Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Resolve

I've never made a New Year's resolution--and kept it. This year I want to change that. I decided to read the Bible through in a year.

When you start looking at this goal there are numerous options. Sometimes I take so long making the decision, I miss the New Years deadline. Besides choosing your translation, you can chose to read it chronologically from Genesis to Revelation. Or, you can read preselected portions that include Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. That's my choice this year.

I chose the One Year Bible. In the past when I had this goal I printed off a schedule and used my own Bible. This had me flipping around and I usually gave up.

I actually bought a new Bible that has daily portions printed from the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. I like variety so I even downloaded the audible mobile format for my iPhone. But, you don't have to buy anything. You can do it all on line - for free.

My new goal, besides reading the Bible through is not to give up. After all, I started already back in November so I wouldn't get behind. How am I doing? I'm on day 20. But this year I don't want to quit, even if I finish the Bible in 2011.

Have you done a one year Bible? How was it?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review - When I Accepted Me by Sonja Samuel

When I Accepted Me: 52 Affirmations to Boost Your Self-Esteem! by Sonja Samuel (Hewell Publishing)
Guest blogger, Sonja, shares about her book:

How we feel about ourselves, how we see ourselves influences how we live our lives. It is a direct result to the level of our self-esteem. For most people self-esteem is about how much we feel valued, loved, accepted and thought well of by others; but it is really about how much we love, value and except ourselves. It is in accepting ourselves that allows us to do well in the things that matter most. It is what leads us to fulfill our destiny and make a divine difference.

However, since we all experience problems with our self-esteem, self worth and self-acceptance at various times in our lives, When I Accepted Me is a collection of personal affirmations to help build, boost and maintain good self-esteem.

Sonja Samuel

You may have seen her on the sidelines cheering for one of the most winningst football teams in the NFL or on a commerical or a magazine. A former print model, TV spokesperson, internet radio and talk show host, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and NFL Players Cheerleader. SONJA SAMUEL currently travels the world as an international speaker, leadership consultant, and life empowerment strategist to Fortune 500 companies and their workforce; as well as traveling the globe as a performing arts director and short-term missionary.

Her inspiring and empowering influence as been experienced throughout North America, South and Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Her book can be ordered from It would be a great way to start the year and to recharge for the coming year. They are extending a special introduction offer of $14.95 because they want to get the book out into as many hands as possible. It is a powerful tool for empowering others.

It makes a great gift book for your friends, family and coworkers. It will make a wonderful way to offer love and affirmation for Valentine’s Day.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Star of Bethlehem - the movie

Imagine the sky the night Jesus arrived on planet Earth. What would we see if we could turn back the clock and view the stars that shone over the stable? One shiny light in particular interests me - the Star of Bethlehem.

Many theories surround the star. Was it a legend, a comet or just an unexplainable miracle? Historians of that time period confirm that something incredible occurred in the heavens that night. The film, Star of Bethlehem, brings together faith, science and logic for a beautiful and compelling explanation of this brightest of all stars.

This movie, produced by the makers of of the movie, The Passion of Christ, has become a family tradition in our home each Christmas. It chronicles the search of Frederick Larson, a lawyer, to find the truth about the heavenly sign.

In true lawyer fashion, Larson studies the clues and characteristics of the star as outlined in the gospel of Matthew. Using these clues to pinpoint the timeline and location of the star, Larson then employs a computer program, Starry Night. This program, used by astronomers at NASA, displays the heavenly stars for anytime in history from anywhere in the universe.

Starry Night makes turning back the night skies possible. Using the discoveries of Johann Keppler of the 17Th century and Isaac Newton, the program uses the three laws of planetary motions to actually pinpoint the position of each body in the heavens throughout time.

Personally, when I watch this film, I am amazed by the absolute order of the universe. Each time, I experience a spiritual revival and wonder why I ever doubt God's ability to order every detail of my life, my family and my world. We can truly concur:

The Heavens declare the glory of God;
The skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
Night after night they display knowledge.
Psalm 19:1-2

The research behind this movie is sound and the ideas clearly presented. This film makes a great choices for an outreach evening of fellowship in your home. Invite your neighbors, co-workers or family members over for sweet Christmas treats, some cocoa and a discussion that is sure to be lively. The surprise ending reveals the complete purpose of Christ's visit to Earth and the message is scrawled across the canopy of the heavens.

Obtain your movie copy at you local Christian bookstore or from

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Fifth Dimension Portal

"Mom, there is something that you never explained to me."

I called my mom one Saturday morning for this all important question. She had an edge of concern in her voice as she responded, "Oh, what is that?"

"Where do all of the socks go? I have a basket of spare socks and none go together."

I noticed this phenomenon shortly after I was married. With children added every three to five years until there are now four of them, the sock spares are out of control.

I decided that there is a conspiracy among sock sellers. Usually packages of socks come in three pairs but each is slightly different. Therefore, if you lose one sock from each pair, you have just single unmatched socks.

There are a few solutions: 1) Buy only solid, boring socks all of one color so that no matter how many you lose, you still have pairs of socks 2) Buy 2 packages of three sets of socks so you have two of each pair OR 3) Lobby congress to pass a law that all socks come in sets of three so that there is a spare for that inevitable day when one of the socks enters the fifth dimension portal which is located at the back of the dryer.

It happens with gloves and mittens, too. I don't even need gloves very often due to living in the south. That is part of the problem, they are put away in storage and when you need them you have to go digging for them and -- you guessed it -- there is usually a pile of single gloves.

I'm travelling north this week so I pulled out all of the gloves I could find. I have four single gloves, one gray, one black knit and two Isotoner driving gloves that are similar enough that I thought they could be a pair. Unfortunately, they are both for the same hand.

Alas, I have discovered another portal into the fifth dimension -- the back of my closet. Now if the extra calories from the Christmas goodies could just find the portal and disappear, I would be very happy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saved from a Life of Crime

The holiday checkout line moved slowly and my three-year-old daughter was antsy. She had trouble keeping her hands off the toy displays strategically placed on the lower shelves. I glanced down just in time to see my youngster jerk her hand back from an unsealed doll package.

"Did you rip that package open?"

My daughter's wide eyes told everything. She nodded her head.

I explained that destroying the package was the same as stealing. The store could no longer sell the toy therefore they could not make money. My daughter's lower lip stuck out as she hung her head.

"Do you know what you have to do? You need to tell the clerk and apologize. Then you will have to pay for the doll."

When we reached the cashier I told him that my daughter had something that she needed to tell him. My precocious three-year-old was quite verbal and made the apology clearly. The checker waved it off and said it was fine.

"No," I insisted. "She needs to pay for the doll."

The shoppers behind me shifted their weight and coughed. They just wanted to get out of the store. The cashier looked uncomfortable but finally took the money from my daughter.

