Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nothing Witty, Just Some Observations on a Snowy Last Day of February

Ahhhh, February 28. It's one of my favorite days. Why? Well, because tomorrow is March, which means that EVENTUALLY the snow will melt here in the Midwest. Today looks like a typical December or January day. Everything is in grayscale. Gray skies, white ground, black sticks of trees sticking out all over the place. This must be what it's like to see through the eyes of a dog.

Speaking of dogs, we had to put our 12 year old dog down recently. She had been a good dog in the sense that she never once nipped anyone, or got aggressive, or anything like that. She was a lab mix, which in my experience with her meant that she never quit being high energy and spazzy. A cheerful pup. She always sat in the kitchen when I cooked, or stretched out in front of the TV watching us watch TV. It seemed that no matter in which room there happened to be family members, she'd be there. A true pack animal! Her bark would pierce right through a person's skull, though, and for some reason the doorbell caused an automatic barking response. If a courteous robber had ever come to our home, we would have been alterted immediately!

As the dog's health declined (rather rapidly, too), my husband and I were faced with having to make the decision whether or not to have her put down. We consulted with a veterinarian, who gave wonderful and helpful advice. We hoped beyond hope that our dog would just "snap out of it" but it wasn't to be. Once the decision was made, we told the kids to say their last good-byes one evening, knowing that the next morning the dog would be transported to the vet for her final moments. The next morning my husband and my oldest son took the dog to the vet. Naturally she had to relieve herself on my family room carpeting one last time before she left.

She's been gone for two weeks now. The house still seems quite empty, but it's a lot cleaner. I've been amazed at how much a short-haired dog can shed! It's strange to go to the grocery store and not have to pick up dog food. It's strange when someone rings the doorbell and there is no barking. It's strange for me to make stock for chicken soup, and not have my dog at my feet - her job was to taste test the chicken. Hey, someone had to do it!

As I go through this particular stage of life, I am reminded that things never stay the same. Just as seasons change in the natural world - even when it seems like the snow will NEVER melt - I know I have to get comfortable with change, with uncertainty, with not having all the answers. It seems that the older I get, the less I'm sure of, with the exception of the scriptures. I didn't realize what a legalist (or maybe a better term is determinist) I've been my entire adult life. "If I do A then the result will be B" type of thinking. Now I know that if I do A then B may happen, but so may C, D, or E! This is where trusting in the sovereignty of God comes in. So, while I am less sure about how what I do may affect an outcome, I am more sure that my Father in heaven cannot fail in His purposes. This gives me much relief. I have a long way to go.

A friend of ours who is in his seventies recently said to us, "If I had known back then what I know now, I would have worried less." Profound and if I could only remember it!

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Surprising Revelation - Having All Teens Isn't, In Fact, Easier

13 months have passed since my last blog post. I can't say that anything's happened to cause me to not physically be able to write. I feel fine, my family is fine. Life is interesting as always, and busy.

I remember when my children were much younger and I thought, "I cannot wait for them to be older, because then things won't be so busy here." Ha ha ha ha! Granted, I did have five babies over the course of nine years, so yeah, that was busy. And exhausting. And fulfilling. But there has been a major change here. They all got older.

One surprising thing about having older children is that their aging comes as somewhat of a shock to us. We can know intellectually that children grow to become adults. But for some reason, this natural course of life seems to surprise many of us. My youngest son is now 13, and he is taller than I am. My other kids span in age between 23 and 16. What? How did that happen? *smile*

So now I am busy shuttling those who don't drive to their various activities. The ones who DO drive I worry about (we live in a blizzard-prone location). Fortunately my adult kids still live at home as of today, so I get to see their faces once in a while. Gone are the days of family dinners, movie nights, and day trips with all seven of us. In a way I mourn the loss of these activities, but in another way I am loving having a bit more independence and a bit more alone time with my sweet hubby.

Now, as I re-start my blogging, I'll be focusing on the blessings and struggles of having teen and adult children under our roof. I'll also be spouting off about online safety for kids and the bazillion gadgets which can now access the web all the time. I am always looking at ways to save money, so when I find great deals or money saving strategies I'll be tossing them on here. Naturally I won't stop talking about matters of faith, and you'll see my quirky sense of humor on display as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tips for Real Moms on the Busy-ness of the Season

I recently wrote a little article for our local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) newsletter. We have a Mentor Mom corner, and I happen to be a mentor mom. The question asked was how to maintain focus on the real meaning of Christmas. I remember what a struggle this was for me when my kids were toddlers, and I wish I would have had a calm mentor mom help me through it. So with that in mind, here's my response:

Keeping Christ in Christmas, for Real Moms

“How can I incorporate a celebration of Jesus’ birth in all of the busy-ness of the season?”
Dan and I started a tradition when the kids were little where we read from a children’s bible about the story of Jesus’ birth. A great resource for this is “The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories” by Mary Batchelor and John Haysom (available on Amazon and most book stores, or your local library or inter-library lending system may have this). What I love about this particular bible story book is that the illustrations are lovely without being cartoonish. We would read the story of Jesus’ birth right before we opened presents on Christmas Eve. You could easily incorporate a little tradition like this in whatever way works for your family. The key is to keep things short and sweet for babies and toddlers.

Other ideas:
Advent Coloring Pages for older kids

The History of Advent (lots of activities on this page):

Family Matters: Keeping Expectations Realistic

“I feel like a child again when I go back home for the holidays.”
Most of us feel like we’re five years old again when we walk into our parents’ or grandparents’ homes for Christmas. Don’t take offense - these are the people who heard you laugh for the very first time, saw you take your first steps, skin your knees, lose your first tooth, get your braces on/off, get your driver’s license, and all of those other wonderful “firsts” in life. Think about how much you love those milestones in your own baby’s life. Isn’t that a great feeling? It’s no wonder our parents and grandparents keep bringing up those memories. Cut them some slack, smile at them, and take it for what it is: holiday reminiscing. Yes, you might get teased. Take it with a grain of salt and be glad that you have people in your life who love you. Not everyone has that.

“I don’t get along with my in-laws, which stresses me OUT!”
Something my husband and I adopted back when we were engaged was that he would handle his family’s things, and I would handle mine. For example, if a relative from either side was undermining basic rules for our kids, then whichever side of the family the relative belonged to determined which one of us would handle the situation. We knew that handling things gently and respectfully was the best. We agreed to let the little stuff slide, and that most things were little things. It is critically important that you talk to your husband privately and at a good time about this before you arrive at your extended families’ homes. You’ll need a game plan for those inevitable sticky situations, and back each other up when they happen.

“I like order and schedules, but the holidays with family are crazy times for me!”
Realize that normal routines WILL be disrupted, and that everything will get back to normal. Nap schedules, routines, and even meals and food choices will be jumbled up during time with extended family. Yes, the baby will get cranky. Maybe you’ll get cranky, too. But remember, you’re the grown up, so you will be given opportunities to show grace in the midst of stress. The holidays will pass, you will be back home, and everything will get back to normal. Parenting is a marathon, and even if your child is given Cheetos and red Kool Aid at 10AM by some family member doesn’t mean it has undone all your work in helping your kids to eat right. Yes, I speak from personal experience on this ;-). Try to focus on the treasure of being able to spend time with those who love you most. You don’t know if you will have another Christmas with them so take a deep breath, pray, maintain focus, and love on your family/in-laws.

“I so want our Christmas celebration to be wonderful!”
The best way for you to make lovely Christmas memories for your children is to be at peace with the Lord, and reflect His love for them by being patient with them (and your husband) during these busy times. Reflect on the time when you realized you were falling in love with your husband - what a wonderful gift. Continue to do the little things that make this season so much fun, like making easy Christmas treats or hanging the ornaments on the tree. Take the time every single day to look your children in the eyes, smile at them, hug them, and remember how you longed to hold them in your arms when you were pregnant with them. The bible says that children are a gift from the Lord! As you’re reflecting on the wonders of Christmas, God coming to be with us in the flesh, I hope you’ll also be able to catch glimpses of His great love for you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Socially Functional Introvert's Confession

Recently I was sitting at one of my favorite places, Panera Bread, with a few of my girlfriends. We have a crochet club, but only two of the five of us crochet. One knits, and the other two are just there for the entertainment. We even have a not-so-secret hooky hand shake. Ha! As we were talking about everything but yarn crafting, one of the gals began to talk about an upcoming Women's Ministry Summer Picnic. You know, thirty to fifty women all getting together at a bug infested, blistering hot park shelter, shooting the breeze about faith, jobs, kids, menopause... As she was telling us about it, I said, "PLEASE no ice breakers!" The phrase, "Let's all break into small groups and get to know each other better" causes my stomach to tighten up to a pre-pregnancy state! I realized that not only am I not the only person who hates those stupid games, but that in my little crochet club, every last one of us are introverts. This is funny because I recently discovered that the ratio of extroverts to introverts is 3:1.

