Wednesday, June 30, 2010





There are a lot of firsts happening around here this week.

For starters, the girls had their first "grown-up" hair appointments. There were no Sponge Bob Squarepants posters on any walls and no plastic cars to drive while a stylist cut their hair.


I couldn't help but wonder how many of these girl-outings we are going to have in the next fifteen years. I'm pretty sure I'll find myself pretending to read a magazine while discreetly trying to listen to Punkin tell the stylist all of her teenage woes, or to the stylist trying to dissuade Sugs from dyeing her hair pink. For the time being, it was fun, and I'm trying not to analyze it too deeply...even if I'd like to go on a rabbit trail about whether it's weird or not to pay a grown woman to wash your four-year old's hair...

In other news, the Ticking Time Bomb known as our son (age 2) went to his first movie in a theater - Toy Story 3. It was more for his parents than him. I went armed with hidden lollipops, baby wipes, and a sippy cup. The best part was all the family that went with us - Real Gil's parents and nephew, and my parents. All of the parents sat in front of us and kept muttering to one another about the ornery children behind them and how back in their day children sucked on popcorn kernels they grew in the field instead of buying overpriced, overbuttered popcorn. I'm totally kidding on that last part. But I wouldn't put it past them. Those grandparents were naughty. Delinquents, really.

Yes, little podunk movie theater, if you are looking for your 3-D glasses, ask the delinquents who sat in row 4.


Sinners.

And lastly, after three years of living in our little nest, we are finally trying to decorate our bedroom. Trying might be the key word here.


Thank the good Lord that the Little Man still takes a nap or I would never finish painting. The only part left is to convince myself that the color isn't too freaky. Or start over.

What is a "FIRST" in your life this week?

Resting in Him,
Karen

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When Kids Help




I am learning that as a homeschooling mother, every moment is an opportunity to learn. And I'm only talking about ME. I'm learning to let go of my need to prove myself, to accomplish more than I need to in a day's time. When I'm resting in Christ who meets all of my needs, it's easy to let the agenda go and embrace those teachable moments - with all of the noise, messes, and stretches of time they take. It usually means a slower pace, more chaos, and definitely bigger messes in the kitchen to clean. But it also means growth and lots of smiles too.

If you could complete this sentence, what would it say: A messy lesson I am learning today is _______.

Resting in Him,
Karen

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vacuum Glory

So many thoughts flutter through my mind while I vacuum. Mental lists of all kinds are constructed - grocery lists, to-do lists, meal plans. Invariably these give way to deeper thoughts, convictions, confessions, prayers. Is this true for you too? It's one reason - other than the glaring one: it's expensive - that I don't have a housecleaning service. What is it about my Eureka SmartVac that is so therapeutic? Call that a rhetorical question because it is. For once, I know the answer.

Some of my deepest thoughts arise during that mundane household chore because you can't hear your children when the vacuum is blaring. Most often, my children run for cover. Quite possibly, this is because our vacuum accidentally sucked up a Zoob and has been screaming ever since. Although I don't like to see my children scamper away from me, neither do I turn the torturous sound off. Instead, as many modern folk are saying, I embrace it. And let a week's worth of household dust and brain cells work together.

Today was no exception. As I let the vacuum scream for a while, I pondered glory, specifically Glory with a capital "G." The only Glory that is worth anything. Those of us who claim the Owner of all Glory as our Savior realize the incredible responsibility to point to Him in all things.

Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:16, NKJ)

As many mothers - no, humans - are bound to do in the midst of difficult, painful, or just mundane moments, I started to wonder if what I was doing really brings Glory to God. I know that Paul said I am His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, even good works like vacuuming that God has prepared beforehand so that I would walk in them (Eph. 2:10). But here's the age-old question, the one I've heard most of my life, the measure by which we know if something is good or bad, moral or immoral.

Does it bring Glory to God?

But that question drives me nuts!!! In essence, it is an accurate question to ask at times, but it seems so floaty, so out-of-my-grasp. No more do I know if wiping snotty noses brings glory to God than I know quantum physics. More particularly, the questions it immediately generates drive me nuts. They go something like this:

  • Do I put mascara on in the morning because I want to bring God glory?And does it?
  • Do I cook dinner because I want to bring glory to God? And does it bring glory?
  • Am I checking email to bring more glory to God?
  • The purple shirt or the black shirt? Hmm...which one will bring more glory to God?
  • Do I eat organic apples or non-organic apples?
  • Do I take the vitamins or not?
  • Can my kids take gymnastics? Play soccer?
And the list goes on and on and on. For years, I tried to decipher which decisions in my day would bring Glory to God.

One small note before we move any further: I'm a type A personality. I may or may not need medication for this obsessive/compulsive behavior. I understand that most Christians do not agonize over every detail of their lives, wondering if they do or do not bring glory to God when they choose Cheerios instead of Rice Krispies.

But in the past few years, particularly as I have entered the Rest I was always destined to savor, I have stopped this line of questioning. Let's just be perfectly honest here: I don't put mascara on in the morning to bring more glory to God, I just like to wear mascara! I don't change diapers because I want to bring more glory to God, I change them because they're foul if I don't (and there might be a marble to locate). I choose my clothes, my wallpaper, the route I drove to Grandma's house because I just chose them. There was nothing deep or spiritual about it.

Some other things, of course, do have a more deliberate motivation. Whether I will respect my husband's leading in an area, if I will read His life-giving Word (John 5:24), if I choose to enter a conversation rife with gossip or not, areas where we have specific Biblical mandates...these things do seem to filter easily through the question, does this bring Glory to God?

But what about those mundane everyday events? Like vacuuming. Do I really choose to vacuum or not, because I want to bring Glory to God? My reasons are many (as in dirt, dust, and crumbs), but I certainly don't vacuum so that someone walks in my house and exclaims, "THIS house just points to God. I don't even remember who lives here! All I can think about is God!" This is how I used to think about it. Crazy, I know.

Even still, I hear that phrase thrown around. Not too long ago, I asked a few Christians where the limit is in what we do to 'beautify" ourselves on the outside. Make-up? Crest White Strips? Getting your hair professionally done? A rigorous exercise program? Plastic surgery? Where do we draw the line? The predominant answer I received was, "As long as you are doing it so that God gets the glory, it's okay."

But if that's the answer, then I am a total, exasperated failure.

Flog me now because never, not once, have I gone to get my hair highlighted and determined that I was doing this so that God would receive more glory. I just did it because I'm a created being who was made for beauty, and at that moment, beauty meant I wanted a new hairstyle.

So, in a soon-to-be-vacuumed nutshell, if an issue is not clearly laid out in God's Word, or if we have not been specifically called to something, how do we know that our everyday decisions are indeed honoring to God?

Instead of asking that question - Does this bring Glory to God? - I have found real freedom in asking the converse; namely, does this take away from God's glory? Do my actions or words or thinking bring dishonor to God?

Personally, this has helped me immensely when trying to discern my own motivation for things.

