Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We Have Manners, Yes We Do.....

We have manners, less than you!
(Adapted from a lame High School cheer,
yes, thanks for asking, I was a high school cheerleader.)
 
We were rewarding ourselves with a meal at a Mexican restaurant after summiting
Tiger Mountain.

The kids claimed they were hungry - very hungry.
Near starvation, I think was the terminology expressed, along with exaggerated whines, moans and eye rolling that accompanies complaints from offspring trying to prove a pointless point.

They were hungry, but obviously not hungry enough to
EAT the food
instead of just PLAYING with it.
I was so embarrassed by the ringleader,
I threatened to NEVER
take him out in public again.

video

Unfortunately, the offender was the one with the credit card.
I think the waiters were very thankful they seated our family in the back of the restaurant.
I think they were more thankful my husband fathered only six children.

In my very first blog, I warned my family
"Everything You Say and Do,
Can Be Blogged Against You."

Maybe they didn't read that one.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Your Labor is Not in Vain!

Didja ever have one of those days where you had so much to do, you feared getting out of bed in the morning?

I awoke with that feeling of gut-wrenching dread this morning. I knew the list was humanly impossible, but I also know all things are possible with the Lord. I cried out to the Lord and He answered my prayers.

While reading my Bible He spoke to me through this verse:


I wrote it on a piece of paper with black Marks-A-Lot marker, the ones I hide from the kids, and put it on the fireplace as I began my day. I had my heart set right and I was ready to labor as a Mom, a wife, a teacher, a neighbor, a friend, whatever the Lord called me to do that day.

Five loads of laundry were washed and folded. When I began teaching school I set up the ironing board in front of the crackling fire and my markered words of encouragement and began putting creases in sleeves, ironing down collars and getting my husband's clothes looking like he has a wife who cares.

I taught school and ironed, I corrected school and ironed, I made a few business phone calls and ironed, answered a few emails and ironed some more.

There was even time in the afternoon to call my Mommy and catch up. I shared with her my Super-Mommy kinda' day, fueled by the verse the Lord gave me in the morning.

Then, I made Jen W.'s delicious lasagna for the first time in about five years.

When 7-year old Beka noticed me setting the table, she asked, "Who's coming to dinner?"
.
My answer of "no one" confused her.
.
"Then why are you setting the table so nice?"
.
"This is what Mommy always used to do before she got sick. A few times a week I set the table really nice for our family dinner."
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She got into the spirit of things and added a lot of candles to my table setting and to the coffee table.


The rains had come in the afternoon and the weather lengthened the commutes for Scott and Beth as they drove home from opposite ends of the metro area. When they arrived home they smelled another home cooked dinner (two days in a row - I have set a record!) and Beka's lovely arrangement.

We enjoyed a traditional family dinner of much laughter, talking, sharing and joking. Afterwards, we retired to the living room where the crackling fire and the flickering candles reflected the warmth of our love and soothed our weary souls. I mended, some read, some used the computer, some snoozed. We basked in the atmosphere inside while the rains poured outside.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted, my legs ached and I could hardly wait to go to bed. But, the fatigue was worth it, because I know that today, I labored not in vain, because I labored in the Lord.

Monday, September 28, 2009

fUmBliNg iN ThE kItChEn WiTh mOmMa MiNdY

I kinda' don't like to cook. I've been cooking as long as I can remember and I am a little battle weary. I used to do the homemade meals, homemade breads, quick breads, cookies, candies, jams, jellies, pickles, salsa, on and on and on. I had the huge garden. I cooked and canned with all the best of them in them in the Midwest.

Then, we moved to the West coast. Out here, we grow moss in our yards, have huge slugs and we have more critters in town to eat gardens than I had living in the farm country of North Dakota. We rented our first year so gardening was out.


Then, I got cancer. The recovery was very slow, over a year, as I learned to live with artificial hormones and finished treatment. We bought a house. I continued to recover. Dinner became a family workshop with everyone pitching in to try to keep our meals timely and healthy. I remember the kids victoriously celebrating when I made dinner for the first time all by myself. The younger kids NEVER remember that I USED to made things like lasagna, pizza, brownies and breakfast.


Then, I got lazy. Hey, once you've bought Stouffers, who wants to go to all the work to make lasagna? Once you know the number to three different pizza delivery places, who wants to make their own pizza?


Now, I am sick of my cooking. I've been reading cooking blogs long enough to inspire myself to get back into the Mommy mode of preparing new and interesting meals.


I had a nap today, so I was ready to tackle something simple. With a leftover cooked roast to warm up, all I needed to make was a new side dish.


A recipe from Ellie from Homecooking In Montana had been taunting my tasetbuds all weekend. Plus, it looked easy. I printed out the pages from her blog with her amazing photography and step by step directions.


I had to boil new potatoes until fork tender.

Sounded easy. I just wasn't sure how tender fork tender was. I overcooked them. Notice how close I left the plastic spoon to the burner. I'm amazed I didn't start it on fire. That happens a little too often around here.

I was supposed to line my cookie sheet with parchment paper. I've never owned that in my life. I hoped aluminum foil would work.
I was supposed to crush the potatoes carefully. I couldn't find my potato masher. I couldn't even remember how many years it has been since I used it. Did I get rid of it when I started buying Potato Buds? Did the kids take it? If they did, do I want to know what they did with it?
I tried this other utinsel thing, I don't know what it is called, but I have had it for years and never use it. It just looks cool and old.


It didn't work. I had to mash the pieces back with my wrinkled fingers.


I tried again with not so much brute force. It still didn't work. I used Ellie's recommendation to use a napkin and press it down with your hand.