I never considered myself to be an introvert because I have an outgoing personality. I'm learning much more about the introvert / extrovert thing by reading Marti Olsen Laney's "The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Hidden Strengths". Dr. Laney is an introvert who married an extrovert. I'm only on page 22, and already have learned that it is not so uncommon for someone like me to exist. I quickly discovered that I've mistaken introversion for shyness or aloofness.

Introverts, I've found, can be friendly and outgoing. It's not about personality, it's about what energizes a person. For the introvert, we focus inward to gain energy. Since we like to live inside our own heads, we like to process things internally and gain refreshment from being alone with enough time to think clearly. We revel in ideas, emotions and impressions within us. We love email, blogging, Facebook. Phone calls are difficult. For an introvert like me, going to church is fun and I love being there when I'm there, but when I get home I run up to my room, toss on some sloppy loose clothing, and tell the kids, "Unless you're bleeding, throwing up, or on fire, do not bug me for one hour please." I always say this with a smile and a twinkle in my eye, but the kids know I'm serious. Every week after church I feel like one of those well worn, used, wet washcloths after doing dishes for a Thanksgiving meal. Nothing left inside me. All socialed-out.

Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by lots of people and activity. They are all about people, places and things - like nouns, I guess. They like to talk to people, but this doesn't mean they are necessarily more out-going or lively than introverts. Too much alone time can greatly dampen an extrovert. I suspect that three of my five kids are extroverts. After hours of being at church (service plus after-service lunch) they cheerfully exclaim, "What can we do now mom? Can we have all our friends over to play?" For them, the party has only just started, and for me, let's just say I'm not usually inclined to do a whole lot of socializing after doing a whole lot of socializing.

Introversion and extroversion are not personality types - they are just labels for what energizes or drains a person.

Are you a socially functional introvert?

Getting back to my story, as my friend was talking about the upcoming Women's Ministry Picnic, I looked around the table and saw a couple of my friends smiling, and one was rolling her eyes. I think I literally put my head on the table and moaned. Since we're all introverts, the thought alone of two hours of trying to make small talk in a large group tires us (and for some, causes anxiety). I piped up and said, "I'll do the devotional!" Yeah, as a functional introvert I enjoy speaking to large numbers of people, but have a much more difficult time actually conversing with them. Weird, huh? Well, maybe not. As I'm considering what to say, I am reflecting on how so much of what the church does seems to be extrovert - focused, but that's a post for another time. For now, I'm enjoying the relative quiet of my home (the kids are still asleep, except for one, and the hubby is out) and trying to recharge my soul. Ahhh :-)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Is Your Church Friendly? Better Question: Are YOU Friendly?

My husband recently completed a ten-week sabbatical. "Sabbatical" here not meaning vacation, but working at something other than his regular pastor job/calling. In his case he worked on a bachelor's degree in Christian Education. For a guy who's dyslexic, this was quite a feat, but he did it, and managed to rest a bit, work on his GTO a bit, and even do a 2-day getaway with me. Nice!

During his time away from our church, he visited other churches in the area. Because he's worked at an area mega-church, as well as launched an area youth center, many people around here know him on sight. When he visited other churches, though, he did so with the express intent of not drawing attention to himself, but rather just seeing what the Body of Christ, as represented in different area churches, had going on. He was trying to get a feel for what it's like to walk into a church and not know anyone.

Every Sunday he'd come home with stories for me. Some good, some bad.

At one church, the only person who talked to him was another "new guy". At another church, people were polite but cold, as in they did the drive-by "Hi" and quickly moved along without talking to him. There are other instances I could recount, but you get the idea. He gleaned much in terms of how we can increase the warmth/friendliness factor at our own church. Here's what we want to do, and to teach others to do:

1. When you see someone you don't know, or even someone you might have seen before at church but who's standing along, walk up to them and introduce yourself, ask them where they're from, and how long they've been coming to the church. If it's their first time, say, "Terrific! Would you like to sit with me/us during the service?" Someone did this for my husband, and it left such a wonderfully positive impression on him.

2. Friendliness isn't just for extroverts. Realize that even extroverts are intimidated at times, but they push through and are friendly.

3. Use stock questions: Where are you from? What do you do for a living? How long have you lived in this area? Then continue along those lines to get to know the person a little better.

4. Smile. Yes, smile. Make eye contact.

5. Don't just gravitate to your friends at church. Remember what it was like when you were the new person, or the shy person.

6. If you have an after-service coffee/snack time or meal, make it a point to stand or sit by someone who is alone. I have often seen families sitting alone at tables during our after-service lunch. One of those families knew my husband, and said to him, "Yeah, the meal is nice, but we felt like we were at a party and weren't invited." How sad is that?

"But I'm an Introvert!" you say. Well, so am I. People are surprised to find that out about me because I am boisterous and humorous in public. I consider myself an introvert because being alone and in a quiet place recharges my soul. I do like people, and I like being with them, but I can only swing it for a few hours before I crave a little alone time. I used to be embarrassed by this, after all, a pastor's wife who doesn't like to be around people all the time? I'm not embarrassed anymore, but rather have learned how to know when it's time for me to bow out of group settings gracefully.

I remember five years ago when my husband, my five children and I walked up the steps to the new church to which my husband was called as the solo pastor. Four out of five of my kids had tears running down their cheeks, and my husband and I were so worried that they'd hate the church (as a whole), hate God, hate us for moving them. I remember that pit in my stomach as I walked around and met new people. It was very difficult. I try to keep that feeling in mind whenever I see new people at church.

All this to say, if you want your church to be friendly, don't count on it coming from the greeter ministry alone. YOU be friendly. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you folks who need to see a friendly face. Show them around the place, sit by them, answer any questions they may have. Don't wait for "leadership" to do this - it's not their job, it's your privilege to show the love of Christ to others, and an easy way to do this is to yourself be friendly.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Motherhood: Not The Greatest Good For The Christian Woman

It's Mother's Day. I've been able to celebrate this as a mother now for twenty years. It's typically a day of homemade cards, sloppy kisses and lots of hugs. I awakened this morning to find that the kitchen was clean (a rarity here, as my teens go to bed hours after I do, and they EAT... a lot...after I am snoozing). I popped open my laptop and my 17 year old daughter had taped a simple "I love you mommy!" note to the screen. It made me smile. It's the simple things in life that make it wonderful.

As I was digging around the interwebs today, I read Wendy Aslup's "Practical Theology For Women" blog. Today's entry was in honor of Mother's Day. It's not what I expected, but it is what I needed to read.

Motherhood is not the greatest good for the Christian woman. Whether you are a mom or not, don’t get caught up in sentimentalism that sets it up as some saintly role. The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Christ.

Now, motherhood is certainly one of God’s primary tools in His arsenal for this purpose for women. But it is not the end itself. Being a mom doesn’t make you saintly. Believe me. Being a mom exposes all the ways you are a sinner, not a saint. Not being a mom and wanting to be one does too. We may long to get pregnant, looking at motherhood from afar. God sanctifies us through that longing. We may lose a pregnancy or a child, and mourn the loss of our motherhood. God conforms us to Christ through that as well. We may have a brood of children of various ages, and heaven knows God roots sin out of our hearts that way.

It’s all about THE greatest good, being conformed to the image of Christ – reclaiming the image of God that He created us to bear through gospel grace. And God uses both the presence and the absence of children in the lives of His daughters as a primary tool of conforming us to Christ.