"You know, kids do that stuff all of the time." The young man behind the cash register obviously felt I had just committed child abuse.

I didn't see it that way. I felt it was time to teach an important lesson. My daughter knew she had done something wrong and she needed to make restitution . She got the lesson and the local toy charity received the doll for a needy child in the area.
My mom tells a similar store about me at the grocery store. I was probably three when I asked for some candy and my mother said, "No!" A few aisles later and my mom looked down to see a tell-tale candy dribble down my chin and a pinafore pocket full of wrappers.

I was a very shy child so telling the checker that I was sorry was an experience that is permanently emblazoned on my conscience. This cashier understood what my mother was trying to teach me and fixed a firm eye on me until I stammered out my confession. She took my money and told me to never steal again.

I don't remember the incident but I've never stolen another item again-- not even a paper clip from my workplace.

It is interesting-or sad-to see the responses by the two different checkers in two different generations. It could be a sign of the times however accountability for wrong doing is a timeless lesson that never goes out of style.

Thanks, Mom, for taking the time to teach me a lesson that would have been easier to ignore and a whole lot less embarrassing. Who knows, you may have saved me from a life of crime!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blessed Disabilities

What do you do when your child's best academic efforts land him or her in the bottom quarter of the standardized test chart? My daughter started her sophomore year of homeschooling before we finally learned why school was so difficult for her.

Follow this link: Heart of the Matter Online to read my article about my daughter's journey through dyslexia, Blessed Disabilities.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods

With baby number one we followed the Boy Scout method of travel--be prepared. On our first trip to the great grandparents home we carried it all. We had the pack-it-up bed, the walker, the swing, the stroller and a variety of toys and picture books. We wanted to be ready with our boredom busting arsenal if our baby started to whimper.

We rolled into the driveway of the small clapboard house in a car that resembled the Thanksgiving turkey. It was stuffed to the tire rims. The seventy-year-old couple burst out onto the porch and greeted us warmly. They had been watching the clock and the driveway with anticipation. They lost no time in snatching up the newest member of the family. This was their first great-grandchild.

We felt pretty smug as we carted in the mobile nursery equipment. The great grandparents sat on the couch holding the baby as an entire Babies-R-Us showroom sprang up around them. They simply asked they we leave room among the toys to walk through the small living room--they didn't want to break a hip from a fall.

That week we watched our little one give the elderly couple hours of joy. They told stories about my husband as a baby, stories about their own daughters' antics when they were little and stories about raising a family during the Depression era.

I found myself wanting to record some of the tales for my daughter to have when she grew up. I began asking questions about life when they were young.

They told about hand wringing the laundry and ice delivered to their icebox on the porch. They shared tales of the cow and the chickens that my husband's grandmother kept during the war so she could sell the butter and eggs. The house that we sat in was their first and only home. It cost less than a month's salary today but they had to take out a loan back then to purchase it.

"What did you do for fun as a child? What were your favorite toys?" I asked.

"We didn't have any. I had a shoebox once and my mother cut out paper dolls from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. That box could be anything or take me anywhere."

If the grandparents thought we were silly carting all of our baby gear halfway across America for this visit, they never showed it. They preferred peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake when they played with our daughter rather than the windup swing or talking board books.

We came to show off our little one but they showed us a few things. You don't have to have stuff to raise a baby. Children in any generation want what any parent can give--love and relationship.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Screwtape Letters

I am a big fan of C. S. Lewis, English author from the early 1900's. He is probably best know for his series of books on the make believe world of Narnia. They have been made popular by the two new movies made this century--The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. These became instant classics in our home.

My favorite book by Lewis is The Screwtape Letters. In this creative and sometimes humorous work, Lewis writes a series of letters between two demons. One is an experienced demon and the other his novice nephew. The elder demon instructs the younger one on how to destroy the faith of his human "patient" that he is assigned to. It gives a great deal of insight and thoughts to ponder regarding just how demons work to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).

Just in time for Christmas, Focus on the Family Radio Theatre has developed the book into a dramatized audio version. Check here for ordering details. It is sure to spark great conversation in your home.

After listening to the book, try this for a family activity. Each of you write a letter as if it came from a demonic agent assigned to YOU. Just what might be used to entice you to stray from the faith or become ineffective. How would the enemy see your weaknesses?

Lewis stated that this was the most difficult book that he wrote and he wrote many Christian classics. The enemy likes to work under a cloak of invisibility. We, however should not be unaware of his schemes as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 2:11.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Abba Father! National Adoption Day

Happy Adoption Day! November 21st is the tenth anniversary of National Adoption Day.

Since first celebrated in 2000, Adoption Day has been selected by families, judges and volunteers to finalize adoptions for more than 25,000 children. Volunteers all across the nation on this day will celebrate adoption in communities large and small.

Each Sunday, I love to watch the young families enter church. I remember the days of toting two diaper bags and juggling little ones as I herded them toward the church nursery. I had my four children one at a time. Several families at my church have adopted entire families of children all at once or chosen a child with special needs.

My hat is off to these parents. They are my heroes. As my pastor has proclaimed from the pulpit, they are righting wrongs in society. Children who are devalued in the world are selected and honored and given a new name.
In other adoptions both birth mother and adoptive parents highly value life as they partner together. When a birth mom knows she cannot provide a child with a quality life but chooses to bring the child into the world, she too is a hero. Making the decision to give her child up for adoption is difficult. The couple who has waited with empty arms has great joy but never forgets the sacrifice that the birth mother made.

Adoption is a beautiful picture of what God does in our lives.

..he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Eph. 1:5

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

Rom. 8:15

Happy Adoption Day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Random Recipient

I pulled up to the drive through window and tried to hand my $12.47 to the cashier. He held up one hand, smiled and said, "The car ahead already paid for you." I glanced up to see only tail lights disappearing around the corner.

I was the recipient of a random act of kindness. I had heard of these but never thought much about them.

I parked the car and my teenage son and I began taking out our food - our free food. It was a humbling experience.

We stopped to thank God for our meal and for the mystery giver. It hit me that this was a picture of grace; I received something that I did not deserve.

Any comparisons to God's grace given to us through Christ ended there. I had the money and could have bought my meal. I could never purchase my salvation from God. This act of kindness was random but God's gift to the world is not random. It is absolutely deliberate.

For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

And His gift of grace is not offered to a select few for He does not want anyone to perish. 2 Pet 3:9

It is amazing how an act of kindness multiplies. I immediately started looking around for someone to bless. As I drove home, a car pulled into the center lane wanting to enter traffic ahead of me. Normally I would have ignored them but this night I slowed and signalled for them to go ahead of me.

Kindness is definitely contagious and it beats H1N1.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Boy Warriors

My friend did not allow toy guns in her home when her son was little. She felt that playing with weapons created aggression. She monitored television shows and cartoons so her son would not see warfare or fighting.