Forgive my long-winded post, but if you can bear it, here are some really specific scenarios:
  • I cleaned my van this evening because it was doggone disgusting. I'm pretty sure it didn't have to do with bringing God glory, but I'm also pretty sure I didn't bring dishonor to God. I wasn't cleaning the van so others would see it and think I was a really good mom, or so I could inflate with self-exalting satisfaction. There were no Swagger Wagon solos running through my head, if you know what I mean. Therefore, trusting that it isn't a sin issue, I'm delighted to rest in the fact that He was glorified in the mundane tasks of my day.
  • Conversely, this Monday, we had a doctor's appointment early in the morning. All three kids were in the car and we were going to be on time. But instead of following my children to the car, I took a few minutes to make my bed and do a last-minute pick-up. These would have been innocent things, in and of themselves, but my motivation was flawed. I was cleaning because I wanted to feel in control, to return from our appointment to order, and to leave thinking I was "all that." I know this seems really silly in the grand scheme of things, but I was three minutes late to the doctor's appointment. And in essence, we stole that time from the doctor. So that I would look good. I know in my own heart that I was dishonoring God.
  • It seems that any time I go out in public in workout clothes and no makeup, I run into beautiful people, usually old high school friends who haven't aged since Senior Prom. Suddenly, I can feel my old insecurities creeping into my thoughts and even words. To satisfy these insecurities, I usually compare myself to that person. What a terrible trap! One of two things usually occurs: 1) I come out on top and steal God's glory when I fill with empty but enticing self-satisfaction; or 2) I come out the loser and feel self-conscious and envious. At the very least, I want to be more like them, not God. They have received my praise (perhaps unbeknownst to them). Either route steals God's glory. There is a third option though. If I simply let Jesus be my strength (1 Peter 4:11), if I let His character and perfect acceptance of me melt away the old insecurities (Colossians 2:10, Phil. 4:19), the conversation will be directed in whatever way He wants it to go. That doesn't necessarily mean I will get a chance to talk openly about Christ, but He who is in me will shine (Eph. 5:8, John 15:5). I'm not always sure if God receives the glory in a conversation, but I'm pretty sure when He has not, at least from my end of things. That's just one of the many benefits of an indwelling Holy Spirit to convict when needed, to empower when allowed to do so.
The really cool part is this: if we are not stealing God's glory by making something, big or small, about ourselves, then I believe we are indeed bringing Him Glory-with-a-capital-G in each and every moment of surrender. If I wrestle a wet swimsuit back onto a two-year old for the fifth time in one hour (of course, the hour before dinner), and I choose to let Jesus meet my needs for meaning and depth in that otherwise "shallow" moment (instead of sighing dramatically and thinking how impossible wet swimsuits are and how I'd much rather be making a tasty meal so that I look good when hubby gets home - Oh yes, that's the depth of fleshly depravity, Sisters!), then God gets the glory. How do I know? Because the moment wasn't all about me. And there was supernatural fruit, wherein I chose to live His righteousness because I needed nothing else, had nothing to prove. This always brings Glory to God (Phil. 1:9, John 15:5).

Note here: I do not boast in myself, I hope you see the distinction here. In fact, that's what this whole long-winded post is all about. As Paul explains to the Corinthians, apart from Christ, we are no different from any other human being (1 Cor. 4:7). Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God (2 Cor. 3:5). With Christ who is our strength, we are so much more than sinners.* And from that new BEING found in Him - what I like to call, "tucked into Him" (Col. 3:3) - flows a DOING that is supernatural.*

I'm so thankful that we all get the chance to offer God the praise He is due today. Not by self-effort or really, self-anything, but by a conscious choice to receive and display His life in and through us.

On a chalkboard today in our home: "for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen."

Whether we are vacuuming or adopting, pushing a child on the swings or pushing on a chest to revive, may we remember this today.

And look forward to a future day when we will share in His glory...forever (Col. 3:4).

Resting in Him,
Karen

*I understand that this line of thinking is very controversial in Christian circles. Personally, I have been challenged many times when I say, "we are not 'just sinners!'" I do not thrive on being controversial; in fact, I find it very uncomfortable. But I do thrive on Christ, specifically Him living His life in and through me, by His strength, and I'm therefore inclined to tell you - my safe little nest of readers - all about it. This is not some new, unique idea that I just happened to stumble upon while vacuuming. It is old. Ask the Apostle Paul. Or more recently, Hudson Taylor wrote about it 140 years ago, admitting it was new to him too, but not new at all:


Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power... resting in the love of an almighty Savior, in the joy of a complete salvation, "from all sin" -- this is not new, and yet 'tis new to me... Christ literally all seems to me, now, the power, the only power for service, the only ground for unchanging joy... [Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor]

On Taylor's tombstone are the words A Man in Christ. That, I believe, is all we are. But that is so much!

If you find this concept foreign or irreconcilable with the doctrine you study, might I gently encourage you to study for yourself, specifically Paul's letters in the New Testament? Or write me with your thoughts. You won't be the first person to disagree with me, so as long as you are civil (and maybe even if you're not!), I'll do my best to not be defensive, but to offer my oft-vacuum-cleaning-&-hopefully-Spirit-Driven thoughts on the topic.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fridge Photos, Pallet Beds and More!

My little sister admitted that my Friday posts are her favorites - where I unashamedly tell you to go find better articles elsewhere. So, I hope there are more readers who agree with her, who enjoy a few extra links. Otherwise, I'll have to replace our weekend reading list with another one of my areas of expertise - like exciting ways to explore algebra or how to shop at Marshalls. I'm going to go ahead and keep linking this up to a few of my favorite reads of the week unless I get an all out rebellion from you dear readers.

  • Artistically challenged - yes, I am. Do I appreciate art? If it has to do with food, you bet. Check this out. I'm wondering if that photographer somehow got a picture of MY fridge somewhere in there (it's the really organized one...ahem!). "What's in the Fridge?" Awesome stuff!
  • Yes, bullet point number one must be followed up by this link which proves that outside resources are my childrens' only hope for learning fine arts, like how to draw. I just might be caught sketching, with my tongue sticking out and my brows furrowed in concentration, right along with Punkin'.
  • I have nowhere to put another bed in this house. I believe there's even one extra bed in the attic...but I need this bed. Now. Somewhere in my house. So do you. And check out this girls' Do-It-Yourselves. They are amazing. I can count on one hand how many times this craft-challenged gal actually wanted to grab a glue gun and get to work. Get thee to Michaels!
  • Before I admit this, I just want you to know that I watch about four hours of TV a week. Okay, maybe six, depending on what Netflix are sitting around. And how much laundry I have to fold. Having said that, and reminding you all that I am saved by grace, I will now admit that I watch Glee. And I like it. Especially the really mean Cheerios coach. Whew, it's nice to have that off my chest. And I looked long and hard to find a person who was going to try to spiritualize the teeny-bopper show for me, justify my viewing it as a "research" hour. Here's what I found.
  • Oh, I'm drooling over this gal's floor. And wondering what ploy she used to convince her husband it was a good idea. I need tips on both - how to paint the floor and how to manipulate a sane man into going for it.
  • This article - succinct, articulate, downright good. So glad that the power source for doing all of these things is fully provided for us!
  • On a more serious note, would you take a moment and pray for one of my personal heroes of the faith? Thanks.
Resting in Him,
Karen

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grace at an After-Hours Birthday Party

All right, I'll admit. I'm a little typed out after that last post on David. I've also been motivated yet again to try to find him; no luck yet.

Anyways, I'm taking the easy way out today. I'm sharing one of my favorite "grace" stories. If we had another baby girl, she'd be named Grace, for sure. It's my favorite word of all times, ricochet being a close second (that silent "t" just speaks to me). If you want a few good reasons why the word grace makes me want to close my eyes and breathe deeply, you can check out the New Testament, or if that is a bit too much for you, check out Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace.

The following story is true (told verbally, not written down by its author). One that makes me smile and nod. Yes, that's my Father. I hope He is yours too...



A few years ago Tony flew to Hawaii to speak at a conference. The way he tells it, he checks into his hotel and tries to get some sleep. Unfortunately, his internal clock wakes him at 3:00 a.m. The night is dark, the streets are silent, the world is asleep, but Tony is wide awake and his stomach is growling.


Tony Campolo

He gets up and prowls the streets looking for a place to get some bacon and eggs for an early breakfast. Everything is closed except for a grungy dive in an alley. He goes in and sits down at the counter. The fat guy behind the counter comes over and asks, "What d'ya want?"

Well, Tony isn't so hungry anymore so eying some donuts under a plastic cover he says, "I'll have a donut and black coffee."

