Sunday, June 30, 2013

Love more, pig-out less. (Weak and Lovely returns)

This week, Weak and Lovely returns.

The series is coming back because I need it to.

Summer has gotten in my way. Summer, a wonderful time to rest and play, to let the kids stay up later, to relax the rules—I love summer. But for me, it started out with a stress fracture in my foot.   Hobbling mama switched to survival mode.  She could have spent the extra time in forced rest learning about nutrition and planning real food recipes while focusing on strength-training instead of cardio.

She could have.
But instead, she relaxed, and she sulked. And she relaxed the rules, too, with a little rebellion in her attitude.  

So I’m sitting here now, in this body.  My foot is better, but the rest of me has gotten pretty lazy. My self-control and my heart have become lazy as well—so lazy, in fact, that I’m tired of it. I’m tired of letting my flesh win all the battles.  I’m hungry for cheese for health. I’m hungry for freedom from my stomach.  I’m hungry for God to help me love more and pig-out less.

This week, my goals are as follows:

Cut out a trigger food. It’s so easy for me to pretend that healthy living is just too complicated, like I have no idea where to start. But for me, it is SO obvious. Sugar is a major trigger for me.  I need to stop wringing my hands and just cut it out.

Refocus on what matters (Why I am caring for my body, and more importantly, the one thing needful.) For me, this is just getting back to basics- meal planning and devotions.

Post daily on this topic (and a little of the usual stuff, too.)  This will help me stay accountable (I hope!)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. 
Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, 
but through love serve one another. 
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:13-14

God help us love fully and live freely in Jesus!

Will you join me?
Perhaps it’s time for you to cut out a trigger food?

Or will you commit to thinking on these things with me throughout this week?

For more in this series click here

Friday, June 28, 2013

Boys in High Places

They celebrate the joy of making it to a resting place during a long hike!

Suddenly the legs that could barely hold little bodies
upright on the trails can run stairs and explore the shelter house.

Suddenly the boy has forgotten the sweat, the bugs, the complaints.
He sees the view and feels the breeze.

A little boy with parched lips, begging for water only moments before, 
suddenly finds new strength in his body,
new moisture in his mouth.

He smiles, puckers, gathers, and of course, 

And I wonder...
Did God ,who created both little boys and high places, have this fun in mind all along?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

O Come Let us Sing

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

let us come before him with thanksgiving,
and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is a great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

(Psalm 95:1-6)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Be there for them with a vengeance

"Your body is the first thing any child of man ever wanted. Therefore dispose yourself to be loved, to be wanted, to be available. Be there for them with a vengeance. Be a gracious, bending woman. Incline your ear, your heart, your hands to them.... To be a Mother is to be the sacrament - the effective symbol - of place. Mothers do not make homes, they are our home." 

from Bed and Board, Robert Farrar Capon
as cited on Mothers Are Home

(I highly recommend this blog!)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Small Steps

     "Come on, my pokey little puppy," I say.
     "Mama I NOT a puppy!" he complains. Step after determined step, he hikes along.  How many two-year-olds can hike for three miles?  This one can. 

     Daddy and the older children are far ahead.  He stops to inspect a leaf, a flower, a patch of moss. I feel the familiar tension... do we conquer the path and catch up with the others? Or do we take small steps, savor, and wonder?

     When do I not feel this tension?

     We cross a dry creek bed and the bank is steep so I offer my hand. 
     "No mama, I do it," he insists, and I lean back with a smirk to watch his attempt. I have band-aids in my pocket.

     He steps and slips, but he keeps his head down, determined. He made it up. 
     "See, mama? I big." 
     He walks ahead of me, and I linger, marveling. My baby-- he is big.

     I begin to sing, and his echo comes, small and sweet. I want to stop singing so I can listen to his voice alone in the woods, but he still needs me to guide him. 

     We sing.

     This is the day that the Lord has made.
     We will rejoice and be glad in it.

I use his slowness as an excuse to be slow, to savor. I lap up drops of beauty and store them in my camera. They will not taste the same when I see them on a computer screen, but they will help me remember these moments on the trail. We see a red flower, but we do not know its name. We see dandelions and daisies and I think of my grandmother, and the hikes we took, and the way she taught me to name the flowers. “Daisy,” I say, my small boys repeat, “Daisy.”

