Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hallelujah Toffee

We were hiking in "The Ditch" - the Little man and I. And although it felt like we were going in circles, that aimless feeling of mine was only one-sided. He informed me that he knew exactly where he was going, the empty oatmeal bucket tucked under his chubby arm. Inside the vast depths of that cardboard cylinder lay treasures, soon to be deposited in a well-speculated location. Priceless things like bottle caps, two golf balls, one broken water gun, a piece of Trident gum (unchewed), some paper clips, and one of Mom's Gladware lids. It was an amateur "geocache" in his mind and with confident strides, we meandered around the bushes until the Little Man found the exact place to deposit it.

Job done, we walked back towards our home because I had been informed that it was time to draw the map.

An old man soon overtook us on the walking path, our small steps quickly passed by his long and surprisingly brisk stride. He pointed to my son and smiled at me over his shoulder, only slowing a bit.

"Do you know how many of those I delivered?"

"How many?" Was he speaking about kids, oatmeal boxes, or treasures untold?

"I stopped counting at 5,000 babies," he announced, his sneakers firmly planted and no longer moving forward as he spoke.

"I stopped counting at 2. I think I have three or so," I quipped. He didn't laugh, but he did move back towards us.

"I was the only baby doctor between Boise and Salt Lake City..." Somehow, this old man in sweat pants and a golf invitational t-shirt couldn't come back from the past. After regaling me with stories of women delivering twins and breach babies, he meandered like the Little Man on a hike, wandering to topics like malpractice insurance and educational standards and Halloween candy.

When my son's whine to go home and get a drink shook the doctor from his nostalgia, he waved good bye and sped away, his white sneakers squeaking on the black asphalt as he picked up the pace.

I wondered about that number later on. 5,000. That's all I seemed to remember out of our conversation. A number. And I felt bad that the old man wasn't memorable for just being himself, that it was his work that stuck with me.

Then, I wondered about that whole Dr. 5,000 thing. How do you deliver that many babies and still feel the marvel of each baby? Each forming life? Surely there were days when the work was drudgery, not awe. When mothers came for checkups and nausea complaints and it all just blurred together, and Dr. 5,000 just wanted to get home to barbecue or watch Sportscenter. Did the reverence of new life give way to monotony somewhere around 3,200? It's the thought I have had with every prenatal exam. It's not because they make me feel irrelevant. If anything, they always try to assure me how relevant I am. But sheesh, really? After delivering that first 1,000 babies, doesn't it all blur together? (It's obvious to you all why I am too jaded to be a medical professional.)

Before I could get too judgmental towards Dr. 5,000, I looked at my own little life. As I lug the baby and diaper bag and purse and siblings with lollipops out of the office, might those medical professionals wonder how I survive another day of monotony, so glad he or she doesn't have to understand my drudgery as he or she goes about another exciting day in the office?

And I wonder if the only thing that keeps it all from becoming a blur is the unique moments, in and of themselves. The treasure walk, the stranger on the path, the child right here in front of me. When there is a face to it all, suddenly it is so much more than a number. I'm not sure which number our children were in the long line of baby deliveries our ob/gyn had racked up, but we sent them a baby announcement for each of our children. Because they were ours, and that was something to shout about!

Perhaps because it's the individuals that make the day-in-day-out life suddenly pop with...well...with life.

Other numbers are resonating in my head today - it's the curse of loving numbers mixed with a little obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Thirteen stairs to the bonus room. Four fingers tapping seems so much better than when you try to throw the thumb in there to make five.

In the overwhelming fight against poverty, numbers like 27 million (the number of people living as modern-day slaves) or 26% (the percentage of people worldwide that live in extreme poverty - this is an improvement from 52% only 30 years ago). These numbers don't really make sense to me. If I'm supposed to be encouraged that only 21,000 children die each day from preventable causes instead of 40,000 (the rate in the 1980s), it's still such an unfathomable number.

Until you put a face to it.

Suddenly, you can never lose count, even after 5,000...because they have faces and stories. Life beckons with something more than a number.

Number 15 is Benard, and he is our family's newest member.

So, he's no longer just Number 15. He's ours. My kids talk about him like he's a brother living in another state, they pray for him at night, we write to him when we know he can receive an email.
He tells us to be careful of the bears in Nevada!

An orphan living in the Mitumba slums of Nairobi, there was no hope for this sixteen-year old. With good school records but no funds or family, Benard was certainly facing insurmountable odds.

Picture taken by Greg Burns, Nairobi, Kenya.

Odds - those funny things. Another math term I love, or hate, depending on the context.

In this case, though, odds could not predict what would happen to Benard. God Himself intervened and Benard is now in a boarding school, all food, books, and other necessities supplied. There is a tidy amount of money available if he should have a medical emergency. There is a bi-annual summer camp held where Benard sees friends in the program, and sees life outside of the congested city. Perhaps best of all, Benard will soon have legal guardians, the closest thing to parents he has had in a long time. And not just any legal guardians. These two.

Andrew and Stephanie.

While Compassion International must draw the line somewhere and stops sponsorship of children after the eighth grade in Kenya, Bridge Ministries now comes alongside and sponsors these older at-risk and orphan kids who would otherwise be left behind.

For many years, we have watched Andrew and Stephanie prepare for their God-given mission to these young people. And we have prayed as Bridge Ministries came alongside to support them.

But I have felt a bit powerless. I'm a stay-at-home mom. My income for the year - $0. When your heart is so moved by something, and you have very little power to help, sometimes you almost wish you didn't even know about it.

However, this year might be a little different. Finally, I think there might be something I can do. And maybe you can too!

My family has a secret toffee recipe that we love to stir up at Christmastime. This year, we are selling it, and all of our profits will be going to OneLifeAfrica. Hooray! For every 70 pounds of toffee that we sell, one more student will get food, education, school supplies, mentoring, even summer camp.