Notice the one in the front middle? I guess most people wouldn't have used a pink napkin, I did. I won't next time. I also smashed some of them harder than I should have. At this point, I had tears in my eyes. I felt like such a failure because I couldn't even boil potatoes correctly for this first step of the recipe. But, I rallied and pushed on.
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I needed to mix olive oil and garlic clove for the next step. I had to sniff all the olive oils to find the one that was the freshest. I couldn't find garlic, so used some crushed garlic from a jar that I think is about a year old. While I was debating on how old garlic can be and still be edible, Beth came in and showed me where she hid the garlic she just bought. I threw out the first batch and made the oil and garlic again, fresh.
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I topped the potoes with oil and garlic, parmeson cheese and broiled them for a few minutes. I added grated colby-jack and chives from my OWN garden to the top, returned them to the oven.
At this point I was a little amazed, but wondering if I could get the rest of the dinner on the table before the potatoes got cold. I have lost that art of multi-tasking in the kitchen.
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Despite all my fumblings, Ellie's potatoes were a hit with my family. I didn't show them the picture of her potatoes, so they didn't know how inferior mine were.
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Jon, the one who doesn't remember the Days When Mom Used to Cook, totally appreciated the dinner. With lip-smacking approval he gushed, "Mom, the potatoes are amazing! You should cook every night!"
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Oh. If I had know that would be the expectation, I would have opened the Potato Buds.
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Now that you seen my fumblings, drop by Ellie's site and see some real cooking. She was inspiration enough to get me back in the kitchen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

mAkInG fUn oF mOm

My dear husband declared that blogging really wasn't fair. He didn't think I should be able to make fun of everybody else in the family and nobody could pick on me. I welcomed him to become a guest blogger, but he said he has back surgery every day for the next year. Or, maybe, he wanted to learn to paint stripes on the highway, or expand his string collection. Either way, he didn't take me up on my offer.

I decided to do it for him. That's what good wives do, they do all the things the husbands should do and could do and would do if you let them wait a year or ten. As a good helpmate, I will help him and make fun of myself.

Sad to say, these things are true, unexaggerated, and a fair show of the abuse I take around here. I blog in kind retaliation.

4-09 I had treated myself to a rare experiment in pampering, a haircut by a stylist friend with a shop in her backyard. She washed, cut and fixed my hair, curling each long strand in a gorgeous do'. I was ready to stun my family with my grand entrance. Instead, I was stunned.

Grace, Aamzing Grace, greeted me with wide-eyed enthusiasm. "Wow, Mom! Your hair looks just like DNA!"

"DNA?" my husband asked, thinking he missed some new rad teenage term. "What's that?"

" A DNA strand, ya, know, like in Biology."

5-5-09 I was snuggling with Beka in her bed, enjoying her comments on how much she loved me and how she thought I was so pretty. Suddenly she shuddered, jerked back a little, and said, "Ooh, sometimes when I get too close to you, you look scary. But, then when I get far away again, you look normal again."


8-09 While on vacation in Montana, I relaxed. I really relaxed. I didn't wear make-up and I didn't fix my hair. I spent a lot of time on the dock sunbathing and reading. The day we were going into town I decided to fix my hair and put on make-up. However, because of the dryness of the air and the slow speed of my mom's hair dryer, I was having a hard time getting my hair styled the way I wanted it.

My Dad greeted me with enthusiasm I mistook for admiration. "I'm glad you fixed your hair today," he began. I waited in anticipation for my daddy's adoring compliment to make all things feel better. "It reminds me that I need to buy a new mop."

9-09 Scott, "You should have been born a cat. You are SO finicky."

9-16-09 I was expressing frustration to my husband that one of my kids had messed with my camera. This was the same day that one of my kids left the van key, the only key we have to the minivan, in her friends car, a few towns north of us. Another one of my kids left the weedwacker and a bicycle outside after they were told to put them away. This same kid didn't take out the roast to thaw, so we had no meat ready for dinner. My world is always being messed with or kept from rotating perfectly.

My husband, as always, had the perfect solution. "I think you need to be on a planet where it's only YOU."

Get me on the next flight!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

MM Meditation - A Lad, Five Loaves and a Life

John 6
5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,
9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” The men sat down, in number about five thousand.
11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”
13 They gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”


We see a picture deeper picture than hungry people being fed and the disciples gathering a lot of leftovers; we experience a spiritual implication. Some of these hillside loungers realized that their hunger was more than physical. Their souls were hungry and their hearts were filled in abundance with what delighted them more than the bread, the Bread of Life.

I can imagine that little boy speeding home, holding up the edge of his tunic, his leather sandals slapping along the dusty road, to tell his mommy that the Lord Jesus used his little lunch to feed the whole crowd. Do you think she believed him or had it verified by others? Had she packed that lunch only for him, or had she hoped that he could make a little money by selling the extra food? We don't know her motive or her reaction, but we know the impact of that motherly act of lunch-packing. She never imagined that lunch feeding over 5,000 people, while portraying a message of the Savior.

Today, if that little boy was around, someone would have coerced him into writing a book, or have it ghost written, there would be guest appearances, and celebrity sightings. Of course, he would have to start a ministry, complete with Capital Letters and Tax-Exempt Status. Maybe he would feel called or anointed to name it "Loaves for Jesus" or "Feeding the Multitudes." Not catchy enough. How about "Lads and Loaves"? It leaves out the women, that wouldn't be politically correct. "Spiritual Multiplication of Your Gifts"….no……"Torn Bread" if he started a Christian rock band…… "Hunger 4 God"……am I getting close?

He would be hailed as a hero, until he fell. The boy who started with simple obedience and service got sidetracked by believing all the things said and expected of him as a performer, a leader, a mouthpiece for pop Christianity.

Then, the public would find another hero to stand upon a marble pedestal, until the demands of Christian perfection and perfect good deeds tumbled him into the dirt. Because people aren't always willing to be holy, to do good, and walk with the Lord, they prefer to aspire to this through the success of others. If there are Christian heroes, we can live vicariously through them without actually having to be holy and busy….just identifying with them is enough.

This is where the danger is in our times. We want heroes and icons and Ministries instead of simple lives of faith, obedience and service.

This little boy was allowed to minister by giving, then he was allowed to slip back into the crowd and continue his life. He wasn't a hero. He wasn't a prophet. He wasn't worthy of honor. He just was privileged to meet and serve the One who IS. He was just a boy who gave all he had to the Lord.

How are we offering the Bread of Life to the starving masses around us? We must lay our gifts, talents and services on the altar, for Him to multiply and distribute as He sees fit. We must not long for pre-eminence and for platitudes, only for souls to be saved and lives to be changed.

After affecting the lives of 5,000 people with his little lunch, the lad remained nameless, for the Name Above all Names.

What are you willing to give to the Lord so that He can multiply it - for HIS glory and not your own?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Could I Have an Answer to Prayer?

In a previous post, after expressing my frustration with my current medical providers, I enumerated my lowered-standard requirements for a new endocrinologist.

1. Nice
2. Nice nurse
3. Not so busy
4. Female
5. Remember me

After procrastinating too long, I finally called my insurance for a list of local female endocrinologists on the preferred providers list. There was only one.

It made the decision easier. I called the receptionist and began asking questions, then made an appointment. I only had to book out three WEEKS, not three MONTHS. Once I am an established patient, a follow-up visit can be arranged within about three DAYS. When I had a few more questions the receptionist couldn't answer, she took my name and phone number.

