Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If You Give a Mom a Moment ...

"I love being able to work at home! Right now, I'm writing this in my pajamas. But don't tell anyone!” ~Laura Numeroff

“When he’s done, he’ll probably want to take a nap. You will have to fix a little box for him with a blanket and a pillow. He’ll crawl in, make himself comfortable and fluff the pillow a few times. He’ll probably ask you to read him a story.” ~Laura Numeroff, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

While I am certainly not as cute as a mouse, a moose, or a pig (please, hold your snide remarks), I realized today that I could be a Laura Numeroff character.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If I go to bed on the night before a holiday, then I will want to sleep in.

And if I sleep in, then I will miss the look of my son’s face when he finds his new birthday bicycle.

I’ll jump out of bed. When I hurry to the living room in my pajamas, I’ll get caught on the video camera as my husband takes birthday footage.

If I get caught on the video camera, I will try to hide behind the wall.

If I hide long enough, my husband will stop the camera.

So I’ll go into the kitchen where I’ll get to see my son open his other presents.

If I'm with him when he opens his other presents, I will see him smile at Legos and racquetball equipment.

Soon he’ll be asking me to help put the Lego helicopter together.

And if he asks me to help him put the Lego helicopter together, my daughter will get jealous and want to help even though he doesn’t want her to.

She’ll try to help anyway.

If she tries to help anyway, they’ll get irritated at each other and start fussing. I’ll decide to leave the table.

After I leave the table, I will remember I needed to make my son a birthday cookie.

When I go to make the birthday cookie, I will realize we don’t have enough chocolate chips, so I’ll send my husband to the store. While he's gone, I will have time to take a shower.

As I go toward the bathroom, I will notice the pile of laundry on the floor and start a load.

While the load is washing, I’ll find twenty other things I also need to do.

I’ll do them.

While I'm doing them, my husband will come home with the chocolate chips and I will have to wait to take a shower until the cookie is in the oven.

I’ll barely have time to get ready before we have to go to my friend Laura's house.

And if I barely have time to get ready, then we will forget to take the pasta salad.

If we forget the pasta salad, then I will spend the entire time at their house trying to figure out what we forgot.

That will cause me to be distracted and lose the Wii bowling game (yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

After I lose the Wii bowling game, it will be time to go home.

When we get home, we’ll pull the car in and I’ll remember that I wanted to clean out the garage. We’ll push the car back out.

When I finally go to clean out the garage, I will notice the tile saw needs washing. I’ll take the tile saw outside and go behind the bushes to get the hose. While I'm there, I’ll realize how badly the bushes need trimming.

After I trim the bushes, I will have to clean the branches up out of the flower bed. It will take me so long to clean up the branches, my daughter will have to wait for me to wash her hair.

If she waits long enough, she'll do it herself ( … or not.)

After I wash her hair, I’ll remember that I still haven’t cleaned out the garage. When I go out there, my husband will follow me and decide we need to change out the fluorescent bulbs.

If we change out the fluorescent bulbs, we will have even more to take to the hazardous materials drop-off. But, we'll never go, so the bulbs will collect in the corner.

I will come in to wash my hands and think about writing this blog.

If I write long enough, my husband will go to bed without me and soon I'll realize I'm tired and want to go to bed.

And if I go to bed, I’ll be wishing I could sleep in the next day.

But I can't because it's not the night before a holiday. (Too bad, too, 'cause if it was, I’d have time to clean out my garage.)


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Déja Vu

“Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. " ~Lamentations 2:22-23

“Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” ~Jeremiah 31:13

The earth laughs in flowers.” ~e. e. cummings

I told someone the other day that I had had my Christmas wreath up on the front door for a year and a half, but that’s not entirely true. Actually, I have only had the Christmas wreath up sixteen of the last nineteen months. There was an autumn wreath up there for three months in the middle.

Now, before you start judging me, know that the wreath is green and gold with white poinsettias … not exactly what you’d immediately notice as being holiday faire from the street. I mean, you actually have to go all the way to the front door and take conscious notice of the piece before you’d even realize it as being seasonally displaced.