If you are local and would like to help, you don't have to have a large bank account to be a part of this. The goal is not to just make money for these kids, but to spread the message.
  • Come pack toffee on October 29th or November 5th (email me for location and confirmation).
  • Come out and buy some toffee at the Minden Gazebo Lighting and Santa Parade (Dec. 2-3). Or the Douglas High School Craft Fair (Dec. 3, 9-3). We are selling Hallelujah Toffee in 1-pound and 1/2-pound sizes. Check out for more information.
  • Throw a Christmas party and offer toffee samples. Tell the story of what we are doing. And if anyone wants to be a part of it, they can throw their own Christmas party or purchase some online.
  • Pray for these students. Their names and stories are listed at OneLifeAfrica.
Last week, Andrew and Stephanie came and ate hamburgers at our house. Funny, huh? Next month, they will be in Nairobi and we sat around eating burgers and watching the kids show off for the guests. We talked about Hallelujah Toffee and they smiled big smiles, dreaming of what it might mean for their students.

Join us if you would like.

We love because He first loved us. Such freedom here.

Resting in Him,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When You Become Twitter Fodder

I know, I know.

I'm a slacker. If you want an excuse, the truth is that I watched movies on the couch this summer instead of writing. It was t.o.u.g.h. All that browsing channels and turning the volume up and down. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Not only were my fingers busy with the TiVO remote control, but I was often knee-deep in summertime spontaneity. You should see the mileage I got out of our swagger wagon, and that one endless bottle of sunscreen. [Have you ever had one of those - where you think to yourself, "This bottle can't possibly have any more liquid product in it?" and then, you proceed to lather skin for entire months? I even offered it to a complete stranger at Dollywood when I saw how burnt she was becoming. (Spontaneity gone wrong.)]

The entire summer is a big blur of campfires, cameras, soccer cleats, ice cream, packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking...

And now, just this morning, I gave myself the "Let's get back to normal" pep talk. Then, I went to Wal-Mart.

I should've known that wasn't going to help my odds of normalcy.

Like the Titanic heading out for her maiden voyage, I set out with utmost confidence - predicting that I'd be home no later than 12:30. "Maybe even earlier," I told my husband. A smile and a wave at Daddy and we were off, me and my little three-year old son. Looking back, I wonder if Real Gil knew the disaster coming. How do you stop somebody you love? he must have asked himself...

Settling the Little Man into the blue WalMart seat with ease, deftly steering with one hand while the other held my well-organized 3x5 grocery list, I even rebelled a bit by entering through the EXIT doors, just to be carefree. Then, of course, my not-so-carefree personality took over as I spent a full sixty seconds to swipe germs with that little antibacterial wipe. Or two. Okay, I stole from WalMart. It will not be my last offense. Read on, my friends.

First to the prescription counter, where Little Man smiled expectantly until Maria gave him a lollipop. Then, it was chew toys for the dog...Captain America paper products for someone's birthday party on Saturday...milk, buttermilk, sour cream...candy treats for camping... One by one, I carefully checked items off of my list. I even compared the prices, calories, ingredients. Then, after bagging two perfect little limes in the crowded produce section, I maneuvered my overloaded cart towards the front of the store.

That's when the Titanic metaphor really sunk in. (Har, har!)

The checkout.

I'd like to call it indescribable, but that just won't do in a blog post. So, I'll try my darndest.

Remember that game, Catch Phrase? Let's pretend we're playing a round, okay?

I tip my head to the side, lick my lips, look up, then I look you straight in the eye. "Prolonged... Colossal...Um...Opposite of fast." [Dramatic pause. I lean forward.] "Like doing an internet search on the World Wide Web when my computer screen was blue and the cursor blinked...Like watching Teletubbies indefinitely..."

Oh, I know it! LONG!!? No. Torture?!

The iceberg looms.

I chose a line, diving for one like it was a lifeboat. And the clock ticked. Five minutes later, I was officially late and still four deep in the line.

Oh yeah, this is funny too. I was supposed to be home because - crazy as it seems - 1) my dear husband works in the afternoon
. "Puh-lease," I say with a roll of my eyes. "What's that all about? Calm down, boss man." 2) I had a high school girl coming to our house for algebra tutoring. (I included that second one so that I sounded smart.)

Two silly-I-know deadline thingamajigs.

Anyways, for one reason or another, all exterior signs of a relaxed supermom out on the town with her son were gone. In its place was a territorial bargain shopper with a looming deadline and a low tolerance for standing still. A friend of mine happened to be right in front of me in line. I'm pretty sure God put her there so that I wouldn't start yelling inappropriate things. It didn't stop me from glaring at the smart lady in the front of the line with her wad of coupons, all tightly wound together in a knot of rubberbands. I'm pretty sure she knotted those on purpose, so she could unwind them slowly, every twist of her wrist smacking us non-couponers with her sensible thriftiness. "Silly people [smack!] throwing away money with your full-priced Cheerios [smack, smack!]. I haven't paid full price for cereal in 22 years.[smack]"

As the knot came loose and her wad unfurled, large gusts of coupon-fluttering-wind hit my grimaced face. Coupons? Come on, people. Throw money out the window, shower it from the rooftops. Waste it readily. Really, what's more important - you saving money or me getting through this line? I hate to imply that you are being self-ishhhhhh, with your little two-for-one, then double-off with the cloth bags so you get 5% more discount.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a glorious sight. So unassuming, they were, and yet, so enticing. Four blue lights with little numbers on them - 1, 2, 3, 4. All glowing, welcoming me closer like a mosquito near a bug zapper.

Vacant. All of the self-checkout counters. And I'm an optimist. Surely I could slap bar codes across a glowing, red laser beam with surer speed than this line. Waving goodbye to my friend, I stepped out of line and right into the wreckage of my day.

There's that saying: experience is something you don't get until right after you need it. It was sometime around the $120 mark when I realized I might have needed it. Self-checkout means self-sabotage.
Obviously, I had not received this diagram in the mail.

