Monday, December 17, 2012


We have our family Christmas before Christmas because we always travel to Colorado.   
The Saturday before we head out for the holiday, we've established a family tradition, thanks to my aunt and uncle, who treat us financially to a family day for our Christmas present. 
We ice skate at Crown Center, gorge ourselves at The Cheesecake Factory, see a movie (this year we saw Wreck It, Ralph), and open our family presents.  
The day is always one of the highlights of our Christmas week.   

This year was no different, but we started with lunch first. 
Because it's good to be sickening full of food when you ice skate.   
As we practically skipped with excitement toward The Cheesecake Factory, a man on crutches stood out front.    Dressed in layers of clothing trying to keep warm, he was holding a cup for money.  The kids remembered him there last year too.    
He joyfully smiled at people walking by.   You couldn't help but want to give this man a big hug.
Money for my daughter's Christmas present?   Have a blessed day
My children slowed as we neared him. 
They love to give coins...and so they begged me for some money to put in his cup.  
It's amazing how generous they are with someone else's money. 
I, however, firmly believe that children asking to give money to someone else should rarely be denied.   It's just a thing I have.     Who am I to judge the worth of the receiver?    
Give, Children, give.
They are too young to become hardened to need.  
That will come in time, I'm sure.
But as long as they are under our roof, if we have the money, we let our children give.

We gorged ourselves on fabulous food and prepared to leave with two bags full of leftovers.  
My nine-year-old daughter had the idea. 
Let's buy him a hamburger.  
My husband and I looked at each other.  
The waitress brought our bag of leftovers.   
Well, we could give him our leftovers...
Our leftovers?   Food we'd touched, took bites out of, germified...
The kids were mortified.    Give him our leftovers, Mom?
The hamburger was going to take fifteen minutes and we were short on time.  
"How about cheesecake?" a child suggested as we packed up. 
"No, he doesn't need cheesecake,"   an adult offered practically.  

We walked out...empty handed of gifts for the man on the street...heads somewhat downcast...carrying our excess food.     
We slipped some more money in his cup, but I couldn't help but think that we somehow missed an awesome opportunity to foster the generosity of children and teach them a bigger lesson.

I woke up thinking about cheesecake this morning. 
Lessons learned sometimes take days to hit me.  
Cheesecake would have been a great idea.   
Cheesecake for the man on the street.  
Because isn't that what God does for us?  
We deserve nothing.
He saved our souls from eternal hell with His death on the cross.  
That's more than enough.     
Yet, He gives us cheesecake too.  
Children, houses, sunsets, warmth, laughter, love, hope, families, churches, joy, celebrations, coffee, snow, flowers, light, animals, hugs, kindness, and so much more.  
And cheesecake.       
We should have bought the man on the street a cheesecake.  
And we should have done that telling our children,   
"This is what your Heavenly Father has done for you."     

My 6-Year-Old

All of the sudden I can't get enough of my 6-year-old.
Her beautiful long hair. 
Her shining eyes. 
Her pout. 
I can't stop touching her.  Hugging her.   Pulling her close.  
I have an insatiable appetite for all of my kids right now, but particularly the 6-year-old. 
Because I still have her today.    And I feel so blessed.   

Several nights ago, I lost sleep because of her.
I wasn't home and my older son was watching her for thirty minutes before my husband got home.
My cell phone rang not too long after I had left.    
"Savannah swallowed a metal ball."  
I knew exactly the ball he was talking about.   It's slightly larger than a marble and it belongs to a magnet kit the kids own.  It's the perfect choker.  
He didn't sound overly stressed though, just a little annoyed.  
"Can she breathe?" 
"She's freaking out, Mom." 
My heart began racing.  
"Freaking out because she can't breathe or freaking out because she swallowed it and she's scared?"
"She can breathe.  She's just totally freaking out."
"Put her on the phone."    
And then the mostly beautiful thing I'd heard that week. 
Her crying, hysterical voice.  
Because if she was crying, she was breathing.   
We talked for a bit and she calmed down as my heart slowly began to settle. 
She's fine.  She can breathe.  She's fine.  She can breathe.   Be still my heart.
In a second, you realize how quickly life could change.    

I laid in bed late that night fighting different scenarios in my mind. 
As I tossed and turned, I failed repeatedly to cast those thoughts on to the Lord. 
Over and over again, fear pounced.  Something terrible could have happened...and I wouldn't have been there...I wouldn't have been there...I wouldn't have been there...
God would have been there, though. 
But I want to be there, Lord.  I want to be there.    

And then Connecticut.  
I've laid in the bed these last nights, I'm sure like so many others, and imagined myself as one of those parents.   Could anything hurt worse than what they are going through?   
I've imagined too much. 
I've imagined being a mom, whose child had a slight runny nose that morning, but she thought that it would be no big deal.   It's just a runny nose.   Go on to school. 
I've imagined being the mom, whose 6-year-old child was only a little sick, but she chose to keep her child home from school that day.   Stay home today, Little One.   We have a big weekend planned and we need you well.    
I've imagined being the mom...this would be me...the one who was a little too short-tempered at bedtime the night before and hastily put her kids in bed because they were crabby and she was tired.   I'd like her to have that night back to do differently.         
This burden is just too heavy to carry.
I've imagined carrying this load and I crumble every time.  

My mom always shares her hard-earned wisdom with me, and as a teen I remember being particularly troubled by a trial that was facing a friend.   I was overwhelmed for my friend and I questioned if I would ever be strong enough to carry something so big, "If God asked you to carry such a load, He would help you.   He's not asking you to carry this, so you don't have the strength for it.  You can't carry a load not meant for you.  You can't imagine the strength He would give you if this was truly yours to carry."
I'm trusting that God will do the carrying for those Connecticut parents. 
Because when I imagine how heavy this burden must be...
It's more than anyone can stand.       

And then this thought keeps haunting me.   
Could I praise you, Lord?
Could I praise you?
Could I praise Him?     
Would I fall into His arms knowing that He is good...He is good...He is good...somehow, even in this, God is still good. 
Or would I curl up in the fetal position, close my fists, and shake them at Him?
I don't know. 
I've not been tested in such a way.   
I want to have the faith that praises Him.  
No matter what.
But I really don't want to know if God is big enough to carry something of this size.  
I really don't.     


But Lord, this would be a great week for you to come back.  
Living in this world hurts. 
Come back for your birthday.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Day at the Beach

Very few moms that I know boast of their parenting skills.
Perhaps, it's just a mom thing.  
Few of us ever feel like we have it all together.  
Most nights I think that I'll do better tomorrow.  
Most mornings I add a couple more dollars to their "future counseling" account knowing that I'm surely messing them up forever.         
Maybe because we love them so much, and we just want them to have the best parents possible. 
Maybe we know ourselves, and we aren't quite sure that we are it.

There are several stories in my parenting journey that might rightfully feed my fears that my parenting skills are lacking a bit.    
A couple years ago, I left my 10-year-old in the front seat of the car with my two-year-old asleep in her car seat.   
I left the keys in the ignition...the car running.
A brief thought ran through my head, "This is not smart."
But it was an emergency.
I needed a Diet Coke.    
I ran into the busiest gas station on the face of the earth, where a police officer confronted me with the threat that she could indeed take me to jail that moment for child endangerment.    
I could have died on the spot.  
Child endangerment?  
"Officer, take me to jail for stealing this candy bar right here, or for punching the worker in the face, or for lewd conduct, but please, please, please don't take me to jail for child endangerment!"        
For some reason, I'd rather go to jail for stealing than for being a bad mama.  
The truth is, however, I'm not a serious criminal, but I often feel like a completely incompetent mother, who was wrongly entrusted with the lives of five very precious children.  