A few of my girl friends had noticed, but ironically, it took a comment from a fifteen year old boy to make it all feel awkward enough to actually do something. I tried pointing out to him that there was a mark on the door behind it, and unless I was going to repaint the door, I couldn’t really take it down. And no, I didn’t have another wreath (besides the one with pumpkins and fall leaves on it.) He didn’t look convinced, instead giving me the one-raised-eyebrow “whatever” look teenagers have made famous.

Thanks to John, the world can now breathe a sigh of relief. I purchased the materials to create a new spring/summer wreath. My daughter and I went to Hobby Lobby to get a birthday present for her friend and on our way to the checkout, I ducked into the floral aisle to see if I could make a quick decision (we were on a tight schedule, you see.) She humored me (she wants to help me make it, so she was game) and we quickly chose an 18” straw wreath. Then, instead of picking out several different picks to mix and match (which has always been my modus operandi), I led her to the variety “bunches.” Many of them were bright colors – definitely summery, but a little too brash for my taste. I decided on a lovely arrangement (well, as lovely as you can get with fake flowers) of peach, purple, and white flowers. We made our purchase and headed off to the party.

Several miles down the road, I was suddenly overcome by a very strange feeling of déja vu.

The flowers! I have seen them before!

At a light, I reached for the bunch, whipped them out of the bag, and stared with wide eyes.

Yes. Yes! Oh my. OK, this is a little freaky.

“What is it, Mom?”

“Oh, well, um … you see these flowers? I’m pretty sure they’re the same flowers that my mom had placed on Uncle Steve’s grave when I visited it last September.”


Uh huh. That’s how I feel. A little creepy …a lot strange.

“Does that ... bother you?”

“Well, no, honey, not really. It’s just so strange! But, you know, it shouldn’t be. Really all it shows is that Grancy and I are drawn to the same kinds of things.” (Yes, it’s true. I am my mother. Fortunately, I like my mother! Love you, Mom!)

Well, I couldn’t wait to get home. You see, I had actually saved some of the flowers from the day I visited his grave site. Two flowers had fallen off of the arrangement and I figured not only would I end up with something to remind me of that moment, but I would also be picking up litter. (Yes, Dad, you taught me well. I love you, too!) So, I stuffed the two flowers in my purse and brought them home.

Now I sought them out where I was sure I had placed them some eight months ago.

They were faded somewhat, but otherwise an exact match.

A flower from the bunch I purchased (above)

... and a flower from my my brother's grave (below).


But, no, that didn’t stop me from making my wreath. No, sir! No fifteen-year-old boy’s gonna give me the raised eyebrow over my choice of home décor! =)

Even as I pieced together the weath, I thought about the mosaic blog I had just written the day before, and it just seemed to fit, sort of.

Back in the cemetery, the flowers were, more or less, band-aids intended to beautify something that was not exactly lovely. On my front door, the same arrangement has become a symbol of spring growth and renewal, of God’s great love and new mercies. Yes, I will think of my brother when I see the wreath, but that’s not such a bad thing. He was pretty cool.

In fact, I think he would have really enjoyed the humor in the situation. =)

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” ~Psalm 30:11-12

Saturday, May 24, 2008


“I have always wished I could learn to be a potter. I love collecting ceramics; it would be so fulfilling to create something lovely.” ~Julie Andrews

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28

My friend has been going through some rough times, and I decided that I had the perfect solution to help her blow off some steam. I needed to break up some ceramic tiles for a project I was planning, so I offered to let her help. She came over with not one but two hammers in hand, ready to expend some energy doing, what she called "destruction with a purpose."

We went into the garage, donned protective eyewear, and proceeded to destroy several tiles. She was doing a much better job than I of breaking them, and kept harping on my technique.

"You gotta put some muscle into it! Hold the hammer further down the handle and give it some power! Don't just "tap" it! Whack it!!"

Hmmmm . is she enjoying this a little too much? Maybe she had more aggression to expend than I realized. =)

Not my project. :-) from www.tradenote.net/mosaic

As we worked, we filled two boxes full of broken tiles of different shapes and sizes. These would eventually (hopefully) become a thing of beauty, but at that moment they were just a bunch of broken pieces.

Broken pieces.

A thing of beauty.

Isn't that what God does with us? God takes the broken pieces of our lives and creates a thing of beauty. It's a wonderful picture: God putting the pieces of our lives together; the potter remolding the clay; the Master picking up the bow of the old violin.

