Thursday, December 20, 2012

28 Acts

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, many people have been wondering what they can do to help.

There are many funds set up to assist the families of the victims and to honor the victims' memory. You can find a list here.

My reaction to this tragedy, however is to put Mother Theresa's words into action:
"Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go."

Radical compassion and random acts of kindness.

It's not a new idea. But it's gained popularity on Twitter this week.

Ann Curry's idea is to perform 26 acts of kindness to honor the dead from Newtown. But I'm adding two more, one for the perpetrator of this crime and his mother. They deserve to be remembered as well, for different reasons.

I want to get the whole family involved, so the girls and I brainstormed some ideas. Here's what we came up with:
1. Give someone a hug.
2. Pay for someone's drive through order.
3. Write notes of encouragement to teachers, police officers, paramedics, and firefighters.
4. Write notes of encouragement to friends and family.
5. Make cookies and pass out to strangers.
6. Clean the snow off a stranger's car.
7. Shovel someone's driveway.
8. Donate a book about being a peacemaker to area schools.
9. Make some snowflakes for Sandy Hook Elementary.
10. Be kind to someone who can be difficult to be kind to.

It's a small list, but these acts can make a big impact. Imagine if my list inspired you to do your own, how our kindness would multiply and touch our communities.

Now it's your turn! In the comments, tell about your own random acts, whether performed or received, and how they made you feel. Let's wage a kindness revolution!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We belong to each other

I want to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the community of Newtown, Connecticut. As a teacher and a mother, this tragedy shakes me and threatens everything I know to be true about life: that at their core, people are good, kind, and loving. We are just beginning to learn what motivated a young man to end the lives of so many innocent people. Heroes will emerge. Blame will be assigned. I encourage you not to judge the alleged perpetrator of this heinous crime, but instead pray for the victims, their families, and those who are connected to the response effort and investigation. Their lives will never be the same.

Image taken from Momastery.

I have been an educator for ten years in a handful of public and private schools in Illinois and Michigan. I've seen good and bad in each place. I've taught countless children successfully. But there are 5 students that I feel like I didn't reach despite my best efforts. Luis, Cole, Adrianna, Emily, Jacob. Whether their home life was unstable, they were struggling with undiagnosed learning disabilities, or they just didn't "click" with their classmates, their sad faces and rejection of my help still frustrates and saddens me. Even though I have helped so many, it's the ones I could not that I remember. I still think about them.

In the media storm that has followed this tragedy, it has been difficult for reporters to find people who could speak about the alleged gunman. This should surprise no one. The gunman who killed so many innocent children and was barely an adult himself seemed to have had little to do with his peers. He was isolated and alone. There is speculation of mental illness or Autism spectrum disorder. We will have more answers in time. But the take away lesson is this, a quote from Mother Theresa: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

So this week, hug your kids a bit tighter. Bring cookies to your child's teacher. Write an encouraging note to your child's principal, school secretary, and school support staff. Find that kid from your child's class, the one everyone deems difficult, and talk to them. Invite them for a play date. Thank a police officer or first responder. Remember that we all belong to each other.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Magic

Everyone's favorite little red elf is back for more holiday fun! Eleanor, our Elf on the Shelf  arrived on December 1 and has been up to no good ever since. Check out the slideshow below to see what she's been up to so far. I add new pictures to the album every day so you can keep checking in on the fun!

I'd like to explain why we (OK, mostly I) go to all this trouble to create holiday magic for the girls. We are, after all, a Christian household and should be focusing on the REAL meaning of Christmas, right? My answer is simple: we do both.

We've been following our Jesse Tree devotional, which I wrote about last week. Our family focus is, and always will be, the birth of Christ and His presence and power in our lives. My kids have enjoyed listening to the stories of creation, the fall, Noah, and Abraham. They have heard these stories before, and the authors of the devotional do an excellent job of pointing these stories to Jesus. Our devotional time has become a special time, one that both the kids and Todd and I look forward to each day.

It's also important to teach the girls to believe in things which they cannot see or touch. This letter helps explain what I mean. Christmas isn't about a man in a suit. It's about people, coming together for generations, to show each other love through giving. It's bigger than you or me. It's about faith.

What magic comes to your house at Christmas?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jesse Tree

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1 NIV)

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of the Christ child. It seems like I blog about our Advent traditions every year. Are they still traditions if you never do the same thing twice?! Darn you Internet, with your many good ideas.

Anyway, I thought we'd do something different from the average Advent calendar countdown this year. One of the blogs I follow, A Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp, posted about a free Advent Christmas devotional (who doesn't like free?!) so I checked it out. Click here to read the post and download the devotional.

A Jesse Tree is a depiction of the ancestry of Christ. The best thing about the Jesse Tree is how it illustrates our rich history. You can feel God's unending love through the stories of the people, patriarchs and prophets. You can follow--and eagerly anticipate--Christ's future by looking at the past.

So here's what I did. While taking Ollie for a walk this week, I found the perfect branch. It was on the curb to be thrown out, (hello, free!) but was perfect for the project. I snapped it off, then had to figure out how to carry it and still hold onto Ollie's leash. I feel I need to explain this to anyone in town who happened to see me doing this--I might be crazy, but I'm crazy for Jesus!

I grabbed a pot I already had (a beautiful old one from my deceased Grandma Josie), some foam stuff for arranging flowers, and some moss. I cut the foam to fit in the pot, stuck in the branch, and covered the top with the moss. This will be the "tree" part of our Jesse Tree.

I printed off the ornaments from the devotional guide and had them laminated. I used a craft knife to make a slit in the top and slid a ribbon through.

We'll read the devotional and add an ornament each day of Advent. As the days draw nearer to Christmas, our hearts will draw nearer to the promises of Christ. And our bare Jesse Tree will be filled with the "fruit" of God's love.

How does your family celebrate Advent?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Want Need Wear Read

Gift giving can be a beautiful monster. Every birthday and holiday seems to revolve around getting "stuff" for the girls. Now don't get me wrong: people show love through gift giving, and I'm always appreciative of the gift giver's thoughtfulness and generosity. But the bottom line is that my kids don't really need much. They have a playroom full of dress up clothes, dolls, Barbies, and arts and crafts materials. And to tell you the truth, about a third of it sees actual play time.

So this year I'm going to adopt a principal I saw on Pinterest.

I folded a piece of paper into four columns and had the girls dictate their lists to me. Maddie enjoyed sorting out where each of her items belonged. When all was said and done the lists looked manageable. They've been circling items out of catalogs for weeks, but very few of those items made it to the final list. Perhaps they're already learning the difference between needs and wants?

It might be difficult to hold to four gifts. But perhaps those four gifts will be more meaningful and useful in the long run. I want my girls to learn that joy doesn't come from things. Joy comes from serving others. Joy comes from being happy with what you have. Joy comes from God.

