Tag Archives: family

Are You Ready for Easter?

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Sunrise_SetHoly Saturday – that’s what it’s called. I had to do some research because I’m a Protestant and we don’t formally observe lent. Although I grew up Catholic, it has been a few decades since I observed holy days. And yet I woke on the Saturday before Easter thinking of the disciples and all of the followers of Christ. I pondered their state of mind and heart, realizing that they didn’t know that Sunday morning was coming, as we Christians proclaim. And then I got on with my day.

Hubby and I walked a 5k on Holy Saturday. It was kind of a big deal, since he was 56 days post-op from a spinal fusion with laminectomy. He walked 3.1 miles pushing a walker and stuffing his pride; we were dead last. He hasn’t recovered his speed, but his determination is fully intact. In our small town, we saw a lot of people we know early Saturday morning and the question “Are you ready for Easter?” was part of the conversation.

Later we joined our small group, young couples with a gaggle of children the perfect age for an egg hunt, and as we sat in a circle under a massive oak, the question was asked again… “Are you ready for Easter?”

By midafternoon I realized that Publix would be closed on Easter Sunday. We needed a few things so I left my recovering mate on the sofa watching college hoops and headed out. The store was busy. Without fail, every person I spoke with asked “Are you ready for Easter?”

Hours later I lay my head on my pillow. I thought about the day and ran through my list of things to worry, err, I mean pray about. My heart went back to the plight of those early Christians and I thought of how much power was present – they just hadn’t experienced it and were unaware of the miracle they were about to experience. And the question nagged at me: Are you ready for Easter?

I had answered it awkwardly all day. “We don’t have any little ones around – there isn’t much to prepare.” “I haven’t dyed eggs in years, but I so miss that…” “I’m not preparing a big meal, so not much to do.”

It wasn’t difficult to find sleep, though. According to my Fit Bit I logged well over ten thousand steps and I was tired. But this morning, I woke before dawn and the question popped into my mind immediately.

Are you ready for Easter?

Well, are you?

Mary approached the tomb before dawn. Thinking Jesus’ body had been taken, she was devastated. It wasn’t until he spoke her name and she looked into his face that she recognized her living Lord. The disciples, still overcome by fear of the Jews, were locked in a room when Jesus came seeking them, revealing his hands and his side. This was the first Easter Sunday.

As I write this, first light is dawning and the question begs an answer. Am I ready for Easter?

I can relate to the disciples. I experience defeat – things often don’t turn out the way that I was sure God would want them to. I’ve been known to lock my heart up in fear, so I can surely understand their seclusion when Jesus went looking for them. I even miss the obvious good news – just as Mary saw the empty tomb and her first thought was a stolen corpse, I often miss the miracles.

But Easter. Because of the resurrection, I have hope. Because of the resurrection, I will celebrate hope. He is risen!

I am ready for Easter. I suspect I’m not the only soul who woke this morning in need of a fresh wind of the power of the resurrection. Whether you are sharing family traditions with a crowd, are working at your job or working through challenging circumstances, I pray that you will encounter Jesus. He is calling us to exchange our doubt and fear for the hope and power of his resurrection.

Happy Easter, my friends. He is risen; He is risen indeed!

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
John 11:27 NLT

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Perfecting Our Days

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Just this afternoon I read answers from a well-known author who was asked a series of typical ice breaker type questions. The one that has rattled around in my brain all evening was this: describe a perfect day. Her answer was detailed. The location and activities, right down to the football game that would be on the TV were mentioned; the menu and the guest list were specific. It was the sort of event that I would love to attend!

I’ve been thinking about how I would answer the question today. Right now. Because, the truth is that the answer is a moving target for me, and I think I might not be alone in that.

Reflecting on the past week, I thought it included a couple of perfect days. Friday night I played a hilarious game with a group of women I love after walking on the beach in the afternoon with my sweet hubby. Over the weekend I got to cook for and chat with my women – my family. And then yesterday…I went to the happiest place on earth with my cousin!

Beach WalkingHonestly, each day had its moments. The beach trip? Traffic on the way home was horrific. Bumper to bumper with my navigator (who would much rather drive than ride) stressing more every mile. We were behind schedule the rest of the day due to the hour delay.

Cooking and serving for my sweet family brought up all sorts of discontent over stuff like tableware!

The Magic Kingdom was packed yesterday. Apparently it’s Spring break somewhere in the South. As I explained to my young cousin from the Midwest, you know people are from the South when they address their children “first name, middle name” and every family member is wearing monogrammed clothing. Lines and wait times were long with charming southerners.

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And yet, each of these is securely locked in the “perfect day” pages of my mental scrapbook. And the reason is simple. I know that “perfect” days aren’t perfect. They are normal days, when wonderful things happen.

Imagine this: your closest and dearest friend has died. The one friend who had the potential to impact this dire situation is taking his sweet time showing up. The day is off to a rough start when that same friend seems to be in denial about your mutual friend’s status. You might even be a little mad about his apparent blasé response. But then…as you are watching for him, he shows up.

Jesus spoke to Lazarus and he walked out of the grave, still wrapped in the burial garments. A bad day turned perfect, I would say. I think Lazarus and the ones who loved him would agree!

