Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Foot in Each Season

I know Advent has begun and I'm ready for it and I'm feeling the need (pressure) to write something about it. The 1st Sunday of Advent was beautiful and I feel like my soul has moved into this season.

However, I've not blogged over the Thanksgiving holiday and I feel the need (on this last day of November) to make one last nod toward Thanksgiving before I move on. So here it goes...

In my sermon on Thanksgiving Sunday I challenged our congregation to be more willing to share our gratitude. Twenty years ago I worked retail and remember being told that when customers go away upset they tell at least 10 (if not more) while when they go away happy they may tell no one. This has stuck with me and I wonder about it. And so I challenged people to make sure we express our thanks and even share it.

In that line of thinking, I want to share some recent pleasant experiences (of many varieties)...

1) Although not the most significant one on the list, I have to give a big "hurrah" to our birthday party experience at Chuck E. Cheese's. Can I be honest here? I didn't expect to have rave reviews of said birthday party. I really thought I'd just endure it for the sake of my now-five-year-old. And frankly when I first looked at the brochure my primary thought was that it was a little pricey. However, it was a GREAT birthday party! We did it on a Saturday morning (yes, they open at 9 a.m. - who knew?) and so we were virtually the only people there. We got personal attention. Everything was well organized and happened in a timely fashion. When we left both the five-year-old and his mommy had smiles!

2) The week before Thanksgiving we got family pictures taken. Yesterday we got to view the proofs and I couldn't be happier. In fact I keep looking at them wondering where that lovely family came from. :) Our photographer, Kelly, and his wife, Ronda, were wonderful and the pictures really are art. If you happen to live in SW Missouri, let me recommend Kelly Lawson Photography.

3) If you know me in person, you'll know that I love Iowa. I've referred to it before as the place of my birth and the home of my heart. We were there for Thanksgiving and again I was reminded about how grateful I am for the place where I grew up. Although the people around me certainly had the greatest influence, I believe that much of who I am is very connected with that place.

4) I am grateful to pastor this wonderful church in SW Missouri. I think too seldom do we who serve in this way pause with wonder and gratitude at the many ways people invite us in to their lives and trust us with their deepest selves. I stand in awe.

5) I am a proud owner of a Hyundai Santa Fe and would recommend this little SUV again and again. As we were on the road adding hundreds more miles to the 120,000+ it already has, I was realizing how reliable it has been and how safe we feel in it.

6) As this month of Thanksgiving comes to a close I am grateful for my husband, my children, my parents, my sister, my grandparents, my friends, my clergy colleagues...so many people who love me in spite of myself, who keep me grounded and remind me who I am, who share life with me...people to whom I don't often enough say "thank you."

So, what are you thankful for? What big or little experiences would you like to shout from the rooftop (or at least post a little something about)?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

1...2...3...4...5!!!

Five years ago today the day started with me receiving medication to induce labor. I was eleven days overdue and my body did not seem to want to let go of this child. The night before I had checked in to the hospital where they began the process of softening my cervix (which didn't seem to want to dialate) in order to prepare for inducing labor. By late afternoon, after 2 1/2 hours of pushing, my firstborn did finally emerge.

Today he turns 5 years old. What is amazing to me is that there are so many ways he has changed in five years (too numerous to count or name) and yet there are so many ways that he is just the same. In both of these I am reminded that he is just who he needs to be and that I am lucky to know him, to love him and to call him my child.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

We Need Each Other

I've often said that one of my favorite things about the congregation I serve is that we have all generations of people here.

Since having children I've rejoiced that my boys have personal relationships with people 100 years older than them (yes, we have several over 100 in our congregation!) and relationships with people of every age in between. These relationships combined with their wonderful grandparents relationships make a difference.

I was reminded of my joy at this multi-generational group today because of what Sarah wrote. I was reminded of it not only for my children, but for myself.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spelling Matters

Today as we were in the check out lane at the grocery store, the four-year-old took the grocery list and my pen and found a hard surface so he could write. He brought it back to show me and this was the conversation that followed:

Him: Look what I wrote, Mom.

Me: Wow - I love you, Mom - thank you.

Him: Well, I was going to write - I don't like you, Mom - but I couldn't spell it.

Guess I'm glad for what he doesn't know. And I'm thinking we'll be careful what we teach him to spell!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick Takes, #20: Recipe Edition

Okay, earlier I listed my favorite fall/winter recipes...but now...here are the actual recipes!

#1: My mom's lasagna:

Ingredients:
8 oz box lasanga noodles
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb sausage
1 can prepared spaghetti sauce
24 oz cottage cheese
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 t. black pepper
8 oz mozarella slices
8 oz shredded mozarella

Use 9 x 13 (or next size bigger) pan. Grease pan. Preheat oven to 350 degree.
Cook noodles.
Brown hamburger and sausage, drain, add spaghetti sauce and simmer.
Mix cottage cheese, eggs, parmesan, and pepper.

Layer in pan as follows: noodles, meat sauce, mozarella slices, cottage cheese mixture (do twice).
Top with shredded mozarella.

Bake for 1 hour. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


#2: Cheesey Corn Chowder

Ingredients:
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut small
1 c. water
2 t. chicken boullion
1/8 t. ground red pepper
dash black pepper
3 c. milk
10 oz frozen corn
2 T. flour
6 oz Velveeta cheese (1 1/2 cups)

In large saucepan combine potatoes, water, boullion, red and black peppers. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover & simmer 10 - 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Stir in 2 1/2 c. milk and corn. In small bowl combine other 1/2 c. milk with flour. Add to potato mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat. Melt in cheese.


#3: Maidrites

Ingredient:
5 lbs ground beef
1 t. salt
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. oatmeal
1 1/4 c. ketchup
2 T mustard
1/2 t chili powder
1/4 c. vinegar
1/2 c. brown sugar

Brown ground beef, salt and onion. While browning mix other ingredients. Put meat in crock pot. Mix sauce in and cook on low.


#4: Potato Soup

Ingredients:
6 - 7 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
1/2 stick butter or margarine
8 oz cream cheese
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can cream of celery
1 T garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. milk

Cut potatoes into small cubes and dice onions. Cover with water and boil until tender.

Melt in butter and cream cheese. Add other ingredients, stir well.


#5: Taco Potato Cassarole

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 can creamed corn
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 20 oz package prepared mashed potatoes
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg

Brown ground beef. Drain. Add creamed corn and taco seasoning.
While meat is browning mix potatoes, cheese and egg and set aside.
Place meat mixture in square baking dish. Top with potato mixture.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes


#6: Cherry Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
1 Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
2 Eggs
1 t Almond Extract
1 can cherry pie filling

Combine cake mix, eggs and almond extract then add pie filling. Pour in greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake 18 - 22 minutes at 350 degrees.

Frosting Ingredients:
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. milk
1/3 c. butter or margarine
1 c. chocolate chips

Combine sugar, milk and butter in saucepan. Add chocolate chips - melt. Pour frosting over warm cake. Refrigerate.


#7: Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
1 c. butter or margarine (soften)
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 egges
1 t vanilla
1 t butter flavor
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
3 1/2 c. oatmeal

Combine all ingredients. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 12 minutes at 310 degrees.

ENJOY!!!

Quick Takes, #20

Today's Quick Takes are going to be very quick (and thus, I'll warn you - not all that helpful). What's on my mind? The things I love to cook in the fall and winter. I stayed home yesterday and did some cooking, so there you have it. I'm sharing. However, I'm not at home right now, so I don't have the recipes, so I'll just tell you my favorite things to cook and leave you recipe-less. If something sounds yummy, let me know...I'll get the recipe to you. Or, if I get it together, I'll post them later.

So, without further ado...my favorite fall/winter foods to cook...

#1: My mom's lasagna (I swear, she makes the best - I think the combo of hamburger and sausage is the secret, oh, and lots of cheese!)

