Pride, Fall, Pride, Fall, Happy

Pride -- My post on caring for your "temple". ALSO forsaking caffeine (FOR THE SUMMER ONLY, PEOPLE) to better care for my temple!

Fall -- Forgetting to take my iron pills for a week at the same I'm quitting caffeine-- SO tired I can hardly walk across the floor. Try to persevere and get back on my iron pills.

Pride -- Iron high enough to give blood! Which, when you're so tired you can hardly walk across the floor, giving away a pint of life-giving blood is one of the wiser things you can do, right?

Fall -- Blood pressure, however, is 93/60. I realize that perhaps caffeine is a good thing for my body.

Happy -- I'm ironized and caffeinated and functioning. The sun has finally come out and LIFE IS GOOD.


The Give-aways! You Won't Believe the Give-Aways!

Okay, 5 Minutes for Mom has give-aways at least once a month, usually more often. It's usually for those with little-bitties, which I no longer have, judging by the size of the shoes strewn about my living room right now.

But for the 4th, they have completely out-done themselves and I am just signing up trying to win like a crazy lady. I mean, are you kidding me? And don't we all need one of THESE?

Click on over and check them out!



How Great The Father's Love

by Sarah Stirman
on heartlight

I overheard a young mother recounting her nighttime ritual of laying her head on her pillow and asking herself, "Did I love my family enough today? If something happens to me tonight will they know exactly how much I loved them?"

As an "older and wiser" woman — and more skeptical and a bit jaded, I suppose — my first instinct was to laugh: "Well, of course you didn't love them enough! How silly!" Jesus conceded that though we are imperfect parents (He literally called us "evil"!) we still do the best we know how! (Luke 6:11-13) Chances are, I did NOT love my family enough today or on any day.

Her question, however, haunted me. I continued to turn it over again and again in my mind. The question seemed a bit less daunting and a lot less accusing if I rephrased it: "Could I love my children more, could I love my children better, tomorrow?"

Well, Lord willing, I will be given tomorrow with my family. And yes, I will try to love them more completely tomorrow. However, none of us is promised tomorrow for our families or ourselves.

I have wept with mothers who have kissed tiny foreheads for the last time to send them to "The Land Where There Is No Tomorrow." I have prayed and pleaded with mothers whose children have been precariously close to the edge of "The Land Where There Is No Tomorrow." Those women know what it is to lay their heads down at night and ask, "Did I love them enough ...?"

My husband and I have tangoed around the line of calling it quits on "happily ever after." With our new resolve for our marriage, I am painfully aware of how fragile a marriage can be. I am fully aware of his choice to be here. I am intentional about daily letting him know that I appreciate his choice and all that he is to our family. Thankfully, I have not faced the horrific loss of one of my children. But, I think I have failed to be intentional about letting them know how thankful I am for them, as well.

The old apostle John, near the end of his life, reminded us, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1) My loving Father has LAVISHED His love on me. Surely, that lavished love should run over and splash on my family.

One small thing I am realizing more and more is that as my children grow, the frequent opportunity to touch or hug them is diminishing. I don't lift them in and out of car seats or high chairs any more. I don't help them in and out of the bathtub, wipe their faces, or even brush their hair for them any more. They are no longer at an arm's distance or underfoot all day, so I must be intentional about meaningful touch for my children. I know that my arms ache when my husband is not in town to hug and touch me. My children need touch and love even more!

I also realize that sometimes I really have to try to listen carefully to what my children say. I am frequently guilty of multi-tasking which, I've come to realize, means doing several things poorly at the same time. It really doesn't take very long to sit, look into their eyes, and really hear what they are saying — and sometimes, if I am really listening, I can even hear what they aren't saying. I think about how much it means to me when someone has obviously heard what I said and then later asks me about it. I want my children to know they are valuable enough to get my full attention!

Another thing that I've realized that means a lot to my kids is to simply sit together and hang around together. Of course, the TV should be off for this — although it's also a good idea to know what they're watching and talk to them about it. My kids like for me to talk to them about my day, as well as listen to them about theirs. We dream and scheme, hope and plan.

Meaningful touch, intentional listening, and being together are not huge undertakings. They take a very little amount of time — my kids really like to limit how much time they hang out with me anyway— and they require no money at all! I just have to be intentional about doing those things.

And tonight I will wonder, "Could I love them more tomorrow?"

Originally published March 27, 2006.


Question of the Day

So, all this week has been VBS for our church. Only we're not allowed to call it VBS. It's SBA, don'tchaknow. Well, Summer Bible Adventure, of course! Silly you for asking!

MY question -- what, precisely, was WRONG with 'VBS'? Was it broken and needed fixing? I don't think so. Was it too "old-fashioned" and "traditional"? Probably. Did we just need some new letters (which, of course, means a new logo at our church)? Most likely.


One Thing That I'm Thinking...

Okay, there are thoughts rolling in my head. Thoughts that don't have to shove out of the way to deal with Room 24 or where everyone has to be in the next 12 minutes.

One think I'm thinking is my deal with fitness/ health.

