Every year I start the season with a deep resolve and an optimistic plan. I will budget for Christmas for several months so that my family will not be eating lint-covered Christmas candy from the bottom of our stockings as a meal by mid-January. I will deck the halls in manageable stages so that I am not getting out the last of the decorations on December 24 to put away on December 26. I will limit our family’s activities so that when it comes time to distribute the gifts on Christmas morning we still recognize each other. Those are always the plans. Then I wake up, it’s December 26, and this Christmas season has looked like all of the others.
It’s the expense of Christmas that gets me every year. The postage for the Christmas cards, the ‘one last’ decoration we need, the ‘little gifts’ that add up and add up, even the food we consume this time of year seems to total a staggering amount. Then my children are out of school and expect to eat during the day. What’s that about? I bought them Christmas gifts, they expect me to feed them, as well? And wouldn’t it be a lovely Christmas outing for us to go to the movies together as a family? Kids, I hope you learned something, because we just spent your first year of college on a two hour movie and one tub of popcorn. Then don’t forget that gasoline is at an all-time high. Perfect time for a 1,000 mile trip, isn’t it?
I try not to resent the overwhelming total of this time of year. It is completely within my power to change what my family spends and every year I have grand intentions of doing just that. But I seem to simply take the path of least resistance and most expense, and then gripe about it.
So here it is the limbo-week between Christmas and New Year’s -- time to look back and look forward. I have a moment to slow down and evaluate. Financial folks will tell you it’s time to make an end of year evaluation of your finances. Once I’ve found all the spare change in the couch, I’m through with that exercise. It’s also a good time to take an overall life evaluation. Is what I’m living reflecting what I say I believe?
My thoughts turn to the expense of the season. I look back and count the outrageous cost of this holiday. I repent of my extravagance as I think about the original cost of this holiday: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,…” (John 3:16a) I sprinkle the financial blessings God has given me on various things throughout this season, but God gave all He had for the season. He allowed his only child to leave his heavenly home and come to this flawed world. He did that so “…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b) Amazing.
I look toward 2008 with a grateful heart. Thankful for another day, possibly another year, to live a life of gratitude, possibly a life of moderation, and share His blessings with the people He puts in my path.
I had grand plans of putting away Christmas this afternoon. I got an iphone instead. I've been playing with it all afternoon. Love it, love it, love it.
Blog family, meet jd (commenter from last post): jd will be the preacher at the church where my parents worship in Louisiana. Denise, he's a 'LOST' fan. And, oh my stars, he THINKS about it. Yikes! You have got to check out some of his latest posts about 'LOST'! Way cool.
I wanted to post this song weeks ago when I first heard it, but I knew it would cause my dad to leap from his chair and go purchase the CD. Since I had already leapt from my chair to buy the CD for my dad, I had to wait to post this! This is the type of music that someone who shall not be named said, "I can't stand that cr*p." So, if you remember making that statement, you may not want to play this. But, oh. my. stars. These lyrics make me weep and hit my knees. I'm not crazy about the solo, but it's mercifully only 2 lines long.
We also discussed that it goes against Paul's admonition to "give thanks in all circumstances", and we can all debate whether or not Paul's directions to the Thessalonians is a direction for us and whether or not it's a sin to NOT do that (careful -- he also tells us to 'be joyful always' in the same sentence)! Just thoughts.
As far as the "fleeting thoughts" that come in and out: first, I whole-heartedly agree that God understands when we do question our place in life. He listened to quite a bit of moaning from Job before he finally said, (my paraphrase): "Listen up! If you know the way things should go, then lay it on me!" Or, more accurately:
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? Job 38:3-5
That brings me to one of my all-time favorite phrases, that my friend, Beverly, said many years ago. "You must prepare in the light for when the darkness comes." Which always makes me think of a story from even MORE years ago:
My mom taught college, and through the years had her share of "non-traditional" aged college students: older students juggling family, marriage, and sometimes other jobs. One such lady got a call from the babysitter while she was in class: she couldn't get the baby to wake up and was taking her to 'xyz' hospital, that, as I remember it, was quite a few miles away from the college. By the time the young mother walked into the hospital, the doctors could tell her that, they were very sorry, but the baby had likely died of SIDS long before she even got to the hospital. What would her reaction be? The dramatic screaming of "no, no, no" that we would imagine? The "not my baby" indignation? Nope.
Her FIRST words upon hearing about the death of her baby were, "Jesus, I trust you." This happened while I was in high school, well over 20 years ago, and it obviously made a huge impression on me. We are sponges. What will come out when you are pressed from every side? Well, what you have put in will come out. Faith, hope, and trust in his word will ooze from your pores in a time of crisis if you have poured those things into your soul before the crisis. Prepare in the light for when the darkness comes.
The above is entirely Sarah's opinion and worth exactly what you paid for it.
Some wonderful things out there:
Antique Mommy. Always genius. Loved this.
This inspired me like a news story has never done. What an amazing lesson that church learned and an amazing story about our gifts and talents.
I wish all of you a day full of His grace and peace.
I leave you with some of our Christmas pictures -- a sampling of what we have to work with any time we try to get a picture of Riley.
I didn't tell her all that, though. But I thought it!
Enjoy your blessed day!
We had a pretty good conversation about it and at some point I'll tell you where we landed. Until then, what do you think?
First, Roxanne tells you about our history together, as well as shows some hilarious and incriminating pics here. She continues the story and shows more pics here.
All of the pics, including one of my own recent posts, make me wonder if I am involved in some chin-sharpening experiment unawares. That is one pointy chin. I digress. As always.
Roxanne goes into detail telling a story I've always known, because I've always known Harold. (and never, never, to his face would I call him Harold and if you saw him, you would immediately refer to him as "Mr. xxx", as well -- an imposing figure, he is). But I've never walked through it quite so vividly. Roxanne, thank you for putting it down for us!
