Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the best gift

Dirty dishes, piles of laundry, the baby's climbing the stairs...

Wait. The baby's climbing the stairs?!?

Don't judge. You know your second child has the "Just Survive" Syndrome too.

As women, our lives are rarely still and if you're a mom, you can forget quiet. Am I right or am I right? Don't get me wrong. I love the sounds of little voices chattering and the pitter-pattering of tiny feet throughout our house. But every once in a while, I remember for a moment what life was like before two little people needed me 24/7. And for a split second, I miss it. And then I realize I wouldn't trade our chaos for anything! This madness is my life. And it is good.

 Still, Christmas seems to add a whole other level of crazy to the mix. Gifts, parties, decorating, and all the eggnog you can handle, which is none for me because I can't bring myself to drink something cold with the word "egg" in it. Just sayin'...

It's hard to remember during the hustle and bustle that the reason we celebrate is because He came.

He came to a small stable. He came to a young couple that had nothing. But most importantly, He came to save.

He came without fanfare or fireworks to save a tired world without hope. In His humble, gentle way, He came to earth to perform a rescue mission. And while we celebrate that He was born that night in Bethlehem, may we never forget that He is still here.

He is here in the mundane tasks I do without thinking. He's here as I tie his shoes or brush her hair. He's here when I'm sad just as He's here when life is so wonderful that it takes my breath away.

He carries us when we feel like we can't go on, and He dances with us as we celebrate life's unforgettable moments.

He meets us where we are just how we are. Dirty dishes and all.

He came to save. And He stayed. Not in the manger or on the cross, but in our hearts if we let Him. He stayed so that we can have life. And have it more abundantly. So this year, let's celebrate not just that He was born and placed in a manger, but that He stayed.

For you. For me. For us.

And that, my friends, is a gift worth celebrating. Along with the fact that the baby only climbed one stair before being caught.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

doing life with Jesus

Whoa. Talk about a serious blog break! But due to the events and adjustments of these past months, it was probably a good thing I didn't post much. Ok, anything!

To catch you up, on March 28th at 12:03 PM {after God blessed me AND Luke AND Claire with just FOUR hours of labor} we welcomed the most beautiful baby girl into the Keiffer family. Here she is...boxing gloves and all:

And here I am with my babies. Well one baby and a very big boy:

Please excuse the post baby stomach and water retention. Clearly, this look was also part of The Curse. Thanks, Eve.

In all seriousness, though, I think one of my favorite things about having 2 little ones is watching them interact. At first, Austin was not so sure about this little human that cried loudly and often. It probably didn't help that she was too little to recognize her big brother and look at him adoringly. That usually helps me like someone better.

Just sayin.

After a few weeks, something wonderful happend. Brooke started smiling!

 And looking at her brother in complete awe and adoration.

I'm not even kidding when I say that she does not look at anyone else the way she looks at him. It's just all kinds of fabulousness!

Doesn't that just make your heart melt? Mine too.

While I would love to say that the last four and a half months have been picture perfect, that would be a lie. A big one. I think one of the reasons we don't remember the challenging times when we look back at certain seasons is because WE DIDN'T DOCUMENT THEM WITH PICTURES! Am I right or am I right?! The fact that the good times far outweigh the bad probably has something to do with it too. 

At the beginning of this pregnancy, God told me that our next little one would be our "joy in the morning." He told me again after we found out it was a girl. That's when I started to wonder if maybe their was some ulterior motive for telling me this. Can God even have ulterior motives? Probably not. Anyway, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe He was telling me this because I would need to remember it later. Have you ever heard that phrase "You hit the nail on the head?" Yeah. Totally applies here.

The first few weeks were filled with the usual adjustments that come with a newborn. You know, things like 3 hours of sleep at a time {if you're lucky}, house arrest {because you don't want strangers touching your new baby with no immune system. Why would they even think that's ok?!}, and the realization that your Eating For Two Diet is officially over. But in our case, there were some added bonuses as well. I guess you could say it was a two for one kind of a deal.

Two words: Acid. Reflux.

Major bummer. We're talking projectile vomiting, screaming for hours, and very little sleep. I will never forget the Saturday morning that Luke and I put Brooke in her stroller for a walk after 2 hours of screaming in a last ditch effort to get her to quit crying and sleep. It did the trick. Within minutes, our sweet girl was sleeping soundly. As we walked, we told each other that one day we would look back on these weeks and laugh.

I don't recall smoking crack during that time period, but I was also operating on the least amount of sleep I've ever gotten in my life so my memory is fuzzy at best. I'm still not convinced that we will ever laugh about those first few weeks, but there is one thing I can look back and say with certainty.

God's grace is sufficient for today and His mercies are new every single morning.

I just thought life was challenging with one little person. This new chapter has rocked my world completely compared to that.