How baffling when, at a few years of age, this boy picked up his sister's Barbie, bent it into the shape of a gun and began shooting up the playroom.

I believe a warrior is in the heart of every boy, at any age. I believe this because I have heard this same story from several moms. Whether their sons use "Barbie" or a stick, they find a way to be a soldier.

I didn't fight the fighting. I just directed and shaped the passion for battle.

As my son began pointing and "bamming" I insisted he never shoot at people for target practice. These targets were most often his sisters. Instead, I usually suggested that some enemy creature or dragon was on the prowl and he should be on the look out. It was his "job" to defend us. His imagination went full throttle as he dressed up as a soldier, Robin Hood, Zorro, a fireman or any number of characters who were heroic defenders.

I worked to shape his fighter instinct and turn him into the defender of our home.

As he has grown up, the enemies have become heavy doors or groceries. My son has displayed a sweet protectiveness when it comes to his Mama and any doors in my path or groceries that I pick up. He'll just about bowl me over to "defend" me.

Call me a chauvinist but I have trained him to open doors for his sisters and allow them to order first at restaurants. Old fashioned? I don't think so. I call it husband training.

Someday he will probably be a husband. What I teach him now effects his future marriage and the type of dad he will become. I look forward to having little warrior grandsons running around my living room. I may never open a door again!
Favorite reads on this subject:

"Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge
"Bringing Up Boys" by James Dobson

What are your favorite books on this subject? Share a "warrior story" below!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cartoon Briefs

Boy, was I good! The day my oldest daughter turned two, she ripped her diaper off and said, "I no more wear diapers anymore." And she didn't.

I had potty training down. I thought I should write a book about this method--although I wasn't sure exactly what I had done.

God then gave me three more children over the next nine years. None of these precious kids were toilet trained until they were three or older. God has a way of humbling us when we claim talents that we don't have. And He has such a sense of humor.

My youngest, my only son, was the most resistant to learning to use the toilet. I tried many bribes. There were M&Ms, Lego kits, and a myriad of other treats for doing his business where he was supposed to.

What finally worked? We walked past the men's boxer brief display at the nearby super center. Cartoon characters from every network channel covered the underwear. I promised my son that when he learned to used the toilet, he could pick out any pair of cartoon briefs for his dad to wear. This thrilled my son more than picking out his own Buzz Lightyear briefs.

I didn't ask my husband about this before I made the promise. When the boxers with the allover Curious George print were presented to him by our son, I thought he would not play along at first.

He couldn't resist our son's enthusiasm, however, and my husband was soon sporting his monkey covered boxers. He just hoped he wouldn't get in a car wreck and be taken to the hospital while he was wearing them.

What worked in your home? Share your best toilet training advice below.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Legacy

The nurse pushed open the door of the ICU waiting room. The clock showed the time as 1:30 am. Quiet and cold filled the room with eeriness.

My mom sat with two friends in an otherwise empty waiting room while my dad lay in a surgical suite somewhere in the hospital. He was undergoing emergency surgery on his heart. My brother and I were in route but still hours away. We had all been told that my father likely would not survive the night.

The nurse walked to my mom's side with something cupped in her hands. "I have something to give you. I know it is special and I don't want it to get lost."

My mother could not imagine what the nurse had until she reached out and the nurse dropped my dad's wedding ring into her hand. She gasped and whispered, "He doesn't ever take it off. It's been 53 years."

"We know. We had a hard time removing it." She closed her hand over my mom's and squeezed it.

Legacy. My dad survived that night but this experience has our whole family thinking about what really matters in life. What is the essence of our life that will be left for others' to see?

I have a glimpse of my parents' legacy. They have honored their marriage vows. It was apparent to everyone in the surgical suite.

When I heard the story I knew why I always felt safe growing up. I realized that all of the work in my own marriage is worth it.

Marriage can be tough. I don't wake up every day madly in love with my husband. Those are the days that I am actually glad that love is not a feeling or an emotion but a decision--to respect my spouse and the vows I made.

I want my children and grandchildren to know that by God's grace I kept the vows I made. I want a legacy that is a blessing in my home like the one I witnessed this week in my parents. Separated by seemingly miles of corridors in a hospital in the middle of the night, their commitment was evident.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

If Momma Ain't Happy

If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

The old saying is true in our home. I confess--I have days that I get up on the wrong side of the bed. I don't wake up planning to march through the house in my robe, snapping and growling, but I do. And guess what! Everyone in the house starts snapping and growling at each other. And I don't have a family of dogs!

Moms do have a unique role of setting the tone in their homes. But, if we have the ability to carry a black cloud of moodiness into the mix, we also have the incredible opportunity to infuse the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23.

Being fruitful doesn't come easily. I find that careless, hurtful words roll off my tongue easily. Saying and doing the right thing requires that I stay on my toes--or I should say, on my knees.

Jesus understood this difficulty and gave us a fruit growing tip: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. John 15:4.

Jesus is that vine. As I abide in His presence throughout the day, I have His incredible power to exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And the blessing spills over into my home.

If Momma abides in God's spirit, her home and children reflect that. It's worth it!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Super Hero

My daughter attended a week of summer camp three hours away from home. I helped her move into the cabin when she realized that she had forgotten something very important.

Each night at the camp they were to dress up for a different theme night. My daughter forgot her super-hero costume.

"I'll put something in the mail. I hope it gets to you in time." I hugged my daughter goodbye.

My daughter received the package in time. She laughed as she pulled the t-shirt out. She couldn't wait for super-hero night.

The big night came and she donned her t-shirt. Her cabin mates gathered around and read the shirt. Her costume was a hit.

It read: "My Daddy is a Promise Keeper".

Check here >- for Promise Keepers - A Christ-centered men's ministry

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Do the Next Thing

The earliest days of motherhood could overwhelm me with the tasks that clamored for my immediate attention. Add, on top of the chores, the piercing wail of the baby and my head could be spinning.

During this season, I found a favorite quote while reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot. It is simple, just--"Do the next thing."

This simple directive has helped me more than any other. When I looked around and felt overwhelmed by the laundry, dishes and other tasks that called me, I remembered -- do the next thing.

For some reason, when I remember this rule, I gain great peace. It keeps me focused on the next step. It is rather like Peter who dove over the side of the boat to walk with Jesus. He did great until he raised his eyes and looked at the entire sea instead of his goal of reaching Jesus' side.

The early years of motherhood were a great training ground to keep me focused on the next thing. That training has stayed with me.

We are all a phone call away from great changes in our life. I had a week like that. My dad had a heart attack and a close call. This was unexpected and I was overwhelmed.

One phone call landed me outside of the ICU door in my parents' town waiting, always waiting, for visiting hours to start. I would race home in between to "rest" and answer phone calls. Cook, clean, comfort.

