Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why Disappointments Are Gifts To Our Children

I heard the pitter patter of not-so-little feet coming up the steps and I knew it was time to grab the pliers and pry open my eyes. I looked over at the clock.


Oh, morning. You have no mercy.

I rolled over and saw Jack, my eleven year-old standing next to his Dad's side of the bed.

"Hey, Mom. Is Dad in the shower?"

"No, bud. He left for a trip really early this morning. Just a quick one, though."

"WHAT?", my boy furrowed his brow. "Another trip?"

"Yeah, but just a quick one. He'll be home tomorrow."

"But, it's's just that I made him breakfast this morning. I've never done that before."

"You did?"

My eyes popped open. Oh my word, what did this child do? Did he turn on the stove? Is there a HUGE mess down there that somehow in my comatose state of "my husband was up at 4am and I didn't sleep well", I didn't hear a thing.

I rubbed my eyes ready to slide out of bed to go survey the damage and looked up at Jack.

He was crying.

"Oh, buddy. I know it's hard. But, he'll be back tomorrow."

He wiped his eyes and left to go downstairs.

I stumbled out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt, walked past the baby's room - where I heard babbling and singing - and headed to the kitchen.

Jack, Max, and Lincoln were all sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal. I glanced around the room looking for signs of disaster, but found just cereal boxes and the gallon of milk in the middle of the table.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

Jack seemed to have recovered and was leading a serious and important discussion about the latest Avengers movie.

I headed over to make a cup of ambition for myself, when I spotted it.

The sweetest "Made for Dad" breakfast ever.


What's a mama to do but cry?

You know, as a mother, this is some of the hardest stuff I do. Processing and handling the things that hurt my children - their disappointments, their fears, the things in life that are such letdowns to them - this is hard stuff on my mama heart.

Isn't it like that for all of us as mothers? Oh, how their hurts slay us.

But, you see, here's what I've learned:

These disappointments are GOLD. Treasures. Priceless gifts in raising children.

Today, when Jack gets home from school and I have time to sit down and talk to him about what that bowl of uneaten Raisin Bran REALLY means, I will have an opportunity to show him what God has taught me.

Our hurts and disappointments really point us to God's love for us.

If we let them.

The love Jack has for his Dad that prompted him to wake up today and pour that bowl of Raisin Bran, the relationship that has been nurtured since the day they laid eyes on each other, the eleven years of bonding, sharing, car-racing, book-reading, bike-riding - this is God's love poured out on my boy.

He has a Dad who loves him, and he loves his Dad.

The love in our family - God has given that to us. And, that we miss each other when we're apart makes us newly aware that God has been so good to us. And, when we choose to focus on that, our sadness turns to joy.

It's taken me thirty years to see this in my own life - to process my own fears and disappointments this way.

When Satan wields the spear of "God doesn't love you because..." and we wield the sword of "But, I'm so grateful for..." against it, well - we find joy in the goodness of God.

Thankfulness. It is the antidote for disappointment.

My children. They will be disappointed again and again. My hope is that they learn to lift their eyes in thankfulness to the One who loves them more than any other, even in the midst of hurt or sadness.

So this afternoon, when I sit down with my Jack, that uneaten bowl of cereal gives me an open door to remind my boy that missing each other when we're apart is a great gift to us.

And, together - he and I will use thankfulness to slay the power of what isn't, what we don't have today, who isn't here today.

And, FIGHT our disappointment by being grateful to God, together, for the joy we have in this great gift He has given us:

The love in our family.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hot Milk Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

When I {sorta, barely sorta} homeschooled Jack and Max when they were little preschoolers, our first lesson was on darkness and light. I took them out for ice cream after our first day to celebrate.

Because I knew how it would go down:

Jack would choose chocolate.
Max would choose vanilla.

Darkenss. Light. Homeschool #winning.

