Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hard Things

Last year I came across a book entitled, Do Hard Things. I didn't read it, but I liked the title.

What a simple idea.

At the time I was preparing to do something I had dreaded for years: pack up my family and leave my motherland for the frozen tundra. Such an endeavor definitely seemed worthy of "hard things" status. In fact, maybe it was one of the hardest things anyone had ever done. I was pretty sure I should have been awarded some kind of "hard things" medal of honor.

I've realized recently, though, that it's not the grand, momentous things in life that are truly hard. Sure, it's difficult to move to a faraway land or, I imagine, to risk one's life as a missionary or to take a leap of faith in taking a new job or embarking on a new, scary endeavor.

But, you know what's harder?

Forgiving someone who's hurt you.

Humbly submitting to your spouse.

Loving unconditionally.

They're not gradiose or attention-grabbing. There's nothing sexy about the packaging of these challenges, so it's not likely that they'll garner you any applause or pats on the back. At least not by men.

Nevertheless, God honors them and counts them among the greatest acts to which a person can attain.

I'm struggling with a couple of these things right now. There's a person in my life whom I've felt hurt by and am pretty angry at, and I would like to just wallow in my self-pity, wrap up in my hurt feelings, and snuggle up to my righteous indignation. I am right, after all.

Unfortunately, God doesn't seem to care.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Mat. 5:44)

Um, sorry, God, that's a verse I like to apply to big things like Muslim/Christian relations. Or maybe even to how Christians are discriminated against by the government . . . but not to my friend who's hurt me.

And, so my conversation with God goes something like this:

"Pray for her."
"But, she hurt me and hasn't apologized.
"Reach out to her."
"But, SHE is wrong and I am right."
"But, I tell you . . . love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:2-28)
"I don't want to. It's hard."

Do hard things. Why doesn't anyone ever mention that it's harder to pray for someone who's hurt you than it is to give an extra tithe or to spend a summer doing mission work?

Love one another. Now that's hard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joshua's letter to Santa

This is the letter to Santa that Joshua wrote in school today:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rebel without a cause

Is it just me, or is the world being seriously dumbed down? Take a look at the antibiotic I got a couple of days ago.

It seems to me they could have just said, "Take two doses the first day and one dose for the next four days." That's not confusing. Not difficult to understand. Was the big circle around the first two pills really necessary? The arrow? The labeling of all the subsequent days?

As you can see, I chose to rebel against the insulting instructions and illustrations. I took the "Day 4" pill on day 3. So there.

I also sometimes refuse to put my seatbelt on just because I WON'T give in to the dinging sound my van makes when the driver's belt is not buckled. Doggonit, I'll buckle because it makes me safe and only because it makes me safe and NOT because the vehicle manufacturer decides I need to!

Perhaps I have a problem with authority?

Friday, December 18, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


So, I went to the doctor yesterday because I thought I had a kidney infection. Turns out I have pneumonia. That's right. Who mistakes pneumonia for a kidney infection?? It's almost like my imaginary medical degree isn't worth the paper it's not written on.


Of course my timing is impeccable, as usual. We're supposed to have a Christmas party at our house tomorrow night. I'm trying my hardest to make it still happen. Don't worry, mom, I won't overdo it. I'm only cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, and taking care of the kids. Nothing to fret over. Seriously, you know me and a party. Once we've been introduced, we're not easily torn asunder.

So, I'm pulling myself up by the bootstraps (which is difficult because my boots, cute as they are not, don't even have straps) and trying to move ahead with the party. I've always been one to put up a fight. Unless it involved something I really didn't want to do anyway, like clean out my laundry room; then, I'm pretty easily put down.


Thank you, thank you, thank you to my sweet friend Jenny for helping me out in my crisis yesterday. Not only did she keep Lauren the whole day so I could take some knock-me-out-and-make-me-feel-better-pills, she also let the boys ride the bus to her house after school, and then play at her house until suppertime. What a friend!

While being blessed by such awesomeness, I almost felt for a moment like maybe I can really survive living here without my mom. Almost.


So, one of my favorite blogs is hosting one of my favorite giveaways ever. Sarah is giving away an adorable apron from Jessie Steele. I actually asked David for one of these for Christmas weeks ago, so much do I love them.

I know what you're thinking: isn't being a good cook sort of a prerequisite for loving aprons? Nay, nay, my friend. I may be a lousy cook, but I'm an excellent baker. Plus, I bet if I owned such an adorable apron, I'd become a better cook. I'm pretty sure that's all I'm missing.