Some days, though, God gives me a break from my self-absorbed feelings of parental inadequacy.  
Like today. 
Today was a really good mama day.   
Well, not the whole day.   Really just 15 minutes worth, but I haven't had 15 minutes of good mommying in a really long time, so I'm going to share.  

My little guy climbed up on the seat of the toilet to look intently at a picture of the beach.  
"I want to go to the beach, Mommy."  
"How can we go to the beach now, Mommy?" 
And here's where the good mommy moment began.

So, we stretched out on the floor with our feet pointing toward our blue wall.
We closed our eyes and smelled the ocean.  
Gradually, little waves began nipping at our toes.
I grabbed a nerf bullet from behind me and said, "Look!   I found a snail."  
He grabbed a piece of plastic sausage from the pretend kitchen and said, "Look, I found a sausage in the sand."   Well, okay.
Then the waves began to crash against us and we fell backward.   
A huge wave...a Mom wave grew bigger and bigger until it picked the little guy up and rolled with him across the floor.     When his face ended up shoved into the carpet, we pretended that he had to spit out the sand that had found its way into his mouth.
His eyes lit up with excitement as he was once again tackled by a gigantic wave.  
Then a brother and a sister came to the beach with us.   
We took turns flying kites (or flying little kids like an airplane) through the air.              
They grabbed some pillows and began to boogie board.   
"Look at me ride this wave.Wooooow."
"Watch this wave knock me over.  Ahhhhhh."
"Look at Mommy sunbathing in the sand."  
And I just laid there.  
Flat on my back in the sand with the sound of giggling children pretending to boogie board at our imaginary beach. 
For that moment, I fully enjoyed being a mama.    
The little guy soon became a big wave and tackled me just as I could almost feel the warmth of the  pretend sun on my face.
"Thanks for taking me to the beach today, Mommy."  

Just when I thought I was the worst mom in the world, the Lord gives us a day at the beach.   
Thank.  You.  Jesus.                         

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Family That Votes Together...

I love presidential election years.
It's an excuse for me to watch continuous news coverage the weeks leading up to an election.   
I justify my obsession as deep concern for our country. 
I do love this country. 
But I also think I like to be distracted.    
Days heading into the election, I listen to talk radio, watch news about the campaigns, and search poll results long before the polls even open.   
This year I involved the kids. 
We read one book on the electoral college.
They completely tuned out.    
My husband printed up a sample ballot to show them. 
One son looked at it.   One out of five.   
The second daughter watched one of the debates and joyfully clapped for the President of the United States.   "See everybody loves President Obama.   Even I love him."
Someone threw a pillow at her.        
Election electricity filled our home the days leading up to the big vote.

The night before Election 2012, my husband and I laid out our voting day schedule (complete with doughnuts and coffee from QT because according to my husband I look for every opportunity to spend money).   
The five-year-old (the Obama supporter) skipped over and announced, "I want to go with you to vote."
We ignored her.  
Our children know that things generally need to be said a couple times before we pay attention.  
We continued our conversation...ignoring her.  
We did raise our voices a little louder though because we were trying to drown out her voice.  
We should have listened.  Our mistake.
Our voting experience was about to spiral quickly out of our control.  
She grabbed the toddler's hands and spun him around, "We are going to go vote with Mom and Dad tomorrow!  Wooo.  Hoooo."
The toddler, always the bearer of good tidings, ran to tell the others.   
"We're going to go vote with Mom and Dad tomorrow!" 
"We're going to go vote with Mom and Dad tomorrow!"  

No. No. Noooo.   We raced after him, but it was too late. 
The heads of dozens of children (okay, only three others) popped out of their doorways. 
Funny how they stayed silent in their rooms ten minutes earlier when I yelled for someone to help me sort the laundry.   
Funny how those ears work. 
"Cool, Mom.   That will be fun to watch you vote." 
"I wanted to go.   Thanks for letting us go, Dad." 
"How early do we have to get up?"   Of course.  The teenager.    

Wait...there it was.  There was our way out. 
Thank.  You.  Teenager.
We capitalized on his comment. 
"Ohhh.  Yeah.  Wow.  It will be early when we go vote.  We are leaving here at 6:00 in the morning and you all probably don't want to get up that early.  It'll be dark.  Cold.   Probably rainy.   Very scary outside.   You don't want to go with us.   Wouldn't you rather sleep?" 

"I want to go."
"I want to go."
"I want to go."
"I want to go."
"I guess I'll go."

Oh, goody.  
Just what the polling places were hoping.  
That everyone would show up and bring along their five children.
Because that won't clog up the lines or anything.

"Here's the deal," we told them.  
"We will walk into your rooms ONE time tomorrow morning.   We will make ONE announcement that we are leaving to go vote in 10 minutes.   That's all you get.   If you don't get up and get ready, you don't go."  
They all said, "Deal." 
No way they would get out of bed.
Except maybe the five-year-old.  
As she kissed me goodnight before she went to bed, the last thing she whispered was "Please don't go vote without me.  Please don't go vote without me."
Well, maybe I'd give HER two chances in the morning.     
Election Day 2012
6:00 a.m.
In a barely audible whisper, I spoke one time into each child's room.
"We are leaving to vote in 5 minutes."
I smiled in victory as I closed each of their doors.
No way they heard that.   
I couldn't have been more wrong. 

Bodies flew out of the bed.  Lights sprung on in every bedroom.
Clothes thrown on.  Pajamas discarded on the floor.  Even some hair combed.  
Each child was completely dressed and waiting in the kitchen before I had finished brushing my teeth. 
Each child except the toddler.   Of course.  
"Do you think we can leave him home alone?"
No one thinks I'm very funny in this family. 
Fine, someone go grab the little guy.      
It seems we would all be going to vote.  
A group of 7 with only 2 registered voters.      

My husband and I were both determined to teach the kids lessons as we stood in line.  
Me first. 
"Kids, voting is very important.   In Afghanistan, people voted for the first time...ummm....a couple years ago....and they walked....ummmm....hundreds of miles (?) in the heat...or maybe in the cold...because they took their freedom to vote so seriously.   Same thing in Iraq.    People walked and walked and maybe walked some more and waited in line for...well, hours...maybe even days (?) cast their vote."    
What a teaching moment.  Too bad I hadn't researched any of what I was telling them.  
I hope the man standing in front of me wasn't an expert in Middle East voting.  
My husband prefers to teach more practically. 
He stood tall.   Proud.   Looking each person in the eye that stood near us.  
Giving buddy smiles to some and glaring at others. 
"What are you doing?"  I mumbled.  
"Intimidating other voters." 
Good lesson, Babe.
He teaches the kids to intimidate voters and I teach them false facts.  
What a team. 

I gotta admit that it was pretty exciting to watch the kids watch the voting.  
They were respectful.  Inquisitive.   Joyful.   Concerned.  Attentive.  Excited.     
Are these my children?  
As we drew close to the front, a volunteer took the kids and let them practice voting.  
Mickey Mouse, Barbie, and Elmo were on the ballot.  
They all thought that was pretty cool.  
They were rewarded with an "I Voted Today" sticker.   

I took three kids up with me to cast my vote and my husband took two.
I definitely had the harder job.   Because I'm the mom...and that's just how I roll.    
Oldest daughter was concerned that I wasn't making the mark dark enough and she was breathing over my shoulder and checking me twice.  