I point to the tree tops that cover us, and I ask questions that have no answer. “Does God have to think about every single one of these leaves to make them all? Can you imagine how many leaves He has made today?” It all seems so extravagant, the scene God has constructed for our lives today. We see more flowers, and I take another picture. “Why did God put this little pink rose way out here in the woods? Why does God put some of his best artwork where people rarely go?”

We see another daisy, and another one. The boys are happy to use the name they just learned, over and over. Daisies grow like weeds, and I wonder who decides what flowers are loved and which are called weeds. I marvel at the decorations God has placed on our path. He does not save his art for special occasions. How many beautiful flowers did will live and die quietly, never seen by a single human eye? Small boys have no answers, so I do not ask the question. I pick a daisy, and my son smiles. “We see this one, don’t we? I’m sure God won’t mind if I pick it for you.” 

His cheeks are red and sweaty, but his smile shows deep, happy dimples. I hoist him on my shoulders, and he does not let go of the daisy.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Law & Gospel in the Home

A warm welcome to today's guest blogger: Haleigh Morgan! 
I encourage all who are facing the difficult task of teaching children "right from wrong" well also showering them with the grace of God to read the article below.

-- Emily

I was recently asked by an online friend to chime in on the question of Law and Gospel within the context of the home. That is, how might we parents approach the task of parenting, knowing when we are to give our children Law and when we are to give them Gospel? 

Let me state upfront that I consider myself supremely unqualified to instruct others on just about anything, most especially on the monumental calling of being a parent. I can only speak from my own experience and what I know to be true from scripture and from our Confessions. As a sister in Christ, I can offer mutual conversation and consolation of the gospel. Beyond that, the reader may be cautioned to have loads of salt ready to go (with which to take anything written below.) ;)

In the question of law and gospel and how to parent in these terms are suggested a few additional ideas. First, we constantly run the risk of erring too much on the side of one or the other. If we are too focused on law, we become despotic legalists or “pietists,” thinking that if our Milly or Norbert could be taught to behave just so and say and do all the right things, then all will be right. The other side of this coin is antinomianism. When we err on the side of little or even no law, we run the risk of raising hedonistic, selfish tyrants whom not even we like being around. No loving parent knowingly and deliberately takes either of these two paths. Thus our conundrum. How do we, parents who are presumably very concerned that we fulfill our duties to God, to our children, to society, go about knowing which is called for in any given situation? If we choose wrongly at some time, will we forever muck things up, potentially scarring our child for life? These are questions that lurk in the back of our minds, keep us up at night, and make us second guess ourselves. Before we go any further, let me say, “Peace. God chose to entrust these children to you for a reason. He has equipped you to raise them, though you will most certainly not do so perfectly. Your own Father, who never fails, is working to love your children through you. He is their Father, too.” 

Ok. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

I would like to begin any discussion of parenting within the context of Christian vocation. We are told in the Small Catechism that we are to examine ourselves in light of the Ten Commandments and of other scripture that outlines the duties attendant to the various estates established by God. These are comprehended in the 2nd table. These commandments establish how God would have us to fear and love Him in how we interact with our neighbors. (Luther’s explanation of each commandment after the 1st begins, “We are to fear and love God that we may…”) We are also told that love is the fulfillment of the Law. Thus, these commandments also outline how we love our neighbors and how God loves them through us.

The fourth commandment, in particular, relates to all rightful worldly authority, beginning with parents and radiating out from there to the civil realm and the Church. In the Large Catechism, we are taught that God holds all authority. He entrusts portions of that authority to the various estates so that people called to administer them may carry out their duties legitimately. The Church has the Office of the Keys – authority to bind or loose sins. Magistrates have authority to make civil laws and compel citizens to obey. But, “all (earthly) authority flows and is born from the authority of parents” (LC, 4). Civil fathers, “masters” (employers), and even spiritual fathers derive their authority and honor from the office given to parents.