Towards the end of school, I was really pleading with the Lord about my attitude: my mouth, my heart, my actions. It wasn't all THAT terrible -- believe me, it's been a lot worse! -- but, as Beth Moore says, "Haven't you noticed that the more time you spend with God the pickier He is with you?" Very true. The Lord was really convicting me of my heart and attitude and I was finding myself needing to repent quite frequently and pray for patience and a pure heart.

I know it will come as no surprise to you that I began to notice those times that I was not at my best physically were the most difficult for me to seek God's heart -- when I was excessively hungry or tired, or had gone too long without a workout, I had to pray overtime to control my mouth and heart because I was GROUCHY. As an educator, this is a no-brainer. This is why public schools serve all kinds of meals -- we learned a long time ago that when a person's basic needs aren't met (food, shelter, rest, etc.) they can't learn. (I'm sure some high- falutin' theorist said this, and I'm sure at one time I knew who it was -- I can actually remember where it was on the page of my textbook -- but my brain seems to have squished that info out for other more important drivel, like my current favorite Lorelai Gilmore quote).

So that led me to think about caring for this house (meaning, my body, the house of my soul) that the Lord has given me to live in (at some point, as the Lord gets pickier with me, I'm sure I will feel the need to talk about taking care of my actual house that He has given me to live in, but that steps on my toes too much right now). I think about how much more I enjoy life and long to follow the Lord when I am well rested, well fueled, and de-stressed.

No doubt, my initial motivation for pursuing fitness was purely vanity, but I have come to realize what a blessing and benefit it is for all of me -- yes, even my soul -- to take care of my physical house. If I am getting proper sleep, I can more easily listen to what the Lord is putting on my heart. If I am not fatigued from carrying around extra weight, I don't have the need to rest as frequently and I am able to DO what the Lord has put on my heart. Properly fueling my body by what and how much I choose to eat, as well as clearing my head with a workout of my choosing all lead to a healthier me, which leads to a ready servant of the Lord.

So, that's just one thing I've been thinking. Caring for my body isn't purely a selfish act, but it's being a good steward of what the Lord has given me.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.


All Boy, But No Chest Bumps

Last weekend when we went in to celebrate Poppa Max's birthday, the nephews were there, of course. My kids only get to see them twice a year, at the most, but it's becoming closer to once a year. I noticed immediately that the nephews enjoy "loving" on both of my children by gentle punching, stepping on toes, or pinning one against a wall, like so:

My children don't particularly enjoy such behavior, but, especially since the nephews/ cousins are all younger than my two, we just chalk it up to physical exuberance at being reunited and try to be patient with it.

I haven't really given that ritual much more thought until yesterday, when we went to the Rangers game in Arlington. For the record, it was like most other baseball games to me: two and a half hours of sweating profusely while watching a game as exciting as watching paint dry, and about 30 minutes of good ball. We ran into some people we know from here in town. The little guy Riley's age approached Riley with an elbow poke. When Riley politely moved away from him, he persisted with a chest bump.

This really gave me pause. Perhaps the physical wear-and-tear of your friends is a boy trait that Riley is simply missing. The kid from yesterday is an only child being raised by a single mom, and while I don't know all of her habits, I feel fairly certain she doesn't greet him with a chest bump after school. So, in my demented logic, I guess it has to be in-born. So where is Riley's chest bump/ back slap/ toe stepping/ pin to the wall gene? Is he missing one?

Then it occurred to me that one of the reasons I find this so odd is that none of Riley's friends seem to chest bump/ back slap/ toe step/ pin to the wall when he encounters them. So, I guess I must conclude that Riley has surrounded himself with friends of the non-chest bump/ back slap/ toe step/ pin to the wall variety, which is probably smart for a kid who weighs 68 pounds dripping wet.

That Riley is HILARIOUS, and he is definitely all boy. Just don't chest bump him.


Let Me Be a Light

by Sarah Stirman
on heartlight

My new MP3 player goes with me everywhere: work, the gym, a walk in the neighborhood, and frequently the grocery store. I will pause the player while I talk to someone and have been known to then take it off and forget that it's even turned on. Fortunately, I invested in an MP3 player that has an automatic shut-off feature. However, I think I have come to realize that the automatic shut-off feature works like this: when the battery is completely dead, the player will shut itself off. Now I just carry a stash of batteries in my purse and gym bag.

I was changing out the battery yet again and laughing at the not-very-handy automatic shut-off feature when I realized that humans have basically the same feature: we know it's time to take a break, go on "pause," only when we are forced to slow down due to illness, injury, or complete emotional exhaustion.I am nursing a sprained ankle. I gave my ankle precisely 72 hours of tip-top care and rest and then said, "That's enough! It's time to get back to work!" That didn't work very well, so I set off as fast as my crutches could carry me — back to the break-neck speed of life in my home. Then my 8 year-old came down with the flu. Neither he nor I have done a very good job of staying home and resting. Even when we are forced to slow down, we don't do it very well.

In a recent Bible class, we discussed the following question: "What activities keep you from drawing near to God?" We settled on this answer: all of them put together! Involved in this discussion were people active in church and our community. We spend our days and evenings in meeting after meeting, interspersed with other wonderful activities and ministries. In the middle of it all, we can scarcely remember why we do it. I confessed that the hectic schedule and running through life is a tug and temptation to keep up with the world that is stronger for me than many other temptations.