At church we sometimes sing the lyrics, "Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for. Brokenness is what I need. Brokenness is what you want from me."

I don't know about you, but, while it is painful, we endure hardship knowing one some level that it will work out for good. But have you ever considered that sometimes God might be the one wielding the hammer?

"So take my heart and form it,

take my mind, transform it

take my will, conform it to yours, oh Lord."

How does he form, transform, conform?

Yes, most certainly there are consequences to our sins, and those consequences usually break us to some extent. Jason Kent made a grave mistake and is now in prison with a life sentence. Yet, God has used the consequences of his sin to transform him into a man with a passion to reach other inmates for Christ. His parents, too, though they are suffering the consequences of Jason's sin as well, have also had their eyes opened to a "whole new world" and are reaching out to families of inmates.

And yes, most certainly there are difficult circumstances resulting from the fallen world we live in that shake our core and threaten to destroy us. Surely Steven Curtis Chapman's family stands broken before God today in the wake of their daughter's death. Yet just as surely, I am confident that they will eventually emerge from the tragedy having been transformed more into His image.

Still, while it is terribly uncomfortable to think about, sometimes, in his ultimate wisdom and goodness, God brings about the uncomfortable, breaking moments at His will.

Well, Lucifer, have you considered my servant Job?

Abraham, I want you to sacrifice your son, Isaac.

Moses, you need to hang out in the wilderness for, oh, say forty years, to get ready for your next assignment.

Esther, who knows but that you have come to this position for such a time as this?

Isaiah, here I am in all of my glory. Get a good look …

Hosea, take for yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness …

Mary, Joseph, I know people are going to scorn and reject you, and say nasty things but ... you will call him Jesus.

Lazarus is sick? Well, give me a couple more days …

Uncomfortable, isn’t it?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” ~James 1:2-4

“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I suppose, like my friend and I did in the garage, that even as God is wielding the hammer and breaking the tiles of our lives, he has a most beautiful project in mind.

As long as God is the artist, I suppose a mosaic would be a good thing to be.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Marco Polo

”Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” ~Psalm 37:7

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” ~Psalm 40:1

Swimming and being with friends are two of our kids’ favorite things. Friday they got to combine them in a jubilant and high-energy two and one-half hours. I watched them splash and swim with some divided interest, but one 20 minute period in particular captured my full attention.

The boys invited the girls to play Marco Polo with them. The girls enthusiastically accepted their invitation, and soon shouts of “MARCO!” and (if delivered a bit more feebly) “POLO!” filled the room. Everyone played fairly (well, mostly) except my son. He understands the rules, but he is the youngest of the four by eight months and hasn’t yet decided that all the rules of such games apply to him. That, or he doesn’t like being alone behind closed eyelids.

Finally the other kids banished him from being “IT” and the game went on. He has it good, I thought. Even if he gets tagged, he doesn’t have to play the Marco part anymore! He doesn’t have to ever wonder where the other kids are! He continued to play the game, though, laughing and squealing with the others if IT got too close.

Occasionally IT would scream “MARCO” and only one or two of the three would answer with “POLO.” (Hey! You can’t swim! You have to be able to hear the person who is it!). I could tell this disturbed IT a little bit, but as long as the others answered within a few more MARCOs, then all was well. Sometimes, though, no one would answer. IT would try once, maybe twice, more before opening his or her eyes to see what was going on and where everyone was. Even the players who had not been banished from being IT would eventually give in. The darkness, coupled with silence, was just too much.

I happen to be reading the book of Job right now, and I wonder now if he didn’t play a little game of Marco Polo with God some four millennia ago. Of course, it wouldn’t have been “Marco Polo,” as it would be another 3,200 years before he would be born. But, whatever they called it, it must have felt similar to Job as did those moments Friday to IT when no one answered.

Job had been through the ringer. And then some. God had allowed Satan to tear Job’s life apart … and for what? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute. Back to Marco Polo. In between listening to his so-called “friends” (including his wife) give him the what-for (“Oooh! You must have sinned good, loser!” “Oh, just curse God and die!”), Job cries out for justice, mercy, even a glimmer of hope in a very unjust and hopeless situation.