Someone sighed rather loudly. That's when I looked up and saw about ten people standing behind me in line for the self-checkout. One of those four "most-inviting blue lights" was out, and my zucchini was not under the Z's in the touchscreen menu.

"Can't you open something else up?" complained one loud voice.

The dear little attendant marched right to me, thank you very much. If anyone was in doubt as to who was holding things up, I'm pretty sure she enlightened them all. She might have even pointed to me and rolled her eyes, but I wouldn't know because I was wrestling with the plastic bag holder.

She promptly licked her thumb and forefinger, and opened one of the bags for me. "Try this trick," she said with a smack of her gum and a smug look on her face. EW. Like I was going to lick my fingers after touching that oh-so-convenient touchscreen dozens of times. Type A, people.

She stepped back and even hollered at the line. "If you have one item only, come directly to the podium."

Left unsaid was, "The rest of you, stay. Balk. Laugh at the silly flibbertigibbet with her 66-cent yogurts. Take pictures if you would like. Twitter away."

I can see her back in the staff lounge still laughing at me, her beehive hair moving in time with her guffaws. "You shoulda seen this freaky lady in my line today. She had the audacity to haul all her junk through my empty line. But I got her good - I brought in that group of fake shoppers we have hidden over in the Vision Center, gave 'em all some foul breath and told 'em to breathe down her neck. If that weren't enough," she chortles, taking time to wipe her blue-lined eyes. "I moved zucchini off the z's and put it under the 's' for squash! That's funny stuff..."

My total climbed steadily, and I've never been more excited about it than today. But the items in my cart seemed to be regenerating, doubling before my eyes. When Beehive Lady came to help me again, I actually suggested, "I'm thinkin' about just paying for what I've already rang up and just ditching the rest." She looked at me like I had suggested a new hairdo, or a bottle of Purell near the self-checkout line. So, I put my head down, like a donkey to the plow.

Evaporated milk $1.04

Lunch napkin $1.62

Kids paste $2.28

When the bottle of toothpaste exploded on the scanner AFTER I had rang it up, I actually looked up for the Candid Camera folks to pop out. Silly me. The only cameras were the ones on folks' cell phones - the ones pointed at me. I swear, I heard a click. If you see me on some bash-WalMart-idiots site, I can explain.

Worse than the idea of a cell phone camera was the unmistakable sound of smartphone typing. I could see the twitters flowing fast, faster than water into a capsizing ship. "I'm gonna drag this lady and her snotty kid to the arcade and make her lick germs." "I'm gonna key this lady's car. Or pop her kid's birthday balloon." Can you twitter the California Howdy at people? If so, they did.

Right about then, my friend from the "traditional" checkout line stopped with her cart to see if she could help me. I smiled at her and waved her concern away. "Oh, nah. I've got it. Thanks anyway..." While the computer slowly garnered its last bout of energy to calculate my ever-growing total, I glanced longingly at her groceries so carefully organized. Cold items in one bag, dry goods in one, produce in another. My groceries were spilling onto the floor, and purple toothpaste oozed down the sides of two plastic bags. I looked over at the original checkout lady and whispered my apologies, like the prodigal son. I may have reached out an empty hand but then grabbed it tight against my heart.

At $257 dollars and 46 cents, I paid. There may have been cheering behind me. I pretended I didn't hear it. My receipt eventually printed and Beehive lady only said, "Stop pulling on the receipt. It's printing as it spits out. Wow! That's a long one!"

Bless her heart.

I'm home now, and in retrospect, everything looks a little clearer. When it comes right down to it, do you think the folks in line are actually thankful for me? I made them all look smart, savvy, shrewd, normal when held so closely against my abnormality. And anyways, everyone likes to complain about WalMart, especially on facebook or twitter. I just gave them more fodder. To that, I say, "You're welcome."

I'm going to bed now, and I'm hoping sleep can get that persistent and boorish phrase out of my mind.

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

Oh yeah, that's just my self-respect, dripping off the checkout counter. Pshaw. Just leave it there with that coagulated wad of purple 'bubble-mint flavored' toothpaste. Drip, drip, drip.

I gotta find me some coupons.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summertime Flurries, Duly Noted

My post title might imply there was snow in the summertime. That's hilarious, just stinkin' funny. Unless you are my family and decide to go camping in the mountains in late June. Then, there's snow on said mountains.

But there are other types of flurries about, these days - the best kinds. There's the flurry of summertime activities, the flurry to pack and unpack swimsuits and sunscreen, the flurry of small, muddy feet in the backyard, the occasional flurry to get somewhere on time. It's all good.

In the midst of our summertime flurries, I've mentally noted to myself a few times, "You've got to blog about this." So, here I am, duly noted.

  • I've learned something so deeply Bananagrams-ish this summer that I must share it. Apparently, when Gil and I slap steaks on the barbecue, we are not eating "barbecue." I have come to understand, we are eating "grilled steaks." I officially apologize to all of our southern friends, who have now clarified that my vernacular usage of the word has caused inconvenient drooling and angst when I throw the term around loosely, as in "Come over; we're gonna barbecue." When I slap a pre-made hamburger patty on a bun and call it "barbecue," their faces sag as low as their now-sagging paper plates. Evidently, in those far-distant lands of sweet tea and collard greens, the term "barbecue" is a noun and a verb, as in "Let's eat barbecue - the food I started cooking three days ago and is finally seasoned, smoked, chemically massaged to perfection." Here in the big-sky west, that sounds like you're going to stuff a Weber grill in a hoagie roll and call it dinner. Which is probably what my "barbecue" would taste like if I had to cook anything as long as they cook Southern barbecue. Anyways, enlighted. That's me. And so culturally aware, y'all. Because I've watched Larry the Cable Guy.
  • One delightful flurry was an impromtu visit to see my only niece, the baby that sleeps and smiles. I'm not even sure she eliminates poop and pee; I think she just sleeps and smiles. Oh wait, I feel a picture-moment coming... Here she is...sleeping.