It certainly isn't how Jesus conducted his ministry. John 6 gives us a snapshot in time when Jesus was at the top of his game: people were flocking to him to be healed and hear what he had to say. Thousands were gathered when he fed them all from a little boy's sack lunch. The divine leftovers were enough to fill a basket for each disciple to hold and feel the weight of his abundant blessings. People noticed and declared: "He must truly be the Prophet that is coming into the world.” (John 6:14 ERV) What Jesus did next completely baffles me: "Jesus knew that the people wanted him to become king. The people planned to come get Jesus and make him their king. So Jesus left and went into the hills alone." (John 6:15)

He knew he would be useless to all without time with his Father. There were thousands of people around him. Dozens, if not hundreds of them, needed a physical ailment healed. All needed to hear his words. But Jesus knew his task on this earth, and he knew who had sent him. He knew he would be useless to all without time with his Father.Jesus told us, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 NASB)

What if I'm not plugged into my power source, or have so little power I look like a flashlight on its last drop of battery power? I MUST fiercely protect my time to recharge and spend time with my God so that I may be His light so that others may see Him in me.In order to do that, I will have to look a lot different from the people around me — even the people at my church. My children may not play every sport available. I will have to sacrifice my pride of being sure that no one else will organize the fellowship meal as well as I would. I may have to humbly admit that fewer activities — even the activities that I suggested and/or planned — at my church and more real time with the Lord is what will allow me to be His light. I will finally have to realize that truly knowing Him, not continually DOING, will lead me to be His light.

Maybe then I will "withdraw to a mountain by myself" before I completely run out of power!

Originally published March 8, 2006.


Bloggy Musings

I have many things rolling around in my head, most of them way too deep for a blog that is mainly good for a few laughs. (WHY do I always type that word 'laughts' first???) I'm doing quite a bit of writing, but I doubt any of it will end up here.

So I saw this on the news last night. It only begs one question: "Why?"

Remember when this blog was educational? You still remember the definition of "vomitory", right? But no one remembers the definition of decadent. Or they don't care. Because I still hear it all the time implying that I would REALLY want something if it were decadent. Um, no thanks.


Embellishment Opportunities

by Sarah Stirman
on heartlight

I recently tackled a “do-it-yourself” project far outside of the areas of my expertise: I painted a scripture on my daughter’s bedroom wall. In preparing to do that, I rationalized to myself that it was only words and I’m good with words. I know how to write on paper, a wall can’t be too different, right? I knew enough to mark the bottom line of the words with masking tape – my years of an educator writing on the chalkboard have revealed to me my tendency to gravitate my words toward the ground. I very lightly penciled the words where I wanted them to go.

Paint in hand and masking tape in place, I embarked on my project. It didn’t take too very long at all to realize that a heavily textured wall was far different from my yellow legal pad as a writing surface. The paint became bumpy and out of line, making an enormous mess. My scripture looked as if I were using my feet and a broken crayon instead of painstakingly painting each letter.

After I had finished one word, I could stand it no longer and opened the can of the original wall color (we had just recently painted the room – and I HIGHLY recommend having the wall color on hand for this project). I took my tiny touch-up brush and began correcting my mistakes. Soon I realized that was the fun part. With just a few little strokes, the bumpity mess I had thrown on the wall transformed into the precise wording I had originally envisioned. The touch-up was definitely crucial to my masterpiece.

Soon I painted with abandon, having a grand time getting the words on the wall, knowing that the key to a beautiful finished product was in the touch-up. One time I heard Frank Bielec, a designer for the TV show “Trading Spaces” say, “There are no mistakes in life. There are only embellishment opportunities.” I had plenty of embellishment opportunities on the wall, which called to mind the embellishment opportunities in my life.

As I painted I began to think of the people in my life that are my touch-up brush. Steve sees me as an award-winning writer, Tammy sees me as a brilliant mind, and Troy sees me as the complete package: beautiful woman of God with a loving, compassionate heart. I am immensely blessed to have people that see me as a masterpiece as their love covers over the embellishment opportunities I create. The family and community of God has afforded me a safe place to be the real me, warts and all.

Because of the security of the love of their eyes, I am able to live and love with abandon, having a grand time as I envision the finished product God will create of me. I hope and pray that I may see others as a Masterpiece of the Master’s making, after the touch-up of His love has perfected my view of them.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12

This post was originally published February 28, 2006.


Happy Birthday, Poppa Max!

This past weekend I had the privilege of joining the other members of my family to pay tribute to my Poppa Max -- my dad's dad -- on the occasion of his 90th birthday. His birthday was way back in April, but he was gracious enough to wait until June to celebrate so that his school-teaching grandchildren and school-aged great-grandchildren could more easily join in the celebration. He has been miserable and in constant pain for several years now and we never know what kind of day he will have. We were so blessed that Saturday seemed to be a good day for him and he thoroughly enjoyed the dozens of people who came out on a steamy summer afternoon to wish him well.