Seriously, you need to know this story:
We wore our pajamas, robes, and houseshoes. On a gray and drizzly day, we all (600 -- including about 20 severely handicapped children) loaded into school buses to travel to our local historic theater, the Paramount. We all piled in to jingling bells and watched "The Polar Express".
The little pajama-clad punkin's clapped when Santa's reindeers appeared. They cheered wildly when "the big man himself" appeared. They clapped when Santa presented the first gift of Christmas. And, of course, they clapped when the gift was returned.
We returned to school and had a grand afternoon. After school, pajama-clad teachers gathered in the cafeteria to wrap the gifts that were purchased with the rest of that money. We had a great time, making our own memory.
It was a magical day.
As I consider the upcoming holidays, I would love to write an article about slowing down, enjoying this time of year, and remembering the reason for the season. The reality is that by the time this article is published I will be eating Tums as a regular meal, darting from one activity to another as a crazed woman with her hair aflame, and I will probably be on my way to a party that I resent needing to attend and coughing up money for a gift I didn’t exactly agree to give but am expected to contribute to. The rut is too deep, the habits too engrained, and I know myself too well. This will be a season of running and rushing and spending. So, instead of trying to take some things OUT of the season, I have decided to add TO the season.
As my family gathers this year for Christmas, there will be a very large hole. My grandfather, who we referred to as Poppa Max, finished his 90 years on this earth this year and is celebrating around the throne of Him whose birth we celebrate. My grandfather was a big man, in stature as well as personality. His absence this season will be tangible. So, to honor his memory, I have decided to add some things into my holiday season to make it Christmas, Poppa Max style:
1. I will take an active part in spreading some of the magic of the holidays. Not only was my grandfather a physically large man, he had an enormous bass voice. As our family gathered on Christmas Eve, he would make phone calls to some of our pre-school aged friends as Santa Claus. Many were left in speechless wonder. Maybe I will jingle some of Santa’s bells outside a doubting child’s bedroom window; maybe I will give some of my younger friends reindeer food for them to sprinkle on their lawn on Christmas Eve; maybe I will help Santa respond to some of his mail. I will do something to spread the magic of this season this year.
2. I will remember Christmas for “the least of these”. Under my grandparent’s tree, there was always a gift for a Down’s Syndrome gentleman that is my parents’ age that attends the same church. Sometimes a record, sometimes a new coloring book, it was always a very tiny something to let Mitchell know there was a family that loved him. I will look around and see folks that others may not notice and just let them know that there is someone that loves them.
3. I will give and give some more. Giving was not a holiday exercise for my grandfather, it was his attitude and way of life. I will give in secret throughout the year – just a little secret between my Poppa Max and me.
4. I will laugh and laugh loudly. With his enormous voice, Poppa Max also had a grand laugh that filled the room. During the holiday season, it came quite easily, so tickled was he to be surrounded by family. I will put aside spending concerns and scheduling conundrums at least once a day to laugh with my family. I will let them know that my joy in their presence cannot be contained and I must laugh.
I think we all look back at folks who have made Christmas magical and special for us in the past and are no longer with us to celebrate. May you find something in those memories to share with others, spreading the magic and laughing all the way.
This country is not ready for Barak Obama as president. More than that, I don't think Oprah is ready to realize her influence isn't powerful enough to make it happen for him.
Antique Mommy instructed us to read this. And she is right. And then she said my new favorite quote: "An exhortation to the sisters, be a fool for Christ, not Christmas - it doesn’t honor Him." Don't you see why I like to pretend that she is my BFF?
Riley is on crutches and in a cast. Let me tell you a little story about what happened -- or at least the part that I am clear about:
"Once upon a time there was a 6 foot wooden fence and a 10 year old little boy. The end."
He ended up in the ER last week while Troy was out of town and has made a grand tour of doctor's offices and medical supply places and finally ended up with a lovely ACU purple cast that now matches his foot. Meanwhile, I have spent the past 7 days suppressing my gag reflex as I deal with swelling, bruising, fracture, tendons, floating bone pieces (double-erp), fracture boots, cast, and crutches. And last night Ashley played all of one minute of her pre-season basketball tournament game before she was trampled by the mob and left the court with a twisted ankle. Anyone know of an orthopedist that has a punch card where you get your 12th visit free? All in all, we're doing great and on the mend. I said yesterday -- just a little grit on the contact lens of life; and yet another opportunity to bow in gratitude at the amazing health that all of my family regularly enjoys.
Go here, check out their "fireplace video" -- 12 Days of Christmas, Bebo Style, and vote, vote, vote for them to go to Nashville.
And, after viewing all 3, I still quite honestly vote for Stephen and Tiffani, even though they shamelessly exploited their adorable boys in the making of this video.
Go vote again!
You have someone in mind now, don't you? I do...
Yesterday, after a toasty-warm (like, sweat rings toasty-warm) church service that I interpreted and Troy singing on praise team, then a quick lunch, then sending a child to their room for rude talk, I lay in my bed in west Texas in a house that I pay mortgage on, in the arms of my husband of 15 years and 3 days, and watched huge, fat, sloppy snowflakes falling. And I thought my life and my heart could not possibly be any more full.
Then, to completely prove that I am living right, I ventured out on the slippery roads since neither Ashley nor I had a winter coat. And we walked into Old Navy having a 50% off Winter Coats Sale! We got two for her and one for me. My heart is full and I am BLESSED!