I remembered my "mommyhood" training. I kept thinking, "Do the next thing." I sense of calm came over me. If God gives us just enough light for next step, He gives us the grace to do the next thing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hello Sunshine!

I love that the Bible tells us Mary treasured things in her heart about Jesus's early years. When God feels it is important to mention that in His word, I realize that He understands the heart of a mother.

One of my treasured memories is from the hospital stay at the birth of my firstborn. My husband was but a lowly med student back then and carried no clout in the hospital. He decided that he wanted to take our new daughter for a walk only he didn't realize, although she was his daughter, he couldn't just scoop her up and walk around with her.

I was napping when the nurse came in. She glanced around the room and saw the empty bassinet. "Where is the baby?" she snapped.

I explained that she was fine; my husband had her. The nurse turned on her heel and I heard the door whoosh closed behind her.

Moments later, the nurse returned with the baby, rewrapped her blanket, put her in the bassinet and pushed the baby, bassinet and all back to the nursery.

My husband then returned, red-faced, and stated, "It is time to take our baby home!"

I was alarmed until I heard the whole story. It was a treasure to be kept in my heart.

My husband is a nature lover. He noticed the beautiful sunset when he arrived to see us that evening and he decided that he wanted to show his daughter. He scooped her out of the bassinet. This was a big deal as only 24 short hours before he was afraid to hold her.

He cradled her in his arms and walked to the picture window at the end of the hall. There he was holding our daughter up to "see" the sunset -- her first sunset and talking to her about all the wonderful things they would explore together as she grew up.

This of course was where the nurse found them. She did not appreciate the sunset or this precious bonding time. She had hospital rules and insurance guidelines to follow.

Before the baby was born, my husband and I had fears about whether we would be good parents. I still wasn't sure about me, but I knew then that my husband was already a great dad.

Music Window

Have you ever wanted a window into your child's heart? Try listening to music--their music.

Being raised in the 70's, I remember the music battles. Most parents from my generation said at least ten time a week, "Turn that racket down!" I decided to take a different approach with my young adults.
Check out my article at , Heart of the Matter {online}, a site dedicated to bridging the gap between parent and child. I am new contributor for this online magazine.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Halloween Costume

Each year I struggled to come up with cute, creative costumes for my kids at Halloween. The year that my oldest entered kindergarten, I learned that not only was she to dress up for a class party, but the school would hold a parade in the community and all of the elementary school children would get to "show off" their costumes.

The pressure was on. I wandered through the fabric store with a five-year-old and a two- year-old in tow, praying for inspiration. I am not very creative and I don't sew.

I came up with the perfect solution. I would turn my little girl into a big red M&M. How hard could that be? I loaded up on red felt, thread and white iron on fabric for the letters.

I didn't bother to buy the pattern for the costume. My husband was in residency and I wanted to save the money. I would just wing it.

It was harder than I thought to cut the circle out the right "size". I had my daughter lay on the floor as I measured. I finally got it cut out, sewn together and then I added the final touch - the white cutout M&M letters.

The big day came and my daughter was pretty cute with her white tights and red candy costume. The only problem was that it was a bit flat. M&M candies should be plump. I hadn't planned for this so I used the first thing to come to mind: toilet paper.

I drove her to school and then as we stood beside the car, I began stuffing wadded up toilet paper in through the armholes and neck hole. She was all plumped up and I sent her off to her classroom as a fat,waddling M&M.

I gathered with the other proud parents along the parade route, camera in hand. Here came the kids. Princesses, pirates, super heroes and a variety of animals came streaming out the school steps. I saw my daughter's class coming along the sidewalk. She was between a beautiful princess and Luke Skywalker. She was having a little trouble walking in her outfit.

They made the loop around the playground and headed back toward the school. That was when I learned that my choice of stuffing was not a good one. Toilet paper began coming out the leg holes of the costume. With every waddling step the paper trailed further and further along the parade route.

Proud parents were pointing and waving. They would ask each other, "Which one is your child?"

I could easily have pointed out mine by saying, "Oh, the one with the toilet paper streaming behind her for a block," but I didn't have to. She waved at us and her little sister in the stroller hollered back.

I vowed that the next year I would buy a costume - not matter what it cost.

Monday, October 19, 2009

For My Mommy Told Me So

I overheard my two-year-old daughter belting out, "Jesus loves me, this I know...". I peeked into her room to see her rocking a favorite doll energetically in the same rocker we often sat in together at bedtime.

The next line caught me off guard as she continued, "...for my mommy told me so."

Her new version of the old children's hymn gave me a shiver. Jesus loves me this I KNOW for my MOMMY TOLD ME SO. She was sure Jesus loved her, because I told her so.

Little eyes are watching us and little ears are listening to us in our homes. That is a huge responsibility. There are days I want to take a vacation or leave of absence when it comes to being a role model for my children. Moms don't have that luxury.

Our little ones take in our every mood, response, and choice of television show. I have known for a long time now that our children learn what they see and experience more than what we tell them.

I am glad that my daughter heard me say, like the song, "Jesus loves you ." More importantly, I hope that she experiences it through my patience, integrity, untiring love and transparent prayers with her. I hope that I can honestly say:

Follow my example
as I follow the example of Christ.
I Cor. 11:1

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bud Light, Anyone?

My husband and I got away for the weekend when he had a business conference. We left our four children with his parents. Although we celebrated our son's fifth birthday before we left, the grandparents celebrated again while we were on our trip.

We called and talked to each of the kids. When we talked to our son he excitedly told us all about his birthday party at the grandparents.

"And I got presents!" he said. "I got a Bud Light!"

Okay. I asked three more times and he kept repeating that his grandparents gave him a Bud Light for his birthday.

"Can you put Nana on the phone? I need to talk to her."

My son received a Buzz Lightyear for his birthday--complete with flashing lights and sounds, batteries included.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Training of New Fathers

We were married four years before we had children. We enjoyed a spontaneous lifestyle before kids, jumping up to join friends at a restaurant or take the dog for a walk at the park.

After our first daughter was born, my husband would get the idea that I needed to get out and he'd suggest a matinee movie--with thirty minutes notice. He'd get ready and be waiting at the back door, clueless as to why I wasn't ready to roll.

After three weekends of missed movies, I decided it was time for Dad Training. I showed him the diaper bag and the carrier and the juice bottles. It wasn't that he didn't want to help, he just wasn't a nurturer by nature.

He didn't understand what all it took to get the baby ready for an outing. I had to teach him how to help me get the baby, the diaper bag and all the gear out the door.

We finally became a pretty good team as I fed and changed the baby and he loaded the diaper bag. A little communication and Dad Training turned a potentially explosive situation into an afternoon we both enjoyed.