The toddler was hanging on the side of the polling booth and wrenched it out of place.  
Second son, helpful son, was hovering behind in embarrassment at the small scene we were creating and pretending he didn't know us.
My husband had the teenager with the gangster hoody over his head and the over-zealous 5-year-old Obama girl turned Romney fan helping him vote.   Lucky him.   
I think I earned my "I Voted Today" sticker.   
Even though the toddler sort of broke one of the polling booths. 

Quik Trip was the reward and everyone got doughnuts. 
Because if you vote in our family, you earn the right to eat.
And I just had a feeling that things were going to go our way today.
Let's spend some of our hard earned money, Honey, on glazed doughnuts.    
I just had this premonition that my guy would win.  

My guy didn't win.  
My home state legalized marijuana.  
And my husband wants his doughnut money back.
Overall, I'm completely disappointed in the election results.      
But my God is still on His throne.  
He raises up leaders.  
He sets events in motion. 
He is Sovereign.   
My country may wander, but I will always worship my God. 
No matter who is in office.      

Tonight, I'm thinking about my kids springing out of bed yesterday morning to witness voting.  
Five kids.  
Five kids who know the truth.  Five kids who will prayerfully exalt God's Word. 
Five kids who have taken an interest in this voting process on their own. 
Five future voters.   
That's a lot of votes from one family. 

My hope is that if they spring out of bed to merely "watch" people vote that they will also spring out of bed to go vote when they are actually of age.
I hope they recognize what a privilege it is to have a say in the way our country is governed...
I hope they thirst to have that same opportunity and freedom...
And I hope they excitedly cast their ballot the first chance they get...
And if my kids choose not to vote...
They better not complain about the way the country is run...
And Mama definitely won't be treating them to doughnuts on election day...
Doughnuts are only for the ones with the sticker...

May God guide President Obama as he leads this country. 
And may those of us that didn't vote for him never forget who is truly in control of our lives.   






Friday, October 19, 2012


"I do it myself."  

The Toddler sat tangled in a web of drawstrings and sports bags as he struggled to put a very large soccer ball into a very small-mouthed bag.
A feat that he'd seen his siblings do a thousand times. 
The Teenager, sprawled on the floor beside him, turned back to me in exasperation.  
"He won't let me help him."  
The Toddler continued to struggle to make the ball fit into a too-small opening.
The ball escaped the hands of the little one and rolled to the other side of the room. 
With two free hands, he now used both of them to fight the drawstrings of the bag and wound them tighter into a wad of knots.
The Teenager's gentle hands reached to help.   
The Toddler's fumbling hands yanked the bag out of reach. 
"I said I do it myself."  
Shaking his head, the Teenager strolled back to me and sat at the table to watch.
"If he would just let me help him.  I've done this before."
The irony of his statement did not escape me.  
I'd said the same thing to my husband the night before about the Teenager.

"If he would only be open to letting us help him navigate through these teenage years, we could help him so much."

The Toddler continued to wrestle the bag and the ball. 
The Teenager continued to offer to help.   
The Toddler glared at the Teenager in fury. 
The Teenager glared at the Toddler in frustration.
Hands open to help, he said,
"Just let me help you.  If you just loosen this little notch..."
The Toddler interrupted. 
They both turned their heads to look at me to intervene.  
I shook my head. 
I'm letting this one play out.   It's too good of a life lesson for me. 
I think they both rolled their eyes at me.    Or maybe it was just one of them...

"How can you stand to watch him fight this so much when it would be so easy if we just took the bag from him...opened the mouth wide...and shoved the ball inside.  This isn't that hard.   Why won't he just let me help him?"    

In the quietness of the previous night, my husband and I had wondered the same thing about the Teenager.    If only this young man would fully listen and be humbly open to the fact that indeed his parents have been teenagers before and we might have a little wisdom to offer.     If only he would not just listen out of respect...but what if he actually received what we said?    If only he would let us be his guide...

The Toddler---weary of not winning this battle with the ball---started to cry.  
He finally looked up into the kind face of the Teenager.  
The Teenager looked down into the watery eyes of the Toddler. 
Silence.   Just tears from the little one.  
He just couldn't seem to ask for help from the brother he had repeatedly rejected.
The Teenager cautiously worked his way closer to ball,
closer to the bag with a mess of string, and closer to the Toddler.  
"Can I help you?" The Teenager, once more, quietly asked. 
The Toddler nodded his head.   Still crying.

Together, the Teenager and the Toddler lay on the floor while the strong, almost man-like hands of the eldest guided the tiny, clumsy hands of littlest.    Together, they unwound the knots created in the struggle and opened wide the mouth of the bag.     The Teenager held the bag open as the Toddler proudly pushed the ball into place.   Together, they high-fived in victory.   
"I did it."
The Teenager smiled and let the credit go.  
"You did it." 

As the Toddler ambled off for the next project, the Teenager chuckled and commented at the length of time it took for one soccer ball to get into a bag.  
"You know, Mom, it didn't have to be that hard."

Believe me, Son, I do know.     



Friday, September 14, 2012

The Mama's Ache

I'm a blubbering fool today. 
Crying for a woman I met for only a second. 
Heart aching for all that her story means to me.  
I don't have time to cry today.  It doesn't fit into my schedule. 
My kids are avoiding me and eyeing me suspiciously as the tears fall.
I remember being so uncomfortable when my own mama cried.  
There was no reminder beep on my phone that this was a grieving hour.
But sometimes I wonder if it's okay to throw away the time and just weep. 

A happenstance encounter at the bus stop led me to meet a never-seen neighbor. 
Has it really been over a year since they moved in and how have I never seen her before? 
I had heard they had a daughter and grandson living with them.   
I've just been too busy to meet anyone new.   Too busy to actually be a neighbor.    
Her garage was filled with boxes and she crossed the street to comment on the cold weather...
She didn't want to talk and I didn't want to talk...I wasn't wearing any make-up and unmatching sweats covered my body.  I totally looked the part of the stay-at-home mom. 

Maybe it was my Air Force sweatshirt that made her eyes water.  
Maybe it was my two little children that caused her to share.  
"My son-in-law's just joined the Navy.   They are moving to San Diego and since they've lived with us since December the movers are picking up their stuff today.  Today.  My grandson is 2..." and her voice trailed off. 
She bravely lifted her head...fighting to be strong.  
Oh my.   How could I want to cry with someone I don't even know? 
But I get it.   And then again, I don't get it.     
I was the daughter.   I had the baby.  
My mama fought the same battle to be excited for our adventure while recognizing what it was going to cost her.  
I always thought I was the brave one...the military spouse.  
Now, I kind of think the mama is the brave one.  
Because she doesn't get to go on the adventure.  
She has to let go.  

My own mom watched her oldest daughter give birth to her first grandson.  Her only grandchild.    
Cradling this 3 day old newborn---her baby's baby---she watched her daughter--all grown up--directing movers to pack up everything they owned to move across the ocean.  
To move to a foreign land.
The baby swing---still in the box---a gift from the grandparents. 
Would she get to see the grandson swinging? 
The highchair---cushioned with packaging wrap---a gift from the aunt and uncle. 
Would this baby know grandma and ever let her feed him?   
The baby book---allowed to travel in the crates because it was empty of moments---because this newborn had not yet lived long enough to fill any pages aside from the day of his birth.
Would she bear witness to any of those stepping stones or would she only read about them on the pages of a blue baby book?      
How must that moment have hurt my own mother.  
The heart swelled with joy at this new life she was holding.  
The knowledge pressing against her chest that this growing family was going to be so, so, so far away.   
Doesn't a mom want to see it all?    How could she handle the thoughts of what she would miss.     
I'm sure she longed to be a stone's throw away when her own daughter was for sure going to be so tired and so afraid.   

