Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Makes God's Eyes "Drop"

When the baby cries, Judah's world STOPS.
If Daniel starts to cry, life goes on as normal for most of our kids...except for my four-year-old son, Judah, who stops EVERYTHING he is doing and rushes to his rescue.  If Daniel needs a new diaper, Judah is hovering over us: diaper, wipes and powder in hand.  If he needs to eat, Judah is rushing around to grab blankets (and me if needed!) and gently covers him up, quietly “shushing” him or singing to him while Daniel (ever so patiently, of course!) waits for his meal!

Today while I watched Judah do his baby-care-thing it suddenly brought tears to my eyes.  While his brothers and sisters (though they do adore their little sibling) continued their important jobs of Hot-Wheels races and baby-doll dressing, Judah dropped everything to serve his brother.  When Judah finally had the pillows propped just right around the baby, he caught my eye and cocked his head,

“Mommy, why are your eyes dropping?”  He asked me.  

“I’m crying because I’m so happy, bud.  Seeing you care for Daniel blesses me and I’m proud of you.”  I kissed his forehead while Judah listened intently then shrugged as if it was no big deal but to me, it was.  As I sat snuggling our sweet baby, happy he was loved by more people than just me, something hit me: could this be how God feels to see HIS children caring for each other?  Especially when they care for someone that is helpless, a person that could never thank them or repay them?

I imagined what the view from Heaven must have been like to see Mother Teresa on her feeble knees as she held a man covered in leprosy in one arm while gently bringing a cup of water to his parched lips with the other.


To see a person tenderly caring for the helpless; the sick, suffering, lonely and destitute, when NO ONE else is watching and even at the risk of their own lives at times-this must be one of the greatest acts of love in the world.

Could there be anyone that better fits the description of "the helpless" better than an orphan or widow? “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:26-27)


“True” religion, the kind of service that God finds pure and faultless is to look after those among us without anyone to care for them: those without a mother, a father or a spouse to protect and provide for them.

The way I read this verse leaves me with no option: this is not a suggestion, it’s a command.  I see NO clause of exception for “busy mommas with lots of babies” or “families that are on a tight budget”.  Indeed, when I read these words: conviction is heavy on my heart, leading me to my knees where I press God for an answer to my question.

“God, what are you calling ME to do TODAY to help your children in need?  What am I to do with my family to serve the orpahns and widows?”  Whatever God may answer needs our urgent attention.  It means we drop everything (Hot-Wheels racing and rat-race running too!) and tend to the child who is lonely, the girl who is sick, the boy being raised without a father, the woman grieving a great loss of love.  We MUST care or we need to ask ourselves: are we TRULY obeying our Father?

When we answer His call, I imagine there are few other things on this world that make God’s “eyes drop” than to see his children caring for each other out of a selfless heart.  

Once again, I am speechless at what I learn from a child.


P.S.  If you're wondering a good place to start in helping orphans and widows, check out this wonderful organization that has a passion to reach the helpless among us: International Justice Mission

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leaving Crazy Little Footprints!

"Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your kids."

After what happened with my four-year-old son yesterday, I’m positive that whoever said this oh-so-true quote may have also known my sweet little Judah...or at least had a “free-spirited” child like him!

Parenthood: welcome to the battle of the wills.

Yesterday's battle went down in the usual location and time, outside our boy’s preschool after class.  Who would ever have imagined how many detours can be discovered by a kid in the twenty feet of sidewalk that it takes to travel from the front door of their school to a nearby car?  Nearly every day since school began, Judah has managed to find a way to do anything when I pick him up EXCEPT to quickly get into our car.  It has been the very reason I have to grip the steering wheel on the ride home to keep from turning into our local mental-health hospital to check myself in!

The majority of the children walk with their parents in an orderly fashion and get into their appropriate vehicles, but not my Judah! He is the one hanging from a tree, jumping into a mound of snow (with OUT his boots on of course), grabbing a limb, plant, etc. and sword-fighting with the wind and (my personal favorite) doing “The Worm” break-dancing move on the sidewalk while inching towards our awaiting car.  

Call it his creativeness, craziness or cool-ness but I have been totally cure-less for this dilemma!  Heart-to-heart talks, punishments, and rewards have been added to my list of options; then just as quickly crossed off as yet another fruitless attempt to get my son to walk those notorious twenty feet and-for PETE'S SAKE-just be NORMAL!!