Traffic that disrupts schedules is an annoyance, but it doesn’t have to rob the day of its shine. I won’t wait until everything is “perfect” to entertain. When I’m in an amazing place with people I love, I hope I can relax and enjoy the moment without losing patience over annoying circumstances.

Perhaps perfect days are the ones when I’m watching for Jesus; when things are going as bad as they can get and he shows up.

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When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him… John 11:20

“Yes Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is come into the world.” John 11:27

 

What Your Mother Really Wants for Christmas

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edit Door Prize WrapI write one post a week and the most difficult words to write are the four to six in the title. Last weekend, while enjoying a rare theme park date with my husband, the title came first.

I’ve been a mom for more than forty-two years.  Motherhood was my first job with benefits and it’s a great gig. I’m quite sure that I’m not the first woman to say that it is the most difficult, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

I love that God saw fit to give me girls.  (Without them, I would have zero fashion sense.) Now that they have children and we have mothering in common and I think they even get me sometimes. At my age, when I look into a mirror I see my mother’s face…and I am shocked! But I look into the faces of my daughters and they reflect my life.

The Osborne family of Arkansas donated a bunch of lights to Walt Disney World after their neighbors got in an uproar over the display at their home.  Disney took those lights to Hollywood Studios and in true form turned them into something magical. The magic happens when you turn the corner from the back lot onto the Streets of America and see millions of dancing lights, Christmas music filling the air and a mass of people absolutely in awe and full of Christmas cheer.  I’ve taken that walk with my children and grandchildren. We’ve danced together in the streets to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas tree” and I’ve kissed my sweet husband as we sang “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. I’ve stood in awe of the beauty of the nativity. If that display were Sodom and Gomorrah I would be a pillar of salt because I can never just walk away without glancing back and wishing I could stay a little longer.

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They claim this is the last year – I doubt it. They may relocate it, but I digress. Just in case, I desperately wanted walk under those lights one more time, to relive the memories my heart cherishes; the selective memories that don’t include the tired children, the grumpy parents and the complete absence of any place to stop and rest.

How do you feel about questions like “What do you want for Christmas?”?  I detest them. Answering always makes me feel greedy, and typically I can’t think of a thing. To be honest, I’ve been in a bit of a funk this Christmas season and what I secretly want is Christmas like it used to be.  Kids opening presents, food and lots of family. Waking up to an empty house and waiting until almost new years to have everyone in one place is the new normal.  And it is way better than some people’s normal…I know that well.

Because  she works for the mouse and she makes magic happen on a daily basis, but mostly because she loves me, my sister gave us tickets to see the lights one more time.

My hubby has something called severe spinal stenosis.  For a least three years, he’s had issues with standing in one spot for more than a few minutes; for the last year, the pain is excruciating when he walks even short distances.  He wanted to go with me (insert emoji of joy mixed with angst). After agreeing on the limitations his current health conditions  impose, we decided to make a day of it – a sort of mini vaca before he has spinal surgery early next year.

The inspiration for the title came as, throughout the day, text messages  from our daughters popped up on both of our phones.  “Get a wheelchair for Dad” “You don’t have to wait in line, Dad. Get a wheelchair. Do it for Mom…you want to be able to make it to see the lights – this means a lot to her!” “I hope you are taking it easy, Dad.”

My greatest gift these days is their love and care for us. They know how we love one another.  They’ve seen how we prop one another up and push through hard things for one another. In the midst of their busy days they took time to urge us to take care of each other. We didn’t get a wheelchair, but we stopped when he needed to. He carefully managed his  pain and we had a wonderful day.

The way that our children love us is touching.  I’m especially moved by how they care for their dad.  Families are dynamic and I know that God has scattered ours a bit more than this mom would like.  But the real test of family is how we care for one another. Nothing is sweeter than watching your children, though separated by 400 miles, rally a joint campaign to ensure that their sentimental fool of a mom remembers their dad’s limitations. They were with us and they were looking out for us.

This Christmas, perhaps the greatest give you can give won’t require wrapping. Who needs to know you are with them and are looking out for them as we enter the new year?

Osborne Nativity

Merry Christmas, friends! May the peace of Christ fill your hearts and homes this Christmas.

 

 

I Just Wanted My Photobook

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The irony does not escape me.

I’d been waiting for a great coupon for weeks after deciding that I would make photo books for some of my grandkids.  Walgreens was the winner with 75% off.   I decided that the first book would be for John.  He loves to recite the names of family members and he loves books.  So, a picture book of family members?  Win/Win.

 

I badgered patiently asked his mom and Nana for pictures to supplement the 2,000+ photos currently in my iCloud account.  Finally, on Saturday afternoon, the last day of this “best coupon of the year”, I had everything I needed to start designing John’s perfect (catch that word – it matters) gift.

We had a Christmas party Saturday evening with our same age friends and although we had a great time, we were home by nine o’clock. What can I say?  Those party animals were all pretty tired. I’d enjoyed a lovely libation, a white chocolate somethin-somethin martini (or three) and I was wide awake and ready to tackle the project.

Let me tell you, this is not for the faint of heart. There are lots of design choices.  I’m a scrap booker with mildly perfectionist tendencies so it took a while to settle on one, but I was committed to the “Trucks” theme because, well, John loves trucks even more than he loves books. The next step is selecting photos and I had done my homework!  Most of them were organized into a file on a flash drive and I quickly uploaded them.  Arranging them…well, see above where I mentioned perfectionist tendencies.  Adding embellishments to personalize the pages and make the pictures pop was so much fun!