#2: Cheesy Corn Chowder (let's just acknowledge Velveeta makes everything yummy!)

#3: Maidrites (if that term means nothing to you, think Sloppy Joes that aren't so sloppy, think loose mean sandwiches...my step-mom shared a wonderful recipe that I love!)

#4: Potato Soup (this recipe is from one of my favorite restaurants from when I lived in Lexington, KY - no watery soup here, it's rich with cream cheese, creamed soups, and butter!)

#5: Taco Potato Cassarole (a simple recipe, but warm and nourishing and a great combination of flavors that surprised me when I first had it)

#6: Chocolate Cherry Cake (gooey, yummy, sugary sweet...what more needs to be said?)

#7: Oatmeal Cookies (my hubby's recipe makes the best of this old favorite...and no matter how many times I try, I still can't make them taste as good as he does!)

Is anyone else hungry?

And really, if any of these sound particularly good, let me know - I'll get you the recipe. Meanwhile, I will try to get back and post recipes, but feel free to badger me!

Now, go post your Quick Takes over here with Jennifer or see what others are talking about.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bigger Picture #14: The Holy Mundane

Let me start with a confession...I didn't really find the Bigger Picture this week. A good friend did that for me. I'm just passing it on and living into it.

Tuesday night we walked into the room where our church board meeting is held. A friend, also there for board, came with her unfolded laundry, pictures needing to be sorted, grocery lists and menu planning worksheets. She began asking others to help with these tasks and before you knew it several were folding her family's clothes, I was writing out a menu and checking items off her grocery list, another friend was sorting her pictures. She simply commented that she was so far behind that in order to be in attendance she needed to bring things with her and multitask during this time.

As usual the meeting began with a devotion. She happened to the be the one doing it. As she began to speak all of this came together - this wasn't really just about having too much to do (although she certainly does) but it was an object lesson for us. She spoke about a book that a mutual friend of ours had given us both years ago: Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris. (If you aren't familiar with that book, it's worth reading.)

In Quotidian Mysteries Kathleen Norris talks about finding the holy in the mundane, those usual, regular, often thankless tasks we do day after day, week after week. She speaks specifically of laundry and other "women's work."

After reading this book, my friend began to see her tasks as a wife, mother and keeper of the home differently. She began to pray for her children as she folded their laundry. She began to recognize not only the mundane but also the loving and necessary nature of these tasks she did each day. And it changed her.

I have heard her speak of this often throughout the years and I have worked to practice it - some days doing better, some days worse. Today I am grateful for her reminder this week. I am home...taking a day off. And as I am cleaning and cooking, I am holding my husband and my children, those who share this household and those who will enter it, in my prayers. The work is different today. And so am I.

Go on over to Melissa's place today and share your Bigger Picture Moment or read some others.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God Our Parent

Sarah at Emerging Mummy wrote something beautiful today about her love for her children and God's love for us.

Take a minute. Go read it.

You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Religion vs. Spirituality: Follow Up #1

Some time ago (late September) I asked you all to do me a favor and play a little word game with me. I asked for you to tell me what you first thought of when you heard the following two words:

Religion


Spirituality


You did a great job of responding and I want to share what you said and get your reactions.


Religion: communal, rules, Pharisees, extremes, history, culture's answer, distancing from God, God in a box, label.


Spirituality: me, zen, passion, expression of belief, real life interplay, between God and created beings, untamed, life giving, awesome.


Before I write my response to these lists and to this conversation about/between religion and spirituality, I'd be interested to hear your reactions when you see those lists of words.


Do they make sense to you?


Is there anything you would add to the list for either religion or spirituality?


When everyone's responses are put together does it change the way you hear these words?


Thanks for being companions on this journey I'm on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quick Takes, #19

#1: This past Sunday I got to dedicate our grandbaby in worship. During our dedication services we ask questions of both the parents and the congregation - questions of unconditional love and acceptance, of responsibility, of commitment. I am so proud of his young parents for their dedication to him and to each other. I was so proud of them Sunday as they brought him to our church to commit themselves and ask the help of the community as they raise him to love God. And yet the most beautiful moment had nothing to do with what his parents or the community said. Rather, it was at the end of the service, as I held him up in the midst of our congregation and asked God's blessing on this child. See, as a "church person" my natural instinct is to close my eyes during prayer. I did that as I began this prayer of blessing. Yet, a few words in, I felt the need to look at him, and when I did I was greeted by his big eyes taking in each word and a radiant smile on his face. I couldn't look away. And as I spoke words of prayer directed at God while looking in the face of this amazing child, that just seemed right. For there, in his eyes and in his smile it was God I was seeing.


#2: I love fall. And I'm glad it's here!


#3: I just finished reading a delightful book entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It was a beautiful read, written as a series of letters between characters, set in post-WWII Europe. Thanks, Sarah, for shaing it. I'd definitely recommend it.


#4: I'm concerned about our nation. I'm not one to write a lot about politics. In fact, I'm quite aware that I don't stay as on top of what's going on as I should. And, although I am a registered Democrat, I think this is about more than an election in which many Republicans won. I'm just concerned...concerned about how alienated we seem to be from each other, concerned about our seeming inability to see another's perspective, concerned about our lack of desire for give and take/compromise. We watch this happen in politics, but it's not only there. And I'm concerned.


#5: I miss my hometown and my family. Although I've lived away all of my adult life, I have times when that distance feels more difficult. Now is one of those times. No real reason, nothing wrong where I am, just longing for home.


#6: For some time I have largely neglected collegial relationships. It wasn't an intentional act, it was just that once I was married and had children, I discovered that my time was limited. And it seemed that I had enough to do just to get things done in my congregation and home that I neglected much else. However, recently that's changed and I meet regularly with a group of clergy who renew my spirit. It's very good.


#7: I haven't eaten all my kids' Halloween candy...you should be impressed!


For more Quick Takes visit Jennifer.

Bigger Picture #13: Holding

I was visiting RevGalBlogPals today and noticed the Thursday prayer. It is a prayer written by Janet Morley published in The Book of a Thousand Prayers. It begins:

and you held me and there were no words
and there was no time and you held me
and there was only wanting and
being held and being filled with wanting
and I was nothing but letting go
and being held
and there were no words and there
needed to be no words

As I read it, I was very aware of my sense that this was talking about the God/human relationship and also the parent/child relationship. I don't know what you hear when you read her words, or what Ms. Morley intended, but I hear a relationship of comfort and security, a relationship of mutuality, a relationship of balance, a relationship of presence.

Again I am reminded that the holding we do of our children, the speaking, the not speaking, the hurrying, the patience, the holding on, the letting go...all of it speaks of God, whether we intend it or not. It reflects our understandings. It teaches them theirs. Parenting is a powerful gift. May we live it well.

For more Bigger Picture Moments visit Hyacynth.

And, if you'd like to read the whole prayer, pop on over here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Quick Takes, #18


Happy Friday! Hope you've had a great week. We sure have, after all we've been on vacation. As our vacation nears its end, let me share some thoughts from the week...

#1: I need to do a little commercial for Drury Inns and Suites (with the note that I've had a similar experience at Residence Inns). I've found that it's worth our money to stay at this sort of hotel and to pay extra for a suite that has a separate bedroom. What does this get us? A place that feels much more like home than a hotel room...separate space for children to go to sleep early when moms and dads aren't ready...full hot meals for both breakfast and dinner (just that savings makes it worth the difference you pay here!). We've had a great week at our Drury home away from home.

#2: St. Louis, though only a few hours away from home, has been a great vacation spot. And so let me do a commercial for St. Louis and their many family friendly experiences that are FREE! The St. Louis Zoo...yes, free admission. At that price you can even eat lunch inside the zoo. The Science Center...yes, free admission. Lone Elk Park...no charge, just a donation box and you get to drive through as elk, deer, and buffalo roam free around you. Grant's Farm...yes, free admission which includes tram ride through the park. The fudge making show at the Fudgery at Union Station is also free (well, at least until you get so tempted that you buy pounds and pounds of fudge!) and lots of fun. This is just the start of the list.