Well said!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Solar Sails and Man Made Stars

I will admit to a fascination with all things "space". A reasonable explanation could be my early introduction to the original Star Trek TV series back in the 60's. Then in 1977 I fully immersed myself in the Star Wars saga, for better or worse.

Now, years later, after enjoying many more cool science-y shows & movies, my inner nerd seems to be doing quite well.

Yesterday I read an amazing article about how the Japanese are preparing to fire off a solar sail powered spacecraft. OK, I thought it was AMAZINGLY cool to see the evil Count Dooku in a solar sail ship in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (for the nerds among us, it was a Punworcca 116 class interstellar sloop...). So I am pretty excited to see if the concept of a solar sail powered spacecraft will become reality. How cool is that?

On the more scary science front, I read an article today about U.S. scientists who are attempting to build the world's largest laser in order to create a mini star on the surface of the earth in order to harvest its energy. I am not kidding. What? Have they never heard of Doc Oc? Did we learn nothing from Spiderman 2?

As Han Solo would say, "I have a really bad feeling about this..."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Great Online Tools For Your Faith

I have an iPod Touch. I've had it for about a year. It is a fun toy for me, but it can be and often is quite useful. For instance, last week my daughter had a job interview at a local mall. I dropped her off, and the plan was that she was going to text me when the interview was done. The problem? My trusty several-year-old Tracfone didn't have enough power left to even receive a text, and my car charger inexplicably disintegrated. Ack!

I found a sweet spot in the parking lot near a Barnes and Noble. B&N offers free wi-fi. I found out that I can connect to the interwebs via my iPod Touch as I sit in the parking lot. Sweet! I texted my girl through a free texting app and all was well.

Today I was finding some links to share to folks in my church via our newsletter. I found some great stuff, and wanted to share it with you all. Enjoy!

ESV Bible - Mobile Version
I love the ESV bible. But I often forget to bring my bible to church in the typical Sunday morning flurry of activity. I found out that I can get the ESV bible on my iPod Touch by simply pulling up Safari and plugging in

This would only work if you have the password for your church's wi-fi, or if you have an internet enabled mobile device like an iPhone, Droid, or Blackberry.

One of the problems with using an iPod or phone in church is that people around you might think you're playing Tap Tap Revenge, checking Facebook or texting your friends. All I can think of is to make sure your immediate chair neighbors can see the screen :-)

Twitter ESV Verse of the Day
Even though I'm not a twitterer, I know a lot of people are. You can get a little tweet of sweet bible inspiration daily by following this:

The Blue Letter Bible Online
So you say you can't study the bible because you can't afford to? Not true! The Blue Letter Bible website offers commentaries, maps, timelines, charts, and of course, lots of bible versions for you to dig through. They also have devotionals and more. Check it out here:

My Favorite Online Devotionals
If you're having a hard time getting into the Word daily, put one of these as your home page and every time you boot up you'll be reminded to take a few moments for your faith.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's The Little Things - Easy Ways to Make Birthdays Special

Over the years my husband and I have made little silly traditions to make certain occasions or days fun for the kids. For instance, on Saturdays when our church hosts their men's ministry meetings, my husband got into the habit of bringing home little donuts for the kids. This started about 5 years ago, and to this day ALL five of my kids - ages 20 to 10- love it when it's "donut day".

Sometimes I am surprised about how important those little things are to our children. I think a great part about traditions is that they tend to bond families together. In that light I'd like to share a few things my family does, both serious and silly, that have meant much to the kids.

Birthday Blessing
On everyone's birthdays, we have a tradition of saying one thing that we love about that person. We do this in the evening, right before our family prayer time. We've had to put parameters on the comments, such as reminding the young ones that "You have cool hair" isn't really something about the birthday person, but rather how he/she looks.

Why do we do this? Because we realized that so many times we go through life without knowing how people view us, what they like about us, how we've blessed them. It is a wonderful uplifting time for the birthday person, and it also teaches everyone else how to be observant and thankful and verbal about it.

Birthday Balloons
I started this when my firstborn had his first birthday. I tied a bunch of balloons together and then taped them to his bedroom door the night before his birthday. Then when he awakened, he'd see a colorful, cheerful reminder of his special day.

This past year I realized I didn't have any birthday balloons in the house the night before my second son turned 15. I commented about this to my 17 year old daughter, and I told her I didn't think it would be that big of a deal for my boy. She looked at me in horror and said, "Mom! You HAVE to do birthday balloons. We all love that!!!" Who knew that even my older kids liked that?

Birthday Person Gets to Choose the Birthday Meal, Type of Cake
I ask my kids what they'd like to eat on their birthdays, with a specific budget limit. Sometimes they chose to go out to a pizza place, but in recent years they've loved having pizza at home. This simple act shows the birthday person that they are special in a very tangible way.

My kids also get to choose their birthday cakes, which I make. Who can afford $30 for a tiny store bought cake? I give them the choice of homemade (from scratch) chocolate cake, ice cream cake, or ice cream sandwich cake. We party like crazy with our cakes!

Birthday Day Off
Since we homeschool, it's been our tradition that when it's someone's birthday, everyone gets the day off of school. This really does promote a truly celebratory atmosphere in our home.

Birthday Blessing Prayer
Each night our family's habit is to spend a few moments in prayer together. It's amazing how you can "hear" someone's heart when they pray. On birthdays, our prayers are all targeted specifically for the birthday person. It has been humbling to hear my young ones praying for their siblings' future spouses, careers, ministries, etc. And how wonderful for the birthday person to hear someone praying for them.

These are a few easy birthday traditions we have - we also have everyday life traditions, but that's a post for another time.

You Won't Know What's Special Unless You Ask
Just as I was surprised about how big of a deal birthday balloons are for my kids, you may be surprised, too, by the little things you do that make your children feel special. Go ahead, ask them. Wait for an opportune time, and say "What are some things daddy or I do that make you feel like a special person to us?" You may be surprised by the answer.

Someone Should Have Warned Me About This... Crochet Addiction!

Last November I decided I wanted to learn how to crochet after seeing some beautiful prayer shawls my friend Shelly had made. So, I picked up some yarn and some hooks, and immersed myself in Youtube how-to-crochet videos. I snooped around at Crochetville and Ravelry, and lots of little cute blogs, like Attic 24. Seriously, peek into Lucy's attic and you'll be blessed with wonderful colors and lovely items.

I've learned a few things along the way, not the least of which is that crocheting is entirely addictive. Who knew? A few other things I've learned:

  • Bamboo hooks feel great
  • Buy your bamboo hooks on eBay
  • It's normal to start a lot of projects and leave them unfinished
  • Yarn is not cheap
  • One can never have too much yarn
  • Some things should never be crocheted
I'm posting a pic of one of my WIPS (work in progress). I love to make baby blankets, and since I'm a MOPS mentor mom, I have the opportunity to have a purpose for my addiction. The baby blanket I'm making now is comprised of 5 different colors of yarn, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I had several colors, and thought this would be a good way to get rid of extra yarn. Ha! As always, I didn't anticipate how much yarn a project would take, and how many loose ends I'll have to tie up when I'm done. But it will be so soft and nice and colorful!

Occasionally I'll peek in over at What Not to Crochet just to make sure my moral yarn compass is functioning properly. Seriously, there are things that simply shouldn't be put to hook and yarn.

So, beware of crochet addiction!

Twenty Years Ago...

Twenty years ago today I gave birth for the first time, and held my son. I had no idea of how many delights and discouragements would come over the next twenty years. I had no idea that kids could be so much FUN, and I certainly didn't know how utterly wonderful newborn babies smelled. Ahhhhhhhh!

Now instead of giving my boy Barney tapes or Legos, I scour the Xbox 360 games. Instead of having a family dinner with special food and birthday cake, I must find out when the boy has classes or work schedules, and craft the celebration around his commitments. All this is as it should be, and I'm grateful that my son decided to take his general ed. courses locally and continue to live with us for a few more years.