What are your holiday gift giving rules or traditions?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No other gods

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:2 NIV)

I'm on my way to pick up the kids from school. I'm in the car alone, so I turn on the radio. Whatever's on NPR isn't holding my attention, so I start scanning channels. I don't really know the stations down here yet. The radio lands on what sounds like a promising Christian station. But it's static-y and tuning in and out as I head out of the valley and into Princeton. A Top 40 station is cutting in. I hear Adam Levine singing about his payphone drama (which probably began with actually finding a payphone. Is this 1992?!). I smile and wonder to myself which station will win...

I just finished an 8 week Bible study with some awesome ladies from my local MOPS group ('sup Monday Morning Manna?). "No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter is a look at what keeps us from an intimate relationship with God and gives us encouragement to smash our "idols". We're not talking golden calves here: money, TV, social media, image, drugs/alcohol, sex, food...anything that takes our eyes and hearts off of God is an idol.

The book challenged us to identify the idols in our own lives. And boy, do I have a lot of them. I can find lots of good reasons why I don't have time for God: My kids are going nuts, the dog needs walking, I need to post that funny thing Ava said on Facebook, the house is a mess, laundry, dinner, I'm get the idea.

It's easy to get discouraged and try to hide from God. But the thing God spoke to me most clearly during this study was, "Be kind to yourself." He knows I can't give it all up at once. He's not asking me to. He also knows that I will try, then spectacularly crash-and-burn. He will be there to forgive and encourage me to try again. And again.

The above verse from Isaiah asks why we would spend our money and time on things that do not satisfy. He's talking long-term satisfaction here. But as a culture, we balk at long-term. We want gratification now. Its easier than asking for help or waiting for His answer. But any relationship takes time.

As I got further into Princeton, the Christian station's signal got stronger. I was blessed by a song I hadn't heard before and was given some encouragement for something I've been going through lately. God wins. He always does.

What are your idols? Where do you place your hope?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Big robes to fill

One of the perks of Todd going to school up in Evanston is that he's plugged in to the college student scene. He has access to a kind of campus "Craig's List" where Garrett students can sell, swap, or seek certain items. Through this site, Todd became aware that there were some clergy robes available. Since Todd is very early in his ministry career, and since clergy robes are quite expensive, he responded to the posting. He was able to obtain two beautiful clergy robes from a recently deceased United Methodist pastor in the area. The pastor's widow had wanted to donate the robes in hopes that some new pastor, much like Todd, would be able to use them.

Todd picked up the robes on campus and took the widow's information so that he could write her a thank-you note. And as is typical of the Internet generation, he Googled her surname to see what he could find out about the man whose robes he would fill.

The following link is a blog post written by another pastor in memory of Rev. Robert C. Wiedrich:

What a humbling testimony of the impact one's life can have on others. Here's my favorite part:
"He said that Christ was with those who suffer, and that if we would follow Jesus then that's where we must be, too. He worked to break down racial segregation in the church and in society. He stood with locked out union workers. He witnessed first-hand the suffering of the Nicaraguans in the 1980s on account of Reagan's foreign policy (I still remember reading the letters he wrote from Nicaragua for the church newsletter). Unfortunately, he did not live to see the end of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the United Methodist Church."

Our country has just gone through the wringer. The "winners" edged out the "losers" by meager percentage points. Ours is a country divided. But no matter what important economic, political, and social matters we have ahead of us it all comes down to this: Christ is with us. If we proclaim to be followers of Jesus, we need to put aside red and blue and get down to work serving others, just like Reverend Wiedrich.

Coincidentally, Reverend Wiedrich was buried the week we moved our family to Illinois to begin our ministry. As one generation ends their leadership another begins. So goes the circle of life. But the need to live Christ to others never ends. We must faithfully follow.

Can you fill the robes of those who went before you? And would someone want to fill yours when you leave this life on earth?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Operation Christmas Child

If you haven't heard of this amazing mission yet, stop reading and go here first.

Have you ever received a gift from a total stranger that made you feel loved, even though you had never met the sender?

I first heard about Operation Christmas Child at my Tiskilwa Christian Women meeting in October. Two ladies from Manlius UMC came and spoke to us about the program. Their church had been doing it for a number of years and typically packs 50 boxes each year. The entire time the ladies were presenting I heard a voice whispering in my head, "Do this." I felt it deep in my heart. I knew this was an opportunity to spread the Good News and to teach my children about missions.

So I brought some information home, showed the girls some information online, and followed Operation Christmas Child on Facebook. We prayed about it and discussed it as a family: Who should we send a box to? Boy or girl? What age? It quickly became apparent that each girl wanted to do her own box, so we decided to make a boy box and a girl box for ages 5-9.

In addition to the simple items from the boxes, each recipient receives a booklet in his/her native language telling the Good News of God's love for each of us.  For more information on this program, click here.

I went online to donate my $7/box fee for shipping. I was able to then print a unique bar code to affix to the box that would track the destination of the box.  The girls predict our boxes will end up in the Phillippines or Africa.  We can't wait to find out where our boxes go!

Then we did the fun part: Shopping to fill our box! I took the girls to the local dollar store to get the majority of our items. Maddie said that she, "Wanted to spoil them like our family spoils us." Here's the final haul:

I wrote a letter to the recipients of our boxes with a family picture of us and a map of where we live. We told a little about ourselves and said that we were praying for him/her. We included our address and are hopeful that one day we might be able to correspond with our box recipients.  Both Maddie and Ava colored pictures for the recipients. They both chose pictures of baby Jesus.

Maddie and I organized and filled the boxes. She was so proud of how full each box was and noticed that even the plastic box itself might be a useful tool in a developing country.

A picture of the finished boxes, ready to be dropped off at a local church, is below.

Here's the best part: It's not too late to pack your own box! The national collection week is November 12-19. Click here to find a collection location near you.  If you can't fill your own box, click here to donate to Build-a-Box online.

This program has helped get us into the spirit of giving.  And isn't that what the holidays are all about?

Join us in praying for the volunteers who sort and collect the boxes, the people who travel to far away places to deliver them, the recipients of the boxes, and the missionaries who distribute them and share the Good News.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another 30 days of thanks

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1 NIV)

Last year began our family thankfulness project. Each day one member of the family wrote something he/she was thankful for and placed it on a ribbon strung up in the kitchen/dining room. Remember this post?

It's so remarkable to look back to where we were one short year ago. We were stressed-out and anxious about our uncertain future in Michigan. We were waiting for direction in Todd's candidacy process in Detroit and looking at the possibility of moving our family to Illinois. I was working full-time but feeling torn between home, my job, and church. The girls, of course, were perfectly oblivious to the changes that were coming. In truth, I think Todd and I did enough worrying for the four of us.