#3: Okay, I suddenly feel like I'm sounding cheap. :) However, those of you who travel with families understand that FREE means a lot. And what it's meant for us is that we can easily say "yes" to things like carousel and train rides...and it's vacation...who doesn't want to say "yes"?

#4: We've hit several other wonderful spots that did charge admission fees, but haven't found anything that wasn't worth it. We've been to places like: The Gateway Arch, The Magic House, and NASCAR Speedpark (an oversized NASCAR arcade). As people who don't live in the big city, it was also great to get our kids exposed to public transportation - thank you, MetroLink.


#5: One of the wonderful things about vacation is that we are moving on a different pace. We haven't been late once this week because we had no schedule. What a gift to just be where we are as long as it is fun. A great example is Turtle Park (yes, just a park with lots of large turtle sculptures to climb on). We just hung out there, climbing and running until we'd met all the turtles and we were done. We didn't leave because it was time to be somewhere else...just because we'd enjoyed the turtles as long as possible.

#6: This week has been exactly what we needed. Just time to be together. I'm really glad, especially as hectic as the last few months have been, that we did this.
#7: One last thing...vacation has been a great time for me to get sucked back in to my kids' view of the world. I've done far more "stopping and smelling the roses" than usual. As I mentioned before some of this inevitably has to do with not being on a schedule, but I'm convinced we can do a little more of it even in our usual busyness. So, my vacation challenge to myself (and to you) is to pay more attention to the things that capture our little ones' attention. It's amazing what we'll find there!
For more Quick Takes...click here!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Quick Takes, #17

It's been a while since I've done Friday Quick Takes, but thought I'd link up this week. So, here's some of what's going on...some of what I'm wondering about.

1) I am loving fall even as it is just beginning. My smile widens as I look at the thermometer in the mornings and see temperatures in the 30's and 40's. And midday 60's and 70's are lovely.

2) Sarah and I have actually...yes, really and truly...been doing the Couch to 5K program for three weeks! Tonight we'll complete our third week. And, surprisingly, it's really been great. I can't say I'm seeing myself as a runner yet, but I'm enjoying it and the company sure is good (as you can imagine if you read her blog!).

3) I love facebook but sometimes I simply don't get why people post what they do. Enough said!

4) I also don't get why everywhere I look I see people who are overwhelmed by their lives, their schedules, their commitments, their demands...and yet rarely do we (myself included) really do anything to change this crazy culture we've created.

5) Speaking of overwhelmed...we're taking a break and going on vacation next week. Yes, just the four of us...not to visit family or friends...just to be in a different place and spend time together. It will be delightful!

6) As a minister I can't help but wonder how the church could be a help rather than a hindrance to people living in more healthy ways and families and marriages being stronger. Sometimes I'm not so sure that we don't do twice as much that puts more demands on people than we do that helps them find joy.

7) Our grandbaby was over last night. He's now 2 1/2 months old. He loves to smile and laugh. He's turning over from tummy to back. He's just a really good baby. And his two-year-old uncle loves him...last night he was kissing and hugging on the baby as well as playing monster trucks with him. (The four-year-old meanwhile was watching the NASCAR qualifying laps...he's got his priorities!)

Have a great weekend! For more Quick Takes visit Jennifer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Walking Together


I was looking through pictures tonight and came across this one of my boys this spring. When I saw it all I could think was that I'm glad they have each other to walk with through this life. And I'm glad I have always had such wonderful family and friends as well. Who we walk with makes a difference!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Telling Her Story

This is my mom...living life fully...playing in the mud by the creek with my oldest. She is a seven-year breast cancer survivor.

Sarah invited me to write a guest post in support of Write Pink's Education Week. In my post, I tell a little bit of my mom's story.

So, I invite you to go on over to Sarah's place or to Bigger Picture Blogs...and not just today when I'm there...keep visiting all month as we work for Breast Cancer awareness, education and prevention.


Monday, October 4, 2010

I Can't Stop Thinking About It

Our four-year-old is obsessed with NASCAR. When he isn't checking rankings on the NASCAR website or watching a race or race coverage, he's playing with his NASCAR cars...lining them up, quizzing me on which driver drives which number, commentating make believe crashes when the cars they are driving get a little loose.

Our two-year-old is obsessed with disrupting his brother.

(You see where this is going, don't you?)

This means that while the four-year-old is carefully choreographing a race on our living room race track (otherwise known as a coffee table), the two-year-old sneaks in like an unexpected tornado and changes the choreography.

And guess what?

The four-year-old is not happy! (hear this as an understatement!)

As much as it disturbs me, his reaction is often to strike out in anger by hitting his brother. And my response is always the same, "You can't hit your brother. No matter what he does, hitting is not okay. No matter what."

And I actually believe that.

This is what I can't stop thinking about. As obsessed as the four-year-old is with NASCAR, I'm equally obsessed with this addiction to violence we people seem to have. And I just don't get it.

I don't understand why hitting a child to make them behave makes sense...anytime...although I particularly don't get it when it's used to stop them from being physically violent.

I don't understand why going to war is an appropriate response to an act of violence that took innocent lives and hurt our nation so deeply.

I don't understand why hitting someone who has hit someone we love is an appropriate response.

I don't understand why hitting someone you claim to love is ever okay.

Now please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying I've never felt like hitting or never hit. I have. I know that feeling of wanting to strike out. I know what it is to be so angry that it's hard to imagine other options. I know what it is to feel so out of control that you'll take back control by any means possible, even violence.

My problem is the many ways that we tell each other this is okay. My problem is with the reality that anger can so quickly increase the strength of our violence.

People are taught to spank their children. But what happens when a spanking is too hard and now a child is removed from the home? Or worse yet, when a spanking turns into a shaking or a dropping or a throwing and a child is disabled or dead?

My friend was recently talking about a comment on a blog. The blogger had written about why she stopped spanking her children. The comment responded saying that if spanking was problematic in her house she just wasn't doing it right. My friend's response was this, "All I could think was - if it's so easy to do it wrong, why do it at all?"

And that's what I really find myself struggling with. We justify a certain level of violence.

We tell ourselves we can spank misbehaving children. We set rules (which we may or may not follow) - only spank when you're not angry (of course I'd contend it's hard to hit someone if you're not angry) ... only spank for certain infractions ... only spank at a certain age.

We tell our children not to hit, but if a bully hits them, then we justify their retaliation. Or better yet our kid's dad goes and hits the bully's dad.

We discourage domestic violence, although I wonder if we're really opposed to spouses hitting each other or just opposed to the stigma of getting caught.

We talk about peace, but we're obsessed with war. Just look at the shelves of video games at your local discount center. Just look at our national budget. Just look at the lists and lists of young men and women who have died in war.

We justify a certain level of violence while putting our heads in the sand, pretending that violence doesn't create violence. But it does. One violent act easily becomes two and two easily becomes three. Once we are comfortable with the idea that physical violence is okay, it makes it easier to cross even our well laid out boundaries and limitatons.

When I tell my children that hitting is not okay, no matter what, I mean it. I mean it for them. I mean it for me. The times when I have hit (from the early days of fighting with my sister as a child all the way through adulthood) were wrong. Period. No matter how justified I felt. No matter how many reasons I had. They were wrong. Hitting is not okay.

And I just keep wondering how different our world would be...how more compassionately we would live with and toward each other...how much more understanding we would be...if we would raise a generation - just one generation - who believed this.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blog for Our Breasts

It is October which means that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In light of that I am stepping away from Quick Takes and sharing just a few things that are going on this month.

First, the girls at Bigger Picture Blogs are hosting a month long Breast Cancer Awareness Carnival called "Write Pink." There will be guest posts, the sharing of stories, prompts for the weekly "Bigger Picture Moment" and giveaways over the course of the next 31 days. Make sure to keep visiting them and participate!