I think that this whole young adult thing is a lot like when the kids were first learning how to walk. If I could have done it, I would have held their hands all the time to minimize falls. I always hated the learning to walk stage because I hated to see the kids get hurt. But they learned from their mistakes, and from their many attempts, both successful and unsuccessful. It seems to me, though, that from a mom's perspective this doesn't get any easier as the kids grow up. Ultimately all I can do is trust in my God to direct the paths of my children, just as He says He will in Proverbs 16:9, The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

I always get a little sentimental on the kids' birthdays. Fortunately for me, we have birthdays in every season! It's good to reflect back on the mercy of God in our lives - and the great blessings He gives us. Even hardships can and do work to mold us into the character of our Lord, if we let them.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable grace!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Valentine's Day is coming... How's Your Marriage?

I will be speaking at our local MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) this Thursday. The topic is based on Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal book, featured a few posts down from this one.

Since there are seven virtues discussed in the book, and I only have 20 minutes to speak, I chose one and will run with that. February is the month of love, so I thought I'd talk about the admonition Paul gave to Titus to have the older women teach the younger women to love their husbands.

Here's how my little speech will go.

One of MOPS’ ministry values, taken from their website, is the value of relationships including the male/female marital relationship, the parent/child relationship, and the ultimate fulfillment of all needs through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

MOPS isn’t just about being a mother, but also about how we operate in our most important relationships. One of the big ones is the husband / wife relationship.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching – so in honor of that super romantic holiday, I thought I’d talk to you today about some practical ways in which you can strengthen your relationship with your husband.

Feminine Appeal
I had the privilege of leading a bible study group this past year, based on Carolyn Mahaney’s book Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother.”

Carolyn says:
“Isn’t it interesting that our culture requires training and certification for so many vocations of lesser importance, but hands us marriage and motherhood without instruction? Fortunately, God hasn’t left us to fend for ourselves. He has provided invaluable wisdom for women in His Word.” The bible.

Did you know that the bible talks a lot about marriage? It even has sections on how we’re to treat each other within the loving bonds of marriage.

Before you assume that the bible was only for historical times, think again. The wisdom found within can and will transform your lives and souls. It is not just for pastors or priests to read, but for all of us.

Let’s take a look at Titus 2, which does have a little section on marriage:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Since there are so many good things listed, and I only have a few minutes to talk to you today, I thought I’d focus just on something that can revolutionize your marriages.

#1 Love your husband – in Titus, this word for “love” is the greek word “phileo” which means the kind of love between close friends… fondness, tenderness, affectionate.

When I was single, I wondered why in the world anyone would have to be taught to love their own husbands. Then when I married, and came to the shocking realization that my world couldn’t just be about me anymore, I really understood why we need this encouragement.

Yes, we all say we love our husbands. But do we enjoy them? Sometimes we’re so busy serving them that we don’t enjoy them.

Author Douglas Wilson makes this observation in his book Reforming Marriage: “Women are fully capable of loving a man, and sacrificing for him, while believing the entire time that he is a true and unvarnished jerk. Women are good at this kind of love.”

Loving our husbands with a tender & passionate love is not something that happens automatically. We married sinners, but so did they ;-)

Your Thought Life is Important!

One of the best ways to love our husbands is to think tender thoughts about them. Focus on their commendable qualities!

Elisabeth Elliot, in Love Has a Price Tag wrote:

"A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married live without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy."

I really like this 80/20 rule!

Handle With Care

Another great way to love your husband is to display tender behavior toward him.

Prize Him
Sometimes we can be so busy with our lives (the kids, jobs, volunteer work, school) that our marriages devolve into amiable business partnerships!

Take the time to express your love for your husband. It can be simple or complex. You know him best… what speaks to him?

A great way to prize him is to seek out your husband’s opinion on things before going to your friends. Tell him you’re proud of him when he does something that impresses you. Choose to spend time with him first, before your friends, co-workers, or the kids. Show him you prize him.

Cherish Him
Cherish means to hold dear, tenderly care for, treat as precious. Most of us vowed to cherish our husbands. How are you doing with that?

Knowing your husband’s love language comes in very handy when it comes to showing him he is cherished by you. For some it could be a wink or smile, or pat on the tush. For others it may mean sending loving notes, texts, emails. Yet other men feel truly cherished when their wife bakes or cooks something special for them.

Ask him what you do that makes him feel truly loved by you. You may be surprised by the answer.

Enjoy Him
Take interest in things that interest him. For example, my husband is a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. Born IN Green Bay. Need I say more? He also loves old 60's muscle cars. So over the years I've watched countless games with him, watched car shows, and listened to a whole lot of tool-ish man talk. It's one way I can truly enjoy him, even if he loves things that aren't of high interest to me. My efforts to understand why he loves what he loves mean much to him.

Conclusion – we can talk about tips & techniques on having great marriages, but the bottom line is this - the greatest thing we can do is call out to the Lord to not only help us love our family and those around us, but to also help us love Him first and foremost.

I'll then give up the floor for our lovely MOPS coordinator, and I'll be looking forward to hearing stories about how our young moms are putting phileo love into practice in their own marriages.

Happy Valentine's Day... go love your husband!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Hearty Recommendation - "Feminine Appeal"

Carolyn Mahaney has a fabulous book based on Titus 2 entitled, "Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother". Recently I had the great privilege of facilitating a book study group of mostly young (40 and under) wives, mothers and one precious teenage girl. It was amazing to hear stories, week after week, of how these women had epiphany-type moments in their lives due to the gracious words of the author, combined with the amazing grace of the Word of God.

I'm usually not all that impressed with the average women's bible study fluff out there in Christendom, but if you're looking for a fantastic bible study book, by all means pick up Feminine Appeal.

Google Books has extensive sections of the book available to read online for free here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coolio Google Reader Shared Items

I recently discovered that I can "share" blog articles by other people. I love my Google Reader, and subscribe to many different blogs. Occasionally someone has something really great to say that I wish I could share with my friends without the hassle of emailing links and all that. Enter Google Reader's sharing tag. When I am reading something I love & want to share, all I have to do is hit the little share logo at the bottom of the blog article I'm reading (while in Google Reader), and it ends up here. It is also sent to anyone who subscribes to my own blog.

Sooooo, if you ever wonder what I'm reading in blog land, check along the right hand side of this blog, or click here on Mx5's Shared Items page. It won't show all the blogs I check on, but it will show some entries that shook me up in a good way. You can even subscribe to it, for what that's worth.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Ponderings From Team Pyro & Patriarchal Movement Concerns

Some of you might be familiar with the Pyromaniacs blog. It's one of my favorite "reads" when sifting through my Google Reader. Today Dan Philips posted "Why You Need To Be In a Church This Sunday". I can't add to his words - he is masterful in attacking the whole "I am the church" or "My family is the church" ideals. Below is a small snippet of his blog article. Head on over there to read the rest.

It all really comes back to Jesus, the Lord. You may not like the idea of being accountable to a man, or a group of men. You'd rather sit home, watching TV or listening to tapes. Whenever you want, wherever you want. No yucky people to be patient with; don't have to listen to all their whiny problems and needs. No need to adjust to different accents, different ways of thinking, different cultures. Just you, you, you.

As someone who is part of the homeschooling subculture, I do hear a lot of folks talk about the patriarchal movement, which often goes hand in hand with the idea of the family itself being "the church". Recently Michael & Debi Pearl took a swing at this movement, to my surprise. Honestly, I really thought they would be pro-patriarch folks, but they are quite the opposite. While I disagree with the Pearls with how they recommend "To Train Up A Child", I have to say that the Pearls have fantastic points when they warn about the patriarchal movement. These points are things my husband and I have pondered over the past thirteen years of being home educators. Now that we're fairly seasoned in it, we do see families falling into the cloistered homeschool syndrome, as the Pearls put it. To see what they are talking about, go here to Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome. Part 2 is here, where many letters received by the Pearls have been put into the article entitled Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families.

As our own children are getting older (our oldest is eighteen), we, too, are struggling with knowing what to do... how much to continue to teach life skills, and when to just let the grown children learn things via life. Easier said than done, and different for each child. I am hoping it gets easier with the subsequent kids, but in all likelihood it won't. All part of the adventure of parenting, I guess.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wanna Be Heard By Your Pastor?