And what does God do? Nothing. He’s silent. Oh, he’s listening, alright. I know because he responds … eventually. But in that moment, as Job is calling out, “MARCO …… MARCO ……. MARCO …….” and not getting any response, he tries desperately to open his eyes, but no matter what he does, the darkness looms; the oppressive night of his circumstance never breaks.

“Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged,’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. … He has shrouded my paths in darkness.” ~Job 19:7-8

“I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.” ~30:20

“If only I knew where to find Him …” ~23:3a

It is obvious by Job’s discourses that he truly felt abandoned by God. Yet, in all of the misery and loneliness of his injustice, Job maintains his innocence and refuses to give in to the advice he’s receiving, refuses to curse God. Instead, he repeatedly honors God as He deserves … all the while laying his struggles, fears, anger, and sadness boldly at His feet.

You have to have read chapter one to know that this was the whole purpose of this situation anyway. Satan has been roaming about, seeking whom he may devour, and wanders into heaven, probably just to give God a hard time. Instead, God brings Job to Satan’s attention, saying, “There is no one on earth like [my servant, Job]; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (1:8)

Satan replies, “Oh yeah? Well it’s only because he never has to struggle with anything! He has everything he wants! He has no problems! You’ve sheltered him! I bet if you torment him and take away everything he has he’ll curse you … to your face! So there!” (my paraphrase.)

God, knowing Job’s heart and fully trusting in his faith and passion for Himself, allows Satan to torment him … and why? Simply to bring glory to Himself.

And one little side note? God did not ban Job from the game for trying to peek when he cried out “MARCO!” and received no response. He allowed Job to search wildly for him … to fuss, to cry, to complain, to hurt, to struggle, to ask “why me?” And God was not bothered by these questions. Instead he honored Job for speaking truth about Him. And he restored Job’s livelihood and family, even greater than before.

Thank you, God, for being bigger than my problems, and even able to handle my complaints, fears, struggles, and questions. Some think that you despise these things, but I am convinced that you appreciate the honesty and transparency of your children, and that these things bring us closer to you – they forge relationship simply by virtue of the fact that in the darkest night of our circumstances we find ourselves in a state of dependence on you and desperation for you; we are forced to walk by faith.

OK, God. You ready? I’m closing my eyes …

MARCO! ………

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Copy Cat

Your modern teenager is not about to listen to advice from an old person, defined as a person who remembers when there was no Velcro.” ~Dave Barry

“I don't give advice. I can't tell anybody what to do. Instead I say this is what we know about this problem at this time. And here are the consequences of these actions.” ~Joyce Brothers

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” ~Philippians 3:17

Apparently I am the expert. On everything.

Used to be, when my daughter had a choice to make, she would have preferred that I stay out of it. While I am sure that day will come again (if it didn’t, that would be a miracle!), right now it seems my opinion is, in fact … get this … valuable.


I know, I know. I’m gonna try not to get the big head. But, understand, I am not always flattered. In fact, when this pattern first started, I would get really irritated at the question and its inherent delay. It elicited much the same response as erupts in a child who cries out, “Mom!! He’s copying me!!!”

What do you guys want for dinner? Pork chops or chicken?

What would you do?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Do you want to use lined paper or graph paper for your math homework?

What would you do?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Sweetheart, do you want to wear the skirt or the pants to church?

What would you do?

Oh good grief … it’s just clothes! Make a decision!

Now, I have come to realize that I really should take advantage of this period where my input is desired. I also realize that, contrary to how it may feel at the time, she’s not just trying to bug me, or to be my little clone. Instead, my daughter is providing me an excellent opportunity to teach her about decision making and consequences – whether it is something seemingly unimportant such as which flavor of ice cream to choose, or something monumental like choosing good friends.

It boils down to the difference between:

Dear, do you want rainbow sherbet or the cappuccino-chunky-chocolate ice cream?

Um …what would you do?

Duh …I’d take the ice cream.


Dear, do you want rainbow sherbet or the cappuccino-chunky-chocolate ice cream?

Um …what would you do?

Well, let’s think about it. I know the cappuccino ice cream is your favorite, but you also like sherbet. There is only a little bit of the sherbet left, but there is a lot of the ice cream. I think I might choose the sherbet because there will definitely be enough ice cream for you to have some tomorrow, but there may not be any sherbet left. Does that make sense? But you can choose either one; it’s completely up to you.