I remember looking up from the laptop that was, literally on my lap, to the alarm clock past the foot of our bed. Hubby had been softly snoring for a couple of hours and I was ready to call it.  Finished at 11:45, just under the coupon deadline.  I added my labor of love to the cart, entered my coupon code and it was a wrap!  Mark that one off your list, Lorraine.  I returned the laptop to the kitchen and slept well, dreaming about the next day’s shopping trip that would move me closer to the finish line.

Then Sunday came and in the midst of shopping the phone rang with a call from someone in the photo department at Walgreens.  A slight delay, blah, blah, paper out of stock, blah, blah.  I assured him that it was all good, ‘cause this Grandma doesn’t actually need the book in her hands today. I’m rocking this gift-giving thing.

Sunday night…another call. It was ready! I jumped in my car and drove to the store. I couldn’t wait to take a look, but my excitement quickly abated when I noticed a “smudge” on the corner of every page.  They agreed to try again.  In the meantime, I had a revision or two after seeing it in print. (See above – note word “perfectionist”) The clerk was sympathetic to my plight and agreed that was fine, especially in light of all of the inconvenience I was experiencing.  In order to do that, and with assurance that I just needed to call the customer service line to explain, she cancelled the original book.  I spent another hour making revisions and spelling my email address over and over to someone in Miami.  God bless my husband who simply watches and shakes his head. Add to revised book to cart, cross fingers and wait.

On Monday the call was from yet another tech at the second store location.  The book was ready!  I couldn’t wait to see it now that it was PERFECT, exactly how I wanted it.  The problems were a blessing, actually.  Thank you, Jesus, for problems. I raced into the store, more anxious than ever to review my masterpiece.  I opened the book and there again, a smudge on every single page.  The clerk was at a loss and suggested I call the next day to speak with the daytime person.

When I called Tuesday, this new clerk suggested I try another store (third store location in case you’ve lost count). Maybe it was a problem with the printer at their store, blah, blah, blah.  By the way, in order to do that, you’ll need to add the book to your cart and reorder. Coupon code? What coupon code?  Oh that…you’ll have to call customer service and ask them to note your account.  And perhaps, just maybe, the problem is with that design.  The truck paper – perhaps choose another design?

And I complied. By now, you may realize that this book is kind of a big deal. This little guy’s adoption will be final soon.  He’s special.  This is something that will be uniquely his in a big family.  Choosing another design meant starting over.  A complete remake.  A couple of hours later, it was done. I chose a very basic solid paper design and it was all good.  I still felt a loss over the truck paper, but I was willing to let it go. Or so I thought. The fourth call to customer service was to a very nice person who credited my account with a whole bunch of 8X10 collage prints but all I really wanted was my photo book.

The email announcing the completion came around bed time last night, so I decided to stop on my way to work this morning.  Just after the store opened at 7 a.m. I rolled into the parking lot, coffee in hand. The photo counter was still dark, but a clerk quickly arrived to assist.  I opened the book and it was…..perfect.  The colors were gorgeous and while it wasn’t trucks, it was colorful and it was filled with the faces of people John loves.  My heart leaped a little as I paged through – these were my people, ya’ll.

And then it was time to pay. I explained the situation…the problems, the multiple calls to the customer service line, the call that I made explaining it all to this store when I placed the order yesterday, the reassurance that I was given that they would honor the discount….and she looked at me like, “Sure, lady” and said there is nothing here about that.  And I lost it. I forgot all about thanking Jesus for problems.

All of the frustration over four days of calling, running to the store, redesigning (and maybe a little over the fact that I started the morning searching for a stuffed rabbit that arrived last week and now is nowhere to be found ) boiled up.  I don’t know for sure what I said, but my voice was raised and trembling as I turned and walked away from my precious book, resigned to make yet another call to wait for it….”customer service”.

Then she spoke calmly “Please, ma’am, come back.” Four words, and they started a flood.  A tear-filled apology from me and a wise decision by her.  I don’t even know her name…it’s not on the receipt and she wasn’t wearing a name tag, but she should be promoted. She handled this hot mess like a boss.

I sat in my car, taking the book from its protective sleeve.  It is lovely.  But the value is not in the paper selection or the timeliness or even in the coupon savings.  It’s the precious souls whose faces fill the layouts. As I look into the pages, I realize that this experience is a peek at my anxious heart.  So, I’ll say it once more and mean it.  Thank you, Jesus, for problems.

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I need to make three more of these books.  Anyone have a good coupon code?

 

 

A Flame of Hope

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MerryBrightThe weather was beautiful – perfect for an outdoor event on a December evening in Central Florida. The sun was beginning to disappear and the sky was doing that thing where the horizon glows like the edge of the earth is on fire. Early, as is often the case at this stage of our lives, we pulled into the parking lot of the big First Baptist church. It was already beginning to fill up and we paused to greet friends as we walked from the car toward the center of town. People were already gathering, claiming a spot to view the festivities.

The stage, situated opposite the Christmas tree that replaces the fountain as the centerpiece during the holidays, was already filled with singers, warming up and performing sound checks. We took time to get coffee and settled in on the street with thousands of our neighbors. It was small town America at its best.

