December 28, 2011

I've been:

eating

baby snuggling

diaper changing

game playing

laughing

sleeping

worrying

cooking

cleaning

surrendering

listening

watching

thinking

fat little cheek kissing

giving & receiving

watching my baby take care of his baby

learning

remembering

relaxing

wondering

planning

praying

missing

thanking

rejoicing

How about you? What have you been up to?

December 23, 2011

Merry, Merry Chirstmas!

I went out for coffee with a friend yesterday. When we were finished laughing and crying, trusting and talking, listening and dreaming, I ran an errand. I can't recall seeing one smile while I was out there. Every person I saw looked angry, sad or weary. I wanted to take them all home-really, I did. I wanted to give each one of them a cup of coffee and a Christmas cookie, a hug and hope.

This is not all there is I wanted to tell them. This is just a passing through place; this is hard and wearisome and it's a scary place, but it is not the place.

I wanted to tell them God loves them. If we could see beyond the seeable we would know that and it could be possible to laugh at this. Maybe? If we could see eternity and heaven
now, while we're going through whatever it is we're going through, life would take on a different hue, wouldn't it?

The best part of everything is that it's possible to have hope even while we're here, just passing through. Jesus made the way for us. And yes, I am going to say it: "that's what Christmas is all about." His birth which lead to His death which leads to our hope-

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

That's all I have for you today. A prayer that you will see the unseeable and find that hope.

Merry, Merry Christmas to you!

December 22, 2011

December 22

My dad died today. Oh, not literally. It was literally 9 years ago today.

I was thinking about him when I wrote yesterday's post. Do you know I still miss him? There will always be a hole in my heart that longs for his voice and his hugs and his big, warm, rough hand wrapped around mine. I guess there will always be a little girl hiding inside, needing her daddy.

I could focus on all that. I could really get into it and have a whopper of a pity party. Did you ever see the Lord of the Rings trilogy? For three years after dad died I had an Orc screaming in my heart. Not only was the adult me mourning his leaving, the little girl inside suddenly realized there was no hope of ever, ever having a daddy.

Death and grieving are strange things to me. The hurt is still there and I still miss him. The Orc has finally shut up though, which is nice. I don't miss him one bit. What's strange about death and grief is that for me, in this case, I have so much joy inside and so much to be thankful for even though...

I learned so much from my dad. He was practical, he was wise, he knew how to balance his time and used it wisely, and his faith...his faith was true and deep and everything I want mine to be. How did he get there??

When he found out he had lung cancer he calmly told us about it and calmly asked for prayer. He said, "If the Lord wants to heal me, that'd be great. If not, that's ok. It's up to Him and I'm ready to go home if that's what He wants."

I watched dad as he lived out the next two years. He never seemed to focus on the cancer or the fact that he was probably going to die. He still served, he still encouraged, he still laughed and carved and prayed for people and played games. He found joy in his days and would not allow fear or sorrow to overshadow here and now.

The timing of his death could be called untimely by some. Three days before Christmas; really? I could focus on that and have another wonderful little pity party every. single. year.

I don't though. The timing was sweet to me. His visitation and memorial were surrounded by Christ and Christmas, evergreen wreaths and bright, happy Christmas trees. It's a time of rejoicing and that's what I do when December 22 pops up each year. It is a sad sort-of rejoicing, but it is rejoicing. My dad is safely Home. He spends his days with Jesus now where there is no sorrow, no more tears, no more sin. He finished his race well.

I hope I do.

December 21, 2011

the perfect slap

They say confession is good for the soul so I'm going to fess up here and now:

For the last few years just the thought of Christmas has thrown me into a deep depression. I dreaded the day I had to flip the calendar from November to December and tried to ignore the fact that the 25th was there, right down toward the bottom of the page. My heart was heavy and tears would frequently find their way down my cheeks as the days passed.

A few weeks ago it was really bad. I was miserable and spent my free-thinking time freely thinking miserable thoughts.

I told a few people how I felt and I got a few sympathetic hugs or words of encouragement from them. Did that help? Nope. Not a bit.

Finally, one day I woke up with tears in my eyes. The only other time I woke up weeping was the morning after my my mom had died.

I spent some time that day chatting with a friend and in the course of our chat I mentioned my depression.
"So, why are you so depressed?" my friend asked.

Ha! Now was my chance!
"Well," I replied, "Christmas carols make me feel lonely, my parents are dead, my sons have grown up, money is tight, our whole extended family lives west of the Mississippi...." on and on I babbled.

Finally I stopped and my friend said,
"Judy, are you taking drugs for your depression?"

Drugs?? For my depression??

I sat here and froze inside. I stared at the computer, startled. Have you ever seen an old movie where a hysterical female gets slapped across the face by her friend in order to stop her screaming? That is how I felt. It was the perfect slap, delivered casually, almost in passing, but boy howdy, did it stop me in my tracks.

It was one of the most convicting moments I've had in a very long time.

I just thought, Oh Jesus, I am so, so sorry. You have blessed and given and hugged me so deeply and so often- I feel like I've thrown your love and your gifts to me down in the mud and stomped on them. All I've been doing is focusing on me...focusing on the negatives...focusing on what I don't have. Please, please forgive me...."

Way back last summer I started reading a book called 1000 Gifts by Anne Voskamp. Have you read it? I won't go into all of it now, but it's a very good book. Anne challenges her readers to look for God everywhere, all day, in every circumstance and in every moment. Here is a trailer to the book on youtube. (Please, take 4 minutes and 20 seconds out of your day and watch it. It's so worth it....)

Anyway-another thing Anne challenges her readers to do is actually list the gifts you see God giving you each day by writing them down. I started doing that last summer but I quickly discovered something. I couldn't get away from the notebook I was writing in. Every single minute held something to be thankful for. I could see God's hand all over the place. I could see His hugs everywhere. I even saw Him in the hard things and the stressful things. I could not stop writing so I did stop. I had to walk away from the notebook in order to teach, or cook, or throw a load of laundry in the washer...

I spent a lot of time talking to God though; a lot of time thanking Him for the sweet gifts I was seeing in my life.

As autumn progressed I stopped reading the book and then as November turned into December I stopped looking for God as much. I wasn't focused on Him; I started focusing on me and my not-so-happy little thoughts and you saw up there the result of that.

I will confess I still have my December moments, but since that slap that's all they've been-moments. When I focus on the Lord and search for Him, I find Him all over my life. This has been the happiest, most peace-filled December I've had in at least 7 years. I've loved decorating and shopping, cleaning and planning what to bake. I've even loved the gloomy grey Indiana weather.

Let me guess. You are thinking, wow, this woman is bi-polar. I'm not though. The bible promises us that when we are focused on Him rather than self, and we thank Him for His gifts and His love, we will have joy.

A well timed slap doesn't hurt either.

December 20, 2011

a tumbleweed

Do you remember the Christmas trees your family had when you were little? Were you allowed to help decorate the tree or was that something that was done after you'd gone to bed?

The Christmas trees we had when I was small were huge, and not just because I wasn't. Our living room was large and mom wanted a tree worthy of the room. She had the most beautiful vintage ornaments to put on the tree, and there were a lot of them. Oh, and bubble lights! Remember those? And tinsel and another string of lights that didn't twinkle-the bulbs were so large they shot bright, happy color out into the room.

I wasn't allowed to touch the ornaments or help put them on the tree. They were too expensive and too delicate for my chubby little fingers to handle. I just remember waking up some December morning, coming down the stairs and there it was: The Tree, sparkling, shiny and smiling; happy to be a part of our family even if only for a few weeks.

The first Christmas mom and I shared after my parents' divorce found us in a completely different circumstance. We were poor, we were living in a tiny "cabin" in the mountains of Colorado, and there was no money or room for a tree of any size at all.

We had found a smallish tumbleweed during one of our drives and had fallen in love with it. Since we were from the Midwest we'd never seen one before, so for us, that tumbleweed was a treasure. We kept it and brought it home as one of our first Colorado souvenirs.

Well, as December rolled around I started thinking about Christmas and presents, all the baking mom used to do and of course, The Tree. We just didn't have room for one. Finally one evening, as mom sat in a chair she spotted our tumbleweed.

"Jude, why don't we use the tumbleweed for a tree?! I'll betcha no one else in the world has ever had a tumbleweed tree!"