Fast forward one year. We are settled into our beautiful parsonage in Illinois. Todd is still in seminary and is serving two wonderful congregations. I have gotten my wish to be at home with the girls through this time of transition, and am finding fulfillment in my Monday morning Bible study and helping out in Sunday school. The girls are really starting to thrive. This is confirmed not only by my observations but also by their teachers at parent-teacher conferences yesterday. We are blessed.

But back to our thankfulness project. About a month ago in the dollar bin at Target, I found this:

I thought it would be a nice upgrade from last year's wimpy clothesline, so I grabbed two. The kit came with 6 leaves each, so I traced and cut out more leaves using last year's leftover scrapbook paper. I laminated the tree parts and leaves so we can use them for multiple years. The tree is supposed to stand alone, but the kids/dog were constantly knocking it over, so I relocated the tree pieces to on a photo ledge in the dining room. Here's a closer look:

Pretty and functional!

I can't wait to hear what the girls are thankful for this year. I know what I am thankful for: God's unending love, grace and mercy.  We could not have made it this year without them.

What are you thankful for?  How are you showing your gratitude this Thanksgiving season?

Thursday, October 25, 2012


What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12 NLT)

Sometimes I feel like I have a lot to "deal with". Keeping two kids clean, fed, loved, and in bed on time is exhausting. The dog requires my supervision as well, since he still chews. on. everything. In large part I'm a one-woman show. Todd's schedule is full and unpredictable, and although I'm sure he'd rather spend more time at home, we're not that blessed right now.

I know this is just a season in our lives. And I know that I'll never get these special moments with my kids again. They're growing up so fast. Maddie is talking about try-outs for the school Christmas show and Ava comes home talking about new friends--mostly boys--every day.

I approach most days with a mental list of things that I have to "deal with". Some items on my list are essential but mundane: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, sorting through school papers, packing lunches. Some items I dread, like activities which require me to drive back and forth to town more than usual. Some items I truly enjoy, like my Monday morning Bible study or a chance to have lunch date with my husband.

But here's my problem: I approach all items on my daily to do list with the same efficiency and attention. I want to place a mental check mark next to the completed item as quickly as possible. Oftentimes even activities that should be fun just get "dealt with" instead of enjoyed.

Dog fed? Check.
Lunch packed? Check.
Called or checked in with my husband? Check.
Bible study homework completed? Check.
Children bathed snuggled to sleep? Check.

When I'm just "dealing" I'm missing the beauty and blessings in my life. As the author of the verse above states, we cannot see God's big plan but should instead enjoy each season while we're in it. I am blessed to be enjoying this time as a stay at home mom this year, even though its making me a little bit crazy. But I am assured that this particular time in my life is preparing me for something else in the future. God is shaping me for His big plan.

Learning to see the beauty in my daily to do list? Working on it.
Not measuring my self-worth in imaginary check marks? Going to give it a shot.
Stepping back to admire the big picture? I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Just a house

Don’t be afraid to keep moving on,
For what was before, now has gone,
God wants to accomplish so much more,
But we need to move forward in the Lord.
© By M.S. Lowndes, Based on Isaiah 43:18-19

I'm not particularly attached to things, as in items one possesses. It's what makes me a ruthless organizer. It's how I survived two big moves in 14 months.

People and places are another story. I think everyone could rattle off their top 5 favorite places and people on the planet. It might even be hard to keep the list to just 5.

I took the girls up to Michigan this past weekend. My parents are moving out of the house in which I spent my young adult life, so I thought I'd come lend a hand. I'm not sure how much help I was, but it was nice to be home just the same. The memories flooded back as I walked around the house, looking in empty closets and half-packed rooms.

I sat in my room and talked about boys with my best friend (hi, Becky!) in that house. I washed my first car, a red Jeep, in the driveway. I had my heart broken on the back deck. I broke someone else's heart on my front doorstep. I got engaged on Easter Sunday on the couch in the living room. I dressed for my wedding in my bedroom. I went into labor with Maddie there, and paced up and down the halls waiting for Todd to come take me to the hospital. I became an adult and a mom while my parents lived there. I watched my brothers grow up there. Let's not get carried away and call them adults, though...

I expected to have a really hard time leaving to go back to Illinois on Sunday. But I didn't. I think it's because I know that the place they're moving to is so great for them. And I am secure in knowing that God's hand is in it all. He has some big things planned for them, I can just feel it. My prayer for my parents is for them to move forward, together, in the Lord.

Of course, it will be weird to sleep in a new bedroom for Thanksgiving this year. But it will be fun to make memories in this new place, which is only 6 miles away from the old house. Change is good. It renews and refreshes. A house is just a house--it's the people that make it a home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The Bible doesn't have a lot to say on work/home balance. That's probably because the writers of the Bible didn't "work outside the home"as we do today. So what we call balance today was just common sense back then. Families often worked alongside each other in the family farm or business, so work life and family life weren't as separate as they are today. Balance wasn't just good for the family, it was essential for survival.

I'm not very good at balance. In any given week, I might be a patient, kind, compassionate, active mom, but not a patient, kind, compassionate, active wife. And days when my marriage is prospering, my kids are freaking out--probably because I dared to put something ahead of their needs.

Last school year when I was working full-time (and showering regularly, having occasional adult conversations, and teaching 500 kids a week) I really struggled with balance. And it made sense, because I had so many things going on at once: a full-time job, church responsibilities, two active kids, and a husband in seminary. So imagine my surprise this year when as a stay-at-home mom I noticed that I am still struggling with balance, although its not of the "work/home" variety. It's of the "self/spouse/kids" kind.

That's where the book Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman comes in. Its been sitting on my reading wish list for months now. I have always been interested in how people in other parts of the world raise their children. And let's face it, the only way I'll ever get to visit France again is through the pages of a book. Druckerman, a New Yorker, chronicles her life raising three small children in Paris. She notices key differences in parenting tactics between French and Anglophile families and uses her journalism background to research French parenting philosophy.

The French use the word éducation to describe upbringing. They view children, even tiny infants, as rational human beings able to use reason and logic to problem solve and communicate. So they talk to their babies and young children rationally and calmly.  French parents expect small acts of naughtiness, or bêtises, as a way for children to test the boundaries and find their limits. There are still non-negotiable behaviors, but those are clearly defined by parents and reinforced by society. Druckerman noticed that remarkably, most French parents seem to operate under the same framework, or cadre, and that these rules of éducation include firm limits but lots of autonomie within those limits.

Druckerman noticed that French mothers, at least the ones she observed and interviewed, viewed parenting as pleasure, not as hard work or drudgery. It should be noted, though, that these mothers do something we American moms often don't--they view a child's place in the family as below the relationship between husband and wife. The family does not revolve around the children. Moms and dads are not only allowed but are expected to take time alone to tend to their relationship. Once the children are off to bed, it's adult time, and this time is sacred. No one expects moms or dads to devote every waking moment to their kids' interests and activities. This is viewed as pas équilibre, or unbalanced.