As he sits there munching on his donut and sipping his coffee at 3:30, in walk eight or nine provocative, loud prostitutes just finished with their night's work. They plop down at the counter and Tony finds himself uncomfortably surrounded by this group of smoking, swearing hookers. He gulps his coffee, planning to make a quick getaway. Then the woman next to him says to her friend, "You know what? Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm gonna be 39." To which her friend nastily replies, "So what d'ya want from me? A birthday party? Huh? You want me to get a cake, and sing happy birthday to you?"

The first woman says, "Aw, come on, why do you have to be so mean? Why do you have to put me down? I'm just sayin' it's my birthday. I don't want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?"

Well, when Tony Campolo heard that, he said he made a decision. He sat and waited until the women left, and then he asked the fat guy at the counter, "Do they come in here every night?"

"Yeah," he answered.

"The one right next to me," he asked, "she comes in every night?"

"Yeah," he said, "that's Agnes. Yeah, she's here every night. She's been comin' here for years. Why do you want to know?"

"Because she just said that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you think? Do you think we could maybe throw a little birthday party for her right here in the diner?"

A cute kind of smile crept over the fat man's chubby cheeks. "That's great," he says, "yeah, that's great. I like it." He turns to the kitchen and shouts to his wife, "Hey, come on out here. This guy's got a great idea. Tomorrow is Agnes' birthday and he wants to throw a party for her right here."

His wife comes out. "That's terrific," she says. "You know, Agnes is really nice. She's always trying to help other people and nobody does anything nice for her."

So they make their plans. Tony says he'll be back at 2:30 the next morning with some decorations and the man, whose name turns out to be Harry, says he'll make a cake.

At 2:30 the next morning, Tony is back. He has crepe paper and other decorations and a sign made of big pieces of cardboard that says, "Happy Birthday, Agnes!" They decorate the place from one end to the other and get it looking great. Harry had gotten the word out on the streets about the party and by 3:15 it seemed that every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. There were hookers wall to wall.

At 3:30 on the dot, the door swings open and in walks Agnes and her friend. Tony has everybody ready. They all shout and scream "Happy Birthday, Agnes!" Agnes is absolutely flabbergasted. She's stunned, her mouth falls open, her knees started to buckle, and she almost falls over.

And when the birthday cake with all the candles is carried out, that's when she totally loses it. Now she's sobbing and crying. Harry, who's not used to seeing a prostitute cry, gruffly mumbles, "Blow out the candles, Agnes. Cut the cake."

So she pulls herself together and blows them out. Everyone cheers and yells, "Cut the cake, Agnes, cut the cake!"

But Agnes looks down at the cake and, without taking her eyes off it, slowly and softly says, "Look, Harry, is it all right with you if...I mean, if I don't...I mean, what I want to ask, is it OK if I keep the cake a little while? Is it all right if we don't eat it right away?"

Harry doesn't know what to say so he shrugs and says, "Sure, if that's what you want to do. Keep the cake. Take it home if you want."

"Oh, could I?" she asks. Looking at Tony she says, "I live just down the street a couple of doors; I want to take the cake home, is that okay? I'll be right back, honest."

She gets off her stool, picks up the cake, and carries it high in front of her like it was the Holy Grail. Everybody watches in stunned silence and when the door closes behind her, nobody seems to know what to do. They look at each other. They look at Tony.

So Tony gets up on a chair and says, "What do you say that we pray together?"

And there they are in a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon, half the prostitutes in Honolulu, at 3:30 a.m. listening to Tony Campolo as he prays for Agnes, for her life, her health, and her salvation. Tony recalls, "I prayed that her life would be changed, and that God would be good to her."

When he's finished, Harry leans over, and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he says, "Hey, you never told me you was a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to anyway?"

In one of those moments when just the right words came, Tony answers him quietly, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning."

Harry thinks for a moment, and in a mocking way says, "No you don't. There ain't no church like that. If there was, I'd join it. Yep, I'd join a church like that."

But we are in a church like that, all of us whose hearts belong to Jesus. His church is not perfect, and Jesus is not the church, but He infuses an otherwise dead institution with Life and Love and Grace and everything else that is good. If you have been burned by a church, perhaps surrounded by people who are "good in the worst sense of the word" (says Mark Twain), let me gently encourage you - entering a place of grace is usually peppered with ungrace, but as Augustine explained to God Himself, "Lord, your best servants are those who wish to shape their life on your answers rather than shape your answers on their wishes" (Kenneth Boa's Conformed to His Image, p. 423). There are those in the church who want to watch you "learn grace by being graced" (Philip Yancey), and their grace is the true kind - the kind that is shaped by God's answers, not their wishes.

Grace says God loves us because of who He is, not because of who we are. It can never be depleted or increased. It just is. Why, then, is a free gift so hard to accept? Perhaps because our hands and hearts must be emptied of self to receive the gift; if our arms are overloaded with accomplishments, self-satisfaction, ambition, and a million other things, we have no need and no room for the gift. Tonight, as I have countless times over the years, I sit in awe of His grace and readily receive it anew. I hope you do too.


Resting in His Grace,
Karen

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who Needs a Double Stroller?

I run.

Let me clarify that: I'm not a runner.

I am not consistent.

I don't wear cute running clothes.

But I do run.

I pretty much count down every moment until I finish. Like chewing a terrible bite of food, just trying to get to the point of choking it down.

Once, I was running in the wind and I was so delusional that I actually turned around backwards, thinking that would alleviate the gusts. (Oh no you di-int...yes I did).

Last week, I went for a run while on vacation (why do we do that to ourselves?). You know you're dog-tired when your ipod music starts sounding strained, then it even starts to sound off-tune. Before I knew it, dear old Tommy Walker was gasping along with me.

Yesterday, I decided to do it with three kids tagging along. By the end of the torture beautiful jaunt, I had bicycles littered behind us on sidewalks and two kids in the single stroller. (That's how fast I am - they just barrel into the stroller, leaving toys in my wake...).

Why did I bring a stroller with three kids? Because I have that mother's gut that says, some of these kids are going to bail off their bikes and ask you to carry them about one mile away from the house. With a double stroller with double flat tires, I gambled and took the single-seated stroller.

By the end of the run, they were sitting on each other's laps.


It didn't go so well. Can you tell which child was squished?

But the next time someone tells you that the double jogging stroller is essential, you tell them that in my white trash neighborhood, all you need is a generic singe seater...and a few grumpy kids to make the experience complete.

No wonder I like running so much...

Karen

Monday, June 21, 2010

David

A long time ago, I was rushing to the gym.

It was not the time of life called public school when you have to be on-time to class or they give you a detention. It was the time of life after that, called college, where you get to leave in the middle of class if you have to pee. You might draw a scowl or two, but no one cares too much. As for being on-time, that was just my overachieving personality revealing itself yet again. This also could have been because I had entered the insecure world of beginner volleyball, a place I had no right to enter. As an elective, I thought that my chances at success were somewhat elevated, and being on time certainly couldn't hurt.


Up the stairs I went, swooshing powerfully through the double doors and half-jogging towards the hollow, hallowed hardwood floors.

That's when I heard a very jubilant "hello!" from my right.

I turned abruptly, slowing my pace, and said, "Hello" back, almost before I saw who I was speaking to.

Sitting with his back against the wall and his legs and knee socks stretched out in front of him, an older man smiled at me. A brown lunch bag stood at attention in front of him and he was slowly peeling an orange, carefully placing the discarded peel inside the bag.

"How are you?" I asked good-naturedly, and a bit curiously.

"Good," he answered gravelly, his mouth encumbered by a long blade of grass he had hanging out of the side.

"How do you eat an orange with that hay in your mouth?" I blurted with a smile.

He laughed like that was the funniest joke he had heard in a long time.

But he didn't answer me. He just looked me in the eye and asked, "Can you read me Revelation 21?"

I was surprised to say the least.