Second, Army of Women is hosting a pledge where you can sign up to participate in breast cancer prevention studies as they work to discover more about the cause of breast cancer and how to prevent it.
Their goal is to have 1 million people participate. You could be next. Hop on over and take the pledge...and share the word. Also, check out their brief clip at YouTube.

Meanwhile, as we begin this month, perhaps the most important thing we can do is love well the women in our lives.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bigger Picture #12: A Foot in Both Worlds


I believe I had mentioned that we bought the two-year-old a big boy bed. Well, last night we finally put it up.
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The delay was several fold. First, the hubby was very busy remodeling the church kitchen. Then, when he was home I was out of town and I requested that it be delayed so that I could be here when the little one first slept in it. Meanwhile, while I was out of town the hubby worked on potty training the two-year-old and used the bed as bait for "becoming a big boy."
*
So, last night it all came together. We were all at home. In fact, my step-son was over with his new little one so I got to hold the grandbaby while he helped put the bed together (that definitely worked out in my favor!).
*
And bedtime came and the two-year-old slept in his big boy bed! I expected him to be eager for bedtime (at least for one night) but found that not to be the case. Even with his new bed, of which he is very proud, he still resisted going to sleep. However, he didn't get out of bed! And that was a big deal since he's been climbing out the crib nearly every night when he is resisting bedtime.
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All of this talk of him becoming a big boy...with the milestones of potty training and moving out of the crib...again has me reflecting on the journey of growing up.
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He is becoming a big boy. And he is still a baby (don't tell him I said that!). See, that's really how it is. There is not a moment when that transition happens. There is not a magical event - not even potty training - that makes a little one fully grown. Rather it's a journey...a foot in the big boy world doing big boy things and becoming ever more independent ...a foot in the baby world clinging to his mommy and wanting to remain dependent.
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And perhaps this isn't only true for two-year-olds. Maybe most of us are living with out feet planted in different worlds...confident, yet uncertain...grown up and responsible, yet wanting someone else to depend...truly happy with our lives, yet seeking something more.
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And maybe it's not a bad place to be. After all, maybe when we discover how to live well with our feet in different worlds, maybe we discover our true selves.
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For more Bigger Picture Moments or to share yours, visit Melissa.

Monday, September 27, 2010

About Nurturing Our Children's Faith

"Nurturing your children's faith is not something you do to or for your children; it is something you do with your children. And with your children, you will learn, discover and grow in ways you cannot predict or control. It will change you. And you will be better for it."

-Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Search Institute

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quick Takes, #16

#1: Apologies for not having the lovely "Quick Takes" picture at the beginning of this post...I'm in a hotel, using the business center computer and need to be quick.

#2: Which brings us to #2 - I've been spending this week in lovely San Diego! It's been a little cooler and hazier than usual, but I'm so ready for fall that leaving 95 degrees in Missouri to come to 65 and 70 degrees here is wonderful!

#3: The pastor's conference I've been at this week was tremendous! The speaker was really good as were the preachers during worship services. My earlier post this week (which you are welcome to continue responding to) was a direct result of our conversations here.

#4: I've been with one of my dear friends this week and it's been wonderful. Close friendships are so important to me but the busy-ness of life makes them harder and harder to find time for. So, I so cherish these moments where we can just be together without so many other demands.

#5: Speaking of other demands...this is not the first time I've left my hubby and kids home, but it is the longest. It's happened a few others times for just a couple of days. This time I've been gone Monday - Saturday. And of course, they are doing fine. I knew they would...I've just always hoped to keep it a secret from them that they're perfectly capable of surviving without me.

#6: Actually, capable is an understatement. My husband is busy being super dad. The two-year-old has now gone five days of going potty on the toilet. Yes, my dreams are coming true...he's being potty trained while I'm away!

#7: I may have mentioned that we bought the two-year-old a big boy bed. We haven't put it up yet but will soon. This week, his daddy used it as motivation for going potty. After all, big boys go potty on the toilet and get to sleep in big boy beds. :) (Guess it's time for me to start calling him the two-and-a-half-year-old...it's a mouthful, but it better represents him!)

Have a great weekend! Visit here for more Quick Takes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Would You Do Me a Favor? It Won't Take Long

I have a favor to ask of you.

It won't take much time.

It's really just a little game of word association...actually two games of word association (or one game with two words).

So, please tell me what comes to your mind when you hear...

RELIGION


Okay, now please tell me what comes to your mind when you hear...

SPIRITUALITY


Thank you for playing, but in order for me to know you played along, please post your responses in my comments section. I really, really appreciate it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Quick Takes, #15

#1: Anyone else out there tired? (Is this a recurring theme for me? Hmmm...maybe I should learn something) This week has been exhausting - tonight will be the fifth, out of six so far, night with something we need to attend at church. Thankfully this is unusually busy. And thankfully my boys seem to manage this craziness...perhaps better than me.

#2: I'm getting ready to head for San Diego...three days and counting. I will see good friends who I am rarely with, sleep a little later than usual in the mornings, enjoy the ocean breeze...oh, yes, and go to the conference I'm attending (better not forget that!).

#3: Although the four-year-old cried (big, sobbing tears) again yesterday when I reminded him that I'll be leaving on Monday, today when we talked about the fact that my plane gets in during a NASCAR race the following Saturday, he quickly told me that Daddy and his brother could come to the airport to get me without him. He'll just see me when I get home.

#4: In the midst of this busy week yesterday had a little respite. I stayed home in the morning and got the house cleaned and even made a meatloaf (the only non-fast food dinner my kids have had this week!). Anyone else feel totally satisfied by the scent of bathroom cleaners and the sight of a freshly vacuumed floor?

#5: I've mentioned that my husband and others have been working on remodeling our church kitchen. It looks wonderful! I'm really glad that our home is newer and has a kitchen I'm satisfied with. Otherwise, he might have had to remodel ours as soon as he's done with this one.

#6: I made meatloaf. I made soup earlier in the week. Our church ladies are getting ready to make apple pies which they do each fall as a fundraiser. All this fall food is making me long (even more) for fall. I'm ready to pull on a sweatshirt and not sweat...how about you?

#7: It looks like this Couch to 5K thing might really happen! I've talked my dear friend Sarah into doing this with me. Monday, September 27 is our start date (which will be good since I may practice overindulging this next week in San Diego). We'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

For more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bigger Picture #11: Love and Grief


I am a soap opera junky when given a chance. It's probably a good thing I'm not a stay-at-home mom or my children would be being raised on confusing family trees and love lost and found and lost again.

I am also a minister. And among the many other gifts of my vocation, I am often invited in to the midst of people's grief in intimate ways that sometimes overwhelm me.

It's not unusual for me to hear people - especially people mourning the death of a long time spouse or elderly parent - say, "We had such a good life...I shouldn't be crying." My usual response is to tell them that I believe it's because they had a good life that they are crying. After all, there is something very special missing.

Today I happen to be at home...cooking, cleaning, catching up...and I have - guess what!?! - a soap opera on.

(Yes, this discussion of my soap opera addiction and grief will come together momentarily)

Today on The Young and The Restless the show took place at a funeral. Several of the characters spent a few minutes eulogizing the one who had died. But I was particularly struck by one comment. The character Katherine Chancelor (if you watch Y & R, you know her) said this...

Grief is the price we pay for love - and it's worth it.

I was struck by the truth of that comment. Whether it's the smaller daily grief that we sometimes face in the midst of struggle, disappointment, exhaustion, and so forth or whether it's that final grief at the ending of life, grief is the price we pay for love...

And I'm with Katherine - it's worth it.

For more Bigger Picture Moments visit Melissa's place and Bigger Picture Blogs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Struggling

I've been reading a number of posts lately about people's struggle with their faith and with their church involvment. And I can't even express how grateful I am for their honesty...for their willingness to share.