I'm not sure what this stoic look is to mean in this picture, but I love it. Mainly because I love that man to his toes. Sunday afternoon at lunch I had the honor of sitting next to him and just soaking him up. I loved every minute of it. His medication keeps him a little foggy, but bless his sweet heart, he's just as happy as he can be. He fumbled with his plate long enough that I finally just grabbed his fork and said, "let me" -- and I cut some meat into sizes he could manage. I really got a little weepy doing that -- not because we've come so full circle and this pillar of physical and emotional strength now needs help to do anything: eat, dress, walk, etc. No, I was weepy that I was finally doing one of the only things I can do to pay him back for all he's done for me. And it's so little. And it will never be enough. Maybe that's why I love the phrase, "Pay it forward." That's all I can do at this point.

I love these guys to their toes, too. AND the fella in the other yellow shirt who was behind Ashley. I don't know if his eyes were closed so that he got cropped out of this one or what, but it's one of PRECIOUS few pictures we have of the kids looking nice -- no gang signs or eyes rolling or anything.
Lord, give me a little corner of your wisdom and grace to teach them gratitude and to pay it forward.

The Difference Between Moms and Dads

No, this isn't an anatomy lesson.

This really struck me recently. Troy was off of work and we had a fun family day. Early in the day, before it got too miserably hot, we decided to go for a bike ride. The kids and I all have bikes, but our oldest chose not to go on the ride, so Troy used her bike and the three of us went for a ride.

Keep in mind that the kids and I have ridden quite frequently together. It basically always makes me a nervous wreck. I spend most of my time coaching on bicycle safety:"Stay in a single-file line on the right side of the road.""Slow down at this intersection to watch for cars. They have the stop sign, but make sure they see you.""Keep your helmet on the top part of your head."The funny thing is that when I was riding with my husband (who refused to wear a helmet) I should have been saying the same things. I realized that while I feel it is my job to teach my children how to be safe on their bicycles, Troy believes it is his job to teach them how to do a perfect wheelie and how to go 'dirt-biking' over the mounds of dirt at a nearby construction site.

In all honesty -- each of those things is important. So I'm thankful that Troy is around to teach such things (I don't think I could ever pull off a wheelie).I thought the same thing on our amusement-park tour. It was my self-appointed job to make sure everyone got enough water to drink, was always with an adult, and didn't eat so much junk that they got sick (which was easy to do since after paying $9 for an icee for everyone, we were done for the day -- I'm not exaggerating a penny). Troy had to make sure that everyone rode at least one thing that was a little bit scary for them, then on Friday he made the most beloved rule of all. After we had both jumped all over youngest for burping quite audibly at the steak house the night before, Troy made a new rule after lunch on Friday: "Burping after meals consumed in an amusement park is okay." After this pronunciation, he proceeded to shake the rafters with his own eructation. The kids were thrilled.

I am so thankful to God for designing this dance we do through life of give / take, push / pull, worry / play as parents. I am so thankful for the man I married to take on his role as bicycle daredevil instructor and roller coaster evaluator.

This post was originally published August 1, 2005.


Recipe Blog

I mentioned my recipe blog recently. I would love to encourage anyone to wander over there and look around. With "new blogger" -- I think it's about 8 months old, but I'm just now messing with it enough to see how it's different -- I now have labels in the side bar. So you can check out some easy main dishes or yummy desserts or whatever suits your fancy!

I would love for anyone to join and be a "contributor" to the recipe blog! Just email me (from my email addy in my profile) to let me know you would like to, and I will set it up!


A Happy Day in Heaven

Because I am a self-absorbed person and only see or hear news about once a week, I did not realize that Ruth Bell Graham died on Thursday. I am unable to sum up her life any better than Janice did here. More than anything, I appreciate that Ruth and Billy Graham are faithful followers of the Lord. Not just for a season, not just when it's "in", and not for any amount of personal glory. The earth is a sadder place without Ruth Bell Graham, but heaven is happier.


Private to the Sisters

I started to email this little "lecture/sermon/ encouraging word" to my ministry group. It just seems that we are all in different places of struggle/ turmoil in our lives -- except for Judy. She won't stay home from Hawaii or the Bahamas or something long enough for me to know how she's doing -- Judy, I hope you're okay! Miss you! Some of the struggle has been bestowed upon us by this world, some of it is a life adventure of our own choosing, but we are all trying to adjust and keep up.

Then I started listening to the women around me. We're all there. Family issues, health issues, life issues, ministry issues, work issues. Some of us have all of those. We're strung out and weary. And, just between you and me, some of you are very, very grouchy. I'm sure it isn't YOU. But maybe you. Definitely me.

Here's what I want all of us to remember -- the Lord will use us in mighty ways if we but lay our lives at His feet daily. That's it. Oh, and He knows. He knows where you are. He knows what's up in your life. And He's CRAZY about you.

He promises: I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

In Psalms, David reminds us: God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Psalm 45:7)

I've already been praying for you. Yes, even you, because as I listen to the precious souls around me, this world is weighing on us all. Praying that you will rest in Him and find renewed strength in Him. Praying that you may, as my precious friend Beverly reminded me, "prepare in the light for when the darkness comes". And if you are already thrown into the darkness, find His light to lead you out.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)


Why Do I Even Bother Formulating a Plan For My Day????