"Well, I don't have my Bible with me," I answered lamely.

He was not put off. "Can I take your picture?" He grabbed his backpack, pulled out a plastic camera, and snapped a shot before I had the nerve to say, "Ew, you creep, No!" He used his thumb to wind the old-fashioned camera.

He stood up, lunch crumbs falling from his baggy shorts onto the ground of the gym foyer.

"I'm David. David Peterson," he said. "In Heaven, people aren't gonna be mean to me."

I understood, in that instant, that David was special...in many ways.

"Are you gonna be mean to me?" he prodded.

I knew better than to chuckle, knowing this question had prickly roots. "No, David, I'm not gonna be mean to you." I meant it too.

"And in heaven, I'm gonna be smart. I'm won't be sixty-three either." His excitement was contagious and I found myself smiling yet again.

I leaned in towards him. "It's going to be perfect, David."

This was the right answer, I guess, because he asked me if I would come back next week when he was eating his lunch.

"Probably, I'll be here," I answered.

Right then, the life coach came to collect David and the rest of his group who were doing manual labor on our campus. David quickly collected his trash and his backpack, mumbling under his breath about weeds and fresh air and how he liked his work when no one picked on him.

"Do you promise to come and bring your Bible too?" He demanded.

I hesitated. "I can't promise, David. What if I get sick? Or my teacher gets sick and we don't have class?"

"In heaven, we won't get sick," David interjected.

"Yeah. Exactly. So, I won't promise, but I'll do my best to be here next week."

And I did make it the following week. This time, about fifteen minutes early to class, I peeked around the corner of the gym doors and spotted David sitting in the same spot.

"You came!" He was obviously happy.

I was too. How can you not be happy with a greeting like that.

"Did you bring that Bible?"

I nodded and shrugged out of my backpack.

"Will you read to me?"

"Yup," I answered enthusiastically. "Let me just get my breath."

"I always have to catch my breath," David replied. "'Cuz I eat too many french fries and I'm fat."



He looked at me sideways. "You're not fat though? Do you ride a bike? I like to ride a bike except when people flip me off and yell *!$%#@*! at me."

I tried not to show my surprise by his yelling cuss words. On a Christian college campus.

"That doesn't sound like very much fun to me either, David," I replied, flipping my Bible to the very back. To the book that I least understood, and was most intimidated by. This did not seem to be David's response to Revelations.

"21 is the best," he said excitedly and I turned to that chapter.

I read it slowly, sometimes not even sure he was listening to the dream-like writing of John. David's always-present blade of grass twisted in his fingers, then twisted in his mouth, then back to his fingers in a quiet, OCD way. At one point, he even pulled out his camera and took my picture while I was reading. I gave him my best future teacher stare and he sheepishly wound the camera and put it back in his bag. Then, out of nowhere he shouted - startling me worse than the cussing moment - "This is my favorite part!"

I nodded and continued reading:

"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

"I'm gonna see my parents!" he interrupted. "I'm not gonna be old and God's gonna be there too."

I closed the Book, his palpable excitement contagious. "You are, David!"

"No one's gonna be mean to me...And I'm going to read and talk right...and I'm going to pull weeds in Heaven...And swim."

David rambled on and on. Sometimes I understood what he was saying and other things made little sense.

One thing was for sure though: heaven was real. For David Peterson, it was as real as the chair I sit in, writing these words, a little smile crossing my face as I recall.

It was a place of hope - where his sixty-three year old body and his six-year old brain would no longer fail him, where there would be no pain or sorrow. Heaven was a place of comfort - where he would finally understand social cues and read the words to the worship songs we sang at church and never cry again. Heaven was a place to belong - where he would not be mistakenly ushered out of church (I had to intervene and explain that he was with me - not accosting me!), where family resided together with God Himself.

If David could have put his jumbled thoughts into coherent words, I think they'd resemble another David's words: By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother's womb. My praise shall be continually of You. I have become as a wonder to many, But You are my strong refuge. (Psalm 71:6-7)

Here I was, a born-again Christian at a respected, expensive Christian college full of words and definitions and new ideas. Yet, it was this uneducated, untrained, and full-fledged child of God who challenged me most with his simplicity of faith. Next to him, my ambitious aspirations and long philosophical exercises looked laughable. His citizenship - and mine - was in Heaven, but David already had his passport stamped, ready to relocate.

Is it any wonder that Jesus challenged the Pharisees, saying, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:14-15)

I don't think Jesus was saying we had to become children to go to Heaven, nor was he saying that only children go to heaven. Jesus was challenging all humanity to come to God with a need for Him, a hunger and a humility and a dependence on Him. No achievements, no virtues, no titles, no aspirations, no talents - nothing was needed, except faith. That's why it is so easy for David Peterson and children in general - they know they don't have much else to give. It's us adults who think we have to bring an appetizer to the Ultimate Dinner Party.

For the next seven years or so, David Peterson would talk to me regularly - first in person, while I attended college, and then, over the phone, when I moved away and married Real Gil. I readily admit that there were times when he would call, and I would roll my eyes, remembering all the "important" things I needed to get done at that moment. Usually, though, after a few minutes of talking with David - repeating the same conversations each time with very few variations, I would hang up smiling. How could you not smile in the face of such hope? His hope was contagious too. Before long, Real Gil became one of David Peterson's favorite people, possibly because Gil went to his house and looked at the shelves and shelves of photo albums lining each empty wall in his group home.

"Who's this, David?" Gil would ask, pointing to a random photo - one of thousands in his collection.

"I don't know," David would answer in confusion - not confused by his inability to place the face, but by the very question, as if you were supposed to know someone's name before you took their picture.

After our marriage, Gil and I moved away. Surprisingly, this wasn't as difficult a transition for David as it was for me. I shouldn't have been surprised. David had long ago gotten used to people leaving him. Perhaps just another reason why Heaven looked so good to him.

When I told him we were moving away, he shrugged and patted my shoulder, telling me that I had his address and I could mail him pictures regularly. And he could call us "all the time!" he comforted me. (Gulp!)

Indeed, David did call us regularly. I would read Revelations 21 out loud, the phone cradled on my shoulder. David would listen very quietly until he could no longer hold his excitement at bay and would interrupt my reading with his exclamations. Sometimes, I would drop the phone or if I could anticipate what was coming, I'd move the phone a few inches away from my ear before he started shouting. One time I told him he should become Pentecostal and he laughed like he completely understood what I was saying. Perhaps he did. Perhaps he was.

When I moved away, I remember David reminding both him and I that we would see each other again, that in Heaven I wouldn't go away and forget all about him.

Funny though - I did move away, but I've never forgotten David. Somewhere in the midst of a cross-country move, I lost David's phone number. His address was on the same piece of paper. As far as I know, this illiterate 70+ man probably isn't savvy on Facebook. But I have been trying to find him. I would like to know that David is okay.

But I'm pretty sure he is.

In the margin of my Bible on page 2022, next to Revelations 21, are the scribbled words: David Peterson.
I can't help but smile when I stumble across that note, this passage.

If God could snap His fingers (yes, He can) and restore David Peterson to a healthy, intellectually sound human being (yes, He could), I think I would weep with sorrow for what would be lost.

Then, I think of David's mother, a woman who wanted the best for her son. So much so that she and her husband left everything for him when they died - which happened to be a lot - so that David and his entire group of mentally disabled children of God might enjoy comfort and security for many years to come. Did she ever pray that God might restore her son to what "could have been"? If so, as always, God answered, but the answer was "No." And I'm so thankful for the lessons I've learned because of David, because of the "No." I didn't have to struggle with the day-to-day challenges of raising and loving David Peterson, I only reaped the blessings of knowing him and his simple faith. Maybe some day I will meet her and tell her that it was all worth it. I'm pretty sure she knows this already.