The doctor returned the call within an hour. She was NICE. The most amazing thing to me was that she asked me questions about my health and history. Then, she began asking me other questions.

"Have you ever had your bone density checked?"

"No."

"Have you ever had your estrogen checked?"

"No."

She asked about other testing and I always had to answer no. The thyroid part had always been well taken care of. I appreciated my past doctors medical expertise, but not their bedside manner, nor their unwillingness to treat me as a WHOLE PERSON, not just a THYROID. They never had any advice for the side-effects of my thyroid hormone, aging and facing menopause without my master-gland.

In a 20 minute conversation, I very clearly understood that Dr. G was concerned about the effects of high thyroid/low TSH on my body over the years, and concerned about my over-all health, not just the thyroid levels.

She admitted she might not be the most expertise in my particular cancer, but that she would be an advocate for me.

Before she hung up, she said she was looking forward to meeting me, wished me well, and called me by MY NAME.

After our call ended, I cried. I have so been craving nurturing along with my doctoring, and I may have found it. It looks good so far, in the first encounter, she met all five of my lowered expectations. But, I get the feeling that I will be able to raise the bar and she will still meet expectations.

I will continue to ask the Lord to guide and direct me to the right health care providers. More importantly than that, I pray that I will be used for His glory and honor in my sufferings.

What a privilege to have Heavenly Father who hears and answers prayer. He is only a whisper, an aching heart, an agonizing tear away.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer, and show you great and mighty things, which you know not.

Prayer is the answer to every problem there is.... Prayer imparts the power to walk and not faint.--Oswald Chambers


Call unto Him, He'll answer.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eyeore and I Love Weeds

I love fall weeds. I always have. I love the blending tans, greens, golds, creams, rusts and browns - each color boasts their own rainbow of shades.

When the riot of summer blooms have fallen to the ground, the subtle colors of nature rise up to calm our souls as we prepare for winter.


This was taken on top of Tiger Mountain. I almost slid down the rocky side because I was so intent on trying to get the perfect picture, I wasn't paying attention to where my body was compared to the edge of the cliff.


These are the colors I am using to decorate for Thanksgiving this year....hmmmm....I should have cut down some of these flowers for a dried arrangement. What was I thinking? These would look amazing on my antique buffet.


I love weeds. And, I'm in good company.



Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them- A. A. Milne, Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

$aving Dollar$ on Teen$ Clothe$

Having daughter$ is an expen$ive habit. We know. We have four. They need clothe$, $hoe$, make-up, clothe$, per$onal care item$, jean$, hair care product$ and gadget$, $hirts, finger-nail poli$he$ and gadget$, clothe$ and $hoe$. Once you buy one item on the li$t, it require$ $everal other item$ on the li$t to make a properly acce$orized outfit.



At the end of August I hosted a Clothing Exchange to facilitate saving money on back to school shopping. I felt this was a good way to encourage families during a stressful economic time and teach our daughters to be resourceful. Moms and daughters were invited to bring all the clothing, shoes, jewelry, hair accessories, belts and personal care items that they no longer needed, but were still in useable condition.

Prior to arrival I had to clean my garage. I hung brightly colored sheets to partition the garage and hide all the stuff I just shoved into the back. Using shelving, folding tables, and the air hockey table I marked spots to put things. Pants and shorts were sorted into sizes on shelves. Using blue tape marking S, M,L and XL, I marked places for sweaters and sweatshirts, short-sleeved shirts and long-sleeved shirts. Shoes went outside. Dresses hung between two ladders on a heavy dowel. Jewelry on a table. Hats and purses in laundry baskets.


I had three rooms ready with mirrors for them to use as dressing rooms.


I asked everyone to arrive at 1:30 to help set-up. We planned to begin shopping at 2:00, but we were done with set-up in about 15 minutes, because it was so organized. Participants said they easily found bags of items in closets they weren't using, including many items that still had the tags on them. (C'mon, most of us have at least one item hanging in our closet with the tags on them.....)


Anyone that couldn't arrive at the set time was invited to arrive whenever they could. Most of the girls hung around until 4pm, still trying on, accessorizing and enjoying their time together.


I had no requirement on how many items to bring or how many they could take. It was absolutely open. We had more items left over than we had imaged possible. Our only regret is that we hadn't planned to bring them to a women's shelter. We ended up dropping them off at a thrift store.




The moms sat and talked and the girls shopped and giggled and shopped and giggled and shopped.
Rebecca volunteered to model her new shirt. Aah, to have that 18 inch waist again.


Rachel looked adorable in her new cotton knit baby doll shirt.

Grace kept us laughing with her "layered" looks. She just kept on putting on whatever she took a fancy to. That is a poodle skirt scrunched beneath a cotton summery dress. I'm pretty sure she won't be wearing this outfit to school...pretty sure....




Grace, Melissa and Grace trudging gracefully down a dirt path for a photo shoot. A few days after this, I discovered that my lens was dead. So, the above blurry pics are the last hurrahs of a worn-out 18-55mm Canon lens.


It was such a success that we have tentatively planned to do this for moms only in January, when the holiday pigging out will make us all desperate for new, bigger clothes. We're toying with the idea of having a make-up representative come for a few make-overs and have a few trims offered from my daughter, Bethany.


We'll try another teen exchange in the spring. We've even dreamed about an exchange for Christmas decorations, home decor.....the possibilities are endless....


I was blessed watching teenage girls walk out of my garage with 1 to 3 bags of new-to-them clothing for the school year - at no charge. It was far more items than any of us would or could buy for our kids for back-to-school. The moms were blessed by having a few hours together to talk about parenting, leaning on the Lord, homeschooling, and sharing prayer requests. There are just some needs that don't have a price tag.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Compare the Calendars

The beginning of a school year is always an adventure, as we face another year of homeschooling and prepare for winter/rainy season and the holidays. It is a slow stretch of anticipation, knowing that as the year ramps up into hysteria, it will come crashing down into glorious summer. I love summer. I love teaching my kids, but I do love me some summer.

I use MSN Calendar to keep my life together. If I don't write everything down, I won't remember. I have typed in all birthdays and anniversaries and get a reminder a week ahead of time so I have time to send a card, either real or email.

I color-coordinate my events. Orange is doctor/dentist, red is spiritual events, yellow is school, dark green is work (babysitting usually), purple is mommy events, blue is company, teal is traveling, green is baseball. If the kids have an event, they are responsible for helping it get on the calendar. Each day when I sign in to check my email, I get a reminder box with all of the events for that day. It is like having my own administrative assistant.