I had fun with the blog meme, and met a few really nice, equally addicted bloggers out there. Actually, you would have to maybe be addicted TO blogging to qualify. And I am obviously not. Reading them? I can't walk away.... writing them, it's hard these days!

I ran over to Wholly Devoted and really enjoyed Deena's blog. I especially enjoyed that her initial plan for her blog was to reflect thoughts around a Bible study for her church. I loved that idea and thought about posting a reflection on my daily Bible reading here. Well, I did THINK about it, and even had a thought or two yesterday.

But today has not quite gone like I had planned. And, you know, I say that so frequently -- I really just need to quit planning my day. Truly, that is the easy answer and probably what the Lord is trying to teach me anyway. For instance, one of my verses from yesterday was Proverbs 16:9: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

So I got up and skipped my "first thing, no matter what" Bible reading because I had to hustle out the door so I could get in my walk and be back before my door installer got here. So I got home just in time to greet door installer and get him on his way and immediately set about my work (which is why I should do my "first thing, no matter what" Bible reading since I just can't seem to stop later) and house piddling, etc. I went to turn on the water in the kitchen -- nothing.

So, I ask the door guys, "You don't have the water turned off for any reason do you?" "No, ma'am, but there was a guy from the city here in your front yard about 5 minutes ago." Yuck, my gut fears what has happened -- I check my online bill payments. Yes, I did make that payment. 'Cause in May I TOTALLY forgot to pay the water bill. I don't mean remembered a week or so later, I mean I COMPLETELY forgot. You know, I did have a thing or two going on in May. And, it's not like I was actually LIVING in my home to think about, appreciate, and pay for my water usage. Until we got our bill for June that also included the May amount. So I scheduled them both to be paid. The day before my payment was to go out we did get a friendly little disconnect notice that caused me to double-check that I had, in fact, scheduled the payment to be made. Yes, there it is. Ready to go tomorrow, two full weeks before they are going to shut us down. It's all good.

So when I called my not-so-friendly water utilities employee this morning to ask if I might, please, have my water turned back on, she sniffed and told me all the hoops I would have to jump through to show her that I HAVE in fact made that payment (two weeks ago now) because they don't have it. Or maybe Maybel put it on her desk before she left for vacation last week. Either way, it's not posted, you don't have water, Missy, and we hold the power because YOU haven't paid your bill. Oh, but I have, but we don't want to hear any of that.

So after a call to the water department, the bank, my online bill pay service, the water department (again) and the online bill pay service (again), I thought I was in business. But when I called to check on that whole process, I was told that a) the original employee I had talked to had gone to lunch b)they would tell the city employees who are probably leaned against their truck around the corner from me to turn it on when they felt like it and c)I have to be here to sign something for them to turn it on.

Let me get this straight -- you can turn it off without my permission or knowledge, but I have to sit here and wait for you to turn it back on. I did tell this happy little soul that I am SO glad the original person got to go to lunch since there is no way for me to wash hands or fix lunch for my family, yet you're telling me we can't GO to lunch because I can't leave. I do understand that this isn't the city's fault, and it certainly isn't the fault of the lunch-eater OR her replacement. I also understand that the bulk of their dealings are not with people like myself who actually do pay their bills on time, and evidently the bulk of their dealings are not with people who use these new-fangled computer-internets-type-things.

So, I here I am, still covered in the grime from my walk this morning, a half-filled washing machine waiting to complete a load, and toilets that will flush (thank you, Lord) but not refill. I told the kids to look real pathetic if a city employee drove up, so, to be funny, they went and rubbed dirt on their faces. They were a little irritated that they couldn't wash their hands after that, though!

So I should use this time to go do my "after it's all been said and done and it's all over but the crying" Bible reading. I'm sure the Lord has LOTS to say to me today!


A Little Interview

Chilihead (no, I'm sorry, I have no idea why she refers to herself thusly) wants to know a little bit about bloggers. So, I'll play along:

Tell Your Blogging Story

  • How did you start blogging? I barely knew what they were, but I was interested in doing a little writing, and wanted a place to "house" it. Debbie mentioned to me that she had one and where to set one up.

  • Did you intend to be a blog w/a following? If so, how did you go about it? No, I didn't intend to be a blog with a following. Good thing, or I would be a miserable failure!

  • What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful? If not, do you have a plan to achieve those goals? Okay, this assumes big schemes and plans. I have none. I want people to laugh and think. Sometimes even on the same day. I want people to love my family as much as I do. I want to share what the Lord teaches me and how He blesses me.

  • Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How? Yes. I have come to realize that if the Lord puts some sort of deep and profound life lesson in my head to reveal, people enjoy it. But frequently, they're just as happy with a funny story from the diaper days.

  • What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started? What a precious community of friends the blog community CAN be.

  • Do you make money with your blog? I only lose time and gain weight from sitting so much!

  • Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why? Yes, they all know. My poor kids -- anytime something happens in our family that makes me laugh they ask, "Is this a blog moment?" Hubby and dad are frequent commenters, and evidently aunts, uncles, and cousins are reading but not commenting!

  • What two pieces of advice would you give to a new blogger? 1. NEVER forget the phrase: WORLD-Wide-Web. Be very careful of what you say, how much you say, and how you say it. 2. This can become a crazy addiction!

