Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Connecting doesn't have to be complicated. (Growing up with my 'tween)

I see these two little girls, my babies grown beautiful. They look at me with eyes full of questions and hope.
I feel the temptation to pull away.
I had thought that children would require less of me as they grew. I has assumed that once they could dress and feed themselves, they would need less me of me. I am tired, and I do wish I could rest now. I wish I could just sit back and enjoy the show, and watch my little darlings spread their little wings. Isn’t it enough to feed and schedule and carpool them? Besides, I don’t know all the answers, and even if I did, do they need my lectures? Would they even hear them?

I look at my little girls, and I see beauty in bloom, and I fear.
I have seen how this world treats beauty.
I remember.
I remember how easy it is to make bad decisions that can completely change a life (or destroy it.) I remember boys and dating and giddy brain fog. I remember wanting to be loved, wanting to feel beautiful, and yet feeling so awkward and self-conscious.
I remember how hard it was to be a teenager.

Staying connected: It doesn't have to be complicated
Studies show the importance of parents connecting with their children (like this one here.) The studies are good, and the stats are interesting, but those are not the things that really motivate me. It is love and fear for these two young women, my babies grown beautiful.

This week, we had a spontaneous tea party when the boys were napping. We grabbed what we had (Ritz crackers and Pez) and we tip-toed out the door.  We sat by the pond on an old sheet, and we spent twenty minutes, just being together.  We didn't have a "big talk" about anything, but what we did was important. We connected.

Our lives are so busy. Connecting with their hearts is not easy.  I don't have time for this. I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing here, but I resolve to try.

Grow me up with them, Father.  Grow us up together.



Do you feel the temptation to pull away as the stakes get higher and life gets busier?
Did you connect with your 'tween this week, even just for a few minutes? 
Tell us about it in the comments!


See also: Growing up with my 'tween: Why I don't want to talk about it.



Monday, July 30, 2012

My Weakness/His Strength: Praying about the Little Things

 I know He cares about the little stuff, but the bigger stuff seems more worth His time. He's got SO much to deal with, and I know He's more than capable of handling ALL of it perfectly... but why waste his time bothering Him with how much I hate my job when I should be so grateful to be healthy, safe, free, and able to work?

I feel guilty asking for things to improve when I know I have things SO much better/easier than the majority of people in the world.


---  from Katie Jo Otte

I feel so small down here!

What a good question: Why pray about the little things?
I’ll give you three reasons:
Who we are
What we are called to do
Who He is

Who we are: Beggars
Apart from the grace of God, our hearts are incapable of love. We come to Him as beggars, with unclean hearts and empty hands, requesting His forgiveness and mercy along with our daily bread.  We cannot change our hearts, and we (often) cannot change our difficult circumstances. We are, in all senses of the word, needy.

What we are called to do: Love
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is what we are called to do today. Love Him, and love those around us

Is it hard for you to love the people around you? It is hard for me.
Please note: when I say “love,” I do not mean delight in, like, or enjoy.  To love means to desire the other person’s good (bodily and spiritual good), and to plunge your body and heart into sacrifice for their good (as He loves us.)

Let me ask you this: which of the following do you think is hardest?

  • Loving the child with seizures as she is being hooked up to an EEG
  • Loving the child who just crawled into your bed and you realize his pants are wet.
  • Loving the child hanging on my legs while I am trying to make dinner.

That was a trick question.  I think all these things are hard. Both require setting aside self and seeking the other’s good. That is hard in a hospital room, and it is hard in my kitchen.

Who He is: Our Father
Because of Christ's sacrifice for our sins, we are children of God. We are carried by Jesus into the presence of God, where beggars are given all that they need and more.  We are clothed in His righteousness, and we are invited to share in His inheritance.  We receive the gift of faith, and this gift is mixed with love and spills over into love. 

We learn to pray in all things; we pray without ceasing: that He would deliver us from trial and evil; that we may be helped through this sin-filled life; and His life and love may constantly pour into us and flow through us to those around us.

 “Lord, help me be patient and loving with this child as he learns to use the toilet.”
 “Lord, deliver us from seizures and evil.”
“God help me not to cringe when the kids hug me today.”
“Father, help me not be a grump while I take out the trash.”
“God, help my job go smoothly today! I need a break!”
“Father, let them nap a little longer so I can finish this blog post.”