Gordon Adams uses an analogy about life: he says that life is like staying in a hotel. Sometimes, the hotel is beautiful, pristine, right down to the mints on the pillow. And sometimes, the hotel is disgustingly inadequate to our taste. But either way, since we know it is not our home, we don't change the wallpaper, paint the walls, or replace the sink. Similarly, in these bodies of ours, on this Earth of ours, we can live and move and breathe (and even renovate the homes we live in!), but all of it is to be done with our eyes looking upwards. We don't have to control and manipulate our environment or our children or our spouses. We rest in Him who does the work - even in us - and we diligently pursue Him with our hearts, our eyes on the prize.

While Heaven might seem vague and distant, I know it is not. David Peterson would shake me by the shoulders and say (a bit too loudly), "I'm going there! You are too!"

I would smile, somewhat dazed by his delight, and nod. Though I can't see heaven, I trust in Him who created it.

So, today as I move and live, I hope "for what [I] do not see, with perseverance [I] wait eagerly for it" (Romans 8:24-25). Although I don't have David Peterson to remind me of the reality of Heaven and the jubilant anticipation with which we can go through our days, I do have three little ones who daily remind me of things not seen - God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, faith, miracles, Heaven. I'm savoring them today for selfish reasons - because they remind me, like David did, of that which I might not be able to see.

Resting in Him Who Will Dwell Amongst Us Forever,
Karen

Now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13


Friday, June 18, 2010

When God Answers Our Prayers...When Families Reunite

...smiles abound.

...phones go quiet (and rightly so).

...Daddy buys big boy bikes. And eats with real silverware on a real plate, savoring the rightness of it all.

...Littles talk and show off and talk and show off.

...and they make headlines.

CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan-Gunnery Sgt. Steve Morris, a platoon sergeant with Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division , III Marine Expeditionary Force, gets reacquainted with his sons, Colter, 3, left, and Nolan, 2, after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Morris and Company B were in Helmand Province and took part in operation Marjah., Lance Cpl. Thomas W. Provost, 6/13/2010 9:42 AM

CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan — One hundred twenty-six Marine and sailors of Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, returned here to family and friends Sunday after their seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Earlier that day, they had arrived at a flight at Kadena Air Base with another 39 individual augmentees from 3rd MarDiv Headquarters Bn. who had been transported to Camp Courtney for their welcome home.

At Camp Schwab’s Beachhead parking lot, more than 60 family members and friends had arrived early to witness the returning Marines who were escorted home from Kadena by a convoy of motorcycles made up of local status of forces agreement riders.

Company B worked with three different commands while in Afghanistan to meet the reconnaissance needs of their commanders and provide them with information needed to make battlefield decisions, according to Gunnery Sgt. Steve Morris, a platoon sergeant with Co. B.

This was the first deployment for reconnaissance man Sgt. Josh Moore. The operational tempo was more varied than he thought it would be. Some parts were slow and others were fast and exciting, such as conducting missions, Moore said.

The most notable aspect of the deployment for Moore was the raids he participated in, he said.

It was raids like this that were essential for the commanders on the ground to be able to maneuver their troops, Morris said.

“We would surge into an area not understood by the commander,” Morris described.

From the intelligence that they recovered, the commanders were able to adjust the distribution of troops and change the overall strategy of the mission to accommodate the changes on the ground, Morris explained.

“It was very impressive to see what Marines could do out there,” Morris said.

There was a bittersweet edge to the return for the Marines and sailors because not everyone came home.

“We lost four guys out there. We haven’t forgotten their sacrifice, and certainly on such a joyous day, we remember the friends and brothers they were to us,” said Morris.

~ * ~ * ~

Job well done, Brother-in-Law.

I've had to gently remind the children that they no longer have to pray for your safety, but the Little Man refuses to stop. (Perhaps he knows about those poisonous snakes in Okinawa that you like to wrestle with.) So we continue to pray - more in thanksgiving now - for you and Mister Mawty and Sean and Todd.... until Mama finally interrupts with an "Amen."

I mean it - Amen!

And thank you.

In Him,
Karen



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life's Guarantees

I was bitten by my first mosquito this week.

Summer has officially started around here. (At least from my egocentric perspective)

We are planting flowers today. (Because summer has now officially started. You know how I know? I was bitten by a mosquito this week...wow, I feel like I've said this before.) Now, some of you might think that it is a bit late to plant flowers, but you perhaps you have not grown up in a small, high-elevation town. There's one way to distinguish the town locals versus the town "transplants" - when folks plant their flowers. Those who have lived here for most of their lives understand that you don't plant until June unless you are a masochist and like to watch your flowers die in the inevitable May snowfall. The newer members of our town just can't resist the first glimpses of summer and don't seem to notice the all-knowing smugness of the locals who watch the planting from afar.

Anyways, we're planting flowers. I do not have a green thumb at all. But I do have the local status down around here, and I also have a hubby who wired me a fantastic drip system. There's still no guarantees around here, of course. Like I said, no green thumb. I could kill the flowers just by looking at them the wrong way. Or it could snow in July. No guarantees.

But when are there guarantees in life?

There are a few, now that I think of it.

The guarantee of newness - each Spring, each morning, God's mercies each day.

The guarantee of riches - not earthly ones necessarily but the riches of His grace, the riches of our inheritance as His children (Ephesians 1).

The guarantee of hardships, but also the guarantee of growth - not always pleasant, but necessary for us.

The guarantee of His presence (Is. 51:12), His strength (Is. 41:10), His listening ear (Ps. 34;15), His forgiveness (Jer. 31:34) and His love (1 John 3:1).

The guarantee of His Life flowing through us (John 7).

The guarantee of our lives hidden in Him (Col. 3:3).

I hope your weekend is full of life, especially His Life that holds it all together.

Resting in life and His Life,
Karen
  • For those teachers or homeschoolers out there, here's a free presidential timeline poster that will come in the mail...free. Check it out!
  • Speaking of free stuff, if you have a Regal Cinema near you, check out their free children's movies offered all summer. Our small town doesn't have one, but maybe you'll have better luck at landing a free movie or two.
  • I do not have a crafty bone in my body, which means I'm still undecided on this virtual 30-Day Craft Camp for Kids - either it's going to ruin my summer or it's going to make it much more fun...jury's still out on this, but even I must admit this gal has some great ideas for hot summer days.
  • Real Gil's family is from a small Amish town in Indiana. It's a beautiful place with an incredible amount of horse poop. The Amish folks themselves may say they live a simple life, but I find them to be complex, and interesting. Not too long ago, I read some research that suggested that rates of anorexia are much higher among Amish women. Doesn't that surprise you? The researchers think the reason why anorexia is higher is because the Amish don't believe in birth control. So, if you have eight children and are not ready for another baby, you starve yourself and stop having a period. Would you have ever thought of putting the words Amish and anorexia together? Other changes are cropping up among the Amish as well. This article is a review of a newly published book on the changing look of the Amish.
  • Struggling with insecurity? One female college professor's observations were encouraging to me, and perhaps you too.
  • Having moved to Nashville for three years from out West, we were shocked by folks' first questions - where are y'all from, and secondly, where are you goin' to church on Sunday? Whu?! The South treated us wonderfully, and this humorous article made me miss it all over again. Get ready to laugh.
  • But nothing is funnier than this Swagger Wagon video. Have you seen it yet? (Thanks to Heather to pointing it out to me.) Hilarious. I'm proudly driving my mini-van today...with a little swagger. I just might have to get me some shiny hubcaps...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kid Music That I Pick

Have you heard of Andrew Peterson?

We are not a family of savvy music expertise, but we know good kids' music when we hear it. And my children have been singing his music all week long.

Here's their favorite:

Slugs & Bugs - God Made Me from Scott Brignac on Vimeo.