I originally published the little blog blurb below about a year ago. The tips are still effective! It came to mind because of last Sunday being Pastor Appreciation Day. There are a lot of tips out there to show your appreciation for your pastor, but in my opinion (as a pastor's wife and one who must patch him up and send him out ;-) one of the very best ways to show appreciation is to disagree agreeably. There is no church in existence where conflict will not arise. Not even yours. So the next time you feel you need to approach your pastor about something that's bothering you, keep in mind the following tips from my side of the pulpit.

How to be Heard by Your Pastor (or Your Spouse, or Boss, or Parents, or...) the Other 11 Months of the Year
For some reason, people seem to think they know what their pastor does on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, and better ways in which he can do it. I don't know of any other profession, except perhaps sports coaches or the presidency, where we think we really know better than they do how they need to do their jobs. If I might gently toss in my two cents' worth, I'd like to ask those of you who do have better ways for your pastors to do things to bring your recommendations to them in the following ways:

  • TIMING - When you are bringing your ideas to the pastor, is he in the middle of something else? Is he trying to counsel someone, or in the middle of doing some sort of task or responsibility? Most people want to talk to my hubby right after church, which is fine. He loves people. But he can't possibly get to everyone who wants to talk to him on Sundays. Your pastor is undoubtedly in the same situation. Watch your timing. If he's surrounded by people wanting to talk to him after service, then send him an email or voice mail requesting a time to meet. Don't butt-in; don't be rude. I guarantee that if you think about your timing, you may very well end up with a favorable meeting with your pastor where he will be more relaxed and receptive to your comments than if you try to grab him before or after church.

  • NO BACK-DOORING What in the world does that mean? It means if you have something to say to the pastor, then say it to the pastor, not to his wife, his friends, your church friends. Be brave and honest. Pray and ask the Lord to help you have the courage to talk face-to-face rather than behind his back. It will go much better for you if you are up-front and honest. Going to others first will be perceived as gossiping, and your cause, even if it is noble, will most likely be disregarded.

  • TONE - My mom's wisdom is best described in two words: "Be nice." When you go to talk to your pastor about some issue, whether it's positive or negative, how's your tone of voice? How about your facial expression? Do you look like you've been baptized in vinegar? Is your voice on edge? Every pastor is a human, and no human enjoys getting "talked at" by anyone, even if their idea is fantastic or their concerns are legitimate. Speak to your pastor in the way in which you want others to speak to you. Think about how you would feel if your pastor showed up at your workplace and started telling you better ways to do your job... yeah. I'm not saying you shouldn't talk to your pastor - I'm just saying that if you want to be heard, pray much about what you want to say, then say it with grace, gentleness, and self-control. It is much easier to be heard when the one to whom you're speaking isn't on the defensive.

Those are just my little tips which are effective in many situations, not just in dealing with pastors. Try them when you speak to your husband or wife, or your children, or the cashier at the grocery store. You will be amazed at how much a little diplomacy can do to help you be heard.

Happy Clergy Appreciation Month!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Yet Another Perspective Post

I started the day in the usual way - smooched my hubby, hugged my youngest (who is always the first kid awake) and headed to my computer with a nice hot cup of coffee.

My oldest kid needed iTunes help. I needed to draft several emails asking people to teach Sunday School or help in MOPS. I spent an hour on the phone with a dear friend who's going through some stressful times. Sons needed coloring pages. Teen daughter needed internet time. Clothes needed washing... regular day, right?

At 1:20PM my best friend's husband called and asked a favor. I said, "Sure. What is it?" He asked if I would come with him, my best friend, her mom and another friend to pick up their 18 year old son's cremated remains from the funeral home at 2:00PM.

I frantically raced to get presentable, and headed over to my friend's home.

I found her in the bathroom, curling her hair. She had big tears in her eyes.

Her boy passed away in May - I talked about it here. They had decided to keep his cremated remains at the funeral home until they could figure out what they wanted to do.

All in all it was a calm thing. We simply walked into the funeral home, they signed some papers, and walked out with a small box.

My friend is grieving, but life continues on. I know that regular normal life happenings seem strange and surreal to her right now. She knows her son is with Jesus - but we can know this and still be devastated. All that remains of her beloved boy's body is in a small box. All I could do was hold her.

Flash back to real life for me. Things have been prickly at church, because, well, people are people and we usually don't like change. Things get frustrating for me as a mother just juggling 5 kids and a dog. The incessant housework and chore-assigning gets old for anyone. The petty things that were bothering me this morning seem so insignificant now, because I can simply walk across a room and hug my living, breathing children and husband. How precious are these golden years when we are all together!

Solomon was right when he wrote about how it is better to go to a funeral than a party (Eccl. 7:2) but that's not to say that it's pleasant.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Living With Lyme -or- Perspective is Everything

Last week my husband and I discovered that we both have Lyme Disease. The area in which we live is a veritable deer tick haven, and we know many people who have this disease. We started our round of doxycycline and now we're hoping that the initial ten day course of the medicine will get us on the road to recovery.

Lyme disease seems to be one of those "personalized" things. My husband's symptoms are different than mine, which makes for some interesting teasing around here. This past Saturday, which happened to be about 30 hours or so after we started our medicine, we both felt just awful. Joints ached, muscles hurt, heads ached, and we were utterly exhausted. Yet we both had things that had to be done. Saturdays are usually major sermon-prep days for my guy, and activity-filled days for my kids, most of whom I chauffer around. We made it through the day and collapsed into bed. Sunday is a crazy busy day for us, and thankfully we felt much better, except my honey's Lyme-induced brain fog made for a couple of interesting moments during his sermon. Poor guy drew complete blanks a couple of times while preaching. Yikes. Now this week our symptoms seem to be improving, albeit slowly. Hubby no longer has joint pain but does have the ever present headache. Myself, the migraine queen, doesn't have a headache but my joints hurt pretty much all the time.

We happen to have an infectious disease specialist who attends our church. Todd is one of those guys you want to have as a buddy. He's easy going and pleasant. His wife, Maggie, is a delightful extrovert who flits from person to person with a big smile and encouragement. Well, my hubby and I asked Todd a few questions about this whole Lyme thing, and Todd very graciously obliged us. There is so much misinformation out there - it was great to talk to someone who works with Lyme patients daily. I will admit, though, that when Todd told us that our recovery would take weeks to months, I was frustrated. "I'm busy!", I said. Like he could do anything about that. I am sure he hears the same complaints from Lyme patients weekly. He said, "Most Lyme patients who treat in the early stages go on to have normal lives a year later." Was that supposed to be encouraging? I could tell by the tone in his voice that it was. All I could think of was how overwhelmed I get with life when it's good and uncomplicated. How would I manage? Would I be able to live in a way that brings honor to God - especially in my own home - when I have to deal with pain and exhaustion? I know others who do that, and I've admired them, yet I haven't really been tested in this area apart from the five pregnancies I've had. As my mind raced, I had questions like, "How will I continue to homeschool the kids? How will I be able to have a good attitude toward life's interruptions... toward ministry... toward housework... algebra... two kids entering puberty... " and the list went on and on.

Yesterday my husband had a hospital visit with a lovely older couple from our church. Sadly, the husband suffers from Mesothelioma, and his prognosis is fatal, apart from a miracle from God. Doctors have given him three to six months to live. Yesterday's procedure was a test to see if it would be possible for him to have a medicine (pain reliever) pump surgically implanted, as Mesothelioma is apparently one of the more painful ways in which to die. As my husband spent time with the couple, they laughed and joked, and thanked God for the many blessings He's bestowed upon them. They asked how hubby and I were doing with Lyme... how ironic! Our aches and pains are nothing compared to what this couple is going through, yet they have the compassion to ask how we're doing, and pray for us. That's character!

I am so grateful to the Lord for placing His precious ones in my life, especially those who have walked life's road before me. They teach me without knowing it, and minister life to me by their very existence. I hope that I might be able to bring God glory in that way, too, in my golden years. But until then, perspective and God's grace continue to teach me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Best Popcorn EVER... Cheap, Easy

I usually blog about heavier issues, but I really wanted to share with you all a light-hearted entry with a frugal recipe. A few months ago my dear doctor, the best doctor in the world, told me I needed to cut back on salt due to some blood pressure issues I have. Problem is, I love salty crunchy snacks. Love 'em! When I looked on the nutritional breakdown of the average bag of microwave popcorn, I realized that 390mg of sodium per serving (which is about 1/3 of a bag) was too much for me to take in. So I dug around online and realized that I could make my own microwave popcorn for a fraction of the sodium and price of the pre-packaged popcorn.