Doesn't September look peaceful? I am putting up Fall decorations, weeding the flower beds, planting a few more flowers, cleaning out garage and storage shed in preparation for a cozy winter inside listening to the rain splatter on the windows and the roof. Rain is such a peaceful sound, especially when accompanied by a crackling fire and the scent of freshly brewed coffee.


This was last May. If there is a little arrow at the bottom of the left hand corner, it means there were too many events for that day to view, so you have to drop down the box the view them all.
Do you see why the calendar program keeps me in the game?
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Do you see why I love summer?
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It takes three months to recover from a school year and have that energy to begin again. I always am SO ready to be done with school; I get spring fever worse than the kids. But, I am always excited for a new year and excited for the new classes we're taking either at home or through our homeschool coop.
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As always, I wonder what the year will bring; what joys and sorrows will our family go through together. Last year, I had a huge burden to begin school hard and finish early, I was pretty sure I would be facing surgery that spring. The doctor kept telling me my cancer was NOT back, but that small, still voice of the Lord told me to prepare. I remember doubting that voice, wondering if I was imagining things, or running away with my feelings, but I obeyed. When my new doctor diagnosed me with cancer in about March, it was confirmation that it was His voice I had heard.
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I remember being in awe that He would prepare my heart and my path.
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This year, I'm feeling peace. I have a peaceful feeling about my family, about school and about life. We are feeling so blessed and are feeling His guiding presence.
I am thinking about this hymn -
I don't know
About tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don't worry about my future
For I know what Jesus said
And today He walks beside me
For He knows what lies ahead
Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

The peace in September comes not from a less-demanding schedule, because I always fill each day to the rim regardless of how many things were on the calendar to begin with. The peace comes from knowing Who is holding my hand, whether I am running like crazy, multi-tasking my multi-tasks or sprawling on the couch wishing the world would stop so I could get off.

He holds my hand, and my future.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Coffee Cup Encouragement

Morning always comes too soon. Mothers aren't always able to sleep through the night, rarely get the recommended daily allowance of sleep (everyone is worried about the kids getting enough sleep but they get more than their moms!) and don't often allow themselves to take a nap due to that ever-growing To Do List and their self-imposed burden of guilt.

My morning cup of coffee, or two or three, isn't a luxury, it is a necessity.

I've often joked that an IV would be a wiser choice, but I hate needles.

Besides, I love my cups. They are a way I encourage myself in parenting.

I splurged and bought this cup on clearance for myself after Grace was born, my fourth child in six years. I remember the work, but I remember the joy of another beautiful little girl. It was like getting another new baby doll. Babies are SO worth the work!

This mug was purchased to encourage myself in parenting my boys. I knew I was in trouble when 7 year old Daniel snuggled up to 1 day old baby Jon and said, "I can hardly wait until he is old enough to wrestle." That was a warning, an admonition and a premonition at all once. After 13 years of thumping, wacking, jumping, tripping, punching, wrestling, pinching, wet-willying, half-nelsoning, throwing-brother's-baseball-bat in the fire incidents, the house is now eerily quiet and Jon can be abnormally reserved during the day. Now, I worry about that. So BOY coping isn't a skill I need to utilize anymore, but that's OK. It was about worn out.

My two other favorite mugs were somehow broken, ya' know, sometimes my things just show up broken. I'm sure the true story will be revealed years from now when they are bragging at a family reunion. "Hey, remember that time we broke mom's favorite coffee mugs cuz' we were playing football with the dishes while loading the dishwasher?"

If Momma Ain't Happy Ain't Nobody Happy
This wasn't a threat to the kids to keep Momma happy, it was a reminder to myself to keep the household atmosphere loving and happy. Mom can set the emotional thermometer in the house; when she turns up the heat, everyone begins to sweat. When she keeps her cool, everyone else enjoys the refreshment in the air.


Children Are Nature's Way of Saying Your House Was Way Too Clean
This mug helped keep my priorities straight. You know, you'll never look back on life and say, "I wish I had cleaned my house more." We'll look back and wonder if we held the kids enough, played with them enough, made enough memories, gave enough kisses, taught enough skills, but above all, did we speak to them enough about our faith? Did we teach them the Word? Did we fill their hearts and minds with precious thoughts and songs of the Savior?
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Sometimes we need to sit still and meditate about our parenting - our goals, our ambitions, our values and our faith. What can be done differently? What is going well? We need to refocus, refresh and renew our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. There isn't any part of your body that isn't first tapped, then zapped, with parenting.
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My morning cup of coffee is necesary, but it is not the main focus of my encouragement; that comes from what's in my other hand, my Bible. It is my source of the wisdom, strength, love and joy I need for the hardest job on earth.
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The job where the labor is never ending, but the rewards could be eternal. You can't bring anything to heaven with you, except other souls.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Conquering Tiger Mountain

My husband can be impromptu.
My husband can find an adventure.
My husband sometimes doesn't pay attention to all the details when he wants to have an impromptu adventure.


Saturday he mentioned we should take a hike on Sunday after church.
Some guy at work had mentioned it was a great hike and you could watch parasailing.
We were all game. It sounded low-key.


Sunday we ate lunch, then drove in the vicinity of the mountain.
We had the name of the city, a guess at which exit and
we followed the direction of the parasails in the air.
No biggie.
My husband has this annoying habit of never
knowing where he is going,
never planning, and always finding it.
(OK, I'm jealous. I plan, Mapquest, GPS and I STILL get lost.)


We saw a lot of cars, a lot of people and a sign for the Chirico Trail.
Great. Looked like things were panning out.


Ten minutes into the hike I was ALMOST crying.
It was a hard hike with a lot of switchbacks and steep grade.
I was wearing jean shorts and two shirts and
I felt like there were five hot-flashes competing for my attention.
I suddenly understood why all those other hikers wear those
light-weight tan hiking shorts we used to laughed at.
They are the uniform of the PNW.
I was wishing I had given in to peer pressure and bought the uniform.
There's a reason why you don't do a serious hike in denim shorts.


Scott was confused and concerned by my reaction.
He had intended to have fun as a family, not make his wife cry.
After the speed hikers raced by, their calf muscles flexing in time to my Lamaze-like breathing, I explained to Scott I was not crying because I was upset with him,
I was upset that it was SO hard for me to hike. Just a few years ago I had taken a lesser hike carrying a 35 pound backpack.
It was another reminder of the frailty of human bodies
due to aging and cancer,
but that made me more determined to finish.