My favorite part about this music: it is right on doctrinally. After searching for music that said anything other than "we are all sinners" and "obey, obey, obey!" it was so refreshing to hear that "God sent His Son, His only Son, to fill me up and make me new...Now I listen very carefully because He lives inside of me, that could be gross but it's not 'cuz it's Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior!"

Instead of telling my children to "do better," I can just remind them that they can't do any better in and of themselves. But why would they try apart from Him who lives inside of them? My children (and yours) can be free from this "Christian rat race" of performance and behavior. Instead, they get to just rest in Him who will be faithful to complete the good work in them and through them as they simply abide, rest, trust. Is it ever too early to teach them this truth?

I rejoice in this good news!

And good music too.

Now, Andrew Peterson, you don't know me, but if you want to give me lots of free stuff for promoting your music, I'm happy to receive them.

In the meantime, we're rocking (in a folksy sorta way) around here.

And resting too.

Karen

Monday, June 14, 2010

Observations from a Bench - Yokels versus Locals

Disneyland was a success!

Now that we have left the palm trees, high taxes, and earthquakes (TWO!) far behind, I am doing laundry and reliving the best moments of our week.

The children were indeed surprised by our planned two-day detour to Disneyland on the way to Palm Springs...

It took them a few minutes to get used to the idea. Then, they were bouncing off the hotel walls. Literally.

My favorite moments were exploring Tom Sawyer's Island with the children, and watching Little Man's delight with the Monorail. Of course, watching Real Gil with the kids was great fun too.




After a morning of exploring the park and standing in long lines, I happily volunteered to sit with a sleeping Sugs while Real Gil and Grandma each took a conscious child and conquered the remaining rides.


There was a bench in the shade that had my name written all over it. I even parked the stroller at an angle so no one else could sit on the bench with me. Then, I got any scraps of paper I could find and started people watching.

Here was my main observation: at Disneyland, there are locals and there are yokels. These categories are mutually exclusive so you can only belong to one or the other.
  • If you want to look like a small-town yokel at Disneyland, wear Crocs with socks, don't rub your sunscreen in completely, and stop your stroller mid-stride to check your map and drive everyone behind you absolutely crazy. (I may or may not be guilty of the last one).

  • If you want to look like a big-city local at Disneyland, wear your high heels and only go on two rides the entire day. You can do that because you have an annual pass and don't feel any pressure to stand in long lines. Spend some time laughing at the yokels who run from ride to ride.

  • If you want to embarrass your husband at Disneyland, make the entire family wear matching shirts so you can find one another quickly. Most mothers I know think this is a great idea, I know I did...until I came here and sat on this bench today. Now, I just start giggling when I see yet another man leading or following a family all wearing neon green shirts. You might as well put a label on your forehead that says, "We're from out-of-town."
  • Window shopping is always fun, and it's even funner if you are sitting on a discreet bench watching other people do it. Here's the scoop: the locals do not window shop. They use the window's reflection to check their hair, make-up, and clothes, but they could care less about the overpriced, tie-dyed Tinkerbell sweatshirts or Rastafarian Mickey Mouse ears. They instinctively know that while "I'm Grumpy" t-shirts might earn you a laugh in the park, they'll only get you smirks in Orange County. Now, the yokels, on the other hand, were a bit more complex. They seemed to fall into two sub-categories: the spenders and the thrifters. The spenders veered straight for those shining double doors. They were at this amusement park to find amusement, and if it wasn't enough to ride the rides and take in the shows, by golly, it was going to be amusing to shop. I watched one of these families push through the double doors (refreshing me with a burst of in-store air conditioning) with bags of Disney goodness and then stopped right outside the store in dismay, wondering how they were going to carry all of their bags throughout the day. Being yokels, they are optimistic and innovative, especially at Disneyland. These hardy folks just pulled all their purchases out of the bags, ripped off the tags, and wore their new souvenirs. One child even hung a Christmas ornament off his sweatshirt zipper. You know you are a yokel if you have a "Disneyland 2010" ornament as part of your accessories. Like I said, not all yokels were taken in by the attraction to spend. There were the thrifters. They ate whole wheat sandwiches from Ziploc bags as they walked from ride to ride. The parents ripped into their sliced ham and cheese with "a penny saved is a penny earned" gusto, while the children did their best to not ogle the stands selling funnel cakes and ice cream. I heard one father reason to his child, "For that price, I could buy my own cotton candy machine and make you as much cotton candy as you wanted!" But we all know he was not headed to the cotton candy machine store to actually buy one. That's where every child gets confused.
Because we are part of the thrifters and definitely part of the yokels, I will take a moment to do what I do best - make snide remarks about how ridiculous we are. The thrifters - at least this family of thrifters - does other extreme things to 1) save money and 2) induce the mockery of the locals around us. We eat out of the park as much as possible, and let our children get their sugar highs at breakfast before we get to Disneyland.


Like Sugs here, who guzzled high fructose corn syrup
instead of eating her Mickey Mouse pancakes

Thrifters would never pay $15 a pop for the mid-rollercoaster pictures. They simply wait for the the picture of their family to pop up and then...take a picture of the computer screen. Good 'nuf.

In conclusion, we definitely fall in the yokel category at Disneyland, where practicality trumps vanity. Practical shoes, practical goals, practical expenses. It's why I had a helium balloon attached to my stroller so we could all find the stroller out of the hundreds parked in the stroller parking areas. (Y.O.K.E.L.) It's also why we brought in our own drinks and fruit; my practical brain waves said it was okay to spend money on sugar fluff called cotton candy but not on a bottle of water or a doggone banana. And all of this practicality amounts to us being firmly planted in the not-so-local category. We accepted this with ease, I think. We took too many pictures, wrestled our stroller out of the deep, inlaid, steel trolley-car ridges that run down the center of Main Street, and carried our maps proudly. Our Mickey Mouse ears might have marked us as yokels, but we wore them anyways.

And we survived to tell about it.

Resting in Him Today,
Karen



Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Printables and more

Greetings from hot Palm Desert.

We're still on vacation, but will be returning to the "real world" in a few short days.

In the meantime, here are a few links that I have appreciated this week. I hope you do too.
  • Jolanthe is an amazing homeschool mama who put together some free, printable, reading charts for her kids. Whenever I want to reinvent the homeschool wheel, I check out her website first and save lots of time.
  • There are no more babies in our home, but if there were, I'd be printing these off for them, perhaps to go next to the changing table or maybe laminated and put on the ceiling of the car (above their carseat).
  • Here's one mom's lists of summer things-to-do for the past few years. Makes me want to go splash in a good puddle or two. :)
  • I love baseball, but I don't watch it. Unless it's live and I have a box of salty, overpriced popcorn in my hands. But I loved the transcendent moment in baseball I watched unfold this week.
Resting in Him,
Karen

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I LOVE folding laundry!

No, I really do.

You wanna know why?

Because it's the only time I let myself sit down and actually watch TV.

I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

It drives Real Gil crazy when we sit down to watch a good movie and I start in on the mound of laundry. But it beats folding laundry while I try to cook dinner or chase littles. Now I've heard of far more spiritual reasons to fold laundry - one of which is just to serve your family. Or I've heard of praying for each person as you fold that person's laundry. By the end of the day, I'm just not that spiritual.

So, this is the pile of laundry that awaited me the other night (before we left for Disneyland).

But to ease my pain, here is what movie awaited me to pass the time.

Thank you, Mr. Netflix processing man.

That, my friends, works for me!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Favorite French Thing

French fries? Good.

French toast? Fine.

French massage? Not really my thing.

French press? To quote my dear high school "sister": O to the M to the G!

Real Gil and I have a deep, satisfying love that is based on Jesus, honesty, romance, hard work, and a healthy dose of caffeine.

Straight from the French Press.

Do you have one yet?

We thought it was some fancy espresso machine, but it was just a cute, little $20 carafe that came so sweetly to our door in bubble wrap and UPS brown. It revolutionized our morning (and afternoon) routine. When I'm being perfectly honest with Jesus, I tell Him that I'm sorry I can't read His Words in the morning without a cup of that nutty, freshly-pressed goodness in my left hand.