What does all this talk of the 4th commandment, which speaks most directly to children of their duty toward their parents, have to do with a parent’s duty to his/her children? No vocation exists in a vacuum. Each is a diad. Governments are not governments without the governed. Citizens are not citizens in the absence of a country. A husband is not a husband without a wife; nor is a wife a wife without a husband. A pastor has hearers, and hearers have a pastor. So it is with children. All children, by nature, are born of a father and mother. There is no child ever anywhere (except Jesus) who didn’t have both an earthly mother and father. And, every mother and every father is a parent by virtue of the fact that they have received a child. So, when the 4th commandment addresses children and their duties, it also suggests something to parents. The command to honor our father and our mother enjoins all people to respect those placed over us in authority even as it enjoins those exercising authority to do so for the benefit and betterment of those placed underneath them.

So, what are the duties that a parent owes to her children? When is it time to lay down the law and when is it time to give them grace? Parents are first and foremost commanded to bring children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. That is, we are aware that any authority we have as parents is not really ours but is God’s authority, and our very first responsibility as parents is to bring them to God. It is not only our rules in our home that we must train them to obey. “He does not assign this honor to [us], that is power and authority to govern, so [we] can have [ourselves] worshipped.” We are to provide physically for our children, but most importantly we are to “train them to honor and praise God.” This is not something that we may do or might do but must do. It is “not left to [our] pleasure and arbitrary will” but is “God’s strict command and order, to whom [we] must give account for it” (LC, 4). We also know that none of us can even begin to keep this 1st command (to have no other God, to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things) without first being regenerated and reborn of God. How does such rebirth happen for us, for our children, or for anyone? We are saved by grace through faith. How does faith come? Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ. Where and how do we receive this Word of Christ? We receive it through the proclaimed Word and through the Word combined with water and bread and wine. We must make sure that our children receive this, too. If we do nothing else as parents, this we must do. Bring them to the font. Bring them to the Word.

Give them Jesus.

Give them Jesus!

We must also train them to honor and respect us as God’s representatives to them. Since children are commanded to “honor their father and mother” we are simply not at liberty to allow them to do otherwise. God has not given us the authority to set aside this commandment any more than He has given us the authority to set aside the 1st, 5th or 6th or any of the others. Our will and word are entirely subordinate to God’s. “For if God’s Word and will are in force and being accomplished, nothing shall be valued higher than the will and word of parents, as long as that, too, is subordinated to obedience toward God and is not opposed to the preceding commandments” (LC, 4). So far the hierarchy is established as: 1.) God, 2.) Parents.

Third, we must train them also to function in civil society. That is, we must equip them to be useful, to be able to provide for their own children someday, and to have the skills and manners that contribute to a peaceful and orderly community. To accomplish this duty, we typically have to establish rules and routines for the household – expectations for work/chores, etiquette, lessons, study, practice, etc. – and both model and enforce these expectations. The family is a microcosm of the world. Children learn how to be a part of the greater community by first learning how to live in the community of the family.

So far this sounds very law heavy. Parents must DO. Children must DO. But, where is the grace? I am asking this question as loudly as you surely are. Here, I try to remember that every vocation is at its heart a picture of how God relates to us. Yet, it is more than just an illustration. It is real and material. God works among us through the estates (the vocations) He has established.

God’s work in the world is not simply an intangible, subjective, spiritual thing. It is very material. Remember, God is a God of means. He uses material means to accomplish His work among us so that we have objective assurance and can receive His work substantially, really, and truly – both physically and spiritually – because we are not purely spiritual creatures. We are material creatures with a rational soul. So, He works among us in a material way. God is hidden in vocation just as surely as He is hidden in the Means of Grace. This is not to say that parenthood, marriage, and citizenship are Sacraments in the strict sense. But we may safely say that they are “sacramental” and mysterious. Paul tells us that marriage is a mystery and that in speaking of marriage he is really speaking of Christ and the Church. Christ is hidden in marriage (Eph. 5). God the Father is hidden in the vocation of parenting. He provides for His children and brings them to Himself through parents. Parents bring children to the font and the rail and the assembly; they feed, and clothe them, and they train them up in the way that they should go. The earthly father doesn’t just symbolize something about God. But, in actuality, God is the real father. Christ is the real husband. The Church is the real wife and mother. Our earthly vocations are dim images of the real thing going on with God (paraphrased from Gene Veith, Interview on Issues Etc.4/16/12 #1and #2).