So, that's what we did. Mom helped me prop the tumbleweed inside a coffee can. We took rocks and piled them up inside the can so the thing wouldn't fall over and then, much to my joy, mom let me decorate our "tree" all by myself. I found some red yarn and braided it together to make a garland; I carefully draped that over the delicate little twigs of the tumbleweed. Then I took toothpicks and made tiny god's eyes with more yarn and hung those from the branches.

Our little tree didn't have vintage ornaments or bubble lights. It didn't have any lights at all. But that tumbleweed is a tree I still remember and that memory is one I still treasure. My Mom could turn the most dreary circumstance into a happy moment with a cheerful word or two and her optimistic attitude and that's what she did that Christmas. She took what could've been a lonely, depressing moment in time and turned into something special. She made me feel like we were the lucky ones and gave me an irreplaceable memory.

December 19, 2011

one tiny moment

Have you ever had a moment in your life you wish would've lasted longer? Maybe it was just a tiny, fleeting moment but it was so precious it became a part of your soul and it actually hurt when the moment ended? Or maybe you've done something and while you were doing it you thought, wow, this is what I was made for.

Yesterday morning I sat in a chair and held my baby granddaughter while she slept. Her little bottom was poking out and her warm, soft hand was wrapped around my neck. Her face was turned toward mine and her rosy lips were puckered in the most kissable way; occasionally she would smile at a dream only she was privy to.

I know this will sound awfully sappy, but I cried while I held her...it was just one of those tiny moments...

December 13, 2011

A Romantic Little Christmas Story

I hope you don't mind if I hand you something I wrote a couple years ago. It's a true story; it's the story of how my second son proposed. I hope you enjoy it.

#2, although he's only 21, was pretty nearly convinced "she" would never come along. He'd been praying for "her" and wondering about "her" for years. Yes, I said years.
Two weeks into their acquaintance they both knew for certain they were meant for each other. My son drove out to our house one afternoon to tell us the news. Once we stopped laughing we realized he was serious. He'd met "The One."

Anyway-he controlled himself and managed to wait 6 months to propose. He spent the day before he popped the question at home, here, with me. It's a day I will never forget. He'd come home to show me The Ring. I've never seen anyone more excited and nervous about anything.

Actually, he wasn't nervous about asking H. to be his wife. It was The Talk with her father that was giving him the shivers. He tried to put that out of his head while he sat here visiting with me and putting together a little gift for H. that would help his cause.

What he did was this: H.'s favorite color is blue, so, #2 found a box and covered it with blue scrapbook paper. Then he gathered together a huge stack of blue scrapbook papers and cut them into squares that would fit just right into the box. He even clipped one corner of each paper so she could lift them out of the box one by one.
On each square he wrote a different reason why he loves her. As he sat on the couch writing and thinking I watched him. He was so sweet. He put so much thought into each note. This little project took all afternoon-not because he couldn't think of enough reasons to marry this girl, but because of the ring. It sat there, quietly minding its own business, nestled in its little box, waiting for Her. But occasionally that ring would call out my son's name. He'd stop writing, look at the box, pick it up, open it, look at the ring and smile. His heart would stop, he'd take a deep breath, close the box, and continue writing. Even when he didn't pay any attention to the ring's call, he would sometimes stop and just grin at the box. He passed away the afternoon in this manner while I was allowed the sweet privilege of peeking into my grown son's heart.

The next day was a little more nerve wracking for him. It was the day he planned to have "The Talk" with her father. That's enough to make any boy shiver in his boots and I don't think there was too much grinning going on. However he did it.

Then it was on to the next step. Asking H. to be his bride. He had planned on asking her to marry him while they sipped hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire, cuddled up under a Christmas tree. However, he was afraid that, in their excitement, her family wouldn't be able to keep the secret and would tell her about it before he had a chance to ask. So, on to plan B.

That same night, after talking to her father, son #2 found himself sitting in a little coffee shop waiting for H. to get off work. A little Christmas tree twinkled in the corner, and carols were playing over the loudspeaker.

At the same time, my husband, son #3 and I were here, at home, doing our usual who-knows-what. Suddenly the phone rang-it was #2. He wanted to know the names of some of the top romantic songs that had ever been sung. He was sitting in that coffee shop putting together a CD of romantic music to further his cause even more. We googled and reminisced and came up with several titles for the boy, then hung up.

I will tell you here and now I didn't sleep very well that night. I wanted to be a little mouse trailing after my son, watching this biggest moment of his life play out...thankfully he's very open with us and was willing to share The Proposal with us. (After the fact, of course)

So here's what happened: when H. got off work #2 was there to pick her up. She was hungry, tired, and feeling a bit discouraged about life. He was pent up, nervous, and excited-he wanted to pop the question then and there. He wisely decided to control himself and let the poor girl eat and regroup first. When he saw that she was feeling better he popped the CD in, gave her some flowers, the box of little notes, and then started driving around "to look at all the Christmas lights".

As he drove he kept a careful eye on that pile of notes. When she got to the end he planned on that moment to ask her to share his life with him. The Ring was hiding in the pocket of his car door, not only whispering his name, but filling his heart with joy and excitement.

Finally he saw that the stack of notes was getting low-I'm not sure how on earth he planned this part, but #2 found a little pond with Christmas lights glowing all around it. He whipped his car into the parking area near the pond and parked. By this time H. was teary-the box had done its trick and melted her heart. Son leaned over to give her a hug as a tear or two made their way down his cheeks as well.

"H., will you marry me?"
The tears stopped. She sat up. "What did you say? You told me....how did you...."
She was totally surprised. Totally taken off guard...

So, there you have it. (Maybe someday son #1 will let me share his story with you.)

December 12, 2011

winding down and gearing up

I've been here, at home, raising and teaching boys for half my life. That's a long (long) time. And now, as my 21st year of home schooling approaches its middle mark, I can clearly see the end of my career out there in the distance. My last little guy is half way through 4th grade and in 8 short years we'll be handing him a diploma...

Already that little person is growing in independence. He's taking the initiative when it comes to starting school in the morning, reading the instructions for his lessons, and even doing extra school work just "because it's fun, Momma!" (no, I do not think this is normal behavior)

I can still remember how it felt to have 3 students in the house and a toddler running around. Every minute was filled with to-do's, and my should-do-but-I-can't-figure-out-when list was a heavy weight on my shoulders.

But now? Things are winding down....ending....coming to a close. As each school book is completed I'm not putting it on a shelf "for next year". I'm either packing it away in case any of our grandchildren are home schooled, or giving books away because...because they will never again be needed in this house.

I'm sorting through 40 years (collectively speaking) of school work and art work and little boy stories, written in little boy scribbles, on scrap paper or school paper; trying to decide which memories are worth hanging onto and which ones to release.

Sometimes I feel like one of those completed school books. I'm still alive, still useful, still worth hanging onto. But I must admit and face the facts-I'm not needed like I once was. In some ways it feels like my purpose is winding down.

However, lately God has sweetly been encouraging me and showing me something. I've not come to the end. I've come to a yellow light and in a few short years, a red one. But I've noticed something about traffic lights. They're always changing color. Yellow doesn't stay yellow for long, and the red one soon turns to green.

The road I've been traveling at break neck pace may come to an end, but it's not a dead end. God has big sleeves and I know there's something up one of them just for me. I don't know what my new purpose will be, but God has been allowing me to see, in tiny ways, that there is one.

The last 10 years of our lives were really, really hard and raising and teaching 4 boys wasn't always easy. I'm resting now; praying, waiting, doing what I know to do. I'm looking forward and gearing up, waiting for the next thing.

That's all I have for today....just some miscellaneous ramblings....thoughts from my head and thoughts from my heart.

December 10, 2011

The Day Santa Died

How old were you when you stopped believing in Santa Claus? 7? 9? I wanted to believe in him. I wanted to believe there was someone out there who could make my little girl dreams come true and give me all that my selfish heart desired.

I had good old Santa up there on a pedestal all right. I knew that I knew that I knew he was sweet and kind and good as gold. He never did anything naughty. How could he expect me to live that way if he didn't? That wouldn't be fair.

Unfortunately, I was only 5 when I sadly learned the truth. Santa wasn't magical and he certainly wasn't good as gold. He was our neighbor.

My parents were really good friends with a couple in our neighborhood and like all good friends, they had fun together and sometimes did crazy things for each other.