Goody, goody! Want another one? Here she is... sleeping.

  • There may be a little jealousy issue going on here, centered around the fact that this little darling sleeps through the night already... and that my children didn't do that until they were twelve months old and I almost lost my sanity and one time, I threw Tupperware cuz I was so tired and I've spent the last five years trying to make my little sister understand how hard the diaper years were and then she goes and has the perfect baby... Sheesh, that'd be so juvenile, to be jealous of my little sister.
  • Anyways, I did something very, very bad. No use putting it off - here it is. In an intimate conversation - that I'm sharing with the world now - my little sister asked what type of birth control we used after having each of our babies. With sober face and perfect eye contact, I told her that the best method is to just breastfeed your baby. It's guaranteed to keep you from getting pregnant. (Sin, my friends.)
  • While I'm at it, I might as well confess this month's full-fledged lie. In my defense, my jaw was forced open with some kind of wire scaffolding and there were two sets of fingers prodding, poking, and drilling inside my mouth. At one point, my dear dentist smiled around her face mask and said, "You look great for having three kids. Do you work out?" My options were slim - it was either a nod "yes" or a head-shake "no." Once a week, once a month, once when I lost a kid at the playground and had to sprint around the parking lot - these were not options. So, I nodded yes. And I've felt guilty ever since.
  • Blueberry muffins are a great idea, unless you're in the midst of dinnertime, chaotic flurry. Then, you forget the blueberries on accident and serve blueberry muffins, sans the blueberries. The worst part was that I didn't realize it until after the meal, when Sugs referred to them as coffee cake muffins.
  • My childrens' random acts of kindness continue to amaze us. We shake our heads and wonder, "How did we get such kind children?" Like when we visited some wonderfully hospitable people with a wonderfully beautiful pool. Our son vowed not to pee in their pool. I shake my head, even now, thinking of his amazing aptitude for kindness.
  • Just tonight, I prepared three kids for an evening bike ride. While priding myself on the forethought to apply bug spray, one anonymous child accidentally let the dog leash go. Five minutes later, with bug spray so adequately applied, we realized Ginger Pye was missing. I threw bike helmets on kids, closed the yawning van door that revealed to the neighborhood how dirty my car interior was, and went hollering down the bike path. Thirty minutes and four sets of vocal chords later, I herded three almost-hysterical children back into our yard. (I was perfectly calm. Unflappable, really.) The two younger ones skipped away to the backyard (hysterical) while something in my eye had me all teared up - unflappable, really. I went to grab a box of Kleenex out of the my swagger wagon when a little, white head popped up in the backseat. I opened the van door to reveal a fifteen-pound ball of fur and quickly took back all the horrible things I had thought about our dear dog that "done run oft: r-u-n o-f-t." She was hot, but unharmed. I was able to calm down the kids, by this time playing in the backyard as I waved to them, "She's fine, I found her. Hiccup." Then, I had to track down the neighbor family that had been helping us search for Ginger Pye and sheepishly explain that I found my hot car with the windows up... Dog owner of the year, thank you very much. I'm just praying she doesn't accidentally get in my dryer.
  • Last in this flurrious stream of consciousness - do you like that? Like that? Flurrious-s-s-sss - I went to high-five a fellow outfielder during a summertime, co-ed softball game and I did something crazy (or is that cuh-razy, or craze-ayyyy, you cool cats out there?). I kissed him - right there in Centerfield during a church-sponsored softball game. Good thing it was Real Gil, and no one noticed except for the blushing left-fielder. When I realized what I had done, I tried to make a joke about it, saying I had never kissed a guy in the outfield; it was always the infield. Poor guy in left-field didn't seem to get the joke, good church man that he was. Real Gil seemed very unaffected by the whole thing...which makes me wonder if he had already been kissed before in the outfield. Oh well, it was flurries, nonetheless. Butterfly flurries, which is nice after thirteen years of marriage.
All in all, you can see that I have been away for too long. The words flowing out tonight have very little filter, as if I have to somehow document every ridiculous thing that has stumbled, sauntered, or slept their way into our lives. Slept? Oh yeah, you want to see a picture?
Anyways, as you can probably tell, the flurries of summer have left me a bit breathless. But not speechless.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Multitudes on...Tuesday?

106. Late-night and overdue gratitude lists!
107. great-grand grandmother and her great-great-granddaughter, snuggled together in a hug. They lost track of time, like two girls whispering about boys, and came to dinner, still talking about what an outhouse was.
108. clouds surrounding our valley like decadent, white frosting edging a cake
109. hard words to say and gracious ears who heard me out
110. the growing tummy on a miracle mama, one I have prayed for many times
111. three baby robins with their beaks upturned
112. Grandpa who lifted curious kids up to see... isn't this what all grandparents do? Lift children up to see?
113. a date night
114. a summer to-do list
115. a five-year old who conquered the hula-hoop
116. my son who told my mother today, "I pick you, Gramma."
117. impromptu guests who even brought dinner with them
118. the Candyland birthday party that is almost cleaned up
119. stories of school days, wash day, & deliver-cotton-to-the-gin day, told by Grandma G.G. to my children
120. Then, a look forward for this 94-year old woman, who pondered, "I wonder what my mama will look like in Heaven."
121. Weeds - really?!! - that give me the chance to quiet and dig my fingers deep next to my mom's, like G. G. and her mother would have done almost a century ago.
122. Warranty on eyeglasses, and the quick forgiveness of their owner when we broke them
123. Little voices singing to God on Sunday
124. The computer that crashed, and all my written documents with it. "As unto the Lord," I am professing (and hoping to really mean it soon).
125. Lizards - two of them - caught by the cat and rescued by Punkin, freed in the grass
126. Real Gil, who can fix computers that crash and somehow save 5 years of digital photos.
127. A freshly signed Certificate of Completion for Second Grade, and summer break commences!
128. anticipated junk shopping
129. loud chatter around Grandma's post-church Sunday table
130. this thankfulness - can you be thankful for thankfulness? - which is not my own, just His gift that always.