The program began as the worship team sang the classic “Go Tell it on the Mountain”. People were sitting and standing shoulder to shoulder around the stage and looking around; you couldn’t see the end of them. They were clapping and singing the soulful spiritual. The song was first published in 1907 in a book by John Wesley Work, Jr. who was the first African-American collector of Negro spirituals. It seemed fitting that the worship leader from the Baptist church, a young African American man, led the community as we gathered and celebrated the joy of “telling the story” this Friday evening.

Local pastors, one after another, read from the Bible, sharing the account of the birth of Christ. Then, a single candle was lit and the flame was passed. It was windy, and there were thousands of people. It seemed like a nice thought but an impossible feat, to be honest. I can be pretty realistic pessimistic at times, but as in this case, I’m often wrong.

I watched the flame and the people as they handled it, shielding it from the wind and relighting it as needed. As I saw each person turning to the next, offering the light, my heart swelled with sacred realization. This was a beautiful illustration of the Gospel: every person passing the light of Christ to the next; carefully and intentionally sharing hope.

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As the light traveled across and down the crowded streets, faces shone in the soft light of candles. In the midst of a great crowd of people, my heart was moved. I quietly and privately vowed to a change of heart. While I can’t escape the busier schedule or the responsibilities that come with this season, I will choose hope over stress and anxiety. These are just a few of the things that I hope for this Christmas:

  • To bless my family with the gift of a joyful wife, mother and grandma
  • To explain the concept of a budget to my “love to give” husband
  • To enjoy all things in moderation: food, drink, work and play
  • To enjoy the festivities that come once each year at Christmas
  • Comfort for my recently widowed friend and others who will have their first Christmas without a loved one
  • Peace for mommas everywhere, cause you know…momma stress

I’m relieved that my Christmas tree is decorated. I’m thrilled that we chose to spend Saturday evening with six precious friends who have been together with us through ups and downs for the last several years. I’m grateful for another Christmas shopping day with my sister, my friend.

I’m really glad that I chose to deal with the crowds last Friday evening. I was almost ready to throw in the towel and give up on the whole lot of stuff to do and places to be. I was just too tired and I didn’t have the time. But I ran across this late last week. I can’t even recall how I got to it:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

I haven’t read the books or even seen the movies, but if you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you’ll recognize the quote is from Gandalf. His flaming words made their mark on my heart. The choices are mine.

  • On Friday night, “Light Up” was the best choice for us.
  • On Saturday afternoon, despite tradition and a multitude of other good reasons to attend our town’s Christmas parade, I chose errands and decorating. It was wonderful to prioritize and complete tasks, and now I can enjoy our home.
  • Saturday night, an intimate party with dear friends was a perfect time to relax and enter the joy of Christmas.
  • Sunday? It was the perfect day with my sister to catch up on more than just a shopping list.

The demands of the season can be overwhelming. The honest truth is that we all have the same currency of hours, and necessities of life often dictate most of the budget. Discretionary spending of time is where the difference is made. I’m vowing to consider every minute as if it were a precious gold coin. I won’t clutch it tight in my hand because thankfully, time, must be spent as it comes. It is a gift to be used and enjoyed and this Christmas season I hope to have no “spender’s remorse”.

May your Christmas be filled with the things that make your heart leap, whether the hustle and bustle of a theme park or mall, the magnificence of a production akin to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular or the blessing of an evening at home.

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Hoping for More

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Ya’ll, I am tired. It’s been really good, but I am done. Except I can’t be done. We’re only getting started.

It all began on Wednesday of last week. The cooking frenzy that produced our Thanksgiving feast commenced late in the afternoon. I was supposed to have “early release” from work, but I worked from home. That means I was sitting at my laptop long after the release time, conveniently jumping up on occasion to do a little something toward meal preparation…you know, like hoisting a twenty pound bird into the brine that would transform him into a culinary masterpiece. (Alton Brown is my hero.)

As we headed to bed, I grabbed my phone to double check turkey roasting times. Our feast was set for 1:00 and I never want to relive my heritage of Thanksgiving meals not yet served well into the evening because the huge bird was still in the oven. Back in the day when we celebrated Thanksgiving at my parents’ house, by 7:00 p.m. the obligatory relish tray had been devoured and it was always closer to 9 when we finally ate. When I realized that in order to cook and carve that bird and still have time to do the last minute meal preparation I would have to be up at 6 a.m., I was mad at the turkey.

Fortunately, I woke after a good sleep with a better attitude toward the dead bird that was soaking in a salty sweet bath in the fridge. It WAS Thanksgiving after all. And as it turns out, it was a day that I won’t soon forget.

Our family, like many, has experienced divorce. It is the hardest, most gut-wrenching experience of my life. I’ve buried my parents and three siblings. I’ve been bankrupt and lost my home. I’m not speaking from a soft life.

I’ve also, through this devastation (and don’t let anyone tell you there is not physical, emotional and spiritual fallout – they lie), experienced the grace of God in ways that I cannot explain.

Thanksgiving was simply awesome and I have no idea if the food was that great. They said it was, but they are after all, my family. The best part of the day, the part that made my heart the only muscle on my body that wasn’t aching at the end of it all, was the part where two of my children – the one born to me and the one who married into this family, filled our home with grace and peace.