The reactions to this purchase have been varied but the general constant has been "can't believe she let you" from the males and "I'm so sorry" (to me) from the females. Bottom line is: my one stipulation from the beginning of this quest for mid-life satisfaction is that it not put us into debt. And it has not. I come from happenin' motorcycle folk (that look like "least likely to be motorcycle folk"). I can't say that I understand the attraction, but I have seen it first-hand. Yes, it's a dangerous way to travel. My philosophy with my father and now my husband is that, should the unthinkable happen, they will have died happy. And should my mother be riding behind my father when that happens, she will have died with the man she loves. With two punkin's at home to raise, I don't have the luxury of being quite so cavalier and may not spend just a lot of time on the back of Suze for a few years yet. (At which time I'm sure poor Suze will be put out to pasture for the latest and greatest). But a little speed and enjoying nature at the same time? I'm truly okay with that. Oh, and yes, we are all absolutely a helmet-wearing family -- yes, family: Ashley and I wear the same size helmet and Riley has his very own. And he thinks riding on the back is about the coolest thing ever.
Thinking of THAT little mess -- 10 years ago tonight I was the hugest pregnant lady King's Daughters Hospital had seen waddle in in quite sometime. I was so afraid my labor was going to stop, as it had seemed to start and stop for 3 days solid. It did stop a bit, but thanks to some lovely drugs, I got cranked up again and about 5:30 the morning of the 18th my little -- okay, my GINORMOUS 9 pound -- bugger came into the world, none too happy about leaving his warm little cocoon. He has drug me through the depths of the parenting trenches and sent me to soar on his laughter and wit. And seeing his scrawny little body on the back of Suze may put me in an early grave. What a ride.
Before I left, and again on my way home, in my prayers for our trip, I began praying over the long list of people that were making it possible for me to go and do what I do. Our family had a typical weekend of 27 million things to do between sports, social, and church activities. Troy gladly took it on and got everyone where they were supposed to be. The kids happily adjusted and worked around a few inconveniences. Even Donna’s daughter, Megan, was on “stand-by” for my family to help with transportation for us. Interpreters at church stepped up and filled in holes when they hit snags. Kendra planned long ago to work several Fridays in a row so that I could leave town on Friday. In other families, husbands, grandparents, children, and in-laws all filled holes and made things work in our absence. Friends covered church responsibilities and ministry needs. I began tallying up the small village of workers whose service to the Lord for the weekend included going out of their way so that the four of us could get out of town. And again I was overwhelmed.
So to all the daddies, children, grandparents, and friends: thank you so much. You willingly gave up your time so that we could see God at work. You were a precious behind-the-scenes servant who blessed each of us by your service. I pray that He blesses each of you, and that you are able to see Him at work, as well.
The Jews would not willingly tread upon the smallest piece of paper in
their way, but took it up; for possibly, they say, the name of God may be on it.
Though there was a little superstition in this, yet truly there is nothing but
good religion in it, if we apply it to men. Trample not on any; there may be
some work of grace there, that thou knowest not of. The name of God may be
written upon that soul thou treadest on; it may be a soul that Christ thought so
much of, as to give His precious blood for it; therefore despise it not. -- S.
Earlier this week, I had been up for hours and completed 1/3 of a days' work by the time it was time to get the kids up for school. I tripped over dirty clothes, shoes, and sorted Halloween candy to gently shake a mound of groaning covers with my standard, "Time to wake up. I love you. Go ahead and get your clothes on." I conquered one room without breaking my neck and ventured into the next. Same obstacles, different course, same encouragement to get up. Riley woke with a start and a stretch and I turned to leave. I had just hurdled the sorted Halloween candy when he said, "Mom, can you come here?" I turned back around and headed his way as he wrestled his scrawny arms out of the pile of covers. I went in for the requested hug. "I love you," he croaked with a raspy, first-thing-in-the-morning voice and breath that would make the dog tuck her tail at 50 paces. And it was the absolute most precious moment I have had as a mother in a very long time.
I'm so thankful I had the sense to stop for the 7 seconds that entire exchange required, because it will carry me through the next week.
- If it's the little things in life that will make you happy, it's the little things in life that will send you over the edge.
- If you want to cheer one child immensely, yell at the other one.
- My idea of a "quiet weekend" is always interrupted by a 9-year-old proclaiming, "I'm bored."
Be a blessing to someone this weekend!
"Does anyone have ANY idea who the governor is right now?"
Several honest people said, "No."
"Would anyone like to even GUESS who the governor might be?"
One raised her hand, "Norm Archibald?"
"He's our mayor, but that was a very good guess. Does anyone have a different guess?"
(different kid) "George Washington?"
(at this point I realize we are completely clueless AND they told me upfront they had no idea. However, I'm also realizing this is golden blog material, so I continue)
"He was a president, but he is no longer alive. Anyone else?"
(another different kid): "George Washington's son?"
(same kid): "George Clooney?"
"The governor of Texas -- anyone?"
(same kid): "I used to live in Texas!"
"You still do, sweety. Governor of Texas?"
(different kid) "George W. Bush?"
Now that we have left Hollywood and are at least back in the political arena, I feel that I am ending on a high note, so I let them know:
"The Governor of Texas is Rick Perry."
Completely blank looks. Rick has great hair, but he needs better PR with the elementary crowd.
I did not drop any and truly did only leave with two (thinking -- oh, so mistakenly, that one of my children would share with me). Randy was right -- I should have taken more.
While I am posting funny pictures, here's when we went to the Rangers game in June and I had to let Juan down ever-so-gently. You KNOW he paid big bucks for this:
In the past few weeks in my quiet time I have been reading Ephesians 3:14-21 as my prayer for the day. I just love it so much. And I shall pray it for you:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven
and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may
strengthen you (you, precious blog-reader!) with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell
in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you (you,
precious blog-reader!) , being rooted and established in love, may
have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high
and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses
knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (can you even IMAGINE being "filled to the measure of
all the fullness of God"??? Don't you pray that for yourself, too?)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask
or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in
the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
Amen. (and AMEN!!)
May you find His blessings and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of Him this week.
Finally, Sunday p.m. about 8 he said, "I'm finally starting to feel almost normal, though I have no idea what happened to Saturday." (Here's a hint -- you moved from the bed to the chair and back to the bed and there was a lot of snoring involved). So the poor guy completely lost a weekend.