One Christmas, (the year I was 5) my dad and our neighbor decided to help each other out and have some fun in the process. They rented a Santa suit and took turns using it. My dad put the suit on, hoisted a bag of presents over his shoulder and went to our neighbor's house. He sat in their livingroom ho ho ho-ing and being jolly as he passed out presents to the kids in the family.

Then my dad and our neighbor made the switch. Our neighbor put on the suit and came to our house with a bag of goodies just for me. I remember the moment our doorbell rang. (it never occurred to me that Santa hadn't used the chimney.) My mom and I opened the door together and surprise! Santa was standing there in all his jolly goodness! I was breathless with excitement.

Mom invited him in and told him to sit in our best chair. He plunked his bag of presents down at his feet and invited me to come sit on his lap. Oh how excited I was! I ran over to him, speechless...I was going to sit in Santa's lap? What a wonderful, wonderful day!

I gingerly climbed up onto the chair and sat down on Santa's knee. "Well Judy," he said. "Have you been a good girl?" and then I knew. This wasn't Santa. I didn't know who he was, but I knew he wasn't Santa. It was his breath that gave him away. Santa's breath would smell like cookies and pine trees, snow and crisp new wrapping paper. This guy smelled like he'd spent the earlier part of the evening in the local tavern.

I turned my face away from his so I wouldn't have to smell his boozy breath one second longer than I had to. In sadness I went through the motions; I accepted the presents he gave me and, at my mother's urging I shyly thanked him for each one.

I was sad to see Santa leave that evening-he took my broken dreams with him. However, the sadness didn't last long. I had a pile of new toys to play with and I knew my nose was safe. I would never again have to sit in Santa's lap inhaling the scent of whisky again.

December 8, 2011

Christmas in Barcelona

As you know, my mom and I didn't always see eye to eye. I'm afraid I've maybe mislead you into thinking that the uglies in our relationship were all her fault. (typical child)

This morning I need to admit that maybe, possibly, I was the cause of some of the squabbles we had. I am sometimes very stubborn about things and now, looking back at my younger self, I'm not sure I was always that teachable. I had life figured out and I knew almost everything. Didn't you?

OK, so now I have a question for you. When you were 3 did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? I did. I wanted to be a wife and mother. I knew that when I was 10 and I knew that when I was 17. My greatest fear at that point in my life was, what if that dream never comes true? What if Prince Charming takes one look at me at thinks, whoa, my horse is better looking than this girl. I think I'll ride around a few more years....and then he rides off into the sunset, leaving me behind....

My mother knew I wanted to be a wife and mother, but she was also practical. She often warned me, "Judy, marriage is for a very long time. It will come, and you'll be tied down to a house, bills, and responsibilities for the rest of your life. Once you take that step your life will never be the same again. Right now you are free. Take advantage of it. Travel, have adventures, see the world, try new things, meet people and make friends with all of them! Have fun! For now, just enjoy being single."

For some strange reason I actually listened to my mother. A year after I graduated from high school I found myself on a mission trip with Youth With A Mission. There I was, 19 years old, traveling, having the adventure of a lifetime, living in a campground on the Mediterranean Sea. We were just outside Barcelona Spain, but, oh, did I mention it was December? And our temporary home was an unheated trailer? And it was cold? I bet when you think of the Mediterranean you think of balmy beaches, hot sand between your toes, and warm spicy winds gently whispering through your hair.

Well, the only wind we had was an icy one; and, if it happened to be a west wind it was also smelly. The Barcelona sewage system sat right outside the campground. Need I say more?

We spent an entire month living in that campground. I have so, so many memories from that trip... I think I'll save those for another day. This was supposed to be a little Christmas story.

The missionary team I was with was from England, but there were missionary teams from all over Europe staying in the campground-Dutch, German, Sweden.... we would smile at each other in passing, and I saw people I instantly liked, but the language barrier prevented our making friends with each other.

The language barrier didn't stop the Swedes from being friendly though. They managed to give everyone in the entire campground a Christmas gift; for me it was one of the sweetest gifts I've ever been given and one I will never forget.

One morning, while it was still too early to even think about getting up, we were all suddenly awakened by the sound of singing; lovely singing...sweet voices singing beautiful Swedish Christmas carols. We stumbled out of our sleeping bags and opened the trailer door. The whole campground was surrounded in darkness but there, winding their way through the campground, were the girls from the Swedish YWAM team. They were dressed for St. Lucia Day. (come to think of it, maybe it was?) Each girl had a long white dress on, and a bright red sash tied around her waist. And, each one of those girls had an evergreen wreath circling her lovely blond hair. The most stunning part of the whole scene were the lit candles in those wreaths. We stood there, in the darkness, watching those beautiful girls wander through the campground, giving us a gift that required no common language.

It was a moment like no other in my life and one I would've missed if I hadn't listened to my mother.

December 6, 2011

a picture that's worth a thousand words and fills my heart with a thousand things

I want to show you a picture. It's one of my favorite pictures of our first two sons. (Please, please ignore the outfit #1 is wearing. There is no excuse for it. All I can say is....hm....just ignore it, ok?)



What I want you to notice, and what I want to remember until I'm not around to remember anymore, are their faces. And my oldest son's death grip on his little brother's arm...

Those things are priceless to me. This picture alone, all by itself, fills my heart with so much...never mind. I'm not going to go into all that. I'll be nice and spare you the ponderings of this momma's heart.

What was going on in this picture?

Oh, well, they are just being normal first and second born brothers.

Momma said it's time to come in and eat lunch. Now!! And James, we ARE going to obey her!
(typical first born-wanting to stick to the rules and do what needs doing because it's the right thing to do.)

Listen big brother of mine-YOU can obey momma if that's what you'd like to do. As for me? I'm not budging.

That about sums up their relationship to this day.

I will say this and then I'll let you go: I love where my sons are at and I love who they've become. But there are times where I wish with all, all, all my heart I could go back and kiss those fat little cheeks one more time...

December 5, 2011

do you ever wish you had a giant pencil?

You know I'm not perfect, don't you? I haven't arrived...yet. You know if just being alive is what makes a person wonderful I'll be here for a very, very, very long time...

Having said that, I'd like to tell you something.

I don't like everyone.
It's not that I want them dead, or I wish them ill. There are just some people I'd like to see disappear.

Now imagine you're standing outside. The sun is shining, the birds singing. Standing next to you is a 5 foot tall pencil with an 8" eraser. Suddenly, along comes someone who annoys you-someone who grates on your nerves or exasperates you. You look at her, pick up your handy dandy pencil, point the eraser in her direction and rub the air. voila! She's gone. It's like she never existed at all.

The other morning #3 woke up and told me he'd had a rough night. Apparently at 1:30 am he'd received a text message. He couldn't remember the whole thing, but it was long and disturbing and it came to the wrong phone. Here's the gist of what it said:

Where are you dad??
You could at least call me!
It's been a month since I've heard from you! Why
don't you communicate?? This is no way to treat
your daughter! (on and on it went...)

Needless to say, it took my son awhile to go back to sleep after that.

When he told me what the text had said, I didn't want to erase the poor girl's father. I wanted to pick up my handy-dandy 5 foot long pencil and beat him over the head with it. I have been mourning for that girl all week and I've never laid eyes on her.

If I could talk to her father I'd give him a piece of my mind. (Especially since it seems his has gone missing.)
I'd tell him children are a gift, no matter how old they are. God entrusted them to our care and we play a huge role in their lives until their life is no more. I'd tell him he is a selfish brute and then I'd stop him in his tracks. I'd force him to look at his daughter...I'd ask him to look deeply and closely and see the vulnerable little girl hiding behind her desperate heart. I'd say a few more things I probably shouldn't type out here...

Then perhaps I'd stop. After I'd dented my pencil a few times over his head I'd take a deep breath and look at him. I'd look deeply and closely and I'd wonder about the vulnerable little boy hiding inside. What happened to you? I'd wonder. Who hurt you so badly you are unable to love? To care? Are you maybe treating your daughter the way you were treated? Or, are you truly just that selfish and ugly inside?