ChristmasTreeWhile I would have loved to just pitch a tent and bask in the glow of that all weekend, I had to move along. On Saturday I returned home after running from event to event the entire day to find that my dear hubby had unpacked the brand new Christmas tree, a floor model purchased on clearance last year after Christmas…cause that’s how I roll. There it stood, naked and with a strand of lights refusing to shine. I spent the next hour “fluffing” the branches, changing bulbs and trying to get that dark strand to shine to no avail. I fought the tree and the tree won. I bought a strand of lights. And as I write, I’m staring at that naked tree, and wondering when I will find time to decorate it. If I’m not careful, I’m already over the holidays. I am mad at the tree.

It’s November 30th, my friends. Something is wrong with me. I’m already hopelessly behind; hopelessly worn out and hopelessly insufficient.

I close my eyes. Forget the pile of pumpkins just over my shoulder, waiting to be stored away until next year. Don’t mind the naked tree or the to do lists. It’s all distraction.  This is the beginning of Advent.

Advent. And the first candle of advent? Hope. Hope moves us forward. advent-551970_1920Hope comes over anxiety like a weighted blanket, soothing and reassuring as a hug. Yet hope seems lost in the news, in the doctor’s office waiting room, in the bank balance, in sorrow, in the demands of life.

In the quiet of my mind’s eye, I try to picture the first Christmas, the beginning of hope.

Mary and Joseph no doubt encountered heavy traffic and grumpy people as they walked the dusty road to Bethlehem. Mary rode part of the way on the back of a donkey, I suppose. I’m sure that was spiffy. It was so crowded that the teen mom gave birth in an animal stall (apparently Joseph failed to reserve the birthing suite at the local inn); she wrapped her infant son in cloths. I assume no one gave her a monogramed Aden and Anais blanket, either. As I think about that night, I imagine the smells and the sounds that surrounded the birth of our savior. We like to picture an angel choir and that is glorious. The black sky was filled with tiny stars, the air in that barn was filled with the pungent odor of animals, and there was a fire burning for light and warmth. Most likely people all around were cooking meals and managing the mundane as Mary pushed the savior king into the rugged hands of Joseph. That was the first Christmas. Unpretentious, natural and even gritty, yet the heavens were filled with the songs of angels as hope entered the scene.

I open my eyes and look around again. The lights on the unfinished tree cease to mock or accuse me. Instead they remind me of the Bethlehem sky that night when in the midst of the mundane and the routine, the keeping of mandated schedules and ordinary activity, heaven opened to announce the birth of Hope.

I have a three year old grandson who always wants to share in the good stuff, and trust me, nothing gets by him. Whenever anyone has a snack or a drink he chimes in “Me-ah Too-ah!” “Me have it!” This Christmas season, I’m going to take a lesson from him. In the midst of grumpy people, well-traveled roads and mandated schedules, I’m reaching up for my share of hope. Me-ah too-ah, Jesus, Me-ah too-ah.

May your Christmas season be filled with the hope that is found in Christ alone.

canvachristmas!

 

I’m Seeing Red and It’s Not What You Think

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Mom, do you remember when you were awaiting the arrival of your babies? There were months to prepare and everyone was waiting with excited anticipation. Showers celebrated the impending arrival of your blessing; new clothing was washed in that amazing Dreft detergent and folded and placed at the ready in a lovingly prepared nursery. The arrival of a child is a blessed and joyous event that should be celebrated.

When the call comes, foster parents have little time to prepare. Until that moment, they have no idea of age, gender, size or situation. In a matter of minutes or hours the child will arrive, likely with nothing more than the clothing on their backs, sometimes in the middle of the night, confused and possibly fearful.

May I share the arrival story of my second granddaughter? A case worker called – this is the official announcement that you’re “expecting”. The baby was being discharged from the NICU. In a matter of hours, a very sick, very tiny baby was delivered to her new home. There was no time for preparation except in the heart of a woman who heard the specific call for this child and said “yes”.

Foster moms go into nesting mode from zero to sixty with that call. And often, they are on their own. If they’ve been at it for a while, they likely have a network they can mobilize. Sadly, that network is mostly other fostering families.

It’s not the same. I get that. But what if we, as a community of believers…the CHURCH, got serious about this issue? What if we said ENOUGH? What if rather than getting bent out of shape about a disposable cup we took up the cause of the orphan?StarbucksCup

In the United States over 250,000 children enter foster care each year. That number is staggering. While not every family can or will foster, the statistics tell that if one family in one church out of every three churches were to welcome one child into their home, there would be no child waiting.

I wish I could just lay my heart bare. Words are supposed to do that, but I am better at telling a story than championing a cause. As best as I can tell it, this is what I want you to hear, dear reader. What if that that one family out of those three churches had an army of people around them? What if when a mama posted a status update about needing a toddler bed, instead of sending links to beds for sale on Craig’s List that same team of people found a bed and delivered it to that home where everyone is in prep mode?

I never knew. I had no idea. I thought those people were super heroes and I admired how they had it together and managed so well. I ignored the fact that I could should be a part of the story. I freely admit that I only became part of this amazing story because of my daughter and son-in-law.

But regardless of my failure to walk in it, this was not written for one family in one church out of three, my friends:

Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 NET

So, dear reader, if you are still with me, and if that verse is speaking to your heart, let’s get on with it.