(And actually, put it like that and I might consider choosing the sherbet, too.)

Remember those woven nylon W.W.J.D. bracelets? I never was much a fan of the bracelets themselves, for they were more of a fad than anything, but the message they carried, even if few bothered to apply it in their lives, is worth recalling.

What Would Jesus Do?

What if, every time I was faced with a decision, large or small, I asked that question? What if, standing on a precipice, I asked the Almighty God who sees beyond the veil of time and circumstance, the Christ who walked in my shoes and experienced humanity first hand, “What would you do?”

I wouldn’t expect an auditory answer, though he would certainly be able to make his will clear in that and other ways. But, shouldn’t we make it a habit to pause in the moment of decision and consider what God might do, if He were living the same set of circumstances, the same decision opportunity?

Should I eat that second piece of cake or drink a glass of water?

What would you do, Lord?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Should I drive a little faster since I am running late or just drive the speed limit and deal with the consequences that may come?

What would you do, Lord?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Should I keep reading my book or stop and speak to that woman who looks lonely?

What would you do, Lord?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Should I take the job that pays enough to make life comfortable or go on the mission field and trust you to provide for my needs?

What would you do, Lord?

What if asking the question led you, or me, to make a wise, even holy, choice? I can almost see Jesus grinning from ear to ear, and hear Him calling out to his Father …

“Dad! She’s copying me!!!” :-)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Slowing Down

“It is important from time to time to slow down, to go away by yourself, and simply be.” ~Eileen Caddy

“Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” ~Eddie Cantor

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I got a chance to go for a long walk. The first portion was through a large, peaceful city park and the remainder was through an upper middle-class neighborhood. My husband remarked as we went along “how much you hear when you slow down enough to listen.” Sure enough, we heard the babbling of a creek, the rushing of a small waterfall, the singing of the birds, the happy voices of playing children, the zoom-zoom of rollerblades, the “LEFT!” of a bicyclist coming up behind us, the whisper of the cool spring breeze.

When we entered the neighborhood, I had to make a conscious effort to continue hearing the sounds we normally miss in our everyday rush. But between the roar of passing cars, still I heard the squawks of birds and felt the brush of the wind. I was listening intently for the next precious sound, confident that the Lord was revealing more of Himself to me. Then I heard it.

The unmistakable hum of …a hair dryer. =)

Fast forward to yesterday. Our family went to a nearby state park to enjoy the perfect spring weather. The sky was bright and blue, the breezes strong. Whitecaps appeared on the lake while fish sprang out of the water and splashed their return. Numerous species of birds gambolled in the tree tops and soared through the cloudless expanse above. Children laughed and enjoyed the day.

At one point, we got to see how slowing down can even help a child take notice of the truths of God. We were walking the Duck Pond Trail (that took us to a duck-less pond, of course) and the kids were walking several paces behind us. Suddenly, in a clever attempt to pass us, our son hollered,

“Dad! Mom! God says that the last shall be first!”

After we figured out what in the world he was referring to, we chuckled and moved aside.

A few minutes later, our daughter showed us several different types of seed pods she had been collecting. We discussed the myriad of procedures God had for starting new plants, and decided that the one that looked berry-ish must taste good to some kinds of animals. We talked about how animals will eat fruity-type “pods” and, as they move about, later expel the seeds with their waste (built-in fertilizer – how clever is that!?)

Farther along, we came to a small bridge. As if to collect our toll, a large caterpillar was stationed squarely in the middle of the first wooden plank. After inspecting it for several minutes and hypothesizing what type of butterfly it would become (and issuing the standard, “no, we can’t take it home”), our son made an interesting observation:

“If we leave it on the bridge, some big bird will probably come eat it. And then later it will poop out a butterfly!”

Profound. And hysterical.

Why didn’t God think of that? =)

So, slow down this week and tune your senses. Hear the variety of sounds in nature. Feel God's kiss in the gentle breezes. See the unstoppable power of the Almighty in the raging torrents. Smell the fragrance of Spring in the flowers and the rain. Proclaim the praises of Christ continually from your lips and heart.

And look for His fingerprints everywhere.

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(Updated 13 April 2013)