Food is a point of national pride in France. Children eat a wide variety of foods with the expectation that they will learn to enjoy every morsel. Fruits and vegetables are the building blocks of their diets. The attitude in France is again about pleasure--meals are opportunities to enjoy and share the richness of taste and texture. French children don't snack except for the goûter, or after-school snack. French mothers don't walk around with baggies of Cheerios. And French restaurants don't have kids' menus--children are expected to try and eat things from the regular menu.

Druckerman learned through her oldest child's experience at the crèche, the free state-run daycare and école maternelle, the free public preschool, that French parents want their children to be interesting and eloquent. They are not concerned with their kids being the brightest, fastest, or best as we tend to be here in America. French parents understand that kids learn at their own pace and that each child has his own gifts and talents. They also recognize that not all kids will be college bound. 

Bringing Up Bébé had me fantasizing about moving my family to France: the food, the architecture, the history, the culture, the cafes...but perhaps one need not be so dramatic to reap the benefits of French parenting. The one thing I take away from this book is that I need to bring pleasure back to my life. So often I do things out of duty and responsibility, not out of love or enjoyment. Perhaps that's the key to équilibre. Or at least it's a good place to start.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall bucket list

Fall is here, so at our family meeting on Monday we filled out our bucket list. We had so much fun with our summer one that we decided to keep going!  As you know, I love me a good to-do list.  Is there anything better than checking off completed items?

Some clarification on our list: Tanner's and Boggio's are apple orchards nearby.  Greg and Jane are family friends that have lived out of state for several years and are coming into town for a visit soon. And we're planning an open house for both our churches to come and see the parsonage and have some fun Fall fellowship.

If you want to make your own bucket list:

Click here for a bucket list already filled out with fun activities:

Click here for blank bucket list to create with your family:

Happy Fall!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hope is the thing with feathers

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed. (Psalm 119:116 NIV)

What a difference a weekend makes. I had not one but two opportunities for fellowship with some good Christian women in the past few days. My Ministry Wives meeting Saturday morning, while small, was very encouraging. There were women from different seasons of life who came together to talk and support each other as we support our husbands in ministry. It was a beautiful thing. My feelings of loneliness and isolation slowly began to diminish. I began to feel hopeful again. There was a flutter in my soul, which of late had been still and silent.

I was invited by a church member to join a MOPS Bible study yesterday morning. After making several excuses in my head about why I couldn't possibly fit this into my schedule, I said a quick prayer and pointed the minivan in the direction of the church in Princeton. I came in late because Ava had some anxiety about the new place and new people in the nursery. Once I got her settled, I found an open chair and sat down. I hadn't read the book or done the homework, something that would typically set me on edge--the feeling of being unprepared ranks with extreme hunger or social embarrassment for me.

I simply listened as the women discussed their homework. Anyone who knows me knows that this is not normal. I'm a talker. But I was just so interested in what everyone else had to say I didn't even think to share my stories. Perhaps next week. I am hopeful.

These past few months I feel like I've been on a long walk in a strange place. A walk, I'll admit, that I felt I was on by myself. God has given me great responsibilities and blessings, but He never expected me to endure them alone.

My mind is racing with all the possibilities for fellowship, friendship, and service to others with these wonderful women. I am hopeful.

I will tell that voice inside my head that says, "You are all alone" to be quiet. I will be firm and direct. It is not the voice of God. It is God's nature to draw us to Him, not away from Him.

I can do just about anything when I have hope--hope that what I'm doing makes a difference; hope that things will get better; hope that there might be rest or reward at the end of the trial. No day is perfect, but hope makes each day an opportunity instead of a burden.

My favorite quote about hope:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
― Emily Dickinson

What are you hopeful about today?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Part of the vine

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. (John 15:4 NLT)

Country life can be isolating. Geographically, Tiskilwa is separated from the "big city" of Princeton by about 7 miles, a big hill, and a whole lot of open farmland. I drive the kids in and out of school each day. The drive to and from town is lovely, especially now in the fall, but is a reminder of how separate the towns are.

I'm also socially isolated. I'll admit, some of it is self-imposed. I don't feel like I've made many friends here yet, and I've not gotten to know any of the other parents at drop off and pick up at school. Most kids ride the bus.

Todd's schedule is incredibly busy, and my role has been to "hold down the fort" here at home. That often means being tied to the house, doing nothing more than cooking, cleaning, laundry, and taxiing kids back and forth. I'm trying REALLY HARD to find beauty and joy in these very important but mundane tasks. Some days are better than others. I'm used to feeling like what I do is important, but lately I just feel like nothing I say or do makes any difference. Isn't motherhood an awesome ride?

I'm feeling severed from the vine. And as John says in the verse above, we cannot be fruitful unless we are close to God and a community of His faithful. I am in love with our churches and the people here. They are good, smart, loving, hardworking people. My faith has been strengthened here. And I know with time I'll start to feel more a part of the community. I will find more opportunities for fellowship. And hopefully, my work here will produce fruit that will enrich our churches and the surrounding communities.

To help alleviate my feelings of isolation I'm joining some groups : Ministry Wives of Bureau County and MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers). My first Ministry Wives meeting is tomorrow morning, and MOPS meets the first Tuesday in October. I cannot wait to meet these women and hopefully start to feel like part of a vine again.

How do you battle isolation, self-imposed or otherwise? What makes you feel like part of the vine? In what ways have you been fruitful lately? I'd love to read your comments!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How hard could it be?

"How hard could it be?"  This phrase gets me in a lot of trouble.  Ask anyone--I can't back down from a challenge.  So when I see something cool--be it a yummy dish from Food Network, a craft on Pinterest, or a DIY design idea from one of the blogs I follow--I resolve to try it myself.

I blame my parents and teachers.  They always told me I could do anything I set my mind to, so after a while I began to believe it.

Since I'm not working outside of the home this year, I have lots of free time.  Just kidding!  But I have set aside some time to complete some projects for my home.

This little beauty was made with a broken frame, chicken wire, and a staple gun.  I saw it on Pinterest and realized that it would be a perfect project to repurpose a frame we'd broken in the move.  I used some tiny clothespins that I had from another project and dug out some postcards I'd collected from my honeymoon 10 years ago. I intend to collect and display more postcards as our family travels to cool places in the future.

I'm also planning on reupholstering a cool chair Todd and I found in a resale store, making a "pouf" for my bedroom, creating art from my ever-growing paint chip collection, and decorating the awkward space above my TV in the family room.  And watch out friends and family: I intend to make many of your Christmas gifts this year...

Have you done any cool DIY projects lately?  Please share in the comments! You can follow me on Pinterest by clicking the pink-ish "P" button at the top of the sidebar if you want a peek at my future projects.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Instead of complaining about the 8 round trips I took to and from Princeton on Wednesday...
I should be thankful that my girls are lucky enough to participate in dance classes and have other extracurricular opportunities available to them. That I have a reliable enough car to take my kids to and from school. That I get to spend some special time with each child on the way to school each day.