If you like the aprons, head over to Sarah's blog and enter the giveaway. Even if you don't, you'll be glad you checked out her blog.


I never did post pictures from our Buffalo weekend. This is the kids with the animal "skins" they selected at the Build-a-Bear workshop.

And, here is Joshua putting the stuffing in his:

The rest of the pictures turned out sort of yellow for some reason, and I am not up to editing this morning, so that will have to do.


On the way home from Buffalo, we went skating with the youth from our church. I'm pretty sure this is the most adorable roller skater there has ever been.

Thank you to the person who told me that you can ask to have your kids' wheels tightened so that they barely turn. This brilliant piece of advice saved my back from much pain and suffering.


Some of my favorite Christmas lyrics to meditate on:

Long lay the world in sin and error, pining
'Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was Born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Has your soul felt its worth this Christmas? Find it in Christ.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

I enjoy the gaiety of the Christmas season as much as the next person, but I have to admit I'm finding it harder and harder to keep a reflective spirit this time of year.

Radio stations, in an effort to spread "holiday cheer," play so-called Christmas music round-the-clock. But, how many of these songs have anything to do with the birth of our Savior? How many of them speak of joy and good cheer but don't point listeners to the only Source of lasting joy? We hear of good tidings to men, but do we reflect on just how good the news really is?

While there's nothing wrong with "Frosty the Snowman" or "Jingle Bell Rock," I find myself thinking that we have let the pendulum swing way too far with the holiday songs and not far enough with the sacred.

One of my favorite things about our church in Georgia is the music. The wealth of timeless songs with deep, spiritually reflective lyrics. One of my favorite Christmas hymns that I just learned last year is Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. (Click the link to hear the beautiful melody.)

Based on Habakkuk 2:20, the words to this song were originally penned in the 4th century. (It was translated into English 1500 years later.)

I need the reminder that we are marking the birth of a sovereign God, and this is no trivial event. In fact, if we had any comprehension, any true understanding of what this means, it would render us speechless.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow (A Wordless Wednesday)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Creations by Us

Joshua built his first snowman yesterday. Here's Josh with Frosty and the two neighbor kids who helped him build it:

And, here are the Christmas tree snacks I made for Ethan's class for tomorrow. Each month the teacher assigns each student one "special day," during which that student bring an item (or twelve) for show & tell as well as a special snack for the class. It doesn't have to be a big deal, but I saw these in a magazine and just needed an opportunity to make them. (They are upside-down sugar cones.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A true feast

One of my favorite things about staying in a hotel is the breakfast buffet. Yeah, I know, that's kind of sad, but it factors significantly into my choice of hotels. The buffet in Buffalo last week did not disappoint.

We had eaten a rather early dinner the night before and had accidentally left the bag of snacks in the car. Since it was 20 degrees outside, neither David nor I jumped at the chance to retrieve the snacks, so the kids had to endure - gasp! - and entire night without snacks.

The happy result of this was that at breakfast the next morning, they were famished. They ate everything they put on their plates and then some. No chiding, no scolding, no negotiating how many more bites they had to eat. (This is only ever an issue with Ethan and Lauren; Josh is the world's best eater.) Apparently, when we're at home, I let my kids snack too often, because at lunch the same thing happened. We spent the entire morning shopping, so it was a bit late by the time we went to lunch, and they had once again had no snacks. They cleaned their lunch plates in record time.

This was sadly like an epiphany for me: when the kids are hungry, they will eat. Huh.

As I was considering this groundbreaking newsflash, I couldn't help but think about my own spiritual state. Too often I fill myself up with things other than the Bread of Life, and inevitably my appetite for Him wanes. I snack on worship music, spiritual readings, and fellowship with the saints.

Oh, it looks like a good diet, chock-full of vitamins and nutrients, but the truth is those things are meant as supplements. Side items. Christ is the feast, the only food that gives life. May I always hunger for Him.

"For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." John 6:33

Friday, December 11, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


Lauren and I were making her construction paper prayer chain a couple of days ago, and as we were thinking of people to put on each link, she told me she wanted to pray for Grandma Nita. Grandma Nita was my step-grandmother, who died of cancer this summer. I guess Lauren just remembered praying for her often and putting her on the chain last year. I told the kids about her death this summer, but since we were in Pennsylvania we didn't go to her funeral, which was in Tennessee, so I guess it just didn't register with Lauren that she was dead.

"Lauren," I said, "Grandma Nita died, remember? She had cancer and was very sick, and she died."
With the most stricken look, Lauren said, "Grandma Nita's DEAD?"
"Yes, sweetie, she died."
"She can't talk anymore?" she asked with anguish in her voice and then broke down sobbing.