Monday morning, off he trudged to work to start his week hopefully healthier than he ended the previous one. Readying the all-important coffee, he begins to fill the pot with water. He finally glances down into the chamber to see how much more water he needs to add -- and sees a lizard, doing the backstroke (actually, it was swimming right-side up, and very much alive). Ew. Then he begins to speculate how long the chamber of the coffee pot has been the lizard's home. And the heeby-jeebies are in full force epidemic.
I am generally not a "woe are Mondays" kind of person (though I've had my moments) but that one should take the cake for quite a while.
Boothe continues to blog about her walk down this road of grief and share with the internet the range of emotions that bombard her. I really believe the Lord is speaking through her in powerful ways. In preparing for a talk, I was preparing to mention something about how all of life -- our rising and sleeping, daily work, etc. -- are all in God's hands and His will and we will do nothing outside of God's will. But I don't want to leave that out there as if horrible things that happen TO people are God's will. Then I heard one woman mention the complexity that is the Sovereignty of God versus the free will of man. Yes. How do you explain that -- is it even possible? Then I read the following post from Boothe. Wow. Her words are powerful.
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of
God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)
A pastor who prayed over Copeland at one point reminded me - well, to be
truthful: told me - that her disease, her sickness, her plight, whatever you
care to call it, wasn't God's design. It wasn't His plan. We talk a lot about
"God's will" and of course I do believe He has a will, although I'm growing more
and more convinced that our sorrows and sufferings have absolutely nothing to do
with it. What we see in the midst of great agony and strife is usually a glimpse
into both Heaven and Hell - and in the glimpsing, there's a gift. In my broken,
four-pound baby, who looked a little different, lived a great deal differently,
and ultimately left me here to grieve her loss, I found a sort of joy that I'd
never known, a real joy, and my time with her was not only laced but literally
steeped in happiness and blessing. And yet, the hour of her departure and
certainly the last moments I held her were wracked with a sorrow and heartache
that I could not have imagined. There was a bit of Heaven, and a bit of Hell.
How I long to fully know the one and fully spurn the other! Therein lies the
real gift. Perhaps God's will is more wrapped up in removing the blinders from
our eyes than in giving or taking anything away.
So am I mad? Sometimes. If God didn't ordain Copeland's sickness, if it
wasn't His design, why in the world did she have it? Because I live here. It's
like asking why I have a Southern accent. It comes free, courtesy of my locale.
She wasn't sick because I needed to learn a lesson. She wasn't sick because I
didn't do enough things right - or too many things wrong. She was sick because
we live in a broken, fallen world and until Jesus comes back, things are just
going to keep going wrong. Not all the time - that's when the glimpses of Heaven
come in. But quite frequently. Life is truly one long dysfunction. Only by God's
grace - getting what we don't deserve - do we ever see any good at all. I
bargain with God a lot. I tell Him that this was it, this was my quota of "bad
stuff." And I mean it. But the reality is that as long as I'm here, the bad
stuff's going to keep on coming. All I can do is pray the packaging looks a
little different and that Jesus will hold me up until He takes me home or
returns. It sounds like a pretty raw deal. But that's through human eyes. If we
could see differently, we'd think differently.
Before Copeland was born, I prayed that God would give me a "vision for
eternity." I think I probably uttered those words more in a moment of personal
satisfaction - "wow, that sounds good!" - than true desire, but nevertheless,
they seemed to have been Spirit-filled. I want a clearer understanding of
Heaven, to be sure. I want to know more fully where Copeland is. But my prayer
at that point, while I thought it regarded her experiences, was really about my
own. If the only vision I have is for right now - she's gone, i'm here, and the
world's literally going to Hell in a handbasket - then I'm going to be one
bitter girl. The vision I need is one that tells me that what makes sense to my
senses isn't necessarily true. Broken bodies often equal whole spirits. Strength
can sometimes house itself in weakness. A vision for eternity turns the truths
of this world on end. It's the only way an unattractive, unpopular renegade
hanging on a cross can possibly mean more than brutality and devastation.
And so I keep praying that prayer. Fix my eyes on You, Lord. Like another
old song, "Come Thou Fount," says: "Prone to wander/ Lord, I feel it/ Prone to
leave the God I love/ Here's my heart/ Oh take and seal it/ Seal it for Thy
Today in Room 24 I saw a spelling I was completely unprepared for. Which word in this sentence will be an acceptable use spelling in 20 years?:
Wii have 10 mroe das for Holloween.
Nintendo would be proud.
Troy and I spent several years here working in ministry with college students. They seemed to ask the question frequently, but I found it no different than people twice their age: "What does God want me to do with my life?" I hear it from others of all ages, and I've wondered it myself. I do think that, finally, God has revealed it to me. Not just for me, but for you, as well. But my book won't be published, because no one wants to hear it. People don't really want to know what God wants them to do with their life, but instead they want a peek at the rest of their life will look like. People are really saying, "Lord, hand me the map! I will get myself there if I just know where I'm going!!" Our impatience stops us from being able to do what it is that God has for us to do -- or at least stops us from considering it as what God wants us to do with our life.
I do want to know what God has for me to do. I don't think that at my season of life I'm doing all that the Lord will have me do in life, but I am secure in the knowledge that I am doing what the Lord has for me at this minute. When will it change? When will God call me to change occupations or increase a ministry? Which of those will He ask me to do? What will it look like? In short, He's not going to tell me right now. But I still know what God wants me to do with my life. Jesus told me. They are part of his last words to his disciples before crucifixion
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch
in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so
that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I
have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No
branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and
withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish,
and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much
fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
"As the Father has
loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 1If you
obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have
obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that
my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love
each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay
down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no
longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.
Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father
I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed
you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you
whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other." John
Did you catch it? That's all he wants: "Remain in me" and I will be sure you do what you're supposed to do. "Remain in me" and I will lead you to the occupation/ministry/calling that I have for you. "Remain in me" and I will fully equip you for the occupation/ ministry/ calling that I have for you. "Remain in me."
I guess now you understand why this idea/ philosophy won't exactly sell to the masses. I've tried it with a few souls who trust me enough to share their searching hearts with me. It's too ambiguous, too "out-there", maybe even too "churchy" of an answer. I don't know -- but I do know it isn't what people want to hear. And, truthfully, I get that. I can't stand getting to my birthday or Christmas morning and not knowing what is already wrapped for me -- I sure don't want to wait another 5-10 years to see where the Lord is taking my life, ministry, and family. But I know that He loves me more than anyone on this earth can, so I can trust my future to Him. Well, and, there's that whole, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." thing (Proverbs 19:21). Truly, how much control do I have over my future anyway? I may as well remain in Him and let Him take care of it all, instead of me thinking that I have it totally under control.
Paul seemed to allude to this idea in his letter to the Philippians, and he put it much better than I have:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14
Leaving the house on a recent afternoon, I turned toward the front door, even though I was leaving through the garage door. My husband had made a mad dash home at lunch to pick up something, and I was sure that since he was in a hurry when he left the front door would be unlocked. When I got in view of the door, I stopped and smiled. The door was locked. He loves me.
While I do know my husband loves me, I feel quite certain that thought was nowhere near the vicinity of his head when he locked the door. Oh, and ‘lest you think it’s just an absent-minded push-the-button-to-lock variety of love – oh, no: this is a turn around, find your keys, deadbolt the door kind of love. See? You’re feeling it, too, aren’t you?
As opposed to thoughts of romance and love as my husband went through this procedure, I can fairly accurately guess that his thoughts were more of the, “We really need to paint the porch” and “Why do we need a kitchen strainer in the front yard?” variety. But I heard him loud and clear. He was saying, “I do love you and want you to be safe and want you to be here when I return.”
I thought of this non-verbal form of love for my family when my husband expressed surprise that Son picked out an oatmeal raisin cookie at a restaurant. It occurred to me that my head is so full of everyone’s food, clothes, shampoo, toothpaste, hairstyle, friend, and music preferences that there is no room in my head for where I put my keys. Knowing all those things is just another way I say, “I love you”, along with the clean laundry and full pantry.
I think as a mom my nonverbal “I love you” is frequently hard to hear. Occasionally my “I love you” to my children is hard to hear because it says, “I love you too much to let you continue behaving the way you are” or “I love you too much to let dishonesty or irresponsibility go unpunished”. Sometimes my “I love you” is hard to hear because it says, “I love you because I truly never knew that embarrassing my children would be such a joy in my life. Thank you for providing that opportunity.” The eye rolls and ducked heads I receive in reciprocation are, I’m positive, yet another nonverbal “I love you”.
My children use nonverbal “I love you”, but at their age, it’s REALLY hard to hear sometimes. But I see it. A grin at my ridiculous jokes, joining me in singing off-key while we fix dinner, or humoring me while I squeeze them to pieces all let me know… they love me. I’m still trying to decode the message from the dirty socks that accumulate on my living room floor or the pile of dirty glasses in the bedrooms where food and drink aren’t allowed. But I’m almost positive it has something to do with how much they love me.
I believe – and this won’t take you long to realize if you spend any time at all around me – that a spoken “I love you” is vital. I make sure I tell each member of my family “I love you” at least once a day. When I stand at the doorway of my classroom in the afternoons, I hug or high five each child and tell them “I love you!” Sometimes I need the reminder as much as the child does at that point in the day! And sometimes, the child who hugs back the tightest or returns the “I love you” is the biggest shock of all.
No doubt, our loved ones need to hear that they are our loved ones. But if locked doors or knowing a list of favorites or (whatever way you say “I love you” without talking) isn’t saying “I love you”, then it’s just another set of words. As with pretty much all the rest of life, it’s a delicate balance: Say the words while you live the words. It shouldn’t be either-or, but c)all of the above.
At the same time, learn to hear the words that aren’t spoken. Notice what goes around you on a given day. Someone is saying, “I love you.” Are you listening?
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Please don't hear me say I will be PERFECT at it -- 'cause I won't. But I will claim it.
For whatever reason, the Lord has really put on my heart how we, as a body, treat each other. I am also reading in Acts, the infancy of "church" on this planet. I think of how those believers, newly gifted with His Spirit, met together, prayed together, shared their belongings, and literally clung to each other for their lives. Church was a natural result of His Spirit being alive and vibrant within their hearts. So many of us (myself being the first of the line) expect church to be the entirity of our relationship with the Lord. And we wonder why He seems so far away.
My thoughts are muddled, and just as likely to be in error as accurate, but this I will cling to this week:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29.
Obviously, that was a difficult decision for me, and my very wise friend, Donna, encouraged me to spend the weekend resting from my week at school (that seemed to be the general consensus from my teacher friends!) and sharing memories of my Poppa Max with my children. What a great idea, and beautiful way to honor his life.
So I spent that weekend remembering Poppa Max (I haven't yet shared my memories with my kids -- they aren't sticking around a lot these days!) and smiling so much at what I remember. So, join me if you wish, in remembering my Poppa Max. Many of these memories include my grandmother, Maxine, of course. They were each other's lives for 54 years -- and 24 years of my life.
In no certain order, I remember:
- Wednesday night runs after church to the 7-11 down the street. Mom and dad would talk after church while we loaded up on one candy, one icee, and one comic book. I think, at the time, all of that was $1. AND there were small icees -- maybe 8-10 oz. Those don't exist anymore. We made the 7-11 run every Wednesday night until he had his heart attack in 1980? 1982? and was unable to come to church for a while.