It was during this infamous walk the other day that one of his teachers followed us out to share with me something that happened that day.  I listened with one ear while steam poured out of the other as, once again, Jude dive-bombed into the nearest pile of snow.  

“I just have to tell you how much I love that kid,”  She was saying while I grabbed at Judah’s hood and whispered “sweet nothings” in his ear in my (once again-FRUITLESS!!) attempt to redirect him to our idling vehicle.

“Oh, yes, I LOVE THIS KID TOO!”  I smiled...or maybe it was really a grimace.

“He just so blessed me today...” She continued and I nodded in agreement, he was really BLESSING me too at that moment!!  Covered head-to-toe in dirty snow, he glanced at me just long enough to flash me his toothy-grin but not long enough to catch the evil-mom-eye (you know that look: the YOU-ARE-IN-BIG-TROUBLE, KID-look!).

“He told me I have the prettiest eyes he ever saw and I just about bawled, it was so sweet.  He's so very sweet!!”

I was ready to bawl too right then but for a very different reason!  I stopped breathing fire long enough to take a deep breath and, in spite of that little snow-covered rascal standing before me...or more truthfully, because of him, I realized that I was one lucky momma.  I have been given a boy that the world sees as sweet, a kid that has blessed many people with his caring words and genuine hugs.  In my quest to help my children always be the best they can be, I’m pretty sure I get too focused on trying to smooth all their rough edges instead of celebrating the gifts God has wrapped up inside their hearts for a waiting world.  

This world won’t ever be the same now that Judah has left his footprint in the lives of his family, friends, teachers...and in the gardens and snow piles outside of his preschool class!!  In the same way, the world needs your precious boy or girl with their unique gifts and takes on life.  

Though it may be easier to see in our children the areas that need some refinement (or an extreme make-over to be more accurate sometimes!!), thankfully, the people their little lives touch see their dimpled smile, hear their sparkling laughter and feel their tender touches, and they are BLESSED!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Our family has issues.

The main issue lately has involved some SERIOUS SHOE DRAMA!  To begin: our entryway to exit/enter our humble abode measures about four feet by four feet.  Add into this equation a couple of stairs, a jam-packed coat rack and another set of hooks sporting a mound of winter hats and the end result when it’s time to get everyone bundled up is nothing short of CHAOS!  In fact, in those moments when shoes, hats and coats are flying through the air as seven people squeeze into a 4x4 foot area, fighting for their rightful coats and even their lives, it resembles that little clown car from the circus.  

Our back door may as well be the door on a tiny circus-bug as little red-nosed, little-feeted people pile out, most of them wearing the correct set of hats, mittens and coats...but not always.  In fact, one Sunday morning, we (being the organized parents we are) didn’t notice that one of our children had made it all the way to church before we realized they weren’t wearing ANY shoes!  Another Sunday morning I noticed (once again, AT church and not before) that one of our daughters was actually wearing her BROTHER’S shoes!  I won’t name the offending party that readied them that morning but I will note it wasn’t me and it was one of their parents...but I don’t want to name names of course.

Naturally, I was just relieved she actually had shoes ON after the last escapade of our little shoeless-Joe.  All this to say (yes, I do have a point here!) the other day when I was in Target I noticed a lovely little bench with ample storage space underneath.  My first thought was: “Shoe SALVATION!!”  I just imagined how perfect this bench would fit by our entryway and how much more SANE our Sunday mornings could be.  Heck, make that ANY time we try to leave the house with all the children!  If we had a nice, organized little area for the kids to sit and get their own shoes on, they would then all line up (at least in the dream-world of my mind, think “Sound of Music” style!) by the back door and we would gracefully exit, hop into our car and have world peace once again.

After thinking, “Shoe salvation!!” and hearing the trumpets of heaven play...the trumpets suddenly ran out of batteries as I looked at the price-tag and felt my shoulders slump.  The Cole family budget pretty much runs like this: if it aint food to survive and it aint something to contain poop (ie, diapers) or to clean up poop (ie, wipes, sanitizer, toilet paper and laundry detergent), then it’s a want, not a need, and we don’t get it...add it to the Christmas List, baby!

