29 December 2009

Cherry Lane

I will never forget Cherry Lane. It was there that I learned some of my most valued skills. Most of all I learned creativity as we created a world where money was cut out of notebook paper and friends visited each other everyday. Day after summer day, my sister, best neighborhood friend, and I fought our boredom through returning to our made-up lives in Amber's basement.

I long for Asher and Amelie to have opportunities to find their own creativity when their own boredom strikes. But I need to allow boredom to strike which isn't exactly easy in a culture focused on productivity and structure.

In my Pantagraph column this week I described several ways to leave room for boredom that leads to creativity.

Still Me

Have you ever been forced to be someone you're not?

I've dressed in a skirt and blouse when I'd rather be wearing jeans.

I've pretended to be fine with a situation that hours earlier I stood fuming in my kitchen over.

And each time I've covered raw hurt and sadness with smiles and cheer the outside properness creates an inner stretch of intensity that makes me want to shoot across the room.
Sometimes I just want to be me even when me isn't pretty.

My sweet Amelie received beautiful princess jewels for Christmas this year. Aunt Becky knew all little girls need a tiara, sparkly necklaces, earrings and rings, so she invested in the most beautiful set available at Toys R Us. After we opened that present, and decorated our little baby with her sparklies, Asher immediately fell in love with his beautiful princess sister.
Plain Amelie left and royal Princess Amelie has moved in. Whenever she wakes from a nap or sets her jewels aside for a moment, Asher immediately brings Princess Amelie the tiara, the necklace, the clip-on earrings, and the ring (although she eats the ring so Mommy gets to wear her ring). And our little baby sparkles as she crawls around the house because with her princess things on, Asher claims she is more beautiful.

While wearing her weight of jewels and looking ready to rule the world, Amelie teaches me that its still ok to be who she is. Sure she's dressed up, but she still screeches, her diapers still stink, and she still scavenges whatever crumb, button, or other dangerously small item lies in her path.

Even in her forced situation of royalty, she is still Amelie.

Whatever situation I find myself in I want to still be Angie.

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Unto us a Son is given, unto us a child is born.
He shall be our king forever!
Merry Christmas!

21 December 2009

Guard with Gratitude

Raise your hand if all your presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree?

Are your Christmas meals planned and organized?

Have you packed the gazillion baby supplies you need for just a one night stay at your in-laws?

I'm guessing not many hands are raised, and if yours is, please let me know your secret!

We have much to do this week to finish preparing for Christmas. I love it and I stress over it all at the same time.

My secret weapon to preventing the mile-long to-do list from becoming a joy-killer is to Guard myself with Gratitude. I wrote more about this over on Exemplify and you can check it out today!

14 December 2009

Cardboard Testimony

About 10 people gave cardboard testimonies at church yesterday. Reading their short statements painted on large pieces of cardboard reminded me how simply and yet dramatically the Peace of God changes lives.

If Mary, Jesus' mother had written a cardboard testimony her "before" side might have read:

Simple teenager living an average life.

When she flipped it over to the "after" side the transforming gift of God would have allowed her to write:

Mother to the King of the world.

Joseph could have written:

Carpenter wondering how to care for his fiance.

His "after" side could read:

Receiver of not only a divine baby, but gifts to care for him.

The shepherds could say:

Stuck in a monotonous all-night job.

And after a visit from God:

Excitement found at work changed everything.

A true encounter with God's peace changes everything. Hopeless, worrisome, desperate situations become filled with purpose, contentment, and knowledge that good will overcome bad.

I could write many statements testifying of how God's peace has changed my life, but today my cardboard testimony reads:

Lost in a focus on my own abilities to create the perfect life.

And I can flip over that "before" side and now I live

Found by teaming with God who is more than able to do all things.

What is your cardboard testimony today?

09 December 2009

Focus on Christ

I'm shifting my focus 180 degrees.