Check out the hows and whys of other bloggers at Chilihead's place!


Sacred Marriage

Troy and I went to a marriage seminar several months ago. I thought I had written about it here, but found a half-post buried in my drafts waiting for my attention. I've really been thinking much about what the speaker said lately.

After going to a Christian school 1st - 12th grades, a Christian college for 5 years, a couple (or three?) Faulkner/ Brecheen seminars, and various and sundry other sermons and Sunday school curricula, I went to the seminar prepared to hear things I had heard many times before. But, I figured it couldn't hurt for Troy and I to be reminded that we need to take time for each other and hold hands more often (we're pretty good hand-holders -- any more hand-holding and it really may inhibit our day-to-day activities). I was completely blown away.

Gary Thomas was our speaker, and he looks about 12. At first glance, you wouldn't have imagined that he had even been married long enough to have much to say about it. He's also incredibly soft-spoken. I initially thought it may be a very long day. But he is very enjoyable to listen to, and basically said something that, not only had I never heard before, but it had never even crossed my mind.

His basic premise is that this idea that marriage is for MY happiness and romance is a Hollywood idea, and fairly recent in the history of mankind.

What if, he said, just what if marriage was for MY holiness, not happiness? What if my marriage is all about ME, as one of God's imperfect children, learning to love one of God's imperfect children? What if I viewed my love of my spouse and the way I treat my spouse as one of the many ways I can worship and serve God?

I'm tellin' ya, it had never even crossed my mind, but it made perfect sense. And I'm not an easy person to sway! One example really stuck with me. He mentioned that historians are fairly unanimous in their agreement of Abraham Lincoln being included in the list of the greatest United States presidents of all times; known for his leadership and drive to unity at a terribly divisive time in our history. They are also fairly unanimous in including Mary Todd Lincoln as one of the most miserable and awful First Ladies. Gary Thomas' thought was that perhaps the commitment to cling to his marriage through difficult times prepared him for greatness in the Oval Office.

There are many things I would like to ask him, and many things I'm still praying on, but that viewpoint has brought much peace to me. I think simply because it's a surrender of self and will -- which are, to me, two of the hardest things to get out of the way to make such a close relationship work. And, more importantly, it's a voluntary surrender -- I choose to worship and honor God by the way I treat his son, my husband. My husband doesn't demand it, God doesn't even demand it, but I choose to surrender my way and what I want in order to honor God through my marriage (okay, now I'm sounding like a saint -- which I am NOT -- I'm just explaining this new and painless way of thinking for me). And God, in turn, blesses me with a happier husband who is eager to take care of me and keep me happy! God has also shown me, as I pray to let go of things, that very few things that have irritated me are really worth being upset over. When you pray to the creator of the universe about getting your way for dinner selection, you realize how piddly you sound. Embarrassing, but true.

Something else that REALLY struck me from that seminar was this statement: "As Christians, our greatest witness should be keeping our marriages together. And we're not. Our divorce rate looks no different than the world's." Wow. Very true. What's up with that? I have all sorts of theories about that -- time doesn't allow me to speak to those in a manner sensitive enough for the subject, though. But so much of that comes from us all trying to look like we have it all together, and not having relationships within the Christian family that we can turn to and reveal our hearts and struggles and prayer needs. Of course, many of us within the Christian family cannot be trusted with that information without relaying it to "just a few people" until the chain of gossip already has us divorced. But that's a whole other issue for a whole other blog post!

I would really encourage any of you to read the book, "Sacred Marriage". As much as I am trying to really stay in God's word right now and mainly listen to Him and only Him, I think that the book Sacred Marriage is a great compliment to scripture -- and another step in understanding and remembering that this life, including my marriage, is not about me and my happiness. It's for Him and to reflect His holiness.


Relaxing on Saturday

Well, we made it! As I mentioned, we lost Thursday night, so no ball game for us last night. I had already agreed to keep Kenny and Abbie, so at least I didn't have to figure out how to juggle them, the ball field, and Dixie burgers for dinner. That was a bit of a relief.

Yesterday I used my Mother's Day gift -- a gift certificate for a massage, manicure, AND pedicure at a local salon. In a word, GLORIOUS. No matter how wonderful the friends that take on my kids are, that much time always makes me feel guilty for the person stuck with my kids (I know, most people feel guilty being away from their kids -- I feel guilty for laying the responsibility for them at another person's feet). But I did decide that I would probably be a happier and healthier person if I got a massage on a regular basis. Oh, and poorer, I'm thinkin'. But it made yesterday a wonderful and relaxing day.

After Kenny and Abbie left last night, Troy and I piled in bed to watch TV just for minute before we went to sleep. I woke up at about 11 with the TV on and Troy next to me snoring -- which he NEVER does unless he is just wiped out. I turned off the TV and Troy and I woke up a little more than 11 hours later. Again, a glorious Saturday! I'm thinking we needed a little baseball detox and sleep -- and we got both.