Being a mom is the hardest, most challenging thing I will ever do. Hands down. It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. There are days that I fail my children. Miserably. No, really. At the end of the day we are all miserable due to my poor attitude. I never thought I'd see the day when going to the bathroom ALONE was the highlight of my day or eating a hot meal was a huge accomplishment. I don't even remember what life was like before the madness that is The Bedtime Routine.

But the truth is, this job is not just a job to me. It's my calling. Austin and Brooke are my mission field. Every day God gives me the chance to change their lives. What I choose to do with that opportunity is up to me.

No one ever said that ministry...of any kind...would be glamorous. My ministry as a mommy is no different. I change dirty diapers, have spit up on my clothes, wipe noses and bottoms. But when I look back on these days, I will remember how I memorized the way Brooke smelled as I held her close and rocked her to sleep. I'll remember having heart-to-heart talks with Austin as I tucked him into bed. I dry their tears, celebrate their victories, and fight for their souls on my knees. 

I was recently reminded of this verse on a great blog:

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)     

How humbling, right?

 When I lose my patience with either of them, I've lost my patience with Jesus. When I put them first and myself last, I've chosen to put Jesus first. I change His diaper everyday and fix Him macaroni and cheese. I answer His questions, and heaven knows, I've put His paci back in His mouth AT LEAST a million times. Daily. 

And while I'm doing all these things for Him, He is molding and shaping my character. He never gives up. Never loses His patience. Never complains about my shortcomings. 

I can't say that I've done the same for Him even though He deserves it far more than I do. 

So I'm going to write this verse out, tape it up somewhere I can see it often {like the pantry...hey! it's not easy to give up the Diet for Two}, and memorize it. Each day, I want to choose to treat my children the way I would treat Jesus.

Because he is our gift:

And she is our joy:

And they are the treasures God has entrusted to me for just a short time. I will choose to soak up the good times and persevere through the challenges. I will make memories and do life with them. I will see Jesus when I look at them.

Because I want them to see Him when they look at me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

this time next week...

It's hard to believe but this time next week, the Keiffers will officially be a family of four. I know we're all so excited, but for me, part of it is a little bittersweet. For almost four years, it's just been Austin and me. I would be lying if I said that I haven't shed a few tears over the closing of this chapter. The last few weeks I've done what I seem to do best these days, which is worry.

I know. I know. Jesus tells us not to, but honestly, I can't help it sometimes.

I worry how Austin will handle the change. I worry that he won't feel as loved when we have to pay special attention to Brooke. Luke tells me he'll be fine and I'm sure he's right...he almost always is, which can be infuriating sometimes. Still, it's a mom thing, I guess. I've spent the last weeks obsessing and preparing in every way possible to make sure this transition is as easy on him as it can be. And of course my final preparation would have to be a letter. Afterall, I may need it someday just to prove to him that he wasn't chopped liver before or after Brooke was born.

Dear Austin:

There was a phrase my family frequently used to refer to a fun memory in the past or coming in the future: "This time {next week, last week, next year, etc}." As I grew up, I would find myself thinking that same phrase to myself about the most random times or events.

Today, I'm starting that tradition in the Keiffer family.

This time next week Brooke will be here.

As your Aunt Brittany said just this morning, I will be a mother of two and you will be an official big brother. No doubt our world will never be the same.

Before the sleep deprivation catches up with me and causes my patience to run extra thin, I want you to know how wonderful these last three and a half years with you have been. In some ways, it feels like it's been an eternity since we brought you home from the hospital, but mostly it feels like I blinked my eyes and you were no longer my baby but a little boy.

My quiet times these last few days have been about Mary and the birth of Jesus. He was her first born too, you know. The Bible says that she treasured every memory with Him in her heart to look back on through the years to come. I love that verse because it's exactly what I have done these last few years with you. I had no idea what I would do with a little boy. Let's be honest, I had no idea what a little boy would do to me! 

But just like the Lord promised, you have been a gift from the start. You have forced me out of my comfort zone and shown me that I'm capable of more than I thought I was. Nine hours of labor, potty training, and many other things come to mind. 

God has used you to show me things about Him I never would've known before you came along. I love that being a parent has given me new insight into how deep the Father's love is for us. I love that you have taught me what it means to have child-like faith.

When I look back at the memories I've stored in my heart from these last three years, I'll remember Target trips, Sonic dates, and our heart-to-heart talks before bed. But more than anything, I'll remember that, much like Mary knew from the very beginning, God has shown me that you have never been mine. You belong to God and have been entrusted to me and your Daddy for just a short time. I pray that as you continue to grow and need me less that you would find you need Him more. He is more trustworthy and capable of taking care of you than we'll ever be!

It's true. This time next week, we will begin a new chapter in our family. But one thing will still be the same...