See? He hears our prayers.

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What do you think?  Should we pray about the little things?

Do you ever feel like God might be to busy or be irritated with small requests?


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Click here for more My Weakness/His Strength
Grace frees me to be the child that I am!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Revamping systems: Grocery shopping and book giveaway

School's coming again, so I'm trying to get organized. One things leads to another and I find myself revamping everything.   I'm rearranging rooms, organizing the homework center, delegating more jobs to kids that are a year older, getting rid of stuff, and simplifying everything I can.

My philosophy:
Some things need to be done regularly, and there's no getting out of them.

I could put it off, and sigh, and whine, and feel overwhelmed, and then finally do it when it's too bad to ignore, and then do it quickly and half-heartedly, and sometimes for hours or days

OR I could come up with a system.

I've learned (after many years of trying option 1) that this works for me: if I don't enjoy doing it, I do it with a system.
This allows me to do the job well while thinking about it less.

(If you are revamping your chaos-management system, check out the flylady. She's been helping me maintain my sanity since 2006.)

I've done this with many things: laundry, bills, housework, blogging, meal planning

One of my weakest areas: grocery shopping.
I meal plan, but I do not cut coupons, and I do not generally stick to a budget. I know I can improve in this area, and let's face it, as the kids get bigger and eat more, and as the prices continue to rise, I am feeling the push to come up with a money-saving system.

Cut It Out 3D 300px.jpgMy blogging friend Kate has just written a book on this topic, and I think it is a great place to start. "How I fed my family of 10 for 500 dollars a month." Now that is impressive. There is wisdom to be gained from this woman.

Check it out. won't you?

She's giving 5 copies of this book away- enter here to win!





Do you have systems for doing the chores you do not enjoy?
Are you revamping your systems this summer?
What area of home management is hardest for you to get under control?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Things I should not have to say by the water



Just know that I’m not coming in there after you.

They’re not lake boogers, and don’t throw them at your brother

If you are going to spank the water, don’t do it by the rest of us!

It's not "allergy," it's algae, and don't throw it at your brother!

Yes, your shoe floats, but I’d rather you use sticks and leaves!

Don’t put seaweed on your brother’s head!

Make sure you aim your stick/javelin at the middle of the pond.

You’re not going to be able to make an entire tree a javelin!

I’m disturbing the fish? REALLY?

Careful- you're gong to fall in the mud!

(Check out the mud boots!)

Wait, why do I care? Have fun.
Let me know when you are ready for your baths!

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Do you ever forbid things, and then just give up?
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See also: 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

anxiety in the car

When we drive, I sit at attention. I try not to worry but I do worry, especially when the road is narrow and the drop off is steep. I listen to music and look up at the trees passing by and I don’t actively think of tragedy, but sometimes it comes in flashes. It comes uninvited. The image of the far slipping off the road, rolling down the hill; broken glass and blood and could I even reach my cell phone? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Growing up with my 'tween: Why I don't want to talk

It wasn’t long ago that she slept on my chest, resting her ruffled bottom in the palm of my hand.  She was my first baby, and now I see her tan and tall, limbs stretching and curves beginning to show, and I see. Suddenly, she is a little woman.

I don’t really want to talk about this, not with her or with you.  I don’t want to talk about growing up and body changes and boys and dating and heartbreak and scary stuff.  I don’t wanna. 

Yet I am more and more convinced, mothers, that we must talk.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hey good lookin’ -- Thoughts on spiritual playacting

Grace frees me to be the child I am and to ask my Father for help. Grace changes things. As Kleinig explains,

“With that request for help comes an end to our playacting before the imagined audience of God and the people around us. (Grace Upon Grace, Kleinig, p. 39)
Pinned Image
photo credit

When you put it that way, it sounds so silly:
“playacting before the imagined audience of God and the people around us.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

God is in control. Is that supposed to be comforting?

God is in control.
It is so easy to say. It is so easy to accept, cheerfully, when things are going well.

And then, suddenly, when the wind is knocked out of me by tragedy or grief, it’s hard.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Last Chance: free eBook offer ends today!

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Over 7,000 downloaded!
Do you have yours yet?
Get it here
(you do not need a kindle to read it!)
Buy the paperback here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Practicing Trials: Read and Receive

Sometimes, I read books to practice life.