Then I think I'd grab a bible and show them that although she doesn't have the perfect father, and I doubt he's ever been one, we have One who is. He knows everything about them. (Psalm 139:1)

He is not distant and angry-He is the perfect loving Father. (John 3:16)

He gives and loves more than any earthly Father could. (Matthew 7:11)

He loves with an unending love. (Jeremiah 31:3)

His plan for their future is filled with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Everything good that happens in their lives is actually from Him. (James 1:17)

If they would seek Him with all their hearts they would find Him. Unlike some dads we know... (Deuteronomy 4:29)

He longs to comfort them in all their troubles. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

He is close to those who have desperate, broken hearts. (Psalm 34:18)

If they would allow Him to be their Father, He promises one day to take away all their pain and wipe away every tear. (Revelation 21:3-4)

I'd tell them I'm not perfect, (his lumpy head being living proof) and they are not perfect. We are all sin-filled people and separated from God because of that. (Romans 3:23)

Jesus, His one and only Son, died so that they could one day stand before God, forgiven. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

His death was God's end all expression of His love for them. (1 John 4:10 and/or Romans 5:8)

If they would receive the gift God gave them, His Son, they would never be separated from His love again. (Romans 8:38-39)

God wants to know if they would like to be His children. (John 1:12-13)

He is patiently waiting for them....(Luke 15:11-32)

If you'd like to see exactly what those bible verses say but you don't own a bible, click here and you can read them on-line.

What holds true for that girl and her missing dad holds true for you and it holds true for me.

God has become my Father and healed my broken, desperate heart. He wants to do the same thing for you, if that's what you need....if that's what you long for....

all it takes is talking to Him. Telling Him you know you've blown it, maybe big time. Did you there is no sin too big or too ugly? His love is sweet and perfect. (Romans 8: 38-39)

Then you tell Jesus you need Him. Tell Him you can't take one more step without Him and thank Him for dying in your place. Ask Him to forgive you for your sins and ask Him to make you the kind of person He wants you to be. It's that simple.

And then, from that moment on, you have access to the perfect Father. You can talk to Him any time and trust Him to love you and always be available. He will never leave you and He will certainly never, ever beat you over the head with a giant pencil...

December 4, 2011

Speaking of Chickens

As long as we're on the subject of chickens, I thought I'd share another chicken story with you. This one involves living poultry, as opposed to the metal version. (it's also a re-post from 2007.)

When I was 3 my brother Jimmy, my parents, and I went on a vacation. At some point we made a stop at a chicken farm. (Don't ask me why.) Anyway, because of my small stature I couldn't see where we were when my dad stopped the van. (Yes, there were vans back in the dark ages.) When my dad opened the van door I froze, petrified.
"Daddy? Are those dangerous chickens?!"
While those chickens proved to be docile and kind, I later in life met some that were not.

From the dictionary: Bantam. Any of numerous small domestic fowl that are often miniatures of members of the standard breeds.

And from a website regarding Bantam Chickens as pets:
Chickens make rewarding pets - I've never felt so much like Snow White as when sitting on a stool with a chicken on each knee, each shoulder and one resting comfortably on top of my head. The chickens on my shoulders rubbed their heads around on my neck, tasted my glasses gently and played with my earlobes. The chickens on my knees wiggled as I petted them and played with my ring. The chicken on top of my head just made me a little nervous. I could sit in the sun and watch those hand raised chickens scratch, bath and eat for hours.

When our 2 oldest sons were quite young they were given a tiny incubator as a gift. We did hatch 2 quail successfully and released them into the wild when they were old enough to fend for themselves.
Years later, when our oldest son was 13 or so, he decided he wanted to hatch another quail egg. After a long search, we found a farmer who had quail eggs for sale. So, we all piled into the van and drove over to this guy's house to see if he would be willing to sell 1 (Please note I said 1. ONE) egg to the kids so they could use their incubator again. The man was incredibly nice, and very persuasive. After a brief tour of his farm he somehow managed to convince us that if watching 1 quail egg hatch was exciting, imagine how breathtaking watching 27 Bantam chicken eggs would be!
"Well, we don't have room for 27 eggs in our little incubator."
"Oh! That don't matter. Look! I have a large, portable incubator you can use! Just take it home and when you're done using it, bring it back. And really, you don't have to worry. I don't think all 27 eggs will hatch. I reckon only about 9 will actually be fertilized."
Deciding it would be futile to argue any further with this kind man, we caved and took the eggs and incubator home.
I imagine by now you can guess what happened, and you're right. All 27 eggs decided to hatch.
It wasn't long before we had 27 tiny chicks peeping at all hours of the day and night, begging for food. And the box they resided in was in our son's bedroom! After about 2 days of that racket my husband and the boys went out and built a makeshift chicken coop behind the garage. I had visions of one of us heading out to gather eggs and then all of us sitting down to a delicious scrambled egg breakfast every morning. There were 2 problems with this scenario. One, do you have any idea how tiny Bantam Chicken eggs are? It would take about 5 per person to equal 2 regular chicken eggs. The other problem was, it seems that most of our chickens were roosters.
Not only that, but they were mean, ferocious, dangerous roosters! They were so mean that after a couple months they'd managed to kill about half their brothers and sisters in bloody chicken wars. Talk about sibling rivalry...
Anyway, winter came and went and by the following spring we were down to 15 chickens-all of them roosters and all of them mean. Every time the boys went out to play they were chased and attacked by those nasty little birds.
It wasn't just their beaks the boys had to look out for; the spurs on the chicken legs proved to be more dangerous than their bills. (Can you call a chicken beak a bill?) Every time the boys went outside to play or feed the chickens they'd come in with tears in their eyes and bloody scratches on their legs.
I finally gave the boys my permission to kill the chickens. I just didn't want to know how they did it. Every once in awhile I'd hear a whoop from outside and I knew the boys were one step closer to being free of fear and pain.
However, there was one afternoon James came in and his legs were a mess. Blood trickled down his calves and tears were streaming down his cheeks. I was furious! I'd had enough of those chickens!
I marched down the hall, grabbed a 22 and a bunch of bullets and went outside. In my fury I managed to shoot and kill all but one sneaky little rooster. The meanest one. He was mean, but he wasn't brave; he perched his little self high in a tree where he knew we couldn't get at him. I wasn't about to go shooting a gun into the trees, so we left him up there. That evening when my husband got home the boys told him about the last remaining bad guy nobody could get.
That was all Dad needed to hear. He put his chaps on, pulled a bandanna down over his mouth, tipped his Stetson down low over his eyes and sauntered out to the barn. I mean garage. There in the corner was his weapon of choice. An antique weed whacker that looked more like a dilapidated machete than something to garden with. We all stood around the yard, waiting...finally the chicken came down out of the tree. After all, it was getting dark and it was time to be fed. We watched breathlessly as my husband casually walked over to the beast, the weed whacker hidden behind his legs. Then, with a stroke Mike's golfing dad would be proud of, Mike swished the weapon through the air and thwack. A hole in one! The boys yelled and cheered. I swooned at my hero's feet. Mike picked me up, blew the smoke off the barrel of his weed whacker and strolled back to the house. He sat down at the table and slammed his fist down.
"Give me a shot of whiskey, Woman!"

December 3, 2011

I'm Stuck With A Chicken


Do you have anything in your home that's not your favorite thing? That's not your thing at all and yet...yet you feel you have no choice but to keep it? No choice but to look at it, protect it, dust it...somehow find a way of making it fit in with the rest of your things even if it doesn't?
And, as if that weren't enough, you know you're stuck with it til your dying day?

(sorry about the picture quality. It's the only picture I have of my chicken at the moment.)

I love birds. Crows, Great Blue Herons, Canadian Geese, the Tufted Titmouse, Brown Thrashers, woodpeckers....
There are some birds I don't like. Vultures for instance. Another one? Chickens. They are noisy, smelly, ignorant birds. In my humble opinion, the only thing they're good for is eating. (Yes, I know, eggs. But we eat their eggs, don't we?)

But using chickens as part of my decorating scheme? Um, no thank you. I'm not a chicken person.

Having said all that, I will now tell you about a chicken that's come home to roost. (It's actually a rooster but let's not split feathers.)

As you may recall from previous posts, my dad died of lung cancer in 2002. One morning, about a year before he died, my dad called me.

Hey Jude, how would you like a chicken?

A chicken?

Yeah. I have a metal chicken who needs a home. I bought him for our church to use as a mascot at their men's retreats but they don't want him. (Don't even ask me what that was all about.) I can't just dump him. Would you take him? He needs a good home and naturally I thought of you.

Ummm...sure dad. I'll take him.

About a week later the chicken arrived. He was packaged with as much tender loving care and bubble wrap as a chicken could ask for. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I like this chicken. He's my favorite color, and he has a sparkly, marble eye that catches the light when you look at it from just the right angle. He lives on the shelf I told you about last month. (It seems fitting the two should live together since dad gave me both of them, don'tcha think?)