God doesn’t only provide 1st article gifts through us parents. He also has enabled us to participate in the giving of forgiveness and absolution (2nd and 3rd article gifts) – grace at its sweetest. It goes without saying that we participate in this not as primary actors. Faith, forgiveness of sins, these do not originate from us nor take their efficacy from us. But, God can and does use parents as agents of grace.

How does this grace look in the family? First, we must try to remember that if our child is already heartbroken and repentant over something, it does him no additional good to be given law. We don’t need to stand over him and remind him of the rule he has broken or the disappointment he has caused. He is already contrite. The Law has done its work. However, if he is being head-strong and recalcitrant, then law is what he gets – first God’s, then ours. 

Is this the face of contrition?

Second, we must try to distinguish between matters of immaturity and matters of genuine disobedience. Sometimes this can be pretty tricky. How do we know whether our child is willfully disobeying a command he could obey or if he is simply not understanding or is not yet mature enough to obey in that particular command? If we are certain that the child knows what is expected and has demonstrated that he can obey what he has been given to do, then willfully failing to do so is a matter of obedience. If he does not understand, does not have the skill or maturity to obey, then it would be cruel to respond with more law. Mercy is called for. 

Third, we also try to be very honest with ourselves about whether we have done our job of teaching and leading prior to resorting to punishment. Discipline sometimes requires punishment, but punishment is not always discipline. If punishment does not teach, it is not discipline. It is just revenge. It is easy to forget that something that may be terribly obvious to us and a matter of common sense may not be to a new, little person. Children are our disciples in that we lead and teach them what they need to know as they grow up. We must first give them the gift of loving instruction and nurture. This is discipline. If the child obstinately refuses the instruction, then it may be time to use punishment to redirect their heart and their actions back to the better course.

But, most importantly, we practice absolution. Parents and children alike must know that even when we royally muck things up, confession and contrition always receive forgiveness, no matter what. And the matter is done. Even if we know for a fact that tomorrow we will likely go through the whole thing again. We know that we can speak the comfort of the gospel to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the mutual consolation that Luther talks about. Our children are our smallest brothers and sisters in Christ. They need to receive our forgiveness freely, and they need us to remind them of the forgiveness that is theirs in Christ.

Ultimately, when in doubt, we must try to remember Paul’s instruction. “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” (Romans 15:1-3, ESV) Diligently teach; graciously give. Bear with our children’s weakness and build them up. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:14)

For further reading, if you are interested, Rolf Preus has written a fabulous post featured on Steadfast Lutherans titled “Steadfast Dads — Discipline”.

Father, use our hands to bless your children, our children.  Amen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Whirling on a motocycle

I ride on the back of my husband’s motorcycle, and this thing I do is not motherly.

We fly away, just the two of us. I hold his waist and smile at the breeze.  The dirt under my nails joins us for the ride, and the sweat, from my garden-work.  But my love has come from his office, where work was hard and cold on a computer screen.  He does not mind my earthiness.

The corn is coming up. Everything is green.  God is kind to give us this season of miracles, when dead seeds burst to life and we learn to hope again.

The heat and the itch from the garden work are blown away.

There is a farmer on a four-wheeler, inspecting his crops. When he looks at them, does he see business, and dollar signs? Or does he see God’s touch, does he marvel at the sprouts? Does He pray for God’s kind protection and rain like mercy?  Does it terrify him, or please him, to behold millions of fragile spouts in this great expanse?  How many mouths will be fed from these beautiful acres?

A steep hill, and speed. I look away from the fields and ahead, and my heart jumps. Steep up, steep down, speed and tilting, and oh, the wind! The air, the speed, the life!

I have a need to stand near the edge, to feel this small risk, to feel my heart beat. N.D. Wilson

Slowly I take my hands off of his waist. I slide them to my knees, casually, and then I let them fall back, and open. I spread my arms and arch my back in the wind. 