This time next week, you will still be as special and as loved as the day you were born. For now and for always, my sweet boy you will be. I love you!!


Monday, February 14, 2011

happy valentines day

I am blessed to have 2 men in my life that have always done a wonderful job of making me feel special.

My very first Valentine was my dad. It's amazing that someone who was raised in a family of all boys could be so good at raising girls and making us feel special. Looking back, I remember Daddy/Daughter dates, the loudest voice in the crowd during my cheerleading days, and unexpected moments of advice. He's the reason I love my Heavenly Father so much and why I never settled when it came to dating. When the time came to walk me down the aisle, he did so without the Steve Martin antics in Father of the Bride. I know it was bittersweet for him, but let's be honest, he was only sad until he thought about the raise he was about to get. He is a blessing and I'm so thankful God made Pete Bauerlein my dad.

Luke is my second Valentine. The one I waited for for about 18 years.

No lie. 

To say he was worth the wait would be the understatement of the year. He is patient and kind. Gentle and humble, except for maybe when he's been proven right. He is the answer to all the prayers I prayed so long ago. But more importantly, he challenges me and smooths my rough edges. He always sees the best in me and believes I can do anything even when I doubt myself. I look at him and am reminded of many of the characteristics I love so much about Jesus.

Simply put, he is my best friend. The person that can make me laugh like no one else, push my buttons like no one else, and love the good and bad like no one else. Together we've faced the ups and downs of life, and through it all our marriage has been made stronger. After almost 7 years of mood-swings-without-warning, sleep-deprivation-due-to-having-kids, and more-things-on-our-to-do-list-than-we-have-time, he is still one of the best things to ever happen to me.

So to my favorite I say:

I love you more and more everyday!!

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Thursday, February 10, 2011

some thoughts on winter

I have never been so cold for an extended period of time in. my. life. Let's be honest. Part of the appeal of moving down to south Texas was that IT DOESN'T GET THAT COLD HERE! And yes, being closer to family was an added bonus. Here's something I bet you never knew: you can get cabin fever without millions of feet of snow that result in thousands of snow days.

It's called windchill, people, and I'm just not a fan of getting in my car and going anywhere when it feels like -19. Ok. Maybe that was a tad dramatic since my friends up north are actually experiencing those temperatures. My condolences. I wouldn't last a day in that kind of weather. It's like my friend Andrea said:

It's like winter got into a big vat of Muscle Milk.

Truer words were never spoken. 

Scarves are my new BFFs since all my super warm coats won't zip anymore. You'd think being about 8 months pregnant would keep you a little warmer than everyone else. Think again.

When we went to visit Britt and Jon in Boston over Thanksgiving, we got to do a lantern tour in Plymouth. You know, in honor of the Pilgrims. That particular day was extremely windy; therefore, making the 40 degree temps feel more like -40. And no, this time I'm not exaggerating. I remember thinking,

I sure am glad it doesn't get this cold in San Antonio!

Turns out jokes on me because apparently it can get that cold in San Antonio. So here I am having flashbacks to Plymouth and the lantern tour that felt like it would never end. I will say that my favorite part of that evening was seeing Britt wrap her scarf around her head like a little babushka because she didn't think she'd need a hat. Jon did too, in case you were wondering. And then, being the amazing uncle that he is, pushed an empty umbrella stroller around the town since Austin decided to have a meltdown which resulted in Luke carrying him. {aaand a really long runon sentence} It may sound like we didn't have fun, but surprisingly we did. I think it was all the jokes and memories we came away with after enduring the bitter cold. We even outlasted the family from Minnesota.

I guess the moral of the story is that you can still have fun and make memories in the bitter cold...like teaching your son how to make a snowball after it snows in San Antonio. Still I have one thing to say to Winter 2011:

Dial it down. Nobody likes a one-upper.

Stay warm, friends!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

this too shall pass

I would love to tell you that I'll get better about blogging more regularly, but that would be a lie. And if I'm gonna put my son in time out for lying, then I better not do it either.

Just sayin'...

Life is good here at The Keiffer House. Despite fighting head colds and allergies, I'd say we're enjoying the fact that life has slowed down a little since the holidays. Not being able to travel will force you to do that, you know. Now if we could just get Austin's new room and Brooke's first {or is it her second??} room finished, I would feel like we're ready for baby #2.

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to see baby stuff around our house again. I guess I really had forgotten how tiny Austin was at one time. In fact, I went through some of his old, old clothes and was amazed and how easily the memories associated with each little outfit came flooding back. Time flies and before you know it, you're registering your first born for pre-school. I can't even think about it or I'll have a meltdown that involves the Ugly Cry. And no one, I mean NO ONE, looks good doing The Ugly Cry.

 I'm just so thankful for my little guy! So here's another letter telling him just that.