Resting Here,

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Top Ten Most Awkard Moments at a Women's Retreat

I've mentioned Real Gil around here - he's the superhero in my nonfiction life.

But last week, I'm pretty sure he elevated himself to angelic, superhuman proportions, when he willingly shoved me out the door for a weekend retreat at a nearby conference center while he stayed home with The Littles.

Not only did I get a weekend away - that in and of itself would have been ideal.

I got a weekend away, with a group of my sisters in Christ. On a beach. With all of my meals prepared.

And - here's the best part - those women had to listen to me talk all weekend long. Oh yes, 'tis true. (Many of my readers are thinking, "Those women look like superheroes too.")

Could there be a better weekend for an extrovert like me? I'm still reliving my favorite moments.

But there are a few moments I'm still pondering - those inevitable, awkward moments which mark you as a women's retreat attendee.

So, here is my official top ten list: Awkward Moments at a Church Women's Retreat

10. The moment when the speaker strays from her notes: she gets this gleaming sparkle of unplanned, unprepared inspiration and suddenly, the entire audience is wishing their chairs had seat belts. Because surely, in that moment of complete vulnerability while standing in front of a room full of women is a better time to vocalize new ideas than in all of those endless hours of peaceful preparation. Surely, right then, when nerves and pride are waging war with normal digestive processes, surely that moment is a better time to do one last edit, to weave Crayola-colored rabbit trails all over that perfectly aligned outline. Yup. Awkward. (I don't know why this is in third person, except I might not be ready to admit my own awkwardness...)

9. Any moment when women come to the weekend speaker with permission to speak freely, often prefacing their words with gentle pleads that this loose cannon will not say anything about them from the podium. (Not unrelated to Number Ten). One dear friend even came to me to tell me that I had a tag sticking out of my blouse, and that I should cut that out, "but don't tell anyone I said to do it." Poor girl, she thought I'd blast her from the podium. Nah, I save that for the blog.

8. The moment when I somehow got mixed into the Grace Community Church Single's Ministry Retreat and was quickly identified as the wolf in sheep's clothing. "I think your group is in that line," one vibrant and well-rested college-age girl gently pointed to the other registration table. Talk about deflated. It was as bad as last week, when I bought wine at a grocery store and did NOT get carded.

7. The moment when one must decide how colorful to make the salad... and how well you know your roommate. I opted out of the black beans.

6. The moment I realized my hotel room guilt. There was a hike up a hill from our lakefront hotel room to Cabin #46. One step onto the sagging front porch had me silently grimacing at their misfortune. Amidst the charm of their woodsy, rustic cabin, there was duct tape holding a window pane together, bats - yes, bats - in the rafters, and one bathroom for eight people. (And I was afraid to eat beans with one roommate.) "Isn't this cute?" one of the cabin inhabitants said. And that was an awkward silence.

5. The moment my friends realized my hotel room guilt. A dear sister needed a quiet place to nap on Saturday afternoon - after a long wait in line for the one shower and a longer wait for sleep to come amidst the flurry of bats overhead - and our room fit the bill. I walked into the room and saw it with fresh eyes. "Oh, Sum. I'm sorry. I'm sorry this is so nice, and yours...isn't." Awkward.

4. The moment when I put my pajamas on and wondered to myself, "Bra or no bra?" What is more important - modesty or a good night's sleep? Two of the funniest women in the world chose that moment to come visit our room. I explained my dilemma to them, and one of them - an older, wiser woman in her early fifties - said, "Well, that's why I am wearing this bathrobe. All those young, strapping single boys with that college-age group." She added with a flourish. "I didn't want to cause any of them to lu-s-sst." Not so much awkward as just downright hilarious.

3. The rare moments when women all over camp resolved to stop talking and go to sleep. For every extrovert, this is awkward. And monumental.

2. The moment, during worship, when I realized everyone behind our front row had sat down and we were still standing, shaking our hips to the music. The only thing more awkward was that glance over my shoulder and the proceeding look of sheer horror at all the women behind me, staring at my Christian booty shake.

1. The moment prior to me approaching the podium to speak, when I was boisterously singing next to my dear friend, Queen K. She leaned over mid-song to carefully ask an awkward question, all for the sake of sparing me further embarrassment: "Is your wireless microphone off?"

Laughter - good for the soul. As was the retreat.

Resting Here,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

An Array, A Hodgepodge, A Potpourri

Why is there a "t" in potpourri anyways? I'm still bitter about losing that seventh grade spelling bee.

Anyways, here's a mishmash of articles...

  • Memorial Day is upon us this Monday. I appreciated this article, which encourages us to not change our plans for the day, but to go into the day thinking through the freedoms we have at each corner, at each hour of the day. Gratefulness, not sober ceremony, is perhaps what these fallen heroes would want?...
  • I have no idea how this girl can weave God's existence, farts, and the love of a mother for her mentally challenged daughter all into one article, but she does it superbly. Read it and you're sure to giggle and nod in agreement.
  • A great article from a liberated Christ-follower, on technology... Amen, sister.
  • Talk about generosity - panhandling and giving it all away. I would gladly do it in Santa Barbara or San Diego, but cold, windy Chicago? Suddenly, I'm not sure I have the gift of generosity.
  • I am not crafty enough to know what to do with these cute little free downloads, but some of you are. So, I'll gladly take your ideas and steal them as my own. Heck, that's what I do to Cathe Holden at least once a month!
  • Check out what these volunteers did to the church nursery!
  • If I had a little motivation...and someone crafty to hold my hand, I would make me one of these. I could make one of these. But I don't have anyone crafty to hold my hand. And whatever you do, don't volunteer or I won't have a valid excuse any longer.