Sometimes I'm tempted to add a disclaimer to my chicken. I want to make a pretty little label and dangle it from his tail for all to see. The label would read:

I am a chicken. I know that and you know that.
Judy wants you to know that while chickens are
not her thing, I am. Her dad, for some unknown
reason, wanted us to be together. He knew Judy
would take good care of me and never let me go.
For some reason, I was important to her dad,
so he asked her to care for me. Her dad
is gone; he is safely Home, waiting for her to
someday join him. In the meantime, she has me to
enjoy; A crazy, metal chicken that reminds her of
her dad. I am both a mystery and a hug. She is
happy to be stuck with me.

December 2, 2011

Movie Night

The other night my husband did something remarkable and completely unexpected. He wanted to kick back, relax and watch a movie. No, that's not the unexpected part. The movie he picked was though. Of all the movies we have in the house and all the movies Netflix offers, my husband chose....

He said he really likes it. I was flabbergasted. It's not been very often, living among over 600 pounds of testosterone for years and years, that a chick flick gets picked for movie night. And the really amazing part? My husband meant it. He sat there and watched it whether I was in the room or not; he wasn't watching it because he thought it was something I'd like to see. He wanted to watch it. I guess even after 27 years of marriage there are still new things to discover about your spouse.

That movie is up there among my top ten favorites.

Some of my other favorites? I'm so glad you asked. Here are a few of my other favorites:










Fiddler on the Roof-I can't watch this one at this point in my life but it's still one of my favorites.


An Affair to Remember and anything else Cary Grant was in

I can't leave out:
The Wizard of Oz
The Sound of Music
Sabrina
Almost anything directed by Alfred Hitchcock

and almost all of Katherine Hepburn's movies-especially when she stars with Spencer Tracy

I have a feeling I'm leaving some out, but I'll leave this as is for now.
How about you? What are some of your favorites?

November 30, 2011

Missing Them...

These are my sons. Four babies turned toddlers, turned stinkers, turned young men. They carry my heart with them wherever they go.

I tried to soak them up when they were small; tried to memorize their little boy voices and their little boy hugs; tried to memorize the way they laughed and the way they told their little boy stories. I tried to absorb into my heart the flowers they placed in my hands and the sweet sweaty kisses they placed on my cheek.


That's #2 in front of the rock. He walked a few feet off the trail and said, "I'm tiowd. I'm staying heow." If you look closely at this photo, you'll spot a tiny dot up at the top. That's #1. He climbed as high as we'd let him go....he's always been that way. Stretching to do more, learn more, pushing himself to accomplish one more goal...



I miss him more than words can say. I miss late our late night discussions over theology, algebra and apologetics. I miss playing scrabble with him and watching him sleep. I miss seeing him intensely going after God, studying the Word...



I miss laughing with him over something only the two of us found funny.


Our second son has always been a conundrum. Intense, thoughtful, sneaky, sensitive, sweet, sarcastic, selfish then selfless, deep and hilariously funny.



You never know what he's going to say or do next, which is one of the best gifts he has...one of the best gifts he gives. I miss him more than words can say. I miss his smile and his hugs, his encouragement and his sarcastic sense of humor. I miss watching him intensely study the way something works and patiently fixing something that was broken.


#3...this boy was a handful and is a heart full. Imaginative, creative, spontaneous, random and tender hearted. He has the ability to make me laugh so hard I practically fall over. We have so much in common sometimes it's mind boggling. Even our weaknesses mirror each other.


I miss him more than words can say and he hasn't taken flight yet. But, in many ways he has... His thoughts and heart and dreams are out there...he's beginning to look away, longing to stretch and move and test his wings...




Then there's this one. The unexpected one. The gift I almost didn't get because I let fear rule my heart for too long a time. This one is an assortment of all of his brothers, plus a unique blend all his own. He's a goal setter; someone who loves to learn and be stretched. He's sweet and sensitive, deep and selfless. He's imaginative and funny and creative. We love to be together crafting, reading, cuddling, talking.....

However, I'm beginning to miss him more than words can say. He's already wanting to stretch his wings; he is slowly moving toward manhood and wanting to be with daddy. He's cutting the apron strings and bruising my heart. I'll let him go though. I won't cling and pull...I won't. Watching them, seeing them grow, observing their lives from a distance...seeing what God can do when I step back...it's a sweet, painful part of mothering.

Letting go and moving on; letting them become and cheering them on....

November 29, 2011

what would you do?

#3 had a cold a few weeks ago and is still coughing; he just can't seem to shake it. Like all coughs it seems to be particularly annoying when he's trying to sleep. The other night he was able to sleep through the coughs but they still found a way to annoy him-they snuck into his dreams. He dreamt his cough was part of an incurable disease and come to find out, the doctor gave him but two years to live.
"Well Kid, you have two years left. If you want to git it done, git it done."

When my son told me about his dream, the first thing I did was laugh. Two years?? Wouldn't that be nice? To know you only have so much time left and then to have such a long/short time to wait? What would you do with that time?

You could prioritize your projects and goals, divide the time and then conquer. You could work on your bucket list and take a trip around the world. You would have plenty of time to say goodbye to everyone; plenty of time to make new friends and say goodbye to them. Plenty of time to mend fences and write a will.

Toward the end of those two years, while you still had strength and stamina, you could throw your own going away party/memorial service and invite all your friends and family to attend. Do you wonder what they'd say about you?

And finally, when the end was very near, you could tell someone everything. Everything that's hidden and every longing you've had; every unfulfilled dream and every ugly exposed...

The thing that stands out to me...the thing I'd really like to do...the thing I finally wouldn't be afraid to do, is tell certain people near and dear to me all about Jesus. I'd tell them He's real and He is the Son of God. If eternity were staring me in the face, I'd remind them that they too will someday be standing in my shoes, with eternity the next step. I'd ask them about eternity and if they ever wonder where they'll be spending it. I wouldn't be afraid of what they thought of me or of losing their friendship because, well, our friendship would be coming to an end anyway. (at least here, on this planet)

I'd tell them Jesus is the only way to have whole, unbroken hearts, and forgiveness no matter what on earth they've done. I'd search through the bible and books and any lectures I could to find a way to push through their arguments and doubts and the lies they cling to in hope of seeing their eyes open...

I wonder if I'd be able to forget about eternity if I knew in two years I'd be facing it? Would things like bills and annoying kids and a flat tire get to me the way they do now? Would I still yell at the person driving in front of me because he forgot to use his turn signal? Would it be as easy to put God on a shelf or in a box and ask Him to wait "til later" to spend time with me?

So now, as I sit here in the dark, with the rain beating against the window, I think about that doctor's words. Yes, I know he was a dream man, but he spoke truth. If you want to git it done, git it done.

What do I want to git done?

November 24, 2011

a walk to remember

Exactly 20 years ago today I was pregnant with our 3rd baby. That pregnancy had started out like most do: morning sickness. It also included noon sickness and night sickness. For months I couldn't move without being sick.

Finally, on Thanksgiving day, I was able to raise my head off the couch, stand up, and actually begin to function. It felt so good to be alive again.

At the time, we were living about a block away from a cemetery. It was beautiful that day so after we'd eaten we decided to take our 2 little boys for a walk through the cemetery. (Don't ask me why....)

My husband took our oldest son's hand and the two of them meandered through the tombstones. I could hear my son's little voice reading all the names and dates and asking questions about each person he came across.

In the meantime, I walked around with our 3 year old, James. He chattered too, but couldn't read yet, so his questions centered more on the birds, the grass, and the little flags he saw on some of the graves.

I started daydreaming about the baby I was carrying and wondering whether it was another boy or would we have a girl this time?

Suddenly James stopped walking and he stopped talking. He stood, frozen to the ground, staring at a 12" cross standing guard over one of the graves. He had a puzzled look on his face, then:
"Look. Look at dat cross Momma. Jesus wasn't vewy big, was He?"

November 23, 2011

out of a full heart

today i am thankful for

Jesus

twinkle lights and candles

friends who think i'm worth their time

memories

baby clothes in the laundry again

4 strong sons who love me

the gifts of sight and touch, hearing, taste and smell

pizza hut

21 years of learning, teaching, laughing and crying as the teacher of my own children

a long-suffering, gentle husband

a place to call home

the friendship of two new daughters

hard things that have made me soft

my dad's final words to me

the day my husband burglared something for me

crows outside my window

the magic of words, spoken or read

you, because today you stopped by to see what i might have to say

November 22, 2011

The Only Thanksgiving I Really Remember

Over the last few months I've spent a lot of time chewing on my mother. Not literally. You know me better than that by now.