Dear Austin:

It hit me the other day that in 2 months, it won't just be the three of us anymore. While I can't wait to meet our sweet baby Brooke, part of me is a little sad to close this chapter of you and me.

It doesn't seem possible that three years could go by so fast! It seems like just yesterday, we were making our first trip to Target together. I was so nervous about how it would go, but you slept through the whole adventure. That's ok. Since then, you've developed an appreciation for the Dollar Spot that would make any mom proud!

I will never forget the moment that I truly became your mom. We were at the doctor and the nurse had to prick your heel to take some blood. You were crying. I was crying. Thank goodness the nurse didn't cry! I knew in that moment that I would do anything for you. I knew that for better or worse, a piece of me would always be tied to you. When you rejoice, I will rejoice with you. When you weep, I will weep with you.

In just a couple of short months, our world and family will change, but one thing will remain the same and that is the depth of your daddy and my love for you! You are everything we never imagined God would give us. Everything about you brings us such joy and laughter. You really are the gift that God promised you would be.

I love that I can see glimpses of other family members in you. It makes me feel closer to those that are far away. I love the way you make up songs about whatever is on your mind. It reminds me so much of the days that your Aunt Brittany would sing her "original" songs. She still has a song in her heart and I hope you always will too. I love your sweet spirit and tender heart. They bring a smile to my face because they remind me of your Grammy and Great-Granny. I love that you have a strong sense of right and wrong. You are such a rule follower and that definitely comes from your Aunt Claire and Gigi. Your joy and zest for life is the very picture of your Papa B. You entertain us like your Uncle Josh, and you love to talk to Jesus just like your Uncle Jon, Uncle Jared and Pops. You have a very determined spirit when trying to do new things and that reminds me of your Aunt Lindsay.

But more than anything, I love seeing glimpses of your Daddy in you. You are patient and forgiving just like he is. You are an observer and hardly miss a thing, which means you are always asking questions. You're an early riser. That is definitely a trait you get from your Daddy. You are loyal to your family and love unconditionally. These are perhaps the character qualities I love most about your Daddy, and it brings my heart great joy to see them in you. The two of you are buddies. I pray you never stop wanting to be just like your daddy because he is the best example here on earth of your Heavenly Daddy.

And speaking of your Heavenly Father, I pray that you will accept Him as your Savior at an early age. My desire for you is that you would come to know Him intimately and seek to glorify and please Him daily. I pray that as you face the troubles of this life, that you will remember that you are more than a conquerer because He has already won the victory! He loves you more than we ever could. As deep as our love is for you, it is still a poor picture of how wide and how deep God's love is for you. 

These last three years have been some of the best of my life. You are a daily reminder that life is full of seasons and all too quickly "this too shall pass." Thank you for being patient with us as we try to do this parenting thing the best we can. You are precious to us and one of our greatest treasures! We love doing life with you, but more importantly, we love you.


Proverbs 24:3-4

By wisdom a house is built,

and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

into every life...

...a little rain must fall.

It's hard for me to believe that 2010 is over. In some ways, I'm sad but in others I'm relieved.

This time last year, we were in Dallas at the Cottonbowl. Austin was only 2 and my sister and her husband lived just a few hours away. Luke and I had no idea when God would add to our family nor did we have any idea what was in store for our families.

Looking back at the last year, I'm very aware of the fact that 2010 was full of more changes than I anticipated or even realized at the time. Now, if you've known me for any length of time, then you know that change and I get along about as well as Tom and Jerry. Unfortunately, change is a part of life and God is constantly teaching me how to accept it gracefully.

If you're wondering how that's going, let's just say I'm a work in progress.

At the beginning of this year, life was a little more carefree. A little easier to take for granted. Definitely a little less fragile.

I'll be the first to tell you that Luke and I are blessed beyond what we deserve. Sometimes I feel like our lives are too good to be true. I admit that there are times I find myself expecting God to take it all away the next day.

And then I fearfully obsess over little things and nearly drive Luke completely insane. Please tell me you do the same from time to time. If not, then just lie.

If there's one thing God has used the circumstances of this year- good and bad- to teach me, it's that I'm not, nor have I ever been, in control. What did that feel like coming out of my mouth?

Like vinegar.

Contrary to the belief of those of us that live in South Texas, rain will come. The unexpected will happen. Sisters will move far away. Situations will arise that force you to trust the only One you know to be in control.

For some reason, this Christmas didn't feel quite as magical and wonderous as it usually does. Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones, but I definitely felt a little weighed down by the stress and changes of the last year. As I was inviting the Lord to my pity party, He gently reminded me of this:

When the rains come, growth happens. When the troubles of this world knock us to our knees, we come face to face with a God who has not forgotten, but loves us enough to let the refining happen.

And once the storms have passed, we appreciate the sun and carefree moments so much more.

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.
Hosea 6:3