I felt so bad for her. I guess she didn't really understand what it meant before.

It must be so hard to comprehend death when you're four. For that matter, it's hard to comprehend it at thirty-four.


Speaking of praying for people, that is one of my favorite things about sending out Christmas cards every year. I end up seeing the names on mine several times because I first address them all, then I put stamps and return address labels on all of them, and then I seal them right before I take them to the post office.

It's such a blessing to me to see the names of people I cherish and have been so blessed by. I love thinking of each family and praying for them as I prepare the cards.

(And yes, by "prepare the cards," I mean only addressing, stamping, and sealing. I use photo cards with a printed greeting, and I'm not ashamed of it!)


Why are socks sold in resealable bags? Does anyone actually put the socks back in the bag? Or take out just one pair and seal it back up? I'm baffled by this.


Ethan, age five, to Joshua as he made a bank-shot to get his dirty socks into the clothes hamper: "Dude, you're awesome!"

When did my five year-old start sounding like a surfer?


Also Ethan: While riding in the van the other day, he said excitedly, "Mom, can we make some figgy pudding when we get home?"

"I don't know how to make figgy pudding, bud."
"Well, I do."
"You do? Did you learn at school?"
"No, I just know."
"Well, how do you make it?"
"You put some fig newtons in some pudding," were his words, but his tone clearly communicated, "Duh, mom!"


We've just arrived home from the elementary school Christmas concert. This consisted of songs sung by the kindergarten and first graders (Josh and Ethan were both appropriately adorable) and a performance by the 5th and 6th grade band.

I have to tell you, 5th and 6th grade band director is one job I would not like to have. Can you imagine??? Every day???

I think I will add that poor man's name to Lauren's prayer chain.


Advent Reflection

We most often read the account of the nativity found in Luke, but I love how the account in Matthew begins:

"Now this is how the birth of the Messiah came about. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit."

I love that. Here is how the Savior of the world came to be: in what looks like the most unholy, unrighteous of circumstances, He came.

It couldn't have been more scandalous. Mary was unmarried.
It couldn't have been more unlikely: Mary was young and poor.
It couldn't have been more impossible: Mary was a virgin.
It couldn't have been more unexpected: As far as we know, four hundred years had passed since since God had spoken.

But, this is how the Messiah entered the world.

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Things I Did Not Know About Snow

1. When it rains on top of six inches of snow, that soft, fluffy snow turns into six inches of ice.

2. You cannot build a snowman out of ice.

3. When the snowplow drives by, it blows lots and lots of snow next to your car (which is parked on the street in front of your house) so that you cannot open your car door or pull out onto the street without a shovel.

4. The snowbrush I bought is about as effective as getting snow off my car with a toothbrush.

5. You MUST brush the snow off the top of the car over your door BEFORE opening the door. I keep finding this out the hard way. Maybe now that I've written it, I'll remember.

6. There is not a magical snow barrier around my front porch. Everything on it is now covered with snow and ice. Why did I think that wouldn't happen?

7. The mailman really does deliver in rain, hail, sleet, or snow. I feel like I should clear a path for him because our mailbox is on the side porch of our house, which we never use so we don't clear it. Do people clear paths just for the mailman?

8. Catching snowflakes on one's tongue is a timeless tradition. (Okay, I probably did know that one.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beauty Revealed

As I was driving through our newly blanketed town today, I couldn't help but think how pretty everything looks in the snow. It may be tough to walk through, difficult to drive in, and beyond annoying to get off of my kitchen floor, but at least it's pretty.

In fact, I bet you could take the most abandoned and run-down looking of shacks and cover it with snow, and it would look beautiful. Something about the pristine whiteness of newly fallen snow just overshadows everything else about the object on which it falls and reveals its true beauty.

Reminds me of the blood of a Savior I know.

Speaking of the Messiah to come, Isaiah wrote:

The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted . . . to give those who mourn in Zion beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of fainting, so they will be called oaks of righteousness, planted by the Lord, so that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Lord, thank you that you came to rescue me and to cover me with your beautiful blood.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Perfectly Poetical Tuesday

I thought I'd give this a try again this month since it's a pretty simple style of poetry again. This month's assignment is a couplet.

A princess, lovely, kind, and full of grace,
Caring not that she has chocolate all over her face.