1/3 cup popping corn
1 brown paper lunch bag

Put 1/3c popcorn into lunch bag. Fold over the end of the bag twice (with very narrow folds). Hit "Popcorn" button on the microwave (or heat at full power approximately 2 - 3 minutes). When popcorn is done, dump into a large bowl and drizzle with butter or any other kind of topping you wish.

Now I have a very low sodium tasty cheap treat. What could be better?

I have taught my kids how to make it, and now my teen daughter is famous among her friends for making the best popcorn in the world.

Monday, June 23, 2008

God's Warrior Work is Often Done Queitly and in Obscure Places

There's a woman whom I've never met who has taught me so much about being a God-loving, gentle, strong woman of God. Her name is Laine, and I have no idea where she lives, and I know very little about her except that which she's put to pen (so-to-speak) on her computer. Some years ago someone talked to me about this woman and her wisdom. Laine's Letters is the compilation of some of her thoughts regarding loving Jesus and living a life of ministry in her home. I'm not talking here about Official Ministry but rather the ministry of being a wife and mother.

Just today I received an email from Laine in which she expressed her thoughts regarding the woman of Proverbs 31. As always, Laine's words are filled with gentleness, love and grace, yet they are powerful and thought-provoking. Something she wrote about really caught my eye:

And so often, He does His best warrior work quietly in an obscure place. Think of John the Baptist who was raised in the desert all of his life. Joshua who was also raised in a desert for forty years. Samuel who was raised apart from his mother in the temple run by Eli and his evil sons. Moses who was raised apart from his mother (most of his life) in a pagan's home. And Jesus, Himself, Who spent thirty years in His earthly home. God raised warriors in some very insignificant places on earth. (emphasis mine) The most insignificant place of all was Nazareth. Who would have believed Who God was raising in that remote place on earth in the home of a carpenter and his loyal wife?! And God used a woman in her home living a normal life of serving her husband and children to raise Him! That is so awesome to me. It shows me how very much God values the home to put His Son in one for thirty years under the care and leadership of a hard working man and his homemaking wife. God picked "choice hearts" when he picked these two. Let's look at her role. A role that Jesus probably saw exemplified in His earthly mother.

Often times serving our families can feel lonely and obscure. We tend to see only the here and now as parents, but raising our children is a super marathon, not a sprint. We really don't know when or how the Lord may use our children in the lives of others over the spans of their lives. We may never know.

Recently I had a chance to take a peek into how my oldest son's life has affected others. We hosted his high school graduation party yesterday. What a lot of fun that was for me! I loved having friends and family in my home. It was a joyful occasion to have my dear ones here sharing in my son's accomplishment. I placed a spiral bound notebook at the cake table in which guests were encouraged to write great words of wisdom and advice for Jon's future. Some were quite funny, like our dear friend Lynnette who wrote "May the force be with you." Others took a more generic congratulatory tone without Jedi references. But there were a few entries wherein these adult friends of my son wrote to thank him for being a role model for their own children. Honestly, I had never thought about any of my children being role models for anyone, as they themselves are children. It was sobering for me to realize that my sons' and daughters' lives, even as teens, have the potential of affecting the lives of other people either for the Lord, or against Him, or completely neutral.

While it's true that our children make their own choices, we cannot underestimate the profound effect our warrior-raising done in obscurity may mean for present and future generations. How I raise my children may affect the lives of your children, and vice-versa.

My prayer is that we may not lose hope in our long days of chasing toddlers, changing diapers, bandaging boo-boos, and praying our hearts out. Life ministry is gritty work with few accolades, but it is in and of itself the essence of true ministry. In my opinion, there are foundational ways in which we may strengthen our young ones. One critically important key is to stay sweet to your spouse. Treat him or her gently. Remember also to smile at your children today and every day - squeeze them and thank God for giving them to you. You'll blink and they'll be graduating ;-) and you may find out that they themselves have already begun to reach others in ways in which you had never dreamed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Are You A Joy To Pastor?

I regularly receive blog feeds from Sovereign Grace Ministries. Currently I've been reading transcripts from an upcoming podcast, "Sovereign Grace Leadership Interview". This podcast features a conversation on theology and leadership with C.J. Mahaney (president of Sovereign Grace Ministries), Jeff Purswell (dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College), and Joshua Harris (senior pastor of Covenant Life Church).

The article I received today is entitled, "The Pastor's Joy + Church Members". The article is very brief. Go on over there, read it, then read my comments below.

What I love about the transcript most of all is the very tough question it asks - am I a joy to pastor? His joy is linked to you.

I know it's probably taboo for me to even blog about this, since I'm a pastor's wife. So I'm taking off my pw hat and commenting on the above transcript as a church member, reflecting back on the time when my family and I attended other churches where my husband wasn't the senior pastor.

I think many people, especially homeschoolers, can be difficult to pastor. We are so accustomed to being outside of the proverbial envelope that our hackles are easily raised by anyone in authority, even pastors. I think we're too touchy. We are defensive because we've had to be, getting questioned by family, friends and even strangers over the years regarding how we're wrecking our kids by not having them in "real school" and all that. This transfers easily to the church. We assume that our pastor will be hostile to homeschooling unless his family is homeschooling. We typically are the first to speak up when there's something we don't agree with in church. We send emails and monologue about how we think things oughtta be. Now before I get blasted, I'm certainly not saying all homeschooling families do this. But the vocal minority who do are very vocal, and do cause some trepidation among pastors. We fight for our rights, when we should be praying, gently encouraging, and doing our best to assume the best of our pastors / elders.

This isn't just a homeschooler issue. Perhaps you've been hurt before by a previous pastor. Maybe you're a PK (pastor's kid) and resent pastors for pressing people to serve. Maybe your current pastor doesn't gel with your personality, or likes things you don't, or hates things you love. Regardless, the question remains... are you a joy to pastor?

We could ask the same question of many relationships in which we find ourselves.

Are we a joy to our spouse?

Are we a joy to our children?

Are we a joy to our employer?

Are we a joy to our neighbors?


Pray about this. Ask God to show you ways in which you may be a joy to others, especially your pastor. Help his job to not be burdensome, but joyful. You may think you won't make a difference, but you will.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17[ESV]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Organizing Tips From an Unorganized Woman

I confess. I am a rabid list writer, and a rapid list loser. I plan and plan, and scribble lists, notes, reminders, then I usually lose them. This is VERY frustrating for me. My dear mom is quite organized, and for whatever reason, I didn't inherit her abilities with that, or with sewing (rolling eyes and remembering the failed apron attempt in 8th grade Home Ec.). Fortunately I did inherit her goofy sense of humor, cooking skills, and now finally a bit of a green thumb, but that's another post.

When people find out how many kids I have, they usually say, "You must be so organized!" Ha! Not so! I tend to be very easily distracted, and what happens is that instead of doing what should be done, I spend a lot of time thinking about things, jotting them down, and spinning my mental wheels.

This past year I decided to organize my purse. I love big bags and I cannot lie. My biggest shiniest bag is black, with big buckles. While it looks great and I get teased a lot about it, I don't like digging in it for my mints or cell phone or whatever. Diving into the black hole can be frustrating, so I went on eBay and found a marvelous purse organizer. Now everything has its place. I love it. Best of all I can transfer the organizer from bag to bag in seconds.

In my purse organizer I decided to place a cheap-o planner from the Dollar Store, as well as a small notebook, three or four pens, mints, cell phone, wallet, lip gloss, and reading glasses. The idea behind the planner was to use it whenever someone talked to me about upcoming events. It has helped some, and keeping the small notebook in the purse has been great, too. Recently my car broke down along the side of a highway, so while I waited for my beloved to rescue me, I was able to plan out some things for our church's VBS, MOPS group, and other things. Now if I would only remember to check the purse planner and transfer information to the main calendar in the kitchen.