...rather, speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in every way
into him who is the head, into Christ...
Eph. 4:15 ESV

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Never Say Never

The downstairs toilet in our rent house was plugged. It had not worked in two weeks. The landlord sent a repairman. He said it was fixed.

It wasn't. I called the landlord again and he sent the repairman, again. This time he cleaned out the drain trap outside. "Should work fine, Ma'am!"

It didn't. This time the landlord came with the repairman and a plumbing crew of four men. They must have been training new plumbers or something. I've never had more than two at a time since then. The head plumber looked at my two small daughters and suggested that they may have put something down the toilet.

"Not my kids!" I boasted. After all, my kids didn't do things like that.

That makes six men standing around my small yard as they hauled our toilet out of the bathroom and onto the lawn. They rolled it around to check the porcelain bowl from all angles. The head plumber lay sideways on the ground and as he peered into the toilet, asked, "Does one of your kids own a pink bunny toothbrush?"

"Well, yes, they used to, until.....a few weeks ago."

The plumber trainees and the repairman looked up at the trees or at their feet -- anywhere but at me. I don't know where the landlord was looking; I was not looking at him.

The chief plumber stood up and handed me the toothbrush. Yep, I recognized it.

"Thank you." What else does one say when they are handed a pink bunny toothbrush. Surely he didn't think we'd still use it.

I learned a huge lesson this day--never say never when it comes to kids, toilets and life in general. On the other hand, maybe it was the neighbor's kid!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Living Words

One of my children was excited to start reading the Bible without help. He planned to start at the beginning and read straight through. This child looked around and lowered his and assured me of one thing. "Don't worry, Mom. When I get to Song of Solomon, I promise I won't read it."

I really don't tell our kids not to read certain parts of the Bible. On the contrary, I tell them every word in the scripture is incredible.

My children have often heard me when I climb on my soapbox and wave dramatically at our bookshelves. "See these books? They are great but they are nothing-- just dry dust--compared to the Bible, God's Word! The Bible is not like any other book in any library anywhere. Every word in the Bible is alive and active."

For the Word of God is living and active....Heb. 4:12 NIV

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Prince of the Pile

One fall it was time for a little yard work. The dump truck backed up the driveway and dropped a load of dirt mixed with manure in the yard. This proved too great a temptation for my six-year-old son.

"Can I play in the dirt?" he begged.

I recoiled at the thought of my son playing in the manure pile. I had to be firm as he kept asking all morning to climb the dirt heap.

Around lunchtime my son tried one more desperate plea to get near the earth pile. "Well, can I just take my lunch outside and sit and look at it?"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Follow Jesus--and Rest?

Resting is not something that comes easily for me. Psalm 23 reads, "He makes me lie down in green pastures" (emphasis mine). That is what it takes--God making me lie down. I doubt that I am alone in this restlessness. As women, we keep going if there is a job remaining.

Yet, rest is part of God's plan from creation. If we are to be truly like Him, we must also learn to rest. On the seventh day God declared His handiwork, "Good!" and He rested.

When Jesus stilled the storm in Matthew 8, the most amazing detail to me was not that He calmed the water but that they had to awaken Him to get His help. Jesus was asleep while others manned the ship.

Jesus had a work ethic we can imitate. It is shocking to realize that He walked away from hurts, ailments and pressing crowds. He accepted that His role was not to do everything but to carry out the tasks His Father assigned Him. We need to learn, likewise, to leave a job undone if it is not our job.

We have One who promises to teach us: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My load is light."

We can take our IPhone, Palm Pilots and calendars before our gentle Father and ask Him to prioritize our schedule. When we feel overwhelmed with marriage, children, work, ministry and the many other responsibilities that pull on us, we should pause to consider, God's intention is not to drive us into exhaustion. On the contrary--His desire for us is rest.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can you spell Bibliophile?

"What age should your child be when you begin reading to them?" This question was asked by my college professor as I sat in my Elementary Education reading class. Anyone who stated an age older than birth flunked, according to this expert.

If you visit my house, you will see that I took this advice to heart. We are bibliophiles--we love books. There are bookshelves in every bedroom and my children have their own book collections with inscriptions commemorating various birthdays and other celebrations.

One of my favorite memories is of my three daughters, ages 2, 7 and 10, sitting in a row on the couch after a trip to the library. I was fixing dinner and they were totally engrossed in their "new" books. They each had their stack of books and they pored through them one by one. It is a cute memory but more importantly, I am delighted that my kids still love books.

As my kids have grown older, and it is time to part with books that are too young for them, we have kept some favorites. We have such great memories or our read aloud times. Grand kids will be here before I know it and I know I'll want to read to them.

Picture books for really young children are my favorite baby gift. Young moms are usually surprised to get a book in with the booties and bottles. I've learned that those little board books with colorful photoes will soon become a favorite toy. Even if the babies are gnawing on the books, I still think something important is conveyed about books and reading.

I read recently that a Museum of Picture Book Art compiled this list of the top-10 children's picture books:
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemellmanus
  • Frederick by Leo Lionni
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Curious George by H. A. Rey

If you go to you see illustrations from these classics.

Giving children the gift of books early is important, whether they are enjoying them through the sound of your voice or they are able to sit up and look at them, books are treasures.

Did any of the top ten books listed above make your family favorites list? Leave a comment and tell us your picks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Church Starts in the Driveway

The enemy seems to work overtime on Sunday mornings. After my family arrived at church repeatedly in a state of discord and not ready to worship, I began to rethink our routine for getting to church.

We have a long drive to church - just over 30 minutes. I decided that it could be put to better use than 5 separate sets of earphones plugged into IPods, DVDs or radio channels with each of us in our own zone. We now listen to one worship channel corporately - no earphones and we always start the trip with a time of prayer for the church service.

Attending church and "getting something out of it" is as much about preparing for the time and bringing something to the gathering than sitting and receiving. Our prayers reflect that.

What do we pray?
  • For the pastors, teachers and worship leaders to be anointed and speak, live out and sing God's message
  • For those attending to get there - no excuses - and have hearts to hear God's Word
  • For our hearts to be ready to hear God's message for us
  • For each of us to see those in need who are attending and to reach out to them

This plan took tweaking to get it where it is today. Each family member prays out loud on the way to church but in the beginning the younger kids were clueless about what to pray. I had to model the prayers but they caught the enthusiasm.

I am careful not to "fix " their prayers. If they pray in their own ineloquent words for something I don't pray again for the same thing in correct theological terms. I know and they have learned that God hears our heart prayers, not our fancy words.

So if you feel like your enemy, the Devil, is prowling in your part of the country on Sunday mornings, consider this last piece of spiritual amour outlined in Ephesians 6.

...and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Angels on the Bunk Bed

Christian kids often play strange games. We have all probably played "wedding" and we may have heard the humorous story about the kitty being "baptized" after coming forward in an altar call.