.
I glamorously knotted my hair up with a dead stick and we were off.


My two teenage daughters were in flip-flops and received many comments as professional hikers stomped by in their professional hiking boots. It didn't even phase my daughters, they still flew up the trail, leaving their mommy heaving in their dust.



In hindsight, it probably wasn't the wisest choice of footwear.

It can really mess up a nice pedicure.

The parasailers run up the trail with a 50 pound pack on their backs.

My husband hiked up the trail and I was tempted to ride on his back.

Bethany and Beka smiling as they sweat along.
The more we praised Beka, the harder she tried and the less she complained.

We rested a lot.
More for me than for her.
She was AMAZING!



We reached the first clearing and discovered the view was the cliche,


worth the hike.


It faces Mt. Rainier but to be honest,
I can't even remember if we saw M'lady of the PNW or not.
I was concentrating on breathing and not hyperventilating.
It was like the transition stage of labor.


We hiked the final grueling stretch, and like a woman
forgetting the pains of labor after seeing the face of her child,
I felt no pain, feared no pain, remembered no pain the moment I beheld the glorious Creation.

The view included Squak and Cougar Mountains, Lake Sammamish, Issaquah, Bellevue, Seattle...

and brilliantly hued parasails.


To learn, you jump tandem. This young cutie was so light, when her instructor told her to RUN! her feet kept moving in the air in time with her giggles, but she didn't go anywhere for a few hilarious seconds.

Make this image larger, blow a fan in your face and pretend you are sailing.


Could you do this?


I couldn't.

I was thrilled to take about a 300 pics of those daring souls who jumped and floated and landed.


We hiked down and recovered at sea level while watching all the perfect landings.

Then, they carefully repack their sails with the bajillion multi-colored ropes.



When I was looking up information on the Internet, I discovered
the trail was 3.2 miles long.
It was a difficulty of 3/5,
a rating of 7/10
with a gain of 1650 feet.


The website said, "This is a fun, but strenuous hike close to the city and
if you don't feel like hiking to the top, stay at the bottom and just watch the paragliders."


Back home, I was wondering,
if we had researched,
would we still have hiked?
Because I didn't know
the length of the trail,
the grade of the trail,
the rating of the trail,
and the difficulty of the trail,
I was able to enjoy hours of beautiful terrain,
the achievements of my inexperienced family of hikers,
and the opportunity to photograph a daring sport.
I'm thankful my husband is adventurous and impromptu.
But, if we had researched, I could have bought of pair of those hiking shorts...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

MM Meditation - Shall I Not Drink the Cup?

John 18
3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”


Peter just didn't get it. He had heard the Lord Jesus teaching about the suffering He would endure to obtain salvation for the world, but Peter didn't understand. In an act of righteous wrongness, he whacked off the ear of the high priest's servant, thinking somehow, he might protect the Lord Jesus from some terrible tragedy. He was trying to use ways of the world and of the flesh to prevent the very purpose of our Lord's life.

Not only was he a poor swordsman, Peter was a poor Sword-of-the Lord's man. He wrongly handled his physical sword, and he wrongly handled the truth he had been given. He didn't understand the very suffering he was trying to prevent was the suffering that would obtain his salvation.

Then consider the Lord Jesus, who understood the plan of His Father and willingly followed, obedient unto death. Our hearts must burn with spiritual purpose, understanding and submission as we face our own circumstances, our own garden of Gethsemanes, and calmly state like our Savior, "Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" If Jesus hadn't taken the cup, He couldn’t have provided salvation for the world. What good things is the Lord trying to work through the ministry of suffering He has offered us?

May we drink of our cup, may we face what the Lord has given us with wisdom and courage and may we not use the ways of the world to try to protect us, shield us and keep us from that path of obedience.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Neighborly Neighbors

Since we're from the friendly midwest and Kelly-Across-the-Street is from the south, we met and expected to be friendly neighbors. More than that, we expected to be friends.

Because we both miss our families, the friendships are even more cherished. We have learned this Proverb has proved true in our lives.




Proverbs 27:10 ...better is a neighbour that is near
than a brother far off.

It doesn't mean that neighbors are better than family, it means when family is far away and can't be there for you, it is better to lean on your neighbor than to be alone.



When Beka hears giggles and kid noises, she calls across the street to invite the kids over. (The way sound travels also keeps us moms accountable; we know if we ever yelled at our kids, the other would hear. If we ever yelled, that is.)

We had a creative craft time with Norah and Avery, designing butterfly masks with markers, lotsa glitter and foam stick-ons.



After they ran off all their extra energy in the backyard, Beka presented them with a healthy snack using her miniature picnic basket with red and white plastic dishes, spread out on a red and white checked picnic basket.



While we gloried in the unexpected fall warmth of 80 degrees and avoided cooking dinner for our families, my husband arrived home from work.



A few minutes later, her husband sauntered across the street, following the sound of laughter NOT the scent of dinner.

We wondered what they were doing home so early. They didn't think almost 6pm was early. OOPS.


Our hubbies, men of understanding, are too mature to let company rivalries come between our families, especially when they showed up wearing almost matching shirts.





Proverbs 11:12

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense,

But a man of understanding keeps silent.


We made an agreement early on to NOT talk about certain work topics.



The only thing we want to come between our families is the road in front of our houses.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parenting Older Kids

Younger moms may look at me and be a bit jealous of the freedom I am now enjoying.

After all, all of MY children can wipe themselves, top and bottom.

I haven't heard, "M-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-m, come WIPE me" for years.

I haven't had to say, "Blow. No, blow harder. Try again, I know it's up there. OK, Mommy will just have to go in after it."

I don't have to gather up dirty clothes from closets, beds, bathrooms, diaper bags, cars and drawers. I can live by the hard and fast rule that if the clothes aren't in the laundry hamper, they don't get washed. Which means, one of my male children can end up having up to a week's worth of sweatshirts mildewing in the backyard before he finds them and washes them himself.

I don't have to carry extra diapers, wipes, sippy cups, Cheerios, books, a change of clothes, bottles, toys and pacifiers. I don't even have a diaper bag. Instead, I carry a 15 pound purse with a journal and a camera, to capture all the things my crazy kids say and do; personal care items to fix up after my kids razzle me; and a wallet with no money. I even beg the clerks at the grocery store to not tell my kids when I dare to ask for cash back. Teenagers can sniff out money better than pigs can sniff out truffles.


I no longer ask them if they washed their hands. I have abandoned the following song-n-dance routine we used to perform.