I pretend I’m trying the story out, as if I could use the vicarious experience as a rehearsal, imagine what I’d do, and be better equipped to do that thing if my life ever comes to that. It’s like exercise. Getting in shape for the race that might be ahead.
If this happened to me, what would I do?
Would I do what this person did?
Would I be strong like they are?


I wonder how many people are reading my book in this way? Do some of you read to try out a trial, to “practice” a hard thing?

Of course, if the borrowed trial gets too intense, I can always just close the book and walk away.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Experimenting on Children: The Hike


As you may know, I love to experiment on my children. (Don't judge me. I mean like this.)

I love throwing them in a situation and standing back, observing and marveling, as I see the experience reveal new things about their personalities (or confirm things I already knew!)  My latest opportunity for data collection:

The Hike

Some might say that is a crazy idea. It was over 90 degrees out, and quite humid. Physically, the hike was challenging for the children, and I will admit even my legs were shaky by the end of it.

Behold, the various temperaments that tromped through the woods with us that day:

Monday, July 16, 2012

On Broken Hearts and Baked Goods...


A great grief has come into that home, and you want to say something. Or do something. But nothing seems adequate. How can words possibly help in the face of tragedy? How can a bowl of soup even matter, when a heart has been broken to pieces?

I think these thoughts, too, but I go into my kitchen and I bake. I know a pie will not fix the problem. It will not take away the grief. But I make the pie anyway because I know it is important.

Read my Guest Post "On Broken Hearts and Baked Goods" over at Ashley's place

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What do you want people to do when you are flattened with grief?
Have you ever been uplifted by just a pie?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Free eBook: Weak and Loved A Mother-Daughter Love story



Join us as we celebrate the grace of God
and three years of seizure-freedom.

Rejoice with us, and tell your friends!
Read more about the book here

Get the eBook Free HERE
(you do not need to own a Kindle to read this eBook!)

or buy the paperback HERE



She's been seizure free for three years.
Yet my heart still jumps when she does things like this.
And I pray.
(I know she's Yours, Lord, but please don't take her.)

I told her I wanted to celebrate this special day, the anniversary of her surgery.
She doesn't like talking about her surgery,
but she loves to celebrate.
She asked if we could have ice cream for breakfast.
I said, "of course."

Thank You, God, for this moment of health and life.

Why store moments?

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Why store moments?


I am a writer, a gatherer of moments. I look for things that inspire, for drops of grace, for moments of beauty around me, so that I can capture them and pass them on.  I see them often in my children. My mind records the snapshot with a “click,” and I return to it later and paint it with words.

And then I stop and wonder, why store moments?  Why keep my eyes and hands open? What am I collecting memories for?


Read the rest at Allume 

Do you gather moments? What good are they?
Leave me a comment here or there!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Night Before Surgery

The Night Before Surgery
(Excerpt from Weak and Loved: A Mother-Daughter Love Story.)
Written July 14, 2009

It was the evening before surgery. I knew the next day would be one of those days by which we mark time. July 14 would be our last day “before Aggie’s brain surgery,” and everything that was to come would be known as time “after Aggie’s brain surgery.” How should we spend one last night “before surgery” with our sick little Aggie?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Motherhood and letting go

My children are not mine. They are on loan to me by God. I get to care for them today, and nothing after today has been promised to me. Worse yet, I have no right to complain about this. I am not entitled to them, or anyone else I love for that matter. They are mine to love, and someday, to let go.

This weekend, I remember one very difficult letting-go.
I remember when we said goodbye, and how we didn't really know what kind of goodbye we were saying.


Would Aggie be coming home with us? The same Aggie we took? A helped Aggie? A brain-damaged Aggie? Would we come back with good news and hope, or devastating news and last resorts?



They took our smiling child to that room where the real work would begin. I could have counted that moment as my workout for the day: the wrestling I did inside myself in order to let her go. There was a part of me that wanted to grab the gurney, pull her away from those people with needles and drills, and keep her safe with me. No you may not do those awful things to my baby! But she was not safe with me either, and so I let her go. (Weak and Loved A Mother-Daughter Love Story)




When I think of that moment of "letting" them take her to surgery, it reminds me also of that day I "let" my husband get on a plane and go to war.  (As if I had any choices in these matters.)