- The ONE time I remember him being angry with me. (It was on Speed Ave. -- when did they move away?) I couldn't have been anymore than 4 or 5. I have NO idea what I did (I'm sure I was being a complete turkey) but I remember the tone of his voice and my heart being completely broken that I would make him angry. I only remember him angry one other time in my life -- and it was when someone had upset Maxine.
- INCESSANT whistling, humming, made-up lyrics singing, and change-jingling. It was so constant, I don't think it was nervous -- I think of it as happy noises. Though it did drive me cuckoo on more than one occasion.
- His booming bass voice singing in church while small children around us stared in open-mouthed amazement and my grandmother rolled her eyes and would lean to me and say, "He is SO loud." I'd trade anything in the world to hear him one more time.
- More singing -- few people are privileged enough to attend their grandfather's third wedding, but I did. And at the reception he all but took over the microphone and made it his own little karaoke -- when else can you do that but your third wedding when you're 84?
- Spending Christmas Eves together while he called "little friends" from church as Santa. "Have you been a good girl? Are you going to go to bed on time tonight?" Again, his tremendous bass voice was quite convincing.
- The thanksgiving not too terribly long ago that he spent playing hide and seek with the kids. Not his own kids, not even his own grandkids, or great grand-kids. They were my cousins (no blood relation to him) children and I, personally, was way too old to be playing hide-and-seek -- so HE really was.
- The way he kissed my grandmother 'hello' when he came in from playing golf -- which he did several times a week until his body made it too painful for him.
- Always a Christmas gift for Mitchell, a downs' syndrome gentleman at our church, under the tree.
- His prayer over me and my precious husband at our wedding (gracious, I'm going to cry now!) "This Troy, who has captured our young Sarah's heart..." sweet, sweet Max.
- The day he met my Riley for the first time. One of my favorite pictures of both of them.
- How much Ashley (same day) ADORED him and loved him as a playmate. (I'm pretty sure he's either whistling is singing, "Doody, doo-doo,..." in this picture).
- I remember few specific times since there were so many, but a "happy" (generous check) from him at just the right time. He is/was all about generosity. He worked hard to get where he is financially, but he has no qualms with sharing what God has blessed him with.
Last week as we remembered and celebrated his life, I learned some new stories and was reminded of old ones. The gentleman that led us in singing during the funeral led "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and pointed out that it was one of my grandfather's favorites (I had forgotten that). He also mentioned that in Max's life, it was evident that he walked closely with Jesus on a regular basis, so we should all learn from the fact that his constant prayer was to continue walking closer and closer to Jesus. And now that his victory is won, he is walking side by side with Jesus.
What a blessing to have such a legacy in my family tree. I am blessed beyond measure.
Memo from "The Top" last week: "Printer cartridges for our new printers cost (some random inordinate amount of money). Please try to keep printing to a minimum."
Memo from "The Top" today: "Some of you have already printed out your class report summarized on one page. Please turn in your class report in the format of one page per student."
Gotcha. Saving printer ink AND paper, indeed.
Mom: "Riley, clean up for dinner. We have to eat early because I have to leave in a while."
Riley: "Where are you going?"
Mom: "My class has a program at school."
Riley: "And dad's our babysitter?"
Mom: "No, dad's your father."
For months I have been praying for him to be out of pain. I thought I was ready to let him go, but I'm still pretty sad that he had to go. Somewhere I have written down many of my favorite memories of him, and you'll have to bear with me when I put those here. According to the informal poll of folks at his funeral and/or visitation, most folks will miss his booming voice or his never-complaining, always-encouraging attitude. Me, too.
For now, it's back to life at break-neck speed. Life is calling and off we go. Grocery shopping, baseball, grades, clarinet, church events, and work all need to be tended to. And eventually something will pop in my head that I need to share with you here!
So, those of you that can be brief and clever and funny, go help the fellas caption some funny photos.
Val frequently has funny pics to caption on his blog. Give this picture a caption.
Troy has posted a freak of nature that needs a caption. Riley and I came up with one, but, typical of 9-year-old humor, it's fairly potty-related. I'm sure you can do better.
I wish when all of my thousands of words strung together, they spoke as eloquently as this post. Seriously, you need to read it.
More later -- I'm currently writing my official letter of surrender to the fruit fly population. In my surrender I'm pleading that since we are, in fact, paying the mortgage, if we could just continue to reside here that would be enough since they obviously are the smarter (and by FAR more prolific) species in this house.
This incredible machine was built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa . Amazingly, 97% of the machines Components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft, Iowa , yes farm equipment!
It took the team a combined 13,029 hours of set-up, alignment,
calibration, and tuning before filming this video but as you can see it was WELL worth the effort. It is now on display in the Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the University and is already slated to be donated to the Smithsonian.
It is an AMAZING video, but feeling responsible for any info I pass along in this world wide web (why do I feel responsible when most of the people that send me stuff via email feel no such responsibility?) I checked it out at Snopes.com. It is, in fact, too good to be true. HOWEVER -- it was someone's genius, just not in the form we originally thought... enjoy anyway!
As I've mentioned, I don't exactly have a boring life currently (she says as she glances out the window to see her son running into the street -- that could be all levels of exciting) but it's nothing you want me to report on, and it prevents me from having any thought in my head other than, "Am I going to get there within 7 minutes of being 'on time'?" Which, by the way, if you missed THAT whole blog post, you missed quite the dialog on my blog! I LOVE that Stephanie loves us with a "7-minute buffer" -- because she and I are... which are we? Polychromes? Yes, we are polychromes because we see the world and its schedules and time constraints as all colorful and fluid, and those monochromes with their black and white, well, we love them, too. I also figured out why Denise has to get there in time to get "her pew" and I never have any trouble getting mine in my 7-minute window: I ALWAYS get there in my 7-minute window, so I always get the same spot (hence, my pew, which now we know I've had to move and it CHAFES at me to sit on a different side) because everyone else has their pew that they got their 10 minutes early to claim. I'm okay with leftover seating.