"Did you wash your hands?"
"Yes."
"Did you use warm water?"
"Yes."
"Did you use soap?"
"yes"
"Did you lather the soap?"
"Yes."
"Did you rinse the soap off?"
"Yes."
"Did you dry them on a towel?"
"Yes."
"Let me smell them. SNIFFFFFFF. OK, go back and wash your hands."

You have to ask ALL of those questions, because a kid's definition of washing hands is not a mom's definition of washing hands.

Some kids do the fingertip swipe. They dip them under water then streak them across the towel. It's a well-practiced fluid motion.

Some actually get the whole hands wet, don't bother to use soap, and then dry them off on their pants.

Some use soap, but forget the water and head right for the towel.

Some squirt on the soap, then promptly rinse it off without actually lathering up.

I was taught by an older friend to show my kids how to make "white gloves" to ensure they properly lather.

You also have to smell them, because a kid's definition of telling the truth is not the same as a mom's definition of telling the truth. If they intended to wash their hands, their hands are clean. If they washed them ANYTIME that day, they think they can freely answer "YES" to that question for the rest of the day.

I also don't have to dress or undress any of my kids. Of course, I might still veto some of their clothing choices, but for the rest of the ritual, they are on their own.

To foster their independence ( and mine, wink, wink) the older kids make their own dentist and doctor appointments and are required to put them in my Outlook calendar so I remember to bring them. Then, they know to find my purse, cell phone and keys to help me get out the door in time.

So what do I do with all my free time?

Sit around being a little jealous of the moms with younger kids.

I achingly miss all the touching. You touch each younger kid many times a day, as they come for comfort, encouragement, attention, answers, luvies, or to wipe something on your shirt.

When they thought they were too old to be held, they would pretend to be babies, just to settle back into my willing arms for a few more snuggles.

I cringeded with their pain when they crashed into the coffee table or fell off their bikes, but I cherished having that mommy power that so easily soothed.

So, I spend a little time each day, just missing the little bodies and having the ability to fulfill the needs they once had.

Maybe I should go see if someone has a booger…...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday, Brookelyn!

Since our granddaughter now lives in California, it is a little challenging to celebrate special holidays together. Last night, we Skyped her second birthday party. Using this free internet program, we were able to video call the Roli-Polis and participate in part of the special evening. However, they did eat the cake without us.

Little Brookie was fascinated to see all six of our faces crowded into the screen. Whenever my husband Scott got tired of being smashed into the human pyramid of faces as we were laying on the floor with a notebook computer, she would jibber, "BAMPA GO? BAMPA GO?"


SIL, Aaron, holding Baby Bubbs up to the screen. Since we haven't seen him in six weeks, we oohed and aahed and made so many noises he got frightened. I told him he would get used to us. With technology, that could be true.

We watched Brookie open her presents. She threw down the presents from me to slobber all over the bright yellow, rubber duckies from Gamma Joy. Then, we giggled and shared and made faces for over an hour, with Brookie throwing in an occasional, "OH-UH" in thoughtful agreement. We were interrupted a few times with minor computer issues and one major, we-thought-it-was funny episode when Brookie peed on her Daddy. Sorry, Aaron, I should have been videoing!

When Brookie got tired of us, we got Spaz, the family cat who thinks she's a tiger, to entertain her. I think Spaz remembered Brookie. I think poor Spaz has nightmares and day terrors from all the numerous tail pulls, chasing sessions and smacks from little baby hands that didn't always speak the right love language. Brookie's calls of "KI-EE! KI-EE!" were soon replaced with "KI-EE GO?"
Aunty Beka discovered that whatever she did, Brookie mimicked. Yes, of course, fingers went up noses.
.
It was a great new tradition, to utilize all the technology available to keep loved ones close to our hearts via our computer screens.
.
As I was watching my beautiful daughter and her family, I got tears in my eyes. I was thinking about the young couples that ventured to California decades ago in covered wagons, fortunate to send and receive a few letters a year with the family they had left behind. In our generation, we can text, call, snail mail,Twitter, Facebook, email, send digital pics, blog, have online albums.....not only do we have an amazing variety of ways to communicate, the options are ever-changing and increasing.
.
In other words, we don't really have an excuse for not being in touch with family, do we?
.
.
The family.
We were a strange little band
of characters trudging through life
sharing diseases and toothpaste,
coveting one another's desserts,
hiding shampoo, borrowing money,
locking each other out of our rooms,
inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant,
loving, laughing, defending,
and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.
~Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Beka's Hair

I learned the hard way why there are stupid warnings on many items on the market today. Because stupid things happen. To all of us.

I was minding my own business, in my room, trying to accomplish something, when I heard screams from the little girl of the family.

They were loud screams, but not the kind of screams where blood is involved. I also figured it was a lone ranger incident; it didn't sound like a fight between siblings. It sounded serious, but not urgent. I got up and began walking down the hallway to investigate.

When the little girl screams were joined with big brother yells, my curiosity was fully aroused. They weren't the "I just got hit by my brother" or "My sister just hit me back" kinda' screams. The boy was screaming at me to hurry. I could not categorize the other sounds into anything familiar. I was stumped.

I came into the living room to discover the boy pulling the big, industrial, medical vibrating thing from the sister's hair. Pulling, while yelling at me to deal with the situation. I told them both to calm down and stop screaming. Then, taking full advantage of my superior maternal knowledge, I began instructing my son, in my best lecturing voice, in what he SHOULD HAVE done instead of yelling at me and pulling the machine with Beka's hair wrapped around the motor.


I made him unplug the machine and shows him how the strands needed to be unwrapped, not jerked off. After a few minutes, my arms were tired and I was considering just chopping off the hair and getting it over with. But, her hair is so pretty and took so long to grow out, so I figured we better try a little harder.


Bethany joined us for the Hair Recovery Project.



Very carefully, she pulled out the hair strand by strand, saving much more hair that I would have been able to save.



She worked carefully, then cut the few remaining pieces that refused to unwind. We comforted Rebekah, wiped her tears and combed out her hair with the missing chunk.



I lectured the boy, again, on how to handle crisis situations, strongly admonishing that yelling never helped anything. I exhorted him to think rationally and learn how to handle trauma without panic.

As I smugly walked back down the hall, longing for the quietness of my room, I was a little convicted. More than a little. If yelling never helped anything, then why do I still do it? Why can parenting end up being more, "Do what I say, not do what I do?"

Matthew 7:2-4
2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,

3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?


Excuse me, I have to go pull a plank out of my eye.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Vacation

I decided to take a vacation today. It isn't that I don't have anything to say, but I have two kids that just became bloggers.