Instead of wanting to poke out my own eyeballs from the girls' constant whining/bickering/mess-making...
I should be humbled that I've been chosen to be their mother. Thankful that they're alive and healthy enough to complain. Know that the lessons I teach them are as much for me as for them.

Instead of grumbling about the fact that I can't vacuum my whole house from the same outlet anymore...
I will be a proud steward of the spacious parsonage I've been given. Remember that this small act has a huge impact on my family's calm and well-being. Use my daily cleaning time to clean out my heart and mind as well.

Instead of dreading the 36 straight hours each week of parenting without Todd around because he's far, far away at school...
I will focus on doing everything I can to keep the house running smoothly so he doesn't have to worry while he's away. Be thankful that God has provided enough for us to allow Todd to go away to school and for me to be at home full time this year. Look forward to hearing what Todd's been learning about and how God is shaping him into an instrument for His purposes.

Instead of fretting about how to be in two places at once...
I will embrace that I have not one but two awesome church families. I will accept that I am doing what I can at each church, even if it doesn't seem that I'm giving them equal attention. I will learn the value of serving though prayer, not always through action.

Instead of feeling completely overqualified to be a taxi-driver, short-order cook, secretary, laundress, and dog walker, I will take a deep breath and know that my skills as a teacher aren't being wasted on being "just a mom", they're being recycled.

Instead of hating the bad days, I will claim the peace of knowing that this is exactly where God needs me to be right now, faithfully following.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Lessons from Little House

"On that dreadful morning when Mary could not see even sunshine full in her eyes, Pa had said that Laura must see for her. He had said, 'Your two eyes are quick enough, and your tongue, if you will use them for Mary.' And Laura had promised. So she tried to be eyes for Mary, and it was seldom that Mary need ask her, 'See out loud for me, Laura, please.'"
-Laura Ingalls Wilder, By the Shores of Silver Lake

So, we're still working through the Little House series on audio tape. Maddie is as eager as I am to listen whenever we're in the car. She even asks if we need to go to town for anything so she can ride along and listen.

We're up to the fourth book, By the Shores of Silver Lake. In comparison to the others, which move slowly and deliberately, you're hit with several major plot twists in the first 25 pages. A new member has been added to the Ingalls' brood: a baby girl, Grace. Mary, the oldest, is recovering from scarlet fever and has lost her lovely golden locks as well as her sight. Jack, the loyal and brave brindled bulldog, has died. Laura realizes that she is no longer a child and must help care for her sisters. The family is making preparations to move west to a new homestead after several years of hardship in Plum Creek.

I was moved almost to tears last night as we listened to the latest chapter on our way home from town. Mary, Laura, Carrie, Ma, and Baby Grace, were taking a train to meet up with Pa, who had gone ahead with the wagon and their possessions in preparation for the move west. Since Grace was still small and Mary still regaining her strength from her illness their progress would be slow, so the train ride would provide some support for the weary travelers. The train ride was a curiosity and luxury, and the girls were equal parts excited and terrified about their journey.

Ingalls Wilder describes the train ride in childlike detail. And it was through this description, quoted above, that I felt moved. Mary has lost her sight, but her younger sister Laura is bright and quick and shall "see out loud" for her sister. Laura describes the passenger car's appearance, the people going up and down the aisle, and the telegraph lines whizzing past the train car window. Mary need not ask for Laura's play-by-play, for Laura knows it is required of her and does it with great enthusiasm and tenderness.

For those readers who are lucky enough to have a sister, I imagine that this kind of relationship is automatic. Having two yucky younger brothers (love you, Joe and Tony!) I can't relate.

But isn't it a beautiful idea to have someone who can see for you when you are unable, or maybe unwilling, to see for yourself? And I don't just mean correcting you when you're headed down the wrong path. I mean someone you could count on to guide you through the rough times as well as celebrate with you in the good times. A a person who knows what you need before you're even aware that you need it.

I find Laura and Mary's relationship here to be like God's love for us. He knows what we need and what will guide us to success. As Jesus says in the sixth chapter of Matthew, "...your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

But He does not shield us from failure and pain, as these shape us into useful instruments for His purposes. Mary and Laura have a difficult road ahead of them. They are starting over in a new land. While I wear myself out vacuuming my house, their days were filled with actually building and keeping a home with nothing but their strong hands and will. But they had each other.

Who is your extra set of eyes? Are you eyes for someone else? What does guiding and being guided teach you about yourself? I'd love to read your comments!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Bucket List

I'm officially declaring summer over. School started this week for both girls, and not a moment too soon. Here's how we did as a family on our summer bucket list, pictured below.

We completed 11 of 14 items. Not too shabby, considering we moved across almost 3 states and nearly 400 miles smack in the middle of summer vacation.

We'll be moving "Chicago Fire Match" to our next year's list. We did plenty of reading, but somehow "read a book under a tree" didn't happen. And just the idea of a "media free day" gives me the shakes, so maybe we need to work ourselves up to that one.

Anyone else have success (or not) with their summer goals? Please share! Stay tuned, we're working on a fall list soon...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Family Meetings

Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge. (Proverbs 23:12 NIV)

We're a busy family. We are able to eat dinner as a family most nights, but with school starting up for Todd and the girls, it's about to get much busier.

I've learned that assuming the kids know something is foolish. For example, assuming Ava knows how to feed the dog is a mistake. The food will end up floating in the water dish every time. Slowly and deliberately teaching her to look for the bowl that isn't full of water the key to success. Having her big sister oversee the operation helped, too. It took a few tries and a few failures, but she's got it down now. Mommy and Ollie are both thankful.

Intentional instruction is important. Almost as important as leading by example.

Each Monday we sit down to dinner as a family and go through the laminated agenda in the picture below. We try to keep it as brief as possible, but the entire process seems to take about 20 minutes.

The first point of the agenda is to go over our weekly Bible verse. Todd or I choose a verse based on what we've been struggling with as a family or something we came across in our personal Bible study time. Sometimes we even choose a verse from our family rules. We read it and ask Madeline if she can explain what it means in her own words. Some further clarification and explanation is usually necessary. We discuss what the verse means to us and how it should help direct out behavior choices.

Then we move on to the agenda items for discussion. This varies from week to week. It might include reminders about our family rules, details about calendar items, and general information that helps our family run smoothly.

We then go trough the calendar for the week. This is a critical part of our meeting but the least fun. It has been challenging of late, as the schedule of a pastor with a two-point charge means two sets of monthly meetings. Add family and school obligations and you get a very busy week!

It's clear to me that God made the path easier for me to be able to stay home this year for just this reason: I will need my full concentration to keep the household running smoothly. I need to focus on feeding, loving, and guiding the girls (and Todd!) without adding another full time job into the mix. God is good!