This summer one of my many projects is to teach my children to cook a few meals -- so that when school starts mom can have one night a week off of cooking and let them handle it. So, as a trade-off/ reward for that, I decided that I would make dessert on the nights that they cook. As I remember, I will try to post recipes on my recipe blog. Last week, Riley missed all the fun of cooking (baseball practice -- go figure) so Ashley made us a most yummy spaghetti meal. I made Strawberry Daquiri Dessert. I'm not sentimental about food on a regular basis, but this is one of the last desserts -- if not THE last -- that my mother-in-law made before she died (this is one of those "freaky memory" facts that Troy will roll his eyes that I know). I have the recipe scribbled in the back of the notebook I was using as a prayer journal during that time. She was an AMAZING cook. She was not a very open person about her feelings, but she showed her love through her efforts in the kitchen. I will never measure up in that regard and have long since quit trying.

ANYWAY -- Strawberry Daquiri Dessert. Most yummy -- and Ashley, the queen of mispronunciation, calls it "Strawberry Dukey-airy" making it sound much less appetizing. Tonight the kids are making homemade pizza for us -- one of our family's favorite. I'll put the recipe for the crust on the recipe blog, as well. So I made a dessert I saw in Family Circle while standing in line waiting to check out. Our layered ice cream cake is still in the process of being made, but it has ice cream sandwiches in it -- how bad can it be?

Happy Saturday to all!


Observations for the Week

  • In Sarah's Happy Universe, only coaches who talk nicely to their players are allowed to win. Thus far this week, my rule has prevailed. We lost tonight, thus ending our own Little League Hell Week. But we lost to a team whose coach talks nicely to his players, so it was okay.

  • There is little as heartbreaking as seeing the pitcher cry. Unless maybe it's seeing the first baseman crying. While the shortstop is crying. And soon the third baseman is crying. We did not go down gracefully, folks.

  • This is how we warmed up for our games. And thus it should be. Thank you, Coach Brady.

  • People spit a lot at lunch meetings.

  • Someone else applying sunscreen to my back is a fairly intimate occurrence. It really bothers me to ask an acquaintance to help. I will contort myself into all sorts of crazy manners to avoid asking for help.

  • In old news, I just saw a clip tonight from Don Cheadle's, of Hotel Rwanda fame, press conference when he met with Kofi Annan in December about the violence in the Darfur region in Africa. I loved this quote: "The problem is not getting better, it's worsening," Cheadle said. "you don't control your papers I know, the editors (do). But we need to press that these stories not be small paragraphs on page 17 but that they at least have as much time as Britney Spears not wearing underwear." He has an excellent point.

  • And today we could add: "... or where Paris Hilton is serving the remainder of her jail sentence."

  • Hell week is over, tomorrow I teach swim lessons to the little bitties and keep my friends, Kenny and Abbie. And Saturday I sleep late. And go to the gym if I wake up in time.

Let Summer officially begin!


Troy Calls It Elephantine Memory

I have a freakish memory. Being as self-centered as I am, I may remember hardly anything that you TELL me, but I'll remember pretty much anything I see. Conversations that I've had come and go in my brain, but anything I've seen I won't forget. Oh, and dates. Not just important dates -- birthdays, anniversaries, etc. (this doesn't mean I ACKNOWLEDGE them, but I generally remember them) -- but you could pretty much toss out any date in the last 25 years and I'll give you a reasonable idea of what I was doing on that date, if not remember precisely what was happening in my life.

Troy remembers precious little. This combination has required much grace and mercy on both of our parts through the years, but we work with it now. It's my job to remember what's behind us, it's Troy's job to plan for what's in front of us. It works.

I knew that Ashley had a fairly accurate memory and have used it to help me on many occasions. For, as I told my children yesterday, my brain is so full of useless memory, like the lyrics to Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night", that I can't remember where I put my keys.

Earlier this week, Ashley's instructor for her band class next year called to set up an appointment to help her pick an instrument. After she got off the phone, the agonizing began, "I told C . that I would pick the french horn, but now I don't know. Oh, shoot! Why did I tell EVERYONE that I was going to play the french horn?"

First, I didn't know why she would tell everyone that she would play the french horn either when I don't think she could have picked one out of a line up. But I TRIED (and failed) to point out that no one would remember what she said she would play by making this illustration: "Before we continue this conversation, tell me what D. (boy in her class that got on her last nerve) was wearing the last day of school." She looked at me quizzically for about 2.2 seconds and said, "Khaki shorts and a brown and white striped polo. Why?"

*sigh* Never mind. Illustration lost on people with freakish memories.


The Fun Continues

Some people call it City League Tournament. Some folks call it County Wide Tournament (which is more accurate). I'm beginning to call it Little League Hell Week.

As fraternities and sororities have a week of activities to stretch pledges to their physical and mental limits, little league has County Wide Tournament. It's a single elimination tournament that does only last one week -- Monday through Saturday. Teams travel to different sites and play on unfamiliar fields. Parents travel to small town America to realize that a clean bathroom means different things to different little leagues. Players and fans alike bathe in mosquito repellent to participate in the West Nile Virus roulette. Fans feast on rubbery nachos and lukewarm sodas to tide them over until they can eat "real food" after the game -- you know, real food like burgers, chicken strips, and fries. As the fans feast on the concession stand fare, mosquitoes feast on them.