These are the moments when I see that I do not possess the people I love, that I do not get to demand another day with them.

To a lesser extent, this is the same thing that I feel whenever they go out from under the umbrella of my (supposed) protection:

Summer camp.
Play dates.
Sickness that won't go away.
Visits to Grandma and grandpa's.
Kindergarten.
 
These letting-gos are practice. They force our eyes open, and we see our smallness, the world's dangers, and the gulf between here and eternity.  They move us to fear, and to prayer.


God, take good care of my baby.



How do you deal with times of letting-go, little or big?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Weakness/His Strength #5: Grace For the Pin Pricks of Today

My heart is not stabbed with the arrow of epilepsy or depression at the moment. My wound is not gushing. And yet, even healthy and seemingly capable, I need. 

Perhaps I can see this more clearly than others because of the sheer quantity of children I have: I simply cannot meet all their needs. Not even the legitimate ones. My patience is not strong enough, my heart is not big enough. I don’t love them enough. I’m not talking about being their god; or filling a hole that I was never meant to fill. I’m just talking about my calling. I’m their mom. And I don’t love them enough. I love them much less than I love myself.

That sounds harsh, but it is true.
This selfish heart of mine is not capable of giving my kids the love they deserve. 
I just don’t have it in me.

How do I know?
I know because the pin pricks remind me. The pricks of everyday life reveal again and again, my sin and my need. (And these six children, how they prick me!)

  • They wake me up early and I don’t CARE what they do or what they watch so long as they leave me alone.
  • They leaven their shoes in the living room and I throw them down the hall in anger.
  • Boy hits boy and the screaming makes me MAD.
  • The child wets the bed and I stomp around about it.
  • The baby tap-tap-taps on my arm and I yell, “WHAT!? Stop touching ME!” and he cries.
  • They talk, talk, talk at me, and I find myself thinking crazy thoughts.
Even healthy and strong, I need. I need grace like I need air.

Our Father did not say to His children, “call me when you’ve had a horrible day and I’ll see what I can do.”
Prayer is not meant to be like dialing 911: Emergencies only, and it had better be serious!
He gives us all good things, freely, from eternal life to daily bread.

When I was flattened, my ears were opened and I heard the song of God’s love for me. He called to me and carried me and upheld my heart when I could not do it alone.

It’s a song I hear, grace I breathe in, even on a normal day like today.



Do the pin pricks of everyday life reveal the selfishness in your heart, too?
Do you use prayer like 911?
How has God shown His love to you this week, in big or little things?

This weekend we are celebrating the anniversary of My Great Flattening
Aggie's brain surgery.
Rejoicing in three years seizure-freedom this Sunday.


Don't miss a thing! Follow Weak and Loved by Email, Facebook, RSS, or Twitter 
Join the conversation, and tell your friends!

My Weakness/His Strength:
See the whole series
 here 




Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Weakness His Strength #3: The Heaviness of Motherhood

“I'm the Mom. I can't afford to be weak. 
I have so many responsibilities on my shoulders that if I am weak, 
well then...
everything collapses.”
-- Jenny, commenting on the first post in this series

How many of you relate to this pressure, this terrible pressure?

I know that pressure. I’m the mom, I can’t break down or everything will fall apart.
I have to be strong for their sakes. I have keep going, to hold this all together because if I don’t, then what? Sure, the stress is leaking out of the corner of my eyes and I’m counting the minutes until bedtime.
Sure I was just praying and crying in my room, but now I will wash my face and put on a smile while I make them lunch.

Oh, I know that pressure.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Weakness/His Strength #2: 'Twas Grace That Showed My Heart Its Need

My husband and I worked in a nursing home while we were in college. 


Doris & Emily
We were partners in the job and in ministry to the elderly people in that home. It was a tough job, but I loved it.  When one of us discovered a resident that needed an extra listening ear or a prayer, the other would double up on the “real” jobs so that could get done. It was in that nursing home that we met Agnes, dear Agnes, who taught us Luther’s evening prayer as we read her devotions to her at night:


Josh & "Grandma" Agnes doing nightly devotions
A young girl in my strength, I bounced around that nursing home meeting all the needs that I could. I loved working with my husband in this way. 

I love being the need-meeter.

