of tomorrow; May 1, 2012... I just had to shake my head in wonder.

How was this little man, this little man full of character and personality... ever a part of me?
When I see him smile or hear his unusually deep voice for a toddler, my heart smiles. As it does with all my kids really. And I stand in constant amazement as what an incredible gift I have been given to be a mother.

I know that I will and do make mistakes.
I know that my kids will not always do everything right.
I know that our imperfections will get the better of all of us from time to time.

But at the bare bones of this life with these kids, I realize how deeply blessed I am to be their mother. To have carried them inside of me, nurtured them, kissed their boo boos, rocked them to sleep, corrected their misbehavior, taught them to give, taught them to hug, encouraged them to dream, enjoyed the sound of their voice.... to be their mother. It is an honor.

Three years of Christopher's life have come and gone so quickly. And I pray that there are 90 more to come. It is my desire that Christopher would grow in the joy of the Lord, knowing God, serving God, and being a light to others. It is my prayer that his siblings will be a source of support for him all the days of his life and that he will succeed in every facet of his life. It is my hope that with each passing year, that he grows more and more into the man that God has designed him to be and that I would have the privilege of watching and being a part of those moments.

Now in 2012, as a family seven (we of course added one more baby in 2011)... each member of our family is vital to all that is the "chaos". We would not be who we are without each individual personality. And Christopher is no exception.

Happy Birthday Christopher Warren Gaffner

Christopher at 2 weeks old.

First Birthday Party

2 Year Old big boy

One month before turning 3

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heart Healthy

On Ash Wednesday, it's customary for Christians to begin a Lenten seasonal "fast". In recent years it has become very trendy to join in on the festivities as people of all faiths and denominations claim to be giving something up. Of course the ideology behind this fasting time is to motivate spiritual evaluation and deepen a  relationship with God. I think sometimes, however, people join the whole fasting bandwagon out of amusement. A lot of folks choose things related to food or drink, in an effort to also improve their health during this spiritual time of meditation. Some people may even choose to give up things like facebook or TV *gasp*.

I don't always join in on the Lenten fasting, because I refuse to do something out of forced routine or habit. I want it to be a devoted decision with intentional spiritual effort. This year, however, I'm cautiously entering the season with a specific spiritual task at hand.

To explain, I must go back to January 1st.

I refused to make a New Year's "resolution" but purposed myself to begin viewing myself differently. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, then you may recall a post written over the summer regarding my self-esteem (found here: I have had a negative body image for as long as I can remember and no matter how often I have actively sought to change it, I cannot seem to shake the negative words and thoughts that I speak to myself. Over Christmas break, however, I did a vintage photo shoot with a young woman in Lansing, MI (at my husband's request). I was nervous, a tad bit uncomfortable, and worried about how bad I would look. After posing in a vintage swimsuit and a "Leave it to Beaver"-esque dress... I was quite pleased with the pictures. In fact, I looked at them and thought, "wow, I don't look that bad". At that moment I realized how much I beat myself down. The inner dialogue I have is not only self-defeating but was seriously hurting my relationships with others. So I decided, that no matter what, this year I am going to speak words of encouragement and beauty to myself.

In an effort to be pro-active, our family joined the local YMCA mid-January and the kids and I have become regularly attending members. I daily have to remind myself that I am not working out to lose weight, but to get healthy. It is so easy to get fixated on "losing weight" that you forget the goal is fitness, not weight loss. My downfall happened the first week in the Ladies lockeroom when I saw it. Sitting near the sink, looking seemingly harmless and shiny. It called to me and I stepped on it. The scale.

The number that flashed on the screen made me cringe. And I spent the rest of the day feeling discouraged. Over a number.
I have stepped on the vicious scale many times since that first day and every time the number discourages me. Why? Because I have decided that the number reflected on that scale determines my health and fitness level. And it doesn't. I am losing inches. I am gaining muscles. I feel great. Until I see that number.

For that reason, this Ash Wednesday, I am choosing to give up the scale.
I know to some that sounds like a small thing to sacrifice. But for me it is much more than just a source of measurement. I am allowing that thing, that cheap piece of plastic and metal to determine my happiness. I have effectively made an "idol" of the scale (been reading lots about idols in the book of Exodus... they are NO good, in case you were wondering).

So this girl is saying BYE BYE to the dirty ol' scale. I'm saying BYE BYE to measuring myself. (This picture below is not me, just so ya know... lol)

I am going to refocus myself on the task at hand.
Which is, measuring myself by God's standards. And guess what? He thinks I'm beautiful, just the way I am.

The trip to the "Y" is one of my favorite parts of  the day. But not because I am looking for numbers. I am looking for health. And by ditching that scale, I hope to do more than improve my physical heart but to work on improving my overall spiritual and emotional health. Placing the focus, not on myself, but on the One who made me this season.

A healthy heart... that is the goal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Closing a Chapter

Last year when Michael was offered a promotion, we had no idea that adversity would also accompany this incredible opportunity. We sought Christian counsel, prayed, and truly felt this was the next step in our family's journey. After moving, the birth of Alena, Kelly and Cayd moving out, and then moving again... well our opportunities seemed to bring strife and stress.

However, we have finally closed a chapter as we are knee deep in the middle of the next.
We travelled to Maryland this weekend for a quick in and out expedition gathering the last of our belongings in the old house. When we rolled out after spending literally less than three hours in the state of Maryland, we breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing against Maryland (and certainly nothing against the sweet folks we befriended in our short time there), but we were ready to head on back to the comforts of North Carolina.

We were away from this place we call home for roughly 72 hours. But being away from home means little to this travelling crew. Departing on Thursday evening, my kids were travel ready. Equipped with snacks, car toys, and a pillow to rest their tired heads... they travelled with ease. We spent two nights in Richmond, enjoying the luxury of the indoor pool and took an evening trip to Barnes and Noble before dinner. Saturday morning, the crew skillfully collected all their belongings from the hotel room and loaded up for the four hour drive north to Westminster. Michael and I were busy loading the small U-haul trailer, and cleaning up the remainder of the mess in the rental home. The kids happily played, ate lunch in the carport, and entertained one another (Alena included). When all was loaded, they buckled in and off we went for a 6 hour drive south, stopping in Danville for the night. With ease, they tumbled out of the Suburban into one more hotel. After getting up, attending our old church, and eating lunch with my sister and best friend... we finally pulled back into the place we pay to call home and without skipping a beat they were out and back to their chaos ways.

Three different states, two different hotels, a total travel time of 16 hours, way too much fast food, and one filthy Suburban later and I was dutifully reminded that home ain't just one building, home is wherever we happen to be at that moment.

My kids are the same kids in public that they are in private. We laugh, cry, argue, discipline, and play no matter where we happen to be. It's a gift, this sort of family transparency. Truly, with the chaos... what you see is what you get.

As we ate in a busy Outback steakhouse, with five adults and five kids... we were loud and we were ourselves.

Winston-Salem is where we call home at this stage in our opportune journey.
But I find great comfort in busy weekends like we had.
Because along with extensive travel time and eating out, I was reminded that my husband and my children are all I need to be "home". They are where I am comfortable, needed, loved, entertained, and cared for.

We closed a chapter in Maryland, are in the midst of writing one in North Carolina, and prayerfully looking forward to all the chapters that follow... as long as we write them all together.

Photo collage made by my best friend, Sundi from our time at Outback for lunch.