For teachers or stay-at-home moms who don't have to go to school or work the next day it's not quite so much of a challenge, but folks who must arise and go to work the next day and/ or plan any work activities for the week have all kinds of mental obstacles. Since Troy needs to travel for his job, baseball, end-of-school activities, and plumbing/ reconstruction jihad have somewhat kept him tethered to town. This week, he has had to play the "my son may or may not have a baseball game in which he may or may not play more than 5 minutes on that night" game. I don't think it makes for very good business relations. Of course, he doesn't have the challenge of entertaining kids home from school, hyped up about this tournament business, who aren't to go swim the day of the game 'lest they wear themselves out. Considering the speed of the Tasmanian Devil tear through the house, the player isn't slowing down anytime soon. Maybe it would be safe to go to the pool.

And, just like any fraternity's hell week, as I describe this, some of you (uninitiated) are saying, "That sounds TERRIBLE. It must be awful." And, just like some crazy college kid, I would say, "No, it's awesome! You've really gotta do this sometime!"


Dollar Tree Fun

Why is Riley sitting in the middle of the hall and why is my linen closet door open so that I will bonk my head on the door as I walk by?
Oh, well, of course. It's the army guys defending the towels from evil stains and smelly feet.

Bag of army guys from Dollar Tree -- $1
Hours of argue-free fun in the hall on a drizzly summer morning -- priceless.

Updated to add: I've had several comments on the floor and, if you haven't stopped by, this is the wood floor that is my living and dining room and now hall (we had wood floors in the LR and DR before, but nasty carpet in the hall). Pretty much exactly where the Tinkertoy canister is is where the trough went from left to right across the hall during the plumbing excavation. Yes, the wood floor is MUCH better than a trough.


His Grace Reaches Me

Last (school) year when Riley was in 2nd grade, he began having homework on a regular basis. It was fairly quick and painless, and the point was simply to get in the habit of doing homework. Only since Riley's crummy mom was drowning in a new job, Riley began to get in the habit of doing his homework standing at the breakfast table with his backpack on his back at 7:54 a.m. as we were all trying to get out the door for school/work. For a few weeks, I simply told him that he really needed to be doing that when we first got home, blah,-blah-Charlie-Brown-teacher-speak.

So, I reverted to speaking Riley's language: "Riley, if you don't do your homework in the afternoon, you'll be grounded from TV for 2 days. If you forget again, you'll be grounded from TV for a WEEK." Truthfully, I don't remember now if there was a 2-strike opportunity, but I do know, since I don't make idle threats, that at some point there would probably be a TV-less Riley moping about the house for a week. And there was. It was a long, yet effective week. Riley did great about remembering his homework after that!

Even after Christmas break, he did really well about coming straight home and getting his homework done!! Until... (Riley has a drama effect "dun-dun-dunnnnnnnnn" that would be appropriate here) One afternoon I had to pick the kids up from school and promptly take them to Troy's office so that I could go to a meeting (or something long since forgotten). I got home later and started the dinner-making, heading-to-bed shuffle that is standard for school nights.

The next morning we were doing the gathering-the-backpacks/lunches, heading-to-school shuffle that is standard for school mornings, when I noticed Riley a little more purposeful than usual gathering his things. He headed out to the car, then returned, got a pencil, then said, "I'll be in the car." I knew. Because I'm a mom with not only those eyeballs in the back of my head but that pesky ESP that cuts through the fluff with the kids, I knew. I knew he was headed to do his homework in the car. But I made the parental decision to look the other way and act like I didn't. Partly because I didn't want to deal with it and partly because I felt bad that our crazy schedule/ life had messed up Riley's homework routine.

So I finally piled into the car and both of the kids were already in the car (I have since figured out that I'm sure Ashley caught Riley and threatened to tell, but my ESP is fuzzy on that point). I backed the car out of the driveway trying to make faux lighthearted talk, but the tension was tangible in the backseat. Ashley encourages/admonishes: "Riley, you'll feel better if you just tell." (Mom is thinking, "Please don't tell, please don't tell, I don't want to mess with it!") Finally Riley spoke up: "Mom?" (bottom lip quivering uncontrollably)
Mom: "Yes, sweetie?"
Riley: (lip still quivering) "I forgot to do my homework yesterday and (sniff) I was doing it this morning in the car."
Mom: (feigning ignorance so as not to divulge my ESP powers) "Well, hmmmm. You know what's supposed to happen, right?"
Riley: (crying for real) "Yessss (sob, sob)"
Mom: "Well, do you know what grace is?
Riley: "No."
Mom: "Grace is forgiveness we don't deserve. God extends grace to me every day because He loves me so much. For this occurrence, I am going to give you grace -- forgiveness." (There was some banter in there about what exactly that meant and, more importantly, would Riley be able to watch TV that afternoon). "But Riley?"
Riley: "Yes?"
Mom: "God's grace is without limits. Mine is NOT."

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Riley, my love, may you abound in every good work, have all that you need, and know God's abundant grace.


Some Great Reads

I'm sorry I missed this ACU graduation. Dr. Beck had some valuable things to say.

If I had been this articulate when I graduated from college, I might have said this. But I doubt it. Some of that I'm still learning ("there is absolutely no joy to be found in choosing to be mediocre").
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