Consider the works of His hands, the nerve-endings on arms that dance and sing on such a day as this. Consider the gift of the spring breeze, a gift not asked for, or needed, or named, until it was given and bodies received and responded with joy and gratitude.  Who is this God, Creator of such a body and such a day?

I notice a car coming, so I sit up, act normal, pretend I’m not about to explode for the wonder around me.  

This weekend, I am planning a garden, and a sleepover, and he plans a funeral.  We plant seeds.

Onward, we fly past homes where people tend flowers and cows and children.  We fly through green life under the warm sun, yet even on this day I know sudden winter can come like a car wreck, like cancer.  Death comes even in spring, even on this green day.  How many roadside turtles? How many loving and loved? How many mamas on motorcycles?

To my surprise, we are suddenly in town. I have no idea how this happened, and I smile on my back seat.  It is good to follow the one who knows the way.  It is good to be the one with her head in the cornfields and the dirt and the sun, and to arrive safely, despite herself.

We slow, and stop briefly at a corner. The skin on my upper arm is cool, and in a flash, I feel and remember my grandmother’s hug. Cool, sagging flesh made a warm embrace.  Was it better to give or receive such hugs?  Do I appreciate them more now, in my memory, then I did when they were given?  And will my arms be given days of cool sagging and warm embracing?

My love and I, we do not fear death. How can you fear from the hands of Him who is Life?  We drive on, looking death in the face, and we shall win.  We win, again and again, until the day that we lose. But today, on this motorcycle, we win.

We do not fear death, and yet he slows down, way down, on the loose rock.
I am grateful.
There are children at home.

Inspired by Notes from The Tilt-A-Whirl.  
Wonder, from my eyes, in my scene, on today’s stage.

Your comments make my day!  What do you think of this writing "voice?"

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Advice

My 7 year old son summarized his daddy's sermon last week in this way:

"Listen to your parents like the 18 year old Josh did not."

Food for thought, for fathers and sons everywhere.
Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Which is more disgusting?

First, recommended posts from this week (ish)

The Bible Summarized in Just a few Words
 Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this one.

I want to prioritize family and friends, and productivity and learning, over just generally consuming and being entertained. And that takes work because the Internet is so happy to entertain you. I want to find a way to use the Internet in that way, but unfortunately I'm really out of practice, so I kind of have to learn it from scratch. I don't think I got better at using the Internet by not using it.

For the Dog Days of Motherhood
"I am out of my mind and in my calling and desperate for five minutes alone and a lifetime together."

Hospitality, and the choice: Panic or delight? Appearance or love?

Mamas, especially those with tempers, need to read this.

When your temper scares you.
Sometimes you don't realize you have a temper until you have kids.
I will remember to eat. To treat myself will the same care I’d treat an explosive device and disarm with regular rest, exercise, food and friendship.

This full out war against my own angry, shouty spirit will be the biggest victory I am determined to win through motherhood


Which do you think is more disgusting?  

(These two things were presented to me in the span of 60 seconds.)

"Hey mama, look! I found this for you!"

A dead earthworm.

"Hey mama, Petie was chewing on this so I took it from him."

Some strangers fake fingernail.

Friday, June 14, 2013

An odd place for a "moment"

"Hey Rainy, I love you!" he says, but it sounds more like "I yub you." The cuteness is almost unbearable.
She smiles and says, "I know Petie, I know. Rainy will be out in a minute."

She's in an outhouse. I'm in the stall next to her.

"Mommy, I love you so much!" says the other little boy, and I laugh and she laughs. "That's great Eldie, but can the affection wait for a minute? Mama's going potty."
"Hey Rainey, I pick-ded you a flower!"
"Flower!" says the smaller one.  They bring their finds to the door of the outhouse.   The smells, the flies, do not deter the little boys, looking for their mommies.

"Petie, not NOW!" she says, but she is laughing so they do not take her seriously.
"Rainy we yub you!"
"Hey mama, flower! Yub you!"
"Yub you yots and yots!"

And so it goes while we go.