Visit The Little Stuff of Life for more - better! - poems.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Footprints in the snow

Lauren, upon seeing the large spot devoid of snow because David's car had been parked there:

"Wow! Mommy, look at that HUGE footprint!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Make Way for the King of Glory

Lift up your heads, O gates
and be lifted up, O ancient doors
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates
and be lifted up, O ancient doors
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

Psalm 24:7-10

Lord, prepare my heart for the King of Glory who has come to rule and reign and who, someday, will come again. Let my head be lifted up in praise to You, O King.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our weekend excursion

Lauren got a gift certificate to Build-A-Bear for her birthday, so last week we told the kids that we would go to Buffalo (the nearest honest-to-goodness mega-mall) on Saturday (today) to let her use it.

What we didn't tell them was that we were actually going up on Friday afternoon to spend the night in a hotel with an indoor pool first. When the boys got home from school yesterday, I had the suitcases sitting in the kitchen ready to go. It was so much fun to surprise them.

I told Lauren about it yesterday morning, and she said, "When Joshandethan get home, I'm going to say, 'Guess where we're going! It starts with h-o-t-e-l!'" (She made the sound for each letter, basically saying the word very slowly.) "They'll never guess!"

So it was that we headed out of town around 3:30 yesterday afternoon - after jumpstarting my van because it seems to have a fear of travel and dies every time I'm pulling out on a trip.

I'd love for you to have the full experience of being there with us, so imagine as you're reading this post that you are interrupted every 70 seconds or so by, "Are we almost there?" "How much farther?" "She's getting a longer turn with the Leapster than I had!" "I'm hungry." "I don't like this song." "I'm thirsty." "I need to go to the bathroom."

Make sure you imagine it the loudest, whiniest voice possible and that you imagine your husband asleep in the passenger seat as you drive. (Though he has an uncanny ability to tell me, while sleeping, what the speed limit is every ten minutes.)

Arrived at hotel, ate some takeout from Applebee's. Next stop: the indoor pool.

Wouldn't you assume if a hotel - in Buffalo, NY - advertised that it had an indoor pool, that said pool would be heated? Yeah, me too. Sadly, we would both be mistaken. Ohmygod, it was cold. Send shivers down your spine cold. The kids and David managed to acclimate to it, but it never ceased to feel like sheer torture to me.

When I couldn't take it anymore, I decided to try the hot tub. David and the kids joined me as I dipped my legs into the scaldingly hot water that felt like a million needles piercing my frozen skin. Again, David acclimated and climbed in all the way. I sat on the side with my legs in. I admitted that it was feeling less painful over time, but I was pretty sure that was just because I'd lost all feeling. Ethan and Lauren did the same thing, but Joshua insisted it was fine and got in all the way.

While this was going on, another lady who was using the hot tub decided to go see if there was a way to turn on the jets. She came back and told us that there was a hot water alarm going off and a sign saying, "If alarm is sounding, do not under any circumstances use whirlpool."

Oops. Pround Parenting Moment #5872.

The rest of the weekend went well, and we all had a great time. Here are the high's and low's.

  • Five people sharing two beds. (Three of those people appear to have approximately 48 elbows and knees.)
  • Keeping track of three kids in an enormous mall three weeks before Christmas. While carrying three giant Build-A-Bear boxes. While also toting my purse that weighs 15 lbs, I kid you not, because it contained my digital SLR camera, my camcorder, my wallet containing every receipt or coupon I've possessed in the past seventeen years, my makeup, and six orphans.
  • Twenty thousand people in one Build-A-Bear store. One checkout line.
  • Lots . . . and lots . . . and lots of trips to public restrooms.
  • Five people. One minivan. Lots of whining.

  • Seeing the kids' excitement as they chose their stuffed animal skins. (I had not given the boys a definite answer as to whether I would let them "build" one as well, since this was for Lauren's birthday. Tonight as I was putting Josh to bed with his newly stuffed snow leopard, he said in the most grateful voice ever, "Mom, thank you for letting us do these.")
  • Snuggling with the kids as we watched tv in bed until 11 pm.
  • The massive continental breakfast. (I'm pretty sure buffets are a bad idea for Joshua, who has no "stop" button when it comes to eating. "I'm just gonna go see what else there is," he must have said a dozen times. All told, he had a large belgian waffle, a bowl of fruit loops, a cup of yogurt, some bacon, a danish, and about a quarter of an apple.)
  • Adding another suprise to the end of the day . . . we met the kids and youth from our church at a roller skating rink about 45 minutes from home for Family Skating. Our kids have not been skating since we moved and were THRILLED.
  • Eating at restaurants, none of which starts with Mc.
  • Target.
  • Playing games in the car with the kids. When they weren't whining.
  • Seeing Ethan's face light up when he realized that he had not forgotten how to swim. "Mom, I can still swim!!"
  • Josh's enthusiasm for the ice machine in the hotel. I think we could have just skipped everything else and let him fill the ice bucket all weekend.
  • The milkshake at Fudrucker's.
  • Lauren's delight as she roller skated - on the actual rink, not just the carpet - for the first time.
  • Making memories with my four favorite people on the planet.
Clearly, the high's significantly outweigh the low's. Thank you, God.