  • Sacred Sandwich always has me laughing. It's good for the soul, I say. This one had to be shared here.
  • This - a great video for the hopeless romantic... Can I dream of having a son-in-law like this someday?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Overflow

Many, many blessings to list, many I've forgotten that should be here, many that should be repeated every week.

92. Squeals in the grass, and cheap plastic eggs full of candy
93. A voice that held out, and the prayers that
94. piles of books - adventures, travels, nature at our hands, even spelling and language, all awaiting us
95. butterfly cupcakes and the eager lips that were covered in frosting
96. tandem bikes
97. the open road
98. pregnancy stories - all so vastly different and yet, there seemed to be no 'homebirth' or 'epidural' lines to be drawn. What freedom among these sisters!
99. laughter until my jaw hurts!
100. a lakefront weekend that took my breath away - so safe, so "tucked in," and so fun too.
101. this husband of mine that managed kids - perhaps he ended the weekend breathless too?
102. Monday morning - with the gift of established works to be done, all to Him.
103. dress-up clothes and little girls who still imagine
104. creamer, flavored coffee, and goodies all thoughtfully prepared
105. Living from His overflow - perfect rest.

Resting Here,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Many But Not Complete Confessions of a Mediocre Motorhome Owner

What do you get when you combine

1 motorhome
2 parents
3 kids
4 helpful grandparents (2 who came in their own trailer and 2 who watched our dog)
5 bottles of sunscreen
6 cases of water
7 tickets to Disneyland
8 bicycles and scooters
9 hours on the road,
10 loads of laundry?

The simple answer: you get ten loads of laundry.
The more complex answer: you get three happy kids, two frazzled parents, and two delightful and delighted grandparents.
The sentimental answer: you get priceless memories.
The logical answer: you get one family vacation.
The homeschooler's answer: you get many new experiences and perspectives. And now you're going to win a spelling bee.
The mother's answer: you get ten loads of laundry, and every one of them was worth it.

The father's answer: you get time off of work, long bike rides with your kids, and one great baseball game as a finale.

In a nutshell, we had a great trip. It was a hyper hiatus, but we are home and the last load of laundry has been burned folded and put away.

I am now perfectly qualified to write a book titled "The Many But Not Complete Confessions of a Mediocre Motorhome Owner." It would include honest confessions like "I threw away a perfectly good tupperware because it was easier than cleaning out the leftovers into the trash can." Or this one: "I watched my son pull his pants down and pee on the asphalt...all while an old lady scooped up her terrier's do-do in the neatly fenced 'doggy' area. My dilemma was - do I stop my son mid-stream or do I instruct him to go in the grassy area where the dogs do their business?" Also, I would have to include one confession that distinguishes the Upper Crust motorhome owners from the Mediocre motorhome owners - bungee cords. If you have them just to look prepared, you're Upper Crust. If you have them because it's what's keeping your tenement on wheels together, you are mediocre, but you are tenacious, humble, and good at jerry-rigging. Other confessions? I'd have to admit that I stole condiment packets and one loaf of sourdough bread from a Princess Lunch at Disneyland.

Also, I forgot to empty the lint screen after doing my laundry in the RV laundry room. And we completely failed the motorhome flag test. If you are retired, you hang an American flag outside your motorhome. If you are young and mediocre, you wish you had an American flag to hang but you're too busy hanging beach towels to remember where you put it. If you are an organized and meticulous motorhome owner, you use the outdoor shower to wash off beach sand before you enter your motorhome. If you are a mediocre motorhome owner, you strip your toddler naked, scrub him good, and call it a legitimate bath.

The trip was anything but mediocre, even if we annoyed everyone in the motorhome park with our antics. But whew! It was fun.

After reviewing our pictures, I couldn't resist sharing the best string of photos ever, the ones that had me laughing in bed last night, thanks to our seven-year old Punkin who snatched my iphone and intrigued one curious orangutan at the zoo.

He was definitely interested in Punkin, who even moved away about fifteen feet to give other children a chance to see the orangutan. He followed her across the glass wall.

Then, he stared at her for a while... (Wait for it, wait for it....)

Then, he did this!

And that pretty much sums up our vacation. Goofy smiles all around!

Friday, April 22, 2011

If you need a synopsis...

If your day proves to be busy or distracted, or if you are intimidated by those old, sometimes odd words, or if you have ever wondered why Christians celebrate Good Friday, here is the briefest synopsis I could mash together:

"When Jesus had finished saying these things, he said to his disciples, 'As you know, the Passover is two days away - and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.'" (Matt. 26:1-2) (I love this! He knew it was coming; He talked about it openly...)

"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'" (Matt. 26:17-18)

"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer...he took break, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me...This cup is the new covenant of my blood, which is poured out for you.'" (Luke 22)