If you want to find out about my son, Daniel, and drop a comment reminding him to keep his apartment clean and write to his Mommy, click here.

If you want to see the most adorable grandchildren in the world and see that my firstborn experimental child turned out OK despite me, click here.

I love my kids. They were worth giving up my career, my life, my sleep, my figure, my brain cells and my sanity. It is still weird to me that after all the work you do as a Mom, they just move away and live their own lives. I know that was the plan all along, but when it actually happens, the reality that they are not coming home seems to be something that you never can fully prepare for.

But, we are so thankful that our children are seeking after the Lord.

This has been my favorite mothering verse through the decades.


Psalm 113:9
He makes the barren woman to keep house,
and to be a joyful mother of children.
Praise ye the LORD.


I may not have always been outwardly happy, yes, at times, my kids drove me crazy, but I have always had my joy in the Lord. I have much to praise Him for.

But, I was just wondering, since they are all starting to move out, does this mean I get my career, my life, my sleep, my figure, my brain cells and my sanity back?

Cuz, I was just wondering.

I'd settle for even one out of six...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

We call her GRACE FACE

Episode One

For some reason, Grace has a strange affinity for marking up her face, and not in a Mary-Kay makeover kind of way, but a crazy "What would it look like if…." kind of way.

One day last shool year, it was ashes from the fireplace that captivated her attention. She was working studiously, laying on the floor on her belly, when I first noticed something amiss.

"Grace, what's on your face?" I asked, concerned like a real mom.

"It's, uh, well, uh," stammered Grace with a sheepish ends of her grin arising between black streaks.

"What did you DO?" I demanded.

"It's stuff from the fireplace, you know, the coal stuff," she explained, as if this would make logical sense to me.

"WHY did you do THAT?" I asked.

She looked at me like I was the freak, wondering why would I ask her why.

"Umm…because I wanted to be an Indian?" was her teenage answer, her voice lilting upwards at the end as if she wasn't sure if she was asking me or telling me.

I answered with that sniffy, snorty nostril thing we mothers have mastered that speaks volumes without speaking.



Episode Two




A few days later, the desire to go Native struck Grace with an urgency that again, could not be resisted. I was in my bedroom, minding my own business, when I heard jumping and shouting in the living room from a big girl voice and a little girl voice. Always concerned about damage control, I strode into the room to interrupt their war-hooping festivities.



To my confusion, but not surprise, Grace and Rebekah had interrupted their school with face-painting. Grace was SUPPOSED to be studying Biology and Rebekah was SUPPOSED to be quietly painting a piece of paper that already had paint streaks and just needed the paintbrush and water. To be more precise, there was NO NEED for either of them to be using my craft paint.

I thought I could never be surprised again by Grace until the final episode.


Episode Three



I was sitting there minding my own business, trying to have a few peaceful minutes on my computer before bedtime, enjoying the solitude of children all minding their own business, when I was interrupted by shrieks of panicked laughter.

"I can't open my eyes! I can't open my eyes!"

This was followed by laughter that was so deep it was almost silent, and the jiggled breaths and the punctuating squeals gave calm to the mother-panic that arises in maternal instinct. I jumped from the bed and dashed to the top of the stairs.

"What did you do this time?" I asked.

Grace was being guided by her five year old sister. Like Mr. Magoo, she was stumbling up the staircase, her hands out in front of her, searching for the railing, sure footing and the comfort of her mother.

It was an amazingly indescribable sight. My extremely beautiful daughter had decided to spread the mascara all over her face, as if she was trying out for the part in a play of a bum and needed the fake six o'clock shadow, but even on her forehead and cheeks. Covering the brownish-black veneer was a thin, invisible layer that gave an eerie tightness and reflective state to her face.

"I tried putting on waterproof mascara…and" as she was speaking, I looked down to see a sight to behold. The mascara she was describing, was "all over my face..."

I had to interrupt, "OK, so you were trying on mascara but then rubbed it all over your face?"

"Yea," she admitted.

While I asked the next obligatory question, "WHY?" I was wondering if I really wanted to know the answer.

"I just thought it would be funny?!?"


She continued her tale, "but I couldn't get it off..."

"Yea, Grace, it is WATERPROOF, that means you can't get it off with water," I informed too late to help.

She continued, her face barely moving as she finished her speech through stiff lips, "I know that NOW. So then I put a mask on, thinking I could get it off, and then my eyes got glued shut."

Feeling the familiar "What Will She Think of Next?" feeling come over me, I decided to take advantage of the situation. "OK, I will clean you up, but only if we get pics first," sending the older teenage daughter for the camera.





As she hunched over on the couch, lost in laughter and trying to shield her face, I graciously pulled on her ponytail until her folly could be captured for all of time to behold.




I led her into my bathroom and began daubing her eyes with cotton balls filled with mascara remover, while she giggled self-consciously. When I had accomplished the miracle of cleaning her eyes and releasing her eyelashes from their gooped-together state, we looked together in the mirror. Her white encircled eyes made her look like Little Rascal's dog, Petey, on a negative.

She ran downstairs to finish the clean-up without her Mommy and I marveled at what another day in the life of Amazing Grace had wrought.


Psalm 126:2
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."

Yes, now thanks to the internet, the nations will know the great things the Lord has done, He has given us our Amazing Grace, who has filled our mouths with laughter.

The Bible also says,

Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
She may cure me of cancer yet.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

MM Meditation - Giving Good Things

Matthew 7

7 Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you:
8 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?



Sometimes in life, we are forgetful and need reminders. Unfortunately, we often need to be reminded about the true character of God. Our vision of Him gets clouded when we haven't been faithful in reading the Word of God, or when we have not recognized the voice of the liar whispering in our ears. Believers can have obstacles on the path of life that keep the seed of the Word from bearing fruit in our lives.

To break up the fallow ground of hardened or unbelieving hearts, we need to remind ourselves of His true Person, and rejoice in the benefits that we receive from those qualities.

I love to buy my kids presents. Whether it's a bouncy ball from those tempting quarter machines at the grocery store, a used book at a garage sale or a brand new toy from the store, I love giving them fun things. I love having the ability to fulfill heart-felt desire. At times I buy them something on the spot, other times I make them wait so they appreciate the gift even more.

If they are selfish, expect more from me than I am willing to give, or express unthankfulness for all the good things they already have, I don't buy for them. Isn't that a good rule of parenting? If they ask in a wrong way, they don't get it? If they pitch a fit for a treat, I dig in my heals, and say NO, no matter how much my mother-heart longs to be able to give them good things. I don't substitute, either. (If you substitute gum for the candy bar they are whining for, they still win.)