My heart has never ached for my own mom as it does right now.  
Being a mama sure does hurt. 
"Love's a deep wound and what is a mother without a child and why can't I hold on to now forever and her here and me here and why does time snatch away a heart I don't think mine can beat without?" (One Thousand Gifts.   Ann Voskamp)
To think that I have a house full of children that bring me joy.  
That will also cause me ache. 
Is it better to have an empty house and not know such pain?   
I don't think so, but I do think that I need to schedule in grieving hours for the rest of my life.  
Time to let the tears flow as I once again am reminded to hold my children closely, yet with palms wide open.

I remember that God is good.   
While my own mama surely cried rivers of tears as the plane stole her own flesh and blood, God provided joy and hope.    The moment of ache gave birth to a new song.      
The neighbor that lives behind me does not know yet that new song.   She doesn't know what it will look like to be a far-away grandma and a far away mama. 
But God will provide more than she can imagine. 
He abounds in love.   
He's the giver of gifts.  
He equips us for all that He asks us to do. 
And if He asks us to watch our daughter move with our only grandson, even then will He be in that moment and provide us with what we need to bravely let go. 
I've seen Him give an abundance of grandchild moments to my mom.    
He's provided hours and days and weeks and months that my mom has been able to spend making memories, filling baby books with moments, and enjoying her own grandkids.   
She knows the excitement of a gaggle of her beloved waiting anxiously and loudly outside the airplane waiting to sweep her up in their own excitement at her presence.
God has given her not the way she envisioned...but in a new song. 
The song that He wrote for her.    
God knows the heart of the mama and He will provide.    

I don't have any more time to cry today.  
There's math tests to grade.    Vocab quizzes to give.   Verses to learn.   
I am praying today that the Lord grows me into a brave mama that can open her arms lovingly, excitedly, faithfully when it's time to let her babies fly.  
He can do that.    I know He can do that. 
I'm believing that even though I feel as weak as I can be at this moment, that He can make this fearful mom brave...when I need to be.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Living in the Moment

I'm a third of the way through a beautifully written book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  If I highlighted the profound statements that struck me on the pages, every other sentence would be glowing.  

Instead of listing a thousand things the author wanted to do before she died, she began daily pursuing hard after gratitude in living life.  Listing her gifts became a transforming exercise in finding joy.   The list---the one thousand gifts---gave her a name for each of her blessings.  Naming her gifts resulted in her living fully present in the moment before her.

So, I've been on a mission to live in the moment. 
To fully embrace whatever is before me.  To make my own list of a thousand gifts.   
Because the author naming her one thousand gifts doesn't help me.  I need to name my own. 
"Wherever you are--be all there," Voskamp pens.    Sometimes, I'm not sure I'm ever fully anywhere.   I get stuck half-way between here and a hurry to be both places.   Looking behind to make sure I've captured the memory, looking ahead to make sure I prepare for the memory, but in the process missing the moment right in front of me.           

So, I've been fighting to be fully present the last couple months.     
Tonight was no different. 
Live in the moment.  Live in the moment.  Live in the moment.    
Tonight...this time...I'm going to be fully here all night, I had told myself. 
Fully feeling.  Fully attentive.  Fully embracing.    
Ten minutes later I began to cave.   I might have put too much pressure on the living fully thing.   Evening is not the easiest time period and all wise people know commitments are easily broken when you are tired, hungry, and stressed.  Isn't that Avoiding Temptation 101?  Plus, the dreaded mealtime and the never-ending bedtime were quickly approaching and the thought of that time period is enough to suck whatever energy anyone has possibly conserved through the day right out the window. 
The evening time is for "Advanced Moment" enjoyers.  
"Moment Enjoying for Dummies" is better practiced during easier times of day such as nap time. 
Trust me on this one. 
Being fully present at night is not for the faint of heart.

But I really, really, really tried.
I tried to live in each moment. 
Finally, laughter---hysterical, "Mom's barely hanging on" laughter---overcame me.  

I'm trying to live in the moment, Lord, but I'm confused.  
There's like FIVE moments going on right now. 
Is it possible that some things you should just tune out?  
Should I fully be present and feel the bouncing of the teenager's soccer ball against the front door while focusing on the bizarre, yet perfectly in-tune song he's singing about "sideburns on his face."  A) The song doesn't rhyme.  B)  The song is lame and you don't have sideburns anyway.  C) For the hundred billionth time, STOP BOUNCING THE BALL. 

The slip from reality begins. 

Or should I devote all my attention to the carefully detailed description and re-enactment including sound effects of the second son's dream that he was trapped in a video game and responsible for saving the world.   A)  Pretty creative for a dream.  B)  How can you possibly remember so many details about a dream that I'm sure only lasted a couple minutes?  C)  Yes, I think it would be cool if you learned to use a bow and arrow. 

I'm growing numb.     

Then there's the kitchen chaos.  Should I continue helping the middle daughter gather ingredients for a new recipe she wants to try knowing that the mess it will create will far outweigh the nutritional value?   A) Nutrition has never been my strong point so why start worrying about it tonight?  B)  Cinnamon rolls for dinner sound fabulous.  C)  "Add some extra frosting on mine, Baby."  

I mentally check out further. 

There's spinning.   Twirling and pirouetting of the fourth daughter's fancy feet as she twirls and whirls around and around and around through the kitchen, up the stairs, under the bouncing soccer ball, over the couch---I think I'm dizzy watching her and plus, she's wearing little brother's Spiderman underoos.  A)  Love the spins and the flowing hair.  B)  Please don't knock that frosting out of your sister's hands.  C)  Why are you wearing boys' underwear to bed when you have an entire drawer of princess jammies?    

This last ditch effort to live in the moment proves to be too much. 

The toddler with the broken clavicle is jumping continuously off the couch with a Batman cape flowing behind, a sword shoved down the back of his pants,  and toys peeking out of his sling.   A)   When this goes poorly, which ER should we visit this time?  B)  Please adjust the mask so you can actually see where you are jumping.  C)  When did your sling become a purse? 

Numbing complete.  Mentally, I officially leave reality

Frankly, I think my brain might implode if I stay focused any longer.    

There's a brief reprieve to my mental vacation.   The 5-ring circus merged all of their acts together for a spontaneous lip sync of  "Call Me, Maybe."  I soaked that up for about 3 minutes.   Energized by the fact that they are all living in the same moment, I even danced around with them and did my own karaoke, but they don't think I'm as cool as I think they should think I am, so I received the rejection and plopped on a stool to watch.  As soon as the IPOD switched songs and a beautiful Christian hymn played, the five different moments resumed and I was left to squint my eyes at this chaotic scene of our family that never seems to offer one moment at a time on which to focus.   

So I succumb once again.   I succumb to my default coping mechanism. 
I tune it all out.
I do exactly what I'm fighting hard not to do.  
Flee the moment.
In my mind, I'm on a sandless beach, feeling the shark-free waves nip at my toes, and sipping a Diet Coke.    But the funny thing is that this time, my kids were all with me...when I mentally checked out, I actually took my children with me.   I won't lie...they were sitting quietly on the beach.  Gazing at me in complete adoration.  No bouncing balls or twirling; no kitchen mess or detailed discussion.  But they were all still present.  I guess I created my own moment to enjoy where everyone was doing exactly what I wanted them to be doing.    Definitely not reality...