There were mind-boggling and perhaps awkward moments:
  • a foot washing (an act so degrading that even a Jewish slave could not be forced to do it.);
  • a piece of bread handed to Judas with the order: "what you are about to do, do quickly.";
  • a prediction that Judas would not be the only betrayer, that Peter would deny Him three times;
  • perplexed disciples who whispered to one another "We don't understand what he is saying.'" (John 16:18);
  • drowsy, confused and sorrowful disciples in an olive grove (Luke 22:45);
  • this Messiah pouring out honesty like blood, with hard words like "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" and "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done."
  • perhaps the most awkward kiss in the history of mankind, when Jesus caught his betrayer off-guard: "'Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him." (Luke 22:48)
  • the impulsive, badly-aimed sword of Peter, that cut off an ear and earned him a rebuke from the One he was trying to defend: "No more of this!" Jesus healed the ear.
  • chaotic, unorganized trials before a wicked priest, a deep-thinking governor (Pilate ends his conversation with Jesus by asking a seemingly unanswerable question, "What is truth?"), then, a curious and almost giddy Herod who receives nothing but silence from Jesus.
  • The screaming, riotous crowd choosing Barabbas the Bandit to be mercifully freed; for Jesus, their choice was clear: "Crucify! crucify!" (How skewed was their idea of mercy!)
  • The people convincing Pilate to hesitantly give them what they wanted, even taking the blame for Jesus' imminent death: "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Matt. 27:25) (To which I say, Amen!)
  • A crown of thorns, a royal purple robe to parade this King through town, then a poorly timed passerby who was forced to carry Jesus' cross to Golgotha. (Matthew 27:27-32)
  • "From the bullying game of Blind Man's Bluff in the high priest's courtyard to the professional thuggery of Pilate's and Herod's guards, to the catcalls of spectators turned out to jeer the criminals stumbling up the long road to Calvary, and finally to the cross itself where Jesus heard a stream of taunts from the ground below and even from the cross alongside. You call yourself a Messiah? Well, then come down from that cross. How you gonna save us if you can't even save yourself?" (Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 260)
  • This Rabbi Jesus hung on the cross, no modest white cloth covering his nakedness like it was on the Sunday School coloring pages. His shame was complete. Still, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Not only did he forgive his accusers, but he provided for his mother and welcomed a thief next to him - "Today, you will be with me in paradise." (John 23:43)
  • "King of the Jews" said the notice, much to the Jewish leaders' dismay. "No, [t]his man claimed to be king of the Jews." (Matt. 27:37) Pilate was done with them: "What I have written, I have written.
  • There was darkness, and weird words uttered from dry lips: "It is finished." "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." and the most baffling of all, words that haunt me every Good Friday: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (These puzzling words seem to convince folks of the authenticity of the accounts. "For what reason would the founders of a new religion put such despairing words in the mouth of their dying hero - unless that's precisely what he said." Yancey, pg. 261)
  • In that moment, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'" (Gal. 3:13)
On the cross, Jesus shows one of two things: that God is completely powerless or that God is nothing but Love. I choose to see it - or, He has opened my eyes to see it - as the latter.

"Power, no matter how well-intentioned, tends to cause suffering. Love, being vulnerable, absorbs it. In a point of convergence on a hill called Calvary, God renounced the one for the sake of the other." -Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 267

Resting Here,

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If you have talked to me this week on the phone or in person, you knew I was going to write this blog post. I just couldn't resist.

Because this week, I had my nose in a book.

This book:
The book I stole from the basket by my dad's recliner, the book that has the following inscription on the inside cover: "Happy birthday, ole man! Hope it's a great year, Dad." Yup, my sister sent it to my dad for his birthday and I stole it, plain and simple. Now, I have to fess up and give it back.

From a purely selfish perspective, it was the most satisfying read I have ever had the privilege of undertaking. I didn't want it to end, and yet, I couldn't get to the end fast enough. Even my kids would come and ask me, "How's that guy doin'? Did he get out of the plane yet?" The best part: it's a true story!

I'm not gonna spoil it for you, but if you are looking for a good book this spring, you can't get any better than this.


P.S. This book is not religious in any way. It is a true story and it's about war - which includes lonely, bored soldiers with potty mouths and dirty magazines; and brutal war scenes that Laura Hillenbrand brings to vibrant life in words. If it had a rating, it would be R.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cleaning House - Oddballs Welcome!

Wouldn't it be fun to clean house like Jesus did?...

From Matthew 21:

12And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

13And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN."

14And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant

16and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF'?"

17And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Philip Yancey explains it this way (excerpt from What's So Amazing About Grace, page 139, 1997):

Jesus appeared on earth just as Palestine was experiencing a religious revival. The Pharisees, for example, spelled out precise rules for staying clean: never enter the home of a Gentile, never dine with sinners, perform no work on the Sabbath, wash your hands seven times before eating. Thus when rumors spread that Jesus could be the long-awaited Messiah, pious Jews were more scandalized than galvanized. Had he not touched unclean persons, such as those suffering from leprosy? Had he not let a woman of ill repute wash his feet with her hair? He dined with tax collectors - one even joined his inner circle of the Twelve - and was notoriously lax about the rules of ritual cleanness and Sabbath observance.

Moreover, Jesus deliberately crossed into Gentile territory and got involved with Gentiles. He praised a Roman centurion as having more faith than anyone in Israel and volunteered to enter the centurion's house to heal his servant. He healed a half-breed Samaritan with leprosy and had a lengthy conversation with a Samaritan woman - to the consternation of his disciples, who knew that 'Jews do not associate with Samaritans.' This woman, rejected by Jews on account of her race, rejected by neighbors on account of her serial marriages, became the first 'missionary' appointed by Jesus and the first person to whom he openly revealed his identity as Messiah. Then Jesus culminated his time on earth by giving his disciples the 'Great Commission,' a command to take the gospel to unclean Gentiles 'in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'

Jesus' approach to 'unclean' people dismayed his countrymen, and in the end, helped to get him crucified. In essence, Jesus canceled the cherished principle of the Old Testament, No Oddballs Allowed, replacing it with a new rule of grace: 'We're all oddballs, but God loves us anyhow.'

The Gospels record only one occasion when Jesus resorted to violence: the cleansing of the temple. Brandishing a whip, he overturned tables and benches and drove out the merchants who had set up shop there. As I have said, the very architecture of the temple expressed the Jewish hierarchy. Gentiles could only enter only the outer court. Jesus resented that merchants had turned the Gentiles' area into an oriental bazaar filled with the sounds of animals bleating and merchants haggling over prices, an atmosphere hardly conducive to worship. Mark records that after the cleansing of the temple, the chief priests and teachers of the law 'began looking for a way to kill him.' In a real sense, Jesus sealed his fate with his angry insistence on the Gentiles' right to approach God.

He opened the way for me - a woman and a Gentile - to draw near to God. In a culture that needed to wash seven times before eating a meal, I am most surely 'unclean' in many ways. Jesus didn't abolish all of those rules; He fulfilled them. And I come near.