{I made a video of our first day of school those many years ago. I am NOT watching it because it will render me useless, curled up in the corner, weeping for all that's been lost for the rest of the day. You, however, can watch it here if you're so inclined.}

{Also. If you want to make a cheap, massive bulletin board for anywhere in your home, I wrote a picture tutorial for how we made the camo one in the video here.}

Six years later, and my Max will still, always, every time choose vanilla. Vanilla ice cream. Vanilla cookies (i.e Snickerdoodles). Vanilla pudding.

And, ALWAYS, vanilla cupcakes.

After testing, re-testing, playing, dabbling and tweaking, I've finally come up with the PERFECT vanilla cupcake.

The batter, made with warmed milk and butter, a recipe from my husband's grandmother - renders cake that is spongy, not-too-sweet, and SO buttery and soft, but sturdy enough to hold its own. If you have a kitchen, you will ALWAYS have on hand all of the ingredients to make these cupcakes.

The frosting? It's a divine, perfectly sweet, buttery (notice a theme?), magical topper for Grannymom's batter.

These little hands. My tiny helper. Love me some Whit.

Also, you can pipe on this frosting and make it swirly and finished. But, I love the simple, homemade look of just spreading it on with a knife and adding a few sprinkles. (*You can easily color it as well with food coloring.)

Whit: They look like fwuffy cwouds. Totally.

Try these. I know you'll love 'em as much as we do.

Here's the recipe:

Hot Milk Cupcakes

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside. Cream together sugar and eggs.

In a small pan, heat together milk and butter until butter is melted. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and beat well. Then add hot milk with butter mixture. Beat until smooth. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

Line muffin pans with liners (or grease with cooking spray or butter). Using an ice cream scoop, fill each liner with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Cool. Top with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Approximately 6 tablespoons milk

Beat butter with mixer. Slowly add confectioners sugar to combine with butter. Add vanilla.

Beat in milk, one tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency.

Top cupcakes with frosting.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Do Y'all Like The Ravens Or Something? {Well, since you asked...}

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me blog again?

Well, the Ravens. OBVS.

I was watching my little ones yesterday - as I shot our annual "We are a RAVENS family" photos and STOPPED IN MY TRACKS because I remembered that they were once this:

And, this...

And, then Whit grew the most glorious head of hair. And they became this...

And, OH MY SWEET HEAVENS, we got the surprise of our LIVES and our testosterone laden abode got a tiny, pink, squealing dose of this...

One year later...{AKA The Year of Bad Haircuts and Real Smiles for Miles}

And here we are today.

I pulled out my camera when we got home from church, in which we PAINTED THE TEMPLE purple because SOMEONE HAS GOT TO REPRESENT the purple and black down here. The struggle is REAL living in a city/state where red and black don't mean the Terps, but a pack of wolves. Where Carolina blue is not only the color of the sky, but of cars, t-shirts, flags, flip-flops, and underwear.

So. We proudly represent the Baltimore Ravens - the city and team that we love.

Speaking of love...

How much do I LOVE these tiny creatures?

Holly grabbed the football and took off. Which is indicative of her brothers' normal mantra where she's concerned:

She can do no wrong.

God bless the man that has to make it through these four to win her heart.

I watched the boys playing in the cul-de-sac before I went inside. Gosh, they are awesome kids.

Jason and I? We're exactly the same as we were five years ago when this photo was taken.

No wrinkles. No grey hair. Nada. Exactly the same.


The Ravens lost yesterday. In which a very disappointed Jack reminded us that at least Christmas is coming soon.

There's always that.

Perspective. All about perspective, right?

And, really? I was disappointed, too.

But, knowing that this purple-clad quintet calls me "Mama" - I guess I could borrow from Jack and say that looking at these photos, it's kinda like Christmas for me most days - messy, busy, colorful, lots to clean up, Meltdown City, exhausting, over-stimulating, PLEASE PASS THE COOKIES...

But, all that joy.

Isn't that life as "Mama" though? Just a big ol' mix of it all. And, finding the joy scattered about, and choosing to focus on it.


Thankful today for this joy right here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Birthday Post: What's In A Name?

My four-year old asked me this morning, "Mom, are you thirty or one hundred today?"