There are ways to touch the lives of children in foster care even beyond becoming a foster parent. I was going to give you a nice, neat bulleted list, but I just deleted all of it (I hope I don’t regret that in a minute!). What if we got to know them by spending time, asking questions and then reacting and responding as needed out of our abundance and with the conviction that these children ARE our responsibility?

Further, what about the church? What is her role in supporting fostering and adoptive families? It’s not enough to celebrate Orphans Day one Sunday in November (if your church even did – mine didn’t but that’s my fault).

Under the authority of the very Word of God, churches must provide tangible support for families who pursue a calling in fostering and/or adoption:

  • Put in place supports that will allow the families to maintain their current level of involvement in the church
  • Make sure you are ready to welcome special needs children into the various ministries for babies, children and teens
  • Make church the easiest place to navigate with a large family
  • Grief counseling (fostering involves loss)

Fostering is a delicate dance. For good reasons foster families take lots of things one day at a time. And ironically, that’s how love grows. One day at a time. And sometimes, that little girl who was discharged from the NICU becomes my granddaughter.

EllieHosp

The Book says it more than once. I’m only sorry that I am so very late to this amazing dance.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[
a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

A Spiritual Legacy ~ Never Underestimate the Impact of a Mother’s Faith

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“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

~ Mother Teresa~

For a few years I’ve been meeting weekly with some other women for Bible study. There is no study guide and really, no teacher. Throughout the week we read independently, using journaling to respond and make notes of key verses. It’s been amazing to camp out in a chapter for a few days, reading and rereading, comparing translations and investigating commentator’s notes. I’ve already shared in last week’s post how this has kindled a love for the Word in my heart.

Provider Journaling

Over the summer, I read Ruth and this was a great reminder of God’s provision.

I recently discovered the wonderful craft of Bible journaling. I’ve searched around

the internet and found some amazing blogs by people who have become Bible artists. I have zero talent for drawing and painting but I love to work with color and I can trace and copy pretty well. I find inspiration and encouragement from sites where others who are also not artists have taken up coloring in their Bibles. I love adding this dimension to my notes and sometimes I get carried away and end up with a bit of a mess, but I love that it encourages me to let passages simmer in my heart and intentionally respond to them.

Perhaps you are wondering why the obsession with writing and adding colorful words and pictures to the pages of my Bible. I’m 61 years old, and while I hope there are many years left in me, I’m more aware every day of my mortality and the reality that life is uncertain. I long to leave a legacy for my family. I want them to have reminders and reassurance of my faith and confidence in God and the promise of eternity. Recently I’ve discovered precious reminders, left by my mother, that helped me realize it was her who started me on a path toward my relationship with Christ.

I grew up Catholic. While my siblings and I all experienced the sacraments of first Missal 2Holy Communion and confirmation, there was a falling away from the church before I reached junior high. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I recall that my mother was hurt and in defense, she pulled back. Going to mass as a family and observing holy days was a thing of the past, but I have very vivid memories of my mom’s continued devout faith. As long as I can remember, she owned and cherished a Catholic missal, a liturgical book containing the prescribed prayers, instructions, and chants for the celebration of Mass. When family members passed away she would slip a memorial card or obituary into the pages for safekeeping and prayer. Today that book is in my possession. It has great value to me as it did to my mother. To her, it was the familiar, the comforting words of the Mass she had grown up with. For me, it is an icon, treasured by her and reminiscent of her faith in God.

When I began dating my husband we attended church with his family at a local Baptist congregation where I eventually became a member. Only as I’ve grown older have I appreciated how my Mother grieved over my decision to pursue another denomination. However, I know (and it comforts me that I believe she realized it as well) that it was her faith that first pointed me to God. While I follow a different faith tradition today, the deep roots of my desire to know God and to be in a right relationship with Him are borne out of her example of faith and determination to lead her children to God.

My brother passed away last year. As family members made preparation for his memorial, I began to sift through a bin of photos and other items that were gathered from my parents’ home after Daddy died. As I sorted and searched for pictures of Steve, I ran across a small certificate commemorating my first Communion. It was fhc 2one of very few items other than photos that were there. With six children, stuff tends to get lost or destroyed before it fhc 1can be safely tucked away. But there it was. I turned it over in my hands, thinking of how long it had been there, waiting for the day that I would come across it and finally realize that it was my mother who first pointed me to the Father.

I love having the Bible on my iPad and better yet, on my phone! When I’m studying, one of my favorite tools is viewing the passage in side by side translations on https://www.biblegateway.com/. But as I’ve thought about leaving a legacy of my love for the Word of God, I’ve come to the conclusion that my notes on a device won’t last like they will on the pages of the study Bible that lays open on my desk, surrounded by pens, washi tape, stickers and paint. As I highlight and illustrate and record my responses to the Living Word, I pray that even when I’m gone they will encourage and remind my children of their mother’s faith. As clumsy and awkward as it is, it’s legitimate.

 My Baptism Day - my mom is on the far left.

My Baptism Day – my mom is on the far left.

Confirmation Day

Confirmation Day – my mother made my dress, but it’s hidden under the robe.

For the Love of Jen Hatmaker

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FortheLoveCoverFor the love….the whole world seems to have gone Jen Hatmaker crazy and for good reason. If you’ve not read anything else by her (for the love, why not???) you must get your hands on a copy of her latest book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. I would demand that you not put it down until you’ve finished, but this is a fact…you won’t want to.