Since I spend a good amount of time on the computer most days, I decided that it would be good for me to have electronic reminders, too. I figured it's impossible for me to lose a desktop computer, so it's feasible that having reminders on said computer may be useful. To that end, allow me to share two of my favorite computer reminder programs.

Letter Me Later is a fantastic free service that allows me to compose email reminders to myself to be sent at later dates. I created a free account, then proceeded to write myself various reminder emails. Today I received one reminding me again of a MOPS playdate tomorrow. I made a few Letter Me Later notes to remind me of library book due dates and things like that. (Let me just say how sobering it is to have a large library fine... grrrr!) I created a free separate gmail account for use with this service, then set the email account to forward all mail to my main account. Voila`! Works like magic.

Hott Notes is another of my favorite applications. This free download runs on my desktop and creates cool little sticky notes. Right now I have a drop-down graduation party to-do list and a shopping list sitting on my desktop. These little notes are movable and collapsible. I can even set notes to ring an alarm.

This past week I spent tons of time planning for our son's graduation party. I had lists of guests, food amounts, soda quantity calculations, chores, and tasks in one large red notebook. Do you think I can find the notebook? Well, actually I did find it with all my other graduation stuff, but not after looking for it in vain for a couple days. What's with that? Never mind.

Regardless of my ineptitude, I hope my tips might actually work for others.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Graduation Party - or - What I'd Do Differently if I Had a Chance to do it Again

I'm in the midst of preparing for our oldest son's high school graduation party. If 90% of the people invited show up, we'll have upwards of 120 people coming on through. I am so excited!

Naturally, when faced with the stress of having family and friends milling around one's home, I am in panic mode. Are the light bulbs dusty? Will the dog behave when locked away in our room during the party? Will I be able to keep the little ones sap-free? (We have many tall pines in the back yard, and for some reason little kids think they should climb them, then their moms get to figure out how to get sap out of tee shirts and shorts. No fun!) Will I have enough soda? Will it rain?

As my mind spins around on things not really that important, what I think I'm actually doing is trying to not think about what a huge milestone this is. I have, in effect, one fledgling who is standing on the edge of the nest. How did that happen? Everyone and their sister told me that in motherhood the days are long but the years are fleeting. In a way, I feel a sense of relief, realizing that my son now needs to learn many things from life itself, not from me or my husband. There are some things that one must experience for oneself to truly get understanding and wisdom. Just like when our son was learning to walk, and fell all the time, so will be his journey into "real life". I hated watching him fall when he was a tot - I hate watching him fall as a teen.

Just recently God's grace was abundantly and articulately demonstrated to our boy in the form of a police warning rather than a ticket. Unfamiliar area, ignorance of the speed limit, and a need to be home by a certain time all combined to create the perfect storm of learning with regard to being attentive to posted speed limits, even when one is tired and all "funned-out". That fifteen minutes of life learning did so much more for our guy than our two years of cautioning. I am sure there will be many more life lessons, perhaps with less grace-filled results. But through it all our son will learn as we did that things happen, and how we respond to those things is usually an indicator of how well we're doing with our walk with the Lord.

Future lessons aside, I'm in a reflective mood, too, as I scurry around looking for picture frames and party supplies. If I had to raise my son all over again, what would I do differently? Years ago Erma Bombeck had a column in which she talked about those things she'd do differently entitled "If I Had My Life to Live Over" which has caused me over the years to try to pause and really enjoy certain parts of life.

Alpha Child has been our experiment child - a title he holds with great pride. I can't tell you how many times I've apologized to him over the years for having very unrealistic expectations of him. The good thing is, though, that I have learned much, and we have always been very close. I love it when he comes home from work and talks to me about his day. I love it when he sees the hand of God in something over which he's been praying. I love to hear him play the piano in worship to God. I love his quirky sense of humor... there are times he's the only one in the family who can follow my own twisted humor trails.

Our son isn't leaving just yet. He's taking what we're calling a "buffer" year - a year to really seek God and try to figure out the direction in which he's supposed to go. He'll live at home, work a lot, and save money. This is good for us, because we really enjoy him. But the time will come when he'll pack his belongings and wave goodbye to us in the driveway. For now, I can think about party planning and ceiling fan cleaning - I don't have to think about the time when he'll leave us, and the fact that we'll face that four more times as our other birds stretch out their wings and fly as God leads. It's during reflective times like these that I am so thankful to the Lord that He gave us a large family. BUT eventually they will all be on their own. It's my hope that by the time our youngest leaves that some of my older kids will have married and will be calling me up to say, "Guess what, Mom! You're gonna be a grandma!"

I have truly been blessed with the things in life that really matter, far more than I deserve. To God be all the glory, for He's the one who has been exceedingly kind to me. Thank You, Lord, for Your many blessings!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mourning the Loss of an Amazing Boy

My best friend's son died this week. He was 18 years old. He didn't die in the way most of us think might be expected for one his age. He died peacefully, on his mom's lap, looking into her lovely face, then to the face of Jesus.

LeRoy was born with a very rare condition called lissencephaly, which means that during his development in the womb, something caused his brain to be smooth, rather than bumpy like the rest of ours are. This resulted in profound issues for him. He was never able to speak, walk, or even crawl. He was fed through what we called a tummy tube (a gastrostomy tube) and was confined to a wheelchair. He underwent many surgeries to save his life; endured many seizures; and had many brushes with death. The average life expectancy of someone with lissencephaly is from 2 to 10 years.

Despite his limitations, LeRoy was one of the most effective ministers of the love of Jesus I have ever encountered. His mother, my dear friend, is beautiful, bubbly and congenial. She is not afraid to share her faith, nor is she afraid to pray with pretty much anyone she sees in need, any place. His dad is one of the most amazing men I've met - he was drawn to his wife after meeting LeRoy first. Love poured from this boy. Everyone who met him loved him, and he them.

LeRoy was born before I had any children. Then, as each of my five kids were babies, they got to know LeRoy, or as some of them called him, "ReRoy"... those L's are hard to say when one is a toddler. LeRoy didn't care. He just smiled.

LeRoy got sick last week, as he has so many times in the past. But this time it was different. This time he wasn't getting better. The doctor said that he might lose his life. I didn't believe it, because LeRoy had always bounced back against the odds. By Sunday morning my girlfriend called me and asked me to come over. LeRoy was struggling greatly to breathe, and it was obvious he was not doing well. The family had made advanced directives years ago, outlining what sorts of things they would and wouldn't do to prolong his life in this type of situation. Monday morning came, and the decision was made to take LeRoy off of his oxygen and let him go naturally. We all assumed he would pass quickly once taken off the oxygen, but this process took all day and into the night.

I got to spend all of Monday with LeRoy and his mom and dad, and many friends who stopped by along the way. It was amazing to see how many people loved this boy. Teachers, nurses, friends, neighbors, church friends all came filing through to talk to LeRoy and kiss him and stroke his hair for one last time. All his brothers came to be with him - it was humbling to watch young men draping themselves over their beloved brother, talking to him, kissing him, and hugging him.

At 8:50PM he breathed his last. It was a very peaceful passing, to my amazement. He was calm, even joyful for many hours. His eyes were open, and he was looking at his mom when he died, just as she had prayed for many years ago when learning his diagnosis.

My dear friend has had to walk through one of the things we mothers fear the most - the loss of a child. As her friend, I felt so privileged to be able to be with her as she faced this, yet what a helpless place for me to be in, not being able to do anything but hold her, wipe her tears, and pray for her. My heart was torn in two when the coroner came for his body as I heard my dear friend wailing, not wanting to let him go. His daddy, along with his brothers, carried him to the vehicle. I am certain it was the most difficult thing my friend's husband has ever had to do. These moments will never leave my heart.

The next day I had another privilege - to go with LeRoy's mom and dad and another dear girlfriend to the funeral home to talk about some decisions that needed to be made. None of us wanted to be there. Honestly, I don't know how funeral home directors can do their jobs day after day. My dear friend just put her head on the table and cried as I held her. That's what I was there for - to mourn with someone in mourning.

We had LeRoy's funeral yesterday. It was lovely, and there had to be at least five hundred people in attendance. To my amazement, my friend got up and spoke to everyone about her boy. I know I could never do that. She's my hero.