And sometimes this is not funny at all, but it was this time, because she was there: my daughter who is big enough to understand.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rhino Report: Kindness

Just because they're my children does that mean I shouldn't say "Please" or "Thank you" to them?
Just because I'm their mother, does that mean I have the right to be short-tempered and rude to them?
Do I speak more kindly and patiently to a visiting niece, nephew, or neighbor child than to my own?  

(Read the rest of this post: Homemade Kindness)

Do you have more patience in public? Or with other children?

Why is this? Could it be that we care more about what people outside our home think of us? Do we care about our reputation more than we care about our babies?  Do we use their unconditional love of us as an excuse to be unkind?

As we play the "Orange Rhino Game" here in the Cook house, we are emphasizing kindness. Kindness, and love- these are the things we are asking God to grow in our hearts.

I could easily go a day without yelling at my children, or losing my patience. All I would have to do is hide from them.

But that's not really the point, is it? It's not about the stats.
It's about love.

Love is patient and kind, even when it interacts with other, imperfect, loved-ones.

And when that standard seems too high (every day?) we mothers and children get to take refuge in the hands of our God, under His robe of righteousness.  He is patient, compassionate, and long-suffering. His love for us is great, and it does not crumble into selfishness under trial like mine does.

Surely this God whose love for us is solid will finish in us the work he has begun.
May He continue to uphold us through His Word and by His Spirit.

 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;  for
“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 
I Peter 1:13-25

See also:
Yelling- on my mind
The Orange Rhino

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sober Mercies

Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian DrunkSober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk by Heather Harpham Kopp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We all have little temptations.
We have certain pet temptations: tiny ones, ones we don't really hate.
They won't land us in jail, and they're normal, if not almost cute. They are temptations we can handle, mostly, and if we give in to them, it's just to a point, just a little.

Imagine your pet temptation, the one you have mostly tamed.
Then, imagine if it got exponentially stronger. Imagine if it collaborated with your biology, your circumstances, and what's left of your sinful nature.

Imagine if that sweet little pet waged all-out war on your soul.

Would you be able to stand?

I don't often imagine these things, to be honest. I know I am a sinner, and I know I am saved by God's grace in Jesus, so why worry about the rest?

And then I read this story of a Christian woman and her struggle with alcoholism. And to be honest, it scared me.

I think I underestimate our enemy. I underestimate the devil and my sinful flesh, and I forget how desperately I need God's grace and help at every moment.

But (praise be to God!) he does give that help, and nothing, not even addiction or any of our little pets-gone-wild, can separate us from his love.

I will refrain from sharing my favorite quotes from the book, because I hope that you will read the entire thing. Please, read it. Whether you have been touched by addiction personally or not, you will find something for you in this book.

This book took my heart and broke it, filled it with compassion and love, and made me rejoice again at the love of God for sinners.

Add this one to your summer reading list.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It is warm here.

You all got up before me today, as you have done all week. It’s the first week of summer, and I am tired. I sat on the couch with my coffee, and this morning, it was Seth who got to me first. Seth, of all the children the most independent, the least likely to need his mom. Seth, snuggling in to me, resting on me in a way that will disappear when he is grown.  Lately I have caught glimpses of that day, that grown-up day, in his eyes, in our mature conversations.  But on this morning, he relaxed in to me, and I put my arm on his pajama’d leg. 

It is not so often that we snuggle like this, you and me. Today, I can see the young man you are becoming, and I know this moment is fleeting. Is this an exception, this moment of need, this moment where you welcome my embrace? Or have you simply played the role of the big brother, and played it well? Have you moved aside, and allowed my lap to be taken by the younger ones?

But it is not taken now, and I do not dare move, even though my coffee is gone. “Mama, put your arm back on my leg. It’s warm when you do that,” you say, and I do.  It is warm here.

I consider your hair, and the size of your feet. I consider the God who made you, wanting warmth on this unusual day, and the God who made me, wanting to give it.          

(An excerpt from My Gilead) 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Messy Mommy Jobs #12

Do the messes ever drive you to the edge?
(Yes, yes they do. Read this post)

But now and then, I capture a few, and later (sometimes much later) 
the messes become cute and funny.
Here are our recent messes.