What I mean is, I've been looking at the relationship I had with her and how she mothered and how it affected me. The strange this is, as I've pondered and written and dug into my heart and laid it all out here, I find myself able to forgive. A little. I'm still praying about all of this, but just by opening all that up to you and exposing the uglies I was battling, I'm now able to look at her and our relationship a little more objectively. The little girl in me still hurts, but the mother in me sees my mother's hurts and understands....

Anyway-as interesting as all that is, that's not what I want to write about today. I wanted to tell you about my very most favorite Thanksgiving. The one that I will never, ever forget. The one God used to give me hope and healing-I learned that day that good things can follow heartbreak.

I'm sorry-I know I keep talking about my parents' divorce. It's either that or my broken body. Please bear with me because, well, here I go again.

As you know, my parents divorced when I was 7 or 8. And as you know, until then my life had been idyllic; I knew I was loved and I always felt safe. We had a comfortable home and the holidays were packed with family, good food, and tradition. When the divorce came all that shattered. I felt like I'd been floating through life on a magic carpet and suddenly found the carpet gone. Needless to say, I was devastated.

At this point my oldest brother was living in Evergreen Colorado with his wife and two babies. I finished 3rd grade and then my mom made an announcement. We, (she and I) were moving to Evergreen to be near my brother. I absolutely hated the idea. Even though my dad was gone, we were still living in the only home I'd ever had. The one filled with safety and memories and stability.

To make a long story short, mom and I ended up living with my brother and his family for a few months. I enjoyed spending time with my baby nephews and getting to know my brother and sister-in-law, but I still missed my "old" life. I missed having a place that was home to mom and me-a place to call our own.

Then one November day, (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to be exact) my teacher handed me a note from the school office. Mom had called and wanted me to take a different bus home that day. I was to go to a place called Sunnybrook Lodge and go to Unit 9.

Sunnybrook was a small vacation spot tucked away in the mountains. There was a large main building where the owners lived, and then 9 units designed to be rented out by the day, week, or month. Each unit was a different size, but they were each laid out like a cozy little home.

I followed the note's instructions and went to Sunnybrook. I found #9 and timidly knocked on the door. To my surprise my Mom answered the door. She was smiling and happy and so excited. She'd rented #9 just for us. It was a tiny place-just big enough for a double bed, a table for 2, and a teeny tiny kitchen. There was a pumpkin pie cooling on the counter and a chicken roasting in the oven. It smelled exactly like Thanksgivings had in Illinois. Like I said, it was a small place, but it felt safe and cozy-it wasn't the home I was used to, but because of mom's attitude, it felt like home. She somehow managed to press beyond her own pain and create a loving, happy place to land that day after school. It was a holiday that wasn't filled with family or tradition but it's always been my favorite.

I saw and learned a lot about parenting that day. It doesn't matter where you live or how much money you have or how many people are there-what matters to a child is the love and stability a parent can give. I saw my mother leap over a broken heart and ignore her own fears and unstable circumstances to give to me; she wanted to create a wonderful memory for me and she did. She taught me how to look beyond circumstances and act like an adult. She showed me, by example, that being a family, and having a home and wonderful holidays are an attitude rather than a place or the traditions or the food. Because of her outlook, she was able to carve a cozy, loving holiday out of a tiny cabin and a chicken and give me a memory I will always, always treasure....

November 20, 2011

going home

I am a conundrum.

There are times where I am a very timid, cautious person who startles when the wind blows. On the other hand, I've been known to just leap first and ask questions later.

The brave person, (or foolish, depending on how you look at it) nearly got me killed 13 years ago. In all honesty I'm not sure how close to death I actually came, but I thought I was dying. I'll tell you the story and let you decide.

My whole side of the family were in Colorado for a family reunion. There were several planned activities-things like horseback riding, sight seeing, a funeral, and white water rafting on the Colorado River. It was the rafting, or the lack of a raft, that got me into trouble.

There were 1 or 2 places in the river that day where no man in his right mind would purposely get out of a raft; there were a couple places where we had to actually get out of the raft and pull it down the river because the water was so low. Then there was the place where I learned for the second time in my life that I am not invincible.

The river at this point was very deep and bounced along at a good clip, pouring over large boulders periodically. We had pulled the raft to the river bank and all of us got out to stretch our legs. Suddenly, all the 20 somethings in the group decided they were going to jump into the river and ride this spot in their life-jackets. I stood there and watched a few of them bounce down the river, looking like little dots in the churning water, laughing, making it look so incredibly fun and inviting. After about 1 minute I decided I was going to do it too. You only go around once in life, right? Go for it. Have some fun!

I received some dubious looks from my family, but no one tried to stop me. They gave me specific directions on how to ride the river in a life jacket:
You pretend you're sitting in a chair-you keep your head up, your tush back, and your legs straight out in front of you. That's all there is to it.

Great, thought I. Looks easy peasy, sounds easy peasy. So, I took a flying leap and there I was, bobbling down the Colorado River, a tiny dot at the mercy of the water, the rocks, my life-jacket and God.

There was just one teeny tiny problem. I could not stay in a sitting position. My legs refused to stick out in front of me; the force of the water kept pushing them behind me. (that and the fact that they kept slamming into those large boulders.)

Every time I went over a boulder I would be forced completely under water. When I came up for air I would swallow gallons of said water instead. This went on for a bit; me bobbling along bouncing over rocks, coming up, swallowing large bits of the Colorado River, going down, coming up, swallowing large bits of.....you get the point. And, it got to the point where my lungs decided they'd had enough water and wanted some actual air. The problem was, I couldn't find any.

OK-so that's what was going on on the outside. On the inside? I was terrified. At first. But then, after a bit I realized I had no say in the matter. It was either live or die but that was up to God.
The fear went away and I started thinking, hmmm, what would happen if I died right now? Here? Today? Amazingly, the thought didn't bother me. I had perfect peace about it and I could sense God was right there, next to me as I moved down the river. The only thing that bothered me was thinking about our then 6 year old growing up without a mother; other than that, the only thing I thought was, hey, death by drowning isn't a bad way to go. I don't hurt, I'm not afraid. This isn't bad at all.

Right around the time I thought it truly was The End, that part of the river calmed down and one of my nephews came to my rescue. He saw me bobbling by, looking and feeling literally like a drowned rat, grabbed a corner of my life jacket, and pulled me to the river bank. I sat there on a boulder, gasping for air, happy to be alive.

Looking back, I am so thankful for that experience. Like I said, I don't know how close I truly came to dying. What I do know is that when my time comes, God will be right there, giving me the strength and peace I need, when I need it, to get through whatever it is. If He was there doing all that when I didn't die, I know He'll be there, doing all that, when He comes to take me Home.

November 18, 2011

a lightbulb moment

My brother came for a visit 2 1/2 years ago. We spent some time catching up on what was going on in our lives and a lot of time reminiscing over the past.

One thing I noticed about my brother was the fact that he spoke quite fondly of our mother. He had loved her dearly and misses her deeply. I don't feel that way. I miss the idea of a mother, but I don't miss my mother.

As a matter of fact, after spending 2 days with me my brother told me he thought maybe I have some unresolved issues with my mom and I should spend some time working through them.

Well guess what? After approximately 910 days I have finally figured it out. (I'm fast like that.)
I have finally figured out why my heart still longs for even a peak at my dad's face, but I still feel relief when I think about the fact that my relationship with my mom is over.

I know both of my parents loved me and something tells me it should be mom that I miss. She was the one who raised me; she provided a home, and food, laughter and practical advice.

On the other hand, my dad was pretty much out of the picture when they decided to divorce. He re-married, had 3 more sons, and lived a busy life with his new family.

So, why don't I miss my mom and why do I still struggle with feelings of bitterness toward her? Why were there times I didn't even like her? She was funny and generous, creative and practical. Why do I simply feel relief when I think of her? I have pondered that question for more than 910 actually. I've been thinking about this for over ten years.

Then finally, finally it hit me yesterday. I finally figured it out. My mom provided for my physical needs, and yes, even some of my emotional needs, but she also attacked my essence. I never really felt unconditionally loved or understood or accepted. There was always something about me she didn't like and thought I should change.