There is so much more I could write about LeRoy and his amazing family, but for now I'll end this post with thanks to God for allowing me to know these extraordinary people. LeRoy's mom many years ago taught me how to be hospitable. Now she's teaching me how to face death. God is too good to me - to us all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Concern or Gossip?

We've all been in these types of situations: a friend or acquaintance approaches us, and tells us what someone else has said about us, or one of our family members, or one of our friends. The teller usually is very concerned, feeling that they thought we needed to know what was being said. After this, the average hearer usually goes from being calm to being furious.

This happens many times in church settings (like prayer meetings or bible studies), but it can happen anywhere. We can be having a perfectly beautiful day, then bang! Down comes the "I thought you should know what so-and-so is saying about you."

What's a Christian supposed to do with that? My flesh wants to follow in the footsteps of the James and John (see Luke 9:54), asking Jesus if I could just call down fire from heaven to consume the people who dare to trash me or my loved ones. However, that's not how this sort of thing should be handled.

Self control is a very hard thing!

How are you doing with gossip? Have you been sharing things with others who aren't directly involved with the subject of your information? Do you share personal or sensational facts with others about others? Do you relay to people what negative or unflattering things others have said about them?

We tend to think of gossip as something said about someone that is not true. However, someone who is a gossip, by definition, is a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others. The action of gossip is to relay a rumor or report of an intimate nature. These rumors or facts can be true. What we commonly think of as gossip is in fact slander - to defame someone. Gossip often reveals true facts; facts that don't need to be known by the hearers. My former pastor was very wise with this. He used to say that gossip is the sharing of information with someone who is not directly involved with or related to the subject or situation. That's a broad definition, isn't it? But loaded with wisdom.

If we would learn how to, as our mothers used to tell us, "Mind your own business" then love really could cover a multitude of sins.

People tend to lean toward sin in this area. The New Testament book of James talks about how the tongue is a little thing, yet it can do a great deal of damage:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. Read James 3:5-10... it is shocking!

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

So, then, what do we do?

If you find yourself in a situation in which someone is gossiping to you, or as they may have put it, "were concerned about something someone said and thought you should know" then the one reporting this to you is the first one in line to be talked to. The one doing the gossiping needs to be gently stopped in his or her tracks and be told if he/she had an issue with someone, he/she shouldn't be talking to others about it but rather go to the person with whom they have the issue directly, per Matthew 18, to work it out. Most people, however, will listen to gossip then report it back to the person who is the subject of the gossip. This is wrong, even if it is well-intentioned.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
Pv. 17:9

A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
Pv. 16:28

The ones doing the whispering do as much damage as the ones who made the original statements.

Trust me. As a pastor's wife a lot of people think they are doing me a favor by "sharing" things others have said about my hubby. It is not helpful in any way, and causes me to sin in my heart against others. It's just not worth it. I have learned to turn people around and gently tell them that if they have an issue with my husband, they need to go directly to him. I also tell people who gossip to me the same thing - that they need to go to the person who's offended them. Or that I cannot listen to gossip.

All that sounds easy, doesn't it? But it is very difficult. We don't want to offend the person who gossiped to us. What I found to be useful is to simply say, "I don't think I should be hearing this. Can we change the subject?" This usually stops whatever is being said, and allows for redirection of the conversation. Once you get into the habit of doing this, it gets easier and you find that you're not upset with people over things you shouldn't have known about in the first place.

My very first pastor's wife shared great wisdom with me about this, which really hit home when I was a young believer. She pointed me to this verse in Ecclesiastes:

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.


I am far from perfect in this area, but by God's grace He's helping me to get better. How are you doing?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Simplifying Homeschooling

I've been homeschooling for, let's see... thirteen years now, and the best advice I ever got was from Inge Cannon herself, at my very first homeschooling conference. When I told her of my intention to teach my 5 year old eldest child, she said, "Whatever you do, DON'T sit the boy down for two or more hours a day and make him follow a curriculum."

A few years later, while pregnant with my fifth child, my husband and I went to hear Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore speak. The conference was about an hour away - very uncomfortable with an 8 month pregnant woman, but I digress. If you are unfamiliar with the Moores, they advocate starting formal education for children later, rather than earlier. For more information, you may check this website.

I have been advocating simple homeschool from the start. It always just made sense to me that if my children could read well, write, and think mathematically / logically, they could in turn learn about anything they needed or wanted to learn about not only in "school" but in life. My goal was and is to foster a love of learning.

Today I found a fantastic list from Colette Longo entitled, "Ten Ways to Simplify Homeschooling" While I have never used the Robinson Curriculum, I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Longo's ideals. Hop on over to the article and read it.

If you're homeschooling children, or plan to do so, then let Ms. Longo's words dwell in your mind as you try to figure out how your homeschooling adventure will unfold. Her wise words apply not only to toddlers, but to students of all ages.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Homeschoolers Look to CA While The Nation Looks At Homeschoolers

On February 28 there was a ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in California which, in part, stated that parents must have a teaching credential to home school their children. This was a juvenile case with parents who apparently had a long history of accusations against them by child protective services, so the court ruled that the children needed to be in brick and mortar schools, more or less to ensure that others would be checking on their well being. Because of the anti-homeschooling wording of the decision, homeschooling is in the spotlight of many in the media, and homeschooling families around the nation are wondering what this may mean for us if other states adopt this position.

While California's Governor as well as the Superintendent of Public Instruction try to calm the nerves of parents teaching the roughly 160,000 homeschooled students there, it's been interesting, yet not surprising, to see the reactions of those not in favor of homeschooling.

Albert Mohler discussed that issue today in his blog. The article is entitled "Overt Hostility Toward Homeschoolers".

Normally I don't worry at all about what others think about home education, but Dr. Mohler does bring some troubling quotes to light.

The Home School Legal Defense Association has published a commentary on the case here.

There is apparently an Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR 115) which denounces the Appellate Court Decision, authored by State Assembly Member Joel Anderson.

What will this court ruling mean for homeschoolers? Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Minnesota or Hoth?

One of my friends, who happens to be a recent transplant from New York talked to me today about the lovely Midwest. She said people told her about the wonderful weather, and how there wasn't ever much snow. Then she looked me in the eyes and said, "I didn't realize I was moving to HOTH!" I laughed so hard, being a scifi dork and "getting" her joke.

Where's a decent tonton when we need one?

Honestly, if it keeps snowing I will join my friend in thinking this may possibly be Hoth. Ack.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The World of Grocery Lists

Recently, I read some little blurb on my Lifehacker reader feed about grocery lists. Yeah, I know, it sounds really boring, but to a domestic engineer like myself, a great grocery list means less time fumbling around at the stores, and therefore less frustration.

What I didn't realize, though, was that there are people who collect other people's discarded grocery lists. I am not kidding. has collected and published something like 1300 found grocery lists. You can check them out here.

One of my favorite lists is to the left here, written on the back of a wedding RSVP card!

I found the website to be really funny, especially since I couldn't believe I spent er... wasted 10 minutes looking at other people's grocery lists. I was horrified at how messy they were, and the thought of writing down everything in one big long list causes me to twitch. I'm not judging anyone based on their grocery lists... I'm just saying that I would find it difficult to be efficient with certain methods. How's that for diplomacy? hehehe

I will readily admit that I am pretty much a chaotic person in general. BUT there are a few things about which I get very fussy. One is how the dollar bills are situated in my wallet (larger to smaller denominations, all heads on top). Another one is how my grocery list is made.

I used to have a Word document of my shopping list, but I got frustrated when it came to editing it, so I now just do it on a notebook page. On the left I have my Aldi column. Everything I need from Aldi is listed, in the order it appears in the store. On the upper right corner of the list is my weekly schedule & menu. Below that is the Walmart section, where I list things I need that aren't available at Aldi. I have to write large, because now that I'm advancing in age I can't see without reading glasses, and I am too vain to wear them at the store :-) I really need to learn how to work Excel so I don't have to keep writing the list... then again, I don't buy the same things every week. For my grocery shopping tips, check out this blog entry: How We Cut Costs - Part 2 Food Finances.

I just can't get past the idea that there are people out there who pick up others' discarded grocery lists. The guy even published a book of them. Amazing! It really is interesting though, isn't it?