Resting in His Nearness,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Manner of King? Palm Sunday

Words keep popping up in my head these days. Weird words like spit...cheek kisses...a baby donkey...a cup...sweat like blood...dirty feet...bully...

I could go on, but I won't yet. I'll let the Word speak for itself...

Matthew 21

The Triumphal Entry
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 "Say to the daughter of Zion,'Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" 10And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" 11And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

This week, I am focusing on Jesus. It's the "Holy Week" and I can't resist writing what moves me. Call me a Jesus freak and I just might kiss you. Join me, if you would like.

A few practical addendums:

As an amateur writer, I can't help but wonder why the Gospel accounts weren't "polished" up a bit, clarified here and there. Which is so comforting - the very "unpolished" nature of the accounts seems to lend them an air of truthful reality. Nevertheless, they can be tricky to follow the timeline. One great resource I have appreciated lately is a Holy Week timeline. With four different Gospel accounts, I found this to be helpful in understanding the sequence of events.

If you want or need more words, here are some of my favorites, from one of my favorites: The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. If you have read it, then you know why I love the book. If you have not read the book, perhaps this week will give you a taste of it. And if you aren't sure about Jesus, just know that He may be different than what was presented on the flannelgraph board at Sunday School, vastly more than what you may feel at a church, read in a theology book, or receive at a soup kitchen.

He is life itself, and abundant life at that.

I'm resting here on Palm Sunday...

"All four Gospels mention this event, which at first glance seems the one departure from Jesus' aversion to acclaim. Crowds spread clothes and tree branches across the road to show their adoration. 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!' they cried. Though Jesus usually recoiled from such displays of fanaticism, this time he let them yell. To indignant Pharisees he explained, 'I tell you, if they keep quiet, the very stones will cry out.'

Was the prophet from Galilee now being vindicated in Jerusalem? 'Look how the whole world has gone after him!' exclaimed the Pharisees in alarm. At that moment, with several hundred thousand pilgrims assembled in Jerusalem, it looked for all the world as if the King had arrived in force to claim his rightful throne.

I remember as a child riding home from Palm Sunday service, absentmindedly tearing apart the palm fronds, skimming ahead in the Sunday School quarterly to the next week's topic. It made no sense. With such a throng throwing themselves at his feet one week, how did Jesus get arrested and killed the next?

Now when I read the Gospels I see the undercurrents that help explain the shift. On Palm Sunday a group from Bethany surrounded him, still exultant over the miracle of Lazarus. No doubt pilgrims from Galilee, who knew him well, comprised another large portion of the crowd. Matthew points out that further support came from the blind, the lame, and the children. Beyond that constituency, however, lurked danger. Religious authorities resented Jesus, and Roman legions brought in to control the festival crowds would heed the Sanhedrin's assessment of who might present a threat to order.

Jesus himself had mixed feelings during the clamorous parade. Luke reports that as he approached the city, he began to weep. He knew how easily a mob could turn. Voices who shout 'Hosanna!' one week can shriek 'Crucify him! the next.

The triumphal entry has about it an aura of ambivalence, and as I read all the accounts, what stands out to me now is the slapstick nature of the affair. I imagine a Roman officer galloping up to check on the disturbance. He has attended processions in Rome, where they do it right. The conquering general sits in a chariot of gold, with stallions straining at the reins and wheel spikes flashing in the sunlight. Behind him, officers in polished armor display the banners captured from vanquished armies. At the rear comes a ragtag procession of slaves and prisoners in chains, living proof of what happens to those who defy Rome.

In Jesus' triumphal entry, the adoring crowd makes up the ragtag procession: the lame, the blind, the children, the peasants from Galilee and Bethany. When the officer looks for the object of their attention he spies a forlorn figure, weeping, riding on no stallion or chariot but on the back of a baby donkey, a borrowed coat draped across its backbone serving as his saddle.

Yes, there was a whiff of triumph on Palm Sunday, but not the kind of triumph that might impress Rome and not the kind that impressed crowds in Jerusalem for long either. What manner of king was this?

(I will continue this series all week long. Feel free to add any questions, doubts, defenses, or comments in the comment section, and I'll feel free to respond or not, depending on the chaos of the moment.)

Friday, April 15, 2011


There was a time when children slept in the beds we intended for them, all snuggled up in well-coordinated blankets and themed rooms.

There was another time when we had a mutiny on our hands, when the kids decided to buck that tradition, and sleep all together in one bedroom, often on the floor. After a few months of cleaning bedding every morning, I realized there was a solution.

So, we took down all the kids beds in our house and slapped together some bunk beds. (My husband and friend Joel will say it was more than "slap together some bunk beds," as they did the actual construction.)

Better Homes and Gardens, it is not. But I'm pretty sure they weren't coming to shoot magazine quality photos of our bedrooms anyways. So, I've let that ridiculous notion go, and with it, we now have one big bedroom for all three kids, and a new playroom/schoolroom.

My mother teases and says that is how homeschool families have to do it, all the kids sleeping in a room all together. I'm going with it. Who knows how long they will all want to sleep in the same room, but until then, here's what we're working with: (Oh, and remember who is taking the pictures; forgive please.)

The girls' room used to look like this:

And now it looks like this:

One set of bunk beds on the left and one set on the right.

There's an extra bunk for sleepover guests, or Ginger Pie, if she's a good girl.

The kids' favorite parts are the curtains on the lower bunks,
and the individual shelves and sconces for each bed.

On to the next room, our little man's bedroom used to look like this:

And now, it looks like this:

Open those doors, and look out for the chaos. Or a pop quiz.

I forgot how exhausting all of this was, until I uploaded these pictures. Whew! Glad we're done... until this girl needs a little privacy...

Until then, we're enjoying some of the changes around here, and scared every time our friend-realtor sends us a new local listing... Because we love living right here, and are thankful for our home.