So far this Christmas season, I have spent much time writing and thinking about avoiding the commercial aspects of what Christmas has become. I wrote about this being the most stressful time of the year and about slowing down the pace of Christmas and I realized on Sunday that I've left out what I should be focusing on.


A baby born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago who came to be Emmanuel, God with us. God who understands how simply the stresses of daily life can make me grumpy. God who knows how quickly distractions can shift my mind away from Him. God who remembers the pain of disappointments.

He understands humanity in the most intimate way, being Creator and yet living perfectly in His created world.

Yes, consumerism threatens me everyday when I open the newspaper or step into a store.

Yes, larger than life Grinches bob at me when I'm out looking at Christmas decorations.

Yes, pressures to exchange cookies and bake my entire repertoire of Christmas treats loom when I walk through my kitchen.

But I don't have to focus on these distractions. Rather than seeing all that is wrong with this "Holiday" season, I am choosing to look at all that is right about Christmas time.

Generosity flows from parents, friends, teachers, and even complete strangers who toss coins into red kettles.

Nativity scenes stand right next to those Grinches and living next to the bah humbugs of the world is exactly what Jesus would do.

The gusts of wind are howling outside this morning, and I think I'll let those winds shift my focus.
Evidences of Christ's advent are everywhere.

Will you join me in seeing them?

07 December 2009

A 3 Year Old's Advice

Yesterday Asher freely gave me two pieces of advice. I didn't even ask for his 3 year old parenting tips, but he didn't mind sharing.
About the time we reach the corner of Kroger and Walgreens on our way home from church, we begin asking Asher what he learned in Sunday School. Rather than tell us the direct answer to the question his take home paper tells me he learned about, we spend up to 15 minutes convincing him to share.
Yesterday's question was no exception.
I asked what the angel came to tell Mary?
As expected, he claimed a brain lapse and didn't remember. We continued for the next ten minutes (with the looming threat of no lunch until he told us), until standing in the kitchen, he eventually told me that the angel told Mary she would have a baby!

Every parenting book I've read has stressed the importance of praise, and I agree. I firmly believe in encouraging Asher and try to build his confidence by regularly telling him I'm proud of him.

So when he finally answered the question, I thanked him for answering and told him I was proud of him! But then he threw a twist into all my parenting strategies by telling me,

"Mommy, next time don't be so proud of me!"

What else can I say?

His next piece of advice came as we followed his bedtime routine.

As usual, I lay in bed with him to sing his favorite song. Lately, he likes to sing the song back to me and the recorder in my brain tries desperately to soak in every moment of being close to his little body and hearing his sweet voice. My lips uncontrollably lift in a smile. But this time I received clear instructions.
"Mommy, don't smile when I sing the song."
Again...What can I say?

Bad advice.

What bad advice have you heard today?

03 December 2009

Stressful Time

I think I'm beating a gift horse over the head with my thoughts about slowing down this Christmas season. Or maybe I just realize my tendencies to get caught up in all the wrong parts of preparation.

Either way, Hearts at Home is running my blog post today about ways to manage stress during the Christmas season. You can find it here.

And just to give you a quick laugh if you're already feeling your blood pressure rising, here's Walter's version of our latest Thanksgiving family picture.

02 December 2009

Christmas Rush

I knew it was coming. I've looked over our December calendar frequently to make sure it wouldn't get packed with unnecessary commitments. But I already feel the craziness of a month focused on doing things to reach a goal of the picture perfect Christmas morning that rarely happens.

If our culture encourages us to think about the Christmas holiday for three months, then why is much of the actual month a focus on preparing rather than celebrating?

At risk of being held accountable to sticking to my ideas, I'd like to share the newspaper column I wrote about slowing down the pace of Christmas.

Check it out here!

01 December 2009

Advent Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do, seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking light.

To you we say, Come Lord Jesus...


This Advent Prayer by Henri Nouwen simply states the reasons I so much long for Christ's coming.

His presence brings



Anticipation of a better future


Light in a dark world.

(I am frantically searching for daily Advent reflections. I'd love to hear from anyone who has a resource to recommend!)