We end our family meeting with compliments and prayer. Each family member comes up with something kind to say to another member of the family. It's practice in both giving and receiving compliments. Mom and Dad usually get the ball rolling and model how to give and receive praise. The girls tend to get silly at about this point, but we'll keep working on it. It's important to us to teach the girls how to help build others up and also how to graciously accept others' praise.

We close in prayer, usually led by Todd. Then everyone scatters so Mom and Dad don't have time to think of anything else to talk about.

I'm not going to lie: this isn't always a fun family event. But it's important that everyone work together and know what it takes to keep the family happy and healthy. As the girls get older and the weekly calendar fills up even more we'll be glad we set this time aside to talk each week.

Anyone else out there have regular family meetings? Care to share your procedures?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Little Parsonage on the Prairie

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies. (Proverbs 31:10 NIV)

Remember last winter when Maddie got the entire Little House on the Prairie series and we said we'd read them aloud together and see if we could finish them all in 2012? Yeah, well, that's not happening.

Thankfully we live across the street from our town's public library which had the entire series on tape/CD. Since we seem to be in the car a lot we're nearly through Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the series.

Maddie loves it! She has been asking awesome questions about life in the 1800s. She especially likes when Pa tells his stories to Laura and Mary around the cozy fireplace in the little log house.

I'm also getting a lot out of listening to the life of the Ingalls family. I remember reading some of the series as a child, but as an adult I am viewing the narrative through a different lens.

Laura and Mary are polite, curious, and obedient. Ma and Pa are loving, hardworking, and fair. At various moments in the book, I've found myself wishing I could be a fraction of the parents they are.

Ma is a great example of the "wife of noble character" referenced in Proverbs 31:10-31. This is one of my most visited (and highlighted!) chapters in my Bible. Here are a few selections I find particularly appropriate:

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value. (Proverbs 31:11 NIV)

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks. (Proverbs 31:17 NIV)

When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (Proverbs 31:21 NIV)

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:26, 27 NIV)

I'm particularly fascinated with how Ma, Pa, Laura, and Mary always seem to know what needs to be done in each season. They were so in tune with the land that they merely needed to observe the signs around them. They knew what a "sugar snow" meant, and when the oats were perfectly ripe and ready to be harvested. They knew how to make the most of their garden and preserved everything they could for winter. They were joyful at Pa's discovery of a honey tree and savored every meal prepared from fresh meat.

I find myself wondering how I can apply the Ingalls' simple joy for living and knowledge of the land and seasons to my own life. Country life has certainly changed my perspective. I view the coming fall with excitement in anticipation of beautiful scenery, cozy smells, and good things to eat. I can't wait to see what this land looks like clothed in autumn colors or covered in snow. I am curious to see what harvest will bring, and how the farmers' worried faces may change with the hope of a new spring.

So, in our little parsonage on the prairie, we're trying to enjoy the last warm breezes of summer and impatiently await the first smells of fall. And wait to see what God has in store for us. What an adventure!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Heart of a Servant

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, (Ephesians 6:7 NIV)

I love to read. I will read any genre, any author, as long as there's a story in which to get completely lost. For me, the sign of being in the midst of a a good book is when I have difficulty returning to reality after I've turned the final page for the night.

I had little to no experience with "Christian" literature until recently. A friend from Michigan (Hi, Kate!) recommended a series called Acts of Faith by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. The first book, The Centurion's Wife, was compelling. I was quickly pulled in by the time period of the book, which takes place in Jerusalem in the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, at that time a well known but little understood prophet. The story winds through the days following Jesus' resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It all makes ones wonder what it would have been like to have been one of the first Christians in a culture dominated by politics and religion.

The second book, The Hidden Flame, follows a secondary character from the first book and her work with the Apostles in the early days of Christianity. The persecution and fear from the Jewish establishment finally comes to a head and leads to the martyrdom of one of the group's members.

These books have intrigue, romance, culture, and adventure. But also lessons for our lives in modern society.

The lesson that deeply resonated with me was how the men and women in the story were ready and wiling to serve the Lord. The women found joy in small tasks, like cooking and laundry, a task made exponentially more difficult and mundane without our modern conveniences. Yet they knew their tasks were blessed by God, and through their small contributions larger things, like being examples of Christ's love, we're being accomplished.

In an age where women are encouraged to have careers but still complete most household duties, it was refreshing to see that these women viewed their tasks as not only noble but essential to the survival of their colony of Christians. They didn't need fame or fortune to know that they were fulfilling God's will.

Do I undertake menial things with joy, or do I groan and feel certain tasks are beneath my talents? Do I realize that my attitude towards difficult or boring tasks helps shape my childrens' attitudes toward the same duties? Am I an example of joyful obedience? Am I always thankful that I have home to clean and food to prepare? How do I let go of my selfishness and learn to faithfully follow? Do I have a servant's heart?

I have one book left in the series. Perhaps I'll have more answers after I finish...

Anyone read any good books lately? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life is Precious

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:14, 15 NIV)

It is so easy to wish the days away. In the past month, my mind has flitted from one task to the next in impatient succession: "First I have to pack my house, then the moving truck, then unpack, organize, clean and paint, and then I'll be able to relax."

Well, we've been in Tiskilwa for nearly a month and I can assure you that I have not yet relaxed. I'm busy doing things around the house like cleaning, preparing meals, organizing, getting paperwork together, chasing children (and now a dog!). To say I've enjoyed every minute is a flat out lie.

I'm in the bad habit of always looking forward to the next task instead of living in the moment. And then suddenly I look at my children and realize I've missed the good stuff. I've been so busy gathering paperwork to enroll Maddie in school that I missed her putting the leash on Oliver and taking him out to go potty (without my asking!) all by her big self. I've been so obsessed with arranging and rearranging things in my new home that I brushed off Ava's sweet invitation to join her in a make-believe game of My Little Ponies. Life is far too short to miss these precious moments.

I am reminded of the frailty and brevity of life this week because of a tragedy in one of our congregations. Todd is performing his very first funeral tomorrow for a baby that died just days away from her due date. I cannot even begin to comprehend the sadness and loss that the parents and family are going through. But I can wrap my mind around the thought that this poor mother would give nearly anything for just a moment with her lost child, while I casually brush off my children when it's inconvenient to take my attention off of another task.

It's a staggering and sobering thought.

James tells us in the above verse that we are but a mist that appears for a short time, then vanishes. God has an appointed amount of time set aside for us on this earth, and only He knows when He will call us back home. It is our job to make the most of the time we're given to His glory and purpose.

So if you stop by the house in the next few days and there are toys on the ground, dishes in the sink, and laundry unfolded, be happy for me. I will likely be with my family enjoying life's precious moments.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

With Gratitude

Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 CEV)

It's been easy to be grateful lately.