If they whine I will always say NO.
If they didn't behave in the store I will always say NO.
If they ask for something that isn't healthy for them I say NO.
If it is bad timing for me I say NO.
Sometimes, I say NO just so I can teach them to hear a NO and have a happy heart.

In fact, I go further than even just saying NO. I will say, "NO, and no fuss." I want them to walk out of the store with empty hands and a full heart; a heart that trusts and loves me despite the decision that I had to make. Their reaction when I say NO is more important to me than their reaction when I say YES. Of course, they are going to love the candy, or the little ball, or the new doll. But, can they take a NO as well as a YES? I laugh at the campaign that tells kids "Say NO to drugs." How can kids have the power to say NO to temptations, when their parents haven't taught them to accept a NO from them? NO gives you power over the flesh, and saying NO to your children teaches them to deny the flesh.

Apply this to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Have we asked in prayer, or have we demanded? Have we complained about His provision and asked for something we thought was better? Have we asked for things that are fleshly and irrelevant to our spiritual purposes on earth? Of course.

We would be liars if we denied we are any different than our dear little children.


We don't want to focus on our character, but rather on the character of God. He loves to give us good things. He loves to have us ask and have the power to give. His heart is towards us, longing to bestow endless blessings upon us. We have to imprint upon our hearts His great love and His longing to give us good things, so that at times when we don't understand what He is giving us, we can trust His character.

Does cancer fit into this category of "good things"? It would be if it caused you to experience an intimacy with Him you wouldn't have experienced in good health. Does losing a child fit in this category? It would be if others came to know the Lord through the death. Does a flat tire on the way to Bible camp count as a good thing? It would be if it is what kept you from a major accident on the highway. In our finite minds and abilities, we can't understand the big picture that encompasses the lives of all those on earth. We need to concentrate on the fact that He longs to give us good things. He wants good things for us in our lives.

When we don't understand the "things" we need to understand His character. He gives us good things because He is a good God. The things He gives us are always good, because He is always good.

At times I am amazed that God, in charge of the Universe, would choose to answer one of my feeble prayers for a front row parking spot when I am in a hurry, or to find something I need at the thrift store for a discounted price. I am amazed, a little embarrassed to have prayed about something so little, but still thrilled that He heard and He cared.

Author and devotional writer, Majorie Parker, gave this encouragement to pray for all things. "If it is small enough to cause concern, it is large enough to pray about." These little things are the prize from a gum ball machine, those little things given as a reminder of His love. Not necessarily for good behavior, but just because. He wants to show us He is listening, He wants to answer, and He wants to keep asking and keep seeking.

If we can trust Him with those seemingly unimportant details like a parking place, we can trust Him with our health, our families, our jobs and all the things we can barely vocalize that burden our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. The most important "good thing" He wants to give us is eternal life through faith is His Son.

You just need to ask.

Friday, September 11, 2009

PAL SOCKS

Families end up with inside jokes and too-often-told stories after years of living in the same one-bathroom house and surviving cross country voyages in the AC-less cramped-up station wagon. You struggle and grow, but survival often comes through laughter.

When my siblings and I get together, we hoot and howl over such dumb stories, our spouses begin to wonder who/what they married. We start by uttering a few words that are unintelligible and nonsensical to everybody else, then we are rolling so hard we can't finish the story. That's another of our eccentricities, we laugh so hard at our own jokes we rarely can exhale the punch line.

My own children have personalized their own family eccentricity by creating an artform of imitating the sounds and actions of the laughter of each of my siblings. My poor, deprived children have their own stories to tell about us telling our stories.

One of those sayings we have is "PAL SOCKS"; our homemade definition for socks that have lost their elasticity and sag around the ankles. Say PAL SOCKS around my family and you will hear raucous, I-lost-my-breath kinda' laughter. When our laughter finally quiets and the neighbors are enjoying the peace, we're hearing the echo of "HIYA PAL" in our hearts and minds.

Just to let you in on the family secret, I will actually divulge the origination of this story.  Usually we siblings laugh hysterically and ignore the outsiders, who feign indifference, but are internally longing to understand the catalyst of the giggle fit.

When we six were very young, constantly hovering around the house, in the house, on the house, in the yard, on the roof, in the trees and under the porch, the neighbor kids realized it was a good place to hang out. Mom and Dad were kind to the neighbor kids and sometimes even fed them.

Donny was one that occasionally wandered in our yard, but not to join the kids' activities. He was fascinated with my Dad, who left the garage door open on warm days and was busy with power tools, making and fixing things for his rambunctious family. It was my first encounter with someone who was handicapped, yet my parents acceptance of him made it a non-issue in my four-year-old mind.

I remember Donny standing in the driveway, joyously greeting my Dad with "HIYA, PAL!" then, "WHACHU DOIN?" his face emblazoned with an all-teeth-showing smile. When he visited, I always looked up first. Way up,because he was tall. I loved his smile and was fascinated that his voice didn't quite sound like mine.

Then, I always looked down. Donny had loved holes into the toes of his cherished cowboy boots. Because his boots had holes in the toes, his socks always poked through the end. Because his socks lacked elastic, they continuously slid down during the day until a lot of sock would be flopping around on the end. (I'm sure the older we get, the more sock we remember hanging through the end.)

On days when he could be convinced not to wear his cowboy boots, he wore sandals. Sandals with the socks with no elastic. Sandals that allowed more sock to surrender in the wind than the cowboy boots allowed.

Always concerned for safety, I remember my Dad once patiently instructing Donny how to pull his boots off, pull his socks up, then put his boots back on. I didn't understand then, but now I speculate my Dad was sure Donny would fall and endanger his life on one of his power tools or accidentally strangle himself or get the socks caught in an escalator or shoot his eye out.

But, for the rest of our lives, worn out socks were happily synonomous with Donny's friendly greeting, "HIYA, PAL!" Like Pavlov's dog, when we see socks that need to go into the rag bag, we are warmed with memories of unconditional friendship given and received.
While I was visiting my parents this summer, my Dad stirred up the memories and the laughter by walking onto the patio one morning with PAL SOCKS!
 Ever-frugal, he is unable to admit these socks should be used with Pledge Furniture Polish or wrapped around a sore-throat sufferer's neck that has been slathered in Vick's Vapor Rub. Yes, another wierd family eccentricity.
But, the  laughter warmed out hearts because,
 it's about more than just socks.

It's about remembering Donny, our PAL.