Dad on the other hand, just wasn't there. He was busy with his new family and his new life. But, when we did talk on the phone or we were together, I felt completely loved, accepted and missed...I knew he liked me and enjoyed my company.

I really should've been able to sort through this years ago. I've worked hard as a mother not to be like my mother. You'd think I would've been able to put two and two together; I guess denial is a powerful defense mechanism. Who wants to admit their mother didn't like them?

OK, so, now that I've figured that one out, I know what's next. I need to forgive and let go....

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this with you. I guess this blog is my cyber-journal and that's what's been going on in my head and in my heart....

I do know parenting is a tight-rope act. It's a parent's responsibility to help train a child's character; to point out his weak spots and help him see where there is room for improvement.
However, it's also a parent's job to stand behind a child; to let that child know he is loved and accepted no. matter. what.

I'm not sure what else to say. Maybe I should've called this one, "A Ramble Through My Heart". I guess I'll leave this as is and let you take from it what you will...

November 17, 2011

I'm not a squirrel. Really. I'm not...

I must admit here and now, I have a few obsessions. Mt. Everest is one of them. I have longed to climb that mountain for years, and like I said once before, I've read more books about Everest than I have books on marriage, homeschooling, or parenting.

There are other things I'm obsessed with; things that are closer to home and, unlike climbing to the top of the world, things that are actually within my grasp. (One of them is collecting heart shaped rocks. God-made rather than man made; they are everywhere if you take the time to look for them.)

Another is gathering acorns and fall leaves. (Oak leaves are my very most favorite.) I have yet to discover why I do this. If I believed in reincarnation I would guess I'd been a squirrel in a previous life.

However, since I'm not a squirrel, nor have I ever been a squirrel, there must be some other reason for this strange behavior. One thing is clear-I drive my family nuts with it.

We hike nearly every weekend in the autum and every autumn it happens; we put our hiking shoes on, (or our sneakers since that's all that's necessary here in the Midwest) and off we go, out to enjoy the crisp fresh air, the colorful leaves, the deep blue sky, and as many trails as we can find.

I miss out on so much when we autumn hike. I very rarely look up or around. My eyes are focused on the ground. I'm so busy concentrating on, and collecting squirrel food and leaves that I miss the big picture-the beauty up and around and over my head.

I have a shoe box full of leaves I've gathered over the years, and a gallon size zip lock bag full of acorns. Once in awhile I'll use them for a project or a fall centerpiece, but more often than not, the nuts and leaves stay hidden away. I know they're there, and it's a comforting knowledge, but why? Why do I do this and what is the need?

Like I said before, this need to collect is somewhat annoying to my family and I think they are secretly concerned about my sanity.

The other day our youngest son took a walk with me. As we walked I kept pointing out leaves that were just too pretty to leave behind.
"Oh Barrett! There's one! Grab it before it blows away..."
"There's another one. Look how red it is! Would you nab it for me?.."

Finally at one point, the poor boy nearly snapped. I was standing in the middle of the road, chasing after a leaf when a car came zipping around the corner. My son yelled and pulled me out of the way.

"Mommy, you're going to get killed looking for leaves. I bet you'd try gathering them if we were caught in a storm!"

Then, when we got home he drew this picture, just for me:


November 15, 2011

a once in a lifetime prayer

It was just around 2 years ago our pastor challenged us, his sheep, to pray a simple prayer.

"Lord, please do something big in my life and make it obvious You were the one who did it."

I wrote that prayer down on the church bulletin, brought it home, and thought about it. Visions of sugar plums danced in my head. I could only imagine something wonderful, and sweet and miraculous coming as a result of saying those words to God, so I prayed them. Then I forgot all about that prayer. God didn't. I have no doubt He heard it. (can you hear me sighing?)

To make a long story short, my back went out. I had a herniated disc which led to a smooshed sciatic nerve in my left leg, which led to horrendous pain, which led to back surgery, which led to 15 months (and counting) recovery time; my left leg still bothers me frequently. My surgeon was baffled when he looked at the MRI and x-rays. He said there was no sign of osteoporosis, no sign of arthritis, no sign of anything that would cause the herniation. (I should've told him it was an answer to prayer.)

Anyway...many, many, many years ago I heard a sermon on sheep. Apparently they are very stubborn, independent, prone to disease, and have been known to make stupid choices a thing of habit. The speaker said that when a shepherd has a sheep that's being particularly sheepish, he will gently, tenderly kneel over his sheep and break her leg. Then the shepherd will bind the leg, pick up the sheep, and tie her to his chest. He will carry that sheep with him, everywhere he goes, until that leg heals. The purpose? The sheep gets to know the shepherd intimately. She smells the shepherd's breath, feels his heart beating away in his chest, becomes intimately acquainted with his voice, and feels his warmth and caring day in and day out. Then, finally, one day, the leg is healed and the sheep is free.

The shepherd hopes that by now his little sheep has learned that being stubborn, independent and stupid is not the way to go. He hopes that the sheep has learned to trust him; to know that no matter what happens she is loved and will be cared for. He trusts that by spending all that time in the shepherd's arms the sheep will crave his company and will stop being so sheepish.

I have since googled this information, trying to find out if shepherds really do break a sheep's leg, or if they ever did, maybe in ancient times? I couldn't find anything that proves this has ever happened.

However, I still love the story, true or not. And, like that sheep, I have learned so, so much. I could literally write a book about it all....I asked my husband if he's noticed a change in me since all this began. He says he has. He says my faith is stronger, I'm less stubborn, more feminine, more vulnerable and compassionate, more open to the Lord and less independent and prideful than I've been in days past. We both know I'm not perfect, but we've both noticed some improvement in my character and in my relationship to our Shepherd.

The last 2 years were an unexpected answer to a prayer. My broken, bruised leg has been used to teach me many lessons. It's been an exhausting and confusing time. Wonderful, sweet, miraculous things have come from it all; really, really wonderful things....(If you're interested, I wrote a bit more about all of this here and here.)

But, would I ever, ever pray that prayer again? Just between you and me? I don't think so. It's been worth it, but...nope. I'm just not sure I'll ever utter those words to my Shepherd again....I'm not sure I have the courage....
would you?

November 13, 2011

be it ever so humble....

No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my bedroom best.

Well, that sounds good, doesn't it? Before you rush off, thinking I've become someone you shouldn't spend time with, let me explain.

As with most people, home is important to me and I've had what some would consider quite a few of them. When I was small, home was a house in a typical little "Mayberry" town in Illinois. I loved that house, but not because of it's spaces or the way it was decorated. I loved it because our family was still intact when we lived there. It was a place filled with love, safety, laughter and ease.

After that my mom and I lived in a vacation "lodge" in Evergreen Colorado, bouncing around from unit to unit depending on actual vacationers' reservations. (long story-you can ask me about it some time if you're all that interested.)

For one year my mom and I lived in an apartment right across the street from my school. Now I ask you, isn't that every child's dream? To have the joy of staring at your school day in and day out whether school is in session or not?

Later, as a young teen, (for ten months) home was a cabin in Alpena, Michigan and for almost another year I made my bed in a Christian community in Minneapolis.

For 3 1/2 months my address was a manor house in England and I lived with 6 girls in a trailer in a campground in Spain. The beautiful Mediterranean Sea was on one side of the campground and the Barcelona Sewer System on the other. (I'm sure you can imagine the smells that wafted through the area depending on which way the wind blew.)

I had a tiny apartment all to myself in Estes Park, Colorado and I spent one summer living with 11 other girls in an army tent in the Rockies.

After we married we lived in an apartment above a garage, another apartment that stared Rocky Mountain National Park in the face, and we lived in a teeny tiny cabin on the banks of the Big Thompson River. (Our bedroom was literally the size of our bed!)

After 2 1/2 years of marriage we moved to Indiana. We lived with my brother for 4 months, and two different apartments for 8 years. Then, we rented a house. I loved that place, and the Lord used it to bring a lot of healing and wholeness to my heart. But I learned there that it's not the beauty of a home, nor the furnishings, nor the paint on the walls that fulfill me. It's being with the people I love that make a house a home.

And now? We still live in Indiana. Our house is small; tiny some would say. It's only 1200 square feet-we have 3 bedrooms, a livingroom and an eat in kitchen. I've tried to make the house a welcoming place. The kitchen is painted a warm, happy color; it's bright and happy when the sun shines, and twinkle lights make it cozy and homey when it's gloomy outside. The table only seats 4 comfortably. I admit that is a drawback, but that table....the stories it could tell...I'll save that for another day; for now I'll just say if the house burned down, that table would be one of the things I'd miss the most.