So I said a little prayer that in the sweet by and by, we would be able to afford it and then I zoomed my cart past the “shoe salvation bench” and on to the diapers/wipes aisle!

I should note here for the most part I don’t mind these little sacrifices (though sometimes I do pout, I totally admit!!) we have to make to have both a big family and do life on one income.  Who could ever put a price tag of value on a precious child?  Would I ever trade the joy of watching my little EvaLee spin and dance throughout our home in her “Ms. Pretty” ballerina skirt for a brand new SUV?  How could one compare the privilege of snuggling in with my boys to read another super-hero book for a brand new living room set (free of kid-stains, of course!)?!  Although material possessions are both needed at times and just a lot of fun to have other times, if they ever become more important than the things that really matter, we better get our head screwed on straight.

So, although a lovely shoe bench would be nice to the end, it’s just a material possession and I’d much rather have the privilege of buying more diapers for all those cute little bottoms we’ve been blessed with!

What I love about God is when we keep our priorities straight (or at least try to!) and take our needs and even our wants to Him, He’s got our backs...and He loves to surprise us with the ways He will care for us!  Little did I know I was about to get a God surprise via the U S Postal service!

The very next day, I leafed through the stack of mail that had just arrived and tilted my head to see a personalized envelope addressed to me from a friend I hadn’t seen in a long, what’s this?  It’s not even my birthday!  When I opened the card, my eyes widened to see a gift-card to Target that would more than cover the cost of the bench I had been dreaming of!  Her simple note said, “God put it on my heart to do this...”, so she did and it just blew me away!

More exciting to me than the gift-card or even the possibility of buying a shoe-bench that could bring sanity to our clown-car-Sunday-mornings was the great, God-loving friends I have been blessed with in my life and the way God totally surprises me by showing he really cares about the LITTLE things!  
The new shoe bench, we love it!!
To be honest, the prayer I prayed in Target that day was pretty lame...I can’t say I REALLY believed God would put the universe-running on hold to coordinate events that would culminate into the answer to my tiny prayer for a WANT (geez, at least I should be praying for a need or world peace or something more spiritual, right?!)...but, He did.  He did something I doubt I deserved in a way I didn’t expect and once again, He shows me his crazy, unexpected love for us!  

He showed me He does more than provide salvation for our souls (as if that alone weren’t MORE than enough!!), sometimes, he provides shoe-salvation for a Momma’s sanity too!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The GREEN Elephant in the ER Room

Tonight I sat in a room in the ER next to my four-year-old son.

I had many plans for tonight: to finish cupcake-decorating with my boys for their school snack the next day, to give my girls a bath and tickle them to giggle-oblivion and to rest my newborn on my chest, snuggling him ‘till his breathing slowed into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Instead, I was sitting in a cold, florescent room, holding the hand of my boy who was buttoned up to his chin in an over sized hospital gown.  My small boy was laying in a bed too big, in a world WAY too big, with too many BIG worries for such an innocent little guy.

These are the moments that MY plans and hopes intersect with real life.  When I’m left standing at that intersection of Reality, it’s not usually the place I want to be!

The past month our little guy had struggled with recurring pain and after a more recent series of strange symptoms, we decided not to waste another minute with unanswered questions so I grabbed his dimpled, little hand and we walked into the hospital, seeking some answers.

Four-year-old kids don’t always get how serious a situation could be and Judah was no exception.  Earlier that day, I had hung up the phone with a nurse who had heard what was happening with Jude and advised us to come in as soon as possible. When I had told him he needed to go to the doctor, he lifted his chin and said with the biggest and bravest voice he could muster, “Don’t worry, Momma--I won’t cry and I won’t pout!”  In spite of my heavy heart, I had to smile!

Once we arrived at the ER the doctor was somber-faced and silent as I explained Judah’s symptoms and he gave my son a thorough exam.  He wanted to first consult with a specialist before giving us any answers and I sat and waited...and waited. It was those anxious moments that found me sitting in a brightly lit ER room and fighting dark worries that clouded my mind.

Worry and parenthood definitely go hand-in-hand.  From the moment my firstborn son’s cry pierced the air on a beautiful summer night over five years ago, ugly Worry arrived in his wake.  Worry had his bags packed with enough fear and doubt that it was quickly apparent he planned on staying the rest of my son’s life...and he stuck around for my second, third, fourth and fifth child as well!