My kids tell me about a game they used to play when they were entertaining themselves in their room. They used to imagine how many angels were in the room and where they all were sitting, standing or floating. They discussed how many would fit on top of the bunk bed and how big they were if their wings were unfurled.

My children wondered what the heavenly beings did when they hung around. Did they help them win their games or just stand around and watch what they were doing? Did the angels ever wish they could play, too?

At family reunions now my grown girls laugh about this childhood pastime. I am glad that as young children they had such a firm grip on the reality of the spiritual realm. They knew that angels were all about them.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:10

These are probably good truths to ponder when it comes time for my children to learn to ride a bike, drive a car or depart for foreign mission fields.

There is so much we don't know about angels but of this I'm sure: The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Psalms 34:7

And are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

What a comfort. I will think twice, however, next time I make up the bunk beds - how many angels do fit up there?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In the Tree and Out of the Box

I couldn't wait to teach my first child about the Bible. I took that verse seriously about training my daughter when we lied down, rose up, were on the way... and in the car.

One morning, I taxied about with my two year old in her car seat. I retold the story of Zacchaeus in the tree while craning my neck to see two pony tails bob up and down in the rear view mirror. For the third time and one time too many, I asked, "Now, why did Jesus tell Zacchaeus to come down from the tree?"

She never missed the answer before but apparently she had grown tired of this story. Maybe a new answer would end my repetitive questioning. With a deep sigh she said, "Because Jesus though it was his turn to play in the tree?"

Now that was a new version of the Zacchaeus story. My daughter was learning early to put God in a box. She knew about playing and trees and sharing. She knew nothing of tax collectors and stealing and saviors.

How often do we place God in a box -- limiting Him by our earthly understanding? We place on the God of the universe human characteristics because those are what we understand and know best.

We think God values others as we see them. WE believe his resources are as limited as ours. We think God is angered by what angers us. The trials that enter our life are seen as mistakes rather than stepping stones to grow in our faith. We believe our righteous acts impress God and perhaps make us His favorite. We believe God looks upon our outward appearance and status rather than our hearts.

"Who has known the mind of the Lord?" Romans 11:34 asks. God makes it clear when he tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways!"

I now have 4 children and a son-in-law. The story telling era is behind us but now I pray for our family.

Lord, please give us hearts like yours. May we love the things you love and hate the things you hate. May we see people as you see them and place value on them as you do. Please open our eyes to see you in everything that we encounter and may we know that nothing is more than we can handle when we are hidden in you. Amen.

My daughter could not understand the Zaccheus story that day when she was two but she didn't need to worry. Assuredly, Jesus would have His turn in the tree and He would share -- with the whole world.

"For God raised up Jesus for us after we hung him on a tree." Acts 5:30.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sex Ed 101

When my daughter was very young I struggled with explaining the facts of real life. She was only in her early grade school years. How could I explain adultery or any of the many other ways the world has invented to distort God's plan for marriage without just reciting a list of rules?

My child's artwork plastered my refrigerator and pantry doors. Each picture came with love notes scribbled to me across the top. Throughout the day as more "masterpieces" were proudly presented to me, I had to make more room. These pictures were my inspiration -- for a lesson.

"Did you know that God sends us artwork and love messages?"

My daughter's head snapped up from her coloring. "No-o-o," she drawled quizzically.

"He gave the world the gift of marriage and mommies and daddies and families. It is a picture sent to us with his special love note written on it. He wants us to know that in much the same way a husband loves and cares for his wife, he loves us."

"The husband and wife relationship is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one." Eph. 5:32 NLT

I explained that God's plan includes one man and one woman committed for life. When God designed marriage, he wanted to show us how much He is committed to us and wants us to love only Him, always.

"When you give me your pictures, I am so proud that I hang them up for everyone to see. The world sometimes takes God's pictures and rips them up and tosses them in the trash."

By my daughter's shocked expression I wasn't sure if she understood everything that day. But, it was the first of many talks to lay the foundation for seeing God's heart regarding the mystery of marriage and not the world's discarded masterpiece.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Father's Eyes

My oldest daughter loved to go to the mall when she was four. As a social butterfly she liked to be around the crowds. She never met a stranger. She had no fear.

This also presented a problem. My daughter did not feel a need to stay with her parents. She could handle the excursion on her own and expected us to keep up.

My husband decided on one Mall outing that he would teach our daughter about staying with her parents. He explained what he expected before they got out of the car. It was simple: stay with Daddy, do not get out of his sight -- do not wander off.

It took only a few minutes for the lure of the clothing racks to call my daughter from her father's side. My husband was ready. He retreated to a corner and stood watching and waiting. A few more minutes and my daughter looked up to see only clothing racks and lots of tall legs but no Daddy smiling down at her.

She panicked. My husband never let her out of his sight but he waited until she was truly ready to find him. He stepped forward and she ran to him We did not have problems with Mall wandering again.

I love this story and we often laugh over it. My daughter is now 24 and it is up to her husband to keep up with her at the mall.

As a parent I have come to understand so much more of my heavenly Father. I choose to wander from Him more than I'd like to recognize. I often think that I have a better plan. How God must grieve as He waits in the corner for me to look up and begin to search for Him.

I know He never lets me out of His sight. His heart and eyes are steadfastly fixed on me as he waits for me to turn to Him.

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.. The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34: 15, 22

Lord, thank you that we can never run away from your watchful eye. When we turn back to you, you receive us without condemnation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Herding Worms?

"What did you do all day?" When my life with four young children at home centered around diaper bags, strollers, johnny-jumpups, etc. my husband's question always made me stop and evaluate. I would look around at toys scattered around the living room and cheerios and sippy cups that lined the window sill.

What did I do? A lot of movement and activity occurred. It wasn't always in fast motion. We often were all headed in different directions. The best description that I could come up with was that I felt like I was herding worms.

My husband has been my greatest supporter in my role as a mom. Over the years "herding worms" has become our codeword for a chaotic day. These were days that ended with the knowledge that I had loved my kids, read to them and rocked them but beyond that not much else was accomplished. These days are just memories now but time offers perspective. As I look at my grown kids, I would have to conclude my "worm herding" days were very productive.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Photo Op

Baby dedications can be high stress. New outfits. Visiting relatives. Will the baby be awake, cry, or worse - have a blowout from either end while on stage?

My neighbors spend a great deal of time each year in Africa with a missions organization. The wife told me the story of a very different baby dedication. They recently led a group of Americans on a mission trip to work on an orphanage. The group was busy painting one morning when a new orphan arrived.

He wasn't really an orphan but his mother died in childbirth and the father knew he could not care for his new son so he brought him to the children's home. The administrator took down all of the information on the newborn. Her last question was, "Has he been dedicated?"

He had not. My friend explained that baby dedications were serious business in Africa. Every child is offered in dedication either to God or a pagan god. This little guy needed to be dedicated.