I always thought our livingroom would be the place to hang out in this house... I've worked hard to make it a place that is welcoming, relaxing, warm, and friendly. I've tried to declutter it to get rid of some of the visual noise and have made the guys in my life rearrange the furniture til their backs ached, trying to create a space people would love to visit in.

Our bedroom is the last place on earth I thought people would want to hang out in. It's the last space in the house to "finish". My husband just painted the room and we have yet to find a comforter that can be friends with the walls. There is a treadmill, a sewing machine, our computer and a large desk in the room. It has been impossible thus far for me to make it a cozy, romantic place. It's more like a basement bedroom where all the things that don't fit anywhere else get tossed.

And yet, it seems to be a favorite place for the family. Maybe because of the basement type atmosphere? Whatever the reason, for some strange reason, whenever the 9 of us are together, we often end up here, in the "master bedroom", most of all of us piled on the bed. We lounge around, we laugh, tell stories, and hang out here, in this crazy, un-cozy, un-romantic place.

Which leads me back to the beginning. I think our family loves this bedroom, but not because of the way it's decorated. I think they love it because we can relax here. When we spend time here, we are together, with people we love. It's a place filled with warmth, safety, laughter and ease.

November 10, 2011

a very expensive shelf

There is no eternal purpose to the story I'm about to tell. It's just a story; a story that stares at me every single day. It's about a bookshelf that fills my heart with laughter, contentment, deep sadness, and a shake of its head. (that is, if a heart had a head to shake)

One day, about 11 years ago, I asked my dad to make a shelf for my cookbooks. I had an ulterior motive for this request-not only did I want a place to stuff my cookbooks, I wanted something from my dad. Something he had made specifically with me in mind. Something I could look at every day and picture his large, warm, rough hands creating.

Well, I got my wish, but it came with a price.

When I asked dad for the shelf he asked for something in return. He wanted a pair of slippers crocheted by his one and only daughter. Okay, thought I. No problem. It's a deal.

So, we set to work; dad went to his workshop, found a beautiful piece of oak, and carefully put together my shelf.

I went to my yarn, found some, and carefully crocheted his slippers. There was only one problem. Dad wore a size 13 shoe. I had no idea how large to make those slippers, but I knew they had to big. As I crocheted, I kept holding them up to my husband's size 10 foot for comparison. I finally decided to make them a couple inches longer than a size 10 and hope for the best. I'd like to tell you now, guestamation isn't a wise idea when you're making slippers for someone. They were not slippers. They ended up looking like small canoes. Dad was sweet enough to say he loved them and he actually wore them.

Okay-so, now fast forward about a year. My dad has lung cancer and is in a literal battle for his life-it was a losing battle.

Early in December of that year I got an email from my dad. He just wanted to say hi and give me an update on how everything was going. He felt fine, had a lot of energy, was still active and busy except for one minor problem-that stupid cast on his foot. I whipped out a reply: Cast on your foot? Dad, what happened to your foot??

Oh, it's not a big deal. Those slippers you made are just a bit too big and I tripped over one, fell, and broke my foot.

Great. Not only is my dad dying of lung cancer, he has to do it with a cast on his foot? Because of me??

Now fast forward to December 21 of that year. I was having a normal, busy day with 4 boys in the house. We were doing school, baking Christmas goodies, crafting and doing all the other normal things a family does as the holidays approach. Suddenly the phone rang. It was one of my brothers.

"Judy, I just wanted to let you know I think...I think dad's dying. He's going fast. If you want to see him before he goes, you better get up here soon."

About 8 hours later my husband and I were at my dad's side. I'm not going to tell you everything about those last few hours with my dad. They were precious, but obviously it was one of the most heart-breaking times in my life. What lightened it up for me was that cast; that silly, stupid cast.

Dad was laying on the bed, not really coherant, but not completely gone yet either. He was literally, carefully balanced between two worlds. Sometimes it seemed as if he was leaving-fluttering away from me....then suddenly that heavy cast would pull his whole leg off the bed and dad would return, growling and grumbling, completely ticked off by the fact that that cast was there, pulling him back, causing pain.

All through that night I sat by dad's side, in the dark, crying, talking to him, praying for him....waiting, watching....and, occasionally soothing his ruffled feathers when that cast would pull his leg off the bed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get that leg far enough from the edge of the bed to prevent the whole falling thing from happening. Dad was just too heavy for me to move.

I don't know how to tell you this, but each time that cast did its thing, I laughed inside. It wasn't a wicked laugh, or a huge laugh. I just knew that was dad's last little thing he had to go through and it was amazing how annoyed he got each time it happened. He liked to be in control, and no one likes pain...and I know each time it happened it hurt. But his face...he looked like an annoyed little boy and I kept thinking, dad, you're about to be ushered into the prescence of God...eternity is literally here, now, in this room with you, just moments from taking you away....life and all it's everything, including that stupid cast, are almost over for you....

Do you understand why I find the whole cast thing amusing? Or am I warped? I wasn't the one dealing with the pain or the dying. I had a bird's eye view of the situation and, along with the heart break, I had incredible peace about it.

There was one bible verse that came to mind that night:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

I just kept thinking wow, my dad is going to be with Jesus any second. He's going to see Jesus, finally and face to face....

Thinking about that put the cast and the pain of a broken bone in perspective for me and I was able to be amused.

So, the story is over but never forgotten. I still have that shelf, and every time I go into the kitchen I see it. I see large, safe, rough, warm hands; I see a man I loved with all my heart going Home; I see a cast on a leg annoying the daylights out of someone, and I see a silly pair of slippers and I laugh, but only inside...along with a few tears...

November 9, 2011

two worlds becoming one

Sometimes I just don't know what to write about or what to say or whether to say it because of this: A few years ago our pastor told us to examine our lives; he told us to think about every single thing we do or say and ask, will this stand for eternity or is it a waste of time?

Do you have any idea how much pressure that question puts on a person who loves to write? Especially one who is not a teacher nor a bible scholar? Sometimes I'm able to ignore the little voice in my head asking that question and just type. Sometimes that question makes me question should I write? I wonder about you-what do you get out of this place in space? Is it a waste of your time? Is it ok to tell you stories about my life, or my thoughts? That's all I have to offer. I'm not Anne Graham or Kay Arthur or Ann Voskamp. I couldn't even begin to string together a bible study or a deep spiritual lesson, but I don't want to waste a minute of your life either.

I often struggle with the whole idea of living in two worlds-we are eternal beings created to have a deep, intimate friendship with God. I believe there is an unseen world all around us-a spiritual world where God is, and sin, repentance, angels, demons, hell, and heaven....

However, we also live on a planet filled with moose, stubbed toes, music, bad hair days, new babies, and beautiful sunsets. And I know our pastor loves football. That's not eternal. (At least I hope not.)

I also believe the things we experience in life are sifted through God's fingers. That's an amazing thought if you spend time with it; that certainly reconciles the two worlds, doesn't it? God who is eternal and invisible, giving us a planet and experiences that are altogether tangible...

Somehow, we are meant to live straddled between the two. Our noses pointed in one direction while our feet take us in many.

Which brings me back to the question: will this stand for eternity or is it a waste of time? What about the music we listen to or the books we read? What about the pain we experience and those lovely bad hair days? None of those things are eternal.

And yet, think about Jesus.

What did He do? He told stories. He used tangible examples of everyday experiences to bring people to their knees in invisible repentance. Each story He told was like a tiny thread tying this world to the invisible, eternal one. His stories built friendships and showed people how to live and love and have a renewed relationship with God the Father.

Please don't even think I'm comparing this blog to the stories Jesus told! That's not where I'm trying to go with this, although it does sound like it, doesn't it?

What I'm trying to say is this:
stories are good for us. I love hearing about people's lives-what they've seen or done or experienced. Our life stories may not be eternal, but they do help us along while we're here, on a temporary planet, to get to there, an invisible eternal home. Your story is full of experiences like bad hair days, deep heartache, sin, good food, and memories of your childhood. When you tell your story, when you give others bits of yourself...when you are vulnerable and expose your sin or pain or the things you long for, you are tying strings from your heart to another. You're telling someone you've been there, you understand...you're creating a link from a tangible experience to an unseen world, the one that is eternal.