Friday, December 4, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


While driving Lauren to ballet last week, I noticed that there were a couple of guys wearing reflective vests and directing traffic, but I couldn't find any sign of road construction. It appeared they were directing traffic into some sort of wide driveway/parking area just off the main road.


On the way home, I was able to look a little more closely and saw that there were large signs on either side of the driveway that read, "Bear Checkpoint ---->" and "Bear Weigh-In."

Ah, that's right. Last week, for three days, it was bear-hunting season.


Lauren was an hour late for school this morning. Not because we had some pressing appointment or some kind of crisis or anything else going on.

I just forgot to take her. Who forgets to take their kid to school??!! (In my defense, she only goes three days a week . . . but she's been going those same three days since early September.)

I did impress myself once I realized it, though. I remembered it at 9:06 when I was IN the bathtub, not yet having washed my hair, yet I managed to drop her off at school at 9:19. Not bad if I do say so myself.


We took the kids on a train ride the day after Thanksgiving. It was supposed to be a "Polar Express," so the kids wore their pajamas, and we rode to the "North Pole" to pick up Santa. Then he rode with us on the way back and gave all of the kids a silver bell. It was cute . . . though without snow it didn't seem very North Pole-ish.


If you look closely at Joshua in that last picture, you'll notice that he has a t-shirt on under his pajamas. That's because, as I found out when I offered him that pajama shirt, any shirt with an applique on it is the "most irritating thing in the whole wide world. AAAUGGGHHHH"

Socks inside out? Check. T-shirt under annoying shirt? Check.


Maybe it's his artistic nature that makes him so sensitive to how everything feels. Check out his latest picture that he brought home from art class this week:

(I can't fit the whole picture in my scanner, so it's a little cut off.)


While I'm bragging on kids, Ethan brought home another perfect behavior certificate yesterday for the month of November. That makes the entire school year so far without a color strip (the school's discipline system).

Actually, it makes a whole year of perfect behavior so far for both boys. Josh's class just doesn't give out certificates of honor.


Today's Advent reflection. (I should note that I am not following the liturgical calendar with any of these. This is actually a prayer for the final Sunday where you light the Christmas candle and celebrate Christ's birth, but, it's one that I love this morning. And I'm not catholic, anyway.)

As you go about your day toady, consider these reasons we have to rejoice.

Let the just rejoice,
for their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice!

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent reflections

I love Advent.

The anticipation, the excitement, the longing.

What must it have been like to wait and hope for the Messiah? To cling to a promise given centuries before that someday he would come?

How amazing it is to have an AD vantage point, knowing that the Great Rescuer would be God himself. I'm sure the Israelites never saw that one coming. They watched and waited and prayed for a Messiah to appear, but how many thought God himself would come?

How many recognized when He did?

Simeon is one of my favorite people in the Bible, because he felt what we feel.


I know most people in non-liturgical churches don't participate in Advent, but I challenge you to consider it. Consider how it encourages a reflection of our hearts as we wait for our Savior. How it creates a sense of wonder and expectancy. How much more meaningful Christmas morning is when we have been "counting down" in a spiritual sense and not just a secular one.

Though we do the "secular" as well, but with a twist.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions with my kids is the construction paper countdown chain. Super-spiritual, right? Well, yes. It can be. We sit down together, and the kids think of people and things they want to pray for, and we write one on each link. Then each night as we cut off a link at bedtime, we pray for the person or thing that was on that link.

It's not a traditional advent ritual, but it helps in taking their focus off of me, myself, and I, and turns their hearts toward others.

During the time between now and Christmas, I will be sharing thoughts to reflect on most days. Some will be scriptures, some prayers, some Advent readings, and others lyrics from hymns.

I'll start today with some words from one of my favorite hymns: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art.
Dear Desire of every Nation, joy of every longing heart.

Joy to those who long to see Thee, Dayspring from on high appear.
Come, thou promised rod of Jesse; of Thy birth we long to hear.
O'er the hills the angels singing, news glad tidings of a birth:
"Go to Him, your praises bringing; Christ the Lord has come to earth!"