The volunteer workers from America were surprised when the orphanage administrator and her assistant called the group to put down their tools and paintbrushes and join them for the dedication -- right away. The group complied and gathered in the dining area in a circle.

My friend said that what she witnessed will forever be etched in her memory. The assistant was crippled and could only walk with a cane. With great effort she knelt, set the cane aside and lay prostrate on the floor. The administrator lifted the baby over her head and began to pray.

The Americans soon realized what an African baby dedication involved. This was no short ceremony or photo op. The two workers cried out to God for over 20 minutes. They beseeched the Lord of the Universe to protect the baby and guide the path that his life would take. They were quite thorough in their prayers.

I find this story touching. These sweet African women who have given their lives to serving the orphans understand something that I need to remember daily. There is a real enemy lurking about like a roaring lion seeking lives to snatch and destroy.

I treasure my babies' dedications and the pictures that I took at each one. They were like a rite of passage if not for my baby, for my husband and me as parents. But I am convicted by this story to become dedicated to covering my children in prayer daily. I need to have the spiritual eyes of these African sisters. There is so much at stake.

Your Nest Won't Always be Full

I wondered if I'd told my daughter everything she needed to know. I stood on the dorm steps and gave her one more last hug and kiss. I'd only had eighteen years with her and at that moment it didn't seem near long enough.

She pressed a letter into my hand and said, "Promise you won't read it until you get back to the hotel room."

Memories of a baby asleep in her crib, tea parties, piano recitals, and giggle-filled sleepovers cascaded through my mind. There must be a script or special recitation for moments like this. Instead, I just stood back and looked at her through my tears. I nodded, unable to talk even if I could think of anything to fill the empty space growing between us.

Back at the hotel room, I made coffee and settled down to read my daughter's farewell note.

It felt good that she appreciated all of the things I did as her mom. She had her memories, too. My daughter described special outings, family vacations and game nights. She was my drama queen and she recalled times that the two of us often stole away to live performances and productions in town. We could always talk, late into the night.

Her note ended with, "Thank you for giving me wings! Deuteronomy 32:11"

Grabbing my Bible I rustled through the pages.

Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spreads His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.

Laughing to myself, I understood her final message. I often told my daughter the story of the mother eagle.

Expecting young, the eagle prepares a down filled nest high in a rocky crag for protection. The eggs are laid and soon hatch. Early weeks find the mother eagle busy bringing food to her hatchlings. When the time is right the eagle begins to stir her nest.

She snatches the soft lining, leaving only sharp rocks and sticks beneath the eaglets. The wobbly babies hop to the edge of the nest, perching precariously. Mother eagle then does the unthinkable. She swoops down knocking one of the young to tumble down through the cavern. Untested in flight the eaglet struggles and begins to flap its wings. The mother eagle is not far away as she spreads her wings to swoop under her fledgling and catch him up for another trial flight.

The young eagle is soon flying. He finds his wings.

I knew my daughter would make it in college and in life. And I would, too. God would always be there to swoop under her and lift her back up. He was also the one who would go with me as I returned home to my empty nest.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Public Displays of Discipline

I was feeling pretty smug. I thought I had everything covered when I learned at the last minute that I had to take my two year old daughter with me to the eye doctor. I needed to be fitted with contacts and she really needed to be quiet and entertain herself.

Extra toys and little cardboard books went into the diaper bag. A small baggie of cheerios should help. I carried a miniature folding chair just her size. As an extra measure I put in.... THE WOODEN SPOON.

Now I didn't think I would need it but it's presence in the diaper bag would set that tone -- the one that said, "mind Mommy!"

It was going well. My daughter sat in the exam room in her own little chair. The doctor gave the eye exam and the nurse was teaching me how to care for the contact lenses. My back was to my little charge but I was aware that she was "reading" books and then rummaging through the diaper bag for toys and new books.

Suddenly we heard a loud whacking sound. We turned to see a tiny version of a hunched over ogre with drawn eyebrows and narrow beady eyes beating a table unmercifully with the wooden spoon. Now, my daughter had never even seen Star Wars, but her voice sounded just like Darth Vader as she growled, "Obey MOMMY!" And then an octave lower, "Obey MOMMY!" She then came out of her stage character and grinned impishly at us.

I chuckled uneasily. The nurse was not smiling.

"Where do these kids get this stuff?" I attempted to inject a little humor.

The nurse snapped my chart closed and informed me that my visit was done. I needed to come back without my daughter. She then proceeded to lecture on the long term effects of harm inflicted by Tupperware utensils.

I packed up the toys, the books, the diaper bag and the little chair and slunk from the office. I felt pretty small. I would never be able to explain that I didn't talk like Darth Vader when I corrected my daughter and I never beat her with Tupperware utensils. My image of a loving disciplinarian was probably shot for the day.

I realized that most people's reaction to corporal punishment is negative. The nurse immediately jumped to conclusions and my daughter's dramatic monologue didn't help.

I have a theory that most people have rarely seen discipline handled lovingly. They can't equate spanking with love. Therefore, they determine to talk their kids into good behavior with reasoning alone and without firm boundaries.

My daughter is now 24 and she thinks the story of her acting debut in the doctor's office is funny. She did not go into the theater as a career and you will be happy to know that she did not suffer any long term damage from cooking utensils. She regularly uses Tupperware in her kitchen. In fact, she plans to discipline her kids pretty much the same way she was disciplined - lovingly and firmly.

If you have questions, there are great books and resources out there on the subject of disciplining children with love.

My favorite books on the subject are:

Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Ted Tripp
Dare to Discipline, by Dr. James Dobson

A great online source is:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Created Helpless

God blessed me the other morning with the scene of a colt scampering about a meadow. I had driven by earlier so I knew he was brand new.

How amazing that within hours a little colt has the ability to stand, wobble and set off at a run. How different for humans.

When handed my firstborn in the hospital I was awestruck. The excitement of relatives visiting to see her was fun but when my mom left and I was alone a bit of panic set in. My daughter was so helpless and the realization that I had to care for her every need was overwhelming. I wondered why on earth God made babies so dependent.

I grew frustrated when my husband would ask each evening, "What did you do today?"

What did I do? I sat and fed my daughter mostly. In those early weeks it seemed to be a never ending task -- around the clock. I felt stuck to the couch. I didn't feel that I was accomplishing anything. I just sat and held her and she ate and stared into my face.

There had to be a reason for God's design of newborn helplessness in humans.

Then I stumbled on a bit of science trivia. Did you know that infants have a pretty limited ability to focus? They can see about 15 -18 inches. That is the distance from your elbow to your face. As I experienced the unblinking stare of my daughter as she ate I began to realize that I was accomplishing something - by design.