The positive?  
Tonight I stayed engaged for 10 minutes. 
Last week, it was only 9 1/2.   
Next week, it might be 11 minutes.
Someday, I'll read this---when my house is quiet---and I'll long for nights like tonight.
I'll long for the nights when there were too many moments to enjoy...
I imagine at that moment, I'll mentally check out of my quiet house and back in to this craziness.
That's why I've written the night someday when I miss the noise enough...I can check back in and relive it all.   
The bouncing soccer ball, the detailed dream description, the preparation of cinnamon rolls, the twirling ballerina, and the Batman cape.     

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Before I got married, 20 year, 30 year, 40 year anniversaries failed to move me.  Fifty years married got my attention, but only because I was amazed that two people had stayed alive long enough to be married 50 years.  The marriage part seemed easy.  The staying alive part impressed me. 
Of course people should stay married until death do they part. 
What could possibly be so difficult? 
Ahhh, the naivete' of the inexperienced. 
The judgment of the clueless. 

Getting through our first year of marriage was a breeze.  Piece of cake.  Walk in the park.   
In fact, we followed tradition and choked down a piece of our "freezer burned" wedding cake to celebrate our first anniversary. 
What's so hard about this?  We probably gloated in our smooth sailing.  Puffed ourselves up a little at those struggling.  Little did we know...

Five years...that required more effort to celebrate.  We had finally realized that all of that emotional mumbo jumbo that we had felt during our three-second courtship wasn't going to sustain us through some rough times.  It seems we didn't have this love thing as worked out as we thought. 

Eight years...we weren't even sure we wanted to make it to our eight year anniversary.  Is it too late to change our minds?    To admit that we don't know anything about love and it's going to take an ACT OF GOD to make it through this year?   Is it too late to redo some of that pre-marital counseling that we barely listened to because we knew we weren't going to have any of these problems?

Twelve years...forget thinking about the twenty year anniversary.  Our goal was to just stay married for twenty more minutes.   Perhaps if we decided that enough times it would add up to a year.

Twenty years of marriage now earned a new level of respect from us. 
Tell us how you persevered. 
Thirty years of marriage evoked our admiration. 
Tell us you are stronger. 
Forty years of marriage implanted hope.
Tell us how, how, how you got here? 
Fifty years of marriage humbled us to tears.  
Tell us, oh please tell us, you are enjoying your legacy of commitment.  

Forty years ago. 
June 25, 1972, a little farm girl from Eastern Colorado and a barely older farm boy from the neighboring town married and began their life together.  A new family created.  A legacy to continue or begin depending on how you look at it.     A baby girl came first to this young couple.  An energetic boy added four years later.  The four of us would be asked by our Heavenly Father to live life together.  To walk through dark days together, to enjoy blessings side by side, and to learn the cost of loving one another unconditionally.    The journey would take us through military life, medical life, family life, and a newly found Christian life.   My parents  married as non-Christians and each came to know the Lord in different ways at different points along the path.  It would be this grace---this hope---this forgiveness---that would be of utmost importance for them to pass on to their two little ones.

Forty years of marriage has softened their hearts, not hardened them.  Oh, that we could all say that about our own lives---that years of marriage have softened us and made us more tender instead of hardening us and sprouting plants of bitterness. 
They made a choice. 
Bitterness was earned. 
They chose to love.  
And that would be one of the greatest lessons they would pass on to us kids. 
You can choose to love.    
Forty years being married is a decision, not a given. 
Somewhere along the way both of them decided to stay.  
Fully stay.

My parents reaching their forty year anniversary means so much to the kids they raised and to the grandchildren they enjoy. 
It means my parents sat together on my wedding day. 
It means when I go "home," I don't have to pick which home. 
It means my children can ask both Grammy and Papa what their mama was like when she was a kid.  They both were there.  (Although my mom would argue that you better ask her because my dad won't remember.)
It means my mom talks about my dad with love and not hate. 
It means my dad has a partner who knows all about him from the beginning and loves him anyway. 

The other great lesson that I've learned from their marriage comes from what they didn't teach me. 
To focus on what they didn't teach magnifies the pessimistic part of my personality, but at its core this lesson has truly been life-giving. 
They never showed me how to walk away.  They never showed me how to give up. 
It's foreign to me how two separate homes can share one set of kids harmoniously. 
Quitting on my marriage would have been a trail blazed by me alone.  They certainly weren't going to pave the way for me.   Anyone married longer than six months knows that's a gift.  
Don't point us toward the way out.
Don't tell us it might be easier to leave.
Don't show us how to split children between two homes. 
Instead, show us there is a way to stay.  
And show us what life can look like when you do. 
What a gift. 

Their marriage, their choice to persevere was not easy. 
Each marriage knows its own joys and sorrows.  
And I've had my own choices to make. 
My husband too. 
Both of our parents staying married for all of these years has not guaranteed an easy road or an automatic fulfillment of our own personal vows.  We have to do that on our own. 
There was no riding the coattails of their choices...although that would have been nice and less painful.  
But I'm so, so, so thankful to live in the afterglow of my parents daily choices to remain committed through the trials of life. 
Their legacy continues thus far.  By God's grace will they have many more years to fully enjoy the blessings of their choice to stay.   
And may that be the path they have paved for generations to come.  
Happy Anniversary to my mama and dad!

July 21, 1995
Seventeen years ago today.
Happy Anniversary to my favorite person.  
That God would give us joy in walking along side each other all these years later brings me to my knees in amazement.  May He get any glory there is to be found in our family's preservation.  
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Remember the day we found that verse?  
Two roads were set before us---the difference between life and death for our family.  
As we sat in the fork in our road, that verse cried out to both of us.  
And somehow on that day we both actually listened. 
Only you and I know what those years have held. 
So glad we stayed.   

Friday, July 20, 2012


The longer I parent the less I know.  It seems I had all the answers before I was pregnant.   
Even having little ones didn't scare me too much.
The answers seemed clear.  I'd read all the books.    
Feed them. Nap them. Change their diapers.
Read them books.  Sing them songs.  Pray with them. 
Almost easy.      
Physically exhausting, but definitely "controllable."
Countless times, I'd piously tell my mom the answers to raising children.
Somehow being a parent of little ones for under 3 years had elevated me to expert status.
She always held her tongue.   I thought it was because she knew I was right.  I did have all the answers. 
Sneaky Mom.  Now I know it was because she was letting me gloat in my fantasy world knowing that it was just a matter of time before the realization would hit me that I REALLY KNOW NOTHING. 
Children grow.  They change.  It seems to be their job.
There's a new stage around every corner.  
The discipline that worked for one child barely moves another. 
I can't find a "self-help" book written that clearly lays out how to put my husband first while setting boundaries for a teenager's email activity while tempering fighting sisters as I'm rocking a baby.
Would someone just give me a step by step manual on how to do this? 

I'm fighting for peace as a new stage of parenting enters.
Letting go.    
It's pushing through the door completely unwelcome.   
Go away.   Come back in a couple years when I'm more mature and I can deal with teenagers and their independence.  
It enters anyway.   Whether I'm ready or not.   
My first-born son is a teenager.   My second son nearing the title.  
This is not easy.   
Fear is perched on the doorstep of my heart threatening to replace any sense of peace. 
I'm afraid I have no idea how to be a mom right now.    No clue.   
They no longer simply need food and sleep and wiping. 
They need guidance.  Yet they don't really want it.  They need listening ears, yet they never want to talk when I'm in the mood.  It's all on their time.  They recognize my hypocrisy and point it out.   They question the unquestionable.  They reason eloquently for certain privileges and I resort to saying the dreaded line, "No, because I said so."
I see the look in their eyes that says, "Really?  That's the best reason you can give me?"  
They need pointed to the Heavenly Father...without words.          
Their choices have become no longer mine to control.  Perhaps that's my biggest struggle today.
Oh, how deciding if they had enough vegetables for the day sounds like a blissful discussion.