We're settling in to the house nicely. Rooms are taking shape. Pictures are beginning to fill the empty spaces on the walls. It's becoming a home.

We've added a family member, too: a six-month old yellow Labrador Retriever named Oliver. We adopted him from Friends of Strays, a rescue in Princeton, Illinois. He's a great dog and a perfect fit for our family. In the near future we hope to get Oliver trained as a therapy dog so that Todd can take him along on hospital visits.

People have been excited to come to church to check out the new pastor. The parking lots of our two country churches are getting more full with each passing Sunday. Todd has gotten a lot of positive feedback. Some have called Todd's preaching " a breath of fresh air." Both the Sheffield and Tiskilwa congregations have been kind, generous, and welcoming. We can feel God setting the stage for big things in these communities.

At our family meeting on Monday (more on this new tradition in another post), each of us expressed an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for bringing us on this adventure. He has provided for and protected us. It is clear that God answered our prayers in a big way.

We know things will not always be so easy. The enemy often strikes when one is forming a closer relationship with God. But for now, we're enjoying this time. We're building our spirits for the hard work we have ahead.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support. Keep them coming! And know that you are lifted in our prayer as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Birthdafatherversary

For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19 NLT)

We are moving to central Illinois in a little over a week. The past week was filled with fun and family (instead of packing...). Madeline celebrated her 7th birthday on June 14, Todd and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary on June 15, and of course, Father's Day was June 16. Every year it's a crazy-busy week, and every year it's wonderful. OK, it's a bit stressful, too.

Birthdays and anniversaries are new beginnings. This year we'll add a move and new ministry to the list. It could all be a bit overwhelming if we weren't focused on one thing: God.

The verse above comes from Isaiah, where the nation of Israel is in the midst of the Babylonian captivity. The author is reminding the people of God's marvelous works when bringing the people out of their bondage in Egypt. He also reminds them of how the people have turned away from and angered God.

I'd really love to complain about packing. It's especially frustrating since its only been 14 months since our last move. But God has provided for my family time and time again, and I am choosing instead to recognize the new thing that God is doing in our lives. He has blessed us with two beautiful girls and a strong marriage. He has led us to ministry. He has led us to Tiskilwa and Sheffield. And He will lead me through the next week.

I will show my love for God through joyful obedience. And by faithfully following.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bring it on, summer!

I had my last day of school yesterday. I am not returning to work this fall (God willing!) so that I can help lead my family's transition to ministry life. The arrival of summer vacation usually brings with it pure joy, but this year, it's brought anxiety. I've never not worked. I'm always thinking about new things to do in my classroom, but I don't have a classroom anymore. It's like the breath has been knocked out of me.

So I am putting the enthusiasm I usually reserve for lesson planning into
summer activity planning for my family.
Thanks to Pinterest, I have a few cheet sheets to get the ball rolling. So far, I've found a summer bucket list, "bored jar" printable task cards, and a summer learning goal sheet.

Summer Bucket List:

Bored Jar:

Summer learning goal sheet:

I used the summer learning goal sheet as a template. I created my own in Pages on my iPhone and printed it off to do with Maddie. Pictures are below.

I'm not going to lie: Maddie was not thrilled about the summer learning goals. But I think if we take it one step at a time, she'll be pleased with he progress she's making.

So, what are you planning for this summer?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

End of the Year Prayer

Full disclosure: I didn't write this prayer.  But I think it accurately says what I'm feeling as I wrap up my final school year at St. Paul.  May these last few days of school be a blessing as you reflect on all that you've accomplished this year!

End of the Year Prayer
(author unknown) 

O God of all beginnings and endings,
We praise and thank you for the gift of this school year.
It has been a time filled with grace and blessings,
With challenges and opportunities, joys and sorrows.
The days have passed quickly, O Lord.
The weeks, the months, the seasons, the holidays and holy days,
The exams, vacations, breaks, and assemblies,
All have come forth from your hand.
While we trust that your purposes have always been at work each day,
Sometimes it has seemed difficult to understand and appreciate
Just what you have been up to in our school.
Give us the rest and refreshment we need this summer.
Let our efforts of this past year bear fruit.
Bring all of our plans to a joyful conclusion,
And bless us, according to your will,
With the fulfillment of our summer hopes and dreams.
Watch over us in the weeks of rest ahead,
And guide each day as you have done this past year.
Help us return to school with a new spirit and a new energy.
May we continue to grow
In age, wisdom, knowledge and grace
All the days of our lives.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

Let's take a little field trip.
This is St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church and School in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, where I have taught for the past 5 years.  We are a private Catholic school of about 500 K-8 students.  Take a minute to appreciate the beauty of this place.

Images taken from djn_Brian on Flickr. 

It's not just the physical structures that make it beautiful, it's the people.  The students, faculty, staff, pastor, and priests at St. Paul make it a truly special place to work and learn.  I am proud of my time here and am sad to leave.  But I go forward knowing the last 5 years here have helped prepare me for what lies ahead.

As I wrap up my final days as a Laker, I've been reflecting on my time at St. Paul.  And a song kept popping into my head that perfectly says what I've been feeling.  I've posted the words below.

I know I'll cry at our final all school mass on June 8, when the children's singing fills the sanctuary.  In fact, I'm tearing up now just thinking about it.  But I will not look back at my years at St. Paul with tears of sadness.  I go forth with joy.  Like Dr. Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place
Words and music by Lanny Wolfe

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels wings.
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.

In the midst of His children the Lord said He would be.
It doesn't take very many, it can be just two or three.
And I feel that same sweet spirit that I felt often times before.
Surely I can say I've been with the Lord.


There's a holy hush around us as God's glory fills this place.
I've touched the hem of His garment, I can almost see His face.
And my heart is overflowing with the fullness of His joy.
I know without a doubt that I've been with the Lord.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Are You Mom Enough?

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

Have you seen this?,16641,20120521,00.html

The Internet was abuzz last week when Time magazine released this issue. I'll admit that I've only glanced at the actual article. But here's the gist:
No, you are NOT mom enough.

My question is this: Mom enough for whom?

It is very easy to become consumed with parenting books and philosophies that claim, "Do this and your child will turn out great!" We might take our parenting cues from close family or friends. Maybe even from that mom on the playground who always seems to have everything so together. Hopefully, parenting is a team effort between two committed people who have an equitable share and responsibility in the raising of the children.

But who are we trying to satisfy? Our spouse? Our kids? Ourselves?

In my opinion, the only one I truly answer to is God. I am his servant. Just as Mary said yes to God when he asked her to bear and raise His son, Jesus, I need to affirm daily that He has blessed me with my two precious daughters and do everything in my power to bring them closer to Him. That's how I know I'm "Mom enough." That's really all that matters. Standardized test scores, college acceptances, honors assemblies...they're all nice, but not the point.