So let the laundry sit and dishes stack for awhile. There are some tasks that cannot be rushed. My baby needed to be held and stare into my face.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our First Baby was a Puppy

Our first baby was a sheltie puppy. He was photographed, walked and even slept in our room...until our first human baby was born. Shelby the sheltie was quickly out the door of our bedroom and into the laundry room. He was now a dog.

Our top concern was to protect "the baby" from the dog. Shelby had never been ignored so much or told NO so often. It was probably a pretty baffling time for the pup.

One evening when our new baby was a few weeks old my husband had her in the backyard. He took pity on the dog and began throwing a tennis ball for him to fetch. First he carefully placed the baby up on the picnic table in her little carrier seat.

After a few throws back and forth with the tennis ball the dog pulled a fast one. He ran toward my husband, dodged around him and was on top of the picnic table in a flash. He dropped that slobbery tennis ball right on the baby's belly. My husband panicked and then he heard a noise that he had never heard before --- our daughter's first laugh.

She peered up at Shelby's whiskered face and it was mutual love at first sight. Thus began a lifelong relationship that would last through teaparties, playing hair salon, and dress-up.

Did you know footie pajamas fit on a dog? We still aren't sure how our four year old got the pj's on the dog. If a dog could look sheepish, this one did. It just goes to show the depth of love that dog had for our daughter, even if she did upstage him in the very beginning.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Defend or Nurture

My little girls were delighted when their dad built them a swing set in the backyard. They "helped" him. They chattered all morning and all afternoon as he read and reread the instructions and assembled (and reassembled) their playset which came with an attached two story house.

Next door lived two little boys and their dad built them the same swingset from the same kit. They also helped their dad but with a lot less chatter. Their roof was a different color. That seemed to be the only difference and it was all we could see over the fence. These boys made a lot of noise once it was up. It sounded like all of the noises you would see printed on the old Batman movies - "Bam! - Powie!" There was always a lot of action and clanging of weapons - sounds of attacks and surrenders.

One day the boys climbed to the roof of their fort and peered down into our yard. Same swing set-different scene. My girls were quietly in the midst of a tea party on the front lawn of their playhouse. There were babies in cradles, babies in strollers and one in the swing. "Moms" were busy rocking, feeding and tending their little charges. Window boxes adorned the sides of the playhouse and curtains hung in the windows.

Same kit from the hardware store. In one yard it was a fort to be defended. In the other it was a home filled with baby dolls and nurturing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oldies & Goodies

What would make our two teenagers and our young adult daughter want to pile into the back of our sedan and go to Dairy Queen with us - their parents? Besides the promise of blizzards, it was the memories.

We have an old family tradition. It started when our fourth was born. It got crazy going out with two in high chairs plus two more wiggly kids. Instead, we piled into the minivan but we "ate in."

My husband would find the 50's music channel on the radio and we would pull into the old-fashioned hamburger drive-in where they still deliver the food while wearing roller skates. We didn't even have to get out of the car and everyone was together and happy.

Our kids were fascinated with the carhop's ability to balance food trays. I think they were secretly watching and waiting and hoping to see a big mess - one they didn't cause.

Tonight as we piled into the car we were a bit crowded. That minivan has become a gas conscious sedan and the kids' legs are all longer than ours. My husband found the 50's music on the radio and the kids started singing and remembering all of the many times in the past when we would have our oldies nights.

We drove to Dairy Queen but this time we went in. The kids were squished into one side of the booth, preferring that to one of them out in a chair. They were cutting up as I sat across from them, "treasuring" these memories in my heart.

In three weeks our second oldest will leave for her senior year of college and it has been a great summer - perhaps her last one at home. The years go by quickly and I am thankful for these family times.

When our kids are little and the floors are covered with toys and we are toting a diaper bag or two around it seems as if they can't grow up fast enough. But, they will grow up and all too quickly. It will be the fun memories that endure and the traditions you create that will draw you back together.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Planting Memories

How happy I was that spring afternoon when I took my 18-month old daughter outside and planted flowers in the front bed. God, children and gardening were all coming together for a special time.

I decided to throw in a little lesson on the importance of good soil and the evils of weeds and grubs. No time like early to start on those spiritual principles. And then there was water and fertilizer - I was sure I could find a spiritual tie in there. And who can forget sunshine - that was obvious -Sonshine.

I was so busy teaching that I was paying no attention to my little student. Finally I turned around and saw that she was staying right with me -following everything I was doing. As I put the flowers in, she was pulling them back out and lining them up on the sidewalk.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

WANTED: A Friend

My three-year-old daughter was lonely when we moved across the country. She was very concerned about making friends. On the first day in town we went to the utility company to have service started in our rent house. She walked up to a total stranger on the street, a businessman in a suit. She tugged his coat and asked, "Would you be my friend?"

That friend-finding technique failed so she tried step two. She invented one.

The first time that I learned of the extra person in the house was one day as I made lunch. My daughter insisted that I assemble an extra peanut butter sandwich for her friend. This sandwich had to be on a plate and include a napkin and a cup of juice. I was amused until I sat down at the table and my daughter growled, "You're sitting on him!"

This routine went on for several weeks. I asked my daughter lots of questions about her friend because I found it amusing. The friend had a name, favorite color and of course would only talk to my daughter. (I would have been worried of course if he did talk to me.) He would often tell her that he wanted extra cookies and juice. Hmmm!

My mother-in-law sent a newspaper article that claimed that children with invisible friends usually were lonely and of high inteligience. Okay, lonely I bought but the second part I would hold onto as a future hope.

Perhaps the high inteligience would mean a high income in the future and she could cover my gym membership at some point. If she didn't give this friend up soon I was going to need help working off all of those extra pbj's I was eating after lunch.

I'm Listening

Mornings start the day - for better or for worse. I always found that a peaceful beginning at least gave hope for a smooth day.

I used to play scripture songs on our intercom. Each morning my children would wake up to the sound of God's Word. Okay, it was a big house and I was saving a trip upstairs to wake them all. I didn't really think that the youngest was understanding the Bible stories but I knew it couldn't hurt.

After a few weeks of these morning songs, my five year old son got down from the bar in the middle of his breakfast and walked over to the sink where I stood washing dishes. My back was to him but I heard the saddest voice, "Look Mommy, I am a man of unclean lips."

Glancing down I saw his impish face, mouth painted with grape jelly and purple fingers waving in the air.

Let the little children come to Me. Even a child can hear and understand God's word.


Every mom needs a break during her day. One particularly stressful afternoon I escaped. I went to the one place I could close the door and lock out the activity - I thought. I went to the bathroom.

Just as I sat, I heard laughter in the walls. Banging and knocking began under the sink and out tumbled my two youngest children, ages 2 and 5, in a jumble of giggles. They were playing apartment under the sink and they were pretty pleased to see my shocked face.

Lesson Learned: ALWAYS check under the sink BEFORE you use the bathroom.