I try to remember Worry is the darkroom where negatives are developed and that nothing good ever comes from it...but when my back is against the wall (especially in an ER room with my baby), Worry is standing right next to me and I’m usually listening to everything he has to say...

“What if this is something REALLY serious...?”
“What if something is wrong that YOU can’t fix...?”
“What if the WORST thing that could happens does...?”
“What if...???”

Trying to NOT think these thoughts and trying to ignore the worries that plague my mind in these moments of weakness is like saying, “Don’t think of the pink elephant in the room.”  What are you thinking about right now?  I’m guessing a pink elephant!

Tonight though, as I tried to NOT think about that pink elephant and NOT worry (that was a double-fail there!), I felt God encourage me to do something that sounded rather silly at the moment, “Don’t try to not think about the pink elephant, Tara...just replace that thought with a GREEN elephant.”  My first reaction was, “What!?  I need some more explanation on that one, Boss!”  Thankfully, more clarity arrived way before the doctor did and, once again, God’s timing was perfect.

It’s not enough to just try to not worry and try to not think fearful thoughts, I need to replace those thoughts with God’s Word (ie, the green elephant!), which is powerful and can defeat ANYTHING (even GIANT pink elephants!!).

“What if this is something REALLY serious...?”
“Well then, if it is: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“What if something is wrong that YOU can’t fix...?”
“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thes. 3:3)

“What if the WORST thing that could happens does...?”
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:27)

“What if...???”
The LORD is my light and my salvation— WHOM [or what!] SHALL I FEAR? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1-3)  (One of my personal favorite verses ever!!)

By the time the doctor returned to our hospital room, my peace had returned as well.  Once God’s peace flooded my soul, there wasn’t any space left in the room or my heart for a pink elephant.  And that pesky Worry and all his horrible baggage had to beat it as well...I’m pretty sure he’ll try to come around again but I’m hoping to squish him with that GREEN elephant once again!

I squeezed Judah’s hand and he smiled at me, knowing that after the doctor delivered his news there was a good chance the nurse would deliver him and his big brother a long-awaited Popsicle for “good behavior”.  I smiled back at him and really meant it.  
No matter what the diagnosis was: whether Judah would need surgery or whether it was nothing major, I wasn’t afraid anymore because I remembered that “the Lord is my light and my salvation--whom [or what Pink Elephant] shall I fear?”

Hasta la vista, Pink Elephant!

P.S.  Jude’s going to be okay...we're taking things one day at a time with God's peace!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ladybug Love Cupcakes

I LOVE Valentine's Day!  I don't even care if I get flowers, a card or over-priced perfume from my man...I just love that it's an excuse to tell everyone we love that we really do LOVE them!  Well, that and it's a great excuse to use lots of PINK...did I ever mention I LOVE PINK!?  

My boys have a Valentine's Day party at their school this week and I had just been racking my brain to come up with a fun and fresh idea of what to make with them for the special day when one of my friends posted a great blog about how to make adorable "Love Bug" cupcakes: 

Now, I must have a disclaimer here: once you see her BEAUTIFUL and magazine-worthy cupcakes and then you see what me and my kids came up with, you will no doubt strongly agree with me that I am not a gifted baker!!  In fact, feel free to laugh hysterically at our creations as they only FAINTLY resemble the cupcakes (see above) I was trying to model them after!

Alas, although I long to bake and decorate in ways that would make good ol' Martha Stewart jealous, the reality is I LOVE to make these kind of things with my kids because it's just good and messy fun that makes sweet memories!  So, here is the Cole kids take on the "Love Bugs":

Making the cupcakes and adding a little foil ball so they bake into a heart-shape.

Cupcakes cooling and candy ready to go!  You could really use anything for the decorating: we used cut up sour-worms to stick to the licorice pieces for the antennas and sliced gum-drops up for the dots on the lady-bugs.

Some of the BEST parts about making cupcakes together: spending time with loved ones (Mimi helps out, above) and of course, sampling the candy to make sure it taste good before putting it on the cupcakes (EvaLee gives it two thumbs up!).

I meant to make pink frosting but accidentally added the purple dye instead so we made purple and blue lady-bugs...hmm...original at least!

We used little zip-locks to pipe on the heads (blue) and the face (chocolate icing).

Now for the best part: let's eat 'em!