My honey
Mama, I want some dis.
(And now he's all sticky)

New friends
boys and bugs!

Footprint on my knee!

What boy could resist?

My helper.
Such a big, big, big help.

Believe it or not, the plants in the big containers survived the flood.
The seeds did not.


Which picture is your favorite?
Any crazy messes in your house lately?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dizzy and Inspired: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken WorldNotes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World by N.D. Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was bored, so I picked up this book.

Now, I am dizzy and inspired. Though I do not normally enjoy stream-of-consciousness writing styles, I loved it in this book. I experienced this book in the fullest sense of the word. I can still feel the spray of the ocean. I can still smell the autumn leaves, and I cannot wait until the final day of raking, when my blisters will start to heal.

This book opened my eyes again to wonder and joy and questions, to worship and awe.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Imagine a poem written with such enormous three-dimensional words that we had to invent a smaller word to reference each of the big ones; that we had to rewrite the whole thing in shorthand, smashing it into two dimensions, just to talk about it. Or don’t imagine it. Look outside. Human language is our attempt at navigating God’s language; it is us running between the lines of His epic, climbing on the vowels and building houses out of the consonants.”
― N.D. Wilson,

“Do not resent your place in the story. Do not imagine yourself elsewhere. Do not close your eyes and picture a world without thorns, without shadows, without hawks. Change this world. Use your body like a tool meant to be used up, discarded, and replaced. Better every life you touch. We will reach the final chapter. When we have eyes that can stare into the sun, eyes that only squint for the Shenikah, then we will see laughing children pulling cobras by their tails, and hawks and rabbits playing tag.”
― N.D. Wilson

“The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not try to pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they've grown, they will pollute the shadows.”
― N.D. Wilson

View all my reviews

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rhino Report: Whining is like Yelling

 I’ve tied whining to this orange rhino idea.

My first reason is a self-centered one: Whining drives me crazy. It is one of my triggers, in fact.  And if I’m going to work on my temper-losing, and controlling the volume of my voice, then surely the children can work on controlling the pitch of theirs.

The more I think about this, the more it makes sense.

Why do I yell?
(Obviously there are good reasons to yell. When the kids are in danger or they just cannot hear you because they are all taking at once. This is practical yelling, and I will do this to my dying day without apology.)

I yell (the bad kind of yelling) because my patience is gone, because whatever I am doing is just not working. I yell to MAKE STUFF HAPPEN.  I yell to control or to punish.

And why do they whine?
They whine for the very same reasons.
Whining makes stuff happen. Whining controls people. Whining is an effective punishment.

Yelling and whining are often just different expressions of the same desire to have it my way.

So, the orange rhinos that decorate our house carry both yelling and whining on their strong backs. I figure they can handle both of these things if they can handle all those birds.

This is really nothing new.
Love God, and love your neighbor- this is what we are “working on” in a sense. But, hanging this idea to the “orange rhino” helps us keep it in the front of our minds all day long.

We remember our goals, we remember the silly alternatives,  and we remember to pray for help.

When we are beginning to slip, we say “orange rhino” and we remember.

God help us love more, and yell less. 
(and whine less, too.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rhino Report #1: Orange!

The color orange is taking over our home, and we are loving it.

Why the orange rhino?
Read how the idea started here.

This is how I explain it to my children.

"Rhinos are gentle, kind animals. See how they even let the birds ride on their backs? But if they are provoked, they throw big, ridiculous fits.   Kind of like I do when I yell, or like you do when you yell or whine."

(I’ve tied whining to this idea as well- more on this tomorrow.)

Why orange?
"Orange is a color that reminds us of perseverance, determination, and strength.
We need these things too, don’t we? We might start off the day ready to love each other and be kind, but then we are provoked, and we want to whine or yell… that’s when we need to stay determined, to practice self-control and to pray for help, so that we are not unkind to each other."

Orange is also a color of fun and silliness.
Sometimes the best way to break up a bad mood or to deal with anger is to just do something silly. Sometimes we quack, or yell into a closet, or stand on our heads, or start singing a nonsense song.
(Click here for more great ideas!)