"Somewhere in there", I told him, patted him on the head, looked in the mirror, and yanked out another grey hair.

THEY ARE TAKING OVER. So, yes. I am losing the war. But, I ain't going down without a FIGHT and a good hairdresser with a stack of trashy magazines and a tub of color me happy.

I always feel this strange mix of emotions on my birthday - about getting older, about days gone by that will never be again, about the life God has given me. Maybe birthdays are really supposed to be for kids and balloons and birthday parties, but truthfully? I LOVE my birthday. I LOVE a reason to celebrate. I LOVE that my husband has a GOOD reason to take off of work and take me to lunch and shopping all day... like he did today. <---- #lovelanguage

I love that he bought me high top polka dot Converse.

And, I LOVE cake.

I love that God has given me another day, another year to live here on earth.

Can I tell you a birthday story?

My mother miscarried a baby before she got pregnant with me.

When she and I talk about it, which we do from time to time - usually on my birthday or when I've had a baby, a certain sadness comes over her followed by a thankful smile, "But, if God had given me that baby, I wouldn't have you."

It always makes me cry. I lost a baby, too.

When I was born, she and my Dad named me Sarah Grace.

When I first asked her, "Why did you name me Sarah?", she responded, "That was your father's choice. He was very adamant about it." A biblical name that he loved. So very Dad to choose Sarah.

But, why "Grace"?

Grace was born from uncertainty. Grace came after loss. Grace was God's gift after sorrow. God loving through and after pain. Grace was God's triumph over hurt.

You see, when my mother lost the baby she was carrying before I came to be, her doctor looked at her and said, "Sharon, you can't have more children."

"Can't?", she asked. "Or shouldn't?"

Her doctor looked at her with stern concern: "Shouldn't."

Here I am. Celebrating another birthday with polka dot high top Converse, five children of my own, and a Chipotle burrito bowl.

A "Shouldn't" that was. A "Shouldn't" that is.

Sarah Grace.

My father's girl. Sarah. And, God's unexpected gift to my mother. Grace. A "Shouldn't" baby who helped heal and stitch new love where loss had left empty arms and hearts.

Today, my heart's song is grace. One of my closest friends once told me, "Sar, you crave grace like chocolate chip cookies."

Don't all of us? God's unmerited favor. God lavishing on us what we don't deserve. Despite all of our screw-ups and selfishness and hurt and pain and loss.

YES, I crave it. I want to bathe in it. And, I desperately want to be grace to others. Extending it - even when it isn't deserved because it's been given to me ten-thousand fold - and I don't deserve it.

God saved me. He saved a "Shouldn't" baby and knit me together in my mother's womb and gave me a perfectly imperfect body. My body bears scars - the outside and the inside. Outside scars that tell even strangers that suffering is part of life. And, heart wounds that tell those closest to me that God never promised easy. To any of us.

But, God has never been short on grace in my life. He has always showered me with it - over and over in every season. Through every trial.

And, here I am. So thankful that He's given me another year.

Here to tell whoever will listen that while my body and my heart bear the wounds of suffering, Jesus died for me in the biggest grace-display in history. He died to give me life - new life as a baby in my mother's arms, and a new life and new heart that gets to spend eternity with Him.

He gave this to you, too.

You may know me as Sarah - wife to Jason, mother of those five disheveled whippersnappers, writer of stories, taker of TOO MANY pictures, and the one laughing too loud at the most inappropriate times.

But, if you know me as no one else, I want you to know me as Sarah Grace - the "Shouldn't" God brought to be, the daughter of Larry and Sharon - God's gift of grace after loss.

Sarah. Who craves grace like chocolate chip cookies and whose great privilege is to live out loud a life of thankfulness, obedience, and joy to the One who brought me to life, saved me, and loves me as His own.

Just a simple girl that God loves and Jesus saved and whose name is written in the great book of Life.

A "Shouldn't" who, by God's grace, is -

...and who wants you to know, today on my birthday and every day in between, that Jesus loves you, He died for you, and His amazing grace is for you, too.

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.