But I don't always get to be the need-meeter:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Weakness/His Strength #1: Grace Frees Me

Join me this week for “My weakness, His strength,” a series of posts on the subject of weakness to encourage you to admit and accept your weakness and find comfort in the grace of God in Christ.



Grace frees me to be the child that I am and to ask my Father for help.

What is grace?
Grace: unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor of God.
Grace, given through Jesus Christ, to sinners, even me.

Grace frees me.
Grace frees us.
 Grace frees us to be honest.
I have found that I waste entirely too much energy trying to hide my weaknesses, trying to make myself seem better or holier or stronger than I actually am.
Being honest, brutally honest, is terrifying, and I think it is so terrifying that it would be impossible…but, God:

But God, being rich in mercy, 
because of the great love with which he loved us, 
even when we were dead in our trespasses, 
made us alive together with Christ— 
by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5)

That acceptance I want?  That security I want?
That approval from God? I already have it in Christ.
I am fully known and fully loved. I do not have to hide any more. I do not have to downplay my weaknesses and exaggerate my strengths. I do not have to waste energy contorting my body and my spirit to make myself perfect, or to appear perfect.
And neither do you, dear Christian.




“Our justification does not depend on our piety and our spiritual performance but on Christ and His performance. We can therefore face up to our recurring failure to live as His holy people and people of prayer. In fact, our failure Is meant to teach us to ask for what we lack and receive everything from Christ.”(Grace Upon Grace, Kleinig, p. 39)

This week I’d like to explore this thought together with you, exploring what it means to be His free children, covered by the grace of God in Christ: what it means to be weak and loved.

What to expect this week:
·         Daily blog posts on weakness and strength (beginning Monday)
·         Brutal honesty and solid, Biblical encouragement in Christ
·         Probing questions: I want to hear from you!

Let's get started!
Do you try to hide your weaknesses? In what ways?
Does the grace of God give you more confidence as you seek to be honest?
It is easier to be honest with Him than it is with people? Why do you think that is?

Don't miss a thing! Follow Weak and Loved by Email, Facebook, RSS, or Twitter 
Join the conversation, and tell your friends!

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Messy Mommy Jobs (one more time)

Messes.

Here are a few in my life right now that I am ignoring:
My basement, clothes to sort
School stuff. (Can you believe I have the supply list already? One more month!)
Writing stuff- digital fragments everywhere, and I just don't care. I don't trip over these.
The yard, the weeds, and the outside toys. (It is just too hot. Over 100 degrees again today!)

Here are a few I am trying to tackle this month:
The craft stuff in my dining room- it needs a home before it kills me.
Finances (I hate this job.)
Doctors appointments for the kids: I think somebody needs a physical or something.
Piano- the girls need to start practicing again!

In the meantime, I am praying for rain and planning to dance in it with the kids if it ever comes. Also, I am writing like crazy. I hope you join me next week for a new devotional series:

If you've got it, flaunt it!
Our weakness, His strength.

Subscribe to Weak and Loved by Email so you don't miss a thing!


And now, a few more mess pictures, for your enjoyment.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Generation to Another: On the Blessings of Granparents


One of my favorite things about summer:
The kids get to spend more time with their grandparents.

Grandparents have fresh patience, fresh ideas, and irrational, wonderful love for these children of mine.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 4th with Kids: Check Your Expectations


Watching the fireworks with children: it sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?
It is a good idea,and it makes a beautiful memory...
of sorts.

I'd like you to experience the fireworks with my family.
Just for fun, read this post twice for two very different experiences.

#1 the Ideal Experience
Read the words only in bold, and enjoy the beautiful pictures. Wonderful, isn't it?

#2 The Real Deal
Now browse the posts again and read the actual kid commentary.
This is what it is like, with the audio track!

(I wish I could include the pokes and prods and climbing on and off my lap too, but you'll have to imagine that part.)

A boy and his boat
waiting for the big show


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Messy Mommy Jobs:: Where I've been (Mess photos & Link Up)

Where have I been all week?

Here:


Pretty Lake (Wolcotville, Indiana.)

Before you get too jealous, remember that I had my kids with me :)
And that even the peaceful-looking picture above is only peaceful because there is no audio track.
It was no quiet desert island, but it was fun!

My mess this week: post-vacation aftermath.
Here's a glimpse:
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