I've been having conversations with people about the same thing. And again, I am so moved by their honest struggles and the fact that they choose to share them with me.

I am grateful. And, in the midst of gratitude, I'm really struggling with all this. After all, I am a minister...in a church. And it's not only about the reality that the church is where my paycheck comes from, but I feel really committed to the church. And my heart breaks each time that I hear someone say that they need to leave the church. My heart breaks largely because I know that churches and church people have done so much damage to people that many can live more freely and more faithfully outside of the church than inside the church.


And these things I believe...churches are not perfect,

going to church is not the same thing as having a relationship with God,

going to church is not a necessity.


I struggle with the failure of the church to be the body of Christ.

I struggle with the busy-ness and business of the church that is necessary but that sometimes gets in the way of people's relationship with God.

I struggle with all of this...as a minister...as a mom. I struggle with wanting my children to be part of a faith community and fearing the hurt they will receive at the hand of the church.

I find myself believing in the importance of congregational life and sometimes I find myself wanting to run away, to escape the very thing I love.

I have to admit I have always been a person who believes that I can best work change from the inside rather than from leaving. But sometimes working change is exhausting. And sometimes I'm aware that I don't even know what change I should be working on.

I struggle because I catch glimpses of the wonderful gifts that are shared when the church lives out its calling to be the body of Christ. I struggle because the very people who are leaving the church are the very people who the church needs in order to become more of who God designed us to be.

I know the church is not perfect - not even close, but I believe the church can offer something. And I am seeking to discover what that is.

The Next Step on the Journey

Our two-year-old is growing up.

Yes, just like he's supposed to!

I've been noticing lately how big he seems in his crib. I was especially aware of that last week when I watched our 6-week-old grandbaby and saw how little he looked (and he was nearly 9 pounds at birth, so this isn't a tee-tiny baby) napping in the crib.

Well, apparently the two-year-old has noticed how big he seems in his crib, too. Because the last several mornings he has gotten himself out of bed when he woke up. Not only in the morning, but also over the weekend at the end of naptime.

This baby who used to lay in his crib for a while and play as he woke up...who would then call out, "Mommy!"...he now just quietly hauls himself over the side of the crib and toddles in to our room or wherever we happen to be.

I had dreams of keeping him in the crib until he was three. It's not that I want to keep him little. As I've talked about before here, although I love babies, I don't experience a big desire to keep my boys little - they are so much fun at each new stage. It's really just that I think he's going to be a challenge when it comes to keeping him in bed.

Our four-year-old moved to his big boy bed at 25 months...after all, a new baby was on the way and so we had to get him out of the crib. But he's the kind of kid who's always been fine by himself. And he is pretty good at knowing the expectations and living in to them. So much so that not only did he not climb out of his crib but it was after he turned four before he even got out of his twin bed without permission.

Our two-year-old is a different kind of boy. He has a little more fun challenging the rules. And he has always preferred to be around people. That's really what I think will be tough for him. I'm anticipating that when he is put to bed in his big boy bed he might just get up and wander in to his brother's room for some company. I'm anticipating that if he gets up in the middle of the night, he might just come into our room and climb in bed. These are things we haven't experienced with the four-year-old.

But, the two-year-old is his own person. And this is just the next step on the journey.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quick Takes, #14

#1: I've been watching our grandbaby this week. He will start daycare in a couple weeks, but right now several of us are taking turns keeping him while his mommy goes to school and his daddy to work. I have to say, he's a really good baby! I was a Babywise parent and this little man keeps a perfect Babywise schedule. Eats like a trooper...enjoys some awake time (today he really liked "The Itsy Bitsy Spider")...sleeps for 1 1/2 - 2 hours and then wakes ready to start the cycle all over. I don't know if he's that good for his parents, but he's been amazing for me.



#2: My husband has been helping with remodeling our church kitchen. Helping may be an understatement. Not that others aren't also helping, but when my hubby commits to a project, he really commits. What this has meant is that he leaves for work bright and early in the morning then goes straight from work to church in the evenings and gets home after we've all gone to bed. With a few exceptions, the boys and I have mostly seen him when we've been at church for meetings or when we've taken dinner over to get to spend time with him. The end is in sight. We are ready to have him back home...until the next project.


#3: Actually the timing of the kitchen getting done is going to be perfect...it should finish up in about a week and a half...just in time for me to be gone for a week. I'm off to a pastor's conference in San Diego. I'm excited to be going and to spend some time with some good friends who I rarely see. And the boys and their daddy will definitely get to spend quality (and quantity) time together!


#4: Speaking of the upcoming trip...I broke the news to the four-year-old the other day that I will be going. I've been putting it off, but also knew that he would need advanced notice. He loves his momma and sometimes has a little trouble when I leave him. This isn't part of our daily routine - he's fine at daycare, church nursery, Sunday school, etc. It is when I leave him in out of the ordinary ways that he struggles. When I told him he started to cry and told me that I should just stay in Missouri...I didn't need to go to California. We'll revisit this conversation again in the next week and half. It's good to be missed, but his sadness makes me sad.


#5: After posting yesterday about my disappointment in our either/or sort of thinking and using the planned holy book burning as an example, I was happy to get on the internet and see a news story that said book burning was called off. I didn't read up on it. I don't pretend to think that just because a particular church in Florida won't be burning Muslim holy books, all is well. But, this does give me hope.


#6: I've heard people talk about the "Couch to 5K" plan that's out there. I looked at it tonight. I'm not really sure running (even jogging) is something I really desire to do. Even as a child I didn't like to run. Gym was my least favorite subject. But, something in me is tempted to try. I really wish I had a partner for this...I'm so much better with accountability. Anybody out there tried this particular approach?


#7: The four-year-old and I will be participating in our local CROP Walk a week from Sunday. We did this last year and he's looking forward to doing it again this year. I'm really enjoying this year because I feel like he gets it in way he couldn't last year. I love hearing his voice when he asks friends and family for donations to help hungry people. It warms my heart.



Hope you've had a great week. Enjoy your weekend! And for more Quick Takes, run (or walk) on over to Conversion Diary.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bigger Picture #10: I Want a Both/And World

My four-year-old hears a compliment given to someone else and immediately assumes that means the opposite is being said of him.



"Doesn't she like me, Mommy?"

"You only think she is sweet, not me, Mommy?"



I turn on the news (which I try to do as seldom as possible) and hear that a church has set a date for burning another religion's holy book and is hoping others will join them in this effort.


"Read our book...not theirs."


"Only call ours holy...not theirs."



Everywhere I turn it seems that the message that is being sent is one that says:


"My way is right...your way is wrong."


"If I affirm your way, I must reject my way."



And I just don't get this.


Because when I look around I see both/and.


She can like both of you.


I can think you're both sweet.


Both holy books hold value.


Truth is found in both books...both ways...both journeys.


The bigger picture?


Maybe it's that we have a lot to learn about compassion, about tolerance, about love.


Maybe it's that I'm crazy to even think both/and is a possibility...but I don't want to accept an either/or world.


Maybe it's that what we teach our kids matters so much because this next generation will choose whether to increase the divide or to build a bridge over it. I hope to raise a couple of bridge builders.


For more Bigger Picture moments visit Sarah at This Heavenly Life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Circle of Life

A quiet holiday morning begins...then the children wake up. And once that happens nothing is quiet again.

One bounces down the hall on the bouncy ball. The other makes a bridge with his body from couch to loveseat.

One begins playing cars and soon racing turns to crashing. The other invites his brother to wrestle.

The wrestling begins and soon a thud is heard as the four-year-old's head hits the wall. A tear is shed...for just a moment. Mommy offers a hug. The four-year-old welcomes the embrace, then playfully pushes Mommy on to the ground. The two-year-old jumps on top and the wrestling begins again.

