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.