I recently heard a friend say to her teenage daughter, "You know...this is our first time raising kids so you are going to have to give us some grace here." 
This is our first time doing this parenting thing and God's really going to have to pull out a miraculous intervention. 
Some days it seems we are doing everything in our power to ruin our children.
Lord, have mercy on my kids.  

My prayers used to be coherent in regards to my children.  
Well, not always coherent, but longer, heartfelt, complete.  
Now, they are primitive.  Simple. 
Help, Jesus, help.  
Save, Jesus, save. 
Wisdom, Jesus, wisdom. 
Some days, I can't even pray with words, but just groan in my spirit.  
Romans 8:26 "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." 
Take my groans, Lord, and turn them into something.

And then I'm surprised.  
Surprised when I get my I-tunes bill and my teenager has bought "Jesus, Friend of Sinners."
Surprised to see him searching for a particular scripture to give some encouragement to a friend. 
Surprised when I check his email and find a hint of goodness woven into his writing.
Surprised when the pre-teen is helping his little siblings act out a Bible story.    
Surprised that somehow God isn't completely dependent on me to raise these children.  

As my panic attack at raising teenage children grows, God surprises me with periodic reminders that He really is in charge.   He saves.  I don't.  He's the giver of wisdom.  I'm not.   He's not afraid.   I am.  He's sees all.  I can't.  He will have His way. 
No mistake I make, no ignorance I display, no uncertainty I feel can interfere with the plan God has for them.
They are His.
His Will will be accomplished.
Why would I be surprised that God could be working in the heart of my teenager when He changed the heart of the apostle Paul?  
Why am I completely shocked to see some fruit growing in his life in spite of his membership to this sinful family when every person used in the Bible came from a similar sinful family?
My children are children of God first.  
And He has a plan.        

I don't know which lessons they need to learn the hard way in order to understand God's grace. 
I don't know what heartaches they must see in order to believe God's love for them. 
I don't know which part of their road needs to be broken in order to prepare them for a future ministry. 
God knows though and I can already see Him starting to weave. 

If my mom had had her way, I would have been sheltered from all of life's failures, heartaches, rejections, disappointments.  But even the most vigilant parents cannot shield their children from everything painful.  The reality is that given the choice to redo life without those mistakes---those disappointments---those failures---I'd never take it because it was in those moments that I really met my Lord.  
And there's nothing I desire more on this earth than for my children to meet their Lord. 

So why am I so afraid for my children? 
Am I afraid that the God who was big enough to carry me isn't big enough to carry them? 
Am I afraid of watching where He might take them? 
Am I afraid their faith won't sustain them?
Yes, yes, and yes.  Yes to all of the above.
God is not afraid.   And my fearful heart is having to lean into my Savior who knows what the future holds and has no fear for my children.   

I'm slowly, painfully, having to practice this faith-cling everyday.  
Yesterday, my pre-teen walked by me as I whispered, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." 
"Are you swearing, Mom, or praying?"
Are you serious, Child? 
"Praying.  Praying that even though you have parents who are unsure of how to raise you that God will save you, grow you, heal you, and use you."   

Does it get easier?   Will we be professionals by the time we get to Noah?  
Or will we be so tired that we just won't care?  
Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.  
When I'm too weak to even recall a verse, there's power and peace just in speaking His name.  I sense we'll be whispering "Jesus" for the sake of our children for the rest of our lives. 
Hopefully my children will know me well enough by then to know I'm crying out to God and not cussing. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Alaska--Take 1

I'm not a fan of wildlife, danger, adventure, or cold. 
I'm afraid of darkness, grizzly bears, ice-cold water, and isolation.
I'm the child that loves fences because I feel safe.
The riskiest thing I've ever done is marry my husband which I'm pretty sure qualifies me for a lifetime membership to the "living dangerously" club.  That's how I classify adventure.   
I had very little hope of being won over by Alaska's wilderness, but my husband asked me to come and like I always do, I submitted.  Ha.
My man assured me that he would not let a bear eat me unless...unless there was NO chance of my survival and then he'd save himself for the sake of our children.  Such comfort. 
I'll go...but I won't be moved.  I'm too cynical.  Too hard of a sell.  Too afraid.        
In fact, my stomach ached with anxiety the entire flight. 
I distracted myself by asking my Louisianan seat partners questions that I really didn't care about just so I could lose myself in their beautiful Southern drawl.  If I could have only forgotten for a moment that I was thousands of feet above ground in a steel bathtub then I could have really rested. 
My eyes drifted closed while my spirit protested that I needed to stay awake in case of what, I will not admit, but just in phone rested on my case...
The thrill of entering this great Northern frontier was completely lost on me as my plane forged through the darkness.

And then light began to appear in the distant horizon.  I checked my watch. 
It was nearing midnight and the light pierced it's way through the black sky. 
It seemed we were chasing the sun. 
My fretful heart grew quiet. 
I watched the sunset---not rise, but set---30,000 feet above this strange, tundra-laced ground in the wee hours of the morning. 
My hardened heart melted in anticipation of exploring this desolate land too far to the north for my liking. 
Dusk at 1:00 a.m.  This might be pretty cool. 
I got out my sunglasses.

Interior Alaska.   No coast, no whale-watching, no salmon fishing, no Arctic Circle, no nothing.  
What could we possibly see here?  Where's the touristy things?   I want the t-shirt. 
Enter Denali National Park.  Six million acres of protected land.
The home to the "Great One"--Mt. McKinley.  The highest peak in North America. 
There's only a 16% chance of seeing the whole mountain on any given day.  We weren't in that percent that got to see it.  In fact, we weren't even in the 30% that got to see part of the mountain.  Rich, dense clouds hid this majestic creation from our view.  We verbally begged the sun to push away the fog.  It would have been so incredibly easy for the sun to just do its job and show us the mountain.  Reveal, Sun, reveal.  Not on that day.  Mt. McKinley remained hidden. 
But God opened up His world to us in other ways. 

Six million acres.  And that's just Denali.   That's not counting the millions of acres of Alaska's lands that remain untouched simply because the conditions make human expansion difficult.  It's as if the Lord created such magnificent beauty in an arena that He knew our human hands wouldn't be able to easily touch.  Because if we could touch it, we would.  If we could build on it, we would.  If we somehow could be comfortable here, we would settle.   And we would forget that it was the beauty of the creation itself that had brought us here in the first place.

There's nothing here.  Nothing, but everything. 
Creation holds the conversation. 
Moose drink carelessly by ponds.  Rivers and streams wind their way aimlessly, braiding the land with glistening ripples of water.  White-capped mountains appear and disappear as the clouds rise and fall. 
The language of the silent places.  The quote was on the wall in the Denali Visitors Center.
Unaltered by man, Alaska's creation speaks---no shouts!--to all privileged enough to drink of its beauty.  
God's creation on display for all to see. 
It seems obvious---glaringly clear that some Mighty Hand was at work in the formation of this wondrous sight. 
A guide slipped in the words "adaptation," "tens of thousands of years old," and "Mother Nature."
Absent was the mention of God or Creator.    
I fought the explosion of protests that came bursting from my heart at the mere implication that somehow, someway, this magnificence was without a Master Designer.  
How can everyone not see?
God is shouting from every brilliant flower, wild animal, mountainous rock, and soaring bird and some don't hear Him? 
Animals play in the most fantastic playground ever created and we can't acknowledge a Creator?  
A 20,000 ft. mountain arises in this Alaskan front yard and somehow that's a product of chance?  
Mother bears fight for the protection of their babies and that's just an evolved instinct? 
How can anyone not see God here?
He's everywhere.  Everywhere. 
He whispers in the bubbling, glacier-fed stream.  He roars in the growl of the grizzly.  He sings from the mountains that rise up all around.  He smiles in the bright purple and yellow wildflowers painted on the tundra. 
The Rocks Cry Out. 
How could I not see my Creator here?  And how could I not believe in His great goodness and His great love. 
That's the conversation I heard in Denali National Park.  