So I've learned if you hang around long enough, a blog just begs itself to be written. Riley has a friend over. He's a sweet kid and he and Riley seem to get along very well. I don't know the family very well, but have always enjoyed having him over. So the two boys are playing some electronic game with the TV (I honestly don't even know what we have) and the other kids' comment about his player: "Oh, yeah, I know this one! This guy sucks!" He says with much enthusiasm. My eyebrows went up -- I know that phrase is becoming more and more commonplace, but we do NOT say it at our house (do we, Troy?:-) Riley said, "Don't SAY that!" I was proud of Riley for speaking up for all of our tender ears --HA! -- but did/ said nothing. Other kid says, "No, I mean his powers suck." Riley can't stand it: "Stop saying THAT!!" I suspect that the kid is confused about what exactly the problem is, and I wonder if that's just a common phrase at his house like "No, way!" is at ours. The game continues and finally as the kids are LOUDLY exclaiming over the game, friend yells out, "I'll get him!! See, I can suck him up!!" Evidently, the powers of his character are "sucking stuff up", so evidently, he really does suck. I guess we just don't call it that at our house.
I have about 7 minutes before I have to leave to go to Open House for my school, so I sat and gathered up some stray schedules and newsletters and set about entering them into my calendar. Generally, I find this activity fairly peaceful -- I need to see what's coming and plan meals and transportation accordingly. Today, it was not peaceful. Because I realized that, as of today, November 3 is the next Saturday that our family only has one activity on the calendar (peaking on Oct. 6 with 4 -- and that's with me skipping something I would like to do) and November 17 -- as of today -- is the next Saturday with nothing on the calendar.
I miss summer.
So we have had many conversations that conclude with a snotty, weepy declaration of, "But I thought she was my friend." The sad part is that it isn't the same girl. You see, if you know Ashley's name, she's your friend. If you pass her in the hall, she's your friend. If you have the same notebook/ t-shirt/ tennis shoes/ math teacher as her, she's your friend. And she will treat you the way a friend treats people. But that is evidenlty rare among 6th grade girls.
One thing I have always commended Ashley for is choosing her friends wisely. And the friends that she is closest to are still being kind. Oh, but not all friends are being friendly. And it is a shock and blow to her little sense of fairness and rightness in the world and today, the worst happened -- about a half-dozen different people (MEAN GIRLS!!) commented negatively about the same part of her appearance. So we are having an all-out appearance crisis in our home, which I'm barely ready to talk myself out of, much less an 11-year-old. I have never in my life wanted to feed a child food for comfort -- until today because I had absolutely NO IDEA what to do with her.
So I just cried with her.
Tina Bilcher will probably never forget either date. September 10, 2001, Brian, her husband of barely over a year, called home to tell her he was going to work overtime at his job as a firefighter at Squad 1. He told her he loved her and that he would see her soon. It was the last time Tina heard his voice. Together they had a son named Grant, born August 29, 2001. His name is Grant because God granted Tina and Brian the boy they wanted. He was not yet 2 weeks old when his daddy died evacuating people from the World Trade Center. Reports on his age vary from 36-38, but suffice it to say that Brian was quite young with a beautiful life in his family and a job he loved.
Brian was nicknamed "Tugboat" because of his size. He was an intimidating offensive lineman for the Bravest's football team, loved to play practical jokes and loved to do some wild things for an adrenaline rush -- he even talked Tina into jumping off of a lighthouse with him. She says she did it for love. While all of these things paint a picture of a rough guy with a devil-may-care attitude, Brian was best known for his other side.
Tina likes to refer to him as Captain America: if you were in any trouble, Brian would be there. Friend Larry Mann can even testify to Brian's Captain America side: not a strong swimmer, he was pulled out by the riptide. Captain America, or Brian, came out to get him.
One co-worker referred to Brian as the glue that held them all together. John Alborn said, "He would push people to be the best they could be." Tina affirmed that. "My husband always expects for us to believe in ourselves ... and always believe in being the best," she said. "I will not let him down."
Brian was laid to rest on June 5, 2002 -- the day after his 2nd wedding anniversary.
For a list of other bloggers participating in honoring the 2,996 of 9/11, go here.
*Originally published 9-11-06
But tonight I am having to chase kids to bed by myself and I'm very bad at that. So, 30 minutes past bedtime while Ashley is picking up her dirty socks out of the middle of the floor using her toes, and Riley is in his pajamas but seeing how his bicycle helmet fits backwards while reciting our "Transforming Community" memory verse as the Crocodile Hunter (obviously, there's a story behind saying scripture as Steve Irwin -- a different blog moment).
Children, this is either a blog moment or a Prozac moment. Let's go for a blog moment, shall we? And, remember, I don't make idle threats...!
at Zappos.com, friend said, "Tell me about Zappos.com...?" (*audible gasp*) "you don't know Zappos.com?" Okay, as I type this, I realize that said friend is able to buy shoes at Target which, sadly, we have already established that I cannot. However, Zappos is great for what I used them for earlier this summer. I was headed to Poppa Max's party and had bought myself a new skirt and, obviously, needed some new shoes, as well. I searched high and low in our (ahem) shopping metropolis of a city. I found the pair above, but not in my size, of course. This is the weekend before the shin-dig. So, Monday morning, I go to Zappos.com and find my shoes, but I still wasn't positive what size I would need. So I order two. Because, drumroll please, Zappos.com has FREE SHIPPING BOTH WAYS. And, and, AND -- free OVERNIGHT shipping. So, Tuesday afternoon I am trying on my darlin' little (okay, ginormous) shoes and had the perfect pair. Zappos.com. It's a good thing.
P.S. No, they are not cheap. They are AWESOME service and selection, but they are not cheap. Reasonable, but not cheap.