This is the circle of life in our household

Wrestling leads to a head injury and with a quick hug thrown in that head injury leads right back to wrestling again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Being a Parent Takes Energy

It's been over a week since I've posted anything here. In fact, in this last week I've hardly even read what you are posting (and I've missed it). For whatever reason(s), I'm tired. And when I'm tired, I'm reminded that being a parent...especially working on being the kind of parent I hope to be...takes energy.

I was just reminded of that again. Sitting here at the computer...finally catching up on reading this last week's posts that I had missed...wondering what I would have written had I done my usual weekly Bigger Picture Blog or Friday Quick Takes...sitting here was so peaceful

Until

The two-year-old walked over and said, "Here's my poopy diaper," as he placed said diaper in my hand. :)

As I was cleaning him up (thankfully he simply removed the diaper but did not take time to make a bigger mess) and getting his new diaper on I thought, "This child needs to be potty trained."

Then I was reminded...being a parent take energy.

And today (and likely tomorrow), I don't have energy to potty train, so...

I think I'll just get duct tape

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quick Takes, #13

#1: Since we're finally getting a break from the heat, the boys and I went for a walk last night. Not only was it nice to enjoy being outdoors, but I was glad to get some much-needed exercise which I've been neglecting since it's been so hot. I think we'll do it again soon!

#2: Speaking of my need for exercise, have I mentioned the cream filled long johns at the donut shop closest to our house? They are absolutely sinful, they are so delicious. I really wanted one this morning, but am happy to say I managed to not turn in to the parking lot as we drove by. Thankfully the donut shop closes at 11 a.m. - I'm not sure I'd have that kind of will power on the way home after a day at work.

#3: Our grandbaby and his parents were over at our house for dinner Wednesday night. As we prepared to eat, he was tired but fighting sleep. I got the pleasure of holding him close, rocking him gently until he gave in to what he knew he needed. What a nice to feeling to have a little one asleep in my arms.

#4: My step-dad retired in the spring after over 40 years of teaching. This week students came back to school in their district and for the first time in all those years he wasn't there. I was concerned for him, especially since my mom is still teaching. But, no concern necessary...he's doing great and enjoying his freedom!

#5: In the mornings when we open the garage door, my boys have a habit of stepping out into the open and saying, "Good morning, world!" I love it!

#6: I overheard a conversation in a restaurant this week where three men were talking politics. They were mostly like-minded so their conversation was quite jovial and relaxed. However, I was not of the same mind and was really struggling with some things that were being said within ear shot of my children. I couldn't help but wonder - how do I teach my children to be compassionate and understanding in a world that seems to be getting more divided and volatile?

#7: Of course, my children weren't paying attention to the content of said conversation. The only concern either of them showed was when 2 out of the 3 men were laughing. The two-year-old got a perplexed look on his face as he pointed to the one who was not fully participating and said, "He not laughing. What wrong?"

Have a great weekend...relax and enjoy a laugh or two. And for more Quick Takes go on over to visit Jen at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bigger Picture #9: Small Kindnesses Matter


One evening this week the boys and I were out for a fancy (okay, really it was fast food) dinner. There was a mother in front of us in line. Her husband was seated across the restaurant with their two young children. She ordered their food and then was waiting for it.

When their food was ready it filled two trays. As she turned around to carry them to the table, a container of dipping sauce fell off. She looked at it briefly and I heard her say to herself, "I'll come back for that." She then carried the food off to their table, planning to return for the sauce.

The four-year-old and I both saw the sauce fall. We made eye contact and I said to him, "You could take that to her." He eagerly did just that, running over, setting it down on the table and then quickly departing nearly before she realized what he had done. But I, from across the room, could see the gratitude on the face of a woman with two small children whose fast food experience I could relate to.

I was reminded right then that small kindnesses matter. It would have been so easy to not even notice what she had dropped. It would have been easy to not even respond. But I'm glad we did notice and I'm glad we did respond.

I'm glad my children have been on both the giving and receiving end of small kindnesses. I hope I keep remembering how important they are.

What's your Bigger Picture moment from the week? Go on over to Maegan's and share your story by linking up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Drinking Virtual Coffee...Want to Join?



Amy at Lucky Number 13 has created a link to invite others to join in her Virtual Coffee. So, today I thought I'd sit a spell along with her and others. You might want to, too.


If we were meeting for coffee today...


You would learn that I don't drink coffee (pause for collective gasp). My vice is pop, though I try to limit to one a day. If it was a cooler morning (or the air conditioning where we were meeting was more than doing its job), I'd likely have a chai tea or hot chocolate.


I would tell you how proud I am of the church I serve. We have just concluded our first capital campaign and despite a difficult economy and the fact that so many weren't sure we could, we not only hit our goal, but we have exceeded it! I would explain what a big deal this is and how much it says about who our congregation has become and is becoming.


I would ask you if had any suggestions for where we should vacation this fall, as I talked about how much our family needs some time together. Right now with busy schedules it is a rare occurance for myself, my husband and our children to all be in the same space for more than a few minutes.


I would tell you how one of the four-year-old's teachers told me that he was asking her how to tell time on a real clock and that she is going to start working with him on that. I would tell you how grateful I am for teachers who do more than what's expected and how amazed I am that my four-year-old is wanting to learn this.


If we were having "coffee" together, I would simply be grateful for time, too fleeting and too infrequent, time to just sit and visit with a girlfriend...time that I treasure but rarely seem to find these days. I would say thank you!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tightrope Walking

This morning...very early this morning...like 1 o'clock this morning...the two-year-old and I were having a conversation. (Not our normal conversation time, by the way)

He had woken about 12:30 a.m. and needed a glass of milk - just ask him, he'll tell you. Actually I did believe he probably could use it since he hadn't been feeling well all day and had hardly eaten at all. I was just thankful not to have to make a sandwich or pancakes or something in the middle of the night.

So, he drank a little milk and then we laid on the couch together. First we were at one end cuddled up. Then he moved to other end so our legs and feet comingled in the middle. Finally he said, "I need more milk, momma."

"Should I get that for you?" I asked.

"I save your place. I be your best friend," he replied.

I smiled as I wandered back to the kitchen to retrieve more milk. And when I returned, there he lay at my end of the couch "saving my place."

I've had several reflections on this interaction since.

My first thought was this: I can't help but pause and wonder how my two-year-old already knows about things like saving places and having best friends. And I really can't help but wonder how he already knows the power of calling someone his best friend (or telling them they are not, which he also does). Of course, I know that between an older sibling, a daycare setting where he spends time with older kids, and his natural brillance (of course there's that!), I shouldn't be surprised when he knows things that I reserve for older children.

My second thought was this: There is power in a two-year-old calling you his best friend (especially at 1 o'clock in the morning). Who wouldn't want to be his best friend when that means a snuggle on the couch?

But, that thought led to another (as often happens) and I was suddenly hearing all these conversations I hear from parents regarding whether parents and kids can be friends.

Some say no, absolutely not. You are his parent, not his friend.

Some say yes, so much so that the direction and discipline that is intrinsic to parenting flies out the door.

I wonder if our first question doesn't have to be about definition - how are we defining friend?

I don't need to be the one my children gossip with or paint their nails with or go shoppig with...okay, yes, I know I have boys, I just don't know what boys do with their friends - I'm a girl! (And I have lots to learn before they become teenagers!) Point made, though, right? I hope that my children have people of their own age, their own experience with whom they can play, talk, and even complain about their mom.

But I like to think that somehow, carefully, I can be both parent and friend. I like to think that I can be the one who guides and correct and cheers on, while also being the one who relaxes and enjoys and hears their hearts.

I am a both/and kind of girl. And I believe our parent/child relationship is modeled after our God/human relationship which I also understand to be both/and.

Yes, God is God - God is our creator; God is divine; God is the one who guides and directs us, the one whose judgment is better than ours.

And yes, God is friend; God is near to us; God is constant companion; God is intimacy; God invites us to be partners in living and in kingdom building.