God has equipped each one of us with the tools we need to parent our children. Sometimes I wish I had more patience, courage, and gentleness, but I know God is using my trials as a lesson.

Are you mom enough to faithfully follow?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Better late than never?

"and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us." (Matthew 6:12 NLT)

6:08. 6:12. I checked my watch again. 6:18. I texted the babysitter and received confirmation of what I already suspected. He forgot.

My meeting starts at 7:00. It takes 20 minutes to get there. I inhale the remainder of my dinner and encourage the girls to do the same. "Change of plans, girls," I said. I pack everyone into the van, promising hot chocolate if they move quickly.

I get to my PTA meeting and set the girls up in a small side room. Working at the school my daughter attends has it's advantages: I know all the good hiding spots. I turn on Netflix on the iPad, set up two chairs, open the snack container and growl, "Please behave," as I walk down the hall to the meeting.

They behave. For about 25 minutes of the 60 minute meeting. I hastily grab my purse and meeting notes, offering apologies to the parents situated around the long conference table as I exit.

I'm frustrated. My face is hot. I'm disappointed in myself and in the girls. The situation was impossible before I had even left the house, but I had hoped for the best. I drive home wordlessly. The girls are quiet, too. We have an understanding.

Life happens and flexibility is important. But it's so hard.

It doesn't hit me until after the girls are settled in bed that I was once the person responsible for someone else's impossible situation.

I was in high school. A junior, maybe? I had a family whom I babysat for frequently. The mom and dad were going through a divorce, so sometimes I was the only person the newly-single mom could count on to get a few hours to herself. I had empathy for her situation but nowhere near an understanding of how hard parenting can be.

She had called at the last minute to see if I could watch her toddler the next day. I said I could, but didn't pencil it in my calendar right away--I was doing several things at once and simply forgot.

The next day came and I stayed later than usual at my summer job. I took my time coming home. When I finally arrived, my mom gave me the message that Mrs. So & So called. I froze. I was always so responsible. I had been babysitting for many years and for many families. I had NEVER forgotten an appointment.

Did she have to bring her son with her to her appointment? Was she able to find someone else to fill in? Did she feel as frustrated as I had tonight: at myself, my kids, my situation?

I didn't call her back. And she never called me again. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I never saw her or her son again, as I returned to high school a few weeks later and then left for college the following summer.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself tonight, I'm feeling shame and embarrassment of having caused someone else the same frustration.

It's times like this that I'm thankful for God's grace and  forgiveness. I am weak and flawed. I am selfish and willful. I am stubborn and conceited. God knows. But He created me, and He is always working on me. Perhaps tonight's events were to help me understand how I'd hurt Mrs. So & So many years ago. I'd say it's a lesson learned. Better late than never.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Prayer Problems

"I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer."(Psalm 63:4 NLT)

*SPOILER ALERT! Todd will be using the following story for a small part of his sermon on Sunday.

The best I can hope for as a mom and a Christian is for my children to have a deep and personal relationship with God. I help my children form these bonds early by praying with them and for them.

Sometimes the girls really seem to understand what prayer is all about. And sometimes not.

Ava finally kicked her binky habit. It wasn't easy, and there may have been some bribery involved. But she's been binkie-free for one solid week, so I'd say we're in the clear.

The first night was particularly terrible. The poor thing just didn't think she could sleep without it and was utterly distraught. Todd and I took turns going into her room to try to calm her down. Once she settled down a bit Todd went in, dried her tears, and asked if she wanted to pray about it. She said yes, so he began to ask Jesus to help her relax so she could drift off to sleep. As he was finishing the prayer, Ava added, "And please bring back my binkie!"

I clearly have some work do. Pray for me?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:21, 22 NIV)

It's finally official! We can share our big news: Todd has been appointed to two churches in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference beginning July 1.

The first church is Tiskilwa Community Church in Tiskilwa, Illinois. It's 5 miles from Princeton, Illinois, the town in which the girls will go to school.

We will live in the parsonage in Tiskilwa. It is a beautiful old house built in the early 1900s. The entire area is charming and historic. There is an Amtrak stop in Princeton. I can't wait for visitors!

The second church Todd will serve is Sheffield United Methodist in Sheffield, Illinois, just under 20 miles away from Tiskilwa. It is also a charming town with kind people and an exceptional restaurant called ZBest Cafe. We ate there with Todd's parents on Saturday. It was awesome!

Our family met with members of the two rural congregations on Saturday. It was easy to see that our arrival in town was an answered prayer for all of us. Tiskilwa and Sheffield were praying for a young family to come and lead their churches. We have been praying all along for God to place is where He needs us, when He needs us.

Remember that Amtrak stop I mentioned earlier? It might really come in handy for Todd, since he'll be commuting to Garrett for the next year to finish up seminary. It is our hope that I'll be able to take a year off teaching to stay at home with the girls and help them transition to new schools, towns, and churches. Not to mention an entirely different pace of life.

Our lives are about to change dramatically. For my Michigan peeps, the only comparison I can give is that this move will be like going from the Detroit suburbs to "up north". But we're ready. God has made a way for us. And we will faithfully and enthusiastically follow.

Click below to see some pictures:

Friday, April 13, 2012

What's up ahead?

Imagine diving down a beautiful country road. It's bright and sunny. It's spring, so the trees are budding and blooming. The fields are freshly planted. The breeze blows the scattered puffy clouds along the big blue sky. It's perfect.

You've not driven this road before. It winds east and west, sometimes sharply. It goes up and down through the valleys. You can feel your stomach drop at the top and bottom of each hill.

The road is barely wide enough for one car to pass through. You begin to wonder what might happen at the top of that next hill you're rapidly approaching. What if there is a car coming the other way? A piece of large farm equipment moving slowly up ahead? A pedestrian walking his dog? The silent panic begins to rise in your throat. Your face gets hot, your palms sweaty.

And then you're there. You've made it safely to your destination. But you're missing 10 minutes of the ride. Where did your mind go?

That just about describes the ride from our potential new home in a tiny country town in Illinois to Todd's parents' house this week. What started out as a pleasant drive through the prairie ended in a stressful few moments for me. No one else in the car seemed bothered at all by the ride. In fact, the girls thought it was a blast! "Go faster, daddy!" was the resounding reply from the back seat, while I grabbed the door handle and closed my eyes.

I guess life is kinda like that. Everyone has their own issues and anxieties. Everyone moves at his or her own pace. Push too hard and you can create resentment and fear. Go too slow and you might miss the blessings God has planned for you.

This is an illustration of what's been going on in my life in the past few weeks. I've been praying for so long for God to show me and my family where He wants us to go but I'm afraid of the answer. I'm afraid to look over the next hill. I'm both crying out for and bracing myself against change.

But a the saying goes, "Life's a journey, not a destination." Covering your eyes on the scary part of the ride means missing half of the fun. Guess its time to just enjoy the ride secure in the faith that God's got this covered.