There was a song back in the early ‘80s called “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”. Catchy tune and one that I am reminded of now. You see, I discovered Jen Hatmaker before it was cool to know her. Several years ago hubby and I were hosting a bunch of newly married couples in our home on Sunday evenings. After we spent several weeks talking marriage we really wanted to challenge the group. I went searching around the internet for something that might do. I discovered a YouTube video for a book study and there she was, in her white peasant blouse and signature long earrings, talking about giving up her prized cowboy boots and walking out of church barefoot in the freezing cold. That was the beginning of my obsession friendship with Jen, and I was all “We HAVE to do this”! And because my husband doesn’t really like to search the web for anything other than stuff to buy on Ebay trusts my discernment, we did the study and it challenged our hearts and we had many wonderful evenings of sharing how a barefoot church might look. That study was Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. They’ve recently released a new, updated version but I can’t imagine how it could be improved. Life. Changer.

Jen H Books

Notice the dog-eared cover. I’ve read it more than once and I’ve loaned it out several times. This is one you will want to have in paperback – no E-book!

From there I was hooked. I went on Amazon and bought a copy of everything she had written to date. Next life changer from her heart to mine was The Modern Girls Guide to Bible Study. It was as if the woman had been riding in my car, listening as I talked to myself (and sometimes even to Jesus) about how frustrated I was with my inability to read and understand the Bible. I was over studies written by authors with contrived questions that would lead me to the same conclusions as them and for the first time in my adult life I wasn’t teaching a Bible class so I had no structured guide to exploring the Scriptures. I wanted the Word to speak to my heart. I decided to adopt her approach of reading the Bible a new way so that the words of LIFE would become my life.

That was four years ago. I’ve filled a couple of journals, and better yet, I’ve got my tribe of young moms coming with me on this journey through Scripture. I can honestly say that through this approach I’ve come to love the word of God. I spent over forty years following Christ, but never really mastering getting into the Bible and consistently hearing from Him. Sad, and a little embarrassing to admit, but true. If you are in the place that I found myself, earnestly desiring to hear from God, I recommend you read this one. I went from loving and respecting the book that’s called the Bible to loving the very words of God within that book.

Out of the Spin Cycle CoverJen, if you ever read this, can I just say thank you for that devo you did for moms called Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load? Our little Bible study group goes all “summer book club” in June and we read that together a couple of years ago. We laughed and cried and agreed that every new mom should get this book at her baby shower…and then reconsidered and decided that might be premature. There is so much honesty it just might scare her! This is one of those that you deliver to that mom who is in the midst of the struggle, thinking she is the only one:

“Motherhood triggers something that went dormant about the time we left middle school. We’re seeded with this desire to be thought well of, to be admired, to be affirmed in our hard work as moms. We tend to report our babies sleeping longer than they do, our discipline as working more often that it does, and our systems as creating some efficient home that doesn’t exist. We are masters at propping up our lives, spinning a thread of truth into an elaborate tapestry of grandeur–when in fact, during young motherhood most of us live in what my girlfriend Loren calls a “poop storm”.”[i]

Read it, then gift it to a mom friend who is overwhelmed…and be thankful for the honesty (she confesses the time she told her son, who had just opened a sassy mouth, to grab a shovel and start digging his own grave), the humor and the truth within the pages. In these forty devotions, she shares stories from her journey of mothering along with thought-provoking questions and honest, practical steps out of the spin cycle. If I had read this back in the seventies, I would have been a better mom and friend to other moms, I’m sure of it. Of course, Jen was a baby when I was raising children, but you know what I mean…

And back to where we started…For the Love. Jen covers it all in this one, from fashion and family to recipes and the church. I love my church, but all of my life I’ve struggled to know where I fit. Jen’s affirmation of women and the kingdom is spot on:

“God is unveiling women around the world. He always has and continues to work through women and girls, who are half of His church. They are, like men and boys, His image bearers. They are also, like men and boys, gifted, empowered, smart, and anointed.”[ii]

And this…this has much to do with why I’m now posting a blog. Every. Week.

“Say yes to that thing. Work with a mentor. Stop minimizing what you are good at and throw yourself into it with no apologies. Do you know who will do this for you? No one. You are it. Don’t bury that talent, because the only thing fear yields is one dormant gift in a shallow grave. How many trot out that tired cliché—“I’m waiting for God to open a door”—and He is all, “I love you, but get going, pumpkin, because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move.” (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way, on purpose.”[iii]

Are you tired of trying to live a balanced life? What IS that supposed to look like, anyway?

“Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.

Here is part of the problem, girls; we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories.”[iv]

Yes, Jen, a thousand times yes. So, trust me on this. You have to read it. If I cited every quote that spoke to me I’d have to pay her royalties and besides, the book has a great cover.  Just buy it and you can thank me later.

When I got to the end of For the Love, I saw that list of the 500 launch team members and I grieved. You see, 500 people were chosen to form a launch team for this book, seeking authentic endorsements from real people. I so wanted to be in that number, rather than the #4500 (the rest of the applicants who were not selected) where I landed. But grace is a beautiful thing, and I forgive you and your publishers, Jen, for not selecting me. Now that I have a blog and I’m a writer and everything….maybe next time. Because, for the love, why not?

After all of this, surely you can see that I AM her BFF. If you want to challenge me on that, I’m going to need someone to hold my earrings…..