I read both of these in scripture. I experience both of these in my relationship with God.

And I like to believe with some good judgment and sometimes what feels a lot like tightrope walking we as parents can still be parents while coming beside our children as friends.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Quick Takes, #12

#1: I almost had a date with my husband this week. We had lunch...just the two of us...so I suppose it counts. It was last minute and shoved between work meetings, but it was still conversation face to face.

#2: Because I'm stubborn and not really counting lunch as a date with my husband, I'm hoping we might get one tomorrow night. The boys' older sister wanted time with them, so she has them tomorrow night and I just got set free from the church commitment I had. So...maybe...

#3: Our schools around here began the new year this week. The four-year-old is anticipating when he starts kindergarten (yes, a year from now) and had several questions this week. First, he asked what day next August he would start school. Of course I don't know, but had I been able to tell him, he probably would have remembered (he's just that kind of kid). Second, he asked if any of his preschool friends will go to the same school as him. Because of locations (daycare is by my work and he'll be in school near our home), I doubt it, but again...I don't know. Finally he asked if I would go to a new work when he goes to a new school. I told him probably not. At least not that I know of.

#4: I'm working on planning a family vacation for the fall - late October, perhaps November. The main point is just to spend some time together. It doesn't have to be any place with big attractions or one of those once in a lifetime locations. Just somewhere away. Any ideas? Any place you've loved being with your family and young children?

#5: I had eaten Bagel Thins (shaped like a bagel, the flavor of a bagel, not so thick and packed with more fiber) at my mom's. Then she had brought me some on her last visit because I couldn't find them. But tonight...yes...you guessed it...I found them at our local grocery! Guess what we had for dinner?!? Guess what we'll have for breakfast tomorrow?!?

#6: What is it about religion that often seems to make people think they have to have the right answer and everyone whose answer is different than theirs is wrong? I don't get that. And I've been in several conversations lately with people who really struggle with that and who, because of that, are really turned away from God. What purpose does that serve?

#7: I read a book this last week! No, not an illustrated, rhyming children's book. One with paragraphs and pages in the hundreds. A simple novel about friendship. Not the best book I've ever read, but just what I needed.

For more Quick Takes visit Jen.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Conversation in the Car

This was our conversation in the car this morning:

(After looking to see that the two-year-old had his pouty face on)

Me: What's wrong?

Two-year-old: (grunt)

Me: (trying to cheer him up) I love you!

Two-year-old: No. And I don't love you!

Me: I do love you...

Four-year-old: (interrupting) And she'll love you forever. She'll even love you if you die and she'll wish for you.

Two-year-old: I don't want to die.

Me: No, baby, you aren't going to die. He didn't say you were going to die, but if you did I'd still love you.

Two-year-old: I don't want to die.

Me: You aren't going to die for a long, long time (I want to be able to tell him he never will...but that's just not true...I hope I can assure him that it won't happen for a long, long time)

Two-year-old: I don't want to die.

Four-year-old: You are still very young. Even mommy and daddy aren't old enough to die. You won't die until you are very old.

Two-year-old: I knew that.

Bigger Picture #8: Loving Who He Is

Tuesday morning I shut off my alarm and fell back to sleep. When I did wake up, it was to the voices of my two boys. I opened my eyes to see both the four-year-old and the two-year-old standing their saying, "Wake up, Mommy!"

I told them good morning and began to have conversation with them. It wasn't until the two-year-old said to me, "I climbed out of my crib," that it even occurred to me that he's never come to my room in the morning, I always go to his!

Now, let me say, I did know he could climb out of his crib. He has done it, not frequently, but on several occasions. But, never in the morning. Our usual morning routine is that he wakes up and then when he's ready, he calls to us, somehow seeming to know what day it is and which parent to call for. But, on Tuesday, he climbed out and came to wake me up.

At first I was surprised that I wasn't more surprised by his presence at my bedside. But then it occurred to me...I wasn't surprised because even though he's my baby, I do see him as a big boy and I am happy with who he is growing up to be.

I'm not quite ready to give up the crib. It will take several more morning escapes for that to happen.

But for now I just remain hopeful that each day when he (or his brother) greets me - whether he is two or twelve or twenty-two - I will look at him and simply love who he is right then and there.

For more Bigger Picture Moments visit Melissa.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What an Honor!


I'm so honored to share that I've been the recipient of the "Cherry on Top" Award thanks to Hyacynth who you can visit at Undercover Mother. Hyacynth delights me with her thoughtfulness and her storytelling as she shares life, as I do, with two delightful little boys. And, after just learning that vacuuming makes her heart flutter, I adore her even more. :) Thank you Hyacynth for considering my blog award-worthy.

Now, on to the assignment that comes with this award. I am to list three things that you don't know about me and include a picture.

#1: I'm not sure I could make it to 11 a.m. without a Dr. Pepper (although I often think I should put some effort in to breaking this addiction).

#2: It is usually easy for me to see the good in several options, to see both sides of an issue. I claim it's because I'm a Gemini - although I'm not sure I spend too much time worrying about what my "sign" says about me. It's one of the things I most like about myself and one of the things I least like about myself. Needless to say it sometimes translates into indecisiveness.

#3: Perhaps in relation to #2...I struggle with living 8 hours away from my family of origin. There is nothing I would like better than to move back to Iowa, even to my hometown. Meanwhile, there is nothing in me that says we're done here in SW Missouri, so there is no plan to move. Thankfully (as I have mentioned before) my children have great relationships with my parents, sister, grandparents, and other family and friends despite the distance. I will simply remain grateful for our connectedness in both places.
Now, here's a picture...although it's now over a year old, it's one of my favorites of myself and the boys.
I also have the honor of passing this award on to five other bloggers, so here it goes...

#1: I first must award Sarah at This Heavenly Life. Sarah was first my in-real-life friend with whom I shared two pregnancies...we gave birth to both of our children within a month of each other. Although we've shared so much, including our journey into motherhood, it wasn't until she began blogging that I realized what a great writer she is. Although I was somewhat familiar with blogs before, I really credit Sarah with both my desire to regularly read blogs as well as my choice to write one (she definitely deserves credit for my blog becoming a reality - I couldn't have set it up without her!).

#2: I also pass this award on to Christine at Coffees and Commutes. Since beginning to read Christine's blog, there have been so many times when I've said, "Yes, exactly!" or "Me, too!" while reading. I am thankful for her honesty in writing. Reading her blog challenges me to work on being more open in my own writing.

#3: The next award goes to Young Mom at Musings of a Young Mom. I've been so impressed with how openly she has shared her journey of faith and life as she is seeking and finding new understandings. Setting aside those ideas that we've clinged to for so long is never easy, but she is doing it with grace.

#4: Sarah at Emerging Mummy also gets an award from me. I so admire the way she speaks her heart openly even to issues of controversy. While I find myself often wondering how others will respond, Sarah sets an example by being true to herself.

#5: Finally I want to aware Lenae at Just Lenae. Lenae's blog is lovely and real as she chronicles the live and love of her family.

Have a great day!




For What Do We Pray?

Today it is overcast and far cooler than it's been for weeks. While I'm enjoying this change in weather - the cooler temps, the lack of sun beating down and baking everything within its reach - my four-year-old is concerned.

"Is it going to rain today, Mom?" he asked first thing this morning. I had to look out the window...I hadn't even taken time to notice the weather.

"It might," I replied, enjoying the thought of a summer rain.

Rain didn't enter our conversation again until we were in the car on our way in to town.

"Mom, you need to pray," said the four-year-old.

Pray. Okay. I can do that. But, what's this request about, I wondered.

"Why?" I asked.

"You need to ask God to not let it rain."

Ah, my child is worried that rain will interrupt his much needed outdoor play at school. He wants the weather to cooperate with his plans.