And that's what we did.  We enjoyed a walk through time with God the Creator.  Our hearts drank as much beauty as our sinful hearts could hold.  We ran our hands through the silt-filled rivers.  We paused and gazed on a mama bear protecting her babies.  We squealed with excitement as moose trotted back and forth before us.  And we stopped.  We stopped hurrying, planning, and worrying long enough to just enjoy being with our Maker.  Look how I've spun the flowers of the fields.   And we studied the petals of a flower.   See how the wisps of clouds obey Me and decorate the sky.  And we saw a mountain-top peek from above the fog.  Watch how the caribou trust that I will feed them.  And we pondered the caribou feeding lazily on a bush.
Come Enjoy Me.     
The twenty-one hour days in an Alaskan summer open up the great frontier to all of us novice creation seekers.   God draws open the curtains and throws the light upon this spectacular land for a few short months before He slowly closes the curtains and turns out the lights.   Soon, this soul-stirring frontier will be blanketed with darkness and snow and only the determined will pursue its isolation.   

I argued for a brief moment with my husband that we should move up here.
Let's do something totally crazy and move to Alaska.
Apparently he doesn't really think I'm Alaskan material.  
Bitter cold winters.   Cars that need to be plugged in to keep the engine warm. 
Wind chill that freezes fingers instantly.
Barely lit days.   The sun hardly rises before it begins to set.  
Activities like snowmobiling and dogsledding. 
Okay.  Okay.   He knows me well and knows that with every mention of cold, darkness, and dogs that my excitement about moving up North would be completely extinguished.
I guess I'm really an Alaska in July sort of a girl. 

But God has used His creation to move me.  To stretch me.  To silence me.  To make me smaller and show me His grandeur.  To refresh me.  For one instant, I forgot my name and just longed for Him.  For that, I am deeply, soulfully, thankful. 

The plane is nearing my home.  My phone rests on my lap just in case.  My kids await and I'm so excited to see them.   And I can't wait to tell them about their God, the Creator.  His creation surrounds us and proclaims His existence every day.  It shouldn't have taken a trip to Alaska for me to love that part of my Lord.  But I'm very thankful that I got to see...
That I got to see the rocks cry out...    

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I know better...

I know better than to leave my purse in the car. 
I know better.  I know better.  I know better. 
But it was just for one short hour...
But it was hidden on the floor of the back seat..
But we were just at a neighborhood pool...
Can you hear the whine creeping into my voice...
Let's get it out in the open...
Yes, I know better.  

If my husband has told me once, he's told me a thousand times.
Please don't leave your purse in the car.
His voice echoed in my mind as I looked at the back window of the car smashed out and the floorboard empty of my belongings.  
It would be insensitive for him to remind me of that when I called him with the news. 
It would be cold-hearted for that to be the first thing he said to me.
He's not insensitive or cold-hearted. 
He punctuated one full sentence before the I've told you not to leave your purse in the car comment.
No, duh. Because I haven't been thinking the exact same thing since it happened. 
I'm glad he got it out in the open so we could move on.

Lots of unspiritual knowledge has come to me since the "incident."
*First,  really, really don't ever leave your purse in the car. 
Apparently, my husband was right.  (That was hard to say.)
Maybe don't even let it out of sight in your own house...
Carry it with you at all times...pumping gas, going to the bathroom, sleeping...
You can never be too safe...
Because it's a serious PAIN if it gets stolen.  
My husband says I over-react.   I'm sleeping with my new driver's license tonight.  I don't know where he gets that idea. 

*Second, live in such a way so that if your neighbors see two cop cars in front of your home they assume something is WRONG and come running to HELP as opposed to assuming you are to BLAME and peeking curiously out of their windows.  (I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG! I wanted to yell).  But I knew that any of my male neighbors who heard my "stolen purse" story would think, You shouldn't have left your purse in the car.  Why must they have been right too?     

*Third, never, never, never judge anyone that fails the Missouri driver's license test.   My stolen Colorado driver's license resulted in a complete written, eye, and driving exam.   I felt like I was 16.  It's not that easy, People.   You tell me the following answers: "How many points are you allowed on your license in a year?"  Or "how many feet do you have to drive with your signal on before you change lanes?"  Or my personal favorite, "Which direction do your wheels need to be turned when you are parking up-hill with no curb?" Are you serious?  NO IDEA.  How about this--When I get enough points on my license, I'm sure the police officer will let me know.  Put your signal on "a little while" before changing lanes.  Face the wheels any direction you like when parking up-hill with no curb and pull the emergency break.   The computer test didn't appreciate my write-in answers.   I did pass.  Really I did.  I will, however, not be bragging about my score.   Let's just say that if my teenager scores the same on his driver's test, my husband says he'll be re-testing.   So glad he was with me.  Thrilled that he was privy to my test scores.   I tried to go alone, but I needed my husband to drive me to the test and to pay for all the licensing fees since I was cashless with no working debit card or credit card.  Typical 16-year-old.   

*Fourth, which should have been my first point, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds."  Early yesterday morning, I read the first chapter of James and found that verse pressing me through the afternoon as my spirit rebelled against any form of joy in this minor irritation.  This is a tiny trial; a minuscule inconvenience in the grand scheme; one that I'll gladly bear in light of the many heavy trials I see around me;  but I certainly didn't find that "joy" was my first response.   I do love when the Lord gives us small opportunities to test our growth.  Little faith testers.  I'll take this one.  It's a do-able size for my mustard-seed faith.    Pursuing joy in the midst, however, takes a little effort... 

Here's the really cool part to the story though...
The only reason this story is actually worth writing...
The major point of this silly blog that should have been at the very top...
After my friend dropped off the kids--she had graciously taken them so I could deal with the "crime scene"--we realized that Madelin and Josh's bags had also been stolen from the back seat.  
What were in your bags, Kids?  The Ipod?  Daddy's phone?  Your camera?  Your wallets? 
No.  None of the above.   
Our Bibles.  Just our Bibles.   
Not one Bible, but two Bibles.    
Nothing else.
How cool is God to let those bags be stolen along with my purse.           
Last night, I lay in bed imagining the desperation or depravation that permitted someone to smash in a window and steal a pile of bags. 
I also imagined the moment that they realized the bags held nothing but two, plain, leather-bound books. 
They hoped for something valuable and they got it...two copies of the Word of God.  
I'm sure they threw them aside...didn't even crack them open...tossed them in the trash...
But I do wonder...I wonder if there was a little twinge in their gut when they saw the words Holy Bible...
I wonder if their heart-rate accelerated just a bit as they touched God's message of hope to them...
That's one of those moments, I'd have loved to have seen...
The thief holding cash from my purse in one hand and God's Word in the other...
You never know...God has worked under stranger circumstances...
If anything, it makes me feel better to imagine...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Home with a Secret

Lee's Summit.  Chicago.  Hilton Head.  Mt. Airy. Lee's Summit. 
We had potty breaks in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and the car seat. 
Our travel planner (me) underestimated our gas budget by $150.00. 
Our meal allowance diminished three days before we got home. 
Oh well.  At that point, I gave up on the dollar menu and ordered what I wanted. 
We were already over budget.  I'll take a Big Mac, please!