[i] Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten your Mother Load – Jen Hatmaker

[ii] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

[iii] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

[iv] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

Grace and the Mouse

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Preface: This isn’t my normal blog post, but this is what’s fresh and real.  I hope it is relevant and even fun for some of you. As always, thanks for reading!

John  Mine Train

I just spent four days at Disney World on a park hopping tour with six children. Based on our rough estimate, we’ve done this twenty seven times in the past two years. The faces of the children have varied and we’ve actually had an extra once or twice. In every case, we’ve had no less than three in diapers and the age range has varied from a few weeks to eleven years.

Let’s just say that we don’t land quietly in the Magic Kingdom.

There is a lot of preparation each night. Clothes and shoes are all lined up, ready for the joint effort that will dress the littles as they rise. Diaper bags are packed and lined up near the door. A plan is in place for portable breakfast. Mom is the last one to bed and the first one up each morning. This sort of preparation is key and my offspring has this down to a science.  She’s a super mom!

night before

Lunches and snacks are prepared the night before, as well. We love that the Disney companies allow us to bring food into the parks. Food that travels well, like peanut butter and jelly, solid fruit and cheese sticks are great. Anything that can be eaten on the run is our preference. Of course, the lunchbox menu varies by park, since we have favorites that we love to purchase and eat in each. And lest you think we brown bag it all day, we’ve learned to snack on the run to maintain blood sugar (thereby reducing meltdowns…at least among the children) and sit everyone down for a good meal in a favorite quick serve restaurant mid-afternoon. Since we are a large presence, it’s best to plan away from the peak service times and we’ve found this approach works great when planning our day.

We push three strollers. At most parks we skip the tram and hoof it to the park entrance. Loading the tram with strollers, half a dozen bags and coolers along with six children is not only serious heavy lifting, we fill a lot of seats. If we’ve parked too far away – this typically happens at the Magic Kingdom, Mom and Dad push the strollers to the entrance, loaded with all of the bags, and the grandmas ride the tram with children in tow. Our motto: “Trams are for people, not stuff”.

strollers

The next stop that requires stamina and some serious skills is bag check. This is not an exercise for the weak or timid. All of those diaper bags and lunch bags, as well as any personal items like fanny packs or purses have to be checked by the Disney security staff. It’s a contest of efficiency and speed and one of the first opportunities of the day to show kindness to the park staff. It’s also the first opportunity for a child to get separated, so we typically assign one adult to corral any “loose” children.

While we are on the topic of getting lost, we always have the conversation with the children about what to do if they get separated from the crew. “Look for a cast member – they will be wearing a name tag.” And when we enter the park, we immediately point out cast members and draw attention to said name tag. I would love to tell you that we’ve never actually lost a child, but we have one little boy who notices everything and sometimes stops to investigate. Let’s just say that we can vouch for the efficiency of Disney’s parent location procedures.

In addition to the age variation, we have four boys and two girls. Princesses are high on the list for one sister, and to their credit, the older brothers have stood in long lines with her. When Anna and Elsa debuted it was a family affair. We couldn’t wait to meet them and everyone hung in there in spite of a chilly rain and long line. However, we’ve learned that at times it’s efficient for our crew to divide and conquer. That said, we make sure to frequently regroup and have lots of shared experiences.

ForcePush

He has waited for so long for this day – the force push!!!!

botherscousinsjedi proncessBruce

There are plenty of blogs that are dedicated to helping you get the most from your visit to Disney World, so I won’t try to do that. This post is about assuring you that you can do it with lots of littles. My recommendation?

Take a least one grandma (two is even better). In the afternoon, help Grandma find an out of the way spot for the littles to nap in their strollers. This is the time for her to put her feet up, sip on an iced coffee and celebrate the joy of introducing a new generation to the magic of Walt Disney.

Grandmaand babies

On this trip we logged in excess of 20,000 steps on Magic Kingdom days and nearly as many at other parks. I must be honest, it’s not all fun and games. The days can be long, and it’s a very different day with infants in tow. Although we appreciate baby care centers, they are never nearby when you need them. Take a thermos of hot water if you’ll need to make formula on the fly. Hot water is not easy to come by in the parks.

sleep jsleep E

In Central Florida it’s hot this time of year, and afternoon showers are typical. Make sure you have protection from the rain, not only for yourselves but also for those strollers. If you don’t have a stroller cover, just make do with a clear parka. Buy them BEFORE you go to the parks – your wallet will thank you! You are already carrying all of that other stuff in…what’s a few rain parkas?

If you have to exit the park near closing, be prepared for crowded monorails and melt downs…possibly by the children. It happens, friends. I will say that making sure everyone has recently had a high protein snack is a good plan – and may reduce the meltdown potential. But it’s not a long ride, and then all of those good people who were judging you will have something to discuss when you go your separate ways (insert sarcastic smiley here!). And most likely, your preschooler will magically feel better and the ride home will be much more pleasant. Grace in these moments is harder to extend but I find myself in need of it as well.

I love experiencing the parks with children. I’ve found that sharing the wonder and joy through their eyes is magical. On a recent visit, as we drove onto property via Western Way, my three year old grandson spotted the welcome sign that features Mickey, Minnie and Donald. He said “Home.” Yes, little buddy, I agree. It’s always good to come home.

mine train