If you've ever poked around on Rob and Jana's blog, you know they are doing much that is right in the way of parenting. But if you need further proof, check this out. Wish Luke would come pray over me! And, on a personal note, Rob, I would have put you 2nd only to Troy as "Least Likely to Return to School" as someone that I don't remember as particularly serious about your studies in the first place. It's amazing what time can do for all of us, isn't it -- AND, that said, I'm sure you'll do great!
I found this from Good Housekeeping.com -- What's for Dinner blog! I always need good ideas and this looks like a pretty good place to start!
Donna nailed it. This is my all-time favorite back-to-school commercial. Even as a teacher, I still feel this way, "They're going back!!!":
I have loved the imagery that phrase gives, mainly because the last few days have given me opportunity to think about so many people -- including myself -- who seem to be still living in "the ghetto of their soul." Why am I still struggling with the same demons from 20 years ago? Because I haven't left the ghetto of my soul. I recently had opportunity to visit with a young woman who has all of the tools in front of her to leave the ghetto of her environment, but with hateful words of yesteryear ringing in her ears, she's stuck in the ghetto of her soul. I watch as people make the same commitment to do better -- they see a better way, want a better way, but they are stuck in the ghetto of their soul.
Remember in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas are in prison? There's a tremendous earthquake and when the jailer realizes what happened (and the door is standing open) he takes out his sword to kill himself - to save the authorities the trouble, since he had allowed a prisoner to escape. But Paul stopped him saying, "We are all here!" I feel like that is so many of us -- not that we're here in our prisons to testify to the jailer, but just because we're comfortable. It's what we know. The furniture is comfortable and the thought process is well worn into our brain. The chains are off, the door is standing open, yet here we are, wandering around in the ghetto of our soul.
The sad thing is that, other than breaking a lifetime of thought processes, it really is just that easy. We can leave today, yesterday, whenever. With Jesus as Lord of your life, you are free to get out of the ghetto of your soul. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36 And, from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, reminding us of an old negro spiritual: "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I'm free at last!"
So today (okay, I'll start tomorrow since I'm putting myself to bed after this) I will leave the ghetto of my soul. I will probably find myself back there when Satan tries to convince me that's where I belong, but I will walk victoriously out of the ghetto, proclaiming the victory that the Son has sacrificed to give me. The ultimate price was paid for my escape from the ghetto. Why am I still here? So, I'm SO outta here, this ghetto-of-my-soul. I've got victory to proclaim.
While exploring my lost post, I did discover that I have 584 posts. That is ridiculous. I can't believe you people are still here.
I leave you with this: Riley is coming home with a new Texas fun fact every day now from music class. Evidently he is learning more than just "Texas, Our Texas" (you are SERIOUSLY missing out on a slice of Americana if you bypass that link). Today it was: 'Texas' has been in more movie titles than all 49 other states combined. Funny? The only one I can think of involves Dolly Parton and a brothel. What about you? Movies with Texas in the title?
Remember the movie "The Money Pit"? It's no wonder that movie called to me long before I owned a home, since I've spent most of my adult life re-living some version of it. However, my favorite line from it comes when Shelly Long's character is rushing into orchestra rehearsal. The lady in the chair next to her, with a very proper British accent, is apalled:
"Where have you been? You were almost late!!"
To which Shelley Long repeats a phrase I have used to my husband on more than one occasion: "In this country we have an expression for almost late. We call it "on time."
Troy lives by the philosophy, "If you're early, you're on time; if you're on time, you're late." I live by the philosophy, "I'm here, aren't I?" It has taken some years to reach a happy medium about such. Thankfully, however, our children seem to have inherited their father's sense of punctuality. They're doing a great job of getting themselves to school on time so far.
Not only do Kendra and I share a classroom and all those kids, but our oldest children both started middle school this year. Kendra was asking me how it was going for Ashley and commented that the most interesting story she has heard from middle school has been the kid who got in a fight and then ran away from the teachers and climbed a tree. I figured surely Ashley had missed this excitement at middle school since I hadn't heard anything about it. So, I asked Ashley about "climb-a-tree" boy and she said, "Yeah, I saw it. I told you about it, but you were being 'supermom'."
"What does THAT mean?"
"You were doing 12 different things and weren't really listening."
Obviously, the label of 'supermom' combined with "you weren't listening to me" is my proudest moment as a mother. Really.
I'm hoping to post pictures of what happens when you force an intelligent child to step away from all electronic devices with screens and they find an extra stash of pencils and mix in some army men with their pencil-town-landscape. You, too, should force your child to turn off all electronic devices with screens and see what they come up with. You'll be amazed.
Hmmmm. Anticipatory Halitosis. I think he needs to see someone about that.
Close to my favorite back-to-school commercial, but not quite:
My favorite is for the same store, though. Stay tuned!
Does anyone have any grand plans for Labor Day? Any End-of-Summer hoorahs planned out there? I'm thinking about vacuuming. My husband did a ton of my laundry today, so I guess that's out. Big doin's, I tell ya.
Ashley: I had math homework, but I did it on the bus and can you help me figure out how to clean my clarinet, like REALLY clean, with a Q-tip and alcohol and...
Dad has endeared himself to my blog readers by his funny comments (check THIS ONE out!) and his never-failing pride in his daughter. He also has a child-like curiosity about people, vehicles, nature, animals, your hobby, your family, and probably your pets as well. He's pretty easy to talk to, as you might imagine. I generally have so much fun with mom and dad -- and, yes, sometimes it's at dad's expense. But he's a good sport. And a great gran'dad. Well, great as in, excellent. Since my middle schooler is his oldest grandchild, he won't be a great-gran'dad for LOTS of years. But he'll still be fun.
Dad, we're all over here wishing you the happiest of birthdays. About the time you are reading this I will be hustling home from the gym to shower and roll weary bodies from beds and do the whole shuffle-off-to-school routine. Hope your day is full of big real estate deals!