Only once on this crazy road trip did I wish for a limo window divider to separate the front and back seat.  The kids weren't even fighting.  They were just singing so incredibly loud.   So loud that I couldn't hear myself sing.  Normally that's a good thing considering I'm helplessly tone-deaf, but I had a brief thought as I listened to my voice ring out above the kids that maybe God "touched" my vocal chords in such a way that now I sounded a bit like Whitney Houston.  I wanted the divider so I could test my new, angelic voice. 
I was assured by someone in the back seat I did not sound like her.  I had not received a miracle.  
The truth hurts.

The trip was AWE-SOME. 
Somehow, individually, we all put our "stages" on hold for the week and just enjoyed each other.  
How amazing is that!

Favorite memories: 
-Walking on the beach of Lake Michigan.  (Had we known there was "beach" in "Chicago" we might not have made the 1020 mile trek down to South Carolina.) 
-Changing for the wedding in the McDonald's bathroom.   Luggage spread across the booth while the manager spied us suspiciously.  Umm, we'll take a coke with the use of your bathroom.    
-Watching my studly husband riding a bike and hauling a baby trailer.  Beach towels draped over his neck and a beach chair as a backpack, he bravely led our bike parade (Dad with Noah and twenty pounds of beach gear in a toddler bike trailer, Josh on a big bike, Madelin on a medium bike, Mom with Savannah on a tandem bike, Zach pulling up the rear and picking up all of the gear that fell out of our bikes)--he confidently led us 1.5 miles everyday to the beach.   Impossible to look cool, yet I think he's much cuter as a family man than he was as a football player.     
-Savannah riding on the back of my tandem bike.  Are you pedaling, Savannah, or just riding?
-Seeing the beach for the first time in years---is there anything sweeter than children running toward the water with uninhibited excitement---Watch Out for Sharks!  No one even stopped.   Why weren't they afraid?   I was.
-Entering the ocean dangerously deep (up to my hips), I attempted boogie boarding with my kids---my STINKER son, Zach, swam underwater and grabbed my leg.  I suppose hitting him with the boogie board over the head was probably not my best mom moment, but he totally deserved it!
 -Biking the beach---amateur beach bikers, we rode easily with the wind at our backs---how fun is this!  Why didn't anyone wave their hands and warn us that riding back into the wind was going to be a NIGHTMARE?   Madelin's crying, boys sweating profusely, I'm swearing under my breath.   Preston?  Preston just kept biking as his family grew smaller and smaller behind him.   Savannah, are you pedaling?  A look behind me shows that she's using the bike ride to practice some arabesque circus moves on the back of the bike.  I think I started to cry then.   Next time we'll do the one way bike ride on the beach and catch the bus back.

The trip was packed with memories.  The best part?  The best part--the unforeseen gift of the trip--was witnessing the beauty of a big family working together.  That picture is rare for us--seven intensely selfish people can create quite a chaotic household, so we treasured every moment of watching our family love...watching our kids show grace...watching our family put aside their own wants for just a week and looking out for the needs of others.  Absolutely beautiful.  Even if the kids barely remember this adventure, Preston and I have priceless snapshots hidden in our hearts and deep gratitude that God gave us the privilege of raising this large family.  For one week...our big family worked.   We laughed loudly, played together, helped each other, talked together, showed grace to each other, biked together, shopped together, swam together, lost Noah together, and found Noah together.   There's a secret in big families (the secret that's often hidden from those of us in them)---when big families work--they TOTALLY ROCK!           
We're back home...back to our selfish, fleshly squabbles...back to putting our own needs first..., when I catch people smiling with pity at us as we attempt to go somewhere in public with all of our kiddos...when I hear someone say (daily), "Wow--don't you have your hands full?"
I can smile with a new confidence...with a new secret...(nope--not pregnant)

The secret is that Yep...we do have our hands full...and it's a sweet, outrageously, fabulous, wonderful GIFT...
That's my new secret...


Friday, May 18, 2012


A road trip awaits.Tomorrow morning we will begin a journey.
Two parents...five crazy adventure...
Two to five...we're painfully outnumbered... 
Lee's Summit, MO to Chicago, IL...530 miles
Chicago, IL to Hilton Head, SC... 1012 miles
Hilton Head, SC to Mt. Airy, GA...330 miles
Mt. Airy, GA to Lee's Summit, MO...864 miles
Lee's Summit to the nearest crazy farm...

Gas for 2736 miles...$550.00
Food for seven people for 10 days...$600.00
Beach souvenirs...$100.00
Memories...questionable...I mean, priceless...

Memories WILL be made.
The verdict's still out on whether the memories will provoke laughter or tears, but there's no dispute that memories will be made. 

From the moment we open our eyes, there will be opportunity (in close quarters) for arguments.
From the moment the car starts, someone will be offending another person in the car. 
From the moment we hit the road, a leg will be touching another's leg.
Mom.  Moooommmy.  Mama.   Mooooom.   Mamamamama.  
Children, your father's also in the car, why don't you solicit his help. 
DAAAAD.  Mooommy.   DAAADAAAA.    Mama.  Daddy.  Maaaammmaaa.  Daaaaaddy.
Daaaad.  Daaaaad.   Mom.  Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.        
On and on and on.
And then we'll pull out of the neighborhood...
No escape.   We're trapped.    

I'm tempted by the occasional fantasy of a clear, plastic, sound-proof divider that separates the front seat from the back seats.   You know, like the limo window.  
I can see them, but I can't hear them.  
I imagine looking in the back seat as my husband and I share uninterrupted time finishing one of the four hundred discussions we have yet to finish...
I'm probably sipping a cappucino...he a cup of coffee...eighties music softly plays in the background...
I may see tears, red faces, glaring, some kicking, slapping, mouths opening yelling at me...
With a look of deep regret and sorrow, I point at my ears and mouth the words,
I can't hear you.  So sorry.  Wish I could hear you. 
I sort of imagine shaking my head as though it breaks my heart that I can't help.   The look that conveys to them, I really wish I could help, but this terrible divider that someone installed prevents me from intervening.
I'd take a sip of my cappucino and slyly turn up Jessie's Girl a little higher.

I'd love to miss the arguing, the "she's touching me," the kicking, crying, whining, the "I'm staaarving," the slapping, the pushing, the glaring, the complaints. 
I'd love to miss that.  

But if I couldn't hear into the back seat, I'd miss a lot more than that. 
I'd miss the 2nd grader reading the kindergartener a book. 
I'd miss the teenager pointing out the horses to the baby. 
I'd miss the brothers talking about the latest airsoft battle plan.  
I'd miss the sisters telling stories about their polly pockets.
I'd miss the slug bug game. 
I'd miss the "oohhing" and "ahhhing" over the St. Louis Arch.  
I'd miss the story the teenager just remembered about last week's field day. 
I'd miss the eleven-year-old telling about his favorite part in The Avengers.
I'd miss the baby giggling.  I'd miss the girls' laughter.   I'd miss the boys' terrible jokes. 
I'd miss them all singing along with us to Jessie's Girl. (We know...we know...inappropriate song.)

The bitter and the sweet of life fused together into one, big family on a road trip.

Here's my advice for my kids for the trip:    
Pick 25 offenses every day to overlook.
Take a deep breath and show grace.
On the 26th offense, come talk to us.    
Surely they'll lose count.

It will be wise for me to follow my own advice this trip...
Don't tell, but I'm more excited about this trip than I should be...
My favorite people all stuck together for ten days...
I truly can't wait...