The goal is not to eliminate anger, but to deal with it in constructive ways.
Righteous anger is a real thing. Often, we are angry about something that is actually wrong. (“He hit me!”) It is ok to feel angry about this!  The problem comes not with the anger, but with our reaction to the problem. We try to punish the other person, or to use our words to force them to do what we want them to do.   Whining and yelling are both ways that we try to control others or punish others, and this is not ok.

To this end, we have started a list of healthier alternatives.

 Instead of yelling or whining, I can…

Finally, over and over I remind the children and myself:

Righteousness does not come from us.

Every day we start with prayer- “God help us to be kind to each other, to be gentle and loving with our hands and our words.”  We cannot give what we do not first receive!  And when we fail, we extend the forgiveness that we have received in Christ. 

Grace begins, and grace ends our days.

Grace, and orange silliness.

She looks so happy with those six birds on her back!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Two images overlap in my mind. In both, Aggie sleeps in the van.

To Aggie,
(an excerpt from My Gilead)

Recently, we were on our way home from Brown County State Park.  It had been a heavenly spring evening, an outing with the whole family (even daddy.) You, Aggie, were worried about being gone from home for the evening. Your homework was done, but you had extra credit work that you so wanted to do. You so desire to win the reading competition that you will sacrifice fun for more “minutes-read.” We forced you to put down the book to play at the park. You complained, but then you forgot to complain, and you allowed yourself to be swept up in the evening.

On the way home, I saw your eyes drooping a bit. I smiled to your daddy, and we wondered aloud if you’d actually sleep instead of gathering more minutes. Driven child that you are, we both assumed you wouldn’t, but this time, your body’s needs won out over your hearts desires, and you slept.

And I was proud of you, for letting the tasks go.

The strength of mind and of body you have now is not unlimited, but it is great. 
It has not always been this way.
I remembered another nap in the van.

I wish I didn’t have to know that a clamp held your head during the brain surgery, but those bruises on your head reminded me. You called them “polka-dots.” and you didn’t seem to mind them.

You slept deeply then, as we filled prescriptions and stole glances at you. 
Is she really ok? Is she still our little Aggie? Do we dare hope? 
Hope threatened me, scared me.

The shadows scare me still, yet how quickly you scatter them with your enormous Aggie-smile.


I shall lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

Have you read her story?

“I wish I could leave you certain images in my mind, because they are so beautiful that I hate to think they will be extinguished when I am. …It is a strange thing, after all, to be able to return to a moment, when it can hardly be said to have any reality at all, even in its passing.  

A moment is such a slight thing, I mean, that its abiding is a most gracious reprieve.” 

Gilead, p.162

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

today's peptalk

Rebloggged from 5/20/11
I still need this.

Today's Peptalk

Morning coffee and prayer time-- essential to my survival.  It is worth the minutes the children waste in front of the television (and besides, it's educational TV!)  

I used to try to do this before they all got out of bed, but I simply cannot function that way.  My eyes are so bleary, and I so easily fall back into sleep if I do not have my coffee in front of me.  And if I get the coffee, they will hear me, and I will be sabotaged.  So I do the "get them fed, dressed, and ready for school" routine before I sit with my coffee.  On the plus side, I have a longer time to sit when the girls are off and the boys are fed and in front of TV.  On the negative side, there is always something I need to ask forgiveness for by this hour of the day.  My fresh starts do not stay fresh for long at all.  (but really, HOW hard is it to get your shoes on in a timely manner! rgh!)

Monday, June 3, 2013

All for a few groceries


We are low on coffee, so I am forced to shop. 
Maybe we will go to Kohl's too so I can spend my gift card from Christmas.

We attempt an early start to town... but then the van won't start. 
(Eldon thinks there's an acorn in it.)

So, I'll take my husband's car. But I can't find my keys.

We waddle up to his office to get his, where I leave my coffee behind. (Precious coffee!)

I load the boys in the car, and realize I cannot drive a stick with this stinkin' boot! 

And no, Eldon, there's not an acorn in daddy's car, too.
Forget it, boys, just forget it.

And so they don't cry, I give them a hose, and I call it a morning.

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