[Warning: dumb joke coming] Real Gil even installed an instant hot water spigot just so we didn't have to wait for the teapot to shout at us, Hey, tip me over and pour me out.

I don't know if you suffer from afternoon drowsiness, but that Red Bull isn't the trick. Join the love train, the love-French-Pressed-coffee train. We call it the real "vacation in a cup."

Resting,
Karen

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Happiest - and most expensive, exhausting, & exhilarating - Place on Earth




Well, if you are reading this, a few things have happened.
  1. I actually stopped playing on the computer during naptime and packed suitcases.
  2. We survived a really long drive to Anaheim and surprised our children with a two-day trip to Disneyland.
  3. Our mouse ears are firmly in place and Real Gil is smiling from ear to ear. I'm counting heads...
Yes, I married the most amazing man in the world. You know how I know this - let me count the ways. Well, never mind, but one way is that he loves Disneyland. I understand that not all men fall into this category, but I love that Real Gil is still a kid at heart. Watching his children have fun is one of his greatest delights. And therefore mine.

But there are definitely some things to consider if you are going to be planning a trip to Disneyland. Seeing how we are not California residents and this is our SIXTH Disney trip in six years, I consider us to be fairly seasoned Disneylanders. So, with that in mind, I thought I would tell you what I do to plan for a trip to Disneyland. If you have no intentions of ever seeing Disneyland, you can just skip this post. Or you can read it and laugh at our masochistic tendency to choose and pay for this chaos.

What I pack
  • Lots of drinks, mostly waters. Also, in the years we were really strapped for money (and even the ones when we're not), we bring powdered drink mix and add them to our childrens' water bottles. It's a treat for them and a lot cheaper than the $4 Cinderella grape juice.
  • Our really ugly garage-sale double-stroller that we use once a year (today). We decorate it with a helium balloon tied to the top so I can distinguish it from the mass of strollers (as if its ugliness doesn't make it distinct already).
  • Princess dresses and hair ties to do "fancy hair" for my girls. My all-time favorite website for doing little girls' hair is found here. If you haven't been to Disneyland in a while, this is a very popular thing for the little girls to do - wear princess dresses and even get their hair done-up. We do the white-trash version of this.
  • Lots of snacks, most of which were purchased at WalMart. Kids are excited to have candy and Real Gil saved an arm and a leg by buying them before we got to the park.
  • Light-up spinners (bought at garage sales through the year, usually for about a quarter), Minnie Mouse ears (from last year), and any other Disneyland paraphernalia we have laying around the house that we can blow the dust off and repurpose in the park.
  • Our e-bay purchased Disneyland park-hopper two-day tickets. We have done this many times and have had great success. So far, no one has asked us if our name really is "Mateo Cervantes" or where the rest of our boy scout troop is.
  • A parade schedule.
  • Lots of childrens' Advil and Tylenol. And lots of Adult Advil and Tylenol.
  • Changes of clothes and a full package of baby wipes.
  • Purell
  • Dog tags that the kids wear around their necks with our cell phone number and their full name on them. Let me be honest on this one: I thought I was the most prepared, organized mother when I had these made. Unfortunately, I'm not the most prepared, organized mother. Case in point: I think we've lost two of our three dog tag necklaces. So-o-o, this year we will be doing the ballpoint pen version of this on those who no longer have a dog tag. They will have their full names and our cell phone number written on their arm with ballpoint pen. (Wa-hite Tra-hash!)
What We Do
  • As bonding as Disneyland might be for kids, it ain't the romantic destination for parents. Our first steps inside the park are together and then, Real Gil and I split up and conquer. He goes with those taller ones who can get on to the 40-inches minimum rides. I take those who might miserably fail that test and hit the Teacups. We have also heard that once in the park, you should always go left to beat the crowd.
  • We get fast passes to everything we can. They are worth it for sure.
  • We do not go back to the hotel for toddler naps. We load the sleepy ones into the stroller, lean back the seats, and pull the shade down, give them their special blankets, and go for a bumpy ride on the Main Street cobblestones. Like riding in a hot, moving car, it puts all children to sleep, trust me.
  • Some of our kids love the rides, and others just like to explore. Real Gil takes the thrill-seekers and my favorite thing is to take the others to Tom Sawyer's Island. We lose track of time playing in all of the tunnels and caves. It's the best playground ever.
  • We always eat breakfast before we go into the park, and we usually eat dinner on our way back to the hotel. (Recommendations: our favorite hotel is the unassuming, not-flashy Candy Cane Inn. Check it out.)
  • Do you have little girls who might want to see princesses? Or little guys who love some of the Disney characters? If so, you should consider one of the character meals. Every year, this is one of our favorite events. It is expensive, but we save ourselves countless hours standing in lines to meet the princesses - in fact, we laugh smugly at those poor people - because we've eaten a meal with Tinkerbell, danced a little ditty with Winnie the Pooh!
  • Before we go to Disneyland, we let our children watch Youtube videos of the rides themselves if they are a little fearful. This helps them to know what to expect. And it helps us to know if they are ready for a certain ride. For example, Punkin watched a video of Tower of Terror and emphatically said she would not go on it. 'Nuf said, we won't try it this year.

So, that's my advice on Disneyland. If you see me on the evening news tonight because I accidentally forgot a child in the stroller and got on a ride...well, let me tell you that it isn't the first time. Don't believe me? Just you wait. I'll tell you THAT story another day.

Until then,

and

Resting in Him who Makes Disneyland Look Like Chump Change,
Karen

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wanna know a secret?

Real Gil and I love to keep secrets from our kids. It's why we don't make out on the couch. Just kidding. That's not the kind of secret I am talking about

I'm talking about this kind of secret...


Oh yeah, baby!

On Sunday, we are ripping the link off of the countdown paper chain which has been hanging in our kitchen for the last two weeks. The paper chain represents days until we leave on our annual family vacation to Palm Springs, where the children get their yearly swimming lessons from Daddy*, where one set of grandparents have nightly sleepovers with our children, and where Real Gil sneaks in a few rounds of golf. It's a great week of hot weather, pool parties, and long naps.

But this year, we've added two days onto the front of our trip. To go to Disneyland! And one grandma and my little sis and her hubby are coming along for the fun too. The children are clueless so I'm packing princess dresses and ugly walking shoes covertly. If you are going to run into our children in the next few days, don't mention this unless you want me and Real Gil to egg your house (and blog about it afterwards).

I will certainly keep you all updated on how this goes. (Duh. That's what I do best. Make annoying videos of my children for you all to watch, thank you very much.)

Until then, here are a few links I've enjoyed this week. By the way, I know I'm getting a little more "bold" in the articles I'm choosing. I suppose this is because I realize I have opinions and I figure you are okay with me gently pointing to them. Feel free to disagree, and heck, tell me all about it.

  • Wow! An amazing article about a family struggling with twins who both happen to have autism.
  • Here's my controversial one. :) Take it or leave it. As we have watched it snow here many times this Spring, I readily admit that I stand in the non-global-warming camp.
  • I know I'm a bit prudish, but I don't know of a mother out there that approved of the recent dancing number eight-year old girls did as part of a national dance competition. Here's one mother's take on it.
  • Kinda nerdy, I know, but here is a link for free assessments, if you are a homeschooling family with children that are good at acting like they understand stuff they really don't. :)
  • Shaun Groves is a new favorite for me. I don't even know his music at all, but his blog is great. This article was rich and short and honest.
  • Uncle 'Keve will be home from Afghanistan in about two weeks, with three happy family members standing at the base airport in Okinawa when he gets off the plane. Wish I could be a fly on the wall...in the meantime, here's another Marine, like Uncle Steve, who seems to use humor to cope.
I pray your weekend is full of sweet memories and perhaps a good surprise or two thrown in for good measure. I'll let you know how ours goes next week.