But, how do I respond? I want my children to know they can talk to God about anything. I also want them to understand that God isn't there to give them everything they want whenever they ask (or demand) it.

I did respond...with carefully chosen words...walking the tightrope between these two realities...perhaps with more of an answer than my four-year-old needed.

But, how would you respond? How do you help your children find that balance? How do you find it?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quick Takes, #11: Actually Random


#1 - I had lunch with our two week old grandbaby this week. Well, his mommy and I ate, but he kept us company. Is it bad that both myself and his mommy were commenting that one of his cutest faces is the frown right before he lets out a cry? He's just so cute when his mouth turns down and his forehead wrinkles that it's hard to do much but smile. However, he does know how to make himself known and is sure to get comforted when the crying ensues.


#2 - Speaking of our new grandbaby - his daddy went back to work this week and his mommy goes back to school next week. Their life is about to get into the "usual rhythm" - whatever that is. Please send good thoughts and prayers their way as they get back to their routines and as they figure out how those routines work with a new little one in their midst.


#3 - I was reading this post and was really struck by those four words, "At the same moment." Wow - so much does happen at the same moment. My joy lays next to someone else's sorrow. My anxiety next to someone else's eagerness. But even beyond that, I find these things happening within me. My joy and sorrow intermingle...my anxiety and eagerness intermingle...my excitement and exhaustion intermingle. Isn't it amazing?

#4 - The four-year-old's swimming lessons ended today. It's amazing how much he learned. I actually watched him swim the length of his teacher's pool BY HIMSELF. It is pretty amazing!

#5 - Tonight on the way home from swimming the four-year-old did a favorite thing which is to tease me by saying, "I don't love you." Of course, the two-year-old chimed right in, "I don't love you, too, Mommy." But I didn't have to listen...the four-year-old responded to him before I could. "But she'll always love you," he told his little brother. I had to smile...he's been listening!

#6 - I recently mentioned my grandparents in a blog. I have to comment on them again. In the last month both my grandma and my grandpa have written sweet letters to my four-year-old in response to drawings/notes he has sent them in the mail. It just warms my heart that they take the time to do that and I love that he is learning about old fashioned, hand written correspondence.

#7 - I need a date with my husband. Perhaps I should make sure that happens.

Quick Takes are in a new location for this week, so for more be sure to visit Hallie over here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bigger Pictures #7: Taking a Breath



The four-year-old has been in swimming lessons the last two weeks. He loves the water. He loves being in the water. He loves being under the water.

As I've watched him in lessons each evening, I've been impressed with the way he pays attention to his teacher. I've been impressed with the way he sits - quite still - and watches as she gives instruction and even as she helps other children try what she's teaching. It's been fun to watch as his mind grasps all the concepts and sometimes it's been funny to watch as his body tries to put them into practice.

I can say that he has made great progress. He is now actually able to swim across the pool. Last night he figured out how - without the help of his teacher - to remain afloat on his back. He's doing really well.

As I've watched him what I've noticed is that his biggest challenge is remembering to take a breath. He will swim for great distances on whatever air he started with and come up gasping for air. The instruction his teacher has had to give most often to him is, "Lift up your head...take a breath."

Watching this gave me pause to think how often we forget to "take a breath." We go here and run there, we accomplish this and mark that off our lists, we are busy with family, with jobs, with volunteer work, with friends, with our homes, with our churches, with so many things and yet sometimes we forget to refuel, to rest, to allow ourselves to get the energy we really need to do these things.

So, today, I'm going to practice finding my breath...slowing down...making sure that I get filled back up after giving so much away. Thanks to my four-year-old for this important lesson.

For more Bigger Picture Moments visit Sarah.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kudos to Young Mom

Not much to say today except to point you toward Young Mom's recent blog as she reflects on the last year since theirs has been a spanking-free household.

I've written here before about my own commitment to not spanking. I love the fact that she has shared her journey of discovery as she's made a shift in her parenting style. Her reflections on the changes she's seen in her kids and herself are wonderful.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Listening

Over the sounds of the dishwasher and washing machine both running I hear something wonderful...

LAUGHTER!

from two boys who are playing together.

I think I'll just sit and listen.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Quick Takes, #10: Stuff I Loved



I'm not sure what's motivating this post. Perhaps it's the fact that we just had a grandbaby and so baby stuff is on my mind. Perhaps it's the fact that our house is nearly absent of baby stuff because our little boys have grown out of so much of it and I'm happy with the stage we're in. It's likely that many who read are also past the baby stage as well, but I'm just going to take a moment to reflect on baby stuff I wouldn't have wanted to live without.

#1: Ducky Bag Holder (and the bags in it): This cute little companion remains in our diaper bag (the two-year-old is not yet potty trained) and has been our best friend for four and a half years now. He contains a roll of trash bags for the disposal of diapers. Since we've always been on the go with the boys, it's been nice to know I always had a bag handy for diaper disposal. I never wanted to be that person who left someone else's house smelling like...

#2: Dreft Stain Remover: I'm sure there are other brands that work just as well, but our cabinet has not been without Dreft Stain Remover for four and a half years. I have found that it works well on everything from poop to spit up to food to more grown up stains like ink and oil.

#3: Binkies: Yes, I know some people think a child should never be given a pacifier, but my boys were both binky addicts and I supported their addictions. In fact, the two-year-old has one in his mouth and one in each hand right now. I think it's great for folks who don't use them, but for us they worked and when he was ready, our oldest left his binkies for the Easter Bunny and went cold turkey. I haven't worried too much about breaking the habit...I've never seen a 17-year-old taking one to prom.

#4: A Soft Blankie: Both of my boys have wonderful, soft blankies that have been great companions (and a source of jealousy for my husband and I who have often wondered why they don't make adult sized blankets in that fabric).

#5: A Rocking Chair: And let me start by saying that I'm not really a "sit and rock the baby for hours on end" sort of gal. I know people who really could just sit and hold a baby all day. That's not me. I love the feeling of a baby, especially my babies, in my arms, but my mind is often racing with the many things I need to be doing. But, our rocking chair was a wonderful place for me to quiet those voices and be present with my boys, especially during feedings.

#6: Baby Book: Although there are still incomplete pages in both of my boys' baby books, I am a person who likes to record and remember. I loved having a place to write down what they were doing and what they were like at different points along the journey. I love to go back and read them.

#7: Breasts: Okay, not something you can buy at the store, but something I wouldn't have wanted to go through the baby stage without. I loved breast feeding my children. I loved the connection that I felt with them. I loved the power of knowing that my body was providing just what they needed. I loved the fact that it gave us time together - time that couldn't be pushed off or forgotten but that demanded it be taken.

What was your "can't live without" baby item? Even though I won't be needing it, I'd love to hear...maybe I'll buy it for an expectant mother someday!

Click here for more Quick Takes and have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bigger Picture #6: Speaking What We Feel



One day this week I listened to my voicemail only to hear a message from my sister in which she said that she just wanted to tell me that she liked me. She went on to comment that she doesn't tell me that often enough, but she wanted me to know.



I was so amused and delighted by her sweet message that I laughed aloud as I listened which caused the four-year-old to ask what I was laughing at. I told him, explaining that his aunt had just left me a message to say that she liked me. His response (perfectly appropriate for his age) was self-focused, "Instead of us?" I went on to explain to him that it wasn't instead of he and his brother. No, in fact, they know that their aunt likes them very much.



What I said to him was this: Sometimes adults forget to tell each other than we like each other. We do a better job telling kids that we like them and love them.



I couldn't help but also remember a conversation I had with a 90-something year old woman one day when she was in the hospital. As I went to leave she said, "I love you." Then she added, "We just don't say that often enough."



"I like you."



"I love you."



These are both important sentences for us to say and to hear...to and from both the big and little people in our lives. I think I'll work on stating my feeling more often to those who make a difference in my life. After all, I want them to know.


Don't forget to visit Hyacynth for more Bigger Picture Moments.