Resting in Christ Alone,
Karen

*We do not have very strong views on many things, but even the words "swimming lessons" cause me to panic. I think this might have to do with the swim lessons me and The Twin received as kids...throw me in water and to this day, I may or may not start crying for arm floaties. Anyways, Real Gil is understanding and - good for me - cheap too, so we go the homeschool route. He and Grandpa teach our children every summer for one week in Palm Springs. We have them completely fooled. They think the are just playing in the pool and before the end of the week, they are usually much-improved in swimming. Now if Real Gil can just get me to take off the arm floaties and try some of his swimming strategies...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What would YOU do?

Have you seen that show on ABC? I watch very little TV, but any kind of human experiment has me totally hooked.

One problem with the show, however, is that after watching a few episodes, you find yourself becoming paranoid, wondering who is judging you for decisions you make in public. I find myself wondering if I'm going to be the Jane Doe gal whose face gets smudged to keep her identity hidden, so none of her friends and family know what a terrible person she is.

This week, though, I had the first experience where I was actually looking for the cameras.

We were at a playground during a church Memorial Day picnic, and I was talking to my mother-in-law.

[Really long aside: if you ever meet me in person at a playground, please do not base your entire opinion of me on the depth or length of conversation we have. And please forgive me for all the times that I am not really looking at you, but more, over your shoulder, counting heads and watching for syringes in the wood chips. Okay, that last part isn't true, but it sounded dramatic. Do you have this dilemma in public places - I want to be a good listener and really look the person I'm conversing with in the face, but if I do that, then I lose track of my kids. So, I end up being a very rude conversationalist. Just don't hold it against me. Because I do it for good reason. If you don't believe me, just read on.]

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Sugs (age 4) fly down the spiral slide, her hair floating around her in true playground static. Then, I spotted the 6'7" 300-plus pound man stooped down at the bottom of the slide, taking pictures of my daughter.

I had never seen the man before.

Mid-sentence, I walked away from my mother-in-law, my steps gathering momentum as I made my way towards Sugs. That playground seemed to stretch forever. I even had time to mentally recall the faces from our local sex offender registry that I had checked out not too long ago. He wasn't one of them so I slowed my steps and tried to take a deep breath. Sugs was fully dressed in pants and a shirt (not a dress or skirt...and she's known to not wear underwear too. Today, thankfully, she was or I would've been tackling that man.)

That's when I thought of that show. Where were the cameras? John Quinonas? Surely they were somewhere nearby.

I went for the nonchalant approach and just focused on Sugs, retying her hair rubberband and sending her to play on the swings with her big sister. Then, I looked up. Really up. And stuck out my hand.

"I don't think I know you. I'm Karen," I said.

His massive paw swallowed mine in a friendly shake. He smiled and swung his camera strap over his shoulder, gave his name, and said that he was there with friends (whom I knew). Before I knew it, he had about ten of the children and one paranoid mother (ah-hem) on the merry-go-round. One heave of his bodyweight had us all powerlessly dizzy and regretting the seconds on potato salad.

Before long, I had my little chicks gathered and moved on to other areas of the playground.


John Quinonas never showed up, and in retrospect, I'm bummed. Because I think I handled myself rather well. If I was going to make a TV debut, it would have been nice to do it with three safe and secure children, one massive actor, and one well-greased merry-go-round. Never mind though. I restrained myself from yelling at a perfect stranger at a church picnic, or embarrassing myself by ripping the camera out of his hands. I did go home and re-check the offender registry. I also spent the evening wondering if I did enough, did the right thing...

What would YOU do?

Resting in Him,
Karen

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Birthdays

I've confessed to you all that I'm inclined to wear the supermom cape, doing it all, being it all, for those around me. Probably, I will always struggle with this need to prove myself. Of course, I know now that the only rescue is Jesus alone, who says I don't need to prove anything, that I'm already proven! For some reason, though, I need this to be stamped on my forehead before every child's birthday around here. Instead of rejoicing in the gift of one more year with that specific child, I usually spend endless time and energy making the "perfect" birthday so that I look good. Whew. That looks so terrible written in Times New Roman font. But that's the truth of my flesh. The good news is that, the closer I draw to Jesus, and the longer I live in His Rest, the less this need to prove myself presses in to tempt me towards self-promotion. Nowhere will you see this more clearly than in how I have reorganized the birthdays.

Every time one of my children have a birthday, I wonder how other moms do birthdays. So, I'm officially asking you, how do you do birthdays? Any advice for a mother who has done exactly twelve birthdays (and only about six birthday parties)?

The more birthdays we have, the more simplistic my approach becomes. One year, when our firstborn turned four, we threw a Candyland birthday party, replete with a maze through the house and centers where games were played along the trail. Real Gil even dressed up to look like the evil Lord Licorice and giggle-screams erupted. Afterwards, I was exhausted. The mess, the leftovers, the presents, the thank-you cards...it all left me a bit dazed.

This year, I am learning that all you moms who told me to keep it simple - well, you were right. So, I am.

Sugs turned four years old today.

And we cut out the details that Sugs could care less about. Like ice cream. Sugs doesn't necessarily like ice cream so why torture ourselves with wrestling the slimy stuff and scrubbing it out of the grout tomorrow? And Sugs is our little introvert whom we will stumble upon playing by herself in the midst of big, loud get-togethers. So, we cut out the crowded, loud birthday party at our home. Like most preschoolers, Sugs does not like to lose games so we cut those out too. She doesn't care what we eat as long as she gets sprinkles on something, so I let go of my gourmet dinner dreams, and ordered sub sandwiches. She also doesn't care what day we "do" her birthday so we moved it to coincide with her cousin's birthday and my sister and I shared the planning. As you scroll through the pictures, you will see there was one other area where I just let go of the details - Sugs clothes. Yes, she dresses herself. I must say, it could've been much worse.

We met at our favorite park, and let the kids play.







Apparently the adults had a good time too.


The 2 Grandmas.

I'm pretty sure Sugs had a good birthday "party."


Of course, I didn't let everything go. We still did our traditional birthday breakfast at home, and if I might say so myself, I thought it was perfect. Here's what we do:
  • Daddy takes the special child to the grocery store beforehand where that child picks a box of cereal. There are no rules, they can pick anything. So far, no one has picked GrapeNuts. But for the rest of the year, I never get children begging for sugar cereal. On the actual birthday, the children bust open the box and inhale Lucky Charms.
  • On the morning of the birthday, all of the family, including the grandparents, meet at our house at around 7 a.m. Then, we march into the child's bedroom with a platter of doughnuts, complete with candles on top, and we sing "Happy Birthday" to them. This morning, Sugs went from being completely terrified to completely delighted in about three groggy seconds. The best part: we throw back the covers on the bed and we EAT doughnuts in bed. All of us.
  • This sounds a little cheesy, but we have a special birthday tablecloth that we only pull out on their birthdays, and a "You are Special" plate that they get to eat off. Unfortunately, Lucky Charms don't work in this plate so it's more for looks than anything else, but they always seem to notice the little detail.
  • On our childrens' birthdays, we also interview them on camera. We ask questions like "What did you learn this last year? What are you going to learn this next year? Are you going to miss anything about being three? What do you think you want to be when you grow up? What vacation are you hoping we take this year?..."
What birthday traditions do you hold close to your heart? And which ones do you think should be tossed out? I'm all for your suggestions!

Karen

P.S. As you knew I would, I must clarify that all the amazing pictures in this post are not my own (as opposed to the non-amazing last picture). You can hire James Glover and he'll come to your house or birthday party and make YOUR dirty, grumpy kids look clean and happy too. Oh, but wait! Your kids ARE clean and happy. :) Hope you are enjoying them today.